Tag Archives: food

Dinner in Deutschland

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As part of our “Friday Fun-day,” we have continued on with our quarantine tradition of themed dinners.

Every Friday Grace comes over to take advantage of our speedier internet to teach her online ASL classes. She began teacher American Sign Language classes to children online when we were on lockdown, and the daycare was closed, as a way to bring in some income. She receives $30.00/student for a six-week class and is currently teaching four classes a week, back to back on Fridays. She has loved it, and we have loved having her hang out at the house every Friday!

We have correlated our themed dinners with her Friday visits so that she can join us for our culinary adventures. Zach joins us when his work schedule allows it.

We decided for our themed dinners over the summer months we would focus on international cuisine and do some traveling through our palate.

We kicked off our Friday Fun-day dinners with a trip to Germany. Having lived in Kitzingen, Germany as a little girl, this was a themed dinner I was excited to execute!

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Kitzingen, Germany: My home across the sea from first through third grade.

In preparation for our German dinner, I made a run to Five Below to pick up Kinder Eggs (the lame USA-approved safe ones, not the cool, “risky” ones I enjoyed as a child) and a variety of Haribo gummies.

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These would serve as our dessert for this dinner.

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When Grace was done teaching her online classes she helped me decorate the dinning room. It is amazing what can be done with pretzels and hot glue.

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We crafted the dining room into a German eatery!

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Then it was time to begin dinner. Our menu for the evening consisted of soft pretzels and mustard, homemade German potato salad, grilled brats, and bottles of “beer”…root beer, that is!

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The highlight of the meal was the Konigsberger Klopse. It was delicious! I’ve included the recipe below if you’d like to try it yourself.

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We dined to sounds of German Pub music, eliciting the comment from Rusty, “It almost feels like we are at Epcot.”

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It was definitely a Friday Fun-day!

 

Konigsberger Klopse (German Meatballs in Creamy Caper Sauce)

Meatballs

2 lb ground beef

1 lb ground pork

4 eggs, slightly beaten

1 14 cups fine plain breadcrumbs

12 cup milk

1 medium white onion, finely chopped

1 lemon (zest of)

1 lemon, juice of

3 tablespoons capers, chopped 

14 cup melted butter

1 teaspoon salt

12 teaspoon ground black pepper

Flour for rolling

 

Broth

1 (32 ounce) box chicken stock or (32 ounce) box vegetable stock

1 bay leaf

14 cup cider vinegar 

2 tablespoons capers (I used A LOT more!)

 

Sauce

1 lemon, zest of

1 lemon, juice of

1 cup good quality sour cream (full fat to prevent curdling)

14 cup snipped fresh parsley, for garnish

  1. In a large saucepan heat broth ingredients (stock, bay leaf, cider vinegar, and  capers) to a simmer over medium heat.

  2. Meanwhile, combine meatball ingredients, mix well.

  3. Form meat mixture into golf-ball sized balls (note: mixture will be a bit sticky and delicate to work with, but this is normal, and the result will be a moist and tender meatball!). Roll them in flour, and carefully place into hot broth; simmer each batch for 15 minutes, but do not boil. (Tip: do not crowd meatballs. Only simmer about 10-12 meatballs at a time). Note that the broth will thicken as you add the flour covered meatballs, which will make a nice sauce.

  4. Carefully remove meatballs from the hot broth with a slotted spoon, and keep them warm in a covered bowl stored in the oven while making the sauce. Discard bay leaf.

To Make Cream Sauce:

  1. To hot broth stir in the sauce ingredients and heat through, but do not boil.

  2. Add the cooked meatballs to the heated sauce, stir gently and warm through.

Easter at Patchwork Farm- Part 1

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Once again we find ourselves celebrating another holiday in unique ways under a unique set of circumstances. It was hard not getting together with extended family and enjoying our typical traditions, but our circumstances didn’t take away from the holiness of the day. Perhaps it even added to it.

In the stillness of being home and having a quieter, more reflective Easter, we were able to focus on the glory of Easter Sunday. There, in the midst of the sacrifices we have found thrust upon us during this unusual and trying time, we were all the more appreciative of that great sacrifice made on our behalf.

He died so that we may live.

All Glory and Praise to our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus the Christ!

Easter preparations began on Friday with egg dying,

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And on Saturday, as family recipes were pulled out and food preparation began.

