Wednesday, February 28, 2018

We Bought a Farm: Renovation Update

Check it out folks! We are moving right along. (And Hannah makes a cameo at the end and demonstrates her typical Hannah 'tude!")

Tribe Life Tuesday: Get off the Judgement Seat

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

What a treasure it is to be known and accepted for who you are! Yet, as we’ve discussed before, there are a couple of ingredients that you must have in order to accomplish this: vulnerability and risk. You see, being willing to be vulnerable does not happen without risk. I, myself, am getting more prone to taking risks and I'm starting to like the outcomes more and more. It certainly doesn’t get less “scary”, I just keep jumping while facing my fears. And in this context of being known the greatest fear we all face is rejection. That’s one of the hardest things about letting people see who we are, it's the fear that they may not want that version of us. The no makeup, no filter, "this is me" version. 

The truth is, if we are facing this fear then most certainly others are as well. So it begs the question, how do we/you/I create spaces for others to be known? We are very much dealing with an innate human need here. 

In 1954, Abraham Maslow published the book Motivation and Personality, a book all about the needs of humanity. He created a pyramid hierarchy that shows all of our needs from physical, base needs at the bottom and spiritual needs at the top. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, when the basic needs like food water, warmth, and rest are taken care of, our next needs are safety and security. Then, right smack in the middle of the structure, the cream in the Oreo, the meat in the sub, are belonging and love, intimate relationships, and friends. These needs must be met before we can healthily move into our self-esteem or self-actualization. If these needs aren’t met then the structure is off-kilter and has the potential to crumble. 

We must find ourselves a safe place in our tribes where we can be known and no longer have to hide. Because you have something incredible to offer the world and we want to see the full, real, authentic you show up. 

So how do we create this space? 

I’ll share a few tips from what I have learned through both trial and error: 
  1. Get off the judgment seat. Be willing to walk into each conversation with the intention of learning about the other person instead of trying to fix them. 
  2. Selflessness. It’s really not about you. Take time to build your empathetic muscle -- it will serve you well in the long run. 
  3. You lead the way. Vulnerability begets vulnerability. Unzip your chest and allow your tribe, your safe place, to see into your heart. 
  4. Keep your motives pure. As you enter into each conversation, ask yourself 'why do I want this information?' And if there is any other reason than to just be a listening ear in time of need then politely walk away. 
You are the author of your story: write openly, honestly, and fearlessly. 

Thank you for reading. 

See you next Tuesday! 


Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Review: Drive Thru History Adventures

Drive Thru History Adventures
Oh my goodness do I have a review for you! Seriously, I've been soooooo excited to write this review since the moment we clicked on the link and had the opportunity to watch our very first video. My kids were ecstatic about it from the very beginning, and while it was my third grade boys who took the most away from it, my young daughters (ages 4 and 6) also really enjoyed this program. Drive Thru History Adventures offers an AMAZING (and I mean AMAZING!) series of Homeschool Video Curriculums that will be the answer to your history for an entire school year (and maybe even two!!!)

I loved it so much that I had to have my husband sit down and watch them. I left for an afternoon and gave him an an assignment to watch it with the boys. When I arrived home, John could not stop raving. John is a tough sell. He doesn't like things done half way or "mostly well." He's a perfectionist and expects other people to do their best. He had nothing but good things to say about this program. And you won't either! Seriously! It is amazing.

(Have I said that enough times to hammer it home!?)

I wanted to start by saying that these are told from a Christian perspective but not to an obnoxious degree. I say that to say sometimes we get a Christian curriculum and there is so much "faith" scattered that I feel it is actually detracting from the learning of the "stuff." But this is not the case with Drive Thru History Adventures. In each weekly lesson, host David Stotts takes you via video around the world. He does so with incredible knowledge, entertainment, and a great dose of humor. (He is really funny! Like my kids laughing out loud type of funny!) In addition the videos are done so well. This is not a Christian curriculum done half-way. It is absolutely stellar. Honestly think Wild Kratts or Crocodile Hunter. David is a fantastic host and the videos are equally fantastic.

