party like you were born in 1928

My smallest and most talkative travel buddy and I returned very late last night for a quick trip home for Grandma’s 95th birthday.

It seems like two months ago we were celebrating her 90th birthday; now she’s five years from 100. After her horrible summer in and out of the ICU and months in rehab, we didn’t think she’d make it, but she’s still alive and as funny as ever. She can barely hear which makes conversations even funnier, but she loves to chat and piece together what she can hear. All 6 children, most of the grandchildren, and 6 of the 10 great-grandchildren were in town. She was as thrilled as could be with each new person who came through the door. She told Carol she “didn’t want a party but she did want to be celebrated.” She didn’t know we had planned a surprise gathering with her old lady friends (“the young girls” since they’re mostly in their 80s), cousins she seldom sees, and friends from church. Her little brother planned on coming from Maine but sadly had to cancel the day of due to a cold. She didn’t know he was coming so she wasn’t disappointed. She probably would have forgotten anyway as she has the short-term memory of a gnat. She takes naps every two hours or less, but that extrovert and her walker held court for hours with her guests. She was so happy. It made me so happy to see her surrounded by everyone she loves.

Instead of gifts, Grandma asked for donations to the food pantry she volunteers at. My contribution was the healthy and organic snack she and I like to eat when we play cards.

Nick, Molly, and I left the party to pick up soda. Nick drove us and Molly sat in the passenger seat complaining about applying for college. I never feel so old as when the children I used to babysit are doing adult things. I changed those kids’ diapers and carried them around for hours upon hours. For years, my entire life revolved around when I’d get to play with then babysit them and Zack. Now all three are taller than me. I knew I should have put heavier bricks on their heads to stop the growth!

The night we arrived in Massachusetts, AB went to Grammy’s house and I stayed at a hotel for the night. Alone! A hotel all to myself! No one but me! Elizabeth and Erika orchestrated it for my Christmas gift and it was delightful. I ordered room service and ate pasta and pie on the bed. I had brunch at 11:30 like a rich lady without a care in the world. When she saw I was eating alone, the waitress gave me a 14-page double-sided informational printout about the history of the hotel and restaurant. I learned so much. I never learn anything when I eat at Olive Garden. The Kennedys often stayed at that hotel and I ate at the table where they got engaged. I too got engaged at a restaurant so I can only assume the trajectory of my life will be the same. Vote for me as First Lady in the election of 2032!

We had the briefest Aunt Camp in history- a one-night sleepover on Saturday. Annabelle had a tough time in general when we visited Massachusetts in the summer and that Aunt Camp was not the most successful. I was worried about how she’d do on this trip, but thanks to lots of prayers it went so smoothly. The girls disappeared into the basement and wrote a three-scene play we were all forced invited to attend. Oliver is the cutest little boy you’ve ever seen. He’s so precious. He doesn’t talk much, but that doesn’t stop me from repeatedly asking him, “Can you say Auntie Sarah? Do you remember my name? It’s Auntie Sarah! Can you say it? Don’t you want to try? I’m your favorite aunt! Auntie Sarah!” to which he responds with a firetruck noise and points to whatever food is within sight. We’ll keep working on it for summer Aunt Camp.

the only thing missing were snacks and a walker for the old man

Christopher: Do you know where Vanessa and Dave live?
Me: Yes, they live right up the road on the left. We walk by their house all the time.
Christopher: Huh. I had no idea they live so close to us.
Me: I’ve told you that before. I’ve pointed out their house several times and we’ve waved to them in their yard.
several minutes later
Christopher: Did you know they go to First Baptist?
Me: Yes. That’s where we met them. We were in the same Sunday school class with them and Jessica with the big earrings.
Christopher: I don’t remember that.

Earlier this week Christopher was walking around this house looking like a drowned rat. That’s his go-to look when he’s getting sick.

