Wednesday, September 28, 2016

We Bought a Farm: Enjoying our Duck!

I love when my husband cooks. Because he doesn't just cook. It is like art to him. He puts together amazing things and makes them taste and look just .... amazing.

Unfortunately, becoming an ER doc meant he couldn't cook every meal in our house anymore. When he works, he works until 7pm. And when he is home, the farm takes a lot of time. So he now cooks maybe once a week. But each time he cooks, it is just so, so, yum!

Yesterday JB decided that the nine ducks we have had in our freezer for half a year needed to be used. So he defrosted all of them and used all the breasts for the meal above! (This is only half of it as with two WWOOFers and Grampa and Grampa we have 10 at dinner right now.) Now he is using the rest for some stock. There's a huge pot on the stove doing some sort of magic. JB said the pot will be going for about a week. Seriously!

No, seriously, the pot is big. Look.

Wee-wind Wednesday

I really want to make it a point to do more wee-winding on my Blog and not forget my Wee-wind Wednesday post. So today, I jump back to September 2010. Isaac was just over two years old. My little man. He's growing up so fast. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Review: Heirloom Audio Productions ~ Cat of Bubastes

Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes

I consider my family incredibly lucky to get to review The Cat of Bubastes -- another one of Heirloom Audio Productions amazing pieces of audio theater. Back in July we were able to review Beric the Briton. We loved that one, and we loved this one just as much. If you have children in middle elementary and into high school grades -- and heck, even if YOU just love good stories -- you will want to pay attention to this review.

Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of BubastesFeaturing over two hours of absolutely incredible acting, this is a story of perseverance, responsibility, and God's providence. It is a story which presents Christian heroes for kids of all ages. 

The exact ages they note are ages 6 and up. To be fair, we listened to this with our four children (aged 3-8). Our youngest didn't really follow at all. But our 5-year-old daughter was actually following and asking questions. And the boys (ages 7 and 8) were right in on the action. However, if I was going to place the ideal age on this performance I would probably say at least 7 and probably closer to 10 as the bottom end of the age bracket.

Here are some photos of our family taking in the performance:

Here's my youngest daughter (not paying attention as expected) hanging out with her big brothers during our evening adventure. We listened to this for about 30 minutes four nights in a row.

To be fair, my husband did have to stop the production at regular intervals to help the kiddos follow along. With his explanations, my 5-year-old daughter (shown in picture above) was really able to participate and enjoyed the story a lot.
This audio production was done by veteran actors -- names and faces you would recognize from movies you have seen. Some of the top names include:
  • Brian Blessed (Star Wars, Tarzan, Robin Hood)
  • Anthony Daniels (C-3PO from Star Wars!)
  • Sylvester McCoy (Dr. Who, The Hobbit)
  • Elizabeth Counsell (The Chronicles of Narnia)
  • Russell Boulter (Ben Hur)
  • John Rhys-Davies (The Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones)
There are many "levels" of purchase. The lowest level is $19.97 and includes two free bonuses. However, if you purchase the top level (which I was given access to), you receive some incredible bonuses including:
  • The complete The Cat of Bubastes eStudy Guide and Discussion Starter. This is 47 pages and includes discussion points, history-learning guides and story-related bible study. It was designed by Christian educators as a complete story curriculum to complement the audio adventure. This is a little too old for my kiddos to use right now. However, we truly plan to reintroduce this when our children are in more upper elementary/middle/high school grades and have them work through this guide. It is very detailed and very, very well done. A fantastic addition to a homeschool curriculum. This is an incredible product and a great addition to the purchase!
  • Printable copy of the inspirational verse found in 1 Chronicles 17:20 "Oh Jehovah, there is none like Thee, neither is there any god besides Thee."
  • Official Sountrack MP3 download. This contains all the original music by Emmy-winning composer John Campbell!
  • Unlimited access to the Live the Adventure Letter E-Newsletter. 
  • G.A. Henty's original The Cat of Bubastes E-Book with all new colorful graphics. This looks awesome and I have definitely saved this so we can use it when the kiddos are a bit older. (It's 350 pages!) This is the other really high level inclusion in the bonus features.
  • Printable promotion poster
  • A behind-the-scenes documentary. We watched this! We loved it! It was so neat to see the characters that you had only heard on the soundtrack. We learned a lot about what goes into producing something like this. Very interesting!
This is simply an amazingly well-done and powerful story. You can actually listen to a summary of it on the website by clicking here. You can also check them out on Facebook, and Twitter.

Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes

Crew Disclaimer

Tribe Life Tuesdays: Relationship Status

“Bring your heart and watch it inspire people around you!” – Danny Silk

Let’s talk relationships. This topic is one of favorites because it is constantly stretching me and what I think I know about it. Take a minute and think about a time when you were the most satisfied or fulfilled. Did it involve other people?

