Monthly Archives: April 2013

A “typical” homeschooling day

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127I am often asked what a “typical” homeschooling day looks like. I have friends and family that, although supportive, are curious as to what it is that we do everyday behind closed doors. There are many misconceptions about homeschooling. There are those who look at homeschooling moms and suspect that our kids spend the majority of the day in front of the TV while we lounge and eat bon-bons and then there are those who are shocked that we would even want to have our kids home all day and perceive homeschooling as a much more intimidating choice that it actually is. When Gracie was in public school kindergarten God started putting the idea of homeschooling on our hearts. When we decided to homeschool Gracie in first grade it wasn’t because we were unhappy with our public school, it wasn’t because she was doing poorly or was unhappy, it wasn’t because I thought I could do a better job; it was because God called me to this. Even though I knew that homeschooling was the path we were being called to take that didn’t mean that I wasn’t completely intimidated by it…I was! I didn’t know where to even begin. We eventually found the path that worked best for us and that was through a partnership with a cyber school. I was able to do all of the teaching myself but had the support I needed from a teacher. This gave me more confidence as I began this journey. My biggest struggle though, as I started out, was not knowing what a homeschooling day should look like. I read many books and had some dear friends that allowed me to spend a day at their home observing a “typical” homeschool day.  This was a huge confidence booster for me. I left thinking, “I could do that.”

Winnie

Winnie

For those that are curious what it is that we do behind closed doors each day I thought I’d journal a “typical” day as we are living it. I use the term “typical” loosely. What we do is not necessarily “typical” of how others homeschool. We homeschooling moms all have our own ways of meeting the needs of our children, our own challenges, different curriculum choices.. some are scheduled, some relaxed, some unschool..but this is our way. This day is “typical” in terms of the scheduling and routine but ” not typical” in the sense that on this day we had minimal interruptions, no major catastrophes, and no away from home activities…welcome to a day at Patchwork Farm!

The day begins at 6:38 am with Tyler yelling through my bedroom door, “Good Morning, Momma!” Tyler’s wake-up time varies greatly day to day. Some days he is up as early as 6 am sometimes as late as 8:30 am but the one thing that never varies is the amount of energy and volume he wakes up with. He is running at full speed when his feet hit the floor and thus becomes the morning alarm clock for the rest of the household. As soon as Tyler wakes up he wants to eat breakfast so I get his morning pills out and try to convince him to take them immediately before they are misplaced (yes, that happens frequently) as I prepare his breakfast which is usually cereal or eggs. Once I get him situated at the kitchen counter and put on a half hour episode of Arthur I sit down with a cup of peppermint tea for a few minutes of quiet time with the Lord. Ideally I would love to beat Tyler awake to have my “quiet time” when the house is actually quiet, but today that didn’t happen so I had to settle for a quick prayer and a quick spiritual feeding before my day begins fully.

Tyler's first job for the day..gather eggs.

Tyler’s first job for the day..gather eggs.

By 7:30 everyone is up and beginning their morning chores. The kids have an hour and a half to get their morning chores done, get dressed, and eat breakfast before school begins at 9:00. Molly’s morning chores consist of: feeding the three cats, emptying the dishwasher, making her bed, picking up her room,  getting dressed, and taking care of the bunnies. Gracie’s jobs include: sweeping the front porch/walk, tidying the front hall and hall closet, making her bed, picking up her room and getting dressed. Rusty’s responsibilities include: feeding and watering the dogs, helping feed and water the ducks, starting and switching a load of laundry, picking up his room, making his bed, and getting dressed. Tyler’s jobs include: gathering and washing his eggs, feeding the farm animals, making his bed, picking up his room and getting himself dressed. I spend the hour before school begins wiping down bathroom counters and swishing toilets, doing a load of dishes, making my bed, putting a load of wash on the line, putting something for dinner in the crockpot (today it is harvest porkchops) and if I’m lucky, getting dressed. 🙂 In among my chores there is a lot of… encouraging Tyler to finish his room, encouraging Rusty to move a little faster, breaking up  battles between Winnie (the bulldog) and Harley (the pot-belly pig) and putting out minor “fires.”

Harvest Porkchops for dinner

Harvest Porkchops for dinner

At 9:00 we begin school. In an effort to accomplish all that needs done in a day we use a time management scheduling tool written by the Maxwells entitled, Managers of Their Homes. It is a tool that hangs on the fridge that schedules out the kids’ day and mine. I have been using it for ten years and have found it the most effective way to juggle four kids’ homeschooling lessons, animal and home responsibilities, errands and activities, as well as church responsibilities.

Our schedule

Our schedule

Some of my friends tease me about my OCD schedule and threaten to sneak over and start moving squares on my chart but this little tool has really been a blessing, especially since we have added Tyler to our family and I now have to figure out how to make time to teach Tyler too. Here is a basic look at what our morning’s look like..

9:00   Katie: teaches Tyler, Grace: works on her church goal program: personal progress, Molly: logs onto her online class where she does Math online with her teacher, Rusty: practices piano, and Tyler: does phonics with me.

9:30  Katie: teach Tyler, Grace: reads her literature (She is currently reading Julius Caesar), Molly: still doing Math, Rusty: reads literature (he is reading, A Wrinkle in Time), Tyler: has math with me.

Molly in her online class

Molly in her online class

10:00 Katie works with Rusty and Molly on the 6th grade Math that they share. Today they worked on graphing coordinates, Gracie: practiced piano, and Tyler: has free time.110

10:30 Katie: does zone cleaning. This is the small/detail cleaning job I do each day. This comes from the cleaning system I use to maintain some order and cleanliness in my home…Flylady.net. I have been using this system to clean my home for the last ten years and highly recommend it! Today I worked on organizing our game closet, which was a disaster due in part to Tyler pulling games out but not putting them back. While I did this Gracie: did history (she is learning about Gandhi), Molly: read her literature (she is reading The Secret Garden), Rusty: logged onto his online class where they are learning how to write  a compare and contrast essay, and Tyler: ran off some energy outside.

