Tag Archives: trauma

Lots of changes for Tyler

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This past month has been a big one for Tyler. He has had some “big news” moments that should be recorded for posterity so we will dedicate this blog to all the latest Tyler news…

Tyler continues to be blessed by equine therapy. Animals are one of Tyler’s greatest therapeutic tools and the affect this horse based therapy has had on his emotionally well being is astounding. He looks forward to these Saturday lessons and his skills and emotional stability have increased by leaps and bounds.

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He is currently working with a horse named Pumpkin. He outgrew Smokey (his first horse) and so his therapist was debating what horse to pair with him next. It is fascinating to observe this process. The pairing of rider and horse isn’t simply a match of size and skill but also a match of personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. After graduating from Smokey his therapist paired him with Rosie. It was not a good match. His trainer felt the pairing would go one way or the other. Either it would be a match made in heaven (assuming Tyler was confident and dominant enough to lead Rosie) or it would go the other way and Rosie would walk all over Tyler (figuratively not literally 🙂 ) leaving him feeling insecure and frustrated. He wasn’t dominant enough to manage Rosie and she definitely set him back a few paces in his confidence. He is now paired with Pumpkin and the match is perfect. He is gaining confidence and connecting with her in a way he never did with Rosie.

The lesson begins with horse care as Tyler brushes down his horse, cleans her hooves, and saddles her.

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Then he climbs on and has an hour long lesson where he learns the skills of horsemanship while also doing therapeutic work with his equine therapist. He loves it and has made awesome gains.

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He now rides independently with confidence. He can stand in the stirrups, trot and canter.

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Glade Run Adventures has proven to be a great blessing in Tyler’s life!

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Tyler has also acquired a new smile in the last few weeks.

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Once again Tyler’s bottom front tooth broke. A few years ago he chipped that front tooth while on a bouncy pad at a corn maze outing. Since then he has had it repaired many times. Its location and Tyler’s natural bite has resulted in that cap breaking off time after time. The last time it happened his dentist felt it was beyond his scope of ability to fix, fearing the break was too close to the root, so I set up an appointment at Children’s Hospital’s dental department. We went in for a consultation and they had no concerns about their ability to patch it. They also took note of his two canine baby teeth that were holding firm despite the adult teeth pushing in from above and erupting through the gums just north of the firmly held baby teeth. They suggested that we pull those two baby teeth at the same time they were repairing the chipped tooth.

A few weeks ago was the follow-up appointment. Toby took Tyler. For the dental work they used laughing gas and put Tyler into a twilight sleep. Tyler left the appointment having no memory of the experience, the only evidence that anything had happened was his new and improved smile.

He came home eager to show it off and share the good news that the dentist gave him permission to have ice cream for dinner that night.

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Tyler’s look changed even more this week with the addition of glasses.

Yes, you read that right. Tyler is now in glasses, leaving this Momma as the last one standing without spectacles. Toby and all my kiddos now wear glasses in some fashion or another while I continue to hold on proudly to the bragging rights of 20/20 vision.

Last week at Tyler’s annual physical he failed his vision screening. He score 20/20 in one eye and 20/70 in the other so his pediatrician sent us for a more comprehensive eye exam. His appointment was Tuesday morning. We went in and sure enough glasses were in order.

His vision test confirmed a strong right eye, a weak left eye and a stigmatism that led to the recommendation of glasses for Tyler. These glasses won’t need to be worn 24/7 but rather for anything that requires seeing details both near and far (like  school work, computer work, movies, etc.)

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Once the need for glasses was confirmed we heading out to the display cases to pick a style.

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Tyler, who is typically pretty indecisive, knew very quickly the frames he wanted. Once he found the style he liked he didn’t want to try on any others.

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His glasses will be in on Friday and we will officially have another “four-eyes” in the family!

Tyler continue to makes strides in all areas of his life. This has  been a breakthrough year for Tyler, as he has really come into his own. His growth physically, emotionally, behaviorally, socially, and academically have been HUGE.

School has been a dream this year. The struggle is a thing of the past and we can now sit, do lessons, and really have fun with it without the usual battles, bribing, and tears (mine, not his!). It is no longer like pulling teeth. He is engaged, eager, and so much fun. Much of his success comes from the additional reading support he is getting thanks to the Children’s Dyslexia Center of New Castle and Jan Newman, his Barton Reading tutor. This week he passed his level 3 assessment and is now in Barton Reading level 4. This is a HUGE accomplishment and a reflection on how hard Tyler is working.

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Tyler has come so far. He is a delight. My days are so starkly different now than they were two or three years ago that I sometimes forget that things weren’t always this easy with Tyler.

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His is in his renaissance, fully thriving and finally “settled.”

