Tag Archives: family night

How are you Spending your Time?




One of the classes I am taking as part of the Pathway program through BYU-Idaho, as I work toward my goal of obtaining my college degree, is a General Studies class. I have really enjoyed this class that focuses on strengthening study skills but also life skills. Some of the topics we have covered weekly have included goal setting, money management and time management. As part of our commitment to attend a weekly gathering with students participating in the same program, we are required to sign up to teach a class during the semester as the lead student. A few weeks ago it was my week to teach and my topic was “time management,” something I am personally passionate about.

After teaching the lesson I prepared to my Pathway peers, I decided I might as well take advantage of the time I had invested in preparing the lesson and get a “round 2” out of the lesson. On Sunday night we had  our weekly family home evening lesson on the topic of being good stewards of our time.

I began my lesson with an object lesson.

I had a large bowl of jelly beans.

I passed around the bowl of jelly beans with a stack of cups and asked each person to fill their cup with as many jelly beans as they wanted. There were only two rules…

  1. They had to take at least 1 jelly bean.
  2.  They couldn’t eat any of their jelly beans until the end of the lesson.

And then I showed this video:

As everyone shared their feeling about the video, I used a “How many days have I been alive?” calculator online to let everyone know how many of their jelly beans they have used so far.

I then asked everyone to count the jelly beans in the cup and consider what they would do if the number of jelly beans in their cups actually represented the number of days they had left on the earth…

Would that have an effect on how they spent their time?

As they pondered that question, I shared the following quote by Neal A. Maxwell:

“The time we have been given here on earth is only a very small part of our existence. We must understand our time here in the eternal context of the Plan of Salvation. The way we use our time will only change when the way we feel about our time changes. As children of God we are stewards of time and we will be held accountable for how we use it. The way we use our time will determine what we become in this life and in eternity. We can choose to spend our time or invest our time. By keeping the commandments and our covenants we invest our time in the promises God has given us. This investment will bring eternal rewards.

“Time is, for all of us, a gift from God. It is given to us as a part of our mortal stewardship”

With this quote serving as the foundation for the next part of the lesson, we had a mini financial lesson of the effects of spending vs investing. The kids reached the conclusion that money spent was money lost. It couldn’t be retrieved again. While money invested was money that kept paying dividends well into the future.

I then gave each family member an index card and asked them to count the jelly beans in their cup and write that number at the top of their index card, representing the number of days they have left here in earth. I then asked them, if that were true, how would they use the days they have left? Each family member was asked to thoughtfully create a list of how they would use their remaining days on earth.

The room fell silent as everyone began writing their thoughts on paper. It was a thought-provoking and powerful activity.

When everyone was done writing we went around the room and shared our thoughts.

Some of the items included on various lists were:

Spend time with family, travel, be easier on myself, serve others, face my fears, help people, apologize, give away my things to the needy, leave letters for loved ones, and pray.

We then analyzed our lists and weighed their value, pondering whether each item on our list was a way to “spend time” or an “investment” of our time. As we looked at the things we each wrote down, all were investments of time…activities that produced long term/ eternal dividends.

We ended our family night lesson with a game. Each player used the jellybeans in their cup, along with a stack of toothpicks, to build a tower. The rule was they had a set amount of time to build their tower, but didn’t know when their time would end. The goal was to build the tallest tower that could stand up independently…


Then the race began.


It was interesting to see each kid’s strategies, with some focused of making sure they had a firm foundation before trying to move upward, while others, in a panic of not knowing when the timer might “bing,” began building upward without having established a secure base…



A decision they soon regretted.

As they built their jelly bean towers we discussed the spiritual lessons to be found within the object lesson.


Rusty ended up the winner of the jelly bean race, but all  enjoyed the fruits of their labors. (There was a chocolate treat for those who weren’t allowed jelly beans due to braces.)


The lesson was a powerful reminder that our time on earth is finite.

We have no idea when we will reach the last jelly bean in our cup, so it is important that we invest the gift of time that the Lord has given us into those activities that have eternal value, rather than simply spending the minutes of our day on things that have no value…

For one day we will all stand before our Maker, and we will account for the way we used the time He blessed us with. Let us all take inventory of the way we are spending our time, and as we enter this holiday season may we prioritize the “important” over what some may consider “the urgent” tasks of the holiday season,

And invest in the things that matter most.


Oh, Crap!!


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The first clue that perhaps all was not right with the world was the smell.

Rusty and Grace were at home, alone, when they caught the first whiff. A quick glance around the room for 4-legged suspects revealed that the most likely instigators of the smell were curled up on couches elsewhere. They decided they better investigate.

Their keen sense of smell led them to the basement door. As they opened the door to investigate they were hit with a putrid wave of foreboding. Hesitantly and with great apprehension they began descending down the stairs only to step into a nightmare-inducing horror film. A pipe above their head was showering down feces in a most spectacular fashion, while the contents of our septic tank bubbled up from the drains on the floor.

