Tag Archives: farm

There’s No Place like home for the Holidays…Part 1

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From the time I was a young girl, my favorite day of the Christmas season was always Christmas Eve. I don’t know if it was the joy of anticipation, or the magic evening my parents and grandparents created so selflessly. It could have been Christmas Eve mass, or the activities that followed: the appetizers and Christmas play that were performed by a group of untalented, yet eager children, whose talents were applauded as though they were Broadway stars. It could have been the feel of soft, new, unworn Christmas pajamas or the silence that settled in the room as my siblings and I listened for the sound of sleigh bells, willing our eyes to get heavy before Santa passed us by.

Perhaps it was a combination of all of these things.

To this day Christmas Eve is still my favorite day of the Christmas season. I am now one of the “Christmas makers” rather than a receiver of the gift, but there is still something magical in the air as we await the blessings of Christmas day.

And there is no place I would rather await the magic of Christmas than with my family, at the Homestead.

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 December 24th everyone woke and got right to work. There is a lot of work that goes into preparing the farm animals for our absence and moving all the Christmas supplies to Ohio for two days. There are stockings to pack, animals to feed, appetizers to pack in the cooler, and gifts to load in the trailer. There were too many people and too many bags to drive one vehicle so Toby drove his truck, pulling his trailer, while Grace drove my car. It was her longest driving stint since she passed her permit test and although she had to drive unfamiliar roads in Christmas traffic she did a beautiful job getting us safely to the Homestead in just under 3 hours.

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 When we arrived we greeted Uncle Travis, who was visiting from Texas, and G.G. (my grandma) who was visiting from Florida. The only thing that would have made the holidays even better is if my sister and her family could have joined us from Michigan.

When we arrived, G.G. had a surprise for Ozzie. She had finished knitting his stocking. He now has a personalized stocking to match the rest of the family’s stockings. It is a special gift that my grandmother has blessed all the family members with. She has knit dozens and dozens of Christmas stockings over the years as new spouses have married into the family, new babies have been born and little boys have been adopted.

It made the adoption feel all the more official as Ozzie held his new stocking.

As I took the photo I reflected on God’s hand in our lives. Last year God brought Ozzie into our lives when we volunteered to take Ozzie and his sister in for Christmas. They had no place to go. It was a special Christmas as we were able to be part of something blessed and holy. Who would have thought, 12 months later, that little boy would be our son and our family would be +1. It is humbling to see how much life can change over the course of a year.

Ozzie was also reflecting on the previous year when he said, “This year I have my own family.”

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Ozzie and G.G.

For dinner on Christmas Eve it is our tradition is to have appetizers. It adds to the festive, fun atmosphere to eat on our laps and enjoy dips and treats instead of a sit down meal.

The Christmas eve spread...YUM!

The Christmas eve spread…YUM!

Like the Christmas eves of my childhood, the kids all received new Christmas PJs.

Posing for G.G.

Posing for G.G.

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On Christmas eve the kids have also continued the tradition of putting on a play or a variety show for the adults’ entertainment. This year the big kids did a selection of songs from the movie “Frozen” hoping the good vibes would bring snow. (No such luck. It was in the 50’s and muddy.)

"Love is an open door."

“Love is an open door.”

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There was also our traditional “white elephant” gag gift exchange and family games. This year we had fun playing “Heads up.”

Playing "Heads Up!"

Playing “Heads Up!”

Brothers :)

Brothers 🙂

The real magic of the evening, however, happened in the humble surroundings of hay and animals. There in the darkness of the night, we gathered in the barn, that was lit only with luminaries, lanterns and the glow of the tree, and my father read to us the story of Christ’s birth.

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It was dusty, and damp, and…Holy.

For a moment we stepped away from the pile of presents and the shine of tinsel and we returned to where the story all began…

In a simple stable,

with family gathered,

and animals around.

After reading the Christmas story my parents shared with the kids the legend of the animals and the magic that happens each Christmas Eve at midnight….

The Night The Animals Talked

“In the frosty mountains and on the snowy fields of Norway, there is a legend that draws children to all kinds to stables and stalls throughout the country on each Christmas Eve night. They are hoping to hear a miracle. They are waiting to hear the animals talk.

