Hold on Tight!

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(Beware: Photo Dump!)

Life has been crazier than normal this last week as preparations for camp come to a head, while corresponding with basketball camp for Tyler and house preparations for a visit from CYS on Friday to clear us for overnight visits with Tyler’s biological brother, Brandon. I feel as though I have been moving at a clip comparable to a bullet train, holding onto my seat for dear life.

Next week the girls and I are off to camp for the week and I am looking forward to the slower pace, the quiet and the peace I always find at Girl’s Camp. But until Tuesday arrives we will keep on keeping on. Here is a look at some of the moments that have filled our days this week…

1.We always know when summer has arrived because the dining room begins filling up with camp supplies. In the weeks leading up to Girls Camp, stacks begin appearing on the table as I think of things to pack or finish projects that will be part of my 7th year girls’ experience at camp. There are camp store piles, craft supply piles, post office supply piles, pillow treats and free time activity supplies and we haven’t even begun packing our own personal gear for this week away.

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2. In the midst of preparations for our CYS home inspection and girls camp preparations, I found myself on the run every afternoon this week, taking Tyler down to Monaca for a summer basketball camp at Central Valley High School. One of Tyler’s buddies from church is a CV student and extended an invitation to join him at camp for the week. I was surprised and delighted when Tyler showed interest because it is really a testament to how far we have come in the last year with his anxiety struggles. The fact he agreed and even looked forward to joining a large group of boys he didn’t know, to learn a sport he isn’t familiar with, made me sing songs of praise for the healing Tyler has found this past year.

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The week was a success. Tyler learned that he really enjoys basketball and more importantly, he learned that he can stretch himself and do things that are scary and hard.

3. Grace has now been enjoying life as a Subway sandwich artist for almost two months. When she was hired the manager made it clear she wanted to hire Molly as well but had to wait until a few of their current employees left for school, freeing up spots for new hires. Well, last week Molly got the call she was hoping for and was told they were ready to begin training. This past week she began her new job with three evenings of training at our local Subway. Molly was thrilled to discover that for her first day of work at this new job she would get to train with Grace. We now how two sandwich artists in the house.

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4. Speaking of Miss Molly…I don’t know if you have heard, but our sweet Molly is headed abroad in a couple weeks. She is preparing for an adventure to Costa Rica.

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About 6 months ago Molly approached me. In some research she was doing about colleges and the Peace Corps, she stumbled across and opportunity offered  to teens. The program is Global Leadership Adventures and offers teens opportunities to travel to locations around the world and serve in remarkable ways. Molly felt called to look into the GLA further and began prayerfully exploring their different programs. She has often expressed a desire to serve in the Peace Corps when she is older and thought this would be an awesome way to try the experience on a smaller scale.

For months she researched the various service programs and the various countries available, knowing that she wanted to serve in an area with a focus on environmental protection and animal conservation. She finally decided on Costa Rica where she will spend 10 days working with the Sea Turtle conservation program. Once she received personal confirmation that this is where God was calling her to serve she began saving all her paychecks to pay for this GLA experience.

She is now just two weeks away from stepping onto a plane by herself and leaving the country for the first time…EEK!

She is over-the-moon excited and we are all thrilled to see her chasing her dreams in such a bold and brave way. She is one who is destined to change the world.

5. Tuesday night was Tyler’s last baseball game of the regular season. Tyler was very excited for this particular game because rather than taking place at the normal time slot of 6:00-8:00 pm, he was playing a late game from 8:00-10:00 pm. This meant he got to play ball under the lights. He was very excited, expressing that playing under the lights makes him feel like a professional baseball player.

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Mimi Joy was able to meet us at the ball field and we enjoyed watching Tyler team take the win. What started as a dark sky in the distance, eventually became a rain shower over our heads, but we didn’t let that dampen our fun.

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After the game we took Mimi Joy out for ice cream at Berry’s, ending a fun night in a sweet way!

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6. This week we also managed to fit in an afternoon of bowling with friends. A few months ago we has a school-planned field trip to Sim’s Bowling Lanes. It was a fun day with two other families from co-op, but because of miscommunication between the school and the bowling alley we were overcharged for the event. The result was a certificate for us to return another day for two hours of free bowling.

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Last Wednesday we met up with the McCready family and the Caylor family to use our bowling certificate. The girls were both working at Subway that day but the boys and I enjoyed meeting up with friends, visiting, and engaging in a little friendly competition at the bowling alley.

