Sunday, October 31, 2021



    Our church puts a huge emphasis on serving. In fact, one of their mottos is "attend one ... serve one."

    And I totally agree.

    Only right now, we can't. Not in the way that feels like the "right way."

    I spoke with Ms. Kenrda about that at church today, and she said: "It sounds like you are trying to convince yourself. It's okay. I give you permission to not serve."

    John and I did years of serving. We worked with the teens and children and did the Christmas play. 

    We then had kids which cut down our ability to help somewhat. However, at some point, we were finding our groove again. 

    And then ...



    Here's the truth: my family MUST come first. It's okay to say "I can't."

    Yes, even to church. 

    See, when a COVID wave hits us (which has happened twice), we have significant skin in the game. And when you have skin in the game, it is a BIG BIG BIG deal.

    John often doesn't want to go to church. Actually, I edit that. He can't go to church. He has driven into Greeneville 18 days in a row and worked 14 hour shifts for weeks on end. And suddenly he gets a Sunday off, and he says: "We need to stay home."

    And then there are some Sundays that, because of me single-handedly running the show and the farm and life I realize: "Today is not a good day. It's okay to stay home."

    Sometimes when I start to feel sorry for myself or lament these challenges, my husband reminds me: "Wendi, this is a global Pandemic. World-wide. It sucks. Oh well."

    It's true. NO ONE wants a Pandemic. NO ONE wants to EVER live through this again.

    But in the meantime, there MUST be an oder to my life. I must put importance on things. I must rank my priorities. God is VERY important. But if I need to skip church in order to maintain sanity, it's OKAY. 

    It's ..


    To rest.

    Halloween Truth

    I am watching my teenagers waver. Am I too old for this? Is it okay if I do this? Oh, let them be kids as long as they want to!


    Friday, October 29, 2021

    Some bullets!

    Here are some bullet points of our lives currently:

    • COVID is slowing down in the ER. (Man does that make life better for us.)
    • Erin Dunham and her family are living with us until the Spring. It has been a wonderful inclusion to our lives.
    • Our long-term wwoofer, Jacob, is still with us. He's been with us on and off for five years.
    • We think one of our favorite wwoofers, Tijmen, may be coming back to visit us at long last. The USA has been closed to the Netherlands for quite some time, but our doors are opening in November. We will see.
    • Our farm is going well. We are focusing on our sheep, laying chickens, and meat chickens. We incubated our own chickens this past year for the very first time. (We normally have little 2-day-old chicks that show up in the mail.) It was super fun, and we are working on integrating them into the big flock. (This is kind of a pain-in-the-butt as it requires a brooder, smaller tractor, and then eventually going out to the egg-mobile with the big girls. However, they don't accept this readily, and we have to go out every night and dig them out from under the egg-mobile until they learn how to go to bed properly.)

    • The picture above is of me and Lindsay. Lindsay was stationed with us in the Azores. And now, she and her family have relocated down the street from us. (Unlike other friends, they didn't move here because of us. They moved here because, like many Americans, they are plain tired of the attitudes and costs in many of the big cities. Like us, Lindsay and her husband Sam and their three teenagers chose our area because of: taxes, politics, cost, religion, etc. People are just FED up and moving here in droves. Other people who now live by us:
      • Of course the Kotynski's!
      • My parents bought a house in Greeneville. They plan to live there approx. half the year right now. It's being renovated and looks amazing.
      • Eddie Kotynski's parents have relocated to the area. They just built a house halfway from our house to Greeneville. 
      • John's sister and her husband (and surprise baby at 39 that's coming with them!) bought a small plot that actually connects to our farm at the top of our property. They are coming in the Spring.
      • Our friends from Turkey, Shane and Linda, bought some property down the road. Linda owes many more years to the military so it will be a "home base" and AirB&B property. 
      • Anni has officially relocated from Knoxville. Her house on her property is ready to be moved in any day AND it looks like she will be adopting her little foster daughter in the near future. (Stay tuned!)
      • Our friends, the Steele's, moved on the other side of Greeneville about 2-3 years ago. They were stationed with us in the Azores. We actually saw them just tonight when their little grandbaby needed stitches from John.
    • Homeschooling is going very well. It's hard. It really is. But it's worth it, and truthfully, I can't imagine doing anything else. As it stands, my last child will graduate in 2032. (Holy cow is it weird to write that number.) And Aunt Hannah will have one graduating in 2039. So I don't see this ending for me anytime soon.
    • I was sick for a WEEK. I haven't been really sick in years -- unless you count COVID. 
    • I'm sure there's more to report, but I'll stop here for now.