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Our meal wasn’t completely traditional, as our side dishes were chosen based on what we had in the freezer and pantry. I did, however have all the necessities on hand for the key components of an Easter dinner, so we didn’t have to make a trip to the store. A ham was pulled from the freezer. The dough was mixed for Mom’s homemade rolls. Pineapple dressing, sour cream potatoes and ambrosia salad were all prepared the day before, so as to make Sunday dinner a breeze.

On Saturday we also added a new recipe to the mix, one that is a favorite family tradition in Zach’s family: resurrection rolls!

I was first introduced to resurrection rolls when I served in primary with Sherrie and she would bring them in for the children every Easter. I loved the concept and message behind them, and they were delicious as well!

Zach’s one wish for our Easter celebration, since he wasn’t able to be with his family for Easter, was that we incorporate this beloved Tame tradition into our holiday celebration. On Saturday we gathered the family together and Zach taught us how to make resurrection rolls. It was a project everyone enjoyed!

First we laid down our dough.

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Next we topped it with a little butter and cinnamon/sugar.

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Then we placed a marshmallow in the center of the dough.

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Finally the dough was wrapped around the marshmallow and placed in a pan to bake.

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It was a fun baking project and an effective object lesson.

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The marshmallow represents the body of the Savior that was placed in the tomb. As the rolls bake, the marshmallows within melt, so that when you bite into the baked resurrection rolls, you will find the inside hollow…

Representing the empty tomb on Sunday morning.

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It was a joy getting to share in one of Zach’s Easter traditions.

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On Saturday Grace and I also decorated the dinning room for Easter dinner. Since our dining room is also currently serving as our greenhouse, we decided to embrace the mess and make it all part of the look.

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We went with a “Mr. McGregor’s Garden” theme for our Easter table, using decorations we found around the house.

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A month ago, when we had our girls’ weekend at the Homestead, my mom gave me Peter Rabbit plates and napkins as part of my Easter surprise. These paper products served as the jumping off point for our décor.

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A center piece was added,

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And my cabbage serving dishes were set out.

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Grace and I made place cards for each family member. I wrote out the names and Grace added the artwork.

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We were quite pleased with the finished look!

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After a full day of Easter preparations, we were ready to welcome in the Sabbath day.

As a special Easter treat, my parents had sent us a check to order take out one evening and gift me with a night off from cooking. We decided to use our Easter gift on Saturday night. After a full day in the kitchen preparing our Easter dinner, I was thrilled at the prospect of not having to make supper. We decided to use our Easter gift to buy wings.

The kids were all very excited. This was the first take-out meal we have had since the stay-at-home order was issued.

We ordered from Big Shot Bob’s House of Wings in Ellwood City. We ordered a variety of flavors and then Grace and Zach picked up our order on their way back from getting the mail from their apartment.

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We enjoyed a delicious dinner!

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It was such a fun treat, and such a generous Easter gift from my parents! Thank you Mom and Dad!!

When everyone was full, fat and sassy we headed to bed. Tomorrow was a big day!

Our Sabbath day began with Easter service, but rather than donning our Easter bonnets for Easter service at our local chapel, we got dolled up for church in the living room. Grace was in charge of our lesson this week and she spoke about the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ with the following analogy:

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She laid out eight candy bars on the table. Each was tagged with a different price. She then handed each of us a bag of pennies. Each bag contained a different amount of change. We were then told the rules of the game.

  1. We could only use the coins she gave us to purchase the candy.
  2. We couldn’t pool our money or borrow coins from one another.
  3. We couldn’t share our candy with anyone else.

We were then set free to do our shopping. As we dug into our bags of pennies we soon discovered that none of us had enough money to purchase any of the candy bars on the table. We all found ourselves short of the price that needed paid.

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As we considered our options, we soon reached the conclusion that there was no way for us to pay the price needed to get our reward. It was then that Grace pointed out the fact that none of us had thought to ask her for the difference owed. She pulled out a bag of pennies and asked if anyone needed to borrow the difference, thus thrusting the reward within reach, despite our shortcomings.

She likened the lesson to the atonement of Jesus Christ. She drew the comparison between our own inability to gain eternal reward to our need for a Savior who can make up the difference between what we have to offer and the price that must be paid.

Like Gracie’s example, salvation can’t be bargained. The price is set and must be paid in full, and none on earth can pay the price by themselves. We all must call on Jesus Christ to make up the difference. He has paid the price for each of us, and because of His great sacrifice we all have the ability to enjoy a reward we don’t deserve.

She then shared the story of Handle’s Messiah to further illustrate her point, by sharing the following video:

It was a beautiful lesson and a perfect start to our Easter Sunday!

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Easter at Patchwork Farm.

