Tag Archives: Molly

And She’s Off!


After a two month delay we finally found ourselves 12 hours from Molly’s departure…

And it was with a muddy mix of emotions that we prepared our hearts for her leave. It was so good and yet so hard, and I found myself navigating one of those happy/sad days we have talked about in the past. How can one’s heart feel so full of gratitude and joy and yet so empty at the thought of impending loss?

It was an emotional minefield we were all navigating.

Part of me wanted to pause time so as to etch out a few more weeks…or years…of time with Molly before she took flight. Yet another part of me was eager to move past the dread and anticipation of the inevitable and just rip the Band-Aid off already. As I watched the minutes pass by on that final day before her departure, I couldn’t decide if I needed the hands of the clock to slow down or speed up.

So, I tried to not even look at the clock, and instead focused on each moment I had with my sweet ray of sunshine.

Our final day with Molly was filled with the mundane and uneventful moments of everyday life. We ran to the store to get groceries for her dinner request, did a final pick-up/clean-up of her bedroom, and watched the final two episodes of the series “Christy,” a favorite series from my childhood which has become our daily mother/daughter indulgence. It was all such normal stuff, but they gained significance and value in my heart knowing that those “normal” activities with Molly would be paused for the next year and a half.

President Hoke arrived at our home at 6:00 pm to conduct Molly’s final interview and officially set her apart as a full time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

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Due to Covid-19 regulations, we had only immediate family attend, and her setting apart took place in our home rather than at the church. It was a beautiful and moving experience as she was blessed and received divine guidance and council for the 16 months ahead.

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We then took advantage of everyone looking spiffy in their church clothes to capture some final pictures with Sister McCleery.

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Molly’s last night at home was spent taking care of last minute tasks like laying out her clothes for an early morning flight and printing out her boarding tickets. Grace and Zach joined us for dinner. We had Molly’s favorite: spaghetti pizza, Caesar salad, and baguettes toasted with garlic oil.

After dinner we all gathered in the living room for family scripture study with Sister McCleery. Before we headed to bed Molly called me into her room to present a special gift she had made me. She acknowledged the loneliness I might feel in her absence so she put together a shadowbox bearing one of her sweaters and missionary name tags. “It is just something to make you feel like I’m still around when you are feeling sad,” she explained.

It was a gift of love beyond measure and will be treasured for the next 16 months and far beyond!

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I don’t think anyone slept much that night. We were all struggling with our own mix of emotions about the upcoming farewell the next morning, while also feeling anxious that we might oversleep.

The house began to stir at 4:00 am. The dozen alarms we set out of fear of not waking up, didn’t let us down. Molly was the last to arise. I went in to check on her progress at 4:30 am only to discover her still fast asleep. I’m glad I went in to check on her! Evidently she decided not to set her alarm since everyone else had multiple alarms set. She figured someone would wake her up.

We were out the door by 5:00 am and on our way to the Pittsburgh airport.

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Braden and Tyler opted not to go with us. When we woke them up they said they would rather say good-bye and go back to sleep. I think the thought of watching Molly walk through security was just too much to manage. It would feel too much like she was walking out of their lives forever.

Although it was just Rusty, Toby and I seeing her off from our home, Grace and Zach woke early and met us at the airport to say goodbye. It meant the world to Molly and was an incredible act of kindness on Zach and Gracie’s part. They surprised Molly with signs to celebrate the start of this new adventure.

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As we entered the airport they were there waiting for us with the signs in hand.

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We checked Molly’s luggage and made our way toward security.

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There, outside the metal detectors, we said our good-byes…

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Stealing a few final hugs and kisses from our sweet girl.

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There were tears, words of love and encouragement, final reminders, and one last squeeze from each of us before she headed on her way.

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It was with a mix of emotions that we drove home.

I had a knot in my stomach all day as I waited for word that she successfully navigated her connecting flights and arrived safely in Utah. At 4:30pm I received the call I had been waiting for. She made it safely to Utah, met with her mission president and his wife,

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And was handed over to the two sister missionaries that will serve as her companions for the time being. Sister Seal hails from California and Sister Briones is from the Philippines.

It was a quick phone call but Molly sounded wonderful, and it gave me such peace of mind to know she made it safely and was settling in just fine.


