Monthly Archives: March 2015

“Color me happy!”

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Monday night was family night and a perfect opportunity to decorate eggs for Easter. This week I am going out of town for a few days for my annual scrapbooking retreat with friends. I arrive back home on Saturday evening…Sunday is Easter…so I knew Monday was our window of opportunity. 🙂

Egg decorating is a favorite holiday tradition and the kids always look forward to getting their “creative” groove on. This year I picked up a  couple different decorating kits to try out. For a dollar per kit, and the cheap price of eggs, you really would be hard pressed to find cheaper entertainment. We boiled 4 dozen eggs so that everyone could decorate 6 or 7. My kids all love hard-boiled eggs so I knew they would be eaten.

I am finding that with the growing size of our family 2 dozen eggs just doesn’t cut it anymore. 🙂

We spent a couple of hours decorating eggs and enjoying family time. It was fun seeing the different creative designs the kids came up with and how their personal styles were reflected in their designs. Here is a look at our colorful night:

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Ozzie

Ozzie

Tyler

Tyler

Rusty

Rusty

Gracie

Gracie

Molly

Molly

The completed eggs!

The completed eggs!

But that’s not all! Other “egg”cellent happenings around here include:

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Last Saturday the girls were hired to be face painters for Chippewa’s Easter celebration and egg hunt. The girls love doing it and were thrilled to be asked again. Ozzie had a visit with his biological sister so I took Tyler along, thinking he would enjoy the egg hunt.

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I was wrong.

He became very anxious when he saw all the kids and didn’t want to participate. Instead he visited the balloon artist and enjoyed a free cookie. 🙂 The weather was bitterly cold but luckily the girls had a standing outdoor heater set up near them that took the chill off.

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The crowds didn’t hang around for long and soon after the egg hunt was over the girls were paid and told that they could pack up. Tyler asked Molly if she would help him look through the hay to see if any eggs had been overlooked during the egg hunt. 🙂

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When we got home we had a few hours before we had to head out again so we decided to work on some projects. Recently I offered Molly a business opportunity. Molly, who loves to organize and is very good at it, was given the chance to make some spending money. I have found that I simply haven’t been able to keep up with all the cleaning/organizing tasks that I’d like to (as I have been working with Ozzie) so I suggested that over spring break, if she wanted to, she could empty drawers and cabinets, wipe them down, and reorganize them for a dollar a drawer. She jumped at the chance and her results have been impressive…worth every dollar!!

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I spent Saturday tackling the momentous job of organizing the 1200 photos I ordered for my scrapbooking retreat into piles for individual scrapbooking pages. The task took me 7 hours as I compiled the photos, each child’s journal entry for that day, and paper/stickers for the Disney album I will be working on. I am hoping that the hours of work I invested on this side of the trip will save me hours of work during the trip so that I can spend more time on the fun, creative part of scrapbooking our vacation memories.

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Tomorrow I head out and I won’t lie…

I can’t wait!

See you later, gator. 🙂

The Voices in my Head

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“The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” – Peggy O’ Mara

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The words of our parents becomes our inner voice, the voice we hear in our head. Their words become our mantra, our definition of self, the thing that spurs us forward with confidence or the thing that makes us doubt our own abilities. As an adoptive mother I find myself battling invisible demons. I find my voice competing with the voices already in my sons’ heads. Unfortunately, while those words whispered are often unkind or untrue, they are incredibly powerful.

When Tyler moved in with us he often said, “I’m a bad boy.” He uttered those words daily… in anger, in frustration, in defeat. He could not even imagine a world where he could be anything but a “bad boy.” Daily I would affirm, encourage, and fight to replace his inner voice with one of hope and love. For every “I’m a bad boy” I would whisper, “No, you are a good boy, whom I love very much.” Over time he began to want to believe, although it took much longer for him to begin to believe. I think my voice now rings louder than the voices of his past, but I still sometimes see him struggling to let go of the identity that defined him for so long.

This week I have been battling Ozzie’s inner voice. A cruel, lying voice that tells him that he will never be good and can never be trusted. He speaks the “truths” he hears in his head:

“I have never been good for even one day in my life. I will never be good.”

My arguments are disregarded as unbelievable,

and no matter how many times I tell him that he is a good boy he argues that I am wrong.

