Girl Scouts: Learning About Horses


Last Friday our Girl Scout troop headed to a nearby farm to learn about horses. This was a science lesson at its best - live animals and hands-on learning.
Lisa and her daughter taught us about horse anatomy and horse care. We discussed what horses eat, how to brush them, how a farrier cares for their feet, what gear you need to ride them and much more.

Then each of the girls were able to lead this little horse around the yard. My daughter did this 3 times, she loved it so much!

My son and I also took the little horse around the yard. Here my son was fascinated with the bigger horse that we did not see close up on this visit.

Yeah for horses and lessons on a farm!

Foster Parenting - Log #13


I've said it before and I'll say it again - life can change in an instant. One phone call can change everything.

Yesterday, we received a call from our caseworker. There was an 18-month old girl in the hospital that needs a foster home for probably 1 to 3 months. There's a relative in another state who is seeking guardianship, but the process is lengthened due to the out-of-state paperwork involved. Of course, anything could happen so we're just taking it a day at a time.

Yesterday afternoon we went to the hospital and met this little one that we'll call Candace (not her real name - we are forbidden by state policies to post names or facial pictures of foster children). We returned in the late evening when she was officially discharged into our care.

This little girl is adorable. Blond, blue-eyed, but so tiny. She has not been offered healthy food, so she's very small - about 17 pounds, at 18 months of age.

So far, she sleeps great but won't eat much at all.

Our goals: love on her as much as possible and fatten her up! :-)

Super Savings Saturday


I didn't do much bargain shopping this week. However, I did get these two items for completely free, from coupons I had received in the mail. A 4-pack of Breakstone's cottage cheese and a tub of Cottonelle flushable wipes.

I found milk on sale for $2.19 per gallon at my Kroger store, marked down as the sell by date got closer. Also found some pound cake marked down to 89 cents, which worked well with fresh strawberries at home.

Did you find any deals this week, or, as my friend says, did any deals find you? :-)

Family Photo Friday


It's Friday once again. That means Family Photo Friday! This week I somehow managed to take lots of shots of my son, in all his adorableness, and only a few of my daughter. But here you go!

There's just something about overalls on kids. I love them!

My daughter - the reader. She is reading 200-300 pages of books daily... NOT for school, but for fun!

My son. Diaper only. Pink umbrella. Fishing hat. Dancing around the living room. Priceless!

My daughter has gone through phases where she's enjoyed playing the piano and then where she dislikes it. She is now back into a "I want to learn to play the piano" phase. I'm giving it some time to see if she's serious about wanting to do lessons or if she just wants to play around informally.

A big cheesy grin from my son, with pink sunglasses on his head. What a peanut!

My husband is excited to take the kids fishing this summer. My son is equally excited, because he has his own fishing pole and fishing hat!

Happy Memorial Weekend to one and all!

Happy Anniversary!


11 years ago today I married my best friend! What a special day that was! I remember it so well - my face being sore at the end of the day from smiling so much, feeling so loved by all of the friends and family who attended the wedding ceremony!

Whenever I attend a wedding I am reminded of this: this exact same group of people will never again come together in this way to celebrate the union of these two people. Some will move away. Some will pass away. Some friendships will fade. But for these brief moments, they come together to show their support of marriage and of the commitment of two people who are important to them.

Weddings are wonderfully special events. I treasure the memories and photographs I have from mine. And although 11 years have passed since that day, it remains a very special day in my life, marking the start of a new family and a new phase of life.

The years pass quickly but our love remains firm and strong.
Happy Anniversary, my dear!

Foster Parenting - Log #12


Last Friday night we received a call. The clock read 10:41 pm. It was our foster placement worker.

"I have a 4-year-old boy that we need to find a place for. Not sure how long it'll be. There's also a baby sibling, but the baby is in the hospital with broken bones right now. Won't be released for a day or two. There's also a 1-year-old sibling, but that child is going with the father. Different fathers of the different kids, you know. So do you think you could take the 4-year-old at this point and possibly the baby?"

Whoa! Slow down.

