What’s in a name?

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This past week was a full one. Here is just a little of what has been happening at Patchwork Farm:

Monday was a tough day. We are in the midst of testing and trying with certain children. Ozzie’s adoption is only a month away and I can feel Satan at work trying to create disharmony and doubt in an effort to tear apart what God has called us to do. The tension reached a climax on Monday so in an effort to break that tension and get everyone laughing again we played a game of “Headbands” while we ate dinner. The laughter helped lighten the mood and remind us why we are walking this path we are on.

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Dinner was followed by family night. For family night we decorated pumpkins. Grace, in honor of her Halloween costume, painted an UP themed pumpkin.

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On Tuesday Grace and I did a little autumn meandering in search of fall photo opportunities. Gracie is taking Photography II this semester and is always in search of photo opportunities for future class assignments.

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On Wednesday we had co-op. Grace has now graduated, in her driving lessons, to highway driving. I don’t know who was more nervous about her driving on highways, her or mom. :) But, she is doing really well!

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After co-op we had the New Castle bookmobile stop by. The bookmobile is now coming to our co-op every three weeks. We are loving this! So often our schedule doesn’t allow for a separate trip to the library so to have the library come to us is a treat!

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Inside the bookmobile. It is so cute! :)

Inside the bookmobile. It is so cute! :)

Saturday the girls had a church dance. They invited their friend, Olivia. It was a Halloween dance and the kids could dress in white, neon, or costume. The girls decided to combine the three and dressed in 1980’s garb. The effect was adorable! Their outfits looked extra cool under the black lights that were set up in the gym.

Aren't they cute?!

Aren’t they cute?!

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This week was also a big preparation week as we head into the final stretch of our adoption journey. This week was full of final “to do” tasks required for adoption like having our “intent to adopt” paperwork notarized, getting physicals completed, getting FBI fingerprinting done, and gathering references. This was also the week we sat down and talked to Ozzie’s about his new name.

With the legal process of adoption comes an opportunity for changing one’s name. Ozzie will of course take on our last name at his adoption day but we hadn’t discussed whether he wanted to make any changes to his first or last name. Each child is different. Although Tyler was eager to change his middle name at his adoption we weren’t sure if Ozzie would feel the same. When I asked him about it he eagerly expressed a desire to change his middle name as well. He has never been a fan of his middle name, Emlyn. So we decided to have a “naming night” like we did with Tyler.

For family night we sat the kids down and had a lesson on the value of a name. We talked about what is expected of us when we, as Christians, take on the name of Christ and what His name brings to mind. We then talked about taking on our father’s name and how a last name is a legacy that our fathers and grandfathers pass down to us and what responsibility comes with that surname.

It was an interesting discussion and one of mixed emotions as Ozzie faces leaving the surname he has always carried,  that is familiar, but also that ties him to a father who was abusive. It is a cleansing of sorts and yet a scary step into the future for a little boy who doesn’t like change.

When we talked to Tyler about changing his name he was completely enthusiastic. He eagerly suggested possibilities for his new middle name like: Football, Disney World, and Daddy. We helped him come up with better possibilities as a family when we had a “naming night.” We decided to do the same for Ozzie. Monday night we sat as a family with baby name books on the table and  notecards for each person. Everyone was told to find three names they thought would be good middle names for Ozzie. The were able to look up meanings and try different combinations. Ozzie made his list too.(His number one choice was: Awesome) :) When everyone was done we took turns reading our lists out loud and voting on the favorite name from each list. When then made a final list of the favorites and discussed each name and the meaning it carries. We all shared our opinions and then let Ozzie make his final decision.

The final list included:

Daniel- “God is my judge”

Alexander- “Defender of mankind”

Elliot- “The Lord is my God”

Jonah- “dove”

Tristen- “riot”

William- “determined protector”

Ozzie made his choice…

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In one month he will bear our name and be known as Oswald William…aka Ozzie awesome ;)

Living Treasures Animal Park

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After arriving home from our day on the train we had about an hour to get everyone fed, in costume and out the door for field trip #2. This field trip, also sponsored by Molly’s school, was a field trip to Living Treasures Animal Park. We were thrilled about this outing. It is a favorite place of ours and thanks to the family membership that my parents bought Tyler for his adoption gift, it was a free outing for us. Yea!

