Embracing Anger



Holidays are sometimes hard at our house. This is one of the realities of the adoption walk. Celebrations are reminders. They are triggers. And with every joyful, exciting, out of the norm celebration comes hard behaviors. This is just my reality. I share this not out of bitterness but in an effort to be transparent. Holidays which used to be the moments to look forward to are now approached with cautious steps. It is the “boring” predictable days that are usually the easiest when raising the hurt child…

Holidays…well, they are a walk through a mine field.

Things have gotten easier in this area. The explosions that do occur as we walk through those holiday mine fields aren’t quite as destructive as they were in the early days. The rest of the family is “less” affected but the struggle that is still there for my littles.

This was evident on Rusty’s birthday.

What should have been a fun, no-stress, celebration day became a day filled with testing, manipulation and many lies told by one of my hurting little boys. Crazy lying like, “Rusty, we have to go up to the fourth floor first. They are giving away free Lego sets!” Lying meant to cause excitement, chaos, and draw attention away from the birthday boy. I knew we were dealing with jealousy and sadness over life losses but I didn’t fully understand the emotions of the day until we met with Miss Tina, our therapist, later that week.

She spoke to my little man (after I filled her in on our extra hard day) and asked what he was feeling that day. He struggled to admit he was feeling anything other than excitement for Rusty. She told him that she had no doubt that he did indeed feel happiness and excitement for Rusty,

“But,” she said, “I bet you were feeling some other emotions too.”

It was a slow, painful process, but over the course of that hour we worked at pulling out the thoughts and emotions of that day including: sadness, jealousy, and fear. He spoke of how memories of his birth home kept casting a shadow (my words, not his) on Rusty’s birthday celebration. He finally was able to express (in words) why Rusty’s birthday was so hard for him after Tina asked him what birthdays were like in his birth home…

“They were regular days,” he said, “There was no presents or cake. It was just a normal day”

“That must have been hard,” she responded.

She then turned to me and asked me what I would have done, let’s say, for Ozzie’s 5th birthday. I began to cry, overwhelmed by the sadness I felt for my child. Ozzie crawled into my lap and I explained how I would have made his day a celebration of his life and a celebration of his special place in our family.

I can’t go back and undo any of the past hurts or abuse from either boys’ early years… as much as I long to.

I can only promise that each birthday from here on out, for the rest of his life, will be remembered, celebrated, and valued,

valued because it is the day of his birth,

the start of his mortal journey on earth,

the beginning of an amazing life that will touch others and make a difference in the world.

And although I will work to make sure he never feels forgotten on his birthday again,

 I don’t know if my efforts will ever be enough to make up for those early losses.

Birthdays…and holidays in general…may always be hard.

After this emotional breakthrough Tina brought us back to the emotions connected to that memory.

Ozzie is still struggling to name anger as an emotion he feels. He can say that he is happy, scared, sad, and jealous, but he can’t say he is angry.


Because that is the label he has placed on the father who abused him and he refuses to be that man. He refuses to grow up and abuse his children. And no matter how much Tina and I tell him that he is NOT his birth father and he will never be his birth father, Ozzie fears opening the door to that possibility by admitting he feels anger.

It is going to be a long road to heal those thoughts, but we have begun the process by demonstrating what anger looks like within the walls of our own home. We are doing this in an effort to show Ozzie that anger doesn’t have to look like screaming voices, broken dishes and flying fists.

I have tried to make a more conscious effort to express my anger when I am feeling it. This requires me to be more aware of my own emotions and more vocal about how I’m feeling.

It has been wonderfully therapeutic to be forced to say, “I feel angry because…”

Ozzie can then see that anger looks different on me, and Grace, and Rusty, and Tyler then it did on his dad. We all feel anger but anger doesn’t mean abusive.

I have also been working at home with the little boys on some emotion awareness activities using the movie InsideOut. I will share more about our emotion awareness activities in an upcoming post, but while searching for some visuals from the movie InsideOut I came across a stuffed toy for the emotion anger. I knew as soon as I saw it that I needed to pick it up for Ozzie. I want him to learn to embrace his anger, and how better to begin than with a stuffed toy he can squeeze. We have already had the opportunity to put it into use by having him practice expressing his anger by using the doll as a puppet to speak on his behalf…


“I am angry because Tyler took my car.”