11:00  Katie: teaches Grace, Grace: works on Algebra with Mom. Today she is learning about algebraic proofs, Molly: works on her personal progress, Rusty: still in his online compare and contrast class, Tyler: works on puzzles.

Tyler working on puzzles

Tyler working on puzzles

11:30  Katie: has history with Rusty. We are finishing up his history book for the year, The History of US. He is currently studying the assassination of President Lincoln. Gracie: has her “one on one time” with Tyler. Rather than a cooking lesson he asked if Gracie would practice soccer with him so that he would be ready for his practice later. Molly: practices piano.

12:00  Katie: has history with Molly. Molly is also studying U.S. history but is in part two of the series and is studying 9/11 and the World Trade Center. Grace: continues to work on her history, Rusty: has one on one time with Tyler. They decide to take Rusty’s remote control helicopter outside to fly. The boys came in soon after going outside to inform me that the helicopter was stuck on the roof. I gave Rusty permission to climb up on the roof (without Tyler..much to his disappointment) to retrieve it.

Having the kids take turns with Tyler has been a wonderful way to free me up to work with the other kids but is also a  way to help each of the kids build a stronger relationship with Tyler while also assuming responsibility for teaching and working with him. At 12:30 we break for lunch. I give the kids an hour off for lunch and this is their time to play or relax after they are done eating. This is also my free time for the day when I can make phone calls, get caught up on paperwork, fold laundry or simply sit for a bit before the chaos ensues again.

In the afternoon the focus is on composition, vocabulary, and grammar. This is also the time that the girls work on music, Rusty works on spelling, and they have some free time to get caught up on work they weren’t able to complete in the morning.

The boys and Winnie playing in the hay shed.

The boys and Winnie playing in the hay shed.

At 1:30 after everyone has finished lunch we put on our shoes to go on a walk before resuming our schoolwork. In the fall we got into the habit of going on a daily walk each day and now that the weather is getting warmer we have resumed the tradition. It is fun to take a walk through the woods, visit, let Tyler run off some energy and enjoy the beauty around us before we are back inside for the afternoon. Today was gloomy but not raining so we decided to go ahead with our walk. We took Brownie and Winnie with us. As we walked to the other side of our property we stopped at a shed in the woods where we store extra hay and bagged leaves that we use for animal bedding. The boys and Winnie had fun climbing to the top and sliding down the loose hay. As we walked through the woods we came across an unexpected patch of color in the form of tulips. What a treat! We picked them to bring home to brighten up our table.  When  we arrived home it was back to work!116

2:00 Katie: with Molly and Gracie. Even though the girls are in two different grades they are both currently studying the same things in grammar so I taught them together and then let them do their assessments separately. Rusty: reluctantly worked on spelling while Tyler: bugged Rusty to hurry so he could play helicopter with him.

The boys playing games

The boys playing games

2:30  Katie: continued to work on punctuation with the girls. Rusty: has one on one time with Tyler. They played Blokus and then Rusty plays ABC bingo with Tyler to help him work on his letter recognition.

3:00  Katie: teaches Rusty grammar.  Rusty: works on adverbs. Molly: cleans up the animal pens in the basement. Gracie: works on a music lesson.

3:30  Katie: pulls rolls out of the oven for dinner, switches laundry over, loads the lunch dishes that were neglected earlier and then sits down with Tyler on the livingroom couch to read and snuggles. Gracie, Molly, and Rusty: put away their school supplies for the day and prepared for our weekly cleaning hour that we do every Monday, our “weekly home blessing” (also from flyl122ady.net). Tyler: literature.

At 4:00 we begin our hour of house cleaning. This is when we do those once a week cleaning jobs like vacuuming, dusting, bathtubs, mopping..those jobs I would love to be able to do more frequently but am grateful to accomplish weekly. 🙂 We all have different jobs during this time. Rusty is my duster, Molly does my bathrooms, Gracie sweeps and mops the hardwood floors, Tyler empties all the garbage cans in the house and I take care of the kitchen, vacuuming, and changing sheets. It never ceases to amaze me what can be accomplished in that one hour when everyone is working together.  We set the kitchen timer for 60 minutes and when the timer goes off we stop. Due to everyone pitching in we can get 5 man hours out of that one hour.

Tyler helping Molly clean toilets.

Tyler helping Molly clean toilets.

After we are done cleaning I check my email and find out that Tyler’s soccer practice is cancelled due to muddy fields. Tyler’s disappointed but I must admit I am jumping for joy at the thought of not having to hurry through dinner and out the door for soccer practice at 6:00.

At 5:00 I begin Rusty’s “one on one” time with him. For his time this week he wants to make brownies for our Family Night treat. We visit while he bakes and then he has me help him look up some scriptures that he needs to look up for church. When we are just about done with Rusty’s time Toby comes home from work. He walks over and quietly asks if I have something planned for Family Night and I tell him I have a lesson on fire safety planned as well as a fire drill. It has been a worry of mine lately that, although we have prepared the older kids for a fire emergency, we haven’t talked to Tyler about it. Toby asks if we could pull off my fire safety lesson and dinner in an hour because he wants to take the kids to see the movie, The Croods, at 7:00.

Rusty baking

Rusty baking

We call the kids into the livingroom where we discuss what to do in the event of a fire. Tyler’s answers confirm my suspicions that he doesn’t know what to do in a fire emergency. After going over the do’s and don’ts of fire safety we have a practice drill. First Toby turns off the lights and sets off the smoke alarms. The kids practice checking doors for heat, crawling quickly to an exit (in case of smoke) and going straight to our meeting location outside. Everyone’s favorite part was the “finding a secondary exit” exercise where they get to climb out their bedroom window. Tyler especially loved this. Hopefully they will never need this information but I feel more secure knowing that they do.

