Monthly Archives: June 2013

Happy birthday,Toby!

Standard

We had a weekend of celebrations! Friday was our 16 year anniversary and Sunday was Toby’s birthday. I had a lot to be grateful for this weekend as I celebrated this wonderful man who God has brought into my life and blessed me with! When I asked Toby what he wanted for his birthday he told me that what he wanted most was a day at home where we didn’t have to go anywhere or do anything. Things have been busy this past year with appointments, inspections and social worker visits so I could understand Toby’s desire for a quiet day. After church we can home and presented him with his birthday gift..”A lazy day kit.” We bought a popcorn bucket and filled it with 2 movies, his favorite snacks and drinks and the remote for the TV and told him to enjoy! It was a wonderful day. We all put on our PJs and snuggled on the coach while watching the new OZ movie and then The Hobbit. We enjoyed them both. For his birthday cake Toby requested angel food cake with strawberries and whipped cream. It was a wonderfully relaxing day and just what we needed as we head into a busy week.

This week is our big planning week before we head off on two back to back trips. Next week the girls and I will be going to girls camp together. We have gone the last 3 or 4 years and it is the highlight of our summer. It is a special time to get away from the noise and craziness of life and enjoy the peace and beauty of nature and  some girl time together. I am going as a counselor for the 18 year-old-girls as well as serving as one of the chaperones for the girls I work with at church so this is a busy planning week for me. I have been busy planning crafts, packing our supplies, making pillow treats for my girls and shopping for the items sold at the camp store that is run by my 7th year girls.

Pillow treat for camp.

Pillow treats for camp.

The day after we return from camp we are leaving to spend a week at the Jersey Shore with Toby’s cousin, Mark and his family. It should be a lot of fun and we are all looking forward to it. I am trying to start packing for that trip this week as well so that when we get back on Saturday from camp all I will need to do is wash our dirty camp clothes and repack them for our next adventure.

Some other news from Patchwork Farm:

Gracie used some of her babysitting money to order a guitar from Amazon. It came today!

IMG_7136

Last Thursday Rusty had testing for Taekwondo to see if he will advance to yellow belt. One of the tasks he had to accomplish was to break his first board. He did it! He was very excited and we will find out soon whether he advances to the next belt.

Rusty's first broken board!

Rusty’s first broken board!

Gracie had some exciting news from her orthodontist. Every year her orthodontist makes a calendar to hand out and he uses pictures that are submitted by his patients. They have to be “braces” themed and the top 12 designs make it in the calendar. Gracie was thrilled to find out she made the calendar again. She worked very hard on her design. She did a “Finding Nemo” design with Dory wearing braces. As a result of her winning she received a gift card to Yumberry frozen yogurt. Yum!

Gracie's calender entry..

Gracie’s calendar entry..

Tyler has learned his phone number! I have been trying to work with Tyler this summer on learning some skills that we never had time to focus on this past year like how to tie shoes, spelling his new last name, learning his phone number, etc. To learn his number I put the numbers of our phone number on index cards and mixed them up and he would have to arrange them in the right order. After playing this game for a few days he’s got it!

IMG_7115

The McDonald’s Play Place is going up! Last summer the McDonald’s near us was undergoing a complete renovation so they hired an auction house to do an online auction of everything in the restaurant. Toby found it online and over the course of a few days of bidding ended up winning the play place. We didn’t have a chance over the winter to put it up so it is beginning to go up now. The kids are very excited about its completion!

IMG_7112

We began a writing project with the kids last week. In an effort to work on composition skills and to make writing fun for my kiddos that don’t enjoy writing I have had them begin an “All about me” journal. We picked up new journals at the beginning of the summer and I created a list of questions that I printed out, cut into strips and placed in a jar. Each day the kids take turns pulling out a question and answering it in their journal. My rule is that they have to write at least as many sentences as the grade they are entering. For Molly that rule is unnecessary..she LOVES to write. Yesterday the question was: “List 5 things you look forward to doing when you are an adult.” It was fun to hear their responses..

Molly said:

“I will be able to eat whipped cream from a can, have any animal I want.. like a pet monkey, have my own phone, and take as long as I want shopping because nobody will be rushing me.” (Her poor husband.. 🙂 )

Grace said:

“”Being able to travel around the world, be an aunt (a fun aunt!), drive a car, and buy limeaid and drink it all by myself.”

Rusty said:

“Being able to stay up late, go to the grocery sore and buy whatever food I want, and go to Disney World.”

It was fun getting to hear what they thought being an adult was all about. 🙂

For Rusty's one on one time we had fun with a spirograph that someone passed down to us.

For Rusty’s one on one time we had fun with a spirograph that someone passed down to us.

 

In other news..We have begun preparing for Tyler’s adoption. We are only a month away! We have family coming into town to join us at the courthouse for the finalization of Tyler’s adoption so we have been trying to figure out what to do to celebrate. Tyler said he wants to have a party with a bonfire and he wants Simon and his other friends to be there. He also asked if his brother could come. He has a visit with his biological brother today so I know his brother has been on his mind a lot this week. I told him I would see what I could to about having his brother come but I’m not sure if the county would allow it. That was enough to satisfy Tyler. As he walked away he looked back at me and said with a smile, “I’m excited about being born, Momma.”

