Tag Archives: holidays

Happy 4th of July!

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On the Friday following our culinary trip to Germany, we found ourselves planning our second “international” dinner. The date (July 3rd) lent itself to an American themed meal. We celebrated the anniversary of our nation’s independence with a bonfire and BBQ.

To get into the spirit of the dinner, I spent the morning watching my all time favorite musical, 1776.

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This was followed by a viewing of Hamilton on Disney+ with Gracie as we prepared dinner.

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Zach was working late that night, so we just had Grace over for our 4th of July celebration.

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It was an easy themed dinner, as I just had to cook those well-loved and familiar foods from an all-American cook-out. Dinner consisted of hamburgers on the grill, potato chips and dip, macaroni salad, ambrosia salad, fruit pizza and cold soda. After last week’s menu, Tyler was in heaven with this more familiar fare.

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It was a beautiful evening to gather outside!

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Earlier in the week Toby made a fireworks run to load us up for our own personal firework show at Patchwork Farm. Like any man shopping for explosives, he went a little crazy, coming home with two boxes full of dangerous fun.

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The kids were thrilled!

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They couldn’t wait for the sun to go down so the real fun could begin!

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Our own, home-grown, fireworks show did not disappoint. Toby had purchased a wide variety of fountains, roman candles, high-in-the-sky boomers, and bottle rockets to keep our show going for hours.

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Rusty was our primary pyrotechnic guy, as he had the highest OSHA rating and was the most likely of the boys to run away from the burning fuse after lighting it.

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Gracie served as the DJ for our fireworks show, making sure we had a steady playlist of Lee Greenwood, Toby Keith, and Home Free, serving as the soundtrack of our evening.

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It was a wonderful night celebrating the land that I love with the people I love even more!

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Easter at Patchwork Farm- Part 2

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After a beautiful Sabbath service in the comfort of our own living room, the remainder of Easter Sunday was spent enjoying good food, good company, and good fun at Patchwork Farm.

This year for Easter I decided to go in a different direction with my basket stuffing efforts. This decision was luckily made before the stay-at-home order went into place, or I may have struggled to put together baskets this year. Luckily I had Easter candy on hand to put together treat baskets for each family member and had preordered their Easter gifts-  Lego sets!

We thought it would be fun to have a Lego building day as a family, so each of the kids received a set that we thought would appeal to them. When we came up with this plan we didn’t know Grace and Zach would be living with us, so I did have to do some emergency, last-minute shopping  online so they would have an Easter surprise as well.

The baskets were ready and waiting when everyone woke up.

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After our Sabbath service we headed outside for our Easter egg hunt.

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Toby had taken the hunt outside this year. The beautiful weather, coupled with older kids who need more of a challenge than the living room can offer, led to an outdoor hunt.

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Toby hid the 36 eggs we had dyed the day before.

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It was so much fun being outside.

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Of all our “egg hunters” Ellie May was the clear winner.

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Her hound nose led her to all the eggs hidden low to the ground. When Ellie would start digging beneath the edge of a tree stump, the kids would have to race to try to grab the hidden egg before she swallowed it up.

Despite their efforts we did lose three eggs to our hound dog and one egg to the chickens who discovered a turquoise blue egg hidden in their hen house and ate it up before the kids found it.

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It was a fun hunt, and other than the eggs that were lost to animals, all eggs were found.

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While dinner was cooking, the kids began working on their Lego sets.

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Molly and Rusty each received a Harry Potter themed set.

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Rusty spent the day putting together Hagrid’s hut,

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And Molly worked on constructing the Beauxbaton carriage.

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 Tyler worked on his haunted graveyard,

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And Braden constructed the prison tower from his Walking Dead set.

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He was quite proud of his finished product!

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Zach receivedEaster a Speed Champion race set and Grace received the “Friend’s” set.

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She spent the afternoon working on her set.

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The finished product was so cool!!

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I loved the attention to detail.

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By late afternoon dinner was ready. Dishes were pulled from the oven and fridge.

