Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Why I'm Done Throwing My Son Birthday Parties

I stumbled upon this article: Why I'm done throwing my son birthday parties a few days after JB and I had discussed this very thing.

I never thought about whether I would throw birthday parties for my children before I had children. The parties just sort of happened. I lived on military bases up until this year and when you are living in remote locations, we were always looking for excuses to get together and provide family for one another. You don't have family around so having a "little party" with Grampa and Grama isn't possible. You didn't want to leave people out, and so instead, you'd have a lot of people join you.

We have always kept our birthday parties very simple. My rule was always one hour and one hundred dollars

That was pretty easy on military bases where there were lots of opportunities for cheap birthday parties. But we are back in the USA now. Things are more expensive. People's time is much more valuable. And keeping these gatherings to an hour when you are driving across town is not really reasonable.

I don't do gift bags for kids. I don't send invites. I don't make my own cake. I don't provide a big meal. However, I quickly realized that despite doing parties simply, I was spending way more than one hundred dollars and the party was way longer than one hour.

Time to make a change.

I'm definitely not saying we are not going to have birthday parties for our children. Please make sure you understand that. I think parties can be fun and we are not setting a hard and fast rule. But we are trying to live more intentionally and things like birthday parties fits into this idea.

I've heard of some good alternatives.

My friend Kristi actually has parties for her kids at the ages of 1, 5, 10 and 16 which I think is a neat idea.

My friend Joia spent her son's birthday day doing inexpensive things that would make him feel special.

What we are saying for now is that we are taking the next year off. After Isaac's party in May (which allows each child to have one party in the USA), we are going to take the next year off of parties. One reason is that we won't really know people where we are moving for quite some time.

But a bigger reason is simply because we think we can be more purposeful in our use of time and money when it comes to celebrating our children. Instead we are going to do what this author discusses. We are going to take that money and do something fun or educational or celebratory without having to plan a party, entertain people, and spend money that we feel could be better spent.

I'd love to hear what you do for birthday parties in your family. Fire away!

What Would My Mom Do? (Drink Tab and Lock Us Outside)

I recently stumbled upon an article about parenting from Jen Hatmaker -- a Christian whose article from her blog was picked up on NBC. I loved this article SO much that I was afraid to link to it. Afraid that some day the link would disappear, and I wouldn't be able to see what she had written.

Just today I was reading about how to teach kids about dinosaurs and I thought to myself, "I've never made a dinosaur craft with my kids. I don't do enough crafts with my kids. We need to do more crafts."

All the while I was thinking: I HATE DOING CRAFTS! I don't want to do crafts.

And this article gave me permission to say: IT IS OKAY IF WE DON'T DO CRAFTS. 

I encourage you ... if you are a mom who feels guilt at all ... then you will LOVE this piece. 

So sit down with your drink of choice (Mountain Dew!) and kick your kids outside for a few minutes so you can read this and revel that you are doing okay! 



I’m about to tell you the truth: parenting has become very precious in our generation.

This very morning, a mom posted how on her son’s birthday, she assembles a comprehensive “time capsule” including items, photos, and products related to that particular year, stores it in a set of antique trunks, and plans to present them all to him on his 18thbirthday as a tribute to his entire life.

Holy. Crap.

Cannot. Deal.

When I think about upping the joy in parenting and diminishing the stress, I propose that much of our anxiety stems from this notion that our kids’ childhood must be Utterly Magical; a beautifully documented fairytale in which they reside as center of the universe, their success is manufactured (or guaranteed), and we over-attend to every detail of their lives until we send them off to college after writing their entrance essays.

It becomes this fake pressure, which results in its trusty sidekick: guilt. And nothing steals joy away from parenting more than believing you are doing a terrible job at it. And nothing confirms you are doing a terrible job at it then thinking you should run out and backfill eight antique trunks as a memorial to your third-grader’s life.

So here is my trick for keeping the joy and losing the stress:

What would my mom do?

I was born in 1974, good readers. It no more occurred to my mom to coddle us Precious Snowflakes than it did to quit drinking a case of Tab a day. If you told my mom to craft a yearly time capsule for each child to store until graduation, she would have cried tears of laughter all the way to Jazzercise. My girlfriend asked me just yesterday:

“Do you remember your mom ever volunteering in your classroom?”

“NO mom was ever in our classroom. We rode the bus to school on the first day, had one Christmas party that consisted of store-bought cookies and cherry kool-aid, then school ended and we played outside until Labor Day. That was the school year.”

My mom says that she and her friends just raised us, while my friends and me “parent” (these are sarcastic finger quotes). And honestly? She’s right. They didn’t worry endlessly, interfere constantly, safeguard needlessly, or overprotect religiously. They just raised us. And we turned out fine.

Confession: as we head toward summer, I get this itchy, panicked feeling, because we are staring down twelve unstructured weeks, and all I can picture are my five kids sleeping too late, losing brain cells on their various screens which I will feel conflicted and guilty about, and driving me crazy. How will I balance work? How will I keep them entertained? How will I occupy fourteen hours a day? How will I maintain their reading levels? I already feel like a Bad Summer Mom and it is March, for the love. Which tells me I need to default to my trick:

What would my mom do?

Well, first of all, we didn’t have 24/7 access to cartoons, video games, and YouTube, so she did what all moms did: told us to play. The end. It never crossed my mom’s mind to “entertain us” or “fund expensive summer endeavors” or “create stimulating activities for our brain development.” She said get the hell outside, and we did. We made up games and rode our bikes and choreographed dance routines and drank out of the hose when we got thirsty. I swear, my mom did not know where we actually were half the time. Turned out in the neighborhood all day, someone’s mom would eventually make us bologna sandwiches on white bread and then lock us out, too. We were like a roving pack of wolves, and all the moms took turn feeding and watering us. No one hovered over us like Nervous Nellies.

