Blessed little bundle

Oh brother. It has been FOR-EV-ER since I posted over here.

Do you guys even remember me? Is anyone still popping in over here from time to time?

HULLOoooo……Is anybody out there?!


Well, for the tens of readers who visit this blog I’ve got a LOT to catch you up on. Put on a fresh pot of coffee y’all. And you might want to be sitting for this one.

Remember when we lost our dear, beloved family dog, Daphne and had to move unexpectedly back to Georgia….in a hurry….in a major ice storm….into an apartment….and give away our chickens and abandon our garden plot once again….and reevaluate our life plans?

And remember when I told you we were adding to our family a Newfoundland puppy?

Ok, good, we’re all up to speed.

We brought home that Newfoundland puppy and we named her Rosie. She is a giant and growing every second of the day.


But let’s back up and tell all the parts in between that you DON’T know.

Rewind to June 2014. I was a couple of days late so I took a pregnancy test and got this:


Please note the date, June 2nd.

Obviously the pregnancy never progressed and I miscarried two weeks after getting that positive result. It was fairly low-key and not my first rodeo in the miscarriage department so that’s why you’re only hearing of it now. It was early, nature handled everything without medical intervention, and I bounced back fairly quickly. We were sad, but again, we had experienced this before and felt at peace with it all after a grieving period.

Fast forward through all the job loss, family pet loss, chicken/farm loss, ice storms and stress to May 29th, 2015. We had waited several exciting weeks to pick up our sweet puppy. We made the 4 hour drive to get her and we were all so very excited. She was the fluffiest, snuggliest thing and we were all on a puppy breath high the whole ride home.

Fast forward through a few sleepless nights (because having a puppy is pretty much like having a newborn). I was a few days late but I half chalked it up to being stressed from not getting enough sleep the last few days. But since I had a test on hand I decided to take it one morning before Mr. Thistle left for work. And, wouldn’t you know, it was positive.

I laughed at the timing and went to show him and we both nervous laughed because, news flash, WE JUST BOUGHT A GIANT BABY DOG! (For those of you wondering, her mother is 150 lbs and her father is 180 lbs. And she’ll be her full grown weight at a year old but won’t “mature” mentally until 3 years of age. So a GIANT BABY DOG is the best descriptor of a Newfoundland before the age of 3). 

The timing of it all was laughable. We are in a holding pattern, so to speak, in this apartment and we just got settled from a big move (again) and we were getting back on track with homeschool and had just took on the monumental (pun intended) task of training a giant baby dog.

Sure. Tiny baby, apartment, giant baby dog. Seems about right.

But the real highlight of this story is the date. The very specific date that I nonchalantly took a pregnancy test. Please note the date on this picture:


June 2nd, y’all.

June-freakin-2nd. I found out I was pregnant again one year to the day!

Now, let me say this: Miscarriage is a HIGHLY sensitive and personal subject. Everyone deals with it in their own way and the physical and mental aspects can change each time. It is a hard thing and I am in no way diminishing the process. But the way I cope is to be very pragmatic about it all. I got very caught up in the “why” and all the answers I wanted from God about it all the first time it happened. It did not lead me to a good place. So I stick to the science of it all now and I do not try to figure it out or reason it in any way other than being very matter of fact about it. That’s hard for some people, including my husband, sometimes. I’m not sure it’s the most popular way of handling it but it’s how I go about it.

HOWEVER, there are times when it is just HARD for me to ignore the “whats going on here, God?” questions. The very precise timing of this pregnancy feels like there’s something big in the background of it all. Couple that with the fact that it is, by earthly standards, rather inconvenient timing, and you’ve got yourself the makings of a very, very odd and interesting coincidence. You can’t know the very intimate details of my prayer life or spiritual walk, obviously, but let me just say this pregnancy has really kicked up the interesting factor a notch or two. I am amazed and astounded by the very delicate process that is unfolding in our lives over here.

So, here we are.

We’ve seen the heartbeat on ultrasound several times and everything looks good and I am just nearing the end of the exhausting first trimester. I’ve had several panic attacks alongside joy and amazement over it all. It’s all been very manic. Yay for pregnancy hormones! I’m not quite sure where to put it all, mentally and emotionally. That’s one reason why I haven’t been blogging. That and the nausea and fatigue.

In February the Mandins will be a party of five + one giant baby dog + one cat.


Hold on to your hats folks. It just got real up in here.