A baby, with broken bones?! Let me just stop and think about that, feel that for a minute. A baby. Abused to the point of broken bones. Oh my! And a 4-year-old brother who likely witnessed the abuse. And may be abused as well.

These are moments when your eyes fill with tears, your heart skips a beat and you remind yourself to breathe. My heart was filled with compassion for these children. I cannot even imagine what they have lived through and their short lifetimes.

And yet, I told her that we could not take them.

This was less than 10 hours from when my daughter and I were headed to Girl Scout camp for the weekend and I was a chaperone. My husband was planning some special alone-time with our son. The timing was off. We had obligations we couldn't back out of. Yet if that same call came a few days later, we absolutely would have said yes.

Compassion. Heart-strings. Wisdom. Counting the cost. Wanting to say yes but knowing that you can't handle that reality at this moment.

So we have turned down a foster care placement... for the second time. It is not easy. I doubt it will get any easier.

From the beginning of our foster parenting journey, I have mentioned this prayer request - for wisdom in the moment when we get these calls. You have approximately 10 seconds to weigh both sides and make a decision, to pray for a clear answer. To make a decision that will impact your family and these foster children for possibly a lifetime. You have 10 seconds to think it through. In this situation, it wasn't the foster kids that affected the decision at all (they're too old, too young, too this or too that) but rather it was our family's plans. It was our personal reasons that had nothing to do with those kids.

This is part of the reality of foster parenting. We wait for months and don't get any calls. For most of the fall and spring, I have kept our calendar clear and not committed to much. As of April we decided that we couldn't put life on hold while we waited for a call that seemed to never come. So we started doing things again - taking field trips, joined Girl Scouts, planned a few camping trips for the summer. Now I'm wondering again about balance - how much is enough, how much is too much. Obviously we don't want to be so busy that we continually say no to foster placements, yet we have to live life with the kids we have and make some plans.

Foster parenting. It's a new reality. We're still adjusting to it.

Girl Scouts: How to Make a Sit-Upon


Before attending Camporee last weekend, my daughter needed a "sit-upon." If you're asking "What in the world is a sit-upon?" then you are as unfamiliar with Girl Scouts as I am!
Turns out that a sit-upon is something Girl Scouts make to sit on during camping trips or other events where they may be sitting on the ground, on wet picnic tables, etc. It's a waterproof, cushiony soft, something to sit-upon. :-)

Here are the basic steps showing how "we" (mostly me) made the one for my daughter.

Gather supplies:
  • 1 foam pad (ours were 1 inch thick in a 14x14 square; bought at Hobby Lobby)
  • 1 section of rope 2-3 feet long
  • 1 roll duct tape (we used a good girly color like hot pink)
  • some yarn and a yarn needle
  • a piece of clear vinyl about 30 inches x 15 inches
  • contact paper
  • a hole punch and scissors
  • ripped up pieces of many colors of tissue paper
Use the contact paper and the colored tissue paper pieces to make whatever designs your daughter chooses. My daughter made a neat crown and some other shapes. Some girls make flowers. It's a good idea to put your child's name somewhere inside contact paper too.
Measure your vinyl and cut it to the right size. You need it to fit around your cushion with just a little to spare on the edges. Then use your duct tape to go around all 4 edges of the vinyl. Next use your hole punch to make holds all around the 4 edges of duct tape. I tended to keep these fairly close together (1-2 finger-widths apart) so it will be stitched tighter and be more waterproof and secure. Holes further apart will mean looser stitching. Keep in mind that you need the same number of holes on the edges that will be paired up after you fold your vinyl in half. So either count them out or do a preliminary fold so you can line it up while making the holes.
Use some of the contact paper to secure your tissue-paper designs (that look a little like stain glass now) to one side of your vinyl. This will be the inside. It will be folded in half, so decorate both halves with your tissue paper designs. It will look something like this, with the vinyl folded over but not secured yet.
Insert your rope along the fold of the vinyl. This will be your handle, to carry your sit-upon around. Then use your yarn to stitch all the way around the 3 duct-taped edges. I used a lot of yarn for this and went around twice, to make it very secure.Ta-da! A sit-upon!

