Tag Archives: music

Meeting Sabrina Carpenter


I earned myself some “Super Momma” points the other day. So often I find myself in a deficit, so when given the opportunity to earn some brownie points with my teenage daughter I jump at the chance.

That and when my Molly asks for something, which is a rare thing, I love being able to give back to this sweet girl who is always doing for others but rarely asks for anything in return.

Her request came in the form of gasping breaths when she raced into the room to excitedly announce that one of her favorite singers was having a free concert and meet-and-greet at a nearby mall on Tuesday.

“Do you think we can go?!” She asked with big, hopeful, Bambi eyes.

I asked for the details and promised we would try to make it happen, so after a crazy Tuesday morning of MOPS babysitting, errands, and the dentist, we drove over to Boardman, Ohio to see Sabrina Carpenter at Southern Park Mall.

Sabrina Carpenter is a singer/actor best known for her role on the Disney channel series “Girl Meets World.”

girl meets world

Molly loves her music and received her CD for Christmas. For some reason, that I never quite figured out, she was making an appearance at this local mall to perform a few of her songs and greet her fans.

The proximity to home was ideal, and the price (free) couldn’t be better, so answering Molly’s request was easy.


We arrived and found a small group surrounding a stage that was set up in the middle of the Sears concourse. We had no problem getting a spot within reaching distance of Sabrina which made it all the more thrilling for Molly.


When Sabrina Carpenter arrived the girls pressed closer while the boys (who were incredibly good sports through the ordeal) “held up the wall” far behind the crowd.


She was incredibly talented and I could see why Molly was a fan.


Afterward fans were able to line up, greet her, and get their picture taken with her.

This was almost too much for Molly who was beside herself with excitement.


It was 2 hours of my life lost in a mall, (not how I would normally choose to spend a Tuesday) but seeing Molly’s face light up with joy made it the best two hours of my week!



Our co-op’s got talent!


Wednesday marked the last day of co-op for the year. It is hard to believe our co-op year is over. It feels like just yesterday we were beginning another school year.

The end of co-op always brings a mix of emotions. There is that end of the year excitement that precedes the start of summer break, mixed with a bit of melancholy over the passing of another year. I find that (as a Momma) there is a sense of relief that the school season burdens are beginning to lighten and that another co-op year can be marked down as a success.

Every year we have a co-op talent show in which the kids have the opportunity to share with their peers their talents and interests. Typically this happens at our co-op Christmas party. This year we decided to put off our co-op talent show until the final day of co-op.

Talent show day had finally arrived!


After lunch we gathered everyone in the lunchroom to enjoy the vast amount of talent that exists in this little group. 🙂

Here is a peek at the talents we enjoyed!

Caleigh played “Till there was you” from The Music Man on piano.

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Tatum played “Rordino” by Jean Rameau and “Prelude #7 in B Minor” by Robert  Vandall on the piano.

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Tiernan played “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and “O Come Little Children” on the violin.

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Annaliese played (and sang) “First Day” by Bright Eyes on her guitar.

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Olivia played “River Flows in You” on piano.

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Ozzie played “Russian Folk Song” and “Planetarium” on the piano.

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Joanna played “Climb Every Mountain” from The Sound of Music on piano.

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Elizabeth performed rabbit showmanship with her bunny, KitKat.

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Saga made us laugh with the jokes she prepared.

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Emily danced to “Let the Fire Fall.”

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Our favorite twins, Alec and Micah, entertained us with their annual comedy show.

And Grace performed “We’re Going to be Friends” in American Sign Language. Molly and Grace have been working hard the last month to learn the ASL signs to this charming little song. They recently had a new friend move into their young women’s group at church who communicates with sign language and they have been participating in a sign language class at church taught by her mother. The girls decided they wanted to learn a song in sign language to share with their new friend, Rachel.

They decided that after the time they put into learning it  they would also use it for their talent at the talent show. Unfortunately on the last day of co-op Molly woke with the flu so Grace had to perform it alone.

She did well even with the last minute loss of Molly.

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(When Molly felt better they recorded it to send to their friend, Rachel.)

To see the full version, as performed by Grace and Molly, click on the link below:

It was a perfect way to end a wonderful co-op year! We will get together again next week when many of us will go together on our annual trek to Kalahari Indoor Water Park. Then again the following week for our co-op’s end of the year picnic.

The school year countdown begins in full force as co-op comes to a close. Only five more weeks until we will all be chanting:

“No more pencils!

No more Books!

No more teacher’s dirty looks!”

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Last day of co-op group hug.

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First Day of Co-op…Year 11!


As we woke early on Wednesday morning

to pack lunches,

load book bags, computers, science experiment materials and art supplies into the van,

I couldn’t help but reflect.

