Monthly Archives: May 2014

Puppy Love

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We are proud to introduce you to our newest addition at Patchwork Farm…

 Ellie May

Born March 20, 2014

Adopted May 28, 2014

Ellie is a Ba-shar puppy.

Her mother is a Basset Hound and her father is a Shar-pei.

(That is… her biological parents, not her adoptive)  😉

Now, brace yourself for cuteness overload…

Meet Ellie May:

 

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The road less traveled

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 Jim Fisher has been quoted as saying:

“Not a moment of life is wasted on a farm. Others have been more places but none have out lived me.”

Recently one of the government employees in charge of Ozzie’s care and well-being asked us to justify our life style choice and explain why we felt growing up in the country was the best life choice for Ozzie. The words were spoken with obvious disdain by someone who was more familiar and comfortable with city life than life on a farm. It saddens me when people, who have little understanding of our lifestyle, pass judgment on it.  Whether we are addressing the fact that we home school, have adopted, live without cable, raise animals, don’t buy our children cell phones, or expect our children to participate in the well-being of our family unit through daily chores; there are always some that express the feelings that we are somehow doing our children a disservice by not buying into the world’s definition of what a happy childhood looks like.

We have chosen to take the road less traveled.

It has been expressed by others that our lifestyle choice is a selfish one, and that our children are missing out…on what, I’m not sure…but here are some of the great blessings that have come from this life we have been blessed with…

My children have known the joy of holding a baby animal, just minutes old, as well as the profound experience of holding an animal as it takes its last breath.

My children have come to understand that their food doesn’t just come from a supermarket shelf but from the sweat and labor of hard work.

My children have felt the earth between their toes and dirt beneath their nails as they have planted seeds in the ground.

They have experienced the faith of waiting on a seed to sprout and the labor of caring for and reaping the benefits of a garden.

My children have created life long, belly-laugh memories as they have chased goats off the roof and pigs off the highway.

My children have eaten eggs, hours old, and fudge made from the goat’s milk they collected themselves.

My children have experienced the childhood magic of laying under the stars, building tree houses, splashing in creeks, and catching frogs.

They have learned the lessons of hard work and diligence. They have split wood, stacked logs and raked hay.

My children have chores.

They wash clothes, cook meals, tend animals, and clean up their messes. We don’t give our children chores because we hate them or because we are too lazy to do it ourselves. We give our children chores so that they can experience the satisfaction of a job well done.

My children have been told “No” and have experienced the disappointment of not getting what they want…not because we love to disappoint them but because we are training them to be grateful rather than entitled.

My children have learned, through opportunities to serve, that the greatest joy in life comes from thinking of others before yourself.

My home is not perfect. It is often dirty, noisy, and smells of animals.

My children, also, are often dirty, noisy and smell of animals. 🙂

But, they are happy

and they are kind.

My life is not perfect or pristine. Perhaps in the eyes of the world this life I choose to live is less than ideal,

but I have seen great blessings come from this life I have chosen and this life we have chosen to give our children.

Molly and Pop pop

Molly and Pop pop

On Saturday we went to visit our second favorite farm, The Homestead. We traveled out to Ohio to spend the day with my parents and celebrate a belated Mother’s Day with my mom. It was a picture perfect day. The sun was shining and the temperature was ideal. When we arrived the kids headed to the barn right away to see the animals. Ozzie was eager to say hello to George, the donkey, and the other kids couldn’t wait to hold the two chicks that had just hatched.

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George and Grace

George and Grace

After some fun on the farm we all hopped in the car and drove over to one of our favorite places in Amish Country…

Hershberger’s Farm and Bakery.

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It is a neat Amish store that sells local wares, homemade baked goods, as well as farm animals. When you pull up the first thing you see are goats on the barn roof. (Unlike our goats, they are supposed to be there.) There is a set of stairs for them to climb up on. A pulley system is set up so that you can buy ice cream cones full of feed and send them up onto the roof. Inside the barn there are animals to pet and buy. There are goats, chickens, pigs, sheep, rabbits, ducks and puppies. We enjoy visiting Hershberger’s any time of the year but it is especially fun in the spring with all of the baby animals.

