Tag Archives: RAD

A Monthly Update

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ordinary life

Often in my focus to report on the “big” events of life I procure a pile of photographs documenting the smaller moments that add up to life here on Patchwork Farm. This blog is dedicated to that collection of captured moments. Here’s to the moments that make up our ordinary, extraordinary life!

Searching for Buried Treasure

Toby is a member of a local metal detecting club. The Beaver County Metal Detecting Club is comprised of 20+ men and women who gather monthly to compare notes and swap stories of their best treasure finds over the last month, as well as organize formal hunts a few times a year.

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A few Saturdays ago was the annual fall hunt with the club…something Toby always looks forward to. The hunt keeps him out of the house all day as club members participate in a series of hunts, searching out buried treasure hidden by members of the club earlier in the day. Toby always returns home a bit sore from all the up and down movement that comes with an all day hunt, but with a smile on his face, eager to show off his haul.

Tyler is always first in line to help Daddy sort and count his loot.

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Great Blessings

We would just like to thank you all for the outpouring of love and support you have shown our family and Ozzie during this hard season of life. We have felt the sustaining and strengthening power of many prayers and are happy to report Ozzie is doing better than we ever imagined. He is thriving. The results of the therapeutic support he is receiving is nothing short of miraculous and we are so proud of him and the hard work he is doing to heal. He will be starting EMDR therapy this week with a licensed EMDR therapist and I firmly believe this therapy, used with patients suffering from PTSD, will be the answer we have been seeking to unlock the memories of abuse at the hands of Ozzie’s birth mother and birth father, and open the door to begin healing from that trauma.

Family-Based Rocks!

Because Ozzie will be away for a few months, our Family-Based services are coming to a close. Family-Based is another layer of therapeutic support we implemented in hopes of helping Ozzie stabilize and heal at home. That was not God’s plan for Ozzie and our time working with Family-Based was short lived, but it served a purpose. I can now look back and see why God opened a door that closed so quickly after entering it. Our time with Lisa and Valerie was short but they provided support and resources that were key in helping our family heal…particularly in meeting the needs of the older kids who were dealing with their own trauma…trauma that comes as a result of adopting a child who had been abused and suffers from Reactive Attachment Disorder. It was Valerie that introduced my older kids to the Ready Yourself Youth Ranch that they now volunteer at two mornings a week, helping with horses and learning the skills they need to become mentors at the ranch.

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Last week was our last home visit from our Family-Based team. They brought cupcakes to celebrate and a craft project for the kids to do while they talked and helped the kids process the muddy mix of emotions everyone is struggling with since Ozzie left.

They painted river rocks together. In our area there is a fun movement taking place that involves painting rocks, tagging them with #beavercountyrocks, sealing them and then hiding them around the county. Once found you can follow the travels of your rocks on Facebook as seekers take photos of your rock, post it, and then hide it in a new location.

The kids had fun painting their river rocks to get into the #beavercountyrocks game.

The results were fun and creative!

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Now, where to hide our rocks?!

Ukulele Adventures

For Molly’s birthday she received a ukulele from my parents. She has been toting it back and forth to co-op each week where her friend, Caleigh, has been giving her lessons. With all the toting back and forth Molly decided a case was in order. She found one online and used some of her hard earned money to purchase this charming panda themed case. Molly is thrilled!

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PSATs…BLAH!

Last Wednesday Molly and Rusty had their PSAT test. This test…preparation for next year’s SAT test, is just a sad testament to how old my babies are getting. I look at Rusty and Molly and can’t wrap my brain around the fact that we are creeping closer to college searches. Neither were particularly thrilled with taking the PSAT but were excited that they were able to test at our school’s new Pittsburgh location and see their Pittsburgh based teachers.

Tatum and Annaliese, two of Molly co-op friends, were also signed up for testing, so we volunteered to load up Big Bessie and take everyone down on Wednesday morning. Rather than have everyone drop off kids off at 6:30 in the morning, we just had the girls spend the night. It worked out well. They managed to take something they were all dreading and make it fun.

Earlier in the day Molly prepped the bus for their sleepover. She thought it would be fun to camp out in the bus, and I was thrilled to see the bus getting used after a summer of sitting dormant. Molly made the beds, carried out movies they could watch on the TV, and filled the fridge with snacks and drinks.

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I think the girls had fun,

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And everyone survived testing, although I think they would all say they are glad it is done and over with!

Rusty on the Road

Rusty is slowly and hesitantly embracing his role as a new driver. Being the third child I have taught to drive, I find it interesting how personalities shine forth in each child’s driving style. Rusty, who has always been extremely careful and conscientious, is a slow and steady driver. There is no speeding, law bending, or bone breaking moves with him behind the wheel.

Tyler must disagree, as he has taken to wearing safety gear when Rusty is behind the wheel. 🙂

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I fear the day it is Tyler’s turn to get behind the wheel. I think I may have to borrow that helmet!!

My Mini-Me

Grace is now a red head and I think she plans to stay that way. After years of bemoaning the fact that I ended up with three blondies, I finally have a redhead… thanks to L’Oreal!

I don’t know if it is the red hair or if the genetic connection has become more pronounced but I feel as though I now have a younger (and much cuter)  mini-me!

