Tuesday, April 22, 2014


A quick share . . . one of the families that we work with, has the loveliest daughter.  She is 17 and is one of those girls you want your son to marry and daughter to be like . . . she is the babysitter for our kids and just an amazing young lady.  Her parents asked me to snap some prom pictures for her this year.  I spent some time on Pinterest and was HORRIFIED at what I found when searching "prom pictures."  They looked like wedding pictures . . . revealing dresses, kisses, body contact to the point where I'd be so embarassed if I was 17 and my mom saw those pictures.  What is going on with teens these days?  Anyway!  NOT the kind of pictures I wanted, so I was quite nervous going into this "shoot,"  not really sure what to do and how to capture these lovely friends.  And besides, who knows the mind of a teen!?!?!?!

Anyway . . . I was SHOCKED when I pulled these pictures off my camera . . . the lighting was amazing and the kids were so relaxed, that I literally had to do nothing to the pictures.  I wanted to share a few, proof that there are some Godly teens out there who can be beautiful and appropriate!  (these are NOT fixed up for internet- no sharpening, etc. just fast and easy upload!)

A girl and her mom- as precious as can be!

Isn't she lovely?  And just as beautiful inward as outward!

Almost makes you wanna be a kid again, huh?  Okay, maybe not!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

April already?

Oh my!  Has it really been since February?????  Wow!  We've just been busy doing life . . . our days start early and end late . . . filled with boys and school and baby!  Nothing out of the ordinary going on, just life!   How about a picture post today?  That's more fun than words anyway . . .

Over spring break I was able to take Shannon out on a date- a trip to the mall to wander around, look at stuff and chat!  Our days are so full, we don't have much room for just "wandering," so this was great!  She told me it was the "best day EVER," so I guess the purpose was fulfilled!

Trying out furniture at the Pottery Barn store.

As sweet saleswoman asked if she could take our picture.

Shan and her cinnabon . . . that was bigger than her face.! 

Random mall landscaping!  Does your mall look this pretty?  ;)

Beautiful weather and a baby who is becoming more portable = lots of playground time!

Our two oldest "boys" were in a Ranch drama . . . fun times!

My BEST friend from college happened to be in town visiting and I got to spend three precious hours with her and her cute kiddos!  Always leaves me wishing my friends lived closer . . . 

Jer made Forest this amazing bed with a climbing wall on the end!

Little Lovebug plays with toys now!

Typical homeschool morning!  Check out my READER!  Yes!  We crossed the line from hemming and hawing and fussing over reading, to being able to pick up books and enjoy them!  So glad to be there . . . and yes, her lips are blue.  Don't ask.

And that's a wrap . . .or at least a little update!

Friday, February 14, 2014


Long time, no blog . . .I know, I know!  Sometimes I feel like there is so much to say, I don't know where to begin!  But in the interest of time, let's just jump in!

Kids . . .
Shannon- Doing really well with her school work.  We took a week off for Grandparent visit and had a sick day today, but we're moving along.  I'm learning lots about . . .myself . . . how to do this "home school" thing . . . and how to organize my time.  Lots of learning in this area over the next {too many} years I suppose!   We are working through some issues with friends (sharing them) and on controlling our tongue when angry.  She continues to enjoy gymnastics and we had to have the conversation with her coach, saying "no, we don't want to move her to team competition."  While it's flattering that our kid is doing well, we aren't ready to put a 6 year old in the gym for SIX hours a week . . . not gonna happen, no way!  She decided to learn to ride her bike without training wheels . . .we took the wheels off, she got on and road across the yard!  I guess the balance she's learning in the gym is paying off!

Forest- Wow, this kid . . .  my dad summed it up when he came to visit, "does he EVER stop talking?"  My answer . . . . no.  In fact we were driving the other day and he was quiet for two minutes, I almost thought we had forgotten him.  We are working on controlling our emotions (isn't every 4 year old?), not talking when other people are and other lovely lessons like that.  Honestly, this boy wears me out some days!  I've worked with boys for 13 years but whew!  I feel sorry for his kindergarten teacher!  Oh wait, that's me!  He is a darling, really, just a boy too!  He asked to have his training wheels off this week (which is what spurred Shannon on).  He is doing well, but won't stop bouncing his body around while riding, so it's going to take a while to get the balance thing. Unfortunately, once he gets the balance, he'll be leaping off buildings and such since he is so wild on that thing.  Heaven help me!  (Typical Forest picture- Hey mom, look at the parrot on Heidi's head!!!)

