Saturday, November 12, 2011

Baby Update!

For those who haven't heard yet, we got a call yesterday, that there was a baby at the hospital who needed foster parents.

For those who have already asked, or who haven't asked but will:  

He is a foster baby.  
Permanency is up in the air.
We did not get to name him.
Yes I am already attached.

So.  I can't share too many details.  But here's what I can share:

Baby Boy is one month old (yesterday).  He is on some medications, which we had to learn to administer, and a heart/apnea monitor, which we had to learn to operate.  The monitor is a precaution because of the meds he is on; they are NOT for existing heart/breathing issues.

He has a goofy name (not new for us, as some of you know!), and after some family discussion, we have decided that we are going to call him Ty.  It fits him really well actually!  And this way, I can call him "Ty" here and won't reveal his actual name :-).

So far, he really likes to be held.  I am hoping I can get him swaddled up good and tight so that he will sleep in the crib and I can at least get a little sleep at night!

I am LOVING baby-wearing, just like I knew I would.  I used my carrier earlier today at my mom's, and he fell right to sleep in it; right now I am using a sling I got for free with a promo code, and he is sound asleep once again.  This one is better because I can type while holding him!  I am hoping for another promo code to show up in my email soon so I can order another one ;-)

The kids love him.  I anticipate the typical adjustment period for Kaleigh, but trying to plan for that and make sure she still gets her "Mom time" and is included in helping with Ty.  The boys are already past the "new baby" phase and are back to "life as preteen/teen boys."  The dog is very curious and interested, but handling the whole situation really well.

I have to say, I have not been this tired since we got our first two kiddos three and a half years ago.  It was nice to have a little notice this time though! 

I think that's the basics for now.  Please please please keep me in your thoughts and prayers!  Right now, my main concern is that he sleep at night; not necessarily through the night, but at least long enough that I can get some sleep too!  Thanks all!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

NaNo Update

Well, I promised a few people I would try to keep them updated on my NaNo progress.

Here is my first update:

I am behind.

Due primarily to the content of my first update, this is as much of an update I have time to provide right now.


Monday, October 24, 2011

This and That

A few personal miscellaneous items going on my life these days...

We have, I believe, a new church home.  We are enjoying it very much overall.  When I start to wonder about something, it helps me realign my expectations to remember there are no perfect people, no perfect pastors, and no perfect churches.  Hunter has become very grounded in the youth group, which also meets on Sunday mornings; and Kaleigh is really enjoying her first year of Sparkies, as well as the Sunday morning class that she just started (they don't call it Sunday school there).  I have met a few of Hunter's youth group leaders - in addition to the couple that I already knew - and last week one of Kaleigh's Sparks leaders introduced herself to me and said that she can really tell that Kaleigh works on her verses at home.  So far, all of the people at church have been warm and welcoming, and that is a refreshing change.

As far as my own involvement, I joined choir back when it started in early September.  My mom was in the choir last year, and already knew everyone; without her there, I never would have gone.  We sang last Sunday morning for the first time, for the Missions Conference.  It has been such a joy, the opportunity to sing again in an organized choir, the weekly fellowship with others in praise, and just getting to know a few people on a little bit higher level.  

My piano teacher from high school - a friend of the family whom I've actually known my entire life - also goes to our church, and has inspired me back into serious playing.  I've played a few times since moving, but it tends to fall to the back burner, with everything else going on.  Now I've been inspired to set aside time every day to play, and to work on whole pieces rather than just putzing around with this and that.  And it's really just the sitting down that needs to be made intentional; once my fingers hit the keys, I can play for hours until something urgent or pressing calls me away.  It has been a much-needed escape and a good way to squeeze in some alone time.

Crafts have also taken up a large part of my free time lately.  I'm doing some crafty Christmas presents again this year, so it's a good excuse reason to start early.  I plan to make candle gift packs for Randy's employees again this year - it's been a few years since I've had the time/energy/space to do these, so I'm looking forward to it!  I haven't started those yet, because there are a few supplies I will need before I get started.  I am also making each of the kids a blanket to match their new room themes.  Last year, Ryan requested another fleece blanket, so I am just looking for a good pattern to go with his theme (Americana).  Kaleigh's colors are lavender and pale yellow, and I am making her a quilt.  Hunter's theme is space, and I haven't decided on what kind of blanket to make him yet.  I'm kind of just scouting out material and waiting to see what comes.  His might be a kind of hybrid between the fleece blanket and a quilt; we shall see.  Other crafts include a baby blanket I need to whip up for the newest addition to the family, Emmalyn; the fleece pillow covers for the boys' giant pillows; and some cards for my personal stash.

Next week begins a month of my favorite extracurricular activity of all time: writing.  That's right; Tuesday is the first day of National Novel Writing Month 2011.  I am waffling between a couple of ideas right now, and might end up working on two novels, like I did last year.  On the subject of writing, I also plan to put together some more query letters and send out some more queries to agents in the coming weeks.  That also ended up on the back burner what with moving/unpacking/homeschooling/day-to-day stuff/etc.

I guess that's enough time spent on the miscellaneous.  Time to get back to my laundry and cleaning!

Last Day of Break

Here we are, on our last day of fall break already.  I just cannot believe the way time flies.  It seems to always be slipping away from me; the flight of time motivates and challenges me to avoid letting idle moments pass by, to make each moment count for something: to get things done, to spend time with my kids, to teach, to learn, to accomplish, to love.

Anyway, it was a nice break.  We made cookies and homemade apple cider, shopped for Daddy's birthday and made him a giant Packer cookie (complete with green and gold frosting!), played games and watched movies, painted fingernails (okay, girls only), and went grocery shopping.  

