Monthly Archives: January 2017

Keep Calm and BOWL



Friday rolled around and we were all in need of a little respite. Everyone was tense and emotional. The cold, grey winter weather has just added to the feelings of gloom that have settled upon Patchwork Farm.  I was a woman on the edge and my children were right behind me. It was time to escape from the drudgery of everyday life, and all the struggles found within the daily chores and duties, and simply go play for a few hours.

And burning off some aggression by throwing an eight pound ball at pins that look like tiny people seemed a good alternative to throwing eight pound balls at actual little people.

Just Kidding, I wouldn’t do that…

I am way too weak to actually throw an eight pound ball. 😉

A scheduled field trip with our friends at PAVCS gave us the perfect excuse to pack away our books and head to Butler for a day of bowling.

While we are no longer a PAVCS family (we are now with 21st Century Cyber Charter School) some of our co-op friends are and they very graciously extend invitations to some of their fieldtrips with us and we do the same with them.

This outing was a perfect one for January. The active nature of bowling gave the kids a chance to burn off some excess energy and the bowling shoes alone battled the grey gloom of winter with their bright colors.


At the outing the kids were able to spend time bowling with two co-op families (the Holts and the Caylors) as well as make some new friends. The turnout was great!


David, the family support coordinator in charge of the outing, set up the afternoon to allow for two hours of bowling with a pizza lunch in the middle of our bowling session.


He also split the kids up by age, with the younger kids bowling together in lanes with bumpers and putting the older kids in a separate lane. This meant Ozzie, Saga and Tyler bowled together,


And Grace, Molly, Rusty, Joram, Lucas, Alton and Buck bowled with some other high school students in another lane.


I think everyone had fun. Evidence of this was apparent in the resistance I faced when it was time to go.


But I knew just the thing to lure Tyler away from the pull of bowling balls…

Chocolate Cake!

Friday was National Chocolate Cake Day so we felt compelled to celebrate this important national holiday right…not to mention this Momma was in need of some chocolate therapy, so we made a quick stop at Panera Bread on our way home to indulge in a bit of this deliciousness:


Ahhh…this is therapy I can buy into.

Chocolate: Just what the doctor ordered!

Rusty’s GIF


Rusty is my third child to take digital photography through 21st Century Cyber Charter School, and like all the others he has LOVED the class. Each week the students learn a different photography or editing technique that builds on their understanding of this art medium. This week Rusty’s assignment was to create a GIF.

For those who have no idea what I am talking about here is an excerpt from Wiki:

Graphics Interchange Format. GIFs are image files that are compressed to reduce transfer time. The proper pronunciation of the acronym is a soft “g” sound: like JIF.
The creators of the format, Bob Berry & Steve Wilhite, claim that this soft “g” sound is used. At some point one of them said, “Choosy programmers choose GIF,” a play on the peanut butter commercials where “Choosy moms choose Jif.” It can also use multiple images for animated effects (animated GIFs).

Still have no idea what I am talking about? I’ll explain it like Rusty explained it to me…

“A GIF is a series of still photos strung together to form a sort of virtual flip book.”

Remember making flip books in elementary school?

We would take a stack of paper, stapled together at the edges, and draw a simple picture that we would redraw with subtle changes on each consecutive page. When completed we could grasp the stapled edge of the booklet, and using our thumb on the unstapled edge, flip through the pages to create moving animation.


As a kid I thought they were magical.

Rusty was the same way. As a little boy he collected flip books from various places we traveled to. He found them to be as engaging and magical as I did when I was little.

So this assignment was a fun one for him. He had to take a series of 10-20 photographs and string them together into a virtual flip book, otherwise known as a GIF. He put a lot of thought into this assignment, wanting to come up with something creative. Boy did he! He came up with a story line, and with the use of one piece of toast, a black marker, and 20 paper plates, he created something wonderful…

Rusty’s GIF:


Celebrating our 3 Girls


It is sometimes surreal to wrap our brains around the reality of what our life looks like, now, in comparison to what we imagined our life would look like. I am not saying the disconnect it is bad, per se, just a bit bizarre. Sometimes I find myself experiencing a weird, “out of body” experience as I look at my life from the outside and observe a “typical” day…as I juggle an overstimulated and anxious son who is throwing bricks at me, while planning a family night lesson on what do to if a birth parent arrives at the door packing a loaded gun, while making visiting teaching handouts, while helping my youngest spell words on a cookie tray covered in pudding, while researching colleges that offer ASL degrees with my oldest child, while trying to meet everyone’s needs and trying to keep a level of stability and security in our home life. Sometimes I feel like I have fallen down the rabbit hole into a bizarre alternative universe.

