Monthly Archives: January 2015

Everyday Moments

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“Moments are the Molecules that make up Eternity.” -Neal A. Maxwell

Often my blog posts revolve around a trip, an experience, or an event. I find myself waiting until something “big enough” happens to justify a blog post when in reality the majority of our days are full of beautifully ordinary moments. Here is a compilation of some of our everyday moments…

The moments that make up our life.

Our bunnies have done it again. No matter how many lectures we give, or how much time we invest in separating the boy bunnies from the girl bunnies we continue to get baby bunnies. 🙂 Not that it is a bad thing. The kids like taking care of the babies and they like the money they can make at auction when they sell the grown babies. The dead of winter just isn’t the most ideal time to have new babies…but ideal or not, they are here!

And the kids are loving them. 🙂

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Hide and go seek has been the game of the month at our house. It is one of the few games Tyler and Ozzie can play well together with little fighting. I suspect it may be so successful due to the large amount of time the spend APART from each other while playing the game. One hides, one seeks…the amount of face to face time is minimal.

Tyler prides himself on being the best hider in the family…often to his own detriment. We have had more that one experience of seeking out a hiding Tyler, calling for help because he hid so well, in such a tight spot, that he found himself STUCK! I have been part of more than one search and rescue mission this past week.

Here he is getting into position…

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This week Tyler lost another tooth. Loose teeth don’t last long at our house. As soon as it begins to wiggle the boys are on a mission to get it out. Tyler spent all day yanking and pulling in an effort to get it out and under his pillow before bed. His hard work paid off and he was eager to see what the tooth fairy would bring.

Bedtime came and Tyler decided to write a letter to Florence, our tooth fairy. He had questions he wanted answered  so he wrote a note and left it under the pillow with his tooth. As I tucked him in, he informed me that Florence would answer his questions with a pink pen. I asked how he knew that. He informed me that pink was our tooth fairy’s favorite color. Preparing him for the possibility of disappointment, I told him that maybe she just carried a blue or black pen. “No,” he responded, as he patted my hand reassuringly, “She uses only pink pens.”

(Any guess what I spent my evening doing?)

Well, what do you know…Tyler was right. She came, she wrote, and it was a pink pen! She also left him her usual dollar coin. 🙂

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At the beginning of January, Grace and Molly came to me looking for ideas. They had decided that together they were going to set a personal goal of performing a service project for others each month in the New Year. We sat down and made a list of possible service projects. From there they narrowed down their list and made a plan for the year. They decided February’s service project would be free babysitting. They made these fliers to hand out at church on Sunday. They were thrilled to receive multiple calls this week from couples wanting to take advantage of their service.

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This past Thursday was date night. Every Thursday night is my grocery shopping night. A few years ago, in an effort to make grocery shopping something more enjoyable, Toby and I turned it into date night. We would grocery shop, run errands and then go out to dinner and enjoy one on one time without kiddos. When Tyler moved in we could no longer go out with Grace babysitting, so for a while I just shopped on my own, until God put an idea on my heart… Rather than waste that time performing the mundane task of grocery shopping  on my own I realized that time could be utilized for bonding one on one with the kids. Since then Thursday night has evolved into date night with the kids. Every five weeks they get to go grocery shopping with me. They are a big help and they enjoy the benefits of getting to pick the cereals, fruits, and snacks for the week. Afterward they get dinner out. They get to pick the restaurant. The only rule is that they must pick a place where we can both eat for a combined total of $10.00. Last week was Ozzie’s week and he chose to take advantage of Pizza Hut’s dinner box deal for $10.00. What a deal!

We have found Aldi (where we grocery shop) and most restaurants are dead on Thursday night. This was true for Pizza Hut. We were the only ones dining. Ozzie and I played a game as we waited. He could ask me anything about my childhood he wanted to know and then I would take a turn asking him about his past. It was a chance to let him open up about his past and share his memories in a non threatening way. It was also a special way to bond…

Hopefully we will eventually reach the point with the boys that Gracie can babysit and Toby and I can reclaim our date night. But for now this is a pretty good Plan B. 🙂

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On Friday night Rusty and Toby  joined the boy scouts for a winter campout and fun winter activities with other scout troops in the area. The low temp  for the night was 4 degrees…Brrrrr!