Fire drill!

Fire drill!

We then dish up dinner, eat quickly, clean up and drive to the movie theatre to see The Croods.  It is a cute movie and very funny. It was enjoyed by all! When we arrive home we have family scripture and prayer time then it is straight to bed for Tyler. I tuck him in and read him his story. He is in tears over not wanting to go to bed but soon falls asleep. The girls also go to bed soon after bottle feeding their goats because Gracie isn’t feeling great. I think she is battling a head cold. By 10:00 the kids are all asleep. Toby and I walk the house, lock doors, turn off lights, and check on kids, and then climb into bed… Good night!126

So, there you have it..a “typical day” at Patchwork Farm. 🙂

A “berry” blessed day with friends!

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We have purchased a Carnegie Museum membership yearly since the kids have been little. Even years when money has been a bit tighter we have considered it a worthy investment. When my kids were little our membership paid for a few hours of  “mommy mental health” as I took them up to the top floor where they could play for hours in a contained area while I visited with other mothers. As they grew older it became a homeschooling tool that we could use to bring the science concepts they were studying to life. It is one thing to read about the mighty T-Rex but something much more compelling to stand in front of the impressive skeletal remains of one. With our membership we have access to the Carnegie Science Center, Natural History Museum, Art Museum and the Andy Warhol Museum. This summer when it was time to renew our membership we were in a quandary as to what to do. The family membership allows for six people but at the time of renewal we were being considered for the adoption of a sibling group of 3 children. We didn’t know if that adoption would go through so as a precaution we bought the next level of membership which allows for two adults and eight guests. Although we were blessed with Tyler instead of the sibling group and didn’t need the larger membership, it has been a blessing. We have been able to share our enjoyment of the Carnegie museums with friends by inviting them as guests on our membership. Last week we were able to enjoy a fun day at the Science Center with friends from church.

We began the morning by meeting at a parking lot to caravan our way into Pittsburgh. We were hoping we left late enough to avoid morning traffic but ended up getting caught in the tail end of it. Luckily the trip in wasn’t too nerve-racking. When we arrived we headed for the front desk to get our wristbands and then my kids and Andrea’s little boys wanted to stop and play with the water balls.

Tyler waiting for a ball to roll his way..

Tyler waiting for a ball to roll his way..

 We then began exploring the different floors. Before we arrived my older kids “called dibs” on Andrea’s boys..who they adore. Rusty wanted to be Tanner’s partner for the day, Gracie wanted baby Braddock and Molly wanted to be Landon’s helper.

Molly and Landon

Molly and Landon

Here is Rusty ready for his space mission!

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The robot floor was a hit with all the kids.

Rusty helped Landon with a robot video game…

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and Tanner loved the “build a robot” table.

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When it was time to head upstairs Tyler asked if he could push Braddock in his stroller. He really enjoyed that and later informed me that he had never pushed a baby before. He also asked if we could get our own baby. 🙂  Here is Tyler and Tanner pushing Braddock in his stroller.

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On the top floor we let the kids loose in the kiddie area where they enjoyed playing at the water tables. The nice thing about this area is that it is enclosed and thus requires less supervision so Andrea and I had a chance to visit and enjoy some “mom time” while the boys played.

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When everyone was good and wet we headed downstairs to the cafeteria to eat the lunches we packed and then we headed to the next building, “Sports Works,” where are the exhibits are sports/body related. Here the kids enjoyed seeing how fast they could throw a baseball, check their reflexes and jump on the trampoline.  Here is Tanner jumping..

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and Rusty jumping..

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We had such a good time with Andrea and her boys! She reminds me so much of my sister.  Her boys even line up with the ages of my sister’s three boys so it was a bit like getting a day with my nephews. 🙂 We had a great day with a great family!

The kids (minus Tyler and Braddock)

The kids (minus Tyler and Braddock)

The next day Andrea surprised us with an unexpected (and unnecessary) thank you..chocolate covered strawberries! The packaging was so clever and the strawberries were delicious. When I told Toby that I thought I needed to come up with a way to thank Andrea for her sweet “thank you” he just rolled his eyes and said, “Women!” What can I say..it’s a girl thing!017

It was a “berry” blessed day!

“Where are the dandelion seeds?”

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“The radiant dandelion, shining in the grass, like a spark dropped from the sun.” – Henry Ward Beecher

Spring was in the air on Friday! We began the day with school, an appointment with Tyler’s therapist, a visit from a social worker and by noon Toby was home for the day. He was done with work for the day so he decided to come home so that we could take advantage of the beautiful weather and start preparing the gardens for planting. The sun was out, a cool breeze was blowing, the kids were done with their schoolwork for the day so it was a perfect day for yard work. We had a few things we were hoping to accomplish..move the ducks and bunnies out of the basement, clean out the barn, begin cleaning up the vegetable garden beds to prepare for planting and start our seeds inside.

Task #1:

The girls began carrying the animals up from the basement. First the bunnies:

Our baby bunnies are all grown up!

Our baby bunnies are all grown up!

…then the ducks. Toby cleared out the old chicken coop for the bunnies and ducks to share until he builds the new rabbit hutches. Can you believe how big the ducks have gotten??

Tyler and his pet duck, Pretty.

Tyler and his pet duck, Pretty.

Tyler was very nervous about that arrangement. “But what if the bunnies hurt the ducks?” he kept asking. Toby tried to calm his fears by pointing out the fact that the ducks were three times taller than the rabbits but Tyler continued to check on his duck all afternoon just to make sure that no bullying was taking place in the henhouse. 🙂

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Task #2:

We began the process of cleaning out the garden beds. There was a lot of clean-up that needed to be done that we neglected to do at the end of the growing season last year. The baby goats were eager to help with the weeding. This time we watched closely to make sure they didn’t eat anything that would land them back in the emergency room!

