Author Archives: ktmccleery

A Monthly Update

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ordinary life

Often in my focus to report on the “big” events of life I procure a pile of photographs documenting the smaller moments that add up to life here on Patchwork Farm. This blog is dedicated to that collection of captured moments. Here’s to the moments that make up our ordinary, extraordinary life!

Searching for Buried Treasure

Toby is a member of a local metal detecting club. The Beaver County Metal Detecting Club is comprised of 20+ men and women who gather monthly to compare notes and swap stories of their best treasure finds over the last month, as well as organize formal hunts a few times a year.

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A few Saturdays ago was the annual fall hunt with the club…something Toby always looks forward to. The hunt keeps him out of the house all day as club members participate in a series of hunts, searching out buried treasure hidden by members of the club earlier in the day. Toby always returns home a bit sore from all the up and down movement that comes with an all day hunt, but with a smile on his face, eager to show off his haul.

Tyler is always first in line to help Daddy sort and count his loot.

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Great Blessings

We would just like to thank you all for the outpouring of love and support you have shown our family and Ozzie during this hard season of life. We have felt the sustaining and strengthening power of many prayers and are happy to report Ozzie is doing better than we ever imagined. He is thriving. The results of the therapeutic support he is receiving is nothing short of miraculous and we are so proud of him and the hard work he is doing to heal. He will be starting EMDR therapy this week with a licensed EMDR therapist and I firmly believe this therapy, used with patients suffering from PTSD, will be the answer we have been seeking to unlock the memories of abuse at the hands of Ozzie’s birth mother and birth father, and open the door to begin healing from that trauma.

Family-Based Rocks!

Because Ozzie will be away for a few months, our Family-Based services are coming to a close. Family-Based is another layer of therapeutic support we implemented in hopes of helping Ozzie stabilize and heal at home. That was not God’s plan for Ozzie and our time working with Family-Based was short lived, but it served a purpose. I can now look back and see why God opened a door that closed so quickly after entering it. Our time with Lisa and Valerie was short but they provided support and resources that were key in helping our family heal…particularly in meeting the needs of the older kids who were dealing with their own trauma…trauma that comes as a result of adopting a child who had been abused and suffers from Reactive Attachment Disorder. It was Valerie that introduced my older kids to the Ready Yourself Youth Ranch that they now volunteer at two mornings a week, helping with horses and learning the skills they need to become mentors at the ranch.

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Last week was our last home visit from our Family-Based team. They brought cupcakes to celebrate and a craft project for the kids to do while they talked and helped the kids process the muddy mix of emotions everyone is struggling with since Ozzie left.

They painted river rocks together. In our area there is a fun movement taking place that involves painting rocks, tagging them with #beavercountyrocks, sealing them and then hiding them around the county. Once found you can follow the travels of your rocks on Facebook as seekers take photos of your rock, post it, and then hide it in a new location.

The kids had fun painting their river rocks to get into the #beavercountyrocks game.

The results were fun and creative!

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Now, where to hide our rocks?!

Ukulele Adventures

For Molly’s birthday she received a ukulele from my parents. She has been toting it back and forth to co-op each week where her friend, Caleigh, has been giving her lessons. With all the toting back and forth Molly decided a case was in order. She found one online and used some of her hard earned money to purchase this charming panda themed case. Molly is thrilled!

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PSATs…BLAH!

Last Wednesday Molly and Rusty had their PSAT test. This test…preparation for next year’s SAT test, is just a sad testament to how old my babies are getting. I look at Rusty and Molly and can’t wrap my brain around the fact that we are creeping closer to college searches. Neither were particularly thrilled with taking the PSAT but were excited that they were able to test at our school’s new Pittsburgh location and see their Pittsburgh based teachers.

Tatum and Annaliese, two of Molly co-op friends, were also signed up for testing, so we volunteered to load up Big Bessie and take everyone down on Wednesday morning. Rather than have everyone drop off kids off at 6:30 in the morning, we just had the girls spend the night. It worked out well. They managed to take something they were all dreading and make it fun.

Earlier in the day Molly prepped the bus for their sleepover. She thought it would be fun to camp out in the bus, and I was thrilled to see the bus getting used after a summer of sitting dormant. Molly made the beds, carried out movies they could watch on the TV, and filled the fridge with snacks and drinks.

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I think the girls had fun,

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And everyone survived testing, although I think they would all say they are glad it is done and over with!

Rusty on the Road

Rusty is slowly and hesitantly embracing his role as a new driver. Being the third child I have taught to drive, I find it interesting how personalities shine forth in each child’s driving style. Rusty, who has always been extremely careful and conscientious, is a slow and steady driver. There is no speeding, law bending, or bone breaking moves with him behind the wheel.

Tyler must disagree, as he has taken to wearing safety gear when Rusty is behind the wheel. 🙂

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I fear the day it is Tyler’s turn to get behind the wheel. I think I may have to borrow that helmet!!

My Mini-Me

Grace is now a red head and I think she plans to stay that way. After years of bemoaning the fact that I ended up with three blondies, I finally have a redhead… thanks to L’Oreal!

I don’t know if it is the red hair or if the genetic connection has become more pronounced but I feel as though I now have a younger (and much cuter)  mini-me!

