Go Play in the Dirt

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“I grow plants for many reasons:  to please my soul, to challenge the elements or to challenge my patience, for novelty, or for nostalgia, but mostly for the joy in seeing them grow.” – David Hobson

Last night I got dirty with some of my friends…

because you know what they say:

 “Life is too short to have clean fingernails.”  :)

I have a new calling at church. (A new responsibility)

I’m the 2nd counselor in Relief Society and am in charge of working with a committee to plan classes and activities for the ladies at church. I am so excited for this new responsibility and last night was our first activity. We planned a container gardening class.

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The committee members worked together to come up with creative containers to plant in, which then served as the centerpieces for the night.

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The class was taught by Sharon, one of the creative ladies at church. She has been container gardening for years and did a wonderful job of introducing us to the basics and the benefits of gardening this way.

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After Sharon’s class we made our own “upcycled” container garden using old milk jugs. We planted them with lettuce and when they mature we will be able to pick off leaves of lettuce to enjoy with our meals.

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Our finished "craft"

Our finished “craft”

For our treat …to end our fun night… we had edible dirt which Hannah, another committee member, made. The pudding/oreo trifles were topped with gummy worms, thus completing the look. They were charming.

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It was a nice night and all those involved did a great job. I think it gave us all spring fever and the itch to start planting. It was a fun night with a fabulous group of ladies!

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A “tearjerker” from someone who gets it.

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We have joined an adoptive support group for families that have adopted “trauma kids.” The class consists of a 6 week course for the parents and trauma support activities for the kids (adopted and bio.) This class has been a great blessing! What encouragement it is to sit with other parents walking that same hard road…

who nod in understanding at your outrageous stories…

who shed tears of understanding when you express your frustration and fatigue.

It has been so healing to just have our feelings acknowledged and affirmed.

Our leader, who is an adoptive mom of traumatized children herself (7 of them) in addition to being a social worker, has been an amazing resource.

She is informative, encouraging and REAL. I love it! She lives in the trenches and shares the stories of her heart breaks, as well as the success stories.

She was the one who shared the following blog post, written by Heidi Weimer, with our group. It was a source of great comfort to her and felt we would also be encouraged by the words written. As she handed me my copy she whispered, “It will make you weep. It is what you need to hear.”

She was right. I waited until I was alone to pull it out and read it. I cried.

It was just what I needed to hear.

So, for my friends who may be walking a similar hard road, I share this with you.

You are not alone.

And you are an AMAZING parent!

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“I’m sitting here spitting nails. I’ll be honest about that from the get-go. And I’m typing a hundred miles a minute. And probably not going to edit a whole lot. BECAUSE ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. There is not a week that goes by that I do not receive multiple emails, phone calls, Facebook messages, or texts either from someone currently in the trenches or someone who knows someone who is. They’re at their wit’s end. They can’t take much more. They’re lonely. Grieved. And scared. And while I could spend forever trying to explain to those NOT in the trenches what it’s like down in the trenches, I’m not going to waste my time. Because the truth is, as you all know, that unless you have lived it, you will probably never get it. You just won’t. Oh, how we parents of trauma kids wish that weren’t so.

And if you’re reading this because your friend or family member passed it along, now’s your chance to erase your presumptions and shred your judgments and just take a listen and try to understand.

But if you’re reading this and already nodding, I’m trusting that you already get it. That you know what it’s like to step out of your comfortable American Christianity and choose one of the unwanted ones. The older, “broken” kids whom no one else said YES to. You know what it’s like to have that kind of compassion, faith, and willingness, that open heart and open home, that open-to-come-what-may. You know what it’s like to love the unlovable. To say yes to a call from God that no one else wants to hear or acknowledge. To take in a child of trauma. And you know what it’s like to be hated—and all but destroyed—by that child in return.

 

You wake up every day exhaling a supernatural prayer to inhale supernatural peace and supernatural strength, because it’s harder than heck to navigate this dark and untrodden road. You are depressed because darkness and strife have taken over your previously semi-docile home. You are scared because you never know what the day will hold—violent threats? police visits? psychiatric hospital? having to gather up your littles and leave the house in a moment’s notice—But the eggshells are a guarantee. Always the eggshells. So you’re always on edge. Anxious. Waiting for the shoe to drop. Because it always, most definitely does.