Although we have been to Living Treasures many times this experience was new to us because it was a nighttime viewing. The kids were told if they came in costume they would receive a goody bag so the kids got dressed in their Halloween costumes and we were ready to go!

Tyler, my little Power Ranger :)

Tyler, my little Power Ranger :)

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When we arrived we met up with many of our co-op friends…

Everyone dressed up, ready for a night of fun!

Everyone dressed up, ready for a night of fun!

The park had an entirely different feel at night. Torches had been lit along the pathways and visitors brought flashlights to better see the animals. It was fun to see the nocturnal animals up and active, although just about all the animals became active when they heard the feed we purchased falling into their dishes. :)

Exploring in the dark.

Exploring in the dark.

This big baby was a hit with everyone!

This big baby was a hit with everyone!

Ozzie loved hand feeding the animals...that is until he actually "hand fed" a horse. The horse bite made him a bit more hesitant to feed the critters. :)

Ozzie loved hand feeding the animals…that is until he actually “hand fed” a horse. The horse bite made him a bit more hesitant to feed the critters. :)

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Halfway through the park we stopped at the playground for the boys to play.

Halfway through the park we stopped at the playground for the boys to play.

Levi, the giraffe, was another favorite of the kids!

Levi, the giraffe, was another favorite of the kids!

The night ended in the petting area where the kids were able to hand feed and pet baby goats, baby camels, baby reindeer  and baby pigs.

Ozzie was a little excited...can you tell?

Ozzie was a little excited…can you tell?

It was fun experiencing Living Treasures in a new way. It was also really fun having Toby and Ozzie join us for one of our school field trips!

A wonderful time was had by all!

All aboard!

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Yesterday was another field trip day. This one consisted of two back to back field trips, sponsored by Molly’s school. The first field trip was a fall foliage ride aboard the OC&T railroad. This field trip was offered seven years ago when the kids were in 3rd grade, 1st grade and Kindergarten. When we saw it was being offered we jumped at the chance to enjoy the autumn beauty of western Pennsylvania by rail once again.

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The field trip was two hours away in Titusville, PA. We  got an early start and Toby went into work late so that he could drop Ozzie off at school. I would have loved to take Ozzie with us but because of missed school from our Disney vacation we just couldn’t pull him out of school for the day. It was a shame because this outing was right up Ozzie’s alley!

The drive to Titusville was beautiful. The leaves were in peak color and looked like something from a painting. Although the sky was dark and cloud covered, the leaves still shined bright in vivid hues of orange and red.

We arrived at the 1892 vintage freight station in Titusville around 10:00am. It was perfect timing for our 10:30 departure. We had time to greet friends, use the bathroom, and window shop at the gift shop before the conductor called, “All aboard!”

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Waiting for the train.

Waiting for the train.

The kids on the antique scale.

The kids on the antique scale.

We were seated two to a seat. The train was full of passengers and school students. We were asked to stay seated until the train was fully loaded and had left the station and then we were given permission to move around the train.

All seated and ready to go...

All seated and ready to go…

Once we were told that we were free to move about the train our first stop was the open car at the back of the train. It was a perfect day to ride outside in the open air and enjoy the scenery…

Walking from one car to another towards the back of the train.

Walking from one car to another towards the back of the train.

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Molly

Molly

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Grace

Grace

When everyone started to get chilled we headed back to our seats to enjoy our packed lunches. After lunch we decided to explore the front of the train. There was a gift shop the kids wanted to check out. A few of the kids brought money along and were eager to shop.

