Tag Archives: church

A Night off and a Dress




Amen, Sister…AMEN!

Sometimes all a girl wants is to lay down her dusting cloth, slip into something pretty, and have a night out on the town.

Thanks to an aptly timed play I was granted “the wish my heart makes” and like Cinderella had a magical night filled with song, dance and a pair of glass slippers…

Not mine, of course. I am too old to be hobbling around in glass slippers. I wore some kickin’ Keds for the evening. 🙂

We have entered high school musical season in Western Pennsylvania, a season marked by yard signs sprinkled across the countryside advertising all the local shows. It is  fun to drive around the area and take note of what beloved musicals each school has chosen to tackle this musical season. With limited time and a short high school musical season the great debate is always… which shows to go see?!

There seems to inevitably always be more shows than free weekends which sometimes results in a “divide and conquer” approach with different family members catching various shows (staring friends from church and co-op) as school and work schedules allow.

This year Molly was able to catch two productions staring friends from church that I couldn’t attend because of meetings.

A few weeks ago, she drove down to Center Township to see Hailey and Lauren Mitchell in “All Shook Up,” and Elvis inspired show that Molly raved about for days following the production.


all shook up

She also ventured out on her own, on a night Grace had school and I had a camp meeting, to watch one of her bestest friends as the lead in the musical, Cinderella.

received_2044220899193577Rochester’s high school musical is one we traditionally attend as our friends, the Tames, are key talents in the production year after year. It is always fun to watch their talent play out on stage.


Once again Molly came home with nothing but praise for Heather and her talents as well as her younger sister, Melanie, who stepped into the role of step sister with only 3 hours notice after the young lady who was to play the role got hurt. Molly was super impressed by how well Melanie learned the lines for this new part in the hours before opening night and stepped into this new role seamlessly.

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella was also Mohawk High School’s musical this year.


Last Friday we attended their musical to watch Caleigh, one of Molly’s best buddies from co-op, who was playing the role of guard and singing girl.



Cute Caleigh is on the left.


We joined up with the Hudak gals to watch Caleigh’s performance. It was fun to attend this particular show with Lana as Mohawk School is her Alma Mater. She had lots of fun stories to tell as we waited for the show to begin.


The production was magnificent.


The show was presented storybook style, meaning the sets and props were minimal and the show was carried mainly by the talented cast…

And there was a lot of talent on that stage!

After the show we met up with Caleigh to express our accolades for a job well done. She looked adorable in her costume.


We also were able to say hello to two past co-op classmates that now attend Mohawk High School…

Sarah who was in the play as a townsperson and Jack who played in the orchestra.


This particular musical was the only one I caught this musical season, but it was a great one to catch. I left the evening whistling the familiar melodies of childhood… songs of hope, garden wishes, and Prince Charming’s love.


Then all to soon the clock was striking midnight and it was time to hurry home before we all turned into pumpkins.

Oh, how I love the magic of musicals.


Yes, Yes…100 times, Yes.

Trekking across Virginia 2017



From 1856 to 1860, about 3,000 Latter-day Saints pulled handcarts across the American plains to gather in the Salt Lake Valley. These pioneers trekked more than a thousand miles through heat and cold; through mud, sand, and sometimes snow; and through rivers and over mountains.  They faced trials that required great faith and perseverance.  Their legacy of faith, courage, determination, and consecration is virtually unsurpassed.


And this week my three oldest children got the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of these pioneers.

IMG_7249 (2)

This week was Trek week!


For the last few months my older kiddos, and other youth from the Pittsburgh North Stake, all began preparations for this unique and special opportunity to experience what life was like for those early pioneers who loaded their meager possessions into a handcart and pulled and pushed it across the untamed wilderness, driven by faith.

The last few months have been spent in preparation for this week. They prepared physically with endurance training, working their way toward the goal of walking four miles in an hour. They prepared spiritually with a fast from electronics for three days, memorizing scriptures, learning some hymns, reading a few talks and researching an ancestor the could walk for. They also prepared practically with specific packing lists and special sewing projects, as they created pioneer clothing to wear on Trek.

It was an experience that was months and months in the making, especially for the leaders who were the brains and brawn behind the operation. This was an undertaking of epic proportions and I am so grateful for those who made such sacrifices to bring this unique opportunity to fruition for our youth.

From the Trek website:

“This summer, you, the youth of the Pittsburgh North Stake, will embark on a Trek to gain a glimpse of what it was like to be a pioneer.  We hope that by setting aside the things of this world for a few days,  this experience will not only help you Come and Follow the pioneers, but that by so doing, you will have an increased desire to Come and Follow our Savior, Jesus Christ.

