Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Ella's Presidential Birthday

On my tenth birthday, I distinctly remember my dad praying for his daughter who had now lived a decade.  It made my age seem so important!  It's a very strong memory, one that I cherish, which made me want to make Ella's tenth birthday very special.  Last time we did a tea party.  I loved it and was looking forward to seeing what she would want to do this year.  

In the Fall, she took a class that taught how the election process works.  She was fascinated, always coming home with new information.  I could not believe how much she loved it!

She decided then, in the Fall, that she wanted her birthday, in the Spring, to be a Presidential one.  

I nodded sagely and waited for her to change her mind.  This was not the girly party I had in mind and I was sure this was just a phase.  I had six months to show her the light.

She held strong, coming up with idea after idea for what her Presidential party should be like.  She presented pages of notes at a time.

Like, Pin the Tie on the President.  Or playing Pence, Pence, Trump {a la Duck, Duck, Goose}.

She also wanted to have all the girls dress up like past presidents and have a lunch where they pretended to like each other, just like real presidents do.  Except that they really would like each other, so they'd have to pretend that they were pretending that they liked each other.  My head hurt.

We now break from our regularly scheduled programming for a Public Service Announcement to inform the public that this was in no way in support of or protesting our new president.  It was the process we were celebrating {in a birthday kind of way}.  We will now return to our show.

It says Ballot for birthday girl 2017.  She was running unopposed {wink, wink}.

For all my inner griping, I really loved this party!  She knew what she wanted and she didn't waver.  I did steer her away from some of her proposed activites, like when she wanted to make Presidential wigs out of swim caps and cotton balls.

I had planned to have the party on the deck, but it was really overcast and chilly, so we used the sunroom.

Naturally, the sun came out and warmed everything up right before the party.  But the sunroom is truly the best room in the world for a party.

I found patriotic wind catchers on clearance somewhere, and figured we could use them again for quick July 4th decorations.  A three dollar investment in streamers was also well worth it. 

We had white paper lanterns left over from something else, so we added a few patriotic ones and the table became more special.  I really like hanging things from the ceiling at parties on 3M ceiling hooks.  Very little work for a lot of impact.  Your table can also be a lot simpler this way.

Ella put flags in vases, which I loved, and I already had the silver star.  We used disposable bamboo plates and paper napkins and mason jars for glasses.  It was casual and easy.

The clean up for this party definitely beat the clean up for the tea party where everything had to be hand washed!

The food was very simple, and mostly made a couple of days ahead. Her cake was angel food cake with strawberries, blueberries, and whipped cream for the red, white, and blue theme.

We dipped marshmallows in colored candy melts and topped them with sprinkles and m&m's.  What was that? You want to know where the other m&m colors went?  ...Oh, um, well, moving right along....

I used the leftover candy and dipped long pretzels into it.  So simple.

My favorite part of the entire party, bar none, no exclusions, was our very own secret service agent.

It looks like he's just about to drawl "Mr. Anderson."  {Please tell me you remember the Matrix?}  He stood watch at the front.

Then he walked around the whole time talking into one of my teal ear buds, muttering security-ish-sounding-type things.  He didn't break character once, not even when I needed help with an apron.  He checked it for weapons before he gave it back.

We made pies {a step up from wigs, wouldn't you say?} and these sweet girls were so good at it!

I had a pie pan for each one, a selection of rolling pins {I borrowed from their moms} and we got to work rolling out the dough, patting it into the pans, and topping them.

They could choose cherry or apple pie filling.  Get it?  They could be as american as apple pie, or choose cherry because of ole' George and his cherry tree.  I'm so clever.

 That's my sweet friend, Brittany, helping out.
The extra dough was a hit.

Then the pies went in the oven while the girls went out and played for a few minutes until it was time for treats.  They took them home at the end of the party as favors.  When I looked at my pictures after the party, I was so disappointed that I didn't get a single shot of the finished pies!  They were so pretty.

The boys were here the whole time and I was one proud mama.  We had planned for Handsome Hero to take the boys out during the party like he did last time, but Ella really wanted him there, playing the role of secret service agent and just being present.  I hadn't planned for this and didn't have enough dough for them to make a pie, but there was not one complaint.  They also didn't complain about not going anywhere.  They just played with the girls and the girls completely accepted them being there.  I was as amazed as I was thrilled with it all!

Can she really be TEN!!!!???

Happy birthday to my sweet Ella.  You are so kind, always rooting for the underdog, always wanting to help those in need, tenderhearted, enthusiastic, friend to all you meet.  I love you more than m&m's, and that's saying something.

Sorry for the blurry pictures.  I'm really trying to learn to take pictures in Manual, and I clearly {pun intended} don't have it down.  Anyone want to teach this novice?

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Aunt Irene

When I was twelve, the eighth grade at Dayton City School took a trip to Washington, D.C.  There was an essay contest beforehand to see who would lay a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier.  There would be 4 winners chosen from the grade.  

I did my first draft, waxing eloquent about this fallen soldier in all the prose my middle school self could muster.  I proudly took it to my parents, sure they would weep for all the raw emotion of this tale of woe.  They wept all right.  They laughed so hard they cried.  Then they gave it back and told me to try again, maybe turning the emotional frenzy down a notch.

I was offended, but I learned something about writing.  My revised essay also won the contest, so I can't hold a grudge.

