Monthly Archives: July 2018

“Envision” your Future

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Last week the boys and I spent 6 days in Northern Virginia, just outside of Washington D.C.

Six months prior Rusty approached us about a summer computer programing camp being offered at George Mason University. He expressed an interest in attending and presented his plan for earning the money to finance it. The camp was a 3D game design course for high school students. We were shocked and pleased to see Rusty choosing to step outside his comfort zone in the pursuit of learning more about a potential future path despite his anxiety of signing up to attend a camp where he knew no one and would be asked to do things like present projects before a large group of peers. This was HUGE for Rusty who is much more comfortable remaining quietly behind the scenes, so we wanted to encourage this courageous pursuit and made plans to sign him up. I was so thrilled to see him doing something that 10 years ago I thought would have been an impossibility when he was struggling with Selective Mutism, that I would have gladly given the go ahead regardless of what the theme of the week-long camp was. It could have been underwater basket weaving and I would have been just as thrilled. For this momma, this was a character/courage building endeavor that just happened to be labeled a technology camp.

Tyler and Ozzie tagged along for the week.

It has been a busy summer, filled with many life changing, character building, growing  experiences for all my kids. Most of those experiences revolved around the oldest three so I thought this trip would be a nice opportunity for some special one-on-one connection with my two youngest.

My plan was to use the hours during the day when Rusty was at camp to focus on connection between the littles and myself and connection between Ozzie and Tyler.

We decided to camp for the week. Initially the plan was to “tent it” but when I discovered that I could rent a rustic cabin at Pohick Bay campground for not much more than a tent site I thought it would be worth the additional expense…

Boy, what a good call that was!

Our week in Virginia was a wet one! A low pressure system settle over the area for days, and the rains came down and the floods came up, and I was grateful for a cabin to entertain my boys in rather than trying to keep everyone dry and happy in a six man tent!

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It made a perfect home base for the week. It was small and simple but offered a bed for everyone, a table to sit at out of the rain, a small front porch with a swing, and a microwave/mini fridge…

And air conditioning!!

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When the clouds would part we managed to fit in fun at the campground, including but not limited to:

Taking advantage of the playground to run off some pent up energy,

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Playing a round of mini golf at the campground,

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Hiking around the lake,

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And spending time outside, around the campfire.

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We  even had a evening when the rain cleared for a few hours and we were able to take advantage of Pirate’s Cove Water Park at the campground. This mini waterpark include a large pool and play area, two water slides, and a “beach” area.

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For $4.00/person it was a great deal!

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When the rains made it impossible to go outside we enjoyed hours of board games and puzzles in the cabin.

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Every evening when Rusty returned home after a fun day of game development he would fill us in on all that he did and all that he learned that day. We would also receive daily emails from Envision with an update of what happened at camp that day and photos of Rusty’s adventures:

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“The Envision Game & Technology Academy, powered by George Mason University, is about to kick off, and we couldn’t be more excited to have Rusty with us. It’s going to be an amazing five days of experience, leadership development, and self-discovery for Rusty and his peers!

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Over the course of the week, Rusty will work with George Mason University faculty and students to produce a project, work with his peers to design and test their work, and share their creations with others for feedback. They will learn in-depth skills to help them plan their path in the game design field, and make connections with others with similar interests.

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To kick off the program, Rusty and his fellow students will meet with their primary instructors from George Mason University, who will guide them through the intensive curriculum. Patrick will meet his team of peers and gain insight into the week’s projects.”

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“Rusty will waste no time getting immersed in the exciting Envision Game & Technology Academy curriculum! In his Multi-Platform 3D Game Design course, Rusty will learn about the principles that go into the development of 3D tabletop games. Today’s work will focus on game engines, as well as what is involved in developing characters and environments for 3D games.”

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Today’s Multi-Platform 3D Game Design course activities will focus on game production, and Rusty will spend the day getting hands-on with the Unity 2 and Unreal game engines. He and the other students will also get an insider’s look at the computer game design industry, including how to build an effective, connected team—skills that will serve Rusty well in the future!”