Being McCleery’s, these kids have been better trained for the worst sorts of disaster scenarios than most government FEMA workers. Rather than running from the horror that lay before them they jumped into this crappy scenario with both feet (after donning rubber boots) and set to work trying to save what they could.

Racing through the sewage bubbling up beneath their feet and raining down on them from above, they hurried to move boxes out of the path of destruction.

When they finally felt that things were safe enough to run upstairs for the phone they called Toby and asked what they should do. After confirming that there was nothing else that could be done until he made it home from work, they called me at tutoring to give me a heads up of what I would be coming home to.

In typical Gracie  efficiency, she ended the conversation with a breezy, “Don’t feel like you have to hurry home. We’ve got things under control here.”

When Tyler was done with tutoring we drove home. As we stepped into the front door we were hit with the unique smell combination of sewage layered with ocean breeze air freshener, AXE cologne, and a variety of Bath and Body Works body sprays. I’m not sure if the AXE cologne helped or hurt the situation but the kids insisted that things smelled significantly better with the added scents.

Toby arrived home and headed downstairs only to emerge a little while later with the unfortunate news that there was nothing to be done until septic companies opened the following morning. In the meantime we just had to endure the smell and not use any water. That meant no showers, no dishes, no laundry, and especially NO FLUSHING until we figured out why our basement was filling with sewage.

The next day angels in rubber gloves pulled into our driveway.


For three hours they worked to remedy our situation. Thankfully they discovered the blockage and was able to fix it, and while they were here we also had them pump our septic tank. One septic emergency was enough for this lifetime so we chose to be proactive while we had the truck here.

Once the problem was solved and the shower of crap had ceased, it was time to brave the horror downstairs and clean up the mess. All I can say is, “Kuddos to these kiddos who without comment or complaint, pulled on their rubber boots and rubber gloves, grabbed a shovel and began scooping.”


What troopers they were. No strangers to crappy situations, they just dove into this unpleasant task with steely resolve and a good sense of humor and within a few hours had turned our septic swamp back into a basement.

While most teenagers would have been bemoaning this unforeseen change in our Family Night plans, Molly, with typical optimism, cheerful commented as she shoveled poop into trash bags, ” Well, this is one Family Night we will NEVER forget!”

Once everything had been scooped and scrubbed, we doused the basement in bleach to kill any residual germs. As we stumbled upstairs, weary and ready for showers, Tyler took a huge sniff. “Our house doesn’t smell like poop anymore,” he observed, “Now it smells like Kalahari!” The smell of bleach did give the impression we had just walked into an indoor water park. 🙂

All was well that ended well…or so we thought.

The real damage done by this unexpected circumstance had nothing to do with the pile of ruined storage that got carried outside. No, the real damage was far more devastating…

Beginning on Monday night, the night the septic tank back up into our basement, we noticed a concerning change in Tyler. Out of nowhere he developed a pronounced facial tic. It was bizarre. It came on quickly and increased in severity within the first 24 hours. My first thought was that he was having a seizure, as it was disconcerting to see his facial muscles rapidly clench and release as his eyes rapidly blinked. What was even more disconcerting was the fact that he was unaware he was even doing it.

As the week progressed I spent countless hours researching possible causes and set up appointments with his doctor, therapist, and psychiatrist, uncertain if the cause was neurological, medication driven, or rooted in trauma. I had a theory but it wasn’t until we met with his therapist and his psychiatrist that my theory was confirmed. They agreed that what we were seeing was a regression that came as a result of the smell of feces in the house. The sense of smell is the strongest memory trigger we have and they both suspect that when Tyler was exposed to a smell that was so pronounced in the deplorable conditions of his birth home where atrocious abuse took place, he was hit with terrifying flashbacks. Unable to express or vent the horrors playing out in his head, his body responded to that fear and stress physiologically in the form of these new facial tics.

We are still ruling out other possible medical causes but his doctors are fairly certain that this regression is trauma driven, and although the smell is long gone, the flashbacks remain and the feelings of not being safe at home are driving these new symptoms. My heart breaks for him. Not only because of the looks he is now getting from others, but because of the horrors that he must have endured to cause his little body to have such a visceral reaction to a smell.

This entire week has been a profound reminder of the difference between the frustrations and the bothersome inconveniences of life that we perhaps view as trials, and the real trials of life that so many are burdened with this Christmas season. Yes, a basement full of sewage was not fun, but really, was it anything more that a frustration or irritation. How blessed we are to have only endured that situation for 24 hours when there are children around the globe living in such squalor every day. It was a wake-up call for me…a powerful reminder this Christmas season of how blessed we are, but also wake up call of how little we are doing to help those whose trials are so much greater than ours.

Lord, help me to not lose sight of that admonition…

Not only this Christmas season, but all year long.


So Much to Be Thankful For!


Last Wednesday was a big day at Patchwork Farm. It marked the 3-year anniversary of Ozzie’s adoption and was also the day of Ozzie’s anticipated arrival home after almost two months away. It was sweet serendipity that these two events coincided in such a blessed way.

