Tag Archives: home school

A “Typical” day during a Pandemic lock-down

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Our days have been anything but “typical” for the last two weeks. Like many of you, we find ourselves adjusting to a new” normal” with Toby home full time, Grace and Zach now residents of Patchwork Farm, and all outside activities canceled. The only outside aspect of our lives that has remained constant is schooling. Online college classes continue for Rusty, Grace and I as we strive to finish this semester strong, and cyber school classes have continued to move forward for Tyler, Rusty, and Braden. The fact that they are cyber schooled has made the lock-down less disruptive for them than the brick and mortar students across Pennsylvania who are now transitioning to online school.

Outside of the hours spent on schoolwork daily, we find ourselves trying to fill the extra hours that used to be spent running in a thousand different directions. Knowing from past experiences the struggles and dysregulation that occurs with too much free time, we created a schedule for this season of our life. The predictability of a posted schedule, coupled with hourly transitions and a variety of activities, makes this time of uncertainty and unpredictability easier for all (especially my kids who have a history of past trauma.)

The schedule we came up with was one we created as a family, with input from all family members. The goal was to build a schedule that met everyone’s needs, with an equal balance of free time and structured activities. Everyone had certain tasks they needed met in this schedule. Some of the requests that were made included social media time, rest, alone time, family fun, and regular exercise. We took everyone’s input and plugged it into the schedule. This was the result of that collaboration. Here is the schedule we have been following:

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Below are some pictures from our last week of “typical” life here at Patchwork Farm:

Our mornings begin with a family prayer and devotional before everyone gets started with their morning chores. Everyone has assigned tasks they need to accomplish before they get breakfast. In addition to household chores, each kid has an animal chore they are responsible for. Rusty’s animal chore is feeding and watering chickens. His workload recently doubled, but he is not complaining! That’s right…we have 13 new baby chicks we added to our flock two weeks ago. In light of all that is going on in the world, Toby thought some additional chickens (and more eggs) might be prudent. When he came home with a box that was chirping, everyone got excited! Caring for these sweet peeps is a chore everyone enjoys.

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After morning chores and a quick breakfast it is time for Tyler to get onto his first class of the day. While the rest of us have the flexibility to work at our own pace, he has scheduled live classes at 9:00, 10:00, 11:00, and 1:00.

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While Tyler is doing school at 9:00, Rusty and Braden log onto their devices for their seminary class. This daily scripture study class for teens used to take place each morning at 6:00 at a friend’s house. Now, due to social distancing, the youth in our congregation meet together for class through Zoom at 9:00 am each weekday.

Our church is utilizing online classrooms for most meeting and classes, including Molly’s missionary training. Here Grace, Zach and Molly are attending their Thursday night Institute class.

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Toby uses the morning hours to tackle projects that have been on the back burner for months/years while the rest of us get our schoolwork done for the day. Having time at home has allowed him the luxury of being able to slowly work his way down the always-growing “honey do” list. Here Toby is teaching Braden how to patch the holes in his drywall that were put there on one of Braden’s harder days.

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Lunch is followed by our daily exercise session. Grace, Molly and I will workout together in the living room, with Rusty joining us occasionally. Everyone else scatters, having no interest in 30 minutes of sweat and pain.

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After 60 minutes of a family organization project (currently we are working in the basement) everyone is free for personal time or naps. We added daily naps to the schedule under the guise of COVID-19 prevention, with the thought that a well rested body is less likely to get sick, but really Toby and I just love the luxury of being able to nap daily for the first time in our adult life!

The kids use this time for personal pleasure. Some use this time to catch up on their favorite TV shows, while others use this time to work on developing talents or doing something creative…

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Braden catching up on past episodes of The Walking Dead.

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The girls enjoying some personal pampering time.

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Puzzles have become a staple of our “coronacation.” We recently started our third 1000 piece puzzle.

Rusty and Gracie have both pulled out the leftover supplies from their time in Mural Club and have been creating beautiful artwork.

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After nap time/personal time we head outside for fresh air. Every afternoon (as long as the weather cooperates) we go for a family walk. We usually have some of the dogs join us. This is Ellie May’s favorite time of the day. It does us all good to get out of the house, stretch our legs, and enjoy the beauty of nature!

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The hour after our walk is dedicated to yard work and gardening. Last week we used one of those hours to get our vegetable seeds started.

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Then it is time for dinner. On March 17th we enjoyed a St. Patrick’s Day dinner of corned beef, cabbage and potatoes…YUM!

