Our newest additions

We have chicks!  We’ve added three barred rock chicks and three buff orpingtons to our little flock.


Needless to say, Maggie is in love!



They are staying in the hen house (separate from the hens) until they get bigger, but Maggie has been letting them out to “free-range” for a little while each day.

2600 miles, part three: Getting home

Part One

Part Two

I never quite got around to finishing this post last month.

As our time in Florida was winding down, I started looking at the weather to find a good window of opportunity for our return trip.  After checking the weather at home and along our route, I decided that driving home in the rain was better than coming home to an ice storm or a snowstorm.  So we planned to leave Thursday afternoon and stretch the trip out over three days instead of two.  I knew that I wouldn’t be able to do the trip in two days again, it was just too hard with no one else driving.

Micah had been sick on Tuesday, but we hoped that it was something he ate or that it was a virus that only he caught since no one else felt bad. He slept all afternoon and was a good bit better that evening.  He was back to normal by Wednesday evening, so I thought we were in the clear.  We packed up some things on Wednesday, intending to finish packing on Thursday morning.

On Thursday morning, Mark woke up sick.  He wasn’t able to keep any food or water down all morning just like Micah.  The rest of us really didn’t feel good either, so I wasn’t quite sure if we should head home or stay.  We finished packing and loading up the van after lunch.  Mark seemed like he was ready to go to sleep (like Micah had), and I thought if I get him in the van, he can sleep while we drive.  No one else was feeling any better, but we weren’t feeling any worse either so we hit the road.

As soon as we got in the van, Mark perked up and was fine.  I, on the other hand, felt worse the longer I drove.  We stopped several times just so that I could take a break.  When we were almost to Pensacola, I knew that I needed to stop, not just for dinner, but for the night.  I called Todd and asked him to find us a hotel room.  It was such a blessing to have him handle all of that from home.  We found a McDonald’s right next door to the hotel, so we stopped there and took our food with us to our hotel room.  We settled in and found one of the college football playoff games on TV to watch as we went to sleep.  I was almost asleep when Mark got sick again, all over the sofa bed that he and Matthew were sharing.  After much cleaning up (and bagging up of clothes), we got to sleep.

Most of Friday was a blur.  Matthew was feeling really sick (headache and congestion) so he slept most of the morning.  Having your navigator go to sleep is not ideal, but Maggie filled in and after one missed turn, we accidentally figured out an easier route to take. (Take that Google maps!)  We drove most of the day in the rain and stopped a lot earlier than I would have liked, but we made it to Texas.  That left us with about six more hours to drive on Saturday.

We made it home around lunch time after all the ice thawed and before the snow (which ended up as just flurries) arrived.  Home sweet home! I have to say that the concrete floors never looked so good!

House for sale

It’s been a while since I have posted anything. We’ve been busy working on the house.  Since we have had to replace almost all of the flooring and baseboards due to the flood, we have decided that now is a good time to try to sell our house.  Of course, we still have work to do before we list the house.  The kitchen needs a new floor (this was one of the main things on our list before the flood), and the cabinets need to be repainted. The kitchen walls need a new coat of paint, and all of the interior trim and the entire exterior need to be painted, too. We are hoping to have the house all spruced up to put on the market in March.

When we sell the house, we are hoping to move out into the country in the same general area where we live.  We like living here and have gotten quite settled into the community in the nearly seven years we have been here. We finally feel like we have really put down roots. But with things still up in the air with Todd’s job, there is the very real possibility that we could be moving somewhere else.

The newspaper that Todd works for was put up for sale last month, with the bids on it closing a few weeks ago.  What this means for us remains to be seen.  The new owner could keep things running more or less the same as they are (although they would almost have to hire someone else to handle some of the writing/publishing responsibilities), or fire everyone and close down the newspaper, or anything in between.  We also don’t know what kind of time frame there will be for these changes. What we do know is that we will most likely be facing some big decisions about our house and Todd’s job.