Me: You need to take some strong medicine to kick that to the curb before it turns into a real sinus infection.
Christopher: I am taking strong medicine. I’ve been eating cough drops.
Narrator: He was not trying to make a joke. He was being serious.

Somehow he made it to his 40th birthday with the memory of a goldfish and the medical knowledge of a toddler who thinks a bag of skittles will heal bronchitis.

(Maybe I shouldn’t judge too harshly about old age. I did use the phrase “Is this what society is becoming” like a bespectacled 78 year old.)

Christopher cares not a wit for a birthday party theme. Annabelle and I live for a birthday theme and spent several morning snuggles debating balloons vs bears vs crazy hats vs Harry Potter vs silly willy jiggly fat head theme. The last got no votes but she campaigned hard. We settled on a book/library theme. I thought we could set up the dining room like a library and instead of regular Dewey decimal numbers, we could use years he’s been alive and have photo albums and books from that time period in each “library section.” It was simple enough. Somehow we ended up with an interactive museum of storybook characters created by Annabelle Sesame Lee.

She drew Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk (right) and Melon the dog (left) from a podcast on pieces on styrofoam. The styrofoam bits stuck in the rug are the gift that keeps on giving.

We stuffed my lion costume with towels to create Aslan from Chronicles of Narnia. AB thought his name was “Avalan” and I didn’t work too hard to correct her. There was a dress-up section from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She duck-taped garden stakes together to make the scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz. She dressed up as the Princess in Black and I dressed as the conductor from The Polar Express. The whole experience was called The Wild Wild Wild Wild Magical Kalidascope Fantasy Ride. I couldn’t get the name right and had to carry an index card with me that said, “w w w w mag. kal. fan. ride.” Since no creative thing she does is simple, I was given several instructions. She had recorded herself on the ipad acting out each character and as we got to it, I had to push the button and give any necessary explanations. At one stop I had to dance. She mixed up the stories of Avalan/Aslan and the knights of the Round Table which was a very interesting combination.

AB is already planning The Wild Wild Wild Wild Magical Kalidaschope Fantasy Ride 2.0 for his next birthday. I’ll be cleaning up styrofoam bits until he’s 44th birthday.


I don’t think I’ve celebrated Elizabeth’s birthday with her in person since I got married, but this year she happened to be visiting on her big day. My barrel of ideas for a party theme was very shallow, but we went with a Dolly Parton theme. To be specific, it was a WWDD (What Would Dolly Do) party.

It turns out Dolly Parton is not a popular party theme so it was a real stretch to find the right decor. I bought a bag of gold rings because what’s a Parton party without big jewels? I had a package of napkins I had bought for Aaron’s wedding that we didn’t end up using and with a little editing they fit the bill for our party. 

I hung up the shiniest gold decorations I could and made a WWDD banner.

Annabelle insisted on the glow sticks as party favors. I’ve never seen the real Dolly with glow stick jewelry but I wouldn’t put it past her.

Since Dolly often talks about her humble beginnings, we honored that portion of her life with slightly more redneck decor for dessert. Elizabeth doesn’t like dessert so we were going to have a watermelon “cake.” Someone dropped the watermelon causing it to have a giant mouth crack. Annabelle insisted it needed Reese’s pieces teeth which made it look too redneck so I pushed them as far out of sight as I could.

What Would Dolly Do? She’d party like it’s a Sunday afternoon and there are diamond rings raining from Hobby Lobby the sky.


When we were young, Katie and I had a particular way of eating Skittles. She ate the red and purple, I ate the yellow and orange and we split green lime. It was a perfect system and to this day I do not eat a Skittle without thinking of her and wishing she’d take the red and purple off my hands. Back in 2013, I was newly pregnant and at the hospital waiting to be given IVs. We sat in the waiting room for what felt like fourteen eternities. I alternated between staring at the two bathrooms so I would know which was available and rushing into said bathroom so I could throw up. Christopher bought a bag of Skittles because the only thing that sounded like it might have even the slightest possibility of being vaguely appealing was sour candy. It was then I learned that the powers that be at Skittles Headquarters USA changed the flavor of the green candy from lime to apple. Talk about hitting me when I was already down. All I wanted was a tiny lime candy! It was a bad day on many levels.

