Monthly Archives: January 2016

Field Trip Friday


Today was Field Trip Friday!

We spent the day at the Carnegie Science Center and Sports Works:

“The Carnegie Science Center is the most visited museum in Pittsburgh. It has four floors of interactive exhibits. Among its attractions are the Buhl Planetarium (which features the latest in digital projection technology), the Rangos Omnimax Theater (promoted as “the biggest screen in Pittsburgh”), SportsWorks, the Miniature Railroad & Village, the USS Requin (a World War II submarine) and roboworld, touted as “the world’s largest permanent robotics exhibition.” The roboworld exhibition contains more than 30 interactive displays featuring “all things robotic”, and is also the first physical home for Carnegie Mellon University’s Robot Hall of Fame.”

In the month of January the museum is offering $5.00 admission for groups. This is quite the discount from the usual price. Since our family membership that my parents gifted us  for Ozzie’s adoption has expired, this was a good excuse to visit at a price we could afford.  (Thank you, Rose, for planning this fun day!)

Our entire co-op attended with the exception of a few who were home sick. With the exception of a few other groups there were very few people there that day. It was a treat to be able to explore and participate in all the hands-on fun without lines or crowds. 🙂

It was a wonderful way to spend a blustery Friday in January. The kids got in some “friend time”, moms were able to visit, kids ran off/ climbed off/ jumped off extra energy, and we all learned some cool science lessons to boot. It was a win/win sort of day!


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Our crew walking over to Sports Works, a separate building that houses many interactive displays that explore the science behind sports and the human body.

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Inside Sports Works. The kids loved the low crowds.

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Ozzie having fun on the trampoline.

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Some of the teens in our co-op.

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Rusty taking a ride. I swear, every day he gets taller and taller!

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Tyler rock climbing. He made it the top…24 feet.

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One of the exhibits inside the science center was “H2O.” This exhibit was all about water. These were the seats in that room. 🙂

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The girls taking a break to ponder the meaning of life. 🙂

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At this exhibit the kids were able to step in front of a green screen, read a teleprompter, and report the weather,


A GIANT game of “Operation.”

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Three adorable woodland creatures popping out to say “hello.”

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The miniature railroad room is my favorite part of the museum. I could spend hours examining all the magical details of this miniature world.

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I think Ozzie, Grace, and Olivia would agree.

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Tyler could spend hours playing with the floating balls.

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Centrifugal Force is so fun!

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Getting ready to take off in the roller coaster simulator.


What a fun way to enjoy Science!

Helping Tyler Heal…Helping Tyler FLY!


“There are wounds that never show on the body, that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds.”  -Laurel K. Hamilton

Here is the question I lay awake at night pondering:

Am I willing to sacrifice today’s comfort for the promise of life long peace.

The answer seems simple, right?

What if I present it this way…

Knowing that your child will battle a threatening, painful, chronic disease 20 years from now would you be willing to remove an infected limb today. Would you be willing to allow pain, discomfort and loss today for the hopes of a more promising future tomorrow?

That one is a little bit harder. Isn’t it.

As parents our lives are driven by this instinctual, basic need to protect our children. We would jump in front of a train for them. We would fight off a Grizzly to protect them. So when faced with the knowledge that to protect their future you must allow them to feel pain and discomfort today…well that is a hard pill to swallow.

This is the reality we are living. We are choosing to allow our son to feel horrible/ heart breaking pain today with hopes that it will save him from a lifetime of heartache in the future. But you can believe I would shoulder that pain in a minute, and save him from one more minute of hurt, if I could.


The walls are falling down.

Miss Tina, Tyler’s therapist, is doing amazing work.

Tyler is doing amazing work.

God is performing miracles.

After years of firmly cemented walls circling Tyler’s memories we find ourselves watching the bricks begin to fall. It all began with Tyler creating a road of his life in therapy. On a large piece of paper we have mapped out a road. Along the road we have drawn in milestones of his life. He is choosing the memories to add to his road. We are working to help him remember his life before us.

And now that we have chipped open a crack in that wall, the memories and emotions are flooding out. And Tyler is drowning in the waves. The result: paralyzing fears, terrifying nightmares, scary images in his head, triggers, tantrums, and tears…so many tears. This past week I have found him hidden and crying many times, trying so hard not to be caught in his “weakness.”

It breaks my heart but also causes my heart to sing praises, because tears mean trust. Tears mean attachment. Tears mean felt and shared emotions, and ultimately tears mean healing.

This week I found him crying in the bathroom. I sat down beside him on the cold, hardwood floor as he squeezed his hands to the sides of his head.

“Can you name your emotion?” I asked.

He shook his head, “No.”

Then he tentatively suggested, “But maybe I could color my feelings.”

Praise God!

