posted by Stelzl Family in Family News, Friends & Fellowship

It’s hard to surprise our mom. And when someone suggested that we throw a surprise birthday party for her this year, we all knew it would be no small task to put every detail into place.

Some very dear friends of ours {whom we basically consider family ;-) } graciously agreed to host the party in their home! And so the list-making and secret planning/preparation began!


There were guests to invite…a menu to plan and food to prepare. We had to make sugared nuts, mix up side dishes and salad dressings, bake desserts, and do the grocery shopping – all behind her back. There were times when she’d be on her way home, and we were looking for a place to let something cool that was coming out of the oven. One morning we used all the lemons making a pie and had to creatively come up with a solution to get some from under the bed upstairs into the bowl in the kitchen,  while she was standing there preparing vitamins!


One date night we had just about 2 hours to make 3 pies, feed the kids and clean up dinner, run to Walmart for groceries, take *all* the food, chairs, and other supplies to the home of our friends, and get the house in perfect order {customary to date night!}… while they were away on their date!


There were things missing from the house that we just knew she’d go looking for… and things present that ought to have given away our secret. There were little voices asking questions, and people whispering, and someone even asked when the party was, while she was sitting in plain sight working on the computer.


And she was still completely surprised. So surprised. Oh joy!




We did a “make a mountain buffet” which is one of her favorites, and easy for a crowd. It’s basically a salad with *tons* of different toppings! And there were sides and desserts.



Some friends of ours {Bethany is the daughter, pictured above} graciously offered to pick up our grandmother on their way to the party… and so we were able to come to the party as a family, as though just dropping by to visit some relatives in town {who were visiting our host family}.


Just about all of our relatives on my dad’s side were there. Uncles, Aunts, cousins {and their spouses}. So fun!





We did it! We actually did it!


48 candles for 48 years :-)






Many months of planning… weeks of running over different lists, comparing ideas, problem solving, thinking about the possible problems that might arise… doing everything in secret and confiding in the few who knew the plan. Oh what fun! It was a joy to bless our mom with an early birthday surprise. And we’re grateful for all who made it possible {and came to celebrate with us!}, so that we could show her our love through a very special evening with family and friends. :-)

Sarah posted more pictures here.

Nashville ATI Homeschool Conference


posted by Stelzl Family in Student Expeditions, Trips & Travels

Our family had the privilege of attending the Nashville ATI Homeschool Conference again this year! The theme of this year’s conference was “Looking Unto Jesus” and included powerful messages on prayer, trials, hearing the voice of God, reconciliation in relationships, making an impact on the people in this world, trusting God for financial provision, and much more!

Hannah led a group of COMMIT girls, and Sarah and Bethany led a team of Pre-Embassy girls together. The rest of the family attended main and student sessions.

The following pictures were taken by the Nashville Family Conference Photography Team (with the exception of the second one, taken by Bethany).


Sarah and Bethany’s Pre-Embassy team. Sarah also wrote a post on her blog, and posted some pictures.



The Alert Cadet program.


James Staddon with some of his students – the photography workshop attendees.

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Children’s Institute and Alert Cadets.

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David was the only Stelzl to participate in the choir this year. The Friday evening presentation is always a very special time, when each of the different programs shares what they’ve learned over the week.

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We listened to many wonderful speakers throughout the week, including Tom Harmon, David Barton, David Gibbs, The Duggars, The Bates, and Otto Koning – to name a few.

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The Pre-Embassy group during a large session. Here the girls are watching a fun skit, and learning/reviewing Bible verses and songs to share on Friday evening during the presentation.



Some of the Alert men did their opening night presentation at the beginning of the week.


This is opening night of the conference. Mr. Gibbs shared a powerful message on prayer, and then asked us to move toward the front for a time of prayer.


Hannah with one of her COMMIT girls.

IMG_4358One of the COMMIT teams.

052714-JAS_1389-2The Nashville ATI Homeschool Conference, 2014.

We can’t wait until next year! :-)

Sarah posted more pictures from the week here.

South Mountain State Park


posted by Stelzl Family in Family Fun, Trips & Travels

Saturday was a bright, clear, and beautiful morning, with low-60 degree weather and sunshine. It was breezy and lovely, and perfect for a family adventure to somewhere out-of-the-ordinary!

We had decided the evening before that we would all drive to Hickory NC (about 2 hours), and visit South Mountain State Park for the day!

So we packed a picnic lunch and set off to enjoy the glorious day!


The park is beautiful this time of year! We ate our lunch along the river on great big rocks… and watched a fisher-man who came along and spent the next half hour diligently attempting to lure something in. :-)

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After lunch, we set off on a 2.2 mile loop to see High Shoals Falls. About 4 years ago our family hiked this trail and saw 2 rattlesnakes!

Back at home, David spent the day promoting his baked goods at a shop in town (the Spring Festival brought lots of people into town … and many of them enjoyed his samples and bought his desserts!).



The trail started out quite smooth and easy. But as we progressed, we climbed and descended some 700+ stairs steps which were quite the workout. :-)

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The waterfall was beautiful. Here we are at the bottom, but another 200+ stair-steps took us up to the top, and a little wooden bridge that goes across the gentle waters (just before they become a waterfall). :-)


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After our hike, a few threw the football in a nearby grassy area, and others waded in the river.

It was a special day… a beautiful, lovely day filled with little moments spent together as family. Quite often in life, it is those little things that mean the most. :-)

You can view more pictures and videos here.

A Trip to the Aquarium


posted by Stelzl Family in Family Fun, Student Expeditions

Last week our Uncle came into town to visit us, and see Grandma.


It was supposed to pour rain for the majority of the day (the first storm in a LONG time), and we had planned to go visit the new aquarium in Concord NC!! The trip was a gift from someone special… :-)


We enjoyed watching the jellyfish, eels, an octopus, lobsters, and a baby shark… along with many other kinds of brightly colored fish. One highlight was feeling the shells of the hermit crabs and starfish.

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There was an underwater tunnel with mirrors at both ends.

One of the workers took us on a “behind the scenes” tour to learn about the water that is used, the medical and feeding stations, and even the place where they keep the new sea animals when they first come in (in order to quarantine them for 30 days and make sure they are healthy and ready to be put into the tanks).

IMG_8124Back at home we had a delicious dinner  in celebration of Hannah’s birthday (since Hannah and David share the same birthday, we did David’s earlier). It was special to have our Uncle in town for a few days, on his way to attend our cousin’s graduation. :-)

Stop and Look Around…


posted by Stelzl Family in Farm & Garden

How often in life we miss out on the precious small things… the tiny, intricate pieces of life that we might notice, if only we would take the time to stoop down and look at life from a different perspective…

Tiny yellow flowers, mixed in with wild strawberries growing beneath the deck…

IMG_8054Flowers and small berries on our blackberry bushes…

IMG_8060180 heads of lettuce that were started from seed, cared for, and then planted… and finally this week we brought in our first harvest!


IMG_8073A small chive plant, full of beautiful purple flowers…

IMG_7925A patch of clover left in the yard for the bees to enjoy…

IMG_7931“He watereth the hills from his chambers: the earth is satisfied with the fruit of thy works.” – Psalm 104:13