Monthly Archives: October 2015

Trick or Treating with Andy’s Toys!

Trick or Treating with Andy’s Toys!

“You’ve got a friend in me!”

Trick or Treating is the climax of the month of October. All the field trips, pumpkin carving, sewing projects, costume shopping, and decorating all lead up to the grand finale…Trick or Treating…

My favorite night of the year!

It has been my favorite holiday since I was little. I love everything about it…

The nip in the air, the blowing colorful leaves, walking as a family home to home, visiting with other trick or treaters while admiring their costumes. I love dressing up and getting to “play pretend” for the night. I love warming up with hot cocoa after walking around in the cold, and pouring all the treats on the floor of the living room to check for hidden razor blades. 😉

I think the reason I love it so much is that it represents family togetherness.

Because we live in the country we don’t get ANY trick or treaters down our driveway. We also don’t have anyone to trick or treat to. So we always drive five minutes to the closest town (Koppel) and trick or treat there. This is our 8th year and I love it.

I love walking hand in hand with Toby,

down the middle of the streets,

that are blocked off to traffic on Halloween night,

while the kids race back and forth from home to home.

I was even more excited than normal this year because of our costumes. This was the first time EVER that I was able to get everyone on board with a group costume. Six months ago we started talking about possible group costume ideas when we came up with this idea:

toy story gang

And everyone was in.

There was a character for everyone…

a costume everyone was willing to wear.

So we slowly began assembling, collecting and compiling costumes, which finally came together in the final hours before our first Halloween event.

Everyone’s look turned out 100% better than I even imagined.

Check out Andy’s Toys!!

Woody and Jessie:



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Ozzie as Woody and Molly as Jessie

Love the pull strings!

Love the pull strings!

Buzz Lightyear:


Tyler as Buzz

Tyler as Buzz

The Evil Dr. Porkchop:



Grace as the Evil Dr. Porkchop

Toy Soldier:



Slinky Dog:

slinky dog

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Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head:

potato heads



Don’t ya love it?!

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So after much anticipation, preparations for the night began at 5:00 as we fed everyone dinner…


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My parents surprised our family with a Halloween card containing money to treat us to pizza, so that I didn’t have to cook dinner in the midst of getting everyone in costumes. I was so touched by their thoughtfulness and so tickled that I didn’t have to make dinner!

After everyone had full bellies and were dressed in layers we headed to Koppel for Trick or Treating. The weather was perfect for trick or treating. It was cool but dry…a nice change from the last few years.

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Andy’s Toys were a hit, especially Ellie. She shed her “slinky” early on but kept her hat on through the night. This was her first time joining us for trick or treating and she loved it! We discovered many homes had dog treats set out for the trick or treating dogs that were walking with families. Ellie loved when she came to a house that gave out dog treats!

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Our final two stops of the night were Subway for our free cookies:

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And the local gas station that hands out treat bags and free cups of hot cocoa each year. The kids love stopping at Al’s Corner each Halloween night before going home. It is a treat to warm up with hot cocoa after walking around in the autumn chill for two hours.

Our local gas station is SO generous!

Our local gas station is SO generous!


Then it is home for the kids’ favorite part of Halloween…

Sorting the Stash!

They made out like bandits!

They made out like bandits!

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We ended the night by watching Hocus Pocus as a family:


It was a perfect night with my favorite crew.


Steeler Dreams!


“You are never too old to dream a new dream” – C S Lewis

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Dreaming big…

That is probably what I miss most about childhood,

that belief that you can grow up to be anything, to do anything.

Then you get older and the big dreams get smaller

I don’t know if we become realists or we buy into the world’s persuasion that our dreams are silly, or pointless, or unreachable.

Ask a five year old what the want to be and they will tell you:

“An astronaut- rock star- ballerina- mommy.”

Children have grand visions of their potential. How lovely it would be to hold onto those big dreams and not be weighed down by adult responsibility.

At least that is what I was thinking as we stood in the Steeler locker room and Tyler pointed out which locker will be his when he is the kicker for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

On Tuesday we took part in a field trip being offered by Tyler and Ozzie’s cyber charter school. They had a field trip planned to the Carnegie Science Center and Heinz Field, (home of the Pittsburgh Steelers.)

We arrived at the science center at 10:00 am where we met the bus load of students from central Pennsylvania that came together by bus, as well as two other co-op families. The science center isn’t what drew us to the outing. We LOVE the science center, but with our gift membership from my parents we can go anytime. It was the second part of the outing that made us sign up:

A tour of Heinz Field.

The day went as follows:

From 10:00- 12:00 we toured the Science Center. We spent our time at SportsWorks, a separate building that highlights the science behind sports and movement. When we visit the science center we rarely spend time in that building. As much as the kids enjoy it, especially Tyler who loves all the interactive sport stations, it is usually so crowded that most of the time there is spent waiting in lines. On Tuesday that was not the case. There was NOBODY there. Our co-op families pretty much had the whole place to ourselves.

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The kids loved exploring and trying out some of the stations that they normally won’t wait in line for. After about 1 ½ hours of sports fun we walked over to the Science Center cafeteria to each lunch.

