Monthly Archives: May 2020

A Day at the Lake

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Twice a year the state of Pennsylvania offers a “Fish for Free” event where residents can fish the waters of Pennsylvania without needing a fishing license. Since 90% of our crew is now old enough that they need a fishing license to go fishing, we try to take advantage of “Fish for Free” events. Memorial Day weekend offered us one of these opportunities. After months of hunkering down everyone was excited by the promise of a day at the lake.

We headed to Moraine Lake on Sunday to enjoy our Sabbath Day in nature. Grace and Zach came over early in the morning. We held our Sunday services at home, partook of the sacrament, and then packed a lunch for the lake.

Molly was assigned to teach our Sunday school lesson this week. She packed up her computer and notes and brought them along so that we could enjoy her Sunday school lesson lakeside.

Although we weren’t the only family out that day, we had no problem finding a secluded section of shore line to set up for the day.

I had packed a picnic lunch of egg salad sandwiches, sliced watermelon, chips, cookies, and cornbread salad.

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After gathering for Molly’s Sunday school lesson,

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Lunch was served.

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The remainder of the day was spent resting,

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Enjoying the company of family,

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Enjoying the beauty of nature,

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And of course, fishing!

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Toby spent a good hour stringing all the poles and getting everyone set up,

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Then it was time to drop line and wait for a nibble!

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Just about everyone who cast out caught a fish…

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And some caught many fish.

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It was a monumental day for Zach who caught the first fish of his life.

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What a beautiful day to be outside enjoying the beauty of nature and the blessing of family.

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We are blessed!

 

 

Disney Magic!

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The winds of change are coming to Patchwork Farm. As our state slowly moves from red to yellow, normalcy (under strict mitigation) is returning. This week work at the daycare resumes for Grace. Graduation is a week away for Rusty and Braden. Molly will be leaving us in seven days to head to Salt Lake City to serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for the next 16 months. Grace and Zach spent the weekend moving back to their little apartment, after living at Patchwork Farm for the last 9 weeks during quarantine. With all these changes coming down the pike, we have been working hard to create pockets of fun and memory-making opportunities before everyone scatters.

One way we have done this is through themed dinner nights. Gracie had the idea of having a Disney dinner night, an idea that our Disney-loving family jumped at!

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This was probably our most extensive themed dinner yet. This Disney-loving family had lots of ideas, and our inability to edit ourselves meant we incorporated

EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM!

This themed dinner took a day’s worth of effort as we spent all of last Wednesday shopping for groceries, decorating, cooking, and creating.

Our efforts began in the dining room as we transformed the space into a tribute to all things Disney, incorporating many decorations from Rusty’s room!

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Then we started cooking. Our meal was a hodgepodge of Disney-themed dishes.

Grace took on the task of creating corresponding food tags for each of our side dishes. Using water colors, she captured the Disney film represented by each dish.

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While she painted, Rusty and Molly helped me cook.

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Some of our culinary nods to classic Disney films included:

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Our main dish was Toy Story’s Pizza Planet Pizza. We made the pizza dough ahead of time. When Toby and Zach arrived home from work everyone was sent to their rooms to dress for dinner. Everyone was instructed that they were to arrive at dinner Disney-bounding as a character from a Disney movie or ride.

Many of our outfits paid tribute to Toy Story…

With Molly representing Woody:

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Tyler dressed as a Pizza Planet delivery boy:

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And Toby and I as Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head:

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Rusty came to dinner Disney-bounding as Brer Fox from Splash Mountain:

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Others came to dinner dressed not as a particular character, but instead sporting Disney gear.

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Then it was time to make our personal pizzas. Everyone got a ball of homemade pizza dough that Grace had mixed ahead of time, and plenty of toppings to pick from. The kids enjoyed getting to create their own culinary masterpiece.

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As the pizzas baked everyone headed into the dining room to check out the other goodies,

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Including character cupcakes for each family member.

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When the pizzas were done baking everyone dished up and headed to the dining room where we enjoyed a delicious dinner paired with Disney music and Disney movie trivia.

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We REALLY loved “The Grey Stuff!” Here is the recipe we used if you’d like to try it yourself…YUM!