July 15, 2015 - 12:18 pm

Ash - Cutest belly pic, I love your blog and the joy & purpose you find in every day, Congrats to you and the fam!

July 15, 2015 - 5:47 pm

Christy - AWw. Sweet Ashley! Thank you. It’s been way too long! Glad you stop by over here to follow along with us!

How to remove pilling from diy drop cloth slipcovers

Remember that slipcover I made for the hideous eye-sore futon a while back? Well, it’s been used and abused as I hoped it would be living with two boys and a husband. It’s taken a lickin’ and kept on tickin’! The thing about drop cloth slipcovers is that they’re cheap to make, easy to wash, and ultra durable. Win, win, win.

How to remove pilling - DIY dropcloth slipcover

However, in the last month or so I started to notice pilling on the seat portion of the cover. Pilling puts my heightened senses on alert and I had gotten desperate for a solution. Not wanting to defeat the original purpose of the cheap-factor I decided to pass on buying one of those sweater shavers or any other “device” to remove the tiny offenders. I decided to take matters into my own hands and DIY the removal of those little suckers with something I already had on hand.


I reasoned that the drop cloth was designed to withstand a lot of handling and abuse so I headed to the garage to find a sandpaper block. I figured I would just sand them right off. And guess what?! It totally worked like a charm and in a few minutes I had a smooth, new looking slipcover. It was so smooth and even looked cleaner!

Now, keep in mind this is a drop cloth slipcover. I’m not entirely sure what this would do to any other kind of fabric. But with the popularity of them on the rise I figured this could come in handy for someone out there needing to take back their beautiful creation from the evil that is pilling.


  1. Get mad at your slipcover for offending you so with those hideous little monsters.
  2. Head to the garage and dig out one slightly abused coarse grit sandpaper block. I’m sure regular sandpaper would work too but this is what I had on hand and I imagine it was easier to hold.
  3. Sand in one general direction. I didn’t sand in the same direction the whole time but I mention this because it’s easier to see where you still need to sand if you’re going in the same general direction. I used a pushing motion with fairly heavy pressure to work them off. The sand paper will spread the pills around making it hard to tell where you still need to work if you sand in circles or a back and forth motion. Be aware that they’ll start to pile up and you’ll be horrified at how much comes off.
  4. Scoop up your pile of offensiveness and throw away.
  5. Vacuum to make sure you got them all and then lay down and take a nap on your smooth, beautiful slipcover.


An open mind

**This post contains affiliate links that help support this blog, our family, and our homeschool.**

You won’t find many bad reviews on this blog. When I review a product it is 99% of the time one I have sought out myself, rather than one a company has pitched to me. I’ve usually done enough research on forums, blogs, and social media to have an idea of how it will work and if I might like it. I don’t seek out products or companies that I know I’ll hate. It just wouldn’t be beneficial for anyone involved. Plus, I like talking about products I love.

That being said, sometimes a product just doesn’t work like I hoped it would. But you still won’t find mudslinging on this blog. The reason a product doesn’t work for us might be the very thing someone else is looking for so I try to keep an open mind.

I recently had the opportunity to review a curriculum that I had researched for some time and just KNEW I would love. I was so excited when Beautiful Feet Books agreed to let me review two of their guides. I received the guides for Early American History: A Literature Approach for Primary Grades and Teaching Character Through Literature for Primary and Intermediate Grades. I opened them right up, ready to lesson plan and get to work. I quickly found that I had issues. Issues with the product that would hinder me using it as is. I actually had a fundamental issue with some of the content in the history guide, which was a first for me. Sometimes I don’t love a product after a while because we grow out of it or we’re ready to move to a new thing. But an issue with content is a whole other animal.

I was taken aback. I didn’t want to NOT like it. I didn’t want to have issues with it because, a.) I had done my research and thought it would be the PERFECT curriculum and b.) I knew I had to tell the truth about our personal experience with the product and I was kind of dreading it.

That’s just the truth. I didn’t want to say, “I don’t like it.”

So I stalled. I’ve needed to write this review post for some time but I just kept putting it off. I even told friends over coffee what my issues were and got their input to see if I was being ridiculous. I mulled it over and wrung my hands and re-read the product a billion times. And here’s where I stand on the final review:

Early American History: A Literature Approach for Primary Grades

The guides from Beautiful Feet Books are meant to be used in conjunction with popular children’s books. Living books make up the bulk of the curriculum with the guides serving as a teacher’s jumping off point for teaching the material. The guides are gentle and flexible in nature, leaving a lot of room to adapt the material to the needs of the child.

