Tag Archives: humor

I Love Lucy!


This week we are experiencing a rare phenomenon at Patchwork Farm. Grace and I find ourselves alone for a whole week, something that hasn’t happened for the last 18 years. This week Miss Molly is in Costa Rica working with the endangered sea turtle population and Toby, Rusty, Ozzie and Tyler are all at Boy Scout Camp for the week. Which means Grace and I have had 6 days at home together.

When we realized we would be home alone for the week we began making plans, determined to make the most of this rare gift, recognizing that it will probably never happen again. We decided to use this week to be tourists in our own town, visiting places we have always wanted to go, and participating in activities we normally can’t do when we are a family of 7.

This week has been all about connecting with my first born child and making memories that will be treasured years from now.

Our week of mother/daughter adventures began with a road trip on Monday.

We decided to make the 2 1/2 hour pilgrimage to Jamestown, New York to pay homage to the queen of comedy and one of our favorite leading ladies…



There in the heart of Jamestown (the birthplace of Lucy) is the Lucy Desi Museum and Desilu Studios. We spent the morning learning more about this comedy icon and falling deeper in love with Lucy!

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Since 1996, Lucy’s hometown has welcomed visitors from all over the world to the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum. Inside its doors we found a warm salute to the First Couple of Comedy with priceless costumes, awards, photographs, and other vintage memorabilia on display from the estates of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.

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With a push of a button we could hear audio clips from Desi’s autobiography as well as stories of their youthful antics told by Lucy’s childhood pals. A unique radio plays clips both from Lucy’s 1940’s radio series, My Favorite Husband, and some of Desi’s famous Latin songs.

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The panels on the left of the Museum (as you look toward the back) described Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s personal histories. As we proceeded down the panels, we learned about Lucy and Desi’s early careers, how they met, and their creation of the most famous comedy series of all time.

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After touring the museum we headed next door to Desilu Studios. Desilu Studios is devoted to the “I Love Lucy” TV series. It is home to original props, costumes, memorabilia and more. Inside we found complete re-creations of Lucy and Ricky Ricardo’s New York City apartment and the Hollywood hotel suite where Lucy pantomimed with Harpo Marx and set her nose on fire with William Holden.

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Desilu Studios is the permanent home of the “I Love Lucy” 50th Anniversary Tour Sets that traveled the country in 2001-2002 to celebrate the most popular show ever on television. Exhibited at convention centers, state fairs, music festivals, casinos, and more, it featured exact reproductions of the original sets.

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Here are some of our favorite Displays & Exhibits:

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My Favorite Husband Radio Studio Set: When CBS asked Lucille Ball to bring her wildly popular radio program, My Favorite Husband, to the new medium of television, she agreed–as long as her real life husband, Desi Arnaz, could play her television husband. Desi was traveling the country most of the year with his popular Latin band, making it difficult for the Arnazes to achieve their dream of starting a family. CBS declined, believing that the public would not accept this “mixed marriage” of an all-American woman to a Cuban with a heavy accent–despite the fact that the couple had in fact been married for several years. Here we were able to pick up the headsets and listen to excerpts from this radio show!

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“I Love Lucy” Episode #6–“The Audition”: To prove to CBS that the American public would accept them, Lucy and Desi created a vaudeville show that they took on the road in 1950. In one of their touring skits, Lucy plays “The Professor,” trying to break into Desi’s night club act with an audition on her special cello. After six months of tremendously positive live audience response, Lucy and Desi produced a pilot episode and CBS agreed to Desi’s playing Lucy’s husband. “The Professor” skit was part of the pilot as well as “I Love Lucy” episode #6, “The Audition.”

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623 East 68th Street, The New York Apartment: This was Lucy and Ricky Ricardo’s apartment after the birth of Little Ricky. Their first apartment, which did not have a window over the piano in the living room, was too small for the three of them, so they moved upstairs to a larger apartment (episode #61, “Ricardos Change Apartments”).

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Artifacts: Among the costumes and props on display from “I Love Lucy” are the original cello and professor costume from the show’s pilot and episode 6, “The Audition,” as well as a 13-piece clown outfit and a lion tamer ensemble worn by Pepito, the Spanish Clown in episode 52, “Lucy’s Show Biz Swan Song.”

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Beverly Palms Hollywood Hotel: When Ricky was cast in the motion picture Don Juan, he took the whole gang (Lucy, Fred, Ethel, Little Ricky, and his mother-in-law) to Hollywood with him. During this period from 1955-56, the Ricardos lived in the Beverly Palms Hotel. It was on this set that Lucy burned her nose while meeting William Holden. Harpo Marx also re-enacted one of his most famous movie scenes here with Lucy, in what later became one of her favorite episodes, #124, “Harpo Marx.”

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Wall Mural: Enlarged from a 4×5” image, this wall shows the studio audience at a taping of “I Love Lucy.” Desi Arnaz can be seen (back to camera) “warming up” the audience, and both Lucy and Desi’s mothers are in the top row near the center.