From 1:00- 3:00 was our behind the scenes tour of Heinz Field.

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I am not a sports fan but even I found the tour fascinating and thrilling. For Tyler, who lives and breathes football…well, it was like he had died and gone to heaven!

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The tour began with everyone being given “backstage passes” to wear on their coats. These were worn to show security that you are with a tour and allowed in the stadium.

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The tour began in the Great Hall where are informative tour guide, Teresa, walked us through the history of the team and its players from its founding by Art Rooney in 1933 through six Superbowl wins. As we walked from display case to display case we saw how the game has changed through the years. It was neat to see the uniforms evolve as safety requirements became more of a priority. Key players were highlighted.

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There was even a display dedicated to the terrible towel and its history in the Steel Nation.

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After walking the Great Hall we moved behind the scenes where fans rarely go.

It was neat to walk the back corridors and see the hustle and bustle of workers preparing for Thursday’s Pitt football game. (The university team of The Pittsburgh Panthers also shares the stadium with professional Pittsburgh Steelers)

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We then walked through the visitor’s locker room and onto the Steeler’s locker room.

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It was amazing the difference in these two locker rooms.

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The kids had fun exploring and peeking inside the header above each locker to see whose locker it was.

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It was during this time that Tyler claimed his future locker. 🙂

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In the center of the locker room there are two logos on the ground. These logos are never to be stepped on. Even in the midst of a room full of players, hustling to prepare to go onto the field these two logos are never walked across. It is considered bad luck.

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As we left the locker room we were able to see the symbol of luck the players tap before they run on the field.

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As we were walking down the hall Teresa pointed out another cool addition. Next to the Locker room used by the male officials during the game was a separate locker room for female officials. She explained that the NFL now has a female referee making the addition of a female locker room a positive needed addition.

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Go, girl power!

She also informed us that a few teams now have female coaches working for them. Tyler found this quite cool, especially since he had a girl on his team this year. Nessie was one of the power players of his cougar team.

We then moved up to the box seats where we got to see how the fancy folk live. The boxes were impressive, with seats lining the windows of the box and a living area behind. It had its own private bathroom and kitchen area where a butler serves food during the course of the game.

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Then it was onto the press box. These seats had an amazing view, which I suppose in a necessity as a sports reporter. We were able to watch from the box as employees began covering the field to protect it from the rain moving in before Thursday’s game. What a big job!

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We also were able to view Heinz Field from two vantage points…

Up high in the stands, from the point of view of the fans:

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And down on the field, from the point of view of the players:

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It was one of the neatest and most unusual field trips we have had with a school and we were awfully glad we participated.

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One final stop for pictures and home we went.

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This picture kills me!

When we arrived home Tyler eagerly shared his experiences with Toby, telling him all about the stadium he will play in one day.

As a Momma, I listened and smiled.

Will he grow up to be the Steeler’s kicker?


Probably not.

But I am not going to be the one to crush those dreams.

The years of big dreams doesn’t last nearly long enough.

So I say dream big, Tyler, dream big!

And if your dreams one day become your reality I will have the photo that celebrates the beginning of a dream realized. 🙂


“I’m Bored”



“I’m Bored”

Those are swear words at our house and I react accordingly when I hear them. My eyes open wide and my mouth falls open as I slowly and deliberately turn toward the offender…

Then in my best Miss Hannigan impression I ask, “What did you say?”

This is usually sufficient motivation for my dear children to find something to do. They have learned that Mom is always more that happy to help them find something to do if they need help finding something to alleviate boredom. 🙂

Boredom is a good thing. I feel like my children have been raised in a generation of constant simulation and 24 hour entertainment. They are told that life should always be fun and entertaining and if they are feeling bored then someone is failing in their duties. I for one can’t stand the entitlement mentality that has infected this newest generation. I refuse to feed into the sickness.

So my children, from the time they were little things, leaned that saying, “I’m bored” to Momma never brought the results they hoped for. Momma will not drop everything to be your personal activities director or live-in court jester. In fact Momma loves when her children are bored because that is when childhood creativity comes alive.

I have one child who still regularly uses the swear word, “I’m Bored.”

And it is Tyler.

What is interesting however is how he uses it. While sometimes used to describe his current situation, it is more often used to describe his emotional state…

“How are you feeling. Tyler?” asks Mom.

“I’m bored,” replies Tyler.

Like so many children that experience early years of abuse and neglect there are deficiencies,

holes in the educational, physical, spiritual and emotional web of their childhood. Some of these holes are glaringly obvious from the start, but other deficiencies are identified as time passes.

When Tyler first moved in with us our focus was survival. That turbulent year was filled with explosive temper tantrums that were intended to destroy and test loyalty. We were a ship in a storm, just holding on for dear life, trying to make sure we didn’t lose anyone to the 100 foot swells, and riding it out the best we could. That first year was about survival and building trust. The second year was focused on managing behaviors and really bonding as a family. Our focus was on the external. Then we finally reached a point of stability where we could focus more on the internal and we saw that there were hurts deep within our son’s soul that needed healing

One of the big deficiencies we saw as we began to bond with him was in the area of identifying emotions.

