Meet Olive!



Well, we are home.

And while home is a lovely place to be I must admit the transition from life as a gypsy back to a life filled with schedules, appointments, farm chores, phone calls, and responsibility has been a tough adjustment.

I finally feel like I have my footing again and have adjusted to the point that I can blog and share what is new with us at Patchwork Farm.

I wasn’t the only one who struggled with the adjustment from life on the road back to life at home. It was an interesting experiment in character and temperament to see which kids relished the nomadic lifestyle and which ones struggled with life on the road.

Overall  everyone did well and enjoyed our once in a lifetime adventure, but some “thrived” while others simply “managed.”

This was most notable with our two youngest.

I anticipated that this trip might challenge Ozzie. Ozzie is a child who does best with a rigid routine, predictability, quiet time, and opportunities to isolate from others. This trip offered little of that. In the months leading up to our trip we worked with our therapist to identify possible struggles and make a plan that Ozzie could use to find some quiet time in our travels. Even with that preparation this lifestyle was not one that suited Ozzie’s temperament and he struggled with the abundance of family togetherness, a tough thing for Reactive Attachment kids.

For a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder and Autism, a life of living on the road, with intense family bonding experiences and little routine or predictability, is very hard.

He loved the vacation. He loved the sites and the opportunities to see and learn but there was a noticeable exhale of relief when we pulled into the driveway and he could run up to his room and shut the door.

Tyler on the other hand came to life on this vacation. He was a different child. He was joyful and engaged. He was extroverted and confident. He was eager to learn and willingly put himself in social situations that would have shut him down emotionally had we been at home.

For a child with PTSD and ADHD, a life of constant changing experiences, exciting new sights, and new people to meet, all while living in close proximity to the people who bring a sense of safety and security, resulted in miraculous changes.

Tyler’s anxiety all but disappeared as he spent 24/7 surrounded by people who could keep him safe, all within arm reach from any corner of the bus.

Coming home has been hard for Tyler.

On the first night home he broke down in tears and asked, “Why can’t we just all live in the bus?”

I often tell people that we could not have adopted little boys who were more different.. They are extreme opposites in their looks, stature, strengths, weaknesses and even in their struggles. This extreme contradiction makes parenting them a challenge because in my efforts to meet the needs of one child I am giving the other child the opposite of what they stand in need of. Case in point: this trip. One thrived. One struggled. Now that we are home the other is thriving and little brother struggles.

It is a challenging juggling act and that description is a simplification of reality because there are also three other children and a husband whose wants and needs need to be considered.

It seems that, whether right or wrong, my way of meeting the diverse needs of everyone is to “triage.” I do this by meeting the needs of the child most in crisis at the moment, as I shared in this previous blog post:

I now find myself trying to save Tyler from a heart gushing wound as he faces the fears that have consumed him for years but have reemerged after a two month vacation that did more to address his anxiety than all the medication management in the world.

Tyler’s early childhood has a storyline that would shake you to the core and leave you sleepless. The horrors of Hollywood films don’t hold a candle to the horrors he experienced at the hands of the very people that were entrusted to protect him. The result is severe PTSD. He lives with constant fear but is debilitated by the fears that awake as night approaches. Like most little boys he fears the monsters that lurk in the dark corners of his room. The difference, however, is he knows what the faces of those monsters look like. He knows they are real. He knows the hurts they can inflict, and he is terrified they will return.

For over a year Tyler’s anxiety has increased. I won’t go into all that results from such severe trauma memories but suffice it to say that I am dead on my feet after a 4-5 hour bedtime routine every night. My heart breaks for him and rages against the adults responsible. I consider myself a forgiving individual but after parenting the trauma inflicted on both my boys by the very people that were supposed to protect them I am convinced there is a special corner of hell reserved for those that hurt the innocents of the world.

About a year ago, as we were discussing treatment options with Tina, our therapist, she suggested a emotional support dog for Tyler. She shared that she had been praying about Tyler and how to help him and this came to mind. She spoke of the success she has seen with a friend that raises and trains dogs for soldiers returning from Afghanistan who also suffer from PTSD.

Long story, short, we spent this last year praying for the right dog and the right time and through a series of “God-incidences” we find ourselves with a new addition.

Her name is Olive.


She is a 10 week old Great Dane.


It was after speaking with the trainer and her suggestions for breeds that would be a good match for Tyler that we decided on Olive.


We needed a breed that had a impressive, threatening stature that Tyler could believe would physically be able to protect him from the father he believes is going to try to come and kill him,


Olive’s Dad.


but also a breed that is incredibly gentle and loyal.


Olive came home on Monday night.



Tyler has slept in his room with Olive at his feet ever since.  For the first time in over a year we have been able to get him to sleep in his room without acting out in his anxiety with destructive or self-injurious behaviors. He has fallen asleep within minutes rather than fighting to stay awake for hours  in fear of what will happen when he closes his eyes.


He finally feels safe.

I wish I could convey the weight that has been lifted from this Momma’s shoulders. I could weep with joy at the rest I see in Tyler’s body and the peace I see in his eyes.


Toby leaves to go back to Michigan to finish my sister’s addition in a day or two and he will be gone for 6 weeks. This will be the true test of Tyler’s confidence and trust in Olive. With Daddy gone can he still feel safe?

I pray that is the case!

What a Trip it has Been!



It was almost 10,000 miles.

We traveled through 22 states.

Over the period of 7 weeks.

We visited 13 National Parks,

and hiked miles and miles of this beautiful country.

Brand new shoes, purchased at the start of the trip,

were worn clean through by the end.

A walking testament to all that was seen and done.


For those who have forgotten or our joining us more recently, here is a recap of where we have spent the last 50 days.

Day 1: Travel to St. Louis, Missouri with a stop at the Columbus Zoo.


Day 2: Tyler’s 10th birthday! Explore the City Museum in St. Louis, Missouri


Day 3: St. Louis Arch


Day 4: Tour Hannibal, Missouri. Home of Mark Twain.


Day 5: Drive to De Smet, South Dakota

Day 6: Tour Laura Ingalls Wilder’s homestead and then on to Mitchell, South Dakota to see the Corn Palace.


Day 7: Visit 1800’s town, South Dakota.


Day 8: A stop at Wall Drug and a visit to Badlands National Park.