If this is too complicated for you, there are many other options out there for sit-upons. Some scouts just use duct tape as the waterproof outside and stuff it with newspaper for the inside fluff. There are many creative options out there!

Girl Scouts: Camporee


Last weekend my daughter and I attended Girl Scout Camporee! This was held at a camp just about 10 minutes from our home. We arrived at 9:00 Saturday morning and left Sunday morning around 11, as the last of our troop girls was picked up. I chaperoned the event along with our troop leader. We had 4 girls spend the night, including my daughter, and 1 girl stay for only the day on Saturday. But Camporee is an event for all the Girl Scouts in a region, so there were nearly 100 girls in all, from numerous troops in our area. The theme was Hawaiian Luau, so the girls enjoyed...

making grass skirts and flower leis, as well as learning what their name would be in Hawaiian (with only 13 of the 26 letters we know, vowels between every consonant, and every word must end in a vowel)

how to hula dance

pineapple relays with balloons

parachute games

and of course campfires and smores!

We enjoyed ourselves. It rained only briefly on Saturday, so we were still able to have all of the outdoor activities that were planned. Overall, a good camping experience for mother and daughter!

Children's Reading List: On the Banks of Plum Creek


My daughter and I are continuing to read through the Little House books, after taking a break to focus on other things. We're onto the third book written by Laura Ingalls Wilder about her childhood - On the Banks of Plum Creek.

In this book, the Ingalls family moves to Minnesota and live in a small sod house. Pa builds a new log cabin house and plants his first wheat crop. Then come the grasshoppers! Grasshoppers so thick they block the sun and once they arrive, they eat every green thing in sight! I learned something new here - I had heard of locusts but not grasshoppers causing such a mess of the crops.

The resilience of the Ingalls family is commendable. They faced a new life in Minnesota, but they embraced it and pressed forward. They faced the grasshoppers, but pressed on. They faced fire that threatened to burn down their house, but they fought it with all their might and pressed on. Pa had to leave for weeks on end to find work elsewhere, but the family pressed on. Determined. Admirable.

I'm not sure if we'll make it to the next few books in the Little House series. My daughter is enjoying reading the Boxcar Children series on her own. And we have some other read-alouds that she is itching to start. The Little House books may be put on hold for now, however, I will post about the books we do read. I am loving all of the good children's literature we're reading and want to encourage others with young children to snuggle up with a good book and simply read!

Hoarders, Part 3 - What's Behind It All?


This is the third and final post in a series on Hoarders. If you missed the first two posts, please go back and read those now before moving on to Part 3.

A common tendency of a hoarder is isolation. Once hoarding gets out of control, it's easier to just hide the mess than to deal with it.

For my husband's uncle, he simply left curtains shut and doors closed. Keep the garage door closed and nobody would see what was stuffed in the garage (see above). He didn't invite anyone over. He let his lawn and shrubs and trees grow out of control, providing more shelter for the mess the house had become. He isolated himself from neighbors and family members.

Hoarding moves beyond normal activities like saving keepsakes because you have a sentimental attachment to them. Hoarding moves into a realm of finding security and self-worth in and through your stuff. To remove the stuff makes one vulnerable. One might feel alone without the stuff in which they find comfort. To offer to clean up the stuff "once and for all" won't address the deeper issue for most hoarders. Left with a clean house, they will only set out to fill it up again, because the stuff provides them with comfort and security and self-worth.

Hoarding tends to cut off relationships with other people (who are overwhelmed and disgusted by the hoarding) and instead creates a "relationship" with the stuff itself. Hoarders often cannot bring themselves to the place of getting rid of their stuff. It is emotionally painful to even consider. The hoarder has a co-dependent relationship with their stuff. The stuff needs them and they in turn need the stuff.

What's behind it all?

Materialism. Believing that stuff that we own will make us happy. "Must have more stuff. Must stuff each room of my house full, then move on to stuff the garage. Then rent a storage unit for all of my stuff." All of my stuff shows the world that I am successful. "I am somebody becomes I own A, B, and C. I am happy... except that deep down I'm really not!"

