New Year’s Eve 2015….!


What a year it has been to reflect upon as we sit on the cusp of 2016; as I looked back at the biggest news stories of the year, it seemed to be a year of upheaval and tragedy, not only here in the U.S. but abroad as well.

It has also been a year of great prayer and unity surrounding these events, showing that as a people, regardless of perceived “cultural barriers” we are truly united in hope, faith and supporting our fellow man.

My greatest wish would be for 2016 to be a year of healing, togetherness and true kindness towards others. To look up from our devices and see the world around us and humankind in its strength and beauty.

Happy New Year to all!!






Things we love…Jaeger!






Baby Jaeger is growing up FAST! He’s now roughly 16 weeks old and we estimate his weight to be between 40-45 pounds! Definitely the biggest dog I’ve ever had! Our pug, Oliver topped out the scales at 26 lbs today ( such a svelte little guy:).

Training is going well; typical of the German Shepard breed he is very smart and learns fast. We’ve mastered voice and hand signals for sit, down and stay and i’m working on “where’s Mommy and Daddy?” I know, silly, but fun!

Not aggressive at all and very loving and responsive. His main obstacle these days: his feet, which resemble bear paws rather than dog’s. He is still learning to manage them and watching him run, trip, slide and tumble is adorable.

Here he is now!

J1 10.15.15

and at 8 weeks old…!

Baby J 10.22.15



Family, Fun & Homeschooling! Featuring Jen from Happy Little Homemaker

Welcome to this week’s Family, Fun & Homeschooling!

F,F & H finchnwren.comI’m so excited to introduce you to Jen Steed from Happy Little Homemaker.  Jen is another homeschooling friend from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.  I loved getting to “meet” her and I LOVE some of her ideas!  In fact, I’m thinking about how to implement some of them into my own homeschool!

Without further ado….here’s Jen!

Introducing Jen!

Introducing Jen!

Tell us about your blog.

My blog is Happy Little Homemaker.  I write about the top 5 priorities of Christian women — faith/Catholicism and taking care of yourself, your marriage, your kids & your home.  I started blogging as a local blogger when my daughter was a baby because she would only nap while nursing.  Hubs bought me a NetBook (before tablets and iPhones) and after reading blogs I decided to start one.  I gave up the local focus and tried several other ideas before finally coming up with Happy Little Homemaker.  My blog took its current direction after reading the book, A Mother’s Rule of Life.

Do you have a favorite blogging topic that you return to again and again?

I tend to blog about whatever my projects are at the time, but books are almost always at the root of just about any post because I love to read to myself & the children.  Even my 20 month old looks at books while nursing ;).

Right now, I’m trying to live out our Catholic faith & be a better mom and homeschooler and so that’s what I’m writing a lot  about.

Tell us about your family.  How did you and your husband meet?  And what would you like to share about your children?

Hubs &  I met when his roommate was dating my roommate.  They were sick of third-wheels & the rest, as they say, is history :).  I have a 7 year old daughter who is very visually oriented and loves people.  My 4 year old daughter is quite the helper and, internally motivated, shall we say.  My 20 month old boy is curious, exhausting & very persistent.

What made you decide to homeschool?

We always knew we would.  I had an awful school experience from a social standpoint.  And a boring one from an educational standpoint.  Hubs was homeschooled for a year.  After years of less than stellar education experiences in high school and college, we decided that the educational system was broken.  Since I was willing to homeschool, he was, too.

What does a day in your homeschool look like?

My second grader does core & independent work in the morning while I work with the preschooler and try to keep the boy out of trouble.  We block schedule our afternoon work dedicating one day a week to history, science/labs/nature study, music appreciation/art & social studies.

Do you have a favorite “date night” you love to do?

We have a sitter come once a week for 2 hours.  Sometimes we go out to eat, but most times we watch a movie or play a game in the basement of our office, which is super close to the house.

What are some of your favorite mama-child activities?

I read :).  And plan special holiday stuff.  Or unit study stuff.  In the summer, we do lots of walks, runs, bike rides.

happy_little_button-v2Jen’s vivid writing makes it so easy to imagine her beautiful family life!  And I love that she is a fellow bibliophile.  Books just make everything better.  🙂

Be sure to visit Jen at Happy Little Homemaker!  And visit us next week for another episode of Family, Fun & Homeschooling!

Enjoy!  –Wren



Family, Fun & Homeschooling! Featuring Brenda from Counting Pinecones

Welcome back to Family, Fun & Homeschooling!  I am having so much fun with this series—I hope you are as well!  It has been such a joy to meet other homeschoolers who blog and share them with you.