This past Friday he was invited to a friend’s birthday party from church. Tyler and his best friends went for pizza and laser tag to celebrate Carter’s birthday. It was the first time I was able to simply drop him off with a “Have Fun!” farewell and have no worries. He had a wonderful time.

What joy fills my heart to see my youngest thriving.

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We are so proud of you, Tyler!

The Blessing of Blogging

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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.

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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.

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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.

The Meeting with the Insurance Company- EEK!

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Last Tuesday, right on the heels of our weekend away at the Homestead, I was back in the car for a 2-hour trek north to visit Ozzie. I was traveling alone so I has 4 hours of silence to think, reflect, dream, and pray. It was a rare and lovely gift.

I arrived at the facility at 10:oo am for Ozzie’s family therapy session. This weekly session typically occurs over the phone unless we can coordinate it to align with one of our visits or our monthly meeting. The long drive and this season of winter weather make weekly in-person therapy sessions difficult, so it is a treat when we can actually do our family therapy face to face rather than over the phone.

The reason for this trip was our monthly treatment meeting where doctors, teachers, staff, therapists, myself and Ozzie meet to review his progress and make treatment decisions. This was a particularly important meeting as the insurance company was present to decide whether Ozzie would be granted an extension on his stay, something we were all advocating for, not because of Ozzie’s current behaviors but because of the incredible success we were seeing, and because of the therapy work that his is currently in the heart of right now. Discharging him too early would really sabotage all the incredible gains that have been made and all the healing that is occurring.

While this seemed like common sense to those of us directly involved in Ozzie’s care, trying to explain this to the bean counters from the insurance company was more challenging. As a profit driven business, they see a child who has exceeded all expectations. Behaviorally he has earned various awards and recognitions at the facility and is now having nearly a perfect behavior rating each day. He is engaged in all his therapy sessions, is respectful of staff, is eager to help peers, is engaged in his school work and is one of the rising stars on the school basketball team. The insurance company representative struggled to see why Ozzie needed to remain.

My argument was that if we were discussing a patient with a physical ailment, perhaps a brain tumor that was causing symptoms that put the patient’s life in danger, they (the insurance company) would never interrupt that surgery while the patient lay on the table with his brain exposed to question whether the surgery was still needed. They would never look at that patient’s vital signs (all stable thanks to the iv, respirator, anesthesiologist and nurses by his side) and say, “well his symptoms seem minimal now. He is not complaining of blurry vision or headaches now. Go ahead and close him up.”

What a crazy thought, right?!

And yet that is exactly what we see time and time again in the mental health field. Before the “trauma tumor” has even been removed they are talking about closing him up and sending him home.

Luckily…or shall I say, blessedly…he was granted an extension. His therapist made an impassioned plea on his behalf explaining that we are just now getting to the trauma work of EMDR and that it is a slow and methodical process that can’t be rushed due to the extreme nature of Ozzie’s traumatic history. He was approved for 90 more days. This doesn’t mean he will be there for the full 90 days, but it gives his treatment team 90 days to work with, which is a huge blessing for Oz.

Following our family therapy session and our monthly treatment meeting I arranged to take Ozzie out of school for a lunch date. I figured if I had made the trek up there we should at least get some special one-on-one time in. Ozzie was thrilled with the prospect of an afternoon out.

The plan was to go to lunch and then spend some time at Toys R Us so he could create a wish list for his upcoming birthday. He will be turning 14 in a month (How is that possible?!) and he is very excited.

He chose to celebrate his Pittsburgh roots with lunch at Primanti Bros. restaurant; famous for its enormous sandwiches topped with coleslaw and fries.

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Ozzie ordered the Pitts-burger, I had a Reuben, and we enjoyed a fun lunch date.

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After lunch we spent an hour at Toys R Us exploring, playing, creating Ozzie’s birthday wish list, and making plans for his birthday weekend visit home.

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It was a special day with Ozzie.

We are so proud of the journey he is taking toward healing and so happy he can continue in his quest.

Happy “mock” New Year!

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The original plan was to return Ozzie back to Erie on Saturday.

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The tradition in our family is to eat our gingerbread houses on New Year’s day and then feed the leftovers to Harley D. Hog, our pot belly pig. Since Ozzie was leaving on Saturday, he dug into his sugar house a few days early.

The treatment team at the facility where he is staying to receive inpatient therapy approved him for an 8 day stay at home. This meant he would be returning on December 30th. Although thrilled at the prospect of 8 days at home, he was disappointed he would be missing our annual New Year’s Eve party at the Hudak’s house. We decided to address that disappointment with an awesome “Plan B” and decided to have a “mock” New Year’s Eve party on Friday night with just our little family. I’ll be honest, after a full day at the museum and 3 hours on the road, the last thing I really wanted to do when I got home on Friday evening was make a ton of food and stay up late, but I tapped deep knowing how important it was to Ozzie and knowing that once I got through the work of making all the hors d’oeuvres, we would have fun.