We will be getting a virtual visit with Molly twice a week, in addition to emails and letters. I think that will definitely make things easier for the boys. It will help confirm the fact that although Molly is gone for a while, she isn’t gone from their lives forever.

She will also be emailing a weekly updates with pictures and news about her mission, which I will be sharing on the blog once a week, so all our friends around the world who have watched Molly grow up on this blog can continue following her adventures.


For now, I am happy to report that Miss Molly is safe and well and living her best life, and we couldn’t be happier for her!



Temple Blessings for Molly



2020 kicked off in a big way with Molly going through the temple to receive her own endowments on January 4th.

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She made the temple her desired destination, the blessings found within, her wish. With her eyes set on this personal goal in her own spiritual journey, she prepared day by day, her entire life, for this special moment.

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This was a special milestone in Molly’s spiritual walk as she entered to make covenants with Heavenly Father in His house that would serve as a strengthening force and great personal blessing to her throughout her life.

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What a joy and delight it was to walk our daughter into the temple to make her own covenants with the Lord.


She was joined by myself, her Daddy and her big sister who came to support her as she went through the Palmyra, New York temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Much as Philadelphia temple stole Gracie’s heart from her first visit, and the Washington DC temple is my temple, the Palmyra LDS temple has called to Molly since her first visit. Molly knew that is where she wanted to make those sacred covenants with the Lord.

There, on a blustery, winter day, she experienced the blessings of the temple and soaked in the sweet spirit found within those sacred walls.

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We are so happy for our sweet girl and the path she has chosen to walk, knowing the great joy and profound purpose this path brings.

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We love you, Miss Molly! You make our hearts glad. May the sweet spirit you experienced on that special day remain with you as a unending source of peace, guidance and purpose as you pursue God’s plan for your life.




Molly is Home!!!


Miss Molly is home,

And we couldn’t be happier!

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Molly had an awesome first semester of college at BYU-Idaho. She thrived as a freshman and loved college life. She was blessed with great roommates, amazing professors and incredible experiences.

It was wonderful seeing her so happy and doing so well in that new, unfamiliar environment. Now that we have her home for a few months I plan of enjoying as much time with my sweet girl (and soaking up her sunshine as much as I can) before she leaves us again!

She was a bit bummed by the family traditions she wasn’t home to enjoy in the weeks leading up to Christmas but she, with the help of good friends and awesome roommates, was able to create her own magical Christmas memories out west. Here is a peek into some of her December adventures in Idaho before heading home:


Molly has been blessed with an amazing gift in finding beauty in the ordinary and great blessings in everyday experiences.


Molly at BYU-I’s light-up night.


Molly enjoying a Relief Society Christmas party with friends.


Molly and Katrina walking to church on a crisp, December Sunday.


Molly loved meeting John Groberg, the missionary whose story was told through the Disney movie, “The Other Side of Heaven.” Molly loved hearing him speak and share his testimony.


I love to see the temple!


The Rexburg, Idaho temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.


A gingerbread house decorating competition.


Gregory, the man of snow, built by Katrina and Molly one cold, and snowy night.

The week leading up to her flight home was packed to the brim with finals and packing as she culled through her belongings, trying to figure out what was worth shipping home and what she should give away to friends or donate. On Tuesday she joined her roommate Katrina for the drive to Lehi, Utah, where Katrina’s family graciously hosted Molly for the night before her flight the following day.

The next day Katrina dropped her off at the airport and Molly’s adventure began in earnest. The first half of her travels went smoothly but when she arrived in Newark for her second layover, everything fell apart. Heavy snows and high winds led to her flight being delayed hour after hour. We waited for the call that would let us know to head to the airport to await her flight, but instead we got a midnight call informing us that all flights had been canceled.

Molly spoke to a ticket agent and was told she probably couldn’t get another flight for a few days.

As we tried to figure out a solution at our end, Molly was busy making friends in Newark. She called back at 1:00 am to let us know that one of her new friends had a rental car and was headed to Pittsburgh. She wanted to ask what we thought about her hitching a ride with this lady (who also was named “Molly”) and driving through the night towards home.

As a mom, I’m sure you can guess what my reaction was and where my mind went at the thought of Molly climbing in a car with a stranger she met only hours earlier. Miss Molly suggested we say a prayer and then talk it through. We did. Molly insisted she felt good about the plan and had no reservations. I wasn’t as convinced. My mind went straight to stories of human trafficing and abductions.

