Tag Archives: Homestead

Just by the Skin of our Teeth

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

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

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

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

Whenever that may be.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay safe, friends!

 

Merry Christmas!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Could” is the operative word.

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

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

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

It was another blessed Christmas at the Homestead!

 

The Magic of Christmas Eve

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Christmas Eve…a night filled with the magic of possibilities!

Nowhere is the magic more pronounced than the Christmas magic found at the Homestead on Christmas Eve.

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Toby had the day off work so we packed up the car with sleeping bags and pillows, Christmas pajamas, bags of stocking stuffers, wrapped presents, and some very excited children, and headed out to Ohio.

We arrived and were greeted by the enthusiastic barking of Ranger and Rosie, the resident German Shepherds. After long-overdue hugs with Travis and Krista, our family from the Lone Star state, and Christmas greetings with Mimi and Pop Pop, we bid them good-bye as they left for early Christmas Eve mass.

While they were gone we began preparations for our Christmas Eve feast of appetizers and dips. The spread was as abundant as it was varied.

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Everyone pitched in to help,

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

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

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When the rest of the family arrived home, the celebration began in full force.

We had Grace and Zach with us on Christmas Eve for a few hours, before they left for home to spend Christmas Day with Zach’s side of the family.

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

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The newlywed’s first Christmas

Our evening of fun began with our evening feast.

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

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The O3- united again!

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Oh,  how I love this boy of mine!

 

After dinner it was time for games and our annual white elephant gift exchange. This is a tradition that began a decade ago and always leads to many laughs.

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This is a tradition I have responsibility over, which means each year I shop for inexpensive, but ridiculous gifts, that I wrap up to look far more appealing than the gift within actually is. Dollar Tree is my usual shopping spot as it offers the weird and the unusual for as cheap as can be. After 10 years of my annual shopping trips to Dollar Tree I found I had exhausted all the possibilities for our white elephant game.

It was time to up the stakes!

Five Below, here I come!

The result of a slightly increased game budget and a new shopping venue paid dividends.

Everyone battled for gifts they were certain held treasures.

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

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Braden’s face speaks volumes!

And boy were they belly-laugh inducing!!

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Tyler enjoying his remote control poop…

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Travis trying out Krista’s voice altering machine.

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I think Grace loves her new board game!

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Mimi creating beautiful music with her piano tie.

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It was like something from a SNL skit.

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Rusty made his own Forky!

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

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

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It is always the highlight of my Christmas. There is something holy about the experience as we sit in the darkness of the barn, listening to the slow cadence of my father’s voice as he tells the story of Christ’s humble birth so many years ago…

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Interrupted only by the occasional call from a goat.

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Our time in the barn ended with the singing of a Christmas hymn and some donkey lovin’ on Georgie before we made our way back to the house.

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Grace and Zack prepared to take their leave. They had a 2 1/2 hour drive ahead of them, made all the more arduous by the thick fog that had settled on the valley…

And the other kids unwrapped their gifts of new pajamas for Christmas Eve.

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“Yabba Dabba Doo!”

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The Flash, A ballerina pig, Genie, and Jack Skellington

Warm and snuggly, they headed off for bed while the rest of us brought Christmas to life by filling the empty spaces around the tree with beautifully wrapped packages,

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And filled the stockings with trinkets and treats.

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Christmas could now arrive!

And then it was off to bed for a few stolen winks of sleep for the adults before the festive fun resumed.

 

Escaping to the Homestead

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We find our summer flying by at a breakneck speed. It seems like just yesterday was Molly’s graduation, but the calendar says otherwise. Six weeks have passed since that monumental day and we are now halfway through summer and eight weeks away from Molly’s departure to Idaho for college. I find myself wanting to pump the breaks and slow down time. Since that is an impossibility, I find myself trying to steal moments of stillness whenever I can, soaking up the last of this season of “normalcy” before life changes once again and we find ourselves down two daughters: one to college and another to marriage.

This last week I was able to capture a day of memories to file away for future reflection when we escaped to the Homestead for a day of celebrations.

