Are You Aware of Sex Offenders Living in Your Area?

Are You Aware of Sex Offenders Living in Your Area?


On this episode of the Forti-fy podcast, Heather and Ann sat down with Detective Michael Smothermon who heads up the Sex and Violent Offender Registry in Allen County.

Mike gives a very thorough overview of the program. He also provides an incredibly helpful tool to help you track offenders in the area of where you live, work or go to school.

Listen in to hear all about it!

Click to listen:  

Click HERE for the link to sign up for email alerts,

The page will look like this:


If you have any further questions, all contact information can be found HERE.

Thanks Mike!


Donna, Heather, Trisch and I released our first Forti-fy podcast!


We are really excited to have you join us as we talk our way through many different conversations that are all part of “forti-fying” the community around us!

COVID 19 has some parents wondering if homeschooling might be a good option for their family. That can have them asking the question, “How do we do that?”

So, here we gathered around Donna’s kitchen table (where everything gets done in a homeschooling day!), and walked through our combined 120 years of homeschooling with our 38 kids.  We share what has been most helpful for us and encourage both new, and veteran, homeschooling moms to keep on keeping on!



Listed below are all the items we discussed in the podcast. 

Again, one of the main points we mentioned was to be in community! If you live within our listening area, please be sure to check out the FWAHS (Fort Wayne Area Home Schools) and DASH (Dekalb Indiana Area Schools at Home). There are SO MANY RESOURCES for you and your kids! If you ask a question in any of these groups, you will get an answer!

Click on links below:

Fort Wayne Area Home School Facebook page (FWAHS)

FWAHS Website

DASH  (Dekalb Area Schoolers at home) Facebook Group Page

DASH – DeKalb, Indiana Area Schools at Home

DASH Website

You can also join the Forti-fy’rs Facebook group page: 


This was the webinar Donna had discussed in the podcast:


Local to Fort Wayne? Character Ink Cottage Classes and Half-Day Homeschool Info can be found here:  

Online writing classes for small groups and co-op classes:

Homeschooling and parenting help:

Language arts training for teachers/parents and downloadable writing books:

Free webinars for homeschoolers/teaching parents: 

Weight/Time/Life Coaching for Moms:

Heather’s Instagram:

Trisch’s  Website:

Don’t miss Trisch’s devotional every Monday at 10 a.m. in  the Forti-fy’r’s FB group! Here


Check out this Forti-fy blog post with more info on local classes and Co-ops:

Area Homeschool Co-ops and classes

Other Local Co-ops:

Life Adventures has so much great info on their site!

Life Adventures Resources

Northside Co-op:

Northeast Homeschool Family Co-op:

Kroeker Homeschool Academy:

Kroeker Homeschool Academy

Doorposts Homeschool Co-op-Northeast Indiana:


This is the chart I discussed in the podcast that was helfpul for cirriculum choices based on your teaching style:

To sum up, in the podcast, Trisch talks about her oldest daughter, who was in the midst of trying to graduate during their year of  constant “accidents.” Although, they were concerned about checking off all the academic boxes in order for her to graduate, they were most interested in character development and her ability to achieve goals.  I just wanted to share this story that posted yesterday in an aviation journal.  I think it would be a great article to share with any of your kids to let them know “Dreams do come true!”



On Birth Days, Life, Death and Thanks

On Birth Days, Life, Death and Thanks

On March 17th of last year, I awoke to this FB “memory”:

How was is it possible that on this very day, just a few hours later, I would be speaking at my son’s memorial?


I stood at the podium, my mouth so dry and parched I had to ask for water a few minutes in.

Speaking on his life…

The birth and life of Kyle taught me so much.

My niece, Chelsea, posted on Facebook the day the news broke of Kyle’s death:

“You raised a good person. Seeing the impact Kyle had through the outpouring of love and support from all his friends and colleagues, I can’t help but think that you’re the cornerstone of that all.”

My response to her was:

“Thank you, Chelsea. I think we kind of raised each other.”

And oh how true that statement was…and is. Kyle is still raising me.

As I have been reading over many years of emails, letters, notes and journals, going all the way back from when Kyle was very young, I only wish I would have had the opportunity to say, “Thank you” just one more time before he left this earth.

Thank him for bearing with me, thank him for his faith, his questions, his doubts, his certainty, his willingness to always help, his willingness to listen, his willingness to keep the door open, when at times he may have wanted to close it, but love outweighed that option. We strove together. We challenged each other. We grew together. We knew each of us deeply loved the other, despite any differences.

Kyle always said I was his greatest critic and his greatest fan. I don’t know…perhaps a mother should not be known as their child’s greatest critic. But we were honest in our conversations. He knew my faults and weaknesses, I knew his faults and weaknesses…and I tried desperately not to be a “mom” about them. But alas…

…I remember an email he sent me after graduating high school and headed for college – and it put that “pang” in my heart re-reading it. In it he asked me, “Mom, when can we be friends?”

Heart drop.

He was referring to how I could seemingly talk to his friends with such “light care-free-ness” with no expectations, but with him it was more serious – more “gravitas”.