The new friend, Molly, got on the phone and was able to quell some of our fears. She kindly responded to my paranoia by texting photos of her driver’s liscence, work ID, Facebook page, etc. We felt better about the idea of Molly climbing in a rental car with a stranger, but I did turn the tracker on her phone to active and followed her blip across the state, ready to call in the State Troopers if the car exited the turnpike and headed south. 

Needless to say, no one slept much on Wednesday night. Molly was up all night talking to her traveling companion to keep her awake, while we were in bed monitoring their progress west. We picked up Molly at 6:30 am and she came home and went straight to sleep. She slept all day. We thought her exhaustion was due to a crazy 24 hours but when she woke up to throw up we knew it was a flu bug that had hit her hard. The next 24 hours were spent recovering in bed so we didn’t enjoy much Molly time but we were still  so happy to have our girl at home!

Now Christmas is allowed to arrive!

Miss Molly


Well, it has been 3 weeks since we bid Miss Molly good-bye and left her 2000 miles away to launch into adulthood…

And she has taken flight beautifully.

She is loving college life, loving Idaho, loving her roommates, classes, and the multitude of college activities offered at BYU-I. As parents we couldn’t be happier to see her so happy. She is thriving in every sense of the word. Here are some photos of our sweet girl and her Idaho adventures:


The first Sunday in Idaho as Molly and her roommates head off to church.


While Molly was working at the tutoring center a kind lady was handing out cookies. It made her day!


Molly has been blessed with eight awesome roommates. Katrina, a fellow freshman at the house, is Molly’s closest friend.


Molly has enjoyed documenting her Idaho adventures with beautiful photos and thoughtful reflection on her Instagram account:  tripping_over_gods_blessings. 


While grocery shopping, the girls decided the house needed a house “pet.” They brought home this flora mascot instead.


Molly has loved living so close to a temple…something that is a rare treat when you were raised on the east coast. Determined to soak up the sweet spirit so readily accessible, she has set a goal of visiting the temple three times a week.


Enjoying a fun night out at a local soda shop.


The beauty found in the ordinary…as seen through Molly’s lens.


Molly at I-night…the weekend of social and service activities for the new freshman.


Enjoying the social side of college life.



Molly making friends at weekly devotional 😉 


Dinner time!



Molly and her roommates making Sunday dinner together.



Molly and her roommates making homemade bread to deliver to their landlord and other friends.



One night Molly and her roommates bonded over hair dye as they all colored each others hair. Here is Molly’s new look.

One week until we get Molly home for the wedding festivities. It is wonderful to see her doing so well in Idaho, but I’m looking forward to loving on her in person!

Molly’s Graduation Day!!


Saturday marked the end of one journey and the start of the next one.

It was the day Miss Molly walked on stage, dressed in a cap and gown, and graduated high school.

I’m not sure how it is that we arrived at this day so quickly. It is as if I closed my eyes for a moment and my wild child had grown from a “character,” who would smuggle dead chipmunks home in her Dora the Explorer backpack and climb onto the roof in the middle of the night, into a woman of great character. There were a few years there that I didn’t think I would survive Molly’s pre-school years; certain she would be behind bars by age seven. She was my feral child, content to live in the woods, build fairy houses, and fill her pockets with frogs. There was no rule she wouldn’t break and no boundary she wouldn’t test. Her passion for life and her impulsive nature kept life interesting. Our life revolved around coming up with a security system that would keep her safely contained in her room while we tried to sleep at night. She was the child who had to be walked on a leash in public and who charmed the socks off everyone she met by her ever-absent filter and unique perspective on life.

She was our quirky little bird, with a bigger than life personality and a heart that stretched to each corner of the globe.

Over the years the impulsivity waned and her willingness to obey improved, but her sunny disposition, fierce determination, love for nature and animals, and her heart for others and God only grew. She is now ready to leave the nest. She can finally be trusted to leave my sight without walking into traffic.

Well, sort-of …

And Saturday was the big send-off.

After years of parenting, redirecting, teaching, loving, redirecting, supporting, guiding, and redirecting. Our sweet Miss Molly did it…

What a blessed day it was!

