Monthly Archives: October 2016

An “Emotional” Halloween

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Last year we switched things up.

Normally everyone comes up with their own costume idea that they would like to bring to life on Halloween night. The talking, and planning, and preparations often begin a month or two in advance as Halloween is a favorite holiday in our family. The costumes chosen are quite often reflective of the phase they are currently in with game characters, movies characters, or book characters being popular themes.

Last year they decided they wanted our family to try a group costume and we decided on the theme of “Toy Story.”

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Everyone enjoyed having a themed family costume so much that this year the kids decided to go for a group costume once again. Starting in August discussion began on possible group costumes with consideration given to the number of characters available, the sex of those characters, and whether that theme was compatible with the make up of our family unit.

We knew Toby would be away for Halloween so we were looking for a group costume comprised of 3 male characters and 3 female characters.

Our visit to Disneyland focused our desire on a Disney movie theme for the group costume and we eventually came up with the idea of “Inside Out” as our costume theme.

For those unfamiliar with the movie “Inside Out” here is a synopsis:

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Growing up can be a bumpy road, and it’s no exception for Riley, who is uprooted from her Midwest life when her father starts a new job in San Francisco. Like all of us, Riley is guided by her emotions – Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness. The emotions live in Headquarters, the control center inside Riley’s mind, where they help advise her through everyday life. As Riley and her emotions struggle to adjust to a new life in San Francisco, turmoil ensues in Headquarters. Although Joy, Riley’s main and most important emotion, tries to keep things positive, the emotions conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house and school.”

“Inside Out” is a movie that is quite familiar to the children in our house, not only because of frequent viewings but also because we have used that movie as an effective therapy tool for the boys in the journey to help them better understand their emotions and the important role emotions play in their lives and in their healing.

In the movie there are six main characters in addition to Riley, the little girl. These characters are Sadness, Joy, Fear, Disgust and Anger…the emotions that run the control center in her brain. There is also Bing Bong, Riley’s childhood imaginary friend. These are the characters we decide to dress up as for Halloween.

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It was a fun theme that we embraced with enthusiasm! The characters chosen by each family member proved to be incredibly fitting, both in looks and temperament. 😉

Here is a peek at our finished costumes:

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Molly as “Joy”

 

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Tyler as “Anger”

 

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Grace as “Disgust”

 

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Ozzie as “Fear”

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Rusty as “Bing Bong”

And I dressed as “Sadness”

It was a Halloween full of emotions!

A Happy Halloween from our family to yours!

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Cool Springs Corn Maze

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It is nearing the one month mark since our return home.

And while I miss many things about life on the road…

The family time,

Having Toby with us 24/7,

Seeing amazing sites,

Meeting incredible people,

And enjoying the unique vistas of the American west,

I must say I am so glad to be back in Pennsylvania for the month of October, because as uniquely stunning the parks are out west nothing beats a Pennsylvania autumn!

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 October is my favorite month of the year.

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I love the colored leaves, the crisp temperatures, fall sweaters and apple cider. I love the traditions surrounding October like pumpkin carving, costumes, and corn mazes.

 This October has been a bit different than other Octobers with extra challenges resulting from the transition back to reality and Toby’s absence….a true rollercoaster ride of beautiful moments and heartbreaking ones.

Glad/sad seasons are not my favorite seasons of life. I have a hard time navigating the ups and downs of emotions. I find them exhausting, but I do find that they are the seasons that make me feel most alive. There is something about the stark difference in the blessing moments and trial moments that build in us a deeper gratitude, adjust our perspective, and make us appreciate the good days all the more.

 It seems October is a fitting month for a glad/sad season. Like the ever-changing weather of Pennsylvania autumns, we wake not sure what the day will bring. We have had our share of cold, grey days, but then when the sun breaks through the grey and spotlights the rainbow of colors that glow so brilliantly on display, there is such a sense of wonder and gratitude for the blessings.

 Within the struggles we have much to be grateful for!

 And even on the sad days, the hard days, the “I feel so alone days”  God is still there,

 And God is still good!

 On Friday we participated in our annual tradition of wandering through Cool Springs Corn Maze.

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This is always one of my favorite outings of the year. I don’t know what it is about corn mazes that bring me such joy. I love everything about them. I love the smells, the nip in the air, the beauty of the yellow stalks against the blue sky. I love the camaraderie of navigating the maze with friends and the challenge of finding your way back to the entrance…

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 And I love the spiritual analogy that can be found in the journey and how that fun, fall activity can be likened to our mortal journey here on earth.

 Let us consider the journey of navigating a corn maze as seen through spiritual eyes:

 When we arrive we are given a map.

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 While a bit basic and vague, the map gives you a good general overview of the design of the corn maze and paths found within.

 It highlights important stops along the way where additional information can be found.

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 Everyone begins their journey with the same instructions, the same directions, and the same warnings.

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 We all step onto the path and enter through the same gate.

