Monthly Archives: February 2013

Be not weary

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” And let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” – Galatians 6:9

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I am battling weariness. I am tired. I’m ready for a vacation from motherhood. My days have been long and my nights have been short. The last few days have been full. My evenings have been long due to two little boys still struggling with sleeping issues. I find myself battling feelings of resentment when I’m woken up for the fourth time to tuck Rusty back into bed when all I really want is one good night of sleep. That leads to feelings of overwhelming guilt and feelings of, “if I was a good Mom I wouldn’t be wanting to hit Rusty over the head with a two by four to knock him out so we could all sleep through the night.” And so the cycle continues…fatigue, frustration, guilt… fatigue, frustration, guilt…

I see the result that my weariness is having on my family as my lack of patience rubs off on everyone else. It is like the cartoon that shows a man being yelled at by his boss who then goes home and is short with his wife. The wife then yells at her son.. who then kicks the dog. It is amazing how contagious those feelings of weariness and frustration are. Last night as I was up again tucking Rusty in I stopped for a moment as I passed through the livingroom. The house was dark and quiet and I thought to myself, “This is what I have been craving.” I have been craving quietness and solitude and peace and it was then I realized that my weariness was a result of lack of quiet time with my Heavenly Father. I hadn’t been still long enough to pray..I hadn’t been quiet enough to hear His voice..I hadn’t been humble enough to call out for help or patient enough to wait for it. I had been frantically racing and pushing myself with the belief that if I worked a little harder, moved a little faster, slept a few hours more then I would be caught up and all would be well again. Once again I found myself trying to do it all by myself. Without even realizing it  I was carrying the weight of worry, weariness, frustration and guilt in my arms like a child balancing a pile of books…  struggling to stand under the enormous weight of it while my God stood beside me all along, whispering, “Hand some to me. I will help you carry it.”

I then realized that the answer was not a vacation. It was not a full night of sleep..although that might help a bit! It was not about less responsibilities or fewer burdens. It was about humbling myself and admitting to God that I need him..that I can’t do it alone..that I am tired of trying to carry it all myself and willingly handing over the burdens I was struggling under.

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11: 28,30

Sleepless nights

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It has been a week full of fun days and sleepless nights..The days have consisted of:

1. A church dance. On Saturday Gracie had a church dance in Greentree for Valentine’s Day. She wanted to wear pink so she found a cute pink top on sale that she bought with her own money. She had a fun time with her friends!

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2.  Rusty had a boy scout hike Saturday morning with his scout troop. Toby went with him and they enjoyed some father/son bonding. It was a 5 mile hike and they both came home feeling sore after the hike. While they were hiking they did some Geo Caching. It is a fun hobby that they both have wanted to get into. You can go online and find the coordinates of hidden treasures all over the country. It is like a giant treasure hunt. When you find the coordinates of a hidden treasure near where you are hiking you enter it into your GPS and use it to find the spot where someone buried the “treasure.” The rule is, when you find the hidden spot you can take a treat out of the box but then you must leave a replacement for the next treasure hunter. Rusty took this toy out of the cache they found. He had a lot of fun with it.

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3.  On Tuesday night at church the youth had a “Top Chef” activity.  I was in charge of planning it. I emptied my pantry to create the”Top Chef” store for the activity.  The kids had to answer a questionnaire upon arrival with questions like: have you done a good deed today, did you floss, have you read your scriptures today, etc. For each question they answered correctly they earned a fake dollar for shopping for food at our store. The kids then boke into teams of 4 to shop, plan and cook a meal in 45 minutes. The finished dishes were then judged by a panel of taste testers and a winning team was declared. The kids had a lot of fun with it and I was amazed by their creativity. Rusty and Molly were on the same team with 2 other kids. They decided to make a cake. They decided to be creative and added M&Ms to the batter before they cooked it. There was no frosting in the “store”so they melted butterscotch chips to frost their cake. Gracie was on a team with some of her friends. They made a taco dish with a side of green beans and they also made a drink..orange julius. Other dishes included a breakfast plate of sausage, pancakes, cheesy eggs and buttered toast, and a bbq chicken/ mac and cheese dish. All the kids did a great job but the winning team was Gracie’s team. They each won a prize of a whisk filed with chocolates and of course bragging rights!  🙂

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4. The babies in the basement nursery continue to grow and thrive.  The baby bunnies are all doing well. The oldest litter of babies are now almost as big as the mommies. The second litter have now opened their eyes and the youngest litter of bunnies now have hair. It looks like we are in the clear and they will all probably survive.

The second litter of baby bunnies begin to open their eyes. They are around two weeks old.

The second litter of baby bunnies begin to open their eyes. They are around two weeks old.

The youngest litter of bunnies are white with black spots except for one that is all black. They now have fur and are starting to crawl out of the nest.

The youngest litter of bunnies are white with black spots except for one that is all black. They now have fur and are starting to crawl out of the nest.