But even with the cold temperatures Rusty had a great time!

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The weekend is only half done. Tonight I sit at home with the two little boys, nursing my sore hip that I somehow threw out of whack, while Toby takes the big kids to an ice skating activity with church. Tomorrow is another full day with church and Super Bowl party with friends,

all while we brace for the possibility of 6-8 more inches of snow.

Some days it feels as though time is passing so quickly

as one moment rolls into the next…

but I am grateful for each moment, whether thrilling or mundane…

for these moments truly are what make up our Eternity.

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow

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SNOW!

SNOW!

Monday was our first “big” snow of the season. All day long we watched longingly out the window at the growing piles of snow while we did our schoolwork at the table. It was family night and we knew that snow like this demanded a night of fun…outside. When Toby got home we pulled on snow suits and boots and headed to the park for a night of sledding.

Tyler cleaning off my car.

Tyler cleaning off my car.

As fun as our driveway is to slide down, it simply doesn’t compare with the big hills at our local park. The 7 inches of snow that fell demanded serious sledding, so off to the park we drove!

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When we arrived, we discovered a small group of sledders already enjoying the snowy hillside. Tyler ran toward the playground, yelling over his shoulder that he was going to go down the slide real quick and then would go sledding.

Tyler cleaning off the slide...

Tyler cleaning off the slide…

The slide at our park is a charming flashback to the days of hot metal slides in the summer, and frozen slides of death in the winter. After Tyler’s initial run down the slide to clear off the snow, the kids discovered that the slide made for a more thrilling sledding experience than the hillside. By placing the squares of plastic they use for sledding on the slide they could soar down the slippery metal at full speed, fly off the end, hit the ground with a tail bone bruising “thud,” and then continue on for another 20 feet.

The sun began to set and the squeals of laughter could be heard long after the other sledders had wandered home for dinner. Eventually we made it to the hillside where we had originally planned on sledding and had time for a few runs down the hill before it was too dark to see where we were going.

It was a fun night and a sweet reminder that

“The most memorable days usually end with the dirtiest clothes”

…or the wettest!

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"Watch out for the drop at the end of the slide!"

“Watch out for the drop at the end of the slide!”

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Rusty

 

Gracie

Gracie

Grace at the end of her ride...

Grace at the end of her ride…

Tyler

Tyler

Then they decided to make a train…

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When we finally made it to the sledding hill, Ozzie asked if he could ride down on Rusty’s back…

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So it was only fair that the favor was reciprocated.  🙂

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“Our footprints always follow us on days when it’s been snowing,

they always show us where we’ve been,

but never where we’re going,” -Winnie the Pooh

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“He asked me for my digits!”

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He asked me for my digits!

In the middle of an unexceptional, ordinary day I was approached by a good looking younger man.

He made eye contact, smiled at me from across the room, and then approached.

He was confidant and walked with the ease of an athlete.

As he approached I could sense some hesitation, but with a burst of boldness he asked if he could get my number.

I wasn’t even put off by the hole in his sock or the dried ketchup in his hair…

My heart just melted when he said,

“Momma, can I have your phone number? I just want to be able to call you when I’m a grown-up dad.”

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It has been a long road with Tyler. My handsome little man, who shuffled into my world with a guarded heart and a lot of anger at the world, has finally settled. When he moved in he bonded quickly and easily with Toby. He was a little boy who longed for a Daddy, but I was just the woman who was trying to take the place of the woman he had called mom for the last 2 ½ years of his life. I was the enemy.

It was a long road from the day he moved in to adoption day 9 months later. The first six months were filled with explosive temper tantrums and threats that he was going to pack his bags and leave. I remember the day that little 6-year-old boy carried all his worldly possessions out to the front porch to sell at his “yard sale” in an effort to raise funds for his departure. (He surprisingly had no sales that day.) 😉

The first year with us was filled with brokenness…broken toys, broken furniture, broken trust and broken hearts…and then slowly things began to change. Healing came. The process was so slow and the changes were so slight that you needed time-lapse photography to see it…

But it was changing, and getting better, and healing was taking place.

I began to notice that there were days between fights rather than hours, and tantrums were lasting 30 minutes rather than 300 minutes.

