Elf Mischief

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Many have inquired…

“What ever happened to your elf?”

“Is he still on strike?”

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I am happy to report that Buster’s strike only lasted a few days and since then he has caused plenty of mischief.

Here is a look at some of the compromising positions we have caught him in,

as the kids have raced each morning to find him.

My “elf helpers” have been wonderfully creative and I am so grateful for the magic they helped create this Christmas season.

Here is a peek into our morning search for Buster:

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This was one of Buster’s earliest antics. It set the stage for the entire month and had dire consequences. Tyler found Buster like this at 3:00 am when he stepped into the kitchen to get a glass of water. He flipped on the light and was greeted with…THIS! The screams woke up the entire house and it took a while to calm him down and convince him to go back to bed. I suggested to my “elf helpers” that perhaps we should avoid giant googly eyes in the future. The result of this: Tyler now waits until someone else is awake before he goes searching for Buster.

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Buster made brownies and then helped himself to a slice!

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Buster loves whiteboard markers. This morning he drew a Santa hat and beard on the mirror to make for fun teeth brushing photos.

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Sometimes Buster comes up with games for the kids to play. This morning was “find the candy canes.” The boys LOVED it!

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YUM…Santa milk! Buster was found hanging out in the fridge with some eggnog that he dyed green. Who was brave enough to try it? The littles, of course!

Santa milk!

Santa milk!

One night Buster got into the cookie decorating sprinkles and decided to make a "snow" angel.

One night Buster got into the cookie decorating sprinkles and decided to make a “snow” angel.

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Yes, that is right…Our tree was toilet papered. I knew something was up when, upon sitting on the toilet, I discovered the toilet paper was missing. Just when I was ready to lecture the kids on their thoughtlessness, I discovered the culprit…Buster! Needless to say, the Christmas lights were not turned on that day. Can anyone say, “Fire hazard!” :)

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Buster…way up high!

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The boys’ favorite Buster antic of the season…Hanging with Spiderman!!

Oh, Buster!

:)

“Life without music would simply B Flat”

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“The Music is not in the notes but in the Silence in between.” -Mozart

21st Century Cyber Charter School came to town on Thursday, making it an extra special day for my kiddos.

Grace and Rusty both attend 21CCCS. The school building that the teachers work from is located on the east side of the state, just outside Philadelphia. Every few months the teachers venture to the Pittsburgh area to meet up with their students for a school outing. On Thursday they came to town for a field trip to the symphony.

The symphony field trip was in the evening but during the day they had a community outreach activity for the students in the area. After dropping off Ozzie at school we drove up the New Castle Hampton Inn where the teachers were staying. In a conference room on the first level they had set up a work area for the kids. Grace and Rusty packed up their computers and books and I dropped them off to spend the morning with their teachers.

All ready for a day of fun.

All ready for a day of fun.

The first half of the morning was spent working one on one with their teachers on assignments that they needed or wanted help with. During this time Grace and her friend Olivia, who also attended the community outreach, worked on a Chemistry assignment that they needed extra help on. Gracie said being able to have her Chemistry teacher explain ionic and covalent bonds, face to face, helped her to better grasp that which she was struggling to understand.

Grace and Olivia

Grace and Olivia

Rusty used his study hall time to work on a large final World Cultures assignment with one of the history teachers that were there. He was pleased to get his assignment completed by the end of the day.

Rusty and his teacher, Mrs. Miller.

Rusty and his teacher, Mrs. Miller.

The second half of the morning was spent enjoying snacks and board games with the teachers and other students. They had a fun time and I used the free time with Tyler, Molly and Olivia’s family to do a little last-minute Christmas shopping.

At lunch time we picked up Rusty and Grace and headed home to finish schoolwork and prepare for our fun evening field trip.

In the evening the big kids got all dolled up for a night at the symphony. Toby stayed home with the two little boys. When everyone was ready we took a few photos and then drove up to New Castle (again.) The Pittsburgh Symphony: Holiday Pops was playing at the Scottish Rite Cathedral. It was so convenient to be able to enjoy the Pittsburgh symphony without having to brave Pittsburgh traffic.

All dolled up and ready to go...

All dolled up and ready to go…

Goof balls!

Goof balls!

When we arrived we located the teachers in the lobby of the beautiful cathedral, collected our tickets, and found our way to our seats. We were happy to see that we were seated by our friends, the Hudaks.

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Cute girls :)

Cute girls :)

The music that night was magical and brought forth the spirit of Christmas.