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups of cold whole milk
  • 1 (3.4 ounce) package of instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 15 chocolate cookie sandwiches (Oreos)
  • Food processor
  • 1 (8 ounce) container whipped topping, thawed
  • 3 tablespoons instant chocolate pudding mix
  • Edible sugar pearls
  • Directions

    1. Pour milk into a large mixing bowl. Add instant vanilla pudding mix and whisk for 2 minutes until smooth and slightly thickened. Place in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours, until firm.

    2. Place chocolate sandwich cookies in food processor and pulse until pureed.

    3. Fold pureed cookies into pudding mix. Stir until fully mixed.

    4. Add whipped topping and instant chocolate pudding. Stir until fully mixed.

    5. Place in refrigerator and chill for one hour.

    6. Spoon grey stuff into piping bag fitted with desired tip. Pipe grey stuff into cups. Top with sugar pearls.

    7. Enjoy your very own grey stuff, because as Lumiere says, “It’s delicious!”

It was a “magical” night!

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Let’s Go to the Movies!

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Last weekend we ventured out for the time since March for an excursion other than a supply run or essential business. Our local drive-in movie theater received permission from Harrisburg to re-open. While movie theaters are considered high risk environments, drive-in movie theaters have been deemed safe.

Offering all the best of the movie theater experience with minimal risks, and we jumped at the chance to get out of the house and watch a movie on the big screen.

Dependable Drive-in has created a new set of policies to keep guests safe… guidelines that were handed to each guests at the entrance.

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These guidelines included an unoccupied space between each car as they opened at 1/2 capacity, mandatory masks if guests left their parking spot, the addition of touchless soap dispensers, sinks, and paper towel dispensers in the bathrooms, with a limit of two guests in the bathrooms at a time.

They were also allowing guests to bring in their own food for those hesitant to take advantage of online ordering at the concession stand.

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On opening night Dependable Drive-in was offering two movies. It was a test run for the drive-in, so rather than offering double features at their four screens, they offered a single movie at two of their screens. The choices were Trolls: World Tour or The Vast of Night (An Amazon original movie). We opted for the latter.

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Suspecting that opening night might be busy, and since they were only admitting half the capacity, we arrived at the drive-in 90 minutes before the movie began. We weren’t the only ones being proactive. As we turned off the highway exit we were greeted with a line of brake lights, as cars waited to enter the drive-in.

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When it was our turn to enter we paid the special “opening weekend” price of .50/person. For a whopping $3.00 we enjoyed a night at the movies!

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As we waited for the movie to begin, we played card games, safely tucked away in our parking spot.

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As the opening strains of the Star Spangled banner began to play, signaling the start of the movie, treats were passed out and we settled back to enjoy the show.

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A review of The Vast of Night as taken by a reader on IMDb:

“The Vast of Night is a classic tale that stays true to what makes the subgenre so appealing, while innovating and delivering fresh and interesting tactics to keep your eyes glued to the screen.

From the moment the film introduces us to one of our protagonists, we are greeted to an amazing long-take tracking shot that would make Iñárritu (ala Birdman) jealous. These beautiful tracking shots persist throughout the film, including one where we are quickly transported through the quiet small town setting seamlessly into the busy action of the high-school basketball game. These shots are also complimented by long takes that have almost no obvious movement at all, save for maybe a methodical zoom towards the character as they deliver a captivating monologue. In fact, there are moments where there are no visuals at all but simply a black screen allowing us to focus entirely on what is being told.

Dialogue and performances are also a highlight. The slick and smooth conversation starts immediately as we are introduced to our characters, helping transport us easily into the 1950s. This is assisted by the spectacular performances that never let up. Whether it be a tense monologue, fast-paced banter, or fervent arguing, every emotion feels real.

As for screenplay, the film plays out in real-time which let’s us hang on every lasting feeling of mystery and suspense. The Vast of Night masterfully balances both hiding and teasing us with aspects of a reveal that do enough to terrify and excite, leading up to a simply beautiful payoff that feels as rewarding as it is earned.”

Some enjoyed it more than others. It definitely had a more creative and artistic filming style that lent to a Alfred Hitchcock or Twilight Zone vibe. The suspense was built through interesting camera angles and movie soundtrack. I loved it and found the movie charming and engaging, but some of my kids found it lacking in special effects and action scenes. Regardless of the mixed reviews, we all enjoyed a night out of the house after months in lockdown!

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Rusty and Braden’s Senior Photo Shoot

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Being the bizarre spring it has been, it isn’t surprising that tasks that I would normally be on top off have fallen to the wayside. One of those tasks being senior photos.

