Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sunday Sermon

We Bought a Farm: Fantastic Football and Farming Fame

This story always resonates with me.

This is sometimes how I feel while farming. What are we doing and why are we doing this? And yet we feel so called to do this. And so we keep doing it. We truly have no idea what the Lord is  calling us to do exactly, but we have told him, "If you tell us what to do, we will do it. We will keep moving forward."

We know He wants us to ready this land for him -- for people He will bring here? for missionaries we may train? for the saved and unsaved to find peace and respite.

We remain totally confident that He is going to show us what He wants us to do with His land. And so we are going to keep moving forward.

Encourage me to remember that when I forget.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

If I coulda been fired today ...

... I am sure I would have been. Each of my children woulda fired me on the spot. I was off my game. I had very little patience. I was crabby. And overwhelmed. And just not up to snuff.

And if I could have quit, I might have quit today too.

I'm getting over a really bad cold and a fierce allergy attack, and I am just not on my game. Add to that JB is on the tale end of a long run of 12-hour days, and I'm just cooked.

I had to go to the Post Office today and the grocery store. I also had to get the boys hair cuts. Isaac reminded me of these tokens he'd earned in his geography class at co-op for a free snow cone. We'd never been there before, so we added that to our day too. Four stops was about three stops too many. 

I managed to snap the picture above right before Abigail dumped out half her snow cone on the table. 

I shoulda realized how things were going when I went into the Post Office and the lady at the desk was feverishly scanning my items. She looked like she was about to cry so I finally said, "Is everything okay?"

She replied by saying, "No it's not. Everyone comes in at the last minute and I have so much to get done and they won't pay me overtime."

I honestly had no idea what to say so I said nothing, but I did think, "She's having a worse day than I am."

(And by the way it was 10:45 and the Post Office closed at 12:00 so I didn't really think that was the last minute.)

I'm serious.

We arrived back home, and Hannah promptly climbed into the dog's bathtub and soaked herself. Then she peed on the floor.

Honestly. You can't make this stuff up.

JB always does bedtime at our house (when he isn't doing nights). He gets the kids all wound down and tucked in and then I come in and just snuggle and hug and love them. I so appreciate He does this. It is such a blessing to me. Especially on a day like this one.

As I hugged each of my four miracles, I said to them individually. "I'm sorry that I was a crabby Mommy today. Will you forgive me?"

Here were their replies:

Abigail: "You are the best Mommy in the whole world!"
Hannah: "Mommy look at my silly face I am making!"
Isaac: "I didn't think you did a bad job today Mommy."
Sidge: "Do you feel sad? That makes me sad if you are sad."

Kids are so awesome. 

And tomorrow is a new day.

Why God Took So Long To Give Me A Baby

Please jump here: Why God Took So Long To Give Me A Baby for an excellent piece on infertility and what was taking God so long.

I have often thought that if I had gotten the baby I wanted WHEN I wanted it, then I wouldn't have these exact four little babies I have right now.

Love them.

They were worth waiting for.

Abigail grows up

I love watching my children grow and learn. I want them to stop growing up so fast, and yet watching the things they come up with is just so fun for me!

Here is the first ever picture Abigail colored. She was about 1.5 years old.

Here's what she busted out yesterday. It is a story about a duck and a duck's friend. She asked for help with some spellings from Grama, but otherwise wrote it herself.

Greeneville TN: Activities for Elementary Aged Children

I am starting to compile a list of fun things to do with your elementary aged children in an around Greeneville, TN ('m trying to stay within one hour of Greeneville). If you have something you'd like me to visit and consider adding, please leave a comment! All places listed are places I have personally visited. And check back often as I will be updating this page regularly!

