Tag Archives: football

Here We Go Steelers…




On the day following his actual birthday, Brandon received an unexpected birthday surprise. His placement social worker from “Second Chance” stopped by to wish him a Happy Birthday and gave him a card to open. Inside the birthday card were two tickets to Thursday night’s game.

His social worker is a huge sports fan and is a Steelers season ticket holder. She never misses a home game. Wanting to do something extra special for Brandon she handed over Thursday night’s tickets. Toby was Brandon’s “plus one.”

Thursday night arrived and Molly graciously offered to play “parent” while Grace and I were at our Thursday night classes and Toby and Brandon were at the game. Like a pro she transported Tyler to his dyslexia tutoring and Ozzie to his autism social skills class, allowing Toby the night off to go and make some special memories with his new addition.


Toby and Brandon had a wonderful time. The weather was bitterly cold but that didn’t damper their enthusiasm.


A COLD night in Pittsburgh.

The Steelers played a great game and came out the victors over the Panthers in a 52-21 win.



There were some familiar faces in the crowd ūüôā

The guys wandered in after midnight, raving about the game and the experience.

What a special shared memory they made that night,

All thanks to a social worker who goes above and beyond the call of duty to bless the lives of the kids in her care.

Far too long apart…


It has been 4 weeks now since our family of 7 became a family of 8. At a court hearing on August 22nd, the judge presiding over Brandon’s case officially placed in him in our home as a pre-adoptive placement.

Our last four weeks have been extremely busy. Those who have fostered children well know how busy things are those first 30 days following placement. In the midst of simply trying to find your footing as a new family there are a lot of extra tasks on the family calendar…

Things like tracking down IEPs and past records, registering for school, shopping for all the basic necessities like clothes and sundries that the child arrives at your doorstep without, fill your days. There are also endless appointments, most of which are required to occur within 30 days of placement. Home becomes Grand Central Station. The front door becomes a swinging door as endless people enter and exit. This is all a good thing. The increased level of monitoring is to make sure some these children are safe and cared for, but just to give you an example of what I am talking about here it what that level of care looks like:

Once a week, the social worker from your agency assigned to your family will visit your home.

Once a month, the social worker from your county’s CPS will visit your home.

Within the first 30 days, the child needs to visit his/her pediatrician. If your child has specific health issues, it is possible that your social workers may request this to be done sooner.

Within the first few weeks, the court investigator will also make a home visit. (The court investigator is the CPS social worker tasked with making a recommendation to the court (judge) regarding the child’s case in the early stages.)

Within the first few weeks, you may also receive a home visit from a social worker employed by the child’s lawyer.

Possible other appointments include, but are not limited to: IEP meetings, therapy appointments, tutoring, and other various and sundry things that may arise in the case.

The time of year has also added to the craziness as we try to adjust as a family to a new son but also adjust to a new school year and become acquainted with being public school parents and all that entails ( bus schedules, football practice, open houses, etc.)

In the midst of the craziness, however, I have tried to keep a firm grip on what is most important and not allow the “important” to be swallowed up by the “urgent,”

And one of the most important tasks on the list has been to facilitate reunions between Brandon and the biological siblings he has not seen for the last few years.

When Tyler, Brandon, and their other two brothers and little sister where removed from their birth home they were separated by the courts and placed in different homes. Over the course of a few years they were adopted individually into different families. When Tyler came into our life it was just he and Brandon left in the system having court ordered sibling visits. We knew that upon the adoption of Tyler one of our first priorities would be to track down and reach out to the various adoptive families and try to reconnect him with the siblings he had lost.

We have been blessed greatly in this regard. We located and reached out to the other families soon after adopting Tyler and were able to host a reunion at Patchwork Farm soon after. What joy there was in watching these children reunite after years of separation, and what a joy it was meeting the amazing families that adopted each of Tyler’s siblings!

Since that special day we have tried to keep Tyler connected to his siblings through phone calls, birthday gifts, and visits, but because of the life circumstances unjustly thrust upon Brandon, he has not been able to enjoy that same level of contact.

Brandon adores his siblings and has missed them greatly, so one of our top priorities, amidst the craziness of all the “urgent tasks” filling our calendars, was to make time for Brandon (and Tyler) to reconnect with their biological siblings.

The eventual goal is to host another reunion at our home in the upcoming months but I didn’t want Brandon to have to wait on the logistics of multiple schedules aligning for that to occur, so in the meantime we arranged some individual visits.