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Sometimes we enjoy a board game as a family while eating dinner. We had fun with this one. It was an escape room puzzle/board game. We had to put the puzzle together then solve the mystery on the board. There were 7 puzzles within the puzzle, that when correctly solved, allowed us to discover the answer to the corresponding story. It was a lot of fun.

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Dinner and clean-up is followed by family fun time. When Grace and Zach moved in they brought with them some games from their apartment, including this gem:

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The tiny hands game pins player against player in a series of challenges like stacking cups, putting on a jacket and applying chapstick.

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At 8:00 we gather in the living room for family scripture study and then at 8:30 put on a movie to end our day. On Tuesday night Molly got to pick the movie since it was her last chance to watch a movie before being set apart as a missionary and abiding by the rules and standards set for the missionaries. She chose to watch, “I Still Believe.”

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By 10:30 everyone is heading toward their beds, ready to settle down for the night and rest their bodies and minds for another day in quarantine!

 

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!

 

 

 

 

A Co-op Christmas Party

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It had been two months since we had seen many of our friends from co-op. Months longer for some of our other friends. Friday was a blessed reunion when we were able to reunite with co-op friends, new and old, for a Christmas party.

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We met up at the church of one of the co-op families for a potluck lunch and playtime with friends. The kids enjoyed “friend time” with co-op buddies, and I loved catching up with all the mommas who are some of my nearest and dearest friends. I don’t get nearly enough time with these ladies who are soul-sisters that feed my spirit and buoy me up. They have been my tribe of people for the last decade, walking beside us and supporting us through our greatest challenges.

It was wonderful to sit, and share, and catch up with each other’s lives.

After lunch we gathered the kids for their white elephant gift exchange…

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Some walked away with junk and others lucked out, picking wisely, and left with treasures,

But regardless of what gifts were unwrapped, everyone was gifted with laughs and merry memories!

I love this gang of people!

“You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out!”

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A Christmas Story:

“Set during a snowy Christmas season in 1940’s Indiana, nine-year-old Ralphie longs for the ideal Christmas gift, a 200-Shot, Range-Model Air Rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time.” But when gruff dad and doting mom, and even a stressed-out Santa quote the usual BB gun warning, “You’ll shoot your eye out!” Ralphie mounts a full-scale, hint dropping campaign that is a sly combination of innocence and calculation. The movie is not only about Christmas and BB guns, but also about childhood and a semi-dysfunctional family life.

Ralphie endures endless kid-sized trials and classic moments: A bully with “yellow eyes” and a rancid coonskin cap terrorizes him. There is a sequence where a kid is not merely dared but Triple-Dog-Dared to stick his tongue onto a frozen lamp post, and the fire department has to be called to remove him from the pole. Ralphie’s Old Man winning the “Major Award” of a garish lamp in the shape of a woman’s leg. Ralphie blurts out the Queen Mother of swear words and gets his mouth washed out with Lifebuoy soap. His long-awaited Little Orphan Annie Secret Society Decoder Pin translates a radio program’s top-secret message that turns out to be a crummy commercial. Even Santa is a scary fraud. But Ralphie hangs tough and ends up getting his BB gun.”

A few years ago I discovered that the house used to film this iconic movie was in our own backyard…

Well, pretty close to our backyard…

And I’ve been itching to pay this classic Christmas location a visit.

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Monday provided us the opportunity. After a hard weekend I decided that a play day was in order. I was looking for a shot of Christmas cheer and just wanted a day of fun with my boys, so after a trip to Erie to drop Ozzie off we headed west to Cleveland to visit A Christmas Story House.

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We arrived and found parking between A Christmas Story House and the Bumpus House. Our hopes were dashed when no bloodhounds ran out to greet us.

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This Cleveland Street of 1940’s style houses is now largely dedicated to honoring the movie that was filmed here. On the street four separate homes have been set aside for this Christmas experience, including the Bumpus House which is now a bed and breakfast and can be rented out for the night, A Christmas Story House which is an interactive recreation of the actual movie set, A Christmas Story museum containing memorabilia from the movie and interesting background information about the making of the movie. The final building is a huge gift shop containing all sorts of fun Christmas Story souvenirs, like character hats, leg lamps, pink bunny pajamas and cans of Ovaltine.

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It was in the gift shop that we started our tour. We purchased tickets for the 12:15 tour and then perused the gift shop, killing time and enjoying some belly laughs!