It was an action-packed day that began at 10:30 am and stretched to 3:00 pm, packed full of graduation day activities.

Unlike a local high school that might spread graduation preparation over a week’s time, 21st Century has to make it all happen in one day. Many of their families have traveled far distances to be there and are only there for the day, so all the activities that lead up to graduation day for seniors must fit into one five-hour period.

But they orchestrated what could have been pure chaos, beautifully.

We woke early Saturday morning and went down to the lobby of the hotel to meet friends for breakfast.

Then it was off to the local high school where our charter school was holding the commencement ceremony.

We arrived to find what can only be described as a “well-oiled machine.”

We were greeted and welcomed at the door by teachers and directed where to go. Molly was sent to get in line to receive her senior gift bag which contained a complimentary yearbook and a 21CCCS alumni t-shirt.

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While the seniors were off preparing for graduation, the families waited in the cafeteria where the school had catered a lunch for the families to enjoy while they waited for the graduation ceremony to begin.

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While we were eating and visiting, Molly, Tatum, Caleigh, Annaliese, Irvin and the other graduating seniors were kept busy behind the scenes.


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First, they got fitted for their caps and gowns.

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After hugs and a few tears,

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We let them move on to their next station, “graduation photos,” where they had a professional photographer taking graduation portraits of each senior in their cap and gown.

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Once each senior moved through the line, it was time for the graduating class to do a few practice runs before the actual ceremony began.


While we waited in the cafeteria, the other kids kept busy enjoying the delicious spread of food that was provided and playing card games that I had packed in my purse.

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It was soon time to head to the auditorium for the commencement exercises. Rusty was asked (as a member of National Honor Society) to stand at the door and hand out programs.

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We picked up our programs and waited for the ceremony to begin.

The students walked in and the tears began.

Our girls looked so grown up and pretty.

The students were seated on stage and the school principal stood up to welcome the families and introduce the speakers. Molly was one of four students who were chosen to speak at graduation.

And this Momma and Papa could not have been prouder. Our baby may be all grown up, but what a beautiful young lady she has grown up to be.

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Next it was time for the presentation of scholarships.

At 21st Century Cyber Charter School the teachers have a long-standing tradition of presenting five students from the graduating class with scholarships from the school. These scholarships are not funded with school budget money, but rather are funded solely by teacher donations. Throughout the year they will have events at the school for staff, like special breakfasts during in-service days, which they will use to raise money to help fund these scholarships. This year they raised $5,000, enough for 5 students to each be awarded a thousand-dollar scholarship.

The teachers of this school are incredible and are at the heart of why this school shines brighter than the rest. Each of my children have been blessed with incredible learning coaches who have been a perfect fit for that child to grow and find success through this cyber school model. I feel like over the last 6 years so many of the staff at 21CCCS have become more like family friends through their interactions with our family.


These relationships that develop over four years of working side by side as student, parent, and learning coach, are what make graduation days bittersweet. Molly was blessed with a very special learning coach in Mr. Winterode.

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His patient reassurance and constant encouragement was just what Molly needed to overcome her own insecurities about her learning disabilities and finally see how capable and able she is.

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She blossomed under his care and his homeroom soon became the envy of the school with its fun banter and great group of students that called themselves “Coach’s Doghouse.”


I could share stories like this about all the teachers we have gotten to know through our time in the school. 21st Century Cyber Charter School is unique in the experience it offers and I have tried to put my finger on the exact formula that sets them apart from other cyber schools. I think it comes down to this: Their standards are high. They know and appreciate the worth of a good teacher, a good staff member, and a good cyber schooling family. They hire the best and then treat them like the best. The teachers love what they do. They feel appreciated. Because those at the top treat their most valuable asset with respect and appreciation, the entire vibe of the school is uplifting and supportive and positive. The joy and enthusiasm of those teachers then trickle down to the students and families under their care, making everyone excited to be part of something so uniquely special in the world of cyber schooling options.

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How blessed we feel to have been led to this educational gem six years ago.

Next, we watched as they handed out the scholarships for greatest academic excellence to the student with the highest GPA, the Eagle service award for the student most service minded, and the leadership award. Then it was time for the scholarship awarded to the student that shows the most exemplary character, as voted on by the teachers of the school, and we heard them announce Molly’s name!

