Monthly Archives: March 2018

Vintage Pittsburgh


vintage pittsburgh

After a fun night at the Home Free Concert the festivities continued into the following day with a girls’ trip down to the Heinz History Center for the sixth annual Vintage Pittsburgh retro fair.

Gracie put the event on the calendar as soon as she heard about it and invited Molly and I to join her. It was advertised as such:

“Find incredible vintage clothing, accessories, home décor, vinyl records, and much more from dozens of local vendors. Get refreshed at Shop ‘Til You Drop Soda Fountain, grab a bite from local food tables, and experience six floors of History Center exhibits.

Plus – find vintage inspiration, explore 1920s fashion, and maybe even learn a retro dance or two in the History Center’s newest exhibition, American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition.”

The event had the added advantage of a discounted admission price to the Heinz History Center as part of the event.

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We arrived and found crowds of vintage-loving, like-minded folks pouring through the museum. It was a VERY popular place on Saturday.

We arrived and found each level of the museum boasting various products for sale… everything from antique home décor, to jewelry, to vintage clothing. There was something for all of us to enjoy.

We started the day at the top floor where the majority of the vendors were set up and we worked our way downward over the course of the day.

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We began our stroll through the vendors with a stop at a silk screening booth where visitors could silk screen a “Vintage Pittsburgh” poster for free, or silk screen a “Vintage Pittsburgh” canvas bag for $5.00.

Molly went for the poster,

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While Grace chose to silk screen a bag.

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They were quite charming!

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Then we began shopping. I enjoyed strolling around the home décor to get ideas and inspiration while the girls went straight to the clothing racks. Both my girls love vintage clothing, although the styles they are drawn to are very different. The Vintage Pittsburgh event offered clothes that appealed to them both.

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With arms loaded with fabric treasures we headed for the dressing rooms where I settled in for the duration. They both tried on a lot of fun outfits but in the end settled on one favorite outfit each that they purchased with their Pretzel Factory “dough.”

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Molly’s new dress:

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Gracie’s new romper for summer:

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She was drawn to the fact that it looks like a skirt but is actually shorts.

Once we were shopped out we began working our way downstairs stopping on the fourth floor to play with some vintage toys.

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It was like my childhood had been laid out on the table…Oh, the feels!!

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When we had visited all of the “Vintage Pittsburgh” booths we ended our day with a tour of Heinz History Center’s newest exhibit…

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It was such a perfect fit for the “Vintage Pittsburgh” event and a great way to end our fun journey into the past.

“American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, the first comprehensive exhibition about America’s most colorful and complex constitutional hiccup, will make its final stop on a nationwide tour at the Heinz History Center beginning on Saturday, Feb. 10.

Created by the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Pa., the 9,000-square-foot exhibit brings the story of Prohibition vividly to life – from the dawn of the temperance movement, through the Roaring ’20s, and up to the unprecedented repeal of a constitutional amendment.

Visitors can learn to dance the Charleston (a popular Prohibition-era dance craze),

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track down rumrunners in a custom-built video game, and pose for a mugshot beside a lineup of some of the era’s most notorious gangsters like Al Capone and Meyer Lansky.

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The Smithsonian-affiliated History Center will also display a model of a Prohibition-era “rum runner” motorboat, on loan from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.”

It was a fascinating and fun exhibit that sparked some great conversation, not to mention the fact it offered us some great photo opportunities!

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What a fun date with my two favorite flappers!

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Home Free, baby!


For Gracie’s 20th birthday we surprised her with tickets to see one of her favorite groups, “Home Free.”


Gracie’s love language is quality time and she much prefers the gift of shared experiences than anything I could buy off a store shelf. I feel the same way. I love experience gifts. I’d much rather make a memory than make room on my shelf for another thing.

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The news that her one of her favorite groups was bringing their show to Pittsburgh during her birthday month was sweet serendipity. Toby and I decided to make it a parents/daughters date and Rusty kindly offered to babysit Tyler so the four of us could go.


As part of her birthday surprise we bought Gracie the newest Home Free CD that contained the songs of their current tour so that she could get pumped about the concert, have a fun tangible memory of her birthday experience after the concert, and so the rest of us could get familiar with the stylings of Home Free prior to the concert.

“Home Free is a Country music a cappella group of five vocalists, Austin Brown, Rob Lundquist, Adam Rupp, Tim Foust, and Adam Chance. Starting as a show group, they toured around 200 shows a year across the United States.

The group competed in and won the fourth season of the Sing-Off in 2013. They sang an arrangement of Hunter Hayes’  “I Want Crazy,” as their final competitive song, earning the group $100,000 and a recording contract with Sony

 Home Free is structured like a traditional barbershop quartet, with a lead tenor, two harmony voices, and a bass. The lead tenor, who fronts the group and sings most of the solos, is Austin Brown. Tenor harmony is sung by Rob Lundquist, baritone harmony is sung by Adam Chance, and Tim Foust sings bass. In addition to the four voices, percussion sounds are provided by beatboxer Adam Rupp. Although Brown is Home Free’s primary soloist, all of the other members occasionally sing solos as well.”

The concert took place last Friday at the Palace Theatre, a beautiful old theatre that was built in the 1920’s.


