Monthly Archives: August 2019

A Happy little Housewife

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1950s-housewife

In May of 1955, Housekeeping Monthly published an article entitled, “The Good Wife’s Guide,” detailing all the ways that a wife should act and how best she can be a partner to her husband and a mother to her children…

1.) Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready, on time for his return. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs.

2.) Most men are hungry when they come home and the prospect of a good meal (especially his favorite dish) is part of the warm welcome needed.

3.) Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you’ll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your makeup, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people.

4.) Be a little gay and a little more interesting for him. His boring day may need a lift and one of your duties is to provide it.

5.) Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives. Gather up schoolbooks, toys, paper, etc. and then run a dust cloth over the tables.

6.) Over the cooler months of the year you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too. After all, catering for his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.

7.) Prepare the children. Take a few minutes to wash the children’s hands and faces (if they are small), comb their hair and, if necessary, change their clothes.

8.) Children are little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part. Minimize all noise. At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer or vacuum. Try to encourage the children to be quiet.

9.) Be happy to see him. Free him with a warm smile and show sincerity in your desire to please him. Listen to him.

10.) You may have a dozen important things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first — remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours.

11.) Make the evening his. Never complain if he comes home late or goes out to dinner, or other places of entertainment without you. Instead, try to understand his world of strain and pressure and his very real need to be at home and relax.

12.) Your goal: Try to make sure your home is a place of peace, order and tranquility where you husband can renew himself in body and spirit.

13.) Don’t greet him with complaints and problems.

14.) Don’t complain if he’s late home for dinner. Count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through that day.

15.) Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or have him lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him.

16.) Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soothing and pleasant voice.

Soon after Gracie got engaged we began wedding talk. We discussed possible venues, menus, and colors for her bridal party. Grace was easy going about it all, as is her natural personality. The one definite in her mind was her vision for her bridal shower. She knew exactly what she wanted…

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A retro, 1950’s, “Happy little housewife” bridal shower,

And Molly and I were only too happy to oblige!

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This was a theme we could have a lot of fun with!

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On Friday we headed over to church and spent the day decorating and preparing for the shower.

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The theme lent itself nicely to decorations we already had on hand, as this is the look of my home.

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We just loaded up our living room and kitchen and used it to transform the church gym into the shower of Gracie’s dreams.

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It was a fun theme to decorate for!

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On Friday night, following Gracie’s bachelorette party, we drove over to the church so Grace could have a preview of her shower. She wasn’t with us when we were decorating, as she had work, so she got to experience the thrill of seeing it all completed.

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We also used that time to assemble the favors that came together with the help of my friend, Bonnie. She suggested we stop by Grampa Joe’s Candy shop to buy authentically 1950’s candies to fill our treat cups. The finished results were a perfect final touch!

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We were blessed to have family come in from out of town for Gracie’s special event, including my mom and grandmother from Ohio, and my sister and niece from Michigan.

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The boys that belong to these special ladies also tagged along, as we planned a special event for them as well. While the girls were brunching, Toby took all the boys to an out-of-this-world vintage arcade for some guy time with the groom-to-be and the guys in the family.

Meanwhile, back at church we finished up the last of the preparations as guests began to arrive. Many came decked out in aprons hoping to win the prize for the best apron.

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They also came bearing a favorite family recipe to share with the bride-to-be.

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Rather than traditional bridal shower games, which isn’t Gracie’s style, we offered activities located around the perimeter of the room for guests to peruse and participate in if they wished. Some of our stations included:

“Sign the apron for the Bride-to-Be!” :

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“A good housewife always sends thank you notes!” table where guests could address an envelope to themselves for thank you notes:

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“The Price is Right,” a game where guests had to guess the prices of a 1950’s grocery shopping list:

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And “How many Kisses for the soon-to-be Mrs.”:

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Grace greeted guests as they arrived, dressed to the nine’s as a perfect little housewife.

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Her bridal party was also sporting 1950’s era glasses.

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Even the mother of the bride embraced the theme!

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Molly also had an important job as guests arrived. She tagged each gift and card with a bingo number which would be important for later in the shower.

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The bridal shower began with brunch. We were blessed with many helping hands who pitched in to produce a scrumptious spread of bacon/egg casserole, artichoke casserole, stuffed French toast, cheesy potatoes, fruit salad, homemade chocolate chip cookies, and a variety of yummy muffins topped with 1950’s happy homemaker tags.

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We were touched by all that came out to support Grace and Zach, and wish the bride-to-be blessings of love for her new life.

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After brunch we announced the winners of our bridal shower games and explained our final game of the party…BINGO!

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At each guest’s seat were vintage bingo cards that we found at a thrift store two months prior. I wasn’t sure what we’d do with them but they were so cute and so in line with our vintage theme I knew I had to incorporate them into the shower.

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It finally came to me that by tagging each gift with a bingo number we could enjoy an old fashioned game of bingo while the bride opened her gifts.

The prizes for our bingo winners were dish soaps that were dolled up with fabric aprons. The game was a hit and the dish soaps were too!

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As Grace opened the gifts, so lovingly and generously given, she had the assistance of her bridesmaids and her new niece.

