Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Isaac plays duet with Ms. Leslie

Isaac practiced this song all week. You could tell that he wasn't so sure about it. He didn't like the song that much and just really wasn't getting into it.

But today, he and Ms. Leslie, our amazing piano teacher who comes to the house once a week, put it together, and it was so fun to hear them play. You can't really tell from the video that Isaac is smiling ear to ear (which he doesn't do unless the situation really deserves it.)

So fun to see something bring him so much joy!

Hannah swings from the towel rack

It is hard to know how mature your child's brain is. Do they understand that they did something they shouldn't do? Do they know they lied about it? Do they understand what a lie is? It seems especially hard for me with Hannah because in some ways, she is mature beyond her years, and yet she is still three.

This past week, she hung on the towel rack in our bathroom and pulled it part way out from the wall. JB was there and discussed with Hannah why this was not okay. She totally got that.

Then, yesterday, amidst the cacophony of school work, Hannah started screaming in the half bathroom off our living room. I went in to investigate and found the following:

Yes sir'ee. That is the towel rack in the guest bathroom.

Me: "How did that break?"
Hannah: "I didn't hang from it."
Me: "But how did it break?"
Hannah: "I have no idea."
Me: "I think you do know."
Hannah: "I didn't hang from it."
Me: "Okay, then you sit right here on the floor until you can tell me how it broke."

A few minutes later Hannah came up to me in her typical Hannah-attire -- something she puts together that you never thought would go together. This outfit, below, is actually a bathing suit bottom, with a pink cotton shirt, and a bathing suit skirt put around her neck like a scarf:

Hannah: "I know why'd it broke."
Me: "Okay."
Hannah: "I did hang from it."
Me: "And why did you tell me you didn't know how it broke?"
Hannah: "Because I didn't want to get into trouble."

And there you have it. The moment in my mothering of this Hannah girl that I realize "She knows what lying is." We've struggled to figure out whether she understood what it was, but yesterday it became obvious: "This chick has it down and is totally working us over!"

And now to fix the hand towel hanger thing. I told Hannah she would need her own hammer and nails to fix it. This sent her into tears because she didn't have a hammer and nails!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Tuesday Truth

Tribe Life Tuesday: Tribe Life Lens (Part I)

A weekly post from my childhood to grown-up friend Carrie ~ 
sharing her awesome life and her desire to have community while doing it!

Through the lens of a few that I tribe with:

"To me, Tribe Life is living out the description of true, authentic love. It's the kind of life that proves that if you can't dive down deep enough to get tangled up in another person's messy, raw, and intimate issues — then your pool is just too shallow. Tribe Life is accepting one another, for the good and the bad. It's the confidence to know that you will always have someone standing right beside you on the highest mountaintops of life and they will still be there, deep down in the darkness of valleys. It's the assurance of acceptance, no matter how ugly or unpolished. It's a covenant between you and your tribe, to walk through this life — together, no matter what comes your way. We were made for healthy community. We were made for genuine love. We were made for true, authentic Tribe Life."  ~Amy

"Tribe life is the life that you do and live with those God strategically placed in your path, and you in theirs. My tribe is whoever I can be myself with. The people who accept every part of me, the good, and sometimes, unfortunately, the bad and the ugly. My tribe is who makes my spirit and soul come alive. My tribe is my breath of fresh air. Tribe Life means having a community, a guardrail of accountability, and just an overall sense of belonging. I believe you can be born in a tribe and/or find your tribe, and I also believe we belong to people and tribes across the nation who we've never even met before. We all have a tribe, and we all have people, we just have to trust God that we will cross paths with them when the time is right and purposeful. And when we do, we are to do what we can to protect those relationships." ~Rochelle

"#tribelife always makes me think of a tent; it’s a tent or covering of friendship. But it's not a place for acquaintances, it's a place for friends that can go deep, share tough things and know they are still welcomed into that covering of relationship. A covering that isn't earned, you're welcomed just by being authentic and trustworthy. It's in that tribe that a person knows they don't go through life alone, because their tribe is in it for the long haul." ~Leslie