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“Rusty will continue his exploration into the exciting world of Multi-Platform 3D Game Design by working on his game, including designing levels, building terrains and character skins, and creating lighting and shadow effects. By the end of the day, his project should really be coming together—be sure to ask him about the work he is doing!”

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Rusty had a wonderful week. He returned home to the cabin each evening eager to share all that he learned that day. His days were filled with team building projects, presentations by guest speakers who are employed by various gaming companies, and hands on work as the students  learned how to navigate various programs and learned how to develop and create their own 3D computer game from the ground up.

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Meanwhile, Tyler, Ozzie and I created our own memories as we explored the area around Washington D.C. with local daytrips while Rusty was at camp.

Stay tuned for those adventures…

Together Again!

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It has been one year since my brother wed his bride in a beautiful country chapel in Texas…

And one year since we were all together as a family.

I have been blessed with an awesome family. I recognize that the connection we feel and the enjoyment we get from spending time together isn’t always a given in familial relationships. I feel blessed to call these people not only my family but my closest and most cherished friends.

My only complaint is: We don’t see nearly enough of each other!

With my sister and her family tucked away in Northern Michigan, my parents planted in rural Ohio, and my brother and sister-in-love calling west Texas home, our paths don’t often cross…

but when  they do we enjoy a collision of fun!

Saturday was one of those rare occurrences. Kelly and her kids drove down from Michigan for the weekend. Travis and Krista flew in from Texas for a visit with Krista’s sister, Anna, and then the three of them drove out to the Homestead for a visit, and we managed to squeeze in time for a visit between the conclusion of youth conference and leaving for Virginia the following morning.

We didn’t have nearly as much time together as we would have liked but we were grateful for the short time we did have and made the most of our 1 day “Real Reunion” at the Homestead.

Kelly was already there with her 5 kids when we pulled in at 3:45. Oh, the delight among the kids when they caught sight of their cousins. I LOVE that Kelly’s and my kiddos are so connected and attached despite the infrequency of visits and the miles that separate our homes. When we finally do see each other, after months apart, the kids pick up again like it was just yesterday.

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Cousin Fun!

Travis, Krista and Anna pulled in 15 minutes after us.

Mom and Dad left to pick up KFC for our barn picnic while the kids played and the rest of us caught up on each other’s lives.

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Following lunch it was time for the birthday celebration!

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The following day was Dad’s birthday so our “Real Reunion” served the dual purpose of celebrating the head of this awesome tribe of people. What a delight it was to gather as siblings to celebrate our father’s birthday together. I can’t remember the last time we were all together for his special day.

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While together we also celebrated the other birthdays of summer. Because our get-togethers have become more infrequent (due to widening proximity and busier lives) we have taken to celebrating birthdays quarterly. On Saturday we celebrated all of our June, July and August birthdays…

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The remainder of the day was spent soaking up every last bit of love, laughter, and fun memories from our day together.

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We played games:

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Some enjoyed a dip in the pool:

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Everyone spent time socializing with the animals of the Homestead:

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And much fun was had with the bubble gloves we brought for each of the kids:

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At 9:00pm we headed home. We had a very busy week ahead of us. Toby held down the fort at home while the girls headed straight to Aunt Beth’s house for a week of house sitting, and the boys and I left for Virginia. Rusty was taking part in a week-long computer programing camp at George Mason University.

It wasn’t a long visit with our favorite people, but perhaps the rarity of treasured time only adds to its value. If nothing else, it certainly makes us appreciate the minutes we do have together all the more!

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I Love a Parade!

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With the closing of July comes the start of football season. After a two year hiatus Tyler has asked to play again. While personally not a huge fan of football season and all it entails, I am thrilled to hear Tyler express a desire to play again. I attribute this change of heart to a positive experience with baseball season and major breakthroughs in facing some personal anxieties with Miss Tina in trauma therapy.