Our days are a mishmash of crisis control and everyday parenting. Often I find myself  getting fixated and focused on our “squeaky wheels,” so today’s blog celebrates some of the quieter, steadier, functioning wheels on our family wagon.


This past week we celebrated the accomplishments of our three girls. All three have exciting news to share. We will begin with the youngest (and furriest daughter.)

#1: Olive graduated from puppy class! We were a bit nervous that she’d be a Kindergarten drop-out, or that she would be a  70 pound, 6-month-old puppy repeating Kindergarten with a gaggle of 15 pound, 3-month old puppies. The day of testing came. To graduate the puppies had to be able to demonstrate the following skills: sitting for a stranger, down (with just a hand signal prompt), and “leave it.” The testing was done in the center of the store, in the middle of shopping PetSmart customers and their dogs, and Olive did not handle the distractions well. She ended up failing testing on skills she does perfectly at home. (Her ADHD is apparent when we get around other dogs and extra stimuli. She is a lot like her human dad in that way!) So we had to return back the next week for a second try. During her test #2 she passed with flying colors, received her diploma, and is now in “middle school,” learning intermediate level skills. She loves school and we love how well she sleeps every Thursday evening after her hour long class of playing with Rebel, a German Short Haired Pointer, who is her best friend in puppy class.


#2: Molly is proud to announce that she has been accepted into National Honor Society. National Honor Society is a national organization with local charters that accepts members based on four pillars of achievement: scholarship, leadership, service and character. Molly had to apply and demonstrate that she endeavors to uphold these four pillars in her daily life. She was beyond thrilled when she received the call that she had been accepted.We will be driving out to their school in March for the induction ceremony. It is made all the more special by the fact that this year Grace is the president of National Honor Society at their school and she will get to welcome Molly into the school’s NHS before she graduates and moves on to her next adventure. We are SO proud of you Miss Molly. You truly are an example of the four pillars: scholarship, leadership, service and character!


#3: Speaking of Gracie’s next big adventure, college acceptance letters have begun to arrive. It is crazy to think that this is the stage of life we are in. I think Grace is juggling a mix of emotions as she prays about which path the Lord is calling her to. She has a pretty clear vision of what she feels her calling to be: Special Education with perhaps an additional focus on American Sign Language interpreting, but she is uncertain of which path she should take to get there. She had been accepted to California University, Kent State and BYU-Idaho, all of which offer various pros and cons. So while she works on figuring out her next step we are simply celebrating her achievements. It is a thrilling life moment to receive that first college acceptance letter in the mail, and we are so proud of all the work she did to reach this point!


So after a challenging week it is nice to share some happy news. Congratulations Olive, Molly and Grace…Momma’s proud of you!

Beautiful Brokenness


(It is with a great deal of prayer that I share these words. This is the hardest blog I have ever written, but the most important message I’ve ever felt compelled to share. Warning: the writing is honest, raw, and may make you feel uncomfortable, but it is a message I feel the Lord calling me to speak. Please be merciful in your judgement  of my children and our family.)


Our road toward adoption began with an adoption survey.

Physicals were needed, financial statements were gathered. There were child abuse clearances and home safety checks. There was mounds of other paperwork that had to be submitted, but reality really hit when we sat down for the first time with our social worker and filled out the questionnaire that determined what background, struggles and disabilities we would be willing to accept into our home and into our lives.

The questionnaire is extensive. It is pages were long and listed hundreds of possible scenarios to which we had to answer: would accept, would not accept, or would consider. The intensity and severity of the situations increased as we worked our way from question one to the end of the form; beginning with simple, shallow questions like, “Would you accept a boy,” or “Would you accept a child who has acne?”

It then progressed to questions regarding levels of disability and what we thought our family could handle from disabilities as silly as, “Would you accept a child who wears glasses,” to situations as challenging as, “Would you accept a child with a feeding tube,” or “Would you accept a child that is HIV+?”

From there the questionnaire moved into presented behaviors, moving from the easy to address, “typical” childhood behaviors, into a list of extreme behaviors that can be seen in children with Reactive Attachment Disorder… Behaviors like: fire starting, hurting animals, false allegations of sexual abuse against previous foster parents, sexually acting out with other children, running away, stealing, compulsive lying.

