Tag Archives: summer fun

Kennywood Delight


Last week our kiddos experienced a staple experience of Pittsburgh children…

A trip to Kennywood Amusement Park.

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Although now in their late teens, my three oldest kids hadn’t experienced Kennywood Amusement Park firsthand (with the exception of a visit when Grace was a toddler.) We have always been loyal Idlewild enthusiast, taking advantage of their annual “Carload Days” that allows our family to visit once each summer for a fraction of the cost of typical amusement park tickets. At a cost of $45 a ticket for a day at Kennywood we’d never felt that the park justified the cost, but when Toby’s coworker invited us to take advantage of discounted tickets through his wife’s place of employment we decided to take him up on his offer and give the kids their first taste of Kennywood fun.

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Since Brandon was staying with us we invited him to join in the fun.

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Brandon and Ozzie were the only ones who had visited the park before, both of them with previous foster families, so they eagerly let the kids know what to expect and what rides they could look forward to.

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We arrived as the park opened, taking advantage of the low crowds at the start of the day to ride some of the bigger thrill rides and roller coasters.

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In our group we have a wide range of likes and dislikes in regards to amusement park rides. We have some that will ride anything. Others that prefer spinning rides but hate anything that drops from a high height. Then there are those who love roller coasters but get sick on rides that spin. The nice thing about this park was that there truly was something (many somethings) for everyone.

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As the lines began to grow longer for the roller coasters, we moved on to some of the smaller rides and had fun riding as a family on rides that appealed to everyone.

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Around noon we met up with Toby’s friend, Fernando, and his wife and daughter for lunch. Included in the cost of our discounted tickets was a catered lunch compliments of the University of Pittsburgh (Anastasia’s place of employment.)

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We enjoyed a delicious buffet of BBQ pulled pork, chicken, hot dogs, coleslaw, rolls, watermelon and salad. It all tasted delicious and it was so nice to sit and rest in the shade of the trees while filling our bellies.

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Then it was off to more rides!

Following lunch we chose some of the tamer rides and attractions to ease our stomachs back into ride mode.

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It was a hot day and by afternoon we were all feeling a little wilted. We found ourselves near the Pittsburgh Plunge, a water ride that sends off a huge wave of water that soak spectators standing too close.

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Some of us took advantage of the next wave, cooling off a bit as we waited for the 5 braver members of our crew who chose to climb aboard Black Widow to cool down by soaring through the sky on that spinning, swirling thrill ride.

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As dinner time neared the sky began to darken. I settled down at a covered table to wait while the rest of the family got in line for The Exterminator. That turned out to be the best decision of the day. The sky soon opened and crowds of people, including my family, made a run for the covered tables where we all were trapped for the next 90 minutes while the sky provided a brilliant light display and the clouds dumped buckets of water.

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I was grateful we nabbed a table before the crowds descended. The kids kept themselves entertained with coin spinning challenges as we crowded around the table.

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Soon the worst of the storm had passed, though the rain continued, so the kids moved out from under shelter to play in the puddles and create their own fun since rides were all shut down due to weather.

We waited, hoping that the rain would soon pass, rides would reopen, and as a result of patiently waiting out the weather, lines would be considerably shorter once they did reopen. Instead, an announcement was made that the park would be closing due to weather. After the initial groans of disappointment we realized that what might appear to be bad news was in fact great news because with the early closing came “rain checks” issued to each guest to return for free another day…

Which meant for the cost of our discounted tickets we would be getting almost 2 full days of fun instead of one. It was decided that we would return again for Tyler’s 12th birthday in August with Brandon joining us for another round of Kennywood fun!

It is true what they say…

Every cloud DOES have a silver lining!!

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A Day at the Lake


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With the girls away at Girls Camp two weeks ago and the boys away at Scout Camp this coming week there haven’t been a lot of opportunities for Tyler to see Brandon, his biological brother. The desire to not want them to have to go three weeks without a visit spurred me to plan an outing last Saturday, amid the chaos of getting four boys packed for Scout Camp.

It worked out better than planned and it was nice to have an excuse to set down the “to do” list and just enjoy some summer fun.

We decided to spend the day at Moraine Lake. The temperatures were hovering around 90 degrees so a day of swimming seemed extra appealing. It seems we weren’t the only family to think so. The lake was a busy place on Saturday!