In past years, with my past seniors, we have coordinated our senior photos long before the final days of the senior school year, but in the midst of navigating a worldwide pandemic certain things have fallen to the wayside.

It wasn’t until I realized we needed to send out graduation announcements that I realized that we still needed to take some senior photos so that we could create the announcements.

This year we have two graduating seniors. Both Braden and Rusty will be graduating from 21st Century Cyber Charter School on June 11th. The school has opted for a virtual graduation. Rather than traveling to Downingtown, Pennsylvania, like we did for Grace and Molly’s graduation ceremonies, we will be watching Rusty and Braden graduate from high school in the comfort of our own living room. This brings mixed feelings as our excursion east to celebrate our kids’ academic achievements is always a highlight of the senior year, but the decision is a wise and prudent one.

The school, in an effort to celebrate their seniors from afar, sent yard signs to all the graduating seniors.

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For seniors across the world, the ending of their academic journey isn’t at all what they expected. We acknowledged this disappointment with some special gifts for our graduating seniors…

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Gifts they donned for their senior photo shoot.

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On two separate sunny spring days we took the boys out in the yard to capture some photos for their graduation announcements. Grace and Molly helped me out.

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I always find boy’s photo shoots to be more challenging than girls. They are less willing to get silly and it is more of a challenge catching their personalities on camera during a staged shoot. We found adding dogs to the mix helped capture their inner joy.

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It was a joy celebrating our two senior sons and we were able to get some great shots of our handsome sons, just in time to create their graduation announcements which will be sent out to all those family and friends that we won’t be able to celebrate with in person.

Rusty’s post-graduation plans include continuing at CCBC (where he was duel enrolled for his senior year) to pursue a degree in unmanned aerial vehicle piloting. He plans of becoming a drone pilot.

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Braden will be attending New Castle School of Trades in the fall as he pursues a degree in Automotive Technology.

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The future is bright for both our boys and we can’t wait to see what God has planned for them!

After a bit of a Detour…

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Detours are a natural part of life.

They serve an important purpose.

Sometimes those detours follow a roadblock, as God redirects us down a different path.

Sometimes detours come in the form of delays, as God buys time to prepare us for our next purpose.

Sometimes detours are there to lead us to people we need to meet or to places we need to visit.

Regardless of the “why” behind divine detours, there is always a purpose behind the pause.

That doesn’t mean a change in plans is easy. It certainly hasn’t been easy for Molly, but like every divine detour there are blessings that come from His change to our plans, and Molly’s situation is no different.

Last December Molly sent in her paperwork to become a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. She waited with bated breath for news to come of where she would be assigned to labor for the Lord for the next 18 months. A process that typically would have taken a couple weeks dragged into a month and a half as she waited for her call to come. Road Blocks (or God Blocks) popped up as paperwork was misplaced and delays occurred. She had the opportunity to practice patience as she waited.

Finally, she received an email indicating that her news had arrived. Many loving friends and family weighed in on where they thought Molly would serve the Lord.

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She could have gone anywhere in the world.

She was called to Utah.

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At the time we had no idea what a blessing a domestic assignment in the states would be, and what divine purpose was in that six week delay.

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We had no idea a pandemic was on the doorstep.

She was given her date to arrive at the Missionary Training Center in Utah and airline tickets were purchased for Toby and I to fly her out. We were scheduled to fly out on March 28th.

On March 13th Grace, Molly and I drove out to Wooster, Ohio to have a girls weekend with my parents. That was the first day that the reality of the looming storm really hit. We enjoyed a day of shopping and lunch on Main St., but there was a tension in the air and you could feel the tides of life shifting. That was the last visit we had with family. After that weekend churches closed, schools shut down, and non-life-sustaining businesses were closed.

Then we received news that Molly would not be going to Provo, Utah for her missionary training. Instead, she and thousands of other new missionaries, would experience the MTC at home through the computer. For three weeks her days were spent attending classes, study sessions and devotionals in her bedroom,

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As the rest of the family (who were all at home as part of Pennsylvania’s Stay-at-Home order) tried to carve out some normalcy in other parts of the house.

I know it wasn’t the MTC experience Molly had dreamt of. Once again it was another detour off the path she had planned, but she handled it with grace and good spirits and was able to enjoy the unique blessing of being able to share her MTC experience with her family, firsthand.

