Monthly Archives: October 2018

I’ve Never met a Pumpkin I didn’t like!

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I LOVE this time of year.

October has and always will have my heart.

I love the weather, the smells, the changing leaves, and the activities attached to this month…

And I tend to fill those 31 days to capacity as I try to fit in all the fall fun I can before the weather turns, the evenings darken, and the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season comes down upon us.

With the month of October comes my favorite holiday of the year…

HALLOWEEN!

It is with great enthusiasm we plan our costumes and decorate the house. One tradition that accompanies this holiday is the annual family pumpkin carving night.

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This year I lucked out when I stumbled across an exceptional deal on pumpkins when driving past a country farm. Sitting by the roadside were HUGE pumpkins that were being sold for $2.00/ each, regardless of size. Well, who could pass up a deal like that?! Rather than simply buy the kids each a pumpkin like I usually do, I decided to go ahead and buy 8 so Toby and I could each carve our own pumpkin.

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We decided Sunday night was the night.

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We have reach the point of life where we rarely have a night where everyone is home together. As much as I hate it, the reality of this season of life is that school schedules, work schedules, church commitments, and social obligations make catching everyone at home, all at one time, a near impossibility. Because of this we have set aside Sunday evening as our family night. After dinner on Sunday we gather in the living room to calendar out our week as a family, hold our weekly family council, and enjoy a lesson, activity or game, and fun treat as a family. Even this commitment has become more challenging with Gracie’s YSA congregation’s meetings now beginning at 3:00 pm each Sunday. This means that Grace isn’t getting home until almost 8:00 on Sundays… but we are making it work. We just save our Family Night activity for 8pm on Sunday nights.

This past Sunday was pumpkin night.

As we prepared for Gracie’s arrival home we cleared the dining room table, covered it in plastic, and carried all the pumpkins in from outside. With the addition of empty bowls carving knives, and metal spoons we had everything we needed to create jack-o’-lantern magic.

When Grace got home we jumped right into the festivities. Everyone chose their pumpkin and began sketching out their design on their pumpkin. I love seeing how creative everyone is with their ideas. And it is always neat to see how reflective the design is of the carver who is creating it.

It was especially neat to watch Brandon as he experienced this family tradition for the first time. He is 16 years old and this was his first time carving a pumpkin, and as his mom this “first” was as delightful as it was watching it with my older kids when they were toddlers experiencing this tradition for the first time…

The only difference: Brandon was a lot less messy and a lot more capable of safely holding a knife.

Everyone jumped in to the task at hand and soon completed pumpkins were scattered across the table.

Tyler created a happy jack-o-lantern.

 

Ozzie paid homage to Gracie’s automobile with a Kia logo.

 

Rusty, our Disney fan, carved a delightful Winnie the Pooh pumpkin.

Molly, our rain lover , carved her pumpkin to reflect a personal delight- autumn rain showers!

Gracie’s pumpkin reflected her educational pursuit of sign language with an artistic carving of the sign for “I love you.”

And finally Brandon decided to keep his first jack-o’-lantern traditional, with a carved  face, cutting the eyes into hearts and topping his pumpkin with a crown.

Toby decided to carve his pumpkin into a night scene, complete with a shooting star.

And I transformed my pumpkin into Jack, from the Disney classic, “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”

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The guts from eight pumpkins were sorted through, as we pulled and rinsed the seeds to prep them for roasting, and then we headed outside to light all the pumpkins from within and watch them glow on the front porch.

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Standing back  and looking upon our completed creations made my heart swell with love and gratitude for the simple things in life that brings such joy.

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They were simply magical!

For dinner we enjoyed Molly’s dinner creation of stuffed pumpkins. This is a recipe that was passed down from Toby’s mom after she made it for the kids one Halloween weekend when they were little.

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We felt it was time to resurrect this recipe and Molly took on the job of gutting eight pie pumpkins and helping me make the rice and ground beef filler that gets cooked inside. The finish result was delicious and festive…

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A perfect ending to our fun, fall, family night!

And Then This Happened…

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Best Amazon Purchase, EVER! It is amazing how much calmer and kinder fellow drivers are when they see this sign on the back of a car. They tend to give your new drivers extra space as well! 😋

A big part of helping Brandon adjust has been facilitating normal life milestones that he has missed out on due to circumstances beyond his control. When he moved in two months ago the things on his wish list were the very things that most teenage boys his age take for granted. He wanted to see his siblings (many of whom he hasn’t seen for years), be able to decorate his own bedroom, attend “normal school,” go out for the football team and get his driver’s permit. We began working on his wish list as soon as he moved in and soon the only thing left was,

“Get my driver’s permit!”