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The music was a mix of traditional songs, modern songs and songs we had never heard before. The vocal talents of Ryan Vasquez and Kate Shindle, both Broadway stars, were also enjoyed.

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One of the greatest talents of the night was Old St. Nick, who performed two songs:

“The Christmas Alphabet”

and

“A Place for You.”

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He was very talented, and funny as well! I was impressed that he had time to come and grace us with his talents, given how busy this week is for him.

The evening ended with an old-fashioned sing along with the audience, and a magical rendition of the song, “Sleigh Ride.” Rusty was thrilled that his favorite Christmas song was the final song of the night.

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It was a beautiful, spirit filled night. The only thing missing, we decided as we walked out of the cathedral, was the snow. Then it truly would have been a picture perfect evening.

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That’s a wrap!

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It is so hard to believe we are only a week away from Christmas. This month has been a bit surreal. Not even a month ago was adoption day for Oz. How the time has flown by!

This month has been filled with school, holiday preparations and activities, and lots of paperwork. We have begun the process to pull Ozzie out of our local public school and bring him home to school with the other kids (now that we are legally allowed to.) All these changes have added to the “adjustment phase” of our journey.

Yesterday was a big day for Ozzie, as it was his holiday concert. He has been working hard the last month to prepare for his band and choir concert at school. On Wednesday morning we dropped him of at school at 9:00am and then ran to the grocery store to kill 30 minutes before we had to return for his concerts. At the grocery store the kids helped me to pick out food and drinks for my party later that night.

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At 9:30 we returned back to the school to find the parking lot already pretty full. I was surprised by the number of parents that came to watch, given the fact that they held the concert during working hours. Toby was unable to attend but the kids all joined me to cheer on Ozzie. We found seats in the gym and soon the band filed in to take their seats.

We found Ozzie in the program :)

We found Ozzie in the program :)

Ozzie was proudly carrying his trombone and searching the crowds to find us. When he spotted us he waved enthusiastically.

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The band played three songs:

“Hot Cross Buns”

“Mary had a little lamb”

“Jingle Bells”

When they were done the third grade took the stage to sing, followed by the fourth grade, then the fifth. Ozzie’s fourth grade choir sang three songs:

“Solfege Santa”

“Christmas Wishes”

“We wish you a Merry Christmas”

He loved being on stage and sang with gusto.

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For the finale all the grades joined together on stage to sing “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer.”

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Ozzie did a great job and loved having his family there to show off. After the concert he ran over to us to find out what we had thought and to hand over his trombone. It was a fun experience and a wonderful way to end our time at Big Beaver Elementary!

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That afternoon I picked up Ozzie from school and told him that he would officially be enrolled in the cyber school on Monday. He asked if could see his lessons. Even though we don’t have his books and materials yet I was able to log him into school and show him his lessons. As I went into my room to get ready for my party I told him to look around at the website and check out his different subjects. When I came back out he eagerly reported that he had finished two math lessons and couldn’t wait to start homeschooling! :)

Wednesday night the kids spent the evening with Toby at church activities and then Christmas shopping while I had my annual wrapping party.

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  I have been hosting a wrapping party for quite a few years and it is one of the highlights of my holiday season.

All ready for my friends to arrive!

All ready for my friends to arrive!

A group of girlfriends join me for the evening and we spend the night doing all our Christmas wrapping together while we munch on appetizers, listen to Christmas music and visit.

Yummy food to eat...

Yummy food to eat…

...and "wrapping gifts" for my special guests.

…and a take home “wrapping gift” for my special guests.

It was a wonderful way to get some “mom time” while still being productive during a very busy time of year.

Another busy December day…

full of laughter, song and play!

Co-op Christmas Party

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I am a little behind in my postings BUT last Wednesday was our last co-op until the beginning of the new year, as well as our annual Christmas party. The group of moms that took charge of the party this year did a wonderful job!  The theme was “Holiday Television Specials.”

Each room was themed with decorations, activities, and crafts to match up with a classic television special.

The "Rudolph" room.

The “Rudolph” room.

We arrived an hour earlier than usual. I was in charge of the lunch room and my theme was “White Christmas.” As we set up more families began to trickle in…

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When everyone had arrived the kids were split into groups based on age. They traveled with these groups from room to room to do different crafts and activities. They were given a gift bag with their name on it to collect their crafts as they went.

Rusty’s first stop was “The Grinch who Stole Christmas.” There he made a yummy snack mix called “Who Hash.”

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Tyler’s first room was the “Frosty” room. In this room the kids made snowmen out of socks and rice.