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We had no idea that she would be a recipient of one of these scholarships, and for me that was the acknowledgement that we, as her parents, have done something right these last 19 years. I remember being a young mom and praying over that little bundle in my arms and saying to God, “It matters little to me that this child grows up to be exceptionally pretty, or smart, talented, or gifted in the areas of music, art, or athletics…as nice as those traits might be. What matters most to me is that I raise a child who is known for her kindness, her selflessness, and her goodness. Help me to raise a woman of character.”

God has been merciful.

This is the same scholarship that Gracie was gifted with her senior year. Once again we were moved by the honor they bestowed on Molly when she was chosen by the teachers at 21st Century Cyber Charter School as the second McCleery to receive this special scholarship.

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Then it was time for the diplomas to be handed out. The students were called to the front of the stage one by one.

Once everyone had received their diploma it was time for the traditional turning of the tassels, signifying the transition from high school to life beyond.

13 years of hard work, sleepless nights, advocating for her needs, teaching and reteaching tough concepts again and again, endless fieldtrips, dyslexia tutoring, IEP meetings, 3 schools, and the culmination of a decade of my life’s work came together in that moment as we watched our baby girl walk down the aisle with diploma in hand.

It was time to celebrate!

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It was a joy to see how happy Braden was for Molly on her special day. ❤

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Sweet friendships created at 21st Century Cyber Charter School.


Molly did it!

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Tatum did it.

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Annaliese did it.

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Caleigh did it.

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We did it!

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Congratulations, ladies. We are so proud of you!

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What a beautiful journey it has been!


A recreation photo of Grace and Olivia’s graduation day.

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We can’t wait to see where God takes you next!



Miss Molly is 19!!


How is it that little miss sunshine is in the final stretch of her teenage years?!

It doesn’t seem possible.

On Sunday, April 7th, Molly turned 19, and we celebrated her at home with fun plans for the day.

In our home Sundays are spent worshipping at church and bonding as a family at home. We believe the Sabbath is best spent with family and desire to extend that same courtesy to others, so for that reason we choose to not shop or participate in activities that require other people to have to work and be away from their family on Sundays.

This is a principle we hold sacred as we choose to honor the Sabbath Day as a day set apart from the rest of the week.

When a family member’s birthday falls on a Sunday, it means we create fun at home rather than eating out or choosing a fun family activity that costs money. This always makes me feel like I need to up my birthday game to make sure the child feels loved despite a quiet birthday celebration at home.

This year Molly’s birthday not only fell on a Sunday, but on General Conference Sunday. General Conference occurs twice a year in our church. It is when members worldwide tune in via TV or computer to hear from our church leaders who share guidance, direction and revelation to the members that are relevant to today. General Conference weekends are my favorite Sabbaths of the year and this year it fell on Molly’s birthday. This meant we had a full day at home as a family…what a gift!

Our day began with the rarest of gifts: sleeping past 6:00am. Oh, it was delightful to sleep until my eyes opened on their own, rather than forcing them open under protest. We warned Molly ahead of time to expect her birthday morning wake-up later than usual, and as a 19-year-old girl she offered up no complaints to that plan!

It was closer to 9:00am when our family poured into her room singing her birthday song. First she made a secret wish, and then she blew out her cupcake candle, and her birthday had officially begun.

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We began the day with the big reveal of the decorated dining room. This momma LOVES a good theme (to which Toby always sarcastically inquires, “And “Happy Birthday” isn’t a good enough theme?”) Nope! This is my favorite part of my kids’ birthdays and they have learned that the theme of the decorations in the dining room quite often provide a hint to their gift from mom and dad.

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Molly entered the dining room to discover a Newsies theme playing out on the table. Newsies is Molly’s favorite musical so with that in mind, I ran with that theme and had a blast!

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Then it was present time. No one wanted to wait any longer for Molly to open their gifts, and Molly didn’t really want to wait either, so the first task on the birthday agenda was gift opening.

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We started with the youngest and ended with mom and dad.

Everyone had Molly’s impending adventure on their minds and purchased gifts for “College-bound Molly.”

Tyler bought her a giant coloring poster that he thought she could hang on the wall of the home she will be sharing with 8 other girls. His thought was that they could color together.

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Ozzie purchased a light-up marque for her dorm room desk.

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Rusty bought her a blow-up ottoman for her room with a cute cloth cover.

