Wednesday, January 31, 2024

He’s 15

Today, Elijah Luke “Sidge” turns 15. I am most happy that he loves Jesus and he is such an intellectual, the facts convince him. He is a: 


He is 6’2 and 3/4 tall as of today. He still plays piano and takes karate, but his best loves are being at home, on his farm, or among nature. He enjoys anything science but is NOT a math guy. He is studying for his permit. He introduces himself as Elijah to new people but to us, he is still Sidge. 

Happy 15. For memories sake, here is a flashback to 9: 

Monday, January 29, 2024

Good night Rapunzel

Hannah took 24 hours before washing the green out of her hair. Putting this character “away” is incredibly painful. I never would have understood this had I not watched my daughter do it. Newton became a person to her and not being Newton anymore is going to be tough! 

But she’s been transformed by this opportunity. We are so thankful to Marilyn DuBrisk, LoriAnn Sparks, Mauren Sparks, and Kristin Girton for helping her bring this opportunity into being. 

Here is the short note I wrote to her mentors: 

Thank you all for entrusting our Hannah Joy Pomegranate with this huge honor and role. It was inspiring and monumental and truly transformative for her ten-year-old little self. She asked for "one more day" with her green hair and ribbons, so tonight, before taking a shower, she took a picture with all of her fun mementos. John and I didn't grow up in the arts so we are learning as we go, but the positive impact of this show, not only on Hannah but on our entire family is beyond words. 

Sunday, January 28, 2024

In these moments

The fatigue of a weekend of shows is INTENSE. And I'm not dancing. I do run the downstairs, but I have been very purposeful this year in spreading the responsibilities even more. I haven't been able to watch a complete show, but today (Sunday), I will do that. 

The kids have been fantastic. John is amazing. Doing this together? The six of us. Truly is priceless. It's incredibly rare that a family is not dominated by a lopsided activity where certain kids are involved and others are not. The six of us doing this together has been amazing. Nearly every show has been sold out. For Hannah? It's an amazing opportunity! She really loves acting, and for this show, she loves it more than dancing. She does get to slide into two dancing roles outside of her Newton narrator character. 

I love a small town. I love the community coming together for things. I love Isaac having an opportunity to sing and act in Newsies in April. Sound of Music is coming to Greeneville, and I think three of the kids may tryout. 

Sidge doesn't feel left-out. He's doing backstage. This is his SIXTH year! He started when he was just nine-years-old. He loves his "Snack Man" nickname, and is relieved the show doesn't fall on his birthday this year. (He honestly HATES being sung to. Like, with a passion ...) Sidge's interests are different than the other kids, but he is so amazingly and passionately focused on the Safari trip that JB and he are taking in the summer of 2025 that he couldn't care less if everyone else loves acting. We are also preparing to move the boys to the garage "apartment." He will be setting up a new/different fish tank over there (sichlids?) and that has got him super excited as well.

Well, we are off ... one more show. Than co-op tomorrow, and ... Isaac starts Newsies rehearsals tomorrow. I know we are busy. But I also KNOW this doesn't last. I know it. I love that my kids will find their passion and their people/person and move on with their life. And I will enjoy a different pace when they are gone, but right now, I want to BE in these moments.

Sunday is the last show

The girls with our dear friend, Lily. 

I still haven’t watched a show. On Saturday evening I got to see about 2/3. Today is my day! 

I love seeing Hannah doing this … the child has been an old soul since the moment she was born, and she acts so beyond her ten years as narrator. 

Abigail is an Angel, a snake, a flower, and a festival girl, and she moves back and forth needing very little help from me. Her feet hurt so badly, and we Kitsteiners do not like to be short on sleep. But I’m so proud of her. 

Isaac is a baker. And a soldier. Here he is on night 1 jumping between Newsies read-through and the last dress rehearsal which were in the same building! 

I gotta get a pick of Sidge backstage!

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Hardy breed

Our Katahdin Sheep are tough!

Here is our most recent lamb, delivered on the snow, up and nursing in sub-freezing temperatures, and running after mama like it wasn't miserable weather here in East Tennessee.

We don't do anything for our lambs. 
Our ewes do it all. 
We don't pull lambs (help with deliveries).
We don't dry lambs after delivery.
We don't warm lambs up in cold weather.
We don't have our ewes deliver in barns. 

(Note... I have NO PROBLEM with farms that do these things, but we've intentionally developed a flock that doesn't need these things.)

We started with a breed that can handle the cold of Winter and the heat and humidity of Summer. Then we manage our flock's genetics intensively, selecting for the traits that will produce hardy stock that will handle bad weather and less-than ideal pastures, all while producing the best-tasting, grass-fed lamb possible. 

This system takes time and dedication to develop, but the results are worth it!

Bauernhof Kitsteiner 
East Tennnessee

Tuesday, January 23, 2024


We are in the middle of the ballet but celebrating with Isaac for getting cast with a speaking/acting/singing role in Newsies!

Friday, January 19, 2024

Friday Funnies

After sledding, Hannah took her shirt off while she was trying to get out of her snow clothes. 

Sidge: “Hannah, please don’t take your shirt off.” 