When she reached the end of her training, she was detoured once again. Rather than arriving in Salt Lake City on April 21st to check into her mission, she was told to remain at home until travel was deemed safe. As the pandemic spread around the world, missionaries across the globe were being brought home before boarders closed. Like Molly, thousands of LDS missionaries were enduring their own personal detours as their mission plans changed. International missionaries were brought home to quarantine and then wait for a reassignment in the United States.

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Once again I saw God’s hand in those troublesome delays that were such a challenge for Molly at the start of her mission process, as they placed her where she needed to be prior to the events of the world unfolding.

Following her MTC online, she removed her nametag and waited once again, uncertain of how things would unfold. After another month of waiting news finally came. It has been deemed safe for Molly to travel and the Salt Lake City South mission is ready to receive her, so after five months of detours she is finally headed to her destination…

And she is thrilled.

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We have 12 days until she flies out on June 2nd and we are making the most of our remaining two weeks with her. Donning masks we headed to Walmart to purchase the final items on her packing list and we made a list of family fun we wanted to fit in with Molly before she leaves.

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We are still pretty shut down in out area of the country but a few things have opened up (like drive-in movies, parks, etc.) so we plan to make some memories before Molly flies the nest.

As happy as we are for Molly and the lucky people of Utah who will get our ray of sunshine for the next 16 months, (she will still return home at the same time despite the delay in her departure, thus her mission from 18 months to 16 months,) we are sad for our family. Molly will be missed SO VERY MUCH. It is going to be especially hard on my boys who struggle with being triggered by the loss of people they love. The good news, however, is that we will get to Skype with Molly once a week and exchange mail and emails which will hopefully make Molly’s time away easier on the boys.

To help cement the idea that she will return, I ordered a missionary countdown chart on Etsy. Tyler already helped me mark off the time that has passed during Molly’s mission days spent at home. It will be his job to add a dot each day so we can see the time pass in a tangible way.

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Here at Patchwork Farm we will be posting a weekly mission update with letters and photos Molly sends so that all of you can share in her experience.

This was the post she shared two days ago letting family and friends know her exciting news:

“I have an exciting update! I was called out into the field to finish up my mission. I will be in Salt Lake City South mission the first week of June! 

I am very humbled by God’s plan and will. When I first imagined my mission experience (and this year in general), it is a lot different than the present. It makes me reflect on how God works. 

It is like this: we are going about our lives, planning this certain route, thinking that it is the quickest way to our desired destination. We plan and prepare and find all the rest stops along the way. We pack fun road trip snacks and are all ready for the ride, then one day…  

God gives us a detour. 

This detour might not seem as fast. It may be a bit foggy at times, or maybe perhaps we feel we know best all together in our journey. 

I think I have learned this valuable life lesson by experiencing it: 

 I was feeling stubborn about the new direction God took me this year. In my mind I planned my missionary experience and new year step by step. (In a way I had my road trip snacks and details all set and ready to go,) but Heavenly Father knows better than me.  He sees the bigger picture. He knows the roads of life like the back of His hand and will be able to guide us in the best way. God’s way isn’t always easy though. We will experience bumps, hills, and waits just like any journey, but His way will bring the greatest blessings in the end. His path is where the greatest views will be witnessed, the most experience and learning gained, and will produce the most joyful adventure in the end. 

I am deeply humbled that God has given me recent experiences that I might not have picked for myself, but now I see the blessings flowing forth. I am thankful to be called out into the mission field and for the blessing of being able to have these past two months of waiting to progress and learn at home. I am thankful for the experiences that God gives me to humble me and teach me that His direction and detours are beautiful moments of progression in the journey. I am humbled that He hears my prayers and forgives me of my weaknesses. 

I would like to end my thoughts with a scripture verse I found that helps describe God’s great love and grace in our journeys of life, 

“Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God.”- Helaman 3:35 

As my mom has always taught me… God is good, always good!”

Detours are a part of life.

We can choose to mourn the change to our plans or we can delight in the journey. Molly has chosen the latter, and we are so proud of her choice.

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“Oh, Shoot!”

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During this Stay-At-Home season of life we have tried to find joy in the mundane and peace in the predictable nature of daily life at Patchwork Farm. For some of my kiddos this forced self-isolation has been more trying then it has been for others. For some the routine and forced stillness has been a blessed pause from the frantic pace of normal life. Those family members have relished the opportunity to focus on projects or hobbies at home. For the extroverts in the family this season of isolation has been far more challenging. In the same way being home recharges the batteries and renews the spirits of our resident introverts, our extroverts get their feeding from social interaction with others…

Something that has been lacking these last two months.