    Wednesday, October 27, 2021

    Halloween Fun

    We've done a bunch of fun Halloween "things" recently, and I wanted to try and get some pictures of our costumes!

    On Saturday we went to a "Trunk-or-Treat" with Heritage Home Scholars at my friend Kristin Girton's house. The pictures above are from that event.

    Then, on Wednesday evening, we went to the Trunk-or-Treat down the street from our house at Encompass Church. I've gotten to know the pastor's wife there, Lauren Bible, and I was excited to go somewhere "close by." Everything takes us 20-25 minutes so a church down the road is wonderful. (This church was not there when we moved here 7 years ago, otherwise, I wonder if we would have made it our church home?!)

    Here are some pictures from our Wednesday night fun with the Kotynski's, Dunhams, and Anni:

    Even more AMAZING, is that I ran into an old friend from ... wait for it ... the Azores! I had heard they had moved close by, but to be honest, in the midst of the last COVID surge, I just didn't have it in me to branch out or connect with anyone. But now, we ran into each other! Her husband is about to retire from the Air Force, and they've decided to make this area their forever home.

    Sunday, October 24, 2021

    Pants and the uncool Mom

    A truth: I never take my kids to the store to buy clothes.

    Like: never.

    Okay, so it can't be never if we have gone. But I've decided. We all have things we choose to spend money on.

    We eat organic food.

    But we wear nearly all hand-me-down clothes.

    In fact, two years ago we were in WalMart one day looking at clothes and I wanted one of my kids to try something on, and they looked at me like how do I do that

    I informed them there was a dressing room. And they informed me they hadn't ever used one of those?

    Man. I missed that Mothering-thing.

    (Although I recently took a friend's teenager out and she informed me she had never purchased a single thing out of a vending machine! That seems like a Mom fail too, don't you think?)

    However, there comes a point that you need something to wear and you don't have it in your Kotysnki/Kitsteiner Kmart stash. Sidge needs khakis for his piano recital. He doesn't have any. In fact, Sidge really has no pants because, gosh darn it, the kid is growing hourly.

    (I mean seriously! Hourly! I turn around and the jean he put on for church are too small when we drive home. It's that fast.)

    (We think Sidge may end up about 6'5-6'7" so I think this is only the beginning.)

    Any-who ... I'm not really sure what you do with a teenage boy after he leaves 16 boys clothes behind? We went over to the men's, but they start at like 32/32. The kid needs a 32 length. But he needs about a 26 waist. 

    I couldn't find those anywhere. 

    Back on track ... I have always thought I'm a pretty cool Mama. That I will not be one of those uncool Mamas. But I've come to discover that it's sort of inevitable. Impossible. Moms are moms. And there comes a point that they just aren't cool. 

    John looks at me often and just says: Wendi! You are doing that Mom-thing. I don't mean to. It's just in me somewhere.  

    Man. It's really hard. My girls still like me and think I'm cool. But all-of-a-sudden, my boys don't want me to acknowledge them in public. Kisses are NOT cool. (I have, however, told them that in private, I will give them a kiss on the cheek now and then. It's my payment for childbirth/motherdom.)

    So Sidge is trying on pants. He doesn't want me in the dressing room with him. But he doesn't want me to be talking about the pants out in public. So I'm trying to see if the pants fit and he's furious at me for embarrassing me. 

    When I got home and told the story to JB, he flashed back to the amazing show The Wonder Years -- one of my Dad's favorites (and mine too!) John remembered a clip and we found it on Youtube. Here it is! Enjoy!

    We Bought a Farm: MORE Stitches

    Today we do #23

    Honestly, stitches around these parts are pretty much just "par for the course." 