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My Buddy

Tyler is now my buddy. With Ozzie away and the older kids engaged in school, social activities, and work, it feels as though it is often just Tyler and I hanging out. Between therapy and tutoring appointments 5 days a week, we spend a lot of time on the road together or at the table together doing school. After a decade of juggling the teaching of 3-5 children their lessons every day, it is bizarre to have hours to spend working with just one. The older kids are so independent now that they only come to me when they need clarification or help with a question, which frees me up to work with Tyler all day…

and I must admit I’ve loved.

We have had a lot of fun delving deeper into subjects that interest him, seeking out fun science experiments and art projects to enhance his online school lessons, and having the time for weekly trips to the library. Here are some of his recent projects:

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The Monster Under the Bed

All of the one-on-one attention has been a blessing in other ways too. Tyler is struggling with monster sized fears, fears we are working to address in therapy. These fears are driven by the abuse he suffered as a small child and while he struggles to express the thoughts consuming him in his head I have been able to piece together the fact that they are trauma driven simply by where and when they are most prevalent. His PTSD seems to rear its ugly head after the sun goes down. Nighttime is scary time and his bedroom and the bathroom are the places he fears most. From his child profile I know that dark, closed places and the family bathroom are where most of the abuse took place, so it make sense that those are the places he fears most.

Miss Tina, our therapist, has been working with Tyler to help counteract the negative emotions connected to those locations with positive ones. We do this by making happy, light, funny memories in those locations. We play family board games on his bedroom floor, we have shaving cream battles in the bathroom….whatever we can think of to bring light and peace and laughter to a place that is dark and scary in Tyler’s mind.

One way we have done this is with the use of bathtub crayons in the shower. Bathtime is a nightmare with Tyler. He is terrified to shower or bathe. And knowing what was done to him in his birth family’s bathroom, I understand that. But we have to help him overcome that fear, so we bought some bath crayons, and enlisting the help of the other kids our shower wall has now become a message board for the kids. Tyler’s curiosity of what funny photos, messages and game boards have been drawn on the shower wall since his last bath has surpassed the fear of bathing (as long as we do daytime showers.) And I have LOVED reading the dialog back and forth. What an awesome way to battle a fear, encourage writing, and strengthen bonds between siblings, all in one swoop!

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Healing bonds via Snail Mail

Strengthening bonds has been a focus in all our family’s relationships this past month. We have all felt the polarizing affects of RAD and trauma after the last 8 months of being in crisis mode. This ongoing, escalated state has a huge effect on relationships and the family dynamic. Now that everyone is stable we are trying to begin healing the damage. One way we are facilitating that healing is through weekly letters between Ozzie and the other kids. Every Sunday they write him a letter which are then mailed out through the week. Ozzie then can write back and the kids can begin reconnecting again.

This week we did something different. We each did a handprint on paper using paint. When our handprints had dried we flipped them over and everyone wrote something they love or admire about Ozzie, using the line, “A high five for…”

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I then laminated our handprints and connected them with a metal ring as a special momento for Ozzie, allowing him to reach out and touch our hands whenever he feels lonely.

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Well, there you go…

A small snapshot of our ordinary, extraordinary life.

God is good!

 

Christmas in the Woods

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The first time we went we were pulling a wagon filled with toddlers.

Fast forward 15 years and Christmas in the Woods is a completely different experience!

Shakerwoods and Christmas in the Woods are two festivals that occur 40 minutes away from our home in August and October. They are, in essence, “craft fairs,” but labeling them as such is an unjust representation of all that they are.

Both these festivals take place in a patch of woods in eastern Ohio. The forest is filled with meandering paths and festive booths selling charming, unique, one-of-a-kind creations. There are hand carved ornaments, hand painted signs, homemade soaps and hand stitched pillows and towels. Each booth is run by a different artisan selling their own unique wares which makes Shakerwoods a thrilling treasure hunt, as you never know what special find you will stumble across next.

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Shakerwoods Festival tends to have a more distinctly autumn atmosphere, whereas Christmas in the Woods is themed for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Both are a lot of fun and in the past they have restricted vendors to one festival or the other, which allows visitors two completely different shopping experiences if they choose to attend both festivals.

I am not much of a shopper, although I do appreciate the unique, creative, artisan style crafts for sale there more than I would enjoy going to the mall, but the real reason I love Shakerwoods and Christmas in the Woods and the reason we keep returning is for the experience. It truly is a feast for the senses. Walking through the woods, soaking in the visual beauty of many creative hands, all while enjoying the folk music of local musicians, the smells of peach cobbler and roasted nuts is what brings us back year after year.

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It is now a long standing tradition…a tradition that hold many sweet memories as I look back on the years of Shakerwoods with babies in tow, shopping with my parents and sister, finding treasures with Toby, and enjoying the company of out of state relatives that have flown in over the years for the festival.

This year was different. Rather than attending with the whole family, I just had my three big kids with me. Toby offered to take Tyler to his riding lessons so we could attend.

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My girls LOVE Christmas in the Woods! Grace, my lover of all things Christmas, goes for the ambiance. Molly enjoys the shopping.