And never one time, not once did I feel unloved or neglected. 

My parents majored on the majors and minored on the minors. 

Could it be that we are simply too precious about parenting? Have we forgotten the benefit of letting our kids fail? Figure it out? Work hard for it? Entertain themselves? We put so much undue pressure on ourselves to curate Magical Childhoods, when in fact, kids are quite capable of being happy kids without constant adult administration. I would argue that making them the center of the universe is actually terribly detrimental. A good parent prepares the child for the path, not the path for the child. We can still demonstrate gentle and attached parenting without raising children who melt on a warm day.

Guess what the side effect is for us parents? RELIEF. Get your joy back! Try it. Pull back as Cruise Director and adopt the “what would my mom do” approach, and see what happens. What do you know? The kids are all right! They aren’t poor, neglected Oliver Twists. They won’t come completely unraveled. They aren’t helpless, hapless ninnies who can’t figure a bloomin’ thing out. Their futures aren’t doomed. We don’t want to produce young adults that despair at the first obstacle they face. Don’t we want them to learn that they are one part of a healthy family, not the centrifugal force of their entire environment?

And mamas and daddies? We get to jettison that manufactured guilt that tells us we aren’t doing enough, when in fact, no generation of parents has ever done more. (My friends in higher education are actually begging us to DO LESS PLEASE BECAUSE THESE CHILDREN DON’T KNOW HOW TO FILL OUT AN ONLINE FORM WITHOUT HELP.)

Let’s get our joy back and resist all this made-up stress! Let’s recapture the joy of watching kids play in sprinklers, build forts out of couch cushions, create dramatic “programs” (my parents have PTSD from ours), and run around the neighborhood with their friends. Let’s give them back the gift of imagination, self-sufficiency, creativity.

What did our moms do?

They let us be kids, and we wobbled and skinned our knees and made up our own fun and enjoyed the simple pleasures of childhood without any flash and dazzle. But you know what? We knew we were loved and we knew we were safe. We never doubted the most important parts of the story. We weren’t fragile hothouse plants but dirty, rowdy, resilient kids who ate Twinkies and candy cigarettes and lived to tell.

Mama, don’t fall for the yearly time capsules. You have everything your little ones need: kisses, Shel Silverstein books, silly songs, kitchen dance parties, a backyard, family dinner around the table, and a cozy lap. They’ll fill in the rest of the gaps and be better for it. Your kids don’t need to be entertained and they don’t need to be bubble-wrapped; they just need to be loved.

It’s all any kid has ever really needed.

Fun Easter Egg Hunt Idea

If you are interested in a way to have the traditional Easter Egg Hunt at your house without all the candy, click here for a great idea that won't leave your kids feeling like they've been duped! While we do plan to have a traditional Easter Egg Hunt, I often do Easter Eggs hunts all times of the year, and I thought this would be a fun thing to include in future hunts. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

We Bought a Farm: How to eat organic on a budget

We have been working, more and more, on transitioning our family to a completely "organic" diet.

JB really doesn't like the word "organic." He doesn't think it properly signifies what exactly it is we are doing. Organic can mean different things to different people and an organic label doesn't always mean you are getting what you think you are getting.

It is for this reason, that my husband and a few other men started a business venture called www.agritrue.com. We still aren't sure if it will take off completely. We sure hope it does. The idea behind it is that you can find people IN your area that are growing and raising food the way YOU want to eat it. They are not labeled as organic or not-organic. Instead you can find out exactly how they raise their beef or their vegetables. It is an effort to put people in touch with their food.

But eating organic (in a general sense) is not only difficult but very expensive. I found a great article I wanted to share that will give you some good tips for eating organic on a budget. Click here to read more.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Living in a new country

A fun article entitled "31 Important Things You Learn When You Move Across the World."

Sunday Sermon

Lego Game -- Roll, Build, and Create

As I have mentioned previously on this blog, we are a lego-obsessed home at current. While Abigail appreciates legos, my boys are truly enamored with legos. Anything we can do with legos is a hit in our home. I am constantly looking for lego-related learning activities and while this activity is not a major learning activity, I did think it was a fun idea of something we could do that would involve all three of my olders while inspiring creativity. Click here to check out a lego game idea: Roll, Build, and Create!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Super Mama

Click here to read a great blog entry by Ann Voskamp entitled "Why Your Kids Don't Need a Super Mama."
Oh how I needed to hear this today. The article can be summarized in the following sentences:

I never expected love to be like this. I never expected so much joy. I never expected to get so much wrong. It’s what my Mama’s said to me a thousand times if she’s said it to me once. “It’s not that you aren’t going to get things wrong — it’s what you do with it afterward.
That maybe it all comes down to this:
My kids don’t need to see a Super Mama.

They need to see a Mama who needs a Super God. 

Free Download: The Complete Chronicles of Narnia Audio Collection

Click here to listen to these books completely free!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday Funnies

Sidge was holding a large coloring page from one of those giant coloring books, rolled up like a scroll. "Do I look like a prophet?" he asked me.


I guess you can tell my boys don't wear buttoned-down shirts very often. While putting one on for church, Sidge asked: "Did these rip and so they put buttons on them so they would still be able to be worn?"


Abigail asked Sidge to play with her. He replied, "I'm sorry. I can't. I have a plan." I asked him what his plan was, "Well, first I am going to eat an applesauce. And then I'm going to do legos. No time for playing with Abigail."


