Tag Archives: Easter

Easter Blessings


Easter weekend arrived on the heels of a hard week, proving to be anything but “typical” when a series of unexpected trauma triggers rewrote the script we planned for Easter Sunday.

It was with heavy hearts and weary spirits that we moved into the Easter weekend.


It began with a not-so-Good Friday when we found ourselves at the emergency room with Ozzie in crisis.

An evaluation brought awareness that hospitalization was necessary. We arrived midafternoon and I spent the night sitting up in a chair while an open bed at a pediatric mental health hospital was sought out for Oz. Seven hours later a bed was secured and at 8:30am the ambulance arrived to transport him. The sun was already up when I dragged myself back to the parking lot for the heavy-hearted and painful drive home. I was physically exhausted from sitting up all night with Ozzie and emotionally weary from this long, lonely, rollercoaster ride we can’t seem to stop. After a few hours of sleep I rolled out of bed. Toby and I were both tapped dry but we had to rally. We couldn’t let the choices of one child steal the joy of the Easter holiday from the other children. Too many sacrifices have already made for the sake of the higher-needs children in the home and we weren’t going to allow the discouragement that weighed down our hearts, darken the joy of the day. So, Toby and I, exhausted and empty, headed out shopping for Easter baskets and egg coloring supplies. I found myself moving in a fog as I tried to figure out what to put into Easter baskets. I don’t know if it was bone-deep fatigue or the heaviness of grief over another unplanned detour in our family’s journey, but I felt like I couldn’t put together a complete thought, much less a creative plan.

It took us twice as long as it should have but Toby and I finally came up with a plan for Easter baskets and purchased the remaining ingredients needed for egg decorating and for the side dishes we were assigned to bring to Easter dinner.

We battled the crowds and the long lines associated with putting off holiday shopping until the day before, and eventually made it home.

In the hours that followed the eggs were hard boiled and colored, baskets were secretly assembled, Molly’s talk for Easter Sunday was printed out, Sunday clothes were washed and ironed, and soon it was time for bed. With everyone home and tucked into bed, and Ozzie safely cared for at Western Psych, I could finally sleep.

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We awoke at 4:00 am to the harsh ring of the alarm clock.

We crawled from bed to do our Easter duty, going through the motions of childhood traditions, allowing the kids to be kids for another year.

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While we don’t have any “bunny believers” left in our home, the “Easter Bunny” returned for another year. His arrival was especially critical this year, as we shared the joy of our Easter traditions with Braden who missed out on many of these special traditions as a child. He didn’t have a childhood filled with memories of colored eggs and Easter baskets, so we knew that it was important that his first Easter with us contain those beloved traditions. He needed an Easter basket. It was essential. He needed to be given a piece of our shared Easter memories, and needed the opportunity to be experience the joyful anticipation of being that 5-year-old little boy who exits his room in anticipation of baskets and brightly colored eggs hidden around the house. I know it sounds silly and indulgent given the crisis situation we were in. An Easter basket for a 17-year-old boy may not seem as urgent as other needs playing out in our home, but it was incredibly important, and I would even argue that it was essential.

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And the effects of our efforts…our display of tender love and parental care… were priceless.

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The joy of Easter morning moved into the joy of Easter worship as we celebrated the reason for the day, giving thanks for the atoning sacrifice that is the source of our hope and our strength.

After church we headed to Aunt Beth’s house for Easter dinner with Toby’s side of the family.

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We were joined by Zach, Gracie’s boyfriend, who had Easter lunch with our family at 2:00 before Grace joined Zach at his family’s Easter dinner at 5:00.

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We enjoyed good food and fun times with family, celebrating all of our blessings, but especially the blessing a God’s love, Christ’s atonement, forgiveness, do-overs, love-driven endurance, unconditional love, and forever families.

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Sweet Cousins 

We are blessed.

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The darkest days and the most heartbreaking, hopeless Fridays are always followed by the renewing promise and hopeful gift of Easter morning.


God is good…

Always good.