With daily football practice beginning in just a week’s time I am cherishing my last week of freedom before our lives revolve around lil cougars football until November.

The first toe in the pond occurred last Wednesday when Tyler met up with his teammates to ride on the football float in Chippewa’s annual fireman’s parade.

Tyler met up with the team at the municipal building. With candy in hand he boarded the float eager to get to toss treats to the crowds of kids that lined the road. When picking his treat much thought was put into the selection. Given the temperatures of the day chocolate candies were out. I also vetoed lollipops and any candy with sharp points, knowing that with Tyler’s arm some unsuspecting spectator might lose an eye. We finally settled on fruit snacks. I figured they were soft enough that even with Tyler chucking them at 50 mph no one was likely to get hurt, and Tyler liked the idea that it was a treat the little kids (who weren’t old enough for hard candies) could eat.

We settled in at the end of the parade route having learned our lesson from past years when we found ourselves stuck behind a line of firetrucks trying to get to our son who was unloading a mile away at the other end of the parade route.

Molly had work that evening but Grace, Rusty and Ozzie all joined me at the parade to cheer on their little brother and collect pounds and pounds of flavored tootsie rolls.

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It is always fun to be a spectator at this annual summer event. Ozzie loves the antique cars and the fire trucks that roll in from all the neighboring fire departments.

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I love seeing all the local teams, dance troops, and bands that march/ride so proudly, waving at the crowds with the same enthusiasm as Miss America at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

We enjoyed watching the different floats pass and it wasn’t long before a trailer filled with little football players rolled by with Tyler perched in the center. By the time he reached us his box of fruit snacks was long empty and I could tell he was disappointed he didn’t have something to chuck at his brothers’ heads. He settled for waving.

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The float turned the corner and the players disembarked. Tyler ran to join us to watch the remainder of the parade and collect his own pile of candy…

Although both Tyler and Ozzie discovered that very few treats that are traditionally tossed at parades are Dr. Spokane approved treats.

They picked through their piles pulling the lone lollipops and lifesavers from the pile and handed over the rest to Grace and Rusty.

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It was a great kick-off for football season. Soon the craziness begins. Starting next week please address all correspondence to the local football field. That is the place we will be calling home for the next 3 months.

 

Youth Conference 2018

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Last week wrapped up with youth conference for my 3 middle children. Grace has moved on to YSA and Tyler is only 11, not yet old enough for youth conference. All three “middles” were looking forward to youth conference but none more than Ozzie. Now reaching the milestone age of 14 means this year was his first youth conference and it was a good year to experience it for the first time.

Youth Conference is held annually for the 14-18 year old teens in our North Pittsburgh Stake and each year is a little bit different. Some years the kids attend a MEGA conference with 1000 youth in the tri-state area, bunking and attending classes and activities at a local college campus. Some years (like last summer) the youth take part in a three day trek across the rolling hills of Virginia as they reenact the historic  Mormon trek westward. Other years are service oriented conferences in which the youth all stay with local host families and experience the joy of serving in the Pittsburgh community.

This year’s conference was a service conference which was perfect for Ozzie’s first time at youth conference. We were able to sign up to be a host family allowing Ozzie to return home each night (with 5 other teenage boys we were hosting) which allowed him time to decompress, take a break, and apply some coping techniques as needed.

(Molly and Rusty were with other host families.)

We were blessed with an awesome group of young men and we enjoyed playing host to them in the mornings and in the evenings following their days of serving.

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Our crew of boys camped out in the school bus. We stocked the fridge with drinks and snacks and I think the enjoyed the privacy of their own living quarters and the novelty of saying they camped out in a “skoolie.”

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In addition to playing host, Toby also was recruited to be a  supervisor over a group of youth during the day. His background in construction was utilized to make sure that despite good intentions, the youth didn’t leave Habitat for Humanity with a condemned and crumbling structure following their days of service.

