Tag Archives: crafts

Week 1 of Summer Fun!


Here is a peek into some of our themed fun this last week…

Make it Monday:

On Make it Monday, we decided to do a little tie-dying. This is a craft that all my kids can get into, as it involves a sufficient amount of mess to make it fun and you have a cool shirt to show for your efforts at the end of it!

On Monday afternoon we pulled out the supplies.

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After choosing a design, Rusty and Tyler went to work securing their shirts with rubber bands and picking their colors.


The set we had on hand had a great mix of color choices!

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The boys picked their colors and began dying their shirts.

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We also picked up a pack of onesies so these two proud uncles could create a matching piece for their niece or nephew to be!

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While we worked we failed to take notice of the white bulldog under the table. Winnie happily sat in the shade, enjoying the cool drips from above. We had no idea she was down there until she emerged sporting some colorful new markings.

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She somehow gave herself two expressive, blue eyebrows and a generous sprinkle of freckles…

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None of which are coming off anytime soon!

Foodie Tuesday:

For our “Foodie Tuesday” fun, we decided to try out cake decorating. This is a hobby that both Grace and Molly have enjoyed playing around with, but one that the boys have yet to explore. I thought it would be a creative outlet that would appeal to my teenage boys since they get to eat their efforts in the end!

I baked 4 small cakes earlier in the day and let them cool in preparation of our cake decorating party.


Cake decorating supplies were pulled from the cabinet.

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When Toby got home from work we gathered in the dining room to decorate our cakes while dinner cooked.

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We chose which tips we wanted to use and began mixing our icing colors.

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It was fun to see everyone’s creativity emerge as they began putting icing to cake.

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The finished results were charming…and delicious!~

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Wet Wednesday:

Wet Wednesday was our slip-n-slide day!

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Tyler has been itching to slip and to slide since we played slip-n-slide kickball as a family a few weeks ago, so we pulled out the roll of plastic, the hose, and some dish soap and let him slip-and-slide to his heart’s delight!

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Take a Trip Thursday: 

For our first “Take a Trip Thursday” of the summer, we stayed close to home and headed over to Moraine lake for the day. Tyler’s friend, Jonathan, joined us. This was Tyler’s first time seeing anyone outside the immediate family since March. He has been itching to hang with friends, especially Jonathan, who he considers his best friend.


We stopped at GetGo for picnic supplies,

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And enjoyed a day of fishing and swimming lakeside.

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It was a beautiful day to be outdoors!

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On the way home we made a stop at The Snowman for some cold treats.

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Family Fun Friday:

On Friday the boys and I decided to do something wild and fun. Tyler has been begging to dye his hair for years. After a hard few w at Patchwork Farm, I felt the need for some silliness and novelty trumped all else, so we headed to Walmart to pick out hair dye. It seemed to me if the boys were ever to sport purple or blue hair, now was the time. Currently we have no upcoming family photos, no huge life events, or any outside activities. We headed into Walmart donning our face masks. This was Tyler’s first time venturing into a store, which was part of why I said yes to his hair dye request. We have been worried about his increasing anxiety since lockdown began. We noticed that despite things slowly opening up around us, he has no desire to leave the house. His fear of Covid-19 is slowly becoming a more concerning hyper-focused phobia. Feeling that getting Tyler into a public space would allow us to”rip off the bandaid” and face his fears head-on before they became debilitating, was extra incentive to let him dye his hair a crazy color.

It worked. His desire to color his hair trumped his fear of being in public. I explained that he would have to enter Walmart so that he could pick the color he wants. We talked through his fears, came up with safety protocols to address his concerns and then bravely ventured in. It worked like a charm and I saw a visible lightening as he moved past the fear and dread associated with that first step back into society.

We arrived home after Rusty and Tyler picked their shades. Rusty chose silver hair color, hoping for something fun without it being too crazy.

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Tyler went with Cherry Red. His color gave me pause when the box warned that it should not be rinsed out in the sink or tub due to staining…but we bravely pushed on.

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First we colored, then we rinsed…and rinsed, and rinsed, and rinsed!

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Rusty’s change was minimal. I think he wished he had picked a more daring color after seeing how little the silver tinted his hair.

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Tyler’s was a bit bolder. He loved his finished look and I love that he faced his fears!

Pretty as a Picture!


The area we have been sailing this past week is as pretty as a picture.

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The views are stunning…

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Well-deserving of a portrait.

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So, on Wednesday afternoon we pulled out the brushes, paints and easels we packed, in preparation for our planned painting party.