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Even Rusty enjoys it. He claims he goes for all the free samples!

He was a huge help this year as he took on the role of “pack mule” for us girls. I was able to get some Christmas shopping done and Rusty graciously carried our packages as we walked from booth to booth. He said he learned everything he knows from Pop Pop Real. 🙂

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And he works cheap!

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I just had to buy him some roasted nuts and he was content. We stayed until our feet were screaming for relief. The crowds were crazy. In all our years off attending we had never seen it so busy…

Just look at the parking!!

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But despite the crowds we managed to do a little shopping, make some special memories, and have A LOT of fun…just my big kids and me.

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Rusty’s 16th Birthday Party

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I still can’t wrap my brain around the fact that Rusty is 16 years old. This is a big birthday in our house…the gateway to more freedom and more independence. 16 is the age when they get behind the wheel and are allowed to begin dating.

As we pondered possible ways to celebrate Rusty’s big day the answer quickly became clear. Rusty asked to celebrate his big 1-6 in the same way his older sister celebrated hers…

with a skating party at the local roller rink.

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Perfect!

This roller skating rink is charming. We visited it the first time for a co-op Halloween party and I fell in love with the vintage décor and ambiance. I felt as though I had been transported back to my childhood and the endless Fridays spent skating with my middle school friend.

Even the skates are authentically retro.

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It is a charming place and the family that owns in (it has been in their family for 66 years) is wonderful to work with. They made planning and preparing for the party effortless.

We had such a good experience there 3 years ago for Gracie’s 16th birthday party we were eager to return.

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Once the rink was booked, Rusty began making his guest list. He decided to invite all the high school aged kids from co-op and church to his party. We ended up with a fun group!

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That night we arrived a half hour early to set up for the party. We brought food and drinks and decorations for the table.

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Then guests began to arrive. The first step was getting everyone fitted for skates.

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Our tall 16 year old son gained even more height with skates on his feet. We couldn’t help but laugh at the height difference between Rusty and Toby.

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The night was filled with free-skate time:

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Eating:

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And Games:

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The rink owners led the kids through a series of fun games and line dances.

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Rusty won the game “Split your Pants” where the skaters had to straddle two red cups that became more and more spread apart with each round. Those long legs gave him a distinct advantage!

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Then Molly won the limbo game.

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It was a night full of food, friends, and fun!

A big thanks to all those who came out to celebrate Rusty’s big day with him!

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Drake’s Well

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Pennsylvania might not be the first place one thinks of when considering oil, but it was the first place that oil was drilled in America. On August 27, 1859, in Titusville, Pennsylvania next to Oil Creek, Edwin Drake completed the first commercial oil well. The Drake Well Museum, where we spent the day on Friday, celebrates the oil and gas industry as a whole.RouseDrakeWell

It was a perfect day for a field trip. The drive to Drake’s Well museum took us 2 hours but it was a beautiful drive, as we were treated to a spectacular display of reds, oranges and yellows. Fall is the perfect time to visit this area!

We joined up with our co-op friends that invited us along to this field trip offered by another cyber school. We attended this same field trip 10 years ago when the kids were all in elementary school and loved it, so when the opportunity presented itself to visit again, this time with Tyler in tow, we said, “Yes, please!”

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We began our day with a short (very well done) film in the visitor’s center, giving us an overview of the historic significance of this area and a better understanding of the science behind the oil, prior to touring the grounds.

Then, led by an awesome tour guide, we walked the grounds of the park, visiting the various outbuildings and getting a history lesson about this region.

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The Region

Before this corner of north west Pennsylvania was overtaken in an oil boom, the main industry was lumber. Sawmills were plentiful, and wood could be floated down creeks and rivers to metropolitan destinations.

Oil creek, which snakes through the museum grounds, gained its name long before any oil wells were drilled. Oil seeps along the creek supplied native people and (later) small scale businesses in the area with limited supplies of oil for medicine, water proofing, other purposes. Even today, visitors continue to observe oil bubbling up to the surface of the creek.

The Well

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The Drake Well remains as the center piece of the Drake Well Museum. While the structure above ground is a recreation, the well itself is the same one that revolutionized the oil industry over a century ago.

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It was not until 1859 that Edwin Drake triggered a boom in commercial scale oil collection through his well. Samples of the oil from oil creek had been tested at Dartmouth and Yale for their potential quality in making kerosene. This lead George Bissell and Jonathan G. Eveleth to acquire a farm along oil creek and found the Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company. Edwin Drake was a former railway conductor who invested all his savings in the Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company and traveled to Titusville, Pennsylvania to take an active role in the company. The operation experienced limited success skimming oil off the creek, and a failed attempt to dig a hole–to collect oil– which collapsed and nearly killed workers.  Finally, Drake embraced the idea of drilling for the oil in the same way that was currently being used for salt wells. Oil had already been inadvertently pumped out of the ground by earlier salt wells but it had never been the explicit goal. The process of drilling took months and after others had lost hope by April 1859, Drake took out an additional $500 loan to continue drilling. On August 27, 1859, Drake discovered oil at the surface of the collection barrel. This is considered the birth of the oil industry as Drake had formalized and proven a method of commercial oil collection.

