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That winter is particularly challenging because the family cannot afford to heat the house. In an attempt to start a fire with kerosene, Lori accidentally gets burned. Brian and Jeannette treat her wounds with snow but Lori develops painful blisters down her thighs.
Jeannette and Brian discover a two-carat diamond ring in the yard outside the house. They show their mother and urge her to sell it so they can use the money for food, housing payments, and other essentials, but Rose Mary insists on keeping the ring to replace her wedding ring and to boost her self-esteem. Jeannette, who has been studying the livelihoods of other families in their neighborhood, tells Rose Mary that she needs to leave Rex so that the family can qualify for welfare.
The money runs out every month and the children are once again forced to root through the garbage for food or subsist on nothing at all.
Rose Mary goes away to renew her teaching certification and Lori is admitted to a government-run summer program for enriched children. Jeannette is left in charge of the house and she is determined to stick to a budget and feed Maureen and Brian.