Monthly Archives: December 2013

Zoo Day Pictorial

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We are now on day 8 of having our two little friends staying with us over winter break. I am definitely sleeping better than I have since Tyler first moved in with us. As fun as our time is during the day I am so very ready for bed when the little ones go to bed each night! The result of all that fun is a tired and busy Momma that lacks the creativity, time and energy to post anything engaging or profound this evening.

So…

On Saturday we took the kids to the zoo.

Here is our visit…

as a pictorial.

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Perhaps tomorrow I will feel more up for typing and I’ll share some of what has transpired this week..

but until then I bid you,

“Good Night.”

Christmas at the Homestead

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Christmas is over. The paper and ribbons are cleaned up. The leftovers are put away. The frantic pace of December has slowed and now is that blessed week of reflection and rest between Christmas and New Years Eve. I love the days that follow Christmas. The house still reflects the beauty of Christmas but in an easier, less showy way. Toys are strewn about as the kids start assembling Lego kits and piles of new books are scattered around the livingroom as the kids lay around in their PJs reading, not bothering to get dressed. Christmas music still plays in the background but the urgency of the season has passed and now we pause to reflect on what a wonderful Christmas it was.

The holiday was holy.

We went into Christmas unsure of how it would go. We knew God was calling us to open our home to two extra children this year but even with the knowledge that this is what we were being called to do I still had a knot of worry in my stomach as we drove out to Ohio to spend Christmas with family. I didn’t know how our visitors would react to our way of celebrating Christmas, what emotions they would be feeling, or what traditions would be missed. As a result I entered Christmas in prayer.

Toby was off work on Christmas eve so we were able to leave for the Homestead a bit earlier than typical. When we arrived at 1:30 there were hugs and greetings and then the kids were off to show Ozzie and Zoey around. They were eager to see the big red barn and meet the animals. Later in the day we began our usual Christmas eve traditions of appetizers for dinner, white elephant gift exchange, and the talent show. Every year the kids put on a show for the grown-ups. Sometimes it is a dance number or a story read but this year they rewrote the classic Christmas Carol and performed it with Uncle Travis playing Scrooge. It was very funny. 🙂

Uncle Travis and Rusty.

Uncle Travis and Rusty.

After our party inside we headed out to the barn to take care of the animals and read the Christmas story.

Ozzie leaning to milk a goat.

Ozzie learning to milk a goat.

George was a big hit with the kids!

George was a big hit with the kids!

Ozzie was thrilled when George gave him a "hug"

Ozzie was thrilled when George gave him a “hug”

Gracie by the barn door

Gracie by the barn door

The reading of the Christmas story

The reading of the Christmas story

After our time in the barn we headed back into the house so that the kids could open their Christmas eve gift…new PJs. Usually we do matching PJs for Christmas morning but this year I tried to find PJs that reflected each child’s likes. After opening their gifts the kids ran to change and model their new clothes.

Christmas eve PJs.

Christmas eve PJs.

By then it was 9:00pm and we tucked the kiddos into bed while Mimi, Pop pop and Uncle Travis left for 10:00 mass. The three girls slept down in the family room and the three boys slept on the floor of our room. Toby, G.G. and I visited in the livingroom, waiting for the kids to fall asleep so that the Christmas magic could begin.

In the morning the kids were up around 6:00 am eager to see if Santa came. Toby did a valiant job of keeping the kids contained in our room until the adults had the turkey in the oven and cameras ready.

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Tyler and Ozzie ready to come down the stairs.

Before the kids entered...

Before the kids entered…

After the kids entered...

After the kids entered…

We had a wonderful morning opening gifts, checking out the stockings and spending time as a family. After all the gifts were opened and the papers and bows picked up, the ladies headed to the kitchen to put casseroles in the oven and the kids began playing with their new toys. Zoey was thrilled with her baby doll and tea set and decided to have a tea party, Ozzie and Rusty began constructing their new Lego sets, Tyler headed out the barn to play with his football and the girls snuggled up in the livingroom to read the new books they received.

Tyler playing outside on the swing.

Tyler playing outside on the swing.

Ozzie with one of his completed lego sets.

Ozzie with one of his completed Lego sets.

