Happy Birthday Dad

Today is my dad’s 61st birthday.

He is not here to celebrate it.

He died in February after a sudden illness. He drove himself to the hospital on a Monday and on Friday he was gone.

My two sisters, their families, my mom and step-dad all live in Delaware and were able to be with Dad the first couple of days. My brother and I both flew in from across the country and arrived on Wednesday. My dad was awake and knew we were there taking care of him. All week, someone from our family was by his side around the clock. He was put on a ventilator on Thursday and by Friday we and the doctors were talking about withdraw care. We planned to discontinue the ventilator on Friday night after all the immediate family could arrive. He died on his own before our planned time.

My brother, one of my sisters, and I were all in the room with him. We watched his heart rate decrease steadily and quickly. The three of us said our good-byes and held each other.

Everyone else joined us shortly after. We prayed together, sang some hymns, and comforted each other.

The rest of the time I was in Delaware was a whirl wind. In addition to all the arrangements and everything that comes after someone dies, we also discovered that my dad’s house was completely hoarded and unlivable. My siblings and I estimate that we have not been in his house for over 8 years. He always came to visit us or would meet us at a restaurant. We knew that he had collections and a lot of stuff but we had no idea how bad it would be. It was overwhelming. We spent several days going through his house trying to find his most treasured possessions and collections (rare American flags, arrowheads, coins, antique glassware, etc). Along with anything else that we could salvage and use, give to family, or donate. By the time we had the memorial service, we set aside several things that we pulled from his house that represented his favorite things for the memorial display. This display did not even scratch the surface of representing what my dad loved but many people appreciated being able look at these things.

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In the aftermath of going back home and dealing with other major changes in my life, I have felt guilty or saddened about a lot of things concerning my dad.

I feel guilty for not mourning my dad in a “typical” way. I did not cry while I stood by his bedside as he died. I did not cry at the memorial service. Although I occasionally get sad as I reminisce, I do not feel like I have truly mourned the loss.

I feel guilty for not having a healthy father/daughter relationship with him over the years… as the oldest I had the most strained relationship for a number of reasons. He made an effort in recent years but due to travel distance it made connecting difficult.

I feel guilty for feeling relief that he died instead of having to live with most likely years of rehabilitation and lifestyle changes.

I feel guilty that we did not know how bad his house was and that we were not there to help him deal with it and fix up the house so that he could be proud of it again.

I feel guilty because I do not remember at all the last time I was actually with my dad on his birthday.

I feel guilty that this is the only photo I have of my kids and their Grandpa Len (which was from two years ago):

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Even with all of my guilt and sadness, I am finding comfort in interesting places. During my current college course we were studying the book of Ecclesiastes. It would not be my first recommended book of the Bible for comforting after death but the following passage spoke to my heart about my dad:

…When God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work–this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart. (Ecclesiastes 5:19-20, NIV).

He was not a wealthy man but he had numerous possessions… all of which had sentimental value or purpose in his mind. We were very distressed when we discovered how my dad lived. We thought he must have gave up on life. However, when we had his memorial service half of the people there were people from his job which he loved. We heard story after story of how my dad blessed others with things he found at stores or antique shops that he thought they would like. This passage gives me hope in the fact that even though we cannot change the outcome of how my dad lived, he truly enjoyed his possessions and blessing others with them.

I pulled out all of his blue cobalt glass for myself (this photo only shows about half of it). He regularly sent me blue cobalt and I will truly treasure this collection among the other things that I kept for myself.

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We also filled a bin with various glassware and gave it to a downtown restaurant near where my dad lived. We went there for dinner one night and noticed that they had plates hanging on the wall that matched a pattern in the house. We talked to the restaurant owner and she was thrilled that we were offering her these items. She said that she would display and/or use everything that we gave her. My dad would be proud to know that people would be able to see and enjoy his collections.

I know that everyone mourns differently. I know that the grief will hit me hard at some point. I know that my guilt and sadness will subside eventually. Maybe reminiscing and taking pleasure in my dad’s belongings that I kept for myself will be my way of grieving.

Today, I will eat some cake and sing “Happy Birthday” to my dad because he is going to have the best birthday he has ever had… with Jesus!

*****

Frozen Birthday Party-Part 2: Decorating

Finally, here is Part 2 discussion & photos of our Frozen themed birthday party from back in January! This post will focus on decorating! Thank you to my friend Erin who took the photos for me!

If you missed Part 1 click here:

Frozen Birthday Party-Part 1: Food

Thanks to Pinterest, there are a ton of great ideas for a Frozen themed party! Many of my ideas came from Pinterest and other ideas are my own! Frozen allows for many great possibilities but way too many for one party on a limited budget.

