Affordable STEM for the Win!

I don’t know about your kiddos, but my daughter LOVES science. And I’m all about nurturing that love wherever I can. We signed up for a Union Station membership which allows us access to Science City anytime we want to go. Our pass allows for four individuals, so it is a fun place to visit with another mom and child in tow.

And then today, this little gem came sailing across my Facebook feed. (Thank you, Tina!)

Amazon has rolled out a subscription service for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) geared toward three different age brackets: 3-4-year-olds, 5-7-year-olds, and 8-13-year-olds.

The price is a flat $19.99 per box and you can choose to receive one a month, every other month, or once every three months.

I chose once every three months and I am looking forward to surprising Em with it. I’ll write a review of our first package, due sometime in the next week, when we get around to doing it. It might be a while, Em has four solid weeks of day camp ahead of her!

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And Along the Way? Have Some Fun!

Recently, Em asked for some flavored lip balms. I found a cool pack of soda-flavored Lip Smackers on Amazon and she was tickled to get them.

And then today? I stopped by Dollar Tree where everything is a dollar and I couldn’t help myself, even at a dollar a pop, I bought one of each flavor they had!

Em is off spending the weekend on a boat with one of her best friends. When she returns, she will find this on her bedroom door…

And that leads us to the spare bedroom/Dave’s office…


Which leads us to my favorite two rooms of the house…

Which leads us to the homeschool/art room…

Can you guess where we are going next?!

I can’t plant the next one until a special someone falls asleep for the night, because it will be hidden in her room!

And after that, well, the poisoning reference is an inside joke here. We apply flea meds to all the pets on an annual basis…

And recently we were given a large amount of Diet Pepsi, so…

It is a fun treasure hunt for all of the different varieties. I won’t be home – but I’ve asked our friends to record a video of the girls running around the house reading off the clues.

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Stop the Hamster Wheel, Take the Time

Little Miss, supervising our work in the yard this weekend.

A friend of mine posted a video on Facebook that really resonated with me. You can view it here. I have been actively trying, for the past six years or more, to be more present with my child.

My mind is filled with ideas, plans, dreams, and a “to-do” list a mile long.

I’m a Type A, “it’s all on me” type of mindset. If someone is going to ensure we have a decent retirement, it will be me, through financial planning and investing. If we are going to have a meal plan, groceries for whatever food needs we need, or a well-organized kitchen, that will be me too. If I want to have paths in my garden, I’ll be the one to build them, and so on…

My point is that I don’t tend to look to others to handle things. I might assign tasks, but I’m the one with the task list running through my head.

And sometimes the noise it causes in my brain is overwhelming. And right around that moment, Em will walk in, a hopeful look on her face.

My blue-haired beauty ready for swimming at CocoKey


I smile at her, stop what I am doing and get up. She’s eleven, almost twelve, my one and only. She’s growing up, almost a teenager, so each time she asks, I think, “This might be the last time she asks me.”

We lay down in bed, sometimes read or turn on the tv, other times just talk about whatever comes to mind. Her head pillowed on my arm. Sometimes we have tickle fights, other times we talk about body changes, books we want to read, or upcoming events and plans.

The point is, I try hard to stop what I am doing and be with her. I’m reminding myself daily to do the same with Little Miss, our foster daughter.

She comes in, first thing in the morning, and I smile and sing the good morning song.

Good morning, good morning and how do you do?

And you say, Good morning, good morning, I’m fine how are you?

She smiles and I see her trying to remember the words as she repeats “Morning! Morning!”

I can’t turn off Type A, and honestly, I wouldn’t even want to try. Type A gets things done. Type A makes our home run smoother and gives us a solid foundation for the future. Type A is the “get ‘er done” gal that makes five times the work happen in a single day.

But sometimes, I have to rein it in. Get off the hamster wheel and remember what is important here. Not the money, or the house, or the retirement or the financial goals – not even the yard that I love so much – but those moments when Little Miss asks, “Bug go ka-choo?” (her favorite book is A Little Bug Went Ka-Choo!), or Em asks for cuddles or to go swimming.

Because the writing will wait.

The retirement, while important, doesn’t need ALL of my time.

Childhood is fleeting and time waits for no man (or woman).

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Enter the Seesaw – the Push and the Pull

Some books I bought recently at the bargain store…

It began the last day of school.

The doubt.

The longing.

Em was suddenly unsure what she wanted to do – return to homeschooling or return to public school in the fall.

And I will admit, I was of two minds.

On one hand, I thought of the hours we would spend together. I don’t just love my child, I like her as a person. I look at Em and think, We have so few years left together before she begins her life, how can I even think of missing a single moment?

I thought of the joyful a-ha moments when she is struggling over a concept, a task, and there is this sudden dawning of understanding. The grin spreading across her face and how her eyes brighten when she finally gets it.

I love those moments. I love to see them, to be a part of making them happen. I love our conversations and her curiosity and thoughtfulness and open heart.