This week was a particularly hard week as we have moved into new territory in therapy. One of our greatest sources of conflict is found in the relationship and interactions of Ozzie and Tyler. It is a hard and complicated relationship that comes from two hurt boys trying to have a healthy sibling relationship when they haven’t been taught how. This week our therapy assignment was to have 30 minutes of playtime daily for Oz and Tyler. We created a set of rules with the therapist, made an activity bag full of sheets of activity ideas, and took our assignment home, ready to give it a try. Ozzie was told if he could have 6 out of 7 play times end successfully then he would be allowed to pick a treat from her goody box the following week.

It seemed so simple.

30 minutes a day.

7 days.

All they had to do was have fun and play nicely.

They weren’t being asked to clean their rooms, or do the dishes, or complete extra school work,

all they had to do was PLAY.

It didn’t end well.

Each days’ play session turned into hours of mediation as Ozzie tantrumed, and teased, and hurt and hit, in an effort to get out of having to play with Tyler. He yelled and screamed how much he hated Tyler and how he would never be Tyler’s brother. It was a long week and a much harder therapy assignment than the previous week’s assignment. We were now digging deeper and opening old wounds in an effort to heal those sores so deep and raw that were inflicted over the course of his childhood. Wounds that should have never happened.

Every time I would say it was time for “Tyler time” Ozzie would shout and stomp his feet and say, “You don’t understand, I’ll never be able to play with Tyler. I just can’t be trusted.”

I was puzzled by his choice of words. We had never said that. I was battling his inner voice once again.

After a week of failed attempts we were back at the therapists office. After explaining our experiences she made the executive decision to table this exercise for the time being and address the emotions that had arisen as a result of this exercise. As we were headed home I received some profound insight into the boogeyman we were battling. Ozzie opened up and shared that playing with Tyler makes him think about his biological home and he gets anxious. He shared that his parents didn’t trust him to play with his sister so they weren’t allowed to play together. They would be sent to their separate rooms to play and could come out one at a time to play in the living room but couldn’t play together.

“I couldn’t be trusted,” he whispered.

Ahhh…and there is that inner voice, so powerful in its deceit.

He told me that playing with Tyler scares him because he is afraid he is going to be bad and get in trouble. Here is a little boy who spent much of his childhood playing alone in his room. It is no wonder he struggles to join the family for game time, or play ball with his little brother. He is happiest locked in his room alone. It is where he feels safest. Safe from the adults that he worries could hurt him, and safe from the damage he feels he could inflict upon others.

The journey of adoption and parenting wounded souls had been humbling. I have learned, and grown, and been made painfully aware of my own inadequacies. But, I have also been blessed with a growing testimony of our Lord’s great capabilities and immense capacity to heal.

I can not heal the hurts.

I can not silence the inner demons that my sons battle daily.

I can not quiet the inner voices that whisper lies and hurts.

I can not fix them…

All I can do is love them,

and teach them,

and pray for them,

 and walk with them.

But most importantly I can give them a new inner voice…

by the way I talk to them and the words I use.

I can speak God’s truth.

Words are powerful things.

I have never understood that as well as I do now.

We become the voice our children hear in their heads.

We must choose our words wisely.

A “Revolutionary” visit to Valley Forge

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A picture of Grace. I was playing around with an oil painting app. 🙂

Thursday night was a night of little sleep. The good news is that we knew that it was going to be that way, going into this mini vacation. It was not intended to be a restful break, rather… a memory making time with our sweet girl. As a result we had planned a lot of experiences for those short 48 hours we would be away from the other kids.

Thursday evening, after Gracie’s National Honor Society induction ceremony, we surprised her by taking her to see a movie. She has been eagerly waiting for the release of the next movie in one of her favorite book series, “Insurgent.” Toby and I were also excited to see it and so we took advantage of the fact we didn’t have the two little boys with us (who were too young to see it) and went to watch it in 3D. The movie began at 10:00 and we left the theatre at midnight.

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Friday morning we woke early so Gracie could log onto her early morning seminary class. She takes an online scripture study class through church that involves daily lessons online and a live online class, where she meets with her teacher and other students, every Friday morning. She logged on at 6:00am and when she was done we went down to the lobby  to enjoy the hotel’s free continental breakfast. It was an impressive spread. Toby was especially pleased to see the “all you can eat” bacon. 😉

"Bacon!"

“Bacon!”

Before we left for home we decided to squeeze in a  bit more sightseeing and visit Valley Forge, which was only about 20 minutes away. It was neat for Gracie to get more personally acquainted with this piece of history that she has only studied in books. There was something so poignant about stepping onto the land where history was created and walking around that valley, where such sacrifices were made for the freedom we enjoy. It was powerful.