Date Night during a Pandemic

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On Tuesday night we received a lovely surprise. Our kids had made reservations for us at a swanky new restaurant in town. Given all the extra stress in our lives lately, they thought we deserved a date night.

Before anyone takes up arms against our night on the town, let me clarify. We did not leave Patchwork Farm for our fancy meal. Instead, the kids brought date night to us. Zach came up with the idea and pitched it to the others who embraced it wholeheartedly. It was such a loving gesture and we were touched by our children’s thoughtfulness.

Our first clue that anything was amuck came as we reentered the house from outside and were greeted by this sign:

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It was Braden’s handiwork. We were then set to our room to get ready for date night while the kids worked like little house elves in the kitchen. We were told to dress in our finest attire, as this was a five star establishment.

All the kids were involved in this loving surprise for Toby and I, and each had a responsibility for making the evening happen. Some cooked, some decorated, while others wrote out the menu.

When we were gussied up we headed to the dining room where we were greeted by one of our waitresses for the evening.

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She sat us at the best table in the house.

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The ambience was romantic.

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Braden had decorated the dining room with mood lighting and Zach had created a playlist of songs which served as the soundtrack to our evening. He made sure to include songs that were personal to us, including our wedding song.

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Once seated we were given our menus.

Tyler was assigned the task of creating the restaurant menus. He typed up the food and drink selections and then showed the others. When Molly suggested he make the menu “more festive,” he went back to the computer and added a google image of fireworks:

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Because nothing says “festive” like pyrotechnics!

We sat and enjoyed the complimentary garlic knots while visiting and counting our many blessings.

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Then dinner was served. Chef Grace headed up the kitchen staff and made us a delicious dinner of Cajun Chicken Pasta.

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The portions at this establishment were unusually generous for such a swanky place!

Dinner was followed by dessert. Molly and Rusty were in charge of the dessert portion of the meal and made homemade lemon bars. They were delicious!

Then the manager (Zach) came out to check on us and inquire of our satisfaction before leaving the bill:

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It was both hilarious and touching. In fact the entire evening left us feeling like millionaires. We are blessed beyond measure! The efforts put in by each of our children to create such a special evening for Toby and I made us feel incredibly loved!

Don’t worry, we tipped them very well!!

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Our cups overfloweth…

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(I mean that figuratively, not literally. Molly was a very good waitress. ) 🙂

 

 

Robert’s Fruit Stand

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As we were leaving the alligator farm we passed a fruit stand that looked interesting. The 1st thing that caught our eye was the size of it. The 2nd thing that caught our eye were the throngs of people waiting in line to check out.  It was a Monday morning and certainly not prime tourist season in Miami, so we figured there must be something special about Robert’s fruit stand.

Boy were we right!

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This novelty fruit stand boasts a wide selection of exotic fruits from around the world. We stopped to get some Florida oranges and ended up leaving with a buffet of sweet fruits from around the world. Most of the fruits for sell were not ones we had ever heard of before. In noting our confusion, an employee kindly handed us a fruit guide to help educate us as we considered which fruits to try.

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We wandered through the outdoor isles, reading the descriptions of different fruits.  In addition to each crate of fruit listing its name and price, it also listed where the fruit was from and an informative description of its flavor, texture, and appearance.

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We decided that we would get a variety of different exotic fruits to bring back to our rental to try as part of our Florida experience. Rusty was especially thrilled. Just last week he was requesting (for his time treat) some sort of unusual fruit that we could snack on during his one-on-one time. After perusing the aisles of Walmart’s fruit and vegetable section, I came up with the nothing more exotic than an apple, orange, or grapes. The pickings were slim, so this was especially exciting for Rusty who had just been talking about wanting to try some new fruits. He ended up not only trying a new fruit but trying 7 new fruits from around the world that we had never heard of before, much less tasted.

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Here were our choices for our taste testing smorgasbord:

Apple Bananas: “They usually look like an over-ripe banana. These bananas are great for pies and fruit salads, as the fruit does not discolor.

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(This was the favorite fruit of Zach, Toby, Tyler and Molly)

Canestel (Egg Fruit): “This fruit is yellow and shaped like a Hershey Kiss. Wait until the fruit is extremely soft (like room temperature butter), then cut it open and enjoy the sweet egg custard flavor inside.”

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(This fruit had the texture of cooked pumpkin and tasted like egg custard. We all agreed it would be a better savory side dish to a meal, than a fruit eaten independently.)

