Monday, September 30, 2013

Big n little sisters

Watch as Hannah fills her pants, and Abigail hears it and reacts!


No matter where you — it’s never all easy. A crop is made by all the seasons and the only way to have it all — is not at the same time… but letting one season bring its yield into the next.
This is how to have no fear — each season makes a full year.
-- Ann Voskamp

I love this quote. It is speaking of the seasons of life. The good months and years and the bad months and years all combine to create the entire season of our lives.

I am trying to remember this.

Trying to remember that it isn't just the good times that make up the entirety of my life. That it is the hard times and the fun times and the times of laughter and the times of tears that make up who I am and what I am and who I will become.

Confession: I have been feeling a lot of guilt recently.

To summarize it quickly: I feel guilty that the last year of my life was so difficult on my family. 

I don't like that the year of sickness and the depression that attached itself to that sickness was present for me. 

However, if it only effected me, I could live with it.

It's the fact that it effected others that hurts my heart.

Honestly, I know my kids won't remember it, and so I am able to let what it did to them wane. In addition, I often think the fact that I wasn't feeling good was good for them in ways. It kept me sitting in one place instead of racing around. It limited my activities and kept me home more.

But my husband. I feel guilt about what that year did to him.

Husband agrees that it was a, well, frankly, terrible year for us. We have discussed and concur that it was the hardest year of our lives. Much harder than the years of infertility which pulled us together instead of apart.

It stunk.

Guilt might not be the right word for it. I feel badly. But I know I shouldn't. I know it isn't my fault. I know, when I really think about it, that there was nothing I could do. I managed to care for my children and continue most of my activities, but it took everything I had in me. 

And so many things suffered. I was not a good friend during this time. I did not stay in touch with people well. My relationship with my husband came to grinding hault. It took everything the two of us had to keep our family running. And by family, I mean the lives of our children. Our own relationship skidded to a very small crawl. Actually not even a crawl. Slower than a crawl if that is possible.

We couldn't go out on dates. I was not able to communicate much at all. We were surviving. That was it. We were getting through until I wasn't sick anymore.

And this is why Ann's quote really ministers to me. 

She is saying that it is these events that make up the entirety of our lives. Whether it be an illness or a bad choice or a tragic event ... whatever it may be, it makes us who we are and the bad combined with the good is all part of who we are.

I hope to recall her words whenever the guilt gets me down.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Good Bye Cubbies ... Hello Sparks

Last school year, my boys participated in Awanas.  I knew relatively nothing about this when we got started, but my great friend Carla was heading it up, and it sounded like something our family would value. We decided to go for it. 

What is Awanas? Here it is, explained, from their website.

Awana helps churches and parents work together to develop spiritually strong children and youth who faithfully follow Jesus Christ. Our programs offer a proven approach for evangelizing and discipling kids in the church and community.
As a ministry leader for over 60 years, Awana is making an impact. A national survey found Awana to be as important to our alumni's spiritual foundation as all other church activities combined. Among alumni who participated in our programs for at least six years, 92.7 percent still attend church at least weekly as adults!
Each week, more than two million kids ages 2 to 18 participate in Awana. This includes more than 1.1 million in 102 countries outside of the U.S., the most children that Awana has ever reached internationally.
JB and I have really made it a point to prioritize and limit activities outside of the home. Our boys have not participated in any sports, at least yet, and we really contemplate the consequences of giving away an evening outside the home. We decided that Awanas would be the ONE activity we would do. Tuesday evenings were not easy. It meant eating dinner early and getting the kids in bed late. But we thought that one night a week was worth it.
My boys LOVED Cubbies. They aren't in school so having some time with their friends coupled with snack time and game time and store night (where they can use their "Awanas Bucks" to buy cool stuff) was a huge highlight of their week. They couldn't wait to start the program again this year. 
As a way to keep myself organized and limit clutter (I am a person who is very organized and craves this organization), I have attempted to scan into my computer any of my kids coloring sheets and other "only emotional" documents. Right now I am quite a bit behind due to the difficult pregnancy year I had. But I hope to soon catch up. This scanning means I can throw items away without guilt! Here is a scanned copy of the front of their Awana book from last year (which I scanned before throwing their books in the trash.)

What I will always remember about these books was that the boys wouldn't take a picture by themselves. They insisted on taking a picture together so the teacher had to cut the photo and split it between both of their books.

Technically, Cubbies is for kids younger than kindergarten. The next grade level -- Sparks -- is for grades K-2. We debated, as summer ended and a new Awanas year got set to begin, where to put the boys. I talked it over with my buddy Carla (now tanning it up in Hawaii) and the new Awanas leader, Karen. We knew we wanted to keep the boys together. But the boys have not started kindergarten. (Isaac is old enough for kindergarten, but we are holding him back a year since he is a May birthday.)