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At 12:15 we joined two dozen other visitors and walked across the street to A Christmas Story House, our first stop on the tour.

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We gathered on the front steps to hear more about the history of the house and how it came to be the home used in the movie.

When production was in the beginning stages the production team began scouting out locations for filming. They were in search of a department store for filming the Santa scene. They sent out letters to department stores across the country hoping to find a store that offered a tall interior space that was capable of holding the two story Santa display with the exit slide, as well as a department store that would agree to keep their store decorated for Christmas, months past the Christmas season, so filming could take place.

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The call went out to hundreds of stores but only one responded. It was a department store in downtown Cleveland. The scouting crew made the trip to Cleveland and decided it was a perfect location for shooting that scene of the movie.

Knowing that Cleveland was a steel mill town, the production crew decided they wanted to get some long shots of the mills along the river. Rather than asking for directions they decided to follow the smoke pouring forth from the mills and in their search for the steel mills ended up in the neighborhood that would become the home base for the bulk of the movie. When they saw Ralphie’s house in particular, they knew they wanted to rent it for filming. It was as though the house was trapped in the 1940’s and held many of the elements they were looking for, including a porch large enough for the leg lamp delivery, a large picture window for displaying the major award, and a fenced-in backyard with a view of the mills.

They approached the owner while lunching at a pub across the street and offered him $20,000 to rent the house for three months. The owner quickly rehomed himself at a local hotel for the duration of filming. That pub is still there today and offers a “Randy Special” of meatloaf and mashed potatoes on their menu as well as a challenge to customers. If you can eat the entire dinner without using your hands or utensils you will win a free t-shirt.

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If we had more time it was a challenge Rusty would have eagerly taken on!

Then we entered the house and were set free to explore this interactive experience. We were allowed to touch decorations, sit on the furniture, and pose for pictures throughout the home that had been renovated to look like the original house that this 1983 classic was filmed in.

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I LOVED exploring and being able to actually step into a scene from a favorite childhood movie. The little details added to the suspension of disbelief, making us feel as though the Bumpus dogs would come running through the kitchen door any minute.

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The second floor consisted of Ralphie and Randy’s bedroom,

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And the bathroom where Ralphie decoded his Little Orphan Annie message and got his mouth washed out with soap.

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In the upstairs hall guests can lift the telephone receiver and listen to a familiar tirade.

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On the first floor we found the kitchen.

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While in the kitchen, Rusty climbed under the sink to reenact Randy hiding in fright, fearful Ralphie would be killed,

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We also checked out the dining room where the major reward was delivered.

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Many might recall that the printing on the crate cuts off, leaving it to say “His End Up.” We found out the reason for this. It turns out that a neighborhood carpenter was hired to build the crate. He failed to measure the front door, an oversite that wasn’t discovered until they were filming the scene. The quick fix was to saw off the edge, making it narrow enough to fit through the door and taking the “T” with it,

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The living room was where much of the movie was filmed, including:

Christmas morning under the tree,

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Ralphie listening to the Little Orphan Annie radio program,

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The Red Rider BB gun tucked behind the desk,

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And the leg lamp that holds a place of honor in the center window.

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We exited through the back door into the back yard that served as the scene for Ralphie’s broken glasses,

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Before walking across the street to the museum.

In the museum we were able to learn more behind the scene facts including the fact that at the last minute the director decided he wanted to pull an Alfred Hitchcock move and make a cameo appearance in his film. He appeared as a walk on during the scene when the Old Man was across the street admiring his major award from outside. The funny thing we learned about his impromptu appearance was that he didn’t think about a costume change, so in a scene of characters dressed in 1940’s clothes he is wearing a distinctly 1980’s outfit, complete with a Miami Dolphins knit hat.

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In the museum we were able to see many original costume pieces from A Christmas Story that are on display,

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As well as one of six of the original Red Rider BB guns that were manufactured for the film. Of the original six, only three are accounted for.

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The tour guide told us that when searching garage sales for these three missing pieces of movie memorabilia you can know they are authentic by three key traits: a compass on the stock of the gun, a sun dial on the stock, and the tassel on the left side of the gun. Once Tyler heard that the last one sold at auction sold for $200,000 he has been itching to hit a flea market or two!

In touring the museum we also learned that weather worked against the production crew that winter. There was no snow, and snow was need for the scenes they were filming. The solution? Soap suds! They hired the local fire department to coat the street in soap suds with their big hoses, creating the illusion of snow during a dry, unseasonably warm winter in Cleveland, Ohio.

