Monthly Archives: June 2015

Saying goodbye to Mimi Joy


It is always hard coming back from a vacation.

It feels like you jump right back into life at full speed without any chance to get your bearings…

at least that has been our experience this past week.

We arrived home Monday night and began Tuesday with a series of appointments and errands.

This week was filled with camp preparations as we packed up Rusty for Boy Scout camp and began making our packing piles for Young Women Camp the following week.

Rusty left this morning and will be gone until Saturday. He is so excited and I am so excited for him!

This week the big kids also spent their days working for Toby. He needed extra laborers and so he asked the three oldest kids if they would be interested in being hired for the week to work for him. This is the first time they have done this but it worked out well. Toby appreciated having good workers and the kids loved earning some spending money.

This week was also Mimi Joy’s last week at home before she leaves for an 18 month full-time mission to Missouri. During that time we won’t see her and our primary means of communication will be in the form of letters and emails as she devotes her time and energy into serving the Lord.

So this week was spent helping her wrap up that last of the details before she leaves. She will be renting her house so she has been working to pack her things away in a storage unit. On Saturday we stopped by to help move a few things and spend some time with her helping with the last few things on her “to do” list.

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While there the kids helped “harvest” the blueberries that were weighing down her blueberry bush.

They were very happy to help . 🙂

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They also visited Aunt Beth and helped “harvest” some of her raspberries.

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When we left the bushes were lighter and their stomachs were fuller!

On Sunday Mimi Joy spent the night with us. Her plane was scheduled to leave early the following morning. Her house is now empty and so having her spend the night here just made sense…

Plus the kids were eager to spend a little more time with Mimi before she left. We had a great scripture/devotional time as a family and some special time visiting. The kids commented on the changes that would occur while she was gone, calculating what their ages would be when she returned. I’m sure the kids will have all grown in spirit and stature by the time she returns.

This led to a discussion on the recent growth that has occurred in all the kids…

Particularly the emotional growth seen in the little boys

and the impressive physical growth seen in Rusty.


Rusty has shot up and has surpassed both his “big sisters” in height. Grace and Rusty were comparing hand and feet sizes and we had to laugh as we remembered the days when Grace would carry Rusty around on her hip.

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Rusty is going to be a big boy. At 13 he is already in a men’s size 13 shoe.

Grace and Rusty: shoe to shoe!

Grace and Rusty: shoe to shoe!

Tyler will not be far behind him. At 8 years old he wears the same size shoe as his 17-year-old sister. 🙂

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As we consider all that the next 18 months will hold for our family

it is exciting.

It is exciting to see Mimi Joy enter this new chapter of her life as she follows God’s calling for her,

and it is exciting to ponder what the next year and a half might hold for the rest of our family.

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It promises to be grand adventure!

“As we lose ourselves in the service of others

we discover our own lives and our own happiness.” -Uchtdorf

Guess who is 40?!


Toby is officially the big 4-0!

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While the cruise was his birthday celebration from me,

the kids wanted to celebrate his special day with him on his actual birthday..

So on Tuesday, the day after returning from Washington DC, the kids had a planning meeting and cooked up some big plans for their Daddy’s birthday.

They decided that they wanted to make him dinner (all by themselves.)

They came up with a menu, split up the responsibilities, and went out shopping for supplies.

They also decided they wanted to do something meaningful for his birthday gift from them

so they stopped at the Dollar Store to buy the supplies for the

“40 Things we love about YOU” basket they were creating.

When they returned home the first thing they worked on was the gift. While at the dollar store everyone picked out 6-7 items that represented something they love about their Daddy. They attached these affirmations to each dollar store gift.

All the labeled gifts then were put in a basket with a tag that read “40 things we love about YOU!”

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Then it was time to begin dinner preparations.

It was decided that Molly and Ozzie would prepare the entree,

Rusty would be in charge of the side dishes,

and Grace and Tyler would make Toby’s birthday dessert.

