Tag Archives: decorating

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!


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


Which was amazing!

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


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

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

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

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

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


It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

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Love is in the Details


Once the wedding day came a close, and we bid the bride and groom goodbye for the night, it was time to turn my focus to the reception. There was much to do in preparation for the celebration that followed the wedding two days later. In an effort to plan an event that was both beautiful and affordable, we opted to make Grace and Zach’s reception a home-grown affair. Luckily this homey theme tied beautifully into Gracie’s vision for the day.

As we began making plans months ago, Grace shared her vision for her reception. She wanted a vintage feel that made guests feel as though they were coming over for a family dinner. Since we don’t have the space in our dining room for 200 guests, we opted instead to turn the church’s cultural hall into home through the use of decorations from our house and heirloom photos. The theme was “home is where the heart is,” and that theme was a joy to bring to life. I am a firm believer that love is in the details and it is our hope that through the details in the décor our guests felt loved and felt the love Grace and Zach share. Here is a sneak peek at the reception hall prior to the celebration.

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Using Toby’s trailer we loaded up furniture from home to transform the gym into a reception hall.

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Continuing with this “family dinner for 200” theme, we opted to serve different homemade soups, along with salad and bread.

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We used pumpkins to serve as signs to identify the various soup choices.

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In the lobby we set up the “guest book.” Using the beautiful antique desk given to Grace and Zach as their wedding gift from my parents, we created a homey little vignette to greet guests.

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The bride and groom opted to pass on a traditional guest book, choosing instead to purchase a family bible with note taking margins for their guests to mark their favorite scripture and pen a message of love.

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For our younger guests we prepared activity boards as gifts to entertain them during the ring ceremony. Each clipboard came with colored pencils and wedding themed activity/coloring sheets.

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Pittsburgh Cookie Table Sign

For those readers not from the Pittsburgh area, you might not be familiar with the traditional cookie table. This sign was displayed to explain why cookies are served in addition to wedding cake at most Pittsburgh wedding receptions.

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The cookie table as it slowly filled up with cookies donated by family and friends.

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“To go” bags were provided so guests could take cookies home to enjoy later.

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Grace and Zach wanted to make their reception as much about celebrating family as they did celebrating their own love. They accomplished this through a lot of thoughtful and personal touches, including incorporating loved ones’ wedding songs as part of the DJ’s playlist for the evening, and in doing so allowed couples the chance to enjoy a slow dance to their own wedding song.

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Apple cider was the drink of the night at their October reception.

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Their beautiful cake was made by our talented friend, Kelly. Gracie’s request was a “naked cake,” one that was thinly frosted and decorated with fresh berries. It was as delicious as it was beautiful!

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The couple opted to have a ring ceremony at their reception so that family and friends could witness the exchanging of rings. In creating a space in the reception hall for that to take place, we opted against a traditional arch and chose instead to create a “arch” using old ladders and vintage details to create a more unique “arch” for the ceremony.

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The head table where the bridal party would sit.

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The tables themselves were decorated with mismatched vintage tablecloths, framed family photos, decoupaged houses (lit from within to glow when the lights were lowered), and mismatched glassware with fresh cut flowers.

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In family-style serving, each table had a cutting board with a loaf of bread in addition to salt sticks to accompany the soup for the meal.

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Our “party favor” was an individual apple pie at each place setting, tagged with the pun, “Appley Ever After!”

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The table numbers were recreations of old library cards to tie into the antique books that were displayed as part of the centerpiece at each table.

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The finished effect made me smile.

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But it wasn’t until the overhead lights were turned off and the room was lit only with strings of mercury glass lights that the place really began to feel magical.

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Photos of the actual reception will follow soon.

We opted to hire our talented friend, Holly, to capture the evening through photos, thus freeing me up to simply enjoy being mother of the bride and enjoy the magic of the evening. As soon as we get those photos back I will share with all of you, but I couldn’t resist giving you a preview of our magical evening with Zach and Grace.

A Happy little Housewife



In May of 1955, Housekeeping Monthly published an article entitled, “The Good Wife’s Guide,” detailing all the ways that a wife should act and how best she can be a partner to her husband and a mother to her children…

1.) Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready, on time for his return. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs.

2.) Most men are hungry when they come home and the prospect of a good meal (especially his favorite dish) is part of the warm welcome needed.

3.) Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you’ll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your makeup, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people.

4.) Be a little gay and a little more interesting for him. His boring day may need a lift and one of your duties is to provide it.

5.) Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives. Gather up schoolbooks, toys, paper, etc. and then run a dust cloth over the tables.

6.) Over the cooler months of the year you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too. After all, catering for his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.

7.) Prepare the children. Take a few minutes to wash the children’s hands and faces (if they are small), comb their hair and, if necessary, change their clothes.