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Molly penned the list for thank you notes, Lydia and Olivia brought her gifts to unwrap and whisked the open gifts away,

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And sweet Natalie was on wrapping paper clean-up…a job she took very seriously!

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The gifts that Grace and Zach received for their new home were so varied and so very generous. They were immensely blessed by the kindness of their guests.

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It was a wonderful bridal shower. Grace felt loved and the shower of blessings bestowed upon my Gracie girl filled my heart with gratitude for all the good people in our lives.

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That afternoon, while still in 1950’s dress, Grace filmed this little ASL ditty for Zach… in honor of  50 DAYS until “I DO!”

Only 50 days to go!!

 

 

Gracie and Friends.. Painting the Town!

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Our third big event of last week was Gracie’s bachelorette party. Her wedding day isn’t until mid-October, but since the maid-of-honor (Miss Molly) is headed west in 10 days, and won’t return until the day before Gracie’s wedding, we had to improvise and squeeze in multiple pre-wedding celebrations two months early.

One of those big events was Gracie’s bachelorette party. Molly planned a painting party at our local art studio, Burgundy and Brushes, and invited the remainder of the wedding party and their moms to join us.

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Oh, how I love my daughter!

Included in the bachelorette party fun was Gracie’s two bridesmaids, Olivia (Gracie’s best friend) and Lydia (my niece), along with their mothers.

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Gracie and her bridal party.

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Miss Lana and Olivia

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Aunt Kelly and Lydia

Zach’s mother and sisters were also invited but the party fell on the weekend Zach’s sister, Heather, had to check into Southern Virginia University, which unfortunately took a few of the Tame ladies out of town for the weekend. We did have Zach’s sisters Jenny, Andrea, and Stephanie join us as we celebrated Gracie’s journey from Miss to Mrs.

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Three of Gracie’s new sisters: Jenny, Stephanie, and Andrea

In planning Gracie’s bachelorette party we let Grace choose which painting she wanted to paint. In looking at the class options displayed on the Burgundy and Brushes website, she chose the painting that depicted a silhouette of a tree against a colorful background.

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Molly and I made plans for her party by purchasing bachelorette party decorations on Amazon and kitschy bride accessories to make the celebration come to life.

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We made plans to serve fun finger food to enjoy as we painted,

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And our party favors were new lipsticks for each of the girls, which were applied for the sake of Gracie’s party favor,

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A photo mat that said, “Kiss the Miss goodbye,” in gold script.

We had everyone leave their lip prints and signatures on the photo mat for Grace to use to frame the group photo of our completed artistic creations as a special memento of her bachelorette party.

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Once everyone arrived, made a plate, and settled in to their places before the blank canvases, we began to paint.

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We were guided through the step-by-step process of creating the piece of art Gracie chose for the class.

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The instructor was fun and entertaining, giving each of us as much or as little guidance as we wanted.

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As we painted we listened to the Mama Mia soundtracks, per Gracie’s request.

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It was fun to see the variety of painting styles and color preferences emerge as our trees appeared on canvas.

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It was fun to talk, laugh, and check out each other’s paintings as we worked.

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Gracie “carving” her and Zach’s initials in her completed tree…

The finished paintings were as unique as the artists who created them!

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It was such a fun night!!

Then it was time to head home for a good night’s sleep…

We needed to be well rested for the next morning’s fun: Gracie’s bridal shower!

 

 

Tyler is a Teenager!

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I have no idea how it happened and where the years have gone, but my baby is now 13!!

I think I am more shocked by that realization then I am about Molly heading to college and Grace getting married. I suppose Tyler is forever frozen in my mind as an impish, dirty, forever moving, six-year-old boy. I look at him now and catch glimpses of the man he will one day be and it causes me to pause and question where the years have gone.

I am now exclusively a mother of teens and young adults…wow!

Thirteen is a big birthday so we wanted to do something special for our boy’s big day. We already had plans to buy him a bike for his birthday gift, having outgrown his last one and knowing that a means of burning off energy is a wonderful self-regulation tool for Tyler, but we wanted to plan an experience as well…

This required some creative planning as his birthday week was packed to the brim with activities. His actual birthday was already designated as set-up day for Gracie’s bridal shower and his birthday evening was her bachelorette party,

So we moved everything back a day and celebrated his birthday on the 22nd.

His request was to go to an indoor trampoline park…a perfect activity for my bouncy Tigger,

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We allowed him to pick a couple friends to accompany him.

On Thursday we headed to Cranberry to Urban Air, the coolest trampoline park we have ever seen!

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In addition to the expected trampoline areas for bouncing,

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This trampoline park included…

Climbing Walls:

Dreaming of free climbing? Maybe start in the harnessed safety of our climbing walls. Build muscles and hone your skills as you defy gravity and master your ascent while enjoying some cliff side fun.”

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A Ropes Course:

“Get some extra hang time with our gravity-defying obstacles on the Urban Air ropes course. Learning the ropes has never been more exciting; with another up-n-the-air adventure that tests your balance and agility. The stakes are high as you and your friends learn confidence, however safety is assured since you are securely harnessed as you make your way through the course.”