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Braden decided he wanted to buy her a crock pot after hearing her talk about how helpful one would be as a college student.

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Grace, following the example of the gift she received from Aunt Krista on her 19th birthday, made Molloy a college survival kit that was filled with all the products she has found most essential as a college student. It was very cute and clever!

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And then came her gift from Mom and Dad…

Tickets to watch the musical Newsies in Pittsburgh.

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With the tickets came a Newsies t-shirt to wear to the show.

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Gift opening was followed by a breakfast of crepes, and then we prepared for the first session of General Conference.

Everyone claimed their spot in the living room, got comfy, and I handed out the goodies I prepared for General Conference.

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To make Conference more engaging and to help everyone pay attention I prepared a few games to play as we watched, including General Conference Bingo with a basket of prizes from Dollar Tree.

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In between the morning and afternoon session of General Conference, we had Molly’s birthday dinner. She picked the menu, requesting spaghetti pizza, salad, garlic bread and cheesecake in lieu of traditional birthday cake.

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The day was spent enjoying family, soaking up the spirit of General Conference and celebrating Miss Molly.

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She truly is the sunshine in our lives!!

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Molly’s Photo Session


Well, here we are again.

First Grace and now Molly.

Molly is now a senior and with that exciting time of life comes additional items on the “to-do” list, as we help her prepare for the upcoming, next chapter of life. We find ourselves deeply entrenched in tasks like college visits, SAT testing, scholarship applications and SENIOR PHOTOS…

One of the more enjoyable tasks on our senior “to-do” list.

Like Grace, Molly asked that I take her senior photos rather than hire someone else to do it. She felt it would be more personal that way and that her personality would shine forth more clearly than if she was in front of a stranger’s camera.

I was thrilled she wanted her Momma to take her pictures. We began throwing around ideas for locations and props.

It was fun to see how differently the girls approached the task of senior photos, each choosing outfits, seasons and props so very different from each other, but so perfectly reflective of each of them.

When we did Gracie’s senior photos she choose the month of October, wanting the fall foliage to be her backdrop. Her outfit and props lent themselves to a classic, vintage, shabby-chic feel:


Molly on the other hand is all about sunshine and wanted her photos to reflect her bright, fun, quirky personality. Her colors were bright primary colors and her outfit was casual. For her backdrop we decided to take a little road trip to Conneaut Lake Park, an old fashioned amusement park about 90 minutes away from home. We went in the morning when the park was deserted, prior to the rides being open, with a bag full of props on hand.

Grace joined us, adding her creative eye to the process. We had so much fun on our girls’ date and got a lot of fun photos for Molly to choose from…

A professional photographer may have produced more flawless photos, but we would have missed out on making some magical memories had we been sitting in a studio behind the lens of a stranger.

We had so much fun and laughed until our bellies hurt,

And even managed to get some usable shots along the way.

Here are some of Molly’s favorites that she is trying to choose between.

Like Gracie’s photo shoot, we’d love to hear your vote.

Which is your favorite?

Cast your vote for Molly’s senior photo!




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A Visit to Malone University


The college search continues, as we raced to fit in as many college visits as we could before school started.

Our next scheduled college visit was to Malone University, a private Christian college in Canton, Ohio that Molly had her eye on.

Malone University is one of the few colleges in the area that offers a zoology major, and that, in combination with its small class size and Christian environment, made it a contender in Molly’s eyes. We decided to schedule a tour and learn more.

On Friday, Molly, Rusty, Brandon and I left the house early so we could be waiting at the door of Beaver Falls High School when it opened to begin the enrollment process. Because Brandon is still a foster child, cyber schooling is not an option at this time, so we were stepping into a new and unfamiliar world when we walked into our local high school for the first time and began the enrollment process.

After touring the school, speaking to the guidance counselor and meeting the football coach, he was thrilled to be starting school and has high hopes that this will be his best school year yet!

The reason for the early start to the day was because we needed to be out the door of Beaver Falls High School and on the road toward Malone University by 8:30 am to make our 10:00 am appointment.

When we arrived we were greeted by a personalized parking space. The kids thought that was extra cool and set the tone for the day.


When we walked inside the kids were welcomed by staff and each received a Malone backpack with all sorts of goodies, including a Malone t-shirt.