Because it is the doll speaking and not him, he feels more comfortable about expressing those uncomfortable emotions.

It is just one more small step toward healing, but with each baby step comes feeling of immense gratitude for the work God is doing in all of our lives.

God is good!

A Pixelated Party


Last week Rusty turned 14! On his special day we celebrated as a family.

The following Friday he had his friends over to celebrate with him.

Planning for Rusty’s 14th birthday began months ago when he saw the advertisement for the movie Pixels.


Right away he let it be known that he really wanted to see this movie, all about a gamer’s mission to save the world from an alien invasion that takes the form of vintage video game characters like Donkey Kong and Pac-Man. We decided to wait until his birthday to see it, hoping it would still be in theaters.

It was.

Luckily it was still showing in the cheap theater in Boardman, Ohio,

where they shows movies on the cusp of being released as DVDs, at a discounted price.

Knowing that seeing Pixels with his friends would be the main event of the night we planned the snack food for the party around old arcade games…

games that were highlighted in the movie.

Friday afternoon was spent decorating and preparing the snack table.

Rusty and I had fun shopping for themed treats and coming up with creative tags for all the yummies.

First step: making Pac-Man plates.


Tyler had fun helping with this task.

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Then Rusty began preparing the snack table for his birthday party…

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When things were all set up and Toby was home from work we headed out to pick up Rusty’s friends that were coming over.

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The girls spent the night at the Hudak’s home and we picked up their son, Lucas. We also stopped at the Caylor’s home to pick up Alton and Joram.

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The movie was much better than I anticipated. The vintage 1980’s theme brought back feelings of nostalgia even though the arcade world was never my scene. :)

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The movie was exciting and funny, everything a 14-year-old boy could ask for. Toby and I later commented that the only criticism we had was the language. It is a shame that unneeded language was added in an attempt to drive up the rating from PG to PG-13 because it could have been a really delightful family film for the whole family.

After the movie we drove back home where Rusty opened gifts.

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He received some wonderfully creative gifts including this figurine made by Saga, the younger sister of two of Rusty’s friends.

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We said our “good nights” and left the boys up to their own devices.

They had plans for a late night of non-stop video game playing fun and junk food feasting.

They finally passed out with sugar comas sometime around 4:00am.

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It was a night filled with pixelated party fun!

Which came first the chicken or the egg?


We are proud to announce the addition of 8 new arrivals at Patchwork Farm…

we have babies!

And we didn’t even know we were expecting. :)

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On Thursday morning we were called out to the animal pen by Molly’s frantic cries that she needed help. She discovered Ellie, our Bashar pup, playing with a new “toy.” It was a baby chick and the baby chick really didn’t want to play with her. Molly came to the rescue, saving the chick from the Ellie’s slimy Bassett jowls and then the search for Momma began. Molly, forever our animal rescuer, began to search through the tall grass to find any other chicks. We soon figured out who Momma was by the way one chicken closely followed Molly (who was carrying the soggy chick in hand) around the field. Rusty joined in the search and with bucket in hand they began to collect peeps.

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We found 8 living peeps.

We didn’t even know there was a nest of eggs tucked away.

We have another Momma currently sitting on eggs but after checking out that nest and discovering those eggs still in tact and Momma still sitting, we knew this was a different nest.

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After 7 years of being chicken owners this is our first batch of babies. We have never had a broody Momma before the addition of a few new chickens and roosters this summer. Suddenly everyone has “baby fever.”

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We collected the babies and set up a nursery in a container that would hold the babies and keep them safe from wandering out the holes in the fencing where the dog eagerly waits for his “friends” to come play. Momma jumped into the nursery with them and had been caring for them ever since.  It is heartwarming to watch the interactions of Momma animals and their young. The Momma tucks all her babies under the warmth and safety of her wings and keeps watch.



The babies are in the cute, fluffy stage,

and even the peep who was soaked with basset slime has dried out to fluffy cuteness.