The baby goats are doing well too! The kids have had fun going down to the basement to play with them and feed them. If the kids wait to long between visits we hear “MAAA MAAA” coming up through the vents. When Tyler hears this he will yell to the girls that their babies are calling “MOM!” again and they need to go feed them. 🙂

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5. Toby surprised me the other night by bringing me home a gift in a ring box..He had my diamond reset as a surprise after I lost my diamond and re-found it. I didn’t realize he was going to do it. I thought we would have to wait a while to have it fixed. I was touched by his thoughtfulness and was amazed at how pretty and shiny it looked. It looked like a brand new ring..thank you, Toby!

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Now onto the sleepless nights….

We have had a week of really rough nights with the boys. Tyler has been sleeping in his own room for the last few weeks and loving it. A few days ago as I was putting him to bed and reading him his bedtime story Jemima, the dog we are puppy sitting, appeared in his dark window. The ground outside his window is ground level so she was sitting there with her face pressed to the window watching us. Although he found it funny at the time he now doesn’t want to sleep in his room or any other room with windows because he is afraid some other face will be looking at him. This has made for a few days of rough bedtimes. I know have to sit with him and rub his back until he falls asleep which for the last few nights has taken over an hour.

Rusty is also struggling with fears and anxiety at bedtime. A few weeks ago he couldn’t sleep one night because he had napped earlier in the day and he hated being awake and unable to sleep when the house was dark and quiet and he was the only one up. That experience rattled him so much that he is now dealing with self-induced insomnia because of the anxiety he has about not falling asleep. It begins about 8:00 with him going to bed then coming out in tears every 15 minutes to tell us that he still can’t sleep. We say prayers with him, I’ve tried having one of the dogs sleep with him, we have tried a warm bath, a hot drink, music playing softly, reading before bedtime and visualization exercises to no avail. Last night I sat in his room from 3:00 am -5:00 am waiting for him to fall asleep. I feel so bad for him but I also know that it is all mental. Rusty has always struggled with anxiety and I know that this is what he is dealing with now. I am at the end of my rope though..I can only handle so many sleepless night before I’m going to have my own mental breakdown. 🙂

I would love to know if anyone had any suggestions…

On the upside, though, Tyler has been doing very well during the day. We haven’t had any tantrums lately and he has really begun to open up this past week about the future. We have had some wonderful discussions about adoption and what is coming next. The other day I mentioned that soon he would have a new last name.

“What is it going to be?” he asked.

“McCleery,” I told him, “just like Daddy and I.”

“How do you spell that?” he asked.

“M-C-C-L-E-E-R-Y”

“I can’t spell that!” he protested, “I’m just gonna keep that name I have.”

I let it drop but later he told Toby, “Daddy, guess what we are going to have the same last name!

…but I still don’t know how to spell it.” 🙂

Next week we meet with the social worker that will begin the paperwork to finalize the adoption. I can’t wait until it is official! We are getting close!

Bouncing baby boys!

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051Yesterday was President’s Day so we had the day off from school. We decided to take advantage of the good weather and open schedule to visit my parents in Ohio. My parents’ goats, Sissy and Gertrude, had recently had babies and the kids were eager to meet the two newest members of the Homestead gang.  We woke early to get chores done and kids dressed with the goal of being on the road by 8:30 for the 2 1/2 hour drive to Mimi and Pop Pop’s house. I woke Tyler extra early knowing how hard it can be to get him ready in the morning and out the door quickly.  He was wound up and excited so our home was wilder and more chaotic than normal. The first task of the day was to get Tyler dressed. We spent 30 minutes going through his drawers trying to find something for him to wear. Each outfit I held up was quickly rejected. He was trying to find  the perfect outfit. He hemmed and hawed over whether PoP Pop would like each outfit that I suggested. He finally settled on an outfit that he deemed “Pop Pop praiseworthy.” Then it was time to get him fed. Once again it was a lot of hemming and hawing about what cereal he wanted to eat for breakfast. He finally made his selection, filled his bowl quite full of cereal, topped it with milk when suddenly the phone ring. With great excitement he yelled, “Is it Mimi?!” as his sleeve caught the full bowl of cereal and sent it flying. Tyler looked stunned as he turned to me with milk running down his face and frosted flakes clinging to his hair. It wasn’t Mimi. We stripped him down and headed for the bedroom for round two of “the great outfit search.”

He soon found an outfit he thought Pop Pop would like and as we dressed him he asked me if I was Pop Pop’s mother. Ok..my parents are both young-looking but when I start getting asked if I am their parents we have a problem. 🙂 “No,” I told him, “Pop Pop is my dad.”

We were soon ready to go. The car was loaded and we were off. The entire drive there I was giddy with excitement. The girls didn’t realize it but we were celebrating their birthdays early and they were in for the surprise of their lives. When we arrived at the top of my parents’ driveway Tyler asked if he could walk the rest of the way. I let him hop out and I followed behind him in the car. About halfway down the driveway..10 feet ahead of Tyler..3 large deer hopped across. Tyler jumped in surprise..he certainly wasn’t expecting that!  After we parked the first stop was the barn to meet the two new baby goats..Buster and Betsy. They were so cute and the kids loved them!

