Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Our 25th Wedding Anniversary Party*

Now - December 2013 

Then - December 1988

Twenty-five years married? It is hard to imagine that Pat and I have been married that long, never mind the additional years we dated leading up to our nuptials. When I consider how it is that we managed to navigate the ebbs and flows of holy matrimony,  I would have to say that in terms of our morals and core values we are one in the same. Like minded in such a way that though there are two of us we are like one. On an advice board displayed at our wedding, Pat’s mom’s message to us on that 3rd day of December 1988 was to "walk like two candles, but burn a single flame." Those wise words have surfaced often through the years and have served us well. True to her message’s meaning, with all the our other life stuff, we are as different as oil and water, thus giving our day to day the spice required to sustain one’s interest. We are individuals that appreciate and celebrate each others differences.

 That powerful message has been instrumental not only in our marriage but also in how we are raising our children. We are trying to empower each girl with a positive self esteem in such a way that they, in turn, can appreciate the differences in each person who enters their lives while still staying true to their own self. This begins  right at home by sharing with others our own blended family and the unique way we were formed. It seems that with this in mind, the perfect hostesses for our 25th wedding anniversary party, though they are still quite young, were our own two girls, Devi and Treya.

 Our hostesses!
It was of no surprise that they rose to the occasion and with a little guidance, carefully planned a lovely party, celebrating love’s commitment - not only between a husband and wife and their children, but also celebrating the support of our extended family and true blue friendships from the past and present.

We rented a room in The Mansion to accommodate our 60 something guests and it was a tight squeeze, a true testament of the kind of never ending support we’ve had our whole married life. The foyer was decorated with a Christmas tree covered in clear glass ornaments (favors that were given to the guests) that the girls filled with sand and shells collected during our Thanksgiving Puerto Vallarta trip.  Around the top of each was a ribbon inscribed with the words “Together by the sea is our favorite place to be” on them, a nice representation of our love of Mexican and Caribbean travel. On the opposing side of the entry was  a manikin displaying  my princess wedding gown with the glittery beaded train draping the floor in front. The girls, who are still very much immersed in their make believe land of fairies and princesses most of the time, felt this detail was a must. Treya's help with the floral arrangements keep me on track, ensuring each vase contained the exact same amount of red roses and various other foliage. In the background one could hear the lyrical sounds of a talented quartet I commissioned from the Tacoma Youth Symphony, who occasionally threw in a Christmas carol making the evening that much more festive. 

To unite our guests from various time frames in our lives, Treya and Devi passed out questionnaires about little known facts of our married life and urged people to search among themselves for the answers. Questions varied from “Who introduced Pat and Julie?” to “Which guests share the same birthday as Pat?” to “During a romantic evening, why did Pat dunk Julie’s head under water in the jacuzzi tub?” (The answer a true act of heroism.) It was a great ice breaker and was fun to watch the girls help some of the guests cheat by sharing their answers.

The girls had chosen a pasta buffet with a choice of lasagna or Penne and Chicken Alfredo with bread and salads, reasoning that the choice of the turkey dinner buffet would have been too much turkey right after Thanksgiving. It appeared they made a good choice as everyone seemed to enjoy the menu, though I was so busy greeting people, many that I had not seen for a long time, that I somehow managed to miss my meal.

We followed dinner with a short program. I greeted everyone and thanked them for coming, acknowledging the 11 wedding party members present.  I also thanked everyone for their continued support, a promise that many of them made publicly during our ceremony when Pastor Shoop married us, as well as those who helped later, miraculously assisting us through the sane navigation of two international adoptions, a feat not possible without many many sets of strong shoulders. The evening would not have been complete without drawing attention to the role models who have helped us reach this point - our parents. I had everyone stand, eliminating people by the number of years they had been married. Over 30 years included my sister and brother and their spouses, but left standing beyond 45 years of marriage, was my dad and Pat’s mother. Both, no doubt, would have continued to stand if circumstances were different, but who sadly fell victim to the reality of their vow “til death us do part."

