Anna learns to ride a bike!

Balance bikes are AMAZING. Parker learned to ride a bike using a balance bike, and transitioned like a pro when he got a pedal-bike. If you’ve never seen one, check this out. Anna got this bike when she was two and over time she’s mastered the hardest part of learning to ride: balancing.

Here’s Anna’s pedal bike:

April 2018 – Kelley Barracks – Stuttgart
April 2018

March 2020 brought us the Stay-At-Home order and fortunately we were allowed to get out and exercise. For exercise we took the littles in the fields and there’s this one hill that is super fun… for the kid. Anna having neither brakes nor fear meant this hill was not that much fun for me!

We plan to buy Anna a big-girl bike when we move to NY but didn’t want to do so before the move, but this experience made us realize that in order to the safe, Anna needs a bike with brakes.

Fortunately we live in a neighborhood with hundreds of kids and generous neighbors, so we were able to borrow a big-girl bike for her.

This picture is of Anna the last days she rode her balance bike in the fields. We were excited to get to see the German Police horses snacking on some hay.

March 16, 2020

Here’s a quick video showing her on the balance bike. (March 19)

March 19, 2020

And then her first few attempts on the pedal bike.

She didn’t love having an audience so later on I took her down to the soccer fields and she did even better.

We then tried a bigger bike and while she could control it, it was a bit too big.
(March 20, 2020)

And finally, we found one that is the perfect size for her! We have some great neighbors who have made this possible! (March 25, 2020)

Super proud of our kiddo!!

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Corona-Days 3 through 18

I updated about Days 1 & 2 and called them Quarantine Days 1& 2, which implied that we are under quarantine. We aren’t, and there are so many different terms floating around that are confusing (lock-down, stay-at-home, shelter in place, quarantine, isolation) that I decided to be more clear in this title.

In the post journaling Days 1 & 2 I wrote about all the positive things I need to focus on to remain mentally healthy during this. I need to go back and read it now that we’re on day 18. I’m starting to get a little more weary, but any time I feel any kind of pity-party gearing up I’m very quickly reminded of all the ways things could be worse.

Day 3 – Normal school day, got some exercise with the littles, started to see everything really close down.

Day 4 – Matt started working half from home, half in the office; got him set up with Google Meet so he could have a HIPPA approved format for counseling.

Day 5 – Bailey’s 16th birthday – Great day. If we didn’t know things were bad then this day would have felt like a pretty normal day for us.

Day 6 – We taught Anna how to ride a bike! I’ll create a separate blog post for that and once done, I’ll link to it! It took no time at all. (As in, minutes.) I pulled out one of the boys’ hammocks and took her down to the soccer field where I could chill out in the gorgeous weather while she dug for bugs.

Day 7 – My parents’ 43rd Anniversary… their trip to Mexico was cancelled. Another thing cancelled? My trip to a hotel. I was going away to finish a major project I want completed before we move but hotels around here are not open for any leisure travel. Instead I was interviewed by the famous Corie Weathers on the new way everyone is schooling their kids.

Day 8 – Matt and I went to the PX and bought over $100 worth of board games to pull out slowly over the next few weeks. We have 4 trips we’ve had to cancel so we were able to splurge in this area. Trouble (Cars edition); Battleship, Password, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Connect 4, Risk, Phase 10…a game that took us FOUR NIGHTS to finish. Matt won.

Day 9 – Matt preached from our office on Facebook Live and then we went on a 2-mile walk in the fields with the whole family. I got to work on my project for about 90 minutes.

(We need to flip the camera next time… live and learn.)

Day 10 – On this day I wrote in my journal that I was itching for some space. Usually I go for my run alone. On. PURPOSE. I need time to myself to think (or NOT think, sometimes). I need space and the past 10 days had afforded me exactly zero opportunities to get out for exercise without my cutest tagalongs. I found that Anna loves watching people read books to kids online. One of her favorites is “The Bad Seed”  Jory John and Pete Oswald read by StoryTime at Awnie’s House with popcorn in her ladybug bowl.

Day 11 – Because I was feeling the strain of needing to get out for some exercise all by myself, I made it a point to go during Anna’s nap time. (She’s 4 now so she makes sure to correct me… it’s not a “nap” time but a “rest” time. I remind her I’ve been calling it nap time since 2001 and I’m not likely to change at this point.)

I got dressed, extra layers because it was COLD, and headed out. As I was walking down the stairs I was doing three things: starting a podcast, pulling on my gloves, and starting a “work out” on my watch. I was absolutely in another world… and I thought I was hitting the landing but I wasn’t quite there. I hit the bottom stair just wrong and twisted my ankle. It’s the worst injury I’ve had in quite some time!

I got back home, surprising my kids, who knew I was about to be gone for an hour. I got to my room, removed my shoe, and in spite of all the layers of clothes I had on for my run I found myself shaking as if freezing. This pain was no joke, but I honestly felt like it wasn’t broken. I didn’t want to go have it checked out because I didn’t want to be in any hospital or clinic. This injury very much reminded me of Hayden’s in 2018 and while he did have a stress fracture there was nothing they could do for him. So. RICE it is.

