Monthly Archives: July 2016

Whew…what a week!


Last week was a crazy week, jam-packed with work on the bus, packing up the trailer for Michigan, and working to prepare the house and yard for a picnic on Saturday. Sprinkled among our week of chores was a lot of fun. Here is a look at all that happened last week!


On Monday I took Grace on her very first college tour. I still can’t wrap my brain around the fact that I am at the parenting stage of life that requires college visits. I still feel like a college student myself! But here we are. This year is Gracie’s senior year so this summer we have planned a few college campus tours.

Grace is planning on going to school to get a degree in Special Education with a possible secondary degree or minor in American Sign Language. One of the schools on her list of possible schools is Kent State, located 1 1/2  hours away in Ohio.

IMG_5810 (2)

We scheduled a college tour and took Olivia, Gracie’s best friend, along with us.

When we arrived we were taken by golf cart to the orientation building where we joined many other potential students and their parents for a 30 minute presentation. The orientation presentation gave us an overview of Kent State. They touched on everything from the history, the offered majors, the clubs and activities, the area, and the cost. The girls also each received a welcome pack and a Kent State backpack.

IMG_5813 (2)

Once the orientation was complete the crowd was broken into small tour groups and assigned a college student to walk them around campus on a 90 minute tour.


It was a very pretty campus and a great first tour as we enter this new world of college placements. On the tour we were able to see different classrooms, the student union building, the library and food services around campus. It was nice for the girls to have access to a current Kent State student that they could question about life on campus.

IMG_5825 (2)

They even had the opportunity to see sample dorm rooms and get a feel for how campus living would be.

IMG_5820 (2)

It was a great experience and it made me excited for the girls and the adventure that awaits them in another year as they leave high school and follow God’s leading for their lives.


Tuesday was spent doing this all day!

IMG_5861 (2)


Tyler headed off to cub scout camp for the first time. This was a day camp that ran from 8:30 am- 4:00 pm Wednesday, Thursday and Friday last week. It was with a bit of anxiety I sent him off on his own for the day (without a parent or sibling) for the first time ever. I wasn’t sure how he would do and how the leaders would handle any struggles that might arise, so I did A LOT of praying in the days leading up to day camp…

And you know what?

He did great!

He did more than great. He had a FABULOUS time!

IMG_5932 (2)

He loved spending the days with his scout friends and had fun with the leaders. He came home each evening eager to tell me about everything he did and learned that day. It was wonderful!

The theme for cub scout camp was Safari Adventures. Each day the boys moved from station to station around camp where they did crafts, played games, learned skills, shot bow and arrows and had target practice with BB guns.

On Friday they even had a mobile zoo come and teach the kids about all sorts of cool animals that they brought with them. Tyler was able to meet and learn about everything from an armadillo to a baby monkey.

On Friday evening the families of the cub scouts were invited back to camp for an evening fireside program where the different troops performed for the families.

P1060197 (2)P1060173 (2)P1060177 (2)P1060182 (2)P1060183 (2)

A BIG thanks to all who made the week such a positive experience for the boys. This Momma’s heart is full of gratitude!


On Thursday evening the girls and I had the opportunity to join the women and teenage girls from church for a night of bowling.

IMG_5937 (2)

One of the families at church owns a bowling alley and graciously opened it up to all of us for a fun ladies night out. Everyone brought an appetizer or snack to share and we enjoyed a night of food, fun, and fellowship!


On Friday Gracie had big plans with Olivia. Friday was Olivia’s 18th birthday and Grace made plans to take her out for a spa day to celebrate. Olivia knew she was spending the day with Grace but didn’t know what the plans were until she arrived and  Grace gave her a pair of flip flops she had decorated with balloons and a note telling her to:

“Put on your birthday shoes. We are off to get pedicures!”

IMG_5957 (2)

Grace took Olivia to the spa and Molly and Rusty went home with Miss Lana to spend the day with Tatum and Lucas. They needed to get in a play date with their best buddies before they left for Michigan.

IMG_5959 (2)

The little boys stayed home and helped Toby and I get the house ready for a picnic the following day.

At the spa the girls enjoyed an hour long foot massage, pampering and pedicure.

P1060145 (2)P1060136 (2)P1060143 (2)P1060144 (2)

After their pampering time Grace took Olivia out for a fun lunch at Shogun Hibachi Grill. It was a dinner and a show as the food was prepared in front of them. They even sang to Olivia when they discovered it was her birthday.

P1060162 (2)P1060164 (2)

Happy 18th birthday, Olivia!


On Saturday we hosted a summer picnic for our Blessings Through Adoption support group. This local support group that meets once a month provides the opportunity to fellowship with other adoptive families as well as learn from a vast array of speakers that come to share their knowledge with the group at the monthly meetings.

P1060198 (2)

Some of the Blessings Through Adoption families


This past Saturday was the summer picnic where families could come together for some social fun. We spent the days leading up to the picnic getting ready for the picnic.


Filling water balloons.

IMG_6019 (2)

Gracie decorating the outdoor chalkboard with a welcome sign.


It was a VERY hot day so the kids kept cool with a sprinkler and water balloons.

IMG_6041IMG_6038 (2)

The adults made themselves comfortable in the shade where we enjoyed hot dogs, hamburgers and salads.