Over 2,000 years ago, Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem. This was no abandoned place, but was a working stable, filled with animals of all kinds. Into these humble surroundings, encircled by the innocent creatures of God, the Savior of man came into the world.

Now according to legend, at least, Christ’s birth occurred at exactly midnight. Inside the stable, the animals watched in wonder as the new-born babe was lovingly wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger. Suddenly, God gave voice to the animals and immediately they began to praise God for the miracle they had just seen. This went on for several minutes and, just before the entrance of the shepherds — who had hurried to the stable because angels had told them the Christ had been born there — the animals again fell silent. The only humans who had heard them were Mary, Joseph and, of course, the Christ child.

The legend of the talking animals persists to this day in Scandinavia. And every Christmas Eve, wide-eyed children creep into stables just before midnight to hear the animals praise God for the wondrous birth of His Son. Of course, adults scoff at this. “Old wives tales,” they grump. “Those children should be home in bed, not out in the cold waiting for the family cow to preach a sermon.”

But the children know — or at least believe — that animals really do praise God at midnight every Christmas Eve. And who of us — those who believe in an all-powerful God — can say that it really doesn’t happen.”

 (by: Ed Price)

We then read from the book, Manger, which is a compiled series of poems written in the voices of the animals that were there for Christ’s birth, on that holy night. We passed the book around, as we sat on the hay, each taking a turn to read an animal’s poem.

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Rusty had somebody reading over his shoulder 🙂

Then we tucked in the animals and said good night. The kids talked of sneaking back out at midnight to listen at the barn door. 🙂

 

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 It was then time for bed. Santa’s cookies we placed on a plate, a cup of eggnog at its side, and reindeer food was tossed in the air in anticipation of Rudolph’s arrival.

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Magic reindeer food!

The little ones were then tucked into bed so that the real magic could begin.

Choppin’ Wood

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If you were to Stop by Patchwork Farm, unexpectedly, in the month of November you might have trouble finding us. The key to our location can be found in the distant hum of a chainsaw. If you follow the sound you will find that we can usually be found on the back forty, putting up our wood supply for winter. We have an outdoor wood burning furnace that we love. It keeps the house nice and toasty for a fraction of the cost of propane. Although heating with wood cost little financially, it isn’t free. There is an investment of time and energy that goes into keeping our home warm, and November is when we pay much of that premium. November is when we evaluate where we stand after a season of collecting and stacking wood and we see how much more wood is needed to get us through the cold winter months.

This past Saturday was the first of a few long Saturdays that will be spent cutting, splitting, and stacking wood.

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Putting up wood for the winter is a family project with everyone involved. We have runners, movers and stackers.

Toby is our chainsaw man. 🙂

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As the kids worked hard in the chilly November weather they learned the lesson that Henry Ford taught when he said:

“Chop your own wood and it will warm you twice.”

As they lifted and hauled heavy logs they got the benefit of the first warming. This winter when their hard labor makes for toasty rooms, they will enjoy the second warming.” 🙂

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.

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.

Let Autumn Begin!

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“I am so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” – L.M. Montgomery

October is by far my favorite month of the year but it also is usually the busiest; full of fall parties, service projects, leaf raking, Halloween fun, corn mazes and field trips. As I look at the next thirty days of the calendar, hanging on the fridge, no day remains untouched. I have to stop myself when I find my heart palpitating at the sight of all that ink and remind myself that these are simply the blessings that keep my life full… and that it is good.

Our first fall get together occurred on Saturday night when we invited some friends from our home school co-op over for a bonfire. For Rusty’s 13th birthday he wanted to have his dearest friends and their families over for hot dogs, s’mores, and night games.

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Rusty invited three families over. For dinner we had hot dogs over the fire, baked beans, chips, salads, and of course hot apple cider. The weather was ideal. It was dry and cool and felt like fall.

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While the kids played, the adults had a chance to visit and keep warm by the fire. When the sun dropped below the hills the real fun began. The kids were excited to have friends over after dark so that they could play night games. They decided they would play capture the flag in the dark and glow sticks were handed out to help everyone keep track of each other.

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Grace and Rusty were team captains. Boundaries for the game were discussed and then teams were chosen.