F,F & H finchnwren.comThis week, my friend Brenda (another displaced Texan) from Schoolhouse Review Crew is sharing her family’s story with us.  Brenda blogs at Counting Pinecones, where she tells the story of her family and homeschool.  Like us, her family is wild about space.  You’re going to love getting to know this beautiful family.  Meet Brenda!

Brenda P real headshotTell us about your blog.   How did you come up with this very creatively-named blog?

My blog is Counting Pinecones which originally started as just a way for me to keep track of what type of activities we were working on in our homeschool as well as a way for our families to see their schoolwork.  Since we were a military family, we live a long ways from our families.  My family is in Texas and New York, my husband’s is in North Carolina and Indiana and right now we’re stationed in California.  Needless to say, we haven’t seen our families since we moved here 4 years ago, but we wanted a way for them to keep up iwth what the kids were doing each day and feel as if they were part of their lives.
Counting PineconesThe idea for the name came from my son who is special needs (Einstein’s syndrome).  He had this huge fascination with collecting all the pine cones he could find and would play with them for hours on end.  At one point, we had so many pine cones in our house so when we started homeschooling, we used them as counters….  And so Counting Pinecones was born.

Do you have a favorite blogging topic that you return to again and again?

Not typically.  My brain is wired so crazy that I can’t remember what I blogged about two days ago.  At first, my blog read more like a diary.  Now it’s all over the place with anything from a recipe I feel like sharing that day, pictures of the desert sunsets and homeschooling stuff.  I’ve only been blogging for about 8 months (and only actively so in the last 3), so I’m still trying to find the direction I want to go with it and figure out what works.  I’m willing to be in another 8 months, it will be totally unrecognizable from what it is at this point as I figure out the style that works best for me.  Also, the kids are young and are learning reading and writing—you can only blog, “Hey, the kids wrote a sentence today!” so many times.  As they get past the basics and we start working on the really exciting school stuff, then I will probably have topics and themes that I will visit multiple times.

brenda prince son and daughter

Tell us about your family.  How did you and your husband meet?  And what would you like to share about your children?

Our family is a blended family consisting of my husband (Charles), myself, my 15-year-old daughter from my previous marriage, our 8-year-old son and our 6-year-old daughter.  Charles and I actually met online and have been together for 10 years and married for 8.  We were married on the 4th of July so I always joke that if he forgets our anniversary, he’ll really see fireworks. 😉  Charles is 10 years younger than I am and is currently serving in the U.S. Air Force as an avionics specialist on the F-22.  He’s been in for 5 years now.  Prior to that, we lived in Michigan where he was the stay-at-home dad and I was the working breadwinner, so the roles have been reversed.  alyssa head shotAlyssa, our 15-year-old, is currently a sophomore in the public school here on base and is involved in JROTC and the Robotics club.  She is also the founder and president of the school’s Creative Writing Club.  She’ll be turning 16 in a few months and I’m dreading the whole driving and dating stage.  Ash and Garrett are practically inseparable and are the best of friends.  We are all certified “Disney Addicts” and have been planning our big cross-country trip for this summer for the last two years.  (Which is how the Destination Education series on my blog was developed.)

What made you decide to homeschool?

garrett Brenda Prince

It had a lot to do with the fact that my son is special needs and verbally delayed.  When it was time to start talking about starting kindergarten, we had a meeting with the school in regards to what type of educational setting he might need.  His pediatrician had written that he needed to be in a special education class due to his delay (at that time, he was 6 years old and had the speech ability of a 9-month-old and was considered completely non-verbal.).  The school’s speech pathologist sat with him for about 15 minutes and basically told us that they couldn’t accommodate him but that they would pay to send him off base to a nearby school—nearby being 30 miles away.  I couldn’t see putting him on a bus every day for 60 miles’ worth of travel and I was already a SAHM, so I thought long and hard about if I would be able to teach him.  After a long discussion with my husband, we decided it would be best to try to homeschool him.

Brenda Prince ash picA year later, when it came time for my daughter to start kindergarten, we again debated if we would send her to public school or not.  Originally, our thought was that we would send her to the school on base so that I could have more 1-on-1 time with Garrett for school.  The decision was made because we found out they were combining classes together.  Kindergarten and first graders would all be in the same classroom with 1 teacher who would teach one grade half the day and then switch.  We had a few friends who had kids in a similar class set-up the year before and it was not a good experience for the kids.  Needless to say, both kids are currently homeschooled and I have no plans to put them into public schools.

