Thankful and Grateful

Well, hello there. Dusting this old blog off tonight feels a little awkward. Before I say what I’ve said many, many times before and go on about how much I’ve missed blogging, I’ll just say OH HELLO! It’s been a while, hasn’t it?, give you a hug, and offer you some amazing leftover Halloween candy.

Since I last wrote, we went through Summer and Fall and are now heading into the holidays of 2015. Mike is currently on the other side of the ocean on a missions trip in Togo, Africa.




TGWAAHOTY (The Greatest Week and a Half of the Year) will look a little different this time. We won’t be together for his birthday as he will be celebrating in a village, having Thanksgiving turkey with the team (they took two frozen birds with them, which is hilarious, right?!), but we will get to celebrate our anniversary, my birthday, and Emmie’s adoption day when he returns.


Jake is now 13 years old. I just can’t believe we already have a teenager in the house. Each day is different, but we are seeing him grow up before our eyes. He is so smart, funny, and witty.


Seventh Grade-Jake Speer

What’s it like to parent a middle schooler? Well. In all seriousness, it’s humbling. I’m not a let-it-go kind of parent, I’m finding out. I tend to be a lecture-it-out kind of parent. Blah. I want to be different. I thank the Lord that Mike balances me out in this area. His words are carefully chosen. I admire that.

I think it’s harder at times being a homeschooling mom. A teenager needs some space to learn certain lessons on his/her own (and often the hard way). But I’m there all up in his bid’ness. Just as I am lecturing him on acting impulsively, my words and tone of voice are also impulsive. God is gentle and patient with me as He holds up that mirror. Many apologies (from both of us) have been made and forgiveness has been given. I know that’s a good thing in the bigger picture.

I absolutely love middle school kids and I’ve loved being a youth leader to this fun and engaging age group for over 15 years. They are dramatic, hilarious human beings. Except when they are dramatic and not-so-hilarious. But man, they are figuring out who they are and where they belong. I just want to give them hugs and tell them God loves them for the unique puzzle pieces He’s created them to be.



Then there’s this little sweet piece.

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Emmie is as extroverted and bouncy as she has ever been. Second grade has been the most fun and she says that she loves being homeschooled, but she counts down the seconds each day until her neighbor friends get off that school bus.


It seems like we have the best of both worlds. She learns quickly and wants to finish her work so she can play. That also means she keeps me on my toes. Constantly. Love that girl.


Even if she did draw this picture of me and my “blonde but dark underneath” hair.


It’s nice to get back to blogging (trying to be positive here and make it sound like I’ll be back tomorrow).

Until then, I’ll help myself to some of that leftover Halloween candy before it’s gone.

Catching Up

Somehow almost 3 months have passed since I last wrote. My days and nights have been jam-packed, but I’ve missed blogging. The kids are growing up and I know I’ll forget the stories if I don’t write them down. Here’s a not-so-complete recap list o’ memories.

1. We survived another year of homeschooling! Jake finished 6th grade and Emmie completed 1st grade. This was one of our best years overall, but once again, it didn’t look exactly like I predicted (or planned) when we started in September.

We read a stack of books on the Eastern Hemisphere cultures (Sonlight Core F), so we discussed a lot of world religions and customs. As always, Jake asks good questions! His desire to travel the world has only increased. However, Europe remains at the top of the list of places he wants to visit. And Disney World. He wrote a paper about what he’d do if he won a million dollars. He’d go to Italy, Disney World, and invest in real estate with awesome backyard pool and video game room.

Here are some pics of Jake and Emmie taken at the beginning and the end of this school year.

IMG_4253IMG_4252I took Emmie’s last day of school pics at the library. I was in a cranky mood because I owed $4.00 in late fines (that puts me over the edge, sadly). But Emmie was carefree about it and she turned my mood around. She’s such a cutie.


