Making our Mark

This is our sixteenth year of homeschooling.

However, besides homeschooling Hayden this year, we also have four children in the Effingham public schools. They are in four different schools, and today I had the privilege of talking to three of them.

At one school, our little lad is causing significant trouble in the parent pick-up line…enough that we’re considering other options.

At another school, our slightly bigger lad punched a kid in the mouth today…and knocked out teeth. (They’re both in first grade, so surely the teeth were already loose…right? right?!)

At yet another school, our quite-a-bit-bigger-at-least-physically lad had to serve a two-hour detention today…his third of four. There is some talk (at least to the boy…we can’t seem to get anyone to return our calls) of possible expulsion if the boy doesn’t pull it together.

Wow. Did I mention we have homeschooled for almost sixteen years now? Largely off the grid. You’re welcome, Unit 40.

46 for the 46th (with creative numbering)

  1. A rousing chorus of “Happy Birthday” from the Sunday School kids two days before my birthday.
  2. Jason’s “happy birthday” before I even knew what day it was myself.
  3. A sweet love note waiting in my warmed-up car…both courtesy of my beloved husband.
  4. Birthday cake for breakfast…a when-the-kids-were-little Rensner family tradition that Jason recreated for me and my day-care kids.
  5. A card from the neighboring day-care class and their teacher (my brings-out-my-younger-and-ornerier-self co-worker).
  6. A rousing chorus of “Happy Birthday” from my own class and lead teacher.
  7. Sandwiches from Joe’s Pizza with Jason and Hayden.
  8. A box of chocolates…
  9. And a frappe gift card from Quincy Beth.
  10. A funny card from my almost son-in-law…signed by both him and Quincy…with my daughter’s written disclaimer: “sorry about the card…he’s a boy.”
  11. A “happy birthday” text from Zachery.
  12. A fun phone call from Haley.
  13. A phone call and catching-up session from Si…who has been phone-less for several days…but finally got a new one.
  14. A day of celebrating,
  15. Supper,
  16. Dessert…
  17. And a new book from Hayden.
  18. A card from Fiffer.
  19. A note from Feffer.
  20. Verbal wishes from Feff…who wanted to buy me a big Anna dress…that would cover up my shoes…and make me beautiful:)
  21. A Facebook shout-out from Jason.
  22. A Facebook shout-out from Hayden.
  23. A crazy number of Facebook birthday wishes…from family members…Cheryl, Amy, Reva, Ronye, Cari, and Lori…
  24. High school friends…Matt, Kim, Chris, Michelle, Ryan, Tamie, Swen, and Angie.
  25. College friends…Karla, Angie, Lauren, Miriam, Sharon, Kristi, Jan, Sara, and Sherri.
  26. Dallas friends (although only two of them still live in Dallas)…Donna, Dave, Stacey, Lynne, Glenn, and Kimberly.
  27. Church friends…Frieda, Clara Ann, Nancy, Melissa, Jennifer, Janae, Charla, and Penni.
  28. Homeschooling friends…Rachel, Kathy, Laura, Laura (yes, another one), Betheney…
  29. Denise, Sarah, Mike, Ashley, Tamara, JoDee, Erin, Vicky, Bailey, Christy…
  30. Micah, Jennifer, Jennifer (yes, another one), and Kristi…we have a big homeschooling group:)
  31. Work friends…Pam, Natasha, Jessica, Katie, Danielle, Taylor, Denise, Stephanie, and Jessica.
  32. Friends that defy categorization…Sandy, Lisa, Beth, Nona, Carla, Gwyn, Rich, Judy, Krista, Connie, Marcia, and Amy.
  33. Funny texts back and forth with Gloria (another college friend).
  34. A sweet text from Cheri (another church friend).
  35. A fun phone conversation with Frieda (from church).
  36. A sweet message from Leslie (a homeschooling friend) I haven’t talked to in forever.
  37. A bag of Paczkis (Polish doughnuts) from my friend Sherri (from college)..since this year I was lucky enough to celebrate my birthday on Fat Tuesday…while her birthday falls on Good Friday this year. Poor Sherri. (The year we turned 21, the two of us…and our friends…spent the six weeks between our birthdays going out to dinner, so that I could order a beer and then turn and ask her if she wanted a chocolate milk. Since that year, though, she has enjoyed me being older than she is.)
  38. A rousing solo of “Happy Birthday” sung over the phone by my niece Ellie.
  39. A fun phone conversation with my sister.
  40. A fun phone conversation with my dad.
  41. A check from my dad and Reva…which is going to be used to purchase new tennis shoes.
  42. A fun phone conversation with Jason’s parents. (Yes, I spent a good portion of the day on the phone.)
  43. A fit-free afternoon (mini miracle) of helping the little kids fill out their class valentines and finish their homework.
  44. Popcorn…
  45. And a movie with the family (on a school night…so scandalous!).
  46. A drifting-off-to-sleep backrub from my beloved husband.