Molly and Ozzie got started on dinner. They decided to make shish kabobs.

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Rusty began preparations on the salad and corn on the cob, and set the table.

Gracie began peeling peaches (with Molly’s help) for peach cobbler…Daddy’s favorite!

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They decided that they wanted to make homemade ice cream to go with the peach cobbler. I helped Tyler mix up the recipe and then he and Rusty headed out to the front porch with the hand crank ice cream machine to crank the cream into ice cream.

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Dinner was delicious!

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The kids all did a great job and I know Toby was touched by the thoughtfulness and love they showed him through their efforts.

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After a tasty dessert of peach cobbler and homemade ice cream the kids presented Toby with his gift. They watched with glee as he removed each item from the basket and read the tags declaring their love for him.

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It was a perfect way to celebrate a wonderful father on his 40th birthday.

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Happy birthday, Toby!

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We love you!

DC Cupcakes


“A cupcake is happiness with icing on top.”

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Our trip ended, as every good meal does, with dessert!

After reading about Georgetown Cupcakes in a friend’s blog (Thanks Karissa) I knew it needed to be our final stop.

Home of the TLC reality show, “DC Cupcakes,” it is located in Georgetown.


We arrived an hour before closing, found a parking spot, and enjoyed strolling through downtown Georgetown.

We found the bakery easily enough and then waited for 30 minutes to get inside to order.

The line to get inside stretched down the sidewalk.

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As we waited we looked up the menu on Toby’s phone

deciding what we would order before we got to the counter.

Once inside the kids posed beneath the cupcake menu, pointing to their cupcake choices.

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At $3.00 a cupcake it was one of the more affordable treats we ran across in Washington DC…

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and they were delicious!

They came packaged in the iconic pink packaging of DC Cupcakes.

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We ate outside, enjoying the cooler temperatures of evening, and the fun atmosphere of the city.

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The cupcakes were sweet…

but the company was sweeter.

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You know life is good when you can:

“Have your cupcake and eat it too.”

The Smithsonian


On the final day in Washington DC we dedicated our day to visiting some of the museums of the Smithsonian Institution. The Smithsonian Institution is composed of 17 separate collections with 11 being located along the National Mall where we were spending the day. We knew we only had about 7 hours to site-see so we chose the 4 museums/collections we thought the kids would enjoy the most.

"Where to go first??"

“Where to go first??”

We began our day by walking the perimeter of the National Mall, enjoying the architecture and gardens of each of the museum buildings.

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We began the day at the National Museum of American History. Here the kids enjoyed seeing the original American flag that inspired the writing of the Star Spangled Banner, Julia Child’s kitchen, the dresses and china of the First Ladies, a display on the history of war, and another exhibit on the history of transportation.

Tyler seeing if his riveting skills could match Rosie's.

Tyler seeing if his riveting skills could match Rosie’s.

Ozzie's favorite exhibit

Ozzie’s favorite exhibit

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Ozzie making friends…

Gracie making friends at the train station. Nice hats, ladies!

Gracie making friends at the train station. Nice hats, ladies!

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Next we walked to the National Museum of Natural History. Here the kids really enjoyed the live bug zoo, the bones room, and the gems and minerals exhibit where we were able to see the Hope diamond.

What a beautiful building!!

What a beautiful building!!

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The Bones exhibit

The Bones exhibit

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The Gems and Minerals room was a favorite stop...

The Gems and Minerals room was a favorite stop…

The Hope Diamond.

The Hope Diamond.

Gracie and I really enjoyed the National Geographic Photography exhibit.


Our third stop was the sculpture garden. Here the large works of art were showcased in beautiful gardens.

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Rusty standing by the artwork of David Smith, an artist he studied and wrote a paper about this past year.

Rusty standing by the artwork of David Smith, an artist he studied and wrote a paper about this past year.

A sculpture in the garden that invites guest to "take a seat."

A sculpture in the garden that invites guest to “take a seat.”