Me: “Sidge, when she is too old, I will tell her to stop doing it. She’s still a little kid.” 

Hannah: “yeah, and at least I didn’t take my pants off.”

Friday Funnies

Thursday, January 18, 2024

The kiddos

I thought I would take a moment to tell you what each of my kiddos is "up to." This is a recent picture of Hannah "The Pomegranate" who turned 10 in September. Hannah does "Kids' Messenger" on my phone, and I am always finding these weird game photos of her. 

Hannah does school completely with her Aunt Hannah Kotynski. She is doing CTC Math and a typing program at home. She is also working to finish her "Xtra Math" program (which she thinks is the dumbest name for a math program trying to get kids to want to do it. In 2022 I did the "Iowa Testing" with the kids and realized that all four of my kids was scoring lowest in "computation" was how rapidly you know your facts. I realized that this was a "weakness" in our online math program. When you passed something, they moved on, and not having other kids in class and repeatedly working on their facts meant that they were all "just barely" at grade level in this area. I had all four kids work on Xtra Math online. Isaac and Sidge got through it pretty quickly, and Hannah is hoping to almost FINALLY be done with it. Here are some facts about Hannah in no particular order:

  • Hannah LOVES to read. She has devoured Harry Potter so much that we had to pull her away and make her try something else. She is really enjoying Gregor the Overlander right now.
  • Hannah continues to have SO MUCH SPUNK. She makes us laugh with her wittiness and spirit.
  • She is very excited about being the narrator in the upcoming ballet production. She really likes theatre and would like to do more of it. However, we don't feel she's quite up to being in the "public" community theatre. We are letting her do stuff with the homeschool group.
  • School is very easy for her. She doesn't love math but is good at it. She really hates the dictionary. She rarely complains about schoolwork. 
  • She is on pointe now and really enjoying that. 
  • She can be quite "opinionated" and "forceful" especially with her sister.
  • She has very little fear.
  • Whens he is tired or overwhelmed, she cries easily; otherwise her emotions are pretty steady.

Oh our Elijah (aka "Sidge"). He is such an interesting kid. He is huge -- probably over 6'3" now. He introduces himself as Elijah to new people now because he "doesn't want to explain why he is called "Sidge." He loves to read. He loves to study anything with biology. He is incredibly excited about Africa and the trip he and Dad are planning (probably with his Uncle Matt and John's friend Shane) in the summer of 2025. He will turn 15 on January 31 and has already been very purposefully studying for his permit test. He is very stubborn and usually right; we are trying to teach him that even though he is "right", it doesn't always need to be "said." He is so handy and capable with any "guy things" around the farm. He doesn't like cooking at all and so whoever he marries better able to cook. He is doing backstage in the upcoming play, and he likes that. He would NEVER want to be on the stage. He's still doing karate and really likes that.

Abigail is very stylish. She definitely didn't get that from me. She loves ballet. She does not like school and isn't a big reader. She's a fretter and worrier and we are always working with her more, but she came out of the womb shy-er and more concerned about where I was and what I was doing and that still really impacts her. She is playing piano and also taking voice lessons. She has a beautiful voice! Ballet is very important to her, and her closest friends are all fellow dancers.

Isaac and his hair. Always makes us laugh. Isaac is loving theatre. He tried out for a production of Newsies. A LOT of people tried out, and he is anxiously waiting to hear if he made it in or not. (I think there were 100+ for just 50 or so roles.) He is still taking piano, guitar, and voice, and then he's involved in theatre as well. He also does karate. He doesn't love karate, but it's a good physical activity for the boys so we've had him keep doing it whenever he has a Tuesday or a Friday evening free. He will be 16 in May so he has his permit. Isaac is not very "into" the farm, but he likes living in a place that has jobs ready for him ... we have some non-paid jobs (of course), but also have some "optional" paid jobs as well. He was also in the ballet this year as a baker.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Snow Day!!!

We had a TON of snow (for East TN) yesterday! John measured it at the end of the day: 

This was after a lot of mixed precipitation so I am sure we had a lot of melting. I’m guessing that we probably had at least 6”. 

Everything was cancelled, and as I wake up this morning, it appears Tuesday may be quiet as well. The best part of it though is that JB is home with us!!! It has seemed that every snow storm or winter event has been an event when he was scheduled to work. 

But yesterday it was the four of us. And it was wonderful!

Monday, January 15, 2024

Letters from the girls

Boys don’t do things like this. But the girls did. Before I went to the grocery store today I was working in my room on some schoolwork, and these came sliding into my room. 

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Hilarious Hannah

She makes her own path. She’s done it since she was little. Constantly seeing the world through a unique lens. She’s such a pomegranate. 

Snow Storm

We are expecting a BIG snow storm overnight. Big for these parts. We don't get a ton of snow here in TN. Usually a foot a year is about the maximum. We have seen snow this year, but nothing has landed. Tomorrow is our homeschool co-op date. Normally we go off of whatever the city schools are doing. But because it is MLK day, they are out anyways. We will go to bed and see what happens. 