We decided to put the boys in the K-2 class. The first night, I knew we had made the right decision. The Cubbies looked so small at ages 3-5. And while Sidge is young, he is H-U-G-E. (He's bigger than most six-year-olds). He is also very excited about learning, pays good attention, asks tons of questions, and answers them as well.

So Awanas is in full swing. My boys are in Sparks. They'll have red vests to put their patches on and will be the youngest in their class. It is my hope that wherever we go next, they will have the opportunity to continue participating in this great program. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Alphabet magnet board

Abigail is a tad young for this. My boys are a tad old for it. However, I love this idea. So easy. Just print the already made for you paper and lay it on a cookie sheet. As Abigail would say, "Taaaa!" (Instead of Ta-Da). 

P.S. In addition, I realized we are missing a few of the necessary letters to make the A-B-C-'s. (If any of our loved ones who lives in the USA where you can buy what you want with relative ease sees a pack of the ABC letters for cheap at a dollar store or somewhere else, I'd love for you to send me some since we've lost a few.)

Abigail eating octopus

Friday Funnies

JB promised to build the boys a sheet "fort" in their room today. However, by the time everyone was ready for it to be built, it was nearly time for bed. JB therefore presented the following options to his boys:
JB: "So I can build a fort now, at 5:00pm, and you'll only be able to play in it for one hour before it is time for bed. Or, I can build a fort tomorrow morning as soon as you wake up and you can play in it all day."
Sidge: "I want to watch a movie in the fort."
JB: "I know. But did you hear what I asked?"
Sidge: "Well, I want to stay in there for a really long time."
JB: "Right. So that would mean waiting until tomorrow."
Sidge: "But I want to build it now."
JB: "Well, now, means only one hour."
Sidge: "Is an hour a long time?"
JB: "It's sixty minutes."
Sidge: "I want ten hours."
JB: "So that would be tomorrow then."
Sidge: "Okay. So tomorrow then."

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Fine motor skills: marshmallow building

With our return to the island comes an attempt, on my part, to begin homeschooling the boys. This year is just preschool. Isaac is technically old enough to start school (May birthday) but we have chosen to hold him back a year so that he and Sidge would be in the same grade.

My goal each day is to just spend 1-2 hours doing educationally related activities. That's it. No curriculum. No requirements. Just fun (or hopefully so.) I hope to share a lot of what we do on the blog -- not only for those who are interested but for my future homeschooling adventures with the girls (if I get that far!)

I hope these pictures and details help illustrate that I am a very real mom doing very real things. I am not in any way "one of those moms." :)

Click here to see this activity on Pinterest.

Thanks Mrs. Sarahbee

We LOVE care packages! The boys absolutely LOVED their new Superhero shirts from our Turkey friend: Mrs. Sarahbee. I love how, when a box comes, they somehow negotiate, very quickly, who gets what. There is never a fight. One of them claims one shirt and the other stakes their own claim and the decision is made. (Of course, later, when they go in their closet, they are welcome to swap, which they often do.)

I told the boys we needed to take a picture of them for Ms. Sarahbee. Abigail would hear nothing of not being in the picture. And so, she scooted right inbetween them. Love these kiddos!

The Chevy

This video just really made me smile. Watching the love of two grown men for their father demonstrated through their special gift to him. Loved this!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

I don't care!

The three girl cousins: Grace with Hannah and Abigail

Biggest boy cousin: Nate with Hannah

I continue to work my way through pictures from our trip home that I hadn't gotten a chance to post. Here are two of those pictures.

Things here are going well. JB returned to work yesterday. My mother-in-law successfully connected the dots between my evening Coke drink and Hannah's difficulty settling to sleep two nights in a row. Sure enough, I cut out the Coke, and that little lady had another glorious night. She is feeding at 9pm, 2am, and 5am. Not to shabby at all! I'm still tired but definitely at a functioning tired level.

As for feeding, so far, this little gal's eating is going GREAT thanks to JB and I taking a new approach. Obviously, Isaac was bottle fed. But Sidge and Abigail were both exclusively breastfed in the beginning. Both had failure to thrive. I was feeding non-stop (one hour on and one hour off all day long) and they weren't gaining appropriate weight.

Knowing that this happened two times which meant, a trend, and probably something related to me and not the kiddo, we said that we were going to be a lot more forgiving this time around. I therefore feed Hannah 20 minutes on each side. If she is still hungry, she gets a bottle of formula. If she wants to eat too close to the previous feed, we use a bottle until I have had time to replenish my milk supply.

This allows her to get breast milk but to also make sure she is gaining appropriate weight. It also allows me to not feel so completely overwhelmed. I feel that I can appreciate Hannah as a baby so much more than I did Sidge or Abigail because I am not so drained from feeding all day long. I've opted not to try to pump the extra milk we feed her simply due to time. For me to get 40 minutes away from the other kids to pump is just too hard right now.