And you’re so darn tired of having to put your other kids on the sidelines while every ounce of your energy and every second of your time are devoted to the one who demands all. You feel like a neglectful parent because you see your other kids withering away, living in their own fear, sadness, trauma. You miss your old life and can’t even remember what it was like to just be you. And all because you said YES.

You’ve lost countless friends to the lies and manipulation. Countless. And you fear that those who stick around are susceptible to departure when the going keeps getting tougher than tough. Your church group doesn’t understand. Your co-workers have no clue. Your mom group just gives you a collective puppy dog sad face and tells you they’ll be praying. You’ve been to therapist after so-called “expert” therapist, and their best suggestion is take a breath or read a book or play a game or—better yet—to take your six-months-pregnant self and rock your larger-than-you 14-year-old to sleep at night (true story). Or the worst, to flat out accuse you of totally failing as a parent. You try to explain to your relatives what it’s really like to live with this child, but they don’t get it. No one does. Because all they see is the charm. The smiles. The public display of model behavior.

Teachers at your kid’s school tell you how sweet he is. Youth group workers gush over how precious she is. All the world feels pity for your “innocent” child. But no one seems to care or notice that life at home with them is sheer hell. And if you let them in on it, they don’t believe you or think you’re just not trying hard enough. They completely judge you.

And those of us who get it would all agree that reaching out for help often hurts worse. So we’re scared to speak up or reach out, because it’s often better just to suffer alone than have it piled on by others too.

Forget the fact that your other kids are perfectly decent, kind individuals (most of the time). Forget that you used to be esteemed as a wonderful parent. Forget that you used to actually teach classes on parenting and adoption and the like. Forget that people loved you and lauded you before. Before you said YES.

Forget the fact that you’ve spent tens of thousands of hard-earned and worked-for dollars just to bring this child home. That you’ve dropped everything for their redemption. That you have spent countless hours and dollars on therapy and treatment and hospital stays and literature and counseling and so on. That you and your spouse are drowning in debt because you will stop at nothing to help your kid. What choice do you have?

Forget all of that, because no one gets it. They don’t understand that adopted kids of trauma are often the most master of manipulators. By definition, they know how to survive by lying, charming, manipulating. They push away those that care the most. But you already know that. Because you live it.

If your kid had cancer, they’d stand up with you. If your spouse passed away, they’d rally around. But try to parent a kid of trauma who inflicts trauma at home, and it’s crickets, crickets, crickets.

Oh, my heart just breaks at the injustice of it all. And for the thousands upon thousands of you parents who just.totally.get.it.

You’re pushed away. You’re spat upon. You’re punched. You’re hit. You’re rejected. You’re lied to and lied about and often. You’re the scapegoat for all of their pain. You’ve supposedly ruined their life before you were ever in it. You’re screamed at, yelled at, and victimized.

You’re looked at with suspicion under a microscope. CPS questions your intentions. The world outside of your inner circle has painted you as a failure who just didn’t know what you were getting into.

BUT I’M HERE TO TELL YOU…

I have lived it and survived it and am here to tell you now, that those are all LIES. Because you’re doing a  good job. You said YES when the rest of the world said NO. You sacrificed EVERYthing. You put it all on the line. You gave all and still do. You risked reputation for the sake of redemption. (Hmmmm, Jesus, anyone?)

You chose this road in the first place because you have good in you. You have the love of Christ. A love for humanity. A love for the least of these. For the forgotten. You wanted to make an impact for eternity on the life of someone who needed you to step up. And so you did.

But right now you’re crying out and screaming Forget eternity!, because you don’t even think you can make it through today.

But you will. And you are sure to come out on the other side someday with fewer friends, less pretense, and more grit. You might not (probably won’t) have the storybook, fairytale ending. Others will swoop in to be your kid’s knights-in-shining-armor just when you’ve almost made it. Everyone on the outside will want to be your kid’s hero, to rescue the poor, troubled orphan that you supposedly “just couldn’t get through to.” And it will truly suck to accept it.

But the thing is, the truth is, those on the outside, those who swoop in to “save,” well, they have it easy. They have the relationship without the commitment (the very thing these kids reject). They have the hero complex without really getting their hands dirty. They can pat themselves on the back and feel like a savior when it’s on your back that the real burden lies. They haven’t sat for hours while your kid rages. They haven’t stood in courtrooms while they listened to false accusations. They haven’t had the bruises. The injuries. The heart pain. They haven’t been YOU.

