Tag Archives: baking

Life is Short…Eat Christmas Cookies!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


We are one step closer to being Christmas-ready!


Reindeer, and Rabbits, and Robin…Oh My!



We all have our own favorite holiday traditions.

In fact, it sometimes feels as though the Christmas season doesn’t last nearly long enough to fit in everyone’s favorite holiday activities amid the busyness of everyday life that continues to march on through the month of December…

despite everyone’s wish that we could just “play” all month long.

We have learned that we must prioritize.

We begin the Christmas season with a family meeting where we discuss the family’s vision for the upcoming month and each family member gets to weigh in on what family traditions are most important to them. Using this “Top 7” list we begin to pencil in some of the activities on the December page of the calendar. Many of these traditions take place at our weekly Family Night when everyone is home together. Because of Ozzie’s absence this holiday season we have worked hard to reformulate the way we do some of these beloved traditions so that he wouldn’t have to miss out. It isn’t the same as him being home, but it is the next best thing.

Christmas time is about unconditional love, service, sacrifice, giving of oneself, and family, and we have tried to bring those key values into our visits with Ozzie.

Sunday was our cookie decorating day. Having baked 4 dozen sugar cookies on Saturday, Sunday was freed up to enjoy the fun part of the project which was the decorating. Knowing how much Ozzie loves this particular Christmas tradition we brought to our weekly visit a container of homemade sugar cookies, icing, and lots of sprinkles and glitter so he could decorate, share, and of course eat his fill of cut-out cookies.


When we returned home (after a great visit with Ozzie) we proceeded to do it all over again with the other four kids. Supplies were gathered and spread across the plastic tablecloth as everyone took their seats around the dining room table.

But someone was missing.

Tyler was hiding once again.

These last two weeks have been fraught with high anxiety and hard emotions. I think the combination of the holiday season, and all the hard emotions that come with the holidays when you have had the past that Tyler has, as well as the realization that Ozzie is coming home in a few days (which brings with it feelings of excitement and joy but also feelings of anxiety and fear) has led to an increase in his already noticeable facial tics ,as well as an increase in his tendency to hide in closets or small spaces…a regression that occurs when he is afraid.

I knew he was struggling and knew it was better to not push, so we began decorating cookies with Tyler hiding behind the Christmas boxes in the corner. My hope was that as he listened to the lightness and laughter of our activity his anxiety would decrease and he would emerge when he was ready…

And he did.

Eventually everyone was seated at the table enjoying this favorite Christmas tradition.

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I loved the creativity shown as family members took traditionally shaped cut-out cookies and found within the familiar lines less familiar objects…


Gingerbread men were turned into reindeer:


Stockings transformed into bunnies:

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Trees became clocks:

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Presents were turned into snow globes:

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Tyler turned his gingerbread boy into Batman’s sidekick, Robin:


And Toby took a deformed stocking and found within its distorted lines the Statue of Liberty:

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The end result was 3 platters of the most creative Christmas cookies EVER,

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And a night filled with special family memories.

A “Snow Day” Sabbath



This past Sunday was declared a “Snow Day” at Patchwork Farm.

Our driveway situation left us stranded with no way to get to church, so we had to declare it a Sabbath Day at home.

We made the best of the situation, enjoying spirit-strengthening activities and a family devotional/scripture study time together, since we couldn’t get any of our vehicles out of the driveway to get to church.

It ended up being a restful day at home. After months apart it was kind of nice to have forced stay-at-home time as a family, despite the driveway frustrations.

Our day was spent listening to Christmas hymns, participating in #Light the World service activities, and reconnecting as a family.


Molly wallpapered my door with Post-it notes of encouragement for the #Light the World challenge. Love that girl!


The kids spent the afternoon finishing their homemade Christmas gifts. I love seeing the thought and love they put into their gift giving.


In the evening we sat down as a family and decorated Christmas cookies. Earlier in the week I had baked sugar cut-out cookies for the cub scouts to decorate. I baked extra and put them in the freezer, waiting for Toby to arrive home so we could decorate them as a family.