Day 9: Day 1 in Rapid City, South Dakota: Bear Country USA, Storybook Island, the Dinosaur Park, and a chuck wagon dinner.


Day 10: Wildlife Loop at Custer State Park to see the world’s largest free roaming buffalo herd in the morning and then a visit to a mammoth fossil dig site in the afternoon.


Day 11: Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse monuments.

mt rushmore


Day 12: Check out Devil’s Tower.


Day 13: Day 1 in Yellowstone National Park


Day 14: Day 2 in Yellowstone National Park.


Day 15: Visit Grand Tetons and go swimming in hot springs.


Day 16: College tour of BYU Idaho.

Day 17: Visit temple square in Salt Lake City, Utah and swim in the Great Salt Lake.

salt lake


Day 18: College tour of BYU in Provo, Utah.


Day 19:  Travel to Yosemite National Park.

Day 20: Visit Yosemite National Park in California.


Day 21: Visit Sequoia National Park, California.


Day 22: A day swimming in the Pacific Ocean at Newport Beach, CA.


Day 23-27: Disneyland, California. This was the big surprise of the trip. The kids just found out the day before we left.🙂

Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse statue at Disneyland California. Image shot 2009. Exact date unknown.

Day 28: Las Vegas. Tour Hoover Dam.


Day 29: See the sites of Las Vegas.

las vegas

Day 30: Another (unexpected day) in Las Vegas.


Day 31: Visit the Grand Canyon.

Day 32: Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.


Day 33: Arches National Park, Utah.


Day 34: Visit Mesa Verde National Park to see the cliff dwellings and stop at Four Corners monument.



Day 35: Visit Petroglyph National Monument.

Day 36: A stop in Roswell, NM while driving past on our way to Carlsbad Caverns.


Day 37: A cave tour of Carlsbad Caverns with my brother, Travis.


Day 38: Drive all day to Branson, Missouri. (See David and Jen along the way)

Day 39: Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri.


Day 40: Second day in Silver Dollar City.

Day 41: Explore Branson, Missouri and tour the Titanic Museum.


Day 42: Branson, Missouri.


Day 43: Rusty’s 15th birthday. Spend the day in Marceline, Missouri, home of Rusty’s hero: Walt Disney.


Day 44and 45: Visit Mimi Joy who is serving a mission in the Independence Missouri mission.

Day 46: Visit Nauvoo, Illinois.


Day 47: Drive toward home.

Day 48: Home Sweet Home!

For 7 weeks our family 0f seven lived in our converted school bus which was lovingly named, “The Rolling Gnomes.”

We slept, ate, did school, and traveled together in 280 square feet.

For 7 of those days our 280 square feet felt like 20 square feet as we lived without the boys’ ADHD medication thanks to restrictive state laws regarding controlled medications.

Our little bus climbed mountains almost 10,000 feet high feet and at Carlsbad Caverns we explored 750 feet below the earth.

We crossed wind swept prairies, majestic mountains, mighty rivers, and desolate deserts.

We made it to the Pacific Ocean and then turned around and drove back home.

Along the way we gained a greater appreciation for our country, and a greater connection as a family.

As a family we grew and learned lessons about ourselves, about our nation, and about each other.

We learned:

About the incredible natural beauty found in the United States of America and gained a greater appreciation for the conservation efforts that have preserved this country’s natural beauty.

On the 100 year anniversary of the National Park Service we were able to explore some of the prettiest sites we have ever seen.

In the NPS’s “Find Your Park” campaign we each found “our park…

each of us falling in love with certain areas of the country and the beauty found there.find-your-park

Here are our “Find your Park” National Park choices:

Toby and Grace’s favorite national park was Grand Tetons National Park.

Rusty’s favorite was Arches National Park.

Molly’s favorite park was the Grand Canyon.

Ozzie loved Mt. Rushmore.

Tyler’s chosen park was Badlands National Park.

And my personal favorite was Devil’s Tower.

Some favorite stops included the City Museum of St. Louis, Silver Dollar City, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Homestead, Titanic Museum , 1880’s town,

and of course, Disneyland!

We fell in love with the Black Hills of South Dakota,

and were little impressed with Nevada and California.

But the greatest revelation that came from our travels was how good the people of this country are.

We met some of the kindest people in our travels, and in all our interactions with thousands of strangers we had only one negative experience.

It was reassuring and empowering to see the goodness that shone forth across this great nation. In an era of sickening news reports and political filth, it is easy to assume that the loudest voices, the ones highlighted on our evening news, represent the majority of American opinion.

But I have found that to not be the case.

The people of this country are good…no, great.

They are moral, and kind. They are friendly and helpful.

They are proud people who love their country and long for its leaders to raise their standards and be better.

On this trip we made many new friends and the experience lit a flame of hope in me that despite the immoral, disgusting, self serving faces seen clamoring to be the representative and voice of the American people,

the people of America are so much better than the faces that represent them.

As we traveled I fell in love with my country and came home with a renewed spirit of pride in our history, our culture, and our citizens.

Through this experience I discovered a buried gypsy within my soul that fell in love with the simplicity of tiny house living and the life of a nomad.

It is good to be home…

To see the people we love.

To soak in a bathtub rather than shower in camp showers.

We loved being reunited with our animals,

But I’m already missing life on the road and look forward to seeing where the Rolling Gnome bus takes us in the future!

Thanks for traveling with us.

It has been a grand adventure!

Rockwell Mound


After leaving Nauvoo, Illinois we began the LONG 13 hour trek back to Pittsburgh. Along the way we kept our eyes open for fun, “off the beaten track” sites of roadside America that we might want to see on our trip back home. As we drove through Havana, Illinois I caught sight of a sign for Rockwell Mound.

In the K12 curriculum I have used for each of my kids in elementary school they have studied the Mound Builders, but we have never had the opportunity to actually visit and see in person this ancient mounds built by early Native Americans.


We made a small detour to check out this cool piece of history.

Here is a little info about this unexpected detour:


The mound with its rounded hill was a place given to speeches and was even the site of a Lincoln Douglas debate, although not on the same day. Stephen Douglas spoke in Rockwell Park on August 13, 1858; then Abraham Lincoln spoke there the following day.

While the hill lent itself to speeches the history of this piece of land goes back much further. According to the facts at the site, Rockwell Mound is the second largest Indian mound in the Midwest.