The goats helping with the weeding

“Gardening requires lots of water- most of it in the form of perspiration.” – Lou Erickson

Bailey also spent some time outside enjoying the sun while we kept an eye on her. She is back home and we are waiting until she grows a little stronger before we do her final treatment.

Miss Bailey

Miss Bailey

As we prepared the garden I assigned each kid the bed they would have for the summer. When I told Tyler which bed would be his he looked at me in panic and asked, “Why do I have to sleep out here, Momma? Can’t I keep my old bed?” I forget how literal he can be. I explained that his “bed” was not where he would sleep. It was where his vegetables would sleep and that he was in charge of weeding and watering the vegetables in his assigned bed. In Rusty’s bed we found carrots that we had missed picking in the fall..

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“One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it provides.” – W. E. Johns

Task #3:

We took the manure that Toby had cleaned out of the barn to mix into the newly weeded garden beds. Tyler was eager to help Toby until he found out what he was scooping with his pitchfork…then he was horrified! “I don’t want that in my garden!” he said. We told him that he would get more vegetables if he added it to his soil and he reluctantly agreed.

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“Why try to explain miracles to your kids when you can just have them plant a garden.” – Robert Brault

Task #4:

Time to start our seeds! As we weeded the kids discussed what we should plant and who was planting which vegetable in their garden. Tyler was listening and then asked, “Where are the dandelion seeds? That’s what I want in my garden!” Tyler loves dandelions and spends time everyday outside picking them and bringing them into me by the handful. He was devastated to learn that I hadn’t bought any dandelion seeds for his garden. He finally decided that he would just transplant the dandelions that were already growing wild in the yard. This kept him occupied for a long time while the rest of the family did yard work.

"If Dandelions were hard to grow they would be most welcome on any lawn." -Andrew Mason

“If dandelions were hard to grow they would be most welcome on any lawn.” -Andrew Mason

When we were done working outside we moved inside to plant our seeds. We do “Square Foot Gardening”  so the kids had to first map out their gardens in grids to see what vegetables they wanted to grow and then calculates how many of each type of plant they needed. They all had favorites that they wanted to make sure we would be planting. Tyler wanted pumpkins and watermelons. Rusty wanted carrots. Gracie wanted a variety of tomatoes and Molly wanted squash. We planted all of those things along with many other vegetables. Hopefully the other vegetables we planted will do as well as our tomatoes and squash typically do, but we will see…  as S.J. Perelman said:

“Tomatoes and squash never fail to reach maturity. You can spray them with acid, beat them with sticks, and burn them;  they love it!”

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Happy planting!

“2 hours since our last disabling injury”

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There is danger in waiting too long to post!  My heart was overflowing with gratitude last night after a few really great days. My heart was full of praises.  I should have sat down and penned my thoughts then but my bed was calling me so here I sit now. Today was not nearly the success that the last few have been. I am not feeling grateful, instead I feel tired and frustrated. Today was a tough day at our homeschool co-op..Tyler woke up with a “bee in his bonnet” and his bad mood only got worse as the day went on. He was a tease to his siblings, mouthy to me, irritable over unimportant things, and disobedient to his teachers.I taught him for science and art and I knew it was going to just be “one of THOSE days” but I realized it had escalated when I found him playing ball in the gym when he should have been in music class. When I asked him why he wasn’t in class he informed me that his teacher told him that he could play in the gym instead of doing music. I suspected that there was more to the story so I went to speak with his music teacher and found out that he was being disruptive in class and was told that he could behave or leave..he chose to leave.  I was not happy. I walked back to the gym to get Tyler and take him out to the car for a time-out. When we got to the car he climbed into the backseat upset that he was in trouble. “But Momma,” he kept saying, “She told me I should leave.” We had a long talk about choices and the importance of listening to his teachers. He kept nodding his head and glancing back at the building, buying time until my lecture was over. I knew my words were having little impact… that is until I brought up that little word, “consequences.” I told him the privileges he would be losing for the day. His shoulders sank as he realized the impact of his choices.  “Am I even allowed to breathe?”  he asked in exasperation. “We’ll see,” I thought to myself. 🙂  We headed back inside to gather our bags and he saw the kids (now out of their classes) playing ball in the gym. I sat him by the wall and told him that he could watch but he wasn’t allowed to touch the balls. It just about killed him. I was grabbing my bags when I saw a ball roll over to him and hit his leg. He looked up to see where I was at and when he saw me watching him he threw his hands up in defense and said,” I didn’t touch it. It touched me!”

Days like this one can be discouraging. Just when I think, “Wow we haven’t had a bad day in a while” we have a day like today. In Toby’s garage there hangs an antique sign from Equitable Gas that reads, “The last disabling injury occurred on______” with a chalkboard space to record the date. Sometimes I find myself evaluating our adoption journey in the same way. “It has been 3 hours since our last disabling injury” or “It has been 3 days since our last incident.” I find myself falling into the habit of evaluating our progress based on these numbers and in doing so become more focused on the missteps and stumbles than the progress we have made so far. I left co-op feeling discouraged. We had finally reached a point with Tyler where co-op was not a fight but rather something he looked forward to. I racked my brain looking for the “trigger” when God whispered to me the truth, “He was being a six-year-old boy.”