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In addition to Habitat for Humanity the youth also served other charitable organizations in the Pittsburgh region taking on projects like painting sheds and fences, weeding, clearing lots, removing poison ivy, etc.

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The youth worked hard for two days with additional activities like game time, meals and a dance thrown in for fun.

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In addition to this being Ozzie’s first youth conference it was also Ozzie’s first church dance. As we drove the boys to church on Friday evening it was cute listening to the group of 14-year-olds petition the wiser and more experienced 18-year-old in the van for dance advice.

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The dance was a hit. The younger boys in the crowd piled into the van bragging about how many girls they had each asked to dance and which girls asked the best “get to know you” questions as they swayed back and forth.

On Saturday we returned our 6 “sons” back to Cranberry for a morning of spiritual devotionals and testimony meeting, but not before getting a photo to record this experience for posterity…

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If nothing else I figured it might serve as effective blackmail a decade or two from now.

Boy, we will miss these extra “sons!”

What an awesome group they were!

 

 

Color me Crazy

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With the approaching of summer break comes the creation of a summer bucket list things we want to make time for during the 3 month hiatus from our heavier school year schedule.

Sometime in May we typically sit down and start planning out our summer with both a list of fun activities and experiences we’d like to make time for but also a list of goals…things we would like to work toward as we take advantage of the longer days and looser schedule of summertime.

Typically we come up with goals  in each area of self improvement: physical, spiritual, mental and emotional well being, taking note of areas of our life (both individually and as a family) that could use a little attention.

As we sat down and created our summer goals we decided to set a personal goal of training for and running a 5K as family by the end of summer. Knowing running isn’t our thing I knew committing to this goal would require an extra level of motivation. I figured the only way I would personally see this goal to completion is if I committed myself to a race and there was a financial loss for not following through, so I began searching for an upcoming 5K in our area that I could sign our family up for and by paying our entrance fee, force a level of commitment that would increase our likelihood of sticking with our summer goal.

I also recognized that I would face less resistance from the younger members of the family if the said race involved more than simply running. I began looking for a fun “themed” race. As I searched I soon stumbled across an upcoming race in New Castle, sponsored by the Hoyt Art Center. It was a color run and as soon as I read the details I knew that was the race for us.

When I shared my idea with Toby and the kids they all got excited, having seen photos of other people’s color run experiences.

(A color run involves running through clouds of colored chalk dust which coats the runners in a rainbow of colors on their way toward the finish line.)

Once we committed to the race by paying our registration fee we began creating our training schedule. Thanks to Pinterest I found a cheat sheet online for us to follow as we took advantage of the 8 weeks we had until the Hoyt Color Run to go from non-runners to 5K runners in 2 months time.

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For two months we committed to train 5 days a week for 30 minutes down at the walking trail in New Galilee. As each week passed our times improved, with Molly and Tyler consistently leading the pack and momma bringing up the rear.

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But regardless of where we fell in the line-up, every one of us got better, and stronger, and faster with each passing week.

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Last week we experienced the culmination of our efforts when we took part in the Color Run.

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On Tuesday night we tied up our laces and headed downtown New Castle for the Color Run. We picked up our white t-shirts and sun glasses and donned our race gear.

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We joined 150 other racers at the start line.

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After a welcoming message and some quick instructions we were off…

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The kids paired up with siblings whose pace matched their own and Toby kindly hung back with me as we enjoyed an unusual “date night,” racing along a beautiful tree covered trail that overlooked the river.

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While significantly slower than my offspring, I was proud to remain firmly seated in the middle of the pack, and Toby was kind to hang back with me…

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As we approached the finish line I could hear and see my children jumping and cheering us on. I was proud of us all. We set a goal which seemed unreachable 2 months prior but discovered that with training, commitment, and sheer grit, we can do hard things!

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Following the race we enjoyed an after party put on by the Hoyt. There was complimentary food, including: hot dogs, popcorn, cookies, drinks, and cotton candy.