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Episode #30, “Lucy Does a TV Commercial”: do you pop out at parties? Don’t be tired and listless or unpopular! This hands-on exhibit allows all “Vitameatavegamin” lovers to give it a try. The dialogue is in front of you. Here you can amuse your fellow visitors with your own version of “Vitameatavegamin.”

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After touring Desilu Studios and enjoying a morning of belly laughs with my oldest we drove past Lucy’s childhood home in Jamestown, NY before heading to our second adventure of the day. (Don’t you just love the paint job on the garage?!)

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When Grace and I finally made it home (after a day of galavanting around western New York) we put on our PJs, stretched out on the couch, and enjoyed an “I Love Lucy” marathon,

Watching all of our favorite episodes before heading to bed after a long, eventful, and fun day of adventures.



Oh, Crap!!


oh crap

The first clue that perhaps all was not right with the world was the smell.

Rusty and Grace were at home, alone, when they caught the first whiff. A quick glance around the room for 4-legged suspects revealed that the most likely instigators of the smell were curled up on couches elsewhere. They decided they better investigate.

Their keen sense of smell led them to the basement door. As they opened the door to investigate they were hit with a putrid wave of foreboding. Hesitantly and with great apprehension they began descending down the stairs only to step into a nightmare-inducing horror film. A pipe above their head was showering down feces in a most spectacular fashion, while the contents of our septic tank bubbled up from the drains on the floor.

Being McCleery’s, these kids have been better trained for the worst sorts of disaster scenarios than most government FEMA workers. Rather than running from the horror that lay before them they jumped into this crappy scenario with both feet (after donning rubber boots) and set to work trying to save what they could.

Racing through the sewage bubbling up beneath their feet and raining down on them from above, they hurried to move boxes out of the path of destruction.

When they finally felt that things were safe enough to run upstairs for the phone they called Toby and asked what they should do. After confirming that there was nothing else that could be done until he made it home from work, they called me at tutoring to give me a heads up of what I would be coming home to.

In typical Gracie  efficiency, she ended the conversation with a breezy, “Don’t feel like you have to hurry home. We’ve got things under control here.”

When Tyler was done with tutoring we drove home. As we stepped into the front door we were hit with the unique smell combination of sewage layered with ocean breeze air freshener, AXE cologne, and a variety of Bath and Body Works body sprays. I’m not sure if the AXE cologne helped or hurt the situation but the kids insisted that things smelled significantly better with the added scents.

Toby arrived home and headed downstairs only to emerge a little while later with the unfortunate news that there was nothing to be done until septic companies opened the following morning. In the meantime we just had to endure the smell and not use any water. That meant no showers, no dishes, no laundry, and especially NO FLUSHING until we figured out why our basement was filling with sewage.

The next day angels in rubber gloves pulled into our driveway.


For three hours they worked to remedy our situation. Thankfully they discovered the blockage and was able to fix it, and while they were here we also had them pump our septic tank. One septic emergency was enough for this lifetime so we chose to be proactive while we had the truck here.

Once the problem was solved and the shower of crap had ceased, it was time to brave the horror downstairs and clean up the mess. All I can say is, “Kuddos to these kiddos who without comment or complaint, pulled on their rubber boots and rubber gloves, grabbed a shovel and began scooping.”


What troopers they were. No strangers to crappy situations, they just dove into this unpleasant task with steely resolve and a good sense of humor and within a few hours had turned our septic swamp back into a basement.

While most teenagers would have been bemoaning this unforeseen change in our Family Night plans, Molly, with typical optimism, cheerful commented as she shoveled poop into trash bags, ” Well, this is one Family Night we will NEVER forget!”

Once everything had been scooped and scrubbed, we doused the basement in bleach to kill any residual germs. As we stumbled upstairs, weary and ready for showers, Tyler took a huge sniff. “Our house doesn’t smell like poop anymore,” he observed, “Now it smells like Kalahari!” The smell of bleach did give the impression we had just walked into an indoor water park. 🙂

All was well that ended well…or so we thought.

The real damage done by this unexpected circumstance had nothing to do with the pile of ruined storage that got carried outside. No, the real damage was far more devastating…

Beginning on Monday night, the night the septic tank back up into our basement, we noticed a concerning change in Tyler. Out of nowhere he developed a pronounced facial tic. It was bizarre. It came on quickly and increased in severity within the first 24 hours. My first thought was that he was having a seizure, as it was disconcerting to see his facial muscles rapidly clench and release as his eyes rapidly blinked. What was even more disconcerting was the fact that he was unaware he was even doing it.

As the week progressed I spent countless hours researching possible causes and set up appointments with his doctor, therapist, and psychiatrist, uncertain if the cause was neurological, medication driven, or rooted in trauma. I had a theory but it wasn’t until we met with his therapist and his psychiatrist that my theory was confirmed. They agreed that what we were seeing was a regression that came as a result of the smell of feces in the house. The sense of smell is the strongest memory trigger we have and they both suspect that when Tyler was exposed to a smell that was so pronounced in the deplorable conditions of his birth home where atrocious abuse took place, he was hit with terrifying flashbacks. Unable to express or vent the horrors playing out in his head, his body responded to that fear and stress physiologically in the form of these new facial tics.

