Temple Blessings for Molly

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2020 kicked off in a big way with Molly going through the temple to receive her own endowments on January 4th.

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She made the temple her desired destination, the blessings found within, her wish. With her eyes set on this personal goal in her own spiritual journey, she prepared day by day, her entire life, for this special moment.

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This was a special milestone in Molly’s spiritual walk as she entered to make covenants with Heavenly Father in His house that would serve as a strengthening force and great personal blessing to her throughout her life.

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What a joy and delight it was to walk our daughter into the temple to make her own covenants with the Lord.

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She was joined by myself, her Daddy and her big sister who came to support her as she went through the Palmyra, New York temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Much as Philadelphia temple stole Gracie’s heart from her first visit, and the Washington DC temple is my temple, the Palmyra LDS temple has called to Molly since her first visit. Molly knew that is where she wanted to make those sacred covenants with the Lord.

There, on a blustery, winter day, she experienced the blessings of the temple and soaked in the sweet spirit found within those sacred walls.

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We are so happy for our sweet girl and the path she has chosen to walk, knowing the great joy and profound purpose this path brings.

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We love you, Miss Molly! You make our hearts glad. May the sweet spirit you experienced on that special day remain with you as a unending source of peace, guidance and purpose as you pursue God’s plan for your life.

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Proud Mom of an Eagle Scout

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I remember the first time he donned the blue uniform of a cub scout.

He was eight years old and strutted into the church building proudly wearing the uniform of the Boy Scouts of America. The next ten years were filled with campouts, high adventure, summer scout camp and weekly gatherings, as Rusty worked to fill his sash with merit badges.

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Scouting became a source of growth and place of friendships as hours were poured into this “extracurricular activity” that was so much more than an extracurricular activity. Unlike the many good activities there are for our children to be a part of, this activity was more than a babysitting service or a social outlet. Under the leadership of great men, Rusty grew into a great man. He learned skills far more valuable than fire building or rafting. It was while he was fire building and rafting he learned how to lift others, problem solve, be a team player, lead, stand for what is right, honor his country, and be a man of character.

Scouting grew my boy into a man that any mother would be proud of. He has learned valuable life skills and developed the character strengths spoken of in the Boy Scout law as he lives the Boy Scout oath:

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It was his goal to earn his Eagle. This is an achievement only earned by 4% of Boy Scouts worldwide. It is an honor that requires a high level of commitment, dedication, time, effort and drive.

“Periodically, we read about a young man becoming an Eagle Scout and we know we should be impressed – but why?

If you have never journeyed through the life of a BSA Boy Scout you most likely only have a general idea of what is required to earn the coveted Eagle Scout Award. Furthermore, you are not versed in the detailed intricacies, and at times, the all-consuming day-to-day Boy Scout experience. A young man does not become an Eagle Scout within a few months; it takes years.

Advancement through the seven required ranks of Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life, and Eagle is not something one can teach in a short amount of time.

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Each rank is broken down into increments requiring the scout to master the skills of personal care and safety for one’s self, indoor sustainability, outdoor survival, and the ability to work with others; whether as a team or as their leader. Until the scout displays proficiency for what is required within each rank he is not able to advance.

The 21 required merit badges – 13 Eagle specific – are also challenging. Have you ever hiked 20 miles, listed the six functions of government as noted in the Preamble to the Constitution, or made a timeline of the history of environmental science in America? The Eagle Scout has. He had to accomplish tasks and learn large amounts of information to complete his Eagle required merit badges. These badges cover the spectrum of physical fitness – within the individual’s capabilities – to knowledge necessary for any college bound student.

Extensive service hours and service projects, along with living by the Scout Law: Trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, reverent….

And hungry!

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This is the life of a Boy Scout.

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So, the next time you read of a boy who has just received their Eagle Scout Award – be impressed. This award was not handed to him, he earned it. It will not be one of those items packed away with the other trophies of his youth, but instead will be displayed in his daily actions and its quintessence will forever live in his heart.”

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While it is an elusive honor overall, Rusty has been blessed to have the example of many Eagle Scouts in his life, including his father, which only increased his drive to work to earn this rank himself.

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That desire, coupled with fantastic Scout leaders who have been a driving force in helping many young men earn this honor, led to the big day when Rusty and two of his fellow troop members received their Eagles.

This occurred the Saturday before Christmas. Despite being fully immersed in Christmas mode, the mothers of the other two Eagle Scouts (Bobby and Nate) and I met at the church to decorate for the ceremony.