Michael Wiant, Director of the Dickson Mounds said this is an important mound that was built by their best estimate between 1800-2000 years ago. While he thinks this may be a burial mound, he added, “There was very little excavation done, we can only say it was a mound built by humans.”.

He added that while most of the artifacts have been found in farmer’s fields there is little that can still be seen of this culture and the mounds offers that visual image.

The mound is called Rockwell Mound because N.J. Rockwell donated the ground to the community in 1849 the site was not confirmed as an Indian mound until 1986 when test probes showed artifacts within that dated the mound to around 150 AD. The Middle Woodland People were part of the Mound Builders.
An article by Charles Hinrichs states, “An estimated 1,760,000 baskets full of earth went into the construction of this 2-acre, 14′-high mound.”

There wasn’t much to see on site, only two plaques that shared the history of the site, but it was still a cool, unexpected stop along our way home.

It is always neat to see in person the sites we have studied through the pictures of our history books!

After a 13 hour drive we arrived home at 4:15 am. We promptly hugged the dogs and crawled into our beds for the most restful sleep we’ve had in 7 weeks.

We will fill you in on the final moments of our trip in the next blog.

Historic Old Nauvoo



From Missouri we moved into Nauvoo, following the path of early church members as they moved to Nauvoo…

“As the Latter-day Saints fled Missouri during the winter of 1838–1839, having been threatened by the governor of that state with extermination, they crossed into Illinois and settled in a swampy area along the Mississippi River that they named Nauvoo. Over the next few years, an estimated 16,000 Latter-day Saints took up residence in the city and its surrounding communities. It became one of the largest cities in Illinois at the time and an important commercial center on the upper Mississippi.

Many in the surrounding communities continued to harass the Latter-day Saints, and on 27 June 1844, a painted mob shot to death  Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum. Despite the rapidly escalating tension in the area, the Latter-day Saints continued at great sacrifice to complete a temple in the city, even while they prepared for a mass exodus to the West. Between February and September 1846, most of the Latter-day Saints took up their march to the West, leaving their homes, their city, and their temple to the hands of those who had not built and the hearts of those who did not care.

Today Nauvoo is a significant historic district, with many of the buildings in the original townsite rebuilt or restored and open for the public to visit.”


This was our first time to Nauvoo and we fell in love with this quaint corner of Illinois. It had a feeling much like historic Williamsburg, as we moved from  building to building, through a town of historic and recreated buildings from the 1840’s. The senior missionaries were dressed in period clothing and demonstrated life from the 1840’s through activities in each shop.

Historic Nauvoo consists of 30 different historic buildings in the village, the visitor’s center and the Nauvoo temple.

What sets Nauvoo apart from other historical villages is the spirit felt there. I loved the education we acquired at each stop about what life would have been like in historic Nauvoo, but appreciated even more the spiritual messages and sweet testimonies born by our tour guides.

Here are some of the favorite stops we made as we discovered Historic Nauvoo:

Visit the Scovil Bakery to experience a baker’s lifestyle before the days of electric and gas ovens. See the baking equipment of the 1840s, original Temple Plates, and many other items used for baking during the Nauvoo period. The Scovil Bakery was one of several such establishments in Nauvoo in the 1840s



Here we were able to taste the bakery’s homemade gingerbread cookies.


Chauncey Webb, along with his father and brothers, owned and operated this blacksmith and wagon shop.


 This shop has been reconstructed on its original foundation. When you visit, you will learn how wagon wheels were constructed, and you will see a wagon, loaded with supplies, ready to cross the plains. Everyone who visits receives a “prairie diamond” ring, made from a horseshoe nail, to take home as a souvenir.



We were given a souvenir horseshoe and each family member received a “prairie diamond” ring.



Imagine setting type for a weekly newspaper by hand, carefully placing each tiny letter in a composing stick backwards. Here you can see a period printing press and learn about the time-consuming labors necessary to print documents in the 1840s. In this shop, you’ll learn various printing terms and see the process of printing a newspaper in Old Nauvoo.


Discover the interior of a log schoolroom and cabin. Visitors have fun doing lessons on old-fashioned slates and learn fascinating facts about life in Old Nauvoo. Calvin and his family left Nauvoo in 1846. At Winter Quarters, he was asked to remain with Jonathan Browning to provide guns for the pioneers who were headed west.


Tour the Jonathan Browning Home and Gun Shop and learn about the humble beginnings of the worldwide Browning Arms Corporation. See authentic rifles, handguns, and shotguns from the early 1800s and their present-day counterparts. In this shop, you’ll see a fine display of firearms made by Jonathan and his descendants.


Brickyard: Many early settlers lived for years in log cabins while they built their brick homes, only to enjoy them for a few short months before they left to begin their trek westward. The brickmaker will demonstrate how bricks were formed, dried and baked here in Old Nauvoo. You may take home a souvenir Nauvoo brick to help you remember your visit


Here we received one of the souvenir bricks made daily at the brickyard. I loved the spiritual message given here as the gentleman described the process of hardening the bricks in the oven and the affect additional heat has on the bricks and how that analogy compares to the heat or trials in our own lives. Those times can make us hard or they can make us strong.

In the evening we attended one of the many wonderful shows offered to the public in historic Nauvoo: “Rendezvous in Old Nauvoo.”


If you are coming to Nauvoo, you must see this show. This delightful musical comedy, performed by senior tour guides, tells the story of the Latter-day Saints who built Nauvoo in the 1840′s, and then had to leave the city they loved.

 Will George find the peace and quiet he needs?
Will Abigail ever get a pickle barrel?
Will horses with wings ever leave Nauvoo?

 Find out the answers and come and see the story, laugh, ponder and shed a tear for Old Nauvoo.


The next morning we spent time at the Family Living Center, an area geared toward children, where crafts and trades of the 1840’s are demonstrated. This hands-on area was a hit with the kids.


Guests can view demonstrations in a wide variety of 19th-century trades such as spinning,


bread making,


candle making,


pottery, rope and barrel making.


Tie everything together as you help the rope maker create another length.


Finish it all off with the baker, and taste delicious bread from the brick oven. A must stop for the children!


