Tag Archives: therapy

A Visit to Oz

Standard
20190821_122341

We were overly dressed for the zoo due to our plans to head to the Palmyra LDS temple following our visit. Ozzie just wanted to dress up for the occasion. The result: A sweet Amish family stopping us at the zoo to inquire if we were Mennonites. 🙂 

Last Wednesday was our first off-grounds visit with Ozzie since his placement at Harborcreek Residential Treatment Facility back in May. This is his second stay there and it has been an immense blessing. The facility is astounding and Ozzie thrives under the structure, care, and therapies offered there. In an ideal world we would be able to meet Ozzie’s extreme therapeutic needs at home through outpatient services, but his history of extreme abuse and neglect prior to adoption, coupled with his multiple diagnoses, make the level of therapeutic care needed for healing unrealistic in an outpatient form. Our hope is that an extended stay at this RTF, with its many forms of therapy and its superb staff, will facilitate a level of healing that his therapist at home can’t achieve in two hours a week.

At Harborcreek Ozzie is eagerly involved and engaged in multiple therapeutic groups daily in addition to art therapy, music therapy, trauma release yoga, EMDR therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder, trauma therapy and family therapy weekly. He also attends school on campus for a half day and participates in work release program at the carpentry workshop a few days a week where he has the opportunity to learn carpentry skills. With other boys that qualify for this privilege, he is learning to build picnic benches which are then sold to local businesses and organizations. He loves his time with the work release team.

Every Wednesday I drive 2 1/2 hours up to Erie to have a family session with Ozzie. This is not required. In fact most parents participate in these weekly therapy sessions over the phone, as families are scattered across the state of Pennsylvania,  but I have found Ozzie makes more progress in his healing with one-on-one, face-to-face support and accountability. We have turned these family therapy days into weekly social visits. Rather than taking advantage of open visiting hours for family every Sunday from 1-4 pm (which is what we did each week during his last stay there,) I piggyback a social visit following these weekly family therapy sessions. It has worked out well, as it was always a challenge to fit in church and get up to Erie before visiting hours were over. It made Sundays stressful and took us away from our other kids on the one day of the week we have everyone home together for family time. With this new routine I am able to focus on Ozzie that day and enjoy an extended visit with him following therapy where our time is spent playing the board games I bring with me.

Now that he has been at Harborcreek for three months, and is doing so well there, the next step is transitioning those skills to the home environment. This is especially important for Ozzie, as his ability to self manage is far more challenging when he is around family and is being shown love than it is for him in an institutionalized setting that is more structured, disconnected and impersonal. The first step in this transition process (which will probably occur over the course of six months) is to begin introducing short off campus visits with siblings. These short visits give everyone a chance at reconnection while also allowing us to increase Ozzie’s emotional discomfort and observe his reaction to emotional triggers so that when he returns back to Harborcreek at the conclusion of the off-grounds visit he can process through the experience (and the resulting behaviors) with his trauma therapist and come up with strategies to implement next visit.

It was decided that for his first off-grounds visit with siblings we would just bring Molly and Grace. Both girls are well versed in how to manage Ozzie in an emotionally healthy way without being triggered themselves, so we thought it best to set everyone up for success and just bring the girls. It was especially important for Molly to attend as she will be leaving for school in Idaho in two weeks and I felt it important that she and Ozzie have a visit before an extended separation. There were hurts that needed healing in their relationship with Molly being one of Ozzie’s primary targets before he was admitted to the RTF. We were granted a two-hour off-grounds visit and we chose to head to the Erie Zoo.

The zoo was the perfect choice for the girls’ first visit with Ozzie since seeing him in his dysregulated state last spring. I could tell both were apprehensive and a bit nervous, but hopeful that healing was possible. I felt a visit to the zoo would be a good environment for their first visit together. My thought was that at the zoo wee would have the benefit of being able to move around as we talked and have plenty of conversation starters as we experience the zoo. Also, I have found that animals have an emotionally calming/therapeutic effect on all my kids, so I figured it would increase the likelihood of everyone staying regulated, thus ensuring a positive visit among siblings.

We arrived at the zoo following a family therapy session that included all of us and Ozzie’s trauma therapist. We started our visit with a picnic lunch that we packed and brought along with us.

IMG_4613 (2) - Copy

Once everyone’s bellies were full we started our exploration of the zoo.

IMG_4700 (2) - Copy

The charm of the Erie zoo is found in its historic roots. Opened in 1929 it has a charm that isn’t seen in modern zoos. It is on the smaller size which made it perfect for the amount of time allotted for our visit with Ozzie, and there were just enough exhibits to entertain us during those two hours.

IMG_4685 (2) - Copy

We all enjoyed strolling through the zoo looking at the animals and watching them interact with each other.

IMG_4620 (2)IMG_4617 (2) - Copy

The Orangutans were especially charming as they had a little one in the group who was a delight to watch. I could have spent all day at that exhibit!

IMG_4647 (2) - CopyIMG_4650 (2) - CopyIMG_4653 (2) - Copy

Ozzie’s favorite animal was of course the donkey. He has a thing for donkeys!

IMG_4703 (2) - Copy

He also loved the train display set up in the center courtyard.

IMG_4634 (2)

As we walked around the zoo he was able to point out some of the picnic tables they make in the Harborcreek carpentry shop and sell to the Erie Zoo. He was quite proud to claim some ownership in finished project.

IMG_4672 (2) - Copy

It was a beautiful day and everyone had a good time. The interactions were positive and the kids enjoyed getting time together.

IMG_4637 (2)

We are one step further down the road to healing past hurts.

Time to Catch-up!

Standard

Finally, after two months, I feel like I have found my footing. Autumn came in like a tornado with our scheduled stretched thinner than it ever has been before. The addition of another family member and all the appointments and obligations that come with that, in addition to deciding to go back to school to start working towards my degree, coupled with two boys in football,

Well, I never thought we’d be able to manage the chaos…

But life is balancing and we have found our new “normal.” Routines are established and I no longer feel as though I am sinking beneath the waves, which is why there has been a renewed influx of action on the blog. Football season has come to a close and I finally have found the missing moments needed to write and it is so good to be back.

Blogging is my lifeline. It is my therapy. It is the selfish indulgence that grounds me and gives me clarity, and I have missed it.

