Tag Archives: ASL

A Happy little 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…


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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!!



Just for the RECORD…


Our Gracie girl is 21.

I can hardly believe it.

It seems like just yesterday I was celebrating my 21st birthday with baby Gracie by my side.

What a joy she has been and what joy she has brought into our family. She is the child that made us parents, and allowed us to learn to parent on her, graciously forgiving our missteps and ineptness.

We named her Grace Elizabeth in honor of two of her great grandmothers, giving her the initials G.E.M, and that is exactly what she is…a gem.

What a day we had celebrating our sweet gem turning 21. Here is a look at Miss Grace’s special day…

Grace lucked out this year with her birthday falling on a Saturday. Saturday birthdays always feel extra special, since the celebrating can begin from first wake-up and continue on throughout the day, without anyone having to break from the celebration for mundane tasks like school and work. Because Gracie’s birthday fell on a Saturday,  she was able to pack it full with celebrations on many fronts with all the people she loves most.

The celebration began hours before Gracie’s morning wake-up when we snuck into the dining room to decorate for her birthday. Months earlier she made her birthday wish known when she asked for a record player. This gift became the kick-off for a really fun 21st birthday theme…

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You all know how I love a good theme!


This catchphrase became the theme of the party as her siblings wrote the 21 reasons they love Gracie on paper records that we hung around the dining room.

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Each statement of loving affirmation was endearing and so reflective of the child who decorated the paper record. Among the reasons Grace is so loved were these statements written by her siblings…


I love your selflessness.

I love your creativity.

I love your huge heart.

I love your confidence and courage.


I love your willingness to listen to whatever I talk about.

I love that we share a love for Disney.

I love that you are always willing to serve and give a helping hand.

I love that you put 100% into your hobbies.


I love you because you are there to talk to me.

I love that you love me no matter what.

I love that you are always by my side.

I love that you make me laugh.


I love how you are always happy.

I love your laugh.

I love your smile.

I love how you are so forgiving.


I love when you laugh.

I love your personality.

I love that you always play with me.

I love that you are nice.

The rest of the room was decorated to match our theme and the result was a charming birthday surprise for Grace who, after being awoken to our off-key rendition of “Happy Birthday,” came downstairs to open her gifts in the dining room.

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She loved the theme and took the time to walk around the room, reading the messages of love penned by her younger siblings.


Then we sat down, per Gracie’s request, so that she could open her gifts before the next adventure planned for her birthday.

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Our gift to Grace was the record player that sat as the centerpiece in the middle of the table.

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The kids went along with the theme, and had purchased in Disney World, two vinyl records from the parks. Rusty and Molly bought her the soundtrack to Pirates of the Caribbean.

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Ozzie and Tyler bought her the vinyl soundtrack to The Lion King.

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Braden was the only one who went in his own direction. He bought her an aloe drink, knowing how much Gracie likes them.

After a yummy breakfast of monkey bread, Grace and Molly began getting ready for the next adventure of the day. Grace invited Molly and Olivia to join her at the Sign-a-Thon held at The Mall at Robinson.


The Sign-a-Thon is a huge deaf event held every spring to increase awareness for and about the deaf community. As part of Gracie’s ASL class requirements she is asked to attend multiple deaf events each semester.


She was excited that this particular event landed on her birthday.


She decided to bring her celebration to the Sign-a-Thon  where she celebrated with Molly, Olivia, Zach, friends from church, and her closest friends from her signing classes.


They spent a few hours at the Sign-a-Thon, where Grace was able to share her love of American Sign Language interpreting with her favorite people, and then they enjoyed a birthday lunch at Plaza Azteca.


After a fun day celebrating her 21st birthday with her boyfriend and best friends, she and Molly returned home for our family celebration with Mimi Joy. For Gracie’s birthday celebration she asked if we could eat at Blaze pizza, our favorite new discovery.

We invited Mimi Joy to join us for dinner.

We arrived, each walked through the line,

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Creating our own amazing pizza,

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And feasted until we could feast no longer.

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We enjoyed an evening of good food, great company, and MUCH silliness, as we celebrated our first born baby’s 21st trip around the sun.

