Monthly Archives: April 2017

Chili Cook-off


For me blogging is like laundry. I am glad when I do it. I regret it when I don’t. And much like a Mt. Everest of laundry, when I find myself overwhelmed when the pile of pictures and stories to be blogged growing too big, I will avoid the task rather than simply jump in and begin.

It has been a few weeks since I sat down long enough to record the days of our lives at Patchwork Farm. It feels as though we have lived two months’ worth of life in the last two weeks. I finally have an hour to sit without any active parenting or fires to put out, so I am forcing myself to begin tackling Everest and write.

I’ll begin 16 days ago on a Wednesday when we had our annual chili cook-off at church.

IMG_3339 (2)

This annual event is the primary fundraiser of the year for the youth at church. Funds raised during this activity go toward the cost of their summer camps: Young Women camp for the girls 12-18 and Boy Scout Camp for our 12-18 year old boys.  

This year the chili cook-off happened a few months later than is typical, due in part to the debate as to whether this is still the best fundraising option for the youth.

As a social event it is quite successful, drawing big crowds, and is always a lot of fun, but some have questioned (including myself) whether it is the most efficient means of raising money, as much of the expense going into the event falls on the very families that are being hit with the cost of camps. I know in past years I myself have found the benefit of the fundraising effort a bit of a wash when I tally up the amount of money we put into the chili cook-off in the form of cash donations, ingredients, and the cost of buying back my children’s desserts (that I funded in the first place) at 5x the cost. 😉

Despite the debate, in the end it was decided that we would stick to tradition and the chili cook-off was a go.

IMG_3372 (2)

My kids were thrilled. When they heard that the chili cook-off may not happen this year they were sorely disappointed, so when it was announced as an upcoming activity they began eagerly planning the desserts they would auction off.

The chili cook-off is comprised of two parts. The first half of the night is the chili cook-off in which families donate chili or cornbread (which serve as the meal for everyone.) The chili and cornbread are judged by impartial judges (our missionaries) and winners are announced.


After everyone enjoys a filling meal of chili and cornbread and good conversation then the second half of the evening begins when we have a dessert auction so that people can bid and win their desserts for the evening.

IMG_3348 (2)IMG_3345 (2)

Since this fundraiser is benefiting the youth, the youth help run the event, including baking desserts to bring for the auction.

IMG_3343 (2)

This year the girls decided to combine their efforts to make special cupcakes that looked like mini pies,

IMG_3334 (2)IMG_3328 (2)

while Rusty decided to go it alone and try something ambitious and creative: A Whopper Cake!

IMG_3331 (2)

I was especially glad for kids that could accomplish these tasks independently as Ozzie and I spent the day in Butler for his second day of state testing. The big kids also kindly took on the task of cooking our family’s chili for the cook-off since I was gone all day.

The auction is always the highlight of the evening as friendly rivalry rears its head and families battle for the tastiest treats. It is all in good fun and results in a great cause: helping our youth go to camp.

IMG_3374 (2)

It was a good night.

The youth raised money.

Families enjoyed some social fun.

And everyone left with very full bellies.


Next up: Molly’s 17th birthday

Growing by Leaps and Bounds


When I was a girl I remember reading a book in which the narrator in the story spoke about being measured yearly against the kitchen door. He spoke of running his hand over the carved marks on that weathered doorway and the sense of home and belonging it brought. Year after year another line was added, marking the passing of time as he grew from child to adult.

That mental image stuck with me and I found the idea of measuring the passage of time and the passing of years with permanent, lasting marks on the wall of one’s home, appealing.


As a child who lived an Army brat’s life of frequent moves and many homes, I think the idea of living in one place long enough to record the passing years seemed especially novel.

For our family “home” was not a place but rather a feeling and connection we brought with us from state to state. Which is all fine and good but doesn’t allow for yearly, physical measurements on a wall.

When my kids were little we too went through a few moves before we found permanency. It was through God’s grace that we stumbled across our little plot of heaven tucked down a dirt road. We spent 13 months laboring nightly and every Saturday with the help of a few close friends and family, to build our dream home on that plot of land.

We were so thrilled by the dream of building the home we had dreamt of, designed, and worked toward for so long, that we found ourselves marking it with our personal touches of love. Toby let the kids color on the backs of the new  kitchen cabinets with Sharpies before they were installed against the walls of the kitchen, knowing that decades from now, when children are gone, and the kitchen is worn and needing updated, the thrill we would feel when we pulled those pieces of wood from the wall.