IMG_6034 (2)

For dessert the kids roasted marshmallows and feasted on s’mores.

IMG_6042 (2)

Saturday was also Tyler’s “Gotcha Day!”


It was 3 years ago that we sat before a judge and committed to be his forever family. It was fitting that out Blessings Through Adoption picnic fell on Tyler’s “Gotcha Day” because it is through the blessing of adoption that he joined our family.

For the boys’ “Gotcha days” we celebrate by letting them choose an activity for us to enjoy as a family.

Tyler couldn’t decide between going swimming and going to see a movie, so we did both. After a HOT picnic outside the thought of a cool swim appealed to all of us so after our last guest left we grabbed swim suits, towels and our swimming pass and headed to Ellwood City Pool.

IMG_6055 (2)

That evening we packed up blankets and lawn chairs and drove to Dependable Drive-In to see the most recent Ice Age movie and Secret Life of Pets. We had a Groupon for four free admissions, a large drink and a large popcorn, so the cost for our fun evening was minimal.

IMG_6063 (2)IMG_6066 (2)

It was a beautiful evening. As the sun set the temperatures lowered with it. It was wonderful to have that special time as a family before Toby, Molly and Rusty had to leave for Michigan. It was such a wonderful feeling of relief and satisfaction to look back on our crazy week, and see all that was accomplished, knowing the bus was complete and all the big commitments of summer were over. Now we can relax and enjoy some lazier summer days before we begin preparing for our big trip.

Life is good!

A Homestead Visit


Last week was a good week, but a FULL week as we worked to complete our school bus conversion before Toby left with Molly and Rusty to head back to Michigan for the month of August. The kids are working with Toby as laborers as he builds an addition for my sister’s home.

In between working on projects to complete the bus we had many other events on the schedule. Over the next few blogs I will be working to get caught up on recording our life at Patchwork farm over this last week.

Our full week began over the weekend with a trip to Ohio to see my parents at the Homestead. We wanted to make sure we fit in a visit before Molly and Rusty left because otherwise my parents wouldn’t get to see them until we return home from our trip in October.

The visit was also our opportunity to celebrate my Dad’s birthday which fell on Friday this past week.

We decided to take the bus. At that point it wasn’t painted yet but the inside was just about complete. My parents hadn’t see the work we had done on the school bus, so we decided to drive out in the bus. It gave my folks an opportunity to see the home on wheels where we would be living for six weeks, as well as gave us the opportunity to measure our gas mileage over back roads.

When we arrived we gave my parents a tour of our RV and then enjoyed a fun and relaxing day at the Homestead. The weather was perfect and it was so nice to get to see them after a very busy summer.

We played games, swam, enjoyed a yummy lunch, celebrated my Dad’s birthday, and caught up on each other’s news. It was wonderful to get together and celebrate my father’s special day.

We are so blessed to call him Dad and Pop Pop!

IMG_5673 (2)

The bus parked up near the barn.

IMG_5677 (2)

The kids enjoying a picnic lunch outside.

IMG_5678 (2)

IMG_5691 (2)

The boys loved getting wet and cooling off in the pool.

IMG_5731 (2)

“Happy Birthday, dear Pop Pop. Happy Birthday to you!”

IMG_5763 (2)

Grace having fun on the rope swing.

IMG_5798 (2)

No trip to the Homestead is complete without a competitive game of badminton. 🙂

IMG_5780 (2)

Love this crew! I’m going to miss having Toby, Molly and Rusty home this next month!

Drumroll Please….


Of all the decisions that had to made during our school bus conversion none created more debate than the question of what colors to paint the bus.

Everyone had a different vision of what they thought our home on wheels should look like. Some wanted to keep it subtle (namely Toby) while others wanted to embrace the uniqueness of living in a school bus with a unique paint job.

For a year we have talked, sketched, weighed and debated everyone’s suggestions. We made a list of twenty possible names, knowing that until we decided on a name we couldn’t decide on the paint job… since they go hand in hand.

The name of our bus was inspired by our dashboard figurines.


Once we decided on the name of our bus then we need to make decisions about paint colors and design. On one Sunday evening we made the decision once and for all with a design contest. Knowing the theme for the bus, we gave every family member an outline of a school bus and a pile of colored pencils and instructed everyone create their vision on paper. Once everyone’s drawings were completed we voted on our favorite.

The winner was…


with his “Rolling Gnomes” design.


Once we had decided on the design, the bus was prepped and the paint was purchased, and  it was time to paint!

IMG_5851 (2)

We chose a day last week when everyone’s schedules were wide open because this was an “all hands on deck” project. Matt came over and helped as well.

IMG_5846 (2)

The first task was to tape off the bus. The little boys helped Toby and I with this job…

which can be interpreted as: Toby and I followed the little boys around the bus re-taping over their tape. 😉

IMG_5838 (2)

While we did that the big kids and Matt scrubbed down the roof and prepared it for the blue paint that would cover the top half of the bus.

IMG_5835 (2)

Rusty designed the paint job around three primary colors: blue for the sky, green for the grass, and brown for the ground.

IMG_5857 (2)

It took us 8 hours to get the bus painted.