Typically, we celebrate Tyler and Ozzie’s “Gotcha Days” with an activity of their choosing but since we had celebrated Ozzie’s “Gotcha Day” before he left for his inpatient stay we decided to stay home and let him pick the dinner of his choice for his special day.

At noon I began the two-hour trek to the facility where Ozzie is receiving inpatient trauma therapy. We had a family therapy session scheduled for 2:00pm. These sessions which occur weekly have be held in person or by telephone depending on scheduling. My trek to pick up Ozzie provided a perfect opportunity to have an in-person session.

I walked in and Ozzie was on his feet immediately, propelling himself through the air, into my arms. To say he was excited to come home for Thanksgiving weekend would be the understatement of the year! Our therapy session was focused on establishing a contract for expectations during Ozzie’s time at home and coming up with a crisis plan. Our goal was, first and foremost, safety for each member of the family. Much of this groundwork had already been laid at home prior to picking up Ozzie. Earlier in the week I had scheduled a family session with Tina (Tyler and Ozzie’s outpatient therapist) so the other kids could voice their concerns and process the muddy mix of emotions they were all feeling with Ozzie’s visit drawing nearer.

All the prep work being done on our end and on Ozzie’s end was to help facilitate a happy, healthy, safe reunion at home.

Our therapy session was speedy. Ozzie was eager to get on the road and once his therapist was made aware of all the precautions that had been put in place at home and all the prep work we had been doing in anticipation for Ozzie’s visit, she felt confident sending us on our way.

Ozzie was buzzing with excitement and anxious anticipation.

As we neared home and he began seeing the familiar landmarks of home he could hardly sit still. We pulled into the driveway and he was out of the van before I had it in park, with his weekend bag in hand, eager to see the kids, greet the dogs, and see his bedroom.

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For dinner Ozzie had requested pumpkin chili. This is his favorite dish I make, and it was a perfect meal for a cold, November evening. It was so nice to sit around the dining room table and have all my chicks present.

After dinner we had Family Night. Since we weren’t going anywhere for Ozzie’s “Gotcha Day” I thought it would be fun to postpone our Sunday Family Night activities for Wednesday night so Ozzie could join us.

The focus of the lesson and activities I planned were “gratitude.” In honor of Thanksgiving, Ozzie’s “Gotcha Day,” and having the family reunited, I couldn’t think of a better theme for our night.

We began our evening with an object lesson that I had used recently for a class I taught at church. Each person was given a pebble to place in their shoe and a piece of chocolate to place in their mouth and then were instructed to walk around the house. When they had returned I asked how their stroll was. It was interesting to see how different family members responded. Some were quick to complain of the pain they endured while walking around with a sharp pebble in their shoe, while others praised the sweetness of the chocolate in their mouth. I likened the experience to life and pointed out the fact that our lives are filled with both pebbles and chocolates, but it is easy to become so focused on the pebbles in our shoes that we forget all the sweet blessings we enjoy.

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This object lesson led into our discussion of the Bible story of the ten lepers. We read the story and then discussed what lessons we could take away from the story and apply to our lives.

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With a stronger conviction of the importance of expressing gratitude to our Heavenly Father impressed on us all, I gave each person an A B C gratitude sheet and challenged them to come up with blessings they were grateful for that start with each letter of the alphabet.

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We then went around the room and read our answers. I was impressed with the creativity and specific blessings everyone came up with. I then posed the question, “If you woke up tomorrow with only those items on your list that you have thanked Heavenly Father for in the past what blessings would remain?”

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It gave us all pause to consider the many blessings we have never expressed gratitude for…blessings that we perhaps take for granted.

We ended our evening of gratitude with some Minute-to-Win-It games that were Thanksgiving themed.

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We split into two teams and competed in a series of fun, 60-second challenges that revolved around the theme of gratitude.

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It was a fun way to conclude Family Night and a perfect lead in to a weekend of THANKS.

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I don’t know when my heart has been more filled with gratitude and love and awe at God’s loving mercy than it was that evening with all my children gathered around me, my husband smiling from across the room, and laughter filling the house.

Oh, the difference a couple months can make.

God is good, indeed. ❤

Spiritual Crocodiles


This past week for family night we focused on a spiritual lesson…

One that is pertinent to all of us despite the different stages of life we find ourselves in.

The lesson was on spiritual crocodiles.

spiritual crocodiles

We began our evening with one of the kids’ favorite childhood books, “The Big Wide- Mouthed Frog.” In this cute children’s book a sassy frog approaches different animals asking them what they eat. By the end of the story the frog meets his match when he approaches a crocodile and asks, “Big bumpy brown log, what do you eat?” Only to hear the response, “I am a crocodile and I eat big, wide-mouthed frogs!”

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This cute story led into our lesson for the evening on the danger of spiritual crocodiles in our lives.

We began our lesson with this video:

After watching the video we discussed the analogy of how certain choices and sins could be likened to the danger of crocodiles, and what can be learned from the story of the Englishman who chose to challenge the limitations he felt the fence placed on his life, only to put himself in greater danger.