On Trek you will have the opportunity to:
1.  Feel and recognize the enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
2.  Learn and live the laws of obedience and sacrifice.
3.  Increase your understanding and appreciation of your family, past, present and future.”

Trek was being held 4 1/2 hours away in the rolling hills of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

IMG_7262 (2)

The kids were asked to arrive on Thursday morning by 10:00 am. We decided to leave early and make a mini vacation out of the experience by camping in nearby Luray, Virginia while the big kids trekked their way across the rolling hills of Hume, Virginia.


This was our second experience with Trek and we did the same thing last time we had to drive Grace down to Virginia for Trek.

(Photos from 2013)


Rather than drive 18 hours over the course of three days, we opted to camp at Jellystone Campground in Luray, Virginia and just make a vacation out of it.

(Photos from 2013)


It worked so well last time, we decided to do it again.

This time, however, it was just Tyler, Ozzie and I camping, as Grace, Molly, and Rusty were all now old enough to experience Trek together.

IMG_7244 (2)IMG_7242 (2)IMG_7243 (2)

Thursday morning we dropped them off, all dressed to the nines in their pioneer duds with their packed buckets.

IMG_7250 (2)

They were very excited.

IMG_7254 (2)

The handcarts were lined up by the fence and the excitement was palpable.

They were in for an amazing three days and they couldn’t wait to begin their adventure.

IMG_7264 (2)

The youth were all put into families.


Each family consisted of 8-10 teens and a Ma and Pa (adult chaperones.) It was in these assigned families that they spent most of their time. After meeting their family they loaded their handcart. Each family had a handcart that was filled with 12- 5 gallon buckets that held their clothes and gear, 12 sleeping bags, a large water cooler, food for the next 3 days, and tents. This was what they pulled across the rolling hills of Virginia for three days. 🙂 After everyone had their gear packed and strapped down with tarps they were ready to head out.


After saying our goodbyes we left, excited for the big kids and the experience they were about to embark on, but also excited to begin our camping adventure at Jellystone (more on that in the next blog.)

A friend of mine served as one of the Ma’s on trek. Here is her recording of all that they experienced over their three day adventure. (Thanks, Angie!):

“There are times in our lives that are so challenging & rewarding that we’ll never forget. It was an absolute honor to spend the past few days w/ these amazing, faithful youth that will carry the torch of our pioneer legacy. To those pioneers, including our very own ancestors, who sacrificed everything for their beliefs, even some of them their own lives, we publicly say “Thank you! Thank you for never giving up even when it was hard.”

Day 1 –
We left out air conditioned cars to Trek in 105-degree temps w/ heat indexWe divided into groups and met our “family”, which consisted of 3-young men & 5-young women. We loaded up carts w/ our buckets, which held our personal supplies, tents, water, & food…. and we trekked a few hours.
We set up camp near a stream, cooked beef stew & bread by fire & built a replica of the Nauvoo Temple – amazing!!  We were inspired by a spiritual devotional about the significance of temples & families by the Henries.

Each family made a flag. Our motto.. “WOW, IT’S HOT OUTSIDE!!!” -hc

Sweltering hot & humid night. NO sleep in our tiny tent. Never knew you could sweat so much laying still.


Day 2-
5:30 am – packed up camp & pulled out. A mob of angry livestock literally almost stampeded us while we were trekking. One of our boys lost his boot in one of many swamps & hopped on 1 foot while pushing the cart to the other side.

We had breakfast (cracked wheat w gobs of honey) & gave our message on sacrifice.We trekked up countless rocky ravines, scorching hot fields all while trying not to step in countless smelly fresh cow pies. The youth pushed & pulled that loaded 500-lb handcart by themselves each step of the way.

At one point, our young women were challenged to pull the cart by themselves up a steep hill. We stood in awe, humbled by their strength of heart, mind, & spirit. Such an empowering experience. They are amazing. They dug deep in themselves & never gave up.

We had a light lunch (bread, jam, melted mozzarella, & an apple) under some trees, planted an apple tree & headed out.
The mid-day sun was strong, many were weary & a tender mercy came in the form of a thunderstorm. And boy, did it pour!!! We were drenched from head-to-toe & it felt so good.

