Monthly Archives: November 2014

We found our missing piece

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Now that we are through the craziness of this past weekend here is a look at what else was packed into an already fun-filled few days.

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A few weeks ago I was asked to come and speak to Ozzie’s class. This speaking opportunity came as a result of the baby bulletin board in Ozzie’s classroom. Because he didn’t have a baby picture to take in he made the decision to take a picture of himself on the day he moved in…the day he was “born” into our family. Around the same time this was all happening I called the teacher and offered to speak with the class about adoption. She decided to take me up on my offer and it was planned for last Friday, the day before his adoption.

Ozzie helped me plan our presentation and we decided on the theme, “We found our missing piece.” In the days leading up to our lesson he helped me spray paint puzzle pieces for our object lesson and make puzzle piece chocolates to top the cupcakes with. He was so excited!

On Friday I arrived at his school and signed into the office. Ozzie was sent to the office to escort me back to his class. Along the way he eagerly pointed out his artwork on the wall, the cafeteria, the boys’ bathroom, etc. When we arrive we set up in the corner with Ozzie and I seated in chairs and the other children seated in a circle, on the floor. We began by playing a game that pointed out our differences. (All those who play sports please stand up) After discovering all that was unique about every member of the class I then asked what was the same. They pondered for a minute and came up with, “We are all fourth graders!”

We then talked about families and how no two families are exactly the same. I gave two kids the task of putting together a 12 piece puzzle as we spoke. I told them that there are many ways to put together a puzzle- some like to start with the corners, some find all the straight pieces first and build the edge, and some start with the middle picture. We talked about how no way is better than another and like building a puzzle there are many different ways to build a family. We talked about how families can be built: through birth, through blended families, through adoption…but the thing that is the same about all of them is LOVE!

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As the two puzzle builders completed their task they discovered there was a missing piece. I told the kids that as we were building our family, we too discovered there was a missing piece. From behind my back I pulled out the missing piece, flipped it over, and there was a picture of Ozzie. 🙂

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Ozzie was our missing piece.

I then turned the time over to Ozzie to share a bit of his story and his journey of how he came to us. The kids had lots of great questions and their curiosity led to a 15 minute discussion with many of them declaring, “I’m going to go home and ask my mom if we can adopt a kid.” 🙂

The day ended with cupcakes as we celebrated Ozzie’s adoption.

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On the Sunday after his adoption we carried over this theme for the celebration we had following church. Due to the time of year we knew we wouldn’t be able to have a big outdoor celebration at our home, but we wanted to do something to celebrate with our church family, so we had a little party to celebrate “finding our missing piece.” We had cake and chocolate milk as we celebrated the blessing of Ozzie.

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Now that we are through adoption day everyone is eager for some down time. Adoption day and the days following have been filled with a mix of emotions, especially for little Oz. There has been such excitement and joy but he has also been hit with the reality that this is forever. He has expressed sadness about never being Ozzie Price again and worry about whether he has made his birth parents sad by being adopted. With this joyful life/family change comes emotional fallout, and we knew that would be the case, so we have decided to go into self-preservation mode this Thanksgiving. As much as we will miss family time with Toby’s extended family we know what is needed. We are having a family lock-in. As of 5:00pm this evening we are locking the doors, turning on the answering machine, logging off the internet, shutting out the distractions of the world, and we are selfishly focusing on family bonding. We have a full fridge and everything needed for a 3 day “staycation.” We are going to have movie marathons as we snuggle on the couch, board game marathons and concentrated family bonding time. I know it is just what our family needs.

So,  if we don’t answer the door, don’t worry, and if we don’t answer the phone, please don’t take it personally…

We will emerge on Sunday Morning. 🙂

So until then…we wish you and your family a blessed Thanksgiving day!

Adoption Day (part 2)

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Once we were finished in court we began part two of our special day. We had made it through the hearing and all the fears and “what ifs” that could have been obstacles were unfounded. It was time to celebrate!

As we left the courtroom we said our goodbyes to Zoey’s family. They were headed home for their own special adoption day party and we had our own celebration planned. We filed out of the courthouse and discovered that the temperature had dropped while we were inside. As we walked, we discovered patches of black ice that were treacherous. We carefully shuffled our way to the cars and buckled up for another adventure…

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We had reservations made for Saga restaurant, located just outside of Pittsburgh. Due to main road closures we had to find a back way out of Pittsburgh. What should have taken 15 minutes took 1-2 hours for the different family members driving there. On our way we saw more than one accident due to icy roads. We were blessed that everyone arrived at the restaurant safely.

