A look back on our stroll through Storybook Forest

Standard
We spent the day at Idlewild Park...a magical summer day.

One of our favorite summer traditions is visiting Idlewild Park in Ligonier, Pennsylvania and strolling through Storybook Forest.

Preparing to enter the pages of our favorite childhood tales.

Preparing to enter the pages of our favorite childhood tales.

Look who we found in grandma's bed!

Look who we found in grandma’s bed!

"Hickory Dickory Dock..the mouse went up the clock."

“Hickory Dickory Dock..the mouse went up the clock.”

"There was an old lady who lived in a shoe..."

“There was an old lady who lived in a shoe…”

"Mary Mary quite contrary how does your garden grow?"

“Mary Mary quite contrary how does your garden grow?”

Gepetto's workshop

Geppetto’s workshop

The Little Engine that Could...and three passengers.

The Little Engine that Could…and three passengers.

Jack and the Beanstalk

Jack and the Beanstalk

IMG_8936

...and they all lived together in a little crooked house.

…and they all lived together in a little crooked house.

Sleepy, Sneezy, Happy, Grumpy and Dopey.

Sleepy, Sneezy, Happy, Grumpy and Dopey.

IMG_8931

“I left fairy tales lying on the floor of the nursery, and I have not found any books so sensible since.”

- G. K. Chesterton

Fun with cousins!

Standard

This weekend we had the rare treat of having cousins come to visit us at Patchwork Farm for a mini reunion. My sister Kelly and her family were passing through, on their way from Michigan to visit grandparents in Pittsburgh and Ohio, and stopped to spend 24 hours with us. The days leading up to the visit were filled with excitement over seeing cousins that the kids haven’t seen in a while. The kids were most excited about getting to meet their newest cousin, Charlie, and getting to show off their home to the younger cousins who weren’t born three years ago when the Kirks last visited Patchwork Farm.

The cousins arrived around 4:00 on Saturday. My little boys began sitting and waiting at the end of the driveway hours before that. They were super excited for their 24 hours of cousin fun to begin.

Getting ready for company means haircuts for the boys. Ozzie decided to try a buzz cut like his brothers.

Getting ready for company meant haircuts for the boys. Ozzie decided to try a buzz cut like his brothers.

The kids asked if they could camp outside with their cousins so that they could all sleep together. The big kids helped me set up our 10 man tent.

IMG_8704When Kelly and Tom arrived it was joyful chaos as the kids ran to greet each other. They quickly headed out to the McDonald’s Play Place that sits in the middle of our front yard. The cousins were eager to try it out.

IMG_8797 (2)

Tyler and Noah

Tyler and Noah

Next stop was the animal pen. All the kids were eager to pet the goats and other critters…especially Sammy, the little farmer. :)

IMG_8772

IMG_8762 (2)

The biggest hit among our animal friends was the newest batch of baby bunnies. Molly brought out the newest litter so that the cousins could hold the babies.

Sammy

Sammy

Noah

Noah

The baby bunnies were a big hit but the baby that was the biggest hit of all was two month old, baby Charlie. There was a line to hold the newest cousin. :)

IMG_8741 (2)

IMG_8742

I love watching my sons with babies. It is like catching a glimpse of who they will be as fathers.

I love watching my sons with babies. It is like catching a glimpse of who they will be as fathers.

Ozzie was especially taken with Charlie. He asked if he could hold him. As he sat there holding the baby he kept commenting on how cute Charlie was.

“He is such a cute baby,” Ozzie said to Aunt Kelly, “He looks just like me as a baby. I think he has my eyes.”

When Kelly and I laughed Ozzie became more insistant. “No really, look! He has my eyes and my hair.”

Genetics are a crazy thing.

(I guess someone should really break the news to Ozzie that he is adopted.)  ;)

Ozzie and Charlie

Ozzie and Charlie

Even Ellie May wanted her turn with baby Charlie…

IMG_8789

For dinner we enjoyed hot dogs over the fire and s’mores for dessert.

IMG_8781

Girl time!

Girl time!

After a fun evening of visiting and playing it was time to tuck the kiddos into bed under the stars. Once everyone was settled we said goodnight, zipped the tent closed and headed inside to enjoy some rare, uninterrupted adult conversation.

"Goodnight kids!"

“Goodnight kids!”

The next day we enjoyed staying at the farm and letting the kids play while we caught up on each other’s lives. The cousins had to leave at 3:00pm so we filled our day with as much fun as we could before they left.

Tyler and Nate enjoyed playing together on the trampoline.

Tyler and Nate enjoyed playing together on the trampoline.

Halfway through the morning the kids announced that they would be putting on a fashion show and that the adults would be the judges. We were put into position, given score cards with different categories and then the music began. It was a hoot seeing what the kids came up with. It is amazing the hours of fun and the laughs that can be had with a dress-up box full of old Halloween costumes!

