Remembering Aunt Polly

January 25th, 2015

IMG_0597

IMG_0532 IMG_0561

IMG_0562

IMG_0563

IMG_0568 IMG_0584

IMG_0636

IMG_0654

My great Aunt Polly passed away on New Year’s Day this year.  It was a Thursday.  I talked to her for the last time on Tuesday of that week.  I told her how much I love her, and she kept saying, “Honey, I love you so much!”  She was such a positive person in my life.  Even on her death bed, at one point, she asked if she was getting better, bless her heart.  She overcame so much from losing a child, losing her husband less than half-way through her life in a tragic accident, and having her home flooded twice. She outlived all her brothers and sisters.  All the while, she was the life of the party, and she made you feel like you hung the moon if you ever had the privilege of meeting her. She always figured out a way to make everyone in a room laugh, just by being her charming red-headed spunky old self.  I’m beyond grateful my kids made lots of memories with her and loved her to pieces the way that I do.  They are missing her a lot, and it’s going to be hard on us for a while.

Aunt Polly was so special to everyone who knew her.  From gargling tequila for sore throats to collecting hundreds of shoes, she was such a character.  She and my Granny (her sister and Rara’s mother) would take road trips to bring home pecan bread from Collin Street Bakery. Out of all the things to drive hours for, I always thought that was so random—and cute!  Her vegetable soup will never be equaled.  My mom has tried to make her soup with her recipe, and it just can’t be recreated.  It’s the only vegetable soup I’ve ever enjoyed.  It’s been about 15 years since I’ve had it, but I grew up on it and will never forget the taste.  She always cooked for my mom when things were so busy we couldn’t see straight.  I would bring dates to her house for her approval and just sit and talk in her back den by the fire while she rocked with her pastel blue and pink house shoes (“slippers”) on.  We always ended up giggling about how straight-laced my Granny was about this or that.  I got more info out of her than anyone else.  She told it like it was, and I appreciated that.  She loved so hard.  She only saw the very best in everybody, and in turn, everyone saw the best in her.  She truly made the world a better place and lives on in me through my spunk, strength, and laughter.  I could go on and on, and if it would take away the deep heartache that comes and goes throughout the day when I remember she’s gone all over again, I would.  I’m glad she’s at peace, and I’m so proud of her life. 

The week Aunt Polly passed away, a lot of people wrote to me and said, “I’m sorry for your loss.”  All I could think each time I heard it was, “I’m sorry for yours—that you never met her.”  Isn’t that a strange thought?  I wish more people could’ve known her and enjoyed her because she was such a riot and would make your day any day. One thing about our generation and the ones to come is that technology will shape our family stories to be so much fuller and richer. Many of the mysteries of our personal histories will be no more. Even this blog could be read and seen by our great-great-great-great grandchildren.  That’s one of the many reasons I spend time sharing on a blog.  To preserve our little everyday story for our family and for generations to come.  Wouldn’t it be interesting to see what a graveside looked like five hundred years ago in your family, or how they celebrated birthdays and what their cakes looked like (if they had cakes)?  And not just the most elite, which are pretty much all we have documented from our distant past, but stories and photographs from our very own flesh and blood.  What were they interested in and what were their passions?  How could this information shape who our descendants are and what they will become?  Will they gain insights about themselves that lead to healthier fuller lives?  The possibilities are endless, and I want to do all I can to help.  On the other hand, I may just be documenting our journey for our own memory building, and that’s enough for me.  Hopefully through the years, I’ve shared enough about Aunt Polly that if any of our descendants see our tiny little piece of history, they will know how very loved and cherished our red-headed Maurita “Polly” Waldrop was to her family and friends. 

