Buttermilk Falls

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We wrapped up our weekend with Brandon with a jaunt to Buttermilk Falls.

Buttermilk Falls is a magical, hidden treasure of a place, located only minutes from Patchwork Farm. Tucked just off the highway in a grove of trees, it tends to go unnoticed by travelers, unless shared or recommended by locals.

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Buttermilk Falls is a plunge waterfall that features a roughly 20-foot drop into the greenish pool below. A train track runs just above the top of the falls.

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According to the plaque near the top of the waterfall, the falls was given the name Buttermilk Falls by a group of Civil War Soldiers and their wives in 1870. Raising their buttermilk-filled glasses to toast after their picnic, they named the waterfall Buttermilk Falls. However, since there are so many Buttermilk Falls in Pennsylvania, the waterfall is also commonly referred to as Homewood Falls.

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The name Homewood Falls comes from the Homewood sandstone quarry near the waterfall. It was from this area that stones were quarried to be used in nearby tunnels, roadways, and Western Penitentiary in nearby Pittsburgh. The quarry is visible as you make your way to the bottom of the waterfall from the parking area and creates some rather dramatic cliffs along the pathway.
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Buttermilk Falls has been a favorite hiking/picnicking spot for our family since we moved to the area, but it wasn’t until a recent Family Based therapy activity at the falls that we were introduced to the fun of swimming at the falls. That experience led to us taking Brandon there for an afternoon of swimming.
Toby and Grace were unable to join us due to work, but the rest of the family spent an afternoon at the falls. A heavy afternoon shower drove away most of the other swimmers, leaving the falls abandoned with the exception of one other couple.
The kids had a delightful time swimming, splashing and playing beneath the falling water…
It was a perfect summer afternoon.

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A Visit to the University of Akron

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The college quest continues!

This time our search led us out of state,

And this time I had 3 questers with me rather than 1.

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On Friday, Rusty and Molly joined me at 6:00 am for an early start to a busy day. We had plans to tour the University of Akron and we were taking Brandon with us.

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Next year Brandon and Rusty will be seniors so they are at the age when college visits start happening. Since Molly wanted to tour U of A anyway I thought we could make it a fun bonding experience for the three of them, while giving the kids a chance to see if the University of Akron is a possible future school for them.

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We arrived at Brandon’s residential facility at 7:00 am to pick him up then headed due west  into Ohio. Brandon was thrilled that we were headed into Ohio again, having never left the state of Pennsylvania in his 16 years until a recent trip across the border with our family to see a movie in Boardman. You would have thought we were taking him to see the ocean for the first time, or on an African safari, by the way he greeted the news that we were going to Ohio for the day…his second time ever leaving the state. We informed him to expect many more trips to Ohio in the future. It seems to be our second home.

It humbles me to see how little it takes to thrill Brandon. Perhaps that is the nugget of a blessing buried within a hard-lived life… every simple joy feels like a miraculous blessing. It is good for my kids to be exposed to the humble gratitude and awe that exudes from him. It certainly makes us take stock of all we take for granted and fills us with a deeper sense of gratitude for all our blessings.

The more time I spend with Brandon the more I witness the effect of living a life of survival…

The survival needed to live through the early years of abuse.

The emotional survival of enduring the loss of a mother within a year of finally getting a mother.

The physical survival of becoming your own caretaker and parent when your last surviving parent falls sick with cancer.

And the social survival of finding one’s place in the lockdown environment of spending your teenage years living in a group home, instead of the security of being part of a family.

With that “survival mindset” comes a lack of future thinking. All thoughts and choices are based on surviving today. Dreaming of a future beyond this 24 hours is a luxury not possible for kids living in survival mode.

This can be seen in most kids with a similar trauma history…kids whose every thought must be consumed with how to get their basic needs met, how to protect themselves from danger, and how to survive another day.

Kids whose cabinets are empty can’t be bothered to worry about Friday’s math test.