As we moved toward the end of the questionnaire the scenarios became more and more intimidating and the reality of what we could be stepping into, as we considered adopting from foster care, hit us. But we knew God was calling us to walk down this unfamiliar and somewhat frightening road. We had to trust that He knew what our family could handle, and what children were meant to be ours, and most importantly I had to trust that he would protect my children who were already in the home and preserve our family through whatever challenges would come with this decision.

Toby and I didn’t enter adoption with the intention of finding a “perfectly unflawed” child that would be a beautiful and easy addition to our family. No, we weren’t THAT naïve. We had read enough books and attended enough training classes to know it wasn’t going to be all sunshine and roses, we just didn’t realize how very trying it would be. We took a step of faith and trusted that God had a plan for us, and for the child we were opening our home to, and walked toward that calling.

On that questionnaire we said yes to every scenario except 3 of them. We felt that God could not work His miracles if we put parameters on His work. So we said “Yes” to a lot of scenarios that made us uncomfortable. There were only three scenarios we felt were beyond our capability to handle as a family, so out of a list of hundreds of “Yes, we will accept,” there were 3 “No, we won’t” answers.

Then we stepped back and waited on the Lord to work.

During the waiting process families are presented with potential matches. In these emails you can read through that child’s file that lays out their history and past trauma, reveals medical history and behaviors, and often contains a photo. After reading the file you can respond back to the agency whether you are interested or not. If you are then your family’s profile is added to the stack of other interested families that the social worker will read through, interview, and pick from.  The survey filled out at the beginning of the adoption journey plays a role in what children’s profiles get sent your way. Because we said “Yes” to so many scenarios, we were sent many child profiles to consider.

The interesting and miraculous part of our story is that Tyler and Ozzie’s profiles should have never been sent to us. There were only 3 things we felt ill-equipped to deal with and our two boys’ profiles both  contained those three non-negotiables. They were “broken” in a way that we felt ill-equipped to “fix.”

This was an important part of the journey. Heavenly Father was teaching us about trust, faith and surrender. He was teaching us about His power to heal. If He had sent us a child whose struggles were manageable with our own skill sets and strength then we would have missed out on this amazing journey of growth, and trust, and dependence on Him.

One of those non-negotiables that terrified us was RAD. We had attended the classes. We knew the symptoms. We had heard the horror stories. And nothing short of God calling would have convinced us to say, “Yes.” But we did, because we were called to.

Reactive Attachment Disorder is a brokenness unlike any other.


And living with a RAD child can often feel like Hell. It is a journey no one in their right mind would sign up for willingly. This journey can only be survived if propelled by a force far greater than a “desire to grow your family,” a “desire be a mom,” or a “desire to save a child.” It is a journey that must be led by a living God if one is to keep moving forward. There are some days that the only force keeping me from running away and not returning is the undeniable knowledge that this is my child, that God is driving this ship, and that He has the power to heal…the power to heal Ozzie’s wounds that were inflicted by the abuse of his birth parents, but also the wounds caused by the abuse inflicted on this family at the hands of Ozzie.

There is a brokenness in our home that comes with adopting a child with RAD…a reality that I never thought would be my life. I never thought I’d have to call the police to come and restrain my child so as to protect the other children in my home. I never thought I’d be walking the streets at 10:00 at night searching for my child who has run away for the second time this week. I never thought I’d be feeling the spit hit my face as that child screams “F*** You,” as he stand nose to nose with me. I never thought I’d live in a home where knives have to be locked up for everyone’s safety. I never thought I’d have a child maliciously threaten to make up false allegations of abuse if I didn’t let him quit school for the day.  My life is spent dodging flying plates, holding my child down until he is done raging, and locking the dogs in my bedroom because that child keeps hurting them.

This is the dark world RAD families live in.

This hell is a reality hidden from family and friends who can’t fathom the idea that our “polite, respectful, calm and obedient” son could ever cause a bit of trouble. Instead of support and empathy I all to often hear from unknowledgeable acquaintances , “Maybe you are just too hard on him. Maybe you just need to be more patient.”

If only….*sigh*

This is reality for RAD families. We suffer in darkness, putting on a show of stability and fulfillment for our neighbors, family members, friends and strangers, while being held captive by a pint size abuser in our own home.

And the greatest heartbreak in this whole thing is that these broken kids are only acting this way because of horrors and atrocities that have happened to them at the hands of the people that should have loved and protected them: their birth parents.