Carambola (Star Fruit): “It is a five-sided yellow fruit. Slice this fruit crosswise into little stars and eat all but the stem and seeds. It tastes like a cross between and apple and an orange.”

(This crisp, refreshing fruit was Rusty’s favorite.)

Guanabana (Sour Sop): “This fruit is in the same family as a sugar apple but tastes different. Known as Sour Sop, it is anything but sour. Wait until the fruit is extremely soft, break it open with your hands, and then eat the pockets from around the seeds inside. Tastes like cotton candy.

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Kent Mangos: “Wait until the fruit is moderately soft. To cut the mango, hold it so that your hand is holding the widest part of the mango. Slice the right side of the fruit from top to bottom then flip it over and slice on the left side. The beautifully rich yellow fruit inside has a peachy-pineapple taste.”

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(Best Mangos we have ever eaten!)

Passion fruit: “This is a round, dark red or deep yellow fruit about the size of a plum. Wait until the skin is wrinkled, then slice and eat the pulp and seeds inside. It tastes like fruit punch.”

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(Gracie couldn’t get over the appearance of this fruit when sliced open. She said it was too reminiscent of toddler snot, but the flavor was delicious and tasted like a very strong fruit punch.)

Sapodilla: “It looks like a large kiwi without the fuzz. Wait until the fruit is very soft, then slice and enjoy. It tastes like a pear with brown sugar.”

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(Mmmm…delicious! It truly did taste like a brown sugar pear with a hint of cinnamon. This fruit was a favorite of myself, Grace and Braden.)

Well there we opted to cut in to the Guanabana (Sour Sop) fruit, which was advertised as “the world’s most delicious fruit.” The sign said that it tasted like cotton candy. We gave it a try. It did indeed have the flavor of cotton candy, but we found our group had very mixed reactions to this unusual fruit.

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Most agreed that while it tasted good, the texture was a bit hard to embrace. We decided that in the end we would have been better off buying one of the smoothies made out of this fruit rather than the fruit itself so that we could enjoy the flavor without the stringy, slimy texture of the Guanabana.

After eating that fruit we decided to use the Apple Bananas we purchased as a chaser. They were delicious. We all enjoyed them immensely!

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Before leaving we took a stroll out back to love on the farm animals that call Robert’s Fruit Stand, home.

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It was the most bizarre menagerie of animals I’ve ever seen.

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There in the pen there were zebu,  geese, emu, tortoises, iguanas, and goats all frolicking together like some sort of  Floridian Noah’s Ark.

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We could have stayed all day. Robert’s was a delightful roadside find in Southern Florida.

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Next stop was Jet Boat Miami…

Hold on to your hats!

Around the World in… 8 hours!

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Yesterday we were back at Epcot for round two.

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This time, rather than spending time in future world, we spent our entire day in the World Showcase. It took us 8 hours to travel from Canada to Mexico, taking the most indirect way possible through China, Morocco, France, and a few other countries along the way.

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Knowing we were going to spend our day at the World Showcase we took advantage of the fact that it didn’t open until 11:00 am and we slept in. It was needed.

When we arrived at the park, we began our adventure on the right side of the lagoon in Canada.

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Our first stop was the Kidcot Fun Stop.

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This activity had changed since our last visit, and instead of decorating a Duffy Bear fan to be stamped at each nation, each kid received a “suitcase” to collect stamped postcards at each nation.

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By visiting each nation, and collecting stamped postcards, the kids got to interact with cast members from each nation and walk away with a cool (FREE) souvenir at the end of the day.

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I knew this would be a harder day for my kiddos with ADHD. The idea of just walking, shopping and watching educational videos about different cultures is my idea of an AMAZING day, but for my thrill seeking, high energy kiddos, I predicted it to be a bit painful. I was hoping the interactive nature of the Kidcot experience, paired with our plan to snack our way around the world, would help everyone to make it through the day with smiles…

And my plan worked!

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Rusty was the mastermind behind our dining experience. He researched the most popular or culturally unique snacks to be found in each nation, balancing sweet and savory dishes through our journey around the world. This snacking experience became our lunch/dinner for the day as we purchased two or three treats at each country and split them eight ways, allowing everyone to enjoy the unique tastes of each nation without filling up halfway around the world.

Our first stop was Canada, where watched “O Canada,” a 360-circle vision film about Canada.

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This was also our first food stop of the day.

In Canada we had maple sugar candy,

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And Poutine.

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Poutine was a Canadian dish we were introduced to on our exciting Canadian adventure over the border to pick up an elevator. Poutine is a savory dish of french fries topped with squeaky cheese and brown gravy. It sounds crazy and looks even less appealing, but is actually pretty delicious!