My friend Karen invited us to Darrell's Dream Playground at Warrior State Park in Kingsport, TN. This park is one of the best parks we have ever been to in any city or state or country. It is absolutely fabulous. It is a unique one-of-a-kind play area that provides fun and learning opportunities for children of all ages and all abilities. Special features include:
  • a universally accessible playground equipment and surfaces
  • a walking trail and an environmental maze with interactive play stations
  • an amphitheater
  • a picnic pavilion
  • specially designed restroom facilities
  • pedestrian bridge
  • tots play area specifically designed for ages 2-5
  • adventure island specifically designed for ages 5-12
  • sand island which is designed to allow wheelchairs to roll right up to the table
  • The Lions Narnia Braille Trail which features eight sensory stations along a quarter-mile wheelchair accessible Braille trail. You can read the words visually, through Braille, or press a button to listen
  • a tree house
  • and much more!
My four kiddos (ages 2, 4, 6, and 7 at the time of this writing) played for 2.5 hours without stopping! There was something for all of them, and they were not ready to go home. We will definitely be visiting this park again. 

In addition, the park is nestled within a State Park which has camping, a golf course, Frisbee golf, hiking, birding, fishing, horseback riding and much more.

Address: 390 Hemlock Park / Kingsport, TN
Contact Email: 
Phone: 423-956-4330
The front entrance to the park. One of the first things you do is enter through a "wardrobe." The entire park is set up to imitate the books: The Chronicles of Narnia and they even had a wardrobe with coats!

A look at about half of the park. It is very large. That is probably the only "negative" to the park. There is no perimeter fence so you have to be keeping your eyes open -- especially if you have more than one child.

Check it out! That's the Beaver's home from Narnia!

A little playhouse for kids to perform and watch. No details was spared.

Without a doubt, one of our very favorite things to do within an hour of our home is Dollywood! Located at 2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd, this is a full amusement park with a cozy and small-town feel. We got season passes, and here are some of the things we learned during our first year as season pass holders:
  • Go to the park on a weekday when school is in session.
  • Get to the park at 9:15. This allows you to get into the park and be ready to go when it opens. We have never seen crowds between 9-12 -- even on very busy days.
  • One ride that seems to get a line no matter how crowded the park is that day is the Rockin' Roadway. Do that ride first.
  • One challenging part of the park is that the area with the roller coasters is mostly just that and there aren't a lot of things for little kids to do in that area. Take advantage of two little parks (one by Firechaser and one over by Thunderhead) and Riverchaser (water ride) that is up in the area so that your little kids have something to do while the big kids are riding the coasters. 
  • If it is hot, Daredevil Falls and River Rampage are great fun as is the Riverchaser ride.
  • The new roller coaster: Lightning Rod is TERRIFYING. Honestly the scariest ride I have ever been on.
  • The roller coasters at this park are INTENSE. The little kids one in The County Fair is great and the next easiest is Firechaser. But even that one is a bit scary!
  • The County Fair is our favorite place. This has tons of ride for the whole family with very few height restrictions.
  • The BBQ up by the bird show is our favorite place to eat.
  • The bird show is great!
  • You have to see the Bald Eagles. (This is the largest display of the birds in their natural habitat in the world!)
  • Bring in your own water bottles and fill them up at drinking fountains to save money on drinks.
  • You HAVE to try to the cinnamon bread at The Grist Mill
Here are some past posts I wrote featuring pictures of our time at the park

My kids love the Hands on! Regional Museum in Johnson City. We actually decided to become members of this museum. This is a fantastic places for kids ages 2 and up. I did an entire post featuring pictures from one of our trips to the Museum which you can check out by clicking here. 

Located at 2304 Silverdale Drive #600 in Kingsport, TN, this is an incredibly fun place to go. It is a bit pricey, and is therefore a splurge for us, but something we will probably splurge on every few months. We paid for two hours, and all four of my kids had a BLAST and got such incredible exercise. What a great time!

Friday, September 23, 2016

About that time I drove five hours with four kids in a Ford F-250

Our van got sick this last week. It's better now. But it decides to get sick the day before I am going to drive to North Carolina to visit two different sets of friends.

So the night before we decide that I will still go. But I will go in our big black Ford F-250 (which we call "Midnight.")