Our final stop of the day was the National Air and Space Museum. This stop was made at Ozzie’s request but it ended up being our favorite stop. It seemed to have the most to offer with fewer people and more interactive exhibits for kids. The sheer size of the building and the full size aircraft hanging from the ceilings was awe-inspiring.

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Can you spot Ozzie?

Can you spot Ozzie?

Toby and Tyler touring the spacecraft.

Toby and Tyler touring the spacecraft.

The Wright brothers and the McCleery brothers...

The Wright brothers and the McCleery brothers…

The girls posing next to plane of one of their historical heroes... Amelia Earhart!

The girls posing next to plane of one of their historical heroes… Amelia Earhart!

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The size of all the planes was awe-inspiring!

The size of all the planes was awe-inspiring!

What do you think...could Molly have made it as a stewardess?

What do you think…could Molly have made it as a stewardess?

Here are the qualifications:

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The kids especially enjoyed this museum because of the familiar scenes filmed here from one of their favorite movies, “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian”

Remember this staircase from the movie?

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The even sell the infamous Einstein bobble head dolls. 🙂

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It was an amazing day. What a wealth of knowledge can be found at the Smithsonian Institute,

free of charge,

for the public to enjoy!

Our only regret is that we didn’t have an entire week to devote to touring each of these national treasures.

We ended our day with short jaunt over to Georgetown to sample some tasty cupcakes at Georgetown Cupcakes…

the home of the TLC show, DC Cupcakes.

Stay tuned for pictures from this sweet excursion.

Great Falls National Park


“And the air is full of the roar

And the thunderous voice of waters.” IMG_5930 (2)

One of our excursions while in Washington DC was to Great Falls Park.

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Mimi Joy took us to this National Park five years ago on our way to Thanksgiving in Virginia and we were so impressed that we wanted to visit again and take the two little boys.

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We began on the Virginia side of the falls. Here we began our visit in the visitor’s center where we learned more about the history of the gorge, the falls, and the canals that were built here under George Washington’ presidency.

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While the Virginia side is pretty, it is nothing compared to the Maryland side of

“The Niagara of the South.”

So next we drove 20 minutes around the gorge, crossing the Potomac river, to get to the opposite side of the falls.

It is here you can see the locks of the original canal system built during the late 1700’s.

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The scenery was breathtaking (even with the muddy waters caused by recent heavy rains.)

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The walk out to main falls took us along wooden foot paths and over a series of smaller falls.

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We finally reached the main falls.

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Here we took pictures of the big kids in the same spot

they were in 5 years earlier when we visited.

kids at falls

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Now all the kids…

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As we stood looking over the falls it was hard to believe we were only minutes away from a major metropolis. We felt like we were tucked into the deep wilderness,

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not outside the nation’s capital.

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It truly was “Breath-Taking!”


“There is pleasure in the pathless woods.

There is rapture in the lonely shore.

There is society where none intrudes.

By the deep sea and music in its roar.

I love not man the less

But nature more.”

– Lord Byron

The McCleerys go to Washington


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When we made plans to visit Washington DC a few months ago we decided to stay for the weekend and visit some of the historic sites while we were there. We debated what to see and the most efficient way to see the city before we decided on a bus tour. We thought that would be the most time efficient way to travel the city and see the most sites in the short time we had, so on day 1 we headed into the city to catch our tour bus at 10:00am.

We booked our tour through USA tours after reading great reviews about the company online. Since we were staying at a hotel outside the city we decided to take the metro in. We left 90 minutes before our tour bus was scheduled to leave the Navy Memorial in downtown DC. We thought that would be plenty of time but we ended up getting there just in the nick of time with only minutes to spare.

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The kids loved riding the Metro and found it to be a grand adventure. Tyler and Ozzie were especially taken with this new and exciting mode of travel.