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Just for the record…

We think this girl is pretty grand!

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Happy birthday, Miss Grace!

A little of this. A little of that..


Time for another catch-up post.

To answer the questions of concern from those who love us and have wondered at our apparent disappearance from their lives…

Yes, we are all still alive and kicking.

No, we haven’t fallen off the edge of the Earth.

Yes, we realize we haven’t been the best friends/family members these last 6 weeks.

No, we aren’t mad, sad, or hurt by something you said or did.

 And no, we are not trying to avoid you…

We are just stretched to the max and trying to keep our heads above water.

Even blogging, my favorite therapeutic outlet, has taken a backseat to the everyday tasks we are trying desperately to stay on top of…

You know those necessary irritabilities that have to occur regularly, like meals on the table and clean clothes for the family. But we are still here and still working to find our groove with the addition of another child in the family, additional activities that the kids need ushered to, appointments out the wazoo, and school work. I have never slept so well, so deeply, or so quickly as I do in this season of life. I pray we might find our rhythm again and our days will eventual settle into an upbeat, little two-step rather than this frantic, “flight of the bumblebee” freestyle we are dancing at the moment.

But I can’t complain too loudly. God has been incredibly gracious and we have witnessed the multiplying miracle, much like the loaves and fishes, with our time and energy. On paper the math doesn’t equate. How we fit so many tasks, responsibilities and obligations into a 24 hour period is nothing short of miraculous. It testifies to the Heavenly promise that God will make a way if we but faithfully answer His call to “Go and do the things that He commands.”

So outside the tasks that take priority in our lives these days, filling our calendars with schooling, tutoring, therapy, home management, sports practices. and CYF appointments, here are some of the small moments that make up our days on Patchwork Farm:

The weather has been crazy lately. In the last few weeks we have lost power multiple times due to high winds and thunderstorms. One particularly exciting storm brought down three trees in our front yard and knocked out our power for 2 1/2 days.


It was a fun adventure at first. We lit candles and enjoyed a fun dinner and board games in the candlelight. It ceased being fun when bedtime came and my kids that are scared of the dark didn’t want to go to bed.


The next day we ran into more problems when my cyber schooled children, who rely on electricity and internet service to do school, couldn’t log in. Our short term fast from modern conveniences was humbling and was a good reminder of how many everyday blessings we take for granted.

School is in full swing for me. I have begun BYU-Idaho’s Pathway program. I am slowly adjusting to the academic workload as I manipulate the free minutes of the day searching for the 3-4 hours of study time I need to allow each day to keep on top of my classes. I have a consistent 2 1/2 hours set aside in my schedule each morning while the kids have live classes and then make up the difference by carrying my laptop with me to ball fields and waiting rooms, taking advantage of free minutes to read and complete assignments. (School is majorly cutting into my blog time!) I am, however, loving the challenge and its been fun exercising some mental muscles I haven’t worked for a while.


(The kids insisted on a back to school picture of Mom on the night of my first Pathway Gathering class.)

A few weeks ago Tyler and Brandon shared their first joint activity with the youth. It was the first youth activity Brandon was able to attend since he moved in a month ago and it was Tyler’s first joint activity having recently turned 12. It was fun that they were able to experience this “first” together, and the fact that they had Molly, Rusty, and Ozzie there as well made it even more fun.


The youth leaders couldn’t have picked a better introduction activity to welcome in Brandon and Tyler than the activity they picked: Human Foosball! The high energy activity, coupled with ice cream sundaes after the game, made for an awesome night!


Last week Miss Grace came home from school eager to show off something special.


She called us into the kitchen and pulled from a plain white envelope this:


Her ASL certificate!

Grace has completed the first half of the program, earning her certificate in sign language interpreting and is now working on the second half of the program which will earn her an associates degree in the same field before she transfers to a four year college. Grace worked so hard to earn this ASL interpreting certificate and we are so proud of our hard working girl!