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My Aunt Denise was in town for the month, following my grandma’s 90th birthday celebration. Since Aunt Denise lives so far away, and getting to visit with her is a rare and treasured treat, we decided to squeeze in a visit before she had to head home. My parents invited us over for a Sunday dinner and a celebration of all the big events from the past two months.

Every few months we try to carve out an afternoon for Sunday dinner at the Homestead, and while there we celebrate all the big events of that quarter of the year. This visit we found ourselves celebrating Toby’s birthday, Father’s Day and Molly’s graduation, with Molly’s graduation being the focus of the day.

We arrived, after a 2 1/2 hour drive, to find the barn decorated and ready for the party.

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Zach joined us, as he will soon be an official member of the family…

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97 days till they say “I do!”

We enjoyed a yummy picnic lunch in the barn.

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It was warm, but the open doors provided a breeze, helped along by a couple box fans.

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When Lunch was over, Molly was presented with her graduation gift from Mimi and Pop pop. Following tradition, they presented Molly with a hope chest. It was a beautiful Lane chest from the 1940’s. It is to be used by Molly to start collecting goodies for her future home. It was a beautiful gift with a beautiful purpose.

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Inside the hope chest they included Molly’s bag of letters.

When my children were very small my mom came up with the idea of having a letter bag for each of her grandchildren. As the kids drew her pictures or sent her letters through the years, she would collect them in their letter bag. At graduation, they give the bag of letters back to that child to read through and enjoy.

Molly, being the resident letter writer in the family, had a full bag of sent mail to look through and enjoy.

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What a delightful trip down memory lane it was, as we enjoyed her earliest years of artwork and phonetic spelling.

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After we exchanged gifts for all the loved ones we were celebrating, the remainder of the day was spent enjoying the magic of the Homestead with it green vistas, grazing animals, and peace.

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The kids had fun driving around the golf cart that was recently purchased to help G.G. move around the farm,

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And we all enjoyed playing games as a family.

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Life doesn’t allow us the time we’d like to visit family. Often it is months or even years between our visits, but when we are granted the rare gift of an afternoon together, we fill it with a month’s worth of fun!

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Here’s to the stolen moments of life that make life worth living!

Day 5 of Christmas: The magic of Christmas morning!

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

Christmas morning ‘round the Christmas tree.

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Our Christmas morning began as Christmas mornings have begun for centuries,

With the early morning calls of, “Is it time to get up?”

This year, however, those calls came closer to 8:00 am as opposed to years’ past when the question would first be uttered closer to 3:00am.

Toby had set his alarm for 7:15 so that he could drive over and pick up G.G., while Mimi and Pop Pop took care of the farm chores. Brandon asked to accompany Toby, and I stayed behind to hold down the fort and keep kids contained until everyone was back home and had settled into their seats in the living room.

While the adults got situated and claimed their spots for the festivities, I gathered the kids on the stairs for a Christmas morning photo of the kids in their new pajamas.

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Love this crazy crew of Christmas critters!

Then I joined the other adults in the living room, took my spot, and prepared to catch the kids’ expressions on film, as they entered the room and took in the bounty around the tree.

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Christmas morning began, as it always does, with stockings.

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It is by far my favorite part of Christmas morning and always has been. There is something so iconic and magical about unloading a stocking filled with treats, that makes a person feel 8-years-old again.

With squeals of delight, piles of candy, toiletries, match box cars, pens and notebooks, Christmas socks and toys grew around the feet of each child as they unloaded their stockings.

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The adult stockings were generously filled as well, to the point of us needing to use the Christmas bags Gracie sewed last year to catch the overflow of goodies that didn’t fit in the stocking.

Once we were done with stockings, we began unwrapping gifts.

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Brandon asked if he could play Santa this year with Molly’s help, so a round at a time, Brandon and Molly handed out a gift to each family member which we took turns opening.

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After a break for Christmas brunch we continued working our way through the pile, opening gifts wrapped with love from family near and far away.

Some of the treasures unwrapped on Christmas morning included:

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“Let the wild rumpus start!”

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My Christmas gift from my parents. They know me so well!! Love!!

