Monthly Archives: December 2014

That is one “Happy little tree!”

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The last few days have been wonderful. These lazy, post-Christmas days are the best. Everyone has spent the last few days in PJs enjoying the fact that we have had nowhere to go and nothing on the calendar. The kids have had fun organizing their rooms, putting away their gifts, and enjoying their new toys. Everywhere I look there are kids either curled up reading new books, building Legos, or being creative.

Molly making survival bracelets.

Molly making survival bracelets.

Rusty's completed Minecraft Lego sets.

Rusty’s completed Minecraft Lego sets.

Grace has been busy with another project…

Last October Toby and I dressed as Bob Ross and his “happy little tree” for Halloween.

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Our kids did not get our costume at all. This led to a conversation with our kids about the old Bob Ross painting show that was on TV when we were kids. When Grace asked for painting supplies for Christmas I got thinking about how she would enjoy his instructional videos. We were able to find one of his kits online. It came with the video, the paints and brushes, and we bought her a few canvases to go along with the kit. She was thrilled and eager to start painting, so a few days after Christmas she locked herself away in the playroom for the day.

Grace painting with Bob.

Grace painting with Bob.

After working all morning she emerged to show off her completed oil painting.

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Needless to say, we were amazed. It was beautiful!

Bob Ross is one amazing teacher! 😉

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Way to go, Gracie!

and Happy New Year to you all.

See you in 2015!

There’s No Place like Home for the Holidays…Part 2

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“I used to think being a kid on Christmas was the best thing ever, but it turns out having kids on Christmas is!”

Let the wild rumpus start!

The calm before the storm.

The calm before the storm.

The boys received a joint gift from Santa...a slightly used Thomas the Train set that Santa found for a steal on craigslist. It came with track, trains, buildings, table and storage bin. Santa is hoping this shared gift with encourage the boys to play with each other and promote brotherly bonding.

The boys received a joint gift from Santa…a slightly used Thomas the Train set that Santa found for a steal on Craigslist. It came with track, trains, buildings, table and storage bin. Santa is hoping this shared gift will encourage the boys to play with each other and promote brotherly bonding.

Christmas morning as they decending  the stairs to see if Santa came.

Christmas morning as they descend the stairs to see if Santa came.

The boys were "over the top" excited!

The boys were “over the top” excited!

The girls were allowed to open their gift from Mimi and Pop pop before stockings were handed out. Mimi thought they could use them as they opened gifts. The both received beanbags for their rooms. Both were excited to have a comfy reading spot for their rooms.

The girls were allowed to open their gift from Mimi and Pop pop before stockings were handed out. Mimi thought they could use them as they opened gifts. The both received bean bags for their rooms. Both were excited to have a comfy reading spot for their rooms.

Like always the highlight of Christmas morning was opening stockings.

Like always the highlight of Christmas morning was opening stockings.

Santa always finds the perfect stocking stuffers for each person. For instance, Toby's new mouth spray...I do love a man with a British accent :)

Santa always finds the perfect stocking stuffers for each person. For instance, Toby’s new mouth spray…I do love a man with a British accent 🙂

After stockings we took a break for breakfast and then gathered once again to open gifts.

The Lego boys.

The Lego boys.

Ozzie's favorite gift. He has all the other "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" books and was hoping to receive the latest one for his collection.

Ozzie’s favorite gift. He has all the other “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” books and was hoping to receive the latest one for his collection.

Grace and Molly

Grace and Molly

Molly's favorite gift was the Maze Runner book set.

Molly’s favorite gift was the Maze Runner book set.

Tyler and Ozzie both received farm tractor toys from Mimi and Pop pop.

Tyler and Ozzie both received farm tractor toys from Mimi and Pop pop.

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“One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day. Don’t clean it up too quickly.”  -Andy Rooney

Don’t worry. We didn’t.

🙂

There’s No Place like home for the Holidays…Part 1

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From the time I was a young girl, my favorite day of the Christmas season was always Christmas Eve. I don’t know if it was the joy of anticipation, or the magic evening my parents and grandparents created so selflessly. It could have been Christmas Eve mass, or the activities that followed: the appetizers and Christmas play that were performed by a group of untalented, yet eager children, whose talents were applauded as though they were Broadway stars. It could have been the feel of soft, new, unworn Christmas pajamas or the silence that settled in the room as my siblings and I listened for the sound of sleigh bells, willing our eyes to get heavy before Santa passed us by.

