Family Photo Friday, er, Monday


It's Monday, but "Family Photo Friday" was a bust last Friday since blogger was having trouble uploading pictures. So, here are my pictures now that all is well in blogging land again.

Last week we worked on a 1000 piece puzzle. It took 3 days. We haven't done one of these big puzzles for about 2 years, so it was time to pull one out.

We watched our little friend Eli one day. He really liked pushing around the big tractor.

My daughter wanted a picture with Eli. It's getting harder to snap these, as he doesn't want to sit and cuddle - he wants to be on the go!

My son, looking as cute as ever, surrounded by toys.

It's the end of October. Ready or not, here November comes!

Family Photo Friday


It's Friday. I took the week off of blogging. It felt nice. :-)

I didn't want to leave you hanging without any pictures from our week, though.

But then blogger was having trouble and wouldn't upload the pictures. Bummer!

When I am able to upload the photos, I will.

Until then, enjoy the last few days of October! You know that once November hits, the weeks pick up speed and 2012 will be here in a blink!

Family Photo Friday


Another week has flown by and Friday is here again.
Today I'm sharing a few photos from our week.

Our Girl Scout troop is having a Harvest Party today. I signed up to bring leaf and pumpkin cookies to share at the potluck lunch. Here are about 60 of them.

We watched our little buddy Eli one day this week. He enjoyed playing the piano and was proud to climb up there onto the piano bench all by himself.

My son showing off his big smile and his colorful drawing.

My pretty girl when she was drawing (a favorite past-time of hers these days).

My husband has been working on an insulation project in our attic. My son "helped" a little bit. They halted their work long enough to pose for this shot together.

Cootie - what a classic kid game. My husband and kids enjoyed playing Cootie together one night this week.

Happy weekend to you!

Children's Reading List:: American Girl Felicity and Lapbook


My daughter has now finished reading about Felicity, the next girl in the American Girl collection. Felicity is the girl who lived during colonial times in America (around 1774). We are learning about this time period in our homeschool history studies.

As we did with the previous American Girl study on Kaya, my daughter made a lapbook for Felicity. A lapbook is a cross between a book report and a character study, but done in a creative format. All of the American Girl lapbook templates we used can be found online for free here.

Here's my daughter with the cover - a picture of Felicity which she drew (and she proudly wrote FELICITY in cursive... she's just learning to write in cursive).

The inside of the lapbook, page 1, showing little tabs to describe who Felicity is, as well as her mother, father, home, horses and favorite things. All of these open up and my daughter has written and/or drawn something about each aspect of Felicity's life.

And page 2 shows a tab on conflict in Felicity's life, what changed in her life through the book series, 4 tabs describing what life was like in 1774 and a map of where Felicity lived (in Virginia colony, which covered way more than simply the current day state of Virginia).

Both my daughter and I learned a lot through this study on colonial days in America. My daughter thought it was so funny that big white wigs were worn by men and women. Learning the difference between the Whigs and the Tories and discussing which side we would've been on was very interesting.

My daughter says she really enjoyed the Felicity study... but she's already itching to move on to the next American Girl - Josefina from New Mexico in the year 1824.

Deals Around Town


Deals around town? Yes, there are still some to be had.
Here are some freebies I've picked up lately.

I don't regularly shop at WalMart. I do shop there, though, when I have coupons that paired with their sale prices will result in free items. Everything in this picture was better-than-free after using coupons (meaning that the coupon took off more than the cost of the item, so the overage was applied to other items I was purchasing). 4 free 12-pack razors, 2 Renuzit air fresheners, 2 Covergirl make-up items, 1 travel size Old Spice body wash, and 1 box of Idahoan potatoes. WalMart will also price-match other store prices, so I picked up milk at the lowest local price while I was there.

A blog that I check now and then - - sent me these coupons as a promotional incentive. 5 coupons for free Dole fruit items.

