Thursday, July 31, 2014

Moving update

So all of our stuff is here. After an intense box counting extravaganza, it appears that ALL of the boxes are indeed here in our home -- they were just badly numbered, not numbered, or the numbers not communicated when they were brought in.

However, the mold is a bit worse than we originally thought. While it is nothing like some of our other military families are experiencing right now, we still faced some damage.

We had a claims adjuster come by today. Apparently, the "minor" mold that is on our awesome king sized bed is not minor at all. The adjuster thought it was pretty bad and said we would have to replace the entire bed and that we should not be sleeping on it anymore. Ugh! My bed! I had been so excited to get that back!

The boys mattresses are also a loss as are our dining room chairs. We also lost a smattering of pictures and wooden trays.

Our handmade Turkish rugs were also hit, but there is someone who can clean these in Nashville.

I also have to wash every single piece of clothing that comes through due to mold/mildew smells. We'll have to dry clean anything that cannot be washed. Apparently this is also reimbursable. I am supposed to keep track of how many loads I am doing and a portion of the electricity costs are reimbursed. Go figure!

We also had about 5 or 6 items that were damaged that they will have to fix including our Turkish desk, an end table, and a picture.

Oh and hardware! We can't find hardware to my desk, the crib, the dining room table and a patio table. Some of these can have the hardware purchased, but some, the pieces are so obscure, it is nearly impossible. So they have to just trash these items and buy us new ones. Seems like such a waste, but no idea how else to do it.

None of these in and of itself are bad but trying to add to your unpacking list is a real pain! Trying to wash everything you own and keep up on normal laundry and trying to assess for mold and move those things out is a lot to do! I can only IMAGINE what the families who had nearly their entire shipment damaged are going through. Our's is nothing compared to that.

But life IS crazy right now. Hannah has a BAD cold, and Abigail is not feeling well. Thank goodness Mom is here to help right now as trying to have a new walker in a house being unpacked is less than ideal.

So ready to get this last military move WAY behind us!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

So ....

.... We have STUFF!

It was quite a day!

To begin with, we found out yesterday that JB had misread his work schedule and has to work. Praise The Lord that Grama K. was here with me!

So JB left at 630am for work, and movers were scheduled to arrive between 9 and 11am. We had everything timed perfectly for Hannah to go to sleep right when they got here, but then they called and said it would actually be between 12 and 1. So that plan went kaput.

But they finally arrived and even though it wa only mom and me and 12 crates and 4 kids and 1 dog, we did it!

There was no major mold, but I'd be lying if I said there wasn't any. We appear to be missing many boxes and they can't find the hardware for most of our things that need to be out together .... But at least we have our stuff in our house.

Time for bed! I'll write more tomorrow.

Garden goodies!

Look what we harvested from our backyard garden:

You know I never grew up gardening, but I have to wonder, why doesn't everyone do this? It is so easy and nearly completely FREE! With food prices the way they are I'd encourage everyone to consider a garden of some sort -- no matter how little land you have. I am really looking forward to getting our farm, not having a baby that I have to stay inside with, and being outside all the time working in the garden. I believe JB has finally won me over to this awesome activity!

Also, here is a video of Abigail with her favorite garden goodie: Tomatoes. I really attribute her absolute love for these tomatoes to my housekeeper in Turkey, Hatice, who would let her eat them like apples. It seemed "weird" to us, but I believe it developed a love in her of tomatoes unlike anything I see in my other kids:

Bird Watching

Boys just did this ...

I love books like this! We have been using this for our daily writing. Bought it at the $1 store for, you guessed it, $1! The boys just finished their books yesterday.

Diaper Coupon

My sister-in-law let me in on a great coupon yesterday online!

Want to get two boxes of Huggies or Pampers (giant size) for about the price of one?

  1. Go to
  2. Search for "Giant Diapers"
  3. You'll get a choice of diapers with a notation underneath them that if you buy 2 packs, you get a $20 gift card.
  4. So already you have saved $20 on two packs, but it gets better. When you go to check out, click on IN STORE PICK-UP and choose your store.
  5. There is another promotional deal for $10 off an order of $40 or more that will pop up when you place the order.
  6. So basically, the diapers were $73.51. I saved $30 with the two coupons meaning I got the two boxes for $43.51. (One box is generally about $35.)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Just finished

Per my Facebook friends' recommendations, I just finished my second book on their recommendation list: The Time Traveler's Wife. You can see the complete list of recommended books by clicking here. 

I did watch the movie first, and I know that skew how one feels about a book. Overall I enjoyed this book. I did feel that she sort of really ruined a great love story by throwing in some word usage that seemed to cheapen the relationship between the main characters. It also would prohibit me from wholeheartedly recommending the book or allowing my teenage daughter to read it. 

But I did enjoy it! Two out of three starts for this one!

Cow colored dog with cow

Charlotte Mason Homeschool

While I have been sort of "homeschooling" the boys for some time, this past week, we actually started on our first year curriculum.

I have decided to document what I am doing with our homeschooling in detail. This is so that other people can see it, yes, but also, even more, that I can remember what I did when it comes time to homeschool Abigail.

Please note: I am NOT trying to recruit anyone else to homeschool. Honestly, and I mean this wholeheartedly, I really couldn't care less if you homeschool your kid or put them in public school or private school. Your decision doesn't effect me, and I really just don't care! A friend asked me last week, "Do you think I should homeschool?" And I jokingly told her, "I really don't care!" I followed that up by explaining that I obviously think it is best for my kids or I wouldn't be doing it, but I am not on some crusade to get other people to feel the same way. Do what you want! Do what is best for your child. 

I was not a homeschool kid and I turned out just fine! Same goes for my husband and most of the other wonderful adults I know.