The girls got all decked out in the country concert gear. They looked adorable.

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We arrived and the girls got in line at the merchandise table. For Gracie’s birthday gift from Molly she received money to buy a concert t-shirt.


While in line they found out that the band would be having a meet and greet following the concert and they would be able to have things signed which prompted them to open their wallets and buy a poster (Molly) and cup bearing the photo of the band (Grace) that they could get signed after the show.


We found our seats and people watched while waiting for the show to begin. It was a really fun crowd due in large part to the diversity of the audience. There were fans ranging in age from 8 to 80 there to see the show.

While we were people watching we caught sight of some familiar faces in the crowd. Our friends the Eberle’s walked in and took their seats 10 rows in front of us. As surprised as we were to catch sight of familiar faces in this sold out concert hall we shouldn’t have been surprised. You know what they say about great minds… 🙂

Our weeks of listening to Gracie’s Home Free CD on repeat did nothing to really prepare us for the phenomenon that is the Home Free experience. I have never been to a concert quite like it. The first thing I took note of was the absence of instruments on the stage. I knew they were an a cappella group but the visual of an empty stage really drives home the fact that these guys’ voices are the only instruments used to create incredible music.


Can you spot us?

Then the show began. It was a fun mix of older classics, newer songs and funny dialog between songs. The entire show was highly entertaining and I found myself laughing and swooning simultaneously as goosebumps climbed up and down my arms.

For those unfamiliar with Home Free check out this YouTube clip that gives you a peek into the unique sound that makes this band one of a kind:

Wow…what a show!

And what a delight it was watching the joy on Gracie’s face as she relished in her birthday gift.


When the show was over the girls got in line to meet the band and have their souvenirs signed, while Toby and I stepped back and captured their delight through my lens.


It was such a fun experience for them and sure proof that this birthday is one that won’t soon be forgotten.


Happy 20th birthday, Grace. May this year be the best one yet!

The Enabling Power of Prayer


I recently stumbled across a quote that had an effect on my week and left me pondering its words for days after reading it. The quote was:


As my children grow older and get closer to launching themselves from the nest I find myself taking inventory of what lessons have been sufficiently taught and what areas might still be lacking. This mental inventory covers everything from school concepts, to life skills, coping strategies, emotional stability,and spiritual tenacity. For their entire childhood I have had this long running list mentally laid next to a clock that is ticking down, forever calculating how much more time I have to teach all the needed life lessons that I want my children armed with before they take flight and face the world independently.

It is easy to fall victim to the sin of control, pride, or fear as I weigh what items have been crossed off the proverbial parenting checklist, while facing down the daunting number of tasks that remain.

I find this “one step forward, two step back,” “flight of the bumblebee” dance to become all the more frantic when you have adopted an older child. The list of lessons you want to teach are the same, but the time you have to teach those lessons is inevitably cut in half when a child enters your life at age 6, age 10 or age 14. Add to that the fact that so many of these lessons can’t even be addressed until there is a level of trust, connection, and stability, and you will find the hands on that already ticking clock moving at light speed.

It is easy to fall victim to the same plight as Peter in Matthew 14…

Peter was willing to put it all on the line. He and the other disciples had been straining against the waves and wind all night long when Jesus appeared to them, walking on the water. Wanting to prove his courage to Jesus, he made an amazing statement: “ Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.”. These were rough seas, and Peter was willing to literally step onto them because He was looking at Jesus. That gave him confidence and courage.

It went well for awhile until Peter started to sink. And why did he sink? Because he took his eyes off Jesus and put them on other things.

When my eyes are focused on the list and not on God, I sink. I am consumed with fear and scramble frantically to regain my footing, but the more I scramble the more quickly I sink.

BUT if I turn my eyes back to the Savior I rise above the pull of the waves. I rise above the worries, the stresses, the fear, and the need for control. I am untouched by the crashing waves even as the storm rages around me.

This is the dialog that has been playing out in my head as I look at my older children perched at the edge of the nest, ready to spread their wing and soar. As I consider what lessons have been sufficiently taught and what lessons God is calling me to teach in this final season of their childhood, I am working to keep my eyes on Christ and not fall victim to the sins of control, pride, or fear, but rather allow Him to guide the parental “to do” list of lessons to be taught.

When I stumbled across the quote above I was affected. Its message left me considering how effectively we have taught our children the power of prayer, not just the habit of prayer. I have a testimony of prayer’s power and hope that my testimony has been shared sufficiently with my children through my words, but also through the way that  I live my life…

But this lesson is much too important to hang on “hope” or leave to chance.

Because, of all the lessons taught at my knee, the most important one of all is this one. If my children leave my home with no other skill, no other life tool, no other testimony, I pray it would be this one…the knowledge they are loved by a Heavenly Father, they can have a powerful and intimate relationship with a loving Savior, and by keeping their eyes trained on Jesus through a relationship built on prayer, they can rise above the pull of the waves regardless of the storm raging about them.

This is the topic I felt compelled to revisit, especially in light of a recent trend I have seen playing out around our dinner table.