Tyler and a baby lamb.

Tyler and a baby lamb.

Rusty and a baby goat

Rusty and a baby goat

One of the most impressive animals at Hershberger’s Farm is Big Ben, the huge Belgian horse that lives there. He is the biggest horse in Holmes County. He measures 19H 3″ tall and 3,006 lb. He is quite the site to see!

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After having our fill of baby animal snuggles we headed next door to the bakery to enjoy a Holmes County delicacy- fry pies. Fry pies are pockets of delicious goodness: a fried, glazed pastry filled with various pie fillings. My parents treated us all to one. The kids had fun choosing their flavor and then tasting each other’s choices. We sat in the shade visiting and watching two baby horses play in the field across the street while we enjoyed our treat.

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We spent the remainder of our day together enjoying fried chicken for lunch, playing games in the yard, and catching up. It was  a wonderful day.

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Perhaps one of the greatest occupational hazards of being human is our propensity to judge each other’s life choices.

Bottle feed or Breast feed

Public school or Home school

City life or Country life

Big family or Small Family

College education or Learn a trade

Working mom or Stay-at-home mom

Whatever the issue, whatever the choice, there seems to be a passionate defense launched by both sides.

I suppose the lesson in all of this is that…

“Sometimes the people around you won’t understand your journey

but that is OK,

it’s not their journey to understand.”

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“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

– Robert Frost

Spring Formal

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“Cinderella is proof that a new pair of shoes can change a girl’s life.”

Friday was the Spring Formal church dance. Grace attended last year with her friend, Olivia, and had a blast. She was eagerly looking forward to attending again.  This year Molly was old enough to attend as well so on Friday the girls prepared for a fun night of friends, food, and dancing.

Gracie’s friend, Olivia,  came over early so that the girls could get ready together. Olivia’s sister also came over to play dress-up even though she wasn’t old enough to attend the dance this year.

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Wanting to make it special, Olivia’s mom and I  prepared “spa food.” We had fruit, sparkling cider, cheese and crackers and cucumber sandwiches for the girls to enjoy while we did make-overs and curled hair.

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Miss Lana also made each of the girls a “Dance Survival Kit” to take to Spring Formal.

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After they were all ready to go we did a mini “photo shoot.” They girls all looked beautiful. The fun the girls had dolling up and getting their pictures taken proved that Kate Spade was right when she said:

“Playing dress-up begins at age five and never truly ends.”

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Best Buddies

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Whatever you do, don’t call Gracie “short!” 🙂

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Sister giggles

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Gracie’s flowing, floor length dress made her look like she stepped off the set of  Downton Abbey.

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Miss Molly

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It was time for the dance!

After we were done with photos it was time to drive to the dance. It was being held at the Twentieth Century Club in downtown Pittsburgh. The Twentieth Century Club is a beautiful, turn of the century building that made for a magical venue to hold Spring Formal. After parking we quickly met up with kids from church and made our way into the dance. The girls found a table to drop their purse and supplies at and headed onto the dance floor where they enjoyed three hours of dancing with old friends they knew and new friends they made.

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Keeping their heels, heads and standards high!

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A beautiful night!

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Yes, Molly, I will be showing this photo to your father..

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These beauties prove that…

“Being yourself is the prettiest thing you can be.”

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The dance was fun but now is done.

It is midnight, Cinderella… time to go home. 🙂

Date Night

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We started a tradition a few years ago. It was a tradition that evolved from a problem that needed to be solved. Prior to Tyler joining our family Toby and I had date night every Thursday evening. It started when Gracie turned 12. She was allowed to begin babysitting and we no longer had to pay a sitter.  It was our chance to run our errands, grocery shop for the week and have a dinner date. It was a perfect way to “kill two birds with one stone” so to speak. We had uninterrupted time together and it made grocery shopping something to look forward to rather than something I dreaded doing.

When Tyler moved in we were no longer able to go out on our date night since Gracie wasn’t allowed to watch him (as a foster kid) so our date night became a “movie in bed” date night and I was back to grocery shopping on my own. One day I realized I was wasting an opportunity to have one-on-one time with the kids and started taking one of them with me on Wednesday nights when I shopped and thus was born- “Date night with Mom.”