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My Buddy

Tyler is now my buddy. With Ozzie away and the older kids engaged in school, social activities, and work, it feels as though it is often just Tyler and I hanging out. Between therapy and tutoring appointments 5 days a week, we spend a lot of time on the road together or at the table together doing school. After a decade of juggling the teaching of 3-5 children their lessons every day, it is bizarre to have hours to spend working with just one. The older kids are so independent now that they only come to me when they need clarification or help with a question, which frees me up to work with Tyler all day…

and I must admit I’ve loved.

We have had a lot of fun delving deeper into subjects that interest him, seeking out fun science experiments and art projects to enhance his online school lessons, and having the time for weekly trips to the library. Here are some of his recent projects:

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The Monster Under the Bed

All of the one-on-one attention has been a blessing in other ways too. Tyler is struggling with monster sized fears, fears we are working to address in therapy. These fears are driven by the abuse he suffered as a small child and while he struggles to express the thoughts consuming him in his head I have been able to piece together the fact that they are trauma driven simply by where and when they are most prevalent. His PTSD seems to rear its ugly head after the sun goes down. Nighttime is scary time and his bedroom and the bathroom are the places he fears most. From his child profile I know that dark, closed places and the family bathroom are where most of the abuse took place, so it make sense that those are the places he fears most.

Miss Tina, our therapist, has been working with Tyler to help counteract the negative emotions connected to those locations with positive ones. We do this by making happy, light, funny memories in those locations. We play family board games on his bedroom floor, we have shaving cream battles in the bathroom….whatever we can think of to bring light and peace and laughter to a place that is dark and scary in Tyler’s mind.

One way we have done this is with the use of bathtub crayons in the shower. Bathtime is a nightmare with Tyler. He is terrified to shower or bathe. And knowing what was done to him in his birth family’s bathroom, I understand that. But we have to help him overcome that fear, so we bought some bath crayons, and enlisting the help of the other kids our shower wall has now become a message board for the kids. Tyler’s curiosity of what funny photos, messages and game boards have been drawn on the shower wall since his last bath has surpassed the fear of bathing (as long as we do daytime showers.) And I have LOVED reading the dialog back and forth. What an awesome way to battle a fear, encourage writing, and strengthen bonds between siblings, all in one swoop!

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Healing bonds via Snail Mail

Strengthening bonds has been a focus in all our family’s relationships this past month. We have all felt the polarizing affects of RAD and trauma after the last 8 months of being in crisis mode. This ongoing, escalated state has a huge effect on relationships and the family dynamic. Now that everyone is stable we are trying to begin healing the damage. One way we are facilitating that healing is through weekly letters between Ozzie and the other kids. Every Sunday they write him a letter which are then mailed out through the week. Ozzie then can write back and the kids can begin reconnecting again.

This week we did something different. We each did a handprint on paper using paint. When our handprints had dried we flipped them over and everyone wrote something they love or admire about Ozzie, using the line, “A high five for…”

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I then laminated our handprints and connected them with a metal ring as a special momento for Ozzie, allowing him to reach out and touch our hands whenever he feels lonely.

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Well, there you go…

A small snapshot of our ordinary, extraordinary life.

God is good!

 

What a Weekend!!

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What a full weekend we had. It was packed to the gills with projects, places to go, and things to do. It was a crazy weekend, but a productive weekend…and boy did we all sleep well Sunday night!

Here is a peek into all the craziness we crammed into a 48-hour period…

Saturday began at 7:00 am. Rusty had a bike ride scheduled with the other young men from church. They planned to meet up at 7:45 and would be gone most of the morning. The plan was to conclude their excursion at the comic book store where an annual basement blowout was being held, offering thousands of comics for only $1.oo/each.

Rusty “rolled” back home around noon, tired and happy, eager to show off his comic book finds.

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The big task of the day was canning. A friend from church found a great deal on apples that we couldn’t pass up. We bought two bushels and the plan was to spend the day turning our bushels of apples into applesauce and apple pie filling. When these plans were made I thought I’d have a whole crew of helpers in the kitchen with me for the day, but soon other opportunities began to trump canning, leaving me in the kitchen with a revolving door of helpers coming and going through the day.

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My first helper of the day was Tyler. He had a few hours until he needed to leave the house and eagerly jumped on the task of coring and peeling apples for applesauce.

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At 10:00 am he had to leave with Toby and the girls jumped into his place as second and third in command.

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Tyler and Toby were off to Pittsburgh for some unexpected fun. The previous night, while out with friends, we were offered two free tickets to a Pitt football game at Heinz field. It was decided that Toby would take Tyler. Tyler is by far the biggest football fan in the family and we knew he could use some Daddy/son time after the unsettling week he had had seeing Ozzie leave.

It was just what they both needed. They were able to escape for a few hours and enjoy some mindless fun and male bonding over football and popcorn, and they had a perfect day for it. The weather was beautiful!

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At 11:00 am I lost Grace and Molly as canning helpers when they left for an event at Gracie’s school. As part of Gracie’s American Sign Language classes, she must attend a certain number of deaf events each semester. This is something Grace looks forward to and on this particular Saturday her ASL club was hosting a tie-dye activity at the school. Grace decided to invite Molly along. Molly has struggled a bit with the life changes that have occurred in our home lately. The absence of Ozzie and seeing less of Grace due to Gracie’s busy school and work schedule, has left her feeling a bit lost. Noticing this, Grace invited Molly out for a sister date. They made plans to attend the tie-dye activity and then go to Rita’s for an Italian ice after the event was over.