Day 12 – School day, icing my foot – I found I could put weight on the heel with zero pain, so as long as I only used it for balancing, I was fine.

Day 13 – Anna learned to ride a pedal bike on a teeny-tiny Mickey Mouse Bike, then tried one that was a little too big. A sweet neighbor offered one that was in-between and BONUS: It’s got OLAF on it! She’s an absolute pro on the thing! Matt videoed her riding it so I could see her progress!

Day 14 – We got our new pack-out dates. We were supposed to ship our HHGS April 7-10 but now they’re going to go (unless things change) May 18-20. I pulled out a puzzle that I purchased last summer but never worked. As it turns out, it was a New York City scene! (I didn’t know when I bought it that we’d be moving there!)

For fun I set up a “water activity” for Anna on the balcony. She loved this! The weather was amazing… upper 50s. I put the hammock on the balcony and actually napped in it for about an hour!

Day 15 – My foot at this point was looking absolutely disgusting but I was able to walk as long as I only used a straight forward motion. I could almost do so without limping! Our cell provider changed the text at the top of our phones to “StayHome.” Nice sense of humor as well as a reminder.

Day 16 – CH Rice preached this week. Our stairwell buildings have hosted hymn singing on our balconies for three Sundays in a row. Matt led two of these on guitar this week. It started showing while we were out there and it snowed off and on all day – though no accumulation.

Bailey is learning “Neon” on the guitar and is blowing our socks off with his skill! COL Condrey set in place new shopping rules: three teams by color – red, white, and blue. We’re blue – so the next date we can shop at the Commissary/PX/Check mail is April 10th.

Day 17 – I went to Lidl for milk and other items. My foot is fine as long as I don’t tap it against anything. Going down stairs is harder than going up. Watched the USNS Comfort live as it went past my soon-to-be backyard. I’m glad to be here waiting this out because we have our stuff, a huge community we love, Hayden still has a job (that is deemed essential) but man, what an experience to have seen that ship go by from our backyard. So neat! Finished the puzzle… missing five pieces. You get what you pay for!

Day 18. Today. I’ve been up since 4:30. {Not on purpose!} I did my Bible reading, spent an hour scrolling on Facebook to learn nothing new, wrote in my journal, and now I need to wake the kids. I am still in need of time alone/breathing space, though I have a feeling I’m not alone. And because I have teens, I can actually get that space in some way or another. I recognize that I have it made.

We were supposed to leave tomorrow for a trip to Amsterdam to see the Anne Frank House and Corrie Ten Boom’s hiding place. Months ago I scheduled our books to line up with this trip. Parker and I are reading the Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank and something we read yesterday put me in my place:
While in hiding she wrote something on November 2, 1942. She came back later, while still in hiding, to add a comment… “Now that I’m rereading my diary after a year and a half…” Yep. Her updated comment was written Jan 22, 1944… a year and a half had passed since diary entries… and I’m one Day 18 – and our situations are nothing alike! I am safe, not being hunted, I have access to food, internet, unlimited books, movies, art, my friends all over the world.

Among her first entries she writes,

“…it seems to me that later on neither I nor anyone else will be interested in the musings of a thirteen year old girl… it probably won’t make a difference.”

Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, page 6

Oh, what a difference her work has made in the world at large, and in my own heart. I pray it’s helping Parker keep perspective throughout this experience, as well.

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Timely words…

I’ve shared before that the most way I most clearly hear from God is through words. Some of my friends feel closest to Him in nature, or when they see a particular kind of bird. Some more easily recognize His presence when creating or listening to music. I love it when something I read ties in with what is going on in my life, especially when I didn’t seek out those words. Meaning, I didn’t pick a specific book to read because it would tie into my current situation. I feel that those times are special “God shots” – moments He lets Himself be known to me in a real and personal way.

We have a read-aloud time each morning as a way to start our day. I have done this all throughout our homeschooling years except for one, (Hayden’s 8th grade year) and I missed it dreadfully. I got “permission” from Sarah Mackenzie of Read Aloud Revival and Andrew Pudewa of IEW to reincorporate it even though my kids were older.

BC – or before Covid-19, I had planned to finish the book we were on and quit reading aloud to the kids in the morning for the rest of this school year. I really wanted to get as much “real school” done before our packers came. When all of this hit I decided I should keep our routine as familiar as possible; I really prefer to start each day with all of my students in the same room spending a few minutes together on the same subject. We need that normalcy with all the craziness that is going on.

We have been reading from Pricilla Schirer’s Prince Warriors Series. Toward the end of book three is a Chapter called “The Plague.” We all kind of grinned at that title because on the day we read chapter we were just entering the COVID mess – this was the day before our local schools closed down.

BOOK 3 – The Prince Warriors and the Swords of Rhema – Chapter 31

It was at that point that I really began to realize we were reading these books ‘for such a time as this’ and I was even more determined to continue our read-aloud time every morning.

This week were are in Book 4, and we read Chapters 7 & 8 on Tuessday.

A line that stood out that day was from Ruwach, the counselor or guide, and he said,

“It’s Winter. Winter is the time of rest. Sleep. But also testing. It can be a difficult time. When life seems… absent.”