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There was a live band.

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And there was chalk available to color and create as we sat back and listened to some great music under the setting summer sun, while basking in a feeling of pride and satisfaction of a goal achieved and memories made.

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Brace Face #4

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On Monday our day began with an early morning orthodontist appointment. Ozzie was the next in line for braces. Like Tyler, he will be a patient of Dr. Spokane, due in part to the closer proximity and thus greater convenience  than our beloved Dr. Gulland who was the orthodontist to Grace and Rusty, but mostly because Tyler and Ozzie’s insurance is accepted at Dr. Spokane’s.

Ozzie approached this pending appointment with the typical mix of excitement and anxiety with anxiety winning out as the stronger of the two emotions. He was nervous that the procedure would hurt or something would go terribly wrong resulting in the accidental loss of some of his teeth. Speaking to his siblings who had experienced braces and lived to tell the tale with no major dental calamities, lightened his worries a bit.

The part he was most excited about was the acquisition of the office t-shirt and the resulting monetary rewards that come from wearing it to office visits.

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He was also excited about getting to pick the colors that would go on his brackets and decided before arriving that his first decorative color scheme as a new orthodontic patient would be purple and pink. He felt they were good summer colors.

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We arrived and they took him back to begin the 90 minute appointment while I filled out paperwork and waited to be called in for my website tutorial.

Dr. Spokane’s office relies heavily on its online portal for communication and appointment management. One of the gals walked me through logging into the patient portal and navigating the site. From the portal we can confirm appointments, look at the boy’s before and after x-rays and photos, and watch his reward account grow with points earned through good brushing, good grades, on time appointments, etc.

Ozzie was excited to hear about their reward system which allows their patients to earn gift cards to 100 different stores through positive orthodontic (and life) choices.

After my tutorial I returned to the waiting room to wait for Ozzie’s big reveal. I was soon called back to see Ozzie’s new brace-face as they went over the rules and guidelines of orthodontic care. Ozzie was taught how to brush with braces and was given his list of restricted foods. We were soon sent out the door with instructions to get ibuprofen in him as soon as possible and stick to soft foods until the initial pain, that accompanies new braces, passes.

It was a big day for Ozzie. He left Dr. Spokane’s office excited to show off his new grin to the other kids.

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We made sure to keep on top of his pain meds all day because he had an evening of fun ahead of him. All of our recent visits with Tyler’s biological brother, Brandon, has left Ozzie missing his biological sister so we made plans for a get-together. I let Ozzie plan the evening and he threw himself into the planning whole heartedly. He decided he wanted to take his sister to our local fireman’s fair to ride rides together. His plan was to begin their get-together with dinner at Brighton Hot Dog Shop. He loves the hot dog shop and wanted to share the place with his sis in case she had never had the pleasure of dining at one of their locations before.

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The kids filled up on hot dogs and fries before heading to the fair.

(Not the best planning on my part!)

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Carnival rides tend to only spin in circles…a bad motion following a hot dog dinner.

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Ozzie approached the first ride with unbridled enthusiasm but after a few rides was looking a little green and opted to watch his sister ride while his stomach settled.

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Eventually he recovered enough to give it another go and spent the remainder of the evening soaring and spinning with his sister.

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It was a monumental day for Mr. Brace Face, the great and powerful OZ!

Kennywood Delight

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Last week our kiddos experienced a staple experience of Pittsburgh children…

A trip to Kennywood Amusement Park.

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Although now in their late teens, my three oldest kids hadn’t experienced Kennywood Amusement Park firsthand (with the exception of a visit when Grace was a toddler.) We have always been loyal Idlewild enthusiast, taking advantage of their annual “Carload Days” that allows our family to visit once each summer for a fraction of the cost of typical amusement park tickets. At a cost of $45 a ticket for a day at Kennywood we’d never felt that the park justified the cost, but when Toby’s coworker invited us to take advantage of discounted tickets through his wife’s place of employment we decided to take him up on his offer and give the kids their first taste of Kennywood fun.