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Gracie’s new ASL t-shirt from Santa. 🙂 

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With a whole lot of ribbing from family about my mid-life crisis crush, I found Aquaman under the tree!

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Rusty loved his new bowtie!

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Their gifts from Uncle Travis and Aunt Krista made the girls look like they stepped out of the “Anne of Green Gables” novel.

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The girls received a jewelry box full of vintage jewelry from Aunt Krista and Uncle Travis as well.

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We finished around noon and spent the afternoon enjoying the company of family, playing games and enjoying our new treasures.

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Pop Pop reading us Mom’s new Christmas book, “The Wonky Donkey.” So funny!!

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Two of my priceless jewels.

Christmas dinner was a feast of ham, cheesy potatoes, green bean casserole, beets, rolls and sunny corn pudding. It was all delicious and I was so busy pigging out that I never thought to stop and take a picture of Christmas dinner.

It was a wonderful Christmas day spent with people I love dearly.

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G.G. with 6 of her great-grandkids.

Merry Christmas 2018!

Day 4 of Christmas: Christmas Eve!

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

A Christmas Eve with George, the donkey!

IMG_5036 (2)The next round of Christmas fun came the following day when we loaded up two cars with gifts, stocking stuffers, appetizers and children to drive out to my parents’ home.

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Christmas at the Homestead is nothing short of magical and all the kids were eager to share this special tradition with Brandon.

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The tradition of spending Christmas Eve with my parents, and waking up to Santa’s gifts at their home the next day, is an annual tradition. My Mom always makes the holiday so special.

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The kids love the predictability of the traditions that repeat themselves year after year and couldn’t wait to show Brandon why they love Christmas at the Homestead!

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This year was a little different than past years, however. This year my brother and his new bride were celebrating Christmas in Texas with Krista’s family.  My grandmother, now an Ohio resident, is living minutes from my parents’ home, so rather than staying at their home over Christmas, she traveled back and forth from her apartment to the Homestead to join in the activities that she felt up for participating in. This meant for a portion of the Christmas holiday it was just Toby, the kids and I at the Homestead with my parents.

Despite missing our loved ones who were far away this Christmas, we enjoyed another magical Christmas Eve at the Homestead, made all the more special by the addition of our newest son.

We arrived and Brandon got settled in, with the kids showing him where he would be sleeping and explaining what to expect.

The first event of the evening was dinner, with our usual meal of appetizers and hors d’ oeuvers.

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While Dad left with Ozzie to pick up G.G., the rest of the crew began laying out the feast!

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It was another AMAZING spread and when Dad, Ozzie and G.G. returned we ate until we couldn’t eat anymore!

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After a quick clean-up, it was time to convene in the living room, for the talent portion of the evening.

Tyler, Ozzie, and Brandon chose to be audience members, rather than perform, but the oldest three all came with prepared talents to share.

Rusty had prepared two musical pieces to play on the keyboard.

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Molly provided a repeat performance of the musical number she had performed at church on Sunday,

And then the girls both signed to a song they had been working on all month. The musical numbers all brought a sweet spirit to the Homestead, and we all found ourselves wiping away tears, moved by the beauty of the songs.

Tears were quickly followed by laughter as we followed the talent part of the night with the game portion of the evening.

Mom and Dad had purchased a new game for the holidays:

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The premise of this game, developed by Jeff Foxworthy, is to pick a punchline to the start of a joke. Played much like “Apples to Apples,” everyone has a pile of responses that they can pick from and the “comedian” reads them all out load and chooses their favorite.

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The game is rated for 14 and up and we soon discovered why. It was a bit saucy but downright hilarious. I don’t know when I have laughed so hard.

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After getting our ab workout from an hour of belly laughs, my Dad left with G.G., Brandon and Tyler to take Grandma back home for the night. She would return in the morning for all our Christmas fun but would enjoy the comfort of her own bed in her own home overnight.

When Dad and the boys returned, we headed out to the barn for my very favorite part of Christmas…

There in cold and quiet barn, lit only by the luminaries and lights of a small tree, we took our places on bales of hay and listened to the melodious voice of my father as he opened his Bible and read the story of Jesus’ birth.