Book 4 – The Winter War – page 38

Sure, the first day of spring was last week, but we have all been forced into a season of rest. Testing. And with so much going on, life can seem absent. But it’s not! And that’s one reason I love that we are being told to get out and exercise (while still honoring social distancing)… because we are able to see spring breaking through!

Family walk after online church on Sunday.

Chapter 4, which starts two pages after that quote, is titled, “Bad Things Happening” and describes one of the characters visiting someone in a hospital. We are hearing so much about hospitals right now that it caught our attention… as if the title of the chapter hadn’t already done so.

And the last chapter we read, Chapter 8, describes school being cancelled due to snow. The story is set where they rarely get snow and this snow storm was crippling the city.

The radio was saying…people needed to stay home and not go anywhere. Everything was closed anyway, so there wasn’t really anywhere to go.

Book 4 – Winter War – page 49

Sound familiar?

All of that was from one series.

We are also starting “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis. This quote is from the Forward of the edition we’re reading:

“How strange it must have seemed to turn on the radio, which was every day bringing news of death and unspeakable destruction, and hear one man talking…about decent and humane behavior, faith play, and the importance of knowing right from wrong.”

Forward by Kathleen Noris – page XVIII

CS Lewis had fought in WWI and during the 1940s he was asked by the BBC to speak to the nation regarding Christianity… those broadcasts have been compiled into the work “Mere Christianity” which is just the next book Bailey is supposed to read in his high school curriculum.

You can’t tell me that’s coincidence. I believe it’s the hand of God orchestrating what we read each day so that we line up with certain books on certain days. I want to take the time to recognize that within my heart, with my children, and occasionally, in this journal I write in a few times a month.

Maybe my words of encouragement will fill your heart in some way the way CS Lewis’ did in the 1940s. Please note, I am not comparing my words with those of C.S. Lewis’. I don’t claim to have anywhere near his wisdom. But the God he wrote about is the same God I write about and THAT fact gives me the courage to share my words and actually pray they do touch the hearts of anyone who reads them because it’s not my words that will have an impact. It’s God Himself I’m trying to highlight.

And while I’m at it let me say…

  • take time to listen to something positive today;
  • take time to read something positive today;
  • take time to say something positive today.

What are you reading? What are you learning? What are sharing?

I’m curious!

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It's Not About the Toilet Paper

Seven people in one house means we go through a lot of toilet paper. When I do my “normal” grocery shopping I can fill two carts… literally. In fact, at Fort Hood, they had a laminated sheet of paper that said, “Customer still shopping” that I placed on my first full cart parked in a closed register line while I filled my second cart. I had a large kitchen space in that house to cook by the month and I had a bigger pantry that allowed me to use PJ Jonas’ pantry system.

Here in Stuttgart I generally fill only one cart to the brim but I have three luxuries that make shopping in-between easier:

  1. My teens can run to the commissary any week-day to grab last-minute things.
  2. German stores have really neat and delicious treats so I save some of our grocery budget for shopping on the economy.
  3. We live precisely 0.2 miles from the commissary.

When I grab the biggest pack of toilet paper, I’m grabbing just what we need for that shopping period.

In preparation for the Corona-stay-at-home-experience I simply grabbed one extra.

But I feel for those who felt compelled to by 3-4 (or more). A good many of those individuals were buying them because they saw the craziness and were afraid that if they didn’t get what they could right then, the stocks would be out and they wouldn’t be able to buy it when they needed it. Sounds logical to me. Fear of shortage.

Others were buying out of fear of this virus. Not that this virus causes people to need more toilet paper because none of the information being released is saying that. They are fearful of the situation in general. And to be perfectly honest, that also sounds logical.

Fear is a strong motivator.

Our world is experiencing a first and no one really knows what to do.

When we don’t know what to do, we do what we can… we control what we can.

And for some reason, what people found they could control was their toilet paper supply. I firmly believe that this is no different than the rush on Cabbage Patch Kids in 1983, Teddy Ruxpin in 1985, Tickle Me Elmo in 1996. The same shortage mentality during those Christmas seasons is happening now and is added to the legitimate concern that they may be sick in the near future and unable to go to the store for more.

As I said, this is a first for our world. Total halt of all things. Let’s give some grace to our neighbors. If you are genuinely unable to find toilet paper when you need it I bet your stockpiling neighbor will help you. If you are the stockpiling neighbor, I ask you to keep an eye out for your friends and neighbors.

As the wise Bigweld said, “See a need, fill a need.” (Robots, 2005)

Last week I posted on my neighborhood Facebook page asking for someone to let me know when our commissary had restocked my favorite coffee. It had been out for about a week and rather than going every day to check I figured someone would pipe in and let me know. I could then head over and buy what I need.

Fortunately if I were out of coffee I could go to the German stores to replenish, but I still had half-a-bag and I have confidence that the commissary will restock soon. Plus, my coffee is cheaper there than on the economy. So I planned to wait another day or two before resorting to shopping off post.