Free helps to stretch our grocery budget. I like free!

Homeschooling: Basket Craft


When my daughter was reading the Kaya books (from American Girl), there was mention of basket-making. So we set out to make a simple basket ourselves. This was our first attempt and it turned out well (though I did much more of the work than she did). We used 4 feet of rope, which when all wound up makes a rather small basket. It's a good size for holding small things - like loose change. So we will make another - with a different color yarn and more rope, to make a bigger basket.

We started with 4 feet of rope (bought at Lowes for about 30 cents per foot). The only supplies you need are yarn, rope and a yarn needle.

Here is our finished product.

Family Photo Friday


Friday is here again. Yippee!

Here are a few photos from our w

We have had absolutely beautiful weather this week, resulting in lots of time spent outside. Here my son and husband were washing our van.

One evening my husband pushed the kiddos in the wheelbarrow, along with a load of leaves. Squeals of childish delight!

My daughter found a creative way to make a bonnet, using an apron. We're talking about life in colonial days as part of our homeschooling these days, so I wasn't too surprised to see her dressing up with a bonnet.

My son posed for this shot with his Lego creation. Legos are quite popular at our house.

Our special hibiscus bloomed again this week, probably fooled by our warm summer-like weather. Lovely to see this in full bloom.

Happy Friday to you!

Our Adventure with a Chipmunk


Last night we had an adventure... with a chipmunk. Not just any chipmunk, mind you. This was an albino chipmunk (who has ever heard of such a thing?!) and it was in our own backyard. Seems we often have wild animal adventures at this house.

I was walking with my two kids, picking up outside toys they'd left out. It was time to head in for supper. I stopped to say something and before taking another step, looked down and saw this little white animal in the grass. I wasn't sure what it was, as I'd never seen anything like it. It didn't take off running when it noticed us. It was small like a mouse. Maybe a chipmunk. But white. And scared to death, breathing heavy and just hoping we weren't going to hurt it. My son touched it before I could get the "don't touch it!" out of my mouth. Thankfully it didn't bite him.

It tried to run away, but moved slowly and appeared hurt. We followed it a few feet when it turned around the jumped on my son's pant leg! How I wish I had a picture of his face - and mine - at that moment. He screamed. I screamed. The chipmunk ran down his leg and over his shoe and back under a leaf on the ground. My son turned and ran!

When my husband arrived home a few minutes later, he went out with me to find the little critter. We did find him, trying to climb up a tree. He made it about 15 feet up and then fell to the ground. We caught him in this bucket to examine him further. He is a chipmunk. He is white (or light gray) and has no hair, except on his tail which is a proper-colored, furry and long chipmunk tail.

Very odd indeed. We felt sorry for him, as there was clearly something wrong with him since he was unable to climb trees or run fast, like most chipmunks. He was scared to stay in our bucket and tried to get out, so we let him go.

My son thought he looked more like a mouse, so he coined the term "chipmouse" and that is what we are calling him. :-)

Bye-bye, little chipmouse!

Top 5 Things I've Learned Being a Foster Mom


As you'd expect, a year of serving as a foster mom can teach you many things. Here are my top 5 lessons learned.

5. No amount of training adequately prepares foster parents for what they will encounter. We underwent 30+ hours of training to obtain a fostering license. Since that time, the state has actually lowered the requirements to only 15 hours of training to obtain a license. And yet, after all of the training, we still felt as though we were not fully prepared for what would come our way as a foster family.

Every fostering situation is different, so it is impossible to prepare a foster family for every possible situation they may encounter. And rules and guidelines for foster families change yearly (like the tax code) so it's hard to stay on top of them. However, foster parents will be held to high standards and are expected to follow strict guidelines, so training is necessary to teach those things. I feel our state is doing a disservice by lowering the requirements for licensure in order to make it easier to become foster parents, while this means that folks will have even less information about what they are signing up for and what is expected of them as foster parents.

