Tag Archives: back to school

Molly’s Last Week at Home


 (Please excuse this longer than normal post…It has been quite the week!)

This week marked Molly’s last week at home before we drive her out to her school in Idaho. It has been 12 weeks since Molly graduated from highschool and it feels as though we squeezed 3 years of life into those 3 months. This past week was no exception. Our “clown car week” was two dozen experiences squeezed into a mini cooper time frame! We all had our own agenda of “one last ___” that we wanted to fit into the week, along with all the normal life busyness. Molly had her own list of things she wanted to do before leaving, and visits she wanted to fit in with friends before venturing west. 

Somehow we managed to fit it all in. It was a crazy week filled with immeasurable blessings and special memories to tide us all over until Molly’s return home.

Some of the events from the last five days include:

1. A Visit to the Homestead!

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On Sunday we drove out to Ohio for a visit with my parents and grandmother so everyone could say good-bye to Molly. Zach joined us and while there my parents presented Grace and Zach with their wedding gift.

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They received a beautiful, antique desk. They were given it early so they could take it back to their apartment and set it up.

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They weren’t the only ones to be gifted with presents of love. My parents also put together a care package for our college-bound girl. Knowing her love for their homemade salsa, they put together a basket for a salsa night with her roommates.

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While we were there we also celebrated the birthdays that fell in the last two months: Tyler and Pop Pop.

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They opened their gifts and everyone had fun trying out Tyler’s new Connect Four game.

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We enjoyed lunch in the barn and the board games that followed. All too soon it was time to say good-bye. The sadness was eased by the knowledge that we would all be reunited in a month for Gracie and Zach’s reception.

2. Everyone headed back to school!

Tuesday marked the first day of school for Tyler as a 7th grader at PA Cyber. Although the older boys were in their second week of school at 21st Century Cyber School, and Grace had returned to CCAC two weeks prior, for the sake of traditional back to school fun, we marked Tuesday as the day for pictures and treats.


In the morning, following daily devotionals, everyone received their back to school goody bags. They were filled with new school supplies and treats to enjoy during the first week of school.


For breakfast everyone enjoyed cinnamon rolls…the treat I used to soften everyone up to be cheerfully compliant about first day of school pictures! 🙂


It has been a great first week of school. Braden and Rusty are getting used to their daily 5:30 am wake-up for early morning seminary and are both becoming accustomed to their new schools. (This is Braden’s first year cyber schooling and Rusty’s first year of college classes at our local community college as part of a duel enrollment.)

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In two weeks Molly and I will begin our BYU-I classes. She will be a campus student and I will be online. Although I didn’t do a back to school photo, I did receive this letter of love in the mail from my parents after sharing that I received all A’s for my first year returning to college. As a child we would receive a dollar for every “A” we brought home on our report card. In keeping up this tradition, and as a way to celebrate my success, I received this sweet card and report card money in the mail. Oh, how I love my parents and appreciate their constant encouragement and sideline cheers as I navigate the game of life. I am blessed!

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3. Seeing how everyone measures up!

In the hallway of our home we have a cherished record of our children’s growth in the form of marked lines on the wall. It has been a tradition since moving into our home to mark our kids’ heights every Valentine’s Day. This year we were away for Valentine’s Day and missed following through with this tradition. Then life, with all its challenges began to unfold, leaving us focused on more important things and bigger issues. Six months past and we kept forgetting to make our annual marks on the growth wall.

On the first day of school we decided to “get-r-done!” After first day of school photos, everyone was measured against the wall. Grace’s line continues to remain static, as it has been for the last 3 years and Molly only grew a smidge. Rusty had an 1 1/2 inch jump this year which is impressive given he will be 18 next month, And Braden got his first mark on the family growth wall.

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This year Tyler won for the biggest growth spurt with a solid 6+ inch jump in his height!

4. Enjoying stolen moments with my silly partners in crime!

My most treasured moments of Molly’s last week at home were just the normal living moments..


Those pockets of time filled with normalcy, visiting, time spent together, and laughter…lots and lots of laughter!


5. Molly bidding her best friends good-bye.

For the last two weeks Molly had tried to make a point of fitting in a final visit with her nearest and dearest friends. Her final good-byes this week just happened to be with some of her dearest friends…Caleigh, Tatum and Irvin.

On Friday, an hour before we took to the road, she stopped by Geneva College where her friend Caleigh is attending school. They were able to have a good visit and Caleigh was able to show Molly around her new stomping grounds. It was a sweet opportunity for them to catch up and say good-bye before Molly is gone for the semester.


