Monthly Archives: May 2015

Bird Banding and Stream Study- Part 2


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After a great morning at the bird banding center we couldn’t wait to see what was involved with the stream sampling part of the outing. After lunch we gathered again and hiked down to Powdermill Run creek. We were going to learn how to take a stream sample and look for macroinvertebrates that are pollution sensitive. By gathering samples and looking to see what was living in the water we could then determine the quality of the water.

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The group was split into “teams.”

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Each team was giver a “D net” and a bucket to hold their “creatures.”

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The man leading the class was very informative and fascinating to listen to. He explained to the kids how to gather a sample and then got down and dirty with them as they dug around in the creek. Tyler was particularly taken with him and wouldn’t leave his side.

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I was surprised to see that Tyler was so fascinated with the activity. I thought it would be Ozzie who would love it but Oz was content to just wander and observe. It was Tyler who was flipping rocks and digging in the dirt to find the samples.

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For a while Molly and Rusty worked as a team

with Grace helping the two little boys.

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Bu it wasn’t long before Ozzie began to wander away and Tyler ditched Grace for the teacher, so she joined up with Molly and Rusty.

All the kids had fun. They enjoyed splashing around in the creek in their rubber boots.

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It was fun to see the critters they pulled out of the water to add to their sample bucket.

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We were in the creek for an hour.

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Ozzie emptying the water out of his boots. 🙂

At the end of the hour everyone carried their sample buckets back to the shore where we then spent the next half hour identifying what we found.

Everyone was given a “cheat sheet” to help identify the microinvertebrate life in their buckets:

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Using the key the kids began the identification process:

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In their two buckets they found: Cranefly larva, Mayfly nymph, Caddisly larva, Dobsonfly larva, Stonefly nymph, Crayfish, and a little brown trout.

The teacher explained that the more invertebrate circled on the bottom line, the cleaner the water is. They are the ones that are most pollution sensitive.

After examining everyone’s samples we concluded that the water was very clean. The teacher confirmed our guess, telling us that this stream has received an “Exceptional Value” rating and is one of the top 9% cleanest streams in Pennsylvania.

The kids agreed that this was one of the best school outings we have attended. The classes were so well taught and the staff was amazing. We highly recommend a visit to Powdermill Nature Reserve!

A perfect way to end the school year!

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Bird Banding and Stream Study- Part 1


Today was a “typical” Friday.

We spent the day banding birds and checking the pollution levels in our local streams…

you know, the usual stuff. 🙂

Actually it was “Field Trip Friday!” and we spent our last field trip of the year visiting Powdermill Nature Reserve. It was one of the best outings we have ever been on!

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This was our first time visiting Powdermill Nature Reserve, but when I read about the details of the outing on Molly’s school’s website I knew it would be a big hit with the kids, especially Rusty (my science lover). The outing was almost  2 hours away, but the drive was beautiful.

We arrived at 9:00 am. The outing was split into two parts: Bird banding in the morning and Stream study in the afternoon, with lunch in between. To get to the Avian Research Center we took a 10 minute hike through the woods.


When we arrived we were greeted outside by one of the specialist who was holding two bags. Out of the bags he pulled two birds that had been caught, banded, and were ready for release.

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We then walked over to the edge of the field where he showed us how they catch the birds for banding. He unrolled the “mist net”, a very finely woven net that catches the birds as they fly into it, and then traps them in net “pockets.” The netting is so fine that the birds often don’t see it. He explained that it works best on overcast days when the sun isn’t reflecting off it, with their busiest days occurring during migration. He explained how effective these nets were, as well as being safe for the birds. They have 65 of these nets on site and on their busiest day caught and banded 604 birds.

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He then took us into his lab where the research takes place. We all crowded in and watched as he walked us through the steps that follow a capture. He had three birds on hand that they had just caught.

The first bird he pulled out of the bag was a hummingbird. It was tiny, weighing only as much as a penny. He said that they are among the toughest to band due to their small size.

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He showed us the different band sizes they use, depending on the type of bird it is. Look at the size difference between the band used on a hummingbird and a band used on an eagle:

The tiny humming bird bands are stored on a safety pin.

The tiny humming bird bands are stored on a safety pin.

After recording the birds data and banding it, he opened the window and the hummingbird flew away.

The next bird he pulled out of a bag was a male Flicker.

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First he checked the feathers to determine the age of the bird and then measured its wing length.

