Monday, October 29, 2012

The BEST Homemade Caramel

For my husband and I, caramel is an absolute favorite.  We had an idea to make some and once we tasted what we made, there was no going back to store bought caramel.  I will warn you however, this caramel is highly addicting!  Yes, it's that good!  But you don't have to take my word for it.  With this recipe, it is so easy to make.  Perfect for gift-giving also.

1 cup butter
2 1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1-14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla
(We usually double the recipe.)

You will need a candy thermometer and a heavy duty stock pot.  When done cooking, we pour ours into a 13 x 9 pan (or two) lined with parchment paper.  You will want to prepare this before starting the cooking process.  If you plan on dipping apples, prepare those in advance as well.

Cut butter into smaller pieces and melt over low heat.  Carefully add brown sugar to the center of the pan, stirring constantly until combined with butter.  Add light corn syrup and sweetened condensed milk.  Increase to medium heat for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Then increase to medium-high heat until boiling.  Once boiling, clip on candy thermometer making sure it is not touching the bottom of your pan.  Reduce heat to medium, keeping a steady boil and stirring constantly.  Watch candy thermometer closely.  We take ours off the heat when it reaches 235-240 degrees.  This makes a nice soft, chewy caramel.  Add vanilla.  If dipping, start immediately.  Otherwise pour into prepared pan and allow to set.  Be careful though because this is HOT!

We let ours set overnight, then cut and wrap in waxed paper.

Are you ready to go make some now?


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Apple Picking

Last week we had "Field Trip Friday" and went apple picking at Apple Hill.  Last year was our first time actually picking the apples and it was such a memorable experience for everyone we decided to go again.  This year my mom was able to join us.  The specific grower we visited was Pine 'O Mine.  They grow granny smith and golden delicious apples and charge $1 a pound for the apples.  There are other farms/ranches that are much more commercialized, but with that comes larger crowds.

It was an absolutely beautiful day and the kids had some fun on the tire swings.  

Alex being pushed by dad.
John being pushed by dad.  Gee do you think he's enjoying it at all?
Where's Amada?

Here she is!

Now it's time for some apple picking!  How do you pick an apple?  Twist, twist, pull.


James was in charge of the box.  He loves having a job to do.

Alex looks like he wants to bite into that apple.

I wonder what was on that apple?  John looks concerned.

Everyone picking golden delicious apples.

Here's our loot.  I love coming home and making homemade goodies: applesauce, caramel to go with the apples, apple fritters, applesauce cake with cream cheese frosting, and apple crisp to name a few.  I will be posting recipes this week.  Yum!

Can you tell that Fall is my favorite season?  What are some traditions that your family takes part in every year?

I am linking up with 1plus1plus1equals1 for the monthly Moments to Remember feature.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Gimme Some Love

Ok, so I am having some problems getting Word Press up and running.  Actually I haven't even been able to log in yet.  My hosting company is working on their end but say it may be another 3 days before it is complete.  Oh my...

I do have some good news though.  Here are a few alternative ways you can contact me or follow along.

*New* Email:
Twitter: @ndeleon007
Instagram: diverginglives
YouTube: DivergingLives

If you have recently migrated a Blogger blog to Word Press what is your best advice?


Monday, October 15, 2012

I Took the Plunge

Please bear with me.  I took the plunge and bought a hosting plan for this blog, so I will be moving it over to Word Press.  I know enough to get by, but am not very gifted in the "technical" area.  It may take me a while to complete the move.

I have debated the switch for a while and finally decided to move forward.  Why?
  • I like the idea that the content I put on my blog, is mine.  I don't have to worry about Blogger deleting my blog and therefore losing all my content.
  • I have been making some cool curriculum for our boys that I would like to share without having to host on a shared hosting account.
  • From what I understand, Word Press has many more options for customization and I like options.
For now the blog will remain the same until I figure out more on Word Press and get everything set up.  Stay tuned.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Surgery {Ear Tubes}

This morning, bright and early, James and I made a trip to the hospital for an outpatient procedure.  This is a regular occurrence for us, usually 2-3 times a year.  You know you're a regular when they have the bed set-up in the pre-op area with all of your favorite items and all the nurses greet you by first name.

James watching Barney.

James, our 8 year old son, has an open cleft palate {despite 3 attempts to repair it} so he is prone to ear infections.  As a preventative measure we have to keep {functioning} ear tubes in place.  We've tried the "wait and watch" approach, but he always ends up with an infection, which sets the snowball effect into motion.

     * Trip to the doctor for antibiotics, usually never at a convenient time.  Thankfully our pediatrician's office has an urgent care with evening and weekend appointments!
     * Through trial and error we discovered there is only 1 antibiotic that works for James: Augmentin ES.  The pharmacy doesn't always carry this and sometimes we have to wait a day or two.
     * Augmentin ES is such a strong antibiotic that it causes loose stools and a diaper rash/yeast infection.  Since James takes Probiotics daily, he no longer battles diarrhea while on antibiotics.
     * Not to mention, having a sick little boy.  When James is sick it really takes a toll on his entire system (physically, mentally and emotionally).
     * Decrease in his hearing function with infection and fluid build-up, which in turn effects his speech clarity.

Even though we have to head to the hospital about every 6 months for James to get a new set of ear tubes, it is well worth it!  He has become accustomed to the routine and does incredibly well.  Of course it helps that we have such a great hospital too.  James is such a brave boy with a huge smile, even after surgery!  He complains a little about all the wires and the IV, but maybe he just knows that once they come off he can go home.

