Thursday, August 25, 2011

Book Review: Blue Skies Tomorrow

I did not know that Blue Skies Tomorrow was the 3rd book in a series by Sarah Sundin, but you can definitely pick this book up and read it without reading the others.  The widowed Helen throws herself into her work as a mother and volunteer during the war (WWII)  in order to avoid facing her grief.  She soon meets Ray, who also has his own issues to work through.  They both face insecurities and trials, much like we all do.  This is a great romantic drama.   

To celebrate the release of Blue Skies Tomorrow, the final installment of the Wings of Glory series, Sarah is giving one lucky winner A Vintage Kindle Prize Package! 

Read what the reviewers are saying here.

One winner will receive:

* Kindle with Wi-Fi

* Handmade vintage apron for you and a friend (see a photo here)

* Blue Skies Tomorrow (for Kindle)

To enter just click one of the icons below. But, hurry, giveaway ends on 9/10. Winner will be announced on 9/12 at Sarah Sundin's blog. Details and official rules can be found when entering the contest.

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

Book Review: Amish Values for Your Family

I thought that I had this scheduled to be published and I guess it never did :(  Maybe better late than never?

Amish Values for Your Family was such a nice read.  I love the Amish proverbs or common sayings that started off each short story in the different sections.  I love the practical application suggestions that Fisher gives at the end of each chapter and the little stories she takes from local Amish newspapers just top it off. 

The book is probably what you expect it to be about: forgiveness, the value of children, teaching lessons, the value of hardwork, emersing yourself in God's amazing creations and the tie-in with all of the topics is that God is in complete control (and thank God He is!).

There are so many lessons to be learned and so many ideas that will come to mind when you read this book.  I am challenged to live a different life that will lead to many great lessons and memories for my children. 

We were asked to pick a value/topic/lesson and share how it has touched our family's life.  It was really hard for me to pick one story.  One of the things I love reading about and learning from the Amish is how they view marriage so the story I chose was about marriage.  They view marriage not only as a commitment to eachother but as a commitment to God.  Their weddings are simple, full of love from family and friends and taken very seriously.  I love it!

Enter 8/15 - 8/31!

Suzanne Woods Fisher is thrilled to announce the release of Amish Values for Your Family, her latest non-fiction release. "It offers loving ways to bring your fractured home back to life-Amish style. Read it and apply generously! It’s a beautiful book-funny, charming, soulful, and beautiful." -Mary Ann Kirkby

Read the reviews here.

To celebrate the release of Amish Values for Your Family, Suzanne has teamed up her publisher Revell Books to giveaway a Kindle, and with Bill Coleman (the amazing photographer used on Suzanne’s book covers) to give away a signed Bill Coleman original.

One Grand Prize winner will receive an Amish Values Prize Package (valued at over $200) and includes:

* A brand new KINDLE
* A Signed Bill Coleman original
* Amish Values for Your Family (for KINDLE)

Click on one of the icons to enter. Winner will be announced on 9/2 at Suzanne’s blog. Be sure to stop by the blogs on Suzanne’s blog tour – many have copies of Amish Values for Your Family to give away.

But, wait there's more! Suzanne is running a Bill Coleman caption contest during the month of August on her blog. Title one of Bill’s gorgeous photos for a chance to win a print from Bill’s Amish Photo site and/or a copy of Amish Values for Your Family.

"Suzanne Woods Fisher is a bestselling author of Amish fiction and non-fiction and the host of a weekly radio program called Amish Wisdom. Her most recent book, Amish Values for Your Family released in August. The Waiting is a finalist for a 2011 Christy Award. Amish Peace: Simple and Amish Proverbs were both finalists for the ECPA Book of the Year (2010, 2011). Her interest in the Amish began with her grandfather, W.D. Benedict, who was raised Plain. Suzanne has a great admiration for the Plain people and believes they provide wonderful examples to the world.  When Suzanne isn't writing or bragging to her friends about her first new grandbaby (!), she is raising puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind. To Suzanne's way of thinking, you just can't take life too seriously when a puppy is tearing through your house with someone's underwear in its mouth. Keep up on Suzanne's latest news on Facebook, Twitter and on her blog!"