 Me too, Tyler..me too!

 

 

Trekking off to Virginia- Part 2

Standard

214

Once Gracie was on her way, trekking across the Virginia hillside, the little kids and I headed to our campground. After calculating the cost and time that would be spent driving 10 hours on Monday and then turning around and driving 10 hours again on Wednesday to pick Gracie up we decided it was cheaper and wiser to just make a mini holiday out of it. I booked two nights at the Jellystone campground in Luray, Virginia. We had never stayed at a Jellystone campground before and were pleasantly surprised when we drove up. The site was beautiful and we were surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains. The kids were eager to begin enjoying all of the fun activities that were included in the stay but I told them that we had to set up camp first.

It was a beautiful campground!

It was a beautiful campground!

Molly and Rusty took on the task of setting up the tent and did it with little instruction from me. Good job, kiddos! Tyler helped me unload the rest of our supplies.

Molly and Rusty setting up the tent.

Molly and Rusty setting up the tent.

After camp was set up we all changed into our swimsuits and headed down to the play area to enjoy all the amenities that come with the campsite. The campground was very “kid friendly” and offered all sorts of fun activities like a waterslide..which was Rusty’s favorite part..

245

 

Two beautiful pools…

A "High School Musical" jump!

A “High School Musical” jump!

Molly and Tyler

Molly and Tyler

A water playground…

The water playground..

The water playground..

 

Molly gets hit!

Molly gets hit!

Miniature golf and a bouncy pillow. These were Tyler’s favorite parts. The two “pillows” were sort of like trampolines  but much cooler. The kids spent hours playing tag on these with new friends they made at the campground.

Bouncing..bouncing..bouncing..

Bouncing..bouncing..bouncing..

Molly’s favorite activity was the paddleboats. This was the first time they had been on paddleboats and they all enjoyed them. Tyler was too little to “drive” them but he was allowed to be a passenger with the other two.

Paddleboat fun!

Paddleboat fun!

The paddle boat pond also offered fishing unfortunately we didn’t pack fishing poles much to Tyler’s disappointment. He tried to talk me into buying one at the camp store. I told him no… partly because of the cost, partly because we don’t need another fishing pole, but mainly because if he did go fishing and actually caught something I would have to remove it from the hook!  Nope, we did not fish. 🙂

Tyler wishing he was fishing :)

Tyler wishing he was fishing 🙂

Monday night the kids wanted to go see the Yogi Bear Movie at the rec hall but Tyler didn’t so I let the kids walk down by themselves while Tyler helped me fix dinner on the fire. It was a good thing we stayed and started dinner because just as the kids arrived back at our campsite a huge thunderstorm began. We raced to get all of our food into the tent where we ate dinner and then played card games all night. The storm didn’t let up until morning and by morning we were all wet from the heavy rain soaking through the bottom of the tent.

IMG_7008

We were up early. Nobody wanted to sleep in when sleeping in a puddle. I began hanging all of our bedding to dry while Molly started the fire. For breakfast we made eggs and bacon and mountain pies with our homemade strawberry jam…YUM!

Molly started the fire while blankets dried.

Molly started the fire while blankets dried.

 

Rusty making mountain pies.

Rusty making mountain pies.

The rest of the day was gray and drizzly but luckily we had no more storms. The kids didn’t let the gray day slow them down and had fun doing all the same things that they had done the day before. Tyler kept commenting on how he felt so bad for Gracie who was sleeping and trekking in all this rain.

While waiting for dinner the boys watched a movie in the car so Tyler could have some down time. I found it funny that Rusty buckled up..safety first! :)

While waiting for dinner the boys watched a movie in the car so Tyler could have some down time. I found it funny that Rusty buckled up..safety first! 🙂

The second night was drier and everyone slept much better as a result. In the morning we walked down to the flag pole for the flag raising with Yogi Bear at Tyler’s request. It was fun to see him get so excited by the characters.

Meeting the Jellystone gang.

Meeting the Jellystone gang.

After the flag raising we went back to camp to pack up and load the car so that we could just play until it was time to leave to pick up Gracie. The  sun came out and so did Molly’s freckles..

Love those "angel kisses!"

Love those “angel kisses!”

At 2:00 we changed out of swimsuits, said good-bye to new friends and hopped in the car to get Gracie. We did it! A drive to Virginia, 3 days camping in the rain, fire starting and tent raising without Daddy and we even lived to tell the tale..Thanks Jellystone, it has been a great visit!

282

Trekking off to Virginia- Part 1

Standard
099

The “before” picture.

Monday morning we were up bright and early and on the road by 4:oo am. We had to be down to the Marriott Ranch in Virginia by 10:00am to drop Gracie off for the pioneer trek she was participating in with other kids from church. I left an hour earlier than needed to allow some wiggle room in case we got lost or had to stop multiple times along the way. This was our first long road trip with Tyler and I wasn’t sure how he would do. The timing worked out perfectly. We didn’t hit any traffic which I’m sure was due partly to the early hour but we did have multiple bathroom stops along the way.

