Monday, December 31, 2018

We Bought a Farm: When it is 71 on December 31

"In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer." Albert Camus

Today was the day before the world welcomed 2019. And one of the reasons I am so blessed to be celebrating this day in Tennessee is that winter can give you so many reprieves among these here parts. While some years we can be in the teens, today we celebrated at 71 degrees! Yes! 71!

So what do you do when it is 71?!

Well you eat your lunch outside by golly! (That's my friend Kelsey there with the kiddos!)
And you pull over when you see your neighbors sitting outside and  climb their tree!
And you climb up on Mr. Billy's lap and you laugh when your Mama asks him to smile and he says, "I can't here because I ain't got no teeth."

And of course you go out on the swings without any shoes on because it's summer in the winter!

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Abigail (the puppy) goes home

"Whoever said you can't buy happiness forgot little puppies." Gene Hill

How hard would it be for one little girl and her Grama to admit that a puppy they have been raising since April would be happier in another home? My dear friend, Toni, lost her husband after a fall at our farm back in May. In the midst of his death and caring for her sister and her granddaughter, Toni and Cali decided to still try to raise Abigail. But after being in their home since June, Toni and Cali made the excruciatingly difficult decision that Abigail needed a home which could give her more exercise and attention. 

Here's a picture of Cali with her little Abigail (the dog): 

Now here is where the story, however, gets beautiful. Toni contacted me telling me that they had made the decision, and she was wondering if I might know of anyone that would want to have Abigail. She wanted to personally see that the home Abigail went to was a perfect one. 

My online friend Andi had contacted me a few months ago telling me that she was interested in a puppy the next time we had a litter. She wasn't sure they would take one, but it was a major consideration. Her younger son, Evan, has a ton of energy, and she wanted to get him a dog that could keep up with him. 

However, Andi lived in Texas. Dallas. Would they really be able to drive out and pick up a dog? After a brief discussion with her husband, they decided to leave the next day and join us on the farm. 

Here is the first picture of Evan with his new dog:

There were many tears this day. It was wonderful and emotional and happy and sad all rolled into one. But we all knew this was for the best of Toni's family and Abigail. 

Here's Evan with his dog:

And here are a few pictures of them traveling back to Texas that Andi has sent me: 

While I know some people (including me) get frustrated with social media and the inundation of communication in our society, I love the connections I have to people through this amazing online world. Andi and I had never met before. Twelve years we've been in touch online. And now we share the genes of a dog. 

Sometimes, I love seeing the world go 'round,


Saturday, December 29, 2018

Finally Meeting Andi

"Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another 'What! You too? I thought I was the only one." C.S. Lewis 

Over the twelve years I have known her online, Andi and I have hoped and thought about meeting many times. I had many friends online during my years of infertility, but only a few truly held up as our lives moved from infertility to parenthood. But Andi. Dear Andi. When we finally saw each other yesterday, there were tears in both of our eyes. A dozen years and six children later, here we were on my farm in TN with only about 18 hours notice. I thought about writing the story myself. But then I realized I would let my friend, Andi, pictured with me below, tell it for us: 

So that crazy spontaneous and quick trip to TN? It was to meet a very sweet friend I've know for about 12 years now. We met years ago on an online infertility group and we followed each other back when we both blogged. (She still does.) And then technology changed and we mostly kept up on FB and now IG.

This amazing lady and husband and FOUR kiddos are successfully living their life dream on a farm in TN. Which includes farm dogs to help with herding sheep and chickens. One of those little farm dogs is now ours. There's a story behind her, but I'll share that in a separate post. In the meantime I'm just basking in the surrealness of seeing all six of our miracle children just hanging out. The ultimate gift this weekend was not even just the pup, but being able to hug each other's necks in person!

Suffice it to say, one day with Wendi on the farm was just not enough, so we'll be back for another longer trip soon!

P.S. Tune in tomorrow to hear the full story of that little dog that finally brought Andi and I together in the Smokey Mountains. 