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The illusion of falling snow through the picture window was created using boxed mashed potato flakes…genius!

Our final stop was at the two car garage attached to the museum. Parked within its walls were two of the original vehicles used in the filming of the movie…

The Old Man’s car whose flat tire led to Ralphie’s infamous, “Oh, Fudge!” moment:

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And the fire truck that came to Flick’s rescue when he took the triple-dog-dare and stuck his tongue to the frozen flag pole:

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If we didn’t have to hurry home for Tyler’s dyslexia tutoring we probably would have lingered longer at this fun Christmas location,

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But our day of Christmas festivities wasn’t done yet. We had another Christmas activity planned for that evening…

Stay tuned!

 

 

A Boys’ day out with their Favorite “Mummy!”

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Last Friday the boys and I had the opportunity to enjoy a shortened day of school and meet up with other cyber-schooled families at Carnegie Science Center for a day of fun. The outing, which was put together by Tyler’s school, offered us access to all the permanent exhibits the museum offers, in addition to the new, visiting exhibit: Mummies of the World!

Rusty and Tyler have both spent countless hours at this amazing, hands-on, Pittsburgh museum. Over the years our family has been gifted with annual memberships to the science center and we have gone on multiple homeschooling fieldtrips to visit this Pittsburgh gem, which is why I was so surprised when Braden said he had never been there before.

It was only by seeing his initial reaction to his first impression of the lobby as we walked in, that I realized he was a first time visitor. I knew he was in for a treat. It is an amazing place!

The field trip was self guided, so after checking in and getting our name tags, we were set free to explore the four levels of exhibits at our own pace.

We began on level one at the exhibit: H2O!

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After adequately exploring the mysteries of all things water related we headed to the second floor. This level is split into two areas. One section is devoted to the science and history of robotics and outer space, with a lot of fun, hands on activities.

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The second half of this floor is dedicated to a huge train table complete with dozens of running trains, towns, iconic Pittsburgh sites, moving characters and enchanting scenes. This is my favorite exhibit at the science center and I couldn’t wait to share it with Braden. He was as enchanted as we were the first time we explored this miniature world.

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Then we headed to the third floor where we learned more about the science of the human body. Here the boys were able to try different experiments that explored why the body and brain function the way they do.

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After a quick stop at the fourth floor so Braden could experience the earthquake simulator, and so we could check our the Lego building area, we headed to the traveling exhibit that was the big pull for this field trip…

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Mummies of the World!

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This exhibit was fascinating. Photography wasn’t allowed inside the exhibit but below is information and photographs from this amazing exhibit as taken from the Carnegie Science Center website.

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“Explore 125 real mummies and related artifacts from across the globe in Mummies of the World: The Exhibition, on display at Carnegie Science Center’s PPG SCIENCE PAVILION™ now through April 19, 2020. Only in Pittsburgh for a limited time, this blockbuster exhibition provides a window into the lives of ancient people from every region of the world including Europe, South America, and Ancient Egypt, offering unprecedented insights into past cultures and civilizations.

 

See real mummies and discover their stories, including:

The Vac Mummies, a mummified family from Hungary believed to have died from tuberculosis, preserved in a small church until the remains of 265 mummies were discovered by a bricklayer during repair work in 1994.

Baron Von Holz, a German nobleman found tucked away in the family crypt of 14th century castle wearing his best boots after perishing in the castle while seeking refuge from the Thirty Years’ War.

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Animal mummies including a cat, a falcon, snow rabbit, lizard, weasel, and fish, some of which were deliberately preserved to accompany royals for eternity.

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MUMAB, the first authentic replication of the 2800-year-old Egyptian mummification process, took place in 1994 using the same tools and methods as described on ancient Egyptian papyrus.


Explore four galleries that delve into the many facets of mummification:

Natural Mummification Gallery – This gallery explores several environments in which bodies can preserve as a result of the natural environment. Human and animal mummies in this gallery include those from hot, dry environments in South America, a natural sand-salt environment in Egypt, an African desert, an alpine glacier, a German castle crypt with constant airflow and an acidic peat bog from the Netherlands.