We talked about the slippery slope of sin and how playing with boundaries can place us in a position to be snapped up by the jaws of certain spiritual crocodiles, thus finding ourselves struggling to escape their grasp.

Then the kids went on a crocodile hunt. Earlier in the evening Toby hid pictures of crocodiles around the room.

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The kids raced to find them all. Once all the crocodiles had been found, they took turns reading the different scenarios written on the crocodile cards and discussing the dangers of getting too close to that particular crocodile.

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It led to some great discussion and allowed all of us to reflect on our own tendency to tempt danger and dip our toes in the muddy waters of sin.


We ended our lesson with big, wide mouth frogs…YUM!

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“Remember the Sabbath Day”



Our Sundays are no longer the restful Sabbath Sundays they once were.

Like the rest of our week, it seems that day, too, is filled to the brim.

 This is due in part to the reality of our life right now. The hospital that Ozzie is at right now only has family visiting hours on Sundays from 1-4. When we found this out we weren’t sure how this would work. Grace is now driving down to Pittsburgh on Sundays for church and Sunday services for us are three hours long, ending at 1:00pm. We figured out that if we could leave a few minutes early we could make the two-hour drive to see Ozzie, arrive by 3:00, and have a full hour to visit before family visiting time is over.

It has been a blessing to watch the Lord maneuver the many moving puzzle pieces of our life and make it all fit in a beautiful, wonderful way. This is exactly what has happened with our Sundays. The Lord brought all those moving pieces (that had me so anxious and stressed) together and matched them seamlessly into what is now our Sabbath Day.

We head in different directions in the morning with Grace driving down to Pittsburgh and the other kids joining Toby and I for church closer to home. Slipping out a bit early from the 14/15-year-old young women’s class that I teach, Toby and I begin the two-hour drive to see Ozzie while the kids go home with friends for lunch while waiting for Grace to get out of church and pick them up to take them home.

On our 4-hour “Sunday drive,” Toby and I enjoy a “date” and get to talk uninterrupted while enjoying the beautiful fall scenery and eating a picnic lunch in the car that I pack for us the night before.

We arrive by 3:00 and get an hour with Ozzie before they shoo all the families out. Usually I pack fun snacks and treats for Ozzie, and board games for us to play, while we visit and catch-up. It has become such a blessed time and one of the highlights of my week. Ozzie is doing awesome and I continue to be amazed at how he is healing and thriving under this higher level of therapeutic care.

This week he was thrilled to share the news that following church services that morning he had his final dirt bike lesson and certification test. At this residential facility they offer dirt bike certification for the boys who would like to be able to use the facility’s bike trails and take a dirt bike out on the weekend under the supervision of staff. To qualify for the program the boys have to be receiving high marks in school and in their behavior reports, and then they can take a course where they learn the mechanics of the bike, how to safely ride. If they pass they then get to take the bikes out on the trails. Well now Ozzie is certified to ride and was THRILLED to report the good news to us.

We also had some exciting news for him. The results of his and Tyler’s genealogy DNA test had arrived. We purchased these tests when they went on sale online. Before Ozzie left we had a family night activity where we swabbed the boys’ cheeks and sent their DNA to Texas where it was analyzed. Six weeks later the results ended up in our mailbox.

Because Tyler and Ozzie were adopted we have found many holes in the story of their past. I can fill in some of those holes for them based on the information in their child profile but there are many holes that I can’t fill in, and that is hard for them. Their sense of identity…who they are based on where they came from…leave them feeling a bit like orphans. There are so many questions I wish I could answer for them that I simply don’t know, but this was something I could give them. The results of these tests don’t give them the details of their family history but I hoped the results would give them a sense of identity and maybe answer some of the questions they have had.

Here is what we learned…

Ozzie’s results didn’t surprise me too much:

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He was thrilled to find out his heritage!


Tyler’s background was a bit muddier and a whole lot more surprising:

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We were especially surprised by that 1% of Kenyan.

He too was thrilled to have his questions answered.

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After our visit with Ozzie we say good-bye for another week and get back on the road for our ride home.

Sundays have now become our Family Home Evening night. With Monday nights (and all other evenings) being booked with Gracie’s college classes and the girls’ work schedules, Sunday night is now the night we have set aside for family time. It is the only night we have guaranteed to have everyone home.  It is during this time that we sit down and have our weekly planning meeting, going over schedules, goal, concerns, and plans for the week. This is also when everyone sits down to write their weekly letter to Ozzie. Following those tasks, we have a lesson and activity of some sort for Family Night. This week we were focusing on service. The plan was to make cookies as a family that everyone could bag to give someone as a token of gratitude.

As I was searching for a yummy new cookie recipe I came across this recipe for scripture cookies on Pinterest.


“Perfect!” I thought. We would be able to work on navigating our scriptures while also blessing others with an act of service.

