Monthly Archives: December 2019

Christmas Surprises!

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It was a week-long Christmas celebration at Patchwork Farm as we spread the magic of the day over five days, beginning with our big Christmas surprise reveal on the 22nd, and concluding our week of celebration five days later when we enjoyed a Christmas dinner and gift exchange with Mimi Joy.

Over the next few blogs we will share our family’s celebration of Christ’s birth and the family traditions that accompany this special season,

Beginning with a not-so-traditional surprise on December 22nd.

This year was our first year without believers in the home, and as sad as it is to transition to this next phase of parenting, it does offer certain advantages. One of those advantages is that we could be more untraditional in our gift giving. Last year we surprised the kids with a family vacation as their gift from Mom and Dad and then had small gifts under the tree on Christmas morning from the “big man.”

I loved it. As someone who puts far more value on family time and shared experiences than gifts that can be wrapped in paper, I thought it was our best Christmas ever. This year we talked about doing something similar, and rather than dumping a whole lot of money into stuff that will eventually break or wear out, why not put that money into creating memories that will last forever?!

Once that was our train of though the next step was choosing what that experience or trip would be. We weighed the possibilities of having each child receive a personal experience as their Christmas gift or planning a trip for the entire family. We ended up doing a little of both. We decided that a family trip would be the primary gift for most of the family, with Ozzie being the exception to the rule. Unfortunately, he is not cleared yet for extended home visits or family trips, so we planned a Christmas gift experience for Ozzie that was his alone to look forward to, and in the end was a far better surprise for Ozzie than any family trip we could gift him with.

The decision to gift the kids with a family vacation was spurred on in large part by Molly’s decision to take an 18 month leave from her schooling and serve a mission for our church. In the next few weeks we will find out where she will be serving and when she will be leaving. On her application she listed her first availability date as March 15th, so we decided we wanted to squeeze in a family vacation at the start of the year, before Molly left for 18 months.

Toby worked his magic and found an amazing deal that allowed for this awesome Christmas surprise.

On December 22nd, when Grace and Zach came over for Sunday dinner, the kids all received their Christmas gift. (Ozzie received his big surprise the following day when we returned home for Christmas.) We had the kids gather in the living room with their eyes shut and their hands out…

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They each received a bag filled with themed goodies…

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1, 2, 3…OPEN!

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We are taking the family on a 5-day cruise to the Bahamas!

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Merry Christmas!

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The following evening Ozzie received his Christmas gift.

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He received tickets to a NASCAR race…a gift he will enjoy far more than a family vacation.

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Here is his reaction to his Christmas surprise…

Needless to say, he was thrilled to the point of tears!

2020 promises to be a memory-making year!

 

 

 

A December Catch-Up!

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In the midst of many holiday celebrations, we have also carved out moments of everyday living. Here are some of the moments that have made up our month…

This month Toby finds himself up to his eyeballs in work, and thus unable to find a spare moment to go out hunting. Deer hunting is one of those activities where the fruits of Toby’s labor are as beneficial as the activity is fun. A deer or two in the freezer definitely lightens the burden on the grocery budget!

That is why we were thrilled when one of Toby’s buddies from the Beaver County Metal Detecting Club called to say he had gotten a deer while hunting that morning but wasn’t interested in the meat. He wanted to know if we wanted it. Toby responded with a definitive, “Yes!”

So, on a Tuesday night while I headed off to a Stake Relief Society presidency meeting for my new church calling, Rusty and Tyler helped Toby butcher a deer. I think I got the better deal that Tuesday night! When I arrived home at 10:00 pm the task was nearly complete, with bags of ground venison stacked and ready for the freezer, roasts had been set aside for future crock pot meals, and jerky was being smoked to perfection!

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As grateful as we were for a freezer full of meat, the deer population took their revenge on our family when we were hit by a deer on our way to take Braden down to visit Pap (his first adoptive father) the following week.

Let me be clear…

We DID NOT hit a deer.

The deer hit us!

It deer hit us while running full speed into the side of our SUV, taking out our side mirror and denting in the front and back doors of the vehicle’s left side so severely that the doors wouldn’t open.  The deer knocked itself out with the impact of the collision. Convinced it was dead, Toby dragged it off the road. As soon as Toby let go of its legs it jumped up and took off into the woods, none the worse for wear, leaving us with expensive repairs.