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The only sound was the shuffling of animals in their stalls.

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There in the barn we reflected on the greatest miracle of humankind that occurred in a similar place 2000 years ago.

There in a dusty stable long ago, surrounded by animals much like these, Mary brought the Savior of the world into this world.

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What a powerful experience it was to reflect on that night, and all it entailed, as we sang the words of “Silent Night,” in the darkness of my parents’ barn.

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When we were done, the animals were all tucked into the stalls.

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We bid them good night.

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And headed for bed…

Eager to see if Santa would make a showing.

 

Celebrating Birthdays at the Homestead

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Saturday wasn’t the first time my parents met our newest addition. It was actually Brandon’s second time visiting their home. The first visit occurred a month and a half ago, following our visit to the University of Akron. At the time I just had Rusty, Molly and Brandon with me and thought that the dynamics of only three (calm) kids would help lessen the anxiety and awkwardness of the initial meeting.

That meeting went beautifully and by the time we left it felt as though Brandon had always been a member of the family.

This time we had the entire family with us when we drove out for Brandon’s second visit to my parent’s home, affectionately referred to as “The Homestead.”

This visit was in conjunction with Rusty’s birthday weekend with my folks.

For each of the kids’ birthdays my parents invite them out for a weekend of fun and frivolity. The weekend is spent doing all their favorite things with their grandparents and my kids love getting the opportunity to be an only child for a few days.

Last Friday I drove out to Ohio to drop off Rusty for his birthday weekend, and on Sunday we all returned to pick him up and celebrate our family’s fall birthdays with Mimi and Pop Pop. Our drive coincided with General Conference, so thanks to the benefits of modern technology we were able to listen to the leaders of our church speak and council us (via Toby’s phone) while we made the 2 hour scenic drive to Wooster, Ohio and back home again.

Because we aren’t able to see my parents as often as we were able to when life was less crazy and when they lived closer, we tend to clump our birthday celebrations by season, celebrating all of our winter, spring, summer and fall birthday together in one shared party at my parent’s farm.

This gathering was a chance to celebrate Tyler, Rusty, and Brandon’s birthdays.

When we arrived we found the Homestead decorated for autumn.

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We headed for the barn where we took advantage of a beautiful day to eat and celebrate in the barn, before cold temperatures and snow drive us into the house for the winter months.

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Our celebration began with a picnic lunch,

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And after lunch the boys were allowed to open their gifts from Mimi and Pop Pop.

You could see that Brandon was touched to be included and remembered with Rusty and Tyler.

My parents did and amazing job at picking gifts perfect for each boy. Rusty received a Lego set, Tyler received an inflatable football practice dummy and new football, and Brandon received a Spikeball set…

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Which we had fun trying out.

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It was a wonderful, relaxing afternoon. We played board games, tossed the ball, visited with the farm animals and became better aquatinted as a family.

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It was a practically perfect day on the farm!

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Together Again!

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It has been one year since my brother wed his bride in a beautiful country chapel in Texas…

And one year since we were all together as a family.

I have been blessed with an awesome family. I recognize that the connection we feel and the enjoyment we get from spending time together isn’t always a given in familial relationships. I feel blessed to call these people not only my family but my closest and most cherished friends.

My only complaint is: We don’t see nearly enough of each other!

With my sister and her family tucked away in Northern Michigan, my parents planted in rural Ohio, and my brother and sister-in-love calling west Texas home, our paths don’t often cross…

but when  they do we enjoy a collision of fun!

Saturday was one of those rare occurrences. Kelly and her kids drove down from Michigan for the weekend. Travis and Krista flew in from Texas for a visit with Krista’s sister, Anna, and then the three of them drove out to the Homestead for a visit, and we managed to squeeze in time for a visit between the conclusion of youth conference and leaving for Virginia the following morning.

We didn’t have nearly as much time together as we would have liked but we were grateful for the short time we did have and made the most of our 1 day “Real Reunion” at the Homestead.

Kelly was already there with her 5 kids when we pulled in at 3:45. Oh, the delight among the kids when they caught sight of their cousins. I LOVE that Kelly’s and my kiddos are so connected and attached despite the infrequency of visits and the miles that separate our homes. When we finally do see each other, after months apart, the kids pick up again like it was just yesterday.