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Gracie’s fruit pizza was delicious!

 

So, with the help of the girls, we began baking, and mixing, and broiling until we had an impressive feast laid out on the table.

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The boys were given the task of pulling board games from the game closet that would be fun to play at our “mock” New Year’s Eve party. The kids had received a few new games for Christmas that they wanted to play so we started with those.

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One of the items on Ozzie’s Christmas wish list was the game “Chutes and Ladders.” It is Ozzie’s favorite game, due in large part (I think) to memories attached to the game, so it was one of the gifts Ozzie received Christmas morning. He asked if it could be the first game we played as a family.

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Next, we played “Speak Out,” a game Tyler received from the Kirks for Christmas. I don’t know when I have ever laughed so hard. The premise of the game is that players have to read tongue twisters off a card while wearing plastic mouth pieces.  It is supposed to be played parents vs kids, but minutes into the game Toby left us. He had been hit with a stomach flu and was not feeling well. Soon after that  Ozzie wandered off and fell asleep on the couch, leaving the rest of us to  “Speak Out” in the dining room.

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Tyler was particularly hilarious. The combination of talking through the mouth piece and being dyslexic just added to the absurdity of the words he was reading off the cards and the challenge of trying to figure out what he was saying. His solution to our incompetence was to simply speak more quickly and more loudly making it pretty much impossible to understand a word of what he was saying.

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Rusty was by far the best at enunciating around the mouth piece. Grace credits it to the fact that Rusty had braces most recently and is used to talking around a mouth full of gear,

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Matching smiles…Thanks, Dr. G!

while I believe it has more to do with the mouth size to plastic ratio…the bigger the mouth the easier it is to be understood.

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By the time we were done playing my cheeks ached and my stomach hurt from laughing so hard.

Ozzie didn’t even make it to 10:00. It turns out his new 8:00 bedtime at the facility has adjusted his internal clock and by 9:30 he was fast asleep on the couch, but it turns out our mock New Year’s Eve celebration was not even necessary…

Beginning Christmas day and continuing through the remainder of the week it snowed in Erie…

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The snow we received was nothing compared to Erie’s snow!

And I mean SNOWED!

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Over the course of a few days Erie had almost five feet of snow dumped on their doorstep thanks to lake effect weather. What this meant for us was a call on Saturday morning from the facility informing us that Ozzie’s stay had been extended until it was safe to travel on the roads up north. They suggested a new return date of January 1st, which meant our “mock” New Year’s Eve turned out to simply be a dress rehearsal for the real deal. It turned out that Ozzie would be home for New Year’s after all. When I stepped out of my room, following this unexpected call, and shared the news, Ozzie reacted with shouts of joy. He was over the moon excited, both by the news he wasn’t leaving that afternoon, but also by the news that he wouldn’t miss out on our traditional New Year’s Eve bash at the Hudak’s house.

(More on that in the next post!)

I’ll leave you with these photos taken during our trip north on January 1st, after dropping off Ozzie:

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Our drive up was sketchy, even two days later.

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It was beautiful.

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Look at those icicles!!

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We drove out on Presque Isle to check out the ice dunes. It was bitter cold!

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How deep will she sink?

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Yes, it was as cold as it looks! Brr…

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That’s a lot of snow!!!

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The snow in Erie was quite impressive!

Finding Peace and Joy this Christmas Season

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Well, Christmas Eve has finally arrived. After weeks of preparations leading up to this day, it has finally arrived, and I am enjoying a few minutes of silence, peace, and reflection before the craziness begins.

This has been a blessed Christmas season as we have found ourselves in a place of immunity, flying above many of the struggles and trials of last Christmas season. This time of rest has been appreciated, especially as we reflect on the last 12 months and all the heartache we endured. 2017 was a hard, hard year…one of the hardest of my life. There is a sense of relief that we will soon be closing this chapter and stepping into a new year filled with hopeful possibilities. But as we find ourselves in a more peaceful place this Christmas season so many others are enduring their own personal hell. I can’t even count the number of calls and conversations I’ve had this month with friends that are enduring the hardest experiences life has to offer. The sheer number of conversations I have had with friends who are finding themselves in the midst of the most tragic life circumstances are staggering. These stories of heartache have kept me awake into the night and play in a continual loop in my mind as I move mindlessly through the menial tasks of everyday life. As I fold my laundry I am haunted by the loss of one family’s child just days before Christmas. As I wash dishes I play back stories told through the tears of friends who are dealing with the ugly affects of trauma…effects that seem to rear its ugly head during the holiday season. As I wrap packages in the festive paper of the season I play back the phone conversations with friends who have shared their tears and stories of heartache with me in the last few weeks.