Perhaps it was a combination of all of these things.

To this day Christmas Eve is still my favorite day of the Christmas season. I am now one of the “Christmas makers” rather than a receiver of the gift, but there is still something magical in the air as we await the blessings of Christmas day.

And there is no place I would rather await the magic of Christmas than with my family, at the Homestead.

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 December 24th everyone woke and got right to work. There is a lot of work that goes into preparing the farm animals for our absence and moving all the Christmas supplies to Ohio for two days. There are stockings to pack, animals to feed, appetizers to pack in the cooler, and gifts to load in the trailer. There were too many people and too many bags to drive one vehicle so Toby drove his truck, pulling his trailer, while Grace drove my car. It was her longest driving stint since she passed her permit test and although she had to drive unfamiliar roads in Christmas traffic she did a beautiful job getting us safely to the Homestead in just under 3 hours.

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 When we arrived we greeted Uncle Travis, who was visiting from Texas, and G.G. (my grandma) who was visiting from Florida. The only thing that would have made the holidays even better is if my sister and her family could have joined us from Michigan.

When we arrived, G.G. had a surprise for Ozzie. She had finished knitting his stocking. He now has a personalized stocking to match the rest of the family’s stockings. It is a special gift that my grandmother has blessed all the family members with. She has knit dozens and dozens of Christmas stockings over the years as new spouses have married into the family, new babies have been born and little boys have been adopted.

It made the adoption feel all the more official as Ozzie held his new stocking.

As I took the photo I reflected on God’s hand in our lives. Last year God brought Ozzie into our lives when we volunteered to take Ozzie and his sister in for Christmas. They had no place to go. It was a special Christmas as we were able to be part of something blessed and holy. Who would have thought, 12 months later, that little boy would be our son and our family would be +1. It is humbling to see how much life can change over the course of a year.

Ozzie was also reflecting on the previous year when he said, “This year I have my own family.”

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Ozzie and G.G.

For dinner on Christmas Eve it is our tradition is to have appetizers. It adds to the festive, fun atmosphere to eat on our laps and enjoy dips and treats instead of a sit down meal.

The Christmas eve spread...YUM!

The Christmas eve spread…YUM!

Like the Christmas eves of my childhood, the kids all received new Christmas PJs.

Posing for G.G.

Posing for G.G.

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On Christmas eve the kids have also continued the tradition of putting on a play or a variety show for the adults’ entertainment. This year the big kids did a selection of songs from the movie “Frozen” hoping the good vibes would bring snow. (No such luck. It was in the 50’s and muddy.)

"Love is an open door."

“Love is an open door.”

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There was also our traditional “white elephant” gag gift exchange and family games. This year we had fun playing “Heads up.”

Playing "Heads Up!"

Playing “Heads Up!”

Brothers :)

Brothers 🙂

The real magic of the evening, however, happened in the humble surroundings of hay and animals. There in the darkness of the night, we gathered in the barn, that was lit only with luminaries, lanterns and the glow of the tree, and my father read to us the story of Christ’s birth.

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It was dusty, and damp, and…Holy.

For a moment we stepped away from the pile of presents and the shine of tinsel and we returned to where the story all began…

In a simple stable,

with family gathered,

and animals around.

After reading the Christmas story my parents shared with the kids the legend of the animals and the magic that happens each Christmas Eve at midnight….

The Night The Animals Talked

“In the frosty mountains and on the snowy fields of Norway, there is a legend that draws children to all kinds to stables and stalls throughout the country on each Christmas Eve night. They are hoping to hear a miracle. They are waiting to hear the animals talk.

Over 2,000 years ago, Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem. This was no abandoned place, but was a working stable, filled with animals of all kinds. Into these humble surroundings, encircled by the innocent creatures of God, the Savior of man came into the world.

Now according to legend, at least, Christ’s birth occurred at exactly midnight. Inside the stable, the animals watched in wonder as the new-born babe was lovingly wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger. Suddenly, God gave voice to the animals and immediately they began to praise God for the miracle they had just seen. This went on for several minutes and, just before the entrance of the shepherds — who had hurried to the stable because angels had told them the Christ had been born there — the animals again fell silent. The only humans who had heard them were Mary, Joseph and, of course, the Christ child.

