Tag Archives: Rusty

Another child steps into adulthood


This week my third-born child stepped into adulthood…


With child #4 hot on his tail.

On Thursday we celebrated Rusty’s entrance into adulthood and in four weeks we will celebrate Braden’s big 1-8!

This means in a month’s time I will have 4 adult children, with one married and another successfully launched 2000 miles away. I am not quite sure how we arrived here from where we were a year ago, but somehow in the blink of an eye I have transitioned from being a mom to more adult children than underage kiddos.

Despite being up to our eyeballs in wedding preparations, I was determined to make sure that Rusty’s 18th birthday didn’t get lost in the craziness of life as we currently know it.

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With the living room floor tore up as Toby lays hardwood, and the dining room and kitchen filled with piles a wedding supplies, we had to be creative in finding an empty surface to decorate for Rusty’s party.

We pushed all our wedding piles to the outer edge of the dining room and set up the table with Rusty’s party decorations…

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Mickey Mouse themed, of course!

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And wrapped up the gifts for Rusty that were lovingly and thoughtfully purchased by his siblings.

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Rusty’s birthday morning began with early morning seminary…a high school religion class both boys attend every weekday from 6:00-7:00am. Because we have to leave the house by 5:30 to get them to class, and because waking Tyler up at 5:30 am is NEVER a good idea, we opted to wait for Rusty’s morning birthday cupcake and accompanying song until we returned home at 7:30.

Once home, Rusty was serenaded and blew out his birthday candle with Olive’s help.

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It is a tradition in our school-at-home family that on a child’s birthday they are exempt from chores and schoolwork and get to spend the day any way they wish. So while Rusty enjoyed his day off, the rest of the family spent the day at work or focused on school. Everyone arrived home by 6:30 pm, giving us plenty of time to open gifts before leaving for our 7:30 Escape Room appointment.

We began the gift giving, as is the tradition in our family, with the youngest child presenting their gift first, and concluding with the gift(s) from mom and dad.

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One of Rusty’s gifts from mom and dad was a beautiful CTR ring. It is tradition in our family that as a child moves into adulthood they receive one of these special rings to serve as a reminder of who they are, whose they are, and the importance of making the right choices now so that they can enjoy the future that they are striving for. CTR stands for “Choose the Right.”

Braden received his CTR ring a month early, as both rings arrived at the same time, so both boys were presented with their rings together. Each ring matches the man who wears it and will hopefully be a strengthening reminder of the effect today’s choices have on tomorrow’s happiness.

Once we were done unwrapping gifts we headed out for a night of fun.

Our entire family loves escape rooms, but none more than Rusty…our problem-solving, puzzle-loving kid. Gracie’s fiancé has class on Thursday evening so it was just the six of us trying to escape in under 60 minutes.


We tried out Operation: Escape Room in Monaca, and the theme of the room we booked was:

escape room


While exploring an abandoned hospital, you are accidently locked into a patient room. You have 60 minutes to escape before you lose your mind and become a permanent patient.

We really enjoyed it. It was a fun theme, well played out in a room that bordered on creepy with its abandoned hospital décor. It wasn’t as challenging as other rooms we have done in the past, but it was well planned out and themed. We really enjoyed it!

And we escaped with time to spare.


We ended Rusty’s birthday evening with Chinese take-out in our pajamas while watching Wall-E.

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It was a perfect ending to a day spent celebrating Rusty and all the things he loves best.

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Happy birthday to the son who made me a boy-momma.


You paved the way and showed me the great joy that comes from raising sons. How grateful we are for the quiet strength you show in your daily life and the gentle way you bless the lives of those around you. You have grown from a delightful boy into a gentleman, and we couldn’t be more proud to call you our son!



Rusty’s NHS Induction Ceremony


We couldn’t be prouder of child #3.

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Rusty has joined Molly and Grace as the third child to be inducted into National Honor Society.

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The induction ceremony took place on Wednesday evening, following our sweet day of fun. We arrived back at our hotel with an hour to spare before we needed to leave for the ceremony. We got all gussied up and left for the banquet which was being held at St. Anthony’s Lodge, a local restaurant/banquet hall.

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When we arrived, we quickly found our assigned table and discovered we had lucked out with seats up front, which pleased this picture-taking Momma! We were seated with Mr. Winterode, Molly’s learning coach, as well as a few other favorite teachers.

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The evening began with a buffet dinner. As we ate we had fun socializing with teachers that we don’t typically get to see face to face.

Then it was time for the induction ceremony to begin.

Rusty and the other nominees were called out of the room to get lined up and receive last minute instructions before they filed into the banquet hall.

We watched with pride as Rusty took part in the inductee procession, taking his seat in the front of the room.

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Then it was Molly’s turn to take the stage. Molly is 21st Century Cyber School’s National Honor Society president this year, so she was asked to speak at the induction ceremony. She chose to speak on one of the four pillars of NHS…the pillar of character.

