The Sun will come out Tomorrow

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“When I’m stuck with a day that’s grey and lonely, I stick out my chin, and grin, and say…”

The last two weeks have been about finding resources, doing research and making a lot of phone calls in an attempt to get everyone the help they need.

Starting with Tyler…

For the last 4 months we have seen changes in Tyler’s behavior. Tyler has ADHD and is on medication to help manage the symptoms. We have noticed that it seems as though the medication he takes  is losing its effectiveness. He is impulsive, vibrating with energy, unable to sit still, unable to stop talking and struggling to focus on his school work. He is constantly moving, lacks self-control, and can’t stay on task for more than a few minutes at a time.  After talking to many people and doing some research we discovered that the generic form of the medication that he takes has changed their formula, thus making it less potent. We set up an appointment with his doctor, expressed our frustrations and the doctor confirmed our suspicions. He informed us that quite a few of his patients that are on the same generic medication are having the same negative effects. He wrote out a new script for the name brand version of the same drug, feeling confident that we would see a positive change.

When we went to the pharmacy to fill his new script we were told that our insurance will not cover it unless our doctor can prove that it is medically necessary. We are in the midst of that insurance battle right now. As we wait for news (hopefully good news) we have decided to try some dietary changes and see if we see any positive results that might help temper his more severe symptoms. We shall see.

Katie…

I set up an appointment with my doctor last week. I realize that now, with all that is going on with our family, it is even more essential that I focus on self care. I have been running on empty lately. I know that is understandable when I look at a “typical” day of parenting the issues we are dealing with right now, but I felt it was worth checking to make sure there wasn’t a medical issue that was leading to my fatigue. I met with my doctor, explained what things were like at home, went over my symptoms and he wrote out a script for blood work. The results came back and some of my vitamin numbers were low. He started me on supplements and feels confident that I will feel much better once I’m not battling a vitamin deficiency.

I see him again in a month and he will check my numbers again.

Ozzie…

After MANY emails and phone calls we have finally found a therapist in our area that treats Reactive Attachment Disorder. It is amazing how after a lot of prayer God led us from a website to a phone number, through a series of helpful strangers, only to have us end up at a therapist’s office minutes from our home. I was prepared to drive hours away to get the help we need and God provided the answer to our prayers right in our own backyard. We met with her today for our initial intake meeting. It lasted 1 1/2 hours and I left feeling understood in a way that I haven’t felt in a long time. I know she is an answer to prayer and I am feeling positive that she will be a good fit.

I end this week feeling hopeful.

Feeling blessed.

Nothing has really changed, but I now feel like…

The sun will come out tomorrow. :)

A fun filled Wednesday

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Wednesday, always a busy day for us, was filled to capacity this past Wednesday. The blessing is that it was filled with all good things!

The morning began with co-op. In the hour before we left we debated whether to brave the icy roads. Toby had called and reported that the roads were extra bad. We ended up deciding to at least try to make it to co-op and discovered that the hour between when Toby left for work and when we left for co-op made a world of difference. The temperature had crept up enough that the roads were only wet and no longer icy.

It was crazy sock day at co-op. Our co-op tries to have fun themed days every now and then just to liven things up, especially during these dreary winter months. The little boys were eager to participate but discovered that little boys’ socks aren’t all that crazy. Luckily the girls have an impressive supply of fun socks and were kind enough to lend their little brothers each a pair.

Crazy socks!

Crazy socks!

Molly looking stylish in her crazy socks...

Molly looking stylish in her crazy socks…

While at co-op the kids had the opportunity to participate in a neat service project. The church where our co-op is held takes part in a community service project that helps feed school children, who may not have groceries at home, over the weekend when they can’t have hot school lunches. The process involves setting up the packaged food in assembly lines so it can later be bagged and distributed. Our co-op kids were able to help set up the food. They unloaded the groceries, helped unwrap the boxes and set up the food in assembly lines so the next set of volunteers, who came later in the day, could fill the bags. The kids had a lot of fun and the experience led to some deeper discussions with my kids as my boys shared with me their own past experiences with empty kitchen shelves and hungry bellies.

Unloading the food...

Unloading the food…

Sorting and organizing...

Sorting and organizing…

The job all done and food ready to bag.

The job all done and food ready to bag.

Following co-op we had a free hour until we had to take Ozzie to occupational therapy. One of the co-op families sent out an email the previous day that they were going to pack sleds for some post co-op sledding fun and we decided to join them. The kids had a blast!

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Grace and Tatum

Grace and Tatum

Impressive, Rusty!

Impressive, Rusty!

Tyler giving Saga a push/spin.

Tyler giving Saga a push/spin.