2. Mike graduated from seminary! Okay, this isn’t new news since he finished in December (I can’t believe it’s been six months already of NO PAPERS DUE). He walked for Liberty’s graduation in May. We had a fun weekend with friends and family. Our senior pastor, Colin, earned his doctorate at the same time, so his family made the trip, as well.


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We visited with friends who live in Lynchburg (it was SO great to catch up and I only wish our stay was longer). We had lunch with a family who moved down last year. They have a gorgeous home on a wooded lot.


Pops & Nana (Mike’s parents) came down for the graduation, too. They were in Arkansas all winter, and it was so good to visit and eat together afterwards. I know they are proud of their boy. :)



By the way, Liberty has a beautiful campus. We walked through the new cinematography department on our way, too, and Jake declared he was going there. It was impressive, indeed.

Hope he wins that million dollars!

3. I had my first senior portrait client



This is Noah, and it blows my mind that he’s old enough to be going to college in the fall. We’ve known him since he was born. Fun fact: his family adopted through Hope’s Promise in Colorado, which is how we learned of the agency. We got to visit his birth family when Jake was born, in fact. So fun!

Noah is a brilliant young man with a mind for physics. My dad has a Ph.D in Solid State Physics, which is about all I can add to any conversation on the subject, but Noah gave me an impressive nod and said that’s what he wants to study, as well. Maybe Noah was then contemplating how he might have a daughter someday like me who has zero capabilities of understanding solid state physics, but is lots of fun and giggles at stupid things. I hope he’s okay with that.

The idea for a backdrop with equations was a shared one between his mom (a great friend) and me. I think it worked nicely.

4. Jake started parkour and Emmie finished gymnastics

We heard about a parkour and agility training class and Jake’s eyes lit up. From the first week he loved it and I wondered where this has been his entire life. It’s 90 minutes of non-stop jumping, climbing, and flipping. Totally his thing.


Emmie wants to start going to the same class (but for her age group). She tried it out once and LOVED it. She also wants to do hundreds of other activities. :) It would be nice to take them to something that runs at the same day and time, so I’ll probably sign her up in the fall. Not zig-zag driving all over the county seven days a week to different locations. That’s huge.

Anyway, she’s ready to move on from regular gymnastics. She participated in a “skills and spills” meet in early June and proudly represented the US of A when she received her trophy.


She loved gymnastics, but perhaps it isn’t much of a surprise that she was ready to move on. Even though she had a big smile on her face at the different stations (trampoline, bar, beam, etc), this is what she wrote about her favorite.



Next up, American Ninja Warrior. Or basketball. Or tennis. Or soccer. Or golf. Or dance. Or horseback riding. The possibilities are endless (given that Jake wins the money). If her enthusiasm for the water fountain is any indication, she would find joy in any or all of them. And you know what? I love that about her.

That’s where I’ll leave off for this re-cap or else I’ll get absolutely nothing done that I need to get done today. Mike leaves on a missions trip with our high school group tomorrow and he’ll probably need clean laundry. Hope you’re having a great weekend. I hope to back soon!


Follow me at annacspeer if you want to see what we’re up to everyday. I love Instagram, don’t you?

Spring Break

Our schools are on Spring Break this week and usually we don’t take off from homeschooling, but the powers that be (viruses, check-ups, and a minor car accident) dictated that we would. While I stayed home on Easter, Mike and the kids were in a fender-bender in heavy traffic coming back at night from our friends’ house. Everyone is okay and it was a minor thing, but our little Baby Blue (Mike doesn’t really approve of this nickname, by the way) is in the shop for a week and we had to get a rental car, yada yada yada. It’s rainy and now Jake has my cold. It’s just been one of those weeks.


I asked Emmie to make sure Daddy didn’t forget to take their picture because I was barely coherent on Easter morning before they left for church. A friend was nice enough to take one with his good camera, which made me quite happy. I missed being with my family!

Unrelated to colds, I took Emmie in for her check-up that was scheduled months ago and she was re-tested for strep (it was negative). Remember when she had strep in November and it caused neurological tics instead of the usual sore throat? We had been told that the tics would go away over time but it might take up to 6 months. I think they’re almost gone now. I see her arm jerk out straight about once or twice a day, so it has taken as long as the doctor predicted. But there has definitely been major improvement. Our bodies are so complex.