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Here is what she shared with the new inductees:

“Our character is what we do when we think no one is looking.”

– H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Think for a second about what you do when no one is watching. What type of character do you have? What experiences have molded you into the person you are today? Which people around you have influenced you to have the character you have?

Character is defined as “The mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual,” which basically means that character makes us individuals. Our character helps us to be distinctive compared to the person sitting beside us, and the world needs that. Communities need individuals who have strong character to be an improving generation. Colleges look for individuals who show strongmcharacter traits and who have been shaped into outstanding students like you! It is your good character that is going to make the biggest impact in the world, both in the big moments but also the simplest times.

We all have opportunities and experiences to better learn our potential every day. My biggest experience of learning and gaining a stronger character came through a personal experience last summer.

I was accepted into The Global Leadership Adventure program. I spent 10 days in Costa Rica working with sea turtle conservation. It was a powerful experience for me because it was at that time that I learned I loved animal conservation, I love helping people and the environment, I enjoy travel, I can do hard things and I want to make a positive change in the world. Those ten days were powerful then, but every day since then I count my blessings of personal character growth that I gained from that trip.

Gaining character doesn’t have to involve traveling to a different country. It could be in the people we meet, the trials we go through, a school year, or even the everyday moments. It is all about finding our potential, worth, and individuality in the world, and then using that knowledge to bless the lives of others.

“Watch your thoughts; they lead to attitudes. Watch your attitudes; they lead to words. Watch your words; they lead to actions. Watch your actions; they lead to habits. Watch your habits; they form your character. Watch your character; it determines your destiny.”

I love the comment of how character determines your destiny. Tody I reflect on how NHS has shaped me to become the person I am today through the service opportunities I have had, leadership I’ve experienced, how much I’ve learned from other NHS members, and the opportunity I have had to be part of something bigger then myself.

What a privilege and blessing it is to be part of NHS and I proudly and gladly welcome you, new NHS members, with open arms. You, too, get the amazing opportunity to have your character shaped and molded through the experiences and service opportunities that come from NHS.

Cherish this time in NHS, because the world needs you. The world needs your strong character and outstanding personalities…

For your character defines you.

Your character can change the world.

Your character determines your destiny.

So, what will your legacy be?

The power lies in your hands.”

She did a wonderful job and it was so special that she, as NHS president, got to welcome her little brother into the NHS family in the same way Gracie, as NHS president 2 years ago, welcomed Molly into NHS as a new inductee.

Then it was time for the enlightenment ceremony; the ceremonial lighting of the inductee’s lantern of knowledge.

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This was followed by the induction pledge and the pin ceremony.

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It was such a special day and my heart was filled with gratitude that Molly and I were able to have that special time with Rusty and celebrate his hard work and his great effort in joining the ranks of students who qualified for the privledge of being a member of National Honor Society.

It was nice getting that special time with my third child, and it was good for Rusty to be able to shine and receive recognition for the exceptional young man he is. Rusty is my quiet gentleman, content to step back and let others shine, but I often worry that, in a home filled with big personalities and extreme needs, he feels unseen. This trip gave us the opportunity to allow him the chance to shine, as we celebrated him for the incredible young man he has become.

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We are so proud of you, Rusty, and love you so much!

Rusty is 17!!


Oh, how can it be that my mushy little chunk-muffin has been stretched to a height of six foot three and is now almost a man?!



My first son and only son for the longest time.

Now older brother to three younger brothers.

I couldn’t have picked a better child to fill the role of oldest son. His strength of character is just the example I’d like my younger three sons to follow.

Rusty is my quiet servant. He says little, asks for no acknowledgement or recognition, just quietly observes the needs of others and acts without being asked. He is such a blessing to me.

I rely on and depend on his strength (physical and emotional) both in opening pickle jars and in highly emotional moments. There is a steadiness that he exudes that draws people to him.

Rusty is kind. I call him a gentle giant and he is every bit that.

He is quick to smile and what a smile he has!

He has a gift with animals, especially dogs and horses. His gentle, quiet authority calms animals and makes them feel safe.

He loves problem solving and puzzle solving. He like word puzzles and riddles. His mind is quick and so is his wit. Of all my children he and I share the most similar sense of humor (which makes him hilarious!)  😉

Rusty loves to explore how things work, enjoys trivia and his favorite subject is math. He is a black and white, logical thinker. He is great in a crisis and is our family’s one-man-tech department… solving any computer/tv/electronic issue that arises.

Rusty loves all things Disney and considers Walt Disney his personal hero. Someday he’d love to work at Disney World.

For 4 years of Rusty’s life he didn’t speak a single word to anyone outside his immediate family. We did not know if he would ever have the ability to overcome the challenge of Selective Mutism and successfully navigate the world. His anxiety made speech impossible. You’d never know it today.

Rusty is a special soul. I knew it the moment he was laid in my arms and I believe it even more today…

17 years later.

