Tag Archives: adult children

Happy Birthday, Miss Gracie!

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Somehow, in the midst of everything else going on, I forgot to post pictures of Gracie’s 22nd birthday celebration two weeks ago.

As I reflect back on that celebratory day it is hard to believe it was just 15 days ago. It feels like a lifetime.

This birthday was an unusual one, as it was the first time I haven’t had a child home on their birthday. Our normal tradition of waking up with birthday kid with a song and a cupcake didn’t happen. I didn’t think Zach would appreciate us climbing up through their bedroom window in “I Love You Forever,” Robert Munsch style, with a cupcake in hand…

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So we left Gracie’s birthday morning wake-up to her husband, and instead delayed our well wishes for later in the day. I did, however, wake that morning with a feeling of panic over forgetting to wake up Grace with her birthday song, until the cobwebs cleared and I remembered Grace no longer lives at home.

Gracie’s birthday celebration took place that evening in Cranberry. When we asked Grace what she wanted to do for her birthday she requested a family dinner at Blaze Pizza. Blaze Pizza is a favorite eat-out spot for our crew. Everyone loves the novelty of building their own pizza, and we love the vast number of toppings to pick from. Rusty describes it as Subway for pizza.

We all arrived at Blaze Pizza at 5:00 with gifts in hand. Everyone was coming from different directions so our group of eight people took up 5 parking spots in the lot. Tyler and I came straight from his dyslexia tutoring in Wexford. Molly and the boys drove over after their dentist appointments in Monaca. Grace came from her home in Ellwood City, having taken the day off work for her birthday. Toby and Molly drove up from the construction site in Toby’s truck, and Zach came from the site in his car. It felt a bit obscene when we realized we had five cars for eight people.

When we got inside we decided to start with dinner and save gift opening for the end.

Everyone got in line to build their pizzas.

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The results of that effort was nothing short of delicious!! Yum!

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Then it was time for gifts. Grace requested camping gear for her birthday with hopes that she and Zach could enjoy some inexpensive vacations once they acquired the gear necessary to go camping. She had already received a hand-me-down tent from my parents who also gifted her with a Coleman lantern for her birthday gift. From Toby and I she received a two-man sleeping bag and camping cooking utensils.

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Molly and Rusty pooled their money and bought Grace a Dutch oven. They laminated a homemade  camping cookbook of Dutch oven recipes that they had printed offline and attached to the Dutch oven with a carabiner.

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Tyler and Braden went in a different direction with their birthday gifts to Grace. Braden bought Grace a beautiful book and Tyler bought Grace a t-shirt that read, “Kind People are my kind of People.” He thought Grace would like it because it reminded him of Mr. Rogers, who is a personal hero of Miss Gracie. When he found it at the store they only had it in a large. I was concerned that it would be too big on Gracie’s petite frame. Tyler tried to quell my concerns with the logic we use when clothes shopping for him. “It’s ok, she will grow into it.” I hated to burst his bubble but Gracie’s days of gaining inches with each passing year are long behind her!

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After we were done at Blaze Pizza we headed over to the Milkshake Factory for Gracie’s birthday dessert. In lieu of cake, Grace asked for milkshakes. She and Zach had discovered the Milkshake Factory and were eager to introduce the rest of us to this yummy place.

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We arrived and began perusing the menu, trying to decide which shake we each wanted to try.

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It was a tough choice, as they all sounded delicious, but everyone finally settled on their picks. Grace and Zach were right…Milkshake Factory shakes are amazing!!

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After enjoying Gracie’s birthday dessert, we said our goodbyes and headed back towards home. That night just happened to be the night of Braden’s end of the year basketball banquet.

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So, we kissed our 22-year-old daughter good-night and headed off to the next celebration.

How grateful we are to call this talented, kind, diligent, thoughtful, generous, wise, patient, faithful, forgiving, beautiful young lady our daughter.

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We love you, Miss Grace, and hope this year is the best one yet!!

(It is certainly starting out memorable!!)

 

 

Life is Short…Eat Christmas Cookies!

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Oh, how December has flown by, and I know that I’m not the only one reeling from the rapid pace of this festive month. The lateness of Thanksgiving left everyone a week short of the typical four weeks we usually have to make Christmas happen, and we all seem to be scrambling this year to fit it all in.