The peaks and valleys of our days weren’t so extreme and the journey evolved from a wild roller coaster ride into a quieter drive through the hillsides of Pennsylvania. We still had our ups and downs but the drops didn’t cause my belly to flip and I was no longer holding on with a white-knuckle grip.

The change was so subtle that I’m not sure when things got easier. I just looked down one day and notice I wasn’t holding on for dear life anymore…

I realized I wasn’t holding my breath…

I had finally exhaled.

Now, here we are 2 years later, and He finally calls me “Mom,” not only verbally, but in his heart. I am his Momma and he wants my digits!

I was so excited that I didn’t have the heart to tell him that “my number” was the same as his phone number. 🙂

My adoption treasures

My adoption treasures

This past year has been a “two steps forward, one step back” journey for our family as we have added Ozzie to the crew. Just when things were getting easier I find myself back on the roller coaster ride of adoption with Ozzie, complete with the peaks and valleys and white knuckle grips. I am amazed as I watch Tyler and his reactions to some of the stomach flipping twists and turns of Ozzie’s adjustment. I see him watching, and remembering his journey into this family, and I can now see how far he has come. It is a merciful reminder of God’s grace and the healing that takes place with time, unconditional love, and a lot of endurance.

It gives me hope, as I navigate these tough early months of adoption with Ozzie, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that Ozzie is ours, that with God’s grace healing will come, that bonding will happen, and he too will one day see me as his Momma…

and maybe even want my “digits.”

 🙂

Capture the moment

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First semester has come to a close. For Gracie, my 10th grader, that means the end of her photography class. This is the second photography class she has taken through her cyber school.  She has enjoyed it immensely and has learned a great deal. She has discovered that she has a passion and a talent for it. For her final assignment in Photography II she was asked to put together a power point presentation  of 10 of her favorite photographs that represent her personal style of photography.

Here is a glimpse of Gracie’s world through the lens of her camera…

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“A true photograph need not be explained, nor can it be contained in words.” -Ansel Adams

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“Photography is the only language that can be understood anywhere in the world.” – Bruno Barbey

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“Photography is the beauty of life captured.” – Tara Chisholm

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“Life is like a camera. You focus on what is important, capture the good times, develop from the negatives, and if things don’t work out… take another shot.”

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“Beauty can be seen in all things. Seeing and composing the beauty is what separates the snapshot from the photograph.” – Matt Hardy

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“Photography is an art of observation. It is about finding something interesting in an ordinary place. It has little do to with the things you see and everything to do with how you see them.” – Elliot Erwitt

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“The earth is art…the photographer is only a witness.” – Yann Arthus-Bertrand

 

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“Taking pictures is savoring life intensely every hundredth of a second.” -Mark Riboud

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“What I like about black and white photographs is that they are more like reading the book than seeing the movie.”

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“There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.” -Ansel Adams

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“Sometimes I arrive just when God’s ready to have someone click the shutter” -Ansel Adams

“Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I am going to take tomorrow.” – Imogen Cunningham

Ozzie’s Baptism Day

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“Don’t shine so others can see you. Shine so that, through you, others can see Him.”

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“The problem with our world is that we draw the circle of family too small.” -Mother Teresa

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“Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.” – Mother Teresa

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“When you choose to follow Christ, you choose to be changed.” – Ezra Taft Benson

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“May you life preach more loudly than your lips.”

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“A life not lived for others is not a life.” – Mother Teresa

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“Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord, Jesus Christ.”

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“It is one thing to talk about the gospel, but it is quite another to live it. It is one thing to preach about Christ, but it is another to follow in His footsteps.” -Angel Abrea

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Congratulations, Ozzie. You make our hearts glad. 🙂

Dear Ozzie:

“You are an incredible blessing, an extraordinary gift.

Given to us from our Heavenly Father, to experience this life with.

We dedicate our lives to teaching you God’s way,

with everything we do and every word we say.

We know your precious eyes are watching us intently,

and your young ears are listening so sharply.

We will try to teach you how to love

by the way that we treat others.

We will try to teach you generosity,

by the way that we give of ourselves.

We will try to teach you how to worship God

by our obedience to Him.

We will try to teach you righteousness

by the way that we live.

Our prayer is that you grow up strong,

and love the Lord, your God.

You are our sweet, sweet child…

and we love you with all our heart!”

“Go out there and earn your hot cocoa”

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“I’ll never outgrow the excitement of looking out my window and seeing falling snow.”

