Tag Archives: fall

Cool Springs Corn Maze

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It is nearing the one month mark since our return home.

And while I miss many things about life on the road…

The family time,

Having Toby with us 24/7,

Seeing amazing sites,

Meeting incredible people,

And enjoying the unique vistas of the American west,

I must say I am so glad to be back in Pennsylvania for the month of October, because as uniquely stunning the parks are out west nothing beats a Pennsylvania autumn!

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 October is my favorite month of the year.

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I love the colored leaves, the crisp temperatures, fall sweaters and apple cider. I love the traditions surrounding October like pumpkin carving, costumes, and corn mazes.

 This October has been a bit different than other Octobers with extra challenges resulting from the transition back to reality and Toby’s absence….a true rollercoaster ride of beautiful moments and heartbreaking ones.

Glad/sad seasons are not my favorite seasons of life. I have a hard time navigating the ups and downs of emotions. I find them exhausting, but I do find that they are the seasons that make me feel most alive. There is something about the stark difference in the blessing moments and trial moments that build in us a deeper gratitude, adjust our perspective, and make us appreciate the good days all the more.

 It seems October is a fitting month for a glad/sad season. Like the ever-changing weather of Pennsylvania autumns, we wake not sure what the day will bring. We have had our share of cold, grey days, but then when the sun breaks through the grey and spotlights the rainbow of colors that glow so brilliantly on display, there is such a sense of wonder and gratitude for the blessings.

 Within the struggles we have much to be grateful for!

 And even on the sad days, the hard days, the “I feel so alone days”  God is still there,

 And God is still good!

 On Friday we participated in our annual tradition of wandering through Cool Springs Corn Maze.

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This is always one of my favorite outings of the year. I don’t know what it is about corn mazes that bring me such joy. I love everything about them. I love the smells, the nip in the air, the beauty of the yellow stalks against the blue sky. I love the camaraderie of navigating the maze with friends and the challenge of finding your way back to the entrance…

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 And I love the spiritual analogy that can be found in the journey and how that fun, fall activity can be likened to our mortal journey here on earth.

 Let us consider the journey of navigating a corn maze as seen through spiritual eyes:

 When we arrive we are given a map.

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 While a bit basic and vague, the map gives you a good general overview of the design of the corn maze and paths found within.

 It highlights important stops along the way where additional information can be found.

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 Everyone begins their journey with the same instructions, the same directions, and the same warnings.

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 We all step onto the path and enter through the same gate.

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 From there everyone’s journey differs greatly.

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 Some have an easier time than others, either because of innate skills or because they were blessed with a directionally talented group to travel with.

 Some choose to travel alone, and some travel alone because they have no one to walk with.

 I can testify that traveling with a group is the key to successful navigating. The support of others, the opportunity to learn from others who have gone before you, or simply the opportunity to work with others to solve problems you encounter along the way, makes all the difference.

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 It is a lot more overwhelming and can be a bit frightening to journey alone.

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 (And not nearly as much fun!)

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 Some choose to use the map provided while others discard the map. Some because they feel they don’t need it, others because they choose to wander more aimlessly.

 Either way, they soon discover the error of their ways when they have traveled deep enough into the cornfield that the entrance and exit are out of sight.

It is there in the middle of our journey that we are most likely to get turned around and lost.

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 Suddenly we find ourselves traveling the same loop over and over again, uncertain of how to get off it, or find ourselves facing another dead end.

 Moments like these can be disheartening.

It can be a morale-crusher to find that after all the time and energy spent walking those paths that you haven’t gotten anywhere.

Knowing that we have been working hard to make it safely to the end only to find ourselves facing a wall of cornstalks on a path that leads nowhere is heartbreaking. It can makes the most seasoned travelers want to sit down and cry.

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 But quitting is not an option…

 In life or in corn mazes.

 We can’t just take a seat, declare we won’t be moving any further, and simply live out the remainder of our days in the middle of the corn maze.

 It is in those moments our mettle is tested. We must pull ourselves up by our “oh so muddy” boot straps and find perspective and direction.

 How does one do that?

 1.  Well if we were wise enough to hold onto our map that would be a good place to start. The Lord never asked us to navigate mortality blindly and has lovingly given us all the guidance and direction we seek when lost, if we but stop and read His instructions.

