Friday, July 27, 2012

Kyle's 5k- July Blog 4: Letters from Mom & Mimi

Dear Ellie,

This past Saturday was the Kyle Russell Callahan Scholarship 5k to raise money for the memorial we set up in your brother’s name.   Your Aunt Ally set a goal of $10,000 this year… we not only met it but also exceeded it!  Through very kind donations, we raised $12,000!

When we woke up early on the day of the 5k, we saw a rainy, chilly day but I believe that Kyle was with us, stopped the rain when the race began, and gave us cool weather to allow those runners and walkers a beautiful breeze. Even through a misty rain, it was a smile kind of day… better yet, a Kyle kind of day.  The winner of our 5k won with a time of just over 20 minutes- WOW! 
(this is our winner Scott Martell)

Your Mimi and I had to laugh as you definitely embodied Kyle’s spirit at the event by living life to the fullest.  You cheered for the runners at the finish line, you played in the sand, and you enjoyed the park.  Your energy was infectious and I know Kyle was with all of us.  I also know he was watching us proudly.  I know this because just before we set off the runners, we released butterflies.  Your Dad opened up his envelope and the butterfly flew right over to you, landed on your ear, and stayed on the side of your head for quite sometime before flying off.  

I wonder if Kyle was whispering to you that he was with us and he watches over you.

You are probably too young and won’t have many memories of the day so I wanted to show it to you through the beautiful pictures that Jackie took.  I hope you get a sense of how special it was. 

Here is the speech I gave prior to the start.   

Welcome to our 3rd Annual Kyle Russell Callahan Scholarship 5k!

During Kyle’s 11 days, selfishly I begged God to let Kyle live.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think that my prayers would be answered like this.  Despite his passing 3 years ago, Kyle’s spirit is living on in a BIG way.  Kyle’s scholarship is growing larger and the recipients carry Kyle’s mission with them.  This year’s winner of the scholarship is here to join us.  She wrote to my family a few words that I would like to share aloud:

“The foundation you have supplied me with is irreplaceable.  I promise to carry all of you with me throughout my future.  Kyle has left the biggest imprint on my heart and he will touch many more in the future.”

Madeline, I am so proud to say that I was able to teach you so many years ago and that our lives crossed again now.  You are an outstanding young woman who is so worthy to have been selected.  I am honored that Kyle’s name will live on through you in your future path!

Kyle is also living on through friends and family who take our Kyle bag with them on their journeys- this truly touches our hearts.  Thank you for thinking of us at your most important times.  Kyle taught us that relationships matter and you all just enforce that.  Our neon green Kyle bag has been our 5k mementos since we started this event.  Two years ago, Donna and Wes Moore took it to Europe with them and snapped their pictures overseas with the bag and thus began our album of “Where in the World is Kyle’s Bag?”  Thank you for coming up with this amazing idea Donna and Wes!  I am in awe that so many would think of Kyle and us on their family vacations, weddings, proms, birthdays, and other special occasions.  Kyle’s bag has been pictured at many sports venues, parks, zoos, and with many famous characters.  It has traveled all over the United States and has been spotted in many countries throughout the world.  I think we have 200 pictures in our album thus far.  As I viewed the slide show again, I knew the stories behind the images you all sent because of the kind details you shared with me.  From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for being so selfless and allowing Kyle’s memory to live on with you on your travels!  I want to encourage you to continue to tag me on Facebook with your Kyle adventures to make a sequel slideshow for next year’s 5k.   

I need to thank all those who are supporting us from afar, who couldn’t be here today but still donated and sponsored Kyle’s sister Ellie in the walk.  We feel your well-wishes and prayers today!

I need to thank our sponsors Vicon for the TV and Scott’s Landscaping for the waters.  I want to say that I appreciate my husband for loving Kyle without limits and you’ve helped make this walk better each year by reaching out into the community and for also putting in so many hours to make the “Where in the World is Kyle’s Bag” slideshow flawless.  I want to thank Jackie for always photographically documenting the 5k so perfectly- your images always capture Kyle’s spirit.  Thank you to the Stigale family for the release of the butterflies- I believe they are symbols for life after death and they give me such a sense of comfort.  Thank you Sowash Family for the use of your generator.  Thank you Gram & Pop for the bananas and Gram Bubbles for the pretzels. Thank you Steve for the ice.  Thank you Ryan & Samantha, my grandparents, Natalie, and the Colkitt family for always waking up early and helping us set up.  And Ally, you are our rock- always being here year after year to set our goals and run our registration table- you were there for us during Kyle’s life and now after his death.  I am also so appreciative of my parents- without them, none of us would be here at this park today.  When Justin and I were grieving after Kyle’s passing, it was their idea to start and begin the initial funding for the scholarship.  To enable us to channel our grief into something so positive, I will be forever indebted to you.  Thank you for loving Kyle as much as we do.  You give so much of your time and money to make the 5k bigger each year and words cannot express how much that means to me.  And finally- for all of you here, thank you for taking time out of your day and busy weekends to celebrate Kyle’s 11-day life.  I know many of you traveled far to be here with us and we feel so loved and supported.  Kyle’s time on earth may have been small but his lasting imprint is huge. 