Ozzie rode with my parents, my brother and his girlfriend. Now that Ozzie is legally ours he can now ride with other people. He was very excited to have the opportunity to ride in Mimi’s car. He had a wonderful time riding with Krista and Uncle Travis.

We all had a fun time getting to know Krista. Ozzie later told me he wished Krista was part of our family to which Tyler suggested, “Maybe Uncle Travie can adopt her!”

(What do you think Trav?)  😉

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Dinner was at a hibachi grill. It was the same restaurant we ate at after Tyler’s adoption. The meal is a special treat that offers delicious food and a show all in one meal. The food is prepared right in front of the diners as they eat. The meal comes with soup, salad, veggies, noodles, fried rice and a protein of your choice. I had the shrimp and scallops and they were very good!

Here is a glimpse of our special celebration:

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Adoption Day! (Part 1)

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Adoption day began in flurry of activity. Missing shoes, ripped panty hose, mismatched socks were the theme of the morning as we raced to get everyone looking presentable and out the door by 8:00am. Our court time was 9:30 but we were asked to arrive 30 minutes before hand. The drive down to Pittsburgh was uneventful. We arrived at the courthouse on time. As we were driving around the courthouse in search of a parking garage we passed Ozzie’s biological sister walking across the street with her family. She was also being adopted yesterday.

We parked and walked across the street to the courthouse. Our first stop was at security where we all had to go through metal detectors. We were surprised to see Elsa ahead of us in line. She took off her hat and gloves and winter coat and laid them on the belt to be scanned while she pranced through the metal detector. It was quite comical. As we watched her take off her winter gear Gracie leaned over and whispered, “Why is she wearing a coat? I thought ‘The cold never bothered her anyway.’ 🙂

Ozzie was shaking with excitement as we exited the security area and were greeted by employees with an enthusiastic, “Welcome to Adoption Day!”

That is when my tears began. We had made it. We were at the end of a long journey and in 30 minutes he would be ours.

The employees asked us our names and informed us that there had been a change to the schedule. Our hearing would still be at 9:30 but we had been assigned a new judge. Our adoption would be finalized by Judge Ward. I couldn’t believe God’s good grace. After a rough year working with other court officials we would get our favorite judge for the final court hearing. Judge Ward is who finalized Tyler’s adoption. He is wonderful! As an adoptive parent himself he goes out of his way to make adoption day so special for his families. It couldn’t have been more perfect!

We were then sent up to the 4th floor to enjoy the festivities of the day while we waited. The courthouse was buzzing with excitement. Children dressed in their Sunday best filed into the elevators surrounded by loved ones. There were 47 children who received forever homes yesterday. That courthouse, which often is a place of great sadness, felt like holy ground.

Upstairs we found Zoey, Ozzie’s sister, waiting with the family that was adopting her. The sibling embraced and Ozzie greeted Zoey with, “Happy Adoption Day!!”

Adoption day for Ozzie and Zoey.

Adoption day for Ozzie and Zoey.

We took a moment to get some pictures before we let them loose on the cupcakes, pastries, cookies and juice that were set out for the waiting families to enjoy.

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My children. :)

My children. 🙂

As we waited there were many fun activities for the families to enjoy. There was a man making balloon creations for the kids…

Ozzie

Ozzie

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There was another man making caricatures…

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And there were princesses walking around the courthouse visiting with the kids…

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Can you spot the prince?

Can you spot the prince?

The fun activities were enjoyed as we waited for the rest of our family to show up. My parents were driving in from Ohio and with them were Travis and Krista, my brother and his girlfriend. Travis and Krista had come all the way from Texas for our special day. Mimi Joy and Aunt Beth also drove down to Pittsburgh for our special day. From the fourth floor’s glass walls the kids saw when they arrived at security.

The view from the 4th floor.

The view from the 4th floor.

The "Mimis"

The “Mimis”

A special day celebrated with family.

A special day celebrated with family.

