Monthly Archives: November 2015

It is not just about giving THANKS


It is funny how life experiences change you…

Changes the way you look at things, changes the way you handle things, changes the very way you see things.

Adoption has changed me.


It has changed how I see the world.

It has changed my priorities.

It has changed the way I parent.

It has even altered the way I see holidays.

I have always loved holidays. I was raised in a family where holidays were magical. I had parents who invested time and creative energy into making memories. Holidays were something to look forward to. They were a break from normal life. They were a treat. They were a celebration.

Those feelings from childhood carried into adulthood when I left home, married and had children of my own. It was only then that I realized not everyone’s childhood holidays were the same magical experience mine were.

Then we adopted two little boys whose early years were filled with trauma, not magic, and I learned a profound lesson.

Holidays can hurt.

Holidays can represent loss.

Holidays can bring bad memories, sad memories, even scary memories.

The very thing I love most about holidays:

the chaos, the fun, the lights, and sounds, and the break from routine

are the very things that make holidays hard for a child who has been traumatized.

For my boys Thanksgiving, birthdays, Christmas, and any other celebration usually brings forth emotions and challenging behaviors that lay dormant during the rest of the year.

On these days they are faced with memories of people who are no longer in their lives, lost traditions from their childhood, and feelings of sadness over the life that was stolen from them. They struggle with feelings of resentment over the magic that wasn’t there when they were small, and anger about the unfairness of it all.

They also struggle with the magic I try to create for them today, now that they are part of our family. I see the guilt they feel about being happy now, as though today’s happiness is a betrayal to their birth parents. They struggle with feelings of unworthiness… feelings that they don’t deserve anything good. Then there is testing. They test whether this is their reality and whether it will remain their reality by doing those very things that are meant to push us away.

Then they struggle with the mix of emotions that simply come with the holidays, those same emotions we all deal with…

Excitement, joy, fatigue, anticipation, and disappointment.

It is time when all emotions are escalated.

But for a kid that has been traumatized those emotions can be paralyzing.

I can appreciate the struggle, now that I’ve lived with it for a few years. I recognize that our holidays will never be the same as they were before. The holidays are no longer the break from the tedious living of everyday life but rather a wild wave of emotions that must be ridden to get to the calm that can only be found on the other side of that holiday. Holidays are hard and tiring and emotional triggers for deep hurts.

I now know that this is my reality,

and I’m ok with that.

In fact I’m more than ok with that.

I am grateful for the chance to love these kiddos through the tough stuff because that is the love that has depth, the love that has staying power, and the love that will outlast all else.

I will hug them through the hard stuff until their broken pieces stick back together.

The last two weeks in therapy have been spent preparing the boys for the upcoming holiday. Knowing their minds were already playing the movies of past Thanksgivings, we opened that door and began a dialogue, allowing the boys to share their memories of past Thanksgivings. They shared the happy memories, the favorite traditions, the tastes and smells and sounds that remind them of their biological homes, stories of past foster homes as well as the stories abuse, neglect and dysfunction that permeates so many of their holiday memories.

It was during this therapy session that Ozzie opened up and shared memories of his biological grandmother and Thanksgiving at her home. He remembers the feel of her hugs and the way she would defend him from his father’s anger. He remembers the smells of her kitchen and the foods she would make. He remembers the day he was told she had died and the sadness of not being able to attend her funeral or say goodbye. He has happy memories of his grandma and spoke of the food she made for Thanksgiving. He shared how he loved that she served cake for dessert instead of pie.

It was that sharing that led to two desserts on our table this Thanksgiving…pumpkin pie and cake. 🙂

We have tried hard to incorporate the holiday traditions that are special to adopted boys into our already existing family traditions. On Tyler’s first Thanksgiving with us he expressed a desire to have fish sticks…a memory from childhood, so at our first Thanksgiving with Tyler we had a tray of fish sticks sitting side by side with the traditional turkey. We now have a new Thanksgiving tradition…cake!

Which is great for me. I hate pie. 😉

This Thanksgiving was a quiet holiday at home. It was just what we needed. Our weekend was spent at home cooking, eating, watching the parade, doing crafts, decorating for Christmas and resting. The flu hit our house Tuesday and worked its way through the family. Thanksgiving day everyone was well but every other day someone was down with fever and vomiting. I luckily have avoided it so far. Even with the plague taking down people left and right it was a blessed holiday spent with people I love.

You can’t ask for much more than that.

Here are some pictures from our holiday at home.

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Thanksgiving cake. 🙂

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Decorating for Christmas has begun…

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Tyler having fun with blocks

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One night for dinner Gracie made pancakes and had fun being creative with pancake art. Pretty and Yummy!

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Before the holiday break the girls had a mural club meeting. They met with the rest of their club-mates virtually while their mural club teacher led them through a painting project that everyone did in the comfort of their own homes.

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Molly’s finished painting.

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In December we wrap up all of our children’s Christmas books and each night the boys get to open one for their bedtime story. Wrapping 24 books is a bit of a hassle but they love it and it is a favorite tradition of theirs (and mine) 🙂

 Christmas decorating has begun and “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!”