I’m sure none of you can relate to this but when Toby asks who would like to offer the prayer over the meal crickets can often be heard chirping. There is a noticeable lack of eagerness to pray, and while that doesn’t directly mean anything definitive, I want to make sure that it isn’t reflective of something more…

In addition to the crickets chirping I have also noticed a routine approach to praying that I find even more concerning. All of our prayers recently seem modeled after the same manner. They lack the depth and personal nature that should be seen in a conversation with Heavenly Father.  Add to that the fact that Tyler has recently refused to pray out loud, something that is definitely fear driven, the source of that fear yet unknown, I knew it was time to revisit the topic of prayer as a family.

With all this going on under our roof I was affected in a powerful way by this quote and felt compelled to make it the theme of this week’s Family Home Evening lesson. It was time to get back to the basics and look at how we could each individually strengthen our relationship with God through our prayers to Him.

I began by searching out resources that would teach the lesson that I was feeling called to present, in an engaging and safe way for Tyler so he didn’t shut down or walk out when he heard the topic for the night’s lesson.

I decided to use a lesson I found online that compared prayer to building a sandwich. It gave a great visual that I knew Tyler would respond to. As I prepared the lesson of making a prayer sandwich my mind kept pulling up the image of the cartoon character, Dagwood Bumstead from the old Blondie cartoon strip. He had a love for sandwiches and was well known for his culinary creations…

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Huge, multi-layer sandwiches that he created with creativity and consumed with enthusiasm.

sandwich2As I thought about the iconic Dagwood sandwich I thought to myself, “Now that is what I want my family’s approach to prayer to look like. I want us to eagerly anticipate the opportunity we have to build that sandwich,  meaningfully building layer after layer, and consuming it with pure delight”.

THAT is what I want my prayer sandwich to look like!

Using this model of prayer we went back to the basics. This was primarily for Tyler’s sake but was a good refresher for all of us. I handed out 5×7 “prayer sandwiches” cards, framed in glass, and white board markers and let everyone build their own prayer sandwich. We then each took turns praying, using our sandwich as a guide to our prayer.

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We talked about how, like a sandwich, we all have the same top and bottom slice of bread. The top slice is our greeting to God and our bottom slice of bread is the closing of, “In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”

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But the filling differs for each of us. I

explained that if we were having sandwiches for dinner and I laid out all the fixings…different meats and cheeses, mayo, mustard, lettuce, onion, tomato, etc. we would all make different sandwiches based on what we liked and what our body was craving. In the same way our prayers differ based on what our experiences were that day, what worries are on our hearts, and what we feel compelled to petition God about.

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I took it one step further and pointed out that just as Tyler’s prayer will differ from Rusty’s, our personal prayer should differ day to day. Just like you wouldn’t want to eat the same sandwich for every meal, your prayer shouldn’t be the same rote words uttered day after day. They should be thoughtful, meaningful, personal and relevant to what is going on in your life.

I compared speaking to God that way to talking to their best friend on the phone…

“What would your friend think if every day you called him or her and had the exact same conversation…

“Hi Jane, How are you? What is your favorite color? Do you have a brother?  Thank you for my Christmas gift.  Talk to you tomorrow. Goodbye.”

I am guessing you wouldn’t have a real meaningful friendship. In the same way our relationship with our Heavenly Father can’t grow deeper if our communication is limited to:

Dear God, Thank you for this day. Thank you for my family. Please bless this food. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”

Now granted, I think God is happy to hear from us in any form, even if it is that sort of  “text message of a prayer,” but if we are going to benefit from all that a relationship with a loving, personal God has to offer, we must really talk to him.


 For the activity part of the evening we took this idea one step further by making prayer sticks. Using tongue depressors decorated with washi tape everyone wrote on the back of 5 sticks people or concerns we want to pray for more regularly and then we placed them in a jar in the living room.

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For family prayer time the family member that is offering the prayer will randomly pick 5 sticks and add those prayer requests to their personal prayer requests. These prayer sticks can be added to or changed over time.

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All of these activities will hopefully help us all to reevaluate our own approach to prayer and help us all to gain a stronger testimony of prayer and its power in our lives:


We ended the night with a treat of gummy sandwiches…

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Because nothing says, “We are having a family night lesson on prayer!” like a bag of KRABBY PATTIES! 😉

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A Night off and a Dress




Amen, Sister…AMEN!

Sometimes all a girl wants is to lay down her dusting cloth, slip into something pretty, and have a night out on the town.

Thanks to an aptly timed play I was granted “the wish my heart makes” and like Cinderella had a magical night filled with song, dance and a pair of glass slippers…

Not mine, of course. I am too old to be hobbling around in glass slippers. I wore some kickin’ Keds for the evening. 🙂

We have entered high school musical season in Western Pennsylvania, a season marked by yard signs sprinkled across the countryside advertising all the local shows. It is  fun to drive around the area and take note of what beloved musicals each school has chosen to tackle this musical season. With limited time and a short high school musical season the great debate is always… which shows to go see?!

There seems to inevitably always be more shows than free weekends which sometimes results in a “divide and conquer” approach with different family members catching various shows (staring friends from church and co-op) as school and work schedules allow.

This year Molly was able to catch two productions staring friends from church that I couldn’t attend because of meetings.

A few weeks ago, she drove down to Center Township to see Hailey and Lauren Mitchell in “All Shook Up,” and Elvis inspired show that Molly raved about for days following the production.