Three weeks ago he accomplished this goal.

It took a few trips to the DMV to pass. Like many 16-year-olds, he felt confident that his natural knowledge base was sufficient to pass the permit test. He figured that since he knew the mechanics of driving a vehicle he should easily pass the test…despite our encouragement that his chance of passing would increase exponentially if he would crack open the driving manual and study…

But some lessons must be learned the hard way. After a few failed attempts he decided to give our suggestion a try and spent the week studying his book and doing hours of online practice tests.

His efforts paid off.

He passed!

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And immediately asked if he could drive home.

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This was the moment I had been dreading. Having taught two kids to drive and currently engaged in the task of teaching Rusty to drive, I considered myself a pretty confident teacher, but Brandon is a different sort of kid than my older three. While they are cautious and careful, he is confident and fearless, and I expected that teaching Brandon how to drive would be very different than my first three experiences as a “Driver’s Ed teacher.” I expected getting in the passenger’s seat with Brandon behind the wheel would be more like a NASCAR race and a accurate foreshadowing of what it will be like to teach Tyler to drive.

How surprised I was to discover how wrong I was. It wasn’t the white knuckle nightmare I expected. He is actually a natural behind the wheel. He is a confident driver without being reckless. He listens and asks questions if uncertain what a sign means. He has a good feel for the car and his reaction time and easy starts and stops make it seem as though he has been driving for months. It has only been a few weeks but he probably could walk into the DMV and pass his driving test today if the state didn’t have a mandatory 6 month wait for new permit drivers. He is THAT comfortable behind the wheel.

I always know when we have reached the point where things click with my new driver, because I find myself sitting in the passenger seat enjoying the scenery rather than anxiously scanning for potential accident scenarios. On his first day behind the wheel I found myself relaxed and enjoying the ride when it occurred to me he had only been a licensed driver for 15 minutes and I better at least pretend to be anxious and on edge.

The next week was spent with Brandon driving every chance he could. I soon realized that we would have to figure out some sort of schedule or rotation if I was going to pry Brandon’s fingers off the steering wheel so Rusty could get in his mandatory 65 hours of driving practice in as well.

But as soon as I started making plans, Brandon was off the schedule.

A bad hit at a football game left him with a nasty concussion and until he is cleared he is back in the passenger seat.

He is counting down the days until his follow-up appointment,

And when the doctor reports his brain has healed enough for him to be safely behind the wheel I am sure you will see him cruising around town!

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And the Family Grows AGAIN

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A month ago we shared a photo of Brandon and his pup, Blackie. At the end of the post many commented that they thought for sure we were going to announce that Blackie would be joining our family. Well, whether it was prophetic or sweet serendipity, it has happened…

Blackie has joined Winnie, Ellie May, and Olive as family dog #4.

Two weeks ago, during a phone call between Brandon and his adoptive father, his father asked if we would consider taking Blackie. He is dying and trying to get his affairs in order. Now that he knows Brandon has found a family and is doing well in our family, he was looking for a home for Blackie. He didn’t want Blackie to have to go to the local Humane Society and asked if we would consider taking Blackie.

We said yes…of course we said yes.

In bringing home Blackie we were able to give peace to Brandon’s adoptive father, save a good dog from being thrown in the pound, and give Brandon the ultimate gift…

A piece of his old life and old family that he will be able to hold on to long after cancer steals another loved one from his arms.

Blackie was his best friend and confidant during some of the darkest times of Brandon’s life. Their bond is deep and their love and loyalty to one another is pure. And now they have been reunited.

Two Saturdays ago we drove down to Brandon’s old home so that he could have a visit with his father and so we could bring Blackie home. The visit was bittersweet as we watched Brandon’s father try to hold back emotions as he said his good-bye to the dog and then thank us for opening our home up to Blackie and Brandon.

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“I’m just so grateful for you guys,” he kept repeating.

After a good visit we said our goodbyes, promising to return in a couple weeks for another visit, and headed back toward home.

In the back seat Brandon sat with Blackie on his lap and a huge grin on his face.

Boy and dog reunited…

Just as it should be.

