Monday, August 31, 2015

Happy (Early) Birthday Hannah!

So, in sticking with our new family birthday plan of avoiding birthday parties, we decided to choose somewhere fun to go to as a family for Hannah's 2nd birthday. Her birthday isn't until September 4th, but Friday worked out best for us to head as a family to Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies. This aquarium is voted Top 3 on nearly every site you can find and being as we are only 90 minutes from Gatlinburg, we decided to give it a try.

Here are a few snaps from our outting:

Abigail has started asking me to take her picture when she thinks it's  a good time. :)

We went through an entire exhibit about "schooling" animals. These fish like to eat dead skin off human hands.

Sidge and Abigail both gave it a try, but Sidge really stuck with it and let them nibble away.

A picture of all the kiddos, looking at the camera. A small miracle.

So overall our review on the aquarium was that it was very nice and very fun but it was a little overpriced for the outing. I don't think it is a place we will go to yearly, but every few years it might be a nice thing to add to our homeschool agenda.

We followed up the Aquarium in typical-Kitsteiner style by finding a restaurant that is ranked high on Trip Advisor and isn't your "normal" place to eat. We like to find non-chain restaurants that offer unique experiences. We also love when a place reminds us of the traveling we have done.

We found an awesome British Pub a few minutes from the Aquarium that was very fun! It was called The Fox and Parrot Tavern.  It is a family-friendly restaurant that had really good food! I would definitely recommend it to anyone, but especially those of you who have spent time frequenting pubs in England. 

Hard to believe my baby is turning 2 in just a few shorts days. What a piece of work she is. I'll be writing more about her very soon.

We Bought a Farm: I think we found our church

We think we have found a church that fits our family very nicely.
  • JB needed an intellectual pastor. Check
  • We wanted a really great kids program. Check. 
  • I really wanted to find a church that had a heart for the widows and orphans. Check. 
  • I wanted to find a place that I could easily take all four kids by myself and feel like they were being smothered with love and teaching for the hour. Check. 
  • We all wanted to find a church that seemed like we could contribute to the body. Check.
We aren't writing our decision in stone yet, but we do feel like the Lord has lead us to the right place. I'm excited to get involved, get to know people, and find a church home

Slowly but surely I am releasing the past places I have lived and the previous churches I have worshipped in .... releasing them into the past and looking to the future. I am not really sure how to phrase this, but it is important, when you move as much as we have during the first two decades of our married life, to embrace the new place, and realize that any place can become home.

If you let it be.

Finding a church is part of that. It won't feel the same for a long time. You'll grieve for the church homes of your past. But your present is where you are now. And it's time to move on and look forward.

“Home is people. Not a place. If you go back there after the people are gone, then all you can see is what is not there any more.” ― Robin HobbFool's Fate

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Review: The Good Samaritan

I am loving getting to review all these awesome I Can Read books for Booklook Bloggers. (They provide me with a complimentary copy of the book in exchange for my review.)

The Good Samaritan retells the familiar parable of an injured man who is helped by the most unlikely of strangers. Written in the I Can Read level two standards, with age-appropriate vocabulary and concepts, young readers read about The Good Samaritan, who does what the Biblical scholars before him failed to do: stop what he was doing to help a person who needed help, no matter what his race or tribe. 

This I Can Read! series of Bible stories makes use of the unique features found in the NIV Adventure Bible such as “People in Bible Times” and “Did You Know ”.

This particular story has great pictures and vocabulary appropriate for level 2. I have already really enjoyed listening to my boys reading it to me.

How I feel ...

... when Hannah doesn't fall asleep during nap time.

(Three hour break turns into one hour.)

(I'm currently grieving.)

(I'll get over it soon.)

(In theory bed time will come a bit earlier.)

(But it doesn't always correlate.)


We are down to our LAST 24 hours to shop!!! Please take a moment to check out these books and see if you'd like to make a purchase for the little person in your life. Christmas gifts galore!!!

My neighbor from Eglin AFB has created a fundraiser opportunity for Because of Isaac through Usborne books. Please take a moment to visit the page for this fundraiser: Link to shop! 

If you are a mother or an aunt or a grandmother, this would be a GREAT opportunity for you to buy some books for your special little person for Christmas and at the same time, giving 17% of your purchase directly to Because of Isaac!