She had a great appointment (she’s still a peanut in size being in the 20th percentile for height and weight), but growing up in so many ways. When she heard she was up to date on her shots and didn’t need anything, she did a little happy dance and asked if we could go get some fro-yo.

So we did.


And this is crazy, but it always seems to happen: we don’t have to go to the doctor for a long stretch of time, then all of the sudden we are there a lot. I had to take Jake in this morning for a rash on his arms and face. At first I thought it was just a sensitive skin break-out. Detergents and fragrances bother him and I usually can pinpoint when it’s caused by that. But this rash was spreading and lasting longer. The doctor was puzzled by it. She thinks it’s a virus, but she mentioned some other possibility that sent me into Crazy for a second. It rhymes with babies or another word for it rhymes with ice and I can’t even. I mean, I can’t even type it in a grown up way or google the pictures. He only has one of the common symptoms – a linear grouping of bumps. There are other random single bumps. He only says it itches every now and then and that seemed to be the biggest tell that it’s probably a virus. (HOPING!) TMI? Sorry. I hate rashes, they’re so confusing. We’re going to treat it with hyrodcortisone for a week and watch how it heals.

So, it hasn’t exactly been an exciting Spring Break. But one I’ll probably remember for a while!

Life Lately

Wow! An entire month has passed since I last posted. March o’ Fifteen provided full days of non-stop activity, but it was a really good (but cold!) month. I tried to instagram the memories as much as possible, so if you want to catch up on all the pics, follow me over there! I’m sincerelyannablog.

March Highlights


In March I got to share part of my testimony at a women’s event at church. The theme was a fiesta so I impressed everyone with my fluent Spanish. In other words, it was not impressive at all. The night was so fun. We had it in our new Multi-Purpose Room and a team of ladies went all out and decorated with bright colors and cuteness around every corner. I love detailed people. I also love going to our women’s events because I get to spend time with ladies that I normally don’t get to sit and talk to. We had all generations represented. Lots of laughing and eating churros.

Our youth group went to the Planet Wisdom conference, which was incredible (as always). We load up the cars and road trip together in DC traffic on a Friday afternoon around the beltway to Virginia and stay overnight in a hotel. All of our teens get SO excited for this conference. Loud music, a couple thousand screaming and dancing middle and high schoolers, funny skits, and great teaching about living for Christ. This year we have a small jr. high group (10 or so) and we had the best time introducing our 6th graders to all the fun. I still can’t believe Jake is in jr. high!

He got to meet the Skit Guys in person (we love them!) Could this picture with Tommy wearing Jake’s fedora be any better?! He was so excited!


In March we started horseback riding lessons for Jake. I asked him what he’d like to do for PE this semester and he asked for riding lessons. Thankfully, we have friends who homeschool and own 3 horses and give lessons that are practically private and affordable! I can bring Emmie, too, and my friend Jennifer allows her to have a few minutes on a horse, too. They are really happy when we are at the farm. They get to spend a couple hours outside and they don’t mind the chores. Win, Win!

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Here are a couple of pictures thrown in from past visits with our friends.



There are a couple of donkeys at the farm, too. They are definitely more stubborn than the horses, but they are cute and make for some funny photo ops.

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Looking Forward to April

I’m hoping warmer temps are up ahead for us (March was COLD!) and we’re ready for Spring. Jake’s musical is coming up in a couple of weeks (he is playing a pirate named Dizzy) and it’s a busy season for HST (Homeschool Talents) with 3 weekends of shows (already one weekend down, two to go). Mike and I are speaking at a marriage conference at the end of the month, we get to go to a youth leaders weekend after that, and I’m also preparing to share again at our women’s retreat in May. Life is busy!! But so good!

How’s life for you?