Many were exhausted & adversely affected by the heat. Some had to leave & take a break for a time & were taken care of by our top-notch medical & support staff. Others didn’t want to take a break & ran down hills to help other carts go up hills. Broken shoes were patched w duct tape, bug bites were soothed, blisters were forming but still everyone worked together. The focus & determination was amazing.

We shoveled cow pies so we could set up camp, ate pork-n-bean soup w rolls & then were spiritually fed by the Garcias on the enabling power of Jesus Christ’s Atonement.
We changed out of sopping wet clothes into dry ones & slept comfortably.



Multi-tasking…Cooking dinner while drying shoes.


Day 3-

6:00am – the youth made apple-cinnamon oatmeal & we heard from our great Stake President Ray Carter on pioneers & strengthening testimonies. We had personal time for scripture study, prayer, & journaling. Then we had our last family meeting. We’ve grown so close together in such a short time. We love each one of them!! Before packing up camp, we ended on a high note w/ a group testimony meeting where the youth shared their faith, beliefs, gratitude for the church, & how they’ve grown.



Grace and Molly signing to one of the trek hymns.


Then we headed out into the picturesque valley. Few more hills, knee-high grassy meadows, deep streams, & rocks. Heat was ignored – we were enjoying every last moment as the wonderful & challenging experience was coming to a close.
One last steep hill concluded the trek, the youth used every muscle & inner strength they had to make it up that hill. The parents stood at the cattle gate, cameras in hand, welcoming their more experienced & strengthened children back. Tears were shed & embraces exchanged as the journey concluded.”

IMG_7782 (2)

Saturday afternoon we arrived in time to see them pull into camp. What a moving sight it was to see these youth move toward us, pulling their handcarts.


IMG_7757 (2)IMG_7763 (2)IMG_7767 (2)IMG_7773 (2)IMG_7776 (2)IMG_7785 (2)IMG_7797 (2)IMG_7804 (2)IMG_7801 (2)

They were all looking a bit dingy with sun burnt noses, dirty clothes, and muddy boots…but their smiles were brighter than when they left.

IMG_7812 (2)


Over the last three days these youth were moved…touched…and affected in profound, life altering, testimony-strengthening ways.

IMG_7815 (2)


What an experience!

IMG_7822 (2)IMG_7836 (2)

The ride home was a delight. The little boys were eager to share all of their adventures and the big kids told us all about theirs..making bread over the fire, the beautiful countryside they slept in, their amazing families, the singing and spiritual devotionals, the physical challenges of pulling their handcarts up steep hills, the comaraderie that they felt as they worked with their families, and the satisfaction felt of making it to the end. They said that it was one of the hardest things they had ever done but also one of the most amazing experiences of their lives.


Chili Cook-off


For me blogging is like laundry. I am glad when I do it. I regret it when I don’t. And much like a Mt. Everest of laundry, when I find myself overwhelmed when the pile of pictures and stories to be blogged growing too big, I will avoid the task rather than simply jump in and begin.

It has been a few weeks since I sat down long enough to record the days of our lives at Patchwork Farm. It feels as though we have lived two months’ worth of life in the last two weeks. I finally have an hour to sit without any active parenting or fires to put out, so I am forcing myself to begin tackling Everest and write.

I’ll begin 16 days ago on a Wednesday when we had our annual chili cook-off at church.

IMG_3339 (2)

This annual event is the primary fundraiser of the year for the youth at church. Funds raised during this activity go toward the cost of their summer camps: Young Women camp for the girls 12-18 and Boy Scout Camp for our 12-18 year old boys.  

This year the chili cook-off happened a few months later than is typical, due in part to the debate as to whether this is still the best fundraising option for the youth.

As a social event it is quite successful, drawing big crowds, and is always a lot of fun, but some have questioned (including myself) whether it is the most efficient means of raising money, as much of the expense going into the event falls on the very families that are being hit with the cost of camps. I know in past years I myself have found the benefit of the fundraising effort a bit of a wash when I tally up the amount of money we put into the chili cook-off in the form of cash donations, ingredients, and the cost of buying back my children’s desserts (that I funded in the first place) at 5x the cost. 😉

Despite the debate, in the end it was decided that we would stick to tradition and the chili cook-off was a go.

IMG_3372 (2)

My kids were thrilled. When they heard that the chili cook-off may not happen this year they were sorely disappointed, so when it was announced as an upcoming activity they began eagerly planning the desserts they would auction off.

The chili cook-off is comprised of two parts. The first half of the night is the chili cook-off in which families donate chili or cornbread (which serve as the meal for everyone.) The chili and cornbread are judged by impartial judges (our missionaries) and winners are announced.