We are still ruling out other possible medical causes but his doctors are fairly certain that this regression is trauma driven, and although the smell is long gone, the flashbacks remain and the feelings of not being safe at home are driving these new symptoms. My heart breaks for him. Not only because of the looks he is now getting from others, but because of the horrors that he must have endured to cause his little body to have such a visceral reaction to a smell.

This entire week has been a profound reminder of the difference between the frustrations and the bothersome inconveniences of life that we perhaps view as trials, and the real trials of life that so many are burdened with this Christmas season. Yes, a basement full of sewage was not fun, but really, was it anything more that a frustration or irritation. How blessed we are to have only endured that situation for 24 hours when there are children around the globe living in such squalor every day. It was a wake-up call for me…a powerful reminder this Christmas season of how blessed we are, but also wake up call of how little we are doing to help those whose trials are so much greater than ours.

Lord, help me to not lose sight of that admonition…

Not only this Christmas season, but all year long.


Just Bonnie, Clyde, and an Elevator


Bonnie and Clyde

With the falls adequately admired, we got back in the truck to cross back over the Rainbow Bridge that leads into the United States and begin our journey home. We had no idea that moment would be the beginning of a 2-day ordeal, as we scrambled to gain access back into our own country.

As we crossed the bridge we had a lovely view of the falls. We fell in line behind the many other drivers attempting to cross into the United States. Heeding all the signage we obediently got into the lane marked: RVs, busses and trailers, removed our hoodies, hats and sunglasses so the facial recognition cameras could compare our mugs to those of known terrorists, pulled out our passports and all the paperwork issued to us from the elevator company, and prepared to speak with the border agent.

We pulled up and immediately it was clear that like his Canadian counterparts, this US agent felt we were a shady pair. He asked us to pull over to the inspection station (a request that would be made of us multiple times this trip as we attempted to cross international borders) and exit the vehicle.

An agent met us at our truck and escorted us inside where we sat with an armed guard that watched us while the truck was inspected for contraband. The tension was thick, and our anxiety was high. I found my Secret deodorant failing me. Despite its famous tagline, it was not “strong enough for a man” at least not strong enough for a man who was under border security scrutiny. I know they thought we had to be hiding something big (as if an elevator isn’t big enough) by the anxiety they saw on our faces. Once again, an agent approached us, asking again if we were importing any of the illegal items listed on the posters around the waiting room. The tone he used reminded me of my own tone when I am giving my kids one last chance to fess up before they are caught red-handed. I wracked my brain.

 I was pretty certain our truck was drug and alcohol free.

I thought to myself, ‘If any critters had stowed away in the cab (something cats and goats have done before) surely we would have discovered them by now, so I think we are livestock-free.’

I knew we didn’t have any raw meat or foreign plants.

 ‘It must be a weapon,’ I thought to myself…

 I knew we didn’t have any guns or Samurai swords but we were in Toby’s work truck which contains plenty of everyday tools that would probably be considered weapons of mass destruction in this day and age, so I looked at Toby, raising my eyebrows, letting him know, with the look only wives can give, that if I end up in a Federal slammer because of an Exacto knife he left under his seat, he’s a dead man! 😊

He paused, thought, and reconfirmed that no, there was nothing illegal in the truck. The guard left us under the watchful scrutiny of a guard who took her job very seriously, not allowing anyone to use the bathroom unaccompanied or leave their seat without permission.

As we sat in the heavy silence it hit me. I DID have contraband. Like a still frame from a movie, the image of an orange, leftover from breakfast and tucked in my bag, hit me. EEK! I was the mule trafficking illegal goods, not Toby, and it was my orange that was going to earn us 10 to 20 years in a federal penitentiary. Sure enough, a few minutes later the team of inspectors returned, and the orange had been removed from the truck.

But the orange was the least of our issues.

We were called up to the front desk and informed that we had been denied entry into the United States and we were being sent back to Canada. The issue was not with Toby or with me or even the rouge orange, but with the elevator. We discovered that we had somehow stumbled into an obscure gray area of bureaucracy that would come back to haunt us. The issue was that we were crossing as individual citizens (no problem there) but because the elevator we were towing cost more than $2000.00 it was considered a commercial import. This meant we needed all sorts of special paperwork and certification that we, as non-commercial drivers, didn’t have.

A kind border agent took pity on us and tried to explain this rabbit hole we had fallen into, and what the United States was demanding of us to gain entrance. We asked what paperwork we needed to provide him, and he clarified, “Oh, you can’t give me anything. Civilians must hire a customs broker to appeal to the government on their behalf. He explained that without hiring a customs broker our elevator wasn’t crossing the border. At this point it was 8:00 pm. We had no idea how to get ahold of a customs broker or if they worked weekends. Outside the window I could see the “Welcome to New York” sign 20 yards away and for a moment considered channeling Bonnie and Clyde and making a run for it, but quickly dismissed the plan, knowing that with the trailer in tow there was no way we could get backed out and turned around before they would be on us. 😉

We were escorted back to the truck by armed guards, I guess to prevent crazy, desperate attempts like the one playing out in my head, and we were sent back across the bridge to Canada.

