Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Sharing Them With the World

Today was a big, big day in Sylvia and Charlie's lives -- the first day of Kindergarten! I visited each of them last night to give them a big good luck hug and a little treat to celebrate the eve of the big day. As excited as they are to start this journey called school, I keep thinking about the fact that now they must be "shared." All of a sudden Rach/Sylvain and Matt/Jenn will be living by school schedules, sports, and activities that may not always revolve around the family. Little by little, they will need mom and dad less as they make new friends and learn the ways of the world. It has to happen and it's a healthy thing to happen; many parents with challenged children would love to have kids who could "do for themselves." But I know this was such a hard time for me when Rach and Jordan were no longer just mine, and I no longer called all the shots. I had to start wielding to their schedules and take time with their homework and be sure they got to their activities/sports. Much of it was fun, don't get me wrong. But it's just that pulling away feeling that pulls at the heart.

There will no doubt be lots of times in the next 13+ years of school when they will want nothing to do at all with mom and dad and being anywhere but home sounds like a good idea. But God willing, they will all come out at the other end as beautiful, kind, caring adults who will then some day be sad when their babies start growing up. I keep saying I just want the world to be nice to them; I want everyone in the world to love them as much as I do, which I know can't happen. But I'm certain of one thing, Charlie and Sylvia are loved tremendously by a whole lot of people, not just mom/dad/brothers/sisters, but all the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. They are loved and will always have a place to go if times get tough. And if that's not enough, God loves them even more than all that, since they are God's children too.

So today was their first real day of going out into the world. I wrote on their balloons last night something I really hope they will remember every day -- Be Kind, Have Courage, Work Hard. That's what they need to do each day, and Grammy needs to pray each day that world will treat them well. God bless our precious babies as we share them with the world.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Sylvi-Pie is Five

Sylvia. Sweet Sylvi-pie. She's melted my heart from the day she was born. And I can't believe it's been five years already, that we drove to Louisville in the middle of the night in a horrible lightning storm to see her make her grand entrance. It was the first time I'd really seen a baby born (except maybe a few animals in the country when I was a kid). I didn't see my own babies born, since I made sure they turned that big mirror away so I wouldn't have to look at that "mess down there." But when it was my daughter giving birth, it was a different story. I barely made it in time, after Jay dropped me at the ER entrance and a wonderful security guard ran with me down the hall and pointed the way to L&D. But I made it, and at that moment, I got a new title, Grammy. And, I was surprised and so honored when Rachael and Sylvain announced after the birth that her name was Sylvia Joyce. I have a namesake! Such a sweet thing for them to do.

Sylvia is a delight, smart, silly, and oh so girly. She is a wonderful big sister, and has a heart of gold. I love the little lady she is turning into and she loves to try new things, because "she is not afraid of anything!" I praise God for bringing her into the world and into my life. I think He has grand plans for her. But mostly I hope his plan involves being a good, kind person. I got to see the new Cinderella movie with her and Margot, and Rach and her friend, and I hope Sylvia always remembers the part where Cinderella's mom tells her to always "have courage, and be kind." That's what I want for her, and all my grandkids.

Rachael made sure Sylvia's 5th birthday was a big deal. She wanted a Frozen birthday, so I did my best at making a Frozen cake. I think it turned out okay, but to her it was the best cake ever! And she had the best birthday ever with her preschool friends all invited to a little party at her house. Then on Easter Sunday, her birthday (along with mine and Matt's) was celebrated again. And to top it off, Rachael gave her a special surprise ON her birthday, with tickets to see the broadway play Lion King. Not only was she going to see the play, but her and mommy were going to a "fancy" restaurant first. What a special night that was for her, and for Rachael too. Times like these will never be forgotten by one little girl who just turned five, and one special little mommy who will soon turn 34. I love both these girls to pieces!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Easter Memories

I don't have a whole lot of memories of time spent with my grandmothers. Most of my memories of them were that they were old farm women, in cotton dresses and aprons, and often bonnets when out in the fields. My mom's mother died when I was pretty young, about 5 years old I think, so my memories of her are pretty vague. I really don't remember her spending time with us at all. I have many more memories of Grandma Neltner, since our first house was built on their farm, then when we moved to a bigger house, it was just up the road. Since we lived so close to grandma and grandpa Neltner, we often got to do farm things, like help throw potatoes on the trailer after they were dug up, or jump off the roof of the pigpen and ride the pigs. I remember often watching grandpa milk the cows, and he'd love to squirt us until we screamed and ran out of the barn. (Maybe he didn't really want us there!). But one of my favorite things to do was help grandma gather eggs in the chicken coop. She'd have her basket, or sometimes just use her apron, and I'd love to see how many of those little treasures awaited us. At Easter, grandma had a special night when the girl cousins (me and my 2 sisters and the 3 Hartig girls) would go to her house to color eggs. I remember a kitchen table covered in newspaper and huge pots of boiled, farm fresh eggs and we'd have a ball dying those beautiful eggs! Every Easter I think of those long ago Easters and coloring eggs with grandma. I used to have Tyler and Abby dye eggs with me when they were little. But now I'm so thrilled to have my own grandkids to share the fun with! This year Sylvia and Margot came over to help and they did an awesome job. These girls are turning into such little sweethearts and they really seem to have so much fun together! I love nothing more than to hear their sweet giggles and squeals and to hear about their love for everything Frozen and Hello Kitty. So, some day when they are dying Easter eggs with their children and then grandchildren, I hope they will think back about the Easters they spent at Grammy's house coloring eggs and telling stories about Elsa and Anna.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Mom's Story, and Happy Birthday!