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Artificial Mummification Gallery – This gallery presents mummies that have been prepared by humans for cultural reasons. The human and animal mummies in this gallery include an elaborately bandaged cat, two adults from Ancient Egypt and several shrunken heads from South America. Various artifacts associated with the preparation of the dead in Ancient Egypt will also be included, such as beautifully painted wooden sarcophagus, ushabtis and mummy beads.

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Experimental Mummification Gallery – This gallery centers around MUMAB, a body recently mummified following the techniques used by Ancient Egyptian embalmers, with detailed scientific documentation of the process. This gallery will include not only the mummy, but several of the tools used to prepare the body, all of which were replicated from original Egyptian embalming.

Science and Medicine Gallery – This gallery explores the links between mummies, science and medicine. Aside from showing mummies prepared for medical purposes, this gallery will also include examples of the application of scientific and medical techniques for the analysis of mummies, and the important shift from autopsy to modern medical science to study mummies. The exhibits will include several anatomical mummies from the Burns Collection and church crypt mummies from Hungary (with discussion of the past and present scientific studies of tuberculosis).

It was a enjoyably educational day with three of my kiddos!

“I’m fine,” she told herself…

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I feel as though I’m suffering from an emotional hangover…

Too many feelings squeezed into too short a period of time,

With all of the residual manifestations connected to an excess of living.

I literally feel as though I am emotionally hungover, with many of the symptoms seen in alcohol induced hangovers.

I find myself weary, heavy, numb, foggy and teary as I try to continue navigating the responsibilities of day to day life while accepting that life as I have known it for 20 years, is changing…

And changing very soon!

The crazy thing about it all is that everything I am navigating through is exactly the things I have prayed so hard for. There is a part of me that wants to smack the tears off my own face and remind myself that this is all good stuff!

Feelings of gratitude and joy are the prevailing emotions, but closely tied to feelings of gratitude and joy, are feelings of uncertainty and loss…

And guilt.

Guilt that I am feeling anything but gratitude and joy in the midst of such blessings. Unlike the seasons we have had to endure that are filled with such darkness and danger, despair and loss, this season is blessedly positive, but I still find myself struggling.

Perhaps I am unaccustomed to things going so smoothly.

Perhaps I have forgotten how to navigate life outside the emotional bondage of crisis management.

Perhaps I feel as though I am losing some of my purpose or value.

Maybe it is simply the emotional push-back that is rooted in the fear of change.

Or maybe, just maybe, this weight of emotions is simply bone-deep fatigue, born from trying to fit in so many “lasts” before life changes for good.

I am not certain.

I only know that time seems to be racing past and I am desperately grasping for its tail, hoping to slow it down.

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I know that I am not alone in this place. Many other friends have expressed similar emotions, born from similar situations. I take strength from knowing that this muddy mix of emotions is normal, that I am not the only one trying to gracefully navigate them, and that millions of mothers before me have made it through this season to find joy and purpose in the next season of parenting.

So many changes are coming down the pike, not the least of which are:

  1. Gracie getting married! Only two months until her big day! The last few weeks have been spent entrenched in bridal shower planning, bachelorette party planning and wedding planning. Grace and Zach have also been on the hunt for an apartment. They will be staying in the area, as Grace still has a few semesters of school to finish before earning her degree in American Sign Language interpreting.

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 Well, they found one that they love and fits their budget. And we have the benefit of having them nearby for at least the next year…which is a HUGE blessing for our adopted sons who have been struggling with triggered feelings of losing another person they love.

Last Sunday we drove over to Ellwood City to check out Gracie and Zach’s soon-to-be newlywed digs.

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It is an upstairs, one bedroom apartment with a big kitchen and lots of light. It is perfect for them and so exciting. Grace can’t wait to start decorating!

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2. Molly is about ready to take flight! In less than three weeks she will be heading out to school. Rusty and Braden will be joining us as we take a weeklong road trip to Idaho to drop her off. Along the way we are going to revisit some of our favorite national parks from our bus trip three years ago, so Braden can experience some of these national treasures.

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Over the last month Molly has been making piles in preparation for college, getting together with friends, and finishing out her employment at Eat n’ Park. In fact, a few weeks ago she was asked by her employers to reconsider heading west for school. They wanted to offer her a management position. Her boss told her how impressed they have been with her since she began working for them in the spring and could see a great future for her with the company. She sweetly declined, knowing that BYU-Idaho is where she is being called to, but was honored and touched by the job offer.

3. Molly will not be the only college student this year. Grace and I will also be working towards our degrees, and Rusty is now unexpectedly joining the college ranks as a duel enrolled high school senior.