Team 1

Team 1

Team 2

Team 2

For the next hour all we heard were shouts and squeals coming from the corners of the property while the adults enjoyed the tranquility of the fire and the absence of the children. Soon the kids were cold and ready to eat again. Cake was brought out, gifts were opened and everyone enjoyed some fun friend time before everyone headed home.

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Happy birthday Rusty and welcome fall!

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A Boy and his Dog

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“Frogs and snails and puppy dog tails..

that is what little boys are made of.”

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“Dogs have a way of finding the people who need them and filling an emptiness we didn’t even know we had.”

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Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” – Roger Caras

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“A dog has no use for fancy cars, big homes or designer clothes. A water log stick will do just fine. A dog doesn’t care if you are rich or poor, clever or dull, smart or dumb. Give him your heart and he’ll give you his. How many people can you say that about? How many people can make you feel rare, and pure, and special? How many people can make you feel extraordinary?” – Marley and Me

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“A boy and his dog make a glorious pair; no better friendship is found anywhere.” – Edgar Guest

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“Every once in a while a dog enters your life and changes everything.”

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Live like someone left the gate open.” 🙂

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“The greatest pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him, and not only will he not scold you, but he will make a fool of himself too.” – Samuel Butler

Breakdowns = Breakthroughs

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“The kids who need the most love will ask for it in the most unloving ways.”

The last few days have been tough. If I am being honest, the last few weeks have been tough. Having Ozzie home full-time (since school break began) has been an adjustment for everyone…him, the other kids, and me. Being together full-time has magnified the behaviors we were seeing a little bit of while he was in school and providing opportunities to deal with the bigger heart issues that are now revealing themselves.

When Tyler moved in the judge gave us permission to home school him from the start. As a result we jumped into full-time parenting and bonding from day 1. Those that have followed this blog from the beginning remember what those first 6 months were like….UGH! 🙂 When Ozzie moved in his judge required him to attend our local public school. As a result, even though he has lived with us for 5 months, we are just now beginning the intensive parenting/bonding process that comes from spending 24 hours a day together. It is only through time and togetherness that our real selves, our deep issues, our greatest fears and sharpest edges are exposed. That is what is happening now…with all of us. This last month has been a time of discovery as we have seen the best and worst of Ozzie as well as the best and worst of ourselves.

When you prepare for adoption you are told that there will often be a “honeymoon period,” a block of time at the beginning when everyone is on their best behavior and the sailing is smooth. With time and increased trust and comfort our real selves are revealed and our demons are exposed. One simply cannot “hold it together” forever and at some point we break. For an abused child that break happens as a result of increased trust as well as a need to test that building trust.

Our tough week began last Friday when Ozzie’s social worker brought a few more boxes of his possessions from his previous foster family’s home. In the box was a scrapbook from his last pre-adoptive placement. He has eager to show me the pictures inside. On the first page were pictures of a celebration. There were decorations, fancy clothes and a cake that read, “Welcome home Ozzie and Zoey to your forever family!” There were pictures of the parents hugging and loving on the kids. The book was filled with happy family moments and to look at it you would assume it was the perfect family. Ozzie and his sister were only there 5 months, the same amount of time he has been with us. I don’t know the whole story as to why the placement failed other than knowing that the parents asked the children be moved. They said that the kids were too much for them.

It was after sharing this walk down memory lane with Ozzie that the behaviors we have been seeing for weeks escalated.

The final breakdown led to our breakthrough. Here is what happened…

The day began with tears. Ozzie woke up in a grumpy mood. As we sat in the livingroom Rusty was eagerly sharing his excitement about Scout camp next week. When I asked him what he was most excited about Ozzie interrupted and said, “I am most excited for Rusty to leave for a week so I don’t have to see him.” After attempting to mend the hurt feelings and anger that his words created I sent Ozzie outside to do his morning chores. There were tears as the other kids poured out the hurt they have been feeling this last week as they have dealt with tantrums, mean words, hitting, and fighting from their little brother.

After having a good talk with the older three I headed outside to check on the two little boys. As I approached I found Tyler in the animal pen helping Ozzie by scooping the old water from the trough. Harley, our pot belly pig, likes to soak in the water trough much to the disgust of the other animal who drink that water. 🙂 So part of filling the trough often requires taking a bucket and scooping the dirty water out first. Ozzie hates the scooping part of his job so Tyler volunteered to scoop while Ozzie filled it with the hose. I walked onto the scene as Tyler was scooping water while Ozzie was sprayed Tyler’s bike with water. Ozzie didn’t know I was behind him as Tyler asked him not to get his bike wet. Ozzie laughed and turned the hose on the bike again.