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7.  This week also entailed a trip to the orthodontist. Tyler has had his braces on for 6 weeks now and was due to go in to have his wire changed and things checked and tightened. I scheduled Ozzie for the same time to be evaluated for braces. While in Harborcreek he was seen by an orthodontist in Erie who recommended braces. We opted to put that recommendation on the back burner until he returned home so that he could be seen by someone closer. So, while Tyler was having his gear tightened and checked, Ozzie was seen by Dr. Spokane who agreed that Ozzie does in fact need braces as well…

So now we wait and see if his insurance agrees. We could have two “brace faces” in a few weeks.

8.  This past Friday we continued with our plan to meet our Family Based therapy team away from the home to see if that lessens the anxiety Ozzie is feeling about family based therapy. This week we met at Brady’s Run park for some fishing fun. All the kids were able to attend, although only four of them fished. Molly chose to watch. Her tender heart struggles with the idea of a hook piercing the fish’s mouth and it suffering at her hands.

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The other kids, however, had no such qualms and jumped right into the task of prepping their lines, choosing their bait, and casting out with hopes of catching a big one.

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Tyler ended up being the only one who had any success, catching a couple blue gill, but everyone had fun soaking up the sun, connecting as a family, and enjoying the beautiful views on a perfect summer morning.

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From our Family Based therapy appointment we headed home to meet with Washington County’s CYS to have our home checked and get approval to be able to pick up Brandon without a social worker supervising our visits and have him be able to stay for overnight visits.

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After a crazy week of prepping for this inspection in the midst of A LOT of running it was good to close out this crazy week by passing our inspection and receiving approval to visit with Tyler’s biological brother without supervision.

Whew…

What a week!

 

 

 

 

 

Axes and Arrows and Knives…Oh My!

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This year has been a year of growth for my youngest son. I have watched him blossom in magnificent ways as he has slowly grown toward the man he will one day be. This year has provided Tyler with opportunities to gain a level of security, confidence and connection with others that has come as a result of extra learning support, Ozzie’s increased healing, a lot of one on one time as the two of us spend hours in the car driving to various daily appointments, and an awesome group of friends at church. He really is in his renaissance and my heart overflows with gratitude for the many ways God is working in his life.

Last Saturday was the 11 year old scout activity put on by members of the stake primary. As soon as Tyler received the invitation and found out his group of friends from church would all be attending he began counting the days until its arrival. This is an activity offered each June for the boys who will be turning 12 in the upcoming year. It is a special event put on by the stake to celebrate the boys’ time in primary coming to an end as they move into the young men program.

The agenda for this event varies year to year depending on the group of adults who are planning it, so Tyler lucked out because this year’s 11-year-old scout activity was AWESOME!

Tyler rode up to the activity with his friend, Carter. Carter’s mom was one of the chaperones for the day and she graciously offered to save me a trip to Butler since she was going anyway. She also kindly captured the fun of the day through photos so all of us moms who weren’t able to attend could enjoy a peek into the boys’ fun.

Their day consisted of a lesson in first aid, shooting with bows and arrows, a lesson on knife and ax safety, knot tying, and foil dinners for lunch. Tyler had a blast and hated that he had to leave 30 minutes early so we could get him to his equine therapy session. When he left he was given a gift to take home…

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His own personal pocket knife!

Which he put to good use immediately, whittling the hour away as Ozzie had his horse lesson and Tyler waited for his turn in the arena.

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My baby boy is growing into a pretty awesome young man!

 

First Mural Club then Prom!

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Wednesday was a big day for my big kids.

It was a day that began with a Mural Club outing with their Mural Club advisor at the Murrysville office of their cyber school and concluded with Prom.

All three of my older kids have enjoyed being part of the Mural Club at school. This club, like most of the clubs that are offered through their cyber school, meet virtually for the majority of their meetings. For Mural Club the kids log on to a virtual classroom weekly and are led by their teaching in creating a painting. My kids have all really enjoyed the skills they have learned from Mrs. Gibson, and have enjoyed the friendships formed through this club.

Once a year the students gather in person to create a piece of artwork at one of the two school buildings and is the highlight of the year for the Mural Club members. Here are two previous murals done by the Mural Club.

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Grace was the designer of both previous murals and was actively involved in Mural Club before graduating last year. When it was decided that Mrs. Gibson would be traveling out our direction for this year’s Mural Club outing she invited Grace and Olivia, two Mural Clun alumni, to join in on the fun.

We arrived at the Murrysville office at 11:00 am and discovered that it was just the McCleerys and Hudaks attending. With 6 students painting it was decided that rather than a wall mural they would each paint individual canvases that would hang together creating the school’s initials…21CCCS. (For 21st Century Cyber Charter School.)