Here are some of the moments lived this last month.

“Exercising our Right to Vote!”

November 6th was Brandon’s 17th birthday as well as being election day! Miss Molly, having turned 18 this year, was able to exercise her right to have a voice and vote in her first election.

I was so proud of her. She took this responsibility seriously and spent hours researching the different candidates running for various offices, taking notes, making pro/con lists about their platforms, and then choosing the candidates that best reflected her beliefs. For her one-on-one time last week, I was able to join her as she researched candidates and we were able to have a meaningful discussion about how to choose a candidate. As a result of her example and effort I found myself walking into the voting booth better informed that I probably ever have been in past elections.

IMG_3082 (2)

Grace, Molly and I went to vote together. What a special experience it was for me to exercise the blessed right to have a voice, with my two daughters.

IMG_3087 (2)

“Big Bessie Bit the Dust”

Our big, beautiful 12 passenger van began to show distinct signs of a slipping transmission. Rather than wait for the inevitable, we decided to bite the bullet and begin vehicle shopping, something that is considered a dream evening for Ozzie and a living nightmare for me.

The death of Bessie required us to reevaluate our needs and priorities in a vehicle. As much as I love the space Bessie afforded us, She was killing us in gas consumption. It was finally decided that with the amount of driving I do weekly and the impending winter, that we would sacrifice room to stretch out for all wheel drive and improved gas mileage.

I let Toby take on the car search, with Brandon’s help, happy to remain at home and avoid the wheeling and dealing that comes with car shopping. I assured him that all I needed was a car with an engine, a radio, and a cup holder, and the gift of NOT having to pick out the car would ensure I was grateful for WHATEVER vehicle he brought home.

On a Friday evening after school, Toby and Brandon headed to Ohio to chase down a deal Toby found online. The vehicle was 3 years old, had only 9,000 miles, all wheel drive, got 20 miles to the gallon (compared to Big Bessie’s 10 miles/gallon), and it was an 8 seater. It sounded perfect and it was…

Meet our newest addition…name still to be decided! 🙂

1596_1541030983977

 “A Spooky Date with Tyler”

A few weeks before Halloween I received an invitation to join some of Tyler’s buddies from church and their mothers for a mother/son date to Freddy’s Haunts.

1550_1541345557613

“Freddy’s haunts is a family owned and operated haunted trail that was originally opened in 1993 under the name skull mountain haunted trail. 

We are an immersive, all enclosed haunted trail that is filled with the monsters from your worst nightmares. Our old-school haunted trail operates rain or moonshine with an enclosed waiting area so that you don’t have to endure the elements along with your worst fears.”

 

I had my reservations, given Tyler’s history of heightened fearfulness and my history of being a weenie, but Tyler begged to go and I thought it sounded like it could be an awesome bonding opportunity for Tyler and I, as well as a fun memory made with friends. I was glad our friends suggested it because I would have never considered it on my own, but it ended up being a blast!

IMG_20181026_212306

I think next year we will try to talk the entire family into braving Freddy’s!

“Flying High…Drone Style!”

Rusty has been having a blast with his 17th birthday gift…

A high-flyin’ drone!

IMG_3177 (2)

Our acreage makes for a perfect flying zone. With each flight Rusty gets stronger and stronger in his skills as a drone pilot and it is fun watching the footage of what he catches on film as the drone flies high above our heads.

IMG_3184 (2)

“Hocus Pocus”

As a family we dressed at the gang from Peter Pan for Halloween, but Grace also had a Halloween party to attend, independently, with her YSA group. Feeling that her Halloween costume wasn’t strong enough to stand alone, apart from the rest of Peter Pan’s crew, she began exploring options for a second Halloween costume.

She and two girlfriends ended up creating their own group costume and going as the three witches from the classic Halloween flick, ” Hocus Pocus.”

Grace dove into the family dress-up box of past Halloween costumes and emerged as Winifred Sanders:

IMG_1563 (2)

“Photo Fun!”

This past month we had the opportunity to capture the beautiful faces of some of our favorite seniors on film. Following Molly’s senior photo shoot we were asked by a few of Molly’s friends if we could take their senior photos as well. October provided the perfect backdrop and Grace, Molly and I have had fun playing “photographers” to these beautiful girls. At one photo shoot Molly couldn’t help but jump in front of the camera for some pictures with one of her best buddies!

IMG_1248 (2)

“Saying Farewell to Family Based Therapy”

Well, after nine months of weekly visits, our family based team is saying “good-bye.” Family Based therapy was put in place when Ozzie exited residential care, as an extra layer of support for his transition home. We were blessed with two awesome ladies as our “team.” They quickly became part of our life as they spent hours in our home and many hours sitting beside me in the ER when Ozzie was in crisis.

For nine months their primary objective was to work with our family on goals of increased safety and sibling connection, while our trauma therapist focused on EMDR therapy with Ozzie. This double layer of therapeutic care proved to be just the ticket and we have seen great growth in Ozzie these last 9 months.

Yesterday was our final session. It was with mixed feelings we closed out our file and said good-bye to these gals with a pizza party and celebratory gifts. They have been so good to us and this final session was no different. They brought the family pizza and gifted the kids with their own game of, “Whoonu,”

whoonu

A game that became a favorite in our therapy sessions!

They also generously gifted me with a gift certificate for a massage at a local spa with a reminder to continue making self care a priority.

What a blessing Lisa and Val have been to our family. I have come to realize, through this challenging walk of adopting kids from hard places, that angels do walk the earth today, and many are simply known as “therapists.”

IMG_3230 (2)

 

 

A Family that Plays Together…

Standard

 

Quote-FamilyPlays-v2-01

Whew!

What…A…Week!

Some weeks are especially hard.

Some weeks are wrought with an extra steep climb and out-of-the-ordinary challenges.

Some weeks hold more tears than smiles,

And more weariness than joy.

Some weeks take you 20 steps backwards and produce a desire to simply crawl back into bed, pull the covers over one’s head, and try again in 24 hours.

Some weeks make you question everything you thought you knew, everything you do, and everything you are.

Some weeks drive you to drink…or at least make you wish you were a drinker.

Some weeks are full of moments so surreal and un-freaking-believable that you wonder if there was something special about the mushrooms in last night’s stir-fry.

