Tag Archives: celebrate

Birthday Wrap-Up ’18

This morning was the final birthday celebration, breakfast with Dad. When the celebrating is over, it’s time to write the wrap-up post.

I was at a birthday lunch with a friend on Monday. When she asked how my actual birthday was I had to stop and think. I could not remember well, which is why I am trying to remember now. Even as I try to write, lethargy engulfs me. I am trying to push through.

I wrote a birthday list on the marker board in the kitchen at the beginning of the month. Little Mae printed hers in red pen and posted it to the refrigerator much earlier. Hers contained everything from Lego Ninjago to Black and Whilte Guinea Pig named Cookies and Cream.

Because we share the day, Little Mae and I planned a schedule of how to spend it, beginning with me attending a sixth grade awards assembly at school while she did morning screen time at home. This hanging basket greeted me upon return.

We took our birthday checks to the drive-thru window of the bank to cash them.

Then it was McDonald’s for lunch and Barnes and Noble for books and a birthday treat.

 

Rainbow came along.

While we were at Barnes and Noble a text came through that an adult sister was in town. She wanted to pick up the newly double-digit little and spend time with her. That meant I got free time!

It was such a surprise I almost cried.

A free afternoon offered a chance to grab the shower I had missed that morning, getting everyone to school solo. It was Steve’s first week at the new job, and we were all adjusting. I had to adjust my attitude with a phone call to a sister when my birthday morning was not going according to plan!

First on my free time list was a plant rescue at Lowes. A cart filled with clearance flowers cost $18 of birthday money. Coming home alone to plant and hang them, priceless.

I showered and rested and picked up the girls from middle school. We did our afternoon routine, and I worked on the birthday dinner planned in advance when planning the cake. It was a simple meal of ham, herb dinner rolls, and vegetables. I put ingredients in the bread machine and a ham in the oven.

Then it was time to make a side dish for my son’s band picnic. Since ham is not his favorite it was a good night for him to have an alternate plan. My adult daughter rode with me to the park to drop the food off and then to Starbucks for my birthday drink, another thing I had missed along with my shower that morning.

Birthday dinner was relaxing and fun with adult daughter and significant other, adult son, and phone calls from those adults not in attendance. Everyone wanted me to know that they had helped with the gift that would be delivered the next day.

Those around the table presented me with gifts of a new tea kettle and journal. We watched Little Mae open her gifts and ate cake. It was an enjoyable ending to a kind day.

On Friday a package arrived. I messaged my daughter to tell her that she had a delivery. She said it was my gift and that she would come over and open it and give it to me. I had some errands to run. When I returned she handed me a slim wrapped box, telling me it was from all of the adults and their significant others.

I was speechless after opening it. I am still learning to use it. Best feature so far is the voice text, though I have had some faux pas with the text still recording when I thought I was finished. Oops! My younger generation thinks technology is being wasted on an old person.

I am so grateful for another year, thankful for life, humbled by lavishly generous gifts and by the love so freely given by all in my family. I look forward to 47 with anticipation.

And yes, I got the Lora Kelley download that was on my list. You can get it here.

Ice Cream Birthday Cake

Today is my and Little Mae’s birthday. I am sharing our cake creation with you here as we spend the day celebrating another year of life together with our family.

We agreed upon an ice cream cake. The recipe we use is one that I remember Aunt Caryl introducing to the family when I was a girl. It has ice cream sandwiches as the base layer in a 9×13 pan followed by a layer of softened ice cream. Finally Cool Whip is spread on top.

That’s it!

Our week began on Monday with Steve’s new job and Mae and I home together. We went to Sharp Shopper, the local grocery outlet, for some items. While we were there, I found the ingredients for our cake, only slightly varied.

That is the way it is with Sharp Shopper. You have to hold expectations loosely and be willing to improvise. Things are usually slightly varied.

Here are the ingredients purchased for our cake.

Instead of ice cream sandwiches which they didn’t have, I bought chocolate ice cream sandwich making wafers, which they did. I bought two cartons of Moose Tracks frozen yogurt and two cartons of Cool Whip light topping.

For you locals, the only reason I didn’t use the Pumpkin Pie ice cream is because it is a shared cake. 😉

In the bottom of a glass 9×13 baking dish I placed a layer of chocolate wafers.

A carton of softened frozen yogurt was spread over the chocolate wafers. If these were ice cream sandwiches they would have ice cream in them already, but this is the Sharp Shopper version.

A second layer of wafers went on the softened frozen yogurt.

Another carton of frozen yogurt was spread over it all.