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If this was a hired hit by the deer population, they definitely came out the victors!

Our 70 pounds of free deer meat wasn’t worth the insurance detectable and inconvenience of a month without our GMC.

Luckily our auto insurance covered the expense of a rental car to get us through the following few weeks. It was far nicer than any car we have ever owned and far too “smart” for my liking, but Tyler loved the sun roof. Despite the December temperatures he insisted we take full advantage of our short time owning a car that let the sun shine down on our faces as we cruised around.

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Tyler has been my sidekick a lot lately. With older siblings out of the house or busy with school, work and sports, Tyler and I often find ourselves home alone together. This was how I found him when I came out of my room the other morning. A nightmare drove him from bed in the night and he ended up falling asleep on the couch. This was his sleeping position when I found him.

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He is still cyber schooling and loving his classes. He has great teachers and great friends that he interacts with daily through his live classes. The other day he joined other classmates in creating “snow” as part of a science experiment on chemical reactions.

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This month Ozzie was able to come home two weekends ago for a home pass. We made plans to take him out for a fun, Christmassy activity that was all Ozzie! We went to see some trains!

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Trains are Ozzie’s new interest. Those who know Oz, know that Ozzie is an “all in” sort of kid when it comes to hobbies and interests. When he is interested in something it becomes his entire focus and he becomes an expert in that subject. Some of his interests include cars, weather, NASCAR and now train sets. He has been diligently studying all there is to know about train sets, making plans for a future train set he intends on building in our basement. When we told him we made plans to meet Grace and Zach at a local holiday train display, he was over-the-moon excited. He packed a notepad and pencil so he could take notes and jot down ideas for his future set.

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We arrived to find Zach and Grace already there. Tyler also joined us for the excursion. The museum offered a train set scavenger hunt. Tyler joined Zach as they hunted their way through the minitures in search of the items on the scavenger hunt list.

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Ozzie had no interest in the scavenger hunt. He was far more interested in the workings of the trains and the logistics behind the set’s creation. He lucked out and the designer and creater of the train display was on hand to answer his questions…

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And Ozzie asked a lot of questions!

He was eager to “talk shop” with someone that could make recommendations, give advice, and advise him on how to start building his dream set!

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 Ozzie also had me take LOTS of pictures for reference.

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It was a perfect holiday activity for Ozzie to enjoy with Tyler, Grace and Zach!

Speaking of Zach…

Our newest son had a birthday this month. Gracie’s husband, Zach, turned 23 and our gift to him was tickets to the Trans Siberian Orchestra Christmas Concert.

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Days before Christmas, Grace and Zach joined us for a double date in Pittsburgh as we enjoyed an AMAZING TSO concert in celebration of Zach’s birthday.

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So much fun squeezed into one short month!!

 

A Co-op Christmas Party

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It had been two months since we had seen many of our friends from co-op. Months longer for some of our other friends. Friday was a blessed reunion when we were able to reunite with co-op friends, new and old, for a Christmas party.

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We met up at the church of one of the co-op families for a potluck lunch and playtime with friends. The kids enjoyed “friend time” with co-op buddies, and I loved catching up with all the mommas who are some of my nearest and dearest friends. I don’t get nearly enough time with these ladies who are soul-sisters that feed my spirit and buoy me up. They have been my tribe of people for the last decade, walking beside us and supporting us through our greatest challenges.

It was wonderful to sit, and share, and catch up with each other’s lives.

After lunch we gathered the kids for their white elephant gift exchange…

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Some walked away with junk and others lucked out, picking wisely, and left with treasures,

But regardless of what gifts were unwrapped, everyone was gifted with laughs and merry memories!

I love this gang of people!

Life is Short…Eat Christmas Cookies!

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Oh, how December has flown by, and I know that I’m not the only one reeling from the rapid pace of this festive month. The lateness of Thanksgiving left everyone a week short of the typical four weeks we usually have to make Christmas happen, and we all seem to be scrambling this year to fit it all in.

By the time December 19th rolled around I realized not a cookie had been baked and we were less than a week from Christmas. Typically we bring a large cookie platter to my mom’s house on Christmas Eve. In the past this responsibility was easy to follow through with thanks to our annual co-op cookie exchange. Our co-op no longer meets regularly so this tradition didn’t happen. I knew that we needed to have something sweet to plate for Santa, so we decided to just focus on Christmas cut-out cookies.