In addition to family, we also had two very special people there…Karl and Christina. These two are the ones who have been with Ozzie and Zoey from the time they were removed from the home. These two are the ones who were instrumental in placing Ozzie with us and giving us our son. I am so grateful for these two social workers who, through their daily work, truly act as Christ’s hands here on earth.

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We were soon called into the courtroom. Ozzie was up first. Toby, Ozzie and I sat in the front while our family and Zoey’s family sat behind us.  The court honored our request of having their hearings back to back so that the siblings could attend each other’s finalizations. We felt that was important.

I wish I could adequately describe the feeling in that courtroom and Ozzie’s abundant happiness as we sat before the judge. He was bouncing with excitement and pure joy. Later the judge and Karl both said that they had never seen a better or more joyful adoption ceremony than Ozzie’s. We were crying, Ozzie was crying, the social workers were crying.

Judge Ward :)

Judge Ward 🙂

(Grace managed to quickly capture these photos from when the judge officially declared Ozzie a member of our family. The pictures aren’t the best quality but they beautifully capture the emotion of that moment.)

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We then rearranged seats and watched as Zoey was adopted.

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Zoey's new family.

Zoey’s new family.

After the judge declared Zoey a member of her new family, Ozzie raced up to embrace her and as he hugged her he said, “I’m so happy for you, Zoey!”

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Later that night as we gathered for family prayer and scripture study I asked each of the kids what their favorite memory of the day was. These were their responses…

Ozzie: When the judge said, “From this day on Ozzie will now and forever be known as Oswald William McCleery.”

Molly: I just loved and will always remember Ozzie’s enthusiasm and excitement as he sat before the judge.

Rusty: My favorite moment was after the judge was finished and Ozzie ran back and forth in front of the table jumping up and down with excitement.

Grace: My favorite memory will always be when Ozzie ran to hug Mom and Dad at the end of the ceremony.

Katie: My most profound moment was walking into the courthouse and seeing the  “Welcome to Adoption Day” sign. The tears started to fall as the emotions of the day hit me.

Toby: The feeling as we left. The relief knowing it was done. He was ours and isn’t going anywhere.

It was a blessed day.

God is good!

(Stay tuned for part two)

A quick sneak peek…

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It was an amazing day!

We are home and I can’t wait to share all the details…tomorrow. 🙂

We are putting on our PJs and enjoying a snuggly, quiet night as a FAMILY.

But, here is a sneak peek…

 

Adoption day for Ozzie and Zoey.

Adoption day for Ozzie and Zoey.

My children. :)

My children. 🙂

There were some princesses making the rounds...

There were some princesses making the rounds…

And a balloon artist!

And a balloon artist!

Waiting...

Waiting…

A special day celebrated with family.

A special day celebrated with family.

It is official!!!

It is official!!!

Ozzie:

“We did not give you the gift of life,

life gave us the gift of you!”

We’ve reached the summit!

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Today is the day.

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I am sitting in the dark living room. The house is quiet and everyone is still sleeping. The only sound is the snoring of a sleeping bulldog at my side. I set my alarm to get up earlier than I needed to.

I needed some quiet time…some reflection time…before the noisiness and excitement of the day begins.

It is hard to believe it was just a year ago we met Ozzie. He and his sister had come to spend the weekend with us. An email went out asking for a family to offer respite for a foster family in need and we said yes. We had no idea what was coming or what that “yes” would lead to. We had no idea the crazy ride 2014 would hold. We had no vision of God’s plan when we said “yes.” What a journey this has been. We’ve experienced the full gamut of human emotions as we have worked to open our hearts and homes to another child and help him open his heart to us.

The journey wasn’t always smooth, but the most life changing journeys rarely are. The are usually strewn with obstacles, road blocks, speed bumps and pot holes. The best journeys require work, courage, and endurance. They stretch you and they make your muscles burn and they take your breath away.

With the challenges however come blessings. Muscles you didn’t even know you had at the start of the journey grow strong. Courage that was silent begins to roar. Feelings of inadequacy and doubt are replaced with faith and hope. As you journey outside your comfort zone you have opportunities to see amazing vistas, meet fellow travelers, and see God’s hand more clearly.

This year we climbed our Everest.

And now we sit on the top of the world. We’ve reached the summit. We can now see the big picture so much more clearly than we did at the base…and we are praising God!