If I am being entirely honest, I think I'd rather keep homeschooling a bit more of a "novelty", because part of why I like it is that we can attend things during the school year that aren't very crowded. If everyone was homeschooling, I couldn't do that! :)

I will be posting things on my blog (statistics regarding homeschooling and other such things) in the future. However, it is important to note that things I list are not designed to discredit the success of the school system. That is not my job, and I have no desire to get into any debates with people regarding what is best. I will be listing facts on this blog simply to add to the validity of homeschooling. Many people believe homeschooling education is not as good as a public/private school education. I do not want to discredit the school system. I want to credit the homeschooling environment. 

I definitely believe that my children are getting as good of an education. If you don't believe that they are, I don't care! What I am posting is for people who are interested in homeschooling. If you aren't interested, then just don't read the posts (or just don't care what you read!)

Okay, off my little high horse now and onto the real reason I am writing this post.

My boys are starting kindergarten, and I want to keep a great record of what we are doing year by year.

We decided to use a Charlotte Mason style of homeschooling. My friend Carla first introduced me to the idea, and when I was struggling to decide whether to use a curriculum this first year or just "wing it", she reminded me of the idea. 

Why Charlotte Mason? Well, we like it. But secondarily, we were able to get the curriculum FREE online. At least in the beginning, we didn't want to pay a lot of money for curriculum until we were absolutely sure what it was we wanted to do.

The website that you can obtain ALL of this information from is found here: Ambleside Online. Please note that this website was done BY FREE for some mothers who loved the curriculum. They have a note up on the website that says they are improving the website. I don't want to complain about something that was done by volunteers, but the website is VERY difficult to navigate around (and I really hope they change it.)

The first thing we did was decide what year to start on. Technically, Charlotte Mason, would suggest that our boys be YEAR 0. She really doesn't recommend doing anything formally for another year. However, we decided to go ahead start our boys in YEAR 1. (We have already held Isaac back a year to be in the same grade as Sidge, so we felt like they were ready to do more than Year 0 dictated.)

Year 1 has an overview curriculum that you can follow either by breakdown or by chart. We then took that and decided to create our own chart as illustrated below. We are putting one of these up on the refrigerator each week for each of the boys.

Please note: If you would like a word copy of this chart, I would be HAPPY to email one to you. Simply email me at to request a word copy of the chart we are using for your own use. Don't try to recreate it. Get mine and use it!

The State of Tennessee requires 180 days of homeschooling per year and each day must encompass 4 hours of schooling. So that is how we broke up our week. The chart above indicates what we are spending time on each week. We give ourselves five days to work. Then we use day six for anything that doesn't get done int he five allocated days.

A few notes about our chart:

  • MATH: We are using CIMT Math. Why? Well, for now, because it is free.
  • WRITING: For writing, we are simply having the kids practice their letters and numbers each day.
  • READING: For reading, we are having the kids read to us or to themselves for a set number of minutes each day.
  • PHYSICAL EDUCATION: can be ANYTHING! Our favorites are the pool, the zoo, the park, open-gym gymnastics down the street, etc.
  • POETRY READING: is from A Child's Garden of Verses. My kids really enjoy these.
  • BIBLE VERSE: is simply a verse a week that we are picking and having the kids practice each day.
  • iPAD LEARNING TIME: for us includes three programs: Homer (30 minutes), ABC Mouse (15 Minutes), and Teach Me (15 minutes). I have become a HUGE fan of Homer (approximately $8 a month). My kids are learning so much from this program, and it is hands-down the best one we use at this point. Isaac saw Brail on the outside of the hotel room the other day and said, "Homer taught me that this is for blind people to read." I go back and forth with ABC Mouse ($8 a month) but Teach Me is incredibly great because it is the cheapest of all the program ($2 total to buy the app.)
  • Each of the books discussed in our "Weekly Readings" section can be found on this page. We found all of them free or we checked them out at our local library. Our goal has been to avoid spending money on curriculum whenever possible this year as we learn the ropes.
  • PICTURE STUDY: is simply JB printing out and discussing some of the greatest pieces of art of all time with them. They discuss one a week. The first week he did Starry Night.
  • DRAWING: Once a week we have the kids spend time drawing.
  • CRAFT: JB's Mom is doing a weekly craft with the kids. (Thank the LORD for Grama!)
  • NATURE STUDY: is simply doing something in nature. JB is doing this with them periodically throughout the week.
  • MUSIC: We are considering attending a weekly music class with the kids. Otherwise, for now, we are listening to and discussing a different composer each week. Very simple.
  • SCIENCE: is a weekly video. Right now we are using The Magic School Bus.
  • GEOGRAPHY: I am letting the kids do a fun game online to learn the States. We study maps and learn the States song. Right now we are focussing on the Continents and U.S. States.
  • HISTORY: We are watching a weekly video called Liberty Kids.

So this is what we are starting with. Have questions? I'd love to answer them! And again, I am not interested in debating whether homeschooling is best or not. If you don't think it is, NO PROBLEMO ... don't do it! No pressure from me at all. 

My homeschooling pages are designed for people genuinely interested in doing it and learning from me as I go.

Here are some other links that you might find interesting about this topic:

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Turkish & Nashville

I thought I'd want to eat out more after not eating out much at all for four years. I had told JB that I thought it would be the hardest thing for me to not splurge on when it came to following our budget. But truthfully? I've really lost a taste for American restaurants. After so many years of not eating at them, they are proving to be a little too decadent and rich and greasy for me.

However, one thing I think JB and I will always enjoy is a good ethnic restaurant. Thai and Indian are our favorites, but we heard about a Turkish restaurant about thirty minutes from us and decided to give it a try.