Which leads us to two events that have occurred in the past few weeks…

First we had a visit with Cheyanne and her mom. Cheyanne is the youngest of the sibling group and the only girl. She is deeply love by both my boys and when we were able to arrange an impromptu visit both boys were over-the moon about it. It happened after our Kennywood visit. Rain led to an early closing, leaving us free late Saturday afternoon with no plans. Realization that we weren’t to far from Cheyanne’s neck of the woods led to a phone call and plans to meet at Dairy Queen for ice cream and a mini-reunion between Cheyanne and her big brothers.

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It was absolutely delightful watching these three reconnect and become reacquainted, and doing so over Dairy Queen blizzards made the experience all the sweeter! They had all grown so much since their last visit that they couldn’t help but be shocked by each others growth, but despite the physical growth and changes to their appearances, the genetic resemblance remains as strong as ever! There is no question that these three are siblings!

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A week later we had the opportunity to meet up with another one of Tyler and Brandon’s siblings. This time it was Sean that we arranged to meet.

Like Tyler and Brandon, Sean also plays football for his school and after getting a copy of his game schedule from his mom, we made plans to meet her at one of Sean’s games so his brothers could cheer him on.

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It was delightful catching up with Sean’s mom while my boys watched their brother play.

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Tyler was delighted to find out that, just like him, Sean was the team’s kicker…

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And just like Tyler, he is incredible at it!

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After the game we had a half hour to spend together before Sean had band practice, so we drove to Wendy’s for a quick dinner that Sean’s mom kindly treated us to. The boys were so cute together. It was neat watching them reconnect, tease,¬† and laugh as brothers do.

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Their only complaint was that they didn’t get nearly enough time together. They desperately wanted to head to a local park to throw the football, but were grateful for the time they did get together.

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Hopefully we will be seeing all three siblings again soon, for nothing has more value in this life than the love of family!

Friday Night Lights




It is fall in Western Pennsylvania and we find ourselves in the heart of football season. After years of avoiding organized sports with the older kids,  we dipped our big toe into the sports pond when Tyler joined our family at age 6. We tried to fight it but even at that age he had an affinity for sports of any kind, having been actively involved in soccer and football at his previous foster home, and we soon realized that for all of our survival that kid needed an energy outlet!

After a few months in our home we gave into the inevitable and signed him up for soccer, followed by football in the fall. It was a definite social shock stepping into the world of little league sports and all that comes with it.

The benefit of such an uncomfortable social shift, however, was a very tired little boy at the end of the day…a benefit that far outweighed the less appealing aspects of organized youth sports.

It was because of our naivety and lack of experience that we found ourselves at Blackhawk Lil’ Cougars football sign-ups that first year. We saw the signs around town advertising football sign-ups and so we arrived with required papers in hand (birth certificate, report card and proof of address) on the night advertised. He was registered and began playing, making quick friends with the other little brutes on his team. There was something endearing about watching 20 wild 6-year-old’s navigate the field as they learned the sport.

It wasn’t until we were fully entrenched in the world of the Cougars that we found out that we should have signed Tyler up under Beaver Fall’s league since we technically live in Beaver Falls school district. By the time we realized our mistake Tyler was firmly settled into this group of boys and we chose to request an exemption rather than move him. He has been playing with the Cougars ever since and loves his teammates and coaches.

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That was all well and good and then Tyler’s biological brother, Brandon, moved into our home. He, too, has both a love and affinity for sports and since he is currently required by the judge to attend our local public school it made it easy to simply sign him up for the high school football team.

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After a few years of not being able to live a “normal” teenager’s life, he is thrilled to be navigating halls between classes and donning football gear every day after school. Like Tyler, he has a natural gift for athletics and is loving being part of a team.

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So now we have two boys on the field each week, but they wear the colors of two different schools…

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Two rival schools.

Which had made life a bit crazier than usual.

Everyday Brandon has football practice immediately following school until 5:30 pm. We pick him up and then head to Tyler’s field for his daily practice from 6:00-8:00 pm.

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Friday nights are spent under the lights as we dress in our orange and black to watch Brandon play.


Then on Saturdays we put on our green and gold to cheer on Tyler.

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Some of these games are pleasant but others are miserable…


This one was particularly nasty as we battled high winds and heavy rains. We definitely earned some parenting points for our participation!