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When we arrived we took our seats on the bus and met our tour guide for the day, Andy. Andy introduced himself, sharing with us that he previously worked in radio before he became a city tour guide. The melodious nature of his voice was testament to his previous profession. He was a joy to listen to and his rich knowledge of the city added to the value of the tour. As we drove around the city he pointed out the sites and shared with us the stories behind the sites we were seeing.

Along the way we also routinely stopped to get out and view some of the historic sites up close. I felt like we gained a better understanding of the city, our nation, and its rich history than we ever would have touring the city on our own.

The entire tour lasted 6 hours.

Here are some of the places we visited along the way:

1. Our first stop was the US Capitol building. While currently not in session, it is currently under construction. 🙂 The recognizable dome was covered in scaffolding as the cracks in the iron are being repaired. It is estimated that the refurbishment will be completed in 2017.

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  1. Our next stop was the White house. This is the stop Ozzie was most excited for and this stop ended up being our most crowded stop of the day. Due to the masses of tourist gathered outside the White House Andy brought along his trusty stuffed shark to lead us through the fray. This was his version of the proverbial tour guide umbrella.

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IMG_5237 (2)You are no longer allowed to walk the street in front of the White House. The road is closed to traffic and pedestrians. You now must stay on the sidewalk across the street. The congestion this causes is a real problem, but I did manage to snag one good picture before we moved on. I was happy to climb back onto our roomy, air conditioned bus and move on to our next stop.

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3. Our next stop was the WWII memorial, a beautiful memorial that sits between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.  It is a circle of columns surrounding a fountain at the center. The wall is covered in gold stars, each representing 100 servicemen lost to war.

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IMG_5284 (2)4. We then drove around the green to the Lincoln Memorial. This was the family favorite for the day. I was the only one who had been there before. I remember being in awe of it as a little girl but as we approached I was blown away by its massive size. I don’t remember it being so large. It is a stunning creation with a statue of President Lincoln seated in the middle measuring 19′ x 19′.

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  1. From the steps of the Lincoln Memorial we had a beautiful view of the Washington Monument and the Reflecting Pool.

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  1. From there we got back on the bus and headed to lunch at Georgetown’s Washington Harbour. Along the way we passed the Jefferson Memorial.

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  1. When we reached the harbour we got our pizza lunches and boarded a tour boat that took us along the Potomac to see the sites of Washington DC from the water. It was a fun novelty eating on the boat as we listened to the tour guide point out sites along the shore. This was the highlight of the trip for Tyler. He loved being on the water.

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  1. After our boat tour the tour bus picked us up again and drove us over to the Iwo Jima Memorial, also known as the Marine Corps Memorial. This was Gracie’s and my favorite stop of the day. I found the monument and the story behind it powerful. As you drive around the memorial from left to right the flag appears to raise until from the opposite side it looks as though the soldiers have raised the flag of victory.

IMG_5383 (2)                  9.  From there we traveled to two more war memorials. First stop: The Korean War Memorial.

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“Our nation honors her sons and daughters who answered a call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met.”

Then the Vietnam War Memorial.

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Both were somber and reflective experiences.

  1. Our final stop of the tour was the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. This newer memorial was dedicated in 2011 and stands as a reminder of the change one person can bring about. From the outside it appears to be a solid, unmoving boulder, but as you walk toward it you can see that what appears to be solid, is in fact an optical illusion. In the center of the boulder lies a walkway created as the center of the stone was thrust forward, symbolizing the path created by the power of one man clearing the way for others. It was beautiful and Rusty’s favorite stop of the day.

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“Out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”

After a full day with a lot of walking everyone was happy to be dropped back of at the Metro for the ride home to our hotel for a night of swimming in the hotel pool.

It was an amazing day and we couldn’t believe all that we learned and all that we were able to see of the city in that short amount of time. If you ever find yourself trying to see the nation’s capital with only a day to do it in, this is the way to do it.

It was a great experience and a wonderful way for the kids to see and hear and feel the very things they have studied in school and read about in their history books.

Today history came alive and my children walked away with a better appreciation of what it means to be an American.