Ozzie’s climb was even longer and his obstacles more challenging, but today we celebrate his climb. He made it. He reached the end of a very hard journey.

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Today he becomes part of a forever family.

Today we celebrate.

Tomorrow we begin climbing our next mountain, whatever it may be…. as a family!

(Stay tuned for pictures of our special day!)

A little of this…a little of that…

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This week has been surprisingly “normal.” The only clue that anything out of the ordinary is happening in 3 days (Yes, 3 days!!) are the dress clothes hanging from the door knobs and the slight nervousness in the air. It is happening and we can’t wait!

This past week has been filled with the typical busy family stuff that constitutes the minutes of our lives.

On Friday Rusty had a Boy Scout camp out. They were camping on our property which made the logistics of juggling children quite handy. Toby, who is one of the assistant scout masters, checked in with the scouts before he headed out the door with Tyler for his football awards banquet. After the banquet he rejoined the scouts for a cold evening around the campfire.

Tyler all dressed up for his awards ceremony.

Tyler all dressed up for his awards ceremony.

Saturday the little boys were sent over to the scout camp site to meet up with dad while the girls drove over to the church for a Christmas craft day. It was fun spending the day with my girls and getting to visit with the other ladies at church. After crafting was all done we enjoyed soup and homemade bread for lunch. A perfect meal for a cold blustery day! It was a lot of fun and the girls loved getting some of their Christmas gifts finished.

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Grace and Molly

Grace and Molly

Crafting!

Crafting!

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One of Molly's completed crafts.

One of Molly’s completed crafts.

Yum...soup!

Yum…soup!

 

While we were busy crafting, the boys were busy cutting lumber. Toby and the three boys spent the day taking down more trees and cutting them up for our winter supply of lumber for the wood burning stove.

Late afternoon we reconnected back at home. We had an early dinner then it was off again to get some shopping done. Everyone was in need of “pieces” for their adoption day outfits. One of the boys had outgrown shoes, another needed pants, etc. so we decided to bite the bullet, take them all at once, and “get ‘er done.” It was a painful way to spend a Saturday night but we managed to get everyone set for adoption day.

After clothes shopping we made a stop at Petco so Tyler could use his birthday gift card to buy his gift- a fish tank for his room. This trip he just bought the tank and decorations. We wanted to get that set up before we brought home the fish. We will go back this week to pick out the fish. While we were there Rusty made an impressive argument for why he should be allowed to be a hamster daddy. He laid out the initial cost and monthly cost and explained how he could afford it. He told us his plan for care and clean up. We went into the store to buy a fish tank and then Rusty walked out with a dwarf Chinese hamster that he named Mushu.  Mushu now resides on Rusty’s dresser.

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Sunday night brought the first snow of the season. I woke up to Tyler’s shouts of excitement over the snow outside. Tyler and Ozzie pulled winter gear on over their PJs and were out the door to build a snowman at 6:00 am. The other kids, who we equally thrilled by the white surprise, waited until later to go play.

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It has been a “normal” week full of activities… co-op, appointments, grocery shopping, home schooling. Today will be our last visit with our social worker to sign the last of the adoption paperwork and then we are almost home free. I can’t wait until we are on the other side of Saturday and we will all finally be able to exhale.

 

 

I hate adoption.

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A friend shared this with me today. It moved me to tears because I could hear the voices of my older children in her words. I was so touched by the raw and honest feelings expressed that I had to share it as well. There is another side, a uglier, harder side of adoption that is often hidden. The hurts that come from adoption are felt by the child in transition but also by the children that are opening their homes and hearts to these broken souls. The sacrifices that are made by all members of the family are numerous but the rewards are eternal. Here is just another look at this road we are walking…this journey of adoption.

Kristianna Noelle

We hear all about the adoptive parents side– how challenging it is, how difficult it is to raise traumatized children, but we never hear from the adoptive siblings point of view.  All my life I have heard of what incredible parents I have (and I do), but never once has someone told me what an “incredible job” I have done or what my thoughts were on having adopted siblings.  Mainly, because I was just a kid when it all begin.  I understand that, and that’s okay.  But I’d like to share my honest opinion on adoption.

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When I was seven my parents started down the road of adoption, I was elated, so overwhelmed with excitement at the fact that I was going to have a new sister or brother.  I remember meeting them for the first time, and they felt like family.  We got along and we were happy.  Until the…

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Adoption Countdown

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We are in the final stretch!