We noticed that “I’m bored” was his “go to” phrase for any emotional  he felt other than happiness.

Fear, Anxiety, Jealousy, Sadness…they were all labeled as boredom.

This past weekend was Tyler’s final football game of the season. Their team, the Blackhawk Cougars, had an amazing run! They had an undefeated season. In the final game of the season they went up against Sto-Rox.They were an incredible team and it made for an exciting game to have these two well matched teams play against each other. In the end the Sto-Rox team beat the Cougars.

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The coach gathered the little cougars in the end zone for some final words.

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As the boys exited the field some were crying. There was a feeling of finality. The season was over and even though Tyler was straight-faced I could tell he was upset that football was over until next fall.


Toby gave him a hug and told him what a good game he played.

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“How ya feeling, bud?” Toby asked.

“I’m just bored,” was Tyler’s reply.

“Do you feel a little sad?” Toby prodded.

Tyler replied with a nod of the head.

Tyler recently began seeing Tina, the wonderful therapist that works with Ozzie. He sees her once a week and it has been interesting to see how her approach with Tyler differs from her approach with Ozzie…

both so personal and perfect for their personalities and needs.

Having met Tyler a few times she immediately knew he would be a very different patient than Ozzie. Ozzie loves therapy because he loves to talk. She plans therapy sessions around crafts, activities and a lot of verbal interaction. She recognizes that Ozzie responds well to constant affirmation and is very maternal in her interactions.

She knew her approach with Tyler needed to be different. He responds better to completion and physical activity than talking and maternal encouragement. Before our first therapy session Tina approached her director about purchasing an indoor mini trampoline that Tyler could bounce on while they did therapy. Her director nixed that idea saying it was a liability issue so Tina came up with the great idea of buying a sit-and-bounce ball for him to bounce on during therapy. Her plan worked perfectly. He responded well to using the ball and it gave him a physical outlet for his anxiety during the session. At the end of the first session Tina turned to me, looking a little green around the gills, and said,

“I think the bouncy ball was hit, but I’m going to have to start taking a Dramamine before I meet with him. I feel so nauseous from watching him bounce up and down for an hour.” 🙂

Welcome to my world!

In therapy we are addressing those early childhood “holes” I was talking about. Tyler is not one to talk about his feelings. He has a wall built around his feelings that is used to keep everyone out. I have discovered over the years, however, that his wall is built not only for emotional protection but also comes from lack of exposure and education. As a result of the first two therapy sessions I better understand why he uses the statement “I bored” to describe he emotional state. Other than happiness, he has a limited understanding of other emotions as well as a limited vocabulary for describing other emotions. This is what we are working on in therapy. Tina is exposing Tyler to a wide variety of emotions through a series of pictures and games. She is not asking him to identify his emotions. (We are nowhere near that point yet) she is just trying to build a vocabulary and understanding of the wide variety of emotions people feel.


She is doing this with pictures. She has flash cards of faces that she holds up and he has to identify the emotion he sees. Right now we are keeping it simple with three emotions: happiness. sadness, and anger. As he guesses, she points out clues on the face that help us identify emotions like: scrunched up noses and wrinkles between the eyebrows show anger. He is getting better at seeing these clues, but she has warned me that this journey will be a slow one with Tyler. We have a lot of foundational work that needs to be put into place before he will be able to identify his own hard emotions as anything but boredom.


One game we have started playing at home to make our therapy homework more fun and less threatening is an InsideOut game I found online. It is played with candy, thus making it a hit with Tyler! There are five categories of cards based on the five emotion characters in the movie: Joy, Anger, Sadness, Fear and Disgust. To play the game we take turns blindly picking a skittles out of a bowl and that skittles color coordinates with one of the five decks of cards. You have to flip over that card and complete the task that matches that emotion to earn the right to eat your skittles.


Tyler loves it. Some of the tasks are hard for him, like name a time when you felt sad, but he knows he can always pass if the task is too hard. It just means he misses out on eating that skittles.


Here is a link to this great, free emotions game:

Like our journey with Ozzie, I know this  will be a long, slow road

But what a great teammate to be traveling with!!

We love Miss Tina!

(On a sad note: Tina just shared with us that she has been diagnosed with Breast Cancer. She is beginning the battle for her health now. Please lift her up in prayer. She has worked miracles in our boys’ lives, let us pray for a miracle of healing for her!)

Trunk or Treat- Plan B


This past Saturday did not go as planned.

It was a “Plan B” sort of day.

The original plan for the day was to host our church’s trunk or treat and fall party at Patchwork Farm. This has become a fun fall tradition. We begin the night with Trunk or Treat, where the kids trick or treat from decorated parked car to decorated parked car down our long driveway.

That is followed by a pot luck dinner of soups. chili and bread with hot apple cider to drink. Throughout the yard there are activities and games for the kids, a bonfire to warm hands and roast marshmallows, and  hay rides in the dark.

The last few weeks we have been stealing every free minute we had to prepare for this big activity. We have assembled games, prepared the yard, and decorated the house.

(Entertaining, as painfully hard as it is for me, gives me the needed push to accomplish long overdue tasks…like decorating for fall!)

