Tag Archives: donkey

The Magic of Christmas Eve

Standard

Christmas Eve…a night filled with the magic of possibilities!

Nowhere is the magic more pronounced than the Christmas magic found at the Homestead on Christmas Eve.

IMG_9821 (2) - Copy - Copy

Toby had the day off work so we packed up the car with sleeping bags and pillows, Christmas pajamas, bags of stocking stuffers, wrapped presents, and some very excited children, and headed out to Ohio.

We arrived and were greeted by the enthusiastic barking of Ranger and Rosie, the resident German Shepherds. After long-overdue hugs with Travis and Krista, our family from the Lone Star state, and Christmas greetings with Mimi and Pop Pop, we bid them good-bye as they left for early Christmas Eve mass.

While they were gone we began preparations for our Christmas Eve feast of appetizers and dips. The spread was as abundant as it was varied.

IMG_9822 (2) - Copy

Everyone pitched in to help,

IMG_9811

With breaks taken for sampling and checking out the action on Santa Tracker.

IMG_9830 (2)

Despite knowing the truth about Christmas, Ozzie, my map loving kiddo, still loves watching Santa’s progress across the world on Christmas Eve.

IMG_9824 (2)

When the rest of the family arrived home, the celebration began in full force.

We had Grace and Zach with us on Christmas Eve for a few hours, before they left for home to spend Christmas Day with Zach’s side of the family.

IMG_9815 (3) - Copy

It was a joy to have them with us for our Christmas Eve traditions!

IMG_9885 (2) - Copy

The newlywed’s first Christmas

Our evening of fun began with our evening feast.

IMG_9882 (2) - CopyIMG_9871 (2) - CopyIMG_9876 (2) - Copy

We enjoyed filling our bellies with delicious food while feeding our souls with family time as we chatted and laughed together.

IMG_9866 (2) - Copy

The O3- united again!

IMG_9828 (2) - Copy

Oh,  how I love this boy of mine!

 

After dinner it was time for games and our annual white elephant gift exchange. This is a tradition that began a decade ago and always leads to many laughs.

IMG_9887 (2) - Copy

This is a tradition I have responsibility over, which means each year I shop for inexpensive, but ridiculous gifts, that I wrap up to look far more appealing than the gift within actually is. Dollar Tree is my usual shopping spot as it offers the weird and the unusual for as cheap as can be. After 10 years of my annual shopping trips to Dollar Tree I found I had exhausted all the possibilities for our white elephant game.

It was time to up the stakes!

Five Below, here I come!

The result of a slightly increased game budget and a new shopping venue paid dividends.

Everyone battled for gifts they were certain held treasures.

IMG_9889 (2) - Copy

Once everyone had a gift in hand, we all took turns unwrapping and revealing our AWESOME wins!

IMG_9892 (2) - Copy

Braden’s face speaks volumes!

And boy were they belly-laugh inducing!!

IMG_9905

IMG_9909

Tyler enjoying his remote control poop…

IMG_9896 (2) - Copy

Travis trying out Krista’s voice altering machine.

IMG_9894 (2) - Copy

I think Grace loves her new board game!

IMG_9899 (2) - Copy

Mimi creating beautiful music with her piano tie.

IMG_9906 (2) - Copy

It was like something from a SNL skit.

IMG_9912 (2)

Rusty made his own Forky!

After our game we bundled up and headed to the barn for another Christmas Eve tradition…

IMG_9915 (2)

Dad reading the Christmas story from Luke as we sat in the stillness of the barn.

IMG_9930 (2)

It is always the highlight of my Christmas. There is something holy about the experience as we sit in the darkness of the barn, listening to the slow cadence of my father’s voice as he tells the story of Christ’s humble birth so many years ago…

IMG_9924 (2)

Interrupted only by the occasional call from a goat.

IMG_9935 (2)

Our time in the barn ended with the singing of a Christmas hymn and some donkey lovin’ on Georgie before we made our way back to the house.

IMG_9953 (2)IMG_9943 (2)

Grace and Zack prepared to take their leave. They had a 2 1/2 hour drive ahead of them, made all the more arduous by the thick fog that had settled on the valley…

And the other kids unwrapped their gifts of new pajamas for Christmas Eve.

IMG_9961 (2)

“Yabba Dabba Doo!”

IMG_9958 (2)

The Flash, A ballerina pig, Genie, and Jack Skellington

Warm and snuggly, they headed off for bed while the rest of us brought Christmas to life by filling the empty spaces around the tree with beautifully wrapped packages,

IMG_9807 (3) - Copy

And filled the stockings with trinkets and treats.

IMG_9964 (2)

Christmas could now arrive!

And then it was off to bed for a few stolen winks of sleep for the adults before the festive fun resumed.