And even if your kid never acknowledges it, even if they never come around, even if you never live to see their healing, even if someone else claims credit, YOU’VE DONE AN AMAZING THING. You’ve walked a painful road, but you didn’t have to. You knew it wouldn’t be easy. And you said YES anyway.

You’ve made tough choices for your kid when others just took the easy road. And your Heavenly Father is proud. SO VERY PROUD. Believe it!

So hold up your head. Raise your eyes. Gird up. You are an AMAZING PARENT. And if you have to wake up every single day and look in the mirror and say that out loud, so be it. You were never guaranteed the outcome, but that doesn’t change the kind of warrior you are.

You keep on keeping on. You, in the glory of His favor. He is PROUD.

And if and when your friends abandon you. If your family forsakes you. If the world judges your intentions and decisions. If you have nothing left but the cross you bear, know that Jesus smiles upon you. Because you are AMAZING.

You love well and you love hard. You are doing the nearly impossible. You aren’t getting a break from your ministry. There’s no respite for this battle. You can’t take a vacation from this pain. You can’t go home at night and simply call it a day, because your home is no longer your home.

And of course you already know that you can’t force results. Coerce cooperation. Or manipulate circumstances. So you simply carry on. Because you are a WARRIOR.

You should be revered instead of crucified. Rewarded instead of critiqued. Uplifted instead of judged.

But nothing is ideal on this side of eternity. Nothing is fair.

So until then, or until redemption rains down, HOLD UP YOUR HEAD and JOIN MY HAND and KNOW that you KNOW that you KNOW that you are GOOD. I’m serious. Did you get that? YOU. ARE. GOOD.

You said YES. Even if no one understands. Or hears. Or sees. It’s enough that Jesus does.

This is for solidarity. And solidarity alone.

Pass this on, re-post it, and do whatever you feel helps you survive. Share it with your loved ones, for even if they don’t understand in the end, at least they can know that YOU are not alone in this. That thousands rally around. Thousands in the trenches. Thousands walking the hard, hellish, lonely road of adoption of older, traumatized kids. This post is for YOU. Only YOU. And it’s about time.”

Amen

Where in the World is…

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Where in the world is…

Mimi Joy going on a mission?!

That has been the pressing question for the last few months as we waited for her mission papers to arrive. A few months ago, after much prayer, Toby’s mom felt called to the mission field to serve a full-time mission for the Lord. She completed the necessary paperwork and then waited to find out where she would be sent. On Friday she received word that her papers were in the mail so we planned to meet for dinner on Sunday night.

For church Toby pulled out a pile of “hand me down” ties that he had recently received. Looking through them, in search of a tie for church, he discovered a wide variety that of ties that spanned the spectrum of tacky. :) He decided to have some fun with it and declared that Sunday would be “tacky tie day” at church. The boys all picked a dreadful tie to wear.

Don’t they look dashing? ;)

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After church we drove over to Mimi Joy’s house to spend the day and join her for dinner.

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The papers had not arrived in the mail, so the wait continued, but we enjoyed our time together just the same.

On Monday Toby received a call letting us know that we needed to come over. Her mission papers had arrived and she wanted us to be there for the big reveal. Toby met us at his mom’s house after we made a quick stop at the store for flowers and the ingredients for root beer floats. It was a celebration, after all!

Flowers for Mimi Joy.

Flowers for Mimi Joy.

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Molly helped me assemble the root beer floats while everyone gathered in the living room.

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Before the envelope was opened we played a guessing game:

“Where in the world will Mimi be serving her mission?”

I brought a map to tack up on the wall and everyone labeled a sticker with their initial and placed it where they thought she would be sent.

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Everyone made their guess:

Molly- Philadelphia

Toby- Arkansas

Ozzie- Hawaii

Tyler- Isle Guadalupe

Aunt Beth- Japan

Katie/ Rusty- Salt Lake City

Grace- Seattle

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It was just about time for the big reveal…

But first we had to get Joy’s sisters on the phone. Through the blessing of conference call technology

 Merlene, LeeAnna, and Monica were able to join in Joy’s special moment.