We are now waiting for the arrival of batch #2. That momma is sitting on 12 eggs and leaves the nest only for minutes a day to drink and eat. One egg shows the start of hatching with a pinhole crack beginning.

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What a delightful life we have been blessed with.

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There is no place I’d rather raise my brood than on Patchwork Farm.

A Scout is a Super Hero


“There is a superhero inside all of us, we just need the courage to put on the cape.”


This was the theme of Wednesday evening’s scout meeting. We have some new scout leaders in our troop so they decided to plan a fun kick-off for the new school year. The kick-off served multiple purposes: introduce the new scout leaders to the parents and boys, give an overview of changes coming in the new school year, and introduce the changes to the cub scout program that have come out in 2015.

I currently have 2 cub scouts. Tyler is a Bear and Ozzie is a Blazer Scout.

The theme for the night was super heroes…a perfect theme for a bunch of cubs!

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When we arrived the boys were all given one of the attributes of a scout to be their “super power.” They then had to design a super hero cape that reflected that super power.

Toby explaining the meaning of Tyler's super power: "courteous."

Toby explaining the meaning of Tyler’s super power: “courteous.”

The boys were all given white table cloths (super hero capes) to color.

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When the boys all were done designing their capes there was a super hero fashion show.

First the flag ceremony...

First the flag ceremony…

The boys took turns coming up to the front of the room where they modeled their capes and shared what their “Super Virtue” was and what it meant.


Tyler’s was “Courteous.”

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Ozzie’s was “Helpful.”

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Then the boys put on a super hero skit. Ozzie eagerly participated,

but Tyler, who hates being center stage, chose to watch instead.

After the skit the different scout leaders introduced themselves and spoke about the upcoming activities. It sounds like it is going to be a wonderful year for the boys. I am excited for them!

The night ended with refreshments.

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Because what scout meeting is complete without treats?!

As Rusty always says:


AND HUNGRY…Always hungry! :)

The Planning Begins!


Family night turned into a planning night as we dedicated the evening to mapping out the route for our big vacation next summer. This is one of those “once if a lifetime” trips that have been talked about and dreamt about for years. It is now going to be a reality. Toby is busy turning our school bus (purchased this summer at an auction) into an RV. Now we need to begin mapping out our route and booking our campsites.

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So that became the activity for family night.

The kids all weighed in with opinions and wishes. Oh, if only we could see them all! But, alas, we had to trim the fat (so to speak) and make tough decisions. Even with all our cutting, trimming, and refiguring we were left with a 24 day trip around the western United States…and a very full trip at that. We recognize this will probably be the only time we will take this particular trip, especially with our kids getting older, so we are trying to fit as many sites into this trip as we can.

We would love to hear from those of you who are familiar with some of these sites or who have made this trip yourselves. Any suggestions, recommendations, or things you’d do differently? What are the “must see sites” you’d recommend? Nothing is written in stone, so now is the time to share your knowledge and expertise. We’d love to hear it! :)

Here is the final schedule we came up with…our itinerary…for our family trip of a lifetime.

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Day 1- Leave home, travel all day to St. Louis, Missouri

in our big yellow school bus turned RV. (Travel= 10 hours)


(Camp at St. Louis NE KOA)

Day 2- Tour St. Louis arch, drive through my old hometown of Waynesville, MO and onto Branson, MO. (Travel= 4 hours total)


(Camp at Branson, MO KOA)

Day 3- wake early and spend day at Silver Dollar City.(Travel= 0 hours)


(Camp at the same campground)

Day 4- Travel to Independence, MO where we will spend the day visiting Mimi Joy. (Travel= 3 1/2 hours)

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(Camp at Kansas City East, Kansas KOA)

Day 5- Travel all day to Great Sand Dunes National Park in Mosca, CO. (Travel= 11 hours)

(Camp at Alamosa KOA)

Day 6- Spend day at Great Sand Dunes National Park.(Travel= 0 hours)


(Camp at same campground)

Day 7- Drive to Mesa Verde where we will spend the day touring Mesa Verde and Four Corners. (Travel=  4 hours)

four corners mesa verde

(Camp at Cortez/Mesa Verde KOA)

