Tag Archives: anniversary

Enjoying the beauty of Ohiopyle

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On day 2 of our two-day anniversary getaway we headed over to Ohiopyle State Park. Despite finding myself in this area of Pennsylvania every summer for girls camp, I never made it over to Ohiopyle.

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This weekend getaway gave Toby and I a perfect opportunity to visit this beautiful park and see what the hype was all about.

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It didn’t disappoint!

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This diverse park offered beautiful biking trails,

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Breathtaking waterfalls,

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Natural waterslides,

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Rocky crevices to explore,

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And stunning vistas.

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It was a beautiful park!

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It was a perfect day to soak up the beauty of the Laurel Highlands and enjoying some one-on-one time with my favorite person. Happy anniversary, my love. The last 23 years have been quite the adventure…

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Here’s to 23 more!

 

Celebrating 23 Years!

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This year Toby and I are celebrating 23 years of marriage.

Our original anniversary plans were killed by Covid-19 when the Alaskan cruise we had been planning for years was canceled. It turns out this year isn’t the year for a big celebration, but we couldn’t let the weekend pass by without celebrating 23 years of marriage in some way. Never has the need to get away and just be us been greater than this year. We have dealt with un-precedented amount of struggle in 2020 and Toby and I were both wanting to run away for a bit. Last weekend we decided that we would keep our anniversary getaway short, local, and safe by heading 90 minutes away to the Laurel Highlands for a few days.

Many of the local sites and attractions were still shut down, but this area of Pennsylvania offers an abundance of beautiful state parks and outdoor fun, so it was the perfect place to get away.

We stayed at the Log Cabin Inn and Suites. This motel boasts log cabin themed rooms with rustic charm, which made us feel like we were vacationing in the mountains.

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It also offered the added perk of being connected to Living Treasures Animal Park (Donegal).

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We love Living Treasures Animal Park in New Castle, Pennsylvania, but had never visited this location…and it was one of the few attractions in the area that was open!

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All overnight guests receive 1/2 off the cost of admission so we headed over there on Saturday to explore and enjoy the animals.

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This Living Treasures location isn’t quite as big as the one near us but it offered a wide variety of animals to observe and/or feed.

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We had so much fun interacting with all the critters that clambered near the fence, eager to be fed.

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It was a photographic feast.

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We especially loved all the baby animals!

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Can you spot the baby turkeys hovering near mom?

It was a zoo filled with prolific breeders!

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Babies, babies…everywhere.

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Day 1: Living Treasures Animal Park…

Day 2: Ohiopyle State Park!

It takes a real man to be a Dad!

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Today is the day we celebrate fathers.

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It is the day we honor the men in our life who love unconditionally, who provide selflessly, and who step up and give all for the children they love.

I have been blessed with exceptional men in my life who have shown me what a real man is and how a real man acts. From my grandfathers, to my father-in-law, to the man who raised me, I have been blessed with the best.

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I have learned from their examples, been bolstered by their encouragement, and watched as their values were manifested in the way they lived their lives.

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Each of them showed what they value most by the daily choices they made, making clear that God and family come first.

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I was raised by a great man which is why I sought a great man to be my eternal companion and the father to my children. I was one of the lucky ones that didn’t carry the burden of breaking an unhealthy or dysfunctional relationship cycle. Because of how my father loved my mother, I knew what I was suppose to expect from a relationship. I don’t take this for granted. I know this was a great blessing that so many are denied.

But I have also witnessed in my life the great power of a good man to be a “cycle breaker.” I see it in my own home. I see the power for change that can come when a good man loves a child to the degree that a child begins seeing themselves as loveable.

When it comes to good men, I have been blessed with the best. Today we celebrate our 23rd anniversary and Father’s Day. On the day we married I thought I couldn’t love him more than I did in that moment, but that love was nothing compared to how I feel today.

That love was sweet but untested. It lacked the depth that comes when you move beyond a feeling to a choice. Love grows deeper with each trial and test. Conviction, connection, and commitment come from those hard seasons of life when you choose to stay rather than run. Deep abiding love comes when you see your spouse making the right choice, even when it is a hard choice. It grows as you watch him say “yes” when others would say “no.” Each selfless sacrifice for the good of another added another layer of depth to the love I already felt.

And then he became a father, and my love grew 100 fold as I watched him love, care and provide for our children. I watched as he set aside his own dreams for the sake of his little family.I watched him man-up, go against the agenda of the world, and choose to do right.

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I watched as he loved our children with all he had and watched as he gave them the world.

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And then he gave even more when he opened his heart and home to our sons whose own biological fathers failed them. He took on a responsibility that wasn’t his because of who he is…

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It isn’t easy being a “cycle breaker.” It requires a level of selfless love and unwavering commitment, but he not only took in children abandoned by the world, he made them his in every way. He provides, he forgives, he accepts, he gives, and gives some more so that his boys might know their worth. He loves them as they should have been loved since birth, even when the love, respect, and care he gives isn’t reciprocated. He knows that being a father isn’t about what you get back. Fatherly love isn’t a feeling…it is a choice, and he keeps showing up and loving his kids…

Which is one of the many reasons I love him!

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I am so grateful for the gift of good men in my life. Their walking, talking, daily examples of a father’s love has helped me better understand my Heavenly Father’s love, as illustrated in the poignant video below:

Happy Father’s day, to all the good men in the world.

May we raise them.