Around 3:00 it was finally time for dinner. I always find it amazing the amount of preparation and work that goes into a single meal. There is always a short amount of time in the hour before it is on the table when it feels like it isn’t going to come together but it always does and it is always delicious!

After dinner we began the laborious task of finding and collecting all our clothes, new gifts, toys and children before we began our 2 1/2 hour drive home. We said our good-byes and thanked everyone for another beautifully magical Christmas and for opening their Christmas and home to two extra kids this year. As we drove home the kids all declared this Christmas the best Christmas ever…and it truly was!

Thank you Lord!

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Days before Christmas

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Here we sit on the eve of Christmas Eve and Ozzie and Zoey have come to spend the next two weeks with us. Everyone is excited and eager to leave for the Homestead tomorrow morning so bedtime was a long, drawn out affair. I’m sure the next 48 hours are going to be wild, noisy and magical for everyone involved. Ozzie is a bit worried that Santa won’t be able to find him at Mimi and Pop pop’s house. I remember Tyler having the same concerns last year. We assured him that Santa will have no problem finding him. This year’s Christmas is going to be a bit different with Ozzie and Zoey joining us, but in a lot of ways I think this will be one of the most meaningful for our family. Our kids knew things would be a bit different this year and I could see them  struggling with mixed emotions…wanting to do what they thought was the right thing to do but also not wanting to give up the Christmas traditions they loved. When we agreed to open our home to these two children every weekend in December we told the kids that we would make every effort to continue with those holiday traditions/activities that were most important them. We were able to include the visiting kids in most of our plans. This past weekend, however, we didn’t have Ozzie and Zoey stay with us since they were coming on Monday to spend 2 weeks with us so we took  advantage of it just being our little family at home and made some special memories.

On Friday afternoon we decorated gingerbread houses. This is a favorite activity of the kids every December. This year we did mini houses rather than the full-scale ones we typically decorate.

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Can you guess which house belongs to which child?

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#2

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#4

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Answer: #1: Rusty, #2: Gracie, #3: Molly, #4: Tyler

Friday night the girls were invited to a friend’s home for a holiday sleepover. I left the boys home alone to drop the girls off. This was Rusty’s first time babysitting. I could tell Rusty was nervous but eager to try. I told the boys that after I dropped off the girls I was going to call home and if Rusty said Tyler had been good that I would bring home a treat. My goal in this was two fold…#1. to motivate Tyler to listen to Rusty and #2. To help Rusty resist any unnecessary tattling. It worked. As I was leaving the girls, Rusty called. In the background I heard Tyler yelling, “I’m being good!!!” It turns out that Rusty wasn’t calling to tattle he was calling to find out when I’d be home because Tyler was hungry and wanted to eat but Rusty was afraid for him to eat while he was babysitting. Rusty was afraid Tyler was going to choke so he told Tyler he had to wait until Mom returned to have any food. That issue was mediated by suggesting Rusty feed him applesauce. Tyler filled his belly and Rusty didn’t have to perform the Heimlich Maneuver..Win..Win!

On Saturday I had a special surprise planned for Toby and the girls. It was an early Christmas gift that I purchased in the fall…tickets to the B.E. Taylor concert. We are all fans of B.E. Taylor’s Christmas concerts, especially Toby, so this was a fun gift to surprise him with. I decided to take the girls as a special daughter/ parents date. The concert was wonderful and really put me in the Christmas spirit. It was a wonderful evening with the ones I love!

At the concert..

At the concert..

Molly and Gracie

Molly and Gracie

B.E.Taylor

B.E.Taylor

On Sunday evening we celebrated Christmas with Mimi Joy and Aunt Beth. We had a delicious ham dinner and then exchanged gifts. The evening was so relaxing and special. The kids were thrilled with the gifts they received and loved giving the gifts they had made Mimi Joy.

Opening gifts..

Opening gifts..

Toby recieved money to buy new church shoes but it came folded as a dress shirt..so creative!

Toby received money to buy new church shoes but it came folded as a dress shirt..so creative!

Gracie and Molly were thrilled to recieve cameras from Mimi!

Gracie and Molly were thrilled to receive cameras from Mimi!

The biggest hit of the night! Socks!

The biggest hit of the night! A box of cute Socks!