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After picking up Brandon we stopped and picked up lunch to take to the lake where we enjoyed four hours of swimming,

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Water sports,

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And lounging in the summer sun…

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Before we had to leave to take Grace to work.

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Along our way we stopped at The Snowman for snow cones.

This fun gem of a place is situated just outside Portersville, minutes from Moraine Lake, making it one of our favorite pit stops following a day of swimming.

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The selection of flavors is impressive.

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Everyone ordered an icy treat to enjoy under the shade of the picnic table umbrellas.

After a hot day in the sun they hit the spot!

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It was a perfect way to end our fun day pass with Brandon.

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Next adventure: Boy Scout Camp!

The Best of the Best


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As I consider Father’s Day I can’t help but focus on the blessing of good men in my life, men that have offered glimpses of the divine character of my Father in Heaven by the way they have lived their lives.

As I consider the blessings of a loving father, two incredible grandfathers, and a father-in-law who treated me like a cherished daughter, I recognize I have been blessed more than most.

Despite being imperfect beings, they were able to show me perfect love.

Through their noble callings as fathers and grandfathers I was able to gain a better understanding of my Heavenly Father’s unconditional love. From these men I learned lessons of sacrifice, diligence, forgiveness, gentleness, meekness, strength of character, and kindness.

I also recognize that  many aren’t blessed in the same way and the absence of a loving father can affect one’s acceptance of a Heavenly Father that loves and cherishes them unconditionally. I have seen it in my own adopted sons, both of whom were born of men who were anything but loving fathers to them. Men that put their own selfish desires and dysfunctional needs ahead of their children, leaving them with scars that may never completely heal.

Then I look at my husband and how his relationships with Grace, Molly and Rusty have allowed them a glimpse into the divine nature of Heavenly Father. His example exemplifies all that is good and loving about God, and by watching their earthly father love so selflessly, my children have come to know and trust in a loving Heavenly Father.

How blessed I am to have married a man so selfless, so kind, so humble and giving. He gives all, asking nothing in return, putting the needs of others ahead of himself and does so with a smile and generosity of spirit that I find humbling. When I look at Toby I see the character of his own earthly father shining forth. Like his father, Toby is gracious and selfless, opening his heart and home to all, never thinking of himself, and leaving all those he speaks with feeling loved and valued.

There is no better example of this than his choice to open his heart and home to two boys who were in need of a father. Choosing to step away from the comfort and ease of the life he was living, he chose to travel the harder path in his desire to follow Christ’s example and obey the divine calling God laid on his heart. It has not been an easy road, but not once did Toby pull back or walk away from this hard road. Rather, the tougher the behaviors, the closer in he moved, driven by a conviction that every child deserves a safe and loving family…every child deserves to be loved.  Through his Christ-like love our two youngest have been given a second chance to experiencing a father’s love. What was stolen from them in childhood is being redeemed with each word of acceptance, each affirmation, each act of forgiveness, and each loving embrace. Through Toby’s example my boys are learning how a real man loves and are slowly discovering their divine worth as a child of loving Heavenly Father.

Last Sunday we celebrated Toby.

The kids had big plans for Father’s Day, plans that began with breakfast in bed…

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And concluded with a special dinner after church.

In between, we enjoyed naps, gifts, and a fun Father’s Day activity.

The kids each made or purchased a special Father’s Day gift for Toby, but my gift was more of an experience than a tangible offering.

A few weeks ago, while shopping for Girl’s Camp supplies at Pat Catans Craft store, I discovered Goblies, throwable paint balls. I knew at once that they had to be this year’s Father’s Day gift.

I knew Toby would love it but also that it would be an awesome, laughter-inducing, memory-making, stress-relieving activity for the younger boys who sometimes struggle with hard emotions on these memory-connected holidays.

I purchased a bag of Goblies in seven different colors, so we could each have our own color to mark one another, leaving undeniable evidence of our success on each other’s shirts.  I also bought inexpensive white t-shirts for each member of the family and wrapped them all up in a box for Toby’s Father’s Day gift.


On Sunday afternoon, following a Father’s Day feast and a long Sunday nap, we headed outside to make some special Father’s Day memories in the form of some messy fun.