The kids get their date night every 5 weeks. The cycle begins with Grace and goes oldest to youngest. Date night typically consists of my helper helping me fill the gas tank, clean out the car, grocery shop and run any extra errands that pertain to them and their most pressing needs. It is on their date night that we tackle shoe shopping, trying on swim suits, getting a haircut, etc. I find if we do these tasks (that are needed but that I often dread dealing with) when it is just the two of us it can be a lot of fun…much more fun than trying on shoes with 5 kids! Our date night also affords us the additional benefit of getting to have open heart to heart talks about the things they have been thinking/worrying/dreaming about. The kids talk openly and share in a different way than they do at home with siblings nearby.

The kids look forward to their date night and often give their restaurant and their shopping list a lot of thought in the weeks prior to their date. The benefit of being Mom’s shopping helper is the child on date night gets to make grocery decisions like what cereal our family will be eating that week, our Family Night treat and what fruits we will buy. So the benefit of date night lasts all week-long as they enjoy their food and drink  preferences.

Last night was Ozzie’s date night. Our first stop was to get his hair cut. Although he really didn’t care for the haircutting he did love the shampooing. At first I thought he was excited to get his hair cut because of the novelty of the experience,  the sweet-smelling shampoo, or just the sensation of having his hair washed (I know that is always my favorite part!) but it wasn’t until he jumped down from the wash sink seat that I realized the real reason he wanted it washed.

“Now I don’t have to take a bath for three days..Woo Woo!!” he yelled as he skipped by me.

“How do you figure that?” I asked

He looked at me with his exasperated 16-year-old girl look and said, pointing at his head, “I have shampoo in here.”

To which I explained, “Unless you had your whole body washed in the hair sink you will still need a bath.” 🙂

As the lady cut Ozzie’s hair she visited with him and asked him questions. At one point she asked him where he got his beautiful blue eyes from. He answered, “I was born with them.”

She smiled and said, “I bet you got them from your Mom. You look just like her.”

Ozzie quickly corrected her, “Oh, my mom didn’t born me.” Then with typical Ozzie enthusiasm he declared, “But she’s adopting me!”

I was thinking about her comment and Ozzie’s response after the fact and it brought to mind a quote I found online a few days ago:

Our skin doesn’t match. You don’t have my eyes or mouth, and our faces aren’t the same shape. I don’t know what it is like to look at you and catch a glimpse of myself as a child. What I see in you is far more beautiful than that. When I look at you I see the hand of God in my life.”       – Christy Wagner

What a beautiful gift it is to look into my son’s eyes and see God’s hand.

After we finished shopping we headed to Pizza Hut for dinner. This was Ozzie’s choice. The kids get to pick where they want to go for dinner. The only rule is that they have to feed both of us for $10. At Pizza Hut we ordered the dinner box which included a medium pizza (Ozzie chose mushroom pizza), 5 bread sticks, and 10 cinnamon sticks for $9.99. As we waited for our food to be brought out we played the “get to know you” game and took turns asking each other questions.

Here are some of the things I learned about my son last night.

All about Ozzie 101

His favorite color: Blue

His favorite food: Pizza

His favorite candy: Rainbow Nerds

His favorite thing to read about: Weather

His favorite drink: Orange Juice

His favorite holiday: Christmas, because we celebrate Jesus’ birth

What he wants to be when he grows up: A construction worker who drives big machines

His best talent: Magic (making balls disappear)

His favorite thing about school: Lunch

If he could change one thing about himself: He wishes he were taller (95 feet tall to be exact)

His favorite movie: Cars or The Lego Movie

His greatest fear: Thunderstorms

The 3 things he would take to a deserted island: Big screen TV, video games, and a missile

If he could go back in time to any time in history he would choose: 1981 (because he always wanted to live a long time ago)

My final question was:

“What is the best thing that has ever happened to you?”

He replied,

“Having you guys adopt me and be my family forever.”