Kids who lay awake at night listening for the slamming of a car door indicating the return home of an abusive father gives no thought to what skills they need to develop for future employment.

Kids who spend their nights laying at their dying mother’s feet, afraid to fall asleep for fear she will die in the night, can’t dream about their future colleges and careers.

These kids don’t have that luxury.

Manners, grooming, social etiquette, punctuality, and grades are secondary to surviving another day, and so these kids, who are often written off by teachers, neighbors and social workers as lazy, non-motivated, worthless teens with no direction and no hope, are simply children who are trying desperately to survive…

Children who have never been given the stability that makes dreaming about a better future a possibility.

I see this absence of future vision in Brandon. He can not fathom a world where life could be good and he could be great.

I see the trepidation and uncertainty in his eyes when I ask him what he’d like to be when he grows up. It is almost as though “growing up” and surviving childhood has seemed so unattainable that he has never allowed himself to consider what he might want his future to look like.

So, when I told him we were going to tour a college so that he and Rusty and Molly could see if they might want to go to college there he was stunned at the thought.

“So is this the only college in Ohio?” he asked.

When I explained there were many, and he could visit any that he might want to attend, he was flabbergasted. All through our tour he kept asking for reconfirmation, “So, maybe I could go here some day?”

As he looked through the literature he was blown away at all the choices of majors and minors.

“I didn’t know there were so many different jobs you could have,” he expressed with awe. “What do you think I could I be when I grow up?”

“Anything you want,” I answered.

He responded with a shy grin, uncertain if I was teasing him, disbelieving he was capable of dreaming those big dreams, yet hoping perhaps there was some truth in my words.

It was a wonderful day. My heart overflowed with gratitude towards my Heavenly Father for allowing me to witness this transforming journey that He is taking Brandon on. There is a rawness, a vulnerability, and a hopefulness in Brandon that humbles me and drives me to do right by this child.

I pray God will use me as He opens a world of hope, healing, unconditional love and the opportunity to dream big dreams and not just survive, to a young man who deserves that and so much more.

It was a delight having these three connect and bond over the experience.

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When our tour came to an end we drove over to the Homestead (since we were in the “neighborhood”) which allowed Brandon the chance to see the Homestead and allowed my parents the opportunity to meet our new addition.

It was a blessed day ❤

 

 

 

A Visit to “The Slimy Pebble”

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Well, here we are again…

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No sooner do we search and find a place the place Grace feels led to continue her post-high school education, before we are back at the starting line with Miss Molly.

We are entering Molly’s senior year and with that comes some BIG life decisions. Molly is already feeling the pressure of “figuring it all out,” despite our council and encouragement that most students graduate with a sense of uncertainty of where the future is taking them.

And with this season of life comes college tours.

Molly has had some experience with college tours thanks to Grace. With some of Gracie’s college visits (particularly those out of state) we simply had Molly and Rusty tag along, knowing their day was coming, and thus killing “our three birds” with one stone.

Now we are being more specific in our search as we spent the last months identifying, researching and booking tours at colleges that align with Molly’s future aspirations. It has been a bit of a challenge finding free time slots in the craziness of all that is involved in getting approval for a placement with only 30 days notice, but we are doing our best to carve out time amid foster placement training, home inspections and court hearings to get in some college visits before the school year begins.

Our first college visit of August was to Slippery Rock University, or “The Slimy Pebble” as Toby calls it. 🙂

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We arrived for a 9:00 am appointment, loving the uninterrupted time we had to visit without siblings around.

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The tour began with an information session and concluded with a tour of the campus.

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Notebook in hand, Molly took abundant notes and on our way home converted them into a comprehensive pro/con list…

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The first of many I am sure she will be creating as she strives to discover where it is God is leading her.

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Our mother/daughter date to Slippery Rock concluded with a sweet treat from Sheetz.

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Loved my special time with this special girl…

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And the college wasn’t bad either!