A few weeks ago we toured our local community college’s aviation program to find out more about their drone piloting program. This is a field that interests Rusty and so we added CCBC to our college tour list.

As we sat and spoke with the Dean of the program, he encouraged Rusty to not wait until graduation, but rather enroll for the fall semester as part of the duel-enrollment program. After speaking with his cyber school, 21st Century Cyber Charter School, we learned that Rusty had the option of replacing his high school electives with college courses and receive both high school and college credit, thus getting a jump start on his college degree.

He is very excited and will be taking most of his classes at the local airfield where he will learn the skills to graduate with a drone piloting license. Toby and I were pleased to learn that the high demand for drone pilots, coupled with the minimal number of colleges offering this newly emerging degree, meant that 100% of their past students have graduated with job placement.

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4. Braden is also venturing into new territory. In June he expressed a desire to cyber school like the other kids for his senior year. He struggled with our local brick and mortar school and some of the negative influences that proved too much for him to manage. Since being home this summer he has felt the difference that separation has made on his emotions and his ability to make good choices. He is happier and more at peace. I’m hoping it is as good a fit for him as it has been my other kids.

In addition to cyber schooling, he and Rusty will be getting together with other teens from church each weekday morning at 6:00am for early morning seminary (a religion class that allows for studying the scriptures and discussing gospel topics with the other youth from church under the guidance of a teacher.) I think this will be beneficial to both boys and will meet some of Braden’s social needs as one of my extroverted children.

5. Tyler also continues cyber schooling, but through PA Cyber. And although I feel that PA Cyber falls short when compared to the education offered through 21st Century Cyber School, it has proven to be a great fit for Tyler. Last year was his best year ever and he took off under this model of cyber schooling. He is eager to get back in touch with teachers and peers whom he hasn’t talked to all summer. Tyler will be in 7th grade this year. How is that possible?!

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6. Ozzie continues to thrive in the residential treatment facility that he has been residing at for more intense therapeutic work. His success there is not surprising but rather an expected result of a structured, unattached environment. The goal we are working toward is for him to successfully transfer the skills he uses at the RTF to the home environment, thus making his presence in the home safe and stable. This isn’t an easy transition, as his diagnoses of Reactive Attachment Disorder makes the thing he most stands in need of (connection and attachment to family) the very thing he fears and fights against. It is heartbreaking in its presentation and heartbreaking to know that as devastating as this diagnoses is, it could have been easily avoided through loving maternal care as a young child. The transfer of skills we are working toward is accomplished by slowly introducing interactions with family members (and eventually visits home) to his treatment plan and then addressing the negative reactions to triggers  with his therapeutic team in the RTF upon returning back at the end of a visit.

This week he and I had our first off-grounds visit. I was allowed to take him to lunch for two hours. This initial off-grounds trip consisted of just the two of us spending time together. We will slowly be adding additional family members to upcoming visits as deemed safe by staff.

I let Ozzie pick the restaurant and he chose Quaker Steak and Lube, a well known wing place in this area.

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He chose it partly for the food but mainly for the décor. He loves walking around the restaurant and snapping pictures of all the cars and memorabilia with my phone.

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He did well and we had a good time.

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He got all dressed up for our date 🙂 

This week we will be taking Ozzie out again following his family therapy session. This time Molly will be joining me so she and Ozzie can have a visit before she leaves for Idaho. We are praying it is healing and positive.

And then there is this guy… working hard and making sure everyone stays in line. 🙂

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This is  BIG week for our family with many monumental events. We have an off-grounds visit with Ozzie on Wednesday, Tyler’s 13th birthday party on Thursday evening, Gracie’s bachelorette party Friday night, Gracie’s bridal shower on Saturday, all among everyday living. It promises to be a full and likely emotional week…

Wish this momma luck as I try to keep it together!

 

 

Darling Darlington

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Just minutes from our home sits the small town of Darlington, population 249. Darlington is one of those one-horse towns that are frequently driven through but rarely visited. Currently Darlington is home to two gas stations, a convenience store, our mechanic and veterinarian, a handful of churches, and a whole lot of history!

Located within the town limits, multiple historic buildings can be found that have been converted into a place of historic preservation. Over the last decade I have passed these charming old buildings hundreds of times, but had never stopped in for a visit. It hasn’t been for lack of desire, however. The history-lover in me has been itching to explore the treasures hidden behind those 200 year old walls and learn a bit more about the local history of the area we call home.