But here’s what happened, because people are awesome. One of my neighbors spent a few minutes checking at our other commissary and let me know that they’re out at that location, as well. Her taking the time to check for me was kind!

When I got back from my run I had a beautiful, green package of Jacobs sitting on the shelf by my door… no note. No one took credit. I want them to so I can thank them and repay the favor, but for now, I’ll just give this shout-out to my awesome neighbors!

Mental heath professionals know that this experience is going to leave an impact on our country. On our world. (Had I run out of coffee, this experience would have left an impact on my family in a totally different sort of way.) All joking aside. Please be aware that even if you aren’t scared, others are. Maybe the only thing they can control is having plenty of toilet paper. And it could have just as easily have been something else. The tide just shifted to toilet paper for some reason. Most of them aren’t trying to be jerks (we all know the story of that one guy who bought 17,000 bottles of hand sanitizer and I’m not condoning anything along those lines). Most are trying to have a tiny bit of control in a situation that feels completely out of control. (And some may be like ME and have large families and just need that much!)

This is the most ‘out of control’ our world has been in most of our lifetimes. Give people a little grace for finding a bit of peace in a few extra rolls of toilet paper.

It’s not about the toilet paper.


UPDATE: I wrote this blog post on March 17th but didn’t post it because I had Bailey’s and Parker’s birthday post to share, but also because I really don’t want to sound condescending. When I wrote it a week ago, much of the US was still in denial. So much has happened since then and I’m seeing a great deal of people come to the realization that this is a real thing and it’s going to last a bit longer than the anticipated two-weeks. I really do pray that neighbors will help each other out in the US the way I’m seeing the military community here helping one another.

Here in Germany much of the panic is gone, people are settling into their new routines, schools are in session (today, Thursday, March 24th, is Day 4 of distance learning for Stuttgart students). The shelves are restocked, the commissaries and PX have the necessary items for our long-term well-being, and the garrison is being intentional with updating us.

The stats as of now:

  • As of last night there are 33 confirmed Covid-positive individuals in our military community.
  • Groups larger than 2 are banned.
  • The commissary (as of today) is no longer using baggers.
  • There are 15 hand-washing stations all over the garrison and people have to wash hands when entering and leaving.
  • One family member can shop at a time. (This runs on the honor policy and single-parent homes are exceptions)
  • Many units are working alternate shifts to have fewer people in the buildings at once (which fixed parking problems all over the garrison!)
  • Matt will be doing much of his counseling online.
  • Germany has instituted a 25,000€ fine and a multi-year sentence for people caught breaking quarantine. (Not typo. Twenty-five thousand Euro.)
  • Personally, our move is in question: our HHGs pick-up was set for the 6-9 of April and we have to reschedule past May 15th- but I would guess it’ll be later than that. No word yet on if we’ll still fly in June. It’s just too early to even make a guess.
  • All of the Child Development Centers are closed.

(And I never did find out who blessed me with coffee!)

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Bailey turns 16 and Parker turns 10!

Parker was due on Bailey’s birthday but he came five days early. Even so, most years we celebrate them together in some way.

This year both decided early on, back in January, to forego parties in order to put what we would have spent on parties toward big-ticket items. As we now know, parties would have been canceled due to the Corona virus, so it really was a God-thing that led them to both make this call months ago.

Parker decided that he wanted a Nintendo-DS like his brothers so they can play together (they link) and to give him something to do on our overseas flight. While I personally detest video games, this is one I’m almost okay with.

Bailey wanted to upgrade his phone so he saved and worked and added birthday money and was able to get a nice iPhone. The two had a Mario cake because we were going cheap – meaning, no fancy Cake Lady cake, though I regretted it dearly… I wish we had just splurged on a good cake. Don’t get me wrong: we ate every bite of this cake over the weekend, but there’s nothing like a homemade cake from someone who knows what they’re doing.

Parker turned 10 which is a very big deal for a Military Kid… He got his own Military ID! This gives him the right to go to the Commissary & Shoppette, all without parents or big brothers!

Parker’s ID picture looks great! We had a very nice ID maker-lady.

Bailey’s birthday this year is also significant: 16! However, it’s a bummer that he isn’t able to get a driver’s license just yet. We’ll have to do that once we move.

For all the bigs, Matt has allowed them to plan a pretty big trip to celebrate their 16th. Hayden and Matt went from Texas to Kansas City to see John Mayer. Carson and Matt went from Stuttgart to London to see a Panther’s Football game. When it was time for Bailey to decide, he struggled with where he wanted to go. Even months before the Corona virus came on the scene he struggled. He’s pretty traveled-out and eager to move back to the states. Matt came up with the idea to see if he’d rather a guitar… and with no hesitation he heartily agreed!

So, Matt and Bailey took a day trip to Thomann and Bailey picked out a gorgeous Fender. Matt saw the next day that Thomann was closing down for a month. Again, it was a God-thing that Bailey didn’t want a trip (it would have been canceled) and that they went a week earlier than planned (Thomann is now closed). We can see the hand of God in our daily lives and I pray you can, too.

Happy Birthday to Numbers 3 & 4! We love you both!!