I took the girls to Chipotle during the boys lego class the other day. I asked Abigail what she wanted: a cheese quesadilla or a make-your-own-quesadilla. Abigail insisted that she did not want the cheese quesadilla. She's a very adventrous eater so this didn't surprise me. "Are you sure you want to have the chicken and rice too?" I asked her. She nodded vehemently in the affirmative.

So imagine my frustration when we got back to the table and I started to help her make-her-own-quesadilla. I asked her what she wanted on it. "Just cheese," she said. I started to explain that that's what a cheese quesadilla is, but just gave it up.


The kids have been very into the "Zippidy-Doo-Da" song recently. Sidge told me the other day that he wanted to go play legos. "First," he said, "I'm going to walk up the stairs and sing Zippidy-Doo-Da and then I will play legos. That is what is on my schedule."


Abigail told me she doesn't like when Scrubs give her kisses. "I don't willy wike puppy kisses because they are willy wet," she said.


The other day I got into a discussion with the kids about the triathlon race I was going to participate in in May.
Sidge: "You are going to be in a race?
Me: "Yep."
Sidge: "You are going to run?"
Me: "I'm going to run and swim and bike."
Sidge: "So will they pause your time?"
Me: "No. I have to swim, get out of the water super fast, put on my shoes and socks, get on my bike, ride, and then get off my bike and start running."
Sidge: "Wow. I hope you win."
Me: "Well I won't win. That's not why I am doing it. I'm just doing it to have fun."
Sidge: "Why won't you win?"
Me: "There are very experienced racers doing this. So my goal is to just participate."
Sidge: "Okay, well I really hope you don't finish very last."
Me: "Yeah, me either."

We Bought a Farm: Today we move 1/2 way

We aren't moving halfway to the farm.

But we are moving half our stuff to the farm today.

JB and I have decided that we much prefer moving "slow and steady" as opposed to having to move everything at one time.

So slowly and steadily we will pack up one truck today to take over to our new home.

We will leave behind our Grama and our doggie before we return next week. Grampa is meeting her there (He's been finishing things up in Florida.) And since Scrubs loves the farm so much, and Grampa and Grama love Scrubby so much, we made the decision to be without him for the remaining weeks until our final move.

It is hard to believe we are really doing this!

Homeschooling Freebies

Click here to be directed to a page featuring Money Saving Mom's Top 10 Free Homeschool Resources.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

BOI Blankets

We have two more blankets still up for sale to help raise money for one of our adopting couples. If you are interested in purchasing either of these, please email me at flakymn@hotmail.com or leave a comment with your email address. Blankets are $20 and 100% goes toward Criss and Joe's adoption!

The slow life? Yeah right!

I actually don't really try to do a blog post everyday. Honestly, most weeks it just usually happens. I have plenty of things to write about, and I usually have no trouble coming up with a post a day. I also will do many posts in one day when life slows down for me. For example, if JB is doing a night shift, I may take the two hours after the kids go to bed and before I go to bed and pen three or four posts that I can then set to automatically post.

I just jumped over to my blog to see what I posted yesterday. Can it be? The last time I posted was Monday.

It was.

And I have no reason for it other than the fact that our life these last four days was ABSOLUTELY CRAZY.

I have written often during the last year on my family's conscious decision to live a slow life. And this post is to tell you that even when that is your goal, there are some days, some weeks, that it just isn't possible.

This week, appointments and illness and vehicle issues simply swamped our life! There was absolutely no slowness at all. Add to it the fact that we are planning a trip out to the farm complete with a 20' truck that I am supposed to have enough stuff boxed to fill, and I was seriously gasping for breath quite a few times.

Let me back up a little bit and share how life ran away from me this week.

Firstly, JB has worked eight shifts in a row! Every 3 shifts is considered a full work week. This means that he did almost three full work weeks in eight days. The scheduler admitted that this lopsided load was due to an error on his part. But it was too late to change, and JB had no choice but to take on a very difficult schedule. He worked three 12-hour day shifts, then he worked two 12-hour night shifts, and then, after one day to sleep, he went back in for three more day shifts.

It was Monday that he had a very small portion of breathing room since he didn't have to be in until that evening. Of course, he has to take a good nap, so we only had about 5 hours as a family to try to tackle some big things. These included:

  1. Taking our new truck "Sunshine" to the shop for a once-over (which ended up taking 3 days due to some bolt refusing to come loose.)
  2. Going to the bank to get a bank account for Because of Isaac.  We are an official corporation now and are in the midst of working on our non-profit status. (I'll have to write more on this later.)
  3. Having breakfast at Cracker Barrel as a family.
  4. Fitting in a bike/run for my triathlon training.
  5. Taking Isaac to the doctor for a lingering respiratory illness he had not been able to conquer. 
On Tuesday, JB's mom had to bring her own truck down into the shop they bought it from (1 hour round trip away) to get cruise-control installed. So I took JB to work early in the morning. That became the start to an INSANITY-filled day.
  1. Took JB to work (1 hour round trip)
  2. Walked in the door and Grama told me we were completely out of diapers. Ran to the store for diapers.
  3. Walked in the door with diapers and Grama informed me that JB had accidentally taken HER truck key to work. She had to have that to drive her truck down to Franklin. So I hopped back in the van to drive back down to his work to pick up the key. (1 hour round trip.)
  4. The moment I walked in the door, Grama had to take off to make her 9:30am appt. time. I had 10 minutes to get all the kiddos in the car to make Abigail's 10:00am speech class start time. (1 hour round trip.)
  5. I had wracked my brain to figure out how to fit a workout in that day, and had come up with the idea to run the track by Abigail's school during her speech class -- Hannah in the stroller and the boys playing in the grass with a soccer ball. The secretary had told me I was allowed to do this. However, when I arrived, I was informed that due to security issues that was no longer allowed. So I opted in jogging laps around the parking lot to fit in my triathlon training for the day.
  6. The moment I walked in the house after Abigail's speech class, Mom called. Her truck wouldn't be ready in the 2-4 hours they had initially quoted her. So I drove right back down to Franklin to pick her up. (1 hour round trip.)
  7. After that it was naps and then back down to pick up JB after work!
You'd think Wednesday couldn't be worse than Tuesday, but it rivaled for sure. JB's truck was still in the shop and so was mom's. So now we were down to one vehicle for all of us. That meant I had to take JB to and from work yet again. In addition, I had an appointment to pick up some items I had purchased in Nashville. Sidge also had a counseling appointment and Isaac a speech appointment. I also managed to squeeze in a 700meter swim while dropping mom off at my brother-in-law's house to wait for her truck. Craziness.