As I knelt beside my bed last night I thanked God for my many blessings

especially this little blue-eyed boy

who helps me to see more clearly

the hand of God in my life.

The final stretch

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School is coming to a close and we are in the final stretch. I am amazed that we are down to our last 7 days. I’m not sure where the school year went. With the end of the school comes end of the year activities and this past week we have been busy with many of them. I have struggled to find time to sit and reflect (or write) about all the blessings from this last week so here we go…

our week in review..

Last Wednesday we had our end of the year picnic with our home school co-op. The emotions of that day were mixed as we said good-bye to friends that were moving and friends we wouldn’t see for a while. It was an opportunity to celebrate another successful year of schooling together as well as celebrate the upcoming summer break that we moms stand in need of.

The picnic was a pot-luck and the kids had fun eating and playing together while the moms had an opportunity to laugh and visit with each other.

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On Friday morning Ozzie and I had a date. He invited me to his school’s Mother’s Day breakfast. He was shaking with excitement as we drove to the school for donuts and O.J. When we arrived he eagerly introduced me to his friends and brought me a donut and juice carton. He couldn’t wait for me to try the orange juice. “It is the best orange juice you’ll ever taste,” he informed me. The O.J. was tasty but the company is what really made my day. 🙂

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Friday night was the annual Father/Son campout with our church. The boys were all excited but none more than Ozzie who had never been camping before. He was excited to sleep in a tent and begged to have the outside edge. While the boys had their outing the girls enjoyed a night of shopping and girl time. The girls have a dance coming up on Friday so they requested that we go dress shopping. I asked them where they wanted to go first and they suggested Salvation Army. It was their plan to start with the least expensive store first and then work their way up to more costly stores if they couldn’t find what they were looking for. Well, we hit the jackpot at our first stop. They both found modest, lovely dresses in their sizes as well as shoes to match. Both girls were thrilled with their purchases and each spent under $25.00 for the total look.

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After shopping we decided to use a gift card I received for Christmas and go out for a fun dinner at Red Lobster. We splurged, since it was just the three of us, and ordered fancy drinks and an appetizer as well. After a delicious dinner we went home, piled in my bed, and had a Downton Abbey marathon. It was a perfect night with my two favorite girls!

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On Saturday Toby, who is a member of the Beaver County Metal Detecting Club, had his bi-annual hunt. The hunt lasted a few hours and he came home with many coins and prizes. He was thrilled with all he found. When he got home the little boys sorted through his loot and counted his change.

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Saturday evening was spent with family as we celebrated the birthday of one of our favorite relatives, Aunt Beth. It was a surprise party at Lonestar restaurant. Everyone had a great time and the steaks were delicious. I was especially proud of Tyler and Ozzie who sat so well through dinner and were very well-behaved. It was a perfect end to a week of blessings.

 

Happy Mother’s Day

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The kids woke me up with Mother's Day surprises.

The kids woke me up with Mother’s Day surprises and breakfast in bed.

Sometimes my heart aches. It is not an ache of sadness but an ache that comes from intense love. Sometimes in the midst of living life I catch a glimpse of one of my blessings racing past me on their way to the next task or adventure and my heart catches in my chest. Sometimes it is a look across a room or a moment of catching them in an act of kindness.  It can be a word whispered, a quick embrace, or the dirty boy smell I breathe in as I kiss their heads. Sometimes the heart pull comes just from the thought of them as I reflect on the blessing of being called, “Momma.” My heart hurts when I consider the enormous blessings my Father in Heaven has gifted me with. I am humbled that He has entrusted such gems to me when I am so unworthy of the task. My heart is full, so full of love, for the 5 treasures who have come into my life by different paths but have all found a place in this Momma’s heart. The love and gratitude I feel is overwhelming and it sometimes makes my heart feel to big for my chest. I am profoundly humbled as I sit and ponder on the blessings of the life I have been given and the blessings of this day.

Gracie's gift to me.

Gracie’s gift to me.

There was a time in my life when I had no desire to be a Momma and felt children would simply be a hindrance in my grand plans to change the world. I had a change of heart as I felt God’s call. I married and soon gave birth to Grace. My heart began to hurt and I understood the feeling described by Elizabeth Stone when she said, “The decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” I had little understanding of the heart’s capacity for love until I held Gracie in my arms.

