Once a Month Cooking…Let’s give it a try.

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When it comes to crossing things off my “to do” list I have found I am best at big event planning, you know

holidays, trips, parties and classes, traditions, special occasions and simple celebrations.

And while planning a holiday party or putting together a child’s birthday party is easy breezy for me, the every day tasks are not. Unfortunately it is those everyday tasks that make up the majority of our lives.I think this is why I depend on schedules and routines. Without a schedule to direct me through my day I find myself wandering, overwhelmed by the many tasks that lay before me, uncertain of where to begin.

I love “one time events” because they can be crossed off the “to do” list and then you don’t have to think about them anymore.

– host Christmas party….check! Done.

It is the never-ending, daily tasks, those things that can never truly be completed, and reappear daily on my “to do” list, that leave me weary and resentful.

Nothing makes me want to cry more than walking past the laundry basket, minutes after I’ve folded and put away the last load of dirty laundry, and seeing a newly deposited pair of dirty socks taunting me from the bottom of the basket.

Or shutting off the light in my clean kitchen after washing dishes, sweeping the floor, and shining the sink, only to have a teenager pass by me with a dirty ice cream bowl in hand. All I want is ONE morning where I wake to an empty sink…Ahhh!

And then there are meals…

I feel like the majority of my life is spent planning meals, shopping for food, putting away food, preparing meals, and then cleaning them up.

Just imagine the time I would have on my hands if nobody wanted fed,

and it doesn’t matter how much I feed the troops, they always want to eat again when the next mealtime rolls around. :P

I try to remind myself daily of the great blessings associated with these daily chores:

How blessed we are to have the means to feed our children daily and tuck them into bed with full bellies.

How blessed I am to have a sink full of dirty dishes because it means everyone was fed.

How blessed I am to have a washer and drier in my home to wash those dirty clothes made by kids making childhood memories.

I know my ancestors would roll their eyes at my whining,

as they recall laundry taking all day to wash, done on the shores of a creek…

which is why I try to keep my grumbling to a minimum.

I know a day will come when I miss the fingerprints on the window and the mess of Legos on the living room floor.

As Thomas S. Monson said:

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But even with that realization I can’t help but always be seeking an easier, more efficient way to tackle those never ending, daily tasks, so I can move on to the tasks I can actually cross of the “to do” list. :)

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With the start of school and nightly football practices I have been searching out a better way to handle dinner preparations. Our evenings are full and I would love to spend more time sitting around the table eating with my family than fixing meals and eating it in a rush to get boys into bed on time.

As I was cleaning out my recipe book cabinet I came across a recipe book given to me years ago by a friend. She was in a season of life in which this book was a great blessing to her and she wanted to share this helpful tool. At the time I wasn’t in a season of life where I needed that time saving tool. I was home all day with little ones so I couldn’t relate to her time pressures,

but I took it gratefully

knowing someday it would be a blessing for me too.

That season has arrived and when I came across it in my cabinet I had a “Eureka” moment.

The book is:

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And the premise is simple…

Devote a day to planning, shopping, cooking and cleaning up dinner and have meals for a month.

Rather than going through those steps daily you make it a big one time event for the month.

This REALLY appealed to my love of big event planning

and the best part:

At the end of the day I could actually mark “Make Dinner” off my “to do” list for the month!

Having never tried this before I wasn’t sure if I would like it, but having done it once I am sold. Not that I won’t allow for the flexibility of an impromptu menu change if I suddenly have the urge to cook, but how nice that I don’t have the dreaded “What’s for dinner?” question hanging over my head all day.

Having done it once and seeing the fruits of that labor, I can see how it would be a great solution for busy moms, single moms or working moms.

The process for making two weeks worth of meals to put in the freezer took us 3 hours. (Next round I’m going to try a month’s worth.)

The cookbook is broken up into sections based on the protein used in those dishes. There are a few chicken sections, beef, ground beef, turkey, pork, salmon, tuna, and vegetarian dishes.

I picked a chicken section and a ground beef section of recipes for our first time attempting this.

We began with grocery shopping. The beginning of each chapter of recipes has a shopping list printed out, already organized by sections of the grocery store, to make for easier shopping.