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 From there everyone’s journey differs greatly.

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 Some have an easier time than others, either because of innate skills or because they were blessed with a directionally talented group to travel with.

 Some choose to travel alone, and some travel alone because they have no one to walk with.

 I can testify that traveling with a group is the key to successful navigating. The support of others, the opportunity to learn from others who have gone before you, or simply the opportunity to work with others to solve problems you encounter along the way, makes all the difference.

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 It is a lot more overwhelming and can be a bit frightening to journey alone.

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 (And not nearly as much fun!)

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 Some choose to use the map provided while others discard the map. Some because they feel they don’t need it, others because they choose to wander more aimlessly.

 Either way, they soon discover the error of their ways when they have traveled deep enough into the cornfield that the entrance and exit are out of sight.

It is there in the middle of our journey that we are most likely to get turned around and lost.

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 Suddenly we find ourselves traveling the same loop over and over again, uncertain of how to get off it, or find ourselves facing another dead end.

 Moments like these can be disheartening.

It can be a morale-crusher to find that after all the time and energy spent walking those paths that you haven’t gotten anywhere.

Knowing that we have been working hard to make it safely to the end only to find ourselves facing a wall of cornstalks on a path that leads nowhere is heartbreaking. It can makes the most seasoned travelers want to sit down and cry.

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 But quitting is not an option…

 In life or in corn mazes.

 We can’t just take a seat, declare we won’t be moving any further, and simply live out the remainder of our days in the middle of the corn maze.

 It is in those moments our mettle is tested. We must pull ourselves up by our “oh so muddy” boot straps and find perspective and direction.

 How does one do that?

 1.  Well if we were wise enough to hold onto our map that would be a good place to start. The Lord never asked us to navigate mortality blindly and has lovingly given us all the guidance and direction we seek when lost, if we but stop and read His instructions.

2.  We could ask those who travel with us for help. The Lord knew how trying life would be. He never wanted us to have to navigate the challenges alone. He placed people around us that He knew we would need to listen to us, cry with us, council us, walk with us, and help us find our way back to Him. These people are our friends, our family, and our brothers and sisters in Christ. Even when we think we are wandering alone in a maze of confusion, surrounded by walls on all sides, and feeling utterly hopeless, if we would just call out for help rescuers would come charging in.

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 But the most effective tool when lost in a corn maze is also the simplest…

 Ready??

 “Look Up!”

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 When you are in the middle of the maze, surrounded by a 10-foot-tall wall of corn on all sides, it is easy to lose all sense of direction. But if you stop, and look up at the celestial body overhead, the Sun, and where it rests in the sky, can show you which way to go.

The view from above isn’t confusing. It isn’t distorted. It is so clear. The Lord sees our journey from a celestial perspective. While we don’t have that same aerial view, we can trust that the view of our life plan from above is awesome.

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 We may not see the whole picture, but He does!

 If we but ask, He will lead us through.

 I know that to be true.

 I just sometimes need to be reminded.

 If you find yourself in a corn maze or lost in a life maze it is important to remember that all the tools needed to navigate this unknown world have been given us.

 Use them.

 Trust in them.

 Keep walking.

 Keep trying.

 And don’t forget to

 Look Up!

 

A Tired Momma

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The best comprehensive overview of life with children with attachment issues (aka…RAD) that I have seen. Parenting a RAD child can be the most draining, exhausting, defeating, and isolating road to walk. It is hard to explain how very hard life is for the parents and siblings of children with Reactive Attachment Disorder. To the outside world these very hurt, sick children can seem charming and delightful. The parents of RAD kids are often seen as overly strict, hard on their children, or crazy because these children have developed unbelievably advanced ability to lie, manipulate, and charm, meanwhile behind closed doors the storms rage 24/7 with the primary caregiver being the most targeted victim of the abuse. This heartbreaking disorder is brought on by lack of care when a child is young. By not having their most basic needs met by a loving parent these children never learn to form attachments. I have two children with a RAD diagnoses, with one who displays the symptoms to the degree laid out in this overview. I am a tired Momma. Parents of RAD kids live in a constant state of exhaustion as a result of moving through their days in a hypervigilant state. I am feeling the fatigue all the more intensely with Toby gone. Parenting an abusive child with no respite is so hard. I know some of my friends with RAD kids will get this. I can see them nodding, “Yes, yes! This is my life!” But for those that don’t live in a world where attachment disorders drive every aspect of your day, here is a cheat sheet into our world. I share not to embarrass or shame. I share not for attention or pity. Rather, I share, because I know there is someone reading this with tears streaming down their face, thinking, “Finally someone understands what I have been going through.” Whether this is your journey or whether your struggles come in a different form, this is a good reminder that things are rarely what they seem. Ladies, let us all love and support each other more and judge a little less.