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Drumroll please…

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Mimi Joy has been called to serve in the Missouri Independence mission and will leave on June 29th. She will serve for a period of 18 months.

Toby was the closest with his guess of Arkansas. :)

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We are so happy for Mimi Joy and this new chapter of her life!

We know she will be a blessing to many.

Mimi Joy and the kiddos.

Mimi Joy and the kiddos.

All fun and games

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“Learn together… pray together… work together… play together”

This is what we have adopted as our family mantra, and while not always successful, we strive to live our life by this pattern.

Saturday we had the opportunity to work on all four of these areas of our relationship as we had a “stay at home” Saturday…

a rare and wonderful treat!

The morning was spent catching up on chores, working on “fix up” projects around the house, and doing a little spring clean up in the yard. The sun was out and it was a beautiful day. No one wanted to be indoors, so much of our day was spent working on outdoor projects.

I did a little decorating and crafting. When I was out at my Mom’s house for girls’ weekend I picked up a few old board games at a thrift store for $1.00/each. I had something special planned for the scrabble board. :)

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Another fun “game” decoration I found in Ohio.

 

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Toby also had a “honey dew” list he was working on. One of his tasks for the day was to set up an air hockey table. Friends were getting rid of the air hockey table in their basement and we were thrilled when they offered us first dibs. Tyler was particularly thrilled when Toby came home with it. Saturday afternoon, with the help of the big kids, the table was maneuvered up the stairs to the playroom to be set up.

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We promised the kids that we would have a family tournament later, after we were done working for the day.

For dinner we enjoyed our first bonfire of the year and roasted hot dogs. Grace went out with a friend for a belated birthday dinner so it was just the four youngest. It was a beautiful evening and it was so much fun being outside.

It was a beautiful spring day.

It was a beautiful spring day.

The kids coloring o the outdoor chalkboard.

The kids coloring on the outdoor chalkboard.

The sun just starting to set.

The sun just starting to set.

Tyler enjoying family time.

Tyler enjoying family time.

Time to roast hot dogs!

Time to roast hot dogs!

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Winnie wants a bite!

Winnie wants a bite!

First s'more of the season.

First s’more of the season.

After dinner we moved up to the playroom for our tournament. We set up the chalkboard to keep score of who won each round.

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We began with Rusty playing Molly.

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Molly won!

Then Toby and I played each other.

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Toby won…shocking, I know!

Then Tyler and Ozzie played against each other with Tyler winning the game.

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For round two Tyler and Toby played…with Toby winning.

For the final round it was Toby vs Molly.

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It was a very close game.

Molly was our final champion!

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It was a fun way to end a productive Saturday at home.

Memories at Mount Vernon

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2:30 am came very quickly on Thursday night. I never did make it to bed. :)

We woke everyone from a dead sleep and pushed them toward the front door. The little boys were already dressed. We tucked them into bed in their clothes so we could just load them in the car to leave. At 3:00 am we loaded up the car and pulled down the driveway.

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It took us an hour to drive to the pick up location where we were meeting the bus that would take us to Mount Vernon with our cyber school teachers. I expected the kids to all fall asleep in the car but everyone was too excited to sleep.

Still sleepy but ready to go!

Still sleepy but ready to go!

When we arrived at the pick up location we discovered that in addition to the teachers traveling with us there were only going to be 4 families traveling on our bus. (There were other buses leaving from different locations across the state) Our family and the Hudak family took up half the bus as everyone spread out and got comfortable for the 5 hour drive ahead of us.

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BFFs

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Toby and I

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Lucus and Rusty

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Tyler and Ozzie

We pulled out of the parking lot and drove for about 3 hours before we stopped at a rest stop for breakfast and bathroom breaks. When we climbed back on the bus everyone was feeling more alert and awake. The teachers then put in a movie they made about Mount Vernon and its history.

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The kids did amazingly well and even the little boys handled the long trip without any problems.

Playing travel games.

Playing travel games.

We knew we were almost there when we began passing the monuments of Washington D.C.

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And finally we arrived!

Everyone was given matching T-shirts to wear and we were able to meet up with the teachers who traveled on the other busses across the state. Grace was excited to see her teacher, Mr. Dolan.

