Tag Archives: RAD

The first week of May…Thank God it is Over!

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There is no role I value more or invest so much of myself in then the role of mother. It is the title I hold in highest esteem and one I feel has been divinely assigned. Whether my child came to be through biological channels or delivered into my life through a series of “God-incidences,” I know that the children under my care were divinely delivered. Because I hold the role and responsibility of mother in such high esteem, Mother’s Day has always been a cherished holiday for me…

At least it was in the beginning.

In recent years Mother’s Day has become a day that we white-knuckle our way through. Mother’s Day week is our “Hell Week” at Patchwork Farm.

In the world of Navy Seal training, the fourth week of training is dubbed “Hell Week.” 

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This is when students train for five days and five nights solid with a maximum total of four hours of sleep. Hell Week begins at sundown on Sunday and ends at the end of Friday. During this time, trainees face continuous training evolutions. 

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Pretty much every evolution during Hell Week involves the team (or boat crew) carrying their boat — inflatable rubber Zodiacs– over their heads.

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Timed exercises, runs, and crawling through mud flats are interspersed throughout the five-and-a-half days. The largest number of trainees drops out during Hell Week.

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This extreme training is critical, though. SEALs on missions must be able to operate efficiently, oblivious to sub-zero temperatures and their own physical comfort. Their lives, as well as the lives of others, may depend on it.

This is what the first week of May has become at our house. Triggered by significant traumas, the anniversary of past losses, and the complicated and tangled emotions connected to the title of “mother,” Mother’s Day week is by far the most hurt-filled for my adopted sons and the most challenging week of the year for our family as a whole.

It is understandable.

For a child who has experienced neglect and/or abuse at the hand of the one person who should be their lifeline and source of greatest security, the perception of “motherhood” is skewed. This is a reality I have come to experience firsthand over the last seven years. When raising children with attachment disorders there is no greater threat and no larger villain in their eyes then the mother of the house.

It doesn’t matter how different I may look from the mother that failed them, or how different I act from the mother that hurt them…

Because I am “mother,” I am the enemy.

Gaining a greater understanding of attachment disorders and the effects of early childhood trauma has helped me gain an understanding of why I am public enemy #1. It has helped solidify the reality that, despite all I give and all I do, it will never erase the damage done in those early years. The more I study, the more I understand this on a cerebral level…and that helps…but it doesn’t take away the sting when the attacks that are intended for the woman who hurt my sons are targeted toward me simply because I bear the name of “mother.”

Over the last seven years Mother’s Day has gone from being my favorite holiday to being my most dreaded. Once filled with childhood drawings and burnt toast in bed, delivered by sticky fingers, it is now a day filled with misplaced rage, deep hurts, and destructive behaviors. It has become our “Hell Week.”

It is the most trying week of the year at Patchwork Farm. It is the week we all brace ourselves for, knowing it will not only fall short of the Hallmark image of Mother’s Day, but will more closely resemble a documentary on Navy Seal’s “Hell Week.” It is a week of “minimal sleep and continuous training exercises” in which our fortitude and inner strength are tested to the extreme. It is a week of slugging through emotional mudflats and fighting the emotional fatigue of hefting the heavy weight of trauma above our heads for days at a time. It is a battle of endurance and more that once I have considered just not showing up for “Hell Week.”

This year was one of those years.

This year I had a pass to skip out on “Hell Week.” A year ago Toby and I began plans to take a trip we have been dreaming about for two decades. We were taking our long-dreamed about cruise to Alaska and we were planning on leaving the Saturday before Mother’s Day. Needless to say, that trip was canceled as the cruise industry shut down in the wake of Covid-19. I was disappointed on many fronts. As we entered into Mother’s Day week I mourned the loss of our long-anticipated trip, but I also mourned the reprieve from the abuse so closely connected to Mother’s day week. It was the “Hell Week”  we have come to expect from our kids that have suffered so much hurt, heartache, and loss in their short lives, but the chaos playing out at the hands of the hurt were countered by the efforts of my children who haven’t experienced trauma at the hands of a mother.

We lost our opportunity to escape to Alaska, so they brought Alaska to us.

On Saturday, following a quick run to the pharmacy to pick up prescriptions, Toby and I returned home to this:

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We were sent to our room to dress for dinner, as the kids finished transforming the dinning room into an Alaskan escape,

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Complete with mountains and evergreen trees,

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And wild animals!

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By raiding the camping supplies in the basement, they created recreated the Alaskan wilderness in our own home.

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Their creativity and efforts made me feel incredibly loved and cherished.

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Grace cooked a delicious dinner of Alaskan salmon, lemon pepper green bean, and croissants, with mint chocolate chip ice cream for dessert,

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While Molly served as our onboard waitress.

It was a perfect night and such a gift of selfless love after an especially hard week.

That is the wonderful thing about “Hell Week.” It doesn’t last forever.

It is a season of extreem challenges and intensive training. It builds muscles that are otherwise untouched and reveals to us inner abilities and our strengths. It is a time when our will is tested and we demonstrate, through our fortitude, that we will stand by our commitments and stay true to the cause.

It is choosing to fight when giving up would be easier.

It is giving our all when we feel completely spent.

It is choosing to endure rather than “ring out.”

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And it is holding on to the hope and the promise that this too shall pass.

 

 

 

 

 

A Dichotomy of Diversion

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It has been an interesting six weeks (to say the least)!

We have lived through an event that will be spoken of in the history books. Upon entering 2020 we had no idea that our world would be changed so drastically in such a short amount of time, as a pandemic swept across the landscape of the world. Like so many, I have found myself trying to wrap my mind around this sudden shift in reality, while trying to carve a new normal out of a situation that is anything but normal.

Through this shift in reality we, like so many others, have gone through a grieving process of sorts as we come to grips with life suddenly changing and so many aspects of what was once predictable, becoming uncertain. I have found myself glued to the news as numbers are updated and the newest closures and policy changes are announced. I find myself riding a wave of ever-changing emotions as I am carried high on the crest of gratitude and acceptance only to be dropped suddenly into a trough of fear and despair.

Our days are reflective of that dichotomy.

In the midst of our new normalcy (Toby home from work, school activities canceled, Grace and Zach living in the bus, Molly’s MTC experience moved to home, and a stay-at-home order issued for Pennsylvania) our days are a melded mix of light and dark.

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We’ve strived to establish routine and predictability in this new lifestyle, with periods of the day set aside for schoolwork, projects, chores, exercise and family fun.

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And from the quarantine that has been thrust upon us many great blessings have come.

It has been a joy getting more time with Toby, Grace, Zach and Molly who normally aren’t home this often.

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We have had the opportunity to work on projects that always seem to be put on the back burner in the midst of the more pressing, time-sensitive obligations.

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Family connections have deepened as more time has been set aside for working, praying and playing as a family.

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Life skills have been learned as the kids have worked side by side with Toby and I on family projects. Braden learned to change the car’s oil as he worked aside Toby. Planting a garden has become a family project and the kids are learning first hand the life lessons of sowing and reaping.

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We have found the extra time has allowed us to more easily prioritize the important over the urgent. This adjustment in our perspective and the blessings that have come from this forced stillness would not have happened had we not all been sent home to heal..

But there is a flip side to this story. In the midst of the light that has come forth during this trying time, there is still a darkness that hangs heavy in the air. With the increase in disruption to everyday life comes big emotions and big reactions to these new stressors. Many around the world find themselves grieving for the loss of a loved one to Covid-19.