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We usually plan a craft or two when we vacation together and as we were planning this houseboat vacation Lana suggested we bring supplies for everyone to paint a memory of this houseboat experience. So, we each gathered the plethora of supplies we have acquired as a result of our kids’ membership in mural club, and planned an afternoon painting party on Norris Lake.

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Tyler, still chasing down fish, opted not to participate,

But everyone else gathered on the top deck to paint.

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The scenery inspired creativity.

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Some opted to paint the views from the upper deck of the houseboat,

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While others chose to paint a particular favorite memory from this vacation.

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It was fun to watch everyone work and see their personal artistic styles unfold on the canvas before them.

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Here are some of the finished works of art:

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What a perfect way to memorialize a wonderful week with friends!

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Bridal Showers and Showers of Blessings


On the morning before Zach’s marriage proposal to Gracie, we celebrated another sweet couple. It was the bridal shower of Zach’s sister, Stephanie. Grace has been best friends with Stephanie since we moved here 10+ years ago. Grace was touched when Stephanie asked her to stand beside her as her maid of honor. Who knew that a year later Grace would be on a journey of becoming a sister-in-law to her sister-in-love!

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Four best friends and soon-to-be sisters!

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It was a beautiful celebration of a beautiful bride and we had a wonderful time celebrating with friends.

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Later that day Zach bent down on one knee to declare his love to Grace and invite her to officially become a Tame.

Only a few days passed before the happy couple had set a date and we found ourselves jumping into wedding plans.

Grace will be an October bride.

Knowing that our local craft supply store, Pat Catans, was going out of business, I suggested we take a drive over there to see if we could find any needed supplies while everything was 50% off. After Braden was dropped of for school, and Rusty and Tyler were settled into their online classes, the girls and I headed out for a girls-only excursion.

Before we left for the day we prayed for a fruitful day full of emotional healing and mother/daughter bonding, as well as inexpensive finds for Gracie’s upcoming nuptials.

God was beyond gracious and the day was filled to overflowing with His blessings! It was a day full of tender mercies.

What began as a trip to Pat Catan’s wedding aisle with the hope of some good finds, became a day of retail therapy, long overdue bonding with my girls, God leading us to unbelievable deals, and a huge chunk of wedding shopping taken care of.

We started at Pat Catans and soon discovered that the wedding aisle was not where we were going to find decorations for the reception. The the crystals and white silks did not align with Gracie’s vision of her wedding reception. Once we exited that section of the store, however, we discovered treasures galore and 2 hours of shopping (and four full shopping carts later) we had 90% of the reception decor purchased and loaded in the car.


Our next stop was Salvation Army where God’s grace continued to rain down upon us in the form of reception decor, a graduation dress for Molly, as well as her shoes for prom.

By this point in the day the hour was drawing near for us to return home to meet Braden’s school bus. On a spur on the moment, last minute decision we decided to make one last, quick stop at a dress shop we were passing that advertised all their wedding dresses for $100, as part of their going out of business sale.


We went inside just for the fun of it, not expecting to find anything. There were 10 wedding dresses left on the rack. Grace picked four to try on, and lo and behold, found her wedding dress. It wasn’t anything like the dress she had imagined liking but as soon as she put in on we all knew that it was the one. Alterations will need to be made but we couldn’t believe we were walking out of the wedding boutique with a $1200 dress for only $100.

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A sneak peek of the wedding dress!

Molly also found her maid of honor dress while we were there. It is perfectly Molly, and only cost $20, marked down from $250.

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For an investment of $550 God blessed us with an abundance of wedding shopping done and taken care of, in preparation for Grace and Zach’s big day!

It was a day full of blessings on many fronts and I came home feeling lighter…

No, it wasn’t just the result of a lighter wallet!

My to-do list was shorter, the heaviness of worry I have been shouldering was lifted, and my spirit was lighter thanks to the day filled with laughter and joyful creativity that I got to share with my daughters.

With just four hours of retail therapy with my girls and I had recaptured the joy of this season of life that has escaped me these last few weeks.

Here’s to all the beautiful brides-to-be!


Christmas in the Woods



The first time we went we were pulling a wagon filled with toddlers.

Fast forward 15 years and Christmas in the Woods is a completely different experience!

Shakerwoods and Christmas in the Woods are two festivals that occur 40 minutes away from our home in August and October. They are, in essence, “craft fairs,” but labeling them as such is an unjust representation of all that they are.