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While in the gift shop we discovered the post office. The OC&T railroad offers the only working railway post office in the United States. Well, we couldn’t pass up an opportunity to send someone a postcard from the train. We decide Ozzie would get a kick out of getting a postcard from a train so we purchased a post card, wrote a note, and posted it. We can’t wait to see his face when he receives it!

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After two hours on the train we made a stop at the Rynd Farm station where we were able to get out and walk around for twenty minutes before we started back. Because the train runs on a one way track the engine disconnected, turned around and reattached to other end of the train to drive us back to the Titusville station. It was neat to watch the process.

Our stop at Rynd station.

Our stop at Rynd station.

The entire trip was four hours long. We had an additional four hours of travel getting there and back but we found the entire experience well worth the time invested. Tyler loved the train experience, especially the open car in the back, and the other kids loved revisiting this memorable place that they had enjoyed seven years prior.

At 2:30pm we stepped off the train and prepared for the long ride home with one last stop at the bathrooms. We came home tired after our long day but a nap simply wasn’t in the cards. We had to get ready for our second outing of the day, a nighttime romp at Living Treasures Animal Park! :)

A week of field trips

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This week is our week of field trips! We teach our children at home with the use of cyber charter schools. We have been schooling our children this way for the last 10 years and up until last year all the kids attended the same school. Last year we made some changes. In an effort to better meet the needs of each child we separated them into different schools that better fit each child. Grace and Rusty belong to one school, Molly to another and Tyler to a different one. Ozzie attends our local public school, at least for now. With three different schools comes many field trip opportunities. This week we had three separate field trips all hit in one week. Yesterday was a field trip with 21st Century Cyber School- Grace and Rusty’s school.

Since Grace and Rusty’s school is headquartered on the east side of the state just outside of Philadelphia most of the outing that are offered are too far to travel to, so when they come west we try to make an effort to attend. For my kids, whose interaction with teachers is primarily via the computer, the opportunity to meet teachers face to face is a treat. Yesterday Grace was able to meet her World Geography teacher:

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And Rusty was able to meet his home room teacher:

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Our field trip was to Simmons farm. A beautiful local farm located just south of Pittsburgh. It was about an hour drive for us to get there.

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When we arrived we were surprised to find that only two other families had signed up. The small number, however, made for a fun, intimate day with those who attended. The kids were able to really get to know their teachers and get a lot of undivided attention. :)

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The day began with a hayride out to the fields where we were allowed to all pick a pumpkin to take home:

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We were amazed by the large selection of HUGE pumpkins to pick from. The kids all went in search of the largest pumpkin they could find. When I stipulated that they must be able to carry their own pumpkin back to the car Tyler set down the large pumpkin he was carrying and exchanged it for something smaller. The big kids, however, picked the largest pumpkins they could find!

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The day was full of fun activities at the farm. There were slides, games, hay mazes and rock mazes…

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One of the biggest hits of the day, however, were the petal carts. The teachers decided it would be fun to race them. Round one was the teachers pushing the students…

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Round two: the students pushed the teachers. :)

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After lunch we headed, as a group, into the corn maze. Unlike our last corn maze, this corn maze did not come with a map. This led to a lot of aimless wandering before we found our way to the exit. :) Tyler loved it!

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The day ended with complementary apple cider and apples picked at the farm. They were both delicious and tasted like fall!

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It was a beautiful day at a beautiful farm.

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Thank you 21st Century Cyber School!

Today we have two more field trips lined up…This time with Molly’s school.

Tyler’s Baptism Day

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Saturday was a special day at Patchwork Farm. It was Tyler’s baptism day!

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It was a day of celebration as Tyler chose to follow Christ’s example and be baptized.

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Once again I’m amazed at how far Tyler has come in the last two years and how he has grown emotionally and spiritually. When Tyler moved in with us, as a six-year-old little boy, he came with no religious background. He had never stepped foot into a church. He had never heard of Jesus or prayed to God. What an interesting journey it was introducing Tyler to his Heavenly Father and trying to explain abstract concepts to a six-year-old like who the Holy Ghost is and what faith is. For my older three who were raised with a spiritual foundation they simply couldn’t fathom not knowing Christ much less not knowing of Christ.