4. Good intentions aren't enough when it comes to orphan care. Many things are needed to be a good foster parent - organizational skills, patience, compassion, communication skills, transportation, high tolerance of stress, ability to stay calm in chaotic situations, training hours, etc. To simply want to help is good - it's a good starting point. Yet much more is required. The pity, sympathy or compassion that one feels for the orphan child does little good if not put into action in tangible way. The emotion should move us to action - to prayer, to becoming an advocate for children, to foster parenting, to something, to anything that is a tangible expression of our concern.

3. Foster care is a broken system. There is no way to get around the fact that the state fostering system is chaotic, government-run, under-staffed, and under-funded. It is far from perfect, yet it is the current way of handling the orphan crisis in America. It is all that is in place currently to provide any help, as broken and inefficient as it is. Working within the foster care system can be very frustrating. Those who are to be working on behalf of children can't keep up with the paperwork demanded of them. The system needs an overhaul. Or the Church in America needs to step back up to the ministry of orphan care.

2. There is a great need for more people to be foster parents, however... that need is skewed heavily towards teenagers and difficult-to-parent children. In our state, we were told that it was pointless to become foster parents who would take only infants. Infants are "easy" to care for and easy to place with foster families. There are dozens of foster families waiting to take in infants, in our county. What is truly needed, at least in our area, are foster parents who will take in older children, especially teenagers. This is part of the reason we stepped down from fostering for the time being. We would gladly accept infants and very young children, but we do not feel it's wise to take in teenage children given the ages of our biological children. So, while the need is great and more foster parents are needed, all things are not equal when it comes to the age of the children who waiting for a foster family to take them in.

1. When you take the risk to love, your heart may get hurt. To risk love may mean pain. It may mean that providing help for someone else proves painful for yourself in the process. Yet we are called to love. To give. To risk. To do it over and over. This is maturity. This is growth. This is true self-sacrifice. This is laying one's life down for another. God can certainly use foster parenting as a means of sanctification, as a way of refining us, as a daily opportunity to lay down one's life for another.

John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.

Miscarriage: Talking and Silence


This Wednesday will mark 16 weeks since we miscarried our baby. I can't help my mind from going to the "what if" questions. How would life be different right now if we hadn't lost the baby? I would have been 24 weeks along now. I wonder how this pregnancy would've compared to my other two. My almost 4-year-old son was HUGE in utero and weighed over 11 pounds at birth. Would this baby have been a big boy too? I have so many "wonders."

This past Sunday was the first time in 16 weeks that I've attended a worship service and not wept while singing praise to the Lord. I still couldn't sing all the words, as some are just painful and some are just too distant from what I'm feeling. But I can feel His love for me again and that is improvement. Sometimes just soaking that in and being silent before Him is what I need.

Now that it's been a few months since our miscarriage, we are past what most people consider a "normal" amount of time for grieving. The common vibe we get now is "Haven't you moved on yet?" or "You're still struggling with THAT?" I'll say again that these sentiments don't show care or concern for what the grieving person is going through. These aren't going to help the person at all, but rather will make them feel as though there is something wrong with them for still grieving, still aching, still feeling their loss. People grieve differently and it's all OK. My grief is affected by so many other factors as well, such as the fact that conceiving doesn't happen easily for us, the fact that we've stepped down from foster parenting recently too, etc.

I am still so glad, though, that we have made our lives an open book, letting people know about our loss. Just last week a new acquaintance was talking about two miscarriages she suffered a few years ago. I was able to express sympathy over her losses and tell her about our recent experience. There is healing in sharing, talking, being honest about the feelings.

Healing. Time. Processing through. Grieving. Feeling deeply. Moving forward but never forgetting.

Family Photo Friday


Ok. Is it just me or did somebody push the fast-forward button on this week? How can it be Friday again already?! Here are a few pictures from our week... though I didn't take many. We were outside working in flower beds and raking leaves much of this week, enjoying beautiful "Indian summer" weather.