We painted from top to bottom using brushes and rollers.

IMG_5882 (2)IMG_5872 (2)

It was a hot day but everyone pushed through and worked so hard. At the end of the day our big, yellow school bus was transformed into this:


We let the paint set up for a few days and then Grace and I had the job of adding the details…those touches of whimsy that would transform the bus into “The Rolling Gnomes.”

IMG_6150 (2)

Grace took on task of hand painting gnome silhouettes on the panels where Toby had covered the windows with metal, while I hand painted blades of grass. Then we worked together to add mushrooms to finish the design.

IMG_6136 (2)

We are proud to present our converted school bus:

“The Rolling Gnomes”

IMG_6171 (2)IMG_6170 (2)IMG_6162 (2)IMG_6161 (2)

 IMG_6179 (2).JPG

The BUS is done!


One year ago we did it.

In July of 2015 we walked onto the 422 auction lot,

and we bought ourselves a school bus.

bus 4

The project began as a seed of an idea in my creative husband’s mind.

bus 2

For two years we had been planning a once in a lifetime road trip and were pricing out our different housing options. As we considered the varying costs of hotel rooms verses renting an RV Toby came up with the idea of creating our own RV.

When he brought up the idea of buying a used school bus and transforming it into an RV I was a bit hesitant, but when he pointed out all of the selling points, namely:

  1. The fact it was significantly cheaper than renting an RV.
  2. We could customize it to meet the exact needs for our family of seven.
  3. At the end of our big road trip we would have a family RV to enjoy for many years.
  4. We could work on it as a family and the kids could learn some valuable skills and take ownership in the project….

I was sold!

bus 1

The kids were SO EXCITED!


This past week was spent finishing the inside of the bus. Tomorrow Toby leaves for Michigan and will be gone until two days before we leave on our cross country road trip, so this week was the last opportunity we had  to complete the bus. Here are some of the projects we were working on:

IMG_5636 (2)

Rusty and I learned how to make screens for the windows.

IMG_5672 (2)

One of Toby’s big projects was to replace the gas tank on the bus. It was in good shape but the 38 gallon capacity made him uncomfortable with some of the longer stretches of road out west. So, being Toby, he headed to the local junk yard and found a 115 gallon tank off a junked vehicle and brought it home to replace the original tank.

IMG_5643 (2)

The girls sewed curtains for all the windows this week.

IMG_5646 (2)

Toby’s big “inside” project this week was building all the cabinet doors for the kitchen, master bedroom and front of the bus. When he was done I stained and polyurethaned them.

IMG_5650 (2)

And then he hung them.

IMG_5660 (2)

Didn’t he do a beautiful job?!

IMG_5628 (2)

The outside of the bus was also prepped for paint. The kids scrubbed the whole thing down, rough spots were sanded, all the stickers were removed, and exposed metal was primed before the first coat of paint went on.


It has been a labor of love. For 12 months we have worked to transform our home on wheels from a 72 passenger school bus into an RV.

bus 3

Toby led the family through the process and the end results are magical.

We are happy to say:


Here is a look at the inside of our school bus conversion.

IMG_5661 (2)

IMG_5994 (2)

A look into the master bedroom that is located at the back of the bus.

IMG_6114 (2)

Isn’t it charming?!

IMG_6111 (2)

A view towards the front at our travel seats.

IMG_6106 (2)

Our bathroom consists of a toilet and small sink. On the wall is a framed map of our trip route.

IMG_6107 (2)

IMG_6104 (2)

The view from the master bedroom looking forward. We decided to use a car play mat as our kitchen rug. We felt it tied into the license plates we hung on the cabinet fronts, but more importantly it was placed there as a therapy tool for the boys. They both use matchbox cars as a tool for cooling down when they get anxious.

IMG_6100 (2)

We look forward to collecting more magnets for the fridge as we travel the country.

IMG_6099 (2)

One of the decorative touches added with the completion of the bus…A good reminder for all of us! 😉

IMG_6086 (2)

IMG_6082 (2)

We found these trays at IKEA. They made me smile. We super glued magnets to the back so that they can hang on the fridge and be pulled down to be used as serving trays when needed.

IMG_6081 (2)

We also labeled the birds that we felt matched each family member with their name.


This week was also spent purchasing paint for the outside of the bus.

IMG_5591 (2)

Oh, decisions…decisions…decisions!

IMG_5601 (2)

Because we needed special paint that would adhere to the metal of the bus we were more limited in our color choices. This is what we could pick from.

IMG_5594 (2)

Choices were made…

IMG_5603 (2)

The boys LOVED watching the process.


The outside of the bus is almost complete.

Stay tuned for pictures!

“Eat Mor Chikin”


July 12th was “Cow Appreciation Day.”

We celebrated with a trip to Chick-fil-A.

Every year on “Cow Appreciation Day” Chick-fil-A restaurants around the country open their doors and hand out free meals to customers who are willing to dress the part for a free meal.

Being fans of all things free,

and being HUGE fans of Chick-fil-A

we pulled together our cow get-ups and drove over to our favorite chicken restaurant.


We weren’t alone in our willingness to look the part of a fool for free food. The parking lot and restaurant were teeming with bovine.


The event was not without incident, though.