Friday, December 28, 2018

Rules for a Slower Life

"Simplify: A slower pace of life can give you more time for what truly matters." 

My family left the hustle and bustle of American civilization in 2010. We didn’t move back to the States until 2014. When we left for the Middle East, I owned a Razr flip phone. (Smartphones weren’t yet a required appendage.)
It was incredibly eerie when we stepped back on American soil in 2014. Everyone had these tiny screens attached to the palms of their hands or pulled up in front of their faces. Every place I went, people asked if they could text me. When I told them I didn’t have a cell phone, they looked at me with confused expressions. I had to practically beg my mother-in-law to let me drive without a phone in the car with me. (I had done this my whole life. Why was it suddenly unsafe?)
When we finally bit the bullet and entered a cell phone store to get our own phones, the lady working there looked completely dumbfounded when my husband and I explained that these would be our first smartphones. “What? Were you missionaries or something?”
No, but our life sure was remote.
In 2010 we moved halfway across the world with our two toddler sons and our Dalmatian. My husband was stationed as a military physician on Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, just a short distance from the Syrian border.
To read the rest of this post, jump over to THE GLORIOUS TABLE. 

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Mary Poppins (A Bunch of thumbs up!)

"First of all, I would like to make one thing clear: I never explain anything." Mary Poppins

A very strong recommendation for this movie. Incredibly family-friendly. All four of my kiddos were incredibly interested and engaged despite the fact that it was a rather long movie (over two hours). Lots of fun, lots of music, lots of flashbacks for those of you who are loyal first movie watchers. Great fun! Go see it! (Or save money and wait for it on video.) Either way, I love finding a movie the whole family can enjoy and this was one. Very little if anything a parent could complain about.


Wednesday, December 26, 2018


"Dancing is like dreaming with your feet." 

I never dreamed I'd be a ballet mom.
But my heart soars watching my shy little girl fly out of her shell. 
I love that she dances.
But more than that I love that she has a place where her soul
is nurtured as much as her body.
Where she is taught to dance
secondarily to learning to love the Lord and those around her.
Where girls are kind and encouraging. 
Where her heart can soar.

Abigail in blue and her friend Eliza in black.
Abigail preparing to lead the little princesses out onto stage.
Abigail is leading the little girls this year in their big January production.
Christmas time means celebrating Jesus' birth after class. 
My friend Kristin's daughter: Eliza and Hazel. I love watching Abigail with Eliza. Eliza will just be so patient and nudge her ever-so-slightly until Abigail is giggling and laughing and lets her wall down.


Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas from the Farm

"Merry Christmas from The Bauernhof"

Today we celebrated the birth of our savior on our farm. For those of you who don't know, JB is the second oldest of six kids. Four live on this side of the country (East TN, middle TN, Hilton Head and South Florida). And two live on the west coast (Oregon and California).

There are a total of ten grandchildren scattered among those six children -- and today we managed a picture with eight of them. Above you can see the cousin picture. (I added the two missing grandchildren so you can see all ten!)

There is a lot I don't write on my Blog. Some people think they know the "whole story" because they read the words I choose to put on these pages. But those of you who know me personally, know details that definitely aren't written about here. It's so important that as we watch people's lives flash in front of us on social media that we remember that those lives are what people choose to paint.

In summary I will simply state that there is intense grief in this family right now. And grief is hard. Grief is something that comes in many forms. It hits in different ways. It originates from different sources. 

But together, we can have happy moments in grief. That was today for us. Lots of tears combined with lots of laughs and moments that the tears could take a short break.

I wasn't planning on hosting Christmas this year. After our intense year of renovations, I wanted a quiet week here with just our immediate family. But God dictated something else. Grief dictated something else. 

And it was a beautiful thing. It was a needed thing. It was what God called me to do.

1 John 3:17-18 English Standard Version

17 But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

There are always people grieving. Look around you. Love them. And consider editing your plans to help them wade through the sadness that life is throwing at us. 

This life is hard.

But the promise of eternity thanks to the birth of our savior is such a precious gift.