On Thursday, following Molly’s exciting journey home, I began baking dozens of Christmas cut-out cookies for us to decorate on Thursday night. My delinquency worked to the family’s advantage, as Molly was home and able to take part in this family tradition.

Thursday afternoon I received a call from Grace asking if we had any plans. Zach had school on Thursday night and she was eager to see Molly! We invited her to join us for dinner and an evening of cookie decorating.

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After dinner was all cleaned up we gathered in the dining room. Frostings, sprinkles and trays of sugar cookies were carried in and we got to work.

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Like pumpkin carving and Easter egg dying, cookie decorating is a favorite activity as it pairs family time with individual creative expression.

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It is always fun to see what designs everyone comes up with…

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And the fact that the artwork is deliciously edible is a huge perk to this fun, family tradition!

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By the end of the evening Grace, Rusty and I were the only ones left at the table as we pushed through the last few dozen cookies on the tray.

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Braden and Tyler lost steam after frosting a dozen cookies, and Molly and Toby were feeling icky and left to go lay down, so my two standing soldiers helped me knock out the last of the Christmas cookies, allowing us to assemble two beautiful trays for our upcoming Christmas celebrations.

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We are one step closer to being Christmas-ready!

 

Molly is Home!!!

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Miss Molly is home,

And we couldn’t be happier!

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Molly had an awesome first semester of college at BYU-Idaho. She thrived as a freshman and loved college life. She was blessed with great roommates, amazing professors and incredible experiences.

It was wonderful seeing her so happy and doing so well in that new, unfamiliar environment. Now that we have her home for a few months I plan of enjoying as much time with my sweet girl (and soaking up her sunshine as much as I can) before she leaves us again!

She was a bit bummed by the family traditions she wasn’t home to enjoy in the weeks leading up to Christmas but she, with the help of good friends and awesome roommates, was able to create her own magical Christmas memories out west. Here is a peek into some of her December adventures in Idaho before heading home:

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Molly has been blessed with an amazing gift in finding beauty in the ordinary and great blessings in everyday experiences.

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Molly at BYU-I’s light-up night.

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Molly enjoying a Relief Society Christmas party with friends.

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Molly and Katrina walking to church on a crisp, December Sunday.

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Molly loved meeting John Groberg, the missionary whose story was told through the Disney movie, “The Other Side of Heaven.” Molly loved hearing him speak and share his testimony.

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I love to see the temple!

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The Rexburg, Idaho temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

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A gingerbread house decorating competition.

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Gregory, the man of snow, built by Katrina and Molly one cold, and snowy night.

The week leading up to her flight home was packed to the brim with finals and packing as she culled through her belongings, trying to figure out what was worth shipping home and what she should give away to friends or donate. On Tuesday she joined her roommate Katrina for the drive to Lehi, Utah, where Katrina’s family graciously hosted Molly for the night before her flight the following day.

The next day Katrina dropped her off at the airport and Molly’s adventure began in earnest. The first half of her travels went smoothly but when she arrived in Newark for her second layover, everything fell apart. Heavy snows and high winds led to her flight being delayed hour after hour. We waited for the call that would let us know to head to the airport to await her flight, but instead we got a midnight call informing us that all flights had been canceled.

Molly spoke to a ticket agent and was told she probably couldn’t get another flight for a few days.

As we tried to figure out a solution at our end, Molly was busy making friends in Newark. She called back at 1:00 am to let us know that one of her new friends had a rental car and was headed to Pittsburgh. She wanted to ask what we thought about her hitching a ride with this lady (who also was named “Molly”) and driving through the night towards home.

As a mom, I’m sure you can guess what my reaction was and where my mind went at the thought of Molly climbing in a car with a stranger she met only hours earlier. Miss Molly suggested we say a prayer and then talk it through. We did. Molly insisted she felt good about the plan and had no reservations. I wasn’t as convinced. My mind went straight to stories of human trafficing and abductions.