I'm really excited because John only works TWO days out of the next TEN in preparation for our big ballet show next weekend. It's so nice to have him home with bad weather approaching. To not think that I'll have to fly solo in getting everything done on the farm. 

Two other items of note: 

1. Isaac tried out for the play Newsies this evening. Excited to hear how he does this week. 

2. John slept IN the house during the day with his night shifts. I am not sure HOW this worked out, but it did. He slept in the library and was able to not be woken up even with an occasional dog barking or argument between children. 

Monday, January 08, 2024

A Good Life

No one has a perfect life. And my life isn't nearly as "idyllic" as people may think it is. But man, sometimes, I need to watch a video like the ones below, to see some of the beauty in my life.

The video above is of our sheep. We have had 33 babies born this season. And .... we still have 18 Mamas left to go. This is a story of success because we have been raising sheep now since 2015. For those eight years, we have had a plan. And this season, the plan sort of "came together." To be honest, this is because of my husband's intense research and "goals" for our farm. He "culled" hard for 8 seasons. This means we got rid of Mamas we didn't really want to get rid of simply because they weren't ... stellar. If a Mama abandoned a baby, we usually got rid of them. If a baby was weak, we didn't prop it up with medicines. We simply let nature do it's thing and let the fittest continue with our flock. And this year .... it happened. Nearly every sheep has twinned. There are babies everywhere. And we haven't had a single death in our little lambs. It's been amazing. We have had three that we decided to "rehome." Our friend Anni took one boy and our friends Kirk & Julia D. took two little girls. These lambs "might" have made it, but we were a little concerned about their Mom's attention and decided to rehome them. But otherwise. Wow! So very cool. 

The second video below is short and sweet. This past weekend, our little Pomegranate spent the night with her cousin Genevieve at Genevieve's grandparents house. These grandparents are also my Uncle and Aunt. Aunt Janet took them shopping, and Hannah picked out a very cool barbie car. I filmed this video so Hannah could say thank you for the gift. But when I sent it to Aunt Jan, she replied: "Your house seems so peaceful." Man, it did! Music in the background, dog laying by the fire .... all the things you really want for your life. Sometimes, we need a video clip to remind ourselves that there IS peace (sometimes).


Saturday, January 06, 2024

Let January Begin!

January regularly kicks my butt. We do a huge ballet production on the last weekend of every January!

Abigail took her first ballet class ever on August 9, 2015. Who would have guessed how that first class would change our lives!

2017: Sleeping Beauty 
2018: Twelve Dancing Princesses
2019: Ruth & Boaz 
2020: Pollyanna 
2021: The Snow Queen (Covid cast) 
2022: Beauty & the Beast 
2023: Genesis 
2024: Tangled 

This is our eighth show! I cannot believe it! I'm actually trying to remember what show Hannah was in for the first time? I think it was RUTH & BOAZ. We had her try out for the 2017 show, but I think we decided she wasn't ready until 2019. 

She left after her rehearsal with Ms. Marilyn (pictured above) to spend the night and hang out with her BFF/cousin Genevieve. I LOVE that Hannah has a partner in her little Genevieve. They are like sisters and have been totally raised together since they were three!

I am also so excited about Hannah being the narrator in the upcoming production. I think this is such a good opportunity to push herself outside of just dancing. She does love to dance, but she also has an acting love too that I think this will foster. Abigail doesn't mind the stage in acting, but she is definitely more ballet-focused. 

Today is the first practice at the theatre. Because I am still under-the-weather, I got cousin Ana to take Abigail in early. Aunt Jan and Uncle Ed brought Hannah. And I'll bring Isaac and Eoin up after lunch. Sidge won't have to start working backstage for a couple more weeks.

Tuesday, January 02, 2024

Tuesday Truth


Home from the wedding and just trying to recover from some sort of sickness that has run through our house. I kept thinking it wasn't that bad, and I'd be better the next day, and I just kept feeling bad. And then badder. And yes, I know that isn't a word.

I've realized that when I am sick, I feel down. And get a bit downer. Not sure if it is PTSD from my very sick year when I was pregnant with Hannah or just how I respond in general. I don't get sick often. But the sky has been awfully gray. And John's job continues to be more stressful than we would like. 

We've spoken about what to DO about his job, and we just don't have clear answers. We don't know. The pace was totally "doable" before Covid. But ever since Covid, we have struggled to maintain. It isn't getting better. And we don't have the answer. Many people have suggestions and none of them are bad: work less shifts (we are doing that), switch to a family practice situation (stress will just shift), hire more docs (that has "issues" as well). We simply don't know. But he's burning out. And we don't want him to burn out. And we don't know how to stop it, slow it down ... prayers are very appreciated.

I am sure it is my sickness that causes me to see the world differently. I want to live forever. And I know I won't. I want my kids to be my kids forever. And I know they won't. I know they will grow up and leave. And I don't want them to leave. Yet I know they are supposed to. Life is so full of emotion. I long for eternal peace. And yet it is scary to think of moving toward that. 

East TN is as perfect a place to live and raise my children as I can ever imagine. The pace of life. The crime rate. The simplicity. The beauty. The weather. 

Just trying to figure out what the future holds ... and comforted I know who holds it.