Here is the formal invite:

Welcome to our Because of Isaac Fundraiser with Kristin Loves Usborne! I'm Kristin, the "Book Lady" for this event. I sell Usborne Books & More. I just love that Because of Isaac makes growing families possible through adoption! And what better way to support growing families than with a children’s book fundraiser?! 

For every $100 in books purchased, a MINIMUM of $17 will be donated to Because of Isaac to help a family adopt a child! 
Usborne Books & More is a strong supporter of childhood literacy! They offer almost 2,000 educational books and activities for all ages and interests, fiction and non-fiction. Many of the books are interactive to get even the most reluctant readers to begin enjoying books! 

The percentage of donation will increase the more you purchase! No matter what Because of Isaac will receive 17% of your purchase. Once we reach $750 in sales, that goes up to 20%. At $2000 we will be able to donate 25%. Once we reach $3,000 in sales, 30% of your purchase goes to Because of Isaac!! 

I want to raise lots and lots of money for Because of Isaac and I need YOUR help, so if you have any questions or need any recommendations, please feel free to message me! The fundraiser will stay open until MIDNIGHT on August 31. 

To learn more about Because of Isaac, go to 

(Sorry our books can only be shipped to US and military addresses. If you live outside the US, please consider donating directly to Because of Isaac or have your gift mailed to someone within the USA or APO address!)

Sunday Sermon

Friday, August 28, 2015

Friday Funnies

Prior to going to our Cinderella auditions for ballet, Abigail decided to try and teach Hannah first position.

Tall People

Yesterday Isaac and I walked into a gas station to get a little snack. I often try to find time to take just one child out and yesterday was my "date" with Isaac. A woman behind the counter who had her own unique physical features which I won't write about in fear of surrounding rude, gave me a nice long stare up and down when I walked in.

Keep in mind that Isaac is adopted while you read this. Sort of an important side note.

I will let my quote marks tell the rest of the story.

Lady behind the counter: "Wow. Are you going to be tall like your mommy?"
Isaac: "Ummm ..."
Lady behind the counter: "She's really tall. Are you going to be tall like her?"
Isaac: "Ummm ..."
Lady behind the counter: "What about your daddy? How tall is he?"
Isaac: "He's as tall as Mommy."
Lady behind the counter: "Well you are going to be very tall then."
Isaac: "Okay." (Looks at me and scrunches up his nose.)
Lady behind the counter: (Turns to me now.) "I bet you were a basketball player?"
Me: "I was."
Lady behind the counter: "Yeah, because you are very tall."
Me: "Okay."
Lady behind the counter: (Gives a long whistle.) "I thought my brother was tall. But you got him beat."
Me: "Okay."
Lady behind the counter: "Well I guess you can reach things on the top shelf?"
Me: "Yes I can."

Even though I am 38-years-old I continue to always feel at a loss for words when this happens. Anything I say to stop the conversation from moving forward will come out rude. But I am trying, with every piece of my body language, to indicate that I am uncomfortable with this discussion.

And she just ... kept ... going.

I went to the van and ate my candy bar in peace and thought of all the things I wanted to say.

Do you play miniature golf?
How's the weather down there?
How short are you?
How short is your husband?
Well at least you reach stuff easier on the floor.
Were you a gymnast or a horse jockey?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

To my homeschooled sons

To my little homeschooled first graders,

You dear boys o' mine do not know how good you have it.

You have to do schoolwork for four hours a day -- nearly half as long as your attending-school counterparts.

You do not have to do any homework.

Like, none at all.

You get breaks to play Legos and go outside.

You can take a day off in the middle of the week because a family member is in town or because we want to take a field trip.

You can eat food outside of snack and lunch time and sit on the porch to do your reading.

You can talk to geese and ducks and pigs and sheep while you study your spelling words.

You can relax on the sofa without your shirt on and be taught phonics with your feet up on a coffee table.

But alas ... neither of you seem to not find these facts very exciting. When I reiterate them to you, you do not exhibit an impressed body language.

Like, not at all.

Obviously there are things you do not get to do, and I do not write this post to in any way say your life is superior. I understand the homeschooling life is not perfect and there are disadvantages to this path we are currently on.

But I do know for a fact that the amount of time you have to invest is less.

The requirements are not as stringent.

And yet the moaning ...

and the groaning ...

and the lamenting ...

and the tears!

And I cannot help but feel like a big ol' task master. I really dislike that each time I walk into your room you both visibly bristle, knowing that I am taking you from something fun to something you do not deem as fun.

