Tag Archives: summer

Ready for an Adventure!

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Part of the fun of vacationing on a houseboat is the fact that you aren’t tied down to one area and one view for the week. Each day we are able to untie from the previous day’s location and go exploring for a new “home.”

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Riding on the top deck while we are moving from one location to another is my favorite part of houseboat vacationing. It is so thrilling to head out on the water with the wind blowing your hair, uncertain of what you will find around the next bend.

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On Wednesday, we found our best cove yet!

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It was tucked away off the main channel, and was stunning!

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The rock formations erupting from the water made the cove appear magical, as if at any minute we would spot a mermaid sunning herself on one of the rocks or Peter Pan and the lost boys peeking out from the surrounding trees.

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It was our favorite stop so far!

We spent the afternoon enjoying our private cove.

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Some of the kids headed out on the paddle boards to explore.

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And Gracie took Tyler and Olivia out for a ride in the boat.

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When everyone returned home from their adventures, we reconvened in the water and watched as the kids jumped from the upper deck.

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Eventually, our numbers started to thin as some took a break from swimming and others left in the fishing boat to try their hand at fishing.

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Those left behind decided to undertake an adventure of their own and swim a ½ mile to check out the cluster of massive rock formations at the mouth of our cove. It was an impromptu decision, made with enthusiasm.

With everyone grabbing a board or floatation device we began the swim, eager to check out the garden of boulders rising from the water.

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We arrived and the kids climbed atop the rocks for some cool photos and the opportuning to jump from the boulders to the water below.

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It was amazing!!

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Well worth the laborious swim to get there!

Just as we were preparing to swim back to the houseboat, angels of mercy arrived in the form of Woody and Tyler in the fishing boat. Back from their excursion, they volunteered to tow us back to the boat a few swimmers at a time.

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It was a lovely turn of events as everyone was a bit weary from the against-the-current swim it took to get there.

Toby and I were the last group to be towed back to shore. I climbed aboard his paddle board and enjoyed the ride back to the boat.

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This wasn’t an adventure planned ahead of time,

It was one of those spontaneous, magical adventures that we find ourselves stumbling into when we are cruising along with the Hudak family.

Oh, how I love moments like these!

 

 

Splish Splash!

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Day one of our houseboating adventure began at 3:00pm on Friday when we were allowed to check in. All our gear for a week on the lake was unloaded from the cars, wheeled down the dock, and put away in the boat. Day one was spent getting settled in and becoming familiar with the boat. Saturday morning was when the fun really began, and much of the fun occurred in the water as we enjoyed the beauty of our own little cove on Norris Lake.

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Connected to the back of our houseboat is a water slide that goes from the top deck to the water below. That slide got a lot of use yesterday!

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The slide wasn’t the only creative way to enter the lake. Others chose to jump or dive from the top deck. The lake is extremely deep and the shore is extremely steep with depths ranging from 40 to 80 feet, making such antics safe for those who are brave enough to try.

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Others chose more relaxed ways of cooling off and enjoying the water. We have a nice selection of floats to enjoy…

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As well as four paddleboards and two kayaks for the kids to use to go exploring.

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Regardless of how each person chose to make a splash, all found themselves in the water for the majority of the day. With the sun beating down from above and the water cool against our skin, it felt like summer.

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What a wonderful way to vacation!

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Land of the Free because of the Brave!

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Nothing brings the summer feels more than the 4th of July with its cookouts, swimming, and sparklers.

I love the 4th of July. It is one of my favorite holidays. My patriotic heart swells with delight at the sea of red, white and blue and the patriotic music that becomes the soundtrack to the day.

Typically our 4th of July involves a trip down to Pittsburgh to participate in the festivities leading up to an always amazing fireworks show. We love the celebratory air that accompanies the experience and there is no better fireworks show  in the area than the one put on by the city of Pittsburgh.

Unfortunately, this year we had to switch up our traditional 4th of July plans. My busy kids, with their  very full schedules, made our traditional trip to Pittsburgh for fireworks an impossibility, so we needed to come up with a plan B.

Since everyone was free the first half of the day so we decided to enjoy our family time in the morning before everyone headed in separate directions for the afternoon. We decided to head to Moraine Lake for a picnic.

It was a beautiful day. The sun was shinning. It was warm enough to make swimming a delight but not so hot as to make a picnic miserable.