Merry Christmas,


Monday, December 24, 2018

My Two-Item Bucket List

"If we did the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves." Thomas Edison 

I don't have a lot of dreams. I never really did. I wanted to be a mom. I wanted to follow the Lord. That's really about it. I grew up without a lot of money. I never dreamed of traveling the world or doing all kinds of money-requiring things. 

But there were two things that I had always wanted to do. 

(1) I had always wanted to learn a language. 

So in 2010 we moved to Turkey, and I decided to dive into Turkish. I definitely learned the language -- although I am far from even sort of proficient at it. I even stopped studying it for a number of years. But when our Turkish wwoofer, Duygu, came to the farm, I was amazed at how easy it all came back to me. Since she left last year, I have been studying Turkish every single day on Duolingo and trying to keep my skills up. While I have a long way to go, I am really proud of what I've accomplished with learning this language. 

(2) And I had always wanted to play the piano. Specifically I had wanted to be able to sit down and play Christmas carols for my family. When the kids started taking piano lessons in 2015, JB suggested I take lessons too. The teacher was already coming to our house. Go for it! While I consider quitting every week since I really don't have time for this, I've stuck with it, and this year I was able to play my first real Christmas carol:

What's on your "bucket list"? I know it seems like we don't have time for it, but I encourage you to give it a try. Why can't a mom with four kids who lives on a farm speak Turkish and play the piano?!


Sunday, December 23, 2018

Don't forget their soul!

"A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education." Theodore Roosevelt

I wrote a piece for The Glorious Table a few months back entitled: Are You Parenting with the Big Picture in Mind?

I want to remind us all that the most important part of our children is their SOUL. That is the part we should be nurturing more than ever. 

Below I share a video of our last homeschooling day before the Christmas break. (Yes! We take breaks too!) Our eldest six kiddos are doing some drawing while going through and doing their "Letter of the week" memory verses.

Our youngest kiddos use the verses I linked to above. For our older kiddos, we do the full verse, making it more challenging. Check it out:

I love the A-B-C nature of these verses because they can be brought to mind easily. I, myself, have laid in bed on particularly troubling days and simply begun reciting verses from A to Z! It's easy to do. (We do one each week and then each week, we try to recite up to the point we are at which is what we are doing in the video below.)

Don't forget their souls folks! Don't forget their SOUL!


Saturday, December 22, 2018

Quick, can you sum up your life purpose in one phrase?

"The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Research suggests that if you can sum up your life in just one phrase, you can live a good seven years longer. 

I thought about it, and I realized I can do this quite easily: 

My purpose: To honor God and love to all people and give everything God tells me to give to whoever he tells me to give it all the while teaching my children the same ... where the green grass grows.

The TP Reality

Debate vs. Reality

I keep seeing all this debate about which way the toilet paper goes on, and honestly, it confuses me, because let's be real. This is how it goes on in my house:


Friday, December 21, 2018

Friday Funnies

"The brief moment of terror when you are walking through the dark, early morning living room getting ready for work and you step on a doll but think it's one of your kids' heads who slept on the couch but somehow ended up on the floor." -- John Kitsteiner in actual big family life moment 

I love the inner spunk of Hannah that has just been with her since the womb. This morning, she and Abigail climbed up in bed and were snuggling with me when I suggested they go climb in the bathtub. Abigail said she was too scared to round the corner by herself in the dark and turn on the water. But the little sister said: "I'm scared too, but I can just be scared and still go and do it." I thought: this is my girl. She seems to understand life and how to overcome it and the nuances of relationships and facial expressions like no one else. She simply brings us (Hannah) Joy ... always. (And causes us to pull our hair out at the same time, of course!)