We began by giving everyone a recipe page with key ingredient information missing. Using their Bibles, they looked up the scripture passages to find the missing words.


It became a race as we tried to be the first to find the correct page, passage, and word missing from the recipe.


Once our recipes were complete we began cooking.


It was a very fun family night activity and everyone enjoyed getting to sample the fruits of our labors…

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Scripture cookies (aka: peanut butter blossoms.)



So, there you go. The new “normal” we have embraced in this season of our life.

It isn’t the Sabbath Day of our past, but it is good. In a lot of ways, it holds a depth and a spirituality and meaningfulness that Sundays in the past were lacking.

I do sometimes wish there was a bit more rest in my “Day of Rest.”

Yeah, I really miss Sunday naps… 😉

But I have discovered a holiness in the what our Sabbath Days have become. At the heart of our Sabbath Day of worship is love of God, love of family, and love of others,

And really, isn’t that what the 4th commandment is all about?

School is back in Session



What a summer it has been!

As I look back on my own blogs…the recordings of all that transpired over the last 3 months… I am shocked at all the living that happened in such a short time. Our summer was filled to the brim with graduation, girls’ camp, multiple Boy Scout camps, Trek, tutoring, a wedding, and a whole lot of travel.

It has been a summer of extremes with many high highs and some hard low lows. But it has been a summer full of blessings as we have worked to get services in place for both little boys, all while making time to create some fun memories amid the chaos.

Now we are on the cusp of school beginning again. You can tell it has been a well lived summer by everyone’s acceptance and even eager anticipation of the return of school and schedules. We had a lot of fun playing this summer but we are all ready for routine.

This school year promises to be unlike any in the past as we adjust to Grace starting college and our schedule being filled with even more services and support than last year. This is a blessing. I am grateful for the access and availability of good programs to help meet my boys’ needs, but I’m still not sure how it is all going to mesh together. There will be an absurd amount of moving parts in this year’s schedule. Tyler will have two different reading tutoring sessions twice a week, both an hour away which means we will be gone from 3:30- 7:30 every Tuesday and Thursday. Both boys will continue with trauma therapy every Tuesday and Thursday morning from 10:30-12:30. In addition Ozzie is now also receiving extra therapeutic support in the form of family based therapy in which two therapist come out to the house three days a week. Add to all of that occupational therapy for Tyler, co-op on Wednesdays, church activities, piano lessons, equine therapy for the two boys, and the girls’ work schedules (Grace has now picked up another job of babysitting three days a week from 5:30 am- 8:00 am) and I’m not sure how it will all come together.  I am trusting that the gracious God who delivered these services and support to our family will also align the moving parts into a seamless schedule.

Sunday night was family night. Now that Grace has a Monday night class and Molly will be working regularly on Monday nights, we have moved family night to Sunday evenings…a time that is reserved for family. This week rather than a typical lesson, we had our annual back to school dinner.

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While everyone was laying down for Sunday naps I snuck into the dinning room to decorate the table for our dinner and lesson. I had fun tapping into my creative juices and making the table look festive with a back-to-school theme.

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For dinner I prepared our traditional Sunday meal of spaghetti with meat sauce and Caesar salad.

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The kids sat down at the table and as we ate we played a school themed trivia game to test everyone’s recall after a hiatus away from school. The game is geared more to Tyler’s age group, allowing him and Ozzie an equal shot of answering the questions as the big kids.

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After dinner we cleared away plates to prepare for the lesson part of the evening. Every year as part of our back-to-school dinner Toby and I prayerfully select a quote or a scripture to build our focus around for the upcoming school year. This year we chose the following quote by Gordon B. Hinckley:

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As we shared it with the kids we talked about the truth of that quote. It isn’t the big, life-changing moments that build our life, but rather the simple and small choices we make daily.


This led into my object lesson. We began by having everyone share something they felt they did successfully the previous school year and then share an area they would like to improve in this upcoming school year. We asked them to envision what they would like this school year to look like and then discussed what small, simple, daily decisions they needed to make to achieve that larger vision.

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Each one of the kids were given 3 Legos and asked what three goals they wanted to set for themselves that would be the building blocks for their structure of success. They wrote their goals on the Lego bricks and now will be able to use them as a visual reminder of the daily choices they are striving for this school year.

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We then completed the same exercise with a tower of 5 bricks, which will serve as the family’s goals for the year. We asked the kids what building blocks were most important for a happy, healthy home life and they came up with these 5 areas of focus. This tower of goals will sit on the window ledge in the kitchen and serve as a reminder of the choices we need to be making daily.

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Then it was time for everyone’s back to school goody bags.

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This year I went school shopping on my own and put together pencil pockets full of back to school supplies that were reflective of each child. Everyone was thrilled with their new supplies.

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Is there anything better than new pencils and empty notebooks?!

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The night ended with lemon meringue pie, Toby’s choice for the family night treat, and back to school blessings.

This year we will have a college freshman:

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A 11th grader:

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A 10th grader:

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A 7th grader:

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and a 5th grader:

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Here’s to a happy, healthy, productive, sane school year!