It was wonderful.


With the sound of the Tabernacle Choir singing Christmas carols in the background, we talked, laughed and decorated cookies.


It is always fun seeing the creativity of each family member come out during activities like this one.

In the end we ended up with MANY trays of decorated cookies…enough for our family plus plenty more to share with neighbors and those who could use a Christmas pick-me-up.


It wasn’t a “typical” Sabbath Day, and we missed being able to worship with our church family, but it ended up being a blessed, holy day, and just the thing our family needed.


Baking for Make-A-Wish



I believe, as parents, we all desire certain things for our children. We desire happiness for them and good health. We pray that they will have discernment and that they will be wise, and then we pray for their safety for those times when they aren’t so wise.

We hope they will feel loved by us, and others, and most importantly by their Father in Heaven.

We want them to find friends, good friends, that will strengthen them and make them better.

We raise them to have roots, deep roots that will ground them and secure them when the winds of adversity blow, but also raise them to have wings that will allow them to take flight and soar high above the pull of the world.

We work diligently to teach them, and guide them, and help them grow in stature and spirit. We work hard, hoping we aren’t messing them up too badly, as we work to grow good kids, happy kids, healthy kids, strong kids, righteous kids, respectful kids, kind kids.

We struggle to find the balance as we affirm them in hopes of growing secure, confident children without indulging them to the point of handicapping them with the chains of entitlement.

We want our children to be bold in their faith, beliefs, and convictions, but kind and loving to all.

We pray that our sons and daughters know their value as a child of God, but humbly recognize all that they are and all that they have comes from God…not from them.

We want to raise children who are aware of all that exists outside themselves and whose hearts burn with a desire to touch the world… and change the world… and make it a better place.

We hope our sons will develop into gentlemen and our daughter into ladies, with all the lovely attributes those titles inspire.

We want our children to think of others, not because they have to, or because their parents said to, but because they have discovered for themselves the joy that comes from being a blessing to others, from living outside one’s own self focus, and from the practice of observing the needs that exist around them and working to meet those needs.

We want our children to understand that so many of the attributes the world holds up as a measure of worth and a standard of a well lived life (wealth, power, appearance, wit, status, etc.) are fleeting, but doing good, and being kind, and loving others…well, those attributes never lose their shine. Those attributes are the real deal. They are the real measure of a well lived life…of a happy life.

We are blessed to be part of a co-op that shares a similar philosophy.

In addition to the many other benefits we gain from being part of this cooperative learning group (friends, support, traditional school experiences, holiday celebrations and enriching field trips) the kids also have the opportunity to serve.

Each month our co-op takes on a service project, giving the students the opportunity to discover the joy of serving others. One of the favorite service projects for the year is our annual bake sale in which the money raised is donated to the Make-A-Wish foundation. This is a charity close to our co-op’s heart due to two of our co-op families having received a wish granted by this amazing charity.

The co-op kids take ownership of this service project by making treats to sale, as well as by breaking into their own piggy banks to have the funds needed to support this charity by buying treats…and eating them, of course! The kids love this annual event!

Each of my kids knew they wanted to make something to donate to the bake sale, but I knew that Tuesday was going to be busy with five different appointments that day, so we decided that for Monday’s family night we would have a family bake-off in the kitchen so that everyone could get all their treats ready for Wednesday.

The kids all knew what they wanted to make:

Grace- Nutella cupcakes

Molly- Oreo balls

Rusty- No bake bars

Ozzie- Chocolate chip cookies

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Tyler- Baymax cupcakes

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Everyone got to work, claiming a portion of the counter space as their own. Toby helped coordinate the oven usage by running the timers and adjusting the temperatures when the next baked good went it.

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We turned on Disney music and the kids had fun baking, visiting, and singing along as they worked. I answered baking questions and acted as site supervisor for the project. 🙂  It was a really fun way to spend the evening as a family, while also accomplishing a big task on the to-do list.