Some weeks are so heartbreakingly hard that you can’t muster the drive to do much more that numbly move through the motions of living.

Some weeks are so absurd that you question whether you have somehow lost your mind and everyone forgot to tell you.

This week was one of THOSE WEEKS.

I am so empty I don’t even have it in me to tell the tales of the last 5 days…

You wouldn’t believe me if I did.

My little RAD kiddo dragged me through the wringer. I mean I love him, but some days…Grrr…

A good barometer of my mental health can be found in the ponderings of my blog. I write to process through the ups and downs, joys and heartaches of this journey we are on…

When the screen becomes blank and my voice falls silent it is because I can’t find an inkling of hope or a nugget of wisdom hidden within the current struggle we are navigating.

Silence is a sure sign of discouragement and hopelessness.

The clouds have now parted enough to allow a ray or two of sunshine through the low hanging clouds and I thought I’d share our survival strategy for the dark days that have plagued us…

When the urge is to run, hide, fight or isolate, reigns supreme, the cure is to play.

As an introvert by nature, when the weight of the world lays heavy on my shoulders my instinct is to isolate for self-preservation, but I recognize how essential it is for our family, as a whole, to pull together, draw closer, and focus on attachment and connection when feelings of resentment and frustration are pushing us apart.

So we play…

And it is a healing balm for hurt feelings and injured relationships.

One evening this past week, when everyone was home and the hours before bedtime were mercifully free, we chose to set aside tasks that needed done and hard feelings that had surfaced from the poor choice of one child who is struggling at the moment, and commit to “just be.”

We didn’t plan, we didn’t orchestrate, we left with no agenda for our local park to simply play.

1325_1539383375464

We needed it.

1317_1539383363849

We were all raw,

1315_1539383361126

and I was trying to remember why I had signed up for this mothering gig.

1319_1539383367795

An hour of just being a family helped me remember why I keep showing up and keep navigating this rocky road.

1331_1539383384861

This is why I do it.

1329_1539383381677

This is what it is all about.

1327_1539383378958

This is the reward for the hard days and ugly moments.

1311_1539383350116

Sometimes you just have to drop everything and go play,

1309_1539383345989

Because the family that plays together, stays together.

1321_1539383370444

 

A little of this. A little of that..

Standard

Time for another catch-up post.

To answer the questions of concern from those who love us and have wondered at our apparent disappearance from their lives…

Yes, we are all still alive and kicking.

No, we haven’t fallen off the edge of the Earth.

Yes, we realize we haven’t been the best friends/family members these last 6 weeks.

No, we aren’t mad, sad, or hurt by something you said or did.

 And no, we are not trying to avoid you…

We are just stretched to the max and trying to keep our heads above water.

Even blogging, my favorite therapeutic outlet, has taken a backseat to the everyday tasks we are trying desperately to stay on top of…

You know those necessary irritabilities that have to occur regularly, like meals on the table and clean clothes for the family. But we are still here and still working to find our groove with the addition of another child in the family, additional activities that the kids need ushered to, appointments out the wazoo, and school work. I have never slept so well, so deeply, or so quickly as I do in this season of life. I pray we might find our rhythm again and our days will eventual settle into an upbeat, little two-step rather than this frantic, “flight of the bumblebee” freestyle we are dancing at the moment.

But I can’t complain too loudly. God has been incredibly gracious and we have witnessed the multiplying miracle, much like the loaves and fishes, with our time and energy. On paper the math doesn’t equate. How we fit so many tasks, responsibilities and obligations into a 24 hour period is nothing short of miraculous. It testifies to the Heavenly promise that God will make a way if we but faithfully answer His call to “Go and do the things that He commands.”

So outside the tasks that take priority in our lives these days, filling our calendars with schooling, tutoring, therapy, home management, sports practices. and CYF appointments, here are some of the small moments that make up our days on Patchwork Farm:

The weather has been crazy lately. In the last few weeks we have lost power multiple times due to high winds and thunderstorms. One particularly exciting storm brought down three trees in our front yard and knocked out our power for 2 1/2 days.

IMG_20180910_115437

It was a fun adventure at first. We lit candles and enjoyed a fun dinner and board games in the candlelight. It ceased being fun when bedtime came and my kids that are scared of the dark didn’t want to go to bed.

IMG_20180909_200810

The next day we ran into more problems when my cyber schooled children, who rely on electricity and internet service to do school, couldn’t log in. Our short term fast from modern conveniences was humbling and was a good reminder of how many everyday blessings we take for granted.

School is in full swing for me. I have begun BYU-Idaho’s Pathway program. I am slowly adjusting to the academic workload as I manipulate the free minutes of the day searching for the 3-4 hours of study time I need to allow each day to keep on top of my classes. I have a consistent 2 1/2 hours set aside in my schedule each morning while the kids have live classes and then make up the difference by carrying my laptop with me to ball fields and waiting rooms, taking advantage of free minutes to read and complete assignments. (School is majorly cutting into my blog time!) I am, however, loving the challenge and its been fun exercising some mental muscles I haven’t worked for a while.

IMG_20180920_165924

(The kids insisted on a back to school picture of Mom on the night of my first Pathway Gathering class.)

A few weeks ago Tyler and Brandon shared their first joint activity with the youth. It was the first youth activity Brandon was able to attend since he moved in a month ago and it was Tyler’s first joint activity having recently turned 12. It was fun that they were able to experience this “first” together, and the fact that they had Molly, Rusty, and Ozzie there as well made it even more fun.

IMG_20180919_194702

The youth leaders couldn’t have picked a better introduction activity to welcome in Brandon and Tyler than the activity they picked: Human Foosball! The high energy activity, coupled with ice cream sundaes after the game, made for an awesome night!

FB_IMG_1538619010853FB_IMG_1538619049103

Last week Miss Grace came home from school eager to show off something special.

IMG_20180923_185659

She called us into the kitchen and pulled from a plain white envelope this:

IMG_20180926_165153

Her ASL certificate!

Grace has completed the first half of the program, earning her certificate in sign language interpreting and is now working on the second half of the program which will earn her an associates degree in the same field before she transfers to a four year college. Grace worked so hard to earn this ASL interpreting certificate and we are so proud of our hard working girl!

