Saturday, October 19, 2019

What my Mama never taught me

My Mama never taught me about "spring cleaning." She never pulled out bins of winter gloves and hats for my brother and I to go through and figure out what fit us after a long year in bins in the attic. 

(We also lived in a mobile home so there wasn't an attic. I used that word for effect.) 

We never tried on coats. Snow pants. Boots. 

We didn't spend panicked days when the weather moved from Summer to Winter and skipped Fall trying to make sure we didn't freeze.

My Mama didn't teach me any of this. I had no idea that when I had children I would spend so much time trying to get my kids warm and not spend a fortune doing it.

My Mama didn't teach me because ...

I grew up in Fort Lauderdale. 

While I love the seasons and seeing the weather change, having to have two wardrobes (for each person!) is simply crazy. 

In Florida we simply pulled out our hoodies. 


Ready for winter!

My only consolation?

This isn't Minnesota. 


Thursday, October 17, 2019

We Bought a Farm: Growing

Our farm is growing. 

The labor pains are sometimes a challenge.

But oh to see what has been in John's mind,


Wednesday, October 16, 2019

We Bought a Farm: Fall has arrived

The first beginnings of colored trees are popping up in our tree line. 
The air is getting cooler. 
And the kids are clamoring for more time outside. 
Eating dinner on our front porch. 
Donning a hat for morning chores. 

Hello fall.


Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Tuesday Truth

What do you see?

This photo hangs in our home. And I often wonder what people see when they see this photo?

This woman spent an entire pregnancy so depressed and ill during that she was often passively suicidal. She managed to sleep each evening by taking an Ambien every three hours so that she could get rest despite the nausea. She and her husband were little more than doctor and patient for the entire pregnancy.

The last six weeks she lived with her parents in Florida while her husband was back in the Azores. Her three children with her. Trying to function. Doing what was necessary. But watching everything as if from outside her body.

Her other three children were cared for but not cherished. The oldest commented that he wondered if he'd ever see his Mommy smile again. His Mommy was hanging on for dear life

But this photo. This photo! When I look at it, I see: 


And I wasn't feeling any of that.

I was feeling:


When you watch people's pictures on Facebook fly around and think to yourself, "Oh I wish I had what they have ..." 

Please remember. 

It's just a picture.

A picture doesn't capture the soul. It doesn't capture feelings. It doesn't tell the whole story.

Oh sometimes it gets close. And I am in no way slighting photographers on the gift of their art. But we need to remember that it isn't always what you see. Unless you were intimately involved with me, you didn't know. And even then, I didn't tell many that I felt like dying even though life was growing inside me. 

(And to those who stood close by during this time: thank you!)

I have since continued to battle and anxiety and depression off and on. There are occasions when I have been able to fight it without medication as I had to do while pregnant. There have been other occasions when I have turned to medicine to help me. 

I manage my mental health well, but it's there. It's hard. I have many friends right now struggling themselves. They may look fine to everyone else. And even evoke feeling of jealousy from friends who think they have it altogether.

But they may not have it altogether at all

Love your people.

Check on your people.

Know that what you see on the outside isn't always what is flying around on the inside.

Sometimes a picture doesn't say nearly enough words.

Monday, October 14, 2019

In John's first life ....

.... he was an artist. While we were dating, he drew this of me. When he pulled it out last week and Sidge saw it he said, "Wow! I mean that looks more like Mom like mom even looks."

We need to get this one framed in our house for sure. 


Sunday, October 13, 2019

The waiting

The waiting. 

How hard it is when you wait.

And wait.

And wait some more.

And you aren't sure, really, if the waiting will ever end.

I'm promised eternity.

But I am not promised that this life on Earth will give me all I hoped for.

And then, Isaac was born.

And the waiting was done.

Motherhood doesn't have to be blood to be ...


It healed my heart. 

Had I never experienced a pregnancy, I would have still said "I found peace."

I know adoption. I love the child that made me a mom.

I love adoption.


Saturday, October 12, 2019

Some Snaps from our Week

I absolutely love this picture of my niece, Genevieve, and Ritter. (I call my cousin's kids nieces and nephews because it is just easier). Ritter is such a lover! He lets anyone and everyone lay all over him. 

Genevieve and Hannah with their ballet teacher -- Ms. Meg. She's a senior at Central Ballet and heads up their class which is quite an endeavor ... my Hannah is truly there for the socializing. 