For her visit with Tatum she drove down to Pittsburgh where Tatum is attending Carlow to get her degree in nursing. Molly was able to see Tatum’s dorm, stroll with her through campus and meet Tatum’s new friends. It was bittersweet as they said good-bye, but Molly came home with a heart full of happiness for the blessing of seeing her best friend happy and thriving in her new role.


Her other best friend is Irvin. Irvin lives out near Gettysburg, a few hours from us. The two of them met through school and soon developed a deep and meaningful friendship through regular pen pal correspondence. It was Irvin who took her to prom and surprised her (with Tatum) with a birthday she’ll never forget. As the summer came to a close they made plans to get together before Molly headed out to Idaho for school and Irvin headed to Japan for 6 months abroad.

He called and asked permission to take Molly out on a date and then on Tuesday drove here from across the state with special plans for a special day.


The date started with a thrift store challenge. They each picked out the tackiest combination of clothing articles they could find for the other to wear on the date.


Then they headed to lunch where Irvin introduced Molly to sushi.


Their afternoon was spent talking and laughing as they widow shopped at local stores before they sat down to reminisce on their friendship journey from acquaintances to soul-deep friends.

They each brought their stack of letters written over the course of their friendship, and beginning with their first words penned and ending with their most recent correspondence, they read their words aloud to each other.


Irvin has been such a blessing in Molly’s life and I am so grateful for his example and the influence he has had on our daughter.

6. A Visit with Ozzie

On Wednesday we made our weekly trek up to Erie to visit Ozzie. Knowing this was Molly’s last week at home, I felt it important that they have one last visit before she heads off to school.

After our weekly family therapy session, we took Ozzie out for lunch. His choice was Five Guys, where we enjoyed a lunch of hamburgers and fries.

After lunch we headed over to a kitschy little attraction I read about online called Schaefer’s Auto Art.

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Here a local artist has put on display his personal works of art. These roadside sculptures are all created from old car parts, and I thought Ozzie, our resident car enthusiast, would eat this up!

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It was pretty cool and Molly’s artistic eye appreciated the photographic appeal, but Ozzie felt it was a shame that cars has to be destroyed for the sake of art. 🙂

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7. Temple trip to Palmyra


Following our visit with Ozzie, we continued our travel north to Palmyra, New York. At the start of summer, when our weekly family therapy sessions with Ozzie began, I set the goal of pairing each visit with Ozzie with a trip to the temple, thus making that weekly experience a compounded blessing.

These weekly sessions can be emotionally trying and draining, as we dig into the ugliness of Ozzie’s past trauma. I found that finding refuge in the house of the Lord, following these weekly appointments, was a way to gain solace and take a hard, weekly commitment and make it an even bigger blessing.

It became my routine to drive 2 1/2 hours every Wednesday at 8:00 am for Ozzie’s 10:30 am family therapy session. This appointment was followed by a social visit with Ozzie where we would spend an hour or two playing board games and catching up, while Ozzie enjoyed the treats I packed. Now that he is approved for off-grounds passes, our time is spent enjoying each other’s company while experiencing Erie.

After dropping him back at the RTF at 1:00 pm, I then continue my trek north. It takes an additional 3 hours to reach the temple. I typically depart the temple by 8:00pm, making it home sometime between 1:00 am and 2:00 am Thursday morning.

It has become a weekly appointment that I look forward to and a commitment that has blessed my life immensely this summer. For the last month, my girls have been accompanying me (as their schedule allows), making it an even more precious experience. This week Molly joined me and we were blessed to enjoy an hour of stillness and contemplation in the Sacred Grove before making our 6:00 scheduled temple appointments.


It was a beautiful evening with my beautiful daughter at a beautiful place!


8. And a stop at Niagara Falls:

On our way home, we found ourselves more exhausted than usual. Not surprising, given the craziness of the previous two weeks. I questioned our ability to safely make it home and ended up booking a last-minute hotel for the night after 2 1/2 hours of driving. The promise of a soft bed for only $50.00 was too much to resist.

Our hotel was located just minutes from Niagara Falls, so before we checked into our hotel, we made a quick detour over to the falls that Molly hadn’t seen since her visit as a child.

It was as awe-inspiring and breathtaking as I remembered,

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And it was a treat getting to experience it again with Molly!


9. Many Appointments!

A few final appointments filled the free moments of our week as we squeezed in trips to the eye doctor, dentist, therapist, etc. among other things. The biggest and most important errand of the week was completed by Grace and Zach. On Friday they headed to the courthouse to get their marriage license.  Now it is feeling real! We are six weeks away until the big day!!