Some of the kids took a break from sledding to build a snowman. They decided to build Baymax from Big Hero 6. :)

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In other big news, Tyler has joined the big kids and has begun taking piano lessons. Yea, Tyler!

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Grace and Rusty had a fun surprise show up in the mail…a package from their school. Both kids are taking a gym class which requires them to do a fitness log and exercise multiple times a week. It has been fun for them, because although they are in two different grades they have the same gym teacher and can work out together. As an incentive for all the gym students to workout a little more diligently the three gym teacher offered  a fitness challenge that the students could participate in and try to win a prize. The members of the winning gym teachers’ team won a sweatshirt and shorts with the school logo, water bottle, nerf balls and a flashlight. Rusty and Grace worked hard for their team and their team ended up winning. These were the goodies that came in the mail.

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The Bobbsey Twins!

The Bobbsey Twins!

Wednesday ended with a fun night at church. It was our annual chili cook-off. This is a fun event held to help our youth raise money for boy scout camp and young women camp. The night consists of a chili dinner with awards being handed out for best chili and cornbread, followed by a dessert auction. I made chili and the three big kids all made a dessert to be auctioned off. Rusty made no bake cookies. Molly made lemon bars. Grace made lemon bar muddy buddies.

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It was a fun night with great attendance. The chili’s were all tasty and the dessert auction was a great success, with a lot of money being raised for the youth.

The pots of chili ready to be judged.

The pots of chili ready to be judged.

An impressive aray of desserts.

An impressive array of desserts.

A fun night had by all!

A fun night had by all!

Popcorn Popping

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Monday night was Family Night. It was Gracie’s turn to plan a lesson, Rusty’s turn to plan a family activity, and Tyler’s turn to pick a treat. They combined their efforts and came up with a fun Popcorn filled night!

After dinner and clean-up we gathered in the living room for Gracie’s lesson. She had a parable she wanted to share with us. She had found the lesson online and thought it was a good message for us all to hear.

Gracie reading her lesson.

Gracie reading her lesson.

“Behold at the time of harvest, the ears of corn did bring forth kernels which were dried and prepared for the Popper’s hand. And then it was that the Popper did take the kernels, all that did appear alike unto Him, and applied the oil and the heat.

And it came to pass that when the heat was on, some did explode with promise and did magnify themselves an hundred fold. And some did burst forth with whiteness which did both gladden the eye and satisfy the taste of the Popper. And likewise some did pop, but not too much. Behold, there were some that did lie there, and even through the Popper’s heat was alike unto all, some did just bask in the oil and keep everything that they had unto themselves.

And so it came to pass that those which had given of themselves did bring forth much joy and delight to many munchers. But those which kept of the warmth and did not bring forth were only cast into the pail and thought of with hardness and disgust.

And thus we see that in the beginning all appear alike, but when the heat is on, some come forth and give all, while others fail their purpose as chaff, so as to be discarded and forgotten” – unknown source

She asked us to reflect. Holding up a unpopped kernel, a half popped kernel and a beautifully fully popped piece of popcorn, she asked, “Which one are you?”

“Which one would you like to be?”

Rusty then led us into the next part of the evening when he announced that it was now time for the “Popcorn Olympics!”

The kids had planned a series of 6 “Olympic games” for us to compete in. Some were team events, others were individual races.

They began with the popcorn toss. Working in teams we had to toss popcorn at our partner as they tried to catch it in their mouth. The teams were: Grace and Daddy, Rusty and Tyler, and Molly and Ozzie. The winners were Grace and Toby.

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The next game was popcorn blow. Racing as individuals the kids (2 at a time) had to blow their popcorn down the length of the table to see who could reach the finish line first.

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That was followed by toss and catch. Everyone had one minute to toss popcorn up in the air and try to catch it in their mouths. Whoever caught the most pieces in one minute was declared the victor. Rusty was our champ with 14 pieces.

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The next game was a test of strength and power as the kids lined up and tossed a single piece of popcorn to see whose went the furthest. This game had to be redone a few times because of the dogs stealing the fallen popcorn pieces before everyone had their turn. The dogs LOVED the Popcorn Olympics. :)

Silly Tyler!

Silly Tyler!

The final game of the night was popcorn drop. Working from the balcony the kids each had a cup on the ground below labeled with their name. They had to drop pieces of popcorn and see who had the most pieces in their own cup at the end of the game.

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The objective soon changed though when Toby laid down next to the cups with his mouth open. The game soon became “who can get the most popcorn in Daddy’s mouth.”

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Grace was the winner with 3 pieces.

The snack for the evening was…

Popcorn, of course.

