Monthly Archives: September 2013

Perspective

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"My perspective will create my perception."

“My perspective will create my perception.”

 Gracie is currently taking a digital photography class through school and loving it. Each week she is given an assignment that she works on and must complete by the following week. These assignments serve the purpose of making her a better photographer by teaching her to look at the world, through her lens, in a different way. Many of her assignments have to do with perspective. In her first assignment she had to take 3 photographs of the same everyday object from 3 different angles. This past week she was given the assignment of photographing 3 objects up close and creating abstract art from them with the help of Photoshop. The results were very neat..

Photo #1

Photo #1

Photo #2

Photo #2

Photo #3

Photo #3

“Perspective – The capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance.”

Can you guess what the original subjects were?

Here are the answers….

Photo #1....Harley D Hog

Photo #1…Harley D. Hog

Photo #2...An old wooden frame.

Photo #2…An old wooden frame.

Photo #3...Buster the toad.

Photo #3…Buster the toad.

Watching Gracie work on this school assignment got me thinking about perspective and perception. If you look at Gracie’s “abstract photos” they bear little resemblance to the original object. The same can be true in life. Looking too closely or “zooming in” on a person or moment can have the same effect. We all become a little abstract when looked at too closely. Few, if any, of us can withstand the scrutiny of a microscopic viewing and yet we do this to ourselves and others all to frequently. It is all about perspective. So often we choose to zoom in and focus on the one flaw, the one negative thing in ourselves, or our spouse, or our children that we fail to see all the good. We take our powerful camera lens and magnify the one bad moment in the day and declare the entire day a  disaster. We zoom in on our own shortcomings and  declare ourselves failures. We see only the areas where our children are still struggling and fail to acknowledge the beautiful triumphs they have achieved. We look at the one bad day and decide the week was horrid or the one hard year and declare an entire lifetime a waste. It is human nature. We all do it. We must remember, however, that when we see the world through that magnified lens we are looking at an abstract world. To see life, and people, and moments realistically we must zoom out. We must pull our focus back. We must look at the entire picture. That is the kind thing to do.

So…Take a step back and look again. Perhaps the change in perspective will change your perception.

Abraham Lincoln said, “If we magnified our successes as much as we magnify our disappointments we’d all be much happier.”

“Quiet Strength”

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I find it amazing how quickly the pace of our days and weeks speed by now that we are back to school and fully immersed in school year activities. I can’t believe it is already Friday. Here is a little glimpse of what happened this week…

MONDAY:

On Monday Tyler had his “one on one” time with me. For his time he had two requests. He wanted to set up a Minecraft account and try the mentos in soda trick. He had been saving up birthday money for the Minecraft account. It is an online game that all the boys at co-op are into right now. Rusty bought an account for himself a few months ago and Tyler was eager to be able to play with the big boys too. On Monday, as part of his time, we set up his account.

Tyler enjoying his new game :)

Tyler enjoying his new game 🙂

For the other half of his “one on one” time he wanted to try the mentos experiment that Rusty had told him about. It involves dropping a package of mentos into a bottle of soda. The end result is an impressive geyser of sticky soda. Here Tyler drops the mentos in the soda and runs for it!

Run, Tyler, Run!

Run, Tyler, Run!

Monday I also went out to pick our hot peppers before frost did them in. For two plants we were blessed with an abundance of peppers. I think we will be making hot pepper jelly this weekend. 🙂

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TUESDAY:

On Tuesday night we had someone come in and teach the young women at church the art of face painting. The timing was perfect with Halloween just around the corner and the woman teaching the class did a fantastic job. They will be using their newly learned skills at an upcoming service project. The girls loved it! Grace and Molly came home eager to rethink their Halloween costumes now that they caught a glimpse of all that can be done with face paint.

Molly getting her face painted.

Molly getting her face painted.

Gracie painting her own face.

Gracie painting her own face.

Molly painted a butterfly on my face.

Molly painted a butterfly on my face.

WEDNESDAY:

Wednesday morning we woke up early to get ready to go to our homeschooling co-op and were treated to a spectacular sunrise…

What a way to wake up!

What a way to wake up!

Gracie is taking a digital photography class through school (which she is loving) so she joined me outside with her camera to try to get some good pictures for class.

Miss Grace

Miss Grace

We had a wonderful day at co-op. I continue to be amazed at the growth I have seen in Tyler over the past year. When I compare our co-op experiences last September to this September the difference is astounding. Last year consisted of tears and fighting to get Tyler out the door and then once we arrived it was a battle to get him to go to class. He couldn’t sit still and struggled with retaining anything that was taught. This year he eagerly looks forward to Wednesdays, goes to class without a fight and is actually able to pass his online assessments when we get home. It amazes me the growth that has occurred over the past year. God is good!