Grace invited Zach to join us, bringing our numbers to seven, in the absence of Rusty, who was spending the week at Scout Camp.

We found that we were not the only ones who thought a day at the lake was a good idea. We found the lake hopping with visitors,

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And it was easy to see why…

It was a practically perfect day at the lake!

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We found a spot and settled in for a relaxing afternoon. Tyler and Braden headed straight for the water where they spent the next three hours tossing the football with other kids in the lake before breaking for lunch.

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Toby found a spot of shade where he enjoyed simply sitting and relaxing with a magazine…a rare and treasured treat for my love who works hard every day from dawn to dusk.

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Molly, who has also been working hard, juggling daily shifts as a waitress at Eat n Park, enjoyed the gift of rest as she lounged in the warmth of the sun, eventually succumbing to the sandman.

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In between the trips to the water, everyone enjoyed a picnic lunch and the company of family, while overlooking a stunning vista.

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By 4:00 pm the grey clouds began to roll in, warning of the impeding storm. We packed up our gear and headed home so everyone could get ready for their evening plans.

We did make a quick stop along the way, however, at The Snowman.

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Toby treated everyone to a snow cone, which was a perfect conclusion to an already perfect day.

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When we arrived home Molly prepared to join up with friends from church for an evening of board games and fireworks in their apartment parking lot.

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Grace and Zach headed downtown Pittsburgh to enjoy an epic fireworks show from the top of Mt. Washington,

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And Braden prepared for his work shift from 6:00-10:15. Because Braden would need picked up from work at the same time most firework shows were occurring, Toby, Tyler and I stayed home and enjoyed a movie night until it was time to get Braden.

It wasn’t our typical 4th of July celebration…

“Typical” is no longer our “normal” with kids growing up and making their own plans, but it was a wonderful day nonetheless.

How grateful I am for all this day offers us: a chance to celebrate the freedoms we enjoy, a chance to honor those who made those sacrifices possible, and the chance to do so with the people we love most.

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Summertime Livin’

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We find ourselves fully emerged in summertime livin’, complete with cook-outs, trips to the pool, travel and activities that only roll around this time of year. This week we find ourselves down one child as Rusty heads off for a week of fun at Scout camp. Scout camp is always the highlight of Rusty’s summer and this year will be his final year. Last weekend was spent preparing and packing for his 4:45am send-off on Monday morning.

In addition to packing and juggling multiple work schedules, we were able to carve out some summer fun in the midst of the craziness.

Our weekend began on Friday with Grace and Molly both taking the day off work so that we could travel two hours to the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania to join up with 100+ teenage girls and their leaders at Girls Camp.

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This year marked the first year in 10 consecutive years that we wouldn’t be at camp for the week. In the past I have served as the leader over the 17/18-year-old graduated senior girls. It has been an assignment that I have loved, but this year, given the precarious nature of things at home, I simply didn’t feel comfortable committing to a week away at camp when I was asked a few months ago. It was with such mixed emotions that the girls and I declined to return as camp leaders, so when we were asked to come to camp for a single day to teach one of the spiritual focus lessons, we were thrilled!

It was the best of all worlds. We got to get our taste of camp and the special spirit felt there, in a way that was manageable to the family as a whole. We spent the weeks prior to camp pondering possible directions we could go on the lesson topic we were given. We were asked to speak on the topic, ““If you don’t have the Spirit of the Lord, you can not stand.”

Inspired by handouts we found at Dollar Tree, we built our lesson around a flamingo theme and how we can be like the flamingo and stand tall. We each took a portion of the lesson to teach and Grace signed to the song, “I Will” by Hilary Weeks.

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It was such a joy stepping back into camp and seeing so many familiar and loved faces. After our lesson we stayed to watch the slideshow of all the week’s activities and joined the campers for dinner before trekking back home.

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Saturday was a busy one with everyone working except Grace, Tyler and I.

It was $1.00 ice cream day at Handel’s, the ice cream shop where Rusty and Braden work, so it was an “all hands on deck” day for the staff.

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Rusty and Braden worked back to back shifts mid-day, so while we were in the process of dropping off one and picking up the other we stopped to take advantage of that awesome deal!

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Is there anything better than ice cream on a hot summer day?!

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From there Molly headed to work at Eat n’ Park.