2600 miles, part two: Three Christmases and a birthday

(For part one click here.)

We spent the majority of our vacation just visiting with family.   We went to church on Sunday; then two of my nieces came over to visit for a little while.  On Monday, the kids and I drove (in the rain again) down to Homosassa Springs where Todd’s parents and sister were staying at his aunt and uncle’s house. We had an early Christmas and the kids got to open their gifts. They enjoyed playing and spending time with their grandparents, although I think Maggie was a bit disappointed that it was too cold to swim. We spent the night there and drove (in the rain again) back to my parents’ house the next afternoon.


Wednesday night Dad and I drove to the airport in Jacksonville to pick up Todd. (I wasn’t driving so this isn’t included in the 2600 miles, and yes, it rained at least part of the way.) It was so good to see him. Even though I talked to him every day while we were gone, it just isn’t the same when we’re not together.

Christmas Day was pretty laid back. We got up and ate breakfast and opened presents. That afternoon my older sister and her family came over and opened their presents from my parents and vice versa. (They do that every Christmas.) Todd’s parents and sister also came up from Homosassa.

On Friday Todd’s parents and sister came over one last time before they headed back home to North Carolina. And that evening my younger sister and her family came up from south Florida. This was the first time I had met her husband and his daughters, as they just got married earlier this year.

Then on Saturday everyone from my side of the family was there and we had Christmas part three with my younger sister’s family. It was kind of crazy with nineteen people there, but it was a lot of fun and we took pictures of the whole family together.

The next Wednesday morning we went to the Butterfly Rainforest at the Florida Museum of Natural History. It was cold and rainy so the butterflies were not really flying around, but we were able to look at them really close up and Maggie loved seeing the birds that were in there with the butterflies. Matthew was not impressed with the butterfly exhibit, but enjoyed the rest of the museum. Mom and I took a break with Mark and Micah in the kids’ Discovery Room while Dad took Matthew and Maggie through the natural history exhibits.  Wednesday night we celebrated Mark’s ninth birthday.


The rest of the time we mostly just relaxed, played games, and explored Mema and Papa’s yard (they have five acres, so there was a lot of exploring).  And most of all enjoyed the spending time with family.

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2600 miles, part one: getting there

The kids and I hit the road early Friday morning, bound for our Christmas vacation in Florida.  To make things a little more fun, we decided to go with a little bit of a military theme.  Matthew was in charge of intelligence, logistics, and navigation.  Maggie was the personnel and supply officer (keeping little brothers occupied and handing out snacks and water as necessary).  Obviously I was in charge of transport.  Mark was primarily tasked with pointing out every single truck on the interstate and Micah was responsible for asking questions.

We drove eleven and a half hours on Friday and it was foggy for the first five hours and rainy for the last nine.  I know what you’re thinking: that doesn’t add up.  That’s because for about two and a half hours it was both foggy and rainy.  Most of the rain wasn’t more than a drizzle until we got to Mississippi, and it actually helped quite a bit since there was no one working in any of the construction zones that we passed through, and traffic was probably lighter than it would have been if the weather had been clear.

The kids are all pretty good travelers, so we had a long, but fairly uneventful trip.  That changed when we were trying to find our hotel.  I had made reservations ahead of time, partly to make sure we had a place to stay (I didn’t know how busy hotels would be the Friday night before Christmas), and partly to set a goal for myself so that I would get most of the driving accomplished on the first day.  It was dark and rainy, and I was very tired, so we followed the directions that I had printed off of Google maps.  Instead of our hotel, they led us to a shopping center parking lot.  Since we were right off the interstate, I figured that we would see the hotel if I just drove around the general area.  After about five or ten minutes of searching, I stopped in a parking lot and pulled up Google maps on my phone to see where the hotel was in relation to the business we were parked at.  It said it was just a few hundred feet away, so I headed that direction but still couldn’t find it.  I stopped at a different hotel and sent Matthew in to ask for directions.  We followed those directions to the letter, yet I still drove right past the hotel.  Matthew spotted the unlit sign in the dark and we drove back and I still nearly missed it.  (I later discovered that we had actually been right behind the hotel at least twice during our search, but couldn’t see it because the lights were off.)