And in the midst of all this I have struggled to reconcile the great heartache playing out around me with the merriment that permeates all facets of our world this time of year. How does one find joy in the season when drowning under the sadness of their own personal hard season of life? This is the question that has consumed my thoughts for the last few weeks. As I pray for those I love…for those burdened more heavily that usual this time of year…I consider the question, “How do we find the merriment the world says is synonymous with the Christmas season when all we can feel is heartache?” I ask this question not only on behalf of friends enduring personal tragedy but also on behalf of my boys. Coming from a place of indescribable trauma, the holidays represent something different than they might for a child who has only joyful memories to look back on. For a child with trauma, this time of year is a heartbreaking trigger…a reminder of hurt, loss, and scary or sad memories. In past years I have struggled to find the merriment of Christmas amid the behaviors that rear their ugly head this time of year. What was once a season of pure delight has evolved into a season of struggle, heartbreak, and enduring till December 26th as I watch my boys struggle under the added burden of the holidays…and I know they are not alone. I have witnessed it all month long in the lives of so many who are simply trying to make it through this time of year in one piece.

As I have pondered on the question, “How do we find merriment in this Christmas season when all we feel is heartache?” the answer came to me. There during the early hours of morning as I sat in the darkened living room, lit only by the colored lights of the tree, I heard the Spirit whisper the answer I was so desperately seeking…

While the merriment of Christmas may seem beyond reach, the peace and joy of this Christmas season are not.

You see, merriment is circumstantial. It is trivial. It is shallow. It is of the world…

But peace and joy are not.

The peace and joy of Christmas have nothing to do with what is happening around you, rather, they are driven by what is happening within you.

They are a gift from God, freely given this time of year and all year long.

They can be found in the darkest of days, in the hardest of trials, at the heart of the greatest tragedies, because they aren’t born from this world. True Christmas peace and joy are gifts from heaven. They are not driven by circumstance. They can’t be purchased. They are gifts that quietly fall from the sky like snowflakes settling on our shoulders.

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We witness this heavenly Christmas gift being bestowed the first time as we read the account of the first Christmas. Circumstances certainly didn’t justify merriment. We had a poor, young couple traveling with minimal belongings. We had a woman heavy with child, uncomfortable and probably a bit frightened. We had a young husband desperate to find a place for his weary wife to rest…a safe place for her child to be born. There on that Christmas day they experienced homelessness, rejection, and uncertainty. There was a distinct lack of merriment, but oh, the abundance of peace and joy that permeated that Holy night!

We need only to reflect on that first Christmas season to find the answer to the question that has plagued me this holiday season. It isn’t about what we need to “do” to change the course of this hard time of year. It isn’t about “doing” anything. It is simply about being still and allowing the peace and joy of Christmas to settle quietly upon our shoulders. It is a heavenly gift with no strings attached…a gift that is freely and graciously given regardless of what burdens you find yourself carrying this Christmas season. And all that must be done to receive it is to loosen the iron clad grip we have on the worries of this world, open our palms, and turn them Heavenward to accept the peace and joy Heavenly Father is offering each and every one of us.

My prayer for this Christmas season is that each and every one of you might be showered with the peace and joy of Christ.

Merry Christmas, my friends.

Reindeer, and Rabbits, and Robin…Oh My!

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We all have our own favorite holiday traditions.

In fact, it sometimes feels as though the Christmas season doesn’t last nearly long enough to fit in everyone’s favorite holiday activities amid the busyness of everyday life that continues to march on through the month of December…

despite everyone’s wish that we could just “play” all month long.

We have learned that we must prioritize.

We begin the Christmas season with a family meeting where we discuss the family’s vision for the upcoming month and each family member gets to weigh in on what family traditions are most important to them. Using this “Top 7” list we begin to pencil in some of the activities on the December page of the calendar. Many of these traditions take place at our weekly Family Night when everyone is home together. Because of Ozzie’s absence this holiday season we have worked hard to reformulate the way we do some of these beloved traditions so that he wouldn’t have to miss out. It isn’t the same as him being home, but it is the next best thing.

Christmas time is about unconditional love, service, sacrifice, giving of oneself, and family, and we have tried to bring those key values into our visits with Ozzie.

Sunday was our cookie decorating day. Having baked 4 dozen sugar cookies on Saturday, Sunday was freed up to enjoy the fun part of the project which was the decorating. Knowing how much Ozzie loves this particular Christmas tradition we brought to our weekly visit a container of homemade sugar cookies, icing, and lots of sprinkles and glitter so he could decorate, share, and of course eat his fill of cut-out cookies.

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When we returned home (after a great visit with Ozzie) we proceeded to do it all over again with the other four kids. Supplies were gathered and spread across the plastic tablecloth as everyone took their seats around the dining room table.

But someone was missing.

Tyler was hiding once again.