8.) Children are little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part. Minimize all noise. At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer or vacuum. Try to encourage the children to be quiet.

9.) Be happy to see him. Free him with a warm smile and show sincerity in your desire to please him. Listen to him.

10.) You may have a dozen important things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first — remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours.

11.) Make the evening his. Never complain if he comes home late or goes out to dinner, or other places of entertainment without you. Instead, try to understand his world of strain and pressure and his very real need to be at home and relax.

12.) Your goal: Try to make sure your home is a place of peace, order and tranquility where you husband can renew himself in body and spirit.

13.) Don’t greet him with complaints and problems.

14.) Don’t complain if he’s late home for dinner. Count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through that day.

15.) Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or have him lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him.

16.) Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soothing and pleasant voice.

Soon after Gracie got engaged we began wedding talk. We discussed possible venues, menus, and colors for her bridal party. Grace was easy going about it all, as is her natural personality. The one definite in her mind was her vision for her bridal shower. She knew exactly what she wanted…


A retro, 1950’s, “Happy little housewife” bridal shower,

And Molly and I were only too happy to oblige!

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This was a theme we could have a lot of fun with!

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On Friday we headed over to church and spent the day decorating and preparing for the shower.

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The theme lent itself nicely to decorations we already had on hand, as this is the look of my home.

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We just loaded up our living room and kitchen and used it to transform the church gym into the shower of Gracie’s dreams.


It was a fun theme to decorate for!

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On Friday night, following Gracie’s bachelorette party, we drove over to the church so Grace could have a preview of her shower. She wasn’t with us when we were decorating, as she had work, so she got to experience the thrill of seeing it all completed.


We also used that time to assemble the favors that came together with the help of my friend, Bonnie. She suggested we stop by Grampa Joe’s Candy shop to buy authentically 1950’s candies to fill our treat cups. The finished results were a perfect final touch!

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We were blessed to have family come in from out of town for Gracie’s special event, including my mom and grandmother from Ohio, and my sister and niece from Michigan.

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The boys that belong to these special ladies also tagged along, as we planned a special event for them as well. While the girls were brunching, Toby took all the boys to an out-of-this-world vintage arcade for some guy time with the groom-to-be and the guys in the family.

Meanwhile, back at church we finished up the last of the preparations as guests began to arrive. Many came decked out in aprons hoping to win the prize for the best apron.

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They also came bearing a favorite family recipe to share with the bride-to-be.

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Rather than traditional bridal shower games, which isn’t Gracie’s style, we offered activities located around the perimeter of the room for guests to peruse and participate in if they wished. Some of our stations included:

“Sign the apron for the Bride-to-Be!” :

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“A good housewife always sends thank you notes!” table where guests could address an envelope to themselves for thank you notes:

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“The Price is Right,” a game where guests had to guess the prices of a 1950’s grocery shopping list:

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And “How many Kisses for the soon-to-be Mrs.”:

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Grace greeted guests as they arrived, dressed to the nine’s as a perfect little housewife.

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Her bridal party was also sporting 1950’s era glasses.

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Even the mother of the bride embraced the theme!

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Molly also had an important job as guests arrived. She tagged each gift and card with a bingo number which would be important for later in the shower.

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The bridal shower began with brunch. We were blessed with many helping hands who pitched in to produce a scrumptious spread of bacon/egg casserole, artichoke casserole, stuffed French toast, cheesy potatoes, fruit salad, homemade chocolate chip cookies, and a variety of yummy muffins topped with 1950’s happy homemaker tags.

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We were touched by all that came out to support Grace and Zach, and wish the bride-to-be blessings of love for her new life.

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After brunch we announced the winners of our bridal shower games and explained our final game of the party…BINGO!


At each guest’s seat were vintage bingo cards that we found at a thrift store two months prior. I wasn’t sure what we’d do with them but they were so cute and so in line with our vintage theme I knew I had to incorporate them into the shower.


It finally came to me that by tagging each gift with a bingo number we could enjoy an old fashioned game of bingo while the bride opened her gifts.

The prizes for our bingo winners were dish soaps that were dolled up with fabric aprons. The game was a hit and the dish soaps were too!

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As Grace opened the gifts, so lovingly and generously given, she had the assistance of her bridesmaids and her new niece.

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Molly penned the list for thank you notes, Lydia and Olivia brought her gifts to unwrap and whisked the open gifts away,

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And sweet Natalie was on wrapping paper clean-up…a job she took very seriously!

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The gifts that Grace and Zach received for their new home were so varied and so very generous. They were immensely blessed by the kindness of their guests.

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It was a wonderful bridal shower. Grace felt loved and the shower of blessings bestowed upon my Gracie girl filled my heart with gratitude for all the good people in our lives.


