Tag Archives: Christmas

Merry Christmas!

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It was a blessed Christmas, with our day spent enjoying the gift of family.

Grace and Zach had left to go home the night before. They were spending Christmas day with Zach’s side of the family, so it was just the five kids who stumbled from their beds, rubbing the sleep from their eyes on Christmas morning.

The first errand of the day was to go and pick up my Grandmother from her place before setting the kids lose on the stockings. Braden asked if he could accompany Pop Pop to go and pick her up. I’m sure he made quite a splash at her retirement home when he arrived to pick her up, still dressed in his Flash onesie.

When they returned home the adults settled into their spots in the living room and then the kids were given the all-clear to enter and check out the loot. Everyone found an empty chair or a section of floor to claim for the morning festivities and stockings were handed out.

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Stockings are a big deal in our family and they have always been the highlight of Christmas morning for me, ever since I was a young girl. We all have matching knit stockings bearing our names, so lovingly made by G.G.

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Over the last six decades she has knit dozens of stockings for each new baby and each family member that has joined the family through marriage or adoption…

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A tradition that Aunt Jane has lovingly taken on this last year, thus making sure Braden has a stocking that matches the family.

Filling the stocking is a group effort as the women all seek out fun, unusual trinkets and treats to make the stockings a magical part of Christmas morning.

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It is always a delight to see what novelty items everyone pulls from their stocking and the matching bags Gracie sewed last year to hold the overflow of gifts that inevitably can’t fit in the stockings each Christmas.

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Once everyone has sifted through their loot it is time for gifts. With two children playing Santa each year, gifts are handed out one at a time to each family member. Once everyone has a gift in hand permission is given to tear into the paper and ribbons.

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Gifts are shown and shared, so everyone can see what others received, and so I can write down and keep a record of who received what from whom, for thank-you note writing later.

We continue working our way though the pile a gift at a time until the yummy smells wafting up from the kitchen let us know that the breakfast casserole and Danishes are ready.

A break for breakfast and then we are back in the living room opening more gifts until the room is filled with torn wrapping and shiny new toys.

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The afternoon is spent enjoying the gifts of the day. New board games are pulled out to be played as a family while Christmas dinner cooks in the kitchen. Footballs get carried outside for play and Lego sets get dumped out in the corner as the building begins.

Christmas Dinner at the Homestead is a traditional affair with ham, potatoes, and side dishes galore! Our meal always ends with the breaking of the Christmas crackers found at each place setting. The loud pop and tear of cardboard reveals a paper crown and some sort of toy. This year’s Christmas crackers contained whistles. Each one played a different note, and when played together, with the use of accompanying song sheets, could make beautiful music.

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“Could” is the operative word.

Despite our efforts the noises we made never resembled anything like the song we were trying to play. Instead we sounded like a bunch of dying cats. We definitely won’t be taking our show on the road anytime soon!

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We all soon regretted my parents’ Christmas cracker choice. There is nothing more grating on the nerves than high pitched whistles in the hands of boys with severe ADHD.

After a dessert of pecan pie it was time to load up the car and head back home. Half of our crew had work the following morning, so at 7:00 pm we bid the family fare-thee-well, and headed back home.

It was another blessed Christmas at the Homestead!

 

‘Twas the Night Before, the Night Before, Christmas

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On December 23rd I received the best Christmas gift of all…

Having all my kiddos home together!

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On Monday night we picked up Ozzie in Pittsburgh, where the transport van from his residential facility dropped him off. He was as excited at the prospect of Christmas as the rest of my crew.

We arrived home and there we were joined by Grace and Zach, as well as Toby who arrived home with pizza in hand. It was our annual “The night before, the night before Christmas” party…One of my favorite nights of the Christmas season.

A few years ago we began the tradition of setting aside December 23rd for the kids to exchange gifts with one another. This tradition began when we saw that the gifts, so lovingly made or purchased by brothers and sisters, often got lost in the larger gifts from Santa and other relatives on Christmas morning. In an effort to forge connection, encourage thoughtful giving, and increase gratitude among siblings we decided to set aside a night specific to gift giving in our immediate family.

Since December 23rd was already the night we traditionally gifted the kids with their yearly Christmas ornament, we decided to make it a celebration of our immediate family before joining our extended family members on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and the days that followed.

This was one of the best ideas we had as a family and this tradition has become the highlight of my Christmas season. As a mom it brings me such joy to see the love shown among siblings as they thoughtfully bring the magic of Christmas to their siblings.

This year we switched things up a bit and rather than everyone making or buying gifts for everyone else, the siblings instead drew names and shopped for just one person, allowing everyone to really personalize their efforts and focus on showing love to one certain sibling. With Zach in the mix we now had seven kids each picking a name and shopping for one another.

The night began with the traditional reading of my favorite Christmas book of all time, one that delights me in its relatability!

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After a yummy pizza dinner it was time to begin the gift giving. We began with our ornament exchange. Every year Toby and I purchase for each child (and each other) an ornament that is reflective of interests, hobbies, or events from the past year. This was a tradition we began on Gracie’s first birthday and it is always a delight to unpack years’ worth of memories when we decorate the tree.

