Tag Archives: kids

Bring on the Par-Tee!

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“I have a tip that can take five strokes off anyone’s golf game:

it’s called an eraser.” -Arnold Palmer

On Friday morning we woke up with a grand plan to make the most of our final day with Kelly and the kids.We had two stops planned for the day.

First stop:

Frontier Falls Mini Golf!

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After being introduced to Frontier Falls a few weeks ago, when the boys were invited to a birthday party there, I knew we had to take the cousins when the came for a visit. After eight years of living in the area I had never heard of this hidden gem. It is a beautiful mini golf course located just 30 minutes away from us. This mini golf course is the prettiest I have ever seen. Located on the side of a hill, the course is beautifully landscaped with a large koi pond, waterfalls and bridges, and stunning gardens.

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We packed a lunch for the day, plenty of cold water bottles (it was going to be a HOT day) and loaded Kelly’s car. The plan was for her to drive separately since her next stop on her vacation was her in-laws home, 2 hours south of us. She figured since she was halfway there by the time we hit our final stop of the day she might as well drive separately and just leave straight from there.

We arrived at Frontier Falls at noon, just as they opened their gates. We split the kids into two groups of 5 and they picked their clubs and golf ball colors.

In the first group of players there was Grace, Molly, Tyler, Ozzie and Lydia.

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The second group consisted of Rusty, Nate, Sammy, and Noah, with Kelly and I as helpers.

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Then it was time to begin. It took us a couple of hours to move our large group through the 18 holes.

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The kids had a blast and everyone noticed an improvement in their golf game the longer we played.

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By the end of the course the kids were hot and ready for a break so Kelly treated everyone to $1.00 snow cones at the snack hut. They hit the spot!

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By this point the kids were all getting hungry and were ready for lunch so we loaded up and headed to our last stop of the day:

The Splash Pad!

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When we arrived we had a picnic lunch and then set the kids loose to have fun in the water. Tyler and Ozzie were the only ones in the group who had been there before so it was a new experience for the majority. The kids LOVED it and were happy to get wet after our hot morning golfing.

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The big kids helped with Kelly’s little boys and the “middles” took off playing.

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It was nice to be able to get in some last-minute sister time while the kids were occupied and happy. We were able to sit and visit while watching the kids and not having to worry about water danger like we would have had we gone to the pool to cool off. It was perfect for the babies!

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All too soon it was time to say good-bye. 😦

Kelly was off to her next stop and the next set of relatives to visit.

As hard as it was to say good-bye to my sister, we really couldn’t complain. We got a lot more time with her and the kids than we usually are able to. When Kelly comes down from Michigan to visit she has a lot of stops she must make so we were pretty lucky to get her for 3 days…

and we fit A LOT of memory making fun into our time together.

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What a grand time it was!

But wait!

The fun didn’t end there.

Then it was time for “Flick and Float.”

After saying our good-byes to the Kirks it was time to head back home, get Tyler dressed for football practice, and pack dry towels for our evening ahead.

A month ago I signed our family up for “Flick and Float,” a free activity offered at our pool three times during the summer in which they fill the pool with floats and have a movie playing poolside. The kids can float while they watch a movie under the stars.

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We did it in July and they kids were eager to do it once more before summer ended.

So after an already VERY full day we headed to the pool. They were playing classic vintage cartoons for the “Flick.”

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At 8:00, when football practice was over, Toby and Tyler joined us.

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The water was cold but that didn’t deter my kiddos. The floated and splashed as the movie played.

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Near the end of the night the staff brought out popcorn for everyone to enjoy.

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It was a perfect way to end a fantastic summer day.

The Voices in my Head

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“The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” – Peggy O’ Mara

words

The words of our parents becomes our inner voice, the voice we hear in our head. Their words become our mantra, our definition of self, the thing that spurs us forward with confidence or the thing that makes us doubt our own abilities. As an adoptive mother I find myself battling invisible demons. I find my voice competing with the voices already in my sons’ heads. Unfortunately, while those words whispered are often unkind or untrue, they are incredibly powerful.

