Tag Archives: ornament exchange

“Twas the Night Before, the Night Before Christmas”


Ozzie has returned home for the holidays.

On December 22nd I drove the two hours to pick him up for a week-long visit home. I arrived by 2:00 pm, just in time for our family session with his therapist. After his therapy session we were free to go. As soon as we got in the car Ozzie asked if he could open the Christmas gift he received from the unit. Each of the boys there receive gifts for Christmas. For the young men that can return home for Christmas a single gift is given to them before they leave, but for those boys that must remain for the holiday a pile of gifts is purchased for each of them and will be waiting for them under the house Christmas tree when they awake Christmas morning.

Ozzie opened his gift and was thrilled to receive a new Lego set!

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On the drive home we stopped to do a little shopping. Ozzie still needed to get his Christmas shopping done for family, so I took him shopping on our drive home so that he could buy gifts and do his Christmas wrapping the following morning before our family Christmas gift exchange on Saturday night.


We arrived home in time for dinner. The girls were gone for the evening at their co-op Christmas sleepover, so it was just the boys at home. We had a quiet evening relaxing, enjoying a family dinner, watching Christmas movies, and trying Buster’s magical rainbow trick he left us in the night..

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The girls were both working on Saturday, so they went straight from their sleepover to work while the boys wrapped gifts and helped pack up all the gifts and supplies we needed to take to the Homestead on Christmas Eve.

It was a quiet, but productive day at home. When the girls got home we prepared for our family gift exchange. This is a tradition that just began in recent years when the older kids asked if they could give us our gifts before our Christmas with extended family. It was such a special experience that it has become a family tradition that we simply added to our already existing tradition of exchanging ornaments on December 23rd.

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After dinner we gathered in the living room to read one of my favorite Christmas books, “The Night Before the Night Before Christmas.” It is a delightful read that makes us all laugh, as we can easily relate to the family’s mishaps and all that goes wrong in the days leading up to Christmas. We enjoy reading it every December 23rd.


Then it was time to exchange gifts. We began with our annual ornament exchange. Every December 23rd we give the kids (and each other) a new ornament reflective of their personality, likes, or interests at this point in their lives. This growing collection will then get to go with each child when they move out, giving each of them a nice start to their own Christmas tree decorations.

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Here are each of our new ornaments for 2017:

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Tyler’s ornament was a Rock and Roll Santa that plays music and dances…so perfect for Tyler!

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Ozzie was thrilled with his car ornament. Aside from weather and maps, cars are his other great passion. I found there were very few weather or map related ornaments to choose from, so cars it was!

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Rusty’s #1 passion is all things Disney, so I was thrilled to find this charming vintage looking lunch box/thermos set for his ornament.

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The moment I laid eyes on this charming scene of the rabbit reaching for the carrot I knew it was the perfect ornament for Miss Molly, my dear tenderhearted one.

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Grace is our resident “Buddy the Elf.” She loves all things Christmas and would, if it was socially acceptable, have a tree up and stockings hung all year long!

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I chose this particular ornament for Toby because it is so reflective of what I love most about him. I love that through his quiet example our sons are learning what it means to be a good, hard working, loving, kind man simply by watching the way Toby lives his life. I love the way Toby has opened his heart to boys another man sired, taken them in and helped them find the love withheld from them by their own biological fathers, showing them what it really means to be a ” man.” A real man doesn’t hurt others. A real man helps others. He loves them as if they were his by blood, and I love the way the boys want to be like him.


Every year Toby buys me an angel ornament to add to my collection. 

Following our ornament exchange each of the kids took turns handing out the gifts they bought/made and wrapped for each sibling, and for Toby and me. We went oldest to youngest this year with Grace handing out her gifts first.

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Olive was a little jealous that there was nothing under the tree for her.

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For Rusty, she purchased a Winnie the Pooh t-shirt from Etsy and then made Rusty a Pooh baseball cap. Using her Pooh autograph from our trip to Disney World as a reference, she copied his signature and hand embroidered Pooh’s autograph on the mustard yellow hat.

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For Tyler and Ozzie, she came up with the clever idea of buying them each their own huge roll of bubble wrap. It was their favorite gift of the night and immediately they rolled out the plastic wrap and the popping began.

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It started with stomping:

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Then there was rolling:


Next came some leaps:

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And finally, some fancy dance moves atop the bubble wrap dance floor that covered the living room floor.

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We really should have ended the evening with Gracie’s gift rather than beginning with her gift. It was hard to pull the kids back to the party!

Then it was Molly’s turn to hand out gifts.

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Molly bought Grace a recipe box and then copied all our favorite family recipes to include with it.

Ozzie was thrilled with his gift from Molly, the most recent release of his favorite book series.

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Unlike the girls that now have disposable income to spend on Christmas gifts, Rusty had to rely on repurposed objects and creativity for his Christmas gift giving, but it certainly didn’t work against him. He had some of the most creative gifts of the night and we all appreciated the time, energy and great love he put into his gifts!

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I received an erasable menu board for my kitchen:

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Tyler received a tic-tac-toe board Rusty made him out of a wooden board and slices of cut tree branches for the game pieces.

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Ozzie’s gift revolved around two of Ozzie’s passions: matchbox cars and Legos. Using a piece of leftover board ,Rusty fastened a Lego board in the center for Ozzie to build Lego creations onto and then added a road around the edge of the board allowing Ozzie to play with his matchbox cars. It was a perfect gift for Ozzie…so thoughtful.