Hopefully, you said yes!

Relationships are one of the hardest and most rewarding feats you’ll endeavor on. They require every emotional component: you have the ability to feel love, fear, emptiness, and fulfillment. Healthy relationships, community, and finding your tribe are all interchangeable for me right now and they are one of life’s greatest accomplishments. I believe we were created for community. There is an innate void in each of us that can only be filled by meaningful relationships.

Research shows that relationships can improve health in a variety of ways: by helping us manage stress, improve the functioning of the immune system, and by giving meaning to people’s lives.  (Time, 2015)

It is a profound life statement when YOU step into community and choose to pursue connection with people. The experience of letting someone in and learning their story places value on them and on yourself. It’s there that vulnerability demolishes the walls of competition.

You and I can probably list all the pros and cons of relationships (why they do and don’t work, etc.), but today, let’s focus on their importance in our lives and all the positives.

Straight-a-way, let’s clarify what I’m talking about when I say, "relationship". This means, anyone you relate with in life! HA! From acquaintances to your most intimate relationships. Those you live everyday life with to those you don’t see very often. All of our relationships hold unique places in our lives and I want to expand that thought for a moment… 

ACCESS: One of my favorite books that has helped me countless times over the years is, Keep Your Love On by Danny Silk. I highly recommend it. Below is an incredible excerpt that sums up the levels of access people should have in our life through a diagram Danny Silk created to communicate the necessity of having levels of relationships in our lives: 

“This is a little diagram I created to illustrate the levels of intimacy we need to cultivate and protect with boundaries.

The innermost circle is your core. Some people like to call this the, 'God Spot' because nobody else deserves your heart's primary allegiance and worship and nobody should hold the place of influence He holds in your life.

The next level of intimacy is for your most intimate human relationship, your deepest soul tie. Only one person is going to fit into that spot. If you are married, this should be your spouse. If you are unmarried, this person could be a friend, a parent, a sibling, or even a business partner.

The further out we go in the circles of intimacy; the more people can fit in them. The next circle contains people like your kids and grandkids, followed by your closest friends. Heading out further, you have good friends, then co-workers, and then acquaintances. Keep going and you find people in the same geographic location, and finally the rest of the human race.”

And so Danny unravels this further in real life terms:

“The level of intimacy people have in my life determines how much of myself I will offer them when they pull on the relationship.

If I am chatting with someone from church for the first time and he tells me that the engine in his car blew up, I am probably going to give my sympathies and offer to pray with him for provision.

If I have interacted with the person a few times and know him a little, I will probably say, “Oh I am so sorry. Here is the number to my mechanic.

If one of my good friends comes to me with the woes of an exploding engine, I may toss him my keys and say, “Here, borrow my car until you can get your car fixed. Take your time.”

If my daughter or one of my sons comes to me and says, 'Dad, my engine just blew up.' I will pull out my checkbook to cover the repairs. And finally, if my wife, Sheri, comes to me, there is no doubt in my mind that I am talking with the person who will be picking out the color of our next car. Because she is my most intimate human relationship, I am willing to put all my time, money, energy, and resources toward helping her with her problem. After Jesus, she is my greatest priority, and has greatest access to my life.”

Building our relationships on choice is our most powerful tool. A healthy relationship can only be built between two people who continually choose one another and take full responsibility for that choice.

I recently had a “come to Jesus” moment with one of my relationships. This is one of my intimate relationships and I forgot that I chose them. Honestly, all my relationships are valuable -- and this one is, especially. Through gradual ignorance I began to grow apart from them. My friend would graciously keep me accountable and I graciously ignored the accountability. I still wanted their friendship, but in part. 

Then, not to surprisingly, the day came and unbeknownst to me our relationship had changed, drastically. What an onslaught of emotions I felt -- shattered, responsible, selfish, dismayed, and grieved. How could I have treated this friend so carelessly? I couldn't get to them quick enough to beg for their forgiveness not because I had to beg but because begging wasn't enough ... I needed them to know how much I loved them even though my actions many times did not display that. Of course over much crying there was resolve and celebration. It just reminded me that being aware of others -- of humanity -- is a necessity.  

Let’s not be afraid to trust our inner circle with fragile parts of our lives. Authentic and vulnerable living is a gift to be shared. So bring your heart and watch it inspire people around you!

See you next Tuesday.  

Monday, September 26, 2016

We Bought a Farm: How we budget online

We've always needed to budget. But with all the changes that owning a farm brings, we really needed a way to figure out where our money was going.

It was just a few months after we got married that JB happened upon Dave Ramsey on the radio. It took me awhile to buy into the system of using envelopes and cash to budget your money. We used this for many years, got completely out of debt, and truly enjoyed living within our means.