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We came home, laid out all the groceries on the counter and turned to the next page in the book that listed all the advanced prep work needed. It is in this section you find out what meat needs precooked, which pasta needs preboiled, and what vegetables need to be chopped and sliced.

The kids were HUGE helps with this process and it became a fun family project as we worked together.

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After the prep work was done we began assembling individual dishes. It was so easy since all the prep work was done.

Then each kid picked a recipe from that section of the cookbook to be in charge of. That completed recipe then became their dinner night meal that they would have been responsible for on their individual nights. Now they only have to warm it up and choose their side dishes when their dinner night rolls around.

During the next few hours we assembled 12 dinners. Each dinner was placed in a freezer bag or casserole dish, labeled with the date and cooking instructions and placed in the freezer. If additional ingredients were needed, like shredded cheese, we placed it in a smaller freezer bag and stapled it to the dinner bag.

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It was a lovely thing watching the freezer fill with completed meals. :)

I also gave Molly the job of assembling salads for the week.

All over Pinterest you can find “salads in a jar.” It is the latest fad as you can see in this tongue-in-cheek definition of Pinterest:

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It is a clever idea. You layer the ingredients of a salad in a large mouth mason jar, beginning with the dressing, meats and cheese, vegetables and top the jar off with lettuce or spinach. The result is fresh salad all week with none of the hassle of daily chopping.

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Molly was in charge of making 10 salads in a jar.

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By the time our cooking session ended we had 10 jars of salad and the following dinners in the freezer:

Cheese and Chicken Shells

Artichoke Chicken Bake

Chicken Mushroom Rolls

Spiced Chicken Sandwiches

Chicken Enchiladas

Chicken Broccoli Noodles

Sweet and Sour Chicken

Meatballs and Sauce

Beef Loaf

Pizza Burgers

Macaroni and Beef

Tortilla Casserole

Not bad!

Next time I think I’m going to try out some crock pot freezer meals that can be dumped straight into your crock pot in the morning and cook all day.

Since I must accept the fact that my family will continue to expect meals on a regular basis, regardless of my reminders that they just ate at the last meal, this seems like this is a good solution.

It is either this or a family 30 day fast.

Hmmm, I wonder….

;)

First Day of School Celebration

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“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes.

You can steer yourself any direction you choose.

Your off to great places.

Today is your day!

Your mountain is waiting…

So get on your way!”

School has begun!

And with the start of school comes our back to school dinner.

When planning for our back to school dinner I stumbled across a friend’s blog in which she shared pictures of their back to school dinner.

For her back to school night she had the creative idea of picking a theme for the year that became the theme for the night.

I LOVED the idea and told her I was stealing her idea. :)

Monday night was family night so I had fun tying the idea of a theme for our school year into our back to school celebration.

But that came later in the day…

We began with the start of school for the three big kids and the presentation of the new school supplies. :)

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Although Tyler and Ozzie don’t start school until next week, we made Monday the start of school for everyone with everyone getting their school supplies at breakfast.

I woke early to decorate the dining room before they woke up.

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At breakfast they all were able to look through their new school supplies and set up their work areas for the year.

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Grace decided she need a better system and commandeered my old computer desk as her new school desk. It is a perfect solution that I can’t believe we didn’t come up with earlier. It is located near her room upstairs but overlooks the living room so she can ask me questions easily if she needs to.

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The best part is that the desk has doors that can close (when she is not working) to hide the school mess…Wonderful!

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Following breakfast we did first day of school photos. Rather than individual pictures this year we did a group picture in front of the outdoor chalkboard. The set up for this picture was A LOT of fun! This year we have a 3rd, 5th, 8th, 9th, and 11th grader…WOW!

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The kids spent the day in orientation, working on assignments that helped them get acquainted with their apple computers and the school’s systems.

Molly was grateful to have two veterans (Grace and Rusty) there to answer questions when she was confused.

When school was done for the day I worked on my lesson for family night.

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I printed out and framed our school quote for the year in individual frames for the kids to put in their rooms.