Six for Saturday

1. The dress that everyone is talking about – the one that some people see as white and gold and others see as blue and black? Well, this may come as no surprise, but our family was divided. Mike and Emmie see it as blue and black. Jake and I make the color adjustment and see it as gold and white. To me it is WITHOUT A DOUBT gold and white.

On Thursday night I showed the picture to Mike and said, “everyone is talking about this dress…what color do you think it is?” When he said “black and blue” I was FREAKED and left the room.

Anyone else?



After a week of having two different snow storms come through and schedules were suddenly cleared that gave some much needed breathing room, I’m now starting to panic. This week I start teaching a drama class at our homeschooling co-op, I’m way behind (and lost) in my photography class as we learn Photoshop, and I have 4-5 ‘talks’ coming up to prepare for. Part of me is excited; part of me wants to go hide underneath the bed.

Which is exactly how I felt about the snow. Unlike some people who were 100% excited.


3. I quit Insanity. I’m okay with being a quitter. This workout is too much for me, and it’s time I admit it. I felt really good at completing the first month, but the Max Interval workouts in Month 2 are ten steps beyond me. I didn’t stick with a single DVD to the end (they are 60 minutes and while some of the workouts I actually enjoyed more than Month 1 because I was better conditioned, the circuits seemed never-ending). This week I went back to Jillian Michaels’ Ripped in 30 and will mix in her other dvd’s. I like the alternating pace much more with the 3-2-1 strength training, cardio, and abs circuits. I feel good and wanted to share my before/after pics (reluctantly!!)


These are horrible pictures taken on my phone, but we all love before/after pics, right? Listen, I know I’m not a skinny mini and I am learning to be thankful for fitness and health, instead of being obsessed about being a certain size. I’m 5’5 and weigh between 154-160 (my weight goes up and down like crazy, which is a big change; it must have something to do with being 40 or maybe it has to do with m&m’s, I don’t know). The picture on the left was Day 1 (post-holiday sugar cookies and looking completely undone from my introduction to Shaun T’s workouts). The pic on the right was taken 5 weeks later after I completed Month 1.


Emmie took this pic last Sunday. Messy house, blurry picture – I’m letting that go because it doesn’t matter. She liked my outfit and was being really cute about it. What I like is being able to fit into these jeans!! I usually don’t feel comfortable or “myself” in skinny jeans and boots, no matter what size I am. But every once in a while I go for it and feel sassy when I do. I also love this chambray shirt I got from Old Navy.

4. Speaking of skinny jeans, I thought this picture that Emmie drew was adorable. First grade art is one of my favorite things in all the world, but since I’ve been reading blogs about Spring trends and people are talking about how both wide-leg pants and skinnies are in style this season, it was timely and relevant. :)


5. Jake and Emmie, depending on their mood, can be very competitive with each other over the silliest thing. They were arguing one morning about who was the most responsible in the family. Jake was calm, cool, and collected. His response was really funny. Emmie said she was the most responsible because she goes to bed early, unlike him! SO THERE! He just looked at her and said, “yeah, but that’s because I’m thinking about all of my responsibilities.”


6. Those two keep me laughing.


I don’t really have a story about this. They just decided to dress like this one day. We own our weirdness.

Have a great weekend!

Great Birthday Expectations and Some Unexpected Things, Too

Emmie was SO excited about her 7th birthday! The countdown for the number of days leading up to it began sometime in 2012, and this year she had certain wishes expectations for how we ought to celebrate.

#1 Expectation: Decorate her bedroom door with streamers


We had some streamer on hand, but a trip to the party store and an $.89 purchase of a roll with a pink cheetah pattern made her very, very happy.

#2 Expectation: Have a birthday party with friends

We let the kids have a friends party every couple of years, and it had actually been three years since her last party, so this was easy to agree to. Since Valentine’s Day was on a Saturday this year, we decided to have the party that morning. The creative side in me perked up when thinking about a double theme. Heart-shaped donuts stacked like a cake? Sign me up.