When I found out I was pregnant with a son I was terrified. “I am not a ‘boys mom’ sort of mother,” I wailed. I am so glad God had more faith in my ability to raise boys that I had in myself because I would have missed out on so much. There is something special about the love that exisit between a mother and her son. It is a love different from that I share with my girls.

Rusty was my teacher. I learned to raise boys with him in my arms, and now I am the mom to four. But Rusty will always be my first baby boy. He will always hold a special part of my heart.


For Rusty’s birthday we enjoyed a fun night out at Dave and Busters. This unique restaurant is the adult equivalent of Chucky Cheese. Take away the cardboard pizza and spooky animatronic characters, add some delicious food and state of the art arcade games, and you have Dave and Busters.

It was a perfect birthday choice for Rusty.

And it was a delight to enjoy some playtime as a family.

Rusty’s birthday fell on a Wednesday. The day began with his birthday cupcake and ended with his birthday cake. Because it was a school/work day, his celebration began at 5:00 when Toby arrived home from work.

We began with gifts…



Each sibling did their own shopping and Toby and I bought our gadget loving guy a drone. He had been pondering the possibility of going to school to be a drone pilot and thought this would be a nice way to test and see if it is something he’d like to pursue.

After he was done opening gifts we headed down to Pittsburgh for a night of good eats and fun games as a family.


Because Rusty’s birthday fell on a Wednesday, we were able to take advantage of 50% off all arcade games, making Rusty’s birthday celebration more affordable for our family of eight.


Rusty had a wonderful time. I mean, can you think of a more perfect way to celebrate a 17-year-old boy’s birthday than hours of arcade games?!


We ended up all having a lot of fun and making some special memories as a family.

Happy 17th birthday Rusty!

We can’t wait to see what adventures the next 17 years holds!


Klondike Derby


While Ozzie was home this past weekend, and we were enjoying some fun by the warmth of the fireplace, the other boys and Toby were braving the cold at the Klondike Derby.

“A Klondike derby is an annual event held by some Boy Scouts of America and Scouts Canada districts during the winter months and is based on the heritage of the Klondike Gold Rush. BSA units have been running Klondike derbies since 1949.

The event varies by district, but the typical Klondike derby consists of several stations where patrols/units must test their Scoutcraft skills and their leadership abilities, earning points towards a total score. Often, one or more races are included while the Scouts navigate between stations.

The unit must transport their gear on a homemade sled pulled by the Scouts.”

This winter camporee rolls around every February, and while it is a huge hit with the 11 and 12 years old’s I have found enthusiasm for camping in freezing temperatures seems to decrease incrementally with an increase in the age of the scout. By the time the campers reach their 40’s and 50’s there is nothing but sheer determination and a heavy helping of fatherly guilt driving them to forgo their warm beds and sleep outside in freezing February weather.

Toby goes each year and while he loves camping, winter camping is not his favorite way to camp. I think he would enjoy the Winter Camporee a bit more if it was held in April or October, but he is a good sport (and a great Dad) so he continues to show up for this frigid tradition year after year.

This year was Tyler’s first year to attend officially as an 11-year-old scout. He was very excited. On Friday he helped Rusty cross off the items on their packing list while I whipped up three foil dinners for them to cook over the campfire later that night.


I was headed down to Pittsburgh to pick up Ozzie when Toby got home, and they headed out, so I didn’t have a chance to wish them well. They arrived at camp by 5:30 pm, set up, and started their fire.


Friday night was spent getting settled, starting a fire to cook on, cooking foil dinners, and playing in the snow. The boys had snowball fights and built a snowman, only to light its “hair” on fire in an attempt to melt it…such a Boy Scout thing to do. 😊


When night came Rusty slept in one shelter with the other boys in his scout troop while Tyler camped with Toby in the leader’s tent.


Toby said Tyler did well and aside from waking up around 3:00 am because of the cold, he survived his first Winter Camporee with flying colors.

The real action happened on Saturday when the scouts met up with other troops to compete in a series of skill building challenges. Our troop did really well, as they always seem to at these activities.


The challenges included the Klondike sled race,


Fire building competitions,


And two-man saw races.


For their next big scouting adventure Toby and Rusty will be heading south. This Boy Scout adventure promises to be much warmer and a tad more thrilling than the Winter Camporee. They will be headed to the Florida Keys for a 7-day sailing adventure.

It sounds incredible and is the payoff of all the hours Toby has invested in the less glamourous scouting adventures he has helped with over the years.

It will be an adventure of a lifetime and I am thrilled Toby and Rusty get to embark on it together!

Rusty is 16!!


My pregnancy with Rusty was wrought with hard emotions.

It was while I was pregnant with him that I began to experience symptoms that would later result in my diagnoses of Myasthenia Gravis. When I was two months pregnant with Rusty I began to have vision issues. By three months I was seeing double and experiencing weakness in my hands. By the time I began to show, I was having muscle weakness in all my large, voluntary muscles. What should have been a time of joy and excitement became a season of worry and fear as we searched for answers. It was a time that normally would have been filled with fun appointments to the hospital for ultrasounds of our baby, and instead was filled with appointments to the neurologist and MRIs to look for tumors or lesions on the brain. It was a season of worry for all of us as we searched for answers, and the excitement of baby #3 was pushed to the back burner.