Sunday, August 21, 2011

1st Week of Fostering

It has been a week since Melissa first moved in with us.  A super quick week actually and quite a busy one.  My sisters were here for 5 days of it and I am really, really, really sad that they are gone, but I loved having them here.  I loved that they got to meet Melissa.  I love that fall is right around the corner... yes, totally random I know, but I'm just getting sooo excited for it!!

Melissa and Kassidy have been getting along very well.  Of course, we have had our bumps and expect even more to come, but in general they are awesome together.  Melissa herself is a great girl.  She is smart and loving.  A little too loving.  She has no stranger danger at all, which is an issue of its own.  Melissa just fits our family.  She just joined right in and is here.  Part of that is her personality and part of that just is.  I am the one who is struggling. 

I am struggling because my heart and brain are not agreeing on some issues.  We have been told that Melissa is going back to her family.  Definitely.  When?- we do not know.  We are super affectionate and constantly telling Kassidy how much we love her.  It has been us 3 forever.  I struggle because I don't want Melissa to get too attached to us.  My heart thinks that her heart will break when she leaves.  My heart also thinks that she will be happy to be going anywhere that will be permanent.  My head thinks that she shouldn't get attached to one more person in her life.  She already gives herself too much to others only to be taken away or hurt by them.  My head thinks that it would be better for her to feel the strong love from someone at least once in her life.  My head also thinks that I would not want someone I didn't know to just be pouring out their love on me when I really don't know them. 

So I struggle.  In the past week, I have shown very little affection to Kassidy and besides at bedtime, when I tell them both that I love them, I have not told Kassidy that I love her except for when we are alone.  This is not how I mother and this is not who I am.  The fear and confusion does not come from me not wanting to get hurt.  I am prepared for that... I think.  Some moments with Melissa feel like she is meant to be in our family and like she has been here for so long already.  Other moments I still care deeply for her but feel good about her going home. 

This foster thing is crazy.  I never thought it wouldn't be.  Melissa is a breeze... an angel placement.  And just a little 6 year old who wants a mommy and daddy to love her forever no matter what. 

Tomorrow is the first day of school.  Melissa will be going into 1st grade at our local public school and Kassidy will be going into 2nd grade at home with me.  I think that will help me.  The schedule is crazy and not a help but I think the quality time with K will help, because I also struggle because I feel like I do not have enough alone time with K anymore.  I mean we were always alone before.  I guess this is the feeling all parents of more than one child have.  The feeling like there is not enough of you to go around.  It is ok, though, and I know God gives and will continue to give us what we can handle.  The relationship between the girls is like nothing else.  Having a sister is an amazing gift and a little less individual mommy time is the cost, but I think it's a good trade.  :)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

She's Here and Oh What A Disaster!

Friday night we met at Chick-fil-a with Melissa, her foster parents, and foster siblings.  The kids played and we (Mike and I) got some great info about Melissa and about fostering in general.  We told everyone that we were going to a waterpark on Monday and we would love for Melissa to come with us, so we decided she would move in on Sunday.

Sunday came and we picked up Melissa.  She had an 8 person dining table filled with stuff.  There was tons of toys and clothes.  She literally had at least 50 shirts, including one that said "I love shopping!"  No kidding!!  So there is no need for us to get new clothes or shoes (she came with 15 pairs) besides what she will need for soccer.  The morning we picked up Melissa, her previous foster mom and her had gone to the store, where Melissa insisted on getting "her new mom" some flowers.  She picked out my absolute favorite- sunflowers :)  She also went around the store telling people that she was getting a new mommy today and saying "I am a foster kid and I am getting a new mommy today."