These last two weeks have been fraught with high anxiety and hard emotions. I think the combination of the holiday season, and all the hard emotions that come with the holidays when you have had the past that Tyler has, as well as the realization that Ozzie is coming home in a few days (which brings with it feelings of excitement and joy but also feelings of anxiety and fear) has led to an increase in his already noticeable facial tics ,as well as an increase in his tendency to hide in closets or small spaces…a regression that occurs when he is afraid.

I knew he was struggling and knew it was better to not push, so we began decorating cookies with Tyler hiding behind the Christmas boxes in the corner. My hope was that as he listened to the lightness and laughter of our activity his anxiety would decrease and he would emerge when he was ready…

And he did.

Eventually everyone was seated at the table enjoying this favorite Christmas tradition.

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I loved the creativity shown as family members took traditionally shaped cut-out cookies and found within the familiar lines less familiar objects…

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Gingerbread men were turned into reindeer:

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Stockings transformed into bunnies:

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Trees became clocks:

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Presents were turned into snow globes:

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Tyler turned his gingerbread boy into Batman’s sidekick, Robin:

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And Toby took a deformed stocking and found within its distorted lines the Statue of Liberty:

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The end result was 3 platters of the most creative Christmas cookies EVER,

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And a night filled with special family memories.

So Much to Be Thankful For!

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Last Wednesday was a big day at Patchwork Farm. It marked the 3-year anniversary of Ozzie’s adoption and was also the day of Ozzie’s anticipated arrival home after almost two months away. It was sweet serendipity that these two events coincided in such a blessed way.

Typically, we celebrate Tyler and Ozzie’s “Gotcha Days” with an activity of their choosing but since we had celebrated Ozzie’s “Gotcha Day” before he left for his inpatient stay we decided to stay home and let him pick the dinner of his choice for his special day.

At noon I began the two-hour trek to the facility where Ozzie is receiving inpatient trauma therapy. We had a family therapy session scheduled for 2:00pm. These sessions which occur weekly have be held in person or by telephone depending on scheduling. My trek to pick up Ozzie provided a perfect opportunity to have an in-person session.

I walked in and Ozzie was on his feet immediately, propelling himself through the air, into my arms. To say he was excited to come home for Thanksgiving weekend would be the understatement of the year! Our therapy session was focused on establishing a contract for expectations during Ozzie’s time at home and coming up with a crisis plan. Our goal was, first and foremost, safety for each member of the family. Much of this groundwork had already been laid at home prior to picking up Ozzie. Earlier in the week I had scheduled a family session with Tina (Tyler and Ozzie’s outpatient therapist) so the other kids could voice their concerns and process the muddy mix of emotions they were all feeling with Ozzie’s visit drawing nearer.

All the prep work being done on our end and on Ozzie’s end was to help facilitate a happy, healthy, safe reunion at home.

Our therapy session was speedy. Ozzie was eager to get on the road and once his therapist was made aware of all the precautions that had been put in place at home and all the prep work we had been doing in anticipation for Ozzie’s visit, she felt confident sending us on our way.

Ozzie was buzzing with excitement and anxious anticipation.

As we neared home and he began seeing the familiar landmarks of home he could hardly sit still. We pulled into the driveway and he was out of the van before I had it in park, with his weekend bag in hand, eager to see the kids, greet the dogs, and see his bedroom.

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For dinner Ozzie had requested pumpkin chili. This is his favorite dish I make, and it was a perfect meal for a cold, November evening. It was so nice to sit around the dining room table and have all my chicks present.

After dinner we had Family Night. Since we weren’t going anywhere for Ozzie’s “Gotcha Day” I thought it would be fun to postpone our Sunday Family Night activities for Wednesday night so Ozzie could join us.

The focus of the lesson and activities I planned were “gratitude.” In honor of Thanksgiving, Ozzie’s “Gotcha Day,” and having the family reunited, I couldn’t think of a better theme for our night.

We began our evening with an object lesson that I had used recently for a class I taught at church. Each person was given a pebble to place in their shoe and a piece of chocolate to place in their mouth and then were instructed to walk around the house. When they had returned I asked how their stroll was. It was interesting to see how different family members responded. Some were quick to complain of the pain they endured while walking around with a sharp pebble in their shoe, while others praised the sweetness of the chocolate in their mouth. I likened the experience to life and pointed out the fact that our lives are filled with both pebbles and chocolates, but it is easy to become so focused on the pebbles in our shoes that we forget all the sweet blessings we enjoy.

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This object lesson led into our discussion of the Bible story of the ten lepers. We read the story and then discussed what lessons we could take away from the story and apply to our lives.

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With a stronger conviction of the importance of expressing gratitude to our Heavenly Father impressed on us all, I gave each person an A B C gratitude sheet and challenged them to come up with blessings they were grateful for that start with each letter of the alphabet.