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He then determined the percentage of fat on the bird by examining the fat pocket at the base of the throat.

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Then he weighed the bird by placing it head down in a cone that rested on a digital scale.

IMG_3325 (2)After recording all the data in a national database, he banded the bird and it was sent to another researcher for a project they are working on.

The final bird he banded was a Gray Catbird. He said that this was the most common bird they caught.

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Here, at this site, they band on average 10,000 birds per year with a recapture rate of 4,000 birds per year.

The next stop at the Avian Research Center was the glass testing tunnel. We were turned over to another researcher who explained to us the research they were doing.

She told us that they second most common cause of death for birds worldwide was collisions with glass, causing 599 million deaths a year.(The number one cause is ferel cats) She said each home was the cause of 2 bird deaths a year on average. She explained that what they were studying there at the research station was how the use of UV coatings on the glass prevented birds from colliding with windows.

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After many of the caught birds receive their bands they are then taken over to the flying tunnel where they take part in the study that is being done.

At the end of the tunnel there are two panes of glass: one standard and one with a UV coating. The birds are released into the other end of the tunnel and are recorded to see which pane of glass they fly toward. At the end of the tunnel, before they reach the glass, they are caught in a net to prevent harm to the bird. This is the final stop before they are released back into the wild.

Gracie was especially fascinated with this research since she wrote a paper on this very thing earlier in the year.

After we were done we walked back through the woods to the Nature Reserve Center. It was time for lunch! We had a 30 minute break before part 2 of the tour began. We enjoyed our packed lunch on the back deck and then walked around the exhibits inside while we waited to go down to the creek.

On the wall was a fun game called:

“What Bird Are You?”IMG_3250 (2)By following a flow chart of questions you could find out what kind of bird you would be. It was funny to read the determining questions and see what the kids picked for their answers.

So just in case you are curious as to what my children would look like if they had feathers and wings,

here are the results of our little quiz…

Grace would be a Swallow:

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Molly would be a Puffin:

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Rusty would be a Duck:

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Tyler would be an Ibis:

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 and Ozzie would be a Kiwi:

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Part 2: Stream Study!

This Little Piggy Saved a Penny…


This little piggy saved a penny…

this little piggy saved none.

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Monday night was family night, and this week I had a lesson planned. After our great class at church on Tuesday, “Saving for a Rainy Day,” I have been pondering how to work the lessons I learned at that class into a family home evening lesson for my kids.

To make the night more fun I found candy coins to use as part of my lesson. I also found plain piggy banks at the craft store that I thought the kids would enjoy personalizing.

We began by showing a video that talked about the difference between “wants” and “needs.” This then led into a great discussion with our kids as we played a game: “Want” or “Need.” We would call out an expense and they would vote on whether it would qualify as a “want” or a “need.”The older kids had a much better understanding of the difference than the younger boys who felt McDonald’s happy meals were definitely a “need”. We had some great debates on whether some of the items on the list were truly a “need” or whether one could live without them, thus making them a “want.” We observed that the line was sometimes blurred, depending on your life situation or where you live. We talked about the many things we perceive as “needs” in America that would be considered a “want” in other areas of the world.

(ie: indoor plumbing) 🙂

Next we talked about the two ways to “find” the money in your budget to begin saving:

1.Bring in more income.

2. Reduce your current expenses.

We then examined our own family budget and came up with budget saving ideas. The kids helped us make a list of areas where we could “trim the fat” and let them brainstorm ways we could make saving a focus in the upcoming months.

I was really proud of them.

We then talked about their “budgets”,

in other words:  their allowance. 🙂

I have always struggled with how to handle childhood allowances. I don’t believe that children should be paid for doing their chores. I feel like that is just part of being a family. We also meet all our children’s needs: food, clothes, etc. so there was never a need to give them money for those things.


The flip side of this argument was that we wanted to teach our children to tithe.

However they needed “income” to learn the lesson of the blessings that come from paying a tithing to the Lord.

So our solution, when the children were little, was to begin with an allowance of .30/week, paid in pennies. Those chubby little hands would count out three pennies each week to take to church and the rest would be saved for a trip to the penny candy store.

When they got a bit older the allowance increased to $1.00/week.

When the boys moved into the family the older kids began receiving $2.00/week and the little boys got $1.00/week.

On Monday we told the kids that their allowance would be doubling. The older kids will receive $4.00 a week and the younger kids will receive $2.00 a week.