Wednesday night was Gracie’s date night. I take one kid with me every Wednesday night to go grocery shopping. This is a treat for them because in addition to getting some undivided attention they also get picking rights for things like cereals and chips. After grocery shopping we go out for an inexpensive dinner where we have the chance to sit and visit. It is an opportunity to hear the whisperings of their hearts. The rule with dinner is that they have $10.00 to spend and it must feed both of us. It is fun to see what the kids do with their $10.00. The girls will sometimes pick someplace nicer, like Applebees, and just get an appetizer to share. Rusty typically picks fast food, orders off the dollar menu, thus leaving enough money to get an icecream cone afterwards. Tyler ALWAYS picks McDonalds and enjoys the treat of being able to order a happy meal. This past Wednesday Gracie picked Subway. We both ordered a sub and enjoyed visiting for a while before we had to head home and put away groceries.

THURSDAY:

Thursday morning we woke with icicles hanging from our noses..ok, not literally… but it was cold. We hadn’t turned on the furnace yet so when the kids crawled out of bed they were all shivering. (I thought it felt wonderful!) Both boys came out wearing their warm robes. They looked so cute I couldn’t help taking a picture.

My cute boys!

My cute boys!

Thursday morning, as part of her morning chores, Molly started dinner in the crock pot. The kids all have a day when they are in charge of dinner..Grace has Monday, Rusty has Tuesday, Tyler has Wednesday, Molly has Thursday, I have Friday and Saturday and Toby makes spaghetti every Sunday. When football season began I found we were having a hard time fitting dinner preparation into the kids schedules between the end of school and the time we needed to leave for football so we switched our meal planning to crockpot only meals. Every Wednesday, before I grocery shop, the kids look through my crockpot cookbooks and pick their meal for the week and then add the ingredients they need to my grocery list. It has worked out so well. They make their dinner in the morning before school and by the time school is done for the day it is cooked and ready to be enjoyed before evening activities. This past week, compliments of the kids, we have enjoyed fajitas, cheesy chicken bake, sweet and sour chicken and corn chowder.

Molly making dinner.

Molly making dinner.

Thursday evening Toby took Tyler to football and I drove Rusty to Taekwondo. This week was the belt presentation ceremony. It was a treat to be able to watch Rusty as he was acknowledged for all his hard work as he received his new belt. He is now a yellow stripe. As his teacher presented him with his new belt she expressed her enjoyment of having Rusty in class and then gave him a nice complement. She said, ” Rusty, you have a strong presence in a quiet way. The world needs more young men like you.” I was touched by her words and found her assessment of Russ to be right on.  He is my quiet one, my introvert. Sometimes he gets lost in the shadows of my more visible, extrovert children so to have his strength and value acknowledged in the presence of his peers was powerful. Rusty is “quiet strength” and I am so proud to be his mom!

Rusty

Rusty

“Raindrops keep falling on my head”

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"Raindrops keep falling on my head"

“Raindrops keep falling on my head”

We enjoyed another weekend packed full of friends, football, and rain…lots and lots of rain. On Friday Rusty was invited to spend the night with friends but before I could take him over we had to take the car in for an oil change. Knowing how long it typically takes the dealership to change our oil I told Rusty that he needed to pack before we left because we probably wouldn’t have time to come back to the house after the oil change. As we were preparing to leave I told Rusty to grab his stuff. He came out of the room carrying a pillow and a sleeping bag and his hand-held video game. When I asked where his bag was he answered, “What bag?”

“The bag with your PJs, change of clothes, toothbrush, toothpaste..” I answered.

He then went on to inform me that you don’t need any of those things for a boy sleepover. He told me that boys don’t wear PJs at a sleepover, they just sleep in their clothes and so there was then no need for a change of clothes for the next day either. “We just wear the same clothes the whole time,” he informed me. 🙂

When I told him he at least needed to grab his toothbrush he told me he didn’t need it because they were going to be eating all night and probably not sleeping.

I found it funny to see how different his packing job was from the girls when they are invited to a slumber party. They pack PJs, their cutest pair of course! They pack their toothbrush and paste, face wash, new clothes, nail polish, moisturizer, hair brushes and bands, pillows, stuffed animals, make-up, board games, CDs…you get the idea. When the girls pack for an over-nighter it looks like they are headed off to college. When Russ packs it looks like he is headed to the mailbox to get the mail. The difference is so funny.

On our way home from dropping Rusty off we stopped at the Dollar Store because Tyler wanted to pick up Rusty’s birthday gift without him around. As we were leaving I ran into a friend who had been on my mind all day. We had a great, albeit quick, visit in the parking lot before I had to get the SUV home to Toby for the evening.