The final layer was Cool Whip, two 8oz cartons. I sprinkled everything with rainbow sprinkles and wrote with chocolate icing.

The finished cake went in the freezer, uncovered, to set the writing before covering it with foil to save for today. We will enjoy it after our birthday dinner!

Move Out Day

When the front entryway looks like this, it can only mean one thing. It’s move out day. Well, either that or there is/was a gig. In this case it is move out day (week?).

After a year together, the drummer is moving out and on. This is bittersweet for my mama heart.

I am grateful for this year we had together. I am thankful he was able to finally live in a finished room ~ the one he began tearing out his freshman year of high school and was completed during his season of post-high school overseas travel.

I am thankful for his grace over the painting fiasco. (And I just re-read that as parenting fiasco in my head and had to laugh, because it fits, as well.) We still have to fix the paint in the room. And some of our parenting techniques.

This past year I jokingly referred to as my gap year. Having Child 4 around gave me a chance to catch up on life with him we had missed together. He fell through a gap in our family as the older siblings were leaving and the youngers were arriving.

We had many conversations over breakfasts and coffees. We went hiking together and shared stories and laughter and tears. We grew. This year brought much growth for us both.

Having a nineteen-year-old in the house helped me to reconnect with my nineteen-year-old self. It helped me with the Certificate 2 work that I completed in May. It helped me to name the moments when the story of my nineteen year old self was struggling with my current parenting role.

This year brought much healing. I never dreamed at the beginning that we would be here at the end. We are here.

It is time. It is time for number four to launch. I look forward to impromptu drop-ins (his, not mine) for last-minute breakfasts, coffees, laundry, conversations. I look forward to showing up for local shows to watch my favorite drummer play.

Most of all, I look forward to what the future holds for this amazing man I am proud to call Son.

 

 

 

 

Hello, New Beginning

May I use the picture if I write a blog post today?

Yep

Our text exchange took place at 6:20, after my man left for his first day at the new job. He is excited. I am anxious. Change is exciting. Change is scary. Change is here.

I thought he had already left when I woke at 6:00. Monday mornings are early ones for him now, and, kindly, this is the last Monday of the school year. A decent morning school day routine has evolved over the past nine months, and I still had a few minutes in my room alone before engaging the morning, solo.

A tapping at the door startled me as I was making up the bed. Opening it a crack, anticipating one of the kids entering, I saw the mug of coffee before the arm carrying it.

I thought you had already left!

I grabbed my phone to snap a picture as he said, Take a picture of me.

So here it is. The first day picture.

Movement towards this new beginning had been difficult and kind and has taken years of preparation. Small steps have gotten us ready for larger ones. Sitting in this space of writing and reflecting, I am aware that the anxiety I feel comes from a younger place inside of me.

Just as I took my 19 year old self to Certificate 2 training last month, my 20 year old self is in there, newly married, newly pregnant, newly graduated from college. Changes on the horizon felt big and scary to her and choices made during that summer season affected the next 25 years of her life.

This new beginning is a gift. It is a gift to be aware of the root of my (seemingly irrational) fear and over-responsibility surrounding my husband’s new job. It is his, not mine, and he will be great at it. I do not have to walk in fear over how his day is going.

This is another season of growth for me. It feels embarrassing to admit the places where I am developmentally behind. In this case, it is in stepping out into the unknown and trusting that things will work out. It is watching my husband do something completely unrelated to what I know and bearing witness to his growth and success. It is finding my own places to grow and succeed.

It is celebrating all of the goodness that the past 25 years has brought to us and looking ahead to the next 25 with eagerness about what will come. We do not know what tomorrow holds, but for today, there is a new beginning.

Goodbye, 25 Years

This is it. Today is the day. When my husband leaves work, it will be his final time leaving as administrator of Good Shepherd School and Daycare.

So much has led up to this moment. Twenty-five years worth of events have occurred, each setting another bit of infrastructure in place. Life. School. Family.

You should have done this years ago.

Statements like this have been made and are not helpful. It’s easy to look and tell others what they should have done without knowing the full extent of their story. In our case, there is much complexity surrounding that 21 and 23 year old who moved to Virginia with their 10 month old daughter while expecting their second child in August of ’93 to begin working with family in a newly-opened daycare.

His first project was building bookshelves that still stand. It is the kind of man he is. He can go from solid construction to solid leadership while remembering faces and names along the way. It is the faces he will miss the most, I know that. The names he will remember mostly and boldly risk using them, even if he is wrong. Be forewarned.

25 years is a long time. Our firstborn turns 26 this fall. Our youngest will soon be 10. This has been their life. This career path is what has raised them and provided for them. It brought insurance for medical bills and care when I took trips to Ohio, California, the Bahamas, Michigan, Boston, Seattle, and Chicago.