I may have already shared this on the blog, but I asked her during one of our recent conversations how she survived through all of her tragedies.  She said, “There’s always a happy side.  You just have to look for it and hold on tight.”  That’s some seriously great advice; it’s simple, yet such a key to being happy no matter where you find yourself.  Look for happiness—for the good, sometimes even as a means to survive.  I’m so happy she was one of my very best friends.  Thinking about that makes me overjoyed during this time.  I feel cherished and loved and protected and taken care of.  I will be okay.  And you will too.  Even if you don’t have someone in your family to look up to as I do my Aunt Polly, be that person to future generations, to your children and/or your nieces and nephews.  They won’t ever forget your attention and love.   

One last little piece of family history.  My maternal grandmother, Mary Arnett, lived to be ninety years old.  Her little sister, Aunt Polly, who was ten years younger than her, lived to be ninety years old, too.  They were best friends and competitive in a friendly way.  Turns out, they both lived the exact same number of days on this earth, down to the same hour of death.  They are something else, in life and death. Granny and Aunt Polly, I love you both more than words and miss you to the moon and back a thousand times!  Thank you for loving me so strongly and so well.

A Labor of Love

January 22nd, 2015

IMG_0671

The Pond family’s needlepoint garland from Poppa and Rara.

IMG_0661 

IMG_0662

IMG_0668

Rara spent countless hours making each of her children’s families these needlepoint ornament garlands.  She has little notes on the back of each ornament saying who she made it for.  They are amazing and so very special!  This one on the stairs belongs to John’s family.  I didn’t get a picture of Michele’s because they left before I thought to snap pictures of them while they were so beautifully displayed at Poppa and Rara’s house.  They also have these fancy little LED lights woven throughout the garlands that look incredible at night.  Rara has been working on these for decades, and they were such a labor of love!

A Day Full of Stars!

January 17th, 2015

IMG_0514 IMG_0434

There are no words.  This is such a fun, unique, happy, strong group of kiddos; They make the world a better place!  (Rose was not happy she had to share Anna Kate’s hand holding with Anna who was holding Anna Kate’s other hand.  That is the story on that face… which was totally hilarious!)

IMG_0399

Christmas lunch was so Mom.  She never ceases to amaze me and because of her cake pop presentation, the kids will never forget what rosemary smells like.  They each took a stem and smelled it as they ate their desserts.  Watching their Rara (Rose Mary) teach them about this herb just melted my heart.  Such wonderful memories in the making.

IMG_0405 IMG_0402

It wouldn’t be home without antlers!  Noelle loves to cook and serve others, and she figured out a way to share her cinnamon apple dish with her cousins! 

IMG_0416

So glad we got this picture of Nancy, Me and Michele!

IMG_0419

Cute cuddling cousins!

IMG_0408

The brothers, John, Andy, and Mike being good sports about a picture! Winking smile

IMG_0449

We tried to get a picture of Poppa and Rara with all 8 of their grandkids but that didn’t work out so much.  Winking smile

IMG_0423 IMG_0456

Hudson sure does love his Poppa!  Noelle did a fantastic job of making warm cinnamon apples for dessert!

IMG_0462

Rose is totally in love with her Rara… and I’m pretty sure the feeling is mutual!

IMG_0483 IMG_0488

Here are our party stars!  Aren’t they something!?!  Harper and Rose are BFFs, and they will tell you all about it if you ask!

IMG_0491 IMG_0525

Noelle and Drew were the big kids and had a blast hanging out together.  They are the sweetest friends you will ever meet, both good through and through.  They wrote letters to each other this fall that were priceless.

IMG_0516 IMG_0522

Here come the Annas!  Anna and Anna Kate couldn’t get enough of each other and had to be together the entire weekend.  Sitting beside each other at meals was a must, and they hit it off big-time.  Hudson and Saylor were both too little to notice each other, but I think it’s meant to be they have a glorious time together at reunions to come.  It’s just so fun when everyone has a playmate, and although I’m sure they will mix and match through the years, to have cousins your age is so fun and special and I’m so thankful they have each other to be kids with and enjoy the journey!

IMG_0529

Finding activities in a small town for 8 kids 8 and under was no easy task.  We made ornaments, played outside, did nails at the “sparkle shop,” along with massages and tattoos, you name it, we probably did it, and it was so much fun!

