*Pumpkin Festival – it sounded fun and our girls had a blast, but not too many teenage boys want to sit in a corn kernel pile or go through a haystack maze (that's only 1 hay bale tall, mind you) or shop through the farmer's market. So, we didn't stay long and the rest of the day was pretty low-key.
* Lover's Leap – a local scenic spot in the mountains. We drove out and ate a picnic lunch (despite the cold mountain breeze.) The boys even let me take a picture of all of us together, with a little grumbling, but still...And I'll even let you see it! Then we took them to a local candy store and let them all pick out a treat. After that, we headed to one of our boy's home church for their Fall Festival. I got to witness my first Cake Walk, which was fun. To the Buxtonites back home, you should totally do this at the next church fellowship event! There was the eat-the-donut-off-the-string competition, which our boys dominated. And the girls loved all the little prizes and candies they got! It was a fun way to spend an afternoon.
* New River Trail – a 57 mile (or something like that) trail along the New River. We did only a mile or two. It's something I'd definitely like to explore some more!
* Leaf Raking – Not all of our weekends are about fun and going on outings. There's work to be done, too, and we want the kids here to understand that life is about more than self. This past weekend, we did some leaf raking at a local church for most of the morning. Then I got the privilege of taking 4 of our boys to get haircuts. It was fun listening to them try to decide what hair cut to get (I mean, really...aren't there only a couple of choices for guys???) When one of the hair stylists there asked me if they were all mine, I sputtered a bit. Not sure what to say, I stammered around for words and finally just explained that we all live at Joy Ranch. She smiled knowingly and said "then yes, those are your boys." I said I'd claim them. I guess I'm going to have to think of a response the next time someone asks me that.
* Our “family” has expanded by 2. We've had a new resident added to our mix. He's not "new" really - he moved over here from another cottage. He knows the ropes around here, so it's not quite the same as if it were a brand new resident, but it still takes some adjusting for everyone, as it does in every situation where a new person is added to the dynamic. Our other newest addition is Tonka, our Boxer/Lab mix puppy. He's the sweetest little guy and is handling this overwhelming environment quite well. He's definitely Jason's dog, though. He follows him around everywhere and whimpers a bit when he leaves. If Jason's not around, Tonka will go pull out some of Jason's clothes and make a little bed out of them. It's the only thing that calms him down. The boys love him, so I think we'll keep him. :-)
* Sports – One of our boys has started the wrestling season and two more will be starting a recreation league basketball team. So, life is busy with running back and forth to practices and will soon be busier as tournaments start and the basketball league begins.
* A night “off” – from cooking, at least. Two of our boys cooked dinner and dessert, giving me the night off from the kitchen. I was very impressed with their commitment to seeing the project through and the taste of their meal. The menu consisted of Taco Soup and Jalapeno Poppers, which are jalapenos filled with cream cheese and wrapped in bacon. I actually tried one of the poppers and am proud to announce I still have a fully functioning mouth, but it was a close call. I thought for sure I burned my tongue and esophagus permanently! The dessert was a cookie dough dip and vanilla wafers. It was a big hit with everyone. We may have to do that again…
* A transition…again. We are in the process of changing leadership. Our director is stepping down to pursue some other things the Lord has for him. He still will live next door and volunteer here, so he’s not leaving, but his role is changing. His wife will continue to be the house parent in the girls’ home until they find a couple to fill that role. One of the reasons for our director’s decision is a new vision Joy Ranch is pursuing. They are working towards becoming a licensed foster agency, which means we could place kids in foster homes, as well is train and license foster parents and provide support for them. This is an exciting venture and I can’t wait to see it unfold! One of the requirements for licensing is that the director have experience in the foster care system and our current director has none. He wants to see the ministry expand in this way, so he has decided to step back in order for things to progress. So, we are currently working to find a new Executive Director who can lead the way in this new endeavor. We have not been here long, but we have so enjoyed working under this director. I’ve never had a boss like him and we will definitely miss his leadership here. At the same time, we have really great people leading the way here, too, so we feel very happy to be a part of what’s going on here.
* Wild West Day – Every year the ministry has a Wild West theme night. We have a big chili cook-off and a band comes in and we square dance the night away. We had a blast! I think Jason danced more here than he did at our wedding! He says he can’t stand that kind of music, but you wouldn’t have known that to watch him. And I couldn’t stop smiling or laughing – I was having a grand old time. It was a fun night, for sure!
And of course, there are lots of funny moments. One of our boys likes to copy Evy’s signature move: Thumb in mouth, hand on belly button. Let’s just say it’s cuter when the 4 year old does it. And there’s the boy who likes to randomly walk around with his wrestling head gear on. There’s the one who likes to make up random songs about things or people here. In fact, as I write this, he is “playing” guitar and singing a made up song about me liking cheesy Hallmark Christmas movies (which I may or may not have on right now.) There was the moment we drove by a gravel pit and a kid yelled out “MOUNT RUSHMORE!” There are the other staff members who keep things going and know just when to inject some humor because we all need it. (Have I mentioned that our relief house parents are the best?! If not, let me take a minute to tell you – they are fantastic! And they have a killer sense of humor that is just what I need when we make the switch on or off duty – or sometimes in the middle of the week when I just need a laugh to keep things in perspective.)
And there are endearing moments, like when the boys teach our girls new things (except when it involves passing gas or their bathroom phrases – those are not so endearing.) Or when the boys help calm the girls down or distract them from crying, instead of getting frustrated with them. Or when the boys get excited to tell you something, whether it’s about their day or a funny story they heard or the video game they just played. There are the moments when the girls sit next to them on the couch and read a book or get the boys to play tea party with them. Or the moments when you realize the boys “get it.” One resident embroidered his Bible cover with a cross. Inside the cross is a red zig-zag pattern. When he showed to us, he explained that he filled it in that way to symbolize the “messiness” of salvation – that Jesus bled and died and it wasn’t pretty, and neither are we in our sinful state. Wow. And this from a kid who is newly saved.
So, there’s another snapshot of our life here. Never a dull moment. Thanks for following along with us. It blows my mind that so many people are interested in what we’re doing, but we’re thankful to have you along for the ride!