Both these festivals take place in a patch of woods in eastern Ohio. The forest is filled with meandering paths and festive booths selling charming, unique, one-of-a-kind creations. There are hand carved ornaments, hand painted signs, homemade soaps and hand stitched pillows and towels. Each booth is run by a different artisan selling their own unique wares which makes Shakerwoods a thrilling treasure hunt, as you never know what special find you will stumble across next.

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Shakerwoods Festival tends to have a more distinctly autumn atmosphere, whereas Christmas in the Woods is themed for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Both are a lot of fun and in the past they have restricted vendors to one festival or the other, which allows visitors two completely different shopping experiences if they choose to attend both festivals.

I am not much of a shopper, although I do appreciate the unique, creative, artisan style crafts for sale there more than I would enjoy going to the mall, but the real reason I love Shakerwoods and Christmas in the Woods and the reason we keep returning is for the experience. It truly is a feast for the senses. Walking through the woods, soaking in the visual beauty of many creative hands, all while enjoying the folk music of local musicians, the smells of peach cobbler and roasted nuts is what brings us back year after year.

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It is now a long standing tradition…a tradition that hold many sweet memories as I look back on the years of Shakerwoods with babies in tow, shopping with my parents and sister, finding treasures with Toby, and enjoying the company of out of state relatives that have flown in over the years for the festival.

This year was different. Rather than attending with the whole family, I just had my three big kids with me. Toby offered to take Tyler to his riding lessons so we could attend.

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My girls LOVE Christmas in the Woods! Grace, my lover of all things Christmas, goes for the ambiance. Molly enjoys the shopping.

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Even Rusty enjoys it. He claims he goes for all the free samples!

He was a huge help this year as he took on the role of “pack mule” for us girls. I was able to get some Christmas shopping done and Rusty graciously carried our packages as we walked from booth to booth. He said he learned everything he knows from Pop Pop Real. 🙂

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And he works cheap!


I just had to buy him some roasted nuts and he was content. We stayed until our feet were screaming for relief. The crowds were crazy. In all our years off attending we had never seen it so busy…

Just look at the parking!!

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But despite the crowds we managed to do a little shopping, make some special memories, and have A LOT of fun…just my big kids and me.

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What a Weekend!!


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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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


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

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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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

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


We were successful!

It truly was a non-stop, crazy weekend…

Filled to the brim with busyness…

Filled to the brim with blessings!

Grace and Olivia’s Senior Prom


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Friday morning Grace woke with excitement coursing through her veins. It was Prom day!

We have cyber schooled our children for 12 years and the most common question asked after, “What about socialization?” or “How can you stand having your children home all day?” is:

“Don’t you feel like your kids are missing out on the best parts of school not being in a traditional brick and mortar school?”

And I have always been able to answer, “No,” because I don’t. God called us to this model of schooling for our children, and it is the best parenting decision we ever made.

I have felt that through this model of schooling we have really gotten the best of both worlds…all the best parts of homeschooling and the better parts of public schooling.

Through our awesome co-op group, we have been able to compensate for those parts of the public-school experience that they might have missed in their early years like talent shows and holiday parties, Valentine exchanges and field trips.

Our transition to 21st Century Cyber Charter School four years ago was really the missing piece in rounding out our cyber schooling experience. At this school, my older kids found a college preparatory learning experience that mimics a post-secondary learning environment far more effectively then what we saw happening in our local public school.

“But what about prom?!” a young girl from church asked us a few years ago, “Your poor kids won’t get to experience prom!”

I tried to explain that I really didn’t place a lot of value in the prom experience, especially knowing how little of value is found at a high school prom, but I understood what she was saying. She felt it was a rite of passage my kids would be denied.

We didn’t know if prom was in the cards for my teenagers but weren’t concerned given the fact that through our church they have been able to participate in a Spring Formal each spring since they were 14, which offers all the fun of prom without the filth found in some of the local schools’ proms.

But as the end of the school year came closer Grace received information about 21st Century Cyber Charter School’s prom. They hold it the Friday afternoon before graduation so families already in town for graduation don’t have the added burden of two trips.

In the months leading up to prom the seniors began submitting ideas for the prom theme. It would be held at the local country club and the senior class eventually voted a masquerade theme for senior prom.

Grace decided that rather than spending money on a formal prom gown that she will never wear again, she would instead wear the same dress she wore to Spring Formal… her custom-made Downton Abby dress she received for her 18th birthday. (Beautifully made by my dear friend, Wendy.)