As I pulled into the parking lot, I started to wonder if the hotel was even open.  There were a few random room lights on, but no exterior lighting on the building.  The sheltered entryway where you can pull in out of the rain was blocked off with plywood leaving just a few feet open through which to enter the hotel.  The desk clerk told me that she had no idea that the lights weren’t on.  We checked in, ordered a pizza, and pretty much went to bed after we ate.

Saturday’s weather was about the same as Friday’s.  When we were almost to Tallahassee, the sun briefly peeked out from beneath the gloom. Mark and Micah shouted, “The sun!” and I realized that we hadn’t seen it since before we left Oklahoma.  Saturday’s drive was a lot shorter than Friday’s and we got to my parents’ house around 4:00.  It was so good to see them!

To be continued….

Getting it all done

We are on a deadline.  We need to leave early Friday morning.  And it ALL has to be done before we leave.  All the packing for our trip, all the laundry, all the cleaning up and packing up to have the floor and carpet installed, it all needs to be done by Thursday.

Will we get it all done?  No.  Not the way that I want it done.  I would like to have everything packed neatly in labeled boxes so that we can find everything when we get home.  I want to finish sorting through things and cleaning them out before I pack them up.  I want to make a list of everything that we need for our trip and check everything off as I neatly tuck it into a suitcase.

In reality, the boxes are not labeled (except for one that says “fragile”).  They are neatly packed, if by neatly packed you mean that I have utilized the maximum amount of space in the box regardless of what things I am packing together.  I have cleaned out a lot of things, but not nearly as much as I would like, because I don’t want to regret a rash decision to dispose of something and I’m in the frame of mind to get rid of it all.  I do have a list of things to pack for our trip and have been checking things off–as I throw them into a pile in the corner next to the suitcases.  Neatness went out with the old floors!

Reality seldom turns out like what I envision it to be ahead of time.  And I can be frustrated by that–usually my default choice–or I can accept the differences as they come.  My plans are just that–my plans.  If things aren’t done the way I plan, it isn’t the end of the world.  If I have to hunt through boxes to find things as we unpack, then I will.  Maybe I’ll take the time to go through things as I unpack.  If I don’t get everything organized for our trip, we’ll make do; it’s not like they don’t have stores where we are going.  If I can let go of my frustration, I can appreciate what we have managed to accomplish instead of focusing on what we missed.

Let the packing begin!

Let the packing begin!  No, we’re not packing for our trip to Florida, yet.  (I like to plan ahead, but I’m not that organized!) Before we can have the carpet and flooring installed, we have to pack up everything and get it out of the way.

It’s amazing how much stuff we have accumulated over the last six years.  We’ve never lived in one place for that long before, so I’m used to cleaning out every so often when we move.  And I usually try to be diligent about getting rid of things that we don’t use.  But with six people in our family, it adds up to a lot of stuff to pack up.

I’ve discovered that my biggest weakness in decluttering and thinning out our possessions: books.  I’m sure anyone who home schools can relate to this, especially if you home school more than one child.  So far I have packed 5 large boxes of books and still haven’t finished my books or started on Todd’s.  (I think the only people who accumulate more books than homeschoolers are preachers.)

In the midst of all of this packing, we are still trying to maintain as much normalcy as possible–keeping appointments, working on school work.  But I must admit it all of this has really been wearing me down the last few days.  In order to pack things up, you have to drag things out.  So now in addition to part concrete/part carpet floors in our bedroom, I have little stacks of things that didn’t quite fit into the box I was packing when I got them out, plus boxes full of things that I have packed up, but haven’t taken out to the shed yet (books are heavy).  All of this visible chaos makes it hard for me to concentrate on anything other than the clutter all around me.  I just want it all done.