Seniors are missing out on the milestones that commemorate their last 12 years of effort. (I have two seniors grieving.)  Many around the world  are counting the cans in the cabinet, wondering how much longer they will last. Others are carefully watching the dwindling dollars in their bank account, uncertain of how they will care for their families if they can’t get back to work. Feelings of loneliness plague those who are social-isolating at home, while those living in violent homes would give anything for the safety of being home alone rather than living in violence..

And in the midst of all this personal angst, there is an ongoing feud playing out online and in the news, as divisions between left and right grow wider and opinions grow stronger. Discord and judgement prevail and rather than humanity coming together in support of each other against a common enemy, we instead are seeing hatred, judgement and dismissiveness take precedent over compassion and connection.

Here is the reality, friends: We are all fighting hard to survive in this circumstance that has been thrust upon us. We are all grieving the loss of things we once enjoyed and mourning the life that once was, all while struggling to come to grips with the fact that life as it was has changed.

We all need to practice kindness with ourselves and each other. Everyone is struggling in their own way, as illustrated in the excerpt below:

WE ARE NOT IN THE SAME BOAT …

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“I heard that we are all in the same boat, but it’s not like that. We are in the same storm, but not in the same boat. Your ship could be shipwrecked and mine might not be. Or vice versa.

For some, quarantine is optimal. A moment of reflection, of re-connection, easy in flip flops, with a cocktail or coffee. For others, this is a desperate financial & family crisis.

For some that live alone they’re facing endless loneliness. While for others it is peace, rest & time with their mother, father, sons & daughters.

With the $600 weekly increase in unemployment some are bringing in more money to their households than they were working. Others are working more hours for less money due to pay cuts or loss in sales.

Some families of 4 just received $3400 from the stimulus while other families of 4 saw $0.

Some were concerned about getting a certain candy for Easter while others were concerned if there would be enough bread, milk and eggs for the weekend.

Some want to go back to work because they don’t qualify for unemployment and are running out of money. Others want to kill those who break the quarantine.

Some are home spending 2-3 hours/day helping their child with online schooling while others are spending 2-3 hours/day to educate their children on top of a 10-12 hour workday.

Some have experienced the near death of the virus, some have already lost someone from it and some are not sure if their loved ones are going to make it. Others don’t believe this is a big deal.

Some have faith in God and expect miracles during this 2020. Others say the worst is yet to come.

So, friends, we are not in the same boat. We are going through a time when our perceptions and needs are completely different.

Each of us will emerge, in our own way, from this storm. It is very important to see beyond what is seen at first glance. Not just looking, actually seeing.

We are all on different ships during this storm experiencing a very different journey.” –Author unknown

I am watching this reality play out around me…

Even within my own home.

For some this forced stillness has been a great blessing, as family members have used this “time-out” to rest, renew, and refocus.

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For others it has been a living hell as the threat of loss triggers past trauma, and the absence of normal coping skills and therapeutic support brings increased anxiety and anger.

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For my children who have lived through the hell of being trapped at home in an abusive situation, the mandate forcing them to stay at home triggers insecurity. For my children who have known hunger, the dwindling amount of cans on the pantry shelf brings fears that hunger will come again. For my children who have known the loss of loved ones to death, the constant barage of daily death tolls brings great feelings of fear. For my children who find attachment and connection stifling, 24 hours a day of togetherness brings feelings of panic. Anger then boils over into destruction, and past hurts emerge as current hurting behaviors.

I have struggled to blog for the last two weeks as so many of these struggles have come to head. The dichotomy of quarantine life is hard for me to wrap my brain around so how do I speak my truth to others?

What has our time at home been like during this worldwide pandemic?

Well, to quote Charles Dickens:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.

Over the next few blogs I will be posting pictures of some of our more positive pandemic moments of life. To those looking in from the outside, know that it is but one side of our reality. Like all of you, our life is an unusual dichotomy of positive and negative, happy and sad, hopefulness and hopelessness.

Our life is a rollercoaster of high peaks and devastating drops, as the stress of uncertainty and the grieving of what has been lost, becomes too much to manage.

A family game night is followed by a fist through the television set.

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A luau themed dinner comes on the heals of a visit by the police to calm a child in crisis.

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A hike on a Sunday afternoon is paired with a trip to the ER.

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A family drive might be just that, or it could just as easily be another frantic search for a runaway teen.

This is my reality.

We are surviving, just as you are.

We will get through this, but in the meantime let us all show a little more kindness and a little less judgement, for we are navigating this storm in different boats.

 

 

Molly’s Last Week at Home

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 (Please excuse this longer than normal post…It has been quite the week!)

This week marked Molly’s last week at home before we drive her out to her school in Idaho. It has been 12 weeks since Molly graduated from highschool and it feels as though we squeezed 3 years of life into those 3 months. This past week was no exception. Our “clown car week” was two dozen experiences squeezed into a mini cooper time frame! We all had our own agenda of “one last ___” that we wanted to fit into the week, along with all the normal life busyness. Molly had her own list of things she wanted to do before leaving, and visits she wanted to fit in with friends before venturing west. 

Somehow we managed to fit it all in. It was a crazy week filled with immeasurable blessings and special memories to tide us all over until Molly’s return home.

Some of the events from the last five days include:

1. A Visit to the Homestead!

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On Sunday we drove out to Ohio for a visit with my parents and grandmother so everyone could say good-bye to Molly. Zach joined us and while there my parents presented Grace and Zach with their wedding gift.

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They received a beautiful, antique desk. They were given it early so they could take it back to their apartment and set it up.

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They weren’t the only ones to be gifted with presents of love. My parents also put together a care package for our college-bound girl. Knowing her love for their homemade salsa, they put together a basket for a salsa night with her roommates.

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While we were there we also celebrated the birthdays that fell in the last two months: Tyler and Pop Pop.

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They opened their gifts and everyone had fun trying out Tyler’s new Connect Four game.

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We enjoyed lunch in the barn and the board games that followed. All too soon it was time to say good-bye. The sadness was eased by the knowledge that we would all be reunited in a month for Gracie and Zach’s reception.

2. Everyone headed back to school!

Tuesday marked the first day of school for Tyler as a 7th grader at PA Cyber. Although the older boys were in their second week of school at 21st Century Cyber School, and Grace had returned to CCAC two weeks prior, for the sake of traditional back to school fun, we marked Tuesday as the day for pictures and treats.

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In the morning, following daily devotionals, everyone received their back to school goody bags. They were filled with new school supplies and treats to enjoy during the first week of school.

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For breakfast everyone enjoyed cinnamon rolls…the treat I used to soften everyone up to be cheerfully compliant about first day of school pictures! 🙂

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It has been a great first week of school. Braden and Rusty are getting used to their daily 5:30 am wake-up for early morning seminary and are both becoming accustomed to their new schools. (This is Braden’s first year cyber schooling and Rusty’s first year of college classes at our local community college as part of a duel enrollment.)

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In two weeks Molly and I will begin our BYU-I classes. She will be a campus student and I will be online. Although I didn’t do a back to school photo, I did receive this letter of love in the mail from my parents after sharing that I received all A’s for my first year returning to college. As a child we would receive a dollar for every “A” we brought home on our report card. In keeping up this tradition, and as a way to celebrate my success, I received this sweet card and report card money in the mail. Oh, how I love my parents and appreciate their constant encouragement and sideline cheers as I navigate the game of life. I am blessed!