And on the other side of it, homeschooling takes time. The time that I could be spending writing, gardening, creating some of the local DIY art stuff I’ve been obsessing over lately. It’s been lovely to have hours of alone time, mornings spent recharging my introvert batteries and preparing for an evening of running around and preparing dinner and being a mom and wife.

At Em’s recital with Harmony Project KC

So I gave her a week of summer break, watched as she flew away to San Francisco to see her grandparents, and when she returned, I said, “Now we need to discuss whether or not you will be homeschooling in the fall.”

Long ago, when I was quite young, maybe no more than seven or eight, I wanted to live with my dad, but I worried about how my mom would react. My dad suggested we make a list of pros and cons. To this day, I have suggested this very thing to my child as a way of working through the different aspects of the decision.

We cleared some space on the blackboard wall…

I wrote most of this as she dictated the wording…

Pro: Can bring your own food  Con: Everyone might want some and it takes time to prepare it in the morning and plan for it in shopping

Pro: There are good teachers  Con: Can be more strict than Mom (by the way, I’m not sure how I feel about that – I thought I was overly strict but apparently not!).

Pro: Friends every day. Con: Bullies every day and also disagreements with friends.

Pro: Science labs (she loves them – thank you Ms. Grammer for making them so fun) Con: Work before the labs (apparently “clean your room” is a dreaded phrase in school as well as at home)

Pro: Poetry Con: Can be difficult

Pro: Teachers reading books to us  Con: Other kids talk during reading

Pro: No pro to time spent in a day in school Con: Time spent in a day at school

We didn’t even touch on her biggest issues with school…

  • Having to hold it until the teacher let her go to the bathroom
  • The short time they had to eat lunch
  • Little or no recess time
  • No wiggle room for time off – we can’t just take off anytime we like and go on a field trip, to a friend’s house, etc.
  • The likelihood of homework assigned in sixth grade and certainly in the grades beyond

Caught in the act…

We discussed my work schedule, possible all-day playdates, her impending “job” of reading to our friends’ littles twice per month while I clean their house, and some of the books she would be studying this year.

I told her I wanted her to know all mathematics basics like the back of her hand – addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division – sharp and quick since they are the building blocks of all other mathematics.

“Give me a division question,” she said.

“What’s twelve divided by four?” I asked.

With little hesitation, she said, “Three!”

Em in Science class at Whittier

I smiled at her, “That’s great! You will be done with the skills building in no time,” I told her, “We will do timed worksheets and before you know it those answers will be ingrained in your mind.”

She grinned.

“So, what do you think?” I asked.

“I want to homeschool, but I also want to see my friends and my teachers.”

I love that she wants to keep connections with her teachers and her friends. Em has always been a kind-hearted child and enjoys a wide range of friends. I want to encourage that behavior – the world is always better when you have an army of friends and mentors ready to help you through it. But I also didn’t want her to misunderstand the situation.

Emergency plan for finding dogs when the gate is open…

I explained the difference between seeing her friends and spending time with them at school. “If you are envisioning coming for a visit like a homeschool rock star m’dear, set that notion aside. School is not for socializing, and the teachers will not be okay with you disrupting classes. You can offer to help out your teachers from last year, and we can make arrangements for you to see your friends outside of school, but keep in mind what school is intended for.”

She seemed to understand that and we discussed ways for her to balance homeschool and her social life.

So in the end? We are “on” for homeschool this fall. For now, however, we have a couple more weeks of lazy days before four weeks of Campfire day camp begins. Time for sleeping in, relaxing, and seeing what fun we can get up to.

Like today, for instance. My afternoon cleaning has been rescheduled to Sunday and I’ve asked her what she wants to do. I’m sure she will come up with something fun!

How I love this girl!

Homeschooling spelling tests

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The Last Day of Fifth Grade

Today is Em’s last day of fifth grade. And I have mixed emotions about it, I really do.

Last August, in the throes of self-doubt, fears that I wasn’t doing right by her, feelings of overwhelm, and more – I made the decision to put Em in public school for the first time. I had spent my childhood, and most of my eldest’s childhood, as well as all of Em’s childhood, completely and totally against public schools.

My experiences had been mediocre at best, some of my eldest daughter’s had been downright damaging, and I was firmly convinced that public schools – and especially the Kansas City Public Schools that struggled with accreditation, poverty, and violence – were just about the worst place I could put my daughter.

If I hadn’t been inches from a complete spiraling meltdown, I never would have done it.

But guess what? I’m glad I did.

I took her to the “meet your teacher day” back in August and introduced myself to each of her teachers. Her homeroom teacher, Ms. L. was a petite woman barely taller than some of her students. Her big eyes, young face and kind heart hid a spine of steel, however, and I watched her in action later on in the semester and knew Em was in good hands.

Her reading teacher was an older, no-nonsense gospel music singing woman who had been teaching longer than I have been a mother. I’ll admit she rubbed me the wrong way at first, but she also expected good behavior from the kids and quickly warmed to Em.