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054After spending some time in the fields with the new additions we went inside for lunch and for the girls’ birthday celebrations. The table was decorated so festive and on the table sat two “It’s a boy!” gift bags. Mimi told them that they could open them at the same time. They did and pulled out large bottles and bibs. 065You could see the look of confusion on their faces. Pop Pop quickly explained, “That entitles you each to a baby goat from a local farm. We will go over after lunch and you can pick out the baby goat of your choosing.” Well, the girls were thrilled!

 

 

Molly broke down in tears..overcome with joy!  I can’t imagine a more thrilling gift. They boys handled it well knowing that it wasn’t their birthdays and didn’t even ask if they could have one too. I wasn’t sure how Tyler would handle it but he did wonderfully!

 

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After lunch we drove to a friend’s farm where the girls had the opportunity to pick out of 30 baby goats running around.. ranging from a few weeks old to a few days old. They walked through the nursery holding different ones and quickly made their choice. It was the experience of a lifetime for the girls. On the ride back to the homestead the girls talked about possible names for their bouncing baby boys. Gracie decided to name her 2 week old baby, Chip and Molly named her 2 day old baby, Thor.

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When we got back the girls made bottles for their babies and fed them in the barn. After they were done eating we took them out in the field to play with Mimi and Pop Pop’s babies. It was fun to just sit and watch them bounce and play with each other.

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While the girls were enjoying their new birthday gifts I walked Tyler to the bathroom. As we walked he asked me again who Pop pop was. I have noticed that Tyler really struggles with understanding relationships and I assume that is due to having many different moms, dads, siblings, grandparents, etc. over the years.

“So is Pop Pop my brother?” he asked.

“No,” I explained, “Pop Pop is your grandpa.”

“Oh,” he replied,” Well can Mimi and Pop Pop be my mom and dad..because I really want to live here!”

That little boy certainly keeps me humble! 🙂

The fun day ended with a game of pin the tail on the donkey in the barn. (Don’t worry..We used a paper donkey, not George!)

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After a long drive home we tucked the new babies in the pen that Toby built downstairs for them. It is becoming a regular petting zoo down there with bunnies in one pen and goats in the other. So if you stop by for a visit and my home smells like a barn you will know why!

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PS- We had another batch of baby bunnies born over the weekend. Now I have never been good at word problems but I can’t figure out how, with 3 adult bunnies (all female), we can have 4 litters born in one month. My dad suggested that perhaps it doesn’t add up because  we have moved from rabbit algebra to rabbit calculus..darn imaginary numbers! I’ve always hated calculus. 🙂

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Falling rocks and Monster trucks

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026It has been a fun-filled 24 hours. Yesterday was a school outing day. We were attending a CPR/health outing at the same church that our co-op is held at. Gracie also had a sleepover that evening with one of her co-op buddies. Since we still hadn’t picked out a birthday gift we left early to go shopping. When we pulled into the store’s parking lot Tyler noticed the shopping cart drop off station. “Look,” he said, “They have a fence post here too for bad kids!” He had to try it out and see how it compared to his fence post at home. 🙂 On our way into the store we ran into the very family that we were there to shop for..what a coincidence. After making our purchases we headed to our outing.004

At the outing the kids were split into groups. There were 3 different stations that they rotated through: a CPR class where they learned and practiced doing CPR on a mini dummy, a first aid class, and a health class where they had a healthy snack, talked about nutrition and played. Tyler spent his time in the health room playing games and snacking. 🙂 It was a great outing and the kids all said that they enjoyed it and learned a lot. After the outing Gracie went home with her friend and I drove the other three back home.

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Soon after arriving home we received a call from Toby. He told me to have the kids dressed and ready to go because he had a fun treat in store for them. He was able to get discount tickets to the Monster Truck show in Pittsburgh and he wanted to surprise the kids. This is why Toby is the favorite parent. He is so much fun and always comes up with spontaneous, memory making activities for the kids. It would have never even occurred to me to take the kids to a Monster Truck show. 🙂 When he got home he told the kids to get into the car but wouldn’t tell them where they were going. They spent the next hour guessing but there was no way they were going to guess a Monster Truck show! When we got downtown and saw the Consol Energy Center they thought maybe we were going to a hockey game. We found a parking spot and the kids were in awe of the fact they were walking through Pittsburgh at night with all of the big buildings lit up.  When we made it inside and the kids saw the Monster Trucks they were excited..especially the boys. They enjoyed the big trucks, the tricks, and the noisy atmosphere. Rusty’s favorite truck was Monster Mutt because he thought it looked like Brownie.053 Tyler loved Grave Digger because it was his favorite color.039 Another hit of the night was Monstersaurus who eats cars and blows fire.

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It was a fun night and unlike anything I had ever been to or would have chosen to go to on my own. Toby is such a good Daddy!

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As we were leaving the show Toby took the kids down to the lower level so that they could see the trucks up close. Molly was impressed by how big they were!

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When we stepped outside we were surprised to see it snowing. It was beautiful. As we walked to the car the kids tried to catch the big, fat snowflakes on their tongues. It was a magical walk through the city!