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3. Seeing how everyone measures up!

In the hallway of our home we have a cherished record of our children’s growth in the form of marked lines on the wall. It has been a tradition since moving into our home to mark our kids’ heights every Valentine’s Day. This year we were away for Valentine’s Day and missed following through with this tradition. Then life, with all its challenges began to unfold, leaving us focused on more important things and bigger issues. Six months past and we kept forgetting to make our annual marks on the growth wall.

On the first day of school we decided to “get-r-done!” After first day of school photos, everyone was measured against the wall. Grace’s line continues to remain static, as it has been for the last 3 years and Molly only grew a smidge. Rusty had an 1 1/2 inch jump this year which is impressive given he will be 18 next month, And Braden got his first mark on the family growth wall.

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This year Tyler won for the biggest growth spurt with a solid 6+ inch jump in his height!

4. Enjoying stolen moments with my silly partners in crime!

My most treasured moments of Molly’s last week at home were just the normal living moments..

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Those pockets of time filled with normalcy, visiting, time spent together, and laughter…lots and lots of laughter!

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5. Molly bidding her best friends good-bye.

For the last two weeks Molly had tried to make a point of fitting in a final visit with her nearest and dearest friends. Her final good-byes this week just happened to be with some of her dearest friends…Caleigh, Tatum and Irvin.

On Friday, an hour before we took to the road, she stopped by Geneva College where her friend Caleigh is attending school. They were able to have a good visit and Caleigh was able to show Molly around her new stomping grounds. It was a sweet opportunity for them to catch up and say good-bye before Molly is gone for the semester.

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For her visit with Tatum she drove down to Pittsburgh where Tatum is attending Carlow to get her degree in nursing. Molly was able to see Tatum’s dorm, stroll with her through campus and meet Tatum’s new friends. It was bittersweet as they said good-bye, but Molly came home with a heart full of happiness for the blessing of seeing her best friend happy and thriving in her new role.

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Her other best friend is Irvin. Irvin lives out near Gettysburg, a few hours from us. The two of them met through school and soon developed a deep and meaningful friendship through regular pen pal correspondence. It was Irvin who took her to prom and surprised her (with Tatum) with a birthday she’ll never forget. As the summer came to a close they made plans to get together before Molly headed out to Idaho for school and Irvin headed to Japan for 6 months abroad.

He called and asked permission to take Molly out on a date and then on Tuesday drove here from across the state with special plans for a special day.

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The date started with a thrift store challenge. They each picked out the tackiest combination of clothing articles they could find for the other to wear on the date.

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Then they headed to lunch where Irvin introduced Molly to sushi.

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Their afternoon was spent talking and laughing as they widow shopped at local stores before they sat down to reminisce on their friendship journey from acquaintances to soul-deep friends.

They each brought their stack of letters written over the course of their friendship, and beginning with their first words penned and ending with their most recent correspondence, they read their words aloud to each other.

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Irvin has been such a blessing in Molly’s life and I am so grateful for his example and the influence he has had on our daughter.

6. A Visit with Ozzie

On Wednesday we made our weekly trek up to Erie to visit Ozzie. Knowing this was Molly’s last week at home, I felt it important that they have one last visit before she heads off to school.

After our weekly family therapy session, we took Ozzie out for lunch. His choice was Five Guys, where we enjoyed a lunch of hamburgers and fries.

After lunch we headed over to a kitschy little attraction I read about online called Schaefer’s Auto Art.

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Here a local artist has put on display his personal works of art. These roadside sculptures are all created from old car parts, and I thought Ozzie, our resident car enthusiast, would eat this up!

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It was pretty cool and Molly’s artistic eye appreciated the photographic appeal, but Ozzie felt it was a shame that cars has to be destroyed for the sake of art. 🙂

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7. Temple trip to Palmyra

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Following our visit with Ozzie, we continued our travel north to Palmyra, New York. At the start of summer, when our weekly family therapy sessions with Ozzie began, I set the goal of pairing each visit with Ozzie with a trip to the temple, thus making that weekly experience a compounded blessing.

These weekly sessions can be emotionally trying and draining, as we dig into the ugliness of Ozzie’s past trauma. I found that finding refuge in the house of the Lord, following these weekly appointments, was a way to gain solace and take a hard, weekly commitment and make it an even bigger blessing.

It became my routine to drive 2 1/2 hours every Wednesday at 8:00 am for Ozzie’s 10:30 am family therapy session. This appointment was followed by a social visit with Ozzie where we would spend an hour or two playing board games and catching up, while Ozzie enjoyed the treats I packed. Now that he is approved for off-grounds passes, our time is spent enjoying each other’s company while experiencing Erie.

After dropping him back at the RTF at 1:00 pm, I then continue my trek north. It takes an additional 3 hours to reach the temple. I typically depart the temple by 8:00pm, making it home sometime between 1:00 am and 2:00 am Thursday morning.

It has become a weekly appointment that I look forward to and a commitment that has blessed my life immensely this summer. For the last month, my girls have been accompanying me (as their schedule allows), making it an even more precious experience. This week Molly joined me and we were blessed to enjoy an hour of stillness and contemplation in the Sacred Grove before making our 6:00 scheduled temple appointments.

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It was a beautiful evening with my beautiful daughter at a beautiful place!

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8. And a stop at Niagara Falls:

On our way home, we found ourselves more exhausted than usual. Not surprising, given the craziness of the previous two weeks. I questioned our ability to safely make it home and ended up booking a last-minute hotel for the night after 2 1/2 hours of driving. The promise of a soft bed for only $50.00 was too much to resist.

Our hotel was located just minutes from Niagara Falls, so before we checked into our hotel, we made a quick detour over to the falls that Molly hadn’t seen since her visit as a child.

It was as awe-inspiring and breathtaking as I remembered,

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And it was a treat getting to experience it again with Molly!

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9. Many Appointments!

A few final appointments filled the free moments of our week as we squeezed in trips to the eye doctor, dentist, therapist, etc. among other things. The biggest and most important errand of the week was completed by Grace and Zach. On Friday they headed to the courthouse to get their marriage license.  Now it is feeling real! We are six weeks away until the big day!!

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10. Packing the car…

Thursday was Molly’s final night at home. The sisters enjoyed a slumber party together and we went through Molly’s ever-growing pile of college supplies, loading everything in the car in anticipation for Friday’s departure. Amazingly it all fit and she even left room for the suitcases of the three of us who will be escorting her out to school.

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We plan on making a road trip out of the journey, revisiting some of our favorite northern stops from our bus trip three years ago, so Braden can experience a piece of what he missed out on, having not been a part of the family at the time.

Wish us luck!

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Westward Ho!

 

“I’m fine,” she told herself…

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I feel as though I’m suffering from an emotional hangover…

Too many feelings squeezed into too short a period of time,

With all of the residual manifestations connected to an excess of living.

I literally feel as though I am emotionally hungover, with many of the symptoms seen in alcohol induced hangovers.

I find myself weary, heavy, numb, foggy and teary as I try to continue navigating the responsibilities of day to day life while accepting that life as I have known it for 20 years, is changing…

And changing very soon!

The crazy thing about it all is that everything I am navigating through is exactly the things I have prayed so hard for. There is a part of me that wants to smack the tears off my own face and remind myself that this is all good stuff!