Our next stop was the United Kingdom.

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Our food was fish and chips, which was enjoyed by everyone…Yum!

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The next nation in our trip around the world was France.

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This was Miss Molly’s favorite stop. She dreams of visiting Paris, so this was a good practice run.

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In France we enjoyed one of our tastiest treats of the day: strawberries and cream macaron ice cream sandwiches.

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While enjoying our taste of heaven we enjoyed watching the comedic antics of Seveur Amusant street performers.

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Morocco was the next stop on our tour.

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Morocco is one of the most visually immersive areas of the World Showcase, offering lots of fun photo opportunities.

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Here we feasted on baklava. Toby ordered four different types: walnut, cashew, pistachio, and chocolate…

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Each was more amazing than the last…Yum!!

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While we were enjoying our baclava, the skies opened up in typical Florida fashion, dowsing Morocco with a downpouring of rain. Brandon, my rain-loving boy, was in heaven and refused to come in out of the storm, soaking it all in with a smile as big as his heart.

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Japan was our next stop.

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Here, at the Japan pavilion, they offer a “pick a pearl” experience. On our last visit Toby treated each of us girls to a pearl. Grace enjoyed it so much that she decided to pay to do it again and have her pearl made into a necklace as a special souvenir of this trip.

Grace let her little brothers pick the oyster,

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And then we all enjoyed watching the big reveal of what treasure it held within.

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In Japan we decided to pick out two candy treats as our tasting experience in Japan.

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One was a pillowy sort of jelly candy,

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The other was a sweet potato biscuit.

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Both were yummy and gave us just the sugar kick we needed to keep pushing through our travels around the world.

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Our next nation was the United States.

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This marked the halfway point in our journey.

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Here we watched a show called, “The American Adventure.”

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Since we are well accustomed to all the American fare offered, we passed on the food offered at this pavilion, choosing, instead, to meander on to Italy.

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In Italy we purchased gelato and lemon ice for a cold treat.

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The next stop was…Germany!

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This is my personal favorite nation in the World Showcase. Walking through this pavilion brings back so many sweet memories of the time I spent in Germany as a young child, when my dad was stationed there.

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In Germany we feasted on pretzels.

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Next stop was China.

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We knew we wanted to watch the Jeweled Dragon Acrobats so we found a seat before the show began while Toby and Rusty went to pick up our snack for China- eggrolls and dumplings.

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By this point in our journey we had two nations left. We sat and enjoyed our treat while waiting for the show to begin.

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Unfortunately, due to high winds the show was canceled for the safety of the acrobats, so instead we strolled around the pavilion, soaking up the culture.

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Then we headed on to Norway.

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In Norway we stopped in the bakery to try the school bread.

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It was a delicious pastry with a cream filling.

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The big hit at this nation was the new Frozen Ever After ride that replaced the Maelstrom ride.

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 We weren’t sure how we would feel about this change, but actually found the new boat ride in Norway, revolving around the characters from “Frozen,” to be charming.

 We were pleasantly surprised.

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And our final stop in our trip around the world was…drumroll please…Mexico!

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By the time we had made it to Mexico the sun had long since fallen below the horizon.

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Inside we found ourselves fully immersed in a Mexican plaza,

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boasting all sorts of cultural wares for sale.

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It was here we rode “Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros,”

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 And concluded our 11-course meal with nachos.

By this time, it was almost 9:00 pm and we got into position to watch “Illuminations: Reflections of Earth.” It was a perfect conclusion to a day full of food, fun, and culture.

By the time the last firework exploded above our heads, everyone was ready to go home and put their feet up.

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Every wonder how many miles it is from Canada to Mexico…10.3 miles. You thought it would be more, didn’t you?!

       Well it felt like more.

But despite our sore feet and aching legs, it was a good day…

One of my favorite days of the trip!

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“I want to travel the world with you: go to every country, every city, take pictures and be happy.”

‘Ohana means Family

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“Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.”

Such a simple quote from a charming Disney movie, but for one of my kids, one that lives in fear of being left behind or forgotten, the message is profound and promising.

The fear never leaves. Even in the middle of a fairy tale vacation he worries that this will all end if he messes up. This belief is well founded, because it has been his reality for the last 17 years.

The lesson of ‘Ohana is one that will be hoped for until it is believed. And for Brandon, believing that this is forever, and that family never gets left behind or forgotten, is going to take time and testing.