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She also ventured out on her own, on a night Grace had school and I had a camp meeting, to watch one of her bestest friends as the lead in the musical, Cinderella.

received_2044220899193577Rochester’s high school musical is one we traditionally attend as our friends, the Tames, are key talents in the production year after year. It is always fun to watch their talent play out on stage.


Once again Molly came home with nothing but praise for Heather and her talents as well as her younger sister, Melanie, who stepped into the role of step sister with only 3 hours notice after the young lady who was to play the role got hurt. Molly was super impressed by how well Melanie learned the lines for this new part in the hours before opening night and stepped into this new role seamlessly.

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella was also Mohawk High School’s musical this year.


Last Friday we attended their musical to watch Caleigh, one of Molly’s best buddies from co-op, who was playing the role of guard and singing girl.



Cute Caleigh is on the left.


We joined up with the Hudak gals to watch Caleigh’s performance. It was fun to attend this particular show with Lana as Mohawk School is her Alma Mater. She had lots of fun stories to tell as we waited for the show to begin.


The production was magnificent.


The show was presented storybook style, meaning the sets and props were minimal and the show was carried mainly by the talented cast…

And there was a lot of talent on that stage!

After the show we met up with Caleigh to express our accolades for a job well done. She looked adorable in her costume.


We also were able to say hello to two past co-op classmates that now attend Mohawk High School…

Sarah who was in the play as a townsperson and Jack who played in the orchestra.


This particular musical was the only one I caught this musical season, but it was a great one to catch. I left the evening whistling the familiar melodies of childhood… songs of hope, garden wishes, and Prince Charming’s love.


Then all to soon the clock was striking midnight and it was time to hurry home before we all turned into pumpkins.

Oh, how I love the magic of musicals.


Yes, Yes…100 times, Yes.

Grace is no longer a Teenager!


“Now you can get married!”


This was the greeting Grace was awoken to on the morning of her 20th birthday by a loud and enthusiastic younger brother.

“You are not a teenager anymore!” he declared, “So now you can get married.”

I don’t know if it was Tyler’s words or the loud and bouncy delivery of his words, but Grace looked a bit shell shocked as she rubbed the sleep from her eyes and tried to focus on her family that was gathered at the foot of her bed with cupcake in hand.

I am still wrapping my mind around the fact I have a 20 year old child. In my eyes she is still a five year old princess begging me to watch her pirouette, when in reality she is now the age I was when she was born…

It is all a bit surreal.

This year Gracie’s birthday fell on a Friday which meant she was blessed with a birthday at home with no school or work that day. Her big plans for the day included relaxing at home, watching a movie, and fitting in a nap. With her life as busy as it is right now her birthday wish was downtime…a birthday wish I can relate to.

Her birthday day became a day full of favorites with many of her activities reminiscent  previous year’s birthday themes.

During lunch break the girls all gathered to watch an episode of Downton Abby together just as we did on Gracie’s birthday two years earlier.

For many years this traditional Abby viewing was a weekly Monday activity for Grace, Molly and I during the current Downton Abby season. We would gather on my bed during lunch break and watch the newest episode of Downton Abby together. We did this up until the final episode which we saved and watched on Gracie’s 18th birthday, a fitting way to bring two eras to an end simultaneously. Then for her 18th birthday gift she received a handmade dress reflective of this favorite show and that time period which she then wore to her Downton Abby birthday tea party two months later.

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Her other birthday wish for this birthday was a hike to Buttermilk Falls, a throwback to her 17th birthday when she received a camera for her birthday and we took her on a photo scavenger hunt hike to the falls.


This year she asked if we could make the hike again, so after the other kids had finished school for the day, but before Toby returned home after picking up Ozzie for the weekend, we went hiking. It was cold but the sun was shining and the hike was beautiful, giving Grace and I many opportunities to capture the beauty of the day in photographs.

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After our hike we met up with Toby and Ozzie and drove out to Boardman, Ohio for Gracie’s birthday dinner. (Molly had to work that night but met up with us later for cake and gifts.)

We had dinner at Red Lobster (Gracie’s favorite restaurant) where she ordered her favorite meal of coconut shrimp and mashed potatoes with a virgin Pina Colada for a birthday treat.

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It was a fun dinner and so nice to have Ozzie there to help celebrate Gracie’s big day!

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When everyone arrived back home we headed into the dining room to celebrate Gracie’s 20th birthday with cake and gifts. Ozzie chose to go to bed early since he wasn’t feeling well, so we saved him a piece of cake and jumped into the celebration down one family member.

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Each of the kids took turns giving Grace her gifts.

The best part of Tyler gift to Grace (the card game, “Code Names”) was the wrapping that was tied with a “Its a Girl” balloon and an awesome homemade birthday card.

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Rusty gave Grace her first ever Lego set. Rusty was so excited to share with her a gift that he has was passionate about, and she was equally thrilled to build her first Lego set.

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Toby and I surprised Grace with a CD and concert tickets to one of her favorite groups, Home Free. We will be taking her to the concert for the second half of her birthday celebration.

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Molly, following our lead, made a homemade card for Grace that looked like a Home Free t-shirt and enclosed cash for Grace to purchase a souvenir t-shirt at the concert.