I was singing the Hallelujah chorus inside as I gathered markers and paper. He took the art supplies, crawled under the dining room table and began releasing the feelings locked inside in frantic scribbles of black, red, purple and blue.


As he colored he informed me that black= fear, blue= sad, purple= really sad, and red= mad sad.

He asked me to sit at the table as he worked.

As I sat at the table listening to the sounds of scribbles beneath me Tyler began to talk. In the same manner that he was coloring, the words tumbled out of him at a frantic speed, as though he couldn’t hold them in any longer.

The questions were powerful and profound and heartbreaking. They came from the deepest recesses of his soul and poured out as the flood of memories washed over him.

He began with, “I’m sad my brothers can’t live with me.”

Then asked, “Why did our birth parents not keep us?”

And then, “Was it because we were so bad?”

As I paused to consider my answers, I prayed, “Help me, Lord. Give me the words…Your words.”

I answered what I could and made notes for Tina on the things he said.

The words kept tumbling out.

The questions kept coming, not only that night but all week long…

“Why did my birth mom not love me?”

“Why could no one handle all us kids?

“Why couldn’t Michael just take care of us?”

“Every family always got rid of me. It is because I am so bad?”

“I want to remember what my birth parents looked like.”

“Why did God take all my memories of my mom away?”

“If I remember, will that turn me into a bad dad like my birth dad?”

Oh, my heart broke and my eyes leaked as his heart and greatest fears were laid bare on the floor before him.

And then he climbed from under the table, his paper in hand, to show me his work. It may not be worthy of a place in the Louvre, but I must say it is probably the most moving piece of art I’ve ever seen.

It is my son’s heart.


“I feel better now, Momma,” he declared with a quick hug and a bounce.

“I think Miss Tina is going to be proud of me.”

I know she will be. We all are, Tyler! ❤

As a Momma I’d give all that that I have, all that I am, to take away the hurts and heal the hidden wounds. I wish there was some way I could save him from the painful journey that lies before him. I wish healing could come from sealing off the hurts and cauterizing the wounds, but that is never a lasting fix. The only way those deep down, infected, throbbing wounds heal is by opening them up and releasing the infection within.

These sort of hurts must heal from the inside out, which means opening wounds that have long been scabbed over. It is heartbreaking, as a parent, to know you must purposely rip off scabs and open hurts that have been sealed off, and allow for short term pain, all with the loving hope that the long term result will be feeling… and then healing….

And then my son will fly.

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And as a result of his powerful example

we will learn to soar too!

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Off to the Races


Saturday was the annual Cub Scout Pinewood Derby. It was a day eagerly anticipated by 3 little boys. As for Toby and I, well, I think by the time Saturday rolled around Toby and I were just excited that we were almost done with wooden cars for another year. 😉

On Friday we received a phone call from the Scout Master informing us that the Pinewood Derby was being moved from 10:00am to 3:00pm, due to the possibility of snow. Unfortunately this meant our friend, Derek, who had been building his car with us, wouldn’t be able to attend due to a previous commitment. I felt so bad.

But we took his car and raced it for him and brought home his trophy and ribbon to give him.

Our Saturday was filled with running and errands before the Pinewood Derby. Ozzie had an appointment, Toby had a repair to do on a home owner’s house, and I promised to take Grace, Molly, Rusty and Tyler to play Ultimate Frisbee at the park.

There is a group of adults, youth, and a sprinkling of kids that meet every Saturday at a local park to play Ultimate Frisbee. My teens were invited to join them months ago, attended, and had a blast. When there is a free Saturday they always ask if I can drive them to join up with the Green family’s Ultimate Frisbee game. Tyler and Rusty, in particular, have become enamored and quite adept at this fun team sport that is a unique combination of Frisbee throwing, and soccer-like teamwork used to move the Frisbee down the field to a goal.

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Since we had the Pinewood Derby to attend just minutes away from the field, it worked out that they could attend the game this week. Despite the winter chill they had a blast! ( I watched/worked on paperwork in the car.)

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Then it was onto the Pinewood Derby where we met up with Toby and Ozzie. Although Derek and Tyler were the only official cub scout cars in the race from our crew, Ozzie and Rusty also competed as siblings…just for the fun of it. Rusty resurrected one of the dozens of past derby cars lying around our home, while Ozzie created his own car. He decided to make “Big Bessie,” our full size family van.

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I was tickled that he was proud enough of our family vehicle that he decided to race a model of it rather than a sports car, but being the primary driver of “Big Bessie” I had some concern about how she might perform against other designs. 🙂 She is not exactly a speedy little thing. Because of this we were surprised at how well she did do in the heats. Certainly not a winning car, but she consistently held her own in the middle of the pack. 🙂 That’s my girl!

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The races began with work in the pits where Moms and Dads worked to reconnect wheels, add extra weights, and check in their children’s competing cars.

