Tag Archives: family

Let’s Go to the Movies!

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Last weekend we ventured out for the time since March for an excursion other than a supply run or essential business. Our local drive-in movie theater received permission from Harrisburg to re-open. While movie theaters are considered high risk environments, drive-in movie theaters have been deemed safe.

Offering all the best of the movie theater experience with minimal risks, and we jumped at the chance to get out of the house and watch a movie on the big screen.

Dependable Drive-in has created a new set of policies to keep guests safe… guidelines that were handed to each guests at the entrance.

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These guidelines included an unoccupied space between each car as they opened at 1/2 capacity, mandatory masks if guests left their parking spot, the addition of touchless soap dispensers, sinks, and paper towel dispensers in the bathrooms, with a limit of two guests in the bathrooms at a time.

They were also allowing guests to bring in their own food for those hesitant to take advantage of online ordering at the concession stand.

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On opening night Dependable Drive-in was offering two movies. It was a test run for the drive-in, so rather than offering double features at their four screens, they offered a single movie at two of their screens. The choices were Trolls: World Tour or The Vast of Night (An Amazon original movie). We opted for the latter.

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Suspecting that opening night might be busy, and since they were only admitting half the capacity, we arrived at the drive-in 90 minutes before the movie began. We weren’t the only ones being proactive. As we turned off the highway exit we were greeted with a line of brake lights, as cars waited to enter the drive-in.

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When it was our turn to enter we paid the special “opening weekend” price of .50/person. For a whopping $3.00 we enjoyed a night at the movies!

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As we waited for the movie to begin, we played card games, safely tucked away in our parking spot.

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As the opening strains of the Star Spangled banner began to play, signaling the start of the movie, treats were passed out and we settled back to enjoy the show.

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A review of The Vast of Night as taken by a reader on IMDb:

“The Vast of Night is a classic tale that stays true to what makes the subgenre so appealing, while innovating and delivering fresh and interesting tactics to keep your eyes glued to the screen.

From the moment the film introduces us to one of our protagonists, we are greeted to an amazing long-take tracking shot that would make Iñárritu (ala Birdman) jealous. These beautiful tracking shots persist throughout the film, including one where we are quickly transported through the quiet small town setting seamlessly into the busy action of the high-school basketball game. These shots are also complimented by long takes that have almost no obvious movement at all, save for maybe a methodical zoom towards the character as they deliver a captivating monologue. In fact, there are moments where there are no visuals at all but simply a black screen allowing us to focus entirely on what is being told.

Dialogue and performances are also a highlight. The slick and smooth conversation starts immediately as we are introduced to our characters, helping transport us easily into the 1950s. This is assisted by the spectacular performances that never let up. Whether it be a tense monologue, fast-paced banter, or fervent arguing, every emotion feels real.

As for screenplay, the film plays out in real-time which let’s us hang on every lasting feeling of mystery and suspense. The Vast of Night masterfully balances both hiding and teasing us with aspects of a reveal that do enough to terrify and excite, leading up to a simply beautiful payoff that feels as rewarding as it is earned.”

Some enjoyed it more than others. It definitely had a more creative and artistic filming style that lent to a Alfred Hitchcock or Twilight Zone vibe. The suspense was built through interesting camera angles and movie soundtrack. I loved it and found the movie charming and engaging, but some of my kids found it lacking in special effects and action scenes. Regardless of the mixed reviews, we all enjoyed a night out of the house after months in lockdown!

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Happy 20th Birthday, Molly!

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Well, it was a birthday that won’t soon be forgotten…

And certainly a birthday far different then the one we imagined for Molly’s 20th.

First of all, we never expected to have Molly home for her birthday celebration. If life had moved forward as planned, Molly would have been celebrating her 20th birthday in Provo, Utah with her missionary companion. Instead, Sister McCleery, was at home for her big day, as we find ourselves living through a worldwide pandemic, quarantined at home, with Molly attending the missionary training center online instead of in person.