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We were just about ready for the big day.

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The last thing to decide was: what to do for our trunk or treat vehicle. The girls offered to man our car so I could organize the arriving crock pots and Toby could direct traffic. They decided that instead of decorating the family van that they would use the school bus that we are in the process of converting to an RV. They decided to dress as Ms. Frizzle and one of her students, and hand out candy from The Magic School Bus. 🙂

Unfortunately they never had the chance…

Saturday brought rainstorms…Ugh.

At 11:00 am the call was made to move the fall party to the church, and those of us in charge of the party had five hours to plan, shop, and somehow transform the gym at church into a fall festival.

The first stop was the dollar store where I bought all those wonderfully tacky/fun Halloween decorations that I never buy for my own home. I must admit I had a lot of fun decorating for Halloween in a new way. With the decorations brought from our homes and $63.00 spent at the Dollar Store we were able to transform the gym.

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Then I drove to the church where I met Toby and the kids and the other ladies that shared the responsibility for making this event happen. Everyone worked so hard setting up tables, decorating the gym, frosting cupcakes, setting up the game stations, and  preparing for the trunk or treat (that would now be held inside.) In a matter of hours a magical transformation occurred. I couldn’t believe it came together in time!

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The “chandelier”

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God is Good!

Then people began arriving for trunk or treat. The trunk or treat was arranged to take place indoors due to rain. As families arrived they were assigned a classroom door to decorate and pass candy from. It was fun to see how everyone rallied with Plan B creativity and car decorations became doorway decorations.

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The girls were still planning to man our doorway for us and hand out treats on behalf of our family but the Magic School Bus idea no longer worked…(It just didn’t have the same impact without the school bus. 🙂

So they came up with their own plan B. While they were face painting for Chippewa Township’s community day celebration earlier in the day they talked about what their new theme should be. Inspired by the corn maze the day before they decided to do a Dinosaur themed doorway. They dressed as explorers and decorated with ferns and Dinosaurs with the Jurassic Park theme music playing in the background. They looked so cute!

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The indoor trunk or treat worked out very well. The turnout was great and it was fun to check out the decorations and the costumes everyone came up with.

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The theme for the party seemed to be group costumes with some great family costumes. We had Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the cast of Napoleon Dynamite, Cinderella’s (not so ugly)  ugly step sisters, adorable characters from The Wizard of Oz, and the Despicable Me crew.




Our group costume never came together. I thought we’d have time to run home, shower, change, and finish assembling our costumes after getting ready for the party, but there was no time, so the girls raided the dress up box during their stop at home and pulled together a costume for each of their brothers to wear. Thank goodness for a well stocked dress up box!

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Tyler liked having an excuse to wear his football uniform. :)

Tyler liked having an excuse to wear his football uniform. 🙂

After “trunk or treat” the party began, starting with dinner.

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Everyone went all out and there was an abundance of yummy food. If anyone went home hungry it was by their own choosing. 🙂

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Dessert was delicious!

The best cupcakes...EVER!

The best cupcakes…EVER!

While parents chatted, the kids had the opportunity to play games located around the gym.

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There was Bowling for Ghosts:


Halloween Bingo:


Jack O Lantern drawing:

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Photo Booth:


Guess How Many game:


Needle in the Haystack:

Toby. aka Mr. Potato Head, hiding candy in the hay.

Toby. aka Mr. Potato Head, hiding candy in the hay.

and Face Painting (which Grace and Molly volunteered to head up):


Ozzie got a puppy face.

Ozzie got a puppy face.

It was a fun night and in the end the move indoors was a good call. The rain came down heavy at Patchwork Farm and would have made for a wet, cold, muddy evening.

Granted it wasn’t quite the same experience without the farm animals, bonfire, and hay rides, but it ended up being a fun fall evening,

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made all the better by the wonderful families that participated!

Land of the Lost


One of my very favorite autumn traditions is wandering through a corn maze.

 I love the “Alice in Wonderland” feel of shrinking beneath the tops of the leaves and wandering through the maze of tall stalks. It is a delightful sensation to wander and explore, never knowing what is around the next turn.

Never has the “next turn” held more unknown excitement than in this year’s corn maze at Cool Springs Corn Maze!

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“Look, it’s a dinosaur!”

Each year the Cool Spring farm chooses a new theme for its corn maze. They use that theme as the template for the design the cut into the corn field, as well as the décor used around the farm.

This year the theme was dinosaurs,

but not just any dinosaurs…

The theme this year was “Land of the Lost.”

Who remembers this childhood TV show?


“The Marshalls – widowed ranger father Rick, and his two children Will and Holly – are on an outdoor expedition like they have many times before. While rafting on this trip, an earthquake opens up a chasm resulting in them tumbling across some raging rapids and over an unknown waterfall. They end up alive but in a world unfamiliar to them, a world they will ultimately coin the Land of the Lost. It is inhabited by creatures some they have never seen or heard of, and some which no longer exist in the world they knew back home, creatures such as dinosaurs. They will find that some of these creatures are friendly, and some of them which they need to stay away from for their lives. As they eke out a life in this strange land, they try to understand what got them here so that they can make their way back home, that process which is fraught with its own dangers based on the unknowns of what is on the path to home.”  -IMDb

It was a Saturday morning favorite of mine when I was a kid!!