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We began at the visitor’s center where we watched a short 18 minute video about the background and history of Valley Forge. It was a wonderful way to begin our visit and set the scene for our understanding of the valley and what we would see.

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Martha and George

 

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• The Story of Valley Forge •

As told by Ron Avery

“The images are heartrending, dramatic and so powerful that they are embedded in the nation’s historical consciousness:

Bloody footprints in the snow left by bootless men. Near naked soldiers wrapped in thin blankets huddled around a smoky fire of green wood. The plaintive chant from the starving: “We want meat! We want meat!”

These are the indelible images of suffering and endurance associated with Valley Forge in the winter of 1777-78.

“An army of skeletons appeared before our eyes naked, starved, sick and discouraged,” wrote New York’s Gouverneur Morris of the Continental Congress.

The Marquis de Lafayette wrote: “The unfortunate soldiers were in want of everything; they had neither coats nor hats, nor shirts, nor shoes. Their feet and their legs froze until they were black, and it was often necessary to amputate them.”

A bitter George Washington — whose first concern was always his soldiers — would accuse the Congress of “little feeling for the naked and distressed soldiers. I feel superabundantly for them, and from my soul pity those miseries, which it is neither in my power to relieve or prevent.”

The suffering and sacrifices of the American soldiers at Valley Forge are familiar, iconic images, but there is another side of the picture. Valley Forge was where a new, confident, professional American army was born.

Three months of shortage and hardship were followed by three months of relative abundance that led to wonderful changes in the morale and fighting capabilities of the Continental Army.

France would enter the war on the side of the new nation. Valuable foreign volunteers and fresh replacements would trickle into camp.

Most important, it was at Valley Forge that a vigorous, systematic training regime transformed ragged amateur troops into a confident 18th century military organization capable of beating the Red Coats in the open field of battle.”

We then were given this sheet. It was a cell phone tour of the park.

You dial the number on the paper and then as you drive around to the various sites and monuments you punch in the corresponding number and hear a short history lesson. It was a wonderful and informative way to see this historic site.

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Some of our stops included:

The Muhlenberg Brigade Log City where reconstructed Army huts provided a glimpse into the soldiers’ lives.

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The National Memorial Arch:

“Dedicated in 1917, the National Memorial Arch honors the soldiers’ perseverance and expresses hope for future generations.”

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As well as Washington’s headquarters:

“This original stone house served as residence and office for Washington and his staff.”

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Here we were able to walk into the home and see what it might have looked like as it was being occupied by George and Martha.

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The handrail of the staircase was original and it was amazing to think that our hands were touching the same spot where such a historic hero stood.

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We were only able to stay for an hour and a half before we had to get back on the road. It was an amazing visit and I hope we have the opportunity to go again someday, take the other kids, and spend some more time.

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National Honor Society

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It was a beautiful night.

We arrived at the hotel with enough time to get ready for Grace’s special evening.

When we arrived, however, we discovered that when booking our room online I had somehow inadvertently booked it for the wrong day. When Toby went to check in and get the key to our room he was informed that they weren’t expecting us for 3 more weeks. Oops!

So Toby then got to haggle on the phone with Orbitz, trying to fix my mistake, while Grace and I began getting ready in the car. We did our hair and make-up in the parking lot so when Toby finally got our room key with only 10 minutes to spare, we just had to change our clothes. We got to the country club with time to spare.

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The venue was beautiful. It felt like we were at a wedding reception rather than a school ceremony.

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When we arrived we were greeted by many of Gracie and Rusty’s teachers whom we have met before at various outings, as well as many of their teachers that we had not met before. Grace was especially excited to meet her learning coach, Mr. Dolan.

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We were seated at table 4 with Mr. Dolan and another family. We enjoyed an evening of nice conversation, beautiful live music, and delicious food prior to the start of the ceremony.

Dinner consisted of a delicious mixed green salad followed by an entrÊe of our choice. We were given three different options and Toby, Grace and I all  picked the same dinner:

Cedar Plank Salmon with mashed potatoes and green beans.

It was all SO good.

Our meal ended with cheesecake for dessert.

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Then the ceremony began.

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The night was a celebration of the accomplishments of these special kids. There were keynote speakers and a presentation of the qualities demonstrated by the students in NHS:

Character

Scholarship

Leadership

Service

It was then time for the Enlightenment Ceremony, the ceremonial lighting of the inductees’ lantern of knowledge.