“Ozzie!” I called out behind him.

He jumped in surprise and quickly replied, “It was an accident!”

The boys finished filling the water as I supervised. When they were done I told Tyler to bring me Ozzie’s bike so that he could have a turn spraying it. It was then that Ozzie flipped out. “No,” he yelled, “nobody is going to spray my bike! My bike is special! Tyler don’t you touch my bike!”

Tyler was walking across the yard when Ozzie took off and tackled Tyler from behind. I ran over as Ozzie sat on Tyler and started hitting him and clawing him with his nails.

I pulled Ozzie off Tyler. Tyler was crying. Molly was looking panicked, Rusty was running to turn the hose off and Grace had smoke pouring from her ears.

*sigh*

 Ozzie was defiant. I told Ozzie that if he was going to get Tyler’s bike wet than Tyler could spray his bike.

“But my stuff is special!” he kept yelling as he threw himself on the ground…kicking, screaming, and hitting himself in the head.

It was then I scooped him up and carried him out to the fence post, in the corner of the field, to cool off. The entire way he fought me. He kicked, he clawed, and then sat down on the ground, refusing to move. It was a flashback to 2 years ago. It was a full-blown Tyler tantrum. The only difference being the lack of body mass and strength that Tyler had to fight me with. I scooped him up and placed him on the fence and told him that when he calmed down we would talk. I sent the other kids inside while he screamed from his perch…

“I hate you all!”

“I’m going to crush you Tyler!

“Nobody touches my stuff!”

“I’m always the victim!”

I water and weeded and did yard work while he raged. I stayed close by but let him burn out before we talked. I learned with Tyler that there is no communicating in the midst of the storm. I have to let them rage until they are exhausted. I always stay by them as they rage so they know they are not abandoned or alone but they must release that anger before the healing can come. Then there is the crash. The rigidity and tension leave their little bodies and they are exposed. The wall falls and I can see their hearts.

Ozzie’s tantrum lasted almost four hours from beginning to end. When he was done screaming I walked over to him.

“Can we talk?” I asked.

“This is how I always act,” he said.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“In my old homes,” he answered, “this is how I always was. At my birth home and my foster homes I always hit and yelled and lied and did really bad things. That is why they always got rid of me.”

There it was. The heart revealed. The anger was a wall hiding a broken heart. The behavior was a protection from more hurt.

I gathered him in my arms and whispered, “You aren’t going anywhere. There is nothing you can do to make us send you away. You are here forever. You are family.”

I pulled back and smiled at him. “You might be spending a lot of time on the fence post if you keep making the same choices but it will be our fence post because you’re not going anywhere.” 🙂

It was then that the floodgates opened and he sobbed. He squeezed my neck and cried into my shoulder and whispered back, “I’m sorry Momma…I love you.”

I have learned in this adoption journey that the hardest days are often the days when the most growth happens. Breakdowns bring breakthroughs. The bad behavior is often the cracking and crumbling of a wall built over years of hurt and disappointment. The words, “I hate you” are actually the pleading of a broken boy asking, “Will you still love me?”

It is in the midst of those really hard days that we are reminded that those who most need our love often ask for it in the most unloving ways.

The road less traveled

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 Jim Fisher has been quoted as saying:

“Not a moment of life is wasted on a farm. Others have been more places but none have out lived me.”

Recently one of the government employees in charge of Ozzie’s care and well-being asked us to justify our life style choice and explain why we felt growing up in the country was the best life choice for Ozzie. The words were spoken with obvious disdain by someone who was more familiar and comfortable with city life than life on a farm. It saddens me when people, who have little understanding of our lifestyle, pass judgment on it.  Whether we are addressing the fact that we home school, have adopted, live without cable, raise animals, don’t buy our children cell phones, or expect our children to participate in the well-being of our family unit through daily chores; there are always some that express the feelings that we are somehow doing our children a disservice by not buying into the world’s definition of what a happy childhood looks like.

We have chosen to take the road less traveled.