Not understanding one's true value is also a part of hoarding. Looking to stuff to find one's worth is the same issue as the teenage girl looking for love in all the wrong places. She doesn't see how valuable she is. Neither does a hoarder. They may feel rejected by people, so they turned to the stuff that will not reject them. They may feel disappointed in people, so they turn to stuff that is always there and won't let them down.

I am reminded of Jesus' parable of the rich fool in Luke 12 and can think of two easy lessons from this parable.

First, the folly of storing up things for ourselves but being poor in storing up anything of eternal value. We can jam our homes full of stuff, storing up all kinds of food, clothes, knick-knacks, you name it. All stored up for ourselves. But how foolish that really is! How much wiser to spend time on PEOPLE instead of THINGS. To invest in children, in neighbors, in family, in souls than to invest time, money, energy in the things of this world that will pass away and rot. Jesus said to the rich fool, "This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?"

Second: Life is more than food and the body more than clothes. There is more to life than clothes, food and stuff. Each soul is so valuable and yet we tend to only think of "valuables" as things, as stuff. Sometimes we need a reality check. A second look at our priorities. Honest consideration of how we're spending our life and what regrets we might have at the end.

The End of the Story:

My husband's uncle's life had a sad ending. He hadn't seen his adult children in many years. He rarely got out. When he fell on the day he died, he had to call 911. The paramedics had a hard time getting into the house to find him. They knew the house needed to be condemned as uninhabitable. After his death, his children came back to their childhood home and couldn't believe their eyes. Their dad's legacy: a mess to be cleaned up and a house full of questions.

In a small way, though, this is a story of redemption. My husband is a visionary. He saw this house - full of bad smells and trash, smoke-stained ceilings and left-behind furniture - and saw potential for what this house could be. We helped clean it out. It took many weeks of hard work. It took 8 semi-trailer sized dumpsters to collect all of the trash, clutter, expired food, ruined furniture, etc. Then we bought this house!

This time around, this house will be filled with love. If these walls could talk, they'd speak of laughing children, of meals eaten together around the dinner table, or cuddly children listening to parents read stories. This time around, this house will be full of people, of living souls, more than stuff. This house is part of the reason we became foster parents. We saw the space and said "If God gives us this house, He wants us to use it for His glory. He wants us to use it for ministry." We will redeem this house. It will not be uninhabitable. Instead it will be a home, with open doors, where love abounds. Not love of stuff but love of people.

PS: For those who might be interested in seeing pictures of our home AFTER the clean-out,
go here and look through the 9-part series called Home Makeover.



Our internet and phone service is currently down. When it is restored, I will continue with my posting... including Part 3 of my series on Hoarders. Thank you for your patience.

Hoarders, Part 2 - Clutter and Trash


Yesterday I started a blog series on Hoarding. If you missed the post, please read it before jumping into this one, which is part 2.

We learned yesterday that my current house used to belong to a hoarder. That hoarder was my husband's uncle who lived here for 30+ years and passed away 2 years ago. This is my commentary based on my experiences, as we cleaned out the house of a hoarder.

One thing hoarders are known for is for making paths through the clutter. This case was no different. There was one path to the bedroom, the bathroom, the kitchen and to one chair in the living room in front of the TV. The front door was blocked. The den had long since been overtaken by piles of clutter. You could look into each room but most of the furniture was buried under the piles.

This is a picture of the living room, with the fireplace and bookshelves at the far end and a stairway heading upstairs in the foreground. There was no path to enter the room here. It was completely blocked with clutter, piled about 4 feet high. Furniture is buried. Windows are blocked.

This was the den, which is now my son's bedroom. Long-since dead plants by the windows -- can't water plants if you can't get to them! We were surprised to find two televisions and two recliners under all of this clutter. Christmas gifts and cards that were intended to be sent to grandchildren years ago but never got mailed. Lots of important papers were eventually found in here also.

