A Journey of Adoption

A Journey of Adoption

A Journey of a Couple’s Heart to Adopt

In this episode of Forti-fy, you will hear the heart of Ashley Kellogg who chronicles her family’s 10-year journey to their first adoption – and how their ever expanding family now includes the addition of 5 special needs children, in addition to their biological 6, making a very lively and bustling home!


Be sure to check out the plethora of helpful resources listed below that Ashley has provided!

Resources Discussed in the Episode:

Adoption Resources


Gateway Woods is a local agency in Leo that works with foster care and international adoptions providing homestudies and other adoption services



Hand in Hand is a local agency in Albion that provides domestic and international homestudies and other adoption resources



Children’s Bureau is an Indianapolis based adoption agency that works with foster and adoptive families for homestudies and other adoption services



Special Angels Adoption is an agency that provides services for special needs adoptions.



The National Down Syndrome Adoption Network provides support for birth and adoptive families of children with Down syndrome



Reece’s Rainbow advocates for orphans with Down syndrome and other special needs by raising funds for adoption grants  



Empowered to Connect website has a podcasts, a blog and training resources for foster and adoptive parents



Facebook Pages: 

Indiana Foster and Adoptive Parents

Parenting with Connection

China Adoption Questions



ReplantedConference.org is a virtual conference providing hours of training for working with children from hard places

TapestryConference.net is a virtual conference for foster and adoptive parents

EmpoweredtoConnect.org runs yearly conferences for foster and adoptive parents


Books: (This is a great list for ALL parents!)

The Connected Child by Purvis, Cross and Sunshine

The Connected Parent by Qualls and Purvis

The Whole Brain Child by Daniel Siegel

No Drama Discipline by Daniel Siegel

Love Me Feed Me by Katja Rowell

Attaching in Adoption by Deborah Gray

You Can Adoption Without Debt by Julie Gumm

Feel free to reach out to Ashley at: mommykellogg@hotmail.com 

She would be happy to answer your questions!

To the Mom of Young Children: Take Off the Pressure of Perfection!

To the Mom of Young Children: Take Off the Pressure of Perfection!

Our kids show us who we really are!

In this podcast episode, and in this blog post, Kelsey shares about life with 5 kids under the age of 7. We talk about the “mess” inside ourselves and how our kids help us get “cleaned up!” We also discuss the beauty and freedom of creating our own “family culture”, and not being bound to looking like anyone else.

Books Discussed in Podcast:

(Parenting Scripts was recommended by Kelsey’s sister-in-law)

An Author/Blogger/Podcaster Kelsey has enjoyed:



Other Blog posts by Kelsey can be found Here.

Valor was just getting up from his nap when we took this picture, so we will get him in next time!

In this blog post, Kelsey talks about making memories by building a living history.

(This is separate from the podcast episode)

During some of my childhood years my family lived in an old farmhouse in the country. My siblings and I had large maple trees to climb, big old barns to explore, an old grape arbor to munch from, and acres of field to run through. My mother liked to grow a large garden each year, and we learned at a young age how to help her plant, weed, and harvest the produce grown in it. Mom loved to garden.

She would tell us that she got into gardening as a way to spend quality time with her busy father when she was a child. In turn, she invited us into the garden with her as a way of passing on what had become special to her. We would begin at the local greenhouse where we would pick out tomato plants, melon starts, packets of green bean and corn seeds. My dad would borrow the landlord’s old blue Ford tractor to till the soil, and I would climb up onto his lap to help him steer.

I can recall it like it was yesterday, the feel of dad’s old sweatshirt, the scruff of his beard grazing the top of my head and the smell of the diesel smoke puffing from the exhaust as we chugged along. 

The days grew hotter and the plants grew bigger until, in the dog days of August, the once hard, green tomatoes began to turn into soft, red fruit ready for harvest.

We knew it was time for the canning season; out came the glass Ball and Kerr jars, new lids from the Super Value and from the basement we carried up the old black, speckled canner. We would don our aprons and set to work in that old farmhouse kitchen preserving our summer’s harvest.