My sister Joan and SIL Obie, 
both part of the over 30 years married group

To further emphasize our gratitude of our faithful group, the lights were dimmed and a short video I compiled began. Included in the video were photos of nearly every person in the room sharing memorable moments with us over the course of 25 years. Vacations spent together, holiday celebrations, silly Kodak moments all formed a stepping stone type of timeline, including the joyous moments when each daughter joined our family. Wow, have we all changed with the passing of time! My favorite portions of the movie were the short video out takes of my interviews with Devi and Treya. When asked, “Who are you going to marry someday?” Treya’s impromptu response was, “Devi...because she is my best friend!” I followed up with, “How about marrying someone like daddy?” She nodded yes and I questioned, “Why?” and she blurted, “Because I love him!” It was so completely tender and heartfelt leaving many, including me, with tear filled eyes.

Devi brought the house down her opinion of, “What do you think about 25 years of marriage?” “It is kinda cool...and kind of creepy.” was her response. When I pondered, “Why is it kinda cool and kind of creepy?” Thoughtfully she paused and then finally retorted, “It’s cool because 25 years is a really really really long time, but creepy because you guys are so....OLD!” Ah, magic moments caught on video can be so incredibly raw, innocent and priceless!

As the final snapshot faded and the applause that followed finally died down, we were surprised when a friend approached us to present his anniversary gift. Out of his pocket came a stack of crinkled edged papers - a written service. He is an officiant, and performed a vow renewal right then and there, witnessed by 60 of our dearest and closest family and friends! It was beautiful, the details of his message to us were spot on - just right. At one point, he invited our girls to join us in a family hug, saying a prayer of thanks that God chose each girls for us, joining our family of four forever. We will be forever thankful to Shawn Schuler for this incredibly cool gift that was not even the least bit creepy! 

 Cutting the cake then - 1988
 Cutting the cake now - 2013 with our parents and children
After the ceremonial kissing of the bride (that would be me), we could think of no other way to proceed then by cutting the cake especially chosen for us by Devi and Treya. They had carefully tasted samples months earlier and had chosen a 2-tier tort with raspberry filling and creamy white icing. Simply decorated with silver ribbon at each tier with the signature silver numbers “25” poking out from the live roses that encircled the top, it was delicious.

The true icing on the cake was a gift from my dad. Years ago he had composed poems for my siblings when they reached their 25th year of marriage, so I was hoping he would remember and put pen to paper for us as well, though I would have never asked. Raising to his feet while tapping a glass to get everyone's attention he surprised us with this.

The Welding
To weld is to join two pieces into one, 
A perfect union that will never come undone.

Our honored couple were welded in nineteen eighty eight.
December 3rd was the welding date.

Paster Shoop was the welder, a good one we all feel.
He struck an arc between them and it was hard as steel.

Twenty five years have come and gone since that welding date, 
When Patrick announced he wanted Julie, to be his life long mate.

It was after a family dinner and it was getting late,
All the guests were gone when Pat revealed his fate,

Out came a jewelry box and in it was a ring,
I was honored to be asked and Mom's heart began to sing.


Wedding plans were quickly made 'cuz time was getting short you see,
As their new life together was to start in a place called Washington D.C.

The adventurers traveled to a place unknown, not even a place to live,
Really all they had were hopes and untold love to give.

After a year of living and working there they found,
Their hearts belonged back near the great Puget Sound.

A home was envisioned and built by the pair,
And they started planing their family there.

Now in all the years there were good times and bad,
For all in our family if was heartbreaking and sad. 

When we looked forward with anticipation to see,
The new little one that was not to be.

In time their life changed to a different plan,
And they were blessed with children from a far off land.

Way around the world and far across the sea, 
Came our little Treya and her big sister Devi.