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I also found fun “back to school” questionnaires for the kids to fill out about their likes, dislikes, life in their current grade, and dreams for the future.

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They will be perfect in their scrapbooks!

After dinner ( An impromptu pizza dinner outside by the fire pit with friends who stopped by) we began family night and the lesson I prepared.

For our lesson we discussed the three points of the quote we chose:

Why is it important to choose our friends with caution?

What does it mean to plan our future with purpose?

How can we better frame our life with faith?

The result was a wonderful discussion with the kids.

We ended the night with a short video about living up to our potential.

“Your Potential, Your Privileges:”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vV2YlnbXgAs

A Black and Gold Birthday

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My baby turned 9!

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My little boy, who came to us as a 6-year-old, is now 9!

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My dirty, loud, bouncy, athletic, football-loving, “all boy” boy is now 9.

How crazy is that?!

As we began plans for a special birthday celebration, for a VERY special kid, we were blessed in a very unexpected way.

Toby is currently working for the son of family friend, and he and his wife had their first child this past week…a beautiful baby girl. They are also Steeler season ticket holders. Can you see where this is going? :)

Toby got a call on the Thursday before Tyler’s birthday asking if he would like their two tickets for the next game. Well, once Toby realized what day it fell on (Tyler’s birthday) he said, “Yes!” knowing he would make Tyler’s birthday (or life!) by taking him to the game for his birthday.

Knowing the surprise that was coming, I themed his birthday cake and gifts around this surprise.

We woke Tyler on his birthday with our traditional birthday serenade and cupcake in bed. We came downstairs and allowed Tyler to open his gifts first thing. The kids all made or bought Tyler a birthday surprise with their money.

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Then it was time for his gift from Mom and Dad.

He opened the box first, confused as to why he was opening his gift before his card. In the box was a Steelers shirt and hat (to wear to the game…shh.)

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He was thrilled and then he opened his card. Inside lay the tickets to the Steeler game. He didn’t believe us for the longest time, assuming it must be a prank, after years of us telling him that he wouldn’t be able to go to a Steeler game until he was grown and could pay for it himself. :)

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When he realized that this was the real deal he was ecstatic.

Toby and Tyler left early for the game so that they had plenty of time to explore the stadium and soak up the atmosphere before the game began.

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Tyler was on the edge of his seat the entire game, clapping, cheering and groaning along with the fans around him.

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It was one of those “once in a lifetime,” memory making, never forget moments between a son and a dad that will be cherished forever.

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The fact that the Steelers won was just icing on the birthday cake. ;)

Thank you, Becks, for making a certain little boy’s dream come true.

Best birthday, EVER!

When they got home Tyler talked and talked about the game, the plays, the stadium, the players, and snacks he enjoyed.

He was beaming.

The night ended with cake…a football cake, of course

and then I tucked a very tired, but happy, little boy into bed with a hug and a kiss.

My heart overfloweth.

Oh, it is fun making dreams come true! :)

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“My dancing shoes are flip-flops!”

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Put on your dancing shoes…

or flip flops, as the case may be.

Saturday night, after our Bethany Families adoption picnic, a preschool birthday party the girls were invited to (twin boys they babysit), and Tyler’s football game, we were out the door for the last time that day.

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Miss Molly

Miss Gracie

Miss Gracie

There was a church dance in Cranberry that the girls decided to attend, and with them they brought their two besties…Olivia and Tatum.

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Tatum is now 14, and thus able to start attending church dances with my girls. (Olivia has been joining them for a couple of years.)

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The theme for the dance was a Hawaiian Luau, with the leadership and a talented young lady going all out to make the gym look magical.

It was such a fun summer theme and the girls eagerly embraced it with flip flops and flowers.

We also drove 3 friends from church to the dance with us in our van. (Have I mentioned how much I’m loving having extra seats for just this sort of thing?!)

When we arrived our one male passenger took off before I thought to pull out the camera, but I did get this cute shot of the young ladies in my van.

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The dance was an enormous hit. The girls commented on the fun “sea” themed snacks, the creative decorations (including jelly fish hanging from the ceiling,) and the nice mix of music with both dancing songs and slow songs.