Speaking of our “girl on the go”…

Miss Grace has kept busy this last month with a task beyond her normal workload. She volunteered to take on the task of planning a luau for her Young Single Adult ward with the help of a great committee. This undertaking was a big one but it was a challenge that played to her strengths. She had a blast getting creative and creating a dinner and dance around this fun theme. She said the night was a blast! Here are some photos of the night:

P1120371 (2)P1120374 (2)P1120373 (2)P1120372 (2)P1120380 (2)P1120387 (2)P1120400 (2)P1120401 (2)P1120430 (2)P1120424 (2)

Molly and two of her best buddies went out last Friday night to celebrate some exciting news. Molly, Tatum and Caleigh each campaigned for leadership roles in National Honor Society. Molly campaigned for the role of President, Tatum campaigned for the role of Parliamentarian, and Caleigh campaigned for the role of Historian.

Well, on Friday they each received the exciting news that they were elected to the leadership roles they were seeking. These three sweet girls make up 3/4ths of 21st Century Cyber Charter School’s new National Honor Society presidency.

IMG_20181005_205111

Congratulations girls!

And in final news…

Brandon has joined Tyler and Ozzie on the back of a horse. This past week Brandon began equine therapy at Glade Run Adventures in Zelienople. He was paired with Pumpkin for the lesson and the connection was immediate. It was his first time on the back of the horse and I could tell he was a bit nervous,  but any unease disappeared as soon as he climbed atop Pumpkin.

IMG_20180929_152339

It was an immediate connection and we soon discovered that despite lack of previous experience, Brandon was a natural.

IMG_20180929_153021

Like Tyler, his God-given athleticism and calm confidence made him a natural on the back of the horse. Like Tyler, he also had a way with animals. He loved it and his equine therapist commented to me at the end of the lesson, as we watched Brandon squeeze and love on Pumpkin, “This is why I do what I do.”

IMG_20180929_152540_1

I think equine therapy is going to be a great blessing in Brandon’s healing journey.

IMG_20180929_155304

 

Fun at the Creek

Standard

creek

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.

IMG_0155 (2)

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

IMG_0104 (2)

It was absolutely stunning.

IMG_0143 (2)

After trying out a few spots along the creek,

IMG_0070

We settled in near the covered bridge.

IMG_0098 (2)

The boys were in the water immediately,

IMG_0116 (2)IMG_0144 (2)

in their excitement to find some crayfish,

IMG_0154 (2)

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

IMG_0117 (2)

It was the most successful Family Based session yet.

IMG_0074 (2)

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.

IMG_0134 (2)

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

IMG_0103 (2)

 

A Time to Heal

Standard

A few weeks ago we received an invitation in the mail to attend a recognition banquet at the Downingtown office of our cyber school. The invitation was for Molly and her family. She was one of the students be honored. We made plans to attend and initially we planned on making it a special mother/daughter trip for just Molly and I.

As Ozzie’s return home neared I watched the kids came to terms with this transition as they individually sorted through the mix of emotions tied to Ozzie’s return home. Molly in particular struggled to reconcile her past hurts and the need to forgive with anxiety that Ozzie would return home unchanged. She had such a desire to forgive and move forward but struggled to let go of the past hurts Ozzie had inflicted and trust that it was safe to emotionally open up to him. I saw the conflict playing out as she worked to forgive and move forward. My heart broke for her and Ozzie and all the other kids because I knew the hard emotional journey before her…before us all.

I also saw the spiritual maturity she showed as she approached those struggles humbly and prayerfully. As her recognition banquet approached she came to me to ask my thoughts on inviting Ozzie to come along on her special mother/daughter weekend. It was with great love she decided to set aside her own selfish desires and invite Ozzie along, hoping that some one-on-one time and special shared experiences might serve as a healing balm to past hurts.

When she extended the invitation to Ozzie he too was touched and motivated by her desire to heal their relationship and move forward, so he reciprocated her efforts with his own and decided to treat Molly to a fun, shared experience.

While he was at Harborcreek RTF Ozzie had the opportunity to earn “allowance” for daily chores and community work. After returning home he received a check in the mail closing his account. He decided to use a portion of that check to do something special for Molly on the trip and make a memory that was just theirs to share.

As a Mom I was touched and moved by both of their desires to forgive, heal and mend their relationship as siblings and the maturity and selflessness they each showed in sacrificing their own selfish desires for something bigger than themselves…

So, on Monday morning we left on a road trip of hope and healing as we headed east to Downingtown.

After a few stops along the way we made it to our hotel. Molly and Ozzie reveled in the fun of staying at a hotel,

IMG_9159 (2)IMG_9156 (2)

Swimming in the hotel pool,

IMG_9163 (2)

And enjoying the most delicious complementary breakfast I have ever seen at a hotel!

IMG_9172 (2)IMG_9173 (2)

After breakfast we got dolled up and ready to head over to the school for Molly’s recognition banquet and lunch with her teachers.

IMG_9179 (2)

The celebration began with a catered lunch of salmon, zucchini patties, chicken and macaroni and cheese. We enjoyed picnicking outside with the Hudak’s who were also there for Tatum’s recognition.

IMG_9180 (2)

After lunch we moved inside where a board meeting was taking place.

IMG_9182 (2)

There, in front of the board and their families, two dozen students were recognized and honored for achievements apart from their academics.

FB_IMG_1525974140365

It was a delight to see Tatum and Molly celebrated for their charitable endeavors.

IMG_9194 (2)

After they received their awards we stuck around long enough to visit with some of their learning coaches and teachers, both past and present.

IMG_9189 (2)

Ozzie was over the moon to get to see his learning coach, Halley Scarpignato, who surprised Ozzie with a new 21CCCS t-shirt.

IMG_9191 (2)

After saying our good-byes we were on the road, headed back home with a fun stop along the way.

IMG_9204 (2)

(In the next blog I will share some of the fun Molly and Ozzie shared these last two days.)

It was two days of healing and connecting for two of my kiddos.

Forgiveness isn’t easy.

Letting go of past hurts is hard.

Trusting those who have disappointed you requires faith,

And moving forward requires a certain level of selfless surrender…

But I know healing can be found in the most torn relationships if you can surrender the pain to the Heavenly Healer…

The same healer who turned water to wine, brought sight to the blind, calmed storms, and raised men from death…

I testify that God can take relationships left in ashes and breathe life into what was destroyed, making it better than before.

