Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The perfect time to be away

It was the Lord's timing. A few weeks ago I had planned to take the kids to my childhood friend Michelle's house about five hours from me. JB is working a ton right now due to their hospital being one doctor down, and Michelle is just good for my soul. In addition, her kids and my kids love each other. I cannot tell you how neat it is to watch my kids playing with Michelle and Hershal's kids.

My house is ransacked right now and there are loud fans everywhere as you can see in this Reno video below:

I'm so glad to be here instead!  

On Monday, their family drove three hours to see a total eclipse. I was supposed to go with them but I opted to stay at their house and recover from a hard week. We watched the partial eclipse on their soft grass:

I'll be sharing more pics but for now, I'm so enjoying time with one of my best friends and her hubby and three awesome kids:

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Bottom Line

Here's the bottom line: our house has been massively affected by this flooding.

All floors in school room, living room and kitchen must be taken out. The only places downstairs unaffected are the half bathroom, laundry room, and our bedroom and bathroom combo. Kitchen cabinets must be taken out as well.

The upstairs bathroom has been completely affected. The boys carpet has also been ruined. The girls room was also already gutted which leaves no functioning spaces upstairs. 

We actually didn't lose any furniture except for one matress. The water missed nearly everything furniture and "stuff" wise.

So it only makes sense to completely rennovate our house. It could actually not end up costing us much. Because for example, we have hardword floors. If we use engineered floors instead then we save that money.

The hardest part will be managing to live during this time. The good news is that we have the camper (which had everything except water and sewer) and we have a door to our bedroom from the outside. We also have our in-laws house on property (although it is being renovated right now too).

Our intern Jacob is due to leave October 1. We will offer him an early departure if he doesn't want to deal with this. We have one Dutch weoofer returning to us next week and I have emailed him as well. 

How do I homeschool?

I have no idea.

This is, honestly, going to be a good thing. We had so many parts of this house that didn't work for us. This is also probably the best time of the year to do this (getting cooler. But
Not too cool.)

We also don't have many guests scheduled. We also have family trips planned away from the farm. 

But it is still overwhelming.

Onto a new adventure!!!!!

Sunday, August 20, 2017


Abigail taught Hannah to ride a bike:

Renovation video

Here is a video of our downstairs. I am talking to my interior designer friend Angelica about my thoughts. Would love any advice!!

These will be short little bursts

These will be short posts as thy are written using the new Blogger app I bought for my phone. The pictures above include:

1. All four of the kids sleeping in one room (our room) last night. It is hard to see but that is for kids on our floor. Thank goodness as of right now the kitchen and our bedroom and bathroom are not affected by all of this. Every other room in the house is completely unusable.

 In good news, the kids and I had a little trip planned to my friend Michelle's house this week while JB was working a lot. It is actually perfect timing. I am also blessed we have our camper right now. 

Oh did I mention John's sister Elizabeth and her twin boys came into town te day after the flood for two weeks? The good news is they are staying at dad and mom's place. 

Also they clean-up crew had warned us that they may need to pull up the tile in the kitchen due to water ....

2. In the midst of the chaos yesterday I decided to make brownies and let Hannah lick the spoon. The kitchen was the one room thst wasn't affected so I cleaned it a lot.

3. We decided to move furniture out of the big house in an orderly fashion instead of just pushing it to the side in our house. We wanted to make things as easy as possible if this ends up being a "long haul" project. We set up the bookshelves in the garage.

In addition to the downstairs renovations, the upstairs has also been completely torn up. It is a disaster.

John and I have talked often of doing some extensive renovations to this house. We bought a farm that came with a nice house. But it had a lot of quirks and things we didn't like.

About theee months ago we decided to let the renovation dreams go. It would cost a ton of money and we just wanted to focus on enjoying our lives and the farm. We decided to tackle some small projects (like the demo we did in the girls' room.) 

Now we feel as if our hand had been forced so to speak. If we are halfway there, let's just do the demo work we had in our dreams.

We are discussing .......

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Typing from my phone

I only ever write posts on my desktop computer. I'm a writer. I like to use all my fingers. But our house is in shambles right now. Our computer is under plastic somewhere. Floors are torn up. Ceilings are cut into. Molding is ripped off. Tile has been chipped away.