Then came the decision to grow our family and give Grace a sibling. I remember the very real fears I struggled with as I carried Molly within me, fears that my heart lacked the capacity to love another as I loved my first. It is silly, really, as I look back on the fears I battled during that pregnancy. I know now of the heart’s great ability to stretch and grow and no sooner had I held Molly in my arms, my heart doubled in size.

It was not soon after that we found out we were pregnant with baby #3. We soon found out that I was carrying a boy. Well, that brought its own set of fears. I was a “girls” mom. I didn’t know what I was going to do with a dirty, noisy, busy, bouncing boy. I feared I would never be able to connect and bond with him like I had with the girls. “I have nothing in common with little boys,” I expressed to Toby. Then Rusty was born. I held him and kissed the rolls at the back of his neck and my heart doubled in size again. I discovered the magical love that grows between a Momma and her son.

Tyler's card and his picture of him and I.

Tyler’s card and his picture of us holding hands.

My heart was full. Due to a diagnosis of Myasthenia Gravis we knew that we couldn’t have anymore babies and so I loved on the blessings I had. My heart was filled and our life was good. The kids grew and the challenges of the early years of parenting were waning and then God whispered. God whispered his plan to grow our family again and although we were fearful of the road we were being asked to walk down we stepped forward in faith. Like each of our pregnancies we rode the rollercoaster of emotions. We were excited and anxious and impatient to meet our new child but also fearful of all the unknowns that come from a life altering change. I worried that I wouldn’t bond with another woman’s child. I worried that I was somehow hurting the children we had. I feared that it wouldn’t work, that the child wouldn’t “fit” or that I wouldn’t love him like I loved my own… and then we met Tyler. He stepped out of the car for his first visit, a little sullen boy with baby fat cheeks and big brown eyes, and I was in love. My heart doubled in size.

Ozzie made me a clay flower.

Ozzie made me a clay flower.

The next year was challenging, and tiring, and hard. There were days I wanted to throw in the towel or just run away but then God would give me a moment of clarity. It would come unexpectedly in the form of a look or a word or a touch and my heart would ache and I would be reminded of the intensity of love I felt for a child born to another mother. The adoption was finalized, he took our name, and things were easier. Then God whispered again. This time he called us to open our home to child who needed a place to go for Christmas. We opened our doors having no idea we would be opening our hearts to child #5. Then we met him. His love for life was contagious and we were charmed by this little 9-year-old boy with glasses and a chipped tooth smile. When we got the call asking us if we wanted to move forward with adopting Ozzie we had already fallen in love and my heart doubled in size once more.

There was a time in my life that I questioned my heart’s capacity for love, but this is what I have learned over the years: The heart muscle has great pliability and the more you stretch it the bigger it grows…

which isn’t to say that it doesn’t ache every now and then. 🙂

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Flowers for Mother’s Day!

 

 

To everything there is a season.

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 Recently I had an interesting discussion with my mom. We were talking about the seasons of life. She was talking about the sweetness she and my father have found in the retirement season of their life. She compared it to the month of October. Life is a bit calmer. The craziness of September has past. That season of transition when you are juggling the busyness of two seasons is over and they can enjoy the beauty of “fall.” The work of relocating, resituating and adjusting are over and now they can sit back and enjoy the harvest of their life’s work. October is a beautiful season to be in.

I, on the other hand, am in the summer of my life. My mother described my life season as the middle of summer. I am in July. With the summer season comes the busyness of sowing and tending and weeding and watering my children’s futures. It is an active time of life. There are always chores to be done and things to be cared for. It is the season of long days and short nights but July is also a season of fun. It is a season of noise, and chaos, and trips and adventures. Life is never slow, never dull, and never ever boring. Sometimes in the midst of summer adventures we crave the calm emergence of spring or the rest that comes with winter. It in those moments we need to stop and take notice of the blessings that come with our current season of life. Seasons come and seasons go and with that cycle comes beautiful moments. We must embrace the season we are currently experiencing, recognizing that all too soon this season will pass and be just a memory. So as we enter this actual Summer season I vow to better embrace and enjoy this season of my life. I will embrace the noise, the mess, the corrections and the hugs, the teaching and training and playing and growing that happens under the summer sun because this is the season of my life and life is simply too short to waste the magical moments of today longing for the days of yesteryear or wishing for the seasons of tomorrow.