Firstly, the food was plentiful and outstanding. Since it was the first date we've had in about two months, I splurged and got a Coke. I forgot that it wouldn't just be one Coke in a can delivered to my table! Free refills?! I had totally forgotten about free refills.

Secondly, I realized that if I am going to eat out in the USA, I really want to try to frequent "Mom & Pop" establishments. I have nothing against chain restaurants (like Olive Garden) but if I am going to spend money, it feels a lot better spending it in support of someone who is making a life for himself in that building. This Turkish man has been in America for 25 years now and has been successfully running this restaurant for 13 of those years. In addition, the waitress explained to us that she had ended up in the Nashville area after falling on hard times and that this Turkish family had basically saved her life by giving her this job and helping her get on her feet.

It was fun to get to practice some of my Turkish again and reflect on our wonderful two years in that amazing country! JB was a little disappointed that they didn't sell Raka which is a very popular Turkish drink. But according to the owner, liquor licenses are way too difficult to obtain.

After dinner, we headed to a nearby town for dessert where we stumbled upon filming for a scene from the TV show Nashville. I think I heard of the show but had to look it up when I got home to see if I was remembering correctly. Either way, that was a sort of fun end to the evening. We sat outside a little fudge shop eating chocolate and watching filming and just enjoyed a few hours knowing the kiddos were safe with Grampa and Grama.

I continue to enjoy experiencing and seeing America through "new eyes." So much has changed in the four years I have been gone. The biggest differences are the way people dress and the abundance of technology everywhere you go. I really love this country even if I think the girls are dressing way too risque and there are way too many people on their devices everywhere I go!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Bad Mom Moment!

Hannah basically hates her play area. We have half the room sectioned off, but she still spends the entire time she is in there, planning and trying to execute her jail break. (And screaming too -- she does a lot of that as well.) She'll work on the end (nearest the wall) and push and shove until she can get the toy basket away from the wall. Then, she'll make a break for it. If she hears you on her tail, she starts crawling or walking faster. She wants nothing to do with playing in there.

The kids have learned to let us know if Hannah has gotten out. They will yell, "Hannah alert! Hannah alert!" (Or in Abigail's case it is more like, "Hannah awurt!" This means we should come running because a jail break has occurred. 

We keep changing the way we have the gate set-up to try and outsmart her. It will work for a few days and then she'll get wise on it and figure out how break out again, and we have to go back to the drawing board.

I wish I didn't have to keep her in there. But because we have no furniture, I have no bookshelves to hide cords behind. I have no drawers to put items safely out of reach. There are just wayyyy too many hazards. We do let her out, but only if an adult is walking around with her 1-on-1 without interruption.

The only time that she is okay with being in her play area is if someone is in there with her.

Which brings me to my "Bad Mom Moment."

JB was doing some work on the computer which is on the other side of the room. He had his headphones on so he couldn't hear anything. I decided to lay on the floor with Hannah. I put my head on that beanbag at the top right of the photo and just let her crawl all over me while trying to get any rest I could. The three older kids were playing legos upstairs peacefully. I thought maybe I could manage a little rest.

This went on for about an hour. Hannah climbed on my head, pulled my hair, ate my stomach, tried to eat my feet ... you know, typical baby stuff.

At some point, she quit harassing me and went to play with the toys in the basket.

The next thing I knew, JB was yelling, "Wendi!"

I jumped up. I instantly turned to find Hannah. 

Yep. You guessed it. She had made a jail break. I must have fallen asleep (or she was uber quiet) because I never saw or heard anything.

But the story gets worse. Hannah -- our little ten month old Hannah -- was three-fourths of the way up the stairs to the second floor.

By the time I realized what was going on, JB had already grabbed her and was coming back down the stairs with her in his arms. He handed her to me and tried to look mad, but mostly, he was trying to figure out himself how she managed to pry the toy box away from the wall and get up a flight of stairs before either of her in-the-room parents had any idea what had happened.

This folks, is why we pray for our children. 

Friday Funnies

Right in the middle of eating a wonderful Chicken Cordon Bleu meal (cooked by Grama), Sidge says, "I want some pancakes?"
Me: "Pancakes? Now."
Sidge: "It doesn't have to be right now. But I'd like to eat some pancakes. Maybe tomorrow?"
That kid LOVES food.


I've been trying to teach the kids about musical composers. After putting the kiddos to bed while JB was working, I put on some music. Sidge came out.
Sidge: "Is that the deaf guy?"
Me: "Beethoven? No."
Sidge: "Oh. Is it George Washington?"
Me: "Bach."

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Little artist

Isaac thinks coloring is okay. He'll get in a groove and color a bunch. But only if he has the right picture. Or a blank paper and a good inspiration.

And if it isn't a Superhero ... forget it.

Sidge basically hates to color. If I ask him to color for school work he'll sigh and say, "Coloring makes me soooo tired."

(And Hannah -- well, I'm sure all she knows how to do is eat crayons.)

But Abigail? This little chick L-O-V-E-S to color.

Recently she has started asking for blank paper so she can actually draw. 

Notice her little princesses set up on the left -- these are her inspiration.

And here is the finished product: Four princesses. Supposedly one is Mulan and one is Jasmine. Not sure how that can be when there are three blondes. I also couldn't ascertain why one has a gray face, but hey, I'm not picky.

Now I roll my eyes (inside at least) every time I hear a parent rave about how brilliant their child is. I mean, really, aren't most kids basically the same? But I do think that Abigail's drawing seems a little bit advanced for a three-year-old. But just a little bit. And I'm not writing her a ticket to art school yet or anything.

But mannnn is it fun to watch your kids develop their own personal likes and dislikes and gifts. Daddy is an artist so who knows what skills she inherited ...

... from him of course.


Our stuff is due in on Tuesday.