Wednesday morning we woke to snow. As we prepared to leave for co-op the world outside transformed…

Into a winter wonderland.

Gracie drove us to co-op, giving her a chance to work on her winter driving skills.

While at co-op the snow continued to fall until the ground was covered with many inches of heavy, sticky snow…

perfect snow for snowmen, and sledding and snowball fights!

As the kids exited the church to put their school bags in the car, an impromptu snowball fight began. The kids had fun playing in the untouched snow of the church yard and parking lot with their friends.

While we were at OT with Ozzie, following co-op, we received a call from our piano teacher letting us know that she needed to cancel. We decided that when we arrived home we would put off school assessments until later in the day, take advantage of the canceled piano lessons, and enjoy the snow a bit more.

For the first time this winter we went sledding!

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We only have one sled so the kids followed Daddy’s example and cut up sheets of plastic to use as sleds.

Ozzie, so excited to go sledding!

Ozzie, so excited to go sledding!

Tyler begging for a ride from his sister...

Tyler begging for a ride from his sister…

The kids decided to go sledding down the driveway. That is the great blessing of living on a country road…no oncoming traffic to worry about!

Rusty and Tyler racing.

Rusty and Tyler racing.

Ozzie

Ozzie

While headed downhill, Molly lost hold of her sled. As she walked over the edge of the hill to retrieve it she discovered an old, empty suitcase someone had dumped on our property. She was carrying it up the hill so we could dispose of it when Rusty had an inventive idea…

Gracie being chased by Winnie, our bulldog, as she sled downhill while Molly totes up our "new sled."

Gracie being chased by Winnie, our bulldog, as she sled downhill while Molly totes up our “new sled.”

“Let’s use it for another sled!”

Rusty's redneck sled!

Rusty’s redneck sled!

The kids stayed out for a couple of hours, enjoying the snow, before they were ready to head in and warm up with hot cocoa…They earned it! 🙂

Miss Molly

Miss Molly

My "snow angels"

My “snow angels”

"How about a push?"

“How about a push?”

"Snowflakes are one of nature's most fragile things, but look at what they can do when they stick together."  -Vista M. Kelly

“Snowflakes are one of nature’s most fragile things, but look at what they can do when they stick together.” -Vista M. Kelly

 

Adoption Heartbreak

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Ozzie has a little sister.

And she sits in the center of his heartbreak.

She is the person he mourns for most. She is the person from his past he longs for most. She is the hardest “goodbye” he has faced.

It is interesting to listen to Ozzie as he opens up about his past. He has been in many foster homes and experienced more than his fair share of hurt, heart breaks and losses, and yet the one that he struggles most with is the loss of his sister.

Zoey, although still part of his life, no longer is a daily part of his life. They reside in different houses, call two different women, “Mom,” attend two different schools and churches, and now take part in different traditions and daily rituals. Even though they speak weekly and visit monthly, Ozzie feels like he has lost his sister.

When the decision was made to place these two kids in different pre-adoptive homes, I struggled. We had been doing respite care on the weekends with both of them and I had seen the great love Ozzie has for his sister. The separation seemed cruel and unjust. I struggled to understand the judge’s reasoning.

Over the past year, however, I have seen the behaviors and the witnessed the open wounds that led to the judge’s decision.  I better understand now why the judge made the hard, very hard, decision he did. What seemed so cruel may have in fact been a gift of mercy. I have watched as these two blessings have blossomed in a way that perhaps would not have happened if they had been kept together…I don’t know, but after our visit on Monday I had a better understanding of God’s whisperings when He led us to Ozzie (alone) rather than the two of them (together) that we were pursuing originally.

He has a plan.

When He is whispering “No” to our plans it is out of love…love for our family, for Ozzie and for Zoey.

But even though I can now see His mercy in saying “No” to our desire to adopt them together,

it doesn’t lessen the pain of the loss for Ozzie.

The fallout of his “sister visits” are hard and often emotionally draining.

They are such a good thing, such an important thing, but often a very hard thing.

*sigh*

On Monday we were off school so we had arranged with Zoey’s  mom to pick up Zoey and take her out for the day. We decided to take advantage of the generous adoption gift that we received from my parents, a membership to the Carnegie museums of Pittsburgh, and take Zoey with us to the Science center.