Ozzie as Scooby Doo.

Ozzie as Scooby Doo.

Miss Lydia

Miss Lydia

Nate loved this mask that he could see us through but we couldn't see him.

Nate loved this mask that he could see us through but we couldn’t see him.

Ozzie as a pirate princess. The dogs loved his costume. :)

Ozzie as a pirate princess. The dogs loved his costume. :)

Sammy the dinosaur

Sammy the dinosaur.

Ellie was fascinated with Rusty's ensamble

Ellie was fascinated with Rusty’s ensemble

Tom with a new hair-do

Tom with a new hair-do

IMG_8847

IMG_8843

All to soon it was time for Kelly and Tom to head onto their next stop. We didn’t get a lot of time together but it is amazing how much fun can be packed into 24 hours with this group of kids

Cousins: Childhood playmates who grow up to become forever friends. :)

Cousins: Childhood playmates who grow up to become forever friends. :)

“Adoption is not for the Faint of Heart”

Standard

“There really is not much that is easy about adoption. For me the only easy part was the “fall in love with a child you don’t really know” part. Then, they move in and you have to get over the “idea” of who you thought the child was going to be and really work on falling in love with who the child really is.” – Foster to Foster

I recently read an article on adoption in which the author made an interesting comparison. In the article she compared adopting an older child to an arranged marriage. In it she compares the process of being presented with a child to being presented with a future spouse. You are given a photo, a small personality profile, a bit of a biography, but without really knowing that other person you commit. You make a life-long, heart investment to a person you don’t know.

Then you move in together and begin your life.

With that blind commitment comes a period of adjustment as you discover things about each other that were never revealed prior to committing your lives. Demons from the past creep up and there are moments of, “What have we gotten ourselves into,” that must be worked through. It can be hard and scary as you slowly get more comfortable with each other and you get a real look at what you have committed to. But you have committed. You have pledged your heart and life to another person so you work at it. You learn lessons of patience and compromise and humility as you make a go of it. You learn to fall in love with a stranger. It isn’t a passive process. It is a daily walk…a daily choice. You get a deep understanding of the saying, “Love is not a feeling, love is a choice.” It is choosing to love and forgive and keep trying even when that person is unlovable and is pushing you away.

There has been a battle raging in our home lately. A battle of wills. A battle for loyalty. A battle of good vs. evil. A battle against the demons of Ozzie’s past. A battle of love… as we remain committed through the really hard stuff. Everyone is weary and wounded. Everyone is gasping for breath and ready to admit defeat. It is the hardest battle we have ever fought. Tyler’s adjustment was minor compared to the battle we are fighting for Ozzie’s heart. He rages and pushes and hurts and we continue pull him closer. He wounds the other members of the family with his words and choices and we continue to come back to the abuse. We are committed to love through the pain. We aren’t going anywhere. We will fight this battle for his heart to the end.

There are days I want to run away. It is challenging to watch the other kids be hurt at the hand of this newest addition. I watch their weary heads hang in discouragement as we fight the same battle once again…get called the same names…watch as our possessions are destroyed and our days are disrupted. It is hard to choose love when what you are feeling is anger and hurt. In the midst of these battles I hold onto two truths…

#1. This child is mine. This isn’t a commitment we entered into independently. God placed Ozzie’s little hand in ours and called us to love him, parent him and adopt him into our family. God doesn’t make mistakes and thus ,this battle for Ozzie’s heart, is a part of the process…part of the journey that we must walk.

#2. Ozzie is not the enemy.

I read a wonderful quote about adoption that impacted me profoundly:

“It is not you against this child. It is you and this child against this child’s history. It is not a personal attack on you.” – Karyn Purvis

When Tyler moved in I held tightly to these two truths through the darkest of days. I also learned a profound lesson about human nature…Anger is usually a mask for a deeper emotion. It is easy to simply react to the anger and rage of a child and to parent on a surface level, but the behavior will not change until you break through the rage and get to the hurt that lies beneath it.

After two months of battling Ozzie’s rage we had a break through last night. After getting sent to bed early for bullying Tyler we finally had the breakthrough moment that I have been praying for daily.

I heard Ozzie talking to someone in his room so I went to investigate. Before opening the door I stopped to listen. His voice shook with sobs as he poured his heart out to God in the form of a prayer. He begged forgiveness for “messing up” with his birth family. He cried as he petitioned God to fix it so that he could live with his sister, Zoey, again. He confessed that it was “all his fault” that his birth family abused him and that if he had been a better boy they wouldn’t have hurt him and he could still live there. He prayed for help being a “good boy” so that his new family won’t get rid of him too. My heart broke as I listened to the raw emotions that had been hiding under the anger and rage. As he said “Amen” I tapped softly on the door and he called for me to enter. In walking through those doors I not only entered his room but his heart. We sat for an hour on his bed. I rubbed his back and he poured out his heart. We talked and cried and prayed together. As he began to fall asleep from the emotional exhaustion of the last few hours I praised my Heavenly Father for this breakthrough. We finally chipped enough rage to get to the wound inside and now the healing can begin. It will be a slow process…a “one step forward, two-step back” process…but it can now begin.