After the cheering quieted we explained what would be happening with that extra weekly allowance. After discussing the benefits of saving, we then explained the 50-40-10 method of budgeting.

We used our candy coins to illustrate it.

Giving them each 10 candy coins we explained how with every dollar of allowance they received

 10 cents would go toward tithing,

40 cents toward savings,

and 50 cents would be theirs to spend.

We ended the evening with our piggy bank craft…

because it is so much more fun to save when you are saving up in a cute pig!

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Each child was given a ceramic piggy bank, ceramic markers and paints, and free rein to let their creativity run wild. They had a lot of fun with this family night activity, and I loved seeing what they all came up with for a piggy bank design.

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Here are the finished pigs…

Gracie's watermelon pig

Gracie’s watermelon pig

Molly's patchwork pig

Molly’s patchwork pig

Rusty's Minecraft pig

Rusty’s Minecraft pig

Ozzie's graffiti pig

Ozzie’s graffiti pig


Tyler’s “swimming pig” (Those are red goggles he is wearing) 🙂

Didn’t they do a great job?!

Now they just have to start feeding them!

How do you handle “allowances” at your home?


Memorial Day Weekend


We were blessed with a beautiful Memorial Day weekend.

As we reflected on our blessings…

the blessings of living in a free nation,

of the honorable and noble service given for that freedom,

of the lives that were lost for the sake of our freedom,

we were humbled.

It made me grateful.

It was good to stop and remember,

and count our blessings.

The weekend was spent as a family. It was wonderful having Toby home for a long weekend. The weekend was spend bonding as a family through hard work and fun activities. It was a weekend of “catching up.” We caught up on projects, on errands, on time together, and even on sleep. (Love the extra sleep!)

The weekend began on Saturday morning with an activity at our house for the men at church. They had planned a skeet shooting activity and asked if we would host it at our home. Toby was looking forward to pulling out his clay pigeon launcher and doing some target practice. Everyone seemed to have a good time, and my kids enjoyed being spectators to all the action.

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The weekend was also spent planting. On Saturday after everyone left we headed to Home Depot. We wanted to pick up some hostas for our front walk, and we needed a few more packs of seeds.

Every year we plant five garden beds using raised gardens and the “square foot gardening method.” We are sold on the ease of this form of gardening and this is our seventh year planting this way. We have five beds and since we now have five children it works out perfectly. Each child had a vegetable bed that is theirs. They pick the plants that go in it, and are responsible for the weeding, watering, and harvesting of the vegetables in their bed. I have found that this “ownership” goes a long way toward the kids being more diligent about their work. If it is “theirs” they tend to take more pride in it and are more willing to work…

and at the very least I can visually see who has been doing their weeding and who hasn’t

and they can’t blame it on a sibling. 😉

The girls planting Hostas

The girls planting Hostas

First we had to prep the beds. This requires pulling the last of the old growth and weeds out of the beds, adding manure to be mixed in, and partitioning the beds into 12″x12″ squares.

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Then it was time to divide up the seed packets.

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Some years we start our seeds indoors, but some years we just run out of time and end up putting the seeds straight into the ground. This was one of those busy spring seasons and it just means we will have to wait a bit longer to enjoy the fruits of our labors!

Here is what was planted in everyone’s gardens:

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I didn’t get a picture of Molly, but she planted sunflowers, corn, dill and spaghetti squash.

While we worked, the animals played…

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On Monday we had our annual Memorial Day picnic with our church family. We met at Two Mile Run Park. I wasn’t feeling great so I found a place in the shade to settle in for the afternoon and watch the fun.

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For this holiday party every family brings a side dish or dessert to share and their own meat to grill for their family. Everyone takes turns at the grill. We marinated chicken the night before and Toby grilled it.

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It was delicious!

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The kids spent the day playing on the playground and getting wet in the creek.

IMG_3141 (2)We left by mid afternoon and enjoyed  family night at home.(More on that later) It was a wonderful weekend and a great way to usher in Summer!

One week left of school…

We are almost there!!


Hide and “goat” Seek


There is a reason why baby goats are called “kids.” The similarity between a 3 week old goat and a three-year-old child are uncanny. Both are fearless, playful, and busy…Oh so busy! These characteristics carry into adulthood (At least with goats) but they really shine when they are young. Baby goats are also born with hidden springs in their feet. Much like a 3-year-old child’s philosophy of “why walk when you can run,”

a baby goat asks, “why run when you can bounce?!”

