Saturday, February 29, 2020

Managing the dishwasher emptying

For me, parenthood is constantly being tweaked. I’m constantly trying to lessen the input needed from me to make my life easier. 

Often I will find a system only to discover that it s inclusion often means even more work. For example, we have a chart for fruit and vegetable consumption every day (because with four kids I forget who has eaten what sometimes). However this chart has created even more questions. “Does this country as a fruit? Are four carrots enough to make one vegetable? I can’t find a fruit I like to eat!” You get the idea. 

So I have to tweak the formula. I just have to limit questions I must answer in a given day. Otherwise my brain fades explosion. 

Let’s take emptying the dishwasher. In our house, especially on school days when we have 14-16 people in the house, we can run the dishwasher as many as four times. 

I do not empty the dishwasher. 

Like almost never. Ever.

I have four kids capable of that chore and because they complain of boredom on occasion, I have decided this will my contribution to boredom-prevention in the lives of my offspring. 

However, remembering whose turn it is for the dishwasher has been a constant battle. 

I tried boys and then girls in rotation. But no matter whose turn it was, anytime I asked which sex was supposed to empty, the boys replied “Girls!” And vice versa as you could probably expect. 

I then tried putting a photo of the girls and boys on the refrigerator and moving a magnet onto the other group’s photo to indicate whose turn it is. But there was lots of forgetting to move the magnet. Or multiple people moving it so it ended up right back where it had been. 

It took awhile, but I finally found a system that works. I tried it for a few weeks before I decided it was successful enough to call it as such. 

I keep the piece of paper pictures above taped on a desk in our breakfast nook. Each child is responsible to color in their own square if they empty the dishwasher. One square if they share the job. Two squares if they do it by themselves. 

If they forget to color it in, too bad. Out of luck. This also means that if I can only find one kid at that time because the others are off on the farm, I can ask that kid to do it anyways and they just get ahead!

It has worked brilliantly!!

Friday, February 28, 2020

The Grievers

The grievers
By Wendi Kitsteiner

You dreamed 
of many children
And they came, 
Along with death.
And you buried them 
in garbage bags
And dreamed
Of baby’s breath.

And you grieve.

Your son
Went for a jog
And his heart,
Did cease to pound. 
And you cried
But the world 
Kept spinning,
Going ‘round and ‘round. 

And you grieve.

The man you loved …
He wavered.
Now he’s gone,
But he’s not dead. 
Your mind replays
The stories. 
Lies he told you.
Things he said. 

And you grieve.

It’s simple really
Isn’t it? 
You want to find 
Your place.
You leave the job
To raise the kids
And can’t quite
Find your space. 

And you grieve.

Mental illness 
took him.
You couldn’t 
Make it work.
You made the choice
To walk away
But the pain
Is so much worse. 

And you grieve.

You felt a calling
On your life
And you listened,
Thus you went.
But then a man
That your calling
Wasn’t apt. 

And you grieve.

A child 
In your arms
But the cancer
Does unfurl.
And it takes
All you have left
Including siblings 
For your girl.

And you grieve.

When things don't go
As you planned
And the part you land
Doesn't fit. 
And you try to smile
But your heart just sinks
Deep, deep down.
A pit. 

And you grieve.

Your son
Faces a firing squad
Each time he 
Goes to school.
And you drop him off
With a tear-soaked face.
They don't know him!
He's not a fool!

And you grieve.

You watch as 
All your friends
Find that man
And become a wife. 
And you wonder
What is wrong with you.
Why can't you
Find that life. 

And you grieve.

Your dad is gone.
So fast.
So swift.
And yet life just gives you more. 
Your soldier on
But deep inside,
You aren't the same as you were before. 

And you grieve.

Your daughter grows
So beautiful.
And her big dreams
come what may. 
And you try to guide
And protect your child
But you know
She'll fly away. 

And you grieve.

You serve along
Your husband’s side
As life 
Moves you around. 
And you try to keep
It normal.
But the losses
They abound. 

And you grieve.