So now Thursday is approaching. My friend Stebbs and I have scheduled a meet-up in Birmingham at a science center. She is moving to Nebraska this summer so we really wanted to connect at least once more before that move. It was actually a reschedule from an event we had to miss during the last ice storm. JB told me I should cancel with Stebbs, but I just didn't want to! So I left it on the schedule.

But God knows better. Stebbs actually texted me and told me that due to a series of events and illness in her house, she had to cancel. I admitted to her that I should have done that two days ago. However, even if she wouldn't have canceled on Wednesday afternoon, I would have had to cancel by that evening as Sidge was running a fever and Isaac had a terrible case of pink-eye!

Praise the Lord for a SLOW Thursday. JB could drive himself to work, and I had nowhere I had to go other than to pick up one last vehicle from the shop. Now we are home and packing like crazy people to do the first half of our move. 

I will end by sharing a fun video of our family passing the time waiting outside the ER for JB to get off of shift. If his shift is light, we can go in, but if there is "scary stuff" going on, we have to wait out in the van.

Monday, March 23, 2015


An online friend recently shared a video with me. I link to it here. 

I have seen many, many, many videos on adoption, but none felt more similar to our adoption of Isaac than this one. It perfectly captured the emotions and what this really means to be his parents.

Love you Bri!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

A letter to myself on the eve of infertility

I am reprinting this article. Not many things I read on infertility make me cry. While infertility is my passion and my ministry, I am very removed from it and the emotion is well behind me. But this piece brought tears to my eyes because I felt like yelling, "YES! Someone gets it! Someone understands what these years did to me!"

If you are living with infertility, I hope this piece reminds you that you are far from alone.

And if you are reading this because you love someone going through infertility, I pray this piece helps you understand what this terrible journey feels like. 

Dear Amanda,

Tomorrow your life will change forever.  I wish I could protect you from everything you are about to experience, but in the strangest way, this will be the best thing that has ever happened to you. 
First thing’s first. 
Everything you think you know about getting pregnant? False. 
Your science classes, great aunts and MTV’sTeen Mom have failed you.  Lies…all lies.  I can’t tell you yet what DOES work, but I can give you a  few things that don’t. 
Take them off your list:
-“Just relax.”
-“Take a vacation!! “
-“Stop trying.  Everyone gets pregnant when they stop trying.”
-“Lose weight/gain weight.”
-“Give up.  This is a sign that you aren’t meant to have children.” (heads up- the ones who say this one are nuts! Walk away.)

The people around you do not mean to be idiots.  
Truly.  You will hear some of the worstadvice imaginable in these next few years… but it’s only because no one knows what to do with you. You will hear the story of Abraham and Sarah on the regular.  You will yell and say terrible things about that particular story in the Bible.  Chances are, you won’t be 147 when you get pregnant, so try and let that one go.   Although you can’t see it now, your friends and family are hurting with you. Learn how to be gracious early on and save yourself one million tears.  And also- stop asking people what you should do.  Their ideas are terrible. Ask your doctor, talk to Matt… but step away from the masses.

The amount of weight and gray hair that comes with this process is a shock.  So, learn that you are beautiful.  It's important.

You don’t actually have a needle phobia.
The nurses don’t like wimps, so fake it til you make it. Before long they’ll know your name, and your best vein.  Your days of whining and passing out over a blood draw are long gone. In time, you’ll be giving yourself shots in the stomach and losing half of your blood supply at every appointment without thinking twice.

Oh! You will lose your mind, yell at a nurse on the phone and file a complaint about her to “HR”.  You aren’t going to win her back over, so let that one go.  But don’t be “that girl” for long.

The nurses are YOUR PEOPLE!  Treat them well.  If they ever seem cold or unfriendly, it’s not about you.  They have an unbelievably stressful job.  Women are crazy to begin with. Women pumped full of hormones trying to get pregnant? Psychotic.  These ladies see incredible pregnancy miracles, but they also walk families through inconceivable loss.  Just be sincere.  You’ve got a long road ahead, and some of these women will become friends for years to come.

Something about marriage
Sooner than you think, you and Matt will begin to feel like a science experiment gone wrong.  You will fight and cry and question every single thing…you will say terrible things and doubt each other and think this is one big mistake…you almost won’t make it through…but hold on to each other.  This thing can break you if you let it.  (but it doesn’t. trust me.)

Don’t hide.
Soon, most of your friends will become pregnant.  The majority of them started trying long after you.  You will watch them have their first, second and even third children as you wait.  Wait well.  Answer your phone, agree to a pedicure, or just let them come sit with you.  Infertility sucks.   Trying to do it by yourself is impossible. You have incredible people in your life. They can TAKE THIS! Learn to let them love you through the ugly. 

