Friday, November 30, 2018

The Grinch: A Confession

"Parenting: If you're not tired, you're not doing it right." 

Our Grama Joni was supposed to fly in today, but Grampa Roy was really sick so she had to postpone/cancel her trip so she could take care of him. 

We were all super bummed. It was overcast and drizzly and rainy and just blah here on the farm. JB was working. Grampa and Grama are in middle TN visiting family. 

So instead of being crabby, I decided to try to make it a fun day. We went to Johnson City where I picked up grains for the farm and I then took the kiddos to Starbucks and to see the new Grinch movie. 

I've never been a big fan of the Grinch, but this movie was really cute. I was enjoying it, and the kids were really enjoying it. However, I can't give a completely accurate report because somewhere around the halfway mark, I fell asleep. 

And I woke up at the credits!

This has never happened to me in a theatre and especially not in a theatre when I am in charge of four children. 

But the kids like the movie.

And I liked my nap!

Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart

"The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen." 
Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross

I've been sad lately. My heart has been burdened. I have about a half dozen different people/families in my life right now dealing with very challenging circumstances. These are not minor things. These are big things. Life-changing things. Things that will change the course of their life considerably. These things are too private to share, but my heart has simply broken watching what pain is inflicted on people I love due to sin in our world. 

I stumbled upon this quote (above) and it really spoke to me. It spoke to me not only for the grief in my own life, but also in an encouragement to these wonderful people in my life battling immeasurable grief right now. Each of these individuals has an intense personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I know that through HIM, they can come out better, stronger, and closer to Christ than they ever imagined.

The Word of God is filled with scriptures offering comfort to those grieving. Here are just two that I am praying over these very special people in my life:

"For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; Nor has He hidden His face from Him; But when He cried to Him, He heard." Psalm 22:24

"The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit."  Psalm 34:18

You may not be one of the people on my heart, but I am sure there are many of you reading this who are grieving for themselves or someone else. Cling to HIM. He is present in your time of need.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

We Bought a Farm: A Bit o' Fun with Lambing 101

"He who tackles a ewe and comes out uninjured, is a lucky man indeed." 
Farm proverb Wendi made up.

If you ask me what my favorite animal is on the farm, the answer is an easy one.

It's the sheep.

The reasons are numerous. The are peaceful. They are sweet. They aren't dangerous. They are beautiful. They have adorable little baby lambs. They are nearly free for us to care for. 

The list goes on and on.

The other day we decided to do a sheep "collaring day." We don't do ear tags on our ewes. This is more of a personal choice. We just really want to preserve the purity of these sweet animals. But the fact remains, we need to be able to tell them apart.

Why? Well, here's some sheep 101 for you:
  • Right now we have about 25 girls ("ewes") on the farm.
  • We have about 15 boys ("rams").
  • Those 15 rams will be processed for meat sometime in the spring.
  • Those 25 ewes have just had a ram ("Captain") introduced to their flock.
  • (Captain is very excited bout this. The ladies don't seem too pleased.)
  • This means that most likely, in the spring, we'll have 25 ewes lambing.
  • "Lambing" means they will birth adorable little baby sheep.
Up to this point on our farm, we have kept every single girl that is born. But this year could be the year that we stop doing that. Here's why:
  • The estimated animal load for our farm is about 40 sheep.
  • This means that the size of our property would allow for us to keep about this number and successfully rotate them and not need to supplementally feed them.
  • (We do pasture-raised sheep which means they eat only what the land provides.)
  • So if these gals all have a lamb (and many will have twins) we could end up with at least 25 babies. With twins factored in, we imagine we will probably have somewhere around 40 babies or so.
  • Let's say half of those babies are girls. That is 20. Now add 25 of the original moms with the new 20 babies and we are at 45. That's more than the number we want to carry. 
  • This means we need to start "culling." This means that we will start processing girls as well. 
  • How do we choose who? Well we choose based on how they are doing "genetically." How old are they? How well are they birthing? How healthy are their babies? 
Okay, so all that to say, we had to collar the sheep -- tell them apart from each other. So we took John and Jacob and Uncle Eddie and his son Gabe out, and we spent about three hours separating and counting and checking on each of our sheep.

Jacob and John are very "careful" about how they grab a sheep. But Eddie just threw caution to the wind (as you can see from the picture above) and one of those ewes took him flat onto his back. Gabe actually "rode" a sheep which I have never seen a large boy do. But he caught her front legs and she kept running and he just rode on her.

(I'm chuckling to myself just recounting these stories.)

There are many jobs on the farm that aren't that fun.

But raising sheep is one of my favorite!

