Tag Archives: Palmyra

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!


A Trip to Palmyra, NY


Youth Conference had finally arrived for Rusty and Braden. This annual gathering of young men and women from the Northern Pittsburgh area is always a highlight of my kids’ summer. Each year the theme of the conference changes, with some years taking them to the rolling hills of Virginia for a pioneer handcart trek, while other years keep them local with a weekend of service activities in the Pittsburgh area. This year was Braden’s first youth conference and it was a great one for his first experience because this year’s youth conference was held in Palmyra, NY, home of many historically significant events our church.

The conference was scheduled around the Hill Cumorah Pageant,

America’s oldest and largest outdoor theatrical production presented on the beautiful Cumorah hillside next to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Visitors’ Center in Manchester, NY.  Witness stories from the Bible and Book of Mormon come alive on a seven-level stage. The show features  amazing special effects and an all-volunteer cast of over 770 people.

 Our church announced this production would be coming to an end in 2020, so the opportunity to take the youth to Palmyra to experience this incredible production was jumped on and we are so glad it was. The boys had an amazing time.

Knowing that this was Braden’s first youth conference, something foreign and unfamiliar to him, and not knowing how he would handle it all, we decided to head up to Palmyra ourselves and enjoy our last viewing of the pageant and visit the historical sites in the area. This served the dual purpose of a fun mini-vacation with Toby, Tyler and the girls, while also allowing Braden to know we were close by if he found himself struggling and needing support. He did awesome and we weren’t needed, but I think it gave him a sense of security knowing we were close by if needed.

Although we spent Friday visiting the same sites as the youth at youth conference, we never ended up crossing paths. Instead we rubbed elbows with the hundreds of other church members and visitors that were there to see the pageant before its closure in 2020.

The boys left for New York with the other youth on Thursday morning. They traveled in chartered buses. Toby followed Thursday afternoon with Grace and Tyler, getting to our hotel Thursday night. Molly and I were the last to arrive in Palmyra, having to drive separately due to Molly’s work shift that ended at 3:00 am and my Thursday night Pathway class. Molly and I took off at 5:00 am  Friday morning. We arrived at the hotel at 10:00 am and met up with Toby, Tyler and Grace who had just finished breakfast.

We were only in Palmyra for 24 hours, so we decided to fit in as many church sites as we could before sitting down to watch the Hill Cumorah Pageant that evening at 9:15 pm. It was a hot day, with Palmyra experiencing record high temperatures, like much of the rest of the country, but it didn’t deter us. It was a wonderful day enjoyed by all, and a fun one spent with just the girls and Tyler.

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We started our day at the Hill Cumorah visitors center, located next door to the pageant grounds.

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After walking through the visitors center we climbed to the top of Hill Cumorah, and “climb” isn’t an exaggeration. It is one steep hill! But the view from the top made the hike well worth the struggle.

The angel Moroni told Joseph Smith that an ancient record on golden plates- the Book of Mormon- was hidden in the hillside. Moroni instructed Joseph at this hill for four years before entrusting him with the record, which Joseph later translated by the gift and power of God.


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Looking down on the seating for the pageant.

Our next stop took us downtown Palmyra to the Grandin Building, the Book of Mormon publishing site.

In this place E.B. Grandin and his employees published the first 5,000 copies of the Book of Mormon. This volume of holy scripture played an essential role in the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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Here we enjoyed a tour that explained the historic printing process of books as well as told the story of how the Book of Mormon became a published book of scripture.

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Our next stop was the Palmyra Temple.

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It was so peaceful to walk the grounds of the holy place, soaking up the Spirit that resonates there.

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Across the street from the Palmyra temple is the historic Smith Farm where so many pivotal events of our church’s beginning occurred.

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It is a beautiful farm and we enjoyed walking through the buildings and listening to the sister missionaries tell the stories of life on that piece of land and what historic events took place on that hallowed ground.

Here at the Smith’s farm, you can reflect on the blessings of the Restoration as you experience the quiet serenity of the Sacred Grove, visit the reconstructed log home where Moroni first appeared to the boy Joseph, and enter the original home where Joseph was living when he received the golden plates.

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Our first stop was to walk through the reconstructed log home of Joseph’s early childhood.

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Then we walked over to the second building on the property, The original historic building where Joseph was living when he received the golden plates.

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From there we followed the trail into the woods behind the property to the Sacred Grove.

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What a beautiful and spirit-filled place it is. We found ourselves slowly strolling through that sacred place, soaking up the spirit found there.

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Upon leaving the Smith Farm we made the decision to head back to our hotel for a few hours before heading back to Hill Cumorah for the pageant. Everyone was feeling a bit wilted by the heat and the miles of walking we had done. Wanting the pageant to be a positive experience for all, we decided naps in an air conditioned hotel room might be just the ticket for an enjoyable evening at the show. We spent two hours at the hotel with some napping and others just resting while enjoying the rare treat of cable television, and by 8:00 we were ready for round two. Everyone was cooled down and rested, so off we went to enjoy the pageant.

Joined by thousands of other visitors streaming in,

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We enjoyed stopping and talking to the 700+ cast members that were walking around in costume, greeting visitors.

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We found our seats which we had reserved earlier in the day and prepared for the show.

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It was spectacular!

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We were so glad we made it a goal to attend this year, despite the craziness of our summer schedule. It was a 24 hour respite from everyday obligations and a wonderful chance to connect, make special memories and soak up the spirit of Palmyra and all that occurred there.