On Friday, we woke up semi-early and made cinnamon rolls and coffee and surprised Randy with his birthday gifts.  Then, Hunter and Kaleigh spent the day with their great grandma and grandpa while Randy and I enjoyed a day out and about for Randy's birthday.  We had lots of fun just bumming around, and even used up the rest of our Flex-spend dollars (since it's getting near the end of the year, I was afraid we were going to lose some of our money!): Randy got some much needed inserts at the Good Feet store, and I was able to get new glasses, which will be nice since my current pair is over 4 years old.  We also enjoyed good coffee and good food and just plain old good time together.  I love spending time with my best friend, to whom I am just lucky enough to be married! 

Just before supper time, we picked up the kids and took them to Grandma and Grandpa's house, where they spent the night and all day Saturday.  Randy and I had a nice dinner Friday night at Olive Garden, then enjoyed a lazy cozy day snuggling on the couch with movies and yummy snacks.  At the end of the day, we joined our children at my mom and dad's for the family birthday celebration.  My mom made fried chicken and mashed potatoes and a Bailey's marble cheesecake.  There were football, and wine, and a game of Trivial Pursuit; and a good time was had by all.

And so on this, our last day of fall break, we celebrate our happy weekend like this:

WE CLEAN.

Yes, I am a mean Mommy and mean Teacher.  I make my children/students choose between schoolwork and house cleaning.  Muahahahahaha.  

In all seriousness, our weekends have been so packed for the last couple of weeks, that the house has become a bit of a disaster.  My dreams of always maintaining a perfectly neat and tidy house have been shattered.  They must be restored ASAP!  

So today we will do dishes and laundry, vacuum and dust and mop floors, make beds, and put away clutter.  We also have a couple of errands to run.  Then perhaps there will be time for a bit of relaxation this afternoon, before we jump back into school work tomorrow morning bright and early.

Happy Monday!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Weeks Five & Six - and a Break!

Well, at the end of week 5, I didn't feel like there was much to report.  So I didn't bore you with that.

Last week, we wrapped up week 6 of school, and since we also did two weeks of summer school before officially digging in for the year, I decided it's time for a break.  It worked out nicely, because we just finished a spelling unit and a Bible unit, just finished reading Journey to the Center of the Earth, and finally(!!!!!) got a firm comprehension of adding and multiplying fractions.

Well, there you have our wrap-up of the last two weeks ;-).

I feel the need to state again that one highlight of my week last week was on Friday, when I graded Hunter's math homework from Thursday and Friday, and I could see that he was really "getting it."  I even pointed to one fraction that he had forgotten to reduce, said, "This one needs reduced," and got in response: "Oh, that's one-half."  After weeks of struggling over the concept of reducing, he did it in his head!

Another big highlight of last week was when we picked him up from youth group on Wednesday night.  He had a sheet with several passages of scripture on both sides, and excitedly explained that if he memorizes all the verses by January 1, a large portion of the cost for the winter retreat would be paid.  He gets so excited about things, it's energizing (and sometimes tiring) to witness.  (And by the way, this was the first I'd heard of said retreat.  Don't get me started on the subject of one's child's first time away from home.  Just don't even.)  We told him that if he memorized all the verses and earned that portion of the trip, he could go on the retreat.  He came home and for his bedtime reading, immediately began working on the first passage, Psalm 1.  

On Friday, he said the entire passage to me from memory.  I was floored.  And thrilled.  Ecstatic, really.  That night, he had his first youth activity.  Later as I picked him up, his Small Group leader told me that the minute he'd gotten there, Hunter had rushed to find him so he could say his verses.  

My heart overflows.  I cannot express my joy in how he is so eager to get involved in the youth group and the memorization of scripture.  He was in AWANA last year, and did memorize verses nearly every week, but he never showed quite the exuberance he is showing now.  Granted, yes, there is something to earn.  But the verses will be in his heart and his head, and the thing to be earned is a weekend of fellowship with peers and godly leadership and training in the Word.  Can't think of anything that would be better.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Boys and Reading / Kids and Screens

I read an article once about how today's culture tells us that the only way to get boys to read is to give them super-simple reading materials with lots of gross-ness and icky-ness in order to keep their attention.  And yes, my son does enjoy the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.  The article went on to discuss how if we took away the video games and these other kinds of books, and replaced them all with the adventure classics, that boys would learn that there is much more to be had in the world of reading.

I have to say that I did not agree with 100% of what the article had to say, but the overall spirit of the article was spot-on.  Today's boys have been conditioned to believe that "boys don't read" or "reading is an activity primarily reserved for girls or girly boys."  These last couple of weeks, with Hunter expressing how much he enjoyed both Black Beauty and Robin Hood, have been great proof that boys can discover the enjoyment of reading a true adventure story.

I also think, as a separate but contributing issue, that kids in general spend way too much time in front of TV and video games.  With less allowable time in front of screens, kids are practically forced to utilize other, more creative, outlets; reading and creative play come to mind primarily.

I have never been a fan of lots of screen time for kids, but a couple of months ago, I decided I needed some type of system that was more objective for the kids than "No, you can't watch TV right now," but still limited the amount of time they spend in front of screens.  So I made "Screen Cards."  Each card is worth a half hour of TV/video game/computer time, and each kid gets a certain number of cards per week.  It's working out great!  I chose an amount of time per week that breaks down into what I consider an acceptable amount of time per day, and the kids get the freedom of making choices as far as using their cards and getting time to watch TV or play a video game.  Of course, there are a few rules: homework and chores have to be done before using cards, and I rarely - if ever - let them use more than 2 in a row without a break for their eyes.  

But overall, they are both learning a little something about conservation.  Hunter often uses his up with 2 or 3 days to go in the week, and Kaleigh often has quite a few cards left at the end of the week!

Week Four

I have to stop and think for a minute... last week seems like a long time ago!