Her science teacher Ms. G, was a warm, humorous woman and I could see that Em was instantly excited about being in her class.

The list goes on and on. Each of her teachers were responsive to my questions, engaging and kind to Em, and showed me that they were truly invested in each of their students’ education.


Today I received a photo of Em playing her cello at the talent show from her science teacher, along with the note, “Thank you for sharing your amazing and outstanding daughter with me this year.  She has enriched my year and the lives of those around her! “

All through the year, I have received updates, mainly from Ms. L, her homeroom teacher, and Ms. G, her science teacher, along with pictures, like this one from last Friday:

Which made me laugh.

I will miss the extra time I have had each day to write, even as I look forward to spending more of my days with my wonderful daughter. Time flies too quickly, after all, and I don’t want to miss any of it. In the fall we start homeschooling sixth grade and will move through the grades until the end of the tenth when I plan on enrolling her in the Early College Academy. She will be able to earn her Associate’s degree by the age of 18.

But that is all in the future. For now, all I can think of is how those last days of school felt for me as a child. No matter if I was in public school or private, they were bittersweet. The familiar faces of friends and teachers seen one last time before disappearing into the warmth of summer, the promise of pools and summer camp and plane trips to see family. Leaving the world you have lived in each weekday for nine months, replacing it with another.



A rite of passage.

I cannot thank the teachers at Whittier Elementary enough. For their kindness, their dedication and open hearts. They made a particularly painful transition easy, and in doing so, helped me realize how much good I have done already and how much more I am capable of as we return to homeschool in the fall. I’m glad to say I was wrong, that my deepest fears did not come true, and that Em was able to see what public school was like while learning and growing and connecting with other adults and children.

p.s. After I posted this, Em came home, took one look at me and burst into tears. Even as she misses her teachers she is excited about homeschooling in the fall. She told me about her last day, her eyes and nose blotchy with tears, about the teachers who were retiring or leaving, and the others who were being reassigned to different grades and subjects. Saying goodbye was bittersweet for her, my sweet girl wears her heart on her sleeve!

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Heart on a String and The Great Unknown

Em and Little Miss examining the wild violets

The Great Unknown

Today someone asked me, “So what happens next?”

I shrugged and smiled, “It’s not up to me. It’s up to a judge and damn, I would not want that job, not in a million years.”

“So it could go either way? When will you know for sure?”

I shrugged again, “The wheels of justice move excruciatingly slow. All I can do is wait.”

We were talking about my foster daughter, Little Miss, who has only been in our lives for three and a half weeks now. Three and a half weeks – that isn’t long, but in that short amount of time she has first discombobulated us, then walked with us into a new schedule, a new reality.

A Decent Schedule

Each weekday morning, Em wakes at 6:30 with her alarm. I read to her for half an hour and Little Miss usually wakes up in the middle of it, calling out from her crib. Em runs to go get her, sits her in between us, and I finish the chapter and we snuggle up, all of us, sipping coffee or tea, and talking to Little Miss.

A diaper change and clean clothes, a touch up of the hair and we are off and away to daycare and work.

The evenings are filled with dinner, regular trips to the park, and a little tv in the evening before reading a book and bed.

And yes, there are tantrums and tears, but there is also laughter and hugs. Toddlers are a mixed bag of fun and freakouts, and Little Miss is as normal as they come in this arena.

An Awesome Older Sister

Em is, by the way, an amazing older sister. She is firm, loving, and responsible. I so enjoy watching the two of them interact. Little Miss responds in kind, calling out “Em-yee” when she sees her each morning or evening.

Heart on a String

Here is the reality, the face of foster care for our little family. It’s a love story, of sorts, with an uncertain and unknowable ending. You take a tiny child into your home and I challenge you to NOT fall in love.

I jokingly say to my husband that children are cute because if they weren’t then we would eat them after the first tantrum or unexpected mess.

So, after the initial shock of “Holy hell, a strange woman just came by my house and left a small child on my doorstep!” I did what most sane, normal, loving people would do in my position. I fell in love.

You can’t help but love this little girl. Her tight, pencil-width curls. Her bright smile. The way she chugs chocolate milk like she’s at a frat party.

The reality of being a foster parent is that you will fall in love with a child that isn’t yours by birth. One that takes a piece of your heart forever and irredeemably placed on a string that may travel far away from you.

Love is simple and it is also rather complicated. It’s easy to love, and it’s not so easy to let go.

What Is a “Better Life?”

Within the first 24 hours of a placement, a foster parent is tasked with taking their new foster child to the doctor to get checked out. And here I was, still half in shock that after all those months of paperwork I actually had what I had been waiting so long for.

A nurse, helping me go from one destination to the other, said, “Well, you know she’s better off with you, anyway.”

And my heart twanged with that.