On Friday afternoon we picked up the donuts. Maybe the next morning would have been better so they would be fresh, but I didn’t like leaving that detail for the last minute. Saturday mornings are busy in our town and I’m not an early morning person. I can do 5:00 on Valentine’s Day eve when Dunkin Donuts is empty. Gladly!


That night Mike and the kids watched a movie and I got busy cleaning and decorating the house.


For those of you who pay attention to detail, the above picture was not taken on Friday night. :) But I wanted to show the banner that I ordered from Oh Carrot Stick’s shop on Etsy.  So cute.



I found the perfect plates, cups, and a cardboard bed centerpiece at Birthday Express



The decorations and other ideas for the party were kept simple. I cleared a space in the living room to lay down Emmie’s comforter and pillows. We blew up some balloons and Emmie stacked the donuts and helped me decide on a playlist.


The hardest part was having to wait until 10 a.m. before the first guest arrived!


Once everyone came (and Emmie ran upstairs for a last-minute wardrobe change into footie pajamas), we made these adorable pillow kits (this craft is really too hard for 6-7 year olds, so I pre-assembled the pillows about 3/4 of the way so they only had to stuff them and finish tying the remaining knots). Lots of work to help double-knot them in the end, but they LOVED these pillows and the fabric is good quality and nice and soft.



Then we played musical pillows and had an impromptu dance party (to Mandisa’s song “Good Morning” and the Frozen soundtrack)


Once everyone felt comfortable and silly, the volume in the house got much louder. They were having a great time. Here’s where the unexpected part happened, however.

At this time a conversation about adoption took place between Emmie and a couple of the girls. One of her friends didn’t know Emmie was adopted.

Innocently (but loudly), she asked her, “you mean THOSE aren’t your REAL parents?”


I was standing right there – thank goodness. I saw 9 little girls look up at me waiting for me to say something. So, I turned off the music and had an impromptu talk about adoption and what it means to say “real parents.” I touched my arm and asked, “Am I real? I am! So, girls, when we talk about adoption, both parents and birth parents are real.” I threw in some humor and they giggled, but I hope they understood what I meant.

The term “real parents” can be confusing and hurtful.


Emmie wasn’t fazed by it at all – she’s the one who brought down her scrapbook and started the whole conversation. She’s very proud of her adoption story. Another girl asked me if Jake was my “real” son, and I had to use the same illustration again. They giggled some more. In the end, it was a positive, upbeat conversation about how God made our family and that we are very happy to be an adoptive family. It makes us feel special and unique.

They were completely satisfied with that explanation and went on holding hands and jumping around to the music once again. Then I gave myself a minute to compose myself. What just happened was a big deal, friends. I knew I had to talk more about it with Emmie later (we did; and I told her how proud I was of her when she was put on the spot by her friend during the party).

Goodness, I hope I handled all of it well. I think I did. God poured out a measure of grace and gave me the words to say, but I was as nervous as anyone would be).

Anyway, back to the party! It was time for cake! Well…donut cake!




The girls very politely filled their plates with strawberries, cheese, pigs-in-a-blankets (big hit), pretzels, and a big donut. They went to the living room and ate picnic-style on the comforter and Emmie served as MC. She asked a whole bunch of conversation-starter questions. It was the cutest.



After we cleaned up our plates, we played a relay game dressing and undressing these bears.





Then she opened presents,



we took some group pictures,




and we finished the party on a calm note downstairs with a Barbie movie.



Emmie had the best birthday. Her other wishes expectations were clearly communicated and we did our best to meet them. :)  She woke up to balloons on her bedroom floor just like I did for Jake’s 7th birthday (although he didn’t like that, she absolutely did). We had lunch with Daddy, macaroni & cheese for dinner (with chili), and a special family night when it was snowing.


There were lots of additional surprises, too, like a play date with friends and getting Rice Krispies treats, eating pink cake with sprinkles for three days straight, and so many gifts and cards from loved ones that she couldn’t contain her excitement. Happy Birthday, Emmie! We love you!