Water is powerful. Our house is a disaster. I am typing this on my phone using the Blogger app which I've never used before so hopefully this looks right.

Here's a few photos of some of the demo: 

Friday, August 18, 2017

So many emotions

Watching Ryan and Briana get their little boy has been an incredibly emotional experience for me. 

All of the couples that have adopted their child/ren have moved me and excited me. But Ryan and Briana are on a whole different level.

I think this is for two reasons.

The first is that Briana and I have grown incredibly close during their journey. We became friends because she married my cousin and because we shared a painful reality: what it feels like to be a barren woman. And then, secondarily, their journey has been so long. We bonded deeper through so many years of waiting.

Most couples wait somewhere around nine months for a domestic newborn adoption to go through. Sometimes their wait is as long as two years. But FIVE years is nearly unheard of.

In Ryan and Briana's case it was nothing they did or didn't do personally that caused this unending wait. It was simply bad timing and location. They happened to choose an agency that was seeing no movement. They had a shortage of birth mothers and too many couples. Dozens of couples were waiting those five years with their agency and only a handful became parents.

Less than a year ago, the decision was made that they should leave that agency and try a different one. It was a decision that was met with much prayer, fear, and hesitation. We talked at length about it, and I talked at length with our Because of Isaac board members as well. Finally we decided they just had to switch despite losing some money in the process. This wait was just too painful.

That ended up being all it took. Within days (maybe a few weeks?) of making that decision, they were chosen by a birth mother through their new agency.

And the rest is history.

And that history is spelled: C-A-L-E-B.

Here's the thing I didn't know or understand or foresee ... 

I had no idea that walking them through this process would stir up so many memories deep inside me. The night before their birthmother signed the papers, Bri and I talked at length on the phone. As she went over all the emotions of sitting in a hospital room watching the clock tick by, my heart was suddenly reminded of what that wait felt like. I was talking to her and I got choked up. I started crying. I haven't cried over infertility and adoption memories in a very long time. But I could remember so vividly how excruciating it was to be at the mercy of someone else -- with your only option being to wait. And wait. And wait some more.

It is hard to believe that it was in May of 2008 that our little Isaac finally emerged into the world. I won't bore you with the whole story as many of you may know it well (and if you don't, you can click here to be reminded), but I will say that there were moments of that story I hadn't thought about in a long time.

Specifically ...

I will never forget standing outside the nursery window. Isaac was on the other side of the glass. There he was. There was our little boy. My body yearned for him, and yet the nurse was shaking her head, telling me that I couldn't go back and see him because I wasn't the mom. I remember feeling so resigned. I remember thinking: Of course I'm not the mom. I'll never be a mom.

And then suddenly Joan was arguing with the woman on my behalf and the door was opening and they were bringing him to us. And they were saying "No pictures" but Joan wasn't listening and I just couldn't bring myself to hold him first. I was just too emotional and so JB scooped him up, and it was just like this burden was lifted off my shoulders. It was like all the years of trying to have a baby sort of bubbled out of me.

Joan snapped this picture:

I didn't show anyone this picture for a long time. I'm not sure why. For some reason it just felt too personal to me. Looking at it made my heart just cry, and I kept it hidden in the back of a photo album. And then, at some point, I can't remember when or even who it was, but a friend did some snooping and found my hidden picture and she told me I had to share this with the world. That it really explained what the pain of infertility and the miracle of adoption felt like in just one quick photo.

Here's the other very cool part to this story. My friend Joia took some newborn photos of little Isaac. From what she can remember, this was the first time she took photos for anyone in a "formal" sense. Here is just one of her cute little pictures:

And here is a picture of Joia and me with the little boy who changed my life forever:

This story goes even deeper because it is Joia that just so happened to live in the same town that Ryan and Briana's birth mother was delivering. And she just happened to have a little mother-in-law apartment that they could use. And she just happened to still be taking pictures. (And man, she's always been good, but she has gotten simply ... amazing!) as you can see!