This is my first installment of "When You Give a Kid a Camera" photos. :-) My daughter had the camera and somehow she got this shot of herself. Silly girl!

Here's another of her shots - a Lincoln Log fort she made.

My son and his doll Eli all wrapped up in blankets.
Just look at that mischievous grin!

Speaking of Eli, we had the real deal here, as we watched our little buddy Eli for one day this week. Here he and my son were sitting on the stairs. Hard to believe that Eli is over 18 months now - walking, babbling, at such a fun stage. My son's face in this picture is so typical of him right now - eyes closed and a big grin. Hard to get a good picture of him these days.

Here is my daughter showing off her latest feat - hanging upside down, no hands. You can see the leaves in this picture - clearly it's fall time - and yet we've had beautiful, sunny, 70s and 80s weather all week. We are loving that!

Happy Friday to you!

Reading the Classics


Lately I've had an urge to read more books. In the last month I've read almost a dozen "classic" books that I'd never found the time to read before. Some of these I really enjoyed and will probably read again the future. Others I really disliked. But sometimes I read books I don't enjoy just because it will stretch me. At the very least I can say that I've read the book. Sometimes classics should be read just because they are classics. I won't review of each one, but here are a few of my recent reads. What can I say - I love books!

Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson

Works for Me Wednesday - Brown Bag Burritos


I've heard before about Brown Bag Burritos. You know, a way to make a super cheap make-ahead lunch that is good for you too.

My husband and I decided recently to give these burritos a try, with a twist. Most recipes call for ground beef, but we made a meatless variety and used beans as the main protein in the meal.

Here's a picture showing the assembly line process.

We spread a layer of beans (refried beans or just mash up cooked black beans) on the tortilla.

Then add a layer of cooked barley (rice would work fine too).

Top that with a heaping spoonful of this mixture: a package of taco seasoning, diced tomatoes, chopped green peppers, chopped onion, a can of corn, a few jalapeno peppers and whatever else we have on hand to throw in this mix ("everything but the kitchen sink").

Sprinkle with shredded cheese.

Wrap in foil and freeze.

When ready to eat, remove foil and heat in microwave for 1 minute.

It's very easy to make 10-20 of these at a time. The ingredients are inexpensive and easy to prepare.
You could customize these with whatever ingredients suit you. And these burritos freeze easily.

My husband has been enjoying these for lunch on the days when there aren't other leftovers to eat. A cheap but filling lunch.

Brown Bag Burritos - they work for me!

Deals Around Town


A few deals I've gotten lately.

First, a mailbox freebie - a Swiffer duster and other Swiffer coupons.
Excellent free item!

Last week CVS had a deal on Softsoap. I was able to get 2 bottles of foaming hand soap for less than $2 and earn back $4 in Extra Care Bucks (like a gift card to use at CVS in the future). I liked the deal but I was also excited because I'd recently read here about making your own foaming hand soap and I lacked the special dispenser. So now I've got soap to last a while and a dispenser to make my own soap when these are empty.

And I just bought these 3 items for a total of 50 cents at CVS yesterday, thanks to coupons and deals. I also got back $1 Extra Care Buck to spend at CVS next time. I live very close to numerous CVS stores, so it's not out of my way to shop there and it's easy to take advantage of great deals when they come.

I like deals! :-)

On My Mind


Today I am praying for a number of people that God has brought to my mind:

  • My friend Joyce, who is at home with sick kids today.
  • My friend Michele, who had her lower leg amputated last week.
  • My husband as he seeks to glorify God in his workplace.
  • My mom as she leaves for a trip to Hawaii this week.
  • My children to seek unity and peace.
These verses from Ephesians struck me when I read them yesterday and then they came up again today too - "Be completely gentle and humble; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." So this is my prayer for myself and my family today.

If you have any prayer requests, let me know and I will pray for you also!