IMG_9176 (2)

I know this to be true…

I’m watching it happen.

The End of Winter

Standard

This winter had been a weird one in Western Pennsylvania…

A bit bipolar in its behaviors with a sporadic mix of unseasonably warm days followed by an unexpected 10 inches of snow.

IMG_4535 (1) (2018_03_04 01_56_54 UTC)

There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the recent weather patterns and all creatures, great and small, seem anxious and uncertain as to what the day might bring.

Daffodils reach for the sky, teased out by the warmth of the sun, only to be covered in layer of snow hours later.

Birds are waffling in their duties, uncertain as to whether they should begin laying eggs or hunkering down in their nests for a long winter’s nap.

The furnace has had a workout, shifting from air conditioning to heat in a 12 hour span.

And  my 11 year old has given up trying to make any effort in dressing weather-appropriate and has compensated by simply pairing his flip flops with sweaters.

FB_IMG_1524101722825

The uncertainty has left everyone feeling a bit unsettled and I find myself taking note of how reflective our outside environment has been of our internal state.

Ozzie has spent the last 7 months in a residential treatment facility about 2 hours away. It was with tremendous heartache and no shortage of prayer that he was admitted. The year leading up to that decision was unimaginably traumatic for Ozzie and the rest of the family as the demons from his past history of abuse reared their ugly heads in heartbreaking, tragic, and dangerous ways. After exhausting all therapeutic support for Ozzie that could be found in an outpatient setting it became clear that for real healing to take place he would need to be immersed in an environment of intensive therapeutic support. For these last 7 months Ozzie has thrived under this higher level of care. With the sheer volume of therapeutic supports like daily therapies (individual and group,) music therapy, EMDR therapy for his PTSD, and trauma release exercises, he has found hope.

We all have.

I recently had a friend comment that they sometimes found my recordings on this blog to be disingenuous to our reality. Although not intended to be critical, merely taking note of the fact that most recent blogs have been lighter and fluffier than the heavier stuff that was more common a year ago, I have since thought much about that comment. As a mom I walk a shaky line in recording the story of my family. I share not for accolades or attention but for a mix of other reasons. I blog to record our story as a gift for my children in the decades to come. I blog as a therapeutic tool for myself. (The act of telling our story helps me process and make sense of this often hard journey.) But mostly I blog because I feel called to allow others to walk with us in the hopes that our trials and our joys might help you in your journey and that I might testify of God’s goodness in ALL seasons of life. Every blog is penned with prayer…A prayer that God might use this walk to support another in their walk. I don’t share all. Some would argue I share too much, others would say not enough, but every blog entry is prayerfully approached.

Often the struggle of what to write is not a debate of how much to share but rather HOW to share.

That is where I find myself today.

As the snow swirls outside on April 17th, I struggle to put words to the uniquely emotional journey we have been on these last 7 months. I don’t know that I have the words to fully convey the muddy mix of emotions that are connected to this unique journey. Much like the winter we have experienced these last 5 months, our experience with having a child in a residential treatment facility is a constant mix of sunshine and snow, with so many heartbreaks connected to the decision, but also immeasurable blessings. Each day I find myself uncertain of what the emotional forecast of the day will be and whether the hope or the heartache of the situation with reign supreme.

Saying good-bye to Ozzie on day one… leaving him in the care of a stranger… while I drove home… was the hardest day of my life. It was an adjustment for the entire family as we tried to find our new “normal” with Ozzie gone. As time passed the sharp ache dulled a bit, and while each home visit and the returning drive back brought tears, the situation didn’t seem so hopeless. We were seeing the fruits of God’s hand in leading us to this particular facility at this particular time.

We have watched Ozzie blossom under the intensive therapy offered him in an inpatient setting. He has worked so hard in his healing journey, has learned new ways to cope with the demons of his past that will inevitably raise their ugly head again in the future, but once again it is with a muddy mix of emotions that we transition into another new “normal.”

How do I fully articulate the emotions that fill our home this week when we ourselves struggle to name them all?

Ozzie will be discharged this Saturday. He has worked through the program and has experienced a level of success that many boys there never find. He has fought hard in his healing journey. He has faced down fears, memories of abuse, and his own destructive behaviors with the courage of a knight battling a dragon. None of this came easily and each step toward healing was paid for with blood, sweat and tears…on all of our parts.

I fully believe he is ready to return home.

Knowing his discharge date was approaching, my focus has been on preparing for that transition. Outpatient therapies have been put in place. With his return home he will continue EMDR therapy with Miss Tina, Family Based Therapy services have been put in place, and Ozzie will begin equine therapy (horse therapy) next week. Contact has been made with the school, his room has been prepared, and our schedule has been altered to account for Ozzie’s weekly appointments.

Once the logistics of this transition had been figured out it was time to address the emotional impact this transition was going to have on all members of the family.

When Ozzie left in September he was in a heightened state of crisis and his behaviors were threatening and unsafe. These last 7 months brought feelings of felt safety to the other children, feelings of safety they had not experienced in the year prior. With Ozzie’s return home pending, the anxiety in the home has increased significantly as the kids brace for the unexpected…

And while I know Ozzie is returning to us stable and safe, it will take time for the other kids to see that themselves and begin the process of trusting him, forgiving him, and reconnecting with him.

To help them express , process, and work through some of those emotions and concerns, I set up a family therapy session with Miss Tina. Knowing that Rusty and Tyler would be less comfortable/capable of using traditional talk therapy to express the emotions churning within, I suggested we do an art project.

At home we have had a great deal of success with Tyler using markers to express his emotions. When he can’t say what he is feeling he will color an abstract work of art, assigning an emotion to each marker color. The result is incredible. He is able to purge the feelings locked within and I am able to get a powerful visual of what he is feeling, and thus know how to best help him.

I suggested we use this same technique with the other kids at our family therapy session. The day before our appointment we sat down and made a list of emotions that we might all be feeling about Ozzie’s return home and then we made an emotion “key” with Tyler selecting which paint colors would be assigned to each emotion.

IMG_8883

On Thursday we drove to Miss Tina’s office with our paints, brushes and canvases. While the kids painted their emotions we talked through our crisis/ safety plan. When everyone’s paintings were complete we went around and talked about the emotions (and the corresponding thoughts) that went with each brush stroke of color, allowing the kids to comfortably share the muddy mix of emotions they have been feeling. I think it brought a sense of comfort to look around and see that the rest of the family had the same mix of colors/emotions that we had each been feeling individually.

