Tag Archives: birthday party

Solar Eclipse 2017



The last time I witnessed a partial solar eclipse was in elementary school. I remember sitting on the black top outside the cafeteria with 100 other cross-legged students staring into our cardboard boxes. It was a big deal. The hype leading up to it was focused primarily on the rarity of such an event and the great danger of glancing upward without our cardboard shield to keep us safe. Our teacher made it very clear that our eye balls would melt into puddles of goo and run down our cheeks if we dared look into the face of God.

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The hype leading up to this solar eclipse, decades later, was 100 times greater, due in large part to the inclusion of the entire nation in this natural phenomenon, but also because we are a nation of people more connected and better informed by the information super highway.

When we first heard hype of this upcoming event we threw around the idea of traveling 8 hours south to the path of totality. Here in Pittsburgh we were in line to witness 80% coverage of the sun as the moon crossed its path, but the opportunity to experience 100% coverage for those few minutes when the sun would be covered by the moon, and day would turn to night, was so tempting.

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Unfortunately, despite our efforts to make it work there were just too many conflicts (like work schedules and Gracie’s first day of college classes) that made it unfeasible. Later we received witness of God’s hand in those obstacles when events occurred that made us grateful we were close to home.) I was placated by the knowledge that we can have a do-over in 7 years when our area of the country will experience another solar eclipse, with the path of totality only 1 ½ hours away from where we live.


All was not lost, however. There was an awesome Plan B in the works when Tyler (and family) were invited to his friend, Tiernan’s, solar eclipse themed birthday party. It was an awesome way to celebrate Tiernan and enjoy the eclipse with friends.

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The Stone family went all out in embracing the eclipse theme.

I love a good party theme!

There were eclipse themed snacks like Sun Chips. Eclipse themed drinks like Sunny D and Capri Sun. Even the treat bags were themed.

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The eclipse lasted for a couple hours but peaked with its maximum coverage at 2:35 pm. In the time leading up to 2:35 the kids enjoyed all the fun to be had at their home.

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There were animals to love,

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A pool to cool off in,

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And lots of kids to play with.

We didn’t see Tyler almost the entire party, as he and all the other little boys were involved in an epic Nerf gun battle.

The other kids enjoyed playing and spending time with their co-op friends.

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As the peak of the eclipse neared the kids were all called over and everyone put on their solar shades and got into position for the show.

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And what a show it was.

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What an amazing site!

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My 39-year-old self had much greater appreciation for what I was witnessing then my 9-year-old self did when I was watching it with a cardboard box on my head.

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It was so cool, not only in that moment but also in the aftermath, as friends from one side of the country to the other all began sharing their photos of the event. The uplifting posts and beautiful reflections on this awe-inspiring event that were posted on social media in the days following the eclipse were a welcome diversion from the ugliness of this past year.

Our celebration concluded with pizza and cupcakes.

Even the cupcakes (made by the talented Olivia Hudak) were reflective of the party theme with sun cupcakes and moon cupcakes to pick from.

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It was an awe-inspiring event and an “out of this world” birthday party!

There she glows!



This month Molly turned 16 years old, and with this monumental birthday she asked if she could have a sweet 16 party. She decided that she wanted a laid back/ “hang out” sort of night with all her high school-aged friends from co-op and church. She told me that what she really wanted was just to have everyone over for a bonfire and night games.

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The planning for her requested party was easy, for which I am eternally grateful since it came on the heels of a very hard week. Her birthday party was scheduled for Saturday night but the days leading up to that birthday were filled with PSSA testing, therapy sessions, doctor’s appointments, lessons, a Relief Society un-birthday party, babysitting our three little friends that lost their grandmother this week, and helping plan a memorial service. It was a long, hard week, but through the struggle I felt myself lifted, sustained, and strengthened by a power beyond my own. I am grateful for the strengthening power that came from the prayers of many and a loving Heavenly Father…

Because the fact I was still upright and functioning when Saturday arrived was nothing short of a miracle!

Even on Saturday (in the hours before the party) we were still running in a hundred directions as we cared for three extra kids, had a soccer game to attend, and a bio sibling visit for Ozzie in Cranberry with his little sister. In between running hither and yon,  our time was spent getting the house and yard ready for the party. I was VERY grateful we scheduled Molly’s party for 7:00- 10:00 pm and not earlier in the day!

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At 6:30 the first friends began to arrive and through God’s good grace we were ready for their arrival. We pulled it off. I felt such joy that we were able to give Miss Molly, who does so much to love and serve others, this special evening in which we could celebrate her.

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The party began around the bonfire where the kids roasted hot dogs to enjoy with their chips, fruits and veggies.

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For dessert Molly opted to not have a traditional birthday cake, but rather a S’mores bar instead. She picked a creative mix of cookies and chocolate bars to experiment with in addition to the traditional graham crackers and Hershey bars that were available.

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She had such a great mix of kids there and I was pleased to see how well the kids from church and co-op intermingled. I know Molly was concerned that with the mixing of church friends and co-op friends that someone might feel left out, but everyone seemed to have fun.