This is our 11th year with the New Castle Star Co-op.

year one


When we showed up at that first planning meeting 11 years ago we had no idea how this group would change our lives and affect our home schooling journey.We had no idea the lessons that we’d learn or the friendships that would be made.

That little group of seven moms, joined together through a desire to enrich our children’s k12 experience, has evolved as the years have passed.

teachers year one

Each school year brings changes with families coming and families leaving,

and those changes always bring a heart tug.

But even as families outgrow the group through moves, school changes, and graduations,

the New Castle Star Co-op remains and here we are celebrating our 11 year anniversary.

This past Wednesday the kids were up extra early. The girls wanted extra time to dress up for the “first day of school” and the boys were just too excited to sleep.

We arrived early enough to get an official “First Day of Co-op” picture.

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The kids were excited to see that we were one of the first families there. Tyler immediately headed for the gym to play ball and Ozzie joined Saga to eagerly check out the new scholastic book orders. The scholastic book orders are one of his favorite perks about co-op and he waned to see if he had enough allowance saved to but a new book.

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By 9:00 all the families arrived except one that would be gone for the day. It was crazy how quiet the place seemed with the loss of many families from last year’s group.

The school day began with the Pledge of Allegiance.

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Then it was time for the first of four class periods.

Our co-op offers four classes: science, art, history and music for grades k-8 (although we don’t have kids in all those grades this year) and a study hall for the older kids who have independent school work to do.

The moms all sign up to teach some of those classes.

My first class of the day was 3rd grade science with Tyler. We were beginning the weather unit and learning about measuring wind speed using the Beaufort Scale. The boys loved going outside with their “flags” and measuring the wind speed.

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Second period I am free. I’m not responsible to teach any classes so that hour gives me the opportunity to check in with my older kids in the study hall room and see if they need any help. If they don’t need me then I get to sit and visit with the other ladies who aren’t teaching that hour. It is wonderful!

The high school room.

The high school room.

Third period I am back with the 3rd graders to teach art. If Rusty finishes his school assignments for the day he will sometimes join us. He enjoys the art projects and the little boys like having him in there. This week we worked on self portraits. We began the lesson with a fun face-sticker book to get them thinking about the different ways they can draw mouths, eyes, and noses. I was hoping it would get their creative juices flowing…and it did. They got downright silly with the project. 🙂

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Then it was time to actually draw the self portraits. Tyler really struggles with drawing. I know that much of his struggles with writing and drawing come from those early years of neglect. At age 9 he still draws a person with a big round head, two dots for eyes, a smile, and the legs and arms protruding from the head of the person. I have been working with him and he is improving. This lesson gave me the chance to walk the boys, step by step, through the process of making a face look more realistic. They did a GREAT job, and while you may find Tyler’s self-portrait incredibly juvenial for his age this is by far the best work he has ever done. I was thrilled!

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In Ozzie’s 5th grade art class they also did self portraits. When class was done he brought his over to show me.

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The second lesson we did in art was learning the difference between representational and abstract pieces of art. They showed examples of different pieces of artwork highlighting the bird. Some were realistic and some were abstract. At the end of the lesson the boys painted a picture of a bird. This is what Rusty drew:

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Following art we have a 30 minute break for lunch. The kids eat the lunches they packed and then can play in the gym until the final school hour of the day.

For fourth period Tyler has music. Last year I taught his music class but this year I am teaching 5th grade science that hour so Gracie volunteered to be the 3rd grade music teacher. She finishes her own school assignments during the first three periods and then after lunch puts on her “teacher hat” and teaches the 3rd grade boys’ music. She is very excited by this responsibility. She has many fun ideas planned and in the process of teaching them she is able to count tutoring hours for her National Honor Society membership.

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During the 4th hour I teach Ozzie science. This week we began the unit on water. Our lesson consisted of the water cycle, water conservation and water filtration. For his project we had to make a model aquifer to see how one works and how ground water can be contaminated by pollution. He was engaged and found the whole thing fascinating.

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At the end of the day we stayed for a bit of social time with friends before we had to leave for Ozzie’s occupational therapy appointment. With the start of school comes the start of all our therapy, class, and lessons commitments. The summer offered a wonderful break from all those outside the home commitments but it is nice getting back into a routine.

It is nice to be back in school.

It was a swell first day of co-op. 🙂

Rock On!


Last April we had the fun experience of joining Gracie’s school, 21st century cyber charter school, for a field trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. At Christmas, when we joined the school for another outing to the symphony we were given 7 free tickets to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that weren’t used up in the spring but were good for a year. Our friends, the Hudaks, were also given free tickets so we decided to plan a Saturday when we could go together. That Saturday ended up being this past weekend.