Molly has been working like crazy this summer, trying to earn all the money she needs for her upcoming year of college. Her hard work has paid off as she is almost to her goal. It hasn’t been easy, though. Molly works almost every day of the week, with the exception of Sunday, often being assigned shifts that have her on the floor from 6:00pm to 4:00am. Eat n’ Park has recently lost key staff members, leaving those who are still there hustling to cover all the shifts. The blessing is that Molly will have no trouble reaching her monetary goals, but the poor thing hasn’t had much of a summer break.

In the afternoon, Tyler and I headed to Zelienople for his weekly equine therapy session at Glade Run Adventures. Since Braden was working, Tyler got to enjoy an individual session without Braden. Because of this, Tyler was put on Leo (the tallest horse at the stable and typically Braden’s ride) to see how he would do with a more advanced horse.

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It was an exciting day as his equine therapist, Ashley, let him canter Leo for the first time, unassisted.

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Tyler did amazing!

It is so exciting to see his growth since beginning equine therapy…both emotionally and in the area of horsemanship.

On Saturday evening we decided to tackle one of the items on the family’s summer bucket list: A Drive-in Movie!!

We have discovered that the stage of life we find ourselves in makes it challenging to get everyone together for family activities. With 5 family members working, 2 going to school, and multiple commitments in the areas of family, friends, church callings, wedding planning, college preparations, etc. we tend to pick a date and time when the largest number of family members can attend, and schedule that way.

Sunday is our one day of the week where everyone is home in the evening, as all have committed to not work on the Sabbath, so that is the day for worshipping together at church and enjoying family time at home. It is also the day we sit and calendar out our week so that everyone knows what is on everyone else’s agenda. It is a necessity for our large, busy family. Last Sunday, as we planned out our week, we decided we would go to the drive-in on Saturday night. Molly, unfortunately, had to work, but everyone else was free.

Grace invited Zach to join us. We met up at Dependable Drive-in at 8:00pm to watch a back to back showing of Toy Story 4 and Aladdin.

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After finding spots side for our car and Zach’s, we set up our chairs.

The boys brought a football, in anticipation of the one hour wait until showtime.

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It felt like summer, surrounded by the smells of the concession stand,

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And the sounds of parents visiting and children playing, as we waited for the movie to start.

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As dusk rolled in the screen came alive with the sounds of the national anthem.

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Everyone got settled in their spots, prepared for 4 hours of movie-watching fun.

Both movies exceeded my expectations. They were both wonderful and we enjoyed them immensely…

Well, most of us did. Tyler was fast asleep by the time the second movie, Aladdin, began to play, but the rest of us made it through the double showing and had a wonderful time.

I love the not-so-lazy days of summer!

 

A “Plan B” Birthday

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It seems, despite all our best intentions, rarely do “Plan A” days materialize.

I’ve come to realize (and am working on accepting) the fact that we are “Plan B” people.

This isn’t by choice but it does seem to be an ongoing trend, and as a result we have gotten pretty good at rolling with the unexpected and embracing “Plan B” with a smile and a sense of humor.

Tyler’s 12th birthday was a “Plan B” sort of day.

We had such grand plans. After being rained out of our last visit to Kennywood we made plans to take advantage of our raincheck tickets and return for Tyler’s birthday. It seemed a perfect plan. The day prior was Brandon’s placement hearing so we thought it could serve as a celebration of Tyler’s birthday but also of Brandon’s placement. We even made plans to meet up with Tyler and Brandon’s little sister at the park after her half day at school.

Well,  all those grand plans came to a crashing halt when we received the unexpected and disappointing news that Kennywood was closed for the day. The day prior was the last day they were open during the week and they had shifted to “weekend only” hours.

Disappointment spread through the house at this news, but in true McCleery fashion we began brainstorming a “Plan B.” We already had the schedule cleared for the day. Everyone was off school and work and practice. Tutoring and therapy had also been cleared for the day. It has been so long since we had a wide open day ahead of us, with all family members present, and zero commitments, that we decided to take advantage of it and take a little day trip for Tyler’s birthday.

The older kids were already committed to volunteer at Ready Yourself Youth Ranch so we knew we wouldn’t be able to leave the house until 9:30 am. They have been volunteering twice a week for a year, and really enjoy the time they spend at the ranch twice a week caring for the horses, that they aren’t even fazed by the 6:30 am start time. Brandon has begun joining them in this volunteering opportunity and loves it as well.