Organization is not a strong suit for a hoarder. O
ften, the piles found around their home are in no real order. The pile may contain important documents, money, old newspapers, or other trash... or most likely a mixture of all of those things. This was definitely the case here. My husband's uncle had piles of money left throughout the house, but didn't remember where they were. He died. Now the family that was left to clean up the house had to sort through each pile and ask the question "Keep it or pitch it?" thousands of times!

This is a picture of the sunroom - a walkway between the garage and the dining room that was also overrun with stuff. Eventually the garage was filled with stuff and then the sunroom got filled up too, leaving no path to even get to the garage from inside the house.

Many hoarders value saving money. They often begin to hoard items because they think it will save them money in the long run. My husband's uncle wanted to save money too. So not only did he stockpile items (as we saw yesterday) but he also cancelled his trash service in his last 2 years of life, to save money. True trash - empty food containers, old newspapers and mail, empty boxes, receipts - were all strewn about the house. Imagine all of this trash added to the mixed piles mentioned above, where important documents or cash were stashed.

This is picture shows the kitchen. The fridge is in the back on the left. Then the wall oven. The kitchen sink is completely buried on the right side, under the window. Completely buried under trash. Empty medicine bottles, empty ice cream and carry-out food containers. Empty cans. All just left to sit and stink, for weeks and weeks on end! Go ahead and click on the above picture to see it magnified. You can just imagine the overwhelming stench of it!

Lesson #4
If you have to make a path through the stuff to move about your home, it's time to clean up! Start small. Find one space (maybe one corner of a room, or one closet) and start there. Find 3 containers or bags. Go through every item and make a decision about which bag it belongs in.
Bag 1 - Keep it
Bag 2 - Donate it
Bag 3 - Trash it
Be ruthless about clutter. It WILL NOT get better on its own.
You have to be intentional about getting rid of clutter! If the job seems overwhelming to you, ask someone to help you out and hold you accountable to getting the job done. I mentioned above that hoarders are often not very organized, so they may need a more organized person to help them sort through the mixed piles and clutter.

Lesson #5
Keep important things in one safe place. Keep your important documents (like passports, birth certificates, financial documents, wills, etc.) in a locked safe or a safety deposit box offsite. You need to be able to access these quickly, so keep all important stuff in one place. You also don't want these items lost, misplaced or stolen so keep that in mind when choosing a location.

Lesson #6
Listen to others. If you think you may have a problem with hoarding or if your family members are telling you that they are concerned about how much stuff you are bringing into your home... take it seriously. The clutter in a hoarder's home can be a fire hazard or cause injury if a pile falls on someone.

One more post in this blog series on hoarding coming tomorrow...

Hoarders, Part 1 - Extreme Stockpiling


Do you know any "hoarders?" This term has become quite popular now because of the TV show by that name. I have never seen the show, but have lived through some experiences with folks who have been hoarders.

My most recent and by far the most serious case of hoarding that I've experienced took place about 2 years ago. The man who lived in our house before we bought it was a hoarder. He was my husband's uncle and he passed away. As part of the family, we were involved in cleaning out the house to put it on the market for sale. Eventually, we made it clear that we were interested in buying the house and the rest is history. But this week I want to share a few pictures of our house, before it was our
house and talk a bit about hoarding. Today the focus is specifically on "Extreme Stockpiling."

I am all for a great bargain. If you read this blog regularly, you know that I love getting items for free or for super-cheap and will often stockpile those items for future use. But there is a line that can be crossed, when stockpiling items you will use in the next few months turns into Extreme Stockpiling. This would involve saving mass quantities of an item that you do regularly use or think you will use in the future. Extreme Stockpiling caused some of the clutter that had to be cleaned out of this house we now live in. How about some pictures to show you what I'm talking about.
There were dozens of cases of Coca-Cola that had been stored in the basement for years. So many years, in fact, that the Coca-Cola had evaporated out of the unopened cans. The cans were now empty and almost weightless, as you can see in this picture of a young boy who could lift 9 24-packs of unopened cans!