Feelings of gratitude and joy are the prevailing emotions, but closely tied to feelings of gratitude and joy, are feelings of uncertainty and loss…

And guilt.

Guilt that I am feeling anything but gratitude and joy in the midst of such blessings. Unlike the seasons we have had to endure that are filled with such darkness and danger, despair and loss, this season is blessedly positive, but I still find myself struggling.

Perhaps I am unaccustomed to things going so smoothly.

Perhaps I have forgotten how to navigate life outside the emotional bondage of crisis management.

Perhaps I feel as though I am losing some of my purpose or value.

Maybe it is simply the emotional push-back that is rooted in the fear of change.

Or maybe, just maybe, this weight of emotions is simply bone-deep fatigue, born from trying to fit in so many “lasts” before life changes for good.

I am not certain.

I only know that time seems to be racing past and I am desperately grasping for its tail, hoping to slow it down.

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I know that I am not alone in this place. Many other friends have expressed similar emotions, born from similar situations. I take strength from knowing that this muddy mix of emotions is normal, that I am not the only one trying to gracefully navigate them, and that millions of mothers before me have made it through this season to find joy and purpose in the next season of parenting.

So many changes are coming down the pike, not the least of which are:

  1. Gracie getting married! Only two months until her big day! The last few weeks have been spent entrenched in bridal shower planning, bachelorette party planning and wedding planning. Grace and Zach have also been on the hunt for an apartment. They will be staying in the area, as Grace still has a few semesters of school to finish before earning her degree in American Sign Language interpreting.

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 Well, they found one that they love and fits their budget. And we have the benefit of having them nearby for at least the next year…which is a HUGE blessing for our adopted sons who have been struggling with triggered feelings of losing another person they love.

Last Sunday we drove over to Ellwood City to check out Gracie and Zach’s soon-to-be newlywed digs.

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It is an upstairs, one bedroom apartment with a big kitchen and lots of light. It is perfect for them and so exciting. Grace can’t wait to start decorating!

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2. Molly is about ready to take flight! In less than three weeks she will be heading out to school. Rusty and Braden will be joining us as we take a weeklong road trip to Idaho to drop her off. Along the way we are going to revisit some of our favorite national parks from our bus trip three years ago, so Braden can experience some of these national treasures.

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Over the last month Molly has been making piles in preparation for college, getting together with friends, and finishing out her employment at Eat n’ Park. In fact, a few weeks ago she was asked by her employers to reconsider heading west for school. They wanted to offer her a management position. Her boss told her how impressed they have been with her since she began working for them in the spring and could see a great future for her with the company. She sweetly declined, knowing that BYU-Idaho is where she is being called to, but was honored and touched by the job offer.

3. Molly will not be the only college student this year. Grace and I will also be working towards our degrees, and Rusty is now unexpectedly joining the college ranks as a duel enrolled high school senior.

A few weeks ago we toured our local community college’s aviation program to find out more about their drone piloting program. This is a field that interests Rusty and so we added CCBC to our college tour list.

As we sat and spoke with the Dean of the program, he encouraged Rusty to not wait until graduation, but rather enroll for the fall semester as part of the duel-enrollment program. After speaking with his cyber school, 21st Century Cyber Charter School, we learned that Rusty had the option of replacing his high school electives with college courses and receive both high school and college credit, thus getting a jump start on his college degree.

He is very excited and will be taking most of his classes at the local airfield where he will learn the skills to graduate with a drone piloting license. Toby and I were pleased to learn that the high demand for drone pilots, coupled with the minimal number of colleges offering this newly emerging degree, meant that 100% of their past students have graduated with job placement.

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4. Braden is also venturing into new territory. In June he expressed a desire to cyber school like the other kids for his senior year. He struggled with our local brick and mortar school and some of the negative influences that proved too much for him to manage. Since being home this summer he has felt the difference that separation has made on his emotions and his ability to make good choices. He is happier and more at peace. I’m hoping it is as good a fit for him as it has been my other kids.

In addition to cyber schooling, he and Rusty will be getting together with other teens from church each weekday morning at 6:00am for early morning seminary (a religion class that allows for studying the scriptures and discussing gospel topics with the other youth from church under the guidance of a teacher.) I think this will be beneficial to both boys and will meet some of Braden’s social needs as one of my extroverted children.

5. Tyler also continues cyber schooling, but through PA Cyber. And although I feel that PA Cyber falls short when compared to the education offered through 21st Century Cyber School, it has proven to be a great fit for Tyler. Last year was his best year ever and he took off under this model of cyber schooling. He is eager to get back in touch with teachers and peers whom he hasn’t talked to all summer. Tyler will be in 7th grade this year. How is that possible?!

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6. Ozzie continues to thrive in the residential treatment facility that he has been residing at for more intense therapeutic work. His success there is not surprising but rather an expected result of a structured, unattached environment. The goal we are working toward is for him to successfully transfer the skills he uses at the RTF to the home environment, thus making his presence in the home safe and stable. This isn’t an easy transition, as his diagnoses of Reactive Attachment Disorder makes the thing he most stands in need of (connection and attachment to family) the very thing he fears and fights against. It is heartbreaking in its presentation and heartbreaking to know that as devastating as this diagnoses is, it could have been easily avoided through loving maternal care as a young child. The transfer of skills we are working toward is accomplished by slowly introducing interactions with family members (and eventually visits home) to his treatment plan and then addressing the negative reactions to triggers  with his therapeutic team in the RTF upon returning back at the end of a visit.

This week he and I had our first off-grounds visit. I was allowed to take him to lunch for two hours. This initial off-grounds trip consisted of just the two of us spending time together. We will slowly be adding additional family members to upcoming visits as deemed safe by staff.

I let Ozzie pick the restaurant and he chose Quaker Steak and Lube, a well known wing place in this area.

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He chose it partly for the food but mainly for the décor. He loves walking around the restaurant and snapping pictures of all the cars and memorabilia with my phone.

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He did well and we had a good time.

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He got all dressed up for our date 🙂 

This week we will be taking Ozzie out again following his family therapy session. This time Molly will be joining me so she and Ozzie can have a visit before she leaves for Idaho. We are praying it is healing and positive.

And then there is this guy… working hard and making sure everyone stays in line. 🙂

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This is  BIG week for our family with many monumental events. We have an off-grounds visit with Ozzie on Wednesday, Tyler’s 13th birthday party on Thursday evening, Gracie’s bachelorette party Friday night, Gracie’s bridal shower on Saturday, all among everyday living. It promises to be a full and likely emotional week…

Wish this momma luck as I try to keep it together!

 

 

Road Block Ahead

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This week was a big one at Patchwork Farm!!

It was graduation week for Miss Molly and her nearest and dearest friends, and we had a few action packed days planned for the graduate.

On Wednesday it was secretly decided that we would drive out in shifts; with most of us leaving to head east on Thursday, and Toby and Molly leaving bright and early Friday morning due to work conflicts that prevented them from leaving on Thursday. I knew this trip was going to be especially challenging for Braden. I anticipated the combination of heightened emotions, family togetherness, Ozzie’s absence, and Molly preparing to go away to college, would set off insecurities deep inside that might prompt him to flee rather than have to face Molly’s graduation ceremony… as this has been his pattern recently. My solution to scaling that possible roadblock: throw him off by eliminating the anxiety brought on by anticipation, and simply show up at school a day early with bags packed and jump right on the turnpike, travelling at a speed that would discourage passengers from jumping.