The reality of the world as it stands now, on Molly’s 20th birthday, is best documented by the following excerpt shared by a friend:

“Just so I NEVER forget….. April 7, 2020

Gas price was $1.04/gallon
School cancelled – yes cancelled – since 3/12; teachers and students are now all doing online schooling.
Social distancing and self quarantining measures on the rise.
Tape on the floors at grocery stores and others to help distance shoppers (6ft) from each other.
Limited number of people inside stores, therefore, lineups outside the store doors.
Non-essential stores and businesses mandated closed.
Parks, trails, entire cities locked up.
Entire sports seasons cancelled.
Concerts, tours, festivals, entertainment events – cancelled.
Weddings, family celebrations, holiday gatherings – cancelled.
No masses or services, churches are closed.
No gatherings of 50 or more, then 10 or more, now none at all except the people you live with.
Scouts, clubs, and groups are hosting virtual Zoom meetings.
Children’s outdoor play parks are closed.
Shortage of masks, gowns, gloves for our front-line workers.
Shortage of ventilators for the critically ill.
Panic buying sets in and we have no toilet paper, no disinfecting supplies, no paper towels, no laundry soap, no hand sanitizer.
Shelves are bare.
Manufacturers, distilleries and other businesses switch their lines to help make visors, masks, hand sanitizer and PPE.
Government closes the border to all non-essential travel.
Fines are established for breaking the rules.
Stadiums and recreation facilities open up for the overflow of Covid-19 patients.
Daily updates on new cases, recoveries, and deaths.
Government incentives to stay home.
Barely anyone on the roads.
People wearing masks and gloves outside.
Essential service workers are terrified to go to work.
Medical field workers are afraid to go home to their families.

This is the Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) Pandemic, declared March 11th, 2020.

Molly’s day was filled with classes and MTC training. She had a limited amount of free time in the middle of the day, so we reserved our celebration for first thing in the morning and for the end of the day.

We arrived at her bedroom door at 7:30 am, ready to wake her with her traditional birthday cake slice and birthday song. She was already awake and doing her personal scripture study when we walked in. We greeted her with a birthday sign,

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And a birthday song.

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She made her wish and blew out her candle.

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The rest of her birthday cheesecake was reserved to enjoy later as a family.

Before the busyness of her day began, we gathered in the living room to give Molly her birthday gifts.

Luckily most of our birthday planning was proactive, as the original plan was to celebrate her birthday mid-March, before she left for the MTC. This means gifts were already purchased and wrapped, the makings for her birthday dinner were already in the pantry, and her cheesecake had been chilling in the freezer for weeks in preparation of her special day.

She received gifts fitting for our sweet sister missionary, including a new dress from Braden,

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A new necklace from Tyler,

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A quill pen and ink set from Rusty,

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Water color pens from Grace and Zach, and a messenger bag from Toby and I.

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During the day Molly received love sent from those afar, including a birthday card/gift from Mimi Joy and from Aunt Kelly’s crew, a surprise package from her best buddy (Tatum,) a phone call from Uncle Travis and Aunt Krista, and the traditional birthday serenade on the answering machine from Mimi and Pop Pop Real.

That evening we enjoyed a dinner of spaghetti pizza, garlic knots and Caesar salad, per Molly’s request, before ending the meal with cheesecake.

For Molly’s birthday activity she requested a bonfire outside…the first of the season!

It was a beautiful evening and the weather cooperated.

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We ate dinner around the fire,

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And then pulled out the marshmallows for an after dinner treat.

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Everyone filled up on toasted marshmallows while we did our family scripture study by firelight.

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We ended the evening, as we do every birthday, with each family member expressing the trait they love most about the birthday person. This was the high point of the day for Miss Molly, whose love language is words of affirmation.

Happy birthday, Miss Molly!

We love you to the moon and back!

We have New Neighbors!

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What a bizarre reality we find ourselves living in. A month ago feels like a lifetime ago. It is hard to believe that just two months ago we were cruising the Caribbean and now we find ourselves locked down at home for the next five weeks (or maybe longer). Things that were consistently “normal” in our daily lives are now absent and we are slowly finding our new normal in the midst of a worldwide pandemic.