(Even if I try to make the assignment fun by including Skittles or glue or food.)

Here is my daily lecture:

"Would you like to go to school and be gone twice as long every day?"

You both say no.

Then I say, "Do you know that it is against the law for you to not get an education?"

You both combine your replies to come out something like, "Really?"

(Even though I just told you both this same thing the day or hour before.)

"Yes," I say. "If you don't go to school, then we are breaking the law and if I  break the law I can go to jail."

Why don't your faces seem to care that your mother could go to jail?

Listen, I know no kid likes school. But I think that we have chosen to educate you in an environment which equals half the commitment while wearing half the clothes should count for something.

So all I ask is that you remember that you don't have it so bad. That I want to be your fun mom in the midst of being your required-to-teach-you-teacher. That you try to limit your complaining just a bit.

Now, put your feet up on the coffee table, embrace your shirtless self, and let's get back to those math problems.

Sons o' mine.

We Bought a Farm: Some moments in our daily life

Oh these pillows! The kids are constantly moving them around and adjusting them on the couches. So much for getting them to "look nice." I did, however, get smart, and I have started including the pillows in our daily "penny pick-up." I pay the kids a penny for anything out of place they can put away. Pillows count! So nice to get them back on the sofa in the right place -- if just for a few moments.

Oh Magnatiles ... how we love you! The fun we have with these things are endless. And yes, they are standing on the coffee table. Don't judge.

These two girls are really starting to play together. I can only hope they can keep loving each other like they do right now.

Playing together ...

... Can be a bit dangerous.

A three-way sword fight

My oldest and youngest

And the guy who started it all ... can't believe he's EIGHT now!

Hannah "helping" Grampa get the garbage cans out of the truck.

I absolutely LOVE that my girls have big brothers.

Changing her mind about a hay ride.


Isaac's muscles


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Homeschool: Eagle's Nest

Grama is so full of great ideas! She is truly one of the most creative people I have ever met. Today the boys created a nest for two of their favorite stuffed animals. You can't see it but there are all kinds of rocks and balls under them serving as pretend eggs. We plan to do a little learning about bald eagles today to go with this lesson!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Blue Hat ... Take 2

Since blue hat's reemergence, Sidge has been wearing it quite a bit. But he's been sharing it equally with Hannah. These pictures of her sweetness are of utmost importance to me when she has a day like the one she had today. (Which included trying to eat dishwasher soap.)

Monday, August 24, 2015

We Bought a Farm: The Confederate Flag

JB just finished working 8 out of 10 days. And these are long shifts too -- up to 12 hours. At one point, he only had 11 hours off between shifts. I have heard it said by many an ER doc that "the thing ER docs love the most about their job is the schedule. And the thing ER docs love least about their job is the schedule."

I am really starting to see how true that is. Oh how wonderful it is when he has off four days in the middle of the week. And how nice it is that he can take a week vacation, with much advanced warning, whenever he wants. But oh how exhausting a long run is! And the holidays and Sundays can get a bit old. 

But I digress ...

Last night we loaded up the kids and drove over to one of the three restaurants in our town. (From what I can tell there are two family diners and one pizza place in our new town. But maybe I don't have complete information yet and will discover another place nestled somewhere amongst the 800 residents of the town. So stay tuned.)

"Dairy Dreams" has really great home-cooked food and last night, I was quite effected by their hush puppies. (Currently, honestly, the best ones I have ever eaten, and that is saying something as this there girl really loves hush puppies and has tried her fair share of them.) 

During dinner, I did a lot of people watching (while, of course, sitting next to a nearly two-year-old who doesn't allow for much day dreaming while at a restaurant or while anywhere for that matter.) The restaurant was packed, and I had a really neat opportunity to observe many of the people who are now my neighbors. While I do not feel out of place, I do feel like it is obvious we are not from here and that we do not talk or look like the people we are dining with. Maybe they don't think we stand out as much as I feel we do, but I can't help but wonder if I will ever feel like a true southerner. Or if I want to.

While I love Tennessee and love our new home, I am proud of who I am. While I don't really have a very strong cultural identity, I do pride myself on the huge kaleidoscope of things that I am. I am a Dutch girl who talks like she is from the midwest because my parents grew up in Chicago but who herself grew up in South Florida and has lived in various places and wants all of them to be a part of who she is and wants her kids to take a part of Turkey, Germany, and Portugal with them forever.

But I digress again ...