Handprints were laid in the  wet cement of the basement and our initials were carved into the beams of the fireplace… all touches marking this building as our home.

It was the year we moved into our home that we began our annual tradition of measuring the kids against the hallway wall.


We usually do this on Valentine’s Day but because of unforeseen circumstances this year, we weren’t able to do it in February, so it was done this past Sunday, in between General Conference sessions.


The kids eagerly look forward to this annual reckoning. With the new marks on the wall come bragging rights for those who have experienced the greatest growth in the last 12 months, and moans from those whose marks haven’t moved.

As the kids get older the spaces between each year’s marks seems to get smaller and smaller.


The kids also get a kick out of comparing their heights at certain ages with their older siblings’ marks at the same age. It is interesting to note the patterns of growth and get an idea of who…in the end… will be our tall kids and who will remain our pint sized kiddos.


Good news…everyone grew.


But for some that growth was measured with a magnifying glass.

Grace’s mark is only centimeters above last year, but at 19 what do you expect? 🙂

Two Pretzel Princesses


Who can forget their first job and all those delicious feelings of independence that come from donning your first uniform, receiving your first paycheck, and getting your first taste of adulthood.

My first taste of adulthood came in the form of a Subway sandwich. I loved that job and that experience.

My girls are now getting their first taste adulthood and for them it tastes more like a soft, salted pretzel…


Philly Pretzel Factory pretzels!


A few weeks ago the girls saw a sign posted outside our local Philly Pretzel Factory for open interviews the following Monday night from 7:00pm to 9:00pm. The girls had both been casually looking for gainful employment and when the prospect of making pretzels for money presented itself they decided they would give it a shot.

This was Grace and Molly’s first time interviewing for a job, but despite nerves and their worries about being first time interviewees, they were hired! Their new boss was impressed by both girls and offered them both a job.

They were each thrilled to get the job, and doubly thrilled to find out they would be working together at Philly Pretzel Factory.

This week is their first week on the job. They are training and learning the ins and outs of pretzel artistry before they are put on the schedule to work independently.

Monday was Gracie’s first day of work. When she returned home with a bag of leftover pretzels she was greeted by cheers of welcome, much like a returning warrior, by her little brothers who are all thrilled to have older working sisters who bring home soft pretzels after their shift.


Tuesday was Molly’s first day on the job. She had an equally successful first shift an had the added unexpected pleasure of having one of her first customers be Miss Corrina, a friend and fellow co-op mom.

We are so proud of both our pretzel princesses!

Olive the other Reindeer



Olive our Great Dane pup is growing by leaps and bounds. She now outweighs half the family, is as tall as Toby when she is standing on her back legs, takes up the entire couch when she is stretched out, and can reach the countertop with all four feet on the ground…

IMG_3260 (2)

which has led to a new level of puppy proofing,


And she is not even 10 months old!

With this incredible 9 month long growth spurt comes a lot of feeding (8 cups a day/ spread over three servings) Toby recently repurposed an old bench that had lost its seat, into a new feeding area for our tall girl.

IMG_3277 (2)

But even with all the unique challenges of owning a Great Dane, the dividends are huge. Since we brought home Olive, Tyler is a different child. We were led to adopt Olive as a therapy tool for Tyler, our youngest son who suffers from PTSD due to early childhood trauma. He was in a bad place and couldn’t sleep at night because of the paralyzing fear he had that his birth father was going to find him and kill him. He needed to feel safe. He needed a furry companion that he felt could protect him from his worst nightmare which led us to find the biggest, and yet gentlest/most tolerant breed of dog we could. We needed a gentle giant to serve as Tyler’s support dog.

Since Olive moved in Tyler has become a different child.

Olive has not only grown physically in the time we have had her but she has also grown in her ability to obey and follow commands thanks to obedience class. We knew it was important with a dog that big, that we establish control and teach good manners as soon as possible. It is one thing to have a naughty 8 pound Yorkie that jumps up on you, but quite different to have a naughty, 150 pound goliath try to climb up your leg.


Olive has now completed three levels of training and begins the advanced class this week. Rusty has stepped up as the primary trainer who works with Olive in her classes and at home. We found Tyler’s energy, coupled with Olives distractibility, a bad fit for obedience class. Rusty’s calm, but strong presence, is a much better fit.