Hunter finished Robin Hood (the next book he chose) in two days.  Then he read it again, in two more days.  I think it's safe to say he enjoyed that book.  This reminds me of an article I once read about boys and reading, but I think that could get lengthy, so I will save it for another blog post!

In math, Hunter is working on the relationship between fractions and decimals.  I have to say, I'm a little concerned that he's not getting the concept that fractions are parts of wholes, even though I have used many different illustrations to help him grasp it.  In math (well, all of our subjects really; it just applies mostly to math) I like to teach/introduce a new concept, and then continue working on that concept until he really understands it well.  Then we move on to the next concept, having reviews every couple of weeks to make sure he doesn't forget how to do anything he's already learned.  I think we will be spending quite a bit more time on fractions and decimals.

Hunter got a B on his spelling test again, so this week we are adding an additional day of writing his words.

I finally got to the box that had our Ramona books in it, so Kaleigh and I started reading together again.  I've missed our Ramona time!  We continue our reading games, and her concept of putting letters and sounds together is growing; it is fun to watch!  I also got a lot more of our crafting supplies unpacked, and a great work center set up in the basement; so Kaleigh and I spent some time scrapping (card-making, really) last week and over the weekend. 

My dad got grapes for making grape juice, and in true Bissett fashion, had more than he knew what to do with.  So I got free grapes and spent last week canning juice.  I ended up with 5 dozen jars, but still have enough to do another 2 dozen at least; on Saturday I went in search of more jars and found a few more boxes.  Hoping to find apples soon so I can start on applesauce.  We'll need to get another shelf for the storage area soon!

We made it up to see my cousin and her new baby last Tuesday.  Emma is absolutely beautiful, and I enjoyed getting in a baby fix ;-).  We also had a lovely time playing with 2-year-old Annie, who I think enjoyed having playmates for a day.  I really wish we lived closer so we could see each other more often!

Well, I am off to check on the steel-cut oatmeal cooking on the stove, and to wake my Monday morning late sleepers!  Today I have quite a few things to work on around here, some of them fun and some of them not-so-fun, but all should make for a busy Monday.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Week Three

Our third week of school had smooth spots and rough spots.  I guess this is typical, though, right?

In Literature, we completed Black Beauty and wrote a book report on it.  Tomorrow we will pick out our next book, and now that we are in the swing of things, I am going to do a better job of planning out the timing so that we finish this one in two weeks instead of four!  I found a great site that has lots of companionship resources for classics, so we're going to use some of these worksheets as we read through the next book.  Also, I think Hunter will be presenting his book report orally this time.  Time to start working on those oral presentation skills!

Hunter didn't concentrate as well on learning his spelling words this week, and got a B.  Don't get me wrong; a B is still good.  I just know that it is not his best, since he has shown that with the right amount of studying and focus he is able to get an A.  

In math, we reviewed Greatest Common Factors - something we had just begun to touch on at the end of last year - and tackled Least Common Multiples.  He remembered GCF's very well; LCM's were rough at first, but once he got the idea, he did them easily.  Near the end of the week, we started learning about operations with decimals, which we will continue this next week.

Science/Bible/Social Studies - plowing ahead.  Nothing remarkable to report.

Although on Monday, Hunter dragged his math out all. day. loooooooong....  on Friday he had all of his homework done by 11:00 a.m.  This allowed us a nice afternoon of field trips: a trip to Sam's Club to get a couple of items (and try all the tasty samples, of course!), and a surprise outing to the movie theater to see Lion King in 3D!  The kids had never seen the Lion King (I was surprised!) so it was twice as fun as I originally thought it would be.  We all had a blast - it was really fun to watch them watch the movie, and it was also fun to see a movie that I saw the first time it was in the theater 17 years ago!

Yesterday, Hunter attended his first youth group activity.  The youth group met to help clean the church, and then went out to Pizza Hut for pizza (Hunter's favorite. food. ever.).  He had a good time, and it's good to see him starting to get involved in things like this.  

This week, Kaleigh memorized John 3:16 and the Pledge of Allegiance.  She is also working on the Pledge to the Awana flag, and almost has it down.  When she completes that one on Wednesday  night, she'll get her book and start working on more verses!  I was a little concerned about her ability to memorize, but she is doing a great job!  We will continue to recite the verses she has already memorized, so that she doesn't forget them over time.  Her learning to read is also coming along very well.  Every day she is sounding out more words, often all on her own.  One day this past week, she came to where I was working in the kitchen and said, "Mom!  'O-N' spells 'on' and 'O-F-F' spells 'off'!"  She was so excited that she had figured that out.  It was very cool.  We also got a hold of a used Kids Boggle game, which she loves to play; that is also giving her exposure to more words and teaching her how to recognize them.  It is missing a couple of letter cubes, so I need to get to a craft supply store and find some blank cubes that I can use to make replacement cubes.

I got a couple of boxes of my scrapbooking and sewing things unpacked, and I'm starting to get a nice little crafting area set up in the basement. I feel like the unpacking is coming kind of slowly at this point, but I also feel a tiny bit of accomplishment every time I get through another couple of boxes.  I keep thinking of that scene in The Incredibles where the mom unpacks the final box years after they've been in the home and says, "We're officially moved in!"  That's going to be me!  HAHA!!

Well, the Packer game is on and requires my full attention; so I'm going to wrap this up.  

Happy Autumn!!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Week Two

Our second week of school was MUCH less stressful than our first week!  I can't even begin to describe how much of a relief this is to me. 

Of course at the end of last week, I was giving myself pep talks: "It's just the first week.  We're still getting into the swing of things.  It will get better."  But there was still that little nagging... concern... at the back of my mind that we were starting the year off with a struggle and it was only going to go downhill from there.

I'm so glad my louder "voice" was right.