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mount vernon

Mount Vernon:

“Mount Vernon was the plantation home of George Washington, first President of the United States. The estate is situated on the banks of the Potomac River in Fairfax County, Virginia, near Alexandria.”

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The beautiful view of the Potomac river from the porch of the mansion.

“The rooms at Mount Vernon have mostly been restored to their appearance at the time of George and Martha Washington’s occupancy. These rooms include Washington’s study, two dining rooms (the larger known as the New Room), the West Parlour, the Front Parlour, the kitchen and some bedrooms.”

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“A determined effort has to be made to restore the rooms and maintain the atmosphere of the eighteenth century; this has been achieved by using original color schemes, displaying furniture, carpets and decorative objects which are contemporary to the house. Throughout, George Washington and his family are evident through portraits and former possessions making it clear that Mount Vernon is as much a personal memorial to the Washingtons as a nationally important museum.”

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“The riverside estate of George Washington includes the Ford Orientation Center and Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center, facilities with 25 galleries and theaters, more than 700 artifacts, and interactive displays that introduce visitors to the real George Washington. The most famous dentures in the world are on display, along with three life-size models of Washington created from a forensic investigation. The historic area features the restored Mansion, original outbuildings, the tomb where the Washingtons are buried, beautiful gardens, and heritage breed animals.”

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It was a beautiful day…although much colder than we expected. When I checked the weather the day before, the temperature was supposed to be in the 80’s so we dressed accordingly, unfortunately it only reached the 50’s.

Here Tatum is trying to warm Molly up:

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Despite the cold we still had a wonderful time. The grounds were particularly beautiful with many new lambs playing in the field…

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The lambs weren’t the only ones prancing and playing in the fields.

The little boys spent much of the day skipping from place to place pretending they were horses. Here they play a game of chase while we waited in line to tour the mansion.

The little boys spent much of the day skipping from place to place pretending they were horses. Here they play a game of chase while we waited in line to tour the mansion.

Tyler doesn’t ever walk as long as he can run. :)

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 The out buildings were particularly interesting. The boys were fascinated with the black smith.

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As we toured the grounds I could understand why George Washington was quoted as saying this:

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The upper garden

What a beautiful day…

at a beautiful place…

with many beautiful memories made.

The McCleery family

If I die young…

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It is the middle of the night.

We leave in 2 1/2 hours, at 3:00am to board a bus for Mount Vernon, Virginia.

I should be sleeping but I can’t turn my brain off.

Oh, how I envy my sweet husband, snoring next to me, who can simply shut off the worries of his day and sleep.

This week a friend passed away.

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We haven’t talked in a few years but this friend had a life changing effect on my life. This friend was the one who started our home school co-op group. She saw a need and worked to meet that need by creating a venue for our children to gather, and learn, and for friendships (kids and mommas) to be forged. Meeting her on a cyber school field trip put me on a path that forever changed my life. Her effort has blessed my life abundantly. My children have blossomed, learning has taken place, memories have been made, and friendships have been formed. I owe her so much.

It is funny how the Lord uses us to answer the prayers of others…

and uses others to put us on the paths we need to be on.

Sometime friendships are life-long, but so often friendships are seasonal. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t real, or deep, or special, or valuable, it just means they are there to meet a need or serve a purpose, and then the Lord sends us on to the next friend that needs us.

Or the next friend that we need.

This friend came into my life during a season of transition when I needed support and encouragement. I was graduating from MOPS and moving out of the toddler/ preschool phase of life and entering the world of home schooling. I was nervous, insecure, and lacked a support system. I joined co-op just as it was beginning and immediately felt like I had come home. The past 10 years have been all the sweeter as a result.

I look at the profound role this dear friend played in my life. She affected the lives of so many, far more than she probably ever realized. We haven’t talked in a few years but I was heartbroken to hear of her tragic passing. It has affected me profoundly…

Perhaps because the loss feels so personal. She is me. She was living my life, she was my peer, with kids the same age. In a moment their lives were changed forever. It makes me all the more aware of my own mortality and the fleeting nature of life. In a moment it can be over.

The reality of these thoughts have been all-consuming this week as I consider my own life…

as I look at my own children…

as I listen to my husband snore next to me in the dark.

What would I say if tomorrow were my last day? What would I want my children to know?