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We enjoyed a meal of good food and even better company on this holiest of days.

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We have so much to be grateful for.

Happy Easter, friends!

 

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.

February Fun

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The shortest month of the year flew by at a record-breaking speed, despite that extra day tacked onto the end. Here is a look at the moments that filled the last 29 days…

Valentine’s Day was a low-key event at Patchwork Farm, but we did celebrate the love of family with a fun dinner at home. Two days before Valentine’s Day I made a stop at Dollar Tree to pick up white plates for each family member.

Using a black Sharpie I personalized each dinner plate with adjectives that best describe them and then baked the plates in the oven to set the ink permanently.

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It was a fun gift to prepare for my favorite Valentines.

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That night the table was set with everyone’s personalized plates and dolled up for the holiday with a bag of chocolates at each place.

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How grateful I am for these people I love!

Not long after that holiday… one filled with expressions of love and gifts of chocolate… I found myself with sweet treats on the brain once again…

It was Bake-off time! 

This past fall a family from church organized an ongoing social event that pitted bakers against each other. Those interested in competing were able to sign up and were given a date and time for their showdown against another family from church, but those who just wanted to enjoy an evening of taste-testing and talking could come out for the fun and help choose the victor. Winners from each round then would move on to the next round where they’d compete against other winners. 

Last week we found ourselves competing in the semi-finals with a peanut butter ice-cream cake paired with homemade hot fudge.

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It was a fun evening that catapulted us into round three of competition.

Molly now finds herself in the final countdown as she prepares to leave for 18 months to serve a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. These last 30 days are quickly filling up, as we work to accomplish all the tasks on her “to do” list while also trying to fit in visits with family and friends. 

A few weeks ago we traveled out to Ohio to visit my parents at the Homestead. While we were out there we also met up with my grandma for a visit. It has been such a treat having her so close. We are able to see her a lot more often than before and our visits are always a blast. How grateful I am for this special lady!

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We have also been able to fit in multiple temple trips. We set the goal of visiting the temple every other week. Often our temple trip is paired with a visit to Erie for Ozzie’s weekly family therapy session. From Erie we just keep heading north to Palmyra, NY temple for an evening session. 

On weeks that we can’t fit in 10 hours of driving, we will head to Columbus, Ohio.

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This past Saturday the youth had a temple trip scheduled. Molly and I joined Rusty for a day at the temple…and it was wonderful!

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Molly has also kept busy working and earning money for her mission. Rather than return to working as a waitress, as she did prior to college, she decided to work for Toby’s construction company as a laborer. It has been such a blessing for her. She loves the extra time she has had with her Daddy. They enjoy spending their days working side by side, and in the process she has learned some great skills, saved up the money she needs for her mission, while also freeing up her evenings for family time. In addition to Toby she also works with Zach, her brother-in-law, and two other great guys, Fernando and Hoggin. Here is Molly’s work family. She loves these guys:

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And every day she has a lunch date with this kid:

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While Molly was in Idaho Tyler struggled with her absence. His feelings of loss made talking to Molly on the phone too hard, and he chose to avoid all contact rather than feel the sadness that came with hearing her voice and missing her.

While Molly is on her mission we will have the opportunity to video chat with her every Monday (in addition to exchanging letters, packages, and emails.) This knowledge hasn’t helped Tyler accept her leaving for 18 months because he is certain he won’t be able to handle video chatting with her, even if she is allowed to call home every Monday.

So, to help him get more comfortable conversing with Molly in this way the two of them have started chatting every day during their lunch breaks via Facebook Messenger. The ability to use fun filters to talk face-to-face has lessened Tyler’s anxiety and helped increase his comfort level with video chatting. The hope is that by the time Molly leaves, this form of communication will feel comfortable and even natural, thanks to exposure therapy.

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Tyler is also keeping busy with some new gals in his life. These ones are of the four-hoofed variety. In addition to participating in equine therapy each week at Glade Run Adventures, he has begun working there as a volunteer. This is something he sought out independently. He wanted more time at the barn while helping out with the animals. Last month he completed his volunteer training and this month he began volunteering. He volunteers at the barn every Wednesday, prior to his therapy.