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We then went around the room and read our answers. I was impressed with the creativity and specific blessings everyone came up with. I then posed the question, “If you woke up tomorrow with only those items on your list that you have thanked Heavenly Father for in the past what blessings would remain?”

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It gave us all pause to consider the many blessings we have never expressed gratitude for…blessings that we perhaps take for granted.

We ended our evening of gratitude with some Minute-to-Win-It games that were Thanksgiving themed.

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We split into two teams and competed in a series of fun, 60-second challenges that revolved around the theme of gratitude.

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It was a fun way to conclude Family Night and a perfect lead in to a weekend of THANKS.

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I don’t know when my heart has been more filled with gratitude and love and awe at God’s loving mercy than it was that evening with all my children gathered around me, my husband smiling from across the room, and laughter filling the house.

Oh, the difference a couple months can make.

God is good, indeed. ❤

Our first Day Pass with Oz!

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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.

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Boy, was it charming!

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It was a total blast from the past.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The zoo provided a place for that to happen.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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!

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“Remember the Sabbath Day”

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Our Sundays are no longer the restful Sabbath Sundays they once were.

Like the rest of our week, it seems that day, too, is filled to the brim.

 This is due in part to the reality of our life right now. The hospital that Ozzie is at right now only has family visiting hours on Sundays from 1-4. When we found this out we weren’t sure how this would work. Grace is now driving down to Pittsburgh on Sundays for church and Sunday services for us are three hours long, ending at 1:00pm. We figured out that if we could leave a few minutes early we could make the two-hour drive to see Ozzie, arrive by 3:00, and have a full hour to visit before family visiting time is over.

It has been a blessing to watch the Lord maneuver the many moving puzzle pieces of our life and make it all fit in a beautiful, wonderful way. This is exactly what has happened with our Sundays. The Lord brought all those moving pieces (that had me so anxious and stressed) together and matched them seamlessly into what is now our Sabbath Day.

We head in different directions in the morning with Grace driving down to Pittsburgh and the other kids joining Toby and I for church closer to home. Slipping out a bit early from the 14/15-year-old young women’s class that I teach, Toby and I begin the two-hour drive to see Ozzie while the kids go home with friends for lunch while waiting for Grace to get out of church and pick them up to take them home.

On our 4-hour “Sunday drive,” Toby and I enjoy a “date” and get to talk uninterrupted while enjoying the beautiful fall scenery and eating a picnic lunch in the car that I pack for us the night before.

We arrive by 3:00 and get an hour with Ozzie before they shoo all the families out. Usually I pack fun snacks and treats for Ozzie, and board games for us to play, while we visit and catch-up. It has become such a blessed time and one of the highlights of my week. Ozzie is doing awesome and I continue to be amazed at how he is healing and thriving under this higher level of therapeutic care.

This week he was thrilled to share the news that following church services that morning he had his final dirt bike lesson and certification test. At this residential facility they offer dirt bike certification for the boys who would like to be able to use the facility’s bike trails and take a dirt bike out on the weekend under the supervision of staff. To qualify for the program the boys have to be receiving high marks in school and in their behavior reports, and then they can take a course where they learn the mechanics of the bike, how to safely ride. If they pass they then get to take the bikes out on the trails. Well now Ozzie is certified to ride and was THRILLED to report the good news to us.

We also had some exciting news for him. The results of his and Tyler’s genealogy DNA test had arrived. We purchased these tests when they went on sale online. Before Ozzie left we had a family night activity where we swabbed the boys’ cheeks and sent their DNA to Texas where it was analyzed. Six weeks later the results ended up in our mailbox.

Because Tyler and Ozzie were adopted we have found many holes in the story of their past. I can fill in some of those holes for them based on the information in their child profile but there are many holes that I can’t fill in, and that is hard for them. Their sense of identity…who they are based on where they came from…leave them feeling a bit like orphans. There are so many questions I wish I could answer for them that I simply don’t know, but this was something I could give them. The results of these tests don’t give them the details of their family history but I hoped the results would give them a sense of identity and maybe answer some of the questions they have had.

Here is what we learned…

Ozzie’s results didn’t surprise me too much:

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He was thrilled to find out his heritage!

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Tyler’s background was a bit muddier and a whole lot more surprising:

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We were especially surprised by that 1% of Kenyan.

He too was thrilled to have his questions answered.

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After our visit with Ozzie we say good-bye for another week and get back on the road for our ride home.

Sundays have now become our Family Home Evening night. With Monday nights (and all other evenings) being booked with Gracie’s college classes and the girls’ work schedules, Sunday night is now the night we have set aside for family time. It is the only night we have guaranteed to have everyone home.  It is during this time that we sit down and have our weekly planning meeting, going over schedules, goal, concerns, and plans for the week. This is also when everyone sits down to write their weekly letter to Ozzie. Following those tasks, we have a lesson and activity of some sort for Family Night. This week we were focusing on service. The plan was to make cookies as a family that everyone could bag to give someone as a token of gratitude.