Day 8- Drive 5 hours to Bryce Canyon National Park. Hike and camp.(Travel= 5 hours)


(Camp at Cannonville/Bryce Valley, Utah KOA)

Day 9- Drive to Zion National Park. Spend 1/2 day hiking and exploring then drive onto St. George, UT. (Travel= 4 hours total)


(Camp at St. George/Hurricane, Utah KOA)

Day 10- View Grand Canyon and drive through Las Vegas strip. (Travel= 3 hours)

grand canyon


(Camp at Las Vegas, NV KOA)

Day 11- Drive to Sequoia National Park. (Travel= 6 hours)


(Camp Visalia/ Sequoia, CA KOA)

Day 12- Tour Sequoia National Park and drive onto Yosemite to spend the night. (Travel= 2 hours)


(Camp at Yosemite West/ Mariposa, CA KOA)

Day 13- Tour Yosemite National Park and then drive onto Great Basin National Park to spend the night. (Travel= 7 hours)

great basin

(Camp at Great Basin/Ely KOA)

Day 14- Drive to Provo, UT (Travel= 4 hours)

(Camp at Salt Lake City, Utah KOA)

Day 15- Tour Temple Square/ SLC (Travel time= 0 hours)


(Camp at the same campground)

Day 16- Drive 4 hours to Rexburg, Idaho and then through the Grand Tetons. (Travel time= 8 hours total)


(Camp at Yellowstone Park/Westgate KOA)

Day 17- Spend the day exploring Yellowstone National Park and then drive onto Devil’s Tower Monument.(Travel= 4 1/2 hours)


(Camp at Devil’s Tower KOA)

devils tower

Day 18- Spend the day touring Mount Rushmore National Memorial and Crazy Horse Monument.(Travel= 2 hours)

mt rushmore crazy horse

(Camp at Mt. Rushmore KOA)

Day 19- Enjoy Rapid City, South Dakota. (Travel= 0 hours)

(Camp at the same campground)

Day 20- Visit Wall Drug and Badlands National Park. (Travel= 2 hours)

wall drug badlands

(Camp at Badlands/ White River KOA)

Day 21- Drive 4 hours to De Smet, South Dakota to visit Laura Ingalls Wilder’s home and then onto Mitchell, South Dakota to see to corn palace. (Travel= 5 hours total)


(Camp at Mitchell, SD KOA)

Day 22- Drive to Nauvoo, Illinois . (Travel= 8 1/2 hours)


Day 23- Tour Nauvoo, Il and then onto Hannibal, MO- birthplace of Mark Twain. (Travel= 2 hours)


(Camp at Springfield KOA)

Day 24- Drive 10 hours home.

Day 25- SLEEP!! (Yeah, right)


Back to reality :)

Rusty’s day at the Carnegie Science Center



For Rusty’s birthday celebration he requested we spend the day at the Carnegie Science Center. It is always a treat when a birthday falls on a Saturday and we have Toby home for the day. Since we have a membership to the science center (compliments of my parents in honor of Ozzie’s adoption day) it was a free birthday outing. :)

We arrived by mid-morning, soon after they opened. Upon arriving we discovered it to be more crowded than it usually is. At first I assumed it was due to the fact it was the weekend (we usually go when the crowds are in school) or the fact it was a rainy day, but we discovered there was more to the story. The crowds, we discovered, were due to an event taking place inside. The day was dedicated to encouraging girls to pursue careers in the science field, so the science center was filled with booths, sponsored by different science driven careers, that offered different fun activities and hand-outs.

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While working our way through the crowded lobby we heard a familiar voice…


Zoey, Ozzie’s biological sister, came flying through the crowd toward us. She was there with her girl scout troop. They were earning a badge. Both kids were thrilled by this impromptu meeting but sad they couldn’t spend the day together. Even though we try to get them together monthly they still struggle with the fact they were adopted into different homes and can’t live together.

She asked if she could spend the day with us, but it wasn’t going to work out. She had to stay with her girl scout troop and work on her badge, and we had a birthday to celebrate.

We made plans to get together in the next week or two, said our good-byes, and headed into the crowds toward the first exhibit.

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On the first floor of the science center they recently opened a new exhibit: “H2OH!”