All that Skittles talk to say, it felt like a full-circle moment the day before Annabelle’s 8th birthday when I read an article saying that Skittles has brought back their lime flavor. The Lord has not abandoned us yet. Evidently, this is old news and the green skittle returned to the lime-light several months ago, but I am just now finding out. The article was dated September 28th, 2021 which was almost exactly 8 years to the day that the green skittle became dead to me. One minute I’m on the verge of throwing up and my favorite candy is gone, the next minute the candy is back but I’m on the verge of tears over my baby’s age. You win some, you lose some.

Annabelle didn’t want a big this year. She said she wanted a few friends over to “do fun things around town” instead. Our town is the size of a postage stamp so it was a real stretch to find a few good activities. I made a pick your own adventure sheet and she had the option between two playgrounds, then between a roller rink or fun park, which activities she wanted to do at the fun park (bowling, bumper cars, mini golf, etc), which snacks she wanted and so on.

We planned two activities outside the house then home for cake and presents and more playing. It was very very low-key. She was so overwhelmed with all the kids at her party last year that we only invited three little friends this year and it was perfect. I told the moms we’d provide supper if AB wasn’t too overwhelmed. Not only was she not too overwhelmed, but the party was never-ending. The kids got to our house at 1:30 and didn’t leave until 7:30. They ran all over the playground, zipped around on go-karts, and didn’t stop moving for six hours.

My great birthday sorrow (besides the fact that the 5lb 11oz baby I brought home is now 64lbs) was Sesame didn’t want to have a specific birthday theme. What’s a party without a theme?! Does she not know that themes are my love language? We settled a generic ”birthday theme” party and while no one would pin it on Pinterest, it was cute and she liked it.

The cake absolutely was not Pinterest worthy. AB requested mud pie (oreo crust, chocolate cake layer, chocolate pudding layer and whipped cream) and I couldn’t make it into any kind of fun shape. I always pride myself on making her a creative cake and I really dropped the ball this year. She requested a theme-less cake so I had no direction. I forgot to buy special things to put on the top so I used one of the silly wrapping bows that matched the bows on her presents. It tasted delicious but it was not my finest work.

At 1:40PM on her actual birthday, the very moment she turned eight, Annabelle was doing very Annabelle things. She was barefoot outside, listening to a podcast.

She loves podcasts, audio books, coloring and drawing, playing games on the iPad, spending time with her cousins, Sunday school, being read to, digging in the dirt, playing outside and swimming. Her favorite meal is spaghetti bolognese and her current favorite color is purple. She still gets cereal on the floor when she pours herself a bowl. She never turns down a sweet treat. Her favorite animal this week is a penguin. She has a sensitive little soul and and a great sense of humor. She is a terrible speller. She’s already bummed out that school will be ending and counting down the days until she starts 3rd grade. She never has a bad hair day.
She’s my best girl and I love her more than lime skittles.

Potter Party 2.0

Last year AB had a little birthday party with just the three of us. We gave her the option of a small friend’s party at the house or a night at a hotel. She picked the hotel but thanks to the ‘rona we couldn’t go. I was sure her 6th birthday would be the only one we’d celebrate in a pandemic but here we are, a year in and still dealing with it. She talked for months about having her friends over on her birthday but I didn’t want to promise too much because things can change on a dime. Thankfully she has a sweet little group of children whose families are fine with visits so she was able to have a party. After going through several themes, AB decided on a Harry Potter party. We did that theme last year and I am no more an HP fan than I was last year, so I campaigned hard for a different theme. We were THIS CLOSE to having a dragon and taco party which I was in favor of 110%, but she stayed firm in her request so we did HP. Why does she have to go and get opinions on things? At least we already had the Harry Potter bow.