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Because of the decision to allow siblings to race there were many more cars racing than in previous years. It definitely made for a more exciting race.

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Tyler’s went for a sleeker design for his car, molding his after a Bugatti sports car. (“Whatever that is,” whispers the Momma behind her hand)

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Then it was time for the flag ceremony and the races began.

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The excitement in the air was palpable.

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Each car had the opportunity to race four times, using a different track, and competing with different racers each time.

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Their times were measured.

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During one round all three of my boys were competing against each other…”Go McCleerys!”

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When the races were finished everyone enjoyed snacks while the judges tallied the scores.

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Then it was time for awards. Ribbons were handed out for the different places in each age group: Bears, Wolves, Webelos, with the top racer from each of those races moving onto the next race (regionally.) I happy…err, I mean sad, to report that Tyler didn’t place first…but, hey, there is always next year…and the next year…and the next year…Yea!

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The siblings also received ribbons with Rusty placing 1st and Ozzie taking 3rd. Both were thrilled.

All the Cub Scouts received handmade trophies. These trophies are generously made each year by a man at church. He creates them using blocks of wood and cool matchbox cars that he attaches to the trophies. He then names the different trophies and awards them accordingly. The kids love it!

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Tyler won the “Michelangelo Award”

and Ozzie won “Realistic Warrior.”

It was a good day. We all left feeling pleased with how the McCleerys represented.

And now we will enjoy a 347 day respite before the fun begins again!

Caring for Critters



On Friday we were invited to join some of our friends from co-op on a really neat outing that was especially close to our hearts. The field trip was a service project. We were joining our friends at the local humane society to spend the day offering whatever help we could to this great organization.


The outing lasted most of the day. We arrived at the Humane Society around 11 o’clock. Our day began with an orientation that all volunteers need to go through before they can work with the animals. After signing the volunteer paperwork we were taken into the back of the Humane Society where we were able to meet and greet all the fur babies that are up for adoption.


There are three separate back rooms in the Lawrence County Humane Society. There is a cat room, a small dog and puppy room, and a large dog room. I was surprised at how few animals were there.  They only had a handful of dogs up for adoption and about a dozen cats. Many of the dogs were “on hold” while the Humane Society reviewed applications of potential families. While we were there we witnessed two of the large dogs find their “furever homes,” as well as one of the cats. It was such a heartwarming thing to see.

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After the tour we headed to the outside building where the bedding supplies and food is stored. There we enjoyed a pizza party with friends before our work begin.

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After lunch our large group was split into two smaller groups, with the young children and moms staying outside in the garage to work, and the teenagers moving inside to do needed chores inside.

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Outside the younger kids and the moms took on the task of sorting through bags of donated towels and blankets, separating out the ones that had zippers and buttons and anything else that could be a danger to the animals. These donations were put in separate bags that will be donated to another charity for the local rescue mission.


The other big task that was worked on outside was sorting and organizing the many bags and cans of dog and cat food. Tyler, Grace, and Rusty helped with this task. They helped other volunteers sort through the many containers of food, checking the expiration dates and reshelving all the food and treats according to whether it was cat food or dog food,  adult food or puppy/kitten food, or if it was for large breed or small breed animals.

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It was a big job but many hands made for light work…(or as light as possible with 50 pound bags of dog food.) 😉


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Inside the Humane Society other kids were helping out with cleaning chores and laundry. The Humane Society, with its many animals and many pounds of bedding, requires many loads of laundry to be washed and dried daily. The staff was thrilled to have eager helpers to lift some of that burden.

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 One of the favorite chores of the day however was the opportunity to care for the animals themselves. We were able to take one of the dogs that is up for adoption out for a walk.

The boys went with me but I was the one who did the actual walking due to volunteer policy and their age.

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We walked Brady. Brady was a Pitbull/Boxer mix. He was a 1 year old and basically a black and white furry Tyler. He bounced his way through our 20 minute walk, full of enthusiasm and energy. By the end of the walk we were convinced that Brady has ADHD. Both little boys tried to talk me into adopting Brady but I think we have enough bouncy energy in our home. I think a 14 year old Bassett Hound might be more our speed. 🙂

But he was a charming, goofy, and sweet puppy that is wonderful with kids and other dogs (for anyone that might be looking to adopt!)

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Overall it was a very enjoyable day and we left feeling quite satisfied by the opportunity to spend the day volunteering at our local shelter. The experience left my teens eager to go back and volunteer on a regular basis. We are looking at our schedule and to see if that is a commitment we can take on right now. I’d love it if we could make that happen for them.

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When Toby arrived home the kids eagerly greeted him with a play by play of our day at the shelter. I could see Toby discretely scanning the room for an extra four furry feet and seemed relieved to discover that we had resisted temptation and returned home empty handed. 😉

…at least for the time being,

because everyone knows:


Little Wooden Cars and Great Big Headaches


It is THAT time of year again.