It has provided an education and music instruction. It was a space where we could all be together until the pond grew too small and the needs too great. It’s where we wrestled through how to best serve our own children while serving other people’s.

The school brought dear teachers and friends into our life. 25 years worth. It brought goodness and grief, both given and received by us. There were years of our own small children with their overwhelmed parents trying to figure out how to make it all work. There were sacrifices, not always in the best interest of our family. Sometimes we got it right. Sometimes we did not.

We tell parents that this program isn’t for everyone. I think we have one of those kids.

When I stopped working to stay home with child 4, was one of the right times. That I did not realize I had the power to make that choice with children 1, 2, and 3 still grieves my heart. That we can talk honestly about that with each other now is a gift beyond words.

25 years was the right amount of time to complete the work we were given to do here. To have left sooner would have been to miss the gifts of friendships and growth that the past few years have brought. To stay longer would be to prolong the status quo and stand in the way of others who are ready to step up to the plate.

As for this man, he is on to new things, and I could not be more proud.

 

 

Swinging

Quick! Mom is on the porch swing!

This rare sighting is engaged with buckets of water poured over each other’s heads, while videotaping the action in slow motion. One sister stands on the grass and the other on the porch.

I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

In my childhood days, baptisms took place in the swimming pool as we fully immersed one another, Baptist-style. My Presbyterian children have witnessed differently.

Steve walks past with the mower, and I am secretly grateful he chose to pull it out in this golden hour of the day. This means I will not have to mow, and the grass will not have to be bagged.

The dog scratches at the front door.

One thing we agree on is getting soaking wet!

Soaking wet is an understatement. I remind myself that squealing, soaking girls means outside engagement is happening. We live in a great house in a great space. I am thankful for our yellow house on the corner, always a work in progress.

A breeze blows over me from the east, towards the setting sun.

The dog is brought out and clipped to his leash on the porch long enough to get wet in residual puddles of water left by soaking wet girls. He is then let back inside to shake it off. I hear this through the door.

Somewhere in the midst of it all, my 19 year old son steps out, and we look at each other and laugh. What else is there to do, as he observes the journal on my lap and bears witness to the chaos taking place? There is nothing idyllic about the moment other than the glorious rays of the setting sun.

Pressure on my chest reminds me of more to come. Two days more.

Two days are all that remain of what has been our normal for almost 25 years, Steve going to work each day at Good Shepherd School and Daycare, providing for our family. Over seasons we have worked together. We have worked apart.

I was a working mom, teaching through my 20’s. I took my 30’s off to be home with our children. At the peak of parenting there were eight of them under our roof that needed care. I returned to teaching when the youngest was in kindergarten. I was 42.

I ended my time at Good Shepherd last year. This was my year to regroup and be home; to figure out what was next. I jokingly called it my gap year. Mostly I spent time repairing harm done from times when I could not be there for my son, now 19, who had fallen through a gap in the family and was living with us in his (finally) finished bedroom after traveling abroad.

The year brought such a sweet space of breakfasts and coffee dates and sharing memories, both good and bad. There was laughter and lots of tears. I did not know at the time of Steve’s upcoming mid-life career change. It is probably good. Otherwise I would not have been able to be as fully present to my family and their needs.

Last night’s sleep passed as slowly as the water pouring over my daughters’ heads in the slow-motion videos they created. Insomnia is no stranger to me. Each hour I woke felt like another wave washing over me, as I mercifully fell back asleep. Dreams came in equal waves.

Tonight is Steve’s final program as Administrator of Good Shepherd School. Little Mae is playing recorder and singing and doing all of the things that kids in the programs have been doing for 25 years. Some of her siblings will be there to watch, remembering when it was their turn to sing the Piggy Song or play recorder.

I will remember the programs I directed over the years at all of the various locations. I will remember the peak season when large numbers of students were transported to Lehman Auditorium or Massanetta Springs Conference Center and the smaller ones of late at West Side Baptist where they all began for me.

One blog post is not enough to capture what is stirring in my heart. What do I do? Give a factual update? Share nostalgic memories? How do I honor the blood, sweat, and tears that my husband leaves behind? How do I honor my own?

This day brings both goodness and grief. Isn’t that all of life? Sitting and giving myself time to write is kindness. Allowing the tears to freely flow and be followed by deep sobs is necessary. More words will come in the future, but for now I will sit in the present.

Maybe I will go to the porch and swing.