The legend of the talking animals persists to this day in Scandinavia. And every Christmas Eve, wide-eyed children creep into stables just before midnight to hear the animals praise God for the wondrous birth of His Son. Of course, adults scoff at this. “Old wives tales,” they grump. “Those children should be home in bed, not out in the cold waiting for the family cow to preach a sermon.”

But the children know — or at least believe — that animals really do praise God at midnight every Christmas Eve. And who of us — those who believe in an all-powerful God — can say that it really doesn’t happen.”

 (by: Ed Price)

We then read from the book, Manger, which is a compiled series of poems written in the voices of the animals that were there for Christ’s birth, on that holy night. We passed the book around, as we sat on the hay, each taking a turn to read an animal’s poem.

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Rusty had somebody reading over his shoulder 🙂

Then we tucked in the animals and said good night. The kids talked of sneaking back out at midnight to listen at the barn door. 🙂

 

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 It was then time for bed. Santa’s cookies we placed on a plate, a cup of eggnog at its side, and reindeer food was tossed in the air in anticipation of Rudolph’s arrival.

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Magic reindeer food!

The little ones were then tucked into bed so that the real magic could begin.

Christmas Photo Booth

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“I have been known to FLASH people”

Flash * Click * Click

Here is a little “Flashing” fun we had this Christmas 😉

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"This is what I like about photographs. They're proof that once, even if just for a heartbeat, everything was perfect." - Jodi Picoult

“This is what I like about photographs. They’re proof that once, even if just for a heartbeat, everything was perfect.” – Jodi Picoult

Another “Picture Perfect” Christmas!

Tis more Blessed to give…

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“It is not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” – Mother Teresa

Monday night was our Christmas celebration with the McCleery side of the family. We invited Toby’s mother and Aunt Beth to join us for dinner, gift exchange and gingerbread house decorating.

The kids were huge helps as we prepared for entertaining. We wrapped gifts, set the table, ran to the grocery store and made dinner and dessert.

The table all set...

The table all set…

Aunt Beth arrived first, followed by Mimi Joy. Our evening started with dinner. We had tortellini soup and fresh bread for dinner.

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After dinner we got settled in the living room to exchange gifts.

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The gifts that Mimi Joy brought for the kids were packaged in these cute bags. There was one bag for Ozzie and Tyler to share, one for the girls to share, and one bag for Rusty.

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Toby with his stocking.

Toby with his stocking.

We took turns going around the room opening gifts. The kids were as eager to give the gifts that they had bought Beth and Joy as they were to receive the kids that were for them.

Ozzie's gift to Aunt Beth...air fresheners :)

Ozzie’s gift to Aunt Beth…air fresheners 🙂

Rusty's gift to Mimi Joy...socks!

Rusty’s gift to Mimi Joy…socks!

The kids were all tickled with the gifts they received…

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The girls' new shirts

The girls’ new shirts

and beautiful new wool mittens.

and beautiful new wool mittens.

The little boys were thrilled with their gifts from Aunt Beth...a lego set for Tyler and weather books for Ozzie :)

The little boys were thrilled with their gifts from Aunt Beth…a lego set for Tyler and weather books for Ozzie 🙂

After we were done unwrapping we had dessert. We had peppermint ice cream and homemade hot fudge, topped with crushed candy canes.

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After dessert Aunt Beth had to head home. She had an early morning the next day because of work. Mimi Joy  stayed and decorated gingerbread houses with us. I picked up enough pre-baked houses, icing, and candies for everyone to make a mini house. Rusty was especially thrilled since he missed the gingerbread decorating party earlier this month.

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The little boys' houses.

The little boys’ houses.

Merry Christmas McCleery family!

 

Baked with Love!

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Saturday we had an unexpected surprise. We received a call from Sandy, Zoey’s mom, asking if she could steal Ozzie away for the day for some special brother/sister time together. I was thrilled…both for Ozzie, who is still missing his biological sister, but also for Toby and I who haven’t had a date in while. It was much-needed for all involved!

We met in Cranberry where we surprised Ozzie with sister time. Sandy loaded the kids up and they spent the day going to lunch, exchanging Christmas gifts and seeing the new Annie movie.