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Then the students lifted their right hands, repeated the induction pledge, and were presented with their National Honor Society pins.

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The teachers then planned something special for the students as a surprise. The parents were all contacted and asked to send in a short note, written to their child, to be read during the ceremony. As the students letters were read, there was a slide show of the students’ pictures playing in the back ground. It was a special touch added to an already wonderful night. Here is the note that was read to Gracie:

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Dear Miss Gracie-

What a joy it is for us to be celebrating this day with you. We are so proud of your accomplishments, but even more so, we are proud of who you are. We delight in your kind spirit, your empathy and humility, your tenacity and diligence. We have watched you work hard to overcome the challenges that have made school work harder for you than others, and yet you have never given up or made excuses. You simply dig deeper, work harder and reach higher to be all that you are destined to be. Your example is a strength to your siblings and your friends, and a blessing to your parents. Stand tall, sweet girl, and remember who you are. Your future is bright! We love you and are proud to call you daughter!

Love- Mom and Dad

After the ceremony we stayed long enough for Gracie to be in some group photos and to say good-bye to her teachers. Each of the inductees also received a gift from the school. In the gift bag was a 21cccs National Honor Society shirt and a school mug filled with candy.

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The evening ended at 8:30pm.

It was such a special night and once again we were so impressed with 21st Century Cyber Charter School and the way they always go above and beyond for their students and their families.

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Well done, 21cccs

and great job, Gracie!

We are so proud of you.

a SWEET detour

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Well, there we were, just traveling east across Pennsylvania

when the smell of chocolate lured us off the turnpike.

To this place:

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Yesterday was Gracie’s induction ceremony for National Honor Society. Her cyber school is headquartered just outside of Philadelphia, so after a morning of dropping off siblings at the Hudak’s home, and dropping my car at the garage for work, we hopped in the truck for the 5 hour trip east.

As we drove Gracie did school. Toby was able to turn his cell phone into a mobile hotspot so Gracie didn’t have to miss school yesterday and today. Her teachers were quite impressed that she was willing to travel 5 hours to the ceremony AND also attend all her live classes as she rode.

We decided to plan a few extra stops into our travels to make the most of this special one on one time with have with our oldest daughter. She hasn’t had us all to herself since she was two and Miss Molly was born. 🙂

First stop: Hershey, PA!

The induction ceremony was to begin at 5:30 so between traveling time and the time we needed to allow for checking into a hotel and getting dolled up, we figured we had about 2 hours to make some sweet memories at Chocolate World.

This wasn’t our first visit. We had stopped for a quick visit once before, as we were passing by, when Grace was 6 or 7 years old. She doesn’t have too many memories of that visit. She said that her primary memory was how the town just smelled like chocolate. It was fun to be able to visit again and create some new memories.

We began with a free riding tour through “Hershey’s Chocolate Tour.” This fun tour allows you to ride through the factory process of chocolate making. You step onto a moving platform to get on the ride. Gracie said that it felt like we were back at Disney. 🙂

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At the end of the ride you are dumped out at a gift shop where they try to sell you a photo that was taken of you while on the tour.

(It is just like Disney World!)

As you exit you are given a free piece of chocolate. Yesterday they were handing out Kit Kats. YUM!

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Toby also surprised Grace and bought tickets to “Create you own candy bar.”  In this neat experience you get to go behind the scenes and create your own candy bar from the ground up, choosing the type of chocolate, the extra bits you want to add to your candy, as well as design the packaging. It was very cool!

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It began with hair nets. We were all given aprons and hair nets to wear. Toby had the extra privilege of getting to wear a beard net…which Grace found hilarious.

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We were taken back, asked to sanitize our hands, and watched a safety video. It was here we found out what inclusions were being offered for the day to add to our candy bar.

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We each had a ticket that we scanned at each station. This is what kept track of which candy bar was yours. The first kiosk was your ingredient station. This is where you pick your chocolate and inclusions and decide if you want it topped with sprinkles.

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After picking our ingredients we moved to the line where we watched our candy bar being made. First they added our extras.

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Then it got coated in chocolate.

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As we waited for it to move through the cooling rack we entered another room where we designed the wrapper for our candy bar. Grace had fun with this part. They had many design options to choose from.

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After finishing the design we moved back out to the assembly line where the sprinkles were added and the packaging was completed.

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Our finished creations:

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We had just a bit of time before we had to continue on in our travels

so we strolled around the gift shop where Toby found his favorite treat.