Afterwards, we realized there was a car show and concert going on outside. We spent a little time walking around and looking at some of the vehicles. We actually saw a car from 1925! Incredible. All the vehicles were really cool, and I was pretty impressed by all the people who willingly let our brood climb up onto the seats and even honk the horns.

For those of you looking at this picture and catching a glimpse of that red flag hanging off the side of the vehicle, I will quickly add a few sentences to the end of this post since, as you can probably tell from the title, that the flag was actually what I was intending to get at when I started this post.

If there was ONE thing I could change about our new home, I would snap my fingers and no one would be flying that flag anymore. I see it everywhere, and each time, it hurts my feelings. I won't get into a big debate about it because frankly, I really don't care what anyone else thinks when it comes to this topic. 

(How's that for saying it like it is?)

I completely respect the fact that this is America and we have freedoms here that I do not want taken away. For that reason, I obviously do not want people to take away people's rights to fly a flag of their choosing. But I would like to use the words of NFL football player Benjamin Watson, an incredibly outspoken and articulate African American Christian NFL football player that I have great respect for to complete my thoughts on this topic. He can say it way better than I can so I'll leave it at this:

"It's hard to explain how I feel when I see the rebel flag. The emotional bucket overflows with anger, trepidation, sorrow, a perverted pride and apathy. As hard as I try not to make assumptions about whoever is flying the flag or driving around with it mounted on their truck, my mind can not hold back the painful images of the past generations.... and the current one."
"When I moved to South Carolina in 1996, albeit from the southern state of Virginia, I was somewhat taken aback by the frequency of which I saw the flag. It was on vehicles, displayed on homes, and worn on t-shirts. Like grits and sweet tea, the flag was just part of the culture, an enduring symbol of all things southern. This never changed how I felt about it, but it did teach me to give individuals a certain amount of grace and realize that not everyone who embraced the flag embraced prejudice and supremacy alike."
"Displaying the confederate flag is not inherently wrong. This is not NECESSARILY an issue on which we can take a moral stance. It is not a simple right or wrong dilemma. I understand that for some, the confederate battle flag does not evoke sentiments of racism or supremacy; it is simply a tribute to their heritage, ancestors, and homeland."
If we remove the Confederate flag from the State Capitol for any reason other than a change in the hearts of South Carolinians, we may as well leave it be. This is not the time for political statements and worrying about national perception. But if we ... finally listen to the cries and concerns of those we say we care about, soften our hearts, and choose to lay our liberties aside to assuage the pain of our brothers, the only suitable option would be a unanimous decision to remove the flag from the public grounds at the Palmetto State Capitol. The past and it's people, as acclaimed or afflicted as they may be, should always be remembered. But it is difficult to completely "move forward" if painful, divisive icons continue to stand unchallenged."*

Well said Benjamin Watson. You said exactly what was on my heart and way better than I could have ever said it. 

*To read the entire post: click here. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sunday Sermon

We Bought a Farm: That "make me smile" place in my heart

So lately, I've really fallen for the ducks. (Not good timing since it is almost time to process our male ducks.) The kids love to help feed them and pet them during feeding time. As the geese have gotten older they have gotten a little crabbier and I have to watch the kids with them. But the ducks have stayed a bit aloof, allowing attention only during feeding time, and thus, have nestled themselves into that "make me smile" place in my heart. 

Speaking of smiling hearts, these pictures make my heart smile:

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Once upon a time there was a blue hat

I'm not sure where "blue hat" even originated from. But while other kids had stuffed animals they hung onto tightly, Sidge always had his blue hat. For a period of about two years (ages 2-4) he wore that hat everywhere. In fact, we would use it as a punishment when we were out. "If you don't start acting right, I'm going to take your blue hat!"

Here were some pictures I found of Sidge in his best hat:

On Thursday, I took Abigail to ballet, and in order to make things a bit easier on Grama, I took Sidge with me. (Splitting up the kids is always a nice treat for the babysitter.) While driving down the road, I glanced into my rear view mirror and instantly felt my eyes fill up with tears. There was blue hat.

Apparently it had been at the bottom of the costume box, and Sidge had resurrected it. I snapped this picture of him at ballet. Blue hat is a little small and a little ripped, but it is still blue hat.

I know it is so cliche all the things parents say about how fast their kids grow up, but man is it true. We are gifted these precious lives for such a very short amount of time. It just is not long enough. Moments like this remind me of how fast they grow up.

