Friday, October 20, 2017

A sweet visit


Leeann & Pete on their way to visit us on the farm!

At our "Asparagus Moving Party." (We had some asparagus that had been planted a little out of line.)

Miss Leeann is very into rock painting. She brought a bunch of great rocks and paint, and we all had a blast painting them!



Here is our rock-painting-party group: from left our cousin Nate, Isaac, Sidge, me, Grace, Veronica, and Abigail (We brought Hannah out later)


My sister-in-law Gabbi made an amazing dinner for 16 people!! This was a first for her and she was a rockstar with it! Go Gabbi!!


Our Veronica. She's been visiting and helping on the farm every weekend. How much I love this girl.

We went to the Dollar Store to find some stuff for our shoeboxes. Abigail!!!!

Everyone does Snapchat but me. This is with Ms. Leeann







Isaac with his present from Pete and Leeann -- a rollercoaster book discussing the engineering side of it!

Abigail's present!

When you get a smile like this from Isaac, you know he is happy.

Hannah with her present!

Sidge was ECSTATIC to get a bionicle!

A shot of one of our sheep!

Folks, I must take a minute to share how much I like this lady. I am so blessed that our paths have stayed united. Her husband trained my husband at Eglin. She worked with JB on the OB floor often. She was there when I delivered Sidge. And now we are connected. Our family LOVES Pete and Leeann, and I look forward to many more wonderful farm visits.

Last but not least ... Leeann and Pete helped us repair our "Scrubs' Way" Shortcut sign.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

I love my husband

I love him so much.

I've felt like I was falling apart the last few days. Failing at everything. Not being good enough for anything.

I have been forgetting everything. Important things. Unable to keep up with my life but not sure what part of my life can be cut out.

I love our life. I love our farm. I love our family. But is it really possible to homeschool four kids and run a farm and be a good friend and wife and mom all at the same time?

Somehow, every time, JB talks me off a cliff. Sometimes he gets a little frustrated with me, but he always knows how to handle me. And I never feel like I'm in danger of losing him even though I often don't think I deserve him.

I have a good life. I have a happy life. And I have a FULL life. My life will not always feel like it feels now. There will not always be voices calling for me. I'm so blessed I have those voices. How long I prayed that my house would not be so quiet. Wow is it ever not quiet now. I must remember that this is a season. And it is a GOOD season. It is a full season. I have a husband. I have children. I have animals. Man, I have a lot of animals. My husband has a great job. All of our needs are met and then some.

As I think about it, I realize that four children in five years can't ever be calm. And homeschooling those children to boot. This is the life we've chosen. It is a good life. There is a lot of green grass growing. And a lot of children growing too.

Tonight I go to sleep.

And tomorrow, I do my best again,

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

We Bought a Farm: A Wall

I hit walls now and then.

I think I'm hitting one now. It's a big wall. I saw it in the distance, but I thought it would go away by the time I got closer. And now I'm closer. And it's huge.

I'm forgetting a LOT of stuff. I just truly feel like I am doing and being too much. I can't find my phone numerous times a day. I totally forgot about the kids' speech appointments yesterday. (Thank goodness Grama didn't.) A child will ask me to do something, and before I know it, I am onto the next thing and they are yelling for me because I forgot what I was doing. I have left water running more times than I can count on the farm. So many times over the last few weeks a kid has basically said: "Mom, you forgot about me!"

I've also been dealing with bad migraines. They are both sinus-related and hormone-related, each one behaving differently. I've also been eating way below my standards.

I've spoken with some good and knowledgable friends about this, and they all think I'm just being pulled in too many directions. But I don't know how to limit the pull. I have no idea where I can shave off responsibility.

I have no idea, right now, how to cut anything out. I truly feel I am doing the things that have to be done. I am not doing any extra. I'm praying. I'm thinking. I'm looking.

As always, I'm trying to keep it real on this Blog. I'm trying to not pretend I am anything but a real human being with real and genuine emotions and feelings. I'm happy. I'm doing well emotionally. But I'm just hanging onto a frayed rope and having trouble with my grip.

Review: The Pencil Grip, Inc.

The Pencil Grip, Inc.
I'm always impressed with products we receive from The Pencil Grip, Inc. This time we received The Ultra Safe Safety Scissors and The 3 Step Pencil Grip Training Kit

Scissors
Let's start with the scissors. Folks, these things are just really, really cool. I have really wanted to introduce cutting with my four-year-old Hannah, but have really and truly worried about her inability to focus and instead cut herself. She doesn't react well with "dull" scissors or things that aren't up to grown-up standards. (She wants to use high-quality products and doesn't want to not do what the big kids do.) So I knew I needed something that would feel like the real thing without the real risk. That is exactly what these scissors are for Hannah.

Here are some pictures of the scissors in action with my six-year-old daughter Abigail serving as the model!



The Ultra Safe Safety Scissors

I love how their website says "Safe no longer means dull." That is exactly what we found in our house. The scissors cut so well, but there is virtually no way to hurt yourself while using them. 