One of our family’s birthday traditions is to wake the birthday child with the birthday song and a cupcake. The entire family gathers, the candle is lit, and the family bursts into the birthday child’s room in loud and enthusiastic song…

Setting the celebratory tone for the day.

When we told Brandon about this tradition and began preparing the cupcake at 6:00 am (so the kids could participate before going to the horse farm) he looked incredulous.

“So, we are going to purposely wake up Tyler at 6:00 am, sing to him and give him a cupcake…How is this a good idea?!! Why would you choose to do that?”

His facial expression made me laugh, and Toby’s look of “Yep. I’ve been making that point for years,” killed me.

But the smile that comes with this special birthday tradition makes the hours of lost sleep worth it. (Not everyone in the family would agree!)

When the older four kids returned from the horse farm we decided to let Tyler check out his  birthday table:

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And open his gifts.

The theme was built around our gift to Tyler. We decided to get him a basketball hoop for the driveway. It was Tyler’s 12th birthday gift but is really a gift for the entire family. We thought it would be a nice bonding activity for the kids, particularly Tyler and Brandon, but also would be another energy-burning coping activity for hard emotions. Some of my kids respond better to increasing energy to burn-off anxious energy rather than calming/quiet activities. The trampoline is our #1 tool for those kids but the basketball hoop will be an awesome alternate coping skill.

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He was thrilled!

The kids then took turns giving Tyler their gifts. I always love watching the kids prepare for a sibling’s birthday. Whether it was watching them shop in their own toy boxes when they were little, making homemade gifts as they got older, or using their own hard-earned money now that they are gainfully employed, much love and thought is put into the gifts they give.

It was especially touching watching Brandon work for Toby this week, earning money for his efforts, so that he could buy Tyler an extra special birthday gift. After years of not getting to celebrate his siblings’ birthdays he wanted to get something extra special for Tyler’s birthday. Their shared love of football led him to buy Tyler a football jersey (with some help from me.) He knew exactly what he wanted and purchased the jersey of Tyler’s favorite player.

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The other kids did equally well in their gift giving and Tyler was spoiled rotten by his big brothers and sisters.

 

Perhaps his greatest gift of the day, however, was having Brandon there to share his birthday with him after years apart, and knowing that his biological brother will soon be part of his adoptive family… his forever family.

After gifts were opened we headed out, driving north. We weren’t sure what we were doing, we just decided to head up to Erie and see what adventures we could fine. There was something a bit thrilling about the lack of planning, knowing we had an entire day ahead of us to explore and make memories as a family.

It was a beautiful day…sunny but cooler…a perfect day for a road trip!

When we arrived in Erie our first stop was Sara’s for lunch.

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During past visits to Presque Isle we have passed Sara’s and admired this fun, kitchy diner from a distance but had never stopped in. We decided Sara’s was a perfect place to dine for Tyler’s birthday.

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We enjoyed the fun atmosphere and delicious food. We will definitely be returning!

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After lunch we headed into Presque Isle State Park to enjoy an afternoon of swimming in Lake Erie.

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For Brandon, who had never been swimming in waves, and had never visited the ocean, this experience was particularly thrilling.

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The waves were about three feet high that day, giving the lake a distinctly ocean-like feel and making us all feel as though we were swimming at an Atlantic beach rather than Lake Erie.

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It was a delightful afternoon. Toby and I enjoyed some uninterrupted adult conversation as we lounged on the beach watching the kinds splash in the waves.

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The kids enjoyed an afternoon of playing in the sand and body surfing the waves of Lake Erie.

Tyler’s birthday celebration concluded with a trip to Waldameer Park, located just outside Presque Isle on Lake Erie.

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This was our first visit to Waldameer Park, but had heard many good things about it from friends who have visited many times.

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The park had a charming, old-fashioned feel that reminded me of our family’s favorite amusement park, Idlewild.

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The winding paths, tree covered benches, and old-fashioned décor gave the park a fun, vintage feel while still offering modern, thrilling rides for older kids.

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The kids had a blast and it was a perfect way to end Tyler’s special day.

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The baby of the family is now 12!

 

Together Again!

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It has been one year since my brother wed his bride in a beautiful country chapel in Texas…

And one year since we were all together as a family.

I have been blessed with an awesome family. I recognize that the connection we feel and the enjoyment we get from spending time together isn’t always a given in familial relationships. I feel blessed to call these people not only my family but my closest and most cherished friends.

My only complaint is: We don’t see nearly enough of each other!