The diagnoses of Myasthenia Gravis brought a measure of relief as we ruled out scarier and more terminal diagnoses, but also brought new feelings of grief and sadness as we processed this new, “game changing” reality. The biggest shift being the acceptance that this meant no more babies. It was not that we had actively discussed having more children, but I struggled with having that choice “stolen” from me, especially in light of the fact that the focus of that season of my life was now fully on my health and not on enjoying and relishing my last time experiencing pregnancy.

Halfway through my pregnancy we found out we were expecting a boy. This delighted Toby and terrified me. This news brought a new level of anxiety and feelings of inadequacy. I didn’t consider myself a “boy mom” and didn’t know how I would manage the trucks, toads and busyness of a boy. I thought I was doomed to be a failure to this son God was blessing me with. But He knew what he was doing and the moment I held Rusty in my arms he stole my heart.

His pregnancy was wrought with stress and chaos and yet his personality was so different than his circumstances. He was quiet and gentle and dear…a blessing far beyond our expectations.

That sweet personality has remained through his growing up years. Now our gentle giant, he remains quiet, kind, and unassuming…content to serve others with no notice and no accolades. He has been such an incredible blessing in our lives and we are so grateful 16 years ago God blessed our family with this bundle of joy!

I can look back now, at that hard season of life, and see God’s hand in every closed door. I can now discern the path He was laying for something bigger and better. At that time I felt unheard and unseen by my Heavenly Father, when in reality it was the very opposite. He was never nearer than during that dark time of life. When I felt most alone in my grief, He was in fact carrying me. I now can see the truthfulness of the song lyrics:

answered prayers

How grateful I am that God didn’t give me the desires of my heart. How grateful I am He didn’t follow my plans. How grateful I am for unanswered prayers, for had He given me what I asked for we would have never been given the opportunity to love Rusty, Ozzie and Tyler.


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On Tuesday my bouncing baby boy turned 16!

I still can’t wrap my brain around it.

We began our birthday celebration as we always do, with a morning serenade and cupcake. The birthday boy also received the traditional “free pass” from school that the kids always get if their birthday falls on a school day.

This year it worked out perfect, as Rusty had big plans for his birthday…first and foremost was wanting to taking his driving permit test. He felt prepared and was eager to take the written test. This quarter in school he has been taking Driver’s Ed as one of his classes. He has also been studying the manual and taking practice tests online, all in preparation for this big day.

Before we could head to the DMV though, first we had to gather all the required documents. We gathered his birth certificate, social security card, a blank check for his fee, and then drove to MedExpress for the mandatory driver’s physical.

Then it was off to the DMV, where we joined 100,000 other people in the waiting room, waiting for our number to be called.

After 45 minutes of playing “I spy” with Tyler in the sterile, uninspiring surroundings of the DMV waiting room…(boy what a challenge!)…Rusty was called up to the front.

He presented his paperwork and was seated at one of the computers to take his written test.

He passed!

We now have another child on the road. Just as we finish up Molly’s driving training we get to begin again with Rusty. 🙂

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“A New Set of Wheels” was the prevailing theme of this birthday, beginning with his gift from Toby and I, extending to his birthday dinner decorations,

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and carrying over to his 16th birthday party this Saturday at the roller skating rink.

Rusty received his birthday present a few days early. (I don’t think Toby could wait any longer to surprise him!) Rusty has been asking for a dirt bike for a few years…something he can use on our 52 acres of land. Feeling he was too young to consider it before, Toby only started to get serious in the search for a used dirt bike in good condition in the last 6 months. He found a great deal on one being sold a few hours away and make a trip out there to check it out a few weeks ago, bringing it home and hiding it right under Rusty’s nose for the last two weeks.

On Saturday night we told Rusty he was getting his gift early. Setting him down in the living room Toby brought out a gift bag. Rusty unwrapped it, discovering a spare part that came with his new dirt bike. Toby told him it was the first piece of his gift and the rest of the parts…that he will need to assemble… were in the front yard. With a look of confusion on his face he stepped outside.

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Confusion turned to delight when he saw his gift and realized dad was just trying to throw him off the scent.

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The next hour was spent teaching Rusty all he needs to know to enjoy his new toy safely and letting him try it out. Toby won some major brownie points with this one!

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Tyler may have been a bit jealous…he donned his own helmet and pretended his bike had a motor too. 🙂

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Tuesday evening, after Molly returned home from work, we celebrated Rusty’s birthday as a family and the kids each gave Rusty the gifts they had bought him. Each put a lot of thought into their gifts for him and were very generous in their choices. Rusty was thrilled with them all!

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Happy 16th birthday, Rusty, how grateful we are to call you our son!

