Tag Archives: home schooling

Scrap-HAPPY

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I scrapbook to record the story of my life.

Long before I was introduced to the world of blogging, I scrapbooked. My first attempt at scrapbooking was for our first anniversary when I made a wedding scrapbook for Toby’s gift. Then Grace was born and I began a scrapbook for her. I now find myself trying to maintain and keep updated on 6 scrapbooks…one for each child and one for Toby and I. As our family has grown the value of my hobby has increased.

Tyler and Ozzie came to us with little to no record of their life prior to joining our family. It has become all the more important that I record their story and the memories of their childhood from this point forth.

I love to scrapbook. I love the creativity of it. I love recording the story of our life through words and pictures, but I can easily become overwhelmed by the task as I try to find the time to do it. It is this challenge that has led to my yearly scrapbooking retreat.

It began 10+ years ago when a friend who sold Creative Memories began planning a yearly retreat at a bible college. I would go for a few days, spread my things out on the table, work and laugh and create while enjoying a break from the everyday responsibilities that battle for my time and attention.

I would come home from these retreats with scrapbooks updated and current, and my soul feeling recharged and refreshed.

Two years ago circumstances changed and that particular retreat no longer was happening, so a group of my co-op girlfriends sought out our own solution to that creative need. Last year we found a little gem called Scrap-happy. It is a scrapbooking home for rent located next to a scrapbooking store about an hour north of where we live.

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It it set up to accommodate up to 10 scrapbookers. It has themed bedrooms, a fully stocked kitchen and a large living room filled with table for plenty of work space. It is a delightful retreat location and we fell in love with it after our visit last year so we decided to return this year for an extra day.

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We chose spring break week  because with the kids off school we didn’t have to worry about home schooling. On Wednesday morning I headed out to meet up with the friends I was carpooling with. We loaded up all our supplies. We filled Lana’s van with clothes, gifts, food, and scrapbooking supplies.

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There were 6 of us staying for 3 nights, but our van was the first to arrive.

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We chose our bedroom.

Lana, Tauni and I slept in the jungle room.

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Wendy, Nicole and Corrina slept in the posh room.

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We were greeted with surprises and treats from the owner:

A complimentary basket full of snacks and treats

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and a packet of scrapbooking goodies for each guest.

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We also got into the gift giving spirit as we exchanged goodies with each other. There were gifts of scrapbooking supplies, candy, drink holders and fun containers to hold our supplies.

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Wendy, our amazingly creative sewing friend, made us each a beautiful hand sewn bag to hold our scrapbooking supplies and included a quote book in each one for us to enjoy. It was fun to see the different fabrics she chose to reflect each of our personalities.

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Ours days were spent scrapbooking, laughing, watching movies while we worked, and running next door to the scrapbook store to pick up odds and ends.

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For meals we all signed up to plan and prepare a breakfast or lunch as well as pair up with another friend to prepare a dinner. This way all our meals were covered but we were each only responsible for two meals and could enjoy meals being prepared for us the remainder of the time.

On my breakfast day I planned for an oatmeal bar with a fun variety of topping choices to jazz up our bowls of oatmeal.

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Nights were late, with us up and working until 2:00 or 3:00am each night. The later it got the sillier we became and our abs got a workout with all the belly laughing.

While snooping in the bathroom cabinets one of the girls found this mannequin head. She had a note attached to her informing us that her name was Pandora. She became the source of many late night laughs as she was hidden and posed in an effort to shock or surprise each other. At one point she ended up in Lana’s bed.

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Then she ended up “drinking” the bottle of unopened wine that was left in our welcome basket. It left her with a killer hangover, hence the bottle of Tylenol close by. 😉

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One morning we discovered evidence that we weren’t the only ones who were up late getting into mischief. We went outside on Thursday morning to discover that something had gotten into the garbage can. Then we saw the tracks..

In the mud outside our door…

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it was a bear!

We never met the trouble maker (thank goodness) but it was neat seeing the clues he left behind. 🙂

The scrap-happy house also has an ongoing tradition of groups hiding the scrap-happy dollar; a colorful tie dyed dollar bill that is hidden somewhere in the house. Groups then use the guest book to find the clues to the next hiding spot. Here is the clue we left for the next group that visits.

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It was a wonderful and productive retreat. My goal was to scrapbook our Disney vacation and I just about finished when it was time to leave Saturday afternoon.