Both girls had a wonderful time. The ASL club had a good turn out and everyone enjoyed getting messy. The club supplied socks for everyone to tie-dye, but participants could bring other items to tie-dye as well. Grace and Molly each brought a pillowcase to color. It was a fun activity for them to share. Molly enjoyed getting to know some of Gracie’s college friends, and enjoyed getting to use some of her ASL skills.

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At noon Rusty returned home, thanks to a kind young men’s leader who dropped him off on our doorstop, and then Rusty jumped into the fray of apple canning. At this point I was onto apple pie filling and Rusty helped me peel, core, and slice apples for the pie filling. He was a great help and my efficiency increased significantly with another set of hands in the kitchen.

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We also made a large batch of oven dried cinnamon apple slices to enjoy as snacks. As the slices slowly dried in the warm ovens the entire house took on the delicious smell of autumn.

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Around this same time Toby was heading back out of Pittsburgh to pick up the girls (after they dropped off Mimi Joy’s car that she graciously lent them for the day) and head up north for Tyler’s equine therapy.

He had another wonderful session on his horse, Smokey, and he enjoyed sharing his experience with Toby and the girls. He is a natural on the horse and we are finding the lessons to be hugely therapeutic.

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After lessons Toby and the kids made a quick stop at Baldingers Candy Shop for some sweet treats.

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It was now 3:00 pm and things were winding down in the kitchen. The apple slices were dried and the canning was complete. My legs ached and I was covered in dried, sticky, apple juice…but what a satisfying feeling it was to gaze upon the fruits of our labors!

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It also happened to be General Conference weekend, a twice annual event in our church where we have the opportunity to hear from leadership in the form of a worldwide broadcast. It is a special weekend comprised of 4 two-hour sessions that we can watch from the comfort of our own home and receive counsel, guidance and uplifting messages from inspired speakers. We try to make it an extra special experience with a fun breakfast, activities, and booklets to help the kids take notes and stay engaged.

On Sunday morning, Rusty volunteered to be in charge of breakfast. He stumbled across a recipe online that he wanted to try. It was peanut butter and jelly French toast…and it was delicious!

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While Rusty cooked breakfast, everyone else sat down to write a letter to Ozzie. This will become a regular Sunday task. My plan is to help facilitate connection between the kids through pen pal letters. There is healing that needs to occur and written letters seem a good way to foster a renewed connection in a safe and non-threatening way. The stack of letters will then be mailed one at a time through the week, creating a steady influx of mail for Ozzie, hopefully making him feel of our love and letting him know he is not forgotten.

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For General Conference, I printed out our traditional bingo game and filled a bowl with our “prizes,” as well as created note taking doodle packets for the kids to use as they watched.

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It was wonderful to spend that time as a family and receive inspired guidance and direction.

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Sunday afternoon we also had a visit with Ozzie. It couldn’t have gone any better. He is doing beautifully and this Momma’s heart overflowed with gratitude to see him so at peace. It was a joy to get that time with him to catch up and reconnect.

Sunday night we enjoyed a game night for our Family Night activity. Friends from co-op, who also are avid board gamers, lent us an escape room game they purchased. We love these sorts of games and this one was no exception. We had a blast racing the clock and working as a team to solve the puzzles needed to win the game.

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We were successful!

It truly was a non-stop, crazy weekend…

Filled to the brim with busyness…

Filled to the brim with blessings!

Halloween came early this year…

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Tyler…our resident goof ball!

 

(I’m still a week behind in my blogging. Here is my final blog about last weekend’s festivities…)

This past weekend was a tough one. The knowledge that Ozzie was leaving on Monday morning and would be gone for four months left everyone feeling unsettled and emotional. We tried to move through the days as normally as possible, but it was challenging with that big grey cloud hanging over our heads.

Everyone was dealing with a muddy mess of emotions. We were grateful that Ozzie was accepted to this awesome facility where he will finally get the intensive therapeutic help he needs to heal from past trauma, but were also mourning this upcoming shift in our life, upset and grieving that this step needs to happen.

My mother summed it up beautifully when I shared the news with her. She said, “It is like finding out someone you love has cancer, and the prognosis is not good. And then soon after, receiving the news that your loved one has secured the last bed at the Cancer Treatment Center of America and will be working with the best doctor in that field.”

You don’t know whether to be angry that treatment is needed or grateful that treatment is available for a once hopeless diagnoses.

It is hard to verbalize the hard mix of emotions that come with this journey. I know I struggle to filter through the jumble of thoughts and feelings that knot in my stomach, so I can appreciate the struggles Ozzie and the other children are suffering though during this hard season.

This weekend was particularly hard. We knew what was coming, and with that knowledge there were feelings of relief and great grief. It felt like the weekend was a series of good-byes to life as we knew it. It was painful on so many levels and I didn’t know whether to wish for time to stand still, so as to avoid the inevitable, or to pray for time to speed up so we could rip this band-aid off and begin facing our new normal. Mostly I just felt numb, like a shell of my real self, moving through the motions of living but weirdly detached.

We packed up Ozzie’s bag, filling it with clothes, winter gear, books, comfort items, therapy tools, and photos…everything he could possibly need for the next four months.

We cleaned his room. Preparing it for his absence so that when he returns home it would be ready for him.

Then we tried to fit in some fun and family bonding. Our weekend was filled with horseback riding lessons, “Gotcha Day” fun, and lots of low key, quiet moments as a family.

One of Ozzie’s primary disappointments about going away was his concern about missing out on holiday traditions. He will most likely be able to return home for holidays but is sad to miss out on our families traditions leading up to holidays…like pumpkin carving for Halloween. I couldn’t address all his worries, but that was a concern I could address, and did so gladly.