2.  We could ask those who travel with us for help. The Lord knew how trying life would be. He never wanted us to have to navigate the challenges alone. He placed people around us that He knew we would need to listen to us, cry with us, council us, walk with us, and help us find our way back to Him. These people are our friends, our family, and our brothers and sisters in Christ. Even when we think we are wandering alone in a maze of confusion, surrounded by walls on all sides, and feeling utterly hopeless, if we would just call out for help rescuers would come charging in.

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 But the most effective tool when lost in a corn maze is also the simplest…

 Ready??

 “Look Up!”

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 When you are in the middle of the maze, surrounded by a 10-foot-tall wall of corn on all sides, it is easy to lose all sense of direction. But if you stop, and look up at the celestial body overhead, the Sun, and where it rests in the sky, can show you which way to go.

The view from above isn’t confusing. It isn’t distorted. It is so clear. The Lord sees our journey from a celestial perspective. While we don’t have that same aerial view, we can trust that the view of our life plan from above is awesome.

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 We may not see the whole picture, but He does!

 If we but ask, He will lead us through.

 I know that to be true.

 I just sometimes need to be reminded.

 If you find yourself in a corn maze or lost in a life maze it is important to remember that all the tools needed to navigate this unknown world have been given us.

 Use them.

 Trust in them.

 Keep walking.

 Keep trying.

 And don’t forget to

 Look Up!

 

Trunk or Treat- Plan B

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This past Saturday did not go as planned.

It was a “Plan B” sort of day.

The original plan for the day was to host our church’s trunk or treat and fall party at Patchwork Farm. This has become a fun fall tradition. We begin the night with Trunk or Treat, where the kids trick or treat from decorated parked car to decorated parked car down our long driveway.

That is followed by a pot luck dinner of soups. chili and bread with hot apple cider to drink. Throughout the yard there are activities and games for the kids, a bonfire to warm hands and roast marshmallows, and  hay rides in the dark.

The last few weeks we have been stealing every free minute we had to prepare for this big activity. We have assembled games, prepared the yard, and decorated the house.

(Entertaining, as painfully hard as it is for me, gives me the needed push to accomplish long overdue tasks…like decorating for fall!)

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We were just about ready for the big day.

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The last thing to decide was: what to do for our trunk or treat vehicle. The girls offered to man our car so I could organize the arriving crock pots and Toby could direct traffic. They decided that instead of decorating the family van that they would use the school bus that we are in the process of converting to an RV. They decided to dress as Ms. Frizzle and one of her students, and hand out candy from The Magic School Bus. 🙂

Unfortunately they never had the chance…

Saturday brought rainstorms…Ugh.

At 11:00 am the call was made to move the fall party to the church, and those of us in charge of the party had five hours to plan, shop, and somehow transform the gym at church into a fall festival.

The first stop was the dollar store where I bought all those wonderfully tacky/fun Halloween decorations that I never buy for my own home. I must admit I had a lot of fun decorating for Halloween in a new way. With the decorations brought from our homes and $63.00 spent at the Dollar Store we were able to transform the gym.

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Then I drove to the church where I met Toby and the kids and the other ladies that shared the responsibility for making this event happen. Everyone worked so hard setting up tables, decorating the gym, frosting cupcakes, setting up the game stations, and  preparing for the trunk or treat (that would now be held inside.) In a matter of hours a magical transformation occurred. I couldn’t believe it came together in time!

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The

The “chandelier”

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God is Good!

Then people began arriving for trunk or treat. The trunk or treat was arranged to take place indoors due to rain. As families arrived they were assigned a classroom door to decorate and pass candy from. It was fun to see how everyone rallied with Plan B creativity and car decorations became doorway decorations.

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The girls were still planning to man our doorway for us and hand out treats on behalf of our family but the Magic School Bus idea no longer worked…(It just didn’t have the same impact without the school bus. 🙂

So they came up with their own plan B. While they were face painting for Chippewa Township’s community day celebration earlier in the day they talked about what their new theme should be. Inspired by the corn maze the day before they decided to do a Dinosaur themed doorway. They dressed as explorers and decorated with ferns and Dinosaurs with the Jurassic Park theme music playing in the background. They looked so cute!