Toby needed the SUV to tow the big trailer. He had ordered the hay we need for the animals this winter and it was ready to be picked up so he and Tyler went to get it. They were gone for a few hours so the girls and I had the house to ourselves Friday night. It was a fun girls’ evening. The girls recently discovered the TV series “Once Upon a Time” on Netflix and have been working their way through season one. Having no boys at home gave them the chance to watch a couple of episodes together.

When the boys arrived home Tyler (and Winnie) found a little friend on the porch. I love Tyler expression in this photo.

When the boys arrived home Tyler (and Winnie) found a little friend on the porch. I love Tyler expression in this photo.

Tyler named him Buster.

Tyler named him Buster.

Saturday morning we woke up to rain. The plans we had for yardwork quickly went out the window. We kept waiting to see if Tyler’s football game would be cancelled but despite the downpours it wasn’t. Earlier in the week we invited Mimi Joy out to watch Tyler play. It probably wasn’t the best week for it. The rain came down steadily during the game and the other team killed ours… but it was still fun.  Tyler was thrilled to have Mimi come out and watch him play.

Tyler playing in the puddles before the game began.

Tyler playing in the puddles before the game began.

The cheering section, led by Mimi Joy :)

The cheering section, led by Mimi Joy 🙂

Gracie, Molly and Rusty

Gracie, Molly and Rusty

After the game Toby headed to work, Mimi left to do her grocery shopping and the kids and I headed home to change into dry clothes. After a warm bath Tyler asked if he could have a cup of Raman noodles. I think the hot soup hit the spot. It served the purpose of warming him up and filling his belly.

After an afternoon of Saturday chores: bedroom cleaning, washing and ironing Sunday outfits, haircuts and nail trimming we had a quick dinner with the boys and then the girls and I headed out to a fun church youth activity.

It was a good weekend…a wet weekend but a good weekend. 🙂

Since Mimi Joy didn’t have the opportunity to see Tyler kick at Saturday’s game I thought I’d include a video from the previous week’s game when we were all a bit drier…

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In a place of grace.

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“Broken things can become blessed things if you let God do the mending”

We go through seasons..smooth seasons, difficult season, seasons of life we would love to go back to and seasons we are glad to be through. The seasons of our lives are determined by so many different factors..our choices, God’s leading, trials, blessings, others’ choices, the fullness of our schedules, children, jobs, our location and our attitudes. Some of those seasons are a delight and some are hard. We have all experienced those hard seasons. Those seasons where you feel as though fate has plotted against you, when everything that could go wrong has, when we struggle to see God, and it is a chore to simply climb out of bed. You what I am talking about..those patches when everything that could breakdown in your home does..all at they same time! When the unexpected news of illness knocks life off its axis, when children pull away and you fear they won’t come back, when everything in your life seems scarce…money, joy, time, blessings, and peace. These seasons are hard and scary and exhausting but  I have found that it has always been during those hard seasons that my greatest growth has come about.

Then there are seasons of grace… seasons of rest…seasons when it is just easy. I think life could be compared to delivering a baby. There are the “contraction” seasons of life when you are “white knuckling” your way through the pain, and then you get a break..that blessed 2-5 minutes of pain-free rest  before another contraction hits. The contractions are important. It is during those hard seasons that progress happens. The pain brings about the end blessing but the break serves an important role too. The break is a time of rest. It serves the point of renewing us. It is our chance to regain our strength and catch our breath before the next wave hits. I find life ebbs and flows in the same fashion. We have the hard seasons that we “white knuckle” our way through. Those are the painful seasons of life when burdens weigh heavy on our shoulders, but it is during those seasons that real progress is made. We grow and learn and get one step closer to rebirth. Then a season of rest follows.

I find myself in a season of rest right now…a place of grace…a place of immunity. Life has become easier. School has never been smoother, Tyler has never been more enjoyable, the big kids are wonderfully independent, and I seem to be blessed with time and energy I haven’t enjoyed in a long time. I can’t put my finger on what has changed.

 Now I’m not saying that life is perfect. I still am correcting Tyler hourly and working to build a stronger bond with him. I am still trying to balance teaching, home chores, schedules and callings but there is a difference. It is as though a blanket of peace has settled on my home and on my heart.  We have just been blessed with a season of ease. I don’t know how long we will enjoy this season of rest before the next contraction hits but I will enjoy it while it last. I will rest my muscles, sip from the cool waters of peace and take a deep breath because although I have no idea when the next wave will hit or what form the next hard season will take, I know it will come. It will come because it must come. The progress that must happen in my eternal progression only comes through the contractions.  So.. I will praise God through the pain when it returns, but in the meantime I will rest and thank God for my season of grace.

Going on a Bear Hunt

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A beautiful day at the zoo!

A beautiful day at the zoo!