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For more about our life raising a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder check out this previous post:

https://ktmccleery.wordpress.com/2015/02/10/rad-not-so-cool/

Olive Goes to Therapy

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Olive Goes to Therapy

It sounds like a charming children’s book, doesn’t it?

I think it has the making of a best seller.

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Can you picture the illustrations? A tall, lanky Great Dane, stretched out across the couch as the therapist listens attentively with notepad in hand.

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Maybe it could be a series of books.

Through the eyes of Olive we could delve into the fears, worries and struggles that can be hard to talk about when you are a child.

And as charming as the illustrations would be what would touch the heart is the story.

What a story it is.

 All about redemption, protection, and the miracle of healing that can come through love….

It has been a miracle in the making.

Comparable to the miracle of the loaves and the fishes, the restoring of sight to the blind, or the raising of the dead,

Jesus is working a modern-day miracle under the roof of my home.

And He is using a clumsy, lanky, goofy, 12-week-old pup to bring a miracle of healing to pass.

Let me set the scene…

Toby is now in Michigan.

Stressors that were lifted during our two-month road trip have re-settled on the household.

Every element that brought anxiety, explosions, and meltdowns last time Toby left home have returned, but miraculously the behaviors have not.

For the first time since Tyler moved in at age 6, he feels safe. Possibly for the first time in his life he feels safe. 

For those that know Tyler the idea that he is anything but confident, strong, busy, and self-assured is hard to believe, but the very things that create that façade are in fact the symptoms of deep-seated fears and anxiety.

Tyler is afraid to be still. His constant movement is a tool to quiet the thoughts and fears that are always lurking just beneath the surface.

As long as he is “doing” he isn’t “feeling.”

This strategy of constant movement has worked for him in the sense that the need to constantly move has resulted in some mad athletic skills, but to maintain a life of constant movement as a solution to keeping the demons at bay is not realistic, long term.

Besides the fact that it drives those around you crazy, makes success in school difficult, and limits future possibilities, all issues… especially when you are also functioning with severe ADHD…there is also the simple fact that at some point your body must rest.

The sun will eventually set.

The house will become dark and quiet.

Your body will scream for rest.

And bedtime must come.

This is when the hardest part of my day begins.

It is when I am emptiest, when I have little to give in the way of creative thinking, energy, and patience that I am called on to tap deep and step into the arena with Tyler as he battles the darkness of his past that threatens to swallow him up every night.

Bedtime is the toughest part of any mother’s day. Even with a child that hasn’t experienced trauma bedtime is the roughest hour of the day. For Tyler and I bedtime is not merely an hour-long struggle but rather a hard, hard journey that begins with tuck-ins at 8 :30 pm and concludes with sheer exhaustion around midnight ,following hours of fears, tears, and meltdowns.

Tyler is haunted by memories of horrific abuse and that abuse has resulted in fears of closets, the dark, bathrooms, being alone, and not being fed.

We have made strides. Growth and healing have occurred. God has sent angels to walk with us…aka Miss Tina, our therapist… But nothing has had a more powerful effect than this silly little dog that God placed in our lives.

We added Olive to our family for the purpose of being an emotional support animal to Tyler. She has fulfilled that role tenfold… and she is only 3 months old.  We have been shocked at the security and emotional stability she has provided so quickly. We expected it to come as she grew in stature. We knew a grown Great Dane would bring Tyler the feelings of safety he needs from the birth dad he fears will find and kill him, and we knew a large, heavy dog would satisfy the need he has for weight on his body when his 150-pound dog would sleep in bed with him,

But we had no idea that this 20-pound, bouncy pup would also bring that same security. It is as if in Tyler’s eyes she is already a warrior standing guard at the foot of his bed. I find myself tearing up at the image of Olive, a babe in need of care and protection herself, sitting at the foot of Tyler’s bed having no idea what a hero she already is in his eyes.

Bedtime has been a miraculous transformation as Tyler lays down to sleep with Olive snuggled up next to him and within minutes…yes, MINUTES…they are both sound asleep.

She helped Tyler face some big fears this week as he showed up and participated in events that caused epic meltdowns a few months ago.  His only request was that Olive come along.

“I just don’t feel scared when she is there,” he explained.

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We even were able to tackle some BIG trauma issues in therapy this week thanks to Olive. Tina invited Olive to come to therapy with Tyler. The topic of parent/child relationships and trust were discussed. These are topics we have not been able to address at all previously. They are just too big and scary. But Tina took the discussion in a different direction and made it less personal, thus more emotionally manageable for Tyler, by talking about what a Daddy should and shouldn’t do to/for a baby, using Tyler as the Daddy and Olive as the baby.

WOW! What insight we received into his past as he listed the things he would never do to Olive and the ways he wouldn’t hurt her.

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We also got insight into the intense fears he has of parent figures and the fact he views people physically bigger than him as “scary.” These were all things we could never delve into before that we could now begin addressing with Olive laying across Tyler’s lap on Miss Tina’s couch.