We had no idea what we were in for!

When we arrived we discovered, unbeknownst to us, that it was “Free Day.” I think half of Pittsburgh showed up to enjoy the free fun. I knew that adding Zoey to the mix was going to be challenging. I now had three hyper little ones to herd through the Science Center, but when I saw the crowds my stomach really began to flip and flop with anxiety. I said a prayer that we would survive the crowds and leave with the same number of children that we began the day with. 🙂

The line to get in!

The line to get in!

We started the day with 6 children, and ended the day with....4, 5, 6 children. Whew!

We started the day with 6 children, and ended the day with….4, 5, 6 children. Whew!

The big kids were all assigned a buddy. They were in charge of being with their buddy at all times. It worked out well and gave me peace of mind knowing that there were two sets of eyes on each little one.

Grace and Zoey were partners:

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Rusty and Ozzie were partners:

The earthquake simulator...Yikes!

The earthquake simulator…Yikes!

And Molly and Tyler were buddies:

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Despite the crowds the kids all had a fun day!

Rusty trying out an astronaut bed.

Rusty trying out an astronaut bed.

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Mid-day we took a break and ate our packed lunches in the cafeteria before we walked up to the planetarium. While in line for the “Stars over Pittsburgh” show we ran into friends from church: the Grundburgs and Debakers. It was amazing we saw each other with the sheer number of people there that day.

Lunch break!

Lunch break!

In the planaterium...

In the planetarium…

One of our last stops for the day was the Omnimax theatre where we watched “Born to be Free,” a documentary film about two women and their conservation work with baby elephants and baby orangutans. The movie was wonderful but the theatre was what really made it thrilling for the kids.

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One final stop to play at the water table and we were on our way. Gracie decided she wanted to practice driving in Pittsburgh traffic and did a big part of our driving to and from the Science Center. I was so proud of my BRAVE girl!

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It was a good day.

but the night was hard.

As I tucked in Ozzie the emotional fallout of our day was evident.

The adoption process is heartbreaking, and messy, and painful even in “best case scenarios”…

even when the story ends with “Happily Ever After.”

This is when we must trust God,

and watch as He softens the loss and multiplies the LOVE.

Wendell August Forge

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It has officially been a year!

Last Friday marked the one year anniversary of Ozzie moving into our home. January 16, 2014 Ozzie arrived at our home with suitcases holding all his worldly possessions and a plate of cupcakes, bearing the letter “O” for “Ozzie, that he made with his foster mom.

When God led us to Ozzie we had no idea what the upcoming year would hold. We could not have anticipated the journey it would be for our family. We could not foresee the growth that would take place as individuals or as a whole. We had no clue the struggles we would have to work though or the miracles we would witness. We have evolved as a family. Through the struggles we have experienced a deepening of faith, a purifying of character and a better understanding of Christ-like love.

On Friday we celebrated Ozzie.

We gave thanks for God’s plan, for His eternal vision in bringing us our son through such an unexpected way. We celebrated Ozzie’s story…his journey…and the path our family is on.

Friday was also Ozzie’s first official field trip as a home school kid.

Ozzie has adjusted beautifully to being home with the other kids. We worried about the backlash of pulling him out of public school once he was officially ours. We took a leap of faith…

and God has been gracious.

Ozzie is thriving in the home environment and the rigidity of our daily schedule. He loves the routine of it, as well as the absence of the morning rush that came from having to get him ready for school and out the door at an early hour. He loves the curriculum and the opportunity to learn and move ahead at a pace that is personalized for him. It is a delight seeing him blossom and connect with the family in a way that was missing up till this point.

On Friday morning he was especially excited because it was his first outing with the cyber school. He has heard the other kids talk about the field trips they have gone on while he has been at school so he was excited to finally get to join them. Our field trip this past Friday was with Molly’s cyber school, PA Virtual Charter School, to the Wendell August Forge.

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We arrived at the Grove City location at 12:45 pm and had time to look around the shop before the tour began.

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The beautiful shop...

The beautiful shop…

Some of the pieces they had for sale featuring Pittsburgh landmarks.

Some of the pieces they had for sale featuring Pittsburgh landmarks.

