Tag Archives: friends

A Treasured Time at Living Treasures

Standard

 

IMG_0539

Last May our co-op of 10+ years disbarred. It was a sad day when we said good-bye to the church that had become a home away from home for over a decade as we met together with fellow “home” schoolers and dear friends every Wednesday to teach our children and allow them opportunities that are hard to facilitate in a home environment.

When our co-op began, our babies were all in preschool-3rd grade. At the end of the school year last year those same “babies” were entering their senior year with most of our kiddos working independently and no longer needing the co-op classroom environment for academics. It was an end to a beautiful era of life, one that we hated to say good-bye to, but knew we had outgrown the co-op’s original purpose.

Although we no longer needed the academic support that co-op was originally created for, we were still feeling the need for regular social get-togethers with our co-op friends who have become a second family over the years.

Our solution was to move our get-togethers out into the community and to meet twice a month rather than weekly. We decided that to facilitate these social events, and to make sure we made time for them to happen regularly, we (the moms) would each take a month of the school year and plan two field trips, outings, or holiday parties for the kids to meet up and connect with friends.

I signed up for October and the first outing I planned for the month was to Living Treasures Animal Park.

IMG_0427

 This park has a special place in my heart, as it is home to so many sweet memories. Our first visit here was with Gracie as a baby. We have visited it with my sister and her kids, my parents, my brother, my grandfather and many friends. Over the years we have created many sweet memories at this special place, and two Fridays ago we created a few more.

IMG_0488

We arrived as the doors opened and met up with the other co-op families in the parking lot. Because we had a group that exceeded the 20-person minimum for a group rate we were able to get in for $6.99/person, half the normal rate. We also purchased animal feed for the animals…

IMG_0398

Because that is the best part of Living Treasures!

IMG_0429

 This particular animal park is set up to allow visitors opportunities to interact with the animals more intimately than is possible at a zoo.

IMG_0480

The proximity and amount of interaction depends on the type of animal.

IMG_0527

The animals that you can pet and feed by hand include deer, cattle, alpaca, goats, and the wallabies.

IMG_0450IMG_0434IMG_0448

Bigger animals are fed through feeding tubes that drop their treats into a food dish.  These critters eagerly wait beside their bowls hoping for a handout. This system allows kids to interact with the animals up close without the risk of losing fingers.

IMG_0460

The monkeys at Living Treasures are fed with a bucket system. Visitors can place carrots or special monkey pellets in a bucket attached to a chain, and the monkeys can pull the bucket to the cage and fish out their treats.

IMG_0406IMG_0414

The animals all understand this system well and know what it means when little people with buckets come walking their way. The critters tend to swarm you when you approach, especially if you are among the first visitors of the day and everyone is still hungry.

IMG_0389IMG_0496IMG_0498IMG_0514IMG_0523IMG_0518

It was a beautiful day to be outside and it was wonderful seeing friends we hadn’t seen in a while…

And to enjoy it while loving on fur-babies made it all the better!

IMG_0466

 

 

A Night off and a Dress

Standard

 

quote-cinderella

Amen, Sister…AMEN!

Sometimes all a girl wants is to lay down her dusting cloth, slip into something pretty, and have a night out on the town.

Thanks to an aptly timed play I was granted “the wish my heart makes” and like Cinderella had a magical night filled with song, dance and a pair of glass slippers…

Not mine, of course. I am too old to be hobbling around in glass slippers. I wore some kickin’ Keds for the evening. 🙂

We have entered high school musical season in Western Pennsylvania, a season marked by yard signs sprinkled across the countryside advertising all the local shows. It is  fun to drive around the area and take note of what beloved musicals each school has chosen to tackle this musical season. With limited time and a short high school musical season the great debate is always… which shows to go see?!

There seems to inevitably always be more shows than free weekends which sometimes results in a “divide and conquer” approach with different family members catching various shows (staring friends from church and co-op) as school and work schedules allow.