A pioneer..

A pioneer..

We arrived at the ranch with 20 minutes to spare. It was a beautiful drive! When we arrived we unloaded the gear from the back of the car and said goodbye to Grace. I could tell she was nervous and excited. We were told by the wagon masters that if we wanted to hang out for two hours we could cheer the kids on as they began their trek. I wasn’t sure if we would make it two hours. I had a 6-year-old that was eager to get to our campsite but luckily we were parked by a pond that provided hours of entertainment while we waited.

102
Molly sat in the car and read her book while the boys skipped rocks across the lake. They soon discovered that the lake was filled with tadpoles and tiny baby frogs which they then spent an hour collecting.136

 

As the boys played at the water’s edge we could see the kids gathering at the other side of the pond for singing and a devotional.

123

We watched as their names were called and they were put into families. Each family consisted of 10 teens and a Ma and Pa (adult chaperones.) It was in these assigned families that they spent most of their time. After meeting their family they loaded their handcart. Each family had a handcart that was filled with 12- 5 gallon buckets that held their clothes and gear, 12 sleeping bags, 2 large water coolers, food for the next 3 days, and tents. This was what they pulled across the rolling hills of Virginia for three days. 🙂 After everyone had their gear packed and strapped down with tarps they were ready to head out. We gathered to see them off..

Miss Gracie

Miss Gracie

Gracie's new family :)

Gracie’s trek family

197

On Wednesday we were back to pick up Grace at 4:00. It was thrilling to see them come across the hill and make their way to us as we clapped and cheered. Gracie looked tired but happy.

IMG_7094

She told us all about her adventures..making bread over the fire, the beautiful countryside they slept in, her amazing family, the singing and spiritual devotionals, the physical challenges of pulling their handcart up steep hills, the comaraderie that she felt as she worked with her family, the fun of the games and the hoedown and the satisfaction she felt of making it to the end. She said that it was the hardest thing she had ever done but also the most amazing experience of her life. As we drove home she talked for hours about everything she had experienced. She told me that she was sad it was over. She said the only thing that she really missed was her bed and fresh fruit. She said if she could have those two things with her she would have liked to trek forever. 🙂

The "after" picture.

Stay tuned for what was happening at our camp while Grace was trekking across the plains in Part 2. 🙂

Happy Father’s Day!

Standard

 

Toby and his kids..check out his new tie :)

Toby and his kids..check out his new tie 🙂

As we celebrated Father’s Day on Sunday I had so many reasons to count my blessings. I have been blessed with good men in my life..men who have exemplified what it means to be a father. I probably took that blessing for granted when I  was younger. I assumed everyone’s father was like mine and every parents’ marriage was similar to my parents’ marriage. I didn’t realize how lucky I was until, as I grew older, I began to observe the men around me. As we have delved into this world of foster care and adoption I have become even more aware of how many men carry the title of father that have no idea what a good father really is.

I am grateful for my father. I never doubted his love for me. He showed it to me in a million different ways. I never felt like my status with him was precarious. I knew his love would never waver even when I was foolish or made poor choices. I knew he would always forgive and always welcome me back. He helped me develop a tangible understanding of my Heavenly Father by loving and forgiving me so freely. I was never afraid of my father but I was always afraid of disappointing him or not living up to his expectations. I respected him and wanted to live in a way that would make him proud. I have learned so many things from watching my father live his life. I have learned the lessons of honor, duty, self reliance, responsibility, unconditional love, and the importance of doing what is right even if it is hard or unpopular. I feel blessed to call such a man, “Dad.”

When I married Toby I was blessed once again with another exceptional man in my life. I have never known anyone more selfless than my husband. I don’t know that I have ever seen him put his own needs ahead of the opportunity to serve another. That selflessness became all the more evident when I saw him step into the role of father. When I see him with our children I love him even more!

Molly's nails in honor of Father's day

Molly’s nails in honor of Father’s day

This past year he took that selflessness to another level when he opened his home and heart to another man’s son and adopted him as his own. I knew in my heart, when we were feeling called to adopt, that whoever this child was wasn’t joining our family because they needed me but because they needed Toby and that turned out to be the case. Tyler came to us having never truly had a man in his life that loved him unconditionally and when Toby gave that to him he couldn’t get enough. He adores Toby and craves his love and attention, which can be tiring for Toby at times, but he never lets it show. He comes home from a tiring day at work and jumps right into “daddy mode” whether that means hugs, “ooing” over a treasure Tyler found in the woods or disciplining and teaching the important lessons. I am grateful for the man he is and for the example he is showing our boys about how a real man acts and teaching the girls the type of man they should seek for a spouse. 