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Riding the Railroad

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Two weeks ago we enjoyed our first outing of the school year with Tyler’s new cyber school: PA Cyber.

This summer we made the decision to transfer him to a different cyber school. The cyber school he had been attending for the past few years was no longer meeting his needs academically. We explored different cyber school options and decided for the time being that PA Cyber was the best fit for him despite the fact our other children all attend 21st Century Cyber Charter School.

It was a good call. Tyler is absolutely thriving! He adores school and all previous battles we endured regarding daily lessons and school assignments are long gone. He is a different student.

We explored PA Cyber at the recommendation of a friend whose son (a good friend of Tyler’s) had found a lot of success at the school…

and it was this friend that we brought along with us to our first PA Cyber field trip.

We love school outings. It is one of my favorite aspects of this model of schooling, so we try to take advantage of as many school outings as we can. This, however, was our first experience with a PA Cyber outing and I wasn’t sure how it would differ from our experiences with other cyber schools…

But we were eager to find out!

Our first PA Cyber field trip: A train ride through the fall foliage of northern Pennsylvania.

The field trip was two hours away in Titusville, PA.

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The drive to Titusville was beautiful. The leaves were nearing peak color and looked like something from a painting. Although the sky was dark and cloud covered, the leaves still shined bright in vivid hues of yellow and orange.

We arrived at the Oil Creek Station around 10:50 am.

It was perfect timing for our 11:00 departure.

We had just enough time to check in with the field trip coordinator and get our name tags  before the conductor called, “All aboard!”

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We were seated two to a seat. Tyler and Micah shared a seat, Molly and Rusty shared a seat, and Grace and I were seat partners.

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The train was full of passengers and school students.

We were asked to stay seated until the train was fully loaded and had left the station and then we were given permission to move about the train.

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Once we were told that we were free to move about the train our first stop was the open car at the back of the train.

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It was a perfect day to ride outside in the open air and enjoy the scenery…

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When everyone started to get chilled we headed back to our seats to enjoy our packed lunches.

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After lunch we decided to explore the front of the train.

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After an hour on the train we made a stop at the Rynd Farm station where we were able to get out and walk around for twenty minutes before we started back.

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Because the train runs on a one way track, the engine was disconnected, turned around and reattached to other end of the train to drive us back to the Titusville station. It was neat to watch the process.

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The entire trip was 2 1/2 hours long.

We had an additional four hours of travel getting there and back but we found the entire experience well worth the time invested. All the kids enjoyed the train experience, especially the open car in the back, and loved revisiting this memorable place that they had enjoyed on a few previous school outings.

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At 1:30 pm we stepped off the train and prepared for the long ride home.

Our first outing with Tyler’s new school was a smashing success!

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Nothing speaks of autumn quite like a train ride through fall foliage!

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Go Tigers!

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Well, the Beaver Falls Tigers are killing it this football season,

And Brandon is loving being part of this winning team.

I think it was tough stepping into the season so much later than his teammates. By the time he moved in with us the team had already had two games, knew the playbook front to back, were well established in their roles and positions on the team, and had formed connections that Brandon had to maneuver around when he joined the team at the end of August.

It has been a bit of a challenge finding his place on a team that is so connected, but he has persevered, humbly volunteered to take on some of the team’s  grunt work, studied hard to try and learn the playbook so he could get some game time, and prove his worth to his coaches and teammates.

His hard work has paid off and this past Friday he finally got some game time with the varsity players. 

He was like a kid in the candy store as he took his place on the field and played hard for the last two quarters of the game.

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So proud of this boy…

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Not for the way he wins,

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But more for the way he works.

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He gives 110% and his perseverance and diligence are evident on the field and off the field. 

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I am proud to say, “My heart belongs to # 86”

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Go Tigers!

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Celebrating Birthdays at the Homestead

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Saturday wasn’t the first time my parents met our newest addition. It was actually Brandon’s second time visiting their home. The first visit occurred a month and a half ago, following our visit to the University of Akron. At the time I just had Rusty, Molly and Brandon with me and thought that the dynamics of only three (calm) kids would help lessen the anxiety and awkwardness of the initial meeting.

That meeting went beautifully and by the time we left it felt as though Brandon had always been a member of the family.

This time we had the entire family with us when we drove out for Brandon’s second visit to my parent’s home, affectionately referred to as “The Homestead.”

This visit was in conjunction with Rusty’s birthday weekend with my folks.