This year Molly was able to catch two productions staring friends from church that I couldn’t attend because of meetings.

A few weeks ago, she drove down to Center Township to see Hailey and Lauren Mitchell in “All Shook Up,” and Elvis inspired show that Molly raved about for days following the production.

received_2044587325823601

all shook up

She also ventured out on her own, on a night Grace had school and I had a camp meeting, to watch one of her bestest friends as the lead in the musical, Cinderella.

received_2044220899193577Rochester’s high school musical is one we traditionally attend as our friends, the Tames, are key talents in the production year after year. It is always fun to watch their talent play out on stage.

received_2044220912526909cinderella4cinderella3

Once again Molly came home with nothing but praise for Heather and her talents as well as her younger sister, Melanie, who stepped into the role of step sister with only 3 hours notice after the young lady who was to play the role got hurt. Molly was super impressed by how well Melanie learned the lines for this new part in the hours before opening night and stepped into this new role seamlessly.

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella was also Mohawk High School’s musical this year.

IMG_20180316_183844

Last Friday we attended their musical to watch Caleigh, one of Molly’s best buddies from co-op, who was playing the role of guard and singing girl.

 

IMG_20180316_183915

Cute Caleigh is on the left.

 

We joined up with the Hudak gals to watch Caleigh’s performance. It was fun to attend this particular show with Lana as Mohawk School is her Alma Mater. She had lots of fun stories to tell as we waited for the show to begin.

IMG_20180316_184956

The production was magnificent.

IMG_20180316_184556

The show was presented storybook style, meaning the sets and props were minimal and the show was carried mainly by the talented cast…

And there was a lot of talent on that stage!

After the show we met up with Caleigh to express our accolades for a job well done. She looked adorable in her costume.

IMG_20180316_211432

We also were able to say hello to two past co-op classmates that now attend Mohawk High School…

Sarah who was in the play as a townsperson and Jack who played in the orchestra.

IMG_20180316_210813

This particular musical was the only one I caught this musical season, but it was a great one to catch. I left the evening whistling the familiar melodies of childhood… songs of hope, garden wishes, and Prince Charming’s love.

Cinderella

Then all to soon the clock was striking midnight and it was time to hurry home before we all turned into pumpkins.

Oh, how I love the magic of musicals.

cinderella2

Yes, Yes…100 times, Yes.

Walk to End Alzheimer’s

Standard

Walk-to-End-Alzheimers-Banner

While we were trapped in Canada, Molly had an event to attend in Pittsburgh. The Hudaks kindly offered to pick up Molly and take her with them. The event was the annual “Walk to End Alzheimer’s” event held in downtown Pittsburgh. The kids’ school, 21st Century Cyber Charter School, had put together a team to walk for this great cause. It was a National Honor Society service project.

received_1976071876008480

In the weeks leading up to the event Molly worked on raising funds for this important cause. Not wanting to simply ask friends and family to donate, she came up with a plan to offer service hours in exchange for donations to the Alzheimer’s Foundation. She cleaned houses, washed windows, and weeded gardens for this good cause. She was pleased to meet her donation goal of $100.00.

On the morning of the walk she was awoken by a knock at the door and the barking of dogs. Her alarm never went off! So, when the Hudaks arrived bright and early Saturday morning, she was still asleep. It was a jolting way to start the day, but she quickly recovered and hustled to get dressed and out the door in record time.

received_1976072549341746

In downtown Pittsburgh crowds of supporters had gathered for the walk.

Molly and Tatum each received a t-shirt for pledging $100.

received_1976072556008412

While registering, Molly ran into sweet Anna, a dear friend from Girls Camp and church activities. It was an unexpected treat!

received_1976073132675021

Molly and Tatum ended up being the only two 21CCCS National Honor Society members to show up. It wasn’t all bad news, however, as they got some special one-on-one time with their learning coach, Mr. Winterode.

received_1976073139341687

That day the walk raised $519,837.09 for Alzheimer’s research, support and care thanks to the 3,746 participants who showed up to walk for this great cause.

received_1976073136008354

Following the charity walk, Tatum’s dad took Molly, Tatum and Olivia into Pittsburgh’s Strip District for shopping and lunch.

