Friday, July 29, 2011

Vacation Month of July: Blog 5-Letters from Mom & Mimi

Well Ellie-Bean,

Your Mimi and I are writing together again over a soothing cup of tea and some goodbye tears on Sunday morning (your Mimi’s words are in italics and mine are in regular font again).  Your Great Grandmom Jones, Aunt Sheri and Stephanie just left to return to Green Bay.  It is the day after Kyle’s walk.  We can only say that we are deeply touched, speechless, and in awe of the success of this year’s Kyle Russell Callahan Scholarship 5k Walk/Run.  We know that Kyle is smiling down because of how loved he was and how supportive our family is through our endeavor of keeping his memory alive through the State College High School Scholarship.  We want to extend many heartfelt thanks to those who attended, donated, and helped set up and gave their time to be with us especially all family and friends who traveled many miles (we had people come in from Vermont, Florida, Wisconsin, Colorado, New Jersey, and from all over Pennsylvania).  And even those people that didn’t travel that far, we thank you for making time in your busy schedule to remember Kyle.

Ellie, if there ever were a day that you could truly feel Kyle’s presence, it would have been yesterday.  You see it has been intensely hot here for the past few days.  The heat index hit 100 degrees and we all were very worried about the runners having heatstroke.  Well, right before 9:00 am when Kyle’s 5Kwalk/run was about to begin, the hazy blue sky clouded over and a slight breeze blew through the park until the event finished.  Ellie it was amazing!  Kyle was very much with us!  You more than anyone knew that, as we could see it in your eyes when the butterflies were released.   One of the Monarch butterflies even landed on your daddy… how awesome was that!  Speaking of your dad, I have to tell you that both of your parents gave beautiful speeches in honor of Kyle that were heartfelt and inspirational.  Your mom spoke so lovingly of Kyle and his will to live.  And she also thanked everyone in a very touching and personal way for their kindness and support as only your mommy can do.  With great pride as well as heartache your daddy continued on and spoke of Kyle’s courage and determination.  His speech was so moving Ellie, one filled with love and a very important message to us all.  He quoted Jimmy Valvano, a college basketball coach/broadcaster for ESPN and ABC Sports, who was diagnosed with bone cancer in 1992.  Your dad eloquently stated Jimmy Valvano’s quote: “Don’t Give Up, Don’t Ever Give Up.”  “There are 3 things we all should do everyday of our lives.  #1 is: Laugh.  #2 is: Think; spend time in thought.  #3 is: You should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy, but think about it.  If you laugh and think and you cry, that’s a full day.  And if you do that 7 days a week, you’re going to have something special.  Kyle taught us that too Ellie and he gave us something more.  Memories.  11 days of loving, happy, sad, tearful, silly, thoughtful and meaningful memories.   Prayerfully his spirit will live on and on through the scholarship foundation set up in his name.  Now onto the actual Walk.  Once it officially started, you, your mommy and I stood on the sidelines cheering, encouraging and thanking all who walked the Walk!  (OK, your mommy and I did most of the screaming while you stayed snuggled securely in my arms and quite happy with all the jumping up and down we did, but no matter, you were very much a part of your Brother’s Day.  You also ate the bananas, drank the water, nibbled on some soft pretzels that were supplied for the participants and you were happiest of all when you could just sit in the park sandbox and play in the sand!  (We probably should replenish some of that sand as you brought much of it home with you… in your diaper, your hair and the layer that settled everywhere else on your body!)   All in all Ellie, it was a beautiful morning!

So many people helped out by attending, donating, and wishing us well but I need to give my sincere appreciation and thanks to these specific individuals for their extra efforts at the walk:  Gram & Pop Russell who donated the bananas; Mimi & Poppy for the Park Insurance, bags, water, soft pretzels, and the BBQ after as well as the early morning set-up; Ryan & Samantha for the bibs, signs, spreadsheet and also the early morning set-up; Ally for keeping my sanity in check and also manning the registration table; Stephanie for helping with the early morning set-up; the Russell-Stigales for the very special surprise of releasing butterflies in Kyle’s honor; Suzanne Devlin-Brown of Mommapia for providing Ellie’s special green angel dress in honor of her brother; Gram Jones and Aunt Sheri for taking care of Ellie while we prepared for the day; and Jackie for being the best photographer.

Ellie, stay close and stay in touch with all who love you.  If ever a day comes to your life where you need the love and support of your family and friends, they will be there.  Kyle’s Walk is testament to that!