He knew his mom had his best interest at heart and yet so wanted her to enjoy him for who he was – and maybe not what his spelling looked like – seriously. And any number of other things.

And this mom did enjoy him, immensely, for who he was…but her words sometimes got in the way of him knowing that. It’s so hard to be a parent, without regrets, sometimes.

He was a grown man now – his own man – not needing “parenting”.

Learning how to move from parent to friend can take some time, some adjustment, some transformation. I am still working on this. Kyle’s siblings can thank him for paving the way.

I’m so grateful that there were years…after that email was written…that we became very good friends.

On Death

Kyle’s death has taught me so much. I am different now. Altered. Changed. Forever. I will never be the same as I once was since he left us. Just as I was never the same after he was born. And I won’t be the same next year.

Kyle’s physical absence has changed every one of us in his family. Everyday. I feel as though there has not been a moment without him in my mind.

And he will continue to be with us…always in our hearts..until we see him again.

I’m not sure how all that works, but I can tell you Kyle has given me an excitement. For death. For eternity. And that… is just..So Kyle!

I know that I did thank my beloved son while he was still with us, probably while crying with him, for all the years I tried so hard, but perhaps, at times, were also hard on him. We had great years together. Yes, we did. I would have just loved to have had a few more…to enjoy thank him…one more time.

Why do I share all this?

Because I would like to encourage anyone reading this that if your son, or daughter, or mom, or dad, or husband, or wife, or brother, or sister, or friend, is still alive, and you have the chance, take the time to tell them, “Thank You” while you still can – and take a picture with them – especially if it is their birthday!

#kyle #memoryeternal #lovedbeyondmeasure


Mommas – Don’t Let the “HURRY” Hurt, Today.

Mommas – Don’t Let the “HURRY” Hurt, Today.

If you are a momma – you may recognize yourself in these words:

Which of us mommas has not been here?

How may times have we been here? Too many to count.

Ann Voskamp’s “One Thousand Gifts” devotional is my rattered and tattered, dog-eared and marked-up-on-every-page, all-time favorite books.

I am rarely far from it. I have had it for 7 years and it speaks to this momma’s heart like none other.

Years ago, I was sitting in the Meijer parking lot on Maysville Road at around 7 pm. I had the groceries loaded and ready to head home – but I stopped and listened for a few minutes to the man on the radio. He was sharing on how he had gotten the chance to meet Chuck Swindoll – a steadfast preacher of the word for so many, many years. He was able to ask Chuck what his greatest advice would be after so many years of living, preaching and counseling.

He thought he was going to get some great epiphany – something so grand.

And you know what Chuck said:

“Do everything you can to guard against hurry.”

I guess it’s advice for more than just mommas.

Oh, but how I feel that clock whip.

Hurry up, Hurry up!

Stop, just breathe… and start naming the blessings – the gifts..that are all around you. Open your eyes to see in a way that takes them all in.


Give the thanks to God…He gives His grace back to in return, get the joy.

Your kids are not going to remember all that you accomplished today.

But they will remember what it felt like to be with you today. That is what they will remember not just today, but tomorrow, and 10 years from now and 50 years from now.

Life is not a task to get done. It is moments to be lived out well.

Momma, count the blessings today…and your children will be blessed with remembering the days of joy, with you!

Keeping It Simple!

Keeping It Simple!

As of this year, I have the pleasure of homeschooling two of my children, rather than one. My eldest is in first grade now and my second born is in kindergarten. My parents homeschooled me for most of my primary and secondary school years, so you might think I would be a natural at this. But I was the baby of the family, separated from my siblings by five and ten years, so I do not necessarily have a lot of natural insight into schooling multiples.

Now days, for my generation, the moto seems to be ‘more is better’ in all areas of life;more coffee, more selfies, more Instagram posts, more self-care, more free pintables. It is not inherently a bad thing to have more of something, someone, some idea…but I was finding that the influence of my peers was saying that I needed to be ‘pinning’ and printing the innumerable free pintables available to give my children the absolute best homeschool experience. I fell sway to this influence when my eldest was beginning his pre-school years. I did not (and still donot) have internet at my home, so I would walk over to my in-law’s home, lay my children downfor a nap, log onto one of their computers and start ‘pinning’ and printing until my eyes buggedout of my head. I probably still owe them a ream of paper and new ink for their printer. I bought a file folder organizer and manila folders; I picked a weeklong theme for every letter of the alphabet and printed everything I could find on that theme. I even came up with a craft foreach theme and letter. I was armed and ready for pre-school.

When pre-school started, I had an infant and a baby on the way, in addition to my preschooler. We dove into the fun of the ABC’s with gusto, and we did have a good time. But, along the way I would find that I couldn’t quite do ‘all the things’ I intended. I would end up feeling a little guilty that I did not accomplish all the school plans for the day. Pretty soon we were weeks behind on our alphabet schedule and my craft supplies were dwindling. I couldn’t keep up with my own pre-school schedule! If I was failing at pre-school, how was I ever going to hack it with the coming grades and knowing I would be schooling multiple children at once? Needless to say, we dragged our way through the school year, had another baby and I lost myself in the care of our new infant, putting thoughts of the next school year on the back burner for a while.