The season of short days, grey skies, cold temperatures and wooden cars…UGH!

The grey stratus clouds of Western Pennsylvania already cover the skies in a depressing blanket of BLAH, so I am trying not to add my own grey cloud to the mix, but I really hate Pinewood Derby time.


I didn’t always feel this way. Like so many young, fresh, enthusiastic mothers I was the idealistic cheerleader as we cut, sanded, painted, and weighted car #1, #2, #3, #4…

Somewhere around our 15th pinewood derby car the novelty died…died a ugly, ugly death.

 Our pinewood derby experiences began with annual AWANA races when the kids were little, then evolved into Cub Scout races. Throw in some misc. pinewood derby races for the teens and it is fair to say we are old hats at this.

The evidence of our past races litter the shelves of my children’s bedrooms and fill the toy box, always leaving me to wonder WHY ARE WE BUILDING ANOTHER CAR? Why not use one of the dozens we have around the house?

And then remember…

and I remind myself,

and I whisper the mantra…

“Because we can’t be THAT MOM.”

We must not steal from our “round two” littles the joy of the experience that was afforded to our “round one” kids.

It is a tap deep moment when I must forget my own jaded fatigue and put on my young, fresh, enthusiastic Momma face. (PS- I am not alone in this battle. When pinewood derby season comes around Toby would like to move to a communist country where scouting is banned) 🙂

But we do the dance we did with our older children. We sit patiently as they sketch, and re-sketch designs on their blocks of wood…sketches that Toby will have to redesign because they are impossible to make sense of. He will patiently find a car hidden within that block of wood and convince each boy that it was their design…and what a fabulous design it is!

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Then we will patiently watch as they begin sanding their car. It is a process that begins with enthusiasm but quickly loses appeal, leaving Toby and I to finish making the edges smooth.

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Then the painting begins. This is about the point in the process when my tongue begins to bleed from biting it so hard. I sit upon my creative hands and I fight the urge to take over as layer after layer of paint covers the car with the belief that “if a little paint is good, then a lot of paint is great!” The reds, and blues, and greens soon muddle together into a soupy brown that may or may not dry by the time the race rolls around in a week.

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Then it is the stickers, and the weights, and the graphite,

all added with hopes of increasing the speed of your son’s car in comparison to his other troop members.

It is a delicate dance. The goal is to make the car fast enough to leave your child feeling pleased with his performance, but not so fast as to win in his age group…

because winning means ANOTHER RACE!

With more scouts!

Thus making you lose another day of your life to the Pinewood Derby!

A day of your life you will never get back!

But that is between you and I. As far as my boys are concerned… I am a fresh, young, enthusiastic Momma and we are going all the way@!!

Monday we began the derby ritual with another kiddo in the mix. Tyler, Ozzie, and their friend, Derek, sketched, cut, sanded, and painted their cars with dreams of trophies dancing in their sweet little cub scout heads.

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Saturday is the big race…

Wish us luck!

And by luck I mean…

*wink wink*

What Language do you Speak?



This was the topic of discussion at our Family Night activity this week. Not being a bilingual family the languages we were speaking of were not languages of verbal expression but rather ones of emotional expression.

We were talking about Love Languages.

Many years ago I discovered a book entitled, The 5 Love Languages, by Gary Chapman. The concept was enlightening and the content was live changing for our marriage. The entire idea of each one of us having a certain love language we use to express our love to others was insightful. As soon as I began reading I had a “Ah-ha” light bulb appear above my head, and as a young wife I felt like I was receiving marriage-changing…marriage-blessing council.


By taking the quiz in the book I soon discovered my love language was Acts of Service. This meant I showed my love for others not through words, or hugs, or gifts, but by serving them. My love is shown through meals cooked, babysitting, volunteering to plan parties or coming to the aid of others. My family often jokes that I don’t know the word “No” when it comes to being asked to do things (and while that might be a little true) my primary motivation in saying “Yes” comes from love, and my desire to make others feel loved by lightening their burden,

because that is how I feel most loved.

Through this quiz we learned that Toby’s primary love language was Physical Touch. He felt most loved when his shoulders were rubbed, or when I held his hand while we were out shopping, or when I sat next to him on the couch while watching TV.

There lay our issue. Both of us were trying so hard to make the other feel loved but we were speaking two different languages. I was trying to make Toby feel loved and cared for by making sure there were no dishes in the sink or baby toys on the floor. While I spent the evenings showing my love by making our house a home for him all he wanted was for me to sit with him and watch a game on TV. He, on the other hand, was trying to show love to me in the way he likes to receive it by telling me to sit down so he could rub my shoulders,

when I wanted to say, “If you really loved me you’d quit telling me to sit down and you’d help me get these dishes done so I can relax.”

