Tag Archives: RAD

Oh, Crap!!

Standard

oh crap

The first clue that perhaps all was not right with the world was the smell.

Rusty and Grace were at home, alone, when they caught the first whiff. A quick glance around the room for 4-legged suspects revealed that the most likely instigators of the smell were curled up on couches elsewhere. They decided they better investigate.

Their keen sense of smell led them to the basement door. As they opened the door to investigate they were hit with a putrid wave of foreboding. Hesitantly and with great apprehension they began descending down the stairs only to step into a nightmare-inducing horror film. A pipe above their head was showering down feces in a most spectacular fashion, while the contents of our septic tank bubbled up from the drains on the floor.

Being McCleery’s, these kids have been better trained for the worst sorts of disaster scenarios than most government FEMA workers. Rather than running from the horror that lay before them they jumped into this crappy scenario with both feet (after donning rubber boots) and set to work trying to save what they could.

Racing through the sewage bubbling up beneath their feet and raining down on them from above, they hurried to move boxes out of the path of destruction.

When they finally felt that things were safe enough to run upstairs for the phone they called Toby and asked what they should do. After confirming that there was nothing else that could be done until he made it home from work, they called me at tutoring to give me a heads up of what I would be coming home to.

In typical Gracie  efficiency, she ended the conversation with a breezy, “Don’t feel like you have to hurry home. We’ve got things under control here.”

When Tyler was done with tutoring we drove home. As we stepped into the front door we were hit with the unique smell combination of sewage layered with ocean breeze air freshener, AXE cologne, and a variety of Bath and Body Works body sprays. I’m not sure if the AXE cologne helped or hurt the situation but the kids insisted that things smelled significantly better with the added scents.

Toby arrived home and headed downstairs only to emerge a little while later with the unfortunate news that there was nothing to be done until septic companies opened the following morning. In the meantime we just had to endure the smell and not use any water. That meant no showers, no dishes, no laundry, and especially NO FLUSHING until we figured out why our basement was filling with sewage.

The next day angels in rubber gloves pulled into our driveway.

IMG_5150

For three hours they worked to remedy our situation. Thankfully they discovered the blockage and was able to fix it, and while they were here we also had them pump our septic tank. One septic emergency was enough for this lifetime so we chose to be proactive while we had the truck here.

Once the problem was solved and the shower of crap had ceased, it was time to brave the horror downstairs and clean up the mess. All I can say is, “Kuddos to these kiddos who without comment or complaint, pulled on their rubber boots and rubber gloves, grabbed a shovel and began scooping.”

IMG_5137

What troopers they were. No strangers to crappy situations, they just dove into this unpleasant task with steely resolve and a good sense of humor and within a few hours had turned our septic swamp back into a basement.

While most teenagers would have been bemoaning this unforeseen change in our Family Night plans, Molly, with typical optimism, cheerful commented as she shoveled poop into trash bags, ” Well, this is one Family Night we will NEVER forget!”

Once everything had been scooped and scrubbed, we doused the basement in bleach to kill any residual germs. As we stumbled upstairs, weary and ready for showers, Tyler took a huge sniff. “Our house doesn’t smell like poop anymore,” he observed, “Now it smells like Kalahari!” The smell of bleach did give the impression we had just walked into an indoor water park. 🙂

All was well that ended well…or so we thought.

The real damage done by this unexpected circumstance had nothing to do with the pile of ruined storage that got carried outside. No, the real damage was far more devastating…

Beginning on Monday night, the night the septic tank back up into our basement, we noticed a concerning change in Tyler. Out of nowhere he developed a pronounced facial tic. It was bizarre. It came on quickly and increased in severity within the first 24 hours. My first thought was that he was having a seizure, as it was disconcerting to see his facial muscles rapidly clench and release as his eyes rapidly blinked. What was even more disconcerting was the fact that he was unaware he was even doing it.

As the week progressed I spent countless hours researching possible causes and set up appointments with his doctor, therapist, and psychiatrist, uncertain if the cause was neurological, medication driven, or rooted in trauma. I had a theory but it wasn’t until we met with his therapist and his psychiatrist that my theory was confirmed. They agreed that what we were seeing was a regression that came as a result of the smell of feces in the house. The sense of smell is the strongest memory trigger we have and they both suspect that when Tyler was exposed to a smell that was so pronounced in the deplorable conditions of his birth home where atrocious abuse took place, he was hit with terrifying flashbacks. Unable to express or vent the horrors playing out in his head, his body responded to that fear and stress physiologically in the form of these new facial tics.