This plan was divinely prompted and it worked out perfectly. By not anticipating a Thursday departure, we were able to avoid the self-destructive behaviors that present during anticipation of upcoming family connection experiences,

And the unpredictability and adventure of an impromptu road trip fed his need for chaos and risk, in a way that was healthy and parent-led.

This plan worked perfectly.

At noon I stopped by the high school to sign Braden out. He joined Grace, Molly and Tyler in the car with all our luggage, we jumped right onto the turnpike. 3 1/2 hours later we found ourselves in Harrisburg for our first overnight stay. The juggling of multiple schedules required us to travel in shifts. My most pressing requirement was to arrive at a location that offered Pathway gathering classes so I wouldn’t miss out on Thursday night gathering points for my college courses. As I looked up Pathway gatherings on the Eastern side of the state, I decided Hershey/Harrisburg area was our best shot. It was timed out perfectly, allowing us to arrive, check-in, settle the kids into the hotel room with dinner and a movie, before I left for class.

My plans were thwarted, however, when we pulled into the Radisson that was to be our home-away-from home for the night and found it surrounded by armed guards, swat teams, local police and military.

My first thought was, “Oh, Crap…They must of heard we were coming.”

My second thought was, “Or maybe someone was murdered.”

It turns out that neither was true. The reason behind the walking/talking fire power was that the Vice President of the United States was spending the night at our hotel for a GOP convention.

Mr. Mike Pence almost lost me 60 points in class credit this week when the armed guards refused to let us through the barricade to check into our hotel. Lucky for my family, I have grown bolder and more fearless in recent years, thanks to MANY opportunities to grow those assertiveness muscles…

Needless to say, after all I have lived through in the last few years, armed soldiers with intense scowls didn’t scare me in the least.

They were simply just another roadblock that needed to be scaled as we moved toward a bigger goal.

I have come to appreciate the roadblocks of life.

They stretch us in ways that the easy seasons of life don’t.

They grow muscles that can only be built through adversity.

They give us a healthier perspective on life.

And they gives us the opportunity to fight for those things and those people who deserve to be fought for, despite the lies that have argued otherwise.

The road blocks of life allow us to prove our diligence, our courage, our tenacity, and the depth of our conviction for the cause we are fighting for.

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Road blocks allow our empty words to have a voice…

The powerful and resounding voice of ACTION.

After some sweet talk and then some straight talk, we were waved through and allowed to check in. I settled the kids in and left them with their faces pressed to the window in hopes of catching a glimpse of someone important, while I raced off to class. I arrived and was only 15 minutes late…a sure miracle given the obstacles we faced.

Everyone did exceptionally well in my absence despite disappointment that no one of note strolled by their hotel window.

On Friday we met up with Toby and Molly at the Home 2 Suites in Downingtown, PA, that would serve as home base for the weekend.

The first big event: Molly’s senior prom!

Stay tuned for pictures of all our gussied up girls!

Hanging on for Dear Life!

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And then in the midst of it all, life keeps rolling on…

A never-slowing train, speeding down the track.

As we hold on tightly, trying to enjoy the scenic vistas as they fly past.

Rusty now makes child #4 in the “gainfully employed club” at Patchwork Farm. He has joined Braden as an ice cream scooper at Handel’s and is loving the experience. The increased cash flow, coupled by the free sweet treats, has made this a dream job for our gentle giant.

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With 4 children employed, and Ozzie currently residing at a residential facility, we have found ourselves left with only Tyler home a lot of the time. It is so weird to look around and have only one child lounging in the living room, instead of six. The experience has given us an sneak peek into life in the future when Tyler will be the last child at home. I think he is feeling a bit lost in it all, but I keep telling him we just need to hang in there for a few more years and once we can kick everyone out we will be able to have some awesome adventures with the extra disposable income that will result from a decreased family food budget! 😉

Ozzie has been transferred from the acute facility where he was being stabilized to the long-term facility where he will be for the next 6-12 months for more intensive, in-patient trauma therapy. We feel incredibly blessed to be able to get him admitted to the same RTF where he was so successful prior. Located in Erie, Harborcreek Youth Services provided an amazing blend of physical, emotional and spiritual care that allowed Ozzie to safely face the traumas of his past that are so destructive to his current relationships and result in poor choices and dangerous behaviors.

The sheer quantity and variety of therapeutic work that can be offered in a week-long period (family therapy, trauma therapy, EMDR therapy, group sessions, anger management, art therapy, animal therapy, trauma releasing yoga and music therapy) gives Ozzie a highly submersible experience that yields amazing results for him.

We hate that he has to be sent away to get the help he needs, but we are so grateful for the loving care he receives from amazing staff who act as interim parents in our absence, supporting Ozzie as he focuses on his own healing journey.

Gracie just finished out another semester of school and one of the art electives she chose to take this past semester was a pottery class. Beginning with basic pinch pots and working up to creating pieces on the wheel, Grace had the opportunity to design, create, paint and fire a variety of pottery pieces. This week she brought home her finished creations. Some of her finished pieces include:

A large flower vase that she made as a gift for her Momma:

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A model of our school bus turned RV:

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A wall vase to hang on the wall of her room and fill with fresh flowers:

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And a set of mugs that she creatively designed with a pocket to hold the used tea bag when making a cup of tea:

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This is just a sampling of the completed projects she brought home. She loved the class and we loved being the benefactors of her talent and generosity!

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With the conclusion of May comes many end of the year/graduation celebrations for Miss Molly. The first acknowledgement that this was really happening and that our little girls were all grown up occurred at our end of the year co-op picnic. We joined with other co-op families to celebrate another successful year of teaching our children at home. As part of our picnic, Miss Lana brought a celebratory cake for our four graduating seniors.

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I still can’t wrap my brain around the fact that four women stand before me where four little girls with mismatched socks once stood.

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Four sweet girls! Caleigh’s curlers are in preparation for that night’s performance of “Little Women” at Mohawk High School.

On the heels of one graduation celebration came another. On Sunday we celebrated Molly’s graduation from seminary, a scripture study course offered to the high school students of our church. For the last four years she has chosen to add an additional 60 minutes of work to her weekday schedule to study the teachings of Christ and apply those teachings to her life as a disciple of Christ. We are so glad she chose to participate, as we have seen first hand the great growth that happens when our children are actively pursuing a relationship with Jesus Christ through daily prayer and scripture study.

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As part of the graduation ceremony, we heard from a few of the graduating seniors and then enjoyed a beautiful musical number as Hailey and Heather sang “Be Still my Soul” while Molly interpreted the song through American Sign Language.

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Following the ceremony there was a reception in the cultural hall where guests could enjoy desserts while strolling around, reading the graduation posters, and signing their well wishes to all the graduating seniors.

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So proud of you, Miss Molly!

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Another celebration of Molly’s upcoming graduation from high school came in the form of a senior trip. Molly and Tatum were invited by Irvin and his family to stay at their home in Gettysburg for two days.

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After years of friendship, Irvin wanted to have the girls come and visit his home town and meet his parents. The family set up their pottery studio/store as a B & B for the girls, spoiling them rotten with homemade meals, story telling, chocolates on their pillows, site seeing around Gettysburg and even gifted them with one of their handcrafted mugs as a parting gift of hospitality.

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On Friday, the girls joined Irvin for a trip to Knoebels, the amusement park that was chosen as the site for this year’s senior day. There they met up with other 21st Century seniors and teachers for a day of riding rides and having fun…

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Ending the day with ice cream.

