I realize it's been 4 months since I've updated - that's a record, even for me! So, I figure it's better late than never. As always, there's a lot to catch you up on and so many pictures I'd like to share. I will do my best to get it all in here, but I apologize if I leave anyone or anything out!
My last update was in June, after our beach trip. Long, sunshiney summer days were upon us. We did a lot of playing outside. We spent several warm summer nights outside enjoying fireworks, campfires and outdoor movies. We held an awards banquet for the kids, to celebrate their accomplishments throughout the school year. It was a fun time to get dressed up and one of our visiting work teams blessed us by decorating the hall, preparing the delicious food and serving us. It was a lovely night. I got to take our boys to, what's known in these parts as a "Mudsling." It was my first ever event of it's kind and I'd have to say it was a fun time. It's basically big trucks speeding through a big ol' mud pit to see who can do it the fastest and without getting stuck. It might not be everyone's cup of tea, but I'd go again. We participated in a wonderful equine program, brought to us by the incredible Pam Umberger from Copper Crest Farms. She is really fantastic with the horses and the kids. We enjoyed participating in her program twice a week throughout the summer and continue to participate once a week. The kids love it and we have been blessed by this unique opportunity.
We hosted our annual "Friend-raiser" - JoyFest. It's a community outreach day, a chance to introduce ourselves and our campus to our friends and neighbors in the area. We had a very good turn out and lots of fun activities (helicopter rides, wagon rides, bounce houses, face painting, food vendors and musical entertainment.)
Our summer also included a (sort of) surprise visit from my parents, just in time for Evy's 5th birthday. As always, it was good to spend time with my parents. We've been so blessed that they've been able to travel down to see us several times since our move. I'm already counting down the days until their next visit! :-)
The boys wrapped up their summer with a very busy two weeks. The last week of July, the kids all attended their annual week of camp at The Wilds. There are a myriad of activities for them there, as well as opportunities to hear the Gospel message and interact with counselors that have a heart for the campers to know the Lord. During their week away, the staff participated in staff trainings, meetings and fellowship. We also had some good opportunity to rest and recharge, as well. Almost as soon as the boys returned from camp, the Fiddler's Convention started. This is an annual week-long festival that is held in our area in the beginning of August. It is a pretty big deal (we do, after all, live in the Appalachian mountains - heart of bluegrass country!) The kids work at the festival, selling programs and earning a bit of money in the process. (They enjoy it and I actually had a blast watching some of the dance competitions. I can't say bluegrass music is my thing, though.) And with that, their summer was over. School started up again on August 7 (yes, you read that correctly.) Life returned to the school schedule. Always busy! This summer also included some good bye's and hello's. We had three of our boys leave our home and two new boys join us. It is always an interesting time as we adjust to different ones coming and going.
Now, in the midst of that busy, fun summer several things happened for our family. On an exciting note, as I mentioned previously, Evy turned 5. (Where did the time go!?) And my family came to visit. But some other things occurred that were not so fun. Starting back in January, I developed some health issues. Over the next several months, I was in and out of the doctor and on and off several medications. In June things got worse and resulted in me having surgery in the beginning of July. It wasn't a big surgery and things turned out just fine in the end. But, like any time anyone has a health issue, it takes a toll on us. It was a stressful time for me. I would like to give God the glory in that because, remarkably, for one week - the week of the beach trip, my health issues were non-existent. If there was any week I could not afford to feel sub-par, it was that one. There is no reason for this, other than God. So, I can't leave that detail out. Shortly after that issue was resolved, Jason broke his foot playing basketball. A broken foot isn't a huge deal. Obviously he couldn't participate in some things but typically it wouldn't be a huge issue. However, it was his right foot, which meant no driving. For weeks. Did I mention it was smack in the middle of summer vacation? Those were a few more stressful weeks for us as we adjusted to a change in our roles within the cottage. In the midst of that, Jason ended up in the ER with kidney stones. When it rains, it pours, right? I remind you that all of these took place in the summer, when the kids are home with us all day, everyday. And these events don't wait to happen when you are "off duty." Thankfully, we have an understanding group of boys and a wonderfully supportive staff. This season reminded me how weak we are without an Almighty God. We were able to get through that time because of HIS strength, certainly not our own!
Not long after the boys started school, we packed up and headed to Maine for a week long vacation. It was SOOOOO refreshing to be back in the 207, even if it was all too short of a visit! We got to spend LOTS of time with my parents, which is exactly what we wanted. And we had a chance to see our friends/neighbors Riley & Tausha and their newest family member, Miles. We spent some time with our best friends, Kara & Ben and their growing brood of beautiful babies! We spent an evening with my "old" friends, Renee & Jason (and their little girl, Grace), who I've known since we were all in 8th grade. We visited some of my extended family and our church family. It was an absolutely perfect vacation. And I had several weeks of homesickness after we returned. I love, love LOVE what we do as house parents. I LOVE where God has us. But I DO miss my family and friends and the certain comforts of "home." I have a hundred pictures I'd love to share, but I'm going to limit myself to just one of my favorites:
When we got back to Virginia, we quickly settled back into the routines of life here. Not only were the boys settling into the school year, our own "grown up girl" began her kindergarten year. We have chosen to homeschool her and so far it is going well. It has it's ups and downs, like anything else in life and thee are lots of things we are both learning. I feel incredibly blessed to have this opportunity with her. It is an indescribable thrill to see when she "gets" something. I am enjoying this time with her, even on the challenging days. Speaking of education, I had the opportunity to attend a workshop on bullying that I found extremely helpful and informative. I took a lot of information from it and have been using it in the cottage and with our own children. I really enjoy attending workshops or doing extra reading - anything to continue educating myself, really. Call me a nerd, but I am a lifelong student and I love it.
Our activities have slowed down some with the school year, but we still stay pretty busy. There's Boy Scouts, youth group, equine therapy and church. We've participated in the annual Tractor Parade. We visited SciWorks, a science museum in Winston-Salem, NC.
In the span of a week, one of our boys attended a homecoming dance with his girlfriend and celebrated his birthday - another year closer to adulthood.
We've been on a few church visits, to share the vision of Joy Ranch. And just this past week, we hosted our fall fundraiser - the BBQ Bash. It was an excellent night. The gym was beautifully decorated, the food was delicious, the photo booth was a blast and the turn out was more than expected. I hope this event continues to grow and we continue to gain new friends of the ministry. I would love to see more people be aware of Joy Ranch and what we do because it is such a vital ministry and not everyone knows what we do here. I, for one, can't talk enough about it! But you already know that! :-)
So there you have our summer (and beginning of fall) in a nutshell. The crisp autumn air has since moved in, and with it blown many of the beautiful golden leaves to the ground. Jason doesn't like to think about that white powder and bitter cold air that is soon to follow. For me, I love this fall time of year and all the sights, smells and activities that it brings. We've enjoyed a stroll through the corn maze, frolicking in the leaves, some tasty candy apples and some unique fall-themed snacks.
And I look forward to getting into the Christmas spirit with the boys (don't tell anyone, but I'm already playing Christmas music and Jason is already consuming the eggnog!) I do hope to blog again before Christmas is upon us, but obviously you know how I am! Maybe I need to be thinking about making some sort of blog-related New Years resolution! In the meantime, we always are thankful for your friendship, prayers, encouragement and support! Until next time...