Tag Archives: back to school dinner

Happy First Day of School!


With the start of a new school year comes our annual Back-to-School family night.

This is an eagerly anticipated event as it creates a buzz of excitement and positive anticipation for the start of school. The table is decorated, a fun, celebratory dinner is planned, and new school supplies are distributed.

Our back to school night began with a lesson.


As an object lesson I paired physical school supplies needed for a successful school year with character traits we all need to “pack” in our “backpack” for a successful school year. One by one the physical items were pulled from the backpack and we read and discussed the pun that was taped to each item and talked about that character trait/choice and why it is needed for a successful school year.


Then each of the kids were given a copy of our theme for the new school year. Each year we pick a scripture or quote to focus on in the upcoming year. The new quote is framed and put on display in each of the kids bedrooms so that they can refer to it throughout the school year. It is with much thoughtful consideration that we choose our yearly theme. This year I felt compelled to reinforce the truth that the deciding force that drives the direction of our lives is not the big decisions but rather the small choices we make each day to try a little harder and do a little better than the day before. I found this quote while searching for our school theme and knew it was exactly the message my family needed most:


I love the artwork that accompanied this printout of the quote by David A. Bednar. The visual of the ladder spoke to the message of the quote. Rather than give each of the kids their quote already framed, I opted to frame them after they personalized their papers. Each of the kids considered what they wanted to work on doing a little better. Each came up with a handful of goals and wrote them in the white edging around the quote.


Then everyone was given their new school supplies and we concluded our evening with back to school blessings and root beer floats.


We are now ready for the school year to commence!

Grace began school 2 weeks ago, the day after returning home from Texas. She is now a sophomore (and a half) having completed 3 semesters of school so far. She is halfway through her sign language interpreting program.  At the completion of that program she plans to transfer to a 4 year college to get a bachelor’s degree in special education as an enhancement to her sign language interpreting certification.


She is still loving school. She is a gal on the run, stopping at home to sleep and eat but gone a good portion of the day between school classes, clubs, church activities and two jobs.

The Monday following Gracie’s first week of the fall semester was the official start date for my kids that are 21st Century Cyber Charter School students. This includes:

Molly, who is a senior this year. EEK, how did that happen?!


Rusty, who is a junior.


Ozzie, who is an 8th grader this year.


All three are excited to see what this year will hold and are glad to be entering another year of cyber education with 21st Century.

The Tuesday following Labor Day was our 3rd “first day of school” for the year for:

Tyler, who is entering his 6th grade year.


Tyler is embarking on a new path this year. Like the older kids he will still be cyber schooled but the impending start of middle school pushed us to explore other cyber school options. What was a good fit for us a few years ago is no longer an ideal fit. Tyler is ready for a more challenging curriculum and more independence in his school work. After spending a good amount of the summer speaking to different cyber schools and praying for wisdom in choosing the right school, we have landed on PA Cyber.


We feel this will be a good fit for Tyler for his 6th grade year. The long term goal is for him to end up at 21st Century Cyber Charter School with the other kids but this is the best fit for him this year as we focus on further closing the gap between the functioning school level and actual grade level.

Brandon rounds out our motley crew of 6, as junior #2!


Like Rusty, he is entering his 11th year of school, but unlike Rusty, Brandon will be leaving the house each day for school. He will be attending our local high school (Beaver Falls) each day.


Last week was spent touring his new school, getting acquainted with teachers and school policies, and getting him settled into football. He is so excited to have the opportunity to play sports again…something he’s greatly missed. Like Tyler, sports are in his blood. He has a natural gift for athletics and loves the thrill of competition.


This past week was filled to the brim with appointments for Brandon as we attempted to get him settled before the start of school. He was in desperate need of clothes, having arrived at our home with just a few ripped outfits. Our week was spent school shopping, buying gear needed for football, setting up appointments, getting him a photo id and opening up a savings account for him, etc.

Sometimes feel as though I’m racing the clock with Brandon, trying to get all the support in place to give him a chance at a happy future. He was dealt a crappy set of cards in this game of life, and we are doing everything we can to turn his hand around and give him the best chance we can at a happy, healthy, successful future.

Our life is “fuller” than it has ever been, both with tasks and commitments but also with blessings…great, great blessings.

The sheer number of activities, weekly appointments, therapies, school lessons, and tutoring has led to the need for a color-coded master schedule to keep it all straight.



Hopefully this larger than life visual aid hanging on the wall will assist us all in making sure none of our commitments fall through the cracks and no child accidently gets left at a ball field waiting for a ride home.

And in final news…

September 17th marks the fourth “First Day of School” for our family, as yours truly experiences her first “first day of school” (as student, not teacher) IN 20 YEARS!

This summer…prior to us having any idea we would be adding a 16-year-old boy to the family…I felt God’s nudge. Despite having a solid 6 more years of home schooling ahead of me, I have felt God starting the preparation process for the next chapter of the journey, and God’s plan for the next chapter of my life requires a degree.

Over the last few years God has slowly revealed the purpose behind the unique challenges we have navigated as parents of adopted children who have endured unspeakable trauma. The mission of advocating and helping hurt children heal has become the center of our life as a family and I now see that God has a plan to use those struggles to be a blessing to other children and other families on a professional level.