We have so much to give thanks for!

Ozzie’s First Gotcha Day


The last week has been surreal.

Last Thursday we received a call from a dear friend. Through shaking sobs she informed me that her 25 year old daughter had passed away in the night. She asked if I could pick up her daughter’s babies, ages 9, 5, and 3, and take them back to our home.

We arrived as quickly as we could to offer our support and show our love. We scooped up those dear children and took them back to our place to let them play and distract them from heartbreaking reality.

Over the next week they spent many days and nights with us.

When we made the decision as a family to focus our month of November  on loving, serving and caring for others we had no idea that that service would become so personal. We had no idea that our acts of kindness would include holding a child as they fell asleep crying for their lost momma.

The last week has been a blur as we have tried to offer whatever support we could for friends facing an unimaginable tragedy. It has been humbling, especially in the wake of some trivial worries that seemed so important last week. This experience has been a poignant reminder of what is truly important. It has been a sobering reminder of our own mortality and the uncertainty of life. It has been a testimony building reminder of Christ’s love and the goodness of others.

In the midst of helping with memorial service arrangements and caring for these sweet kiddos, Ozzie’s special day was approaching. Sunday marked the one year anniversary of his adoption day. Sunday was his “gotcha day.”

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In our family we celebrate the “gotcha day” of our adoption treasures…they day they were “born” into our family. On their special day they get to pick their dinner, dessert, and a family activity. For Ozzie’s “gotcha day” he wanted tacos for dinner, cookies and crème cookies for dessert, and to watch the movie based on one of his favorite book series, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.”

On Saturday we went out grocery shopping for “gotcha day” supplies. We had our three visitors in tow. It was an adventure taking eight kids grocery shopping. They were very well behaved but by the end I was ready to go home. As we were leaving our 3 year old visitor looked up at me and said, “Dat was fun. Do it again?” 🙂

Umm…maybe another day.  😉

On Sunday we had church in the morning and then in the afternoon we had Ozzie’s “gotcha day” celebration. We made tacos with GIANT soft shells he found at the grocery store. They were a fun novelty.

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Then, with everyone in pajamas, we snuggled in the living room while enjoying Ozzie’s movie.


It was a pleasant respite in the midst of a hard, emotional week.

My heart breaks for my dear friend. I can’t even fathom the pain of losing a daughter.

My heart breaks for the husband who now must figure out how to move forward without the love of his life, all while trying to raise three little ones on his own.

And my heart breaks for those babies who will never ever be the same.

This Thanksgiving I am reminded of all I have to be grateful for…

Lord, forgive me for the times I forget.


21st Century Adventure Club


“Adventure is out there!”

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This past Friday the big kids (who all are students at 21st Century Cyber Charter School) had the opportunity to join some of their PE and science teachers for an Adventure Club meeting in our neck of the woods.

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It looks like Ms. Gowton is telling fish tales. “I once caught a fish THIS big.”

The teachers sent out an email to their middle school and high school students in the western part of the state letting them know that they would be coming out that way for a special Adventure Club meeting. They would be meeting at McConnells Mill State Park for a hike and lunch.

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“McConnells Mill State Park, in Lawrence County, encompasses 2,546 acres of the spectacular Slippery Rock Creek Gorge. Created by the draining of glacial lakes thousands of years ago, the gorge has steeps sides and the valley floor is littered with huge boulders and is a national natural landmark.”

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The students were told that they would receive bonus points in their science classes for attending, as well as be able to count one fitness log for their PE class.

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The kids were already hoping to attend but the promise of school credit sealed the deal.

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 On Friday Gracie drove them out to the park to meet up with their teachers, friends from co-op, and other students from the school. They left on their two mile hike and as they hiked they learned all sorts of fun science and nature facts.


Co-op buddies.


It was a pretty day for hiking even with the brisk temperatures.

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At the end of their adventure they sat down and ate their packed lunches together as a group.

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Crossing the covered bridge.


They had a wonderful time at their Adventure Club Outing!

Random Acts of Kindness…continued.


The fun has continued with our Random Acts of Kindness Challenge (RAOK) in November. The kids set the goal of performing a service, expressing gratitude to the people in their lives,  or coming up with an act of kindness for each day in November. While I haven’t been able to get a photo of everything they have been doing lately, here is a sampling of some of the loving fun we have had:

  1. This November Brandon  (Tyler’s brother who recently lost his adoptive Mom to cancer) turned 14. Since we couldn’t celebrate his birthday in person and shower him with love like we would like to, we did the next best thing and sent him a birthday bottle. Tyler made his brother a birthday card and then I took him to the dollar store where he picked out candies and treats to fill the birthday bottle, then we put it in the mail…A special birthday wish for a very special boy!
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Writing Brandon…

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The completed birthday bottle.