We couldn’t wait to check it out.

We arrived Friday morning at 10:00 am, after picking up Lana’s family in our van and caravanning with Nicole’s family there. At Cool Springs we met up with two other co-op families. Before we began enjoying all the fun that Cool Springs has to offer we took advantage of some photo ops.

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The co-op crew

Miss Molly is finally coming our of her shell!

Miss Molly is finally coming out of her shell!

Warning, kids!

Warning, kids!

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…and let’s keep it that way!

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Let the adventure begin!

Our day at Cool Spring Maze began with the corn maze.

Here is the aerial view of this year’s corn maze:

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Before entering the maze everyone is given a map to help guide them through the maze.

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The stars on the map mark the locations of the stations you need to find, stop at, and answer questions about dinosaurs at

 to fill in the crossword puzzle on the back of the map.

Molly at one of the stations.

Molly at one of the stations.

Each of my kids approach a corn maze differently. Some follow the map, determined to find every station, be the first to find all the answers, and be the first out of the maze. Others focus on the journey, caring less about the destination, and simply enjoy the experience of wandering through the corn. Then there is Tyler who could care less about the stations or the map and just loves running as fast as he can through the twists and turns of the maze.

I find that how they navigate the maze is a pretty accurate reflection on how they navigate life. I have some kids that are leaders, some that are content to follow, some that are prone to wandering, and those who stay on task. I have some children that meander through their day and those that always choose to run rather than walk. Some of my kids that have been blessed with the gift of enjoying the journey and living in the present, and some that have been blessed with the gift of determination and focus and are always planning three moves ahead. It is funny to see how their personality traits shine forth in the midst of a corn maze.

Rusty trying to sell Tyler on the benefits of following his map. :)

Rusty trying to sell Tyler on the benefits of following a map. 🙂

As we moved through the corn maze the kids all split up to wander the maze with their friends. Rusty joined Lucas and Alton and headed in one direction:

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Tyler joined the big girls’ team:


The moms, Ozzie, Saga, and Joanna were a team, with Tauni, our fearless leader, guiding us along. 🙂

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When we exited the corn maze we found ourselves standing next to a life-size board game. Much like the game  “Candyland,” the players spin individual game spinners that guide them through the game board via colored squares. The kids had a lot of fun being the game pieces:

Miss Saga

Miss Saga

Ozzie liked the tractor.

Ozzie liked the tractor.

After the corn maze and the outdoor board game we headed over to the gem mining. The cost to do the gem mining was an extra $3.00 above the cost of admission, so I told the kids that if they wanted to do the gem mining they would have to use their own money. Grace, Molly, Rusty and Tyler chose to participate and walked away with all sorts of pretty treasures…

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The rest of the day was spent eating the lunches we brought and enjoying all the other fun, free activities offered at the farm:

The crew

The crew

Fun with the pedal carts...

Fun with the pedal carts…

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The tube slides...

The tube slides…

Fun on the hay!

Fun on the hay!

One of the biggest hits of the day was the newly added bouncy pad.


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This giant trampoline became the final hangout of the day as the kids bounced to the music being played by a live DJ. They loved that they could request their favorite songs to bounce/dance to. It was all fun and games until Tyler and Joram collided mouth to scalp. Joram got a lump to the  head and Tyler walked away with a broken lower front tooth.

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That quickly brought and end to the fun. 😦

Everyone collected their complimentary pumpkins and said their good-byes..

Luckily, due to my past experience of having Ozzie’s broken teeth rebonded multiple times, I wasn’t too panicked.

I have their dentist on speed dial!

Unfortunately he had already left for the weekend so we will be having Tyler’s tooth fixed later this week.

But, all in all, the injury was minor compared to what could have been,

after all, we were in the

Land of the Lost!


Christmas in the Woods

All bundled up for a fun day outside.

All bundled up for a fun day outside.

I am late in posting these photos, but better late than never…right?

Christmas in the Woods is now over but we were happy to make it this year after a few years of missing it due to the life changes that come with adopting little boys. Christmas in the Woods, as much as we enjoy it, really isn’t their scene. Oh, how far we have come to be able to attend an event like this and have everything go smoothly,

without incident,

and have everyone leave smiling!

Christmas in the Woods is the ultimate “craft show.” It takes place in eastern Ohio in the woods (hence the name.) It features a village of cottages, each housing a different artisan selling their wares. Everything is handcrafted. There is everything from jewelry, up-cycled products, art work, hand sewn products, whimsical décor,  yummy edibles, hand carved wooden spoons, etc.

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However, as fun as the shopping is, that is not what brings us back year after year. It is the atmosphere. The sounds, smells and tastes of autumn as it welcomes in Christmas. It is a charming place to spend the day and we were excited to be back.

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When we arrived Toby paid for us to get in while I handed out scavenger hunt sheets. I knew this really wasn’t the boys’ scene so I thought I’d make it more fun for them (thus making it more enjoyable for the rest of us) by creating a scavenger hunt list of items they needed to find as we walked around the woods.