Everything around them becomes something to leap off of…

rocks, fallen branches, tipped over buckets, other animals!

Teddy loves to take advantage of sleeping animals in the field and while they peacefully doze he will leap onto their back and then fly off the other side. Needless to say he is quickly losing popularity with this little stunt that he finds so funny. The other goats and the pig quickly chase him off when he starts using them as playground equipment. The only one who endures it is our male alpaca, Blizzard. He lays there patiently as Teddy uses him as a launching pad. As a result Teddy spends much of his day following Blizzard around.

Blizzard also has fallen into the role of protector to this little orphan goat. When Ellie snuck into the pen yesterday to play with Teddy, Blizzard flipped out, chasing Ellie away.

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The boys have come up with their own game to entertain Teddy:

“Hide and ‘goat’ Seek”

The rules are simple.

While Teddy is distracted (and he is often distracted) they hide behind one of the large rocks in the field and then call his name. He then scans the field looking for them. When he thinks he knows where they are he races over to the rock, jumps on it, and peeks behind to see if he is right. Yesterday it kept Teddy and the boys entertained for quite a while. 🙂

First he counts while the boys hide.

First he counts while the boys hide.

Then he tries to figure out where they are hiding...

Then he tries to figure out where they are hiding…

So close! Keep looking!

So close! Keep looking!

Sometimes he gets distracted by all the fun rocks to jump off.

Sometimes he gets distracted by all the fun rocks to jump off.

But soon he finds them and then the chase begins…

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Life is good when you’re a KID!

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Spring Formal


“I think that playing dress-up begins age five and never truly ends” – Kate Spade

Friday night was the Spring Formal for the youth of our church. This is Gracie’s third year attending and Molly’s second year. They invited their friend Olivia to join them once again. The dance is for 14 year olds and older, so next year Olivia’s sister, Tatum, will be able to join them. Yea!!

This year, rather than get ready for the dance together, the girls got ready at their own homes but then met up at Olivia’s grandparents’ home so we could have a mini photo shoot before we left. Their home is beautiful and made for a perfect backdrop. The girls all looked lovely and had fun modeling their new dresses.

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My baby looks so grown up.

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Miss Molly’s sweet spirit shines brightly!

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Sister fun on the swing.

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Gracie’s “Downton Abbey” hair do.

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Little sisters loving on the big sisters.

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The girls showing off their fancy nails they did for the dance.

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Things starting to get crazy 🙂

After getting our fill of pictures we had one more stop to make before we headed south to the dance. We stopped back at home to pick up Nate, a friend from church, and we were on our way.

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Don’t they all look dashing?!

The drive took us an hour and twenty minutes south into Washington County. The dance was at a new location this year. Rather than being held in downtown Pittsburgh, this year they moved the location to the George Washington hotel.

It was a beautiful old building!

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Since I didn’t have the responsibility of chaperoning this year, I took a stack of paperwork with me and while the girls danced I left and got a lot of work done. It is amazing what can be accomplished when you have four uninterrupted hours to yourself! 🙂 Near the end of the night I slipped back into the ballroom to get some shots of the kids before the dance came to an end.

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At the conclusion of the night the youth all gathered for a group photo.

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And a “friend photo” of the kids from church.

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What a goofy bunch. 🙂

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The drive home was filled with chatter and laughter as the kids shared stories of their night. Everyone had a wonderful time.

It was another successful Spring Formal!

Tests, Chicks, and Roundhouse Kicks


This week has found us running in multiple directions and pulling some long hours as we work to finish up the school year. Many of our activities are coming to a close as we head into the summer months and the kids are all trying to complete the last of their school work by the end of next week.

Here’s a peek at our week:

On Tuesday we had a Relief Society activity at church. It was a finance class on “Saving for a Rainy (or not so Rainy) Day.”

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The girls went with me and helped me set up and decorate with the other ladies on the committee. Pat lent us her impressive collection of piggy banks to use for our centerpieces.

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One of the men from church taught the class and did an amazing job!

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It was informative and entertaining and we all left with many gems of “saving” wisdom.

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While we attended the class Molly and Grace babysat  the little people in the nursery. They love the chance to snuggle some babies. 🙂

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At the end of the class we enjoyed a large variety of “cheap treats,” snacks that can be made on a shoestring budget.