I. Am. So. Blessed.

A Bat in the Belfry

Jason and I had just climbed into bed. It was, as usual, later than we had intended, and we were lamenting the lost sleep when Jason thought he heard something. Thinking it was one of the little boys, he went to check on them but found them safe in bed. Jason returned to our room, muttering that he must have been hearing things. We had both relaxed and started drifting off when five-year-old Feff stumbled in, claiming to be scared of the “noises” he was hearing. Sigh. I staggered into the little boys’ room and got a pillow and blanket to put beside our bed. Feff was barely settled when we heard Feffer call for us. Jason went out, and the little guy was standing in the hall. “There’s something flying around in there,” he told Jason. “Yeah, right,” Jason muttered, as we went in to get Feffer’s bedding so that we could settle him next to Feff and hopefully all finally get some sleep.

But. You guessed it. There was something flying around in there. And, although Jason at first thought it was a bird, it ended up being a bat. A bat. In our house. In the little boys’ bedroom.

I will admit up front that I was absolutely no help at all. I pulled Feffer out, shoved Dillon in “help your father!” and held the door shut as tightly as possible (we have a towel rack on the silly thing, so I couldn’t get it all the way closed). Poor Dillon was completely freaking out, but Jason heroically tossed a blanket a few times until it finally landed on the little bugger, and then he threw the whole mess (bat and blanket) out the window. (Thank God Jason was home; otherwise I would have had to give the little critter the bedroom and cut our losses.)

Mercy. Poor Feffer had left a huge puddle on his bed (or maybe that was Dillon), so we cleaned him up, tucked the littles back into bed, and put Dillon back in his room. The girls had slept through the whole thing. Surprisingly, the boys all fell right back to sleep. Me, on the other hand? I tried to sleep…with my head completely under the covers…but it got a little toasty. I might never sleep again…at least not in this house.

Wedding Planning

Quincy’s wedding planning is rolling right along. So far, it’s been a breeze. We lined up a venue, caterer, photographer, and videographer within a week, so that was easy enough. Quincy’s wedding dress was the result of one one-hour visit to the bridal shop. Piece of cake. The past couple of weeks have been spent on getting dresses for the wedding party. Since the ceremony will be in the morning, and since Quincy’s dress isn’t very formal, we decided to avoid traditional bridesmaids’ and flower girls’ dresses. This was a bit of a headache, as we ended up up having to buy from three different places to get what we wanted. Fingers are crossed that everything coordinates well enough once it arrives. Here’s a sneak peek of the flower girl’s dress…


In other news, Quincy and Tom have done the lion’s share of their gift registry. I tried to start it with Quincy when she was home over Christmas break, but she was less than enthusiastic. (“Mom, cake pans?! It’s not like I’m going to bake!” “Quincy Elizabeth, this is your one shot at other people supplying your home! And you will bake…eventually!”) Tom, however, was enthusiastic (I think Quincy had a little come-to-Jesus talk with him after he was less than enthusiastic about engagement pictures…and it seems to have stuck), so off they went to Lincoln. They ended up registering at Kohls, Target, and Walmart. Here’s a sneak peek of that…

Next up is getting the invitation done. Our friend, Janae, is going to print them, but we needed somewhere to start, and we found that online last night (Quincy and I have been burning up Pinterest and Facebook messaging.). The design is simple, yet elegant…so Quincy (and…OK…Tom). Here’s your peek…


Last, but not least, has been thinking about what the male half of the wedding party will wear. We’ve settled on just shirts and ties for the men (and we’ll find ties once we nail down the dresses), but I wanted something a little jazzier for our little boys. I found this online…


Since it’s a little pricey, I wanted to check with the boys before I ordered. Six-year-old Feffer nodded and grinned, “Oh, yeah, Kris, that will look cool. I’ll definitely wear that!” Five-year-old Feff, however, burst into tears. “But I want a dress for Quincy’s wedding!” Oy. That is not going to happen. I’ve already compromised with this child about the wedding. Instead of being a ring bearer with this brother, he’s going to be a flower boy alongside Tom’s niece. That’s as far as I’m going to go. He can be a flower boy if he wants to be. But he will be a flower boy in pants:)



Winter Jam 2016

Hayden went to Winter Jam in St. Louis Saturday night. To say she had a great time would be a tremendous understatement. It was about 2:00 a.m. when she finally allowed me to stagger up to bed, after filling me in on pretty close to every detail. Last night, she downloaded a bunch of new music to both of our devices, which is awesome too.