When Tyler moved in with us he often said, “I’m a bad boy.” He uttered those words daily… in anger, in frustration, in defeat. He could not even imagine a world where he could be anything but a “bad boy.” Daily I would affirm, encourage, and fight to replace his inner voice with one of hope and love. For every “I’m a bad boy” I would whisper, “No, you are a good boy, whom I love very much.” Over time he began to want to believe, although it took much longer for him to begin to believe. I think my voice now rings louder than the voices of his past, but I still sometimes see him struggling to let go of the identity that defined him for so long.

This week I have been battling Ozzie’s inner voice. A cruel, lying voice that tells him that he will never be good and can never be trusted. He speaks the “truths” he hears in his head:

“I have never been good for even one day in my life. I will never be good.”

My arguments are disregarded as unbelievable,

and no matter how many times I tell him that he is a good boy he argues that I am wrong.

This week was a particularly hard week as we have moved into new territory in therapy. One of our greatest sources of conflict is found in the relationship and interactions of Ozzie and Tyler. It is a hard and complicated relationship that comes from two hurt boys trying to have a healthy sibling relationship when they haven’t been taught how. This week our therapy assignment was to have 30 minutes of playtime daily for Oz and Tyler. We created a set of rules with the therapist, made an activity bag full of sheets of activity ideas, and took our assignment home, ready to give it a try. Ozzie was told if he could have 6 out of 7 play times end successfully then he would be allowed to pick a treat from her goody box the following week.

It seemed so simple.

30 minutes a day.

7 days.

All they had to do was have fun and play nicely.

They weren’t being asked to clean their rooms, or do the dishes, or complete extra school work,

all they had to do was PLAY.

It didn’t end well.

Each days’ play session turned into hours of mediation as Ozzie tantrumed, and teased, and hurt and hit, in an effort to get out of having to play with Tyler. He yelled and screamed how much he hated Tyler and how he would never be Tyler’s brother. It was a long week and a much harder therapy assignment than the previous week’s assignment. We were now digging deeper and opening old wounds in an effort to heal those sores so deep and raw that were inflicted over the course of his childhood. Wounds that should have never happened.

Every time I would say it was time for “Tyler time” Ozzie would shout and stomp his feet and say, “You don’t understand, I’ll never be able to play with Tyler. I just can’t be trusted.”

I was puzzled by his choice of words. We had never said that. I was battling his inner voice once again.

After a week of failed attempts we were back at the therapists office. After explaining our experiences she made the executive decision to table this exercise for the time being and address the emotions that had arisen as a result of this exercise. As we were headed home I received some profound insight into the boogeyman we were battling. Ozzie opened up and shared that playing with Tyler makes him think about his biological home and he gets anxious. He shared that his parents didn’t trust him to play with his sister so they weren’t allowed to play together. They would be sent to their separate rooms to play and could come out one at a time to play in the living room but couldn’t play together.

“I couldn’t be trusted,” he whispered.

Ahhh…and there is that inner voice, so powerful in its deceit.

He told me that playing with Tyler scares him because he is afraid he is going to be bad and get in trouble. Here is a little boy who spent much of his childhood playing alone in his room. It is no wonder he struggles to join the family for game time, or play ball with his little brother. He is happiest locked in his room alone. It is where he feels safest. Safe from the adults that he worries could hurt him, and safe from the damage he feels he could inflict upon others.

The journey of adoption and parenting wounded souls had been humbling. I have learned, and grown, and been made painfully aware of my own inadequacies. But, I have also been blessed with a growing testimony of our Lord’s great capabilities and immense capacity to heal.

I can not heal the hurts.

I can not silence the inner demons that my sons battle daily.

I can not quiet the inner voices that whisper lies and hurts.

I can not fix them…

All I can do is love them,

and teach them,

and pray for them,

 and walk with them.

But most importantly I can give them a new inner voice…

by the way I talk to them and the words I use.

I can speak God’s truth.

Words are powerful things.

I have never understood that as well as I do now.

We become the voice our children hear in their heads.