Here are a few more pictures Joia has taken. I will share more as Briana and Ryan share them. I want to give her the opportunity to present her little boy at the speed she feels lead: 

I don't know exactly what Briana is feeling. Her adoption story wasn't exactly the same as mine. But I mostly know her heart right now. I know what it feels like to have that pain just filled up and bubbling over. Adoption doesn't heal infertility. Infertility pain will always be with me and always be a part of me, and I had to grieve the losses (and sometimes I still do). But my little Isaac just filled us up so full. Here are some photos that really stir my heart when I look back at them:

I'm still processing all these emotions ... I encourage you to stay along for the ride!

Review: Veritas Press

Veritas Press Phonics Museum
Oh man folks! This was a super fun product to use which makes it an exceptionally super and fun review to write. I love to write reviews about things that just truly and awesomely work for us. And the Phonics Museum App. from Veritas Press was just that: 
a program that totally worked for our family.

This is actually the second item I have reviewed for Veritas Press You can click here to read the review I wrote on a Bible program for them. The Bible program still rates as both of my boys' very favorite item we have ever reviewed. And I think my girls would subsequently agree about the Phonics Museum App. It was super popular around these parts both with the kids and the grown-ups!

Firstly, let me start with an age breakdown. The program says it is for ages 3-7, and I think that is pretty right on. I used this with my two youngest children. which included:
  • My daughter Abigail who just turned six. She is technically entering kindergarten but is probably more like a first grader when it comes to proficiency with schoolwork. She is reading simple books and writing all her letters.
  • My daughter Hannah is about to turn four. She is not reading at all, and before starting this program did not know any of her letter sounds or how to write any letters except an "H" and "A" because those are in her name. She knew most letters by name. 
You are able to create three different "players" on the Phonics Museum App. I made one for:
  • Hannah 
  • Abigail
  • Sidge (This was one I named for one of my sons and let my boys or visiting kids use this just for fun.)
When you log into the program, you first choose your player. Then each time you log in, you go into the main lobby as pictured below:

Veritas Press Phonics Museum

After you go into the elevator, you choose your floor. And then you go onto that floor. On each floor, there are paintings. You go into the painting that you are currently on and work through activities until you complete that painting's activities. It's a little hard to paint with words, so I had my daughter Hannah illustrate how easy it was. 

Here is a video of my youngest daughter navigating her way through the museum. You can see how simple the navigation is for her. You can also hear her start trying to pronounce the sound for the letter "A". Hannah had never done this before that moment!

So what did we love?
  • The program is multi-sensory: visual, auditory, and tactile learning methods are included.
  • My girls could do the program by themselves. Other than helping log them in, they were off with no intervention from the mother. (A huge benefit in a home with four homeschooling children.)
  • The characters and voices were engaging and not annoying! I didn't ever mind this program being on in the background of our school day. The songs were catchy and never made me want to poke-my-eyes-out. (Not even a little bit!) I also loved that the girls were soon singing along.
  • There were no hiccups! We didn't hit any mistakes or frozen programs. It simply worked as it was supposed to. I did notice that the program is large, and I had to make sure I had enough memory. But other than that, NO problems.
  • While my older daughter was mostly reviewing, my nearly-four-year-old was rapidly expanding her knowledge base. And it was this fact that completely sold me on the program. You can download it at the App store by clicking here. 
The thing we loved most about the Phonics Museum App. from Veritas Press was that you could actually see, quite obviously, the learning taking place. My nearly-four-year-old did the program every day for about 15-30 minutes. And by the end of the first day she was running up to me saying "B-b-ball" and "A-a-apple." The attained knowledge was quick and concrete and truly measurable. I truly believe that every preschooler should be using this app. for 15 minutes every day. I plan to re-review this program when Hannah is finished with it to show how long it took for her to begin to read words!