The tour began with the history of Wendell August and his company. Here is a bit of what we learned (taken from the company website):

“Wendell August Forge is America’s oldest and largest forge, producing hand-wrought ornamental metalware and elegant giftware in aluminum and other metals since 1923. The company was founded in Brockway, Pennsylvania by Wendell McMinn August, who, at age 38, was active in the coal industry.

August engaged Ottone “Tony” Pisoni, a blacksmith in his coal mine, to hand-forge door latches for his home. Admiring the low cost and high quality of Pisoni’s work, August was inspired to start a decorative ironware business. Pisoni was joined by three more blacksmiths who handcrafted the first product line, including one-of- a-kind fireplace andirons, candlesticks, lighting standards, doorknockers, latches, railings, and grilles for windows and doors.

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In 1930, a commission to create decorative aluminum gates and elevator doors for the Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA) led to a new era of design innovation.

The original gate

The original gate

Pisoni mastered the art of forging aluminum, and the company prospered, forging the designs of James McCausland, an architect who joined Wendell August in 1928 and became Designer and Operations Manager. A commission for architectural remodeling at the Grove City National Bank proved so successful that the Bank’s president convinced Wendell August to relocate to Grove City, even investing in the company to facilitate the move. Wendell August’s Grove City forge is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

As sales of Wendell August giftware soared, the company expanded its product line to include treasured Collector’s Plates and commemoratives; Christmas ornaments and gifts; trays, bowls, and vases; gifts for personalization; and jewelry – but the fabrication process remained the same: each one still individually made by hand, in the tradition of fine craftsmanship. Among its many notable custom designs, Wendell August was engaged to create mementos in honor of the “Millionaires’ Flight” on the Hindenburg air ship, and was commissioned by the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency to produce 12 solid bronze plates commemorating the SALT II treaty between the U.S. and Russia.”

One of three existing momentos from the Hindenberg flight.

One of three existing mementos from the Hindenburg flight.

 

Ozzie listening to the presentation on the company's history.

Ozzie listening to the presentation on the company’s history.

Soon it was time to tour the factory where these beautiful pieces are made.

“The heritage art of Wendell August Forge is preserved by the company’s artisans and craftsmen, who use the original eight-step process to produce every heirloom piece in aluminum, bronze, pewter, sterling silver, and other metals.

This process includes Die Engraving by a master engraver, Material Selection and Cutting, Repousse (Hammering), Surface Anvilling, Edging, Carbon Coloring, a three step polishing process, and Forming. Company artisans create new motifs and designs, while some motifs – like the ever-popular Dogwood – have endured for decades.”

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Gracie, Molly and Rusty on the factory tour.

The little boys found the process fascinating.

The little boys found the process fascinating.

At the end of the tour the kids were given the opportunity to make their own metal piece of craftsmanship. The were given a sheet of aluminum and a heavy mallet. Picking a design they liked, they placed their aluminum sheet over the mold and pounded out the design.

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Ozzie working on his design.

The end results were beautiful…

Tyler used the "boxer" mold.

Tyler used the “boxer” mold.

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As we were leaving Grace decided to use some of her hard-earned babysitting money to purchase an inscribed bookmark with her initial on it.

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Everyone enjoyed their day and Ozzie declared it, “The best home schooling field trip he has ever been on.”

We opted not to point out the obvious…

🙂

Well-timed Wednesday

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Scheduling a home school family is a delicate dance. A well-timed waltz of appointments, schooling, lessons, and extras.

There is no day more well-timed and fast paced than our Wednesdays.

Wednesday has been our busy day for years. Wednesday is our homeschooling co-op day. This year, however, the pace of our Wednesday dance has evolved from a “hustle” to a “quick step.” We have had some of the commitments from other days get moved to our Wednesdays. In the end this is a blessing. It means I can set aside one day as our “crazy day” and have less interruptions to our other school days, the rest of the week.

Here is a glimpse into the large amount of living we squeeze into that “well-timed weekday.”

The day begins long before 8:00 am, but that is the time we load ’em up and move ’em out. The packing required for the day involves school supplies, books, lunches, library books, science experiment materials, art supplies and gym toys.

Gracie, eager to clock the last of her needed practice hours before she takes her driving test, drove us on our 1/2 hour trip north to co-op.