152 pages…

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3 scrapbooks…

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and wonderful memories made with these dear friends:

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Corrina and Nicole

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Tauni and Wendy

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Lana

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There is nothing better than reliving memories,

while being creative,

and laughing with dear friends.

Thank you, Scrap- HAPPY.

You lived up to your name!

7 days of life

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It has been a busy week, filled not with large events, but rather a big pile of everyday moments. None justifies an entire blog entry so I’ve scooped up a small sampling of a week of life at Patchwork Farm to share with you…

The last 7 days:

Last Monday was opening day of hunting season. Toby and Rusty were up before the sun to hike into the woods and get into position before the deer started moving. It was a cold day and by 11:00 they were back at the house to warm up and get a bite to eat. The conditions were less than ideal. They saw little and after a few hours of sitting and staring, Rusty was ready to come in. Toby encouraged him to stick it out and he did. They didn’t have anything to show for their time except for some sweet father/son memories of time spent in the still of the forest…memories that will someday be great treasures to them both.

Toby and Rusty- all bundled up :)

Toby and Rusty- all bundled up 🙂

Tuesday morning, after a brutal early morning tantrum, I walked out to the car and found this. It was a sweet reminder of why we do what we do on a daily basis…It is all about family.

Molly's artwork on the frost covered hood.

Molly’s artwork on the frost covered hood.

Wednesday we had co-op. At we were walking out the door I made the last-minute decision to keep Ozzie home from school and take him to co-op. We are in the process of withdrawing him from our local public school and enrolling him in cyberschool with the other kids. It has been with a lot of prayer that we have made this decision. I felt Wednesday would be a good day to let him experience what it will be like. It was a good move. He loved it and came home asking if we had to wait until winter break to start or if we could just start home schooling the next day.

At co-op we were blessed with sweet gifts and “congratulations” cards from friends who haven’t seen us since our adoption day. I was touched by the encouraging words and thoughtfulness of our dear friends at co-op. One friend gifted us with this creative gift…a cookie sheet full of baking mixes and cookie decorations to enjoy as a family activity. We have had a lot of fun this week, baking as a family.

Thank you Hudaks!

Thank you Hudaks!

On Thursday Toby and Grace had date night. It was supposed to be our (Toby and my) date night but after a hard day Wednesday afternoon/evening we realized that we aren’t to the point that we can put the responsibility of babysitting duty on the girls. (At least not yet) Toby had purchased two dinner tickets to his Metal Detecting club’s annual Christmas party so rather than waste the second ticket and go alone he decided to use it for some quality time with his oldest daughter. It was a fun night for the two of them. They dressed up and enjoyed a delicious meal together. I was happy good was able to come from a disappointing situation. It was a blessing.

Daddy/daughter date night :)

Daddy/daughter date night 🙂

On Friday Rusty only had a half day of school before we packed him up and headed out to Ohio. He was invited to spend the weekend with my parents. He was thrilled at the chance to have some fun “one on one” time with Mimi and Pop pop and get to be an “only child” for the weekend. He had a wonderful time playing board games, going out to dinner and seeing a movie with his grandparents. It was just what he needed after hard week with little brothers.

On our way to Ohio. I think he is a little excited :)

On our way to Ohio. I think he is a little excited 🙂

On Saturday the girls had a job face painting for the community Christmas party. Gracie, who has been logging a lot of hours on the road with her driver’s permit (She needs 65 hours of practice before she can take her driving test) discovered that we needed gas. It was a perfect opportunity for a lesson on how to fill the tank all by herself. 🙂

My baby is all grown up!

My baby is all grown up!

The girls had a wonderful time face painting and each earned $30.00 while having fun :)

The girls had a wonderful time face painting and each earned $30.00 while having fun 🙂

This school week also held 2 dentist appointments, 2 orthodontist appointments, Christmas decorating, cookie baking, Christmas card mailing, and of course lots of school…just a normal week 😉

This time a year can be so busy. It can be a recipe for disaster as we take the fullness of everyday living and then mix with that a cup of planning and prepping, a scoop of expectations, heap of commitments and a dash of guilt. Stir it, bake it and you have one cooked Momma…

weary before the season even begins.

So I have tried, even in the fullness of our busy week, to find moments of stillness, opportunities for reflection and minutes to count my blessings, for even though I sometimes find myself (especially this time of year) fantasizing of  easier, quieter, calmer days I recognize the blessing of my noisy, messy, crazy life.

It isn’t always pretty…

but it is mine,

and I am blessed.