They learned from an early age that “love” hurts, and “love” leaves scars, and “love” is terrifying. The thing they fear more than anything else in the world is attaching to a family, and they will do EVERYTHING in their power to drive you away and keep you from loving them.

I have never fully articulated the reality of our life here on the blog but feel compelled to bring the reality of RAD into the light. You see, RAD’s power perpetuates and grows in the darkness. The power to manipulate and control only works when the reality is kept hidden. Like with many mental health disorders, there is a shame associated with the struggle. I think perhaps the additional stigma connected to adoption, and the scrutiny adoptive families are under, add to the struggle.

Being a family struggling to survive while being held hostage by Reactive Attachment Disorder is an isolating and lonely life.

I am tired of trying to sugar coat the struggle. I know too many families that have been destroyed by RAD, to many marriages that fell apart at the hands of RAD, to many adoptions dissolved by RAD, that I can’t keep quiet any longer.

There is no brokenness more devastating than RAD brokenness. One might look at the scattered, shattered pieces and think,

“This is hopeless.”

“This child is too far gone.”

“The damage done by the abusive birth parents is unfixable.”

It is easy to feel that way. I certainly have. But when I start to head down that road of thought I am reminded by my God who is bigger than any brokenness, that His power to heal exceeds the destruction. He raised men from the dead, and He can raise this family from the grave as well.

In Japan there is ancient art form that celebrates brokenness. This art form is called Kintsugi.

Kintsugi is said to have originated in the 15th century when a Japanese shogun broke a favorite tea bowl and sent it back to China to be fixed. But the repair job, which was done with metal staples – being the standard for repair at that time – detracted from the beauty of the bowl. Disappointed, the shogun enlisted a Japanese craftsmen to come up with a more aesthetically pleasing solution, and kintsugi was born.

Most people would like damages to their broken items to be concealed and hidden by repair making the object look like new. But the Japanese art of Kintsugi follows a different philosophy. Rather than disguising the breakage, kintsugi restores the broken item incorporating the damage into the aesthetic of the restored item, making it part of the object’s history. Kintsugi uses lacquer resin mixed with powdered gold, silver, platinum, copper or bronze, resulting into something more beautiful than the original.

My friend, Tauni, recently gifted me with a stone that had been broken into pieces and repaired using Kintsugi. The small smooth stone’s beauty is highlighted by veins of gold.

The stone was wrapped in a  beautiful card that that shared the history of this art form, that I had never heard of before, and also included her words of encouragement. Her words touched my heart, and the lesson to be found in this ancient art form, moved me.

Through this especially hard week I find myself carrying that stone around in my pocket, rubbing it between my fingers as a form of mindless meditation, and pulling it out of my pocket to examine the veins of gold and ponder on the message found there.

So often when confronted with brokenness in our life it seems that the solution comes down to one of two options: Either the broken object is disposed of, or the brokenness is hidden. With powerful super glue we piece the broken parts together, praying no one looks too closely and sees the flaws. The art of Kintsugi offers an interesting alternative to the brokenness of our lives. What if instead of discarding those things, people, and relationships that are broken,

Or instead of trying to hide the cracks or brokenness,

We instead, reveal them.

We bring them into the light.

We offer them as a living sacrifice to an Almighty Artist and allow  Him to mend the brokenness in a beautiful way.

What if we use them to showcase God’s ability to mend and heal…

For His healing of our brokenness is far more beautiful than an untouched, unmarred, perfect life.

Real Beauty,

Deep Beauty,

Substantial Beauty,

Lasting Beauty

Only comes from brokenness.

And it is by bringing those broken pieces into the light, and humbly offering them to the Master Potter, that healing happens and the real beauty of this life is revealed.

We are a hurting family, a suffering family, a broken family. We are shards of glass scattered across the floor, but that is not where we will remain. My Heavenly Father has shown me what he will create with our brokenness.

He is a master potter,

The MASTER Kintsugi artist,

And through our brokenness He is creating a magnificent work of art.


A Safety Plan



When our children were small we began quite early trying to set safety perimeters in their lives that would keep them safe. We taught them that the stove is hot and that touching it will result in a “boo boo.” We warned them of the danger of crossing the street without looking both ways. We explained the danger of putting things in the outlets with a shake of the head and a firm “No.”