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When we were preparing to adopt we had to attend classes that were held to prepare us for the adoption journey we were beginning. In one of the classes the mom of an adopted son shared that she had to stop looking for her son’s “baggage” in every situation and recognize the fact that some choices have nothing to do with the abuse he had suffered or his past history..that sometimes when a little boy pushes another little boy it is simply because he is a little boy. I find myself doing this as well. I enter new situations with Tyler with all my senses hyper alert, waiting for the first sign of trouble. I don’t do this with my other kids and I realize I need to stop doing this with Tyler. I need to quit worrying about how many days it has been since our last “disabling injury” and trust that God is in control… I don’t need to be. Tyler is going to make choices, good and bad in his life, and I need to allow that, as well as allow the natural consequences of those decisions to happen without making it become a key indicator of how well this journey is going because the fact of the matter is: there are more good days than bad, more steps forward than back, more successes than failures, and more smiles than tears. I also need to acknowledge God’s hand in it all. Those “failure” days are the days when I feel God’s comfort most profoundly, I  am reminded of my dependence on Him, and it is in those hard days that we all are stretched a little..and that is good.

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Hard days aren’t always a reflection on the journey sometimes they are just hard days…Yesterday we spent the morning at the doctor’s office because everyone needed physicals. After 4 hours at the doctor’s office I took the kids to “Chick-Fil-A” for lunch. Tyler wanted to play on the playground there and since he was the only one small enough he went in alone to play while we watched him through the glass window. I was a nervous wreck as I ate. Although I could see him when he was on the ground I couldn’t hear him or see him while he was in the tubes. There were many small children playing in there and I was hoping that he was being good. As we were preparing to go a woman with two young girls approached me and asked if Tyler was my son. I told her yes.. preparing for the worse… “I just have to tell you what a sweet boy he is,” she said, “I was so impressed with how nice he was to my girls.”  I thanked her. Those words meant the world to me. He is sweet and gentle and kind but he is also a six-year-old boy. Good day or bad..he is mine and that is a blessing!

“Don’t become so concerned with raising a good kid that you forget you already have one.” – Glennon Melton

Tyler's first visit to our home. The beginning of our journey, August 2012.

Tyler’s first visit to our home. The beginning of our journey, August 2012.

“There’s no snuggling in soccer”

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Tyler's first soccer game!

Tyler’s first soccer game!

Saturday morning we were up early for Tyler’s first soccer game. The girls came downstairs.. still half asleep after their fun night.  We had a quick pancake breakfast, grabbed Olivia’s sleepover supplies, our camping chairs and headed to the soccer fields.  It was bitterly cold with snowflakes in the air. What a change from two days earlier when the boys were playing in the sprinkler. We set up our chairs on the sidelines and were ready for our first soccer experience. The boys were adorable to watch. When we signed Tyler up for soccer I was concerned that his impulsiveness and lack of focus would be an issue. As it turns out that is the general theme of six-year-old soccer. The game consisted of little boys chasing the ball around the field, occasionally kicking it, wandering off to talk to a parent, stopping to watch an airplane go by and doing cartwheels on the field. When one of the boys did manage to get ahold of the ball and move it down the field toward the net it was usually to a chorus of parents yelling, “The other way! Your goal is the other way!”

Tyler stopping for a drink.

Tyler stopping for a drink.

Tyler’s team won 6-2. On the way to drop off Olivia I commented to Toby that it wasn’t what I expected. I told him that I thought it was going to be more intense and competitive with a lot of rules. Tyler overheard me from the back seat and said,  “Momma, there is only one rule on my team…no snuggling!” He said this because the boys kept hugging/tackling each other on the field and the coach told them to “high 5” instead. “Yep,” said Tyler, ” There’s no snuggling allowed.” 🙂

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After we dropped off Olivia we stopped at the store to buy supplies for the activity we had the next day at church. We were preparing for “New Beginnings,” an annual celebration we have to welcome the girls who will be turning 12 this year into our youth group and to say farewell to the girls who will be graduating in June. Our theme for the party was Dr. Seuss. We titled it “Oh the Places You’ll Stand” based on our scripture for the year “Stand ye in holy places.”  I needed to stop at the pet store to buy goldfish for my centerpieces so we went shopping before we went home. When we arrived home Gracie worked on drawing some Dr.Suess posters to hang on the walls and I began baking some of our Dr. Seuss treats…

Gracie making Dr. Seuss posters for me.

Gracie making Dr. Seuss posters for me.

The finished poster..

Lorax cookies

Lorax cookies

Green eggs (no ham)

Green eggs (no ham)

Sunday, after church, we stayed to set up and decorate. New Beginnings began at 6:00. The night consisted of enjoying appetizers and treats, a program and the young women performing a musical number. The evening was wonderful.  So many people put so much effort into making it a magical night for our young women!new beginnings 025

"Oh the places you'll stand"

“Oh the places you’ll stand”

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The young women made truffula trees for some of our decorations.

The tables..

The tables..

Some of out Seuss treats included “Hop on Pop popcorn,” “Yertle Turtles,” “Truffula Twigs,” “Seusscakes, and “One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish crackers.” Yum Yumnew beginnings 029

Two of my beautiful young women..Molly and Gracie :)

Two of my beautiful young women..Molly and Gracie 🙂

Spring Formal

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Well, the evening finally arrived…the evening that Grace has eagerly been anticipating for months…Spring Formal!  Our church decided to host a “modest prom.” It was a chance for youth in the area to have a fun prom experience with youth who keep the same standards of dress and music as they do. Since Gracie isn’t old enough to date she invited her best friend, Olivia, to come with her. Olivia arrived at our home at 3:00 for all of the pre-prom prepping.

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The “Before” picture

Gracie had set up the diningroom as a salon and the girls spent an hour doing each other’s hair and make-up. When they were all “dolled up” they headed upstairs to get dressed.

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Olivia’s mom surprised the girls with matching wrist corsages for their first prom. Gracie was thrilled!007

They came downstairs looking absolutely beautiful! When they were all dressed up we had a little bit of time for pictures before we had to leave. Gracie said, “This is just like playing dress-up..but for real!”