We must choose our words wisely.

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!

Adoption Countdown

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We are in the final stretch!

All our paperwork is submitted and approved.

We have our court date and time.

Now we just wait for the moment that the judge officially declares us the parents of Ozzie.

7 days to go!

As we near the end Ozzie is trying to manage and process a wide mix of emotions.

He is excited:

Two weeks ago he asked me if we could use the Disney count down board to count down the days to his adoption. He said, “Adoption is even more exciting than Disney so we should count it down!” We made up an adoption count down board and have it sitting on the kitchen island. Every morning, first thing, Ozzie runs over and changes the number.

The board now reads: 7.

He is nervous:

A few days ago when we were driving home he shared some of that nervousness with us when he spoke up out of the blue and said, “I’m worried about not being a foster kid anymore.” When we explained that his daily life wouldn’t be changing all that much, the only noticeable change being the lack of social worker visits, he told us:

” But I’ve been a foster kid for so long and I’ve never been an adopted kid before. It just makes me nervous.”

He is sad:

He has been talking about his sister a lot lately. I think the permanency of adoption has hit him. As much as he is looking forward to having a forever family he is still struggling with the fact that his new family will not be Zoey’s family too. Even though we keep telling him that his visits with Zoey will continue he is afraid adoption day will be the last time he sees her. This is one of those times when our words mean little and we will have to prove our trustworthiness through our actions following the adoption.

He is afraid:

He has come close to his adoption day before…very close. The family that was to adopt him decided that he was simply too much for their family and asked that he be removed from their home. I see Ozzie struggling with a great deal of anxiety as we near adoption day. He walks around as if bracing himself for another disappointment, regardless of what we say or do. He lives in fear that if he disobeys or does something wrong he will be sent away.

This fear was exasperated the other day at school. We have been dealing with a bullying situation at school that came to a head a few days ago. When I picked up Ozzie from school he had tears in his eyes. As we pulled out of the parking lot I asked what was wrong.

Ozzie answered, “I think the policeman might be coming to take me away.”

When I asked him what he was talking about he explained that his “friend” hired a lawyer and got a restraining order against Ozzie, and because he keeps annoying her the police are going to come and take him to jail.

Ozzie, who is so literal, believed her. Any other kid would have known she was simply being a mean girl and ignored her, but Ozzie believed her. He was scared. He has experienced the fear of having police show up at your door and take you away from your family.

During this already emotionally turbulent time Ozzie was worrying about this bully’s nonsense.

*sigh*

He is trusting and loving more:

We have noticed a visible shift in Ozzie. He is moving himself from the outskirts of the family circle to the center. I think he has been so scared that this adoption isn’t going to happen that he has kept us all at arm’s length. This last week we have noticed a change. We see him making an effort to engage more, be more affectionate, and more loving.

Tuesday we had one of those big emotional breakthroughs.

As we drove home from my parents house the car was quiet and dark. Everyone was tired from the fun-filled day. Out of nowhere we hear Ozzie pipe up from the back seat and say,

“Daddy, I love you.”

It was one of those huge, unforgettable “firsts.” After 11 months with us it was his first time telling Toby, “I love you.”

Toby glanced over at me and we smiled.

It seems like such a small thing but it was huge!

Another wall had fallen.

We were one step closer to our forever family.

And in the dark of the car

on a country road

in the hills of Ohio

Ozzie’s daddy whispered back,

“I love you too, Oz.”

We are going to Disney World!!

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I love being  married to a man who loves grand gestures and big surprises. I mean, really, is there anything more thrilling than surprising someone you love with a wish granted…

And make a dream come true?!

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Yesterday Toby and I pulled off a dream surprise that was a year in the making.

For 12 months we saved, planned, researched, booked and prepared for the thrill of saying to our kids,

“Surprise, we are going to DISNEY WORLD!!!”

Yesterday was our big reveal and they had no idea. 🙂

Here is how it happened…

Sunday was their last day of summer before school began so we told them we had something fun planned for family time…a automobile scavenger hunt.