We now have everyone except Ozzie back at home. Molly, who was scheduled to fly out to Utah on March 27th is now home for the next month as she does her missionary training online in her bedroom rather than at the MTC. Daily anchors in our weekly schedule have been lifted. Trauma therapy, equine therapy, tutoring, sports practices, visits with Ozzie, family therapy sessions, shopping, errands, and even work for Toby has been canceled. As a construction worker his business is considered “non-essential” by the state of Pennsylvania, which means he, Zach and Molly are now home all day.

On Saturday the stay-at-home order for our county was extended from April 6th to April 30th. This news led to Grace and Zach making the decision to move into the bus for the next 5 weeks (or at least until they get sick of us)! At their little apartment they just aren’t set up for an extended lockdown. Their apartment has no laundry facility, and as newly weds they don’t have the food storage, supplies, or even outdoor space to make living under quarantine doable/bearable.

On Saturday they called and told us their plans and we got to work getting the bus ready for occupants.

“Bus?” You ask. Let me explain…

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Four years ago our family purchased a used school bus at a school bus auction with the intention of taking it on a 6 week tour around the country. We gutted the inside, removing all the seats within, and over the course of a year (as Toby had free time) we turned the bus into an RV.

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The inside offers all the comforts of home including a master bedroom, extra bunk beds, a kitchen with a full size fridge, microwave, and stove top, a bathroom with a toilet and sink, as well as plenty of seating for our family.

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Once completed, we used our bus to carry our family on the road trip of a lifetime from one side of the country to the other, hitting all the major historical sights and national parks along the way. It was the ultimate home-schooling fieldtrip.

(If you want to read more about our adventures check out the blogs written from August 2016-September 2016. Here is the link to the first of that series: https://ktmccleery.wordpress.com/2016/08/23/the-first-day-of-school/)

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It was an amazing trip and our converted school bus, which we christened “The Rolling Gnomes.”

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Now the bus is parked in the yard and is used for local camping excursions as well as being our guest house when company visits.

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The bus is now Grace and Zach’s home away from home during this pandemic.

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It is an ideal set up, as it allows them to choose how much family togetherness they want. They have their own space to lock themselves away, have quiet time, watch a movie alone, or cook their own meals, but when they are craving more contact they have a house full of people to visit just across the yard.

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As for the rest of us, we have been filling our days with schoolwork and projects, trying to balance the gift of rest and downtime with productivity.

In the next blog I will share our “Coronacation” schedule so that you can see how we are using our time at home, and what a “typical” day in lock-down looks like at Patchwork Farm.

Just by the Skin of our Teeth

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It is crazy how much life has changed in the last few weeks. So much is uncertain right now, including Molly’s mission plans. So much is up in the air. For this reason we are grateful we got so much visiting squeezed in over the last few weeks.

Originally, Molly was to be set apart as a full time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints this coming Friday…as in 4 days from now. Tickets were purchased for us to fly her out to Utah this Saturday, with plans to spend a few days together in Utah before dropping her off at the Missionary Training Center on April 1st.

Currently the plan is for her to be set apart as a missionary on March 31st with her period of missionary training to begin April 1st in the comfort of her own bedroom. Her MTC experience will be virtual, with her training taking place for 6 hours a day through a virtual classroom. She is scheduled to head to Utah on April 28th to begin her mission, but with things changing worldwide by the hour, we will see where things stand a month from now.

Despite a worldwide pandemic delaying her departure, we are grateful we planned on her leaving at the end of March, because she was able to see many friends and say her good-byes to many loved ones before we went into self-isolated lockdown. Our last few visits were cancelled due to closures that came down the pike over the last week. Our scheduled trip to the temple with Mimi Joy was delayed due to temples being closed. A final visit with Ozzie and G.G. were also delayed due to their facilities locking their doors to visitors. We are hopeful Molly will be able to squeeze those visits in before she leaves…

Whenever that may be.

Here are some of the final visits she was able to enjoy before the world got sick:

On the Sunday before our church canceled meetings and Sunday services, Molly was able to visit the Single’s Ward in Pittsburgh for a final time to say goodbye to friends there:

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On the following Friday Grace hosted a farewell party for Molly with all of Molly’s best buddies from co-op… those childhood friends who are her nearest and dearest soul sisters. They enjoyed an evening of good food, crafts, and time spent reminiscing and loving on each other before a 18 month separation.