When I married Toby I was also blessed with another father..my father-in-law, Rich. He was an amazing man and an amazing father. I know I have the husband I have today because of his (and Joy’s) example. He had an amazing gift with people. I don’t think he ever met a stranger but if he did they wouldn’t stay a stranger long. When you spoke he listened, he asked questions about your life and wanted to know the answers, he had a way of making you feel special and important. I think everyone that knew him secretly felt they were his favorite person..including me! What an amazing gift that is. 🙂 Although he is no longer here on earth his love and example and legacy are still here.

On Father’s day the kids were up early to fix pancakes for Toby. They topped them with our freshly made strawberry jam and delivered them with love and enthusiasm.

Daddy's pancakes!

Daddy’s pancakes!

It was then time for gifts. The kids wanted him to open them first thing because one of the gifts was a tie they made him that they wanted him to wear for Father’s day. His other gifts included a ball from Tyler, a root beer mug filled with root beer barrel candies from Rusty, and fishing supplies that the girls bought him with their babysitting money.

Rusty's gift for Daddy

Rusty’s gift for Daddy

We had some acting up with Tyler before church. It was a holiday and Tyler usually has a hard time with holidays. Father’s day was no exception. On the way to church he asked me when he would get to see his old family again. My heart broke for him when he said, “I promise I’ll come back. I just want to spend one day with them.” I hurt to see him hurting…

Tyler decorating Toby's tie

Tyler decorating Toby’s tie

After church we were invited to dinner at Mimi Joy’s house. We had a delicious dinner and then went to the cemetery where Toby’s dad is buried to spend some special time together. We weren’t sure how Tyler would do. He struggles with death and loss but he did great. He asked questions about Rich and then the kids played with bubbles from Mimi Joy. It was a wonderful way to celebrate Father’s day!045

014

069

 

When we arrived home we had to pack the car for our early departure the next morning (4 am!) to take Gracie to her pioneer trek in Virginia. We decided to stay down there and camp rather than have two 10 hour days on the road. Stay tuned for the details of that adventure! 🙂

Summer Strawberries!

Standard

034

This morning we woke up with one thing on our minds..Strawberries!  The day was beautiful. It was sunny but not too hot for strawberry picking so we decided to head out after breakfast to our favorite “you pick” farm. We have been getting our strawberries from a farm in Ohio called Catalpa’s for the last 5 years. A friend introduced us to it after we moved into the home we are in now and we had such a great experience we continue to return every year.

061

The kids were excited. They were trying to describe the experience to Tyler, who had never gone strawberry picking before. When we arrived we discovered that we weren’t the only ones who thought it was a perfect strawberry picking day. The place was bustling with “pickers.” We even ran into friends from church while we were there. 🙂

009

Everyone trying to smile with the sun in their eyes 🙂

As we began picking, the kids were told that they each had to fill two quarts so that we could leave with 12 quarts… 10 for jam and  2 for eating! I thought Tyler might lose interest after the novelty wore off but he stuck with it to the end.

023

Grace and Tyler picking together.

012

I love this little boy!

022

Miss Molly

Miss Gracie

Miss Gracie

All of the kids did a great job but Rusty was our strawberry picking champion. He filled 3 1/2 quarts to the rest of our 2 quarts. When we were done picking we stopped at the store at the front of the farm for a treat.

045

Our quarts are filled!

They sell the most delicious strawberry smoothies made from fresh strawberries that come from their farm for $1.50 so Toby bought three..one for he and I to share, one for the boys and one for the girls. They were extra yummy!

The boys share a strawberry smoothie.

The boys share a strawberry smoothie.

When we arrived home we set up our strawberry assembly line with some washing, some cutting off the greens, some smashing and some jam making. It was a fun afternoon but by the last quart the kids were ready to be done. We were all tired, sticky and stained pink but we had 30 pints of jam and some great family memories to show for our efforts. 🙂

Jam making time!

Jam making time!

069

Mash those strawberries, Tyler!

Some of the finished product.

Some of the finished product.

Birds of Sorrow

Standard

You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair” – Chinese proverb

The other three ducks.

The other three ducks.

We woke up to a loss yesterday morning. Molly came in and whispered to me that she had found Tyler’s duck unmoving. With further investigation (ie: poking it) she discovered it was dead. It had no marks that would lead us to believe it had been attacked. It was just curled up with its eyes closed as though it were sleeping. I think it just died in its sleep. I told Molly not to tell Tyler yet but instead to just move it and we would tell him later. I knew the news was going to devastate him and we didn’t have time address the heartbreak he would feel because we were due in court at 9:00am.

The trip down to Pittsburgh was fairly uneventful. I am getting braver and more confident with each visit to the courthouse for Tyler’s hearings. When we arrived we had a small wait and then were called into the courtroom. The hearing itself was over in a matter of minutes. When the judge asked Tyler what was new with him Tyler eagerly shared news about his chickens and egg selling business. The judge was interested in finding out how chicken egg laying works. He had questions like: “How often does a chicken lay an egg?” and “Do they come out on their own or do you have to help?” and “Do you need a rooster to get eggs?” Tyler answered all of the judges questions eagerly and the judge then excused us with confidence that Tyler was thriving in his current environment.