For the most part we have been able to navigate this arrangement,¬† but Friday presented its own unique challenge when both boys were committed to be on two different fields for Friday night’s game.

Brandon’s game was a home game on Geneva College’s field but Tyler was also invited to be on the field Friday night as part of Blackhawk’s community days. The high school invited all the little players and cheerleaders to the game to support the high school team. The boys were invited to sit along the sidelines and then step onto the field as the big boys entered the stadium, cheering them on.

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Tyler didn’t want to miss this special event so we began our night with the Blackhawk Cougars and then at halftime drove across town to watch the second half of the game at Beaver Falls to cheer on the Tigers.

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It has been fun watching Tyler and Brandon bond over football. And we are all thrilled to have someone living in the house who readily volunteers to toss the ball with Tyler, giving the rest of our throwing arms a break!

Tonight we go and watch another brother in uniform.

Sean, Tyler and Brandon’s middle biological brother, is playing for his school and both my boys are excited to go and watch one of his games and reconnect with a brother they haven’t seen in a few years.

It is definitely football season in Western PA!


Let’s Catch-Up


Tyler is doing amazing.

His growth and progress over the last few years is nothing short of miraculous. Those that were privy to the “inside story” of life with Tyler that first year can testify to his transformation. The explosions and aggressive tantrums are a thing of the past and many of the anxiety provoked “shut-downs” are gone, only rearing their ugly heads during highly emotional moments. The only two remaining times of struggle that we deal with regularly are bedtime and bath time. Knowing his history of trauma and how abuse played out in his biological home it is not surprising that these two places are fear-inducing and feel unsafe despite the safety now in place. There is a distinct difference in being safe and feeling safe, especially for kids who have survived trauma. It is easy for those who haven’t walked their path to dismiss their “illogical” fears as silly, knowing that they are safe, but “felt safety” can be elusive for kids whose early years were anything but safe. Once we wrapped our head around this truth we were better able to navigate these hard times of the day with more compassion and patience.

The bathroom is a scary place for Tyler. It was the location of great hurts as a small child and as a result he fears the same place I find to be a sanctuary. Bath time is always a struggle and I’ve learned the importance of keeping things light and addressing his very real fears in¬† non-demeaning and creative ways.

I regularly remind myself that the goal is a somewhat clean and better smelling 11-year-old and the means for reaching that goal can be unorthodox. Thus began our most recent tub trick…

To increase Tyler’s feelings of safety we allow him to bath with swim trunks on. He leaves the door open and asks us to sit nearby and talk to him the whole time he is in the bathroom. Sometimes extra coaxing is needed to get him in the water so tub toys, shaving cream, soap crayons, and most recently glow sticks are my greatest tools…

Whatever it takes to achieve “felt safety” while removing some of the grime off my stinky 11-year-old!


The need for regular bathing has increased this month with the start of the football season. After a two year hiatus, Tyler is back on the field and loving it!

I don’t care so much about the sport itself but care deeply about my little player and the fact he finally feels safe and settled enough to play again. I know he missed it and it broke my heart to see him avoiding something he loved simply because the fear was too much to manage.

I think having Brandon around has helped. Somehow having the same big brother present who acted as protector when he was a toddler, has increased his feelings of security. The fact Brandon also plays football has also added to the appeal.

So, now our lives are consumed with football. Each evening is spent at the ballfield watching Tyler and his team practice. There is something peaceful about this ritual. Perhaps because it gives me the excuse to just sit and be still, allowing time to reflect and soak up the last of summer.

The other night I was treated to a spectacular show of sun rays and clouds. The clouds were so pretty that they didn’t look real.


Saturday was Tyler’s first game. He was thrilled to have Brandon there with the family.


The boys were crushed by an incredible opposing team but Tyler was pleased by how well he played personally.


I just enjoyed sitting on the sidelines in such perfect weather. Football season is finicky and each week brings uncertainty in what weather the boys will be facing. It falls at a time of year when a game can bring 90 degree temperatures and intense sun, a heavy downfall of rain, or freezing, blizzard-like conditions. It really is a “luck of the draw” situation. This week we lucked out and couldn’t have asked for more beautiful weather to kick off the season!


I addition to football taking over the month of August, we are trying to wrap up a few more items on the summer bucket list before school begin in two weeks.  One of those projects is a service project Molly is working on. She is putting together chemotherapy care kits do donate to a local cancer center.