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The next day Molly headed to Zach’s family’s house to visit Heather. Zach’s younger sister, Heather, is one of Molly’s best friends and she wanted to make sure they fit in a visit before she left for Utah.

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On Monday we met up with Aunt Beth at Eat n’ Park for breakfast and a catch-up. We all adore Aunt Beth and don’t see nearly enough of her. Molly wanted to make sure we could get together with Beth so she could say good-bye.

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And of course we had our last trip to the Homestead before we went into lockdown. While we were out there we celebrated Gracie’s March birthday and Molly’s April birthday with Mimi and PopPop.  Here are some additional photos of our time in Ohio eight days ago:

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It is crazy how much things have changed in a week!

We are still not sure what will happen over the next month or two with Miss Molly. We will be sure to keep you in the loop. Her uncertainty about upcoming plans is certainly being mirrored by the uncertainty we are all feeling as we navigate unchartered waters,

But we are grateful for the visits she was able to squeeze in before we all hunkered down.

Stay safe, friends!

 

Merry Christmas!

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It was a blessed Christmas, with our day spent enjoying the gift of family.

Grace and Zach had left to go home the night before. They were spending Christmas day with Zach’s side of the family, so it was just the five kids who stumbled from their beds, rubbing the sleep from their eyes on Christmas morning.

The first errand of the day was to go and pick up my Grandmother from her place before setting the kids lose on the stockings. Braden asked if he could accompany Pop Pop to go and pick her up. I’m sure he made quite a splash at her retirement home when he arrived to pick her up, still dressed in his Flash onesie.

When they returned home the adults settled into their spots in the living room and then the kids were given the all-clear to enter and check out the loot. Everyone found an empty chair or a section of floor to claim for the morning festivities and stockings were handed out.

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Stockings are a big deal in our family and they have always been the highlight of Christmas morning for me, ever since I was a young girl. We all have matching knit stockings bearing our names, so lovingly made by G.G.

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Over the last six decades she has knit dozens of stockings for each new baby and each family member that has joined the family through marriage or adoption…

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A tradition that Aunt Jane has lovingly taken on this last year, thus making sure Braden has a stocking that matches the family.

Filling the stocking is a group effort as the women all seek out fun, unusual trinkets and treats to make the stockings a magical part of Christmas morning.

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It is always a delight to see what novelty items everyone pulls from their stocking and the matching bags Gracie sewed last year to hold the overflow of gifts that inevitably can’t fit in the stockings each Christmas.

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Once everyone has sifted through their loot it is time for gifts. With two children playing Santa each year, gifts are handed out one at a time to each family member. Once everyone has a gift in hand permission is given to tear into the paper and ribbons.

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Gifts are shown and shared, so everyone can see what others received, and so I can write down and keep a record of who received what from whom, for thank-you note writing later.

We continue working our way though the pile a gift at a time until the yummy smells wafting up from the kitchen let us know that the breakfast casserole and Danishes are ready.

A break for breakfast and then we are back in the living room opening more gifts until the room is filled with torn wrapping and shiny new toys.

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The afternoon is spent enjoying the gifts of the day. New board games are pulled out to be played as a family while Christmas dinner cooks in the kitchen. Footballs get carried outside for play and Lego sets get dumped out in the corner as the building begins.

Christmas Dinner at the Homestead is a traditional affair with ham, potatoes, and side dishes galore! Our meal always ends with the breaking of the Christmas crackers found at each place setting. The loud pop and tear of cardboard reveals a paper crown and some sort of toy. This year’s Christmas crackers contained whistles. Each one played a different note, and when played together, with the use of accompanying song sheets, could make beautiful music.

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“Could” is the operative word.

Despite our efforts the noises we made never resembled anything like the song we were trying to play. Instead we sounded like a bunch of dying cats. We definitely won’t be taking our show on the road anytime soon!

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We all soon regretted my parents’ Christmas cracker choice. There is nothing more grating on the nerves than high pitched whistles in the hands of boys with severe ADHD.

After a dessert of pecan pie it was time to load up the car and head back home. Half of our crew had work the following morning, so at 7:00 pm we bid the family fare-thee-well, and headed back home.

It was another blessed Christmas at the Homestead!