As his adoption day nears, his anxiety increases with worries that all this will suddenly be snatched away. There will be such feelings of relief when we finally get to stand before the judge and declare our commitment to love him and hold tight to him forever.

Yesterday we had dinner at ‘Ohana.

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This was the one Disney table-service dinner we had booked for the trip. It was an exorbitant treat and we were thrilled to get a reservation at this beloved restaurant that is often booked to capacity months in advance.

We lucked out when another guest canceled in early January, allowing us to take their place and dine at our favorite Disney restaurant. The reservation was for 9:30pm…a late dinner hour for our crew, but we weren’t going to complain. We were feasting at ‘Ohana!!!

Last time we visited Disney World I missed out on dinner at my favorite restaurant when I suddenly got sick just before our family was seated for dinner. That night my only experience with ‘Ohana was spending time up close with the toilets in the bathroom. Toby ended up having to drive me back to the hotel, returning to finish the feast without me.

I was so disappointed by that experience that I was doubly excited to get a do-over this time around.

We arrived at the Polynesian Resort after dark and enjoyed stepping into the magic of the islands with the resort’s décor and island music.

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We were seated quickly and then the fun began!

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Dinner at ‘Ohana is served family style which means they bring you big platters of the food to share.

Dinner started off with ‘Ohana Pineapple-coconut bread. It was my favorite part of the meal…amazing!

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Next came the mixed green salad with a lilikoi dressing.

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With the salad, other sides were delivered to the table including: pork dumplings tossed in garlic-ginger sauce, honey-coriander wings, noodles tossed in teriyaki sauce, and stir-fried vegetables. All of the food served is unlimited. Once a platter of food is cleaned out, the server returns with another helping.

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Then the skewers of meats began to arrive at the table. The proteins, all prepared over an oak fire that could be seen in the middle of the restaurant, began to arrive at the table. First came the sweet and sour chicken, then the Szechuan sirloin steak,

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Followed by Toby’s personal favorite…

Spicy, grilled, peel-n-eat shrimp.

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Then came the best part- dessert! The ‘Ohana bread pudding was served a’ la mode with banana-caramel sauce. They delivered dessert to the table and then poured the sauce on to of the ice cream, right before our very eyes. Yum!!

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Near the end of the meal Brandon began looking a little worse for wear and informed us that he had been feeling nauseous for a few hours. He didn’t mention it earlier, not wanting to miss out on dinner, but the more he ate the worse he felt. By the end of the meal he joined the ranks of McCleerys who have spent a ‘Ohana dinner in the restaurant’s bathroom throwing up.

Poor thing felt miserable.

We arrived home at 11:30 pm and tucked Brandon into bed. Here’s hoping it is a short-lived bug that doesn’t spread through the ranks, but until then we will care for and love on our sick boy, showing him the real meaning of ‘Ohana.

Turkey Hill Experience

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On Tuesday, following Molly’s recognition banquet at the Downingtown office of her cyber school, we began our trek home. The initial plan was to stop in Hershey, home of Hershey’s Chocolate World. Ozzie decided he wanted to treat Molly to a special shared experience with his own money. He had decided on the “Create Your Own Candy Bar” experience at Chocolate World but when I called to reserve tickets we found out that it was currently closed for renovations. Quickly we scrambled to come up with a Plan B.

As I searched for things to do along our route back home I stumbled across a fun little gem near Lancaster, Pa. Created by Turkey Hill ice cream, the Turkey Hill Experience is a fun, interactive museum all about the creation of Turkey Hill ice cream (and their tea and lemonade drink line.) As I read about the experience online both Ozzie and Molly thought it sounded fun. When we read that there were unlimited ice cream samples offered at the end of the tour, they were sold…

So, off we drove toward ice cream heaven.

The Turkey Hill Experience is housed in a beautiful, old brick warehouse.

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As we walked in we were greeted by a giant cow…a whimsical clue to what the experience would hold.

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We were the youngest visitors there by many decades, with the only other visitors consisting of a senior tour bus.

The experience is set up to take visitors through each step of the ice cream creation process.

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The tour began with a short video about the history of Turkey Hill Ice Cream and an introduction to the ice cream making process.

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Then we stepped into the world of ice cream creation…

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Step 1: It all begins with the cow!

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Step 2: Making sure the milk meets the standards of Turkey Hill.

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Step 3: Getting creative…the “Create Your own Ice Cream Flavor” station.

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Step 4: Measuring and Mixing.

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Step 5: Designing the packaging for our new ice cream flavors.

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Step 6: Into the freezer…BRRRRR!