 

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My beautiful baby girl..

My beautiful baby girl..

We then headed to McDonald’s where we were meeting three other girls from church who needed a ride to the dance. We picked them up and headed toward downtown Pittsburgh where the dance was being held.  The ride was uneventful and we found the venue without too much trouble.

The beautiful ladies who came down in my car.

The beautiful ladies who rode in my car.

The dance was held at the 20th Century Club in Oakland.

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We walked in and the ballroom was beautiful. The room was lit with twinkling lights and large crystal chandeliers. There were tables set up at one end of the room for seating and waiters were walking around with trays of appetizers. The girls quickly claimed a table, laid down their purses and then headed to the dance floor. I could tell that both girls were a little nervous when they first arrived but they soon relaxed and they ended up having a wonderful time.

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I stayed because I was one of the chaperones so I had plenty of opportunities to covertly take pictures of the girls as they danced.

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One of the girls’ favorite dances was the “Cinderella dance” where the girls all placed one of their shoes in the middle of the floor and then the boys all pick a shoe and have to find the girl with the matching shoe to be their dance partner.

The "Cinderella Dance."

The “Cinderella Dance.”

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The most popular dances were probably the group line dances..all the kids were on the floor whenevever any of those songs came on!059

 

It was a fun night with great kids, good music, yummy food, and a fun atmosphere. Both girls decided it was a perfect first prom. All too soon the final slow song of the night was playing and then it was time to head home.

Gracie dancing with a childhood friend of hers

Gracie dancing with a friend of hers from childhood.

The lights came back on and the prom night magic was over. They stopped to take pictures with new friends they had made and then we headed out.  Walking back to the parking garage the talk was a mixture of enthusiastic comments about the dance and moaning complaints about their sore feet. When we finally arrived at the car all five pairs of heels quickly came off. 🙂

When drove back to McDonald’s where the girls’ rides were waiting and then at midnight Grace, Olivia and I drove to Eat N Park for ice-cream sundaes. We talked and laughed and I was able to hear all about their night… who asked who to dance, which dresses were prettiest and which boys were cutest. 🙂

Best buddies :)

Best buddies 🙂

 It was a perfect way to end a magical night.

 

I’m so grateful for the leaders who put so much work into creating such a special night for the youth to enjoy. Gracie said it was the “best dance ever!”

MAA =Midnight Animal Adventures

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“MAA MAA”….That was the sound we heard echoing through the house when we arrived home from church activities on Tuesday night. Toby told the girls that they had been crying for a while so they needed to get their baby goats a bottle before they did anything else. The girls made the bottles and went downstairs to feed them. I noticed that the crying didn’t stop, it only became more frantic. The girls soon came back upstairs to get Toby. “They won’t eat and they are throwing up green vomit,” they informed us. Initially we thought that perhaps they had over indulged in spring grass and had sore bellies but then they began to act funny. Thor was just standing in one place, staring off into the distance as though he was stoned while Chip bounced around the room as though he had no control over his legs. He kept running  full speed into the walls as if he couldn’t see them. I quickly contacted my favorite goat expert (Google) and presented the goats’ symptoms. I typed “goats green vomit” into the search bar and the first website that popped up was Amazon with an ad that read “Goats green vomit. We have that!” Hmmm…good to know, Amazon,  but we already have some. The next website was more helpful. It listed the symptoms of poisoning in goats. I ran back downstairs to fetch Molly, who had taken the goats outside earlier, to ask her if the goats had been munching on anything besides grass. She informed me that they had been eating all the leaves off of one of my bushes. I went back upstairs and with a flashlight in hand headed outside to examine my landscaping and figure out what they had gotten into. I soon discovered that my Rhododendron bush had been stripped bare by those two little goats. Guess what plant is highly toxic to goats? Yep, we had a winner. Toby called the vet and told them our latest animal emergency and they said to come in immediately! So…at midnight, Toby, who was grumbling under his breath “I hate animals” and the girls, dressed in their pajamas, loaded up two goats and headed for the vet emergency room. When they arrived the staff was waiting for them. They all went back and the vet and nurses, with the help of Toby and the girls, proceeded to push plastic tubing down the throats of the goats so that they could pour mineral oil and liquid charcoal into their stomachs. Needless to say the goats did not like that and quickly began to thrash around and vomit. Soon the walls and ceiling of the back room were covered with liquid charcoal and green vomit…as was everyone who was helping with the procedure. Bailey, our dog, was also in the room. She was in her oxygen tank. When she saw Toby and the girls and the out of control goats come in she perked up and was looking more animated than she had been in a long time. As Toby was being sprayed with goat vomit she wagged her tail and smiled at him. I’m sure she was thinking, “This is just like home!”  The goats received their two bottles of liquid charcoal and Toby was told he could take them back home and they should be fine in a few days. “We will just add it to your bill,” they cheerfully called out to Toby as he exited their office. When they arrived home the girls were anxious to tell me the good news and fill me in on their adventure. Toby just walked past me on his way to the shower mumbling, “I hate animals.” Maybe he will feel differently when he gets the caked on green vomit out of his hair. 🙂

“Monday, Monday…so good to me”

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Monday began PSSA week.  The kids were up early so that they could get dressed, get their chores done and eat breakfast before our test proctor arrived. Due to Gracie’s IEP we are able to participate in a program that allows them to be tested in our home, which is such a blessing! The other blessing is that the teacher who tests them has been their teacher in the past as well as being a good friend of ours so the experience is not nearly as intimidating and stressful as it could be.  The kids began their test at 9:00 and tested until noon so Tyler and I had the morning to ourselves. We stayed in the livingroom while the kids tested in the diningroom.  We did schoolwork and then had “Christmas in April” as Tyler opened and looked though boxes of clothes, books, toys and games that a friend had brought by the day before that her son had outgrown. Tyler couldn’t believe his good fortune as he dug through the clothes exclaiming, “These clothes are so cool, Momma!” and “Look at what they gave me, Momma! They must really like me!” His excitement grew as he discovered the puzzles and board games. We spent the morning assembling puzzles and playing ABC Bingo, Hi Ho Cherrio, and Candyland. His excitement peaked when he got to the bottom of the box and discovered a Thomas the Train set. “I’ve always wanted a Thomas Train!” he said. “Do I get to keep it?” When I told him that he did he immediately dumped out the parts onto the floor and began assembling it and has been playing with it for two days. 🙂 Thank you, Lisa!