As parents, our primary motivation during those early years, was keeping our children safe. We began with addressing safety in their immediate environment when they were just babies by baby proofing with outlet covers and cabinet locks. Then as they grew bigger and could better understand our words we taught them how to make safe choices within the home.

As our children grew older, and the size of their world expanded, our rules and guidelines had to grow with them. We began talking about how to keep safe from outside threats. We talked about not wandering away in the grocery store, of holding hands when crossing the street, and the danger of strangers.


When my children reached the age when we finally needed to address the topic of stranger danger, I fretted. Like so many of the BIG TALKS we must have with our children as they grow older and need additional information and counsel, this topic intimidated me. I wanted to make sure it was handled in a way that would protect my children without making them fearful of people.

Through a friend we were introduced to the children’s safety video by John Walsh entitled, Stranger Safety ,which became the foundation of our approach. Through this video we taught the concept of boundaries, of “Don’t Know” and “Kinda Know” adults, of the right to say ‘no’ when you are not comfortable, and of Safe Side adults.


This was a hard topic to address with my three oldest when they were little, and I find the topic all the more challenging to address with my younger two who have experienced trauma at the hands of those who should have been the Safe Side Adults in their lives. Their experience, coupled with years in the foster system of being shuttled from new home to new home, with strangers they were supposed to be able to trust, who weren’t always trustworthy, has resulted in very confused children that are always on high alert for potential threats. (Even when there are no threats to be seen.)

Recently we received some scary and upsetting news about one of the boy’s biological siblings that shook us all to the core. We found out that the abusive, biological parents of one of the boys had secretly been in contact with one of their biological siblings, unbeknownst to that adoptive parent’s knowledge, until recently. This knowledge has resulted in heartbreaking consequences for that child and that family. Consequences that may never be overcome. Consequences that we had to share with our children for their safety.

Now we have two terrified boys.

And those fears are playing out in challenging ways within the walls of our home.

They are afraid to go to bed, certain that their birth parents will find them too, and either kidnap them and take them back to a life of abuse, or simply kill them here in our home. And as much as I offer proof of their safety, and tell them that their parents will not show up at our doorstep (Because if they did they wouldn’t leave in the same condition. I’d love the chance to show them some of the “love” they inflicted on my boys…Grrr) Tyler and Ozzie have a hard time believing they are safe.

So rather than dismiss their fears as unlikely or improbable, we are facing their greatest fears head on, addressing their “worst case scenarios,” and are giving them a plan of action they can rest their worries on.

Last night, for family night, we set up our safety plan.

In therapy Tyler shared with Miss Tina that the thing that scared him most was the fact that he couldn’t remember what his birth father looked like. He frequently has nightmares about that monster but in his dream he can’t see his face. Tyler expressed his anxiety about not knowing what his father looks like.

Can you imagine? He walks around in a constant state of hyper-alert fear, scanning the face of every man who passes us at the park or in the store, uncertain of whether that man is his predator, his abuser, the man who may try to kill him. Can you imagine knowing that there is someone after you but not knowing what he looks like? You would never rest, never be free from paranoia or worry. That is Tyler’s perceived reality. And as his mom, I can tell you that living in a state of hyper vigilance, 24 hours a day, is exhausting for a little boy. So the first step of our safety plan was to put a face to the monster in the closet.

Last night I pulled out photos of Tyler’s birth parents and Ozzie’s birth parents and showed them to all the kids. After all that happened this past week with this other family we felt it important that all the kids knew who they should be on the lookout for.

The next step in addressing Tyler’s fears was to bring resolution to another concern he expressed. He shared that he was afraid that if he had to call 911 he would forget his name or address and the police wouldn’t be able to save him. This was an area of concern easily rectified with a few papers posted near all the phones in the house, containing all vital information.

The final concern he shared was that he wouldn’t know if the stranger at the door was a bad guy or not… a valid concern for all kids when discussing Stranger Danger…but even more concerning for children that learned at an early age that the Safe Adults in your life aren’t always safe.


So we role-played various scenarios. We took turns playing the parts of various people who might knock on the door. We started by establishing the rule that the front door remains locked and unopened, regardless of whether we know the person knocking, until mom is at the door with you.

We then talked about how to handle different people at the door beginning with the least threatening scenario of a friend or family member, and progressing to Tyler and Ozzie’s worst-case-scenario fear of a birth parent with a gun on our porch. While this threat is minimal, and addressing it may seem counterproductive in helping a child lay down a fear, I have learned with the boys that the worries playing in their brain are always 100% scarier than any worst-case-scenario situation I could name, and rather than these activities planting new seeds of worry for my boys they actually bring a lot of relief as their darkest fears are brought into the light.