Yesterday I received a card in the mail from my mother. It was a Mother’s Day card from her to me expressing her love and wishing me a special day. In it she shared this sage advice:

“Enjoy these frantic years. They are crazy but you will look back on them with great fondness…and smile.”

My mother is a very wise woman so I think I’ll take her advice.

Here is some of our seasonal craziness…

Ozzie enjoying a warm summer shower in May.

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 We are in the midst of spring soccer and Tyler is loving it. Today was an especially exciting game for his team as they won 19-0. Go Tyler!

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 His favorite position to play is goalie.

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 This is how Rusty and Ozzie spend their time at Tyler’s game…reading side by side and occasionally looking up when the crowds cheer.

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 At our homeschool co-op we have monthly service projects for the kids to participate in. The final service project of the year was a bake sale to raise money for the Make a Wish foundation. The kids all made baked goods to sell and then shopped for each other’s goodies to raise money for this wonderful organization.

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 Ozzie had a big assignment due for school last week. He had to make a 3D map of the United States. We decided to have everyone participate and make their own maps and label them. The kids loved working with the salt dough.

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 The kids are thrilled to now have a piano to practice on instead of the organ, which they have been learning on up until this point. A few years ago we received a free hand me down organ which has served us wonderfully as the kids have begun piano lessons. They have now reached a point, however, that the pieces they are learning require an actual piano so we were thrilled when a customer of Toby’s approached us about bartering a piano she had for labor on some projects she wanted to hire Toby for. The kids have loved trying out their piano pieces on the new (old) piano.

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 This week was teacher appreciation week and although we school most of our children at home through cyber charter schools they still have teachers that oversee their work. The kids decided they wanted to surprise their teachers (who work out of offices across the state) with a special “thank you” so we filled empty 2L bottles with 100 grand bars and mailed them as is with a note expressing our gratitude and our feelings that they were valued far above 100 grand.

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 We are so grateful to have such wonderful teachers partnering with us as we educate our kiddos!

The finished product!

The finished product!

The last big event this week was the advancement of Rusty in Taekwondo. He has advanced from yellow stripe to orange belt. Yea Rusty!!  At the belt presentation ceremony Ozzie couldn’t contain himself and in the midst of a very quiet/serious moment Ozzie jumped to his feet, clapping for all his worth and shouting, “I am so proud of you Rusty!!” It made the celebration even sweeter. 🙂

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 “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” – Ecclesiastes 3:1

A peek into his past…

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“A child born to another woman calls me Mom. The depth of the tragedy and the magnitude of the privilege are not lost on me.” – Jody Landers

I am often reminded of the truth of these words as I parent my two youngest children. These two blessings came to me as a result of God’s grace but through great tragedy. These two little boys who have brought our family such joy and completion had to experience the heartbreak of a broken home and lost family to get to our doorstep. The realization of all they went through, as well as the heartbreak their biological mothers went through, weigh heavy on my heart as we head into the week of Mother’s day.

These little boys have experienced more tragedy in their short lives than most of us will have to shoulder over the course of our lifetime and one of the greatest losses they shoulder is the loss of their biological family. When I stop to imagine the emotional pain I would feel to have someone come to my house unexpectedly, take me away from all I know…my family, my bedroom, my pets…and to be told I will never see them again, well, it simply takes my breath away. I can’t imagine the pain of that loss. And then to be placed in a system that promises hope…a new forever family, a new Mommy and Daddy, a new life…only to have it fail again and again until there is no trust and no security… My boys needed to be removed from their biological homes but the tragedy of that loss still breaks my heart.