I am trying to keep the faith that it will be mold-free, but we have now received word of a FOURTH family that has had an entire shipment ransacked by mold. One friend had a mold-free shipment so I know it is possible, and I am trying to remain hopeful.

It is not actually the thought of mold that bothers me. My stuff is all replaceable. Even our Turkish carpets are something that with insurance, we could buy again. However, it is the time and hassle that I am just not sure I have the energy for right now. The thought that the truck could pull up and then have to leave for some cleaning and discarding facility is simply not something I care to think about.

Please pray that I can keep the faith. I am trying ...

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I blamed my wife for our messy house, I was wrong for many reasons

Just read this article and wanted to share. 

There were two paragraphs that especially stood out to me ...

The author writes:

We got into a huge fight. Mel told me that I needed to realize what she was up against. And then she told me something that really hit home. She said, “Sometimes it comes down between cleaning the house, and taking Tristan and Norah to the park. Or spending time having fun with them, or teaching them to read or write. Sometimes I can either do the dishes, or teach our son how to ride a bike, or our daughter how to walk. I’d rather do those things, frankly. I’d rather not be that mom who ignores our kids, and myself, because I’m so busy worrying about what the neighbors might think of our messy house.”

What I discovered was that taking care of the home is actually a collection of a million full-time jobs. My wife is a housekeeper, disciplinarian, teacher, nurse, chauffeur, comforter, cook, part-time student, school volunteer, neighborhood caregiver, and more.

This parallels with another piece I read entitled: Apology to All Stay at Home Mums. Written by a stay-at-home Dad, he confesses that he usually to really think how nice it would be to sit around and watch TV all day. Until he became the stay-at-home Dad. 

"It's not easy," he writes in his closing paragraph. "In fact it's the hardest job I've ever had. Sure it has it's moments, but it is a very challenging, very stressful job that is all held together, for most women at least, by a good bottle of wine."

Time to Wee-Wind! (It's Wednesday!)

On this date in 2009, we arrived in Snowmass, Colorado.

 JB had a Conference he was attending. I joined him with two little boys in tow. My great friend Kelsey joined us for a few days.

I look at this picture of Isaac, above, and cannot believe that he is now six! He has long legs and big feet and has lost teeth and is starting kindergarten! In some ways, I greatly grieve how fast the time has flown. But in otherwise I love seeing the little boy he has become!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

It's Off to Work He Goes!

JB's work is so very different from anything he has done the last four years.

The last four years were pretty predictably Monday thru Friday full workdays. He would also be on call quite a bit.

Now he is working 12 hour shifts. These shifts can be anytime during the week. They run from 7am until 7pm or from 7pm until 7am. Generally he will be doing more days than nights. He is supposed to be doing at least ten shifts a month, but he would like to do more in the neighborhood of 12-14. He is never on call.

There are some very good things about this schedule. The first is that we can easily take trips or he can attend conferences without actually having to take time off of work. He simply tells the scheduler thirty days ahead of time what days he would like off and viola! there you have it.

In addition, he is usually doing only two or three shifts a week. This is a grand total of 36 hours a week. Both in Turkey and the Azores he was usually working closer to 50 hours a week. (And I won't even get started on what his hours during his residency at Eglin were.)

If he works nights and there is nothing going on, he can also get some sleep which on a good night can mean he gets paid to go to sleep!

He also gets paid for every single hour he works. This means that if he has to work later due to a busy shift, he gets paid for it -- instead of working salaried as he did in the military.

Working by shift obviously has its downsides. Because he is a contractual employee, he has to get his own health insurance. He also doesn't get paid if he doesn't work (i.e., if he has to call in sick.)

This is a small ER. Family medicine physicians generally only work at small ER's. Any "big" things that might occur in a town (car accidents, violent crime, etc.) go to trauma centers and so, unless they walk in themselves, John won't see them. Big ER's staff doctors who go to school in Emergency Medicine.

Overall, we think we are going to like the new ER schedule. The days he is gone are very long to me. He leaves before 6:30am and is home close to 8pm. Originally, I was trying to leave the kiddos up to greet him when he got home. But this was hard for him because he had to quickly jump into a bedtime routine, and the kids were getting to bed an hour late. So now, we've decided that I'll do the whole bedtime thing solo, get them in bed, and then he can go in and kiss them and snuggle with them if he gets home in time.

Dad and Mom are here in TN now. Mom is here for good. Dad will still be going back and forth to finish up some jobs in Florida. John's brother and his wife (Ray & Gabbi) are living a town over so Dad and Mom are spending a good bit of time at their house too. While I miss Dad and Mom (and their help!) when they are gone, I'm so glad that they are close to another one of their children and their grandchildren.

As for me, this week we started a new homeschooling curriculum. I've only done it for two days, but I am simply LOVING how organized and easy it is to know what I am doing each day and to follow the schedule so easily. Like I said, I plan to spend more time discussing what we are using and how I am doing it, but for now, I'll just say that it is totally working for us. Today, I even invited over the cousins to play. I wondered if I could get our four hours of homeschooling in with visitors, and we did it pretty easily!

If you think of it, please continue to pray for the delivery of our "stuff" on the 29th. I've received more reports of people receiving entire shipments destroyed by mold. But I also received the good news of someone receiving an entire shipment with no mold. While it is just "stuff" there are a few things in there that would not be easily replaceable. There is a quilt that a friend made us for our wedding. There are also our three handmade Turkish rugs. And of course there is a smattering of photos and pictures that while technically replaceable, would be sad to lose.