It was a good night. It was nice to play and laugh as a family, letting go of some of the hurts from earlier that day. It was also a good lesson. It made me reflect long after the kids were tucked into bed and the popcorn was all cleaned up. Here I sit, in hot oil. The times we are dealing with now are trying. At times I would love to jump out of the pan, but this is where I am. This is where I am meant to be. So I have a decision to make,

Will I use this heat to burst forth and develop into what my Heavenly Father wants me to be…knows I can be,

 or will I remain hard and unusable?

I long to be popcorn.

I am still a work in progress. :)

Camping in a war zone

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Sunday should have been an easy day.

We got the call early…church was canceled.

The roads were bad. The snow was coming down.

We were all excited at the thought of a stay at home, nowhere to go, snowed in, sort of day.

It all went down hill very quickly.

The explosion came as a result of a small act of unkindness…a small act of teasing. Tyler asked Ozzie if he would go outside and play in the snow with him. Ozzie relied with an enthusiastic, “Yes!” Tyler ran to get dressed. He layered on his snowsuit, extra socks, hats, mittens and boots and when he was all bundled up, ready to go ,Ozzie smiled and said, “Just kidding, I don’t want to play with you.”

Tyler was hurt. I saw the mean way Oz set his brother up with an intent to hurt and we informed him that he was going outside to play. This is when the tantrum began. Words began to fly:

“You can’t make me!”

“I am never going to play with Tyler.”

“I hate Tyler!”

All these words were being thrown at Toby and I with the intention to get a reaction…get an explosion. He was having a hard day. Emotionally he was vulnerable. He was feeling too good, too loved, too close so he pushed us back. He pushed hoping for a reaction. He wanted us to yell…to hurt…to hit. He wanted us to react in the way that his biological parents did. That is what he is comfortable with. To Ozzie, this normal (and I say that loosely) :) functioning family feels like an emotionally itchy wool sweater that he just wants to rip off his back. The closer we grow to him, the more we bond, the tighter that sweater gets. That is when he becomes his most unlovable, in hopes of pushing us away.

Our challenge as parents (and siblings) is to not react. He wants to create chaos and dissension so we must react in a non emotional way. It is hard.

The battle moved to the front hall where Ozzie refused to put on his winter gear. Rather than engaging in a physical wrestling match (which is what he wanted) Toby just gently shooed him out the door and dropped his pile of winter clothes at his feet and told him to get dressed. The pile of boots, coat and mittens were soon thrown into the yard.

Ozzie stood on the porch and raged that he was freezing and that this was child abuse. We explained that he would be plenty warm if he would put on his winter clothes. I gathered his strewn objects from the yard and placed them at his feet again. They were immediately tossed back into the yard. After a few attempts Oz finally got cold enough to put on his warm clothes. It was at this point Ozzie started targeting Toby.

Ozzie ran up to Toby, who was standing against the door, and started shouting hurtful things. He then pushed against Toby and began yelling, “Just hit me! You know you want to punch me. Just hit me!” Toby calmly responded with, “I’m not going to hit you, Ozzie. We love you.”

Ozzie began to cry as the anger overwhelmed him. “Why won’t you just hit me?!”

When Toby wouldn’t react Ozzie approached Tyler who was playing in the snow nearby. He charged at him from behind, pushing him face first into the snow.

“Hit me, Tyler. Just hit me as hard as you can!”

Tyler looked at us, turned away, and kept playing in the snow.

Ozzie moved toward Tyler again when Toby said, “Do not touch your little brother again.”

“Why won’t anyone hit me!” Ozzie yelled in frustration.

He then moved back onto the porch where he started to move toward me. Toby stepped between us and pushed Ozzie’s swinging fist away from me. “Don’t you ever touch your mother,” he commanded, to which Ozzie replied, “You pushed me! You hurt me. I’m going to tell someone and then they will take me away and I can be free from this family!”

“I am just going to my room,” Ozzie declared as he headed for the door. “I am going to stay in my room forever so I never have to look at any of you ever again! I hate you all!”

Toby told him that the only place he was going was to the fence post for a time out.

“No, not a time out! Fine, I’ll play with Tyler,” Ozzie yelled…but he soon discovered that ship had long sailed. :)

When Oz was seated on the fence post Toby called everyone in and told them to move quickly. He had a job for them. In a matter of 5 minutes Toby had everything emptied out of Ozzie’s room except his bed. The furniture was quickly placed in Molly and Rusty’s rooms and the door were shut.

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When Ozzie was called back in he pushed past Toby as he yelled, “I’m spending all day in my room and never coming out. Maybe I’ll even spend my whole life in there!”

“Ok, have fun,” was Toby’s only reply.

Well you can just imagine the explosion that followed. The next few hours were spent with me sitting in Ozzie’s empty room, my back pressed against the door, while Ozzie raged. He screamed and let me know how much he hated me and the whole family. I just responded with, “I love you, Ozzie.”