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

God Bless You and Good Night Touch and Feel

God Bless You and Good Night Touch and Feel

Hannah C. Hall shares with readers an adorable board book with just under 20 pages of adorable animals. Giraffes, otters, penguins, kangaroos, hedge hogs, and more line the pages -- which feature animals not "typical" to books like this. Our absolute favorite page was the polar bears where we read:

Was that a little growl I heard?
It sounded like your tummy.
Let's get a snack then hit the sack.
You're needing something yummy.

The original version of this book is a beloved bedtime classic that has sold more than 300,000 copies. And this book is a continuation of that classic.
This is a great book for your little one's library -- or to give as a gift to a new parent or grandparent in your life. 
You won't be disappointed with God Bless You and Good Night Touch and Feel.

P.S. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

This Custom Made Piece

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! 
I am so excited to meet you here today. I have something delightful, brief, and challenging to share. 
Let’s start with this somewhat intimidating question. (Well, for some of you, it may not be intimidating—but it definitely was for me, for a long time.) It just so happens that I’ve reached a blip in time where this question has been clarified. More so than it has ever been.
I have always been a go-getter, and have had a pretty great work ethic (I think it’s genetic). But I have also consistently struggled with this question: What was I made for? 
While I can do a lot of things and have been content in each job and in each season, there always came this point. The point where the weight of continuing to do something that I knew I was not made for was overwhelming. Not in the "I’m too good for this" kind of way, but in the "there’s got to be more than this" kind of way. And now, I have to find it. The answer to this looming question.  
What was I made for? 
This question makes me think about custom, handcrafted pieces of furniture and art. The thing about these pieces is that they have a specific purpose. They were built for a specific reason—to fill a certain role or function. Be it furniture for a room or art for a wall, they are distinct and special. And it seems as though this analogy mirrors each of our beautiful lives. It is my belief that you and I are tailor-made to bring something specific to the world, and in the process of figuring this out, it is less about what we do and more about who we are becoming
And therein lies the vortex where the two converge: the WHO of you and the WHAT you do meet in the middle—which is what I assume the "sweet spot" is. 
The sweet spot is available for all of us. It’s more than accomplishment and praise for hard work or focus—it’s what you were made for. This sweet spot will look very different for each of us—so much so, that I will refrain from giving examples. But as the path begins to narrow, don’t be afraid, don’t look around, don’t compare—because custom pieces are made for a specific purpose and to fill a space that only it can. 
But I’ll give some practicals (because I’m a practical kind of human): Find people who compliment the direction your going—not “yes-ers" (people who will tell you yes to everything). Rather, surround yourself with those who challenge or push you to keep becoming. These are your people and you will quickly find that there are not a whole lot of them. Friends, yes, have all the friends. But those who have access to the "sweet spot" - the vortex - are very, very few. Why? Because it’s an intimate and valuable place. 
Before we go our separate ways, will you join me in a project? 
1 - Ask yourself… Set aside about 15 minutes and sit down with a pen and paper (you can use your phone or computer, I just find there are more opportunities for distraction when I go the technology route). Write, "What was I made for?” at the top of the page. For the next 15 minutes or so, write down everything that comes to your mind. Start with what you are good at, what you love doing, what makes you happy, etc. Write it all down. 
2 - Ask again. Call (or a face to face of sorts) the closest person to you and ask them what they think you were made for. When have they seen you the happiest? Don’t text or email—CALL. There is a human aspect to this exercise that gets lost otherwise, and this becomes a task. Allow this to be more than that. You are gathering blueprints for your custom-made, exquisite piece. 
3 - Share. If you decide to join me on this project I would love to hear how it went and what you discovered along the way. Post in the comments below or email me here. 
Cheers to discovery! 


What are you Abigail?

"I'm a mallard duck."

Monday, November 26, 2018

We Bought a Farm: Coke in the Country

"He who finds a coke machine in the middle of the country and determines it works, has found a good thing."
Proverb completely made up by Wendi just now

The drive from our farm to my cousin Eddie's house takes us less than ten minutes. It is 6.1 miles. Googlemaps will tell you that that takes close to 15 minutes, but those people must be walking part of the way.

The speed limit on unlined country roads is 30. If there is a line in the middle of the road, it is 45. But truly, no one really pays that much attention. You go the speed that matches the curve of the road. 

You can always tell whether or not you are behind someone who knows the roads. Or someone who doesn't. Someone who isn't familiar with our countryside goes painfully slow. They brake constantly. They get afraid when a car comes flying by going the other way.

But locals know how to take the turns. They know when to slow down. They know when to speed up.