I'll be honest, I found it a little difficult for my veteran cutters (like my third-grade boys) to use the scissors as they didn't grow up on them. But my younger daughters, neither one incredibly profficient with cutting, both did beautifully using them. Abigail especially. Hannah is still a tad too young (and untrustworthy) but Abigail knocked it out of the park as you can see from the pictures. 

The following is taken from the description of the item on Amazon:

Safe no longer means dull with The Ultra Safe Scissor! Unlike other safety scissors with blunt blades, the Ultra Safe Scissor is sharp but harmless with the permanent shield making it impossible for kids to cut themselves. The ergonomic shape is easy to hold allowing the user to cut with safety and precision. A flexible spring automatically opens after being squeezed closed, making it useful for a child with limited strength or coordination. The spring can also be folded in for less restricted use.

Oh, and did I mention the best part? They are only $4!

Pencil Grips
Next up is the The 3 Step Pencil Grip Training Kit. One of my two sons has really poor grip when he writes, so I was really excited to try out this product.

How did we like it?

Well, the short answer is: it works great! It forces the child to hold their pencil the correct way.

The long answer is that my son, in general, gets frustrated with new things. So while I think this is great for a child his age, I want to really suggest it for new writers. Start with this from the beginning! I think it is a great idea and will work fantastically!

Here's a picture of my son who has trouble with his grip practicing with one of the grips.


So how does this product work? Well, firstly there are three grips (which come in assorted colors):
  • The Crossover Grip -- use this one first with adult supervision to train the child.
  • The Pinch Grip -- used on all writing instruments for transition
  • The Pencil Grip -- Graduation!
Here is a picture of the three grips we received: 
The 3 Step Pencil Grip Training Kit

From Left: The Pinch Grip, The Pencil Grip, the Crossover Grip

Note that you can buy these separately if you desire. However, the pack of three is just under $9 -- a very affordable rate for the quality of product you receive. These are not going to break easily.

You can learn more about The Pencil Grip, Inc. by checking them out on FacebookTwitter, or Pinterest and as always, feel free to email me at wkitsteienr@gmail.com for more information. We really liked both of these products and think they will make a great inclusion to your home products!
Ultra Safe Safety Scissors & Pencil Grip Training Kit {The Pencil Grip, Inc. Reviews}

 Crew Disclaimer

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Tribe Life Tuesday: Community & Honor


A weekly post from my childhood to grown-up friend Carrie ~ 
sharing her awesome life and her desire to have community while doing it!


Community is as rewarding as it is messy and, believe me, it can get messy. To be in community with someone looks like making room for them, all of them, the really great parts and the less great parts.

For example: I remember a period of time when I purposely disconnected from community because I believed my view on a matter was the right one. I saw no fault in me and lots of faulty thinking in the other party. Confrontation would turn into arguments without any resolution and that is never the point of confrontation.

Several years after my disconnection and reconnection to community, I was reading a book by one of my favorite authors, Danny Silk, in which he states, “the goal of confrontation is to restore connection.”

That was like a sonic boom in my mind. Why didn’t I know that or see that?? Of course that’s the point! I have been doing this wrong the whole time… 

You see, my goal of confrontation was to get you to see my point. More importantly, I wanted you to change your mind and embrace my way of thinking. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. I was young and dumb and that was my truth but all it did was isolate me and remove me from a healthy relationship.

When we isolate ourselves we put limits on our life. We limit our capacity to be in healthy, authentic, self-less relationships.

Community is where you get to fully be you and I get to fully be me. Here we lay down our weapon called control. When we do that, we create safe places for one another to grow and be loved unconditionally in a judgement and competition free zone. This is what authentic community looks like. It’s face to face, it’s joy and sorrow, it’s hope and pain, it’s success and failure and we share it all together. Once we allow ourselves to be in such a community, honor is a natural outflow.

“The principle of honor states – that accurately acknowledging who people are will position us to give them what they deserve and to receive the gift they are in our lives. Honor creates life giving relationships.” – Kris Vallotton 

Honor is seeing people for who they are not what they’ve done, or what they can do for you. It’s being able to look at them through a lens of kindness, forgiveness, mercy, honesty, and love. Honor is invaluable; it’s an unmatched currency and can only be given by those who have fought for it.

Let’s choose to fight for honor within our communities today. Though life may be messier when done in community, there really is no better way to live.

Carrie

Review: Learning Eggs

Reading Eggs

Wow! WOW! WOW! I am just not sure I can adequately write this review. I have never felt completely overwhelmed with a review for GOOD reasons. There is so much on this program, and it is fun for the kids that I just don't even know where to start. My kiddos absolutely LOVED LOVED LOVED the fun online learning opportunities in the Reading Eggs program. Honestly, I have NO idea how to write this review and actually make it not be thousands of words long.

There are FOUR main sections:
  • Reading Eggs Junior (Ages 2-4): This is where my four-year-old daughter placed
  • Reading Eggs (Ages 3-7): This is where my six-year-old daughter placed
  • Reading Eggspress (Ages 7-13): This is where my two boys placed
  • Mathseeds (Ages 3-9)
Reading Eggs was developed for kids ages 2-13. It starts at the very, very beginning so kids need NO previous experience to get started. This program is great for homeschool parents but it is also designed to supplement what children are getting at school.