That afternoon, while still in 1950’s dress, Grace filmed this little ASL ditty for Zach… in honor of  50 DAYS until “I DO!”

Only 50 days to go!!



A SUPER week ends with a Super Bowl party


This post is a “catch up” post. We had a full week with lots of things going on, but none big enough to devote an entire post to. The result: a smorgasbord of life events from the past week.


  1. In the Cyber School my three oldest children attend there is an opportunity to be part of school clubs. This is a fun reward that can be enjoyed when school work is completed. There are a variety of clubs available, for every interest you could imagine. Rusty is a member of the Lego Club and Chess Club. My girls have taken part in the Photography Club and Mural Club. These are fun activities that they look forward to. It is a chance to participate in fun activities and socialize with other cyber students. This week was Mural Club. Molly was in a class and couldn’t attend so Grace invited Rusty and I to participate with her.  In Mural Club the teacher chooses a project and informs the students what supplies they will need for that painting and then everyone logs into a virtual classroom where the Mural Club teacher walks them through the process of creating that work of art, allowing for as much creative license as the students would like to take. She is there simply to guide. This week the project was a painting of a night time sky. Rusty and I joined Grace up in our playroom to paint. It was a lot of fun and we were quite proud of our finished projects.
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My painting is on the far left, Rusty’s is in the middle, and Gracie’s is on the right.


2. Another club Grace is involved in is Fandom Club. This is a club that Grace and her friend, Olivia, came up with and received approval by the school to lead. They are in charge of coming up with the activities and discussion for the bi-monthly Fandom meeting. Each meeting is devoted to a different popular teen fandom. They develop power point slides that guide the meeting as they discuss the fandom of the week. In the past they have had meetings on the Harry Potter series, Marvel Super Heroes, Hunger Games, Star Wars, etc. This week was all about Nintendo, and Rusty helped Grace prepare the Fandom Club meeting since this is more in his area of interest/expertise than Gracie’s.

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Gracie leading the meeting from her bedroom.

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Rusty attending the meeting from his room 🙂

3. For everyone’s “one on one time” this week we worked on projects that were personal to them and their needs for the week. For Tyler’s time we made Valentines for his biological siblings. He has been missing them desperately this week and needing to reach out and connect, so we pulled out our container of art supplies and let him go to town. This week we also made stress balls together. My boys each have a stress ball they use for anxiety in therapy. It is a stretchy, squishy ball that they can pull, squeeze and pinch while they are working through tough stuff with Miss Tina. We also use it at home when emotions are hard. I have found that their stress balls aren’t always accessible when we need them so I decided to make a bunch of them to put around the house, in the car, and in my purse so I have one whenever I need one. The process was simple and the boys LOVED helping me make them. We bought a pack of balloons. We blew them up to stretch out the rubber, and then using a funnel we filled them with flour before tying them closed. They work wonderfully, cost us almost nothing, and will hopefully guarantee we will have a stress ball accessible whenever we need one. 🙂

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As for the other kids’ one on one time…Rusty worked on Duty to God (The goal setting program at church) with me and Ozzie and I worked on completing the last few projects in his Faith in God program before his 12th birthday in two weeks. Grace was asked to teach her Sunday School class this Sunday so I helped her plan her lesson and Molly has spent the last two weeks working on a Personal Progress project that requires her to make dinner for two weeks. She has done a great job and I have LOVED being off dinner duty. Molly has treated us to tortellini soup, lasagna, potato soup, corned beef and couscous, pierogis, spaghetti, etc. YUM!

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4. One evening this week we lost power for three hours. The kids loved the novelty of lighting candles and playing games in the dark. For the big kids that had fully charged laptop computers school continued in the dark until lessons were done, and then all the kids enjoyed hide and seek in the dark with glow sticks. Ozzie was a bit nervous and stuck pretty close to me through the power outage. I know he was immensely relieved when the lights came on before it was time for bed.

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5. I found time to work on a little decorating project. A year ago Tyler broke my big yellow mirror in the living room by “fishing” in the living room and casting a rod that had a weight tied to the end. (“It flew further that way,” he explained.) I finally had Toby take out the broken mirror from where we stored it away in the basement and decided that rather than replace the mirror I would use it as a frame for a photo collage above the piano. I love how it turned out!


6. This weekend we had three little visitors. They came Friday and stayed through Sunday. Toby spent Saturday working on the bus. With Molly’s help he completed the wiring. When the kids weren’t playing they were on the bus “helping.”

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The three 9-11 year olds heading out to explore in the woods.

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Two of Toby’s “helpers.”