I will remember this day forever in the same way I remember Tyler’s breakthrough moment. It is the moment you first get a glimpse of your child’s heart…the raw, broken, beating part of them that they have hidden from the world for so long…and they shared it with you.

Love is a choice you make daily. A choice to keep showing up. A choice to keep stepping on that battlefield to fight for your child’s heart….because eventually you will look up and realize the battle is won and the war is over.

Ozzie's visit from the tooth fairy.

Ozzie’s visit from the tooth fairy.

 

 

 

 

 

A Boy and his Dog

Standard

“Frogs and snails and puppy dog tails..

that is what little boys are made of.”

IMG_8638

“Dogs have a way of finding the people who need them and filling an emptiness we didn’t even know we had.”

IMG_8631

Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” – Roger Caras

IMG_8635

“A dog has no use for fancy cars, big homes or designer clothes. A water log stick will do just fine. A dog doesn’t care if you are rich or poor, clever or dull, smart or dumb. Give him your heart and he’ll give you his. How many people can you say that about? How many people can make you feel rare, and pure, and special? How many people can make you feel extraordinary?” – Marley and Me

IMG_8627

“A boy and his dog make a glorious pair; no better friendship is found anywhere.” – Edgar Guest

IMG_8682

“Every once in a while a dog enters your life and changes everything.”

IMG_8679 (2)

Live like someone left the gate open.” :)

IMG_8681 (2)

“The greatest pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him, and not only will he not scold you, but he will make a fool of himself too.” – Samuel Butler

“One is silver and the other’s gold”

Standard

While we spent the week shuffling bedrooms around Molly was enjoying a relaxing, fun-filled week at girl scout camp. On Sunday night we dropped her off at Camp Redwing, with her friend Tatum, for a week of scouting fun. The camp she signed up for was “Iron Chef” camp. Some of the week was spent cooking but much of the week was spent enjoying the other camp experiences offered at Camp Redwing. Here is a pictorial overview of her week at camp. :)

(Pictures: compliments of Molly)

Molly and the other "Iron Chef" campers.

Molly and the other “Iron Chef” campers.

The view from her tent where she spent the week bunking with 3 other girls.

The view from her tent where she spent the week bunking with 3 other girls.

The week started out rainy but once the clouds parted it was time for some water fun.

The week started out rainy but once the clouds parted it was time for some water fun.

Miss Tatum

Miss Tatum

Camp fun...

Camp fun…

Dirty moments :)

Dirty moments :)

During her free time Molly could play camp checkers with friends..

DSCN1335

Or enjoy a little time on the archery range…

DSCN1442

Molly also learned how to French braid hair this week. She couldn’t wait to show me the picture of her first successful French braid.

DSCN1455

One of the cooking challenges was cake decorating.

The fun of food color.

The fun of food color.

The best part of camp, according to Molly, was making new friends…

DSCN1239

 

 

DSCN1328

Molly and her new girl scout buddies!

Thank you, Camp Redwing, for a wonderful week!

“Make new friends but keep the old; one is silver and the other’s gold.”

The Bedroom Shuffle

Standard

This week was a busy one.

It began here…

IMG_8554And ended here…

IMG_8616Let me explain.

This was our big project week of the summer. In the spring we decided that our big summer project was going to be the bedroom shuffle. We decided that Rusty had been a good sport long enough and deserved to have his bedroom back to himself. When Tyler moved in he started in Rusty’s room and without complaint Rusty endured those tough early moths of tantrums and his room being destroyed as Tyler raged. When Tyler moved into his own room we found the level of contention dropped dramatically when everyone had their own separate corners to retreat to.

When Ozzie joined our family he moved into Rusty’s room and claimed the top bunk. Once again Rusty was a trooper and willingly made room for his newest brother without complaint…and once again he was on the receiving end of tantrum destruction. After months of watching Rusty put up with his things being broken and destroyed while Ozzie raged, we decided it was time for Rusty to get his man cave back. The result of this decision was “The Great Bedroom Shuffle.”

We knew this would be a laborious project and I found myself putting it off as summer rolled on. I knew the chaos that would come before the calm and I was dreading the mess that inevitably comes with home projects. When we found out that Toby was scheduled for foot surgery in a week and would be unable to do much heavy lifting and ladder work for the remainder of summer break we realized this week was our week of opportunity.