Since it was masquerade themed Grace and Olivia decided they would each make their own mask, rather than buy one.

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The mask reveal!

Both girls decided to coordinate their masks to their dresses. Using leftover fabric left from her dress Grace made this beautiful mask that matched perfectly! Olivia created a mermaid themed mask that matched her and her dress perfectly.

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The one thing that doesn’t work out quite so well with a cyber school prom, especially when your school is located 5 hours away, is asking a date to prom. You can’t exactly invite a boy to prom, ask him to travel across the state, and book a hotel for a night or two, just to escort you to prom. 😊

But it didn’t matter to Grace. The Hudaks were staying at the same hotel, and I don’t know that there is anyone else Grace would rather share this experience with than her best friend, anyway.

An hour before they had to leave, Grace and Olivia met in our hotel room to begin getting dressed and dolled up.

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The end results were beautiful!

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What lovely young women they both are.

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A friend shared this quote in the graduation letter she wrote Grace and I think it perfectly exemplifies both these young ladies:

“She was beautiful, but not like those girls in the magazines. She was beautiful, for the way she thought. She was beautiful, for that sparkle in her eyes when she talked about something she loved. She was beautiful, for her ability to make other people smile even if she was sad. No, she wasn’t beautiful for something as temporary as her looks. She was beautiful deep down to her soul.”

– F. Scott Fitzgerald

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After a few pictures, we dropped off these two prom princesses at their senior prom and headed over to the bowling party where the rest of the family was spending the day.

It looks like Grace and Olivia had a wonderful time at prom. Here are some of the pictures they took:

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The venue was beautiful!

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Grace and Olivia with Ms. Cloetingh, Olivia’s learning coach and the girls’ mural club teacher.

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Great food and lots of dancing= Awesome Prom!

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Both girls with their learning coaches. Love all four of these pretty ladies!


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The girls enjoyed the “Make your own mocktail” station.

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And then there were ice cream sundaes for dessert…Yum!

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Happy Prom!


Almost there, ladies!  Graduation is just 24 hours away!

Father and Son Campout is just the beginning!


Whew, what a week!

I really didn’t think we would pull it together, but miraculously we did.

This was the final week of school and everyone was pushing to finish strong.

In the midst of final exams, appointments, work, and picnics, we had to prepare for the week ahead.

The result: piles and piles of packing.

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We are headed to the ocean for some much-needed beach therapy. When we scheduled this trip, we had no idea it would follow on the heels of such a traumatic week. But now it is all the more appreciated and eagerly anticipated. This Momma needs nothing more than the crash of waves on my feet and the sun on my face to do a little healing.

But as of Tuesday morning, I had no idea if this trip was going to happen. At that point Ozzie was still hospitalized and we weren’t sure when he’d be cleared as safe to come home by Saturday. By the end of the week we received news that he’d be released Friday afternoon, just in time for all the graduation festivities/vacation plans to begin.

In the meantime, I kept making piles, hoping it would all would work out.

The packing for this trip was especially laborious as it is multiple vacations crammed into one.

We had to pack for the beach with all the clothes, towels, sand toys, food for the week, board games, fishing supplies, balls, kites and day to day living gear that would be needed.

We are piggy backing this trip to the shore on top of our real reason for heading east: Gracie’s graduation ceremony…

Which meant another pile with church outfits, dress shoes, jewelry and Gracie’s speech for graduation.

Then we had our pile of school books and supplies for four kids to return to the school since it is the end of the year.

On the Friday prior to graduation Grace will be attending prom, which meant a prom pile of dress, shoes, make-up, hair supplies, and her masquerade mask.

The kids will also be spending a day at their school painting a wall mural with the other mural club students, which meant yet another pile filled with paintbrushes, painting clothes, paints and a gift for their mural club teacher.

Then we had lists and piles of animal supplies to leave for our house sitter, and Olive’s packed bag for her stay at the kennel.

I just kept creating piles as I thought of things, hoping and praying we didn’t forget anything important (i.e.: the boys’ pills!)

Once we were done packing for next week’s excursions then we began packing for Friday night’s adventures.

Friday night was the annual “Father and Sons” campout with the other men at church. This is an event that my boys eagerly anticipate each spring. The girls also look forward to it as it means a girls’ night out with no boys!

By Friday evening all our packing was done, the van was loaded for the next morning. Camping gear was loaded into Toby’s truck. Tyler’s soccer treat bags were packed (Yes, we also had treat duty for Tyler’s last soccer game on Saturday morning) and we were finally ready to relax and enjoy a fun boys’ night/ girls’ night out.