2. One Wednesday was spent packaging food for children in need. The church where our co-op takes place participates in a monthly service project with other churches in our area. They purchase and package food for children whose cabinets might be bare so that they have food for the weekend when the free school breakfasts and lunches aren’t available. It is a great program and once a month our co-op kids get to help out by sorting and organizing the food that will later be boxed for the children to take home for weekend meals. The big kids were still at Aunt Beth’s house for this service project but the little boys got to participate with their co-op friends.

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Preparing pudding packets

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The completed boxes that go home with the children to feed them for the weekend.

3. One morning, on our way to therapy appointment we left a little earlier than usual so that we could perform our random act of kindness for the day. Armed with a roll of quarters, the little boys ran from parking meter to parking meter feeding the meters that were running low or had expired. This was one of the favorite RAOKs this past week. 🙂

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4. The kids continued to work their way down the list of VIP people in our lives that they wanted to express gratitude and appreciation to with little notes and gifts. This week the kids brought chocolates to Ozzie’s occupational therapist, their piano teacher, and some of their cyber school teachers they met up with on Friday.

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5. This past Wednesday we decided to treat our co-op family to lunch. Knowing how much I dread making lunches for co-op each Wednesday I though a “day off” from packing lunch would be a nice way to say “I love you” to all my dear friends at co-op. We decided to do a pancake buffet with pancakes, sausage, fruit, and juices. The RAOKs continued as the women pitched in to help with making pancakes, serving and even contributing apples and caramel dip to our spread. I love these women! Even when I try to serve them they inevitably end up blessing me.

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6.  One of the planned RAOKs the kids were most excited about was paying for the car behind us in a fast food drive thru. We chose our time of day carefully knowing that a full drive thru line, that was moving slowly, would allow the car behind us to order before we reached the pay window. When we told the employee that we wanted to pay for the car behind us he told us our total would be an additional .91 cents. So much for our BIG grand gesture. The little old lady behind us had just ordered a cup of coffee. Even though we only saved her .91 cents we could tell she was touched by the gesture by the way she honked and yelled her thanks. The kids loved it!

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7. One day we picked up the supplies for a “Dinner on Us” kit for one of our all time favorite families. It was the day of our big craft day at church, and I knew I didn’t have time to make a homemade meal, so we put the makings of dinner in a box (spaghetti dinner supplies) with snacks, drinks, desserts and paper products.

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8.  This past Thursday Rusty had an appointment at Dr. G’s office (his orthodontist). Dr. G’s office is collecting money for their “Adopt a Grandparent” service project. Every November/December they raise money to buy gifts for all the residents at the local nursing home, many of whom will get no other Christmas gifts. After raising/collecting money they purchase gifts and then invite their patients to go with them to the nursing home to deliver the gifts and visit with the residents. The kids gathered change for this worthy cause and delivered it to Dr. G at Rusty’s appointment.


9.  One day this past week I found myself  the recipient of some RAOK. The kids showed me their love by taking on some cleaning projects and then Toby brought home flowers to brighten my night after a particularly emotionally draining day. I was so touched by their love and service!

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“You hold in your hands the happiness of more people than you can imagine” – Henry B. Eyring

Minute to Win It


This week for the combined activity the youth participated in something extra fun….

The young men and the young women at church came together for a Minute to Win It competition. Since the young men were in charge of this month’s joint activity they were all asked to bring the supplies and instructions for one Minute to Win It game. Rusty chose to bring cookies for “face the cookie.”

The youth then moved from one challenge to another, competing in multiple 60 second challenges against friends. I wasn’t able to make it myself, so Toby generously offered to get lots of pictures for me…

because the best part of a Minute to Win It night is being a spectator!

The games make for fun photo opportunities. 🙂

My teens all came home raving about the fun they had. A BIG thanks to their youth leaders who make memorable nights like this happen for our kids!

You are the BEST!

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What a Weekend!


After an eventful night on Thursday evening, we moved into a crazy weekend. It was one of those weekends that occur every now and then when everything hits at once.

Here is a peek in the craziness we call life:

  1. Thursday night while Ozzie and I were speaking at the adoption fundraising dinner, Toby took the older kids (and Tyler) to New Castle for their light up night parade. The big kids’ taekwondo school was marching in the parade. Grace, Molly, and Rusty met up with their coaches and Toby and Tyler nabbed a spot along the street to watch the parade. Tyler was excited at the prospect of collecting the candy that is often thrown from the different floats.

The Taekwondo school held the second spot in the parade line-up which made it nice for everyone who was involved. They were able to perform and then join the rest of the crowd to watch the rest of the parade.

Unfortunately Toby wasn’t able to catch any shots of the kids with his phone, but here are some of the other floats that passed by.



2.   The big kids spent the week house/animal sitting for Toby’s Aunt Beth. It was so surreal having them gone. They were definitely missed! But they have a wonderful time playing “grown-ups.” They spent their days working on school from Beth’s house and the evenings relaxing, cooking, and carrying out random acts of kindness for our month-long challenge.

One night they made homemade cookies for Beth’s two neighbors and delivered them. The following day the single woman who lives in the apartment next door brought them dinner in return. She made them homemade spaghetti and they were touched by her thoughtfulness.