7. While Toby spent Saturday working on the bus, Rusty spent his Saturday at a Boy Scout Merit Badge Pow Wow with other scouts. It was an all day event. Rusty worked on three Merit Badges: chess, architecture, and first aid. He enjoyed all three classes but the Chess Merit Badge was his favorite. In addition to learning more about the game and different plays he was able to learn how a professional tournament is played and how to record the moves of a game.

8. Tyler had a birthday party on Saturday. He was invited to a friend’s birthday party and was SO EXCITED to be invited to a birthday party all by himself…with no siblings. It was a first for him and he put a lot of thought and love into buying the perfect gift and picking out the perfect card (a singing card of course!) The theme for the party was Legos and he came home with a cute Lego t-shirt he made at the party.

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9. The three big kids were excited to see the fruits of their labors with these certificates they received in the mail from their school. Rusty earned High Honors this past quarter with all A’s and Grace and Molly received Distinguished Honors with all high A’s. I’m so proud of them all. They worked hard for those accomplishments.

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10. Our weekend ended with a SUPER Super Bowl party with friends. We have been invited to the McKay’s Super bowl party since Rusty was a little baby and we look forward to the chance to reconnect and spend time with them every year. They are an amazing family and we always leave their home feeling inspired, blessed and loved by their gracious hospitality. We ate good food, laughed a lot, and enjoyed a great night of football… despite the Steelers not playing. 🙂

It was a busy week. It was a good week. We are incredibly blessed.

O’ Christmas Tree


We started a tradition a few years ago to help alleviate a bit of the craziness and pressure of the holiday season, as well as a bit of the “mom guilt” that can plague us in December. In the bustle of all the good things that can fill our time in December it is easy to quickly feel overwhelmed as we see all the empty calendar blocks fill with activities and commitments. Add to that all the traditions you love to do as a family and all the wonderful “good mom” activities that are pinned to our Pinterest boards and we can enter the month already defeated. In light of this we started having a meeting, beginning a few years back, on the first of December and making a list. Every member of the family picks a favorite Christmas activity or tradition that is a “must do” for them. When we have our list of 7 favorite traditions and activities we pull out the family calendar and pick a day to do them, thus committing to those things before the month is full of the less important. By doing this simple thing I then am able to give myself permission to let the rest go.

Stress, Busyness, Guilt…Let it Go.

As we blog our lives this month you will see some of those activities that were chosen. Going to chop down our tree was Toby’s favorite family tradition, mine happened on Monday…putting up the tree!


From the time I was a little girl, putting up the Christmas tree was one of the highlights of the Christmas season. The tradition of driving to the lot to find the perfect tree, watching my dad strap it to the top of the car with twine, coming home and digging through the boxes of ornaments while Dad wrestled with the tangled, burned out lights, was magical. To this day the night the tree goes up is my favorite night of the Christmas season. It is when the magic arrives. The home is transformed. When the work is done and the lights get turned off and we all stand back and admire the tree, lit only by the twinkling lights…Yes, that is when the magic of Christmas arrives.

Monday was family night. We began with an object lesson on “Choosing Gratitude” that involved a story and a tray full of mismatched tea cups, full of eggnog. We followed the lesson with a game that required a teacup to be packed full of flour, inverted on a plate, and topped with a piece of candy. The kids then took turns cutting flour away with a butter knife with the goal of not being the one that caused the candy to fall. The one who dropped the candy had to then pick it up with their mouth.






The kids had a blast (Thanks for the idea, Shellie!) and the game kept them occupied while Toby and I tackled the job of lighting the tree.

Soon it was time to begin decorating. The tree, being as tall as it was, warranted the need for a ladder this year. The big kids worked on the top half while the little boys did the bottom half.



Toby handed out ornaments.


The best part of decorating the tree was reminiscing about the ornaments. Each ornament has a story or a memory attached to it, so decorating the tree becomes a walk down memory lane.


When Grace was a baby we started the tradition of each child receiving a new ornament on Dec. 23rd, before we left to join family for Christmas. It has become a special tradition as each child unwraps an ornament, specially chosen to reflect a important event in their life that year. As we pulled ornament after ornament out of the box we were able to share the stories with the little boys, who weren’t with us then, and give them a glimpse into our pre-adoption life.


Tyler was thrilled to have his own ornament to hang on the tree this year and Ozzie now looks forward to growing his ornament collection as well.


When the kids leave home and have their own trees to decorate they will have a nice collection of ornaments to get them started, as well as sweet memories of years past.

The decorating took us about an hour. (Many hands make quick work!) As we worked and talked we had Christmas music playing and eggnog to sip.


When we were done it was time for the magic to be revealed. The lights were turned off and we sat

as a family,

in the glow of the tree,

reflecting on our many blessings.


Christmas has arrived. The magic is here.