Tag Archives: co-op

Just by the Skin of our Teeth

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It is crazy how much life has changed in the last few weeks. So much is uncertain right now, including Molly’s mission plans. So much is up in the air. For this reason we are grateful we got so much visiting squeezed in over the last few weeks.

Originally, Molly was to be set apart as a full time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints this coming Friday…as in 4 days from now. Tickets were purchased for us to fly her out to Utah this Saturday, with plans to spend a few days together in Utah before dropping her off at the Missionary Training Center on April 1st.

Currently the plan is for her to be set apart as a missionary on March 31st with her period of missionary training to begin April 1st in the comfort of her own bedroom. Her MTC experience will be virtual, with her training taking place for 6 hours a day through a virtual classroom. She is scheduled to head to Utah on April 28th to begin her mission, but with things changing worldwide by the hour, we will see where things stand a month from now.

Despite a worldwide pandemic delaying her departure, we are grateful we planned on her leaving at the end of March, because she was able to see many friends and say her good-byes to many loved ones before we went into self-isolated lockdown. Our last few visits were cancelled due to closures that came down the pike over the last week. Our scheduled trip to the temple with Mimi Joy was delayed due to temples being closed. A final visit with Ozzie and G.G. were also delayed due to their facilities locking their doors to visitors. We are hopeful Molly will be able to squeeze those visits in before she leaves…

Whenever that may be.

Here are some of the final visits she was able to enjoy before the world got sick:

On the Sunday before our church canceled meetings and Sunday services, Molly was able to visit the Single’s Ward in Pittsburgh for a final time to say goodbye to friends there:

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On the following Friday Grace hosted a farewell party for Molly with all of Molly’s best buddies from co-op… those childhood friends who are her nearest and dearest soul sisters. They enjoyed an evening of good food, crafts, and time spent reminiscing and loving on each other before a 18 month separation.

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The next day Molly headed to Zach’s family’s house to visit Heather. Zach’s younger sister, Heather, is one of Molly’s best friends and she wanted to make sure they fit in a visit before she left for Utah.

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On Monday we met up with Aunt Beth at Eat n’ Park for breakfast and a catch-up. We all adore Aunt Beth and don’t see nearly enough of her. Molly wanted to make sure we could get together with Beth so she could say good-bye.

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And of course we had our last trip to the Homestead before we went into lockdown. While we were out there we celebrated Gracie’s March birthday and Molly’s April birthday with Mimi and PopPop.  Here are some additional photos of our time in Ohio eight days ago:

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It is crazy how much things have changed in a week!

We are still not sure what will happen over the next month or two with Miss Molly. We will be sure to keep you in the loop. Her uncertainty about upcoming plans is certainly being mirrored by the uncertainty we are all feeling as we navigate unchartered waters,

But we are grateful for the visits she was able to squeeze in before we all hunkered down.

Stay safe, friends!

 

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!

Pancakes and Painting Party

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As part of our co-op’s bi-weekly gatherings, Miss Corrina planned a second, amazing activity for our group.

Our co-op has evolved so much over the last decade as the needs in our group changed with the passing of time. As our children grew out of the early elementary years and into middle school, and then high school, our vision for the co-op evolved as well. We no longer needed the holiday parties and structured classes that were so important when they were little. Last year it was decided we had outgrown the co-op’s original function and now our needs were more social. Last May we retired a part of our life that was such a keystone of our week for so long. Unwilling to walk away from the co-op family that had become such an integral part of our life, we opted to adjust our vision for the group.   Rather than meeting every Wednesday for lessons, we decided to meet every other Friday for a learning/social activity. Each mom signed up for a month. This gave everyone a break for the other 7 months of the school year, while also allowing each mom to get creative and plan two activities built around her family’s interests/and or desires.

It has been a lot of fun seeing the wide variety of activities and field trips planned throughout the year, each one so different than the one before, and each fun and engaging in their own unique way.