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The boys embraced the challenge immediately, and even the girls had fun participating. I promised a treat at the end for those they found all the items on their list!

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When we entered the gates we heard a familiar sound. We followed the music to an outdoor stage where one of our favorite holiday performers was entertaining the crowd:

B.E. Taylor!

B.E. Taylor!

What a fun treat. We LOVE B.E. Taylor! We found a spot to stand and enjoy the free concert.

The kids loving the show.

The kids loving the show.

The chill in the air, the smell of cinnamon and pine, and the beautiful Christmas music left us feeling the Spirit of the season.

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Everyone had fun wandering from booth to booth, checking out the wares and tasting the samples. The food booths where they offered samples of the different dip mixes were definitely the favorite booths of my boys!

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While we ended up mainly window shopping (with the exception of a few small purchases by the girls) I found the atmosphere got my creative juices flowing and I was overcome with the desire to go home and decorate for fall.

(It’s about time…right?!)

Molly enjoying some hauntingly beautiful music...

Molly enjoying some hauntingly beautiful music…

By the end of the day everyone was chilled and ready for a warm treat. Our final stop was a hot cocoa booth where they were selling homemade hot cocoa mixes. I told the kids that their scavenger hunt prize was a package of hot cocoa mix that we would take home and enjoy while warming up. The kids loved trying all the samples they had for testing…

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We decided that white chocolate was our favorite.

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What a wonderful was to spend an autumn day as we look forward to the arrival of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas!

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Welcome Marty McFly!


Yesterday was the day Marty McFly arrived in the future.


I remember watching Marty’s adventures as a child. I loved the Back to the Future trilogy. As a 11-year-old girl  2015 felt so far away. It is crazy to think I am now living in that ” future.”


Granted it isn’t quite like the 2015 that Marty discovered. 🙂

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Even though my kids have never seen the Back to the Future trilogy, it was the talk of the day because of conversations and discussions happening in the cyber school’s virtual office.

Listening to the kids discuss the movie made me nostalgic as well as motivated.

We needed to watch it…


October 21, 2015

Never again would we be able to sit and watch Marty arrive in the future on that very day in the future. 🙂

So after an already crazy day of co-op, occupational therapy, the race to finish assignments for the last 24 hours of the marking period, football practice, preparations for Saturday’s big fall party, and church activities/scouts…I was determined to carve out time for a Back to the Future movie marathon for the big kids.

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After everyone arrived home from church the little boys were tucked into bed and the big kids, Toby, and I sat down for a fun evening with Marty McFly.


We began with the first movie and moved onto the second…

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The movie treat for the night:


Chocolate milk, of course!

Chocolate milk, of course!

It was a last-minute, poorly planned Back to the Future party. Had I been better prepared I would have whipped up a “Welcome Home Uncle Joey” cake.


But alas, I ran out of time. This is what happens when I don’t plan ahead…

and I really have no excuse,

I have had 26 years to prepare!!   🙂


Let your Light so Shine!



Family night was all about pumpkin carving!

I love this time of year. October is my favorite month. Halloween is my favorite holiday…

and pumpkin carving is one of my favorite holiday traditions.

I love everything about it:

I love the hunt for the perfect pumpkin, the creative process of dreaming and drawing the design, and the secretive way everyone hides their designs from prying eyes until they are ready for the big reveal. I love the smell of fresh pumpkin, and the chilly sliminess of reaching into the open top to scoop out the guts. I love the squeals of disgust that fill the room as the kids clean the seeds out of their pumpkins. I love the talk and the chatter that happens as we all are busy with the process of creating.

But the best part, by far, is the reveal. I LOVE seeing what the children all come up with. I love the palpable excitement that is felt as the finished designs are revealed and carried out into the dark to shine in the night.

I love when the candles within are lit and these holiday creations come to life.

Here is a look into our pumpkin carving tradition:

Everyone gathered the free pumpkins they picked out on our school field trip last week.

Everyone gathered the free pumpkins they picked out on our school field trip last week.

First step: Cleaning out the guts!

First step: Cleaning out the guts!

My farm girl doesn't mind the slimy innards. :)

My farm girl doesn’t mind the slimy innards. 🙂

This year Tyler not only drew his design on the pumpkin but also carved it himself. (He used a safety knife)

This year Tyler not only drew his design on the pumpkin but also carved it himself. (He used a safety knife)

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Everyone busy at work…

Toby's goofy face...I'm talking about his pumpkin ;)

Toby’s goofy face…I’m talking about his pumpkin 😉

My five little pumpkins holding their completed Jack O' Lanterns.

My five little pumpkins holding their completed Jack O’ Lanterns.

The end result was magical when we added the candles and let their light shine…






Let us all shine so brightly!


A SUPER Saturday


Saturdays are always busy…especially in the fall!

It is the one day of the week we have Toby home to get things done around the house, run errands, accomplish farm chores or do something as a family.

Sundays are spent worshipping, resting and partaking in quiet activities at home.

Because Saturdays become the day to accomplish everything we need to do for the week, they fill up extra quickly…especially this time a year!