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The boys taking a break on the specialized seating in the water exhibit.

They have done a beautiful job on this new exhibit that highlights water and river life in the Pittsburgh area.

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On the second floor there is the ROBOT exhibit. It is a neat area devoted to the history and future of robotics. Tyler’s favorite part is the basketball game that allows you to compete shot for shot with a robot. The statistics don’t lie…the robot is much better than the human competitors. :)

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At one of the display booths the kids discovered these cool cubes called, “cubelets.” These cubes magnetically connect to each other making circuits. There are battery cubes, light cubes, inverters, motion sensors, etc. The kids spent 30 minutes playing with these.

Hmmm…Perhaps a possible future birthday gift? :)IMG_3384

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At another display booth the kids had the opportunity to make their own lip gloss. The boys passed this booth up but the girls stopped and each made one. They could choose their scent, color and whether they wanted sparkles or not.

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The finished lip glosses, set to harden.

Because it was Rusty’s birthday he got to choose the events of the day, deciding if we attended any of the free science classes offered throughout the science center. When we arrived he looked at the schedule of events and circled the classes he was most interested in: “Robots,” “Fruit Flambe'” and “High Voltage.”

In the “High Voltage” class we learned about electricity and saw multiple displays of static electric charges.


Ozzie volunteered to be part of the show even though it meant getting shocked.

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The “Fruit Flambe'” class took place in the science kitchen. In this class the kids learned about the three elements needed to create fire, and did so through the fun task of making a fruit flambe’.

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The best part of the class was the taste testing at the end! :)

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After a fun day at the science center we ended Rusty’s birthday celebration with dinner at Ponderosa restaurant. A few months ago we puppy sat for a family at church. They generously thanked us with a gift card to Ponderosa that paid for our entire family to enjoy dinner out. We saved the gift card for a special occasion: Rusty’s birthday!

Teenage boys love all-you-can-eat buffets!!

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It was a wonderful family day.

Next weekend Rusty will celebrate his birthday with friends at his “Pixel” themed birthday party.

Rusty is 14!


Yesterday Rusty turned 14! I can’t believe it. I’m not sure where the years have gone. It seems like only yesterday I was being told by the ultrasound technician that I was expecting a baby boy…and I was terrified!

I was happy that I was able to give Toby a son, but I was terrified of being a mom to a son. After two daughters I knew I could parent girls. I “got them.” I understood their toys, their shows, their likes and dislikes…boys were just foreign to me. What would I do with a rough and tumble little boy?!

I had heard the stories of their antics: Jumping off furniture, falling out of trees, refusing to bathe, always tossing a ball around, and I didn’t know how I was going to be a good Momma to that.

“I am more of a little girls’ sort of Momma,” I would tell my friends. They told me I would figure out this whole “little boy thing”

but I had my doubts.

I was nervous up until the moment Rusty was placed in my arms…

and then I was in love :)

I had no idea the sweet, special relationship little boys have with their Mommas, and I discovered I loved being a boy’s Momma.

It is funny to reflect back on that time and the feelings I felt… the fears and anxiety. God knew what he was doing. He knew I could find joy in being a little boy’s Momma, and now I have three of them,

And my life is FULL of bumps, bruises, matchbox cars, and footballs.

Rusty was the first, however. He was the son I first loved and the son that opened my eyes and taught me the real joy that comes with little boys.

In honor of Rusty’s birthday we woke him with our traditional birthday cupcake and birthday song. This year while grocery shopping, Toby found a cake at the grocery store bakery on clearance for $2.00. He thought it would be a funny joke to use it as Rusty’s “morning cupcake” rather than me baking him a standard sized one.

Needless to say Rusty was both surprised and thrilled to wake to this:

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After climbing from bed he got to open his birthday gifts from his parents and his siblings.

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(I will share more about his birthday fun later)

In honor of his birthday we did our annual birthday interview. Here are some fun facts about our birthday boy.

Happy birthday, Rusty. We are blessed to call you son!

Rusty’s Birthday Interview

What is your favorite color?


How about favorite Candy?


What is your favorite food?


What is a food(s) you absolutely hate?