So now it is Tuesday.  Melissa is doing wonderfully.  She is a great girl with a great personality.  Her and Kassidy have been non-stop playing.  Melissa is pretty clingy and does definitely like to please.  She seems to be thriving, while I seem to be struggling.  I hesitate to share why I am struggling, but I will probably in another post very soon. 

Our caseworker came today for us to sign paperwork.  We had not met her before since our homestudy was done by another woman.  My room and the girls' rooms are disasters.  My sisters are in town (!!!) and like I said Melissa came with a truckload of stuff that I have been sorting.  My room is a mess because the girls have somewhat taken it over while my sisters are here and I have Melissa's stuff in there trying to be sorted.  Their room is a disaster for the above reasons also.  Well, it's hot here.  That sounds like something totally unnecessary to write as I'm sure it's hot everywhere.  Point being that our dogs cannot go outside for hours.  It's too hot.  Our CW also came early so I wasn't prepared with the dogs. 

The disaster happenned when our CW asked to see where the meds were stored.  In my room of course.  In the bathroom closet, which was not locked like it was supposed to be.  Our CW is African American and super cute by the way.  Our dog does not like AA people.  He was abused by them and just does not like them.  He doesn't like when we wear hats or sunglasses and he doesn't like black people.  He is also scary looking, but the biggest baby ever.  I mean the smoke alarm goes off and he is glued to me the rest of the day.  So, I open the door and try to warn her that he is going to smell her but that it will be totally fine.  Well she freaks out when he starts barking at her and he runs up to her to smell her, like he always does.  He rams his nose up her leg and she thinks that he has bitten her.  I know he hasn't.  He has never bitten anyone.  Ever.  If he had he would have been gone lonnng ago.  She realized that he did not bite her.  I got him outside, proceeded to really apologize and then showed her our disaster of a room and the med closet that was not locked. 

What a disaster.  She looked like she was going to cry.... I'm sure her nerves were completely shot.  I have no idea what will happen.  Our dog has been around two other CWs with no problem.  He couldn't get enough of them.  Him and Melissa have hit it off quite nicely.  Her first morning here she kept telling everyone how she would kiss him and then he would kiss her back.  They're friends.  Everyone absolutely adores him once they meet him and everyone else who sees him from afar is scared of him.  Just the way I like it.  I have no problem leaving my doors unlocked and yes we live in a neighborhood in the city, but people know what dog we have and those who don't would get a rude awakenning from him (once they woke him up from his serious guard-dog duty of sleeping in the dirty laundry pile in the bedroom). 

We will see.  The whole situation really stresses me out. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Foster Recap with a Surprise!!!

I made this post on Monday.  Well, after I posted the fact that we had been certified for what I thought was a week and that we expected it to be a couple more weeks until we got a call.... saying that we were now totally certified and ready to go.  Umm.... you mean we were ready to go last week right?  No.  We weren't.  {sigh}  Not that it really matters, but it would have been nice to know that when we had been told we would start being on the list last Monday that we actually would have been.  I have attached my phone to my body and kept it on the loudest ring... which happens to wake me (when someone calls early in the morning) from my much needed treasuring-every-last-sleeping-in-opportunity-for-what-will-seem-like-forever-because-I-will-no-longer-only-have-a-responsible-7-year-old-beauty-sleep.  I am such a morning person you know!! 

So besides that... I also had this whole "usually takes 3 weeks to get a call" mentality going on, which I still will hold my impatient self to in the future.  So not being in the system for another week just meant it would be another week. 

Monday's call:  Disappointing at first.  Then, the agency's Program Director, who was the woman calling, said she would like to come out and meet us asap to answer any questions, go back over the foster agreement papers, etc.  We decided to meet the next day, Tuesday.  I had 5 kids in the house and was super busy so I had little time to assess that whole situation, which was probably a good thing.

Tuesday:  Yes, I cleaned my house alot.  Haha.  I had no idea what we were in for with the PD.  Would she want a tour of the house, which might turn into another, but much more serious, home study?  Kassidy also had her first day of co-op classes and right before I had to serioussslly get out of the house....  