I knew that God’s hand was in the circumstances that led us to Olive.

And I knew she was being brought into our life to help Tyler heal.

But I had no idea how powerful her presence would be and the miracles I would be privy to as God takes a lanky, baby Dane, and a busy, broken boy and creates a holy, healing love.

Miracles still happen.

I witnessed one today.

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Two week update

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We have now been home for two weeks and find ourselves fully entrenched in routine and reality. The after vacation glow is but a sweet memory as we jump into the school year with both feet. Our days are filled with the usual demands on a family’s time: school work, home care, meals, dishes and laundry. There are phone calls to return, lessons to prepare, orthodontist appointments, lessons, and holiday preparations.

We are officially back to reality. 🙂

Here is a peek of what we have been doing with our time…

We have been returning phone calls and sorting mail.

You can imagine the stack we returned home to after a seven week absence. The pile of mail was impressive! Among the stack of bills and piles of junk mail was a fun surprise. Rusty had received a letter from Senator Robert Casey. As part of Boy Scout Camp Rusty worked on earning his Citizenship in the Nation merit badge. One of the requirements was to write a letter to a senator. Rusty was surprised and pleased to get a letter back addressing his concerns and answering his questions.img_7814-2

He also was thrilled to receive a package in the mail. It was a birthday gift from Uncle Travis, my brother. Rusty was thrilled with the gifts Travis picked out!

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The kids have been working hard these past two weeks trying to submit all their assignments before the end of the first quarter which ends today at 4:00pm. They did an impressive job of keeping up during our seven week trip, despite the stops, the site seeing and the sketchy internet service along the way, but even with their diligent effort they have had to put in long hours since our arrival home to make sure their grades were where they needed to be before the quarter ended.

Ozzie will be joining the big kids in 21st Century Cyber Charter School beginning Wednesday with the start of quarter two. He is excited and I think the change will be a good fit for him. He received his school Apple computer in the mail on Friday and can’t wait to get started on this new adventure in his educational journey!

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When they have had free time the kids have enjoyed playing with the toys they hadn’t seen for two months. It is like having a room full of new toys to play with:

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Puzzle time!

Grace has been creative. Inspired by our trip to Disneyland she added some magical new details to the ocean scene she painted when we had our fun Bob Ross night in August. It is now a magical scene from Peter Pan with the added silhouettes of some familiar characters and a little fairy dust. Didn’t it turn out well?!

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Molly has been making up for lost driving time. Needless to say, she didn’t log any time with her driving permit in the big school bus, so she has been chompin’ at the bit to get back behind the wheel. She is getting closer to being ready for her driving test in a few months.

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Rusty had a fun science lesson the other day. He was the third of my kids to enjoy this fun lesson that involves receiving a package in the mail containing all sorts of yummy treats from the science teacher. These treats are then used as part of an online lesson, to learn the parts of a cell by creating delicious model cells. The reward for a job well done…a yummy after school treat!

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Toby is now in Michigan for 6 weeks but before he left we managed to fit in a family night of pumpkin carving. Always a favorite tradition, the kids eagerly look forward to this activity that combines creative expression with messy fun.

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The kids all came up with their own design and executed their visions brilliantly.

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It is fun, now that they are all old enough to scoop and carve the pumpkins themselves, to just sit back, watch, and document the fun with photographs.

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Here are their finished designs:

Rusty did a Gengar Pokémon pumpkin. Grace did Disgust from Inside Out. (Hint: Gracie’s pumpkins typically reflect our costume choices). And Molly covered her pumpkin with words she punched into it using hammer and nails.

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The little boys also carved their own designs.

Ozzie jack o’ lantern face was charming!

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Tyler carved Shrek. Love it!

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It has been a busy two weeks but busy with wonderful things!

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Projecting Hope

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This weekend we had the wonderful opportunity to take advantage of a beautiful and inspiring event called “Projecting Hope.”

We were made aware of this film festival through our awesome adoption agency, Bethany Christian Services, that are so good at keeping their families in the loop of  events in the area that their families might benefit from.

This was our first year attending, but it won’t be our last.

It was an amazing event.

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Here is a little information about “Projecting Hope”

“The Projecting Hope Film Festival is a highly-anticipated, annual event that has been held in Pittsburgh for over a decade. Each year, thousands of patrons come out for a powerful weekend of faith-focused and life-changing entertainment. Today’s faith-based films are well-crafted, nuanced, works of art.”

Powerful Movies

Movies are the story-telling medium of our generation. They make us laugh and cry. They can remind us of our humanity, and point us to our Creator. Join the Projecting Hope Film Festival as we honor amazing movies … films that inspire, encourage and uplift by promoting life-affirming, God-honoring values. 
 

 

Free Admission

Thanks to our fantastic sponsors, all the movies at the Projecting Hope Film Festival are free to the public! Yes, that’s right … all the movies are completely free of charge.  We couldn’t do that without the support of local community-minded businesses.  We encourage you to thank them for their participation.