Easter Love from Texas


A few days prior to Easter we received a package in the mail from my brother and sister-in-love from Texas. A peek inside the package clued me into the fact that it was a box of Easter surprises for the family and I tucked it away until Easter morning. After our morning activities we pulled it out and within the box was a bounty of love from down south including Molly’s birthday gift from Uncle Travis and Aunt Krista:


Plastic eggs decorated with our names, bearing treats of chocolates and fluffy peep versions of each of us:

And a dozen cascarónes:

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Cascarónes are a Texas tradition we were introduced to with the addition of a Texan to our family. For those that are unfamiliar here is a little background on this tradition, compliments of Wikipedia:

“A cascarón is a hollowed-out chicken egg filled with confetti or small toys. Cascarónes are common throughout 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 to make them a popular Easter tradition.

Decorated, confetti-filled cascarónes may be thrown or crushed over the recipient’s head to shower them with confetti. Like many popular traditions in Mexico, cascarónes are increasingly popular in the southwestern United States For example, they are especially prominent during the two-week, citywide festival of Fiesta in San Antonio, Texas. Cascarónes are usually made during Easter time.

Having a cascarón broken over one’s head is said to bring good luck.”

And who couldn’t use a little luck?!

So before heading to Aunt Beth’s house for Easter dinner we headed outside to partake in this Texas tradition, compliments of Aunt Krista and Uncle Travis:

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Feliz Pascua de nosotros a usted!

Easter with the McCleerys


After a fun Easter celebration at the Homestead with my side of the family, our Easter celebrations continued the following day with Toby’s side of the family.

The kids awoke early thanks to Tyler and Ozzie’s eagerness to see what their baskets held.

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The Easter Bunny didn’t disappoint and all were pleased with their Easter goodies. Everyone received a new DVD and surprises that matched their movie’s theme.

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After digging through their baskets the hunt for 50, brightly colored, hard-boiled eggs began.

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We always color real eggs for the Easter Bunny to hide but every year I question the wisdom in that when inevitably there are unaccounted eggs that can’t be found. A panic of what those eggs will smell like in a few days if left unfound drives us to scour the living room with an attention to detail that rivals an Amber Alert. After 30 minutes of panic we found the last rouge egg and were finally able to settle back and relax, and enjoy our Easter morning.

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This year was a trifecta of events with Easter, April Fools Day, and General Conference (a bi-annual event in our church where members get to watch and receive council from the leaders of our church.) This meant a morning at home as General Conference is a broadcast event that can be viewed from the comfort of one’s own living room.

We enjoyed a yummy Easter brunch and enjoyed sitting as a family in the living room, watching General Conference, being spiritually fed while being physically fed.

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After two hours everyone got dressed to go to Aunt Beth’s house for Easter dinner with the McCleery side of the family.

We were blessed with beautiful spring weather for the day.

Once everyone arrived Grace, Molly and Rusty headed outside to hide the Easter eggs for the younger kids, making sure there was a wide range of difficulty to match the wide range of capability between the youngest and oldest cousins.


Once the eggs were hidden the kids were called outside to begin the hunt…

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After all the eggs had been found we headed inside to enjoy the Easter feast that had been prepared by many helping hands.

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The food was a yummy as it looked.

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As we ate we enjoyed a time of visiting and reconnection, having not seen much of the family since Thanksgiving. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly the months between gatherings fly by, but also how effortlessly the kiddos pick up again after seeing each other so sporadically.

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Rusty and Gunner made a special connection and it was fun to see how two cousins, whose ages span a decade, can connect in such fun way.

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The girls loved getting in some baby snuggles with their youngest cousin,

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and even Rusty took a turn holding the baby.

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It was a practically perfect Easter.

How grateful I am for the reason for this special season.


Easter with the Reals


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Easter weekend was a blessed one at Patchwork Farm. We had Ozzie home for five days and our time was filled to overflowing with General Conference, egg decorating, Easter with my side of the family and Easter with Toby’s side of the family. We were on the run all weekend but it was a weekend filled with Easter fun.

On Saturday morning we loaded up the van and headed 2 1/2 hours west to the Homestead where my sister and her family were visiting my parents for the weekend. Easter weekend always brings the emergence of my sister’s family who, as residents of Northern Michigan, tend to be snowed in from Thanksgiving until Easter. It is always a treat to get in some cousin time after months of not seeing each other.

We lucked out with decent weather for our Real family Easter. The rain had finally lifted after settling over Ohio and Pennsylvania for the last five days, and the temperatures, while nippy, were warm enough to allow us an outdoor dinner in the barn.