We pulled up to the Canadian border crossing, following all the same protocol on this side of the falls, only to have our story questioned once again. I guess someone traveling to Canada to purchase an elevator seems like a shady story. Once again, we were denied entrance and forced to U-turn our way back to the U.S side of Rainbow Bridge.

At this point we had resigned ourselves to the possibility that we might be living out the remainder of our days in an elevator crate on the walkway of Rainbow Bridge, trapped between two countries. I thought of the movie, “The Terminal,” and the ingenious ways Tom Hanks survived living in an airport, as he too was trapped between two countries that would not allow him to enter, on crackers and ketchup packets.


Our resources were more limited, but I figured we could at least beg for handouts from vehicles crossing the bridge into the United States. We could unload them of all their high-risk contraband, like raw meat and illegal oranges, and save them from a similar fate,

 all while carving out a life for ourselves on the Rainbow Bridge.

(At least it’s a cardboard box with a great view.)


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After another pat down (on your tax dollar) we were given a piece of paper proclaiming that we would only be entering Canada long enough to file needed custom’s paperwork and that we wouldn’t be setting up residency and working illegally as elevator installers. With paper in hand we finally got off the “Bridge of Nonsensical Bureaucracy” and found temporary sanctuary at the Ramada Inn of Niagara Falls.

Then we began working the phones.

With the help of Google (how did people manage crisis’s like this before the internet?) we found a listing of customs brokers and began calling and emailing them one by one. Hours later we had left messages with 50 different agencies, and now we waited. It became clear that nothing would happen until Monday, as evidently customs brokers don’t work weekends. We tried to salvage our mini getaway and recapture the relaxed and refreshed state of mind we were enjoying prior to trying to reenter the good old U.S.A. We tried to set aside our worries about whether we would ever see our children again, and tried to make the best of a bad situation…

A skill Toby and I have developed a real talent for as result of two decades full of moments like this one.

(More on the fun we carved out of this crisis in the next blog!)

On Monday morning, we began working the phones at 8:00am, as soon as offices opened. Once again, we discovered nothing was going to be smooth or easy. Most brokers were unwilling to take our account since we were a one-time pass. Most were only interested in setting up an account with those who would be a repeat customer and who would be transporting elevators across the border regularly which left us high and dry as we had no plans to ever leave the country again, assuming we ever made it back into the United States.

Finally, a customs broker suggested we call FedEx, who apparently has customs brokers and handles one-time accounts. Who knew?! And they happily took our account.  After hours of filling out paperwork, working the phones, answering emails, faxing forms, requesting a one-time exemption from the supervising border agent, and waiting on approvals from the U.S government we were finally cleared to cross the border.

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We were assigned to cross at a commercial border crossing 30 minutes away. We were given a crossing ID number, a commercial manifest, and were told we should have no problems returning home.

One again we drove up to the check point, our stomachs in knots. And once again we were flagged. There was no record of our account with our broker and were pulled off the line as a rig trying to illegally import goods into the U.S.A. Once again, we found ourselves in a waiting room, waiting on agents to declare us (and the d*** elevator) safe to cross.

I’m sure hundreds of kilos of cocaine entered our country this weekend while U.S. agents’ backs were turned and they were distracted with the urgent task of shaking down the notorious McCleery elevator runners.

FINALLY, our paperwork was located, and finally we were deemed safe to reenter our own country.

“Just one last thing,” the agent declared. “The toll to enter will be $13.05.”

No one, in all our time bonding with various government agents over the last 48 hours thought to mention that on top of the hundreds of dollars we had already paid out to Uncle Sam for the privilege of reentering the land of our birth, that there would be a $13.05 toll.

Who even came up with that amount?!

Opening his wallet, Toby let out a sigh of relief to see that he had $13.00…exactly. Nothing more, nothing less. He pulled out the bills and turned to me to ask, “Do you have a nickel?”

A frantic search of both our pockets resulted in one…lone…Canadian quarter. Toby held it up, inquiring sheepishly of our straight-faced border agent, “Will you accept Canadian?”

To which the border agent responded, with crossed arms and tight lips, “No, this is America.”

There we were feet from freedom and five lousy cents stood between us and home…AHHHHHHH!!!


When it was clear Mr. Grumpy wasn’t budging we started scanning the floor for fallen change. Luckily a kind stranger donated a dime to our cause, making him the hero of this comedy of errors.

We got in the truck and made a beeline for the border, fearful that if we made eye contact with anyone in blue, or hesitated for any reason, they just might change their mind and send us back to Canada for good.

Never did a sign look as good as this one!

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We are home


 We are never leaving the country again!!

Selfie Fun



I find when I am having an especially hard, discouraging, Eeyore sort of day, and need some cheering up, the best antidote can be found on the closest electronic device.

Regardless of whether I am picking up my digital camera, a cell phone, or the family Ipad I am sure to find something that will lift my spirits and make me laugh…

all I have to do is check out the latest selfies recorded for posterity by children.