IMG_2602To recap about the food table, I started out with a purple plastic tablecloth. I stretched out blue and purple tulle over the length of the table as runners. We used paper plates (with purple & blue flowers), plastic forks, and purple & blue napkins, blue basket. The party favors included, Frozen notebooks & pencils,  and Frozen tattoos. I also used blank food tags & water bottle labels to label everything! See where I found everything  in my Part 1 post.IMG_2606

I bought helium filled balloons from our local grocery store to scatter above the food table. During Christmas season, Hobby Lobby has many items that can be used for a Frozen theme. I bought fake snow,  purple  &  teal glitter snowflake ornaments, purple & teal snowflake garland strands, and clear icicle garland strands all from Hobby Lobby. If you are on Hobby Lobby’s mailing list, you get weekly 40% off coupons and if you watch their sales you can find whole sections of the store already discounted.

IMG_2604I bought these lovely Frozen themed decorations from Oriental Trading Company. I hung the banner above the window in the dining room. I hung the swirl decorations around the dining room above the table and in the living room above all the doorways. They just added the needed touch to complete the actual Frozen theme. IMG_2603

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IMG_2655We already had these Frozen pillows that the girls received for Christmas! Olaf of course was the favorite among the guests! Olaf was purchased at Target and the throw pillows were purchased at Walmart.

 

 

 

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IMG_2629Now comes the kitchen bar decor. I topped it with fake snow, hung the snowflake & icicle garland, and the snowflake ornaments. I put the cake & dessert plates on the bar until it was time to serve. The glass candy jars are filled with decorative candy from Hobby Lobby. A friend uses these for baby shower decorations and she allowed me to borrow them. She tied ribbon on them to match my color theme. Of course, a Frozen themed party is incomplete without Elsa & Anna! These dolls were given to the girls two Christmases ago and were the perfect addition to the bar. IMG_2624Under the bar, I used Frozen bags that we found at Target (in the dollar section!) and stuffed them with tissue paper. You can also see a single snowball! We have a set of indoor snowballs that I scattered all over the living room floor. These were the highlight of the party because the kids had an indoor snowball fight!

IMG_2642IMG_2635 And last but not least: the gift table! I covered the coffee table with the same purple table cloth that is on the food table and topped it with the Frozen mylar balloons found at the local grocery store. Gifts for the girls were placed on and around the table. I tried to specify one side for each girl but that did not work out so well (and it really did not matter).

 

 

Here are some free party tips!

Party Keepsakes!

  • Buy a Mylar Balloon that matches the theme of your party. When it looses most of its air (or when you are tired of looking at it), cut a small hole at the base of the balloon to let out the remaining air. Fold the balloon and place it wherever you keep your child’s keepsakes.
  • Save one filled out invitation to put with your child’s keepsakes.

Save Gift Wrap!

  • Gift bags are getting to be expensive! Fold and save all gift bags for future use then you have a stack on hand to choose from without having to run to the store last minute.
  • Tissue paper can be smoothed out and folded neatly for future use. Since tissue paper is usually scrunched into bags, most people will not notice that it has been reused.
  • Wrapping paper can also be smoothed out and folded for future use. Unfortunately, my kids tear into wrapping paper and most of the time it is not salvageable.

Frozen Birthday Party-Part 1: Food

My girls have birthdays that are 2 weeks apart in January. We have always had joint birthday parties for them which makes it more convenient for me! Until they start putting up a fight and insisting that they have separate parties, we are going to continue the tradition! On their individual birthdays, we allow them to choose a restaurant of their choice for their birthday dinner so that their day is special. For the parties, we always invite entire families who all of us spend time with on a regular basis (instead of random friends who get dropped of at the house). This allows for fellowship with our friends while we are celebrating the girl’s birthdays. We pick a theme (discussions for the next year’s theme usually starts soon after the party is over) and throughout the months leading up to the party, I keep an eye out in stores or online for decorating ideas. I always have a ton of fun decorating and making the party day special! I have finally gone through the hundreds of photos taken at my girl’s Frozen birthday party and narrowed them down to just… 55! So, I do not overwhelm you, I will post the pictures in different blog posts. This post will focus on food! Thank you to my friend Erin who took the photos for me!

Thanks to Pinterest, there are a ton of great ideas for a Frozen themed party! Many of my ideas came from Pinterest and other ideas are my own! Frozen allows for many great possibilities but way too many for one party on a limited budget.

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I started out with a purple plastic tablecloth. We bought a tablecloth roll about 5 years ago and we have used the same roll for every birthday party since then! A friend gave me blue and purple tulle after an event that she decorated for. I stretched them out over the length of the table as runners. We used paper plates (with purple & blue flowers), plastic forks, and purple & blue napkins from the local grocery store. The blue basket came from Hobby Lobby. The party favors, Frozen notebooks & pencils, came from the dollar section at Target. Frozen tattoos came from Big Lots. I found my blank food tags & water bottle labels from a pinterest post from Delicate Construction.