Tomatoes, Peppers, Cucumbers, Mushrooms

What is your go-to drink choice?


What is your favorite subject in school?


What are you afraid of?

Heights and the dark

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I want to work at Disney World.

What are you looking forward to in your 14th year?

Being able to go to church dances.

What is your favorite animal?


What is your favorite holiday?


What is your favorite book?

The Bones series

What is a chore you absolutely hate doing?

Washing dishes!

What is you favorite day of the week?

Wednesday because of all the fun activities: co-op, piano lessons and Boy Scouts.

If you could go back to any time in history what would you choose?


If you had to change your first name what would you change it to?

Johnny or Charlie

If you were given a million dollars what is the first thing you’d do?

Go to Disney World!

What 3 items would you want on a deserted island?

A house, a Costco, and boat.

Ok…three items that would fit in a suitcase??

Food, bottled water, matches

How would your friends describe you?

Funny, enjoyable, and kind

Are you a morning person or a night person?


What super power do you wish you had?

Telekinesis or shape shifting

What’s your favorite cereal?

Rice Krispies

What is your favorite board game?


How about your favorite restaurant?

Dynasty or Muddy Waters

In our home turning 14 brings certain privileges like being able to attend school dances, wear make-up and have a Facebook account.

The make-up privilege doesn’t affect Rusty but the Facebook account does. :) Rusty ended his day by setting up a Facebook account with his sisters’ help.

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Riding the Incline


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“Take a step back in time on a century-old cable car and see the best views of downtown Pittsburgh while riding one of the few remaining inclines in the country. Opened on May 20, 1877, the Duquesne Incline was rescued and restored by a group of local residents in 1963 and still delights residents and visitors with its original, elegant, wooden cable cars.  Now you can visit the interior of the incline and watch the machinery while it operates.  The Duquesne Incline’s upper station houses a museum of Pittsburgh history, including photos and a storehouse of information on inclines from around the world. Unusual Pittsburgh souvenirs, maps and photos can be found at the gift shop.”

After visiting the Nina and Pinta and enjoying a quick lunch, we went over to stop #2…The incline. Pittsburgh boasts two of these. The Monongahela Incline is closed for maintenance for the next few months so we drove two minutes down the road to the Duquesne Incline.

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“Originally  steam-powered, the Duquesne Incline was built to carry cargo up and down Mt. Washington in the late 19th century. It later carried passengers, particularly Mt. Washington residents who were tired of walking up footpaths to the top. Inclines were then being built all over Mt. Washington. But as more roads were built on “Coal Hill” most of the other inclines were closed. By the end of the 1960s, only the Monongahela and the Duquesne Incline remained.

In 1962, the incline was closed, apparently for good. Major repairs were needed, and with so few patrons, the incline’s private owners did little. But local Duquesne Heights residents launched a fund-raiser to help the incline. It was a huge success, and on July 1, 1963, the incline reopened under the auspices of a non-profit organization dedicated to its preservation.

The incline has since been totally refurbished. The cars, built by the J. G. Brill and Company of Philadelphia, have been stripped of paint to reveal the original wood. An observation deck was added at the top affording a view of Pittsburgh’s “Golden Triangle”, and the Duquesne Incline is now one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions.”

The Incline costs $2.50 for an adult to ride up and $1.25 for a child 5-11. Under 5 rides free. We only had to wait a minute before a car was available. Everyone was excited. My older kids had been on it once before when Toby’s cousins came to Pittsburgh for a visit, but that was years ago and they were a lot younger. The two little boys had never ridden it before. Ozzie did NOT want to ride. He is afraid of heights and didn’t want anything to do with the incline.

Looking up...

Looking up…

But being one who is also terrified of heights, I knew this was doable for him. So I told him I wanted him to try it. He did and he actually enjoyed it. At the top he was over-the-top excited, not only because he liked the ride but because of the pride he felt about facing his fear.


For the ride up our group of 14 filled the bulk of the car.

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When we arrived at the top we walked through the gallery of photos, stopped to check out the mechanics of how the incline works,

Watching the gears turn.

Watching the gears turn.

and then moved outside to the observation deck.