We decided to meet at the museum at 10:00am, so we left our house at 8:00. We had just driven onto the turnpike when the car began to rattle and shake. Toby asked me how long that rattle had been going on and I told him it had just been since it was at the garage the pervious day. He pulled over and walked around the car. He was shocked when he saw this:


Only two of the bolts on the tire were tightened, the rest were on the verge of popping off. Evidently the garage had forgotten to tighten them. Toby was not happy with them. He tightened everything up and we were back on the road, grateful that the problem was caught before disaster ensued.

The drive took two hours. As we drove into Cleveland we passed under this unusual sight:


The world’s largest outdoor chandelier.


We parked in a garage and walked over to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The location was beautiful, overlooking the water. The kids stopped to watch the birds walking across the ice.






Our timing was perfect and we met the Hudak family just as they were walking in too. Tyler was thrilled to see that the building had “spinny doors.” It was his favorite part of the museum. 🙂


We started on the ground floor and worked our way up through five floors of Rock and Roll memorabilia.

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One of the kids’ favorite parts of the tour was looking at the costumes worn by the artists over the years. Here the girls pose with a display of one of their favorite artists: Taylor Swift.

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As we walked around Tyler picked an outfit that he thought I would look good in:


And an outfit he thought Toby should wear:


“And then you can go on a date together!” he said.

Can you imagine the looks we would get at Applebees?! 🙂

Ozzie especially enjoyed the day. Other than Toby, he knew more artists than the rest of us. The Elvis memorabilia was his favorite part.


Here are some other photos of our fun day:



The kids watching a choir perform down in the lobby:


Molly found her “Jam” 🙂


“Good Golly Miss Molly”

In one section of the museum you can sit in an auditorium and watch vidoes of concerts on the big screen. The kids had just taken their seats when the announcer on stage yelled, “Is Ozzy in the house?!” Our Ozzie jumped and turned to look at us in excitement. They were talking about him! It was funny and charming until Ozzy Osbourne stepped on stage, opened his mouth and the swearing began. We quickly hustled the children out the door. Oops, not one of our better parenting moments!



The evolution of "walkmans" during my lifetime.

The evolution of “walkmans” during my lifetime.

There was a special photography exhibit by photographer Herb Ritts, that I really enjoyed. There was even an Herb Ritts backdrop for us to create our own Rock Portraits:




His black and white portraits were amazing!

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What a fun time we had with these special friends:

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After the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame we decided to go out to lunch together. A friend of Woody’s recommended a hot dog place called “Happy Dog.”

We abandoned our dietary restrictions for the day and let the kids go crazy.

The premise of the restaurant is that you order a $5.00 hot dog and then top it with, well just about anything you can imagine! You order by tearing off one of the paper menus and checking all the toppings you would like. It is all included for the $5.00 price. French fries or tater tots are then offered on the side with a huge variety of dipping sauces.

The menu

The menu

The girls sat at their own table and when they found out the sauces were free they asked if they could try them all. Here is their dipping sauce buffet.


Ozzie ordered a more traditional dog…and loved it.


Tyler was more daring and ordered cheese, ketchup and fruit loops on his…Ugh. He said it was good.


One of the girls even tried peanut butter on hers. 🙂


The kids really enjoyed the novelty of this unusual restaurant. It was a hoot!

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A fun day had by all!

“Life without music would simply B Flat”


“The Music is not in the notes but in the Silence in between.” -Mozart

21st Century Cyber Charter School came to town on Thursday, making it an extra special day for my kiddos.

Grace and Rusty both attend 21CCCS. The school building that the teachers work from is located on the east side of the state, just outside Philadelphia. Every few months the teachers venture to the Pittsburgh area to meet up with their students for a school outing. On Thursday they came to town for a field trip to the symphony.

The symphony field trip was in the evening but during the day they had a community outreach activity for the students in the area. After dropping off Ozzie at school we drove up the New Castle Hampton Inn where the teachers were staying. In a conference room on the first level they had set up a work area for the kids. Grace and Rusty packed up their computers and books and I dropped them off to spend the morning with their teachers.

All ready for a day of fun.

All ready for a day of fun.

The first half of the morning was spent working one on one with their teachers on assignments that they needed or wanted help with. During this time Grace and her friend Olivia, who also attended the community outreach, worked on a Chemistry assignment that they needed extra help on. Gracie said being able to have her Chemistry teacher explain ionic and covalent bonds, face to face, helped her to better grasp that which she was struggling to understand.

Grace and Olivia

Grace and Olivia

Rusty used his study hall time to work on a large final World Cultures assignment with one of the history teachers that were there. He was pleased to get his assignment completed by the end of the day.

Rusty and his teacher, Mrs. Miller.

Rusty and his teacher, Mrs. Miller.

The second half of the morning was spent enjoying snacks and board games with the teachers and other students. They had a fun time and I used the free time with Tyler, Molly and Olivia’s family to do a little last-minute Christmas shopping.