Yes, you have insurance, but filing claims and getting those taken care of can be a real pain. Take our storage shipment. As I mentioned previously, our stuff arrived minus a king sized mattress we had put in there just for this situation. Basically, it was stolen. Totally gone. We reported it, but they are saying that in order to file a claim over $300, we need a receipt for the mattress. Who keeps a receipt from a mattress you bought the first year you were married? Not us. Trying to file that claim for the mattress with the terribly cumbersome military website has taken JB no less than THREE hours ... and that's for one little mattress! Needless to say it isn't so much the "stuff" but the "hassle" that I am REALLY hoping will pass over our house!

All righty ... hoping JB will be home from his shift any minute! Night everyone!

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Few Fun Notes

Life has been interesting as of late. Here are just a few "big" things that have been going on:

1) We found out that our stuff is scheduled for delivery on July 29th! We are so incredibly excited to finally have everything we own in one place. We have been without our things since the beginning of April, and our delivery was supposed to have occurred before June 3rd. Please pray that our stuff does in fact come. In addition, please pray that there is no mold in our shipment. Another gal on our boat received her goods and they were nearly all completely destroyed by mold. It's been a terrible thing for her, and we are just hoping and praying our's doesn't include the same problems.

2) I gave my talk to the MOPs group in Japan last week and it seemed to go very well. Other than the fact that I screwed up the time change slightly and almost missed the talk (gulp!) and then Skype wasn't connecting properly, everything seemed to go off without a hitch.

3) A few months ago I submitted a few of my infertility pieces to Bethany's Stepping Stones, a support group for women dealing with infertility. One of my pieces has already been published. And then, yesterday, I received an email from their publisher. They are submitting two of my pieces to Christianity Today. Not sure what this means right now, but they asked me to be available for an interview so we'll see what happens.

4) Hannah is walking!

5) We have started a new homeschool curriculum. I will be including a lot of information on this in the weeks/months/year to come so stay tuned.

6) We found a church just one mile from our house that seems like a great fit for our family.

7) JB is really enjoying his new ER job! More to come on that too.

An Infertility Story

We dealt with infertility for five long years.

So when we adopted Isaac and then found out that we were, miraculously, pregnant with Elijah, a friend of my Mom's gave us a framed photo.

I've taken a picture of it and included it above.

It was a beautiful picture, but we had two boys. And I knew I wasn't going to have any more children. We were still in complete shock that we had TWO boys. We knew Elijah was a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and we were perfectly content with our two boy family.

We lived on Eglin Air Force Base at the time. My friend Joia had just had a little blonde-headed girl, and so I asked her if she would like the picture. 

The picture, while beautiful, caused me pain. It reminded me of the China adoption we had pulled out of. It reminded me of our years of infertility. Like a few other things, I just had to remove them from my house so that I didn't think about them all the time.

And then, somehow, I found myself pregnant again.

Abigail was born. And as she grew, she was blonde. Very blonde.

And suddenly, I started thinking about that framed photo I had given to Joia. It popped into my mind all the time. I wanted to see it again. Was it as beautiful as I remember? Did it look like Abigail like I remembered in my mind?

I felt terrible asking Joia if I could have it back. But finally I decided that she was a good enough friend to understand my dilemma. I emailed her and asked her if she was attached to the picture. And if she was, could she at least provide me with some of the print details so I could find a copy of it.

Joia sent it to me in the mail! She said that it had hung in her daughter's room but that she wasn't particularly attached to it and that she felt honored to give it back to me at a better time in my life.

I received it last week, and as I looked at the blonde mother holding her blonde daughter and praying together, I couldn't help but cry. I'm not a crier, but I stood there just weeping at the amazing God I serve.

My own doctor told me, "I would never have given you a chance at having a biological child."

And today I have FOUR amazing miracles. 

I pray for those of you waiting for your miracle today. Please believe me when I say that I was NOT the person who was going to have four children. Anyone who knew me "back then" will tell you that their hope for a house filled with Kitsteiner children had basically shrunk to zero.

But today, this photo ... a photo I would never have dreamed could find an appropriate place in my house ... is hung.

Thank you Joia.

Thank you Jesus.

Sunday, July 20, 2014


Please pray for my friend from the Azores, Kimberly and her two children. They said good bye to their Daddy today for deployment. Shall we never forget those who sacrifice so much to serve the country we all love ...

Lesson learned

I have never kept a table cloth on the table. But this table is a loaner form our neighbor and so we are keeping pads and a tablecloth on it. Note to self: Do not put baby close enough so that she can grab the tablecloth -- especially when there are other items on top of the tablecloth.

Thanks Scrubs for cleaning up all food mess created by baby.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

First Princess Party

Abigail attended her very first "girly" birthday party. It was with her cousin Mary Beth who was turning five. She was the youngest of the five girls there, but she did great. She successfully wore a dress, painted a mirror, decorated a cupcake, and drank tea. I had a wonderful time because I got to attend with just Abigail, and it was super fun to just spend some good time with her. I ate too many M&M's, but I had a wonderful time hanging out with Josh & Sarah and chaperoning five little girls being princesses!

Lego Club

I am a novice to homeschooling. 


I have decided that I would like to document my experiences as well as I can. Things I am learning. Experiences we are having. Failures we are encountering. Obstacles we are attempting to navigate.

When I lived on Base in the Azores, I was a part of a little homeschool group, but other than this two-times-a-month little gathering, my exposure to homeschooling "groups" is fairly low. 

But that is about to change.

Because apparently, our county, is a"Mecca" of homeschooling. Honestly, I keep meeting homeschool moms. And I am not trying to. Really! Honestly, everywhere I go there are homeschooling moms. They introduce themselves to me. They tell me that our city is the best place to be if I am going to be a homeschool mom. They give me websites and Facebook pages and start rattling off information to me so fast, I can't keep up.

The number of possible activities in our city feels limitless. I can't even keep up on the things being thrown at me: co-ops and field trip groups and tutorials galore!