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On the way home we were talking about the meteorite that hit Russia yesterday. I was trying to explain what a meteorite was to Tyler and was able to find a video of the meteorite hitting earth on Toby’s smart phone. It was quite impressive and Tyler wanted more details..where did it come from, was anyone hurt, who threw it. Rusty, very patiently and scientifically, explained to Tyler all he knew about meteorites, the earth’s atmosphere, gravity, etc. Tyler listened to Rusty’s explanation and then with a voice full of disbelief asked, “No, really Russ..who threw it at us? Was it an alien??

024Speaking of falling rocks..yesterday I woke up, looked down at my wedding ring and discovered the rock was missing…my diamond was gone. My heart dropped to my stomach as I thought about the probability of actually finding a small diamond in this big house and that is if I’m even lucky enough to have lost it in the house. I told the kids what happened and everyone began searching on their hands and knees through the carpet. After a few minutes of searching Tyler yelled out..”I know! Let’s pray, God will help us find it!”  I told him that was a great idea then he hesitated and said, “but we should look ourselves first then if we can’t find it anywhere we will ask God for help.” As I listened to his words I thought to myself how often that is our philosophy when calling on God. So often He is our last resort rather than out first choice. We think we can do it ourselves and rely on our own talents, knowledge and skills to accomplish a task and only when we can’t do it ourselves do we call on Him. God wants to be our “go to”guy for everything in our lives. There is nothing too small or silly or insignificant to lay at His feet in prayer. With all of those small burdens and worries I often find myself carrying I have to remind myself of the quote that asks,

“Have you prayed about it as much as you have talked about it.”

So we stopped looking and started praying. As I knelt beside my bed I looked down. There next to my knee was my fallen rock…the diamond that was given to me on Valentine’s day 16 years earlier. God heard, God answered..Amen.

Roses are red, violets are blue..

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Wednesday was our Valentine party at co-op.  Molly asked a month ago if she could take on the task of planning and running it. Usually the moms take on the task of planning our holiday parties.  Molly spent weeks making lists, planning the food, games, and prizes. She did a wonderful job following through on her obligations. She spent the weekend making the decorations, printing out games for the tables, sharpening 40 Valentine pencils, making the centerpieces, gathering all the items needed for games and shopping for the last of the supplies. The biggest challenge of working with Molly on this party was not getting her to follow through but instead reining her in. Her ideas were big and her attention to detail was painful. After spending 30 minutes debating the merits of red versus pink balloons I was ready to run away. I went to bed Saturday night and told Toby that planning this party with Molly gave me a taste of what planning her wedding would be like so we better start putting money aside now for a wedding planner because planning a wedding together may drive me to drink! 🙂

Tuesday was spent finishing up Valentine boxes. Tyler’s box was covered in leftover stickers. He did punch a hole in the bottom of the box so he could look though it and called it a camera.

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Rusty made his box into a Wii video game.

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Molly made her Valentine box a piggy bank and then hot glued coins around the bottom of her box.

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and Gracie turned her Valentine box into an old-fashioned juke box complete with lights and music.

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Tuesday night after activities at church we packed the car with all of the party supplies so that we could leave the first thing in the morning to decorate for the party.  Molly had fun decorating the tables in the lunchroom with the Valentine decorations that she prepared.

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We had class for 4 periods then it was time for lunch followed by a ice cream sundae bar..YUM. After that it was time for the kids to hand out Valentines to each other. Tyler didn’t quite understand the whole concept of exchanging Valentines and was devastated when I told him that he needed to give away the Valentines that we bought at the store. “But you said they were mine, Momma.” I didn’t have the time or energy to argue so we will just put them away for next years Valentine party.

Gracie’s jukebox was a hit. I spotted a dance party happening next to her Valentine box. 🙂

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After handing out valentines it was time for games. Molly had planned 7 “Minute to Win It” games for the kids to participate it. They were broken into teams and rotated ever 2 minutes to the next task that they had one minute to complete. The kids all had a lot of fun. It was a lot of fun for us watching as well!
In one game the kids had to put a drop of Vaseline on their nose, pick up a heart without using their hands and transfer it to a paper plate across the room.

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In another game the kids had one minute to stack conversation hearts as high as they could without them tipping over.

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The day ended with prizes being handed out for most creative Valentine boxes. Gracie won 2nd place among the 6th-9th grade group.

As we headed home the kids had fun looking through their boxes at all of the fun Valentine cards and treats.

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Thursday we woke to Valentine’s Day treats left for the kids and I in the kitchen by Toby..

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When Toby arrived home from work we participated in our annual Valentine tradition of measuring the kids on the wall. We started this when we first moved into the house and do it every year on Valentine’s day to mark their growth. Tyler has been looking at this wall since he moved in and was thrilled to have his name added..that is until he saw that Rusty’s age 6 line was an inch above his age 6 line. He was devastated to discover that Rusty was taller than him at his age. He only pouted for a little while then it was time to enjoy the Valentine dinner of homemade pizzas that Molly made before Rusty and I headed out to go grocery shopping..

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

PS- Look what we found downstairs..yes, a new bunny nest with wiggling bald babies.I know, I know..our bunnies are floosies!

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I had a dream..