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The indoor trunk or treat worked out very well. The turnout was great and it was fun to check out the decorations and the costumes everyone came up with.

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The theme for the party seemed to be group costumes with some great family costumes. We had Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the cast of Napoleon Dynamite, Cinderella’s (not so ugly)  ugly step sisters, adorable characters from The Wizard of Oz, and the Despicable Me crew.

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Our group costume never came together. I thought we’d have time to run home, shower, change, and finish assembling our costumes after getting ready for the party, but there was no time, so the girls raided the dress up box during their stop at home and pulled together a costume for each of their brothers to wear. Thank goodness for a well stocked dress up box!

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Tyler liked having an excuse to wear his football uniform. :)

Tyler liked having an excuse to wear his football uniform. 🙂

After “trunk or treat” the party began, starting with dinner.

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Everyone went all out and there was an abundance of yummy food. If anyone went home hungry it was by their own choosing. 🙂

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Dessert was delicious!

The best cupcakes...EVER!

The best cupcakes…EVER!

While parents chatted, the kids had the opportunity to play games located around the gym.

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There was Bowling for Ghosts:

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Halloween Bingo:

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Jack O Lantern drawing:

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Photo Booth:

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Guess How Many game:

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Needle in the Haystack:

Toby. aka Mr. Potato Head, hiding candy in the hay.

Toby. aka Mr. Potato Head, hiding candy in the hay.

and Face Painting (which Grace and Molly volunteered to head up):

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Ozzie got a puppy face.

Ozzie got a puppy face.

It was a fun night and in the end the move indoors was a good call. The rain came down heavy at Patchwork Farm and would have made for a wet, cold, muddy evening.

Granted it wasn’t quite the same experience without the farm animals, bonfire, and hay rides, but it ended up being a fun fall evening,

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made all the better by the wonderful families that participated!

Simmons Farm

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Four times a year 21st Century Cyber Charter School (The teens’ school) plans outings on the western side of the state. Because we don’t get to see the older kids’ teachers very often, we try to attend as many of these outings as we can manage. Thursday was one of these outings. It was being held an hour south of where we live at Simmons Farm.

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Last year they held an outing at this same location. We attended last year, enjoyed it, and so we decided to sign up again.

You really can’t beat the price. The cost was $5.00/person and for that cost you received access to all the fun fall activities the farm had to offer including hay rides, corn mazes, play equipment, pedal carts, free apples and cider for the family, as well as every participant receiving a free full size pumpkin they could pick themselves from the pumpkin patch…

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Molly picking her pumpkin.

What a Deal!

When we arrived our school group, which was composed of around 25 people, climbed onto the hay wagon for the ride out to the lower field where all the activities were taking place.

Some of the McCleery/Hudak crew.

Some of the McCleery/Hudak crew.

When we arrived at the field the first stop was the pumpkin patch. The kids all picked a pumpkin to carve next week for family night.

Grace found hers!

Grace found hers!

Ozzie found his!

Ozzie found his!

After everyone was done picking their pumpkin AND their free ear of Indian corn we were given free rein to explore the fun play equipment.

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They had a tire swing,

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A hill slide that you rode down on in a burlap sack,

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An apple maze,

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Tires to climb,

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A hay bale maze,

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Rusty crawling through the hay bale maze.

and a fire truck turned play set that was a HUGE hit with Ozzie.

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After an hour of fun we took a break from playing to each lunch. Every family packed their own lunch but were given complimentary apples and cider to enjoy. The teachers also provided chips, bottled water and sweet treats.

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YUM...Red DELICIOUS.

YUM…Red DELICIOUS.

After lunch everyone grabbed their pumpkin for a group photo with the teachers.

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Then it was time for the corn maze. There were two corn mazes:

A simple beginner corn maze

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Tyler running ahead of the pack…

And a more challenging one that required us to seek out check points through the corn maze where we answered questions and punched our team’s card.

For this maze we split into three teams with each of the teachers leading a team. Most of our family was with Mr. Chu.

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Tyler and Ozzie proved to be an invaluable asset to the team as they served as the team scouts, running ahead down paths to see if they were dead ends before we walked too far in the wrong direction. Their scouting ability saved us many extra steps!