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The well itself is 69.5 feet deep and pumped between 12 and 20 barrels a day during its operation.

The Museum

The museum encompasses 22 acres around the original Drake well and includes an outdoor collection of drilling equipment and structures along with an indoor collection of artifacts from oil history.

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The indoor section of the museum spans the history of oil from whaling, to the production of petroleum to make kerosene, to the rise of Rockefeller and Standard Oil, to modern day oil drilling.

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The exhibits highlight regional oil collection, with artifacts from early regional wells and related period industries such as blacksmiths. With the rise of oil established, another room discusses the fine living that was afforded to residence of the region that had prospered from the new boom. Indeed, the first oil millionaire, Jonathan Watson, was a resident of Titusville. Another interactive exhibit explores the monopolistic practices of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company and his loud critic, Ida Tarbell.

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The Grounds

The Drake Well Museum is a particular standout for its functioning exhibits.

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Along with the recreated fully functional steam powered pump at the Drake Well itself, the entire grounds are constantly moving as the operating Central Power Lease demonstrates how a single natural gas powered Olin hit-and-miss engine turning an eccentric gear can be hooked up with rod lines to multiple wells scattered across the grounds.

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After touring the grounds we took a break for lunch. It was a beautiful day for a picnic, and it turns out we weren’t the only ones feeling that way. As we took a load of trash over to the can at the corner of the picnic pavilion we discovered this little guy, hoping for handouts.IMG_2516 (2)

After lunch we returned to the indoor portion of the museum where we were able to explore on our own before joining up with the group in one of the classrooms reserved for school groups.

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Here our tour guide led the kids through a few hands on activities, further exposing them to the history of the Drake’s Well Museum in a fun, engaging way.

One of the activities she planned for the students was a pipeline challenge. She split the group of students in to two groups and gave them each a bag of PVC pipes and connectors to create a pipe line, as well as a coffee can to serve as the collection tank at the end of their pipeline. They were each given a set of challenges to overcome like physical obstacles or having to negotiate an affordable rental rate for crossing a farmer’s property. When their pipe line was built our tour guide would release the “oil” (a golf ball) down the pipe and see if it would flow into the collection tank. This hands-on activity was a hit with all the kids.

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We had to slip out a little early, missing the last few activities, because Molly need to get home in time for work. Regardless, it was an awesome day. Everyone enjoyed delving into history and I left with a better understanding and greater appreciation of how different our world would be without petroleum and Mr. Drake.

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Life’s a Circus

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Sometimes I fantasize about running away and joining the circus. This is one of those fantasies I closely guard, hesitant to openly admit that this responsible, straight-laced, mother of five secretly dreams of dropping all responsibilities for a sequined tutu and a life on the road.

I’m not sure what the appeal is…

I mean I love the idea of being so unencumbered by stuff that all my earthly possessions could fit in a small camper.

I love the idea of picking up and moving every few days, seeing the country one small town at a time.

I love the thought of being a “magic-maker” and taking families away from the worries of everyday life for a few hours into a world of mermaids, and clowns, and flying fairies.

I love the idea of being able to transform into a different persona every evening and play pretend in glitter and toile…

I am destroying all your preconceived notions of me, aren’t I? 🙂

But since I haven’t a sliver of talent to support this secret fantasy, I must settle for soaking up the magic of the circus from the spectator seats and watch others soar in center ring.

Two weeks ago, while at work, Grace was approached by a person asking if they could hang up a flyer at her place of business. Grace apologized and explained that she wasn’t allowed to approve postings. The passerby graciously accepted “no” and then kindly offered Grace 4 free tickets to the circus he was advertising.

The circus had come to town!

But this was no ordinary circus. This was Cirque Italia: The Water Circus, and the tickets were for Thursday night. Grace came home, eager to share the good news. Unfortunately Grace has a Thursday evening class so she wasn’t able to take advantage of the free tickets but she graciously handed them over to the rest of us and told us to have a fun night out.

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On Thursday evening we had dinner and then left the house by 6:30 pm so as to arrive in plenty of time for the 7:30 show. The circus had pitched their tent at our local mall and I wasn’t sure what to expect. My thought was regardless of the level of talent and showmanship it was a free, fun, family night and I knew Tyler would enjoy it.

We pulled into the mall entrance to discover the parking lot transformed with trailers and tents. The big top rose high above the parked cars and the marquee was lit up, beckoning visitors to come on in. What was a crowded, ugly parking lot days earlier had been transformed into a magical world of clowns, strong men, and sky dancers.

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We walked up to the ticket booth to purchase a child’s ticket for Tyler and became aware of what a gift these free admission tickets were, normally costing $40.00/adult.

It was here we also noticed the signage restricting photography and videography within the tent. Bummer! So, after a quick photo outside and the camera stowed away in the car, we went in and found our seats.

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This circus didn’t have the traditional animal acts one might associate with the circus, and the smaller tent made acts like the high wire and traditional trapeze acts logistically impossible, but what they lacked in traditional acts they more than made up for with amazing acts of skill and daring, all within the unique setting of a cascading waterfall surrounding the stage. This cascading water was then illuminated with lights and lasers, creating pictures and patters in the air as the light bounced off the water droplets.