But since we are (at least right now) a one vehicle family, and my husband works different days each week, I have decided to limit my involvement to things I do not need to commit to. For the next year, we don't plan on getting involved in anything that requires a weekly or even monthly committment. Instead, we hope to attend events that we can take or leave depending on whether or not we have a vehicle.

The public library in our city is AMAZING. They are constantly holding activities for the kids. The one I would not have picked for the boys to attend? A Lego Club. Seriously? A Lego Club? But you know, my boys can read now, and they can especially read the word Lego, and they saw it on a sign on the library, and they drilled me and asked me about it repeatedly until I was definitely locked into attending this club with them.

So Friday was the monthly Homeschool Lego Club. Since JB was home, we could go. And since JB was home and Lego Club meets right smack in the middle of nap time, JB volunteered to stay home with the sleeping girls in our family while I took the boys to the Club.

Folks, I was absolutely BLOWN AWAY by this Lego Club. Firstly because of how many kids were there. Dozens of children around the boys age. All homeschooled kids. (Apparently, in the winter, the group can get as high as EIGHTY children!) 

Secondly because of the quality of children I was meeting. You know how when you attend events with kids there are always a few of them who are just out of control? Well not here. These children were kind and courteous and intelligent and articulate. 

At one point, the table my boys were sitting at decided to work together to accomplish this month's theme: farming. I was a little nervous as I observed this from the side of the room. Most of the kids at their table were older and were polished lego builders. How would they take to two little boys trying to help make a farm scene.

Well they took marvelously. An older boy took the lead and encouraged my boys to make hay and a horse and help him find red pieces. They eagerly accepted his challenges and beamed when the boy told them what a good job they were doing.

At the end of the meeting, it was time for "Show and Tell." Let me preface this by saying that ever since we have returned to America, my kids have not left my side at events. While the other kids sit in the center of the room volunteering and raising their hands, my kiddos sit right by me and keep completely to themselves. 

So imagine my surprise when both boys wanted to draw a number out of the hat to participate in Show & Tell. And imagine my incredible surprise when I saw Sidge pulled #1, and he stepped to the front without hesitation, rattling off details of his lego builds articulately and appropriately. And Isaac, who pulled the second to last number, confidently walked to the front of the room and barely stuttered at all while he shared what he had built. 

I was seriously the proudest Mama ever. 

The room was full of kind, encouraging people who all homeschool their children. These were not weird people. These were very cool, hip people and amazingly kind children. 

(Can you tell my first homeschool event here in TN was a hit?!)

Isaac showing what he built during the "free building" time.

The boys working as a team with three other boys to build a farm. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Love Your Laundry Line

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post entitled To Dry or Not To Dry. I wrote about the fact that Americans are so obsessed with being green, and yet laundry lines are outlawed by most HOA's. After living overseas, where laundry lines are seen as picturesque and appropriate, I wondered why there was such a stigma associated with laundry lines in America.

Most responses I heard basically echoed what I wrote. They shared the belief that while definitely better for the environment and way cheaper, laundry lines are seen as tacky and "low-class."

Imagine my excitement when just a few days after writing this piece, my husband showed me his current issue of Urban Farm magazine (June/July issue). Now this isn't a magazine I frequently delve into, but I read every word of a piece on page 43 entitled "Love Your Laundry Line."

This article was basically an exact replica of the words I had tried to express on my previous blog. I want to take a moment to summarize this great article which backs up my observations with proven statistics.

Author Bill Strubbe had decided along with his housemate, to put up a laundry line. "In addition to such benefits as reacquainting oneself with the every-changing fluctuations of weather, chatting over the fence with neighbors and jasmine-scented pillow cases, clotheslines save energy and money."

Strubbe went on to share these facts: "The Rocky Mountain Institute, a nonprofit based in Colorado that drives the efficient and restorative use of resources, estimates that more than 6 percent of the U.S. residential electricity is guzzled by the clothes dryer, annually consuming about 200 million tons of coal and costing the average household several hundred dollars."

And here is the part that really jumped out at me. Despite the fact that dryers are not good for the environment and are very expensive, "... about 60 million Americans live in communities governed by homeowners associations and municipal laws that restrict or ban clotheslines, claiming they're eyesores and that they lower property values ... The unassuming, old-fashioned clothesline seems to embody a peculiar American clash of ideas about class, liberty, and the environment."

"For some, clotheslines are an undesirable reminder of a more frugal, bygone age that they'd prefer to forget; for others, air-drying is akin to recycling or bringing reusable bags to the market. But with an increase in energy awareness, six states -- Florida, Utah, Maine, Vermont, Colorado, and Hawaii -- have passed laws curtailing housing authorities ' power to stop residents from using clotheslines, and several other states -- including California -- have similar bills pending."

Alexander Lee, the founder of Project Laundry List ( staunchly disputes the oft-quoted figure of 6 percent, estimating the actual number to be much higher. "The Energy Information Administration stats, broken into industrial, commercial, and residential silos, do not give a true picture," he says. "Unlike, say dish washing or home lighting, much laundry takes place in Laundromats and shared condo facilities. Also, laundry is a big part of the load -- pardon the pun -- at hospitals, hotels, prisons, and restaurants, all counted as commercial and not factored in the 6 percent 'residential' number. Gas dryers do not show up on electricity stats either." Lee contends that if one in three Americans line-dried for five months of the year, 2.2 million tons of carbon dioxide would be prevented from entering the atmosphere by 2020.

Strubbe continues by noting that, "In addition, clothes last longer when drying outside as their is less wear and tear, especially on items containing elastic, such as fitted sheets and underwear. Drying your clothes outside may take longer than tossing them in the dryer, but it's time well spent outside, in the fresh air and sunshine. It's better for you and your clothes."