So here it is. My words to my babies…

If I die young:

1. I love you. Oh, how I love you. I never understood the power of love until I held you in my arms. In loving you I better understand how my Father in Heaven feels about me, and I am humbled. I worried, with each addition, that I wouldn’t have enough love in me to go around, but I discovered love is sort of magical. It grows and multiplies until it is spilling out of your very soul. There is no limit to it.

I can’t wait until you each hold your first baby and feel the love I’m talking about. Then you will understand the love I have for you.

2. Being kind is the most important thing. More than being pretty or smart or talented. It is important to remember that everyone you will meet in your life is fighting a hard battle. It could be sickness, infertility, the loss of a loved one, financial struggles, a loss of faith, addiction. Everyone has a burden they carry. Most of these burdens are hidden and you will probably not even know they are there, so it is imperative that you be kind to everyone. Be kind to those who deserve it, but more importantly be kind to those who don’t. They are the ones who need it most.

Nothing has greater value in this world than kindness and if you can be nothing else, be kind.

3. The answer to life is found in JOY. The acronym is simple. Jesus first, Others second, then Yourself. By following this blueprint you will always have joy, because contrary to what the world is shouting at you, real joy comes from forgetting yourself and serving others.

4. Build a relationship with your Father…earthy and heavenly. They both love you dearly and want the best for you. These relationships are built from TIME. Your relationship will grow and sweeten as you spend time together, communicate, listen, and follow their guidance.

5. It doesn’t matter what you are doing, only how you are doing it. I don’t care what vocation you choose. I see no more value in being a doctor than a handyman. I only hope you will let God lead your steps as you seek out your life’s path…

and whatever you find yourself doing, do it well. Work hard, give it 100%, do your best. If you can learn early the enjoyment that comes from a job well done you will always find life enjoyable…for there will always be work to do.

6. How you treat someone who can do nothing for you says more about your character than anything else. Remember this when choosing friends or considering a future spouse.

How do they treat animals, children, the janitor, the homeless man on the corner, or the man behind the counter waiting on them? That is the real test of character.

7. Embrace plan B. Your life will be full of plan Bs. Those unexpected roads and course changes that go against your plans. They are often disappointing and it can be hard to embrace plan B when you are struggling to let go of the dream you had. Just remember that your plan B is often God’s plan A…

and His plan is always better!

8. Be grateful. Gratitude is the  father of all other virtues and the key to growth and happiness. Count your blessings and change your life. Something as simple as listing your blessings can change everything…

it may not change the circumstances, but it will change you.

Say thank you. Express gratitude to your Heavenly Father and to others. Take the time to write a thank you note when someone does something kind.

Please be grateful.

9. When it comes to relationships you get what you think you deserve in life. This is a hard one and its root is found in the way you see yourself. You have divine worth and you must believe that. For when you truly understand your great value in the eyes of your Heavenly Father you will attract a spouse who also sees that value in you. Unfortunately, I have also seen the opposite be true.

Believe you are a royal daughter or son of a Heavenly King and you will attract royalty.

10. Live today…really live! So often we postpone the important for the urgent, spending our days racing around “putting out fires,” and never really living. Each day is a gift from God and how you use that day is your gift to Him. So for today be present. Stop and see. Experience the world around you. Listen to the words of those you love, really listen. Work, and pray, and laugh, and love a little more. Practice patience.  Say your sorry and forgive…

Forgive others. Forgive yourself.

Give that compliment, and hug those you love a little tighter for a little longer. Share your testimony. Dream big dreams…

and enjoy the journey,

every twist and turn,

because it is an amazing ride!

“If you must look back, do so forgivingly. If you must look forward, do so prayerfully. However, the wisest thing you can do is be present in the present…Gratefully.” – Maya Angelou

Say Cheese!

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Wednesday night was youth activities at church…

and Grace was in charge of the lesson.

She volunteered to teach a photography class for the other young women, and her leaders took her up on her offer. Grace worked all week planning her class. She figured out the skills she wanted to teach and created a power point presentation.

As she flipped through her slides she expounded and explained.

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Here is her lesson, slide by slide:

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I was so proud of her. She prepared the lesson all by herself and then shared her talent and the love she has for photography with her peers.

After her presentation she set up a photo scavenger hunt for the girls to do.

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Photos from the “hunt.”