Tyler trying on his new clothes.

Tyler trying on his new clothes.

Tyler with his new train set.

In the afternoon we had lunch and were getting ready to begin school again when Molly discovered Bailey, our dog, laying on the bathroom floor with blood pooling around her mouth. She was gasping for air and shaking. I scooped her up and yelled for the kids to blow out candles, grab shoes and meet me in the car. When I arrived they took her straight back to the oxygen tank. We met with the vet who said they were going to keep her until they figured out why she was bleeding from the mouth.

When we arrived back home I had my “one on one time” with the girls, since I missed theirs last week, and with Rusty who has his on Monday. For Gracie’s time she wanted to get her dress and jewelry ready for her semi formal dance on Friday. It is a church dance that is being held at a club in Pittsburgh. Gracie is so excited. It is her first “semi formal” dance and she is taking her best friend. We spent her time pressing her dress, talking about possible hair styles and letting her raid my jewelry box. She is thrilled with the $9.00 dress we found at Goodwill and altered to make it more modest. Doesn’t she look lovely?

Gracie all dressed up!

Gracie all dressed up!

 

For Molly’s time she wanted to try out the new chalk hair color that she received from Mimi Joy for her birthday. It is chalk that you dip in water that dyes your hair bright fun colors until you wash your hair again. Gracie joined in the fun and both girls dyed each other’s hair. I even let them put blue and pink streaks in my hair so Molly could see how it looked in a red head’s hair before she took it to her red-headed best friend’s house on Friday. The girls had a lot of fun. When they were done I told Molly that she looked like Rainbow Bright. She just looked at me blankly having no idea who Rainbow Bright was.

Gracie coloring Molly's hair.

Gracie coloring Molly’s hair.

Rainbow Bright!

For Rusty’s “one on one” time he wanted to show me the “plastic balloon kit” he bought at the dollar store. They look like bubbles and you blow them like bubbles but you can hold them like a balloon. They are pretty cool! Then we played a few games of Stratego. Rusty beat me every time. Before long it was time for a quick dinner and then off to Tyler’s soccer practice. He had a good time and we had a good laugh as we watched all those cute little 6-year-old boys play soccer. You can’t help but smile.

Plastic bubbles

Plastic bubbles

Game time.

Game time.

 

On the way home we stopped to drop off Bailey’s meds at the vet’s office. We spoke to the vet and she said that they needed to go ahead with the third and final shot of Bailey’s treatment. She was blunt and straightforward as she went over the possible results. She basically said that it would either cure her or kill her but that there were no other options for her treatment. They were going to let her rest overnight in the oxygen tank and keep her on fluids through an IV with the hope that she would be stronger in the morning when they administered her final shot. We took the kids in the back to see Bailey. Without saying anything we all knew that this could be goodbye. They all took turns loving on her. There were plenty of tears.

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We left and headed home for bed. As we drove home in the dark I could hear the kids crying in the back seat. When we arrived home we gathered in the livingroom for evening prayers, family scripture study and devotionals. After reading together we said a prayer for Bailey and then went around the room so everyone could say something they were grateful for . Everybody, with tears streaming down their face, said that they were grateful for Bailey.  It was then that one of the kids asked Toby why he wasn’t crying.

Tyler asked, “Daddy, do you ever cry?”

“Sometimes,” Toby replied.

“Like when?” Tyler asked.

“I cried when my dad died,” he answered.

“Who was your dad?” Tyler asked.

One of the kids grabbed a picture of Pop pop and brought it over to show Tyler.

Tyler looked at it thoughtfully and then said, “What happened to all his hair?”

We all broke out in laughter and it was just what we needed to cut though the gloom that had settled.

Boy, Pop pop would have loved you Tyler! 🙂

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A week of “firsts”

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We have had a monumental week with many “firsts.” Here are some of the fun “firsts” we enjoyed this week…

I claimed the title of “soccer mom” this week for the first time in all of my years of parenting. We have never did the “little league shuffle” with our older kids. I avoided putting the kids in organized sports for a variety of reasons and then God sent us Tyler. He is so different from my other kids and is a sporty sort of kid. I had to take back all of my years of saying, “I will never put my kids in sports,” as I signed up Tyler for soccer. He had played sports in his previous foster homes and has been asking to play since he moved in. We showed up at the soccer field Monday night for his first practice and then watched as a gaggle of six-year-old boys chased the soccer ball around the field like a litter of clumsy puppies chasing a tennis ball. It was very cute and as we watched we could see that Tyler has been blessed with a God-given athletic ability that is foreign to me. The best part though was that after practice he was so tired he went straight to bed by 7:30! Soccer just might be my saving grace with his sleeping  issues.

 

 

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We also had out first full clutch of eggs this week. Tyler went out in the morning only to run back to the house yelling, “My chickens laid eggs!” During the winter months our egg production dropped off to an occastional egg due to the cold and lack of sunlight. The chickens evidently have caught spring fever and are producing again. I followed Tyler out to the barn so he could show me the eggs. When we got there Tyler scooped up his nearest chicken, squeezing it enthusiastically and told it what a good job it did.  This is his chicken, Sprinkles. 🙂

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My boy and his chicken!