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It was a fun adventure for Molly and Tatum to share before they get pulled into the vortex of college life…

And it was all made possible thanks to the kindness and hospitality of the Young family.

It is an exciting time for Miss Molly and we couldn’t be happier for our walking ray of sunshine!

So very weary…

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“I felt very still and empty, the way the eye of a tornado must feel, moving dully along in the middle of the surrounding hullabaloo.”
Sylvia Plath

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I find myself craving the solitude of my bed.

I am so very weary.

That down-to-the-bone weariness that finds tears hovering just behind the eyes and feelings of intense hopelessness fighting hard to push down those remaining crumbs of hope.

We find ourselves in another season of transitions as Ozzie returns to Harborcreek for intensive inpatient therapy for the next 9-12 months, Molly’s graduation nears (only four more days), Gracie prepares to be married in five months, we brace for two more graduating seniors next year, all while Braden derails and I desperately try to successfully finish my first year of college. It is all so much and I find myself moving through my days in a state of numb detachment, dealing with the next pressing crisis while trying to mime some appearance of normalcy on the outside, as I crumble within.

I find myself battling feelings of resentment over the stolen minutes, of these last months I have with my girls before they leave, that are spent chasing Braden as he runs away, shuts down, or destroys property in a fit of rage. I understand where it is coming from. I see beyond his anger and defiance and know that all this change has made his already uncertain world seem all the more shaky. Reacting from a place of fear, he is making decisions that will push us away before we can push him away or leave him. Cerebrally I get it, but fighting on behalf of a 17-year-old who is defiantly determined to sabotage this second chance he has been given has be worn down, discouraged and empty…completely and totally empty.

As a result I once again find myself isolating from others, both in a physical sense as well as a virtual one. Perhaps this comes from an uncertainty as to what and how much to share…always trying to walk that delicate line between being real in our journey while still respecting the privacy of my family. Or perhaps it’s because I feel so lost in the darkness that I struggle to find the light that I want to share with you. Sometimes, though, I think it comes down to just being weary. A weariness so soul deep that even a Rip Van Winkle sleep couldn’t bring the rest I crave.

The weariness comes from the lack of respite. I’m sure many of you can relate. You might not be dealing with the same trauma but perhaps your circumstances bring a similar weariness.  It is a weariness that comes from always having to be “on.” The opportunity to escape, even mentally, is not there. Our home at the moment is like an active minefield. We are tiptoeing through our days, trying to tread gently for fear of setting someone off and then having to attend to the casualties and destruction.

Last week we had a therapy appointment with Tina. I went in first to update her before I brought the first child in. She asked me how I was and the floodgates opened. After weeks of isolating myself from the world I finally had someone safe to talk to. I told her I was tired…so very tired. I laughed with bitterness at the irony of my situation. In my desire to save children from a life of horrendous abuse I find myself in my own abusive situation.

I am, in essence, the one being hurt in an abusive relationship that I can’t walk away from. If it was my husband doing and saying these things I would have walked away a long time ago, but these are children. My children. My boys who are dealing with hurts bigger and scarier than anything you and I could conjure up in our scariest nightmare. I have the privilege of being both of their security as well as the walking representation of the figures they love and hate the most: their birth parents. And so I get to be on the receiving end of all the hurt they would like to inflict on the parents they don’t have access to.

And it sucks…big time!

I get to be the emotional punching bag for hard feelings.

I get it. Mentally, logically, I understand the reasoning and the motivation behind the behavior. As dysfunctional as it may seem, this is actually as sign that we are moving in the right direction. The honeymoon period is officially over which means there is a heightened level of trust.

But even with that knowledge I find myself feeling beaten down by the personal nature of the attacks, as I try to figure out how to navigate this relationship with a 17-year-old that screams he doesn’t want to live here, while internally battling fears that he won’t be able to keep living here.

I know there is a lesson to be found in the midst of this, but the weariness that has become a constant companion leaves my brain foggy. I suspect this is another lesson in surrender…

It seems to be a reoccurring lesson in my life.

The reality is, I am in a season on life where my level of control over the choices, safety, and futures of my children is minimal, and it scares the heck out of me. I can’t slow down the clock and the days seem to be rushing past faster than I can grab hold of. I think my weariness is probably rooted in grief as I mourn the death of what was, what could have been, and what will never be.

I don’t share this to darken your joy or weigh down your spirit, but to speak to that soul who is reading this with tears in their eyes, saying…”me, too.”

If you, in whatever circumstance you find yourself in, are thinking, “there is nothing left within me. I am bone dry,” perhaps you will find solace in this prayer Heavenly Father led me to today when I was desperately searching for a sliver of light in the suffocating darkness that chokes me…

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It is time to rest, weary heart…

Be still, and hold up your cup.

 

Fighting for the GREATEST Cause

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We find ourselves in the trenches once more.

I share the quote above because it powerfully puts into words the reality of our journey and petitions for the prayers we stand in need of.

Adoption is a war, but not the war it appears to be through the eyes of those on the outside looking in. To the casual observer it would seem that we were fighting a losing battle against our kids from hard places. The defiance, rebellion, and dangerous manifestations of anger that burst forth in the form of running away, physically assaulting siblings, property destruction, chronic lying, suicidal ideation, manipulation, and relationship sabotage smack of “us verses them.” If someone would step into our home in the midst of one of our daily battles, the screams of, “I hate you! You are not my mom!” coupled with flying projectiles would definitely lead you to believe the warfare playing out is familial, but that is simply not the case. Our war is not with our children. It is a battle we are fighting side by side with our children, against the trauma of their past. Though they do not always see it that way.

The reality of adopting kids with a trauma history is that as a family you are choosing to open your door and invite inside a battle of epic proportion. You are choosing to fight for the soul of a child and Satan doesn’t fight fair. By choosing to adopt children that the world has seen fit to abandon and give up on, you are agreeing to walk into the fire and expose your home, your children, your marriage, your friendships and your extended family to a whole new level of spiritual warfare.

And I’m here to say that we can’t do it alone.

We need our prayer warriors to surround us with an armor of fortification because our ragtag battalion is growing weary and our wounds are extensive.

Sometimes I look on my family, especially on the heels of one of those intense and destructive battles, and I see in them the faces of the famous Howard Pyle painting, “The Nation Makers.” This iconic piece of artwork is a powerful depiction of the War for Independence. It depicts a line of soldiers in tattered clothing and bandages marching forward through a field of grass and wild flowers. They push forward with a purpose and a drive that trump all obstacles. Bloodied and bruised, they do not hesitate.

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And bloodied and bruised my family pushes forward, fighting for a cause even greater than independence. We are fighting for salvation; reclaiming a soul from the brink of destruction.

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But that doesn’t always mean that soul wants to be saved. Satan’s greatest weapon in his spiritual warfare arsenal is to whisper into the vulnerable ears of my sons that they are not worthy of our love or God’s love. With those lies, he plants seeds of hopelessness that leads to behaviors only seen in those who have nothing left to lose.

I could draw a vivid picture of our life through my words but it wouldn’t even begin to sufficiently illustrate our reality, and even if my words didn’t fail me, you would have a hard time accepting that it is truth. Our “normal” has reached a new level of dysfunction.