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The night ended with cake and song as we celebrated 20 years with this special young lady.

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The birthday frivolity continued for Grace the next day with a birthday sleepover with her best bud. Grace and Olivia have discovered that being grown-up doesn’t allow nearly as much time to socialize as either would like so Gracie’s birthday request was a night hanging out and catching up with her bestie. They camped out in the converted school bus, made homemade salsa, guacamole and other treats in the bus’ kitchen, and watched movies into the night. How grateful I am for this sweet friendship that has grown stronger and sweeter over the last decade.


Happy birthday, my sweet Gracie, we love you to the moon and back!


A Photo Dump


It is time for another photo dump.

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Every few months I find a build-up of photos from the small, everyday happenings of  life, piled up on my camera. Then I know it is time for a catch-up post. This is one of those times…

Gracie is thriving. Having completed her first semester of college, and well into her second, she has comfortably and confidently embraced this new season of life with enthusiasm and grace. She is loving her program and continues to find the study of American Sign Language fascinating and engaging. The result of her efforts came in the mail a few weeks ago. We are so proud of our college freshman!

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Ozzie also continues to thrive in his program. He has settle into a comfortable routine of school, therapy, and visits home that have provided the support he has needed, and he has blossomed under that added support. Over the last few months he has traveled a hard but poignant journey through his past trauma with the support of EMDR therapy, art and music therapy, animal therapy, various group therapies and regularly occurring sessions of TRE (trauma release exercises), all offered at this facility. This quarter he made the honor roll, has earned a perfect score on his daily behavior chart for the last six weeks, joined the school’s basketball team, and learned to cross country ski at this awesome treatment facility where he is receiving more intensive inpatient therapy. He is now reaching the end of his time there, having worked so hard in his healing journey, and will be coming home for good in 4-6 weeks. This inpatient stay wasn’t the path we planned for him, but God led us to the very place he needed to be to find the help he was desperately crying out for. How grateful I am for God’s hand in this journey and for this child I call my son.

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A few weeks ago our youth group had a fun joint activity for the young men and the young women. Following in the path of our cub scout troop they decided to offer a pinewood derby race for the youth. Car kits were ordered and the young men and young women were given free reins to be as creative as they wanted to be since they weren’t limited by the same guidelines as the scouts. There was no height or weight limit so they could do whatever they wanted.

Having helped my kids create 30 + pinewood derby cars over the years, between AWANAS, cub scouts, and youth races, I was relived that Molly and Rusty were old enough and independent enough to cut, sand, and paint their own cars, and I was able to simply enjoy the surprise reveal the night of the race.

Molly created a watermelon car:

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And Rusty turned his car into a pink E-racer. (So punny!):

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The youth had a blast!

For Valentine’s Day Grace surprised Molly and I with a galintine party (a Valentine’s Day celebration of the special gals in your life.) This occurred while Toby and Rusty were in Florida. We waited until Tyler and Ozzie were tucked in bed on Saturday night and then Grace pulled out her prepared treats…

We had fizzy cotton candy drinks

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And fondue with chocolate dipped cookie dough,

Which we enjoyed while watching Age of Adeline, one of our very favorite chick flicks.


A few Sunday’s ago, while driving home from church, we stumbled on this fellow near our house. It is not too often you find a beaver waddling along by the side of the road so we stopped to watch him. He seemed completely unconcerned about his growing audience as more cars slowed down to watch him. He eventually waddled away into the high grass, sending his spectators back on the road. It was quite a thrill for my kiddos.


The dogs were saddened to have missed “saying hello” to this waffle-tailed groundhog…



Olive, our 125 pound “lap dog.”

The girls are now approaching their one year anniversary of working together at the Philly Pretzel Factory. Grace is also in the process of applying for a second job through the state to work as a driver for a  client who also happens to be a dear friend of hers. Rusty, who is getting ever closer to driving independently, is now also on the hunt for a job. This week for his weekly one-on-one time with me, we worked on his first job application and then I drove him over to Handel’s Ice Cream to drop it off….Fingers Crossed!


We find ourselves in a season of “firsts.”

It seems that all the kids have been stepping out of their comfort zones and stretching themselves in new and exciting ways. As a parent it is thrilling (and a bit scary) to see them stretching their wings and launching.

All the time and work that has been invested into the last  two decades was for this end…to see them step out into the world as young adults and do amazing things in God’s name.

All three of my big kids have exciting things coming up ( more on that in another post) but the child who had probably grown more than any other this year is Tyler. He is in his renaissance and is blossoming in ways I worried he never would. Academically this has been his best year yet. Therapeutically he is making incredible strides and is gaining confidence and feelings of felt safety, all while getting more comfortable with verbalizing emotions rather than acting out on them. And socially he has blossomed as well. Tyler has found a special connection with three boys at church that he considers his best friends. These boys have been such a blessing to Tyler and as a mom my heart overflows with gratitude for their example, influence, and for the hand of friendship they have extended to my son. I look at my older three and the special friendships they  found as little children, friendships that continue to be a great blessing in their lives today, and I am so grateful Tyler has now found his “tribe,” close friends that will grow up with him.