Tyler had a meltdown in the parking lot, leaving me to help him settle down in the car while the other four kids headed inside to get their chicken sandwiches.

IMG_5583 (2)

In his frustration he ripped his cow shirt off with Hulk-like finesse, leaving a scattering of cow hide on the floor of the van.

Poor Tyler is struggling with hard, huge demons from his past and this was one of his tougher days.

So, while we worked through the muck of emotions that were consuming him

 the other kids sat on the curb, enjoying their chicken, dressed as cows.

IMG_5589 (2)

Just another day in this bizarre experience we call life.

Projects and Play


It’s been said:


Here is a look at 10 moments that have been the building blocks of our days at Patchwork Farm this week.

If I had to summarize how the minutes of our summer are spent in just a few words I’d call it,

“Projects and Play.”

1…. The summer months allow our homeschooling family a break from the demands of the school year and allows for more opportunities for play and for tackling some of the projects around the house that there never seems to be enough time for when school is in session.

I work to balance the play and the projects in such a way as to keep the feeling of a “labor camp” at bay and avoid mutiny among my children. The solution I have come up with is to have a set block of time set aside every morning for cleaning/organizing projects. I try to make it fun by :

#1. Picking a job small enough to be completed within an hour so that we can all walk away with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

#2. Work all together. I find that if we all work on a job together, as opposed to sending the kids to work on one task while I work on another, we are more productive, there is less fighting, and we have the opportunity to talk and connect as we work.

One of the tasks we tackled this week was bathroom drawers. The kids all picked a drawer to work on while I organized and cleaned out under the sink.


We purged, wiped, cleaned and walked away feeling a wonderful sense of satisfaction. It is amazing what can be accomplished with 7 of us working for a short amount of time!

. When the job is completed our afternoons can then be open for play.

2.  Rusty returned from Boy Scout Camp! It was wonderful to have him back home. His calm, quiet spirit was missed this week. He had a wonderful time with his leaders and scout troop. While there he earned many merit badges including:

Citizenship in the Nation, Wilderness Survival, Movie Making, Sculpture, Wood Carving, Pottery and Metal Working.


The projects from his sculpture and pottery class.



In his metalworking class he made a fillet knife and an eagle chess piece that he painted.



These were not the only souvenirs he brought back from Scout Camp. He also brought back a body covered in chigger bites. Poor kid was so itchy. The bulk of his bites were from his ankle to his head on the right side of his body. We think he got them during his wilderness survival overnighter when he was sleeping on the ground.

3.   A few weeks ago a refrigerator box arrived via UPS and was left on our porch. It was huge but when we went to move it we discovered it wasn’t too heavy. It was addressed to Toby and had been sent by his mom.

What was in it?

A GIANT ROOSTER of course. 🙂

It was for his birthday and he was thrilled. It now has a place of honor in our living room.


4. This week in Young Women’s the girls learned to make homemade cinnamon rolls (as well as other homemade breads.) They had a lot of fun learning from the Greens and when they arrived home were anxious to share their newly acquired skill. The boys were eager to taste the fruit of their labors, so on Thursday the girls took over the kitchen for a few hours and whipped up all sorts of yeasty delights.


5.   Molly continues to work on her driving skills. She is getting braver and this week took to the highway for her first “over 60mph driving experience.” She was nervous but handled the pressure well. We are getting closer to having a second independent driver. 🙂


6.   “We’re in the Money!” or so it felt surrounded by thousands of pennies, nickels and dimes this week. In the evenings, while watching a movie as a family, we began rolling the coins we have been collecting for the last two years. Years ago we began the habit of saving pocket change. Whatever is loose in our pocket or purse at the end of the day goes into a jar. This then turns into fun money or vacation fund. It always astounds me how much can add up by saving a few pennies at a time.


Once the container is full (in this case we used a capped off PVC pipe) then we begin the process of rolling the coins. It is a fun project to work on in the evenings and all the kids get a thrill of seeing the pile of rolled coins grow and knowing how much we have saved.

IMG_5547 (2)

This time around Rusty had the task of going through the quarters, before they were put in rolls, to find all of the National Park quarters to add to  our collection.

IMG_5549 (2)

7.   This week we headed over to Ellwood City pool to cool off a little. My parents gifted us with a family membership as a thank you for watching their farm while they were in Michigan. It was incredibly generous and we have so enjoyed being able to go play at the pool!

IMG_5555 (2)

IMG_5559 (2)



8.   On  Monday, after an afternoon of swimming at the pool, we made a stop at 7-11 for a free slurpie. It was July 11th (7-11) so 7-11 was giving away free small slurpies to every customer who walked through the door. The kids were thrilled!

IMG_5568 (2)


9.   Then on days we didn’t go to the pool the kids created their own water fun in the yard with a roll of plastic, a hose and some soap. Summer just isn’t complete without an afternoon of  homemade slip-n-slide fun!

10.    And after a crazy week Daddy came home!! Toby arrived home on Monday night and will be home with us for a week or two before he heads back up to Michigan. Everyone was thrilled to see him pulling down the driveway!