 

Back in the Saddle

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After a 6 week hiatus, Ozzie and Tyler are back in the saddle again.

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Both boys receive equine therapy through Glade Run Adventures.

It began with Tyler a year ago and then when Ozzie returned home (after a stay at an inpatient facility) he too began weekly therapy sessions.

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These sessions have proved invaluable. There on the backs of Pumpkin and Veronica, the boys have found help and healing that is different than the support they receive in their weekly sessions of family therapy and trauma therapy. There is something freeing about therapeutic work that takes place in an outside arena on the back of the horse that brings another level of healing to my boys who are working so hard to heal from an abusive past.

But despite its value and positive effect on our household we had to opt out of the last session that was offered. The learning sessions are split into 6 week periods and the last 6 week period took place from the middle of June until the end of July, right smack in the middle of the craziest 6 weeks of our lives.

In addition to church camps, international travel, youth conferences, camping trips, etc. we were also preparing for the unexpected life change of adding a 16-year-old boy to our family. To say this summer was our busiest summer ever would be the understatement of the year!

Because of all the extra craziness we had to step away from equine therapy for 6 weeks. This past Saturday horse therapy resumed with Tyler and Ozzie having their first ever therapy session together with their shared therapist, Ashley.

Toby and I took the boys to therapy…together…

A rare occurrence as lately we have adopted a “divide and conquer” parenting model due to the craziness of the family schedule.

The reason we were together was due to the fact that we had set the weekend apart for a getaway.

This a tradition that has been treasured with each of our adopted sons’ arrivals.

In the weeks leading up to their move in date we go away for a weekend. We know how crazy things get after the addition of a foster child placement. For a few months there is no leaving that child home alone until everyone settles in and finds their place in this new family unit. The process of learning the idiosyncrasies, strengths and struggles of a  new child along with the new addition learning the rules and expectations of the household, mean a more highly monitored environment for a season of time.

Knowing that opportunities to sit and be still and connect with each other without interruption will harder in a few weeks, we made plans for a weekend away. Unfortunately the busyness of life make checking out totally an impossibility so we stayed in a local hotel and returned home Saturday afternoon to take the boys to equine therapy lessons and then returned to our weekend date after dropping the boys back off at home.

They had a great lesson. They did well sharing a therapy session and both boys picked right back up with their previously established skills as though their 6 week hiatus never took place.

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Summer is rolling to a close rapidly and with the changing of the seasons comes a change of life as we add child #6 to our family and to Glade Run Adventures.

Brandon will soon be joining his brothers in the saddle as he too discovers the healing that can be found on the back of a horse.

Young Women in Pittsburgh

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This past week Molly had the opportunity to join the other young women and their leaders from church for an evening of fun in Pittsburgh.

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What began as a planned excursion to the point for a picnic evolved into an late evening at the ballfield for a Pirates game.

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The girls had fun enjoying the end of summer with a picnic down at the water steps on the North Side,

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Exploring the area,

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Followed by an evening soaking up the atmosphere at PNC Park.

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Treasured Memories at Living Treasures

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Ever since our visit to the subpar animal park we visited while in Virginia I had been itching for a visit to Living Treasures Animal Park. With Brandon visiting for a few days we thought it the perfect excuse to visit.

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It is a bit of a tradition in our family. It seems with pre-placement visits with both Tyler and Ozzie, Living Treasures was on the agenda and one of both of their first memories of time with our family. I treasure this because Living Treasures holds a special place in my heart and has since I first visited almost 2 decades ago. It was our go-to outing adventure with the older three when they were too little for the miles of hiking at the zoo, and as a result I feel a sense of nostalgia when I enter its gates.

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Having special “firsts” memories of Ozzie and Tyler there, when they first entered our lives as 6 and 10-year-olds, makes this place all the sweeter.

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Now I will have equally sweet “firsts” memories of Brandon strolling down the same gravels paths that have been the source of much joy as a momma.