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A Ninja Warrior Course:

“You’ve watched those warrior ninjas from your living room, now try it for yourself. Perhaps one of the most exhilarating team building events, Warrior Obstacle Course lets you face off against your friends while you test your balance and strength. Give it your best as you battle to be the last Warrior standing. Maybe we’ll see you on Mt. Midoriyama.”

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A Battle Beam:

“Think balance beam plus sword fighting. Only the swords are foamy. And the pit below is lined with cushy blocks. Sort of a foamy battle to the death. But instead of perishing, you’ll probably just giggle. Is it all in good fun? Or is there really no better feeling than defeating your friends on the Battle Beam. Decide for yourself.”

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The Drop Zone:

“Drop on in for a little fun, while practicing your flips, spins or other amazing acrobatics, all with the confidence that you’ll land safely on a giant, inflatable airbag. The perfect testing grounds to perfect that new trick. This attraction is safe, fun and available to all ages.”

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An Indoor Zipcoaster:

“Time isn’t the only thing that flies when you’re having fun. You can too with our Sky Rider indoor coaster. Strap in and zigzag overhead while you scout out all the other attractions. It’s literally a way to take your fun to new heights.” 

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A Dodgeball Court:

“The funnest sport in PE plus trampolines? Yes, please. All ages are welcome and everyone loves the experience. Only downside is that once you’ve experienced Ultimate Dodgeball, you’ll never want to play normal dodgeball again. Bring a birthday party or friends from work. Or jump in on pickup games that are held daily. So hop on in and let ‘em fly.”

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The Slam Dunk Zone:

“Get your inner Jordan on and show off your favorite dunk moves. Even if you’re not a seven footer, you can still sail above the rim while testing out your famous back flip, behind the head, windmill, double clutch slamma jamma.”

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It was an awesome place and perfect birthday location for our overgrown Tigger and his teenage friends.

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Happy 13th birthday, Tyler!

 

A Visit to Oz

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We were overly dressed for the zoo due to our plans to head to the Palmyra LDS temple following our visit. Ozzie just wanted to dress up for the occasion. The result: A sweet Amish family stopping us at the zoo to inquire if we were Mennonites. 🙂 

Last Wednesday was our first off-grounds visit with Ozzie since his placement at Harborcreek Residential Treatment Facility back in May. This is his second stay there and it has been an immense blessing. The facility is astounding and Ozzie thrives under the structure, care, and therapies offered there. In an ideal world we would be able to meet Ozzie’s extreme therapeutic needs at home through outpatient services, but his history of extreme abuse and neglect prior to adoption, coupled with his multiple diagnoses, make the level of therapeutic care needed for healing unrealistic in an outpatient form. Our hope is that an extended stay at this RTF, with its many forms of therapy and its superb staff, will facilitate a level of healing that his therapist at home can’t achieve in two hours a week.

At Harborcreek Ozzie is eagerly involved and engaged in multiple therapeutic groups daily in addition to art therapy, music therapy, trauma release yoga, EMDR therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder, trauma therapy and family therapy weekly. He also attends school on campus for a half day and participates in work release program at the carpentry workshop a few days a week where he has the opportunity to learn carpentry skills. With other boys that qualify for this privilege, he is learning to build picnic benches which are then sold to local businesses and organizations. He loves his time with the work release team.

Every Wednesday I drive 2 1/2 hours up to Erie to have a family session with Ozzie. This is not required. In fact most parents participate in these weekly therapy sessions over the phone, as families are scattered across the state of Pennsylvania,  but I have found Ozzie makes more progress in his healing with one-on-one, face-to-face support and accountability. We have turned these family therapy days into weekly social visits. Rather than taking advantage of open visiting hours for family every Sunday from 1-4 pm (which is what we did each week during his last stay there,) I piggyback a social visit following these weekly family therapy sessions. It has worked out well, as it was always a challenge to fit in church and get up to Erie before visiting hours were over. It made Sundays stressful and took us away from our other kids on the one day of the week we have everyone home together for family time. With this new routine I am able to focus on Ozzie that day and enjoy an extended visit with him following therapy where our time is spent playing the board games I bring with me.

Now that he has been at Harborcreek for three months, and is doing so well there, the next step is transitioning those skills to the home environment. This is especially important for Ozzie, as his ability to self manage is far more challenging when he is around family and is being shown love than it is for him in an institutionalized setting that is more structured, disconnected and impersonal. The first step in this transition process (which will probably occur over the course of six months) is to begin introducing short off campus visits with siblings. These short visits give everyone a chance at reconnection while also allowing us to increase Ozzie’s emotional discomfort and observe his reaction to emotional triggers so that when he returns back to Harborcreek at the conclusion of the off-grounds visit he can process through the experience (and the resulting behaviors) with his trauma therapist and come up with strategies to implement next visit.

It was decided that for his first off-grounds visit with siblings we would just bring Molly and Grace. Both girls are well versed in how to manage Ozzie in an emotionally healthy way without being triggered themselves, so we thought it best to set everyone up for success and just bring the girls. It was especially important for Molly to attend as she will be leaving for school in Idaho in two weeks and I felt it important that she and Ozzie have a visit before an extended separation. There were hurts that needed healing in their relationship with Molly being one of Ozzie’s primary targets before he was admitted to the RTF. We were granted a two-hour off-grounds visit and we chose to head to the Erie Zoo.