Miss Corrina was our March mom. Her first planned outing was a historical tour of Darlington. For her second planned activity she went in a completely different direction with a hands-on art activity.

It was held at our old co-op building and the activity was a painting class taught by Corrina’s sister-in-law who teaches these “ladies’ night out” painting classes professionally.

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When we arrived, the lunchroom was set up with easels, canvases, paint and paint brushes allowing us all to participate as we were guided through the step by step process of painting this sample painting:

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Our group was comprised of elementary students up to grandmothers and everyone had a blast putting on their artist hat and getting creative.

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We were led through the steps in a way that lifted the intimidation of trying to create such a complicated piece of art,

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And everyone had a blast painting while visiting with friends.

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The process took 90 minutes and the end results were as varied as the artists themselves.

It was so much fun seeing everyone’s finished products.

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Our activity concluded with a pancake lunch and play time with friends in the gym before it was time to head back home to get the last of our school assignments done for the week.

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Duck-pin Bowling

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The first of our two January Co-op get-togethers occurred near Butler when Miss Wendy booked bowling lanes for a fun, Friday afternoon activity.

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But these were not the “normal” bowling lanes.

 They were duck-pin bowling lanes…

 A completely different animal! 

For instance, the balls used to bowl are a far cry from the traditional bowling balls one is accustomed to. They are around 5” in diameter (which is slightly larger than a softball), weigh around 3.5 pounds and lack finger holes, making them significantly smaller than ten-pin bowling balls.

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The pins, while arranged in a triangular fashion identical to that used in ten-pin bowling, are shorter, smaller, and lighter than their ten-pin equivalents, which makes it more difficult to achieve a strike.

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For this reason, the bowler is allowed three rolls per frame…

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 Another shift from traditional bowling.

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But the untraditional nature of the game made it all the more fun.

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 There was definitely a learning curve, but the kids enjoyed exploring this new sport and developing some new skills.

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 And of course, it was all the more fun doing so with friends!

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Since it was the first gathering since the holidays, everyone enjoyed hearing what gifts friends received and what traditions were enjoyed with family.

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I loved just sitting and taking it all in.

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It was fun to watch the excitement from the sidelines and listen to the happy chatter around me while catching up with friends I haven’t seen in a while.

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Thanks, Miss Wendy, for a fun afternoon!

Day 1 of Christmas: Co-op Christmas Party!

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On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me

A day of fun with our co-op family…

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Last Friday we ended a festive week of fun with some of our very favorite people at our annual co-op Christmas party. It was like old times as we reconvened at First Baptist Church in New Castle, our co-op home for the past decade. Although we no longer meet there on a weekly basis, they graciously agreed to let us use our old lunchroom for our Christmas party.

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It was decided that the party would consist of a taco bar lunch and games, ending with a secret Santa gift exchange among the kids.

It was fun to gather together once more!

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We even had some of our co-op graduates in attendance.

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The festivities began with the older kids leading a Christmas trivia game in the back room while the moms decorated the lunchroom and prepared the taco bar.

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And then they joined Miss Kathy for some fast-paced, competitive fun:

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When everything was laid out and ready, the kids congregated in the lunchroom to be called one table at a time into the kitchen to make up their tacos, and then return to the lunchroom to feast.

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As kids finished lunch, they headed into the back room to enjoy the photo booth that Miss Rose set up, and then returned to the lunch room to sing a little Christmas Karaoke.

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After everyone had full bellies, we gathered for the White Elephant gift exchange.

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The kids gathered around the pile of white elephant gifts and then proceeded to battle over a few favorite packages.

The fun of White Elephant gift exchanges seem to be in the stealing. The competition is even more heightened when it is a room full of siblings fighting for the most enticing packages.

When the game seemed as though it would never end, we kindly reminded the kiddos they were battling for something that was purchased for a buck at Dollar Tree.

That was followed with a second friendly reminder that the real gift exchange would follow. That brought a quick conclusion to the game.

Holding their White Elephant gift in front of them, the kids un-wrapped their package one at a time, revealing stick-on mustaches, noise makers, dress-up wigs, and other goofy gifts that brought laughs.