A husband 
Thus you are
With two children
That you share.
When selfishness
Rips your wife away
And leaves you. 
So unfair. 

And you grieve.

Your loved ones
Caused you pain untold
So you chose
To walk away.
And while you know
The choice is valid
The loss …
It seems to stay.

And you grieve.

The sickness is really bad 
They say.
And what they do 
Just leaves you scars. 
And they take the parts
That made you you.
They take out
Who you are. 

And you grieve.

Depression eats you 
up inside.
It’s killing you
But slow.
And you grieve 
for your little boys
And the life 
You want to know. 

And you grieve.

Your womb
Remains but barren
Though you wish
It held a child.
And while friends 
And family
Welcome more,
You grief is far from mild. 

And you grieve.

Your spouse is 
Dying slowly.
There is nothing
Left to do. 
So you stand up straight
And soldier on.
For your kids you 
Push on through. 

And you grieve.

You lose your friend
To cancer
And you just can't
face the sun. 
What's left is loss
And holes
And grief.
Where once there was just fun. 

And you grieve.

And my friend,
I stand beside you.
Though the pain 
It feels immense.
And while I cannot 
Fix it.
You can cry
Upon my chest. 

And we will grieve.


Dedicated to my friends who are grieving today.
You know who you are. 
I hope you find yourself in these stanzas. 
You are there. 
And I am with you.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Homeschooling Mama Woes

Bohemian Waxwing
One of my biggest frustrations as a homeschooling Mama is the abundance of questions I receive. Because my kiddos don't go to school for seven hours a day and give all of their questions to another adult, I get their questions. I get all the questions. All day long. Day after day. 

And because I am a glutton for punishment, I've added my cousin's kids too. So there are nine kids to ask questions instead of four. 

(Okay, to be fair, this arrangement brings Aunt Hannah with them which means we are dividing up the questions. But she's mostly with the little kids who ask more annoying but easier questions. I'm with the older kids who ask questions that I sometimes genuinely don't know the answer to or have to look up somewhere.)

Now questions are one thing. But questions at inopportune times is another thing altogether. For example, I can be out with my kiddos in the living room for an hour with no questions. Then I go into use the bathroom, and I hear a knock at the door. Then a voice will say, "Can you explain to me why there was no money in the banks during The Great Depression?"

And I say: "Can I discuss this with you as soon as I am done in the bathroom?"

And sometimes that makes them go away. But sometimes they will try to just stand there and wait for me. Or sometimes they will say just a smattering of seconds later, "Hey Mom. Are you done yet?" Or even better. Sometimes when they leave, another kid comes in to take their place. 

It's like they are taking turns keeping me occupied or something.

So .... back on track here. 

I've been working with the kiddos on not asking questions that are poorly timed.

Today, and I kid you not, I was moving a safe. Not a huge safe but a safe that required me to put my back into it. In the middle of trying to relocate the safe, I hear a voice behind me saying: "What does B-o-h-e-m-i-a-n spell Mama?"

I didn't answer because I was occupied. Said child waited three seconds and started spelling it again

I stopped my safe moving and stood up and said, "Do you think this is a good time for a spelling question?"

And I kid you not, the child looked at me with an expression that said, "It seems pretty good to me."

(Child didn't say that outloud thank goodness.)

Oh and Bohemian was important because we were studying birds. Check out the bird at the top to find the culprit behind the question.

And for a good laugh, check out one of my very favorite video clips ever by comedian Jim Gaffigan. (It's clean and so fun!)

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Homeschool Unit on the Book: FEVER

Internet Resources


Yellow Fever

  • ellow_fever

Free African Society


Hot Air Balloons

  • ballooning.html

American Artists


Tuesday nights

Tuesday are crazy in our family. The kids do a gymnastics class followed by two of them in speech. We get two hours at home before we head back out for Hannah’s ballet class which Abigail helps with. Then it’s time for Abigail’s baller class (upstairs) and karate (downstairs.) I managed to move back and forth between classes and got a video of the brothers sparring and Abigail dancing with two of her biggest role models and favorite people: seniors Meg and Emma 

Wee-wind Wednesday

“I’m a princess bad guy.”