In the couple's demeanor, adoration is what I see,
In any solid welding that's the way it should be.  

This welding so lovingly struck way, way back,
Has stood the time against any rust attack. 


It was so hard to bring the evening to a close. The room was just full. Full of happiness, full of love, full of laughter and full of family and friends. I was so proud of the girls. They were so well behaved,  polite and were the best little hostesses we could have ever asked for. On the drive home in the darkness, Devi sat in her car seat, silent in her hunter green velvety dress, her thumb having found her mouth and her eyelids struggling under the weight of eminent sleep. Out of that darkness came her small voice, “That was the best party ever!” Yep, it sure was. Thank you so much my dear children!

* I know this is an incredibly long blog post, but I couldn't manage to edit a single word :)

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Playing Catch Up Part 3 - Thanksgiving 2013

Once again, we boarded a plane and headed to sunny Mexico for Thanksgiving. I know, I know. The lengths we go to so that I don’t have to smell a cooking turkey - an aroma that reminds me of countless holidays in my youth spent sick in my jammies with less than an appetite for anything resembling food. Thankfully (every pun intended) I have a family that so understands my quirkiness, who willingly give up stuffing for guacamole every year!

2013’s trip, found us in Puerto Vallarta once again soaking up the 80 plus degree sunshine with ten other family members in bathing suits, rather than scarves and mittens. This location, which feels like home to us, once again greeted us with hugs and smiles from staff that remember us from year to year.

Seasoned travelers, our girls were lost to the vast pools and water slides again, under the supervision of three of their older cousins, and it was fun to watch them play imaginary type games all day long, uninterrupted by grown ups who have a way of somehow making the magic disappear, with comments about sunscreen, lunch, and the encouragement of rest time.  This year they even spent time with a few of the grounds keepers learning about the growth pattern of coconuts.

Our only mishap occurred on two afternoons during Treya's poolside nap. She took to sleep walking! Once, out of the corner of my eye I witnessed her getting up, grabbing her towel, groggily trodded several beach loungers away and plopped herself on a chase between two women having a conversation. They were dumbfounded! I politely trotted over, to retrieve my sleeping beauty and bring her back to our area. A couple of days later, again while napping pool side she got up and resembling a drunkin soldier, started making her way toward the pool! Most of the grown ups from our group were wading in the pool at the time, but quickly cousin/aunt Melissa who was approaching on the pool deck, saw the emergency. Without our Jelly Bean even noticing she guided her by her shoulders and carefully repositioned our sleepy Trey in her spot safe and secure beneath the umbrella once more. In both instances, Treya had no idea that she had gotten up!

We had hoped to go snorkeling for our big outing this year, but found the age limit to be 8 years old to board the boat. Surprisingly, the age limit for zip lining was only 5 years, so zip lining it was. We bounced up into the mountains during an hour long ride in an open air safari truck, much to the dismay of poor Devi’s motion sensitive stomach. Once there, I thought our poor girl would say “no thanks” to the actual adventure, but true to her toughness, she shook off her sick tummy, now very very empty, and was ready to brave the jungle suspended on only a tiny cable.

It was exhilarating to zip from tree top to tree top - up 660 feet in the air. I tend to not care for heights, but suspended this way, for some reason, did not evoke those nervous stomach feelings at all. Or perhaps, I was so consumed eyeing my brave babies so fearlessly stepping off each platform - Treya first in line, as their tiny bodies and bobbling heads, enlarged by the weight and size of the helmets, went racing across the sky disappearing into the jungle, which seemed miles ahead of me and out of my line of sight. Even Oma, made the trek, and it would have been impossible to wipe the smile off of any of our faces to watch her experience this amazing thrill.