God is good!

First Day of School

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Ok, it’s not really the first day of school.

We actually started 10 days ago ( the kids have been working 10 hours a day trying to knock out all the schoolwork they are going to miss before we leave for Disney World)

but today was the “first day of school” photos.

Today was also our first day back at co-op.

4 of my 5 children are schooled at home. This is our 10th year schooling at home.

Ozzie attends our local public school (at least until adoption.)

As part of our schooling we participate in a homeschooling co-op that meets every Wednesday with 12 other families and about 40 kids. We all use the same curriculum so the kids are separated by grade and they do their history, science, music and art lessons for the week together.

We have been part of this co-op for 9 years and it is the highlight of my kiddos’ week…and mine. 🙂

Through this co-op we have developed some of our dearest friendships.

In addition to doing weekly lessons together the kids also enjoy the fun experience of packing and eating lunch with their friends, going on field trips together and having class holiday parties.

Co-op has been such a blessing in our family’s life!

So, today is not the first day of school, but it is the first day of co-op… so it is “picture day!”

This year I have a 10th grader…

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A 8th grader…

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A 7th grader…

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A 4th grader…

Ozzie

Ozzie

and a 2nd grader…

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We have made some changes this year with schooling. Grace and Rusty are using the same cyber school and Molly and Tyler are using the same curriculum.

Ozzie, as a big 4th grader, now switches classes during the day and has a locker. He has different teachers for each class and rotates through the day. I wasn’t sure how he would handle that. He struggles with change.

Ozzie's first day of school.

Ozzie’s first day of school.

But I am happy to report…so far so good!

In addition to doing massive amounts of schoolwork, this past week has been spent preparing for our Disney vacation!!!

There has been laundry to wash, sort, and pack.

Small craft projects like making coin containers to hold the boys’ pennies and quarters for the pressed penny machines and putting together the tip envelopes for “mousekeeping.”

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There are chores to be done before we turn the animals over to our farm sitter, appointments to make, and last-minute shopping to be done.

(Gracie even found the time to decorate her nails “Disney style.” Each nail represents a different Disney movie. Can you figure out what they are?)

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Now here we are a day away…

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Tomorrow we leave for Disney World!!!

Justice or Mercy?

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Happy Easter from some "bunny" special!!

Happy Easter from some “bunny” special!!

Those who have been walking this adoption journey with us know that part of Ozzie’s trauma therapy involves parenting classes for me in addition to therapy for him. Those who follow this blog know how incredibly beneficial those classes have been for me as a mother. *sigh*  At my last parenting class we addressed another parenting lesson: “The proper way to discipline.” I am not sure what Ozzie has been telling his therapist (I am not privy to that information) but it must have sparked some concern on his part because we had an impromptu lesson following Ozzie’s session.

We sat down in his office and he expressed his concern that perhaps I was being too hard on Ozzie or expecting too much and that he wanted me to try a new method of discipline. He explained to me that it is most effective in cases like Ozzie’s to just focus on one behavior at a time.  He told me that I was to pick the behavior that was most destructive or caused the most problems and only focus on that behavior for the time being. He told me that I was to close my eyes to all other behaviors and only discipline the behavior we are currently working on. “So,” he went on, “Let’s say you are having a problem with Ozzie stealing. You are going to come up with a plan of rewards and consequences to address that behavior. If other behaviors crop up during this time like talking back or lying I want you to just ignore them for the time being and once Ozzie has had success in this area we will then move onto the next behavior.”

My first thought after being given this instruction was the  cartoon image of Ozzie throwing food across the dinner table as Toby and I look on with a speech bubble above our head that reads, ” This month’s focus is ‘lying’ I guess we will address THIS in May.” I had never heard of anyone parenting like this before and couldn’t imagine how a parent is to cover all the basics in 18 short years if the basics can only be addressed one at a time. Ozzie is 10…there is NO way I can fit it all in with only 8 years to go if I’m only tackling one behavior every couple of months. I can only figure this brilliant plan was developed by someone who has never been around children, much less tried raising one. I smiled my sweet “therapy appointment smile”, nodding as the doctor told me to pick one behavior and give it a try. I thought about my assignment as I drove home, wondering what one behavior I would choose to address if I could only pick one. It was like a game of ” If you were trapped on a deserted island and could only bring 3 things with you, what would you pick?!” Perhaps I am just too stubborn or stuck in my ways to give this new-fangled parenting strategy a try but to my untrained eye it seems a bit questionable. 🙂