This homemade bread was incredible. Here is the recipe as shared on their website:

Family Living Center Wheat Bread
8 Loaves
In a large mixing bowl, add all the following ingredients in the order listed.
2 Tablespoons yeast 1 cup Sugar (if honey, add after water) 1 cup Powdered Milk ½ cup Potato Flakes 5 cups Warm Water  Stir mixture with wooden spoon to dissolve milk and potato flakes.
Then add: 5 cups Wheat Flour 6 cups Bread Flour Mix ingredients until gooey ball (shaggy mass) is formed.
Add salt and oil on top. (do not mix in until after the dough rests) ½ cup oil 2 tablespoons salt Let the dough rest 10 minutes to allow time for flour to absorb moisture.
Lightly mix oil and salt into the dough then empty onto a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic – about 10 minutes.  Additional flour may be needed to produce a medium dough – but not too stiff.
Place dough back into the bowl (oil inside of bowl) and place in the proofer box to rise until double.  (bowl of hot water should be in the box prior to this point).  No need to cover dough with a towel. (at home you can warm oven to lowest temperature,  put in a pan of water and then turn off the oven and this will be like a proofing box)   After dough has doubled (about 1 hour) empty onto the floured surface and divide into 8 pieces (do not punch down).  Flatten (pinch and push) and round each piece and cover and let rest for 15 minutes – dough will start to rise again.
Flatten (pinch and push) and round dough again and place on baking sheets.  Cover for final rise.  When finger indention remains in dough it is ready to bake.  Score each round with a tic tack toe pattern (on the four outer edges) or score across the top — only ¼” deep.
Ideal oven temperature for the bread will be about 420 degrees. After baking 20 minutes insert the temperature probe into one of the loaves and close the oven door.  When the temperature reaches 195 to 200 degrees the bread is done.  The second batch of bread should take 10-15 minutes longer because of the lower temp at the start of the bake. At home you can bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes.

We ended our visit to historic Nauvoo with a oxen ride. What a cool experience!

A yoke of real oxen will pull you in a covered wagon across the “Mormon Trail” – in the record time of fifteen minutes! Oxen were used by many migrating pioneers because of their great strength. However, they could take some time to train, as Abner Blackburn noted about his near-wild oxen:  ”I was in the trail part of the time, and that was when I was crossing it.” Oxen would also eat anything that was green, unlike a horse or mule who preferred grain. This is one of the best photo opportunities in Nauvoo.


From there we drove to Carthage, Illinois, the location of Carthage Jail where the martyrdom of Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith took place.


“At the Carthage Jail on June 27, 1844, a mob murdered Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum, who thus sealed their testimonies of Jesus Christ with their blood.

Several days earlier, Joseph Smith and others voluntarily went to Carthage, the county seat located about 20 miles southeast of Nauvoo, to answer charges of civil disturbance. Joseph and Hyrum were held in Carthage Jail pending trial and were guaranteed protection from mob violence by the governor of Illinois.


Joseph, Hyrum, John Taylor, and Willard Richards were in the jailer’s upstairs bedroom when a mob stormed the jail shortly after five o’clock. Joseph and his brother were shot and killed, John Taylor was seriously wounded, and Willard Richards escaped unharmed. The mob fled, and the martyrs’ bodies were taken back to Nauvoo the next day.


The jail was used for about 25 years and then became a private residence. The Church purchased the building and property in 1903. To commemorate the sesquicentennial of the Martyrdom in 1994, the jail was restored to its appearance at the time of Joseph and Hyrum’s death.”



Willard Richards  1840–1854 

Willard Richards, an eyewitness of the assassination of the Smith brothers, wrote these words the same day: “A shower of musket balls were thrown up the stairway against the door of the prison in the second story, followed by many rapid footsteps. . . .


“A ball was sent through the door which hit Hyrum on the side of his nose, when he fell backwards, extended at length, without moving his feet. . . .


“Joseph attempted, as the last resort, to leap the . . . window, . . . when two balls pierced him from the door, and one entered his right breast from without, and he feel outward, exclaiming, ‘Oh Lord, my God!’


As his feet went out of the window my head went in, the balls whistling all around. He fell on his left side a dead man.”


What an incredible experience touring this place was.

From there we began driving east…almost home!


Visiting Mimi Joy!


We arrived in Mimi’s neck of the woods on Tuesday. Toby’s mother, Joy, has been serving an 18 month mission for our church. We have not seen her in 15 months, so a stop to see her in Missouri was at the top of our list as we planned our trip itinerary.


She is serving in the Independence Missouri Mission and lives in Trenton, Missouri with her companion, who we have affectionately adopted as our new Aunt Sue.


We met on Tuesday morning at the Independence Visitor Center, the start of our tour of historical church sites in the area. This visit was a double blessing. We were able to visit Mimi Joy and tour some special historically significant places in our church’s history.

The best part was that we had two fabulous, personal, missionary tour guides to show us around.

On the first day we visited the

Independence Visitor Center:

Independence:  Identified as the center place of Zion. A temple site was dedicated on August 3, 1831. The Saints were driven from Jackson County in 1833. Here the visitor center focused on the story of the pioneers during their time in Missouri. 


Liberty Jail:

Liberty Jail:  Joseph Smith and others were unjustly imprisoned here from December 1838 to April 1839. In the midst of troubled times for the Church, Joseph called on the Lord for direction.


Far West Temple Site:

Far West:  This was the largest Mormon settlement in Missouri. A site for a temple was dedicated at this location. Here on July 8, 1838, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles received a call from the Lord to serve missions in the British Isles

and the site of the Haun’s Mill massacre:

“Haun’s Mill, Caldwell County, Missouri is the site of one of the great tragedies in early Mormon history. It was here that a mob of some 240 men attacked the LDS settlement centered around a mill on Shoal Creek operated by Jacob Hawn. At least seventeen men were killed and others wounded.”

The following morning we visited Adam-Ondi-Ahman, where we met a church historian from the area who gave us a very special tour of this holy site.


It was an incredible experience!


Preacher’s Rock


After a picnic lunch we drove to see a few other fun sites in the area, including:

The Squirrel Cage Jail:

“The design and size of the Historic  Squirrel Cage Jail make it a one-of-a-kind structure.  It was one of 18 revolving (“squirrel cage”, “human rotary”, or “lazy Susan”) jails built.   Built at a cost of about $30,000,  our unique jail has revolving pie-shaped cells inside a cage. 