Then a senior at the college took us for a tour of the campus, showing us the student center, cafeteria, classrooms and dorms.


We ended the tour at the zoology department where we were handed off to one of the zoology professors. It was wonderful for Molly to have that one-on-one time with one of the professors to ask her questions and really get a feel for the program.


Most of our time in the zoology department was spent in one of the “zoo” areas where we got to meet many of the animals that the students work with beginning their freshman year in the program.


All three of my animal lovers loved this experience!


From there we headed back to the admissions office where we met with an admissions officer. He spent about 30 minutes with our family asking the kids questions about themselves and answering any questions they had. We were then given complimentary meal tickets to use at the cafeteria. We enjoyed a nice (and free) lunch before heading back on the road for the 90 minute drive home.

We were all very impressed with Malone. It was one of the best college tours we have experienced!

A Visit to “The Slimy Pebble”


Well, here we are again…


No sooner do we search and find a place the place Grace feels led to continue her post-high school education, before we are back at the starting line with Miss Molly.

We are entering Molly’s senior year and with that comes some BIG life decisions. Molly is already feeling the pressure of “figuring it all out,” despite our council and encouragement that most students graduate with a sense of uncertainty of where the future is taking them.

And with this season of life comes college tours.

Molly has had some experience with college tours thanks to Grace. With some of Gracie’s college visits (particularly those out of state) we simply had Molly and Rusty tag along, knowing their day was coming, and thus killing “our three birds” with one stone.

Now we are being more specific in our search as we spent the last months identifying, researching and booking tours at colleges that align with Molly’s future aspirations. It has been a bit of a challenge finding free time slots in the craziness of all that is involved in getting approval for a placement with only 30 days notice, but we are doing our best to carve out time amid foster placement training, home inspections and court hearings to get in some college visits before the school year begins.

Our first college visit of August was to Slippery Rock University, or “The Slimy Pebble” as Toby calls it. 🙂


We arrived for a 9:00 am appointment, loving the uninterrupted time we had to visit without siblings around.


The tour began with an information session and concluded with a tour of the campus.


Notebook in hand, Molly took abundant notes and on our way home converted them into a comprehensive pro/con list…


The first of many I am sure she will be creating as she strives to discover where it is God is leading her.


Our mother/daughter date to Slippery Rock concluded with a sweet treat from Sheetz.


Loved my special time with this special girl…


And the college wasn’t bad either!


Where you Lead, I will Follow


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Like so many entertainment trends I tend to be a decade late to the party. Gilmore Girls is a perfect example of this. Only in the last 6 months have I stumbled into this magical world thanks to Netflix. I don’t know how I missed it the first time around. My only thought is that perhaps it was because during the early years of this millennium I was drowning in bottles, diapers, and Veggie Tales videos and had socially checked out during those prime Gilmore Girl years.

But not to worry. I may be a decade late but I have finally stumbled upon and jumped aboard the fan train and am loving the journey!

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The girls and I were introduced to the Gilmore Girls last fall by the Hudaks, not long after Ozzie had been placed in a residential facility. It was a season when we were all reeling and raw and this imaginary town of Stars Hollow, Connecticut and the characters within proved to be a place of healing for Molly and I. Each day during lunch break we would snuggle on my bed and watch one episode, with Grace joining us as her schedule allowed. Much like Downton Abbey became a special shared connection between Grace and I, Gilmore Girls became Molly and my shared connection.

This daily escape to another place became the source of much laughter, a few tears, and a lot of discussion as the relationship between the two main characters (who happen to be mother and daughter) played out on the screen. I don’t know when I have loved a show more and it was such a joy tumbling into that world with my girls.

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As Molly’s 18th birthday neared, I knew what I wanted to do to celebrate her special day. Just as I had taken Grace on a journey to Downton Abbey for her 18th birthday (See link below)


I wanted to whisk Molly away to Stars Hollow for her 18th birthday, so with Gracie helping me plan, and the Hudaks in on the surprise, we set to work. The plan was to take Molly away for the night to a hotel where we would surprise her with a Gilmore Girls birthday party. I don’t know when I have had more fun planning an event, due in large part to the fact that in the midst of months of planning my creative juices were continually sparked  with our daily Gilmore Girls lunch date.