You are going to mess up.
Drop perfectionism quickly because you cannot IMAGINE the ways you’ll act.  You will be rude, insensitive, and distant.  You’ll miss important baby showers and christenings and birthday parties and do all the things you said you’d never do. It’s okay.  Grief is a monster and in time you’ll learn to separate your own sorrow from others’ joy. Forgive yourself, ask forgiveness and do better next time.

Hear me say this.  You did NOT do anything wrong.  You are not being punished. God has not forgotten you.  Don’t compare your story to those around you, because you do have a story.  It reads like sci-fi horror right now, but it won’t always. 

Never give up, Amanda. Never.  You will announce that you don’t want kids after all, you will stop “trying”, but always hold a space in your heart for hope.

Pain is devastating and beautiful. And it makes people terribly uncomfortable. This thingyou have is holy ground. Treat it that way.  Don’t let anyone in unless you are certain they can be trusted with your grief.  But soon you’ll see others stumbling around with your very same wound.  Take them in, share what you know… it eases the heartache.

I wish I could close this letter with, AND THEN YOU GET PREGNANT.  But you don’t. 
I don’t know what happens at the end of our story, but I know you are stronger than you’ve ever imagined.  I know that your story will help so many other women.  And I know that this is all worth it.


Spring is here!

Yesterday was the first day of Spring! It is the first time that I, as a parent, have experienced winter, and I have to say I am really ready for Spring to arrive. 

(Of course, winter in Tennessee still doesn't hold a candle to the four years we experienced in Minnesota! In Minnesota, the first day of spring really meant very little since we once had a foot of snow in M-A-Y!)

If you have followed my blog for awhile you know that I buy almost all of my kids clothes and shoes secondhand. Unless we are in a bind (i.e. need something immediately that I didn't plan ahead for) we try with about 90% success to buy everything second hand. So imagine my excitement when I found a lady on Varage sale selling these little girl dresses -- size 2T and 4T for just $5 each! I jumped on that deal. And here we are before church showing them off:

Hannah is starting to cooperate for photos a bit!

The best picture of all 4. Not too bad!

I had to include this photo to demonstrate Abigail's new posing (even though Hannah is a bit blurry.)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

My Femininity is not defined by my fertility

Click here to read this article in its entirety. This article did a great job on focusing on what I have often talked about on my blog -- that the church and Christianity doesn't know what to do with infertile women. That we don't fit into their mold and that it can be incredible painful amongst the people we should most feel connected. 

The isolating nature of thoughts like these can lead someone struggling with miscarriage or infertility to feel invisible. That’s what happened to me. I started feeling like I was unseen, just like my ongoing ache. I want to do the woman thing! I want to have babies! That’s not a bad thing to desire, I reasoned with God. As my ache grew, so did my feeling of uselessness. I began to feel like even God didn’t see me.

My miscarriage left me feeling all of these things: invisible, isolated, and useless. Like many realities, healing is a process, and I’m currently right in the middle of it. Part of my process is choosing to actively participate in the tiny work of God. I’m practicing my little acts of love, my small responses to his overwhelming grace. Like scales on the piano that sound clunky at first, I’m practicing and learning to be whole. Praise God that he did not leave me as I was and that he will not leave me as I am now. I believe the nearness of God is my good. Even on days when only a sliver of myself believes it, I will sing loud until the passion floods me again.

We Bought a Farm: Meet Sunshine

What is a farmer without a farm truck?

When we left for Turkey in 2010 we had two vehicles. However, you can only bring one vehicle overseas, so we decided to part with the Saturn we had bought when we first got married. 

Now, four years later, we are back in America, and while we have done a good job this year of being a one car family, we knew that we were going to need a second vehicle. 

JB knew exactly what he wanted. He wanted a farm truck. He wanted to have a long bed and 4-wheel drive, and we also thought it was important that it had a second row so he could haul up to 3 kids when the need arose.

But we also knew that, in sticking with our Dave Ramsay "cash only" lifestyle, we wanted to buy a truck we could pay cash for. That meant nothing new. In fact, it meant something pretty old!

We found someone selling a perfect truck for us, and a few days later, the title changed hands. It's a 1992 Ford F-250, and over dinner the night we brought it home, JB explained to the kids that we now had a new family member.

"We have to come up with a name," he said. "And car names are usually girl names, and since Abigail is the only girl old enough in our family to talk, I think she should name our truck."

Abigail just beamed.

She thought long and hard and in her tiny little voice said, "Sunshine."

Sunshine it is.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Friday Funnies

There are only three times that I ever "miss" TV. The first is when the Olympics are on. The second is when big tennis tournaments are on. And the third is during March Madness. In honor of March Madness, I thought I would flash back to March 2013. We don't have cable now so I am not able to watch the games like I could when we had a Base TV, but you can tell by this Friday Funny that I watched a lot of games! Sidge was 4 years old when this conversation took place.

Sidge: "Are we gonna watch a movie Mommy?"
Me: "No."
Sidge: "What are you watching?"
Me: "I'm just seeing if there is basketball is on."
Sidge: "You've always been doing that."
Me: "I know. It's March Madness. I like basketball."
Sidge: "Why?"
Me: "I just like to watch basketball."
Isaac: "Do you like to play basketball?"
Me: "I used to."
Isaac: "Why don't you play basketball anymore?"
Me: "Ummm ... cuz I'm a mommy now, I guess."


