Tag Archives: Ozzie

Kennywood Days- Round 2!

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This summer my kids experienced Kennywood amusement park for the first time. This was thanks to friends we were able to acquire 1/2 price tickets which allowed us to affordably take our family of eight to this Pittsburgh icon.

It turns out that it was a deal that kept on giving because, following a fun, full day at Kennywood,the skies opened up, driving out visitors a few hours before the scheduled closing time…

Which resulted in eight raincheck tickets to return another day for FREE!

Woo hoo…what a deal!

The tickets were for the regular 2018 season so they had to be used before mid-September. The start of school and corresponding activities, along with two time-consuming football schedules, limited our possibilities of when we could use those raincheck tickets. We soon discovered that this past Saturday was really our only option.

We woke up to rain and were sure that our plans for the day would be canceled because of weather, but after monitoring the website all morning it seemed they were going to open the gates and we would be able to use our free tickets.

When we arrived we were informed that the park would be closing at 4:00 that day due to impending storms. The wash of disappointment that hit us was soon placated by the unexpected blessing of eight more raincheck tickets. These raincheck tickets are for the 2019 season, which will allow us to return a third time for FREE. What a blessing!

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So in we went with another set of admission tickets in hand and smiles on our faces, ready to enjoy the four hours we had ahead of us before closing.

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The very rain which was causing the early closure also drove away visitors, making it so we could walk onto every ride at the park. Despite the shorter amount of time we had to ride, we actually fit in a lot more rides that day thanks to the skeletal crowd.

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The rain broke midday, making the majority of our time at Kennywood dry.

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It wasn’t until the last 30 minutes that the sky actually opened up and we were driven indoors.

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The kids all enjoyed revisiting the rides and coasters they loved during our first visit,

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And while the other 5 kids were off enjoying coasters with Dad,

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I took Ozzie over to the newly opened Thomastown, where he was able to step inside his favorite childhood show.

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Ozzie is obsessed with Thomas the Train, and despite the fact he is now 14-years-old, his autism (and the boundless joy and enthusiasm that accompanies it) is evident when he is exposed to the things he is most enamored with. We stepped into Thomastown and he became a 6-year-old little boy again, meeting his favorite childhood friends in person.

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He was over-the-moon excited with the attention to detail found in this newest area of Kennywood Park.

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It was a delight spending that hour with just Ozzie as we experienced the world of Thomas the Train…

With themed rides, interactive characters, and talking trains…

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He was in heaven!

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After an hour in Thomastown, Ozzie and I met up with the rest of the family to re-ride our favorite rides before the park closed.

It was a fun day and we look forward to returning in 2019!

Ozzie is 12!

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2016 is a big birthday year for 4 of our 5 children. This year Tyler will be turning 10 in August and will be a double digit kid. In April Molly will turn 16 and will be allowed the privileges that come with that age, privileges like dating and driving. In March Grace will turn 18 and will officially be an ADULT…EEEK! And just yesterday Ozzie turned 12. This means he moves from primary and will be in Young Men’s at church. He will be able to pass the sacrament and will now be with Grace, Molly, and Rusty in the youth program.

Yesterday began with our traditional birthday wake-up as we woke Ozzie with a birthday song and a morning cupcake and candle to blow out, but it was a fairly low key day. His real celebration had occurred a few days earlier on Friday when he had his biological sister spend the night and we had his 12th birthday party.

He has been asking for a sleepover with Zoey for a long time but we had to get Ozzie and Zoey both to a good place emotionally to make sure they could handle it. Ozzie has made such strides in his therapy that we felt like he was ready for a sleepover. He was SO EXCITED!

He asked for a car themed party, so on Friday afternoon we sent him to his room to play and the other kids and I decorated the dining room for his party.

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It was such a fun theme to work with!

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When we were all done decorating, and it was almost time to leave to pick up Zoey, we called Ozzie down to check out our work.

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He was thrilled. Ozzie’s unbridled enthusiasm and gratitude are two of his most endearing traits. I love how thrilled he was.