Speaking of our “girl on the go”…

Miss Grace has kept busy this last month with a task beyond her normal workload. She volunteered to take on the task of planning a luau for her Young Single Adult ward with the help of a great committee. This undertaking was a big one but it was a challenge that played to her strengths. She had a blast getting creative and creating a dinner and dance around this fun theme. She said the night was a blast! Here are some photos of the night:

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Molly and two of her best buddies went out last Friday night to celebrate some exciting news. Molly, Tatum and Caleigh each campaigned for leadership roles in National Honor Society. Molly campaigned for the role of President, Tatum campaigned for the role of Parliamentarian, and Caleigh campaigned for the role of Historian.

Well, on Friday they each received the exciting news that they were elected to the leadership roles they were seeking. These three sweet girls make up 3/4ths of 21st Century Cyber Charter School’s new National Honor Society presidency.


Congratulations girls!

And in final news…

Brandon has joined Tyler and Ozzie on the back of a horse. This past week Brandon began equine therapy at Glade Run Adventures in Zelienople. He was paired with Pumpkin for the lesson and the connection was immediate. It was his first time on the back of the horse and I could tell he was a bit nervous,  but any unease disappeared as soon as he climbed atop Pumpkin.


It was an immediate connection and we soon discovered that despite lack of previous experience, Brandon was a natural.


Like Tyler, his God-given athleticism and calm confidence made him a natural on the back of the horse. Like Tyler, he also had a way with animals. He loved it and his equine therapist commented to me at the end of the lesson, as we watched Brandon squeeze and love on Pumpkin, “This is why I do what I do.”


I think equine therapy is going to be a great blessing in Brandon’s healing journey.



The Art of Hearing



What does sound look like?

If you were to turn the sound of dogs barking

Or raindrops falling

Into a visual work of art, what form would it take on the canvas?

It is an interesting question…

One I had never given thought to until last Friday,

But these ponderings have consumed my thoughts ever since, sparking within me a desire to put color to canvas and create.

Friday night, following an enjoyable day at the Erie Art Museum, Grace and I kept the prevailing theme of the day going with an evening at a local art show. Gracie heard about this particular artist from her ASL teacher. She came home eager to share news of this show with Molly and I, along with an invitation to join her.

The story behind this artist was as compelling as the artwork itself. Here is her story as told through an article published by The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

“The darkness in these paintings represents the quiet.

Bright colors portray loud sounds.

The dots show sound being transferred … sometimes broken up … between the inconsistent noises.


Artist Andrea Echavarria, who is deaf, has a cochlear implant, an electronic medical device that replaces the function of the inner ear and provides sound signals to the brain. It’s allowed her to explore another world when it comes to her paintings.

Recurring shapes in her art signify the cochlear implant, which allows her to hear things after spending most of her life in silence.


She’s now hearing loud sirens, dogs barking and the calm of her mother’s voice, which has inspired her ideas for artwork to help her express what she hears.

She’s created a collection of these expressions ­— “The Art of Hearing: Works by Andrea Echavarria” — for a show from 6 to 9 p.m. April 13 at 448 Studios, in Etna. The 30 pieces will be for sale.

“I want to let people know that deaf people can do many things,” Echavarria says via Eileen Noble, a certified American Sign Language interpreter from Harmarville. “I can express myself through my art. It really feels awesome inside. It’s my passion.”

Echavarria says she couldn’t do it without the assistance of artist Tom Mosser, whose work has been featured at sports venues across the U.S. He was her first art teacher. Mosser describes himself as part mentor, eccentric uncle figure, goofy friend, buddy, part life coach, speech coach, big brother and fellow artist. He often writes inspiring messages to her on the studio walls and works daily on learning sign language.

“Any time I’m bumming out over a sore knee, or a sore elbow or something, I only have to look across the studio floor and I see what hurdles she overcomes daily,” Mosser says. “I’ve had a giant metal ruler for years. Every so often it will fall on the floor with a huge crash. Before the implant, Andrea would never move. Now, when it happens, she kind of jumps. And that makes me smile. I’m a much better artist and person for having been around her and her family.”

“Tom has been a blessing to her,” says Andrea Echavarria’s mother, Laurel. “She would never have expanded who she is as an artist without him. He pushes her in a kind and loving way. He tells her not to be afraid to make a mistake.”