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The two little boys did their shopping at Dollar Tree. I took each one shopping individually and set them loose in the store to do their own Christmas shopping. They loved it! It is always such a joy to see what the boys purchase for each family member. It gives me a lot of insight into how each of us is seen through their eyes.

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It was a perfect evening with my little family. It was wonderful having everyone home, together, gathered around a burning fire in the fireplace and a tree decorated with the twinkling of lights and ornaments of years’ past.

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December 24th, we leave for the Homestead for a joyful Christmas celebration with our extended family. It promises to be another blessed family holiday.

We hope your Christmas was filled with peace, joy, and the love of family and friends. As we count our blessings this Christmas season please know we count you among our greatest gifts.

Merry Christmas from Patchwork Farm.

‘Twas the night before the night before Christmas


‘Twas the night before the night before Christmas

And all through the house

EVERY creature was stirring,

Probably even a mouse.

It was December 23rd, the night we celebrate our little family’s Christmas at home before joining our extended family in Ohio for Christmas.

Our “night before the night before Christmas” traditions have evolved over the years. It started out as the night we exchanged our yearly Christmas ornaments, but in the past few years it has evolved into something more.

It is now the night we exchange family gifts, with the exception of the gifts the kids receive from Toby and I on Christmas morning.

This new tradition came about as a result of the kids getting older and us wanting to highlight the thought and effort they put into the gifts they give each other.

When the kids were little I would set aside a day to take them Christmas shopping at Dollar Tree where they were each given $10.00 to shop for family members. This was something they looked forward to. I remember the excitement they felt as they pushed a cart independently through the store, secretly stashing gifts under their coat that acted as a cover to prying eyes. They felt so grown up as they checked out by themselves, handing over their ten-dollar bill to the cashier.

This is a tradition I have continued with Tyler and Ozzie but the older kids now execute their Christmas magic on their own, planning and preparing for weeks to come up with the perfect gift for each family member. Most of their gifts are handmade with a lot of thought and love going into each gift.

A few years ago they asked if we could exchange these family gifts on the 23rd when it was just our little family. The tradition started then and has continued ever since and has become one of my favorite Christmas traditions.

Exchanging gifts apart from the large pile of gifts from family and Santa under the tree allows us to really enjoy and appreciate the gifts that the kids all put such love into, without having to rush through the experience or having their gifts lost in the chaos of Christmas morning. It also allows siblings to really appreciate and express appreciation for each other’s smaller gifts without those gifts losing their value to the larger, more commercial,  Santa gifts.

The kids couldn’t wait for Toby to get home on Friday night. Their gifts were all wrapped and in the living room, ready to be handed out.

Toby arrived home at 7:00pm. We had a homemade soup and bread dinner and then it was time for our family Christmas celebration. We began by handing out an unexpected gift to each of the kids. Normally the only gift the kids receive from the parents on December 23rd is their ornament so when we handed out large clothing boxes they were confused.


Most years the kids receive new PJs on Christmas Eve to wear to bed. This year I decided to give them their PJs a day early so they could wear them for our family Christmas and enjoy them a day early.

 I couldn’t remember when I had been so excited by my PJ purchase. This year I found onesie character PJs for all the kids, each matching their personality perfectly. I couldn’t wait for them to open their boxes and I wasn’t disappointed by their response.


Don’t they all look adorable?!


After everyone had changed into their Christmas PJs and were snuggly warm we began exchanging gifts. We went from youngest to oldest, allowing Tyler to hand out his presents first. The gifts were handed out one at a time so that everyone could see what was given to each family member.


The little boys were thrilled with the gifts they found at Dollar Tree and couldn’t wait to hand out their presents.


The older kids all spent the month of December shopping for each other and working on their homemade gifts. I was blown away by the time, talents, and thought they invested in their gifts.


The little boys received a sled and mittens from Grace and Molly:


Grace received the Kim Possible movie, one of her favorite shows as a little girl, from Molly :


Grace made Molly a fandom bag containing a lot of small gifts that were nods to some of their favorite movies and books (all homemade):


Molly bought Rusty a Pokémon hat and Grace painted him a Disney Magic Kingdom corkboard for displaying his Disney pin collection:


I received crocheted washcloths from Molly, hand decorated Christmas plates from the girls and Tyler, handmade drink coasters from Rusty, and an angel figurine from Ozzie.


This year Toby and I also exchanged gifts with each other early. We kept things small and simple this year with the big bus trip we took in the fall being the real gift we all enjoyed early, but I did find this “Lego”treasure for Toby:


After everyone finished handing out their gifts we exchanged ornaments. I took care of everyone’s ornaments this year. Toby was out of town so our usual date to shop for the yearly ornaments was skipped this year, allowing me to come up with a secret plan that could include Toby’s ornament.

This year I had ornaments made through Shutterfly. Each person received a cube ornament that contained six photos on the six sides of the cube. The biggest event in all our lives in 2016 was our cross-country bus trip so I knew that had to be the theme of this year’s ornaments. I picked six photos from each person’s favorite National Park to create their memory ornament.

They turned out even better than I expected and I know they will be a treasure for years to come as the kids reflect back on that special experience..


We ended our evening with family devotionals, Christmas carols, and the reading of a Christmas story.


It was a perfect way to slow down, reflect on the reason for the season, and appreciate the greatest of gift of Christmas… Family.

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!