Hunter got an 'A' on his first spelling test!  He worked really hard on his first week of words.  He begrudgingly learned some new things in math (he strongly dislikes new concepts in math - he only wants to do things he already knows how to do).  He struggled through science, but that was basically because he wasn't paying attention to the questions; he often gets into the habit of reading the first few words of a question, guessing at the rest of the question, and then answering the imaginary question instead of the real one!  The second time through, he did much better :).  He is still enjoying Black Beauty, and is almost finished with it, at which point he will prepare his first book report!  We started the new reading comprehension book this week, and I really like it.  It's much more in-depth and creative than the one we used last year.

Kaleigh's main schooling right now comprises learning to read, memorizing verses for Sparks, and growing her comprehension of numbers.  I am taking a "play" approach to Kindergarten; most of her "work" is done through games that we play together, or observations as we go through our day-to-day life.

We are still waiting for another foster placement.  I'm ready (or at least, I *think* I'm ready) for more kids in the house, but I know God's timing is perfect; so whenever I'm tempted to start getting impatient or anxious about it, I just pray and ask God to give me peace and keep His hands on our future little ones, wherever they may be right now.

The cooler weather has been such a blessing this week.  I just love fall!  This segue from summer into winter, when the temps are hovering in the 50s and 60s, is my absolute favorite time of year.  I need to find the battery charger for my camera, so that we can get outside and take our school pics while the weather is so perfectly crisp!

After being sick all last week, and spending all of this week trying to dig out from under the pile of laundry and cleaning and shopping and dishes, I was glad to be able to get a little more organizing and unpacking done in the office today.  I still have TONS to get done, but every little bit helps, and the office is where the majority of the unpacking is left to be done.  Getting that area organized has been a daunting task, but I think once I'm through it, a big part of the remaining unpacking will go fairly quickly.

I had more I wanted to include in this post, but my head is pounding like crazy, so I think it's time to stop typing and give my eyes a break from the computer.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My Cousin. My Friend.

My fabulous cousin just had her second beautiful baby girl!  I am almost more excited about Emma than I was two years ago when Annie (her big sister) was born!  Although I have to say, it's pretty much a tie :).  

My cousin and I are only six months apart, and grew up together.  The children of a traveling church planter, my mom and my cousin's dad put down roots and stayed here when their parents (and four other siblings) moved on.  When we were kids, we didn't see each other as much as we wanted to.  And so, to be perfectly honest, we weren't exactly "best friends" or anything.  In high school, we lived in different worlds, went to very different schools, had different friends, and seemingly different interests - although looking back, I realize our interests weren't all that different: we both played sports, were cheerleaders, played musical instruments.  Although we got along and enjoyed each other's company, I can't really say we were "close."

Since becoming "grown ups," we've become what I can now confidently call "close."  She got married long before I even had a serious relationship, but even though we still didn't have much in common, somewhere around that time we both kind of grew into a new stage of life.  The pieces that would give us the capacity to become more than cousins were finally falling into place.  

I think I would say that it was a little over two years ago, when Randy and I were dealing with the whole situation with the kids, during which time Annie was born, when she and I really began to grow closer.

Like sisters, we were bound by a relationship neither of us had any say in.  And since I had only brothers, and she was an only child for 11 years, we were each the closest thing to a sister the other had, at least as young children.  And now, we are more than cousins: we are friends.

And I guess that is why I am so excited about Emma, and know that I will love her every bit as I love her sister and her Mommy.  I couldn't possibly be more excited for her if we WERE sisters; and the girls are the closest things to nieces that I have right now.

So congrats to my gorgeous cousin Tina and her lovely family.  I love you all so much, and cannot wait to meet the sweet little new addition :).

Saturday, September 10, 2011

First Official Week of School

Well, we got through it.

It was definitely not the world's easiest first week of school, not by a long shot.  But together, we got through it. 

I was sick all week with a bad virus, so no "first day of school" pics.  I was doing well to get through all of Hunter's lessons with him.

Kaleigh didn't even do school work this week because I just wasn't up to it.  She has been doing a series of sort of "screening" tests for the last couple of weeks, so I can get an idea of where she's at and what she needs to learn this year.  She went above and beyond the goals I mentally set for her last year, so in many sub-areas, she is well ahead of the "typical" student starting kindergarten; however, there are a few things that I can see we need to work on.  She is somewhat lazy as far as reading; she has known most of the letters and their sounds since she was 3, and has known all of them except Y and W (sounds) since early last year.  We have been working on putting the sounds together in 3-letter words, and though she can clearly do it, she seems uninterested in learning to read overall.  It's definitely not something I can relate to!  I wanted to read SO badly that I started at 3 and was reading by 4.  At her age, I was sitting in a mainstream kindergarten class trying to figure out why a teacher was teaching me things I already knew! LOL.

Oops, sorry for that little sidetrack :).

Anyway...  Here's what I did with Hunter this week:

We continued science and Bible from last year; there's not much of a difference between the content at the 5th and 6th grade levels in those subjects, and why would we discard all the learning he can still gain from the 5th grade books just to put him in a book that says "6th grade" on it?

In reading, we are going to have more guided reading this year; I am going to alternate between current works and classics.  Last year, I let him pick what he wanted most of the year, because I just wanted him to READ.  He has developed enough of an enjoyment for reading, that I think he will get more out of guided reading this year than he did early on last year, when I tried the same thing.  Right now, we are reading Black Beauty, and he is really enjoying it, which makes me very happy :).  I am also planning to do reading comprehension again this year, but probably 2-3 times per week, rather than every day like last year.  I guess I'm kind of swapping the ratio on literature and comprehension this year.  Also, sort of related, my mom got me a bunch of used books from one of the schools where she teaches, so between that initial stockpile and Goodwill, I don't anticipate any shortage of good reading material.