Five for Friday

High five for Friday! We made it through another week and here are some of the highlights:

1. Our homeschool co-op had a performance night with a Wild West theme. Jake, who has been taking beginning piano since September, performed a song called “Buffalo Blues.” Mike accompanied him on guitar, and it was fun to listen to, and I was such a proud mom. Jake seems to be enjoying piano.


(my pictures never turn out well for these performance nights – bummer. I should take a photography class or something…wait, I am taking a photography class. I still have so much to learn.)

Jake also made a video using iMovie loosely based on the life of Billy the Kid. Loosely is a keyword here, because the research portion of this assignment was probably less than 15 minutes, but it sure was creative. Emmie starred in the movie as “Emmie the Kid.” Jake added some effects and music, and it made us all laugh. He shot the video from different rooms in our house, which offered a nice “lived-in” scenery of overflowing laundry baskets and disorganized bookshelves. Just like a classic Western.

Emmie also participated in Wild West Night. At first she wanted to do a gymnastics routine with friends, but that idea was.. um….kept somewhere tucked away for “another day.” So I suggested that she sing a song with her daddy and that went over big-time. They sang “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.” It was adorable!


2. Speaking of adorable, two weeks ago Emmie lost her second top front tooth. I love her smile!


3. I’ve been sweating through a new workout routine since before Christmas. I’m doing Insanity, which wasn’t a dvd series I ever wanted to do because it was 1) over 25 minutes and 2) super fast. Besides, it was Mike’s workout. I had 14,000 Jillian Michaels DVDs to keep me going. But I got into a rut this Fall with only exercising when it was convenient. That, plus a few too many indulgences (each day) put on some pounds, so I felt like a kick in the pants was in order. Insanity is definitely a kick in the pants! It’s SO fast (I can’t keep up; don’t even think for a second that I can. The pace is fast (did I mention that?), which is the point. To every 16 push-ups Shaun T. does, I do 1/2). But I bought a heart rate monitor (this one here) and I push at my own level and do the best I can. Even my “modified” moves and pace burn more calories than I was previously doing, I’m sure.

One thing I like about Insanity is that it’s motivating, pure and simple. The instruction is great, and I like the repetition of the circuits. I don’t like that one of the girls that Shaun T. talks to has the name Anna, though. “Come on, Anna!” “Faster, Anna!” That’s just too much! :) And I don’t like the length – 40-60 minutes is a long time and super hard to fit into my schedule. I usually work out from 9-10 p.m. but I do have the luxury of sleeping in until 8 a.m. most days because of homeschooling. So, for a short-term goal, I can make it work.

I’m seeing some improvement in inches, but greater so in energy, endurance, strength, and core balance.  I’m on Day 30 (of 54 – counting exercise days only). I hope to write another post soon with before and after pics…my results will not be earth-shattering, believe me. But I feel like I’m breaking through a wall here.

4. Yesterday, Emmie and I partially cleaned out her closet and moved some of her toys down to the basement. It was like When You Give A Mouse a Cookie for a while because one thing led to another, and I found myself with a huge project of organizing toys. Since she was helping me, and saw for herself how the MILLIONS of toys we own have taken over, she said she was ready to give away some things. I had no choice other than to pounce on that divine timing! She was in a great mood and made me laugh when she said, “well, goodbye, childhood.”IMG_2617

This Dora play house was given to us when she was 3, I think. She played with this set for hours, and every now and then will still play with it. But it takes up a lot of space, so Adios, Dora!

We are giving it to friends, and I think they’ll love it as much as Emmie did.

5. This weekend our church is hosting the streaming of the IF: Gathering. I’m really excited to attend and hear the messages and have some fellowship with other women. I’m not really sure what the event is all about, but I know I need to bring my Bible and a pen, and I’m sure the speakers will be great. I have no idea what God wants me to hear, but I’m praying with the hope that it’s something I need to hear. His timing is always perfect.

Hope you have a great weekend!