Tyler is the KING of silly selfies but he’s not the only guilty party.

When I stumble across these hidden gems they never fail to make me Laugh Out Loud. 🙂

For your viewing pleasure…

My good looking, ever classy, pillars of society, future leaders of America,



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Yep, we are one good lookin’ group!

Llama Drama



For English Composition Rusty has been working on a personal memoir assignment. He chose to share the story of the day we adopted Obama the Llama. We have had fun looking back on that funny adventure. Here is his memoir:

“Life on our farm is always an adventure. We have had our share of crazy experiences with the animals that call Patchwork Farm home, but the one that takes the cake is the day we brought home our llama.

Near our home there is a weekly auction that takes place every Friday night. At this auction you can bid on everything from 20 pounds of strawberries to a used air conditioner, and everything in between. The biggest reason we go to Rogers auction is the animal auction. At Rogers we have bought chickens, rabbits, even the occasional goat. Never did I think we would buy a llama. It all happened when we showed up at the auction and there was a llama in the pen with the goats. He was tall, with long, white fur and a sloping big nose. My dad was instantly in love with the idea of having a llama. The thought of having a llama in the field to protect our herd of goats appealed to him. As we sat in the audience Dad was hoping that the llama would be a good price. At this point in the night I think my dad, in all his excitement, forgot we didn’t have a trailer with us. He raised his hand to bid and the auctioneer pointed to him and yelled “Sold!” We were now the owners of a llama.

Dad went to the front desk to pay his bill and then went into the barn to get our new llama. With a harness and a leash Dad walked the llama to our car. It was at this moment that he remembered that he didn’t drive his truck and trailer to the auction. We had actually come in the family station wagon. Rather than panic dad just said, “We will figure this out.”

We walked to the the car dragging a 300-pound llama by the leash. Dad had Mom hold the leash while he folded down the seats that the kids weren’t using, to make space for a 7-foot llama. It was now time to convince the llama to climb into the back of the station wagon. He found out llamas don’t like station wagons. They also don’t fold easily, but dad was persistent and with a tuck here and a fold here he managed to squish Obama the llama into our car.

Once he was in he was fine. His fluffy white body filled the back of the car and he rested his head on the back of the driver’s headrest. As we drove home cars passed us, slowing down to look closer or take a picture with their cellphone cameras. On our way home Dad decided to make one more stop at our local ice cream store so that everyone (except the llama) could enjoy an ice cream cone on the ride home. Everyone got out of the car to order their ice cream from the front window. As we were walking back to the car carrying our ice cream cones we passed a young boy who had stopped to stare in the window of our car. He was shocked and  shouted for everyone to hear “ Mom, they have a polar bear in their car!”

Obama made it home in one piece and enjoyed a long life at Patchwork Farm. He never again rode in the station wagon. Instead of cruising around town, his days were spent grazing in the fields. In the end it all worked out. The moral of the story is think before you act, especially if you are buying a llama.”

Little Wooden Cars and Great Big Headaches


It is THAT time of year again.

The season of short days, grey skies, cold temperatures and wooden cars…UGH!

The grey stratus clouds of Western Pennsylvania already cover the skies in a depressing blanket of BLAH, so I am trying not to add my own grey cloud to the mix, but I really hate Pinewood Derby time.


I didn’t always feel this way. Like so many young, fresh, enthusiastic mothers I was the idealistic cheerleader as we cut, sanded, painted, and weighted car #1, #2, #3, #4…

Somewhere around our 15th pinewood derby car the novelty died…died a ugly, ugly death.

 Our pinewood derby experiences began with annual AWANA races when the kids were little, then evolved into Cub Scout races. Throw in some misc. pinewood derby races for the teens and it is fair to say we are old hats at this.

The evidence of our past races litter the shelves of my children’s bedrooms and fill the toy box, always leaving me to wonder WHY ARE WE BUILDING ANOTHER CAR? Why not use one of the dozens we have around the house?

And then remember…

and I remind myself,

and I whisper the mantra…

“Because we can’t be THAT MOM.”

We must not steal from our “round two” littles the joy of the experience that was afforded to our “round one” kids.

It is a tap deep moment when I must forget my own jaded fatigue and put on my young, fresh, enthusiastic Momma face. (PS- I am not alone in this battle. When pinewood derby season comes around Toby would like to move to a communist country where scouting is banned) 🙂

But we do the dance we did with our older children. We sit patiently as they sketch, and re-sketch designs on their blocks of wood…sketches that Toby will have to redesign because they are impossible to make sense of. He will patiently find a car hidden within that block of wood and convince each boy that it was their design…and what a fabulous design it is!

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Then we will patiently watch as they begin sanding their car. It is a process that begins with enthusiasm but quickly loses appeal, leaving Toby and I to finish making the edges smooth.

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Then the painting begins. This is about the point in the process when my tongue begins to bleed from biting it so hard. I sit upon my creative hands and I fight the urge to take over as layer after layer of paint covers the car with the belief that “if a little paint is good, then a lot of paint is great!” The reds, and blues, and greens soon muddle together into a soupy brown that may or may not dry by the time the race rolls around in a week.