The zoo was the perfect choice for the girls’ first visit with Ozzie since seeing him in his dysregulated state last spring. I could tell both were apprehensive and a bit nervous, but hopeful that healing was possible. I felt a visit to the zoo would be a good environment for their first visit together. My thought was that at the zoo wee would have the benefit of being able to move around as we talked and have plenty of conversation starters as we experience the zoo. Also, I have found that animals have an emotionally calming/therapeutic effect on all my kids, so I figured it would increase the likelihood of everyone staying regulated, thus ensuring a positive visit among siblings.

We arrived at the zoo following a family therapy session that included all of us and Ozzie’s trauma therapist. We started our visit with a picnic lunch that we packed and brought along with us.

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Once everyone’s bellies were full we started our exploration of the zoo.

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The charm of the Erie zoo is found in its historic roots. Opened in 1929 it has a charm that isn’t seen in modern zoos. It is on the smaller size which made it perfect for the amount of time allotted for our visit with Ozzie, and there were just enough exhibits to entertain us during those two hours.

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We all enjoyed strolling through the zoo looking at the animals and watching them interact with each other.

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The Orangutans were especially charming as they had a little one in the group who was a delight to watch. I could have spent all day at that exhibit!

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Ozzie’s favorite animal was of course the donkey. He has a thing for donkeys!

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He also loved the train display set up in the center courtyard.

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As we walked around the zoo he was able to point out some of the picnic tables they make in the Harborcreek carpentry shop and sell to the Erie Zoo. He was quite proud to claim some ownership in finished project.

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It was a beautiful day and everyone had a good time. The interactions were positive and the kids enjoyed getting time together.

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We are one step further down the road to healing past hurts.

Hauntingly Beautiful

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“Heavenly shards of sunlight hang from above, cutting through wafting dust particles and providing the kind of dramatic lighting effects that movie producers dream about. The peeling paint and missing wall panels expose the building’s wooden skeleton. Rusted fittings bring their own brand of once-was charm to the barely kept former prison.”

Following our trek out to Philadelphia to meet Toby’s mother at the Philadelphia temple for a visit, I decided to take the girls over to Eastern State Penitentiary.

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A month prior, when Toby and I had our weekend away in Philadelphia, we toured this old prison. I fell in love with the beauty found in its brokenness and knew that my two girls would be equally enthralled.

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Both my girls love photography and I knew that this historic relic would spark their imaginations as they toured it with camera in hand.

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They also appreciated the history and compelling stories that were told through the audio tour, as we strolled through Eastern State Penitentiary learning more about its unique history.

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Originally the Penitentiary was distinctly different from other prisons, being that its purpose was not just to punish, but also to inspire penitence. A radical idea in its day, officials took some convincing of the theory, but Eastern State finally opened to its first prisoner in 1829. Criminals were kept isolated in individual cells, with outside contact reduced to guards and the occasional fellow inmate. Most of their time was spent in quiet isolation, in hopes that this would induce navel-gazing and in turn, revolutionary behavioral transformation.

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The fortress-like gothic structure was design by architect John Haviland. Inside, the structure echoed a monastery with vaulted hallways, arch windows and skylights intended to create a more church-like atmosphere that would encourage reform. Seven blocks of cells radiate from a single point so that one guard could observe all goings-on from a central location. Unlike the Whitehouse of the period, prisoners had the luxuries of running water and central heating in each of their cells, and were provided natural light through a skylight known as the “gods-eye.” Prisoners learnt crafts such as weaving and shoemaking with which they occupied their time. They were not allowed books or letters from home, just a bible for reading material.

Eastern State Pen set the style for more than 300 prisons constructed worldwide, until the Pennsylvania System as it was known, was abandoned in 1913. As the solitary nature of Eastern State was left behind, cell blocks were added, prisoners shared cells and factory type working spaces were constructed. Baseball matches were held in the exercise yard, and infamous prisoner Al Capone was allowed to lavishly furnish his cell. Finally, in 1956 death row became part of the facility, putting the final nail in the Pennsylvania Systems coffin.

When the 142-year-old penitentiary became too outdated and expensive to maintain, it was closed in 1971. No suitable proposal was put forward for its use and Eastern State Pen was opened to the public under a 20-year contract with the city. It has been opened for guests’ photographic pleasure since; hosting tourists by day and haunting soirees by night. Here is a little of what makes the dirty, dusty, derelict Eastern State Penitentiary an attractive photographic subject, as seen through Gracie and Molly’s eyes:

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A Temple Tour!

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This past week we had the opportunity to escape to the house of the Lord, not once, not twice but thrice in seven days.

Three temples…three states…one great week!

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We enjoyed a temple trifecta as we visited the sweet serendipity of are schedule allowing us to visit the three temples located within a 5 1/2 hour driving radius.

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It was blessed week…

Just what I needed in preparation for the life changes looming just over the horizon. In the quiet stillness of the Lord’s holy temples I found the guidance, peace, and strength I was seeking.