He was especially excited about his cake and the Cars themed snacks:

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Then Ozzie and I left in the car to pick up Zoey while the other kids stayed home. He was excited to see his sister and have her over.

When we arrived back at the house I gave permission to Ozzie to open his gift from Zoey. It was such a perfect Ozzie gift: a science kit and weather station.

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Then the kids watched Cars 2 while waiting for Toby to arrive home. This was Ozzie’s big request for the night…

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Well, watching Cars 2 and having a pinata.

When Toby arrived home we let the kids do the pinata before we had dinner. Ozzie was so excited. He kept saying that he had always wanted to have a birthday party with a pinata but never had. All the kids enjoyed the pinata. Toby worked the rope, making it just challenging enough to last a little while before it broke open, spilling candy over the living room floor.

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Then it was time for dinner. Ozzie’s favorite food is tacos and he requested walking tacos (taco makings in individual Doritos bags) for his dinner.

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After dinner Ozzie opened his gifts from the rest of us and from Uncle Travis, whose gift arrived in the mail that day. The girls (together) gave Ozzie a Lego set. I helped Tyler get Ozzie a car kit.

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The biggest hit of the night, however, was from Rusty. Rusty had boxed up all his matchbox cars from when he was little and gave them to Ozzie. I was so proud of Rusty and his sweet and thoughtful gesture. Ozzie was over the moon!

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Then Toby and I gave Ozzie our gift: a year subscription to a car magazine. (Which was more challenging than I expected. I had to do major research and searching to find a car magazine appropriate for a 12 year old boy…one that highlighted cars and not half naked women. I finally found one that was ideal and Ozzie is so excited that he will be receiving a car magazine in the mail each month!)

The second part of our gift to Ozzie was happening the following day. We told Ozzie that on Saturday, after dropping off Zoey, we would be going as a family to the International Auto Show in Pittsburgh. Oh, you should have heard the shouts of joy and excitement from our little man.

We ended our celebration with cake.

Make a wish, Ozzie!

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Stay tuned for part 2: Our visit to the International Auto Show!

Bethany Adoption Picnic

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“If there is a cause worth fighting for

it is this:

children belong in families.”

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It wasn’t until we opened the door to the possibility of adoption, and stepped into this new world…so unfamiliar to us… that I became aware of the great needs that exist and the many children without families.

We had no idea how staggering the statistics were:

“If all orphans formed a country of their own, it would be the 10th largest nation”

“There are 210 million orphans worldwide in need of a home.”

“5,700 children become orphans each day.”

“Of those 210 million orphans 38,493 orphans ‘age out’ of the system every day.”

“That means every 2.2 seconds a child ‘ages out’ of the system with no family and no place to call home.”

Mind blowing, isn’t it?

Those statistics are overwhelming, even paralyzing. With a problem so large, so daunting, what can we do?

Those numbers keep me awake at night and leave me asking, “What else can I do?”

I can’t find each one a home. I can’t love and protect each child in danger. I can’t solve this global problem…

so I do what I can do:

“I do for the one what I wish I could do for the millions.”

and then I pray that God puts that same desire on the hearts of others.

Did you know:

“If only 7% of the 2 billion Christians worldwide each cared for one orphan

the orphan crisis would be over.”

Perhaps your role is not to adopt, but you still have a role…

“Every Christ-follower has a role is solving the orphan epidemic”

What do I mean?

If you can’t adopt, then foster.

If you can’t foster, then support someone who does.

Perhaps your role is one of advocate, or sponsor, or someone who can donate…

donate your time, your God-given talents, your financial means.

If you can’t do that then offer prayers.

Join the many children who are praying for a safe home and a loving family, and lift them up to the Lord.

This Saturday we had the humbling and joyful opportunity to join many other adoptive families at a Bethany Christian Services picnic. We adopted both our boys from foster care through this WONDERFUL agency that facilitates international, infant, and statewide adoption.

Every summer they host a picnic at Camp Kon o Kwee and invite current and past adoptive families, as well as birth mothers, to a picnic that celebrates adoption.