We spoke with many people (nurses, doctors, and lactation consultants) and truly felt this was the best option for us. I know some people may disagree but please note: I don't care! Aaaah, how freeing it feels to say that. It may not be the way you would do things but that is okay! It is working for us.

Wee-wind Wednesday

Two years ago on this day I was writing about Turkish ├žay. Man a lot has changed in two years. You can read this old post by clicking here. The last of the people we were stationed with in Turkey are leaving the Base and it will now become a place where we don't know anyone. You so realize that the people who are with you on the assignments are those who make it so great.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Spotted brother

We are so glad to be home with our Scrubby! We all really missed him. He is such a great doggy!

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Pace of Life

Hannah has got it figured out. How hard does it have to be?

Nap in the sun. Check.
Eat. Check.
Bathroom. Check.
Nap again. Check.

It's the pace of life here in the Azores that continues to throw me for a loop. I was in America for seven weeks, and I immediately returned to the life I was used to. The life I grew up on. How quickly I reverted to my natural instincts.

You go.
You go fast.
You zip in.
You zip out.
You fit things in.
You squeeze.
You hurry.
You collapse.
You do it again.

In America, while exceptions obviously exist, everyone is in a hurry. Everyone is rushing. Rushing here. Rushing there. Rushing all day long. All the time. You rush to get through traffic only to be stuck in it. You rush to get through the store only to wait in line.

What if I had grown up on this island? Would I then be less likely to revert so easily?

Here, on Terceira Island, it truly is, island life. There are supposedly three traffic lights on the island. (I've only seen one.) I can't remember the last time I waited in a line. The Commissary is usually only home to a few customers at a time. There's always a parking spot at the BX. Restaurants are waiting for you and quickly have a table available. Life ... is ... slow.

And for some reason, this is hard for me. I don't know why. It makes very little sense. Walks on the beach. Dinners on the deck. Sitting. Chatting. Napping. Relaxing. Why can't I embrace this freedom? Why do I long to ... go?

My mother-in-law noted it today. "It's like being on vacation all the time," she said. And I concur. Whole-heartedly. And for some reason, that feels wrong. It feels like I should be doing more. Going more. Being more. Experiencing more.

I spent the first 18 years of my life with life jam-packed in. I spent four years at college where, as a Division I athlete, there was usually time for nothing extra. Then there was teaching and coaching and medical school and residency. All we have known is fast.

My friend Carla noted that babies slow you down. I agree with that too. And so I have another baby. And I live on an island. With nothing to go to and a baby to make me say no to the few things I could go to, I find myself feeling like I'm on vacation. There are no schedules to keep. No places I have to be. My job is to take care of myself and my husband and my dog and my babies.

That's it.

Do that.

And I'm trying. It feels weird after our time back in the States. And I know, that as soon as we return to America, next summer most likely, I'll quickly revert back to the fast-paced life.

I have one year to take in this island life. That's it. One year.

And so I'm going to try and do it and embrace it and just ... be.

It shouldn't be hard.

If Hannah can do it, so can I!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sleeping Beauties

We had our roughest night last night. I think she's dealing with the 4 hour time change as well. So there were lotsa naps today!

We put Abigail in her crib for bed the day we returned and she climbed out in about 5 seconds. So we asked her if she wanted to sleep in the crib or the big girl bed in her room. She picked the bed and has been in there ever since. There are a few crying wake-ups at night. (And one fell-out-of-the-bed wake up) but overall, she's doing great. All of a sudden this afternoon, JB and I realized that Abigail wasn't with either of us. John went upstairs and found her on her bed, sound asleep. She had put herself down for a nap. (Apparently, according to JB's mom, he used to do the same thing.) 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Look what's for dinner!

Maybe if I hadn't have just spent 7 weeks in the USA, this wouldn't have seemed so strange.

Is a man asking you if you want to buy an eel strange?

Man on moped parks outside of our house. He sees Scrubs and therefore doesn't want to enter the gate. So he starts honking and yelling, "Hello! Hello! Anyone home!?"

JB and I are busy putting all four kiddos down for naps so we are less than enthused with a visitor. JB pops his head out of the master bedroom window (windows don't have screens here), and I step out onto the balcony.

This man is a fisherman. I have seen him many times. He wants to know if we want to buy some fish. JB tells him to hang on a minute, and he begins the trek down the stairs to talk to the man in person. While JB is gone, the man pulls out a huge eel and holds it above his head. His English is very good. "You like?" he asked me. "You want to buy?"

It's a Conger Eel. The thing is ... massive. Do people really eat that?

I tell the man to wait. "You'll have to talk to my husband," I say. "He is the cook." I slide back through the balcony, finish tucking the kids in, and then plop down on the couch for my (hopeful) nap.

Ten minutes later, JB slides in through balcony door. "You going to take a nap?" I ask, as we had been hopeful all day of all getting rest in the afternoon.

"No," John says. "I have to go do some research."