At lunch time we picked up Rusty and Grace and headed home to finish schoolwork and prepare for our fun evening field trip.

In the evening the big kids got all dolled up for a night at the symphony. Toby stayed home with the two little boys. When everyone was ready we took a few photos and then drove up to New Castle (again.) The Pittsburgh Symphony: Holiday Pops was playing at the Scottish Rite Cathedral. It was so convenient to be able to enjoy the Pittsburgh symphony without having to brave Pittsburgh traffic.

All dolled up and ready to go...

All dolled up and ready to go…

Goof balls!

Goof balls!

When we arrived we located the teachers in the lobby of the beautiful cathedral, collected our tickets, and found our way to our seats. We were happy to see that we were seated by our friends, the Hudaks.


Cute girls :)

Cute girls 🙂

The music that night was magical and brought forth the spirit of Christmas.


The music was a mix of traditional songs, modern songs and songs we had never heard before. The vocal talents of Ryan Vasquez and Kate Shindle, both Broadway stars, were also enjoyed.


One of the greatest talents of the night was Old St. Nick, who performed two songs:

“The Christmas Alphabet”


“A Place for You.”


He was very talented, and funny as well! I was impressed that he had time to come and grace us with his talents, given how busy this week is for him.

The evening ended with an old-fashioned sing along with the audience, and a magical rendition of the song, “Sleigh Ride.” Rusty was thrilled that his favorite Christmas song was the final song of the night.


It was a beautiful, spirit filled night. The only thing missing, we decided as we walked out of the cathedral, was the snow. Then it truly would have been a picture perfect evening.


This is the house that Rock built


Tuesday morning began early…4:00 am to be exact…as we prepared for our field trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. The field trip was being offered through Gracie’s cyber school and last month she asked if we could go. Although we attend many outings sponsored by the kids’ schools we have never gone one of Gracie’s school trips simply because most are on the eastern side of Pennsylvania where the school is located. When we saw that a trip was planned for western PA we decided to sign up.

The Rock and Roll hall of fame is about two hours from our house (we sit on the PA/Ohio border) but due to the school’s policy of families not being allowed to drive themselves to outings we had to load up the car at 4:30 am and drive 1 1/2 hours east to catch a bus that would take us west, back past our home. 🙂 Although it was nonsensical I tried to look at it as an adventure for the kids. They were excited about riding on the bus. Rusty later told me that the bus ride was his favorite part of the field trip SO I guess that made up for the 3 extra hours of unnecessary driving. 🙂

We arrive at the hotel.

We arrive at the hotel.

We arrived at the hotel where we were meeting up with Gracie’s teachers and other school families. At 6:00 am and we filed onto the bus. It was a beautiful bus. It wasn’t the “school bus” ride I expected. The seats reclined, there were cup holders for drinks as well as TV screens for watching movies. After loading the bus the teachers handed out bottles of water and breakfast bars for us to enjoy while we watched a documentary that the teachers filmed on the history of Rock and Roll. The time flew as we watched the show and enjoyed our treats and before we knew it we were in Cleveland, Ohio.

Ready to go...

Ready to go…

As we rode through Cleveland, Ohio Gracie pointed out the theatre we were at only a year ago to watch the R5 concert. It was then I was very grateful to be on a bus. I remember the nightmare of trying to navigate Cleveland. 🙂

For the field trip everyone received t-shirts to wear with the school logo in honor of the two big end of the year field trips: the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the west and Baltimore Aquarium out east.


After going over the schedule for the day we were set free to explore on our own.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

It was an amazing museum and even though it wasn’t a place I probably would have visited on my own, we had a lot of fun and learned a lot.


“Music to me is like breathing- I don’t get tired of breathing, I don’t get tired of music.” – Ray Charles




“Music is the soundtrack of your life” – Dick Clark


“To play a wrong note is insignificant; to play without passion is inexcusable” – Ludwig Van Beethoven

Gracie's enjoyed practicing her piano pieces at the "play me" piano in the lobby.

Gracie enjoyed practicing her piano pieces at the “play me” piano in the lobby.


Molly's favorite song on the jukebox..."Good Golly Miss Molly." :)

Molly’s favorite song on the jukebox…”Good Golly Miss Molly.” 🙂



“A painter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence.” – Leopold Stokowski


Gracie’s favorite part of the museum was the signature wall of Hall of Fame inductees. It was neat comparing the different artists’ signatures.


“Sometimes it is not the song that makes you emotional. It’s the people and things that come to mind when you hear it.”

It was a beautiful day of traveling down memory lane to the songs of my past as well as a creating new memories with my three oldest kids to enjoy in the future.


Silly Molly

It is hard, but so worth it.


“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.


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!


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