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When the sun began to set Molly handed out glow stick bracelets and necklaces for the glow in the dark night games she had centered her party planning around.

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We even managed to find this cute $5.00 t-shirt to go with her party’s theme.

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The remainder of the evening was spend playing night games, like capture the flag, in the darkness of the front yard. As I sat by the fire with Toby, watching the streaks of neon pink, yellow and green race through the yard, accompanied by the sound of shouts and laughter, I couldn’t help but feel an incredible measure of gratitude and happiness.

The night concluded with Molly opening gifts around the fire before everyone’s rides arrived. It was touching to see the level of  care that went into the gifts for Molly. They were all so thoughtful and personal.

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One of her guy friends even baked her a loaf of homemade bread!

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Molly’s 16th birthday party was a “glowing” success.


How grateful I am for Miss Molly and the way she lights up our lives!


…And now I think we will  go to bed and sleep for the next 16 years…

What a week!

Gracie got her wheels and is ready to roll!


Saturday was the  much-anticipated night of Gracie’s 16th birthday party. She has been talking and dreaming about her sweet 16 for many months and finally it was here. When she first approached us about wanting do have a party she didn’t know what she wanted to do, only that she knew she wanted it fun,  light-hearted and a “girls only” night. She finally asked if she could have a skating party. We found a small, privately owned rink near us that we were able to rent out for the evening. The following weeks were spent preparing for the party as Grace made invitations, wrapped party favors (knee high socks) and planned out all the fun details that come with party planning.

Gracie's invitation

Gracie’s invitation

The night of her party we packed up the car and truck and drove over to the rink to set up. Gracie wanted the decorations to be colorful and fun.



For drinks Gracie wanted “old-fashioned” sodas with paper straws as well as bottled water. She wrapped her water bottles with gummi bear tape to make them more whimsical.


Since the party was after dinner she just wanted chips, candy and cupcakes to eat.


Her favorite part of the party decorations was the photo booth.




After everyone arrived the skating began. There was a fun mix of free skating as well as party games like limbo and four corners.

Ozzie Limbos

Ozzie Limbos

There was a wide variety of skating ability among the girls. Some were pros and some had never skated before. It was fun to see how much everyone improved after two hours on skates.


At the end of the evening Gracie opened her gifts. This was one of her gifts…just in time for driving lessons to begin. 🙂


One of her creatively wrapped gifts!

One of her creatively wrapped gifts!

At the end of the night Gracie’s declared it the best birthday party ever. It was a perfect night of fun with a wonderful group of friends.


Happy 16th birthday Miss Grace!!



The Blessing of Friends


This weekend was one of those weekends where everything hit at once. Somehow we managed to fit a mass of fun into a mere 48 hours and now that the weekend is done I feel like I need another weekend to recover from this past weekend! 🙂

Preparations for our fun-filled weekend began on Wednesday with date night. It was Tyler’s week to go grocery shopping and out to dinner with me while the other kids stayed home. I usually try to time date nights so that when we have a holiday or party coming up I take one of the girls grocery shopping. They can handle the longer shopping night better than the boys and are a better help when it comes to helping me party plan and shop. This time, however, it worked out that it was Tyler’s week. I was a bit nervous of how he was going to hold up since in addition to our weekly grocery shopping I had shopping to do for Rusty’s birthday party, Halloween shopping, shopping for Sunday dinner company and supplies  needed for a youth fireside at our house on Sunday night. I knew it was going to take twice as long as a “typical” date night and was worried Tyler would start to melt down before we hit the frozen food aisle, but to my surprise and pleasure he was a champ! Not only did he hold up but he was a huge help as we picked out treats for Rusty’s party. As we waited in line to check out he visited with me and helped me unload the cart. Once again I was amazed at how far he has come and how much he has matured in the last year.

After shopping we went to dinner. Tyler chose Wendy’s for his date night. It was an extra fun date night. They were giving out balloons to all the kids so Tyler picked a green one. He ordered a kid’s meal for dinner and was pleased to find out he got the toy he was hoping for…the Donkey drinking straw and ears. As we were leaving someone gave him a coupon for a free frosty. He couldn’t have been happier!

Tyler as Donkey.

Tyler as Donkey.

On Friday Rusty had his birthday sleepover. The theme for his party was Minecraft, a popular computer game with the boys. He was inviting friends over and they were all bringing their laptops so that they could spend the evening playing together in the virtual world.  When we allow the kids to have a birthday party with friends, which isn’t every year only milestone birthdays, we give them a budget for their party. They can use it however they wish. The girls typically will use their budgets for a craft, decorations or party favors. When I asked Rusty what he wanted to get for his party he chose to keep decorations to a minimum, the idea of a craft or games were vetoed, and instead all his budget went to food..typical boy. 🙂  He decided that he wanted a variety of snacks with a Minecraft theme. He went online and printed off pictures of items found in the game and then found snacks to match the tags. He had a lot of fun with it.

Minecraft snacks..

Minecraft snacks..