What does a day in your homeschool look like?

We’re pretty laid back in our homeschooling situation and would probably be an interest-led situation.  I allow the kids to pick and choose topics they would like to explore when it comes to science, history and literature.  (They have no say in regards to math and reading or they would never do it!)  A typical day for us is waking up whenever, and they play Minecraft or read books quietly while Mom has coffee (loud voices before Mom has her coffee can be considered hazardous to their health).  Usually an hour later, we sit down on the floor in the living room with their binders and work on our lessons.  M-W-F we work on math, literature (where I read to them and we discuss what we are reading) and independent reading (where they have to read to me).  Tuesdays and Thursdays are spelling, history and science which also includes a lot of writing for them.  Teaching a special needs kid is tough at times, so our schooling has to accommodate for him.  I actually held him back a year, I guess you could say, because last year he absolutely refused to do anything—wouldn’t write, wouldn’t read, wouldn’t sit still and do schoolwork.  He just wasn’t ready and there was no way I was going to consider him a 2nd grader.  It was the best decision we made as now he’s able to pay attention and concentrate better than last year.  However, there are still days that we might have to regroup or take a day off because of a meltdown or because he’s too agitated or excited about something.  Hence, why the laid-back approach–a strict schedule just won’t work for us and things get shifted around a lot.

Do you have a favorite “date night” you love to do?

We have a few things we enjoy doing together.  My husband is huge into astronomy and astrophotography, so when we know a meteor shower is going on, we drag out a huge inflatable mattress to the back yard, throw a few blankets over it (if it is really cold we throw an electric blanket on it) and we lie out there together alone (kids are usually asleep by that time) and we snuggle and watch shooting stars.

Occasionally we head to town (town for us is a 45-minute drive) and we might catch a movie and have dinner together; but those types of nights are pretty rare.  Usually a “date” for us is grabbing a quick lunch at the Taco Bell on base while we’re out grocery shopping LOL.  Yeah, 2 soft tacos is a pretty cheap date but honestly, it’s not about going out and spending lots of money, but more about just reconnecting with each other without the distraction of the kids.  We’re able to sit at a small 2-person table in the food court, share a drink and enjoy a quick lunch while we’re able to have a discussion about whatever crosses our mind without hearing “MOM!!!” every 20 seconds.  LOL

What are some of your favorite mama-child activities?

Does going to the bathroom count?  Because it seems to be their favorite activity to do with me?  J/K.

The kids love going to the park that’s directly behind the house.  During the summer months, we have to wait til the sun goes down as it’s way too hot, so they watch for the sun to go down.  We also like watching the wildlife together.  We have hummingbird and seed feeders outside our windows so we can watch the birds.  We also get coyotes, bobcats, rabbits, squirrels, and ravens who visit our yard a lot.

Garrett enjoys playing Minecraft which means that every two minutes he enjoys showing me his creation.  Ash is probably happiest just cuddling on the couch or in bed with me and letting me read to her.  On the weekends we have family game night and we play games like Scene It Disney, Pictionary and stuff the kids can play.  We’re pretty boring as far as activities go.  LOL.  Also, every so often, usually on a random Saturday night, we have music night where I pretend to be the DJ and I just play random songs most of the night, whatever pops into my head.  The kids enjoy this a lot.  We do silly dance (“Kid in Play,” anyone?) and all three kids get introduced to various musical artists or styles that kids these days just don’t know about.  How many 15-year-olds know who Red Sovine is?  If you can’t tell already, we’re more of a stay-at-home family and be-a-family together type of family, than we are a constantly-on-the-go and do-as-much-as-possible family.

Brenda Prince hubby pic

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Hmmm, like I said before we’re kinda boring….LOL.  Oooh, I mentioned that we’re big into astronomy here.  My living room has 3 telescopes sitting in it right now.  That’s how serious it is.  My husband started Chuckwalla Observatory here on base which grew into an astronomy outreach program for kids on base to learn about astronomy and telescopes.  Originally, we started with just a 3.5-inch reflector telescope, the type that many people buy for a few hundred dollars.  Slowly, the habit progressed and that 3.5-inch scope turned into an 8-inch scope, and that turned into a 12-inch scope, which is way bigger than anything the casual stargazer would have.  It’s really great for the kids though, especially as we do the astronomy course from Apologia; because as we read about each planet, the kids are able to actually see them.  My husband is able to hook the scope up to a computer, making it easier for the kids to see (as the eyepiece for the telescope is close to 5 feet off the ground…lol).  Eventually, I’ll be getting him to write the occasional article for Counting Pinecones on things like “Selecting Your First Telescope” or to highlight upcoming events that are observable without special equipment; and I’m hoping to be able to start sharing some of his photography on the blog as well for everyone to see.