We broke them into two teams, boys vs girls, and had them sit on opposite sides of the car. Using a list of items that we had previously scouted out around town we gave them each a list and both teams a camera and told them that the goal was to take a picture of each item they saw on their list. The kids were excited and it was fun watching them shout to their teammate with the camera the items they spotted as we drove around town.

The boys' team.

The boys’ team.

Everything on the list was obtainable (hence the previous scouting mission to make the list) except for “a sign with your name on it.” We drove until all items were found except that one last item.

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This was our set-up.

An hour before we left Toby had snuck out and driven up the road (in the opposite direction we had left our driveway) to place some signs.

As we drove back home the kids were laughing about the fun of the challenge while lamenting the fact that they hadn’t found that last item on the list when we turned onto our road. A minute later we pulled up to sign # 1

IMG_9651“There’s a sign with our name on it!” the teams shouted as they scrambled to get their last photo. We continued to drive down the road to sign 2.

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Now the looks of confusion began as they passed sign # 3…

IMG_9653*Drumroll please*

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The reactions were mixed. Some began “wooping it up” immediately, some were still processing and some weren’t sure if they could even believe us.

As if we would joke about something like Disney World. 😉

When we got back to the house the details of the trip were shared. Waiting for each kid was a gift bag with Disney vacation supplies in it.

A Disney T-shirt.

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A folder for each kid with a google map of our road trip route, road games, maps of the parks and our resort, and our itinerary of events (Where we are going each day, where we are eating lunch, and where we have reservations for dinner.)

Our itinerary...So excited!!!

Our itinerary…So excited!!!

The squeals of delight made our year of planning and secret keeping worth it. 🙂

The surprise waiting for them at home.

The surprise waiting for them at home.

Our Disney vacation "count down board." We leave in 10 days!!!

Our Disney vacation “count down board.” We leave in 10 days!!!

Molly checking out her vacation folder..

Molly checking out her vacation folder..

The kids also got to see their Magic Bands. These are the new “key to everything” bands for Disney Resort guests. Instead of the old tickets or cards used to get into your hotel room or into the park these Magic Bands are worn as bracelets and are scanned to give you access to everything Disney. Months ago we were able to select the color for each child and they came customized with that child’s name and age.

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Disney World Magic Bands.

The next surprise was pins for Disney pin trading. Toby found an inexpensive lot of pins for sale on Ebay months ago for the kids to trade at Disney World. We dumped the bag on the table and they took turns, one at a time, selecting their pins for their lanyards.

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Disney Pins

Disney Pins

The evening ended with cake and watching the Disney vacation planning video that Toby sent away for.

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Disney World here we come!!!

(My computer is not cooperating at the moment but I will try to post the video of the big reveal soon) 🙂

The Bedroom Shuffle

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This week was a busy one.

It began here…

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This was our big project week of the summer. In the spring we decided that our big summer project was going to be the bedroom shuffle. We decided that Rusty had been a good sport long enough and deserved to have his bedroom back to himself. When Tyler moved in he started in Rusty’s room and without complaint Rusty endured those tough early moths of tantrums and his room being destroyed as Tyler raged. When Tyler moved into his own room we found the level of contention dropped dramatically when everyone had their own separate corners to retreat to.

When Ozzie joined our family he moved into Rusty’s room and claimed the top bunk. Once again Rusty was a trooper and willingly made room for his newest brother without complaint…and once again he was on the receiving end of tantrum destruction. After months of watching Rusty put up with his things being broken and destroyed while Ozzie raged, we decided it was time for Rusty to get his man cave back. The result of this decision was “The Great Bedroom Shuffle.”

We knew this would be a laborious project and I found myself putting it off as summer rolled on. I knew the chaos that would come before the calm and I was dreading the mess that inevitably comes with home projects. When we found out that Toby was scheduled for foot surgery in a week and would be unable to do much heavy lifting and ladder work for the remainder of summer break we realized this week was our week of opportunity.