After our family party at Mimi Joy’s house we came home and had our own gift exchange. The kids wanted to exchange gifts with each other and give Toby and I our gifts before Ozzie and Zoey came so we had our family’s gift exchange on Sunday night. It  suddenly it felt like Christmas. It was simple and relaxed and lovely sitting as a family and unwrapping gifts. As a Momma it delighted me to see the effort and thought that each of the kids put into each other’s gifts and the sincere gratitude that was expressed to each other in words and hugs. Here are some of the gifts that were given…

Molly wrote two books for Tyler using a "publish your own book" kit she recieved for Christmas last year. Here Rusty reads it to Tyler.

Molly wrote two books for Tyler using a “publish your own book” kit she received for Christmas last year. Here Rusty reads it to Tyler.

Gracie made a new hat for Tyler in his favorite color- lime green.

Gracie made a new hat for Tyler in his favorite color… lime green.

Molly made Toby a plaque for his dresser that touched his heart..

Molly made Toby a plaque for his dresser that touched his heart..

The evening ended with our annual tradition of the ornament exchange. Every year on the 23rd we give the kids an ornament that is representative of the year they had. We have done this since Gracie’s first Christmas so that when the kids leave home they will have ornaments to take for their own tree. Usually the ornament they receive is a surprise but this year they picked out their own ornament when we stopped at the world’s largest Christmas store on our way home from Michigan. After hanging their new ornaments up on the tree we had our family devotional and headed to bed.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!

Rusty's new ornament.

Rusty’s new ornament.

Bad Momma Meltdown

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Tis the season to be jolly…

It is the season of

 Christmas carols,

holiday greetings,

peace,

goodwill

and of course the annual Bad Momma Holiday Meltdown.

A few days ago I hit “The Wall.” That invisible barrier that separates sanity from crisis. Every year I find myself flirting with danger as I creep closer and closer to the danger zone. It starts innocently enough with dreams of a perfect Christmas. My intentions are always noble but my expectations unrealistic. I take on weeks worth of good and worthy projects forgetting that I’m not filling in an empty schedule. Instead, I am trying to add all these holiday traditions to an already filled schedule. While I am trying to make homemade gifts and create elf magic my family still expects 3 meals a day and clean socks. As I try to bake 8 dozen cookies the school still expects me to teach my children. There are all the regular demands on an already full schedule and yet every year on December 1st I naively run full speed into the month tripping over my six-foot long holiday “to do” list which inevitably leads to our most beloved McCleery tradition…the Bad Momma Holiday meltdown. The trigger is different every year but the formula is always the same..

Unrealistic expectations + limited time + overly tired children + stressed out momma + 1 more thing being asked = MELTDOWN.

This year it was triggered by an innocent phone call by an unsuspecting woman from church asking me to do one little thing, but it was that proverbial straw.  I, of course, said yes in my appropriately cheerful holiday voice and then hung up. As I hung up  the phone disaster was looming in the other room in the form of an argument between the kids. It was then that I lost it. I stepped into the kitchen and informed my children that I was running away from home…that I was headed to Las Vegas to deal blackjack for a living and I wasn’t coming back.

Tyler quickly responded with, “Can I come with you?”

Frustrated by the lack of affect my words were having I tried again.

“Nice Momma is gone. Her evil twin has taken her place.”

“What does that mean?” Tyler asked

“It means things are changing around here. It means you will obey immediately, you will obey with a good attitude. It means more punishments and less second chances. It means…”

Tyler interrupted my lecture for clarification, “So evil Momma is kind of like Daddy?”

I quickly walked away so the kids didn’t see my smile. Evil Momma doesn’t smile.

I went into my bathroom and started the bath water. I turned off the lights and listened to the bath fill as I pondered my own inadequacies as a mother. Every year I tell myself that this Christmas season will be the year I find that balance. This will be the year that I will meet all those obligations and do so with a happy, humble, grateful attitude. This will be the year I will break the annual family tradition of the Bad Momma Holiday Meltdown but inevitably the stress kicks in, the list gets longer, the guilt gets heavier and world gets noisier. All I want is quiet. I crave the silent night that we sing about. And every year I break.

Then I cycle through the next series of emotions..