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Step 7: Filming a commercial for our newly developed flavors.

As Molly and Ozzie moved through the experience they scanned their entrance ticket at each station so the continuity of their work continued through the experience, building on itself until the commercial at the end.

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It was a really fun place that was created to be engaging for every age, from toddlers to retirees.

The climax of the experience came at the end with the tasting café where we were invited to taste different Turkey Hill ice cream flavors. There was no limit to the samples we could enjoy and there was no additional fee.

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This was definitely the highlight of the day for our crew.

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It was a great way to conclude our special sibling bonding trip…

Sweet memories made by all!

Lambert’s Café: Home of Throwed Rolls

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I first heard of Lambert’s Café in a children’s book I was reading aloud to the kids a few years ago. In the book the children in the story went to Lambert’s with their grandparents and there experienced the unique dining experience that is iconically Lambert’s.

I didn’t realize that Lambert’s Café was a real restaurant until we were driving through Missouri on our bus trip last year and I saw the billboards for Lambert’s Café. The tagline: “Home of Throwed Rolls”  was the giveaway that it was the same place that was highlighted in the book.

We didn’t stop there last year, but when we decided that Springfield, Missouri would be our stop for the second night of our trip I told Toby I knew just the place for dinner!

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I didn’t give much away. I just told my family that they were in for a treat. I knew the experience would be as enjoyed as the homemade southern cooking.

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We arrived just in time, walking through the doors at 8:50 pm. The restaurant closed at 9:00, but they welcomed us in with a smile and seated us at a table.

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The first clue that this dining experience would be different than other places was the table settings, which consisted of a roll of paper towels and a cup of silverware.

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Our waitress came over and took our drink orders. When she returned the kids received their second clue that this was going to be a unique dinner. The cups were huge. Rusty was thrilled. When we go out to eat my water lover always seems to be waiting on refills. There was no running out of water at this place!

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Then we ordered. The food here is homestyle, with southern classics like chicken fried steak and fried chicken being some of their top sellers.

After ordering, the fun began with a waiter yelling, “Fresh rolls!”

The kids soon picked up on how things worked at Lambert’s when they saw hands being raised around the room and rolls started flying.

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At Lambert’s Café if you want one of their delicious, homemade rolls you have to catch one.

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Don’t worry if you miss on the first try… many people do. The floor is littered with fallen fare.

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They will just send another one your way.

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Luckily we were eating dinner with Tyler, who eagerly offered to get us rolls anytime someone wanted one. He loved the “sporty” aspect to the dinning experience and caught many rolls for our table.

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In addition to the flying rolls there were also “Pass Arounds.” These were side dishes that come free with your meal. Waiters walked around with bowls of macaroni and tomatoes, black eyed peas, fried potatoes and onions, and fried okra that you could try while waiting for your meal.

We all tried fried okra for the first time and found it better than expected. Tyler was the only wouldn’t give it a try, despite the persistence of our cute waitress.

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Our stomachs were already filling up thanks to the “Pass Arounds” and the delicious rolls, when our dinners arrived.

Talk about generous servings!!

Toby and Rusty’s chicken fried steak meals came out in frying pans.

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I ordered the fried chicken and it was the BEST fried chicken I have ever had. The food was incredible. It was one of the tastiest meals we have ever had and easily measured up to our gold star standard of a Disney World Resort restaurant in both quality of food and level of interactive entertainment.

We are so glad we gave Lambert’s Café a try!

When we left we stopped at the visitor’s map to mark our hometown and record that the McCleerys were here.

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It was an awesome evening!

This and That

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Sometimes I find that the focus of my blog tends to revolve around the big news and events sprinkled throughout our weeks, but every now and then I feel compelled to pen a “catch up” sort of blog that shares more of the day to day happenings in our life. Since none of these small happenings justify an entire blog entry I tend to  lump them together in a “this and that” blog.  The big breakthrough sort of moments of life may determine the course of our journey but it is the small day to day happenings that are the building blocks of our life.

Here is a look into the day to day moments that make up our life:

We have taken this time of respite, while Ozzie is getting some much needed and effective therapy to address his history of trauma, to really focus on the needs of the other children. Part of our plan to reconnect and assess everyone’s wellbeing has been for Toby and I to schedule a one-on-one date with each of the kids so that they can share their hearts with us in an uninterrupted setting. It has been a blessing and good for everyone. We schedule our dates following a visit to see Ozzie. We have taken the kids to visit him one at a time so that they can have one on one time with Ozzie. This has been good for Ozzie as it encourages deeper attachment with each sibling individually, but also good for the kids to see where Ozzie is at and see the work he is doing. The experience has made them more understanding and empathetic of Ozzie’s struggles as they gain insight into the hurt and trauma behind the behaviors.