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While the Mural Club got creative I took the boys next door for a Momma/sons date where we enjoyed a milkshake.

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When we returned great progress had been made and the Mural Club was finishing up their works of art.

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It was neat to see the different directions everyone took with their paintings.

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It was also fun to see that despite the differences in their creations, how well they coordinated.

Side by side they looked great!

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Nice job, Mural Club!

From there the big kids joined the Hudak family at their hotel room to get ready for Prom.

Prom at 21st Century Cyber Charter School is open to juniors and seniors and their dates, but the high school students at co-op thought it would be fun to all go as a group, so the juniors in the group each invited  a younger classmate (Rusty) or older graduates (Grace and Olivia) as dates to the prom so they could all go together.

Even though it was just a group of friends attending together they had fun with the idea of “prom-posals” and made it official at the co-op picnic a few weeks ago.

Wednesday night was one of the many times I wished I could clone myself, as I had to leave to take Tyler up north for his baseball game and couldn’t hang around to watch them get ready for prom and drop them off at the dance. Luckily I am blessed with dear friends who graciously stepped into the role of surrogate mom to my three oldest and helped them get ready for prom, took photos for me, and made sure they arrived at the dance.

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They had a blast dancing the night away with their best buddies and all said that it was a fun night with friends!

Idlewild Fun

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We have an ongoing summer tradition at Patchwork Farm that involves an annual trip to Idlewild amusement park. This began when the kids were still in strollers. We were drawn to this park, as opposed to other amusement parks in our area, because of its appeal to younger kids, fewer crowds, its old fashioned charm, and the affordability of its annual carload day deal.

Now our kids are older, and have outgrown many of the attractions, but nostalgia and a decade of sweet memories keep us coming back year after year. This year was no exception.

A month ago I went online to check this year’s dates for Idlewild’s Carload Days and everyone made plans to clear their schedule and get that day off work.

We love taking advantage of this exceptional deal because it allows big families an affordable way to visit the park. For $115.00 we could bring  8 people into the park, which for our crew is a savings of $225.00. You just can’t beat it!

Because we are only a family of 7 and the deal allows for 8 visitors we decided to invite Tyler’s biological brother, Brandon to join us for the day. Tyler was very excited to share this family tradition with Brandon and Brandon was excited to be included.

Brandon’s social worker dropped him off at our home at 8:30am and we began the 1 1/2 hour trek to Idlewild. We ended up having to take two cars since Grace had class that evening. We left her car parked at the local Giant Eagle parking lot and all went into the park in one vehicle so as to avoid paying double, and then when Grace had to leave to get to school Toby just drove her to her car and then met back up with us in the park.

It was a practically perfect day. The kids had a blast running from ride to ride, switching riding partners based on who wanted to ride each particular ride.

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Some rides were a hit with everyone, like the park’s roller coasters…

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While other ride appealed only to certain kiddos…

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Tyler was enamored with the bumper cars and while the other kids rode all the rides in Olde Idlewild he got in line a dozen times for another round on bumper cars.

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After our picnic lunch we split ways for a little while. My three oldest wanted to walk through Storybook Forest, while Tyler, Ozzie and Brandon wanted to ride rides so Toby took them riding,

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While I walked with my oldest three through Storybook Forest and relived so many sweet memories of their early years.

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It was special having that time with just them and we had fun recreating photos from their childhood at various spots in Storybook Forest.

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It was a wonderful day to play at Idlewild Amusement Park!

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Fun at the Creek

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School is officially out, and we have transitioned from one season of craziness to another with our days filled with summer projects, camps, summer tutoring and various weekly therapy sessions.

With Ozzie’s arrival home we have reinstated family based therapy. As the date for his release from the residential treatment facility where he resided for eight months while he was receiving more intensive therapy to address the affects of early childhood trauma neared, we started lining up therapeutic support for his return home. His RTF expressed concern for the drastic step-down of care that comes with transitioning from 24/7 therapeutic care to 1-2 outpatient therapy sessions a week and suggested we set up a Family Based team to be assigned to our home to help Ozzie (and the other kids) with his transition home.

We were assigned our Family Based team a month before Ozzie’s release and were thrilled to find out we would be working with the same two ladies that were our Family Based team prior to Ozzie’s placement.

For the last two months they have been in our home multiple times a week helping the entire family adjust to being reunited. Our primary goals revolve around reconnection, improved communication, and healing between Ozzie and the other kids, while Ozzie’s trauma work is addressed in EMDR outpatient therapy with Miss Tina.