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Finally we found a positive use for Tyler’s abundance of energy. 🙂

After the corn maze we had 30 minutes left to play before the hay wagon came to pick us up.

The group played “musical crates,”

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And then had races with the pedal carts.

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Olivia and Grace giving their science teacher a push. Could this count as a physics lesson? :)

Olivia and Grace giving their science teacher a push. Could this count as a physics lesson? 🙂

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It was a fun day made even better by the addition of friends tagging along.

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The day, and all the fun activities, made it feel all the more like autumn!

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“I am so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” – Anne of Green Gables

“Hustle, Hit, Never Quit”

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Well, it is official. Football season has officially begun. After three weeks of nightly practices Tyler and his team, the Blackhawk Cougars, played their first game against the Rochester Rams. Their first game was Saturday, immediately following Gracie’s Storybook Day.

The start of football season always brings a mix of emotions as I attempt to temper that part of myself that abhors team sports while acknowledging the blessings I am seeing in Tyler’s life as a result of playing football.

I face game days with a knot of worry in the pit of my stomach while at the same time getting caught up in the air of excitement and camaraderie that is found in the bleachers of a football game.

Tyler is an athlete and during the months of August through November he lives and breathes football, and while I can’t relate to that sort of passion for sports, I respect his drive and his focus.

Tyler is such a contradiction. While at times his ADHD is so textbook with his inability to pay attention or sit still there are other times, like on the field, where he is intensely focused and driven. As he bends over the ball, waiting to hear his teammate call “hike,” he doesn’t move. There is no distraction. There is no wiggling. There is no messing around.

He is solely focused on the task at hand and job he has to do.

As a mother I delight in seeing this other side of Tyler.

This year his is playing a few positions of his team. (He is #20) He is the center for the offense,

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he plays safety for defense,

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and he is the kicker for the team. Being kicker is his favorite position.

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While I do enjoy watching him play football I find game time very stressful. I don’t realize how tense I am until the final buzzer sounds and the boys line up to shake hands with the opposing team. Then I breathe. Watching Tyler walk off the field is my favorite part of the game. 🙂

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It was a great game made all the more exciting by the closely matched teams. Here is a peak into some of Tyler’s plays.

Tyler tackling:

Tyler kicking:

Their team ended up the victors with a winning touchdown by Dante:

Way to go, Cougars!

Co-op Halloween Fun!

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Wednesday was our home school co-op’s Halloween party. The kids were up early to get all dolled up in their Halloween costumes before we had to leave to drop Ozzie off at school.

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The cast from “Up.” Young Carl, young Ellie, Kevin and Dug.

The usual schedule was altered to allow time for our party at the end of the day. Rotating through 45 minute blocks, the kids did their history, science, art and music classes with their classmates before we met in the basement of the church for lunch, games and trick or treating.

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Lunch was a pot luck smorgasbord of yummy dishes like spider bites (cookies), ogre fingers (hot dogs), cheesy slugs (mac and cheese) and monster vomit (fruit salad).

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Following lunch we split the kids in groups of 6-7 kids to rotate through a series of Halloween games that were run by the moms.

The "Eww gross" touchy feely box was a hit with the little kids.

The “Eww gross” touchy feely box was a hit with the little kids.

The kids racing to pick up marshmallows with chopsticks.

The kids raced to pick up marshmallows with chopsticks.

In the elephant walk game the kids had to knock over a set of bottles using only their "trunks." This was a fun game to watch!

In the elephant walk game the kids had to knock over a set of bottles using only their “trunks.” This was a fun game to watch!

The mummy races were also very entertaining!

The mummy races were also very entertaining!

Gracie and Viola

Gracie and Viola

Halloween BINGO!

Halloween BINGO!

Donut eating races were fun and messy!

Donut eating races were fun and messy!

Gracie and Olivia got the giggles during the donut race. :)

Gracie and Olivia got the giggles during the donut race. 🙂

One of the favorite stations was the dark room filled with glow in the dark games.

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The day ended with trick or treating. The moms stationed themselves around the outside of the room and the kids walked mom to mom, collecting their treats.