This heightened level of warfare has led to us calling in reinforcements. After multiple trips to the emergency room in the last month, which has led to multiple acute stabilization programs, Ozzie’s doctor has deemed him unsafe to return home at present. She feels he in unsafe with himself and fears for the safety of the other children in the house. Once again we find ourselves in a place where to best love this child, we must surrender this child to God’s plan for him. That plan will involve intensive, inpatient treatment at a residential facility.

We are all heartbroken, hurting, and weary. My older kids are feeling beat up, both emotionally and physically, and Tyler and Braden have been significantly triggered by the events of the last months, setting us back a million miles in their therapeutic journeys.

We all want to curl up and cry.

This walk is so very hard, and I often count my blessings that I didn’t know how hard it would be prior to stepping into the fire, because I fear that I wouldn’t have had the courage to say yes to God’s call.

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We are now trying to find some level of stabilization, both individually and as a family unit, for the injuries are severe after this latest round of battles. I look at my family and I am seeing the effect of living a life in crisis, and sympathize with the fact that everyone is trying to continue navigating “normal” life and everyday commitments while destruction and great loss play out behind closed doors.

In the past I have likened this way of living to pitching a tent on the battlefield. War rages on, and you can hear the whistle of bullets as they pass dangerously close, but you try to continue carving out a life amid the destruction.

Just last week, as Ozzie lay in an emergency room bed raging over the fact that I wrestled the handful of pills out of his mouth, thus preventing him from ending his life, I sat trying to submit my last college assignments for the week through my cell phone before the 1:00am deadline. It is crazy and absurd that this has become our “normal.”

I share this because without an understanding of the chaos that is driving our world, life may appear “fine” to the untrained eye, and it is because of this lack of awareness that expectations placed upon Toby and I and our children result in “final straw” moments of emotional collapse.

As a family we need more empathy and support and less judgement.

So, please be tender with my troops.

They have been fighting a war most of you will never have to experience. They are choosing to step on the battlefield day after day, to fight for the future of a child who has walked through hell and feels undeserving of anything more.

Please pray for us.

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Running the Race

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It is funny how we tend to hyper-focus on the finish lines of life.

Every met goal is perceived as an ending, when in reality each ending is merely a check-point on the marathon we call life.

This is especially true when we are running a particularly hard leg of the race, like the one we have been running these last few months.

The road leading up to adoption day was full of potholes, pitfalls and roadblocks…far more than we shared with anyone who was cheering us on from the sidelines. It was a wearisome run and by the last mile we were crawling toward the finish line.

You see, in my hopelessly naïve head I thought we just had to make it to adoption day. (You’d think we’d know better!)  Knowing most of the struggles with my three youngest were rooted in fears and anxiety about the adoption failing before it was finalized, I (coming from an untraumatized mindset) thought that the finalization of the adoption would bring feelings of security and felt safety. Exhausted and digging deep for that final push of energy needed to make it to (and through) adoption day, I thought that once we made it to Tuesday I could rest my weary self and enjoy the reward of a race well run.

What I discovered, however, was that as we finalized the adoption, and we prepared to break through the finish line ribbon to the cheers of celebration, the finish line wasn’t where I expected it to be. And I could have cried. Much like a runner who had paced themselves so as to ration out their energy down to the last mile, only to discover they had miscalculated and the finish line was actually five miles further down the road, we arrived home on Tuesday night to find that someone had up and moved the finish line ribbon and we had to keep running.

And we were all tapped dry.

There was nothing left in Toby and I.

I was weary to the point of tears when everything and everyone combusted in an explosion of hard emotions.

It was at that moment that I realized that despite the raw sores on my feet, the lack of tread left on my shoes, and the bone-deep weariness that consumed me, my race was not done. In fact, despite thinking I had reached the finish line, I had actually just begun the real race.

It is those moments in life that test our mettle.

Are we going to quit or will we choose to tap deep and keep running?

The days following our adoption hearing brought emotional “fall-out” as everyone dealt with the crash that follows highly emotional experiences. Tears came more quickly, anger was harder to manage, anxiety left family members doing whatever it took to survive the week, while others who couldn’t manage the heightened anxiety simply ran away.

They ran to prevent others from running first.

They packed their bags and walked out the door before they could be hurt by the actions of others…after all, that is what happened in the past.

I thought adoption day would bring feelings of security, but for a child whose joy following  his first adoption was stolen from him shortly thereafter by the destructive nature of cancer, nothing in this world feels safe or secure.

And if the threat of losing what you want most weighs heavy enough on your soul, you run. And that is what Braden did, and Tyler did, and Ozzie did…multiple times that week.

So, I did the only thing I could do…I followed.

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It took nine miles and 2 1/2 hours of walking before he believed I wasn’t going to leave him or give up on him.

 I followed to show that we NEVER give up on family,

And to show them that if they chose to run, I would follow them…Always.

Much of my week was spent following runaways in my car as I drove at a snail’s pace behind them, with my hazard lights blinking to warn other drivers of their presence.

I followed for hours and hours and hours…

Testifying to them through my actions that we will never give up on them.

And by following them, I proved my love through my unwillingness to let them flee when family love gets uncomfortable or scary,

Because it will.

Being part of a family is the most blessed gift Heavenly Father has given us on earth, but that doesn’t mean it is always easy, or fun, or comfortable.

Being part of a family means that you choose to keep showing up, keep supporting, keep communicating, keep loving, and keep running the hard race…even when ever fiber of your being wants to quit.

Love is a choice. If it were a feeling it would be as intangible as a giggle or as untouchable as a rainbow, but true love…love built through dirty hands and broken nails and sheer grit…

Well, that is the type of love you can trust.

That is the type of love you build a life on.

That is the type of love our Father in Heaven shows us.

Life is not a sprint, and adoption is REALLY not a sprint. It is a long race, made up of lots of short stretches. Some are scenic, some are hard, and some will do everything short of breaking you,

But the choice to keep running is one we will all have to make time and time again in our lives.

When I find myself getting weary or wanting to quit, or discouraged by the finish line that never seems to manifest over the next horizon, I think of this story and draw strength from its message:

“During the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, John Stephen Akhwari placed last in the marathon, yet major sports magazines named him as one of two “top international Olympians” that year. While losing the race, Mr. Akhwari won the admiration of untold thousands because he embodied the spirit of a true Olympian as he finished despite setbacks.

Track and field athletes that year faced a common challenge when they arrived in Mexico City: its altitude. At 7,350 feet, it was the highest elevation at which any Summer Olympics had been held. From Mbulu, Tanzania, where the altitude is -3.85 feet, Mr. Akhwari suffered leg cramps early in the race. Yet he continued to run.

He collided with another runner and fell, dislocating and badly cutting a knee and injuring a shoulder. He got up and he continued to run.

By sunset, most of his 56 fellow competitors had finished the race. Wounded and in pain, he continued to run. Most spectators had left the arena where the marathon’s finish line was located.

Those who remained noticed lights flashing on a vehicle escorting a lone runner and cheered as the Tanzanian hobbled along the track in his own victory lap to cross the finish line more than an hour after the winner.

It’s doubted that anyone present realized they were witnessing a great moment in the history of the Olympics. Many journalists and people posting on various media have told the story of Mr. Akhwari’s personal victory. In a New York Times article upon the death of Bud Greenspan in 2010 is this account:

“Mr. Greenspan, an eight-time Emmy Award winner, often distilled his view of the Olympics into an incident from the 1968 Summer Games in Mexico City. He was shooting the marathon, which was won by an Ethiopian, Mamo Wolde.