Duckling Drama

The ducklings hatched while I was away with a friend last weekend. My husband sent a picture. It was more than I got last year which was a live view of an empty nest with a few broken eggshells. I felt grateful and said as much to him.

Last Sunday evening, I walked Dewey downtown to the water to see what I could see. There were a mama and Mallard wrangling a passel of puffballs. I knew they were mine and kept the dog up on the bridge, away from the activity, watching from a distance.

Late yesterday afternoon, my youngest asked if she and her visiting cousin could walk the dogs. (My firstborn and her husband were in town with the granddog.) I agreed with the caveat that I go with them.

They eagerly leashed the animals and headed outside. I followed close behind.

Can we walk down to check on the ducks?

I allowed them to lead the way downtown. The break in the rainy weather was nice.

From the bridge over the water, we saw a mama and Mallard with three little puffballs. Not far away was a large family of twelve ducklings, tended by their mama and Mallard. Suddenly chaos ensued as one of them wandered too close to the puffballs.

New mama pinned the wanderer to the ground, quacking furiously. With a flurry and flutter of wings, junior’s mama hurried over, giving the protective mama what for for interfering with her offspring. Order restored, new mama returned to her puffballs and the other huffed away with her ducklings in tow.

Following their Mallard, the large family waddled up the hill, leaving behind a straggler, wandering down by the water. When the lone duckling realized he was left behind, a continuous peeping quack escaped his bill as he frantically ran to and fro in the empty space by the water, looking for his family.

It was no use asking new mama for help, though he tried wandering in her direction. She came at him in a fashion that said, I dare you to come closer! Resignedly, he turned back toward the water, still calling for help.

Meanwhile, the large brood had flocked up the hill away from the water towards the parking lot where I was standing,leashes in hand. By this time I had been relegated to dog keeper while the girls sat on a bench watching the duck drama unfold.

Oh no! That duckling is lost! We have to help him!

They proposed the idea of chasing him up the hill, but then the duckling stepped into the water and swam to the rocks on the other side, still peeping and quacking.

I decided to use the dogs to herd the wandering flock back to the water. Leading Dewey and Wren toward the large brood, we watched as they ran back down the hill and stepped into the water. They began to glide toward the duckling, his peeping quacks still out of reach.

Excitedly the girls cheered the family and duckling closer, hoping to witness a reunion. Rain began falling in a light drizzle. I, too, was hoping for  reunion and resolution of this duckling drama rather than a lesson in survival of the fittest.

Suddenly there was a burst of speed as the duckling made connection with his family and came flying across the water. Literally. I have never seen a duck swim as fast as this little one who was making a mad dash to reunite with his raft.*

On the shore we cheered, then turned to head home.

* a dense flock of swimming birds or mammals

Christmas Changes

I sit in the day after Christmas, carving out some reflective quiet in the midst of all of the celebrating. In the moment there is relative peace. There are no deep conversations to engage, no projects to help facilitate, and no needs to meet. In the moment.

There has been much change and growth this season, and like most growth and change, it is not noticeable until you look back on what was. The looking back took place through the eyes of an adult son who was on the other side of the world last Christmas.

Christmas morning was so much more chill than it was two years ago when I was home.

It is true. Little people have grown and are growing, and while there is still excitement, there is not the frenetic level that once was. There is greater ability and capacity to wait with expectancy and hopeful patience and to enjoy the process of giving and receiving gifts on Christmas morning.

I noticed changes in many areas over the season.

Cookie baking looked different. It required minimal help from me in the gathering and helping to mix ingredients for dough. The rest took care of itself as four sisters sat and decorated them together.

There was such playfulness in the decorating, as inside family jokes were engaged and battle scenes created with cookies and icing. Growth. Laughter.

Christmas dinner felt calmer as we ate and laughed and played a game around the table. I really want to insert a picture, but it is the season where not everyone is fond of being posted. Changes. So I refrain and instead post the final result of our Advent tree.

That was a change, as well, since we kept up with the pieces and candles this year after a rocky beginning.

I am thankful that I pushed through the hard to get to the other side. We made a lot of memories around the table and the tree.

A final note on this day after Christmas is how my gifts have changed over the years. From giant plastic candy canes of days gone by to thoughtful gifts that show just how much my kids have grown and know me, this year’s Christmas bounty was so sweet. And I am not talking only about the giant truffle!

This is me entering the last week of 2017, blogging about Christmas changes, anticipating other changes on the horizon. While I do not know specifically what they are, I feel them inside.

I hope to have more time to process this week, maybe even on the blog, about what is coming up in 2018, including my word which will be revealed New Year’s Day.

Change is not easy for me.

We shall see!