 

Day 4 of Christmas: Christmas Eve!

Standard

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

A Christmas Eve with George, the donkey!

IMG_5036 (2)The next round of Christmas fun came the following day when we loaded up two cars with gifts, stocking stuffers, appetizers and children to drive out to my parents’ home.

IMG_4918 (2)

Christmas at the Homestead is nothing short of magical and all the kids were eager to share this special tradition with Brandon.

IMG_4908 (2)

The tradition of spending Christmas Eve with my parents, and waking up to Santa’s gifts at their home the next day, is an annual tradition. My Mom always makes the holiday so special.

IMG_4922 (2)IMG_4924 (2)

The kids love the predictability of the traditions that repeat themselves year after year and couldn’t wait to show Brandon why they love Christmas at the Homestead!

IMG_4910 (2)

This year was a little different than past years, however. This year my brother and his new bride were celebrating Christmas in Texas with Krista’s family.  My grandmother, now an Ohio resident, is living minutes from my parents’ home, so rather than staying at their home over Christmas, she traveled back and forth from her apartment to the Homestead to join in the activities that she felt up for participating in. This meant for a portion of the Christmas holiday it was just Toby, the kids and I at the Homestead with my parents.

Despite missing our loved ones who were far away this Christmas, we enjoyed another magical Christmas Eve at the Homestead, made all the more special by the addition of our newest son.

We arrived and Brandon got settled in, with the kids showing him where he would be sleeping and explaining what to expect.

The first event of the evening was dinner, with our usual meal of appetizers and hors d’ oeuvers.

IMG_4925 (2)

While Dad left with Ozzie to pick up G.G., the rest of the crew began laying out the feast!

IMG_4931 (2)

It was another AMAZING spread and when Dad, Ozzie and G.G. returned we ate until we couldn’t eat anymore!

IMG_4962 (2)IMG_4973 (2)IMG_4981 (2)

After a quick clean-up, it was time to convene in the living room, for the talent portion of the evening.

Tyler, Ozzie, and Brandon chose to be audience members, rather than perform, but the oldest three all came with prepared talents to share.

Rusty had prepared two musical pieces to play on the keyboard.

IMG_4985 (2)

Molly provided a repeat performance of the musical number she had performed at church on Sunday,

And then the girls both signed to a song they had been working on all month. The musical numbers all brought a sweet spirit to the Homestead, and we all found ourselves wiping away tears, moved by the beauty of the songs.

Tears were quickly followed by laughter as we followed the talent part of the night with the game portion of the evening.

Mom and Dad had purchased a new game for the holidays:

IMG_5008 (2)

The premise of this game, developed by Jeff Foxworthy, is to pick a punchline to the start of a joke. Played much like “Apples to Apples,” everyone has a pile of responses that they can pick from and the “comedian” reads them all out load and chooses their favorite.

IMG_5006 (2)

The game is rated for 14 and up and we soon discovered why. It was a bit saucy but downright hilarious. I don’t know when I have laughed so hard.

IMG_5005 (2)

IMG_4996 (2)IMG_4994 (2)IMG_4993 (2)

After getting our ab workout from an hour of belly laughs, my Dad left with G.G., Brandon and Tyler to take Grandma back home for the night. She would return in the morning for all our Christmas fun but would enjoy the comfort of her own bed in her own home overnight.

When Dad and the boys returned, we headed out to the barn for my very favorite part of Christmas…

There in cold and quiet barn, lit only by the luminaries and lights of a small tree, we took our places on bales of hay and listened to the melodious voice of my father as he opened his Bible and read the story of Jesus’ birth.

IMG_5015 (2)

The only sound was the shuffling of animals in their stalls.

IMG_5031 (2)

There in the barn we reflected on the greatest miracle of humankind that occurred in a similar place 2000 years ago.

There in a dusty stable long ago, surrounded by animals much like these, Mary brought the Savior of the world into this world.

IMG_5025 (2)

What a powerful experience it was to reflect on that night, and all it entailed, as we sang the words of “Silent Night,” in the darkness of my parents’ barn.

IMG_5027 (2)

When we were done, the animals were all tucked into the stalls.

IMG_5044 (2)

We bid them good night.

IMG_5038 (2)

And headed for bed…

Eager to see if Santa would make a showing.