About 10 minutes before the party started, she told me she was “going to take a siesta before the fiesta.” The little introvert apples does not fall far from the tree.

We wanted none of the spells and sorcery to be a party of the party so we came up with games that involved neither. I spray-painted 10 brooms from the dollar store silver and gold. You know what a bunch of 4-7 year olds don’t care about? Whether or not the brooms were lovingly and painstakingly painted instead of left blue and white. You know what I don’t care for? A bunch of blue and white brooms that look like they were made in China and not forged in the ancient fires of wizards. 

The kids loved decorating the handles in washi tape. The moms loved that their children now had their own personal brooms for sweeping the house. Next year we’ll decorate vacuums!

Christopher was appointed the ringmaster to explain the game of quidditch which is played on brooms in the Harry Potter books. He used big words and several directions that very few of the children understood. Us moms had a great time watching the chaos. Eventually he said, “You know what? Just throw the ball and play it however you want.” 

I don’t want to sound overly dramatic, but for about 45 minutes there the cake situation was Threat Level Red. I didn’t have a good design idea so I was fumbling and pouring sprinkles and none of it was right. I told Christopher he needed to run to Publix and buy another cake. It was terrible and I could not show my face in front of the other moms with a cake like that. He said it was great but he’s unable to give unbiased opinions. I said it would be great if he and AB had decorated it, but it was an insult to my Wilton decorating level two class. Everything else about party prep had gone shockingly well and I was shockingly calm, so it’s no shock that my nerves came out on the cake. We didn’t get a cake from Publix and I was able to show my face to the other moms, but I still think it’s not my greatest work. Annabelle liked it which I suppose is the most important part. My ego will be fine.

She’s my favorite even if she does listen to the same seven audiobooks on repeat for an entire year and tell me things like “You’re right. You are getting more gray hair.”

things were good in her ‘hood

I am not a fan of Halloween and have not one Halloween decoration to my name. We tend to stick with general fall-themed decor. Annabelle mentioned off-handily that it would be funny if a friendly ghost was pretending to play our electric keyboard. I used two vacuums, a drum and cloth pumpkin a little magic to create a piano-playing ghost. When we got home from school, I turned the piano on so it would play an assortment of classical hits and jazzy tunes. Then I used the vacuum to clean the rug so not only was it decorative, it was useful.

I broke one of my cardinal parenting rules this Halloween. I’ve always said that AB can’t change her mind on a Halloween costume after October 1st unless she wants to wear something in the dress-up basket. Usually, I make her costumes and I need plenty of time to cut and stitch and hot glue gun my fingers. This year she said she wanted to be a bat which, to no one’s surprise, did not thrill me at all. I longed for the days of costumes with tutus and wings. I hadn’t started making the bat costume yet when she switched to Little Red Riding Hood. It was a surprising choice since she’s never mentioned liking Red, but she was listening to her podcast about fairy tales and decided to vote for Little R. R. Hood 2020. I hand sewed the apron while watching Netflix, much like Caroline Ingalls did in ye olden days of the 1800’s. The hairdresser told me that “they” might cancel Halloween this year. Normally I wouldn’t care but I did not want AB to miss out on another thing this year. Whoever “they” are could knock on my door and try handing out a cease and desist order, but gosh darn it she was going to have a chance to dress up.  I didn’t think it was any more dangerous than taking her to the grocery store. We went to an outdoor trunk or treat at church and she skipped around the building ”like Red Riding Hood does.” It was precious. When we went to a few houses that night, she kept asking that we stay back while she went to the door. Then she’d get nervous and turn around every two steps on the way to the door turning around to make sure we were still there. She repeatably walked into bushes and shrubs because she was too busy looking behind her. Little Hood isn’t ready to be out in the woods by herself.