Ozzie and Zoey

Ozzie and Zoey

Toby and I stayed close by in case we needed to pick up Oz earlier than expected. We had the best day I’ve had in a long time! We spent the day doing last-minute Christmas shopping and grocery shopping. It was wonderful being able to visit without little ears listening and talk without little people interrupting. We are still not in a place with Ozzie where he can be left with siblings or inexperienced babysitters, so we haven’t gone out alone for a long time. We had a great time snacking at Costco, shopping for the kids and TALKING, really talking, to one another. Before we left to pick Ozzie up we had lunch out at Primanti Bros.. It was a perfect day and it left me feeling reconnected to my husband and recharged after a hard month.

Ozzie had a great time with his sister and as we were saying goodbye to Sandy I gave her a hug and told her that today was the best Christmas gift ever!

Adoption, like all challenging seasons of life, can take a toll on a couple’s relationship. The fatigue I feel daily is comparable to those early years of parenting when I had a sleepless newborn and busy toddlers. Parenting a newly adopted child with challenges requires the same active parenting and supervision that parenting a little one would, except with a lot bigger tantrums. The effect brings about a weariness and a numbness that is challenging to a marriage. I find myself, on the worst of days, laying in bed  before we turn off the light, thinking of the things I need to tell Toby  and realizing I simply don’t have the energy to converse.

“I’ll just tell him tomorrow,” I will think to myself.

This is why Saturday was such a gift. For six hours I didn’t have to referee, guide, direct or parent. I could simply be a woman and a wife.

It was a precious gift.

In the evening we had planned another favorite family tradition, Gracie’s pick for the season:

Christmas Cookie Decorating!

It was a fun, creative, yummy way to spend the evening. 🙂

All ready to decorate...

All ready to decorate…

Father and son...looking good in green!

Father and son…looking good in green!

Rusty

Rusty

Busy working

Busy working

It is so much fun to play with your food!

It is so much fun to play with your food!

Toby, Molly and Grace

Toby, Molly and Grace

The finished products...all ready to put out for Santa!

The finished products…all ready to put out for Santa!

Christmas Traditions

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Last Friday was an emotional day for a certain little boy. This Christmas season has been an extra emotional time due to many factors: life changes like adoption and switching schools, the busyness of the season, the fact we are out of our routine, as well as the emotional fallout that comes from the holiday season.

Friday was Ozzie’s last day of school at Big Beaver Elementary. He faced the day with mixed emotions. He was excited for the fun party day at school but also sad about it being the last day. He only had a half day of school so at 11:50 we drove up to the school for our final “pick up.” As he climbed into the car I felt such a relief that this season of our life is now over and things can get back to normal. Our experience with public school was mixed. We had some wonderful teachers, as well as some not so positive experiences with bullying. Overall I’d say it went better than I expected, but it also confirmed our decision to bring him home with the other kids.

The final "pick up."

The final “pick up.”

The crafts Ozzie made at school on Friday.

The crafts Ozzie made at school on Friday.

Friday afternoon was spent celebrating the end of school and the beginning of Christmas break. We broke out the eggnog, turned on Christmas movies, and had a wrapping party in the living room. The kids watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” while they wrapped. The little boys needed a wrapping lesson as they had limited experience with wrapping gifts. Ozzie informed me that he had never wrapped Christmas gifts before.

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While we wrapped, Rusty was tucked away in his room. He had a middle school virtual “Razzle Dazzle” Christmas party. It lasted two hours and the kids played games, competed with Christmas trivia knowledge, voted on the ugliest sweater in the teachers’ ugliest Christmas sweater contest,  and visited over camera in the virtual classroom.

Rusty in his virtual Christmas party.

Rusty in his virtual Christmas party.

In the evening we had a special treat planned for the kids. The activity we had planned stemmed from two experiences. In the past we have annually taken the big kids to Hartwood Acres to see the Christmas lights. It was always an amazingly magical evening as we drove through acres of Christmas lights and Christmas scenes. For the last two years they have not set up due to lack of funding. This has been so disappointing for our family who has always enjoyed this tradition. For the last two years we have been looking for a Plan B. The other factor that played into our Friday evening plans was a discussion we had as a family about traditions.

When we bring a new child into our family we make every effort to try to ease the transition, especially during holidays. It is hard, in the best of circumstances, but can be especially difficult during the holidays when they are away from their past families and now part of a family who does Christmas differently than they are accustomed to. This led to a discussion about Christmas traditions and what Ozzie’s and Tyler’s favorite traditions from their previous homes were. Tyler has few memories of traditions prior to the ones he has with us, so I focused on Ozzie.

I asked him, “What are your favorite Christmas traditions that you had with your birth parents or other foster parents?”