 

Easter at the Homestead

Standard
Last weekend we headed to Ohio.
IMG_3880 (2)
Since we had spent Easter day with Toby’s family, this was our second Easter celebration…this time with my parents.
We could not have asked for more beautiful weather. It was a perfect spring day. Between the bright blue sky, kelly green grass, and purple violets, the Homestead was alive with color.
IMG_3826
Much of the day was spent outside enjoying this ideal spring day.
IMG_3857 (2)
For lunch we enjoyed a picnic lunch of subs, potato salad, deviled eggs, and pickled watermelon rinds.
IMG_3836 (2)IMG_3842 (2)IMG_3851 (2)
The animals gathered at the fence to watch us eat. Perhaps they were hoping someone might toss them a roll. 🙂
IMG_3874 (2)
It is funny to see how alive and engaged the critters become when they see the kids arrive.
IMG_3875 (2)
After lunch we participated in a new Easter tradition, something we had never heard of before. This Easter tradition was introduced to us by my soon-to-be sister from Texas. Upon hearing that my poor, Pennsylvania children had never experienced cascarones before (a Easter tradition in Texas) she sent a package as a gift. “What are cascarones,” you ask:
cascarones
“A cascarón is a hollowed-out chicken egg filled with confetti. Cascarones are common through Mexico and are similar to the Easter eggs popular in many other countries. They are mostly used in Mexico during Carnival, but in US and Mexico border towns the cultures combined making them a popular Easter tradition.

Popular for generations as an Easter tradition in the Southwest, they are now making a splash elsewhere in the United States.”

IMG_3878 (2)

She explained to my mom how they work and that getting hit with a cascarone is supposed to bring good luck.

IMG_3834

So we tapped into our very shallow, pretty much non-existent Latin roots and grabbed an egg.

IMG_3881 (2)

What fun they were!!

IMG_3887 (2)IMG_3882 (2)IMG_3889 (2)

I think we have established a new Easter tradition, although Tyler suggested that next year we just use regular eggs.

IMG_3893.JPG

It could be fun. Messy, but fun. 😉

After our cascarones battle it was time to switch gears from Easter to birthdays, as we planned to take advantage of having everyone gathered, so as to celebrate Ozzie’s and Molly’s birthdays.

IMG_3852 (2)

Life has gotten busier in recent years and the added distance between our homes (2 1/2 hours as opposed to 1) makes getting together a bit tougher, so we have begun clumping birthdays and celebrating 3 months of birthdays in one sitting.

IMG_3828 (2)

Both kids were tickled pink to receive such perfect, thoughtful, creative gifts from my parents.

Ozzie received two new puzzles and a deck of John Deere playing cards. They couldn’t have picked a better gift for my puzzle loving boy!

IMG_3901 (2)

Molly received a Ukulele…an adorable Ukulele! She has been talking about wanting to learn to play the Ukulele and Mimi and Pop Pop heard her wish and granted it.

IMG_3907 (2)

Mom even had special Easter treats for Toby and I.

IMG_3833 (2)IMG_3864 (2)

It was very thoughtful!

The remainder of the day was spent soaking up the sunshine, enjoying birthday root beer floats, and playing Frisbee as a family.

How blessed we are!

The road less traveled

Standard

 Jim Fisher has been quoted as saying:

“Not a moment of life is wasted on a farm. Others have been more places but none have out lived me.”

Recently one of the government employees in charge of Ozzie’s care and well-being asked us to justify our life style choice and explain why we felt growing up in the country was the best life choice for Ozzie. The words were spoken with obvious disdain by someone who was more familiar and comfortable with city life than life on a farm. It saddens me when people, who have little understanding of our lifestyle, pass judgment on it.  Whether we are addressing the fact that we home school, have adopted, live without cable, raise animals, don’t buy our children cell phones, or expect our children to participate in the well-being of our family unit through daily chores; there are always some that express the feelings that we are somehow doing our children a disservice by not buying into the world’s definition of what a happy childhood looks like.

We have chosen to take the road less traveled.

It has been expressed by others that our lifestyle choice is a selfish one, and that our children are missing out…on what, I’m not sure…but here are some of the great blessings that have come from this life we have been blessed with…

My children have known the joy of holding a baby animal, just minutes old, as well as the profound experience of holding an animal as it takes its last breath.

My children have come to understand that their food doesn’t just come from a supermarket shelf but from the sweat and labor of hard work.

My children have felt the earth between their toes and dirt beneath their nails as they have planted seeds in the ground.

They have experienced the faith of waiting on a seed to sprout and the labor of caring for and reaping the benefits of a garden.

My children have created life long, belly-laugh memories as they have chased goats off the roof and pigs off the highway.

My children have eaten eggs, hours old, and fudge made from the goat’s milk they collected themselves.

My children have experienced the childhood magic of laying under the stars, building tree houses, splashing in creeks, and catching frogs.

They have learned the lessons of hard work and diligence. They have split wood, stacked logs and raked hay.

My children have chores.

They wash clothes, cook meals, tend animals, and clean up their messes. We don’t give our children chores because we hate them or because we are too lazy to do it ourselves. We give our children chores so that they can experience the satisfaction of a job well done.

My children have been told “No” and have experienced the disappointment of not getting what they want…not because we love to disappoint them but because we are training them to be grateful rather than entitled.