Because the goals of Family Based revolve around communication and connection with siblings, most family based sessions involve a whole-family activity that allows the kids to work on those skills. For the most part it has been a positive addition to our network of therapeutic support. Ozzie is doing awesome. Due in large part to his residential stay, Ozzie has found a level of healing and stability that is nothing short of miraculous.

God is so good!

The only struggle I have noted with Oz is a heightened level of anxiety. This is especially true in the days leading up to a Family Based therapy appointment. After taking note of this trend and talking to Oz about my observations he was finally able to identify that the history of Family Based in our home (ie: family based being the final therapeutic tool we tried before we realized that he needed more therapeutic support, a decision that led to him being admitted to Harborcreek Youth Services) was causing his anxiety. In his mind he equated the Family Based team with being judge and jury in deciding whether he goes back to residential care or remains at home. That ANT (automatic-negative-thought) was the cause of the heightened anxiety we were seeing. Once I realized this I was able to speak with his trauma therapist and his Family Based team to come up with a plan to change his perception of Family Based therapy.

The first step I thought might be helpful was to take therapy away from the home and let Ozzie interact with his therapists in an environment that wasn’t connected to memories from nine months ago.

So, on Monday we meet at Brush Creek Park for Family Based therapy. One of his therapists came up with the fun idea of catching crayfish with the kids as a shared, connection-building experience.

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This was our first time visiting this park but we fell in love with it.

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It was absolutely stunning.

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After trying out a few spots along the creek,

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We settled in near the covered bridge.

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The boys were in the water immediately,

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in their excitement to find some crayfish,

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While the girls explored the bridge and took advantage of photographic opportunities.

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It was the most successful Family Based session yet.

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I think the combination of being away from home and out in nature, while participating in an active, hands-on activity was a win-win combo.

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Is there anything better than a summer afternoon splashing in the creek?!

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A Greatest Showman Sing-Along

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Friday was the evening of the much anticipated Father/Son campout with our church. I say “much anticipated” with a tongue-in-cheek twist as it is much anticipated by some in our family while stoically endured by others (ie: Toby.)

This year was particularly rough, as it rained buckets for most of the night and the boys were forced to camp out in the van rather than a tent. They also had an extra early morning with Rusty (and Molly) signed up for SAT testing that required a 7:45 am arrival. The result of all those factors was minimal sleep for the boys and Toby returning home wondering yet again why he makes the effort to attend each year and pledging once again that this year is the last year….

But I know Toby, and next year’s father and son campout will roll around and he will once again selflessly submit to another sleepless night, as is tradition, for the sake of making his 3 boys feel loved and valued…

Which is one of the million reasons I adore this man!

Typically, while the boys are enduring a sleepless night of rain and mosquitos, the girls and I enjoy our own traditions while taking advantage of an entire night with no boys in the house. Our traditions tend to revolve around at home spa treatments, chocolate, and chick-flics. This year, however, adult responsibilities meant I was down a daughter since Grace was scheduled to work, but rather than let it put a damper on our evening I made special plans for just Molly and I knowing that in a few weeks Grace and I will have an entire week alone at home alone while everyone else is engaged in summer plans.

I began searching for a fun activity that Molly and I could enjoy together when I stumbled across a fun event occurring at the historic Strand Theater in Zelienople. Here is a little background information on this neat place where Molly and I enjoyed our girls’ night out:

HISTORY OF THE STRAND THEATER

The Strand Theater was constructed and managed by Gioachino and Rosalia Sapienza in 1914.  Gioachino and Rosalia were Italian immigrants seeking a new life and new opportunity in America and Zelienople.  In order to blend in with their adopted community, they became known to friends and neighbors as Joseph and Rosalie.  Joseph originally wanted to build a fruit market, but the local banker convinced him that the town really needed a theater.  So two-thirds of the structure was dedicated to The Strand, and the remaining third was Sapienza’s Fruit Market.  The Strand featured silent films with live piano accompaniment as well as Vaudeville-style shows on its small stage.

In 1939, The Strand underwent its first major renovation and the structure was dedicated entirely to the theater, albeit with a nearly exclusive focus on the motion picture medium.  Joseph moved his fruit market across the street into what is now ‘The Silversmith Shoppe’ and a tax preparation office.  But the ‘Sapienza’ name is still emblazoned across the top of the building’s facade. 