After posting information about her project and a list of items she is collecting for the care kits during the month of August, the donations began pouring in at an incredible speed. She has been absolutely overwhelmed by the show of generosity and love. Her initial goal was to be able at assemble at least 10 care kits for patients undergoing the arduous battle of fighting for life, but the generosity of so many (church members, co-op friends, family members, and others) has left her room overflowing with donations and her heart overflowing with gratitude at the selfless love shown by so many…

Thank you ALL for helping Molly be a blessing to others!


Last weekend Ozzie and I enjoyed a fun one-on-one date under the stars.

The Perseid Meteor Showers peaked over the weekend, driving Ozzie and I outside with a blanket to lie under the stars and watch this heavenly display. With everyone else in the family occupied, we had the yard to ourselves and were able to take advantage of some fun one-on-one conversation without sibling interruption.


Ozzie also brought the telescope outside that he received for his 14th birthday and we had fun using an app on my phone to locate various celestial bodies and then find them within the lens of his telescope.

It was a perfect night for star gazing. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the new moon darkened the sky so that the stars, planets, and meteor shower were showcased beautifully!

With the coming of the school year comes the enrollment process as we work to get Brandon settled into school. Because he is still a foster child he will have to attend our local high school for the time being. Following adoption he will be able to choose whether he continues there or would like to switch to cyber schooling like the rest of the family.

Tyler is also undergoing some school changes as we move him from one cyber school to another. The rest of the family attend 21st Century Cyber Charter School and we adore that school but fear the intensity and challenge of their incredible curriculum would be too much for Tyler just yet. We are still working to get him reading at grade level through 4x a week dyslexia tutoring. So, we explored other schooling options and finally decided on PA Cyber, at the glowing recommendation of a friend. We feel like it will be a good transition school from his current school until he is ready to transfer to 21st Century Cyber Charter School down the road.



And they’re off!


After watching her sister and¬† brother head out on adventures in June and July, Grace’s planned summer trip with her best friend has finally arrived.


Grace and Olivia headed out this week for a week of fun in Dallas, Texas where they will be spending the week with Olivia’s Aunt Peggy and Uncle Steven.


We can’t wait to hear about their adventures!


I Love a Parade!



With the closing of July comes the start of football season. After a two year hiatus Tyler has asked to play again. While personally not a huge fan of football season and all it entails, I am thrilled to hear Tyler express a desire to play again. I attribute this change of heart to a positive experience with baseball season and major breakthroughs in facing some personal anxieties with Miss Tina in trauma therapy.

With daily football practice beginning in just a week’s time I am cherishing my last week of freedom before our lives revolve around lil cougars football until November.

The first toe in the pond occurred last Wednesday when Tyler met up with his teammates to ride on the football float in Chippewa’s annual fireman’s parade.

Tyler met up with the team at the municipal building. With candy in hand he boarded the float eager to get to toss treats to the crowds of kids that lined the road. When picking his treat much thought was put into the selection. Given the temperatures of the day chocolate candies were out. I also vetoed lollipops and any candy with sharp points, knowing that with Tyler’s arm some unsuspecting spectator might lose an eye. We finally settled on fruit snacks. I figured they were soft enough that even with Tyler chucking them at 50 mph no one was likely to get hurt, and Tyler liked the idea that it was a treat the little kids (who weren’t old enough for hard candies) could eat.

We settled in at the end of the parade route having learned our lesson from past years when we found ourselves stuck behind a line of firetrucks trying to get to our son who was unloading a mile away at the other end of the parade route.

Molly had work that evening but Grace, Rusty and Ozzie all joined me at the parade to cheer on their little brother and collect pounds and pounds of flavored tootsie rolls.


It is always fun to be a spectator at this annual summer event. Ozzie loves the antique cars and the fire trucks that roll in from all the neighboring fire departments.


I love seeing all the local teams, dance troops, and bands that march/ride so proudly, waving at the crowds with the same enthusiasm as Miss America at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

We enjoyed watching the different floats pass and it wasn’t long before a trailer filled with little football players rolled by with Tyler perched in the center. By the time he reached us his box of fruit snacks was long empty and I could tell he was disappointed he didn’t have something to chuck at his brothers’ heads. He settled for waving.


The float turned the corner and the players disembarked. Tyler ran to join us to watch the remainder of the parade and collect his own pile of candy…

Although both Tyler and Ozzie discovered that very few treats that are traditionally tossed at parades are Dr. Spokane approved treats.