The “Great Bedroom Shuffle” began last week when we consolidated the craftroom and schoolroom, thus freeing up the craftroom to become Gracie’s room. Saturday Toby began walling in the open craft loft to create Gracie’s bedroom. Tyler was eager to help him with the drywall work…

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As they built and drywalled the new bedroom wall the girls began painting Gracie’s new room. She decided to change the wall color from yellow to coral. Molly helped her begin the painting process before she disappeared for the week to Girl Scout Camp. Lucky girl! Her timing was perfect…she missed out of a week of hard work and arrived home Friday when the projects were all done. 🙂

The girls begin painting...

The girls begin painting…

Saying goodbye at camp.

Saying goodbye at camp.

Molly and her best buddy, Tatum.

Molly and her best buddy, Tatum.

The shuffle then began. Monday was prep day for Gracie’s room. We painted and purged and finished the last of the construction.

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Tuesday was Gracie’s move in day. We spent all day sorting, organizing, and moving her from her old room into her new room.

The fruits of our labor…

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On Wednesday Tyler’s old room was sorted, purged and organized before he was moved up to Gracie’s old room. He and Gracie will be neighbors in the upstairs loft. He decided he wanted a sport themed room and had fun decorating with sport decals.

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Tyler’s finished room…

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 Thursday was Ozzie’s turn. Although all the kids were excited about the changes, none were more excited than Ozzie. We took the little boys shopping and told them that they could pick out new bedding and a new lamp. They looked and debated for an hour until they settled on their “themes.” Ozzie wanted a car theme. I was relieved by his choice because it meant that I didn’t have to take down the license plates from Tyler’s old room. It also meant I could reuse the old street signs we had. Ozzie was so excited. When we finished he sat down on his bed and said, “This is my first room I’ve ever had.” When I asked what he meant he explained, “Well, when I lived with my birth parents I slept in their room. When I lived in my foster homes I always stayed in the guest bedroom and when I moved in here I stayed in Rusty’s room.” He went on to say, “I always wanted a car room but I never had my own room to decorate.”

That night he kept asking when he could go to bed and finally sleep in his new room. 🙂

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Ozzie

Friday was our last long day as we cleaned and organized Rusty’s room and helped him put his things back to where they were before Ozzie moved in. Rusty was thrilled to have his room back and had fun “spreading” his things out and reclaiming his shelves.

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The final big project of the week happened on Saturday as I worked on the kids’ bathroom. Stealing an idea from a friend, I decided that in an attempt to cut down on the amount of towels I wash each week, I would give each kid a personal towel that they would use for the duration of the week. To make this vision work I told Toby I was looking for a board with hooks rather than a than a towel bar. After looking around and not finding what I envisioned Toby came up with his own design. It was much cuter than my original vision. He took old plumbing fixtures and attached them to a piece of barn wood to make my towel hooks. I was thrilled with the result!

IMG_8610Now the kids each have an assigned towel that they are responsible for laundering weekly. We will see if this helps cut down on our towel consumption.

To finish off the kids’ bathroom I had them each draw a self-portrait that I framed to hang on the wall.

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The finished bathroom hooks.

The week ended with Molly being picked up from Girl Scout Camp and all of the big kids spending the weekend with my parents in Ohio. It was a fun play weekend for the big kids after a week of hard work. The little boys enjoyed a fun weekend of being the only kids. It was nice for Toby and I to have some special time with the little ones while the big kids got a bit of a break from their little brothers. On Sunday we drove out to Ohio to celebrate birthdays and pick up the big kids.

Monday morning we arrived early for Toby’s outpatient surgery. He was there to get some much-needed surgery on his foot. The surgery went well. He is home resting and we are all looking forward to a more relaxed week with Toby home recovering.

The little boys had fun playing in the dress-up box. Do you notice our infamous photo bomber? :)

This week the little boys had fun playing in the dress-up box. Can you spot our infamous photo bomber? 🙂

 

Happy Mother’s Day

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The kids woke me up with Mother's Day surprises.

The kids woke me up with Mother’s Day surprises and breakfast in bed.