These thoughts have been swirling around in my head as a result of my one-on-one time with Ozzie the other day. For his special time he wanted to play around on Google maps. Ozzie loves maps and will often take our road atlas to bed for nighttime reading. 🙂 As I sat with him he asked me if I wanted to see all the homes he used to live at. (It amazes me that he remembers the addresses of all his previous homes!) Being new to Google maps I didn’t realize that you could see the street views of different addresses. As he moved down different streets it was as if you were virtually “driving” and could see the homes and roads just as they look.

The first address he typed in was the address of his biological parents. As he “drove” up their road he pointed out the friend’s house he used to play at, the playground where he rode his scooter, his grandma’s home where he would spend the night. We were then at his home. We could see his old jeep parked in front and he pointed out the window to his bedroom. As we looked at his home he told me the stories of his life there. The good, wonderful memories he has of that chapter of his life as well as the tragic ones. It was surreal to be looking into the windows of his past and the reality of all he has lost hit me. Seeing it made it real and as much as I would love to close my eyes to the life my sons had before they joined our family, it is there, forever. It is part of who they are and who they will always be.

Compounding the emotions I felt after my time with Ozzie was another experience over the weekend. We were invited to Zoey’s (Ozzie’s biological sister) 9th birthday. The kids were all excited because it was a roller skating party, but nobody was more excited that Ozzie. He adores Zoey and struggles with the fact that they can’t live together.

As we arrived at the party we were introduced to Zoey’s new family, the family that will be adopting her. We had met her mom many times before but at the party we had the opportunity to meet her cousins, aunts and uncles, sister and grandma. As introductions were made another realization hit me as I recognized the relationship I would now have with these people who were virtual strangers to me minutes before. By adopting siblings our lives are forever tied together. Our futures have been merged as a result of another woman’s tragedy. There will be graduations, weddings, baby showers…and in the same way I am forever tied to the families of Tyler’s biological siblings I am tied to Zoey’s. Through the tragedy of a broken family love grows, families grow, and people are united for the sake of a child. It is a beautiful blessing that comes from a tragic situation.

At Zoey’s party I also had the unexpected privilege of meeting one of Ozzie’s previous foster moms. Michele, Ozzie’s first foster mom, was invited to the party as a result of Zoey’s friendship with her daughter. I felt like I had met an old friend as I visited with her and watched as she laughed and cried and embraced my son. Here, once again, was another woman my son had called “Mommy.”  Here was another woman who played a role in his past. Here was a woman who bathed him, put band aids on his cuts, and taught him to read. Here was another mother who experienced the joys and frustrations of being Ozzie’s mom and here was another mother that Ozzie lost. The kids were with Michele for two years. She thought she was going to adopt them. She expressed to me that of all the foster kids she had (She has been a foster mom for 30 years) that these were the ones she loved the most…these were the ones she spent her nights wondering and worrying about. What an amazing gift we all experienced in getting to connect. I was able to hug and thank the woman who loved and cared for my son at a time in his life he most needed it most and she was able to experience the peace of knowing that the kids are well and happy and where they are meant to be.

It was such a special day and a reminder of the great blessings that come from tragic circumstances. God has the power and infinite love to take what is hopeless and create beautiful lives from broken ones.

The kids all ready to skate!

The kids all ready to skate!

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The Chicken Dance!

The Chicken Dance!

Zoey and her foster family- ready to blow out her candle :)

Zoey and her foster family- ready to blow out her candle 🙂

Ozzie was as excited as Zoey :)

Ozzie was as excited as Zoey 🙂

Sibling love!

Sibling love!

As I look back on my life, Toby’s life, and the lives of all my children I see God’s hand in each of their lives. I see His hand in the choices we have made, the obstacles that detoured us down different paths, the people who have entered our lives during different seasons, as well as the timing of life events. It was all part of God’s plan from the beginning so that we could look back in awe at His goodness and grace.

“Your journey has molded you for your greater good, and it was exactly what it needed to be. Don’t think that you’ve lost time. It took each and every situation that you have encountered to bring you to the now. And now is right on time.” – Asha Tyson

 

Kalahari Adventure

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How blessed I am…my heart overfloweth!