They picked through their piles pulling the lone lollipops and lifesavers from the pile and handed over the rest to Grace and Rusty.


It was a great kick-off for football season. Soon the craziness begins. Starting next week please address all correspondence to the local football field. That is the place we will be calling home for the next 3 months.


Easter with the Reals


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Easter weekend was a blessed one at Patchwork Farm. We had Ozzie home for five days and our time was filled to overflowing with General Conference, egg decorating, Easter with my side of the family and Easter with Toby’s side of the family. We were on the run all weekend but it was a weekend filled with Easter fun.

On Saturday morning we loaded up the van and headed 2 1/2 hours west to the Homestead where my sister and her family were visiting my parents for the weekend. Easter weekend always brings the emergence of my sister’s family who, as residents of Northern Michigan, tend to be snowed in from Thanksgiving until Easter. It is always a treat to get in some cousin time after months of not seeing each other.

We lucked out with decent weather for our Real family Easter. The rain had finally lifted after settling over Ohio and Pennsylvania for the last five days, and the temperatures, while nippy, were warm enough to allow us an outdoor dinner in the barn.

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We arrived and were greeted by five excited little ones whose energy and enthusiasm were matched by my own five. They all jumped immediately into the task of catching up and making the most of our one day reunion.

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My mom handed out Easter surprises to everyone. Kelly and I each got a cute duck and a vintage children’s book for our Easter gifts.

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We all sat and visited while we waited for my Dad to return with dinner. My parents decided that our limited time together was better spent enjoying family than being shut up in the kitchen cooking and doing dishes so they order our Easter dinner from Der Dutchman, one of the tastiest restaurants in Amish country.

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When Dad arrived home with a hot feast in the back of the car everyone pitched in to carry all the dishes into the barn and set up our Easter buffet. We enjoyed a scrumptious feast of ham, fried chicken, noodles, green beans, corn, mashed potatoes and gravy, homemade rolls, and four different types of pie including a Key Lime Pie that Toby declared was the best pie he had ever tasted.

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As we ate, we enjoyed a time of reconnection and visiting, with the little boys at one table, the big kids at another table, and the adults at the third table that was set up in the barn.

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After everyone had eaten their fill the adults headed outside to hide 100 Easter eggs. At this point the sky was beginning to darken and we didn’t want to get hit with rain before the kids had a chance to enjoy a egg hunt so we shuffled the schedule a bit.

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Ozzie and my Dad

Once all the eggs had been hidden around my parents yard we called for the kids and these are the heads that popped out from the barn…

Wrong kids!

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Finally the two legged kids came running with bags in hand.

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The three youngest were given a head start,

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and then the rest were set free to search.

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The result of their efforts was a bounteous feast of sugar.

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After the egg hunt we returned to the barn for our quarterly birthday celebration. Because of the infrequency of our opportunities to gather with extended family we will celebrate 3 or 4 months worth of birthdays while we are all together. This day we celebrated our February- May kids.

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After our birthday celebration we headed outside where Toby and Tom got a game of touch football going with the kids.

I was the official team photographer!!

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All too soon it was time to leave. Our one day reunions never seem to stretch as far as we would like but boy did we fit A LOT of fun with family into our eight hours at the Homestead!

How blessed we are this Easter Season.

Blitz on the Bay


Tyler did not play football this year.


We spent the bulk of little league football season traveling around the country. As a result Tyler was not a Blackhawk Cougar during the 2016 season. That was definitely a downside of the trip for Tyler who lives and breathes football.

So you can imagine his thrill when midway through our journey west the coach texted Toby¬†to invite Tyler to play in a special one time game in Erie called, “Blitz on the Bay.” This special¬† game was scheduled for November and would be played against the McDowell Trojans.¬†Playing in the “Blitz on the Bay”¬†would allow Tyler to join up with his teammates¬†for this one time game..

In preparation for the big game the boys had eight practices in the two weeks leading up to the game. Tyler loved these evening practices with his coaches and friends and they provided a great outlet for some of the anxious energy that came with Toby leaving.

Tyler is a different child during sports seasons when he can release his hard emotions through strenuous physical exercise.

This special game had added appeal when Tyler found out that following the game the team and their families would be going to Splash Lagoon Indoor Waterpark as a group.