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Since Brandon was staying with us we invited him to join in the fun.

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Brandon and Ozzie were the only ones who had visited the park before, both of them with previous foster families, so they eagerly let the kids know what to expect and what rides they could look forward to.

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We arrived as the park opened, taking advantage of the low crowds at the start of the day to ride some of the bigger thrill rides and roller coasters.

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In our group we have a wide range of likes and dislikes in regards to amusement park rides. We have some that will ride anything. Others that prefer spinning rides but hate anything that drops from a high height. Then there are those who love roller coasters but get sick on rides that spin. The nice thing about this park was that there truly was something (many somethings) for everyone.

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As the lines began to grow longer for the roller coasters, we moved on to some of the smaller rides and had fun riding as a family on rides that appealed to everyone.

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Around noon we met up with Toby’s friend, Fernando, and his wife and daughter for lunch. Included in the cost of our discounted tickets was a catered lunch compliments of the University of Pittsburgh (Anastasia’s place of employment.)

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We enjoyed a delicious buffet of BBQ pulled pork, chicken, hot dogs, coleslaw, rolls, watermelon and salad. It all tasted delicious and it was so nice to sit and rest in the shade of the trees while filling our bellies.

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Then it was off to more rides!

Following lunch we chose some of the tamer rides and attractions to ease our stomachs back into ride mode.

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It was a hot day and by afternoon we were all feeling a little wilted. We found ourselves near the Pittsburgh Plunge, a water ride that sends off a huge wave of water that soak spectators standing too close.

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Some of us took advantage of the next wave, cooling off a bit as we waited for the 5 braver members of our crew who chose to climb aboard Black Widow to cool down by soaring through the sky on that spinning, swirling thrill ride.

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As dinner time neared the sky began to darken. I settled down at a covered table to wait while the rest of the family got in line for The Exterminator. That turned out to be the best decision of the day. The sky soon opened and crowds of people, including my family, made a run for the covered tables where we all were trapped for the next 90 minutes while the sky provided a brilliant light display and the clouds dumped buckets of water.

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I was grateful we nabbed a table before the crowds descended. The kids kept themselves entertained with coin spinning challenges as we crowded around the table.

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Soon the worst of the storm had passed, though the rain continued, so the kids moved out from under shelter to play in the puddles and create their own fun since rides were all shut down due to weather.

We waited, hoping that the rain would soon pass, rides would reopen, and as a result of patiently waiting out the weather, lines would be considerably shorter once they did reopen. Instead, an announcement was made that the park would be closing due to weather. After the initial groans of disappointment we realized that what might appear to be bad news was in fact great news because with the early closing came “rain checks” issued to each guest to return for free another day…

Which meant for the cost of our discounted tickets we would be getting almost 2 full days of fun instead of one. It was decided that we would return again for Tyler’s 12th birthday in August with Brandon joining us for another round of Kennywood fun!

It is true what they say…

Every cloud DOES have a silver lining!!

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Rise Up!

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It seems we spend an inordinate amount of time in New Castle, PA. It is the home base for our tutoring, co-op, shopping, and home to most of our friends. Every summer we see the signs for the annual Balloon Quest but every summer we find ourselves out of town during this special event. This year was the first year we were actually around to attend and made plans to go check it out.

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The girls and I were the first ones in the family to attend, choosing to wake up early on Saturday morning for the morning launch.

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 There were few souls at the festival at 6:30 am. We spread out our blanket and watched as the balloons began filling.

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It was neat to see the steps that lead up to the release.

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It was so quiet and peaceful, sitting in comfortable silence with my two girls…

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Then before we knew it, one by one, the balloons began floating up into the sky.

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Later that evening we returned with the rest of the family in tow. It was such an amazing experience to witness up close that we wanted to share it with the boys and with Brandon (Tyler’s biological brother) who was visiting for the weekend.