The new friend, Molly, got on the phone and was able to quell some of our fears. She kindly responded to my paranoia by texting photos of her driver’s liscence, work ID, Facebook page, etc. We felt better about the idea of Molly climbing in a rental car with a stranger, but I did turn the tracker on her phone to active and followed her blip across the state, ready to call in the State Troopers if the car exited the turnpike and headed south. 

Needless to say, no one slept much on Wednesday night. Molly was up all night talking to her traveling companion to keep her awake, while we were in bed monitoring their progress west. We picked up Molly at 6:30 am and she came home and went straight to sleep. She slept all day. We thought her exhaustion was due to a crazy 24 hours but when she woke up to throw up we knew it was a flu bug that had hit her hard. The next 24 hours were spent recovering in bed so we didn’t enjoy much Molly time but we were still  so happy to have our girl at home!

Now Christmas is allowed to arrive!

Skating under the Stars

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On Monday, following our road trip to Cleveland, Ohio to visit The Christmas Story house, we headed back towards home for a very full remainder of the day. Tyler had his dyslexia tutoring in Wexford at 3:15, after which we were headed downtown Pittsburgh for an evening outing with PA Cyber.

This cyber school outing was scheduled for after dark, from 5:00-7:00 pm. It was an ice skating event at the MassMutual Pittsburgh Ice Rink at PPG Place.

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When I had signed us up two months prior, I thought it would be a fun Christmassy activity for us to enjoy the week before Christmas…

And I was right!

It was simply magical,

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Like a scene from a Hallmark movie.

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We checked in and Tyler, as a PA Cyber student, received a PA Cyber winter hat to keep him warm. It was so cute on him!

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The boys got their skates and prepared to get on the ice while I took my place outside the rink, happy to soak up the festive Christmas atmosphere and capture the magic with my camera.

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It was a perfect evening, chilly but not bitter. The city buildings surrounding the rink blocked what little wind their was, and reflected the twinkling lights of the large Christmas tree off their mirrored surface.

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The boys had a blast, skating along to the strains of the Christmas songs that filled the plaza.

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Halfway through the activity skaters were sent off the ice so that the Zamboni machine could clean things up. We used that time to enjoy the complimentary snacks and drinks that were laid out by PA Cyber staff for the families to enjoy.

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Another hour on the ice and it was time to head home. It was a fun-filled day, to say the least!

We arrived home physically worn out by the busyness of our day but hyped up on Christmas Spirit. It was just what I needed to jump start my Christmas enthusiasm for the tasks that awaited my attention in the upcoming days.

I can hardly believe Christmas is days away!

 

 

“You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out!”

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A Christmas Story:

“Set during a snowy Christmas season in 1940’s Indiana, nine-year-old Ralphie longs for the ideal Christmas gift, a 200-Shot, Range-Model Air Rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time.” But when gruff dad and doting mom, and even a stressed-out Santa quote the usual BB gun warning, “You’ll shoot your eye out!” Ralphie mounts a full-scale, hint dropping campaign that is a sly combination of innocence and calculation. The movie is not only about Christmas and BB guns, but also about childhood and a semi-dysfunctional family life.

Ralphie endures endless kid-sized trials and classic moments: A bully with “yellow eyes” and a rancid coonskin cap terrorizes him. There is a sequence where a kid is not merely dared but Triple-Dog-Dared to stick his tongue onto a frozen lamp post, and the fire department has to be called to remove him from the pole. Ralphie’s Old Man winning the “Major Award” of a garish lamp in the shape of a woman’s leg. Ralphie blurts out the Queen Mother of swear words and gets his mouth washed out with Lifebuoy soap. His long-awaited Little Orphan Annie Secret Society Decoder Pin translates a radio program’s top-secret message that turns out to be a crummy commercial. Even Santa is a scary fraud. But Ralphie hangs tough and ends up getting his BB gun.”

A few years ago I discovered that the house used to film this iconic movie was in our own backyard…

Well, pretty close to our backyard…

And I’ve been itching to pay this classic Christmas location a visit.

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Monday provided us the opportunity. After a hard weekend I decided that a play day was in order. I was looking for a shot of Christmas cheer and just wanted a day of fun with my boys, so after a trip to Erie to drop Ozzie off we headed west to Cleveland to visit A Christmas Story House.

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We arrived and found parking between A Christmas Story House and the Bumpus House. Our hopes were dashed when no bloodhounds ran out to greet us.

