Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Tuesday Truth

Tuesday Truth

When not going to the White House teaches you the best lesson of all

I have a friend who shall remain nameless.

This friend was incredibly excited. A casual friend had an inside connection and was able to secure a private tour of the White House.

For my friend, a major history buff, this was a really big deal. And not only is she a major buff but her husband and oldest son are as well. This family loves history. Loves visiting historical sites. 

This wasn't just a regular old tour. This tour included the Briefing Room and the Oval Office and the places that most people will never get to see. 

So she and her husband and her two kids joined casual friend and his wife for the tour. 

Only when they got to security and my friend went to pull out her identification, she realized that she didn't have it. 

Somewhere between the car and the White House, her identification had fallen out of her pocket. 

Scouring occurred to no avail. 

And she couldn't go on the tour.

Casual friend and his wife went without her. 

But now her husband and two sons stood in front of her. She begged her husband to take the kids and join casual friend and his wife. 

Her husband refused. Didn't even think twice. Said no way. They would all go home together -- having not seen the inside of the Oval Office or all the other cool places inside the most famous building in our country. 

My friend is not a crier, but she cried that night. She felt so bad. Not just that she had missed out but that her children missed out on this huge opportunity. 

She was so disappointed in herself and mad at herself. And she just felt lousy.

And then she walked into her bedroom and found this note (pictured above) lying on her bed. 

Written by her fifth grade son, if you look closely you will see that he has crossed out a picture of the White House and a picture of her I.D. and instead put a heart around a picture of their family in a heart. 

I know this is a difficult time for you. But it will be okay and remember even in times like this, God is with you all the way. And he and the White House and Military ID are not important. The most important thing is family. We will always be there for you. 

Talk about lessons learned.

I asked her for permission to share this story because I know we often face disappointments as parents and people. We have to watch our children face major disappointments as well. But in the end, what we learn during those events will matter much more than the disappointment itself.

Her son learned that: 

  1. Bad things happen
  2. You need to be careful with your things
  3. Some things just cannot be fixed
  4. Family sticks together
  5. Things aren't really that important
She also, as a mother, can obviously see that she has been leading her boys well. And not only her, but their father. Their father showed his boys that their mother was more important than a tour. That they are in this together.

Wow. Wow. Wow.

I have other friends who have had to tackle some major disappointments recently. What good are you learning? What good is your child learning? What good is God showing you? 

Keep the big picture in mind. Years from now, it will matter much more than a tour of the White House. 

Friday, February 14, 2020

Friday Funnies

On a car ride with Anni, Hannah asked her what the word awkward meant.

Anni: "It kind of means uncomfortable. Like if you don't knock and you accidentally walk in on someone going potty."

Hannah: "I've done that before because I never knock."

Anni: "So knocking before you go in is a habit you can work on!"

Hannah: "I've got a couple of those bad habits to work on."


I offered the kids some pay to help with a job. One (who shant be named) replied: "I don't want to do that. But I'll get money for doing nothing instead?"

Sidge: "Isaac, I'd rather you not play my piano song because then I realize how bad I am."

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Wee-Wind Wednesday

September of 2012 -- first few months in the Azores. That's our big brown house on the left in the background. Man. Time slow down.

Piano: Isaac shows Mom up ... again

I am still clunking away ... painfully ... on the piano. Since the piano teacher comes to our house every Thursday to conduct NINE piano lessons between the Kotysnki and Kitsteiner families and she charges me a "bulk" price ... well, what is the difference if I just keep ... clunking away.

I don't want to quit. And so I don't. I am moving at a fraction of the speed that the children are moving but I keep on ... clunking away.

An example of my clunking is provided (for your entertainment) below:

Music comes so easily to Isaac. Sidge struggles a bit more, but works very hard. Abigail is really doing well with piano and seems to enjoy it. She does seem to be very "arts" minded. Hannah is still young, but she's catching on and doing a good job reading music now. 

But me? Well, it's an uphill battle. It truly is like speaking a foreign language. 

Only, maybe worse. 

But learning a language (Turkish) and learning an instrument (piano) was on my bucket list.

So, I clunk away ... 

Love my Military Family

There is just something about your military family. And yes, I am still in a military family even though we are no longer actually in active-duty service. 