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“We are blessed with an opportunity to stand for something-

for liberty and freedom and fairness-

and these things are worth fighting for,

worth devoting our lives to” – Ronald Reagan

Families are Forever


“A father’s calling is ETERNAL

and its importance transcends time.

It is a calling for both TIME and ETERNITY.”

– Ezra Taft Benson

What a profoundly beautiful way to spend Father’s Day weekend.

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Today we celebrate fathers, family, and eternal beginnings.

Happy Father’s Day from our:

Forever Learning,

Forever Loving,

Forever Trying,

Forever Humbled,

Forever Growing,

Forever Grateful,

Forever Blessed,

Forever Family.

We can do it!


Thursday was our monthly Relief Society activity at church for the ladies. The committee I work with planned a great night with a great theme.

Our theme was “We can do it!”

Based on the old WWII propaganda poster of Rosie the Riveter.


Rosie the Riveter became the face of a new type of woman that arose out of a need, and became the symbol of empowerment to women everywhere. She represents the housewives and mothers of that era who stepped up and stepped out of the noble task of keeping house to meet a desperate need during that era. With the men of the workforce being called to the front lines of war there were jobs that needed filled, labors that needed accomplished for our country to continue running and for the needs of the war effort to be met.

Many, many women removed their aprons and put on a new hat (figuratively and literally) as they stepped onto factory lines and into places of business that had previously been a man’s world.

Women who had never worked outside the home were now building airplanes and then going home to still care for their families and fulfill all of those responsibilities at home

while they waited and prayed for their husbands across the sea.

When we began planning for this activity our goal was simple…

Remind the ladies that they can do hard things. Like Rosie the Riveter they are more capable than they might believe when it comes to certain daunting tasks like DIY home repairs or canning food. We planned a series of classes playing off the “We can do it” message.

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When the night arrived we decorated the gym at church with a 1940’s patriotic theme. We played off the idea of flags, canned goods, and aprons. It was a fun activity to decorate for!

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We began the night with a spiritual message.

Michele Pinter (a military wife) shared with us the spiritual spin on Rosie the Riveter and our “We can do it” theme for the night. She talked about how in life we often find ourselves on paths we never thought we’d be on, facing challenges we never expected to face. We get called to do hard things we never expected to have to do…

Whether facing a husband deployed, a child in the NICU, the death of a spouse, or loss of employment.

Like the women during WWII who were asked to step up and take on challenges they had never considered taking on before, we are sometimes called to move beyond what is known,

and expected,

and comfortable

for the sake of a bigger cause…God’s cause.

Like Rosie we move out of the security  of the “known”  and find ourselves stepping into the faith dependent “unknown.”

She reminded us to never lose sight of the source of that power that allows us to do hard things…

It is because of our Heavenly Father’s love that

“We can do it!”

It was then time to split for classes.

Our teacher for the DIY class got stuck at work so we had three classes:

1. Life Hacks: tricks and tips to make life easier.

2. Canning jams and jellies.

3. How to can meat.

Our teachers were wonderful and all their hard work and preparation made for a great evening.

The night ended with a delicious array of dishes made from home canned food.

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The ladies were able to visit and enjoy each others company while they participated in a fun challenge game:

Can you guess what is Canned?”

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On the tables were 25 different mason jars with home canned food inside. The ladies walked around, looked at each jar and wrote down their guesses on the answer sheet.

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We then revealed the answers with a prize for our winners. 3 ladies tied with 17 correct guesses.

It was a fun night with a fun group of ladies.

And it was an empowering night as we were reminded that we CAN do hard things.

Whether we are speaking of the temporal or the spiritual challenges of life,

when the Lord calls us to a task He will empower us to do that which He has called us to.

With God nothing is impossible.


“We can do it!”

See ya later, Alligator!


“See ya later, Alligator!”

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We woke to the sounds of disembarkation instructions being piped into the halls. We pulled into the Port of Miami at 8:00am and were through customs and hailing a cab by 9:00am.