An Experience You Won’t Forget

There is just something special about seeing movies on a larger-than-life screen, in the company of others. But The Projecting Hope Film Festival isn’t just about watching great films … it’s meant to be an experience … an experience that will remain with you long after the show is over and you have left the theater.
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There were 10 different movies being offered to the public.  We decided to reserve free tickets to two of the movies. It was a wonderful, fun, free, family activity for our last day before Toby leaves for 6 weeks.
We saw two inspiring movies.
The first was “I am not Ashamed,” the powerful, true story of Rachel Joy Scott, the first student killed in Columbine High School shooting. Based on Rachel’s honest and heartfelt journals, the movie was  a hope-filled reminder that when we put our lives in God’s hands, we can make a world of difference.
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The second movie we saw was “The Resurrection of Gavin Stone.” This was an early preview movie that will be released officially on January 20, 2017.
This was a delightful movie that we all LOVED!!
It is the story of Gavin Stone, a washed-up former child star, who is forced to do community service at a local megachurch. He pretends to be a Christian so he can land the part of Jesus in their annual Passion Play, only to discover that the most important role of his life is far from Hollywood.
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I laughed. I cried, And I left wanting to return the next day to see it again. A definite two thumbs up, faith strengthening movie.
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Thank you to “Projecting Hope” and their generous sponsors. It was a wonderful event!

What’s Up, Buttercup?

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In addition to Olive, our new 10 week old Great Dane puppy, we have a few more new additions at Patchwork Farm.

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Buttercup, one of our farmyard chickens, is a broody little Momma. She loves babies and loves being a Mommy, so she has this habit of hiding her eggs from us. Instead of laying in the same area as the other chickens she finds hidden corners to build a nest, and lays a clutch of eggs, with the intention of hatching them.

So what do I mean by “broody?”

Broody Hens:

A broody hen of any breed can be used to hatch eggs and raise chicks from other hens of any breeds.

  • A broody will sit on any eggs, whether or not they are fertile and regardless of who laid them. To gather a suitable clutch of eggs, she will not only lay her own eggs but may roll other hens’ eggs into her nest.
  • While a hen is brooding, you can remove daily any extra eggs she gathers into her clutch. Drawing pencil “equator” lines around the eggs you want her to brood will help with identification.
  • A setting hen will usually leave the nest at least once a day to eat, drink, and defecate. The eggs are not in danger of cooling off too much during a normal foray into the coop or run.
  • Typically, chicken eggs hatch about 21 days from the beginning of incubation or nesting by a broody hen. A few days early or late is not unusual, and some breeds lean toward earlier or later hatches.
  • If a broody hen has pushed an egg out of the nest, she probably knows something is not right with that egg or embryo.

 

For those that are unfamiliar with the workings of chicken laying…I know I was before we got chickens 7 years ago…here is the scoop:

A young, healthy chicken lays an average of an egg per day. Which means you could in theory get a dozen eggs per day if you have 12 chickens. That is not always the case. Other factors like amount of daylight, weather, age of the chicken, and nutrition come into play but it is a good average.

A grown chicken lays an egg per day whether you own a rooster (a male chicken) or not.

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The ladies will lay regardless of whether the egg has been fertilized by a male or not. If you do have a rooster there is no obvious differences in a fertilized egg verses an unfertilized egg when they are collected daily and put in the fridge. There is no difference in the look, texture, or taste and it matters not whether your omelet contains a fertilized egg or an unfertilized one.

Here are some other fun egg facts:

Double eggs or “egg in an egg” are created when an egg with a shell is encased by the next egg in the oviduct and a shell is produced over the outer egg as well.

  • Double yolkers may have a normal amount of egg white with two or more yolks. The egg may be unusually large.

Contrary to what some believe the yolk is not an undeveloped baby chick. It is actually the nutrients that the chick would feed on as it developed in the shell, if the egg was fertilized.

The egg yolk or egg white may have red or brown specks in it. These “blood spots” and “meat spots” are harmless bits of tissue and are allowed in commercial Grade B eggs. If they look unappealing, the spots can be removed with a spoon or knife before cooking.

The shell color is a breed characteristic. Most chicken breeds lay light-to-medium brown eggs. A few breeds lay white, dark brown, green, blue, or cream colored eggs.

And no, brown eggs are not healthier than white eggs.

If you aren’t sure how old an egg is, you can submerge it in water. The freshest eggs will remain at the bottom of the container, while old eggs will float. Floaters should either be discarded or opened far from your nose

It is the addition of heat through incubation or a sitting hen that causes the embryo to begin developing into a baby chick if it is a fertilized egg. This incubation period takes a little over 3 weeks.

Often with free range chicken (like ours) a hen will “disappear” for a period of time and then return with a parade of baby chicks following her, as was the case with Buttercup.