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Hallmark has a new product called Itty Bittys! I bought the entire princess line for the girls for Christmas. I saved Anna & Elsa for their party. They were very excited! Chocolate hearts were labeled “I wanna stuff some chocolate in my face!” Hershey Hugs were labeled “I love warm hugs!” I found the blue & white swirled lollipops and blue diamond gems  from Oriental Trading Company.

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Strawberries dipped in candy melts from Hobby Lobby are labeled as “Frozen Hearts.” Sandwiches labeled as “We finish each other’s sandwiches.” I made chicken salad, scooped it on hamburger buns, and cut them in half.

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Powdered donuts are labeled as “Snow Balls” and the veggie tray is labeled as “Troll Food.”

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I set up several snacks (marshmallows, pretzels, carrots, raisins, snowflake candy, and labeled them “Do you want to build a snowman?” The kids had fun and were really creative!

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The “Stormy Seas” Punch is made from Blue Hawaiian Punch, Sprite, raspberry sherbet, and vanilla ice cream. There is not a set recipe, just make it to taste. Pour the sprite over the ice cream to get the fizzy look on top! Water bottles are labeled as “Melted Snow.”

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And of course, the Frozen birthday cake! There are many cool ideas for custom cakes on Pinterest. I did not have the time (or the talent) to try and attempt to make one. This came from the local grocery store. The decal is printed on edible paper. I told them the colors I wanted for the colored frosting (to match the rest of the party decorations).

See Frozen Birthday Party-Part 2: Decorating for more!

Come On Ring Those Bells

This was my all time favorite Christmas song when I was a kid!

Come On Ring Those Bells

By: Evie

Everybody likes to take a holiday
Everybody likes to take a rest
Spending time together with the family
Sharing lots of love and happiness.

Come on, ring those bells
Light the Christmas tree
Jesus is the king
Born for you and me.
Come on, ring those bells
Everybody say
Jesus, we remember
This your birthday.

Celebrations come because of something good
Celebrations we love to recall
Mary had a baby boy in Bethleham
The greatest celebration of all.

Come on, ring those bells
Light the Christmas tree
Jesus is the King
Born for you and me.
Come on, ring those bells
Everybody say
Jesus, we remember
This your birthday.

 

Birthday Blessings

Growing up with a June Birthday has had its good points. As a child; I hated that other kids could have their parents bring cupcakes to the classroom and get to have a party during the school year (I think I did have one or two teachers who celebrated my birthday at the end of the school year). But overall, it was nice not to be in school on my birthday most of the time (on occasion my birthday did fall into the extended school year because of snow days).

I never had huge birthday parties. Not because my parents didn’t want me to; but they generally couldn’t afford it. Generally, just my family and a few close friends attended my parties. I remember having sleep overs, pool parties, and joint parties with friends who also had June birthdays. Sometimes people put together surprise parties but I generally figured it out before the actual party. I remember some of the gifts that I received from friends and family; books, flowers, clothes, toys, cards, etc. The thing I remember most is that I always had people who cared about me.

As an adult; birthdays don’t scare me like they do for some people. I am not afraid of getting older and I don’t dread getting closer to certain numbers. Instead, I feel blessed that God has allowed me to live life. My prayer is that I will continue to grow in wisdom as I face life’s ups and downs. I want to continually better my life so that I can be a good example for my children.

Speaking of children; Kendal is at the age where she understands what birthdays are. After celebrating her birthday this year; she asks frequently if it is her birthday again. Or she tells her daddy and I plans for our birthdays. Several weeks ago; I showed her on the calendar that my birthday was coming soon. Every few days we counted how many days are left until my birthday.

When my birthday came; it got off to a bad start. I had to wake up at the crack of dawn (I am NOT a morning person) and rush out the door to drop of my girls at a friend’s house. Then I had to patiently sit in the dentist office waiting until someone was able to see me (to follow up on a problem related to a dental procedure several days before). After over an hour at the dentist; I went to pick up the girls. After talking for awhile with my friends; I drove around base to do errands. They argued, cried, and threw tantrums during most of my errands and I had a migraine by mid morning. Shane was home from work by the time we got home. He and the girls presented me with gifts then he went to bed for the day since he had to go into work in the evening. I helped Kendal make a cake (Shane would have done it with her if he didn’t have to sleep). The girls continued their arguing, crying, and tantrums throughout the day and pretty much made my day miserable. When Shane woke up; we lit candles, sang happy birthday and had cake and ice cream. Then he left for work and I got the girls bathed the girls. When I put Kendal in bed;

She gave me a big hug, held my neck, and sang happy birthday to me.

This made up for everything bad that happened during the day.

*****

Kendal insisted that I have a blue cake (since blue is my favorite color).

Shane got pink and purple flowers because those are the girls favorite colors.

They got me a pale pink crystal necklace. I love it!

“I will sing to the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.”

Psalm 104:33