Grocery Store Scavenger Hunt!

January 16th, 2015

unnamed (1)unnamed (2)

Aunt Michele took the big kids to Wal-Mart during nap time for a super fun scavenger hunt.  This was the first scavenger hunt our kids have ever done, and they LOVED it!  The tasks were to take a picture reading the exact same book, find your favorite candy…

unnamed (5)unnamed (6)

Take a picture with an ugly sweater, make a grossed out face holding your least favorite food…

unnamed (7)unnamed (8)

Find something that comes in a group of six, take a picture with your favorite cereal…

unnamed (9)unnamed

Take a picture wearing a pair of sunglasses, and pick a color you would love to paint your room!  After dinner, the kids played this slideshow for the rest of the family to see and told us all about it.  I forgot how much fun scavenger hunts are; We will definitely be doing more of these in our future.  Thanks, Aunt Michele, for the super fun afternoon!

The Cousin Line-Up!

January 16th, 2015

IMG_0291

Noelle, Drew, Anna, Anna Kate, Rose, Harper, Hudson and baby Saylor

IMG_0266

A Banks Family Christmas

January 14th, 2015

IMG_0320 IMG_0357

The Banks family cousins had a blast reuniting for a few days over the break for our first family Christmas in over 8 years!  Brother Man made this amazing lemonade stand for our girls for Christmas.  He and I have been working on it for almost a year.  I will paint it this spring, when Poppa can bring it to us in his truck.  The kids got lots of fun surprises and enjoyed being together.  Everyone had a play mate, and it was wild and crazy fun!

IMG_0324 IMG_0344 

IMG_0338

IMG_0227 IMG_0230

IMG_0237

The make your eyes like little moons face must be a cousin thing! 

IMG_0296

Seeing the lemonade stand for the first time!  Their faces are priceless!  Their imaginations are over run with the possibilities! 

IMG_0297

They have been wishing for a lemonade stand for at least 5 years, but I’ve never been able to find one that was sturdy, cute and affordable, so Brother Man built one! 

IMG_0329 IMG_0304

IMG_0369

We brought the Bean Boozled Challenge game for everyone (correction, almost everyone, lol) to play.  The girls have been waiting for months to try out the game, but I made them wait until Christmas.  Jelly Belly makes the game.  How it works is you take two of the same colored jelly beans out of the package.  Each player tastes their jelly bean.  The audience tries to guess which flavor each player got based on their reaction to the flavor.  For example, the green jelly beans could be the flavor lime or lawn clippings.  The brown ones could be chocolate pudding or canned dog food, the yellow ones buttered popcorn or rotten egg and on and on.  You can make up whatever rules you want to get a winner.  We just goofed off and had fun.  The kids absolutely LOVED it!  I have a feeling we will be playing this game for a long time!

IMG_0371 IMG_0392

IMG_0387-001

Rose has now taught everyone in the family how to do her signature wink, thumbs up twofer.  She is the biggest goof-ball!  She and Noelle did this when they both got good flavors.

IMG_0395

Next up, we had sparklers in the rain to celebrate our first night of fun together and pulling off 16 people under the roof that once housed 5!  Like I said at the beginning of this post, it was wild and crazy fun!  Winking smile

New Year’s Rockin’ Eve!

January 11th, 2015

IMG_0115

We rang in the New Year with our friends, the Fearing family!  The Kelly family was home sick this year, but we’ll do it again!  Winking smile

IMG_0001 IMG_0021

We dog sat Mrs. Paula’s dog, Patriot (we called him Patriot Pond while he was here), for 6 days over the holidays.  He was such a sweet little buddy; We already miss him a lot!  The big girls wanted to have a PJ party at the Ponds this year, so that’s what we did!  Worked for me, but Rose refused to wear pjs.  Go figure, lol!