In the weeks since I have met Little Miss’s mom, and I know enough about her situation to know that, if things were weighed by opportunity and disposable income, then yes, Little Miss would indisputably be better off with us. There are thousands of children you could say the same about.

Being poor isn’t a crime, though, and the nurse’s words bothered me. They bothered me because she doesn’t know the circumstances of why Little Miss is with me. Hell, I barely know the circumstances.

Thankfully, as I said above, it’s not my job to decide where she goes, but I fear that we will measure our time together in months at most.

When That Day Comes

You can love a child to the ends of the earth and back and not have that love returned. Or you can love, and be loved in return, and still lose a child. I’ve experienced the first scenario, and honestly, I rather expect the second scenario.

That said, love does not have a price tag nor a boundary attached to it. I want to believe that I can face the day that Little Miss returns to her bio mom with grace and with love. For me, that’s what it means to be a foster parent.

I recently read an article about a couple who had fostered and adopted a child. The author wrote, “So often people say they love children too much to open their home and then see them leave, but I find it hard to use the argument of having ‘too much love’ that forces you to keep that door closed.”

I have been asked, multiple times, “Aren’t you afraid of getting your heart broken?”

The answer is yes, of course, I am afraid. I walked into this, eyes open, knowing what it meant. That I might find the perfect child, the one who felt so right in my arms, so much a part of me that biology aside, we were meant to be a family.

Little Miss’s middle name is my first name. She turned 2 1/2 on my 48th birthday. She is left-handed like me.

She fits so well within our family. So yes, I will be heartbroken.

The only cure for heartbreak is to open my heart again.

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One Week As a Foster Parent

Em and Little Miss examining the wild violets

I was sitting on the porch with a new neighbor, learning more about her, when the phone rang. Heck, I didn’t even hear it. My daughter came to the front door, phone in hand.

“I have a 2-year-old little girl who has just come into care,” the woman on the other end said, “are you interested?”

I asked for more information and she gave it to me. A day or two earlier, I told myself, If the call comes in, and it is a child two years or younger, just say “yes.”

“Sure, bring her on over,” I said, my heart rate increasing. My voice sounded calm and the worker said she would call when they were on their way. I hung up and turned to my neighbor, “Well, it looks like I’m getting a child dropped off in the next twenty minutes or so. My first foster placement.”

The woman had just mentioned that she never wanted kids and she paled slightly as I explained that we had just received our foster care certification. “I’d better get going, it sounds like you’ve got your hands full!”

Thirty minutes later, Little Miss arrived in our lives.

A Traumatic First Night

She was absolutely adorable – cute curls and a tentative smile. Her big brown eyes regarded me solemnly at first and then later she smiled, a book in her hand. A book. She’s a girl after my own heart!

Within minutes of arriving, she fell down three or four stairs, landing on her head, right in front of the social worker. Em screamed in horror, Little Miss got up and brushed it off like it was no big deal.

Later though, when I tried to give her a bath as the social worker had suggested (and oh boy did she need one), Little Miss began to scream, cry and fight us. We gave up, wrapping her in a soft towel and rocking her until she calmed down.

I turned around twice and it was 9:30 and past time for bed. And that’s when the real heartbreak began.

I turned the lights off, then opened the curtains to the street below. The streetlamp lit the room in a soft glow and Little Miss stopped the crying that had begun with the dimming of the lights and began to pat the edge of the window that she could reach, “Mommy, where you?” She called softly, over and over.

And something deep inside me broke at hearing that.

It was an hour before I could get her to sleep – her crying, me crying, the music playing as I gently rubbed her back.

It was another hour before I was calm enough to sleep as well. I kept imagining what it must be like for her – how frightened she must be, away from everything familiar. It broke my heart.


We Are NOT Heroes

You know who are real heroes? The ones that take those kids who set fire to their foster home, kill or maim animals, or who threaten their caregivers and everyone else with violence. Kids with severe behavioral issues who might NEVER be okay. Our foster care training instructor gave us a peek into that world – “They will pee in your shoes, destroy the belongings you love the most, and set fire to your house” – that was my takeaway from STARS training.

We aren’t the heroes of this story.

We had to agree with a larger age bracket, that of zero to six years in age, but we also have the right of refusal and our certification worker had noted our preferences of age 0-2 years.

I’m being honest here, I didn’t know that I would be able to handle a child who was older, who had been through the wringer and back again, one that had seen or experienced abuse and neglect. I was protective too of Em, who deserved to have a good childhood, one that wasn’t sidelined by traumas that would take up all of our time and energy.

Little ones are more malleable, better able to rebound and form new connections. For the two of us, with a child and pets already in the house, taking on a child within the 0-2 range just made sense.

I’ve been called a hero, a saint, and blessed over and over. And that’s very kind, but misdirected. We are simply operating as parents, however temporary or permanent this might be, to a little human who happens to be rather adorable.