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We arrived and purchased some feed buckets and carrots and headed to the deer yard:

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The wonderful thing about Living Treasures that sets it apart from larger zoos is the proximity to the animals and the opportunity to interact with the wildlife so closely.

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The chance to feed animals from the palm of our hand or through a gravity fed feeding tubes produced larger than life smiles and numerous giggles.

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Everyone has their favorites whom they have come to know and love over seasons of visits.

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The giraffes are always a hit!

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Another favorite area is the goat pen/ nursery area. This area has changed a lot in the past decade. It used to be on large pen with goats and baby animals running free. It was fun to navigate your way through the chaos of tongues and fur as critters fought for attention.

Unfortunately this area is now very tame (thanks to liability risks I’m sure) with only a small petting area for the goats…

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And a separate pen for the babies of the park.

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Despite not being able to climb in the pen with them and “shnuggle ’em” like I’d like, we still had a wonderful time getting kisses from these ADORABLE slime monsters.

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The kangaroo/wallabies yard is another favorite area of the park due to the incredible fertility of the mommas that call this area home.

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It seems each and every one of them have a leg or two sticking out from her pouch. If one lingers long enough a baby sometimes will pop its head out to say “hello.”

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Tyler’s favorite section of the park is, and always has been, the aviary. Here the kids purchased a small container of seed to split. That $1.00 purchase provided a good 45 minutes of entertainment as the kids lured in these flying beauties with a sprinkling of seed on their hands.

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Turns out the seed wasn’t needed…

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The colorful string bracelets that adorned their wrists were the real bait!

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It was such a delight watching the kids find such delight in the animals and in each other’s company. It was fun to hang back and observe as our kiddos shared a beloved family tradition with Brandon,

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And an even bigger joy watching him let down his guard and just be a kid…

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Something he hasn’t been able to do for a long time.

Another special day for this momma’s “Living Treasure memory book!”

 

Feeding Critters from a Bus

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Our final adventure in Virginia, before we meandered our way back home, was an afternoon spent feeding critters from a bus.

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We headed to a local drive-thru animal park where the boys and I enjoyed an afternoon of feeding and petting all sorts of fun critters. It reminded us a bit of one of our favorite local attractions…Living Treasures Animal Park…but wasn’t quite as nice.

Living Treasures is a high bar to measure up to…

But we did have a lot of fun loving on the critters that were there.

We began with the “drive-thru” portion of the park.

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We climbed aboard a gutted school bus that had been repainted with zebra stripes.

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The variety and exoticness (is that a word?) of the animals left a bit to be desired. Most of the “wild” animals were breeds that have called Patchwork Farm “home” over the years, but you couldn’t ask for more eager participants with llamas, goats and donkeys racing toward the bus hoping for a handout.

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What they lacked in rarity or variety they more than made up for in eagerness and enthusiasm!

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Ozzie, my donkey lover, was enamored with the friendly, vocal, and oh, so hungry donkeys.

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When the bus returned from its 1/8 of a mile loop through the “wilds” of the Virginia plains we hopped off and finished the rest of our trek on foot. It was here in individual pens and pastures that we found most of the animals at the animal park.

Here were some of our favorites:

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It was a nice way to kill some time and a fun way to connect over our shared love of four legged friends.

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At 4:00 we left and drove back to George Mason University to pick up Rusty at the end of his week-long conference and got back on the road for the 5 1/2 hour drive home.

It was a fun week with my guys, but it was nice to return home.

I think I stand in need of a vacation from my vacation!

Taking to the Sky

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While in Virginia the boys and I sought out things to do near Fairfax. We heard tale of an “out of this world” museum only 20 minutes from George Mason University (where Rusty was spending the week attending a 3D programing camp.) After a little bit of research I knew this had to be one of our day trips for the week. The reviews were incredible and the pictures were amazing, and when we learned that the cost was FREE we knew where we were headed next…

To the Steven F. Udvar- Hazy Center!