Last Friday we went on a field trip. Earlier in the week we had been invited by friends to join them for a day of fun at the zoo to celebrate a birthday. It sounded like a perfect way to end a busy week as well as a good excuse to use our zoo membership so we accepted the invitation for a day of animal filled fun.

We arrived at the zoo around 10:00am and met up with a few other families from our homeschool co-op. It was a perfect day for the zoo. The sun was out and the weather was cool. It felt like fall. There were few people there due to schools just beginning so we really had the place to ourselves.

After everyone arrived my friend who planned the trip surprised the kids with a fun activity. She had made a photo scavenger hunt for them to enjoy. The kids were broken up into teams and given the rules they had to follow: 1. Stick together, 2. No running,  3. For each item on the list they had to have at least one team member in the photo. The kids were excited about the opportunity to go off on their own and explore the zoo without grown-ups slowing them down.

The teams were:

Team A

Team A

Team B

Team B

Tyler and Saga, a friend’s little girl, were on the grown-ups’ team..much to Tyler’s disappointment. He would have loved to join the big kids but he just isn’t old enough so he was stuck with the adults. He was glad he at least had his friend Saga on his team.

Tyler with Miss Wendy seeing how he measures up with a baby Rhino.

Tyler with Miss Wendy seeing how he measures up to a baby Rhino.

The teams took off and we didn’t see them until our planned meeting for lunch at 12:00. It wasn’t until I looked through Gracie’s pictures later that day that I saw what they had been up to for 2 hours.

Here are some of the scavenger hunt clues and the corresponding photos…

CLUE: “They are called black, though they really are more of a gray color. Their eyesight is bad, but their hearing is great!”

A Black Rhino!

A Black Rhino!

CLUE:  “There is only one of these guys at the zoo now, even though he is the most common Ursus species in the world”

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Going on a bear hunt!

CLUE:  “We need a picture of you under the sea- you choose your exact location.”

Rusty..under the sea!

Rusty..under the sea!

CLUE:  “While you are close by  see if you can get a shot of the world’s largest land predator.”

Molly and the polar bear.

Molly and the polar bear.

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CLUE: “Take a turtle ride!”

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Found the turtle!

CLUE:  “These huge water predators are brown and white …walk through their tunnel and have a close encounter.”

Tyler at the Sting Ray tunnel.

Tyler at the Sting Ray tunnel.

We met up for lunch just as the rain began. We found covered picnic tables to eat our lunches and Eli’s birthday treats at. The kids (and Moms) enjoyed visiting while we waited for the rain to stop. We soon realized that the rain wasn’t going to be ending anytime soon so we decided it was a good time to say our “good-byes” and head home.

As we drove home it was fun hearing about everyone’s different zoo experiences during the time we were apart. The big kids loved being able to go exploring on their own and enjoyed the challenge of the scavenger hunt. Even Tyler said he had a good time. It was a fun, new way to see the zoo and I am grateful that we have creative friends with good kids that can make a magical day, like that one, happen for my kids. We are blessed!

Once upon a time…

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“Life itself is the most wonderful fairytale of all.” – Hans Christian Anderson

Every now and then I am nudged awake in the middle of the night..not by a husband trying to gain back control over the blankets or by a child in need of a tuck-in, but by a God who wants to talk. I find when my life gets overly busy and God struggles to be heard over the roar of everyday life He will wake me in the middle of the night for special  “one-on-one time.”   I have learned,   as a parent, the value of making time for that  “one-on-one” focus with each child. By clearing my schedule of everything but what they want to do for their special time I am telling them that they are valuable, that they are important, and that what they have to say matters to me. It matters enough for me to set down my laundry and my dirty dishes and listen. I find when given my undivided attention my children open up and share in a way that they won’t when other siblings are around. I have seen how relationships blossom when we give our undivided time and attention to another which is probably why my Heavenly Father wakes me in the middle of the night to meet Him in the livingroom, in the silence of the darkness, to visit. Sometimes I know why He is calling me to chat but often I don’t. Quite often it isn’t until I am snuggled up on the couch with a hot drink in hand and my scriptures open in front of me that I am told what our meeting is all about. Sometimes it is a chance to work through an issue I’m dealing with or a question I am seeking an answer to. Some times it is instructions..directions for my life. Often it is simply encouragement, a chance for a Father to say,” You are doing just fine. Keep it up.”