"Research? On what?"

"On eels. I have no idea how to cook one."

"You bought that eel?" I ask.

"Yeah!" he says excitedly. "Isn't that awesome?"

Awesome wasn't exactly the word I would have used.

A few hours later, our newest friends: Josh and Rebekah and their three boys are sitting around with us on our porch. JB's mom is there too. We are enjoying JB's version of a French bouillabaisse. I guess you could call it an eel soup.

It was very mentally difficult for me to eat the soup. I had to try to block out the photo stuck in my head of the man holding the eel up and asking "You want to buy?" A few moments earlier that thing had been swimming in the ocean outside my home. Now, it was on the counter in my kitchen.

These cultural moments are so much a part of the person I am and am becoming, and I am trying to embrace them. Trying to remember that this is part of the reason that we chose not to live on the Base. We wanted to experience the culture.

Eel soup.

Check that off my cultural checklist.

(And it was actually pretty good!)


Mom K. had two wishes while we were in South Florida: a picture with the eight cousins and a picture of her four sons together. (Since their daughter Katie wasn't making a trip into town, they couldn't get a picture with all six kids.)
We got the cousin picture and then we got a picture of the four boys together:
Matt (5th Kitsteiner), JB (2nd), Ray (3rd), and Rob (6th)

And with the patriarch!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Friday Funnies

I heard Sidge talk in his sleep when we were in Florida and the next morning, I told him so. His response was, "Really? I didn't hear that."
Sidge gave me some pretend food to eat. A few minutes later he came up to me and said, "Are you full Mom?"
Me: "Yes."
Sidge: "Okay. Then I'll take your food."
Me: "Okay."
Sidge: "Are you really full or just pretend full?"
Me: "I'm really full."
Sidge: "How do you get really full eating pretend food?"
In the airport, the lady who takes your tickets to board the plane asked Isaac is he was Superman. He said he was not. She said that he was wearing a Superman shirt. "Well, yes," Isaac said. "But it's actually just a shirt."
While not really  a Friday funny, one of the airline attendants saw that we had two kids on each aisle. "Are these all yours?" he asked me. When I said yes, he replied, "Wow! You have a whole gaggle of them."

Grama K. is here!

She's here! We can't believe it but she is here!! She did a little settling in and now, after an overnight flight, she's taking a nap.

Dad K. hopes to be a month or so behind her. It'll take him awhile to tie up all the loose ends in Fort Lauderdale. We can't wait to have him either.

We know this is a big move (ummm ... the biggest?) for them. We also know it is especially hard for JB's brother Ray and his family (wife Gabbi and kiddos Grace and Nate) as they spend a whole lot of time with Dad and Mom and soon, neither of them will be there. We are happy for us but also recognize the grieving that must go on when we say good bye.

We are continuing to settle into our life here, back on the island. Lots to do to get the house ready for a newborn. Lots of naps and unpacking going on here!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Seven if you count the dog

We returned to our island today.

Well not our island, of course, but the island we live on. Terceira island. Azores.

We left a family of five. Six if you count the dog.

We return a family of six. Seven if you count big ol' Scrubby.

Our adventure begin on Tuesday morning. My parents dropped us off at Ft. Lauderdale airport around 10:30am.

We were blessed by a number of things on leg one of our trip. These things included:

There was a very cool kids' table in the Southwest terminal. We avoided using any technology with room to spread out, and instead utilized some of our very fun new stuff in the airport. (Grama Di bought the boys a travel Hungry Hungry Hippo game. She got Abigail some Mickey stickers with scenes to decorate. I bought them some Wonder Markers and coloring pads.) Things like that. Tip: Always ask people who work at the airport if there is somewhere "for kids" in your terminal!

Adana kabobs. Seriously? Yep. There was a Mediterranean restaurant right next to our gate. They actually had "Adana kabobs", the food that the part of Turkey we lived in was known for. Sure, it wasn't lamb. But beef is pretty good too. I opted for some Pidi (Turkish-style pizza) instead of the kabob. Yum! While packing food is obviously cheaper, we instead budget in the fact that we are going to spend a ton of money eating on our trip. Yes, it is much more expensive than a restaurant out of the airport, but it is easy and as a parent, you are obviously already carrying so much stuff as it is. Tip: Plan on spending extra money to limit the amount of things you have to bring/carry with you.
The flight was not full! This meant that we were allowed to bring Hannah's car seat onto the plane and have a seat for her (that we didn't pay for.) Tip: Anytime you take a lap child onto a flight, ASK whether the flight is full. If it is not full, they will allow you to take the child's seat onto the plane. If this wouldn't have happened, one of us would have had to be holding Hannah the entire trip! Obviously worth not paying for an extra ticket but still not a ton of fun.

