My Village

If it were up to me, I'd leave town in the middle of the night.

I'd load the truck and sneak out of town and hope that all of my friends would think I was on vacation until they forgot about me.  I'm no good at goodbyes.  They are awkward and sad.  I want to say, "I'll see you soon!" but I have no idea exactly when I will see them or if I'll see them again.  I don't want to cry and I don't want them to cry.

But I can't sneak of in the dead of night.  I owe them more than that.
They say it takes a village.

And I don't think anyone knows that as much as a Mom that has battled for her children's lives as much as I have.  Through infertility, foster care, and open heart surgeries my people have carried me through some very dark days, celebrated some monumental victories by my side.

They have cheered me on, kept me going.  Provided roots to this displaced Northern girl trying to find her way through Southern Belle-ness.

And now, as I'm counting down the days until we get to pick Andrew up at the airport, I'm suddenly very aware that I'm simultaneously counting down to the day I leave My Village.

Some of these girls I've known since my first month in Georgia.  Others I've picked up along the way.  A lot of women don't have many girlfriends, but I'm not one of them.  I have an abundance of friends that I know would drop it all and run to my aid.

Or sneak out after bedtimes to sit on my porch and make my lonesome self laugh.

My friends are real and true and I'm pretty sure I'll never be able to replace any of them.

I'm going to miss My Village.



TOS Review - Homeschool Piano

What Is It:

Homeschool Piano Review

Homeschool Piano provides online piano lessons to families that extend beyond just reading music and playing the piano.  The goal of this company is to make each student into an expressive piano player that is able to improvise as well as playing sheet music.  There are printable booklets to go along with the online video lessons.

For this review, we were given a lifetime subscription to the Homeschool Piano Complete Set of Books.  These lessons are appropriate for all ages.

How We Used It:

First things first.  I lost all my fun pictures of the kids practicing on the piano.  I'm beyond bummed because, while we had some issues with the site in the beginning, they really had fun with this review.

Originally I planned to use these with Josie over the Summer.  She has wanted to learn to play the piano for a long time and this program looked like a good fit.  However, once we got it, I decided to use it with Gabe as well.  And after sitting in on the first lesson, I decided I wanted to try to learn too!  So all three of us ended up getting to try this.  We all used and responded to it differently, so read on to see how it went for each of us!

There are three book levels in this program.

The first is for absolute beginners, the second for building a foundation for those that have a little knowledge, and the third is about perfecting your style.  None of us have any experience on the piano, so we all started in book one.

To start off, I printed off the sheet music for Book One.

These were simple, few notes bars that were easy to print out.  I made ours into a book, because I like organized papers.  Totally unnecessary, but it worked for us.

Once that was ready, we pulled the keyboard out from the moving boxes in our garage and plugged it up.  The kids?  Beyond excited the keyboard reappeared!

The program lessons are done by video.  I streamed them on the iPad so that we could sit at the piano as we watched them.  I tried to have them both listen to the lesson at the same time, but that went about how you'd imagine, so we went to separate lessons.

Homeschool Piano Review

Each unit has 7 lessons, each lasting about 10 minutes.  After that, the student will need time to practice.  We worked slowly through the lessons since we totally had zero experience.  This is one review that I didn't have to remind Josie to do.  She was quick to remind me that she needed to practice each day.  She loves the keyboard!

My Opinion:

I'm glad this is a lifetime subscription, because it may take me that long to learn!  But I'm an old lady, my kids are a different story.  Josie picked it up the fastest.  She seems to have a little of a knack for piano.  Even so, at 7 it was hard for her.  Gabe didn't have a hard time, but he has tiny fingers and hands which made it difficult to manage the keys.  He did try and I'm thinking that this will be a product that I circle back around to when he's a bit bigger.

A big chunk of our review period was effected by a glitch on the website.

We had a hard time logging on and, since we are in the middle of a cross country move, it really effected the amount of practices we got in.  However, about a week ago we got an email explaining that the server had been overloaded by all the new sign ups.  They boosted the server and since then we have had zero difficulty accessing the site.  The company was quick to respond to the issue, which is super nice.

In the end, I wouldn't recommend this for busy little four year old boys, but it was perfect for elementary school aged kids.  The lessons are short, leaving a good chunk of time for practice.  It's also nice that students can keep replaying the same lessons until they are comfortable with it before moving on.  There's no pressure to get it right on the first try.

I also loved the improvision lessons.  This really gives them freedom so they don't feel like they are just copying someone else's music.

I think that for our family, we will still need some in person lessons to get down the basics.  It's difficult since I have no knowledge to pass on to them.  If your family has any piano experience, I think this would be a wonderful tool.

Product Details:

Complete Set of Books - $299
or Monthly Payments of $99.97/month for 3 months

* Unlimited life-time access to HomeSchoolPiano along with all bonuses (downloads, jam tracks, sheet music) for up to 5 students with both options

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Phase Two: Packing Up & Leaving Town

After assessing the boxes in the garage and consulting with my calendar, I'm declaring today as the start of Phase Two of our big move.

many boxes have been added to this pile in the past week

In a week and a half, Andrew will fly in to do the heavy lifting and make the drive out West with me.  Although, I've suddenly lost all sentimental-ness and am having way to much fun selling all of our furniture. Who needs a couch or a table or beds?!  (remind me of this excitement when we get our own place and have to sit on the floor)

My Mom is coming to fly the kids out, saving all of our sanity.  30 hours in the car with Gabe just might do us in.  It will be a crazy, hectic, stressful couple of weeks.  I'm trying to get as organized as humanly possible to make it a smooth transition.  