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We collaborated our efforts, gathered our scouting decor, and transformed the gym into a venue reflective of the Scouting program,

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And one that honored these three boys and all their hard work!

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That evening we returned to the church to watch as the boys in the troop received dozens and dozens of merit badges earned over the course of the previous six months. It was hugely impressive and a testament to some amazing scout leaders and some hard working young men!

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When all the merit badges had been handed out it was time for the three boys receiving their Eagle to step forward and take center stage.

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Each boy shared with the room the details of their personal Eagle Scout project.

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One of the final steps in earning the rank of Eagle comes when the scout develops and executes a plan to lead a service project that will benefit  the community. This large project is the culmination of a lot of behind-the-scenes planning, prepping and presenting the planned project to gain approval for their proposed Eagle Scout project.

Rusty’s Eagle Scout project was to build an outdoor riding area for Ready Yourself Youth Ranch, a non profit organization that pairs recued horses with special needs children through a therapeutic riding program. His project took the troop two long days of back breaking work but was a great blessing to that non-profit organization that could now increase the amount of sessions that could be offered each week.

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This project was completed a year ago but Rusty still had two Eagle-required merit badges that had to be earned for him to meet all his requirements. Rusty earned those with his troop this fall and was able to stand before family and friends on December 22nd to receive his award.

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Among those there to celebrate his achievement were his fellow Eagle Scouts, leaders, troop members and their families, Grace and Molly and Mimi Joy.

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The parents of the Eagle Scouts were then called to the front.

As part of the ceremony each Eagle Scout is given three pins, in addition to the medallion that is placed on their breast pocket and handkerchief that is tied around their shoulders.

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These three pins are pinned by the Eagle Scout on the lapel of the mother, the father and a person they consider a mentor,

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As a way of acknowledging the loving support that assisted them as they worked toward the goal of Eagle.

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Rusty chose to gift his mentor pin to Pete Grundberg, a man who has had an incredible influence on Rusty, both as a scout and as a young man. Pete’s dedication to troop 558, and his never ceasing effort to mold these young men, has led to many scouts earning the rank of Eagle. His influence has been great and it was a joy watching Rusty honor Pete as his mentor.

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He definitely deserves the recognition!

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Pete is one of many men who have been influential in Rusty’s scouting journey. It takes a tribe to raise a scout and how grateful I am for this amazing tribe of leaders and young men that are troop 558.

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It has been an amazing ride with an epic conclusion!

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Congratulations to our newest Eagle Scouts! We are so proud of your achievement!

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Welcome 2020!

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Boy, 2019 was a doosy!

It is hard to believe how many changes occurred in our life over the course of a single year. It was a year of high highs and trying lows as we navigated a multitude of huge life events. As I scroll through the last 12 months of blog posts I can’t believe it has only been 365 days since the first blog of 2019. In so many ways I feel as though I have lived a dozen years in that dozen months.

I love New Year’s Day. There is something cathartic about flipping through an empty calendar, each square pristine in its lack of markings, filled only with the promise of possibility.

I love the opportunity for reflection tied to this holiday…the intentional break after a frantic month of celebration and frivolity, to simply pause and ponder on the past and dream about the possibilities of the future.

I love the chance to hit the re-start button on our lives as we make plans to let go of those things that weighed us down last year and move forward with a hope and optimism about the year ahead.

I love the goal setting, the list making, and the future planning.

And as much as I love the transformation that occurs every December as the house gets caught up in the spell of Christmas magic with its trinkets and tinsel, there is a peaceful exhale that comes as the house sheds those layers of decorations and reverts back to a simpler and starker state.

After a month of excess, the promise of restraint pulls at me. It had been a month of much…much celebration, much lost sleep, much frivolity, much junk food, much, much, much…

And nothing sounds sweeter than the routine, restraint, and rest associated with the sleepy, snowy stillness of January,

But before we could settle into 2020 we had to ring out the old year with style, with one more celebration in 2019. It was New Year’s Eve and we had a party to get to!!

Every New Year’s Eve for the last decade we have rung in the new year with out best buddies- The Hudak’s!

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This year was no exception.

Even Grace and Zach opted to join us in lieu of other plans.

This New Year’s celebration was a big one, as it was the year we would  be opening the time capsule we packed as part of our New Year’s Eve celebration five years ago.