The design was the invention of William H. Brown and Benjamin F. Haugh, both of Indianapolis, Indiana.  A patent issued to them on July 12, 1881, declared, “The object of our invention is to produce a jail in which prisoners can be controlled without the necessity of personal contact between them and the jailer.”  It was to provide “maximum security with minimum jailer attention.”  As one deputy put it, “If a jailer could count … and he had a trusty he could trust … he could control the jail”.

Today, only 3 revolving jails remain:  a one-story structure in Gallatin, Missouri; a two-story jail in Crawfordsville, Indiana; and the unique three-story jail in Council Bluffs, Iowa.  All three are preserved as museums.”


and a visit to the town of Hamilton:

Hamilton, once known for being home to J.C. Penny, is now known for its quilt shops. Although not a sewer myself, I couldn’t help but be impressed by this little town filled with beautiful fabric shops, each themed with different fabric patterns.

“Little ol’ Hamilton, Missouri has become a quilter’s paradise—some might even call it the “Disneyland of quilting.” A dozen beautiful shops line the main street, enticing restaurants have come to town, and there’s always something new to find!

At MSQC, there’s plenty to love. Shop in specialty stores dedicated to seasonal fabrics, primitives, Civil War and 1930’s reproductions, gorgeous batiks, colorful solids, fresh modern prints, and much more! It might be a bit of a drive, but we promise it’s worth the trip. Get ready for the ultimate quilting experience here in Hamilton.”


The coolest shop on the street, however, was….Man’s land!

This brilliant marketing touchdown is a man cave for husbands. Located in the center of a dozen fabric stores, this room is filled with leather recliners, big screen TVs, books and magazines, a pool table and vending machine…

everything a guy might need to settle in for the day while his wife heads out with his wallet in hand.


We ended our visit with a tour of Mimi’s missionary apartment. The kids loved seeing where Mimi lived and asking questions about life as a missionary.


The also met “Larry,” a funny mask that Aunt Sue and Mimi have fun hiding from each other in an ongoing prank.

Everyone had to try on “Larry.” Can you guess who is who?


We concluded our visit with a delicious Chinese buffet dinner out. Our time with Mimi was short but very sweet. It was great seeing everyone get reacquainted and wonderful seeing how happy Mimi is in Missouri.

Our visit to Missouri church history sites was all the more memorable,

sharing them with Sister Mimi McCleery!

We love you, Mimi!

Walt Disney’s Hometown


“A Dream is a Wish you Heart Makes”


Rusty had dreamed of visiting the hometown of his hero, Walt Disney. This trip afforded us the opportunity to take him to Marceline, Missouri on his 15th birthday…

A  magical way to spend his special day!

The United States has three permanent museums devoted to Walt Disney. Each is terrific in a different way. In San Francisco, the Walt Disney Family Museum is the most spectacular—a real “E” ticket. In Central Florida, Walt Disney, One Man’s Dream, a “must see” attraction for Disney fans at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, is the most convenient to visit—at least if you’re a Walt Disney World guest. And somewhere near the center of the continental United States, the Walt Disney Hometown Museum is the most personal.


We drove into Marceline, Missouri (pop. 2230) on Monday morning and discovered a small Midwestern town that seemed trapped in time, looking much as it might have when Walt was a young boy walking down Main Street with his mother.

We arrived at the museum to find a lovely, older woman watering the flowers in the beautiful garden that sits beside the old train depot where the museum resides.

She sadly informed us that the museum was closed on Mondays. What a disappointment! We were so looking forward to this special birthday experience for Rusty.

She encouraged us to return later in the week when we were passing back through, but told us that there were other Disney sites that we could see around town, despite the museum being closed.

We decided to do just that and then return on Thursday (as we headed to Nauvoo, Il.) and visit the museum.

This woman is one of many volunteers that run the Walt Disney Hometown Museum. She also happened to be one of the volunteers that personally knew Walt Disney and his family when they lived in Marceline.

It was thrilling to hear her share stories of Walt and his life when he called Marceline home. She graciously stood outside the museum and spoke with us for 30 minutes before she went inside to get a map of Marceline, marked with the various Disney sites, to guide us around the town.

Our first stop was the Zurcher building on Main Street. Behind this building was a huge Coca-Cola sign that was there when Walt was a child. This sign became the inspiration for Coke Corner in Disneyland. A few years ago this mural was uncovered when the building that was built around it was torn down. The paint was so worn and faded that the original Coca-Cola sign was barely visible.


When Coca-Cola heard about this old sign painted on the brick wall of Walt’s hometown, and heard about its connection to Disney, they sent painters to Marceline to refurbish this historical sign for the city.


The CEO of Coca-Cola then had it photographed and turned into a Christmas card which he sent to the Disney Company for Christmas that year.

As we walked along  the Main Street of Marceline we caught glimpses of what became the inspiration for Main Street USA in the Disney Parks.


Main Street USA

Walt made the decision that every visitor to Disneyland would walk down Main Street USA, inspired by his hometown of Marceline, Missouri.

Today, you can shop at Murray’s Department store, at the same location for over 100 years (and also the store where Walt purchased his first pair of engineer overalls), and visit other quaint shops on the “original” Main Street USA.

Have lunch in the same building Elias Disney served an oyster dinner to local farmers in hopes of organizing them inot a union.

Stroll past the Zurcher building and see the original Coke mural that inspired Coke Corner at Disneyland.

See specially designed street signs that were personally dedicated by Mickey Mouse


On Main Street we also discovered the Uptown Theatre. A very special place in the Disney Story:


From there we drove over to Walt Disney’s childhood home.


Walt’s family came to Marceline when Walt was only 5 years old. They moved from Chicago in an attempt to keep Walt’s older teenage brothers out of trouble and live a simpler life on the family farm.

Walt’s father purchased a plot of land from his brother who owned land in Marceline and they proceeded to build a home and establish themselves in this small, Missouri town.


Walt lived here from age 5 to age 9. While not a long period of time, it was a time that greatly affected his life. In fact he has often said this about the town of Marceline:


Walt Disney’s childhood home is now a private residence, closed to the public. And while visitors can’t go inside there is a sign marking the home from the outside.


Behind this home sits another important part of Walt’s time in Marceline. This area is opened to the public. Just past Walt’s childhood home sits a small parking area with this sign:


It was down a grassy path that we found Walt’s Dreaming Tree.