Anger + resentment + guilt + sadness = RENEWAL

I have my meltdown, I feel guilty that I am incapable of making it through the season without a meltdown, I am humbled as I am once again reminded of my inadequacies as a wife and mother and THEN I remember…I remember who can help. I remember who the source of energy and gratitude and Christmas spirit is. Somehow in the noise of Christmas I had shut out the voice I most needed to hear.

I needed quiet…I craved stillness…I longed for silence so I could hear my God.

In the darkness of the bathroom I slipped down into the bubbles of the hot bath. I submerged myself so only my mouth and nose lay above water. There in the cocoon of water noises were muffled. I couldn’t see the messes that needed to be cleaned up, I couldn’t hear the bickering of children.

I lay still and I found peace.

Perhaps I am the only one  out there who struggles with the annual Bad Momma Holiday Meltdown but if you find yourself teetering on the brink may I suggest submerging yourself in a hot bath. It is blissfully silent.

Just make sure you keep you nose above water.

 

Boys’ Weekend!

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Last weekend while the girls were enjoying a weekend in Ohio the boys were having a “boys’ weekend.” When I picked up Ozzie he jumped in the car, excited to share the news that he had been chosen to bring Crystal and Nico, the class dogs, home with him for the weekend. The kids in his class get to take turns taking home these two stuffed dogs and then have to write a journal entry in the class notebook from the point of view of the dogs about what they experienced over the weekend. Ozzie was thrilled to get to take the dogs to “boys’ weekend.” As we drove back home Ozzie solemnly informed me that my house might be messy when I come back from Ohio because boys’ weekends are usually messy. I asked him what he had planned for “boys’ weekend” and he filled me in…

Ozzie’s boys’ weekend to-do list:

1. Eat 5 pizzas

2. Watch “boy” movies.

3. Sleep in their clothes.

4. Stay up until 9:30 pm.

5. Pass out in the living room.

He was quick to inform me that he wouldn’t be passing out due to alcohol because he doesn’t drink.

After dropping off Ozzie, the girls headed out, and boys’ weekend commenced. I called Toby the next morning to check in and see how he was holding up and was informed that the boys were outside building a tree house. Ozzie and Tyler woke up with the grand plan of building a boys’ tree house in the woods. They sat down and drew up plans which they then presented to Rusty in hopes that he would help them build it. They gathered hammers, nails, and old boards and headed off to the woods. After a while they were back at the house in search of mediation from Toby. Ozzie was frustrated by “contractor” Rusty’s interpretation of his drawing. Rusty was frustrated by the unrealistic demands of “architect” Ozzie’s vision. (Rusty had a handful of old boards and Ozzie wanted a two-story tree house with a front porch and a door.) Both boys were frustrated by their lazy “laborer”, Tyler, who kept wandering off the job site. Toby said it was just like every job site he has ever worked on. 🙂

Ozzie's rendering of the infamous tree house.

Ozzie’s rendering of the infamous tree house.

The boys soon gave up on the tree house project and came in to play. The girls and I arrived home Saturday evening. As we drove up the driveway we soon began to slip and slide. The car came to rest sideways about halfway up the driveway. I put it in park, put on the emergency brake and decided to deal with it in the morning.

Sunday morning everyone, with snow boots on and church shoes in hand, headed down the driveway to “unstuck” the car. Toby wrapped his bandaged foot in a grocery bag and drove the ATV down the driveway. He was able to get the car out of its precarious position and we were off to church.

Hiking down the driveway...

Hiking down the driveway…

"You know you're a redneck when..."

“You know you’re a redneck when…”

 

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Sunday was a big day at church. Rusty was speaking in church for the first time. He was a nervous wreck but he did it and did great job. He has come so far! There was a time not too many years ago that he would have been unable to do that because of Selective Mutism. Gracie also had a big day. Gracie has been working for the last 3 years on a program for the young women in church called Personal Progress. She completed it last week and received her recognition on Sunday. Go Gracie!!

Gracie with her Personal Progress medallion.

Gracie with her Personal Progress medallion.

The kids also got in some sledding time this weekend. After 5 years of living here they discovered the best sledding hill on the property is the driveway (which may have something to do with our inability to get up it!) We only have one sled so the kids improvised with some plastic sheeting. Everyone had a great time, even Winnie, who discovered the joy of chasing the kids down the hill while trying to jump on their moving sled.