While I found very little merit in the doctor’s game plan it did get me thinking about his observation that perhaps I am too tough on Ozzie or that I expect too much. It made me reflect and got me thinking about the balance we seek as parents between Justice and Mercy. I am a “Justice” girl by nature. I like my world cut and dry, black and white. I like to be able to clearly label things in life and put them in the “good” box or the “bad” box. I like predictability and knowing that certain actions bring about certain consequences. I find security in Justice because it is sure. I am a first-born child, a rule minder, and for me the answer is easy… if you do _________ than ________ will happen. I have discovered, as a parent, that justice is important. Rules are needed, behaviors come as a result of expectations and  with rules and clear consequences come security and trust on the part of a child. Children need clear boundaries. Those boundaries make children feel safe, loved and secure. Justice is an important lesson for children to learn…but so is Mercy. Mercy is a harder virtue for me.

I read a quote that described Grace and Mercy like this:

“Grace is when you get the good things that you don’t deserve. Mercy is when you are spared from the bad things you do deserve. God is generous with both.”

Mercy is hard for me. It isn’t as black and white as Justice and the part of my personality that calls out for justice and fairness struggles with the freedom that Mercy offers. This Easter season I have been pondering my relationship with my Savior and the Mercy He offers me. I know what He has given, I know that He has removed the bonds of Justice in order to offer the freedom of Mercy and yet it seems so unfair and so unjust. I don’t deserve what He offers and yet He gives. He gives the gift of Mercy and now we are called to offer that same gift to others. Mercy when others offend. Mercy when others disappoint. Mercy when others hurt our hearts. Mercy when others fail us. Sometimes Justice is needed but so often Mercy is what is called for. Mercy for those we have yet to forgive. Mercy when our children make poor choices. Mercy when people fall short of our expectations. Mercy for ourselves when we fall short of our own expectations again and again. What a blessed gift Mercy is and yet it is often one of the hardest gifts to give.  This Easter season it has been my prayer that my heart might be more open to the gift that has been offered me that I might tip the scales of Justice and offer Mercy to those who don’t deserve it because really none of us deserve it…that is why it is called a gift.

This Easter was a blessed one filled with gifts of Grace and blessings of Mercy as we celebrated the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ozzie, still half asleep, as he looked through his Easter basket.

Ozzie, still half asleep, as he looked through his Easter basket.

The Easter egg hunt!

The Easter egg hunt!

Rusty... still searching.

Rusty… still searching.

All dressed up for church.

All dressed up for church.

My boys...

My boys…

My girls...

My girls…

Fun with cousins at Aunt Beth's house Easter afternoon.

Fun with cousins at Aunt Beth’s house Easter afternoon.

Waiting for the egg hunt...

Waiting for the egg hunt…

Ready...set...hunt!

Ready…set…hunt!

Tyler sees something...

Tyler sees something…

After the egg hunt the kids made up some fun of their own!

After the egg hunt the kids made up some fun of their own!

As I consider the gift of Mercy this Easter season I reflect on an incident that happened one evening soon after Ozzie moved in. It was a rough night with Ozzie and I finally lost it and told him “enough is enough!” He looked at me and started to cry. My heart broke as he said, ” I’m sorry but I’ve only been here a few weeks and I’m still learning.” All the anger and frustration leaked from my tensed shoulders in the form of a heart-broken sigh. Once again I failed as I tried to find the balance between Justice and Mercy. As I tucked Ozzie into bed with an extra long embrace I felt the feelings of defeat and failure roll over me once again as I struggled with this thing they call mothering. Just when I was about to give in to defeat God whispered a reminder on His own, ” Remember, you have only been here a few weeks and you’re still learning.” 🙂 Perhaps that is what Mercy is all about, recognizing that we are all “still  learning” and cut each other and ourselves a little slack. 🙂

“Surely the thing God enjoys most about being God is the thrill of being merciful, especially to those who don’t expect it and often feel they don’t deserve it.” – Jeffrey R. Holland