Toby and the little boys headed out around 5:30pm to drive to Camp Agawam, where the campout was being held. All three boys were excited. Toby was, well…a good sport. 😉

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Their evening was spent hanging out around the fire. Playing Navy and Pirates at the epic wooden pirate ship at the camp, and sleeping (or not sleeping) in a tent.


In the morning, they woke early (Tyler was up at 5:30 am) and had a pancake breakfast with the other campers before heading home.

The girls and I had an extra special evening planned. For Mother’s Day the girls gifted me with a gift certificate to get a manicure with them. We decided to wait until the “Father and Son” campout to schedule our nail appointment so that we could make it an entire mother/daughter evening. I was so excited. It’s been probably a decade since I had my nails done professionally. I was looking forward to some pampering and spoiling, but most of all I was just excited to get an evening with my two girls.

What a blessing my daughters are to me. I don’t know how I would manage without them. Not only do the constantly and unselfishly try to lighten my burdens through selfless service, but they fill my parenting love tank when it is empty and dry. They see my weariness without me having to express a thing and work tirelessly to make sure I know I am loved and appreciated…particularly during those long stretches when little brother is solely focused on hurting and tearing down.

I desperately needed loving care and my girls provided it in a way only daughters can.

We left for our nail appointment as the boys were leaving for camping. Grace had arranged everything.

We arrived and had fun choosing from the hundreds of nail polish shades. I found myself drawn to the beautiful fall shades of orange and rust, but forced myself to pick something fun and summery. So, I went with a hot pink instead.

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We were called back one at a time. The experience was decadent. I would pay for the experience again just for the hand massage. It was lovely!

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Grace ended up with beautiful periwinkle blue nails, to coordinate with her prom gown and graduation dress. Molly picked her favorite color of salmon pink, and I did a funky, textured, hot pink polish that felt very fun and sassy…two traits that have been noticeably absent from my life these last few months. 😊

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Following our appointments, we went shopping for craft supplies. We were planning on crafting while watching shows in our PJs later, and needed some supplies for the projects we were working on.

Then it was time for a late dinner. As is our annual tradition when the boys go to Father/Son campout, we go out for a sit-down dinner. By the time we were done shopping it was 9:30 pm so we decided to keep it close and easy and go to Applebee’s. Little did we know it was graduation evening for a few local high schools and the place was packed with graduates and their celebrating families. Despite the crowds and slower than normal service, we had a blast. It was so much fun to sit and visit and enjoy a leisurely dinner with my girls.

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We were home at 11:00 pm, put on our PJs, got out our craft supplies and put on the new Netflix remake of Anne of Green Gables, “Anne with an ‘E’”.

We crafted, did face masks, talked, and walked with Anne through episode #1`, finally crashing at 1:30 am.

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It was a practically perfect evening.

The next morning the boys arrived home by 8:30 am. We ran Olive to the kennel, prepared things for the house sitter, packed last-minute items and filled the cooler, changed Tyler into his soccer uniform and headed to his game.

It was a good final game. Tyler played well and had fun, which is what really matters.

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By noon they had won the game, Tyler handed out his snacks, and we were on the road!

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Sand, Surf, and Sun…Here we come!

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Wrapping up the year


We are in the home stretch. 24 hours until we are done with school for the year. I can’t believe it. It has been a surreal year. It feels like we never really found our groove, and now here we are at the end.

Here is a look into all our end of the year news:

Soccer season is coming to a close. We have one week left and it is hard to believe it is almost over. This happens every spring. It seems to just begin and then it’s done. This is so different than football season which GOES ON FOREVER! I must admit I prefer soccer season! This year has been particularly relaxed and enjoyable. It has been such fun watching Tyler excel and grow on and off the field.

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Soccer is just one of many activities that are wrapping up for Tyler. This past week marked the final Occupational Therapy session of the year and Barton tutoring session of the year (until summer session begins.) We are so proud of how hard Tyler has worked this year. Academics don’t come easily for Tyler and he has clawed his way toward success, overcoming a lot of obstacles that make learning more challenging for him than the average child. This year we saw a lot of improvement in the area of reading and writing under the support of a new occupational therapist and a new reading tutor. Miss Jan has been awesome with Tyler. She uses the Barton program to tutor students with dyslexia and this spring Tyler finished level one and two with her and has progressed to level 3. We are so proud of all Tyler’s hard work!