Until now, I haven't written about my aunt, Irene Lasley.  I could not quite do it yet.  I didn't want to be sappy and overly emotional.  I wanted to be real, but not dramatic.  I wanted the right tone and I was too raw to write that way yet.

My aunt, Irene Lasley, was one of my favorite people.  She was a cheerleader, a friend, and an ardent supporter of me, my marriage, my husband, my kids, my career, and our choice to homeschool.  She was a teacher for her whole working life, teaching second through fifth grade.  She loved my kids like they were her own grandkids {she called them "her grandbabies"}.  She was my father's only sibling and they were as close as can be.

There's your intro to my aunt.  I just had to go get another box of Kleenex because my tears were running into my belly button.

Aunt Irene is a constant presence in my memories.  Even when she lived in Virginia, which she did for quite a while, we would go in the summer and spend a week with her.  Her kitchen was covered in strawberries and her guest bedroom had a lava lamp.  She had trinkets everywhere and she didn't mind if we touched them.  She was the coolest.  

Aunt Irene was a prepper.  She wasn't a hoarder, certainly not like reality TV.  Her house was always neat and tidy.  She was no slouch.  But...if salad dressing was on sale, you'd better buy twelve.  Air freshener?  You probably need twenty cans.  She was savvy, but it was uncanny the things she stocked up on.  It was just another layer of who she was.

Aunt Irene faced hardships no one should have to face.  She lived with grace and kindness through ugly times, loving the unlovable and trusting the Lord to guide her.  She recognized blessings that most of us would have said were our due.  I have often marveled at how sweet and joyful and full of laughter she always seemed when I was a child with no clue of her circumstances.  As an adult, I marvel more.

Aunt Irene  was sick a lot this past summer with mono, so I couldn't take the kids to see her.  It just wouldn't go away.  In the fall, she thought it had reared up again, but it hadn't.  She had acute Leukemia.

She was gone in five weeks.

When she was in the hospital, I went to see her as often as I could.  She kept a journal by her bed to write all the blessings she saw while she was there.  She knew she probably wouldn't live and she accepted it.  She told me with a big laugh, "I don't expect a miracle, but I sure wouldn't say no!"  She was really only concerned about leaving my uncle alone.  He had lost his first wife to cancer as well and she grieved both losses with him.  She put on make up and jewelry everyday so that he would see her at her best.  She loved that man.

She wanted the time she had left to be spent serving her Lord.  It was the most important thing in her life.  She would talk about Him to every nurse, every doctor, every visitor.  The time was short - let's get down to business.  After she was gone, the nurses told my dad what an honor it had been to care for such a woman.

The services were hard, naturally.  The family told stories of her, some I didn't know.  I am named after her {Elizabeth Irene} but I actually didn't know that her first name was Emily.  How did I not know that?  

I know she's now whole.  I know she's in Heaven where she was excited to go.  I know the arthritis is gone, the cancer is gone, the pain is gone.  I know that she had no fear of dying because her Destination was secured.  I know that.  Still, when you have a memorial service, a graveside service, and all the activity that naturally comes along, you are on auto pilot.  Grieving, which I thought I was doing, had not yet begun.

It has been two months now.  The grieving process is in full swing.  Little things remind me of her, things that surprise me.  She didn't call Jack on his birthday a couple of weeks ago.  She always called and sang to the kids on their birthdays {Handsome Hero's and mine, too}.  It hurts to my very soul that those calls won't come now.

I did not post funny kid stories to facebook for awhile because Aunt Irene always saved those stories on her computer and sent a copy to my parents.  Each time I went to type, the words wouldn't come.  I just thought of how hard she would have laughed or who she would have told.  She took a lot of pride in these kids of mine.  That first post I was able to write was a very conscious decision.  Life does go on.  It needs to.  

I did not want to decorate for Christmas and if we hadn't had kids in the house, I don't know that we would have, but I'm glad we did.  The first time has to be the hardest, right?  I most especially did not want to do a tree.  Several of our ornaments were gifts from, or made by, Aunt Irene.  One summer visit when I was a kid, she and I cross stitched some of them for me to give to my family for Christmas {while watching Matlock or Murder She Wrote, naturally}. Of course we did get a tree, and Ella put on the first ornament.  It was a cross-stitched picture of a moose that said Merry Christ-moose.  The very first ornament she chose was that goofy one made by Aunt Irene.  I left the room to cry. But then we finished decorating the tree and it was a very good thing.

Now that Christmas is over, we've been working on some home projects, one of which is getting Nate's old nursery organized so that it can better function as a guest room/craft room.  Over the last two days I have gone through box after box of stuff, organizing, throwing away, separating into donation or consignment bins.  The last box was one I didn't remember having, stuck way in the back of a cabinet.  When I opened it, it was full of office supplies, and on top of them, one of Aunt Irene's many pairs of reading glasses.  

Those glasses!  You know how you associate people with things?  I associate Aunt Irene with reading glasses on fancy, jeweled chains.  Well, reading glasses and sequined sweatshirts.  Okay, reading glasses, sequinned sweatshirts and hand knitted dish cloths.  But always reading glasses.  I set the box down and cried and cried.  And now, long after the family has gone to bed, I'm continuing to grieve.

This time I wrote down my thoughts.  This time, I'm ready.