As I was searching for a yummy new cookie recipe I came across this recipe for scripture cookies on Pinterest.

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“Perfect!” I thought. We would be able to work on navigating our scriptures while also blessing others with an act of service.

We began by giving everyone a recipe page with key ingredient information missing. Using their Bibles, they looked up the scripture passages to find the missing words.

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It became a race as we tried to be the first to find the correct page, passage, and word missing from the recipe.

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Once our recipes were complete we began cooking.

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It was a very fun family night activity and everyone enjoyed getting to sample the fruits of our labors…

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Scripture cookies (aka: peanut butter blossoms.)

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YUM!

So, there you go. The new “normal” we have embraced in this season of our life.

It isn’t the Sabbath Day of our past, but it is good. In a lot of ways, it holds a depth and a spirituality and meaningfulness that Sundays in the past were lacking.

I do sometimes wish there was a bit more rest in my “Day of Rest.”

Yeah, I really miss Sunday naps… 😉

But I have discovered a holiness in the what our Sabbath Days have become. At the heart of our Sabbath Day of worship is love of God, love of family, and love of others,

And really, isn’t that what the 4th commandment is all about?

A Monthly Update

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Often in my focus to report on the “big” events of life I procure a pile of photographs documenting the smaller moments that add up to life here on Patchwork Farm. This blog is dedicated to that collection of captured moments. Here’s to the moments that make up our ordinary, extraordinary life!

Searching for Buried Treasure

Toby is a member of a local metal detecting club. The Beaver County Metal Detecting Club is comprised of 20+ men and women who gather monthly to compare notes and swap stories of their best treasure finds over the last month, as well as organize formal hunts a few times a year.

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A few Saturdays ago was the annual fall hunt with the club…something Toby always looks forward to. The hunt keeps him out of the house all day as club members participate in a series of hunts, searching out buried treasure hidden by members of the club earlier in the day. Toby always returns home a bit sore from all the up and down movement that comes with an all day hunt, but with a smile on his face, eager to show off his haul.

Tyler is always first in line to help Daddy sort and count his loot.

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Great Blessings

We would just like to thank you all for the outpouring of love and support you have shown our family and Ozzie during this hard season of life. We have felt the sustaining and strengthening power of many prayers and are happy to report Ozzie is doing better than we ever imagined. He is thriving. The results of the therapeutic support he is receiving is nothing short of miraculous and we are so proud of him and the hard work he is doing to heal. He will be starting EMDR therapy this week with a licensed EMDR therapist and I firmly believe this therapy, used with patients suffering from PTSD, will be the answer we have been seeking to unlock the memories of abuse at the hands of Ozzie’s birth mother and birth father, and open the door to begin healing from that trauma.

Family-Based Rocks!

Because Ozzie will be away for a few months, our Family-Based services are coming to a close. Family-Based is another layer of therapeutic support we implemented in hopes of helping Ozzie stabilize and heal at home. That was not God’s plan for Ozzie and our time working with Family-Based was short lived, but it served a purpose. I can now look back and see why God opened a door that closed so quickly after entering it. Our time with Lisa and Valerie was short but they provided support and resources that were key in helping our family heal…particularly in meeting the needs of the older kids who were dealing with their own trauma…trauma that comes as a result of adopting a child who had been abused and suffers from Reactive Attachment Disorder. It was Valerie that introduced my older kids to the Ready Yourself Youth Ranch that they now volunteer at two mornings a week, helping with horses and learning the skills they need to become mentors at the ranch.

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Last week was our last home visit from our Family-Based team. They brought cupcakes to celebrate and a craft project for the kids to do while they talked and helped the kids process the muddy mix of emotions everyone is struggling with since Ozzie left.

They painted river rocks together. In our area there is a fun movement taking place that involves painting rocks, tagging them with #beavercountyrocks, sealing them and then hiding them around the county. Once found you can follow the travels of your rocks on Facebook as seekers take photos of your rock, post it, and then hide it in a new location.

The kids had fun painting their river rocks to get into the #beavercountyrocks game.

The results were fun and creative!

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Now, where to hide our rocks?!

Ukulele Adventures

For Molly’s birthday she received a ukulele from my parents. She has been toting it back and forth to co-op each week where her friend, Caleigh, has been giving her lessons. With all the toting back and forth Molly decided a case was in order. She found one online and used some of her hard earned money to purchase this charming panda themed case. Molly is thrilled!

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PSATs…BLAH!

Last Wednesday Molly and Rusty had their PSAT test. This test…preparation for next year’s SAT test, is just a sad testament to how old my babies are getting. I look at Rusty and Molly and can’t wrap my brain around the fact that we are creeping closer to college searches. Neither were particularly thrilled with taking the PSAT but were excited that they were able to test at our school’s new Pittsburgh location and see their Pittsburgh based teachers.