Charles is also starting an astronomy Q&A.  Does your child have questions about stars, planets, comets, or any other space-worthy category?  Email him at with your questions by the 13th of each month.  Be sure to include your student’s age and grade so that he can tailor his answers to the child’s understanding.  The answers will be published on the 15th of each month at  Counting Pinecones!

I’ve loved getting to know Brenda and her family a bit more.  Thank you, Brenda, for sharing your story with us!  And be sure to visit her at Counting Pinecones and leave her a comment!

We’ll be back next week with another episode of Family, Fun & Homeschooling.  Thank you for stopping by!

Enjoy!  –Wren




Family, Fun & Homeschooling! Featuring Kemi from Homemaking Organized

Are you ever looking for more ideas for ways to have fun with your family?  Or, things you can do to grow and deepen the love you have for one another?  Or…tips for making your homeschool days and activities even better? Well, if you answered “Yes!” to any of those questions, you’ve come to the right place! F,F & H Finch and I are beginning a new series on finchnwren called (yep, you guessed it)…..

Family, Fun and Homeschooling!

Each Friday, we’ll be introducing you to fellow bloggers who’ll be sharing the ways these ideas work out in their families.  You’ll get to meet other fascinating women…and enhance your own creativity as you hear about the neat ways they connect with their family.  We’re excited….and we hope you will be too!

Today, we’re introducing you to my friend Kemi, who blogs at Homemaking Organized.

meTell us about your blog.  What was the spark of the idea that enabled you to create Homemaking Organized?

I started Homemaking Organized about 11 years ago, before my daughter was born.  It was the lull before the kiddie storm (the year before we became foster parents) and my sister suggested starting a website.  It was a static website before it was a blog.  I just started sharing how I take care of my home and it seemed to touch a chord with people.  Some days I want to drop it but God won’t let me.  Not sure why so I just plug away.

Do you have a favorite blogging topic that you return to again and again?

Just one, eh?  I love reading vintage homemaking books and while I don’t really talk about them much on Homemaking Organized, I do have a site (that’s in serious need of an update), Vintage Homemaking, where I do.  I should have merged the two sites eons ago, but they’ve both been going for the same amount of time and now have vastly different audiences.  I’m an old soul and really just like talking about the details of keeping home.  I like home and being at home.  Making the  home a lovely, restful place where guests are welcome and the cares of the world are left at the doormat.

Tell us about your family.  How did you and your husband meet?  And what would you like to share about your child?

I met my husband, nicknamed Daddy Big, when I was a senior in college and he was recruiting for the Coast Guard.  It was at an educational fair which I was participating in as part of my degree.  Not sure what he was doing there, but oh well.  God knows.  🙂  He hung around my family for several years before making his intentions known.  Courting early style!  He’s very sweet and the nicest man in the world.  God has touched him with something special, because many times people will start to talk to him and before you know it they are crying and pouring out their troubles to him and making a commitment to the Lord.  Very strange to watch.  Early on I would ask him, “Oh no!  What did you say to her/him now?”

Our daughter, nicknamed the Sweet Peanut, is a very inquisitive girl who is a bug and animal whisperer.  When she was little one day she looked at me with those pretty brown eyes and asked why there was no show called “Bug Rescue.”  She was serious.

What made you decide to homeschool?

God laid it on our hearts to homeschool.  My aunt homeschooled her 6 children and I didn’t think much of it one way or another.  Then, my sister homeschooled my nephew.  They were learning so much (as a family) — how could I pass this up?  But really, God told us to and we don’t question that.  Even if God had not told us, there are a lot of other reasons that would have swayed us to the way of homeschooling.  I can’t say I would have hung in this long, but the bottom line is:  God pointed us in the direction of homeschooling and perfect it may not be, but it’s perfect for us.

What does a day in your homeschool look like?