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Walt Disney’s Hometown


“A Dream is a Wish you Heart Makes”


Rusty had dreamed of visiting the hometown of his hero, Walt Disney. This trip afforded us the opportunity to take him to Marceline, Missouri on his 15th birthday…

A  magical way to spend his special day!

The United States has three permanent museums devoted to Walt Disney. Each is terrific in a different way. In San Francisco, the Walt Disney Family Museum is the most spectacular—a real “E” ticket. In Central Florida, Walt Disney, One Man’s Dream, a “must see” attraction for Disney fans at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, is the most convenient to visit—at least if you’re a Walt Disney World guest. And somewhere near the center of the continental United States, the Walt Disney Hometown Museum is the most personal.


We drove into Marceline, Missouri (pop. 2230) on Monday morning and discovered a small Midwestern town that seemed trapped in time, looking much as it might have when Walt was a young boy walking down Main Street with his mother.

We arrived at the museum to find a lovely, older woman watering the flowers in the beautiful garden that sits beside the old train depot where the museum resides.

She sadly informed us that the museum was closed on Mondays. What a disappointment! We were so looking forward to this special birthday experience for Rusty.

She encouraged us to return later in the week when we were passing back through, but told us that there were other Disney sites that we could see around town, despite the museum being closed.

We decided to do just that and then return on Thursday (as we headed to Nauvoo, Il.) and visit the museum.

This woman is one of many volunteers that run the Walt Disney Hometown Museum. She also happened to be one of the volunteers that personally knew Walt Disney and his family when they lived in Marceline.

It was thrilling to hear her share stories of Walt and his life when he called Marceline home. She graciously stood outside the museum and spoke with us for 30 minutes before she went inside to get a map of Marceline, marked with the various Disney sites, to guide us around the town.

Our first stop was the Zurcher building on Main Street. Behind this building was a huge Coca-Cola sign that was there when Walt was a child. This sign became the inspiration for Coke Corner in Disneyland. A few years ago this mural was uncovered when the building that was built around it was torn down. The paint was so worn and faded that the original Coca-Cola sign was barely visible.


When Coca-Cola heard about this old sign painted on the brick wall of Walt’s hometown, and heard about its connection to Disney, they sent painters to Marceline to refurbish this historical sign for the city.


The CEO of Coca-Cola then had it photographed and turned into a Christmas card which he sent to the Disney Company for Christmas that year.

As we walked along  the Main Street of Marceline we caught glimpses of what became the inspiration for Main Street USA in the Disney Parks.


Main Street USA

Walt made the decision that every visitor to Disneyland would walk down Main Street USA, inspired by his hometown of Marceline, Missouri.

Today, you can shop at Murray’s Department store, at the same location for over 100 years (and also the store where Walt purchased his first pair of engineer overalls), and visit other quaint shops on the “original” Main Street USA.

Have lunch in the same building Elias Disney served an oyster dinner to local farmers in hopes of organizing them inot a union.

Stroll past the Zurcher building and see the original Coke mural that inspired Coke Corner at Disneyland.

See specially designed street signs that were personally dedicated by Mickey Mouse


On Main Street we also discovered the Uptown Theatre. A very special place in the Disney Story:


From there we drove over to Walt Disney’s childhood home.


Walt’s family came to Marceline when Walt was only 5 years old. They moved from Chicago in an attempt to keep Walt’s older teenage brothers out of trouble and live a simpler life on the family farm.

Walt’s father purchased a plot of land from his brother who owned land in Marceline and they proceeded to build a home and establish themselves in this small, Missouri town.


Walt lived here from age 5 to age 9. While not a long period of time, it was a time that greatly affected his life. In fact he has often said this about the town of Marceline:


Walt Disney’s childhood home is now a private residence, closed to the public. And while visitors can’t go inside there is a sign marking the home from the outside.


Behind this home sits another important part of Walt’s time in Marceline. This area is opened to the public. Just past Walt’s childhood home sits a small parking area with this sign:


It was down a grassy path that we found Walt’s Dreaming Tree.

. Daydreaming under this tree, a young Walt would observe the nature surrounding him. He later called these adventures “belly botany” and drew from these moments in his early works. He apparently never outgrew his need for inspiration from his favorite spot. On trips back to Marceline, Walt always put aside time for reflection beneath it, spending hours alone with his thoughts, back under his Dreaming Tree.

The Original Dreaming Tree, the place where Walt sat as a boy and let his imagination take him on incredible adventures, was hit by lightening a few years ago.


Instead we visited the Son of the Dreaming Tree, a sapling planted from a seedling of the original Dreaming Tree with soil brought from Disneyland and water from Disney World.

As we walked along the grassy path to Walt’s barn we passed signs that gave us even more insight into Walt’s childhood there and the significance it had in his later life.


In the barn, also known as Walt’s Happy Place, visitors are encouraged to sign the walls and leave messages of love and hope.