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The photographic evidence of the dance itself is minimal due to the low lights, but trust me when I say that every time I peeked in the gym there was a lot of dancing going on.

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Everyone had a great time. There was a lot of laughter and loud chatter on the ride home.

Thank you, stake leaders, for another fun activity.

You made this group of girls quite happy. :)

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Bethany Adoption Picnic

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“If there is a cause worth fighting for

it is this:

children belong in families.”

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It wasn’t until we opened the door to the possibility of adoption, and stepped into this new world…so unfamiliar to us… that I became aware of the great needs that exist and the many children without families.

We had no idea how staggering the statistics were:

“If all orphans formed a country of their own, it would be the 10th largest nation”

“There are 210 million orphans worldwide in need of a home.”

“5,700 children become orphans each day.”

“Of those 210 million orphans 38,493 orphans ‘age out’ of the system every day.”

“That means every 2.2 seconds a child ‘ages out’ of the system with no family and no place to call home.”

Mind blowing, isn’t it?

Those statistics are overwhelming, even paralyzing. With a problem so large, so daunting, what can we do?

Those numbers keep me awake at night and leave me asking, “What else can I do?”

I can’t find each one a home. I can’t love and protect each child in danger. I can’t solve this global problem…

so I do what I can do:

“I do for the one what I wish I could do for the millions.”

and then I pray that God puts that same desire on the hearts of others.

Did you know:

“If only 7% of the 2 billion Christians worldwide each cared for one orphan

the orphan crisis would be over.”

Perhaps your role is not to adopt, but you still have a role…

“Every Christ-follower has a role is solving the orphan epidemic”

What do I mean?

If you can’t adopt, then foster.

If you can’t foster, then support someone who does.

Perhaps your role is one of advocate, or sponsor, or someone who can donate…

donate your time, your God-given talents, your financial means.

If you can’t do that then offer prayers.

Join the many children who are praying for a safe home and a loving family, and lift them up to the Lord.

This Saturday we had the humbling and joyful opportunity to join many other adoptive families at a Bethany Christian Services picnic. We adopted both our boys from foster care through this WONDERFUL agency that facilitates international, infant, and statewide adoption.

Every summer they host a picnic at Camp Kon o Kwee and invite current and past adoptive families, as well as birth mothers, to a picnic that celebrates adoption.

It is always one of the highlights of our summer. The kids LOVE all the fun activities offered at this boy scout camp where the picnic is held, including obstacle courses, canoeing, rock climbing, swimming and games.

We also enjoy a picnic lunch of hot dogs and hamburgers, with sides and desserts donated by the families attending.

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The best part, however, is the company, and the joyful spirit felt in the presence of all these special families.

It is humbling and touching to look around at this diverse group of people that share the common bond of adoption. The families are as diverse as the people within them. There are families without children, waiting anxiously for the call that they have been selected to adopt another woman’s child. There are small families and large families. There are families that “match” and families that look like a meeting of the United Nations. There are families that have found their new “normal” and are through the hardest part of the journey, and there are brand new families, with brand new placements, who are currently in the trenches, fighting with all they have for their child. There are families with children who still don’t speak the language, who are recently brought home from another country, and families that are dealing with unique challenges in the form of medical disabilities.

There were no two families at that picnic that looked the same.

It was a beautiful thing!

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And among all those special families stood the workers (with their own families) who spend their days in the trenches fighting and devoting their lives to the orphan.

Among many strangers at the picnic we found old friends, families we have gotten to know who share a similar walk. There is a special bond among people who share the same journey,

people who get it…people who know…

People who are fighting for the same cause.

Here are some pictures from our special day.

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What a blessed day.

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(We are wearing the shirts I made for us to wear to Tyler’s football games. He had a game right after the picnic.)

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“We care for the orphans NOT because we are the rescuers, but because we are the rescued.” – David Platt

The final moments of summer

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Friday: the final day of an already wonderful summer vacation!

We had big plans to go out with a bang.