A few days ago, I put a post up on Facebook about our Harry Potter wand "conundrum." Here is what I posted:

I had so many wonderful responses and suggestions, but a friend from Portugal (who wasn't even an intimate friend). Here is what she wrote on the Facebook post: 

Wendi, we have one I will send you! PM me your mailing address. When you go to the wand shop they pick the youngest looking child and sell to them by having them try it out. Cool things happen in the shop as the child is instructed to point the wand around the room.Then you hear "the wand CHOOSES the wizard, Mom!!!!" until you agree to buy it! LOL Outside the shop in Diagon alley there are reactive displays that will respond when you point the wand. For what it's worth, we only bought one for our youngest. (We'd been before and didn't buy.) Our youngest was too short to ride many rides (our eldest and youngest are 12 years apart) so we bought the wand so our littlest felt special.

I wrote Katherine back and offered to pay shipping. She said: 

I'll get it in the mail this weekend! No worries about shipping -- it's light! I hope it still works! Have the best time!

Or were the kiddos excited when the wand came in the mail:

I absolutely LOVE how the military takes care of each other. I also LOVE how social media can do GOOD things and not just BAD things! There is a lot of negative press about technology (some of which is from me!) but there is also a lot of good things that can happen through the connections we get online.

Feeling loved today,

Monday, February 10, 2020

Today ....

Things I learned today:
  • If your daughter wants to take a bath and you give her a shower cap because you don't want her to get her hair wet, you need to explain to her that this does NOT mean she can dunk her head in the water. 
  • If your dryer breaks when it is forecasted to rain for a week straight and there are 9 people relying on that dryer, it will put a kink in your plans. 
  • The boys are now aware of their "friends" being nearby. Isaac didn't want to hug me in front of his friends for the first time today at co-op. He found me later in the hallway and gave me a hug and said, "I just don't want to hug you in front of my friends."

Sunday, February 09, 2020

We Bought a Farm: (Not) Being Lonely

Our dear friend Anni with our daughters and her little
foster daughter. (Laws don't allow me to show a
picture of her but trust me, she's a CUTIE PIE!)
The thing about this life here that is constantly amazing to me is this one fact: 

My biggest fear in agreeing to move out to "the middle of nowhere" was being lonely. And lonely is the LAST thing I could call myself now.

When John (aka "JB") and I began discussing homesteading and purchasing land, I was not on board. In fact, my husband will tell you that he played mental chess with me for nearly two decades in order to bring me over to the non-suburban-housewife side that I really thought I wanted to be on.

If you asked me where I pictured my life when I was a little girl, I would have told you, "as a stay-at-home mom in the suburbs." I pictured a mini-van and taking my kids to the local Christian school for their education. 

If you asked me when I was thirty-years-old where I saw myself when we got out of the military, I would have told you the same thing. In a neighborhood. With other people. (So I wouldn't be lonely of course.)

But JB had other ideas. He wanted to homestead. He wanted to live rural. And slowly but surely, he brought me over to the same side.

When we started looking for a farm, we thought something in the 8-10 acre range about 15 minutes from a town would be ideal. I specifically asked if we could be within 30 minutes of a town that had a Target.

But then, we saw this farm. And the price and the whole package was exactly what we wanted ... despite the fact that it was closer to an hour from a Target town. It was closer to the town of Greeneville and not Johnson City. I wanted Johnson City! But God had other plans -- oh and what beautiful plans they are.

Today, Anni and her beautiful little foster daughter joined us for our normal Sunday time together. Anni is now a member of our church here in Greeneville, and she is even signing for second service some weeks. Check it out!

Anni's parents were in town today. I didn't get a picture with them, but I do think it's FANTASTIC that Anni's parents names are GEORGE and DIANE. (Those are my parents' names too!) They are really cool folks, folks. Anni's Mom helped Abigail learn a new trick. You can see it in the video below. (You'll hear Jacob encouraging her and me talking with Anni's moms about one of my favorite topics: BOOKS!)

I am so blessed by all the people that find our home a place they like to be. Friends and family that stop through or get eggs or meat from us or volunteer or hang out with us. We have our wwoofers here and so many amazingly wonderful people that spend time with us. 

Today we actually had sixteen people here at one time. Our family. the grandparents, Anni and her parents and "daughter", our two wwoofers, and two local gals helping cut trees to raise money for a mission trip. 