I remember the first meal we ate with Tyler. We sat and told him that before we eat we pray.

He asked, “What is praying?”

We explained that praying is talking to God.

“Who is that?” he asked.

Trying to explain such an abstract idea to a distracted little boy who was ready to dig into his pizza was a lesson in futility so we settled on explaining the behavior that was expected when we pray. (We knew getting to the heart of the matter would take time.) We explained that we show reverence by folding our hands, bowing our head and remaining still and quiet while the prayer is being said.

The expected behavior was demonstrated and Grace was asked to pray. Halfway through the prayer I opened one eye to peek at Tyler and my heart leapt into my throat as I saw him standing with arms outstretched, balancing his full glass of water on his head, while we prayed. As I opened my mouth to speak out I happened to catch a glimpse of Molly out of the corner of my eye, eyes wide with shock and mouth hanging open with horror at this little heathen’s behavior during prayer time. :) My sheltered children had quite the “real world” schooling from this little boy who came to us with colorful language and shocking behavior.

Church was another adventure as we fought with Tyler each week about going to church. On one of the more trying weeks he refused to put on his church clothes. His thought was, ‘If I don’t take off my PJs I won’t have to go.” He seriously underestimated our tenacity and ended up attending church in  flannel cartoon pajamas that week. It only took a few children asking him why he wore his pajamas to church to keep him from making that choice again. :)

As time passed we saw him growing spiritually. I  remember the first time he asked me to pray with him..the first time he prayed in faith. It was when we had a litter of bunnies living in the basement. We had new babies born recently only to find them missing one morning when we went down to feed them. After searching for an hour with no luck Tyler said, “We need to pray!” With an earnestness that only a little boy could possess he poured out his heart to his loving Heavenly Father asking Him to help us find the baby bunnies. Tyler looked up expecting the bunnies to be at his feet. With disappointment in his voice he looked at me and said, “It didn’t work.”

It was time for us to leave for co-op so I explained that sometimes it takes time for God to answer our prayers, but I could see the doubt in his eyes. Oh, how I prayed that day. I prayed like I had never prayed before that those little bunnies would be  found. As much as I cared about those silly little bunnies, it was Tyler I was praying for. I prayed that God would answer his prayer so that he could gain a testimony of prayer and truly feel God’s love and concern for a little boy’s broken heart.

We arrived home and Tyler ran for the basement, shouting over his shoulder, “I bet the bunnies are back!” I followed him, praying fervently. I heard a squeal of delight and a shout, “The baby bunnies are all here by the cage. God answered our prayer!”

As I walked down the stairs to indeed find the baby bunnies huddled by the cage door, trembling in fear at Tyler’s volume and enthusiasm, Tyler turned to me and said, “Now we need to tell God thank you!”

So, we prayed again.

Every spoken prayer, every answered prayer, every prayer prayed on his behalf has brought him to this day.

From a little broken boy who had never heard of Jesus Christ to a little boy who has covenanted to follow Christ…

Our God is still a God of miracles.

Tyler’s special day:

Tyler receiving his own scriptures.

Tyler receiving his own scriptures.

Mimi and Pop pop came out for Tyler's special day.

Mimi and Pop pop came out for Tyler’s special day.

Tyler was baptized by his Daddy. Mimi Joy came to celebrate with us.

Tyler was baptized by his Daddy. Mimi Joy came to celebrate with us.

Tyler and Molly

Tyler and Molly

Tyler and Grace

Tyler and Grace

Tyler and Rusty

Tyler and Rusty

Tyler and Ozzie

Tyler and Ozzie

The whole family :)

The whole family :)

God is good!

Follow the Yellow Brick Road

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“A place where there isn’t any trouble. Do you suppose there is such a place, Toto? There must be. It isn’t a place you can get to by boat or by train. It’s far away…behind the moon…beyond the rain,

Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

Last Friday we found the place that Dorothy described when we followed the yellow brick road all the way to Coolspring Corn Maze in Mercer, Pa and joined our co-op friends for a day of fun.