Two weeks ago the three big kids had their last seminary live class. Seminary is a religion class offered through our church to high school students. It is an amazing program that requires great commitment and dedication on the part of these high school kids, as it means getting up early and completing an hour-long religion class prior to starting their school day. This is an optional, enrichment activity that all three of my high schoolers choose to participate in. They are students in the online class which requires them to complete 4 independent, hour-long lessons a week and one live class every Monday morning at 5:50 am. This year they read and studied the New Testament. It has been an awesome, testimony building experience for each of them and we are proud of their dedication and commitment to the seminary program.

This was their final live class for the year and Gracie’s last seminary lesson for good. She is a seminary graduate! Way to go Grace!


Grace has also been keeping busy with creative projects. For her one-on-one time this past week she asked if we could make bows together. This is a craft we did a lot when she was little. This time she had a specific idea in mind. She wanted to create some “Disney-bounding” bows, reflective of certain Disney characters. It was a fun, creative project and we both enjoyed the challenge of trying to capture the essence of a certain Disney character in a single bow using only color, texture, and a few accessories tied on to portray some of our favorite characters.


Can you guess which Disney character this bow represents?


While on a creative streak, Grace decided she wanted to do something special for her learning coach for the last few years of support. At her cyber school the students are each assigned a “learning coach” which is in essence a personal guidance counselor/head teacher who stays with you through your four years of high school. They monitor your progress, communicate with parents, keep you informed on school activities and outings, and act as your mentor and advocate. The students who have IEPs are assigned a special education teacher as their learning coach which is a huge benefit to the student as they have a trained mentor who is familiar with the unique challenges of a student with learning disabilities and can support them in a way that specifically meets them where they are at and can help them grow and achieve from there. Grace has been profoundly blessed to have had two awesome learning coaches who both singlehandedly affected how Grace sees herself, understands her disability, and then showed her how great her potential is, challenging her to rise to the level of excellence she has while a student at 21CCCS. The first of those teachers was Mr. Dolan. He is the reason Grace now wants to become a special education teacher herself. When he moved away halfway through Gracie’s high school journey she was devastated but God knew what He was doing and gave Grace Mrs. McGuire to walk with her and be her cheerleader for her last two years of school. Now that Grace is graduating she felt a desire to thank Mrs. McGuire in a special way and let her know the great influence she has had on her life.

Stealing an idea from Pinterest Grace sent Mrs. McGuire a “Box of Sunshine.” It was a gift box full of yellow products that Grace personally loves and she sealed it with the quote:

“Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.”


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The final end of the year event that took place this week was our End of the Year Co-op Picnic. After not seeing our co-op friends for the last few weeks it was fun to get together and catch up.


We had a potluck lunch together of hot dogs, chips and salsa, salads, and desserts.


We ordered a graduation cake to celebrate our two graduating seniors: Grace and Olivia.


While there Grace received this adorable handmade graduation card from Miss Tauni. Isn’t it charming?!


Everyone had a fun time hanging out with friends, celebrating the final week of school, and catching up on each other’s lives and summer plans.


How blessed we are to be sharing our “home schooling” journey with such a special group of people. We love our co-op!


Now here we are, days away from another school year coming to a close, and my last year schooling five students.

 It is the end of an era.

 Life is changing,


New adventures are on the horizon!



‘Twas the night before the night before Christmas


‘Twas the night before the night before Christmas

And all through the house

EVERY creature was stirring,

Probably even a mouse.

It was December 23rd, the night we celebrate our little family’s Christmas at home before joining our extended family in Ohio for Christmas.

Our “night before the night before Christmas” traditions have evolved over the years. It started out as the night we exchanged our yearly Christmas ornaments, but in the past few years it has evolved into something more.

It is now the night we exchange family gifts, with the exception of the gifts the kids receive from Toby and I on Christmas morning.

This new tradition came about as a result of the kids getting older and us wanting to highlight the thought and effort they put into the gifts they give each other.

When the kids were little I would set aside a day to take them Christmas shopping at Dollar Tree where they were each given $10.00 to shop for family members. This was something they looked forward to. I remember the excitement they felt as they pushed a cart independently through the store, secretly stashing gifts under their coat that acted as a cover to prying eyes. They felt so grown up as they checked out by themselves, handing over their ten-dollar bill to the cashier.

This is a tradition I have continued with Tyler and Ozzie but the older kids now execute their Christmas magic on their own, planning and preparing for weeks to come up with the perfect gift for each family member. Most of their gifts are handmade with a lot of thought and love going into each gift.