After everyone enjoys a filling meal of chili and cornbread and good conversation then the second half of the evening begins when we have a dessert auction so that people can bid and win their desserts for the evening.

IMG_3348 (2)IMG_3345 (2)

Since this fundraiser is benefiting the youth, the youth help run the event, including baking desserts to bring for the auction.

IMG_3343 (2)

This year the girls decided to combine their efforts to make special cupcakes that looked like mini pies,

IMG_3334 (2)IMG_3328 (2)

while Rusty decided to go it alone and try something ambitious and creative: A Whopper Cake!

IMG_3331 (2)

I was especially glad for kids that could accomplish these tasks independently as Ozzie and I spent the day in Butler for his second day of state testing. The big kids also kindly took on the task of cooking our family’s chili for the cook-off since I was gone all day.

The auction is always the highlight of the evening as friendly rivalry rears its head and families battle for the tastiest treats. It is all in good fun and results in a great cause: helping our youth go to camp.

IMG_3374 (2)

It was a good night.

The youth raised money.

Families enjoyed some social fun.

And everyone left with very full bellies.


Next up: Molly’s 17th birthday

WITCH way to spend Family Night?


Every Monday evening is Family Night at our home. If you stopped by any Monday night you would find us together as a family. While activities and commitments pull us in many directions on other weekday nights, Monday night is the night reserved for family.

Which is not to say every Monday looks the same.

Family Night activities vary greatly depending on the season, the emotional needs observed in the past week, practical skills we have noticed need reinforced, how tired Mom and Dad are, etc. 🙂 Sometimes family night consist of a spiritual lesson or scripture story with a corresponding game or activity. Sometimes we go do something as a family like see a movie or go miniature golfing. Some Monday nights we teach practical skills like having a family fire drill or teaching first aid skills.Some family nights are spent playing a board game inside or playing a sport outside. Sometimes we just hold a family council and discuss pressing concerns. Often family night is when we take part in holiday traditions like decorating Easter eggs, carving jack-o-lanterns, or going to the Christmas tree farm to cut down our tree.

Every Monday night is a bit different but what remains consistent is our commitment to reserve that evening for family, make a memory with our children,

and we usually end the night with a yummy treat. 🙂

This past Monday night our focus was “service.”

And the lesson was, “WITCH activity will you choose.”

We spoke about the vast amount of choices we have in how we can use our time. Not only do we have to choose between good and bad activities, but as Christians we must also choose between good and better activities. It seemed like a pertinent topic as we begin the first full week of school for everyone, and the message was just as relevant for Toby and I as it was for the kids.

With the start of school the pace of life picks up,

and there are so many GOOD, really good, ways to spend the hours of our day,

but in the end we must choose those things that we value most and which bring the most value to our lives.

One of the best uses of our time, we discussed, was “service.”

And this week we had the perfect opportunity to act on that lesson.

In our church we don’t have a paid custodian. The responsibility of cleaning and caring for the building falls on the families who worship there. Families have the opportunity a few times a year to sign up to clean the church building. This involves cleaning bathrooms, wiping chalkboards, polishing furniture, emptying the trash cans in the classrooms, cleaning the glass doors, and vacuuming the carpets.

Cleaning as a family has provided us a wonderful opportunity  to teach our children to appreciate the great blessing of a building to worship in, as well as encourage them to take ownership in the care and upkeep of the church building.


This week was our family’s turn to serve our church family and clean the church building. It was a wonderful opportunity to put our lesson in action.


The kids are old pros at this, having been involved in cleaning the church since they were young,

so everyone arrived with their chosen job in mind.

Everyone has a favorite task. They gathered their cleaning tools and set to work.


Molly was a good sport and volunteered to clean toilets.


The kids worked fast and efficiently and in 90 minutes we were done.


Next it was time for the treat and we had a special treat in store for these hard workers.


In a nearby town there is a charming little ice cream store called “Witch Flavor?”


We have been wanting to go for a while after hearing many rave reviews about the Penn State Creamery ice cream they serve there. We arrived at 8:00 and everyone chose their flavors. Like the choices laid before them in how they spend their time, they now faced a similar decision in choosing the BEST flavor among all the GOOD choices.


The ice cream lived up to the reviews and we sat outside on Main Street enjoying a taste of summer as we brought our lesson home with the “WITCH choice will you make?” theme.

As they licked the dripping ice cream they also learned another valuable life lesson:

“Sweet” rewards come to those who work.


Sweet rewards, indeed!