The “Great Bedroom Shuffle” began last week when we consolidated the craftroom and schoolroom, thus freeing up the craftroom to become Gracie’s room. Saturday Toby began walling in the open craft loft to create Gracie’s bedroom. Tyler was eager to help him with the drywall work…

IMG_8533 (2)

As they built and drywalled the new bedroom wall the girls began painting Gracie’s new room. She decided to change the wall color from yellow to coral. Molly helped her begin the painting process before she disappeared for the week to Girl Scout Camp. Lucky girl! Her timing was perfect…she missed out of a week of hard work and arrived home Friday when the projects were all done. :)

The girls begin painting...

The girls begin painting…

Saying goodbye at camp.

Saying goodbye at camp.

Molly and her best buddy, Tatum.

Molly and her best buddy, Tatum.

The shuffle then began. Monday was prep day for Gracie’s room. We painted and purged and finished the last of the construction.

IMG_8541

Tuesday was Gracie’s move in day. We spent all day sorting, organizing, and moving her from her old room into her new room.

The fruits of our labor…

IMG_8582 (2)

IMG_8575 (2)

On Wednesday Tyler’s old room was sorted, purged and organized before he was moved up to Gracie’s old room. He and Gracie will be neighbors in the upstairs loft. He decided he wanted a sport themed room and had fun decorating with sport decals.

IMG_8586 (2)

Tyler’s finished room…

IMG_8587 (2)

IMG_8590 (2)

 Thursday was Ozzie’s turn. Although all the kids were excited about the changes, none were more excited than Ozzie. We took the little boys shopping and told them that they could pick out new bedding and a new lamp. They looked and debated for an hour until they settled on their “themes.” Ozzie wanted a car theme. I was relieved by his choice because it meant that I didn’t have to take down the license plates from Tyler’s old room. It also meant I could reuse the old street signs we had. Ozzie was so excited. When we finished he sat down on his bed and said, “This is my first room I’ve ever had.” When I asked what he meant he explained, “Well, when I lived with my birth parents I slept in their room. When I lived in my foster homes I always stayed in the guest bedroom and when I moved in here I stayed in Rusty’s room.” He went on to say, “I always wanted a car room but I never had my own room to decorate.”

That night he kept asking when he could go to bed and finally sleep in his new room. :)

IMG_8595 (2)

IMG_8602 (2)

IMG_8600

Ozzie

Friday was our last long day as we cleaned and organized Rusty’s room and helped him put his things back to where they were before Ozzie moved in. Rusty was thrilled to have his room back and had fun “spreading” his things out and reclaiming his shelves.

IMG_8605

IMG_8607

The final big project of the week happened on Saturday as I worked on the kids’ bathroom. Stealing an idea from a friend, I decided that in an attempt to cut down on the amount of towels I wash each week, I would give each kid a personal towel that they would use for the duration of the week. To make this vision work I told Toby I was looking for a board with hooks rather than a than a towel bar. After looking around and not finding what I envisioned Toby came up with his own design. It was much cuter than my original vision. He took old plumbing fixtures and attached them to a piece of barn wood to make my towel hooks. I was thrilled with the result!

IMG_8610Now the kids each have an assigned towel that they are responsible for laundering weekly. We will see if this helps cut down on our towel consumption.

To finish off the kids’ bathroom I had them each draw a self-portrait that I framed to hang on the wall.

IMG_8612

The finished bathroom hooks.

The week ended with Molly being picked up from Girl Scout Camp and all of the big kids spending the weekend with my parents in Ohio. It was a fun play weekend for the big kids after a week of hard work. The little boys enjoyed a fun weekend of being the only kids. It was nice for Toby and I to have some special time with the little ones while the big kids got a bit of a break from their little brothers. On Sunday we drove out to Ohio to celebrate birthdays and pick up the big kids.

Monday morning we arrived early for Toby’s outpatient surgery. He was there to get some much-needed surgery on his foot. The surgery went well. He is home resting and we are all looking forward to a more relaxed week with Toby home recovering.

The little boys had fun playing in the dress-up box. Do you notice our infamous photo bomber? :)

This week the little boys had fun playing in the dress-up box. Can you spot our infamous photo bomber? :)

 

“Gotcha Day!”

Standard

DSCN1214

On Wednesday we celebrated Tyler’s “Gotcha Day.”

A year ago we had the opportunity to stand before a judge and commit to be his forever family. It was one on the most joyous days of our life as we celebrated the “birth” of our newest son. The sweet feelings were even more profoundly felt because of the struggle it took to get to that point.