Toby was able to come home for the game and Tyler could not be more thrilled!


The day was a needed distraction at the end of a hard week.


Jerseys were ordered for each¬†of the boys on the team. Tyler’s team, made of boys from the Blackhawk and Chippewa leagues, had special jerseys with their combined team initials: BCCI (Blackhawk Cougars/Chippewa Indians)



Tyler was also thrilled that this new jersey boasted his name on his back, unlike the typical game jerseys.


It was a perfect day for football. And while the weather was a bit chilly for those sitting in the stands, it was perfect for the kids running up and down the field.


It was fun to see Tyler play again.


He is in his element when he is on the field, and we see a different side of our son when he is playing.


Both teams were incredibly talented but in the end the Trojans were the stronger team, beating the BCCI team.


After the game we headed with the team to Splash Lagoon Indoor Waterpark.


We arrived at 4:00pm and the kids had 5 hours to play until closing. Tyler spent most of his time playing with his teammates in the ball pool. The ball pool is a large pool lined with basketball hoops and filled with small, floating basketballs.


Tyler opted to ride most of the waterslides once and then spend the rest of the evening playing water basketball with his friends.

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The older kids went off on their own and rode all the water slides Splash Lagoon had to offer.


In between riding the thrilling water slides they enjoyed soaking in the hot tub and floating in the lazy river.


Toby and I decided to save the extra admission fees and not swim. Instead we found a table in the corner that was within view of Tyler and enjoyed a “date night” and a little adult conversation before Toby had to drive back to Michigan for work.

The kids had a good time. It was nice to escape for the day and by the time we got home from our 90 minute drive from Erie, Tyler was fast asleep.

It was a good day.

A SUPER Saturday


Saturdays are always busy…especially in the fall!

It is the one day of the week we have Toby home to get things done around the house, run errands, accomplish farm chores or do something as a family.

Sundays are spent worshipping, resting and partaking in quiet activities at home.

Because Saturdays become the day to accomplish everything we need to do for the week, they fill up extra quickly…especially this time a year!

Saturdays are filled with football games, yard work (as we prepare for winter), putting up wood to burn through the winter months, and fun fall activities. October Saturdays are always busy, but some are EXTRA busy!

This past Saturday was one of those days.

It was a day so fully packed that I began the day by writing out a schedule of who needed to be where over the course of the day and posted it in the kitchen to guide the family through our crazier than normal day.

It was my hope we wouldn’t miss any important commitment or lose some child along the way. ūüôā

Here are snap shots of our wonderfully busy, completely crazy, super fun, fall Saturday:

8:00- 9:00 am: Wake the troops. We had a busy day ahead of us so everyone was roused, fed, and sent to get their morning chores completed before the craziness began!

9:00- 11:00 am: Grace and Molly attended an art class being taught by a woman at church. In September she sent out an email advertising a free, four-week art class she was offering in the month of October. They were offered every Saturday morning through the month with each Saturday offering a different craft and corresponding art skill. Since my girls love art and because we live close enough to¬†her home that it wouldn’t be a burden, they decided to sign up.

They have really enjoyed this weekly class. This week they were making sculptures with “found” items. They took corks and bobby pins for the materials they chose to build with.

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10:00-12:00: Ozzie and I drove to Cranberry to meet up with Ozzie’s biological sister, Zoey, so that they could have a much-needed date. They haven’t seen each other for a month and Ozzie was struggling with missing his sister, so we arranged to meet for breakfast.

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The kids had a great time enjoying the breakfast buffet at Eat n’ Park and catching up with each other. I am so grateful that Zoey was adopted by a woman who is so open to maintaining their relationship and who agrees with us on the importance of maintaining the biological relationship of these siblings. It is hard for them to live apart. I know that they were both placed where God would have them be, but being apart is hard for them, so we make every effort to keep their relationship a priority through regular visits.

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11:00- 5:00: The girls joined three of their friends (Olivia, Tatum, and Chessa) for a fun day in Pittsburgh. Olivia’s favorite author was in Pittsburgh for a book signing so Olivia’s father graciously volunteered to drive the girls into the city to meet Maggie Stiefvater at CMU.


Their first stop was lunch:

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It was a fun treat eating lunch in downtown Pittsburgh.

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Then it was on to the author meet and greet.

It began with the “lecture” part of the meeting where the author spent an hour talking to and entertaining¬†her fans, and then a¬†30 minute Q and A session. The girls all expressed their delight in how entertaining, engaging, and warm¬†she was.