Abigail's love for Mickey Mouse Clubhouse! She was an entirely new child with something "to do" on the plane. On past trips, she would do one little thing for about 4 minutes a piece. It was so exhausting for me. But with something that she will do for a long time, I was able to even doze at one point. (Imagine that!) Tip: Do what it takes to make the trip more pleasurable for you and your kids and the people around you.

These snack bags were a huge hit! I let the kids see me make them and see them on the counter waiting to go, but I tell them that they can't have them until we get on the flight. I made one bag for each flight, but in hindsight, I think I'll do something different for each flight. Either way, they were very excited to get seated and get their goodie bags (even if Abigail thought there were not nearly enough jelly beans in the bag.) Tip: New things and sugary things are always a hit. Anything that can kill at least 20 minutes is a good thing.

There was a USO (United Service Organizations) in first the commercial airport we landed in and then in the military airport we had to switch to. These are run and staffed with donations and volunteers and available for active duty military personnel and their families. They are always, no matter how big or small they are, wonderful stops! We spent about three hours in the commercial USO (pictured above). The kids watched a movie, and we got some dinner, and we waited for a 630pm shuttle that took us onto the military base. From there, we checked in for our flight and waited for the 10pm announcement that our family was on the flight. Then, at 1230p, we took off for the island. Believe it or not, none of the kids (except Hannah) slept before that 1230p departure. JB and I debated and finally opted to let them stay awake in hopes that they would all sleep on the plane.

Our plan worked! JB took one row with Isaac on one side of him and Abigail on the other. I was behind them with Sidge and Hannah (who has to be in the middle because that is the place her carseat was required to go.) While Hannah was up to eat numerous times, the three older kiddos were down and out within the first 15 minutes, and they stayed that way through most of the flight.

We touched down in Lajes around 5:00am South Florida time (9:00am Lajes time.) As is typical of the Lajes community, there was a large group of people there to welcome the flight home. This is always a nice tought. People are there to offer applause and thanks to returning deployed members. (Or to greet a new baby, like Hannah.) They then help you get your stuff to the car. It's quite a blessing. Our new friends: Josh and Rebekah (and their three boys: Elijah, Judah, and Joel) were there too. Well, Josh had to work, but Rebekah was there with the kiddos. They had left our van there for us too which was a blessing, and later that evening, we walked over to their house for dinner outside on their patio.

However, jet lag with a newborn baby is not an ideal combination. I was so tired that I fell asleep while feeding Hannah many times yesterday. We are slowly getting our sleep flipped over, and even more importantly, are excitedly waiting JB's mom's arrival. She comes in on Friday morning to live with us! (His Dad will follow about a month later.) So excited!

Gene Simmons & Tim Tebow

I know that I am not the only Christian who feels like we are fair game for teasing and being made fun of. I know I am not alone in feeling that you are not allowed, in our society, to make fun of people based on race or ability or financial status. Why then, is it okay to make fun of a Christian?

However, if Christians say this, then we are, once again, bigots. But what if lead singer from KISS, says it? Bravo Gene for saying what Christians aren't allowed to say.

In discussion of Tim Tebow, Simmons told FoxNews: “All those pundits and the people in the peanut gallery who pick on him because he’s a devout Christian and proud of it, is the heinous thing of all sports reporting and journalism. Here’s a guy that believes in his God and people pick on him. If he was a Jew or a Muslim and you did that people would never dare. But for some reason when you are a Christian you are allowed to pick on him. I think it’s the height of lunacy and those journalists should be held accountable. They are never going to pick on a guy who tortures dogs or perhaps gone to jail for murder. But if he believes in Christ his Lord, then he’s open season. It’s like what country are we living in?"

You can watch the video here: Will Tim Tebow play for Gene Simmons?

Proof of this hypocrisy is the German family who has sought asylum in the USA because the German government will not allow them to homeschool their children. (You can read this article here: Gays, Muslims & Illegals Granted Asylum But Christian Family Denied)

"In 2008, the Romeike family fled to the US under threat of parental arrest in Germany and the threat of losing their children for good.  They sought asylum here in the US and in 2010, Judge Lawrence Burman, an immigration judge granted the family asylum saying that if the family returned to
Germany they would assuredly face persecution because of their religious beliefs."
The ruling was overturned.

“[T]he Romeikes [have] not shown that Germany’s enforcement of its general school-attendance law amounts to persecution against them, whether on grounds of religion or membership in a recognized social group.  There is a difference between the persecution of a discrete group and the prosecution of those who violate a generally applicable law.”

Russian homosexuals can have asylum in the USA. So can Muslims from other countries. But here is a Christian family being denied.

Not fair! And I think Gene Simmons would agree!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wee-Wind Wednesday

I wrote this post in January of 2012. Six months before we would leave Turkey and head to the Azores. It is so important, when I miss America and family so much, that I remember the good things about the adventure we've been on for most of our married life, but especially during the last five years.

I wrote of love an appreciation for the fact that my boys include other countries in their playtime.