For each of the kids’ birthdays my parents invite them out for a weekend of fun and frivolity. The weekend is spent doing all their favorite things with their grandparents and my kids love getting the opportunity to be an only child for a few days.

Last Friday I drove out to Ohio to drop off Rusty for his birthday weekend, and on Sunday we all returned to pick him up and celebrate our family’s fall birthdays with Mimi and Pop Pop. Our drive coincided with General Conference, so thanks to the benefits of modern technology we were able to listen to the leaders of our church speak and council us (via Toby’s phone) while we made the 2 hour scenic drive to Wooster, Ohio and back home again.

Because we aren’t able to see my parents as often as we were able to when life was less crazy and when they lived closer, we tend to clump our birthday celebrations by season, celebrating all of our winter, spring, summer and fall birthday together in one shared party at my parent’s farm.

This gathering was a chance to celebrate Tyler, Rusty, and Brandon’s birthdays.

When we arrived we found the Homestead decorated for autumn.

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We headed for the barn where we took advantage of a beautiful day to eat and celebrate in the barn, before cold temperatures and snow drive us into the house for the winter months.

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Our celebration began with a picnic lunch,

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And after lunch the boys were allowed to open their gifts from Mimi and Pop Pop.

You could see that Brandon was touched to be included and remembered with Rusty and Tyler.

My parents did and amazing job at picking gifts perfect for each boy. Rusty received a Lego set, Tyler received an inflatable football practice dummy and new football, and Brandon received a Spikeball set…

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Which we had fun trying out.

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It was a wonderful, relaxing afternoon. We played board games, tossed the ball, visited with the farm animals and became better aquatinted as a family.

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It was a practically perfect day on the farm!

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Rusty is 17!!

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Oh, how can it be that my mushy little chunk-muffin has been stretched to a height of six foot three and is now almost a man?!

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Rusty:

My first son and only son for the longest time.

Now older brother to three younger brothers.

I couldn’t have picked a better child to fill the role of oldest son. His strength of character is just the example I’d like my younger three sons to follow.

Rusty is my quiet servant. He says little, asks for no acknowledgement or recognition, just quietly observes the needs of others and acts without being asked. He is such a blessing to me.

I rely on and depend on his strength (physical and emotional) both in opening pickle jars and in highly emotional moments. There is a steadiness that he exudes that draws people to him.

Rusty is kind. I call him a gentle giant and he is every bit that.

He is quick to smile and what a smile he has!

He has a gift with animals, especially dogs and horses. His gentle, quiet authority calms animals and makes them feel safe.

He loves problem solving and puzzle solving. He like word puzzles and riddles. His mind is quick and so is his wit. Of all my children he and I share the most similar sense of humor (which makes him hilarious!)  😉

Rusty loves to explore how things work, enjoys trivia and his favorite subject is math. He is a black and white, logical thinker. He is great in a crisis and is our family’s one-man-tech department… solving any computer/tv/electronic issue that arises.

Rusty loves all things Disney and considers Walt Disney his personal hero. Someday he’d love to work at Disney World.

For 4 years of Rusty’s life he didn’t speak a single word to anyone outside his immediate family. We did not know if he would ever have the ability to overcome the challenge of Selective Mutism and successfully navigate the world. His anxiety made speech impossible. You’d never know it today.

Rusty is a special soul. I knew it the moment he was laid in my arms and I believe it even more today…

17 years later.

When I found out I was pregnant with a son I was terrified. “I am not a ‘boys mom’ sort of mother,” I wailed. I am so glad God had more faith in my ability to raise boys that I had in myself because I would have missed out on so much. There is something special about the love that exisit between a mother and her son. It is a love different from that I share with my girls.

Rusty was my teacher. I learned to raise boys with him in my arms, and now I am the mom to four. But Rusty will always be my first baby boy. He will always hold a special part of my heart.

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For Rusty’s birthday we enjoyed a fun night out at Dave and Busters. This unique restaurant is the adult equivalent of Chucky Cheese. Take away the cardboard pizza and spooky animatronic characters, add some delicious food and state of the art arcade games, and you have Dave and Busters.

It was a perfect birthday choice for Rusty.

And it was a delight to enjoy some playtime as a family.

Rusty’s birthday fell on a Wednesday. The day began with his birthday cupcake and ended with his birthday cake. Because it was a school/work day, his celebration began at 5:00 when Toby arrived home from work.