One individual quoted in the article is Simon Lang Lorihine. Lorihine has never owned a dryer and from all estimates, he figures that he and his family are saving about $1,000 annually. "For bright colors that we don't want to fade, we'll hang in the attic, which takes a bit longer," Lorihine says. "As for the problem of crunchy towels, we shake them out hard after the washer before hanging, which softens them."

"Lorihine grew up in England, where even in that damp climate, clothes flapping in the breeze don't carry the same stigma, and only about 45 percent of households own a tumble dryer, compared to 79 percent in the United States. In Italy, only about 4 percent of the population possess dryers, and colorful lines of clothes grace the windows, balconies, and yards of every town and city."

This article was packed with statistics that supported my thought ... not using dryers and more specifically, outlawing clotheslines, is simply a contradiction to our environmental-emphasis. I really predict that we are about to see a huge change in this in the very near future!

Friday Funnies

This past week, we took a two day trip to another part of Tennessee to check out the area and see if this is where we wanted to buy our land. We took the three older children, and Grampa and Grama stayed at the house with Hannah.

I'm so excited to announce that we have figured out where we want to buy our farm. Basically, we have chosen a city and we are looking for land within about 1 hour drive of this area. Our goal is to be there by next summer!

I'd be happy to tell you the city if you know me personally. Feel free to email me or Facebook me. We won't ever be publicly announcing where we are going to live as we want to try to to keep our location a bit more on the down-low since both JB and I maintain such public blogs.

But, I got a bit sidetracked. I wrote all that to say that here were some Friday Funnies from our road trip!

Sidge was talking about feeling carsick. Sidge: "When I'm going to do the throw up my legs start to jiggle."


Sidge: "I can't wait to have pigs on our farm. We'll have bacon. Does bacon come out the pigs' bottoms or do they throw up bacon?"


JB: "You ready to be a farmer, Abigail?"
Abigail: "I'm going to be seeping bootie." (Sleeping Beauty).


When Sidge couldn't hear JB on our road trip, Sidge shouted from the backseat: "Daddy, do you have hearing loss?"


Sidge informed us while doing his daily reading in the car: "I just read the word peanut with my eyes closed."

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Get to Know Mary

In the past few weeks, I have had the pleasure of reviewing a series of books by Nancy I. Sanders. I am simply IN LOVE with this series.

I reviewed Get to Know Jesus a few weeks back. You can read my review here.  

I was then asked to review the Get to Know Paul book by the same author. You can read my review of that book here. 

This week I received the Get to Know Mary book, and I am so excited that I have had the opportunity to put three of these beautiful books into our library.

I think this series of book is perfect for my 5 and 6 year old boys. I even think my 3 year old daughter will be able to glean some knowledge and enjoy reading it with me. While the boys cannot read this on their own yet, I believe that it will be a great book for us to read through together and really discuss and learn.

Mary was more than just a girl growing up in Israel. She was chosen by God to be the mother of Jesus! This book allows children and adults alike to learn about the life and times of this brave young woman and how she became a hero of the Bible. The book begins with her life in the House of Jacob and follows through to her engagement, the birth of her son and travels with her all the way to death of her firstborn son.

The book and pages are sturdy and colorful. It is well organized with great color photos. This is sure to become a favorite for young readers and for first book reports!

BookLook Bloggers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest and truthful review.

A swimmer and a walker

We have a swimmer. Literally this chick taught herself.

This chick taught herself too. We have a walker:

Creating the Perfect Homeschool Schedule

In Tennessee, you are required to register your children in either the local public school or a Christian school "umbrella" program. I have recently registered the boys with an umbrella program, and while I have been homeschooling all summer throughout our move, just this week we are trying to adhere to a curriculum and get things a bit more structured. I'll right more about what curriculum we are doing and other details soon, but today I just wanted to share a nice article about creating the homeschool schedule. You can read the article in it's entirety by clicking here. 


Let me fill you in on a little secret. The perfect homeschool schedule doesn’t exist.
How I wish someone would’ve shared that tidbit of wisdom with me during my first 2 1/2 years of homeschooling. I could’ve saved a bit of sanity. I spent so long switching from this schedule to that schedule thinking that it would make all the difference.
But you know what I found?
The exact same results from every attempt.
The problem was that I was trying to take the perfect schedule of someone else and make it my own. Forgetting all the while that I didn’t have their life or their children, so how in the world could their schedule possibly work for me?
It didn’t.
It wasn’t until God revealed to me that there was no one size fits all perfect homeschool schedule, but rather only a personalized schedule {I wouldn’t dare say perfect} that works (most of the time) for our homeschool that I was finally able to begin to enjoy our homeschooling adventure.

Are you wondering how to create a homeschooling schedule that works for your family?

Consider these tips:
  1. PRAY. Give God control over your schedule. Ask Him to reveal to you a plan that will work for your family. Allow Him to adjust {add and take away} as He sees fit. But, then have the obedience to follow through with what He shows you.
  2. Don’t try to mimic the homeschool schedule of your friends. It won’t work.
  3. Determine the needs of your family. Do they work better in the morning or the afternoon? Do you need a rigid schedule or does flexibility work best for you? Do you have little ones who need daily naps? Do you work outside the home and need to work your schedule around that? What does Dad’s work schedule look like? Will that affect your homeschool?
  4. Don’t fall under the misconception that you must have formal school hours Monday through Friday from 9-3. If you force yourself to adhere to this mindset, you’re missing the beauty of homeschooling.
  5. Try a new schedule. If it doesn’t work, try something else. Homeschooling is daily trial and error until you find your groove.
  6. Be flexible. Recognize that the seasons of life are constantly changing. Just when you think you have it all figured out, life happens and you’re back to square one. It’s okay. Try again tomorrow.
  7. Remember there is no such thing as a perfect homeschool schedule. There just isn’t. If someone tells you they’ve found a formula to concoct a perfect, stress-free homeschool day, don’t believe them. Through much prayer, sweat and tears, you’ll find what works for you and it will be glorious. Until then, keep trying. Keep praying. Keep going. You’re doing great, Mom!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Abigail is Three

Firstly, we never dreamed we would have another biological child after our two boys. We didn't think we could get that lucky.