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Co-op was a blast on Wednesday. They kids loved showing off their cooking creations, as well as checking out (and taste testing) their friends’ baked goods. The little boys loved “shopping” for treats with their own money, and everyone was excited to raise money for the Make-A- Wish foundation!

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Good job Kids!!


DC Cupcakes


“A cupcake is happiness with icing on top.”

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Our trip ended, as every good meal does, with dessert!

After reading about Georgetown Cupcakes in a friend’s blog (Thanks Karissa) I knew it needed to be our final stop.

Home of the TLC reality show, “DC Cupcakes,” it is located in Georgetown.


We arrived an hour before closing, found a parking spot, and enjoyed strolling through downtown Georgetown.

We found the bakery easily enough and then waited for 30 minutes to get inside to order.

The line to get inside stretched down the sidewalk.

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As we waited we looked up the menu on Toby’s phone

deciding what we would order before we got to the counter.

Once inside the kids posed beneath the cupcake menu, pointing to their cupcake choices.

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At $3.00 a cupcake it was one of the more affordable treats we ran across in Washington DC…

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and they were delicious!

They came packaged in the iconic pink packaging of DC Cupcakes.

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We ate outside, enjoying the cooler temperatures of evening, and the fun atmosphere of the city.

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The cupcakes were sweet…

but the company was sweeter.

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You know life is good when you can:

“Have your cupcake and eat it too.”

Case Closed!


My “littles” are easily thrown by change. They get nervous and anxious by a change in routine, new experiences, and the unexpected. They lived lives of uncertainty and high anxiety in their early years, as they weathered the scary road of abuse and foster care. The result of those years of uncertainty is that we always have emotional fallout whenever there is change. Something as small as a change in the time we have lunch can cause major anxiety and acting out. So when a BIG change in routine and predictability occurs

I brace myself knowing that we will have emotional fallout.

I left for my scrapbook weekend knowing that I would pay for my  absence when I returned home.

But it is ok.

Now knowing and anticipating that result makes dealing with it easier. Knowing why we deal with those results makes me more understanding.

I have two little boys who have lived lives in “fight or flight mode” for so long that any change, even good changes, send them into a hyper alert state.

The weekend away was needed and such a blessing. I left knowing that I’d pay for my absence on the other side, but it was well worth it.

When I returned home the payback began. Like a puppy traumatized by the experience of being left alone, I too was punished for leaving. The boys acted out…

Ozzie with emotional testing and Tyler with naughty behaviors.

The first incident occurred the night I arrived home. Grace was off to take a shower when she stepped back out of the bathroom and asked,

“Who cut their own hair?”

Nobody fessed up. Everyone denied their guilt. My silly boy didn’t realize that it didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to solve this mystery. The chestnut locks that littered the bathroom sink could only belong to one child…Mr. Tyler.

We called him over, examined the damage, and discovered that he had “cut” his hair with his sister’s razor, leaving a few lovely bald patches in the center of his head.

Oh the joy of parenting! 😉

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 This incident led us into the perfect timing of a new commitment on our schedule:

Trauma support group on Monday nights.

Our adoption agency just started a new support group that we have been invited to attend. It is set up for families who have adopted traumatized or abused children. Monday was our first meeting. We arrived at the church where the support group is being held. The first 30 minutes were spent eating dinner together. They provide dinner at each meeting and this past Monday they served Pizza Hut pizza. It was a treat to not have to cook!

Following dinner the kids were taken into one room where they had games and activities planned, while the adults went into another room. The adults are taking part in a 6 week parenting course on abuse and trauma.

It was a wonderful meeting and everyone had a good time.

 Tuesday was Molly’s birthday and in addition to celebrating our special girl we also had to get ready for a bake sale. On Wednesday, at co-op, we had our annual bake sale planned to raise money for Make a Wish. The kids were all in charge of making things for the bake sale and then pricing their goodies at .25 or .50 each. They brought their spending money and bought treats too. All the money raised will be donated to the Make a Wish foundation.

This is a favorite service project that the kids always look forward to.