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The evening ended up playing out quite differently than the early morning release. For one thing the crowds were out in droves. We found an empty patch of grass and settled in to wait. The kids played clapping games to entertain themselves and we purchased two bags of cotton candy to share.

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Time passed but none of the prep work we witnessed that morning was playing out on the field in front of us. Soon an announcement was made that due to lack of winds the balloons would be unable to take flight that evening.

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Instead they opened the field to visitors and we were able to view them up close (which was pretty cool!)

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But I was sad that the boys missed the most magical part of the experience…

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the releasing of the tether lines so that the balloons could soar toward heaven…

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For hot air balloons were not created to remain tied to the earth, but rather to rise above it.

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I would imagine it’s a scary prospect releasing those tether lines and floating up into the unknown with nothing but a piece of fabric, a basket and a flame keeping you aloft. There is an element of risk and certainly a certain level of courage involved. I appreciate looking up and watching the adventure play out from the safety and comfort of the solid ground, but ask me to climb in and take the ride and my heart begins racing, my palms begin sweating, and I can no longer feel my legs.

It is certainly more appealing to watch the beauty of certain adventures play out at a safe distance away in someone else’s life rather than your own, but sometimes, despite fears and trepidation, God calls us to climb into the basket and rise up to the calling He has issued.

“It’s ok, God, I am good down here,” we assure Him. “As beautiful as that ride looks for the people way up there I am quite content on the ground.”

But despite the knot in our stomach and our heart beating uncontrollably in our chest we know we are going to end up in that basket.

We know it is where we are meant to be.

We know that we are being called to set aside our personal comfort and security and rise up.

We know that a growth season is upon us and the time for watching at a comfortable distance is past…

It is time to get in the basket for another courageous adventure.

This year has been a big one for our family. It has probably been the most stretching of my adult life. It has been a year of tremendous growth as God has worked in each of our lives and has revealed to us where He is leading us in our own personal journeys while revealing glimpses of the transformation our family is undergoing as we move into this next season of life. He has closed doors that were once a staple of life as we knew it and has opened new doors that we never expected.

We have been reminded time and time again that God doesn’t call the qualified, but rather qualifies the called.

He asks us to have faith, and climb in the basket, and trust Him… the creator and controller of the wind.

He will carry us where we need to go.

He will keep us afloat against all the laws of nature that say that this contraption shouldn’t be able to fly.

And He will lead us to vistas so beautiful that we won’t be able to hold back the tears…

Vistas never seen from the ground.

To truly witness God’s greatness we must climb in the basket, rise above the fears of falling, and view His creation from above.

So go ahead, climb in that basket that God has set before you, and Fly High!

God’s got this!

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Molly in Costa Rica #5

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(The final blog post about Molly’s adventure to Costa Rica, written by Molly herself!)




My last day in Parismina consisted of a lot of fun! The day started with breakfast together (which normally was lots of fruit, eggs and toast. Yum!), picking the new leaders of the day and each personally getting ourselves ready for the day ahead.

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Today we had the amazing opportunity to help serve in the area of reforestation..

Which I personally loved!

I think I enjoyed it more then any other service project we did. I loved how hands-on the reforestation project was and that together we were able to make such a positive impact (planting around 100 coconut trees!) It was powerful to plant so many baby trees and know that we personally were giving those tree a chance of becoming something so much stronger. I loved that I was part of something bigger then myself. I really don’t have words to describe how much I loved this project and truly how happy this project made me!

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In the afternoon we had a dance class together, which was a fun treat! I enjoy dancing so the idea of dancing to music and learning from a local woman from town was very cool! We learned different steps and followed along with the teacher to several songs. Then at the end we did the “cha-cha slide” together and that was a blast!