By the time December 19th rolled around I realized not a cookie had been baked and we were less than a week from Christmas. Typically we bring a large cookie platter to my mom’s house on Christmas Eve. In the past this responsibility was easy to follow through with thanks to our annual co-op cookie exchange. Our co-op no longer meets regularly so this tradition didn’t happen. I knew that we needed to have something sweet to plate for Santa, so we decided to just focus on Christmas cut-out cookies.

On Thursday, following Molly’s exciting journey home, I began baking dozens of Christmas cut-out cookies for us to decorate on Thursday night. My delinquency worked to the family’s advantage, as Molly was home and able to take part in this family tradition.

Thursday afternoon I received a call from Grace asking if we had any plans. Zach had school on Thursday night and she was eager to see Molly! We invited her to join us for dinner and an evening of cookie decorating.

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After dinner was all cleaned up we gathered in the dining room. Frostings, sprinkles and trays of sugar cookies were carried in and we got to work.

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Like pumpkin carving and Easter egg dying, cookie decorating is a favorite activity as it pairs family time with individual creative expression.

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It is always fun to see what designs everyone comes up with…

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And the fact that the artwork is deliciously edible is a huge perk to this fun, family tradition!

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By the end of the evening Grace, Rusty and I were the only ones left at the table as we pushed through the last few dozen cookies on the tray.

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Braden and Tyler lost steam after frosting a dozen cookies, and Molly and Toby were feeling icky and left to go lay down, so my two standing soldiers helped me knock out the last of the Christmas cookies, allowing us to assemble two beautiful trays for our upcoming Christmas celebrations.

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We are one step closer to being Christmas-ready!

 

“I’m fine,” she told herself…

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I feel as though I’m suffering from an emotional hangover…

Too many feelings squeezed into too short a period of time,

With all of the residual manifestations connected to an excess of living.

I literally feel as though I am emotionally hungover, with many of the symptoms seen in alcohol induced hangovers.

I find myself weary, heavy, numb, foggy and teary as I try to continue navigating the responsibilities of day to day life while accepting that life as I have known it for 20 years, is changing…

And changing very soon!

The crazy thing about it all is that everything I am navigating through is exactly the things I have prayed so hard for. There is a part of me that wants to smack the tears off my own face and remind myself that this is all good stuff!

Feelings of gratitude and joy are the prevailing emotions, but closely tied to feelings of gratitude and joy, are feelings of uncertainty and loss…

And guilt.

Guilt that I am feeling anything but gratitude and joy in the midst of such blessings. Unlike the seasons we have had to endure that are filled with such darkness and danger, despair and loss, this season is blessedly positive, but I still find myself struggling.

Perhaps I am unaccustomed to things going so smoothly.

Perhaps I have forgotten how to navigate life outside the emotional bondage of crisis management.

Perhaps I feel as though I am losing some of my purpose or value.

Maybe it is simply the emotional push-back that is rooted in the fear of change.

Or maybe, just maybe, this weight of emotions is simply bone-deep fatigue, born from trying to fit in so many “lasts” before life changes for good.

I am not certain.

I only know that time seems to be racing past and I am desperately grasping for its tail, hoping to slow it down.

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I know that I am not alone in this place. Many other friends have expressed similar emotions, born from similar situations. I take strength from knowing that this muddy mix of emotions is normal, that I am not the only one trying to gracefully navigate them, and that millions of mothers before me have made it through this season to find joy and purpose in the next season of parenting.

So many changes are coming down the pike, not the least of which are:

  1. Gracie getting married! Only two months until her big day! The last few weeks have been spent entrenched in bridal shower planning, bachelorette party planning and wedding planning. Grace and Zach have also been on the hunt for an apartment. They will be staying in the area, as Grace still has a few semesters of school to finish before earning her degree in American Sign Language interpreting.

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 Well, they found one that they love and fits their budget. And we have the benefit of having them nearby for at least the next year…which is a HUGE blessing for our adopted sons who have been struggling with triggered feelings of losing another person they love.

Last Sunday we drove over to Ellwood City to check out Gracie and Zach’s soon-to-be newlywed digs.

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It is an upstairs, one bedroom apartment with a big kitchen and lots of light. It is perfect for them and so exciting. Grace can’t wait to start decorating!

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2. Molly is about ready to take flight! In less than three weeks she will be heading out to school. Rusty and Braden will be joining us as we take a weeklong road trip to Idaho to drop her off. Along the way we are going to revisit some of our favorite national parks from our bus trip three years ago, so Braden can experience some of these national treasures.