Let the learning begin!

What is good on your “Sundae?”



(A personal note before I begin… In discussing Sabbath day observance: This is what the we felt the Lord was prompting us to do. Sabbath day observance is a personal thing and something each individual needs to prayerfully decide how the Lord is calling their family to honor that day. My intention is not to make anyone feel judged or corrected, simply to share how we personally feel called to spend our Sabbath day and to testify that great blessings come from setting the Sabbath day apart from the rest of your week.)

If you asked each member of our family which day of the week stands out as a favorite you would get a variety of answers. Some would say Wednesday, for with it comes co-op and church activities, thus the chance to be with friends. Others might answer Friday, the day that marks the end of the school week and our field trip day. Others would probably say Saturday because Daddy is home.(Yea!) But as for me, Sunday is probably the day I look forward to the most. It is my day of rest, of renewal, of recommitment…

It is a day set apart from the rest of the week.

When Toby and I married we made a commitment to set Sunday apart from the rest of the week as a day of worship and a day of rest. We chose to make an active effort to dedicate that day to the Lord and follow His commandment to keep the Sabbath Day holy.

We made the decision that for our family that would mean attending church to learn about, and worship the Lord. That we would refrain from activities that would require someone else to have to work on the Sabbath and miss out on the opportunity to worship or spend time with their family; like shopping, going to the movies, or going out to eat. That we would, as much as possible, refrain from the work of the week. This meant that Toby would schedule his jobs (as much as possible) to the other six days of the week so that we as a family could be together on the Sabbath. This also meant my “work” would also be accomplished (as much as possible) in the other six days of the week so that it could be a day of rest for me as well. Other than the basic necessities like cooking and dishes, I refrain from housework, yard work, and chores on the Sabbath as well.

We also encourage our children to plan out their work week in a manner that allows them to set aside the Sabbath as a day different from their school days. This means finishing lessons for the week during the other six days so that they don’t have to do schoolwork on Sundays to stay on track.

So what do we do on Sundays? Well, first and foremost, we attend church as a family.

This Sunday was a big one for Ozzie who moved from Primary (for ages 3-11) into Young Men’s (ages 12-18.) He was presented with his Faith in God award was was able to help the other young men pass the Sacrament bread and water. I must admit I was holding back tears as my wee little man stood so tall and proud in his suit and tie.


Then we come home around 1:30 and have spaghetti for lunch. This has become a tradition that began 12 or 13 years ago. While everyone is changing out of their church clothes Toby starts the water boiling and makes lunch for the family, giving me the day off, so I can have some time to sit in the silence of my room and have some quiet time.

After lunch we take naps. When the kids were babies we would tuck them into their cribs to nap and then climb into our own bed for Sunday naps. This is a cherished and needed tradition. I find that Sunday afternoon naps help me catch up on the sleep I may have lost during a busy week and allows me (and I’m speaking for Toby too) to start the new week more refreshed.


Inevitably between the ages of 6 and 12 our children resist the idea of afternoon naps. The rule then became that they had to stay in their room for an hour and could read or play quietly in their beds. Sometimes they would stay awake but often we would find them asleep by the end of our naps.

My three big kids, who are now teenagers, live for Sunday naps. 🙂 Oh, how the tides have turned!

The rest of our Sabbath day varies from week to week. It is sometimes spent going on a walk as a family, writing letters, playing games as a family, etc. The goal is simply to pick activities that allow us to bond as a family, focus on the Lord, and serve others.

For example two Sundays ago, as one of our Sabbath activities, we took everyone’s yearly measurement on our growth wall. We do this every Valentine’s day at our home. It is always fun to see how much everyone has grown since last year.

Sometimes we do some therapy activities that encourage bonding or strengthening family connections. This past week Ozzie and I made a memory chain of his biological sister Zoey. It began as a memorial chain of his biological grandmother but the work was too overwhelming so we moved to less heartbreaking memories.

To make the memory chain I would say things like:

“Pick a bead that represents Zoey’s birth month.”

“Add a bead that reminds you of her favorite holiday.”

Find a bead that represents your saddest memory with Zoey.”

He would then dig through our bead container and would add the bead that matched that memory. We would talk through it, with me taking notes, so that we can work on it in therapy with Miss Tina. It was a great therapy tool!


Sometimes, however, I find we struggle with how to best use our Sundays. Our little ones sometimes become so focused on what we don’t do on the Sabbath,

(like not being able to play video games)

that they lose sight of the heart reasons behind the directive.

I felt that it was a good time to have a refresher on Sabbath Day observance, and now that the kids are older, allow them to help set up the plan for Sabbath Day observance and get their input. I decided to do this for Family Night on Monday.

I began with an object lesson I found online.

In the center of the dining room table I placed a variety of condiments that I know my children like on their food. I also placed a bowl of ice cream on the table with sundae toppings. Then I covered everything up with a dish towel.