We have had chickens for years but this is the first time we have had a broody hen. We typically add chicks to the farm through mail order. They are overnighted through the postal service and we get a phone call from the postman to come pick up our noisy chicks when our chirping box arrives.

Having a hen sit and hatch new additions has been a fun change for us. It is neat to watch Momma take on the role of teacher and protector of the chicks as opposed to the artificial environment of raising the chicks in the basement under a heat lamp.

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Buttercup is a good little Momma, herding her chicks around the farmyard with Gus, our Guinea fowl, who has taken on the role of protector and adoptive dad to the nine babies. It is so funny to see!

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It is moments like this that make me feel so blessed to raise my own “chicks” on a farm where they can experience the most thrilling of nature’s wonders.

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Meet Olive!

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Well, we are home.

And while home is a lovely place to be I must admit the transition from life as a gypsy back to a life filled with schedules, appointments, farm chores, phone calls, and responsibility has been a tough adjustment.

I finally feel like I have my footing again and have adjusted to the point that I can blog and share what is new with us at Patchwork Farm.

I wasn’t the only one who struggled with the adjustment from life on the road back to life at home. It was an interesting experiment in character and temperament to see which kids relished the nomadic lifestyle and which ones struggled with life on the road.

Overall  everyone did well and enjoyed our once in a lifetime adventure, but some “thrived” while others simply “managed.”

This was most notable with our two youngest.

I anticipated that this trip might challenge Ozzie. Ozzie is a child who does best with a rigid routine, predictability, quiet time, and opportunities to isolate from others. This trip offered little of that. In the months leading up to our trip we worked with our therapist to identify possible struggles and make a plan that Ozzie could use to find some quiet time in our travels. Even with that preparation this lifestyle was not one that suited Ozzie’s temperament and he struggled with the abundance of family togetherness, a tough thing for Reactive Attachment kids.

For a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder and Autism, a life of living on the road, with intense family bonding experiences and little routine or predictability, is very hard.

He loved the vacation. He loved the sites and the opportunities to see and learn but there was a noticeable exhale of relief when we pulled into the driveway and he could run up to his room and shut the door.

Tyler on the other hand came to life on this vacation. He was a different child. He was joyful and engaged. He was extroverted and confident. He was eager to learn and willingly put himself in social situations that would have shut him down emotionally had we been at home.

For a child with PTSD and ADHD, a life of constant changing experiences, exciting new sights, and new people to meet, all while living in close proximity to the people who bring a sense of safety and security, resulted in miraculous changes.

Tyler’s anxiety all but disappeared as he spent 24/7 surrounded by people who could keep him safe, all within arm reach from any corner of the bus.

Coming home has been hard for Tyler.

On the first night home he broke down in tears and asked, “Why can’t we just all live in the bus?”

I often tell people that we could not have adopted little boys who were more different.. They are extreme opposites in their looks, stature, strengths, weaknesses and even in their struggles. This extreme contradiction makes parenting them a challenge because in my efforts to meet the needs of one child I am giving the other child the opposite of what they stand in need of. Case in point: this trip. One thrived. One struggled. Now that we are home the other is thriving and little brother struggles.

It is a challenging juggling act and that description is a simplification of reality because there are also three other children and a husband whose wants and needs need to be considered.

It seems that, whether right or wrong, my way of meeting the diverse needs of everyone is to “triage.” I do this by meeting the needs of the child most in crisis at the moment, as I shared in this previous blog post:

https://ktmccleery.wordpress.com/2015/02/05/love-is-a-battlefield/

I now find myself trying to save Tyler from a heart gushing wound as he faces the fears that have consumed him for years but have reemerged after a two month vacation that did more to address his anxiety than all the medication management in the world.

Tyler’s early childhood has a storyline that would shake you to the core and leave you sleepless. The horrors of Hollywood films don’t hold a candle to the horrors he experienced at the hands of the very people that were entrusted to protect him. The result is severe PTSD. He lives with constant fear but is debilitated by the fears that awake as night approaches. Like most little boys he fears the monsters that lurk in the dark corners of his room. The difference, however, is he knows what the faces of those monsters look like. He knows they are real. He knows the hurts they can inflict, and he is terrified they will return.

For over a year Tyler’s anxiety has increased. I won’t go into all that results from such severe trauma memories but suffice it to say that I am dead on my feet after a 4-5 hour bedtime routine every night. My heart breaks for him and rages against the adults responsible. I consider myself a forgiving individual but after parenting the trauma inflicted on both my boys by the very people that were supposed to protect them I am convinced there is a special corner of hell reserved for those that hurt the innocents of the world.

About a year ago, as we were discussing treatment options with Tina, our therapist, she suggested a emotional support dog for Tyler. She shared that she had been praying about Tyler and how to help him and this came to mind. She spoke of the success she has seen with a friend that raises and trains dogs for soldiers returning from Afghanistan who also suffer from PTSD.