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Then they had the opportunity to have their books signed…

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How fun!

I love that they were so awestruck to meet a favorite author as opposed to being goo goo over a pop star. ūüôā

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On the way home they stopped at Pittsburgh Popcorn where Olivia treated all the girls to a bag of flavored popcorn. Grace picked frankenberry flavor and Molly chose kettle corn. Both said it was the best popcorn they have ever had.

11:30- 12:30: Rusty had some time home alone between the time Toby had to take Tyler to his football game (he has to arrive 90 minutes before the start of the game) and the time Ozzie and I arrived home. He used that time to start playing with¬†the stop-motion Minecraft kit that he received from the Caylors for his birthday. When I arrived home he was eager to show me the “movie” he created using stop-motion magic.

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12:00- 1:00 pm: Ozzie helped me do our weekly grocery shopping, followed by a quick stop at Goodwill and ¬†Party City to get some missing pieces for everyone’s Halloween costumes.

1:30¬†– 4:00pm: Tyler’s team continued their winning streak. Tyler’s football team is now in the play-offs after an undefeated season. Tyler’s coach warned them that the team they were playing this weekend was very good. Tyler was excited to play.

The game began at 2:00 pm.

For the playoff games (in October) the boys are wearing  pink socks in honor of breast cancer awareness month.

Tyler is #20

Tyler is #20

The game began with Tyler’s kick off. Of all the positions Tyler plays on the team being the kicker is his favorite role. He loves it and is really good at it.

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It was a very cold game. Temperatures hovered in the low 40’s. I was glad we brought blankets to the field. Rusty also brought his birthday gift from the Kirks. Just prior to us leaving for the game he discovered a package in the mail from my sister. He opened it up and was excited to see that¬†he received the newest Guinness World Record¬† book. He decided to take it to the game. He spent more time reading than watching his brother play. ūüėČ

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It was a good game…a really exciting game. But even with this¬†more equally matched¬†play-off team (they played Hopewell) this was the final score:

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They won another game so Tyler’s team¬†will be playing again next week.

( I don’t know whether to cheer or cry)¬† ūüėČ


4:00- 6:00 pm: Finally we were home long enough to get some things scratched off the “to do” list. The early evening was spent getting some yard work done¬†in preparation for¬†the big fall party being held at our home next Saturday. While Toby and the boys worked outside, I worked inside¬†to fill our freezer with some more freezer meals. For this round of “once a¬† month cooking”¬†I browned 10 pounds of hamburger meat for 10 “freezer to crock-pot meals.” After browning the meat the rest was just assembly. All the meals were assembled in gallon freezer bags so that they would stack nicely in the freezer, taking up as little space as possible.

We made two batches of each of the following dishes:

Homemade spaghetti sauce,


Taco soup,

Sloppy Joes,

and Beef Hash.

It is such a good feeling to tuck some more meals away to be pulled out on cold falls days and dumped into the crock-pot to simmer all day.

Fix it and Forget it!

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While the boys were busy weeding, mowing, and tidying up¬†outside, they discovered that our second batch of baby chicks were hatching. They investigated after seeing a broken egg sitting outside the mommy chicken’s “nest.”

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When Toby lifted her we found out that, sure enough, 4 of her eggs had hatched and she was still working on hatching the last three.

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It is so fun having all these babies around. The moms¬†are doing a beautiful job of keeping all their babies tucked away under the warmth of¬†their feathers…

Which is a blessing because this weekend ended up being a chilly one!


First snow of the season and it’s only October!

5:00-6:00 pm: The girls returned back and began preparing for a church dance. (Chessa went home with Woody since she had a commitment at home) The teens all got ready for the Halloween/ Black light dance. They decided not to wear costumes but rather embrace the fact there would be black lights and dressed accordingly.

This was Rusty’s first dance EVER. He dressed quickly in his neon colors, painting his face with glow in the dark paints and spraying his hair white so it would glow with the black lights.

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Then he waited for the girls. He struggled to understand why they took so much longer to get ready. ūüôā

When everyone was dolled up we headed to Cranberry.

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7:00-10:00pm: While Toby stayed home with the “littles” and worked on projects around the house, I drove the big kids to the dance. The decorations were amazing. The gym was decorated in glow-in-the-dark d√©cor, complete with a graffiti wall they kids could write on with highlighters,

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¬†a “make your own glowing eye glasses/ mustache station,”

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and yummy appetizers.