Saturdays are filled with football games, yard work (as we prepare for winter), putting up wood to burn through the winter months, and fun fall activities. October Saturdays are always busy, but some are EXTRA busy!

This past Saturday was one of those days.

It was a day so fully packed that I began the day by writing out a schedule of who needed to be where over the course of the day and posted it in the kitchen to guide the family through our crazier than normal day.

It was my hope we wouldn’t miss any important commitment or lose some child along the way. 🙂

Here are snap shots of our wonderfully busy, completely crazy, super fun, fall Saturday:

8:00- 9:00 am: Wake the troops. We had a busy day ahead of us so everyone was roused, fed, and sent to get their morning chores completed before the craziness began!

9:00- 11:00 am: Grace and Molly attended an art class being taught by a woman at church. In September she sent out an email advertising a free, four-week art class she was offering in the month of October. They were offered every Saturday morning through the month with each Saturday offering a different craft and corresponding art skill. Since my girls love art and because we live close enough to her home that it wouldn’t be a burden, they decided to sign up.

They have really enjoyed this weekly class. This week they were making sculptures with “found” items. They took corks and bobby pins for the materials they chose to build with.

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10:00-12:00: Ozzie and I drove to Cranberry to meet up with Ozzie’s biological sister, Zoey, so that they could have a much-needed date. They haven’t seen each other for a month and Ozzie was struggling with missing his sister, so we arranged to meet for breakfast.

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The kids had a great time enjoying the breakfast buffet at Eat n’ Park and catching up with each other. I am so grateful that Zoey was adopted by a woman who is so open to maintaining their relationship and who agrees with us on the importance of maintaining the biological relationship of these siblings. It is hard for them to live apart. I know that they were both placed where God would have them be, but being apart is hard for them, so we make every effort to keep their relationship a priority through regular visits.

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11:00- 5:00: The girls joined three of their friends (Olivia, Tatum, and Chessa) for a fun day in Pittsburgh. Olivia’s favorite author was in Pittsburgh for a book signing so Olivia’s father graciously volunteered to drive the girls into the city to meet Maggie Stiefvater at CMU.


Their first stop was lunch:

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It was a fun treat eating lunch in downtown Pittsburgh.

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Then it was on to the author meet and greet.

It began with the “lecture” part of the meeting where the author spent an hour talking to and entertaining her fans, and then a 30 minute Q and A session. The girls all expressed their delight in how entertaining, engaging, and warm she was.

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Then they had the opportunity to have their books signed…

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How fun!

I love that they were so awestruck to meet a favorite author as opposed to being goo goo over a pop star. 🙂

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On the way home they stopped at Pittsburgh Popcorn where Olivia treated all the girls to a bag of flavored popcorn. Grace picked frankenberry flavor and Molly chose kettle corn. Both said it was the best popcorn they have ever had.

11:30- 12:30: Rusty had some time home alone between the time Toby had to take Tyler to his football game (he has to arrive 90 minutes before the start of the game) and the time Ozzie and I arrived home. He used that time to start playing with the stop-motion Minecraft kit that he received from the Caylors for his birthday. When I arrived home he was eager to show me the “movie” he created using stop-motion magic.

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12:00- 1:00 pm: Ozzie helped me do our weekly grocery shopping, followed by a quick stop at Goodwill and  Party City to get some missing pieces for everyone’s Halloween costumes.

1:30 – 4:00pm: Tyler’s team continued their winning streak. Tyler’s football team is now in the play-offs after an undefeated season. Tyler’s coach warned them that the team they were playing this weekend was very good. Tyler was excited to play.

The game began at 2:00 pm.

For the playoff games (in October) the boys are wearing  pink socks in honor of breast cancer awareness month.

Tyler is #20

Tyler is #20

The game began with Tyler’s kick off. Of all the positions Tyler plays on the team being the kicker is his favorite role. He loves it and is really good at it.

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It was a very cold game. Temperatures hovered in the low 40’s. I was glad we brought blankets to the field. Rusty also brought his birthday gift from the Kirks. Just prior to us leaving for the game he discovered a package in the mail from my sister. He opened it up and was excited to see that he received the newest Guinness World Record  book. He decided to take it to the game. He spent more time reading than watching his brother play. 😉

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It was a good game…a really exciting game. But even with this more equally matched play-off team (they played Hopewell) this was the final score:

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They won another game so Tyler’s team will be playing again next week.

( I don’t know whether to cheer or cry)  😉


4:00- 6:00 pm: Finally we were home long enough to get some things scratched off the “to do” list. The early evening was spent getting some yard work done in preparation for the big fall party being held at our home next Saturday. While Toby and the boys worked outside, I worked inside to fill our freezer with some more freezer meals. For this round of “once a  month cooking” I browned 10 pounds of hamburger meat for 10 “freezer to crock-pot meals.” After browning the meat the rest was just assembly. All the meals were assembled in gallon freezer bags so that they would stack nicely in the freezer, taking up as little space as possible.

We made two batches of each of the following dishes:

Homemade spaghetti sauce,


Taco soup,

Sloppy Joes,

and Beef Hash.