“Our Early American History: A Literature Approach is a read-aloud program built upon the philosophy of Charlotte Mason. Thus, the living-books in this study have been chosen for their recognized place in the canon of children’s literature, their artistic beauty, and the sheer pleasure they bring children.”

Sounds right up my alley, right?

The guide is organized into individual lessons giving the teacher the option to complete the study in one or two years. Completing 3 lessons per week takes one full school year. One to two lessons per week completes the study in two years. So you can really get a lot out of one study guide.

The student keeps a notebook throughout the lessons that includes pictures, maps, reports, poetry, and copy work. As each work of literature is read, the student and the teacher discuss what they are learning through questions presented by the study guide.

Lesson 1 begins with a reading from d’Aulaire’s Leif the Lucky. It’s a beautiful book! I’ve wanted it for years. And it lived up to all my expectations and then some. (I get a little excited about good children’s books if you haven’t noticed.)

Lesson 1 is titled “We Are Made For A Unique Purpose” and includes scripture, Jeremiah 1:5 and Ephesians 2:10.

Now, let me go ahead and point out that I was aware beforehand that this is a christian focused company. There were no surprises there. And, in general, I do not have a problem with a christian slant as I am, in fact, a christian. But, as you know religion and theology can be very delicate subjects and there are a lot of perspectives.

The lesson begins by asking the teacher to introduce and discuss the belief of a unique purpose. Fairly benign, right? No big deal. But then it asks the teacher to discuss Leif Erikson’s uniqueness and the important task God called him to – the discovery of the North American continent about 1000 A.D.

This made me a little uneasy because “God’s calling” is something I’m personally very sensitive about. But I tried not to bring my own issues into the product. I simply passed over this part of the lesson and carried on with the rest of the material. I chalked it up as a difference of opinion. Without getting into a lengthy history debate here, while the viking sagas note that Leif converted to christianity after meeting with King Olaf of Norway, there are differing versions of the sagas and their facts are often a topic of hot debate. The sagas were passed down by word of mouth and much of written viking history was recorded after the time period it talks about. I just wasn’t sure about the “calling to discover the America’s” portion.

The lessons go on to discuss christian character and virtue and they are fairly consistent with incorporating scripture. No big deal really, as we often incorporate scripture into our copy work to give meaning to a mundane task.

But lesson 12 is where we stalled out. In lesson 11 Columbus is introduced through another book by the d’Aulaires. It is gorgeous just like the last one and I had no complaints about the picture book. Lesson 11 discusses the instruments Columbus used to navigate, how he read the stars, and the differences in the world of Columbus compared to the world in Leif Erikson’s time. All very business as usual history-wise.

But, in lesson 12 it reads:

“Reaching the east by sailing west, Columbus feels called by God to bring the Gospel and to find the vast riches of these new lands.” 

And then I was stuck. I had to stop and ask myself how I would teach this. It left a bitter taste in my mouth to think about Columbus “being called by God.” All I could think was, this guy was the worst! He was greedy and treated people badly and had a terrible sense of direction and I’m not even sure why we celebrate him! (We’ve never really wanted to teach “the beaten path” of history as you can tell. It’s one of the many benefits we see in homeschooling.)

I did not like this at all. I felt uneasy about calling getting lost and enslaving people a “calling from God.”

But I took a step back and re-read the sentence,

“…Columbus feels called by God…”

The author of the guide isn’t saying that SHE feels Columbus was called by God. She’s just asking the teacher and student to discuss the fact that Columbus might’ve spun it this way.

It took me several readings through the lesson on Columbus and a lot of outside research before I could look at the material objectively. The author of the guide goes on to ask other questions like,

“During the voyage was Columbus completely honest with his men?”

“Did the men of this expedition use their opportunity for spreading the Gospel? Or did they pursue other ventures?”

“What was Columbus’ greatest weakness?”

All very valid questions. All very thought-provoking, really. Because the truth is, a lot of history involves religion. And all of history involves people. And a lot of times those people bent their religion to their will and desire. It’s an ugly truth and it’s hard to talk about sometimes. And it’s what made me so defensive when I saw the words “Columbus” and “called by God” in the same sentence.

But, what the guide offered up was an opportunity to discuss prejudice and greed and personal gain at the expense of others. It provided an opportunity to discuss how people often use God to justify their bad decisions. More importantly it opened up a line of discussion on how history can be shaped by the storytellers. And it all depends on if the storyteller is the winner, the loser, or an outsider looking in. And that it’s important to get information from a lot of different sources.