Not My Child

There was a moment, well, a couple, on Days Four and Five where reality set in – on both sides. Little Miss realized we weren’t going to beat her or try to eat her and her behavior slipped into the range of a typical two-year-old – complete with willfulness, shrieking imperiousness, and tantrums.

And I looked at her and thought, “This is NOT my child!”

It is said that humans only have a capacity for identifying a small amount of those around them as familiar, as friends and allies. The others are, well, others. And that was the feeling that came over me, briefly, as her tantrums and willfulness intersected with my vision of a peaceful house.

It’s called reality, by the way. She was acting like a perfectly normal toddler and I was responding to an unfamiliar face and thinking not my kid. But for the moment, she is my kid, and so I took a deep breath and moved past it.

Past the feelings of frustration, of the wish to blame someone for bad behavior, of the instinct to stop the bad behavior ASAP. I breathed in deeply, looked into Little Miss’ eyes and recognized her needs – for boundaries, for clearly stated expectations.

“Hey, talk to me. Use your words, tell me what is wrong.”

And the screaming stopped. She didn’t tell me exactly what the problem was, but she calmed down enough to be reasoned with. And later, that evening, when no amount of reasoning or words could bring her down, we gently placed her in bed and gave her a few minutes alone. She screamed like a skinned cat for five minutes and then fell dead asleep.

She is getting used to our rhythms, and we to hers. We are learning what she will eat, and when she has eaten enough. There is learning, and compromise, by all parties. Instead of “not my child” it is “my child for now.”

Private, None of Your Beeswax

“Is that your grandbaby?” A checker at Walmart asked.

“So why did she come into care?” Asked another.

“Well, at least now she has a better life than she did before.”

None of these are fair questions or statements.

Little Miss has a right to her privacy. She has a right not to be paraded about and clucked over, questioned over her parentage or her parents’ abilities to parent, and frankly, the questions can only hurt.

I have yet to come up with a polite, yet firm response that just rolls off the tongue when asked why she came into care. I can see, after just a week, that she has been well-loved. That the love makes this situation both easy and hard – easy, because she is meeting the milestones expected for her age and responding well to boundaries and our expectations of her – hard, because I adore her and welcome her presence in our home and fear that letting go will be hard, very hard.

She has a right to confidentiality, so I will not be discussing the reasons she came into care. Frankly, it’s no one’s business besides those who care for her.

Learning Curve

As you can see from the picture at the top, Little Miss is African American and that has been quite the learning curve. Skin and hair care are a very real, very important aspect.

“Did she come to you like that?” Her caseworker asked me, pointing at Little Miss’ boogie hair and I was seized with anxiety.

“It, uh, looked a little better than that, and I, uh, didn’t know what to do with it.”

The woman’s mouth turned down in disapproval, “You need to get those tangles out before it gets matted. If it gets matted we will have to cut it off.”

I messaged my friend with mixed-race kids that day in a panic and begged for her help. And by the next day, we had a crash course on how to moisturize skin, scalp, and keep the tangles out of the hair and caseworkers off my back.

Little Miss looked much better as a result. And my anxiety over it faded.

To Love, and Be Loved

It hit me hard the other day. As we prepared coffee and tea in the early morning, while Little Miss, Em and my dad snoozed away,

We were talking about Dee, Em, and Little Miss and Dave said to me, “I know, you always have wanted a big family.”

I told Dave, “I just want to love and be loved. Nothing can replace Dee, nothing will ever replace her in my heart. But in the end, I just want to love and be loved. I don’t need accolades, false promises, or sentiments. I just want to surround myself with love.”

I am fascinated by how children change and grow. I love being part of the process, watching the milestones as they move, shift, change and become complex humans with emotions and dreams of their own.

Fostering, like the rest of life, is both easy and hard. Easy to love, and be a parent and give boundaries – I’ve done this, and I’ve learned, matured, relaxed, and enjoy it now more than ever. Hard, to know I might have to say goodbye long before I am ready to. People come into our lives, and we give a piece of our hearts to each of them. The thing to remember is that loss is a part of life, a good and natural part that, while hard, helps grow our hearts bigger. No matter how long or short of a time we have with Little Miss, that love is not wasted. I want to believe that it hasn’t been wasted on my eldest either, and that the love I felt (and still feel) is real and valid and exists – whether we ever speak again.

The same goes for Little Miss.

“I hope she stays forever,” Em said the second day we had her.

“I hope that she is loved, that she is happy and that her life is full of opportunity and love and joy, wherever she goes,” I said in return.

To love, and be loved, a lot of life’s problems can be cured just by that state of being.



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Reading Spikes and the Big Green Light

This is Em wearing a favorite outfit she got for Christmas – a white sweater with a fuzzy heart and black polka dot pants, holding our future foster baby. “I didn’t want to color the baby in, Mama, because we don’t know what we will get and I didn’t want to assume.”