By his own account, Walt’s happiest childhood memories were of his time in Marceline and the family farm there. Walt and his sister Ruth spent many happy hours playing in the Barn. Visitors from all over the world have come to Marceline to spend time at “Walt’s Happy Place”, located in its original place on the Disney family’s old farm in Marceline.
Visit this very special Barn, which was rebuilt by volunteers in 2001, and leave your mark among the thousands of signatures, messages and memories already there to share with the rest of the world. There’s no doubt about it, when you come to this Barn, you’ll feel a special heart connection to Walt.


It was incredibly moving to read the words of previous visitors and witness the profound effect this humble, inspiring man has had on so many lives.

On Thursday we returned. We arrived as the doors opened and told the volunteers about our attempt to visit on Monday for Rusty’s birthday. They kindly gave him this pin as a special memento.


The visit to the museum began with a guided tour of the first floor, where the volunteer walked us through the story of Walt’s life in Marceline, beginning with his childhood in Marceline and ending with his visits back when he was an adult.


The museum is housed in the town’s old train depot. A fitting location for Walt’s museum since he was an avid fan of trains his entire life. In fact one associate said, “Walt got more joy from hearing the sound of a train whistle than he did from an arm full of Oscars.”


Later in life Walt even built a miniature train track around his California home for his daughters.


In the museum there are 3,000 artifacts from Walt’s life,



His elementary school desk where he carved his initials WD:


A car from the Autopia ride he had built in Marceline for the children of the town:


The Mickey Mouse flag he donated to be flown on the flag pole of the local elementary school:


The recording he made from the interview he did with his parents at their 50th anniversary party:


The first Mickey Mouse dolls:


and the TV he bought for his sister.

When he invited Ruth to the opening of Disneyland she informed him that she didn’t like crowds, so he purchased a TV for her so that she could watch the opening ceremonies from the comfort of her own home:


The first floor is filled with Disney movie memorabilia, hand written letters by Walt, receipts, and other family heirlooms. It really is a treasure for Disney fans!


Upstairs contains a replica of Walt’s front porch and the story of him convincing his younger sister to paint the house with tar,


A replica of his childhood classroom,


a piece of the original Dreaming Tree,


and a miniature model of Disneyland.


We fell in love with Marceline, Missouri and made some magical memories in this place that was the root of  so much Disney Magic.

Happy 15th Birthday, Rusty!


On Monday Rusty turned 15 and we celebrated our second birthday on this trip. The road trip began with Tyler’s birthday celebration and it is coming to a close with Rusty’s birthday.

We began our day with our family tradition of waking up the birthday kid with a cupcake and the birthday song.


Rusty had requested certain foods for his meals throughout the day. The birthday menu began before we left Branson for the four hour drive to Marceline, Missouri. He asked for bacon and an oatmeal bar for his birthday breakfast.


So we laid out all the toppings for the “create your own” oatmeal station.


Then we were on the road, headed to Marceline, Missouri, Walt Disney’s hometown, to visit the  Walt Disney Hometown Museum for Rusty’s birthday. Rusty considers Walt Disney his personal hero and has a dream of one day working for the Disney company, so it seemed wonderfully fitting to spend his special day at the home of Walt Disney.


We arrived in Marceline and easily found the Walt Disney Hometown Museum, unfortunately in all our planning we never took note that it was closed on Mondays! All was not lost. We did visit Marceline, MO but we split our visit into two parts, and had to return a few days later.


(I will share our visit to Walt’s Hometown in the next blog)

The result was an open day and no special plans for Rusty’s birthday, so we improvised…

and we headed into Kansas City.

We had already planned on dinner at the T-Rex Café in Kansas City so we drove there first for an early dinner.


Rusty had eaten at a T-Rex café on our Disney World Trip, loved it, and was looking forward to revisiting it. Ozzie and I had never been to a T-Rex Café before since the family had eaten there during the 3 day period of our Disney Trip that Ozzie and I were down with the flu,

so we were really excited to see what all the hype was about.

The T-Rex Café is themed around dinosaurs.


From the moment you step through the door you are greeted by animatronic giants that make you feel as though you have stepped into a prehistoric world.

There are different dining rooms, each themed a bit differently. There was the fern room,  the ice age room, and the sequoia room.


We found ourselves eating in the ocean area,


and dining beneath a giant octopus.


T-Rex Café is as much about the atmosphere as it is about the food,


although the food was equally delicious!


Rusty chose the “Make your own pizza” option and had a T-Rex approved pizza… topped with MEAT!

He chose to top his pizza with BBQ sauce, chicken, pepperoni, and bacon.


At the end of the meal they brought out a cupcake and sang to Rusty.

After the meal we surprised Rusty with a fun, very Rusty-esque experience. Rusty loves mind-benders, puzzles and riddles. So we found the PERFECT birthday experience for our puzzle master….The Escape Room!