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Pick your ammunition!

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It was a blast!


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Let the battle begin!


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The paint began flying! Each paint ball was filled with liquid paint that splattered when it hit a surface or was squeezed in the direction of a family member.


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Tyler loved it.


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In fact we all did!


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The carnage was colorful…


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…and slimy!

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Yes, it was as fun as it looks! A perfect family fun night for the perfect Dad.


How grateful I am to be married to a man who loves me and my children so fully. How grateful we all are for his unconditional love, his huge heart, his wicked sense of humor, his adventurous spirit and his enduring commitment to his family.


Happy Father’s Day, Toby! We love you bunches!



Our mock “Camping Trip”


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For the past six or seven years we have been vacationing annually with our best buds, the Hudaks. Some years this involves a big trip like our houseboat vacations or renting a cabin for the week. Other years it is simply a weekend camping trip at Pymatuning State Park. This year, however, life has been extra busy and it seemed the annual camping trip was not going to happen (unless we want to try our hand at winter tent camping in January) so we came up with Plan B- a Sunday evening marshmallow roast at the Hudaks. It had all the same fun elements of a weekend camping trip…



Playing with friends:

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Delicious food, like hot dogs on the grill:

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And yummy side dishes:

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Time spent with dear friends:

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Grace is now a redhead!


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Best friends or sisters?!



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Lots of laughs:

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And marshmallows over the fire:


It was a perfect evening! It was so nice to sit outside, enjoy the company of good friends, and smell the familiar camping scents of wood burning and marshmallows roasting.

Sure, it wasn’t the camping trip we planned. But it was an awesome Plan B. And sometimes Plan B is the best plan…

After all, at the end of the evening we then got to shower in our own homes and climb into our own soft beds, instead of climbing into sleeping bags sweaty and dirty.

There is something to be said for “Mock Camping!”

American Ninja Warrior


Are you familiar with the TV show, American Ninja Warrior?


While on vacation at the beach we stumbled across this gem of a TV show. The kids had watched some clips of it on YouTube previously and while we were surfing through the channels at the beach house (a rare treat for my kids who don’t have cable/satellite TV at home) Tyler yelled, “STOP! It’s American Ninja Warrior.”

“American Ninja Warrior (sometimes abbreviated as ANW) is an American sports entertainment competition that is a spin-off of the Japanese television series Sasuke. It features hundreds of competitors attempting to complete a series of obstacle courses of increasing difficulty, trying to make it to the national finals on the Las Vegas Strip, in hopes of becoming an “American Ninja Warrior”. To date only two competitors, rock-climbers Isaac Caldiero and Geoff Britten, have won the course and achieved “Total Victory”. Caldiero is the only competitor to win the cash prize.”

We were soon all sucked into the excitement of watching these superhuman competitors race through an obstacle coarse without falling.


Tyler was hooked.

For my competition loving, athletically driven, adrenaline junkie boy, these men and women are modern day Greek gods.

And Tyler wants to be just like them!

He had the opportunity to test his skills at a new playground the other day.

As we were driving past Blueberry Hill Park on our way to an appointment, Ozzie asked if we could stop to play. Blueberry Hill Park is connected to his past. It is located near where he lived with a previous foster family and he has sweet memories of playing there with his biological sister, Zoey. I was happy to meet his request. We stopped and are glad we did. In meeting Ozzie’s request we discovered a new favorite playground…

One Tyler has renamed “The American Ninja Warrior Park.”

And here is why:


The playground equipment is a loop of climbing challenges, with things like: monkey bars, a moving bridge, and a “zipline.” The boys love playing American Ninja Warrior and racing each other  to the finish line without falling or touching the ground and getting eliminated.

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These two have given me my fair share of grey hairs,

but on days like this one,

when their smiles are as bright as the sunshine,

and their behaviors are driven by joy and not trauma,

I send up a silent prayer of thanks for this moment of ease,

and count my blessings,

and delight in being the Momma to these two warriors…

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They may not be able to scale steep walls or leap great distances, but their lives and stories of survival are the epitome of what it means to be a warrior.







Let’s go Bucs!