I’m so stinkin’ excited, folks. I can’t even tell you how excited! Well, I will, right now actually…

The Right Way to Start Off the Week

Finally, after weeks of delays, and a nearly seven-month-long process, we received our foster care home study and a contract to sign with the State of Missouri. As of tonight, when my husband is home from work and can sign the paperwork, and send it back, we can officially accept a foster child into our home.

Holy Toledo, we finally have that big green light!

Em drew the picture at the top of this post after hearing that we had finally received approval. I would say that she’s excited, wouldn’t you?!

Intrusive Doesn’t Begin to Cover It

I am not complaining, believe me I am not, but I did have a chuckle when I read another prospective foster parent’s post…

Birth certificates, drives license, ss cards, recommendations letters, W2s, physical, FBI finger printed, 30 hours of parenting training,….all to foster a child…all I had to do was spend 3 minutes in the back of a Dodge Omni with an idiot to get a biological child….

And the paperwork was only the beginning. The home visits were down and dirty and asked about every part of our lives.

I can only hope it helps the social workers weed out those who are in it for the money (the joke is on them, Missouri has one of the lowest compensation rates) or for some nefarious reasons.

I’m pretty open, and I share a good deal of my life as it is, but even I grew weary of it by the end. The proverbial straw came with the request to get a statement from a counselor my eldest daughter and I had seen over sixteen years ago in the wake of a particularly nasty divorce and abuse on my ex-husband’s part. I wrote to the social worker and said…

My daughter, despite her insistence on blaming me for all of her problems along with the waxing and waning of the moon, has a right to her privacy. She has a right to break ties with me, as much as it has hurt me and our small family, and she has a right to not be intruded upon in her decision to no longer be in our lives or to re-hash events that happened half a lifetime ago. And if that means that you or your supervisor are not interested in allowing my family to be foster parents, so be it.

I have been patient, I have been open, and I have been honest. I am not so desperate to have another child that I will intrude on my daughter’s decision to ostracize herself from our family. I spent nearly 12 years chasing after my child, desperate to have a relationship with her, and I’m done.

I don’t need that, and neither does she. As talented and smart as she is, from this armchair psychiatrist’s perspective, she is at worst a narcissist, and at the very least suffers from depression and anxiety. And that is the extent of what I am going to say about her because I am not a psychologist and she is not in my home nor will she be around a foster child.

In the end, you and your supervisor have a decision to make. Either we are people who can provide a good, safe home for a child, or we are not.

That was Sunday. And today we received the home study, without any more questions, hoops, or “And one more thing…”

Reading over the home study, which included gushing praise from all of our references including Em’s 5th grade home room teacher, was a very bright spot in my day. It’s not every day you read things like…

Emily meets and exceeds all expectations. She pushes herself to do more
and do better. She is aware if she is struggling with a task and will ask for help. Emily takes it upon herself to work above and beyond her potential. Emily has a great relationship with everyone she meets. She is empathetic to the feelings of those around her. She wants to help people and make them happy. She knows how people’s temperaments are and does a great job meeting them at their level.

Emily makes everyone’s day better. Emily’s parents are what all teachers hope for. They reply quickly and happily. They ask questions and seek to be proactive. I always feel comfortable and supported by Emily’s parents. I can’t think of a better family. They are understanding, welcoming, funny, intelligent and selfless. They have all helped make me a better teacher.

How amazing is that?! I just couldn’t stop smiling thinking about that!

More Training On the Horizon

Now that we are certified, there is annual training to be done. I have already had us signed up for two classes – The Importance of Sibling Relationships and CPR/First Aid. The first one we just have to do as part of our annual hours of training, the second class is one that I am really looking forward to. Knowing CPR/First Aid is an excellent skill to have.

Reading, Reading, and More Reading

So in case you haven’t been reading this blog since the beginning – my 11-year-old has not had a particularly positive view of reading in general.

I can’t tell you the number of times she has said to me, “Mama, I just don’t like reading.”

As the author of six books, four blogs, and the proud owner of nearly 30 journals in various stages of completion – to say that I was horrified at that statement doesn’t do it justice.

She was late to enter the reading game – and was nearly 8 1/2 when she finally nailed reading and felt competent. And while we were homeschooling Kindergarten through 4th grade, she still resisted, even after learning, complaining, dragging her feet, and generally down in the mouth whenever tasked with reading more than a few words or sentences.

In my world, which is overly filled with books (I think I own at least 1,000 books at this point), I have struggled to understand this. I love to read, and when I was younger I plowed through books, slowed only by a lack of accessibility or funds. My parents never thought to take me to libraries for some reason, I know not why.

And honestly, I have clung to the belief that all it would take was the right book to turn the key and open the reading frenzy floodgates.

I have bided my time, counseled patience in the face of my own fears, and countered to her “I don’t like reading” complaints with “You don’t like reading yet, but you will get there.”