That is one of many reasons Grace and Zach moved into the bus. While Grace (an introvert) could happily hunker down at home for months, keeping busy with art projects and a few good books, Zach is the opposite. He is one of our resident extroverts and Grace discovered a week into quarantine that for everyone’s mental well being she would have to provide Zach with friends to play with and space to burn off energy.

Cue: Tyler!

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Tyler has ADORED having Grace and Zach living across the yard. Grace and Tyler have always had a special bond, but Zach is Tyler’s new best friend. Tyler finally has someone in the house who eagerly joins him in the yard to throw the football. It has been a win/win for everyone. Zach is no longer trapped in the apartment with no one to play with and Tyler has the best playmate ever!

It has been a joy having them here and has given the kids a chance to really get to know Zach as a brother and a friend. Zach has been a HUGE blessing to Tyler, who has found security in having Zach nearby, especially during those harder days.

Molly and Braden are our other two resident extroverts. They have both struggled with the mandate to socially distance from others, and although they have the opportunity to chat with friends “face to face” through Facetime or Zoom, it lacks the fully immersive social interaction that my extroverts crave.

For my kiddos that also are navigating this time of uncertainty with a history of trauma, the forced isolation and extended time at home is particularly challenging and triggering. It has made for some especially challenging moments these last two months. It is hard to be with family 24/7 in the best of circumstances, but when attachment and connection with family is a challenge, and togetherness feels threatening and claustrophobic because of past experiences, the stay-at-home order becomes a prison sentence.

We have tried to combat those struggles and feed the needs of our resident extroverts with as much stimulation as possible. We have carved time out of our days for controlled chaos and fantastical fun to help counter the suffocating nature of a never changing daily routine at home…

And it has helped.

Activities like themed dinners and picnics outside, badminton tournaments and scavenger hunts have helped break up our days and given everyone something new and novel to look forward to.

The other day Toby pulled his hunting rifles from the safe.

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After a review of safety procedures we set up a shooting range outside for target practice.

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It was Gracie’s idea but everyone had a “blast”…both figuratively and literally.

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It was a great break from our daily routine and a fun skill building activity to enjoy as a family.

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Our plan to make life more thrilling for our thrill-seeking extroverts was right “on target!”

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Family time for the win!

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Spoiled Rotten on Mother’s Day

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My Mother’s Day was full of blessings, despite it being a bit untraditional. Like so many around the world, Mother’s Day was spent at home away from the mothers we love. This Mother’s Day we weren’t able to celebrate our own mothers in person so we opted instead to send a package of love through the mail with the promise of in person hugs and kisses as soon as it is safe to meet again.

I counted myself blessed to have so many of my own children living under my roof during this time of quarantine, as I was able to celebrate Mother’s Day with four of my six kiddos, plus a bonus son (Zach.) Ozzie is still being treated at the residential treatment facility where he has resided for the last 12 months, so he wasn’t with us for the weekend. His facility is still under strict lockdown and isn’t allowing any visits. Braden opted to leave for the weekend, finding Mother’s Day weekend too much to emotionally manage. Instead he went to David’s house (his first adopted father) for a weekend visit.

On Sunday I received the blessed and much appreciated gift of an extra few hours of sleep. After a challenging week it was wonderful to heal under the covers with a few extra winks of sleep.

Everyone dressed for church at home where we enjoyed some thoughtfully and lovingly planned talks about motherhood. It renewed my soul and left me feeling blessed and loved.

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After church, but before the Mother’s Day lunch the kids prepared, I was presented with my Mother’s Day gifts. Each gift was planned and prepared with thoughtfulness.

Each gift was so reflective of the giver.

As is the tradition in our home, we began with the youngest child.

Tyler (with Gracie’s help) bought me a few new candles for the house, saying, “I know you like it when the house doesn’t stink.” It made me smile and touched my heart that he gave thought to what brings me joy (like an un-stinky house!)

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From Rusty I received one of his world famous paintings. I love receiving artwork from Rusty and this Mother’s Day painting was one of his best yet!! There is nothing better than to receive homemade gifts of love from your children!

“Hakuna Matata!”