Posted in brothers/boys, family, germany, parker | 1 Comment

Quarantine: Days 1 & 2

Thankfully we’re healthy as of this writing, but we are self-isolating. We had big plans with good friends this weekend but they were canceled. Our kids had some fun alternate plans scheduled but we (as a family, though not unanimously) decided to cancel. So technically Saturday, March 14th was Q1, our first real day of quarantine or self-isolation.

We all got out and enjoyed the gorgeous day. Stuttgart has had a very rainy start to 2020 so we relished some Vitamin-D. If you didn’t know that we had other plans it would have seemed like a regular Saturday.We’re supposed to be honoring social distancing, spacing from each other to limit exposure… Anna hasn’t mastered this.

(😂 – I realize those rules are for the public, but Parker would love some breathing space sometimes.)

Today, Sunday, March 15th, is Q2. THIS day really looks different from our normal Sunday. Church will be live-streamed and none of us are actually going. Matt felt a bit fatigued and achy yesterday, though no other symptoms, and they were gone by bedtime, but it is not worth risking him taking any illness he may have anywhere, so we’re all home today. CH Rice is handling ChapelNext Live and we’re going to watch as a family.

We normally eat lunch with our CN family at the food court but they’ve literally removed all the tables and chairs and the restaurants are only allowed to serve take-out.

Photo used with permission

No matter what we do as a family or a community:

Some will think we’re overreacting, some will ask what took so long.
Some will wonder why I bought a four extra boxes of cereal and an extra bag of frozen chicken, some will wonder why we don’t have 75 cases of TP in the basement.

If I let Facebook be my Judge, I will be wrong no matter what I do.

Anxiety has a way of creeping in. Parker came to me yesterday feeling the weight of all of this, and the other things we have going on, and I was able to pull from some reserve strength I had built up… from where, I’ll share in a moment.

His words to me were, “Mom, I just feel like everything is bad right now. With you know…” and he proceeded to list a pretty strong list of things that would make any mama sad to hear.

First, and this is critical. Please understand this before moving on. Parker’s feelings were perfectly acceptable. I didn’t minimize them or wipe them away. I didn’t sweep them under the rug or make him feel that he’s only able to come to me with happy thoughts. He was down because he has a lot on his 10-year-old shoulders. Most kids his age aren’t facing their 4th move, the THIRD time across an ocean. (I had to do the math on that. Wiesbaden to SC, SC to TX, TX to Stuttgart, Stuttgart to NY. Yep. Four moves, three of them over an ocean.) That’s enough, but he also faces the challenge of being a 10-year-old living with three teenage brothers, so he’s exposed to things at a much earlier age than others. Nothing bad, just ideas and concepts that HC&B were protected from when they were 10. He hears us talking and recognizes that the world isn’t a safe place. And add to this the literal pandemic that is going on… he’s a touch overwhelmed. (And I’d dare say even most adults are struggling with this!)

When he came to me so heavy-hearted I validated his sadness and let him know that I didn’t want to undermine or belittle his feelings, but I had just the thing that might help him see some positive things that are just as true and valid as the heavy things he is dealing with. Just an hour earlier I had found a little journal that I started a couple of months before Matt and I got married. I meant to keep up with it, but I lost track of it. I keep finding it every few years and jotting things down, updating not even once a year. It’s sort of a little game I have with myself.

While the kids were outside running getting some sun, I updated it. The entire first page I filled to the brim with the amazingness that is our life:
Parker turned 10 and got his Military ID! Matt’s upcoming fantastic job! Moving to NYC (dream come true!)! Hayden graduated and is doing college online (which means he has no interruption in his education with this COVID stuff). Anna’s first-mom is having a baby sister for Anna!
The page was filled up!
The next page was 3/4 full of the current challenges, but then I remembered another great thing in our life and jotted it down.

So… I said to Parker, “Bub, I was just feeling all of those same anxious feelings and then found this!” I showed him the journal and told him about it. “I’ve never read any of this to anyone. Ever. Not even dad. But I want to read to you what I just wrote…”

I proceeded to read to him, the first sentence being about him turning 10, and as I read his shoulders lifted, his face brightened, and by the end he was my happy-go-lucky Parker.

People… count your blessings.


Doing so will not lift the quarantine but it will lift your spirits.

I’m reading the book of Deuteronomy in my Bible Reading Plan and it’s one of my favorite books of the Bible. Strange favorite, I know. But I love hearing the command: Do not forget what the Lord has done for you.

Because it’s easy to focus on:

  • the stress of PCSing
  • tossing/giving away things that are memorable or special to save on HHGs weight
  • quarantine
  • toilet paper shortage
  • limits on many items
  • canceled church services
  • THREE trips canceled (including Matt’s Christmas present, a race that runs through three countries; Auschwitz, Anne Frank, and Corrie Ten Boom… these were at the top of my must-see-before-we-move list)
  • stats showing that this is spreading faster than we can keep up
  • the hurtful things shared online

I have to be intentional to focus on all the Lord has done for me.

And as I mentioned earlier, there is something that was pouring Life into me over the past three days that led me to be intentional in this area.

I was listening to Lysa Terkeurst’s book, “It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way.”