    To be fair, this time Gabe actually cut his finger at Anni's house. But here is JB, minutes from heading into the ER, doing the thing he does with a needle and thread on our dining room table.

    A look at all of our previous stitches on my kiddos and here at the farm:

    Stitches #20 Gabe has piece of metal fly into leg while mowing at Shane and Linda's
    Stitches #21 (Skin glue) Hannah
    #22 Eddie's foot
    #23 Eoin's face (hit his chin on a chair during ballet)
    #24 Zoey's hand (got in the middle of a dog fight :(

    Also stitched: 
    12. Youth Group farm volunteer [chin] (no picture)
    13. Karen's husband [head] (no picture)
    14. Mr. Jacob [lip] (no picture)
    15. Anni [thumb] (no picture)
    16. Molly's husband Luke [thumb] (no picture)

    Abigail (our future medical gal) got to help take out Anni's stitches. I love that Anni was okay with this! I would have been scared!

    Thursday, October 21, 2021


    I am PERSONALLY buying and GIVING AWAY two tickets to Greeneville's production of THE NUTCRACKER at the NISWONGER PERFORMING ARTS CENTER.

    You can read more about this performance or buy tickets by clicking here. 

    The performance will be on Saturday, December 18th at 7:30pm. 

    (Abigail is a soldier and Hannah is a mouse. My nieces are in this production as are many of our friends! This is a professional ballet company that is including our Central Ballet in one of the acts!)

    All you have to do is leave a COMMENT on this Blog post and then SHARE this page to your personal Facebook page! If you do those two things, you are entered in the drawing. 

    Please leave a comment AFTER you share this to Facebook!


    This is Raven. She is the fourth dog I have ever owned. She's just over one year old and simply the sweetest little thing you've ever met. She's gone through one heat, and we are waiting for her to go through her second heat, at which time we will allow she and Ritter to mate and hopefully have new puppies.

    Raven is most-loved by Abigail. When we got this pup, Abigail really wanted Arabelle to be "her" dog. I told her that dogs imprint on the person that spends the most time with them. This is usually the case. Arabelle definitely bonded with me, but Ritter has always been open to whoever is giving him the best belly rubs.

    Raven doesn't seem to love Abigail the best, but she certainly likes her a lot. The kids playfully call her "busto" or "butt wiggle" because the little dog's body bends in half when she's excited. She LOVES to play with Bronco, Gabe's dog, and she will also wrestle with Ritter quite a bit. Arabelle consider her "her" puppy and definitely protects her. If Arabelle is out when Raven is wrestling with Bronco or Ritter, Arabelle inserts herself and tries to get them to stop.

    When I married my husband in 1998, I had NEVER had a pet. 

    Much has changed.

    Aliceson has a cookbook out!


    I love me some Aliceson Bales. Seriously. Aliceson and her husband Barry (a very famous musician, although neither of them would ever brag that that was so), are some of the coolest people I know. Aliceson is a fellow homeschool Mama, the president of our homeschool cooperative, and they farm pretty much just like we do. 

    Leave it to Aliceson to have a cookbook coming out and for that cookbook to have a foreword written by none other than Dolly Parton and to not breathe a word of it in conversation to anyone. I mean, for crying out loud. If Dolly Parton wrote a foreword for my book I sure would be telling SOMEONE! (Well, maybe Aliceson told someone. But she didn't tell me. And it's super cool.) 

    What does it take to keep hungry, hard-working farmers happy at meal time? Aliceson Bales knows and she is sharing her winning ways in the kitchen with you! She has just released her first cookbook featuring seventy-five recipes that are all-time favorites at Bales Farms. Easy and delicious ideas for breakfast, lunch, and supper, as well as sauces, drinks, desserts and lots of helpful tips!

    Aliceson and her husband Barry. Their son, Marshall, is in my English class this year at the homeschool co-op we attend: Heritage Home Scholars

    To pre-order a copy, CLICK HERE. 

    Tuesday, October 19, 2021

    Our very first video on youtube

    I have been looking back through old videos. THIS is the VERY first video I have of John and me. This was 2006. We had actually been married for eight years. We were three years in to our four year medical school adventure at The Mayo Clinic (2003-2007). We took a road trip to Mt. Rushmore and stopped at the beautiful Custer State Park in South Dakota. We happened upon some wild donkeys that had been living in the park. Here is a second video of us on that day at the park. 