With my sister and her family tucked away in Northern Michigan, my parents planted in rural Ohio, and my brother and sister-in-love calling west Texas home, our paths don’t often cross…

but when  they do we enjoy a collision of fun!

Saturday was one of those rare occurrences. Kelly and her kids drove down from Michigan for the weekend. Travis and Krista flew in from Texas for a visit with Krista’s sister, Anna, and then the three of them drove out to the Homestead for a visit, and we managed to squeeze in time for a visit between the conclusion of youth conference and leaving for Virginia the following morning.

We didn’t have nearly as much time together as we would have liked but we were grateful for the short time we did have and made the most of our 1 day “Real Reunion” at the Homestead.

Kelly was already there with her 5 kids when we pulled in at 3:45. Oh, the delight among the kids when they caught sight of their cousins. I LOVE that Kelly’s and my kiddos are so connected and attached despite the infrequency of visits and the miles that separate our homes. When we finally do see each other, after months apart, the kids pick up again like it was just yesterday.

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Cousin Fun!

Travis, Krista and Anna pulled in 15 minutes after us.

Mom and Dad left to pick up KFC for our barn picnic while the kids played and the rest of us caught up on each other’s lives.

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Following lunch it was time for the birthday celebration!

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The following day was Dad’s birthday so our “Real Reunion” served the dual purpose of celebrating the head of this awesome tribe of people. What a delight it was to gather as siblings to celebrate our father’s birthday together. I can’t remember the last time we were all together for his special day.

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While together we also celebrated the other birthdays of summer. Because our get-togethers have become more infrequent (due to widening proximity and busier lives) we have taken to celebrating birthdays quarterly. On Saturday we celebrated all of our June, July and August birthdays…

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The remainder of the day was spent soaking up every last bit of love, laughter, and fun memories from our day together.

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We played games:

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Some enjoyed a dip in the pool:

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Everyone spent time socializing with the animals of the Homestead:

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And much fun was had with the bubble gloves we brought for each of the kids:

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At 9:00pm we headed home. We had a very busy week ahead of us. Toby held down the fort at home while the girls headed straight to Aunt Beth’s house for a week of house sitting, and the boys and I left for Virginia. Rusty was taking part in a week-long computer programing camp at George Mason University.

It wasn’t a long visit with our favorite people, but perhaps the rarity of treasured time only adds to its value. If nothing else, it certainly makes us appreciate the minutes we do have together all the more!

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I Love a Parade!

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With the closing of July comes the start of football season. After a two year hiatus Tyler has asked to play again. While personally not a huge fan of football season and all it entails, I am thrilled to hear Tyler express a desire to play again. I attribute this change of heart to a positive experience with baseball season and major breakthroughs in facing some personal anxieties with Miss Tina in trauma therapy.

With daily football practice beginning in just a week’s time I am cherishing my last week of freedom before our lives revolve around lil cougars football until November.

The first toe in the pond occurred last Wednesday when Tyler met up with his teammates to ride on the football float in Chippewa’s annual fireman’s parade.

Tyler met up with the team at the municipal building. With candy in hand he boarded the float eager to get to toss treats to the crowds of kids that lined the road. When picking his treat much thought was put into the selection. Given the temperatures of the day chocolate candies were out. I also vetoed lollipops and any candy with sharp points, knowing that with Tyler’s arm some unsuspecting spectator might lose an eye. We finally settled on fruit snacks. I figured they were soft enough that even with Tyler chucking them at 50 mph no one was likely to get hurt, and Tyler liked the idea that it was a treat the little kids (who weren’t old enough for hard candies) could eat.

We settled in at the end of the parade route having learned our lesson from past years when we found ourselves stuck behind a line of firetrucks trying to get to our son who was unloading a mile away at the other end of the parade route.

Molly had work that evening but Grace, Rusty and Ozzie all joined me at the parade to cheer on their little brother and collect pounds and pounds of flavored tootsie rolls.

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It is always fun to be a spectator at this annual summer event. Ozzie loves the antique cars and the fire trucks that roll in from all the neighboring fire departments.

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I love seeing all the local teams, dance troops, and bands that march/ride so proudly, waving at the crowds with the same enthusiasm as Miss America at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

We enjoyed watching the different floats pass and it wasn’t long before a trailer filled with little football players rolled by with Tyler perched in the center. By the time he reached us his box of fruit snacks was long empty and I could tell he was disappointed he didn’t have something to chuck at his brothers’ heads. He settled for waving.