We spent an hour moving through the various steps of checking through the peep hole, asking the stranger to leave, calling 911, etc. until moving through the plan many times established some muscle memory that the kids can call on in a moment of crisis when fear freezes the part of the brain responsible for logical thinking.

We then set up a “safe zone”…a secret place in the house that the kids are to run to together and hide in  during a worse-case-scenario situation. The kids practiced running and hiding together when we yelled, “Safe Zone!”

I saw some of the anxiety lift as we faced their fears head on.

Like so much of the preparation we do with our kids to keep them safe from the dangers of the world, the likelihood of needing to apply this plan is minimal, and the prayer is that we will never have to use it.

But by addressing their concerns, and establishing a plan to face their greatest fears, we were able to pull those demons that haunt our boys out of the darkness,

And bring hope, light, safety and security to a scary world.

Fear will not prevail.


A Spirit-filled Weekend


This was a busy, Spirit-packed weekend for many members of our family. It was also a weekend filled with many great experiences. The craziness began on Friday night for Grace and Molly, with a trip downtown to attend the Winter Jam concert playing in Pittsburgh.

Winter Jam in a concert showcasing contemporary Christian artists. When the girls’ friends caught wind that Winter Jam would be coming to Pittsburgh they invited Grace and Molly to go with them.


“Winter Jam Tour Spectacular, also referred to as simply Winter Jam, is an annual American music tour featuring Christian rock, Christian rap, and contemporary Christian music bands, stunt and/or comedy performances, and a speaker. It is the United States’ largest annual Christian Music Tour. It has also provided a platform for non-profit groups such as Holt International, an organization that provides sponsorship and adoption for orphans.”

Woody took one for the team and graciously offered to be the driver and chaperone for the night to the six girls that wanted to go.


They left at 4:30 so as to be downtown Pittsburgh at 6:00pm when the doors opened.


The cost for the show was $10.00, an impressive deal for the opportunity to see so many incredible artists live and on stage.

The girls said the energy in the arena was electric. The vast amount of people in combination with the strong Spirit felt there was energizing and moving.

They loved all the artists but definitely had certain favorites including:

Tenth Avenue North



Agit8 Concert At Tate Modern

The girls were also moved by the adoption message (a message near and dear to all of our hearts) of the evening, that was highlighted through Holt International.


“Holt International Children’s Services is a faith-based humanitarian organization and adoption agency based in Eugene, Oregon, United States, known for international adoptions. The nonprofit works in eleven countries, including: Cambodia, China, Ethiopia, Haiti, India, Mongolia, Philippines, South Korea, Thailand, Uganda, and Vietnam. This work includes a range of services for children and families including efforts in nutrition, education, family strengthening, orphan care, foster care, family reunification, child sponsorships and more.

At 11:30 the concert was over and Woody took them to Denny’s for a midnight dinner.


The girls returned home around 2:30 am, exhausted but exhilarated by the experience. They headed straight to bed knowing they had to be out the door early Saturday morning.

On Saturday the three oldest kids had a youth temple trip to the Columbus Temple. They arrived at the church parking lot at 9:00 am to carpool with a great group of leaders and youth.


The kids had an amazing, Spirit-filled day serving the Lord and enjoying the sweet spirit felt within the walls of the temple.


They arrived home 12 hours later at 9:30 pm, eager to share all about their experiences from the last 24 hours. As we sat in around the living room it was fun to hear all about their day at the temple and listen to the girls gush about the fun they had at Winter Jam. They pulled up songs on their computers to play for us by artists they really enjoyed at Winter Jam.

As a mom I love hearing them share about the things that move them, that touch them, that make them feel closer to Christ.

We ended our Spirit-filled weekend with a visit to Mimi Joy’s church on Sunday morning to listen to her speak about the mission she just returned home from. It was touching to hear her stories of the people she taught and the lessons she learned as she was busy doing the Lord’s work.

It was a BUSY weekend, but what a wonderful sort of busy!

Boy Scout Winter Campout



Last weekend, while I was enjoying an “escape form all stress” weekend with my parents, Toby was winning the “Father of the Year” award here at home.