"Tribe Life is the idea that life is better when it’s done together. Community enhances every facet of the human experience, from the sharing in each other’s joys to leaning on one another during the lows. Tribe Life champions honesty, accountability, transparency, and authenticity. But, more than that, Tribe Life is an invitation. Tribe Life welcomes you in and says 'There’s room for you here'."  ~Sarah

"Tribe life is a connection of people purposely joined together. The bond between the tribe is effortlessly made. Whether it is born into like family, or a friend who you knew would be in your life forever after a few times of meeting, tribe is a connection that cannot be shaken. You feel what the other feels, sometimes without words even being exchanged. Your tribe life is transparent and strong even in times of weakness... it is honest and bold, continuously making you a better you." ~Ashley

Now that you’ve heard from some of my tribe, let me ask you this: What is Tribe Life to you?

Comment below or Facebook message me @Carrie Alford! I would love to hear from you!

See you next Tuesday! 
*Please note that content in guest blogs is not necessarily shared by the station manager (i.e. Wendi!)

Review: YWAM Publishing

My eight-year-old, Sidge, reading to his favorite doggie: Ritter (who seemed to prefer belly rubs to Benjamin Franklin :)
YWAM Publishing
Another day -- and another great book to review and share with you on my Blog! This time it is from YWAM Publishing. There were several books available from their Heroes of History series. We chose to review the book entitled: Heroes of History: Benjamin Franklin.

While the book is outstanding, the Study Guide is just as impressive. And honestly, I'd argue even more impressive. It is what truly puts this book over the top for us. This book came with a fantastic study guide that we could use as we worked through it. The Study Guide was a download. You can see the Study Guides listed here. The Study Guide features over 80 pages of additional materials that can help your students enrich their learning.

Features of the Study Guide include:
    YWAM Publishing
  • Key Quotes
  • Reinforcement of other areas of learning including:
    • History
    • Geography
    • Essay writing
    • Creative writing
    • Reading comprehension
    • Public speaking
    • Drama
    • Art
  • Social studies which is divided into five sections:
    • Places
    • Journey
    • Terms/Vocabulary
    • Geographical Characteristics
    • Timeline
    • Conceptual Questions
  • Display options: things that they could "collect" to emphasize the era and location that this story originates from.
  • Books and resources
  • Community links: ideas for contacting people in your community that could help enrich learning of this book.
  • Student explorations which include things like: 
    • Essay questions
    • Creative writing
    • Hands-on projects
    • Audio/visual projects
    • Arts and crafts.
  • Related themes to explore
  • Six questions related to each chapter which include:
    • A vocabulary question
    • A factual question
    • Two questions to gauge comprehension
    • Two open-ended questions seeking opinion or interpretation
    • Answers to the questions
  • And more!!!!
I decided to read this book out loud to my kids. My boys (ages 8 and 9) were the primary audience. I do think that they would be able to read this book on their own, but it is probably borderline for their age group to read independently. My daughters (ages 3 and almost 6) also listened and often followed along -- although their attention span didn't work quite as well.

The book chronicles Benjamin Franklin from a young boy up to the day of his death. I truly felt like the book was entertaining -- it was funny, it was serious, it was truthful, and it was free from errors. My kids looked forward to listening to me read it to them each afternoon. It is a fun read. It's a soft cover book chocked full of facts. In addition it is written well and in a story format that truly makes it a joy to read. It is not boring and does not feel like a textbook. It reads like a novel!

And a bonus: I am learning as much as the kids!

You can find out more about this awesome company and all the fantastic books in this series on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or on their Blog.

Christian & History Heroes {YWAM Publishing Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

Monday, May 29, 2017

A few smiles (on a bad mom day)

I had a VERY VERY rough Mom day yesterday. At some point, I want to write more about this. I reached out to my online community and really got some incredible support that pushed me in the right direction. It was so wonderful to handle this properly and respond properly.

But in the midst of this sea of overwhelmed, I had a few things happen that made me think: "You know, maybe I am not screwing up these kids as much as I think I am."