On Saturday we went pumpkin shopping, allowing each of the kids to pick out a pumpkin for carving and then came home and carved Jack-O-Lanterns a month early.

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Everyone got into the spirit of the evening, seeking out creative carving ideas and jumping into the task of gutting their pumpkins.

The result was an evening of fun for Ozzie and the rest of the family. We were all taking part in a cherished family tradition. Who cares if it was 90 degrees outside while we were doing it. Yes, the finished results will probably wither and mold by next Saturday, but this activity wasn’t about the finished results. Like so many aspects of our life it is not about the ending, it is about the journey.

The kids are now all old enough to be left to their own devices as they turn a pumpkin into something more magical, allowing Toby and I to just sit back and watch the fun.

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I did spend time digging through their pumpkin guts as the kids carved, picking out pumpkin seeds to roast. I found a recipe for dill pickle flavored roasted pumpkin seeds that I wanted to try. The results were delicious!

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The kids all came up with creative creations this year.

Rusty went with a tongue-in-cheek math joke:  Rusty’s pumpkin “Pi”

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Grace created the “Fly Away to Neverland “scene from Peter Pan:

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Ozzie went traditional with an awesome pumpkin face:

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Molly carved a Harry Potter pumpkin:

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And Tyler did a dollar sign face:

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Once everyone was done carving we took their pumpkins out to the porch.

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We lit them, turned off the lights, and watched them glow, enjoying the magic of the moment. It meant a lot to Ozzie that he was able to participate in this beloved family tradition and it meant the world to this Momma to have all my chicks with me on that beautiful September night, as we stood beneath the stars watching their pumpkins glow bright.

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We ended Family Night with the movie, “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” while we munched on pumpkin seeds and enjoyed our last evening together for a while.

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This hard transition is a blessing,

but it still hurts like crazy…

Equine Therapy

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In our search for therapeutic tools to help both of our adopted sons heal from the trauma of the past, we stumbled across equine therapy. It has proven to be hugely beneficial in helping patients with PTSD. Our therapists’ office happens to offer equine therapy through one of its sister branches 45 minutes away. This is a different ranch than the one that the older kids are now volunteering at two mornings a week. Ready Yourself Youth Ranch has no openings until spring and I wanted to start the boys before then, so I signed them up for a 6-week session with a certified equine therapist through Glade Run Adventures.

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Saturday was Ozzie and Tyler’s first therapy session.

(Because Ozzie is away receiving treatment for a few months, his lessons will pick back up during the winter months, while Tyler will continue with this 6-week session.)

When we arrived, the boys were each assigned a horse.

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Ozzie was paired with Rosie,

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And Tyler was paired with Smokey.

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Their first task was getting fitted for boots and helmets. Once they were geared up it was time to gear up their horses.

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The therapist walked the boys through the process of grooming their horses. This is a big part of the therapy work, as it creates connection between the rider and the horse. The boys had a good idea of what to do thanks to our visit to RYYR ranch a few weeks ago with our Family Based team.

Next, they learned how to saddle the horses and prepare them for riding.

Soon it was time to mount up and begin the riding lessons.

Since this was both boys’ first time on a horse by themselves the therapist worked on the basics…how to sit, how to hold the reins, how to communicate with the horse, and how to be respectful and kind to the animal they were riding.

Since Ozzie was on the bigger horse, and struggled a bit more with the tasks at hand, the therapists focused her attention on helping Ozzie. She walked him around the ring, while guiding him through his interactions with the horse.

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Tyler took to the lesson a bit more easily. This was due in part to him having a less stubborn and more docile horse. He found his groove quickly and was soon a pro at moving around the ring.

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Both boys did really well and LOVED the experience.

I think it is an unexpected blessing that current circumstances puts them into different 6-week classes. Their needs are very different and what will be worked on from a therapeutic perspective is vastly different. With Tyler, the therapist will focus on the PTSD and the heightened anxiety he is struggling with. With Ozzie, the focus will be on attachment, kind and respectful interactions with animals, and meeting his sensory seeking needs.

While both are signed up for equine therapy to meet vastly different needs, I am certain both will benefit from it. It was nice for them to be able to share this one lesson and connect over a shared experience that the older kids didn’t participate in.

When their lesson time was done they climbed down from their steeds, walking like cowboys from an old western. They were both feeling the effect of working muscles they never have exercised before and were a bit stiff and sore. The instructor told them that was to be expected and it would lessen over time. I couldn’t help but smile as they moseyed out of the barn bowlegged and shuffling.

Their legs may have ached more than ever, but they left with their hearts aching a little bit less…

And that is a huge blessing.

Healing Trauma away from Home

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Sometimes love…real, deep, powerful love…is about choosing what is right and not what is easy. True love is rooted in forgiveness, in sacrifice, in humility, in choosing to continue to show up and engage. True love is about putting your own desires aside and loving the other enough to make the hard decisions. It is choosing another’s well being above your own, and caring enough to let heartbreak, for the sake of healing, be part of the journey.