A picture of some of the 24-packs stacked in the basement, floor to ceiling. This pop had been on the basement floor for so long that it eventually started leaking out of some of the cans and onto the concrete floor. There are dozens of coin-sized pits and grooves in the concrete where the pop had been, eating away at the concrete. These remain there today.

Another shelf showing regular grocery items that were stockpiled and never used.
A serious supply of canned chili and canned green beans lining the hallway.

Stacked packs of beer on the steps going to the basement.

One of the most frustrating parts of cleaning the house of a hoarder is to see how much money was wasted on items that were never used and are now expired. All of the money used to buy the pop, the beer, the canned goods in these pictures - thousands of dollars, no doubt - was wasted! The items sat until they were of no good to anyone.

Lesson #1
Only stockpile what you know you will use in the next few months. No need to buy up everything on the store shelf just because of a low price. There will be other deals next week, next month and next year. Consider what you can realistically store in your home and how much you will realistically use in the near future.

Lesson #2
It's not a good deal if you don't really need it. Don't buy any item that you don't have a use for or a plan for (such as donating it to someone who can use it now).

Lesson #3
As much as possible, keep all stockpiled items visible. I'm not saying to keep them out in the open for the world to see. But you need to know what you have and how much of it you have on hand. Items that are out of sight will be quickly forgotten. Instead of grabbing from your stockpile, you'll buy a new one at the store. A forgotten stockpile is pointless!

When my husband's uncle was getting older and his knees were getting bad, he was no longer able to go downstairs. Downstairs is where most of his stockpiled items were kept. This would've been a great time for him to have someone help him move all of those items upstairs where he could see them and therefore use them. Instead, the items stayed in the basement and went bad, expired, or evaporated away - doing nobody any good at all!

More pictures and commentary to come tomorrow on this topic of hoarding...

Super Savings Saturday


It was a crazy week at our house, so I didn't spend much time on saving money (I was trying to save my sanity) :-)

I did pick up two free photo collages from Walgreens. Every few months they will have a coupon code that makes these completely free. Last weekend there were two codes, so you could get two 8x10 photo collages completely free (if you picked them up at your nearest Walgreens store). These are handy for your own scrapbooks or albums, or for giving to grandparents or other friends. You choose your own digital photos, the title, the background color... all done online. Each collage is regularly priced at $3.99, so getting it free - it's a good deal!

I didn't leave my house a lot this week. Honestly, I was scared to... with 4 little children in tow! But staying home is a serious money-saving strategy! The minute you walk out the door, you will be met with marketing and ad campaigns designed to make you feel that you "need" to go buy products to make you happy. Those ads coupled with your own desires for stuff will cause you to be tempted to buy items that you may not need at all.

Now, our home is not completely free from all marketing either (think websites, magazine ads, direct mailings, etc). However, if I keep my feet at home, I will not be tempted to walk down more aisles, stick more stuff into my shopping cart or buy food or drinks to satisfy my hunger. Keeping busy at home saves us money!

Happy Saving!

Family Photo Friday


Friday is here. This was one crazy, chaotic, fast-paced week!
I do have a few pictures to share on this fabulous, fun Friday!

My daughter had a "Make A Racer" car kit that she worked on last week. She made the plaster mold and painted it. She's been really into crafts lately.

My son just looked too cute to not take a picture. :-)

My daughter - the bookworm - on #43 of the Boxcar Children book series.

My kids like to play on the computer. This week my husband gave them permission to play "with" the computer, as in take apart an old computer with tools and all. Both of them loved this and were kept busy for hours. My daughter found pieces to pull aside and ask Dad about later. A learning experience for everyone!

Grandma R came over with some things to plant this week. My kids hopped in her trunk as she was unloading it. :-)

My mom was visiting from Wisconsin last weekend. Here she is with my daughter...
And with my son. He wouldn't look at the camera for a picture, but he did go nose-to-nose with Grandma.

Happy Friday to one and all!

Foster Parenting - Log #11


As I mentioned in Log #10, a foster parent’s life can change in an instant. That was the case on Monday when we got “the call” that ended in two young boys becoming our first foster siblings.

And then a phone call changed things again on Wednesday evening.