It is such a good feeling to tuck some more meals away to be pulled out on cold falls days and dumped into the crock-pot to simmer all day.

Fix it and Forget it!

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While the boys were busy weeding, mowing, and tidying up outside, they discovered that our second batch of baby chicks were hatching. They investigated after seeing a broken egg sitting outside the mommy chicken’s “nest.”

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When Toby lifted her we found out that, sure enough, 4 of her eggs had hatched and she was still working on hatching the last three.

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It is so fun having all these babies around. The moms are doing a beautiful job of keeping all their babies tucked away under the warmth of their feathers…

Which is a blessing because this weekend ended up being a chilly one!


First snow of the season and it’s only October!

5:00-6:00 pm: The girls returned back and began preparing for a church dance. (Chessa went home with Woody since she had a commitment at home) The teens all got ready for the Halloween/ Black light dance. They decided not to wear costumes but rather embrace the fact there would be black lights and dressed accordingly.

This was Rusty’s first dance EVER. He dressed quickly in his neon colors, painting his face with glow in the dark paints and spraying his hair white so it would glow with the black lights.

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Then he waited for the girls. He struggled to understand why they took so much longer to get ready. 🙂

When everyone was dolled up we headed to Cranberry.

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7:00-10:00pm: While Toby stayed home with the “littles” and worked on projects around the house, I drove the big kids to the dance. The decorations were amazing. The gym was decorated in glow-in-the-dark décor, complete with a graffiti wall they kids could write on with highlighters,

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 a “make your own glowing eye glasses/ mustache station,”

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and yummy appetizers.

The leaders went above and beyond to make a really cool night for the youth.


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Rusty’s first slow dance was with Tatum:

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Awww…Love it!

Everyone had a great time.

10:00-11:30pm: I delivered everyone home.

12:00am: Bed, sweet, bed…Oh how I love you!

Through Molly’s Eyes


“How could we know that our lives would be so full of beautifully broken things?” – Dave Matthews Band

Molly is taking digital photography this semester. Like Grace, who took it two years ago, Molly is enjoying it immensely. This week a familiar assignment was due. Two years ago Grace did this same assignment and it was an assignment that we both found thought-provoking and profound. Perhaps you remember this assignment:

“Many photographers take the easy road and shoot flowers, breathtaking landscapes, models, the ocean at sunset, castles, dewy meadows, children and ponies. It is the photographer with the more sensitive eye and creative sense who can find the beauty in something either mundane or downright ugly.  Examples might be the innards of a rusty, rotted barn, the ruins of a house with weeds growing from it, the haze of pollution over Beijing, or a wet mattress left on the curb.  These are the photographers that can focus, crop, adjust lighting or point of view to get delicacy and beauty where most people would find rubbish.” 

“Your assignment is to go out into your neighborhood and find those things that would be considered an “eyesore” to others and photograph them in a way that shows their beauty.”

 Two years have passed since Grace completed this assignment and  I still find it to be a wonderful photography lesson as well as a poignant life lesson. With cameras in hand we headed out to find things that were “beautifully broken.”

I love photography. I love taking photos. I love catching a moment in time and freezing it forever. I also love looking at other people’s photographs. I have found that what people take pictures of often says more about the individual than it does about what is being photographed. Photography allows us, if only for a moment, to see the world through another’s eyes. We can see how they see. We can notice what they notice. We are shown what they value and what they treasure based on what they zoom in on. It is an interesting study in humanity. When we see the world through a person’s lens, we better see them.


Molly has a very special way of seeing the world. As a result I find great delight in looking at her photos because they are so reflective of who she is.

This assignment allowed her way of seeing the world to be highlighted in a special way.

You see, Molly has a special gift. She has been blessed to see the good, the beautiful, the worth in things and people who others might dismiss. From the time she was toddling about she gushed with appreciation over the simplest things…things that others might walk past with little notice.

She has that same gift with people. She has been blessed with the most Christ-like way of seeing others. She takes notices those people that others may walk past,

And then makes them feel seen…makes them feel special.

I remember once when she was a little girl, probably no older than four, she noticed an elderly woman at the grocery store when we were out shopping. This woman was dressed in mismatched clothing and wore smeared bright red lipstick on her lips and bright blue eyeshadow on her eye lids. While other customers looked away from this old woman shuffling down the aisle, Molly moved in closer for a better look,

and then in her wonderfully innocent, enthusiastic way she gushed…

“Mommy, she is so beautiful!”

And she meant it.

She truly saw beauty.

Through her eyes this lady was beautiful and worthy of admiration.

And she made that lady’s day.

She made that woman feel seen in a world where others might look away.

What a beautiful gift…one that I so admire because it is not my gift.

I think that is why I so delight in seeing the world through Molly’s camera lens,

because she truly does see beauty where others only see brokenness.

Here is a look at the photos Molly took for her photography assignment:

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What a wonderful lesson for all of us…

Whether we are talking about broken things, broken hearts, or broken people,

Great beauty can be found in brokenness when you choose to see those things through God’s eyes:

This is illustrated through one of my favorite songs by Hilary Weeks:

“Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing.”

– Camille Pissarro