Echavarria, 29, who works in oils, watercolors and acrylics, attended the Western PA School for the Deaf in Edgewood and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and says she always knew she wanted to be an artist.

“I like being really creative and I have been using sounds I hear in my paintings,” she says. “I am a deaf person and I am proud of that. Hearing sounds is also an awesome thing.”

The transition to the implant in 2009 at age 21 wasn’t easy. It was overwhelming at times and she needed to turn the volume down on the implant.

“When I got the implant, I was wondering what I would be able to hear,” she says. “I was hoping to hear something. I didn’t know what to expect, after not hearing for so long. I began to hear sounds. I didn’t know what they were yet, but they were my dog barking, cars swooshing by on the street, my family’s voices, people talking, the telephone ringing.

“It’s hard to explain. It’s different than what you hear. Sometimes I get a headache if there’s a lot of noise. I wasn’t used to all the loud noises. I was used to a very quiet life before. I’m more confident around people now because I can speak a little now. And I just feel more connected to the world around me through sound. Technology has been a great thing for me to communicate and for my art. ”      -JoAnne Klimovich Harrop of the Tribune-Review

After driving home from Erie, Molly prepared for work, disappointed that she would be unable to join us. It was unfortunate that Molly couldn’t tag along, as I know she would have enjoyed the event, but these unfortunate circumstances allowed Grace and I to get in some fun one-on-one time.

The studio was located in Etna. Tucked behind a large warehouse, we found 448 Studios.


Within its walls we found inspiration in the form of paintings by Andrea Echavarria.


We wandered wall to wall soaking up the sight of sound as interpreted by this talented artist. The artwork was moving…affecting…powerful.


And we found ourselves drawn into the artwork.


While enjoying the art, Gracie ran into fellow classmates and teachers from her American Sign Language classes, and it was fun to step into Gracie’s world and watch her communicate so naturally and joyfully with others in ASL.

Our conversation on the drive home revolved around the things we had seen at the show. Inspired by the art of another, we both left feeling the desire to create.

I suppose that is one of the hallmarks of a true artist…

They make you look at the world in a new way,

They affect you on a personal level,

They pull from within a raw, emotional reaction,

and they touch the artist that exists within each of us, leaving us with a need to go out into the world and create our own art.






As part of Gracie’s grade in her ASL classes, she needs to attend 3 deaf events each semester. This is a part of her schooling that she loves. It gives her an opportunity to put into practice the language skills she is learning in the classroom and immerse herself into the culture of the deaf community.

This past Saturday she made plans to attend one of these events and it worked out perfectly that it was being held at The Mall at Robinson, a two minute drive from where we spent the night for Molly’s 18th birthday celebration. I’d like to say I was on the ball and planned this purposely but I wasn’t even considering this event when I chose the hotel for Molly’s 18th birthday. It truly was sweet serendipity.

We arrived at the mall and asked for directions to the Sign-a-Thon, having never been in that mall before. I was amazed at how large and thriving it was. I find most malls nowadays to be on their death bed with the influx of online shopping, so stepping into a mall that was bustling with shoppers caught me by surprise and took me back to my high school years when malls were the heart of most teen’s social scenes.

The deaf event was held in the center of the mall. The sound of music drew us to the heart of the event but aside from the music playing over the speakers the noise in the lobby was unusually quiet given the huge crowd that was gathered. We stepped to the railing and were greeted with this sight:


What an awesome view it was to look over the railing and see hundreds of people signing all at once.


While I watched the action from above (so I could capture some photos), the girls headed down below.


This was Gracie’s assignment for school but knowing Molly’s interest in/love for American Sign Language, she invited her little sister along. It was Molly’s birthday and she was wearing the crown to prove it, which gave her ample opportunities to sign, “Thank you,” and “I am 18 years old,” to the many people who wished her happy birthday (in ASL) and inquired how old she was turning.


With attendance to the Sign-a-Thon came the opportunity to make some new friends, gather information relevant to the deaf, do a little networking, and leave with a really cool t-shirt!