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It was a great night!

On Wednesday we had our final day of state testing.  We were back at Butler County Community College for Gracie’s Literature Keystone Test. She was a bit nervous, but not nearly as nervous as she was last year when she had to complete her Algebra and Biology Keystone Tests.

She had to check in at 8:00 am so we left the house at 7:00 with books and computers packed so that the other kids could work on school while Gracie tested. We dropped her off and then settled into the college lobby where we made ourselves at home for the day with our friends, the Hudaks.

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The kids worked all day, taking breaks every few hours to play video games with friends or enjoy one of the board games we packed. It was a good day. Grace left testing feeling confident that she did well and eager to tell us about the fun games and activities the teachers had planned for the down time in between the testing sessions.

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I’m relieved we are DONE and we don’t have to face state tests again for another year. 🙂

On Thursday we added two more to the Taekwondo family. Grace and Molly decided to join Rusty and Ozzie for Taekwondo lessons. At the school the boys attend they offer a family rate. Once you have 3 children attending it is the same price regardless of how many family members join, so the girls decided to try it out. Thursday was their first class…and they really enjoyed it. They are all trying to talk Tyler into joining them but they haven’t had any luck yet.





While at class, Rusty and Ozzie were informed that they were ready to test for the next belt level. In two weeks they will both be testing. Ozzie is especially thrilled at the prospect of becoming a yellow belt.

Now on to animal news…

In addition to this sweet addition to Patchwork Farm

Teddy doing school with Rusty.

Teddy doing school with Rusty.

we have also added a few more feathered friends this week. Friends from church hatched some poultry eggs in an incubator to give their grandkids the neat experience of watching them hatch. Now that they are all hatched and beginning to grow they asked if we would like to adopt them.

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This week they joined our farm family. There are 3 ducks and quite a few chicks. We look forward to more eggs in our future!

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We also added another batch of bunnies to the mix. We now have 4 litters of bunnies. It is cute to see the bunnies from one nest wander over and snuggle in with the bunnies from another nest. I don’t know how the mommas keep things straight! Here the bunnies from an older litter climbed into the nest of our youngest bunnies. You can see the mix of sizes all snuggled together in one soft, fluffy bunch. 🙂

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And to end a busy week on yet another high note…

Last night was Spring Formal for the girls.

Stay tuned for photos. Needless to say, they had a ball!

Father/Son Campout and Girls’ Night Out


Friday evening, after a fun day in Punxsutawney, it was the boys’ annual Father/Son Campout with the other men from church. The boys look forward to this every year and Toby has been going with his sons since Rusty was two years old. There was some debate as to whether it was worth going since there was rain in the forecast.

Last year they went and the rain made for a less than ideal camping experience.

But the boys begged, and Toby gave in…

although he did take the trailer rather than the tent just in case they were in for another rainy night


But lo and behold the sun came out, along with a beautiful rainbow, and they had a wonderful time!

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Meanwhile the girls and I had a few fun things of our own planned. Since the first year Toby took Rusty to the annual Father/Son campout, the girls eagerly look forward to our annual “no boys at home” night. When they were little this meant happy meals and watching movies in Mommy’s bed. As they have grown older “Girl’s Night” has evolved into dinner out and makeovers.

For the last few years we have taken advantage of the Father/Son Campout occurring a week or two prior to Spring Formal and have used the night to go dress shopping.

When the boys left we left as well

to go shopping!

For the past few years our first stop has always been the thrift store to see if we can find a used semi-formal dress that meets the modesty standards we expect. The last few years we lucked out. This year, however, we had to shop new and we ended up at the mall.


We began by hitting the four major department stores but quickly found their selection to be unsuitable. We were looking for dresses that were at least knee length and covered their shoulders. We were shocked by how few met that criteria. We were quickly becoming discouraged when we stumbled across a hidden gem in J.C Penny. In the far corner of the women’s department we found a treasure trove of suitable dresses to pick from. The girls loaded up their arms with possible choices and headed to the dressing room to try them on.

We didn’t have a lot of time. The store was closing in 20 minutes so they had to try things on quickly.

But we found a dress for each of them that they both loved. The perk was that they both were perfect fits and already modest, so we didn’t have to worry about alterations or extras.

And the cherry on top…

They were 50% off! Yea!!


After we were done shopping we headed over to Panera Bread for a late dinner. We got there just before closing so we had the place to ourselves.