I am not lonely.

Not even close.

(Sometimes I actually wish for a moment I was!)

Saturday, February 08, 2020

We Bought a Farm: Game Day

The Kotysnkis are not only are homeschooling compadres, but they are family (Eddie and I are first cousins) and good friends. Because Eddie works from home, he doesn't leave his house much. So we decided to have a game day. It turned out that there was a beautiful snowfall during the day so we got to sit in the house with windows on all side watching the snow come down. It was wonderful! We also got to play some fun games. (IF you decide to purchase any of these games, PLEASE use my link. If you do, our adoption organization gets a part of the purchase price.) 

Aunt Hannah and Isaac played quite a few games of DOMINION together. This is one of Isaac's favorite games. 

Sidge got the game: CATAN: SETTLERS OF AMERICA for his birthday. Eddie, Eoin, JB and Sidge are playing that in the living room. 

And I was playing WINGSPAN with Jacob and Gabe. Folks, this is an EXTREMELY expensive game, but it is truly the best game our family has ever played. Jacob and JB are both, usually, not game players, but they LOVE this game. Gabe has become an addict as have I. All the kids like it. It is fantastic!!!!

While we were playing three different games, the five girls headed upstairs to create a little "beauty shop" game. Everyone was getting along and playing SO well. Here are some pictures from their fun time:  

Thursday, February 06, 2020

We Bought a Farm: THIS is Farmhouse Decor

I laugh when I see all these Pinterest-style posts regarding "Farm House Decor." It's always white with pretty signs and sparkling surfaces. There's nothing on the counters. Like, not even a toaster! Maybe there is a fake bowl of fruit. And a vase of flowers. 

But seriously: is that reality?

A real farmhouse has a big red bucket sitting on the counter. (See it on the left of the picture above? That has our day's eggs in it.)

(What you can't see is a second bucket sitting on the ground around the corner that has the chicken scraps in it.)

And if you are really lucky, you'll even have an aquarium tank with mushrooms growing inside of it!

Don't push your luck, but you might also be able to have a big glass water container draped in a red towel. (You can spot that to the right of the tank.) 

That's mead.

It's a drink. 

(I think.)

I've glanced back to see just a smattering of the types of thing constantly littering my kitchen counters. 

Not a day goes by that you can't find eggs around our kitchen. Breakfast is laid daily here folks!
Doesn't everyone have what appears to be a jar of nails but is actually a plant on their counter?
So many greens! What's a girl to do?!
Incubating baby animals? Or rescuing ones from outside and trying to help them recover? You betcha. 
Pickles/Grapes/Beats/Peppers. You name it, we are canning it. 
We always have some sort of vegetable experiment going on somewhere. 

That's a mushroom folks. Found in our woods.

We Bought a Farm: Garden Growth

I am trying to more and more link this Blog to posts JB does so that years from now, we can come back and look and see what we did! It's been so fun eating the last of our food from our garden for the  season. Here's just a few beautiful pictures:

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Dear Father, I Need You

Dear Father, I need You,
Your strength my heart to mend.
I want to, fly higher,
Every new day again.
Man versus himself
Man versus machine
Man versus the world
Mankind versus me
The struggles go on
The wisdom I lack
The burdens keep piling
Up on my back
So hard to breathe
To take the next step
The mountain is high
I wade in the depths
Yearning for grace
And hoping for peace
Dear God increase
Healing hands, of God
have mercy
on our unclean souls,
once again.
Jesus Christ,
light of the world,
burning bright,
within our hearts forever.
means love without condition,
Without a beginning or an end.
Here's my heart,
let it be forever Yours.
Only You can make every new day seem so new.
- Reese Roper

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Tuesday Truth

TF Homeschooling: Mushrooms

I love when homeschooling and the farm come together so seamlessly. John (and our wwoofers: Jacob and Jake) are working on creating mushrooms out of logs. I never understand all the details. However, I have figured out how to share my husband's Facebook posts to give more details. 

Here you go: 


Monday, February 03, 2020

A Seamstress Ballerina Mama

My friend Kymberly is the mother of two girls. Her two daughters attend homeschooling co-op with us and are involved with Central Ballet as well. Once upon a time, long before I met her, she was a ballerina. However, an ataxia has stolen her ability to move like she once did. While she can walk, it is not without a struggle. She uses a walker and often depends on her husband and children to help her do things. 