A 5-course dinner prepared for us by a chef set atop a stage filled with mirrors and a camera man with a hand held video camera served as the entertainment one evening. I was very proud of the girls’ willingness to try each course, politely commenting, “I don’t really care for this” on only one dish, but finding redeeming qualities in each of the other dishes. Pretty good for their young unrefined palates I thought. The signature drink for the children was a Pink Panther, which quickly became their favorite. Lord only knows what was in it, but it was PINK and served in a fancy glass, what was not to like? And because it helped them stay occupied for the 2 hour long dinner, it was well worth the sipping extravagance. 


 As always, the week would not be complete without the annual ladies spa day. This year we let the younger girls have their own day with pedicures done all together and hair braiding attacked the same way. I can only think that years from now, these small luxuries will serve as some of their fondest memories experiencing "firsts", spent together as children. They  were so cute helping each other decide on nail polish colors, reasoning the success of one color over another, and helping each design a colored bead pattern for their corn rowed hair. Each design was slightly different, so that no two girls would be exactly alike.

And as quickly as it begins, the day to leave this little paradise always comes a bit too soon. The one fun thing about traveling at Thanksgiving is that when you arrive home, and even in the airport, the signs of the upcoming holidays can be spotted every where. Our first morning home began by waking up tanned and rested, then bundling up in warm clothing, the feeling of wearing a coat and socks seemingly odd after days of wearing nothing but a bathing suit and bare feet. Out the door we headed to sip cocoa and cut down our Christmas tree with another successful Thanksgiving trip safely stored in our memories. 

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Playing Catch Up Part 2 - November Indian Princess Party

Seven may as well be twenty-one, because both ages seem totally unfathomable to me. Yet, here it is! Devi turned 7,  choosing to celebrate by having an Indian Princess Party. Dressed in a new salwar kameez, tikka and with her hair pulled back in a bun, I can begin to see the young adult begin to bud inside her. (Pat is never going to let her date!)

I think the best part about throwing home birthday parties comes on the eve before the party, when as the kids sleep, the house is transformed to match the theme of the party. For this one, we covered the floor to ceiling windows of our family room with a giant white paper silhouette of the Taj Mahal. When Dev awoke the morning of the party she shouted, “The Taj Mahal? We are in Agra, India!” indicating that we had indeed accomplished our goal.  The dining room became a tent by draping  bright colored sheers from the corners of the room toward the center. This is where our party began as I explained the words “Diwali” and “Diya” to our young guests. Instructed by Oma our resident potter, she demonstrated how to form the air dry clay into lanterns to hold tea lights to burn during the festival of light. The girls decorated the outsides of their diyas by pushing bright colored beads into the soft clay sides in all kinds of patterns and designs.

With the help of my friend Kris, henna was applied in mehndi designs of the girls’ choosing on the tops of their hands and a bindi adorned their foreheads. I added a set of bangles on their wrists and a dupatta scarf around each of their necks and just like that a harem of Indian princesses appeared before our very eyes! AND...just in the nick of time, as our Indian dance instructor arrived and began teaching the girls traditional dances. I wish I had written down the names of the dances, but alas all I can remember is learning the moves to a dance about a sly snake in the grass and another...a love story. The girls’ favorite, they learned the movements to portray a prince falling in love with a girl who wore the shiniest nose ring. He met her family and the stars were just right in the sky, so he built her a house. Okay, so perhaps the romance gets a bit lost in the translation, but the girls were enamored anyway. With the exhaustion of dance came hunger. so the girls dined on naan pizzas, papadums with mango chutney, fruit and lassi drinks. 

With full bellies, I had their attention again so we played some Indian oriented games. The first was called Pass the Parcel. I had the girls sit in a big circle and played Indian music while they passed a wrapped box from lap to lap. When the music stopped the person holding the box got to unwrap it...revealing another wrapped box. The music and passing of the parcel began again. I think the box was unwrapped about 10 times and in the very center were surprises for each girl. The game was a huge hit with the girls and was equally as fun to watch as a parent. 