We still have some catching up to do in math, but he is much closer to 6th grade level than he was to 5th grade level at this point last year, if that makes any sense.  Meaning, I think we made significant progress in getting him caught up last year.   He is now learning how to do long division with a 2-digit divisor.  He doesn't care for it any more than I did at his age, but by the end of the week, he was catching on.

In spelling, we also continued with his 5th grade book.  We use Zaner-Bloser, which is pretty advanced anyway; and when you get behind in a subject that already doesn't come naturally for you, well...  Let's just say I think spelling is going to be one of those things he always has to work harder at than anything else.
I am still putting together a social studies curriculum.  More on that later.

Well, I guess that's about it for the summary of our first week of school.

I hope the rest of you, whether homeschooling or with kids in mainstream school, had a great start to the school year as well!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Busy Summer!

I have sorely neglected the blog this summer :(.  But in my defense, it has been the busiest summer I have ever had in my life!  If you had told me two years ago that life would be even busier when I stopped working outside the home, I would have politely chuckled and nodded while thinking, "Yeah, okay."  But it's true.  My life has never been busier (although my first year of fostering while also working full time outside the home *might* make this a tie for the busy-ness award).

At the time of my last entry, we had just gotten back on the dual foster/adopt list and were getting ready to go on a family vacation.  Since then, we (obviously) went on vacation (which was very fun for all involved), I took and completed my final class and field placement (the two year olds I worked with were a blast!), we got most of our new furniture (still waiting on two pieces that were on backorder, as well as a shelf that they delivered damaged and is also now on backorder!), and have had quite a few people over to visit (I just LOVE having the room to invite people over!)

We did NOT have time to do summer school at home, as my field placement took up a LOT more time than I thought it would.  Therefore, though I would normally start our autumn term right after Labor Day, we are going to begin reading and math on Monday, and focus on those subjects for two weeks before throwing the rest of the subjects into the mix on Tuesday the 6th.  I could have started summer school three weeks ago when my class and field placement ended, but I decided instead that I would rather have the time as a *real* summer vacation with my kids, with neither of us having to focus on academics.  So we have done some summer crafts, played games, watched movies, baked and cooked and just generally had some good fun before jumping back into school.

I discovered some... disturbing news a few weeks ago.  I can't really give details, since this blog is open to the world wide web and all its viewers, but it is foster/adopt related, and has caused me to have even less faith in the system than I had before, if that is possible.  Grievous errors have been made which affect not only us, but other foster parents, and possibly our children in the future.  I hope to be able to give more details in the future - I hate leaving people hanging - but there is no way to know right now what will happen.  Please just keep us in your thoughts and prayers, as there are many difficult decisions to be made, NONE of which are under our control.

I finally went out and found some houseplants, something I knew back in February I wanted to do here.  I started with three, and hope to add to them in the coming months, as I continue to unpack and organize.

Speaking of which, no, I am not unpacked yet.  But I am getting there.  The lack of one bookshelf is putting a serious cramp in this plan, as well as the lack of storage in the office area.  Still trying to figure out how I am going to accomplish the storage of office supplies.

I am very much looking forward to a few hours alone with my hubby tomorrow.  It's been about three weeks since we had some time alone that was not late at night after kids were in bed.  We don't have any "major" plans other than being alone together and just "hanging out."  :)

I am seriously going to try to update regularly this year.  I am looking forward to what this school year is going to bring for us, with more space and opportunities, both in the house and in our new town, and I am excited about sharing the journey as we go!

p.s.  I can't believe I have a sixth grader!  I'm not old enough to have a sixth grader!  ;-) 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Settling In

Once again, I must apologize for the length of time between posts.  It has been a crazy month that has gone MUCH too quickly!

We have been keeping busy with unpacking, getting settled, doing laundry and dishes, etc.  It doesn't feel like "our" house to me yet.  Or at least, it all feels surreal still.  Almost like we're visiting.  I think it will take awhile to really feel like it is OUR house. 

In a little over a week, we leave for vacation.  My mom's family is having a reunion.  It will be fun to see people I haven't seen in awhile and to spend time with cousins and their kiddos.  My kids are, of course, very excited to see their second cousins; they will also get to meet some second cousins that they have never met, which will also be a lot of fun.  There are three pools and free kayaks and paddle boats and biking at the resort where we are staying; I am hoping for some quiet relaxing time with my cousin in between all the activity with the kids.  I am also very  much looking forward to stopping to visit my best friend Shannon on our way home.  A year between visits is about all I can take.

As soon as we get home, I start my summer class, which is six weeks long, and also a summer practicum working with kids with special needs ages birth to 3.  I'm somewhat looking forward to that, but also getting tired of classes.  Thankfully, this is my last class before I do student teaching.  I am, however, considering taking some additional classes for an autism specialization; but I haven't decided for sure yet.

We have officially been placed back on the foster-to-adopt list (we were previously on the adopt-only list, as we were in our tiny house waiting to move).  I am excited for what God has in store for our family, and praying over our children - both present and future - every day.  I have to admit that at times lately, I have gotten nervous that we would get a call for kids while we are on vacation; but then the Holy Spirit quietly reminds me that God already sees our children and knows where they are and when they will come to us, and He is not going to send them to us when we are not here!  

We are finishing up the end of our school year.  I was hoping that this would be our last week, but Hunter doesn't seem to want to buckle down and do what needs to be done in order to finish this week, so we shall see after tomorrow where we are at.  We are, once again, doing school during the summer.  I decided when we started last fall that we would take a year-round schedule approach to homeschooling; Hunter did so much better in the fall when he kept up with the work over the summer than he did the year before after having 3 months out of school.  So I scheduled breaks throughout the school year, and we will of course have a break here before we begin our summer work, and another break between summer and fall. 

Well, that's about all that's going on in our exciting lives right now.  Time to go switch laundry and get another cup of coffee.  Hope everyone is well!

Monday, May 2, 2011

We Are In...