A few years ago they asked if we could exchange these family gifts on the 23rd when it was just our little family. The tradition started then and has continued ever since and has become one of my favorite Christmas traditions.

Exchanging gifts apart from the large pile of gifts from family and Santa under the tree allows us to really enjoy and appreciate the gifts that the kids all put such love into, without having to rush through the experience or having their gifts lost in the chaos of Christmas morning. It also allows siblings to really appreciate and express appreciation for each other’s smaller gifts without those gifts losing their value to the larger, more commercial,  Santa gifts.

The kids couldn’t wait for Toby to get home on Friday night. Their gifts were all wrapped and in the living room, ready to be handed out.

Toby arrived home at 7:00pm. We had a homemade soup and bread dinner and then it was time for our family Christmas celebration. We began by handing out an unexpected gift to each of the kids. Normally the only gift the kids receive from the parents on December 23rd is their ornament so when we handed out large clothing boxes they were confused.


Most years the kids receive new PJs on Christmas Eve to wear to bed. This year I decided to give them their PJs a day early so they could wear them for our family Christmas and enjoy them a day early.

 I couldn’t remember when I had been so excited by my PJ purchase. This year I found onesie character PJs for all the kids, each matching their personality perfectly. I couldn’t wait for them to open their boxes and I wasn’t disappointed by their response.


Don’t they all look adorable?!


After everyone had changed into their Christmas PJs and were snuggly warm we began exchanging gifts. We went from youngest to oldest, allowing Tyler to hand out his presents first. The gifts were handed out one at a time so that everyone could see what was given to each family member.


The little boys were thrilled with the gifts they found at Dollar Tree and couldn’t wait to hand out their presents.


The older kids all spent the month of December shopping for each other and working on their homemade gifts. I was blown away by the time, talents, and thought they invested in their gifts.


The little boys received a sled and mittens from Grace and Molly:


Grace received the Kim Possible movie, one of her favorite shows as a little girl, from Molly :


Grace made Molly a fandom bag containing a lot of small gifts that were nods to some of their favorite movies and books (all homemade):


Molly bought Rusty a Pokémon hat and Grace painted him a Disney Magic Kingdom corkboard for displaying his Disney pin collection:


I received crocheted washcloths from Molly, hand decorated Christmas plates from the girls and Tyler, handmade drink coasters from Rusty, and an angel figurine from Ozzie.


This year Toby and I also exchanged gifts with each other early. We kept things small and simple this year with the big bus trip we took in the fall being the real gift we all enjoyed early, but I did find this “Lego”treasure for Toby:


After everyone finished handing out their gifts we exchanged ornaments. I took care of everyone’s ornaments this year. Toby was out of town so our usual date to shop for the yearly ornaments was skipped this year, allowing me to come up with a secret plan that could include Toby’s ornament.

This year I had ornaments made through Shutterfly. Each person received a cube ornament that contained six photos on the six sides of the cube. The biggest event in all our lives in 2016 was our cross-country bus trip so I knew that had to be the theme of this year’s ornaments. I picked six photos from each person’s favorite National Park to create their memory ornament.

They turned out even better than I expected and I know they will be a treasure for years to come as the kids reflect back on that special experience..


We ended our evening with family devotionals, Christmas carols, and the reading of a Christmas story.


It was a perfect way to slow down, reflect on the reason for the season, and appreciate the greatest of gift of Christmas… Family.

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!





A Crazy, Quick Catch-up


The last few weeks have been a blur of end of the year busyness. In between the big events have been a gaggle of everyday moments…none of which warrant a post in and of themselves, but are a reflection of our life…thus worth recording. This blog is first and foremost a recording of our life. It is my journal, one of my forms of scrapbooking, and a legacy of love I leave for my family, that they might read my words and remember the crazy days of our life decades from now.

Last Saturday Toby had his spring metal detecting hunt with his Beaver County Metal Detecting Club. His club meets on the first Thursday of each month at Kings restaurant in Monaca where they eat dinner together and talk metal detecting. There are awards for best treasures found the previous month and they share tips and good hunt sites. Toby is one of the youngest members of the club with most of the members being retired men. He enjoys the company of this group of men that remind him a lot of his dad, and enjoys the big hunts they hold twice a year.

At the big hunts coins are buried in the ground ahead of time. Boundaries are laid out, a timer is set, and the race begins as 30+ members, with a metal detector in one hand and a hand shovels in the other, hunt for the coins that have been buried. In addition to coins, metal tokens are also hidden that correspond to prizes that are laid out on the table.