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Molly’s first stop was the “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” room. In this room the kids made magical reindeer food to be sprinkled on the yard Christmas Eve. This room also had a photo booth…so fun!

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The kids had a blast using the “Rudolph” props to pose in the tv.

The big kids.

The big kids.

The boys.

The boys.

The girls.

The girls.

Tyler ready to pose. :)

Tyler ready to pose. :)

The final stop was “The Little Drummer Boy” room where the kids made cards to send to men and women serving in the Military.

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While the elementary and middle school students were rotating through the different television holiday specials, the high school students had their own Christmas party.

They stayed in one room and watched “Home Alone” while doing crafts, eating snacks and playing games.

The high school party.

The high school party.

Craft time!

Craft time!

The finished product.

The finished product.

After the rotation through the classes was complete it was time for the talent show. There was a fun mix of kids and talents shared. Rusty decided to play the chimes and the girls sang a duet…their own rewrite of the song, “Baby it’s Cold Outside.”

Rusty performing

Rusty performing

"Gracie, it's cold outside!"

“Gracie, it’s cold outside!”

The talent show was followed by lunch. For lunch we served pulled pork sandwiches and a mix of side dishes, salads, and desserts brought by the moms.

YUM!!

YUM!!

After lunch it was time for the gift exchange. Each child was given the name of another child at co-op and asked to bring a $5.00, wrapped gift, to exchange. The kids loved giving and receiving their gifts and my kiddos were thrilled with the thoughtful gifts they received.

Ready to exchange...

Ready to exchange…

Molly receiving her gift.

Molly receiving her gift.

The party ended with everyone pitching in to clean up and clear out. The kids said their goodbyes and “See you in 2015!” while the moms (who chose to participate) met in one of the classrooms for the cookie exchange. Moms who participated brought 10 dozen cookies, packaged by the dozen, to exchange for a fun mix of holiday cookies.

Holiday baking...done! :)

Holiday baking…done! :)

It was another wonderful party. I feel so blessed to be part of this amazing home school group!

The Guilt Monster

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I have a boogey man that plagues my life…

my own personal demon…

my “monster under the bed.”

I call this monster “Guilt” and it is the bane of my existence.

It shows up at the most inopportune times,

usually when I am already weakened by other demons:

Fear, Sadness, Regret, Dread, and Fatigue.

Fatigue is a big one.

Guilt is a monster that preys on women,

(especially moms)

 this time of year.

It hides in the darkness and whispers lies:

“It will never be enough.”

“You could always do better.”

“You need to please everyone. Don’t disappoint.”

“Love says “yes”…never “no.”

Add to the whispers of your own imagining, the mutterings of those around you..

the people who pile on the guilt as a means of manipulating,

as a means of controlling…

and it can be enough to sink an already unstable ship.

This time a year can be hard. As women we take on the burden of making magic happen in the lives of all those around us, and with each brick of guilt piled on an already unstable vessel we can find ourselves taking on water,

sinking quickly,

and then feeling more guilt that we can’t stay afloat.

I am weary. I am tired of the guilt…

The guilt I pile on myself and the guilt that is piled on by others.

I am tired and ready to let it go.

I am taking matters into my own hands and slaying the monster that lurks under the bed.

Let us band together as women and quit the “guilt game.”

Life is short.

It is ok to say “no.”

It is ok to fall short.

It is ok to be adequate.

It is ok to let go of the guilt.

I give you permission to do

as Nancy Reagan would say and

“Just say no!”

 Let it go.

:)

You are welcome.

Gingerbread village

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On Saturday we were invited to a holiday party, but not just your “run of the mill” holiday party…

A Gingerbread House Building Party!

It was a fun family activity and a super cute party idea!!

Everyone was asked to bring candy decorations and then the graham crackers, bases, and frosting were provided. The tables were filled with supplies and fun toppings. My kids had a blast! We enjoy making gingerbread houses each year but we discovered that decorating with friends is even more fun!

Gingerbread house building party.

Gingerbread house building party.

Gracie working...

Gracie working…

Ozzie concentrating...

Ozzie concentrating…

Toby helping Tyler.

Toby helping Tyler.

Tyler and his little helper. :)

Tyler and his little helper. :)

Molly's finished product.

Molly’s finished product.

Gracie's completed house!

Gracie’s completed house!

Tyler..."All done!"

Tyler…”All done!”

When the kids were all finished, and the supplies moved out of the way, it was game time. The kids had a great time and even with all the excitement and sugar, didn’t cause too much ruckus…

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I can’t, however, say the same about the adults.  ;)

Yoga?

Yoga?