Sometimes my heart aches. It is not an ache of sadness but an ache that comes from intense love. Sometimes in the midst of living life I catch a glimpse of one of my blessings racing past me on their way to the next task or adventure and my heart catches in my chest. Sometimes it is a look across a room or a moment of catching them in an act of kindness.  It can be a word whispered, a quick embrace, or the dirty boy smell I breathe in as I kiss their heads. Sometimes the heart pull comes just from the thought of them as I reflect on the blessing of being called, “Momma.” My heart hurts when I consider the enormous blessings my Father in Heaven has gifted me with. I am humbled that He has entrusted such gems to me when I am so unworthy of the task. My heart is full, so full of love, for the 5 treasures who have come into my life by different paths but have all found a place in this Momma’s heart. The love and gratitude I feel is overwhelming and it sometimes makes my heart feel to big for my chest. I am profoundly humbled as I sit and ponder on the blessings of the life I have been given and the blessings of this day.

Gracie's gift to me.

Gracie’s gift to me.

There was a time in my life when I had no desire to be a Momma and felt children would simply be a hindrance in my grand plans to change the world. I had a change of heart as I felt God’s call. I married and soon gave birth to Grace. My heart began to hurt and I understood the feeling described by Elizabeth Stone when she said, “The decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” I had little understanding of the heart’s capacity for love until I held Gracie in my arms.

Then came the decision to grow our family and give Grace a sibling. I remember the very real fears I struggled with as I carried Molly within me, fears that my heart lacked the capacity to love another as I loved my first. It is silly, really, as I look back on the fears I battled during that pregnancy. I know now of the heart’s great ability to stretch and grow and no sooner had I held Molly in my arms, my heart doubled in size.

It was not soon after that we found out we were pregnant with baby #3. We soon found out that I was carrying a boy. Well, that brought its own set of fears. I was a “girls” mom. I didn’t know what I was going to do with a dirty, noisy, busy, bouncing boy. I feared I would never be able to connect and bond with him like I had with the girls. “I have nothing in common with little boys,” I expressed to Toby. Then Rusty was born. I held him and kissed the rolls at the back of his neck and my heart doubled in size again. I discovered the magical love that grows between a Momma and her son.

Tyler's card and his picture of him and I.

Tyler’s card and his picture of us holding hands.

My heart was full. Due to a diagnosis of Myasthenia Gravis we knew that we couldn’t have anymore babies and so I loved on the blessings I had. My heart was filled and our life was good. The kids grew and the challenges of the early years of parenting were waning and then God whispered. God whispered his plan to grow our family again and although we were fearful of the road we were being asked to walk down we stepped forward in faith. Like each of our pregnancies we rode the rollercoaster of emotions. We were excited and anxious and impatient to meet our new child but also fearful of all the unknowns that come from a life altering change. I worried that I wouldn’t bond with another woman’s child. I worried that I was somehow hurting the children we had. I feared that it wouldn’t work, that the child wouldn’t “fit” or that I wouldn’t love him like I loved my own… and then we met Tyler. He stepped out of the car for his first visit, a little sullen boy with baby fat cheeks and big brown eyes, and I was in love. My heart doubled in size.

Ozzie made me a clay flower.

Ozzie made me a clay flower.

The next year was challenging, and tiring, and hard. There were days I wanted to throw in the towel or just run away but then God would give me a moment of clarity. It would come unexpectedly in the form of a look or a word or a touch and my heart would ache and I would be reminded of the intensity of love I felt for a child born to another mother. The adoption was finalized, he took our name, and things were easier. Then God whispered again. This time he called us to open our home to child who needed a place to go for Christmas. We opened our doors having no idea we would be opening our hearts to child #5. Then we met him. His love for life was contagious and we were charmed by this little 9-year-old boy with glasses and a chipped tooth smile. When we got the call asking us if we wanted to move forward with adopting Ozzie we had already fallen in love and my heart doubled in size once more.

There was a time in my life that I questioned my heart’s capacity for love, but this is what I have learned over the years: The heart muscle has great pliability and the more you stretch it the bigger it grows…

which isn’t to say that it doesn’t ache every now and then. 🙂

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Flowers for Mother’s Day!