James post-operatively, still smiling!
We will re-check his hearing in a couple of weeks and hopefully now that the tubes are functioning properly, his hearing will be closer to normal.  If not, we will deal with it when we come to it.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Ladybug Life Cycle

I was kind of concerned about doing the ladybug life cycle at this time of year, but this was our last summertime activity.  It turned out well though because last week we had several days of HOT weather, like 100 degrees HOT!

While we waited for our ladybug larvae to arrive from insect lore, we began learning about them using our ladybug life cycle figures.  I also made these very colorful cards (which I laminated and attached magnetic strips to the back).  The kids were able to order the life cycle cards on their magnetic white boards.

We read the book The Grouchy Ladybug and used our foam clocks (from the dollar section at Target) to practice telling time (to the hour).

We used this template to create our very own Grouchy Ladybug Clocks.

This was really neat to watch.  The kids raced down every morning to see the progression of our ladybugs.  The entire process took a little over a week, but every day there was a change so it made the waiting more bearable.

Our ladybug larvae have arrived!

The larvae are growing!  They shed their skin as they grow and
you can see the remains inside the container.

We have pupae!

And now...We have ladybugs!

We released the ladybugs into our rose bushes to take care of our aphid problem.

Here are some links to other sites, as well as some resources we found helpful in our unit study of ladybugs:

Enchanted Learning: Life Cycle of a Ladybug Printable Book for Early Readers
Home Training Tools: Learn About Ladybugs
Home Training Tools: Ladybug Life Cycle
Lapbook Lessons: Tons of Ladybug Activities


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

DeFacto Parent Status

If you are someone who is taking care of a child who has been declared a dependent of the juvenile court (i.e. foster child) and you want to be more involved in the child's court case, you may want to consider applying for de facto parent status.  If your wish is to proceed towards adoption then I definitely recommend applying.

What is a "de facto parent"?

You may be a de facto parent if:

  • The child is a dependent of the juvenile court.
  • You are or have been taking care of the child every day.  
  • You have been acting as the child's parent.
  • You are meeting (or have met) the child's needs for food, shelter, and clothing.  You have also met the child's need for care and affection.

No law says exactly what a "de facto parent" needs to be.  Judges make the decision.

There is also nothing in writing as far as the time frame of when you can apply for de facto parent, but typically the child should be in your care for 4-6 months.

How do I apply for de facto parent status?

You will need to fill out form JV-295 which is the De Facto Parent Request form, as well as form JV-296 which is the De Facto Parent Statement form.  

On form JV-295 you will need to fill in your name, address, phone number, name of the child, and case number (if available), then sign and date.

On form JV-296 you say why you think the judge should decide that you are a de facto parent.  Be sure to include information like:
  • How long you have cared for the child.
  • What you do with the child.
  • What you do for the child.
  • How much you care for the child.
  • What you know about the child's special needs, desires, and hopes.
  • How you can meet the child's needs.

Rights of de facto parents:
  • To be present at dependency hearings.  This is also your right as a caregiver, but as a de facto parent you are able to sit at the round table and be involved in the discussions rather than sit in the back of the court room as an observer.
  • To be represented by a lawyer at your own expense.
  • To present evidence and cross-examine witnesses.
  • I was also told that if the placement of the child is contested (by a relative) and you have de facto parent status, that gives you equal standing with a relative.

Our experience:

Since all six of our adoptions were children who were residing in our home as foster children, we sought de facto parent status and it was granted.  We filled out forms JV-295 and JV-296, but we also included pictures of the child interacting with various members of our family.   

You can also attach letters from others who know you and the child.  Our children were all quite young when we filed for de facto parent, so we had our current foster family social worker write a letter on our behalf and included this with our forms.

When filing our forms, we went to the family court building in-person to file.  Depending on which county you live in, your court clerk's office may require you to fill out form JV-510 and serve copies of the request forms on all parties of the case. In Sacramento county we did not have to do this.  

We always made it a point to attend court dates for the children to see first-hand where the cases were headed.  Because we did this, we were usually more informed than the social workers.  *Smile*

Depending on the case and if the biological parents are involved, if you are declared de facto parent, you might also be able to obtain educational rights of the child.  This is especially important if the child has special needs and is on an IFSP or IEP.  Most of our children's adoptions were finalized before this became an issue. However with our last adoption, the biological parents were refusing to sign the forms that would allow the children to receive the services they needed and the judge did grant us educational rights. Again, we showed up to every court hearing and kept an open line of communication with the children's attorney.

*This information in this post is specific for the state of California.  If you reside in another state, please check with your state's court system.


Monday, October 1, 2012

All About Reading, Level 2

It's here!  The All About Reading Level 2 is hot off the press.  AND for a limited time (until October 8th) All About Learning Press is offering it to you for 10% off!

Although I have not seen the Level 2 program yet, I have ordered it.  Want to know why?  We went through the All About Reading Level Pre-1 last year and are currently half way through All About Reading Level 1.  This program allows teaching our kids to read to be an enjoyable experience!  Easy to teach and easy to learn.

What's more, All About Learning Press offers a "Go Ahead and Use It" one-year guarantee.  If you are not satisfied, you can return your curriculum within the first year for a FULL refund!

What does my student need to know before beginning Level 2?

Click on the above image to download the Placement Test for Level 2.

What will my student learn in Level 2?
Your student will learn exciting new concepts, including three-letter blends, the introduction of Silent E, new phonograms, and methods for decoding multisyllable words – and continue to establish a firm foundation for a lifetime of learning. Every component of reading is taught: decoding (phonics and structural analysis), vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension. 

We have ordered our Level 2 so we won't have any lag time once we finish Level 1.  And it makes me happy that it's on sale until October 8th!


Homeschool Helps: Equivalent Fractions FREEBIE

 I know it has been a while since I have posted. Life is crazy, as usual. We are back to homeschooling two of our children this year. Becaus...