Heidi-  Ahhh, the ease of life that comes with 4 months!  She can sit and play with toys, gas doesn't bother her as much and the car doesn't make her scream!  In fact, she fell asleep in the car for the first time yesterday!  Oh and she has a TOOTH!  What in the world????  Crazy kid, doesn't she know 4 months is too early!?!?!  Actually she'll be 5 months next week, but she got the tooth two weeks ago.  Anyway, she is a sweet, sweet baby.  Our love bug!  Shannon and Forest continue to be thrilled and awed by her every, single move and coo.  Oh and the delightful shouts and yells she is learning to do!  She rolls and scoots around and delights everyone with her beautiful eyes and lovely smiles.

Work- Is hard, hard, hard!  We went from three boys to six boys and are getting number seven on Sunday.  And it's hard.  Really hard.  One of the hardest years we've had . . . since we can't remember when.  I find myself fighting lots of internal battles . . . little frustrations that come up and I have to find ways to deal with.  Like what parent allows their ten year old to be on FOUR major psychotropic medications??  I know they are overwhelmed and the kid is completely out of control at home, but to fill these tiny bodies with such powerful and mind (and body) altering drugs?  ACK!  I can get really upset and worked up if I let myself. It's a fine line between caring and praying and shutting that part out so I don't get upset.  Hard to deal with things I can't always do anything about. Thankfully some parents are open to our suggestions to wean them off, while in a protected place.  Other parents though are literally living in TERROR of the "horrible" things they think their child might do should we even think about lowering a dosage. So sad.  Anyway, just one of the many issues we deal with on a daily basis . . . times multiple kids. If you think of us, pray for us and our disaster of a cottage!

Well this is long, but at least that's a few little updates for ya!   I feel little stretches, little reminders to be prepared for the future, to be ready for what God asks of us.  I have NO clue what that may be but I feel urged to "be ready."  Trying to get exercise back into my day more often, working on revamping our eating habits, continuing to sharpen our spending habits, getting our family more functional and organized, etc.  I want to BE ready for whatever he asks, not have excuses like "we are too tired" or "we aren't organized enough."  Our world is SO hurting and SO broken, I want to be here and be used!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Desires and Hurts

I've got a lot on my heart tonight, but I wanted to share a neat praise, before I attempt to put feelings and thoughts to keyboard . . .

Earlier in 2013, perhaps June or July maybe, I had a breath of a prayer- one of those prayers that I'm not even sure I prayed, just "thought" about praying, if that makes sense.  A desire that floated through but I didn't dwell on for hours and days.  I just had a longing to get to know people outside of where we work.  Sure I have some good friends here and my BEST friends I've met through the Ranch.  But after so many years, it gets a bit stifiling to have your entire social life also be your work life!  I wanted to get to know "normal" people (as in non-cottage parents).  But it's hard- how to do that when our lives function so diffferently.

First day of Shannon's gymnastic lessons, a cute girl walks up to me as we are getting our kids in class and says "Erika?"  Come to find out, I worked with her our first year at the Ranch!  Way back in 2001!!!!  We worked together that year and haven't talked or seen each other since.  Now she is a mom of three kids, ages 4, 6 and 8.  Also a foster mom, currently to the most beautiful 2 week old, 5 pound baby you've ever seen.  Along with her, I met a woman that she met at gymnastics, another Christian mom of three.

Every week we sit for the hour and talk, talk, talk.  Our daughters are getting to know each other and we're finding ways to serve each other.  God answered the prayer I barely knew I needed to pray!  It gives me a whole new outlook on the verse that God will grant the desires of your heart.  He knew my heart desire more fully than I did!  I feel so blessed to have these ladies now a part of my life!

In other ways, my heart is just hurting for all the hurt I see around me.  I found out about a sweet new baby who was born with drugs in his system.  Relatives are stepping forward to care for this little guy, but if we were closer to him (he is in another state), we would probably be able to step up and take him because of several issues, including being related.  Not that I need a newborn, but it is making my heart and body just sick to think of the start that this baby is getting in the world.  Not to be with his mom, to be struggling with the horrible effects of drugs leaving his system and to be in a house that is very chaotic.  I can't get his face from my mind.  And to know it's repeated thousands of times over, every day.

Our world is so broken.  The amount of hurt around is just overwhelming at times.  I don't know how people make it a day without God.  No wonder they turn to things that numb them.  I'm praying this year that God continues to use Jer and I to help hurting people.  To keep us ready and willing to step up where he needs us, to step out if he needs us and to be his hands and feet to the broken around.