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013This morning I awoke to tears on my pillow and relief in my heart after a horrible dream. I dreamt that our social worker arrived for a visit and informed us that a mistake had been made and that Tyler wasn’t suppose to be placed with us. I was told I had an hour to pack up his things and say good-bye before his ride came to pick him up. As I packed up his toys, clothes, books and pictures all I could think was that I wish I had finished more of his scrapbook because I wanted him to have pictures of us to remember us by. As I packed up his things I was in disbelief that this was happening to me and I had a profound feeling of empathy and understanding for how his previous foster mom must have felt having to pack him up to leave after having him for 2 1/2 years. As I hugged him goodbye, knowing I would never see him again, my heart broke. It was then I woke up and experienced the sweet relief of knowing it was just a dream.  It was such a realistic dream…

As terrible as the dream was the emotions I woke up feeling were healing after the weekend we had. It was a reminder of how much I love that 015little boy and how blessed we are to have him because to be honest there were many times over the weekend I was ready to sell him to the circus!  He was testing all weekend. Everytime I told him to do something he would tell me no. Actually he would yell, “Never!” in a loud theatrical voice and run away. While comical at first, it ceased being funny after the tenth time.  Needless to say I got my exercise walking to and from the fence post multiple times. The good news is that I didn’t have to carry Tyler there. After the “mud incident” he no longer trusts me to not drop him so when I said we were going to the fence post he informed me that he would walk himself. 🙂

045This weekend we had a visitor come to stay with us..a furry, four-footed friend named Jemima. We are dog sitting for three weeks. When Tyler was told by Rusty that Bailey’s BFF was coming Tyler howled with laughter. He now won’t refer to Jemima by name instead he will say, “Bailey’s BFF needs water.”  Tyler loves to squeeze Jemima and keeps asking if we can keep her.048

This weekend Gracie had her first babysitting job. She was so excited to be asked to babysit for two little girls at church..a baby and a preschooler. She spent Saturday packing toys, games, and craft supplies to take with her. When her babysitting bag was packed she made cookies to take to the family. She did a wonderful job and had a great time. She is hoping to be asked back again. I still can’t believe she is old enough to babysit..where have the years gone?  As we got ready to leave for Gracie’s babysitting job Gracie reminded me that we needed to pick up a gift for her friend Chessa for her birthday sleepover. Tyler, listening in, said that he wanted to buy Chessa a gift too. I asked him what he thought we should buy Chessa. He immediately answered, “Earrings!” I told him that I wasn’t sure if Chessa’s ears were pierced. He thought for a minute..”Then we should buy her a gun!” I was just glad he didn’t make that suggestion in front of the social worker or therapist..who knows what conclusion they would have come to. 🙂 When I told Toby what Tyler thought we should buy Chessa he quickly responded, “Probably not a good gift..It is so hard to get bullets right now.” 🙂

004Yesterday I realized that Tyler needs more supervision then I have been giving him..bad Momma! He now goes out on his own to feed and take care of the farm animals before he begins phonics with me. He does so well that I have let him start doing this job with out my supervision. I called him in yesterday morning to begin school after he had been outside on his own for 20 minutes. As he unwrapped a candy that Gracie had given him I looked down at his hands and saw that they were filthy. As I sent him to go wash them I asked him how they got so dirty. “Moving wood,” he replied. “Why were you moving wood?” I asked.  “I was helping Daddy and filling the wood stove with wood,” he casually answered. Evidently he thought he would help Daddy by stoking the wood burning stove that we have outside to heat out house and fill it up with wood. I had to keep myself from reacting with the fear I was feeling about what could have happened in that situation. I calmly but firmly told him that although it was  kind of him to want to be helpful and bless Daddy there are certain jobs only Daddy can do because they are dangerous. I told him that next time he wants to do a job for Daddy he needs to check with me first.044

053Last night Molly was in charge of dinner. She informed me that she wanted to make “Miss Lana’s famous potato soup.” That is what Molly has named the potato soup recipe given to us by a dear friend. She got a late start peeling potatoes but it worked out because Toby had an 8:00pm appointment with our tax lady so he was going to be late. While the soup cooked the kids began their Valentine boxes for our co-op Valentine party. Tyler’s plan was to just cover his box with as many stickers as he could. I let him have all of my old leftover scrapbook stickers that I wasn’t going to use. The other kids had more elaborate plans so theirs were not finished last night. They will finish theirs today.

We had a late dinner and then it was time to get ready for bed. As I helped Tyler get his pajamas out he came up behind me and gave me a hug. “I just love you so much, Momma!” he said as he squeezed.

Happy Valentine’s day to me 🙂

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PS- The baby bunnies continue to grow and are thriving. Here are two that the girls brought upstairs for a photo session. 🙂

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From Pittsburgh to the Moon- part 2

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We soon arrived at the Carnegie Science Center and were pleasantly surprised to discover there were very few people there that day. Tyler had never been to the science center before and was so excited to look around. The older kids were anxious to show him all of their favorite exhibits. Due to the fact we only had a couple of hours at the science center before we had to leave we decided not to go to any of the classes and just visit the different floors instead.. starting at the top floor.  On the 4th floor there is an area for 3-6 year olds only. The kids loved this area when they were little. It has an indoor playground, water tables, and balls. They were all so sad when Rusty turned 7 and they no longer could play in there so they were thrilled to have a new brother who could gain them access back into this play area. (It is for the siblings of 3-6 year olds too) Tyler had fun playing on the playground but was soon ready to leave and check out other areas of the museum. As we left this area Rusty said, “You know, it isn’t as much fun in there as I remember.” I told him that is probably because he is now 11. 🙂

The 3-6 year old area

The 3-6 year old area

We then headed down to the 3rd floor where there are large fish tanks. Tyler loved looking for all the characters from Finding Nemo in the tanks.