It is during those middle of the night rendezvous that I remember..I remember who I am, why I am here, what I am called to do. You see, sometimes we forget. It is as though we are dealing with a sort of fairy tale amnesia..a magic spell placed on us by an evil witch, only it isn’t a witch but a devil who has crashed our story and is determined to make us forget. He wants us to lose sight of our purpose and our path. He whispers lies that make us question our own validity and worth to this story we are living. He tells us that we will never reach the “Happily Ever After” so we might as well quit now. He convinces us that our best isn’t good enough and we don’t deserve the crown we are wearing. In the noisiness of day his is the voice we hear. He speaks to us through the condemning words of others and the voice of self-doubt in our head. We are attacked from every direction by the dragons of fear, jealousy, anger, frustration, pride, and fatigue. In the noisiness of day it can be hard to hear the truth. It is there, always there,  but to hear His truth we must be still and listen.

The truth is found in the story.  We must  choose to climb up on the knee of our Heavenly Father to hear it. We must be quiet enough so that we can hear His words. We must be attentive enough to notice the lesson. The story will be exciting and perhaps a bit frightening. There will be obstacles and adversity, triumph and loss, but as the heroine of your story you get to control how you choose to face those challenges. In the end it is your story and nobody elses. Your fairy tale will appear to be very different from the stories you see playing out around you. Your adversity may take the form of a poison apple while another person’s challenge may come in the form of spinning wheel. Somedays  we may wish for another’s story because it looks so much more appealing than our own but that is only because we haven’t read the whole book. The truth is..the plot is fairly similar in all fairy tales…They all begin with “Once Upon a Time” and they all end with “Happily Ever After.”  It is in the in-between that we experience the good fairies, temptations, evil witches, adversity, and spontaneous singing. 🙂 It is in that in-between that so many get lost. They forget the “Once Upon a time”…they don’t know about the “Happily Ever After” and some don’t even realize they are wearing a crown. It is easy to forget.

That is why my Heavenly Father wakes me up every now and then for a heart to heart chat and a bedtime story…It helps me remember who I am, where I came from, how it will end, and ultimately what really  matters at the heart of this story…

Dieter F Uchtdorf said:

“In stories, as in life, adversity teaches us things that we cannot learn otherwise. Adversity helps us develop a depth of character that comes in no other way. Our loving Heavenly Father has set us in a world filled with challenges and trials so that we, through opposition, can learn wisdom, become stronger, and experience joy.”

Your Once Upon A Time is Now.

 

 

 

“My hair isn’t messy…it’s just erupting with awesomeness!”

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Gracie has spent the week experimenting with some new hair styles. Aunt Kelly told us about a technique that her friend uses to achieve perfect curls so we decided to give it a try. On Saturday night after showering Gracie had me put her hair into little buns all over her head. After sleeping in the buns, and putting up with a small amount of ridicule and moose calls directed at her by her siblings, she finally achieved the results she was hoping for…

The "before" picture.

The “before” picture.

After sleeping with the buns in overnight..what a doll!

After sleeping with the buns in overnight..what a doll!

Tyler has also been playing hairstylist. My girls usually enjoy people playing with their hair but they are less eager to participate when Tyler is the hairstylist. By the time he is done they usually need a bottle of detangler and 2 Tylenol. 🙂

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Tyler’s work

"My hair isn't messy, it's erupting with awesomeness!"

“My hair isn’t messy, it’s erupting with awesomeness!”

One Year Anniversary…Part 2

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A year ago Tyler had just moved in with us. He had only been with us for 24 hours when we packed up a week’s worth of food, clothing, fishing supplies and flotation devices and headed to Sutton Lake, West Virginia. We had planned this vacation months before we even knew about Tyler so when the timing worked out that we would leave for a week…with friends…and be “trapped” together on a floating house…I thought, “This can go one of two ways. Either it will be the best thing in the world for us OR a bloody nightmare.” It was a blessing.

We rented the house boat with another family, dear friends of ours whose children are best buddies with our own. There is always a bit of trepidation about vacationing with friends. You wonder if you will drive eachother crazy and since we were vacationing on a boat there is always the concern that someone will end up being tossed overboard. 🙂 I was especially nervous because I was adding a new kid to the mix, having no idea how he would behave or how he would handle being stuck on a boat all week. I prayed as we drove..prayed and prayed that this trip would be a blessing for all.

When we finally arrived and pulled into the marina the first thing we saw was the beautiful houseboat that would be ours for the week. We admired her from a distance, promising our friends we wouldn’t board the boat until they arrived. When they arrived we were taken on board and given a tour by the rental company. It was better than we even imagined. There were 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, kitchen, livingroom, a deck on top for lounging and a slide that went from the top deck into the water. Each set of parents claimed the “upstairs” bedrooms, Molly and Tatum shared one of the “downstairs” bedrooms and Grace and Olivia shared the other. Rusty and Lucus slept on the pull-out couch in the livingroom and Tyler slept on our floor.

Our houseboat

Our houseboat

Our

Our “home” and “family” for the week!

Grace an Olivia's bedroom.

Grace and Olivia’s bedroom.