 

 

Time-out!

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 Ozzie and Zoey have gone home. They were dropped off yesterday afternoon. Yesterday evening I was visiting with a friend and she asked me how their visit went. I found myself a bit tongue-tied as I struggled to give her an honest answer. I wasn’t sure what to say. I was so tired and the last two weeks have been such a blur that I honestly couldn’t recall all that had happened or figure out how I felt the visit went. I told her that I needed a good night sleep and then I’d be better able to answer her question. Now as I sit here this morning I am in a better place emotionally and physically to assess our last two weeks. Overall I would say the last two weeks went 100 times better than I anticipated. Overall the kids (ours and our visitors) handled the adjustment of new people better than expected. There were no major disasters, no accidents, nothing said or done that brought regrets. There were no trips to the ER, no calls to 911 (which one of the kiddos has been known to do before) and no house fires. I would say our two weeks were a success! That is not to say there wasn’t a massive amount of active parenting happening every day as I settle disputes, resolved conflicts and played mediator over a multitude of little arguments like whose turn it was to play with a toy. It wasn’t an easy 2 weeks but it was 2 weeks of a lot of growth and teaching opportunities. It was a chance to work some parenting muscles that I haven’t used in a while. 🙂

The biggest change I saw was the increase in the amount of time-outs given on a daily basis. Some of those time-outs were given as a consequence for behaviors…many were self-declared time-outs as the older kids (or a parent) in need of a break would lock themselves in the bathroom for extended amounts of time. A few days ago I had to give Tyler a timeout when he and Ozzie kept picking at each other. Before it escalated into an argument I sent them in separate directions. When Tyler didn’t want to listen he then received a true time-out as I placed him on the bench in my bathroom. Tyler wasn’t happy about having to “time-out” in my bathroom by himself and he let me know that. While he vented I went in search of Ozzie who had gone down to the basement and was playing by himself. When I  asked him if he was ok he said that he was ok and that he just needed some time alone. I think all that togetherness was wearing on everyone so Ozzie put himself in a “time-out.” Once I knew Ozzie was fine I headed back upstairs to let Tyler know his time-out was over. As I approached the bathroom the door quickly slammed shut. Tyler informed me that he was just going to stay in the time-out and to not come in. Knowing that Tyler would never volunteer for a time-out I told him to open the door…

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As I pushed the door open I saw the result of doing a time-out in my bathroom and I remembered why we typically use the fencepost. While I was checking on Ozzie Tyler had gotten into my make-up and had put on my mascara…or had at least tried. It was all over his face.  As I looked down I saw blood dripping from his ankle.  “What happened?” I asked him.  Slowly he revealed the razor that had been hidden behind his back. As I looked him over I discovered that while he sat, bored in my bathroom, he decided to try out my razor and shave his legs…and arms…with a dry razor.  The result was multiple nicks and hairless limbs. I guess I should be grateful he didn’t shave off his eyebrows.

This only happened once this week but it is reflective of the many mini adventures we had at our home over Christmas break.

Was it a good week?  Yes.

Was it a hard week?  Yes.

Was it a boring week?  Definitely not 🙂

Christmas at the Homestead

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Christmas is over. The paper and ribbons are cleaned up. The leftovers are put away. The frantic pace of December has slowed and now is that blessed week of reflection and rest between Christmas and New Years Eve. I love the days that follow Christmas. The house still reflects the beauty of Christmas but in an easier, less showy way. Toys are strewn about as the kids start assembling Lego kits and piles of new books are scattered around the livingroom as the kids lay around in their PJs reading, not bothering to get dressed. Christmas music still plays in the background but the urgency of the season has passed and now we pause to reflect on what a wonderful Christmas it was.

The holiday was holy.

We went into Christmas unsure of how it would go. We knew God was calling us to open our home to two extra children this year but even with the knowledge that this is what we were being called to do I still had a knot of worry in my stomach as we drove out to Ohio to spend Christmas with family. I didn’t know how our visitors would react to our way of celebrating Christmas, what emotions they would be feeling, or what traditions would be missed. As a result I entered Christmas in prayer.