Everyone had different favorite acts from the show. Below are some images taken from Google images, showing some of the awesome acts we enjoyed during our evening at the Water Circus:

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But Tyler and I shared a favorite. It wasn’t a single act that enamored us, but rather two particular characters. We LOVED the two clowns that emceed the evening. They would come out between acts to keep the show going and distract from the stage while the stage was being set up for the next act. All I can say is their comedic timing was spot on and I could have watched them all evening. I don’t know when I have laughed so hard…partly because of the antics on stage and partly because of the infectious giggles of Tyler rolling with laughter at the 3 Stooges-esque silliness occurring in front of us.

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It was such a fun evening, made all the more magical by the unexpected, impromptu nature of it falling into our laps.

It was an awesome night at the circus!

 

Rusty is 16!!

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My pregnancy with Rusty was wrought with hard emotions.

It was while I was pregnant with him that I began to experience symptoms that would later result in my diagnoses of Myasthenia Gravis. When I was two months pregnant with Rusty I began to have vision issues. By three months I was seeing double and experiencing weakness in my hands. By the time I began to show, I was having muscle weakness in all my large, voluntary muscles. What should have been a time of joy and excitement became a season of worry and fear as we searched for answers. It was a time that normally would have been filled with fun appointments to the hospital for ultrasounds of our baby, and instead was filled with appointments to the neurologist and MRIs to look for tumors or lesions on the brain. It was a season of worry for all of us as we searched for answers, and the excitement of baby #3 was pushed to the back burner.

The diagnoses of Myasthenia Gravis brought a measure of relief as we ruled out scarier and more terminal diagnoses, but also brought new feelings of grief and sadness as we processed this new, “game changing” reality. The biggest shift being the acceptance that this meant no more babies. It was not that we had actively discussed having more children, but I struggled with having that choice “stolen” from me, especially in light of the fact that the focus of that season of my life was now fully on my health and not on enjoying and relishing my last time experiencing pregnancy.

Halfway through my pregnancy we found out we were expecting a boy. This delighted Toby and terrified me. This news brought a new level of anxiety and feelings of inadequacy. I didn’t consider myself a “boy mom” and didn’t know how I would manage the trucks, toads and busyness of a boy. I thought I was doomed to be a failure to this son God was blessing me with. But He knew what he was doing and the moment I held Rusty in my arms he stole my heart.

His pregnancy was wrought with stress and chaos and yet his personality was so different than his circumstances. He was quiet and gentle and dear…a blessing far beyond our expectations.

That sweet personality has remained through his growing up years. Now our gentle giant, he remains quiet, kind, and unassuming…content to serve others with no notice and no accolades. He has been such an incredible blessing in our lives and we are so grateful 16 years ago God blessed our family with this bundle of joy!

I can look back now, at that hard season of life, and see God’s hand in every closed door. I can now discern the path He was laying for something bigger and better. At that time I felt unheard and unseen by my Heavenly Father, when in reality it was the very opposite. He was never nearer than during that dark time of life. When I felt most alone in my grief, He was in fact carrying me. I now can see the truthfulness of the song lyrics:

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How grateful I am that God didn’t give me the desires of my heart. How grateful I am He didn’t follow my plans. How grateful I am for unanswered prayers, for had He given me what I asked for we would have never been given the opportunity to love Rusty, Ozzie and Tyler.

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On Tuesday my bouncing baby boy turned 16!

I still can’t wrap my brain around it.

We began our birthday celebration as we always do, with a morning serenade and cupcake. The birthday boy also received the traditional “free pass” from school that the kids always get if their birthday falls on a school day.

This year it worked out perfect, as Rusty had big plans for his birthday…first and foremost was wanting to taking his driving permit test. He felt prepared and was eager to take the written test. This quarter in school he has been taking Driver’s Ed as one of his classes. He has also been studying the manual and taking practice tests online, all in preparation for this big day.

Before we could head to the DMV though, first we had to gather all the required documents. We gathered his birth certificate, social security card, a blank check for his fee, and then drove to MedExpress for the mandatory driver’s physical.

Then it was off to the DMV, where we joined 100,000 other people in the waiting room, waiting for our number to be called.

After 45 minutes of playing “I spy” with Tyler in the sterile, uninspiring surroundings of the DMV waiting room…(boy what a challenge!)…Rusty was called up to the front.

He presented his paperwork and was seated at one of the computers to take his written test.

He passed!

We now have another child on the road. Just as we finish up Molly’s driving training we get to begin again with Rusty. 🙂

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“A New Set of Wheels” was the prevailing theme of this birthday, beginning with his gift from Toby and I, extending to his birthday dinner decorations,

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and carrying over to his 16th birthday party this Saturday at the roller skating rink.

Rusty received his birthday present a few days early. (I don’t think Toby could wait any longer to surprise him!) Rusty has been asking for a dirt bike for a few years…something he can use on our 52 acres of land. Feeling he was too young to consider it before, Toby only started to get serious in the search for a used dirt bike in good condition in the last 6 months. He found a great deal on one being sold a few hours away and make a trip out there to check it out a few weeks ago, bringing it home and hiding it right under Rusty’s nose for the last two weeks.