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We arrived and were greeted by five excited little ones whose energy and enthusiasm were matched by my own five. They all jumped immediately into the task of catching up and making the most of our one day reunion.

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My mom handed out Easter surprises to everyone. Kelly and I each got a cute duck and a vintage children’s book for our Easter gifts.

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We all sat and visited while we waited for my Dad to return with dinner. My parents decided that our limited time together was better spent enjoying family than being shut up in the kitchen cooking and doing dishes so they order our Easter dinner from Der Dutchman, one of the tastiest restaurants in Amish country.

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When Dad arrived home with a hot feast in the back of the car everyone pitched in to carry all the dishes into the barn and set up our Easter buffet. We enjoyed a scrumptious feast of ham, fried chicken, noodles, green beans, corn, mashed potatoes and gravy, homemade rolls, and four different types of pie including a Key Lime Pie that Toby declared was the best pie he had ever tasted.

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As we ate, we enjoyed a time of reconnection and visiting, with the little boys at one table, the big kids at another table, and the adults at the third table that was set up in the barn.

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After everyone had eaten their fill the adults headed outside to hide 100 Easter eggs. At this point the sky was beginning to darken and we didn’t want to get hit with rain before the kids had a chance to enjoy a egg hunt so we shuffled the schedule a bit.

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Ozzie and my Dad

Once all the eggs had been hidden around my parents yard we called for the kids and these are the heads that popped out from the barn…

Wrong kids!

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Finally the two legged kids came running with bags in hand.

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The three youngest were given a head start,

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and then the rest were set free to search.

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The result of their efforts was a bounteous feast of sugar.

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After the egg hunt we returned to the barn for our quarterly birthday celebration. Because of the infrequency of our opportunities to gather with extended family we will celebrate 3 or 4 months worth of birthdays while we are all together. This day we celebrated our February- May kids.

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After our birthday celebration we headed outside where Toby and Tom got a game of touch football going with the kids.

I was the official team photographer!!

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All too soon it was time to leave. Our one day reunions never seem to stretch as far as we would like but boy did we fit A LOT of fun with family into our eight hours at the Homestead!

How blessed we are this Easter Season.

An EGG-cellent Time!


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After a magnificent week away with friends I returned to reality on Thursday afternoon. From the retreat I made a few stops for secret Easter basket shopping before picking up Ozzie. Due to an extended Easter break he was able to come home for five days. Those five days flew by, packed with all sorts of holiday festivities and visits with both sides of the family. The fun began on Friday morning with egg dying. Now normally this would be a Family Night activity but our full schedule during Holy Week left us scrambling to find an evening that everyone was home. We finally decided to indulge in this beloved tradition on Friday morning when Toby volunteered to skip egg dying so that one of the kids wouldn’t have to, so while Toby was at work we pulled out the hard boiled eggs and dyes and set to work. Creativity was the theme of the day and everyone enjoyed a delightful morning of Egg-cellent creations!

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Easter at the Homestead

Last weekend we headed to Ohio.
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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.
Much of the day was spent outside enjoying this ideal spring day.
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For lunch we enjoyed a picnic lunch of subs, potato salad, deviled eggs, and pickled watermelon rinds.
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The animals gathered at the fence to watch us eat. Perhaps they were hoping someone might toss them a roll. 🙂
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It is funny to see how alive and engaged the critters become when they see the kids arrive.
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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:
“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.”

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


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

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What fun they were!!

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


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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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Mom even had special Easter treats for Toby and I.

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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!

Easter Morning



Easter morning began with excited calls from behind closed doors,

“Can we come out yet?”

Once Toby and I positioned ourselves in the living room we gave them the green light to come out and see if the Easter Bunny visited.

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There were a few sighs of relief to see a basket with their name on it. For some of our kids there is always a bit of anxious anticipation on the eve on Easter and Christmas as they wonder whether this holiday will be their morning of reckoning for some less than stellar choice made in the previous weeks.


But like Santa, the Easter Bunny was merciful, and all found full baskets on this Easter morn.


I was transported back the childhood joy of digging through Easter grass in search of the black jelly beans, as I watched my kids pull out their Easter surprises from their baskets one treat at a time.

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After everyone’s baskets were empty it was time for the egg hunt.