After unloading the car we headed out onto the water with an instructor who taught the dads how to drive it while the moms unpacked and put things away. After a small motor boat came to pick up our instructor we were free to take off and explore on our own. The first thing we did was drive around the lake and get our bearings. Sutton Lake is a beautiful lake with few, if any, houses on it. The entire thing is tree-lined and secluded. During our week there we saw very few people.

“Home Sweet Home”

Tyler helping Daddy drive.

Tyler helping Daddy drive.

Beautiful Sutton Lake!

Beautiful Sutton Lake!

Ready to cruise..

Ready to cruise..

After exploring for a bit and getting settled in it was time to swim. We anchored the boat in a beautiful cove and the fun began. The kids loved going down the slide. They added a little dish soap to make the ride down a bit more thrilling! The water was a perfect temperature and there were many natural rocks formations and boulders at the water’s edge perfect for climbing and jumping off. Tyler was a bit nervous at first due to the depth of the water and the new surroundings. The life vest we put on him made him a bit more comfortable but it was still days before he was willing to try the water slide.

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Molly enjoying the waterslide.

Molly enjoying the waterslide.

Bath time!

Bath time!

Our days on the lake were filled with swimming, playing board games, watching movies, reading, scrapbooking and of course fishing. Tyler was introduced to fishing at the beginning of the week and that is all he did all week-long. He would wake up, run to get his pole and stand at the water’s edge all day. The fishing on the lake was a bit disappointing for the dads who were hoping for some big catches but perfect for Tyler, who thanks to a very dumb bluegill, spent much of his time catching the same small fish over and over again. 😉

Tyler fishing in his PJs. :)

Tyler fishing in his PJs. 🙂

Since school began before we left we spent a portion of our mornings doing schoolwork before the kids went out to play. It was fun seeing the kids lounging at the water’s edge reading their History or working on Algebra. One of the school assignments they worked on as a group was reading the novel, Treasure Island. It was a perfect book for our houseboating adventure. Near the end of the week the grown-ups decided to surprise the kids with their own hidden treasure adventure. While they were swimming we threw a treasure map overboard, sealed in a bottle. When the kids discovered what it was they quickly dressed in pirate garb..an impressive display given the fact they only had what was onboard to work with, and headed to shore to find their treasure. After following the map into the woods they discovered the loot, bags of candy. It was a fun way to end the week!

School time!

School time!

“Aaaargh!”

On the final night of vacation we ordered pizza. Yes, we had pizza delivered to the houseboat. We had planned meals out for the week and had a fish fry on the menu for one of those nights…well, the fish didn’t cooperate so we decided rather than leftovers we would surprise the kids with pizza delivery. We knew that at the marina there was a pizza shop that would deliver via motorboat so we ordered a few pizzas. You should have seen their faces when the pizza man pulled up. It was one of those special memory making moments.

Pizza Delivery!

Pizza Delivery!

I worried when we were told that Tyler would be moving in the day before we left on vacation. Through my human eyes it appeared to be horrible timing. “Why couldn’t he move in a week earlier so we have time to adjust or a week later so we are home and in a routine,” I worried…but one lesson I have learned through this adoption journey is “Faith in God includes Faith in His timing.” While the timing of Tyler’s arrival seemed less than ideal at first we soon discovered it was perfect. God knew just what He was doing. Being trapped on a houseboat together served as a catalyst for bonding. There was no place to escape to. We were together 24/7 without the distractions and busyness of home life. There was no phone ringing, no errands to run, just family time. Going with friends only intensified the bonding process because he immediately aligned himself with us. He knew he was part of team McCleery, not the other family. On that trip we had breakthroughs that probably would have come more slowly had we been at home. It was on that trip he began to call us Mommy and Daddy.

Tyler

Tyler

It truly was part of God’s plan. I see that now. The lake, the friends, the boat, the timing…all part of God’s great plan..

One year anniversary…Part 1

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IMG_0533This weekend was the one year anniversary of Tyler moving in. In some ways it is hard to believe a year has passed but in other ways I can’t believe it has only been a year..it feels like he has always been a part of our lives. Last year when I decided to start blogging our journey he had been with us a month already so I thought I’d share with you his first week with us.

Tyler officially moved in on Sept. 7, 2012. His move-in day came after a series of visits. We began with a one hour “get to know you” visit with Tyler and Jay, our adoption placement social worker. The first time Tyler stepped out of the car I was standing across the lawn and I remember thinking how cute his was and how little. His first visit was a quiet one. We took him on a tour of the house, showed him the secret tunnel, the playroom, and the animals outside. You could tell he was nervous. He wouldn’t look us in the eye. He wanted to be outside playing with the animals or watering my garden.

Tyler's first visit to our home.

Tyler’s first visit to our home.