Friendship Friday ~ Alex

I am blessed with the gift of built-in best friends. Many moons ago, my fourth little friend was brought home from the hospital. That gave me two younger sisters and two younger brothers by the time I was eight years old.

When Alex began to talk, he called me teacher. That is the family folk-lore. I am not surprised, because I played school with all of my siblings and stuffed animals. I probably roped him in as a nursery student before he could talk. By the time he was four or five, I had him well-trained, as seen in these photos from a school picture day photo shoot I did with my class one summer.

I did individual photos, hands properly crossed over a book, most likely a Bible for that extra spiritual touch.

I took a class picture, as well.

Clearly I was inspired by the real school picture of this little preschooler.

Fast forward a few decades and lots of stories to this summer when Alex brought his entire family from Bolivia to the States. We were on the same continent for three months, though not all of that  time was spent in the same location.

It was so fun to catch up and connect. It felt like always. Just really good. Like this good.

There is so much love on our faces. So much contentment in this captured moment. Shalom.

Alex was ten when I left for college. One of my favorite letters from that season reads

Dear Julie, I love you. I miss you. We are still brother and sister. Love, Alex

We are still brother and sister.

This summer we took a trip with our mom and teenage girls to visit family in Ohio and Michigan. It was such a sweet time of laughter and conversation. And after this goodbye picture was snapped, I climbed into my car and sobbed down the driveway as I drove from Ohio back home to Virginia.

Happy Birthday, Alex! I love and miss you so much! I am thankful for your life. I am thankful that we are brother and sister.

Celebrated, Seen, Loved

My final week of teaching was filled with goodness. It was sweet to have more relaxed afternoons after busy morning program practices. Diligent work by students (and their teachers) throughout the school year meant time for fun!

This note was left on the “Teacher Appreciation Week” bulletin board for me by one of the first graders. It is one of my favorite things.

Students assembled end-of-the year memory books and collected autographs from one another. Yearbooks arrived on time. There was a pizza party. There were cupcakes to celebrate those important summer birthdays.

Thursday night brought our 25th end-of-year program. Kindergarteners graduated, grade school musicians performed, and awards were presented to the Learning Center students.

While I have not been involved in all 25 programs, I have organized and directed many. I have sat in the audience for many more, often wrangling my own infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.

This year, I carried the title of piano accompanist due to my ability to play Apples and Bananas, The Piggy Song, and Round the Clock the Hours Go (Twinkle, Twinkle) with appropriate chords while the kindergarteners sang along.

I also held the title of Learning Center teacher for the final time. It was a delight to listen to my students make music with Mrs. Buchanan and then to present their awards. Looking out over the audience from behind the podium, I saw many former students and parents of students and one former student who was now a kindergarten parent!

My heart filled with a mixture of sadness and joy over endings and unknown new beginnings.

I returned to my seat in the second row only slightly disappointed that I had not asked my former students to stand. As I was letting that go I heard my name being called, and I was summoned to the podium for a special presentation.

My center spotlight survival skills immediately went to work to contain the big feelings that were surfacing. Just take the bunch of flowers and sit back down. What a nice gesture. Smile. Turn around.

It was not that simple. There’s more.

I stood awkwardly by the podium looking around as my friend and fellow teacher, Mrs. Hottinger, came down from her post on stage and reached for a gift basket to give to me. She and Mrs. Buchanan had put it together and asked to present it at the program.

I was speechless.

Words about me began to be spoken by her. That, in itself, was a gift. I heard about my impact and role in their lives as a teacher and friend and how I will be missed. She explained that the basket contained items for me as I continued on my journey. I really hoped it was full of answers and direction.

It was full of chocolate, candles, Keep Calm and Trust God cards, a handmade book, and beautiful vase. Maybe not answers, but certainly clues.

I was presented with a beautiful Psalm 23 plaque, as well, with the meaning of the verse and the images of sheep explained. It was so humbling and special.

Before I could sneak back to my seat, my husband came tp the podium to give his words for me. I listened to a brief recap of my impact and involvement in the formation of Good Shepherd from the early days until now. Five of my children were there to bear witness and to be recognized.

Reminders of how slowly and quickly 24 years can pass washed over me as I locked eyes with those in the audience who had walked the road with me over many seasons and years.

I wish that I could say that I stayed fully present and did not try to cut short my time in the spotlight while attention was being called to me. I wish the words Quit calling attention to yourself were silenced in my head for good, but they linger on.

Kindergartners were waiting in a line to receive their diplomas, and children had worked hard all evening. It was time to honor that. Feeling seen, celebrated, and loved, I asked my former students to stand before I took my final bow.