He wanted me to engage. He wanted me to argue, to contradict, to yell back. I knew what he wanted. I also knew what needed to be done. The more he pushed me away with his words, the more I pulled him back.

“I love you, Ozzie. There is nothing you can do to change that.”

He eventually raged himself out. He fell asleep and I snuck out… exhausted, discouraged, and weary.

Parenting a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder is like going on a family trip and pitching your tent on a battlefield. The bullets are flying, the sound of bombs exploding are deafening. You live in a constant hyper alert state, waiting for the next shell to explode. You tip toe, always watching the ground, trying to avoid the hidden mines that could explode at any moment…

All while trying to protect those hunkered down in the tent with you.

All while trying to maintain some sense of normalcy.

All while trying to find joy in the journey.

It is hard, but we do it because we believe in what we are fighting for.

We are not battling this 11-year-old boy, we are battling FOR this 11-year-old boy.

We are fighting for our family.

We are fighting for his trust.

We are fighting for his heart.

And I know, that although battles may sometimes be lost, we will win this war…

because our son is worth fighting for.

Ozzie

Ozzie

Buttermilk Falls

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On Saturday morning Toby and Rusty bundled up in preparation for a really cold morning. The temperature hovered around the 0 degree mark and they had a hike to prepare for. They packed water and trail mix and then Toby went out to warm up the truck. They were meeting the boys from Rusty’s boy scout troop for a hike. Toby, as an assistant scout master, was also going.

The planned hike was changed from its original location to Buttermilk Falls. Buttermilk Falls is a little hidden gem that is located not too far from our house. The trail is not a long one but it is really beautiful. It ends at a waterfall that you can explore and walk behind, making it a favorite with my kids.  As a family we have hiked it and experienced its beauty in the summer, spring and autumn months, but we have never explored it in the winter.

I sent my camera with Toby and asked him to get some pictures. I had no idea how breathtaking those pictures would be.

When Toby and Rusty arrived they met up with three other leaders. Unfortunately no other boys could make it, but that didn’t deter them from having a good time.

The hike was pretty…the falls were magical. Here is a glimpse of the views the boys enjoyed on their winter hike…

Walking the trail to Buttermilk Falls.

Walking the trail to Buttermilk Falls.

Getting closer...

Getting closer…

The falls were frozen, creating a beautiful ice creation.

The falls were frozen, creating a beautiful ice creation.

Matt climbing the falls.

Matt climbing the falls.

Rusty climbing...

Rusty climbing…

My handsome boy scout.

My handsome boy scout.

The rock formations were equally fun to climb.

The rock formations were equally fun to climb.

The view from above.

The view from above.

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The view from behind the falls.

The view from behind the falls.

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The beauty of God's creation...enjoyed by a group of guys, out for a hike, on a cold Saturday morning, in Western Pennsylvania. :)

The beauty of God’s creation…enjoyed by a group of guys, out for a hike, on a cold Saturday morning, in Western Pennsylvania.  :)

 

Blue and Gold Banquet- “Everything was Awesome!”

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Last night was my little cubs’ Blue and Gold banquet for cub scouts. The theme was Legos, and Friday afternoon was spent preparing.

The boys were all encouraged to bring an original Lego creation in to display as the center pieces for the party. After lunch the boys were set free from school work to go create. Rusty, always eager for a chance to build, joined them.

Ozzie's creation.

Ozzie’s creation.

Rusty's plane.

Rusty’s plane.

The girls joined me in the kitchen to whip up some Lego themed treats for dessert. Thanks to Pinterest we came      up with a few fun ideas.

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Gracie began the task of making Lego men heads out of full-sized and mini marshmallows  dipped in yellow chocolate. Molly then finished them by adding the faces.

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Once the boys were done building they joined us back in the kitchen to make Lego block treats.

Tyler working...

Tyler working…

Molly holding the finished blocks.

Molly holding the finished blocks.

It was soon time to leave. Grace and Molly volunteered to help with decorating so we arrived at church two hours early.  There was a group of “big sisters” who took on the task of decorating the gym at church for the Blue and Gold banquet. They did a fabulous job!

The decorating team.

The decorating team.

At 6:30 the fun began. The night started with dinner…a baked potato bar. The baked potatoes were provided and the families were all asked to bring toppings to share.

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There was an impressive array of desserts as well!

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As everyone enjoyed dinner there were Lego man coloring sheets at each table to keep the boys busy after they were done eating.

Our family looks like we color coordinated for BLUE and gold night but it was just a happy coincindence. ;)

Our family looks like we color coordinated for BLUE and gold night but it was just a happy coincidence.  ;)

Coloring time...