IMG_0083

Other than my two favorite colors together, navy and black (hahaha), I love this sweet picture! 

IMG_0085

IMG_0027

IMG_0088

New Year’s Eve just wouldn’t be the same without M&Ms, twizzlers, champagne, and sparkling grape juice!  Jon added Almond Joys to the mix.  We’ll see if they make it into the traditional party snacks next year!  Winking smile 

IMG_0094

Anna Kate and Landon have always been such sweet little buddies!  Landon gave all the Pond girls a New Year’s kiss on the cheek!

IMG_0122

Sparkler time!  Patriot wanted to see what was going on but headed back inside pretty quickly!  Did I mention he’s a really smart dog?  Well, he is!

IMG_0126

IMG_0128

Although it was super cold outside, the kids had a blast doing sparklers!

IMG_0161 IMG_0187

Love ringing in the new year with these guys!

Christmas Day!

January 10th, 2015

IMG_3108 IMG_3116 IMG_3109

The girls had a wonderful Christmas morning, and Santa did not disappoint, if I do say so myself!  Winking smile  Noelle wished for lots of cute clothes, make-up, a vanity for her room, lemonheads, jewelry and more jewelry.  Anna Kate wished for an Elsa dress, and much to her surprise, she got a new super fancy cash register and lots of games and clothes too!  Rose got a new baby doll (that she promised not to scribble on with ballpoint pens this year), baby doll bed, baby bottle, puzzles, tea cups and dress-ups!

IMG_3099 IMG_3158

IMG_3129 IMG_3128 IMG_3138

IMG_3144 IMG_3139

Our traditional Christmas tree top of the morning cinnamon rolls were a hit, as usual!  It’s the only morning of the year we have cinnamon rolls, so it is quite the treat!  The girls look forward to them as much as the presents, which makes it so much fun!  Anticipation is one of the keys to happiness, I think… always having something to look forward to makes life exciting, especially the little things!

IMG_3193

Mike cooked a delicious New York strip steak for Christmas lunch and both of our parents were here!  We had such a fun time sharing all of Santa’s goodies and being together. 

IMG_3174

Santa didn’t quite get through building the trampoline, but the girls were no less surprised!  They hadn’t even wished for one and were screaming they were so excited when they saw the frame through the window.  They’ve jumped hours and hours already!

IMG_3185 IMG_3187

She IS fierce, AND she picks out her own clothes too!  Winking smile

IMG_3196 IMG_3212

We spent Christmas night at Mike’s parents house for a lovely dinner with his family.  Our little cousin Noemi is so sweet!  We had such a special Christmas and hope you did too!  Merry Christmas to all!

Christmas Eve Magic

January 7th, 2015

IMG_2850-001 IMG_2907

We had a total blast on Christmas Eve this year!  The girls got in their Christmas pajamas right after naps and couldn’t wait for the evening to unfold!

IMG_2837-001 IMG_2843-001

I told the girls to look for Santa, so they went to the window and held hands.  It was the sweetest thing!  They didn’t know he really was going to come until he got here!  We then took our traditional stair step picture, like we do before anything special.  I wonder when they’ll all the be same height.  Can we just freeze time?  These ages are amazing!  No toddlers (well, almost), no teenagers, our house is rockin’! 

IMG_2860 IMG_2873

Poppa and Rara got here just in time for our surprise guest to arrive!

IMG_2883 IMG_2886

I asked them one more time to go check and see if Santa is here, and to their amazement, he actually was!!! 

IMG_2894-001

Reading Christmas stories was so very special!

IMG_2913

Rose’s turn to tell Santa a secret.  We have two very special memories of Rose from tonight.  After story time, Rose showed Santa a little tiny jingle bell that she had (which is around her neck in this picture), and said, “Watch this!” and rang it as loudly as she could.  Then Santa reached into his bag and pulled out 3 bells quadruple in size, and said, “Watch this!” and shook his!  They were having so much fun playing together!  Then Santa asked Rose what she wanted for Christmas.  I kid you not, Rose returned his question with a question, “What do you have?”  We were cracking up!  Rose is a bag of tricks.  You never know what’s going to come out of her mouth, but it’s always something so great!