While we are into flashbacks, let's pop back to October of 2013 and check out another one of my favorite conversations:

Me: "Where does God live?"
Sidge: "In heaven."
Me: "Where else?"
Sidge: "In our hearts."
Me: "Right!"
Sidge: "Where is my heart."
Me: "It's right there." [points to it on his chest]
Sidge: "Is that what we check for with our telescope?"
Me: "You mean stethoscope?"
Sidge: "Yeah. And if it's not beating, then, we're dead?"

And a year prior, when the boys were just three and had just learned how to go to the bathroom, the following conversation took place in our home:

Isaac came out of the bathroom and informed me that, "I went pee pee while Sidge was going poopy."
Me: "How is that possible?"
Isaac: "Well, while Sidge is sitting down, there's a little room in the front."

Thursday, March 19, 2015

We bought a farm: John's cows

I am constantly amazed and in awe of how different life is in the country.

I am not immune to subcultures. While I grew up in South Florida until I left for college, I have lived in various places both in the USA and abroad. I am quite aware how different regions within the U.S. can be.

I first experienced these differences when I went to college in Bowling Green, Kentucky. While not a tiny town by any stretch, it surely doesn't resemble the Fort Lauderdale I grew up by any stretch of the word. I learned how to wear my hemline lower and tried hard to eliminate the words you guys from my vocabulary. 

After college, I was "recruited" again -- this time to be a teacher and coach for a country town in southern Kentucky. I loved the five years I spent at this school and certainly got an education on what it means to be a country kid. I met many young men who missed school during harvesting season despite the fact that it was against the rules. And I quickly ascertained a system to eliminate dip cans from the back of pockets in my classroom. 

From Kentucky, we spent four years in Minnesota. Another subculture to be sure. Here, people were genuinely kind all the time but very reserved. The women were taller. The temperatures much colder. 

And then northern Florida which I had mistakenly thought would resemble the Florida I had grown up in. I quickly learned that anything above Orlando was considered the "real" south -- southern tea and what they called their vending machines (i.e. soda, coke, or pop) the deadest giveaway. 

But even though I lived in that country town in Franklin, Kentucky for quite a few years, I am quite a stranger to actually living in the country. I am quite aware that I don't fit the mold. I move too fast, talk too loud, and bounce too much. I've travelled extensively and truly do not belong.

We have learned that making friends in our town will be a very big asset. And for this reason, when our neighbor John mosied up our driveway during our three day visit, we knew his plea was one we should accept.

He had run half his cows on this farm before we bought it. And with winter ending, he needed a place to put them. My husband of the same name, agreed to help our neighbor out at least for the rest of this year, and began discussing his desire to implement rotational grazing* on our land. John the neighbor told my husband he could care less where the cows were rotated. "It's your land," he slowly said, kicking at the dirt with his boots. "You rotate them there cows however you want. I'm just mighty grateful they'll have some grass to eat."

So without having to even get our own cows yet, we will be beginning permaculture on our little piece of heaven in just two weeks as John the neighbor leases his land for some of his herd. Also in exchange, he's going to find someone who can help bushwack (is that a word?) some of the cedars that have taken over a certain section of the land where JB tells me we don't want them. 

We are excited to see these mothers and their babies moving around our 100 acres. 
We are excited to have helped out a neighbor.
And we are excited to get our own chickens (very soon) which will be rotated with the cows to begin bringing permaculture to the land.

Much ... much ... much more to come.

I encourage you to stay with me on this journey. As I have mentioned before, my blog will be morphing to another site. There will be a public aspect and a private sector. If you'd like to continue reading some of the more personal pieces, please send me an email at flakymn@hotmail.com telling me who you are and how you know me!


For more information on rotational grazing, visit one of JB's blog posts below:

Multispecies Grazing: An Introduction

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Take the Pledge!

Did you know monarchs are in big trouble? People are cutting down forests where the bright orange butterflies spend their winters. And chemicals are killing their eggs. But there is a simple way that you can help. We did it and you can too!

All you have to do is upload a picture of you (or your kids or your family) making the American Sign Language sign for butterfly. (We worked hard to perfect our signs and this picture was as good as I had the energy to muster.) In exchange, you win a chance for a free Disney World vacation, but more importantly, a free Butterfly Garden Starter Kit. 

We heard about this idea through the magazine Ranger Rick that we receive each month. (We love it!) I thought it was a great (and free!) homeschool science project. 

Let me know if you decide to join us. 

Book Review: Tiny Bear's Bible

Honestly, the picture above doesn't do this book justice. The little bear on the corner is SO soft and SO sweet that you fall in love with this book just seeing it in the package. I tested it out on my 1.5 year old, and she was, as I assumed she would be, obsessed with petting this little bear. 

Honestly, my only complaint was that the bear was in blue. This makes it a bit prohibitive to give as a gift for someone having a girl. Otherwise, I would give these as baby gifts to all the new moms in my life! But then I did a bit of googling and discovered there is a girl's edition! Brilliant!

Tiny Bear's Bible is a WARM, FRIENDLY, FURRY Bible for preschoolers with an irresistible message: GOD LOVES his children.

Designed for kids 6 and under (I think it is a little more targeted for ages 1-4), Tiny Bear's Bible is written by bestselling author Sally Lloyd-Jones. Eleven Bible stories are included on durable pages that allow children to carry God's word with them quite literally. 

Lloyd-Jones presents some of the most familiar Bible stories to children, which provides parents and grandparents lots of teachable, cuddly moments as they explore God's love together.

I strongly recommend this book. It will definitely remain a classic in our book library!