Grace was able to introduce Molly to fellow classmates and her favorite teacher at CCAC, a woman who has fueled Gracie’s love of the language even more.


While the girls walked from booth to booth I enjoyed watching performers on the main stage sign to the music that filled the lobby. One interpreter in particular was a joy to watch as his signed words became a sort of dance.


The girls had a wonderful time and returned to me beaming with enthusiasm at what was a very cool experience. Grace was powerfully affected by the sight of so many signing at once, and Molly was pleased to find that she was more competent in ASL than she thought she was.


She was pleased to report she understood 75% of what was signed to her while she walked around.


It was a special way to kick off Molly’s special day…

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I can’t believe my baby is officially 18!!

So, What’s New with You?


It is a question asked often enough, especially with the status of our life currently. Our family is more scattered than it used to be, with everyone moving in separate directions. Often activities posted on the blog only highlight the one or two children that were able to attend that event, so this posting is meant to catch everyone up on the comings and goings of everyone at Patchwork Farm.

Fall has arrived in Pennsylvania and for the last few weeks the leaves have been at the height of color. I feel so blessed to live in an area that experiences seasons and does so in such a showy way. Here are some photos Grace took one day on her drive down our road. It has been a beautiful fall!

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It seems Grace has been in the car more than in the house lately. She has taken the plunge face-first into adulthood and has discovered that it consists of a whole lot of running and very little sleep. Although it has been an adjustment, she has risen to the challenge beautifully and is loving life as a college student. Her days are filled with school, work, and fun activities through her church group. At school she had joined a few clubs including the World Cultures club and the ASL club and is secretary of the library club. As part of that office she was busy this week helping to lead a series of fun Halloween activities offered around campus, including trick or treating and pumpkin painting.

As a member of the Young Adult ward (the congregation of 18-30 year olds) in Pittsburgh she has had fun making new friends, participating in a religion class on Wednesday nights, church on Sunday, and social activities on the weekend.

Two weekends ago they had a temple trip to Washington D.C.,

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And last Friday, in honor of Halloween, the  young ladies had a Harry Potter party. Grace invited Olivia to come and said that the gal who was in charge of the event went all out in her attention to details. Everyone got to make their own wand, using objects like “dragon heartstring” and “unicorn hair.” There were cheat sheets describing the properties of the different choices you had in creating your wand so that each person could make a wand that was reflective of their personality.



There were also Harry Potter decorations,


And Harry Potter treats to snack on.


The girls had a lot of fun!

Molly and Rusty have grown closer as a result of Gracie’s absence. Still in the youth program at church and in the same cyber school for high school, Rusty and Molly are involved in all the same activities and have grown closer as a result. It was hard for Molly to be “left behind” by Grace, who is her best friend, but has found a renewed camaraderie with Rusty who was her best friend when they were little.

Here they are all decked out for a glow in the dark party:

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They also have enjoyed their time volunteering at Ready Yourself Youth Ranch a few mornings a week. It has worked out nicely. Due to the early hour that they volunteer, Grace is free to join them and drive them back and forth before she has to leave for school. They spend their mornings there mucking stalls, moving the horses in and out, feeding everyone and sometimes grooming. This week they learned to drive the tractor used for moving big bales of hay into the different paddocks.


Molly also has been active in a variety of school activities and clubs, including a new school club that she and Tatum have started this year. In an effort to stretch herself without Grace around, Molly decided to head up a school club with her friend Tatum. They are leading an American Sign Language club that will meet every other week. In this club they will be preparing bi-monthly lessons and activities to teach the club members the basics of ASL. Many don’t realize that although Grace is going to school to become an ASL interpreter, sign language is also a passion of Molly’s as well. I know she was a bit intimidated to put herself in a leadership position without Grace by her side but she pushed through her anxiety and has risen to the challenge beautifully. Tatum and Molly had their first club meeting on Monday and it was a smashing success!


My kids all enjoy getting mail and when their birthdays near they are all the more diligent about checking the mailbox. This week they were all thrilled to receive Halloween cards from Mimi and Pop Pop in the mailbox, and Rusty received a birthday gift from Aunt Krista and Uncle Travis. He was thrilled with his new graphic novel, funny stress-ball cat with bulging eyes, and DOG PILE puzzle game!