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Our school day at co-op begins with announcements and the pledge before we begin our first class at 9:00 am. The kids rotate through hour-long classes of science, history, and art with the other children in our co-op that are in their grade. The moms teach the different classes for grades: preschool – 8th grade. Our high school students work independently in a study hall. I teach three of the second grade classes this semester. I  get to teach Tyler  science, art, and music.

For second grade science we were learning about sound waves, the parts of the ear, pitch and volume. As part of my lesson I brought in chimes and we experimented with playing songs with a variety of pitches and volume levels. Rusty came in to help me with this lesson.

For second grade science we were learning about sound waves, the parts of the ear, pitch and volume. As part of my lesson I brought in chimes and we experimented with playing songs with a variety of pitches and volume levels. Rusty came in to help me with this lesson.

Lunch takes place from 12:45 to 1:15. The kids love the opportunity to eat lunch with friends in a lunchroom setting, followed by games in the gym afterwards.

Social time!

Social time!

Our last class of the day is music, which takes place after lunch. We finish co-op around 1:00 pm and have a little time for visiting and socializing before we head to stop #2.

Now, following co-op on Wednesdays, Ozzie has O.T. The cyber school he attends assigned us to an occupational therapist right up the road from our co-op. We were able to secure an appointment time on Wednesdays, immediately following co-op, thus saving us an extra trip north on a different day of the week. His appointment is at 2:00 pm and last 30 minutes. This week was his first session. We met the therapist that will be working with him. I was so pleased. Although he was referred for handwriting issues, she took note of coordination, dexterity, and strength issues that she will also be working with him on. She explained her background working with kids on the Autism spectrum and noted some of the O.T. work she recommends for Ozzie after running him through a series of evaluations. The beautiful thing about it was that Ozzie didn’t even realize he was being evaluated. The office has a ball pit, jungle gym, riding toys and games. She led Ozzie through a series of activities that he viewed as “play time” so that she could get a handle on his needs. She was so knowledgable, enthusiastic, and encouraging that I left feeling encouraged myself. I think this is going to be a great blessing for Oz.

On a side note: while we were at the office, one of the speech therapists approached us and asked Ozzie if he remembered her. She explained that she was a student to his speech therapist that he began working with when he was a little boy, still living with his birth parents. It is always a surreal experience to meet a stranger who knew my son before I  knew my son. I could tell she was equally surprised to see Ozzie and hear of how his life had changed since they last saw each other.

At 2:30 we left the office and drove home to meet our piano teacher for lessons from 3:00pm – 5:00pm. We are blessed with an amazing piano teacher that comes to our home for lessons. She teaches the kids individually in 30 minute blocks while the rest of us hang out in the dining room, finishing lessons and taking assessments from the lessons that were taught at co-op. Tyler is the only kid who doesn’t take piano lessons at this point. We will see if it is a fit for him down the road.

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At 5:00 our piano teacher leaves and it is Rusty’s “one on one” time.

The kids all have assigned days of the week, with Gracie’s day taking place on Monday and ending with Tyler’s day on Friday. On their day the kids get all the extra chores, as well as the extra privileges of the day. This began years ago as a means of cutting down on the bickering of whose “turn” things were…whose turn to ride in the front seat, whose turn to clean the litter box, etc. Now, if it is “your day,” you get the last brownie, or get to pick the TV show, but you also serve as mom’s extra set of hands. “Your assigned day”  is your day to do your laundry,  and your day to pick the dinner menu, and cook dinner with mom.

This system had helped free space in my brain because now I don’t have to remember whose turn things are in an effort to keep things fair. I just have to remember what day of the week it is. 🙂

(Which is often a challenge in itself!)

As part of this system I have an hour scheduled every afternoon for “one on one” time with my kids. Whoever’s day it is gets one hour of uninterrupted time with mom to do whatever they wish. We usually have a fun treat and do an activity of their choice. Sometimes it is a game, or a craft, or baking. Sometimes they choose to use my uninterrupted attention to get help with a practical task. Yesterday was Rusty’s time and he asked for my help preparing a lesson he was asked to teach at church on Sunday. We worked on that for half of his time and for the second half he asked me to play computer games with him.

I cherish this one on one time with my kids. It can be a challenge to fit it in, especially on busy Wednesdays, but it always ends up being my favorite part of the day. I am able to visit with and focus on one child. I have found  they open up and share their hearts in a way that doesn’t happen when they are surrounded by siblings.