The boys  also spent last weekend away from home, but their accommodations weren’t nearly as luxurious as our digs. Last weekend was the scout’s camporee and Klondike Derby so the boys were all sleeping in sleeping bags and cooking over the fire. The girls definitely got the better end of the deal (although I don’t think any of the “under 40” boys would agree.)

So after a hard week of work Toby sent us girls out the door with a smile and a wave, packed up camping gear and three excited boys, and headed to Camp Baker for some mid-January camping.


What a trooper!

Because there was nobody home to watch him, Tyler received permission to join the big scouts at the winter campout with Toby, and boy was he excited! He knew he wouldn’t be participating in the scout activities but he was excited to sleep outside, cook over the fire and spend time with Toby, Ozzie and Rusty.

The guys were blessed with unseasonal winter weather that was much warmer and wetter than usual. This made sleeping more comfortable than past winter campouts but the mud proved to be a bit of a challenge for some of the outdoor activities.

Saturday was spent rubbing shoulders with other scout troops as they participated in skill building challenges like fire building, knot tying, and flag signals.

Rusty expressed that learning to signal with flags was his favorite activity of the day. The boys took turns using the signal flags to send a message across a field to another scout who had to record and decode the message within the moving flags.


The campout ended with the Klondike Derby. The Klondike Derby is a sled race between the different troops with one scout riding on the sled and the other troops pushing it in a race to the finish line. Our scouts’ homemade sled, while probably the prettiest one on the start line, proved to be the most ineffective in a race across mud. Its heavy frame and smooth gliders were built for snow. But the boys had fun nonetheless.


The Boy Scout Winter Camporee was a success!

Homestead Blessings



As a child “HOME” was not a single, specific place. Growing up with a military father the location and appearance of the place we called “home” varied. Some homes were rural, and some suburban. Some homes had yards while others were apartments with balconies. Some of those homes were rented, while others were owned.

My “HOME” had changed 10+ times by the time I left home, married and established a home of my own. Some might imagine that would be hard on a child, moving so frequently, uprooting, and starting over, but I never found that to be the case. Actually it was quite the opposite. Like a family of nomadic turtles I quickly learned “HOME” was something that moved with you. It was never the house, the neighborhood, or the community that made a place “HOME,” but rather the people.

Home is “Our anchor, our refuge, our port in the storm, our happy place,” and all that stability and security has nothing to do with a place. It has to do with who resides in that place.

Home is about family.


This weekend I went HOME.


The girls and I spent the weekend at the Homestead. This quiet slice of land in Ohio is the place where my parents have grown roots and settled down following my father’s retirement. The Homestead is not a part of my past or my history. I have zero connection to the land, the neighborhood, or the area (although it is a lovely place.) My connection and draw to the Homestead are the homesteaders that call that slice of soil “home.” So although I have no history there, I always feel a sense of returning home when I visit.


It is a place of refuge and a port in the storm…a place where I can return to a simpler time of life. When I pull down the driveway I find myself reverting back to the easy role of just being a daughter.


Every now and then it is nice to just be a daughter.

This weekend I was blessed with that opportunity, and although I was still a “mom” since the girls were tagging along, I had none of the responsibilities of that role, only the fun and ease that comes with years of parenting work that results in a sweet friendship with our children as they grow into adulthood.

The weekend was a birthday celebration for my mother and I. My birthday falls days after Christmas, and my mom’s birthday falls the beginning of January, so it has become a tradition to have a “Girls Only” weekend of fun and frivolity after the craziness of the holidays settles down. It gives us something fun to look forward to in January.

The girls and I drove out on Friday. Molly did all the driving, thrilled at the 5 hours of round-trip driving practice she could log. Friday night was spent enjoying dinner and catching up. Everyone enjoyed a good night sleep so that we could begin our 24 hour marathon of fun well rested.

We squeezed A LOT of fun into our short weekend visit including…

* A delicious lunch at Broken Rocks Café:



The homemade lemonade is delicious!


*A trip to the movies to see Hidden Figures…which we gave 2 thumbs up. What a great film!


* Window shopping in charming downtown Wooster:

* A shopping spree at Friendtique, the BEST thrift store in all of Ohio!

My parents gave Grace, Molly and I  gift certificates for Christmas which we couldn’t wait to spend. I also received birthday money from my grandmother that I included in my spending spree budget. I was thrilled with all the pretties I found for my home:


The girls used their gift certificates in the clothing section and found all sorts of great finds:


Like this pretty periwinkle coat Grace purchased.