Hannah drew this picture without being asked. I asked her what it is. "Well, this is you and Daddy on your date. You are the red person. He is the blue person."

I am not sure when the last time was that JB and I got out on a date. But it is in her mind. And that made me feel good.

Later that day, Hannah sat down with Grama and told her a story. Grama wrote as Hannah dictated. Here is what she came up with: 

Hannah Joy is a happy girl. Here are some things that make her happy: 

Playing with toys is fun! Looking out the window in the car when I'm going somewhere and I see trees and animals and sometimes horses. That makes me happy too. Eating dinner and having dessert makes me happy. Chocolate cake and ice cream. Apple pie and blueberry pie. (If they don't have eggs.)

Helping my mother makes me happy. Doing laundry and animals! Sometimes Mommy cleans up and I help clean up toys and everything and if I do very good, sometimes I get Starfirsts. They are yummy. My mommy tickles me and hugs and kisses me and she does everything.

Sometimes me and Mommy go to people's house to be a vacation and that makes me happy. Edward and Benjamin and Anabelle's house. 

You can read books too. My Mommy reads me a lot of books. That is fun, too. 

My Daddy makes me happy. He lets me help cook dinner sometimes. He plays with me. He's the Dad and I'm the kid. 

I like to play the snake game.

Daddy takes me for a ride. 

We went to a family picnic one time. Grandpa (Papa Coach) and Grandma Di were there too. Indiana is where we were. 

Daddy makes barbecue sauce for things he cooks on the grill. Burgers with sauce makes me happy.

Daddy tells me funny and scary stories if he doesn't have to go to work. And I feel like I'm gonna cry if they are scary. He makes me happy when he puts my blanket on and it makes me warm.

My brothers and sisters make me happy when sometimes they play with me. And when they bring me over to Grandma and Grampy's house.

Grandma and Gramdpa make me happy because they let me watch Jemima Puddleduck and my other favorite shows and give me treats! 

And my doggies Arabelle and Ritter play with me and cuddle.

Now I am happy.

After writing this story, Hannah came and asked me (aka Wendi) if she could do something to earn some Starfirsts (aka Starbursts). I told her she could help me put the couch cushions back on the couch as Sidge has taken them off to make a bed in my room.

Hannah tried, but they were heavy, and she came in and said, "Mama, they are too heavy. Can I have another job?"

I told her that I really thought she could do it. "I want you to try to use your brain and think if there is a way that you can pick up those cushions."

She paused and said: "I think I am going to ask God to help me lift those cushions." Then I watched as she laid down on a cushion, folded her hands, and prayed.

A few minutes later, our intern Jacob came in and asked Hannah if he could help her. I told her this was God's answer to her prayer. :)

I am not sure if I have ever taught Hannah to pray when things are hard. But somehow she has learned this.

Truly ... God breathed on me this day and let me know I am not the most horrible mom in the world. :)

Crystal Bowman Reviews

I was first introduced to Crystal Bowman when we adopted Isaac. She is a good friend of Joni VanWyck, and Joni purchased a bunch of Crystal's books to start off a library for Isaac.

Since then, I have written about her books frequently on my Blog.  I am a HUGE fan and just love the sweetness and solid messages in her books. They emphasize children being children and learning to praise God in their childlike way. She also helps take "big concepts" and bring them down onto a child's level.

Here are some past Blog posts I have done about Bowman's books:

Today I want to introduce you to two more Bowman books that you will want to include in your child's library! They are from the "I've Got Questions" series and are both written by Crystal Bowman and Teri McKinley and illustrated by Allie Busby.

Do Baby Bears Have Mommies? (I've Got Questions)

This 30 page book in hard cover format answers all kinds of questions that children would have about animals. Like: why ducks have funny feat and feathers, where mice make their homes, why giraffes are so tall, and what kangaroos keep in their pouches. Here is a sample verse:

Do baby bears have mommies
that give them food to eat?
And when it's cold and snowy, 
do cubs get chilly feet?

Mommy bears feed
baby cubs
with berries, nuts,
or bugs.
They snuggle closely 
in their dens
with warm and 
furry hugs.