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Over the last month Molly has been making piles in preparation for college, getting together with friends, and finishing out her employment at Eat n’ Park. In fact, a few weeks ago she was asked by her employers to reconsider heading west for school. They wanted to offer her a management position. Her boss told her how impressed they have been with her since she began working for them in the spring and could see a great future for her with the company. She sweetly declined, knowing that BYU-Idaho is where she is being called to, but was honored and touched by the job offer.

3. Molly will not be the only college student this year. Grace and I will also be working towards our degrees, and Rusty is now unexpectedly joining the college ranks as a duel enrolled high school senior.

A few weeks ago we toured our local community college’s aviation program to find out more about their drone piloting program. This is a field that interests Rusty and so we added CCBC to our college tour list.

As we sat and spoke with the Dean of the program, he encouraged Rusty to not wait until graduation, but rather enroll for the fall semester as part of the duel-enrollment program. After speaking with his cyber school, 21st Century Cyber Charter School, we learned that Rusty had the option of replacing his high school electives with college courses and receive both high school and college credit, thus getting a jump start on his college degree.

He is very excited and will be taking most of his classes at the local airfield where he will learn the skills to graduate with a drone piloting license. Toby and I were pleased to learn that the high demand for drone pilots, coupled with the minimal number of colleges offering this newly emerging degree, meant that 100% of their past students have graduated with job placement.

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4. Braden is also venturing into new territory. In June he expressed a desire to cyber school like the other kids for his senior year. He struggled with our local brick and mortar school and some of the negative influences that proved too much for him to manage. Since being home this summer he has felt the difference that separation has made on his emotions and his ability to make good choices. He is happier and more at peace. I’m hoping it is as good a fit for him as it has been my other kids.

In addition to cyber schooling, he and Rusty will be getting together with other teens from church each weekday morning at 6:00am for early morning seminary (a religion class that allows for studying the scriptures and discussing gospel topics with the other youth from church under the guidance of a teacher.) I think this will be beneficial to both boys and will meet some of Braden’s social needs as one of my extroverted children.

5. Tyler also continues cyber schooling, but through PA Cyber. And although I feel that PA Cyber falls short when compared to the education offered through 21st Century Cyber School, it has proven to be a great fit for Tyler. Last year was his best year ever and he took off under this model of cyber schooling. He is eager to get back in touch with teachers and peers whom he hasn’t talked to all summer. Tyler will be in 7th grade this year. How is that possible?!

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6. Ozzie continues to thrive in the residential treatment facility that he has been residing at for more intense therapeutic work. His success there is not surprising but rather an expected result of a structured, unattached environment. The goal we are working toward is for him to successfully transfer the skills he uses at the RTF to the home environment, thus making his presence in the home safe and stable. This isn’t an easy transition, as his diagnoses of Reactive Attachment Disorder makes the thing he most stands in need of (connection and attachment to family) the very thing he fears and fights against. It is heartbreaking in its presentation and heartbreaking to know that as devastating as this diagnoses is, it could have been easily avoided through loving maternal care as a young child. The transfer of skills we are working toward is accomplished by slowly introducing interactions with family members (and eventually visits home) to his treatment plan and then addressing the negative reactions to triggers  with his therapeutic team in the RTF upon returning back at the end of a visit.

This week he and I had our first off-grounds visit. I was allowed to take him to lunch for two hours. This initial off-grounds trip consisted of just the two of us spending time together. We will slowly be adding additional family members to upcoming visits as deemed safe by staff.

I let Ozzie pick the restaurant and he chose Quaker Steak and Lube, a well known wing place in this area.

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He chose it partly for the food but mainly for the décor. He loves walking around the restaurant and snapping pictures of all the cars and memorabilia with my phone.

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He did well and we had a good time.

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He got all dressed up for our date 🙂 

This week we will be taking Ozzie out again following his family therapy session. This time Molly will be joining me so she and Ozzie can have a visit before she leaves for Idaho. We are praying it is healing and positive.

And then there is this guy… working hard and making sure everyone stays in line. 🙂

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This is  BIG week for our family with many monumental events. We have an off-grounds visit with Ozzie on Wednesday, Tyler’s 13th birthday party on Thursday evening, Gracie’s bachelorette party Friday night, Gracie’s bridal shower on Saturday, all among everyday living. It promises to be a full and likely emotional week…

Wish this momma luck as I try to keep it together!