WE GOT A CALL!!!!  (did you hear me scream that?!?!---cause I did!!)

We got a call!  We got a call!  We got a call!  Hey, hey, hey, hey! 

That is my 'We got a call' song (and dance)!  You can borrow it if you want ;)  It's to the tune of The Little Rascal's We Got A Pickle song... in case you didn't know.

THE CALL:  Was awesome.  Totally no pressure, way more info than expected and just lovely!  It was for a little girl, who just turned 6.  Yes, we requested 0-5 and were told that we could definitely say no, especially since she was out of our age range.  This little girl, who I will call Melissa, is currently in a foster home, but the children are all being removed because the foster mother is extremely sick.  We have learned that she is a pleaser and somewhat of a tattle-tale, which to be quite honest cracks me up... it superficially cracks me up, but when I think about why it breaks my heart.  She is most likely going to family and they have had 3 family members doing homestudies.  One family failed and two are still waiting for theirs to be completed.  Knowing that she will not be ours (most likely) stinks in a way because we are fostering to adopt  but it also is a little more freeing.  Freeing in that we will not have to hold our breath the whole time and freeing in that I will try not to envision, and therefore get my hopes up, her being actively in our family forever. 

I asked if I could call the Caseworker right back and she said of course.  So I called Mike just to make sure and he said yes!  I called the CW back and she said that they would make sure it was fine with CPS, which they saw no reason why it wouldn't be. 

We would transitioning Melissa into our home quickly due to her current foster mother's health and because school is starting in just a few short weeks.  She will have to go to public school, which thank God is super duper close, but that will be a hurdle we have to get over in regards to taking her and picking her up everyday when we share one car.  I would love to walk but the road to cross to get there is super busy in the morning and it makes me nervous... I might see if there is a cross walk but there is not even a sidewalk. 

Tuesday Afternoon Meeting:  Went great.  I asked my list of questions :) and got the answers I needed.  We learned more about Melissa, who seems to be an amazing girl!  She has some stranger danger or lack of issues, which is why we are not really comfortable with her taking a bus to school with kids up to 6th grade.  We were told that we were now just waiting for CPS to approve the transfer and again it was stated that there seemed to be no reason why they wouldn't approve it. 

Now:  It is Wednesday night and no phone calls about CPS's decision yet.  We were not expecting one until Friday-ish.  We did however get an email from the PD with background checks for my sisters, who are visiting next week(!!!!!), to fill out.  She also said that she would be contacting me tomorrow.  That was it "I will be contacting you tomorrow".  Haha.  I would have really appreciated some kind of hint about what that contact will be about, especially since she is not our CW and I thought things would be going through her. 

To Be Continued.....

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Homeschool Plan for 2011-2012

This is our second year homeschooling and I am super excited to be done with the first!!  I know a little better about what works, what we all like and what's important. 

Kassidy is going into 2nd grade.  She is our only child, at the moment, but we are waiting to get a call to foster to adopt.  That will change things up, of course, but I think that our main curriculum will stay the same.  We cannot homeschool any foster children and starting at 3 they are supposed to be in a Headstart program. 

Sooooo... I have been working on curriculums and a plan for a while now.  Here is what I found when I first started... loves, likes, dislikes and very strong dislikes :)

Handwriting and Spelling: A Reason For---love these lessons!!  I had so little to do to prepare for them.  The Handwriting book works on a Bible verse for the week and at the end of the week you get to write the verse on a cute border sheet that the child can also color.  They have suggestions for what to do with those sheets, including sending them to prisoners, the elderly, family, making them into placemats, etc.   The Spelling book has some fun and creative games and ideas.  These books have wayyyy more packed in them than any other curric I've seen. 

Bible: Positive Action's Finding God's Promises.  I am also very excited about this curric!  The pictures and stories (that tie in with the Bible lessons) are super colorful and fun!

Writing and Grammar: I am just pulling from a few resources, which include a Little Critter Writing book, a Bible Activities workbook, and Everything for Math and Reading workbook.  We are also part of a small group at church that is doing Shurley English.