*And Craft time! We had fun making homemade cards and paper crafts (compliments of a Paper Pumpkin subscription I bought my mom for her birthday last year):


The best part of the weekend, however, were the quiet times…the peace and renewal found in the Ohio countryside, away from the trauma and the drama. It was a weekend of returning “HOME” to a simpler place and a slower pace…


I felt myself exhale the tension-filled breath I had been holding for the last few months.

I left feeling strengthened by my time spent there.

It was a weekend of rest, of renewal, of encouragement, and quiet. And it had nothing to do with the places and everything to do with the faces.


There is something to be said for returning HOME.

Road Trip Video #4


3 1/2 months have now passed since we returned from our trip of a lifetime. With life consuming us, these days of exploration and ease seem like a lifetime ago. It was an amazing adventure, one we will look back on with fondness for decades to come.

Grace collected photos and little videos from every leg of our journey with the goal of documenting our adventure in a series of 5 (10-20 minute) videos. It has been a couple months since her last video. With all that has been going on she hasn’t had a spare moment to finish her last two videos of the trip, but last week, with the conclusion of the second quarter of school, she had a few days off and finished video #4. This video highlights our week and a half of vacation following Disneyland but before we reached Missouri. (Our adventures in Missouri will play out in Gracie’s final video.)

Some of the stops included in this vacation highlight reel include:

The Hoover Dam, Las Vegas, North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Arches National Park, Petroglyph National Park, Four Corners, Mesa Verde, Roswell NM, and Carlsbad Caverns.

I think Gracie did an excellent job of capturing the adventure, the beauty, and the incredible memories we made as we rolled cross country in our converted school bus.

Enjoy #4!

PJs and Pancakes


Throughout the year we have a variety of special occasion days sprinkled into our Co-op calendar to keep things interesting and fun for the kids.

These special days include holiday parties, service projects, and themed days when the kids can dress up and take a break from the ordinary. This is especially appreciated and looked forward to during the drab month of January.

 And while these themed days are fun for the kids, they can represent extra work for the moms. The exception to that rule is “Pancake and PJ Day.” This is the day that the moms look most forward to and we usually plan a couple “PJ and Pancake days” for the school year.  This is the one “theme” day that is easier than an ordinary co-op day. On ” Pancake and PJ Day” my workload is cut in half. I don’t need to check to make sure everyone has clean clothes or matching socks. I don’t have to pack lunches for everyone the night before. Instead we are able to sleep in an extra 20 minutes, roll out of bed, and head straight for the car in our PJs.

The kids love the ease and novelty of going to co-op in there comfy PJs, and I love the ease of no wardrobe battles with Tyler. The kids also love the pancake lunch that replaces a standard packed lunch on PJ day. The pancakes at Co-op tend to be much more popular and enticing then mom’s pancakes at home. I don’t know if it is all the fun and unusual toppings that are offered on Pancake Day, in addition to the usual syrup they get offered at home, or if it is just because someone else is making the pancakes that add to the appeal. But whatever the reason the pancakes are consumed with a lot more enthusiasm on Pancake Day then they ever are at home.

Last Wednesday was “Pancake and PJ Day” at co-op. It also happened to be the final day of the quarter for all the students at co-op who attend 21st Century Cyber Charter School. For some students this added to the fun of the day and made it a play day for those who had already turned in all their assignments for the day.



While other students were scrambling to turn in their remaining 3rd quarter work before the 4:00 pm deadline.


For the girls who had completed their work for the quarter, their day at co-op became a play day. They brought in a movie and popcorn and had a movie day, watching Gracie’s Christmas gift from Molly, Kim Possible.


For the younger students at co-op, and those who are students in schools other than 21CCCS (like Tyler) , the day was a typical co-op school day with history, science and art classes being taught.


For lunch the kids lined up at the counter to make up their plates of pancakes and yummy toppings.


After co-op the bookmobile came. This is always a treat. Once again it is something the kids look forward to (everyone loves picking out new reading material) but has the added benefit for this busy mom of saving me a trip downtown to the library. I love that it comes to us, and the kids get a kick out of this charming library on wheels.


We had just enough time for everyone to pick out books before we had to head out for Tyler’s weekly Occupational Therapy appointment following our Wednesday co-op.

Then it was a race home so that Rusty could submit his last two Language Art assignments before the clock struck four.

Thank you, Cinderella, for those extra grey hairs!

Wednesdays are never boring!