IMG_2920 IMG_2927

Up next was Anna Kate.  She is the cutest little 5 year old I could think up!  She got in his lap and said hi and then started to climb down.  I think she didn’t want to take up his time or something.  I’m not quite sure.  Maybe she was a little bashful.  Whatever the case, he said, “Not so fast!  Where are you going?”  She hopped back up and could not stop giggling.  She would never ask for extra attention, but she basks in it.  She is probably the opposite of most middle children.  She was the happiest little baby, and aside from normal kid phases, she is absolutely amazing!

IMG_2930

I love Anna Kate’s hands holding Santa’s thumb, so precious and sweet!  We are so honored to have Santa Chuck Lee, the only real Santa as the girls like to tout, as our family friend.  He is truly our friend and helps raise my spirits when the going gets tough.  We care about each other and that makes our visits so very special!

IMG_2934 IMG_2937

Noelle saw Rose telling secrets with Santa, and she had a silly secret too!  Hers was, “I like broccoli!”  Santa whispered back to her that he liked it too!  Noelle is so little and so big!  It makes me so very happy and sad!  She’s growing up, and I’m trying to freeze all of our moments together.  She’s such a great kid, and I’m so proud of her!

IMG_2939 IMG_2941

She really cracked herself up!  She is thankful Santa Chuck has been there for her during her childhood.  We will treasure our memories together forever and ever! 

IMG_2942 IMG_2944

Another amazing Christmas memory was hearing Santa recite ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas from memory.  He spins the tale with drama and life!  It’s so much fun to hear!

IMG_2960-001 IMG_2971

When Santa left the room for a second, someone saw his coat hanging on his chair.  She could not help herself!  It looked too fancy not to try on!  Wouldn’t you know Noelle would be very interested in Santa’s wardrobe.  That made her night!  She kept twirling and spinning around.  After Santa was off to the busiest night of his year, we got busy making his gingerbread cookies!

IMG_2986

Rara helped the girls get started!

IMG_2990 IMG_2996-001

IMG_3013-001 IMG_2992

Mike made our traditional homemade pizza from scratch.  He is such a great chef!  He could seriously cook for a living if he wanted to.  I’m so proud of my man!

IMG_3016 IMG_3049

After dinner, we opened a few special presents the girls had worked on this year!  Mike got a little trophy from Anna Kate that said, “#1 Dad.”  She was so proud to give her family members presents this year. 

IMG_3026 IMG_3017

Poppa got a fishing magnet, and Anna Kate and Rose got model magic from their sweet Aunt Joe!

IMG_3020 IMG_3036

Rose got Uni the Unicorn book recommended by Aunt Sharon from her Daddy this year!  She is so crazy about it, and we have probably read it one hundred times already.  It softened the blow of not getting a real live unicorn in the back yard for Christmas, God love her!

IMG_3044 IMG_3048

Noelle gave Mike a keychain and socks, which he really needed, and I gave Mom a crochet trivet I made for her this fall with Mrs. Rose, our lively crochet teacher and friend.  It sure was a labor of love, but I finished it just in time.  That project went with me to lots of soccer and cheer practices this fall!  She loved it, and I was so happy to have kept a secret from her!

IMG_3059 IMG_3067

Last but not least, it was time to sprinkle reindeer food in the yard to help guide them to our house.  Little did we know at the time, Mike and I would be up till the wee hours of night helping Santa assemble all of the Pond girls’ toys.  Next year (and the year after that and the year after that), we’re buying technology or something that doesn’t need to be built, but we are so happy we paid it forward tonight for loads of fun for years to come!

Merry Christmas!

January 6th, 2015

IMG_2749 IMG_2751

Hi there, blog friends!  We have had ups and downs this holiday season but tons of special family time through it all!

Previously