 

The Magic of Christmas Eve

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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.

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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.

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Everyone pitched in to help,

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

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

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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.

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

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The newlywed’s first Christmas

Our evening of fun began with our evening feast.

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

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The O3- united again!

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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.

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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.

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

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Braden’s face speaks volumes!

And boy were they belly-laugh inducing!!

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Tyler enjoying his remote control poop…

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Travis trying out Krista’s voice altering machine.

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I think Grace loves her new board game!

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Mimi creating beautiful music with her piano tie.

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It was like something from a SNL skit.

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Rusty made his own Forky!

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

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

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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…

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Interrupted only by the occasional call from a goat.

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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.

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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.

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“Yabba Dabba Doo!”

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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,

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And filled the stockings with trinkets and treats.

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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.

 

Christmas Surprises!

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It was a week-long Christmas celebration at Patchwork Farm as we spread the magic of the day over five days, beginning with our big Christmas surprise reveal on the 22nd, and concluding our week of celebration five days later when we enjoyed a Christmas dinner and gift exchange with Mimi Joy.

Over the next few blogs we will share our family’s celebration of Christ’s birth and the family traditions that accompany this special season,

Beginning with a not-so-traditional surprise on December 22nd.

This year was our first year without believers in the home, and as sad as it is to transition to this next phase of parenting, it does offer certain advantages. One of those advantages is that we could be more untraditional in our gift giving. Last year we surprised the kids with a family vacation as their gift from Mom and Dad and then had small gifts under the tree on Christmas morning from the “big man.”

I loved it. As someone who puts far more value on family time and shared experiences than gifts that can be wrapped in paper, I thought it was our best Christmas ever. This year we talked about doing something similar, and rather than dumping a whole lot of money into stuff that will eventually break or wear out, why not put that money into creating memories that will last forever?!

Once that was our train of though the next step was choosing what that experience or trip would be. We weighed the possibilities of having each child receive a personal experience as their Christmas gift or planning a trip for the entire family. We ended up doing a little of both. We decided that a family trip would be the primary gift for most of the family, with Ozzie being the exception to the rule. Unfortunately, he is not cleared yet for extended home visits or family trips, so we planned a Christmas gift experience for Ozzie that was his alone to look forward to, and in the end was a far better surprise for Ozzie than any family trip we could gift him with.

The decision to gift the kids with a family vacation was spurred on in large part by Molly’s decision to take an 18 month leave from her schooling and serve a mission for our church. In the next few weeks we will find out where she will be serving and when she will be leaving. On her application she listed her first availability date as March 15th, so we decided we wanted to squeeze in a family vacation at the start of the year, before Molly left for 18 months.

Toby worked his magic and found an amazing deal that allowed for this awesome Christmas surprise.

On December 22nd, when Grace and Zach came over for Sunday dinner, the kids all received their Christmas gift. (Ozzie received his big surprise the following day when we returned home for Christmas.) We had the kids gather in the living room with their eyes shut and their hands out…

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They each received a bag filled with themed goodies…

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1, 2, 3…OPEN!

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We are taking the family on a 5-day cruise to the Bahamas!

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Merry Christmas!

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The following evening Ozzie received his Christmas gift.

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He received tickets to a NASCAR race…a gift he will enjoy far more than a family vacation.

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Here is his reaction to his Christmas surprise…

Needless to say, he was thrilled to the point of tears!

2020 promises to be a memory-making year!

 

 

 

Happy Little Hosts

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After spending the weekend with the “Hostess with the Mostest”….

(AKA: my mommy,)

we concluded our Christmas season kick-off with dinner with my other favorite hosts…

The newly married Tames!

Every Sunday Grace and Zach alternate family dinners between our home and Zach’s family’s home. This week Grace and Zach invited us to their apartment for Sunday dinner. It was a treat getting a night off from cooking and a delight watching Grace in her element as lady of the house.

As a natural little hostess she went all out creating a homey and inviting environment that welcomed us at once.

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We were greeted by the smell of dinner cooking and the music of Burl Ives playing on Gracie’s record player.

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The apartment was all decorated for Christmas.