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That night was our last night patrol. The youth all split into two groups of 10. Then the group that I was in headed one way up the beach while the other group headed in the other direction. My group had to walk on a steeper part of the sand, so we were debating whether to head into the woods and bypass that section of the beach, but our guide checked it out and said it was all good to travel that way. While walking that route we  heard rustling in the grass. The guide right away knew it to be a sea turtle! We had the amazing opportunity to watch as a Hawksbill Sea Turtle (very rare and endangered) dig a hole to lay many little white eggs and then proceeded to bury all of them and then head back into the ocean. It was amazing! What a joy and blessing it was to be able to see such a rare sight of nature and wildlife at its finest. I mean how many people can say that got to see a sea turtle lay eggs on a beach in Costa Rica? It was quite a treasure. The other group from GLA joined us a bit later and also got to see the turtle bury its eggs and leave for the ocean. After that the  guides collected the eggs and we moved them to a safer location down the beach. What a cool and memorable experience!

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A few other awesome experiences I enjoyed while in Costa Rica include: 

Surfing!  I personally caught a few waves on my own. It was a really cool adventure having never surfed before. It required stepping out of my comfort zone,  but I loved it!

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I also ate termites.

Okay, so to explain that, I personally don’t go out of my way to eat bugs or try anything this far outside of my comfort zone but at that moment I chose to seek discomfort and be brave! So I ate a few very tiny termites! I was so proud of that brave moment!

I slept under a mosquito net each night which I thought was a very cool cultural experience!

I went to an art fair where lots of jewelry and homemade souvenirs were sold by people in town.

We played soccer and volley ball with the local children.

There was just so many neat things I got to experience and I feel like I grew so much from this experience. It was so out of my comfort zone, but those are the times we grow in character the most.

The next day was sadly our last day. It was filled with a lot of traveling. We had a 6 hour drive back to our hotel. in the city We all piled into a bus and enjoyed the beautiful sights outside, chatted among ourselves and sang along to Disney songs. Once at the hotel we relaxed, ate our last meal in Costa Rica and played an appreciation game. It involved giving shout-outs of characteristics and tapping each other on the shoulder. This was an interesting experience because we sometimes don’t see some of our best traits until pointed out by someone else. I really enjoyed this game because I got to share my gratitude and love for others, plus my love language is words of affirmation, so this was right up my alley. We finished up the night with hugs and good-byes.

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The following morning everyone left for the airport at different times. I left very early in the morning and the rest of my day was spent traveling on the airplane.

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Costa Rica to Houston, Texas and then home. I arrived back in Pittsburgh at 10:30 pm (I had a LONG 7 hour layover in Texas) and what a joy it was to have my family waiting inside the airport to welcome me home with a sign and hugs.

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Although it was sad to leave Costa Rica and say good-bye to a beautiful country, what a blessing and joy the whole experience was!

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Thanks GLA for an amazing experience! 

Love you Costa Rica…

I’m going to miss you!

Yours truly,

Molly

 

Molly in Costa Rica #4

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The next installment of the blog written by the GLA students attending the Sea Turtle initiative with Molly:

“This morning we woke up to clear skies, and had arrepas with syrup, and fresh fruit. Due to the good weather we finally had our boat tour.

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Throughout the tour we managed to see a caiman, multiple tropical birds, fresh water turtles, and the poisonous dart frog.

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Directly after we went to town and made empanadas and tortillas in a cooking class and we had the pleasure of eating them.

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We traveled to ASTOP and had lunch which was hamburgers and chips for the Fourth of July. We were able to purchase gifts and keepsakes at the local artisan fair as well as having our hair partially braided.

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After the fair, we walked over and joined the locals for games of volleyball and soccer, sad to say Costa Rica beat the U.S. 8-2.

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We had the opportunity to meet the children of Parismina as well as practicing our Spanish with them.

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Sadly we had to leave, but enjoyed the truck ride back to home base.

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We enjoyed a rose, bud, thorn exercise and talked about our day, we had a delicious dinner of pasta and garlic bread. Our Fourth of July wasn’t as traditional as normal but we had more fun celebrating the diversity and culture of Parismina.”

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