Tyler moved in 11 months earlier. We didn’t fully comprehend the commitment we were making when we opened our home and hearts to this little six-year-old boy. We blindly stepped forward in faith, having no idea the roller coaster we were climbing on, as we learned to parent and love a little boy who was broken. It was a journey filled with feelings of fear, discouragement, and feelings of inadequacy as we struggled to parent behaviors we had never faced in the raising of our biological kids. The first year of Tyler’s life with us was filled with tantrums that lasted hours, things being broken as he raged, profanity and words of hate as he tried to push us away in fear that eventually we would push him away. It was a long year…a tiring year…a surreal year.

Our journey toward adoption was a “one step forward, two step back” sort of tango that left us feeling we were on an emotional treadmill that never made any progress. The days left us exhausted and feeling as though we were  running in place.

There were days that the only thing that kept me from packing my bags and running away was the testimony that God had called us to be this little boy’s parents and the faith that this was serving a purpose in His bigger plan.

Adoption is about commitment.

It has been said that:

“Commitment means staying loyal to what you said you were going to do long after the mood you said it in has left you.”

Yes.

DSCN5101

Yesterday we spent the afternoon in the garden. As I pulled weeds and harvested squash I thought about how gardening can be likened to parenting.

It begins with a commitment. The seed is placed in the ground with the promise that you will care and nourish it until the season’s end. In those early years a lot of care is needed and protection is required. You are there to shield it from the harsh frost and dangers that threaten it. All too soon your plant breaks through the soil and you eagerly begin watching it grow. It becomes a labor of love. As it grows so do the weeds that surround it, threatening to choke it out and impede its growth. Parenting is a test of endurance. For every weed you pull, two more sprout up.  It is a constant battle that requires daily commitment. It means daily putting on the work gloves, even when you don’t want to.

Often weeks will pass and despite your laborious effort it doesn’t seem as though any growth is happening at all. Your seedling is still only inches tall and the promise of fruit for your labors seems a billion years away. This is the test of commitment…

Will you still keep showing up and working hard when there is no progress being seen? Will you remain committed when the fun of digging in the cool spring soil is gone and all that is left is hard, sweaty work under the hot July sun?

This is the test.

It is hard to keep showing up when there is no sign of growth or improvement. It is easy to get discouraged when you are pulling those same weeds day after day and your plant is not growing.

BUT… the interesting thing about gardening is that so much of the growth that happens, happens out of sight. When you think there is little progress happening on the surface,  roots are pushing deep into the soil. It is when we most feel as though our children are “stalled” in their progress that the real work is happening deep in their hearts.

Then one day you step outside to tend your plants and before you sits a lush jungle of tomatoes and squash. You don’t know quite when it changed. Overnight, it seems, the growth happened. You can’t pinpoint the breakthrough moment… you just realize the dry season has passed and the fruits of your labor are visible.

IMG_8530

The value of commitment has been lost in our generation. We have become a disposable society. While our parents and grandparents lived by the philosophy of “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without,” we live in a world that says “If it is broken, toss it out.” Rather than taking care of our things we disregard their value with the thought, “I can always buy a new one.” Rather than fixing what is broken we simply replace it.

This is not only true of our possessions, but of our relationships as well. We toss friendships away when they get hard. Spouses get replaced when they are no longer shiny and new.

It is hard to be committed when the good feelings aren’t there. It is tempting to “run” when it gets hard, but if we walk out halfway through the season we miss the miracle of the harvest.

IMG_8529

One day you will wake up and see a jungle of growth and wonder when it happened.

The deep, meaningful sweetness of a relationship comes with time. You must remain committed through those hard times to enjoy the sweetness that comes later.

It was a labor of love with Tyler. It was two years of daily watering, pulling weeds and choosing to show up every day… but we are now in harvest season. Daily I am astounded at his growth and the fruits of our labors. God knew exactly what he was doing when he took that angry, broken, abused little boy and placed him in our lives.

I look at Tyler and my heart overflows.

Happy “Gotcha Day” Tyler!

We love you forever and a day.

For Tyler's "Gotcha Day" celebration he chose to play tennis as a family and go out for ice cream.

For Tyler’s “Gotcha Day” celebration he chose to play tennis as a family and go out for ice cream.

Jellystone Park

Standard

 

 

“Family time is sacred time and should be protected and respected.” -Boyd K. Packer

Things have been challenging around our home for the last few weeks. We have gone from the honeymoon phase of adjustment and bonding into the testing and trying phase. The family has struggled with the many tantrums, angry outbursts, and poor choices of a certain little boy. Our patience has been tested as we have struggled to maintain peace and build unity as a family while the storm of emotional chaos has raged around us. What was once an occasional meltdown has now evolved into: sitting in a parked car in a parking lot for 5 hours (true story)  while Ozzie screamed, hit, bit, yelled profanities and raged until he eventually burned himself out.