Following our visit with Ozzie, Toby and I take that child out on a special date to the restaurant of their choosing (something more financially feasible when you are paying for 3 meals as opposed to 7.) It has been fun to see what everyone’s picks have been. Molly chose Five Guys, Grace chose Chipotle, and Rusty chose Dynasty Chinese buffet. Tyler has his date night coming up and I suspect McDonalds is in our future.

As part of Gracie’s date we stopped so she could get her haircut. This task is significantly easier and more enjoyable without little brothers tagging along.

Here is her before and after:

The kids have been busy with school as their 3rd quarter comes to a close. Rusty has been studying DNA which means he had a fun assignment in science. His teacher sent all the students the candy and supplies for an online class to make DNA chains using sweet treats. I must say Rusty was even more engaged in the lesson than usual, knowing that at the completion of the lesson he would get to eat the “fruits of his labors.”

Grace is still involved in mural club, with Molly and Rusty joining her occasionally for a mural they are interested in learning to paint. Two weeks ago they were learning to paint roses. Grace decided to veer off from the teacher’s sample and create a stain glass version of a rose. (Can you see how excited she is for the new Beauty and the Beast movie that is going to be released soon?!) She was on a role and followed that art project with a craft project of her own by making the enchanted rose from the West Wing. Here are her finished projects:

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This summer my three oldest kids will be going on Trek. Those that have been following our blog for a while will remember when Grace participated in a pioneer trek four years ago with other youth in our church. They spent 3 days trekking through the rolling hills of Virginia, pulling handcarts and cooking over a fire so as to gain an appreciation for the sacrifices made by the pioneers who trekked westward. This year Grace, Molly and Rusty will be able to experience this together and I am so thrilled for them!

A few Sundays ago we attended the kick-off fireside that inspired, instructed, and got the excitement going for this upcoming July event. Grace is on the youth committee that is helping adult leadership with the planning of the event and was given the responsibility of creating a short, fun video to help the youth get ideas of how to easily and inexpensively put together the outfits they will wear on trek.

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She did a great job!

This Wednesday was a theme day at co-op. In honor of Dr. Seuss’s birthday we had Wacky Wednesday…and this is what the kids came up with. I think Rusty wins!

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In preparation for Family Night Grace donned her apron to create a Disney World copycat recipe of raspberry macaroons. Yes, they were as delicious as they look!

For our family night message we had a lesson on the life of Job. As we read about Job’s trials and likened them to our own we were humbled by all he had to endure and how faithfully and graciously he endured them. It gave me cause for reflection as I considered my own earthly journey and the challenges in my life, which seem so shallow in comparison, but more striking was the comparison between how Job endured compared to the way I have endured certain seasons of life. It made me desire a deeper and more faithful relationship with my Heavenly Father so that I might handle the trials that come my way more humbly, graciously and faithfully.

This lesson was followed by a Pixar short entitled, “Paperman,” that led us into the hands-on portion of my lesson.

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I began by giving everyone a sheet of paper and asked them to see who could make that flat piece of paper soar across the room. With much laughter and taunting we found none were able to get their flat piece of paper to travel more than a foot or two.

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I asked what we could do to make our paper fly better, to which the kids suggested we fold them into paper airplanes.

Using some YouTube tutorials we created all sorts of magnificent paper airplanes.

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We then lined up and tried again. This time those pieces of papers soared gracefully across the room.

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I asked the kids what had changed.

They replied, “We had to fold it into the right shape so that it could fly.”

I then brought home the point of the lesson,

In order to fly, that untouched, pristine, piece of paper had to be bent, folded, and torn to be molded into an object that could soar above the pull of the world.

And so it is with us.

It is the trials and challenges that we live through that we learn the most from. An untouched piece of paper doesn’t fly, and life of ease doesn’t help us soar. We need the creases and the folds to fly, and we need to allow God to use the lessons we learn during those hard times to mold us into someone that soars beyond the pull of this world.

I prepared the lesson for my children, but it was I that really needed to be reminded of the truth. God is using this season of life to work mighty changes in me so that I might fly higher and closer to Him.

 

A SUPER week ends with a Super Bowl party

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

🙂

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

 

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

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Gracie leading the meeting from her bedroom.

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Rusty attending the meeting from his room 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Two of Toby’s “helpers.”

 

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

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

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

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

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