I have learned more about the meaning of true love from our adoption journey than any other relationship in my life. I think it is because it has challenged my way of viewing love, and what love really is, more than any other relationship I am in. I have learned how to love through the hard stuff. I have learned how to love when love is not reciprocated. I have learned how to put aside my own selfish desires for the well being of another. I have learned that love is a choice, not simply an emotion. Love is choosing to continue showing up when it is hard…when it is heartbreaking…when it feels hopeless. Love is more powerful than a simple emotion. Love has the power to transform. Love has the power to mend. Love has the power to grow us and mold us into the beings God intended us to be, but that sort of transformation doesn’t happen when relationships are easy and effortless. No, that sort of miracle growth only occurs in the harshest conditions, when we have reached the end of ourselves and surrendered it all to God.

Oh, what a journey it has been these last eight months. God has been working in mighty ways and we have all been feeling the growing pains. It has been the darkest season of my life. At the time I couldn’t see where it was leading…I struggled to find the hope hidden in the heartache. God was working on me. God was teaching me the lesson of unconditional love. He humbled me and allowed me to fall to my knees so that He could lift me up. There is no greater heartbreak in this world than watching your child suffer, and Ozzie’s suffering has consumed my every thought, my every minute, and my every prayer these last few months.

His past has come back to haunt him and the trauma buried deep within is bubbling to the surface. The flashbacks are paralyzing, and memories of abuse that were never reported are now consuming him. He is victim of an abusive beginning and now that traumatic childhood is affecting his ability to function, attach, and heal today.

After months of escalating behaviors and an emotional downward spiral, he has hit rock bottom…the place we all so often need to touch to begin our journey up. In the midst of the darkness I struggled to find hope, but now as I stand on the edge of the light I can see God’s hand in these last few months. He was laying a foundation for what is to come…a necessary foundation for Ozzie to qualify for the help he really needs.

God’s plan began to come to fruition a few weeks ago when his treatment team made the recommendation for a longer inpatient stay at a hospital that works specifically with kids who suffer from PTSD and early childhood trauma and abuse. I struggled with the thought of Ozzie having to go away to receive the help he needs but understood what the treatment team was saying. For trauma as deep and dark as what Ozzie experienced, weekly outpatient visits just couldn’t dig deep enough, quickly enough, to root out the source of the infection that is festering within. They explained that he needed to be receiving daily therapy with a specialized trauma/ EMDR therapist that can help him get the healing he needs to free him from his past. I understood it on a cerebral level, but my heart hurt.

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I couldn’t make the call. I surrendered it to God, knowing that the chance of him getting into this trauma center was slim to none. The waiting list was long and the chances of insurance approving the placement was minimal. I prayed God would speak through circumstances and if Ozzie was to find his healing in Erie at this treatment center then doors would miraculously open, testifying of God’s plan.

The last two weeks have been wrought with miracles, and two days ago we received the call that a bed had opened up for Ozzie. We will drive him up to Erie on Monday and he will remain there for a few months while he receives treatment. It is all good news…but hard news. I think we are all struggling a little bit with the reality of it all.

Once again I am learning a lesson about the real meaning of love.

Love is doing what is right, as opposed to what is easy. It is making short term sacrifices for long term healing. It is about sacrificing the temporal for the eternal. It is about setting aside our own selfish desires for the sake of what our child needs most, and surrendering this child (who is simply on loan from God anyway) to the hands of a loving Heavenly Father whose plan is greater than ours.

We have felt the strengthening power of your prayers.

Thank you, friends ❤

 

Finding Healing through Horses

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Two months ago we began additional therapeutic services in the form of Family Based Therapy in hopes of adding another layer of therapy, and hopefully healing, to our journey towards helping Ozzie. These two family based therapists come into our home a few times a week and work with both Ozzie and the rest of the family. One of the goals we are working on with them is setting up regular respite opportunities for Toby and I, and for the older kids, to step away from the crushing chaos that comes with having a RAD child in the home and breathe for a moment. I understand the importance and necessity of regular respite when raising a child with special needs, particularly when raising a child with reactive attachment disorder, but I haven’t made respite (particularly for myself) a priority. There is a part of me that feels guilty for “indulging” in self-care, despite all the evidence of its necessity. I am not the best mom I can be when I am weary. And parenting a child in crisis 24/7 with no break is a recipe for burnout. So regular respite has been one of the three goals we have been working toward with our Family Based team.

Last week they made a suggestion for a respite opportunity for the three older kids. The neat thing about this suggested respite was that it was a volunteer opportunity. It is an opportunity that not only provides regularly occurring periods of time away from the house and the struggles within its walls, but also gives them the opportunity to focus on serving others: a winning recipe for true joy and respite from the weariness of our own trials.

The respite opportunity suggested comes from Ready Yourselves Youth Ranch (RYYR), a horse ranch that Valerie, one of our Family Based therapists, volunteers at. She thought it would be a good fit for Grace, Molly and Rusty…

providing them with a sanctuary for their weary souls, but also an opportunity to be a blessing to others.

Last Friday we met our Family Based team at RYYR to tour the facility and indulge in a little animal therapy. Here is a little information about the ranch:

Our Mission:

Ready Yourselves Youth Ranch exists to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ by bringing  together rescue horses, children in need, and volunteer mentors ready to shine the light of Jesus in the darkest night, creating a safe and loving environment ready for God to heal.

Our Goals:

SERVE the Lord by being ready to show his love and grace through action and prayer.

LOVE the child. Every mentor’s priority will be to make sure that the child feels loved, unconditionally. This will come as the mentor gives support and encouragement during the child’s difficult times as well as celebrating his/her accomplishments and victories.

SAVE the horse. We will provide all necessary care for rescued horses, bringing them back to health so they can become nurturing members of the ranch.