There are no lights or major intersections on our drive. The entire trip takes place on old country roads -- some of which aren't even wide enough for two cars to pass each other.

Some of the houses we pass on the way are nice -- beautiful even. They have wrap-around porches and perfectly manicured yards and horses roaming in the pasture. There are swings tucked into the trees and rocking chairs scattered around porches.

But many of the properties we pass are a bit run down and look something like what you see in this picture below:

I've passed this house many times since Eddie & Hannah became our neighbors. (Is it a house? I'm not sure. There are so many properties that actually look like a junk yard that it can be hard to determine which is which.) 

Okay, so let's blow that picture up a bit and take a better look at what is there with a closer eye:

Honestly, I know I've lived here awhile when I tell you, I didn't really think much about it seeing a Coke machine in the front yard of someone's house. We often pass houses and have conversations about what lead the people within its walls to have so many odd things in their front yards. 

But here's where this story gets so crazy.

I've (mostly) give up soda. But yesterday I had a migraine that I could NOT tackle. It was so bad that I asked Hannah Grace, who was coming to the house to drop off my boys, if she could bring me a Coke when she came. 

Hannah Grace told me she only had Sprite. No caffeine. Won't help.

But then she showed up with two Cokes.

"How did you get those?" I asked. 

You see, you don't pass any stores or gas stations as you drive from her house to my house and to go by one would be very out of the way.

Her son Gabe laughed and said, "We got it from that Coke machine in that yard."

You what?!

"Yeah," he said. "It actually works! It actually has cold Cokes in it."


I popped it open and sipped Coke so cold, I didn't even need a glass of ice.

Beat that story. 


Saturday, November 24, 2018

Good bye Big Red

Saying good bye to an old friend

In 2007, JB and I were coming up on five years of infertility and our fourth failed IVF procedure when we began the process of adopting from China

A few months after we started that process, we found out about Isaac. And then, shortly after that, we found out we were pregnant with Elijah. 

We quickly realized, our tiny little grey Saturn that we had had for most of our married life was not going to work. We could not fit more than one carseat in the backseat with how long-legged we were (and how far back we have to keep our seats.) 

So we started researching and looking. We stumbled upon a 2002 Honda Odyssey, and she has been with us ever since. Big Red has been to Turkey and to the Azores. She's lived in Tennessee and northern Florida. She's made trips all up and down the east coast of the United States. We have been a one vehicle family from 2008-2014 when we moved back to the USA and decided to purchase a second vehicle. 

Big Red was actually in a major collision a few years back and the insurance totaled her. We therefore have only carried collision on her ever since. She has more dents and scratches and bang-ups then I can even began to describe. But she still runs really well and has been incredibly faithful.

However, we decided that we had some people in our extended family that could use her more than we could, and that we would go ahead and get a new family vehicle. We wanted something that could tow a camper and something that could fit six six-footers (as we think we very well could have that within the next decade.)

We left the dealership with a Ford Expedition:

I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to drive something like this. It feels so incredibly fancy to me. (When I was driving home from the dealership, the brights turned off and back on for me when I passed another car!) A dear friend reminded me that many of her "mom friends" drive something similar and I'm not being pretentious by having one in my driveway. I just always want to make good use of our finances, and I really thought we'd drive Big Red until her very end.

I've tried to have a good attitude about my van, but now that it's time I can tell you how happy I am to have this new vehicle. Seriously! What technology has done to automobiles in the last decade is really something to be amazed about.

But I will miss that old red van. Hannah cried for a few HOURS when we told the kids the news. She did not want to let go of the only vehicle she has ever known and no amount of me explaining how much nicer this would be would convince her. 

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving from the Kitsteiner Farm

Happy Thanksgiving from the Kitsteiner Farm

Lots going on here at the farm! 

We had Thanksgiving dinner with Ray and his family as well as our past-woofer, Jacob, who has been staying with us for a few weeks. It was our first real "celebration" in the new house, and it sure was fun to cook a big meal in that kitchen. It's always fun to eat one of our home-grown turkeys!

The grown-up table (which includes teenagers)
The kid table!
Check me out with all six of the kiddos in my van as we ran some errands on Tuesday: 

There's more to write about my van. Stay tuned for a post tomorrow that will probably be a bit emotional for me. After a decade with our family on three continents, we have made the decision to stay good-bye to my van. (More to come! I promise.)

There was also some time for just some good ol' laughs during this holiday week. We were so blessed that JB got off of work for this holiday. We especially had some fun time with our puppies:

We also went to a birthday party for our friend Hazel. I loved seeing this group picture zoomed in to see my little girls taking care of each other:

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Wee-wind Wednesday

Two years ago this month, Hannah told me how she wanted her teeth pulled out so she could get ice cream like Sidge who had just come back from the dentist after getting his own teeth pulled. I also catch a glance of Abigail here ... man the last two years have changed the both so much.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Tuesday Truth

Tuesday Truth

Can Doubt and Wonder Co-Exist?