Preparing for vacation

We are preparing for a vacation to South Florida. Planning to spend a few days in Orlando (gonna do Harry Potter!) and then spend a few days in Fort Lauderdale with my family.

Vacations are always such double-edged swords for me. So much to do to prepare. This throws off the normal life going on in order to prepare. And with a farm? Everything gets more complicated. And then there's coming back and digging out from the vacation.

In addition, my kiddos have just been a bit out of sorts. Lots of arguing and talking back. Trying to parent. Trying to prepare. Trying to homeschool.

Feeling it as a mom today,

Monday, February 24, 2020

Oh, Tennessee

John wrote this poem after we moved to the farm. We had loved our time in the military but the work had been very emotionally draining for John. Hard losses for a physician. A look at how settling down ... settled his heart. 

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Homeschooling: An Idea

Abigail and her friend Remi worked on a meal completely on their own. In fact, I was out shoveling dirt and came in to find them already halfway done!
Here's the meal they made! It was delicious!
Part of the advantage of homeschooling, is being able to teach the things that aren't taught that much anymore. Like Home Ec. How many kids get that nowadays? 

Take cooking for example. No one ever really taught me to cook. I think most kids don't learn. Or don't learn much. Unless they really love it and seek it out. (Like my niece Ana. She enjoys it so she does a lot of it.) 

But Abigail has really been wanting to learn how to cook. I coupled this fact with the fact that lunch in our house has always been a challenge for me. It's our least healthy meal of the day and so challenging to figure out what to make. 

We have also been trying to add more fruits and vegetables to the kids' diets. In fact, they have a chart they have to fill out each day to keep up on their fruit/vegetable intake. 

I decided to go back to our Blue Apron/Hello Fresh meals. I'm doing three meals a week for two people each time. Abigail is making the meal entirely by herself! Then we are dividing it by four and serving it to the four kiddos for lunch. It solves multiple "problems." 

  • Abigail is learning to cook. 
  • We are getting some foods we don't normally eat (seafood!)
  • Lunch is taken care of three times a week. 
  • Get new ideas for foods to eat in our house. 
  • Lessen my shopping/recipe looking

We are only doing meals with meat we don't have here on our farm: beef or fish mostly. We are also doing vegetarian meals. 

(And yes, I'd like to do this with my boys at some point too. I think it's very important for them to learn too, but they aren't currently showing a desire so it's a little harder to get the right motivation.) 

Just wanted to pass along this idea. There are many coupons out there if you want to give this a try. (I have some right now!) The meals run approximately $20 a meal (or $60 for the three meals.) While this seems a bit expensive, I actually find that the bullets above make it worth it for us!

Friday, February 21, 2020

TF Homeschooling: Craft Time in Community

Our friend Kymberly and her daughter Ay-la came over together to make some wands for a fun craft in honor of our trip to Universal and all the Harry Potter adventures that await. I love community. I love friends. I love how many people help make our homeschooling life successful.

Here's another video of our day today if you are interested in what our life here on the farm looks like when it is homeschooling time. 

Thursday, February 20, 2020

We Bought a Farm: Enjoying the Land

It's very brown here right now. But it's still our land. And it's still beautiful. And when the rain stops (which hasn't been often recently) and the sun comes out, sometimes you just take a walk and you sit on the side of the hill and be

We have spent some time in our homeschool group talking about love languages over the last two weeks. Abigail's love language is physical touch. She needs hugs and to have you stroke her arm. She asks for you to lay with her in bed each evening. And since she is aware of this need, she will ask for hugs repeatedly throughout the day. 

Abigail had a rough Monday. She had to learn some lessons about relationships and people. So when we got home and it wasn't raining and we could be in our t-shirts, she told me she needed to just be with me. We took a walk on the farm and sat down. We didn't really talk. She just laid her head on my lap and together we just were

This is hard. Life is busy. But oh these memories. These moments.

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,