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The night ended with a treat…

“Say Cheese!”

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Good job, Miss Gracie!

Case Closed!

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My “littles” are easily thrown by change. They get nervous and anxious by a change in routine, new experiences, and the unexpected. They lived lives of uncertainty and high anxiety in their early years, as they weathered the scary road of abuse and foster care. The result of those years of uncertainty is that we always have emotional fallout whenever there is change. Something as small as a change in the time we have lunch can cause major anxiety and acting out. So when a BIG change in routine and predictability occurs

I brace myself knowing that we will have emotional fallout.

I left for my scrapbook weekend knowing that I would pay for my  absence when I returned home.

But it is ok.

Now knowing and anticipating that result makes dealing with it easier. Knowing why we deal with those results makes me more understanding.

I have two little boys who have lived lives in “fight or flight mode” for so long that any change, even good changes, send them into a hyper alert state.

The weekend away was needed and such a blessing. I left knowing that I’d pay for my absence on the other side, but it was well worth it.

When I returned home the payback began. Like a puppy traumatized by the experience of being left alone, I too was punished for leaving. The boys acted out…

Ozzie with emotional testing and Tyler with naughty behaviors.

The first incident occurred the night I arrived home. Grace was off to take a shower when she stepped back out of the bathroom and asked,

“Who cut their own hair?”

Nobody fessed up. Everyone denied their guilt. My silly boy didn’t realize that it didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to solve this mystery. The chestnut locks that littered the bathroom sink could only belong to one child…Mr. Tyler.

We called him over, examined the damage, and discovered that he had “cut” his hair with his sister’s razor, leaving a few lovely bald patches in the center of his head.

Oh the joy of parenting! ;)

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 This incident led us into the perfect timing of a new commitment on our schedule:

Trauma support group on Monday nights.

Our adoption agency just started a new support group that we have been invited to attend. It is set up for families who have adopted traumatized or abused children. Monday was our first meeting. We arrived at the church where the support group is being held. The first 30 minutes were spent eating dinner together. They provide dinner at each meeting and this past Monday they served Pizza Hut pizza. It was a treat to not have to cook!

Following dinner the kids were taken into one room where they had games and activities planned, while the adults went into another room. The adults are taking part in a 6 week parenting course on abuse and trauma.

It was a wonderful meeting and everyone had a good time.

 Tuesday was Molly’s birthday and in addition to celebrating our special girl we also had to get ready for a bake sale. On Wednesday, at co-op, we had our annual bake sale planned to raise money for Make a Wish. The kids were all in charge of making things for the bake sale and then pricing their goodies at .25 or .50 each. They brought their spending money and bought treats too. All the money raised will be donated to the Make a Wish foundation.

This is a favorite service project that the kids always look forward to.

Tuesday the kids raided my kitchen and began baking. Tyler and Rusty worked together to make Steeler cupcakes.

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On Wednesday we arrived to discover a plethora of treats. Everyone had put much time and love into raising money for this special cause. During the third hour the bake sale opened and the kids began making their purchases. By fourth hour the sugar was coursing through their veins…

making 4th period music class with Tyler an extra bouncy experience. :)

The bake sale was a huge success! This small group of kids baked, sold, bought and in the end

raised $104.41 for the Make a Wish foundation!

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 While at co-op Molly received a birthday surprise from her dear friend Chessa. Chessa made this hat for Miss Molly. Isn’t it darling? Chessa is very talented!

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We are in the midst of “March Madness” at 21st Century Cyber Charter School (Rusty and Gracie’s school.) To make things fun the teachers set up a little competition to see whose students have earned the most points with their school work. Every week the students of two teachers compete and the winning class moves on to the next round. Rusty was thrilled to show me that his class under Trisha Miller was one of the final two. There is one round left with the winning class walking away with some fun prizes.

I think Rusty will be working extra hard this week. ;)

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Beware of little boys and unsupervised electronics.

The evidence of Tyler’s guilt was found on Molly’s iPod last night. He claims he never touched her iPod without her permission but thanks to some top-notch detective skills he was caught.

(I swear he thinks I’m as dumb as a rock!) :)

The “proof” we discovered on her device:

Ahh, brought down by…

 “The selfie!”

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Case Closed!

 

Molly is the big 1-5 !