Our co-op friends!

Our co-op friends!

We have been visiting Coolspring maze annually for the last few years. Each year the maze is cut in a different design with a different theme. This year’s theme is The Wizard of Oz.

The arial view of the corn maze.

The aerial view of the corn maze.

The day began around 11:00am when we all met up at the entrance for pictures.

"I've got the feeling we're not in Kansas any more."

” Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas any more.” -Dorothy

Cool spring maze had gone all out with their life-sized Wizard of Oz decorations…

"I am convinced that the only people worthy of consideration in this world are the unusual ones. For the common folks are like leaves of a  tree and live and die unnoticed." - The Scarecrow

“I am convinced that the only people worthy of consideration in this world are the unusual ones. For the common folks are like leaves of a tree and live and die unnoticed.” – The Scarecrow

"Be gone, before someone drops a house on you too!"

“I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog too!” – Wicked Witch of the West

"Don't make me call my flying monkeys."

“Don’t make me call my flying monkeys.”

"A heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others."

“A heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.” – Wizard of Oz

When we arrived we were given maps to the maze. Placed around the maze were wooden stands with facts about The Wizard of Oz written on them. The maps had a crossword puzzle on the back and the idea was to find all the stands and fill in the crossword puzzle clues.

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Coolspring Maze offered a variety of fun activities including the corn maze, peddle carts, hay to climb on, pumpkin cannons, gem mining, and slides. Our first stop was the corn maze. As we entered the kids quickly split into groups. Grace and Molly joined their friends and headed in one direction…

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While Rusty and Tyler joined the boys and headed in another direction…

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As Tyler ran off with Rusty and I was left with nobody to supervise it was another reminder of how far Tyler has come. This is the first year since Tyler joined our family that I felt confident letting Tyler wander the maze without adult supervision. This year I was able to let him join the boys without worrying about him running away, disobeying the big boys, or having a meltdown. Oh, how far we have come…

As I result I found myself wandering the maze with friends, without any kids to herd. It was quite delightful!

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After everyone had worked their way through the maze we all met to eat lunch and let the kids participate in the other fun activities offered.

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It was a beautiful autumn day to wander among the corn, hay and pumpkins.

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It was soon time to leave Oz so I did what any good, respectable country girl would do.

I closed my eyes, tapped my heels together three times, and thought to myself…

There’s no place like home!

Then I hopped in the car and drove away :)

"Follow the yellow brick road!"

“Follow the yellow brick road!”

Broken finger, Broken heart

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I find the hardest part of parenting is having to watch your child hurt. I suppose that never changes. Whether your child is 5 or 50 the pain you feel as you watch them hurt stings far more than any personal loss. This week we had a few painful experiences in our home…some physically painful, some emotionally painful.

Among these hurts was a broken finger and a broken heart.

First the physical pain…

It was an epic battle. Ozzie verses a car door. The car door won.

Monday night we arrived home late after an appointment at the adoption agency’s office. Ozzie stepped out of one side of the car while I exited on the other side. All I heard was the slam of the car door and then “the scream.” That blood curdling scream that only comes from true physical pain. Toby came running as I raced around the car to see the door shut with Ozzie’s hand wedged inside. He had slammed his own hand in the car door. We took him in, examined it, and iced it for the next few hours. After a couple of hours of ice the pain was minimal so we sent him to bed to reevaluate in the morning.

With 8 hours of sleep under his belt Ozzie emerged in the morning with his pinky discolored, swollen and sore…time for a trip to the Emergency Room. Ozzie was a nervous wreck and kept insisting that a trip to the ER was completely unnecessary and that his pinky “felt fine.” He tried hard not to grimace as I touched it.