Here I took a picture of the kids through the fish tank.

Here I took a picture of the kids through the fish tank.

We spent the majority of our time on the second floor. The first stop was the miniature railroad room. I love this area and Tyler did too. The kids had fun pointing out all of the hidden secrets in the display that they have discovered over the years.

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After the railroad we went into the room with robots. They had all sorts of robots on display to show the different roles of robots and how they are used. Tyler loved the areas where you could compete against the robots. In one are you could shoot basketballs into a hoop while a robotic arm was doing the same thing next to you. In another area there was an airhockey table where you could play against a robotic arm. Tyler played a few times and was upset that the robot won every time. He told the worker that was standing there that he thought her robot was cheating. When the employee assured him that the robot wasn’t cheating he asked her if the robot practiced at night when nobody was there. 🙂

Tyler competing with a robot.

Tyler competing with a robot.

There were so many fun things to see but what the kids really loved was the new “space travel” exhibit. They had the chance to see what the inside of a space station looks like..

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What an astronaut toilet looks like..

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Where astronauts sleep..

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And even feel what it feels like to work in zero gravity!

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When we had 30 minutes left before we had to head out so we went to the planetarium to watch a short show on the moon and stars. As we lay in the dark looking up at the stars I wasn’t sure how Tyler would do or if he would make it through the entire show but he ended up loving it. As we walked out he told me that was the coolest movie he had ever seen!

Soon it was time to head home for piano lessons and school work. We had one more stop to make before we left..the gift shop to buy a pack of astronaut ice cream for us all to share before we ended our “out of this world” adventure!

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From Pittsburgh to the Moon- part 1

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003Yesterday we traveled to downtown Pittsburgh.  Our adventure began Wednesday night around 11:00pm when it occurred to me that we never received a phone call from the transport company that was hired to pick up Tyler and take him to court the next morning. We received a letter in the mail informing us that Tyler was due in court but that we weren’t to be there so they were sending a driver to pick Tyler up. We never got a call from the driver confirming that so at 6:00am the next morning I was waking up kids, packing school work and snacks for a trip to Pittsburgh. Toby had work so I was making the trip on my own and was a nervous wreck. We said a prayer before we left. I prayed for safe travel, little traffic, to find my way without getting lost and a smooth court visit. Tyler then spoke up and suggested we also pray that our car doesn’t flip over and make us all die. We added that to the prayer..better safe than sorry..and headed on our way. 🙂018

As we headed down to Pittsburgh we quickly ran into the morning commuter traffic and it slowed us down considerably. Luckily we left extra early as a precaution. As I followed the directions of the GPS it lead me past the exit that I thought we would take to the courthouse but being more confident of the GPS’s sense of direction than my own I followed its lead. It ended up dropping me off in Oakland in the middle of Pitt traffic where it then proceeded to tell me that I needed to make a U-turn on a one way street in 4 lanes of traffic. Now feeling less confident in my GPS I decided not to follow its instructions and fell back on the antiquated practice of following street signs.

We eventually made it to The south side of Pittsburgh where the courthouse was located. Along the way the kids enjoyed seeing the sites and trying to get pictures of the buildings, bridges and cool artwork on the sides of many of the buildings downtown.

Gracie loved this artwork we spotted on the side of a building.

Gracie loved this artwork we spotted on the side of a building.

010When we arrived on Carson street I was thrilled to find a parking lot to park in. I was worried I was going to have try parallel parking in the middle of city traffic with my big SUV. The kids thought the parking meter system of putting money and your license number in a parking meter box at the end of the parking lot was a lot more fun than the traditional meters they are accustomed to.

Then we were off to court. We were concerned that we would be late but were the first ones there. The kids did schoolwork in the waiting room while I spoke to Tyler’s advocates and lawyers and waited for our turn before the judge. We thought we might see Tyler’s biological brother there but he didn’t show up. Tyler was disappointed. He was finally called in before the judge, was in there for 2 minutes, and then we were told we could leave.

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We then walked over to the bagel shop across the road and bought everyone a bagel for breakfast. When I asked Tyler what flavor bagel he wanted he asked me, “What type do pigeons like?” Tyler loves pigeons and it all began with a book, Don’t let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. We read it at least once a day and as a result he has developed an affinity for this winged city dweller. Last time we came to the city for court he was thrilled to discover pigeons all over the parking lot so as he picked his bagel his plan was to eat half and then share to other half with the pigeons.