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Toby and I called the children in. We began with a song and prayer and then with a raise of hands I asked who liked ketchup…mayo…butter…honey…bbq sauce…vinegar…etc. Once we had established that these were all delicious toppings I asked for a volunteer. Rusty raised his hand. I lifted the dish towel, revealing the bowl of ice cream and the toppings we had discussed and told him to put all the condiments he said he likes onto his ice cream.

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It looked disgusting by the time all the condiments were added. I asked if he wanted to eat his sundae. He shook his head, “no.” Grace spoke up and said that she would try it.

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When I asked Rusty why he wasn’t going to finish his sundae…

after all he likes every condiment he put on it,

he replied,

“I like those things, BUT they’re NOT good on SUNDAES!”

Ahhh, YES. Exactly.

I went on to explain our lesson. There are lots of great activities we enjoy, but just because they are good doesn’t mean they are “good on Sundays.”  🙂

We read some scriptures to see what the Lord has said about keeping the Sabbath Day holy, and then we began our activity. We made a “Sunday Cans.”

As a family we talked about things we could do on the Sabbath that would draw us closer together, help us grow, renew us and prepare us for the upcoming week, help us have a more eternal perspective, and draw us closer to Christ,

and we wrote them on slips of paper to put in our “Sunday Cans” can.

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The goal was to help them focus on what can be done with our Sabbath day observance rather than focus on what we can’t do on Sundays.

Now if any of my cherubs approach us on Sunday to inform us, ” I’m bored! There is nothing we are allowed to do!”

I can sweetly point out our “Sunday cans” can and say, “Pick something.” 😉

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Then we ended family night with sundaes… of course!

We put away the ketchup and vinegar and let them top their sundae with chocolate, caramel, and sprinkles instead.


What Language do you Speak?



This was the topic of discussion at our Family Night activity this week. Not being a bilingual family the languages we were speaking of were not languages of verbal expression but rather ones of emotional expression.

We were talking about Love Languages.

Many years ago I discovered a book entitled, The 5 Love Languages, by Gary Chapman. The concept was enlightening and the content was live changing for our marriage. The entire idea of each one of us having a certain love language we use to express our love to others was insightful. As soon as I began reading I had a “Ah-ha” light bulb appear above my head, and as a young wife I felt like I was receiving marriage-changing…marriage-blessing council.


By taking the quiz in the book I soon discovered my love language was Acts of Service. This meant I showed my love for others not through words, or hugs, or gifts, but by serving them. My love is shown through meals cooked, babysitting, volunteering to plan parties or coming to the aid of others. My family often jokes that I don’t know the word “No” when it comes to being asked to do things (and while that might be a little true) my primary motivation in saying “Yes” comes from love, and my desire to make others feel loved by lightening their burden,

because that is how I feel most loved.

Through this quiz we learned that Toby’s primary love language was Physical Touch. He felt most loved when his shoulders were rubbed, or when I held his hand while we were out shopping, or when I sat next to him on the couch while watching TV.

There lay our issue. Both of us were trying so hard to make the other feel loved but we were speaking two different languages. I was trying to make Toby feel loved and cared for by making sure there were no dishes in the sink or baby toys on the floor. While I spent the evenings showing my love by making our house a home for him all he wanted was for me to sit with him and watch a game on TV. He, on the other hand, was trying to show love to me in the way he likes to receive it by telling me to sit down so he could rub my shoulders,

when I wanted to say, “If you really loved me you’d quit telling me to sit down and you’d help me get these dishes done so I can relax.”

Both of us we trying so hard to show our love but since we were speaking two different love languages we both felt more frustrated than loved. 🙂

This book was such a blessing to our marriage.

Recently I was talking with girlfriends about this book and thought to myself, “We really out to have the kids take the quiz (They have one geared toward kids and teens on the website) and see what love languages our children speak so that we can better express our love to them in a language they will understand.

On Monday night we told the kids what we were doing. They were fascinated by the idea that we each speak different love languages. Each of them took the quiz online, revealing their scores and their love language.


The results were enlightening, although not completely surprising. I can look at the way my children show love to others and gain insight into how they feel most loved.


Here were the results of our 5 Love Languages quiz:

Physical Touch: Toby

Acts of Service: Katie

Gifts: nobody

Quality Time: Grace, Rusty, and Tyler

Words of Affirmation: Molly and Ozzie

After discovering what love language we each speak, we talked about the importance of showing love in the language of the person you are expressing love to and then went over what each of those love languages looks like, in a practical sense.

Love Languages chart

This led to a great discussion as we shared how we feel the most loved and what acts and kindnesses touch us the most, as well as what acts of love we need more of.


As the kids shared their hearts with Toby and I (as well as with their siblings) we realized that it is sometimes easiest to show love to those who share your love language and as a result there is often a special bond between those family members or friends, but regardless of how challenging it can be we must make an effort to learn and speak each others’ love languages…

Because that it what family is all about.

What language do you speak?

May the Force be with You



Well, I think we are officially the last people on the face of the earth to see the new Star Wars movie, but boy was it worth the wait!