Our wonderful week began on Wednesday when the girls and I traveled to Philadelphia to spend time in the Philadelphia temple where Grace will be married in October. We invited Toby’s mother to meet us there.

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It is a beautiful temple and I can see why Grace and Zach chose it as the location for their special day.

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How I cherish my time with my daughters.

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On Saturday we headed the opposite direction for a youth temple trip in Columbus at the Columbus, Ohio temple.

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It was an extra special day as it was Braden and Tyler’s first youth temple trip.

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What a special experience for all involved!

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We had a huge group attend… What a blessing!

The following Wednesday we drove north for a quick visit to the Palmyra, New York temple, following a visit with Ozzie in Erie. Our temple session was scheduled for 6:00 pm and resulted in us getting back home at 2:00am, but was well worth the effort. It was such a joy getting that special time in with my girls.

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There is nothing more joyous that getting to be in the temple with my children and soak up the peace and sweet spirit that resides in that holy place.

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“I’m fine,” she told herself…

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I feel as though I’m suffering from an emotional hangover…

Too many feelings squeezed into too short a period of time,

With all of the residual manifestations connected to an excess of living.

I literally feel as though I am emotionally hungover, with many of the symptoms seen in alcohol induced hangovers.

I find myself weary, heavy, numb, foggy and teary as I try to continue navigating the responsibilities of day to day life while accepting that life as I have known it for 20 years, is changing…

And changing very soon!

The crazy thing about it all is that everything I am navigating through is exactly the things I have prayed so hard for. There is a part of me that wants to smack the tears off my own face and remind myself that this is all good stuff!

Feelings of gratitude and joy are the prevailing emotions, but closely tied to feelings of gratitude and joy, are feelings of uncertainty and loss…

And guilt.

Guilt that I am feeling anything but gratitude and joy in the midst of such blessings. Unlike the seasons we have had to endure that are filled with such darkness and danger, despair and loss, this season is blessedly positive, but I still find myself struggling.

Perhaps I am unaccustomed to things going so smoothly.

Perhaps I have forgotten how to navigate life outside the emotional bondage of crisis management.

Perhaps I feel as though I am losing some of my purpose or value.

Maybe it is simply the emotional push-back that is rooted in the fear of change.

Or maybe, just maybe, this weight of emotions is simply bone-deep fatigue, born from trying to fit in so many “lasts” before life changes for good.

I am not certain.

I only know that time seems to be racing past and I am desperately grasping for its tail, hoping to slow it down.

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I know that I am not alone in this place. Many other friends have expressed similar emotions, born from similar situations. I take strength from knowing that this muddy mix of emotions is normal, that I am not the only one trying to gracefully navigate them, and that millions of mothers before me have made it through this season to find joy and purpose in the next season of parenting.

So many changes are coming down the pike, not the least of which are:

  1. Gracie getting married! Only two months until her big day! The last few weeks have been spent entrenched in bridal shower planning, bachelorette party planning and wedding planning. Grace and Zach have also been on the hunt for an apartment. They will be staying in the area, as Grace still has a few semesters of school to finish before earning her degree in American Sign Language interpreting.

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 Well, they found one that they love and fits their budget. And we have the benefit of having them nearby for at least the next year…which is a HUGE blessing for our adopted sons who have been struggling with triggered feelings of losing another person they love.

Last Sunday we drove over to Ellwood City to check out Gracie and Zach’s soon-to-be newlywed digs.

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It is an upstairs, one bedroom apartment with a big kitchen and lots of light. It is perfect for them and so exciting. Grace can’t wait to start decorating!

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2. Molly is about ready to take flight! In less than three weeks she will be heading out to school. Rusty and Braden will be joining us as we take a weeklong road trip to Idaho to drop her off. Along the way we are going to revisit some of our favorite national parks from our bus trip three years ago, so Braden can experience some of these national treasures.

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Over the last month Molly has been making piles in preparation for college, getting together with friends, and finishing out her employment at Eat n’ Park. In fact, a few weeks ago she was asked by her employers to reconsider heading west for school. They wanted to offer her a management position. Her boss told her how impressed they have been with her since she began working for them in the spring and could see a great future for her with the company. She sweetly declined, knowing that BYU-Idaho is where she is being called to, but was honored and touched by the job offer.

3. Molly will not be the only college student this year. Grace and I will also be working towards our degrees, and Rusty is now unexpectedly joining the college ranks as a duel enrolled high school senior.

A few weeks ago we toured our local community college’s aviation program to find out more about their drone piloting program. This is a field that interests Rusty and so we added CCBC to our college tour list.

As we sat and spoke with the Dean of the program, he encouraged Rusty to not wait until graduation, but rather enroll for the fall semester as part of the duel-enrollment program. After speaking with his cyber school, 21st Century Cyber Charter School, we learned that Rusty had the option of replacing his high school electives with college courses and receive both high school and college credit, thus getting a jump start on his college degree.

He is very excited and will be taking most of his classes at the local airfield where he will learn the skills to graduate with a drone piloting license. Toby and I were pleased to learn that the high demand for drone pilots, coupled with the minimal number of colleges offering this newly emerging degree, meant that 100% of their past students have graduated with job placement.