Olive loves class and looks forward to playtime with her four footed friends, especially Rebel, a German Shorthaired Pointer, who is her best friend.

I am amazed at how much she is learning and how well the classes are working…

for the most part.

But every now and then Olive gets herself in trouble.

For example…

Saturday morning we woke to the clip clopping of feet on the roof above our head.

Our first thought was “Tyler!”

After a quick peek in his bedroom to find him still asleep,

Our next thought was, “Goats!”

It has happened before…


What we never expected when we stepped out the front door was to look up and see this:

It wasn’t the pawing of Dasher, Dancer, or Vixen…

No, it was Olive, the other reindeer!

olive 4

Being the owners of an under one-year-old Great Dane is a dichotomy. She has the appearance of a full grown dog. She is as tall as a small pony. But she has the enthusiasm, curiosity, lack of common sense, and klutziness of the puppy she really is. It is a dangerous combination and many a breakable has been destroyed inside the house because of this  combination of energy and enthusiasm, coupled with her complete lack of understanding of how big she really is.

She has gotten “stuck” in many sticky situations as a result, and this morning was a prime example of that.

Near the back of our house the distance between the ground and roofline in significantly shorter than in the front of the house, which means a determined little boy, a pair of climbing goats, or a tall Great Dane in pursuit of a cat can, if they are motivated enough, climb onto the roof.

It appears this is what happened on Saturday morning. Olive, in pursuit of the cat, followed Stripy up onto the roof and then discovered it was a jolly, good place to play. She ran, frolicked and barked, delighted by this grand adventure until mean old Toby made her come back down to earth.

olive 3olive2

What a goofy girl she is!

Olive, down girl! Down!

Molly made the News!


Things have been challenging at Patchwork Farm. It is never easy when, as a parent, you have a child struggling. As a result of exhaustion and not knowing what to say or share I have found myself avoiding blog writing, and it is only the build up of pictures and the stress of getting “too far behind” in recording the events of our life that have kept small, quick, “update” type blogs coming.

I am still not sure how to best express the current struggles our family is navigating right now, so I will put that blog on the back burner and just summarize our reality with, “Reactive Attachment Disorder SUCKS.” (Don’t tell my children I used that bad word. 🙂  But really, no other word fits.)

So until I feel better capable of verbalizing that side of life I will keep to less emotionally draining topics.

Over the next few blogs I will share some of the happier news at Patchwork Farm.

First up:

Molly made the News!

A few weeks ago Molly came racing into my room with the exciting news that she had received a very special invitation from her Spanish I teacher, Mrs. Parvin.  Their cyber charter school, 21st Century, was being highlighted on Fox 29 News Philadelphia and a few chosen teachers were asked to pick students to be part of the news segment.  She asked Molly if she would be willing to participate.


Although nervous, Molly was touched that Mrs. Parvin thought of her and agreed to participate.

The news segment featured Bob Kelly as part of a regularly broadcast news segment called, “Kelly’s Classrooms,” where he goes into local school and showcases what is happening in schools around the Philly area.


It was quite exciting for 21st Century to be chosen for the segment and great publicity for our school.

On the morning of the big day everyone was up early, getting ready for Molly’s virtual “15 minutes of fame.”


My primary focus was keeping all noisy boys and rowdy dogs as far away from Molly’s bedroom as possible until her time on screen was over.

I was up the night before with nightmares that we would be reenacting the recently famous BBC video of a father’s 15 minutes of academic fame being interrupted by a dancing daughter and a baby on wheels who broke into his office during a live news interview.

Remember this:

I had horrifically vivid visions of me belly crawling across Molly’s floor to grab Tyler and Olive by the scruffs of their necks while Molly tried to answer Bob Kelly’s questions in the foreground.

It took a pound of candy, 13 bacon strips, and unlimited access to Netflix to keep everyone under control and quiet, but I got the job done and Molly had her moment in the sun.

Here is part of Bob Kelly’s segment of 21st Century Cyber Charter School and Miss Molly’s 15 minutes of fame!

Dr. Gulland’s Birthday Party


This week we spent Monday evening with our orthodontist (and his staff), celebrating his birthday.

dr. g

Every year our orthodontist celebrates his birthday by inviting all his orthodontic patients to a night of roller skating, laser tag, bumper cars, etc. ..on him! He offers this free night of fun as a way of showing appreciation for his patients and their families. It is so generous and completely reflective of how his office does business… and why we continue to do business with them.