She was only 35 years old when the world came crashing in on her. Seven months pregnant with her 6th child, and her husband is killed in a car crash. This one event is what has defined my mom's entire life, and the lives of all of us, her kids. To say she is a strong woman is an understatement. How many women could go on after such a tragedy? How many women would have turned to alcohol or drugs just to get through the day? But not mom, she was cut from a different cloth. She not only found a way to go on, she found a way to raise those kids, all alone, to be kind, thoughtful and caring people (no brag, just fact). I've always been especially impressed with the fact that she was able to raise two boys alone, and neither one of them were ever any trouble. They had every reason to be delinquents and to use the fact that they were fatherless to be druggies and slackers and to run wild. But mom made us all tow the line, even the boys, and that in itself is a testament to how she parented. Sometimes I think back to those early years, right after dad died. I remember now and then when one of dad's friends or brother or brother-in-law would stop in, I could see mom trying to not cry in front of us kids. She wanted to be strong for us. But as an adult, you realize how her heart was just broken. Not only did she grieve for the loss of the love of her life, but lived with the constant worry that maybe she couldn't do it alone, or God forbid should something happen to her. I remember shopping with her at Mesh's on Monmouth Street in Newport (with 6 kids in tow) and she ran into someone she knew. Of course, whenever she ran into friends or family, they always asked how she was getting along. I distinctly remember that shopping trip and hearing her tell the woman that her prayer now was that God would let her live long enough to raise these kids. Until I heard that, it never occurred to me that we could be orphaned, and it scared me to death. I was terrified when she just went down the road, a mile away, after dark and left me and my older sister to take care of the kids. If she were gone more than an hour or so, I was certain she was laying in a ditch; that she too was dying in a car crash. I'd so often call grandma's house just to ask grandma if mom had left yet because one of the little ones was fighting or something; all I really needed to know was that she really was still there and that she would be home eventually. She was still alive. That's how a nine-year-old thinks. That 35 year old woman turned 85 years old on May 9th. She's never remarried, never even dated. As adults, I'm sure all of us kids wish she had found someone else to share her life with. But looking back, if that had happened, who knows how it would have turned out? We may have had a horrible step dad, the boys may had turned into those delinquents after all. In the end, mom literally gave up her life for us. We all say we would do anything for our kids, we'd give our very lives for our kids. Well, mom really did. She may not have found another husband, but I truly think she followed Gods plan; she gave it all for her six kids. And those kids have always lived near her and have all married and have families of their own. She's been blessed with 16 grandkids (18 if you could my two stepchildren) and 6 great-grandkids (9 if you could my step-grandkids). These have been her blessings. I think God has blessed her abundantly for giving her life for her kids; she is surrounded by three generations of family who love her and owe their lives to her. Happy 85th Mom! You done good.

Monday, January 12, 2015

A Little Boy Baptised

Yesterday was Albert's baptism, on the last day of Christmas. St. Patrick's is a beautiful church, and especially at Christmas time. Fr. Jeff VonLehman was one of the priests at St. Joe's years ago when the kids were in grade school and I always felt he made such a connection with his congregation, especially kids. So now that he's at St. Pat's, it is a dream come true! Rachael loved him as a little girl, and is thrilled that the kids get to know him too. He is so good with kids and embraces them and families, so it was a perfect combination for a beautiful Baptism. Probably my favorite part of Baptism with Fr. Jeff is that he asks the father to hold up their newly baptized baby to the church community and present him "Lion King style." It really is so beautiful to hold your child up high and have the congregation applaud the newest member of the church. Fr. Jeff was also so good at meshing the gospels, which happened to be about Christ's baptism, with Albert's baptism and kept mentioning him throughout the service, calling him Albert the Great. Adorable little Albert is always so laid back, and he was just that throughout the Mass. Even during the pouring of the water (which they do in the middle of Mass in front of the whole congregation instead of after Mass with just the family) dear little Albert didn't make a peep. The girls were good too, and I'm just so thrilled that Rachael is building a beautiful little family and a beautiful life with Sylvain and her precious babies. I know she is on cloud nine living the life she always dreamed of. God has blessed her and all of us. But mostly, yesterday, God Blessed Baby Albert!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