3.   Thursday night, following the parade, Rusty returned home with Toby and Tyler while the girls headed back to Beth’s for their last two  nights there. Rusty came home because he was leaving again, the following day, to spend the weekend in Ohio with my parents. Crazy schedules have made getting him out there for his birthday weekend with them challenging. We both finally had an open weekend so on Friday I met my parents halfway to hand Rusty off for his fun weekend as an only child with the grandparents.

He had a wonderful time. They spent the weekend playing: going to the movies, eating dinner out, exploring Wooster, and playing board games. Much of the weekend was spent playing with Rusty’s birthday gift. For his birthday my parents gave Rusty a beautiful chess set that my mom had bought for my dad in Italy. I remember my dad trying to teach me how to play on that same chess board. Knowing how much Rusty enjoys chess they decided to gift it to him. My Dad and Rusty played many games of chess over the weekend and my dad taught Rusty some new moves that he will be able to try out at his next school chess club meeting.

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4.   Friday evening while I was home packing for the Christmas workshop Toby and Tyler attended Tyler’s end of the season  football banquet. He had an amazing season and I know it is hard for him to say farewell to friends and coaches until next fall. At the banquet they were served dinner and then the boys received trophies, t-shirts,  and hoodies with their team name.


Way to go , Cougars!


5.   On Saturday morning the girls wrapped things up at Aunt Beth’s house and met me at church for our annual Christmas workshop. This is the big event in which the ladies at church can sign up to make Christmas crafts or sit in on one of the three free classes offered. The crafts being offered this year included:







I taught the “Christmas on a Budget” class. This is a topic near and dear to my heart. I love creativity that is inspired by necessity. We talked about decorating on a budget (using items from the yard, repurposed items and things that can be purchased at the dollar store), gifts on budget, and family traditions and Christmas activities that cost little to no money. I had a lot of fun preparing for the class, as well as a lot of fun teaching it.


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The turn out was great and after a morning of creative crafting we ended with yummy soups and homemade rolls for lunch.

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Christmas craft day is a exhausting activity that requires many hands to make it happen. Everyone who was involved left feeling drained, but we pulled it off. It is one of the most popular activities of the year at our church. It is easy to get caught up in the struggles and stresses that go into pulling off an activity that big, and inevitably there are hiccups and challenges along the way, but I’m always reminded that it is never about the crafts or the decorations or the classes. It serves a much bigger purpose…

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to bring sisters together, to create memories as well as Christmas crafts, and to remind us that we are not alone in our walk.

There is something strengthening about gathering with like-minded Christian women and talking, and crying, and laughing, and eating together.

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Its purpose is to strengthen,

and if that is the result of month worth of planning and preparing then it is all worth it!

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On Sunday after church we drove out to the Homestead to have dinner with my parents and pick up Rusty.

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It was wonderful to be on the other side of a lot of stressful commitments that had been hanging over my head. It was lovely being able to enjoy dinner with my parents, catch up on each other’s lives, celebrate Rusty’s birthday with them and play board games.

We drove home that evening in quiet. I could tell everyone was exhausted by the silence that had settled in the car. As I looked back on my sleepy kiddos I whispered a prayer of thanks for the blessing of having all my babies back home with me and for the Heavenly power that sustained me through a crazy weekend.

It has been a very busy fall, filled with a lot of responsibilities and commitments, and as fun as our full fall was I am so glad to be through the last of the big events that were on the calendar. I am tired and I am looking forward to the slower pace and the settled quiet that the winter months bring.


God is good!

A Story to Tell..


Last Thursday we (and by we I mean Ozzie and I) had the humbling honor of sharing our story.

We were invite speak at our adoption agency’s annual black tie fundraising dinner. This annual event raises money for many of the support services and programs they offer.

We were contacted a month earlier and asked whether Ozzie and I would feel comfortable sharing our story. They wanted us to speak on his journey leading up to adoption, the blessings and struggles of adoption, how God called us to adoption and Bethany Christian Services, and how adoption has impacted our lives.

They wanted us to give insight into what adoption journey looks like to the patrons who were attending and considering whether to donate to such an amazing cause.

When we were asked I approached Ozzie and asked him what his thoughts were. He said that he was nervous but thought we should do it,

so we said, “yes.”

The weeks leading up to our speaking engagement were fraught with high emotion as we worked on what we wanted to say…what parts of the story to tell.

We began by having Ozzie list his non-negotiables, those topics he didn’t want to talk about at all. I made note of those things so we could stay away from them in our presentation, but also so I could slip that list to Tina (our therapist) knowing they were important in his avoidance of them. I knew they were important for future therapy sessions.

Then we began to prepare our thoughts. We wrote out our words as a dialogue between him and I with the thoughts that an interview style of sharing would be less threatening and overwhelming for him. I would be able to lead the presentation by asking him the questions we prepared in between the thoughts I planned to share.

His anxiety built as the day drew closer. I knew that while there were some nerves over public speaking, the bulk of his anxiety centered around the discomfort of telling his story. I was so proud of him soldiering on despite his fears and discomfort.