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Then it is the stickers, and the weights, and the graphite,

all added with hopes of increasing the speed of your son’s car in comparison to his other troop members.

It is a delicate dance. The goal is to make the car fast enough to leave your child feeling pleased with his performance, but not so fast as to win in his age group…

because winning means ANOTHER RACE!

With more scouts!

Thus making you lose another day of your life to the Pinewood Derby!

A day of your life you will never get back!

But that is between you and I. As far as my boys are concerned… I am a fresh, young, enthusiastic Momma and we are going all the way@!!

Monday we began the derby ritual with another kiddo in the mix. Tyler, Ozzie, and their friend, Derek, sketched, cut, sanded, and painted their cars with dreams of trophies dancing in their sweet little cub scout heads.

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Saturday is the big race…

Wish us luck!

And by luck I mean…

*wink wink*

Never have I ever…


Yesterday was spent in the car as we traveled to our final destination…Kentucky.

Along the way we entertained ourselves by playing all the classic travel games…

license plate bingo, the alphabet game, and Tyler’s personal favorite: BINGO!

This version of BINGO is played by earning points for each yellow car you see and being the first person in the car to call out “BINGO.”

Yesterday Molly also introduced the boys to a new game, “Never have I ever…”

This quickly became Tyler’s new favorite game.


You play by holding up 10 fingers. Players take turns making a “Never have I ever” statement about something they have never done in their life that they think other players may have done. Everyone who has done that thing must put down one finger. The winner is the player who still has a finger up at the end of the game.

“Never have I ever wore braces”…Grace, Rusty and Toby put a finger down.

“Never have I ever flown in an airplane”…everyone but Tyler puts a finger down.

“Never have I ever been outside the USA”…Toby and I put a finger down.

And so the game continues until there is one left standing.

We soon discovered that the longer you have lived and the more life experiences you have had the more you are at a disadvantage with this game…

Making it a game that Tyler excelled at. 🙂

Long after the other kids were burned out with “Never have I ever” Tyler was still going strong and wanting to play.

So by the time we reached our hotel it was just him and I playing.

I had to really reach and get creative to come up with something new that he had done and I hadn’t done in my life, especially after hours of playing this game.

Suddenly it came to me…

“Never have I ever been adopted!”

I looked over my shoulder at him, proud of myself for coming up with something so good, and he was giving me the classic Tyler smirk…

“Momma…” he said, waiting for me to correct myself.

“What,” I asked, confused by his look.

“Yes you have!” he corrected.

“No, I wasn’t adopted,” I explained.

With a look of shock he exclaimed, “What?! You weren’t adopted??”

“Then who birthed you?!” he demanded.

“Umm, Mimi” I answered, all while thinking to myself, “Have I never explained this or does he just never listen to me?”

The look of horror on his face was priceless.

“Well, the kids were all adopted,” he declared with confidence.

“Um, actually Tyler,” Grace spoke up from the back seat, “we weren’t adopted either.”

“WHAT?! Who birthed you??”

“Mom did,” Gracie answered.

He looked at us as though we were all part of some great conspiracy.

Now I know we have explained this before so this just confirmed my suspicion that Tyler’s ears turn off when I speak.

He sat there shaking his head in disbelief…

“So, just me and Ozzie were adopted.”

That life changing realization quickly put and end to our game…

He sat quietly in the back seat, looking at me with great suspicion, wondering what other life changing secrets I am hiding from him…

If he only knew…

Funny kid. 🙂

“Balloon Bonanza!”


The easy road…

what a temptation it is to the busy, the tired, the stressed out, and weary.

In the midst of a busy life the easy road can look “So good!”

But rarely does it take you where you think it will.

I have been raised to understand that there are no “short cuts” in life. In the long run we always pay for those time-saving detours we are tempted by. Whether speaking of child rearing, marriages, school, employment, exercise, hobbies, or water balloons (yes, water balloons) the short cut never pays.

I know this, and yet as I stood in the checkout line next to the “As Seen on TV” display I caved.

Tomorrow Gracie is having a Storybook Day at our home and one of her activities is a water balloon fight. I knew I had an unopened pack of 500 water balloons at home so when I saw the package reading:

“Balloon Bonanza- the new way to fill and seal water balloons in just seconds!”

I didn’t plan on making a purchase,

but I did move in for a closer look.

First I glanced around to make sure there was no one I knew nearby.

The “As Seen on TV” aisle of the supermarket is just one of those spots in the store that no one admits to browsing.

It’s like the gossip magazines we all claim we don’t read while waiting in line behind the woman with 20 cat food coupons.

“I only open them to check out the recipes, I swear!” 🙂

We all know the “As Seen on TV” products are overpriced, “Made in China” gimmicks, but the pull is still there.

So I moved in for a closer look (once I was sure the coast was clear.)

I picked up the package and read about the features and benefits:

“Fill and seal 40 water balloons in seconds.”

“They automatically tie themselves.”

“No assembly required.”