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This Cleveland Street of 1940’s style houses is now largely dedicated to honoring the movie that was filmed here. On the street four separate homes have been set aside for this Christmas experience, including the Bumpus House which is now a bed and breakfast and can be rented out for the night, A Christmas Story House which is an interactive recreation of the actual movie set, A Christmas Story museum containing memorabilia from the movie and interesting background information about the making of the movie. The final building is a huge gift shop containing all sorts of fun Christmas Story souvenirs, like character hats, leg lamps, pink bunny pajamas and cans of Ovaltine.

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It was in the gift shop that we started our tour. We purchased tickets for the 12:15 tour and then perused the gift shop, killing time and enjoying some belly laughs!

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At 12:15 we joined two dozen other visitors and walked across the street to A Christmas Story House, our first stop on the tour.

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We gathered on the front steps to hear more about the history of the house and how it came to be the home used in the movie.

When production was in the beginning stages the production team began scouting out locations for filming. They were in search of a department store for filming the Santa scene. They sent out letters to department stores across the country hoping to find a store that offered a tall interior space that was capable of holding the two story Santa display with the exit slide, as well as a department store that would agree to keep their store decorated for Christmas, months past the Christmas season, so filming could take place.

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The call went out to hundreds of stores but only one responded. It was a department store in downtown Cleveland. The scouting crew made the trip to Cleveland and decided it was a perfect location for shooting that scene of the movie.

Knowing that Cleveland was a steel mill town, the production crew decided they wanted to get some long shots of the mills along the river. Rather than asking for directions they decided to follow the smoke pouring forth from the mills and in their search for the steel mills ended up in the neighborhood that would become the home base for the bulk of the movie. When they saw Ralphie’s house in particular, they knew they wanted to rent it for filming. It was as though the house was trapped in the 1940’s and held many of the elements they were looking for, including a porch large enough for the leg lamp delivery, a large picture window for displaying the major award, and a fenced-in backyard with a view of the mills.

They approached the owner while lunching at a pub across the street and offered him $20,000 to rent the house for three months. The owner quickly rehomed himself at a local hotel for the duration of filming. That pub is still there today and offers a “Randy Special” of meatloaf and mashed potatoes on their menu as well as a challenge to customers. If you can eat the entire dinner without using your hands or utensils you will win a free t-shirt.

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If we had more time it was a challenge Rusty would have eagerly taken on!

Then we entered the house and were set free to explore this interactive experience. We were allowed to touch decorations, sit on the furniture, and pose for pictures throughout the home that had been renovated to look like the original house that this 1983 classic was filmed in.

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I LOVED exploring and being able to actually step into a scene from a favorite childhood movie. The little details added to the suspension of disbelief, making us feel as though the Bumpus dogs would come running through the kitchen door any minute.

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The second floor consisted of Ralphie and Randy’s bedroom,

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And the bathroom where Ralphie decoded his Little Orphan Annie message and got his mouth washed out with soap.

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In the upstairs hall guests can lift the telephone receiver and listen to a familiar tirade.

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On the first floor we found the kitchen.

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While in the kitchen, Rusty climbed under the sink to reenact Randy hiding in fright, fearful Ralphie would be killed,

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We also checked out the dining room where the major reward was delivered.

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Many might recall that the printing on the crate cuts off, leaving it to say “His End Up.” We found out the reason for this. It turns out that a neighborhood carpenter was hired to build the crate. He failed to measure the front door, an oversite that wasn’t discovered until they were filming the scene. The quick fix was to saw off the edge, making it narrow enough to fit through the door and taking the “T” with it,

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The living room was where much of the movie was filmed, including:

Christmas morning under the tree,

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Ralphie listening to the Little Orphan Annie radio program,

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The Red Rider BB gun tucked behind the desk,

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And the leg lamp that holds a place of honor in the center window.

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We exited through the back door into the back yard that served as the scene for Ralphie’s broken glasses,

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Before walking across the street to the museum.

In the museum we were able to learn more behind the scene facts including the fact that at the last minute the director decided he wanted to pull an Alfred Hitchcock move and make a cameo appearance in his film. He appeared as a walk on during the scene when the Old Man was across the street admiring his major award from outside. The funny thing we learned about his impromptu appearance was that he didn’t think about a costume change, so in a scene of characters dressed in 1940’s clothes he is wearing a distinctly 1980’s outfit, complete with a Miami Dolphins knit hat.