On the night of the dinner we got dressed up in our Sunday best. It was just Ozzie and I attending since the other kids were marching in a light up night parade. It worked out well. Toby took the other kids north and Ozzie and I headed south for our special date.

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Ozzie looked like a little gentlemen in his suit and I knew the purses of little old ladies were going to open of their own accord when they met my little charmer. 😉

We arrived at The Chadwick and had the opportunity to step on stage, try out the microphone and go over our presentation before guests started to arrive. That practice helped settle Ozzie’s nerves.


The room was beautiful and Ozzie was amazed that he was going to eat such fancy food at such a fancy table. 🙂


He then joined a few other Bethany kids at the door to greet guests, point them to the table that held their place cards, and give them the program that outlined the night.

He worked that doorway like nobody’s business, calling on his natural friendliness and charm to make guests feel welcome.

Then it was time for the evening to begin. Fundraising was being done on multiple levels. There was a silent auction, a wish tree that held notecards listing small, specific needs (like diapers or formula for emergency placements), as well as donation envelopes that could be used to make a monetary donation.

The night began with a blessing on the food, followed by opening remarks and an introduction to Bethany Christian and the services they provide. They spoke of the great needs that exist and the staggering number of orphans in need of a home and a family. Ozzie was deeply affected by the statistics and in the middle of the presentation he leaned over to me and said, “That was me…We need to adopt some more of those children.”

It was humbling and affecting.

Then dinner began. We enjoyed a meal of salad, bread, beef medallions, garlic mashed potatoes and maple carrots. The waitress approached Ozzie and asked if he would prefer chicken nuggets and fries like some of the other children, to which Ozzie replied, “No thank you. I can have chicken and fries anytime. I never get fancy food like this!”


He then enjoyed chocolate mousse for dessert to which he loudly declared,

“I’ve never tasted a chocolate MOUSE before, but I like it!”

Then it was time for our part of the evening. We stepped on stage and told our story. Ozzie stole the show. In his earnest, honest, transparent way he told his story. He spoke of what it is like to be a foster child. He spoke of the fears and uncertainty of being placed in a stranger’s home. He spoke of the mix of emotions that come with adoption and the challenges an entire family faces as they welcome a new member into the home. He spoke of his adoption day and the joy he felt when Mom and Dad promised the judge they would love and care for him forever. Then he told them how adoption changes lives. ..

how it changed his and how it can change others,

if they would just say, “yes.”

There were many tears. The power of the truth he was speaking could be felt by all.

He did it. And I have never been prouder of him.

The night ended with call to act.

A call to make a difference.

A call to change a life,

in whatever way God was calling each of us to do that…

sponsorship, donations, or perhaps opening our home to a child in need.

After dinner was over we prepared to leave. As we worked our way toward the exit Ozzie was stopped many times by those who were touched by his story.

As I watched him interact and speak with the guests I was given  a glimpse into his future. This won’t be the only time he will ever stand before a crowd and move them with his story. This won’t be the only time he stands before a crowd and challenges them to make a difference. God will not let Ozzie’s past define  him, but instead He is going to use the heartbreak to bring about change, to inspire people, and to move mountains in miraculous ways.


God has big plans for my little man.

And Then There Were TWO…


It feels as though I have stepped back in time.

This week I find myself without the three big kids at home.

It has just been Ozzie, Tyler and I at home.

Woody and Ozzie

Toby and I will sometimes talk about what life will be like in a few years when the older kids will have flown the coop and it will just be us and the boys at home…with perhaps the addition of another adoption treasure or two. 😉  It is hard to wrap our brain around such a reality. I find myself facing the thought with a mix of feelings…

Feelings of sadness but also  peace.

Sadness at the thought of a day when the house is more empty than full, but also anticipation for the next great chapter. The closing of one door means the opening of another. It means watching the work we have done as parents pay forth the dividends of the investments made in those early years as we watch our children take flight, marry, have babies, make choices, and pursue passions. It is exciting to imagine the great plans God has in store for each of them. It is exciting to imagine a season when it is just our adoption treasures at home. When we can devote even more time and attention to building that sure foundation that will be a grounding force in their adulthood. They have stepped into an already half written story. They are walking into the childhood and family dynamic that was built around Grace, Molly and Rusty. I am excited for the day when the story is all theirs. Which is not to say I don’t get a little weepy at the thought of each big kid leaving the nest, but I can look forward in eager anticipation to the special memories that will be made when it is just “the littles” (when they are not so little) at home.

I have felt God repositioning my heart and focus lately. I can feel Him preparing me for the next season. I don’t know if have the words to adequately explain the shift I have felt other than to say, I feel him calling me back to the beginning…back to the basics…back to the “littles.”

I look at my big kids and I find myself whispering a prayer of gratitude for the place they are at. They are a delight. I feel as though Toby and I have “done the time” and are now reaping the reward. We are enjoying the fruits of our labor. The days of corrective parenting are coming to a close and we are able to just enjoy our big kids.