You know, just a little snack for the car ride. 😉

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It was such a FUN stop. Next stop: NHS.

But until then…

We send kisses from Hershey.

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Just a bunch of “Characters”

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Wednesday was fandom day at co-op. The kids were encouraged to dress as their favorite book or movie character. My kids were so excited for this “theme day,” and began debating what characters they would choose in the weeks leading up to it.

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The big kids decided to go with a group theme and all chose characters from Peter Pan. Can you tell who they are?

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There was another fun treat at co-op this week for the 8th grade class. These kids have been together for many years and have been studying history with Miss Corrina since they were in 2nd grade. They have now finished the K-8th history course and so to celebrate their historical journey they decided to have a pizza party.

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Some of the older kids joined them…

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Miss Corrina surprised each of her students with mugs she made and ordered online. The mugs were covered with history pictures, quotes, and a photo of the class. The mug was even filled with sweet treats.  It was such a neat gift and such a sweet token of love, reflecting the hours of time and interest she has taken in her students over the last 6 years.

You could say they have a history. 😉

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This week we also received good news we have been praying for. I have shared with you a bit of the challenges we have been facing with Tyler for the last six months. We had noticed that the medication that he takes for his ADHD seemed less effective. After doing a bit of research and talking to his doctor we found out that we were experiencing the same issues that many of his other patients were also dealing with because of changes that have been made to the generic version of the medication he is on. We were told that we would see the old (positive) results if we would switch to the name brand version of the same drug.

When we took the script in to be filled, however, we were told insurance only covered the generic version. The next step was for our doctor to petition the insurance company and prove that the name brand medication was medically necessary. Yesterday we received a call from the doctor that we had been approved. Today I drove over to the pharmacy to have the script filled only to discover that they didn’t have any in stock and that it would take a week to get it. After calling multiple pharmacies to see if anyone else had it in stock I learned that none of the local pharmacies have any. They all said they had to order it. When I asked why that was I was told that insurance companies don’t cover it anymore so nobody keeps it in stock.

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As discouraged as I was to find out that we had to wait another week, it made me realized the great answer to prayer that approved script was. One pharmacist said to me, “I don’t know how your doctor convinced your insurance to cover the name brand. That almost never happens.”

God is good!

Here are some other happenings at Patchwork Farm:

On Sunday Grace and Rusty both stepped out of their rooms, all dressed and ready for church, at the same time. Without planning to they had inadvertently matched themselves. They looked so cute standing together I had to take a picture.

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On Monday I had my card making class. I have been getting together with friends once a month at a friend’s church to make homemade cards that another friend (who sells Stampin’ Up) puts together. This month we had dinner first. Everyone brought in toppings for a salad bar. After eating we created two of each of these cards while enjoying some mom time.

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This week we have also started our Easter countdown. Many years ago we purchased this Easter countdown devotional kit for the kids. They take turns opening an egg each night and seeing what symbol of the Easter story lays inside. We then read that part of the Easter story. It is a wonderful way to prepare our hearts and realign our focus during this holy season.

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On Tuesday Molly pulled out this little gem… a dog costume she bought at a thrift store a few years ago thinking it could be a Halloween costume for her baby doll. It wasn’t until we were home that she realized her mistake. We got our money’s worth of laughs out of it however when she tried it on Brownie. It was now time for Ellie to model it.

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Doesn’t she look thrilled?!

This week has also been spent at the DMV every evening so Gracie could practice this:

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She has become a pro. I find it so funny the amount of emphasis they put on parallel parking for your driving test when it is a skill you so rarely use. I think the last time I parallel parked a car was at age 16 at my own driving test. I think a better test of skill would be how to merge into highway traffic when nobody will move over or how to maneuver through a grocery store parking lot without hitting a rolling shopping cart…

but, hey, nobody asked me. 🙂

The good news is, if I ever have to parallel park in downtown Pittsburgh I now have a pro in the car that can do it for me!

Thursday we are headed east! Brave friends are watching our other 4 children while Toby and I drive out to Philadelphia, where Gracie’s cyber school is located, for her induction ceremony into National Honor Society. We are so proud of her and we are excited for this special time we will have with our oldest daughter. We have never gone away with just one child so it promises to be a special memory making trip. Thank you, Miss Lana and Woody, for making it possible!