...and we love it every bit as much as we knew we would!  Even though things are EVERYWHERE and everything is unorganized and in disarray and furniture is still in pieces.  This is HOME!

The movers came Friday.  We cleaned the old place Friday night and gave the keys to the landlords on Saturday.  We hung out at my mom's Saturday evening, Middle and Little took their first shower/bath in the new house Saturday night, we went to church with my mom Sunday morning, and we took my parents out to eat after church.  We did a little work around the house in the afternoon, then went to Lowe's and picked up new door hardware so the whole house would match (oh yeah, and so we would have all new locks.  Guess that's kind of important too.).  Randy is installing those now. 

Last night I worked on homework while he hung curtains over our bedroom doors - yes, our new bedroom doors have windows in them, because they came from an old barn back when the house was built.  It's good our bedroom is basically alone on the second floor ;-).  By the time I finished my homework, I was too exhausted to run the jacuzzi for the hot soak I had been thinking about all day. 

I have been washing sheets and blankets all day today; I am finally into the actual laundry.  Tonight I have class and need to stop at Walmart for a few things on my way home.  It will be a toss-up as to whether a hot bath is sorely needed or I am too tired again to fill the tub!

I really wish I didn't have to go to class tonight.  I am exhausted and really wanting to get things done around the house.  Tomorrow I have a hair appointment in the middle of the day, so that is going to kind of break up the day and make it hard to get things accomplished.  Wednesday is Randy's last day off before he has to go back to work.  It would be really nice if he and I could get some time alone after all the hullabaloo of moving.  We'll see though; I rather doubt that is very likely to happen.

Off to check laundry and get ready for class.  One more after tonight!

Edited to Add:  I thank God every single day for providing us with this amazing place to call home and raise our children!  It is a HUGE blessing to our family.  But I realized today while rereading my post that I didn't mention that here, and I want to make sure everyone knows:  GOD IS GREAT.  Not just because He provided us with a house, of course, but we give Him all the glory for it.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Last Day!!

Today is our last day actually living in our little house! 

Tomorrow morning we have our final walkthrough and then our closing.  Then we will come back here, load up our cars with things we are not sending with movers - TVs, food, etc. - and suitcases with clothes for a few days, and head down to the house.  I will begin cleaning, and Randy will come back for another load or two plus Ryan, and we will stay at the new house tomorrow night.  Thursday morning Randy will bring Ryan back for school.  I may or may not follow him up here, depending on what is left to be done up here - I'm betting that I will be coming.  If we have a lot of the non-mover stuff out of here by then, we will do some cleaning here - the bathroom, the floors, etc.  I'm hoping to get as much done on Thursday as possible so we have less to do on Saturday.

Friday the movers come, so we'll only be without furniture for two days.  Today I bought an air mattress so Randy and I wouldn't throw our backs out sleeping on the floor.  The seller is leaving us a daybed, because he doesn't need it, so Kaleigh will sleep on that.  The boys will sleep on the floor with blankets and sheets and the GIANT pillows I am almost done making them. 

Well, off to continue packing.  I have pretty much had my fill of packing tape and bubble wrap!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

ONE WEEK TO GO!!!!

Well - if you aren't keeping track (or just didn't bother to read the title) - we are down to one week until closing.

Needless to say, I am a *teensy* bit frazzled.

I have been stockpiling individual sized homemade freezer meals for a couple of weeks, and this week I am supplementing that with family sized freezer meals, so today I made a lasagna.  I figure for at least a week after the movers leave, I won't have the time or energy to cook, so I'm trying to prepare ahead for that.  Tomorrow I'll make a family sized chicken and broccoli pasta.  Friday I'll make a family sized baked mac and cheese.  That will probably be all I can manage for family sized, but I will also have plenty of individual meals, as well as sandwich stuff, and a freezer full of roasts and hamburger.  So I think we will be good while we settle in.

Our closing has been moved back 2 hours (originally scheduled at 9) to accommodate a final walkthrough in the morning.  Apparently the seller has actually PLANNED to finish moving out the morning of closing.  I can only shake my head, because I cannot imagine planning to finish at the last minute.  I am the kind of person who plans to finish something several days ahead, so that even if it takes me an extra day, I am still ahead of the game.  I just don't get it.

After a couple of challenging days with the kids, they are both having a very good day today.  I hesitate to write that and hex the whole thing, but I figure I have a responsibility to put it in print, since there is a strong likelihood that no one will believe me later!

I have been going through the tedious process of getting homeowner's insurance rates.  It looks like we will be very likely staying with our current insurance company, because all the quotes I have gotten back so far have been really high.  Like, speck-in-the-upper-stratosphere high.  I don't understand how companies like that stay in business, but I guess it's not my problem. :)

Well, I guess I need to get back to work :).  Later!

Monday, April 18, 2011

9 Days / Packing Update

Well, we are down to the single digits!  It is hard to believe we are one week and two days away from handing over a large portion of our savings account and moving into our new house!  I think I am into the pinching phase now - this house is our realistic/moderate dream home.  That is, I know we could not have found a home we loved more that was in our price range.  It's hard to grasp the idea that we will soon be moving out of "postage stamp" and into "practically perfect in every way."  We have been squeezed into this tiny home (that again, we have been SO grateful for!) for over three years now (ever since we got our first foster kids), and it feels wonderful and indescribable and nearly inconceivable that we will finally have all the space our family needs.  I remember last summer when I was really beginning to feel desperate to move, and the Holy Spirit spoke quietly to me and reminded me that God is in control and would bring us to the home for us when the time was right.  I then began to pray every day that He would do just that, and help us to be content and patient while waiting.  Now that those prayers are coming to fruition, I add the prayer that God will help me to never ever take for granted the blessings He has given and is giving us every day.

Sorry for that ramble, but apparently I just needed to get it out!