After our hearing we walked across the street to get bagels for breakfast. As we ate 1182we noticed that the “pigeon man” had arrived to feed the pigeons. We see this man each time we come for court. He is an elderly man who I suspect is homeless by the way he dresses and the bags he carries. He always has a large garbage bag with him. Sitting on the bench next to the parking lot he opens his bag and pulls out slices of bread. As he begins to break bread into pieces and sprinkle them on the ground the pigeons flock to his feet. Tyler is in awe of this man and the special relationship he has with the pigeons. As we finished our bagels and walked to the car we passed the pigeon man and Tyler exclaimed in a loud voice, “I want to be like him when I grow up!” The old man looked at Tyler and smiled. In Tyler’s eyes there could be no better way to spend your day than feeding the birds one bread crumb at a time. 🙂

004After our appointment we had a few hours to kill before Rusty’s appointment to have his cast removed so we decided to do a little shopping. In the upcoming week we have Father’s day, Toby’s birthday and our anniversary so I had a bit of shopping to do. 🙂 We also had to buy the last of the things needed for the pioneer trek that Gracie is going on next week.  Gracie is very excited and has been preparing for her trip by sewing her skirts and aprons. She still needed a blouse for her outfit so we stopped at a thrift store hoping to find something that would work.

She was thrilled when she discovered two blouses that would work. When she arrived home she finished packing the 5 gallon bucket that the kids are required to pack their clothes and supplies in that they will be pulling in handcarts across the rolling hills of Virginia in a few days.

Gracie's 5 gallon bucket.

Gracie’s 5 gallon bucket.

All day long Rusty was acting somber. I could tell something was bothering him. When I questioned him he finally admitted that he was nervous about having his cast removed. He had heard that it was removed with a circular saw and he had visions of the nurse slipping and cutting off his entire hand accidentally. Tyler, hearing Rusty’s concerns, said to me, “Momma, we need to say a prayer for Rusty so he won’t feel scared anymore.” When Rusty didn’t respond to his suggestion as enthusiastically as he thought he should Tyler said, “It really does work, Rusty!” Yes, Tyler, you are right!

Pioneer Grace!

Pioneer Grace!

Well, Rusty’s cast came off without a hitch and that evening the girls and I attended a presentation at church called, Chalk Talk. An artist came and spoke about legacies.  The presentation consisted of her drawing to music and then having members of the class coming up and adding to her drawing with pictures of things that have been passed down to them from previous generations. Molly drew a book and Gracie drew a hammer and nails. When the teacher asked Grace what the hammer and nails represented Gracie explained that her great-grandfathers, grandfathers, and dad are all carpenters so it partially represents that legacy but then she went on to explain that the hammer and nails also represent service because those men have always been willing to drop whatever they are doing to serve others so her legacy is one of service. What a dear girl my Gracie is and what a wonderful legacy has been given to her!

In the evening Toby took Tyler out to the farmyard to share with him the news about his duck. Tyler was upset. His duck was his favorite animal and losing it broke his heart. He came in and said to me, “Don’t ask me where my duck is, Momma. It will just make you cry.” That night as we said our family prayer before bed Tyler asked to pray. In his prayer he asked God to make sure that his duck was having a lot of fun in heaven. He cried himself to sleep that night. Poor Molly was feeling his heartbreak, having been there herself many times before. It is so hard on my animal lovers when one of the animals dies. As I sat in the kitchen listening to Tyler cry I told Molly I wish I knew what to do to help Tyler feel better. Molly, with wisdom beyond her years, patted my hand and said, ” There isn’t anything you can do, Mom. Sometimes you just have to feel the pain and cry. In the morning things with be brighter and the pain won’t hurt quite so much.”

easter 085

Looking back..

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that feels them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” – E. Ros

 

Weekend update..a bit late!

Standard

This weekend update is a bit late in coming. I have been battling our computers..all of which are on their last leg. I am grateful that they are school computers that will soon be replaced with new school computers. Blogging has been laborious because of it. I now have only one computer that will download pictures but I can’t type my entry on it due to its snail pace so I have to load pictures on that computer and then switch to another to retrieve them off the website to write the blog..Ugh!

Friday morning the boys continued with their “brother time.” They spent the morning playing outside together which gave me the chance to get some chores done around the house. At lunch we left to pick up the girls from their slumber party. They had a blast and Molly was excited to show me her new makeover look…

003

When we arrived home Gracie packed for the babysitting job she had that evening while the kids and I worked on our summer schedule. I sat the kids down to get their imput on what they wanted to do this summer. We made a list of playing they wanted to do, projects we wanted to accomplish around the house and schoolwork that we wanted to work on over the summer. We also worked on redistributing chores. Summer is the time that chores get switched in our house. That gives me the less frantic summer months to train them in their new responsibilities before the school resumes. They then keep those new chores until the following summer. Once we sorted out our summer plans we typed them up and posted them on the fridge for reference…