Dr. G’s office is 45 minutes from our home, and while there are closer places we could take our children to get braces, we consider it a worthwhile time investment to drive to Dr.G’s office. We love him, we love the work he does, we love the staff, but most importantly we love what he stands for. He is a man of character and so he gets our business.

We have been attending Dr. Gulland’s birthday celebration for many years, first because of Grace being his patient, and then because of Rusty.  Ozzie is the next one in line for braces. 🙂

Dr. G rents out the Olympic Fun Center near his office. It is a huge building filled with an abundance of fun for kids (and adults). There is roller skating, a climbing wall, laser tag, bumper cars and a huge climbing/play set. All the kids have their favorite activities but the treat is that they don’t have to choose. They can try everything, since it is all included in the evening for free.

IMG_3224 (2)

This year we met up with the Hudak family, who also happens to be Dr. G patients, and the ones who first introduced us to this amazing orthodontic office.

IMG_3227 (2)

The kids had fun skating with their friends and I had fun sitting and catching up with Miss Lana.

IMG_3238 (2)IMG_3228

IMG_3236 (2)IMG_3231 (2)IMG_3242 (2)IMG_3243 (2)

At the end of the event the kids and I headed over to Kraynak’s (an incredible toy store/ gift shop/ garden center) also in Hermitage, to see their Easter displays. It was an enchanting way to end our Monday night of fun!


New Beginnings… “ASK”



Sunday morning marked our 8th and final New Beginnings for Grace.

New Beginnings is an annual event for the young women at church, celebrating the young women at church and highlighting their goal setting program: Personal Progress. It also is the time when the new 12 year olds (or soon to be 12 year olds) are welcomed in and the exiting seniors are celebrated.

IMG_3179 (2)

Every year there is a theme surrounding the program. Some past themes include:

Dr. Seuss: “Oh the Places you’ll Go”


Frozen: “Don’t Let Your Hearts be Frozen: Come unto Christ”


Embark: “Embark in the Service of God”


Inside Out: “Loving the Lord with our Heads, Hearts and Hands”


Here’s a look back on some of those years:

This year the theme was based on the youth’s mutual theme for the year, “Ask of God”

IMG_3182 (2)

The décor reflected this theme with cute framed quotes and framed scriptures, an “Ask of God” banner, fresh cut flowers, and photos of the girls for the centerpieces.

IMG_3184 (2)IMG_3177 (2)IMG_3173 (2)IMG_3169 (2)

The program began with an introduction of all the young women and a welcome for the incoming 12 year olds.

IMG_3186 (2)


This was followed by a beautiful musical number where the girls were accompanied by Maddie on the guitar.

IMG_3194 (2)

It was then time to highlight our graduating seniors and say farewell as they move on to the next exciting phase of their lives.

It was hard to not get choked up as these special young women spoke about their growth and lessons learned during their time in young women’s. I watched as these ladies shared their advice with the new 12-year-old girls and I couldn’t help but reminisce about the time not too long ago when they were the new, nervous babies in the group.

IMG_3211 (2)

These girls were my beehives when I began serving as Young Women’s president and I struggle to wrap my heart around the idea that they are now old enough to be leaving for college.

IMG_3167 (2)

I remember shedding tears at Gracie’s first New Beginning banquet. I struggled to accept that my baby was old enough to be in young women’s with the teenage girls. I remember another mom saying (as she sat with her senior,) “If you think it’s hard watching them enter young women’s wait until you are sitting at their farewell.”

Where have the years gone?

But I must say, my primary emotion was not one of sadness. As I looked at that group of young women standing before me I felt a great deal of pride and joy. What amazing young ladies they have grown into! And while the day was bittersweet, I felt excitement for them and the journey they are about to embark on.


As I looked at my Gracie, who stood there so beautiful and self-assured, I felt a deep, humbling sense of wonder. How did I ever get so lucky as to be trusted with such a precious, special soul.

Yes, there is a pinching ache deep in the center of my heart as I consider the winds of change blowing our way, but my instinct is not to batten down the hatches and grab on tightly, rather it is to loosen my grip on the string and watch her soar.

Change is always hard, because change is unknown, but the most magnificent moments in life come when we are brave enough to release our fearful grip and jump into the wind.

Fly, sweet girl, FLY!