What I cannot explain to people who haven't done it is how freeing budgeting is. It seems like it would be a form of bondage to be required to follow guidelines. But in fact I felt freer to spend. It allowed me to know how much I had for my clothes or my kids clothes and to spend accordingly.

However, with six people in our family (and eight if you count JB's parents), envelopes just were not working for us anymore. The reason is that they were too big. Our grocery budget, for example, with that many people, is really, really big. To carry around that much cash just wasn't safe or feasible for us. But we still wanted to budget.

Enter There are a couple of different programs out there like this so shop around a bit and find one that fits you. Goodbudget has a free trial before you decide on the program. (After that it is a couple of bucks a month to use it.) But there are many other programs that do the same thing.

Basically how it works is that JB and I both have the program on our phones. (We also use it on the desktop.) Our phones are synced together. You can also sync it with your bank, but we decided not to do that as it made us a little nervous. We have "virtual envelopes" that we use. So for example, we have a "grocery" envelope. If JB buys something for groceries, he enters the receipt into his phone, and I see it on my phone. If I go to the grocery store on the same day, I enter the amount spent in as well too. At a glance, we can see how much we have in each of our envelopes.

We have a "farm" envelope. This envelope allows money to be added to it as well. When someone buys chickens or eggs from us, I add money to the envelope. And when we buy feed from the animals, we enter it in as well.

At the start of a new month, we tell the program to automatically enter in our new envelopes for the month. The program does this and the money we still had rolls into the next month. In addition, you are allowed to go into the negative which works well for us. There are some months where we are heavy on a category, and I know we will recover in a few months.

If you aren't budgeting, I cannot implore you enough to START doing it. We know exactly where all of our money is going every month. In addition, if JB works an extra shift in a given month, we add that money wherever we want it added or simply put it in savings. Whatever we decide to do.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sunday Sermon

We Bought a Farm: Fantastic Football and Farming Fame

This story always resonates with me.

This is sometimes how I feel while farming. What are we doing and why are we doing this? And yet we feel so called to do this. And so we keep doing it. We truly have no idea what the Lord is  calling us to do exactly, but we have told him, "If you tell us what to do, we will do it. We will keep moving forward."

We know He wants us to ready this land for him -- for people He will bring here? for missionaries we may train? for the saved and unsaved to find peace and respite.

We remain totally confident that He is going to show us what He wants us to do with His land. And so we are going to keep moving forward.

Encourage me to remember that when I forget.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

If I coulda been fired today ...

... I am sure I would have been. Each of my children woulda fired me on the spot. I was off my game. I had very little patience. I was crabby. And overwhelmed. And just not up to snuff.

And if I could have quit, I might have quit today too.

I'm getting over a really bad cold and a fierce allergy attack, and I am just not on my game. Add to that JB is on the tale end of a long run of 12-hour days, and I'm just cooked.

I had to go to the Post Office today and the grocery store. I also had to get the boys hair cuts. Isaac reminded me of these tokens he'd earned in his geography class at co-op for a free snow cone. We'd never been there before, so we added that to our day too. Four stops was about three stops too many. 

I managed to snap the picture above right before Abigail dumped out half her snow cone on the table. 

I shoulda realized how things were going when I went into the Post Office and the lady at the desk was feverishly scanning my items. She looked like she was about to cry so I finally said, "Is everything okay?"

She replied by saying, "No it's not. Everyone comes in at the last minute and I have so much to get done and they won't pay me overtime."

I honestly had no idea what to say so I said nothing, but I did think, "She's having a worse day than I am."

(And by the way it was 10:45 and the Post Office closed at 12:00 so I didn't really think that was the last minute.)

I'm serious.

We arrived back home, and Hannah promptly climbed into the dog's bathtub and soaked herself. Then she peed on the floor.

Honestly. You can't make this stuff up.

JB always does bedtime at our house (when he isn't doing nights). He gets the kids all wound down and tucked in and then I come in and just snuggle and hug and love them. I so appreciate He does this. It is such a blessing to me. Especially on a day like this one.

As I hugged each of my four miracles, I said to them individually. "I'm sorry that I was a crabby Mommy today. Will you forgive me?"

Here were their replies:

Abigail: "You are the best Mommy in the whole world!"
Hannah: "Mommy look at my silly face I am making!"
Isaac: "I didn't think you did a bad job today Mommy."
Sidge: "Do you feel sad? That makes me sad if you are sad."

Kids are so awesome. 

And tomorrow is a new day.

Why God Took So Long To Give Me A Baby

Please jump here: Why God Took So Long To Give Me A Baby for an excellent piece on infertility and what was taking God so long.