I firmly believe the timing of my listening to that book was ordained by the Lord Himself.

I urge you to read it during your time in quarantine. If you’re reading this blog post years after this pandemic, then read Lysa’s book now. It’s full of encouragement and not from the perspective of a person who is a know-it-all or is judgmental. Her heart pours out in love for her fellow children of The King.

There were probably a hundred quotes I could have shared but I’ll leave you with this.

In the quiet, unexpressed, unwrestled-through disappointments, Satan is handcrafting his most damning weapons against us and those we love. It’s his subtle seduction to get us alone with our thoughts so he can slip in whispers that will develop our disappointments into destructive choices.

And what often happens in our social media world is that we find freedom to express our disappointments (with our situation/government/spouse/etc) on social media and we find someone who agrees with us and we are emboldened in our stance… AND we find someone who disagrees and we find ourselves determined to either prove them wrong or stupid. And the enemy wins.

Use your time wisely online: Speak carefully. Share with caution. Read with discernment. Set healthy boundaries. (You do not have to correct every incorrect statement! Believe me, I know it’s tempting!) When you type something out ask yourself if it’s helpful or hurtful.

Lisa quotes Corinthians 1:3–4 and I believe it would be good to filter everything we want say, share, or post through this scripture:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

God comforts us. We comfort others with the comfort we received from Him.

Even the midst of horrible situations discern the voices you’re hearing and listen only to the One who comforts. Share what He speaks to you as it will comfort others and please don’t share the enemy’s destructive lies.


We sang hymns over our balcony with 16 other Kelley families before watching our Chapel service on FB live. 

I  kept punching Matt during the sermon because many of the things I wrote above were CH Rice’s points. I loved the scripture he preached from: Philippians 4:4-7. 

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The Lord is near. Be gentle in the commissary. Christians, stand out for your gentleness. Christ is the basis for our peace. ~CH Dan Rice. Screen Shot 2020-03-15 at 11.27.25 AM.png

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A good cry…

I just spent a hour in the basement crying over school work.

I am not a super sentimental homeschooling mama and we don’t do arts and crafts, so what I kept over the 13 years of Hayden’s educational career was bare-bones. All his math books, all his writing samples, and some science.

Just adding this picture into this post brings tears. People, this is hard.

We are facing Hayden’s 7th move and we are always over our allotted weight allowance. He graduated while we were here in Germany and he’s half-way through his General Studies Associates degree so I guess it’s safe to discard his handwriting booklets, first attempts at spelling, and the papers he wrote along the way.

But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

I actually feel it’s pretty impressive that I had all 13 years condensed into a single Rubbermaid tote… but that tote was heavy. And he’s not going to want that stuff.

Here’s the bulk of what is being tossed. This photo and the one above this one.

It’s doing nothing but taking up space and adding weight to our shipment. Getting rid of it won’t make the memories of our time together fade. I took plenty of pictures throughout the years and while in the basement deciding what to keep and what to toss I took pictures of things that were particularly adorable. (That’s what I keep telling myself, anyway.)

I said that I had a good cry. Let me tell you… tears fell continuously for quite some time. I started homeschooling Hayden in South Carolina. Then we did school in Colorado, Wiesbaden, South Carolina again, Texas, and he finished up in Stuttgart. When he graduated in May I created a blog post that highlighted his educational career, and looking back through those pictures had me tearing up all over again.

This is the only item I kept, with about three pages torn out of other books that were too precious to toss. We used this book daily for the first two years of Hayden’s school career.

The Saturday after we received our surprise orders we purged the table we have had since 2007… all four boys did Kindergarten on it, and Hayden did school at that table until his 10th grade year. It broke my heart to purge that but there really is no reason to tote it around the world. I loved sitting around that table eating dinner, seeing evidence of their earliest handwriting attempts, their first signatures, and one (intentional?) “Carson was here” etching.

I promised them that the picture with the table was just for me… so I cropped them out to honor my word.
2017 – An outside teacher grading Hayden’s research paper.

I rarely find it difficult to put my feelings into words but this has me a bit stumped.

I feel like I’m literally throwing away a huge chunk of my career, time with my son, and evidence of all of our hard work and I have three more boxes to go through – one each for Carson, Bailey, and Parker, but my tender heart can only take so much in one day.

(I haven’t been able to make myself actually discard of this stuff. The pile is still on the floor and the stack is still on that coffee table in the basement. I think I need to have some sort of ceremony with the kids… roast marshmallows in the fire pit letting them ceremoniously toss in old papers? Yes, I do think I could come to terms with that.)

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January 2020 Memories

Every now and then it’s good to journal about the everyday goings-on that don’t necessarily deserve a whole blog post. That’s what this entry is. 

Car repairs/exercise/and adult conversation:

Our Town and Country needed work and the dealership is just beside the Stuttgart airport. Hayden’s battery was dead and Matt had the Truckster at work, so I drove the T&C to the shop and walked/ran home. It was a gorgeous trail and now I can say I’ve walked from the airport home. I even got to talk to an adult on the phone for about 30 minutes! Love catching up with friends! (Audrey!!)