It was a busy weekend, a fun-filled weekend…Crystal and Nico had plenty to write about. I think “boys’ weekend” was a success.

Rusty

Rusty

Gracie

Gracie

Winnie attack!

Winnie attack!

Country Moments

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“Taking pictures is savoring life intensely, every hundredth of a second.” -Marc Riboud

This weekend the girls and I went out to the Homestead to visit my parents for a “girls only weekend.” The original plan was to take Zoey, the little girl we have been doing respite care for, with us and leave Ozzie, her brother, home with the boys but when Friday came Zoey was running a high temperature and ended up staying home with her foster mom. Ozzie still came and was eager for his “boys’ weekend.” (More on that in a future blog) After picking up Ozzie and dropping him off at home the girls and I headed to Ohio for a fun weekend with Mimi and Pop pop. The plan was to relax, do some Christmas shopping, see a movie and go out to lunch. We arrived Friday night just in time for dinner. After a tasty meal we played board games. In the morning Gracie joined Mimi and Pop pop in the barn for morning chores with her camera in hand. Her photography assignment for this week was a lesson on photo journalism. This week she learned the art of telling a story using only photos. She decided to tell the story of life at the Homestead…of country moments.

Here is her story….

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Grace McCleery #2

Grace McCleery #3

Grace McCleery #4

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Grace McCleery #5

“What I like about photography is that it takes moments that should have been forgotten, and just freezes them, and allows us to share it with everyone and share it with future generations. But there is also a sense of secrets of the picture, or the stuff you don’t know, or don’t see. You don’t really know what happened before or after a picture. It’s like time is frozen in that moment.”-Jesus Holguin

Christmas through time

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Yesterday was our annual home school co-op Christmas party. This year the theme was “Christmas Through Time.” Preparations for the party began weeks before hand as we made gifts for friends and teachers, baked cookies for our cookie exchange and shopped for the kids’ gift exchange. This year our activities at the party revolved around how Christmas was celebrated during different times throughout history. The stations were: A Victorian Christmas, A Colonial Christmas, A Pioneer Christmas, and A Vintage Christmas (1940s). Different moms were in charge of the different stations. A friend and I were in charge of A Pioneer Christmas. Dressed in long skirt, aprons  and bonnets we discussed with the kids what a pioneer Christmas would have been like. At each station the kids made a craft that represented that time period in history.

Molly in the pioneer room.

Molly in the pioneer room.

Grace and her friend making the pioneer craft.

Grace and her friend Olivia making the pioneer craft.

Here are the finished crafts…

A Vintage Christmas

A Vintage Christmas

A Victorian Christmas

A Victorian Christmas

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A Colonial Christmas

A Pioneer Christmas

A Pioneer Christmas

After the kids rotated through all four stations everybody met in one of the larger classrooms for the annual and much-anticipated talent show. We were treated to musical numbers, poetry recitation, comedy acts and instrumental pieces. My girls joined with some of their friends to perform a song they dedicated to the Moms entitled, “Best Day.”

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After the talent show we headed to the lunchroom where we enjoyed a feast of delicious food and the treat of sitting and visiting with dear friends.

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The party ended with a gift exchange among the kids. Each kid drew another’s name and purchased a $5.00 gift for them. I don’t know which part my kids enjoyed more, the giving or the receiving. My kids were all thrilled with the gifts that they received. Tyler was especially thrilled to get a football from one of his friends.
The day ended with the moms exchanging cookies for the cookie exchange and cleaning up the mess created by a wonderful Christmas party. I went home feeling utterly done in but immensely grateful for this amazing group of women and kids that we call our co-op friends.

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Room at the inn

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The question was a simple one…

“Do you have room?”

“Can you make room?”

A simple question asked by a humble man.

A man whose wife was heavy with child.

We don’t know how many doors were knocked on…how many turned them away before they found a place to rest.

Then there in the humble surroundings of a dusty stable the King of Kings was born.

The question is still a simple one…

“Do you have room?”

Our homes might not be so filled that we would turn away the King of Kings…the Lord of Lords…

but what about our lives?