A wonderful time was had by all!!

7 days of life

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It has been a busy week, filled not with large events, but rather a big pile of everyday moments. None justifies an entire blog entry so I’ve scooped up a small sampling of a week of life at Patchwork Farm to share with you…

The last 7 days:

Last Monday was opening day of hunting season. Toby and Rusty were up before the sun to hike into the woods and get into position before the deer started moving. It was a cold day and by 11:00 they were back at the house to warm up and get a bite to eat. The conditions were less than ideal. They saw little and after a few hours of sitting and staring, Rusty was ready to come in. Toby encouraged him to stick it out and he did. They didn’t have anything to show for their time except for some sweet father/son memories of time spent in the still of the forest…memories that will someday be great treasures to them both.

Toby and Rusty- all bundled up :)

Toby and Rusty- all bundled up :)

Tuesday morning, after a brutal early morning tantrum, I walked out to the car and found this. It was a sweet reminder of why we do what we do on a daily basis…It is all about family.

Molly's artwork on the frost covered hood.

Molly’s artwork on the frost covered hood.

Wednesday we had co-op. At we were walking out the door I made the last-minute decision to keep Ozzie home from school and take him to co-op. We are in the process of withdrawing him from our local public school and enrolling him in cyberschool with the other kids. It has been with a lot of prayer that we have made this decision. I felt Wednesday would be a good day to let him experience what it will be like. It was a good move. He loved it and came home asking if we had to wait until winter break to start or if we could just start home schooling the next day.

At co-op we were blessed with sweet gifts and “congratulations” cards from friends who haven’t seen us since our adoption day. I was touched by the encouraging words and thoughtfulness of our dear friends at co-op. One friend gifted us with this creative gift…a cookie sheet full of baking mixes and cookie decorations to enjoy as a family activity. We have had a lot of fun this week, baking as a family.

Thank you Hudaks!

Thank you Hudaks!

On Thursday Toby and Grace had date night. It was supposed to be our (Toby and my) date night but after a hard day Wednesday afternoon/evening we realized that we aren’t to the point that we can put the responsibility of babysitting duty on the girls. (At least not yet) Toby had purchased two dinner tickets to his Metal Detecting club’s annual Christmas party so rather than waste the second ticket and go alone he decided to use it for some quality time with his oldest daughter. It was a fun night for the two of them. They dressed up and enjoyed a delicious meal together. I was happy good was able to come from a disappointing situation. It was a blessing.

Daddy/daughter date night :)

Daddy/daughter date night :)

On Friday Rusty only had a half day of school before we packed him up and headed out to Ohio. He was invited to spend the weekend with my parents. He was thrilled at the chance to have some fun “one on one” time with Mimi and Pop pop and get to be an “only child” for the weekend. He had a wonderful time playing board games, going out to dinner and seeing a movie with his grandparents. It was just what he needed after hard week with little brothers.

On our way to Ohio. I think he is a little excited :)

On our way to Ohio. I think he is a little excited :)

On Saturday the girls had a job face painting for the community Christmas party. Gracie, who has been logging a lot of hours on the road with her driver’s permit (She needs 65 hours of practice before she can take her driving test) discovered that we needed gas. It was a perfect opportunity for a lesson on how to fill the tank all by herself. :)

My baby is all grown up!

My baby is all grown up!

The girls had a wonderful time face painting and each earned $30.00 while having fun :)

The girls had a wonderful time face painting and each earned $30.00 while having fun :)

This school week also held 2 dentist appointments, 2 orthodontist appointments, Christmas decorating, cookie baking, Christmas card mailing, and of course lots of school…just a normal week ;)

This time a year can be so busy. It can be a recipe for disaster as we take the fullness of everyday living and then mix with that a cup of planning and prepping, a scoop of expectations, heap of commitments and a dash of guilt. Stir it, bake it and you have one cooked Momma…

weary before the season even begins.

So I have tried, even in the fullness of our busy week, to find moments of stillness, opportunities for reflection and minutes to count my blessings, for even though I sometimes find myself (especially this time of year) fantasizing of  easier, quieter, calmer days I recognize the blessing of my noisy, messy, crazy life.

It isn’t always pretty…

but it is mine,

and I am blessed.

God is good!

Buster on Strike!

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Buster has been visiting our family annually since 2008 when my parents gifted him to my children.

Buster is an elf…

An elf on a shelf.

For 6 years he has arrived on December 1st and disappeared on December 24th. During the day he watches and takes note of the good and bad and every night flies back to the North Pole to report to the man in charge. When he returns back in the wee hours of the morning he usually gets into some sort of mischief. From the time Rusty was 7, my kids have eagerly popped out of bed… first thing… to run and find Buster.