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Then we drove home to enjoy a night of snack foods, face masks, and pedicures while we watched the movie, Unbroken. It was a great movie with a great message, which led to a great discussion with my girls. It was a perfect night and so nice to have that special one on one time with my sweet girls. How blessed I feel to have daughters!

The next day the boys arrived home early. Tyler had a soccer game and Toby had a metal detecting hunt. Toby is a member of the Beaver County Metal Detecting Club. They get together monthly for meetings and to hunt together, but twice a year they have a formal hunt. The club purchases silver coins and prizes to win, in addition to all the coins that are buried to be found. The hunt lasts for hours, as the club members search a roped off area where the coins are buried. Toby looks forward to these hunts.

This past Saturday he had a particularly successful hunt. Here are his findings for the day and some of the prizes he won.


While Toby was “hunting,” and I was at soccer with the boys, Gracie had a job of her own. She was hired by a family at church to be the photographer for their sons’ birthday party. They wanted to be able to enjoy their special day with their sons and their guests and not worry about pictures, so they offered Grace the job of coming and taking pictures at the party. Grace was thrilled! She has been wanting to open the door to this sort of experience, and I thought it was a brilliant idea on the mom’s part. I wish I would have thought of it when my kids were little! 🙂

Grace had a blast and hopes for more opportunities like it in the future!


“Say Cheese!”

Lessons I’ve Learned through Adoption


Last Thursday I was invited to speak at local adoption support group’s meeting about our adoption journey. It ended up being a wonderful experience. As I prepared my thoughts for the evening, and reflected back on the last three years and the adoption of two sons, it gave me an opportunity to ponder the lessons we have learned along the way.

When we first felt God calling us to adopt,

our vision of what they journey would look like was far different from the reality that was ahead of us.

Not better, not worse, just different.

We thought we had a handle on things. We had parenting experience and felt we were pretty competent at it, so this adoption thing was bound to be a breeze, right?

Ummm…nope. 🙂

Through this process we quickly learned how little we actually knew. We discovered that there are lessons that can’t be learned ahead of time. Some things must be learned in the trenches.

With that being said, here are some of the lessons we have learned

as we have navigated the road of adoption:

#1: Adoption is HARD!

I remember attending an adoption prep class prior to having Tyler move in with us in which the speaker compared adoption to giving birth. She made the profound comparison that growing your family requires labor. For a woman giving birth that is a physical labor that stretches over the course of hours or days as you brace yourself to bear each painful contraction. Adoption labor is also a necessity. It may not cause the same physical pain, but it is a labor of love none the less

that hurts your heart and tires your spirit. It requires that same commitment as birthing labor

to keep pushing through the pain to enjoy the reward that comes after the pain.

#2: If God calls you to it, He will qualify you for it.

This has been, by far, the sweetest blessing of our adoption journey. We have witnessed the Lord’s hand in powerful ways, as a result of our complete dependence on Him, as we have traveled these uncharted waters. We quickly learned how ill-equipped we were to do this alone. That humbling realization led to a deeper relationship with the ONE who can do it all…

and can equip us to do it all.

Through this process I have discovered that, with the Lord’s help, I can do hard things. Things I never felt I could manage…

– Driving through crazy, scary, Pittsburgh traffic by myself to get to a court hearing.

– Battle epic temper tantrums that would last for hours

– Dodge sharp flying projectiles with the greatest of ease.


God truly gives you superhero powers when you are fighting for a noble cause…

the life of a child.

# 3: Sometimes this journey is about embracing Plan B:

As I observe the adoption journey of many friends and acquaintances, I am struck by how many have been placed on this road as a result of circumstances beyond their control. Many of them had a different vision for how this journey would play out. Perhaps they assumed they would grow their family through birth. Perhaps they signed up for adoption with a certain type of child in mind. Perhaps it is the timing of the process that is different from expected. I have come to realize, through our own journey toward adoption, that what you think the path will look like is often very different from reality.

We began considering adoption 10 years ago with domestic infant adoption in mind. When we felt God calling us to foster child adoption we thought it would be a child under 5 or a young sibling group. We began with a list of non-negotiables…things we didn’t want in our home. Then we witnessed the truth in that old adage, “When we make plans, God laughs.”