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Opened in 2003, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center serves as a partner facility to the National Air and Space Museum. The two locations together attract 8 million visitors per year, making the National Air and Space complex the most popular museum in the United States.

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For aviation enthusiasts young and old, the Udvar-Hazy Center is just plain cool. The expansive museum consists of two hangars—the Boeing Aviation Hangar and the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar—which have dozens of aircraft and spacecraft suspended from their ceilings. Some of the most notable include the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, a Concorde and the space shuttle Discovery. A more recently added hangar, the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar, is where scientists and engineers work to restore artifacts from the Air and Space museum’s massive collection.

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We arrived soon just as the doors opened. As we stepped into the museum we stopped first at the information desk with hopes of getting a map to guide us through the massive museum. Upon seeing the two boys, the volunteers told us about a fun aeronautic scavenger hunt they offer children, making their time at the museum even more interactive and engaging.

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The boys jumped to the challenge, especially when they heard they would earn a special souvenir if they could track down all the airplanes on the sheet and record their unique animal themed names.

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With the scavenger hunt paper in hand we began our search…

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Working our way through the various sections of the museum that highlight different time periods and themes in aviation.

Cold War Aviation:

After World War II ended, the United States and the Soviet Union began competing for primacy in a global struggle pitting democracy against communism. Tensions between the two superpowers led to such confrontations as the Berlin blockade, the downing of an American U-2 spy plane, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. “Hot” wars erupted in Korea and Vietnam.

Aerial reconnaissance played an important role in this struggle. To supersede its U-2 spy plane, Lockheed developed the top-secret, stealthy SR-71 Blackbird, the world’s fastest jet-propelled aircraft, one of which is displayed here. The Cold War ended with the peaceful collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and relations between the former adversaries began to warm.

SR-71 and Space Shuttle Enterprise

Commercial Aviation:

Flying was new and daring in the early years of the 20th century. Traveling by airplane was rare. Airlines, airliners, airports, air routes—none of these existed. But by century’s end, you could travel to almost anywhere in America by air in a matter of hours. Commercial aviation is now both a commonplace and an essential aspect of modern life. It has revolutionized the world.

Some of the aircraft that marked important points in the evolution of air transportation are on display here: a Junkers Ju 52/3m, a popular German airliner of the 1930s; a Boeing 307 Stratoliner, the first pressurized airliner; the Boeing 367-80 Dash 80, the prototype for the Boeing 707, America’s first commercial jet airliner; and an Air France Concorde, the first supersonic airliner.

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Destination Moon:

The National Air and Space Museum holds approximately 17,000 space artifacts in its collection. More than 3,500 of those stem from the historic Apollo Moon landing effort, with 400 objects related specifically to the first successful lunar landing mission, Apollo 11. On July 20, 1969, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed in the Lunar Module Eagle and became the first humans to step foot on the lunar surface while astronaut Michael Collins orbited above inside the Command Module, Columbia.

The tour and the display of Armstrong’s spacesuit help to set the stage for the unveiling of a completely reimagined permanent gallery at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. Destination Moon, scheduled to open in 2021,  will present the exhilarating story of one of the greatest adventures in human history, the exploration of the Moon. It begins with ancient dreams of lunar flight, takes the visitor through the Moon race of the 1960s and 1970s, and ends with what is happening now.

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Space Shuttle Discovery:

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Discovery was the third Space Shuttle orbiter vehicle to fly in space. It entered service in 1984 and retired from spaceflight as the oldest and most accomplished orbiter, the champion of the shuttle fleet. Discovery flew on 39 Earth-orbital missions, spent a total of 365 days in space, and traveled almost 240 million kilometers (150 million miles)–more than the other orbiters. It shuttled 184 men and women into space and back, many of whom flew more than once, for a record-setting total crew count of 251.

