Archive for the ‘Everyday Life’ Category

A Dark Day

April 19th, 2019

Yesterday afternoon, my doctor gave me the news I’d been dreading.

I am miscarrying.

Our baby is dead.

I expected that. I started spotting on Tuesday and the bleeding and cramping has intensified over the last couple of days. The ultrasound and first blood test were inconclusive. We needed a second blood test for a trend. But my doctor and I both suspected what we would find.

Our baby is dead.

I grieve the loss of our fourth child. I grieve my children’s loss of a sibling. I grieve for baby hands I will never hold, for baby smiles I will never see.

But I do not grieve as those who have no hope.

I need not question whether or not God is for me.

His Son died.

That is answer enough. He is for me.

His Son rose.

That is answer enough. I have hope.

Please pray for us as we grieve.

My Garden Grows Despite

April 9th, 2019

Gardening takes a special sort of person. A person who is willing to work consistently. To water, to weed, to plant, to leave alone.

An apple tree

Our apple trees made it through their second winter. Time will tell if my pruning was good for them or not.

I am not that sort of person.

My forsythia

I transplanted this forsythia from elsewhere in our yard a couple years ago. Last year’s dramatic pruning is showing its fruit this year in increased flowering and shoot production. Project forsythia rehab continues!

I am a project person, a dig around in the dirt for hours and then leave it alone for months kind of person.


These daffodils are now past their prime – but I’ve gained plenty of enjoyment out of the buckets of bulbs my aunt brought me the past couple of years.

And so, while I’ve put in a garden every year since I first became a homeowner, I’ve never been particularly successful at it.


The daylilies I got from a neighbor and which I have been transferring from place to place seem to be settling well into their (hopefully) permanent home.

This year, I’m not certain whether I’ll get a garden in. What with a new foster baby and a new baby on the way and finishing our basement (did I say we’re getting our basement finished? I don’t believe I have. But we are.) What with all the excitement ’round here, I haven’t started any seeds – and plants are awfully expensive given my poor track record at getting any produce.

A peony shoot

I planted six peonies last fall, a pair of three different varieties. I’m thrilled to see that they made it through the winter – five of the six have put out shoots (and I’m hopeful that the sixth will soon since its pair only poked through soil today.)

But I’m delighting in the bits of life that are springing up here and there in my garden nonetheless.

Sage plant

My herb garden delights, with three different varieties of mint and a nice bush of sage growing strong. We picked the first of the spearmint and have been enjoying spearmint-infused water in our bottles the past couple of days – and I’m planning to pick and dry my first batch of sage at the end of this week or beginning of the next. I’m also pleased to see that at least some of the milkweed seeds that I saved and planted last fall have germinated.

Back Where I Belong

April 3rd, 2019

It’s been nearly 15 months, but I’m finally back where I belong…

Barefoot, Pregnant, in the Kitchen.

Barefoot ✔
Pregnant ✔
In the Kitchen ✔


Newest model expected in December 2019.

Marie Kondo has nothing on state surveyors

March 21st, 2019

I’m a possibility person. I love to turn trash into treasure.

Give me a pile of tin cans and I’m using them as building blocks for my kids (I totally love my Pampered Chef Smooth-Edge Can Opener – not an affiliate link). Or we’re bowling in the hallway.

The lids? They’re perfect for making a memory game. Or I’ve seen cute windchimes made with them.

A vinegar jug could be a watering can or a sprinkler or a drip waterer or a self-watering planter. Or I could cut off the bottom and cut holes and weave yarn about it to make a basket.

Those horseradish jars are the most adorable things ever, and someday when I make my own candles, they’d be perfect containers.

That broken toy can totally be fixed or transformed into something else.

The puzzle with pieces missing? Well, there are lots of crafts one can do with puzzle pieces!

Everything sparks joy when I’m thinking about the possibilities for transforming it into something useful.

Which means that KonMari is not exactly the best way for me to declutter.

On the other hand, state licensing surveyors for foster care?

They’re a super-effective way of helping me get rid of several trash bags full of stuff.

Instead of “does this spark joy?”, the question I ask myself when surveyors are on their way out is “is it worth trying to figure out how to store this in a way that doesn’t make me look like a hoarder?” (which, you know, I probably am.)

Annual survey is when those pieces of paper that still have a color-able surface get shredded. When the cereal boxes that still haven’t been used for kids’ painting but don’t fit in the container I store them in get shredded as well. When the loose toys that don’t belong in sets get discarded. When the lids without containers and the containers without lids get tossed. When the just about empty bottle of lotion (that no one uses anyway) gets thrown out.

Marie Kondo has nothing on our annual licensing surveyors.

(We passed, by the way: “No areas of noncompliance noted.”)