The effect on the other children has been profound and many of the kids are struggling as we push our way through this trying time in the bonding process. I know why he is testing. The kids saw this behavior with Tyler and understand it is a necessary part of the journey. Logically we get it, but that doesn’t make it any easier.  We are all feeling weighed down and burned out by the struggle. Toby and I, after seeing and feeling the tension that has been growing as a result of these daily struggles, decided it was time to get away as a family. We needed to get out of the house, away from the triggers of contention and just go play. We needed to laugh, be silly, connect with each other in a lighthearted, pressure-free way. The kids needed to just be kids and we needed a “pause” from the chaos at home SO we packed our bags and headed to Jellystone Campground for a weekend of family fun.

 IMG_8366

Last year we camped at a Jellystone Park for the first time when we took Gracie to Trek. We were so impressed with the campground chain that we found one closer to home to camp at this weekend. We loved how “kid friendly” the campground was and how reasonable the cost of a family weekend could be. For $50 a night you not only get all the fun of a camping experience but get to enjoy all the amenities of the campground for free including: water slides, crafts, mini golf, wagon rides, water park and fishing.

IMG_8445 (2)

We arrived on Friday afternoon and began the task of unloading and setting up camp. The kids worked diligently knowing that as soon as camp was set up we would go and enjoy the waterpark.

The little boys enjoying the creek that ran by our camp site.

The little boys enjoying the creek that ran by our camp site.

The girls resting from their labors.

The girls resting from their labors.

After camp was set up everyone put on their swim suits and we headed to the water park to enjoy the pool, slides and water play area.

IMG_8373

IMG_8351

IMG_8354

IMG_8350

The water play area.

The water play area.

Brother bonding...

Brother bonding…

Ozzie loved the water slides.

Ozzie loved the water slides.

After many hours of water fun we walked back to our campsite to make foil dinners, eat smores and then get ready for the night-time showing of “Charlotte’s Web” under the stars.

Rusty with his "Smore maker."

Rusty with his “Smore maker.”

Saturday morning we woke up to rain. The majority of the day was wet with drizzle but luckily there were no major storms. It was a little cool to swim so the day was spent enjoying some of the non-water activities offered at the campground.

Molly and Rusty enjoying mini golf.

Molly and Rusty enjoying mini golf.

 After breakfast we walked over to the “catch and release” fishing hole. The little boys were given the job of finding worms while Toby got the fishing poles ready. As the kids waited they noticed a few big bass that they wanted to try catching. As the morning went on the bass eluded them, but they had great success catching many little blue gills with their worm bait.

IMG_8432 (2)

About an hour into our fishing time Molly yelled from the other side of the pond that she had a blue gill on her line. Toby yelled back for her to bring it over to him and he would take it off her hook. As Molly made her way around the pond she kept “dipping” her fish into the lake so it could “catch its breath “and not suffocate. She was walking and “dipping” when suddenly we saw her get jerked back and begin yelling, ” It ate my baby fish!!!” Toby ran over, in fear that she would let go and his pole would end up in the middle of the lake, but by the time he arrived the line had snapped and the bass and the blue gill it ate for dinner were long gone.

Molly was shook up and just kept saying, “I can’t believe it ate my baby fish!”

Toby and the other kids were elated because now they knew what bait the bass wanted. Toby was the only one who ended up catching a large mouth bass…thanks to Molly and her traumatic experience. :)

IMG_8493

That evening we joined many other campers for an oldies night concert and dance. The other kids hung back and enjoyed the show but Ozzie ran straight out into the middle of the dance floor to get his groove on. :)

IMG_8474

Before the dance was over Yogi showed up, much to the thrill of Ozzie. With Buddy the Elf enthusiasm he began jumping up and down and screaming “Yogi’s coming!! Yogi’s coming!!” Ozzie thought he had died and gone to heaven when Yogi joined him on the dance floor for a song or two.

IMG_8477

After the dance we walked back to our campsite to enjoy smores and some family visiting. The weekend wore Ellie May out and she collapsed in a heap of “tired puppy” as soon as we set her down.

IMG_8471

It was a good weekend.

It was good to get away and have a little “time out” from the struggles at home.

I have learned over the years that we often delay “playtime” until more important tasks are accomplished and more pressing duties are fulfilled…

 BUT sometimes “playtime” is the most valuable use of our time.

“Families need unstructured time when relationships can deepen and real parenting can take place. Take time to listen, to laugh, and to play together. The joy of motherhood comes in moments.”    -Russell M. Ballard

So take the time to play today. :)

IMG_8340 (2)

 

 

 

 

 

News, news and more news.

Standard

Christopher Poindexter once said:

“The thing about chaos, is that while it disturbs us, it too, forces our hearts to roar in a way that we secretly find magnificent.”