Trick or Treating

Trick or Treating

My kids had a blast with all their friends. It was fun having some of our previous co-op friends come and join us as well. We finished packing up just in time to pick up Ozzie from school then it was dinner, costume changes, and off to Beaver Valley Rehab Unit for round two of a fun-filled day.

*Stay tuned for round two!*

Trunk or Treat

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On Saturday night we had the opportunity to open up our home for our church’s annual fall party and “trunk or treat.” Much of the day on Saturday was spent preparing for this fun activity. The kids were huge helps as we prepared the house and yard for company.

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The evening consisted of two parts. First, beginning at 5:30, was Trunk or Treat for the kids. Families that wanted to participate came early to set up and decorate their car for the trick or treaters that would be moving trunk to trunk. Since we had parked our cars away from the house to free up parking for visitors, Grace and Rusty set up a card table as their “trunk” to hand out candy on behalf of our family. In honor of their Halloween costumes this year they had an “UP” themed “trunk.”

Ellie and Carl

Ellie and Carl

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The turnout for “Trunk or Treat” was wonderful, due in a large part to the beautiful weather. We couldn’t have asked for better conditions. It was sunny and the temperature was ideal. Perfect for a fall party!

"Trunk or Treat"

“Trunk or Treat”

Grace handing out candy.

Grace handing out candy.

When Trunk or Treat was completed it was time for part 2 of the evening…dinner and games!

Everyone was asked to bring chili or soup to share. There was also bread and butter, hot dogs for the kids, the makings for s’mores and of course hot apple cider.

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This was Ozzie’s first Trunk or Treat and he loved it! He especially enjoyed the games…

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There was “Ewww Gross,” a grossly fun opportunity to feel “brains,” “eyeballs,” and “witch’s tongues,” among other things.

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The kids enjoyed “Needle in the Haystack,” where they had the chance to dig through a pile of hay in search of treats and treasures.

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“Bowling for Ghosts” is always a hit!

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The kids had the chance to earn jars of candy in the “Guess how Many” game.

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The big hit of night for Tyler and some of the other little boys was the “Touchdown” football toss.

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In addition to the games there was the “Draw you best monster face” activity at the chalkboard…

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Fun around the campfire…

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And, of course, hayrides!!

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It was a beautiful night spent with wonderful friends.

We are so blessed to have such a great church family!

The following day Harley enjoyed the leftover games from the party. His favorite??

Finding the candy left in the haystack 😉

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The full gamut of emotions

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There are months that hold the entire range of human emotions. It is like a rollercoaster ride through the ups of victory and the falls of defeat. Sometimes you have weeks that put you through the same wave of emotions and once in a while, every now and then, it happens in a day.

24 hours of the highest highs and the lowest lows.

Joy, fear, eagerness, heartbreak, satisfaction, disappointment, elation and defeat…all in one short day.

Thursday was one of those days. By bedtime I felt all wrung out by the gamut of emotions  felt that day.

First there was heartbreak:

We got the call, following Ozzie’s court hearing, that the judge changed his mind about Ozzie’s adoption day. November 22nd simply wouldn’t work for him. The celebration that Ozzie was anticipating for his adoption on National Adoption day…the photographer, the cake, the balloon animals were being stolen from him because it wasn’t a good day for his judge.

“We will fit in it some other time,” he said. “What’s a few more weeks when Ozzie’s waited this long?”

What is one more month? One more week? One more day?

Well, to a kid who has been counting the days until he has a forever family a few more weeks is everything.

*Sigh*

That is how the day began (but it is not how it ended!)

Then there was anxiety:

Thursday was our big preparation day for the church activity that was being held at our home on Saturday. I fought feelings of being completely overwhelmed when I looked at the “to-do” list I was facing. Luckily the big kids had the day off  school and were huge helps. It actually ended up being a really fun craft/project day with the kids, as everyone pitched in and helped get ready for the party.

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Decorations and games completed.

Decorations and games completed.

Then there were feelings of celebration:

Gracie got back news that she had passed her two Keystone tests that she had taken earlier in the year. The Keystone exams are assessments that Pennsylvania requires for graduation. Last spring she had to take her Algebra and Biology Keystones. She felt a huge sense of relief that those two test are passed and now behind her for good!