This year I have my own helpers that have been working with Buster.

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How grateful I am for their eagerness and creativity!

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Here is a little glimpse into Buster’s antics this year…

He got ahold of the camera...

He got ahold of the camera…

"Selfie!"

“Selfie!”

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Now in all our years with Buster we have seen him write on mirrors, dye the milk in the fridge, and hang from the rafters…

but never have we seen him…

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 Go on strike!

*gulp*

Buster is not happy. He left a note telling us so. His note to the kids pointed out some behaviors that need to change before he will come back and play again.

After 6 years he has decided to revolt and I suspect it may have something to do with this little

(or not so little)

temper tantrum:

PS- For those who are concerned: that is not 4 pints of lost blood, but rather, 1 gallon of V8 spicy hot. Oh, what a tantrum it was :)

PS- For those who are concerned: that is not 4 pints of lost blood, but rather, 1 gallon of V8 spicy hot. Oh, what a tantrum it was  :)

I will let you know when his demands are met and negotiations are resolved. Until then…

Elf on Strike :)

O’ Christmas Tree

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We started a tradition a few years ago to help alleviate a bit of the craziness and pressure of the holiday season, as well as a bit of the “mom guilt” that can plague us in December. In the bustle of all the good things that can fill our time in December it is easy to quickly feel overwhelmed as we see all the empty calendar blocks fill with activities and commitments. Add to that all the traditions you love to do as a family and all the wonderful “good mom” activities that are pinned to our Pinterest boards and we can enter the month already defeated. In light of this we started having a meeting, beginning a few years back, on the first of December and making a list. Every member of the family picks a favorite Christmas activity or tradition that is a “must do” for them. When we have our list of 7 favorite traditions and activities we pull out the family calendar and pick a day to do them, thus committing to those things before the month is full of the less important. By doing this simple thing I then am able to give myself permission to let the rest go.

Stress, Busyness, Guilt…Let it Go.

As we blog our lives this month you will see some of those activities that were chosen. Going to chop down our tree was Toby’s favorite family tradition, mine happened on Monday…putting up the tree!

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From the time I was a little girl, putting up the Christmas tree was one of the highlights of the Christmas season. The tradition of driving to the lot to find the perfect tree, watching my dad strap it to the top of the car with twine, coming home and digging through the boxes of ornaments while Dad wrestled with the tangled, burned out lights, was magical. To this day the night the tree goes up is my favorite night of the Christmas season. It is when the magic arrives. The home is transformed. When the work is done and the lights get turned off and we all stand back and admire the tree, lit only by the twinkling lights…Yes, that is when the magic of Christmas arrives.

Monday was family night. We began with an object lesson on “Choosing Gratitude” that involved a story and a tray full of mismatched tea cups, full of eggnog. We followed the lesson with a game that required a teacup to be packed full of flour, inverted on a plate, and topped with a piece of candy. The kids then took turns cutting flour away with a butter knife with the goal of not being the one that caused the candy to fall. The one who dropped the candy had to then pick it up with their mouth.

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The kids had a blast (Thanks for the idea, Shellie!) and the game kept them occupied while Toby and I tackled the job of lighting the tree.

Soon it was time to begin decorating. The tree, being as tall as it was, warranted the need for a ladder this year. The big kids worked on the top half while the little boys did the bottom half.

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Toby handed out ornaments.

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The best part of decorating the tree was reminiscing about the ornaments. Each ornament has a story or a memory attached to it, so decorating the tree becomes a walk down memory lane.

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When Grace was a baby we started the tradition of each child receiving a new ornament on Dec. 23rd, before we left to join family for Christmas. It has become a special tradition as each child unwraps an ornament, specially chosen to reflect a important event in their life that year. As we pulled ornament after ornament out of the box we were able to share the stories with the little boys, who weren’t with us then, and give them a glimpse into our pre-adoption life.

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Tyler was thrilled to have his own ornament to hang on the tree this year and Ozzie now looks forward to growing his ornament collection as well.

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When the kids leave home and have their own trees to decorate they will have a nice collection of ornaments to get them started, as well as sweet memories of years past.

The decorating took us about an hour. (Many hands make quick work!) As we worked and talked we had Christmas music playing and eggnog to sip.

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When we were done it was time for the magic to be revealed. The lights were turned off and we sat

as a family,

in the glow of the tree,

reflecting on our many blessings.

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Christmas has arrived. The magic is here.