IMG_5572 (2)

Well, there you go…

A look into the moments that make up a week of our life here at Patchwork Farm.

moments 2

Cranberry Community Days


bouncy castle

IMG_5331 (3)

That was Rusty’s motto at Cranberry’s Community Days on Saturday evening. Since Rusty was at Boy Scout Camp over the 4th of July, and had to miss fireworks, we decided that we would head over to Cranberry Township on Saturday evening to watch their Community Days fireworks.

We went for the fireworks having no idea all the other fun that was offered….

and the added blessing we discovered was that it was all free…

the best sort of fun!

Upon arriving, the first thing we encountered was the bouncy house area. The boys were so excited. It was for kids ages 14 and younger. Rusty was thrilled that he just barely made the cut, but then discovered that his size was working against him when the workers questioned his integrity when he told them he was 14.

Poor Rusty!

You could tell he was struggling with the adult scrutiny, even though he had no reason to feel guilty. I finally stepped forward and confirmed that he was being truthful, that he is just big for his age, and that he wasn’t there to cause trouble he simply wanted to bounce with his little brothers. Once the volunteers realized that he wasn’t a troublesome teen who was lying about his age they stepped aside and let him play.

The following picture KILLS me!

I felt like I was the owner of an overgrown Mastiff puppy in a dog park full of Chihuahua owners.  😉

IMG_5331 (2)


All the boys enjoyed the bouncy house area!

IMG_5349 (2)IMG_5340 (2)

IMG_5335 (2)


After spending a significant amount of time bouncing we moved onto the booths that were set up around the park. It was fun to explore and check out all the fun free activities different businesses, churches, and organizations were offering.

IMG_5399 (2)

At the Home Depot booth some of the kids made toolboxes to take home to store their treasures in.

IMG_5328 (2)

IMG_5330 (2)

Another booth was offering face tattoos and popsicles.

IMG_5391 (2)

Tyler and Ozzie loved the hula hoop competitions offered by a local physical therapy business.

IMG_5360 (2)

Ozzie was quite the hula-hooper!

IMG_5373 (2)

Molly loved having her face painted by a talented young artist who we discovered was a  homeschool graduate and kindred spirit.

IMG_5382 (2)

Isn’t she gifted?! I’m sure it helped she had such a lovely canvas to work with. 🙂

IMG_5388 (2)

It was a perfect summer evening and atmosphere was intoxicating. The live music, bright colors, carnival smells and bustle of people brought a magic that can only be found at a summer fair.

IMG_5405 (2)

When the sun began to sink in the sky we found a grassy hillside to set our blankets and chairs on and we waited for the light show to begin.

IMG_5322 (2)

 Rusty was the reason we came to see the fireworks, but we were all blown away by the fireworks show put on by Cranberry Township. It was spectacular and in our humble opinion beat Pittsburgh’s show this year.

IMG_5411 (2)

It was lovely sitting in the grass,

IMG_5424 (2)

on that warm summer evening,

IMG_5422 (2)

with my greatest treasures,

IMG_5440 (2)

watching the fireflies dance below the explosions of color in the sky.

IMG_5443 (2)

This is what summer is all about!

Finding Healing at the Lake


Well, we made it through a week of Toby’s absence…

Boy, was it a long week!

It is funny how the absence of one or two family members affects the climate of the entire household. This week that feeling was particularly pronounced with the duel absence of Toby in Michigan and Rusty at Scout camp. The absence of older male energy had a profound affect on the home, but the effect was most greatly felt by Tyler.

The result of that climate change was noticed almost immediately. The absence of testosterone in our home resulted in feelings of powerlessness and insecurity for Tyler…

although it took me a few days to figure out those were the emotions behind the behaviors.

The behaviors were explosive. Ozzie’s fears and insecurities bubble up to the surface in the form of manipulation and hurtful words. Tyler’s fears and insecurities bubbles forth in the form of physical destruction. Walls were punched, glass was shattered, books were ripped, and every shirt he wore this week had a hole chewed through the collar by the end of the day as a result of fearful energy needing a release.

He was in constant motion and I didn’t stop moving either. Whether that energy was happy or angry I moved with him through the day, constantly supervising and assisting, much like the mom of a toddler.

The build-up came to a head on Wednesday when, after a destructive rant, Tyler broke down. I heard his breakdown before I saw it. Following the sound of muffled sobs I found him in his closet. He was buried under every blanket he owns lying curled in a fetal position at the bottom of his closet crying…and by crying I don’t mean little boy tears. I am talking about soul-wrenching wails. Wails of mourning and of grief. The type of wailing that breaks forth from deeply buried hurts and can’t be soothed.

He wouldn’t talk…couldn’t talk. But I knew how to read the clues. The biggest clue as to the source of his breakdown was the location of the breakdown. He put himself back in a closet…the very place he was kept as a  small child. There in a closet he was locked away by his birth parents and only set free when they needed to hurt him or his siblings.

I sat on the floor outside his closet and was overcome with such anger toward his abusers. The fact that any child should have to carry the sort of pain that my boys carry on their little shoulders angers me. I sat on the floor and all I felt was rage and helplessness.

Tyler slowly began to deflate and was able to find his words through the sobs. He still wouldn’t leave the closet but he threw the blankets off himself. Under the mounds of blankets I found a sweat drenched 9-year-old boy curled as tightly into himself as he could shrink himself to be. His eyes were tightly shut and he was pressing his hands to either side of his head trying to gain control over the thoughts that were consuming him.