Toby was off work on Christmas eve so we were able to leave for the Homestead a bit earlier than typical. When we arrived at 1:30 there were hugs and greetings and then the kids were off to show Ozzie and Zoey around. They were eager to see the big red barn and meet the animals. Later in the day we began our usual Christmas eve traditions of appetizers for dinner, white elephant gift exchange, and the talent show. Every year the kids put on a show for the grown-ups. Sometimes it is a dance number or a story read but this year they rewrote the classic Christmas Carol and performed it with Uncle Travis playing Scrooge. It was very funny. 🙂

Uncle Travis and Rusty.

Uncle Travis and Rusty.

After our party inside we headed out to the barn to take care of the animals and read the Christmas story.

Ozzie leaning to milk a goat.

Ozzie learning to milk a goat.

George was a big hit with the kids!

George was a big hit with the kids!

Ozzie was thrilled when George gave him a "hug"

Ozzie was thrilled when George gave him a “hug”

Gracie by the barn door

Gracie by the barn door

The reading of the Christmas story

The reading of the Christmas story

After our time in the barn we headed back into the house so that the kids could open their Christmas eve gift…new PJs. Usually we do matching PJs for Christmas morning but this year I tried to find PJs that reflected each child’s likes. After opening their gifts the kids ran to change and model their new clothes.

Christmas eve PJs.

Christmas eve PJs.

By then it was 9:00pm and we tucked the kiddos into bed while Mimi, Pop pop and Uncle Travis left for 10:00 mass. The three girls slept down in the family room and the three boys slept on the floor of our room. Toby, G.G. and I visited in the livingroom, waiting for the kids to fall asleep so that the Christmas magic could begin.

In the morning the kids were up around 6:00 am eager to see if Santa came. Toby did a valiant job of keeping the kids contained in our room until the adults had the turkey in the oven and cameras ready.

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Tyler and Ozzie ready to come down the stairs.

Before the kids entered...

Before the kids entered…

After the kids entered...

After the kids entered…

We had a wonderful morning opening gifts, checking out the stockings and spending time as a family. After all the gifts were opened and the papers and bows picked up, the ladies headed to the kitchen to put casseroles in the oven and the kids began playing with their new toys. Zoey was thrilled with her baby doll and tea set and decided to have a tea party, Ozzie and Rusty began constructing their new Lego sets, Tyler headed out the barn to play with his football and the girls snuggled up in the livingroom to read the new books they received.

Tyler playing outside on the swing.

Tyler playing outside on the swing.

Ozzie with one of his completed lego sets.

Ozzie with one of his completed Lego sets.

Around 3:00 it was finally time for dinner. I always find it amazing the amount of preparation and work that goes into a single meal. There is always a short amount of time in the hour before it is on the table when it feels like it isn’t going to come together but it always does and it is always delicious!

After dinner we began the laborious task of finding and collecting all our clothes, new gifts, toys and children before we began our 2 1/2 hour drive home. We said our good-byes and thanked everyone for another beautifully magical Christmas and for opening their Christmas and home to two extra kids this year. As we drove home the kids all declared this Christmas the best Christmas ever…and it truly was!

Thank you Lord!

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“Not all those who wander are lost”

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

Coolspring Corn Maze

Coolspring Corn Maze

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

Miss Molly

Miss Molly

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

An aerial view of the cornmaze.

An aerial view of the corn maze.

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

Playing on the hay.

Playing on the hay.

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

"Go Speed Racer!"

“Go Speed Racer!”

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

Tyl.er and Toby with the pumpkin cannon

Tyler and Toby with the pumpkin cannon

Molly shooting pumpkins.

Molly shooting pumpkins.

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

Tyler in the lead...

Tyler in the lead…

Those who wander..

Those who wander..

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

Finding clues...

Finding clues…

A life size game!

A life size game!

Sisters!

Sisters!

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

YUM!

YUM!