Category: Houseparent/Family Teacher


We live and work on the outer edge of the Ozarks, miles away from the nearest city, in the hills of Cookson…and I am super proud of that compound sentence.  Being in the sticks we encounter all kinds of wildlife that keep us on our toes.  Weird bugs and spiders, colorful birds, deer, groundhogs, coons, frogs, and the occasional snake.  As a matter of fact, I rode a snake yesterday!…No.  Seriously.  I did.

The horse named Snake.  If I understand correctly, the name comes from the curved marking on his forehead.  He’s a young guy here on campus, one of several horses used for equine therapy and recreation.  He was my training buddy during a morning session where several riders were learning how to pivot a horse.  He was learning while I was learning so it took us time and patience to get the hang of it, but eventually, we got it.

  

I didn’t look at the date. I just saw the number. 109 days since the last post. When was that? Oh, I remember…just before the holidays. The busiest time of year for a children’s home. The donation center lights up with end of year activity. Generous people from all over help make certain our kids have gifts for Christmas. And then there are the unexpected surprises of the changing weather…water leaks that must be attended to…at least this time it was not in the middle of the night.

We saw 2014 come to a close seeing a lot of emotions run through our house both good and not so good. But this is the reason we are here…to help kids sort through their trauma and learn new skills to rise above and be awesome adults in this world. We show them Christ. We show them love…how to handle stress…how not to eat with their mouth open…how to speak positive rather than negative. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.

January came and the world settled a bit. The colder weather showed itself in frigid fashion and school resumed for the new year. Basketball started its second half, and the old men who scrimmaged the team are victorious. Of course they are all nursing their muscle aches…aches…a reminder of a low point for our house…saying goodbye early to a house daughter. The family wanted her home. She had made progress and still had a ways to go. We wished her well then and pray favor and wisdom to her as she continues life’s adventure today. She is missed and will forever be a part of the Oswalds. She was the first of many goodbyes that are to come.

Which brings us to February. We have a few adventures planned and hope that doing so will create great memories and provide opportunities for growth.

Please pray for health in our home, for an increase in “ah-ha” moments as the kids learn to appropriately navigate life, and most importantly, a hunger and desire for each family member to know Christ more.

Its a bit early, but the holiday season has come back to Cookson. There is a turkey dinner next week provided by one of our great church partners in the area. Churches and groups far and wide have offered goodies that will brighten hearts during the Christmas holiday to kids that may have never experienced it in a good way. Life is busy and very fun during the next few months.

Today, I was checking the water wells and making sure the refrigerators and freezers were operational while the dining hall and food store were closed. The food store is where we shop from week to week and pickup meal and snack items for breakfast and weekend food. Our donors do a great job of ensuring we are taken care of. I’m not sure how we get them, but we get a lot of Little Debbie snacks…and this time of year it becomes quite a temptation. That lady can bake a treat! And she brought Christmas tree cakes…and cherry creme filled morsels of magical goodness! And to top that off, she brought Santa sleigh brownies! How could she be so mean? And to line them up all nice and neat right where I would have to pass by to check the freezer? She is very smart, that lady.

Well, my goal is to lose the Cookson 5 and 10 that has found its way to my belly…so I victoriously passed it by…but this is not the end of the story!

My wife asked me to bring back some eggs for the house. Upon entering the freezer…they were there! The devil of deliciousness, the gladiator of goodies had increased her ammunition against fellow human kind! She had brought in another set of villains into her flock of sugary slavery! None other than the Krispy Creme minions themselves! All 600 of them right there in the walk-in freezer!

Thankfully, I was able to muster up the strength to grab the eggs and get out of there alive!

So yet another episode ends on a good note. I pray now that she does not bring in the Kryptonite of Cookson…at least for me…Braum’s egg nog.

Much of what we do is linked up with food…so I will gladly talk about it. I’ll do my best to stay focused…really I will.

Food is taken care of in several different ways here. Most of the meals are cooked by our on-site cook and served M-F for lunch and dinner except Fridays. Breakfast and the weekends are left for the families to fill in around their activites. Wednesdays are special because it is the one major day a week that we pick up groceries from our on campus food store. The variety of items come from different sources and support the entire community. What that means is that the pantry of our house becomes a magical land of exploration after school. Do we pick up Little Debbie’s? Of course we did. She sends them every month like clockwork…and I don’t mind eating butterflies from spring instead of footballs for fall during the summer months. They taste the same. But I digress.