Love you friends!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

2014 Rolls on In!

Well here we are, almost halfway through January already!  Where to begin?

Back to December- we had a lovely holiday season . . .

Birthday Party- this is our sweet boy whose Grandmother (primary caretaker) died on Thanksgiving day.  He really struggled with behavior (well more than usual) in December, but came back from vacation okay.

 photo 014_zpsbcffe7e7.jpg

Little Lady Bug (as we call her, or Lovey), turned 3 months old!  Started doing lots of smiling, giggling and sucking on hands!  Oh and crying and carrying on every time she has to go to sleep.  That I could do without.

 photo 044-copy_zps4226c1ff.jpg

 photo 129_zpsf6968b89.jpg

Christmas was a nice day- peaceful and calm morning and then friends over for Christmas dinner.  Followed by packing and cleaning for PA!

 photo 091_zps303fde55.jpg

 photo 384_zpsde1f4e95.jpg

 photo 403_zps8ab22c6f.jpg

 photo 423_zps0a1f22a0.jpg

We had a great trip to PA, to visit with Jer's mom.  I pretty much did nothing for the entire week, other than hold Heidi . . . she wasn't going to sleep in the pack n play AT ALL (other than nights), so daytime was holding, holding, holding.  Would have been over-the-top frustrating at home, but since I had nothing else to do . . .I managed!  The kids loved playing with their Gramma Gordon and even got to experience some snow!  It was SO cold, they could only be outside for about 30 minutes a day.  YIKES!  I learned that I'm not a good enough parent to live up north!  You ladies are WAY better than I am in that department . . .my parenting and sanity depend on the phrase "go outside."

 photo 105_zpsfa4b7292.jpg

 photo 110_zps63c2c5df.jpg

 photo 050_zps6bec28ba.jpg

 photo 198_zpsa6051047.jpg

And now we're back in our routine.  I changed up a few things for school this spring- added a few different reading programs for Shannon, since we were all hating 100EZ lessons.  I'm glad we've done it and I think we may push through to finish, but it was going to be the death of me AND her!  So now we are doing one or two of those lessons a week, spread out over 5 days, Explode the Code and some Funnix.  Funnix is a computer based program, actually written by the same people as 100EZ but without the "funny" letters.  So the style is the same (I like) but not as weird.  Plus it's cute and fun.  That's helped attitudes lots!  We are moving along in math, Shan is in her second math book (Singapore Math for K is two books) and she's working on number bonds and pre-adding.  I love to see her little mind make the connections!

Our boys are doing okay, it's a challenging group this year, for sure.  We are expecting two more in the next couple weeks, which will bring our total so far, to seven.

Hmm, what else?  I didn't set a lot of goals at this point, mostly because I feel like my "new year" is in August, when the new school year starts.  But I've been doing lots of thinking about what I want to change for this year and will implement as I figure out where I need to go.  I am doing some different Bible reading, which is refreshing.  I'm actually doing some plans on my ipad, something I NEVER thought I'd do . . .I love my paper Bible!  BUT it's working for this crazy lifestyle, so I'm going to be thankful and just not dwell on the form!

My brain is fried at this point of night lately, so that's it for now (this post has taken me days because of the lack of functioning brain cells!).

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas friends!  I hope you are finding some joy and peace in the midst of the season . . . in between taking care of little people and a zillion other things!

Honestly, the last couple weeks have been downright hard around here.  I don't really have the time to even sit here right now, but for sanity's sake, I need a few minutes.  This phase of life- this taking care of baby, parenting a four year old boy (wild, crazy, silly, goofy, lovable boy), trying to parent and be a teacher to my {almost six year old} precious daughter . . . trying not to fail at this house-parenting thing and be a caring wife to Jeremiah . . . it's overwhelming a lot of the time.  The last few weeks I've felt like I've done a horrible job at all of them . . . in reality, probably not all of them all the time, but I certainly haven't been at my top game.

I've snapped at my kids.  Gotten irritated and impatient with them when they are simply being kids and often can't help whatever it is that's bothering me.  Or snapped at them when I should have knelt down and taught them something patiently.  I failed at loving one of my boys as good as I could have- a boy who lost his grandmother (primary caretaker) and is grieving intensely yet bottling up every drop of emotion inside.  I didn't think about all the things that trigger him (birthday!!!) and plan ahead for them.  And on and on.