In the spring we vacationed at Kalahari Water Resort in Sandusky, Ohio. This is our fourth year attending Kalahari with our co-op friends as part of a deal offered by the church of a previous co-op family. Their church books a group of rooms and locks in an amazing rate that we then can take advantage of. The deal is an awesome one, allowing a family to stay the night and enjoy two “day passes” to the indoor water park for $125.00.

This year became an even sweeter deal when, as a result of some water slides being closed during our visit, the park apologized by sending each participant a free day pass to enjoy another day at their park (in the upcoming year) for free.

It was a generous apology for a miscommunication mistake on their end. Although, we didn’t fully realize how generous, until we spent the day there last Friday and saw the cost of a day pass to the park had we not had the complimentary day passes…

It would have cost our family $420.00 if we would had paid out of pocket!!

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(Not that we would have ever considered it had we not had free day passes) :)

When discussing summer plans we talked early on about saving our day passes for the last Friday of the summer, thinking it would be a fun way to end summer vacation. We also thought it would be fun to go during the summer months when the outdoor areas of the resort would be open since we usually go in the off-season when just the indoor water park is open.

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I sent out an email inviting other co-op families (with free day passes) to join us. We ended up having the Caylors, the Holt boys, and the Hudaks join us, with Lana and her kids riding with us in our new van.

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It was a perfect day!

Catching the girls for a photo before they head to the next slide.

Catching the girls for a photo before they head to the next slide.

Miss Saga

Miss Saga

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Miss Tatum

The big boys sunning themselves :)

The big boys sunning themselves :)

Cheetah Racers Slide...a family favorite.

Cheetah Racers Slide…a family favorite.

This is what happens when I ask Tyler to pose :)

This is what happens when I ask Tyler to pose :)

It was so much fun exploring the amenities offered outside, as well as enjoying old favorites in the indoor section of the water park.

The outside play area enjoyed by the little boys and Saga.

The outside play area enjoyed by the little boys and Saga.

Waterfall fun!

Waterfall fun!

Ozzie and Saga

Ozzie and Saga

Friends enjoying the outdoor pool.

Friends enjoying the outdoor pool.

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Just a bunch of monkeys...

Just a bunch of monkeys…

Toby and Rusty enjoying the lazy river...

Toby and Rusty enjoying the lazy river…

A favorite ride, affectionally nick-named:

A favorite ride, affectionately nick-named: “The Toilet Bowl!”

The wave pool.

The wave pool.

Daddy and son

Daddy and son

And down he goes...

And down he goes…

Tyler ready for the next slide!

Tyler ready for the next slide!

LOVE this picture...LOVE these boys!

LOVE this picture…LOVE these boys!

We spent all day there and pulled out of the parking lot at 9:00pm wet, tired, and supremely satisfied with our final day of summer.

Tyler fell asleep in the final minutes of the trip home.

Tyler fell asleep in the final minutes of the trip home.

Let the school year commence!

Last Day of Summer!

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Ok, I have to say…

Best Summer Ever!

God is so good and the difference a year makes is astounding. Last summer was so hard..so long..and so emotionally exhausting. This year any fatigue I experienced was simply a result of a lot of late nights and fun excursions. Oh, how grateful I am for this blessed season of rest and renewal. How grateful I am for hearts healing and family bonding. How grateful I am for the season of play we enjoyed after a hard season of work.

That being said, as fun and refreshing as our relaxing summer has been, I think everyone is excited for the start of school. I know I’m looking forward to routines and predictability. As fun as the carefree days of summer are they only last so long before I start craving the boring routines of everyday living.

It is like enjoying vacation food…all those sweet, fried treats on a stick…they are fun and indulgent but they aren’t sustaining, and after a week of vacation indulgences you find yourself craving “real food.”

It was an amazing summer but we are looking forward to fall.

Our school preparations began yesterday with appointments and back to school shopping.

Our full day happened, however, on very little sleep. The night before I caved and agreed to participate in our final summer bucket list item: An all night movie marathon.

The big kids have been asking for this all summer, and I have been avoiding it all summer. As fun as I would have found this idea when was 15 years old, the thought of giving up sleep for the sake of watching movies into the wee hours of the morning no longer holds the same appeal. Perhaps because of the many “all nighters” I “enjoyed” with them in their infancy. :)

BUT I caved.