On Monday we told the kids we had a fun evening planned for Family Night. All day long the kids were prying me with questions in hope that I might let the surprise slip. They are wily kids and they almost got me a few times, but I managed to keep it a secret until dinner time.

I told them we had a clue that would reveal our plans for the evening. Earlier in the week I discovered a Star Wars puzzle at “Five Below,” a discount store in our area.  It was actually three different puzzles that were sold as a pack and when assembled could connect to each other to form one large puzzle.

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The kids were split into pairs and each given a bag of puzzle pieces. Then the race began to see who would complete their puzzle first. It wasn’t long before the assembled puzzle pieces gave away the surprise, but the kids continued building so they could see the completed puzzle.

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Once their suspicions were confirmed I told them they had 15 minutes to get ready before we headed to the movie theater to watch Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I handed out Dollar Store props for the occasion and the boys grabbed their light sabers.

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The movie theater near us offers discounted movies on Monday nights and with every ticket purchased they include a free popcorn. What a deal!

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The kids were doubly thrilled when Toby surprised them and bought tickets to the 3D showing of the movie, a rare treat, but one Toby thought was worthwhile for this movie.

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It was a hit!

Not only for the Star Wars loving members of our family,

but also for this Momma (who, while favors the classic Star Wars movies, isn’t a huge fan of the three more recent movies.) This one felt like a classic. I loved the reintroduction of original characters as well as the newly introduced characters. It held the magic I fondly remember from my childhood viewing of the original Star Wars movies. It was a delightful evening and fun night with family!

Chewbacca summed up our night when he said:


May the Force be with you All!

WITCH way to spend Family Night?


Every Monday evening is Family Night at our home. If you stopped by any Monday night you would find us together as a family. While activities and commitments pull us in many directions on other weekday nights, Monday night is the night reserved for family.

Which is not to say every Monday looks the same.

Family Night activities vary greatly depending on the season, the emotional needs observed in the past week, practical skills we have noticed need reinforced, how tired Mom and Dad are, etc. 🙂 Sometimes family night consist of a spiritual lesson or scripture story with a corresponding game or activity. Sometimes we go do something as a family like see a movie or go miniature golfing. Some Monday nights we teach practical skills like having a family fire drill or teaching first aid skills.Some family nights are spent playing a board game inside or playing a sport outside. Sometimes we just hold a family council and discuss pressing concerns. Often family night is when we take part in holiday traditions like decorating Easter eggs, carving jack-o-lanterns, or going to the Christmas tree farm to cut down our tree.

Every Monday night is a bit different but what remains consistent is our commitment to reserve that evening for family, make a memory with our children,

and we usually end the night with a yummy treat. 🙂

This past Monday night our focus was “service.”

And the lesson was, “WITCH activity will you choose.”

We spoke about the vast amount of choices we have in how we can use our time. Not only do we have to choose between good and bad activities, but as Christians we must also choose between good and better activities. It seemed like a pertinent topic as we begin the first full week of school for everyone, and the message was just as relevant for Toby and I as it was for the kids.

With the start of school the pace of life picks up,

and there are so many GOOD, really good, ways to spend the hours of our day,

but in the end we must choose those things that we value most and which bring the most value to our lives.

One of the best uses of our time, we discussed, was “service.”

And this week we had the perfect opportunity to act on that lesson.

In our church we don’t have a paid custodian. The responsibility of cleaning and caring for the building falls on the families who worship there. Families have the opportunity a few times a year to sign up to clean the church building. This involves cleaning bathrooms, wiping chalkboards, polishing furniture, emptying the trash cans in the classrooms, cleaning the glass doors, and vacuuming the carpets.

Cleaning as a family has provided us a wonderful opportunity  to teach our children to appreciate the great blessing of a building to worship in, as well as encourage them to take ownership in the care and upkeep of the church building.


This week was our family’s turn to serve our church family and clean the church building. It was a wonderful opportunity to put our lesson in action.


The kids are old pros at this, having been involved in cleaning the church since they were young,

so everyone arrived with their chosen job in mind.

Everyone has a favorite task. They gathered their cleaning tools and set to work.


Molly was a good sport and volunteered to clean toilets.


The kids worked fast and efficiently and in 90 minutes we were done.


Next it was time for the treat and we had a special treat in store for these hard workers.


In a nearby town there is a charming little ice cream store called “Witch Flavor?”


We have been wanting to go for a while after hearing many rave reviews about the Penn State Creamery ice cream they serve there. We arrived at 8:00 and everyone chose their flavors. Like the choices laid before them in how they spend their time, they now faced a similar decision in choosing the BEST flavor among all the GOOD choices.


The ice cream lived up to the reviews and we sat outside on Main Street enjoying a taste of summer as we brought our lesson home with the “WITCH choice will you make?” theme.

As they licked the dripping ice cream they also learned another valuable life lesson:

“Sweet” rewards come to those who work.


Sweet rewards, indeed!