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The float turned the corner and the players disembarked. Tyler ran to join us to watch the remainder of the parade and collect his own pile of candy…

Although both Tyler and Ozzie discovered that very few treats that are traditionally tossed at parades are Dr. Spokane approved treats.

They picked through their piles pulling the lone lollipops and lifesavers from the pile and handed over the rest to Grace and Rusty.

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It was a great kick-off for football season. Soon the craziness begins. Starting next week please address all correspondence to the local football field. That is the place we will be calling home for the next 3 months.

 

Color me Crazy

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With the approaching of summer break comes the creation of a summer bucket list things we want to make time for during the 3 month hiatus from our heavier school year schedule.

Sometime in May we typically sit down and start planning out our summer with both a list of fun activities and experiences we’d like to make time for but also a list of goals…things we would like to work toward as we take advantage of the longer days and looser schedule of summertime.

Typically we come up with goals  in each area of self improvement: physical, spiritual, mental and emotional well being, taking note of areas of our life (both individually and as a family) that could use a little attention.

As we sat down and created our summer goals we decided to set a personal goal of training for and running a 5K as family by the end of summer. Knowing running isn’t our thing I knew committing to this goal would require an extra level of motivation. I figured the only way I would personally see this goal to completion is if I committed myself to a race and there was a financial loss for not following through, so I began searching for an upcoming 5K in our area that I could sign our family up for and by paying our entrance fee, force a level of commitment that would increase our likelihood of sticking with our summer goal.

I also recognized that I would face less resistance from the younger members of the family if the said race involved more than simply running. I began looking for a fun “themed” race. As I searched I soon stumbled across an upcoming race in New Castle, sponsored by the Hoyt Art Center. It was a color run and as soon as I read the details I knew that was the race for us.

When I shared my idea with Toby and the kids they all got excited, having seen photos of other people’s color run experiences.

(A color run involves running through clouds of colored chalk dust which coats the runners in a rainbow of colors on their way toward the finish line.)

Once we committed to the race by paying our registration fee we began creating our training schedule. Thanks to Pinterest I found a cheat sheet online for us to follow as we took advantage of the 8 weeks we had until the Hoyt Color Run to go from non-runners to 5K runners in 2 months time.

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For two months we committed to train 5 days a week for 30 minutes down at the walking trail in New Galilee. As each week passed our times improved, with Molly and Tyler consistently leading the pack and momma bringing up the rear.

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But regardless of where we fell in the line-up, every one of us got better, and stronger, and faster with each passing week.

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Last week we experienced the culmination of our efforts when we took part in the Color Run.

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On Tuesday night we tied up our laces and headed downtown New Castle for the Color Run. We picked up our white t-shirts and sun glasses and donned our race gear.

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We joined 150 other racers at the start line.

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After a welcoming message and some quick instructions we were off…

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The kids paired up with siblings whose pace matched their own and Toby kindly hung back with me as we enjoyed an unusual “date night,” racing along a beautiful tree covered trail that overlooked the river.

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While significantly slower than my offspring, I was proud to remain firmly seated in the middle of the pack, and Toby was kind to hang back with me…

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As we approached the finish line I could hear and see my children jumping and cheering us on. I was proud of us all. We set a goal which seemed unreachable 2 months prior but discovered that with training, commitment, and sheer grit, we can do hard things!

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Following the race we enjoyed an after party put on by the Hoyt. There was complimentary food, including: hot dogs, popcorn, cookies, drinks, and cotton candy.

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There was a live band.

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And there was chalk available to color and create as we sat back and listened to some great music under the setting summer sun, while basking in a feeling of pride and satisfaction of a goal achieved and memories made.

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Happy Birthday, Mr. Incredible!

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Saturday was a celebration of Toby’s 43rd trip around the sun. Saturday was also our final morning at Girls Camp, so following a crazy morning of cleaning, packing, loading cars and transporting ourselves and other girls’ gear back to the church, it was time to switch hats from “level leader” to “wife” and create some birthday magic.

This was a tall order given our sleep-deprived state, but we tapped deep, took a long nap upon returning home, and by 4:00 were ready to celebrate Toby’s big day with some birthday fun.

We decided this year’s birthday celebration would take place at the drive-in movie theater.

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So following dinner we drove to Moon Township’s Dependable Drive-in to enjoy a double feature.