May we respect them…

That they may they know their worth.

A Grand Romantic Gesture

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Ozzie helping with the surprise.

Ozzie helping with the surprise.

This week has been a celebration of Toby. Every year I face the challenge of making 3 special days happen for my husband…all in one week. We begin by celebrating Father’s Day. A few days later we celebrate our anniversary and then 2 days after that it is his birthday. It is a week of celebrating his life…him as a father, him as a husband, and him as a man.  I must admit that sometimes I feel overwhelmed as I try to pull off 3 special celebrations in a matter of days. My creativity is tested as I attempt to make him feel as special as he is. The pressure comes as a result of being married to a “grand gesture” man. Toby is the king of big surprises and grand declarations of love. From our very first date when he unwrapped an entire bag of Hershey kisses and rewrapped them with printed tags that said, “goodnight kiss” for our first “kiss” I knew I was married to a “grand gesture” man. Toby loves surprising people with their dream gift or showing his love in creative displays. My married life has been filled with treasure hunts, surprise vacations, homemade treasures and unexpected displays of his love. His love for others is contagious and you can’t help but want to jump into the fun of surprising them.

The down side of being married to a “grand gesture” man is that the gifts and surprises you plan always feel a bit lame and boring compared to having a puppy brought home with a bow tied around its neck or a trunk full of balloons released to announce an upcoming trip to Disney World. I mean, really, how does one compete with that? 🙂 This year, after 17 years of being on the receiving end of Toby’s surprises, I was determined to be the “surpriser.” It was our anniversary and I was going for the “grand gesture” surprise…

Before we began the journey of adoption we set the goal and made it a priority to go on regular date nights. We also tried to go on a short vacation every year without children. As a new mother I struggled with leaving my babies behind and struggled with “guilty mother syndrome” everytime Toby surprised me with a trip, but as hard as it was to get into the car and wave goodbye to the kiddos it was the best thing in the world for our marriage and our parenting. By going away for a few days we were able to reconnect as a couple, recharge our batteries so that we could come home better parents, as well as show our children that our marriage comes first and we were committed to that priority. As the kids grew older, leaving for the weekend became easier and we discovered the healing and rejuvenating power of a few days away. We were able to step out of the role of “parents” and step back into the role of “couple.” Toby made sure that vacationing alone together was a top priority and would regularly surprise me with trips away.

After beginning the adoption process our “weekends away” came to an abrupt end. Logistically it was tougher. With a foster child you can’t just ask grandma to babysit for the night. If a foster child sleeps at someone else’s home that babysitter must have a home inspection first (and we don’t have may people in our lives who would be willing to put themselves through that just to babysit our children)  🙂  and then they also have to have criminal and child abuse clearances. If we could pull all of that off we then face the fear of losing that babysitter as a friend as a result of a little boy’s epic tantrum while we are away.  😉 So needless to say we haven’t gone away in a while. It was because of all of these challenges that I decided to try to surprise Toby with a grand gesture getaway.

The idea came to me in the middle of the night…like all my good ideas do. I was going to surprise Toby with a night away at a hotel. I asked the daughter of a friend who has all her clearances from working at a day care if she could babysit from 6:00pm on Friday to noon on Saturday. By having her babysit at our home we didn’t need to put anyone through a home inspection. I spent the week “prepping” the house and kids in the hopes of a drama-free night. I booked a hotel five minutes away so we could be home in an instant if there were any meltdowns and the surprise was in the works. My only fear was that Toby was planning a surprise of his own and that it would be “clash of the titan surprises.”

On Friday afternoon I drove over to our hotel to check in, drop off our suitcase and decorate the room. Ozzie came with me, since he can’t be left alone, and he helped me decorate. Ozzie couldn’t contain his excitement and enthusiasm for the surprise. He kept saying, “This is the most romantic thing I’ve ever heard of!!”  I had little candies to put next to the bed. Ozzie wanted to use them to decorate so he wrote “LOVE” in chocolates on the TV stand and then made a “heart” on the ottoman. As Ozzie stepped back to survey his work he spoke up with excitement, “You know what you should do for Daddy tonight?! You should call Delilah so that she can play a romantic song for you!” (Ozzie loves listening to Delilah’s radio program every night in bed.) As we left I made Ozzie promise not to reveal the secret to Daddy.

When we arrived home I got the kids ready for the night, went over rules, and got dressed for our date. When Toby arrived home I told him I had hired a sitter for our anniversary dinner ( which was a surprise in itself.) When the sitter arrived we said good-bye and headed to the restaurant. I gave him directions to where we were going and led him to the hotel…and he was surprised! I couldn’t believe I pulled off a “grand gesture” of love. It was a wonderful evening away. We had dinner at Toby’s favorite restaurant… We slept in until 10:30am…Ahhhh, it was wonderful!

As we spent the week celebrating Toby I counted my blessings to be married to such an amazing, good, loving, selfless man. I remember as a girl being counseled that no decision you make in you life had more impact on your future happiness than the decision of whom to marry. I chose well and have enjoyed 17 years of happiness and joy as a result. I am grateful for my husband who loves so selflessly, who parents so lovingly, who has opened his heart to two little boys who were sired and then destroyed by man who was called “dad” only to show them what a true “Dad” is.

Toby is a “grand gesture” man because his heart is too big and his love to expansive to be anything less.

Toby's birthday celebration with his kids.

Toby’s birthday celebration with his kids.