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But before we broke into that vault of memories and took a walk down memory lane, we needed to fill our plates and our bellies with sustenance!

Lana and I split the responsibility of our New Year’s Eve feast, with each of us making five or six appetizers for the party.

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Once we had everything laid out, the kids were set loose on that buffet of deliciousness.

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Once everyone was satiated we gathered to open our time capsule.

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Olivia did the honors…

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And everyone pulled from the container the papers that were filled out five years prior and began reading the responses to the questions on the forms. It was delightful to read the answers of the people we were five years ago and compare them to who we are and what we believe today.

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Some of the papers were downright hilarious.

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It was such a delight to see the transformations in ourselves that the kids decided they wanted to do it again, writing letters to themselves to be read in five years. This time Braden and Zach were able to add their notes to the time capsule.

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It was soon time to gather around the tv to watch the ball drop.

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Sparkling cider was poured,

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And everyone began the countdown…

10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1….Happy New Year!!

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Welcome 2020…I’m so happy to see you!

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We are all Mad Here

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On the Saturday following Christmas I had the fun opportunity to join forces with friends as we pulled off a really delightful bridal shower for a daughter of one of those friends. The theme was a Mad Hatter tea party…

Built around Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland.”

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Boy, did we have fun embracing and running with the theme!

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It was a whimsical wonder for the bride-to-be and her handsome groom.

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Here is a look at the transformation as we fell down the rabbit hole into a world of nonsense:

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Merry Christmas!

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It was a blessed Christmas, with our day spent enjoying the gift of family.

Grace and Zach had left to go home the night before. They were spending Christmas day with Zach’s side of the family, so it was just the five kids who stumbled from their beds, rubbing the sleep from their eyes on Christmas morning.

The first errand of the day was to go and pick up my Grandmother from her place before setting the kids lose on the stockings. Braden asked if he could accompany Pop Pop to go and pick her up. I’m sure he made quite a splash at her retirement home when he arrived to pick her up, still dressed in his Flash onesie.

When they returned home the adults settled into their spots in the living room and then the kids were given the all-clear to enter and check out the loot. Everyone found an empty chair or a section of floor to claim for the morning festivities and stockings were handed out.

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Stockings are a big deal in our family and they have always been the highlight of Christmas morning for me, ever since I was a young girl. We all have matching knit stockings bearing our names, so lovingly made by G.G.

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Over the last six decades she has knit dozens of stockings for each new baby and each family member that has joined the family through marriage or adoption…

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A tradition that Aunt Jane has lovingly taken on this last year, thus making sure Braden has a stocking that matches the family.

Filling the stocking is a group effort as the women all seek out fun, unusual trinkets and treats to make the stockings a magical part of Christmas morning.

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It is always a delight to see what novelty items everyone pulls from their stocking and the matching bags Gracie sewed last year to hold the overflow of gifts that inevitably can’t fit in the stockings each Christmas.

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Once everyone has sifted through their loot it is time for gifts. With two children playing Santa each year, gifts are handed out one at a time to each family member. Once everyone has a gift in hand permission is given to tear into the paper and ribbons.

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Gifts are shown and shared, so everyone can see what others received, and so I can write down and keep a record of who received what from whom, for thank-you note writing later.

We continue working our way though the pile a gift at a time until the yummy smells wafting up from the kitchen let us know that the breakfast casserole and Danishes are ready.

A break for breakfast and then we are back in the living room opening more gifts until the room is filled with torn wrapping and shiny new toys.

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The afternoon is spent enjoying the gifts of the day. New board games are pulled out to be played as a family while Christmas dinner cooks in the kitchen. Footballs get carried outside for play and Lego sets get dumped out in the corner as the building begins.

Christmas Dinner at the Homestead is a traditional affair with ham, potatoes, and side dishes galore! Our meal always ends with the breaking of the Christmas crackers found at each place setting. The loud pop and tear of cardboard reveals a paper crown and some sort of toy. This year’s Christmas crackers contained whistles. Each one played a different note, and when played together, with the use of accompanying song sheets, could make beautiful music.

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“Could” is the operative word.

Despite our efforts the noises we made never resembled anything like the song we were trying to play. Instead we sounded like a bunch of dying cats. We definitely won’t be taking our show on the road anytime soon!

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We all soon regretted my parents’ Christmas cracker choice. There is nothing more grating on the nerves than high pitched whistles in the hands of boys with severe ADHD.