1498_1510748567294

Molly said it was a blast.

received_1976071869341814

The Hudaks returned her home in time for her evening shift at the Philly Pretzel Factory. I was sorry to miss the event but am grateful for good friends who could step in as surrogate parents while we were out of the country!

Thanks, Hudaks!

A Creative Sweet 16!

Standard

On Saturday the girls were invited to a 16th birthday party.

IMG_1897

But this was no ordinary birthday party. This was a party as creative and artsy as the young lady who was celebrating her sweet 16.

IMG_1893

Annaliese, one of the girls’ friends from co-op, invited my girls and seven others to celebrate with her at the Carnegie Natural History Museum and Art Museum in Pittsburgh. They thought it would be fun to explore the art museum together (without parents or little brothers slowing them down and cramping their style.)

My girls had a blast!

IMG_1914

IMG_1932IMG_1919

It was such a wonderfully creative way to celebrate this special friend’s special day.

IMG_1928

IMG_1926

Happy Birthday, Annaliese!

IMG_1942

Mural Club Outing- Part 2 “A Day at the Chocolate Factory”

Standard

There they stood, side by side…

best friends…

partners in crime…

with their matching hairnets,

and I couldn’t help but think of the old I Love Lucy episode:

lucy

Only this time rather than Lucy and Ethel,

it was Olivia and Grace 🙂

IMG_3752 (2)

and

Katie and Lana:

IMG_3786 (2)

Ready for a day of fun at Hershey’s Chocolate World.

After visiting their school in the morning, we drove to Hershey, PA where we made our own candy bars and took a trolley ride back in time…

and the rest, as they say, “was HISTORY!”

We began at the “Create your own Candy Bar” experience, where we put on hair nets and aprons. The activity began with an instructional safety video.

IMG_3753 (2)

From there we created the recipe of our candy bar by picking the type of chocolate we wanted and the “inclusions” we wanted to add to the bar.

IMG_3757 (2)

From there we moved to the factory line where we watched the creation of our candy bars.

IMG_3770 (2)

IMG_3777 (2)

After the candy bars were assembled we moved into the design studio to create our packaging while the chocolate bars cooled.

IMG_3793 (2)

Finally we picked up our completed candy bars.

IMG_3798 (2)

Our next stop was a trolley ride back in time to learn more about the story of Hershey, Pa and the man who made it possible.

We began by boarding a trolley.

IMG_3820 (2)

Leading our tour was a young woman who told the story of Milton Hershey as we drove through the town. The first stop was the home he built for his wife, “Kitty.” We also visited the original factory, the boys’ school he opened (that is still in service today), and other sites around the town.

At each stop we had a character step aboard and share part of Milton Hershey’s story, as seen through their eyes. We had visits from Milton’s father and mother, an orphan boy from the boy’s home, a soldier recently returned from war, and a Swedish chef from the Hershey Hotel.

IMG_3831 (2)

IMG_3842 (2)

Each stop brought laughs as well as astounding information about Milton Hershey.

I had no idea what an amazing man he was. We learned about his humble beginnings, his perseverance through multiple failed business attempts, his tenacity and strength through the Great Depression as he worked to make sure not one man in town was unemployed, his love of children and the school he built for orphaned boys that still is serving the needs or the underprivileged today, and his amazing business sense as he created the largest chocolate company in the world.

What an amazing man!

Throughout the tour there were also “sing alongs” with the different characters that boarded the trolley to tell their story. We sang songs (from a song sheet provided) like, “A bicycle built for two” and “Sentimental Journey.”

IMG_3822 (2)

Many of the characters also handed out Hershey candy samples with their stories…

A brown bag of treats being passed around the bus.