Honestly, I am 6'3" and I nearly have to launch myself to get into that truck. And I drove it through three states with four children by myself.


Who am I?

I wish my teenage self could have seen what I was going to become!

Review: Annual Subscription

Okay so I have to admit I was a bit skeptical about an email for my kids. They are young. The Internet is risky. How safe could it be? But I tell you what: we were BLOWN AWAY by the Annual Subscription we received to This is definitely a program we will be using to help safely introduce my children to the wonderful side of technology for years to come. 

I allowed both of my boys (ages 8 and 7) to have an account. I set up the account for them. What I most loved about this was amount of safety settings I was able to institute for my kiddos. 

I decided to pick seven people they could email. I added the email addresses of the people that they could email. I included their three grandmothers, one aunt, their dad, me, and their brother. That's it. I was then allowed to determine the following things: Annual Subscription
  • Receive mail from contact list only?
  • Send email to contact list only?
  • Allow child to edit contact list?
  • Send a parent a copy of incoming email?
  • Allow images from incoming emails?
  • Allow links in received emails?
  • Allow attachments?
  • Allow bad words in received email?
  • Add tagline to bottom of message?
  • Send email sender a notification when email goes to the mail queue?
I also had the option to install time restrictions (what time of day they can get on, what days of the week, etc.) I could also ground them from the program! How amazing is that? (And I can set up a custom message when I ground them!)

I decided to only allow them to receive email from those seven people. They could not edit the list. They could not get images, links, or attachments. And I obviously outlawed bad words too. I opted to not receive a copy of the messages (mail monitoring) they sent simply because I truly trusted their list of seven people. 

There was also an option to block certain senders. If my kids were old enough, I could add a GPS tracker so I can see where they are! Wowzers. Seriously folks. There were so many amazing things I could do. 

And then my boys started emailing. Here is a sample picture of what their screen looks like: Annual Subscription

And here is a picture of Isaac on his email page. While both my boys greatly enjoyed the program (and were able to log on and do this themselves), my older son really got into it. Isaac absolutely LOVED emailing and was able to log-on and write emails without any help from me.

Okay here's what I love tons to do. YOU can partake in a free trial of this program. The trial is 30 days and for ONCE they are not going to automatically bill you when the free period is over. (I really hate when companies do that! It totally seems like they are taking advantage of our busy lives and the fact that we will probably forget to change our status.)

If you decided you wanted to keep going, you can pay monthly ($4.95) which includes four email accounts. Or, if you just get it for a year, it is only $3 a month which includes up to 6 email accounts. This means that for your whole family to use the program it is $38.95 a year. VERY reasonable. And honestly folks, this is SO worth it!!

Please take a moment to visit this company around social media: Annual Subscription

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Preschool Apps

I am trying to compile a list of good "apps" for young children (primarily from when they can start using them until pre-k). So I guess I am saying ages 2-4. Here is what I have come up with so far.

PLEASE share the ones that you love most!

  • Endless Alphabet (Kindle and iTunes)
  • LeapFrog Scout's Shapes and Colors Farm
  • Splish Slash Inn (numbers)
  • Monkey Preschool Lunchbox
  • Bugs and Buttons
  • Toca Nature
  • Where's My Water
  • Disney Jr.
  • PBS Kids
  • Toca Boca Band
  • Toca Boca Pet Doctor
  • Toca Boca Robot Lab

Review: Grieving the Loss of a Loved One

Grief is something I write about a lot on this Blog. Ironically, I have not suffered a vast amount of personal grief in the loss of people I love. But infertility and losing my pup and watching those I love suffer loss, has truly impacted me.

Grieving the Loss of a Loved One was written by Kathe Wunnenberg. I had no idea when I got this book to review that she was writing of the losses in her life, many of which paralleled my own (or those I love). Kathe's losses included: infertility, adoption, miscarriages, carrying a child with a fatal birth defect, the loss of a child, being an older mother, depression, etc. 