We are still ruling out other possible medical causes but his doctors are fairly certain that this regression is trauma driven, and although the smell is long gone, the flashbacks remain and the feelings of not being safe at home are driving these new symptoms. My heart breaks for him. Not only because of the looks he is now getting from others, but because of the horrors that he must have endured to cause his little body to have such a visceral reaction to a smell.

This entire week has been a profound reminder of the difference between the frustrations and the bothersome inconveniences of life that we perhaps view as trials, and the real trials of life that so many are burdened with this Christmas season. Yes, a basement full of sewage was not fun, but really, was it anything more that a frustration or irritation. How blessed we are to have only endured that situation for 24 hours when there are children around the globe living in such squalor every day. It was a wake-up call for me…a powerful reminder this Christmas season of how blessed we are, but also wake up call of how little we are doing to help those whose trials are so much greater than ours.

Lord, help me to not lose sight of that admonition…

Not only this Christmas season, but all year long.

 

So, What’s New with You?

Standard

It is a question asked often enough, especially with the status of our life currently. Our family is more scattered than it used to be, with everyone moving in separate directions. Often activities posted on the blog only highlight the one or two children that were able to attend that event, so this posting is meant to catch everyone up on the comings and goings of everyone at Patchwork Farm.

Fall has arrived in Pennsylvania and for the last few weeks the leaves have been at the height of color. I feel so blessed to live in an area that experiences seasons and does so in such a showy way. Here are some photos Grace took one day on her drive down our road. It has been a beautiful fall!

P1110425 (2)P1110416 (2)P1110434 (2)

It seems Grace has been in the car more than in the house lately. She has taken the plunge face-first into adulthood and has discovered that it consists of a whole lot of running and very little sleep. Although it has been an adjustment, she has risen to the challenge beautifully and is loving life as a college student. Her days are filled with school, work, and fun activities through her church group. At school she had joined a few clubs including the World Cultures club and the ASL club and is secretary of the library club. As part of that office she was busy this week helping to lead a series of fun Halloween activities offered around campus, including trick or treating and pumpkin painting.

As a member of the Young Adult ward (the congregation of 18-30 year olds) in Pittsburgh she has had fun making new friends, participating in a religion class on Wednesday nights, church on Sunday, and social activities on the weekend.

Two weekends ago they had a temple trip to Washington D.C.,

P1110329 (2)P1110356 (2)P1110362 (2)P1110372 (2)

And last Friday, in honor of Halloween, the  young ladies had a Harry Potter party. Grace invited Olivia to come and said that the gal who was in charge of the event went all out in her attention to details. Everyone got to make their own wand, using objects like “dragon heartstring” and “unicorn hair.” There were cheat sheets describing the properties of the different choices you had in creating your wand so that each person could make a wand that was reflective of their personality.

IMG_3117

harry5

There were also Harry Potter decorations,

harry

And Harry Potter treats to snack on.

harry4harry3

The girls had a lot of fun!

Molly and Rusty have grown closer as a result of Gracie’s absence. Still in the youth program at church and in the same cyber school for high school, Rusty and Molly are involved in all the same activities and have grown closer as a result. It was hard for Molly to be “left behind” by Grace, who is her best friend, but has found a renewed camaraderie with Rusty who was her best friend when they were little.

Here they are all decked out for a glow in the dark party:

IMG_2860 (2)

They also have enjoyed their time volunteering at Ready Yourself Youth Ranch a few mornings a week. It has worked out nicely. Due to the early hour that they volunteer, Grace is free to join them and drive them back and forth before she has to leave for school. They spend their mornings there mucking stalls, moving the horses in and out, feeding everyone and sometimes grooming. This week they learned to drive the tractor used for moving big bales of hay into the different paddocks.

IMG_2946

Molly also has been active in a variety of school activities and clubs, including a new school club that she and Tatum have started this year. In an effort to stretch herself without Grace around, Molly decided to head up a school club with her friend Tatum. They are leading an American Sign Language club that will meet every other week. In this club they will be preparing bi-monthly lessons and activities to teach the club members the basics of ASL. Many don’t realize that although Grace is going to school to become an ASL interpreter, sign language is also a passion of Molly’s as well. I know she was a bit intimidated to put herself in a leadership position without Grace by her side but she pushed through her anxiety and has risen to the challenge beautifully. Tatum and Molly had their first club meeting on Monday and it was a smashing success!

asl

My kids all enjoy getting mail and when their birthdays near they are all the more diligent about checking the mailbox. This week they were all thrilled to receive Halloween cards from Mimi and Pop Pop in the mailbox, and Rusty received a birthday gift from Aunt Krista and Uncle Travis. He was thrilled with his new graphic novel, funny stress-ball cat with bulging eyes, and DOG PILE puzzle game!