It has been expressed by others that our lifestyle choice is a selfish one, and that our children are missing out…on what, I’m not sure…but here are some of the great blessings that have come from this life we have been blessed with…

My children have known the joy of holding a baby animal, just minutes old, as well as the profound experience of holding an animal as it takes its last breath.

My children have come to understand that their food doesn’t just come from a supermarket shelf but from the sweat and labor of hard work.

My children have felt the earth between their toes and dirt beneath their nails as they have planted seeds in the ground.

They have experienced the faith of waiting on a seed to sprout and the labor of caring for and reaping the benefits of a garden.

My children have created life long, belly-laugh memories as they have chased goats off the roof and pigs off the highway.

My children have eaten eggs, hours old, and fudge made from the goat’s milk they collected themselves.

My children have experienced the childhood magic of laying under the stars, building tree houses, splashing in creeks, and catching frogs.

They have learned the lessons of hard work and diligence. They have split wood, stacked logs and raked hay.

My children have chores.

They wash clothes, cook meals, tend animals, and clean up their messes. We don’t give our children chores because we hate them or because we are too lazy to do it ourselves. We give our children chores so that they can experience the satisfaction of a job well done.

My children have been told “No” and have experienced the disappointment of not getting what they want…not because we love to disappoint them but because we are training them to be grateful rather than entitled.

My children have learned, through opportunities to serve, that the greatest joy in life comes from thinking of others before yourself.

My home is not perfect. It is often dirty, noisy, and smells of animals.

My children, also, are often dirty, noisy and smell of animals. 🙂

But, they are happy

and they are kind.

My life is not perfect or pristine. Perhaps in the eyes of the world this life I choose to live is less than ideal,

but I have seen great blessings come from this life I have chosen and this life we have chosen to give our children.

Molly and Pop pop

Molly and Pop pop

On Saturday we went to visit our second favorite farm, The Homestead. We traveled out to Ohio to spend the day with my parents and celebrate a belated Mother’s Day with my mom. It was a picture perfect day. The sun was shining and the temperature was ideal. When we arrived the kids headed to the barn right away to see the animals. Ozzie was eager to say hello to George, the donkey, and the other kids couldn’t wait to hold the two chicks that had just hatched.

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George and Grace

George and Grace

After some fun on the farm we all hopped in the car and drove over to one of our favorite places in Amish Country…

Hershberger’s Farm and Bakery.

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It is a neat Amish store that sells local wares, homemade baked goods, as well as farm animals. When you pull up the first thing you see are goats on the barn roof. (Unlike our goats, they are supposed to be there.) There is a set of stairs for them to climb up on. A pulley system is set up so that you can buy ice cream cones full of feed and send them up onto the roof. Inside the barn there are animals to pet and buy. There are goats, chickens, pigs, sheep, rabbits, ducks and puppies. We enjoy visiting Hershberger’s any time of the year but it is especially fun in the spring with all of the baby animals.

Tyler and a baby lamb.

Tyler and a baby lamb.

Rusty and a baby goat

Rusty and a baby goat

One of the most impressive animals at Hershberger’s Farm is Big Ben, the huge Belgian horse that lives there. He is the biggest horse in Holmes County. He measures 19H 3″ tall and 3,006 lb. He is quite the site to see!

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After having our fill of baby animal snuggles we headed next door to the bakery to enjoy a Holmes County delicacy- fry pies. Fry pies are pockets of delicious goodness: a fried, glazed pastry filled with various pie fillings. My parents treated us all to one. The kids had fun choosing their flavor and then tasting each other’s choices. We sat in the shade visiting and watching two baby horses play in the field across the street while we enjoyed our treat.

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We spent the remainder of our day together enjoying fried chicken for lunch, playing games in the yard, and catching up. It was  a wonderful day.

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Perhaps one of the greatest occupational hazards of being human is our propensity to judge each other’s life choices.

Bottle feed or Breast feed

Public school or Home school

City life or Country life

Big family or Small Family

College education or Learn a trade

Working mom or Stay-at-home mom

Whatever the issue, whatever the choice, there seems to be a passionate defense launched by both sides.

I suppose the lesson in all of this is that…

“Sometimes the people around you won’t understand your journey

but that is OK,

it’s not their journey to understand.”