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With seven people in our family the kids have learned the importance of marking things that you don’t want taken. This is particularly true for leftovers in the fridge or the last few cookies in a package. It is not unusual to open our fridge and see Tupperware containers labeled with names and threats of “Do not eat, or else!” much like a dorm fridge. Tyler however took this paranoia to a whole new level recently when I found this piece of leftover 2×4 on the porch. He clearly thought it was a prime piece of wood and feared someone else snatching it, so he did what we do in situations like that:

He labeled it, clearly marking it as his. 🙂

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We have had many inquiring about Ozzie. My heart is full of joy to report he is doing awesome. Under this higher level of therapeutic care he is delving into the trauma and abuse of his past and working through the hard emotions he finds himself drowning under thanks to EMDR therapy. While there we have seen a huge shift in his behaviors. He won star student of the month for October, has joined the choir, and has passed the certification program that allows him to ride the school’s dirt bikes.

For Halloween the facility holds a huge fall festival for the boys. Because it isn’t possible to allow them to go trick or treating, they plan a fall party for the kids instead. On Halloween they were dismissed from school early and enjoyed an afternoon of games, activities, treats, and fun food to celebrate the holiday. Knowing Ozzie was going to miss getting to trick or treat with the family I sent him a glow in the dark skeleton t-shirt to wear to his Halloween party and make Halloween hands stuffed with candy for him to hand out to all the boys in his unit.

We found out this week that Ozzie  has earned a pass home for the Thanksgiving holiday, something that isn’t normally allowed this early in treatment, because of his exceptional effort and good behaviors. This has truly been God-driven placement with miraculous results. Thank you for all the prayers!


So there you go…a short recap of “What’s New?” with us.

What is new with you?


What a Weekend!!


What a full weekend we had. It was packed to the gills with projects, places to go, and things to do. It was a crazy weekend, but a productive weekend…and boy did we all sleep well Sunday night!

Here is a peek into all the craziness we crammed into a 48-hour period…

Saturday began at 7:00 am. Rusty had a bike ride scheduled with the other young men from church. They planned to meet up at 7:45 and would be gone most of the morning. The plan was to conclude their excursion at the comic book store where an annual basement blowout was being held, offering thousands of comics for only $1.oo/each.

Rusty “rolled” back home around noon, tired and happy, eager to show off his comic book finds.


The big task of the day was canning. A friend from church found a great deal on apples that we couldn’t pass up. We bought two bushels and the plan was to spend the day turning our bushels of apples into applesauce and apple pie filling. When these plans were made I thought I’d have a whole crew of helpers in the kitchen with me for the day, but soon other opportunities began to trump canning, leaving me in the kitchen with a revolving door of helpers coming and going through the day.


My first helper of the day was Tyler. He had a few hours until he needed to leave the house and eagerly jumped on the task of coring and peeling apples for applesauce.


At 10:00 am he had to leave with Toby and the girls jumped into his place as second and third in command.


Tyler and Toby were off to Pittsburgh for some unexpected fun. The previous night, while out with friends, we were offered two free tickets to a Pitt football game at Heinz field. It was decided that Toby would take Tyler. Tyler is by far the biggest football fan in the family and we knew he could use some Daddy/son time after the unsettling week he had had seeing Ozzie leave.

It was just what they both needed. They were able to escape for a few hours and enjoy some mindless fun and male bonding over football and popcorn, and they had a perfect day for it. The weather was beautiful!


At 11:00 am I lost Grace and Molly as canning helpers when they left for an event at Gracie’s school. As part of Gracie’s American Sign Language classes, she must attend a certain number of deaf events each semester. This is something Grace looks forward to and on this particular Saturday her ASL club was hosting a tie-dye activity at the school. Grace decided to invite Molly along. Molly has struggled a bit with the life changes that have occurred in our home lately. The absence of Ozzie and seeing less of Grace due to Gracie’s busy school and work schedule, has left her feeling a bit lost. Noticing this, Grace invited Molly out for a sister date. They made plans to attend the tie-dye activity and then go to Rita’s for an Italian ice after the event was over.