A brown bag of treats being passed around the bus.

It was an informative and entertaining tour, and we all left feeling inspired by this amazing man and his story.

It was a “SWEET” day,

but it wasn’t over yet!

(Part 3 still to come – Painting with a Twist.)

“Raindrops keep falling on my head”

Standard
"Raindrops keep falling on my head"

“Raindrops keep falling on my head”

We enjoyed another weekend packed full of friends, football, and rain…lots and lots of rain. On Friday Rusty was invited to spend the night with friends but before I could take him over we had to take the car in for an oil change. Knowing how long it typically takes the dealership to change our oil I told Rusty that he needed to pack before we left because we probably wouldn’t have time to come back to the house after the oil change. As we were preparing to leave I told Rusty to grab his stuff. He came out of the room carrying a pillow and a sleeping bag and his hand-held video game. When I asked where his bag was he answered, “What bag?”

“The bag with your PJs, change of clothes, toothbrush, toothpaste..” I answered.

He then went on to inform me that you don’t need any of those things for a boy sleepover. He told me that boys don’t wear PJs at a sleepover, they just sleep in their clothes and so there was then no need for a change of clothes for the next day either. “We just wear the same clothes the whole time,” he informed me. 🙂

When I told him he at least needed to grab his toothbrush he told me he didn’t need it because they were going to be eating all night and probably not sleeping.

I found it funny to see how different his packing job was from the girls when they are invited to a slumber party. They pack PJs, their cutest pair of course! They pack their toothbrush and paste, face wash, new clothes, nail polish, moisturizer, hair brushes and bands, pillows, stuffed animals, make-up, board games, CDs…you get the idea. When the girls pack for an over-nighter it looks like they are headed off to college. When Russ packs it looks like he is headed to the mailbox to get the mail. The difference is so funny.

On our way home from dropping Rusty off we stopped at the Dollar Store because Tyler wanted to pick up Rusty’s birthday gift without him around. As we were leaving I ran into a friend who had been on my mind all day. We had a great, albeit quick, visit in the parking lot before I had to get the SUV home to Toby for the evening.

Toby needed the SUV to tow the big trailer. He had ordered the hay we need for the animals this winter and it was ready to be picked up so he and Tyler went to get it. They were gone for a few hours so the girls and I had the house to ourselves Friday night. It was a fun girls’ evening. The girls recently discovered the TV series “Once Upon a Time” on Netflix and have been working their way through season one. Having no boys at home gave them the chance to watch a couple of episodes together.

When the boys arrived home Tyler (and Winnie) found a little friend on the porch. I love Tyler expression in this photo.

When the boys arrived home Tyler (and Winnie) found a little friend on the porch. I love Tyler expression in this photo.

Tyler named him Buster.

Tyler named him Buster.

Saturday morning we woke up to rain. The plans we had for yardwork quickly went out the window. We kept waiting to see if Tyler’s football game would be cancelled but despite the downpours it wasn’t. Earlier in the week we invited Mimi Joy out to watch Tyler play. It probably wasn’t the best week for it. The rain came down steadily during the game and the other team killed ours… but it was still fun.  Tyler was thrilled to have Mimi come out and watch him play.

Tyler playing in the puddles before the game began.

Tyler playing in the puddles before the game began.

The cheering section, led by Mimi Joy :)

The cheering section, led by Mimi Joy 🙂

Gracie, Molly and Rusty

Gracie, Molly and Rusty

After the game Toby headed to work, Mimi left to do her grocery shopping and the kids and I headed home to change into dry clothes. After a warm bath Tyler asked if he could have a cup of Raman noodles. I think the hot soup hit the spot. It served the purpose of warming him up and filling his belly.

After an afternoon of Saturday chores: bedroom cleaning, washing and ironing Sunday outfits, haircuts and nail trimming we had a quick dinner with the boys and then the girls and I headed out to a fun church youth activity.