Coloring time…

Following dinner there were games. The kids were split into 4 teams for a relay race. The race consisted of each team member picking a Lego piece, which they had to balance on their belly as they crab walked across the gym. When they reached the next person they would have to combine their Lego pieces before the next team member would crab walk back across the gym. The kids loved it and the shout and cheers were deafening. :)

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There was also a fun “photo booth” set up where the boys could pose as their favorite “Lego Movie” characters.

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Good cop and bad cop…aka Tyler and Oz.

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The night ended with awards being handed out and a  final word from one of the leaders. He sat the boys down and asked them if they had seen “The Lego Movie.” The boys eagerly answered, “yes!” He talked to the boys about the story line and the search that takes place for “The Special.” He reminded the boys that the lesson learned in the end was that each character discovered they were “The Special,” they just needed to believe it. He reminded them of the talents they each possess that make them special, and unique,  and gives them individual worth. Like the characters in the movie, they only need to believe it.

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It was a wonderful way to end the evening and a profound message for each of those little boys to hear. In a world that is often tearing down and belittling the worth of our sons it was good for them to be reminded of their infinite worth.  Each one is so special.

It was a great night. In fact,

“Everything was Awesome!”

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“We don’t make mistakes, just happy little accidents.”

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It has been said that:

“The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul.” – Uchtdorf

Others would argue that they are NOT creative, that there is not a creative bone in their body, or that the talent of creativity was not one that they were born or blessed with.

But I disagree.

I believe that within each of us there is a hidden desire to create, to build, to design or discover that hidden spark within ourselves. I believe when we pursue a creative outlet…

 Whether through painting, baking, photography, sewing, singing, interior design, drawing, gardening, writing, mothering, serving, loving…

we flame that small, quiet spark within and the flames of passion burst forth…

and our soul then whispers, “Yes, this is how I ought to feel!”

Dieter F. Uchtdorf has said:

“You may think you don’t have talents, but that is a false assumption, for we all have talents and gifts, every one of us. The bounds of creativity extend far beyond the limits of a canvas or a sheet of paper and don’t require a brush, a pen, or the keys of a piano.

Creation means bringing into existence something that did not exist before- colorful gardens, harmonious homes, family memories, flowing laughter.

What you create doesn’t have to be perfect. Don’t let fear of failure discourage you. Don’t let the voice of the critics paralyze you- whether that voice comes from the outside or the inside.

As you take the normal opportunities of your daily life and create something of beauty and helpfulness, you improve not only the world around you but also the world within you.”

On Monday we flamed those creative sparks and we created!

There is a group of girlfriends I get together with regularly to make cards with. On of the ladies in our group sells “Stampin’ Up” products and teaches our card making class. Another friend in our group is a minister’s wife and she opens the doors of her church to us monthly so that we can gather together. It is one of the highlights of my month. Everyone brings food and we enjoy a few hours of eating, laughing, sharing and creating together.

This month rather than make cards our project was a perpetual birthday calendar.

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Earlier this month my girls came to me and asked if in lieu of birthday parties they could have a painting party with their friends. They thought it would be fun to get their co-op buddies together and do a Bob Ross painting class together. We embraced the idea and started planning…

Then the winter weather hit. Snow storms and deep freezes left our driveway impassable so it was suggested that we move the party to the same night as the card night and just set up the girls in another section of the church. Perfect!

The preparation for the party began weeks before hand as we scoured the internet looking for great deals on canvases, brushes and oil paint sets.

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The girls wanted to make goody bags for their friends. In addition to the purchased painting items they decided to make all the girls painting swatch bookmarks,

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and paintbrush treats, using rice krispie treats dipped in colored chocolate.

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The day before the party we went shopping for food. The girls wanted “art gallery” food for their party so we bought sparkling grape juice, cheese and crackers, fruit, and chip and dip. This food was set up near their class so they could munch while they painted, although they also joined us downstairs and had soups and bread with us (moms) for dinner.

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When we arrived I helped the girls get set up before joining my class downstairs. We covered everything in paint tarps and the Bob Ross video was projected on the wall.

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The girls had a blast. We could hear them laughing from downstairs. The sound of their laughter and the smell of their paint thinner carried through the church. :)

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At the end of the night, as we were finishing up our craft, the girls came down to show off their finished products. It was so neat to see how the same art instruction video could result in such different final paintings.

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After cleaning up, and saying our goodbyes, we headed home. The girls enthusiastically shared about everything that had happened . When I asked Molly which final painting she liked best she answered,

“Well I don’t know. I like them all for such different reasons. Some I liked because of the colors used, others I liked how the trees turned out, and others I really liked because of the texture. I don’t think I could pick just one because they all had things about them that made them really good!”

