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.

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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.

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

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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."

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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.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

New Life

** EDIT**  So I got this all done FINALLY . . .and realized I completely forgot to resize my pictures!  Oops!  I hope that doesn't screw anyone up!  I'll try to remember next time . . . blame it on sleep, right?

Well friends . . .I suppose the new story of my life with three is that I just don't have time for blogging right now!!!  My old blogging times were nap time and bedtime . . . now I'm either napping at nap time or trying to quickly get a few necessary things done.  And usually Heidi likes some mom-time at bedtime, so usually I don't have hands free to type (and I hate typing on the ipad).

BUT I wanted to pop in to say that we are GREAT and life is GOOD here!  I never imagined we'd have such a good transition to life as five.

HEIDI-  Is the sweetest little baby (ever?)!  She has decided to win "favorite child" status, by being the best sleeper.  Usually only wakes up ONCE a night!  Can't even believe it, as I'm used to my kids being up every 2-3 hours until they are over 6 months old!  She sleeps great and on a pretty regular schedule (that she put herself on) during the day, too.  She eats great and is starting to get little chubby legs!  And she's finally outgrown newborn diapers and is filling out her newborn size clothing!  Can't wait to see how much she weighs at my 6 week check-up, on the 31st!  She is very alert the last week or so, and really tracks faces and you can see her facial expressions changing and trying to smile.  I think we'll be getting some big grins soon!

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FOREST-  Just had his 4th birthday!!!!!!!!!!!!  Not sure how in the world THAT happened . . .

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Forest is in love with Heidi and says about 20 times a day "Baby Sister is sooooo cute!!!"  Also asks me how God gave us the cutest baby in the world or why we are the only ones with a baby so cute!  I love that the novelty hasn't worn off yet.

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Forest is definitely my wild little boy. I spend a lot of time praying throughout the day that God will help me figure out how to let him be a boy and yet tame the inappropriate wildness- the roughness.  Not an easy thing to figure out- how to embrace his man-cub part and yet not let him fall into the trap that our society has of just letting boys be wild and blaming it on "boys will be boys."

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He and his best friend Jimmy have played a lot together lately, watching that friendship blossom is so sweet. During school time he often joins us at the table, working very hard on his own "art projects," and making things (usually for Jimmy).  I was shocked the other day to look over and see him using scissors perfectly . . . his manual dexterity is pretty impressive, considering it's not really something I was intentional about!  Fun to watch him learning and growing intellectually.

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SHANNON-  Continues to be a sweet and loving big sister.  She adores Heidi and touches her non-stop (usually kissing her).  Whenever I put Heidi in the bouncy seat so I can do something, Shannon is right there to talk and sing to her.  I think Heidi will be following her big sister around as soon as she can walk.  The first two weeks after Heidi was born were rough- she was really upset by me being in the hospital for three days.  No one realized this at first, but over the second week, her behavior went downhill (respect for me) and then she started talking to me EVERY night at bedtime and mentioning the hospital- how much she didn't like me being there, how she felt like she didn't have a mom, etc.  I realize that she's just old enough to be upset by it and young enough to have not known what to do with it.  Thankfully after three weeks, she slowly stopped bringing it up and behavior improved again.  Poor kid!

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Shannon continues to move right along in school.  She doesn't like when I pull her reading book out, but she does it . . . and wow was she ready.  Her lessons go very well academically- if she struggles it's because of behavior, not comprehension issues.  And she is starting to sound out words in daily life.  She continues to love writing and most nights at bedtime, wants to sound out or have me spell words for her to write on the magnadoodle.  I haven't bothered to tell her that I count that as part of our school lessons, hehehe!  Math is her favorite (like mother, like daughter?) and I have to cut her off after about 5 pages in her math book each day (Singapore Math).  I can see her making some connections in real life and starting the process of thinking mathematically, which is really neat.  I LOVE watching my kids learn, it's amazing.

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ME-  I have healed well after birth. My blood pressure came down about a week after she was born, and I just finished my bottle of blood pressure meds.  Other than an increased risk of "heart" issues for the next 10-15 years (!!!!!), I should have no other issues from the preeclampsia.  Most of my birth aches were gone at 2 weeks and by 3 weeks I felt normal again!  Weight-wise I must have gained less this time around (who would have known with all the swelling?) and had less abdominal separation, because I'm much closer to my normal weight and stomach is less poochy.  That helps my exercise motivation, for sure!  And wow, I am WAY more out of shape than ever in my life . . . I have never had such soft and squishy legs, etc.  I started exercising this week, very slowly.  I did just FIVE minutes of my exercise video and was sore the next day!  Eeek!  So I'll be really taking it slow.

As far as my family and life . . . I am so content.  Yes, my days are completely filled from morning until night.  Yes, three kids, home schooling and working full-time is a lot on my plate.  But I tell you what, I wouldn't trade it for ANYTHING in the world!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I feel very honored to be given the responsibilities I have been and pray I can handle each one carefully.

JEREMIAH-  Has taken on a majority of the responsibilities I had in the cottage, with the boys.  And even in the home- he has just started doing all kinds of things (laundry!?!??!) without asking, and trying to ease our transition into five.  What a sweet, sweet man!  His big source of stress is his father- he was given "5 weeks" to live at the end of August.  He is at home (in PA) and seems to be doing okay, actually.  But there is a lot of uncertainty and then some "well meaning" people in that area who think Jer should just quit his job and move in with his parents.  Sigh.  As if they actually needed taking care of (they don't) or there were jobs in no-where town PA (there aren't) and as if it were a healthy home to raise our kids (it's not). I keep praying that God will keep Jer encouraged and confident in his decisions, despite the unhelpful words of others!

So there you have it!  My five minute update turned much longer, but I'm glad I had "the words" to finish it!  We are heading into our two busy and crazy months at the Ranch.  There is an event (or home weekend) on the calendar every weekend from now until January!  A new boy arrived at our house on Sunday . . . in all honesty, I believe his maturity level is about where Shannon is.  And he just turned 10.  So life is going to stay very full for a while, so probably not much computer time.

Love ya friends!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!