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4. Braden is also venturing into new territory. In June he expressed a desire to cyber school like the other kids for his senior year. He struggled with our local brick and mortar school and some of the negative influences that proved too much for him to manage. Since being home this summer he has felt the difference that separation has made on his emotions and his ability to make good choices. He is happier and more at peace. I’m hoping it is as good a fit for him as it has been my other kids.

In addition to cyber schooling, he and Rusty will be getting together with other teens from church each weekday morning at 6:00am for early morning seminary (a religion class that allows for studying the scriptures and discussing gospel topics with the other youth from church under the guidance of a teacher.) I think this will be beneficial to both boys and will meet some of Braden’s social needs as one of my extroverted children.

5. Tyler also continues cyber schooling, but through PA Cyber. And although I feel that PA Cyber falls short when compared to the education offered through 21st Century Cyber School, it has proven to be a great fit for Tyler. Last year was his best year ever and he took off under this model of cyber schooling. He is eager to get back in touch with teachers and peers whom he hasn’t talked to all summer. Tyler will be in 7th grade this year. How is that possible?!

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6. Ozzie continues to thrive in the residential treatment facility that he has been residing at for more intense therapeutic work. His success there is not surprising but rather an expected result of a structured, unattached environment. The goal we are working toward is for him to successfully transfer the skills he uses at the RTF to the home environment, thus making his presence in the home safe and stable. This isn’t an easy transition, as his diagnoses of Reactive Attachment Disorder makes the thing he most stands in need of (connection and attachment to family) the very thing he fears and fights against. It is heartbreaking in its presentation and heartbreaking to know that as devastating as this diagnoses is, it could have been easily avoided through loving maternal care as a young child. The transfer of skills we are working toward is accomplished by slowly introducing interactions with family members (and eventually visits home) to his treatment plan and then addressing the negative reactions to triggers  with his therapeutic team in the RTF upon returning back at the end of a visit.

This week he and I had our first off-grounds visit. I was allowed to take him to lunch for two hours. This initial off-grounds trip consisted of just the two of us spending time together. We will slowly be adding additional family members to upcoming visits as deemed safe by staff.

I let Ozzie pick the restaurant and he chose Quaker Steak and Lube, a well known wing place in this area.

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He chose it partly for the food but mainly for the décor. He loves walking around the restaurant and snapping pictures of all the cars and memorabilia with my phone.

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He did well and we had a good time.

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He got all dressed up for our date 🙂 

This week we will be taking Ozzie out again following his family therapy session. This time Molly will be joining me so she and Ozzie can have a visit before she leaves for Idaho. We are praying it is healing and positive.

And then there is this guy… working hard and making sure everyone stays in line. 🙂

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This is  BIG week for our family with many monumental events. We have an off-grounds visit with Ozzie on Wednesday, Tyler’s 13th birthday party on Thursday evening, Gracie’s bachelorette party Friday night, Gracie’s bridal shower on Saturday, all among everyday living. It promises to be a full and likely emotional week…

Wish this momma luck as I try to keep it together!

 

 

Our Visit to the Newport Aquarium

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Our travel to and from Tennessee for our houseboat vacation resulted in a few nights at hotels along the way. Tyler was thrilled that this trip aligned with Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, as we don’t have cable at home. Our nights in the hotel were spent watching stories of shark attacks around the world, so it just made sense to make one of our stops, on our trip home, the Newport Aquarium so we could see some sharks in person!

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Our path home from the houseboat led us by or through the cities of Louisville, Cincinnati, and Columbus. We decided to stay one night in Louisville and the second night in Cincinnati. In Louisville we visited the Kentucky Derby Museum and in Cincinnati we decided to visited the aquarium, located just over the river in Kentucky.

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The Newport Aquarium is located at Newport on the Levee. This is an attraction in itself. The Riverwalk has lovely views, restaurants, shopping, and a theater.

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I wouldn’t have minded spending more time on the Riverwalk. It had a fun summer vibe with live music playing and the smells of street fair BBQ.

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Newport Aquarium isn’t a big aquarium but it was well laid out and we appreciated how “hands on” it was.

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They have several touch stations throughout the aquarium, including a tank where guests can pet a shark.

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Here were some of our favorite exhibits:

Octopus Den: Here guests can get up-close to fascinating animals like Moon Jellyfish and Japanese Spider Crabs.

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They all make their home in a constantly changing ecosystem along the Ring of Fire where towering volcanoes and deep ocean trenches line the Pacific Ocean.  With unique light and sound effects, we were able to experience the churning seismic activity that created the rippling sea floor, caves and other rock formations where amazing creatures like the Giant Pacific Octopus live.

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Stingray Hideaway: So many stingrays!

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The natural light that fills this exhibit made it a wonderful place to pause for a moment.

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Guests are able to view the sting rays from below through the underwater tunnels that snake through the area under the pool,

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Or simply hang out next to the water and wait for a ray to pass close enough to pet.

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In this area they also have a cool exhibit where guests can place their hands in a shallow pool filled with shrimp. The shrimp climb onto your hand and will clean your hands and nails. It reminded us of Jacques, from Finding Nemo!