All of this leads to this momma of 6 going back to school. The goal is to take a couple classes each semester with the hopes that by the time Tyler graduates high school those years of schooling will add up to a degree that will open the door to the chapter that follows this one.

It was to this end that God led me to BYU Idaho’s Pathway program which will allow me to work toward that degree in a manageable and affordable way.

I am still not sure how I am going to fit college studies into an already packed schedule but, like the addition of Brandon to the family, I know this is the Lord’s plan for me so I’m trusting Him to bless and multiple the minutes of my day as He did in the miracle of the loaves and fishes.

This year promises to be the fullest of our lives.

Hang on…

It is sure to be an exciting ride!

God is good


School is back in Session



What a summer it has been!

As I look back on my own blogs…the recordings of all that transpired over the last 3 months… I am shocked at all the living that happened in such a short time. Our summer was filled to the brim with graduation, girls’ camp, multiple Boy Scout camps, Trek, tutoring, a wedding, and a whole lot of travel.

It has been a summer of extremes with many high highs and some hard low lows. But it has been a summer full of blessings as we have worked to get services in place for both little boys, all while making time to create some fun memories amid the chaos.

Now we are on the cusp of school beginning again. You can tell it has been a well lived summer by everyone’s acceptance and even eager anticipation of the return of school and schedules. We had a lot of fun playing this summer but we are all ready for routine.

This school year promises to be unlike any in the past as we adjust to Grace starting college and our schedule being filled with even more services and support than last year. This is a blessing. I am grateful for the access and availability of good programs to help meet my boys’ needs, but I’m still not sure how it is all going to mesh together. There will be an absurd amount of moving parts in this year’s schedule. Tyler will have two different reading tutoring sessions twice a week, both an hour away which means we will be gone from 3:30- 7:30 every Tuesday and Thursday. Both boys will continue with trauma therapy every Tuesday and Thursday morning from 10:30-12:30. In addition Ozzie is now also receiving extra therapeutic support in the form of family based therapy in which two therapist come out to the house three days a week. Add to all of that occupational therapy for Tyler, co-op on Wednesdays, church activities, piano lessons, equine therapy for the two boys, and the girls’ work schedules (Grace has now picked up another job of babysitting three days a week from 5:30 am- 8:00 am) and I’m not sure how it will all come together.  I am trusting that the gracious God who delivered these services and support to our family will also align the moving parts into a seamless schedule.

Sunday night was family night. Now that Grace has a Monday night class and Molly will be working regularly on Monday nights, we have moved family night to Sunday evenings…a time that is reserved for family. This week rather than a typical lesson, we had our annual back to school dinner.

IMG_0958 (2)

While everyone was laying down for Sunday naps I snuck into the dinning room to decorate the table for our dinner and lesson. I had fun tapping into my creative juices and making the table look festive with a back-to-school theme.

IMG_0945 (2)IMG_0939 (2)

For dinner I prepared our traditional Sunday meal of spaghetti with meat sauce and Caesar salad.

IMG_0969 (2)

The kids sat down at the table and as we ate we played a school themed trivia game to test everyone’s recall after a hiatus away from school. The game is geared more to Tyler’s age group, allowing him and Ozzie an equal shot of answering the questions as the big kids.

IMG_1001 (2)IMG_0972 (2)

After dinner we cleared away plates to prepare for the lesson part of the evening. Every year as part of our back-to-school dinner Toby and I prayerfully select a quote or a scripture to build our focus around for the upcoming school year. This year we chose the following quote by Gordon B. Hinckley:

IMG_0987 (2)

As we shared it with the kids we talked about the truth of that quote. It isn’t the big, life-changing moments that build our life, but rather the simple and small choices we make daily.


This led into my object lesson. We began by having everyone share something they felt they did successfully the previous school year and then share an area they would like to improve in this upcoming school year. We asked them to envision what they would like this school year to look like and then discussed what small, simple, daily decisions they needed to make to achieve that larger vision.

IMG_0978 (2)

Each one of the kids were given 3 Legos and asked what three goals they wanted to set for themselves that would be the building blocks for their structure of success. They wrote their goals on the Lego bricks and now will be able to use them as a visual reminder of the daily choices they are striving for this school year.

IMG_0992 (2)IMG_0993 (2)IMG_0984 (2)IMG_0991 (2)

We then completed the same exercise with a tower of 5 bricks, which will serve as the family’s goals for the year. We asked the kids what building blocks were most important for a happy, healthy home life and they came up with these 5 areas of focus. This tower of goals will sit on the window ledge in the kitchen and serve as a reminder of the choices we need to be making daily.

IMG_0980 (2)

Then it was time for everyone’s back to school goody bags.

IMG_0966 (2)

This year I went school shopping on my own and put together pencil pockets full of back to school supplies that were reflective of each child. Everyone was thrilled with their new supplies.

IMG_1000 (2)

Is there anything better than new pencils and empty notebooks?!

IMG_0999 (2)

The night ended with lemon meringue pie, Toby’s choice for the family night treat, and back to school blessings.

This year we will have a college freshman:

IMG_0923 (2)

A 11th grader:

IMG_0933 (2)

A 10th grader:

IMG_0931 (2)

A 7th grader:

IMG_0930 (2)

and a 5th grader:

IMG_0927 (2)

Here’s to a happy, healthy, productive, sane school year!

Let the learning begin!