There was gratitude:

I received a special surprise in the mailbox. My dear Mom and Dad sent a Halloween card with money to buy pizza for dinner on Halloween. Knowing how crazy Halloween can be my parents wanted to lighten our load and treat us to a fun dinner. That sweet card and surprise made my day and made me so grateful for such loving parents!

There was relief:

On Friday Ozzie had his tooth fixed. Ozzie has two bonded teeth in the front from when he flipped over scooter handlebars at a previous foster home. After chipping his front teeth twice before we had to go back in to have one of his teeth fixed again. Tis time, however, his dentist said he could do it in the office, thus saving us a trip down to Pittsburgh (Children’s hospital). I picked up Ozzie from school, drove him 10 minutes away and was in and out in 30 minutes. It was wonderful! The dentist did a great job and it was nice to find out that when it does break again (the dentist guarantees he will) we will be able to have it fixed so quick and easily.

Before:

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After:

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There was joy:

We spent time carving our pumpkins on Thursday night. There is such joy when we get to experience a “first” with our adoptive sons This was no exception. This is Ozzie’s first Halloween with us and his first time carving pumpkins with us. I love the family traditions that come with the holidays. Those silly  rituals like carving pumpkins and decorating eggs create family unity and are at the heart of  our sweetest family memories. It is fun to see  each child’s individual method of completing the task. I have some that are eager to get to the finish line and others that are seeking perfection in their carved creations. Those are the ons that could spend hours carving. The end results reflect their individual styles. 🙂

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Ellie wanted  in on the fun!

Ellie wanted in on the fun!

Rusty's completed pumpkin

Rusty’s completed pumpkin

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Ozzie's pumpkin

Ozzie’s pumpkin

Molly's pumpkin

Molly’s pumpkin

Gracie's pumpkin

Gracie’s pumpkin

This evening which began on such a happy note brought us to our next emotion…

Then there was sadness:

When we were done carving we gathered all the “pumpkin guts” and took them out to the animals. Molly’s goat Thor, who was his usually bouncy self only an hour earlier, was laying on the ground. We knew something was wrong when he didn’t  bounce to his feet to greet his momma, Molly. Within  minutes he was weezing. We called Toby, who was just minutes away, after traveling all day (more about that later) . Toby loaded him in the truck and raced him to the Vet’s office where he died 30 minutes later on the table. Needless to say, much of the joy we were feeling an hour earlier, dissipated and a sadness fell on our home. Molly weeped and the injustice of such a sad loss hurt all of our hearts.

Thor

Thor

Toby returned home and amid the grief we felt peace:

Daddy was home!  Toby had been gone two LONG days. On Wednesday morning he had flown down to Florida to pick up a truck he had purchased. He had officially outgrown his little truck and with the size of the jobs he is now doing he needed  greater hauling/towing capabilities. In typical Toby fashion he met a man who knew a man who had a truck for sale at an amazing price. The truck in a 2004 with low miles. It was being sold for a fraction of the price of similar trucks around here so he jumped at this deal and had been driving it back home for the last two days. We were relieved to have him home and the kids were eager to check out his big new truck. Ozzie and Tyler were especially impressed. I was just happy to have him home, safe and sound.

Toby's new truck

Toby’s new truck

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The night ended with celebration:

The day ended on a high note. After much disappointment from our morning call with the social worker we were thrilled to get a “good news”call in the evening from the foster/adoptive mom of Ozzie’s sister, Zoey. She too was to adopt on November 22nd and when she found out what the judge had said she spent the day working the phones. After pleading our case to all that would listen, to no avail, she decided to call our judge directly. Well, a miracle happened. The judge’s heart was softened and he consented to allow us to take part in the National Adoption Day celebration at the courthouse and adopt each of our kiddos on November 22nd.

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Ozzie celebrating!

I suppose we all have days like that. When the emotions of the day take you on a wild ride. I just feel so blessed that we were able to end our day on such a high note. Ozzie will be ours, officially, in 26 days!

God is good.

Always good.

Living Treasures Animal Park

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After arriving home from our day on the train we had about an hour to get everyone fed, in costume and out the door for field trip #2. This field trip, also sponsored by Molly’s school, was a field trip to Living Treasures Animal Park. We were thrilled about this outing. It is a favorite place of ours and thanks to the family membership that my parents bought Tyler for his adoption gift, it was a free outing for us. Yea!