I have often thought that if I had gotten the baby I wanted WHEN I wanted it, then I wouldn't have these exact four little babies I have right now.

Love them.

They were worth waiting for.

Abigail grows up

I love watching my children grow and learn. I want them to stop growing up so fast, and yet watching the things they come up with is just so fun for me!

Here is the first ever picture Abigail colored. She was about 1.5 years old.

Here's what she busted out yesterday. It is a story about a duck and a duck's friend. She asked for help with some spellings from Grama, but otherwise wrote it herself.

Greeneville TN: Activities for Elementary Aged Children

I am starting to compile a list of fun things to do with your elementary aged children in an around Greeneville, TN ('m trying to stay within one hour of Greeneville). If you have something you'd like me to visit and consider adding, please leave a comment! All places listed are places I have personally visited. And check back often as I will be updating this page regularly!

My friend Karen invited us to Darrell's Dream Playground at Warrior State Park in Kingsport, TN. This park is one of the best parks we have ever been to in any city or state or country. It is absolutely fabulous. It is a unique one-of-a-kind play area that provides fun and learning opportunities for children of all ages and all abilities. Special features include:
  • a universally accessible playground equipment and surfaces
  • a walking trail and an environmental maze with interactive play stations
  • an amphitheater
  • a picnic pavilion
  • specially designed restroom facilities
  • pedestrian bridge
  • tots play area specifically designed for ages 2-5
  • adventure island specifically designed for ages 5-12
  • sand island which is designed to allow wheelchairs to roll right up to the table
  • The Lions Narnia Braille Trail which features eight sensory stations along a quarter-mile wheelchair accessible Braille trail. You can read the words visually, through Braille, or press a button to listen
  • a tree house
  • and much more!
My four kiddos (ages 2, 4, 6, and 7 at the time of this writing) played for 2.5 hours without stopping! There was something for all of them, and they were not ready to go home. We will definitely be visiting this park again. 

In addition, the park is nestled within a State Park which has camping, a golf course, Frisbee golf, hiking, birding, fishing, horseback riding and much more.

Address: 390 Hemlock Park / Kingsport, TN
Contact Email: 
Phone: 423-956-4330
The front entrance to the park. One of the first things you do is enter through a "wardrobe." The entire park is set up to imitate the books: The Chronicles of Narnia and they even had a wardrobe with coats!

A look at about half of the park. It is very large. That is probably the only "negative" to the park. There is no perimeter fence so you have to be keeping your eyes open -- especially if you have more than one child.

Check it out! That's the Beaver's home from Narnia!

A little playhouse for kids to perform and watch. No details was spared.

Without a doubt, one of our very favorite things to do within an hour of our home is Dollywood! Located at 2700 Dollywood Parks Blvd, this is a full amusement park with a cozy and small-town feel. We got season passes, and here are some of the things we learned during our first year as season pass holders:
  • Go to the park on a weekday when school is in session.
  • Get to the park at 9:15. This allows you to get into the park and be ready to go when it opens. We have never seen crowds between 9-12 -- even on very busy days.
  • One ride that seems to get a line no matter how crowded the park is that day is the Rockin' Roadway. Do that ride first.
  • One challenging part of the park is that the area with the roller coasters is mostly just that and there aren't a lot of things for little kids to do in that area. Take advantage of two little parks (one by Firechaser and one over by Thunderhead) and Riverchaser (water ride) that is up in the area so that your little kids have something to do while the big kids are riding the coasters. 
  • If it is hot, Daredevil Falls and River Rampage are great fun as is the Riverchaser ride.
  • The new roller coaster: Lightning Rod is TERRIFYING. Honestly the scariest ride I have ever been on.
  • The roller coasters at this park are INTENSE. The little kids one in The County Fair is great and the next easiest is Firechaser. But even that one is a bit scary!
  • The County Fair is our favorite place. This has tons of ride for the whole family with very few height restrictions.
  • The BBQ up by the bird show is our favorite place to eat.
  • The bird show is great!
  • You have to see the Bald Eagles. (This is the largest display of the birds in their natural habitat in the world!)
  • Bring in your own water bottles and fill them up at drinking fountains to save money on drinks.
  • You HAVE to try to the cinnamon bread at The Grist Mill
Here are some past posts I wrote featuring pictures of our time at the park

My kids love the Hands on! Regional Museum in Johnson City. We actually decided to become members of this museum. This is a fantastic places for kids ages 2 and up. I did an entire post featuring pictures from one of our trips to the Museum which you can check out by clicking here. 

Located at 2304 Silverdale Drive #600 in Kingsport, TN, this is an incredibly fun place to go. It is a bit pricey, and is therefore a splurge for us, but something we will probably splurge on every few months. We paid for two hours, and all four of my kids had a BLAST and got such incredible exercise. What a great time!