Miss Corrina, a fellow mom in our co-op, was next in line to plan our co-op activities for the month of March. The first outing she planned finally gave me the excuse I needed to do a little local exploration, when she booked a tour with Darlington’s local historical Society. As part of our tour we were led through three different historical buildings in the town.

Because of the large size of our group we were split into two smaller groups, with Molly joining her friends in group A, while the rest of the McCleery clan stayed together in group B. Our first stop on our tour of historic Darlington was to the Greersburg Academy.

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“The Greersburg Academy, a two story stone structure, was established in 1802 by Rev. Thomas E, Hughes.

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In its earliest history it was a prep school for men entering the ministry and later became a classical academy. It is Beaver County’s earliest educational institution, and is the oldest standing public building in the county. Those who attended include William McGuffey and John Brown.

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In 1882 it was transformed into a passenger/freight train station, and is the oldest standing railroad station in the nation.

Today, the first floor contains the Meeting Room, Greersburg/Train Room and the Research Room. One of the main displays on this floor presents the history of the Underground Railroad of which Darlington was a central hub.”

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Next we walked over to the Little Beaver Museum, where we continued gaining an education on the history of the area.

“The Little Beaver Museum, a two story brick structure, was built to carry on the tradition of the Greersburg Academy.

The building was erected in 1883 after the Academy closed. It later became a two-year high school, graduating its first class in 1910.

The building and grounds of the Little Beaver Museum were deeded to the Society in 1964. Today it houses two floors of artifacts and displays.”

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Our final stop on the tour was also the last addition to the Little Beaver Complex…

The log cabin.

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“This historic cabin originally came from Fredrickstown, Ohio. In 2009 it was donated and moved to Darlington. It features a beautiful working stone fireplace and chimney.

The cabin houses a number of traditional artifacts and is used to display and demonstrate traditional cloth arts like wool dying and spinning.”

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It was a wonderful outing.

Who knew so much history played out in our own back yard!

Duck-pin Bowling

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The first of our two January Co-op get-togethers occurred near Butler when Miss Wendy booked bowling lanes for a fun, Friday afternoon activity.

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But these were not the “normal” bowling lanes.

 They were duck-pin bowling lanes…

 A completely different animal! 

For instance, the balls used to bowl are a far cry from the traditional bowling balls one is accustomed to. They are around 5” in diameter (which is slightly larger than a softball), weigh around 3.5 pounds and lack finger holes, making them significantly smaller than ten-pin bowling balls.

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The pins, while arranged in a triangular fashion identical to that used in ten-pin bowling, are shorter, smaller, and lighter than their ten-pin equivalents, which makes it more difficult to achieve a strike.

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For this reason, the bowler is allowed three rolls per frame…

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 Another shift from traditional bowling.

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But the untraditional nature of the game made it all the more fun.

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 There was definitely a learning curve, but the kids enjoyed exploring this new sport and developing some new skills.

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 And of course, it was all the more fun doing so with friends!

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Since it was the first gathering since the holidays, everyone enjoyed hearing what gifts friends received and what traditions were enjoyed with family.

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I loved just sitting and taking it all in.

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It was fun to watch the excitement from the sidelines and listen to the happy chatter around me while catching up with friends I haven’t seen in a while.

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Thanks, Miss Wendy, for a fun afternoon!

Day 1 of Christmas: Co-op Christmas Party!

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On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me

A day of fun with our co-op family…

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Last Friday we ended a festive week of fun with some of our very favorite people at our annual co-op Christmas party. It was like old times as we reconvened at First Baptist Church in New Castle, our co-op home for the past decade. Although we no longer meet there on a weekly basis, they graciously agreed to let us use our old lunchroom for our Christmas party.

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It was decided that the party would consist of a taco bar lunch and games, ending with a secret Santa gift exchange among the kids.

It was fun to gather together once more!

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We even had some of our co-op graduates in attendance.

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The festivities began with the older kids leading a Christmas trivia game in the back room while the moms decorated the lunchroom and prepared the taco bar.

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And then they joined Miss Kathy for some fast-paced, competitive fun:

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When everything was laid out and ready, the kids congregated in the lunchroom to be called one table at a time into the kitchen to make up their tacos, and then return to the lunchroom to feast.

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As kids finished lunch, they headed into the back room to enjoy the photo booth that Miss Rose set up, and then returned to the lunch room to sing a little Christmas Karaoke.