Although we have been to Living Treasures many times this experience was new to us because it was a nighttime viewing. The kids were told if they came in costume they would receive a goody bag so the kids got dressed in their Halloween costumes and we were ready to go!

Tyler, my little Power Ranger :)

Tyler, my little Power Ranger 🙂

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When we arrived we met up with many of our co-op friends…

Everyone dressed up, ready for a night of fun!

Everyone dressed up, ready for a night of fun!

The park had an entirely different feel at night. Torches had been lit along the pathways and visitors brought flashlights to better see the animals. It was fun to see the nocturnal animals up and active, although just about all the animals became active when they heard the feed we purchased falling into their dishes. 🙂

Exploring in the dark.

Exploring in the dark.

This big baby was a hit with everyone!

This big baby was a hit with everyone!

Ozzie loved hand feeding the animals...that is until he actually "hand fed" a horse. The horse bite made him a bit more hesitant to feed the critters. :)

Ozzie loved hand feeding the animals…that is until he actually “hand fed” a horse. The horse bite made him a bit more hesitant to feed the critters. 🙂

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Halfway through the park we stopped at the playground for the boys to play.

Halfway through the park we stopped at the playground for the boys to play.

Levi, the giraffe, was another favorite of the kids!

Levi, the giraffe, was another favorite of the kids!

The night ended in the petting area where the kids were able to hand feed and pet baby goats, baby camels, baby reindeer  and baby pigs.

Ozzie was a little excited...can you tell?

Ozzie was a little excited…can you tell?

It was fun experiencing Living Treasures in a new way. It was also really fun having Toby and Ozzie join us for one of our school field trips!

A wonderful time was had by all!

A week of field trips

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This week is our week of field trips! We teach our children at home with the use of cyber charter schools. We have been schooling our children this way for the last 10 years and up until last year all the kids attended the same school. Last year we made some changes. In an effort to better meet the needs of each child we separated them into different schools that better fit each child. Grace and Rusty belong to one school, Molly to another and Tyler to a different one. Ozzie attends our local public school, at least for now. With three different schools comes many field trip opportunities. This week we had three separate field trips all hit in one week. Yesterday was a field trip with 21st Century Cyber School- Grace and Rusty’s school.

Since Grace and Rusty’s school is headquartered on the east side of the state just outside of Philadelphia most of the outing that are offered are too far to travel to, so when they come west we try to make an effort to attend. For my kids, whose interaction with teachers is primarily via the computer, the opportunity to meet teachers face to face is a treat. Yesterday Grace was able to meet her World Geography teacher:

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And Rusty was able to meet his home room teacher:

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Our field trip was to Simmons farm. A beautiful local farm located just south of Pittsburgh. It was about an hour drive for us to get there.

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When we arrived we were surprised to find that only two other families had signed up. The small number, however, made for a fun, intimate day with those who attended. The kids were able to really get to know their teachers and get a lot of undivided attention. 🙂

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The day began with a hayride out to the fields where we were allowed to all pick a pumpkin to take home:

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We were amazed by the large selection of HUGE pumpkins to pick from. The kids all went in search of the largest pumpkin they could find. When I stipulated that they must be able to carry their own pumpkin back to the car Tyler set down the large pumpkin he was carrying and exchanged it for something smaller. The big kids, however, picked the largest pumpkins they could find!

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The day was full of fun activities at the farm. There were slides, games, hay mazes and rock mazes…

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One of the biggest hits of the day, however, were the petal carts. The teachers decided it would be fun to race them. Round one was the teachers pushing the students…

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Round two: the students pushed the teachers. 🙂

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After lunch we headed, as a group, into the corn maze. Unlike our last corn maze, this corn maze did not come with a map. This led to a lot of aimless wandering before we found our way to the exit. 🙂 Tyler loved it!

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The day ended with complementary apple cider and apples picked at the farm. They were both delicious and tasted like fall!

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It was a beautiful day at a beautiful farm.

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Thank you 21st Century Cyber School!

Today we have two more field trips lined up…This time with Molly’s school.