Wunnenberg knows that aren't easy answers for those who mourn. Her devotions are tender and comforting and help you deal with grief and find hope and strength in God. Each devotion includes a scripture, a discussion, a prayer, and then a place for you to journal your own thoughts.

I also love that the book is split into typical grief stages like:
  • denying
  • venting
  • questioning
  • bargaining
  • crying
  • surrendering
  • accepting
  • praising
  • being
  • celebrating
  • relating
  • living
There is also a place that allows you to have special reading for special holidays. 

As I read, I felt validated and understood and closer to the Lord. I strongly recommend this book for those of you grieving or as a gift for those grieving in your life.

The Interiorista: Falltastic

Today is the first day of fall, and even though the temperatures are starting to drop, the leaves are still holding on strongly to their branches. However, I'm sure it won't be long until I find myself outside with my kids and my rake, making piles of leaves to jump on and clean up!

I like the beauty of fall. I love its subdued colors, the smell of pie and the cooler weather that entice me to curl up with a blanket and a hot drink. There is something so soothing about autumn for me...
During the last 8 years, I've lived mostly in places where there wasn't much change of seasons, so now I really appreciate them!

You can enjoy seasons in your decor. You can bring the outdoors in through fall accessories creating a warm and inviting atmosphere. You can involve your kids in the process promoting creative projects that not only will personalized your home but also make for great memories.

Ready to try some seasonal decor this year? Here are some key places where I think your fall decorations will make a stunning statement:

1. Main entrance/porch. Your entrance is the first impression to your home! Make sure it looks clean, weed free, and of course...cute!

What do you think of these?

Take a trip to your local farm and load on mums and other fall plants, pumpkins of different colors, hay, etc. Be creative! Use different containers to display your fall goodies to give your design different heights and textures to make it more visually interesting.

A wreath or a basket with dry flowers is always a nice touch on your main door. Check out these tutorials to help you create the perfect wreath for your home:

Also, pretty window boxes are charming places to showcase natural fall decor. Take a look at this video to help you decorate them!

Had so much fun working on my window boxes this fall!

2. Fireplace mantel. Your fireplace is such a given focal point that you should always give it a makeover for the different seasons. What do you think of these options?

Use banners, symmetry, different containers, dry flowers, pictures, mirrors, etc. to make your mantel say autumn.

3. Center pieces. Your dining table will look beautiful with a fall coordinated table settings.

You can use flowers, vegetables, fruit, greenery, pinecones, candles, etc. among other things to create a breathtaking center piece.  Check the post: go green to get some tips about how to make simple bouquets. You can totally do it!

3. Throughout the house in strategic places. Repeat your autumn theme around your home for a cohesive look. How about adding a bit of fall magic to some places like console tables, shelves and coffee tables?

I hope you were inspired! Fall decor is so much fun! If you don't want to spend a lot of money, invest on artificial decorations that you can use every year. Dare to do DIY projects to lowers your cost and make your home more personal.

If you decide to use natural elements like plants, greenery and pumpkins, make sure to buy plants that will resist the fall weather and spray your pumpkins with DW-40 for a lasting appearance! Let me know how your projects turned out! I'd love to see them!

        Happy fall y'all!


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

We Bought a Farm: The garden, at long last

It is with the utmost of excitement that I reveal photos of our garden ... finally! We have just not been able to get the garden up and going. Time and poor soil and lack of hay and a host of other things conspired against us! 

And then Mary Ann joined us. Folks I am actually not completely convinced that she isn't a real bonafide angel. Or at the very least, Mary Poppins. The woman is simply amazing. All this work gets done, we barely see her, she barely eats, and she rarely talks. Her sweetness just oozes off of her, and we simply LOVE her and would like her to stay with us FOREVER.

Mary Ann took over the garden, while JB helped some, she was truly the braun behind the operation ... and yet she still didn't want to plant a single thing until our family got out and planted first!

Here are some pictures of our fall garden! So incredibly excited to get this underway.

Sidge decided to wrestle Grampa to the ground during a break in the gardening action.