. Daydreaming under this tree, a young Walt would observe the nature surrounding him. He later called these adventures “belly botany” and drew from these moments in his early works. He apparently never outgrew his need for inspiration from his favorite spot. On trips back to Marceline, Walt always put aside time for reflection beneath it, spending hours alone with his thoughts, back under his Dreaming Tree.

The Original Dreaming Tree, the place where Walt sat as a boy and let his imagination take him on incredible adventures, was hit by lightening a few years ago.


Instead we visited the Son of the Dreaming Tree, a sapling planted from a seedling of the original Dreaming Tree with soil brought from Disneyland and water from Disney World.

As we walked along the grassy path to Walt’s barn we passed signs that gave us even more insight into Walt’s childhood there and the significance it had in his later life.


In the barn, also known as Walt’s Happy Place, visitors are encouraged to sign the walls and leave messages of love and hope.


By his own account, Walt’s happiest childhood memories were of his time in Marceline and the family farm there. Walt and his sister Ruth spent many happy hours playing in the Barn. Visitors from all over the world have come to Marceline to spend time at “Walt’s Happy Place”, located in its original place on the Disney family’s old farm in Marceline.
Visit this very special Barn, which was rebuilt by volunteers in 2001, and leave your mark among the thousands of signatures, messages and memories already there to share with the rest of the world. There’s no doubt about it, when you come to this Barn, you’ll feel a special heart connection to Walt.


It was incredibly moving to read the words of previous visitors and witness the profound effect this humble, inspiring man has had on so many lives.

On Thursday we returned. We arrived as the doors opened and told the volunteers about our attempt to visit on Monday for Rusty’s birthday. They kindly gave him this pin as a special memento.


The visit to the museum began with a guided tour of the first floor, where the volunteer walked us through the story of Walt’s life in Marceline, beginning with his childhood in Marceline and ending with his visits back when he was an adult.


The museum is housed in the town’s old train depot. A fitting location for Walt’s museum since he was an avid fan of trains his entire life. In fact one associate said, “Walt got more joy from hearing the sound of a train whistle than he did from an arm full of Oscars.”


Later in life Walt even built a miniature train track around his California home for his daughters.


In the museum there are 3,000 artifacts from Walt’s life,



His elementary school desk where he carved his initials WD:


A car from the Autopia ride he had built in Marceline for the children of the town:


The Mickey Mouse flag he donated to be flown on the flag pole of the local elementary school:


The recording he made from the interview he did with his parents at their 50th anniversary party:


The first Mickey Mouse dolls:


and the TV he bought for his sister.

When he invited Ruth to the opening of Disneyland she informed him that she didn’t like crowds, so he purchased a TV for her so that she could watch the opening ceremonies from the comfort of her own home:


The first floor is filled with Disney movie memorabilia, hand written letters by Walt, receipts, and other family heirlooms. It really is a treasure for Disney fans!


Upstairs contains a replica of Walt’s front porch and the story of him convincing his younger sister to paint the house with tar,


A replica of his childhood classroom,


a piece of the original Dreaming Tree,


and a miniature model of Disneyland.


We fell in love with Marceline, Missouri and made some magical memories in this place that was the root of  so much Disney Magic.

Happy 15th Birthday, Rusty!


On Monday Rusty turned 15 and we celebrated our second birthday on this trip. The road trip began with Tyler’s birthday celebration and it is coming to a close with Rusty’s birthday.

We began our day with our family tradition of waking up the birthday kid with a cupcake and the birthday song.


Rusty had requested certain foods for his meals throughout the day. The birthday menu began before we left Branson for the four hour drive to Marceline, Missouri. He asked for bacon and an oatmeal bar for his birthday breakfast.


So we laid out all the toppings for the “create your own” oatmeal station.


Then we were on the road, headed to Marceline, Missouri, Walt Disney’s hometown, to visit the  Walt Disney Hometown Museum for Rusty’s birthday. Rusty considers Walt Disney his personal hero and has a dream of one day working for the Disney company, so it seemed wonderfully fitting to spend his special day at the home of Walt Disney.


We arrived in Marceline and easily found the Walt Disney Hometown Museum, unfortunately in all our planning we never took note that it was closed on Mondays! All was not lost. We did visit Marceline, MO but we split our visit into two parts, and had to return a few days later.


(I will share our visit to Walt’s Hometown in the next blog)

The result was an open day and no special plans for Rusty’s birthday, so we improvised…

and we headed into Kansas City.

We had already planned on dinner at the T-Rex Café in Kansas City so we drove there first for an early dinner.


Rusty had eaten at a T-Rex café on our Disney World Trip, loved it, and was looking forward to revisiting it. Ozzie and I had never been to a T-Rex Café before since the family had eaten there during the 3 day period of our Disney Trip that Ozzie and I were down with the flu,

so we were really excited to see what all the hype was about.

The T-Rex Café is themed around dinosaurs.


From the moment you step through the door you are greeted by animatronic giants that make you feel as though you have stepped into a prehistoric world.

There are different dining rooms, each themed a bit differently. There was the fern room,  the ice age room, and the sequoia room.


We found ourselves eating in the ocean area,


and dining beneath a giant octopus.


T-Rex Café is as much about the atmosphere as it is about the food,


although the food was equally delicious!


Rusty chose the “Make your own pizza” option and had a T-Rex approved pizza… topped with MEAT!

He chose to top his pizza with BBQ sauce, chicken, pepperoni, and bacon.


At the end of the meal they brought out a cupcake and sang to Rusty.

After the meal we surprised Rusty with a fun, very Rusty-esque experience. Rusty loves mind-benders, puzzles and riddles. So we found the PERFECT birthday experience for our puzzle master….The Escape Room!


These escape room experiences are popping up all of the country and are become the fun alternate entertainment to movie or bowling nights. The premise behind these rooms is to put you into an interactive scene that you have to figure your way out of in a set amount of time. These rooms require problem solving, a keen sense of observation, critical thinking skills and a whole lot of team work.

Here is a little more of an overview as taken from their website:


The best team is a group of people who can work together. Teamwork is a must when you play this game. You can come in groups of 2 and up to 16 people, depending on the room. The more players – the more chances you have to get out in time.

  • 60 MINUTES

    The team has 1 hour to escape from the room. Time is of the essence. There is a counter in every room, which shows how much time you have left to escape.


    There are a lot of puzzles hidden in every room. You and your team need to find and solve them in order to escape. These are not brain-crashing puzzles, but aren’t childish riddles either.