He thought about it and answered, “I like the tradition where there was a remote control car under the tree on Christmas morning.”

“No,” I explained, “Not the favorite things you received as gifts. What were your favorite things you did?”

I could tell he was stumped so Toby and I explained what our childhood Christmas traditions were. The kids loved hearing what Christmas was like in our homes growing up. After sharing my traditions I asked him again.

“I don’t know,” he answered, “We didn’t do anything.”

I kept pressing…buying a Christmas tree, opening stockings, decorating cookies, caroling, reading the Christmas story…

To each suggestion he answered “No.”

I looked at Toby, shocked that Oz had never experienced any of those things I held so dear.

Toby grinned at my shock and gently explained that most people don’t do Christmas as big as my family does.

The one thing Ozzie came up with as something he had done with a previous foster family was going to see the lights at Overly’s Country Christmas, located in Greensburg, PA. After looking at the website online I thought that this was a perfect way to give Ozzie a taste of Christmas past as well as fulfill the big kids desire for going to see lights.

When Toby arrived home from work we piled in the car, where we played games and sang carols during the 1 1/2 hour drive to Overly’s. It was a fun night. Ozzie was excited to show off a place that he had been to before. It was very different from Hartwood Acres, but was neat in its own right. Here is a peek at our fun night:

Driving out to Overly's.

Driving out to Overly’s.

The lights in the Christmas village were beautiful!

The lights in the Christmas village were beautiful!

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There was a bonfire o warm yourself by...

There was a bonfire o warm yourself by…

Tyler

Tyler

The boys loved playing with the construction toys...

The boys loved playing with the construction toys…

and in the play area.

and in the play area.

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We were even able to visit with Santa. Ozzie was eager to see Santa and was fine until Santa asked him if he hd been a good boy. Ozzie looked sheepishly at Toby. Santa caught to look and asked, "Let's see what Dad says." To which Ozzie frantically yelled, "No! Don't ask him!" Tyler didn't even make it to Santa's lap. As we neared Santa Tyler panicked and told me he wanted to leave. I took him out of line. As we walked outside I asked him what was wrong to which he replied, "I'm just not ready to see him, yet." :)

We were even able to visit with Santa. Ozzie was eager to see Santa and was fine until Santa asked him if he had been a good boy. Ozzie looked sheepishly at Toby. Santa caught to look and asked, “Let’s see what Dad says.” To which Ozzie frantically yelled, “No! Don’t ask him!”
Tyler didn’t even make it to Santa’s lap. As we neared Santa, Tyler panicked, and told me he wanted to leave. I took him out of line. As we walked outside I asked him what was wrong to which he replied, “I’m just not ready to see him, yet.” 🙂

Grace and Molly

Grace and Molly

Inside the sweets shop...

Inside the sweets shop…

Ozzie was fascinated by the talking tree.

Ozzie was fascinated by the talking tree.

It was a beautiful night at Overly’s!

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Elf Mischief

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Many have inquired…

“What ever happened to your elf?”

“Is he still on strike?”

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

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

as the kids have raced each morning to find him.

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

Here is a peek into our morning search for Buster:

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

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Buster made brownies and then helped himself to a slice!

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

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

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

Santa milk!

Santa milk!

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

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

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

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Buster…way up high!

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

Oh, Buster!

🙂

“Life without music would simply B Flat”

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

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

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

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

All ready for a day of fun.

All ready for a day of fun.

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

Grace and Olivia

Grace and Olivia

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

Rusty and his teacher, Mrs. Miller.

Rusty and his teacher, Mrs. Miller.

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

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

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

All dolled up and ready to go...

All dolled up and ready to go…

Goof balls!

Goof balls!

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

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Cute girls :)

Cute girls 🙂

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

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

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

“The Christmas Alphabet”

and

“A Place for You.”

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

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

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

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That’s a wrap!

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

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

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

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

We found Ozzie in the program :)

We found Ozzie in the program 🙂

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

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The band played three songs:

“Hot Cross Buns”

“Mary had a little lamb”

“Jingle Bells”

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

“Solfege Santa”

“Christmas Wishes”

“We wish you a Merry Christmas”

He loved being on stage and sang with gusto.

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

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

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

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

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

All ready for my friends to arrive!

All ready for my friends to arrive!

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

Yummy food to eat...

Yummy food to eat…

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

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

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

Another busy December day…

full of laughter, song and play!