We are also moving into a new season with our adopted boys. The hard season of adjustment, testing and hard bonding are coming to a close and now we can begin parenting the “normal stuff.” So much teaching and training had to be put on the back burner as we dealt with the big, nasty, hard…really hard…stuff that comes with adopting a child who has experienced what my boys have experienced.  For a long time we were in the trenches just trying to stay alive, well, and intact as a family. I couldn’t even think about working on basic life skills because I was trying to learn adoption survival skills. 🙂

When both boys moved in the goal was to get them to assimilate into the current family dynamics…to make them a part of our current world and include them in our already existing activities. I was a Momma of teens/preteens and was trying to make a spot for the boys in that reality, all while keeping life as “normal” as possible for my bio kids.

Life is now evolving and I can feel God calling us back to the beginning. I feel convicted that my extra time and energy needs to be devoted to that same “active parenting” with the boys that we put in with the big kids when they were young. It is time for us to start building that same sure foundation in the boys’ lives that is now serving the older kids so well. Sometimes this requires tapping deep into the pool of enthusiasm and energy that sometimes runs dry by the time child #5 comes along. It mean praying for presence. It means giving Tyler the same focus and enthusiasm when playing Candyland that I gave Grace when I was 10 years younger and a more energetic, enthusiastic Momma.

It is harder this time around. There are some days I’d love to sit back and simply enjoy the fruit of “round one” of our parenting journey, but that wouldn’t be fair to our two new additions. They deserve and need that commitment I made to the big kids to give the best of myself as a mom…perhaps they deserve it even more so after their early childhood experiences.

And it wouldn’t be fair to Toby and I either.

The joy, the rewards, the relationship, and the blessings of the parenting journey only come when you give it your heart.

Your whole heart.

Your “everything in” commitment.

Your promise to endure to the end.

When I feel weary of the road that lays before me I often think of the story of John Stephen Akhwari and how his inspirational run can be liken to our journey as parents:

“In 1968 a marathon runner by the name of John Stephen Akhwari represented Tanzania in an international competition. “A little over an hour after [the winner] had crossed the finish line, John Stephen Akhwari … approached the stadium, the last man to complete the journey. [Though suffering from fatigue, leg cramps, dehydration, and disorientation,] a voice called from within to go on, and so he went on. Afterwards, it was written, ‘Today we have seen a young African runner who symbolizes the finest in human spirit, a performance that gives meaning to the word courage.’ For some, the only reward is a personal one. [There are no medals, only] the knowledge that they finished what they set out to do” (The Last African Runner, Olympiad Series, written, directed, and produced by Bud Greenspan, Cappy Productions, 1976, videocassette). When asked why he would complete a race he could never win, Akhwari replied, “My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race; my country sent me to finish the race.”

He knew who he was—an athlete representing the country of Tanzania. He knew his purpose—to finish the race. He knew that he had to endure to the finish, so that he could honorably return home to Tanzania. Our mission in life is much the same.”

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This week we got a taste of our future and a better understanding of what God is calling us to when Grace, Molly and Rusty packed their bags to be gone for the week. They are house sitting for Toby’s Aunt Beth for the week. When she asked them months ago if they would consider staying at her house while she was on vacation I found that the anxiety I thought I’d feel at such a request never manifested. Instead Toby and I felt great peace about the arrangement. In fact I was really excited for them. I would have loved an opportunity like this when I was a teen.

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Last Friday they packed their bags with clothes, computers and all the school supplies they would need for their week of puppy sitting and headed out. I followed them over to help them get settled. Along the way we stopped at the store so they could buy groceries for the week. Beth had given them $100.00 to buy groceries for the week. I was tickled to see how they planned and thought out how they would use the money. They planned out their menu for the week and then went shopping. I was impressed with their choices when I looked in their cart and saw fruits, vegetables and protein. At that age I think my grocery cart would have looked a bit different. 😉

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As they walked around Rusty kept track of their balance on a calculator. They knew they wanted to set $15.00 aside to get a pizza one night. When they neared that number they then had to make decisions about what to keep and what could be put back so that they could afford the pizza night.

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It was a great life lesson and they passed it with amazing success.  I was really proud of them.

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Meanwhile at home it has just been the boys and I. It has been insightful to see how the dynamic in the home is affected by the absence of the three oldest. The little boys have had to step up and take on responsibilities that usually fall on the teens’ shoulders. They have had to reach out to each other without other playmates to pick from. Having only two children has also allowed me to focus time and attention on them that normally must be divided five ways. It has allowed me to be an elementary school age Momma for the week rather than the mom of teens, and our activities have been reflective of that.

It has been good…really good.

Heavenly Father has used this week to show me how capable my big kids are,

and also show me where he is calling our focus to be now…for this season.

The marathon is not coming to a close. There are many miles still ahead. So we will run with heart…with all we have to give, because we weren’t called to simply begin the race, we were called to finish it,

and for the sake of these boys we will finish it with honor…

Because we are running for our sons.