Head scarves don't cause them to blink an eye.

That they use Turkish words and Portuguese words and Spanish words.

That different languages are just part of life for them.

Remembering the good in this life we are living as we head back for one more year overseas!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Five Ways We're Making Parenting Harder

Lately, I've been stumbling upon some really great parental articles online. "5 Ways We're Making Parenting Harder" was one of those articles.

Megan Spreer wrote: "Is it me or has parenting become exponentially more difficult in the last 10 years? When I was a kid, I remember spending my days eating Spaghetti-Os, watching marathons of Muppet Babies, and playing outside for hours and hours with no adult in sight. You know what that's considered now? Neglect. Maybe this is always true of the current generation, but we seem to have deemed ourselves parenting experts and consider everything our parents did to be wrong. In some ways, this is a good thing (e.g. Riding in the backs of pick-up trucks). In other ways it's just absolutely ridiculous."

She then goes on to list five examples of this "harder parenting" we are putting on ourselves. These include:
  1. Birthday parties -- So true. Did you ever have a birthday party growing up the size of the ones that we throw now-a-days for our kids. What is with this? Because I was so sick during the last year, we opted for much simpler birthday parties for all our kids. And they loved them just the same.
  2. Elf on a shelf -- The author discusses the complexity of adding yet another "thing" to our seasonal "To Do" list.
  3. Organic everything -- The cost is so incredible. We feel so responsible to do everything "perfect" by our kids. But we didn't eat organic. And we turned out just fine.
  4. Kids sports -- Yes again! We have opted not to put our kids in sports ... yet. I was a college athlete and didn't play my first sport (and even then, it was softball, not the sports that I ended up playing more intensely) until I was 9. And if they do play, does it have to be so intensive?
  5. Pinterest -- Oh man. Agree. Agree. Agree. We are all trying to keep up with the Jones'. Enough already!
So what do you think? Feel the need to be a super parent?

To read the article in it's entirety, click here.

Monday, September 16, 2013

It's time to go home

Yesterday, JB and I left the kiddos with Grama Di for an hour and we made a trip to Target. Time to buy some of the ol' faithfuls (lollipops, uncrustables, sugar, etc.) for our trip home.

We also bought some things for us. Things like Entenmann's donuts and these fudge-dipped Oreo cookies. Things that we can't get in our tiny commissary on Base.

We stocked up on Kashi bars and all-natural jelly/jam. We'll mail those back home. (Along with about 10 other boxes. How did we accumulate so much stuff in just two months?)

Our Graco stroller, which has survived three children, was already on its last leg when it made the trip back to America with us two months ago. It's majorly mildewed since arriving on the island (as many things do there). The wheels are bowed out too. But the final straw was that the tray table, which allows the infant seat to click in, went missing. We have no idea where it went, but without it, we can't use the infant seat and the stroller in combination.

We decided, last minute, to buy a new stroller -- just a lightweight, cheap, $60 Graco stroller that will allow us to click the carseat in for trips around Base. Our other stroller just wasn't going to make it through a fourth child.

Today I also decided, last-minute, that I wanted to print a few photos for my mom. I could do that. I had my pick of Walgreens. I mean, I think there might be a Walgreens (and a Dunkin Donuts too) on every fifth corner. I could order the pictures through Snapfish and have them printed right in the nearest store within minutes.

I wanted to get one last bacon/egg/cheese croissant from Dunkin Donuts. And, heck, get a few donuts while we were there. And munchkins too. Why not?

We finished the night off eating Organic strawberry ice cream from Whole foods. Oh yum ...

And we could do all this. Easily. Just get in the car. Drive. Sure there's traffic. But the world is at your fingertips. Everything you need within ten miles of the place you live.

For one more day.

Big sigh ...

Tomorrow, we will go home.

My emotions are mixed. I'm comfortable in America. South Florida is the place I know best. I lived here the first 18 years of my life and have made trips back here, probably every year, for the 18 years that have followed. Oh how I will miss my Dad and Mom and the memories we have shared during the last seven weeks.

But our house is not here. JB's job is not here. Our life is not here.

And so it is time to go back.

To a 12 x 19 mile-wide island with no Target and no mall and no fast food restaurants and no Entenmann's or place where you can buy a Graco stroller at the last minute. To a place where I said good bye to two of my closest friends right before we left.

Going back is probably a good thing. Fast food is stinkin' expensive! Especially for a family of six! There are too many things that I can spend money on here in America. It's time to zip up the wallet and eat at home and entertain at home and be at home.

Our home, for the next year, is in the Azores. It still doesn't really feel like my home. But it is. It's where the Lord has called us. And it's time to go.

Good bye America!

Onto the next part of our adventure.