IMG_2892 (2)

With seven people in our family the kids have learned the importance of marking things that you don’t want taken. This is particularly true for leftovers in the fridge or the last few cookies in a package. It is not unusual to open our fridge and see Tupperware containers labeled with names and threats of “Do not eat, or else!” much like a dorm fridge. Tyler however took this paranoia to a whole new level recently when I found this piece of leftover 2×4 on the porch. He clearly thought it was a prime piece of wood and feared someone else snatching it, so he did what we do in situations like that:

He labeled it, clearly marking it as his. 🙂

IMG_2869 (2)

We have had many inquiring about Ozzie. My heart is full of joy to report he is doing awesome. Under this higher level of therapeutic care he is delving into the trauma and abuse of his past and working through the hard emotions he finds himself drowning under thanks to EMDR therapy. While there we have seen a huge shift in his behaviors. He won star student of the month for October, has joined the choir, and has passed the certification program that allows him to ride the school’s dirt bikes.

For Halloween the facility holds a huge fall festival for the boys. Because it isn’t possible to allow them to go trick or treating, they plan a fall party for the kids instead. On Halloween they were dismissed from school early and enjoyed an afternoon of games, activities, treats, and fun food to celebrate the holiday. Knowing Ozzie was going to miss getting to trick or treat with the family I sent him a glow in the dark skeleton t-shirt to wear to his Halloween party and make Halloween hands stuffed with candy for him to hand out to all the boys in his unit.

We found out this week that Ozzie  has earned a pass home for the Thanksgiving holiday, something that isn’t normally allowed this early in treatment, because of his exceptional effort and good behaviors. This has truly been God-driven placement with miraculous results. Thank you for all the prayers!

IMG_3120

So there you go…a short recap of “What’s New?” with us.

What is new with you?

 

It’s NOT just about the KNOTS

Standard

Village copy

It is funny how certain conversations stick in your mind. Words of advice brushed off in the moment because of their lack of significance to your life at that time come rushing back as a wave of insight years later when suddenly those sage words are significant and affecting.

Now that we are parenting older children (teens and young adults) many of the words of advice I quickly disregarded from friends that were walking slightly ahead of me on the road of life, have come back to the forefront of my mind. One particular conversation has been playing in a loop for the last week as I have pondered on this friend’s wisdom and how applicable her insight is on this season of life I find myself in.

The conversation took place on the floor of her living room as Grace, Molly, and Rusty played  with her three youngest. I was at the beginning of my parenting journey, so young and so naĂŻve. She was further along in her journey with the oldest of her  eight children in the bowels of teenage angst. I remember her expressing deep gratitude for the adult leaders in her teenagers’ lives…good men and women that they connected with. She shared her thoughts about the significance of strong, caring, invested youth leaders in the lives of teenagers; for when a child is beginning to seek out their identity, pull away from parents, and  flounder their way into adulthood and independence, the greatest peace of mind you can have as a parent is knowing that there is a safety net of adults in place who love your child, who your child respects and listens to, and who shares similar standards and expectations for your child.

As a young mom I really didn’t get it. I couldn’t understand why my children would ever need any more love or support or guidance than the attention I offered them. Now, 10 years later, I understand the profound effect a loving village can have on the raising of children…

And I am so grateful for our village.

Between extended family, our therapeutic team, our co-op group, and our church family, my children are surrounded by powerful examples of virtue, diligence, charity, leadership, and Christ-like love. How grateful we are as parents to see the love so freely given to our children by the village God placed us in.

This last year has been the hardest of our lives. The struggles and heartache that we were drowning under was far more devastating than anyone around us knew. But although the degree of suffering was unknown, those around us could see our struggle and rallied in a beautiful way, pouring out love, support and prayers on our behalf.  I was never more grateful for loving leaders that embraced my hurting children and gave them a safe place to just be kids, away from the struggles at home, then I was at that time. My kids found refuge and loving support from the parents of friends and the adult leaders at church. In that hard season of life, when Toby and I were focused solely on everyone’s safety and survival, I finally understood what my dear friend was saying all those years ago. I got it.

 I finally understood the purpose of a village.