We began with gifts…

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Each sibling did their own shopping and Toby and I bought our gadget loving guy a drone. He had been pondering the possibility of going to school to be a drone pilot and thought this would be a nice way to test and see if it is something he’d like to pursue.

After he was done opening gifts we headed down to Pittsburgh for a night of good eats and fun games as a family.

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Because Rusty’s birthday fell on a Wednesday, we were able to take advantage of 50% off all arcade games, making Rusty’s birthday celebration more affordable for our family of eight.

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Rusty had a wonderful time. I mean, can you think of a more perfect way to celebrate a 17-year-old boy’s birthday than hours of arcade games?!

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We ended up all having a lot of fun and making some special memories as a family.

Happy 17th birthday Rusty!

We can’t wait to see what adventures the next 17 years holds!

 

One Step Closer to the Eagle

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It has been 9 years since Rusty first donned the blue and gold uniform of the Cub Scouts. Since then he has spent endless hours learning skills, earning merit badges, camping, hiking, building fires, attending Scout Camp, and participating in service projects, all with the end goal of earning his Eagle.

Eagle Scout is the highest achievement or rank attainable in the Boy Scouting program of the Boy Scouts of America. The designation “Eagle Scout” was founded over one hundred years ago. Only four percent of Boy Scouts are granted this rank after a lengthy review process. The requirements necessary to achieve this rank take years to fulfill.

And we are proud to say that Rusty is one step closer to joining the 4 % who have earned that rank.

One of the final steps in earning the rank of Eagle comes when the scout develops and executes a plan to lead a service project that will benefit  the community. This large project is the culmination of a lot of behind-the-scenes planning, prepping and presenting the planned project to gain approval for their proposed Eagle Scout project.

As Rusty considered possible projects he decided to approach the good people at Ready Yourself Youth Ranch, a non-profit organization that he and his sisters volunteer at two mornings a week to see if they had any possible work projects on their wish list that he and his scout troop could bless them with.

Our family was introduced to Ready Yourself Youth Ranch a year ago as a possible resource for the older kids as we navigated the challenging/explosive behaviors that Ozzie was presenting at the time. Our family based therapy team thought the ranch could be a place of refuge that the older kids could escape to on hard days and allow them to benefit from the therapeutic affects of serving and blessing others.

My kiddos fell in love with the ranch and since that day have committed themselves to waking up early two mornings a week and driving to the ranch to care for the horses from 7:00- 9:00 am. Their responsibilities include feeding/watering  the horses, moving them to the pastures, grooming horses, and mucking stalls.

It not the most glamorous work, but my kids love it. They have found a place of refuge and peace among the dusty stalls of Ready Yourself Youth Ranch…

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And they aren’t the only ones.

“Ready Yourselves Youth Ranch is a non-profit, Christian ministry that connects horses in need of rescue with children dealing with challenges and difficulties who need to learn about the hope and healing found in Jesus Christ. In 2010, the founders and directors, Micheline and Mathew Barkley desired to combine her broken childhood and his equestrian experience to rescue horses and mentor children facing conflicts and challenges of their own.  When God blessed them with fifty acres of land, in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, they gathered a dedicated group of volunteers and mentors to bring their faith, time and talents to make RYYR a place where God’s love and grace enables horses and children to trust and love again.

Ready Yourselves Youth Ranch is for children, ages 6 through 18, who are dealing with challenges and difficulties. We connect one child, one horse, and one mentor for ninety minutes of interactive experience, free of charge. Learning to care for and ride rescue horses, many who have come from environments of abuse or neglect, increases a child’s trust, faith and love. The overall aim of our session program is to love and encourage children which in turn will foster hope and joy.”

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When Rusty approached Micheline (the owner and visionary of the ranch) about projects on her wish list she quickly produced a list of possible projects Rusty could undertake for his Eagle Scout project. He decided that he would present the plan of constructing an outdoor riding arena for the ranch to the board to get approval. Once he received approval the dates were set for his Eagle Scout project.

The project took two Saturdays.

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The support of many made lighter work of what would have been a very arduous task!

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Dozens of fellow scouts, leaders, siblings, and friends from church answered the call and showed up ready to work.

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It was quite the undertaking but the arrival of many helpers was inspiring.

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Rusty couldn’t have done it without the generous support of so many helping hands.