Both girls had a wonderful time. The ASL club had a good turn out and everyone enjoyed getting messy. The club supplied socks for everyone to tie-dye, but participants could bring other items to tie-dye as well. Grace and Molly each brought a pillowcase to color. It was a fun activity for them to share. Molly enjoyed getting to know some of Gracie’s college friends, and enjoyed getting to use some of her ASL skills.


At noon Rusty returned home, thanks to a kind young men’s leader who dropped him off on our doorstop, and then Rusty jumped into the fray of apple canning. At this point I was onto apple pie filling and Rusty helped me peel, core, and slice apples for the pie filling. He was a great help and my efficiency increased significantly with another set of hands in the kitchen.


We also made a large batch of oven dried cinnamon apple slices to enjoy as snacks. As the slices slowly dried in the warm ovens the entire house took on the delicious smell of autumn.


Around this same time Toby was heading back out of Pittsburgh to pick up the girls (after they dropped off Mimi Joy’s car that she graciously lent them for the day) and head up north for Tyler’s equine therapy.

He had another wonderful session on his horse, Smokey, and he enjoyed sharing his experience with Toby and the girls. He is a natural on the horse and we are finding the lessons to be hugely therapeutic.


After lessons Toby and the kids made a quick stop at Baldingers Candy Shop for some sweet treats.


It was now 3:00 pm and things were winding down in the kitchen. The apple slices were dried and the canning was complete. My legs ached and I was covered in dried, sticky, apple juice…but what a satisfying feeling it was to gaze upon the fruits of our labors!


It also happened to be General Conference weekend, a twice annual event in our church where we have the opportunity to hear from leadership in the form of a worldwide broadcast. It is a special weekend comprised of 4 two-hour sessions that we can watch from the comfort of our own home and receive counsel, guidance and uplifting messages from inspired speakers. We try to make it an extra special experience with a fun breakfast, activities, and booklets to help the kids take notes and stay engaged.

On Sunday morning, Rusty volunteered to be in charge of breakfast. He stumbled across a recipe online that he wanted to try. It was peanut butter and jelly French toast…and it was delicious!


While Rusty cooked breakfast, everyone else sat down to write a letter to Ozzie. This will become a regular Sunday task. My plan is to help facilitate connection between the kids through pen pal letters. There is healing that needs to occur and written letters seem a good way to foster a renewed connection in a safe and non-threatening way. The stack of letters will then be mailed one at a time through the week, creating a steady influx of mail for Ozzie, hopefully making him feel of our love and letting him know he is not forgotten.


For General Conference, I printed out our traditional bingo game and filled a bowl with our “prizes,” as well as created note taking doodle packets for the kids to use as they watched.


It was wonderful to spend that time as a family and receive inspired guidance and direction.


Sunday afternoon we also had a visit with Ozzie. It couldn’t have gone any better. He is doing beautifully and this Momma’s heart overflowed with gratitude to see him so at peace. It was a joy to get that time with him to catch up and reconnect.

Sunday night we enjoyed a game night for our Family Night activity. Friends from co-op, who also are avid board gamers, lent us an escape room game they purchased. We love these sorts of games and this one was no exception. We had a blast racing the clock and working as a team to solve the puzzles needed to win the game.


We were successful!

It truly was a non-stop, crazy weekend…

Filled to the brim with busyness…

Filled to the brim with blessings!

Gracie has Decided!



Oh, how my heart has pinched for Grace as she has worked through the process of making her first big life decision… the first of many that will follow.

It was also a test of restraint for Toby and I as we made an effort to really step back and let Gracie work through the decision making process on her own, with little input from us.

She had a hard decision to make as she pondered and prayed over the six acceptance letters she received. She wanted to make sure her goals were in align with God’s plan for her and she spent much time praying over her choices.

The decision was further complicated by the two focuses she feels called to: American Sign Language interpreting and special education. While these two focuses don’t seem too disconnected, she soon found the opposite to be true.