The Strand thrived as a social center for Zelienople and Harmony for decades, providing a destination for families to escape the drudgery and routine of rural life and to meet and enjoy a night’s entertainment. But The Strand began to struggle when multiplex cinemas began dotting the suburban landscape.  The theater became more of a drop-off point for parents to leave their kids for an afternoon matinee.

But with increased pressure from the onset of the Multi-Plex and VCR era, The Strand could no longer compete. One night In the early 1980’s, The Strand closed its doors and they have not been open to the public since…………………………….until now.

There have been a variety of suitors for The Strand over the years. Developers and private investors considered making use of the building for everything from a mini-mall to a dance school to a dinner theater. As recently as Fall, 2000, the FBI considered The Strand for use as a field office. However, the extensive cost of buying and renovating the building has kept potential developers away.

The Strand Theater Initiative was created in 2001 as a non-profit corporation to save the venerable old theater from the wrecking ball, with the goal of reviving The Strand as a cultural, education and community outreach center.  Through private and public financial support, The Initiative purchased The Strand in 2002 and completed an exterior renovation in January, 2005. 

The event we attended there was for the showing of The Greatest Showman on the big screen, but this was no ordinary night at the movies. The Strand Theater was offering a sing-along version of one of our favorite movies, complete with the words to each song highlighted at the bottom of the screen. I knew that it was going to be a night to remember and I was right!

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Molly and I left for Zelienople soon after the boys headed out for their camp out. After a stop for Chinese take-out we drove to the Strand Theater, making sure we arrived in  time to collect out $5.00 tickets from “will call,” and with enough time to soak in the atmosphere of the historic theatre before the house lights dimmed.

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We found the interior of the theatre as charming as the exterior and were delighted at the opportunity to sit in the balcony.

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The movie was as wonderful as the first five times we had seen it but was even more magical thanks to the addition of 100 voices joining the characters on screen in song as we belted along to our favorite tunes.

Molly was all smiles and I couldn’t help but marvel at the magic found in that moment as we sat in the dark and I listened to her sing along with the voices around me.

We loved The Greatest Showman the first time we saw it in the theater for my 40th birthday, but that was nothing compared to this experience. It was awesome…a special memory I will forever cherish with Miss Molly.

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Old Economy Village…a journey back in time!

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For two decades I have resided in the Pittsburgh area and for two decades I have heard tales of the wonders of Old Economy Village but had never managed a trip to visit it in person. That all changed last Friday when we were invited to join friends who are PA Virtual families for a field trip to Old Economy Village. A good portion of our co-op attended and it was fun to catch up with friends. Thanks to a state grant received by the cyber school admission was free (an unexpected blessing!) which just added to the enjoyment of the day.

Upon arriving we had the opportunity to stroll around the Visitor Center and become better acquainted with the history behind this Beaver County gem. Here is an brief overview of the Harmonites who settled and developed this historic community we know as Old Economy Village.

“In 1804, the followers of the Separatist George Rapp (1757-1847) emigrated to America from Iptingen (near Stuttgart) in southwest Germany seeking religious and economic freedom. Nearly 800 farmers and craftsmen followed their leader to Butler County, Pennsylvania where they built the town of Harmony. Ten years later they migrated westward to Posey County, Indiana founding a second town named Harmony, which today is known as New Harmony.
In 1824, the Harmony Society returned to Pennsylvania, this time settling in Beaver County along the Ohio River. There they founded “Oekonomie,” now better known as Old Economy Village. It was here that the Society gained worldwide recognition for its religious devotion and economic prosperity.
The Harmonists developed a simple, pietistic lifestyle based upon the early Christian Church. They turned over everything they owned to the Harmony Society when they became members. Everyone worked together for the good of the Society and received, in turn, what he or she needed to live simply and comfortably. Because they expected Christ’s Second Coming to Earth at any moment, they adopted celibacy in 1807 in order to purify themselves for the Millenium – Christ’s 1,000 year reign on Earth.

The Harmony Society successfully “placed the manufacturer beside the agriculturalist,” an accomplishment held in high regard in the early nineteenth century. National leaders like Thomas Jefferson viewed this as the ideal plan for America’s economic and political future. This ideal would be a national economy that would thrive in both agriculture and industry, independent of foreign influence.