Whoa. The author of this guide is a sneaky genius!

That’s a lot of learning we did in just 12 short lessons!

There are 106 lessons in all. And while I was ready to toss it aside very quickly after those first 12 lessons, I have grown to love it again and we will continue to use it throughout the year as a compliment to our other history curriculum. I’m glad that I took the time to stop and really observe closely what we were learning. It’s so easy sometimes to crack open a curriculum and read it verbatim, just going through the motions. This history guide commanded my attention. I’m glad I kept an open mind.

Teaching Character Through Literature

Now, I know you just sat through a whole review bit on the history study guide, but bear with me here, I’m on a roll.

The Teaching Character Through Literature guide includes a book list of about 22 books for primary readers (or read-alouds if your child is not reading yet) and about 16 books for intermediate readers. There is a favorite authors list with suggested titles at the beginning of the primary and intermediate sections as well. The books are suggestions for “opening your child’s eyes to the wonderful worlds that await them in literature” and include characters meant to model good behavior or warn of the dangers of bad decisions, hence the title “Teaching Character Through Literature.” The study guide portion with talking points and questions however is not a comprehensive guide for each title listed within the guide. The author of the guide has selected some of the titles for the lessons. Those titles are the 12 books included in the package you see online. The other books not included in the study notes are meant to be read and enjoyed but you must come up with your own talking points should you desire them. This isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing, just one that you should be aware of when considering how little or how much planning you want to incorporate after buying this guide. The good news is that it introduces you to many more titles beyond the 12 included in the package, allowing you to do as much or as little as you like. I like products that give me flexibility and open-ended options. Sometimes we breeze right through a curriculum because one or both of the kids decides to have a developmental growth spurt right after ordering. So, it’s nice when a product says, “Hey, here’s some more stuff you can do if you decide you want to. No pressure.”

The format is similar to that of the history guide with each lesson including a book to read, a discussion question, a scripture verse or quote, and a follow-up book suggestion if the author has included one.

We do not own all the books on the list but many are popular titles so they have been easy to find at the library. I’ve even stumbled upon some of them at Goodwill!

Keep an eye out for more reviews of their many guides here. I’ve got my eye on their science and geography guides as well. They’ve even collaborated with Institute for Excellence in Writing for one of their geography products! We’ve been huge IEW fans since we started homeschooling and still use them every single day! I’m sure I’ll end up telling you about both of these guides at some point.

And, just FYI, I’m a Thriftbooks/Amazon/Goodwill guru when it comes to finding deals on books. I’ve put many hours into researching the cheapest ways to get my hands on the classic titles that go along with Beautiful Feet Books study guides. While I have found single titles cheaper in various places at different times, I have not been able to put together a complete literature package + shipping for less than the packages offered at Beautiful Feet Books. Taking into consideration the condition of the book, shipping, taxes, and the ridiculous amount of time invested to hunt them all down, only to save mere pennies (and sometimes not saving at all), it’s worth it to get them from Beautiful Feet Books. I just haven’t found complete packages cheaper anywhere else.

Have you used Beautiful Feet Books before? I’d love to hear your experiences.

The newest member of the family

As many of you know, we lost our beloved family dog of 10 years in January. It was such a difficult time for all of us, but particularly for our boys. They were being uprooted from their home for the second time in only a year, we were under several layers of ice and everything we owned was in boxes. Losing Daphne at that particular moment seemed like pretty cruel timing. No one ever wants to lose a family pet, but especially not under already strained conditions. The out-of-state move was such a whirlwind that the boys never really had time to process it all. I had been amazed at how well they handled the trip to the vets office the day we had to make our hard decision. It almost seemed worse to me at the time that they were so much stronger than I was about it all. I had imagined a full-on breakdown of the troops. But that didn’t happen.

At least not until last week.

Last week was the week the flood gates opened. I guess we’re settled enough now that Owen has had time to gather his thoughts about it all and, let me tell you, it was NOT pretty. He loved that dog more than all of us combined. Daphne was his girl. And he’s mentioned almost everyday since she’s been gone how much he misses her. But, one night, after a seemingly uneventful day, after baths and bedtime stories and lights out, he came into the living room sobbing. He was a pitiful puddle of sadness. He couldn’t sleep because he was sick with grief. Out of nowhere he was processing it all. He missed her. He wished it hadn’t happened. He was going through all the stages of grief all at one time. Anger, denial, bargaining. Oh, the bargaining. This kid has seen so many animals come and go in his lifetime. Chickens, goats, farm dogs, ducks, rabbits. He’s never mourned them. He’s never begged to keep any of them. He’s a very practical, stoic child. But that night, he wanted what he wanted. And I couldn’t blame him. I missed the companionship of a family dog, too. After lots of hugs and snuggles and kisses he was finally able to rest. Mr. Thistle and I decided the next morning that we needed to make a decision about a family dog and take the leap. It was time.