It was Fall Break here in TN. This meant that our friend, Bailee, who goes to public school, was off for the week. Bailee is a church AND ballet friend. So she spent four days with us this week! We had a blast. On Tuesday she joined us for all our errands before ballet. 

She jumped right into our homeschooling. She participated in things she liked, played with whoever was on break, and read her book if nothing else fit for her. 
We learned to draw cats in our online art program.  
Go Bailee!

John also let the kiddos try the first persimmon of the fall. Here's an important fact: if a persimmon is not ripe it is AWFUL. (Think a mouth full of cotton balls.) If it is ripe, it is UH-maz-ing!

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Wee-wind Wednesday

A flash back to January 2017. Hannah would have been a little over four years old. 

Be still my heart

When your husband is a doctor and his organization system for medical supplies thus far has been big tubs .... THIS is like an early Christmas present!!

He did this. Himself. Ordered the tubs and surprised me!!! 

Better than a candlelight dinner any day of the week for this gal!!!!

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

I promised myself I would NEVER do this ...

It's Fall Break here in East Tennessee -- which means ballet classes are a bit more empty than usual. 

Tonight, the ballet class that Abigail and her cousin Ana takes only had ten girls. Because there was more room, Lori Ann decided to do floor barre with the girls instead of their normal barre time. 

They got in three lines and there was a whole bunch of room in the back of the studio. So she looks over at Erin and Jessica and I -- ballet moms who enjoy chillin' together and just watching our girls dance sitting over in the cheering section -- and asked us if we wanted to jump in.

I have always said I would NEVER do anything resembling ballet. I mean, a girl has to have standards you know? But this was really just a gigantic stretching hour so I decided I could slide into the back row and participate. Jessica and Erin begrudgingly went with me. 

Here was Abigail's face when she saw what I was doing. (I'm thinking she wasn't thrilled with the idea?!)

And here's a picture of me wondering what the heck I am doing:

Erin snapped a picture of me doing what was supposed to be a big ol' center split. (Yeah ... right!)

While I am trying to do a split, here's my view of girls actually doing them:

And I snapped a picture back of Erin doing this move:

I didn't get a picture of Jessica, which was a shame because she was actually pretty good (especially considering she was doing it in her work clothes!)

I did, however, notice how nice of a ceiling they have at the studio while my athletic socks were sort-of-pointing towards it:

Abigail made the following notes following my first attempt at ballet"

  • "Ms. Jessica was pretty good. You, mom, were not."
  • I asked her if she was embarrassed of me and she said, "I was a little, yes."
  • She did say to me: "Could you show me how to do sit-ups sometime Mama? That was the one move you did that you knew how to do better than me." YAY -- this jock still has something left in her.
  • When discussing in the car on the way home whether Karate was harder than Ballet, Abigail said: "Mommy can't really judge since she did ballet tonight but didn't do it very well."
So there you have it. I don't mind doing me some stretching but you won't see this 6'3" girl up on her toes anytime soon,

Monday, October 07, 2019

Review: Progeny Press Study Guides

I am doing a video review for Progeny Press. Specifically, we are reviewing two of their e-guides: Little House on the Prairie Study Guide (Grades 4-6) and Hound of the Baskervilles Study Guide (Grades 9-12). You will also notice that our review team reviewed two other products so please take the time to check out some of the other reviews by clicking the link below:

Study Guides for Literature {Progeny Press Reviews}

You can also find out more about Progeny Press by visiting them at: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest.

My video was getting lengthy so I didn't mention every single thing about this product. Here are some points you won't hear about tin the video that I think are worth including:
  • One thing I didn't mention in the video specifically is that these guides are reproducible. That means you can use them with multiple students! A real win! Once you buy it, you own it and can use it again for other students in your family. 
  • There are full Pinterest boards for each and every guide for more hands-on projects for kinesthetic learners.  

Crew Disclaimer

Sunday, October 06, 2019

Some games we are enjoying

We are huge fans of all the "Ticket to Ride" games -- but we just received this game as a present from Ms. Leeann, and it is fantastic! Hannah can play it, and I enjoy it as an adult. It's pretty fast and a lot of fun.

Anni introduced us to this game. It can be played without language which works especially well for her as a deaf teacher. I like it because Hannah can play with us too. I'd say the age is about 5 and up!
Hotels is only available on Ebay .... it's a retired game. But folks we LOVEeeee it around here. If you can find one on Ebay, BUY it! It's a spin on Monopoly (a game I refuse to play) that is way shorter and way more fun.
Ms. Aliceson Bales introduced us to this fun spin on the horrible Tic-Tac-Toe. It's great!!!! Real fast but real fun and makes you think.
I don't really like this game because I think it is really a boy game. All the boys and their dads and even Jacob like this one. Fun shooting-style card game for boys.