Managing blessings

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There are two teams of players in the game of life…the “glass half fulls” and the “glass half empties”. Some people fall naturally and easily into one position or the other. Many however find that their place on the sidelines depends on more factors than simply what fate has dished out. While I would consider myself a glass half full person by nature there are certain trends I have noticed in my day that quickly change my outlook from positive to negative. Things like fatigue, stress, worry and fear are all triggers that can alter my glass half full outlook to viewing my glass as practically empty. It is during those emotionally vulnerable moments that I forget the truth, that I lose sight of each blessing and only see the struggle of that moment. I focus on the hardship instead of all the goodness. I hear only the thunder and lose sight of each blessed drop of life-sustaining rain. It is easy to get in habit of resenting the very gifts that God has blessed us with. This week I have found myself struggling with seeing life through half empty glasses. I have struggled with frustration, fatigue, self-doubt and dread. I know how easy it is to quickly spiral out of control once I start down that road so I have made a valiant effort to refocus on the blessings. This isn’t always easy in the midst of the storm. When lighting is flashing and thunder is crashing it can be hard to count the raindrops… but we must count them, one by one, because that is how we see them.

So…

When I’m focused on the task of washing a mound of dirty dishes when all I want to do is go to bed…I count the blessing of having the food to eat that dirtied those dishes.

When I am focused on the frustration of having to deal with yet another temper tantrum…I count the blessing of being able to adopt these two precious souls into our forever family.

When I am focused on the bills that need paid…I count the blessings of having reliable electricity and a working phone to keep in touch with those I love.

When I am focused on the bowl of cereal that was spilled on the rug…I count the blessing of a working washer and dryer in my own home.

When I’m focused on the frustration of teaching  phonics to a seven-year-old who would rather be anywhere else doing anything else I count the blessing of being able to home school my children and spend my days with the people I love most.

When I am focused on the fullness of my calendar, all that is looming, all that needs done…I count the blessing of a full life because although my days are busy they are busy with wonderful things. Each appointment is the manifestation of the very blessings we enjoy.

One author expressed it eloquently when they said:

“Most of our problems are simply aggravations that come with managing so many blessings.”

There are so many blessings.

Wednesday was my Dad’s surgery. I drove out to Ohio to be with my parents. He checked in at 6:00 am. The surgery began at 8:00 am. For four hours we waited in the waiting room praying for a good report from the doctor. At noon we were called back to meet with the doctor while my Dad was taken to recovery to wake up from the anesthesia. The doctor was pleased with how it went. The cancerous mass was larger than expected and as a result the doctor took his time to slowly scrape and remove all the cancerous cells that he could. He is cautiously optimistic that he got them all. Tissue samples were removed during surgery and were sent to pathology. We will receive news from pathology next week. Finally around 3:00pm we were able to see my Dad. It was difficult seeing my strong, healthy father looking weak and in pain. As the anesthesia wore off he became more alert and had better color but we could tell that he just wanted to go to sleep. My mom and I left him to rest while we went home to take care of the barn chores. We returned in the evening to visit for a bit before we said our good-nights. He has a long road ahead of him as he heals but the surgery itself could not have gone any better. This was one of those glass half full or glass half empty days. We could focus on the fear, the unjustness of a 58-year-old man battling a very aggressive form of prostate cancer, the frustrations and fatigue OR we could count the blessings as they dropped from Heaven..

The blessings of:

A day of uninterrupted Mommy/daughter visiting in the waiting room,

The affordability and deliciousness of hospital food 🙂

The diligence of a doctor that was determined to do it right the first time,

The blessing of Wooster Community Hospital having the technology of robots to do the precision work needed,

The gift of a husband who would take off work and be Mr. Mom so that I could be with my parents,

The many prayers being said on our behalf,

The wonderful staff…desk clerks, anesthesiologists, lab technicians, cafeteria workers, gift shop volunteers and nurses who all blessed us with smiles, laughter and peace of mind as we waited for news.

The  Nurse Bait we used to thank all the wonderful staff that came and went from my Dad's room all day long.

The Nurse Bait we used to thank all the wonderful staff that came and went from my Dad’s room all day long.

It was a long day, a hard day, an emotional day, but also a blessed day.

While I was with my parents Toby stayed home with the kids and took on the daunting list of errands, appointments and school work that were scheduled for that day. The big appointment of the day was Rusty’s appointment to get braces on. I felt bad that I couldn’t be with Russ for his big day but Toby shined as “Father of the Year.” He even thought to bring Gracie’s camera so that he could share the day with me. Isn’t he wonderful?!

Rusty "before."

Rusty “before.”

Assume the position..

Assume the position..

Dr. G putting the braces on.

Dr. G putting the braces on.

Braces installed!

Braces installed!

Rusty's new brace face :)

Rusty’s new brace face 🙂

When life gets hard or busy or overwhelming we just need to remember that we are… managing blessings.