And it will be.  Or it won’t be.  God’s grace is sufficient.  He will work things out in His timing, not mine.

Giving thanks

This year has been a rough one.  Especially the last few months or so. The flood and the subsequent ongoing repairs have turned my day-to-day life on its head.  And the death of Todd’s boss’s family have rocked my sheltered little world.

This year has also been full of reasons to be thankful.  I am so thankful for God’s sustaining grace throughout the last few months.  He has carried us through so much chaos and uncertainty. He has brought to my remembrance that whatever happens, He is sovereign.  He is in control, and He is good and just and wise and loving.

We are still living with a lot of uncertainty right now.  I certainly don’t enjoy it. (And often complain about it.) But I am trying to make the choice to be thankful for it as it draws me closer to God, into a deeper dependence on Him.  I still pray for answers, especially for a resolution to all of the uncertainty surrounding Todd’s job.  But for now, I am learning to trust God’s timing and rest in His assurances that He cares for us and will provide for us.



Choosing our words carefully

Warning: The following is a bit of a rant.

I saw a headline today that really irked me. It said that a particular celebrity couple had been told that their premature child might “be special needs.” (I had never heard of them, and only skimmed the article, so this is not really about them or about anything that may have been said in the article.) That one phrase in the headline is what bothered me.)

“BE special needs,” “IS special needs,” “IS autistic,” “Down Syndrome child” –I hear or see these phrases on an almost daily basis. My son HAS Fragile X Syndrome. (He does not HAVE autism.) He HAS special needs. He IS NOT special needs. Mark IS a gift from God. He IS and eight-year-old boy. He IS precious to us. He IS a child who HAS special needs.

I know that most of the people who use these labels (and that’s what they are) do not mean to disparage children and adults who have differences and disabilities. (And having a husband who is a journalist, I can certainly appreciate the need to make a headline fit.) But I think what concerns me the most is how many parents of children (and adults) with special needs use this terminology to refer to their children. And I can’t help but wonder how much this leads them to subconsciously identify their children with the special needs that they have, instead of identifying them as a person, a child, who has difficulties to overcome and compensate for, and simply to accept for who they ARE.

We need to choose our words carefully not just for the sake of those who hear them, but also for our own sake.

Alright, the rant is over.

Why we home school

Why do we home school?

Well, why don’t we home school?

It might be easier to list the reasons that we don’t have for home schooling.  We don’t home school as a knee-jerk reaction to some negative experience with public or private schools.  We don’t home school because we feel pressured to do so by family, friends, or our church (yes, there are people who do).  We don’t home school because we think we are better that those who don’t.

So why do we home school?

Well, I’ll start at the beginning.  We sort of backed into home schooling.  We didn’t go into it with grand ideals or lofty goals.  We were just trying to do what would work best for our family.  (And really, isn’t that what it all boils down to for almost everyone who home schools?)  Our original plan (as much as we had one) was to enroll our kids in the school run by our church.  I taught there for a year, and I think that it would have worked out well for us, too, had we stayed there.

Around the time Matthew turned three, we moved away from that area.  We settled in to our new community and met some people at our church who home schooled their children.  (My sister had also started home schooling her children by this time.)  It just seemed like a good fit for us.  Matthew was already reading, and I knew that he would be bored if we waited until he was old enough for school.  So, I bought a math book and a phonics workbook and jumped right in.

As the years have gone by, we’ve accrued some reasons for home schooling. We do want to provide our children with a Christ-centered education, because we do not believe that it is possible for education to be neutral.  We do want to tailor our children’s education to suit their needs as individuals who have different strengths and weaknesses.  We want our children to grow up under our guidance.  We want them to grow up together with a close relationship that we missed out on with our siblings.

Although we had a somewhat inauspicious start in home schooling, the reasons that we have continued are really all the reasons that we at the beginning even if we hadn’t thought them all out.

Do you home school?  If so, what are your reasons for home schooling?