Rusty's one on one time.

Rusty’s one on one time.

 At 6:00 pm Rusty’s time was over and it was time to fix a quick dinner before we were out the door again. Rusty chose to make steak sandwiches and sweet potato fries for dinner.

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Wednesday nights are a family night. We all have activities and obligations that take us to church on Wednesday nights. Tyler and Ozzie have cub scouts. Toby is an assistant scout master to Rusty’s boy scout troop and the girls have church activities. So at 6:30 pm we leave the house for the final run of the day and drive 30 minutes south to church where we spend the evening as a family participating in some wonderful activities. By 9:30 pm we are back home and ready to rest after a very busy day!

My three scouts...

My three scouts…

“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”  – Nietzsche

Our Wednesdays are a well-timed dance. For those who are watching from the outside, our choices may seem unappealing, our movements may appear completely insane…

But they can’t hear the music of our souls.

“We are not trying to do school at home. We’re trying to do homeschool. These are entirely two different propositions. We are not trying to replicate the time, style or content of the classroom. Rather we are trying to cultivate a lifestyle of learning in which learning takes place from morning until bedtime- 7 days a week. The formal portion of each teaching day is just the tip of the iceberg.” – Lambert

Amen!

Abiding in “Hope”

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This past weekend I packed my bags and ran away,

with a very handsome man.

(A scandalous start to a story, isn’t it?)   😉

Toby and I had a recharge, reconnect, recommit weekend of Hope.

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We were in the “Hope” room.

The current job that Toby is working on required him to drive to the far side of Ohio to purchase old barn beams. Toby had the lovely idea of turning it into a weekend getaway. Both of our parents generously agreed to take the children off our hands to make it feasible. We employed the old “divide and conquer” technique in hopes that the burden on either set of grandparents would be minimal. (Much thought and prayer went into the strategy of division) Thursday was spent washing clothes and packing bags.

On Thursday night the first group of kids (Grace, Rusty, and Tyler) were dropped off at Toby’s Mom’s home.

The following morning we left with Molly and Ozzie in tow. When we left, the snow was coming down hard. The drive was beautiful but a bit nerve-wracking as Toby towed his trailer over untreated roads. Within an hour, however, the conditions improved.

Packed and ready to go...

Packed and ready to go…

The drive to Delta, Ohio took about four hours. Those four hours were spent doing school with Molly and Ozzie, while Toby drove. When we arrived in Delta we made a quick stop to pick up the barn beams that Toby had ordered and then we were back on the road.

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We had another three hours to drive to get to my parent’s home, back in the opposite direction of Ohio. When we arrived, we carried in Molly and Ozzie’s suitcase and said our goodbyes. I could tell Oz was a bit nervous but I knew once I left he would have a ball. My parents had all sorts of fun activities planned for the kids.

Since this was Ozzie’s first time away from us, since he moved in with us, we decided to play it safe and lodge nearby in case we were needed. (We weren’t needed. Ozzie did great.)

Toby booked a room in Holmes County, the heart of Amish country, at Blessings Lodge.

What a perfect name!

What a perfect name!

We decided to check in before we went for dinner. We were assigned the “Hope” suite. I smile at how perfect the choice was. That became the theme of the weekend as we found ourselves surrounded by thoughts of hope. That is what this weekend away blessed us with…renewed hope in ourselves, our relationship, our family, and our future.

After a challenging year we were renewed and strengthen by “Hope.”

Our retreat was beautiful…

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There was even a plate of homemade cookies waiting for us on the kitchen table.

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After checking in we drove over to Der Dutchman for dinner. We had a delicious homestyle meal of roast chicken, mashed potatoes, dressing, veggies and homemade rolls. The food was tasty and filling for both body and spirit.

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The weekend was spent doing a little sight-seeing and a little antiquing. It was so nice to hold Toby’s hand with out a gaggle of little people between us. Holmes County was quiet. In the snowy cold of January many of the shops were closed down and the tourists were all gone. We felt like we had many of the places to ourselves. 🙂

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The quiet stillness was just what we needed. The lack of activity drove us back to our retreat early and we were able to spend hours talking,catching up, and realigning our lives, our dreams, and our hopes for the future.

It truly was a ” Blessing” and a place of “Hope.”

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