Those of you who follow me on Instagram might’ve seen our “puppy fund” picture. We had originally told the boys that they would need to save their money to buy our next dog. We thought it would delay the process a bit and ward off any impulse buys. We wanted to be very deliberate about the dog we brought into our family. But the meltdown jolted us ahead in the search for a dog. We would front the boys the money they needed and they would have to keep earning and saving to pay us back.

While we loved Daphne more and more as the years went on with her, those first years were rocky. She was hard to train, stubborn, didn’t know her own strength, and slow to mature. She eventually settled into her role and we all lived harmoniously those last years. But, our family has changed since the last time we had a puppy and we knew we wanted some very specific things in a dog:

  • a generally calm, level temperament
  • generally responsive to training
  • desire to please
  • good with kids
  • NOT high energy

It’s easy to get caught up in wanting a puppy…any puppy. They’re so cute and snuggly and puppy breath is the best smell ever, second only to the top of a newborn’s head, in my opinion. But, we talked at length about it and decided that we didn’t want a dog because it was cute. Cute did not equate to compatible. We decided we would set our criteria first and then look for breeds that met that criteria. We narrowed it down to beagles, bulldogs, basset hounds, and newfoundlands. Bulldogs, beagles, and newfoundlands consistently ranked in the top 10 best dogs for families and I had experience with basset hounds and already knew our personalities matched. The trouble with the hounds and the beagles, however, was their vocal nature. I’m not totally into that in our current stage of life and Oliver is still quite sensitive to loud, obnoxious noises. So, I knew this would be a mark in the cons column for those breeds. Daphne being a bulldog, I was a little hesitant to get a dog that might “replace” her since Owen was still quite sensitive to this. That left the Newfoundland in the top spot. But newfoundlands are a significant investment of money as well as time. And you don’t want to buy one from any old Joe on the street, nor could you. We’d fostered one in the past and knew that you want a newf from a reputable handler.

Our sweet girl’s dad: 

And you don’t just find a newf on craigslist or out of the back of a truck down at the Wal-Marts. Most of the reputable newf breeders have waiting lists and applications with strict requirements for purchasing one of their dogs. We knew only of one breeder we felt comfortable buying from and she only bred a couple times a year. It was a long shot.

I watched the rescues and the shelters and breeders pages for puppies and younger dogs in our 4 breed preferences daily. A few had potential but none jumped out at us as “the one.” And then, one day, I clicked over to the farm’s website and there was the announcement we had been waiting for! Newf pups had arrived at the farm we had researched. Four boys and four girls! And, with our deposit in, we had 2nd choice of the 4 females.


And here they all are, brand new:

That chubby little lump in the middle of all those hungry pups is our girl! Just get a look at those juicy ham hocks! She’s so squeezable! We’re all so excited to meet her and welcome her to the family. We’ll need lots of friends to come over to meet her when she gets here so she gets in as much socialization as possible in those first weeks. She’s going to get big, fast, so there’ll be no delay in training. She’ll start learning the ropes the minute she gets here, first from our home and then in formal obedience classes, so that she’ll be a well-mannered member of society and family member.  It’ll be like having a baby in the house again. Sleepless nights, crying (mostly me…over the sleepless nights), potty training. But there’ll be snuggles and kisses and a lot of love, too.

Though our life changed frequently in the last few years, Daphne was something that remained constant for the boys (aside from us of course) no matter what we had going on or where we were. She made us all feel safe and taught them how to behave around animals. She taught them how to really love and respect an animal.

This new girl has big shoes to fill but I’m confident she can do it.

Now to agree on a name…..

April 19, 2015 - 11:02 am

Jen Wilmoth - So glad your family will be blessed with another sweet dog. Congratulations! Our family has also been doing a lot of research for another dog that will be a blessing for our family and farm in progress and we just put a deposit down for a Great Pyrenees to be born around May 1st! We are super excited! Can’t wait to see pics of your’s on Insta!

D i s c l o s u r e