Oh! Wait! I almost forgot! Another thing I loved was the email I would receive from the program telling me what Hannah or Abigail had accomplished. Check out this email I received telling me that Abigail was reading her first words:

There are so many other wonderful aspects of this program. I truly feel like I could go on for days! Some of the other things I loved included:
  • Live action teaching: Ms. Biddle (pictured below) allows a child to see with her own eyes how a real person's lips move when learning new letters! Phonics Museum App. features two main characters: Percival (a cartoon knight) and Ms. Biddle (a live-action-museum-curator.) Having both the cartoon character and a real person was a great feature. 
Veritas Press Phonics Museum
  • Games: Veritas Press calls it edutainment which is when games and learning collide! Check out the picture below! I really loved that many of the games and the program in general used different fonts so that my girls could learn to recognize different types of letter writing.
Veritas Press Phonics Museum
  • Songs: Catchy and NOT annoying songs that my girls were singing themselves in no time.
  • Early reading Books: We didn't make it quite this far in the program, but I'm excited that they are about halfway to reading their first online books -- especially Hannah. I'm really excited to see if she can really do this soon.
  • Writing: My little Hannah doesn't have the dexterity to write with a pencil much yet. But writing with her finger works really well for her. The letters they are teaching are a bit of a more "modern" printing, but it worked really well for us!
  • Exploration: Ms. Biddle and Percival are fantastic tour guides as they look through every part of the museum. I love the other things they are learning as well.
This program worked so well for us that I even included it on Hannah's daily "checklist" of things to do. 

I had a few VERY minor "complaints". These included: 
  • My kids couldn't change players themselves. I had to solve a multiplication problem to switch players. I think it would be nice if this feature was "optional" and not required. The one good thing is that my third grade boys know their multiplication tables so they could do it for me if I was otherwise occupied. This was, however, a very minor annoyance, and I really think it will be edited as the program is refined.
  • There wasn't an option to start my older daughter anywhere but the very beginning. I have heard that Veritas Press  is working on an option to allow you to skip ahead. This would be a nice feature for parents with children who are a little older. Young children will definitely start at the beginning, but it would be nice if the 6-7 year olds had another option.
  • The choices of "characters" was pretty limited. I think it would be fun to have a few more options. This, however, is an incredibly piddly complaint.
For more information about this amazing program, check out this video or look them up on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, or Twitter. 

Phonics Museum App {Veritas Press Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

We Bought a Farm: The Great Flood at the Bauernhof

Why can't something go wrong when people are here

For the past few weeks and especially the last few days, our house (which runs on city water) kept having the water go out. I had called the water company who said they had leaks in our area and were trying to isolate the issue. 

At some point yesterday, while the water is out, one of my children turned the faucet on full blast upstairs -- only to find it waterless. They therefore didn't even realize they had left the sink on. 

Our friends John and Becky headed out around 9am to return to their home near Washington D.C. John's parents headed out around the same time to pick up his sister Elizabeth and her boys in South Carolina so that they can spend a few weeks here on the farm. And John headed out to work. Only our intern, Jacob, was here with us. 

We did some schoolwork and animal chores and then loaded up the truck to run a few errands in town.

When I came home, Abigail ran into the house to go potty while the other kids started helping me unload groceries. Abigail ran back out in a panic.

"Mom, it is raining inside the house."

Let me tell you: those words do not feel nice on your ears.

I ran inside to find it was, literally, raining int he living room downstairs. I yelled out for the kids to try to find Mr. Jacob. They are not allowed in the WWOOFer apartment above the garage so they quickly started asking if they were even allowed to go up there to find him. I told they they were.

Thank the Lord Jacob was here. If I hadn't had another adult, I might have ended up in a corner somewhere sobbing. Jacob and I quickly assessed, called Dad and John to get their advice, and went to work to stop the bleeding. 

The kids, meanwhile, were all stars. Isaac lead the way and had them all put away the groceries and go into the camper for a movie and a drink while we were working. Our neighbors drove one hour round trip to a friend's house to get us a dehumidifier, and we pulled out every fan we had.

In the end, the damage is fairly extensive. Even worse is that we only have a three bedroom house. The girls room, as you can see form the video below, is gutted for a huge rennovation project. And now the boys room is out of commission. Not even sure what to do with six people and a one bedroom house. Not to mention all the other people who use this main house for home base (guests, in-laws, and WWOOFers.) 

Anyways, here is the video -- really shows what happened. John has a call in to the insurance company. "It is ... what it is." :) We are all healthy. We have a roof over our heads. Things could be much worse. 

But it is a pain in the butt!