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When we arrived he was visibly anxious. The doctor and nurses tried to calm him by assuring him that no shots would be necessary. After a x-ray the break was confirmed. The doctor explained to Ozzie that they can’t cast a pinky so he would be wearing a splint on his finger for the next few weeks. After a little Motrin and a little ice Ozzie was ready to head back to school and show his friends his new accessory.

As painful as a broken bone can be there are other pains in life that are far more painful.

Brooke Randolph is quoted as saying,

“There is so much loss wrapped up in adoption that it is unfair to ask a child to be thankful.”

It is easy to forget. Often you will look at a child that is being adopted into a happy home and a loving family and you think, “Wow, what a blessing.” You expect that child to be full of joy over this positive turn in his life and grateful for his many new blessings, without giving any thought to the huge amount of loss he is dealing with.

Yes, this new house is wonderful, but it isn’t his “home.”

Yes, the new bed with the clean sheets is ideal, but the pillow doesn’t smell like his pillow.

Yes, the toys in the playroom are neat, but he misses his bear that he has slept with since birth.

Yes this new mom is kind, but he misses Mommy…she might not have been the best Mommy but she was his Mommy.

There is so much loss that comes with adopting a child and these are losses that will hurt for a long time. Sometimes I can anticipate a trigger that will bring up a loss or a hurt in Tyler or Ozzie. “Firsts” are always big ones…first time going on vacation, first Halloween, first day of a new school, first tooth fairy visit, first Christmas. With each new “first” they step further away from life as they knew it and with that step comes an emotional fallout. Sometimes I see it coming but sometimes I am blindsided.

Recently I was blindsided and it all began with a “Baby, look how you’ve grown” bulletin board.

Ozzie is in fourth grade at our local public school. His teacher decided that she was going to do a bulletin board full of baby pictures of the kids in her class and let everyone “guess the baby.” Sounds cute, right? This is what caused a certain little boy a lot of heart pain this week. You see, Ozzie doesn’t have a baby picture of himself. In fact he doesn’t have any picture of himself before the age of nine.

Once again here is another one of those losses you don’t think about that so many adoptive children face. Can you imagine having no record of your life, no photos of how you looked, what your home was like, or what you did, before the age of nine. It is heartbreaking. Well, imagine how that pain and loss intensifies when the rest of the class is bringing in a baby photo and you have none to share. This was our heart struggle this week.

Upon hearing about this assignment Ozzie approached the teacher privately and told her that he didn’t have any baby pictures of himself. Her solution: just bring in a current picture. Ozzie came home and shared his assignment and I could tell he was really struggling with it. He didn’t want to have a 10-year-old photo of himself on the board in a sea of baby grins. I gave her a call. I explained Ozzie’s situation and she was dumbfounded. “He really has no baby picture of himself? I’ve never heard of someone having no baby pictures of themselves,” she said.

It was time to figure out a solution…

I began by calling all the social workers, lawyers, doctors and therapists in Ozzie’s life to see if anyone had in their file a young picture of Ozzie. Nobody did. So I sat Ozzie down and we talked about what his options were. I told him we could…

#1-not send a picture at all.

#2- Send in a baby picture of Rusty. The other kids didn’t need to know that it wasn’t Ozzie.

or #3- Send in a current picture.

None of the solutions were ideal so we decided to pray about it. After praying and talking for a few days Ozzie came up with what he wanted to do. He decided to bring in a picture of the day he was “born” into our family…the day he moved into his forever home.

Perfect, right?!

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I was so proud of him. I called his teacher and gave her the heads up of what our plan was. I told her that Ozzie and I would love to come talk to his class about adoption and about how not all families look the same or are made the same way. I explained that Ozzie’s adoption day was next month and that he would like to talk to his class about adoption. She loved the idea and felt it could be tied into the school’s anti-bullying campaign. She is going to let us know when we are going to come in and talk to the class but in the mean time we have resolved the baby picture dilemma…for now. I know this loss will rear its ugly head again and again throughout Ozzie’s life…at his graduation party when there are no baby pictures on display, at his wedding reception when there are no baby pictures to put in the slide show, or perhaps on the day when he holds his own newborn baby for the first time. This loss is just one of many that come with the adoption journey. I can’t take the hurt away. I can only love him, hug him, and continue taking as many pictures of him as I can.