Toby brought along two of his birthday gifts…

his new reclining camp chair and foldable side table,

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two gifts that were purchased with next week’s Scout Camp in mind but were equally ideal for a night at the drive-in.

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It was so much fun having the entire family together after a week apart, and wonderful to get to celebrate Toby and all that he does for our family.

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After the national anthem played everyone settled into their seats for our double feature.

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The first movie on the docket was “The Incredibles 2” which began playing when the sun went down at 9:00 pm. In addition to this being a much anticipated sequel for our family, the more fitting reason for picking this particular show revolved around the fact that we were celebrating the birthday of the real “Mr. Incredible”

Being married to Toby has taught me that not all superheroes wear capes.

PS- it really was INCREDIBLE!

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Between the showing of the first film and the second  we had a 20 minute break and pulled out Toby’s “birthday cake,” a strawberry pie to enjoy before the second movie began.

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The second movie shown was “Ocean’s 8.” Being  big fans of the previous Ocean movies, we were looking forward to this new addition to the Ocean family, and while not quite as good as the originals, we still really enjoyed it. It was fun having an all female cast string us through an exciting, well-developed plot.

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At 1:00 am the second movie rolled its credits and we discovered half our crew had long since fallen asleep. After a long week of Toby playing Mr. Mom and the girls and I away at camp, we were all exhausted.

It was time for bed!

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Happy Birthday, Mr. Incredible.

Thanks for being so SUPER!

Fun at the Creek

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School is officially out, and we have transitioned from one season of craziness to another with our days filled with summer projects, camps, summer tutoring and various weekly therapy sessions.

With Ozzie’s arrival home we have reinstated family based therapy. As the date for his release from the residential treatment facility where he resided for eight months while he was receiving more intensive therapy to address the affects of early childhood trauma neared, we started lining up therapeutic support for his return home. His RTF expressed concern for the drastic step-down of care that comes with transitioning from 24/7 therapeutic care to 1-2 outpatient therapy sessions a week and suggested we set up a Family Based team to be assigned to our home to help Ozzie (and the other kids) with his transition home.

We were assigned our Family Based team a month before Ozzie’s release and were thrilled to find out we would be working with the same two ladies that were our Family Based team prior to Ozzie’s placement.

For the last two months they have been in our home multiple times a week helping the entire family adjust to being reunited. Our primary goals revolve around reconnection, improved communication, and healing between Ozzie and the other kids, while Ozzie’s trauma work is addressed in EMDR outpatient therapy with Miss Tina.

Because the goals of Family Based revolve around communication and connection with siblings, most family based sessions involve a whole-family activity that allows the kids to work on those skills. For the most part it has been a positive addition to our network of therapeutic support. Ozzie is doing awesome. Due in large part to his residential stay, Ozzie has found a level of healing and stability that is nothing short of miraculous.

God is so good!

The only struggle I have noted with Oz is a heightened level of anxiety. This is especially true in the days leading up to a Family Based therapy appointment. After taking note of this trend and talking to Oz about my observations he was finally able to identify that the history of Family Based in our home (ie: family based being the final therapeutic tool we tried before we realized that he needed more therapeutic support, a decision that led to him being admitted to Harborcreek Youth Services) was causing his anxiety. In his mind he equated the Family Based team with being judge and jury in deciding whether he goes back to residential care or remains at home. That ANT (automatic-negative-thought) was the cause of the heightened anxiety we were seeing. Once I realized this I was able to speak with his trauma therapist and his Family Based team to come up with a plan to change his perception of Family Based therapy.

The first step I thought might be helpful was to take therapy away from the home and let Ozzie interact with his therapists in an environment that wasn’t connected to memories from nine months ago.

So, on Monday we meet at Brush Creek Park for Family Based therapy. One of his therapists came up with the fun idea of catching crayfish with the kids as a shared, connection-building experience.

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This was our first time visiting this park but we fell in love with it.

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It was absolutely stunning.

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After trying out a few spots along the creek,

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We settled in near the covered bridge.

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The boys were in the water immediately,

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in their excitement to find some crayfish,

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While the girls explored the bridge and took advantage of photographic opportunities.

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It was the most successful Family Based session yet.

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I think the combination of being away from home and out in nature, while participating in an active, hands-on activity was a win-win combo.

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Is there anything better than a summer afternoon splashing in the creek?!

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