I didn’t know at the time that we’d be moving away so soon but I do believe I told Audrey I’d miss these running fields whenever we did move. She gets me. I took this picture and sent it to her so she could enjoy the view I was seeing. 

Not going for speed… just enjoying the German fields.

Chore assignment time

Every January we reassign chores. It’s always a bit of a chess game trying to figure out who does what. We always start with one rule: No one has to do the same big chore two years in a row… so, Carson was on bathroom duty last year so that was one chore he could say good-bye to this year. 

In case you’re looking for a really good household system I found Managers of their Chores (and its companion, Managers of their Homes) back when the bigs were in elementary school. We’ve used it ever since, though without the actual, wearable chore packs. 

Anna started ballet!

On her first day I sent her in play clothes. Looking back I realize this was silly! How can a ballerina dance if she’s not wearing ballet clothes!?! She needed her tutu! Fortunately we live very close to the gym so I brought her tutu and tights, changed her in the bathroom, and she participated from that point on. (Grace, please! This is my first girl!!)

Anna started doing school

…WHICH GOES AGAINST EVERYTHING IN MY BEING! As you may know I’m opposed to homeschooling preschool in a formal, forced way. I believe kids need these years to play and interact, read books and be read to. But there are some kids who ask for it. I pulled out our Handwriting Without Tears and we did letters. We only do this about once a week (when she asks to) but she really enjoys it. 


Last summer I won the big grand finale at the Patch MWR Library. The prize was a $1000 gift card to EuropaPark! We bought season tickets went in January… the day before they close for the season! Not funny. And 2 weeks later we get orders. Awesome. We have put 4 trips on the calendar for April and May, trying to squeeze all the good out of those season tickets! We really had a blast and look forward to going back soon.

Parker got to ride a real snowboard!

It’s blurry but that FACE! He was loving it!

EuropaPark had these fires all over the park to warm your hands… at your own risk! This one was beautiful. They had hollowed out a log and lit the inside of it. 

Notice Anna wearing her “Road ID” on her shoe… it’s pink so it blends in. She wears it in case she gets separated from us. She can tell someone to call her mommy and my number is engraved on the metal plate.

Most of the day the teens did their thing and Matt and I hung with the littles. At the very last minute I said that I wanted to ride one roller-coaster. I nervously set off to find one that looked suitable (with LOTS of loops and without a huge drop… I’m picky). I got to the Blue Fire and saw two entrances: groups and single riders. I walked that long and turning single-rider path and by the time I got to the line I was beyond nervous. I even figured out how I’d get myself out of this… when my turn was called, I’d climb in and then go right on out the other side, not looking back.

But I didn’t and I had a blast! I loved it and I can’t wait to go back again! So exciting! 

You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown

Call it an attempt at installing culture in my kids. We went to see a play and they put us om the front row! Anna fell in love with the girl who played Sally, in part because Sally had huge ringlets like Anna’s… though they were white-blonde and extra big (stage hair). She wanted to meet Sally after the show so we stuck around. I warned Anna that Sally’s hair was pretend for the play and she gave me a look of sheer incredulity. I’m so thankful I thought of warning her because otherwise Anna may not have believed that the girl we were meeting was actually Sally!

Anna turns 4

While we were singing Happy Birthday you can hear some really exciting news! We found out that Anna’s sibling is a girl while we were singing Happy Birthday to Anna!! I just love these little treasures God places in our lives. 

Mama Kim texted to tell us that she’s having a girl! If you watch the video you will hear me gasp right after Parker says Anna’s name, then Hayden says, “She found out the gender,” (meaning that I had seen the gender-reveal on my watch) and I held my arm out… Bailey read the text, “It’s a girl.” (At the bottom of this post is a video with three separate clips of Anna. In the third clip you’ll hear the song. Please disregard her messy hair… we didn’t go anywhere that day.)

{Backing up… Mama Kim is expecting and we’ve known all along. We are rejoicing with her with this new life and can’t wait to meet Anna’s biological sister. We are extremely thankful for the timing of our return to the states so we can get these sisters together as often as possible!}

In January Anna also had her Olaf Birthday which I already wrote about.

January date night with my Favorite. 

As I mentioned I now work with Lifegiver and one of my favorite tasks is writing the newsletter that is released once a month. In the newsletter Corie and I want to offer real-life tips for marriages and one I included in the first issue in 2020 was to sit down in January and schedule out at least one date each month. One tip was to schedule it as close as possible to the date you married on. So, Matt and I got married on the 29th of May so sometime near the 29th of each month we will go on a date! Our date for January was on the 31st and we went to my favorite restaurant in downtown Stuttgart, the {M}eatery, and then walked around the city we call home. We sat down on the stairs where Hayden his senior pictures taken and dreamed of our upcoming move… the ‘saying goodbye’ phase had started and we had only known about moving to NYC for three days. 


Video collage of Anna’s silliness

1-7 ~ 10,000 years will give you… Anna cracks us up with her own version of the Genie’s line from Aladdin.
1-18 ~ Baby Monitor – Anna wakes up singing, “The sun’s awake so I’m awake so I have to wake up!”
1-23 ~ Anna’s Happy Birthday – We learn that her new sibling is a sister!