“Compact design so you can take it anywhere!”

“Surely this is too good to be true,” I thought to myself.

I glanced at the price…


Yikes! I knew I shouldn’t. I couldn’t believe I was even contemplating this unnecessary and crazy purchase,

but all I could think was:

“Fill 40 water balloons in just seconds!”

No more exploding balloons. No more drenched clothes. No more numb fingers and thumbs.

I took a quick look around, pulled the package off the shelf, and hid it under the cereal boxes in my cart, just in case I ran into someone I knew. I headed for the self-checkout aisle, not wanting to deal with the pitying, self-righteous looks I was bound to get from the cashier who would never make such a foolish purchase. 🙂

I came home and after a day filled with preparations for Gracie’s Storybook Day it was time to tackle the last item on the “to do” list: the filling of the water balloons.

Rusty offered to take one for the team and help Mom with the dreaded task of filling and tying 500 water balloons.

Well, you can imagine the look of delight that came over his 13-year-old face when his cool Momma pulled out

“Balloon Bonanza!”

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“I’ve always wanted to try these!” he exclaimed with excitement.

We read the “easy to follow” instructions, attached the “no assembly needed” balloon-filler to the hose, and watched as the 40 balloons filled at one time and then popped off the end of the tubes, already sealed shut with small rubber bands.

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“Wow…amazing!” we exclaimed like the cheesy actors on the infomercial.

In a matter of minutes 120 balloons were filled.

And about 10 minutes later they were empty again.

We couldn’t believe it ( well maybe we could a little) when the balloons leaked all their water out, leaving 120 empty water balloons floating in a pool of water.

I should have known better but the pull of “easy” was too great.

The next 2 hours were spent hand-filling 300 of the 500 water balloons I already had in the closet.


They stayed filled,

and while we filled, and tied, and filled, and tied

we talked.

We talked until our thumbs were numb and our clothes were dripping.

For two hours Rusty and I sat in the yard, watching the sun set on a perfect summer evening, and had uninterrupted mother/son bonding time.

It wasn’t the quickest solution, but it was the longest lasting. Our water balloons stayed filled and we made memories that will outlast the tedious task of filling 300 water balloons.

It was also a perfect opportunity to teach a valuable life lesson:

“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”


“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.”

and most importantly…

“ALWAYS avoid the ‘As seen on TV’ aisle at the grocery store.”

If you have to hide it under the cereal in your shopping cart

you probably shouldn’t be buying it. 😉

Lesson learned.

Camping: a comedy of errors – Part 2


Saturday morning began with a prayer that Toby’s truck would start.

It did!

I called Toby to let him know that we were on our way and to see if everyone had survived at his end, only to discover that his phone had died sometime in the night and I had no way to get ahold of him. All we could do is hope for the best and start our trek north, back to the KOA campground.

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We arrived and found Toby making the best of the situation. He had made breakfast for the kids (eggs in a bag) and had taken them swimming at the pool. This is where we found them when we arrived. We left the truck running, for fear it wouldn’t start again, and let the kids play for an hour. There was so much that the campground offered that it made me sad we had to leave the camping trip early.

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What an amazing man!

What an amazing man!

The kids swam in the pool..



Enjoyed the giant inflatable water slide…

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and jumped on the air pillow trampoline.

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We fit a lot of fun into our last few hours at the camp.


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Then it was time to pack up. We began loading the trailer for the trip home and Toby backed up his truck to connect the trailer. It was at that moment we realized that the hitch was still connected to the broken down SUV!

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Of course it was. 🙂

So, Toby drove his truck back to the parking lot where my dead car lay and unhooked the hitch from the back. While he was gone I started a fire and the girls helped me make mountain pies for lunch while the boys went fishing at the pond.

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Toby finally made it back, we finished packing up, and we headed home where we tried to salvage our less than ideal set of circumstances and still make it a fun weekend for Brandon.

Stopping for ice cream on our way home.

Stopping for ice cream on our way home.

Our evening was spent having a cookout,

playing slip and slide kick ball,

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roasting marshmallows, and having fun with marshmallow tossing games.



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We ended the evening with Toby setting off leftover fireworks from the 4th of July.


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Tyler and Brandon had a campout in the living room Saturday night and enjoyed late night “brother bonding” as they visited late into the night.

Toby and Tyler took Brandon home on Sunday in Gracie’s little truck.

It was hard taking him back into an uncertain situation.

It was hard for Tyler to say goodbye.

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I only hope that despite the craziness of our weekend we were a blessing to Brandon, because I know he was a blessing to us.

Camping: a comedy of errors


This weekend was a comedy of errors,

but everyone knows we love a good comedy.

So rather than cry our way through this past weekend, we laughed.

We shook our heads and laughed.

This weekend we had Brandon (Tyler’s older biological brother) spend the weekend. I’ve shared the great heartbreak that has been Brandon’s story. This little boy has experienced more tragedy in his 13 years than most of us will face in a lifetime. He is in limbo once again as he faces yet another heartbreak. So we decided to whisk him away for the weekend and give him a weekend away from reality. The circumstances surrounding his current situation are complicated and precarious so I entered this weekend with much prayer and fasting. My prayer for this weekend was for safety , that Brandon would have a vacation from reality and just be allowed to be a thirteen year old boy without the weight of the world he has been carrying on his shoulders, and that he would feel loved.