Both of us we trying so hard to show our love but since we were speaking two different love languages we both felt more frustrated than loved. 🙂

This book was such a blessing to our marriage.

Recently I was talking with girlfriends about this book and thought to myself, “We really out to have the kids take the quiz (They have one geared toward kids and teens on the website) and see what love languages our children speak so that we can better express our love to them in a language they will understand.

On Monday night we told the kids what we were doing. They were fascinated by the idea that we each speak different love languages. Each of them took the quiz online, revealing their scores and their love language.


The results were enlightening, although not completely surprising. I can look at the way my children show love to others and gain insight into how they feel most loved.


Here were the results of our 5 Love Languages quiz:

Physical Touch: Toby

Acts of Service: Katie

Gifts: nobody

Quality Time: Grace, Rusty, and Tyler

Words of Affirmation: Molly and Ozzie

After discovering what love language we each speak, we talked about the importance of showing love in the language of the person you are expressing love to and then went over what each of those love languages looks like, in a practical sense.

Love Languages chart

This led to a great discussion as we shared how we feel the most loved and what acts and kindnesses touch us the most, as well as what acts of love we need more of.


As the kids shared their hearts with Toby and I (as well as with their siblings) we realized that it is sometimes easiest to show love to those who share your love language and as a result there is often a special bond between those family members or friends, but regardless of how challenging it can be we must make an effort to learn and speak each others’ love languages…

Because that it what family is all about.

What language do you speak?

An Escape to Amish Country


This past weekend we ran away to Amish country…aka Holmes County, Ohio. The children were shipped off to be cared for by loving (and Oh So generous!) friends and family so that Toby and I could get away.

Grace, Rusty and Tyler spent the weekend at the Hudak’s home and Molly and Ozzie spent the weekend with my parents at the Homestead. Both sets of kids were excited about their mini vacations but none were more excited than Toby and I!

After a high stress December Toby and I made the decision that rather than exchanging Christmas gifts, as we traditionally do, we would instead use the money we would have spent on each other to run away together. We decided to rent a Bed and Breakfast cottage in Amish country. We were looking for a quiet place… a place of rest and renewal… to reconnect as a couple and just be husband and wife (instead of mom and dad) once again.

I was eagerly anticipating this time away. I was looking forward to sleeping in and not cooking, cleaning, or caring for others. I was looking forward to the quiet and solitude found in the sleepy hills of Ohio.

I was looking forward to focusing on my husband…

On uninterrupted conversations and the chance to hold his hand rather than a child’s hand. I was looking forward to reconnecting and sharing our dreams for the upcoming year as well as our future beyond this year.

I had big dreams for our time away and our little escape didn’t disappoint. It was delightful!


After dropping off all our kiddos we drove out to our “home away from home” for the weekend. Toby booked our trip and didn’t tell me where we were staying. He wanted to surprise me, and boy did he. It was a magical little cottage tucked between the snow covered hills of the Ohio country side.

Where we stayed:

“Premier Cottages welcomes you to the heart of beautiful Amish country, with seven individual cottages. Our cottages are located less than four miles from the center of Berlin, just far enough from town to enjoy a spectacular starlit sky and a quiet stroll in the country.

Our cottages are filled with delightful genuine cottage decor – featuring local, primitive, and country-style furnishings with luxurious bedding. Each cottage has a two person jacuzzi, over-stuffed chairs and at least one large stone fireplace to make your stay more romantic and comfortable. Rolling country scenery and farmlands surround the property, creating a haven of quiet seclusion that feels far away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. So, whether you are looking for a romantic getaway or a retreat with family and friends…

Come and have your breath taken away at a slower pace!”

It did just that.

Our charming little cottage boasted complimentary treats and sparkling cider, a Jacuzzi tub for two, the most comfortable/ luxurious bed I’ve ever slept in, and breakfast dropped off on our front porch in the morning.

(It was hard to come home to reality!)  🙂

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The upstairs bedroom.

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The master bedroom with in-floor Jacuzzi.

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We spent a lot of time snuggling in front of the fireplace after returning home from sightseeing in the bitter cold.

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Toby loved having satellite TV and being able to actually watch a Steeler game on Sunday afternoon.

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Breakfast on Sunday morning.

As guests at Premier Lodging we received a coupon for a free Wendell August Forge Christmas ornament… a memento of our weekend in Holmes county. We drove over to the store in Berlin to window shop and pick up our souvenir.


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Wendell August Forge:

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“As you enjoy the breathtaking beauty and simplicity of Ohio’s Amish Country, a visit to our largest store on the outskirts of Berlin, OH is sure to be a trip highlight. Berlin is nestled in the rolling hills of Holmes County, home to the largest Amish and Mennonite community in the world. The Amish are quiet people who hold fast to their traditions and way of life. They are renowned for their crafts, and the quality of their work is exceptional.