IMG_8887IMG_8885IMG_8889

It is with great joy, gratitude, and relief that we welcome Ozzie back home, but the reality is that there are other emotions that color this transition as well.

Anxiety seems to be the prevailing constant in everyone’s work of art, so as we take this next step in our adoption journey we petition you, our fellow sojourners, to lift our family up in prayer.

We are ready to leave winter behind. We are ready for the new life and hope that comes with spring.

May the storms be over.

May the sun come out.

winter

Please pray for us.

The Blessing of Blogging

Standard

Isn’t it a beautiful thing to watch God work…

Taking our vision and transforming it into something so much greater than anything we could have planned ourselves.

How grateful I am for the journey God has taken me on these last 5 years. When we opened the door to the world of adoption we had no idea the wild ride we were boarding. We didn’t anticipate the twists, turns, sharp drops, and stomach flips. We also didn’t anticipate the magnificent peaks, thrilling climbs and heavenly views.

Perhaps that is why God opens doors an inch at a time. Had he swung the door wide open revealing the entire ride I don’t know that I would have been brave enough to climb on. Rather He has revealed it a turn, a hill, a twist at a time, allowing us to grow in our ability to trust that as the ride conductor He won’t push us past our limit. Through the journey He taught us that if we simply lean into the wind and trust the creator of the ride we find ourselves buckled into then there is no need to fear the tracks ahead, regardless of what the next turn brings.

Often in the midst of a journey we struggle to see past the climb we find ourselves on. We can easily lose sight of where we began and how far we have come. I think this is revealing of the shortsightedness we as human beings struggle with.

In the scriptures the word “Remember” appears in various forms over 300 times. The significance of this word is revealed in the frequency God commands us to “remember.” Our Father in Heaven knows us. He created us. He is aware of our shortcomings and our shortsightedness. History has revealed men’s propensity for forgetfulness especially when it comes to remembering lessons revealed to us during the strain of an upward climb when we then find ourselves coasting on a straightaway.

One month after Tyler moved in with us I was prompted to embark on a different journey, one well outside my comfort zone. I felt called to record the journey we were just beginning by way of a blog. I knew nothing about blogging, was pretty much absent on social media, preferred my privacy, and was downright frightened of putting our journey out there for everyone to observe and perhaps judge, but for every reason I found to not move forward with this prompting three more reasons why I needed to take this leap were revealed.

This blog began as an act of obedience. I didn’t know what, if anything, would come of my efforts. When I began it was painfully laborious as each blog entry took hours to complete. As time passed I became more comfortable with the medium, more adept at typing, and more at peace with the transparency that comes with recording my life in this way. What was initiated by a prompting became a source of joy. This blog became my gift to my kids as I recorded the story of our journey for them to have when they are older. It became a way to connect with, offer support, and glean support from others who are walking their own hard road. It became my therapy, my safe place to work through my own emotions and find a resolution and peace that I could only seem to find through words. By sharing with others, I found a piece of myself that I didn’t know existed, a voice that up until then had been silent. As we rode this ride of adoption the purpose and blessings of this blog evolved as we evolved, and in this journey I found my own calling.

 

This week I typed my 1000th blog and I have reflected on all that we have experienced together. While the purpose that drives me to sit before the keyboard has evolved over the last five years, the joy I have found in sharing our story continues to be one of the greatest blessings in my life.

How grateful I am for this journey.

In trauma therapy with Tyler we continue to lay the groundwork for EMDR, a needed next step in healing from PTSD. Unfortunately, we can’t get anywhere near the past before Tyler shuts down. It is far too big and scary for Tyler to face. Knowing we need to get him comfortable with looking backwards in time we decided to start small and safe, moving from his early years with us, prior to his adoption, backwards through time.

The goal is to help him feel safe remembering good times so that he will eventually feel safe looking at the scary stuff, so he then can begin to heal from the scary stuff.

This is where the blog comes in. Originally intended to be a scrapbook of Tyler’s life, something for him to hold onto and treasure as an adult, it has now become a powerful therapy tool. I have had past years of blog entries printed up into “digital scrapbooks.” We have been using these blog books in therapy to look back and REMEMBER, so that Tyler might become less afraid of looking to the past.

IMG_6869 (2)

Every night Toby reads a few blog entries to Tyler as his bedtime story. Tyler now looks forward to this special time of getting to hear stories in which he is the lead character.

IMG_6875 (2)

We also bring these book to therapy with Miss Tina and read some entries with her, helping Tyler to become more comfortable with remembering, working on identifying emotions felt in those moments from his past, and utilizing those entries to start building a life book for Tyler, something he currently does not have.

When I began blogging 1000 entries ago I had no idea the magnificent journey we were embarking on. I had no idea what God’s purpose was behind the prompting. I had no idea what a lifeline this virtual conversation with all of you would be for me. I especially had no idea that these words, penned for another purpose…

To encourage others and be encouraged, to serve as a form of therapy for myself, to record our story of hope and healing for future reflection…

Would end up being the very tool needed to help Tyler heal.

It is beautiful how God is using Tyler’s own journey, his own story, his own reflections, to heal him from the trauma of his past. It is so divinely perfect and beyond anything I could have planned or orchestrated myself. This daily practice has also blessed us in another way. It has helped us to “Remember.” Remember the struggles, the climb, the self doubt, the worries, the fear…all so distant now. By rereading the stories from that first year of our adoption journey I remember how hard it was and am humbled by how far God have taken us, and the miraculous work He has performed in all of us, refining us and making us better than we were before. 

When God cracks open a door and asks us to step inside without seeing exactly what we are walking into we can trust that is we simply obey and take a step of faith He will take us on an incredible journey, a journey that’s purpose is often unseen until years down the road.

Thank you for walking with us through these last 1000 blogs. We couldn’t ask for better traveling companions as we reflect on and “Remember” God’s goodness in our life.

It’s Time to Buckle Down and Blog

Standard

I don’t know if it is the after Christmas crash, the flu bug that swept through our house knocking us all flat on our backs, or simply the fact that we find ourselves in hibernation season, but I have struggled to find the creativity or motivation to do anything beyond the bare minimum.