It is always one of the highlights of our summer. The kids LOVE all the fun activities offered at this boy scout camp where the picnic is held, including obstacle courses, canoeing, rock climbing, swimming and games.

We also enjoy a picnic lunch of hot dogs and hamburgers, with sides and desserts donated by the families attending.

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The best part, however, is the company, and the joyful spirit felt in the presence of all these special families.

It is humbling and touching to look around at this diverse group of people that share the common bond of adoption. The families are as diverse as the people within them. There are families without children, waiting anxiously for the call that they have been selected to adopt another woman’s child. There are small families and large families. There are families that “match” and families that look like a meeting of the United Nations. There are families that have found their new “normal” and are through the hardest part of the journey, and there are brand new families, with brand new placements, who are currently in the trenches, fighting with all they have for their child. There are families with children who still don’t speak the language, who are recently brought home from another country, and families that are dealing with unique challenges in the form of medical disabilities.

There were no two families at that picnic that looked the same.

It was a beautiful thing!

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And among all those special families stood the workers (with their own families) who spend their days in the trenches fighting and devoting their lives to the orphan.

Among many strangers at the picnic we found old friends, families we have gotten to know who share a similar walk. There is a special bond among people who share the same journey,

people who get it…people who know…

People who are fighting for the same cause.

Here are some pictures from our special day.

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What a blessed day.

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(We are wearing the shirts I made for us to wear to Tyler’s football games. He had a game right after the picnic.)

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“We care for the orphans NOT because we are the rescuers, but because we are the rescued.” – David Platt

Breakdowns = Breakthroughs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ozzie!” I called out behind him.

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

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

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

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

*sigh*

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

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

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

“I hate you all!”

“I’m going to crush you Tyler!

“Nobody touches my stuff!”

“I’m always the victim!”

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

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

“Can we talk?” I asked.

“This is how I always act,” he said.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Grand Romantic Gesture

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Ozzie helping with the surprise.

Ozzie helping with the surprise.

This week has been a celebration of Toby. Every year I face the challenge of making 3 special days happen for my husband…all in one week. We begin by celebrating Father’s Day. A few days later we celebrate our anniversary and then 2 days after that it is his birthday. It is a week of celebrating his life…him as a father, him as a husband, and him as a man.  I must admit that sometimes I feel overwhelmed as I try to pull off 3 special celebrations in a matter of days. My creativity is tested as I attempt to make him feel as special as he is. The pressure comes as a result of being married to a “grand gesture” man. Toby is the king of big surprises and grand declarations of love. From our very first date when he unwrapped an entire bag of Hershey kisses and rewrapped them with printed tags that said, “goodnight kiss” for our first “kiss” I knew I was married to a “grand gesture” man. Toby loves surprising people with their dream gift or showing his love in creative displays. My married life has been filled with treasure hunts, surprise vacations, homemade treasures and unexpected displays of his love. His love for others is contagious and you can’t help but want to jump into the fun of surprising them.

The down side of being married to a “grand gesture” man is that the gifts and surprises you plan always feel a bit lame and boring compared to having a puppy brought home with a bow tied around its neck or a trunk full of balloons released to announce an upcoming trip to Disney World. I mean, really, how does one compete with that? 🙂 This year, after 17 years of being on the receiving end of Toby’s surprises, I was determined to be the “surpriser.” It was our anniversary and I was going for the “grand gesture” surprise…

Before we began the journey of adoption we set the goal and made it a priority to go on regular date nights. We also tried to go on a short vacation every year without children. As a new mother I struggled with leaving my babies behind and struggled with “guilty mother syndrome” everytime Toby surprised me with a trip, but as hard as it was to get into the car and wave goodbye to the kiddos it was the best thing in the world for our marriage and our parenting. By going away for a few days we were able to reconnect as a couple, recharge our batteries so that we could come home better parents, as well as show our children that our marriage comes first and we were committed to that priority. As the kids grew older, leaving for the weekend became easier and we discovered the healing and rejuvenating power of a few days away. We were able to step out of the role of “parents” and step back into the role of “couple.” Toby made sure that vacationing alone together was a top priority and would regularly surprise me with trips away.