This past week was one for the record books as Tyler had his first ever sleepover with one of these friends. (He requested all three boys but given the uncertainty of how Tyler would manage the night we started with him picking one friend) A sleepover might not seem a big deal, but for Tyler this was HUGE! Tyler struggles with horrible anxiety at night. Nighttime is a frightening time of the day given his past trauma. His tendency toward night terrors and overwhelming feelings of fear have made sleepovers impossible in the past, so when Tyler came to us requesting a sleepover with a friend, something that really testifies to his increased feelings of safety, his desire to be brave so as to not miss out of the social fun of having a friend over, as well as a reflection on this young man and the calm assurance his demeanor has on Tyler, we were thrilled.

The days leading up to the sleepover were filled with planning. Tyler came to me with a menu in mind and a schedule of fun. He knew exactly what he wanted and I couldn’t suppress my smile when he gave me my shopping list of what he wanted for meals  and snacks for the sleepover.

They had a wonderful time. Their day was filled with playing football, jumping on the trampoline, and exploring the woods. (They proudly brought home an animal skull they found in the field.) And at night they fell asleep in the living room on bean bag chairs while watching A Dog’s Purpose.


I’d say Tyler’s first sleepover was a smashing success!

I’ll wrap up this Photo Dump with Molly’s latest project. This semester Molly is taking a class on fashion and textiles. Her assignment this week was to take an article of clothing that she doesn’t wear and refashion it into something new that she would wear.

She found two clothing items that were possibilities.


She chose the jean shirt with plaid lining. She decided to flip it inside out, and cut off the sleeves to sew the shirt into a vest.

All pinned and ready for sewing…


Then she cut the cuffs off the sleeves and used them to make pockets.


The finished product was nothing short of adorable! Nice job, Molly!


Well, there you go…

This post was a little long and a lot disjointed, much like our days here at Patchwork Farm. 🙂

May your week be blessed!



The final Chili Cook-off



The annual chili cook-off is a tradition our scouts have participated in for years. When we moved in 10 years ago it was already a long-standing tradition and something our congregation anticipated every March. This annual event served as the fundraiser for the year so that our scout troop could raise money for Boy Scout camp. After a long run this tradition has come to a close. Last Wednesday it was announced that this would be the final chili cook-off.

It was with a mix of emotions that we absorbed the news. While there was a part of me that felt relief at being freed from the huge task of helping multiple kids prepare dishes and baked goods for the auction, another part of me was saddened by the news as I reminisced on the many years we had been coming.

Despite the mix of emotions the night couldn’t have gone any better. Talk about going out with a bang!!

The turn out was incredible and as a result of many hands donating food items and many generous families supporting the troop, our scouts raised over $2000 that evening!

The night began with judging.

We arrived early, as Rusty had to help set up for the event. As crock pots of chili and pans of cornbread poured in, the missionaries were assigned the task of tasting and judging each dish, picking a first, second, and third place winner for chili and for cornbread.

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Once the judging was completed tabled were called to the front to help themselves to dinner.

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The hardest part of the night is always choosing which of the yummy looking chili’s to try. A few creative families came up with the awesome idea of bringing muffin pans to use for their dinner plate, allowing them to scoop a little of each flavor in each tin and try them all.

At the end of the meal the winners were announced. This year Rusty decided to enter the judging with his own pan of cornbread. The secret to his delicious bread was mixing yellow cake mix with corn bread mix to create a sweet fluffy corn bread that was amazing. His efforts earned him third place.

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Following dinner was the dessert auction. While the dinner part of the night is a free-for-all, if you want to end your meal with a sweet treat you have to battle for it.

The scouts and ward families all bake desserts to contribute to the auction.

This year Rusty made Mickey Mouse Rice Krispy treats dipped in chocolate:

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And Molly made cups of “Dirt”:

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The dessert table was filled to capacity…

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Families took their time perusing and whispering their top choices to each other, making a game plan of what desserts they wanted to battle for.

There were so many delicious looking treats it was hard to choose!

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The second half of the evening was the auction where friends went up against friends  for the sake of a sugar high and gloating rights.

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The auction was a smashing success with some cakes and desserts being sold for $50-75 dollars.

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Our scout troop was certainly blessed by the generosity of their ward family and the financial end of this event will allow a lot of young boys a week of learning, skill-building, and man-producing experiences that they will carry with them for life.

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It is the end of an era…

But what a way to go out!


Walking in Meekness


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With the new year comes New Beginnings, an annual program for the young women at church that rings in the new year with an introduction of the mutual theme, a welcome for the incoming 12-year-old girls and a chance to say farewell to our graduating seniors.

The theme for this year’s New Beginnings was built around this year’s mutual theme:

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The night focused on “Walking in the Meekness of Christ” with a fun shoe theme to drive the décor, activities, treats and message of the night.

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We arrived at 6:00, (30 minutes early) so that Molly could go over the program for the evening with her leaders. As Laurel Class President she conducted the meeting.

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It was odd not having Grace there with us, as every New Beginnings night for the last 7 years has been shared by my two girls, but we enjoyed our special time with just Molly.

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We arrived and the gym was all decked out and looking adorable.