When we booked our return tickets we discovered that leaving Monday was an impossibility, so we booked Tuesday flights instead. Through Groupon we discovered a great deal on a hotel in South Beach. It was located in the Art Deco district of South Beach where the buildings are colorful (and so are the people.) 🙂

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Our taxi took us the Beacon hotel (a charming hotel) where we would spend the night. Because of the early morning hour we couldn’t check in, but the front desk clerk agreed to keep our bags if we wanted to do a little site seeing.

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We began by crossing the street to check out South Beach.

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We thought about going swimming,

but changed our mind when we saw the warning flags posted:


Orange: moderate riptide.

Purple: Dangerous sea life (aka: Sharks!)

As we were leaving the beach I spotted these dispensers located along the walkways. They looked like the hand sanitizer dispensers we saw all around the cruise ship but these dispensed sun screen…FREE. They were sponsored by the local hospital to encourage the use of sun protection.

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Isn’t that neat?

We then went back to the front desk of our hotel where we booked an Everglades tour. We have always wanted to do an air boat ride through the Everglades and this was our opportunity. A tour bus picked us up and drove us 45 minutes away to the Everglades Safari Park.

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We began the tour with an air boat ride, followed by an alligator show.

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We were warned time and time again not to pet the gators…

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Is that really a frequent problem?!

Our air boat captain was wonderful. He was entertaining and informative. We learned all about the Everglades, the plants and animals that can be found there, and the differences between the Florida alligators we saw that day and the salt water crocodiles you find 2 hours south near the coast.

“The big difference,” he explained, “is this:

If you fall in the water here the alligators would swim away from you.

If you fall in the water an hour south of here the salt water crocodiles would swim toward you.”

A significant difference don’t you think ? 🙂

(We didn’t test his theory.)

On our ride we saw many alligators, no crocodiles.

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The scenery was beautiful and the air boat ride was fun with the wind blowing in our faces.

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We ended the tour with an alligator show where we were able to learn more about these animals, as well as a chance to hold a young alligator named “Snappy.”

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It was a fun final adventure before we headed home.

We boarded the plane the next morning. As we began descending toward the airport I felt the pull of Patchwork Farm calling me home. It was good to be back in Pittsburgh.

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It was an amazing adventure with my best friend,

but it was good to return

to the place I love

with the one I love

to see the treasures I love.


And what a welcome it was!

Meanwhile back at home…



Back at Home:

While we were celebrating our anniversary and Toby’s 40th birthday out on the open seas,

the kids were making memories with Mimi Joy.

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Mimi leaves in a week to serve an 18 month mission. Having her agree to watch the kids served a double purpose…

we could escape for some much needed together time

and she could make some final memories with her grandchildren before she leaves.

It was such a blessing having Grace there as a driver. She was able to take the kids up to the house each day so they could take care of animals and the garden

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and so Mimi Joy could have some time to get things done around the house without the little boys under foot.

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Joy had her hands full with house projects and a long “to do” list of things to be accomplished before she leaves,

so the kids all pitched in to help with projects like taking down shelving and painting walls.


Working hard or sleeping hard?

I know Mimi Joy was grateful for their diligence and willingness to pitch in.

Gracie and Molly also helped out by keeping the little boys occupied and out from underfoot by planning games and activities. They bought water balloons and had a water balloon battle one day…

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and did chalk drawings another afternoon.

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They had fun showing off their culinary skills and making meals for all to enjoy.

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I was so proud of all the kids and how well they did.

I know it was a struggle for Ozzie to hug us goodbye at the airport, not trusting that we would return.

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I know it was hard for Tyler to be apart from Toby and the routine of home.

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I know all the kids made an effort to be helpful and make Mimi’s last week home extra special.

Everyone did really well.

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I’m so glad Mimi and the kids got this sweet memory making time together before a long stretch apart.

Thanks, Mimi!