Each question is asked on the left side of a two-page spread which includes full color sweetness! These books are fantastic end-of-the-day reads. They are peaceful and uplifting and simply a delight to read with your little ones. Any age child would love these, but I think they are perfect for ages 1-7.

Staying with the same "I've got Questions" theme, this book asks the "bigger" questions about character and values and life that children may have. Here is a sample verse:

I want to make God smile.
I want to make him glad.
What can I do to please him,
so God will not be sad?

The Bible says God loves us,
and God wants your love too.
Thank him for the gifts he gives,
be kind in all you do.

The book is the same size as Do Baby Bears Have Mommies? and includes the same format as this book as well. The question and answer are asked on the left side of the page with beautiful artwork covering both pages.

If you are a grandmother looking for a positive message to send to your new grandchild, take a look at Bowman's books. I promise that you will NOT be disappointed.

Sunday, May 28, 2017


For Isaac's birthday this year, he wanted to ride rollercoasters. Generally, we try to have each child choose an "experience" that he can do with the whole family. But since we were in Illinois/Indiana during his birthday and no one else in our family likes roller coasters, we decided to see if we could come up with a way that he could ride some roller coasters to celebrate turning nine.

We decided to meet my childhood friend Michelle and her family at Carowinds in Charlotte. It was about a four hour drive for me and a three hour drive for them. Their son Edward is a little bit older than our boys, and they have become good friends. (Isaac has said that he is currently his best friend.) We met at a hotel the night before and just had a wonderful time together. The next day, Edward and his Dad, Hershal, joined Isaac and I at Carowinds. Hershal loves coasters and was willing to do any coaster Isaac wanted to do. Edward also tried quite a few rides.

We had a wonderful time. Isaac is a rollercoaster fanatic. He ended up deciding not to ride the three biggest coasters, but probably rode about 25-30 rides including 7 or 8 coasters. One of the coasters he really wanted to ride was really scaring him. I could tell he wanted to ride it and was going to regret not doing it. So I offered to ride it with him. He jumped at the chance. I immediately regretted this decision and begged Isaac to consider Hershal instead. But he wanted me to do it.

So I did.

It was horrible. It was a stand-up coaster. I felt sick the whole time and truly hated the experience. But I loved how proud Isaac was for doing the coaster so in the end, I'm glad I did it.

I absolutely love Michelle. We have been friends for 35 years, and I am just so excited that we live close enough for our kids to get to grow up together. It's a great relationship, and it was a great day!

Tuckered out on the drive home!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

We Bought a Farm: It's Chicken Season Again!

It is so incredible to think that it is time for our THIRD poultry season. On Thursday morning, the baby chickens arrived. We have about 180 meat birds and about 50 laying hens. (We have previously done 150 birds.) We will do a second batch of these in July.

As you watch the videos and see all the pictures, the yellow birds are the meat birds. The laying birds are the colorful ones (or ones that are not yellow). They will take a much longer time to work their way up to where they are big enough to join our current laying hens out in the fields.

JB had specifically taken a few days off to make sure he was off for the chickens arrival. However, their arrival was delayed two days, and he was at work. So Dad, our intern Jacob, myself, and the kids took over.

We have to carefully count the birds and then hand them individually to someone sitting inside the brooder. Each chicken must be "dunked" in water so that they know where the water is and how to drink. These chickens, the moment they are hatched, are shipped priority mail to us. They arrive being able to survive on what they have eaten inside the egg prior to hatching.

They will spend two weeks inside this temperature controlled brooder. At that point, they will move into chicken tractors and be rotated onto fresh grass 2-3 times a day.

First up: two videos of the kids helping to separate and hand the chickens over into the brooder:

The chickens arrive in a box with four sections. Each section has about 20-25 chickens in it. These are the beautiful laying birds. We were very happy to see that we did not have a single dead bird in the boxes!

A picture of another quadrant of our laying hens.

Laying hens

Jacob got comfortable on a bucket in the brooder.

Here he is dunking chicken #1!