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A few weeks ago, the girls tie-dyed tennis shoes to be used as the centerpieces for the evening…

Shoes which they then got to take home as a party favor at the end of the night.

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Molly made watermelon shoes that were charming!

The night began with a fun mixer activity entitled, “Guess Whose Shoes,” in which guests were asked to try to match the shoes that were brought in by the young women with their pictures on the wall.

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Later in the evening the answers were revealed when each young woman presented her shoe and explained why that shoe was reflective of her and her personality.

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The program began with Vicky, the current Young Women’s president, sharing a spiritual thought based on the comparison of our walk with Christ and the experience of running a marathon. She showed off her marathon medals and drew powerful analogies to our earthly journey.

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She was followed by a comical presentation by Lisa, the Young Women secretary and Linda, our Personal Progress leader, explaining the blessings of the Personal Progress Program.

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Then it was time for the introduction of the classes.

First were the Beehives, the 12/13-year-old girls, who were introduced by their teacher, Tori:

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Then came my Mia Maids, the 14/15-year-old girls:

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And then finally the Laurel Class (16-18-year-old girls) who were introduced by Mary, their class teacher.

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Next idem on the agenda was the introduction and welcome of our newest young woman. Ava will be turning 12 in two weeks and will be joining the young women then. She was welcomed into young women with a bouquet of rose buds, signifying the fact that she is at the beginning of her journey in young women…a closed bud just beginning to blossom in the gospel.

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Then we said farewell to Taylor, our only graduating senior. She, too, was given a bouquet of flowers but her yellow roses were fully opened, signifying that her time in Young Women’s is ending. She has blossomed over the last seven years and has grown into a beautiful young adult who is ready for the exciting next stage of her life.

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After a beautiful musical number by the young women we heard from our bishop and ended the evening with a dessert of high heel shoe cupcakes, baked and decorated by the talented Teresa Wright.

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It was a lovely night and a poignant reminder of the peace we can find in Christ when we walk in the meekness of His Spirit.

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Field Trip Fun


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Hands down, one of my favorite aspects of schooling at home is the opportunity to go out and enjoy exploring our community while others are trapped inside their classrooms.

I’ll admit that I’ve become accustomed to having museums and zoos to ourselves that I find myself resentful and a bit overwhelmed and over stimulated when I sightsee during the summer months or on weekends. I guess most home school families would admit to being spoiled in much the same way. Weekday field trips are one of the big perks of this lifestyle.

Being members of a cyber school means that we are beneficiaries of many field trip opportunities. Everything from science days, to art museums, to historic sites have been offered as hands-on learning opportunities for my kids.

We all love an excuse to get out of the house and learn in an interactive way, but for some of my kids this way of learning is especially effective. Stepping onto a working historic farm, participating in chores that a child may have done in 1860, and walking through a home decorated for the period has a much longer lasting impact on some of my kids than simply reading about it in a book.

In the past two weeks we have enjoyed three very different field trips sponsored by two different cyber schools.

The first occurred on February 23rd when we joined up with some of our co-op friends for a social outing at the bowling alley. This outing was being sponsored by another cyber school, one that we used to be part of that many co-op families still attend…

Thus, an extended invitation in our direction.

This outing had the added benefit of being just over the hill from where we live, a mere 5 minute drive from home. Such a rare occurrence couldn’t have been more ideal, as events of the day really prohibited attending an outing that required a longer drive given our tight schedule.

We arrived and joined the Caylors and the McCreadys. The kids laced up their bowling shoes, picked their balls, and began playing.

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While talent might have been minimal (with the exception of a few gifted bowlers)…

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the entertainment value was high!

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As moms, we enjoyed sitting back, watching, and cheering as we chatted with each other and caught up on each other’s lives.

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The kids had a blast and we ended the afternoon of fun with pizza and soda.

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The following Friday we were out of the house again for a field trip with 21st Century Cyber Charter School. This outing took place in Murrysville at the west coast office of my kids’ Pennsylvania cyber school.


This outing was a science day focused around robotics.


Because this activity was only being offered to 21CCCS students, Tyler and I found other ways to spend our day while Molly, Rusty and four of their friends from co-op spent the day with their teachers.


The day’s activities revolved around a series of fun science experiments and robotics projects.


They constructed a device to lift and move objects.


The built a moving, mechanical hand using cardboard, tape, and string.

They also built a brushbot out of a toothbrush head, small motor and battery that races around the countertop in a highly entertaining way.

In the afternoon they were able to join with students from the eastern office who were also participating in a robotics day and listen as robotics developers (who were there as guest speakers) talked about what they do for a living.


Both kids expressed that they had enjoyed themselves but Rusty really got a kick out of the day’s activities. This was an outing that was right up his alley!

The following Monday we attended our third school outing. This one was also hosted by 21st Century Cyber Charter School and just happened to be in Erie, Pennsylvania where I was scheduled to attend a monthly treatment meeting for Ozzie on Monday morning.

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I love when God works out the details in such an inspired and seamless way. I called and requested to take Ozzie out for the day, following his monthly treatment meeting, explaining that this outing was with his school and he would be able to visit with teachers he hadn’t seen since his admittance. The facility readily agreed. Ozzie is nearing the end of his stay and we are working toward transitioning him back home and back into his old school as smoothly as possible. Activities like this one just help with that transition.