Well, January, you treated us well. We started with family in town, visited a fun theme park, celebrated Anna’s birthday, found out Mama Kim’s baby is a sister, learned we’re moving to New York City, and got to go on a delicious date. Not bad, January. Not bad at all.

Posted in family, germany, military, travel | 1 Comment

Surprise Orders!

If you’re military you know what that means!

It means that while we were under the impression we’d be here until June 2021, God knew otherwise.

10 days ago Matt received a phone call that would take our well-laid out plans and twist them around. Click through the slideshow below to find out where we’re going!

Yes, there is a duty station in New York City! It’s pretty small and we are thrilled to be going there, yet our excitement at going there is matched by the disappointment of leaving a place we’ve grown to love:

  1. Our ChapelNext family has grown both in size and in the quality of community. Leaving the people we’ve done life and worshipped Christ with is going to be heartbreaking.
  2. The city of Stuttgart is really lovely and we’ve become very fond of taking the train from home downtown. Just Friday I took a mom-break and went to the Stadtbibliothek and then to lunch with a dear friend… whom I am going to miss!
  3. Our stairwell friends have become like family. I love the ability to run up/down a flight to borrow an egg, a cup of milk, or an Instant Pot. (MINE DIED! Can you believe that?!?)

I’ll create a more detailed blog post later about what we will miss like the one I wrote when we left Wiesbaden. I don’t think I wrote one about what we would miss before we left Texas because I totally didn’t expect to miss Texas, but I most certainly did grieve once we got here to Stuttgart.

For now, please know that if you see me with a big grin on my face there are two main reasons:

  1. Matt’s getting an opportunity that is out of the blue, out of the ordinary, and something that he’s really excited about doing. Anytime I can watch him excel at his job and find joy and a challenge in his work I am happy for him and happy for our family. God has called our whole family to this Army journey and where he goes, we follow. Sometimes we do so with better attitudes than at others… this time, I just so happen to have had a good attitude about it from the start (see number 2).
  2. We have kept this fairly private because it’s not really our news to tell, but Anna’s first-mom is having a new baby and this puts us about six hours away from her! We are very excited to be able to visit more often and to meet Anna’s newest sibling! Being this close means that these sisters will be able to see each other way more often than if we were to stay here in Germany. (Oh, and it’s a baby girl!)

There you go! Are you as surprised as we are?

Posted in adoption, family, friends, germany, military, moving | 7 Comments

Rainy Day Hack

I come from a place where we don’t battle rainy days. We let them win. We cancel outdoor plans or have a back-up activity. If things are still wet from a previous rain, we steer clear of outside activities until things dry up.

I think there are two major contributing factors to this mindset.

  1. Charlotte isn’t known for being particularly rainy so giving up a handful of days to sit inside and play board games, read, or watch TV is not a big loss. It’s kind of cozy, actually. (Especially since Charlotte gets a pitifully small amount of snowfall each year. We have to take our cozy-days however we can get them.)
  2. Charlotte isn’t a public transportation city. Yes, I know. Charlotte has public transportation but no one near where I grew up uses it. Most families have cars and drive themselves from their garage to their destination and then right back home. On rainy days people fight extra hard for parking spaces near the building and make hilarious runs for the door, getting wetter by splashing than they would have by walking.

When we moved to Germany one very obvious difference in Germans and Americans is that Germans don’t let the weather keep them inside. Rain, snow, mud… they’re out there getting their walk in. I love this!

When Anna started going to hourly care her teachers told me that we’d need to buy “mud pants” for Anna. I had no clue what they were so they showed me a pair that belonged to another child. I ordered a pair on and we have LOVED having those pants. Yesterday I found myself telling a friend in the states about these pants and realized that most American parents probably don’t know anything about them.

They allow Anna to go outside when it’s raining or muddy and still be able to play. Swings wet? No problem! Slide wet? No problem!

They have stirrups to keep the legs in place and shoulder straps like ski-bibs to keep them up.

We also have a pair ski pants that Anna wears outside on colder days so she has two pairs of mud pants… a cold-weather pair and a warm-weather pair. She also has an actual snow suit that she wears in the snow.

We take both kinds of pants with us when we go sight-seeing. A grouchy toddler/preschooler can take the fun out of just about any activity so dressing her for the weather extends the amount of time she’s able to tolerate being in yucky weather.

You may be able to find these in sports stores but I don’t remember ever seeing these when we were in the states. Here’s a link to a pair by Playshoes. Please let me know if you click the link and they aren’t available. I’ll update with a new link as needed.
(No affiliate links.)

Here’s the pair we actually have by Lego (probably not available in the states). It says the color is red but it’s hot pink all day long.

And I think the cold-weather pair we have was given to Anna because I don’t see it in our Amazon orders. Here’s an example of what we have.

So… there’s my hack. Need your kid to go outside but it’s wet from yesterday’s rain? MUD PANTS!! Buy them!

Here’s Anna wearing her warm-weather snow pants. (She was crying because her feet were cold… she played in the sand barefooted.)

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