Randy and I were able to get LOTS more packing done this past weekend.  I have a list of things to do this week - besides packing I also have several school assignments to do, some filing to catch up on, and some freezer meals to make for our first week or so in the new house.

Next week Monday and Tuesday I will be packing the last of the dishes and all of the nonperishable food items from my "pantry" shelves and the kitchen.  Tuesday I have to go get the cashier's check for the closing; Wednesday morning we close; and then we will be loading up our cars with stuff we don't want the movers to take, and heading down to the new house.  I plan to do some cleaning there, starting with the fridge, freezer, dishwasher, and pantry; and Randy will be making another run or two from the old house to bring more items that we don't want the movers bringing.  If I get my first cleaning things done, those runs will include frozen and refrigerated food, and in between stocking the fridge and freezer, I will work on cleaning the floors and carpets.  If there's any time left in the day - and if I'm not totally exhausted! - I'll work on unpacking the other items.  Thursday morning my mom will come watch Middle and Little, while Randy and I take Ryan to school and come to the old house to do some cleaning and bring more items, if there are any left.  Friday morning my mom will come get Middle and Little and take them back to her house, while Randy and I take Ryan to school and meet the movers at the old place.  If there is still anything left for us to take, we will load up the car and follow (lead?) the movers down to the new house, where I - um, I mean WE (bahaha!) will direct the movers to the appropriate places with the boxes and furniture.  I love to be bossy in charge the ORGANIZER.

Sorry - that run-through of my future schedule was probably sort of boring, but it helps me feel less chaotic if I list out the plan and can refer back to it later :). 

If you are so inclined, please pray for us during this crazy time!  Lots going on, some general and some specific.  There is a specific situation that I would appreciate prayer for, but can't give details here.  God knows, so please just pray that He will work out the details smoothly and without unnecessary... processes.

Thanks!

Off to file!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

15 Days / Packing Update

Hard to believe there are only 15 days left until we close.  Packing is coming along, but I still feel very far behind.  This past weekend, I was able to get a bunch more done in the basement, and Randy and Hunter went through the garage and packed and sorted everything.  They also found a ton of boxes, which was great, because packing supplies are so expensive.

Today I got another box of kitchen stuff packed and started on another; I cleaned off the dishwasher and fridge and threw a bunch of stuff away; I packed the rest of our winter outwear and accessories (now we will get a big snowstorm); and I packed a box of the kids' school stuff.  I took a break to fold some laundry before I got behind on that.  Now I need to run to the bank and then get back on packing.  

I also have several school assignments that are due the week after we move.  Not sure when those are going to get done.

I just keep thinking about being in the new house.  That should keep me going for the next couple of weeks.  Continued prayers are welcomed and appreciated :).

Saturday, April 2, 2011

25 Days / Packing Update

I cannot believe we have only 25 days until closing.  Four weeks from today, we will be cleaning up the old place, looking around for the last time, and walking out the door to start out in a new place.  It boggles my mind to think about it.  I am very thankful that God gave us 5 years in this house; it was a blessing at the time we found it, and as we have outgrown it, God has given me the opportunity to experience difficulty and inconvenience so that I would never take the awesomeness that is our new home for granted.

This week I got some of the boys' stuff packed, and Ryan decided to pack most of his clothes, as well as some of Hunter's.  I also spent a large chunk of time yesterday packing my closet and a couple of my drawers, as well as about 3/4 of Kaleigh's toys and a few articles of her clothing.  My entire closet is emptied now, except for Kaleigh's dresses and my formals.  Two of my drawers are emptied, and the third drawer in that dresser is just some baby items that will be easily packed into the "baby stuff" box; then that dresser will be empty.  Tomorrow I will be moving those boxes down to the living room - which, along with the basement, will be the "staging area" for the movers to take from - and also doing some more work in the basement with Randy.

Yesterday I used up the last of our Large boxes and almost all of our Medium boxes, so we'll need to stop and pick up some more either tonight or tomorrow morning.

We really need the IRS to get on the stick and get us the rest of our return, so if you are so inclined, please pray that that happens soon.  Thanks!


Friday, March 25, 2011

33 Days / Packing Update

Also a picture fix for those of you who haven't seen the pics yet...

Well, after a couple of very busy days where I didn't get much done, I finally made a little bit of progress yesterday.  On Tuesday, I did start to pack up the kitchen, but ended up going through all of my plastic containers with lids (you know, the Gl*ad and Zip*loc ones that are disposable) and matching them all up.  I have no idea how it happened, but I ended up with a massive amount of lids that had no containers.  I expected to have a few, but not so many.  Anyway, into the recycling those went, and then I packed about half the containers, keeping out the ones I use the most.  Sounds easy, but was a little time consuming.  By the time I was finished, it was time to make supper.  And everyone knows that by the time I make supper, feed everyone, get the kids ready for bed, and clean up the kitchen, I am done for the day.  So that was all I had gotten done this week, until yesterday.

Yesterday, I finally had a less busy day.  After quiet time, when the kids were done with schoolwork and enjoying some play time, I was able to get a big box, a small box, and half of another big box packed with more kitchen stuff.  I couldn't believe how much stuff I had put away in the backs of cupboards, waiting for the day I would have a kitchen I could use it in!  Now I'm even more excited about my new kitchen!



And the deck off my kitchen and dining room:

And the Patio and Balcony:



Oh all right, and my living room...



And loft/library/office...

 
And Master Suite...




And while we're at it, I also can't wait for the kids to have their new bedrooms...
 (Kaleigh)
(Hunter and maybe Ryan - he's an indecisive 14yo)

If you hadn't seen these on FB yet, I hope you enjoyed this little preview.  