We came straight off the relaxation and renewing energy of camp into the chaos of everyday living. It is funny the difference a week makes when in is spent away from home. Despite the efforts made to get everything in place before we left , as well as the valiant efforts of the boys to maintain order while we were gone (They did a great job of holding down the fort!), there inevitably is a mountain of work to face as penance for leaving. :) There have been moments this week, as we have adjusted to being back in the routine, that I have thought to myself, “Send me back!” I have been paying the price for my absence, in particular with the little boys and their behaviors, and have been working to regain the ground that was lost while I was away. In the midst of all the everyday living moments we have had some big news events. Here are the latest chaotic happenings at Patchwork Farm.  :)

Ellie May, our new puppy, had to go in for unexpected surgery. Before I left for camp we noticed that her ears were growing (out, not down) and looked like they were filling with air. When we left for camp it looked like she had floatation devices on the sides of her head. Toby took her into the vet and found out that what we thought were air pockets were in fact large pockets of blood. The vet informed Toby that this sometimes happens to floppy eared dogs (Bassett Hounds, Blood Hounds, etc.) They bang their ears off things and break the small blood vessels in the ears and the ear flaps will begin to fill with blood. The solution was surgery. So poor Ellie had to have the inside and outside of both ear flaps surgically separated, the blood drained, and then reattached to each other. Her ears now resemble a tied quilt.

DSCN1218Rusty, this week, celebrated the accomplishment of earning his green belt in Taekwondo. We are so proud of his hard work, diligence and the effort he has put into his sport. Go Rusty!!

IMG_8313

Rusty and his green belt.

A month ago, when we were at the doctor’s office for summer physicals the doctor “red flagged” Grace, Rusty and Ozzie as having vision issues, so this week they were all seen by the eye doctor. Rusty was seen first. He sat in the chair as the doctor adjusted and readjusted the lenses to determine the status of his vision. After testing his eye sight she said that his vision was 20/30, well within “normal” range, and that he didn’t need glasses.

IMG_8301

Gracie was next. Gracie has been complaining that she has been having troubles seeing things at a distance so it wasn’t too surprising when the doctor said that she was in need of glasses. She told us with Gracie’s vision, as it is now, she should not be driving without glasses. (And to think I have been on the road with her! Ahh!) Gracie’s vision was 20/50 and required us to purchase glasses. She then enjoyed the shopping requirement of that diagnoses and picked out a cute pair of frames.

IMG_8304

Ozzie was the last one in the “hot seat.” His biggest fear was that he was going to need eye drops. When the doctor informed him that she wasn’t going to give him eye drops he relaxed and enjoyed the rest of his appointment. Ozzie has horrible vision but we didn’t realize how bad it was until the testing began. The doctor informed us that Ozzie’s vision, without glasses, is 20/600. In layman’s terms that means what Ozzie can see from 20 feet away is what we can see at 600 feet away. Wow! It was a good thing we took him in. His prescription had changed and he was in need of new glasses. Like Grace he enjoyed shopping for new frames and decided on a pair of blue, metal rim glasses.

IMG_8302

In the midst of everyday chaos we have added our own additional layer of craziness by deciding to move bedrooms. We decided, as a result of sibling struggles we are dealing with, that it is prudent to move Ozzie into a room of his own. We think having “separate corners” that everyone can escape to and regroup at will benefit the family as a whole… SO we are converting my craft room into a bedroom and reshuffling the kids. Step one began this week as we cleared out half of the schoolroom in an effort to consolidate the schoolroom and craft room into one space. This was a huge undertaking as we worked for days purging and organizing in an effort to take my two “fullest” room and combine them in a way that doesn’t result in what looks like an episode of hoarders. In the midst of the process I had many “What were we thinking…why did we start this” moments. But, we did it. Two rooms sorted and merged.

A work in progress..

A work in progress..

Step 2 now begins as Toby closes off the craft room to turn it into Gracie’s bedroom.

IMG_8308

 After Toby is done building walls, dry walling, running electric and hanging the door we will paint and begin moving kids around. Grace will move to the new room, Tyler will move into Gracie’s old room, Ozzie will move into Tyler’s room and Molly and Russ will stay put.

*Drumroll please*

Now for our BIG news…Last week was another court hearing. I got permission to miss it since I was at camp so Toby had the responsibility of taking Ozzie. I was a nervous wreck all day as I waited for news from Toby. Court, which was to begin at 9:00 didn’t begin until after 12:00, so when I finally heard from the boys I was all nerves. When I answered the phone it was Ozzie’s voice I heard, not Toby’s.

“Guess what, Momma?!” he said, “You get to adopt me in November!!”