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Then it was time for the REAL gift exchange…

Each co-op student had been given the name of another student to buy for in the Secret Santa exchange. Each child took turns handing out the gift they carefully purchased for their assigned friend, and unwrapping the gift that was purchased for them.

There were squeals of delight over the well-chosen gifts, given with love.

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The party ended with crafts and socializing as everyone got in a little more visiting and Christmas well wishes before we had to leave to meet Brandon at home. He had a half day of school and we had some action-packed days ahead of us, so with final hugs of good-bye we headed home.

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Although we left with our arms laden with gifts of love and Christmas treasures, the greatest gift of the day was the gift of time with dear friends!

 

 

 

 

 

Co-op Christmas fun at Kraynak’s

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This school year has been one full of changes.

Most of those changes are a result of wonderful life changes that have occurred in the last four months, but some of those changes bring feelings of loss as we look back on past years and acknowledge the transition we have had to make into a new season of life.

The end of a chapter is hard no matter how amazing the next chapter promises to be, and no closing chapter has been more difficult than that of our co-op’s dissolution.

It has been an unusual school year in that after a decade of our Wednesdays being committed to our co-op, we now find that day free from commitments. For years our week revolved around the planning, preparing and packing that was involved in this weekly activity. It was a lot of work in the beginning, when the kids were small and each of us moms were preparing for and then teaching 3-4 classes every Wednesday, but we did it because we loved it…

We loved the friendships we saw developing between our children.

We loved the amount of learning that was accomplished in one day.

We loved the experiences we could offer our children that can be challenging in a home school environment (like Valentine’s Day parties, yearbooks, and talent shows.)

We loved the hands-on learning that happened under the guidance of a teacher that wasn’t “Mom,” with classmates that weren’t siblings.

We loved the support we found in each other as we navigated the challenges of life with friends who soon became so much more than friends.

Co-op was the greatest blessing of my “home schooling” journey,

And my heart shattered a bit when we all realized that this season of life was drawing to a close.

Our children who were kindergarteners when this adventure began, are now graduating high school and the purpose that the co-op was created for had been fulfilled. We no longer needed to gather weekly to get assignments done and the kids no longer craved the Valentine card exchanges and Halloween parties. We knew the end had come, but none were emotionally ready to give up the connection that was such an integral part of our lives for so long.

So, we came up with a plan…

The plan was to meet twice a month for a social get-together with each co-op mom taking on the task of planning for a month of the school year.

This past Friday was the first of two planned outings for December.

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We met at Kraynak’s, a toy store/candy shop/garden center/gift shop/Christmas wonderland… in Hermitage, PA.

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“From September 10th thru December 31st, Imagine a world of make-believe with twinkling lights, glittering trees, and a magical array of life-like characters. “Santa’s Christmas Land” is a 300-foot, indoor starlight avenue of uniquely designed artificial Christmas trees. Each tree has a specific theme that is enhanced and complimented by surrounding scenery and a cast of life-like animated characters.”

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Christmas Land is comprised of different vignettes of Christmas scenes.

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 Music is playing and the smells of Christmas fill the hallway that guides visitors through the different scenes.

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It is magical and we look forward to seeing how the displays change from year to year.

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Everyone has their favorites,

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And it is a fun Christmas activity that is free to enjoy…

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(If you can make it through the toy store and candy aisle’s that you must pass to get to the displays.)

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It is actually a pretty brilliant marketing strategy,

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And we buy into it every year.

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And LOVE it year after year.

It was so much fun enjoying this Christmas tradition with our co-op family, and catching up after a month apart.

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We love our co-op family and loved getting to spend some time with our dear friends.

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Next activity on the calendar: Our annual Co-op Christmas party!!

Cool Spring Corn Maze

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The second outing I planned for our co-op’s monthly get-togethers was a trip to Coolspring Corn Maze. This is an annual tradition for our group that we have enjoyed every October for years.