And now I am off to get ready to take my kiddos and my flowers girls from my wedding to the JELLY BELLY Factory! =)




Tuesday, March 22, 2011

36 Days / Packing Update

This past weekend, Randy and I spent a couple of hours packing in the basement.  Well, I was packing; he was going through paperwork and either tossing or setting aside for filing or shredding.  I got about half of my craft items packed.  That is, candle-making supplies, jewelry-making supplies, cross-stitching: all packed; sewing and scrapbooking: not packed, mostly because they are all in their own containers or storage, and I'm not sure whether I should just transport them that way, or pack them into larger boxes so I can let the movers take them without worrying about them.  Still debating that one...

Yesterday I either packed or bagged for Goodwill all of Kaleigh's books except: our favorite, Where the Wild Things Are, 4 Care Bear & Rainbow Brite books my cousin lent her, and a couple of activity books (colorforms, magnet book, etc.).  Lest you think I am totally cruel and heartless, the top of the box is open; she's not allowed to get into it, but if she gets tired of the books she has, I can take out a couple at a time while still keeping the majority of them packed.

We also went through all of her toys together, throwing away some "garbage-y" toys (old happy meal trinkets, broken pieces, toys in rough shape that she never plays with, etc.) and organizing everything that was left.  I packed all of her games and more involved items that we keep put away anyway, and told her that if she doesn't keep her toys organized and put away, they will be getting packed.  This should be interesting.  I think her dress-up clothes will get packed soon.

The next few things I am mentally planning to attack are packing a few random items of clothing that are either too small or too big for Kaleigh, bagging some clothes that the boys pulled out for Goodwill, starting to pack up parts of the kitchen that we don't use regularly, and gathering up movies and CDs and packing the CDs.  Not sure where to go after that, but I think I'll take care of these steps first and see where that leaves me.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Discussion on Church Hurt

Please feel free to join this discussion.  I am very interested in the thoughts of others on the subject.

I have read a number of blog posts on the subject of "Church Hurt" in the past week.  It kind of freaked me out that they all seemed to come out of the woodwork at once.  Then I realized that "freaked out" feeling was the Holy Spirit tugging at my heart.  

I have been thinking about "Church Hurt" all week, and it finally hit me this morning, while sorting out my feelings on a minor incident that resulted in hurt on multiple levels:  the church itself - the administration, the leaders, those in authority - allow the church to become a breeding ground for hurt when they create an atmosphere in which its members are discouraged from thinking for themselves.

Am I saying this is the only possible situation that can result in "Church Hurt"?  Not at all.  There are as many potential scenarios for hurt as there are people in a church.  But this is the one I have seen the most closely, and so what I am going to discuss today.

Pride may be one of the ugliest things I have ever seen.  When combined with the attitude of "I know it's true because my ___________ (pastor/deacon/ss teacher/highly respected Christian friend) said so," it sets a dangerous precedent in creating an environment not suitable for anyone with a strong desire to grow in Christ and His Word.

For those who don't know (or even those who do know, as I can almost guarantee that you "know" through what you have "heard," not through a personal discussion with me), I endured my own "Church Hurt" several years ago.  This occurred at a time when I was being particularly harshly lambasted by Satan as I grew closer and closer to God in my personal walk with Him.  Satan was doing everything he could to keep me from my Father, and as he has no boundaries and certainly no conscience, he even used members of the church to contribute.  Ultimately, I left the church of my own free will, probably much later than I should have, although in defense of that, I naively believed people would "come to their senses." 

My own experience with "Church Hurt" was a direct result of equal parts pride (I would never do anything like that!), refusal to study the Bible and think for oneself (the pastor says it, so it must be true!), a love of and to gossip, and outright lies (pride again? a need to be accepted by the larger part? I'm honestly not sure.).  ALL of these things, in this particular situation, resulted from a church environment where members were expected to take all teachings as absolute truth, were not encouraged to study and learn and enrich their hearts through their own studies in God's Word and conversations with other godly teachers and individuals outside the church leadership, and were strongly discouraged from any type of humble questioning and discussion, even when done with the right attitude - rather, if questioning occurred, the individual doing the questioning automatically had a bad attitude or was straying in his/her walk with God.

And by the way, yes, everyone was encouraged and expected to have individual time and studies in God's Word, but if this study resulted in anything not an exact duplicate of what the church was teaching, then the reader did not have the right attitude or was not listening to the Holy Spirit.

Where to even begin with that... it could be a blog post all on its own.  To determine that a person was not listening to the Holy Spirit simply because his/her Biblical studies do not match your own or question your own...  I shudder at the thought.  May God's mercy and grace help me each day to NEVER be that kind of wife or mother or teacher or friend.

The truth is, we are all sinners, equal in God's eyes, none of us worse or better than any other.  He loves us all the same, and all of our sins are as filthy rags.  There is no mention anywhere of rags any filthier than others. 

So why do Christians continue to judge others based on the severity of their (at times perceived) sins??  I just don't get it.  To behave that way does not proclaim to the world that you are saved by grace.  To behave that way shouts that you believe you have done something to make you more worthy, and that the person you are criticizing is somehow less worthy of God's mercy and forgiveness and love than you.

I learned A LOT from my "Church Hurt" experience.  Mostly I learned to be much, much more cautious with who I trust, which I will admit has been detrimental in some ways.  Because by "cautiously," I basically mean that I trust no one outside of about three people.  I also learned something very important about standing up for myself and my own beliefs, even when doing so makes me an outcast in the one place that is not supposed to have outcasts.  More than anything else, I learned firsthand the truth in God's promise to never leave nor forsake me.

I would like to end by asking - beseeching, even - any of you who have ever heard anything of anyone through someone not the subject of the conversation, that you 1) end the gossip right there by confronting the relayer of information and refusing to pass on the information, and 2) approach the person who is the subject of the gossip, if you have questions about the information.  Not doing so only hurts every single person involved, and often more than anyone else in the chain, the subject of the gossip.