So firstly there are three different curriculum choices available. They are:
    Drive Thru History Adventures
  • Bible History Adventures: The Bible History course follows the life of Jesus. Dave takes viewers to over 50 ancient sites in Israel as he tells the story of Jesus from locations recorded in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. 18 weeks.
  • American History Adventures: So much from moving from Columbus to the Constitution sharing events  that shaped the founding of our great country. 12 weeks.
  • Ancient History Adventures: This time Dave goes on a world history adventure and shares how these ancient civilizations and the Christian faith helped shape Western Civilization. 12 weeks.
But it isn't just videos. There are also readings and questions. For example, let's take Episode 5 in the "American History Curriculum." The following options are available:
  • Watch the video (usually around 30 minutes)
  • Read a summary
  • View photos
  • Read some "suggested readings" which are included
  • Answer some discussion questions
  • Do a worksheet 
  • Dig Deeper
Even better is that this program can be used for a whole family. Younger children in the 5-11 age range (where my kids fit) can just watch the videos and answer some basic questions. But older children can dig deeper and go further with the curriculum. We loved it so much that we watched videos from all three sections and there is no doubt that we will finish this curriculum and watch every single thing on here. (And I am sure I am not the only person hoping he will keep doing more!)
But wait, it gets better! There is actually an "Adventures TV" section. This includes the videos from the Bible, American, and Ancient History listed above plus a bunch of other fun stuff like:
  • Dave's Adventures
  • Side Roads
  • Behind the Scenes
  • Dig Deeper                 
Some other awesome stuff include the fact that you can play these videos on multiple platforms as show in the image below:
Drive Thru History Adventures
Here are some screen shots that demonstrate how professional this program looks:
Drive Thru History Adventures

I could go on and on and on and on. Please know that every single dollar you spend on this program will be worth it. These are Homeschool Video Curriculums that you will never regret purchasing. (If you only count the 42 lessons, the total cost works out to about $3 a lesson! You can't beat that.) Also, while the annual subscription is cheaper than monthly, you can also try this program out for one month just to see if what I am saying is accurate. 

As always, feel free to email me at or shoot me a Facebook message to ask me more about the program. I always encourage people reading my reviews to follow-up and ask me questions to determine how good of a fit this is for your family.

P.S. There is an awesome coupon available right now. They are offering a set of Free DVD Gospels with your annual subscriptions. Click here to check out this offer.

P.S.S. BUT WAIT!!!! You can also save 20% on your annual subscription. Drive-Thru History Adventures is offering a 20% off coupon for reader of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine. Click here to view an electronic copy of the magazine. The ad with coupon is on page 19!

Drive Thru History Adventures - Subscription {Drive Thru History Adventures Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Monday, February 26, 2018

Review: Starfall Education Foundation

I had the opportunity to review The Starfall Home Membership from Starfall Education Foundation with my two daughters ages four and six. Both girls gave the program two thumbs up and never complained when told it was "Starfall" time. (This is always a major sign of a good program for me!)

The Starfall Home Membership is designed for parents, teachers, or someone like me: a homeschooling parent (so both a parent and a teacher!) It is an early education website designed to support and expand on children's learning in the early. As they state on their website: "Our goal is to reach out to teachers, parents, guardians, babysitters, homeschooling families -- anyone involved in the early education -- and help you feel supported and excited about your children's early education."
Here is a picture of four-year-old Hannah having fun on the program. Hannah is very "picky" and will moan and complain when asked to do something that she isn't completely sold on. But she didn't complain at all with The Starfall Home Membership.