He ended up picking a plain bagel. As we stood by the car eating our bagels Tyler kept throwing bagel pieces up in the air but the pigeons just kept flying by and ignoring him. Poor Rusty wasn’t ignored though. He received a gift, right on the top of his head,  from one of Tyler’s little friends as it flew by..poor Russ! I finally convinced Tyler that the pigeons weren’t hungry and we climbed in the car to leave. As we drove out of the parking lot we discover why the pigeons were ignoring him. There at the other end of the lot was an old man with a bag of food feeding the pigeon. Tyler was in awe of this “pigeon whisperer” and said, “I wonder what food he uses..maybe we should bring that stuff next time!”017

We decided that since it was 9:30 in the morning and we were already in Pittsburgh that we would take advantage of our Carnegie museum membership and spend a few hours at the science center before we head home for piano lessons and schoolwork. As we headed through the city to the museum we came up to a traffic light where a man was walking car to car holding a sign that said:

“I’m cold. I’m hungry. I’m homeless.

Please help.”

He was approaching our car and Molly asked me if I was going to give him money. I told her that I was going to give him the change I had in the car. She asked me, “Well, how do you know if he is really homeless? What if he isn’t telling the truth.” I told her that I don’t know but I give anyway. I told her that I have the ability to give a little so I choose to be charitable.. what he chooses to do with that money is between him and God. Tyler then piped up from the backseat, “What does his sign say?” so I told him…

  As the man approached I rolled down the window and Tyler yelled out,

“How cold are you?!”

I quickly rolled up the window after handing him my change and told Tyler, “I’m sure he is very cold.”

Tyler then asked, “Well, why doesn’t he just go home.”

Gracie explained, ” He doesn’t have a home. He is homeless.”

Rusty then spoke up from the backseat, “You know, I never understood this..If homeless people don’t have any money then how to they buy the paper and markers to make their sign?”

Tyler quickly responded, “He probably stole it.”

I answered, “I’m sure he didn’t steal it.”

“He did, Momma,” Tyler said, ” but he doesn’t have to steal markers anymore.. He can use the money you gave him to buy one!”

Yep..changing the lives of the homeless one marker at a time. 🙂

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Next stop..the moon..stay tuned for From Pittsburgh to the Moon part 2.

In the foothills..

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016Here we are on the cuff of our 5 month anniversary with Tyler and I continue to be amazed at God’s grace..although I shouldn’t be!   The transformation has been enlightening and inspiring not only in Tyler but in the lives of all of us. We have come so far as a family in a short amount of time which is not to say it is always easy or always pleasant but it is always blessed. We still are having the same “ups and downs” I wrote about 3 months ago but the extremes of those hills and valleys aren’t there anymore. The bad days are hard but not overwhelming and the good days are just that…good..not the miracle they seemed a few months ago. We are finding our rhythm and learning how to parent this new child. I liken it to a new mother who brings home her new, sweet baby from the hospital. It is so exciting but also so terrifying. You live in fear of making a mistake or failing as a mother. You rush to the side of the crib with every cry.. wondering, ‘Is he hungry..Is he in pain..Is he wet?? What does this cry mean?’  Then as time passes you get more comfortable. You learn to recognize his cries and read the signs that convey his needs. You become more at ease, less fearful and more confident. The hills of excitement and the valleys of fear are less extreme. The ride isn’t so terrifying and you aren’t as prone to emotional “motion sickness.” 🙂 Here we are, 5 months in, and we are out of the “Rocky Mountains” of our journey and enjoying some scenic foothills.

BUT..

even in the foothills there can be some hairpin turns and unexpected drops!  Last night was one of those nights. Tyler just didn’t want to go to 025sleep. He was giving us attitude and was having trouble obeying. I suspect the defiance was a result of being overly tired and a bit nervous about the dentist appointment he had the next day. He didn’t want to stay in bed and was challenging our authority. He finally ended up in his bedroom rather than Rusty’s where he usually sleeps. Even then he continued to come out. I finally positioned myself outside his bedroom door and played paparazzi. Every time he would come out of his room I would take his picture. He was so angry. He wanted to be defiant but didn’t want his picture taken so this ploy kept him in his room until he decided he was going to outsmart me. He covered his head with his comforter and came shuffling out of his room. His feeling of victory was soon deflated though when he realized that being unable to see completely defeated the whole point of being in the livingroom illegally.   I know, I know..that tactic goes against everything taught in parenting 101 but I just couldn’t help it. Sometimes being a mature mother just isn’t as much fun as being a teasing momma! 🙂

028He did end up falling asleep in his own bedroom..a first! In the morning I snuck in his room to get a picture of him sleeping in his own bed. He woke to the flash going off. “Momma! Quit taking pictures of me!” he mumbled half asleep. Everyone was up, ready to go and out the door to co-op by 8:15am. It was another great day at co-op. Tyler is doing so well! There are no longer tears and tantrums about going to co-op. He goes to his classes, participates (fairly well) and has made friends. He no longer sits along the wall by himself instead he is in the middle of the gym during lunch break laughing, chasing and playing with the other kids.  It is so nice to be able to get ready for co-op on Tuesday without that pit of dread in my stomach.