It was only one night of lost sleep and I knew that the memories made would far outweigh those 8 hours of lost sleep when I look back on that night 30 years from now.

So at 9:00 the little boys were tucked into bed and the party began. (Toby didn’t stay up with us since he had work the next day.)

We pulled out the snack foods and put in the first movie.

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We decided to have a Jurrassic Park movie marathon.

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It was so much fun sharing these movies, that hold such memories, with them. I was Gracie’s age when I went to see the first Jurassic Park movie with my family in the theatre. Even now I remember the awe I felt when I saw the dinosaurs for the first time walk across the movie screen. It was stunning. Even now, after all the advancements in special effects in film, that movie still gives me chills.

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jurassic park 3

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It was a fun night and we made it until 4ish before we all threw in the towel and headed to bed.

The next day was filled with final school preparation errands:

Dentist appointments for everyone.

Everyone is cavity free- Yea!

Everyone is cavity free- Yea!

Haircuts for the girls.

Before

Before

After

After

And back to school shopping! (My favorite shopping trip of the year) Because we home school we don’t have the traditional back to school wardrobe shopping that needs to be done, but we do have supply shopping. Buying school supplies for my “at home” classroom is one of the biggest perks of home schooling. There is something so thrilling about new crayons and fresh notebooks. Love it!

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In the evening Rusty headed to the Hudak’s home for a birthday sleepover and the Hudak girls came to stay with us. They had online school orientation for their cyber school, which they participated in while eating dinner, and then they were free to play all night and pull another “almost all-nighter.”

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Today we pick up the rest of the Hudak clan to meet up with other co-op friends for some fabulous final day of summer fun.

“In Her Shoes”

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Tuesday night was our annual Relief Society Garden Party for the ladies at church. The theme for the night was “In Her Shoes.” We shared the message that although the shoes we might wear in life differ,

we are all walking the same path in hopes of arriving at the same destination. None of us need to walk alone.

As Relief Society sisters we are here to support, encourage, and lean on each other when our burdens are heavy and when we are tempted to just sit down and quit walking.

It was a night of sisterhood, fellowship, laughter and tears as we became better acquainted with each other, shared our stories with new friends, and cried tears of support as we listened to the messages spoken.

The night was a true labor of love as many women offered up their time and talents to create a special night for an amazing group of ladies.

Here is a peek at our night…

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We hit our first hiccup on Monday night when the weather channel reported a 70% chance of rain. Last year’s garden party was so much fun and the ladies enjoyed being outside so I was crushed when we had to make the call to move it into the gym at church. I had no idea how our committee was going to manage turning an ugly gym into a “garden,” but thanks to the many green thumbs in our group we were able to gather enough potted flowers to achieve the garden look we were looking for. I then tore apart my home and with the help of Toby and the kids moved half my home into the gym for the night. :)

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My family was a huge help as they dedicated their day to helping mom avoid going off the deep end. We joke in our family that every calling Toby or I take on becomes a family calling. :) Yesterday we had a few extra honorary committee members!

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With God’s grace we pulled it off and the finished result wasn’t too shabby.IMG_0137 (2)We carried the shoe theme through all facets of the evening, beginning with our centerpieces. Each table had a different colored pair of heels. As the women arrived they chose a button pin to wear and had to find the high heel shoes that matched their ribbon color and that determined where everyone sat for the evening. It was a fun way to encourage the ladies to mix and mingle and get to know new friends.

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The evening began with a delicious appetizer table prepared by Karen. It turned out so pretty that we almost hated to dig in…but we did, and it was delicious!

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We let the women have some time enjoying appetizers and chit-chat before our first activity began.

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Then it was time for our first game of the night: Speed Friendship. For this game the ladies sat in two rows , facing each other. They were given a list of possible “get to know you” questions that they could use if they wanted or they could ask their own questions.

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A whistle blew and Shelley, who was running the game, gave them 60 seconds to get to know the lady that sat across from them before she blew the whistle again and they had to move down a chair. It was a fun, fast-paced way to get to know each other a bit better.