Oh man, I'm getting hives just thinking about it.

With everything going on with Livi getting sick, I haven't been sure exactly what I was going to do about our fast approaching moving date.  After a lot of late night talks with Andrew, we are going to keep our plan in place and once we get settled, I will make plans to fly back to help where I can.  Once again, thank God for pass benefits.

gonna need to "pack" this when she's not home

Once we get to Arizona, we are going to be staying at my Mom's Arizona house for a couple of months while we find a house of our own.  I'm so extremely thankful that we have this option.  We tried doing virtual house tours via FaceTime, but I just cannot commit to something I haven't set foot in.  

This arrangement will also give us a chance to explore our new city with a house we are familiar with.  Time to just be together.  Oh man, I can't wait.

Our timeline is tight.

Josie is starting her hybrid school on the 7th (more details on that later).  Which will only give us a few days to get her set to start.   I'm holding off starting our school year until the middle of the month and planning a good sized break when we move into our actual house.  I think the mass amounts of field tripping we are going to be doing will more than suffice.

Andrew is so in love with his job.

He's already been promoted twice, which is beyond our wildest hopes for one month on the job.  Most of the things we thought we were giving up by moving to the franchise side of Waffle House, we still get.  It seriously is so much better than we thought it would be, and we thought it was going to be pretty great.

I'm glad he had these months to work nonstop without us there, but we are all ready to be together again.  I cannot wait to start our new adventure!

waiting in the car during our 1 millionth showing
So now I'm trying to figure out how on Earth I should pack.

Adding in the stop at my Mom's house makes it a bit tricky.  I need to fit the things we will need during that stay in my car and pack everything else for storage.  I'm pretty sure we will have access to the storage unit, but who wants to pack and unpack and pack again?  I think we will do the very bare minimum for those months.  

4 year old peeps did not make the cut

So here we go!

Look out Arizona, the Pope's are coming for you!


Love For Livi

This isn't a fun post to write.

It's one of those that you read about other people and feel sorry for them and then move on to the next post.  One where, after you read it, you silently thank God that it isn't your family. 

If you follow me on Facebook, you already know, but there's only so much you can put in a short blurb of a status update and my heart is too heavy to keep carrying all the words inside of me.  I need to process and the only way I can do that is to write.  So tonight I'm writing without an agenda, even though I don't want to. 

You all have been my warriors.

Carried me through some of my darkest days.  When fear gripped me tight and the waters covered my head, there were always emails, comments, phone calls to lift me higher.  And tonight I'm asking you to reach down to lift up my very best friend.

Most of you know Amber. 

Heck, some of you might assume she's my Sister Wife.  Here lately she's around the old blog a whole lot more than my husband is.  We've been friends for 5 years now, since right before her first baby, Olivia, was born. 

Neither of us really cared for the other when we first met.  Then we realized we were the same kind of sarcastic, the same kind of edgy.  And when her husband got Andrew a job at Waffle House, she initiated me into the Waffle Wives Club and we became friends. 

We bonded over crazy work schedules and our shared love of cheap wine and good books.  I cried with her as she longed for her second baby and she gave me late night bathroom pep talks when my second baby had open heart surgery and I was certain I'd reached the end of my limits. 

In the last couple of year, Olivia and Josie have become mini best friends and somewhere in there we switched from good friends to family.

Amber and I have helped raise each other's kids in all the important ways.

Stepping in to provide breaks and doling out love and laughing when the situation warrants tears.

So when Livi got sick a few days ago, I worried about her just like I would if it were Josie or Gabe throwing up.

And when she called to tell me she had to take her to the hospital and, no, she couldn't wait an hour for me to get home to keep Amelia, that worry intensified.

But we still thought it was just a bug.  Surely she was dehydrated.  Maybe needed an IV and some drugs to give her a boost.

What we didn't expect was that a few hours later, the doctors would drop a diagnosis that would rock her world, all of our worlds, forever.

Olivia has Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, otherwise known as ALL.

This child.  This gorgeous, spunky, won't take no crap from anyone, child.  The one that was playing dress up at my house, staring at herself in the mirror for hours, just 24 hours before, has Leukemia.


I still can't figure it out and I suppose I never will.

This isn't my story to tell.  But I needed to share with you, because it's one of those moments where everything looks different.  A moment that has split time into before and after.  My heart is scared and sad and broken and I wanted you all to know why.

I hate the road they are about to walk down.  It won't be easy.

I don't know what the day to day will look like or what the plan is or how she will feel.  But what I do know is that Livi has an iron will and it's about to come in handy.  I have no doubt that Livi will be ruling the entire Cancer unit in no time flat.  I've seen God first hand as he healed Gabe in a timeline we were told wasn't possible and I'm praying the same thing for Livi.

She is currently in ICU fighting a virus and could use your prayers.  

We are organizing a shirt sale as well as a few other fundraisers to help David and Amber not have to worry about anything extra while they adjust to this insane turn of events.  If you'd like to follow along and offer them words of encouragement, you can follow the Facebook page "Love For Livi."

Amber is taking a break from all social media to care for Livi, but when she's ready she may blog again at Moments With Mabrey.  I know that you guys are the very best encouragers and I'm asking that you rally around her as you've done so many times for me.