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Days earlier Grace had stopped by our house to collect her ornaments for her tree. In our family we have a Christmas tradition of gifting our children with a Christmas ornament every Christmas that represents their life that year. Sometimes the ornament is reflective of a favorite movie or book. Sometimes it is reflective of a big life event or a special vacation we enjoyed as a family. The result of this family tradition is that when our children leave to make a home of their own they have 20+ ornaments to fill the branches of their own tree and those ornaments tell the story of their childhood.

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It was fun to walk around the Tame’s tree and see Gracie’s childhood hanging on the branches. Grace and Zach have decided to carry on this family tradition in their own family and have begun recording their own life story through Christmas ornaments with the addition of a beautiful nativity ornament from their honeymoon to Mexico.

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Soon after arriving, dinner was ready. Grace and Zach prepared a yummy pasta dinner, complete with garlic bread and brownies for dessert.

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After dinner we enjoyed playing board games as a family. It was so much fun sitting around the Christmas tree, listening to the sounds of Christmas on the record player while laughing our way through round after round of Apples to Apples.

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Then Zach introduced us to The Oregon Trail card game. Like the computer game that was a staple of our middle school computer class, the goal was to make it to the end without dying of a snake bite or dysentery! It was a lot of fun and a total blast from the past for Toby and I.

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It was a fun evening with the new Mr. and Mrs. Tame in their charming little home.

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What joy it brought me to see my daughter happy and thriving in her new role as a happy little homemaker and “hostess with the mostest”…

It makes my heart glad!

It went by in a FLASH!

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It is hard to believe it has been a little over a year since Braden moved in, and a mere seven months since he became our son. In so many ways it feels like he has been a part of our family forever and I can’t imagine life without him. It makes me sick to think of what could have been had we let fear, rather than faith, guide us in the decision to say “yes.”

Fear of what could go wrong hijacked our thoughts when we first received the call asking us if we would consider opening our home and hearts to a 17-year-old boy…Tyler’s biological brother. There were so many reasons to be nervous, so many unknowns, so many shared horror stories that we found ourselves paralyzed by the anxiety of the unknown. We didn’t realize it at the time but what should have scared us was the consideration of all that we would miss by saying “no.”

Luckily we were blessed with a social worker that didn’t accept our knee jerk reaction, driven by ignorance and fear, and instead supported us as we navigated our way through our questions and concerns.

She didn’t give up on us and neither did God, who had plans that were bigger than our own agenda and blueprint for our life. He heard our concerns and answered them with His truth, spoken with compassion and love…

Giving us the opportunity to be part of something so much bigger and better than ourselves.

That isn’t to say that the journey from a year ago to today was easy, smooth or without trials and triggers. It isn’t easy growing a family, and with the addition of another child comes growing pains. Adoption is hard but there is something humbling and divine  about getting to participate in something so heavenly orchestrated.

Our adoption journey with Braden has taught me to trust God’s plan and timing, even when it runs counter to our own plans for life.

When we said yes to adopting a 17-year-old boy I was overwhelmed by the task ahead of me and felt the pressure of time against me, wondering what difference we could make in Braden’s life with only a year of childhood left before he was legally an adult. I had experienced the long, arduous journey of attachment with both Tyler and Ozzie and knew how long and hard the road to attachment was. Could we make a difference in a year?  Would we even be able to scratch the surface of attachment after all the loss he has lived through and all the walls of protection he has had to build for self preservation?

Luckily, my Lord is bigger than my logic and He has proved time and time again that He is a God of miracles. He can move mountains, He can heal hearts. And he can grow families, regardless of the worldly obstacles that seem unmovable in reaching that goal.

It has only been a year but this sweet boy has my heart. How grateful I am that God didn’t let fear drive our decision. I can’t imagine our life or our family without him…

This week we celebrated his 18th birthday!

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Braden’s birthday celebration was split between two days. This was due to a special request he had for his birthday. He wanted to visit a haunted house!

Knowing that most haunted houses would be shut down by the first weekend in November, we made plans to celebrate his birthday a week early so as to grant his birthday request. On the Saturday before his birthday we made plans to visit a haunted house as a family, but first we met up with Grace and Zach for dinner!

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Braden wanted wings for his birthday dinner so we met at a local wing joint that boasts 100 different wing flavors.