After a dessert of pecan pie it was time to load up the car and head back home. Half of our crew had work the following morning, so at 7:00 pm we bid the family fare-thee-well, and headed back home.

It was another blessed Christmas at the Homestead!

 

The Magic of Christmas Eve

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Christmas Eve…a night filled with the magic of possibilities!

Nowhere is the magic more pronounced than the Christmas magic found at the Homestead on Christmas Eve.

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Toby had the day off work so we packed up the car with sleeping bags and pillows, Christmas pajamas, bags of stocking stuffers, wrapped presents, and some very excited children, and headed out to Ohio.

We arrived and were greeted by the enthusiastic barking of Ranger and Rosie, the resident German Shepherds. After long-overdue hugs with Travis and Krista, our family from the Lone Star state, and Christmas greetings with Mimi and Pop Pop, we bid them good-bye as they left for early Christmas Eve mass.

While they were gone we began preparations for our Christmas Eve feast of appetizers and dips. The spread was as abundant as it was varied.

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Everyone pitched in to help,

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With breaks taken for sampling and checking out the action on Santa Tracker.

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Despite knowing the truth about Christmas, Ozzie, my map loving kiddo, still loves watching Santa’s progress across the world on Christmas Eve.

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When the rest of the family arrived home, the celebration began in full force.

We had Grace and Zach with us on Christmas Eve for a few hours, before they left for home to spend Christmas Day with Zach’s side of the family.

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It was a joy to have them with us for our Christmas Eve traditions!

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The newlywed’s first Christmas

Our evening of fun began with our evening feast.

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We enjoyed filling our bellies with delicious food while feeding our souls with family time as we chatted and laughed together.

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The O3- united again!

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Oh,  how I love this boy of mine!

 

After dinner it was time for games and our annual white elephant gift exchange. This is a tradition that began a decade ago and always leads to many laughs.

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This is a tradition I have responsibility over, which means each year I shop for inexpensive, but ridiculous gifts, that I wrap up to look far more appealing than the gift within actually is. Dollar Tree is my usual shopping spot as it offers the weird and the unusual for as cheap as can be. After 10 years of my annual shopping trips to Dollar Tree I found I had exhausted all the possibilities for our white elephant game.

It was time to up the stakes!

Five Below, here I come!

The result of a slightly increased game budget and a new shopping venue paid dividends.

Everyone battled for gifts they were certain held treasures.

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Once everyone had a gift in hand, we all took turns unwrapping and revealing our AWESOME wins!

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Braden’s face speaks volumes!

And boy were they belly-laugh inducing!!

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Tyler enjoying his remote control poop…

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Travis trying out Krista’s voice altering machine.

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I think Grace loves her new board game!

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Mimi creating beautiful music with her piano tie.

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It was like something from a SNL skit.

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Rusty made his own Forky!

After our game we bundled up and headed to the barn for another Christmas Eve tradition…

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Dad reading the Christmas story from Luke as we sat in the stillness of the barn.

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It is always the highlight of my Christmas. There is something holy about the experience as we sit in the darkness of the barn, listening to the slow cadence of my father’s voice as he tells the story of Christ’s humble birth so many years ago…

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Interrupted only by the occasional call from a goat.

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Our time in the barn ended with the singing of a Christmas hymn and some donkey lovin’ on Georgie before we made our way back to the house.

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Grace and Zack prepared to take their leave. They had a 2 1/2 hour drive ahead of them, made all the more arduous by the thick fog that had settled on the valley…

And the other kids unwrapped their gifts of new pajamas for Christmas Eve.

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“Yabba Dabba Doo!”

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The Flash, A ballerina pig, Genie, and Jack Skellington

Warm and snuggly, they headed off for bed while the rest of us brought Christmas to life by filling the empty spaces around the tree with beautifully wrapped packages,

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And filled the stockings with trinkets and treats.

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Christmas could now arrive!

And then it was off to bed for a few stolen winks of sleep for the adults before the festive fun resumed.

 

‘Twas the Night Before, the Night Before, Christmas

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On December 23rd I received the best Christmas gift of all…

Having all my kiddos home together!

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On Monday night we picked up Ozzie in Pittsburgh, where the transport van from his residential facility dropped him off. He was as excited at the prospect of Christmas as the rest of my crew.

We arrived home and there we were joined by Grace and Zach, as well as Toby who arrived home with pizza in hand. It was our annual “The night before, the night before Christmas” party…One of my favorite nights of the Christmas season.