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This corn maze, located north of us in Mercer, embraced its inner superhero with its “Heroes of the Corn” theme this year.

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The theme was seen in the décor around the farm and in the actual maze design, as seen from this areal shot of the maze:

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The theme was also carried through to the checkpoints hidden within the maze. These checkpoints each spoke of different superheroes and within the description were highlighted words that answered the questions on the crossword puzzles that each of us received before entering the maze. By finding all the checkpoints and all clues hidden within the maze, we were able to solve the puzzle at the bottom of the sheet.

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It was a fun way to get the kids exploring (and learning!) as they navigated the twists and turns of the maze.

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Our co-op group broke into mini groups, as everyone headed in different directions upon entering the corn.

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I found myself walking with Grace and Ozzie, with Rusty as our fearless navigator.

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But we kept crossing paths with other groups.

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It took us a little over an hour to locate all the check points, fill in our crossword puzzle, solve the riddle, and find our way back out of the maze.

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After making our way out of the maze we spent time enjoying the other activities Coolspring Corn Maze offers:

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By the time lunch time arrived we found ourselves inundated with a couple school buses of little people who claimed all the prime picnic tables, leaving us to picnic on the grass.

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The bitterly cold wind eventually drove us back to our cars as we called it a day and said our good-byes to our co-op friends…

See you in November!

 

A Treasured Time at Living Treasures

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Last May our co-op of 10+ years disbarred. It was a sad day when we said good-bye to the church that had become a home away from home for over a decade as we met together with fellow “home” schoolers and dear friends every Wednesday to teach our children and allow them opportunities that are hard to facilitate in a home environment.

When our co-op began, our babies were all in preschool-3rd grade. At the end of the school year last year those same “babies” were entering their senior year with most of our kiddos working independently and no longer needing the co-op classroom environment for academics. It was an end to a beautiful era of life, one that we hated to say good-bye to, but knew we had outgrown the co-op’s original purpose.

Although we no longer needed the academic support that co-op was originally created for, we were still feeling the need for regular social get-togethers with our co-op friends who have become a second family over the years.

Our solution was to move our get-togethers out into the community and to meet twice a month rather than weekly. We decided that to facilitate these social events, and to make sure we made time for them to happen regularly, we (the moms) would each take a month of the school year and plan two field trips, outings, or holiday parties for the kids to meet up and connect with friends.

I signed up for October and the first outing I planned for the month was to Living Treasures Animal Park.

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 This park has a special place in my heart, as it is home to so many sweet memories. Our first visit here was with Gracie as a baby. We have visited it with my sister and her kids, my parents, my brother, my grandfather and many friends. Over the years we have created many sweet memories at this special place, and two Fridays ago we created a few more.

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We arrived as the doors opened and met up with the other co-op families in the parking lot. Because we had a group that exceeded the 20-person minimum for a group rate we were able to get in for $6.99/person, half the normal rate. We also purchased animal feed for the animals…

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Because that is the best part of Living Treasures!

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 This particular animal park is set up to allow visitors opportunities to interact with the animals more intimately than is possible at a zoo.

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The proximity and amount of interaction depends on the type of animal.

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The animals that you can pet and feed by hand include deer, cattle, alpaca, goats, and the wallabies.

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Bigger animals are fed through feeding tubes that drop their treats into a food dish.  These critters eagerly wait beside their bowls hoping for a handout. This system allows kids to interact with the animals up close without the risk of losing fingers.

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The monkeys at Living Treasures are fed with a bucket system. Visitors can place carrots or special monkey pellets in a bucket attached to a chain, and the monkeys can pull the bucket to the cage and fish out their treats.

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The animals all understand this system well and know what it means when little people with buckets come walking their way. The critters tend to swarm you when you approach, especially if you are among the first visitors of the day and everyone is still hungry.

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It was a beautiful day to be outside and it was wonderful seeing friends we hadn’t seen in a while…

And to enjoy it while loving on fur-babies made it all the better!

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First Mural Club then Prom!