Let Autumn Begin!

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“I am so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” – L.M. Montgomery

October is by far my favorite month of the year but it also is usually the busiest; full of fall parties, service projects, leaf raking, Halloween fun, corn mazes and field trips. As I look at the next thirty days of the calendar, hanging on the fridge, no day remains untouched. I have to stop myself when I find my heart palpitating at the sight of all that ink and remind myself that these are simply the blessings that keep my life full… and that it is good.

Our first fall get together occurred on Saturday night when we invited some friends from our home school co-op over for a bonfire. For Rusty’s 13th birthday he wanted to have his dearest friends and their families over for hot dogs, s’mores, and night games.

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Rusty invited three families over. For dinner we had hot dogs over the fire, baked beans, chips, salads, and of course hot apple cider. The weather was ideal. It was dry and cool and felt like fall.

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While the kids played, the adults had a chance to visit and keep warm by the fire. When the sun dropped below the hills the real fun began. The kids were excited to have friends over after dark so that they could play night games. They decided they would play capture the flag in the dark and glow sticks were handed out to help everyone keep track of each other.

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Grace and Rusty were team captains. Boundaries for the game were discussed and then teams were chosen.

Team 1

Team 1

Team 2

Team 2

For the next hour all we heard were shouts and squeals coming from the corners of the property while the adults enjoyed the tranquility of the fire and the absence of the children. Soon the kids were cold and ready to eat again. Cake was brought out, gifts were opened and everyone enjoyed some fun friend time before everyone headed home.

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Happy birthday Rusty and welcome fall!

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Happy Birthday Rusty!

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Well, it is official…I now have three teenagers. Where did the years go?!

Rusty turned 13 years old yesterday and we had a wonderful time celebrating his special day.

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The day began with us waking him up before Toby had to leave for work with a piece of Red Velvet cake and a Happy Birthday serenade.

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Rusty enjoyed a day of play. A homeschool birthday in our home means a day off of school, a day free of chores, and birthday boy’s choice on all major decisions…like what TV show to watch. :) Rusty enjoyed his free day of lounging and playing video games.

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For Rusty’s birthday treat we decided to surprise him with something special. After all it was his 13th birthday. So instead of cake we had

“The Kitchen Sink!”

Let me explain…

When we went to Disney World with just the big kids when Rusty was 9 years old one of his favorite experiences occurred on our first day there. Friends had told us about a little known gem at the Beaches and Crème Soda Shop called The Kitchen Sink. It is, in essence, the world’s largest, most delicious ice cream sundae. When you order it lights flash and people shout in celebration. It is brought out in a Kitchen Sink and includes:

1/2 cup of fudge topping

1/2 cup of butterscotch topping

1/2 cup of peanut butter topping

1 banana, sliced

1 cinnamon spice cupcake, quartered

1 angel food cupcake, quartered

2 scoops of vanilla ice cream

2 scoops chocolate ice cream

2 scoops strawberry ice cream

2 scoops mint chocolate chip ice cream

2 scoops coffee ice cream

3 Tbs. chocolate syrup

1/4 cup marshmallow crème

1/4 cup pineapple topping

1/4 cup strawberry topping

1 brownie, quartered

4 Oreos

1 crushed candy bar

1 Tbs. toasted almonds

1 Tbs. chocolate shavings

1 Tbs. chocolate chips

2 Tbs. sprinkles

and 1/2 cup maraschino cherries

It literally includes everything you could imagine putting in a sundae…including the kitchen sink. This left quite an impression on a certain nine-year-old little boy and when Rusty found out that we were going back to Disney World his number one request was to have The Kitchen Sink once again.