“Can you make room?” is the question we were asked this week by the social worker of the two children that we did respite care for a few weeks ago. The current foster family has put in their 30 day notice which leaves these two little ones being pulled from their home and being placed in a stranger’s home days before Christmas. They asked us if we would be able to take them every weekend this month as they scrambled to find a new home for them. The social worker paused and then timidly asked if we would consider taking them for Christmas.

“Do you have room?”

When we were asked to do respite care for a weekend we had no idea that it would turn into a commitment that would fill the month of December…that would fill the Christmas season. The fact that we are in the position to be asked is a testament to how far God has brought us and how He has transformed my heart over this past year. I am an inn keeper at heart. I struggle with opening my home and life and my heart to others. I have friends and family who have such open hearts and homes who willingly and eagerly take in anyone who comes to their doorstep (figuratively and literally.)  They earnestly reply, “The more the merrier!” I so admire people like that…would love to be more like that…but I find myself struggling to be like that. A few years ago the thought of having to open my Christmas season to strangers would have made me angry, resentful, and overwhelmed but God has been working on me. God has been showing me the blessing of “Yes.” I have watched miracles unfold over the last year because of the courage to say “yes.” I would love to tell you that when God calls I respond with a courageous and bold “YES!” but more often it is a timid and barely audible “yes.” I’m still a work in progress.

So when God said, “I have two lost souls in search of a bed to lay their heads upon in this most holy of seasons…Do you have room?”

I answered, “Yes.”

Our weekend wasn’t an easy one. We went into it tired with Friday being a full day before the weekend even began. Friday morning the boys were up early to get a little hunting in. This is Rusty’s first deer hunting season and was eager to go out with Dad and try to get some meat for the freezer. Although they didn’t get anything it was still a special rite of passage shared by Dad and son.

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Later that day Toby and I headed off to the hospital. Toby had to have surgery on his foot and he was scheduled for 12:30. He has had a mass growing on the top of his foot that has been getting more and more painful over the last few months. As we went into a back room to get him prepped for the surgery we had the chance to talk to the surgeon. While discussing the expected recovery time Toby discovered that his original plan to go back to work on Monday wasn’t going to work out after the doctor explained that he would be on crutches and unable to put on a shoe for a couple of weeks. The surgery itself went really well and we found out that the mass that they thought was a tumor was actually a foreign body that was infected. Something had worked its way under the skin, got infected, and then a mass of tissue grew around it. We were blessed to find out that the damage they were afraid might occur as a result of the surgery was able to be avoided due to the shallowness of the mass. We made it out of the hospital around 5pm, drove Toby home, and put him to bed.

Toby waiting to go into surgery.

Toby waiting to go into surgery.

Saturday morning I left early to pick up our two visitors for the weekend. I wasn’t sure how the weekend would go as I flew solo without my wing-man. Although there were no major mishaps I definitely felt Toby’s absence as he was stuck on his back. Saturday afternoon I drove the girls over to the local high school where they were hired to do face painting for the community Christmas party. They had so much fun doing it in the fall that they eagerly said “yes” when asked to do it again. While there the kids took part in some of the fun activities they offered like crafts and meeting Santa.

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The girls with the face painting sign they made to show what pictures they offer.

Craft time at the Christmas party.

Craft time at the Christmas party.

Gracie the Elf...compliments of the balloon man at the party.

Gracie the Elf…compliments of the balloon man at the party.

The remainder of the weekend was spent trying to keep the kids occupied in one part of the house while Toby recovered in another part. To help facilitate that I made sugar cookies for the kids to decorate.

Tyler's sugar laden creation!

Tyler’s sugar coated creation!

While the kids were visiting us they were introduced to the Elf on a Shelf tradition that we have been doing with our kids for the last 5 years and our personal elf friend, Buster. The kids were delighted by the stories Tyler told them of some of Buster’s past antics and couldn’t wait to go to bed to see what mischief Buster would get into during the night.

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Buster

Buster didn’t disappoint…

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Ozzie was especially taken with Buster and I found him whispering secrets many times over the weekend for Buster to take back to Santa. The weekend was a good one..a crazy, noisy, exhausting one… but a good one. There were no major catastrophes unless you count that awkward incident of Gracie finding Ozzie using her electric toothbrush because he wanted to see what it felt like. Gracie handled it very well. It was discreetly tossed and a new toothbrush took its place. 🙂

Now here I sit.