Next we played chase the peacock. I had each girl hold the edge of a big nylon parachute up close to their faces in a large circle. I dropped a peacock feather onto the parachute and the girls had to blow the feather away from their area. If the feather went over the edge in your area, you were out. This was great fun and definitely wore out our competitive princesses. 

The final game was a memory game, in which I had filled a tray with all kinds of Indian related items like spices, a scarf, a henna cone, a paper mache elephant, tiffin, statue of Ganesh, an Indian travel book, tea, incense, bangle bracelets, some rupees, a mortar and pestle, and more so that the tray was completely covered with objects. I uncovered the tray and explained to the girls what each item was called, how it was used and then covered up the tray again. We went around the room and had each girl name something off the tray from memory, trying not to repeat any of the items. I was so impressed! They really paid attention and had excellent recall. It was nice to use this teaching moment to challenge them just a bit.


 At last it was cake time! At Devi’s request, I had made a two tier peacock cake...with jewels...and candies...and a real peacock on top. Well, it had real feathers anyway. All in all, the party was a huge success and I think everyone left exhausted, full, and knowing a bit more about Indian culture. Success in my book, and in Devi’s. Lots of hugs were doled out along with many thank yous, namastes, and a few high fives as well. Days after I could hear our girls humming the prince song and pointing to their shiny nose ring and then up to the stars...

Playing Catch Up Part 1 - October!

Oh my goodness, how could it be that 3 months have passed since my last post? How could it be that I sit here today on the eve of the final day of 2013?  Both of those facts have hit me like a slap across each cheek and the sting is still warming my reddened skin. (obviously outdated again! Guess I am now slapping the other cheek!)
Hmmm....where to begin. I suppose at this point one could insert the scene from Sound of Music where Julie Andrews is trying to teach the Von Trapp kids to sing. She begins plucking at the guitar and sings “Lets start at the very beginning....it’s a very good place to start”. Taking that advice, I will begin by skimming through October, attempting to keep this post short and sweet. 

For starters, I was amazed when both girls decided on a Halloween costume  well in advance of the 31st and without changing their minds 18 times before the big day.  Devi, after losing both her front teeth, concluded that a fanged tiger was a perfect fit for her and she practiced her growl for days in preparation.  She lobbied hard and won me over on the idea of full face make up this year too. Treya, our little echo, always copies Devi, but to our surprise this year she elected to be a ladybug and we all applauded this tidbit of independent thought. She also was very specific that she did not want to wear a dress with antenna head band, rather she had her heart set on a rotund round body with wings. Easy enough, and darling too, we managed to find the cutest of felt costumes at a ridiculous price that my crafty skills could not compete with.

Our celebration included our annual neighborhood door to door trick or treating that once again was far from what I remember as a girl. Our girls came home loaded from just the 10 houses we visit with bags and boxes of toys in addition to enough candy to give our dentist the shivers. Naturally, lots of sorting by size, shape, and color, ensued before selecting Smarties and Dots as their reward for all that walking and hard door knocking work.

Devi’s school also puts on a good old fashioned sock hop. This years DJ was aces. He got down into the crowd of kids and taught dances including the Thriller dance, electric slide and the Cuban shuffle. Pat and I stood on the side lines watching Devi huddle up in a swirl of giggles with all of her little costume clad girlfriends, who were so sweet to let Treya tag along behind. Now and again, I would catch a glimpse of these cute yet slightly awkward girls in their youth, trying so hard to be cool and hip with their dance moves...a reminder that they are growing up so incredibly fast and in a blink will arrive as teens. All ready they get embarrassed when we old fogies took the floor to get a bit of our groove on too.

Much as she tries to keep up, our rough and tumble Trey was exhausted by the time we got home and fell into bed....falling out, soon thereafter! At about 11pm, as we sat watching a bit of television, we heard a huge thud sound on the floor above us. Poor Treya had fallen right out of bed flat onto her back. When I reached her side, she was completely unfazed and still fast asleep. Poor baby.