The more she researched these two areas she feels called to, the more she realized there was no simple, easy path to get there. These two majors simply didn’t overlap in any easy, efficient way which meant she would have to pursue this two degrees separately.

The debate then became whether to pursue them simultaneously or back to back. Which led to her second obstacle of finding a school that offers strong programs in both fields.

Oh, how my heart ached for her as she ran into roadblock after roadblock in pursuit of finding the path that would lead to her dream. But I watched and was able to witness the manifestation of the spiritual growth and maturity that has occurred over the last few years as she accepted each roadblock as an answered prayed that that path was not the right one.

The answer to her prayers finally fell into place with our last college visit in the most unexpected place when we visited CCAC. This is not even our county’s community college but we decided to tour it after hearing about their ASL interpreting program. We were able to meet with staff and ASL majors that had completed the program and were working as certified interpreters, and it felt right.

Grace felt at peace for the first time in months. She knew it was where God was calling her to begin her higher education journey.

She will complete a one year ASL certification and two year ASL interpreting program and get her associates degree as an ASL interpreter while simultaneously knocking out all the basic credits she can put toward a bachelor’s degree. We will see where the Lord leads her in three years when she moves on to a four year school to complete her Bachelor’s degree in special education and/or ASL interpreting.

We are so happy for her and so proud of the prayerful way she leads her life in accordance with God’s great plan for her.

And we are so excited to see how the Lord will use her to touch the world.

asl love

We Love You, Gracie!

Our co-op’s got talent!


Wednesday marked the last day of co-op for the year. It is hard to believe our co-op year is over. It feels like just yesterday we were beginning another school year.

The end of co-op always brings a mix of emotions. There is that end of the year excitement that precedes the start of summer break, mixed with a bit of melancholy over the passing of another year. I find that (as a Momma) there is a sense of relief that the school season burdens are beginning to lighten and that another co-op year can be marked down as a success.

Every year we have a co-op talent show in which the kids have the opportunity to share with their peers their talents and interests. Typically this happens at our co-op Christmas party. This year we decided to put off our co-op talent show until the final day of co-op.

Talent show day had finally arrived!


After lunch we gathered everyone in the lunchroom to enjoy the vast amount of talent that exists in this little group. 🙂

Here is a peek at the talents we enjoyed!

Caleigh played “Till there was you” from The Music Man on piano.

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Tatum played “Rordino” by Jean Rameau and “Prelude #7 in B Minor” by Robert  Vandall on the piano.

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Tiernan played “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and “O Come Little Children” on the violin.

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Annaliese played (and sang) “First Day” by Bright Eyes on her guitar.

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Olivia played “River Flows in You” on piano.

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Ozzie played “Russian Folk Song” and “Planetarium” on the piano.

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Joanna played “Climb Every Mountain” from The Sound of Music on piano.

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Elizabeth performed rabbit showmanship with her bunny, KitKat.

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Saga made us laugh with the jokes she prepared.

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Emily danced to “Let the Fire Fall.”

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Our favorite twins, Alec and Micah, entertained us with their annual comedy show.

And Grace performed “We’re Going to be Friends” in American Sign Language. Molly and Grace have been working hard the last month to learn the ASL signs to this charming little song. They recently had a new friend move into their young women’s group at church who communicates with sign language and they have been participating in a sign language class at church taught by her mother. The girls decided they wanted to learn a song in sign language to share with their new friend, Rachel.

They decided that after the time they put into learning it  they would also use it for their talent at the talent show. Unfortunately on the last day of co-op Molly woke with the flu so Grace had to perform it alone.

She did well even with the last minute loss of Molly.

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(When Molly felt better they recorded it to send to their friend, Rachel.)

To see the full version, as performed by Grace and Molly, click on the link below:

It was a perfect way to end a wonderful co-op year! We will get together again next week when many of us will go together on our annual trek to Kalahari Indoor Water Park. Then again the following week for our co-op’s end of the year picnic.

The school year countdown begins in full force as co-op comes to a close. Only five more weeks until we will all be chanting:

“No more pencils!

No more Books!

No more teacher’s dirty looks!”

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Last day of co-op group hug.

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