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On day one at Disney we drove over to Beaches and Crème to introduce the little boys to the ultimate ice cream sundae only to find out that they now only take reservations and not walk in guests. The kids were sorely disappointed. This is what led us to the idea of recreating the Kitchen Sink experience at home as a birthday surprise for Rusty.

Step one: find an unused kitchen sink. (This is when it is nice to be married to a contractor.)  :)

Step two: bake, buy, chop and prepare the 25 ingredients that make this massive sundae.

Step three: assemble quickly (ice cream melts!)

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Step four: surprise the kids with The Kitchen Sink. (Listen for the audible gasps)

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Step five: hand out spoons and enjoy!

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Everyone did a valiant job of emptying the sink.

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Happy 13th birthday, Rusty!

We hope it was unforgettable!

“A Tale as Old as Time”

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We are back home, getting back into a routine and as I’ve been facing the mounds of laundry to be washed, the list of phone calls to return and the pile of mail to be sorted I have been reflecting on the sweet memories made over the last two weeks. In particular I have been reflecting on our “picture perfect” final day.

We spent our final Disney day in Magic Kingdom. After spending the first Magic Kingdom day in Adventureland, Frontierland and Tomorrowland, and missing most of the second day at Magic Kingdom due to illness, we were ready to tackle Fantasyland. Everyone was eager to spend time in this new section of Magic Kingdom where Rapunzel’s tower has popped up, the Beast’s Castle now sits, and new Little Mermaid and Snow White rides are running. We loved all the new additions but the focus of the day was definitely “Beauty and the Beast,” my all time favorite Disney flick.

Our day started with a trip to Gaston’s tavern where we met “the charmer” himself.

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“As you see I’ve got biceps to spare”

For lunch we got in line early for Be Our Guest restaurant. After two previous attempts at eating lunch there and finding it filled by 11:00am we made sure we got in line by 10:30am. We had reservations for dinner that night but wanted to have lunch there as well since the menu and experience are entirely different. At 11:00 the doors opened and they began seating. The process to get your food is quite ingenious. You start at a menu screen where you place your order. You then seat yourself and the servers find you through the tracker in the magic band you are wearing or the magic rose you receive when you order (if you don’t have a magic band.)

Ordering lunch..

Ordering lunch..

You can choose to eat in one of three rooms: The West Wing, The Ballroom or the Music Box room. We chose the Music Box room.

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Soon after sitting our food arrived.

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Everyone’s choices were delicious, although I highly recommend the roast beef sandwich with horseradish sour cream. It was delicious! For dessert I had “The grey stuff.”

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The Grey Stuff...it's delicious. Don't believe me? Ask the dishes!

The Grey Stuff…it’s delicious. Don’t believe me? Ask the dishes!

We have only good things to say about this restaurant. The food was delicious and the atmosphere was amazing!

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In the afternoon we visited the rides we missed earlier and revisited our old favorites. Everyone had a must see or ride item on our to-do list.

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My must see item was the Rapunzel bathrooms…the cutest bathrooms in Disney World!

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Another item on our must do list was riding the new Little Mermaid ride. After sitting in our clam-mobile we were taken on a ride through the Little Mermaid story, complete with our favorite songs to sing along to.

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For dinner we returned to Be Our Guest restaurant for our final dinner. For dinner the meal is table service and more formal than lunch. We were thrilled to be seated in the forbidden West Wing right under the prince’s torn portrait.

The West Wing

The West Wing

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It is here in the west wing that the enchanted rose can be found. You can sit and watch the petals drop. When the final petal drops the rose disappears, the thunder crashes and the portrait changes from the prince to the Beast. It was very cool!

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IMG_3558The food was just as amazing as lunch only fancier.

The dinner menu

The dinner menu

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After dinner we stopped in the study to thank the Beast for his hospitality.

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It is hard to believe the magic is over, the story is done,  and it is time to say good-bye to all our new friends.

It is like Winnie the Pooh said at the end of the story…

“Goodbye? Oh no, please. Can’t we go back to page one and start all over again?” :)