My six-year-old daughter Abigail was equally enthralled with the program. When I asked Abigail what she liked about Starfall she told me, "EVERYTHING!" Here she is working through some second grade math concepts on the iPAD version of the program:

The Starfall Home Membership is designed for children in grades pre-k to second grade. My Hannah is pre-k (and doing pre-k and kindergarten work), and my Abigail is kindergarten (but doing first and second grade work) so this was perfect for us. 
Here were some of the things I loved most about the The Starfall Home Membership from Starfall Education Foundation:
This is an incredibly affordable program. For just $35, an entire family can use the program for one year. The membership can be used on Android, Kindle or iOS in addition to a desktop computer. We used it on our desktop computer and our iPAD. This works out to about $4 a month.
Firstly it is important to note that if you want to get the FULL aspect of the program you need to use it on a desktop computer. While the iPAD app is great, it has a lot less to offer than the desktop version. (Starfall is still working on enhancing their app and catching it up with everything the desktop offers.)

Here is the main screen you see when you log in on the desktop version of the program:
From here there are SO many fun things to do and a child can easily maneuver it by themselves. (I love programs that are EASY!) My daughter Abigail clicked on the arrow in the bottom right corner that says: "First Grade This Way." From there things are broken down as following:
  • 1st Grade Math
    • Operations & Algebraic Thinking
    • Base Ten Number & Operations
    • Measurement & Geometry
  • 1st Grade Reading
    • Reading: Literature & Informational Text
    • Phonics 
Each of these categories offers a ton of different resources and options for learning. It would take me a ton of bullets to list everything that there is to do!

3. FUN Like I said, whenever I find a program that gets rave reviews from everyone in the family (or in this case, both of the children at the correct age to do the program), I am sold. There was no complaining. The girls liked doing the program and asked if they could do it again. The fact that they were learning while doing it? All the more reason for you to give this program a try.

In the Parent-Teacher Center there are tons of extras like:
  • ELA Worksheet Generators
  • Math Worksheet Generators
  • Custom Printables
  • Projectable Books & Posters
  • Printable Downloads
You can find more about the The Starfall Home Membership from Starfall Education Foundation by visiting them on:

The Starfall Home Membership {Starfall Education Foundation Reviews} 
Crew Disclaimer

Sunday, February 25, 2018

God hugs

Moving to a new area is hard. I have started over so many times I have lost count. But each time, God brings amazing people into my life. It's especially neat to watch him bring these great people into the lives of my children too. 

The Girtoin family has been an incredible blessing to us. Kristin is a steady for me. She is a fellow ballet and co-op mom and just always has my back. She is REAL! I always know I can call her or lean on her no matter what. 

Her daughter Eliza is close to Abigail's age, and her daughter Hazel, is close to Hannah. Here are some pictures of them at co-op last week.

I am so thankful for the way God gives us what we need. While I have become a bit more of an introvert as I have gotten older in how much I need people, I still need them, and he continues to provide them for myself and my children. (I'm not sure my husband will ever need people. Ha!)

Saturday, February 24, 2018

We Bought a Farm: Some time away

Last Monday was a HUGE day here for the renovation. It is also a big day for me in general. We have our homeschool co-op every Monday from 9-2, then I take Abigail (and her siblings by default) to ballet.

By the time I got home at 5:30pm, I was exhausted. I walked into the house to discover that the reno had unexpectedly stretched into the kitchen. (They had thought they wouldn't need to touch the kitchen for a few more weeks but the plans were forced to change due to a wall that needed to come down.) John and I didn't want to complain as this meant they were moving faster than we thought. (Always a good thing!) We have been SOOOOO impressed with this renovation team and cannot recommend them any less!!!! I stayed calm and quickly decided to take the kids and our wwoof'ers to Wendy's down the road, We don't usually eat fast food so this was a HUGE treat. We'd actually never been in this restaurant, and it was quite funny to watch my kiddos try to figure out the straw and cup top dispenser worked.