All our paperwork is submitted and approved.

We have our court date and time.

Now we just wait for the moment that the judge officially declares us the parents of Ozzie.

7 days to go!

As we near the end Ozzie is trying to manage and process a wide mix of emotions.

He is excited:

Two weeks ago he asked me if we could use the Disney count down board to count down the days to his adoption. He said, “Adoption is even more exciting than Disney so we should count it down!” We made up an adoption count down board and have it sitting on the kitchen island. Every morning, first thing, Ozzie runs over and changes the number.

The board now reads: 7.

He is nervous:

A few days ago when we were driving home he shared some of that nervousness with us when he spoke up out of the blue and said, “I’m worried about not being a foster kid anymore.” When we explained that his daily life wouldn’t be changing all that much, the only noticeable change being the lack of social worker visits, he told us:

” But I’ve been a foster kid for so long and I’ve never been an adopted kid before. It just makes me nervous.”

He is sad:

He has been talking about his sister a lot lately. I think the permanency of adoption has hit him. As much as he is looking forward to having a forever family he is still struggling with the fact that his new family will not be Zoey’s family too. Even though we keep telling him that his visits with Zoey will continue he is afraid adoption day will be the last time he sees her. This is one of those times when our words mean little and we will have to prove our trustworthiness through our actions following the adoption.

He is afraid:

He has come close to his adoption day before…very close. The family that was to adopt him decided that he was simply too much for their family and asked that he be removed from their home. I see Ozzie struggling with a great deal of anxiety as we near adoption day. He walks around as if bracing himself for another disappointment, regardless of what we say or do. He lives in fear that if he disobeys or does something wrong he will be sent away.

This fear was exasperated the other day at school. We have been dealing with a bullying situation at school that came to a head a few days ago. When I picked up Ozzie from school he had tears in his eyes. As we pulled out of the parking lot I asked what was wrong.

Ozzie answered, “I think the policeman might be coming to take me away.”

When I asked him what he was talking about he explained that his “friend” hired a lawyer and got a restraining order against Ozzie, and because he keeps annoying her the police are going to come and take him to jail.

Ozzie, who is so literal, believed her. Any other kid would have known she was simply being a mean girl and ignored her, but Ozzie believed her. He was scared. He has experienced the fear of having police show up at your door and take you away from your family.

During this already emotionally turbulent time Ozzie was worrying about this bully’s nonsense.

*sigh*

He is trusting and loving more:

We have noticed a visible shift in Ozzie. He is moving himself from the outskirts of the family circle to the center. I think he has been so scared that this adoption isn’t going to happen that he has kept us all at arm’s length. This last week we have noticed a change. We see him making an effort to engage more, be more affectionate, and more loving.

Tuesday we had one of those big emotional breakthroughs.

As we drove home from my parents house the car was quiet and dark. Everyone was tired from the fun-filled day. Out of nowhere we hear Ozzie pipe up from the back seat and say,

“Daddy, I love you.”

It was one of those huge, unforgettable “firsts.” After 11 months with us it was his first time telling Toby, “I love you.”

Toby glanced over at me and we smiled.

It seems like such a small thing but it was huge!

Another wall had fallen.

We were one step closer to our forever family.

And in the dark of the car

on a country road

in the hills of Ohio

Ozzie’s daddy whispered back,

“I love you too, Oz.”

Light Up Night

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Thursday night Rusty had his first opportunity ever to march in a parade. His Taekwondo class had a float in the local “light up night” parade so he bundled up and we all drove out with him to cheer him on.

The night was bitterly cold and the first snow flakes of the season were falling. The nip in the air, the hot chocolate in hand and the falling snow, illuminated by the street lights. all added to the festive feel.

Molly and Ozzie

Molly and Ozzie. (It is crazy how much they look like siblings in this picture even with no shared genes.) 🙂

Grace and Tyler

Grace and Tyler

The school asked that at least one parent walk with the float so Toby stayed with Rusty while the girls helped me with the little boys. We were early enough that we easily found a spot on main street with an empty curb to sit on. The boys were both excited to see what this parade business was all about. Neither had ever been to a holiday parade before so they waited anxiously to see what was going to march past them.