My mother taught us, first by us watching, and eventually, by us helping, the art of canning our own food. That age old tradition began to weave its way into my heart and my identity. That pleasant feeling of setting ourselves to such a purposeful task was satisfying. We worked, not only for the need of the food for the winter, but also for the visual reward of rows of jars standing at attention filled with bright red tomatoes.

And the much anticipated ‘POP’ of the lids as one after the other obediently sealed tight.

I hoped then that someday I would have my own home and garden and my own family to pass this tradition on to. 

Many summers later, I find myself standing in my own kitchen, with my own brood of children as we don our aprons and prepare to can a bountiful crop of ripe tomatoes.

We planted the seeds together earlier in the spring.  We cared for the tender little plants as they unfurled their first sets of leaves and began to soak up the light and spread their roots deep into the soil. Together we spent time out in the sun, under the bright blue sky, pulling pesky weeds and talking about the gardens in our hearts and what weeds we ought to pull from there so God’s glory can grow abundant. At long last, as the crickets begin to sing their end-of-summer song, the mornings are a little cooler and the sunflowers are in full bloom, we begin the tomato harvest.

Now it is time to pass down the traditions and make the memories with my own children that I so cherish from my childhood. As we get out those glass Ball and Kerr jars from the attic, wash our Tattler lids and seals and bring up the old black, speckled canner from the basement, we talk about the life of these tomatoes and the process we are about to embark on.

Our four year old tells us how it all began with a small, delicate seed many months ago, while he sorts out wide mouth lids from small mouth lids. Our daughter, six years old, brings the stool over to the counter and fills a big bowl with ice and water, preparing things for the peeling station…all the while talking about things a seed needs to grow into a strong plant and bring forth good fruit.

Our eldest, seven years old, refreshes our memories on the steps ahead…scoring, blanching, peeling, boiling jars, filling to the top and sealing tight.

Our two year old gets into mischief and pulls on my legs to remind me that this is indeed not as interesting to her as it is to us. The baby, well he sleeps until the most time sensitive moment in the process and then he lets out his wail to let me know he is hungry, and not hungry for tomatoes.

My children are full of mischief and imagination. Including them in these tasks of adulthood is not always easy or peaceful. There are certainly times I get frazzled as they bicker over who gets to do which task or my four year old begins to pulverize the blanched tomatoes in his hands getting tomato juice all over the kitchen. Some years we don’t get around to starting our own plants and some years my garden doesn’t produce as bountifully as I would like. But God always provides whether it’s through a family member starting extra plants or a generous neighbor who has more harvest than they need.


What I have decided is most important here is not that the process go perfectly from beginning to end, from seed to table, but rather that I keep a living history in our lives; that my children learn the age old task of preserving their own food and appreciate the art of it. But above all, the importance of creating a wholesome, beautiful childhood for my children, just as I had, so that too may be passed on to the next generation as it was for me.

Happy canning!

Some Faves Today:

Currently Reading: The Lost Castle Series by Kimberly Camdron

In my morning mug: Special English Breakfast from Harney & Sons Co (with a splash of milk), iced medium roast coffee with milk in the afternoon

Listening to today: Adventures in Odyssey: Pranks for Memories

Reading with the children: 90 Devotions for Kids from the book of Matthew – Adventures in Odyssey, The Boxcar Children Homerun Mystery by Gertrude Chandler, The Bombay Boomarang Mystery by Franklin W. Dixon, Pages of History: Secrets of the Ancients by Bruce Etter


Kitchen Tip:

If you have build-up on your kitchen and bathroom fixtures you can mix up baking soda and lemon juice into a paste, coat your fixtures in the paste and let it set for 20 minutes. Go after it with a scrubby pad and you’ll find the build up comes right off! 

Caution: if you had a dark finish on your fixtures it may also remove some of the finish. 

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: characterinkblog.com/localclasses  

Online writing classes for small groups and co-op classes: writeforamonth.com/createaclass

Homeschooling and parenting help: characterinkblog.com

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

Free webinars for homeschoolers/teaching parents: helpyourkidswithschool.com 

Weight/Time/Life Coaching for Moms: donnareish.com/coaching

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 him..to 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 you..you 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!