Everything we thought we didn’t want is exactly what we recieved and we gained a testimony of the importance of embracing Plan B

because our Plan B is quite often God’s Plan A…

If we would trust the Lord when the road bends in an unexpected way we would see the great blessing of His plan…

the BEST plan.

#4: Glean all the wisdom you can from the experiences of others.

It is humbling when you have to face the reality of your own inadequacies.  We were flabbergasted when we applied all our “tried and true” parenting tools to our adopted treasures and discovered they were ineffective. We quickly leaned that parenting a child who had experienced trauma was far different that parenting a child whose early years had been filled with love and security. We needed a new play book. After depleting our “tried and true” parenting tool box we began seeking out support.

We discovered the gems of wisdom that could be found in others’ experiences. Tapping into the lessons learned by those who walked before us turned out to be our greatest asset. We felt like we had finally been given a code book to the behaviors we were seeing.

It was therapeutic to talk to others who “got it.” We discovered the great blessing of adoption books, great social workers, support groups and a good therapist.

# 5: Self care is essential!

Toby and I have an ongoing joke in our family about a little idiosyncrasy of mine that drives him CRAZY. It is my  tendency to allow my gas tank to run down to EMPTY. He doesn’t get it. He is of the mind-set that you should always have a half  a tank of gas in your car. When his truck’s gas gauge drops below the 1/2 mark he stops at a gas station to fill it up. This is very different from how I work. There have been many times in our marriage that Toby has had to come and rescue me by the side of the road because I had run out of gas. He lovingly arrives with a container of gas, shaking his head, just not getting it. I try  to explain,

when he asks, “How does someone run out of gas?? The gauge tells you that you are almost out?”

that I just hate stopping for gas. I am busy and it always seems like a waste of time. Instead I push my car to the limit to see how far I can go before I have to stop for gas.

Toby always points out the obvious, “You just wasted A LOT more time waiting for me to bring gas than the time it would have taken you to just stop and fill up.”

I realize this. I don’t know why I do it. But I find it is an accurate reflection on how we both manage self-care. When he is running low on gas he makes sure to address the issue before he runs out of gas. I, on the other hand, run on fumes and push myself to the brink of exhaustion, and then discover that I am stuck.

This last year has taught me a lot about the importance of self-care. If you are raising a child who has been a victim of trauma, you are walking a hard road. You must fill your tank regularly or you WILL run out of gas…

and then you are no help to anyone.

For each of us that “fill up” will look a little different. You must make sure you are carving out some time for yourself…

Get adequate sleep, feed your body regularly, take time to do something that makes you happy….

It is so important!

# 6: Take care and nurture the primary relationships in your life.

The road to adoption can be all-consuming. I had no idea how it would consume my time, my energy, my creativity, my whole self. Because it is so consuming it is very easy to let the primary relationships in your life get pushed to the back burner. We found that during the hardest times of our journey we would collapse in bed at the end of the day with nothing else left to give. It is tiring and it is very easy to put off the things that are most important for those things that are most urgent…

in essence, those “fires” you are putting out all day.

But it is when things are toughest that we most need the strength we gain from our deepest relationships…

The relationships we have with our Lord, with our spouse, with our other children…

This sometimes requires digging deep and engaging when all you want to do is crawl in bed and pull the covers over your head.

This also requires planning and effort.

It means waking early to have quiet time with the Lord and filling your spiritual bucket when all you want to do is sleep another 30 minutes.

It means carving out a date night with your spouse, even if all that date night can be (in this season of life) is pizza and a movie in bed.

It means staying up a little later, after the little boys are tucked into bed, to have heart-felt talks with your teenagers.

Making the effort, even when you feel you have nothing left to give, pays back a hundred fold…

# 7: Let go of the guilt.

I know no other way to say this than to be blunt:

You are doing the best you can.

Give yourself a break.

Let go of the guilt.

Do the best that you can and then give the rest to God.

# 8: Embrace the Ridiculousness.

Sometimes it feels like we are living in an alternate reality. Sometimes Toby and I will catch each others’ eye across the chaos filled room and we just smile. “We just can’t make this stuff up,” we say to each other. We find ourselves saying things to our children that we never thought would come out of our mouth like,

“Get the cat out of the toilet.”

We find ourselves parenting behaviors that border on the absurd.

There are days so filled with CRAZY that we learned early on that the only choice to be made in the midst of them is whether to laugh or to cry…

As Marjorie Hinckley said:

“The only way to get through life is to laugh your way through it. You either have to laugh or cry. I prefer to laugh. Crying gives me a headache.”