    We grew up and dated in a time when video was rare. This was a digital camera that we had. We still had no cell phones. (We wouldn't officially become real cell phone owners until 2014.) We were childless during this video. In fact we had been trying to have a child for well over three years at this point to no avail. There are so many things that seeing this video conjures up for me. So many memories. 

    Lately, I've really wanted to collect more of my memories on this Blog. My kids are starting to want to go through and see old things. They want to read old "Friday Funnies." They are often asking me not to post about them which is why there isn't as much about my kids at present. I've told them some stuff will go up for posterity's sake, but I definitely have to respect them becoming their own people.

    Click here to read the post about our trip to Mount Rushmore -- way back when I first started being a Blogger. 

    Saturday, October 16, 2021

    My dear tween and teenage kids,

    I read this online and it really made sense to me and spoke to a lot of my frustration with parenting "tweens" and "teenagers." I am starting to feel like I have four of them right now ... that's a lot at once.

    You know I love you beyond measure, but we must discuss something and I need you to hear me or your mom just might lose her sanity.

    There’s a difference between “chores” and “maintenance.”
    Why are we discussing this you ask? Well, because the other day one of you sighed big and said “I didn’t know we had to do chores today” when I asked you to hang up your wet towel that was crumpled on the bathroom floor. So, I feel that we need to straighten something out.
    Chores are when you snap on rubber gloves and dive deep into scrubbing the bathrooms. Chores are when you pull out the vacuum and make even lines across the room. Chores are when you ring out a mop and rub it all over the floor. Chores are what we do as a family once a week.
    Maintenance is when you – ready for this? – hang up the towel you just used after your shower. Or put the clothes you just wore in the hamper. Or your cereal bowl into the dishwasher. (And then wipe up the dribbles of milk from the counter.) Maintenance is putting the milk back in the fridge, your shoes in the mudroom bin, and your coat on the hook. I don’t need to go on, you get it…
    Know, my dear children - I don’t expect you to be perfect. You all know I’m not! But I am asking you to shift your mindset, even if it’s only a little.
    Chores = big actual cleaning
    Maintenance = the small daily acts of putting the stuff you just used away
    You might someday make enough money to be able to hire a cleaning company to do your “chores” (dream big!), but you will FOR SURE have to do “daily maintenance” until the end of time. So, it’s important that you learn that skill set now.
    Thanks for listening to my words. I love you to the moon-and-back, forever-and-ever. You are my everything and there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you - except hang up your bathroom towel.
    Love, Your Mom

    Friday, October 15, 2021

    Musings of Sin

     “Today we are a divided country, and Satan is laughing at us because that is exactly what he wants. Dysfunction, mistrust, and hatred help his kingdom flourish. We have to realize we are not fighting against other people. We are fighting against Satan and his kingdom of spiritual darkness”. ~Tony Dungy

    Years from now, I wonder. Will I read back about 2020 and 2021 and think Man. That was awful. I hope it never gets like that again. Or will I look back and think: That was only the beginning of the awful. It got SO much worse. How easy we had it back then.

    I really don't know. I do know that for the first time in my life, I am ready for Jesus to come back. Right now, all my children have accepted Christ as their Heavenly Father. Nearly all of my family members are followers of Christ. My kids are not battling demons or addictions or major struggles. 

    As I watch the world seemingly falling apart, I think: It's time Lord. That's it. It's time for you to come back.

    At the same time, we are studying history. My 10th graders (Katy, Gabe, and Maryah) are studying Christian history. My 7th and 9th graders (Isaac, Sidge, Kari, and Ana) are studying World History II. I watch as depravity repeats itself over and over and over again.

    This isn't the first time our world has been impacted by depravity. the Bible was full of people so evil that the Lord had to destroy them with a flood, or rain fire and brimstone down. I think he needs to do that now. 