It’s been a bit since we talked about our house. As of yesterday, we are now a house of 9. Let’s break that down. Dad, Mom (age is not important here)…kids…15, 14, 13, 10, 10, 9, 9…and the 14 will be 15 in 5 days (trust me we know this because she reminds us about once an hour). 🙂

We have been blessed beyond measure to have them here. And blessed to have your support if it be by prayer or otherwise. Thanks for checking in on us and for lifting the needs of these kids to the King.

So updating more often would be a better idea because so much happens around here. We’ll do our best to give a few highlights of the past month.

When we last wrote, we had gained our first family member, Kilee. Since then we have grown considerably…3 additions to be exact, doubling our family of 4 to a family of 8. Please join me in welcoming T’Era, Landan, and Caitlyn to the family! T’Era and Caitlyn are the teenagers of the house with Landan in elementary. Just to paint the picture, that is two teens and four 10 and under (with room for more youngers). Never a dull moment.

Summers are different here since we operate as a year- round school. School ended at the beginning of June with graduation of our Seniors and ended the middle of last week. We have enjoyed horsemanship classes, crafting, swimming, caving, trips to the river, softball, volleyball, a large waterfall at a local state park, and a trip into Tulsa. We are sad that summer is over but excited for the school year being under way…that means some short and needed breaks for us parents!

One final thought of great importance. Nearly a decade ago we added a member to our family. He completed our bio-family and has brought years of smiles and a book full of insightful commentary. We have enjoyed attempts at baseball and soccer, and enjoyed monster truck events. He’s a compassionate giver, and a selfless friend to those around him. As a dad he makes me proud and I love him very much! If you don’t already know who I’m talking about, please help me say happy birthday to the grandest son in all the land…Michael.

With that I will bid you farewell, until the next adventure.

Writing calendars in pencil or on a chalkboard are a great idea at Cookson Hills. Why? Because schedules modify and change like the swift rivers here after a storm. Kind of like this past Friday when we received a call from our social worker. The plan had totally been flipped on its head. Our schedule was pretty full of respite assignments along with a countdown to our first full-time child in the home. Suddenly, they were all cancelled…we somehow found ourselves in a wormhole. What was scheduled for 3 weeks away now became 4 days away…our first child! Wednesday is now that day. A young girl will be added to our home. We are excited and nervous at the same time.

Please pray for our family as it grows by one this week. Pray for this little girl…that God will heal her heart.

Speaking of new stuff, Mike added a family member. A hamster. He will be fully responsible for its care after learning the ropes. He decided to name him Weelly. Yes. Spelled that way. And I’ll bet you can’t guess the reason for the name…

Having one foot in a city and another foot in a town can make it a bit difficult to stay steady on a houseparent income. We are blessed beyond measure here, but still having the house back on Nashville street has stretched our dollar and added a few extra responsibilities. With this realization, we put Nashville St on the market. After being on the market about 10 days, I’m happy to announce answer to prayer. A contract! Today I made the brief trip into town to ensure the utility guys got everything turned on. Now we pray the inspections clear. Without any hitches, the closing will be June 30.

We are looking forward to the sale being completed so we can turn our eyes toward the first Oswald family kids to join our home on a regular basis!

Thanks for your prayer and support of this great mission to kids in our own backyard!

So Amber loves to cook and bake. She has been blessed with the outstanding ability to combine ingredients, sometimes without measuring tools, and create masterpieces worth eating over and over again. I, on the other hand, am not so great at making food. Don’t get me wrong. I could follow instructions and make something. The trouble is, I don’t have the skill set at this time to modify and correct on the fly to make a food item that is good become great. But never fear! Where there is a cook/baker, there is a taste tester. That’s where I do extremely well.

Which brings me to my first ADD moment of this post.

There is another famous baker that we are all familiar with. Little Debbie. She makes little cakes of magical goodness that melt in your mouth. They come all packaged in different shapes and sizes depending on the season. And on top of that, she loves to donate her goodies to Cookson Hills…a lot of them. She is such a tremendous blessing!…but I have a problem. I love taste testing! When it’s a different shape, I try it. When it’s a different color, I try it. And you know what drives me crazy? (Prepare for ADD moment number 2)…The packaging. Little Debbie, to be a great baker, has to try out all of her food. If that is true, then how does she keep that figure? You know, the one on all the boxes of treats? C’mon now. I thought maybe she would have the great appearance of Aunt Jemima, like she enjoys testing her goodies. I guess that means Little Debbie must have a husband who tests everything.