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Molly also shared her talents with me in the form of poetry. Molly writes beautiful poetry and her gift for me was a Mother’s Day poem she had penned, paired with a matching illustration of her poem. Both were incredibly beautiful and touching.

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Then it was Grace and Zach’s turn. Watching the struggles of the last week led Grace to gift me with a “hyacinth for my soul.” She knows the way I heal the hurts on broken days is through a bubble bath (Calgon, take me away!) so she and Zach gifted me with essential supplies for self care. It was so personal and so perfect!

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The remainder of the day was spent relaxing and being doted on by my family. I recieved a pedicure and manicure.

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Meals were prepared and then cleaned up by my children.

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 I even got a Sunday nap!

My cup overfloweth!

 

 

The first week of May…Thank God it is Over!

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There is no role I value more or invest so much of myself in then the role of mother. It is the title I hold in highest esteem and one I feel has been divinely assigned. Whether my child came to be through biological channels or delivered into my life through a series of “God-incidences,” I know that the children under my care were divinely delivered. Because I hold the role and responsibility of mother in such high esteem, Mother’s Day has always been a cherished holiday for me…

At least it was in the beginning.

In recent years Mother’s Day has become a day that we white-knuckle our way through. Mother’s Day week is our “Hell Week” at Patchwork Farm.

In the world of Navy Seal training, the fourth week of training is dubbed “Hell Week.” 

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This is when students train for five days and five nights solid with a maximum total of four hours of sleep. Hell Week begins at sundown on Sunday and ends at the end of Friday. During this time, trainees face continuous training evolutions. 

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Pretty much every evolution during Hell Week involves the team (or boat crew) carrying their boat — inflatable rubber Zodiacs– over their heads.

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Timed exercises, runs, and crawling through mud flats are interspersed throughout the five-and-a-half days. The largest number of trainees drops out during Hell Week.

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This extreme training is critical, though. SEALs on missions must be able to operate efficiently, oblivious to sub-zero temperatures and their own physical comfort. Their lives, as well as the lives of others, may depend on it.

This is what the first week of May has become at our house. Triggered by significant traumas, the anniversary of past losses, and the complicated and tangled emotions connected to the title of “mother,” Mother’s Day week is by far the most hurt-filled for my adopted sons and the most challenging week of the year for our family as a whole.

It is understandable.

For a child who has experienced neglect and/or abuse at the hand of the one person who should be their lifeline and source of greatest security, the perception of “motherhood” is skewed. This is a reality I have come to experience firsthand over the last seven years. When raising children with attachment disorders there is no greater threat and no larger villain in their eyes then the mother of the house.

It doesn’t matter how different I may look from the mother that failed them, or how different I act from the mother that hurt them…

Because I am “mother,” I am the enemy.

Gaining a greater understanding of attachment disorders and the effects of early childhood trauma has helped me gain an understanding of why I am public enemy #1. It has helped solidify the reality that, despite all I give and all I do, it will never erase the damage done in those early years. The more I study, the more I understand this on a cerebral level…and that helps…but it doesn’t take away the sting when the attacks that are intended for the woman who hurt my sons are targeted toward me simply because I bear the name of “mother.”

Over the last seven years Mother’s Day has gone from being my favorite holiday to being my most dreaded. Once filled with childhood drawings and burnt toast in bed, delivered by sticky fingers, it is now a day filled with misplaced rage, deep hurts, and destructive behaviors. It has become our “Hell Week.”

It is the most trying week of the year at Patchwork Farm. It is the week we all brace ourselves for, knowing it will not only fall short of the Hallmark image of Mother’s Day, but will more closely resemble a documentary on Navy Seal’s “Hell Week.” It is a week of “minimal sleep and continuous training exercises” in which our fortitude and inner strength are tested to the extreme. It is a week of slugging through emotional mudflats and fighting the emotional fatigue of hefting the heavy weight of trauma above our heads for days at a time. It is a battle of endurance and more that once I have considered just not showing up for “Hell Week.”

This year was one of those years.

This year I had a pass to skip out on “Hell Week.” A year ago Toby and I began plans to take a trip we have been dreaming about for two decades. We were taking our long-dreamed about cruise to Alaska and we were planning on leaving the Saturday before Mother’s Day. Needless to say, that trip was canceled as the cruise industry shut down in the wake of Covid-19. I was disappointed on many fronts. As we entered into Mother’s Day week I mourned the loss of our long-anticipated trip, but I also mourned the reprieve from the abuse so closely connected to Mother’s day week. It was the “Hell Week”  we have come to expect from our kids that have suffered so much hurt, heartache, and loss in their short lives, but the chaos playing out at the hands of the hurt were countered by the efforts of my children who haven’t experienced trauma at the hands of a mother.