This combination of tradition and quality craftsmanship unite at our store the minute you see the store driving down Route 62. The 13,000 square foot timber frame facility, located beneath the blue and yellow water tower is the largest of its kind in the State of Ohio. It houses many exciting attractions, including a 5,000 square foot showroom filled with our unique, one-of-a-kind handcrafted metal giftware that Wendell August is famous for. As you enter our front door, you are immediately captured by our beautiful product and the vastness of the space. The timber frame construction is awe inspiring in and of itself. You can’t help noticing the World’s Largest Amish Buggy, made especially for us by an Amish buggy maker just down the road from us. Gather your family and friends for a picture right in front of the massive buggy on a genuine buggy seat! Another guest favorite is the old time Nickelodeon, certain to entertain with its multiple instruments playing memorable songs.

For history buffs and those wanting to get a better feel for our story dating back to our company founding in 1923, be sure to stroll through our museum area and take in the short video in our guest theater. Here you’ll walk through and be inspired by the collectible Wendell August giftware from the 1920s – 1950s. The movie tells both the company history and teaches you more about how each one of our gift items is made one-at-a-time by hand in our American workshops.

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You will then enjoy the chance to walk through our workshop space where we have set up all of the tools of our trade from the die engraving through the creation of our product. You will get a great sense of how our craftsmen in Pennsylvania make our wonderful giftware.

Once you have experienced all of this, be sure to try your hand at being a craftsperson yourself in our interactive hand hammering room and take home a treasure made by you!”

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For $2.00 we were able to try pounding out our own aluminum scene on a patterned plate. We chose an Amish barn raising scene.


Heini’s Cheese Chalet:

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“Our Grandfather, John (Hans) Dauwalder, trained as a master cheesemaker in Switzerland, and came to the United States in the 1920’s to display his artisan talents in a growing cheese market. After several successful years at the Bunker Hill Cheese Co-op, John decided to return to his hometown in Switzerland to further his romance with Lili Mueller. The two fell in love and were married in 1933.

In 1948, John and Lili, together with their two children, Peter, our Father and Marguerite, our Aunt, sold the family farm in Switzerland to join John’s Brother Crist in the United States. Crist had purchased Bunker Hill Cheese in 1935 and asked John to join him in building the family cheese business.

In 1962, our parents Peter and Nancy, who were married in 1955, acquired Bunker Hill Cheese. Today it is one of the premier cheese retailers east of the Mississippi River, and one of the most successful wholesale manufacturers serving clients throughout North America.

Our family business continues to be the primary outlet for the Amish farms in the region. The Amish farmers still provide their milk to our factory in traditional milk cans, the same manner as their forefathers did. The relationship between the farmers and the Dauwalder family is personal, and together we are committed to continuing on into the 21st century.”

Our next stop was Heini’s Cheese Chalet where we had fun sampling many of their 50 different types of cheese. They were all delicious but my favorite was the smoked horseradish cheddar and the Vidalia onion crème cheese.

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Here we also purchased the kids’ souvenirs. We decided it would be fun to buy them each their own jams that they could use on toast. We decided to buy them untraditional flavors, thus adding to the novelty of the gifts.

Here are the flavors we purchased:

Tyler: Loganberry Jam

Rusty: Sassafras Jelly

Ozzie: Corn Cob Jelly

Molly: Kiwi Jam

Gracie: Dandelion Jelly

Speaking of jam…

Our next stop was:

Smucker’s Company Store:

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For more than 115 years, The J.M. Smucker Company, with its trusted brands and quality products, has helped to make family meals memorable. Today, The J.M. Smucker Company Store and Café continues this proud tradition by showcasing products and merchandise from the Company’s family of brands.

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I was blown away by all the products and name brands owned by Smuckers. I had no idea. It was fun to try samples and gather recipes that use many of these products.


In addition to the fruit spreads, coffee, peanut butter, ice cream toppings, pancake mix, syrup, and baking products you’d expect, you’ll also find our signature branded gifts and merchandise — from kitchen accessories to apparel and more

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It was very interesting reading about the history of this family brand.


Then it was on to…Lehman’s Hardware Store:


“We’re a destination. What started as a small hardware store serving the local Amish in Kidron, Ohio, grew into something much bigger than founder Jay Lehman ever dreamed. Gathering four pre-Civil War era buildings under one soaring roof, today our store is a place to embrace the past: from old-fashioned treats and sodas to practical, non-electric goods that help you live a simpler life. Shop and reminisce your way through thousands of products while browsing Jay’s antique collection located throughout the store. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time—the full shopping experience is nearly a quarter mile long!

We LOVE Lehman’s. This is a favorite stop in Holmes county. We love checking out all the cool antiques and the unusual and practical products sold here that can’t be found anywhere else.