    You have to find codes and crack them, or use them on several combination locks, in order to open boxes, crates or doors. Codes are not in obvious places. You need to seek them.


    If you ever played room escape game on the internet, it’s the same thing but in real life, and the player inside it is YOU. Live escape is the new fun entertainment you must try!

  • FUN

    When you try one of our escape game rooms, you will get addicted. Its an absolutely joyful, fun and adrenaline raising fun activity, for a price of a movie. Come and try it, and you will come back to the other rooms.


The escape room we chose to book was:



This is a safe house of a secret agent. He was spying on a traitor who stole the agent list from his own agency. Your mission is to find out who the double agent is and turn the information over to the director before safehouse is compromised. You only have 60 minutes.

We arrived and were given the rules of the game. One of which was no photography (so you don’t spoil it for the next guests) and no using smart phones to help solve the clues.

It was a blast!

We were locked in the room and began scouring the shelves for clues. The set up was incredibly creative. We had to take apart a camera to find a clue within, use found combinations to unlock a safe hidden behind a painting, and observe to spy’s obvious love of photography (by the many cameras around the apartment) to figure our that we needed to look up the word “photography” in the encyclopedia that sat on the shelf to find a photo that led to our next clue.

We had to use a black light to find codes painted on the wall, use a mirror to reflect a laser beam to a spot on the wall, and unscramble letters to come up with the rouge spy’s name.

It was a thrilling, fast paced, adrenaline filled experience.

Just when we would think we were opening the door with the right code, another hidden door (behind a painting or mirror) would open, leading us into another room with more clues.

If we got stuck the puzzle master (an employee who is watching you in the room via hidden cameras) would type additional clues or hints onto the TV screen in the corner.

We did escape…with four minutes to spare!

And the first thing Tyler said as we ran out of the room:

“Can we do it again?!”

Everyone LOVED it!

What a fun family adventure!

Silver Dollar City



Stepping through the gates of Silver Dollar City is like stepping back into a simpler time.. From the costumed bakery workers, to the dozens of skilled craftsmen and quaint, historic buildings, this attraction aims to preserve the heritage of the Ozarks and it meets that goal in a fun and entertaining way. 


Tucked into the foothills of the Ozark Mountains, Silver Dollar City combines history with amusement park rides, incredible shows and yummy food one comes to expect at theme parks and it’s all family-friendly. 


Silver Dollar City in Branson wasn’t much more than a hole in the ground in the early days. The very first attraction and the one the entire amusement park is built around is Marvel Cave a.k.a Marble Cave in those days. The cave, discovered by Osage Indians in the 1500’s, and mined for nitrogen-rich bat guano in the 1880’s by Union Civil War veterans, and opened for public tours in the late 1890’s when it was purchased by a Canadian mining expert. 

William Henry Lynch operated the cave, which had grown in popularity, with his two daughters until the 1940’s. When the Lynch sisters decided to retire, they offered the Herschend family a 99-year lease on the cave. The Herschends’ loved the area and were committed to making their new family business a success. 

In 1960, the recreated 1880’s mining village, called Silver Dollar City, was unveiled to the public, drawing record crowds.

I have such wonderful memories of our visit to Silver Dollar City as a child. I remember the fun we had walking around this 1880’s reconstructed town filled with artisans and craftsman. I remember the fun of watching the shows and riding the theme park rides. I couldn’t wait to share this special place with my family.


We planned to be there two days, with one day being focused more on the rides of the park and the second day being focused on the entertainment, cave tour, craftsman, and re-riding our favorite rides.

We were staying at Wilderness campground which is less than a mile from Silver Dollar City. We were pleased to discover that the campground offered free shuttle service to Silver Dollar City which meant we could leave our “home” hooked up at the campground rather than drive it over to the park.

We caught the 9:00am shuttle over to the park so we could be there when it opened.

The park has two opening times. At 9:00 the main gate opens and visitors are allowed into the Main Street area of the park where shops are located and where many of the parks craftsman are demonstrating their skills.


The rest of the park, including the rides and entertainment, don’t open until 10:00am with a rope drop allowing visitors into the rest of the park.

We loved that hour each morning to move through Main Street at a relaxed pace, watching the craftsman demonstrate their old fashioned skills and talents. There was a bucket maker,


a couple making sorghum with an old-fashioned press that was mule-driven,


a gentleman making rolling pins with a wheel driven lathe,


and even a taffy shop where we were able to watch them make homemade salt water taffy.


We had to buy a bag to sample!


At 9:50am the crowd gathered by the flag pole in the town square for the raising of the flag. It was moving to watch as veterans and members of the military were invited to come forward to assist with the raising of the flag.


Then we all removed our hats, placed our hands over our hearts and together said the Pledge of Allegiance and sang the National Anthem.

Patriotism, God, and family are all reoccurring themes and the foundation of this special theme park and you could feel the presence of those influences as you moved through the park.

At 10:00am the ropes dropped and guests were given free access to the entire park.


We quickly noticed that we were one of the few young families in the park that day. With kids in school, the only other families with children that we ran into were fellow homeschoolers. Most of the visitors were retirees that were there to enjoy the MANY fabulous shows offered through the day, rather than ride the rides.


This was good news for us. This meant we could walk onto every single ride, both days we were there, with no wait. We were often given the opportunity to stay on rides and just keep re-riding them over and over because there was no one else in line.


At Silver Dollar City there is a nice mix of rides for all ride types. There are tamer rides for those who want a little thrill,



water rides,


old fashioned story rides,


and big rollercoasters.


Silver Dollar City also boasts the first wooden rollercoaster that goes upside-down.

There were things to do for each member of the family based on their comfort level, and everyone had a wonderful time.

Some of the favorite rides include:

The Flooded Mine, a story ride that takes you through a flooded mine filled with convicts. As you float through this ride on a boat, you have a gun that allows you to aim and shoot at the targets throughout the ride. For each target you hit you get points. The goal is to have the highest score in your boat when the ride ends.


Everyone enjoyed this ride but Toby was the clear winner every time!


Another “competition game” we all enjoyed was the Tom and Huck Riverboat. This charming ride takes 8 passengers on a raft ride around a river scene. Each rider has a water gun to squirt at targets, setting off unexpected splashes and explosions.