“Not all those who wander are lost”

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J.R.R. Tolkien once said, “Not all those who wander are lost.” No place is this more true than in a corn maze.  Those who know me know that I have a special love for corn mazes.  I don’t know what it is but there is something magical about wandering through the high corn on uncharted paths that makes me feel like Alice on a Wonderland adventure.  It is like stumbling into a secret world and becoming 10 years old again…I get absolutely giddy.  This weekend Molly’s school sponsored an outing at a corn maze that I just couldn’t resist  taking the family to.  We had just finished a busy week as Gracie pushed to get all the work she needed for the first quarter done by 4:00pm Friday so an evening at a corn maze seemed like a fun way to celebrate  a great first quarter of school.

Coolspring Corn Maze

Coolspring Corn Maze

 The corn maze we went to was located in Mercer county and was about an hour drive for us. The kids and I had visited this corn maze last year but Toby had never been there before. The drive there took us through beautiful farmland colored with fall leaves. Along the way we passed many Amish families in buggies. We were all dressed extra warmly because the temperature had dropped and it was only getting colder as the evening went on. When we arrived and stepped out of the car it was a fall feast for the senses…there were beautiful fall decorations to look at, the sound of children laughing and calling to each other, and the air was filled with the smell of hot apple cider and pumpkin donuts.

Miss Molly

Miss Molly

The theme for this year’s corn maze was “The American Cowboy.”  The maze was cut out in the shape of a rodeo rider.

An aerial view of the cornmaze.

An aerial view of the corn maze.

The kids decided that they wanted to enjoy some of the extra activities that the farm offered while the sun was still shining and then do the maze after it got a bit darker. They had never done a nighttime maze before and were looking forward to navigating the paths using only the flashlights they brought. There were very few people there. I think the cold weather probably scared a lot of customers off, so we didn’t have to battle any crowds. The kids headed first to the hay barn to climb and play tag on the stacks of hay bales. Toby and I had fun watching them play and visiting uninterrupted. 🙂

Playing on the hay.

Playing on the hay.

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We then headed to the pedal tractors where the boys did a few laps around the track.

"Go Speed Racer!"

“Go Speed Racer!”

Toby then took them over to the pumpkin cannon where he let each of them try their hand at pumpkin blasting.  The field was set up with wooden zombies.  If you hit the wooden zombie in the bullseye with a pumpkin you won a T-shirt.  None of the kids hit the bullseye (Rusty was the closest) but they all had fun trying!

Tyl.er and Toby with the pumpkin cannon

Tyler and Toby with the pumpkin cannon

Molly shooting pumpkins.

Molly shooting pumpkins.

The next stop was the hayride which we decided to pass on.  We thought it was too cold to sit still for a half an hour on the back of a wagon, so after a quick visit to the bathrooms we headed into the corn maze.  Tyler wanted to lead the way and since we had no time limits or planned destination we let him.  We wandered for about 30 minutes, following his lead, as he consulted his map with the flashlight.  Finally, in exasperation, he threw up his hands and said, “I can’t read this thing!” Holding up his map we realized that he had been “following” the crossword puzzle on the back of the map rather than the map of the corn maze.  Rusty decided to take over as point man. 🙂

Tyler in the lead...

Tyler in the lead…

Those who wander..

Those who wander..

As part of the corn maze experience there were posts located around the corn maze with historical facts about cowboys and the Wild West.  The goal was to find all these posts using your map and fill in the answers to the crossword puzzle on the back.  The kids had a lot of fun with this and we got a little history time logged as well. 😉  After about an hour of wandering through the corn we came to the exit which dropped us off at a life-size board game. It was very cool. Using paving stones they had created a Chutes and Ladders sort of game.  Using a spinner the kids moved around the game as human game pieces. Molly won the game.

Finding clues...

Finding clues…

A life size game!

A life size game!

Sisters!

Sisters!

When we were all done playing we walked back up to the hay barn so that the kids could play for a bit longer before we left for home.  Toby stopped at the concession stand and bought everyone a homemade pumpkin donut to enjoy  before we left.  They were delicious!  A sweet ending to an “a-MAZE-ing” evening. 🙂

YUM!

YUM!