They Want to Do What They’ve Read

March 20th, 2019

I believe I’ve mentioned how much it thrills my heart that my children want to do the things they’ve read about in books – especially in the Little House books.

And it does, honestly.

Even if I have to remind myself how thrilling it is when they’ve just strewn the floor with straw from the bale outside because “that’s what Mother did before they stretched the carpets in Farmer Boy.”

Back to normal

March 13th, 2019

We welcomed a new baby to the family last Thursday.

Since then, we’ve had throw-ups (on three different days) and diarrhea (minimum of three outfits per day for the affected kiddos) almost continuously.

Laundry has piled up. Dishes piled up until I decided to pull out the paper (no new dishes until the old ones are clean!) Floors have been disinfected umpteen zillion times.

Books have been read. Dump truck shows and DNA shows watched. Endless snuggles given.

At any given moment, there might be a child dancing, a child bawling, and a child napping (thank goodness all these kids can sleep through anything!)

Folks, we’re back to normal. It feels wonderful.

Projects long neglected

February 25th, 2019

Baby Tirzah Mae had some spit-up issues. Serious spit-up issues. And since she initially received breastmilk fortified with preemie formula, her initial spit-ups were of the nasty staining variety. The slipcovers of our cream-colored throw pillows acquired yellow and brown blotches of varying sizes from being spit upon.

I kept telling myself I would make new slipcovers.

But a year passed and two. And we had another baby spitting up. And then another (who spit up less thanks to #termbaby!)

The slipcovers didn’t get made.

But after I spent a frantic week sewing Christmas outfits and Christmas jammies for the little ones this past Christmas, I realized just how much I enjoy doing something creative. I set a goal to try to do something (anything) creative once a week this year.

In January, I made new slipcovers for the throw pillows. I cut one week and sewed one slipcover a week until, at the end of the month, I had covered all three of the formerly cream-colored pillows.

My new pillow covers

I love how well-lit my living room is – but it does make getting photos of the couch a little difficult :-)

We’ve been cleaning out our basement in preparation for getting it finished – and as I cleaned, I found some Dr. Seuss-themed reusable shopping bags my sister-in-law had given me years ago (I’m guessing right around when Tirzah Mae was born!) My sister-in-law had used one side panel to decorate her children’s playroom and had offered me what remained so I could do the same for Tirzah Mae. Of course, I accepted (because I’m all about anything free and am a serious hoarder of craft supplies.)

At any rate, I found the shopping bags and decided maybe I’d use them to decorate our foster children’s room. That was February’s project.

I got right to work at the very beginning of the month, stretching a couple of panels around some stiff chipboard and sticking them up on the clipboards in the “green room”. I puzzled a bit about how to complete the task and arrived at colored panels with circles in them.

The kids and I painted panels, including extras to make circles with.

The panels sat and sat and sat for weeks (I’ve not been great at getting in creativity every week this month!)

And, at last, since this is now the last week of February, I cut out my circles and got them completed.

The Dr. Seuss wall art - at last

Not bad, if I say so myself.

Making Butter

February 20th, 2019

Laura Ingalls Wilder describes the buttermaking process in detail in her Little House in the Big Woods.

Ma Ingalls grated carrot and heated it with a little milk to dye the cream. Then she churned the cream in a big dash church. The cream grew thick and then little bits of butter would slosh through the cover on the churn. Ma had to rinse the butter over and over in cold water. Then she put it into a pretty butter mold and turned the pats out onto a plate. The young Laura and Mary drank the buttermilk when Ma was all done.

We don’t have a dash churn, so we followed the instructions in A Little House Cookbook by Barbara M. Walker to make butter in a quart jar.

Let me tell you, a quart jar with a little over three cups of liquid in it is much too full to effectively make butter. We shook that thing off and on all day long to no avail. I put it in the cup holder of my car and we shook it when stopped at stoplights. We shook it here, we shook it there, we shook it everywhere.

Not butter yet

It whipped up and thickened but would not turn to butter until I opened it up (whipped cream everywhere!) and poured half into a second quart jar.

And we have butter!

Then I shook for a couple of minutes. Yellow grains of butter appeared. I was surprised when three more shakes gave me a solid mass of butter.

Rinsing the butter

I rinsed in ice water and gave the children their begged-for tastes of buttermilk.

Our (mostly) rinsed butter

Then to find the mold from my wedding mints to use for fancy “butter pats”.

Our pretty butter

We’re still eating our butter, but the kids are eager to make more so that they can drink more buttermilk.

Tirzah Mae drinking the buttermilk

For my part, I’m glad we did it but I’m also thinking we’ll hold off on doing it again until the kids are capable of shaking their own jars. My arms got TIRED!

Complicated thoughts

February 11th, 2019

There’s no such thing as uncomplicated foster care.