Rusty asked Gracie to make the cake which she happily agreed to. She wanted it to look like a Minecraft world which is composed of squares and straight edges so she used Rice Krispy treats to make a hillside and then added some of Rusty’s snack items to the cake as well. The end result was perfect. Rusty was thrilled.


At 6:00 the boys began to arrive and the girls were picked up for their night away at their best friends’ home. Toby brought home pizza for dinner and then Rusty opened his gifts. The gifts were all so thoughtful and perfect choices for Rusty. One of the gifts was a Minecraft theme. His friends bought him a Steve head and filled a box with drinks and snacks they had labeled with Minecraft terms like “potion of fire resistance” and “potion of instant health.” It was so creative!



The rest of the evening was spent playing Minecraft. Rusty let Tyler join the big boys. Toby and I went to our bedroom to watch a movie. It was so funny listening to them in the livingroom. You would have though a full contact football game was taking place outside our bedroom door by the way they were all hooting and hollering. I peeked out and all the boys were sprawled around the livingroom playing together in their virtual world. It was so different than a girls’ sleepover! 🙂 Eventually we had to be the bad guys and tell Tyler it was time for bed. The deal Rusty made with Tyler was that he could be part of his party for the game time but he couldn’t sleep with them, so when it was starting to get late Toby went out to tell Tyler it was time for bed. He thought there might be a fight but was pleasantly surprised when Tyler hopped up and called out goodnight to the boys. Once again I am amazed at how he has grown. He climbed into bed and was asleep in minutes. Meanwhile the big boys went upstairs to continue their party and got very little sleep. 🙂


This is what a boys' party looks like :)

This is what a boys’ party looks like 🙂

In the morning we woke the boys early to get everyone fed before 9:00am pickup. It was an earlier pick-up than usual because I was going to a scrapbooking event with friends and was dropping off some of the boys on the way. My day was spent scrapbooking with friends. It was wonderful and log overdue. I hadn’t scrapbooked since January and was behind. My goal for the day was to get Tyler’s scrapbook current. All my kids have multiple scrapbooks from their first year on but Tyler doesn’t. He didn’t come to us with any pictures of his life before us and I can tell it bothers him when the kids pull out their scrapbooks to look at. I have tried to be diligent about recording his life in this blog so that down the road he will have a recording of his first year with us but that doesn’t help now. The words on the screen aren’t a tangible recording of his life that he can flip through and look at so it was my goal to get his book caught up. I want him to at least have one book (for now) that he can pull off the shelf and flip through with pictures of him in it. It was a productive day and I was able to finish 90% of his book as well as have some much-needed girl time with friends.

At 5:00pm I packed up my supplies and left to pick up Gracie and her friend Olivia to take them to a church Halloween dance down in Cranberry. They were all ready when I arrived. Grace and Olivia dressed as butterflies and Gracie did the face painting on the two of them. They both looked beautiful!

Two beautiful butterflies!

Two beautiful butterflies!

Grace and Olivia

Grace and Olivia


Molly and her best buddy, Tatum. :)

Molly and her best buddy, Tatum. 🙂


They had a wonderful time at the dance. They danced their little feet off and at 10:00 we headed back north to drop off Olivia and pick up Molly.  We arrived home and finally crawled into bed for a much-needed sleep around midnight. A few hours later Molly woke up in a panic because she was having trouble catching her breath. She was wheezing and you could hear that her breathing was labored. She said she felt like her throat was tight. We put a bag of cold peas on her neck and took her outside on the porch to see if breathing the cold air helped. After sitting out in the cold for a while and debating whether to head to the ER she started to improve. We put her in our room to sleep so we could listen for labored breathing.

Sick Molly :(

Sick Molly 😦

In the morning we woke up and got ready for church. This was a big day for Rusty. He was graduating from Primary (the children’s program) and moving into Young Men’s. He had completed the Faith in God program and was going to receive his certificate so even though Molly was still feeling lousy we prepared for church. Mimi Joy was meeting us there so we didn’t want to be late. Molly and I stayed long enough to see Rusty receive his certificate and then we left the rest of the family at church and headed over to MedExpress. We found out that the swollen throat was due to Strept so it was a good thing we went in. We got Molly’s antibiotics and headed back to church. Molly stayed in the car and watched a movie in the parking lot because I didn’t want her spreading her germs around church. When church was done we headed home and Mimi Joy joined us for lunch. Poor Molly went to bed.

Rusty and Mimi Joy

Rusty and Mimi Joy


Sunday evening we prepared for the last of our weekend guests. We were having the young men and women from our church over for a fireside devotional and smores. It was a wonderful evening and the turn out was great. It was a perfect way to end the weekend!

Fireside devotional

Fireside devotional

This weekend made me realize how incredibly grateful I am for the friends in my children’s lives. They are blessed with good kids for friends. I am grateful for the parents that raised such good kids. I am grateful that my children have made wise choices in the friendships they have developed. I am grateful for the leaders that plan fun, wholesome activities for my kids to take part in. I am grateful that in this world with so many negative influences my children have found a safe place to grow into the adults they are going to become.

They say you become like the 5 people you spend the most time with…I am grateful my children have chosen wisely.