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

If you would have asked me this a year ago I would have said no, but so much can happen in a year, right? So much of what I was sure of came into question over the last 365 days, and if I’m being honest—it still is. My posture of certainty began to erode, is eroding, and will most likely continue to erode. In the best ways of course… but dig in with me today. 

I was planted, like roots down deep, and then secured in with concrete. I was planted on more than a few things in my life. One of those things being that "infertility was just my lot in life” and you couldn’t tell me otherwise. Doggonit, I was going to make that lot the prettiest and most well-tended rock covered lot out there. Most times I would move a stone over to pluck the weeds of pain, disappointment, doubt, and judgement when they would peek through. Sometimes I would just set the boulder on top of it, in hopes that it would stop that pesky weed from growth (because we all know that covering it up will keep it from growing). Nonetheless, this lot would be well cared for. Or so I thought…

But much to my chagrin the weeds always returned, and returned more stubborn than the former. Come to find out, the weeds that were once plucked up were only removed from the stem up. That ratchet root had stayed put. My previous toiling was well, just toiling. I know this now because I have learned that the firmer the posture on a matter the more unmovable the heart.

Now, how does doubt and wonder fall into this? 

In my tending of this barrenness lot—filled with gravel, weeds, and the likes thereof—my posture was doubt-masked with the “I can do this, I can take it” smile. 

Picture this: Doubt and Wonder are each a free standing wall. Then there’s life. The foundational base between them. Everyday, with every situation, you get to choose which wall you will scale. 

The Wonder wall seems to be covered in some sort of slippery coating that makes it crazy hard to scale. Almost like porcelain when it’s wet. But the other thing about the Wonder wall is that it’s beautiful. It is bright and inviting. It draws you in, rousing you to make the climb…

The wall of Doubt, on the other hand, is equal in height, length, and width—but it’s made of stone. It’s porous and there’s perfectly-carved spaces for you to secure your footing as you climb. These spaces have been dug out over time, from previous climbs. Wear and tear that have come from familiarity and deceptive comfort. The wall of doubt is not particularly alluring and it is known to most of us. If we were all to examine our shoes there would be a remnant of rock and dust left from the last time we climbed it… 

Wonder - effective or efficient far beyond anything previously known or anticipated.

Doubt - fear; suspect; to call into question the truth of; to lack confidence in. 

The truth is, each time I have climbed that wall of doubt, I have left a part of my joy there. Where there’s doubt, there is mistrust—be it in self, in others, or in God. So the point is this: if you find yourself scaling the wall of Doubt—STOP, BREATHE, and IDENTIFY where the mistrust is.

On the other side—where there is wonder—there is an openness, a sort of willingness to explore and hope for the best. So if you find yourself scaling the Wonder wall, stay scaling. It will be easy to slide off of it and you will have to work hard at keeping your footing. But it will be worth it. 

365 days later, I am telling you—it's worth it. Here’s how I know: I still look at my nieces through the eyes of wonder, even when I have been ravaged with the disappointment of barrenness. 

So, to answer my question, can doubt and wonder co-exist? You tell me. 



I love my husband.
I just wanted to tell everyone.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

We Bought a Farm: Time to process some turkeys!!!

Last Sunday we processed turkeys. It's always an exhausting but very rewarding day. Here are some photos of our adventures. We actually didn't get any of Hannah and Eddie who were helping too!

Quality control in the garage -- these young ladies made sure all little pin feathers were removed: Kara, Ana, and Abigail.
Grama removing pin feathers.
A friend from residency: Matt, came into help. Here he, Jacob, and JB are taking the heads and feet off the birds followed by a removal of the "giblets".

After we were done with the turkeys we brought some of our own inside and broke them down in preparation to grind the meat.
Gabe and I weighing a turkey.

Grama doing quality control
Lovely ladies.

Because the turkeys were so heavy, we created a "chute" that the kiddos could walk them up to the processing area. In the past we had to carry them and mannnn that got tiring.
Grampa got this set-up ready for us to work under.
Anni bringing a bird that juts died to the "scalder"
We were so blessed that despite the fact that it was 20 degrees when our day started and our hoses wouldn't run, there was no rain! It turned into a beautiful day surrounded by MANY MANY days of rain here.
Grampa the great running the scalder.
A little bit closer look at our "chute"

Grama's sister Betsy was here to help!