001

002

Saturday morning was Tyler’s last soccer game of the season. It was a beautiful day and Tyler was thrilled that his team won their last game. Following the game the soccer association fed the kids hot dogs, drinks and cookies. Tyler even received a trophy for participating which he promptly took home and wrote his name on the back of with a sharpie marker so “nobody would take it.” 🙂

041

When we arrived home I sent Tyler to the bathroom for a bath. When I went to check on him I found him bathing with his shorts still on and his trophy within sight…

047

Saturday evening Gracie was asked to babysit for another family. This family has 5 kids including twin baby girls so Gracie invited Molly along to help. Molly was thrilled. This was her first babysitting job. Everything went really well and the girls said it was nice working together. Gracie then split the money she earned with Molly which Molly was really thrilled about!  🙂

046

While the girls were babysitting we had a bonfire with the boys. Rusty was given the job of building a fire. My little scout did a great job…

054

When the fire was blazing we let the boys roast marshmallows. Here is what Tyler thought of smores…

 

070

064

On Sunday we sat down as a family to talk about Tyler’s adoption, which is coming up in about a month. We were revisiting the topic of Tyler’s name change. Months ago when we spoke to him about his last name changing he informed us that our name was too hard to spell so he was just keeping his own. This time I pulled out the baby name book and we looked up the meaning of all of our names. I then brought up discussion of middle names. We all told Tyler what our middle names are and then told him that when his last name changes we can also change his middle name. We asked him what he might want to change his middle name to. His suggestions were:

Tyler Daddy

Tyler Disneyworld

and Tyler Winnie.

When we vetoed those possibilities he asked what other choices there were. I suggested that we go around the room and tell Tyler our suggestions. Toby suggested Michael, Gracie suggested Quinn, Rusty suggested Isaac, Molly suggested Adam and I liked John but after hearing all of our ideas Tyler said, “What about Jacob. I like Jacob!” We will keep you posted on the final decision! 🙂

078

Brotherly love

Standard

030

Thursday marked the nine month anniversary of Tyler’s arrival to our home. It was also a breakthrough day for my boys. Gracie and Molly had been invited to a sleepover at a friend’s home. They were excited to go and spent the afternoon packing all of those “essential” items needed for a sleepover. Right before we were due to leave I discovered Tyler outside jumping in mud puddles. It had been raining all day long so the puddles were impressive. Tyler moaned and groaned when I told him to wash off his legs but was cooperative.. especially when I promised him old pots and pans to play with in the mud when we got back home. On the way we went through one of those “windshield wipers flying” sort of downpours. I told Tyler that he could only play in the mud when the storm stopped. Luckily for him by the time we arrived home the clouds had parted.

I pulled out the pots and pans I promised and Tyler spent and hour outside making mud pies. He even convinced Rusty to join him. Rusty didn’t stay out quite as long because he was still battling a flu bug that left him feeling icky. The boys called me out to show me their mud pies. It was nice to see them playing and laughing together.

Rusty and Tyler have probably had the toughest time bonding of all the kids. I think Rusty struggled with feelings of being displaced when Tyler moved in. He was no longer the only boy and no longer the baby of the family. Rusty wasn’t accustomed to a brotherly relationship so when Tyler pushed and roughhoused Rusty wasn’t sure what to make of it all. This new sibling relationship was nothing like what he was accustomed to with his sisters. I knew the bond would grow with time but it was just tougher for the two of them. It is funny how removing the girls from the mix for the night accelerated that bonding.

When the boys came in muddy but happy I sent them to the bathroom to clean up before dinner. At dinner I told them that since the girls were having a slumber party they could have one too. Tyler was thrilled. He had never been to a slumber party before so he questioned Rusty on how one “slumbers.” Rusty informed him that they would get to sleep together in a new room.

“Can we sleep in Molly’s room?” Tyler asked.

“No,” replied Rusty, “we will sleep in the livingroom.”

“Momma, guess what..we are going to sleep in the livingroom!” Tyler informed me excitedly.

“What else, Rusty?” he questioned.

“Well,” said Russ, “We will eat snacks and watch boy movies.”

“Guess what, Momma… Rusty said we are going to eat snacks and watch boy movies!”

Rusty then informed Tyler that he would sleep on the big couch and Tyler would sleep on the little couch. Tyler wanted to know why they couldn’t sleep on the same couch together. Rusty finally compromised and told Tyler they could sit together to watch the movie but not to sleep.

The boys had a great night. You could hear the adoration in Tyler’s voice as he looked to his big brother for guidance on the proper way to proceed with their slumber party. Later in the evening Rusty started feeling yucky again. You could tell that he really wanted to go to bed and abandon the sleepover but he hung in there for Tyler. He did ask for medicine to help with his sore throat. As I went into my bathroom to look for medicine Tyler followed me in.

“Momma,” he said, “I know why Rusty’s throat hurts.”

“Why,” I asked.

“Because,” he answered, “Rusty and I played and laughed so much.”

He then leaned close and whispered with eagerness, “Momma, I think Rusty really likes me.”

Well I just melted into a puddle of Momma mush. There was such hope in his voice and I realized the strides that were made that night between two little boys learning to be brothers. The equation of success..

3 old pots + 1 puddle of mud + 1 load of laundry + 2 bags of popcorn + 1 “boy movie” =

brotherly love!

God is good!

 

Lions and Tigers and Bears…Oh my!

Standard

zoo 047

School is done..summer is finally here! To celebrate our completion of school (other than the schoolwork we will continue working on through the summer) I decided to treat the kids to a day at the Pittsburgh zoo. They woke up not knowing the plans for the day. When I told them where we were going there were squeals of delight and frantic racing around as everyone hurried through their morning chores. As we drove down to Pittsburgh the kids tried to describe the zoo to Tyler but he wasn’t sure if he had been there before. When we arrived he said, “I was here with my old family!” That was it..no tears, no melt down, no emotional struggles or acting up. He was just his happy self, excited to be at the zoo. I continue to be amazed at his progress.

zoo 003

After a quick stop at the bathrooms we began walking around the zoo. We arrived around noon, in the middle of a hot day, so the first exhibits we stopped at were anticlimactic. The animals were all sleeping and hiding out in the shade. When we reached the 5th exhibit with no visible animals a little boy walking next to us asked his mother, “Mommy, are you sure they have animals here?”

We finally had luck when we reached “Africa.” I suppose the animals in these exhibits are used to the heat. They were all out and grazing.

zoo 006

I was excited to see my favorite animal out and about.. elephants!

zoo 010

zoo 008

As we walked around the zoo we stopped at each animal and used our “zoo key.” The zoo has boxes positioned around the park that you can put your plastic key into to hear facts about the animal there or hear a song. We bought our key when the kids were little and I have just kept it in a drawer.  We take it whenever we visit the zoo. Tyler loved being in charge of the zoo key.

zoo 014

zoo 015

The Pittsburgh zoo also has a beautiful aquarium. Tyler enjoyed seeing all of the fish and kept commenting on how he wished Daddy was there because “Daddy would love all these fish!” The favorite animals of the aquarium were the penguins, the stingrays that you could pet, and the jelly fish. As we approached the end of the aquarium Tyler complained of tired legs and convinced Gracie to give him a ride. What a good big sister!  🙂

zoo 020

Tyler’s one request, as the kids talked about the animals they wanted to see, was to see a “snow bear.” Lucky for him there were two “snow bears.” The poor things looked awfully hot and were not nearly as happy about the warm temperatures as the African crew. Here is Miss Grace at the “snow bear” exhibit.

zoo 022

Under the polar bear exhibit there are tunnels that you can walk through to see the polar bear pool, otter pool and shark pool from below. Here the kids sit and watch the sharks swim above their heads.

zoo 026

After the aquarium we visited Kid’s Kingdom. This area is a hands on, interactive area designed especially for the kids. We stopped at the playground so Tyler could try out the slides. He loved it!

zoo 028

Rusty played with Tyler on the playground equipment while the girls and I rested our feet. Gracie wore new hiking boots to the zoo that she is trying to break in before she goes on trek in a few weeks. As we were leaving we noticed a little boy ( 3 or 4 years old) following us further into the park. When we walked him back to his parents at the playground they didn’t seem too concerned. He must wander off a lot. 🙂

zoo 032

 Miss Molly looking especially cute!

zoo 030

zoo 033

Another favorite exhibit was the meerkat exhibit..complete with a tunnel to crawl through and domes to peek though. Rusty spent quite a bit of time getting acquainted with his new meerkat friend.

zoo 039

The highlight of the day, however, was the sea lions. It was our last stop of the day and voted best exhibit hands down..or should I say flippers down. 🙂 We spent about 45 minutes here watching the antics of a baby sea-lion. She was sunning herself on a rock while her parents swam around her when suddenly a white butterfly flew by. Well, this caught her attention and she then spent a half an hour chasing this little white butterfly. It was so cute to watch and she really drew a crowd! She would chase it around on land and then when it would change course and fly over the water she would dive after it and fall into the pool. Momma sea-lion kept barking at her and scolding her. Finally the butterfly flew off and you could see that the little sea-lion was so disappointed by the exit of her little flying friend. It was a perfect ending to a great day!

zoo 044

zoo 045

Nearing the end of school!

Standard

Well we are nearing the end of another school year. This concludes our 9th year of schooling our children at home and it has been such a blessing! This year, however, brought new changes and challenges. With the addition of Tyler in September I went from schooling 3 kids to 4. I experienced new teaching challenges as I worked with an ADHD son for the first time and had to learn how to teach him in a way that engaged him. I also faced the challenge of having to fill gaps that were missed during his previous kindergarten year. We did end up moving him back to kindergarten in November when I saw how much he struggled with the first grade phonics. It was a good call and school became less traumatic for both of us when he was able to find success with easier material. This year also brought challenges with harder materials as the older kids moved into higher grades. Gracie’s Algebra in particular stretched my teaching muscles as I reacquainted myself with material that I hadn’t studied in 20 years. We faced a definite learning curve as we became accustomed to our new “normal” and as I tried to figure out how to juggle these new changes but God was ever gracious and blessed us tremendously. I am happy to see this school year come to a close and look forward to the less rigid schedule of summer learning. We will continue to do some school over the summer but we will be able to work on skills, that I see need strengthened with each of the kids, at a more relaxed pace. Tyler, in particular, will benefit from some remedial phonics instruction. I am hoping that by working with him through the summer months I will be able to help him start 1st grade where he needs to be to find success and confidence with school in the upcoming year.