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Shark Ray Bay: Shark Ray Bay is the highlight of the Newport Aquarium. There are multiple spots to view the sharks and other species. This huge tank really is the centerpiece for the aquarium and is so cool to view from the many angles available to guests. We especially enjoyed this area after our tv marathon viewing of Shark Week shows.

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Tide Pool Touch: Tide Pool Touch allows visitors to touch various sea creatures and someone is there answering questions and educating you on the species you see.

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Shark Bridge: The one activity stood out to all of us – adults AND kids alike was the shark bridge. The Newport Aquarium is home to the world’s first Shark Bridge. This V-shaped bridge is made from rope and hangs over the aquarium’s shark tank. The bridge is 75 feet, and we could see the sharks swimming in the tank below as we walked across.

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This was the final exhibit before exiting into the gift shop and a perfect conclusion to our time at Newport Aquarium!

And on to the Derby!

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On Friday morning we disembarked from the houseboat, but our vacation wasn’t over quite yet. We decided that rather than drive the nine hours straight home, we would slowly meander our way back, over the next three days, stopping to see some sites along the way.

Our first stop was Louisville, Kentucky, home of the Kentucky Derby.

After reading amazing reviews online we decided to check out the Kentucky Derby Museum.

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Located at Churchill Downs, the museum showcases all aspects of the race, has multiple tours of the grounds, and a great short documentary on the race.

We aren’t horse racing fans…in fact I knew nothing about the Kentucky Derby prior to our visit other than the fashionable traditions of the fancy hats worn on race day, but we left with a great appreciation for this long standing tradition.

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The museum and accompanying tours can be a full-day event for those that have the time. Basic admission allows you to explore the museum, participate in a 30 minute history walk (these happen every half hour past the hour), and view their 18 minute video “The Greatest Race.”

The museum experience starts at the gates. There are two floors of interactive exhibits, videos, photos, race artifacts and information. It is tailored for all ages and degrees of derby fans.

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We loved how interactive and engaging the exhibits were.

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It was an amazing museum!

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We learned about the life and training of a racehorse from birth until it is races in the Derby at age 3. This was one of my favorite exhibits in the museum.

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We were able to learn the art of horse betting with a pretend ticket window where we could place bets on the race,

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And then sit and watch a recording of a previous race.

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At the end of the video we could scan our ticket and see what our $2.00 bet would have paid out. Through this experience we learned we should never gamble on horse races!

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The kids’ competitive natures came out when they had their go at being a jockey.

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They were able to mount up and race against other riders on the video screen before them.

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They got to dress up like jockeys and learn more about the colors certain jockeys wear,

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As well as see how they measure up to one of the most winning jockeys of all time.

Grace was thrilled to finally be taller than someone other than the toddlers she watches at the daycare.

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We learned a lot about the requirements that the jockeys have to follow on race day. The big one is their weight. The Kentucky Derby requires an exact weight of 126 lbs, including gear and saddle. Jockeys who fall short of the weight requirement must add weight to their saddle, no exceptions.

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There was an incredible amount of information about horses whom have raced. We were able to watch videos of past Kentucky Derby races and learn more about some of the greatest horses that ever raced,

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Including Balboa whose final resting place sits in front of the museum.

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After walking through the exhibits of hats and all the memorabilia it was time to watch “The Greatest Race.”

This video is displayed on a 360° screen in a theater big enough for 50+ people.

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As you watch, it will have you twirling in your seat to keep up and your heart pounding. The video covers race day preparations, interviews with jockeys, trainers, and owners, along with highlights from races dating back to the 1800’s.  The result is an appreciation for what goes into this huge event, an event that has more live spectators than the Superbowl!

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After the video we exited the museum for the included 30 minute history walk.

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Posted on the buildings around us was a chronological list of prior Derby winners, starting with Aristides in 1875.

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As we walked along, we saw every horse that has won the Kentucky Derby, the first triple crown winner, and the first father/son triple crown winners. Our tour guide was helpful in answering questions, and dishing out information about specific winners and races. Some people asked about famous horses like Secretariat and Barbaro.

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One of my favorite parts about the tour was the Paddock. The paddock holds the up to 18 contestants on race day, and is a popular viewing place for spectators. When the horses walk in, their lip tattoos are checked and then they are taken to the individual stalls. . The Paddock is the last place the horses will be before taking the walk to the track.

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Then to the track!

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The distance between the Paddock and the race track is connected by a small tunnel underneath the stands. The horses are escorted through the tunnel, and upon entering the track, the tradition of everyone singing My Old Kentucky Home begins.

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The horses are then led to the starting gate.

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It was amazing to stand at the edge of the track and soak up the history of the location. It made me want to add a trip to the Kentucky Derby to my bucket list. I can only imagine how charged the energy must be on race day.

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We were at the Kentucky Derby Museum on Friday for 2 1/2 hours and never made it to the second floor. The museum closed at 5:00 pm and everyone was so disappointed that we weren’t able to see it all that we decided to spend the night in Louisville and return back in the morning (our tickets allowed free access for 48 hours) to see the rest of the exhibits before continuing our trek north.