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“Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday, dear Molly. Happy Birthday to you!”

This is how we began our day… waking Miss Molly with song and cake. She is now 15.

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This year I struggled with what to get her. Rather than a gift, I really wanted to give her an experience…

but I wasn’t sure what that experience should be. Then it came to me.

What better gift, for the sweet girl who is always loving and serving and caring for others, than a day of pampering!

The theme for the day was “Spa Day for Molly.”

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Before she woke we decorated the dining room. She wanted a full length mirror for her bedroom so that became the table runner and we topped it with a Caboodle full of pampering treats:

Scrubs, lotions, nail polish, fun teen magazine, chocolates, etc.

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Our gift was a hit, and so was the day.

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We told her that the day was about her. She had the day off from all responsibilities and would be pampered. It was fun loving on and spoiling this special girl who is always loving on and spoiling everyone else.

Pedicure time!

Pedicure time!

And facials :)

And facials :)

In the evening we met up with Mimi Joy for dinner at Molly’s dinner choice location:

Chick-fil-A.

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She enjoyed her chicken dinner and then Mimi treated all the kiddos to ice cream cones.

Ice cream and kisses from Mimi Joy.

Ice cream and kisses from Mimi Joy.

We then headed to the movies to watch “Home.”

Well, some of us did. Ozzie was having a rough time. He struggles with holidays and birthdays and the closeness and bonding they bring. Rather than let him sabotage Molly’s special day with his tantrum I just drove him home and put him to bed while the rest of the family stayed for the movie. Luckily we had planned for that possibility and drove two cars there.

When everyone was back home and the little boys we in bed we ended the day with Molly’s birthday treat. Rather than a traditional birthday cake she requested cotton candy for her birthday dessert.

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Last year Toby bought me a cotton candy machine for my birthday. We had yet to try it out so Molly’s birthday provided a perfect excuse to pull it out and give it a try.

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It was very neat! To make the cotton candy you can either use traditional flossing sugar or you can use hard candy. We chose to use Jolly Ranchers. You place two pieces of candy in the center of the machine and it heats up and spins it into cotton candy.

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So cool!!

It was a perfect way to end Molly’s special day.

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My sweet girl is now 15. What a joy she has been to our family.

Earlier in the day we did a birthday interview for her scrapbook. here are some fun facts about Miss Molly that you may not know:

Favorite color: Peach.

Favorite book: The Maze Runner Series.

Favorite thing to do when she has an hour to herself: surfing Pinterest.

Fears include spiders and the dark but greatest fear: being alone.

Talents include: talking to people and writing stories.

The one talent she wishes she had: be a confident public speaker.

Favorite food: spaghetti pizza.

Favorite dessert: frozen yogurt or cotton candy.

Favorite childhood memory: going to “camp McKeesport” for swimming and egg salad sandwiches.

#1 played song on her iPod: “One step closer” by Shane Harper.

Favorite smell: vanilla or the smell of morning dew on the lawn.

If she could go on vacation anywhere in the world: Africa.

Her favorite chore: cleaning her bedroom.

Her least favorite chore: cleaning out the fridge.

What she dreams of doing when she grows up: write a book, get married and have children, work with the elderly, have lots of animals (especially goats), ride an elephant, and learn to play guitar.

The last movie that made her laugh: Big Hero 6

The last movie that made her cry: Christmas shoes.

Favorite quote: “Work for the cause, not for applause. Live to express, not to impress. Don’t strive to make your presence noticed, just to make your absence felt.” -Unknown

Happy birthday, sweet girl, we love you bunches!

Friendship Tag

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“Be crazy. Be silly. Be weird. Be whatever.

Because life is too short to be anything but happy.”

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While at the Homestead the kids initiated a rousing game of Friendship Tag.

The rules are simple:

Everyone pairs off with another partner to begin.

They link arms.

The pairs stand in a circle.

The one who is “it” begins in the center of the circle with the first one to be chased.

The game begins.

The premise is simple…avoid being tagged.

You gain safety by being linked to another. When a person links with an already existing pair the person on the other side must jump off the link and run across the circle to link with another person,

all while they avoid being tagged.

The result is crazy, chaotic, laugh out loud fun!

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I don’t know when I’ve laughed so hard. How grateful I am to call this crazy group:

My family!

My cup overfloweth!