Scatter Kindness…week #1



Saturday marked the end of week one in our Random Act of Kindness challenge for the month of November. What a wonderful week it was! We all loved consciously reaching out and scattering seeds of kindness to those we love, as well as total strangers. With each RAOK we found ourselves eagerly awaiting the next opportunity to spread joy, and in the process we found ourselves forgetting ourselves and focusing on the love we have for others.

I am so grateful for Molly’s inspired idea that led to this Random Act of Kindness challenge.

I am grateful for God’s provisions and the inspiration He laid on our hearts to use our monthly grocery budget to fund our month of giving. I am grateful for a full freezer and stocked pantry that allows us to redirect the funds we would spend on our own groceries and use it instead to be a blessing to others.

I encourage you to not give up on the challenge to spread love this month through Random Acts of Kindness if financially your situation differs. It need not cost anything. Your RAOKs may be different. We just chose this route so that our children could experience the link between sacrifice of self and the great blessing of placing other’s needs ahead of our own wants….

and how good that feels!

Consider what works for you and your family, and then do it! 🙂

Scatter Kindness and watch those seeds take root.

Here is a peek into some of the fun we had this week showing love and appreciation to others.


Monday we kicked off our RAOK challenge with a fun game of “Ding Dong Ditch” for family night. We thought this would be a fun and exciting way for engage the little boys and set the tone for the month ahead. We purchased 7 boxes of Ding Dongs, wrapped them with a tag, and picked 7 families we wanted to “Ding Dong Ditch.”

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The whole idea behind a Ding Dong Ditch is to drop the treat, ring the doorbell and run back to the waiting van, before getting caught. Tyler struggled with the rules of the game.

“When they open the door I’m going to yell, ‘Happy Halloween!” he declared.

“But Halloween is over,” Rusty corrected.

“Then I will yell, ‘Good Night!’ and then do the worm on their porch,” he decided.

“No,” we explained, “You don’t say anything.  You don’t do any dance moves. You run so they don’t see you.”

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After watching the big kids Ding Dong Ditch the first house he finally understood Everyone had fun running through the night, ringing door bells and trying to make to back to the car before the front door was opened.

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Cost: $21.00


On Tuesday we decided to show appreciation to the staff at two of our regular offices: Dr. G, our orthodontist, and Miss Tina’s office (Ozzie and Tyler’s therapist) at Glade Run.

Ozzie had an appointment with Miss Tina in the morning. We left early enough to stop at Oram’s Donuts to buy 3 dozen donuts…

one dozen for the staff at Miss Tina’s office and 2 dozen for all the girls and Dr.G at the orthodontist’s office. The staff at both offices are phenomenal and we wanted to express our appreciation.


The staff at both offices we touched. It was so nice to give back to two offices that have been such a blessing to our family.

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Dr. G enjoying his glazed donuts. 🙂

Cost: $ 31.00


Wednesday is our co-op day and as part of our home school co-op group we take on  a service project each month. For the month of November we are collecting money to donate to our local city rescue mission to help pay for Thanksgiving dinners for the homeless. It cost the mission $2.05 to feed a thanksgiving meal to a homeless man.

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The kids decided to empty some of the loose change from their piggy banks and donate it to feed the homeless. They combined their change and had enough money to donate the funds necessary to feed a Thanksgiving dinner to 12 men.

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Cost: $ 24.60

The girls also planned an appreciation treat for the moms at co-op who work so hard to teach all the co-op classes and plan the fun activities and field trips. They decided to set up a “Teachers’ Lounge” in the lunchroom. They brought in an electric tea kettle from home, herbal teas and sweeteners, and four types of home cooked muffins for the moms to enjoy during their break periods.

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Cost: $4.00

On Wednesday evening the cub scouts did their own service project. They wrote letters of appreciation to soldiers serving in the military. Here is a snapshot Toby took of the letter Tyler wrote before it was turned in to be sent to a soldier.


Cost: $0


The kids decided to show their appreciation to their two taekwondo instructors by wrapping up a sweet treat for each of them.

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Cost: $5.00

Ozzie and Tyler also had a doctor’s appointment that day so we had another secret RAOK up our sleeves. We made a stop at the craft store to pick up some individual velvet coloring kits. We brought them home, wrapped them up with a RAOK tag, and took them  to our appointment. The boys had fun placing them around the waiting room to be discovered by an unsuspecting child who isn’t feeling well, with hopes that it might brighten their day.

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Cost: $ 6.00


On Friday we went shopping for Operation Christmas Child. This is a favorite charity of ours and packing these shoeboxes has become a holiday tradition in our home. For this service project we went on-line to purchase  tracking labels for five boxes. The $7.00 per box tracking label helps off-set some of the cost to send these Christmas gifts to all corners of the globe, to the neediest children around the globe.

You then chose whether you are buying for a male or female child. You can pick a 2-4 year old child, a 5-9 year old child, or a 10-14 year old child.

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The kids all picked who they were buying for, were given a $10.00 budget to fill their shoebox, and we headed out shopping. They LOVED this RAOK project and put a lot of thought into the gifts they were buying. When we were done shopping the boxes were packed and the kids wrote personal letters to include in their box.