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He has been given a specific assignment at the barn. He is in charge of caring for the three little girls that call Glade Run Stables home. Every week he must walk the three mini residents in from the field and groom them. His three girls are Beauty (a mini horse), Bobbie Socks (a miniature cow), and Enchilada (the miniature donkey).

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He brings them in one at a time, grooms them and tucks them into their stalls for the night…

And he loves it! It has been a fun responsibility that is his alone and he does a great job.

 

So, there you go…just a small sampling of the comings and goings at Patchwork Farm this past February.

Now it is time to welcome in March!

 

 

 

 

Day 6 of Christmas: The Magical Surprise!

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On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

The big reveal:

A trip to Disney!!!

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Wait, what?!

Yep, we are Florida bound.

After a half a year in the making we surprised the kids on December 23rd with their combined Christmas gift:

A family vacation to Walt Disney World.

It has been a killer secret to keep, especially because of the added red tape of having to get permission at our most recent court hearing to take Brandon out of school and out of state (since he isn’t adopted yet.) We didn’t tell anyone beyond those who had to know… like the judge, lawyers and social workers, but I lived in fear that someone at court would spill the beans and ruin the surprise.

In the months leading up to Christmas we made plans for the big reveal.

This is the third Disney surprise reveal we have done for the kids. The first occurred when the oldest three kids were 13, 11, and 9. We waited until they were at the perfect ages, with the thought it would be a one-time vacation.

The next few years brought the adoption of Tyler and then Ozzie and we couldn’t let the magical experience of a trip to Disney World be an experience reserved for only half our children, so we planned a second trip to Disney World so that the two little boys would get their “once in a lifetime” trip.

Both trips were made known through surprise reveals. Toby loves surprising the people he loves with grand gestures, but because our older kids know how Toby operates, surprising them has become more and more difficult, especially with something as big and complex as a Disney World vacation.

So when we realized that the widow of opportunity to take our entire family to Disney, and allow Brandon to create shared memories with us at one of our very favorite places, we knew it need to happen this year,

And we knew pulling off the surprise would be a tall order! 

Grace is almost done with her ASL program and the next year could bring life changes that may take her away from home. Molly is graduating and will most likely be leaving home to go to school or serve a mission. Rusty and Brandon will both be seniors and within the next two years our family structure will most likely change, as kids spread their wings to soar, so this was the time to make it happen…

The question was, “How do we surprise them without them catching on?”

We finally decided that we would plan the big reveal for December 23rd. This decision was based on a few factors.

1.       We wanted to surprise the kids with just immediate family around, knowing that good news and special treats can be triggers for some of our kids that feel unworthy of good things, and those feelings sometimes lead to them sabotaging happy events to prevent good things happening to them.

2.      We wanted it to be a really special moment for the kids to share. We thought telling them on the 23rd rather than Christmas morning might help our kids that struggle on Christmas Day.

3.      We thought that if any of the older kids were suspicious, doing the surprise before Christmas, rather than on Christmas morning might throw them off the scent.

So on the 22nd we slipped away into our room to wrap the presents we had prepared. We had personalized t-shirts made for each of the kids. We ordered each one a draw string bag so they will be able to carry their own water bottles, snacks and personal belongings around the park. In each gift box we also included their magic band and a lanyard with trading pins ordered off Ebay.

We wrapped up their gifts and then in the middle of the night we snuck into the living room and hid the gifts, Disney balloons and the reveal sign inside the trunk in the middle of the living room.

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The following day the kids went about their business, using the trunk as a landing spot for gifts and wrapping paper, having no idea the HUGE surprise hiding within… right in front on their eyes!

When our family gift exchange was complete, and the last sibling gift was unwrapped, we told the kids there was one more gift left to unwrap. We explained that we had purchased a gift for the entire family to share but it was too big to transport to the Homestead so we would let them open it early.