Anyway, prepare for ADD moment number 3.

I say all this to say thank you to the donors who give us Little Debbie snacks. (I sincerely mean that, by the way) As of this week, I finally got back into a cycle of workouts, starting with hiking up a few hillsides to crawl through caves. One of the tunnels should be renamed Ozzie Squeeze because well, because of my consumption of Little Debbie snacks, I barely fit through it. I’ll be looking forward to going back to that cave and to make it through that passage much easier when I’ve dropped some weight.

Prayer for the day…help Brian to consume food in moderation and to stay motivated to exercise. But on a more serious note…Most of all, pray for the kids that are very soon to a part of our family. That they will meet the Savior of the Universe and receive the healing they need directly from Him…if a Little Debbie is what it takes, so be it.

Oh, boy!?

Little known fact of the Oswald family blog…there are actually two of us who can write our posts, but one of us has never been brave enough to do so until now. : )

It’s been crazy busy around here until today. Today started our first official set of “days off”. It’s weird. I’ve gotten so used to having noise and plenty to do that I wasn’t sure how to handle an almost empty house and no extra kids. What do you do when you’re so accustomed to always doing something? Don’t get me wrong. I can always clean the house…again. And it’s not like there aren’t still some items to be put away from our move that have not yet found a home (i.e. paperwork and binders galore from training, plus mail and the like, and pictures that still need hung somewhere). I guess what I really mean is what do I do when nothing is expected of me for 4 full days? I have no outside responsibilities for a few days in a row. What I will do for sure is enjoy the break that allows for our core family bonding time.

Brian wrote about our first group of kids that stayed with us. We had our second group leave on Saturday night. It was another group of girls, smaller this time with only 3. We got to enjoy Spiritual Emphasis Week with them, which I found to be quite refreshing and enjoyable. It was neat to watch how they responded to what God had to say to them during this time. One of the girls loves to cook so it was fun to watch her enjoy the kitchen while she was here. One thing I know for sure after our first two groups of girls have come to stay with us. Girls can eat way more than I expected! Future note to self: Keep plenty of healthy snacks on hand when having girls in the home.

On a final note, we had the great opportunity this past week to learn about the first child we may have come into our home. Should nothing change between now and mid-June, we will have a new little boy to welcome into our family. Michael is super excited about the idea of no longer being the only boy in the house. Michele is anticipating the idea of having her “own” bathroom for a little while until more kids come to live with us, as she will be the only girl in the girls’ hallway briefly and no longer sharing with her brother once the little boy moves in. Brian and I are looking forward to becoming one of the full houses on campus.

Actually, one more final thought. Prayer requests to be exact. We put our old house on the market at the end of last week. Please be in prayer agreement with us that it sells quickly, rather ASAP kind of quickly. Please be in prayer for our family as we get ready to welcome our newest member. Also keep praying for us as we continue our respite duties for a few more weeks.

I know I’m not as entertaining a writer as Brian, but I do enjoy sharing my thoughts when possible. Thanks for keeping up with our family as we continue to live out God’s great adventure!

Well, we finally made it. Kids in my house that are not my own. 7 to be exact. Plus our own 2. A baseball team. All but my son…girls. I just removed dark blue, pink, and red finger nail polish from my fingers. The glitter is still there. Not a single major mishap. It has been a good first assignment for taking care of somebody else’s kids for 4 days. They will go back home tonight and we will get a new set on Wednesday and do it all over again. Here is a quick overview.

One of the girls had PT to attend. I drove her there with Mike in tow. I’ve heard that girls talk an average of 45000 words a day. I’m pretty sure she hits 60000 a day.

So far, Frozen, Inception, Thor 2 and a few other short films by Pixar have aired on the DVD player. While we are on entertainment, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, both movie and book, are a hit. Whowouldathunk?

Still a lot to learn to make sure all of these great kids get the help they need to be successful in life. Now we have some OTJ experience to adjust our house expectations so that the next group is even more smooth.