Review: The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles

The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles
I had the opportunity to read Mark S. Mirza's novel The Prayers / Book 1 Troubles during the last few weeks. This book was published by CTM Publishing Atlanta. 

In the very beginning of the book, the author takes a few pages to discuss some very specific things about this piece of fiction. Specifically he writes:

As I write this book the desired outcome is very specific and very simple. First, admittedly, I want you to learn prayer. i don't just want you to learn ABOUT prayer, but I want to hear of prayer becoming who you are, how you breathe Christianity, if you will. So to reach that aim you will see much repetition by various characters in various situations, but handling the problems the same way. Secondly, and this is very important to me: I want you to enjoy yourself.

This paragraph nearly perfectly summarizes my experience while reading Mirza's novel. 

A quick overview: this is a book a little bit like the This Present Darkness series that emerged when I was a teenager. It follows the lives of people in Biblical times, early 19th century times, and modern day times as they experience life and learn how to pray and navigate through it. I found that this book was educating me in a way I was not expecting. I was thinking about prayer a lot while reading this book. It was like watching the movie War Room. You left the theater inspired to make a change in your life.

This book did that for me.

And now some notes:

Firstly, Mirza is a good writer. Since I am a grammar teacher by trade, and have worked as a writer and an editor in various fashions, I am very aware of how writing is flowing. I am looking for errors, and I catch them regularly. There were a few grammatical errors in Mirza's book and instances where the punctuation was laid out a bit awkwardly, but generally speaking, it is a clean book and Mirza handles the English language very well. I think this is important because even the best stories, if written poorly, will not be a good read.

The Pray-ers / Book 1 TroublesSecondly, Mirza's main goal came through. I found myself, as I was reading, truly coming to learn about prayer. I wanted to pray for more. I wanted to view the world the way the heroes in this story were seeing it: through a spiritual lens. The story worked for me and while not the best piece of fiction I have ever read, I am not recalling a time I read fiction and felt myself getting a self-help book at the same time.

(Sidenote: I am not a fan of self-help books whether they be for me or for my parenting or for my marriage. I just can't get into them and often fall asleep while reading them. And that's what I loved about this book. I was learning while enjoying. A brilliant combination!)

Because his goal was not just telling a story, he included some things (like footnotes) not common to a piece of fiction. However, even though they could make the book a little bit more like a textbook, I found they were very important to the story. As I read about a certain type of prayer or about a Biblical reference, it was noted in the footnotes. This was very encouraging to me. I often grabbed my Bible to read about a scripture reference to prayer that I was unable to recall. I truly liked this aspect of the work.

One thing that Mirza did not do that I thought would bother me tremendously was something that he also mentioned in the preface. He decided not to capitalize any names of any people related to Satan or demons. During my first few pages, I really thought he had made a mistake in this choice. (He even says that his publisher thought he was making a mistake.) However, I actually think it was a good call. There are a lot of characters in this book, and choosing to lowercase the "dark side" names meant that I could easily tell the difference between the "good" guys and the "bad" guys.

The author also has a list of characters in the back of the book. And he tells you this in the opening pages. Another good move! I really hate when there is a reference guide in the back that no one tells you about. Then, after finishing the book I realize it was there and think geez that would have helped me to have that while I was reading. But Mirza mentions the reference guide, and I think it is needed.

Truly my only complaint was the number of characters introduced. I think they were all pertinent, but it did make it challenging to remember who was who. I used the reference guide quite a bit.

Mirza made note in the preface that focusing on the liberties he took as a writer was not the point. I really appreciated that as well. He was giving physical characteristics to demons and angels that he obviously had to make up. I felt that he did so very appropriately. 

In short: I truly think this a very neat book and something that hasn't been done often. I believe the author is passionate about what he did and that he took great time and research to bring this book to fruition. I would not let my young children read this nor read it to them as I think it could be scary, but I truly think this is a great teenager and adult book and would be a great conversation starter in a family.
The Pray-ers / Book 1 Troubles
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