The next time Tyler visited with Jay we drove to a local park so the kids could play. Tyler kept asking Toby to lift him up to the monkey bars. After playing for an hour we drove home so that the kids could “slip and slide” for a little bit before Tyler had to leave for home. During that two-hour visit we could see him becoming more comfortable with us.

Tyler's second visit..

“And then my soul saw you and it kind of went, ‘Oh there you are. I’ve been looking for you.”

Visit #3 was also a two-hour visit with Jay. For this visit we had a special surprise waiting for him when he arrived..a bike just his size. A friend passed onto us a bike that had been her son’s bike so when Tyler arrived he was thrilled to find a bike just his size. He spent the entire visit biking up and down the driveway. All was well until he slid on some gravel and face planted on a large rock. He stood up crying and bleeding and all I could think was, “Thank goodness Jay was here to witness that!” It wouldn’t have been good to send Tyler home with a bloody forehead and an “alibi.”  After Tyler left to go home Toby and I went out shopping for a booster seat for the car and a bike helmet. 🙂

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Tyler’s third visit

After three supervised visits we were finally given permission by the judge to have a weekend visit. We were all excited to get Tyler on our own without a social worker watching us. Tyler was dropped off by a driver after school on Friday and we had a party planned for his birthday. He had turned 6 a few days before so Gracie made him a cake and we bought him a scooter and a playdoh. The scooter was the big hit and he spent the rest of the evening scooting around the house.

Tyler's 6th birthday

Tyler’s 6th birthday

Our weekend visit was filled with many fun activities. We took Tyler to Living Treasures Animal Park to feed and pet the animals. We went swimming at Moraine Lake..this was partly to evaluate his swimming skills before we left the next week on our houseboat vacation (more on that later), and playing at the park. It was a wonderful chance to get to know Tyler a bit more personally without the added pressure of being evaluated my a social worker. When the driver came to pick up Tyler on Sunday it was so hard to say goodbye. I felt our life together had begun and I didn’t want him to leave again. We all stood on the porch and waved goodbye as he headed back to his foster family and then the impact of Tyler’s high energy level and the emotions of the weekend hit all of us. Everyone headed for their separate bedrooms and laid down for a much-needed nap. 🙂

That week we received the confirmation call that we had been approved for placement. We were told he would arrive on Friday and sure enough at 3:00 Friday afternoon our new son was delivered. Tyler showed up at our home with all his earthly possessions: 2 garbage bags of clothing, 2 book bags full of toys and $20.00 in a piggy bank. The kids took Tyler outside to play while I sat down with Jay to sign the paperwork needed to gain guardianship over Tyler. I was then handed his medical card and a copy of his birth certificate and Jay left. We helped Tyler carry his things into his room and put them away..toys in the toybox, clothes in the drawer, Little Ducky and Blankie on the bed. It was official…this was now his home, he was ours.

I remember the intensity of emotions felt that day. I was so full of joy that we had received a son. The adoption process often consists of years of waiting for a placement so we were overwhelmed and grateful for how quickly God brought Tyler into our lives. I was humbled..humbled by the responsibility that had been placed upon our shoulders. When Jay began to drive away I felt a lot like I did as we left the hospital with Grace, shocked that they would trust us to leave unsupervised with a newborn and certain that at any moment they would come to their senses and take her back. 🙂 I also felt fear. Fear was a big part of this adoption journey, I’m not going to lie. It is scary to open your doors to a child you don’t know. When people hear that you are contemplating adoption you will have many “well-meaning” people share horror stories of “a friend of a friend they know” who was set on fire in their bed by an adopted child. You worry about disrupting the calm and order of the life you know. You are fearful of the baggage these kids might come with and whether you have the skills, talents and patience to handle it. You worry about the negative consequences it could have on the lives of your biological children. You know that loving friends and family are whispering words of concern behind your back and some are convinced that you have lost your mind. We, as a family, took a huge leap of faith when God called us to open our home to an orphan but as Max Lucado has said:

“Great acts of faith are seldom born out of calm calculation. It wasn’t logic that caused Moses to lift his staff on the bank of the Red Sea. It wasn’t medical research that caused Naaman to dip seven times in the river. And it wasn’t a confident committee that prayed in a small room in Jerusalem for Peter’s release from prison. It was a fearful, desperate band of backed-into-a-corner believers. It was a church with no options. And they were never stronger. At the beginning of every act of faith there is a seed of fear.”

Stay tuned for “One Year Anniversary Part 2” …our adventures in houseboating! 🙂

First Day of School!