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In the museum we were able to see many original costume pieces from A Christmas Story that are on display,

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As well as one of six of the original Red Rider BB guns that were manufactured for the film. Of the original six, only three are accounted for.

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The tour guide told us that when searching garage sales for these three missing pieces of movie memorabilia you can know they are authentic by three key traits: a compass on the stock of the gun, a sun dial on the stock, and the tassel on the left side of the gun. Once Tyler heard that the last one sold at auction sold for $200,000 he has been itching to hit a flea market or two!

In touring the museum we also learned that weather worked against the production crew that winter. There was no snow, and snow was need for the scenes they were filming. The solution? Soap suds! They hired the local fire department to coat the street in soap suds with their big hoses, creating the illusion of snow during a dry, unseasonably warm winter in Cleveland, Ohio.

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The illusion of falling snow through the picture window was created using boxed mashed potato flakes…genius!

Our final stop was at the two car garage attached to the museum. Parked within its walls were two of the original vehicles used in the filming of the movie…

The Old Man’s car whose flat tire led to Ralphie’s infamous, “Oh, Fudge!” moment:

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And the fire truck that came to Flick’s rescue when he took the triple-dog-dare and stuck his tongue to the frozen flag pole:

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If we didn’t have to hurry home for Tyler’s dyslexia tutoring we probably would have lingered longer at this fun Christmas location,

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But our day of Christmas festivities wasn’t done yet. We had another Christmas activity planned for that evening…

Stay tuned!

 

 

Time to Trim the Tree

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I am only just blogging about the second part to our tree hunt, but I promise we didn’t put off this beloved tradition until December 20th. We have been busily living life and my absence on this site is a reflection of that. This month of the year tends to hold the most memory making, blog-worthy moments of living and yet the fewest free minutes in which to record them. After a busy, busy day I find myself hunkered down at Wendy’s, nursing a Diet Coke and taking advantage of free WiFi (and an hour of time to kill between picking up kids from work and parties) and am making myself face the ever growing list of blogs that refuse to write themselves.

Although it may appear we took a two week break between cutting down our tree and putting up our tree, the lag was a mere 24 hours. On the Sunday following Thanksgiving our beautiful tree was carried into the house, and wrapped in lights, all in preparation for our Family Night lesson and activity. Grace and Zach joined us for dinner and then hung around for the Christmas lesson Rusty had planned on the #lighttheworld initiative.

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Then it was time to decorate the tree. Eggnog was poured, carols began to play, and the boxes of ornaments were opened. 22 years of memories were relived and reflected on as we pulled out each child’s ornaments to hang on the tree. Grace and Zach hung around to watch the fun, but opted not to join in on the actual decorating, having just decked out their own tree earlier that week.

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The boys loved digging through the tissue paper and ornament boxes in search of their favorites.

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Braden was excited to have an ornament of his own to hang on the tree this year, having received his traditional December 23rd ornament gift from Mom and Dad for the first time in 2018.

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When the branches of the evergreen were laden down with baubles and bulbs, we stepped back to take in the finished effect…

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It was magical!

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Not wanting Molly and Ozzie to miss out on this Christmas tradition, we made plans to include them in the fun. For Ozzie that meant putting aside all his ornaments for him to unwrap and hang on the tree during a weekend pass home.

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On the following weekend he loved pulling out his ornaments from the last six years, each personal and reflective of that year’s big events, and hanging them with flourish on the tree.

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For Molly we took a slightly different route. The toughest part of BYU-I’s finals week falling the week before Christmas was that Molly was going to miss out on so many beloved traditions that unfold in the weeks prior to Christmas. Molly wasn’t due to fly home until the 18th so we were determined to send some Christmas magic her way. I purchased a felt tree online, complete with Velcro Christmas ornaments, that could be hung on her door and decorated. We tossed in some fuzzy socks, hot cocoa, and Christmas cookies and mailed Christmas to her in a box!

The finished result of Molly and Katrina’s “tree decorating”:

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!!

It’s Tree Hunting Time!!