I suppose like all creative pursuits there is no ONE right way.

As Bob Ross so often says, “Any way you want it to be, that’s just right.”

The night was about creating. We created useful, and pretty calendars. We created unique and beautiful paintings.

But we also created a lot more…

We strengthened friendships, we made memories, we encouraged creativity, and we taught our girls that the most magical days often end with the dirtiest clothes. :)

Happy, Healthy Hearts

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On Wednesday we celebrated Valentine’s Day with our home school co-op friends. I am so grateful that we joined this co-op 10 years ago. It has provided us with wonderful experiences, lasting friendships, and many holiday parties. When we found our co-op group, we found the missing piece to our home schooling puzzle. Through our co-op the kids have had the socializing opportunities that so many people ask about when they hear we home school. ;) My kids have had the chance to make wonderful friends with like-minded families and I have had the chance to bond with an amazing group of women who walk the same road. They have become my confidants and safe ears to share with, laugh with, and cry with through all sorts of challenges.

Through our co-op the kids have had an opportunity to sit in a classroom of peers and experience the traditional school environment of note taking, hand raising, and having a teacher they don’t call “Mom.” As a group we have gone on a myriad of field trips, planned end of year picnics and have given the kids the missed holiday experiences that the public school children speak so highly of…particularly, the Valentine exchange. :)

This year the theme chosen by the moms in charge was a “Heart Healthy Valentine.”

The school day began with our usual schedule of science, history and art being taught for the first 3 hours. The party began after lunch.

The kids were broken into two groups…a younger group of students: 7th grade and down,

The little kids...

The little kids…

and the big kids: 8th grade and up.

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The big kids had a separate party and a fun game to participate in. The women in charge of the big kids created a life-sized “Candy land” sort of game. The theme though was “heart healthy”, so as the teams’ game pieces (played by the kids) moved around the board they had to answer first aid questions or do different exercises.

The big kid party.

The big kid party.

Gracie as a game piece. She landed on "wiggle for 2 minutes."

Gracie as a game piece. She landed on “wiggle for 2 minutes.”

Molly (on the yellow team) waiting her turn.

Molly (on the yellow team) waiting her turn.

The kids had a lot of fun with it. Gracie’s team ended up winning.

The little kids had their party in the gym. They also had a game. Theirs was a “tic tac toe” game that involved taking turns tossing bean bag hearts onto “tic tac toe” squares. The opposite team had to perform whatever task the bean bag landed on.

Tossing bean bags.

Tossing bean bags.

Tyler

Tyler

There were a variety of exercises and health activities.

Sit-up time!

Sit-up time!

Drawing out a healthy meal on paper plates.

Drawing out a healthy meal on paper plates.

At the end of the game the kids gathered in a circle to hand out their Valentine’s Day cards.

The valentine exchange.

The valentine exchange.

Everyone was eager to show off their boxes.

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After the cards were exchanged, the awards were handed out for the boxes. This year the Valentine boxes were judged by category. The four categories were: science, history, art and music, with two winners in each category.

Rusty's box

Rusty’s box

Rusty was one of the science winners. He did a box based on Benjamin Franklin and his kite experiment.

The two science winners.

The two science winners.

The party was a success.

The prize!

The prize!

Everyone left with happy hearts…

and healthy ones too! :)

Ozzie turns 11!

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All I have to do, to measure the amount of “struggle” in my week, is to look back on the number of blog postings for the week. In the midst of those really hard “adoption road” days I find myself shying away from the computer, uncertain of what to write, how much to share, and how honest to be. I notice that it has been over a week since I last posted and I can reflect back and see why. Although I strive to be real and honest about the peaks and valleys of this adoption road I also try to end, even the really REAL posts, with a note of hope. When I struggle with finding the hope, I struggle with sharing the story.

Perhaps in the future I will be in a place where I can openly share the very hard crisis moments we had this week, but for now I will simply focus on the blessings that have come in the last few days…

This weekend we had the opportunity to celebrate Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, and Ozzie’s 11th birthday. These holidays, in combination with bitterly cold temperatures, kept us hunkered down for a few days.

Saturday (Valentine’s Day) was spent helping the kids make Valentine’s Day boxes for co-op, filling out Valentine’s Day cards, and catching up on things around the house. Toby and I ended up postponing our Valentine celebration and our gift exchange until Tuesday when we had a sitter for Ozzie.

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On a side note:

Tuesday was the first tween adoption support meeting for Ozzie. Our social worker suggested it might be a helpful resource and shared the information with us. Once a month our adoption agency has a dinner and group meeting for adopted tweens 12 and under. The eat a meal together, play games that help with social skills, and have discussions about topics pertinent to them. For the parents of the adopted child that means 2 hours to go out to dinner with your spouse, connect, and talk uninterrupted. This was our Valentine’s dinner night.