My children have learned, through opportunities to serve, that the greatest joy in life comes from thinking of others before yourself.

My home is not perfect. It is often dirty, noisy, and smells of animals.

My children, also, are often dirty, noisy and smell of animals. 🙂

But, they are happy

and they are kind.

My life is not perfect or pristine. Perhaps in the eyes of the world this life I choose to live is less than ideal,

but I have seen great blessings come from this life I have chosen and this life we have chosen to give our children.

Molly and Pop pop

Molly and Pop pop

On Saturday we went to visit our second favorite farm, The Homestead. We traveled out to Ohio to spend the day with my parents and celebrate a belated Mother’s Day with my mom. It was a picture perfect day. The sun was shining and the temperature was ideal. When we arrived the kids headed to the barn right away to see the animals. Ozzie was eager to say hello to George, the donkey, and the other kids couldn’t wait to hold the two chicks that had just hatched.

IMG_7112

IMG_7035

IMG_7042

George and Grace

George and Grace

After some fun on the farm we all hopped in the car and drove over to one of our favorite places in Amish Country…

Hershberger’s Farm and Bakery.

IMG_7100

It is a neat Amish store that sells local wares, homemade baked goods, as well as farm animals. When you pull up the first thing you see are goats on the barn roof. (Unlike our goats, they are supposed to be there.) There is a set of stairs for them to climb up on. A pulley system is set up so that you can buy ice cream cones full of feed and send them up onto the roof. Inside the barn there are animals to pet and buy. There are goats, chickens, pigs, sheep, rabbits, ducks and puppies. We enjoy visiting Hershberger’s any time of the year but it is especially fun in the spring with all of the baby animals.

Tyler and a baby lamb.

Tyler and a baby lamb.

Rusty and a baby goat

Rusty and a baby goat

One of the most impressive animals at Hershberger’s Farm is Big Ben, the huge Belgian horse that lives there. He is the biggest horse in Holmes County. He measures 19H 3″ tall and 3,006 lb. He is quite the site to see!

IMG_7043

IMG_7046

After having our fill of baby animal snuggles we headed next door to the bakery to enjoy a Holmes County delicacy- fry pies. Fry pies are pockets of delicious goodness: a fried, glazed pastry filled with various pie fillings. My parents treated us all to one. The kids had fun choosing their flavor and then tasting each other’s choices. We sat in the shade visiting and watching two baby horses play in the field across the street while we enjoyed our treat.

IMG_7102

We spent the remainder of our day together enjoying fried chicken for lunch, playing games in the yard, and catching up. It was  a wonderful day.

IMG_7041

Perhaps one of the greatest occupational hazards of being human is our propensity to judge each other’s life choices.

Bottle feed or Breast feed

Public school or Home school

City life or Country life

Big family or Small Family

College education or Learn a trade

Working mom or Stay-at-home mom

Whatever the issue, whatever the choice, there seems to be a passionate defense launched by both sides.

I suppose the lesson in all of this is that…

“Sometimes the people around you won’t understand your journey

but that is OK,

it’s not their journey to understand.”

IMG_7131

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

– Robert Frost

Country Moments

Standard

“Taking pictures is savoring life intensely, every hundredth of a second.” -Marc Riboud

This weekend the girls and I went out to the Homestead to visit my parents for a “girls only weekend.” The original plan was to take Zoey, the little girl we have been doing respite care for, with us and leave Ozzie, her brother, home with the boys but when Friday came Zoey was running a high temperature and ended up staying home with her foster mom. Ozzie still came and was eager for his “boys’ weekend.” (More on that in a future blog) After picking up Ozzie and dropping him off at home the girls and I headed to Ohio for a fun weekend with Mimi and Pop pop. The plan was to relax, do some Christmas shopping, see a movie and go out to lunch. We arrived Friday night just in time for dinner. After a tasty meal we played board games. In the morning Gracie joined Mimi and Pop pop in the barn for morning chores with her camera in hand. Her photography assignment for this week was a lesson on photo journalism. This week she learned the art of telling a story using only photos. She decided to tell the story of life at the Homestead…of country moments.

Here is her story….

Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 11.42.20 AM

IMG_4205

IMG_4136

IMG_4310

IMG_4194

Grace McCleery #2

Grace McCleery #3

Grace McCleery #4

IMG_4212

IMG_4155

IMG_4156

IMG_4289

Grace McCleery #5

“What I like about photography is that it takes moments that should have been forgotten, and just freezes them, and allows us to share it with everyone and share it with future generations. But there is also a sense of secrets of the picture, or the stuff you don’t know, or don’t see. You don’t really know what happened before or after a picture. It’s like time is frozen in that moment.”-Jesus Holguin