It was a good weekend…a wet weekend but a good weekend. 🙂

Since Mimi Joy didn’t have the opportunity to see Tyler kick at Saturday’s game I thought I’d include a video from the previous week’s game when we were all a bit drier…

Error
This video doesn’t exist

Celebrate!

Standard

Last week was a full week. After arriving home from our trip to the UP of Michigan our week quickly filled up with appointments (orthodontist for Grace and shots for Molly), football practice, school preparations, Tyler’s 7th birthday and preparing for our open house adoption celebration on Saturday. It truly was a whirlwind sort of week.
We decided that for our open house we wanted to have an ice cream sundae bar so on Wednesday, after Gracie’s orthodontist appointment, we took advantage of a gift card we had to Yumberries, a frozen yogurt place, to “steal” topping ideas for our sundae bar. It’s a fun place. Along the wall there are a variety of frozen yogurt flavors and toppings for you to use to create your own delicious dish. It was a yummy treat and it also sparked our creativity for topping shopping later that evening.

Yumberries!

Yumberries!

Wednesday night after taking Rusty to taekwondo we stopped at Aldis to buy tubs of ice cream for the party. It was quite the endeavour to try to figure out how many tubs of ice cream to purchase for 200 guests. We ended up buying 13 tubs of ice cream which we later found out was a bit excessive but on the up side we will be able to enjoy ice cream for months to come. As we were leaving we had a few people stop and ask us if they could follow us home 🙂

Shopping for ice cream!

Shopping for ice cream!

Thursday was spent preparing for the party..cleaning the house, mowing the yard, etc. Thursday was also the day the house painting was completed and the McDonald’s Play Place was done. It was finished just in time and after laying mulch underneath it was ready for the party.

Our new McDonald's Play Place that Toby won at an auction.

Our new McDonald’s Play Place that Toby won at an auction.

Friday we celebrated Tyler’s 7th birthday and his first official birthday as a McCleery. As is our tradition we woke him early, before Toby left for work, with a cupcake and the family singing “Happy Birthday.” He woke with a smile and enjoyed his breakfast cupcake.

Good morning birthday boy!

Good morning birthday boy!

We spent the day finishing the last of the party preparations with the promise that we would celebrate Tyler’s birthday as soon as Daddy arrived home. When Toby came home we had Tyler’s birthday dinner and then let him open his gifts before we went out to the movies for his birthday treat. It was fun to see what each of the kids came up with for Tyler’s gifts. The effort and creativity they put into coming up with special gifts for him touched my heart. Rusty planned a treasure hunt for Tyler which lead to his gift. Tyler enjoyed following the clues and really loved the gift at the end which was a gift bag of some of Rusty’s toys that Tyler had admired in the past. After opening the gift he jumped up and gave Russ a big hug and told him that he was the best brother ever. Rusty was really touched by that. Molly gave Tyler an “imagination kit” that she made. Tyler loves to play “imagination” with Molly. Molly comes up with a story line and the three youngest will play for hours. Molly’s “imagination kit” included a magic wand that she made, a jar of fairy dust (glitter), invisibility bands (bracelets), Power up  chews that bring you back to life when you die (gum), etc. It was very clever and Tyler couldn’t wait to play. Grace bought Tyler a Webkinz and then made a house to go with it. Toby and I bought Tyler some action figures after seeing how much he loved playing with Nate’s while we were on vacation.

Gracie's gift to Tyler.

Gracie’s gift to Tyler.

It was wonderful to be able to celebrate a very special boy on his very special day!

IMG_0539

The next day was our adoption open house. The morning was spent putting up signs at the end of the road, setting up tables and chairs, decorating and running to the store for balloons and last-minute items. At noon Toby and Tyler left for his first football game. When we scheduled the party we didn’t realize we would have a scheduling conflict with football so as a result Tyler was an hour late for his own party. It worked out well though..he won his game and I think it was less overwhelming walking into a party that was already going on than to be in the spotlight as everyone arrived.