We lost our opportunity to escape to Alaska, so they brought Alaska to us.

On Saturday, following a quick run to the pharmacy to pick up prescriptions, Toby and I returned home to this:

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We were sent to our room to dress for dinner, as the kids finished transforming the dinning room into an Alaskan escape,

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Complete with mountains and evergreen trees,

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And wild animals!

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By raiding the camping supplies in the basement, they created recreated the Alaskan wilderness in our own home.

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Their creativity and efforts made me feel incredibly loved and cherished.

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Grace cooked a delicious dinner of Alaskan salmon, lemon pepper green bean, and croissants, with mint chocolate chip ice cream for dessert,

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While Molly served as our onboard waitress.

It was a perfect night and such a gift of selfless love after an especially hard week.

That is the wonderful thing about “Hell Week.” It doesn’t last forever.

It is a season of extreem challenges and intensive training. It builds muscles that are otherwise untouched and reveals to us inner abilities and our strengths. It is a time when our will is tested and we demonstrate, through our fortitude, that we will stand by our commitments and stay true to the cause.

It is choosing to fight when giving up would be easier.

It is giving our all when we feel completely spent.

It is choosing to endure rather than “ring out.”

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And it is holding on to the hope and the promise that this too shall pass.

 

 

 

 

 

“May the Fourth be with you”

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Our second themed dinner took place on May 4th.

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Embracing our inner Jedi, we planned a “May the Fourth be with You” dinner.

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After a few hard days we were  in need of some light hearted fun. Grace and I took the lead for this family fun night since the boys were busy with school and Toby, Zach and Molly were back at work.

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The dinner preparations began with the menu. Relying on Pinterest for inspiration, we came up with an easy menu, using food already on hand, and molded it to our theme using catchy names.

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Once the menu was decided we started on decorations…

Grace used her artistic talents to turn leftover gold plates into C-3PO,

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And we rolled green napkins into lightsabers.

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We also created lightsabers for each guest using water cannons and duct tape. Our original plan was to have a water gun fight after dinner using the “lightsabers,” but cold temperatures and biting wind changed our minds. We decided to save that fun for another day.

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When the work crew was nearing home, Grace and I began getting dinner ready. By the time they walked through the door the Hans-burgers were grilled,

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The Yoda Soda was poured,

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And we were ready for our “May the Fourth be with You” party.

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Our efforts were appreciated and everyone enjoyed our Jedi dinner.

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We ended the evening by watching the first three episodes of Star Wars: The Mandalorian on Disney+.

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Aloha!

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In an effort to add some levity and sunshine to our days, we have begun adding a themed dinner into our weekly menu. The idea sprouted with the girls and we decided to run with it. Trapped at home and living the same days over and over like the movie “Groundhog Day” we though a themed dinner once a week might be something fun to look forward to.

The girls led the charge with our first themed dinner. Building the night around supplies already on hand, they decided on a luau.

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Earlier that week we added two coconuts to our grocery pick-up order, thinking it might be fun for Tyler to experience breaking open a coconut. Pairing this activity with food on hand and a box of luau decorations in the basement led to a fun night at Patchwork Farm.

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They girls took responsibility for transforming the dinning room into a tropical paradise, complete with sand, shells, and Aquaman (of course!)

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The finished effect of their efforts were charming and cheery!

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Working with what we had on hand, I put together a dinner of rice, barbeque pork sandwiches and a pineapple melon salad with flower cut-out cookies for dessert.

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As dinner was cooking everyone was sent to their rooms to dress for our trip to paradise. Hawaiian shirts were donned and everyone received a lei, including all the dogs.

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We all came to dinner looking festive (at least those who opted to participate in the fun),

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And we enjoyed a delicious dinner while listening to the sounds of the tropics.

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After dinner we headed outside to open our coconuts.

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Toby drilled out the eyes so we could drink the coconut water within,

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And then cracked them open so we could enjoy the meat.

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We ended the night by watching the musical, “South Pacific.”

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We may be trapped at home, but thanks to the creativity and effort of Gracie and Molly we all got to escape to paradise for a few hours.

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Aloha!