Here are some clues to the inspirations that prompted our themed decorations:

(In fact we are still not done with the show, despite the party being over. We are only on season 6 so don’t give anything away!)

In the weeks leading up to Molly’s birthday our craft room became party headquarters with a “Molly, Do NOT Enter” sign posted outside. My printer got a workout as I printed, cut, laminated, and wrapped until my fingers bled, determined to bring Stars Hollow to life in our hotel room.

Finally the day arrived. I had booked the hotel for Friday night (the day before Molly’s birthday.) Grace and I drove down to the hotel at lunchtime to check in early and decorate the suite on the sly so that when we arrived later with the Hudak girls and Molly in tow they would walk into the finished room.

While Grace made newspaper hats for me I began decorating, hiding nods to favorite episodes through the rooms of our suite.

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When the room was sufficiently decked out and we were packing up to leave we received a knock at the door. The housekeeping staff had seen the Dragonfly Inn sign on the outside of the hotel room door and wanted to know if we were filming a movie. When we explained that it was a Gilmore Girl surprise party they asked if they could take a tour. Turns out we weren’t the only Gilmore Girl fans in the building and our efforts were greatly appreciated by the housekeeping staff who clapped with glee at our efforts. 🙂

Later that afternoon it was time to head out. Molly didn’t know what to expect, as Grace had secretly packed her overnight bag. We drove north to pick up the Hudaks  (Lana, Olivia, and Tatum.) I had to laugh when I saw the girls. It turns out all three had embraced their inner Luke and Molly was riding along with a noticeable clue to the evening ahead and didn’t even realize it.


We arrived, cluing Molly into the fact that we were spending the night at a hotel, but still unaware of the surprise that lay ahead. We took the elevator to the 4th floor and gave Molly the key.

Her first clue as to what the evening entailed:

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We stepped inside and Molly and the Hudaks caught their first glimpse of our Gilmore Girl Gala:

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They embarked on an impromptu “I Spy” hunt as they discovered all the nods to Rory and Lorelai hidden about the room. Here are some of the surprises we tucked around the suite:


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Once the tour was complete the fun began.


We started with picking our “teams” for the night:

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Who is your favorite Gilmore guy?

Then it was time to prepare for dinner. In true Lorelai style we opted to order in rather than go out. Earlier in the day I collected take out menus from local restaurants that would deliver to the hotel and scattered them in front of the TV, creating “functional décor.”

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The girls perused the menus and chose dishes that sounded good from a few different restaurant, and then we ordered.

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As we waited for our food to arrive party favors were handed out.

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Tucked into Chinese take-out containers that I labeled with Al’s Pancake World, the girls found “jam hands” chapstick, “I will follow” bracelets, and Gilmore Girls socks.

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Once properly attired for the evening ahead we sat down and began our Gilmore Girl marathon. Picking some of our favorite episodes of all time we settled in for a night of laughter and Gilmore Girl bingo.

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Some of our choices for the night included:



It wasn’t too long before we had our first winner. Our bingo prizes were wrapped gift bags whose outside tags bore a clue to the prize within. Inside each bag was a nail polish that matched the clue on the outside:

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After an episode and a half the first wave of food arrived.

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In a spread that would make Lorelai proud, we feasted on everything from pizza to fried rice to deviled eggs, eating until our stomachs hurt.


At 10:00 pm the girls decided to take a break from our Gilmore Girl marathon and head down to the pool before it closed for the night, only to discover that it was shut down do to “unforeseen circumstances.” So they came up with a plan B:

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Then it was time for gifts and cake. Sticking with the theme of the night Molly received a Luke’s Diner t-shirt from Miss Lana:

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A beautifully framed, hand-painted picture of the show’s theme song from Olivia:

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And a touching digital scrapbook of their decade long friendship from Tatum:


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Molly’s birthday cake was a collection of cupcakes baked by Olivia. They were topped with a broken piece of pop-tart and filled with the matching flavor. They were so perfect and so delicious!


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By 2:00 am the moms were spent and headed to bed while the girls began a game of Gilmore Girls Guess Who and Gilmore Girls Monopoly.

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Eventually they too stumbled into bed.

In the morning we woke Molly in the traditional way with a cupcake and a song.

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My baby is officially an adult!

Happy birthday, Miss Molly, I hope we made some memories you will treasure forever.

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