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Then it was time for dinner. When we first talked about the theme we came up with the fun idea of serving dinner in shoe boxes. I was able to order white shoe boxes online and Pat put her creative touch on them to make them pretty. With the help of many “behind the scene” helpers each box was filled with a croissant, chicken salad, pasta salad, a bag of potato chips, a small bottle of water, 2 dinner mints and utensils/napkin. Dinner was delicious and the shoe boxes were a fun touch!

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Following dinner we had the spiritual message of our evening. The ladies who serve in Primary (those who teach the children on Sunday) sang a special musical number.

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Then we heard from three amazing sisters (Karen, Rorie, and Shelley) who shared their personal stories of what it is like to walk in their shoes and the lessons they have learned from their journey. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room and I think we all left feeling humbled and less alone in our own personal struggles.

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When the program was complete we ended with prayer and then revealed the answers to our other game of the night: “Guess Whose Shoes.” For this game the ladies had to guess the owners of 10 different pairs of shoes that we had on display. There were a wide variety of shoes from ballerina slippers, to cowboy boots, to bowling shoes. As we revealed the answers the owners of the shoes stood and shared the stories behind the shoes they brought. It was another fun way to learn something new about the ladies we pass in the halls at church each week.

The winning players won crazy shoelaces (donated by Diana.)

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The night ended with high heel shoe cupcakes, lovingly made by Teresa. They were adorable and brought home the theme of the night in the sweetest possible way!

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The message of the night was a powerful one. So often we feel alone in our walk through life. We often feel weighed down and weary. Sometimes we find ourselves stumbling and wondering if anyone even noticed. Sometimes we are tempted to just sit down and refuse to take another step forward.

When we feel this way we need to remember to look up, look around, and reach out to those walking near us…

Reach out for help, or reach out to offer help.

That is the beautiful blessing of Relief Society:

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We never need to walk alone. :)

Just two gingers and two blondes with an unbreakable bond!

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What a blessing long-term friends are. As the daughter of an Army man this was something I didn’t experience until I was older. I loved growing up an Army brat. I loved the lifestyle, the culture, the lingo, and traditions. I loved the adventure of moving every few years and the chance to start new. I loved seeing the country and experiencing new cultures. It was a wonderful way to grow up and sometimes I feel sad that my own children aren’t able to experience the life that brought me such joy in my childhood.

However by growing up in one area they have experienced blessings that I never did. They have lived close to family and have become acquainted with cousins and aunts and uncles in a way I never did as a child with our many moves. They have created memories and traditions that come from living in one area for a long stretch. They have formed a connection and an identity as Pittsburghers.

But one of the greatest blessings that have come from this more settled lifestyle is friendships…

long-term, deep, intimate friendships that can only develop over time.

As a child I never had a friendship last more than 3 years and it wasn’t until I was gown and developing friendships as an adult (friendships that lasted more than 3 years) that I realized what I was missing out on. As I watch my girls giggle over memories they share with their best friends that happened when they were in first grade, my heart warms.

I love that they get to experience those deep, meaningful, best friend relationships…

because those are the best!

This past Monday the girls created another special, shared memory to add to their memory bank when they surprised Tatum with a spa day for her birthday. Molly’s best friend, Tatum, turned 14 on Monday and the girls wanted to do something special to celebrate so they packed up pedicure supplies. hair products, make-up galore, and some “spa food” we bought from the grocery store, and we headed to Tatum’s house.

She was surprised when we walked in singing, “Happy Birthday.”

The girls sat her down and got to work right away. They wanted her to feel pampered and pretty.

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While the girls turned the living room into a spa, the boys scattered. Lana and I made the most of the girls’ spa time and planned the menu for our upcoming houseboat vacation. The more we planned the more excited we got. It will be here soon!

After the girls were done pampering Tatum they gave her a make-over, with make-up, painted nails, and straightened hair.

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It was a memory making afternoon for best buddies.

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Happy birthday, Miss Tatum! You are beautiful inside and out!

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“Everyone has a friend in each stage of life. But only the lucky ones have the same friend in all stages of their life.”

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Here’s to many more years of friendship!