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Everyone ordered a dozen wings of their chosen flavor and then we enjoyed a buffet of tastes as we passed the different wing flavors around the table so everyone could try one of each flavor.

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It was a delicious pre-birthday dinner!

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When dinner was complete Grace and Zach opted to bow out rather than join us at Freddy’s Haunts.

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Braden was very excited to visit this haunted house.

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He had never been to a haunted house before and was excited to experience the thrill of fright as we navigated our way through the haunted halls of this local fear factory. We also happened to be visiting on their “black-out weekend” when an already spooky experience gets amped up by the absence of lights.

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Each group is given a single glow stick to guide them through the darkness.

Forming a human chain and holding tightly to the family member ahead of us, Braden led us through a maze of dark hallways as spooks jumped out and stalked us for the hour and a half it took us to find our way out.

It was a creepy as you might imagine…

And Braden loved it!

The following Wednesday…on Braden’s actual birthday…we celebrated his 18th birthday.

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His birthday theme was built around his favorite superhero: The Flash!

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Many of his gifts reflected this theme, including gifts from Mimi Joy,

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And his gift from Rusty:

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He loved the love put into his special day and the gifts that were so thoughtfully chosen by friends and family.

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His gift from Mom and Dad was the BMX bike he’s been wishing for.

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Happy birthday, son. We can hardly believe you are 18…

This year has gone by in a FLASH!

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How blessed we feel to call you our son!

 

Carving Pumpkins

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This past week, in preparation for Halloween, pumpkins were gathered and knives were sharpened for some gruesome and gross fun…

It was time to carve our jack o’ lanterns!

This is one of my favorite holiday traditions. Not because I love digging my hands into the cold, slimy guts of a pumpkin, but because it is a tradition that draws my heart to my own childhood memories and the memories of years past with my own children. Like so many of the holiday traditions that are repeated year after year, pumpkin carving serves as a connecting thread that ties us together as a family, builds shared memories, and draws us closer to each other.

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I am a huge believer in the importance of family traditions, whether speaking of holiday traditions or day to day traditions. I believe family traditions serve as a glue, connecting us to each other. I believe they are an essential element of family life, but they are even more important when trying to build connection with new family members. We have discovered through our journey of adoptions that shared family traditions can be a catalyst to bonding and building feelings of belonging.

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And they are fun!

They force us, as parents, to set aside the urgent tasks of the day for the important things…

Connecting with our children in a lighthearted, silly way.

So, on the Sunday before Halloween we carved lack o’ lanterns with the boys for our family night activity, and while we carved I used the following family home evening lesson from LDS Daily to liken the experience to a spiritual lesson.

One of the most recognized symbols of Halloween is a jack-o-lantern. People love to take pumpkins and make beautiful creations. Many years ago, people from Ireland brought the tradition of making jack-o-lanterns to America. It comes from the story of a man named Jack who roamed the earth after he died and needed a light to see.

But the Irish didn’t have pumpkins! They used turnips, potatoes, and other gourds to make their jack-o-lanterns. When Irish immigrants started coming to America, they discovered the pumpkin was easier to carve and much bigger.

Today, jack-o-lanterns are a part of the Halloween tradition. But did you know we can learn about Jesus Christ from the jack-o-lantern?

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 We are like this pumpkin. God picks us from the patch for a special purpose. He has brought us to Earth and to families where he helps us become clean. All the dirt is washed off of us.

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God can ask us to do hard things. Sometimes we are asked to go through trials or illnesses. We make mistakes and need to repent. God wants to change our hearts so we can be more like him. This is like when we cut off the top of the pumpkin and scoop out all the yucky pumpkin goo.

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 There are seeds inside the pumpkin. Inside of us, we have seeds of doubt, fear, or anger. God removes these seeds and instead turns them into seeds of faith, hope, and charity. This is like when we clean off all the seeds and cook them so they’re yummy.

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God wants us to have joy in this life and in the life to come. He helps us have a smiling face of peace.

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With the jack-o-lantern, we carve a smile and put a light inside. We have the light of Jesus Christ inside of us that can shine bright for everyone to see.”

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Happy Halloween from our house to yours!