Instead I find myself resting, and dreaming, and gazing out at the winter wonderland that decorates the world outside my window.

IMG_6536 (2)

With each passing year I find myself more enamored with the month of January. As a child I found it to be a horribly long and dull month, especially coming on the heels of the sparkle and shine of December, but as I grow older (and perhaps a bit wiser) I see January for the gift that it is. It is the resting month. Without the crazy schedule and social obligations of December, and yet too early for the labor of spring, January asks very little of us.

The weather outside encourages us to hunker down.

The early nights drive us to our beds at a decent hour.

And the calendar remains blissfully free of obligations.

It is the resting month…a season that encourages us to find the same stillness in our souls that we find in the hush of the softly falling snow.

I am grateful for this season of rest. I feel its healing powers and recognize its purpose. I have come to embrace it with an open heart and eager anticipation. It is a season of hibernation and healing and I have embraced this season fully…perhaps too fully, as I have struggled to tap into any creative thinking or desire to do much more than watch snowflakes drift down to the earth.

This lack of creativity and motivation has resulted in a pronounced silence on the blog. Life continues to happen and yet my diligence in recording the moments that make up our life is seriously faltering, and it seems the more behind I get in my writing the more I avoid beginning, so forgive this disjointed, seemingly unconnected recording of recent life events. I am forcing myself to step away from the view at the window and write.

So here it goes…a much overdue “catch up” post:

#1. Last Wednesday marked the final day of the Semester for Molly and Rusty. They worked hard and both earned the A’s they were hoping for. The following day they were off school so that the teachers could have a grading day. Knowing there was no school on Thursday the girls decided to get together with Olivia and Tatum for an impromptu sleepover. In addition to Molly and Tatum celebrating the end of the quarter this sleepover also gave Grace and Olivia a chance to get together before their college courses start up again and life gets busy.

FB_IMG_1515900766740

The girls had a wonderful time. It was a relaxed, laid back  evening of talking, laughing, movie watching and cupcake decorating. Olivia, the resident baker, had cupcakes and icing leftover from an order she filled earlier that day so the girls got creative and had a fun time in the kitchen creating beautiful AND delicious masterpieces.

FB_IMG_1515900775320FB_IMG_1515900783280

 #2. Since Christmas break Tyler and I have adjusted his school schedule slightly. Rather than jumping straight into his first subject of the day at 9:00 am, I decided to try something new. With just a little shuffling and rearranging I was able to move Reading to 9:30, freeing up a half hour for some transition time.

Transitions are hard for Tyler. I think they are hard for a lot of kids, but they tend to be extremely challenging for kids from hard places. For a kid whose early years were unstable and uncertain, change is something scary. And despite the fact that he logically knows that transitions from one task to another in his life now won’t bring danger or loss, the primitive part of his brain screams with fear when he is asked to leave one situation and step into another. There is a primitive drive to be in control and alert. As a result we have found it hugely beneficial to invest  time and energy into prepping Tyler for transitions…both big life transitions but also small daily transitions with prompts like, “10 more minutes of play and then we will be going inside to eat.” Explaining exactly what will happen next or what to expect when stepping into an unfamiliar situation helps to lessen that “fight, flight, or freeze” response and makes transitions significantly easier for all involved.

One transition that has made a world of difference in our school day is the addition of a game time at the start of our day. Rather than jumping straight from free time to reading time we have added a half hour of  game time to start our day. This easing into the day has made a world of difference. It allows Tyler to be excited about the transition from free time to school time, as well as giving us a consistent time block to focus on the TBRI principle of attachment through a fun, child-led activity.

The game of choice lately has been chess.

For Christmas Tyler received his own chess set…

And not just any chess set,

A Mario Brothers chess set!

Tyler was introduced to the game of chess by Rusty a few years ago. Rusty loves the game of chess and has multiple chess boards that he treasures but also cautiously guards. Tyler can only play with them if he and Russ are playing a game together, so Tyler asked Santa for his own chess set for Christmas.

Not knowing how to play myself, this chess set has given Tyler the chance to be the teacher as he schools me on the rules of chess. Chess is also a tool Miss Tina uses with him in therapy. Playing a game of chess while talking through harder stuff allows Tyler to focus on a task so as to not drown under the hard thoughts and emotions they are discussing.

IMG_6495 (2)

#3. Following Christmas we were hit with the dreaded stomach flu that is sweeping across the nation. While typically a healthy crew, our family (or at least the Momma of this family) has an unchosen annual tradition of falling ill the first week of January. It never fails. Year after year we are hit with the latest strain of flu and it moves quickly through our house taking out each of us one by one and sometimes circling back around for round two.

I credit this annual occurrence to the after Christmas crash. Worn down by the busyness of the Christmas season and suffering from lack of nutrients after feasting on cookies and milk for weeks on end, our bodies succumb to germs. It is as though we are finally still enough for the germs to catch us and wiped out enough for them to take hold.

This year was no exception. The stomach flu made it rounds at Patchwork Farm bringing with it fever, chills, aches, stomach cramps, and debilitating fatigue. The blessing was that although it hit hard it moved on quickly, lasting only a day or two.

IMG_6483 (2)

#4. Miss Grace had a lovely break from school. While all her younger siblings were back to the grind the first week of January, Grace was off until the third week of January. That’s the benefit of a college schedule! She used this month of freedom to catch up on projects that she hadn’t had time for when school was in session. She organized her room, caught up on sleep, planned some outings with friends, spent time on Pinterest seeking out projects and recipes and then jumped into said creative projects and baking.

We were the beneficiaries of her Pinterest driven baking spree. One of our favorite treats from this past month was her peach fry pies. They tasted just like the ones we buy in Amish country.

IMG_6492 (2)

Using refrigerated pie crust she cut small circles using a biscuit cutter, filled the circle with peach pie filling, sealed it with another circle, and then baked them. When they came out of the oven she dipped them in an icing glaze and let them set up.

IMG_6493 (2)

They were amazing!

#5. Over the last few weeks we have been hit with a lot of snow, leaving the yard looking like a winter wonderland. As someone who loves winter and loves the snow, I have no complaints. I find it far better than the muddy winter we endured last year, but that is not to say that this season of beauty is without challenges. The frigid temperatures have made caring for the farm animals harder, and the ice on the driveway means having to park at the bottom and hike in and out…

IMG_6645 (2)

A task that is lovely if you are traveling empty handed, but far more frustrating for Toby who has had to hike materials and tools down to his truck each morning. At least our Fit Bit’s are pleased. We have had no trouble hitting our 10,000 steps!