But honestly, the way to tell you about Kyle’s event Ellie is not through words but something far better- Pictures.  We think only images can do his walk justice (thank you Jackie for always capturing the best photographs, I am so glad you are sharing your gift with us)…

And from Jackie’s pictures you can see that Kyle’s Walk also brought a wonderful weekend of celebrating with family.  The family BBQ at the hotel both Friday evening and Saturday day was a blast Ellie.  When we first got to the hotel, instead of mingling with all of our guests, all your eyes focused on was the pool!  You certainly are a fish (well maybe a guppy) when it comes to water!  You loved dunking your face into the water and letting it roll down your nose over and over again!  When you finally got out of the pool you were quite hilarious with the pool towels.  You had us dry you off and then wrap you up or rather roll you up in the towel looking like an old man heading off to the sauna!  Your older cousins Annabelle and Lexi were there and you were elated to play with them!  Your little cousin Parker and Rich were there too, but you were more interested in poking, touching and pushing them away!  Your cousin Colin (who is quite gentle) was willing to play with you also, but sharing at this stage of your life is not quite your best attribute.  In fact, Colin wanted to share an animal wooden puzzle board with you.  However when he went to lift out the giraffe piece you quickly grabbed it from his hand and with all your authority, you quickly and forcefully pulled it towards your chest.  The funny thing is Ellie that your mommy and I can read your facial expressions like a book.  What happened next was Poppy told you in a calm but stern voice that you needed to share, and yes, that readable facial expression of yours came out with flying colors!  I knew instantly one of us was in your line of fire.  That “someone” happened to be me!”  When Colin went to take the giraffe and Poppy said the word Share, your eyes quickly assessed your surroundings and I, who was sitting to your right, got whacked hard with the puzzle piece!  Ellie, it took all my might not to break out in laughter, but I knew if I did, I was going to get whacked again!  You do have an Irish temper little one!  Both days wore you out completely and you slept quite peacefully on your purple hippopotamus pillow pet that Poppy and I bought for you!  Actually I think everyone slept contentedly both nights as all the family seemed to enjoy sharing time with each other, yumming up all the delicious food and drink, soaking up the sun, dipping into the refreshing pool and chatting about the next exciting event that is going to take place in the family!

I am so humbled by the past week Ellie; we sure are loved!!!  Kyle’s walk was a huge success- over $10,000 was raised this year alone and 200 people attended the 5k!!!  Family and vacation go hand in hand!  What an awesome time we had.

So I guess sweetheart that it only makes sense to continue the month of August with the same theme as July.  Let’s keep the Vacation Theme going for one more month Kim since you and I still have a few more trips planned before school starts (sadly not all of them are with each other.)  It will give Ellie and understanding later on in her life as to why she has such an adventurous spirit!  With you and I as her mentors Kim, Ellie will never experience a dull moment!

Till next time Ellie-bean.
Love, Mom & Mimi                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Friday, July 22, 2011

Vacation Month of July: Blog 4- Letters from Mom & Mimi

Our Dearest Ellie Bean,

So you, your Mimi and I are together again but this time we are in Pennsylvania.  So we will write you this letter together and tell you all about your travels here as a conversation (your Mimi will be in italics and I will be in regular font).  And of course as we are creating this for you, we are enjoying a delicious cup of tea (you are in bed sleeping). 

And I am in heaven Ellie.  Having you here is better than a fudgenie!  And you know how much I love them!

Really Ellie, there is nothing better than going home.  Even though I am not a fan of the Wizard of Oz (although Wicked might be one of the best plays ever), Dorothy was right when she clicked her heels together and said, “There’s no place like home.”  And I hope you think of both Philadelphia and State College as your home because our family has that special knack of making you feel like you’ve never left.  When I walked into Mimi and Poppy’s house, it looked like Mimi had another baby.  Your Poppy had set up the pack-n-play, the highchair, a wading pool outside, and about a million toys that were spread from one end of the living room to the other end!  He got the best car seat and stroller too- I think he wants you to come back Ellie Girl!

Last night, when I came outside after unpacking I found you and him in the wading pool Ellie… yes, your Poppy was sitting fully clothed in the tiny pink wading pool spitting water at you.  You were giggling so hard and waiting for him to do it again and again.  

You love your new playmate… age doesn’t matter!  But let’s start at the beginning of your trip when I picked you up from the Philadelphia airport.

Oh Ellie, you were an absolute angel on the three and half hour flight.  As soon as the plane touched ground I quickly called your Mimi to come and pick us up.  It didn’t take her long Ellie and as soon as she pulled up, you just about jumped out of my arms to get to hers.  And you haven’t left her side since.  Oh how your Mimi adores you!

That I do Ellie-bean!  It was such a joy to watch you meet all of your Philly family.  And there are lots of them… aunts, uncles, cousins and friends!  Seeing you go from watching them to interacting with them was quite entertaining!

Aunt Phyllis is always the gracious hostess!  She opens up her house to us and spoils us with all of our favorite things- soft pretzels, jersey tomatoes, hoagies, kosher pickles, a game of UpWords and of course endless cups of tea!  Because of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, she has what seemed to be an infinite supply of toys of which you were quite enthralled with Ellie!  

We spent the second day of our stay with your Great-Great Aunt Midge.  She had a wonderful day planned out for us that included a yummy lunch, delicious dinner, a huge backyard that hosted a swing set and swimming pool!  You also met more of your Philly cousins here.  