A few years ago we began the tradition of setting aside December 23rd for the kids to exchange gifts with one another. This tradition began when we saw that the gifts, so lovingly made or purchased by brothers and sisters, often got lost in the larger gifts from Santa and other relatives on Christmas morning. In an effort to forge connection, encourage thoughtful giving, and increase gratitude among siblings we decided to set aside a night specific to gift giving in our immediate family.

Since December 23rd was already the night we traditionally gifted the kids with their yearly Christmas ornament, we decided to make it a celebration of our immediate family before joining our extended family members on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and the days that followed.

This was one of the best ideas we had as a family and this tradition has become the highlight of my Christmas season. As a mom it brings me such joy to see the love shown among siblings as they thoughtfully bring the magic of Christmas to their siblings.

This year we switched things up a bit and rather than everyone making or buying gifts for everyone else, the siblings instead drew names and shopped for just one person, allowing everyone to really personalize their efforts and focus on showing love to one certain sibling. With Zach in the mix we now had seven kids each picking a name and shopping for one another.

The night began with the traditional reading of my favorite Christmas book of all time, one that delights me in its relatability!

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After a yummy pizza dinner it was time to begin the gift giving. We began with our ornament exchange. Every year Toby and I purchase for each child (and each other) an ornament that is reflective of interests, hobbies, or events from the past year. This was a tradition we began on Gracie’s first birthday and it is always a delight to unpack years’ worth of memories when we decorate the tree.

This year Gracie married Zach and took her 21 years worth of Christmas ornaments to her new home to decorate their first tree as a newlywed couple. This is a gift of love each child will be able to look forward to as they launch and have homes and Christmas trees of their own.

This year we focused our ornament choices on major life events for those kids who have experienced a life transition, and ornaments reflective of interests/hobbies for those who haven’t. We began handing out ornaments oldest to youngest.

Toby received a family ornament that highlights his new brood of kiddos…a brood that has grown by 2 this year through adi

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Toby continues with a two decade tradition of buying me another angel ornament for the tree. This year’s ornament he secretly purchased while we were at Disney World. (And I, of course, forgot to capture a photo of it. You’ll have to trust me when I say it is beautiful!)

This year we transitioned to a couple ornament for Grace and Zach. It had to reflect their new and exciting journey as husband and wife. This is what we chose:

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Molly’s ornament celebrated her graduation from 21st Century Cyber Charter School and her exciting launch into adulthood.

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Rusty’s ornament celebrated his beginning college classes through CCBC’s duel enrollment program. He is going to school to be a drone pilot.

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Braden experienced one of the family’s biggest life changes this year when he was adopted into our forever family. His ornament couldn’t be anything but a celebration of that wonderful day!

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Ozzie’s ornament was so perfectly Ozzie, that I had to buy it when I found it online. What ornament could be more perfect for my weather loving 15-year-old than a Galileo thermometer ornament for the tree!

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And Tyler’s “to-cool-for-school,” low-riding Santa, with accompanying soundtrack, fit our youngest perfectly!!

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Then it was time for the sibling gift exchange!!

Braden’s gift to Grace was a new lunch bag and thermos for her to take to work.

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Tyler bought Zach a few new board games.

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Rusty found a perfect gift for Ozzie. Ozzie loves puzzles and Rusty found a set of six mini puzzles online that are packages to look like mini boxes of cereal. He paired the puzzles with an actual variety pack of sample cereals.

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Gracie’s gift to Molly was equally personal and extra special. In honor of Molly’s upcoming temple experience Grace bought Molly a necklace bearing a stone setting made from the same marble as the Palmyra, NY Temple, where Molly will soon be making covenants with the Lord.

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Molly’s gift for Braden was two parts. The first was a new Sunday tie she purchased for him from Etsy that bears the symbol of his favorite superhero- The Flash. She also made him an affirmation jar filled with 100 strips of paper listing the things she loves and admires about him.

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Zach had Rusty’s name and bought him a Wall-E Disney-bounding outfit.

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Rusty also received a bonus gift from Toby…The world’s largest water bottle!! Rusty is our water drinker and is never without a water bottle in hand. We tease him about his excessive water consumption, so when Toby stumbled across this gigantic water bottle he couldn’t help but pick it up for Rusty.