Back at the farm, I started panicking a bit. I was due to leave the next morning to go out and see John's brother, Matt and his wife Danielle. I was taking Abigail and going to spend 4-5 days helping them with their newest little daughter, Kamryn, who had joined her two-year-old sister, Peyton in the world. In addition, my female dog was going into heat and getting VERY feisty with her boyfriend, Ritter.

The house was a WRECK but with the encouragement of John and Dad and Mom, I left. I thought about taking Hannah to try and alleviate the pressure at the house, but this had been decided weeks before. I was going to have some time just with Abigail, and when I got back, Dad and Mom would head to Columbia, SC to help them with the new baby. It wasn't fair to Abigail or me to change the plans now.

While it was so hard to leave the reno and the farm, I did it. I drove away knowing it would be harder with me gone but that Abigail and I needed this time. Danielle is one of my very dearest friends and this was a specially planned time for us. We also have a great wwoof'ing couple on the farm so I knew that area was taken care of.

I had SUCH a relaxing time. I helped Danielle with a few projects around the house but just mostly gave her an extra set of hands and the ability to run out without the baby (or take me for a few minutes of adult time while Matt watched the kiddos.)

I didn't get any pics of Matt and Danielle, but here are some fun pictures of our three girls:

It was a gorgeous few days -- even warm enough to get out and play in some water outside!! P.S. We KNOW that buckets of water and little kids can be unsafe. We did not leave the kiddos alone with this at all -- especially Peyton!

Abigail was totally old enough to hold new baby Kamryn (who is about half the size Hannah was at birth and under six pounds!!)

Abigail painted all of our nails and learned how to do a ponytail on aunt Danielle's hair!

Sitting around holding a baby -- it's amazing how relaxing it is when it isn't your own baby :)

I love this picture of Abigail. She was so proud and did such a good job!

 There are a total of ten cousins on the Kitsteiner side now. Here are two of them: Abigail and Peyton. Peyton is very Hannah-esque in personality. She is a pile of fun!

We loved our trips to the park!

All done!!

I ended up coming home one half day early. JB was getting ready to go back on nights, and Hannah was really missing me. We thought it was better that Grampa and Grama didn't try to do bed time when there had been so much change. On our last day we went to the Columbia Zoo (it was AWESOMEeeeeee!!!) before heading home.

I can't tell you how much fun it was to just spend time with one of my kids. I was able to buy things and do things that I normally say no to. For example, Abugauk wanted a pretzel at the zoo. It was four dollars. I said yes! If I had all four kids it would be $16! Big difference. Just little splurges and a little bit of spoiling that I think we all need sometime in our life. (I can see how easy it would be to spoil my kids the fewer I have :)

A colossal thank you to my amazing husband and my unbelievably awesome in-laws as well as our wwoofer's -- Ivan and Uliana -- for allowing me this TRUE VACATION. Matt and Danielle may have felt like I was helping but it was way easier than my life back home. What a great time!!!!!

Friday, February 23, 2018

How a city girl, gone country grieves (and raises cows): Shootin' From the Hip!

 How a city girl, gone country grieves 
(and raises cows)

 I met Kimberly through farming. She, like me, has been dropped into this life and is learning to love it just like me. She is a Christian, however, our pasts are nothing alike. I've asked her to share her story on my Blog over the next weeks or months or however long it takes. It is filled with much grief and loss but will hopefully make you laugh and smile and grow and grieve along with her.

I struggled on what message I wanted to put out this week. I had my own personal dealings, the crises in our nation, farm-life antics, marriage dribbles, even faith-walk testimonies. I'm shooting from the hip this week with a collection of sayings to encourage thought and inspire joy:

Thank God He's not finished with me yet!