The leaders went above and beyond to make a really cool night for the youth.


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Rusty’s first slow dance was with Tatum:

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Awww…Love it!

Everyone had a great time.

10:00-11:30pm: I delivered everyone home.

12:00am: Bed, sweet, bed…Oh how I love you!

“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. ūüôā



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!

“Raindrops keep falling on my head”

"Raindrops keep falling on my head"

“Raindrops keep falling on my head”

We enjoyed another weekend¬†packed full of friends, football, and rain…lots and lots of rain. On Friday Rusty was invited to spend the night with friends but before I could take him over we had to take the car in for an oil change. Knowing how long it typically takes the dealership to change our oil I told Rusty that he needed to pack before we left because we probably wouldn’t have time to come back to the house after the oil change. As we were preparing to leave I told Rusty to grab his stuff. He came out of the room carrying a pillow and a sleeping bag and his hand-held video game. When I asked where his bag was he answered, “What bag?”

“The bag with your PJs, change of clothes, toothbrush, toothpaste..” I answered.

He then went on to inform me that you don’t need any of those things for a boy sleepover. He told me that boys don’t wear PJs at a sleepover, they just sleep in their clothes and so there was then no need for a change of clothes for the next day either. “We just wear the same clothes the whole time,” he informed me. ūüôā

When I told him¬†he at least needed to grab his toothbrush he told me he didn’t need it because they were going to be eating all night and probably not sleeping.

I found it funny to see how different his packing job was from the girls when they are invited to a slumber party. They pack PJs, their cutest pair of course! They pack their toothbrush and paste, face wash, new clothes, nail polish, moisturizer, hair brushes and bands, pillows, stuffed animals, make-up, board games, CDs…you get the idea. When the girls pack for an over-nighter it looks like they are headed¬†off to¬†college. When Russ packs it looks like he is headed to the mailbox to get the mail. The difference is so funny.

On our way home from dropping Rusty off we stopped at the Dollar Store because Tyler wanted to pick up Rusty’s birthday gift without him around. As we were leaving I ran into a friend who had been on my mind all day. We had a great, albeit quick, visit in the parking lot before I had to get the SUV home to Toby for the evening.

Toby needed the SUV to tow the big trailer. He had ordered the hay¬†we need for the animals this winter and it was ready to be picked up so he and Tyler went to get it. They were gone for a few hours so the girls and I had the house to ourselves Friday night. It was a fun girls’ evening. The girls recently discovered the TV series “Once Upon a Time” on Netflix and have been working their way¬†through season one. Having no boys at home gave them the chance to watch a couple of episodes together.

When the boys arrived home Tyler (and Winnie) found a little friend on the porch. I love Tyler expression in this photo.

When the boys arrived home Tyler (and Winnie) found a little friend on the porch. I love Tyler expression in this photo.

Tyler named him Buster.

Tyler named him Buster.

Saturday morning we woke up to rain. The plans we had for yardwork quickly went out the window. We kept waiting to see if Tyler’s football game would be cancelled but despite the downpours it wasn’t. Earlier in the week we¬†invited Mimi Joy out to watch Tyler play. It probably¬†wasn’t the best week for it. The rain came down steadily¬†during the game and the other team¬†killed ours… but it was still fun.¬† Tyler was thrilled to have Mimi come out and watch him play.

Tyler playing in the puddles before the game began.

Tyler playing in the puddles before the game began.

The cheering section, led by Mimi Joy :)

The cheering section, led by Mimi Joy ūüôā

Gracie, Molly and Rusty

Gracie, Molly and Rusty

After the game Toby headed to work, Mimi left to do her grocery shopping and the kids and I headed home to change into dry clothes. After a warm bath Tyler asked if he could have a cup of Raman noodles. I think the hot soup hit the spot. It served the purpose of warming him up and filling his belly.

After an afternoon of Saturday chores: bedroom cleaning, washing and ironing Sunday outfits, haircuts and nail trimming we had a quick dinner with the boys and then the girls and I headed out to a fun church youth activity.

It was a good weekend…a wet weekend but a good weekend. ūüôā

Since Mimi Joy¬†didn’t have the opportunity¬†to see Tyler kick at Saturday’s game I thought I’d include a video from the previous week’s game when we were all a bit drier…

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