Don’t believe me?

Just start counting!

“The rhythm of motherhood will always be set to a slightly chaotic beat. I can be rattled to the core by the unpredictability of it all. Or I can choose to laugh, dance, and remember that I am managing blessings.” – Lysa Terkeurst

 

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. 🙂

It is hard, but so worth it.

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“Adoption is a commitment you enter into blindly, but it is no different from adding a child by birth.  It is essential that adopting parents are committed to making it work, committed to parenting this child for the rest of their lives, and committed to parenting through the tough stuff.” – Brooke Randolph

People keep asking how things are going with our newest addition. Things are good. Things are better than expected but that is not to say that it hasn’t been challenging. We are in the adjustment phase of this new journey and everyone is feeling the growing pains. It is much like bringing a baby home…We’re more tired than typical, a bit overwhelmed, the kids are all trying to figure out their place in this new family unit, all while Toby and I work to bond with our new son. What is different from the addition of a baby is that this child comes with his own fears, insecurities, habits and past that we have to navigate as we work to bond as a family. I had forgotten how tiring the first few months with Tyler were as we went through the process of establishing relationships, teaching boundaries and building trust.  It requires a lot of active parenting and in that sense is much like parenting a toddler…or should I say toddlers…since the supervision required is for Tyler and Ozzie.

Ozzie and Tyler are the best of friends. They frequently let people know this when they are out in public but they haven’t quite figured out HOW to be best friends. They haven’t learned each others’ friendship language. As a result they are much like an old married couple with their nagging and bickering. The either desperately love each other or drive each other crazy. This is where that active parenting comes in. Much of my day is spent mediating, correcting and redirecting. They just haven’t learned how to play on their own yet without help. The older kids have been a great asset in this department, especially Rusty, because when they all play together the older kids serve as role models for appropriate play…take turns, inside voices, calm touch, etc. Although there have been days that seem to just be filled with tattling and bickering they are both each other’s greatest defenders. The other day Ozzie lost the privilege of playing with his matchbox cars because he wasn’t playing fairly. Tyler came to his defense and claimed it was all his (Tyler’s) fault. It wasn’t. I was watching the entire interaction. He told me that it would make Ozzie “so sad” to lose his cars and that he would be willing to do Ozzie’s time out and Ozzie should get to play with his cars. 🙂 Moments like that one give me great insight into how far Tyler has come. Bringing Ozzie into our home has really given Tyler an opportunity to step up. Often, when watching them interact, it feels as though Tyler is the older brother even though Ozzie is 2 years older. We are at the beginning of the adoption road with Ozzie and the last two weeks have helped me remember what that path was like with Tyler. It is all coming back to me…the tantrums, the tears over missing old homes, the fears that if they are bad they will be kicked out, the bad habits that must be addressed, the new rules that must be learned, the fear that another meal might not be coming and the balance that we must strive for as we parent this new child that needs so much of our time and energy while we try to continue to give the other kids the time and attention they need. Even in the midst of all that I would say that things are going better than expected.

The boys playing cars.

The boys playing cars.

In the midst of this big life change life marches on. There isn’t the luxury of putting school, church callings, appointments, etc. on hold while we bond with our newest addition. Here is some of what has been happening at Patchwork Farm..

Things have been cold…VERY cold. The result of negative temperatures, when you live on a farm, is a lot of extra chores. There are more feedings, laying fresh bedding, and refilling water when things get cold. It also means a lot of two-hour delays for Ozzie. He has been thrilled by all the two-hour delays but I am finding it frustrating because I still have to home school the others. We typically start school at 8:45 but on days where there is a delay we aren’t able to begin until 11:15.

We also have had the scheduling challenge of many appointments. Ozzie came with many already scheduled appointments down in Pittsburgh that I have had to keep but we have also had appointments for the other kids that were set up before we knew about Ozzie. The result… 7 separate appointments in one week. I feel like we are a “car schooling” family rather than a “home schooling” one. This should ease up after this week. I hope.

The three older kids have been keeping busy with school and activities. Gracie received her 2nd quarter report card and was thrilled to find out that she got straight A’s. The big kids also have a fun activity going on with their piano lessons. The three older kids take piano from a friend of ours. She is wonderful! She comes to the house to teach them and it has been something they have all enjoyed. In honor of the winter Olympics she has created a Winter Piano Olympic challenge for piano practice. They each received a folder with daily challenges, instructions on how the Piano Olympic games work and insight on how to earn a perfect 10. It has been a fun motivation for the kids as they compete with each other.