And while here we can’t leave without purchasing a bottle of soda. We played it safe this time and avoided the bacon soda and the peanut butter and jelly soda and instead bought a crème soda and a butter beer.

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Another stop on Toby’s wish list was:

Keim Lumber:

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“Our 4th generation family owned business began in 1911 as a rough lumber mill with just 4 employees.  Today, we’ve grown to a 50 acre complex with over 700,000 square feet of retail, office, warehouse, and millwork production space, with over 400 dedicated employees.  Our goal is to build relationships, provide outstanding products and services, and ensure our customers always have a great experience working with us, all the while retaining the qualities of hard work, dedication and honesty from the legacies left behind from our father Bill, grandfather Roman, and great-grandfather Mose. 

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With over 60 exotic & specialty wood species in stock coming from as far as the West Indies, Africa and the Pacific Rim, our “Wood Shed” is a must see for everyone. 

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It is a carpenter’s dream store! While here we bought some supplies for our bus renovations and explored different cabinet options for the bus’s kitchen.

Housing an exotic wood selection ranging from a 513 year old Bubinga slab to poison ivy, the display in our showroom is one of amazing variety. Be sure to stop by and choose a unique exotic lumber piece for your next project.”

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On my wish list was a stop at Just Enough Antiques:


“If you love the patina of history, you’ll find it at Just Enough Antiques. Shopkeeper Daphne Ross features a cozy collection of primitive, farmhouse and vintage treasures along with American Arts from local artisans and craftsmen. Six rooms, two porches and outdoor spaces are filled with many one-of-a-kind pieces.  If you don’t know what you’re looking for until it speaks to you, get ready for a long chat at Just Enough Antiques. Visit out historical 1850 house just west of the village square in Smithville.”

For Christmas I received a gift certificate to Just Enough Antiques, my favorite store in Amish Country. I had so much fun shopping and picking out some new things for the house. Among my purchases were a old wagon side that will become my new key holder by the front door and an old red cooler that I am going to use to file paperwork. I love this place!

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My four purchases.


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We even ate lunch at a Amish restaurant that boasted an Amish buggy/table you could eat at. The Reuben sandwiches here were delicious!


It was a perfect weekend away. Thank you to everyone that helped make it a reality. I returned home feeling rested, refocused, and even more in love with my eternal companion.

I am incredibly blessed!

The End of a Quarter


Tuesday at 4:00pm marked the end of 2nd quarter for my three oldest children. Their last few days of the quarter were spent working long hours to complete the last of their final exams, papers, and resubmit assignments that they needed to raise their grade on in hopes of ending the quarter with all A’s.

As I watched the big kids hustle it gave me great satisfaction to see how far they have come from those early years of hand-holding our way through assignments together to the independent students they are today. They all managed to reach their goals of all A’s in their classes but I found it comical to see the difference in their personalities shine forth as I watched the paths they each took to get there, so reflective of their personalities and temperaments.

I have one child who will work until all hours of the night to make sure those A’s are secured long before the Tuesday 4:00 pm deadline and will fret until the grade book reflects their success. I have one child who, despite the struggle with achieving those A’s, refuses to accept anything short of a “high A” and will continue working even after they’ve reached the points needed to earn an A. Then I have one child who is quite content with meeting the minimal requirements set forth and once they’ve reached the goal of 450 points (An A is 450-500 points) declare themselves done. As far as they are concerned the goal has been met. Why stress over the additional points. 🙂

So Funny.

Three different kids with three different approaches to school (and life.) As a mom I watch them work towards the same goal and gain insight into their individual strengths and struggles, as well as the character issues we need to address individually. 🙂

4:00pm came and there was much celebration at Patchwork Farm. There were sighs of relief that the sprint at the end of the quarter had come to a close and now it was time to celebrate!

The three big kids were celebrating the end of the quarter with their co-op friends who also attend 21CCCS. Rusty was invited to his friend Lucas’s house to sleep over and play hours of mindless video games in celebration of the end of a mind-crunching quarter.

The girls were invited to the McCready’s home for a slumber party with the other 21CCCS co-op girls. Bags were packed and off we went to drop everyone off.

While the big kids were celebrating their freedom from scholarly pursuits with slumber parties Toby and I had a fun night at home with our two youngest.

Snow has finally come to Western PA and we are finally testing Big Bessie’s skills in the snow. She was found wanting. Our big white van, which we purchased in the summer as a result of our SUV dying, has been an amazing blessing. They extra room and seating has allowed us the opportunity to be a blessing to others in addition to it being helpful for our crew, but we knew winter might bring its own set of challenges and when ice began coating our steep gravel driveway we might begin missing our SUV. That day has come. 🙂 Big Bessie, beautiful gal that she is, is NO GOOD in snow. Our last few days have been spent parking at the end of the driveway and hiking home.