Pre-teen boy books

"You can find magic wherever you look. Sit back and relax, all you need it a book." Dr. Seuss

I'll never forget the moment my Sidge, about seven years old, made me know I was doing an okay job at this parent thing. He was reading Suzanne Collins' series The Underland Chronicles. (You may recognize her name because she wrote Hunger Games. He looked up from his book and said, "I finally get why you wanted us to learn to read Mommy. This is so much fun." A few weeks later he finished book five and actually started crying. John talked him through the fact that he was letting go of some friends. "I just wish she could have written more than five books," he said. It was the start of his love of reading. Oh and a sidenote: Isaac didn't like this series.
Both of my boys devoured this series by Kathryn Lasky: Guardians of Ga'Hoole. I'm actually not even sure how many total books are in this series. Fifteen or sixteen I think. John said to warn everyone that the first book started slowly, and he had his doubts, but suddenly they TOOK OFF, and both boys read them with great eagerness.
I'll be honest. Years ago, I tried to get into this series and just couldn't do it. But John absolutely LOVED them, and shared them with the boys. They have both eaten them up. Some they liked more than others, and John slowed them down so that they were reading the scarier books when they were older as he says they get scarier as they go on. Either way, both boys give this one a huge thumbs up.

This is a Sidge favorite. Isaac hasn't gotten into them. It was recommended to me by my friend Aliceson Bales who has a son a little older than my boys. Hank the Cowdog is written by John E. Erickson. These are very fun, light reads that boys and girls would enjoy -- especially if they like animals or farming. They have a bit of the "Amelia Bedilia" spoof where Hank doesn't know the names for certain things. (He calls a car window a neck-cutter-offer or something like that.) There are well over 70 of these books, and we get them at our local library. Very fun and just light reads. Sidge often reads them inbetween some deeper series. Isaac hasn't tried these yet.

A favorite of the Dad and both boys is the Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan. The boys have actually had fights over this one because they both need the same book at the same time and someone is going too slowly. They love them. (A little mild bad language in this book like hell and damn.) Isaac recommends it for 11 and up.

John reads these to the kids, but then Sidge especially has gone on to read them himself. Thornton Burgess' animal adventures are pure fun for kids of all ages! Isaac says "I'm not really into animals" so he didn't like it as much.

Other books that the boys have loved having read to them include: 
  • Hobbit
  • Lord of the Rings
  • Narnia
  • Treasure Island
  • Around the World in 80 days
  • Journey to the Center of the Earth 
  • Calvin and Hobbes (not a book but the boys LOVE them!)
I'd love you to add your own opinions! Add a comment!

Christmas movies we love

"Yes! Yes I do! I like Christmas! I love Christmas!" Ebenezer Scrooge

Our kids are finally reaching an age that we feel they are "ready" to share in some of our favorite Christmas movies. (I'm skipping over all the "cartoon-ish movies that we've watched with the kids since they were very little. I wanted to share movies that were geared for the whole family -- adults included.)

I thought I would keep a running list of the Christmas/winter movies we felt were "okay" to share with our kiddos. Please take a minute to leave a comment sharing any movies you think we should check out!

There are a few things in this movie that aren't completely clean, but overall, it's just a fun movie for all ages. I can watch this over and over again!

We watched this one for the first time this year. It is just super fun and a really good time. Truly nothing major to complain about with this one. Not really "Christmas" but fun for the winter.

This is a Hallmark movie. (And you can watch it free if you do a "trial" on This is truly just such a sweet and lovely story that is definitely appropriate for all ages with great lessons to discuss afterwards.
We finally decided to bust this one out this year. We were slightly concerned it might be a bit scary with "bad guys" breaking into the house, but it was received really well by my kids. They are currently calling it their favorite and asking to watch #2!
Okay so I haven't shown this to my kids yet. While very "adult appropriate" it does have a few things in it that I just don't want to explain right now. However, this is hands-down, my favorite Christmas movie for ME. (And hubby really likes it too!)
We have not watched this one with the kids yet but were thinking we may do it this year. This can't NOT be on any list.
This is another one on the "list" for this year.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

The best gifts ...

"A picture is a poem without words." Horace 

There are gifts that are truly priceless. Hannah Grace managed to make these signs (that you grampa for getting her the distressed wood from our farm). She then gave me the pictures and the signs! I love them sooo much. I am going to get the pictures framed and hang them in my stairway with the signs. I can't wait.