Fast forward to this year now. To set the scene, in May we broke ground on a large addition to our home. We hired some aspects of the construction out and tackled large
portions of it ourselves,mostly electrical and finishing work. In July we basically said ‘goodbye’ to my husband for the next two months, and counting, as he buried himself in working on the house after work every day to have if finished by Thanksgiving of this year. The children and I moved out for two weeks during some of the messiest times, and the rest of the time we lived at home in the total chaos of construction. We also learned we were pregnant with our fifth baby during this time.

Seeing how life was looking for the foreseeable future, I decided it was high time for some advice from my older-wiser homeschool mom friends who have a lot more experience than I do. Over the summer I sought out a few ladies by simply asking them, “What are your top tips for homeschooling multiples?” The overwhelming response was, “Keep it simple!” The more I heard this mantra the more relief I felt. My peers were still Pinteresting frequently forschool; some are more research oriented and they spent months researching new curriculumthat was trending, others chose one company and used only their books for every subject. None of this appealed to me, but it seemed like the thing I should be doing…until I heard “Keep it simple.”

I sat down with my mother-in-law, a homeschool veteran if there ever was one, and also a researcher by nature, and talked to her about the pressure I felt to make it ‘great’ and make it ‘unique’. She encouraged me that keeping it simple is a beautiful and brilliant way to homeschool in this season of life. Go back to the root of homeschooling. It is meant to give us the freedom to be down to earth and teach our children in the way they each learn best. It doesn’t have to be a lot of table work or a lot of busy work. There doesn’t have to be an elaborate craft every single week for my child to grow up and be a straight-A student. Those
things are not bad by any means! But if they add stress to the school environment because they do not really fit into our family’s season this year, then it is okay to let them go. They’ll have their turn…maybe once a month, maybe when the mood strikes, or maybe through a co-op. So, I did a little of my own research on what knowledge was most important to gain in first grade and decided on two main subjects, with the other subjects being more laid back and flexible. I also decided for my kindergartener that I wasn’t going to use a lot of curriculum but rather do one series that worked great for my eldest and then do flash cards, activity books, and books on cd for her- no need to get intense at the age of five. I did not venture on Pinterest for anything school related this year. I ordered what we needed for the main goals; we were gifted some flash cards and found some manipulatives at garage sales, as well as lots offabulous children’s literature.

I created a ‘Morning Basket’ that has something pertaining to history or social studies in it as well as our current fiction book. It also contains our evening books which are the Bible, Answer’s for Kids, and a fiction book we read with their father. Whenever we find the time before lunch to dive into our two morning books, the youngest two children (ages 3 and 1) play quietly around close that enough they can hear. The older two sit close and listen. During afternoon nap time when the youngest two are napping, I set up homemade dividers in the middle of the table for the older two. They each get a tea light in their spot and choose a mug of tea for the school hour. At this point we sit and focus on their studies for about an hour or so and we seem to get through all that we need to. I have found that it works best for them not to take breaks between topics because they struggle going in and out of play time/school time. So, we make that cozy environment and settle into it. We have found a good rhythm where they have learned to focus on their own work when I’m working with the other and I’ve learned its okay to include them in on each other’s schoolwork. I’ll even task my oldest to working on the alphabet or numbers with my kindergartener, he loves doing that! I’ve heard that teaching is the best way to remember what you’ve, learned so I figured it can’t hurt to have him teach herfrom time to time.

All in all, I kept it simple this year, and so far it’s going great. School time is the smoothest time of our day, and one I really look forward to and the children seem to be
adjusting to school days as well. They like the work I have for them. None of us seem to be overwhelmed by what is set out before us, and when we wrap it up for the day they aren’t bouncing out of their skin because they sat to long. It works for us! We still enjoy a craft here and there, a hike, a field trip, playing outside of course, and as the seasons call for it I have been teaching my eldest how to do some home canning and cooking in the kitchen. There’s so much freedom in homeschooling. Thankfully, that includes the freedom to keep it simple!

I hope all of you homeschooling moms out there find the right rhythm for you and your family and are not afraid to embrace a rhythm that might be a little different from what is trending right now. Each family thrives differently, you have the joy and the freedom to figure out what makes you and yours do just that, thrive.

Wishing you peace with plenty!

Some Faves for Today:

Currently Reading:  Murder in Merino by Sally Goldenbaum

In my morning mug: English Breakfast from Harney & Sons Co (with a splash of milk)

Listening to today: Amos Lee – Last Days at the Lodge

Reading with the children: What was Pompeii?, Freddie the Detective, the book of Matthew, The Hardy Boys: The Masked Monkey

Household Tip:

 Save the peels from any citrus you consume and simmer them in a little saucepan on your stove with water, whole cloves and cinnamon sticks…your home will smell heavenly!!

Clever Chore Charts, and Steadfast Playful Moms

Clever Chore Charts, and Steadfast Playful Moms

Each week we’d like to take a moment out and share a few snippets of moms in our area  – doing what they do best – fortifying their families!  (more…)