Isaac helping to count and separate the laying chickens.

He loves the chickens!

Abigail was counting down the days to chicken-arrival day. She was so excited to see all the baby chickens. This year she is big enough to reach into the brooder and handle the chickens which is incredibly exciting for her.

Helping Hannah hold the chickens gently.

Sidge passing off a chicken to Jacob. Check out all those chickens flocking his feet.

Chickens, chickens everywhere! 

They actually have a TON of room in this brooder. They are all occupying one small section of the brooder until they feel more comfortable spreading out.

**** Edited to add: as always, I respect people who choose not to eat meat! However, I won't be entertaining comments about our choice to eat meat. We believe that raising our meat in a humane way is truly the best thing we can do for our planet and that choosing to be a vegetarian also comes with issues. This post perfectly represents how we feel about vegetarianism. We are absolutely a-ok with vegetarians and respect their choice and ask that thy also respect our choice. I delete any vegetarian comments.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Review: ClassDojo (Learning about how and why we think!)

As I have written about on my Blog in the last few weeks, I have been battling a bit of anxiety in my life. I have been learning about how I think and why I think the way I do. 

Right about the time that I was really working on what to do and how to deal with this anxiety in my life, I was contacted by the people at ClassDojo and asked if I could share about what they do on my Blog. 

I did a little research and was BLOWN AWAY by this program. 

Folks, you need to check this out!

ClassDojo’s mission is to give teachers, parents, and students the power to create incredible classrooms. Founded in 2011 and based in San Francisco, California, ClassDojo is a communication platform that helps students build important life skills while creating a simple way for teachers, parents, and students to share what’s happening during the school day through photos, videos, and messages. Today, 90% of K-8 schools in the U.S., as well as a further 180 countries, have joined ClassDojo. To learn more, visit: or Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
ClassDojo joined forces with Yale (I mean -- the Yale) to bring mindfulness to millions of kids around the world.

Folks, this is really good stuff. It is teaching your kids how to think and how their brain works. I have realized, while watching these videos, that we do NOT teach our kids how to think or why we think the way we do! We don't do a good job teaching our kids what nervousness is and what good anxiety is.

Have any of you as a parent taught your kids any of the following things? I realize that I really haven't!
  1. Recognize emotions: Paying attention to emotions - both one’s own and others - is a critical step toward building self-and social-awareness. Our facial expressions, body language, and vocal tones convey important messages, from, “I’m here for you” to “stay away!”
  2. Understand emotions: Learning what caused your child to feel the way they do, and sharing the reasons why we feel the way we do as parents, deepens communication and builds mutual respect. Asking open-ended questions such as, “what happened?” or “what do you believe caused you to feel this way?”  helps to build this skill.
  3. Label emotions: We use language to inform thinking and communication. Try using specific emotion words such as disappointed instead of upset, or peaceful instead of good. The more nuanced our emotion vocabulary becomes as parents, the more advanced our children become at effectively communicating their feelings.
  4. Express emotions: Each home has an “emotional climate.” Creating a home where all emotions matter and can be talked about - the pleasant and unpleasant - helps to build trust, safety, openness, and authentic communication among all family members. As parents, we need to be comfortable discussing the full range of emotions with our children.
  5. Regulate emotions: Each day, we are modeling both effective and ineffective ways to manage emotions. Be mindful of modeling “positive self-talk” (e.g., it will all work out) as opposed to “negative self-talk” (e.g., nothing ever turns out the way it’s supposed to”) will help your child to learn helpful, as opposed to unhelpful, ways to deal with emotions.
I want to encourage you to do the following:
  • Watch the videos on youtube with your kids. They are really great. This is not scientific mumbo jumbo. This is about great skills that I think we usually overlook.
  • Talk to your student's teacher and see if they have this program in their classroom or school!
As a homeschool mom, I am so excited to share these videos with my kiddos. JB and I have tried to work with our kiddos on how they think and why they think the way they do, but this gives us resources to back it up. Take the time to check this program out. I don't think you'll be disappointed. 

(And it doesn't cost a thing!)