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Thanksgiving was over, which means we had the go-ahead to dive straight into the Christmas season with gusto!

Boxes of decorations were carried up from the basement and Patchwork Farm was transformed. The halls were beautifully “decked” by the close of the day on Friday. There was only one decoration missing…

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It was tree-hunting time!

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Our annual trip to the tree farm to search out the perfect tree, cut it down, and haul it home, is one of my favorite Christmas traditions. I love bundling up in warm clothes, pulling on our muck boots and hiking through the rows of evergreens in search of the perfect tree.

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For the last few years our annual hunt has occurred at Pioneer Trails Tree Farm, a tree farm 35 minutes away in Poland, Ohio.

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We decided to go and get our Christmas tree on Saturday morning.

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Our plan was to decorate it as our Family Night activity on Sunday evening, so Saturday’s only task was to pick the tree and get it home.

Pioneer Trails has a seamless system established that makes the process easy and fun for families.

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Step 1: Pick the TYPE of evergreen that best fits your family’s needs. They had 7 different types of trees on display with signs describing the traits of each type of tree. We were able to see and touch the branches of each type of evergreen, determining the pros and cons of each type. It was helpful to see them standing side by side, allowing for the best comparison.

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Once we had decided on what type of tree we wanted it was time for the next decision…

Step 2: Pick the SIZE of the tree you want. On a large sign posted near the tree display there was a map that indicated where on the farm to find the different types of evergreens. The map was color coded to show where to find the right sized tree for your home. We were looking for a tree that fell into the 10+ feet category so we knew we wanted to head to the orange areas of the map.

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Step 3: It was time to grab a tree wagon and a saw and head out into the field.

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There are different options available for families to get to the four corners of the farm where their dream trees are located. There are tractor driven wagons, horse driven carriages, or you can simply hike to the patch of trees where your tree is planted. This year we opted to catch a ride in one of the tractor driven wagons…

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But we did stop at the horse-drawn carriage long enough to say “hello” to the beautiful horses that carry visitors around the tree farm.

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Step 4: Find the PERFECT tree. This is where all the diplomacy of a United Nations General Assembly comes into play as my 3 boys, with their three distinct opinions, headed out in search of the perfect tree.

After 30 minutes of walking, looking, hemming and hawing, we had narrowed a dozen choices down to one. After a family vote we decided on this beauty:

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Step 5: It was time to cut it down! Tyler asked if he could take on this important job.  He got down on the ground and began to saw.

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After a few minutes of sweat and labor, down it came…

Timber!!

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Step 6: The next step was to load it up. Using our tree sled we worked together to move our tree to the pick-up spot where the wagons would carry us and our tree back to the barn.

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Step 7: Once we reached the barn, the staff took over. They shook the loose needles from the tree and fed it through the binding machine to wrap it up for an easier transport home.

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Step 8: The final step was to pay for our beautiful Christmas tree and get it home where it would be decked out in Christmas splendor on Sunday night.

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

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On the Friday morning following our Thanksgiving feast we met up with Grace, Zach and the Tame clan at the movies for an early showing of Frozen 2…

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Which was amazing!

There is always concern that the sequel will fall short of the original, but Disney didn’t let us down. With a stellar soundtrack, a poignant story line and lots of great one-liners from Olaf, we found it charming!

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Typically our Black Friday is spent taking care of a huge bulk of our Christmas shopping, but this year my shopping responsibilities were minimal due to the kids receiving an experience gift as their main Christmas surprise. (Stay tuned for that reveal in a few weeks,) so our day was wide open for Christmas decorating!

The transformation from Thanksgiving to Christmas typically occurs on the weekend following Thanksgiving as pumpkins get carried out for Harley, our pig, to enjoy and garlands of greens are carried up from the basement. That Friday the transformation from fall to winter took us six hours. I focused on the interior while the boys eagerly volunteered to climb on the roof and hang the outdoor lights.

Once I was done culling the chosen decorations from the extras, the boys were set free to dig through the boxes of leftover decorations to transform their bedrooms into Christmas wonderlands.

We enjoyed a lovely day at home as we listened to the sounds of carols and worked to make Christmas come alive at Patchwork Farm.

At the end of the day we sat back, soaking up the Christmas magic that surrounded us, as Braden read our first Christmas story of the season before bed.

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

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