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Wednesday was a big day for my big kids.

It was a day that began with a Mural Club outing with their Mural Club advisor at the Murrysville office of their cyber school and concluded with Prom.

All three of my older kids have enjoyed being part of the Mural Club at school. This club, like most of the clubs that are offered through their cyber school, meet virtually for the majority of their meetings. For Mural Club the kids log on to a virtual classroom weekly and are led by their teaching in creating a painting. My kids have all really enjoyed the skills they have learned from Mrs. Gibson, and have enjoyed the friendships formed through this club.

Once a year the students gather in person to create a piece of artwork at one of the two school buildings and is the highlight of the year for the Mural Club members. Here are two previous murals done by the Mural Club.

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Grace was the designer of both previous murals and was actively involved in Mural Club before graduating last year. When it was decided that Mrs. Gibson would be traveling out our direction for this year’s Mural Club outing she invited Grace and Olivia, two Mural Clun alumni, to join in on the fun.

We arrived at the Murrysville office at 11:00 am and discovered that it was just the McCleerys and Hudaks attending. With 6 students painting it was decided that rather than a wall mural they would each paint individual canvases that would hang together creating the school’s initials…21CCCS. (For 21st Century Cyber Charter School.)

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While the Mural Club got creative I took the boys next door for a Momma/sons date where we enjoyed a milkshake.

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When we returned great progress had been made and the Mural Club was finishing up their works of art.

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It was neat to see the different directions everyone took with their paintings.

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It was also fun to see that despite the differences in their creations, how well they coordinated.

Side by side they looked great!

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Nice job, Mural Club!

From there the big kids joined the Hudak family at their hotel room to get ready for Prom.

Prom at 21st Century Cyber Charter School is open to juniors and seniors and their dates, but the high school students at co-op thought it would be fun to all go as a group, so the juniors in the group each invited  a younger classmate (Rusty) or older graduates (Grace and Olivia) as dates to the prom so they could all go together.

Even though it was just a group of friends attending together they had fun with the idea of “prom-posals” and made it official at the co-op picnic a few weeks ago.

Wednesday night was one of the many times I wished I could clone myself, as I had to leave to take Tyler up north for his baseball game and couldn’t hang around to watch them get ready for prom and drop them off at the dance. Luckily I am blessed with dear friends who graciously stepped into the role of surrogate mom to my three oldest and helped them get ready for prom, took photos for me, and made sure they arrived at the dance.

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They had a blast dancing the night away with their best buddies and all said that it was a fun night with friends!

An End of the Year Picnic

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Yesterday was our co-op’s end of the year picnic.

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With the finish line so close it was nice to step away from the frantic pace at home, as everyone pushes hard to finish strong, and enjoy a picnic with friends.

Tyler is 2 days away from being a 6th grader, while the three oldest have one more week to turn in all their assignments before officially being done with school. Come next Friday I will be a momma to a 12th, 11th, 8th, and 6th grader, as well as a college Sophomore…

Can someone please hit the brakes and slow down this spinning ball that keeps speeding around the sun?!

I always enjoy our co-op end of the year picnic. It celebrates the conclusion of a year’s worth of effort and hints of the lazy days of summer that will soon be arriving.

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Wednesday was a crazy day for us as I put hundreds of miles on Big Bessie driving down to Wexford for an AWESOME TBRI training session with Ryan and Kayla North, back to home to pick up kids for the picnic, north to New Castle to meet up with our co-op friends, back down to Wexford for Tyler’s dyslexia tutoring,  north again to Zelienople for horse therapy, and then Bessie headed south once again for Scouts and youth activities.

It was a FULL day so I was grateful we managed to carve in time to meet our friends at the park for a picnic.

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It was a breath of fresh air…literally!

The kids had a wonderful time picnicking and playing with friends while the mommas enjoyed some uninterrupted visiting.

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It was a perfect way to end co-op. Now we just have to keep pushing hard to end the school year equally strong.

The finish line is in sight!

One week to go!!