“It has Been 6 Days Since our Last Explosion”

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When things are going smoothly at our house I find myself holding my breath. I hesitate to begin cheering and celebrating for fear of jinxing an already precarious situation. I often find myself debating whether to share the success stories, knowing that as soon as I type up the blog and hit publish, inevitably “it” will all hit the fan.

But I also realize that each success, however small or short-lived is a miracle…a tender mercy. This past week has been full of many miracles, both small and large. It is with a thankful heart I share our stories.

To begin I must give enormous accolades to our God-sent therapist. We have been working with her for the last few weeks and I could cry tears of gratitude for the blessing she has been. I feel like I have an ally in this war we are waging with Ozzie’s past. She gets it. She is loving and kind and funny, but Oh So REAL! She sees it all and is immune to deceit and manipulation. She lovingly calls Ozzie out on his games and asks him to stretch himself far beyond his comfort zone, praising him through his efforts.

In addition to finally feeling like I have the support we have needed, I have also discovered in her an amazing resource of ideas and wisdom in those one hour sessions. It was Tina (our therapist) who shared with us the necessity of adding more “creative chaos” to our lives, (which has been hugely beneficial) but she has also given me insight into how to effectively parent the temper tantrums that have been a daily struggle. She has helped me see that although the way we were parenting the tantrums was on point, our timing was off. Thus making our parenting less effective.

She took out a piece of paper and sketched out a picture of a bell curve. At the top of the curve she made a mark and explained that this was where we were currently using our parenting strategies. She explained that no matter how good the strategy was, if we used them at the top point of the tantrum, during the worst of the rage, we would always fail. “You can’t reason with rage.”

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She explained that we must address the emotions that come before the rage…before Ozzie escalates. She then sat down with Ozzie, drew a picture of him, and had him identify the physical changes that happen to his body as he is entering a tantrum. We circled the parts of his body that change with anger on the sketch. We drew clenched fists, furrowed brows, tight shoulders, etc.

She then explained that my job was then to make Ozzie aware of these changes, as he begins to get upset, by asking him to “check his body.” When he saw that he was having physical signs of anger she then gave us a tool to use to dispel that anger. We practiced. He was asked to cross his arms over his chest with each hand resting on the opposite shoulder and alternate tapping his shoulders while counting to 100. She explained that this strategy works for a number of reasons. She told us that in children who have been abused there is often a blockage between the left and right hemisphere of the brain. The alternating tapping opens those pathways of the brain and allows better reasoning. It also gives the child something to refocus on rather than what they are angry about, and it gives them time to decompress. (It takes a while to count to 100.)

We left with the new information and had the opportunity to try this new strategy almost immediately. I was amazed. The anger began and then dissipated in minutes without ever escalating into a temper tantrum. We continued to practice and apply this all week and went 6 days without a fight or a temper tantrum.

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This week also brought other excitement. On Monday I was folding laundry in my bedroom during the kids’ lunch break when there was a knock at my bedroom door. I opened it to find Molly standing there in only a towel, dripping with water.

“I smell gas,” she said.

I breathed deep, looked at her like she was crazy, and said, “I don’t smell anything.”

(Granted my nose wasn’t all that reliable. I was battling a cold.)

“No really,” she said, “Smell the register.”

I still couldn’t smell anything but took evasive action when 4 of the 5 kids confirmed that they smelled gas and weren’t feeling well. They complained of headaches and nausea. I had a horrible headache too but assumed it was the cold I was fighting.

I told the kids to put on coats and boots and go wait by the playland with the dogs while I investigated. I figured it was better that I be the only one to blow up…you know,  in case of a gas explosion. 😉

So I called Toby,

lit a candle to get rid of the smell…

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Kidding!

I just wanted to see if you were really paying attention to my story. 🙂

On the phone Toby walked me through how to turn off the gas main. I opened windows and waited for Toby to come home and help us figure out where the gas leak was coming from.

When he got home he went down to the basement first and saw the source of our problem. The outside of the hot water heater was melted and charred. It had caught on fire and resulted in the gas leak.

He looked at me with concern that during MY investigation of the house I hadn’t noticed the flames licking up the outside of the hot water tank. I explained that it hadn’t looked like that when I was down there…although I had checked to make sure the pilot light was lit and was impressed with how big and bright the flame was…oops.

Little did I know there was a fire raging inside.

Thank goodness for God’s protection. Our guardian angels have been working overtime!

But from both of these experiences I have learned a valuable lesson…

If you wait until the explosion, it is too late.

The signs of danger are there before the catastrophe hits.