The hunt lasted most of the day by the time coins were hunted, prizes were distributed, and everyone showed off their loot.

Toby came home with a belt pouch full of coins, some specialty coins won by tokens, as well as a metal detector canvas storage bag.

The kids had fun helping Toby sort and count his loot.

Good job, Toby!

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For one on one time this week the boys had some special requests. One on one time happens each day from 5:00- 6:00. The kids are each assigned a day and during that one hour slot they get to pick an activity to do with Mom. Sometimes that time is used for a project, sometimes the kids just want uninterrupted time to have a heart to heart talk, sometimes we work on a school or church or scout project, and sometimes we just play. It all depends on the child and what they need that week.

This week and last week Rusty was in the mood to be creative so we worked on some crafts. He wanted to make magnets to hang in his bed area of the bus. We had fun decorating rocks to turn into magnets.

During the previous week’s one on one time we had fun with an old tin of buttons. We worked on some button art to frame and hang in his room.

For Ozzie and Tyler’s one on one time we combined their time with Mom to do some therapy work. We are working with Tina on helping the boys see each other as companions rather than competitors, so I have been trying to create opportunities for them to play together without the influence of other playmates or older siblings. For their time we drove down to the park. We stopped at the little grocery store so they could each get a treat and then headed to the park for an hour of play. It was a beautiful day and the boys had fun playing as brothers and friends.

This week Gracie has been creative as well. The three older kids have a dance coming up later this week. The theme is Alice in Wonderland. Although they aren’t planning on going in costume, they do want their outfits to reflect the theme in subtle and whimsical ways. Grace created this necklace to wear as a nod to the Queen of Hearts.

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Beginning this week we have made some adjustments to our daily schedule. These changes are a result of  a family council we held last week. There have been some struggles and heightened emotions running rampant in our home the last few weeks. We felt the need to sit down as a family and reassess where we stood as a family, and refocus our time and energy based on current needs. The kids were given an open forum to air their grievances, share their struggles, and offer their suggestions as to what adjustments needed to be made as a family.

This time of year is when we start laying out our daily schedule for the summer months and look at how we would be best served to use our time. Talking with Toby and the kids is a great tool to measure what tasks need to be priorities as we budget our time.

One of the concerns that were a red flag as we talked as a family was a need expressed by the three older kids. All three expressed a desire for some time to be set aside for them to have time with Toby and I apart from their little brothers.

We came up with the solution of setting aside the hour after the little boys are tucked into bed as big kid time with the parents. The older three direct this time. Sometimes it is used to just visit, sometimes we will watch a show that might be too mature for the younger two, or just play a game together.

One night we had a “Just Dance” dance off. It was as fun to watch and photograph as it was to participate!

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 This week Grace, Rusty and Ozzie received their new belts in taekwondo. All three advanced to the next belt after testing. Rusty is now a brown belt, Ozzie is an orange belt, and Gracie is a yellow stripe.

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Friday night (after our big vertical adventure field trip) was the annual Father/Son campout for all the men and boys at church. The boys had a blast at camp Agawam. They eagerly shared that it was the best Father/Son campout in years. The boys loved the new campsite with its numerous structures to play on including a castle, a wooden fort, an underground bunker, and a wooden pirate ship. Add to that the campfires, sleeping outside, and s’mores and you have a little boy’s idea of heaven!


The girls and I enjoyed a relaxing girls’ night at home. We watched Call the Midwives on Netflix and the girls made ice cream sundaes. Then they did my hair.


There was a reason for the style choice.


No, not that… 🙂

The following evening Toby and I were invited to an 80’s birthday party and I needed an “80’s perm,” so the girls covered my head in dozens of tiny braids that we rolled into buns for maximum curl, as we watched our show.

On Saturday we worked on the school bus conversion (Stay tuned for updates) and then got dressed in 1980’s garb for our friend’s 30th birthday party. My girls had a blast helping me get ready. As they helped me do my make-up and hair I introduced them to the musical stylings of Tiffany and New Kids on the Block. We had fun looking up pictures of 1980’s outfits, hair and make-up for inspiration. The girls declared us 80’s girls to be “fearless” in our fashion choices. I thought “fearless” was a very generous word choice. 🙂

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We had a lot of fun at the party. There was much laughter, much 1980’s reminiscing, a round of M.A.S.H….I will be living in a shack with John Stamos….and a 1980’s music showdown between the girls and guys.

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It was a fun way to end a busy week!