Bon voyage!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Six Little Huismans

Here is a picture of our kiddos and my brother's kiddos. Boys are outnumbered on this side of the family!
Charleigh (4), Sidge (4), Isaac (5), Hannah (1.5 weeks), Abigail (2), Baylee (2.5)

Abigail Updates

Since arriving in South Florida, Abigail has continued to do new things everyday. These include:
  • Saying "yo ho ho!" from Jake and the Pirates.
  • Saying "Go" and bringing her brothers and myself our shoes when I have said it is time to go.
  • If she can't find something, putting her hands up to ask "where"
  • Signing "shoes" and "airplane" and "help" consistently now.
  • Putting on her own shoes (white flip-flops with backs).
  • Quickly recognizing names and faces of family members and pointing to them when asked.
  • She now says, "Diiii" for Grama Di.
  • Bossing around her brothers (more and more every day).
  • Feeling more and more comfortable around grandparents and aunts and uncles and allowing me to leave her with them with relative ease.
  • Attempting to say "hello". I'm trying to get it on video because it is just so funny the way she says it.
  • Attempting to say "buh bye" when talking to Daddy on the phone. She is also saying "Night-Night".
  • First sentence: "Daddy night-night" an d then making sign and saying "ssssshhhhh."

Families feel the squeeze as more airlines adopt kid-free zones

As a mother who has flown, alone, with her three children, across the world, not just across the country, I found this article to be very interesting. I was especially hit by the following two comments:
  • Securing seats together for a family is almost as difficult as finding a deal on airfare these days, since many airlines offer preferred economy seating and planes are flying with fewer open seats. I totally agree! I can't tell you how many times I find out that there are no seats available for us together and that it will be up to me to try to ask people to move once on board the plane. Or, there is open seating and just no room when we get on board the plane to sit together. At least I look pitiful enough to get people to help and move. Many families aren't sitting next to each other while on their "vacation" and that is a shame!
  • “As a mother that's flown many times with babies and small children, I can tell you that moms and dads are doing their very best to keep their children from crying,” Gifford said. “It's a hard situation, particularly when the seatbelt sign is on and you can't get up to try to bounce or soothe your child in the aisle.” Again, I agree. I work very hard to keep my kids from crying. Most people are incredibly kind with me on the plane, but I do run into some people who really get frustrated by the crying. Trust me, if I could stop it, I would!
So, what do you think about the possibility of kid free zones on the plane? Would you pay an extra $14 a seat to assure you didn't have to sit next to a crying kid? (And, if you did pay it and still heard the crying, does that mean you'd get a refund?)

You can read the entire article on Fox News clicking here.


Families feel the squeeze as more airlines adopt kid-free zones

They may be little, but more airlines are placing big restrictions on kids. 

Last week Singapore Airlines’ budget carrier Scoot Airlines introduced its "ScootinSilence" section.

For $14, travelers can sit in an area free of children under 12 years old, with legroom four inches greater than those in economy class. Two other airlines, Malaysian Airlines and AirAsia X, already ban kids on certain rows or sections on some flights. 

So far, no U.S.-based airlines have announced any plans to follow the trend in Asia. But as airlines introduce an ever-growing number of fees on everything from bags to beverages, the Scoot's fee-based quiet zone raises the question as to whether we could see airlines kicking kids and their families out of premium economy or first class seats here in the U.S.

Jami Counter, senior director for, a website that summarizes aircraft information for travelers, says he would be surprised to see a kid-free zone here in the States. He says the aircraft bodies that fly most domestic routes are too small, the public outcry would be too loud and government regulations likely wouldn’t let the concept take off.

Frequent flier and father of three, Doug Peterson, travels weekly to New York City from Salt Lake City for business. He says he'd oppose airlines enforcing restrictions on where kids can sit on planes, and notes that in his travels, he rarely sees children misbehaving.

“As a parent of small children, I wouldn't like that my tax dollars would subsidize an airline that would then ban my kids and thus me from taking a vacation,” Peterson said. “I also don't want to be banned from first class nor extra leg room seats.”

Still, some people say they wish they had the option.

“This poor little kid kept crying and crying,” said frequent traveler Blake Flow of California. “I felt terrible for him, but after one hour I said to myself, ‘I would pay more to not have to hear this.'"  
Even some parents think they could benefit from others upgrading.

“I think it’s brilliant marketing,” said Bonnie Overly, a mother of three from Salt Lake City. “I've spent some of the worst days of my life wrangling kids on a plane or a train, having them cry no matter what I do, and having all the people around me make flat-out rude, judgmental, and horrible comments about my lack of parenting skills. If these people had had the option of a kid-free cabin, we all would have been happier.”

These attitudes reflect a growing consensus in the U.S. A recent Harris Interactive poll showed that 63 percent of people surveyed said they would rather sit next to a crying baby than a smelly adult.
Yet, the question remains if cost-conscious Americans would actually pay to sit in a kid-free zone.