After beginning the adoption process our “weekends away” came to an abrupt end. Logistically it was tougher. With a foster child you can’t just ask grandma to babysit for the night. If a foster child sleeps at someone else’s home that babysitter must have a home inspection first (and we don’t have may people in our lives who would be willing to put themselves through that just to babysit our children)  🙂  and then they also have to have criminal and child abuse clearances. If we could pull all of that off we then face the fear of losing that babysitter as a friend as a result of a little boy’s epic tantrum while we are away.  😉 So needless to say we haven’t gone away in a while. It was because of all of these challenges that I decided to try to surprise Toby with a grand gesture getaway.

The idea came to me in the middle of the night…like all my good ideas do. I was going to surprise Toby with a night away at a hotel. I asked the daughter of a friend who has all her clearances from working at a day care if she could babysit from 6:00pm on Friday to noon on Saturday. By having her babysit at our home we didn’t need to put anyone through a home inspection. I spent the week “prepping” the house and kids in the hopes of a drama-free night. I booked a hotel five minutes away so we could be home in an instant if there were any meltdowns and the surprise was in the works. My only fear was that Toby was planning a surprise of his own and that it would be “clash of the titan surprises.”

On Friday afternoon I drove over to our hotel to check in, drop off our suitcase and decorate the room. Ozzie came with me, since he can’t be left alone, and he helped me decorate. Ozzie couldn’t contain his excitement and enthusiasm for the surprise. He kept saying, “This is the most romantic thing I’ve ever heard of!!”  I had little candies to put next to the bed. Ozzie wanted to use them to decorate so he wrote “LOVE” in chocolates on the TV stand and then made a “heart” on the ottoman. As Ozzie stepped back to survey his work he spoke up with excitement, “You know what you should do for Daddy tonight?! You should call Delilah so that she can play a romantic song for you!” (Ozzie loves listening to Delilah’s radio program every night in bed.) As we left I made Ozzie promise not to reveal the secret to Daddy.

When we arrived home I got the kids ready for the night, went over rules, and got dressed for our date. When Toby arrived home I told him I had hired a sitter for our anniversary dinner ( which was a surprise in itself.) When the sitter arrived we said good-bye and headed to the restaurant. I gave him directions to where we were going and led him to the hotel…and he was surprised! I couldn’t believe I pulled off a “grand gesture” of love. It was a wonderful evening away. We had dinner at Toby’s favorite restaurant… We slept in until 10:30am…Ahhhh, it was wonderful!

As we spent the week celebrating Toby I counted my blessings to be married to such an amazing, good, loving, selfless man. I remember as a girl being counseled that no decision you make in you life had more impact on your future happiness than the decision of whom to marry. I chose well and have enjoyed 17 years of happiness and joy as a result. I am grateful for my husband who loves so selflessly, who parents so lovingly, who has opened his heart to two little boys who were sired and then destroyed by man who was called “dad” only to show them what a true “Dad” is.

Toby is a “grand gesture” man because his heart is too big and his love to expansive to be anything less.

Toby's birthday celebration with his kids.

Toby’s birthday celebration with his kids.

 

Forever friends

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“Someone has said, ‘If you want your friends to remember you, borrow something from them.’ I want to turn this around and say, if you want to remember your friends, be sure to borrow from them.  Borrow faith, hope, and love.  Borrow courage, humility, and integrity.  Borrow their Christian example of the unseen values of the soul.  Borrow their confidence in the living God and their loyalty to the triumphant Christ. Then indeed your days will be filled with strength.”

– John W. McKelvey

This weekend I had the opportunity to do some borrowing from a dear friend.

A few years ago I had the blessing of being part of a MOPS group. (Mothers of Preschoolers)  At one of our meetings we had a woman come in and talk about the blessings of friendship among women. She talked about three different types of friends…the friends you share a past with (for example: childhood friends), the friends that walk before you (for example: the women that serve as mentors, those who have walked this path and who can help guide us through) and the friends that walk beside you (the friends that share this season of your life.) I have friends that fall in all three of these categories and all are great blessings to me.