Watch, listen, act and address the signs of danger BEFORE  someone loses a limb…

and that’s probably true for a gas leak too! 🙂

Embark!

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It was that time of year once again… time for New Beginnings! New Beginnings is a yearly ceremony for the young women at church. It is a chance to focus on their theme for the year, welcome the new 12-year-old girls who are coming into young women’s, and a chance to bid farewell to our graduating seniors.

It was so odd, after 4 years of planning New Beginnings, to show up on Sunday evening as a mother without any of the stress or worries that are typically associated with that day. 🙂

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In the past we have had fun with the theme for the evening. We have done a Dr. Seuss night, an Alice in Wonderland adventure, “You are a gem,” and last year’s theme was “Frozen.”

This year there was the nautical them of “Embark!” and the focus was on service.

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The girls were all asked to bring in objects that represent what they have been working on this year in their goal setting program, Personal Progress.

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Grace brought in her scriptures, that she has been working on reading daily, and a painting to represent a talent she has been working on developing.

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Molly brought in a loaf of bread to represent the bread she made and delivered to neighbors for a service project, as well as baby hats she crocheted to donate to our local hospital.

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The night was filled with a spiritual devotional, a musical number by the young women, a welcome to the 12-year-old girls and a farewell to our seniors.

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The night ended with snacks and treats.

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There was even a photo booth for the girls to play around with…

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As a gift for each girl there were charms with nautical themes for them to each take home. Grace chose an anchor and Molly chose a lighthouse. They were excited. They both collect charms for their charm bracelet so it was an extra special gift!

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It was a special night for the young women!

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Rock On!

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Last April we had the fun experience of joining Gracie’s school, 21st century cyber charter school, for a field trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. At Christmas, when we joined the school for another outing to the symphony we were given 7 free tickets to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that weren’t used up in the spring but were good for a year. Our friends, the Hudaks, were also given free tickets so we decided to plan a Saturday when we could go together. That Saturday ended up being this past weekend.

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We decided to meet at the museum at 10:00am, so we left our house at 8:00. We had just driven onto the turnpike when the car began to rattle and shake. Toby asked me how long that rattle had been going on and I told him it had just been since it was at the garage the pervious day. He pulled over and walked around the car. He was shocked when he saw this:

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Only two of the bolts on the tire were tightened, the rest were on the verge of popping off. Evidently the garage had forgotten to tighten them. Toby was not happy with them. He tightened everything up and we were back on the road, grateful that the problem was caught before disaster ensued.

The drive took two hours. As we drove into Cleveland we passed under this unusual sight:

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The world’s largest outdoor chandelier.

Hmmm…interesting.

We parked in a garage and walked over to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The location was beautiful, overlooking the water. The kids stopped to watch the birds walking across the ice.

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Our timing was perfect and we met the Hudak family just as they were walking in too. Tyler was thrilled to see that the building had “spinny doors.” It was his favorite part of the museum. 🙂

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We started on the ground floor and worked our way up through five floors of Rock and Roll memorabilia.

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One of the kids’ favorite parts of the tour was looking at the costumes worn by the artists over the years. Here the girls pose with a display of one of their favorite artists: Taylor Swift.

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As we walked around Tyler picked an outfit that he thought I would look good in:

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And an outfit he thought Toby should wear:

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“And then you can go on a date together!” he said.

Can you imagine the looks we would get at Applebees?! 🙂

Ozzie especially enjoyed the day. Other than Toby, he knew more artists than the rest of us. The Elvis memorabilia was his favorite part.

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Here are some other photos of our fun day:

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The kids watching a choir perform down in the lobby:

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Molly found her “Jam” 🙂

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“Good Golly Miss Molly”

In one section of the museum you can sit in an auditorium and watch vidoes of concerts on the big screen. The kids had just taken their seats when the announcer on stage yelled, “Is Ozzy in the house?!” Our Ozzie jumped and turned to look at us in excitement. They were talking about him! It was funny and charming until Ozzy Osbourne stepped on stage, opened his mouth and the swearing began. We quickly hustled the children out the door. Oops, not one of our better parenting moments!

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The evolution of "walkmans" during my lifetime.

The evolution of “walkmans” during my lifetime.

There was a special photography exhibit by photographer Herb Ritts, that I really enjoyed. There was even an Herb Ritts backdrop for us to create our own Rock Portraits:

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His black and white portraits were amazing!