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After the siblings had all exchanged gifts it was time for Toby and I to open our gifts from the kids. This was another tradition added to December 23rd for the same reason as the sibling gift exchange. We wanted to be able to really appreciate and focus on the gifts of love from our children without them getting lost in the chaos of Christmas morning. It is always a joy and a delight to see the amount of time, thought, creativity and effort our children put into showing us their love through their Christmas gifts.

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This note from Tyler is a keeper!!!

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Rusty knows what brings his dad joy.

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Ozzie carved and painted this Christmas plaque for me in workshop. Another treasure!

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Toby also received a jar of 100 affirmations from Miss Molly. A gift that will be treasured even more in her absence!

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And Rusty painted me a charming picture. I love Rusty originals!!

It was at the end of opening our gifts from the kids that Ozzie received his big surprise that we revealed in the last blog.

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It was a blessed night of loving and giving.

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My cup overfloweth!

 

Christmas Surprises!

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It was a week-long Christmas celebration at Patchwork Farm as we spread the magic of the day over five days, beginning with our big Christmas surprise reveal on the 22nd, and concluding our week of celebration five days later when we enjoyed a Christmas dinner and gift exchange with Mimi Joy.

Over the next few blogs we will share our family’s celebration of Christ’s birth and the family traditions that accompany this special season,

Beginning with a not-so-traditional surprise on December 22nd.

This year was our first year without believers in the home, and as sad as it is to transition to this next phase of parenting, it does offer certain advantages. One of those advantages is that we could be more untraditional in our gift giving. Last year we surprised the kids with a family vacation as their gift from Mom and Dad and then had small gifts under the tree on Christmas morning from the “big man.”

I loved it. As someone who puts far more value on family time and shared experiences than gifts that can be wrapped in paper, I thought it was our best Christmas ever. This year we talked about doing something similar, and rather than dumping a whole lot of money into stuff that will eventually break or wear out, why not put that money into creating memories that will last forever?!

Once that was our train of though the next step was choosing what that experience or trip would be. We weighed the possibilities of having each child receive a personal experience as their Christmas gift or planning a trip for the entire family. We ended up doing a little of both. We decided that a family trip would be the primary gift for most of the family, with Ozzie being the exception to the rule. Unfortunately, he is not cleared yet for extended home visits or family trips, so we planned a Christmas gift experience for Ozzie that was his alone to look forward to, and in the end was a far better surprise for Ozzie than any family trip we could gift him with.

The decision to gift the kids with a family vacation was spurred on in large part by Molly’s decision to take an 18 month leave from her schooling and serve a mission for our church. In the next few weeks we will find out where she will be serving and when she will be leaving. On her application she listed her first availability date as March 15th, so we decided we wanted to squeeze in a family vacation at the start of the year, before Molly left for 18 months.

Toby worked his magic and found an amazing deal that allowed for this awesome Christmas surprise.

On December 22nd, when Grace and Zach came over for Sunday dinner, the kids all received their Christmas gift. (Ozzie received his big surprise the following day when we returned home for Christmas.) We had the kids gather in the living room with their eyes shut and their hands out…

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They each received a bag filled with themed goodies…

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1, 2, 3…OPEN!

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We are taking the family on a 5-day cruise to the Bahamas!

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Merry Christmas!

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The following evening Ozzie received his Christmas gift.

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He received tickets to a NASCAR race…a gift he will enjoy far more than a family vacation.

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Here is his reaction to his Christmas surprise…

Needless to say, he was thrilled to the point of tears!

2020 promises to be a memory-making year!

 

 

 

A December Catch-Up!

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In the midst of many holiday celebrations, we have also carved out moments of everyday living. Here are some of the moments that have made up our month…

This month Toby finds himself up to his eyeballs in work, and thus unable to find a spare moment to go out hunting. Deer hunting is one of those activities where the fruits of Toby’s labor are as beneficial as the activity is fun. A deer or two in the freezer definitely lightens the burden on the grocery budget!

That is why we were thrilled when one of Toby’s buddies from the Beaver County Metal Detecting Club called to say he had gotten a deer while hunting that morning but wasn’t interested in the meat. He wanted to know if we wanted it. Toby responded with a definitive, “Yes!”

So, on a Tuesday night while I headed off to a Stake Relief Society presidency meeting for my new church calling, Rusty and Tyler helped Toby butcher a deer. I think I got the better deal that Tuesday night! When I arrived home at 10:00 pm the task was nearly complete, with bags of ground venison stacked and ready for the freezer, roasts had been set aside for future crock pot meals, and jerky was being smoked to perfection!