 Woo hoo…Kalahari time! For the past three years we have had the opportunity to join a group of friends for an amazing getaway at Kalahari Indoor Water Park. A former co-op mom organizes the getaway for her church each year and we are able to tag along and enjoy the group discount. It is something the kids look forward to each year and this year was no exception.  The kids began planning and preparing for it weeks beforehand, knowing the fun that was in store. Ozzie, who had never been there before, could only dream of the fun that awaited him.
On Tuesday morning we left after breakfast to drive the 2 1/2 hours to Sandusky, Ohio where the resort is located. When we arrived Ozzie was in awe of the lobby and all there was to look at. It is a beautiful resort that makes you feel as though you have stepped into another world. The kids looked around the lobby, as Toby checked us in, and they could be heard squealing with delight when they saw a six-week-old lion cub that was sleeping in the hotel lobby.

We arrive for 2 days of fun!

We arrive for 2 days of fun!

After checking in we headed to our rooms…yes, plural. We have finally outgrown a single hotel room. It is funny as we look back on our last three years of visiting Kalahari…year 1 we came with 5 people, year 2 we grew to 6, and this year we were a family of 7. This growth required a boys’ room and a girls’ room and yes I definitely got the better end of that deal. Poor Toby 🙂

Girls' room!!

Girls’ room!!

After checking out our rooms (the little boys were amazed by the peep holes in the door) and changing into our swimsuits we headed down to the water park. It was so nice to have the water park in the hotel itself because we could just walk through the hotel in our swimsuits without having to change in the locker rooms. Here the boys wait in the hallway for their sisters to finish changing.

I don't think Ozzie appreciates being used as an arm rest. :)

I don’t think Ozzie appreciated being used as an arm rest. 🙂

Once we arrived downstairs we found our spot with the other co-op families and the fun began. The girls spent most of their day riding with friends and occasionally checking in while Toby and I took turns walking the boys around. Toby and Tyler rode all of the big water slides together while my two more cautious boys enjoyed the water play area, hot tub, lazy river and wave pool with their less daring Momma.

Toby riding one of the more adventurous slides.

Toby riding one of the more adventurous slides.

Waiting for the water to fall at the water play area.

Waiting for the water to fall at the water play area.

The girls checking in for a moment before running off again.

The girls checking in for a moment before running off again.

After swimming all day we met up with our friends in a quiet corner lobby for a pizza party. We ordered 13 pizzas and the moms brought salad, drinks, fruit, chips and treats to share with the group. The kids had a blast eating and playing games with their friends while the adults visited.

Pizza for 35!

Pizza for 35!

The kids used the unused luggage carts for tables.

The kids used the unused luggage carts for tables.

We headed back upstairs around 9:30 pm to get ready for bed. All the kids were worn out after a full day of swimming and climbing the stairs up to the water slides. The little boys climbed in bed right away but struggled to fall asleep due to an impressive thunderstorm raging outside. The girls in my room, however, had no problems falling asleep and lights were out soon after 10:00pm.

In the morning we joined up with some of the other families for breakfast at Steak n’ Shake restaurant before heading back to the water park for a full day of play.

Breakfast at Steak n' Shake.

Breakfast at Steak n’ Shake.

Ozzie enjoying breakfast.

Ozzie enjoying breakfast.

Day two was spent enjoying all the fun things that were tried on day one as well as braving some new water activities. Ozzie decided to try surfing and did amazingly well considering how small and lightweight he is.

Surfing Oz

Surfing Oz

 One ride ALL the boys enjoyed was The Cheetah Racers. The boys loved being able to race each other down the slides and spent a good deal of their day doing just that.

Tyler won that round...

Tyler won that round…

The boys :)

The boys  🙂

We stayed until dinner, enjoying our vacation as long as we could, before we had to head home and face the reality of school, appointments, and work the following day. It was a wonderful escape from reality for a couple of days as well as an opportunity to bond and create magical memories with our newest son.

The girls enjoying the water slide they renamed "The Toilet Bowl."

The girls enjoying the water slide that they renamed “The Toilet Bowl.”

Kalahari, we had a GREAT time!! See you next year!

Kalahari, we had a GREAT time!! See you next year!