“But what mesmerized him was John Stephen Akhwari of Tanzania. … When Mr. Greenspan asked him why he continued to the end, Mr. Akhwari was incredulous at such a question. ‘My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race,’ Mr. Greenspan often recalled him saying. ‘My country sent me 5,000 miles to finish the race’”

Robert D. Hales spoke of John Akhwari’s determination to finish his race: “He knew who he was—an athlete representing the country of Tanzania. He knew his purpose—to finish the race. He knew that he had to endure to the finish, so that he could honorably return home to Tanzania. Our mission in life is much the same. We were not sent by Father in Heaven just to be born. We were sent to endure and return to Him with honor.

I will choose to continue running the race God has put before me. Not because it is easy, and certainly not because it is always fun,

But because I was not sent here to start the race. My Father sent me here to finish the race.

I will run and run and run this race for love…

Love of my child, love for my family, and because of the infinite love shown to me by my Father in Heaven, who has promised that while this journey may not be easy, it is eternally worth ever step.

Dont+quit

PS- This week’s stretch of road has proven to be smoother.

God is good…Always good!

 

 

A “magical” 15th birthday for Ozzie

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Our final day at Disney World was spent at Magic Kingdom, in honor of Ozzie’s 15th birthday. This trip fell at an interesting time with Groundhog’s Day, the Super Bowl, Valentine’s Day, President’s Day,  and Ozzie’s birthday all hitting during the two weeks we were away.

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Our day began, as birthdays always do, with the birthday kid being awoken with a cupcake and the birthday song.  Since Saturday morning was our check out day, we had a speedy birthday celebration before packing up and prepping the house for our 10:00 am departure.

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Rather than pack gifts for Ozzie’s birthday, everyone chose to purchase Ozzie’s gifts in Orlando. As a result, he ended up with special souvenirs for his birthday gifts. His siblings were incredibly generous and made Ozzie’s birthday extra special.

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We planned to spend Ozzie’s birthday at Magic Kingdom. We anticipated it being busier than previous days, since it was a Saturday and President’s Day weekend, but we were not prepared for HOW busy it was. It was crazy!

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We parked in Magic Kingdom’s parking lot and waited an hour to take the ferry across the lagoon to the front gates of the park. It was a bad day to have the monorail out of commission. The result was hoards of guests all waiting for the ferry boats to shuttle them over to the park.

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The blessing, however, was that we had been to Magic Kingdom twice already on this trip, and had already ridden every ride multiple times, enjoyed all the attractions, watched all the shows and sat through the parades, so this was a no-pressure day. We were just excited to be spending Ozzie’s birthday at Magic Kingdom and figured anything beyond that was icing on the cake.

We finally made it to the front gate at 11:30 am, and made plans to stay until closing at 11:00pm… as long as everyone held up. I’d like to say it was perfect day full of magical moments, but that is not entirely true. It was a mixed bag sort of day with many happy moments but also lots of hard emotions. The reality of the adoption journey is that birthdays, holidays and connected family experiences tend to be the hardest days of our life as my kiddos that fear connection and feel unworthy of happy moments work hard to sabotage the attachment they find themselves falling victim to when they let down their guard and open their hearts to the love we offer them.

It sucks.

I hate that saying, but there is no better way to describe the effects of trauma.

 This birthday was a particularly hard one for Ozzie. The overabundance of joy and fun that came with celebrating his birthday at the happiest place on earth led to him to self sabotage, begging for pain and punishment to counteract the discomfort of love and affection.

It wasn’t the happy ending I was hoping for on our last day at the parks. In hindsight, we probably would have been better off pretending it wasn’t Ozzie’s birthday and wait to celebrate his birthday at home in a more subdued way, but we made the best of it. We let go of any agenda, allowed the day to play out organically, and took a lot of breaks for implementing coping skills as needed.

It was an especially hard day for my oldest three who wanted to enjoy their last day in the park without Ozzie instigating fights in hopes his siblings would lash out and hurt him in the way he was craving.

I think it is often underacknowledged the great sacrifice that is made by the biological siblings in adoption stories, when they open their home to adopted children…especially children with a history of trauma of a diagnoses of Reactive Attachment Disorder. Life as they knew it disappeared when their brothers moved in, with life becoming more challenging with each new adoption. This isn’t to say that this life isn’t without great blessings.  My older three would not be the astounding people they are, if not for the unique trials and challenges of opening the door to children others have walked away from. But it is not always easy. Ozzie’s birthday was no different. After pouring out their love on him is the morning they struggled when he responded with unkindness. Knowing that they needed a period of respite and knowing Ozzie needed a break from their acts of love that he was feeling unworthy of, Toby and I decided to split up for an hour.

Toby took the younger three to ride some rides, hoping this would help Ozzie expel some of his anxious energy through high-adrenaline rides,

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While I split off with the older three for some one-on-one time. It is needed sometimes, and they appreciated the period of respite.

The three of them each had a character they were hoping to get a photo with, something we could have never done that day with their younger brothers in tow. Brandon could have gone either way but opted for rides over characters, so we split ways and headed of to meet some Disney friends.

Rusty’s favorite Disney character is Winnie the Pooh and his request was to get a picture with Pooh.

He was even “Disney bounding” for the purpose of getting a twin photo with Pooh.

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We waited in line for 30 minutes and finally got our chance to get Winnie the Pooh and Tigger’s autographs,

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As well as pictures with our friends from the Hundred Acre Woods.

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Our next stop was to meet Molly’s favorite Disney princess, Rapunzel. Molly has loved Rapunzel since the movie Tangled came out when she was a small girl.

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On our first trip to Disney, when Molly was 11-years-old, she broke down in tears upon meeting Rapunzel.

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This time there were no tears but she beamed with joy through the entire encounter.

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They look like they could be sisters!

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Our third character meet-and-greet was for Grace to meet her favorite Disney character- Peter Pan!

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Grace, too, was dressed for the experience, wearing her Peter Pan hat that she bought when we went to Disneyland.

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She even brought her Peter Pan book to get autographed.

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Each of my big kids were over the moon excited over their special moments with magical friends and it was just the medicine needed to re-center us and put us in the right frame of mind for trauma-healthy interactions as we rejoined the family.

The rest of the day was spent re-riding our favorite rides, once their wait time dropped below 20 minutes.

For Grace and Molly that was Splash Mountain:

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For Rusty that was The Haunted Mansion:

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For Brandon that was the Jungle Cruise:

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For Ozzie that was Space Mountain:

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And for Tyler that was Big Thunder Mountain Railroad:

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Ozzie got to pick our dinner location for his birthday dinner, and chose Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Café for tacos (Ozzie’s favorite food).

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And then we found our spots to watch the spectacular nighttime show:

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Happily Ever After

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“Experience a grand finale to your day with the latest—and most spectacular—fireworks show in Magic Kingdom history. 

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Go on a dazzling journey of color, light and song that captures the heart, humor and heroism of many favorite Disney animated films. 

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Watch in awe as Cinderella Castle becomes part of the story by magically transforming through amazing state-of-the art projection technology that you have to see to believe.

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This astounding 18-minute fireworks extravaganza uses more lights, lasers and special effects than any other fireworks spectacular in the history of Magic Kingdom, plus a soaring score featuring contemporary versions of beloved Disney songs. 

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Discover the magic of movies—and be inspired to find your own happily ever after.”

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It was a magical ending to a magical vacation.

 

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