Saturday, October 05, 2019

We Bought a Farm: Community makes it Funner!

Yesterday we processed 59 turkeys on the farm. Processing days are long and hard. We are on our feet a lot and are usually incredibly sore the next day. 

But here's what we've learned in five years of processing chickens and turkeys: 

We put on music and buy some junk food (the kids will do nearly anything for Gatorade!) and we simply enjoy spending time with each other. 

We have one rule: 

Outside of that, nearly anything goes. 

This year we had our normal crew: 
  • Our family of six
  • The grandparents
  • Kotynskis (so valuable!)
  • Jacob (family now!)
  • Anni (family now!)
  • Jessica & Bailee (this was their THIRD processing day!)
  • Erin Law & her two daughters!
That's 22 people. We worried this might be too many people, but it was anything but that. It was perfect. Everyone did their job and did it so well.

So what were our jobs? 

Well, Isaac and I started off on the turkey catching portion of the job. Normally, when we do chickens, the kids do this entirely themselves. But these babies are BIG (like 15-25 pounds!) so we need an adult on this job. Here's a video of what this looks like:

About halfway through the day, I relinquished my job so that I could move into the garage and start working on packaging. We realized the tour chill tank was almost full of birds so we had to start moving some out. Here is a video of Erin Law taking over my job:

Erin Law and her daughter Allie took over catching. Little ol' Allie was actually able to catch and carry these guys over to the kill cones. We were so impressed. Here is a picture of Allie in action. This kid is a rock star when it comes to strength:

From there, the turkeys are killed, put in a scalper to loosen their feathers, and then put in a plucker to defeather them. Eddie and Did worked on the station to get the birds into the kill cones and put them down. (They were so big it took two people.) Gabe and Anni ran the scalded. Anni ran the plucker. And then they went to the table where Jacob and JB handled all the evisceration necessary to get to your table! Here is a video I took to show all the stations so you could get an idea of what is going on:

After that, Grama and a rotation of girls helps clean the bird of any feathers. Here are a few pictures of that process:

Abigail, Bailee, and Ana
Allie and Haley
Here is a video of Abigail teaching the never-been-a-farm-kid-but-quickly-learning-the-ropes-Bailee how to "quality control":

The girls also helped keep up on the chill tank. We use frozen jugs to ice our tank to avoid spending hundreds of dollars on ice. Here is a picture of the girls at the tank:

And here is a video of them moving a bird from the table to the chill tank:

We then went to the garage with the birds and Hannah Kotynski, myself, and a smattering of children helped package the birds and get them in the freezers. We had enough freezer space which was great news!

While all this was going on, Jessica Price was keeping the house in tip-top shape. With 22 people going in and out, it's taking quite a beating. But she kept people fed and happy and clean while we all worked outside.

We took 15 turkeys which would be broken down for the Kotysnkis and ourselves into ground meat and brought them into the house where JB broke them all down to grind the meat. Here's what that looks like:

Once again:


But once again, I am amazed at how much more fun things are to do them with community. People make it fun! Teamwork makes you feel less alone. 

I really hope we can keep this team together for the long haul! It was a great combo of people, and it went soooo great!!!

Thursday, October 03, 2019

The "bonus" part of homeschooling

Our group of 9 (and a friend) gathering grapes at our friend Kymberly's house
I've never been good at math.

Like I'm super, super bad.

I once took a test in high school that I scored a zero on. Seriously. I took the test and got a zero.

In all actuality, that may have been a gift from God because it was after that test that my Dad asked John to tutor me in math and the rest they say is history. 

(I wasn't actually that good at history either.)

But in college, I took on a different attitude. My boyfriend was far away. I didn't want to get involved in parties. So I threw myself into my studies. While I wasn't naturally good at school (outside of writing), I studied really hard. I never got anything but an A or B in college and finished with a 3.8GPA and was named the female scholar athlete of the year for Western Kentucky University.

Early on in college, I took a placement test for math. When it came back that I was supposed to take the remedial (don't-get-a-credit class), my advisor kindly said she'd ignore the test and bump me up to the next level. She knew that I studied hard. I would work hard. I'd be fine. 

But even though I worked hard, the core of me was bad at math. And not great at school in general.

Fast forward two decades. Maybe close to three decades.