Ozzie had a great time and did really well. Toby and I enjoyed the 2 hour break. It was wonderful to be able to celebrate US, recommit to each other, laugh and cry about the struggles, and remember why we are doing this. We will definitely continue doing this!

On Saturday we also did our yearly measuring. Every Valentine’s day the kids get measured and their heights are marked on the hallway wall. We have made this a holiday tradition simply so I have a greater likelihood of remembering to do it annually. The kids all look forward to this tradition and are always eager to see how they “measure up” to their siblings and their previous marks on the wall. This year was Ozzie’s second mark and Tyler’s third. It was fun to see the growth.

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Rusty won for biggest growth spurt.

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Poor Grace…not so much. She was just happy to see her line move slightly upward. Now it is simply a waiting game to see if Grace or Ozzie will end up being the shortest family member in the end. :)

Monday was President’s Day, which meant the day off of school. It was also Ozzie’s 11th birthday. The day began with our family tradition of waking Ozzie with a cupcake and the family singing “Happy Birthday.” He was thrilled to get to eat a cupcake for breakfast.

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The day was a quiet, stay at home day. It was wonderful to have a “recharge our batteries” sort of day after a few hard days.

When Toby arrived home we had Ozzie’s favorite meal for dinner: tacos!

He asked that we rent a movie and have family movie night so we rented the movie “Planes: Fire and Rescue” to watch. It was so nice snuggling on the couch with my whole family at home: warm and safe.

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After the movie we moved back into the dining room for cake and ice cream. Earlier in the day Tyler helped me bake a homemade chocolate cake for Ozzie. We used the recipe my mom used when we were kids. Watching Tyler lick the chocolate beaters brought back such “sweet” memories. :)

Tyler helped me buy ingredients earlier in the week. One request Tyler had was to buy trick candles that relight themselves after being blown out. Tyler was all giggly as we laid the cake before Ozzie. He couldn’t hold back his laughter as Ozzie watched, puzzled, at the candles that kept lighting and relighting.

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Eventually it took a team of candle blowers to put out the fire. :)

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After cake and ice cream we opened gifts. Ozzie enjoyed the fun mix of thoughtful gifts that his siblings bought/made him. His gift from Toby and I were some Lego sets.

We kept Ozzie’s birthday small and intimate this year. I see the struggle we are in at the moment and know that the chaos of a big party or celebration would only be detrimental at this point. Our little family party was a perfect way to celebrate our son without overwhelming him emotionally.

Happy 11th birthday, Ozzie. We love you.

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Contentment

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A few years ago, as Gracie was entering the Young Women’s program at church, we attended our first New Beginnings. The theme for the ceremony coincided with the winter Olympics and the theme was an Olympic one. As part of the ceremony each girl received a “gold medal” with a single word written on it. We, as parents, decided what word would appear on their medal.

A few weeks before the special night we were approached and asked to come up with a single word to describe our daughter. We were told that at New Beginnings we would each have an opportunity to stand, present our daughters with their medal, and explain why chose the word that we did.

Toby and I gave much thought to how we describe Grace in a single word…she is kind, and funny, and loyal, hard-working, and steadfast…

In the end we chose the word “Diligent.”

That same night another mother stood and presented her daughter with a “gold medal.” She chose the word “Content” to describe her daughter.

That special night, and her choice of word, has stuck with me for a long time. I found myself rolling that simple word around on my tongue…”Content,” what a wonderful thing to be!

After that night I found myself often pondering how I could be more like that. How does one achieve contentment?

It is not that I am unhappy. It is not that I’m a pessimist. I am typically happy and at peace with my life, grateful for all I have been blessed with. I sit firmly in the “glass half full” school of thought.

For me “Contentment” represents a peace…an ability to rest where one is. That I have never been able to do. Perhaps that is the plague of being a first-born child. Perhaps that is a personal sin I struggle with. Regardless of how happy I am with how something has been done or how something is, I am always looking for how I can improve…how can I do better.

Good is never good enough as long as the carrot of “better” hangs before me.

This is where the dichotomy of contentment comes in. This is my struggle. I continue to strive for improvement, which is good. Personal growth is good. Spiritual growth is good. Being stretched and challenged is good. We are not called to be stagnate beings.

So how do we reconcile that with the commandment to be content?

“But godliness with contentment is great gain.” 1 Timothy 6:6

How does one find  peace where they are, while they are still growing and improving? How does one feel at peace when things are not quite ideal? How do we grow while at the same time obeying the command to “Be still?”