 The kids have gone home for the week. They will be back next weekend. The house is a disaster. All the  Christmas preparations I had planned for the weekend still sit undone on the side bench and I am worn out.

This weekend was in no way a reflection of what an ideal weekend in December should look like by my standards or the world’s. No lights were hung. No shopping was done. Not one drop of cocoa was sipped (at least not by me) although I wiped up plenty of spilled cocoa. I didn’t sit and gaze at the tree once this weekend. By the world’s measurement it was an utter failure of a Christmas season Saturday. Martha would have been horrified if she had seen the cookies the kids decorated. My home at this moment would be more likely to be featured on an episode of Hoarders than in any decorating magazine, but somehow in the midst of the mess and the noise I felt as though I had found something I had been missing. By saying “yes” to two small children I found something that I had lost. By making room in my schedule, in my home, and in my heart for two weary travelers I found Christmas. Not the sparkly, tinsel trimmed Christmas we are told we should strive for but a messy, dirty, hay strewn Christmas where two children, without a home to call their own, showed us the real meaning of Christmas love.

The question was a simple one…

“Do you have room?

and all I had to do was say, “Yes.”

O Christmas tree

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Larry Wilde has been credited with saying, “Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree. In the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall.”

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That may be true but I have also noticed that as my children have grown taller their perspective has changed. The 6 foot tall tree that once appeared to be 30 feet tall no longer cuts it. They want that 30 foot tree!

Saturday we decided (after looking at our December calendar and noticing how quickly it was filling up) to go tree hunting. Normally this is a family activity that takes place later in the month but one we often struggle to fit in since it has to be done on a Saturday due to the shorter days and the danger of wielding a chain saw in the dark.  So after a morning of cleaning and decorating the house we decided to head out and find the “perfect tree!”

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We drove to McIntyre tree farm, where we have done our tree hunting for the last 6 years. Armed only with enthusiasm and a chainsaw we headed into the fields. The first field we visited had a beautiful selection of well manicured trees, which the kids all immediately dismissed due to size. They wanted a TALL tree even if it meant we gave up the beautiful shape of the six footers. As Toby and I walked around examining the trees from all angles the kids had a harder time focusing. The ground was still snow-covered from the big snowfall the previous week so they took advantage of the snow and all the trees to use as hiding places and had a snowball fight.

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Snowball fight!

Snowball fight!

We finally interrupted their game long enough to ask them to go stand by the tree they thought was “the one.” Molly, being a smart aleck, ran to this one.

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The kids stopped their snowball fight long enough to inform us that none of these trees would do. We needed to go BIGGER so we headed to the other field where the trees are older, not quite so pretty and manicured, but much larger. The first tree the kids ran to was a 25 foot tree that resembled a mushroom. Toby said, “Uh…No.” Once again the kids lost sight of the task at hand as they discovered the magical hidden spots found between the large trees that had grown together. I was soon following them rather than tree hunting when Gracie yelled there was something I needed to see. I followed Rusty under branches and around trees. As my hair was snagged by the pine branches I debated whether the trek was worth it. Then I broke free into a clearing.

We had found Narnia!

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In that little clearing hidden by 3 tall pines we found a magical world. All it needed was a lamp post.

Toby finally convinced us to leave Narnia by warning us that the sun was quickly setting and we still didn’t have a Christmas tree. It was time to focus on the task at hand and find our perfect tree. We finally stumbled on a compromise in the form of 12 foot tree. It wasn’t quite as tall as the kids had hoped but it resembled a Christmas tree not a mushroom. It was a winner! Let’s cut this baby down!

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Our Christmas tree hunt is always one of the highlights of the Christmas season for me. There is something special that occurs as you traipse through the woods together on that special mission of finding the perfect tree. I don’t know if it’s the crunch of the snow under your boots, the smell of pine in the air, or perhaps it is just the work that it takes to hunt down and cut down the perfect tree that makes the experience so sweet. Maybe it has nothing to do with the “hunting” at all. Maybe it has everything to do with who you are hunting with..

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I’m not sure… All I know is that something special, something memorable, something magical happens every year in the fields of McIntyre farm as we search for the perfect tree.

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