As I sat down to write this morning I realized that the last time I posted was the day after Tyler’s adoption. The night of Tyler’s adoption, as we sat together as a family for prayers and scripture study, we all went around the room and said one thing we were grateful to God for. Having just signed adoption papers most of our gratitudes were about Tyler’s adoption. When we got to Rusty he paused to think for a moment and then said, “I’m grateful that we will never have to clean our home again!” I think the constant visits and inspections by the social workers took its toll on Russ. 🙂 I told him that I’d give him the week off but eventually we would have to clean again for the sake of health and safety. 🙂  So..that is what we did. We took the week off from everything. I think the stress of always having to be “on” took its toll on all of us because this past week we all collapsed and did nothing productive at all including updating my blog so here is what has been happening at Patchwork Farm..

We have a new litter of baby bunnies. We discovered them when we returned home from the beach. They are now bouncing around and have their eyes open. The kids are thrilled…especially Gracie!


IMG_8579Tyler is now in football. I have been stretched by Tyler. I have found myself humbled time and time again as I have had to face all the “my child will NEVER” comments that I made when Gracie, Molly and Rusty were little. Tyler played football before he came to live with us and has asked us since the day he moved in if he could play again. In the spring we signed him up for soccer and the experience was more positive than I expected. The soccer coaches (a husband and wife team) were wonderful. The practice was once a week, they didn’t keep score, and it was all about learning skills and having fun. I assumed football would be the same, after all we are talking about a group of 6 year olds..right?  Wrong. We have entered another world. When we signed him up last Monday I had no idea we were signing our life away for the next few months. Football is nothing like soccer.. In soccer we practiced once a week..in football we practice five times a week.  In soccer practices lasted 45 minutes…in football they last 2 1/2 hours.  In soccer there was a lot of laughing and goofing off..in football there is a lot of grunting, yelling and no goofing off allowed. When we showed up to the first practiced the coach greeted the boys with this question, “What is the number one rule in football?” The boys shouted back suggestions of what they thought the number one rule might be. When nobody answered correctly the coach shouted, “No! The number one rule of football is: We are mean! We are tough! We are nasty!”IMG_8824 I watched in horror as my sweet little boy chanted this mantra with all the other 6 year olds. They followed this chant with growling and grunting. I looked at Toby, who was loving it, and whispered, ” How about we are kind! We are compassionate! We play fair!” Toby just rolled his eyes at me.  🙂

I will say that after a week of sitting on the sidelines, in a haze of testosterone, I am either becoming immune or resigned to my fate because I am less horrified now than I was a week ago. On the up side: Tyler loves it, he is sleeping better than ever before, and he really responds to the strict discipline of football. Toby thinks this will be the best thing in the world for Tyler..I’m reserving judgement for now. 🙂

IMG_8746On Monday we had the opportunity to attend a Pirates baseball game. Our adoption agency has activities a few times a year that they offer to adoptive families and families waiting for a placement.  One of these activities is a Pirates game. Last year when we were offered free tickets we took 6 because we thought Tyler might be scheduled for his first overnight visit then but it was moved to the following week so he wasn’t able to go. We were looking forward to going as a family this year but then life got in the way. Gracie had a slumber party and Toby and Tyler had football practice so it was just Molly, Rusty and I. Molly took her best friend, Tatum. It was a lot of fun.IMG_8745 PNC park was packed and the atmosphere was thrilling. This was Tatum’s first time there so it was fun to see her reactions to the hot dog gun, the pierogi races and the 7th inning stretch. We sat in a section reserved for adoptive families and it was neat seeing the dynamic of the various families. There were families that adopted sibling groups, international adoptions and infant adoptions. We ended up winning 9-2 against the St. Louis Cardinals. It was a great game and a fun night…Let’s go Bucs!

IMG_8810The following morning we met up with our friends from co-op for a mid-summer get together at the pool. It was nice seeing our home school friends that we haven’t seen all summer and catching up on each other’s lives. The kids had a blast playing and the moms enjoyed visiting without interruptions.


Tyler was especially glad to see his best friend, Simon. He has been wanting to see Simon all summer and has been asking for a play date for months. Now that his adoption is finalized he finally gets to do things like play dates and slumber parties with his buddy. This Saturday Simon is coming over for the day and Tyler can’t wait!