On Saturday night we told Rusty he was getting his gift early. Setting him down in the living room Toby brought out a gift bag. Rusty unwrapped it, discovering a spare part that came with his new dirt bike. Toby told him it was the first piece of his gift and the rest of the parts…that he will need to assemble… were in the front yard. With a look of confusion on his face he stepped outside.

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Confusion turned to delight when he saw his gift and realized dad was just trying to throw him off the scent.

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The next hour was spent teaching Rusty all he needs to know to enjoy his new toy safely and letting him try it out. Toby won some major brownie points with this one!

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Tyler may have been a bit jealous…he donned his own helmet and pretended his bike had a motor too. 🙂

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Tuesday evening, after Molly returned home from work, we celebrated Rusty’s birthday as a family and the kids each gave Rusty the gifts they had bought him. Each put a lot of thought into their gifts for him and were very generous in their choices. Rusty was thrilled with them all!

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Happy 16th birthday, Rusty, how grateful we are to call you our son!

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Making a Splash

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Co-op day, the day of the week that we gather with friends to do school lessons together, socialize, and support one another in this unique path of educating our children, is always the highlight of the week for me and my crew.

This year we have felt Gracie’s absence at this traditional weekly activity as she has been stuck working most co-op days, but this week she was off which meant she got to join us at co-op and catch up with friends while tackling some college assignments.

It was so much fun having her there. It has felt odd to be down 2 kiddos for so many activities that I would typically be toting 5 kids to.

As if the excitement of being back at co-op wasn’t enough, Grace also enjoyed the added benefit of some impromptu fun following co-op.

Miss Tauni invited everyone over to her house after co-op for a water balloon battle. She had some leftover, “quick-fill” water balloons left over from a summer science camp she was involved in and offered them up to the group for some wet fun before it got too chilly to enjoy them.

They were a hit!…Literally!!

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Everyone had fun at this impromptu autumn water battle.

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Thanks, Miss Tauni!

 

What a Weekend!!

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What a full weekend we had. It was packed to the gills with projects, places to go, and things to do. It was a crazy weekend, but a productive weekend…and boy did we all sleep well Sunday night!

Here is a peek into all the craziness we crammed into a 48-hour period…

Saturday began at 7:00 am. Rusty had a bike ride scheduled with the other young men from church. They planned to meet up at 7:45 and would be gone most of the morning. The plan was to conclude their excursion at the comic book store where an annual basement blowout was being held, offering thousands of comics for only $1.oo/each.

Rusty “rolled” back home around noon, tired and happy, eager to show off his comic book finds.

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The big task of the day was canning. A friend from church found a great deal on apples that we couldn’t pass up. We bought two bushels and the plan was to spend the day turning our bushels of apples into applesauce and apple pie filling. When these plans were made I thought I’d have a whole crew of helpers in the kitchen with me for the day, but soon other opportunities began to trump canning, leaving me in the kitchen with a revolving door of helpers coming and going through the day.

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My first helper of the day was Tyler. He had a few hours until he needed to leave the house and eagerly jumped on the task of coring and peeling apples for applesauce.

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At 10:00 am he had to leave with Toby and the girls jumped into his place as second and third in command.

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Tyler and Toby were off to Pittsburgh for some unexpected fun. The previous night, while out with friends, we were offered two free tickets to a Pitt football game at Heinz field. It was decided that Toby would take Tyler. Tyler is by far the biggest football fan in the family and we knew he could use some Daddy/son time after the unsettling week he had had seeing Ozzie leave.

It was just what they both needed. They were able to escape for a few hours and enjoy some mindless fun and male bonding over football and popcorn, and they had a perfect day for it. The weather was beautiful!

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At 11:00 am I lost Grace and Molly as canning helpers when they left for an event at Gracie’s school. As part of Gracie’s American Sign Language classes, she must attend a certain number of deaf events each semester. This is something Grace looks forward to and on this particular Saturday her ASL club was hosting a tie-dye activity at the school. Grace decided to invite Molly along. Molly has struggled a bit with the life changes that have occurred in our home lately. The absence of Ozzie and seeing less of Grace due to Gracie’s busy school and work schedule, has left her feeling a bit lost. Noticing this, Grace invited Molly out for a sister date. They made plans to attend the tie-dye activity and then go to Rita’s for an Italian ice after the event was over.

Both girls had a wonderful time. The ASL club had a good turn out and everyone enjoyed getting messy. The club supplied socks for everyone to tie-dye, but participants could bring other items to tie-dye as well. Grace and Molly each brought a pillowcase to color. It was a fun activity for them to share. Molly enjoyed getting to know some of Gracie’s college friends, and enjoyed getting to use some of her ASL skills.

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At noon Rusty returned home, thanks to a kind young men’s leader who dropped him off on our doorstop, and then Rusty jumped into the fray of apple canning. At this point I was onto apple pie filling and Rusty helped me peel, core, and slice apples for the pie filling. He was a great help and my efficiency increased significantly with another set of hands in the kitchen.

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We also made a large batch of oven dried cinnamon apple slices to enjoy as snacks. As the slices slowly dried in the warm ovens the entire house took on the delicious smell of autumn.