I struggled with reading aloud to her, since reading aloud, especially while lying in a prone position in bed, induces sleep regardless of my energy levels. I finally figured out that, if I read to her first thing in the morning, while sitting upright in the library, I would not fall asleep. So that is what we have been doing, reading the three “Bad” books by Pseudonymous Bosch and then moving on to The Girl Who Drank the Moon, which is a lovely story.

Waiting in the wings are Hatchet, clothed in a leather 30th Anniversary edition and The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog

And reading these aloud to Em has been wonderful. Truly. I was over the moon to finally find a solution to my falling asleep while reading problem. It was something that had dogged me through Dee’s childhood and Em’s early childhood and was sooo frustrating!

Now that we have a steady pattern of reading in the morning, I have added the evening adventure of reading side-by-side in bed to the mix. I start by inviting her to prepare for bed at 8:30 or so. “Hey, come brush your teeth with me.”

She does and then I say, “I’m going to read in bed. Why don’t you grab a book and join me?” We cuddle close and read our books. I turned around twice and she had moved from graphic novels to Book One of Dork Diaries, Tales From a Not-So-Fabulous Life that she had checked out of the library at school.

Today she said, “I really like this book and I want to try and find more of them.”

“Would you like me to see if I can find them on Amazon?”

Her eyes lit up, “Oh, yes please, Mama!”

She will have Books 2 and 3 in her hands by the end of the week. Around here, when this recalcitrant “I just don’t like reading” girl says she likes a book, you can be damn sure I’m getting it for her!

Posted in Bonding, Community, Foster Parenting, Homeschool - Language Arts | Comments Off on Reading Spikes and the Big Green Light

Behavior and Consequences – Without Yelling or Tears

In mid-February, I looked into my daughter’s bedroom and realized I had had enough. “All the way, up to here, couldn’t stand the mess one more minute” kind of enough.

“Clean your room,” had become a daily admonition, complete with lawyer-like arguments on her part, “You didn’t say clean all of it,” or “I thought you just meant pick up those clothes over there.”

My 11-year-old could have a bright future in the courtroom, but I was damned sick and tired of the mess that covered every surface of her room, crept along the floor, and had apparently begun breeding (if such things are possible).

I put my foot down, “This WILL be cleaned up, all of it, and you will NOT be involving me or your dad in the process. At this point, you do know how to clean your room, you have made this mess all by yourself, and you and you alone are responsible for it continuing to be like this.”

It took a week.

It took taking away her laptop, her Kindle, and eventually even television and ability to play with friends.

“I finished cleaning my room, Dad.”

My husband came in and inspected. He was satisfied. Then I came in and inspected, I had a few more things on my list. Surfaces were dusted, the floor was vacuumed, and I briefly looked up at (but did not climb the ladder to inspect) her platform bed. At a glance, all seemed fine.

The following day, I had to walk into her room to open or close her curtains and I happened to look up. A mound of empty soda cans, a bag of trash, and containers of snack foods were up on her bed.

The consequences were the loss of electronics again and the new rule: Eat in your room and lose electronics privileges for three days.

I had been willing to allow food and drink if it was handled responsibly – dishes not piling up, wrappers and food particles not on the ground, and food not stored in the room – but these rules had been repeatedly violated.

After that it was smooth sailing…until mid-March. Em was gone at a friend’s when I walked into her room to retrieve her laundry basket. I saw piles of candy wrappers on the floor.

So when she came home and came into my office to talk to me I said, “So, I went into your room to get your laundry basket and there were clothes on the floor, but I didn’t know which were clean and which weren’t. Also, there were a bunch of candy wrappers on the floor,” I paused and looked her in the eye and continued in a calm voice, “Want to tell me about that?”

Her shoulders sagged and she looked down at the ground, “I ate candy in my room. I know it was against the rules.”

“Yeah, it was. And the wrappers were all over the floor, which is one of the reasons I made the rule in the first place.”

“I know. I’m sorry.”

I nodded and smiled at her. “I’m not mad, but you remember the consequences, right?”

“Yeah, no electronics for three days. So when does that start?”

“Well, it’s 3 p.m. now, and it’s a Sunday, so you can have them back on Wednesday after 3 p.m.”


Later that evening we talked more about it and I told her, “I don’t want to be a grumpy, mean mom, but there are times when I have to enforce the rules. You understand that, right?”

She nodded. “You said it in a really nice way and I knew you weren’t mad, but I also knew I had broken the rules.” She shrugged, “Break the rules, get banned from electronics for three days.”

I didn’t say it, mainly because I don’t want there to be any confusion or stepping over the line right now, but if she had just thrown her wrappers away, it wouldn’t have been a problem. I would not have objected to candy wrappers in her trash. Not at all!

I just don’t want the trash on the floor or dishes covered in food in her room or food stored in her room. Trash goes in the trash, dishes go in the sink, and food stays downstairs.

Basic rules.

I am thankful for her attitude, though. She is an amazing kid and I am very lucky.