I knew it would be a challenging dynamic adding Brandon to the mix so I finally reached past the worry I struggled with all week and I surrendered, praying to God: “Thy will be done.”

I prayed that whatever was supposed to happen this weekend would happen.

We had no idea what God had in store…

it certainly wasn’t what we had envisioned for the weekend ahead! 🙂

Friday began with Toby and Tyler leaving to pick up Bandon. Brandon lives 2 hours south of us, but with traffic it ended up taking Toby 2 1/2 hours to get there. While Toby and Tyler were gone for 5 hours we packed for our weekend camping trip.

It never ceases to amaze me the amount of work required to leave for the weekend, and the amount of STUFF needed for 8 people to head into the woods for 2 days. We worked as a team. I focused on kitchen packing and loading up food while the kids worked in the basement gathering up tents and sleeping bags. The plan was to bring two tents: a small one for the girls to sleep in and our 8 man tent for the boys and Toby and I.

We loaded up our gear in the trailer…

suitcases, blankets, towels, board games, food, tents, chairs, marshmallow sticks, cots, etc.

The plan was to take two vehicles. I was going to take the kids in my car and Toby was going to take his truck, filled with logs and pulling the trailer.

However, when Toby went to start his truck it was dead…again.

This has been a mechanical issue we have been battling for weeks now. We have had it “fixed” multiple times but it still continues to be a problem. Sometimes it starts just fine and then other times it simply does not. (Usually at the most inopportune times!)

So, onto Plan B.

Logs were moved to the trailer and everyone loaded into my SUV for the one hour drive to our KOA campground.

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When we arrived everyone was excited. Brandon informed us that he had never gone camping before. Everyone worked together to unload the trailer and begin setting up camp. The first big job:  getting the tents set up.

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The girls began working on their tent and Toby, Rusty and I began working on ours. Within minutes we knew we had an issue. Both tents were missing a pole. One pole. Each tent.

Ahhh, the comedy continues.

We were trying to  MacGyver a solution out of the two tents, our existing poles, and a stick of bubble gum when Brandon informed us that he had left his pills on the front porch of our home. The very pills his father said could not be missed. His next pill was due in the morning so at 7:30 pm, as the kids sat around the empty fire pit eating dry cereal, Molly and I began the one hour drive home to get:

Pills and Poles.

As we drove, we laughed about the irony of what was supposed to be a magical, memory making weekend for Brandon, when she made the fatal mistake of taunting fate by opening her mouth and asking,

“What else could go wrong?”


The engine began to shake. The car lost power. Then smoke began to billow out from under the hood.


I was able to coast into Portersville Christian School’s parking lot (30 minutes from home) before the car died. Oil began pouring from under the engine.


We climbed out, lifted the hood, and with the appearance of two people who knew what they were looking for, stared at the smoking engine.

“What do you think?” Molly asked.

“I think we better call Dad,” I answered.

So that’s what we did.

When Toby picked up he was in the midst of setting up the trailer as a sleeping area for the night. I told him what had happened and he replied, “Tell me you are kidding.”

“Um, Nope.”

“Well there is nothing I can do,” he replied, “All I have with me is a trailer and 5 kids.I have no way to pick you up.”

“I know,” I answered, “I’ll call a friend. Someone is bound to come rescue Molly and I.”

“What friend?” he asked in jest, “Who is going to drop everything on a Friday night and come to your rescue?”

Molly stood beside me, listening to the conversation playing out on speaker phone. She tapped me on the shoulder  with a twinkle in her eye.

“I can think of one friend,” she  interrupted as she pointed to the billboard in front of the school.


We howled. We tried to explain our laughter to Toby, but I guess you had to be there. 😉

Jesus didn’t come pick us up but he did send a friend…Miss Tauni. She graciously agreed to drop her Friday plans and rescue Molly and I. She picked us up, drove us home, and even helped us search for the pills which had been carried to the middle of the yard by the dogs.

Tauni headed home and I called Toby to let him know that I had the pills and poles and we were going to head back his way in Gracie’s little truck.

“Don’t bother coming tonight,” he said. “Instead, let’s pray my truck will start in the morning and then  if it does DON”T TURN IT OFF! If it starts you can come get us, we will load everything up, and head home before it dies again.”

So that was our plan. Molly and I were disappointed to miss out on camping but we really didn’t have any choice. Toby got dinner started at camp. Playing Mr. Mom he made the evening fun for the kids with games and s’mores and then tucked everyone in the trailer to sleep.

Tyler looks like a little coal miner. I love this dirty little boy!

Tyler looks like a little coal miner. I love this dirty little boy!

“Do you always sleep in a trailer when you go camping?” Brandon asked.

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Brandon’ first time camping.

Nope…only when you camp with the McCleerys. 😉

Stay tuned for Part 2….the saga continues!