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The Easter Bunny hid the eggs we dyed the night before around the main living area of the house, with the kids all in charge of searching out and seeking 10 eggs each. The egg hunt didn’t end until ALL eggs were accounted for. Unlike plastic eggs, it is essential that all the hidden eggs are found when you are searching for hard boiled eggs!

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Then it was time for church. Baskets were laid aside and everyone got dolled up for Easter Sunday. Breakfast consisted of hardboiled eggs and resurrection rolls.


After church we joined Toby’s mom, aunts, uncle, and cousins at Aunt Beth’s house for Easter dinner.

It was so nice seeing family that we haven’t seen for the last two years. I couldn’t believe how big all the kids had gotten. I know the feeling was mutual, especially when they saw Rusty.

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Our Easter celebration at Aunt Beth’s began with an egg hunt outside. Rain was expected in the afternoon so it was wisely decided to begin the day with the egg hunt and end with dinner.

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The kids were split into two groups with two different hunt areas. The three under five year olds searched Beth’s yard, while the eight older kids searched Mimi’s yard.

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It seems that whether 8 or 18, an egg hunt is always fun!

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After each kid found their 10 eggs we moved back inside for our delicious Easter dinner of ham sandwiches, potato salad, deviled eggs, baked beans and strawberry pretzel salad.

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Everyone filled their plates and wandered off to find a place to sit with much of the family moving outside to enjoy the beautiful spring weather.

We spent the afternoon enjoying family, catching up, and playing frisbee.

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It was a perfect Easter.

Coloring Eggs



On Friday I returned home from my scrapbooking getaway and jumped right into Momma mode with our Easter tradition of egg decorating. The eggs were already hard boiled and the kits were purchased, so all that was left was the fun part…the decorating!

Egg decorating is one of those favorite family traditions that I look forward to as a Momma. I have such sweet memories of my own childhood holiday traditions… that messy togetherness that is found in the acts of carving jack o’ lanterns, decorating Christmas cookies, or coloring Easter eggs…that it is a joy to carry on these sweet traditions with my own children.

We covered the table with plastic as the familiar, memory-evoking smell of vinegar permeated the room. The kids gathered round as we dropped the colored tablets in the cups and watched the color bubble to life.

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Then it was time to begin decorating. It is always fun to watch the creativity that is displayed with these sort of projects. Everyone had ideas of what they wanted to do with their eggs and the results were beautiful.

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As we colored eggs we watched some church Easter videos online and discussed the heart of Easter, touching on the sacrifice, great love, and miracle of the Easter season.

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It was a wonderful way to come together after a few days apart, and a perfect way to begin a fun filled Easter weekend.

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Before we sent the kids to bed that night we let them open a package that had arrived in the mail a few days earlier. Mimi Joy, who is serving a mission in Missouri, sent an Easter package to the kids. They had fun opening up the surprise gift and divvying up the goodies inside.

Then it was off to bed for a good night’s sleep before our Easter celebration with my parents the following day at the Homestead!

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A Homestead Egg-stravaganza with the Kirk cousins


For Easter we had the treat of spending the holiday not only with my parents but with my sister’s family as well. Kelly and Tom drove down from Michigan to spend a few days with my parents in Ohio and we were able to join them. It was an unexpected treat that came as a result of our original plans falling through. Kelly and Tom drove down on Saturday with their five kiddos.

On Sunday morning we woke up to Tyler’s excited calls through our bedroom door…

“Is it time to get up? The Easter Bunny came!”


The kids gathered in the living room to check out the goodies that they received in their Easter baskets and then hunt for the 42 hard boiled eggs that the big bunny hid around the house. We were eager to get on the road and begin the 2 1/2 hour trek to my parents’ house (we wanted to get as much time in with the cousins as we could) but we couldn’t leave until the kids found all the eggs.

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That is the down side of hiding real eggs. 😉

It is important that they all be found.

And they were.

We got the animals taken care of, everyone dressed, the car packed and we headed off. We arrived at noon, just as my parents were getting home from church. It was wonderful seeing everyone. My sister and I both commented on the growth we saw in each other’s children. We agreed that before we let the kids loose to play we should try to get a group picture of the cousins…you know, before everyone got muddy.

Rusty, Ozzie, and Tyler

Rusty, Ozzie, and Tyler

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Molly and Grace

The boys!

The boys!

The girls!

The girls!