Often the friends we rely on most are the ones in the last category. I think it is because they “get it.” There is comfort in relatabilty. When I was a young mom I lived for my MOPS meetings. I knew that every other Thursday morning I could drop my kids off in the nursery, eat a muffin or other treat without having to share it with a little one, visit, laugh, and cry tears of frustration with other moms who understood.  When I graduated MOPS I found that same understanding and support in a group of home school moms. I was no longer crying over sleepless nights and spilled milk, instead my worries and frustrations revolved around teaching a dyslexic child to read and how to meet the demands of a full teaching schedule with younger siblings running around.

I have found God to be incredibly gracious in every season of my life. With each path I have traveled He has put women in my life who “get it.” Women who are praying for the same things, crying over the same losses, are struggling with the same fears, and lifting their voices in praise over similar victories. These friendships are balm for the soul. To laugh and cry in the arms of a friend can be the most effective medicine. I had the chance to “self medicate” over the weekend in the living room of a friend who is walking a similar path down the road of adoption. I was able to expose my greatest worries and frustrations to her without fear of judgement or need to explain. She “got it” because she has felt the same way. It was healing to hear someone else express the feelings that I haven’t been free to express to many. It was rejuvenating to belly laugh over the same crazy road we are walking down and it was testimony building to hear her speak God’s truths…those promises I know to be true but sometimes forget in the midst of the struggle. It was a much needed boost after a challenging week.

Ozzie and Tyler continue to grow in their friendship and relationship as brothers. The sudden change in their relationship from best friend to arch nemesis and back again is whiplash inducing. They are both growing and learning. I have to keep reminding myself that we are not even two months into this process and then try to readjust my expectations accordingly. BUT even with the frequent bickering they both declare the other their best friend. It has been nice for Tyler to have a playmate, someone close to his own age who plays with him not out of duty but out of desire. Here are some of their recent escapades…

Tyler has been trying to teach Ozzie how to tie his shoes. I taught Tyler to tie his shoes a few months ago and now he has made it his personal mission to teach Ozzie. Some days it goes smoother than others. 🙂

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For Ozzie’s birthday he received a game from Uncle Travis called “Boom Boom Balloon” The game is played by putting a balloon in the frame and then taking turns rolling dice. The number on the dice tells you the number of sticks you put in the frame. The goal is to NOT be the one to pop the balloon. For those that read my post on the stress I feel playing the game Perfection you can imagine how much I enjoy this game 🙂  BUT the boys love it so we have been playing it a lot lately.

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We have enjoyed a few days of spring like weather. Toby took advantage of the thaw to get some chores done around the yard. He had two little helpers tag along.

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This past week was Dr. Seuss week at school for Ozzie. He had fun with all the themed days: crazy sock day, crazy hat day, backwards day, and green day for “Green Eggs and Ham.” Every day as Ozzie dressed for the theme of the day Tyler dressed for theme as well. On the “Sneeches” day Tyler showed up at his therapist’s office with a yellow star taped to his belly. It was a fun wardrobe week and a perfect excuse to be silly. For breakfast on “Green Eggs and Ham” day we had green eggs in honor of Dr. Seuss.

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It has always been a focus in our parenting to raise children who are friends with each other. We have always believed that the friendships and relationships between siblings trump all other outside friendships. These are the people who will be part of your life forever. I have been blessed with siblings who are more than just brother and sister. My siblings are my dearest friends. I want my children to be able to say the same. It is hard, however, when you add a child to siblings who have been together their entire life. They now have to grow a new bond with a stranger who will become their brother. With that comes growing pains. Hearts are stretched, patience tested, and a variety of emotions bubble to the surface through the process. It isn’t easy for anyone. The biological children struggle with having their lives shaken up and rearranged to make room for the new addition. The adoptive children scramble to claim a spot in this new family unit while still mourning the loss of loved ones from their past. Parents watch with aching hearts as everyone experiences hurts and pains through the growing process. Nobody comes through the bonding process untouched by both the good and hard parts of it all. Emotional muscles are exercised that have lay dormant for years and from that exercise comes a strengthening. The family unit goes through a period of weakness, shakiness, and pain before those family muscles grow into something powerful, strong, and unwavering. I know it is true. I watched it happen as the kids opened their lives to Tyler and now I am watching it happen again. It isn’t easy to grow but it is what we are called to do. It is my prayer, always my prayer, that through the struggle beautiful bonds will form and my children will know the blessing of calling their siblings, “Friend.”