These escape room experiences are popping up all of the country and are become the fun alternate entertainment to movie or bowling nights. The premise behind these rooms is to put you into an interactive scene that you have to figure your way out of in a set amount of time. These rooms require problem solving, a keen sense of observation, critical thinking skills and a whole lot of team work.

Here is a little more of an overview as taken from their website:


The best team is a group of people who can work together. Teamwork is a must when you play this game. You can come in groups of 2 and up to 16 people, depending on the room. The more players – the more chances you have to get out in time.

  • 60 MINUTES

    The team has 1 hour to escape from the room. Time is of the essence. There is a counter in every room, which shows how much time you have left to escape.


    There are a lot of puzzles hidden in every room. You and your team need to find and solve them in order to escape. These are not brain-crashing puzzles, but aren’t childish riddles either.


    You have to find codes and crack them, or use them on several combination locks, in order to open boxes, crates or doors. Codes are not in obvious places. You need to seek them.


    If you ever played room escape game on the internet, it’s the same thing but in real life, and the player inside it is YOU. Live escape is the new fun entertainment you must try!

  • FUN

    When you try one of our escape game rooms, you will get addicted. Its an absolutely joyful, fun and adrenaline raising fun activity, for a price of a movie. Come and try it, and you will come back to the other rooms.


The escape room we chose to book was:



This is a safe house of a secret agent. He was spying on a traitor who stole the agent list from his own agency. Your mission is to find out who the double agent is and turn the information over to the director before safehouse is compromised. You only have 60 minutes.

We arrived and were given the rules of the game. One of which was no photography (so you don’t spoil it for the next guests) and no using smart phones to help solve the clues.

It was a blast!

We were locked in the room and began scouring the shelves for clues. The set up was incredibly creative. We had to take apart a camera to find a clue within, use found combinations to unlock a safe hidden behind a painting, and observe to spy’s obvious love of photography (by the many cameras around the apartment) to figure our that we needed to look up the word “photography” in the encyclopedia that sat on the shelf to find a photo that led to our next clue.

We had to use a black light to find codes painted on the wall, use a mirror to reflect a laser beam to a spot on the wall, and unscramble letters to come up with the rouge spy’s name.

It was a thrilling, fast paced, adrenaline filled experience.

Just when we would think we were opening the door with the right code, another hidden door (behind a painting or mirror) would open, leading us into another room with more clues.

If we got stuck the puzzle master (an employee who is watching you in the room via hidden cameras) would type additional clues or hints onto the TV screen in the corner.

We did escape…with four minutes to spare!

And the first thing Tyler said as we ran out of the room:

“Can we do it again?!”

Everyone LOVED it!

What a fun family adventure!

*Smile More*


It is a rare occurrence when Rusty asks for something. His is my laid back, easy going, go-with-the flow kid. Happy with whatever is given to him, he rarely asks for anything special, so when he approached us with a special birthday request we perked up with curiosity.

His request was a surprise for many reasons. Like I said, he doesn’t typically make special requests. There is also the matter of the fact his birthday is still months away. The real surprise, however, was the request itself. He asked if he could receive his 15th birthday gift early. My first thought was, ‘Well that would actually be very convenient,’ since we will be traveling on his birthday and I was already trying to figure out where in the bus to stow away party supplies and birthday gifts.

We asked what he had in mind and he told us. There is a YouTube vlogger he likes to watch by the name of Roman Atwood. His videos center around his daily life, but what he is best known for is his prank videos. You may remember one of his videos that circled around Facebook a year ago in which he filled his home with ball pit balls. His tagline is “Smile More” and Rusty really enjoys his videos.

 Rusty found out that he was coming to Pittsburgh in a show entitled Roman vs Fousey, and he really wanted to go. After looking into it we decided that Toby, Rusty and I would go together and make it his early birthday gift.

Rusty was beside himself with excitement and in the days leading up to the show he decorated a t-shirt to wear to the event. He was attending as a supporter of Team Roman in this Roman vs Fousey event.

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The show was held at the Byham theatre in downtown Pittsburgh.


When we arrived there was already a line wrapped around the building as fans waited to get in. I had no idea it was going to be such a popular show!

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Most of the crowd was made up of 10-16 year old boys and their parents. We went in and found our seats. It was a fun treat to be so close to the stage.  We took a few photos before the show began knowing that we wouldn’t be able to take pictures during the show.


The show was basically a showdown between two popular YouTube stars that also happen to be friends: Roman and Fousey. Roman is known for his “Smile More” prank videos while Fousey tends to do more social experiment videos. Grace really enjoys Fousey’s videos and was a bit jealous that Rusty was getting to see him live.


For the show the two YouTubers would pick random challenges to compete in (all silly) and the winner (based on audience applause would earn points.) Mixed into the challenges were moments of reflection where the two vloggers would share some of their personal stories and encourage their fans. The prevailing themes were loving yourself, spreading kindness, chasing your dreams and making a positive difference in the world.