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Because Discovery flew every kind of mission the Space Shuttle was meant to fly, it embodies well the 30-year history of U.S. human spaceflight from 1981 to 2011. Named for renowned sailing ships of exploration, Discovery is preserved as intact as possible as it last flew in 2011 on the 133rd Space Shuttle mission.

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NASA transferred Discovery to the Smithsonian in April 2012 after a delivery flight over the nation’s capital.

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Early Flight:

Early Flight celebrates the first decade of flight by evoking the atmosphere of an aviation exhibition from that period: the fictitious Smithsonian Aeronautical Exposition of 1913. The gaily decorated gallery is crammed with fabric-covered aerial vehicles, some fanciful, most real, along with trade show–style exhibits featuring cutting-edge technology of the day.

Gracing the gallery is a rare 1894 Lilienthal glider, along with Samuel P. Langley’s Aerodrome #5 and Quarter-Scale Aerodrome, powered, unmanned vehicles that successfully flew in 1896 and 1903. Early Flight also features the most original and complete of the Museum’s three Wright airplanes, the 1909 Wright Military Flyer, the world’s first military airplane. Other treasures include a Curtiss Model D “Headless Pusher,” an Ecker Flying Boat, and a Blériot XI monoplane.

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Interwar Military Aviation:

The airplane emerged from World War I recognized widely for its potential as a military weapon. In the United States, Army pilots and Navy and Marine aviators worked to realize their different visions of the airplane’s ultimate role in American defense.

These advocates faced institutional resistance and meager budgets. They also faced the danger of pushing the capabilities of a rapidly developing technology during regular operations, combat in foreign lands, and public flights that presented their visions to everyday Americans. Innovations in doctrine, organization, and technology resulted in the air forces that would fight World War II on a global scale.

The Museum’s collection of 1920s and 1930s military aircraft contains many one-of-a-kind and sole-surviving aircraft.

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Aerobatic Flight

In 1908, Wilbur Wright flew the first public exhibitions of a Wright Flyer in France. It wasn’t long before aviation meets began thrilling crowds of spectators with races; altitude records; climbing and diving; and dramatic turns. Developing aerobatic maneuvers helped the military improve fighter tactics and aircraft technology. Today, aerobatic flight remains an exhilarating type of flying in which a pilot performs precision maneuvers. Civilian pilots fly aerobatics for fun, competition, or air show performance. Military pilots use aerobatic flight for combat tactics. Millions of spectators watch aerobatic demonstrations each year at air shows. Aircraft used for aerobatics range from barnstormer-style biplanes to the latest military fighter jets.

 

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While tracking down the planes on their scavenger hunt sheet we made sure to take advantage of the interactive booths scattered throughout the museum that allowed the boys to get “hands on” with the science of flight.

How Things Fly:

How does an airplane stay aloft? How can something as insubstantial as air support all that weight? Why do you become “weightless” in space? How can you propel yourself there, with no air to push against? These and many other questions are answered in How Things Fly, a gallery devoted to explaining the basic principles that allow aircraft and spacecraft to fly.

The emphasis here is “hands-on.” Dozens of exhibits invite you to push, pull, press, lift, slide, handle, touch, twist, turn, spin, bend, and balance. Here you can discover for yourself answers to things you’ve always wondered about flight. You can explore the nature of gravity and air; how wings work; supersonic flight; aircraft and rocket propulsion; flying in space; and more.

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From there we headed up to the Donald D. Engen Observation Tower, where we enjoyed a bird’s eye, 360-degree view of the planes landing and taking off at Washington Dulles International Airport.

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It was pretty spectacular!

Our day concluded with the boys turning in their completed scavenger hunt sheets and being awarded a prize for their efforts.

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What an amazing place!

Pictures don’t do justice to the sheer size and scope of this incredible museum.

We give this Washington D.C. site two thumbs up!

If you are in the area: check it out!