The Harmonists created, adapted, and adopted the new technologies of their day giving them a competitive edge in the growing early American economy, particularly in textile manufacturing—wool, cotton, and silk—and agricultural production.
By 1825 they had constructed textile factories powered and heated by steam engines. They built shops for blacksmiths, tanners, hatters, wagon makers, cabinetmakers and turners, linen weavers, potters, and tin smiths, as well as developing a centralized steam laundry and a centralized dairy for the community. Later, they perfected the technology of silk manufacturing, from worm to fabric, for which they received gold medals during exhibition competitions in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. Despite the Society’s economic success, time and events brought about its decline. In 1832, one third of the members left Economy under the leadership of Count de Leon, a self-proclaimed prophet. In 1847 Father Rapp died. Although the Harmonists leaders turned to new business ventures – railroads, oil production, and building Beaver Falls and its industrial complex – their economic vitality, like their membership, eventually waned.

By the end of the nineteenth century only a few Harmonists remained. In 1905 the Society was dissolved and its vast real estate holdings sold, much of it to the American Bridge Company who subsequently enlarged the town and renamed it Ambridge. Six acres of the Society’s original holdings, along with seventeen buildings, were acquired by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1916.

Today, these six-acres, surrounded by Ambridge’s National Register Historic District, are administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission as a National Historic Landmark site.
The historic site, which contains the seventeen restored historic structures and garden built between 1824 and 1830, originally was the religious and economic hub of the Harmony Society. The buildings, grounds, library, archives and 16,000 original artifacts are a memorial to the Society’s commitment to the religious discipline and economic industry that built their American Utopia.”

Once all families had arrived we were led from the Visitor Center to the village, where we stepped back in time 150 years, by walking through the doors of the Feast Hall into historic Old Economy. 

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Old Economy Village is comprised of 17 historic buildings and  various “stations” that function as a living history experience. We had the opportunity to split into self -guided groups and tour the village independently. Many of the buildings had volunteers in period dress demonstrating skills from that time period and sharing more about the history of the Harmonite people.

Other locations offered fun, interactive, hands-on activities common to that time period that the kids could participate in and experience first hand.

In my group I had my four kiddos (Grace was at work), as well as other friends from co-op. They enjoyed moving from station to station, learning about life in the early 19th century from the fascinating and engaging volunteers dressed for the part.

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Here are some of the places we visited during our tour of Old Economy Village: 

Feast Hall / Museum Building  Built in 1827, the first floor showcased a Natural History Museum (now recreated) open to the Society for free and to the public for a ten cent admission fee.  Harmonists gathered on special feast days for communal meals or for musical performances in the second floor Feast Hall.

Here the kids were able to experience school as a 19th century student, complete with a handwriting lesson using a quill and ink.

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George Rapp Garden
Visitors to Economy described George Rapp’s garden as “neatly laid out in lawns, arbors, and flower beds.” The 1831 Pavilion once featured a wooden statue carved by American sculptor, William Rush. The current figure was made in the 1950s.  Also built in 1831, the Grotto’s rough exterior belies its elegant neoclassical interior. Harmonists viewed this building as a metaphor for their Society – rough on the exterior but refined inside.

The gardens were our final stop for the day and everyone enjoyed strolling these beautiful grounds, inhaling the intoxicatingly sweet scents of the garden.

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Baker House, Garden and Family Shed
Storekeeper R. L. Baker, his mother, and sister lived here. Following George Rapp’s death, Baker, Jonathan Lenz, and Jacob Henrici led the Society and maintained their business ventures. The Baker House is a typical Harmonist dwelling. Every household had its own garden, even though food was provided by the Society. The shed was vital to the household as a food storage area, tool and wood shed, chicken coop, cow stall, root cellar, and outhouse.

In this part of the settlement the kids got to walk through the herb garden and learn about its preservation, as well as try their hands out at egg gathering and cow milking.

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Water Pump
Pumps were located on Economy’s streets in various locations. Water was distributed through wooden pipes from a spring on the hill east of town. This pump is a reproduction, plumbed to the city water supply. Visitors are invited to experience wash day at Old Economy.

The water pump was one of the biggest hits of the day. Everyone was impressed with the hand pump and had fun attempting water hauling and hand washing the laundry.

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The woodworking tools that helped build and furnish Economy are exhibited in this original wood frame building.

 

The volunteer who was demonstrating his craftsmanship in the cabinet shop was a delight. He was a retired school teacher who loved sharing his knowledge with the kids and engaging them in what life would have been like for the settlement’s cabinet makers in 1830, including letting them see how cabinets were constructed and allowing them to try out some of the hand tools.

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Blacksmith Shop
This structure was built in the early twentieth century as a garage for the site’s caretaker. It was later converted into a blacksmith and cooper shop for demonstrations. The original structures for those trades were located elsewhere in Economy, outside of the site’s present boundaries.

The two gentlemen who ran the blacksmith shop were equally engaging and we were all fascinated with their work as they created beautiful, decorative hooks as they spoke of their trade.

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Cobblestone Street
This is the original Harmonist Street, where visitors can roll hoops, walk on stilts, and play games of graces.

But the cobblestone street was the biggest hit of all. Home to the old fashioned games available for the kids to try out and play, this was the epicenter of activity for our group. I had a hard time pulling Tyler away once he discovered this stop on our tour of Old Economy.

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It was an absolutely delightful day at Old Economy Village. It took me two decades to make it there but hopefully we will be returning in a more timely manner, with Toby and Grace in tow…

What a lovely day to visit such a lovely place!

 

Memorial Day Weekend

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Memorial Day weekend: The gateway to Summer!

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This past weekend was a busy one, filled with lots of fun. With school coming to a close and summer on the horizon this weekend was a perfect transition from the busy days of school to the equally busy but fun days of summer. As we sat down to fill in our summer calendar with planned trips and summer excursions I realized that we truly are in the busy season of our life. With the three older kids going in different directions this summer, and the two youngest getting involved in their own summer activities, I realize that my primary role this summer with be “taxi driver.” (More on that in the next blog)

This Memorial Day weekend began with Toby having to work late. He is up to his eye balls in summer jobs and has been working long days and Saturdays to keep up. So we decided to go on a picnic Friday evening since Dad was working late. We loaded up all that were at home and headed to McConnell’s Mill for an impromptu picnic and hike at one of the prettiest parks in our area.

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The kids had a grand time climbing the massive boulders, hiking through the covered bridge and checking out the spillway before the sun set on our fun.

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The following day Molly, Rusty, and Ozzie had a temple trip to Columbus. I volunteered to be one of the drivers. We met at the church at 11:30 and loaded up our vehicles with youth for the 3 hour drive to the temple.

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It was a beautiful visit and my heart was filled with joy watching my kids devote their Saturday to something of eternal value. The peace and comfort found within those holy walls was just what my soul needed.

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The drive home was a bit more dicey. Following a fun dinner at Culver’s we began the trek home which took an hour longer than usual thanks to severe thunderstorms, poor visibility, Ohio construction, and a sick passenger. I was grateful to pull into my driveway at 11:30 pm and peel my fingers from the steering wheel.

On Saturday we were back on the road again, headed back to Ohio for a visit to the Homestead. Although delayed by a few weeks, we were headed out to celebrate Mother’s Day with my mom.  We hadn’t seen my parents since Easter and we were looking forward to catching up and meeting their 3 new additions: Faith, Hope and Charity…

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While reacquainting ourselves with their other farmyard kids.

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After lunch we drove to their local park. My folks discovered this playground when my sister’s kids were visiting and thought Tyler and Ozzie would enjoy it as well. It turned out to be a huge hit with everyone, not just the littles. It was one of the coolest parks we had ever visited and everyone had a good time tapping into their inner child for some playground fun!

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On the way back to the Homestead we stopped at my parent’s neighbor’s home to meet their two new additions, Jake and Ginger…

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10 week old lab puppies.

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What fun it was to get our puppy fix!

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I didn’t think we were going to be able to peel our kids away,

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And they all had to be frisked before leaving to make sure no puppies were being smuggled out under their shirts!

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All too soon we had to take our leave and head back home.

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The following day we had our annual Memorial Day picnic with our church family. It was a beautiful day.

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The grill was hot and ready for grilling at 11:30. Each family brought their own protein to grill and then a side dish or dessert to share.

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Everyone had a delightful time feasting…

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Playing yard games…

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Splashing in the creek…

and cooling off with sno-cones!

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It was a lovely conclusion to an action packed weekend…

Thursday marked the final day of the 2017/2018 school year….

Let summer fun commence!

 

A Visit with Brandon

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Some of you may remember Brandon.

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Brandon is one of Tyler’s 4 biological siblings.

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We met Brandon for the first time 4 years ago when we gathered all of Tyler’s biological siblings together for a reunion at Patchwork Farm. After many years of being separated and losing contact with each other, they were finally reunited.

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At that time, Brandon was the last sibling remaining in foster care and the hurt he carried was evident in his countenance. At the time we inquired about Brandon and whether we could be considered a possible placement, only to discover that his foster parents were in the process of adopting Brandon. We were thrilled with this wonderful news. Brandon was finally getting the forever home he deserved to have.