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On Saturday we got a nice amount of snow so Toby took the little boys outside for sled rides behind the ATV. They had a blast!

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Ozzie has started cub scouts. He is so excited. We picked up his uniform and book last week and this past week he has worked with Toby to build his car for the pinewood derby. Last night was his first meeting which also happened to be the race. He LOVED it.

Ozzie all ready for his first cub scout meeting,

Ozzie all ready for his first cub scout meeting

Ready to race!

Ready to race!

So excited!

So excited!

Ozzie was thrilled to place 4th and win a candy bar.

Ozzie was thrilled to place 4th and win a candy bar.

 

This week continues to be packed with activities. Tonight the older kids at church are having their own pinewood derby. Gracie, Molly and Rusty have spent the week working on their cars. Tomorrow is also a big day for Miss Grace…she gets her braces off!

As I was flipping through a book of quotes the other day I came across this gem by Scott Simon that sums up how I have been feeling…

“There are times when the adoption process is exhausting, and painful and makes you want to scream.

But… so does childbirth.”

There you go.

It is hard… but so worth it. 🙂

Toby and Ozzie

Toby and Ozzie

Christmas through time

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Yesterday was our annual home school co-op Christmas party. This year the theme was “Christmas Through Time.” Preparations for the party began weeks before hand as we made gifts for friends and teachers, baked cookies for our cookie exchange and shopped for the kids’ gift exchange. This year our activities at the party revolved around how Christmas was celebrated during different times throughout history. The stations were: A Victorian Christmas, A Colonial Christmas, A Pioneer Christmas, and A Vintage Christmas (1940s). Different moms were in charge of the different stations. A friend and I were in charge of A Pioneer Christmas. Dressed in long skirt, aprons  and bonnets we discussed with the kids what a pioneer Christmas would have been like. At each station the kids made a craft that represented that time period in history.

Molly in the pioneer room.

Molly in the pioneer room.

Grace and her friend making the pioneer craft.

Grace and her friend Olivia making the pioneer craft.

Here are the finished crafts…

A Vintage Christmas

A Vintage Christmas

A Victorian Christmas

A Victorian Christmas

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A Colonial Christmas

A Pioneer Christmas

A Pioneer Christmas

After the kids rotated through all four stations everybody met in one of the larger classrooms for the annual and much-anticipated talent show. We were treated to musical numbers, poetry recitation, comedy acts and instrumental pieces. My girls joined with some of their friends to perform a song they dedicated to the Moms entitled, “Best Day.”

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After the talent show we headed to the lunchroom where we enjoyed a feast of delicious food and the treat of sitting and visiting with dear friends.

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The party ended with a gift exchange among the kids. Each kid drew another’s name and purchased a $5.00 gift for them. I don’t know which part my kids enjoyed more, the giving or the receiving. My kids were all thrilled with the gifts that they received. Tyler was especially thrilled to get a football from one of his friends.
The day ended with the moms exchanging cookies for the cookie exchange and cleaning up the mess created by a wonderful Christmas party. I went home feeling utterly done in but immensely grateful for this amazing group of women and kids that we call our co-op friends.

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Counting the blessings.

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This weekend was a special one. It was a weekend that left us counting the many blessings in our lives. So often we take for granted the very things others are praying for this holiday season…food in our bellies, clean sheets on our beds, warm homes, clean water and the security of home and family. This month we began, as part of our evening routine, making blessing leaves. Each night beginning Nov 1st with the letter “A” we each wrote down a blessing in our lives that begins with that letter. The following evening we moved to the next letter of the alphabet and we then taped the finished leaves up on our bedroom door. It had been a joy watching our children count their blessings and reflect on the many good things God has given them.