Erin Gifford, family travel expert and the founder of, says she wouldn’t pay for the upgrade if traveling without her four children because she doubts you’d get what you pay for.
“The airlines may then find themselves with a bigger headache in the form of a section of grumbling adults ringing their call buttons because they can still hear the crying baby just a few rows behind the kid-free zone,” Gifford said.


The move by Scoot and other airlines reflects larger changes in the airline industry that are making it increasingly difficult for families to sit together on an aircraft. 

Securing seats together for a family is almost as difficult as finding a deal on airfare these days, since many airlines offer preferred economy seating and planes are flying with fewer open seats.

“From a personal point of view, I can’t believe people aren’t more upset about this,” said Suzanne Rowan Kelleher, the managing editor of family travel booking site, “On principle, I think you should be able to sit with your children without having to pay extra... It adds an incredible layer of stress for the parent and the child not to be seated with people they know.”

As a solution, Counter says, instead of having a kid -free zone, airlines should create a family-friendly zone at the back of the plane, where they would be closer to restrooms and flight attendants if the kids need more snacks or drinks.

Now, families with younger children are forced to be proactive about getting seats together right when booking, or run the risk of having their 3-year-old sit with strangers. “Definitely shop ahead, look at seats early, look at the seat maps, and see where they can be together,” Counter said.
Even if the airlines charged a fee for a family friendly flight experience, some parents say they’d be happy to buy a less stressful travel adventure.

“The irony of all of this is that if the airlines put a little more thought into the needs of flying families - more legroom, bassinets, snacks, especially a ‘family zone’ on an airplane - (then) more families would probably fly and be happily segregated from other travelers,” said Shanna Farnsworth, a New York City resident and mother of two. “Everyone's annoyances would be solved.”

While parents dream of kid-friendly seating, experts say a little bit of sensitivity and understanding can go a long way until their wish comes true.

“As a mother that's flown many times with babies and small children, I can tell you that moms and dads are doing their very best to keep their children from crying,” Gifford said. “It's a hard situation, particularly when the seatbelt sign is on and you can't get up to try to bounce or soothe your child in the aisle.”

Look who we got to visit with!

Our awesome friends from Eglin and Turkey: Yamil & Patty (and their 16 month old son Troy) came to visit us yesterday! They drove all the way from Tampa and back to Tampa (about 4 hours each way) on the same day to hang out with us for just a few hours. How cool is that?
Patty (with Troy) and me
Yamil and Patty with JB and Abigail
And look at the adorable Supergirl costume Patty got for Ms. Abigail. Here she is showing off her Superwoman muscles.
I think I was just as excited about the costume as she was!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

8 Little Kitsteiners

The question: Who wants marshmallows? Anyone who does a good job taking pictures gets some marshmallows when we are done.
 Abigail: "I do!"

Abigail: "I want ten!"
All those pictures; here is the best shot of the 8 Kitsteiner cousins:
Abigail, Isaac (with Ethan), Grace (with Hannah), Nate (with Eli), and Sidge
And here are a few funny ones just for fun!

Aisha Tyler shares infertility story

I don't watch The Talk and I don't know much about Aisha Tyler. But huge applause for her sharing her infertility story with the whole world. I continue to think that if we allow women to talk about this and share it, then we won't feel so alone. You definitely want to watch the video of her sharing her story.

Lion Country Safari (without me)

First up on the Lion Country Safari trip is the drive-thru portion of the trip:
Each of the kiddos got a turn in the front seat.

Isaac had his "blue bear" sit on the dashboard to see the animals. (He is VERY stuck on his blue bear and small doggie.)

Love this little face!

Sidge doesn't have any animal he "needs" when he goes to sleep so he randomly chooses different ones on any given night/week. When JB asked him if he wanted to bring one to the park, he randomly chose this yellow bear from Grama Di's stash.

None of the kids wanted to stay near the lions. Abigail was actually making the sign for "all done." They wanted outta there!

Big male lions

Abigail showing off her pacifier bunny in the window. She is majorly stuck on that thing! (Habits to be broken on another day in another country!)


Apparently Sidge was way excited to see the zebras.

An attempt at a picture of all three of them.

When the rhinos started running, JB played it up a bit. He thought the kids were into the game but apparently Sidge was pretty scared. When they drove away he said, "Whew. I'm glad to get outta there. That gave me a stomach ache."


They were able to see the monkeys switching over to a different island.

After the drive-thru portion, it was time to head to the walk-thru portion of the park. The kids absolutely LOVED feeding the birds!

And now? Time to feed the goats!

After that, JB braved the waterpark and then they had lunch.

Then it was time for birds in a different section. Sidge loved being a piwate!


I love this one of Abigail. She is making the sign for "snack" in the background. That kid wants a snack ALL ... THE ... TIME.

Off to the amusement park ride:

Abigail attempting her new smile.

She's saying "Cheeeseeee!"


Here she is saying "Yeeee"

And here she is saying "Hawwwww."
A boat ride: