Monthly Archives: August 2013

Christmas in August

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In the midst of school and party preparations this past week I never got around to posting pictures of our visit to the world’s largest Christmas store. Last week as we prepared to drive home after our family trip to the UP of Michigan my sister suggested we stop in Frankenmuth, MI to see Bronner’s Christmas store. She pointed out that it was a good halfway point to let the kids get out and stretch their legs as well as being a place that “you just had to see.” Since it was only a few minutes off the beaten path we decided to check it out. As we entered Frankenmuth, the town where it resides, we felt like we had been transported to a German village. The town was charming. I wish we had been able to explore more of it. On the far side of the town sat Bronner’s. You could tell it was a Christmas store from the moment you saw it. The “yard” of that enormous building was filled with hundreds of large outdoor Christmas displays. It would have been neat to see at night all lit up!

We parked, climbed out of the car, and with a lot of moaning and groaning stretched the kinks out of our cramped bodies. As we approached the store the first thing we saw was a sign with distances of different cities around the world. The kids enjoyed reading how far they were from places like Disneyland and Paris, France.

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When we stepped inside we were instantly hit with a cloud of Christmas cheer..the carols were playing, the smell of cinnamon and fir filled our noses and everywhere we looked were the sights of Christmas. The building was filled with stockings, nativity sets, trains, and ornaments galore. I have never seen so many ornaments. Upon entering we were given a map to the store. On the map the ornaments are broken up into categories so if you are looking for an ornament that has to do with fishing you can easily find your way to that section of the store.

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One Christmas tradition we have enjoyed from the time Gracie was a baby is an ornament exchange. Every year Toby and I go shopping and pick out an ornament for each of the kids that represent something they did or accomplished that year. I also buy for Toby and he buys for me. Then on December 23rd before we head to our family’s homes we exchange them. It is one of my favorite parts of Christmas. We started this tradition so that when our children leave home they will have 18-20 ornaments to start their own tree as well as sweet memories of their years at home that they can look back on.

Tyler liked the donut ornaments!

Tyler liked the donut ornaments!

When we entered Bronner’s we decided to handle our tradition a little differently this year. Rather than pick out the kids’ ornaments we decided to let them search for their ornament..something that represented them. Toby and I decided to still pick out each others. The kids had a blast walking around the store trying to pick from the thousands of choices.

They eventually made their selections..

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Gracie picked a stack of books to represent her new love of reading and the obstacles she has overcome with her dyslexia. Molly picked a beautiful hand blown glass jelly fish to represent her time at the beach this summer. Rusty picked an English Bulldog ornament to represent Winnie and his love of dogs and Tyler picked a glass ball with a fishing fly suspended in the middle to represent his love of fishing and our family trip to the UP.

We made one last stop in the personalization room to have a family ornament personalized for our new 6 person family and then headed for the checkout to buy the ornaments that will then be tucked away and hid until December 23rd.

Our family :)

Our family 🙂

As we were leaving we stopped at the Santa booth where the kids all called the North Pole for a visit with Santa.

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It was a fun detour on our way home and well worth the stop. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

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Celebrate!

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Last week was a full week. After arriving home from our trip to the UP of Michigan our week quickly filled up with appointments (orthodontist for Grace and shots for Molly), football practice, school preparations, Tyler’s 7th birthday and preparing for our open house adoption celebration on Saturday. It truly was a whirlwind sort of week.
We decided that for our open house we wanted to have an ice cream sundae bar so on Wednesday, after Gracie’s orthodontist appointment, we took advantage of a gift card we had to Yumberries, a frozen yogurt place, to “steal” topping ideas for our sundae bar. It’s a fun place. Along the wall there are a variety of frozen yogurt flavors and toppings for you to use to create your own delicious dish. It was a yummy treat and it also sparked our creativity for topping shopping later that evening.

Yumberries!

Yumberries!

Wednesday night after taking Rusty to taekwondo we stopped at Aldis to buy tubs of ice cream for the party. It was quite the endeavour to try to figure out how many tubs of ice cream to purchase for 200 guests. We ended up buying 13 tubs of ice cream which we later found out was a bit excessive but on the up side we will be able to enjoy ice cream for months to come. As we were leaving we had a few people stop and ask us if they could follow us home 🙂

Shopping for ice cream!

Shopping for ice cream!

Thursday was spent preparing for the party..cleaning the house, mowing the yard, etc. Thursday was also the day the house painting was completed and the McDonald’s Play Place was done. It was finished just in time and after laying mulch underneath it was ready for the party.

Our new McDonald's Play Place that Toby won at an auction.

Our new McDonald’s Play Place that Toby won at an auction.

Friday we celebrated Tyler’s 7th birthday and his first official birthday as a McCleery. As is our tradition we woke him early, before Toby left for work, with a cupcake and the family singing “Happy Birthday.” He woke with a smile and enjoyed his breakfast cupcake.

Good morning birthday boy!

Good morning birthday boy!

We spent the day finishing the last of the party preparations with the promise that we would celebrate Tyler’s birthday as soon as Daddy arrived home. When Toby came home we had Tyler’s birthday dinner and then let him open his gifts before we went out to the movies for his birthday treat. It was fun to see what each of the kids came up with for Tyler’s gifts. The effort and creativity they put into coming up with special gifts for him touched my heart. Rusty planned a treasure hunt for Tyler which lead to his gift. Tyler enjoyed following the clues and really loved the gift at the end which was a gift bag of some of Rusty’s toys that Tyler had admired in the past. After opening the gift he jumped up and gave Russ a big hug and told him that he was the best brother ever. Rusty was really touched by that. Molly gave Tyler an “imagination kit” that she made. Tyler loves to play “imagination” with Molly. Molly comes up with a story line and the three youngest will play for hours. Molly’s “imagination kit” included a magic wand that she made, a jar of fairy dust (glitter), invisibility bands (bracelets), Power up  chews that bring you back to life when you die (gum), etc. It was very clever and Tyler couldn’t wait to play. Grace bought Tyler a Webkinz and then made a house to go with it. Toby and I bought Tyler some action figures after seeing how much he loved playing with Nate’s while we were on vacation.

Gracie's gift to Tyler.

Gracie’s gift to Tyler.

It was wonderful to be able to celebrate a very special boy on his very special day!

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The next day was our adoption open house. The morning was spent putting up signs at the end of the road, setting up tables and chairs, decorating and running to the store for balloons and last-minute items. At noon Toby and Tyler left for his first football game. When we scheduled the party we didn’t realize we would have a scheduling conflict with football so as a result Tyler was an hour late for his own party. It worked out well though..he won his game and I think it was less overwhelming walking into a party that was already going on than to be in the spotlight as everyone arrived.

All ready for the fun to begin!

All ready for the fun to begin!

My big helpers!

My big helpers!

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Soon friends and family began to arrive. We couldn’t have asked for better weather or better company. We were blessed to have family there as well as friends from all areas of our lives..high school friends, church friends, home school friends, etc. It was a joyous day!

When people arrived we asked them to sign our "guest book." Here are the names of some of the special people who have walked this adoption road with us and joined us to celebrate.

When people arrived we asked them to sign our “guest book.” Here are the names of some of the special people who have walked this adoption road with us and joined us to celebrate.

We had the fire going for smores..

We had the fire going for smores..

..and games for the kids.

..and games for the kids.

After everyone left I took a minute to sit by the fire and reflect on the day…My heart overflowed with gratitude for my blessings…for loving family, for dear, dear friends who came out to celebrate with us, for a summer full of special memories, for my husband and my children and for a monumental year. Last year at this time we were waiting for Tyler’s placement in our home. What a difference a year makes. Monday school begins and summer ends. What a beautiful way to bring summer to a close and enter the next season of our lives. God is good.

A look back on a special week..some final pictures.

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Here are some of the other fun activities that took place during our stay in Northern Michigan..

Tyler and Noah having some snuggle time.

Tyler and Noah having some snuggle time.

The evenings were often spent biking with the bikes that were provided at the rental house

The evenings were often spent biking with the bikes that were provided at the rental house

Fishing and canoeing were two popular pastimes. Here Pop pop and Tyler do both..

Fishing and canoeing were two popular pastimes. Here Pop pop and Tyler do both..

and with fishing comes fileting. Here Tom works with his three "helpers."

..and with fishing comes filleting. Here Tom works with his three “helpers.”

Much of the week was spent simply relaxing in the sun. Here are some of our sun bathers..

Much of the week was spent simply relaxing in the sun. Here are some of our sun bathers..

We had some activities planned for the kids to do. Here Tyler and Sammy pair up for a nature scavenger hunt..

We had some activities planned for the kids to do. Here Tyler and Sammy pair up for a nature scavenger hunt..

We also played The Candy Ball game. You play by rolling dice. When you roll a double you get to unroll the ball and collect any candy that falls out until someone else rolls a double. It was a hit with the kids!

We also played The Candy Ball game. You play by rolling dice. When you roll a double you get to unroll the ball and collect any candy that falls out until someone else rolls a double. It was a hit with the kids!

Mornings were spent here..sipping hot drinks as we watched fog roll over the lake.

Mornings were spent here..sipping hot drinks as we watched fog roll over the lake.

Evenings were spent around a campfire as we told stories, played "get to know you" games and roasted marshmallows. Here is Gracie's one match fire!

Evenings were spent around a campfire as we told stories, played “get to know you” games and roasted marshmallows. Here is Gracie’s one match fire!

Sammy spent the week collecting rocks. Here is his impressive collection.

Sammy spent the week collecting rocks. Here is his impressive collection.

After seeing signs all week long for homemade pasty we decidedto stop and buy a few to sample. Famous in the UP of Michigan, they resemble a pot pie with ground meat veggies and rice inside.

After seeing signs all week long for homemade pasty we decided to stop and buy a few to sample. Famous in the UP of Michigan, they resemble a pot pie with ground meat veggies and rice inside.

The biggest hit of the week was tubing. First up..Gracie.

The biggest hit of the week was tubing. First up..Gracie.

Toby gives Russ some pointers before he heads out..

Toby gives Russ some pointers before he heads out..

Uncle Travis ready to go..

Uncle Travis ready to go..

Uncle Travis cruising along at 35 mph!

Uncle Travis cruising along at 35 mph!

Toby's turn..check out those beautiful blue eyes :)

Toby’s turn..check out those beautiful blue eyes 🙂

Toby gets air!

Toby gets air!

 

Gracie takes Nate out for a ride

Gracie takes Nate out for a ride

Then Dr. G takes a turn :)

Then Dr. G takes a turn 🙂

Not everyone was a fan of Dr. G :)

Not everyone was a fan of Dr. G 🙂

Happy Retirement Mom and Dad. We hope you enjoyed your week. :)

Happy Retirement Mom and Dad. We hope you enjoyed your week. 🙂

That was a superior lake!

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Thursday was spent swimming and playing at the lake, but not our “average” Boot Lake..instead we visited a superior lake. Boy, did it live up to its name! After a big breakfast we packed up our sand toys, towels and balls and headed to Sandy Point Beach, located on Lake Superior. When we arrived we were one of just a handful of people there. We quickly spread out our gear and were ready for a day of fun.

Family reunion 2013!

Family reunion 2013!

Some were eager to get right into the water while others were a bit more hesitant, especially after hearing that the average temperature of Lake Superior is 40 degrees. Rusty was the brave soul who ventured in first but others soon followed.

Rusty waving in the distance..

Rusty waving in the distance..

Other brave souls!

Other brave souls!

We were pleasantly surprised to find out that the water remained shallow for a long way out…a very long way out! You can see the kids in the distance with the water still waist deep.

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While some were braving the frigid waters others were enjoying the sand and the sun.. particularly Nate, Sammy and Noah.

Noah loved the sand..its feel, its look, its taste..

Noah loved the sand..its feel, its look, its taste..

Brothers :)

Brothers

 Soon after arriving the football was pulled out and a game began. Other than perhaps Noah and I, everyone was pulled in for a play or two. I declared myself team photographer and watched from the sidelines.  🙂

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I enjoyed just walking the beach and taking advantage of the spectacular scenery as I photographed the area. The beach sat at the edge of Painted Rocks and the combination of the white sand, tall sea grass, and painted cliffs in the background made for beautiful photo moments.

Mimi and Pop pop

Mimi and Pop pop

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cousins

cousins

 

Beautiful Lake Superior

Beautiful Lake Superior

My little man..

My little man..

Before we left for home we went on a walk as a family along the beach. It was magical. The sun was warm, the views were breathtaking, the company was familiar and precious, and the blessings were infinite.

As we walked Pop pop taught a science lesson to the kids. Along the beach there was purple sand. The kids learned that the purple sand came from the mineral stained cliffs of Painted Rocks. It was fun to watch the kids engage in a science discussion with Pop pop and see Pop pop in his element, teaching his grandkids.

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It was another beautiful day in the UP of Michigan! 

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A postcard perfect day

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The last few days we have enjoyed all the wonderful things our vacation rental home has to offer but on Tuesday we decided to venture out for a little while and see what the local area had to offer.

IMG_9429But first..
On Monday we decorated family reunion t-shirts for our outing on Tuesday. Everyone brought their own white t-shirt and I supplied the sharpie markers, eye droppers and the rubbing alcohol needed for our project. To create a tie-dye effect we made circles of dots with the permanent markers and then dropped spots of rubbing alcohol in the center of those circles. The result was very cool. We ended up with pinwheel and starburst designs. It was a better choice than traditional tie-dye because the mess was minimal and even Sammy could participate. Each of my kids paired up with one of Kelly’s kids to help them with the project. Tyler was baby Noah’s partner and made his shirt for him. It was fun to see everyone’s personalities come through in their shirts.

Making t-shirts..

Making t-shirts..

The next morning we decided to visit the town of Munising and see some of the beautiful local sights. We all wore our t-shirts.

Our finished shirts!

Our finished shirts!

My sister's family wearing their cool shirts!

Poor Uncle Travis had a minor mishap with his shirt..

Mimi, Pop pop and "backwards" Uncle Travis... Oops! :)

Mimi, Pop pop and “backwards” Uncle Travis… Oops! 🙂

After walking around the small downtown area, Mimi and Pop pop treated us to lunch at Dogpatch restaurant. It was a lot of fun and the food was tasty. We had a wonderful waitress who handled our large crowd with ease and complimented us on our shirts. 🙂 When she found out that three people in our group had birthdays next week she surprised us by bringing out three icecream sundaes and 15 spoons. Yum!

Outside our restaurant for lunch.

Outside our restaurant for lunch.

After lunch we drove over to our first stop, Munising Falls. We parked and then hiked in 1/4 mile to the falls. The hike was beautiful, as was the destination. We stopped long enough to get some pictures and enjoy the beauty of the falls and then we were off to our second stop.

Tyler and his new best friend..Uncle Tom. :)

Tyler and his new best friend..Uncle Tom. 🙂

Rusty and Lydia on the path to Munising Falls.

Rusty and Lydia on the path to Munising Falls.

Tyler decided to take a load off his feet in the stroller with Nate and Noah.

After taking quite a few “nice” photos it was time for a funny photo..what a bunch of goofy kids.

This family tree has a whole lot of nuts!

This family tree has a whole lot of nuts!

Our next stop was Pictured Rocks.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore sits on Lake Superior and is stunningly beautiful. We chose to visit Miners Castle Overlook. As we approached the overlook the first thing we noticed was Lake Superior stretched out in front of us. The vastness of its size was awe-inspiring. As we got closer to the edge of the overlook we caught our first glimpse of the mineral-stained cliffs. The beauty and grandness of the scene took our breath away. We felt as though we had stepped into a postcard.

 

Our first time seeing Lake Superior.

Our first time seeing Lake Superior.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Pop pop and Molly enjoying a special moment and a beautiful view.

Pop pop and Molly enjoying a special moment and a beautiful view.

Miss Gracie

Miss Gracie

Miners Castle

Miners Castle

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And with this scene before my eyes I quote E. E. Cummings..

“I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinate, which is yes.” 

UP water sports!

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We are now two days into a wonderful family vacation. The last two days have been filled with family, fun, laughter and.. water sports! It has been a treat having our own dock and waterfront to enjoy. In the morning, after breakfast,  we all put on our suits, lather the kids with sunscreen, pack our beach bags with towels, drinks, snacks, and books to read and walk down the 66 steps to our own slice of heaven. (Yes it is 66 steps..the kids counted.)

For breakfast we had an oatmeal bar. We made a big pot of oats and laid out a variety of toppings for everyone to create their perfect bowl of oatmeal with.

For breakfast we had an oatmeal bar. We made a big pot of oats and laid out a variety of toppings for everyone to create their perfect bowl of oatmeal.

At the rental home we have two row boats and a canoe that we can use, as well as a fishing boat that Tom hauled up here for fishing and tubing. We have all enjoyed the fun of playing in the water, which is a perfect temperature, despite cool nights here in the UP. Here are some photos from our fun in the sun…and water.

Tyler down at the water's edge at 6:00 am to test the water temperature for our day of water fun!

Tyler down at the water’s edge at 6:00 am to test the water temperature for our day of water fun!

The boys have enjoyed two days of fishing..especially Tyler and Nate, our two junior fishermen. The have had fun casting and reeling despite the lack of fish caught.  Most of what they have caught has been small blue gill..enough to keep their interest but not enough to help with our Wednesday night menu which is supposed to be a fish fry. They have two days to bring in the needed fish quota. We shall see… It may be a pizza night. 🙂

Tyler trying to catch "the big one!"

Tyler trying to catch “the big one!”

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Sammy showing off the latest catch.

Sammy showing off the latest catch.

The big kids (and Mimi and Pop pop) have enjoyed taking the canoe out on the water. It has been fun for them to be able to go out exploring on their own and enjoy the beautiful scenery around Boot Lake.

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While the boys were out fishing on the fishing boat we stayed back at the dock to watch the little boys. It was fun visiting and floating. We all took turns playing with Noah and keeping him occupied.

Gracie on Noah duty..

Gracie on Noah duty..

Molly on Noah duty

Molly on Noah duty

Mimi came up with the great idea of using an intertube for a playpen to keep Noah confined with toys. Molly put her baby in the playpen too and the two babies had a wonderful time playing! 🙂

The nursery!

The nursery!

The biggest hit of the day was probably the tubing. It was a first for Tyler and he loved it. Grace, Lydia, Uncle Travis, Toby and even Mimi and Pop pop gave it a try.

Go Tyler Go!

Go Tyler Go!

Go Mimi Go!

Go Mimi Go!

The next morning, in the absence of an available motor boat,  we came up with our own water sport…redneck tubing. All that is needed is mindless muscle rowing the boat and a bunch of overly trusting and enthusiastic riders on tubes hanging on. 🙂

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It has been wonderfully relaxing!  A perfect start to a special week!

 

Let the wild rumpus begin!

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Well we are now in the upper peninsula of Michigan, or the UP as the locals call it, with my parents, my sister and her family, and my brother. We are here for a week in celebration of my father’s retirement. Last June my dad celebrated his second retirement. His first retirement came after serving in the U.S. Army for two decades and then he went on to teach high school science for Pittsburgh schools. Last June we celebrated the end of that journey.  We wanted to do something special to honor the years of service and hard work my father dedicated to supporting his family so we rented a  cabin in the UP for a week. This is our first week-long vacation together since we were children. My dad was touched by the gift and we have all been eagerly anticipating this week for the past year.

Packed tighty!

Packed tighty!

On Friday morning we packed up the car after Toby went to work for a few hours to wrap up the job he was working on before he left on vacation. He was home by nine and after strapping down our four rubbermaid containers of food on the back and the fishing poles on top we were ready to leave. Before we left I gave the kids their travel bags. I decided that traveling 10 hours might be easier on Tyler and more fun for the kids if they had a bag of treats and activities to keep them occupied. It was a good plan. All the kids were thrilled and it made traveling for hours in the confines of a very tightly packed car more enjoyable.

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After seven hours of driving we made it to our first pit stop..Aunt Kelly’s house in northern Michigan. We arrived around 6:00 pm and the kids were all glad to get out of the car and run and play with cousins. My parents were already there with my brother who flew to their home from Texas and drove up with them. A pizza party was waiting for us. After rounding up some very excited kids we sat down and ate and then had a birthday party for our three August birthday kids. Tyler, Lydia and Noah all have birthdays within 3 days of each other so we took advantage of our opportunity to celebrate together and had gifts, cupcakes and rootbeer floats. Tyler was thrilled to receive a badminton set, a sling shot and a bag of gags and jokes. The gifts couldn’t have been more perfect for Tyler!

Noah opening his gift.

Noah opening his gift.

Thekids had fun playing with the dress up box.

The kids had fun playing with the dress up box.

The next morning we had a big breakfast and the kids spent the morning playing while the adults dropped of Kelly’s dogs at the kennel, purchased fishing licenses, picked up the house and repacked cars…oh, and rescued a bird. Our busy morning was interrupted by a bird getting caught in my sister’s garage. Despite all our attempts to guide it out the huge, open garage door, it wouldn’t go. We worried that if we left it in there when we left for the UP we would come home to a very dead Tweety so with the aid of Toby and two nets we continued our rescue mission and eventually caught it and released it back outside.

Fly, Tweety, fly!

Fly, Tweety, fly!

 

We were soon loaded up and were off again for another 3 hours in the car to get to our rental home on Boot Lake. The drive was beautiful..although crossing Mackinaw bridge was a bit unnerving as the wind blew the cars around as if they were fallen leaves.. BUT we made it and we were thrilled to find our home for the week even better than we expected!

We arrive!

We arrive!

The home is three stories tall and roomy enough for our entire crew. My parents were given the beautiful master bedroom that has its own balcony overlooking Boot Lake. There is also a room perfect for the kids. It is painted with Winnie the Pooh murals and is full of bunk beds so all the cousins can sleep together. It is a charming place and it reminds us all of the cabin we would visit as kids that belonged to my Aunt Gretchen and Uncle Howard. Like their home, it sits in the woods surrounded by tall pine trees. There is a deck that wraps around the house and leads to a set of stairs that takes you down to your own private dock. It is very beautiful.

Walking down to the lake..

Walking down to the lake..

It was wonderful to get the cars unloaded, the food put away and get everything settled for the week so that the fun could begin.

“And now,” cried Max, “Let the wild rumpus begin!”

Caution: Explosive!

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Some days parenting is effortless. The day just flows with ease and you make the mistake of thinking, “Boy, I’m pretty good at this parenting thing.” Beware! Don’t let those thoughts sit too long and whatever you do don’t say them out loud because that is when the wave of chaos and disaster will crash down upon you.  I have learned the biggest mistake I can make in my parenting is thinking we have “crest the mountain and are now traveling down hill and the journey should be a breeze from here on out” because as soon as I think that another Everest rises up before me.

These last two weeks have been eye-opening to me. I really thought that signing the adoption decree would only solidify the relationships that had already been built. It was just a piece of paper, I thought, a legal declaration of the love and unity that we have spent the last year developing but that hasn’t been the case. For the older kids that paper meant it was supposed to become easier. They thought that adoption day was the finish line of the struggle.  The adoption was finalized and so the conflict was supposed to disappear. For Toby the adoption decree represented freedom..freedom from someone looking over his shoulder..freedom to parent as he would naturally. I don’t know what I thought would change. I guess I thought that other than more flexibility with my schedule I really expected things to remain the same. For Tyler this adoption represented security. For a child that has moved 7 times in his life… first from his biological family, then through a series of foster families who asked for his removal due to him being “uncontrollable,” to the foster family that he was with for 2 1/2 years and was told was his forever family, to our home ..he struggled from the beginning with believing that this was his forever home. Signing that decree confirmed it and brought about the security that he has longed for. That security has manifest itself in his behavior these past two weeks…

He is more affectionate than ever. He hugs and kisses on everyone more..especially Toby and the girls. He is also more disobedient than ever before. It has been an interesting couple of weeks as I have tried to wrap my brain around this contradiction in behaviors. It is like living with a pregnant woman..only he is a lot faster :). One minute he is loving and affectionate and the next minute he is angry and crying. I know that these are both good things. They both are manifestations of the same truth..he is feeling secure. Secure enough to love without fearing we will be gone tomorrow and break his heart again. Secure enough to show the ugly side of his emotions and know that we will still love him. I know that is what we have witnessed these past two weeks. I know this is all good..really good..but that doesn’t mean it is easy or that my reactions are always correct…which is why I now come with a warning label.

Let me explain. Friday was a catch up sort of day. With school looming just over the horizon I have felt a push to accomplish some of the cleaning/organizing tasks I had planned for summer. One of those jobs was to organize the schoolroom, pack away last years books, toss dried up glue, wipe down bookshelves, etc. As we worked together in the schoolroom Tyler came across a lighter and brought it to me. My hands were full of books so I told him to hold onto it until my hands were free. He patiently held it for about a minute and then with great concern in his voice said, “Momma, please take it. It really wants me to play with it!” 🙂 I took the lighter and dropped it down my shirt because my hand were full and I had no pockets. We continued to clean and organize until it was time to get Tyler ready for football practice.

As we were gathering up his football gear the phone rang. I answered it and was greeted with an enthusiastic hello. The woman calling introduced herself as the adoptive mom of one of Tyler’s biological siblings. I had given my contact information to our social worker months ago to pass on to the other adoptive families of Tyler’s siblings with the hope that we could get the kids together. Gail, one of the moms, got the call that day with my information and called me as soon as she hung up with the social worker. We had a wonderful visit and talked about getting the kids together soon. Tyler hasn’t seen that brother for 2 1/2 years. When I hung up the phone I shared the good news with Tyler. As soon as I told him I could see that the idea of seeing his brother brought about mixed emotions.

It was time to head to football so I told him to start heading to the car. It was then that all chaos broke loose. Toby was working late and Tyler informed me that he wasn’t going without Daddy. I told him that skipping wasn’t an option. He then threw down the gauntlet in the only way a six-year-old can..he stuck his hands to the side of his face, stuck out his tongue, waved his football padded bottom back and forth and taunted, “You can’t make me go if you can’t catch me!” With that he was off.  I, in desperation, began yelling out all sorts of ineffective threats. As I followed him around the yard, knowing very well I didn’t stand a chance of catching him, I watched time pass on my watch and the time for  practice pass by.  After an hour of this he made the tactical mistake of passing between me and the car and getting trapped. A rookie mistake if I ever saw one. I grabbed him and he proceeded to play every dirty move he knew..shin kicking, hair pulling, arm biting..so I did the only thing I could think of to cool off his temper. I walked to the pool and dropped him in..football pads and all. He made a nice big splash and so while he floated in the pool shouting at me I walked to my room to change my wet shirt. As I removed my shirt the lighter from earlier in the day fell onto the bathroom floor. I looked up and in the mirror I saw my warning label. Right there, stuck to the center of my chest, was a small piece of paper that read,

“Warning: explosive. Keep away from children.”

Well, I just had to laugh at God’s sense of humor. Perhaps we should all come with warning labels… “Caution: Emotionally unstable,”  “Beware: Biting tongue,”  “Danger: Crumbling trust.” We all have our struggles. There are days that it all comes so easily and then there are those days when it is just hard…when we realize that we can’t do it on our own..that we are only human and we should come with warning labels and we need divine assistance. After I was done laughing at God’s sense of humor I prayed. I prayed for endurance.. emotional, physical, mental and spiritual endurance..because my journey with Tyler isn’t a sprint. It is a marathon. It is a lifelong journey and like a marathon there will be times when we will be coasting..when the sun is out and the breeze is cool and the path is smooth but there will be times when it is a steep uphill climb in a hurricane. Having an adoption decree doesn’t change that. I signed up for this run and I will finish it, but more importantly I will enjoy the scenery as I travel, because isn’t that what it is ultimately about..finding joy in the journey.

The next morning I awoke to little fingers tapping me on my back. As I rolled over I was greeted by a jack-o-lantern smile and a good morning kiss.  As Tyler threw his arms around my neck and squeezed he said, “I love you Momma,”  and I felt God wink. 🙂

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Let’s go Bucs!

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As I sat down to write this morning I realized that the last time I posted was the day after Tyler’s adoption. The night of Tyler’s adoption, as we sat together as a family for prayers and scripture study, we all went around the room and said one thing we were grateful to God for. Having just signed adoption papers most of our gratitudes were about Tyler’s adoption. When we got to Rusty he paused to think for a moment and then said, “I’m grateful that we will never have to clean our home again!” I think the constant visits and inspections by the social workers took its toll on Russ. 🙂 I told him that I’d give him the week off but eventually we would have to clean again for the sake of health and safety. 🙂  So..that is what we did. We took the week off from everything. I think the stress of always having to be “on” took its toll on all of us because this past week we all collapsed and did nothing productive at all including updating my blog so here is what has been happening at Patchwork Farm..

We have a new litter of baby bunnies. We discovered them when we returned home from the beach. They are now bouncing around and have their eyes open. The kids are thrilled…especially Gracie!

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IMG_8579Tyler is now in football. I have been stretched by Tyler. I have found myself humbled time and time again as I have had to face all the “my child will NEVER” comments that I made when Gracie, Molly and Rusty were little. Tyler played football before he came to live with us and has asked us since the day he moved in if he could play again. In the spring we signed him up for soccer and the experience was more positive than I expected. The soccer coaches (a husband and wife team) were wonderful. The practice was once a week, they didn’t keep score, and it was all about learning skills and having fun. I assumed football would be the same, after all we are talking about a group of 6 year olds..right?  Wrong. We have entered another world. When we signed him up last Monday I had no idea we were signing our life away for the next few months. Football is nothing like soccer.. In soccer we practiced once a week..in football we practice five times a week.  In soccer practices lasted 45 minutes…in football they last 2 1/2 hours.  In soccer there was a lot of laughing and goofing off..in football there is a lot of grunting, yelling and no goofing off allowed. When we showed up to the first practiced the coach greeted the boys with this question, “What is the number one rule in football?” The boys shouted back suggestions of what they thought the number one rule might be. When nobody answered correctly the coach shouted, “No! The number one rule of football is: We are mean! We are tough! We are nasty!”IMG_8824 I watched in horror as my sweet little boy chanted this mantra with all the other 6 year olds. They followed this chant with growling and grunting. I looked at Toby, who was loving it, and whispered, ” How about we are kind! We are compassionate! We play fair!” Toby just rolled his eyes at me.  🙂

I will say that after a week of sitting on the sidelines, in a haze of testosterone, I am either becoming immune or resigned to my fate because I am less horrified now than I was a week ago. On the up side: Tyler loves it, he is sleeping better than ever before, and he really responds to the strict discipline of football. Toby thinks this will be the best thing in the world for Tyler..I’m reserving judgement for now. 🙂

IMG_8746On Monday we had the opportunity to attend a Pirates baseball game. Our adoption agency has activities a few times a year that they offer to adoptive families and families waiting for a placement.  One of these activities is a Pirates game. Last year when we were offered free tickets we took 6 because we thought Tyler might be scheduled for his first overnight visit then but it was moved to the following week so he wasn’t able to go. We were looking forward to going as a family this year but then life got in the way. Gracie had a slumber party and Toby and Tyler had football practice so it was just Molly, Rusty and I. Molly took her best friend, Tatum. It was a lot of fun.IMG_8745 PNC park was packed and the atmosphere was thrilling. This was Tatum’s first time there so it was fun to see her reactions to the hot dog gun, the pierogi races and the 7th inning stretch. We sat in a section reserved for adoptive families and it was neat seeing the dynamic of the various families. There were families that adopted sibling groups, international adoptions and infant adoptions. We ended up winning 9-2 against the St. Louis Cardinals. It was a great game and a fun night…Let’s go Bucs!

IMG_8810The following morning we met up with our friends from co-op for a mid-summer get together at the pool. It was nice seeing our home school friends that we haven’t seen all summer and catching up on each other’s lives. The kids had a blast playing and the moms enjoyed visiting without interruptions.

 

Tyler was especially glad to see his best friend, Simon. He has been wanting to see Simon all summer and has been asking for a play date for months. Now that his adoption is finalized he finally gets to do things like play dates and slumber parties with his buddy. This Saturday Simon is coming over for the day and Tyler can’t wait!

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