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We also experienced our first spring days! After a long winter it was a blessing we all enjoyed. The kids all wanted to do their schoolwork outside. Tyler wanted to do school on the trampoline, which I agreed to, but first he had to show me all his “tricks.”

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While Tyler and I did school on the trampoline the girls read their Literature books on a blanket in the sun. This is one of those special gifts that come with homeschooling… Spring school days out in the sunshine!

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Tyler had a pretty big first this week…he read his first story by himself!! He was very proud of himself. I was also very proud of him. He has come so far with his schoolwork and I see such growth in him. There is nothing more thrilling than watching your child read for the first time. It was definitely one of the biggest highlights of my homeschooling  journey.

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Tyler is also learning to tie his shoes. This came as a result of a shoe shopping excursion earlier in the week. He needed new tennis shoes and didn’t want any of the velcro pairs because he felt they looked too babyish with the cartoon characters that decorated the sides of them. He really wanted a pair of black and blue shoes that he declared,”Cool!”  The downside, though, was that they were “lace up” shoes. I told him that the only way I would agree to them was if he would learn to tie shoes. He agreed so we pulled out the lacing puzzle that all of the kids used to learn to tie their shoes with and he has been working with Gracie. He isn’t quite there yet but he is working on it.

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First sprinkler playdate of the season. On Wednesday the temperature was climbing higher as the day went on. The boys begged to get out the sprinkler. I told them that they couldn’t play in the sprinkler unless we hit summer temperatures (80 degrees.) As soon as the thermometer hit 80 they raced to their rooms to put on swimming trunks. They had a lot of fun. 🙂 Tyler and Rusty tried to get Winnie to run through the sprinkler with them…she wasn’t interested!

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On Thursday I took the kids to our local consignment shop so that Molly could spend her birthday money on baby clothes. The baby clothes there are 10 for $10.00 so my thrifty Miss Molly loves it there. She was thrilled with her purchases but when she was unpacking them at home she realized that the “pink poodle sleeper” that she thought she bought was actually a “pink poodle dog costume.” Well, we just couldn’t resist trying it on Brownie. Brownie endured it like a lady, not growling even once, she just stared at us in disgust while we laughed at her expense. Do you blame us…isn’t that funny. I told Molly it was well worth the $1.00 for the belly laugh alone that we all enjoyed.

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Rusty also had a big first this week…he started Taekwondo. He has been wanting to take lessons for years and after much prayer and discussion we decided it would be a good thing for Russ. It would give him something of his own to participate in, without siblings, as well as be a confidence booster and we thought that perhaps the extra exercise would also help with the sleeping struggles.  He had his first class on Thursday and loved it!  Doesn’t he look cute in his uniform? 🙂

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Rusty showing off his side kick. Look at the paws on that boy!

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This week the kids all wrote their “thank you” notes to Mimi and Pop pop for their Easter ducks. They all colored a picture of their ducks on the front of their cards. I loved each child’s picture of their duck and loved seeing how the duck changed as the different cards were shown to me. So for your viewing pleasure….The Evolution of the Duck!

First…Tyler (Age 6)

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Then Rusty’s duck… (Age 11)

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Molly’s duck (Age 13)

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And Grace’s duck (Age 15)

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Didn’t they turn out well! And now for our BIG news. Drumroll please…We have been given our court date!  Tyler officially becomes ours on July 23rd 2013.  We can’t wait!

God is good!

 

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The blessing of tears

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“Let your tears come. Let them water your soul.” – Eileen Mayhew

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I am grateful for tears. I am grateful for my tears, for the tears of my children, but especially for the tears that fall from Tyler’s eyes.  There have, in the last week or two, been a noticeable increase in the amount of tears that have fallen from his big, brown eyes and my heart is overflowing with gratitude for that blessing. When Tyler first came to us we were amazed at what a tough little kid he was. He would fall or get hurt but he never cried. We thought he was just a rough and tumble little boy or that perhaps the hard road he had traveled in his short life had made him tougher than most six-year-olds but now, in hindsight, we realize what we viewed as “toughness” was actually his emotional wall. When he arrived on our doorstep his emotional fortifications were firmly in place. You could tell from his body language that he didn’t trust us, that he expected us to fail him, that he knew that we were going to get rid of him as soon as he was naughty. He came to us determined not to let us get too close. When he was scared or sad he would fold into himself, avoiding eye contact and curl himself into a ball. He wouldn’t tell us what was bothering him. As time passed he became less closed off as he began to trust us more. He would look us in the eye, he would tell us what was wrong and he became more effective in vocalizing his emotions and how he was feeling. We have now seen more growth in him and it has come in the form of tears. Yesterday Tyler tripped on the steps and hit his elbow. He came running to me in tears, looking for comfort. He crawled into my lap, cuddled up tight against my chest and poured out all of his feelings of anger and frustration about the step that tripped him.  This past week has been full of these incidents. The other kids asked me why Tyler is being so overly sensitive. “Is he tired?” they asked.  His reactions seem dramatic in comparison to his “typical” reactions but what we are seeing now is “typical.” He is a six-year-old boy who should cry when he gets hurt. He should run to Mom in search of comfort when he is distressed. We see the walls crumbling.  I am grateful for Tyler’s tears because it means he is trusting us enough to expose that vulnerable part of himself to us. I am grateful for the interruptions because it means the mother/child bond is growing. I am grateful for the boo-boos that drive him into my arms and most importantly I am grateful for God’s hand in Tyler’s life and in mine as He takes a little boy.. broken, hurt , and fearful and makes him my son.

Oh, what a blessing tears can be!

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“Not flesh of my flesh, nor bone of my bone,

but still miraculously my own.

Never forget for a single minute,

you didn’t grow under my heart, but in it.”