  • In the midst of all the pain and anguish of day to day battles, the sun is still shining somewhere. 
  • The view of earth from space is spectacular. It looks like we all get along.
  • Harmony requires different tones, pitches, shades, shapes and volumes. 
  • Live today as if it's your last; your priorities will look a whole lot different.
  • There is no statute of limitation on grief.
  • Fewer things speak louder than the silence of a peaceful gesture. 
  • There is no freedom in dependence on man. 
  • The devil is a liar.
  • Scars remind us where we've been; they don't dictate where we're going.
  • Life is not a test. If it was, I'd be cheating off a millionaire
  • Keep the faith; at the end of the rope that's about the only thing left.
  • Wear muck boots in the pasture, dress boots to church and flip flops to the grocery. Not the reverse. 
  • Food tastes better with friends & family. Wine tastes better chilled.
  • There are no safe zones in the world; there are only safe people. Be one. 
  • Peter sank on the water when he took his eyes off Jesus. Learn from Peter.
  • The greatest gift one can ever give is their time. You can always make more money, you can never make more time.
  • Death rewrites your address book, your pocketbook and your datebook. 
  • Love is an action word. 
  • Everyone has a fart story. Yes, even you.
  • Disconnect to reconnect. It makes sense. 
  • Mother always said, 'sooner or later it all comes home to roost.'
  • You are created with passion, purpose and power; be you!!!
  • There are no social issues more pressing than loving our neighbor. Everything else gets solved when this is accomplished.
  • Last but not least (and there are more!) Chocolate is a vegetable. Look it up. :) 
Until next time,


Thursday, February 22, 2018

Reliable Building Services

I canNOT say enough good things about the contractor we went with for our renovation. I am out of town right now, but they just sent me the following choices for our upstairs bathroom, shower, floor, etc. I LOVE IT! RELIABLE BUILDING SERVICES in Greeneville, TN. Seriously. Amazing!!!!!!!

Tribe Life Tuesday: The Voyage

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

Happy TribeLife Tuesday!

Today is an exceptionally special day. Today, I am privileged to invite you to sit down at the vast banquet table where there is more than enough. The plate I am bringing to the table overflows with honor, gratitude, some pain, joy, sorrow, and an immeasurable amount of love and I am so excited to share.

I believe the greatest gift humanity can share with one another is relationship. We get to experience the highs, lows, and middles of this gift together and we do this out of our own free will. Being known, accepted, and loved freely by someone is a priceless treasure we are fortunate to give and receive. I had the privilege of receiving such a treasure from an incredible human who recently passed away, and it’s my pleasure to share a small bit about him today.

His family and ours have been intricately woven together over 25 years. The relationship our families share is as rich as it is delicate. Their family had 2 amazingly stellar girls and ours had what seemed like a million children, but it all worked. My perception tells me it was really TribeLife: it was late nights, long talks, loud laughs, deep hurts, hard conversations, and family vacations. It was beautiful. As I write this, I’m realizing how hard it is to just tell you about him alone without telling you about them all. Because that’s just who he was: The Family Man. And he didn’t just include those who carried his DNA, he was the "all are welcome to the table" man. He was everyone’s adopted dad, the selfless, give 1,000% fellow.

His name was Eli. I had tried avoiding writing his name because it makes it that much more tangible, but you deserve to know the name of this incredible man. I loved so much about him, but there’s not enough time to share all of that, so I’ll share my top few favorite things.
  • I love that he knew no orphan. He was a father to all who needed one.
  • He was a jokester and I have been embarrassed by his jokes and outlandish behavior in public far too many times to remember.
  • He was an avid Star Trek fan and you were going to know it.
  • I loved that he wore joy like no man I’ve ever met. It was fiercely masculine yet incredibly gentle.
  • His skills were rich and varied: he could be performing stand-up comedy while simultaneously conducting a private investigation and be great at both. He was special.
  • He loved well, gave big, and deposited all he could in the legends he leaves behind, his family.
 A poignant man whose influence is yet to be fully felt has moved on to the best place there is!

A life well lived indeed.

Thank you for reading!

See you next Tuesday,


P.S. I also knew this wonderful man. Carrie's words only scratch the surface. May we all go home to our savior with people saying, "Wow. Now THAT was a great human being." -- Wendi