This is exactly what the little boys and I did on Tuesday night. When we arrived home the boys helped me make dinner and then we had fun baking. They made Reese Pie for dessert.

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It is such a delight when Ozzie and Tyler put aside their past hurts and need for competition and embrace the idea of being each other’s brother. They do this best when it is just the two of them with Momma. They really enjoy each other when they aren’t fighting for the big kids’ attention.

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We decided to make the night a special treat for them too. Neither of them are ready for sleepovers at friend’s homes so we make it a big deal to have a sleepover together in the living room. Toby rented Hotel Transylvania 2 and we had a fun movie night with the boys and then tucked them in on the couches in the living room for their own “boys’ slumber party.”

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The next morning we were up early to dress and prepare for co-op. In addition to packing lunches and book bags we had to tackle all the farm chores that normally fall on the big kids’ shoulders of responsibility, but the little boys rose to the challenge and we managed to get all our tasks done, hike back down the driveway with our gear, and pick up the slumber party co-op girls in time for co-op.

At co-op the 21st Century Cyber School kids had a free day. Due to the quarter ending they had school off, so they planned a fun day of movies,visiting, and a “Just Dance” party, while their younger siblings had classes.

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It was a fun reward and a fitting celebration for a lot of hard work.

Great job, kiddos!

A perfect ending to quarter 2!

“RV there yet?”



Monday night we did something new and unusual for family night. The RV show was going on in Pittsburgh this week and it just so happens that on Monday the cost was significantly less, due to the “buy one get one” deal on admission tickets, so we decided to take a trip to the city to do some summer dreaming and gather inspiration.

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We are  the process of converting a used school bus we purchased last summer into an RV for our family. Much of the gutting and prepping projects are done, including floors and walls, and we are nearing that critical juncture where detail decisions must be made. Toby is custom building most of the interior and as a result we have the opportunity to really consider what we want and what would best work for our family.

The first big adventure we will be taking with our “schoolbus turned RV” will be in June when we head out on a three week loop out west to visit many of our country’s national parks. Everyone is getting excited by this once in a lifetime trip, but I think Toby is starting to feel the pressure a bit as he considers all that must be done to our bus to make it a “home on wheels” by summertime.

We decided that a trip to the RV show would be a great way to check out different design ideas and walk through different lay-outs to see what ideas we might want to incorporate into our design. We especially were on the lookout  for creative storage solutions, with space being at a premium in our school bus home. 🙂

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The kids were excited at the prospect of an evening in Pittsburgh. The convention center where it was being held is a neat building to visit. Add to the experience a hundred RVs to walk through and explore and our information gathering evening turned into an adventure!

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We had the opportunity to walk through RVs of every size, cost, and design imaginable, from RVs far more luxurious than our own home to small one-person RVs that could fit in our front closet.

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The kids loved the feeling of “playing house” as they walked through these staged RVs for sale.


Tyler was especially enamored. We didn’t expect that it would be Tyler who would love the experience the most, but he was blown away by all that could exist within an RV. He walked through every one of them, opening every cupboard, fridge, and closet and then casting his vote as to whether we should purchase it or not.

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He finally found the one he wanted to buy. It was the one with leather recliners and a large screen TV playing the Steeler game. 🙂

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Molly was our note taker. As we walked through RV after RV we pointed out features we saw that we thought would work well in our bus conversion and she took notes.

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We left feeling inspired, excited, and perhaps a bit overwhelmed. We have a big project ahead of us,

but what a fun, memory making experience it will be for our kids and our family as a whole.

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T minus six months and counting!


Celebrating Christmas with Aunt Beth


Christmas just keeps on going!

Saturday evening was spent celebrating Christmas with Aunt Beth. I was feeling lousy and so Toby tucked me into bed to sleep while he took the five kids to Aunt Beth’s house to exchange Christmas gifts and catch up.  They had a wonderful time at Aunt Beth’s house visiting with Beth and her friend, Teresa, playing with her cats and dogs, and exchanging gifts.

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Grace painted Aunt Beth a picture for her home. She went with a beach scene knowing how much Beth loves the ocean.

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Beth spoiled the kids! The girls received gift cards from Kohl’s and Rusty and Tyler received gift cards from Game Stop, a video game store. Ozzie received a electronic/interactive atlas of facts. It was a PERFECT gift for Ozzie and he was thrilled!!

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After a nice visit Toby lovingly agreed to make some stops on the way home so the kids could use their gift cards. The kids were so excited to use their generous gift cards from Aunt Beth.

First stop was Kohl’s where the girls had fun buying some new tops.

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Then Game Stop where Rusty and Tyler bought some new games for the Wii and DS.

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All the kids came home excited to show me what they received from Aunt Beth.

Thank you Aunt Beth!

It was a magical end to our Christmas celebrations.