10. Packing the car…

Thursday was Molly’s final night at home. The sisters enjoyed a slumber party together and we went through Molly’s ever-growing pile of college supplies, loading everything in the car in anticipation for Friday’s departure. Amazingly it all fit and she even left room for the suitcases of the three of us who will be escorting her out to school.


We plan on making a road trip out of the journey, revisiting some of our favorite northern stops from our bus trip three years ago, so Braden can experience a piece of what he missed out on, having not been a part of the family at the time.

Wish us luck!


Westward Ho!


School is back in Session



What a summer it has been!

As I look back on my own blogs…the recordings of all that transpired over the last 3 months… I am shocked at all the living that happened in such a short time. Our summer was filled to the brim with graduation, girls’ camp, multiple Boy Scout camps, Trek, tutoring, a wedding, and a whole lot of travel.

It has been a summer of extremes with many high highs and some hard low lows. But it has been a summer full of blessings as we have worked to get services in place for both little boys, all while making time to create some fun memories amid the chaos.

Now we are on the cusp of school beginning again. You can tell it has been a well lived summer by everyone’s acceptance and even eager anticipation of the return of school and schedules. We had a lot of fun playing this summer but we are all ready for routine.

This school year promises to be unlike any in the past as we adjust to Grace starting college and our schedule being filled with even more services and support than last year. This is a blessing. I am grateful for the access and availability of good programs to help meet my boys’ needs, but I’m still not sure how it is all going to mesh together. There will be an absurd amount of moving parts in this year’s schedule. Tyler will have two different reading tutoring sessions twice a week, both an hour away which means we will be gone from 3:30- 7:30 every Tuesday and Thursday. Both boys will continue with trauma therapy every Tuesday and Thursday morning from 10:30-12:30. In addition Ozzie is now also receiving extra therapeutic support in the form of family based therapy in which two therapist come out to the house three days a week. Add to all of that occupational therapy for Tyler, co-op on Wednesdays, church activities, piano lessons, equine therapy for the two boys, and the girls’ work schedules (Grace has now picked up another job of babysitting three days a week from 5:30 am- 8:00 am) and I’m not sure how it will all come together.  I am trusting that the gracious God who delivered these services and support to our family will also align the moving parts into a seamless schedule.

Sunday night was family night. Now that Grace has a Monday night class and Molly will be working regularly on Monday nights, we have moved family night to Sunday evenings…a time that is reserved for family. This week rather than a typical lesson, we had our annual back to school dinner.

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While everyone was laying down for Sunday naps I snuck into the dinning room to decorate the table for our dinner and lesson. I had fun tapping into my creative juices and making the table look festive with a back-to-school theme.

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For dinner I prepared our traditional Sunday meal of spaghetti with meat sauce and Caesar salad.

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The kids sat down at the table and as we ate we played a school themed trivia game to test everyone’s recall after a hiatus away from school. The game is geared more to Tyler’s age group, allowing him and Ozzie an equal shot of answering the questions as the big kids.

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After dinner we cleared away plates to prepare for the lesson part of the evening. Every year as part of our back-to-school dinner Toby and I prayerfully select a quote or a scripture to build our focus around for the upcoming school year. This year we chose the following quote by Gordon B. Hinckley:

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As we shared it with the kids we talked about the truth of that quote. It isn’t the big, life-changing moments that build our life, but rather the simple and small choices we make daily.


This led into my object lesson. We began by having everyone share something they felt they did successfully the previous school year and then share an area they would like to improve in this upcoming school year. We asked them to envision what they would like this school year to look like and then discussed what small, simple, daily decisions they needed to make to achieve that larger vision.

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Each one of the kids were given 3 Legos and asked what three goals they wanted to set for themselves that would be the building blocks for their structure of success. They wrote their goals on the Lego bricks and now will be able to use them as a visual reminder of the daily choices they are striving for this school year.

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We then completed the same exercise with a tower of 5 bricks, which will serve as the family’s goals for the year. We asked the kids what building blocks were most important for a happy, healthy home life and they came up with these 5 areas of focus. This tower of goals will sit on the window ledge in the kitchen and serve as a reminder of the choices we need to be making daily.

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Then it was time for everyone’s back to school goody bags.

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This year I went school shopping on my own and put together pencil pockets full of back to school supplies that were reflective of each child. Everyone was thrilled with their new supplies.

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Is there anything better than new pencils and empty notebooks?!

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The night ended with lemon meringue pie, Toby’s choice for the family night treat, and back to school blessings.

This year we will have a college freshman:

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A 11th grader:

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A 10th grader:

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A 7th grader:

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and a 5th grader:

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Here’s to a happy, healthy, productive, sane school year!

Let the learning begin!