# 9: Adoption is not about changing a child’s life.

We entered into the adoption journey with the belief that we were being altruistic.

We thought we would bless the life of a child…

we would save the unfortunate.

That was not the reality.

While, yes, their lives may have been changed, it was us whose life was most blessed. It was our lessons that needed to be learned, it was our spiritual and emotional growth that needed to happen, it was us that God was working on.

Through this journey we have all been blessed with increased patience, deeper empathy, a greater realization of our own weaknesses and a deeper testimony of God’s ability to heal.  We have learned lessons that we may never had fully understood if not for the struggles we had to overcome along the way. While this road has been challenging at times, I have watched my children rise to the challenge and all of us blossom as a result of the struggle.

 And we are a better family for it.

# 10: It is worth it.

For those who are still in the darkest part of the journey I speak to you about hope. In the midst of the storms it can be hard to see the end from the beginning. It can feel hopeless, and scary, and you question whether it was the right decision. It can be hard to look forward to the future when you are drowning today. But I am here to tell you that it will be worth it. The hard times are building a foundation for a bright future. And as you struggle through day after day of tantrums and worries you will eventually find yourself on the other side.

One morning, not too far in the future, you will take a deep breath and exhale. You will realize that you are no longer holding your breath and things are ok.

It was a long road…

but it was worth it!

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The Weather Capital of the World!


“The Weather Capital of the World”

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That is what the sign said as we drove into Punxsutawney, PA.

That seemed appropriate since we were there for a weather outing with Molly’s school.

A few weeks ago I heard about a school outing to the Punxsutawney Weather Discovery Center. I knew all the kids would enjoy the field trip, particularly Ozzie, who LOVES all things weather and whose favorite TV station is the weather channel. He could sit for hours watching weather reports, so I knew this would be thrilling for him.

Yesterday morning we left the house by 10:00am knowing we had a two hour drive ahead of us. Although it was a long car ride, it was a beautiful one. The sun was out and the drive took us through the rolling hills and back roads of Pennsylvania.

When we arrived we discovered that the Weather Discovery Center was located in an old post office that had been repurposed. The building was beautiful!

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We arrived 15 minutes before the tour began, and then waited for the other 3 families that had signed up for the tour, to arrive. They never did, so our little family and the school Family Support Coordinator, who planned the outing, had the whole place to ourselves. It was fun having a private tour of this very neat place. There were many hands-on weather related stations for the kids to experiment with. It reminded us a lot of the Carnegie Science Center but was all “weather” themed.

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Tyler loved the tornado slide and spent a good amount of his time playing on it.

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One of the favorite stops in the tour was the pretend weather report TV station where the kids were able to stand in front of a green screen and try reporting the weather. Ozzie was a pro. All those hours of watching the weather channel had really paid off. 🙂

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Another favorite area of the weather center was the “animals can predict the weather” area. Here the displays proved or disproved old weather adages. It was fascinating!



And of course there was “Phil’s Burrow” where we learned about the history of the most famous animal weather predictor

Phil, the groundhog. 🙂

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Here are some of the other fun things we did at the Weather Discovery Center:

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After a fun and educational day learning about all things weather we decided to take advantage of our first ever visit to Punxsutawney, PA and visit Phil!

During the year, when he is not predicting the weather, he resides in a burrow next to the town library, in the public square.  We were able to see Phil and learn a little more about the world’s most famous groundhog.

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After visiting Phil we had one more stop to make before we headed home…

What trip to Punxsutawney, PA is complete without a trip to Gobbler’s Knob, home of the annual Groundhog Day festival.


“Punxsutawney Phil Sowerby is a groundhog in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. On February 2 (Groundhog Day) of each year, the town of Punxsutawney celebrates the legendary groundhog with a festive atmosphere of music and food. During the ceremony, which begins well before the winter sunrise, Phil emerges from his temporary home on Gobbler’s Knob, located in a rural area about 2 miles (3.2 km) east of town. According to the tradition, if Phil sees his shadow and returns to his hole, he has predicted six more weeks of winter-like weather. If Phil does not see his shadow, he has predicted an “early spring.”

The kids loved seeing the town where a favorite movie of ours takes place:


“Groundhog Day”

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“No matter what the weather, bring your own sunshine!”

“Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating;

there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.”  – John Ruskin