Tuesday the kids raided my kitchen and began baking. Tyler and Rusty worked together to make Steeler cupcakes.



On Wednesday we arrived to discover a plethora of treats. Everyone had put much time and love into raising money for this special cause. During the third hour the bake sale opened and the kids began making their purchases. By fourth hour the sugar was coursing through their veins…

making 4th period music class with Tyler an extra bouncy experience. 🙂

The bake sale was a huge success! This small group of kids baked, sold, bought and in the end

raised $104.41 for the Make a Wish foundation!



 While at co-op Molly received a birthday surprise from her dear friend Chessa. Chessa made this hat for Miss Molly. Isn’t it darling? Chessa is very talented!


We are in the midst of “March Madness” at 21st Century Cyber Charter School (Rusty and Gracie’s school.) To make things fun the teachers set up a little competition to see whose students have earned the most points with their school work. Every week the students of two teachers compete and the winning class moves on to the next round. Rusty was thrilled to show me that his class under Trisha Miller was one of the final two. There is one round left with the winning class walking away with some fun prizes.

I think Rusty will be working extra hard this week. 😉


Beware of little boys and unsupervised electronics.

The evidence of Tyler’s guilt was found on Molly’s iPod last night. He claims he never touched her iPod without her permission but thanks to some top-notch detective skills he was caught.

(I swear he thinks I’m as dumb as a rock!) 🙂

The “proof” we discovered on her device:

Ahh, brought down by…

 “The selfie!”






Case Closed!


Baked with Love!


Saturday we had an unexpected surprise. We received a call from Sandy, Zoey’s mom, asking if she could steal Ozzie away for the day for some special brother/sister time together. I was thrilled…both for Ozzie, who is still missing his biological sister, but also for Toby and I who haven’t had a date in while. It was much-needed for all involved!

We met in Cranberry where we surprised Ozzie with sister time. Sandy loaded the kids up and they spent the day going to lunch, exchanging Christmas gifts and seeing the new Annie movie.

Ozzie and Zoey

Ozzie and Zoey

Toby and I stayed close by in case we needed to pick up Oz earlier than expected. We had the best day I’ve had in a long time! We spent the day doing last-minute Christmas shopping and grocery shopping. It was wonderful being able to visit without little ears listening and talk without little people interrupting. We are still not in a place with Ozzie where he can be left with siblings or inexperienced babysitters, so we haven’t gone out alone for a long time. We had a great time snacking at Costco, shopping for the kids and TALKING, really talking, to one another. Before we left to pick Ozzie up we had lunch out at Primanti Bros.. It was a perfect day and it left me feeling reconnected to my husband and recharged after a hard month.

Ozzie had a great time with his sister and as we were saying goodbye to Sandy I gave her a hug and told her that today was the best Christmas gift ever!

Adoption, like all challenging seasons of life, can take a toll on a couple’s relationship. The fatigue I feel daily is comparable to those early years of parenting when I had a sleepless newborn and busy toddlers. Parenting a newly adopted child with challenges requires the same active parenting and supervision that parenting a little one would, except with a lot bigger tantrums. The effect brings about a weariness and a numbness that is challenging to a marriage. I find myself, on the worst of days, laying in bed  before we turn off the light, thinking of the things I need to tell Toby  and realizing I simply don’t have the energy to converse.

“I’ll just tell him tomorrow,” I will think to myself.

This is why Saturday was such a gift. For six hours I didn’t have to referee, guide, direct or parent. I could simply be a woman and a wife.

It was a precious gift.

In the evening we had planned another favorite family tradition, Gracie’s pick for the season:

Christmas Cookie Decorating!

It was a fun, creative, yummy way to spend the evening. 🙂

All ready to decorate...

All ready to decorate…

Father and son...looking good in green!

Father and son…looking good in green!



Busy working

Busy working

It is so much fun to play with your food!

It is so much fun to play with your food!

Toby, Molly and Grace

Toby, Molly and Grace

The finished products...all ready to put out for Santa!

The finished products…all ready to put out for Santa!