ENABLE the children and their families to realize the strength and hope found in God. Once we establish a relationship with the child, we can then provide a support network for his/her family which provides them with hope, encouragement, and prayer through their difficult times.

When we arrived, Valerie (one of our two Family Based therapists) gave us a tour of the barn and introduced us to some of the horses that call RYYR home. As a volunteer there she is very familiar with the place.

The kids loved getting to “love” on the horses.

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Tyler was equally enamored with a five month old puppy who has free reign of the barn.

IMG_1712Valerie explained to the older kids the ins and outs of what is involved in being a volunteer there and walked them through some of the chores they would be doing as volunteers.

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First up:  grooming the horses.

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Two horses were pulled out of their stalls and tied up to be groomed.

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Molly and Ozzie were assigned “Athena”…

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and Tyler and Rusty were aptly assigned “Tyler.”

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Valerie helped them gather the brushes and supplies they would need to groom their horse and walked them through the steps of grooming a horse.

I think everyone was surprised by how many steps and how many different tools are used in the process.

Then Valerie taught them how to clean their hooves.

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When they were done grooming the horses they were assigned the task of cleaning out the water troughs in the pen…a task my kiddos are quite familiar with.

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This gave them the chance to also become acquainted with some of the horse that were outside.

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Ozzie fell in love with a 9-month-old miniature donkey named Reuben. (Ozzie LOVES donkeys.)

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The weather was beautiful and the view was spectacular. I could see why Valerie said she found volunteering there so therapeutic. You step on the property and can instantly feel the stress and anxiety leaving your body.

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What an amazing place it was. And what an amazing service they are providing. The big kids hope to begin volunteering as soon as their clearances come through. As volunteers they will receive free horseback riding lessons themselves and then Grace and Molly will have the opportunity to be a mentor next spring to a child in need and teach that child all that they learned.

What an awesome opportunity God has provided for my kiddos through our connection with Family Based. It is always thrilling to watch God work, answer our prayers, meet our needs, and open doors….

and Friday was no exception.

 

God will Heal what is Broken

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We went straight from the solar eclipse party to the Emergency Room. Since Ozzie’s arrival home from DAS a week ago he has been escalated and unable to regulate. In his heightened state we have been playing Russian Roulette with everyone’s safety, trying to manage the depression and aggression, in hopes of keeping him home where he belongs. Unfortunately his unwillingness to use any coping skills to self regulate has put everyone at risk.

Emotions were already running high. Everyone’s nerves were frayed. And Ozzie was just escalating more as we travelled home from the party. In anger he unbuckled and tried to jump out of the van as we flew down the highway. When he wasn’t allowed to harm/kill himself he took his anger out on the other people in the van. It quickly became apparent that no one was safe, especially Ozzie. A call to the crisis team quickly confirmed my suspicion that we were in for another long night at the ER for a psych evaluation.

Rusty was left home with Tyler who was in shut down mode after the escalation in the car. Grace was at her first college class and Molly was at work. It is in moments like these that I wish there were multiples of me so that I could meet everyone’s needs, but instead we triage, focusing on the child most at risk…most in need. Which was Ozzie.

The next eight hours were spent getting Ozzie evaluated and admitted to a children’s mental health facility where he will spend the next 7 days as we work with his treatment team to decide what long term care we need to explore. Ozzie has been spiraling downward for the last 8 months. My heart is breaking and my soul is weary. We are fighting like mad for Ozzie, wanting only health, happiness, and healing for our son. Unfortunately the demons of his past are fighting just as hard. We are at war with Ozzie’s past. The trauma and abuse he suffered as a small boy at the hands of his biological parents will not loosen their grip on my boy. He is haunted by the memories, the fears, and the injustice of what happened and he can’t seem to break free despite all the therapeutic tools we have armed him with.

He is broken.

He is crying out for help.

He is losing hope and giving in to the darkness that whispers within.

He is a child in crisis and we are all feeling hopeless and helpless.

We are not sure what the next few weeks or months will bring but we do recognize that it is time to consider more intensive therapy. Despite all we are doing daily between family based therapy, trauma/RAD therapy, and medication management, Ozzie needs more.

We are fighting for his life.

And we are not going to give up on our son.

God’s light will permeate the darkness of Ozzie’s past and we will help him see that he is worth fighting for.

Please pray for our family as we search for the help Ozzie needs. We are a family in crisis and need some prayer warriors on the battlefield with us as we battle Satan’s attempts to destroy our son and our family.

Thank you for loving us and supporting us as we journey through this dark season.

And thank you for loving our son.

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Demolition Derby!

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Adopting two boys with a history of early childhood abuse and trauma has had a profound effect on all aspects of our life. It has changed the way we see and navigate our world. It has made me question truths that were once embedded in me and flipped any parenting strategies that were tried and true with my older children, on their head. Parenting a child from trauma requires me to pause, consider how I instinctually would respond to the situation, and then do the complete opposite.

It is like living every day as “Backwards Day.” One area where this is particularly true is how I respond to emotional escalation. When my children were little and they would start to escalate or spin out of control, my instinctual response was to channel my internal “Mr. Rogers,” lower my voice, speak softly and calmly, and decrease the energy level of the situation.

When parenting a child that comes from trauma, this approach is not only ineffective but can have the opposite effect that you are seeking. For children who come from abusive homes calm, quiet, and soft voices are unfamiliar and scary. They are so foreign to these kids that were raised in an environment of chaos and heightened fear. I have discovered that when children from hard places are feeling emotionally out of control often what they are most in need of is external chaos. By increasing the energy level, by bringing an unexpected and crazy response to meet their chaos, their internal anxiety lowers.