Children don’t go into foster care unless something complicated has happened to them. They’ve been neglected or abused. They’ve been exposed to drugs, in utero or out. They’ve lived in squalor. They have scars. Physical scars, emotional scars, developmental scars.

Foster children behave in complicated ways. They’ve learned to “overreact” or to not react. They’ve learned to cope however they can. Many times, they’ve been exposed to things their young brains cannot process.

And foster families? Well, we can be complicated too. We get tired and frustrated and angry. We get confused. Sometimes we have no idea what to do. We do what seemed to work for our biological kids and it completely backfires on us. We try to do that thing we read about in a book and we can’t figure out whether it isn’t working because we haven’t been doing it long enough – or if we just need to give up on it because it’s never going to work.

The foster families I know try. We want to what’s best by our foster children. We don’t always know what that looks like, though.

Ashley Rhodes-Courter’s Three Little Words, written after she’d been adopted out of foster care, illustrates the complicated-ness of foster care – and induces complicated thoughts and emotions in this particular foster parent.

Ashley was taken into foster care at age three and was passed around from home to home – 14 total homes before she went into a “children’s home” (aka orphanage) and was finally adopted as a preteen.

Many of Ashley’s placements were well-meaning folks, although ones that seemed overwhelmed with greater-than-capacity children. Further, it seemed few of them were aware of the difficulties surrounding raising a child with a background of trauma. Foster parents overreacted when Ashley peed the bed or described sex as she’d seen it. I wondered as I read if this sort of thing is why the new “TIPS-MAPP” classes were put into place: “Trauma Informed Partnering for Safety and Permanence – Model approach to Partnerships in Parenting.” That’s what we took when we were preparing to become foster parents. We learned about the effects trauma has on kids, about the role of attachment in fostering, about how our own emotions and thoughts and experiences interact with the pressure-cooker environment of parenting kids from trauma. Maybe I am able to be better than these parents Ashley had because I took that class. But I still know that if either my biological children or my foster children were to write a book, they could certainly isolate the times when I lost my cool, when I overreacted, when I snapped at the kids or blamed or shamed them. By the grace of God, I’m growing in patience and gentleness as a mother – but there’s still plenty of growth needed.

Then Ashley had some truly terrible placements – one with a child molester (who fortunately was not able to get to her before she was pulled from the home) and one with a sadistic child-abuser who mistreated her and other foster children for years. It’s tough reading, but surprisingly not as tough for me as the not-so-bad homes were. These folks were monsters I could not identify with – I would not do those things to a child.

But the “normal” homes, they fill me with self-doubt. Maybe fostering requires one-on-one attention. Maybe being a part of a big family is fine and good for kids who’ve known my love from day one, but maybe it’s impossible to love a child from hard places amidst the pressures of leading a large family. Maybe I’m still not patient enough. Maybe my distaste for buying stuff communicates lack of care to the foster children in my care – after all, if I loved them, wouldn’t I be buying them new toys and clothes all the time?

I read this book after our most recent foster daughter was placed in a kinship home. We didn’t get any calls with potential placements for over a month. And then when we did get a call? I read the paperwork and stuttered. I’m afraid. Ashley Rhodes-Courter has made me afraid.

It’s a very complicated book about which I’m having some very complicated emotions.

Making Molasses Candy

February 7th, 2019

Tirzah Mae has been begging me to make molasses candy since we first read Little House in the Big Woods last year.

We just re-read the Christmas chapter again today and this time I was ready. After rest time, we would make molasses candy.

We don’t have snow here in Wichita right now, so I whizzed up some ice cubes into a very respectable snow using my immersion blender. I put the snow back into the freezer.

I called Tirzah Mae into the room and kept her busy stirring molasses and sugar while I prepared the baked beans for supper.

I deemed the syrup hot enough and poured it over the snow.

It wasn’t hot enough. I really need to get myself a candy thermometer (I must have broken my last one, because it’s nowhere to be found.)

Our molasses candy was a gooey mess.

Our sad, soft molasses candy

What’s more, it tastes like… well, like… molasses.


Louis spit his piece onto the helping tower, where it melted into slime.

I scraped up the rest (the stuff that was on the snow, not the stuff that had been in Louis’s mouth) and stuck it in a patty pan in the freezer – maybe I’ll see if the kids are willing to try it again, or maybe I’ll use it as a sweetener for something else.

Then we sat down for dinner – baked beans and cornbread using the recipe Daniel and I devised in 2015 from the one described by Laura in Farmer Boy.

So even if our molasses candy experiment was less than satisfying, it does pay to keep on trying the things we read about in books – occasionally we end up with keepers (I make Mother Wilder’s baked beans at least every couple of months!)

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