“I just keep seeing it,” he said.

“I can’t make it go away,” he sobbed.

“She is trying to kill me,” he wept.

Finally I found out the driving force behind the behaviors. His constant motion was a tool to keep from thinking. The destruction was the frustration over the thoughts that would break through his wall of defense. The lack of sleep was a calculated choice to avoid the nightmares that haunted him.

The reason behind it all:

Tyler thought his birth mom was going to come and kill him and Toby wasn’t here to protect him.

He didn’t feel safe.

Consumed by fear and anxiety he coped in the way that was most familiar to him.

Our therapy session with Tina on Thursday confirmed all my suspicions and conclusions. He is drowning under the waves of suppressed memories that are now crashing forth…and it breaks my heart.

While parenting a traumatized adopted child I have learned may things…so many things.

But the biggest lesson I have learned is that when assessing a situation and considering what parenting tools to pull from the toolbox the key is to pick the tools completely opposite of our natural inclination.

Its like being trapped in a 24/7 version of the childhood game: “opposite day.”

I’ve learned:

When you want to raise your voice you must whisper.

When you want to punish by sending them to time-out for isolation, it is essential you remain close by.

When you are tempted to shame, you must encourage.

When they are pushing you away with their words and actions you must pull in closer.

When they are shouting, “I hate you” they are actually pleading, “Can you love me? Even when I’m like this?” And you must show them you can.

When you want to de-escalate a situation by decreasing the energy in the room sometimes the best way to do that is by escalating it.

And that has been a tough one for me to learn.

My natural inclination, when a situation is escalating, is to try to let some air out of the balloon. When my oldest three were little I called this my “Mr. Roger’s mojo.” I would soften my voice, slow my movements, look them in the eye, and speak calmly and the energy in the room would lower. My “Mr. Roger’s mojo” is completely ineffective on Tyler…especially when he is escalated. This is common with traumatized children. For a child who came from a noisy, loud, angry, chaotic environment “Mr. Roger’s energy” is unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and threatening. To make them comfortable you need to bring the energy and chaos they are craving, just in a healthier way.

You don’t escalate the energy with the screaming and throwing and hitting they are begging for, but rather with “happy chaos.” You have a pillow fight, you chase them around the room, you have a foot race, jump on the trampoline or


Which was just what we did on Friday. Tyler was struggling and while my natural inclination was to batten down the hatches and brace for the storm that was coming I knew I must do the opposite. I had to meet his energy and raise it a notch. So we jumped in the car and left on an adventure.

We drove two hours away to Lake Erie for a day of fun in the sun. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit nervous about heading two hours away, without Toby, after the week we had, but I was following my gut and following God and knew this was what we needed, so I put on my brave Momma face and we went.

It turned out to be an amazing blessing. It was just what we all needed. We needed to get away from the house, away from triggers, away from responsibility, and just play as a family. The kids swam for hours and the result was a little boy who fell asleep at the end of the day. After a week of sleepless nights and high adrenaline tension Tyler finally found the release his body was calling for.

The key to finding that relief was not found in letting air out of the balloon, but instead by  blowing up that balloon up until it popped. Only then did my little boy find relief from the weight of anxiety that he had been shouldering all week.

Here is a peak into our wonderful day at Presque Isle State Park on Lake Erie:



Presque Isle State Park

IMG_5135 (2)

It was a BEAUTIFUL state park. It felt like we were at the ocean.

IMG_5141 (2)

My adoption treasures

IMG_5301 (2)

IMG_5212 (2)

Miss Molly soaking up the sun.

IMG_5288 (2)

IMG_5272 (2)

There was nobody there. It was just our little family, the lifeguard, and a few extra stragglers.

IMG_5268 (2)

Looking for sea glass.

IMG_5198 (2)


IMG_5283 (2)

This gorgeous bird allowed us to walk right up to him.


IMG_5224 (2)

1…2…3…Dunk! The kids were worried the lake would be extra cold but it was actually quite nice.

IMG_5293 (2)

IMG_5182 (2)

It was a beautiful day!

IMG_5300 (2)

Grace captured this shot of our walk down the pier.

IMG_5316 (2)

IMG_5294 (2)

It was a good day.

erie nature


Happy 4th of July


The 4th of July fell on a Monday this year, making for a lovely long weekend. It was a much needed reprieve in the midst of two busy weeks.

The girls and I arrived home from Young Women Camp on Saturday afternoon. After a needed afternoon nap we began the process of transferring things like flashlights and camp chairs from our camp pile to Rusty’s packing pile. He was headed to Boy Scout camp, so the evening was spent getting him packed to go.

Unfortunately he had to be dropped off at 5:30 am on the morning of the 4th so he had to miss watching fireworks with the family, but he was so excited for his week at Scout camp that we didn’t feel too bad for him!

He left with his troop early Monday morning and will return home on Saturday.

After dropping off Russ the bulk of the day on Monday was spent preparing Toby to leave for Michigan. He was hired by my sister and her husband to replace their roof and add an addition onto their home. This means he will be living with them for most of the summer and returning home just days before we leave on our cross country road trip, so we spent most of the 4th of July packing him up to leave, loading his truck with his tools, finishing the last of our planning for the trip and nailing down our itinerary so that we can finish making reservations, and making a list of what work we still need to get done on the bus before we leave.