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What a fun time we had with these special friends:

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After the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame we decided to go out to lunch together. A friend of Woody’s recommended a hot dog place called “Happy Dog.”

We abandoned our dietary restrictions for the day and let the kids go crazy.

The premise of the restaurant is that you order a $5.00 hot dog and then top it with, well just about anything you can imagine! You order by tearing off one of the paper menus and checking all the toppings you would like. It is all included for the $5.00 price. French fries or tater tots are then offered on the side with a huge variety of dipping sauces.

The menu

The menu

The girls sat at their own table and when they found out the sauces were free they asked if they could try them all. Here is their dipping sauce buffet.

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Ozzie ordered a more traditional dog…and loved it.

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Tyler was more daring and ordered cheese, ketchup and fruit loops on his…Ugh. He said it was good.

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One of the girls even tried peanut butter on hers. 🙂

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The kids really enjoyed the novelty of this unusual restaurant. It was a hoot!

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A fun day had by all!

Pajama Parties and Pancake Day

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The theme for the week was Pajamas!

If you ask my kids what the best part of being home schooled is

more than one would tell you,

“Getting to do school in your PJs!”

The real novelty then comes when we get to wear our PJs OUT…in public!   🙂

This week the kids had TWO different opportunities to put on PJs and head out into society.

The first was on Wednesday for Pancake and Pajama day at co-op. Wednesday morning was a breeze as we hustled out the door easily, since no one had to change out of their sleepwear. The easy breezy morning made me wonder why we don’t do Pajama day more often!

Ozzie and Tyler

Ozzie and Tyler

Molly and Grace

Molly and Grace

PJ kids!

PJ kids!

For lunch at co-op, rather than packing lunches like usual, the moms all brought an ingredient to have pancakes for lunch. The moms that don’t teach third period started making pancakes and set up the “buffet line.” The kids filled up on pancakes and had a great lunch!

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Rusty topping his pancakes.

Rusty topping his pancakes.

Yummy!

Yummy!

On Friday evening, following our trampoline outing, the girls put on PJs once again for a stake young women activity, “Pajamarama.” I wasn’t feeling well so Toby generously offered to take the girls to their activity. The night consisted of games, food, and a devotional.

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The biggest hit of the night was a life-sized Hungry Hungry Hippo game. The girls became the game pieces as they were pushed and pulled back on forth on scooters as they tried to collect “marbles.” It was a huge hit!

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Other happenings this week included Ozzie’s adoption tween support group that meets once a month. The two-hour activity included dinner (They had walking tacos) and an adoption themed activity. This night they were working with the kids on how to share their adoption story. The kids were all asked to bring an object that represents their personal story. Ozzie chose to bring his adoption announcement. On his announcement it says he was in foster care for 1135 days. He wanted the kids to know that. He also wanted them to know that he will never be in foster care again…that he found his forever home.

Ozzie's adoption announcement.

Ozzie’s adoption announcement.

While Ozzie was at adoption group Toby and I had two hours to ourselves with no children! We heavily debated whether we should go out to dinner or just lean the seats back in the car and nap for two hours. We ended up going out to dinner. We both ordered a Reuben and enjoyed adult time.

This week Ozzie also got to open his birthday gifts from my parents and G.G. My mom had been holding on to them until I could make it out for a visit. I brought the gifts home with me Sunday night. He was thrilled to get the bag with his name on it. My grandma has bought each of the grandkids their own personalized bag and Ozzie was tickled to have one like the other kids.

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The Lego kit was also a HUGE hit. On Thursday morning I spent hours at the garage getting my car worked on and Ozzie came with me. He set himself up in the corner and worked on his Lego set the whole time. By the time we were done he had completed his helicopter.

On Wednesday night the youth participated in Cupcake Wars. They split into teams and were each given a box of cake mix. They could doctor up the recipe however they liked and were then judged on taste and presentation. Rusty and Grace were on the same team with a few other kids and their orange twist cupcakes ended up being the winning cupcakes.

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On Thursday we got an email from Gracie’s teacher asking us to send in a photo of Grace and a letter from Toby and I to be read aloud next Thursday. Gracie is being inducted into the National Honor Society and her, Toby and I will be traveling to the other side of the state for her ceremony. As part of the ceremony they needed a picture of her to put up on the screen as they read her letter. We headed outside to get a photo for her special night.

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Final news for the week:

We have decided to sign Ozzie up for Taekwondo. Thursday was his first class. Pictures will be coming soon. 🙂