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Blessing leaves

Earlier this week we received a call from our adoption agency asking us if we would be willing to do  respite care for another family over the weekend.  Respite care is a service our adoption agency offers to all of their foster/pre-adoptive families. For a family that is in need of a babysitter for a short amount of time they call on one of the other foster/adoptive families to step in and take the child for the week or weekend. Often it is used to give that family a much-needed break in hopes that if the family takes the weekend off to “recharge” their batteries they will then be able to continue on with the placement.  When we received the call asking us if we would be willing to take on a 8-year-old girl and a 9-year-old boy for the weekend we hadn’t ever considered doing respite care before.  After discussing it as a family we all decided that it would be a fun thing to try and a wonderful way to bless another family in the process. After saying “yes” we then received more information on the kids. We found out that they were coming to us  not knowing that next week parental rights of their biological parents were going to be terminated and that after next week they would cease to have contact with them.  They also came to us having no idea that their foster family had just put in their 30 day notice and  would be moved out of the house they call “home” days before Christmas. We entered the weekend in prayer.  We prayed that everyone would be safe and comfortable while together, we prayed we would have wisdom in dealing with the issues that we were told these two children came with, but mostly we prayed that we would be a blessing and that their weekend here would be a respite not only for the foster family but for these two kids whose world was about to be turned upside down.

Friday morning we began to prepare for their visit. Molly was having the little girl sleep on her top bunk and Rusty was having the little boy sleep on his. They changed their sheets, picked out books to put beside the bed, and pulled out toys they thought the kids would enjoy.  After getting ready we headed out on a field trip to the ice skating rink. The kids had fun skating with their friends for two hours before we had to meet up with the foster family at Burger King to pick up our visitors.

Tyler skating with the boys.

Tyler skating with the boys.

Miss Grace

Miss Grace

Gracie and her best buddies.

Gracie and her best buddies.

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Molly and her buddy, Tatum.

Molly and her buddy, Tatum.

That night we picked up our visitors without incident. The foster mom had been concerned they would have a tough time going with us but they did great. They connected with the kids right away and when we arrived home they were eager to explore the house. Our weekend was spent playing at home on Saturday morning and going out in the afternoon. The kids loved the McDonald’s play house and all the animals. In the afternoon we went to the Olympic Fun Center where everyone enjoyed roller skating, rock climbing and laser tag. They stayed with us until Sunday night when we met the foster mom to drop them off. It was a wonderful weekend with some wonderful little visitors.

Tyler and his new friend

Tyler and his new friend

The kids exploring the fields..

The kids exploring the fields..

Our visitor enjoying the rock climbing wall.

Our visitor enjoying the rock climbing wall.

Stopping for frozen yogurt after a day of fun.

Stopping for frozen yogurt after a day of fun.

With Thanksgiving approaching this week I have found myself reflecting on all that I have to be thankful for and how many blessings I so often take for granted. One of those blessings that I became more aware of as we cared for these two little ones was the blessing of security. We so often take for granted the blessing of knowing that where we sleep tonight will be where we will sleep tomorrow, that the people we call family will still be our family next month, that the home we know and love will still be our home next year. That is a blessing that millions of children world-wide are denied. They live with the fear and uncertainty of what tomorrow will bring. They go to bed not knowing how long they will call this place home or these people family. I recently read a book entitled, Adopting the Hurt Child, which profoundly affected me. In it the author attempts to illustrate to the reader the feelings of a child in the foster system. Here is his analogy:

“Imagine you are sitting in your livingroom on a warm summer evening. Your spouse is dozing peacefully on the sofa, having consumed one too many beers at dinner.  Your two children, who have spent all day bickering, are quietly playing with their favorite toys. You’re curled up with a good book, and your feeling is one of contentment. Perhaps this isn’t the perfect family, but they are yours, and you love them.

Suddenly there’s a knock at the door. You rise to open it. Standing there is a tall man you have never seen before. He gently takes you by the arm and ushers you into his car.  Before you can comprehend what has happened, he’s driving you away from your home.

Soon you stop in front of a beautiful house with a broad, manicured lawn. The man leads you inside, where he introduces you to the people there. They are warm and pleasant, and they smile sweetly at you. The man tells you that this is your new family.

Your new spouse doesn’t have a problem with alcohol. Your new children never argue and are well-behaved. They show you your new room, point out all your new belongings, and tell you to make yourself at home. All while they are smiling.

You look over your shoulder at the tall man, who’s smiling too. He assures you that this new family will love you forever. And all they expect in return is for  you to love them back.

You slowly look at your new surroundings. Your emotions are swirling out of control. You feel as though you are moving through a dream. This new family might be wonderful, they may be superior to your old family in every way- but they are not your family. You don’t even know them so how can you love them?”

I found this to be a powerful analogy. It gave me greater empathy for the fears, behaviors and struggles of all the innocents who have ended up in the system through no fault of their own. In made me realize the profound blessing of security…of home…of family. This Thanksgiving I am grateful for so many things. Forgive me Lord for the blessings I take for granted…those very things that so many others are praying for..