There had been a court hearing on Wednesday afternoon. The judge decided to grant custody of all 4 children (the 2 boys staying with us and the 2 sisters who were with another foster family) to a grandparent. We were informed of this later on Wednesday. The children would be picked up at 11:00 am on Thursday morning.

We spent Thursday morning preparing the boys for this move (as much as possible for a 4-year-old and 1-year-old). We packed up their clothes and included a few extras for them – books they enjoyed while with us, some pictures they’d colored, etc. And at 11:00 we waved good-bye to them as they were off.

Their visit was very short. The judge’s decision even surprised the caseworker, who anticipated the kids being in foster care for a minimum of 2 weeks. However, the judge did what he felt was in the best interest of the children, based on their current situation and that of their parents and grandparents. Our role and the caseworker’s role is to help carry out the judge’s orders.

I certainly hope that the boys are going to a safe, healthy environment with their grandparent. Being with family is the ideal situation.

My daughter was sad to see them go. She asked many questions about why they had to leave and why they had been in foster care at all. But once I explained to her how much more comfortable they will be with a grandparent versus complete strangers (us), she could understand.

But if our "Chase" and "Davey" ever end up in foster care again, we wouldn’t have to think twice about taking them in.

Monday evening through Thursday morning. A very short time.

But we are foster parents. We are listed as both traditional and emergency foster parents. That means that we will take in kids who need long-term care, short-term care or anything in between. It means that we say yes to those who need a place to stay tonight but might be somewhere else tomorrow night as well as those who may be with us for days, weeks or even months.

Foster care is a crazy system. It’s hard to anticipate what might happen with foster kids from day to day, from a judicial case perspective. Judge’s can give grace to parents who have failed many times but still want to fight for their kids or they can terminate parental rights when they think that is in the best interest of the children. Parents may initially try to fight, but later give up or appear to not want to fight for their kids only to decide at the last minute that they want to do what is necessary to win them back. Or an extended family member steps in and is willing to be a guardian for the children. Cases seem to move to one side – maybe towards adoption – only for the tide to then turn back to parental rights and visits and reunification. They are dynamic, not static. You cannot anticipate the direction a case might move. The information available changes. The people involved change. The kids change. The judge’s perspective may change. So many variables that affect the outcome. Yet, the end goal is the same – to provide a healthy, safe, stable environment for children.

So we do our part to be a safe place for kids when they need us.

And we wait for the next call that will change everything once again.

PS: I want to say "thank you" to all of those who support us in what we're doing - we have many people praying for us and offering help in many ways. So if you, dear reader, are one of those behind-the-scenes helpers, thank you!

Homeschool: Using Sonlight, 3rd Grade


I mentioned before that 2nd grade was a real struggle for my daughter. Although she loves to read, she hates school. We decided to try an entirely different approach for 3rd grade. We will be using a curriculum called Sonlight, that is literature-based. Since my daughter loves to read and we enjoy reading books together aloud, this approach might help her rekindle that love of learning. Sonlight has a "love to learn" guarantee - that if we try their materials for 18 weeks and don't love it, we can return them for a 100% refund. They claim that their approach is "the way you wish you'd been taught." So we are taking them up on their challenge and going to see if they can win us over!

We ordered a huge kit that contains everything we need for 3rd grade. The boxes arrived last week. It felt a lot like Christmas, receiving these big boxes with over 70 items we'll use for 3rd grade - mostly books, but also a few CDs, DVDs, science kits, maps and markers, timelines, etc.

Sonlight makes a big deal about Box Day (the day that your box or boxes arrive).
You can watch a brief video about it here.

Here are my kids helping unpack the boxes.
A shot of my table, with everything unpacked and stacked. It was quite a job to make sure everything from the packing list was included (and it was).

The Sonlight boxes containing all of our books can be made into a castle. My kids loved this!
I need to familiarize myself with the new materials before we will begin 3rd grade. My goal is to start around June 1st (we always school year-round, taking breaks as we need them). I'll share updates as we go to see if Sonlight lives up to its claims and helps us all "love to learn."