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Around this same time Toby was heading back out of Pittsburgh to pick up the girls (after they dropped off Mimi Joy’s car that she graciously lent them for the day) and head up north for Tyler’s equine therapy.

He had another wonderful session on his horse, Smokey, and he enjoyed sharing his experience with Toby and the girls. He is a natural on the horse and we are finding the lessons to be hugely therapeutic.

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After lessons Toby and the kids made a quick stop at Baldingers Candy Shop for some sweet treats.

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It was now 3:00 pm and things were winding down in the kitchen. The apple slices were dried and the canning was complete. My legs ached and I was covered in dried, sticky, apple juice…but what a satisfying feeling it was to gaze upon the fruits of our labors!

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It also happened to be General Conference weekend, a twice annual event in our church where we have the opportunity to hear from leadership in the form of a worldwide broadcast. It is a special weekend comprised of 4 two-hour sessions that we can watch from the comfort of our own home and receive counsel, guidance and uplifting messages from inspired speakers. We try to make it an extra special experience with a fun breakfast, activities, and booklets to help the kids take notes and stay engaged.

On Sunday morning, Rusty volunteered to be in charge of breakfast. He stumbled across a recipe online that he wanted to try. It was peanut butter and jelly French toast…and it was delicious!

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While Rusty cooked breakfast, everyone else sat down to write a letter to Ozzie. This will become a regular Sunday task. My plan is to help facilitate connection between the kids through pen pal letters. There is healing that needs to occur and written letters seem a good way to foster a renewed connection in a safe and non-threatening way. The stack of letters will then be mailed one at a time through the week, creating a steady influx of mail for Ozzie, hopefully making him feel of our love and letting him know he is not forgotten.

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For General Conference, I printed out our traditional bingo game and filled a bowl with our “prizes,” as well as created note taking doodle packets for the kids to use as they watched.

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It was wonderful to spend that time as a family and receive inspired guidance and direction.

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Sunday afternoon we also had a visit with Ozzie. It couldn’t have gone any better. He is doing beautifully and this Momma’s heart overflowed with gratitude to see him so at peace. It was a joy to get that time with him to catch up and reconnect.

Sunday night we enjoyed a game night for our Family Night activity. Friends from co-op, who also are avid board gamers, lent us an escape room game they purchased. We love these sorts of games and this one was no exception. We had a blast racing the clock and working as a team to solve the puzzles needed to win the game.

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We were successful!

It truly was a non-stop, crazy weekend…

Filled to the brim with busyness…

Filled to the brim with blessings!

Halloween came early this year…

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Tyler…our resident goof ball!

 

(I’m still a week behind in my blogging. Here is my final blog about last weekend’s festivities…)

This past weekend was a tough one. The knowledge that Ozzie was leaving on Monday morning and would be gone for four months left everyone feeling unsettled and emotional. We tried to move through the days as normally as possible, but it was challenging with that big grey cloud hanging over our heads.

Everyone was dealing with a muddy mess of emotions. We were grateful that Ozzie was accepted to this awesome facility where he will finally get the intensive therapeutic help he needs to heal from past trauma, but were also mourning this upcoming shift in our life, upset and grieving that this step needs to happen.

My mother summed it up beautifully when I shared the news with her. She said, “It is like finding out someone you love has cancer, and the prognosis is not good. And then soon after, receiving the news that your loved one has secured the last bed at the Cancer Treatment Center of America and will be working with the best doctor in that field.”

You don’t know whether to be angry that treatment is needed or grateful that treatment is available for a once hopeless diagnoses.

It is hard to verbalize the hard mix of emotions that come with this journey. I know I struggle to filter through the jumble of thoughts and feelings that knot in my stomach, so I can appreciate the struggles Ozzie and the other children are suffering though during this hard season.

This weekend was particularly hard. We knew what was coming, and with that knowledge there were feelings of relief and great grief. It felt like the weekend was a series of good-byes to life as we knew it. It was painful on so many levels and I didn’t know whether to wish for time to stand still, so as to avoid the inevitable, or to pray for time to speed up so we could rip this band-aid off and begin facing our new normal. Mostly I just felt numb, like a shell of my real self, moving through the motions of living but weirdly detached.

We packed up Ozzie’s bag, filling it with clothes, winter gear, books, comfort items, therapy tools, and photos…everything he could possibly need for the next four months.

We cleaned his room. Preparing it for his absence so that when he returns home it would be ready for him.

Then we tried to fit in some fun and family bonding. Our weekend was filled with horseback riding lessons, “Gotcha Day” fun, and lots of low key, quiet moments as a family.

One of Ozzie’s primary disappointments about going away was his concern about missing out on holiday traditions. He will most likely be able to return home for holidays but is sad to miss out on our families traditions leading up to holidays…like pumpkin carving for Halloween. I couldn’t address all his worries, but that was a concern I could address, and did so gladly.

On Saturday we went pumpkin shopping, allowing each of the kids to pick out a pumpkin for carving and then came home and carved Jack-O-Lanterns a month early.

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Everyone got into the spirit of the evening, seeking out creative carving ideas and jumping into the task of gutting their pumpkins.