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The views of Pittsburgh from the observation deck were breathtaking.

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What a beautiful city!

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Beautiful Pittsburgh!

It was extra windy up on the hill so we didn’t stay outside too long,

Checking out the views on the widy

Checking out the views of Pittsburgh from the windy deck.

just long enough to get some pictures, and then we headed inside to get warm and wait for the ride down.

The inside of the incline cars are beautiful.

The inside of the incline cars are beautiful.

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It was a fun way to end our Pittsburgh field trip.

In 1492 Columbus Sailed the Ocean Blue




“In fourteen hundred ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
He had three ships and left from Spain;
He sailed through sunshine, wind and rain.
He sailed by night; he sailed by day;
He used the stars to find his way.
A compass also helped him know
How to find the way to go.
Ninety sailors were on board;
Some men worked while others snored.
Then the workers went to sleep;
And others watched the ocean deep.
Day after day they looked for land;
They dreamed of trees and rocks and sand.
October 12 their dream came true,
You never saw a happier crew!
“Indians!  Indians!”  Columbus cried;
His heart was filled with joyful pride.
But “India” the land was not;
It was the Bahamas, and it was hot.
The Arakawa natives were very nice;
They gave the sailors food and spice.
Columbus sailed on to find some gold
To bring back home, as he’d been told.
He made the trip again and again,
Trading gold to bring to Spain.
The first American?  No, not quite.
But Columbus was brave, and he was bright.”

Today, in honor of the upcoming Columbus Day holiday, we traveled down to Pittsburgh to visit the Nina and the Pinta.

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We were joined by other families from our co-op to visit this moving museum that is in Pittsburgh for the next two weeks. They are docked off Station Square, on the south side of the city, which made for easy parking and a fun overall experience.

Miss Lana and her kids drove down with us in Big Bessie and three other co-op families met us down at Station Square.

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Before we left I put on the Christopher Columbus movie for the little boys to watch, more for Tyler’s benefit than anyone else’s. Ozzie was excited about seeing these realistic replicas of Christopher Columbus’s ships after recently studying about his historical voyage in history.

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As we waited for the rest of our friends to arrive for our group tour the kids had fun exploring Station Square and watching the dancing fountain. This would be a fun place to let kids play on a hot day…but it was not a hot day! We tried to keep all the little ones dry and out of the water, which turned out to be a losing battle. The fountain sprays were simply too tempting. :)


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The day was overcast and cool but the rain held off until the end of the day, so we really couldn’t complain.


When our entire group was present we were assigned a crew member who lead us through a walking tour of the smaller Nina and then the larger Pinta ship.

The Nina:


“The Niña is a replica of the ship on which Columbus sailed across the Atlantic on his three voyages of discovery to the new world beginning in 1492.  Columbus sailed the tiny ship over 25,000 miles.  That ship was last heard of in 1501, but the new Niña has a different mission.  We are a floating museum, and we visit ports all over the Western Hemisphere.”

The Pinta:


“Pinta was recently built in Brazil to accompany the Nina on all of her travels. She is a larger version of the archetypal caravel and offers larger deck space for walk-aboard tours.”

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  The Columbus Foundation shares the following information about their floating museum on their website:

“The original Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria used by Christopher Columbus on his first voyage across the Atlantic were common trading vessels. The Santa Maria which Columbus never liked, ran aground and sank on Christmas Eve 1492 in Hispaniola (now Cap Haitien). She was a Nao, a type of cargo vessel. The Niña and Pinta were Caravels which were used by explorers during the Age of Discovery. The Pinta returned home and disappeared from History without a trace, but the Niña, now there’s a woman with a past!

The Niña was Columbus’ favorite and for good reason. She was named Santa Clara after the patron saint of Moguer. A Spanish vessel in those days had an official religious name but was generally known by nickname, which might be a feminine form of her masters patronmyic, or of her home port. Santa Clara was always Niña, after her master-owner Juan Nino of Moguer.