All ready for the fun to begin!

All ready for the fun to begin!

My big helpers!

My big helpers!

IMG_0510

Soon friends and family began to arrive. We couldn’t have asked for better weather or better company. We were blessed to have family there as well as friends from all areas of our lives..high school friends, church friends, home school friends, etc. It was a joyous day!

When people arrived we asked them to sign our "guest book." Here are the names of some of the special people who have walked this adoption road with us and joined us to celebrate.

When people arrived we asked them to sign our “guest book.” Here are the names of some of the special people who have walked this adoption road with us and joined us to celebrate.

We had the fire going for smores..

We had the fire going for smores..

..and games for the kids.

..and games for the kids.

After everyone left I took a minute to sit by the fire and reflect on the day…My heart overflowed with gratitude for my blessings…for loving family, for dear, dear friends who came out to celebrate with us, for a summer full of special memories, for my husband and my children and for a monumental year. Last year at this time we were waiting for Tyler’s placement in our home. What a difference a year makes. Monday school begins and summer ends. What a beautiful way to bring summer to a close and enter the next season of our lives. God is good.

“So far, no morning sickness..but the paper cuts are terrible!”

Standard

“So far, no morning sickness…but the paper cuts are terrible!”

While cruising the internet I saw a t-shirt with this saying and I had to laugh. Unless you have traveled down the adoption road you probably can’t fully appreciate the truth behind the humor. When Toby and I began to consider whether adoption was something God was calling us to we attended an informational seminar on adoption. We were surprised, as were many others in the class, how candid the speaker was about what we could expect during the adoption process. She didn’t pull any punches and really laid out the reality of the adoption process. She made it clear that the process to adopt wasn’t quick, easy, or without effort. As she explained the steps we would need to take, one of the women in the group spoke up and expressed her frustration over the “hoops” that she was expected to jump through just to prove that she would be a good mother. The teacher listened to her and then answered her concerns with an interesting response. She told her that to enjoy the blessing of a child we must first go through labor. For the woman who is adopting it will not be a physical labor but it will be labor. For the adoptive parent that labor comes in the form of appointments, interviews, paperwork, classes, and waiting…. waiting for that phone call to come in that tells you that they have a child for you.

Since that time I’ve thought a lot about the wisdom in those words. Having been blessed with children both through traditional labor and the labor of the adoption process I’m not sure which is the more difficult. Although very different in the ways they test your strength both require you to go through the pain to enjoy the blessing on the other side of that pain. I have seen the similarities in other ways as well..

   In August when we received the call informing us that we had been chosen as the adoptive family for Tyler it was much like finding out I was pregnant for the first time. I was giddy with excitement but also frightened by the unfamiliar path we would have to travel. When Tyler first moved in with us it was comparable to the first trimester of pregnancy. Everything is so new and we were all going through the growing pains of change. Although exciting, the first trimester was the toughest as we acclimated to our new “normal.” Then in no time at all we were into the second trimester..the “morning sickness” was felt less often and I found myself thinking, “Hey, I can do this!” Things became easier. There was less conflict, more trust, and the bond continued to grow stronger. Now, here we are into the third trimester of our “pregnancy.” I feel like a pregnant woman in her final weeks who just wants to give birth and finally hold her baby in her arms. I am looking forward to our approaching court date when Tyler’s birth certificate will confirm what I already know in my heart..that he is my son..grown under the heart of another woman delivered into my arms by God’s grace.

My baby: 58 lbs. 6 oz/ 42 inches long. 🙂

015

On Wednesday we met all of our co-op friends at the park for our end of the year picnic. Soon after the kids had run off to play with their friends I had one of the other moms approach me, place a princess crown on my head and declare it the start of my baby shower. I was so surprised. I had no idea my friends were planning a shower. I was incredibly touched by their thoughtfulness and their desire to celebrate this special milestone in my life. As I began to look through the gift basket that they had prepared I struggled to hold back the tears. The basket was put together with such thought. In it there was a gift card to a restaurant so Toby and I could enjoy a night out, a gift card for a massage, many beauty/pampering products, loving notes, a book of inspiration, and beautiful gifts for my home. I don’t know when I have ever felt so loved. I think what touched me most was their acknowledgement and validation of this “pregnancy” that means so much to me. I am incredibly blessed to have such dear friends!