The result was an evening of fun for Ozzie and the rest of the family. We were all taking part in a cherished family tradition. Who cares if it was 90 degrees outside while we were doing it. Yes, the finished results will probably wither and mold by next Saturday, but this activity wasn’t about the finished results. Like so many aspects of our life it is not about the ending, it is about the journey.

The kids are now all old enough to be left to their own devices as they turn a pumpkin into something more magical, allowing Toby and I to just sit back and watch the fun.

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I did spend time digging through their pumpkin guts as the kids carved, picking out pumpkin seeds to roast. I found a recipe for dill pickle flavored roasted pumpkin seeds that I wanted to try. The results were delicious!

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The kids all came up with creative creations this year.

Rusty went with a tongue-in-cheek math joke:  Rusty’s pumpkin “Pi”

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Grace created the “Fly Away to Neverland “scene from Peter Pan:

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Ozzie went traditional with an awesome pumpkin face:

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Molly carved a Harry Potter pumpkin:

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And Tyler did a dollar sign face:

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Once everyone was done carving we took their pumpkins out to the porch.

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We lit them, turned off the lights, and watched them glow, enjoying the magic of the moment. It meant a lot to Ozzie that he was able to participate in this beloved family tradition and it meant the world to this Momma to have all my chicks with me on that beautiful September night, as we stood beneath the stars watching their pumpkins glow bright.

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We ended Family Night with the movie, “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” while we munched on pumpkin seeds and enjoyed our last evening together for a while.

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This hard transition is a blessing,

but it still hurts like crazy…

Gotcha Day!

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I must say that on my short list of experiences I dread, right up near the top with root canals and cleaning the oven, is car shopping. I find it painful. I hate everything about it…the decision making, the financing, the pressure from the pushy salesman, the hours spent in the dingy back office signing paperwork, and the knot you get in your stomach  when you realize you are back to having a monthly car payment.

ICK, ICK, ICK…I hate it all.

I would rather dump good money after bad into a vehicle that is on death’s door, if it means avoiding a trip to the car lot, than have to go car shopping.

My son doesn’t agree.

Ozzie’s idea of heaven on earth is an afternoon spent at a car lot reading the information stickers posted on the side window of each car. Ozzie loves cars and has extensive knowledge of every vehicle that ever landed on the road. He can tell you how the design changed from year to year, what special features each one offers, and the year certain vehicles stopped being manufactured.

Before Ozzie left for his inpatient stay he asked if we could celebrate his “Gotcha Day” a few months early. In the world of adoption, a “Gotcha Day” is the anniversary of a child’s adoption into a family…the day we “gotcha.” As a family we celebrate Tyler and Ozzie’s gotcha days much like we celebrate a child’s birthday, as we consider that day the day they were “born” into our family.

It was important to Ozzie that he get to celebrate this special day with his family. His actual “Gotcha Day” is November 22, but since we were uncertain as to where he would be in his treatment journey, and since we didn’t know if we would be able to take him out that day, we opted to celebrate early.

His request for his “Gotcha Day” this year was a trip to local car lots. He explained that what he wanted to do more than anything was to visit all the car lots in our area, as a family, and look at the cars that were for sale, and then go out for dinner.

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It was an unusual request, but a feasible one, so we made plans to spend the afternoon “car shopping.” This was really a testament to how deeply I love Ozzie, as this is a request I would not answer yes to with just anyone.

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The pain of car shopping was magnified on Saturday as, in addition to all the normal car shopping pains, I now had to explain to the pushy salesman that we weren’t actually there to buy a car, we were just looking.

They would inevitably pushed back with, “Well, what sort of vehicle are you looking for. I’m sure we can find just the thing for you.”

“No, I mean we are really just looking,” I explained, “Like for fun…like we don’t need a car. We are just out for a family outing.”

At this point confusion would wash over the salesman’s face, uncertain if he was getting the brush off and should keep pushing, or if we are in fact a crazy family just out for a fun afternoon browsing car lots.

The fact that I had a camera around my neck and was taking pictures of Ozzie next to the various vehicles confirmed the latter.

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At one car lot, however, the salesman demanded a more thorough explanation, as he couldn’t wrap his brain around the idea that someone would visit a car lot for fun..so we explained it was Ozzie’s “Gotcha Day,” the anniversary of his adoption, and this is how he wanted to spend the day.

The man turned to Ozzie, offered his congratulations, and asked, “So, do you want to sell cars when you grow up?”

Ozzie nodded his head with an enthusiastic, “YES!”

To which the salesman deadpanned, “Don’t do it kid. Life’s too short.”

I died.

The man then invited Ozzie in to the office and let him pick out a stack of vehicle brochures. Ozzie was in heaven!

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When we were done visiting all our local car lots, we headed over to Ponderosa for Ozzie’s “Gotcha Day” dinner, per his request.

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It was a crazy way to celebrate the anniversary of Ozzie’s adoption, but so perfectly Ozzie. He loved it, which is all that matters. That is what “Gotcha Days” are all about. It is our opportunity to celebrate that special child and the unique gifts, talents and spirit they bring to our family…

And that is just what we did.

Happy early “Gotcha Day,” Ozzie. We love you to the moon and back!