IMG_6650 (2)

Well, there you go…

My attempt to break the silence and get back on track.

I’ll try to do better! 😉

Our first Day Pass with Oz!

Standard

IMG_3669 (2)

Last Saturday was a monumental milestone in Ozzie’s progress at the inpatient hospital that is serving as his home away from home for a few months. He earned his first Day Pass. This is a huge deal, as it is reflective of the hard work and effort he is putting into his treatment and healing. Normally patients don’t receive a Day Pass or Home Pass this early on in their treatment, which is a real testament to the miracles we are seeing happen with Ozzie. This place has been incredible, and Ozzie is doing awesome! Under this higher level of care Ozzie is finally receiving the concentrated quantity of therapeutic care he has needed. Under the professional hands of some awesome doctors, nurses and therapists, Ozzie is addressing and healing from the trauma of his past and finally finding the peace that has escaped him for years. He is doing hard, intensive work as he looks at the abuse and trauma that defined his early years in his birth home and is processing that trauma with EMDR therapy, trauma therapy, music therapy and multiple group therapies every week. The sheer volume of therapeutic work that is happening on a daily basis is a huge factor in his success. Our outpatient therapist here at home was awesome but couldn’t delve deep enough, quickly enough, into Ozzie past trauma (without creating unsafe emotional instability) with only 2 one-hour sessions a week. This center is Christian based, and the presence of the Holy Spirit is evident as soon as you walk on campus. There is a special spirit blanketing the hurt boys who have found a haven there and I know that it is because of the Spirit-guided treatment that Ozzie is experiencing miraculous results. 

Ozzie transformation has been amazing and although Toby and I see Ozzie weekly and have witnessed the miraculous changes occurring in his life, the other kids have not experienced it firsthand. Their residual memories of Ozzie are very different from the Ozzie we have seen at our visits which is why the kids were all struggling a bit with mixed emotions about this family day pass. They were nervous to see Ozzie. When he was last home he was engaging in hurtful, destructive behaviors which left the other children feeling frightened, unsettled, and resentful. We have been working on healing those emotional chasms that came as a result of Ozzie’s choices through written correspondence between the kids. It has been a positive thing and healing has been taking place, but anxieties were still high when we left to pick up Ozzie on Saturday morning. It was with much prayer that we approached the details of the day. We wanted the day to be successful for all involved, so much prep work was done prior to the visit to establish boundaries and prepare everyone emotionally for this reunion.

We arrived to pick up Ozzie and take him out for the day. We had the whole family with us, apart from Rusty who was spending the weekend at the Homestead with my parents as a belated birthday weekend with Mimi and Pop Pop. 

This was the kids’ first visit to the place Ozzie has called home for the last 6 weeks. They were as impressed as we were the first time we visited. As everyone sat in the car, I ran inside to pick up Ozzie. He was beside himself with excitement. He was thrilled to get a day off campus and couldn’t wait to see the other kids. After everyone greeted each other we drove to get lunch. Toby had discovered a unique dining spot when researching possible restaurants and knew Ozzie would get a kick out of it. 

We ate at the historic Lawrence Park Dinor.

IMG_3658 (2)

Boy, was it charming!

IMG_3657 (2)

It was a total blast from the past.

IMG_3663 (2)

Not much bigger than our kitchen at home, the diner was comprised of booths on one side of the narrow restaurant and an open grill and counter with bar stools on the opposite side of the diner, with an aisle running down the middle of the restaurant.

IMG_3665
Toby looking very gangsta 😉

We all loved the atmosphere immediately, but we had no idea how good the food would be.

The food was incredible and very affordable. I had the best Reuben sandwich of my life and Ozzie loved his mushroom, Swiss burger.

IMG_3668 (2)

It was so nice to enjoy a meal with Ozzie and catch up on each other’s lives. 

Following lunch, we drove over to the Erie Zoo. The downside of visiting the Erie Zoo in November was the fact many of the animals were put away for the winter. The upside was that admission was only $3.00 for children and $4.00 for adults.

IMG_3671 (2)

It was perfect for what we were looking for. We wanted a fun, family activity that wouldn’t be too overwhelming and distracting from our primary purpose, which was letting the kids get reacquainted and do a little healing.

IMG_3673 (2)

The zoo provided a place for that to happen.

IMG_3679 (2)

The lack of visitors and the slower pace of the zoo in winter allowed us to focus on each other. There was enough to see and do to keep everyone engaged but not so much going on that it became over stimulating or chaotic.

IMG_3739 (2)IMG_3737 (2)

The kids loved checking out the animals that call the Erie Zoo home, and I loved watching my kids enjoy each other.

IMG_3703 (2)

IMG_3689 (2)IMG_3709 (2)IMG_3727 (2)IMG_3740 (2)IMG_3748 (2)IMG_3757 (2)IMG_3755 (2)

Our favorite animal of the day was a curious and social little otter that was as fascinated with us as we were with him.

IMG_3795 (2)IMG_3783 (2)

We ended our time at the zoo with a visit to the zoo’s play area, which provided the boys with a chance to burn off some energy and play a bit.

IMG_3779 (2)IMG_3760 (2)

IMG_3771

When we left the zoo we had just enough time for a run to Walmart to get Ozzie some new winter gear. He has grown a size in the last month and with Erie winter storms on the horizon he needed some new boots.

Then it was time to drop Ozzie back off in time for his dinner hour. Much like Cinderella facing the end of a magical evening when the clock struck midnight, Ozzie too struggled with our time together coming to an end. It was hard and heartbreaking to hug him good-bye as he fought back tears. For Ozzie the best balm to his hurting heart was the knowledge that he would be coming home for a weekend visit over the Thanksgiving holiday. For Toby and me the most effective balm to our hurting hearts was seeing the growth and healing Ozzie has found under this higher level of care. It hurt to say good-bye, but the reward of this short-term heartache is hopefully an amazing future full of joy for Ozzie…

 And we love him too much to put what we want right now in front what we want most of all!

IMG_3707 (2)