He will come home on Tuesday for one or two weeks while he waits on building permits and will use that week at home to finish up the bus. Whatever doesn’t get completed in that time just won’t be done for our road trip. The good news is that most of what is left to be done are the “extras” and finishing touches.

Then he will head back North with Molly and Rusty (they are going to spend the remainder of the summer working with him as his laborers) and they will all return for the first day of school. The kids are looking forward to spending their summer with the Kirks and learning some valuable skills as laborers for Daddy.

Grace and I will stay behind with the two little boys and hold down the fort here.

After Toby and I  felt we had a handle on planning out the next 3 months then our “planning” turned to the evening as we decided what to do for the 4th of July.

For the last few years we have gone down to the Point in Pittsburgh for their epic fireworks show. Pittsburgh does it BIG and it is always awe-inspiring and stunningly beautiful. This year we were uncertain as to whether we would venture downtown because of heavy rainstorms. We waited to make the call until the last minute and finally at 8:00 pm the sun began to breakthrough the clouds and we decided to go for it.

IMG_5077 (2)

The sky stayed  dry for the remainder of the evening and the added benefit of late afternoon rain was smaller crowds. There were only a small fraction of the people that normally gather at the Point for the fireworks display.

IMG_5071 (2)

We arrive 30 minutes before the show began and enjoyed walking along the river down to the Point.

IMG_5070 (2)

We found seats without any effort and enjoyed a late evening picnic as we waited for the show to start.


IMG_5085 (2)

The energy was palpable and the combination of sights and sounds made the 4th of July come alive.

IMG_5092 (2)IMG_5088 (2)

It makes me proud to be an American!

Playing in the background as we watched the show was this classic, patriotic tribute:

“If tomorrow all the things were gone,
I’d worked for all my life.
And I had to start again,
with just my children and my wife.

I’d thank my lucky stars,
to be livin here today.
‘ Cause the flag still stands for freedom,
and they can’t take that away.

And I’m proud to be an American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I wont forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.

And I gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
‘ Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA.

From the lakes of Minnesota,
to the hills of Tennessee.
Across the plains of Texas,
From sea to shining sea.

From Detroit down to Houston,
and New York to L.A.
Well there’s pride in every American heart,
and its time we stand and say.

That I’m proud to be an American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I wont forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.

And I gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
‘ Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA.

And I’m proud to be and American,
where at least I know I’m free.
And I wont forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.

And I gladly stand up,
next to you and defend her still today.
‘ Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA.”

IMG_5096 (2)

Happy Fourth of July from our family to yours!

Girls’ Camp…year 7!


“Hi Ho… Hi Ho…It’s off to camp we go”

IMG_4345 (2)

After months of preparation and weeks of purchasing and packing we are ready to go!


This past week was spent in the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania as the girls and I attended Young Women Camp with our church. As illogical as it may sound, spending this past week with 100 teenage girls was just what I needed. Getting away and heading into the woods was just the boost I needed to recharge my “batteries,” refocus on the bigger picture, and spiritually refill my bucket so that I could return home and be a better momma and wife. It was wonderful laughing with the girls and other leaders and stepping away from the distractions of the world for a short time. Camp week was just as Kimberly Rinehart describes:

“Camping is more than just getting away.

It is the clear blue sky, the song of a bird, the beckoning woods, the wide open spaces.

Camping is greeting the breath of dawn unhindered by the walls of city life and watching the sun set in ribbons of color as it says, “goodnight” to a perfect day.

Camping makes hearts grow lighter and food taste better.

It’s sharing songs around a campfire and gazing up in silence at a star-filled sky.

Camping is more than just getting away. It is the thing we need to rekindle the spirit of a simpler time, refresh our hearts with nature’s beauty, and remind us that life doesn’t have to be so complicated after all.”

IMG_5063 (2)

The theme this year was:

Press Forward with a Steadfastness in Christ

IMG_4398 (2)

Each day the larger theme was broken down into the four smaller focuses of “Feasting upon the word of Christ,” “Having a perfect brightness of hope,” “A love of God and of all mankind” and “Endure to the End.” Each day there were devotionals, guided scripture study, and focus classes that revolved around each of these phrases.

In our 7th year cabin we played off the fun theme of Dr. Seuss, incorporating it into our decorations, pillow treats and devotionals each night. I picked a Dr. Seuss book to read to the girls every evening that encompassed the theme of the day…

Feasting upon the word of Christ……. “I can read with my eyes shut”

Having a perfect brightness of hope……. “Are you my mother?”

A love of God and of all mankind…….. Horton hears a Who”

Endure to the End……. Oh, the places you’ll go”

Then while sharing a spiritual thought or story we discussed the lesson that could be taken from the Dr. Seuss tale if we but listen with spiritual ears. I was astounded at the insight of the girls and the wonderful discussions that came from our evening devotional time.

IMG_4348 (2)

The girls at camp spent their days working as levels and their nights sleeping as levels with the other girls their age as well as their two adult leaders. Molly was a 5th year girl this year which meant she had the opportunity to serve as a youth leader and help plan lessons and devotionals for the 3rd year girls she was over.