We are happy to Announce…

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For the last 12 months my three oldest children have been volunteering their time two mornings a week at Ready Yourself Youth Ranch. This non-profit organization takes in abused and neglected horses for rehabilitation while also pairing healed horses with children who have unique needs and challenges. It is an amazing organization and serving at Ready Yourself Youth Ranch has proved to be an enormous blessing for Grace, Molly and Rusty. 

This past week we had Tyler’s 16-year-old biological brother, Brandon, visiting and the older kids invited him to go with them to volunteer at the horse farm… 

 For those who haven’t been following the blog this summer, Brandon is one of Tyler’s four biological siblings.

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.

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.

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 stolen 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 who 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 the 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 found himself in limbo as his adoptive father is dying and has only been given months to live. (Hospice has now been brought in) This social worker had been working to create a network of support for Brandon. She’s been seeking out family (both biological and adoptive) that could be a network of support for Brandon, and as part of that search 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 were currently navigating as Ozzie returned home from residential care and we were working 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 was with baby steps we moved forward trying assess what our role in Brandon’s life was supposed to be and trying to hear God amidst the noise of “what ifs”…

Which leads us to this:

Last Tuesday I was surprised when Brandon enthusiastically jumped at the chance to wake up at 6:00 am and spend 2 hours mucking barns and feeding horses with Grace, Molly and Rusty at Ready Yourself Youth Ranch.

Like my other kids, he came home uplifted and empowered by the experience. He loved the horses and wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty..

Later when sharing his experience with his social worker he expressed in a simple but powerful  way that he found he could relate to those horses he cared for that morning.

He told her, “They are just like me. They were abused and then nobody wanted them.

Yet, just like those horses, who have experienced the cruelest life has to offer and then were given a second chance,

Brandon is getting his long overdue chance at healing, hope and a family…

Here at Patchwork Farm.

Yes, you read that right. The Mccleery clan of seven will soon be a family of eight.

We are choosing to lean into, rather than run from, the discomfort of the unknown,  step out in faith, and rise to the call God has extended to our family…

Trusting that He doesn’t call the qualified but rather qualifies the Called.

And so…

We are happy to announce that our family is growing by 2 feet!!

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Two not-so-little feet!!

Please Pray with Us ❤

 

 

 

 

 

Mason Neck Park

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Our week in Virginia was spent camping near my old stomping grounds of Fort Belvoir, Virginia. This area of the country was the place we called home during my pre-middle school years. I have so many sweet memories of this area.

Living so close to Washington DC meant that when relatives and friends would visit from out of town we would take advantage of the many historic and cultural sites to be seen in DC. Because of the abundance of things to see and do in the heart of Washington DC many visitors don’t realize all there is to see and do outside of the city limits.

Fairfax County was where we spent most of our week exploring and playing. Within a few miles of our campground we had a dozen different state and county parks just waiting to be explored…parks that offered boat rentals, bird watching, biking and hiking trails.

One evening, following Rusty’s day at technology camp, we decided to explore Mason Neck Park. We picked one of the trails that offered a view of both the river and the marshland and headed off.

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It was a gorgeous evening and this particular trail offered a spectacular variety of scenery to enjoy.

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The boys enjoyed collecting shells along the beach,

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And searching for local fauna among the abundance of lush flora.

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Snakes, frogs, fish and birds were abundant.

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It was fun seeing this experience through my boys’ eyes… So different from how my girls would have navigated this same landscape.

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While I took photos, trying to capture even a smidgen of the beauty before me through the flattened lens of a camera, the boys immersed themselves fully in the sensory wash of sights, smells, sounds and textures.

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It was such a fun shared experience with my guys and I was glad that we postponed our visit to Mason Neck Park until Rusty could join us in the evening. It made it more fun that he was there. The setting sun brought cooler temperatures and a golden glow to an already magical vista as we finished our hike and headed back to camp for the evening.

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