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Here are photos of the many happy helpers and the project they tackled over the course of two Saturdays:

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In Rusty’s attempt to bless others, he too was blessed.

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We are so proud of this young man we call “son.”

A BIG “thank you” to all who have helped mold Rusty into the man he is today.

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He is who he is thanks in part to leaders (both current and past) who have taught Rusty scouting survival skills and basic life skills that will benefit him as a man. We are grateful for the wonderful troop of boys who have grown up with Rusty, and the many friends and families who have cheered Rusty on as he has blossomed from a silent and timid little boy into a confident and caring young man.

It truly does take a village to raise a son…or at least an incredible Boy Scout troop.

How thankful I am for troop 558!

A Family that Plays Together…

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Whew!

What…A…Week!

Some weeks are especially hard.

Some weeks are wrought with an extra steep climb and out-of-the-ordinary challenges.

Some weeks hold more tears than smiles,

And more weariness than joy.

Some weeks take you 20 steps backwards and produce a desire to simply crawl back into bed, pull the covers over one’s head, and try again in 24 hours.

Some weeks make you question everything you thought you knew, everything you do, and everything you are.

Some weeks drive you to drink…or at least make you wish you were a drinker.

Some weeks are full of moments so surreal and un-freaking-believable that you wonder if there was something special about the mushrooms in last night’s stir-fry.

Some weeks are so heartbreakingly hard that you can’t muster the drive to do much more that numbly move through the motions of living.

Some weeks are so absurd that you question whether you have somehow lost your mind and everyone forgot to tell you.

This week was one of THOSE WEEKS.

I am so empty I don’t even have it in me to tell the tales of the last 5 days…

You wouldn’t believe me if I did.

My little RAD kiddo dragged me through the wringer. I mean I love him, but some days…Grrr…

A good barometer of my mental health can be found in the ponderings of my blog. I write to process through the ups and downs, joys and heartaches of this journey we are on…

When the screen becomes blank and my voice falls silent it is because I can’t find an inkling of hope or a nugget of wisdom hidden within the current struggle we are navigating.

Silence is a sure sign of discouragement and hopelessness.

The clouds have now parted enough to allow a ray or two of sunshine through the low hanging clouds and I thought I’d share our survival strategy for the dark days that have plagued us…

When the urge is to run, hide, fight or isolate, reigns supreme, the cure is to play.

As an introvert by nature, when the weight of the world lays heavy on my shoulders my instinct is to isolate for self-preservation, but I recognize how essential it is for our family, as a whole, to pull together, draw closer, and focus on attachment and connection when feelings of resentment and frustration are pushing us apart.

So we play…

And it is a healing balm for hurt feelings and injured relationships.

One evening this past week, when everyone was home and the hours before bedtime were mercifully free, we chose to set aside tasks that needed done and hard feelings that had surfaced from the poor choice of one child who is struggling at the moment, and commit to “just be.”

We didn’t plan, we didn’t orchestrate, we left with no agenda for our local park to simply play.

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We needed it.

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We were all raw,

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and I was trying to remember why I had signed up for this mothering gig.

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An hour of just being a family helped me remember why I keep showing up and keep navigating this rocky road.

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This is why I do it.

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This is what it is all about.

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This is the reward for the hard days and ugly moments.

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Sometimes you just have to drop everything and go play,

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Because the family that plays together, stays together.

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A little of this. A little of that..

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Time for another catch-up post.

To answer the questions of concern from those who love us and have wondered at our apparent disappearance from their lives…

Yes, we are all still alive and kicking.

No, we haven’t fallen off the edge of the Earth.

Yes, we realize we haven’t been the best friends/family members these last 6 weeks.

No, we aren’t mad, sad, or hurt by something you said or did.

 And no, we are not trying to avoid you…

We are just stretched to the max and trying to keep our heads above water.

Even blogging, my favorite therapeutic outlet, has taken a backseat to the everyday tasks we are trying desperately to stay on top of…

You know those necessary irritabilities that have to occur regularly, like meals on the table and clean clothes for the family. But we are still here and still working to find our groove with the addition of another child in the family, additional activities that the kids need ushered to, appointments out the wazoo, and school work. I have never slept so well, so deeply, or so quickly as I do in this season of life. I pray we might find our rhythm again and our days will eventual settle into an upbeat, little two-step rather than this frantic, “flight of the bumblebee” freestyle we are dancing at the moment.