This year Gracie married Zach and took her 21 years worth of Christmas ornaments to her new home to decorate their first tree as a newlywed couple. This is a gift of love each child will be able to look forward to as they launch and have homes and Christmas trees of their own.

This year we focused our ornament choices on major life events for those kids who have experienced a life transition, and ornaments reflective of interests/hobbies for those who haven’t. We began handing out ornaments oldest to youngest.

Toby received a family ornament that highlights his new brood of kiddos…a brood that has grown by 2 this year through adi

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Toby continues with a two decade tradition of buying me another angel ornament for the tree. This year’s ornament he secretly purchased while we were at Disney World. (And I, of course, forgot to capture a photo of it. You’ll have to trust me when I say it is beautiful!)

This year we transitioned to a couple ornament for Grace and Zach. It had to reflect their new and exciting journey as husband and wife. This is what we chose:

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Molly’s ornament celebrated her graduation from 21st Century Cyber Charter School and her exciting launch into adulthood.

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Rusty’s ornament celebrated his beginning college classes through CCBC’s duel enrollment program. He is going to school to be a drone pilot.

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Braden experienced one of the family’s biggest life changes this year when he was adopted into our forever family. His ornament couldn’t be anything but a celebration of that wonderful day!

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Ozzie’s ornament was so perfectly Ozzie, that I had to buy it when I found it online. What ornament could be more perfect for my weather loving 15-year-old than a Galileo thermometer ornament for the tree!

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And Tyler’s “to-cool-for-school,” low-riding Santa, with accompanying soundtrack, fit our youngest perfectly!!

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Then it was time for the sibling gift exchange!!

Braden’s gift to Grace was a new lunch bag and thermos for her to take to work.

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Tyler bought Zach a few new board games.

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Rusty found a perfect gift for Ozzie. Ozzie loves puzzles and Rusty found a set of six mini puzzles online that are packages to look like mini boxes of cereal. He paired the puzzles with an actual variety pack of sample cereals.

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Gracie’s gift to Molly was equally personal and extra special. In honor of Molly’s upcoming temple experience Grace bought Molly a necklace bearing a stone setting made from the same marble as the Palmyra, NY Temple, where Molly will soon be making covenants with the Lord.

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Molly’s gift for Braden was two parts. The first was a new Sunday tie she purchased for him from Etsy that bears the symbol of his favorite superhero- The Flash. She also made him an affirmation jar filled with 100 strips of paper listing the things she loves and admires about him.

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Zach had Rusty’s name and bought him a Wall-E Disney-bounding outfit.

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Rusty also received a bonus gift from Toby…The world’s largest water bottle!! Rusty is our water drinker and is never without a water bottle in hand. We tease him about his excessive water consumption, so when Toby stumbled across this gigantic water bottle he couldn’t help but pick it up for Rusty.

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After the siblings had all exchanged gifts it was time for Toby and I to open our gifts from the kids. This was another tradition added to December 23rd for the same reason as the sibling gift exchange. We wanted to be able to really appreciate and focus on the gifts of love from our children without them getting lost in the chaos of Christmas morning. It is always a joy and a delight to see the amount of time, thought, creativity and effort our children put into showing us their love through their Christmas gifts.

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This note from Tyler is a keeper!!!

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Rusty knows what brings his dad joy.

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Ozzie carved and painted this Christmas plaque for me in workshop. Another treasure!

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Toby also received a jar of 100 affirmations from Miss Molly. A gift that will be treasured even more in her absence!

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And Rusty painted me a charming picture. I love Rusty originals!!

It was at the end of opening our gifts from the kids that Ozzie received his big surprise that we revealed in the last blog.

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It was a blessed night of loving and giving.

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My cup overfloweth!

 

Christmas Surprises!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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They each received a bag filled with themed goodies…

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1, 2, 3…OPEN!

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

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Merry Christmas!

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The following evening Ozzie received his Christmas gift.

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

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Here is his reaction to his Christmas surprise…

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

2020 promises to be a memory-making year!

 

 

 

A Co-op Christmas Party

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love this gang of people!

Molly is Home!!!

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Miss Molly is home,

And we couldn’t be happier!

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

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

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

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

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Molly at BYU-I’s light-up night.

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Molly enjoying a Relief Society Christmas party with friends.

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

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

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I love to see the temple!

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

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A gingerbread house decorating competition.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now Christmas is allowed to arrive!

Skating under the Stars

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

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

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

And I was right!

It was simply magical,

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Like a scene from a Hallmark movie.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can hardly believe Christmas is days away!

 

 

“You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out!”

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A Christmas Story:

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

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

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

Well, pretty close to our backyard…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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On the first floor we found the kitchen.

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

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

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

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

Christmas morning under the tree,

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Ralphie listening to the Little Orphan Annie radio program,

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The Red Rider BB gun tucked behind the desk,

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

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

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Before walking across the street to the museum.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned!

 

 

Time to Trim the Tree

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

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

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

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

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

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

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It was magical!

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

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

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

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

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

It’s Tree Hunting Time!!

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

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

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It was tree-hunting time!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Timber!!

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

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

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

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

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

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Which was amazing!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

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