The judge had finally set an adoption date! It will happen the last Saturday in November as part of a huge celebration for National Adoption Month. Ozzie’s sister, Zoey, will be adopted by her family the same day. We are thrilled! There is just a sense of security that comes from getting the adoption date scheduled. It is kind of like making it to week 12 in a pregnancy. You feel as though you can stop holding your breath and relax a little. You are out of the “danger zone” and the risk of losing your child diminishes a bit. We are so grateful to be able to share our good news with you. Our newest addition with be joining our forever family November 2014. God is good. :)

IMG_8305

More Camp Fun!!

Standard

This past week was spent in the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania, as the girls and I attended Young Women camp with our church. As illogical as it may sound, spending this past week with 100 teenage girls was just the break I needed from the drama of a certain 10-year-old boy at home. :) Getting away and heading into the woods was the just the boost I needed to recharge my “batteries”, refocus on the bigger picture and spiritually refill my bucket so that I could go back home a better wife and momma. It was wonderful laughing with the girls and other leaders, and stepping away from the distractions of the world for a short time. Camp week was just as Kimberly Rinehart describes:

“Camping is more than just getting away.

It’s the clear blue sky, the song of a bird, the beckoning woods, the wide open spaces.

Camping is greeting the breath of dawn unhindered by the walls of city life and watching the sun set in ribbons of  color as it says “goodnight” to a perfect day.

Camping makes hearts grow lighter and food taste better.

It’s sharing songs around a campfire and gazing up in silence at a star-filled sky.

Camping is more than just getting away. It’s the thing we need to rekindle the spirit of a simpler time, refresh our hearts with nature’s beauty, and remind us that life doesn’t have to be so complicated after all.”

The theme this year was, “Come Unto Christ,” with COME serving as an acronym for the focus words: covenant, obey, minister and endure. Each day there were devotionals, scripture study and focus classes that revolved around the word of the day. As the girls studied, discussed and applied what they learned they gained a deeper understanding of what it means to covenant, obey, minister unto others, and endure to the end, as daughters of God.

DSCN5231

The girls at camp spent their days working as levels and their nights sleeping as levels with their 2 adult leaders. This year Molly was a 3rd year girl (It was her third year at camp) and Gracie was a 5th year girl, which meant she got to serve as a youth leader and help plan classes and devotionals for the 1st year girls she was assigned to. I was there as the leader over the 7th year girls. These are the 18-year-old girls that choose to come back to camp the summer between their senior year and the start of college. The activities that fill the girls’ days vary depending on the level and the certification that is needed for that level. Their days are spent going on hikes, swimming, canoeing, knot tying, building and cooking over fires, identifying constellations, animal tracks, plants, using a compass, etc.

Gracie canoeing.

Gracie canoeing.

In addition to certification activities and spiritual focus classes a large part of the girls’ days are spent serving and ministering to others. Around camp we have a way of acknowledging and rewarding kindness, hard work, selflessness, and Christ-like behaviors. The leaders and youth leaders carry around tokens that are handed out to the girls when they see girls being Christ-like in word and deed. The girls can then take the tokens they earn and spend them at our camp store that is managed and run by the 7th year girls. It is a fun way to encourage and acknowledge all the good choices and kindness we witness while at camp.

DSCN5200

One of the big service projects for the week happened on Wednesday when we weeded and mulched the beachfront area of the state park we were camping at. We spent 4 hours working and with the man power of 100+ girls we were able to spread 10 truckloads of mulch. The park was incredibly grateful for the 380 man hours of service we gave them and the girls were able to experience the blessings of working hard as a team as well as the satisfaction of a job well done! Go girls!!

DSCN5185

After a hot, sweaty morning working with mulch the girls enjoyed some beach time at the lake…

Beautiful girls!

Beautiful girls!

The 7th year girls also headed up additional fun, free-time activities for the girls. These were optional activities that were offered for those who wanted to participate. They were a chance to just have fun, be silly and enjoy girl time. Here are some of the relay games they offered…

The "post it note" race.

The “post it note” race.

The girls having "fat Santa" races with balloons and large sweat suits :)

The girls having “Fat Santa” races with balloons and large sweat suits :)

There is so much good that comes from Young Women camp for these girls: They are spiritually fed, they are able to escape the distractions and pressures of the world for a while, they are able to learn new skills, be silly with each other, serve others, become more Christ-like…but one of the greatest blessings that come from escaping into the woods for a week are the friendships that grow from that shared experience. Not only among the girls but among the leaders as well. What a joy it is to stand in the darkness of the camp commons and hear the giggles of girls, coming from the cabins, as they talk, laugh, share and bond with each other.

DSCN5324

Molly and Miss Rosie

Molly and Miss Rosie

 On Saturday we arrived home tired, stinky and sore. Physically I was drained, but emotionally and spiritually I was recharged and filled to capacity. Heading into the woods for  week with 100 teenage girls and leaders was just what I needed. :) I am so grateful for the amazing, inspired leaders that made the “magic” happen. What a joy-filled week it was!!