Kymberly is the major seamstress for the ballet. She is constantly fixing and repairing costumes. Despite the fact that she has to go down the steps of our studio on her backside because of this condition that affects her nerves, I never hear her complain. 

Recently, Kymberly gave her oldest daughter, Ky-le, a picture. She wanted Ky-le to re-draw it for her. However, Ky-le explained that she was hesitant to draw it for the following two reasons: 

  • my mom doesn’t just sit around she’s always engaged somehow 
  • I wanted the drawing to be my own, not just a copy of someone else’s 
Kyle writes that the picture, "made me realize even though my mom may not be a dancer on stage, she is still a big part of the dance life behind the scenes. That gave me the inspiration to draw the picture below for her. The work she does behind the scenes allows me and my sister to dance as much as we do! We wouldn’t be a part of the dance world if it wasn’t for her so I drew this simple drawing with a big dedication and meaning for my mom!"

I asked Ky-le for permission to repost this. I absolutely loved this artwork and the meaning behind it. I actually think, Kymberly's condition aside, there is many a parent "in the wings" that can relate to this drawing.

Well done Ky-Le!!

Sunday, February 02, 2020

TF Homeschooling: Country Unit

Our TF Homeschool (Two-Family Homeschool) group just finished an entire month studying a country. To read about how/why we decided to do this, please click here. I really believe that homeschooling is one big cooperative -- so this post will allow you to "steal" what we did and do this on your own in your house in a way that works for you. 

Firstly, some pictures from our adventures:
The delicious Bolivian food that we got to eat!
Thank goodness for Grama K. She helped some of my kids with their food. This is a German pancake! Yum!
One of the fun things about this project is that we did it with ALL the kids -- grades K thru 8. We simply changed it to work for kids at various levels. For example: the young kids had help with their speeches. 
This is me grading the projects. I'll share the rubric I used at the end of this post. 
Check out the "physical representation" that Ana made for Bolivia. 
Here are some videos from presentation day:
  • Kari Physical Representation of Bolivia The kids all had to make something "physical" that represented their country. 
  • Kari Bolivia Kari brought some fun things to show us.
  • Ana PowerPoint Ana did an EXCELLENT PowerPoint which she added music to. 
  • Isaac Canada His famous dry humor at work in this video!
  • Abigail Germany I was so proud of Abigail for this speech! She is a lot younger than the other "bigs" but she did a great job! (Ana really helped her prepare which was so wonderful!)
  • Bolivian Food Look at all the fun food the Kotysnkis made from Bolivia! They went on a two-week trip there over Christmas. (Hannah was born there and her parents were missionaries there.)
  • Gabe Bolivia Gabe went first and did a great job!
  • Little Kotynskis Discuss Bolivia Genevieve and Eoin went together on their project with Mama Kotynski helping them. 
If you are interested in "stealing" what we did for this unit, feel free to use this information below and morph it into a project that works for you. This mostly came from my head and browsing for some ideas online. 