And you know what?  Some of your Green Bay family drove in to be here for this very special week too.  Your Great Gram Bubbles, Aunt Sheri, and Stephanie drove to Philadelphia to see us and also attend your Aunt Sammy’s bridal shower.  And then, they got back on the road to State College for all the weekly events, especially Kyle’s Walk.  You had a grand time in Philly Ellie-bean, you fit right in!

I had to laugh Kimberly when you said Ellie fit right in!  I couldn’t agree with you more.  Gram Russell would have said that Ellie would have made a great “Wheeler Street Kid” as she not only loves to be on the go, but also to be in the center of whatever is going on!  Just thinking about Wheeler Street brings back so many fond memories.  It was a street like no other.  All the neighbors were like family… each watched out for the other.  It was a unique street Ellie, with a fascinating story to tell, but I will save it for a later blog.

The reason we flew into Philadelphia was because your Mimi and I had a bridal shower for your soon-to-be Aunt Samantha (although she already is part of the family) there.  Look at how much fun it was:

It was a kitchen themed party- guests brought their favorite recipes with an ingredient and signed an apron with words of advice (some were pretty hilarious)!  

You and your cousin Colin got a chance to know each other since you are going to walk down the aisle side-by-side (that’s right, you and him are going to be the flower girl and ring bearer!).  The two of you were having lots of fun with Poppy while the ladies had lunch and watched Aunt Sammy open up her gifts.  

I think Poppy was teaching you both how to chase each other… not sure how the ceremony is going to go with you two but it should bring many laughs (I just hope you don’t steal too much attention away from the gorgeous bride)!  Aside from that, you absolutely LOVED the cake that Marie brought as well as the homemade white chocolate favors from Aunt Midge…

Ellie, your Aunt Sammy looked like a picture of happiness!  You could tell how genuinely appreciative she was of the shower itself, the family whom attended and the wonderful gifts that she opened.  She is now officially part of our Philly/Jersey family.  You can see from the pictures that Jackie took (Jackie always documents all events so beautifully with her camera) that Aunt Sammy is a perfect fit!

It really was a weekend of celebrating, as Sunday was your Great-Great Aunt Phyllis’ 70th birthday.  She sure is loved as she had about thirty people come over for delicious strawberry shortcake that your cousin Jessica brought.  And yes Ellie, you yummed that cake up too!

Ellie, your Great-Aunt Phyllis is one very amazing woman.  She is confident, head strong, kind and caring almost to a fault, intelligent and can tell captivating stories!  

It is quite easy to be drawn instantly to her as she has a positive energy that surrounds her, even though the last few years have been difficult ones.  Just this weekend she humbly stated that the reason she had so many birthday cards was because she was old but that’s not true… she has so many birthday cards because she is loved by so many.  You see your Great-Aunt Phyllis has touched many lives throughout the years, one being mine.  And no matter what life throws at her, she never forgets to sit down to have a cup of tea especially with her guests and enjoy the moment that will hopefully turn into a forever memory!

And then it was back to State College and you had some quiet time…

Maybe not quite Ellie as we went here, there, and everywhere and here are some pictures to prove it!  I thought you were hysterical in the Lion’s Pride Store.  While we were trying to find you an outfit for a Nittany Lion Mascot Portrait, you were running from one end of the store to the other as though you owned the place!  Poppy even said you talked more in that time frame than you had done all day… and you did it in a very authoritive voice!  (Heaven help the people you may be in charge of some day!)  Oh, and stopping for ice-cream at the Penn State Creamery was an experience in itself too!  You seem to love your ice-cream almost as much as you love to be independent!  I couldn’t stop giggling when you pulled your spoon out of the ice-cream cup and half of it flung across the table just missing your Poppy and Mommy!

Now we are getting ready for your brother’s big day tomorrow- the 5k in his memory.  The Green Bay gang got here on Tuesday, your Daddy just flew in yesterday, Aunt Ally, Joanne’s crew, the Philly family, and the Jersey bunch are all arriving today.  Kyle sure was loved and so are we because we are incredibly supported.  Your Uncle Ryan, Aunt Samantha, Poppy and Mimi worked really hard to make this more professional this year- we have a runners’ clock, bibs, and cool gifts.  I can’t wait to tell you all about how it goes in next week’s letter.

Oh Ellie, was organizing Kyle’s walk hard work?  Yes.  Was the week somewhat exhausting?  Yes.  But I wouldn’t trade this time with you and your mommy, nor Kyle’s Cause for anything in the world for we are not only preserving Kyle’s memory but we are teaching you too the importance of making a difference in another’s life.  I guess the lesson to be learned here Ellie is to LOVE.  Love yourself, love your family, love your neighbor and above all, Love God.  Good things come from Love.  You definitely did!

Till next time Ellie-bean,

Mom & Mimi