I know it sounds so counterproductive to those of us who come from healthy homes, but for children who have lived their entire life in a state of heightened adrenaline, calm is unknown and uncomfortable.

It has taken me a long time to reprogram my approach. It takes presence of mind to walk into one of the boys’ meltdowns and rather than talking calmly and trying to diffuse the escalation, amp up the energy with a pillow fight, a Three Stooges comedy routine, or an impromptu Nerf battle.

I knew Friday was going to be rough. Ozzie was returning home and with his return came heightened emotions on everyone’s part. I knew the situation was a ticking time bomb.

Ozzie was angry and blaming me for his time at the hospital.

Tyler was fearful of Ozzie’s return home.

And everyone else was emotionally on edge.

I knew it was time to pull out the big guns and amp up the energy and chaos is a big way, so as to avoid a crisis. I had to choose a parent driven, fun, healthy form of chaos before the boys tried to meet their own need for chaos in an unhealthy and destructive way.

Friday evening Toby and I just had the two little boys with us. Molly was at work. Rusty was on a white-water rafting adventure with his Boy Scout troop, and Grace was recovering from wisdom teeth surgery (more on those adventures in a future blog) so we made plans to have some one on one time with Tyler and Ozzie. We knew it needed to be high energy and adrenaline filled, given the emotionally instability of everyone with Ozzie’s return home. We were also looking for an activity that would bond and connect Tyler and Ozzie in a healthy way, with the hope some shared fun would dispel the fears Tyler was having of Ozzie’s return home.

So, what did we do??

We headed to the Butler Farm Show for some messy, muddy, noisy fun at the Demolition Derby!

I knew it was the PERFECT activity for the boys.

We arrived at the Butler Farm Show just as the Demolition Derby was beginning. Despite the rain, the crowds were high.

We parked in an outer field and took the tractor-pulled wagon to the front gate.

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At the front gate, we purchased tickets and headed in.

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The sun was just starting to lower in the sky and the neon lights of the rides and booths lit up the fair grounds.

We walked past the buildings that held all the 4-H farm animals.

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We stepped into the arena where the demolition derby was being held and the place was buzzing with excitement.

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We missed the first heat but saw the after effects of the destruction which just fueled the boys’ excitement for what was coming.

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As we sought out seats in the already packed stands we ran across friends and stopped for a quick chat.

We eventually settled ourselves near the top of the stands…seats that allowed us a sweeping view of all the action without any of the flying mud that accompanied the lower seats.

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The next round of cars drove out and lined up for the next heat.

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The competitors drove junk cars that had been dolled up and personalized with paint and props, which was as cosmetically effective as putting lipstick on a pig,

But the results were comical. There was much creativity put into the designs.

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Then the countdown began…

5, 4, 3, 2, 1…

And the destruction began.

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Much like an adult version of bumper cars, the vehicles rammed, crashed, and collided into each other.

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The thrill level increased as tires flew off, bumpers crumpled, and engines caught on fire.

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It was everything a little boy loves: cars, mud, noise and destruction.

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Not only did they love it, but they enjoyed it together. It was a shared thrill, a connecting experience, one step closer to bonding.

As chaos ensued below us I watched as the boys found peace with the thoughts in their head.

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They were still. They were calm. They were happy.

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By feeding their need for chaos with a fun, healthy, high adrenaline experience we found some peace.

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Oh, the irony!

I have a feeling there will be more demolition derbies in our future.

 

A Safe Circle

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On Thursday morning we received news of Ozzie’s discharge date. After three weeks in Mercy’s DAS program for acute stabilization they deemed him safe to return home.

This was good news as we have missed Ozzie being home with his family where he belongs, but I’d be lying if I said that the news didn’t stir up hard emotions in the other children. Ozzie’s absence has been a time of respite for us all. Prior to being admitted things had escalated to a level we had never experienced before, and the effect on everyone was heartbreaking. His heightened level on aggression and rage left the other children fearful of what might happen next.

This has been especially true for Tyler whose trauma background makes him especially susceptible to that fight, flight or freeze response when Ozzie starts escalating. It is a hard, heartbreaking situation to be in as a mom. By meeting the emotional needs of one child I am triggering the memories of trauma and destroying the feelings of safety in another. It is an impossible position to be in and requires a constant, concerted effort to meet everyone’s needs and keep everyone stable.

The news that Ozzie was returning home brought mixed feelings of happiness but also worry and concern and perhaps a bit of dread, knowing what home life was like last time he was home. The emotions of the older kids were evident only to this Momma’s well trained eyes as I saw an increase in sensitivity, irritability and tears over trivial things. I could see that they were struggling with worries about the storm that could be brewing on the horizon, but it was Tyler that most concerned me. The absence of violence and aggression these last few weeks transformed Tyler into a child whose was “lighter.” The absence of fear was apparent in the way he laughed more easily, interacted more joyfully, and engaged more readily. He was a different child.

The news of Ozzie’s discharge date brought back all those old fears of not feeling safe. Memories of the chaos and abuse in his unsafe birth home tend to bubble to the surface when there is emotional chaos and escalation at home.

I didn’t know how desperately he was seeking and begging for safety until the morning of Ozzie’s discharge when I found him outside. He was coloring with chalk on the sidewalk. I sat down beside him and asked him what he was drawing.