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“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

– Robert Frost

You might be a redneck…

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As a child I had dreams and aspirations. As a Kindergartener I aspired to one day be employed at the golden mountains (McDonald’s). As I grew older my aspirations grew to include being a ballerina, a teacher, or perhaps president of the United States. Never once, however, did I say, “When I grow up I am going to be a redneck woman,” and yet here I find myself living a life that should land me a reality show contract. This week wasn’t the first time I stopped to ponder when exactly I had crossed the line from lady to redneck Momma…

I suppose it was a gradual transformation…

There was that little incident a few years back when the neighbors called to report that their police scanner was squawking about our herd of goats on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. It was an adrenaline pumping moment as I raced down the hill on our go-cart hoping to beat the state troopers to the scene of the crime and get our goats off the highway before they caused a pile-up.

 Then there was that awful day when the pigs escaped and we had to herd them back home from New Galilee along the main drag. I sat in the car honking the horn as the kids, equipped with long sticks, tried to keep them on the center line of the road like some sort of small town holiday parade.

 We have also  been known to transport farm animals like llamas home from auction in the back of our station wagon which is no easy feat, let me tell you! Llamas don’t fold easily.

 This week, however, I feel like I have solidified my standing as “Redneck Momma of the Year” when I found myself straddling an ATV at the bus stop waiting to take Ozzie home. All I needed to qualify for my own Honey Boo Boo reality show was a dead deer strapped to the back of my four-wheeler and a wardrobe change…curlers and a robe perhaps.

This all came about due to the unrelenting snow and cold weather we have had for the last six weeks. After taking the kids to the dentist on Tuesday morning we headed straight home. As we approached the driveway I put the car in four-wheel drive, hit the gas, and began climbing our steep drive. About halfway up we began to spin and came to rest sideways. Thinking that I would “unstick” it later I put it in park and we hiked home. That afternoon, as the time for Ozzie’s bus to arrive approached, I began the trek back to the car. As I climbed in I assumed I would easily be able to coast it back down the driveway only to find that the layer of ice under the snow made it impossible to get any traction. As the bus time drew nearer I began to panic. There was not enough time for the long walk from our house to the bus stop so I ran back to the house, grabbed the ATV and met Ozzie at the bus stop, redneck style, much to the shock of the bus driver and the delight of Mr. Ozzie.

Our ride to the bus stop...

Our ride to the bus stop…

The next day was our home school co-op, which we had to miss due to our vehicle dilemma. After making contact with multiple tow companies who weren’t  willing to even attempt to tow us out we realized we were stuck home for the day until we came up with a plan B. Wednesday morning was bitterly cold with temperatures below 0 and a windchill of -12. Knowing that we were going to have to four-wheel our way to the bus stop again I dressed Ozzie in double layers and brought a blanket to snuggle in. As we waited Ozzie began to get more and more upset as he got colder and colder. As tears began to fall I started shedding my layers and putting them on him. By the time the bus arrived Ozzie was warm and I was sitting on the ATV without a hat, gloves or coat which not only solidified my status as “Redneck Momma” but “Crazy Lady of bus route #1” as well.

Ozzie, all bundled up!

Ozzie, all bundled up!

The kids were devastated to miss co-op, especially after 4 weeks of cancellations due to flu and winter weather but the upside was that we were able to enjoy a day at home with nowhere to go and nobody visiting us. The driveway guaranteed we didn’t have any unexpected visitors. The day was spent doing “fun school”…science experiments, history, and art projects.

Grace had an online science class where they studied the components of a DNA strand by creating an edible DNA strand out of candy. She had a lot of fun with it!

Gracie's online science class.

Gracie’s online science class.

DNA...yum yum.

DNA…yum yum.

For art Rusty learned about artist Louise Nevelson and her style of sculpting called Assemblage. Like her style of art, Rusty had to create a sculptural wall using found objects around the house which he then spray painted a solid color to create unity in his piece. I think it turned out really cool!

Rusty's sculptural wall.

Rusty’s sculptural wall.

It was a good day…a much needed forced “staycation!” After a few more trips to and from the bus stop on my redneck minivan we were finally able to get the car down the driveway.

So, if you had plans to drive by our road at 8:05 in the morning in hopes of catching a glimpse of that crazy Redneck Momma you’ve heard rumors about I am here to tell you she has gone back into hiding…

at least until the next snow storm. 🙂