Health, Safety and Manners: One day a week we will be doing the work from the A Beka book.  This will only last us for the first semester of school.

Social Studies: We are switching this, Social Studies Made Simple workbook, with the Health for our 2nd semester. 

Science:  We are using BJU and it was one that I was disappointed with.  I had to work soooo hard to make a plan still that would go a little more in depth, because, in my opinion, it does not ever go below surface level on any topic.  Using this curric and adding in my own further in depth info we will only get 2-3 days/week for only 20 weeks out of this book.  I think we are going to order A Reason For (the same as Handwriting & Spelling above) for the rest of the year. 

Math:  Another subject where I am just going to pull from the resources I have.  I have lots of workbooks including the Everything for Math and Reading workbook and Bible Activities workbook.  I get these workbooks from Mardel, which is an awesommmee store that you hopefully know about!  The prices are amazing... like $3.50-$8 a book.  Monday & Wednesday will be worksheet days, Tuesday will be flash cards and Thursdays will be word problems, which I think are important enough to have their own day... that knowledge and those skills might actually be used one day!!

Artists/Hymns/Composers:  This did not work so well for us last year.  For some reason it just seemed like I really had to drag it out to last longer than 5 minutes, so we are doing much less of it "formally" this year.  We are just going to listen to one composer/quarter during our quiet/car/etc times.  Hyms (I include other important songs) will be mostly patriotic in the 1st semester since that is what we will be studying in History at that time.  Our first artist will be Renoir followed by Monet. 

History: A Beka's Our America, which was another disappointment.  3/wk will only get us through 20 weeks so we will just be reading some great books for the majority of the 2nd semester. 

Geography and Map Skills: We are really just focusing on memorizing (and hopefully learning) the states, capitals and oceans.  In the dollar section, Target has some great easy workbooks on the states and on some other topics.

Typing:  We are using  I really wanted a free program and I think I have found a good one.  A tip on typing: when I was in school our typing teacher would have us fold a paper in half and stick on edge in the top above the numbers with the rest sitting on our hands so that we couldn't see the keys.  We all learned to type very well and very fast. 

Then of course we have reading time, misc lessons and piano lessons.  It sounds like alot, especially when I type it out like this, but we are really only doing school for about 3-4 hours a day 4 days a week, plus 2 hours of co-op school time 2 days a week.

On Fridays I hope to do more volunteering, field trips, adventures, etc. 

I am very excited for school to start and again I feel completely blessed that I am able to homeschool our daughter!

Not Back to School Blog Hop

Monday, August 1, 2011

Yes, I jump whenever I hear my phone ring now!!

{Drumroll Please}

We are officially, totally and completely put into the system to be foster parents!!!!

We have been for a week... no calls yet, but we are waiting!!  Trying to be patient!

From what I have read and heard people usually wait about 3 weeks before they get a call.  I have no idea why it seems to work like that, but it seems to.  So we will wait (yet again in this process).

It would be really nice to have some time to get things squared away before school starts, but we will probably not get that luxury, which is fine.  We homeschool our daughter and thought that we were avoiding public school and separation for the most part by only taking kids up to 6, but starting at 3ish they have to be enrolled in a Headstart program, which I am pretty clueless about.  Having all that ready to go and organized would be awesome... but it will all be awesome!!  I know God's time is perfect and I keep reminding myself of this  daily  every hour  pretty much constantly. 

I still struggle with fears of not being good enough and that somehow we will just never be called.  When I am left with my own thoughts and insecurities I sometimes conjure up ideas that for some reason our agency just verified (certified) us just to humor us, but have no plan to ever call us.  Crazy.  I know.  That's why I leave it all to God, because I really believe that this is what we are supposed to be doing.  I know that our baby(ies) is(are) waiting for us

So :)  we will wait and have confidence in only our God.  We are super excited and cannot wait to welcome 1 or 2 kiddos into our home!!