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“We cannot tell the precise moment when a friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over; so in a series of kindnesses there is at last one which makes the heart run over.”             – Samuel Johnson

Guess who is turning 10?! (Part 1)

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This weekend was an extra special one in our home because of a certain little boy turning 10. That’s right, Ozzie is now a double-digit kid. This was a big day for the rest of us as well because this was our first birthday celebration with Ozzie. “Firsts” become all the more precious when dealing with an older child adoption. I wasn’t there for the first 9 years of his life. I missed the first words, the first steps, the first day of Kindergarten…which is why I cherish the “firsts” that I do get to experience. I am so grateful for this little boy God has brought into our lives and this weekend was a celebration of that love.

My "littles"

My “littles”

Saturday was spent at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. The museum was offering free admission to families that had a Pittsburgh Zoo membership so we took advantage of that special blessing and headed to Pittsburgh for a day of fun.

The Children's Museum

It was a busy day at the museum. I think the combination of it being Saturday as well as the offering of free admission made for a large crowd, but we didn’t let that deter us from making the most of our day. It had been years since we had been there. When the three oldest kids were little we went quite often so they were eager to show the little boys, who had never been there, all the cool sights.

The ceiling og the art studio. The photographer in me couldn't resist this shot!

The ceiling of the art studio. The photographer in me couldn’t resist this shot!

The first stop was what my children affectionately call the “hamster maze.” This was a favorite exhibit of Rusty’s when he was little. Upon arriving he found that the passing years had caught up with him and he was now too big to enjoy it. The little boys enjoyed it, though, especially Tyler who didn’t want to leave.

The "Hamster Maze"

The “Hamster Maze”

The next stop was The Attic, a room that has a gravity room and focuses on a lot of optical illusions exhibits. It really was a playground for the senses. This was probably Ozzie’s favorite exhibit.

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The next stop was the garage. This was another favorite of my car loving boys. They had many fun activities for the kids to enjoy!

The garage

The garage

Ozzie building a bike wheel.

Ozzie building a bike wheel.

The little boys dreaming of their 16th birthdays. :)

The little boys dreaming of their 16th birthdays. 🙂

It was then time to head upstairs to “Water Play.” When Molly was little this was her favorite spot in the museum and once we entered it was a struggle to get her to leave. This room was basically an indoor pool minus the pool. It was full of squirting fountains, buckets, water tables, pipes and sprinklers for the kids to enjoy. When you walk inside there was a rack of plastic aprons that the kids could put on to keep dry but we found they did little to deter a full soaking of the boys. Tyler, especially, was soaked all the way through. If only I had brought some shampoo in my purse and we could have gotten his Saturday shower over with. 😉

Water fun!

Water fun!

Ozzie having buckets of fun.

Ozzie having buckets of fun.

At the end of our time in Water Play we stopped at the driers where the girls attempted to dry off their little brothers a bit.

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Our final stop was the Studio…Gracie’s favorite spot! Here the kids were able to paint, play with clay, do prints and silk screening. The big kids loved this room. The little boys endured it. We finally decided to split up so that the older kids could take their time and Toby took the little boys back to the “hamster maze.”

Rusty silk screening.

Rusty silk screening.

 It was soon time to leave. The kids all agreed it was the perfect activity for Ozzie’s birthday and Ozzie was quick to ask when we would be returning. It was a perfect start to our weekend celebration.

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PS- Happy Valentines Day!

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