The elusive rainy day fun

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Last Sunday, as we were sitting in the wooden pews of our century-old country church, one of our farmer deacons reminded us to thank God for the rain that had come. Perfectly timed for the seeds to be placed into this ground.  Hope given to those who make their livelihood out of this dirt that we call home.
Autumn rains are heavily anticipated around here
 And even to this dry land of our own farm it had come, cascading down in amounts rarely seen. We delighted in it's coming, in the life-giving, hope-reviving, heavy rain.  

The children ignored the cooling temperatures which are inevitable with rain around here & enjoyed every second of this rare opportunity to run & splash & jump in puddles.
Gumboots were quickly discarded. Who wants them when you can feel the mud squish between your toes?

The pigs were ever so happy as the water gushed down our hill & filled up their wallow!  
Our big dam continued catching it, even after the rain had stopped falling and all was quiet in the old farmhouse up the slope.  Half-full it now stands & we are so thankful that we have a sure water supply for our stock over winter.
And while the rain has not returned in large amounts, it gives us hope that maybe, maybe soon, it will return again.  And if not, we can be confident that the Lord knows & always provides for our every need!

Have a wonderful day friends

- In Gratitude -

Friday, April 17, 2015

~For the first star of the evening just peeking out at me as I walk home!~
...and for those crazy chickens I was locking up safe from the foxes.
~ For the beauty of even those dead blossoms ~
...and for the pretty flowers they once were.
~For the endless birdsong that serenades us here on the farm~
~For this man, who stole my heart when I was 15 & hasn't given it back~
...and for each of these precious children who have been loaned to us - for a day or a lifetime - every moment is precious!

~For the beauty the filtered light after a rainstorm gives ~
...and for each drop of that life-giving rain!
~For beauty in the unexpected...a simple moth sitting on my oregano~
Too often I notice the ugly, the plain, the bad - what I would like to change.  Every single day I need to remind myself to look a little closer for the beauty that is always there! It seems this is an endless lesson I must learn!
Have a wonderful weekend friends

Orphs of the Woodlands (Review)

As parents, both Dave & I are particularly careful about what activities our children do online.  It is always good to find a program that maintains our personal standards, is full of educational material & that the children are eager to use. Recently we've been given the opportunity to review such a program: Orphs of the Woodlands (The Treasure of the High Tower) by Star Toaster.

Star Toaster Review
Orphs of the Woodlands is an online, interactive story which contains many different educational elements.  It is a fun & engaging way for children in 4th to 7th grade to learn from many different subject areas. Orphs of the Woodlands is set in the woodlands filled with all kinds of characters & interesting places to explore.  It begins with the student filling out an application for their 'character' (who is a squirrel) to join a secret organisation who are fighting the 'night creatures'.  Within this application the child makes various choices which are then used within the story.  The story is broken into 15 different chapters. Within the adventure, the character helps save 'orphs' who have no one else to help them.  At the end of each chapter, there is the opportunity for the character to complete various jobs.  In doing these jobs they earn gold stars which then allows them to save more 'orphs' as well as support the orphs they already have. These incentives engage the student further & gives them a reason to work through the jobs which contain the bulk of the learning material.
Star Toaster Review
There are over 300 jobs within Orphs of the Woodlands.  All are categorised under one of the learning areas of: Math, Science, Language, Vocabulary, Thinking Skills, Character, Life Skills & The Arts. When the chapter is completed, the student can choose to complete as many or as few jobs as they would like. At the end of each chapter, more jobs are presented, which gives the student the chance to earn more gold stars. They do need to be able to support their orphs & the aim is to help as many as possible so they should try to earn these gold stars. Should they decide not to complete a job at the end of that chapter, it is still available for them to complete at the end of subsequent chapters. 
  One of my favourite parts of the program are the many vocabulary words which are highlighted within the pages of the story. The student is able to scroll over the word & a definition for the word will be displayed.  I feel this adds an additional element to the story that allows the student to fully understand the words used. It also enables the storyteller to use words which are above the vocabulary level of that age of student.

There is also a parent login which allows you to monitor where your students are up to.  You can also use this to work through the program yourself should you wish to be aware of the content being presented to your children.
We received a 12 month subscription to Orphs of the Woodlands. Both Zai & Ellie used this program multiple times during the week throughout the review period.  They are both prolific readers & so they could complete the program entirely independently.  They were both eager to use this program & found the story engaging & exciting.  I noted that it certainly held their interest & continues to do so.  The program is progressive & both children found it very easy to navigate through. 
One thing we did note was that it is important for the student to be a strong reader. The story is quite long with each chapter containing many pages.  It also contains words which will be new to the student (all fully explained in the definitions).  The jobs were generally very easy for both my students to complete.  The incentive of saving orphs was fun & my children certainly enjoyed that element.  We felt Orphs of the Woodlands was an exciting & easy way to learn. It was a fun addition to our learning program.
Star Toaster Review
Star Toaster is currently offering a free trial of Orphs of the Woodlands.  This allows you to read the beginning of the book & to complete the first few lessons ensuring you can assess if this will suit your particular family's learning needs.  
Star Toaster can also be found at:
Star Toaster Review

Letters from a Foster Mum - saying 'no'.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Dear Friends
It's probably the hardest thing for a perpetual people pleaser like myself to say, but it seems on this fostering journey that it is the one thing I am getting very good at saying: "No".
The phone has rung many times, the caller asking, seeking any chance they have that we may be able to help.  And helping is what we want to do & why we signed up for this crazy journey, but we've had to say 'no'. 
'No' to the teenagers....
'No' to the boy just a year older than our daughter...
'No' when we are travelling & just arriving home......
But possibly the hardest to say was 'No' to those seeking a permanent placement. 
These permanent placements - they are the ones that make my mama-heart ache.  They are the ones that need someone to be tuck them in at night.  They need a loving family & to experience kindness.  They are the ones we are most earnestly seeking to help.

When we began this journey we spoke openly with some of our closest friends who are experienced foster parents.  The one thing they said was that we had to be strong with what children we would take.  While we have a responsibility as Christians to help the orphans, we also have a responsibility as parents to keep our bio children safe physically, emotionally & spiritually.  As parents there is this precarious balance between protecting your child & keeping them from the situations that will build their character. It seems an endless journey of knowing what to expose them to & when to protect them. 
Little hand prints left on windows
Foster care is a situation which has the potential to expose them to much more than they need to be, yet it is such a worthwhile thing.  That is why we need to have our list of who we are willing to take.  That is also why we know when to break our own rules or not.  So far we've only swayed from them once & that ended up being a fun weekend of respite which resembled one big slumber party (girls & boys room separate, but both oh so full!). However, we are acutely aware that while my heart breaks for the child seeking a permanent placement who is the same age as our twins, we are not the best family for them.
 Studies have shown that the best outcomes are when the foster child is at least two years younger than the youngest bio child.  This makes sense to us the more we traverse down this road. We have our list of requirement & it is much easier to say 'no' over the phone or email then to be holding the child in our arms & saying 'no'. But still I hate to say it.  I always ask myself if it is at all possible.  I still chat to Dave about each case presented. I still pray about them.
Without a doubt the hardest 'no' was the one I hesitantly said this last week....
....but that's a story for a different day - when my heart is aching less.
Have a lovely day friends

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