They waited with baited breath, expecting us to carry something in from outside, but instead Toby told them that the gift was hidden in the trunk.

We had them gather around the trunk and open it together. This was so we could be in place on the other side of the couch to catch their reaction.

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And their reaction didn’t disappoint!

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Some squealed,

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Some fell to the ground, overwhelmed by emotion,

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While others stood in shock…their mouths hanging open.

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Their reactions brought feelings of love, joy and gratitude for this dear family of mine…

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Especially for our 17-year-old addition, who is finally receiving some magical moments after a lifetime of tragedy and loss.

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The countdown has begun and I have 6 very excited kids that can’t wait to strap in and head south…

Disney World here we come!

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Counting our Blessings!

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Four pieces of my heart!

We entered the Thanksgiving holiday with hearts filled with gratitude. We had so much to be thankful for and I was excited at the prospect of laying aside the busyness of everyday life and enjoying a long weekend with the people I love most.

We kicked off the holiday weekend with everyone at home. It was our family’s week to clean the church so we headed there first and following the old adage of “many hand make light work,” we were done in record time.

The kids were motivated to be diligent in the cleaning chores assigned to them. They were told if everyone could stay on task, work hard, and finish in a timely manner, we would go see a movie as a family. They upheld their side of the bargain so from church we drove to the movie theater where we saw “Instant Family.”

Since first seeing the previews for this warm-hearted comedy, I knew we needed to go and see it as a family. It was everything I hoped for and more! It ended up being a poignant and timely reminder of the loss, hurt and heartbreak that accompanies the joy of the adoption journey, as we headed into the emotional minefield of Thanksgiving.

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Instant Family: When Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne) decide to start a family, they stumble into the world of foster care adoption. They hope to take in one small child but when they meet three siblings, including a rebellious 15 year old girl (Isabela Moner), they find themselves speeding from zero to three kids overnight. Now, Pete and Ellie must hilariously try to learn the ropes of instant parenthood in the hopes of becoming a family. INSTANT FAMILY is inspired by the real events from the life of writer/director Sean Anders.

“Instant Family” exceeded all expectations. It was as though we were watching our life play out on the big screen as we watched the real life challenges that accompany foster care adoption play out before us. It was soon apparent that the writer/ director had walked this unique road of loving a child that joins a family out of heartbreak and heartache, because it was all very true to life.

We laughed and cried along with this family whose life was so relatable. I will warn that the PG-13 rating was fitting due to language and some sexuality, but we all left feeling these elements were justified and served a purpose. To not include the harsher, uglier aspects of adopting hurt children would do a great disservice to those who are fighting on the front line for those children who others have walked away from. To turn this story into a Hallmark movie would have been a dishonest portrayal of the foster care adoption journey. This movie did a beautiful job of taking viewers on the rollercoaster ride of ups and downs, losses and victories, laughter and tears that accompany families on the road  to adoption day.

We left the theater with all the kids talking a mile a minute about how perfectly wonderful the movie was. I heard comments like,

“It was so funny,”

“It was our life!”

and

“I think we need to adopt another kid…maybe a little girl this time.”

That last comment was spoken by Brandon. We told him we needed to get through his adoption before we talked about adding #7 to the family. He paused, considered this, and then asked, “Could we at least start praying about it?”

I love my kids.

I love how big hearted and selfless they are.

They have all adopted (pun intended) a “give until it pinches” mentality about giving to the less fortunate and those in need.

Despite the hard journey we have all traveled to give a family to three boys who were without the unconditional love of a forever family, and despite the fighting, hurts, tears, losses, ugliness and destruction that comes with helping a hurt child feel safe attaching to a new family, they continue to say “Yes, Lord. We will make room for another!”

Watching “Instant Family” with my own instant family, I was reminded of the emotions connected to the holidays. It was a timely reminder as we entered the Thanksgiving weekend and helped our three adoption blessings navigate the hard waves that crashed over them in the days that followed.