Now I'm teaching my kids and cousin's kids math. Middle school math mind you. 

Today, Ana asked me for help subtracting a fraction from a whole number. 

Without even thinking about it, I said: "Well, I think you put the whole number over the number 1."

Where did that come from? I mean, I haven't subtracted a fraction from a whole number, like, in 25 years ... but somehow, the learning is IN there. My brain retained it from all those years ago.

Maybe I don't totally stink at math.

Gabe asked for help with some parenthesis problem, and without missing a beat I went to please excuse my dear aunt sally.

I knew that! 

And it isn't just the stuff I realize I still know that makes me love homeschooling. I also get to learn all kinds of new stuff with our kids. As they bring up a concept, I get to learn it with them. Or I get to be refreshed on something that isn't with me anymore. My brain is learning again too! 

I don't want to be a homeschool Mama truly. I wish it could be another way many days. But because of our lifestyle and location this is what the Lord has called me to.

And so I chug along!

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

The Power of Community in our Grief

On Christmas Day of 2018, I penned this post.

It was a time of great sadness for our family. One of my relatives had made a horrific decision and had left -- left a husband. Left children. It was gut-wrenching and incredibly painful. 

Unexpectedly, I decided to host family here for Christmas. I was worn down and burned out, but it was needed, and it was a beautiful time of tears and moments of respite and the beginning of coping and healing. 

It was grief

Huge. Horrific. Big letter G-R-I-E-F. 

I wish I could say that Christmas was the end of that grief. 

But grief doesn't work like that. I have said often that grief does not move in a straight line. You think you have moved past something and then you get hit by a wave that you didn't see coming. It lulls and then crashes again. 

Throughout the months that have followed, our family, and especially those most intimately involved in our family's lives have continued to work toward healing. They have focused on healing their grief. They have purposefully dealt with their sadness and confusion. We, as a family, decided that we would not let this pain move forward without facing it head on. That these children would heal and be even better than they were before. 

In April, the church I grew up in Fort Lauderdale that helped raise me, lost a magnificent soul as I wrote about here. Christopher's family is integrally woven into my own and his loss reverberated amongst our tribe in incredibly powerful ways. 

While grief has not hit me directly this year, oh the people I love and the grief that has been swirling around me. From the loss of a dear pet to the depths of depression and the pain of betrayal beyond our widest dreams. I have sat next to people in grief so deep it feels impossible to comprehend how they are still breathing air and not drowning. 

I have been there. Through the five years of infertility and intense depression that accompanied my pregnancies, I have felt that intense sadness. That deep pit that circles you and feels too much for any one person to possibly stand. 

Because my own mental health has been a little wobbly over the last six months, I've been incredibly cautious about how deep I wade into the grief of others. I know that I can only go in about ankle deep right now. I can't handle much more. 

How do they handle more?

I'm not really sure sometimes. 

Sometimes the burden seems so incredibly heavy that I fear their hearts -- their souls -- their very beings may break under the strain. 

We must make sure we are, ourselves, healthy. But we also are called to be there for our brothers and sisters. I John 3:17-18 says: "But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth." 

Can I get an AMEN!?

There are always people grieving. Look around you. Love them. And consider editing your plans if God so calls you to help them wade through the sadness that life is throwing at us. 

This life is hard.

But the promise of eternity -- thanks to the birth of our savior -- is such a precious gift.


Monday, September 30, 2019


Here are the facts as I know them:

  • I raised two sons. (Well, I'm about half-way done.)
  • Now I am on two daughters.
  • My girls fight way more than the boys.
  • My girls squeal way more than the boys.
  • My girls argue over their room way more than the boys.
  • (We live in a three-bedroom house so they will never have their own room.)
  • We have come up with a little curtained partition in the girls room to give Abigail her own space.
  • (Hannah touches EVERYTHING!)
  • (Hannah thinks EVERYTHING she finds belongs to no one, and by default: her.)
  • (Hannah is prone to breaking and chewing on random things frequently.)
  • My girls are nearly wearing the same size clothes and shoes.
  • We have told the girls that the clothes and shoes ALL belong to us so there is NO arguing over them. 
  • (We let them have a few choice "favorites" that only belong to one of them.)
  • My girls love to pose for pictures and to dress up and to do plays and dances.
  • My boys have never done any of those things.
  • I love getting the opportunity to parent two sets of both sexes.
  • Girls seem harder ... emotionally speaking. 
  • These two ladies seem super loving, spirited, emotional, and dramatic. 
  • (I have NO idea who they got these traits from.)