    It's hard to believe the things I am needing to teach my kids about. We cannot watch a TV show, a Macy's Day Parade, the Super Bowl, without facing sexuality thrust into their faces. I've had to tell my kids what homosexuality is way before they are ready for it because the media and news and billboards think it is vital to their survival. 

    My one son enjoys reading Who's Who in History books from the library. I am amazed at the things the authors "sneak" in. Even their choice of who they write about. They choose nearly every single liberal First Lady. But very few conservative ones. They slip in the "legalization of homosexual marriage" on the timeline of Bono's life? For what purpose? Why does my young child need to read that at his age? 

    I'll tell you why. The media, the world, wants my child, when they are eighteen-years-old to look and me and say: "You're crazy Mom. The world has confirmed it for me. Your viewpoints on abortion and homosexuality and gender and spiritual matters are old school."

    Here's the thing. If you meet me and you meet me children, you will KNOW this one thing. We LOVE. It is the greatest commandment. We will LOVE EVERYONE. We will love you whether you are an alcoholic or a drug dealer. Whether you choose to live with a man or a woman. Whether you have had an abortion or not. The color of your skin is truly of NO matter to us. EVER!

    But there ARE Biblical mandates. There are commandments. And it has gotten to the point in our world that we can't live by those anymore. If I tell my child that I believe they are supposed to have sex with someone of the opposite gender, I am homophobic. Far from it. I am not afraid of anything or anyone. I LOVE all people. And I encourage my children to LOVE all people. But I am entitled to this belief. And it is okay to teach my children that there are moral absolutes. 

    We tell people they cannot be married to more than one person. That a child can't make informed sexual decisions. That drunk driving is not okay. That you can't murder a baby the moment they have emerged from your body. Why? Why are there any laws? 

    I digress slightly from my point ...

    My point is that the conservatives all thought Trump could save us. Then the liberals all believed Biden would save us. These are men. Sinners. Flawed. Like all humans. They cannot save us. 

    Only Jesus has that power. Jesus loved EVERYONE. He ate with sinners. He communed with the people of the most vial nature. He loved them all!

    I was a journalism minor in school. We were taught to be unbiased. I was taught how to read newspaper articles and see bias. So it is so hard for me to read these biases. They come from both sides. Both sides thinking they will print only the truth AS THEY SEE IT.

    But here's the truth ... GOD IS TRUTH. GOD IS LIFE. He is bigger than any sin, any evil contradiction to the word of God. I will continue to raise my daughters in the knowledge that if ALL they want to be is a wife and a mother ... that is enough. I will continue to raise my sons to be the LEADER of their homes. I will continue to "raise them up as they should go so that when they are old, they will not depart from it."

    Just my musings .... and I didn't mention the word covid even once. 


    The country

    I continue to think, each time I watch a video like this … I can’t imagine if my kids weren’t raised like they are. What a life!!!

    Wednesday, October 13, 2021


    We continue to enjoy Zach and Zoey on our farm. If you think of it, pray for them all. They miss their Daddy something fierce — especially little Zoey. I think it’s hardest on her. I can’t wait for the the deployment to be over even though I know when it is, they won’t live here anymore!

    Tuesday, October 12, 2021


    It’s fall break around these parts. While we are still schooling, some of our school friends get to hang with us! Love having the Law girls around. 

    Monday, October 11, 2021

    Heritage Home Scholar Adventures

    I love our homeschool co-op and all the fun things the kids get to do there. Our homeschool "community" continues to be one of the best parts of our life here in East TN. While not done with the homeschool group itself, here we are with our friend, Kymberly, whom we met through the co-op many years ago. 

    Last week we went to our friend Kymberly's house to go grape picking! Muscadine time. YUM!

    And here are some pictures from some of the fun things Abigail has gotten to do in co-op over the last few weeks:

    Today Abigail went to Town Hall with their Explore Greeneville class at co-op. 

    Last week, Officer Davis brought his dog and let the kids meet him and see how he works!

    Watching KID perform. 

    Abigail takes a "Tween" club class every Monday. Here they are making "Cloud dough."

    Here they are making "Soap putty."

    Making pumpkins with styrofoam and yarn. 

    The girls making colored tiles!

    The finished project!

    And here they are doing tie-dye!

    My sweet girl