It was a highly emotional weekend as my babies struggled with feelings of sadness for loved ones gone and the loss of what could have been. Everyone navigated the weekend without any major blow-ups or outbursts, but the holiday weekend left us all feeling emotionally raw.

I was grateful for God’s hand in keeping us close to home.

Until a few weeks ago Thanksgiving was up in the air. We were uncertain where we would be celebrating Brandon’s first Thanksgiving with our family. The plan, prior to Brandon moving in, was to head east to spend Thanksgiving in Virginia with Toby’s mom and her sisters. Our plans had to change when legal restrictions and a scheduled court date kept us closer to home.

As much as we missed our time with Joy, being stuck at home ended up being a great blessing. 

The heightened emotions of Thanksgiving would have been much harder to handle if we were away from home.

Instead we joined Toby’s other side of the family, at his Aunt Beth’s house, for Thanksgiving dinner.

It was a good fit for our emotionally raw crew. The celebration was relaxed and low key. It was a day of celebrating the love of family, eating good food, connecting with family we don’t see often enough, and allowing Brandon to get to know more of his new family. It was just what we all needed!

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Almost time for dinner!

 

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The O3!

 

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Loving the looks of adoration. Tyler is a hit with his younger cousins.

 

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After the feast!

 

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Gunner reading the Thanksgiving story.

 

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Molly getting her baby fix!

 

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Then it was time to head outside for some Turkey Bowl fun!

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That evening we returned home to celebrate Ozzie’s “Gotcha Day” (which fell on Thanksgiving this year) with peppermint ice cream and homemade hot fudge.

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It was a day of giving thanks for the many blessings in our life…

And at the very top of our list of things to be grateful for:

FAMILY…

Born out of love.

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Happy “mock” New Year!

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The original plan was to return Ozzie back to Erie on Saturday.

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The tradition in our family is to eat our gingerbread houses on New Year’s day and then feed the leftovers to Harley D. Hog, our pot belly pig. Since Ozzie was leaving on Saturday, he dug into his sugar house a few days early.

The treatment team at the facility where he is staying to receive inpatient therapy approved him for an 8 day stay at home. This meant he would be returning on December 30th. Although thrilled at the prospect of 8 days at home, he was disappointed he would be missing our annual New Year’s Eve party at the Hudak’s house. We decided to address that disappointment with an awesome “Plan B” and decided to have a “mock” New Year’s Eve party on Friday night with just our little family. I’ll be honest, after a full day at the museum and 3 hours on the road, the last thing I really wanted to do when I got home on Friday evening was make a ton of food and stay up late, but I tapped deep knowing how important it was to Ozzie and knowing that once I got through the work of making all the hors d’oeuvres, we would have fun.

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Gracie’s fruit pizza was delicious!

 

So, with the help of the girls, we began baking, and mixing, and broiling until we had an impressive feast laid out on the table.

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The boys were given the task of pulling board games from the game closet that would be fun to play at our “mock” New Year’s Eve party. The kids had received a few new games for Christmas that they wanted to play so we started with those.

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One of the items on Ozzie’s Christmas wish list was the game “Chutes and Ladders.” It is Ozzie’s favorite game, due in large part (I think) to memories attached to the game, so it was one of the gifts Ozzie received Christmas morning. He asked if it could be the first game we played as a family.

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Next, we played “Speak Out,” a game Tyler received from the Kirks for Christmas. I don’t know when I have ever laughed so hard. The premise of the game is that players have to read tongue twisters off a card while wearing plastic mouth pieces.  It is supposed to be played parents vs kids, but minutes into the game Toby left us. He had been hit with a stomach flu and was not feeling well. Soon after that  Ozzie wandered off and fell asleep on the couch, leaving the rest of us to  “Speak Out” in the dining room.

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Tyler was particularly hilarious. The combination of talking through the mouth piece and being dyslexic just added to the absurdity of the words he was reading off the cards and the challenge of trying to figure out what he was saying. His solution to our incompetence was to simply speak more quickly and more loudly making it pretty much impossible to understand a word of what he was saying.