“Be still and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10

After much thought I have come to the conclusion that contentment is not a reflection on our circumstances, but rather a reflection on our faith. Contentment does not ask us to stop trying, instead it asks us to TRUST Him in our journey. Contentment does not mean that we don’t want things to improve or change; it means we will keep praising in the darkness, knowing the light will come. It is seeing the simple blessings in hard moments, and allowing those small blessings to be enough today.

Contentment does not come from and absence of trials, but from a loving Heavenly Father who is bigger than our trials.

This week has been a growing week. I am working on choosing contentment.

Here are some of the blessings I am counting this week:

Two Sundays ago we were invited to join the Mackay family at their home for a Super Bowl party. It was a wonderful time of friendship and fellowship as we caught up on each other's lives. It was a blessing to spend time with these friends that we don't get to see nearly enough.

Two Sundays ago we were invited to join the Mackay family at their home for a Super Bowl party. It was a wonderful time of friendship and fellowship as we caught up on each other’s lives. It was a blessing to spend time with these friends that we don’t get to see nearly enough.

The Mackay and McCleery kids.

The Mackay and McCleery kids.

One of our greatest blessings are our animals. I am grateful to be able to raise children in the country where we can raise farm animals and where my kids learn the lessons that can only come from having animals.

One of our greatest blessings are our animals. I am grateful to be able to raise children in the country where we can raise farm animals and where my kids learn the lessons that can only come from having animals.

Our cats love to "perch" up on the barn beams that span our living room. I think they like to look down on the action, far out of reach from the pups.

Our cats love to “perch” up on the barn beams that span our living room. I think they like to look down on the action, far out of reach from the pups.

I am grateful for my three bio kids who have made enormous sacrifices to allow two broken sould have a family to call their own. It has not been easy for them but I have watched the Lord grow their hearts and testimonies in beautiful ways as a result of this stretching time of life.

I am grateful for my three big kids who have made enormous sacrifices to allow two broken souls to have a family to call their own. It has not been easy for them but I have watched the Lord grow their hearts and testimonies in beautiful ways as a result of this stretching time of life.

I am grateful for our co-op, in particular for Miss Corrina, who plans monthly service projects for the kids to participate in. Watching them participate in and focus on others in need has been a blessing fopr all the kids. This month they made tactile Valentines to deliver to the children at the School for the Blind in Pittsburgh.

I am grateful for our co-op, in particular for Miss Corrina, who plans monthly service projects for the kids to participate in. Watching them participate in and focus on others in need has been a blessing for all the kids. This month they made tactile Valentines to deliver to the children at the School for the Blind in Pittsburgh.

I am grateful for WONDERFUL cyber schools and the opportunities they provide my kiddos. This week Gracie was thrilled to get two exciting phone calls from her teacher. She found out that her drawing that she submitted for her mural club was chosen as the winning drawing that will be painted on a wall at their school building in Downingtown. She also received news this week that she has been accepted into the National Honor Society- yea Gracie!!

I am grateful for WONDERFUL cyber schools and the opportunities they provide my kiddos. This week Gracie was thrilled to get two exciting phone calls from her teacher. She found out that her drawing that she submitted for her mural club was chosen as the winning drawing that will be painted on a wall at their school building in Exton, PA. She also received news this week that she has been accepted into the National Honor Society …yea Gracie!!

I am grateful for friends and crafts. This week I was invited to join a fun group of girls for a night of crafting. This was the craft we made. It was such a joy to being kid free for a few hours, be creative, and laugh with friends. It was just what I needed!

I am grateful for friends and crafts. This week I was invited to join a fun group of girls for a night of crafting. This was the craft we made. It was such a joy to be “kid free” for a few hours, be creative, and laugh with friends. It was just what I needed!

I am grateful for healthy legs. There was a time in my life that hiking to the end of the driveway would have been impossible. Although I can't say I am grateful for an ice covered driveway that requires us to park at the bottom and hike in, I am grateful for the ability to do it.

I am grateful for healthy legs. There was a time in my life that hiking to the end of the driveway would have been impossible because of my Myasthenia Gravis. Although I can’t say I am grateful for an ice-covered driveway that requires us to park at the bottom and hike in, I am grateful for the ability to do it. Here is the family hiking down to the car for church.

The kids, on the other hand, are quite grateful for an icy driveway. They have had a blast!

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So today I choose contentment.

“Contentment isn’t a state of organization, a weight on a scale, a state of better:

better kids, better marriage, better health, better house.

Contentment is never a matter of circumstances;

Contentment is always a state of communion-

a daily embracing of God.

A thankfulness of all the gifts, and moments, and life

just as He gives it.”

- Ann Voskamp