But I can’t complain too loudly. God has been incredibly gracious and we have witnessed the multiplying miracle, much like the loaves and fishes, with our time and energy. On paper the math doesn’t equate. How we fit so many tasks, responsibilities and obligations into a 24 hour period is nothing short of miraculous. It testifies to the Heavenly promise that God will make a way if we but faithfully answer His call to “Go and do the things that He commands.”

So outside the tasks that take priority in our lives these days, filling our calendars with schooling, tutoring, therapy, home management, sports practices. and CYF appointments, here are some of the small moments that make up our days on Patchwork Farm:

The weather has been crazy lately. In the last few weeks we have lost power multiple times due to high winds and thunderstorms. One particularly exciting storm brought down three trees in our front yard and knocked out our power for 2 1/2 days.

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It was a fun adventure at first. We lit candles and enjoyed a fun dinner and board games in the candlelight. It ceased being fun when bedtime came and my kids that are scared of the dark didn’t want to go to bed.

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The next day we ran into more problems when my cyber schooled children, who rely on electricity and internet service to do school, couldn’t log in. Our short term fast from modern conveniences was humbling and was a good reminder of how many everyday blessings we take for granted.

School is in full swing for me. I have begun BYU-Idaho’s Pathway program. I am slowly adjusting to the academic workload as I manipulate the free minutes of the day searching for the 3-4 hours of study time I need to allow each day to keep on top of my classes. I have a consistent 2 1/2 hours set aside in my schedule each morning while the kids have live classes and then make up the difference by carrying my laptop with me to ball fields and waiting rooms, taking advantage of free minutes to read and complete assignments. (School is majorly cutting into my blog time!) I am, however, loving the challenge and its been fun exercising some mental muscles I haven’t worked for a while.

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(The kids insisted on a back to school picture of Mom on the night of my first Pathway Gathering class.)

A few weeks ago Tyler and Brandon shared their first joint activity with the youth. It was the first youth activity Brandon was able to attend since he moved in a month ago and it was Tyler’s first joint activity having recently turned 12. It was fun that they were able to experience this “first” together, and the fact that they had Molly, Rusty, and Ozzie there as well made it even more fun.

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The youth leaders couldn’t have picked a better introduction activity to welcome in Brandon and Tyler than the activity they picked: Human Foosball! The high energy activity, coupled with ice cream sundaes after the game, made for an awesome night!

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Last week Miss Grace came home from school eager to show off something special.

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She called us into the kitchen and pulled from a plain white envelope this:

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Her ASL certificate!

Grace has completed the first half of the program, earning her certificate in sign language interpreting and is now working on the second half of the program which will earn her an associates degree in the same field before she transfers to a four year college. Grace worked so hard to earn this ASL interpreting certificate and we are so proud of our hard working girl!

Speaking of our “girl on the go”…

Miss Grace has kept busy this last month with a task beyond her normal workload. She volunteered to take on the task of planning a luau for her Young Single Adult ward with the help of a great committee. This undertaking was a big one but it was a challenge that played to her strengths. She had a blast getting creative and creating a dinner and dance around this fun theme. She said the night was a blast! Here are some photos of the night:

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Molly and two of her best buddies went out last Friday night to celebrate some exciting news. Molly, Tatum and Caleigh each campaigned for leadership roles in National Honor Society. Molly campaigned for the role of President, Tatum campaigned for the role of Parliamentarian, and Caleigh campaigned for the role of Historian.

Well, on Friday they each received the exciting news that they were elected to the leadership roles they were seeking. These three sweet girls make up 3/4ths of 21st Century Cyber Charter School’s new National Honor Society presidency.

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Congratulations girls!

And in final news…

Brandon has joined Tyler and Ozzie on the back of a horse. This past week Brandon began equine therapy at Glade Run Adventures in Zelienople. He was paired with Pumpkin for the lesson and the connection was immediate. It was his first time on the back of the horse and I could tell he was a bit nervous,  but any unease disappeared as soon as he climbed atop Pumpkin.

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It was an immediate connection and we soon discovered that despite lack of previous experience, Brandon was a natural.

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Like Tyler, his God-given athleticism and calm confidence made him a natural on the back of the horse. Like Tyler, he also had a way with animals. He loved it and his equine therapist commented to me at the end of the lesson, as we watched Brandon squeeze and love on Pumpkin, “This is why I do what I do.”

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I think equine therapy is going to be a great blessing in Brandon’s healing journey.

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