We wake up at the “crack of noon.”  Haha!  Just kidding, but we do start later than most.  Our written schedule says 9 a.m. but that’s a rare day when we get to start then.  My husband can often come home late, especially in deep winter and late summer.  And we always eat as a family.  That means we get to bed late and wake up late.  So, we get up late and mill around and eat breakfast for about an hour.  I get up before my daughter and try and get a little work done.  She’s in tune to her mother’s comings and goings and, as soon as she senses I’m awake she’s in my face, so I try and quietly work for about an hour before getting her up.  We eat breakfast together and then get ready for the school day.

We start our day with prayer and then work on memorizing Scripture.  In our church Bible study, she has her own weekly Scripture to memorize, so we work on that.  Then we start on school and begin with our heavy hitters:  English, math and science.  We use Bob Jones DVDs which, by themselves, only add to an hour and 15 minutes of video; but then when you add in seat work and my daughter asking endless questions, we can be at it for 3 hours or even more.  And this is just the first three subjects!

We take an hour break for lunch and then get back to it.  Lunch, we might run an errand, get some play in, tackle a project or do some gardening, and eat.  After the break are reading social studies, spelling and handwriting.  Except for spelling, the last set of classes are not every day.  These are also the subjects my daughter excels in, so they fly by.

These classes are all video classes and fun to watch.  But nevertheless, we change up about mid-year and I teach the courses from the teacher’s manual to give us and our eyes a break!  We have a 4-day work week and my husband takes off a day mid-week for field trips or just hanging out (he works Saturdays).

Do you have a favorite “date night” activity you love to do?

Hmmm….”date night.”  Such a new concept.  My husband comes from a large family and I come from an extended large family, so going off together just doesn’t happen unless we stay home and our daughter goes off, leaving us alone (it does happen occasionally).  At those times we like to just hang out quietly.  Watch something interesting and get some snacks.  Or cook together (we love doing that).  Work on a project together.  Going off together is hard because if it’s exciting, we always think of someone in the family who would enjoy the experience too.  Even on our honeymoon (Hawaii), we were like, “Oh, so and so would love this!”


What are some of your mama-child activities?

My daughter and I have “Music Parties” on Sunday nights.  We watch Gaither TV (online subscription) and eat popcorn and ice cream.  We sing so loud my husband eventually comes to join us.  He’s usually in another room pretending to read or doing some paperwork.  But when I attempt  to hit those David Phelps notes he comes running!

100_0874We’ve also been having tea parties since she was about 2.  She loves those.  We make a pot of peppermint tea and I cut sandwiches with cookie cutters.  Sometimes I’ll make a  spread with strained yogurt and some fruit.  Just sweet things where we enjoy each other.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I love soap and never think you can have too much.  I also love perfume but I got into veggie gardening a few years ago and that attracted too many bugs and bees.  So I just bring my bottles out every so often and take a sniff.  Every so often my daughter and I sit down and pull out my collection of soap and perfume and go through everything oohing and aahing.  She’s creating her own collection of perfume.

We don’t post our faces online, so instead our lovely doll family has agreed to stand in for us, representing the makeup of our family.  Mama doll has forgotten to add the grey streak that runs the length of my hair, but you get the idea.Kemi doll family

 Kemi Quinn is a wife, mother, church musician, and amateur cook. She loves soap, perfume, and French desserts. You can find her over at Homemaking Organized.
I hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know Kemi today!  I’ve loved hearing more about her life, myself.  We’ve been friends on the Crew forums for awhile, but the fascinating details of a person’s life don’t always pop up there.  Be sure to visit Kemi at Homemaking Organized!
Enjoy….and join us at finchnwren again next Friday for another episode of our new series, Family, Fun & Homeschooling!  —Wren

Things we love…Family!

We spent all day with my sister and her family and had the best time. Visiting for hours, playing with Cleo nonstop, Sushi and football.

We had the best time and love them so much!


Which, at the end of the day, is why this post is so short…didn’t want to spend a second away with this wonderful visit!

Love, Finch, Wren and Family!

5 Social Media pitfalls to avoid

The world of social media has enveloped us all in some form or another

and with it permeating the world as it does, you’ve probably noticed that things we once would never talk about in polite company are fair game for sharing with 100’s of “friends”. Oversharing has become the norm. So I put together a quick list of things to be careful of when posting on any type of social media.    

 #1 Your Facebook page is public (allowing anyone to view everything about you).

#2 Posting on anything that you are going out of town (hello break-in)

#3 “Friending” your employees (do you really want to know their private lives and vice-versa)?

#4 Posting excessive “selfie’s” (sends quite the narcisstic message, don’t you think!)

#5 Sharing minutia (does anyone care that you had a smoothie for lunch?)

 Share with your kids!