At our next reunion the affect of being chosen and finally having his forever home was evident on his face. He was a different child and the joy radiated from him.

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Fast forward 6 months and after months of not hearing from Brandon or his adoptive parents I received the heartbreaking news that Brandon’s adoptive mother (of 9 months) had been taken from him by cancer. My heart broke for Brandon as I mourned the loss of Tina and wept at the cruelty of this earthly life for a child that waited so long for a mother only to have her snatched away.

Over the next few years we struggled to remain in contact with Brandon. His adoptive father became sick and was in and out of the hospital which led to Brandon being moved frequently through foster homes and residential facilities. We would call and send letters and not get any response. We weren’t sure where Brandon was but Tyler continued to petition us to seek Brandon out.

(Of all Tyler’s siblings Brandon is the one Tyler feels most connected to. I think this is a natural consequence of the two of them being the last of his siblings to be adopted. Years after the other children were settled into their forever homes Tyler and Brandon continued their court-ordered monthly visits as wards of the state.)

Finally, out of the blue, we received a call from a woman who  had been assigned Brandon’s case. Once again Brandon finds himself in limbo as his adoptive father is dying and has only been given months to live. This social worker is working to create a network of support for Brandon. She is seeking out family (both biological and adoptive) that can be a network of support for Brandon, and Brandon gave her our names. She reached out and asked if we would like to have contact with Brandon, would like to be a source of support, and what we would like that relationship to look like.

I explained our situation to her and shared with her the transition we are currently navigating as Ozzie returns home from residential care and we work to find stability with this transition. I expressed our desire to have contact with Brandon and work on reconnecting him with Tyler but couldn’t commit to anything more (ie: weekend visits, etc.) until we evaluated where Ozzie and the other children were emotionally following Ozzie’s return home.

It is with baby steps we are moving forward as we try and assess what our role in Brandon’s life is supposed to be and try to hear God amidst the noise in my head.

Last Friday Tyler and Brandon had their first visit after almost 3 years apart. I wish I could adequately convey the emotions felt when Tyler saw Brandon pull up with his social worker and climb out of the car. Tyler raced across the playground, enveloping Brandon in rib-crushing bear hug.

I was concerned that Tyler would struggle with the difference in Brandon’s looks from the brother he remembers. At age 16 Brandon looks very different from the 13-year-old Tyler had in his head, but that didn’t deter him at all. They picked up right where they left off and it was as though no time had passed at all.

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Brandon fell into the role of big brother seamlessly and it was sweet to watch their interactions.

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They spent an hour and a half playing baseball and loved every minute of it.

When it was time for Brandon to leave both boys struggled to say good-bye. I am sure both were wondering if and when they would see each other again. With a history like the one they’ve endured as children of the system, good-byes can feel final, because their history shows them that good-byes often are, but we reassured them that another visit was planned in a week which made leaving the park easier on both of them.

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I am not sure what the future holds for Brandon but we petition you for prayers. It seems so unjust that one child should have to endure all the heartbreak Brandon has had to endure in his short 16 years on earth.

Please pray for him.

 

An End of the Year Picnic

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Yesterday was our co-op’s end of the year picnic.

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With the finish line so close it was nice to step away from the frantic pace at home, as everyone pushes hard to finish strong, and enjoy a picnic with friends.

Tyler is 2 days away from being a 6th grader, while the three oldest have one more week to turn in all their assignments before officially being done with school. Come next Friday I will be a momma to a 12th, 11th, 8th, and 6th grader, as well as a college Sophomore…

Can someone please hit the brakes and slow down this spinning ball that keeps speeding around the sun?!

I always enjoy our co-op end of the year picnic. It celebrates the conclusion of a year’s worth of effort and hints of the lazy days of summer that will soon be arriving.

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Wednesday was a crazy day for us as I put hundreds of miles on Big Bessie driving down to Wexford for an AWESOME TBRI training session with Ryan and Kayla North, back to home to pick up kids for the picnic, north to New Castle to meet up with our co-op friends, back down to Wexford for Tyler’s dyslexia tutoring,  north again to Zelienople for horse therapy, and then Bessie headed south once again for Scouts and youth activities.

It was a FULL day so I was grateful we managed to carve in time to meet our friends at the park for a picnic.

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It was a breath of fresh air…literally!

The kids had a wonderful time picnicking and playing with friends while the mommas enjoyed some uninterrupted visiting.

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It was a perfect way to end co-op. Now we just have to keep pushing hard to end the school year equally strong.

The finish line is in sight!

One week to go!!