Tatum and Annaliese, two of Molly co-op friends, were also signed up for testing, so we volunteered to load up Big Bessie and take everyone down on Wednesday morning. Rather than have everyone drop off kids off at 6:30 in the morning, we just had the girls spend the night. It worked out well. They managed to take something they were all dreading and make it fun.

Earlier in the day Molly prepped the bus for their sleepover. She thought it would be fun to camp out in the bus, and I was thrilled to see the bus getting used after a summer of sitting dormant. Molly made the beds, carried out movies they could watch on the TV, and filled the fridge with snacks and drinks.

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I think the girls had fun,

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And everyone survived testing, although I think they would all say they are glad it is done and over with!

Rusty on the Road

Rusty is slowly and hesitantly embracing his role as a new driver. Being the third child I have taught to drive, I find it interesting how personalities shine forth in each child’s driving style. Rusty, who has always been extremely careful and conscientious, is a slow and steady driver. There is no speeding, law bending, or bone breaking moves with him behind the wheel.

Tyler must disagree, as he has taken to wearing safety gear when Rusty is behind the wheel. 🙂

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I fear the day it is Tyler’s turn to get behind the wheel. I think I may have to borrow that helmet!!

My Mini-Me

Grace is now a red head and I think she plans to stay that way. After years of bemoaning the fact that I ended up with three blondies, I finally have a redhead… thanks to L’Oreal!

I don’t know if it is the red hair or if the genetic connection has become more pronounced but I feel as though I now have a younger (and much cuter)  mini-me!

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My Buddy

Tyler is now my buddy. With Ozzie away and the older kids engaged in school, social activities, and work, it feels as though it is often just Tyler and I hanging out. Between therapy and tutoring appointments 5 days a week, we spend a lot of time on the road together or at the table together doing school. After a decade of juggling the teaching of 3-5 children their lessons every day, it is bizarre to have hours to spend working with just one. The older kids are so independent now that they only come to me when they need clarification or help with a question, which frees me up to work with Tyler all day…

and I must admit I’ve loved.

We have had a lot of fun delving deeper into subjects that interest him, seeking out fun science experiments and art projects to enhance his online school lessons, and having the time for weekly trips to the library. Here are some of his recent projects:

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The Monster Under the Bed

All of the one-on-one attention has been a blessing in other ways too. Tyler is struggling with monster sized fears, fears we are working to address in therapy. These fears are driven by the abuse he suffered as a small child and while he struggles to express the thoughts consuming him in his head I have been able to piece together the fact that they are trauma driven simply by where and when they are most prevalent. His PTSD seems to rear its ugly head after the sun goes down. Nighttime is scary time and his bedroom and the bathroom are the places he fears most. From his child profile I know that dark, closed places and the family bathroom are where most of the abuse took place, so it make sense that those are the places he fears most.

Miss Tina, our therapist, has been working with Tyler to help counteract the negative emotions connected to those locations with positive ones. We do this by making happy, light, funny memories in those locations. We play family board games on his bedroom floor, we have shaving cream battles in the bathroom….whatever we can think of to bring light and peace and laughter to a place that is dark and scary in Tyler’s mind.

One way we have done this is with the use of bathtub crayons in the shower. Bathtime is a nightmare with Tyler. He is terrified to shower or bathe. And knowing what was done to him in his birth family’s bathroom, I understand that. But we have to help him overcome that fear, so we bought some bath crayons, and enlisting the help of the other kids our shower wall has now become a message board for the kids. Tyler’s curiosity of what funny photos, messages and game boards have been drawn on the shower wall since his last bath has surpassed the fear of bathing (as long as we do daytime showers.) And I have LOVED reading the dialog back and forth. What an awesome way to battle a fear, encourage writing, and strengthen bonds between siblings, all in one swoop!

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Healing bonds via Snail Mail

Strengthening bonds has been a focus in all our family’s relationships this past month. We have all felt the polarizing affects of RAD and trauma after the last 8 months of being in crisis mode. This ongoing, escalated state has a huge effect on relationships and the family dynamic. Now that everyone is stable we are trying to begin healing the damage. One way we are facilitating that healing is through weekly letters between Ozzie and the other kids. Every Sunday they write him a letter which are then mailed out through the week. Ozzie then can write back and the kids can begin reconnecting again.

This week we did something different. We each did a handprint on paper using paint. When our handprints had dried we flipped them over and everyone wrote something they love or admire about Ozzie, using the line, “A high five for…”

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I then laminated our handprints and connected them with a metal ring as a special momento for Ozzie, allowing him to reach out and touch our hands whenever he feels lonely.

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Well, there you go…

A small snapshot of our ordinary, extraordinary life.

God is good!