My "baby shower" thrown by my dearest friends as we "cheers" with grape juice :)

My “baby shower” thrown by my dearest friends as we toast eachother with grape juice 🙂

As I near the end of this “pregnancy” I know that this is just the beginning of the journey.  Although we have bypassed some of those early struggles and challenges like sleepless nights, cutting teeth, and potty training there will be other challenges to labor through in the years ahead but there will also be blessings…wonderful, magical moments that will make the many hours of painful labor well worth it. I think that teacher had it right when she said, “To fully enjoy the blessings we must first experience the labor.”

013

“For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him..” – 1 Samuel 1:27

Due date :  July 23, 2013

A “berry” blessed day with friends!

Standard

We have purchased a Carnegie Museum membership yearly since the kids have been little. Even years when money has been a bit tighter we have considered it a worthy investment. When my kids were little our membership paid for a few hours of  “mommy mental health” as I took them up to the top floor where they could play for hours in a contained area while I visited with other mothers. As they grew older it became a homeschooling tool that we could use to bring the science concepts they were studying to life. It is one thing to read about the mighty T-Rex but something much more compelling to stand in front of the impressive skeletal remains of one. With our membership we have access to the Carnegie Science Center, Natural History Museum, Art Museum and the Andy Warhol Museum. This summer when it was time to renew our membership we were in a quandary as to what to do. The family membership allows for six people but at the time of renewal we were being considered for the adoption of a sibling group of 3 children. We didn’t know if that adoption would go through so as a precaution we bought the next level of membership which allows for two adults and eight guests. Although we were blessed with Tyler instead of the sibling group and didn’t need the larger membership, it has been a blessing. We have been able to share our enjoyment of the Carnegie museums with friends by inviting them as guests on our membership. Last week we were able to enjoy a fun day at the Science Center with friends from church.

We began the morning by meeting at a parking lot to caravan our way into Pittsburgh. We were hoping we left late enough to avoid morning traffic but ended up getting caught in the tail end of it. Luckily the trip in wasn’t too nerve-racking. When we arrived we headed for the front desk to get our wristbands and then my kids and Andrea’s little boys wanted to stop and play with the water balls.

Tyler waiting for a ball to roll his way..

Tyler waiting for a ball to roll his way..

 We then began exploring the different floors. Before we arrived my older kids “called dibs” on Andrea’s boys..who they adore. Rusty wanted to be Tanner’s partner for the day, Gracie wanted baby Braddock and Molly wanted to be Landon’s helper.

Molly and Landon

Molly and Landon

Here is Rusty ready for his space mission!

gardening 005

The robot floor was a hit with all the kids.

Rusty helped Landon with a robot video game…

gardening 007

and Tanner loved the “build a robot” table.

gardening 009

When it was time to head upstairs Tyler asked if he could push Braddock in his stroller. He really enjoyed that and later informed me that he had never pushed a baby before. He also asked if we could get our own baby. 🙂  Here is Tyler and Tanner pushing Braddock in his stroller.

gardening 015

On the top floor we let the kids loose in the kiddie area where they enjoyed playing at the water tables. The nice thing about this area is that it is enclosed and thus requires less supervision so Andrea and I had a chance to visit and enjoy some “mom time” while the boys played.

gardening 016

When everyone was good and wet we headed downstairs to the cafeteria to eat the lunches we packed and then we headed to the next building, “Sports Works,” where are the exhibits are sports/body related. Here the kids enjoyed seeing how fast they could throw a baseball, check their reflexes and jump on the trampoline.  Here is Tanner jumping..

gardening 025

and Rusty jumping..

gardening 022

We had such a good time with Andrea and her boys! She reminds me so much of my sister.  Her boys even line up with the ages of my sister’s three boys so it was a bit like getting a day with my nephews. 🙂 We had a great day with a great family!