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We have officially entered into the 2013/2014 school year! Monday was a school holiday for all the kiddos so school officially began bright and early Tuesday morning. Tuesday morning I woke early. I sat and enjoyed a mug of peppermint tea and a little solitude before the chaos began. As I sat in livingroom, snuggled under a blanket, with my pile of devotional books, quote books and scriptures beside me I reflected back on this homeschooling journey. This is my 10th “1st day of school” as a homeschooling mom. This isn’t a path I laid out for myself. This is something I was called to. As a mom of babies and toddlers I had a few friends that homeschooled their children and I looked at the path they chose with admiration but not envy. I admired their choice but never thought it would be my choice. When Grace was ready for kindergarten I put her on the bus, like millions of other moms, with mixed emotions. I was so excited for the next phase of our life while still a little sad about leaving the last phase behind. Gracie had a great kindergarten year. We couldn’t have asked for a better teacher, better classroom friends, or a better school experience so I was shocked when I first started feeling God’s pull toward homeschooling. It started as a seed of a thought, quickly followed by fears and uncertainty. I was not at a place physically where it seemed like a logical school choice. I was still battling extreme fatigue and muscle weakness from my Mysathenia Gravis, I still had two little ones at home who were very busy, and life was full…but I couldn’t deny that God was calling… so I answered. I felt completely inadequate for the job, certain that I would fail my child completely. I lived in fear that Gracie would turn 18 and I would suddenly wake up and realize I forgot to teach her cursive writing or some other key skill :). It was with faith I answered God’s call. I knew I didn’t have all the talents and skills and knowledge I needed to succeed… but I knew He did. I often whispered to myself through my uncertainty, “God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies those He calls.”

Let year #10 begin!

Tuesday morning the kids woke to new school supplies on their placemats at breakfast. What is it about new crayons and paper that is so thrilling? I don’t know but to this day I still get a thrill over an unused box of crayons. 🙂

New school supplies!

New school supplies!

Our first day of school was a success. It helped that the girls had already been following their schedule for a week so I could focus on getting the boys familiar with their new routine. We are still waiting for the boys’ materials to come from the school so we did a lot of supplemental work this week. Tyler did very well. I am amazed the difference a year makes in his ability to sit still and focus. He is still my little Mexican jumping bean but he at least bounces in his seat now, rather than around the room.

In addition to school  work Molly has been working on a service project for her Personal Progress goal program. She has been making newborn baby hats that she is planning on donating to a local hospital. She has really enjoyed the project and has completed eight so far this week.

Molly making hats..

Molly making hats..

On Tuesday night we took Tyler to football practice where we waited for Toby to get off work so we could leave for activities at church. While we were at the field a small 8 week old puppy came running up to Rusty and jumped in his lap. The owner asked if he would puppysit while she ran to the bathroom. Rusty readily agreed and enjoyed a little “puppy time” before she returned.

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At church on Tuesday we played Cash Cab. This was based on the TV game show where people are randomly picked up by a cab in New York City only to discover they are on a trivia game show. They then have the chance to earn money while they travel to their destination. We played it by breaking our girls up in teams and having them hop into our “cabs.” As we drove around town the girls were asked scripture questions and had the chance to earn Monopoly money for correct answers. When we returned to church they were able to shop at the Cash Cab Store. It was a fun activity and seemed to be a hit with the girls.

Our Cash Cab Store!

Our Cash Cab Store!

Wednesday morning the kids woke early with an extra bounce in their step because it was the first day of co-op. They couldn’t wait to get there and see all their friends. Before we left we did first day of school pictures in front of the chalkboard outside. I had them write their name and grade and then pose for a picture.

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It is funny how God’s plan reveals itself over time. When this journey began I didn’t know why we were being called to home school our children but as the years passed some of those reasons began to reveal themselves. In early elementary school both girls were diagnosed with Dyslexia. Rusty, as a young boy, had to work through his challenges with Selective Mutism and then Tyler came into our lives with his own set of challenges..all of which we were better able to manage in the home environment. This school choice has brought great blessings. We have met friends we would have never met otherwise, seen and done things that we would have never had the opportunity to do, and built relationships with each other that have come from time spent together. I am grateful for this path we have taken but I am not saying it is the path everyone should take. God calls each of us to different ministries…He asks us to all travel different roads which is probably a blessing. I can’t imagine the traffic if we were all walking the same road! 🙂

I had an experience recently where a seemingly well-intentioned person asked me when I was going to put my kids back in school and then implied I was being selfish by keeping them home. A few years ago a comment like that would have stung, would have made me doubt my path, would have made me lash back defensively but I just smiled. I have become more confident in my abilities as a teacher as the years have passed, and more importantly my testimony of the importance of being obedient to God’s call has grown. I realize that the more confident I am with the path I am on the less I need others to approve of it. Perhaps we all need to spend less time questioning the paths those around us have taken and instead focus on what path God is asking us to walk. So whether you are being called to school your children at home or put them on the bus I hope your first week back has been a blessed one!