To add to the fun and wetness of the ride, there are water guns stationed all around the ride so that you can get into water gun battles with people passing by.


This was a VERY wet ride, but so much fun!


Another favorite of Toby, Grace, Molly, Tyler and I was the Giant Barn Swing. I found this equally terrifying and delightful.


There was also a lot of fun, interactive entertainment that wasn’t rides. All through the park their were craftsman that you could sit and watch, entertainers and musicians, storytellers, and walk through exhibits.p1070614-2

Even if you aren’t someone who rides rides you could easily fill a day with all the other things there are to see and do at Silver Dollar City.


I loved revisiting the old fashioned buildings I remember from my childhood visit, and walking through Grandpa’s Mansion, a fun-house of tilted rooms and optical illusions.


I remember the old swinging bridge,


and the many interactive exhibits that are tucked around the park.


We also toured Marvel Cave, the cave that extends beneath Silver Dollar City. This cave tour is included in the price of admission.


The second day of our visit we made time to enjoy some 0f the shows offered throughout the park. The schedule features 10 different shows at various times through the day including musical presentations, comedy shows, wild west shows, magic shows and talent shows…all themed around the 1880’s feel of the park.

We attended three of the shows on the second day including a funny comedy show at the Saloon, where we enjoyed peanuts while we belly laughed our way through the show,


An amazing Wild West show that was part of Cowboy Week at Silver Dollar City. This show highlighted a traditional Native American hoop dance performed by the reigning hoop dance champion of 2016, incredible rope and lasso tricks, trick horse riding, and a patriotic tribute to our great nation.


We ended our day at Silver Dollar City with their big evening show in the amphitheater where they highlight the enormous talent of the Silver Dollar City performers with a big variety show.


It was a perfect way to end an amazing two days at this very special theme park.

Branson, Missouri


We have now been in Branson for four days. It has been wonderfully relaxing.


The first two days of our stay were spent in Silver Dollar City (more on that in our next blog) and the other two days were spent touring the town of Branson and all it has to offer.

Branson, Missouri is a fun tourist area. Known for its shows and musical entertainment, it reminds me a bit of a G-rated Las Vegas with its lights, unique architecture, and fun atmosphere. The difference, however, is that Branson is surrounded by the beautiful rolling hills of the Ozarks and is completely family friendly.


The ability to walk down the street without having to be on high alert of sights the kids needed to avert their eyes from made Branson a much more enjoyable entertainment center than Vegas…at least for me.

Our time in Branson has been spent catching up on grocery shopping, laundry and school…


As well as enjoying our beautiful campsite.


For the first time since the start of our trip we are allowed campfires. For much of our trip we were traveling through high drought areas that were under extreme risk of forest fire, so campfires were prohibited. The kids we very excited to find out we could have fires here.


We have enjoyed our evenings relaxing by the fire,


Roasting marshmallows.


and playing games as a family.


During the last few days we have been exploring Branson, having fun walking down the main drag and checking out the cool sites and unique buildings.


Yesterday we drove over to the Shepherd of the Hills fish hatchery. This free to the public site has a great display of local wildlife and a lot of conservation geared information about Missouri.


“Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery is the largest trout-rearing facility operated by the Missouri Department of Conservation. It is located six miles southwest of Branson on Highway 165 just below Table Rock Dam.

The hatchery includes a conservation center, where the public can learn more about trout culture, aquatic life, fishing and the Missouri Department of Conservation’s role in aquatic resource management. The center is open throughout the year and is free of charge.


Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery produces between 350,000 and 400,000 pounds of trout each year. Both rainbow and brown trout are raised at the hatchery with 80 percent of production going into Lake Taneycomo. The remainder of the fish are stocked into other Missouri trout management areas.


Construction of the hatchery began in 1957 and production of trout in 1958 with the completion of Table Rock Dam by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This dam created a large, deep lake that varies in water temperature from surface to bottom. The water near the bottom stays cool, averaging 48 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. During hydroelectric generation, this cold water is released into Lake Taneycomo. Although the cold water release caused the loss of the native warm-water fishery, it created the ideal environment for trout, a fish that thrives at lower water temperatures.”


It was fascinating looking in the various tanks that displayed turtles, frogs, spiders and snakes from this area, including the five venomous snakes that call Missouri home.


Tyler was especially enamored with the hatchery itself, where thousands of brown and rainbow trout are raised for release in the lake.


The kids were even able to feed the fish by inserting quarters into the fish food machines located around the hatchery pools.


Tyler was in heaven and could have spent all day watching the fish and exploring the different displays in the conservation center.


It took the doors closing at 5:00 pm to get him out the door.


Here are some of the cool facts we learned at the conservation center:

“Less that 1% of Black Widow bites result in death.”

“There are no known deaths attributed to the bite of a tarantula.”

“Geese and Bald Eagles mate for life and raise their young together. Only the death of a mate will cause the bird to search out another mate.”

The way to tell a cottonmouth from a non-venomous water snake is by observing how it swims through the water. Copperheads swim on the surface of the water while non-venomous snakes swim with their heads above water but the rest of their body below the water’s surface.”

“Armadillos can now be found wild in Missouri. This is not the result of humans introducing them to the area, but simply the northern migration of southern armadillos.”

“You can tell the air temperature from a cricket. This is one of the more amazing facts of nature. By counting the amount of trills a cricket emits in 15 seconds and then adding 37, this will give you a close estimate of the temperature in Fahrenheit.”


The following day we headed into Springfield, Missouri where we continued our fish-themed entertainment with a visit to Bass Pro Shop. I have fond memories of visiting here as a kid when relatives would visit us in Missouri. I knew Tyler would LOVE this stop, and since he has been such a good sport about touring places like the Titanic Museum, it seemed only fair that we do something Tyler loves…which is to look at fish!


Affectionately known as the “Granddaddy of all Outdoor Stores” this 500,000 square feet wonder is dedicated to the beauty of the outdoors. The Springfield, Mo Bass Pro Shop is the original and largest of all the Bass Pro Shops and we had a blast exploring it.


When we walked in we were greeted by this magnificent site:


The store was filled will beautiful taxidermy dioramas:


Aquariums filled with fish,


and alligators,


and even a turtle aquarium.


Everyone enjoyed exploring the store and all the unique, special details,


but none was more enamored than Tyler.


It was a fun, free way to spend the day!