Posted in Challenges, Parenting Techniques, Responsibility | Comments Off on Behavior and Consequences – Without Yelling or Tears


I’ve been on a book buying spree. Don’t judge me!

And a month or so ago, I bought a couple of money and entrepreneurship books for kids.

Kidpreneurs: Young Entrepreneurs With Big Ideas introduces the idea of entrepreneurship, something close to my heart.

How to Turn $100 Into $1,000,000: Earn! Save! Invest! was the second book I purchased. Heck, I’ll probably be taking notes on how to make this happen.

And last week, an email flew through the nethersphere and landed on my desk. It was from the local farmer’s market coordinator and I shot off a couple of questions to her…

Hi Jenna-Your post about being a vendor reminded me of something I had been thinking about – that of promoting entrepreneurship in children. I was wondering if the farmer’s market ever allows more infrequent vendors? I’m thinking something along the lines of a sweet tea stand that my 11-year-old could run. I just know that she’s 11 and wouldn’t be interested in every Thursday, and she will be in some summer camps anyway, so it would be more of an infrequent thing. What is the vendor fee for something like that?

She responded back and let me know that it sounded like a great thing, especially on the hotter days, and that it would cost $5 each time we wanted to have a spot at the market and that we would need to let her know a few days before.

Her First Summer Job

Do you remember your first job? Was it delivering papers? Working in an office? Asking if the customers wanted fries with that hamburger?

“This is going to be your first opportunity at a summer job,” I told her. “Not every Thursday, but definitely a number of them.”

She looked intrigued.


I was the one to suggest sweet tea. I figured it actually might have a higher profit margin than lemonade made with real lemons, or even the instant mix kind.

And then we started digging in…

Me: What if we offered herbal tea? Or made our own soda?

Em: We could give them samples in the little cups – a quick taste for a quarter?

Me: Or we could give those samples away and tell them, “Hi! Try a sample for free! We are right over there if you want a nice cup of ice-cold sweet tea!”

Em: [grinning] Yeah! And we could ask them what kinds of drinks they would like!

Me: We could make a list of potential drinks and then have them vote!

Added Value/Income

After that, I brought up the idea of having something extra for sale. “You are already there, so you might as well offer something else for sale. Maybe we could bake some cookies?”

Em’s eyes lit up. “That would be awesome!”

Financial Outlay and Fiscal Responsibility

“Now, we do need to keep track of expenses, and figure out what cup sizes we will need as well as best price on cups. I can loan you money, but I will need to be paid back, so you will need to figure out your profit margin and all that.”

She nodded, smiling.

Some of the potential costs that I have already identified are:

  • $5 vendor fee
  • Cups
  • Ingredients

Preparation and Responsibility

Since we don’t have an icemaker and buying ice will cut too deeply into her profits, Em suggested we buy a couple of extra ice trays to make ice in the days before the farmer’s market.

“We can store them in baggies in the freezer,” she told me.

We will also need to bring:

  • Table, chairs, and shade (if possible)
  • Drink dispensers
  • Cooler full of ice (we have the cooler, but Em will need to make ice ahead of time in ice trays)

Looking Ahead

It’s not quite mid-March and the farmer’s market doesn’t start until mid-May. Em doesn’t get out of school until late May, and although she would be out in time for the market, which begins at 4pm, I think we will hold off until the weather turns nice and warm, the perfect time for sweet tea.

It won’t be every week – Em will spend a week in San Francisco visiting her grandparents and extended family and she will have camp at least two weeks in July and one week late in August – but I think it will be good for her to dip her toes into a taste of entrepreneurship.

We will read through the Kidpreneur book and also How to Turn $100 Into $1 Million in April and May in preparation as well as do our research into the proper size cups and also do some basic profit/loss analysis…

How many cups do I need to sell to break even?

How much can I expect to earn?

Should I sell something else along with it – like cookies?

Should I offer multiple choices of tea and soda?

By the time the farmer’s market rolls around, she might be well and truly over it, but I would like to think that she will actually do rather well. The farmer’s market has been rolling along for over two years now, maybe three and by now they probably have a decent number of attendees.

It will also be a great experience for her to interact with others and really shine.

Create Opportunity

Back in the early 80s, I read the book Kidco and later saw the movie by the same name. That story, of a handful of entrepreneurial kids, has stayed with me for decades. I was so shy and self-doubting that it took most of my life to get to the point where I was willing to jump off the cliff and take a chance.

And while I remain rather conservative in terms of risk, I am far more willing to take a chance on creating money outside of the confines of an office/employee status now. I want for Em to have that opportunity and vision as well and not be afraid to take chances, albeit well-planned ones.

I think that with opportunity, comes freedom of choice, and perhaps a wider outlook in terms of who she can be. College or no, employee or self-employed, paychecks or her own accounting.

Opportunity – it’s what’s for breakfast around here.

Posted in Community, Entrepreneurs & Entrepreneurship, Events/Local Events, Homeschool - Mathematics | Comments Off on Kidpreneurship