But if we were going to have more, we thought we only wanted boys. We had two of them. We knew them. Boys were easy. Boys were familiar. Boys were steady.

And then we found out that our third miracle was going to be a little girl. We weren't actually that excited about it. We were nervous. We were concerned. We knew boys. Girls we didn't know.

Abigail was born. Nothing much changed. She was a baby. Daddy was still with his two boys a lot while I was paired with this new little bundle of baby. We fed the baby and played with the baby. But other than dressing her a bit differently, she was just the same as her big brothers to us.

And then she turned one.

And suddenly Daddy melted into a big puddle with those big wrap-herself-around-his-neck hugs. Her personality began to emerge, and we realized THIS CHILD IS NOT A BOY.

She is HIGH drama. She loves princesses. Her favorite colors are pink and purple. She wants to wear dresses. She likes Minnie and "Seeping Bootie" and baby dolls and things that are ... well ... girly.

She puts her hands on her hips when she tells her brothers what they should do. She wears a purple tu-tu bathing suit when she swims. (Oh, and she has recently taught herself to swim! Video to come!)
She is shy with people she doesn't know but not quite as painfully so as a few months ago. She will cry and sob and wail and make hand motions and push her blonde bangs out of her eyes and totally work her Daddy and even Mommy with her feminine ways any chance she gets.

Anyone who believes children are all the same is SO wrong. Boys are boys. And girls are definitely not boys.

She is obsessed with her little sister. Hannah is the first person she wants to hug each morning, and she kisses her and lays on her and helps give her a bottle and says, "Ohhhhh Hannah" whenever she sees her. (Her big brothers meanwhile are like, Cool a Baby. Can I go play with my legos and Superheroes now?)

People talk about the terrible-twos or three's, and I have to say that while Abigail is high maintenance, I do NOT want her to leave this age behind. I want her to be two or three forever. She is SO MUCH FUN. She is unpredictable and full of life and personality and huge smiles and big cries and the most amazing hugs and kisses I could ever imagine receiving.

Did I mention she eats almost anything? She likes to eat tomatoes like apples. (I'm pretty sure this is from our time in Turkey where Hatice would give them to her like a Turkish Grama would.) She will eat Sushi with JB and devours Macadamia nuts.

Daddy told her last week that he wanted to take her on her first date. He said, "I'm going to take you to dinner," and this little girl said, "And we go dancing too?"

Something tells me she could get Daddy to go do anything she asked him to do.

We are truly obsessed with Abigail. She melts us over and over again in so many ways on so many days.

Don't get me wrong. She leaves us rolling our eyes and throwing out hands up in bewilderment as well in so many ways on so many days.  

But mostly, we just want her to stay this little white-headed, big-eyed princess forever.

Happy third birthday little Aibgail Grace.

Thank you for being a girl.

Thank you for being our little girl.

(At Abigail's 3 year appt. -- which came a little late -- she was 36 pounds (84th percentile), 39 inches (79th percentile), and her BMI was 16 (78th percentile).

'Blended' Photo Series ....

... captures the unconditional love between an adopted child and his family. Click here to see the beautiful photos for yourself.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Birthday Party Time!

We had Abigail's birthday party this year at our nearest Chik-fil-A (about 20 minutes from our house.) They let you have it for free and still put down tablecloths, give you cow hats, a free kids meal for birthday girl, and more! It was WONDERFUL! 

We have decided that we may never make our own cake again. Like any party, my goal is always 1-2 hours for $100 to $200! This fit nicely into the budget. For $23 we were able to get this cake made at Kroger AND you could bring in your own image (JB put this one together of all the princesses AND Minnie) and included a photo our friend Linda took of Abigail on the cake. SO easy!

I put out some princess stickers and wonder marker color pages for the kids. Abigail spent a lot of time doing them before the party got started.

Our three year old!

Her new "smile."

Reaching for more stickers.

Kid sister

And I'll just put my foot up and relax a bit. (Notice she only has one bow in her hair. The other one made her angry so she ripped it out.)

Party table! I picked up one dozen balloons at Kroger too.


French fries.

Been trying to put her own cap back on the markers. (It is still a work in progress.)

We had a major breakdown before we left to the party due to her shoes hurting her (they didn't). We were worried this could be a disaster but thankfully, she came around!


Starting to feel the pressure of everyone looking at her.

A bit more nervous.

And this is our "freeze like a bunny" pose. (If I look down and don't move, no one will know I am here.)

But she still blew out the candle!!!

We actually had four families join us for the celebrations -- this was great as you never know when you move somewhere if there will be "friends" to have at your party.

Uncle Ray and Aunt Gabbi with Nate!

More friends/cousins.

Sidge loves food of all kinds -- but especially dessert.

Completely egg-free ice cream!

Cousin MaryBeth!

Cousin Jordan!

Cousin Grace!

Aunt Gabbi and Uncle Ray!

Aunt Sarah!

Ray with Nate!

New friends whom we met through Stebbins -- The O. family is awesome!

Grama with Hannah.

My new friend Allison lives across the street from me. She has a three year old son and baby twins -- and she made it to the party 1 on 3! She's a rock star!

So sweet!

Abigail absolutely ADORES Tyler.

Party is done everyone! Go home!