Like Rusty, the majority of the crowd was there to cheer on Roman so in the end he was the winner. Rusty loved it and I loved sitting back and watching him while he watched the show. It was fun to see him so excited.

At the end of the show Toby let him pick out a t-shirt souvenir from the show as the icing on the cake to this ultimate birthday gift. It was fun having this rare one on one time with Rusty and I think it was fun for him to have an evening of Mom and Dad’s undivided attention.


The following morning Rusty brought the computer into my room eager to show me the footage of the previous night’s show on Roman’s vlog. As the camera scanned the audience Rusty could be seen wearing his white fedora…an intentional, calculated fashion choice knowing audience footage would appear of the vlog and wanting to be able to find himself in the crowd.

Oh, how I love that big boy of mine. I love watching my kids delight in their own interest and fandoms even when I don’t always understand the appeal myself. It is part of the fun journey towards seeing who they are growing up to be, and I am so grateful I got to be part of this stop along that road.


You’re never fully dressed without a SMILE


Thursday was a BIG day at Patchwork farm. It was a day filled with so much to report that I must break our day into three posts. The first big event of the day revolved around Rusty.

It was Molly’s 16th birthday, and much was planned for her special day, but before we could begin celebrating the birthday girl we first had an appointment to keep…

With Dr. G, our well loved orthodontist.

After two years of being a “brace face” Rusty’s pearly whites were being set free from their metal shackles, and it was time to see what our big bucks paid for.

It was an early morning appointment. His appointment was at 8:10 but we had to leave by 7:10. Before leaving we gave him his “Your braces are finally off” gift, a basket filled with sticky, chewy candy and gum that he has had to abstain from for the last two years, as well as a new toothbrush and floss to go with all those sugary treats. 🙂

He put on his Dr.G shirt, gathered two years worth of Chuck Bucks, and we drove to our appointment. I knew he was facing the removal of his braces with mixed emotions. He was excited to have the braces removed but a bit nervous about the actual procedure to remove the brackets.

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When we arrived Rusty checked in and was quickly whisked back to a chair to begin his transformation.

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Soon I was called back for the reveal and to go over follow-up instructions and retainer care.

I couldn’t believe how his looked had transformed. He looked so different from the 12 year old he was when the braces went on, not to mention the transformation from thirty minutes earlier as my son with braces.

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Rusty age 12.


Dr. G, you do beautiful work!

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Then Rusty was given a treat bag and allowed to fill it with previously “forbidden” candies the staff had laid out in buckets by the front desk for the patients that were having their braces removed that day.

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Then it was time for Rusty to cash in his Chuck Bucks.

Chuck Bucks are:

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Rather than spend his Chuck Bucks on smaller prizes Rusty decided to save his up for the last two years. He had 100 bucks to spend and he knew just what he was going to cash them in for…

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A $25.00 ITunes gift card.

He has been wanting the Walt Disney World Official Album  (a soundtrack to all the music that plays on the various rides at Disney World- Rusty’s favorite place on earth!) for months now and just needed the funds to purchase it. His Chuck Bucks made the purchase possible and he was thrilled!

After we were done at the orthodontist’s office we headed to the grocery store for some post-braces purchases. I asked Rusty a few weeks ago what foods he has missed eating most since he has been in braces. He told me the top three foods he missed were:

Eating apples (uncut), corn on the cob, and popcorn.

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So we picked up those three items for his celebration lunch.

Then it was home to show off his new smile to the other kids.

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Lookin’ good, Russ!

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Showing off his new retainers 🙂

Boy Scout Klondike Derby


“A Klondike derby is an annual event held by some Boy Scouts of America districts during the winter months and is based on the heritage of the Klondike Gold Rush BSA units have been running Klondike derbies since 1949.

The event varies by district, but the typical Klondike derby consists of several stations where patrols/units must test their Scoutcraft skills and their leadership abilities, earning points towards a total score.”

This weekend was the Klondike Derby for the Boy Scouts in our area. Rusty’s troop was one of the troops participating in this fun overnight campout and competition. Toby joined Rusty, one other leader, and a few more scouts in representing our troop.


The Derby was held at Camp Baker, a scout camp about twenty minutes from our home.

It was a cold night and I fell even more in love with my husband as he set aside his own desires and the warmth and comfort of his own bed to camp outside with a bunch of scouts on a cold Friday in January. He is a GOOD man!


Despite the cold temperatures the boys had a blast. Our troop was only participating for half the events because of another church actity on Saturday night.

The competed with the other troops in orienteering, knot tying, the two person saw race:


Fire starting (Their team won that event!):


and even competed in the Klondike Sled race despite not having their sled. The sled was not brought over because they thought that event was happening after they had to leave, so when the discovered that they would be there for the event, rather than sit it out, they improvised with a human sled.


One scout was the sled, one was the pusher, one was the puller, and one was the rider.


They didn’t win but they made some fun memories!

Rusty arrived home eager to tell me about his Klondike adventures and then it was on the road again for the next big activity for the weekend: Ice Skating!