This outing was to the Erie Zoo.

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We arrived at the zoo around 11:15 and spent the next two hours exploring the zoo with our friends, the Hudaks, who also made the trek north on Monday morning.

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The kids loved spending time with their best buddies…

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Aww, who am I kidding?! So, did I!

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 And Ozzie enjoyed getting some time in with family and friends.

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The zoo was quiet. After a recent snowfall we found the zoo to be a quiet and peaceful place.

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There were not a lot of critters out, but those that were could be found stretched out in the sun enjoying the rare March sunshine.

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Here were some of our favorites:

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The best part, however, was simply getting to stroll around with the sunlight on our faces, spending time with Ozzie, surrounded by family and friends.

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After a picnic lunch we left the zoo at 1:30 knowing we only had 2 1/2 hours to drop Ozzie back off, get Molly to work in Chippewa by 4:00, and Tyler to tutoring in Wexford by 4:30.

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It made for a crazy day…

 But the chance to fit in some special time with Oz in the midst of the craziness made the 6 hours on the road well worth it.

It has been a fun few weeks.

Smooth Sailing- Headed Home


It has been an interesting project recording the adventures of Rusty’s scout troop and their Sea Base adventure. This blog series has led to lively discussion as everyone’s perception of events varied just a bit, affected all the more by my attempt to share memories of experiences that I wasn’t actually privy to. While the trip was shared by 8 individuals each person’s experiences varied slightly based on where they were and what they were doing at any given moment. Some saw wildlife others didn’t and had experiences their sea mates missed because of where they were at and what they were doing moment to moment. The result is 8 slightly different recollections of the same stories. I would love to have each of them pen their own synopsis for the sake of comparison and to get each scout’s point of view but know the likelihood of getting these guys to sit and journal for me is a long shot. 😊 I did, however, have Keith reach out and share with me his personal journal entries of the week, something that was a real treat to read as it gave me a more comprehensive peek into the time Rusty and Toby enjoyed in Florida. With his permission I thought I’d wrap up this blog series with his first-person synopsis of their last two days in Florida rather than struggling to piece together the stories from what I heard secondhand.

Thanks, Keith, for sharing your memories of the last two days of this once in a lifetime adventure!


“On Thursday we got up early and were packed before breakfast.  We had an 11:30 airboat appointment and had plenty of time to get there.  After breakfast, we said goodbye to Sea Base and started our journey home.  While still on Islamorada, we stopped at a souvenir place because they had a huge lobster out front.


  After quick pictures, we continued on until we got to the Krispy Kreme shop – which had their hot donut sign on.  This time the donuts were hot and soft and sweet and good!  Two dozen donuts disappeared in 3 minutes.  Traffic on this morning was awful.  The GPS, when we started out, said we would arrive about a ½ hour before our appointment.  The traffic was bad because of construction.  We missed our appointment by 10 minutes.  Our spot was given to others.  However, the next time we could get a boat was at 1:00PM.


 Now we had over an hour to kill with the boys.  There was Miccosukee tourist village up the road about 10 miles and so we went there for a few minutes to hang out in air conditioning in their souvenir shop. 

The Miccosukee are a branch of the Seminole Indians. 


The airboat ride would take place on their reservation in the Everglades.  Our boat driver was named Fabian.  He was dressed in a bright yellow shirt and had a long braid down his back.  The ride was scheduled to take 45 minutes.


 We all put earplugs in to muffle the noise of the motor.


 We stopped at four spots where alligators were spotted, one of them being a small island where a few families used to live.  Dry land is hard to come by in the swamp.   


At one point in the tour, we saw a big male alligator, about 8 to 9 feet in length. 


Fabian stopped the boat and climbed to the front.  He started making noises that got the interest of the gator, which then came over to the boat.


 The gator kept rising up out of the water as if to jump in the boat, but Fabian kept pushing the gator back down into the water with his hands. 


All the time he was lecturing us on the habits of alligators in the Everglades.  It was fun to watch.

After the boat ride, we piled into the car.  Toby continued driving until we gassed up, when I took over.  We got off the interstate just after dark and stopped at the Metro Diner in St. Augustine for dinner.  They had some huge burgers and sandwiches.  The food was excellent and then we drove on to a Days Inn where we all crammed into one room to spend the night.  The trip down taught us it was almost impossible to get any rest while driving in the van. 

On Friday morning we ate breakfast at the Village Inn and then we went to the Visitor’s Center. 


From there we walked past some of the old buildings of St. Augustine and a cemetery, seeing the sites along the way.


 We spent most of our time at the Castillo de San Marcos.


 This is the old fort that protected the city through the ages.



They had cannons from the 1700s on display.


 The workers there had a re-enactment of firing a cannon.


   Rusty, Nate G. and Thomas all earned a certificate and patch associated with the Historical Site by filling out an educational workbook.


A little after noon, we returned to the van where Toby, Pete and finally Nate A. completed the drive home.  Again, Nate had to use the cruise control as we traveled through West Virginia, making it an exciting ride.  We arrived home at 1:45 AM Saturday morning to Pete’s house.  Toby was kind enough to drop everyone off.  I was happy to sleep in my bed again.”