Today I walked into the gym and found Tyler playing ball with one of the other mothers in our group and a baby in our group named Jackson who has just learned to walk/run. As I watched I saw Tyler gently rolling the ball to Jackson so that he could have a turn throwing it. He was being so sweet with him. After co-op I mentioned to him that I saw him playing with the baby. He told me that Jackson was pretty fun for a baby! Then he told me he thought we should get a baby for our family. I told him we would have to pray about that but I was secretly delighted that he was thinking about the future of “our family.” His words tell me that he is feeling a part of this family and sees himself in it for the long haul.

031After co-op Tyler had a dentist appointment. It was his first time at the dentist since he has moved in and I wasn’t sure how he would do. I could tell he was nervous. He asked if he could take “little duck” with him. When we arrived I was asked questions about his dental history all of which I was unable to answer. We still haven’t received his past medical/dental records. The good news is that we learned a lot from his cleaning. We learned that he had no previous dental work, he still had all his baby teeth, and had no cavities..all great news! Tyler did really well and sat patiently through it all. His only complaint was that his fluoride treatment was cherry flavored and he doesn’t like cherries. 🙂 He was excited to learn that he has two loose teeth. The dentist gave him a tooth container to put his teeth in when he looses them so he can put them under the pillow for the Tooth Fairy..Tyler was thrilled!032

When we arrived home we did a little schoolwork, I paid bills, packed for Tyler’s court appointment tomorrow..UGH! and then Gracie an I had her “one on one time.” She wanted us to decorate T-shirts for each other. I made a R5 shirt for Gracie (her favorite band) and she made me this one that said, “You know I’m blogging this, right?!”…funny girl!

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The finished t-shirts.

The finished t-shirts.

crazy socks and stinky armpits

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This Wednesday was much less frantic than last Wednesday morning. All the baby bunnies were accounted for. There was no early morning frantic search for missing animals although we did have an early morning search for socks. Wednesday was “crazy sock day” at co-op so the hour before we left was filled with laundry basket diving as the kids searched for the perfect crazy socks to wear!

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At co-op I have the pleasure of teaching the 5th grade science class. It truly is a pleasure! I have 3 kids in my class: Rusty, James, and Katie..all three of which love science and are a delight. This week in our chemistry unit we were learning about the properties of acids vs bases. They had fun using litmus paper to test the different unmarked liquids I brought from home.

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I also teach 1st grade science and 1st grade art. Tyler takes part in my 1st grade classes even though he is now kindergarten. There are two of them in that class: Tyler and his friend, Simon. They are both sweet but very busy little boys. I find it takes a lot more creativity and preparation to keep my first graders engaged and interested than it does my 5th graders! 🙂 This week in art we talked about the use of shapes and patterns in art so I brought my scrapbooking shape punches in for them to use. They used their punched out shapes to create a bird. Tyler decided he was going give his completed picture to Daddy as a gift.

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When we got home after co-op the kids sat down and did their online assessments for the lessons they had at co-op that day and then it was time for Tyler’s one on one time with me. His request for his hour of uninterrupted time with me..”Let’s play tag, Momma!”  We went down to the basement since it was much too cold to play outside and played tag for an hour. I always let the kids pick whatever activity they want for their one on one time but Tyler’s are always the most exhausting.  When we came upstairs to get a drink and a treat at the end of his time he looked in the mirror and said,

” Momma, I think I’m allergic to exercise. Look, my face turned all red!”

Me too, Tyler, me too…an exercise allergy is a terrible condition to live with. 😉

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Thursday was a running day with a orthodontist appointment in the afternoon. Gracie was due to have her braces off in the fall but is still waiting on some stubborn 12 year molars to make a showing so they can have brackets attached to them. She was pleased to find out they were coming through because that meant we didn’t have to see an oral surgeon to have them exposed but disappointed to find out that means at least six more months in braces.

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While looking through my photos I discovered some cute pictures that I hadn’t seen before. Evidently the girls decided to have a photo session and Gracie wanted to practice her photography skills..Didn’t these pictures of Molly turn out well?! Nice job, Grace!

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Thursday night was grocery shopping and errands with Grace.  I always schedule the bulk of my errands on Gracie’s week because she can stay out later and is such a help. (Tyler’s week consist only of grocery shopping and getting a treat and that is pushing it.) While out Gracie and I decided to stop and get haircuts. Gracie made to bold decision to get bangs and layers added. She was thrilled with the results! We had fun getting in some girl time together!

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On a side note..

Earlier this week Rusty came to me to tell me that he thought he needed to start wearing deodorant. He said that his armpits were stinky. Later in the week I was headed out to the store and Rusty asked if he could come with Tyler and I . As we were driving Rusty says from the backseat, “Mom while we are there can I get some deodorant?”

“Sure, Russ,” I said.

“”I want some too!” piped in Tyler.

“You are too little for deodorant,” replied Rusty.

“Am not!” said Tyler

“Are too,” argued Rusty

“What’s deodorant?” asked Tyler

“It is for stinky armpits,” answered Rusty.

“Let me smell your armpits,” demanded Tyler.

“No,” said Rusty ” They smell like skunk spray.”

“Well mine smell like stinky feet!” retorted Tyler.

I sat in the front seat listening to this exchange, thinking to myself,” I don’t remember my girls ever having this discussion. 🙂

I love that Rusty now has a brother! Those boys certainly are funny!