I do find myself thinking during that day that I'd like to be done wiping rear ends and helping them take a bath. I'd really like it if they could all pour their own cereal and tie their own shoes.

Or would I?

Friday, August 21, 2015

Walgreens: Get 10 free 4×6 photo prints for free + free shipping!

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We Bought a Farm: Consider Cow

Consider Cow
By: Alice Schertle

Consider cow
which rhymes
with bough
but not
with rough.
That's clear enough

Remember moo
will rhyme
with through
but not
with trough
or though
or tough.

You've got
it now:
There's dough
and bough
and cough
and through
and mough . . .
er, moo.

Friday Funnies

Abigail: "Look at all the hay-lows."
Me: "Haloes? Where?"
Abigail: (Points out into a farm next to our house.)
Me: "Oh. You mean Hay bales?"
Abigail: "Yeah. That's what I mean."


Abigail was trying to find a place on the refrigerator to hang one of the many pictures she colors each day. "Daddy," she said. "There isn't any more room on the fridge. I think it is time for you to buy a new refrigerator."

Thursday, August 20, 2015

We Bought a Farm: Grieving old friends

I know that things will change next month when we start our weekly co-op and we find a church, but this week, I was really grieving my old friends.

These friends are grouped in "batches" in my mind. I have my childhood friends. I have my college buddies. I have my Minnesota friends. I have my Eglin AFB friends. I have my Turkey friends. And I have my Azores friends.

I've really tried to convince myself that I didn't need any people here in our new home at the farm. We have so many visitors. And I have so many friends spread out around the USA and the world that I could just focus on making day trips to see.

But you know, sometimes, I just wish I could send an email to Stebbs and Angelica and Sarahbee and say, "Meet you at Arkadas."

But I can't.

These waves of emotion hit me harder whenever my husband is "in the thick of it." His job is very feast or famine. He is finishing up an 8 out of 10 day run of shifts. After Sunday night, he will not have another shift for 8 days! But during this 8 out of 10 day run, I feel a little lonely. I start to question what I am doing here. If I can do this. Am I cut out for this.

Am I really married to a farmer living in the middle of nowhere on a 100-acre farm with pigs and guinea fowl and geese and sheep? Who is this woman? And where is Wendi?

And with that comes a wish for something familiar. For the comforts of my past homes and the people that made those places so comfortable for me.

When I really stop, I grieve this loss. But I know I can't do that for long. I have a new life to live and kids to school and a farm to help my husband run.

I also try, whenever I am feeling a bit stagnant, to change it up a bit. So on Wednesday, with a lot of rain in the forecast, I called my mother-in-law and asked if she wanted to drive to Johnson City with me. (She did -- thank goodness as the extra set of hands is invaluable.) I had seen this cool museum: Hands on! Regional Museum and decided to give it a try. It is one hour away. A little farther than I would like, but I am quickly recognizing that our "outings" will be a bit more rare and a bit more farther away.

The kids loved it! We had an absolute blast visiting all the various areas of educational play. A few of our favorites are pictured below:

The grocery store. Isaac LOVES organizing and food and grocery stores have always been a favorite of his. He immediately jumped behind the cash register to organize the masses.

Hannah kept walking around with her cart saying, "Get my items. Get my items." So funny! It was especially wonderful that there were only a total of 3 families there while we were there. So much space to spread out in!

The kids LOVED these little metal tubes that they could shape into their body. (That's me in the top two -- with and without glasses.)

Sidge tried to do his whole body.

After the museum (which included a class on "aerodynamics"), we stopped at Chik-fil-A for lunch. This was a monumental Chik-fil-A day for us as for the first time I bought four kids meals (instead of the normal 3 and giving Hannah a bit of everyone else's food.) Jumped my total price another five bucks. 

This also gave her her OWN ice cream. She was ecstatic about this:

I tried to get Hannah to repeat what she had just said, "Yummy in my tummy" for the camera. But, like most children, she refuses to perform on command:

Getting out definitely gave me a pick up. I am also looking VERY forward to an early September reunion of a few of my Turkey friends in D.C.!!! I know that will give me a great pick up. :)

It's Chess Time!

Never thought I'd have kids. And I especially then never thought I'd have kids old enough to play chess. But this week, JB taught the boys how to play! According to JB they are giving him a run for his money already. "I have to really pay attention," he said to me when I tried to talk to him during a game!