I was at camp as the leader over the 7th year girls. These are the 18-year-old girls that choose to come back to camp the summer following their senior year before they head off to college or other plans. The activities that fill the campers’ days vary by level and what skills are needed for certification. For the 7th year girls the days aren’t spent getting skills passed off but rather serving as “goodwill ambassadors” around camp.


Much of what they do is quiet, behind the scenes acts of service. They plan fun, free time activities for the girls each day:

IMG_4588 (2)

They run the camp store where the campers can make purchases from snow cones and popcorn to bandanas and water toys. These items aren’t purchased with traditional money but rather camp tokens that can be earned through helpful deeds and kind acts witnessed around camp.

IMG_4367 (2)

They plan pillow treats and thank you gifts for everyone that is at camp and spread goodwill and joy through these secret acts of service.

IMG_4362 (2)

They wake the campers each morning and lead the evening programs each night.

IMG_4349 (2)

They step in and help where needed whether that is as an extra set of hands on a hike with younger campers or in the kitchen lending a hand to the awesome kitchen staff who make sure we are all well fed at camp.

IMG_4738 (2)IMG_5003

This year they also started a new program to encourage the girls to keep their cabins clean. They called it the “Golden Dustpan Award” and the winners were announced daily at dinnertime with a clever song written and performed by the 7th years.

(Sung to the tune “Dear Future Husband” by Meghan Trainor):

“Dear future campers here’s a few things you need to know

if you want to win the prize each and every night.

Oh, sweep the floor. Oh baby, sweep the floor.

Make your bed and maybe even shut the door.

This ain’t a laundry mat. Don’t do that.

Pick up your clothes. Pick…pick up your clothes.

You got to know how to pick up like a lady. Don’t drive your leaders crazy.

Throw that trash away.

Ahhhhhhhhh….Dear future campers,

Here’s a little thing for the winners.

Tonight’s prize goes to cabin _ _ _.

IMG_4460 (2)

This was a musically talented group who used their creativity to write a thank you song for the cooks,

As well as win first place in the Oatmeal Challenge with their original music medley!

This was my 7th year at camp but my 6th year serving as leader over the 7th year girls and it is a job that I love. These girls are exceptional! It is joy watching them mature every year as they move up from level to level and then witness that maturity peak as they step into the role of camp leaders.

The group this year was especially near and dear to my heart. They were such an extraordinary group of young ladies and it was a joy to have my oldest, Miss Gracie,  as one of my 7th years. Although Grace has one more year of high school this was her 7th year at camp. I have spent the last 6 years looking forward to being her camp leader and that privilege, in conjunction with the opportunity to work with such awesome 7th years, made this camp year extra special!

IMG_4881 (2)

While much of the JCDs’ (7th years) week is spent serving everyone else at camp I try to plan a special activity just for them in which they have the chance to make something for themselves to take home. This year we tie-dyed pillow cases for them to take with them when they leave home as a memento of their 7th year at camp.

The also had the chance to help teach the other campers how to make the jewelry craft for the year…a neat arrow charm bracelet reflective of our “Press Forward” theme.

IMG_4370 (2)

Our BIG service project for the week happened on Thursday when we weeded and mulched the beachfront area of the state park we were staying at. We spent 3 hours working and with the manpower of 100 girls plus leaders we were able to complete a very big job. The park was incredibly grateful for the 350+ man hours of service we were able to offer and the girls were able to experience the blessings that come from working as a team and the satisfaction of a job well done.

IMG_4708IMG_4691 (2)IMG_4688IMG_4670IMG_4720 (2)

After a hot, sweaty morning the girls enjoyed some fun free time in the afternoon. The kitchen staff served us a delicious lunch of walking tacos and then the girls were free to swim, enjoy water time on the kayaks and paddle boards, or simply relax and visit with friends on the shore.

IMG_4755 (2)

Molly tried her hand at paddle boarding for the first time and rocked it like a champ!

IMG_4837 (2)

Camp unity peaked on Friday when the girls were asked to work together on a special unity activity. They were broken into 4 groups and given the task of building, decorating, and using a traditional maypole. It was fascinating to sit back and watch as a team of many personalities figured out how to work together to accomplish the task set before them. The end result was inspiring and beautiful.

IMG_4961 (2)IMG_4993 (2)IMG_4996 (2)

There is so much good that comes from Young Women’s camp for these girls:

They are spiritually fed, they are able to escape the distractions and pressures of the world for a while, they are able to learn new skills, be silly with each other, serve others, become more Christ-like…but one of the greatest blessings that come from escaping into the woods for a week are the friendships that grow from that shared experience. Not only among the girls but among the leaders as well. What a joy it is to stand in the darkness of the camp commons and hear the giggles of girls coming from the cabins as they talk, laugh, share, and bond with each other.


On Saturday we arrived home tired, stinky and sore. Physically I was drained but emotionally and spiritually I was charged and filled to capacity. Heading into the woods for the week with 100 teenage girls and their leaders was just what I needed. I am so grateful for the amazing, inspired, awesome leaders that made the “magic” happen. What a joy-filled week it was!

IMG_4429 (2)