Poor Charlie was ready for a nap and really wasn’t in the mood for a photo shoot, but we did our best.

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After we got enough pictures to satisfy us Mommas we let the kids go free. They ran off to enjoy some cousin time before lunch was ready.











For lunch my mom planned a delicious Easter picnic lunch. We had ham sandwiches and side dishes and ate outside in the sun. The weather was beautiful and we all ended up with mild sunburns. Our poor, pasty skin hasn’t seen that much sunlight in months!

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After lunch we went out to the barn so that the boys could see Bobby T, my parents new baby goat. The girls had already met Bobby but Rusty and Oz were eager to feed him a bottle.

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Then my Dad took the kids on a hayride while the other adults hid eggs for the Easter egg hunt. Kelly and I had both brought a large pile of plastic eggs not knowing that the other had it covered. The result:

135 eggs hidden in my parents’ large yard.

When the kids came back they were given a bag and instructions as to how many eggs to find and what the boundaries were. They were also told that the eggs laying out in the open, on the grass, were for the 4 and under crowd.

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The egg hunt was a hit!

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The rest of the day was spent playing and catching up. The kids picked up with their cousins immediately, and you wouldn’t have even known that they hadn’t seen each other in 6 months. Watching them together makes me miss Kelly and her family even more. I wish we lived closer and could see each other more often, but it does make me appreciate all the more those rare moments we do get together.

It was a wonderful day. We packed a lot of fun into those 7 hours and made many sweet memories to look back on and enjoy…

 until we meet again. 🙂

“Color me happy!”


Monday night was family night and a perfect opportunity to decorate eggs for Easter. This week I am going out of town for a few days for my annual scrapbooking retreat with friends. I arrive back home on Saturday evening…Sunday is Easter…so I knew Monday was our window of opportunity. 🙂

Egg decorating is a favorite holiday tradition and the kids always look forward to getting their “creative” groove on. This year I picked up a  couple different decorating kits to try out. For a dollar per kit, and the cheap price of eggs, you really would be hard pressed to find cheaper entertainment. We boiled 4 dozen eggs so that everyone could decorate 6 or 7. My kids all love hard-boiled eggs so I knew they would be eaten.

I am finding that with the growing size of our family 2 dozen eggs just doesn’t cut it anymore. 🙂

We spent a couple of hours decorating eggs and enjoying family time. It was fun seeing the different creative designs the kids came up with and how their personal styles were reflected in their designs. Here is a look at our colorful night:














The completed eggs!

The completed eggs!

But that’s not all! Other “egg”cellent happenings around here include:


Last Saturday the girls were hired to be face painters for Chippewa’s Easter celebration and egg hunt. The girls love doing it and were thrilled to be asked again. Ozzie had a visit with his biological sister so I took Tyler along, thinking he would enjoy the egg hunt.


I was wrong.

He became very anxious when he saw all the kids and didn’t want to participate. Instead he visited the balloon artist and enjoyed a free cookie. 🙂 The weather was bitterly cold but luckily the girls had a standing outdoor heater set up near them that took the chill off.




The crowds didn’t hang around for long and soon after the egg hunt was over the girls were paid and told that they could pack up. Tyler asked Molly if she would help him look through the hay to see if any eggs had been overlooked during the egg hunt. 🙂


When we got home we had a few hours before we had to head out again so we decided to work on some projects. Recently I offered Molly a business opportunity. Molly, who loves to organize and is very good at it, was given the chance to make some spending money. I have found that I simply haven’t been able to keep up with all the cleaning/organizing tasks that I’d like to (as I have been working with Ozzie) so I suggested that over spring break, if she wanted to, she could empty drawers and cabinets, wipe them down, and reorganize them for a dollar a drawer. She jumped at the chance and her results have been impressive…worth every dollar!!


I spent Saturday tackling the momentous job of organizing the 1200 photos I ordered for my scrapbooking retreat into piles for individual scrapbooking pages. The task took me 7 hours as I compiled the photos, each child’s journal entry for that day, and paper/stickers for the Disney album I will be working on. I am hoping that the hours of work I invested on this side of the trip will save me hours of work during the trip so that I can spend more time on the fun, creative part of scrapbooking our vacation memories.


Tomorrow I head out and I won’t lie…

I can’t wait!

See you later, gator. 🙂