Reading Eggs was so fantastic that my boys have BEGGED me to buy them a spot. Here's the reason why. As part of my "review agreement", I received TWO free six-month subscriptions. I used them for my daughters (ages 4 and 6). My boys each did a free two-week trial. When it was up, they were absolutely begging me to get them subscriptions. They were absolutely fanatical about the program and just begged to do it every day.

Reading Eggs allows you to know exactly how your children are doing by providing an email delivered to you at the end of each "map." As a child finishes the "map", they take a quiz, and the parent receives an email sharing how they did. In addition, on each of my kids' dashboard, you can instantly see an overview of the reading skills they have learned and the number of books they have read.

One of the reasons they loved the program so much is that the program was set up with rewards. As the child completes lessons, they earn acorns (math program) and eggs (reading program). These can then be turned in for games and fun things to do. The inventors of this program really nailed it on the end combining the things kids LOVE to do (games, songs, variety, and rewards) in such a nice package that they truly can't resist wanting to log-in again.

Here is a video of my nine-year-old, Isaac, working through a lesson in the "Reading Eggspress" portion of the program:


And here is a video of my six-year-old daughter doing the "Reading Eggs" portion: 


There are also some fantastic BONUS materials on the site, totally your's for the using!
  • Activity Sheets -- there is actually a worksheet for EVERY lesson that they do. It is seriously never-ending. These printables give you something hands-on that you can use for each lesson that your child does.
  • Homeschool -- Of special interest to me was the curriculum breakdown, week by week, for my K-2nd graders. 
  • The Eggsperts -- This is a video series which follows Sam, Jazz and Tom which takes young kids on a quest to find clues, hatch eggs, and meet friends in every episode (which is just under 8 minutes.) (You can also download the Eggsperts Appisodes). 
  • If you log in, there is a chat available at any time to help you with any problems you have.
Reading Eggs
Here's the greatest news! You can get a free 4 Week Trial 4 Week Trial of the program for your child or children. But be forewarned. If you do this trial, your kids will want you to purchase them spots. I promise! It is just too fun of a program not to want to be a part for longer.

To get a Reading Eggs account, visit here. And follow these links if you want a free 4 Week Trial of Reading Eggs 

Check out reading eggs on: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube. Review:

Reading Eggs

 Crew Disclaimer

Saturday, October 14, 2017

We Bought a Farm: Turkey Processing Update

Turkey processing day came and went. In the end, it was a success. To share a breakdown/comparison:

2016
Last year we processed 48 turkeys.
We had 1,030 pounds of meat.
This was an average of 21.45 per bird.

2017
This year we processed 30 turkeys.
We had 638.14 pounds of meat.
This was an average of 21.27 per bird.

We had nearly an identical return this year even though we monitored how much we fed the birds much more this year. We did 12 skips flat of feed everyday during their last four weeks.

After we sold 18 of the turkeys, there were 12 left for us. Ten were immediately broken down and ground. The other two will be used for our Thanksgiving dinner and the grandparents Thanksgiving dinner (we are celebrating separately this year.) We will eat our 255 pounds of meat for free.

A few notes:

  • Don't let your kiddos bring the ice to the filled chill tank without specific instructions that loading the ice in a dirty wagon first isn't okay. We had to empty and refill the chill tank to start the morning.
  • Having a freezer break the moment processing began is a lot less than ideal.
  • The Lord always brings the right people along to help us.
  • Turkeys are processed when they are 18 weeks old.
  • Our smallest turkey was 13 pounds and our largest was a quarter of an ounce shy of THIRTY pounds.
  • We are so thankful for the way the Lord always provides the help we need to get the job done. Our new friends Annie and Susie joined us. They are co-workers in Knoxville and really love our farm and have been volunteering periodically. Oh my gosh! We absolutely could NOT have accomplished the day without them and still have been standing at the end of it. So blessed to have them there. We also had our WWOOFer Tijmen here to help. Wow did we need him. (More about him in a bit!) We also helped process our friend Kymberly's five geese. She and her daughters came and helped and then we processed their geese. 
We have decided we will NOT be doing turkeys again next year. We have decided to cut back and this is one of the areas we are going to cut back. However, I think that we would like to do turkeys again in the future, and we may consider doing a few for ourselves in the upcoming year. 

Do I love processing day? I do not. I don't like killing animals. However, I really appreciate seeing our hardwork pay off and what happens when you raise animals the way they are supposed to be raised. There is a great feeling of accomplishment.
This picture is right before we got started in the morning. The turkeys are brought up from a kennel right over grampa's (in hat) head. Susie (yellow shirt) and Annie (white shirt) were absolutely INCREDIBLE. The boys helped the entire day -- although we found the turkey's weight prevented them from helping as much as they do with the chickens.

Our WWOOFer, Tijmen, with a goose feather in his hat after we hit a delirious point at the end of the day. Tijmen's strength was really, really important as getting the turkeys up into the kill cones was really challenging because of their weight. Truly, the Lord brought the PERFECT people along to make for the smoothest possible day!