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Rusty was by far the best at enunciating around the mouth piece. Grace credits it to the fact that Rusty had braces most recently and is used to talking around a mouth full of gear,

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Matching smiles…Thanks, Dr. G!

while I believe it has more to do with the mouth size to plastic ratio…the bigger the mouth the easier it is to be understood.

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By the time we were done playing my cheeks ached and my stomach hurt from laughing so hard.

Ozzie didn’t even make it to 10:00. It turns out his new 8:00 bedtime at the facility has adjusted his internal clock and by 9:30 he was fast asleep on the couch, but it turns out our mock New Year’s Eve celebration was not even necessary…

Beginning Christmas day and continuing through the remainder of the week it snowed in Erie…

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The snow we received was nothing compared to Erie’s snow!

And I mean SNOWED!

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Over the course of a few days Erie had almost five feet of snow dumped on their doorstep thanks to lake effect weather. What this meant for us was a call on Saturday morning from the facility informing us that Ozzie’s stay had been extended until it was safe to travel on the roads up north. They suggested a new return date of January 1st, which meant our “mock” New Year’s Eve turned out to simply be a dress rehearsal for the real deal. It turned out that Ozzie would be home for New Year’s after all. When I stepped out of my room, following this unexpected call, and shared the news, Ozzie reacted with shouts of joy. He was over the moon excited, both by the news he wasn’t leaving that afternoon, but also by the news that he wouldn’t miss out on our traditional New Year’s Eve bash at the Hudak’s house.

(More on that in the next post!)

I’ll leave you with these photos taken during our trip north on January 1st, after dropping off Ozzie:

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Our drive up was sketchy, even two days later.

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It was beautiful.

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Look at those icicles!!

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We drove out on Presque Isle to check out the ice dunes. It was bitter cold!

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How deep will she sink?

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Yes, it was as cold as it looks! Brr…

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That’s a lot of snow!!!

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The snow in Erie was quite impressive!

Coloring Eggs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Happy Thanksgiving!

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Our bellies are full, the dishes are done, and we are enjoying a quiet evening snuggled up on the couch while we watch White Christmas. It has been a wonderful day..a wonderful couple of days. On Tuesday night we went to bed with a blizzard blowing outside and when we woke up on Wednesday morning the world outside was a winter wonderland. We decided to take advantage of the beautiful backdrop and do our Christmas pictures for our Christmas cards.

Here is one of the photos we took…

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After finishing up our school work for the week we packed away the books and pencils until Monday and pulled out the mixing bowls and spoons. This was the first holiday since Toby and I married that we would not be traveling or spending it with extended family. As much as we were going to miss that special time with Toby’s family we were looking forward to the novelty of a holiday with just our own little family. Last week we sat down as a family and decided what we wanted to make for our Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone picked a favorite Thanksgiving dish that they would be in charge of making. We began our cooking on Wednesday afternoon. We put on Christmas music, pulled out aprons and got to work. It was a lot of fun. Everyone had the following assignments…

Tyler made the pumpkin pie.

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Gracie made the mashed potatoes.

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Rusty made the sweet potato casserole and Chex mix for us to munch on Thanksgiving day while we played board games.

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Molly made peanut butter pie and helped me make rolls. I took care of the remaining dishes.

On Thanksgiving morning we were able to sleep in a little later than usual. After putting the turkey in we decided to take advantage of the 7 inches of snow that had fallen outside for some fun in the snow. Our Thanksgiving day was filled with Christmas movies, playing board games and enjoying all the good  food that was prepared.

Snowball fight!

Snowball fight!

Toby armed with a frying pan for a shield. I love this man!

Toby armed with a frying pan for a shield. I love this man!

Rusty and Winnie

Rusty and Winnie

Molly...all bundled up!

Molly…all bundled up!

It was a wonderfully relaxing day. As I sit in my warm home with a full belly and my dear little family around me I feel like the richest woman on Earth.

I am blessed.