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 They are now ready to be dropped off at a pick up location and we will be able to track (via the tags we purchased online) what country our boxes will be delivered to for Christmas.

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Here is a video of what that looks like on the other end:

This was one of our big cost projects for the month. (We have three of these planed)

Total cost for 5- $7.00 tags and $ 10.00 for each child to fill a box for a child: $85.00


On Saturday everyone was scattered in different directions. I spent the day at a scrapbooking workshop with friends. The workshop was being held to raise money to send a mission team into Jamaica to take clothes and supplies to the needy in that country. The little boys and I went through their clothes, picking items we could donate to the mission trip.

Cost: $0

 Anyone care to join us for week 2?


“Because I Have Been Given Much”


“Because I have been given much
I too must give
Because of thy great bounty Lord
Each day I live
I shall divide gifts from thee
With every brother that see
Who has the need of help from me

Because I have been sheltered, fed
By thy good care
I cannot see another’s lack and I not share
My glowing fire, my loaf of bread,
my roof saved shelter overhead
That he to me be comforted

Because I have been blessed by
thy great love dear Lord
I’ll share thy love again
According to thy word
I shall give love to those in need
I’ll show that love by word and deed
Thus shall my thanks be thanks in deed”

 The words of one of my favorite hymns have been playing in my head lately. I find myself humming the familiar tune as I go about my day. The words have especially been on my mind as we enter the month of November…the time of thanksgiving.

Gratitude is a virtue dear to my heart. It is the virtue I value above all others. It is a virtue that was at the center of my life growing up, as my parents made it a focus and priority in our lives, and I have tried to make it a focus in our children’s lives.

From the time our children were small we made every effort to center our lives around gratitude, the father of all virtues. Counting our blessings became a part of our nighttime ritual as we implemented the tradition (borrowed from friends) of going around the room and having everyone share something they were grateful for that day.

We have also encouraged our children to express feeling of gratitude to those who bless their lives…thanking the person holding the door, thanking the waitress who brings the meal, thanking the teacher who prepared the lesson, writing thank you notes, etc.

I have always felt that gratitude precedes joy. So often we are focused on finding joy, when the secret to finding joy is to first find gratitude. Gratitude brings joy, as well as peace, contentment and fulfillment. That is why counting your blessings is such an effective tool for overcoming despair, jealousy, discouragement, and dread.

I believe there is a reason that the month of Thanksgiving comes before the Christmas season of joy and wonder. It prepares our hearts. It aligns our souls and helps us remember what is really important. It eradicates those human sins of self focus, greed, jealousy and entitlement. It reminds us of our place in the universe and turns our eyes back to the Father of the universe.

This November we decided to take our yearly gratitude challenge to another level. We usually hang a gratitude tree in our home and every night when we count our blessings as a family we take the time to write them out and hang them on the tree, as a visual reminder of all we have to be grateful for. Seeing our gratitude tree fill up with blessings is a humbling reminder of how blessed we are.

This year we decided that rather than simply count our blessings we would spread those blessings and share them with others…

Thus begins our month of giving.

(Let me first say I am sharing this journey with you not with the desire to say, ‘Look at us,’ but rather to share ideas with you that have been shared with us. This journey was laid on our hearts by God- to Him all the glory!)

The idea began with Miss Molly when she approached us a month ago saying that she would like to make cookies for everyone in her life that she is grateful for. She said that she wanted to share her appreciation for the many people in her life that are a blessing to her. As she began making a list of everyone she wanted to thank we began talking as a family and from this simple idea a bigger plan arose.

“Why don’t we spend the entire month of November spreading joy and gratitude through Random Acts of Kindness?!”  the kids suggested.

So the planning began. We spent the month of October making lists of people we wanted to express love and gratitude to, as well as making lists of fun, random acts of kindness we could perform.

November 1st we sat down as a family and began our month of kindness by filling the calendar with all of our ideas. We looked at each day, the commitments and appointments of each day and picked Random Acts of Kindness (or RAOK) that would fit in that day. It was fun to see the kids so excited and so full of ideas!

The next step in the plan was the funding. Many of the RAOKs planned for the month were free but others were not. To fund our month of kindness we came up with the idea of not purchasing any groceries for ourselves (other than milk and bread) for the month of November and eat only from the pantry and freezer for the month. We then could use our monthly grocery budget to purchase supplies for our RAOKs.

I loved this idea!

First: it helped us clean out the freezer and rotate the food in the pantry by eating up some of the canned goods that are dusty and haven’t been used.

Second: it teachers our kids the wonderful skill of “making do” and creative cooking.

Third: it allows them to recognize the great blessing of a full freezer and pantry.

Fourth and most importantly it teaches sacrifice. Their acts of kindness and gratitude have a lot more meaning when it comes from a sacrifice they are willing to make.

Everyone is excited about the month ahead. I will be posting weekly about our RAOK adventures.

Does anyone want to join us in our Random Acts of Kindness challenge?

It promises to be a grand adventure!