Long story, short, we spent this last year praying for the right dog and the right time and through a series of “God-incidences” we find ourselves with a new addition.

Her name is Olive.

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She is a 10 week old Great Dane.

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It was after speaking with the trainer and her suggestions for breeds that would be a good match for Tyler that we decided on Olive.

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We needed a breed that had a impressive, threatening stature that Tyler could believe would physically be able to protect him from the father he believes is going to try to come and kill him,

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Olive’s Dad.

 

but also a breed that is incredibly gentle and loyal.

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Olive came home on Monday night.

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Tyler has slept in his room with Olive at his feet ever since.  For the first time in over a year we have been able to get him to sleep in his room without acting out in his anxiety with destructive or self-injurious behaviors. He has fallen asleep within minutes rather than fighting to stay awake for hours  in fear of what will happen when he closes his eyes.

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He finally feels safe.

I wish I could convey the weight that has been lifted from this Momma’s shoulders. I could weep with joy at the rest I see in Tyler’s body and the peace I see in his eyes.

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Toby leaves to go back to Michigan to finish my sister’s addition in a day or two and he will be gone for 6 weeks. This will be the true test of Tyler’s confidence and trust in Olive. With Daddy gone can he still feel safe?

I pray that is the case!

What a Trip it has Been!

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It was almost 10,000 miles.

We traveled through 22 states.

Over the period of 7 weeks.

We visited 13 National Parks,

and hiked miles and miles of this beautiful country.

Brand new shoes, purchased at the start of the trip,

were worn clean through by the end.

A walking testament to all that was seen and done.

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For those who have forgotten or our joining us more recently, here is a recap of where we have spent the last 50 days.

Day 1: Travel to St. Louis, Missouri with a stop at the Columbus Zoo.

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Day 2: Tyler’s 10th birthday! Explore the City Museum in St. Louis, Missouri

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Day 3: St. Louis Arch

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Day 4: Tour Hannibal, Missouri. Home of Mark Twain.

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Day 5: Drive to De Smet, South Dakota

Day 6: Tour Laura Ingalls Wilder’s homestead and then on to Mitchell, South Dakota to see the Corn Palace.

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Day 7: Visit 1800’s town, South Dakota.

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Day 8: A stop at Wall Drug and a visit to Badlands National Park.

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Day 9: Day 1 in Rapid City, South Dakota: Bear Country USA, Storybook Island, the Dinosaur Park, and a chuck wagon dinner.

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Day 10: Wildlife Loop at Custer State Park to see the world’s largest free roaming buffalo herd in the morning and then a visit to a mammoth fossil dig site in the afternoon.

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Day 11: Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse monuments.

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Day 12: Check out Devil’s Tower.

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Day 13: Day 1 in Yellowstone National Park

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Day 14: Day 2 in Yellowstone National Park.

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Day 15: Visit Grand Tetons and go swimming in hot springs.

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Day 16: College tour of BYU Idaho.

Day 17: Visit temple square in Salt Lake City, Utah and swim in the Great Salt Lake.

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Day 18: College tour of BYU in Provo, Utah.

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Day 19:  Travel to Yosemite National Park.

Day 20: Visit Yosemite National Park in California.

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Day 21: Visit Sequoia National Park, California.

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Day 22: A day swimming in the Pacific Ocean at Newport Beach, CA.

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Day 23-27: Disneyland, California. This was the big surprise of the trip. The kids just found out the day before we left.🙂

Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse statue at Disneyland California. Image shot 2009. Exact date unknown.

Day 28: Las Vegas. Tour Hoover Dam.

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Day 29: See the sites of Las Vegas.

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Day 30: Another (unexpected day) in Las Vegas.

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Day 31: Visit the Grand Canyon.

Day 32: Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

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Day 33: Arches National Park, Utah.

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Day 34: Visit Mesa Verde National Park to see the cliff dwellings and stop at Four Corners monument.

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Day 35: Visit Petroglyph National Monument.

Day 36: A stop in Roswell, NM while driving past on our way to Carlsbad Caverns.

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Day 37: A cave tour of Carlsbad Caverns with my brother, Travis.

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Day 38: Drive all day to Branson, Missouri. (See David and Jen along the way)

Day 39: Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri.

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Day 40: Second day in Silver Dollar City.

Day 41: Explore Branson, Missouri and tour the Titanic Museum.

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Day 42: Branson, Missouri.

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Day 43: Rusty’s 15th birthday. Spend the day in Marceline, Missouri, home of Rusty’s hero: Walt Disney.

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Day 44and 45: Visit Mimi Joy who is serving a mission in the Independence Missouri mission.

Day 46: Visit Nauvoo, Illinois.

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Day 47: Drive toward home.

Day 48: Home Sweet Home!

For 7 weeks our family 0f seven lived in our converted school bus which was lovingly named, “The Rolling Gnomes.”

We slept, ate, did school, and traveled together in 280 square feet.