So that brings me to . . . I'm so thankful for Christmas . . . that God knew I was a miserable sinner and in desperate need of an amazing Savior.  This holiday I'm so thankful for second chances, third chances and new days.  Thankful that God can take a failing sinner like me and work IN me and through me, to touch a little of this broken world.

I grieve for those hurting people around.  My boys and their families- broken and messed up families.  For this messed up world that shouts at each other about Duck Dynasty for goodness sake . . .instead of wrapping their arms around each other in love, care and concern.  For the 140 million + children who are hoping for a family.  For the women and children in slavery.  Families in poverty.  What a hurting mess.

Thank you Jesus for coming for this messed up world.  May we be a little light to it and help point someone to you this season.

Friends, I'm SO thankful for you!  I wish I had a cute picture of my kids . . . but we haven't made it that far yet!  LOVE!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thankful for YOU!

I feel like I'm in one of those strange times of life- insanely overwhelmed by all that is required of me these days and yet I feel like my heart could literally explode with love when I look at the little ones around me.  I'm really thankful for this crew today!

I was going to post about how overwhelmed I've felt lately but I just don't really feel like it.  Three kids, home school and work full-time is kicking my rear end!  There isn't really much I can do about it other than keep pressing on and doing the next thing.  I'm trying to be humble and see what I can eliminate, but there isn't a lot of wiggle room.  Clothes still need to be washed, school taught and food bought.  But I am trying to make good decisions with my time and be careful with each minute.  There is plenty of room for improvement!  I realize the reason I hate being busy is because it requires self-discipline and sacrifice.  Who wants that, right?  Seriously!  Lots of room for me to grow in this season!

Heidi is 2 months old already and up to 10 pounds!  3 1/2 pounds in 2 months . . .not bad!!!  She continues to wake up just once at night, used to be around 3, now she's making it until 4:30 or 5!  A little further and we'll have a whole night . . . can't say I'll know what to do with a baby AND sleep . . . since I've never experienced THAT before!  Her personality is still sweet and peaceful and we've discovered through some trial (screaming) and error that dairy is an issue.  With that gone, the screaming stops, which is nice!

Shannon & Forest continue to be IN LOVE with "baby sister" as they call her.  I'm so glad the novelty hasn't worn off.  It's been pretty smooth sailing in that department, other than Forest almost killing Heidi by flipping the jogging stroller backwards, with Heidi in it!  I'm glad I buckled her in!

School is going well.  We took a break from normal school to do a mini unit all centered around Thanksgiving last week.  That was a refreshing break for both of us, though lots of work to pull together.  We are completely taking this week off (all our local schools are off the whole week too), and my plan was to get December organized.  Not sure how that's going to happen, but it's gotta get squeezed in there somewhere!  Shan's reading continues to come along and she's much happier now that I've changed things up and am alternating 100EZ with "real books."  The look on her face when she realized she could READ books . . . made a world of difference!

Quick brag on Shannon . . . background- her and Forest have been watching Magic School Bus for entertainment and "science."  They use the word "hypothesis" a lot on it and I never thought about it.

So we're at SeaWorld and there are big cashier signs where we are eating and from where we are sitting we can see 2, 4 and 6.  Shannon asks me why they just have 2, 4 and 6 up and then gets quiet.  A few minutes later she says "I have a hypothesis.  On the back of 2 is 1 because 1 comes before 2.  On the back of 4 is 3 because 3 comes before 4.  And on the back of 6 is 5 because 5 comes before 6."  My mouth dropped.  It's always amazing to see just how much they comprehend- the vocabulary of hypothesis and a real grasp of number and their order.  Yup, PROUD mamma here!

Our cottage went from 3 to 5 boys in the last month.  And the admitting of those two boys sandwiched the death of Jeremiah's dad and his 4 day trip to PA.  So our stress level increased a lot this month.  I won't lie, it's been a HARD month.  These five boys are harder than many groups of ten that we've had.  We don't have a single solid kid or one we can count on AT ALL.  It's rough.  I know we'll make it, but whew!  Thank God for breaks!  **And before I could hit publish, I got word that our toughest boy (the one who never, ever obeys) lost his Grandmother tonight.  But not just his grandmother- she has raised him since he was removed from his mother's (lack of) care at 4 months old.  We knew her health was poor and expected it, but no one expected it this weekend . . .a couple months maybe.  I can't even imagine the hurt in his heart today.  His dad lives with them, but it's not necessarily a good thing.  Pray for this hurting, broken child.

Coming up . . . the month of December.