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After everyone had full bellies, we gathered for the White Elephant gift exchange.

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The kids gathered around the pile of white elephant gifts and then proceeded to battle over a few favorite packages.

The fun of White Elephant gift exchanges seem to be in the stealing. The competition is even more heightened when it is a room full of siblings fighting for the most enticing packages.

When the game seemed as though it would never end, we kindly reminded the kiddos they were battling for something that was purchased for a buck at Dollar Tree.

That was followed with a second friendly reminder that the real gift exchange would follow. That brought a quick conclusion to the game.

Holding their White Elephant gift in front of them, the kids un-wrapped their package one at a time, revealing stick-on mustaches, noise makers, dress-up wigs, and other goofy gifts that brought laughs.

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Then it was time for the REAL gift exchange…

Each co-op student had been given the name of another student to buy for in the Secret Santa exchange. Each child took turns handing out the gift they carefully purchased for their assigned friend, and unwrapping the gift that was purchased for them.

There were squeals of delight over the well-chosen gifts, given with love.

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The party ended with crafts and socializing as everyone got in a little more visiting and Christmas well wishes before we had to leave to meet Brandon at home. He had a half day of school and we had some action-packed days ahead of us, so with final hugs of good-bye we headed home.

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Although we left with our arms laden with gifts of love and Christmas treasures, the greatest gift of the day was the gift of time with dear friends!

 

 

 

 

 

Co-op Christmas fun at Kraynak’s

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This school year has been one full of changes.

Most of those changes are a result of wonderful life changes that have occurred in the last four months, but some of those changes bring feelings of loss as we look back on past years and acknowledge the transition we have had to make into a new season of life.

The end of a chapter is hard no matter how amazing the next chapter promises to be, and no closing chapter has been more difficult than that of our co-op’s dissolution.

It has been an unusual school year in that after a decade of our Wednesdays being committed to our co-op, we now find that day free from commitments. For years our week revolved around the planning, preparing and packing that was involved in this weekly activity. It was a lot of work in the beginning, when the kids were small and each of us moms were preparing for and then teaching 3-4 classes every Wednesday, but we did it because we loved it…

We loved the friendships we saw developing between our children.

We loved the amount of learning that was accomplished in one day.

We loved the experiences we could offer our children that can be challenging in a home school environment (like Valentine’s Day parties, yearbooks, and talent shows.)

We loved the hands-on learning that happened under the guidance of a teacher that wasn’t “Mom,” with classmates that weren’t siblings.

We loved the support we found in each other as we navigated the challenges of life with friends who soon became so much more than friends.

Co-op was the greatest blessing of my “home schooling” journey,

And my heart shattered a bit when we all realized that this season of life was drawing to a close.

Our children who were kindergarteners when this adventure began, are now graduating high school and the purpose that the co-op was created for had been fulfilled. We no longer needed to gather weekly to get assignments done and the kids no longer craved the Valentine card exchanges and Halloween parties. We knew the end had come, but none were emotionally ready to give up the connection that was such an integral part of our lives for so long.

So, we came up with a plan…

The plan was to meet twice a month for a social get-together with each co-op mom taking on the task of planning for a month of the school year.

This past Friday was the first of two planned outings for December.

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We met at Kraynak’s, a toy store/candy shop/garden center/gift shop/Christmas wonderland… in Hermitage, PA.

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“From September 10th thru December 31st, Imagine a world of make-believe with twinkling lights, glittering trees, and a magical array of life-like characters. “Santa’s Christmas Land” is a 300-foot, indoor starlight avenue of uniquely designed artificial Christmas trees. Each tree has a specific theme that is enhanced and complimented by surrounding scenery and a cast of life-like animated characters.”

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Christmas Land is comprised of different vignettes of Christmas scenes.

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 Music is playing and the smells of Christmas fill the hallway that guides visitors through the different scenes.

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It is magical and we look forward to seeing how the displays change from year to year.

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Everyone has their favorites,

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And it is a fun Christmas activity that is free to enjoy…

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(If you can make it through the toy store and candy aisle’s that you must pass to get to the displays.)

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It is actually a pretty brilliant marketing strategy,

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And we buy into it every year.

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And LOVE it year after year.

It was so much fun enjoying this Christmas tradition with our co-op family, and catching up after a month apart.

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We love our co-op family and loved getting to spend some time with our dear friends.

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Next activity on the calendar: Our annual Co-op Christmas party!!