Gracie and Tyler

Gracie and Tyler

On Friday Tyler had an appointment with his therapist. I took all of the kids with me. We had an end-of- school picnic in town later that day so rather than come back home for an hour after the appointment we chose to just stay in town until it was time for the picnic. Tyler’s appointment went really well. The therapist commented on the changes she has seen in Tyler since he moved in. She mentioned how his guard has come down and how happy he seems with us. As she watched Tyler laugh and interact with Rusty she was amazed at how “at home” he seemed. It is amazing how far he has come. When I think back to that first therapy appointment with Tyler refusing to go in, the therapist yelling at me, “You must make him obey or you will never have control over him,” and me carrying  Tyler, who won’t let go of the 50 pound rocking chair he is sitting in, across the waiting room as the other patients stared in disbelief, I am in awe of how far we have come. He did so well in therapy that as we were leaving the therapist said, “Why don’t we move his appointments back to every 6 weeks.” Yea!

The older kids doing school at Tyler's appointment

The older kids doing school at Tyler’s appointment

After therapy we had 2 hours to kill until our picnic so we went to McDonald’s to do schoolwork. I let the kids each order a smoothie and we enjoyed our treats while I did phonics with Tyler and the older kids read their novel, A Wrinkle in Time, together.

School at McDonalds

School at McDonalds

It was soon time for our end-of-year picnic. The kids were thrilled to find many of their co-op friends had come. We enjoyed the picnic food, games, and a chance to visit with friends. They had a kindergarten graduation for the kindergarten kids. Tyler didn’t want to participate but he did receive a certificate which we will put in his scrapbook.

The picnic was bittersweet because this may be our last end-of-the year picnic with this group. We have been with this school since Gracie was in first grade and have made so many wonderful friends and have had so many wonderful teachers in years past but this year the leaders of our school have made choices that have taken our school in a direction that I don’t agree with. As the school year went on it became all the more obvious that their vision and my vision of what my children’s education should look like no longer lined up. We are now trying to figure out what path we should take and are looking for God’s leading in that decision. I left the picnic feeling a little teary.

Gametime at the picnic!

Gametime at the picnic!

PAVCS picnic

PAVCS picnic

After the end-of- year school picnic we headed to a graduation party for the son of dear friends of ours. It was a lot of fun. The food was delicious and the kids had a blast playing games outside. The weather was perfect. As the kids played Toby and I had the chance to talk about what we are going to do about school next year while we watched the kids play. It was nice to have the opportunity to talk through my concerns with him without kid interruptions. I felt much better after his council and feel confident that we are on the same page when it comes to what we want for next year’s school year.

Tyler playing basketball with the big boys.

Tyler playing basketball with the big boys.

On Saturday morning Tyler had a soccer game. The plan was for the kids and I to go to the soccer game while Toby went to a metal detecting hunt with his metal detecting club that he has been looking forward to for a few months. Tyler had a great game…only one more left of the season!

Tyler with his team.

Tyler with his team.

After the game we had 45 minutes before I had to drive Tyler to his appointment with his psychiatrist (that he has every two months) so we decided to drive over to the metal detecting hunt and cheer Toby on for a little while.

Toby

Toby

Tyler’s visit with the psychiatrist was uneventful. He weighed and measured Tyler, asked if there are any problems, wrote out scripts for his meds and then sent us on our way. We were in and out in 20 minutes and then back home just as Toby was arriving home from his hunt. Toby had a good time and had a lot of success. He found about $40.00 in coins as well as 20 tokens that he was able to turn in for silver coins and prizes. Toby was most thrilled with his silver coins!

Some of Toby's winnings :)

Some of Toby’s winnings 🙂

Saturday afternoon was spent doing yard work and chores before we headed to graduation party #2. One of the chores we had to tackle was moving some fish that Toby had received from his aunt to a small pond we have on the other side of our property. When Toby helped his aunt improve her pond last weekend she sent home some of the offspring of her pond fish. Toby put them in the animal water trough this week to keep them alive until we could take them to the pond to release them. Saturday afternoon we drove to the other end of our property to release them. We discovered, when we arrived there, that Winnie had followed us over from the house. It was beautiful out there. The tall grass was blowing in the summer breeze and we enjoyed exploring a bit before we let the fish go and headed back to the house.

Our new fish!

Our new fish!

Home sweet Home

Home sweet Home

It feels as though summer is finally here! We are looking forward to finishing up school and preparing for the fun things we have coming up this summer..camp for the girls, a vacation to the beach, a family reunion and Tyler’s adoption!!