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At 7:00 we heard the wail of the first fire engine siren. The boys jumped up and down with excitement as the vehicles passed. They were even more excited when the discovered that candy was often thrown from the passing trucks…

a show and a snack! 🙂

The boys waving at the passing cars.

The boys waving at the passing cars.

Rusty’s group was the 8th float after the long line of fire trucks and emergency vehicles so we didn’t have to wait long to see him. Toby had been guilted into carrying the sign.  My quiet, introverted husband found himself leading the group.

Toby leading the parade :)

Toby leading the parade 🙂

Rusty marched along, with his classmates, stopping often, to demonstrate kicks and punches for the crowd. We were so proud of him. The little boys cheered his name as he passed by.

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There were a total of 78 floats in the parade so Rusty and Toby were able to finish marching and circle around to join us for the last half.

Gathering the candy that was thrown at them.

Gathering the candy that was thrown at them.

Ozzie was beside himself.  He cheered, shouted, and gave a play-by-play report of every passing display.

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The parade ended with fireworks and Santa passing by on the top of a fire truck.

"Hi Santa!"

“Hi Santa!”

I was so proud of Rusty. This was definitely outside his comfort zone but he did it!

It ended up being a really fun night, much more enjoyable than I anticipated it being as I bundled up grumpy little boys in warm winter gear.

As we walked back to the car Ozzie told us it was the best parade he had ever been to (it was his first) and wanted to know when our next Christmas parade was. 🙂

Home of the Free because of the Brave

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Yesterday was Veterans Day, the day we celebrate all those who have served and sacrificed for our country.

I grew up an Army brat. I watched my father walk out the door each morning with shined boots and a pressed uniform. I grew up hearing words like duty, honor, brotherhood, and sacrifice. I was surrounded by other military families that lived those same values. We lived in a world where respect was expected, the flag was honored, and patriotism was felt daily.

It was a wonderful way to grow up and I often feel remorse that my children don’t get to experience that same environment. I worry that they don’t fully understand and value the sacrifices that have been made for them and their freedom since they aren’t looking it in the eye daily in the same way I was at their age.

I look at my father and see a soldier. He will always be a soldier in my eyes.

My children, though, only have seen him in the role of a science teacher prior to his retirement. This Veteran’s Day I felt led to share with them a little glimpse of Pop pop’s life, when I was a child, in hopes of helping them better understand what we are really celebrating on Veteran’s Day.

It began with a lesson on the History of Veteran’s Day and a definition of what a Veteran is:

“What is a Veteran?

A Veteran whether active duty, discharged, retired or reserve-

is someone who, at one point in their lives, wrote a blank check made payable to

“The United States of America” for an amount “up to and including his/her life.” – unknown

I then was able to share stories with them about Pop pop and his life when he was active duty Army.

Then the kids all made thank you cards for my Dad for his service and sacrifice and we planned to celebrate Veteran’s day with him and my mom.

Tuesday the whole family drove out to Ohio.

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The first thing the kids did was give Pop pop their cards.

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Then we took Mimi and Pop pop out for a Veteran’s Day lunch. We went to one of my Dad’s favorite restaurants, Buffalo Wild Wings. This was Tyler’s first time ever eating there. He was enthralled with the 20+ TV screens playing sports. I’ve never seen him sit so well at a restaurant before. 🙂

Lunch with Pop pop.

Lunch with Pop pop.

After lunch we drove over to Lehman’s, a favorite store of ours!

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Lehman’s is an Amish hardware store that sells everything from tools and oil lamps to food mixes and toys. There is something for everyone! The little boys loved the toy room. At the end of our visit Mimi told the kids they could each pick a soda for the car ride home.

IMG_5207The soda choices are incredible. There are about 200 different soda brands and flavors to choose from ranging from delicious to bizarre, as you can see in this photo.

The kids all made their choices…

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I picked the Shirley Temple which brought back such sweet memories of visiting my grandma’s home as a child. During cocktail hour G.G. would make each of us kids a Shirley Temple to enjoy while we munched on chip and dip.

It was a perfect ending to the day.

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Happy Veteran’s Day…

to those who have served,

to the military spouses who have sacrificed,

to those who have been led by duty, honor and brotherhood,

and to all that enjoy the freedom they have fought for.

Happy Veteran’s Day.