Vincente Yanez was her Captain on Columbus’ First Voyage, and he later discovered the Amazon on an independent voyage. Built in the Ribera de Moguer, an estuary, now silted up, of the Rio Tinto, Niña made the entire First Voyage, bringing Columbus safely home. She accompanied the grand fleet of the Second Voyage to Hispaniola and Columbus selected her out of seventeen ships for his flagship on an exploratory voyage to Cuba, and purchased a half share in her.

She was the only vessel in West Indian waters to survive the hurricane of 1495, and then brought back the Admiral and 120 passengers to Spain in 1496. She was then chartered for an unauthorized voyage to Rome, and was captured by a corsair when leaving the port of Cagliari, and brought to an anchor at Cape Pula, Sardinia where she was stripped of her arms and crew. The Captain, Alonso Medel, escaped with a few men, stole a boat, rowed back to Niña, cut her cables and made sail.

She returned to Cadiz in time to sail for Hispaniola early in 1498, as advance guard of Columbus’ Third Voyage. She was lying in Santo Domingo in 1500, and we last heard of her making a trading voyage to the Pearl Coast in 1501. The Niña logged at least 25,000 miles under Columbus’ command.

In 1988, an American engineer and maritime historian, John Patrick Sarsfield, began building what was to become the first truly, historically correct replica of a 15th Century Caravel. John had discovered a group of master shipbuilders in Bahia, Brazil who were still using design and construction techniques dating back to the 15th Century.

It was in Valenca, Brazil, using only adzes, axes, hand saws, and chisels, in additiion to naturally-shaped timbers from the local forest, that the Sarsfield Niña was built.

Jonathan Nance, a British maritime historian and main researcher for the project produced a sail plan for the ship, which represents the Niña as she would have appeared during the eight recorded busy years of her life following her departure from the Canary Islands in September 1492.

In December 1991, the Niña left Brazil and sailed to Costa Rica on a 4000 mile unescorted maiden voyage to take part in the filming of 1492. Since then, the ship has visited over 300 ports in the U.S. She is the only ‘sailing museum’ which is continually ‘discovering’ new ports, while giving the public an opportunity to visit one of the greatest little ships in the world’s history.”

The tour was informative and the opportunity to step aboard and “walk in Columbus’s shoes” was amazing.

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The ships were beautiful and the history lesson that we have all be taught since elementary school became real as we walked the length of the ship, envisioning life as it must have been on the high seas.

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After a quick lunch we headed for Part 2 of our field trip adventure…The Pittsburgh Duquesne Incline.

“The Wheels on the Bus go Round and Round” (an update)


This summer we attended a school bus auction where we purchased a used 72 passenger big, yellow school bus that we are  converting into a RV for our family. Next summer we have a three-week trip planned for our family. We will be heading west and visiting many of the beautiful National Parks and historic sites our country has to offer. The school bus turned RV will be our home away from home for the trip.

(as well as for future vacations and camping trips)

We have been researching and are in the beginning planning phase for that trip as we make a list of the desired stops along the way. The kids have all been involved in the planning process and have made their wish list stops be known. Once we are done with research then we will map out our route and decide which places we will stop and see.

While the planning is taking place, Toby has been working on the bus whenever he has a spare minute or two. It is slowly taking shape. It is gutted (all the bus seats have been removed) and the floor is completed. Toby installed a beautiful hardwood floor, using wood we had on hand, and finished it with charming walnut plugs. The floor is now finished with stain and polyurethane.

IMG_3081 The next step was reconfiguring the steps. Because there will now be two “driver seats” for him and I

we needed the stairs to angle back behind the co-captain’s chair rather than go straight up toward the driver’s seat.


Toby did a beautiful job of making it look as though it was made this way.


 On the outside of the bus metal sheeting has gone up to cover some windows where the bathroom will be and the bunk beds for the boys.


IMG_3084He is now done framing walls. Once he runs the electric he will finish the walls. Here you can see where the master bedroom will be in the back, the bathroom (containing a sink and toilet) on the left, and the closet on the right.

Over the wheel hubs on the left will be the boys’ bunks (3 high) and on the right will be the kitchen with a fridge, stove top, sink, and countertop/cabinets.


Toby is doing an amazing job and it is fun for the family to be part of the transformation. Stay tuned as it continues to evolve from a school bus for 72…

to a home on wheels for a family of 7!