The kids (minus Tyler and Braddock)

The kids (minus Tyler and Braddock)

The next day Andrea surprised us with an unexpected (and unnecessary) thank you..chocolate covered strawberries! The packaging was so clever and the strawberries were delicious. When I told Toby that I thought I needed to come up with a way to thank Andrea for her sweet “thank you” he just rolled his eyes and said, “Women!” What can I say..it’s a girl thing!017

It was a “berry” blessed day!

Spring Formal

Standard

Well, the evening finally arrived…the evening that Grace has eagerly been anticipating for months…Spring Formal!  Our church decided to host a “modest prom.” It was a chance for youth in the area to have a fun prom experience with youth who keep the same standards of dress and music as they do. Since Gracie isn’t old enough to date she invited her best friend, Olivia, to come with her. Olivia arrived at our home at 3:00 for all of the pre-prom prepping.

005

The “Before” picture

Gracie had set up the diningroom as a salon and the girls spent an hour doing each other’s hair and make-up. When they were all “dolled up” they headed upstairs to get dressed.

006

Olivia’s mom surprised the girls with matching wrist corsages for their first prom. Gracie was thrilled!007

They came downstairs looking absolutely beautiful! When they were all dressed up we had a little bit of time for pictures before we had to leave. Gracie said, “This is just like playing dress-up..but for real!”

 

014

My beautiful baby girl..

My beautiful baby girl..

We then headed to McDonald’s where we were meeting three other girls from church who needed a ride to the dance. We picked them up and headed toward downtown Pittsburgh where the dance was being held.  The ride was uneventful and we found the venue without too much trouble.

The beautiful ladies who came down in my car.

The beautiful ladies who rode in my car.

The dance was held at the 20th Century Club in Oakland.

031

We walked in and the ballroom was beautiful. The room was lit with twinkling lights and large crystal chandeliers. There were tables set up at one end of the room for seating and waiters were walking around with trays of appetizers. The girls quickly claimed a table, laid down their purses and then headed to the dance floor. I could tell that both girls were a little nervous when they first arrived but they soon relaxed and they ended up having a wonderful time.

038

036

I stayed because I was one of the chaperones so I had plenty of opportunities to covertly take pictures of the girls as they danced.

048

One of the girls’ favorite dances was the “Cinderella dance” where the girls all placed one of their shoes in the middle of the floor and then the boys all pick a shoe and have to find the girl with the matching shoe to be their dance partner.

The "Cinderella Dance."

The “Cinderella Dance.”

056

The most popular dances were probably the group line dances..all the kids were on the floor whenevever any of those songs came on!059

 

It was a fun night with great kids, good music, yummy food, and a fun atmosphere. Both girls decided it was a perfect first prom. All too soon the final slow song of the night was playing and then it was time to head home.

Gracie dancing with a childhood friend of hers

Gracie dancing with a friend of hers from childhood.

The lights came back on and the prom night magic was over. They stopped to take pictures with new friends they had made and then we headed out.  Walking back to the parking garage the talk was a mixture of enthusiastic comments about the dance and moaning complaints about their sore feet. When we finally arrived at the car all five pairs of heels quickly came off. 🙂

When drove back to McDonald’s where the girls’ rides were waiting and then at midnight Grace, Olivia and I drove to Eat N Park for ice-cream sundaes. We talked and laughed and I was able to hear all about their night… who asked who to dance, which dresses were prettiest and which boys were cutest. 🙂

Best buddies :)

Best buddies 🙂

 It was a perfect way to end a magical night.

 

I’m so grateful for the leaders who put so much work into creating such a special night for the youth to enjoy. Gracie said it was the “best dance ever!”