For 7 of those days our 280 square feet felt like 20 square feet as we lived without the boys’ ADHD medication thanks to restrictive state laws regarding controlled medications.

Our little bus climbed mountains almost 10,000 feet high feet and at Carlsbad Caverns we explored 750 feet below the earth.

We crossed wind swept prairies, majestic mountains, mighty rivers, and desolate deserts.

We made it to the Pacific Ocean and then turned around and drove back home.

Along the way we gained a greater appreciation for our country, and a greater connection as a family.

As a family we grew and learned lessons about ourselves, about our nation, and about each other.

We learned:

About the incredible natural beauty found in the United States of America and gained a greater appreciation for the conservation efforts that have preserved this country’s natural beauty.

On the 100 year anniversary of the National Park Service we were able to explore some of the prettiest sites we have ever seen.

In the NPS’s “Find Your Park” campaign we each found “our park…

each of us falling in love with certain areas of the country and the beauty found there.find-your-park

Here are our “Find your Park” National Park choices:

Toby and Grace’s favorite national park was Grand Tetons National Park.

Rusty’s favorite was Arches National Park.

Molly’s favorite park was the Grand Canyon.

Ozzie loved Mt. Rushmore.

Tyler’s chosen park was Badlands National Park.

And my personal favorite was Devil’s Tower.

Some favorite stops included the City Museum of St. Louis, Silver Dollar City, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Homestead, Titanic Museum , 1880’s town,

and of course, Disneyland!

We fell in love with the Black Hills of South Dakota,

and were little impressed with Nevada and California.

But the greatest revelation that came from our travels was how good the people of this country are.

We met some of the kindest people in our travels, and in all our interactions with thousands of strangers we had only one negative experience.

It was reassuring and empowering to see the goodness that shone forth across this great nation. In an era of sickening news reports and political filth, it is easy to assume that the loudest voices, the ones highlighted on our evening news, represent the majority of American opinion.

But I have found that to not be the case.

The people of this country are good…no, great.

They are moral, and kind. They are friendly and helpful.

They are proud people who love their country and long for its leaders to raise their standards and be better.

On this trip we made many new friends and the experience lit a flame of hope in me that despite the immoral, disgusting, self serving faces seen clamoring to be the representative and voice of the American people,

the people of America are so much better than the faces that represent them.

As we traveled I fell in love with my country and came home with a renewed spirit of pride in our history, our culture, and our citizens.

Through this experience I discovered a buried gypsy within my soul that fell in love with the simplicity of tiny house living and the life of a nomad.

It is good to be home…

To see the people we love.

To soak in a bathtub rather than shower in camp showers.

We loved being reunited with our animals,

But I’m already missing life on the road and look forward to seeing where the Rolling Gnome bus takes us in the future!

Thanks for traveling with us.

It has been a grand adventure!

Rockwell Mound

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After leaving Nauvoo, Illinois we began the LONG 13 hour trek back to Pittsburgh. Along the way we kept our eyes open for fun, “off the beaten track” sites of roadside America that we might want to see on our trip back home. As we drove through Havana, Illinois I caught sight of a sign for Rockwell Mound.

In the K12 curriculum I have used for each of my kids in elementary school they have studied the Mound Builders, but we have never had the opportunity to actually visit and see in person this ancient mounds built by early Native Americans.

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We made a small detour to check out this cool piece of history.

Here is a little info about this unexpected detour:

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The mound with its rounded hill was a place given to speeches and was even the site of a Lincoln Douglas debate, although not on the same day. Stephen Douglas spoke in Rockwell Park on August 13, 1858; then Abraham Lincoln spoke there the following day.

While the hill lent itself to speeches the history of this piece of land goes back much further. According to the facts at the site, Rockwell Mound is the second largest Indian mound in the Midwest.

Michael Wiant, Director of the Dickson Mounds said this is an important mound that was built by their best estimate between 1800-2000 years ago. While he thinks this may be a burial mound, he added, “There was very little excavation done, we can only say it was a mound built by humans.”.

He added that while most of the artifacts have been found in farmer’s fields there is little that can still be seen of this culture and the mounds offers that visual image.

The mound is called Rockwell Mound because N.J. Rockwell donated the ground to the community in 1849 the site was not confirmed as an Indian mound until 1986 when test probes showed artifacts within that dated the mound to around 150 AD. The Middle Woodland People were part of the Mound Builders.
An article by Charles Hinrichs states, “An estimated 1,760,000 baskets full of earth went into the construction of this 2-acre, 14′-high mound.”

There wasn’t much to see on site, only two plaques that shared the history of the site, but it was still a cool, unexpected stop along our way home.

It is always neat to see in person the sites we have studied through the pictures of our history books!

After a 13 hour drive we arrived home at 4:15 am. We promptly hugged the dogs and crawled into our beds for the most restful sleep we’ve had in 7 weeks.

We will fill you in on the final moments of our trip in the next blog.