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Cousin Fun!

Travis, Krista and Anna pulled in 15 minutes after us.

Mom and Dad left to pick up KFC for our barn picnic while the kids played and the rest of us caught up on each other’s lives.

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Following lunch it was time for the birthday celebration!

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The following day was Dad’s birthday so our “Real Reunion” served the dual purpose of celebrating the head of this awesome tribe of people. What a delight it was to gather as siblings to celebrate our father’s birthday together. I can’t remember the last time we were all together for his special day.

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While together we also celebrated the other birthdays of summer. Because our get-togethers have become more infrequent (due to widening proximity and busier lives) we have taken to celebrating birthdays quarterly. On Saturday we celebrated all of our June, July and August birthdays…

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The remainder of the day was spent soaking up every last bit of love, laughter, and fun memories from our day together.

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We played games:

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Some enjoyed a dip in the pool:

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Everyone spent time socializing with the animals of the Homestead:

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And much fun was had with the bubble gloves we brought for each of the kids:

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At 9:00pm we headed home. We had a very busy week ahead of us. Toby held down the fort at home while the girls headed straight to Aunt Beth’s house for a week of house sitting, and the boys and I left for Virginia. Rusty was taking part in a week-long computer programing camp at George Mason University.

It wasn’t a long visit with our favorite people, but perhaps the rarity of treasured time only adds to its value. If nothing else, it certainly makes us appreciate the minutes we do have together all the more!

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Easter with the Reals

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Easter weekend was a blessed one at Patchwork Farm. We had Ozzie home for five days and our time was filled to overflowing with General Conference, egg decorating, Easter with my side of the family and Easter with Toby’s side of the family. We were on the run all weekend but it was a weekend filled with Easter fun.

On Saturday morning we loaded up the van and headed 2 1/2 hours west to the Homestead where my sister and her family were visiting my parents for the weekend. Easter weekend always brings the emergence of my sister’s family who, as residents of Northern Michigan, tend to be snowed in from Thanksgiving until Easter. It is always a treat to get in some cousin time after months of not seeing each other.

We lucked out with decent weather for our Real family Easter. The rain had finally lifted after settling over Ohio and Pennsylvania for the last five days, and the temperatures, while nippy, were warm enough to allow us an outdoor dinner in the barn.

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We arrived and were greeted by five excited little ones whose energy and enthusiasm were matched by my own five. They all jumped immediately into the task of catching up and making the most of our one day reunion.

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My mom handed out Easter surprises to everyone. Kelly and I each got a cute duck and a vintage children’s book for our Easter gifts.

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We all sat and visited while we waited for my Dad to return with dinner. My parents decided that our limited time together was better spent enjoying family than being shut up in the kitchen cooking and doing dishes so they order our Easter dinner from Der Dutchman, one of the tastiest restaurants in Amish country.

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When Dad arrived home with a hot feast in the back of the car everyone pitched in to carry all the dishes into the barn and set up our Easter buffet. We enjoyed a scrumptious feast of ham, fried chicken, noodles, green beans, corn, mashed potatoes and gravy, homemade rolls, and four different types of pie including a Key Lime Pie that Toby declared was the best pie he had ever tasted.

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As we ate, we enjoyed a time of reconnection and visiting, with the little boys at one table, the big kids at another table, and the adults at the third table that was set up in the barn.

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After everyone had eaten their fill the adults headed outside to hide 100 Easter eggs. At this point the sky was beginning to darken and we didn’t want to get hit with rain before the kids had a chance to enjoy a egg hunt so we shuffled the schedule a bit.

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Ozzie and my Dad

Once all the eggs had been hidden around my parents yard we called for the kids and these are the heads that popped out from the barn…

Wrong kids!

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Finally the two legged kids came running with bags in hand.

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The three youngest were given a head start,

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and then the rest were set free to search.

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The result of their efforts was a bounteous feast of sugar.