One of the areas Rusty really found refuge this past year was with his Boy Scout troop. This incredible group of young men and awesome leaders has been a source of great growth for Rusty. These men, who invest so much of themselves to helping the boys learn skills and develop attributes that will mold them into men of value and men of virtue, deserve accolades beyond what they receive as Boy Scout leaders. They are touching lives and molding young men into future leaders and I, as a mom of one of those young men, am incredibly grateful for their effort.

This past Wednesday we celebrated the troop’s achievement with a Court of Honor. The families of the scouts gathered together to acknowledge all they had accomplished in the last few months and celebrate the boys.

IMG_2934 (2)IMG_2903 (2)

The work put in by the leaders and the young men were evident by the pile of merit badges to be handed out. There were almost 100 merit badges earned since the last Court of Honor, which has to be a record for our troop.

IMG_2900 (2)

 The evening began with the flag ceremony, led by the cub scouts. They were adorable!

IMG_2940 (2)

Then we enjoyed some comic relief in the form of funny stories from Scout Camp and a slide show of some of the summer fun the troop enjoyed.

 

IMG_2911

Then it was time to distribute the earned merit badges. The boys were called up one by one to receive the rewards of their efforts and have their rank advancements acknowledged.

IMG_2918 (2)

Rusty had earned 14 merit badges.

IMG_2931 (2)

I see a whole lot of sewing in my future. 🙂

IMG_2941 (2)

The night ended with refreshments and a chance to socialize.

IMG_2912

It was a great evening.

IMG_2913 (2)

How grateful I am for the scouting program, the men who lead my boys, the village that surrounds and supports us, and especially these two young men who are rising to the example of their father!

IMG_2897 (2)

We are blessed.

 

A Monthly Update

Standard

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.

IMG_2149

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.

IMG_2143

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.

IMG_1680IMG_1692IMG_1711

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!

IMG_2099IMG_2097

IMG_2678IMG_2091IMG_2676

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!

IMG_2344

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.

IMG_2633 (2)IMG_2631 (2)

I think the girls had fun,

IMG_2638 (2)IMG_2637 (2)

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. 🙂

IMG_2321

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!

IMG_1721

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:

IMG_2088IMG_2667IMG_2669IMG_2665

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!

IMG_2675

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…”

IMG_2420

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.

IMG_2421

 

Well, there you go…

A small snapshot of our ordinary, extraordinary life.

God is good!

 

What a Weekend!!

Standard

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.

IMG_2256

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.

IMG_2226

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.

IMG_2231

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

IMG_2241IMG_2239

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!

20170930_12331920170930_13373320170930_130910

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.

P1110302P1110315P1110298P1110311P1110312P1110295P1110310

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.

IMG_2245IMG_2247

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.

IMG_2253

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.

20170930_153728

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

20170930_161019

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!

IMG_2286IMG_2255

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!

IMG_2295IMG_2299

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.

IMG_2289IMG_2301

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.

IMG_2308IMG_2305IMG_2307

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

IMG_2303

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.

IMG_2309IMG_2312

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…

Standard
IMG_2211 (2)

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.

IMG_2169 (2)

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.

IMG_2173 (2)IMG_2170 (2)

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!

IMG_2197 (2)

The kids all came up with creative creations this year.

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

IMG_2182 (2)

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

IMG_2187 (2)IMG_2193 (2)

Ozzie went traditional with an awesome pumpkin face:

IMG_2191 (2)

Molly carved a Harry Potter pumpkin:

IMG_2174

And Tyler did a dollar sign face:

IMG_2180 (2)

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

IMG_2213 (2)

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.

IMG_2208IMG_2206IMG_2200IMG_2198

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.

IMG_2215 (2)

This hard transition is a blessing,

but it still hurts like crazy…

Equine Therapy

Standard

horse

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.

IMG_2130 (2)

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.

IMG_2128 (2)

Ozzie was paired with Rosie,

IMG_2123 (2)

And Tyler was paired with Smokey.

IMG_2112 (2)

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

IMG_2105 (2)

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.

IMG_2116 (2)

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.

IMG_2126 (2)

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

Standard

healing trauma

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.

healing2

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

Standard

IMG_1681

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.

IMG_1680

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.

IMG_1710

First up:  grooming the horses.

IMG_1705

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

IMG_1693

Molly and Ozzie were assigned “Athena”…

IMG_1686IMG_1691

and Tyler and Rusty were aptly assigned “Tyler.”

IMG_1698

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.

IMG_1713

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.

IMG_1716

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

IMG_1718

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

IMG_1682

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.

IMG_1719

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

Standard

brokenness 2

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.

brokenness