Thanks, Jonny and Janae!


I had a nice long chat with Josiah yesterday morning. Good heavens, he’s a good kid. When I drove him to Nebraska this past fall, I wasn’t sure how much he would keep in contact. When Quincy was a freshman, she called every single day for the first several weeks of school, because she was so homesick. I knew Si wouldn’t be homesick, and, since this was our first boy to venture so far, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Even though I asked him to keep in touch, I was a little afraid we wouldn’t hear from him until Christmas.

I needn’t have worried. He’s just such a good guy. He calls his dad to talk about sports. He calls Hayden to talk about music and fun stuff. And he calls me to talk about classes. Yes, classes. Because this child of mine (more than any of the others) is a student after my own heart. He is interested in just about everything academic. Today, he told me about chemistry, biology, education, Old Testament, and art. And while he continues to be a science nerd (having inherited my ability in math but not my love for it), he is fascinated by literature and Bible and even his one required art class. He has told me before that if he had the time and money, he would take classes from just about every major offered at Concordia. After all, it’s all just so fascinating. Today, we talked about an elderly woman there at Concordia that audits one class every semester, and we both agreed that would be an awesome thing to be able to do.

He also told me about music (his guitar skills and experience are growing by leaps and bounds), his job (he started working at a grill there on campus), and his social life (he’s headed to CIT next weekend with some friends). When he’s not so swamped with school and work, we usually talk about books too…since he inhales them at a remarkable pace. The kid is eager and excited about every aspect of his life…such a joy to talk to.

I read one time…and have always told my kids…that bored people are boring people. Josiah is the least boring person I have ever met. Man, I love that kid.




A few years ago, a friend of mine found out she was pregnant. For the first couple of weeks, she was devastated. Bless her heart. She cried so much that mutual friends were asking me if I knew what was wrong (since she hadn’t shared the news yet). Her shock and sadness were accompanied by guilt. After all, she knew that babies are blessings, she knew that she would love this little person, she knew that she should be grateful. But she knew other things too. She knew that their family felt complete already, she knew that sometimes she felt stretched too thin, she knew that she had been enjoying seeing the light at the end of the baby-raising tunnel. Of course, she was ready and eager for said baby by the time he arrived. And, of course, his blue-eyed grin lights up her facebook page on a regular basis. But it took a little bit of time.

All of this is to introduce the surprise news that…we’re pregnant!

Just kidding. Since Jason had the Big V shortly after Hayden was born and I had all my baby-making parts removed a few years ago, this would be quite the miraculous news.

However. We had court this past week. And the development that we were all psyched about last summer…but had since been taken off the table…and we were honestly a little relieved about that…happened. The goal for the F’s is no longer “return home” (as it always starts for foster kids); now it’s “termination of rights.” In other words, the plan is no longer for them to go back to Mom and Dad; the new plan is for them to stay with us. Forever and ever. Amen.

So…here we sit. And we find ourselves experiencing quite a few of the emotions my friend did a few years ago. We know that these children are blessings, we know that we already love these little people, we know that we should be grateful. But we know other things too. We know that our family sometimes feels complete already, we know that sometimes we feel stretched too thin, we know that we had been enjoying seeing the light at the end of the baby-raising tunnel. Of course, we will be ready and eager by the time he arrived. It will just take a little bit of time.

But we have no choice but to believe that God has sent these kids to us. It’s just not that common that things work out this way. They counsel you over and over again not to foster parent with the hope of adopting. I have told young couples that myself on many occasions. Years ago…when we first became foster parents…and our very first placement ended up being free to adopt…it truly was nothing short of a miracle. So…a few years ago…when we decided to start fostering again…it was with the full assurance that it would be just that: fostering. After all, what were the chances that we would beat the odds again?!

Evidently, pretty good. Maybe we should start playing the lottery. Eventually (good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, as my mother used to say), these weary parents of six will be parents of nine. It scares us and thrills us, all at the same time. Eventually, their brown-eyed and hazel-eyed and blue-eyed grins will light up my facebook page on a regular basis.

However…since the gestation time for DCFS is considerably longer than that of a normal human being…it will almost assuredly be longer than nine months. This is a bummer mainly because our foster parenting license expires in it will have to be renewed…which means quite a bit of time and work on our part…sigh.

At least I have an excuse to eat for two (or four).