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We were blown away by the place and we aren’t even racing fans.

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Our discussion of the experience continued for days and we left the museum wanting to learn more.

Here are some of the fun facts we learned about the Kentucky Derby:

1. Nineteen past winners have had names beginning with the letter “S,” including Secretariat, the fastest horse in Kentucky Derby history, who completed the 1973 race in just under two minutes.

2. The amount of food consumed at the Derby is pretty astounding. On average, spectators will eat 142,000 hot dogs, 18,000 barbecue sandwiches, 13,800 pounds of beef, 32,400 jumbo shrimp, 9,000 scallops, 8,000 pounds of potatoes, 30,000 cookies and 300,000 strawberries.

3. Only three horses raced in the 1892 Kentucky Derby.

4. The traditional drink of the Derby is the mint julep, and over 120,000 are said to be consumed at the race each year.

5. Diane Crump was the first woman jockey to ever ride in the Derby; there has yet to be a female winner, but Shelley Riley came the closest in 1992 when she came in second. We were told that the reason so few women race in the derby is due to the massive size of thoroughbred horses and the arm strength needed to control them.

6. The Kentucky Derby trophy only weighs 3½ lbs.

7. The youngest jockey to win the esteemed race, Alonzo “Lonnie” Clayton, was just 15 come derby day in 1892. Bill Shoemaker continues to hold the title as the oldest winner; he was 54 when he took home the 1986 title.

8. Bill Shoemaker has also ridden the most Kentucky Derby horses (26) in history.

9. The record low temperature at the race (held on the first week of May every year) was 47 degrees in 1935 and 1957. The record high was 94 degrees in 1959.

10. Churchill Downs founder and president Col. M. Lewis Clark might have made the rose the official flower of the race after attending an 1883 post-derby party where socialite E. Berry Wall was handing the flower out to the ladies in attendance.

11. The Derby is also referred to as ‘The Run for the Roses’ because the winner is awarded a blanket sewn with over 400 roses post-race. This blanket weighs about 40 lbs.

12. Owner Calumet Farm  holds the record for most Kentucky Derby wins, with 8. “Plain Ben” Jones holds the record for trainer with the most wins (6).

13. Post No. 1 has become known as “the dreaded rail.”

14. 1919 champion Sir Barton was the first Triple Crown winner, however he hadn’t won a race before arriving at the Derby.

15. Over $150 million in wagers have been placed over the last several Kentucky Derby races.

16. Horses must be three years in order to compete.

17. The Derby has never been cancelled or postponed due to inclement weather.

18. The historic 1¼-mile race was originally 1½ miles before the current distance was established in 1896.

19. The Kentucky Derby was started by Lewis Clark Jr.—grandson of William Clark, half of the famous explorer duo Lewis and Clark—after he saw England’s Epsom Derby.

20. Only three fillies (female horses) have won the Derby: Regret in 1915, Genuine Risk in 1980, and Winning Colors in 1988.

21. The 2018 event set the record for the wettest Kentucky Derby in history, with over 2.31 inches of rainfall.

22. The race was first televised in 1952.

23. The purse for the 2019 Derby will be $3 million, with the winner taking home $1.86 million, $600,000 for second place, $300,000 for third place, $150,000 for fourth place, and $90,000 for fifth. This marks a significant increase in the prize money: from 2005 to 2018, the purse was only $2 million.

This stop moves to the top of our list of must-see places for travelers…

Right up there with the City Museum of St. Louis and Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia.

We are so glad we stopped in Louisville!

 

Saying good-bye to an AMAZING week!

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It has been a wonderful week.

This was a vacation built around rest and relationships…

Exactly what we stood most in need of during this season of life.

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With our shared path forking into multiple directions in the coming month, this week of connection with friends and family was a wonderful gift before everyone embarks on their individual adventures.

The houseboat provided us the forced rest and stillness that is so hard to find in most other vacations we take. Rather than soaking up local sites and experiences, we soaked up sun. We moved through our days at a languid pace with no agenda or responsibilities driving us.

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It was a week built on simply being present,

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And was such a blessed gift.

Much of our week was spent floating in the water with the sun warming our faces,

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But we also spent time pampering ourselves,

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Playing games,

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Feasting on good food,

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Making friends with the local wildlife,

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Toby came very close to accidently stepping on this copperhead hiding in the brush.

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Soaking up the beauty of God’s creation,

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Capturing it through our lenses,

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And enjoying the blessed gift of laughter with friends.

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It was sad to see our time on Norris Lake come to a close, but all good things must come to an end.

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On Friday morning we prepared to disembark at the marina. The boat had to be returned at 10:00 am. Knowing this, the kids woke early for a final swim and kayaking through the morning fog that had settled on the lake.

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Bags were packed and piles we gathered as we headed back to the marina.

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We enjoyed a final ride on the top deck, soaking in the scenery and reflecting on the beauty and blessings of the week.

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Then it was all ashore as we unloaded the boat and repacked our cars for the trek home.

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It was an amazing week…

Simply magical.

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How grateful I am for this time of rest and renewal and the people I got to share it with!

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