Booklook Bloggers has provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

We bought a farm: Another visit

We just returned from a three day visit to the farm. Yet again, we towed behind our vehicle a little trailer filled with more stuff. Slowly bur surely we are moving our life from one part of Tennessee to another, and we couldn't be happier about doing it. Each time we arrive, we find ourselves breathing deeper. Smiling bigger. JB and I took a short walk together on the land, and hand-in-hand we both admitted that we have zero regrets about this purchase. We are one hundred percent confident that this was the place God had picked out for us all along.

We had carpet cleaners come up and clean the carpets in the kids' bedrooms. We had our propane tank filled. We had a plumber come out and look at a known leak in the garage. We figured out where we had to drive our garbage and recyclables (no pick up in these them parts). We watched as a man rode by on horseback down the road outside the front of our house. I found a local YMCA who has agreed to let me work-out (for free!) when we return to the farm for a week around Easter which greatly excited me. (They are the only place anywhere near us that has an indoor pool, and I have to stay on top of my work-outs for my May 9th triathlon.) We also put together two bookshelves I had found on www.shopgoodwill.com. (If you haven't ever visited this site -- do it!) We are turning our formal dining room into a little school room, and it the first room to really come together!

Mom took a walk over to what we think will someday be their forever home -- a little old farmhouse that will require gadzooks of work before it is ready. She has been giddy with excitement to see what flowers and trees we have on the property come spring. Her favorite flower of all is a daffodil and wouldn't you know it, right outside her house ... daffodils! And to top it off, Red, the dog Dad and Mom agreed to take ownership of with the farm, who has been a bit skiddish on our previous visits, bonded with Mom this trip.

Two sweet little gifts that caused her happiness and therefore us as well.

I also found a very cool little 1/4 mile track on our land that I can run (although I have to wear my hiking/running shoes). It's bumpy and requires sharp attention for holes and divots, but I maneuvered it well and managed a 2 mile run. Scrubs ran along with me the entire time. He is truly in dog-heaven at the farm. He runs and tromps like he has been waiting for hills like this his entire life.

We are back home now.

Although truth be told, it doesn't feel like home.

Our home is on that farm.

Two more months until it is forever!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

7 Things I'm NOT saying when I tell you I homeschool my kids

I love this list!

Click here to read the article in its entirety.

I'm a sharer. I share what I am doing and what is working for me. Homeschool is what I am doing. Homeschool is working for me.

But while I am PASSIONATE about it, I do not believe it is the only way. I believe there are many different ways to school your child, and what is important is that you find what is working for you and your child and your family.

When I talk about homeschooling, here is what I am NOT saying.

  1. I'm not saying public school is bad.
  2. I'm not saying I'm better than you.
  3. I'm not saying I won't make mistakes.
  4. I'm not saying this is easy.
  5. I'm not saying this is perfect.
  6. I'm not saying this is forever.
  7. I'm not saying I don't love this choice right now.

Free telling time practice cards

Click here for a great resource! Flash cards for telling time.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Free Lullaby Giveaway

JJ Heller, a Christian artist, is giving away her lullaby album this month, with the specific intent of getting it into NICUs for some positive and peaceful background music they can have as a resource for parents. The songs are lovely. Check it out and share! 

Friday, March 13, 2015

2014 in Pictures

January 2014 

We hold our very first Because of Isaac auction and raise over $1,000!

I am busy teaching the boys to read. It is going really well and we are having a blast!

Some crazy weather rolls into the island.

We celebrate Sidge's fifth birthday party at base movie theatre.

February 2014

A mini golf course comes to the island. Oh how fun it is to do things together as a family.

Abigail falls and becomes the fifth glue/staples/stitches casualty in our family.

My friend Michelle's Aunt Sharon comes to the island for a marriage course she and her husband are teaching. Love catching up with old friends.

March 2014

Our Joni comes for a visit again. Yipeee!

While she is here, Hannah turns six months old and we celebrate Super Hero style.

My mom comes to visit for the first time. Oh how wonderful to show her the military life I have lived.

April 2014

I am honored as a recipient of "Lajes Spouse of the Month" as our life on the island winds down.

We attend the birthday party of our Portuguese friends -- and everyone gets batman faces.

The movers arrive. Let the games begin!

As always, there are certain people that feel so very hard to leave. Josh and Rebekah and their boys prick my heart. It was so wonderful to have them around the corner from us this last year.

A medical emergency from a naval ship nearby comes through the base -- and JB is the doc in charge.

Here's what a pack-out looks like -- no king sized bed for JB and me means two full sized beds on the floor. That'll do.

I have a MOPs Easter Egg Hunt at the house. 

JB and I take an amazing vacation together to the island of Sao Miguel while JB's parents watch the kiddos. How wonderful to escape for a few days.

May 2014

Our little miracle turns six -- and we celebrate in great superhero style with a movie at the base theatre.

This will be our last month in the Azores so we spend it enjoying the last bits of this beautiful place. JB and I spend a day on a jeep field trip with the boys. It was a blast!

We have a fellow airman take some family pictures of us near the water we love so much.

We decide to move our beloved pirate ship down the street to our friends: Josh & Rebekah's house. It feels so good to see the ship sail another day.

We take a day to visit a local farm with a friend that Mom made. While this is such a happy time for us, it is also bitter sweet as we are saying good bye to people, like Mianna, that have been our family during our years in the Azores.

They have a small going away party for JB. During these last few days of May, he will don his uniform for the very last time. Much more emotional about this than I thought I would be.

We take an afternoon to walk around our favorite corner. We eat ice cream at our neighborhood cafe, have spaghetti at Buzios, say good bye to the Storey family and our neighbors across the street. This place had so many wonderful and difficult memories for me. It's hard to imagine it is time to say good bye.