An Early Christmas with the Wee Ones

More than any gift in the world we could give or get, the gift of time with our family is the most precious. So, this year, Jay and I decided to take our family to Great Wolf Lodge as our "gift" to our kids/grandkids on the first Saturday in December. What a great decision!! With six grandkids from 5 months to 5 years, we knew this was going to be a very special magical Christmas. What can be more fun than the holidays with these kids who all have the wonder of Christmas in their eyes. What is more adorable than a 2-year-old spontaneously breaking out in song -- nothing! But here is how our weekend went, lest I forget some day. Great Wolf Lodge is a wonderful place with a huge indoor water park, and it's just north of Cincinnati so less than an hour away. The lodge lobby was transformed into a beautiful winter wonderland, with visits from Santa and Mrs. Clause and bedtime stories in the lobby at 8 p.m., complete with snow fall. So when entering at 1:00 on Saturday, our mouths dropped at the beauty of the place. We checked in to use the water park, even though the rooms would not be ready for check in until 4:00 (although we got in the rooms much earlier). I had in tow matching Christmas pajamas for all the adults and grandkids, as well as a couple of games for the little ones. We also had plenty of snacks and libations. (Rum and diet coke, no carbs! But still comes with a hangover -- oh well, it's the holidays!) The kids had a ball spending the afternoon in the water park, while I stayed in Matt/Jenn's room with Alex who was sleeping in my lap. When it was time for him to wake up, I was able to join in the fun in the water park. About that time Jenny (Bean) got there and also joined in the fun. Jordan is the only family member not there, as he was in Gatlinburg with a group of friends. :( After lots of water rides and slides, the worn out crew had pizza from the pizza place in the lodge for dinner, then headed back to our rooms for our Pajama Party! Everyone opened their wrapped gift of pajamas and put them on. Of course, grammy had little gift bags with coloring books and crayons and stickers and candy for each precious wee one. There was also Pin the Star on the Christmas Tree, and Christmas Trivia games. Little ones love anything that's a game, so they had a ball. Charlie and Sylvia worked hard at "decorating" the tree with stickers, while Margot and Claire were engrossed in their coloring projects. The best part of the evening was the adorable pictures we got of all the little ones in their Christmas pajamas, and even the family picture (minus Jordan) turned out awesome with everyone in their pjs. Before the night was over, the "old" kids headed to the bar in their jammies for a little adult partying. It was such a fun night for all of us! The next day check out was 11:00, but you could stay at the water park the entire day. Since Matt/Jenn's kids were exhausted, Jenn headed home with the kids after checkout. Jay had to take Matt to the airport about Noon, so that just left me and the Fasciottos at the water park until about 3:00. They all had a great family day in the water while I watched Albert on the side lines. I also got to get in the lazy river with the girls and we had a ball. All in all, I feel like this Christmas season has just been the best! We had so much fun being together at such a magical place for Christmas. I hope we can do something like this every year, or at least while the grandkids are still young enough to enjoy such a trip. WE ARE SO BLESSED.

Friday, November 28, 2014

More than 30 Years of Gingerbread Houses

It was time for the gingerbread house construction. I started making these way, way back when I was pregnant with Rachael, and my then boss got 4-5 of us together for a few years at her "house" in Indian Hill (really, it was like the Sound of Music mansion) to make gingerbread houses. She would have the gingerbread pieces made by a bakery and we'd all bring a bag of candy to share in decorating the houses. After we quit doing this at Brenda's house, I wanted to keep it up, so every year since then (maybe 1 or 2 were skipped along the way) there has been a gingerbread house in my home. I've had the same gingerbread recipe and pattern pieces to cut out for more than 30 years. The kids loved it growing up, Jordan probably more than Rachael. He was really quite good at constructing it so it wouldn't fall to pieces, and he and Rach both liked decorating. Jordan, the artist, always seemed to come up with something a little different each year, and I loved to watch him get into it. As they got older, I had to do a bit more coaxing to get them to join me in making the house, but somehow it always got done. Then when they moved out, there were a few years in there when I made it myself (not much fun). But thankfully, my sister moved in up the street and it wasn't long before Abby and Tyler were joining Aunt Joycie in the gingerbread house tradition. Now that they are "tweens" their enthusiasm has lessened, but that's okay because now there are the grandkids to join in the fun. I can probably handle 2 kids at a time, but more than that would be a disaster. So, the Saturday before Thanksgiving seemed like a great time to introduce Sylvia to the fine are of building a gingerbread house and I snuck her out while her sister took her nap. (I would have loved to have Charlie join us, but getting him out of the house without Claire would have been impossible, so for this year at least, just one grandkid.) Anyway, since Sylvia loves all things arts and crafts, this was an incredible craft project for her to work on. She did a great job, especially making the M&M sidewalk and sprinkling the powdered sugar snow on the roof. I don't think any of the other women I started this tradition with are still making gingerbread houses, and they'd probably think I was crazy doing it all these years. But it's just not Christmas to me without it. I'm so happy I have the next generation to join in on the fun, and I hope this continues for many more years, even after I'm gone. It's something I hope at least one of the kids will pass on as a fond memory of Grammy and, at least at Christmas time, they will be thinking of me.