You will be putting together a “folder” of a presentation for a country that YOU 
have visited. Included in this folder should be the following:
1.     Interactive notebook pages. These would include important things for your country such as landforms, food, culture, religion, time zone, holidays, What is the major industry in this country? What does it export? Import? etc. 
a.     1 page Abigail
b.     2 pages 5th graders
c.     3 pages Ana
d.     4 pages Gabe
2.     A map featuring your country. 
a.     Abigail print map off and color and label. 
b.     Other kids draw and color your own map. 
3.     A Paper on your experiences within the country. 
a.     1 page Abigail
b.     2 pages 5th graders
c.     4 pages Gabe and Ana
4.     A paper on the historical aspects of this country. Who discovered it? Explored it? Settled it? Established it? Were there native peoples there? Study the beginnings of the country, was it a colony, a territory, an independent state, a civilization? What is still there today that keeps history alive in the country. Expansion topic: Wars in which the country was involved. What is the religious history of the country. How has it evolved to the current religious practices?
a.     1 page Abigail
b.     2 pages 5th graders
c.     4 pages Gabe and Ana
5.     A list of important vocabulary for your country. Learn to count in that language. Be able to say it to a parent. Include the counting words in your assignment but do not count them as part of your words. 
a.     10 words Abigail
b.     20 words 5th graders
c.     30 words Ana
d.     35 words Gabe
6.     A drawing of your flag
7.     Provide an example you have drawn that shows the size difference between your country and a state in the USA that is comparable to it. 
8.     Make a timeline of the history of your country. 
9.     Print out a few photos to include in your folder that show some examples of what the country is like. 
10.  Create some sort of “physical” representation of your country. This can be something edible (example included below) or it could be a lego or playdough example. The sky is the limit. Come up with something interesting!
11.  A currency converting page: For this activity you will learn about the currency of your country. You will check the conversion rate and learn to figure it. Then you will get a merchandise catalog and cut out pictures of goods you would like to convert and show the difference in cost between the USA and your country. 
12.  Read a biography book of someone from that country--perhaps a scientist, explorer, or inventor. Maybe a politician or religious figure and summarize it in a typed paragraph. Should include either a handrawn or actual photograph of the person. Parent must approve the book/length.
13.  Calculate distance from the capital city to other locations around the country. Use a map and ruler. What is the population of the country and the capital city. What percentage of people live in the Capital city compared to the entire country?
14.  What are the demographics of the country? Identify the people groups. Come up with an interesting way to share this in your folder. 
15.  What is the weather like in the country? Does it vary from North to South or East to West? How vulnerable is the country to natural disasters? (volcano, earthquake, hurricane, tornado, etc.) Come up with an interesting way to share this in your folder. 
16.  Find out what kind of government this country has. Write a compare/contrast paper showing this countries government compared with the US government.
a.     Abigail: skip this
b.     Fifth graders: a few paragraphs
c.     Ana & Gabe: five paragraph essay
17.  PowerPoint presentation on your country. Print out slides and include them in your folder. 
a.     Abigail: 1-3 slides
b.     Fifth graders: 4-8 slides
c.     Ana & Gabe: 9-15 slides
18.  Cook a dish from your country to share with the group. Take pictures of you sharing your meal with the group and include the recipe and experience in your folder. 

The following item must be done but will not be included in the folder. 
19.  Prepare a speech about your country.
a.     Abigail: 2-4 minutes
b.     Fifth graders: 5-7 minutes
c.     Ana & Gabe: minimum 10 minutes

In addition, you must choose 3 of the following six activities to accomplish:
1.     Visual board on your country. 
2.     Read a historical fiction book about the country.
3.     Design a travel brochure inviting people to visit your country. 
4.     Study the Art, Architecture, and Music History of the country. Come up with an interesting way to share what you learn about this. This can be a paper, a presentation, a PowerPoint presentation.
5.     Where is this country located with respect to other countries and the world. Learn what borders the country. Do a fact sheet for each bordering country and put it in your notebook. Include basics: Language, government, flag, capital, etc.
Make a game of trivia about your country. (This is great for Make-Your-Own GeoSafari boards. We always make several GeoSafari games to go with our foreign country studies.)

Here is the rubric I used to grade their entire project. Note that I graded them and then 
they also graded themselves using the SAME rubric! For the oral presentation part of the project, I used this online rubric that I found. 


21 pts possible
 14 pts
Does not meet
 7 pts
Task Completion
Wow! You did a superb job of covering all the requirements of the task with creativity and a great deal of attention to detail.
Visual includes most of the elements stated in the task.
Very little attempt to fulfill the requirements of the task resulting in missing components.
Attractiveness and Organization
Your finished visual is a work of art!  It is attractively presented, easy to read with excellent use of graphics.
Information is well laid out and easy to read.  Use of graphics enhances the information presented. 
Information is presented haphazardly making it difficult to follow.

The visual includes many interesting details and more than the basic information about the topic.
The topic is explained well and examples are given.
Information included is not complete.

Knowledge gained
Students are able to comfortably talk about the topic and answer questions about the material included in their presentation.
Students are able to talk about aspects of their topic and show that they have learned new facts about it.

There is an inability to share information about the topic.
You gave FULL effort.
You gave GOOD effort.

Your effort was POOR.
You had a great attitude 
You complained and whined a bit but mostly had good effort. 
You were a big whiner.
You helped your classmates anytime you could.
You helped your classmates some but not as much as you could.
You didn’t really care about others while doing the project.