The hardest good bye is Hita. So long sweet friend. I will love you forever.

June 2014

It's time! We can't believe it but it really is time to move back to America. As June begins, we say farewell to the island and to military life.

First stop? We spend a few days with our friends from Turkey: Ryan, Sarah, William and new little Graham while we wait to pick our van up from the port. After that, we begin the long drive to Tennessee. 

One of the first things I NEED to do upon arriving is order some Indian food. Yum!

We get our UB shipment (small shipment) and the dozens of boxes we mailed ourselves. We also get the items we had put in storage before we had left for Turkey. There are a few injuries, like this helmet pictured above. 

But our big shipment of stuff that we had been told would arrive shortly after we did, is nowhere to be found. A friend of a friend shows up with air mattresses, this gate, and a folding table and chairs which literally SAVES MY LIFE! It will end up being the very end of July before we see all of our belongings.

Back in America and living in TN (not too far from our home for eight years in Kentucky), means getting to catch up with old friends like the Wilsons (pictured above), my friend Shea, and Josh and Sarah and their family.

JB doesn't have to report to work for almost a month, so we spend some time reconnecting as an American familiy. First up? An amazing trip to the zoo!

We also visit a local science center where Isaac works on his camera-taking abilities.

We'd be lying if we said the choices and selection and options in America aren't downright amazing!

July 2014
 Our friends from Eglin, Turkey AND the Azores stop in to see us. So great to see Nick, Kristy and their boys!

As July gets underway, we STILL do not have our shipment of "stuff" from the Azores and grow mighty used to life on the floor.

But ... JB's brother (Matt) and his wife (Danielle) come to visit us! How wonderful to catch up with family.

We also get to spend some time with my cousin Josh and his wife Sarah and there three kids. When we last lived across the street from them, we had zero children between us. Today, we have seven (and one on the way!)

Abigail turns 3 and we opt to have a small little party at Chik-fil-A.

I start to experience life away from a military base, as we venture out to new activities -- like a homeschool lego club that we just love!

Abigail attends her first princess party, a girl party, a party without her brothers! I wasn't sure how she'd do, but she had a blast at her cousin MaryBeth's house.

Our garden begins to produce sustenance.

As our stuff FINALLY arrive at the end of the month, we celebrate with wonderful summer days outside in an American suburb!

August 2014

My Mom's sister, Janet, comes in for a few day visit. So great to see her and let her meet all my kiddos.

One of JB's childhood friends, now a lawyer in the Air Force, stops in to see us with his wonderful wife and two kiddos. They'll make another brief stop in October as well.

The August weather leaves plenty of pool days and fun backyard times. The list of things we love about being back in America is so long!

One of the downsides? Our shipment has a LOT of mold. At least we have our stuff -- but about 20% is damaged by mold.

I take the boys to their first, ever, real water park in Nashville. It takes some convincing to get them to go down a water slide, but once they do, they are hooked forever.

I get to catch up with my friend Shea at her home in Kentucky. She is now the mother of two little boys.

September 2014

Our friend Tara, and her husband Kelvin, come to visit us in Tennessee. So great to catch up with old friends!

I fly Isaac out to Vermont so he can have his annual summer time there with his birth grandparents: Roy and Joni.

Isaac has a blast ...

... but MAN are we excited to get him home.

... And even more excited that Joni returns with him for a few days of fun!

We head out to Eastern Tennessee to do some "farm finding" and my dear childhood friend, Michelle, and her three kiddos, joins us for a reunion. Michelle and I have been dear friends since we were five years old and went to every year of school together K-12.

Hannah turns one!

We make a trip to Montgomery, Alabama where we spend time with our great friends from Turkey -- Ryan and Sarah and their sons William and Graham. We also get to spend a half day with my friend Claire as well.

Our second Because of Isaac auction brings in over $2,000!

October 2014

My great friend from the Azores, Claire, rolls into town to visit with her three kiddos. 

And we also get a quick visit with the Ellis' (from Turkey).

Oh America how we missed you! To get to a genuine fall pumpkin patch? Truly not something I can adequately put into words.

Halloween ended up being a VERY cold night here. So costumes were covered with coats, and when Hannah was so crabby we couldn't even get her in a picture, we opted to simply include her dress in the photo.

November 2014

Stebbs and company stop into our neck of the woods for a visit -- and a trip to the local Jack Daniel's Brewery. 

It's our first snow in the U.S.A. (Not much to write home about but still, actually, a bit of snow!)

So incredibly excited that my parents drive up for Thanksgiving. It is the first time I have seen my Dad since Hannah was born in September of the year before.

After years of dreaming and waiting, we buy a farm! 100 amazing acres in Eastern Tennessee are the green grass where we will grow our family. We are beyond thrilled and looking forward to relocating permanently in the summer of 2015.


Joni comes in for a surprise visit for the kiddos! 

Joni ends up leaving from our house to go to Vermont as word comes in that her father-in-law is about to say hello to his heavenly home and a wife he hasn't seen in over a decade. We feel so blessed that Isaac was able to make a second visit out to Vermont to see Roy's father, Pa, as Pa goes home to be with the Lord in December -- well into his 90's!

Daddy takes Abigail to a much anticipated first: The Nutcracker!

JB's older sister, Elizabeth, and her family which includes her husband Grant and adorable twin boys, come in for a Christmas visit.

Following Grant and Elizabeth's departure, my brother and his family (wife AD and daughters: Charleigh and Baylee) come in for a week to hang with us in Tennessee. 

During their visit, the girls have their first slumber party -- including 2nd cousin MaryBeth in the festivities.