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After the egg hunt we returned to the barn for our quarterly birthday celebration. Because of the infrequency of our opportunities to gather with extended family we will celebrate 3 or 4 months worth of birthdays while we are all together. This day we celebrated our February- May kids.

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After our birthday celebration we headed outside where Toby and Tom got a game of touch football going with the kids.

I was the official team photographer!!

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All too soon it was time to leave. Our one day reunions never seem to stretch as far as we would like but boy did we fit A LOT of fun with family into our eight hours at the Homestead!

How blessed we are this Easter Season.

Finding Solace at the Homestead

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This week I have been thinking a lot about the many blessings God has granted me. With Thanksgiving just days away I have much to be thankful for and I find my heart filled to the brim with humble gratitude for God’s loving providence in my life. I have been blessed beyond measure, certainly much more than I deserve.

As I count my many blessings, the blessing of family can be found at the top of the list. I grew up not fully recognizing the treasure I had in my family. With no other frame of reference to compare my life to, I assumed everyone enjoyed the same love, support, care and companionship within their families that I did. I had no idea that the special bond I enjoyed with my parents, my siblings, my grandparents, aunts and uncles, was a unique gift that many others have not been blessed with. This revelation became all the more pronounced as we stepped into the world of foster care and became aware of the horrors found within so many families. The gift of a loving family gave me a life advantage far beyond any other blessing in my life, and my heart is full of gratitude for that.

Sometimes in the midst of the busyness and craziness of life we forget to be grateful. We lose sight of our blessings and all that we have to be grateful for. We become focused on the minutiae and forget to step back and focus on the big picture…on the things that are really important.

A few weeks ago I received an unexpected phone call from my parents. They were calling with the news that Dad’s cancer is back. For those who have followed our blog for years, you might remember his initial diagnoses. He had an aggressive form of prostrate cancer that resulted in the need for surgery. At that time we asked for prayers from our friends both near and far and those prayers were answered. The surgeon found the tumor to be encapsulated and contained, and no further treatment was needed. He was cancer free, but now we have discovered that cancer cells have returned. Radiation is required. And we are asking for prayers again…prayers for healing, for wisdom, for minimal side effects to the treatments, but mostly for peace for my parents.

We ask for your prayers…

Prayers for the peace that only God can bring during those unexpected bends in the road of life.

My Dad starts treatment this week, so last weekend they took advantage of the time they had before he begins treatment and invited Rusty out to the Homestead to enjoy his belated birthday celebration. For each of the kids’ birthdays my parents invite them out to the Homestead for a special one-on-one weekend where they enjoy lunch out, movies, board games in the evening, and all the fun that the Homestead has to offer. It is a special tradition that all the kids look forward to.

On Sunday, the rest of us drove out to Ohio to celebrate Rusty and Tyler’s birthdays with my parents and then bring Rusty home.

We arrived to find my parents wearing the shirts we bought them for their anniversary last month. This year marked the 41st year of marriage and their 42nd year together. What an example they are to me!

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When we walked in Rusty was eager to show us the birthday gift he received from Mimi and Pop Pop. They had taken him to the toy store and let him pick out a Lego set. He was allowed to enjoy it early and by the time we arrived he had it completed.

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Tyler was allowed to open his birthday gift as soon as we arrived. Mimi and Pop Pop know Tyler so well and always hit it out of the ball park with their gifts to Tyler. This time was no exception. They bought him a laser tag set that he and Rusty enjoyed playing with the rest of the day!

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My Mom had an unexpected gift for me as well. She had come across a picture I had drawn for my Dad when I was in early elementary school. It was a picture welcoming him home after his time training in the field and she had it framed as a surprise. What a treasure! I was thrilled!

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We enjoyed our time at the Homestead.

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There is something about the Homestead that brings feelings of peace and contentment. It isn’t the home of my childhood, but it is filled with the objects and people of my childhood, thus feels like home.

Our day was spent enjoying a meal as a family:

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Playing card games:

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Enjoying the critters:

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And counting our blessings…

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As we pray for my Mom and Dad during this unexpected season of life, we also count our blessings, for we have so much to be thankful for. God will take this struggle and from it create something beautiful and blessed, as He always does.

God is good!

Always good!