“A Safe Circle,” he replied.

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I had never heard him use that term before so I asked him what a safe circle was.

He answered, “It is a place where no one can hurt me.

Now this is not a term or a strategy that has ever come up in therapy. It was a coping tool Tyler created on his own, which is a huge step forward from the emotional “freezes” he has been having lately. Here he felt unsafe and came up with a strategy to bring that feeling of felt safety he was in need of.

I asked him to tell me about his safe circle.

He explained that as long as he sat in his circle Ozzie couldn’t hurt him.

I asked who was allowed in his safe circle and he began to draw.

He drew Toby and I. He drew Grace, Molly and Rusty. He drew the dogs, and then he drew himself.

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It is hard to describe the flood of mixed emotions that crashed over me as I sat on the sidewalk with that broken little boy.

I grieved for the pain he has felt in his short life that makes him so afraid.

I grieved for the pain Ozzie has felt at the hands of his biological parents that make him so angry.

I grieved for the profound loss of what our family once was, a loss that is deeply felt by my older children.

I grieved for all the children that are still living in their own personal hells that haven’t been rescued.

I grieved for those children who may never get a chance at love and a healthy family.

I grieved for the families that are also in the trenches fighting the hard fight to save their children from their past,

I grieved, but I also found myself buoyed up by gratitude…

Gratitude for a testimony of a God greater than earthly heartbreak,

Grateful for His hand in leading us to the people and services that support and help us in this journey,

Grateful for second chances, do-overs, and the unfailing hope that things will get better.

It broke my heart to see the artistic manifestation of Tyler’s deepest fears crudely drawn out at my feet, by it also brought forth a bubble of gratitude and hopefulness. He did it. He faced his dark demons and rather than cower under their power he used his voice to name the fear and then came up with a strategy to face that fear.

A Safe Circle may seem silly and ineffective in facing all that we face in our home but this was the emotional equivalent of Tyler donning his armor for self protection, which is a HUGE step forward in his therapeutic journey towards overcoming his past.

The next step is healing the brokenness of the relationships under our own roof and part of that is helping Ozzie and Tyler connect again with the absence of Fear and Anger getting in their way.

We began healing the past destruction by inviting a different form of chaos and destruction on Friday night with a visit to the demolition derby. Stay tuned for the recap of our muddy, messy, noisy adventure!

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I Love my TRIBE

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Many may be surprised to know this about me..

Those who know me well will not,

but at core of who I am

lies a tried and true introvert.

When I say this to people I often get the response, “No you’re not. You are so outgoing.”

I will correct them and answer, “I fake it. I was raised by a mom who is people lover and extrovert through and through so my survival technique in social settings is to channel the spirit of my mother, ask myself, ‘What would mom do?,’ and conform in the most socially appropriate way until I can escape to the sanctuary of my own company.

I think that is why I love to blog and write letters. Both are activities that allow me that rare duel opportunity of both socializing/conversing while also being alone with my own thoughts and company.

I know this might be completely altering your perception of me and maybe even lowering your opinion of me,  🙂

but I always strive to be honest, and the truth is:

“My name is Katie and I find small talk tedious, talking to strangers burdensome, and being social engaging overwhelming and exhausting.”

I wish I had a bit more of my mother in me. I wish I eagerly sought out new faces with the same driven desire to hear their life story. I wish I cared deeply enough and was emotionally invested enough to remember everyone’s children’s hobbies and interests and birthdays. I wish I could be that person that looks at a room of new strangers with a thrill of anticipation of the possibility of making 200 new friends. I wish my stomach didn’t drop when an invitation comes in the mail or when the phone rings. I wish a night out with a group of ladies held as much appeal as a night at home with a book and a cup of peppermint tea.

Ok…now I really sound bad.

Its not that I don’t love people. It is not that I am anti social. It is not that I am a friend snob. I am just an introvert at the center of my soul.

What does that mean?

This sums it up well:

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And while the introverted side of me struggles with large groups, the strength of an introvert is their loyalty and complete devotion to their closest friends…that small group of safe friends that they deem their “tribe.”

People in general drain me. No, that is not quite right…

It is more like social expectations drain me.

And the more emotionally tapped out I am by stress at home (like the stress we have been consumed with the last 6 months) the more I find myself avoiding social situations that will drain me even more. Others may perceive it as me isolating or pulling away when in reality it is just self preservation. In the midst of the chaos happening at home I am desperately searching for quiet, peace, and alone time to recenter my thoughts and refill my bucket.

 My bucket fills with those closely guarded moments of solitude. The exception to that rule is my tribe.

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My tribe consists of my family and closest friends. Those people I can share my heart with safely. Those are the people that fill my emotional bucket as opposed to draining it. I am not one to have many, many friends, but rather I tend to draw close to a handful of ladies that I shower all of my energy and effort into connecting with. My tribe is my safe place, my happy place, my stabilizing force, my council and my joy. I am grateful for my tribe. I don’t know how I would navigate this heartbreakingly hard season of life without them. I draw from their strength and their friendship.

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This week I had two opportunities for “tribe time.” One came in the form of a Relief Society garden party and the other in the form of a co-op ladies night out. Both filled my bucket. It was so nice to connect with friends I haven’t seen all summer. The show of concern, the words of encouragement, and the opportunity to laugh and be light, free of responsibilities and worries for a few hours was a lovely gift.

I am grateful for my tribe.