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As grateful as we were for a freezer full of meat, the deer population took their revenge on our family when we were hit by a deer on our way to take Braden down to visit Pap (his first adoptive father) the following week.

Let me be clear…

We DID NOT hit a deer.

The deer hit us!

It deer hit us while running full speed into the side of our SUV, taking out our side mirror and denting in the front and back doors of the vehicle’s left side so severely that the doors wouldn’t open.  The deer knocked itself out with the impact of the collision. Convinced it was dead, Toby dragged it off the road. As soon as Toby let go of its legs it jumped up and took off into the woods, none the worse for wear, leaving us with expensive repairs.

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If this was a hired hit by the deer population, they definitely came out the victors!

Our 70 pounds of free deer meat wasn’t worth the insurance detectable and inconvenience of a month without our GMC.

Luckily our auto insurance covered the expense of a rental car to get us through the following few weeks. It was far nicer than any car we have ever owned and far too “smart” for my liking, but Tyler loved the sun roof. Despite the December temperatures he insisted we take full advantage of our short time owning a car that let the sun shine down on our faces as we cruised around.

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Tyler has been my sidekick a lot lately. With older siblings out of the house or busy with school, work and sports, Tyler and I often find ourselves home alone together. This was how I found him when I came out of my room the other morning. A nightmare drove him from bed in the night and he ended up falling asleep on the couch. This was his sleeping position when I found him.

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He is still cyber schooling and loving his classes. He has great teachers and great friends that he interacts with daily through his live classes. The other day he joined other classmates in creating “snow” as part of a science experiment on chemical reactions.

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This month Ozzie was able to come home two weekends ago for a home pass. We made plans to take him out for a fun, Christmassy activity that was all Ozzie! We went to see some trains!

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Trains are Ozzie’s new interest. Those who know Oz, know that Ozzie is an “all in” sort of kid when it comes to hobbies and interests. When he is interested in something it becomes his entire focus and he becomes an expert in that subject. Some of his interests include cars, weather, NASCAR and now train sets. He has been diligently studying all there is to know about train sets, making plans for a future train set he intends on building in our basement. When we told him we made plans to meet Grace and Zach at a local holiday train display, he was over-the-moon excited. He packed a notepad and pencil so he could take notes and jot down ideas for his future set.

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We arrived to find Zach and Grace already there. Tyler also joined us for the excursion. The museum offered a train set scavenger hunt. Tyler joined Zach as they hunted their way through the minitures in search of the items on the scavenger hunt list.

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Ozzie had no interest in the scavenger hunt. He was far more interested in the workings of the trains and the logistics behind the set’s creation. He lucked out and the designer and creater of the train display was on hand to answer his questions…

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And Ozzie asked a lot of questions!

He was eager to “talk shop” with someone that could make recommendations, give advice, and advise him on how to start building his dream set!

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 Ozzie also had me take LOTS of pictures for reference.

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It was a perfect holiday activity for Ozzie to enjoy with Tyler, Grace and Zach!

Speaking of Zach…

Our newest son had a birthday this month. Gracie’s husband, Zach, turned 23 and our gift to him was tickets to the Trans Siberian Orchestra Christmas Concert.

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Days before Christmas, Grace and Zach joined us for a double date in Pittsburgh as we enjoyed an AMAZING TSO concert in celebration of Zach’s birthday.

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So much fun squeezed into one short month!!

 

A Co-op Christmas Party

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It had been two months since we had seen many of our friends from co-op. Months longer for some of our other friends. Friday was a blessed reunion when we were able to reunite with co-op friends, new and old, for a Christmas party.

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We met up at the church of one of the co-op families for a potluck lunch and playtime with friends. The kids enjoyed “friend time” with co-op buddies, and I loved catching up with all the mommas who are some of my nearest and dearest friends. I don’t get nearly enough time with these ladies who are soul-sisters that feed my spirit and buoy me up. They have been my tribe of people for the last decade, walking beside us and supporting us through our greatest challenges.

It was wonderful to sit, and share, and catch up with each other’s lives.

After lunch we gathered the kids for their white elephant gift exchange…

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Some walked away with junk and others lucked out, picking wisely, and left with treasures,

But regardless of what gifts were unwrapped, everyone was gifted with laughs and merry memories!

I love this gang of people!