I am also including the link to the slideshow that your Dad made… “Where in the World is Kyle’s Bag.” 

This played on a loop the whole morning of the 5k.  In your Dad’s speech, he talked about how he noticed all of the genuine smiles in all of the pictures in the slideshow he made.  He said that for every tear we shed for Kyle, there were at least 10 smiles he gave us.  Your Dad asked the participants of the race to smile and enjoy their time with family and friends and being together.  After all, that’s what Kyle did- he brought family and friends together!  Your Dad also shared our relationship and the journey that we took since Kyle’s passing.  He noted that a lot of couples could easily be broken with the loss of a child but we got stronger through the help, love, and support of all of our family and friends.  I think your Dad did a fantastic job with the race, with the slideshow, and with his speech.  I know that both Kyle and you inherited your Dad’s strength and determination.  

We love you Ellie!
Mom & Mimi

Friday, July 20, 2012

Creative Writing: July Blog 3- Letters from Mom & Mimi

Dear Ellie Spaghetti,

Tomorrow is Kyle’s 5k and this always brings such a mixture of emotions- nervous excitement and grieving devotion.  I want to make sure everything goes just right to honor your brother and make sure his memory stays alive.  We feel so supported and blessed by such wonderful family and friends who really are the ones that make the event a success.  And Ellie, I am so happy that you are a part of celebrating your brother’s life and legacy!  I will tell you all about it in next week’s blog.

This has been such a busy week getting everything ready for the 5k.  So to still continue with our creative writing theme (but taking a month break from our Ellie and the Magic Teapot adventure stories), we are trying our hand at writing poetry.

So as for our guidelines: your Mimi tried to make this easy on me and started.  Her writing is in italics and mine is in regular font.  Last week, we attempted a limerick.  This week, we are trying a haiku poem (which is a Japanese poem with 17 syllables, in three lines of five, seven, and five).  I’m learning a lot about writing while working with your Mimi on this blog (poetry is definitely out of my comfort zone)!  So here’s what we came up with:


Giggles and playmates
Sing a-longs and story reads
Eyes of wonder, hearts anew.

Lively vivacious
Full of life and zealous
Passionate small ones.

Boisterous and bashful
Running freely here and there
Delightful young souls.

Fearless and stubborn
Seeing the world fresh
Believing in magic

Innocence, sweet scents
Tussled hair and mismatched clothes
Heaven’s gift to us.

Future leaders and teachers
They will change the earth.

We love you Ellie!
Mom & Mimi

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Creative Writing: July Blog 2- Letters from Mom & Mimi

Hi Ellie Bean,

This month is a bit crazy with all the family visits.  So to still continue with our creative writing theme (but taking a month break from our Ellie and the Magic Teapot adventure stories), we are trying our hand at writing poetry.  Now for your Mimi, this is nothing new… she has been writing poetry for years and has her grandmother’s gift of words.  But for me, this is a leap as poetry is about rhythm and I have none!

So as for our guidelines: your Mimi tried to make this easy on me and started.  Her writing is in italics and mine is in regular font.  Our first poem is a limerick because of its AABBA structure.  I’m learning a lot about writing while working with your Mimi on this blog!  So here’s what we came up with:

Ellie’s Silly Week Poem

There once was a girl named Ellie.
Who loved to eat PB and jelly.
Each day would begin
With a spoon and a grin
As she filled her growling belly.

On Sunday she’d stop at the park.
She never went when it was dark.
She’d whoosh down the slide
The swings next for a ride.
Quite happy she’d sing like a lark.
On Monday she’d ride her bike.
The one with 3 wheels called a tryke.
She could peddle quite fast
Always having a blast.
It didn’t matter she was just a tyke.
On Tuesday she’d visit the zoo.
Beginning with exhibits brand new.
The giraffes she liked best.
And train rides for a rest.
Happily bouncing like a kangaroo.
On Wednesday she went to the sitter.
Who let her make pictures with glitter.
Oh the mess it would make
When she gave it a shake
Making a mound of sparkling litter.

On Thursday she watched dad’s game.
Her cheer for him was always the same.
“Let’s go Dad, hit a home run!”
Then sit on his shoulders after he won.
“I like baseball!” she would exclaim!
On Friday she’d shop at the store.
To search through the toys galore.
She would pick up a book
With Tinkerbell and Hook.
Buying the same one as the week before.

On Saturday she swam in the pool.
The water was nice, crisp, and cool.
Into her mother’s arms she would leap.
And splash around in water knee-deep.
Ellie learned to paddle and kick at swim school.
Daily skyping was her routine.
Mimi and Poppy would say “Hi Ellie Bean!”
They would laugh, chat, and play.
And the miles seem not so far away.
Their goodbye was a hug to its screen.
At day’s end she would say a prayer
With a kiss and a hug to share.
Mom turns off her light
With a whispered “Good Night…
Sweet dreams Ellie girl so fair.”

We love you Ellie Bean and I know you are having a great time this summer seeing a lot of family and friends!
Mom & Mimi

Friday, July 6, 2012

Ellie and the Magic Teapot Off to the Park: July Blog 1- Letters from Mom & Mimi

Hi Ellie Bean,

And so we will end our second story.  Your Mimi and I had a hard time concluding this one as we fell in love with the characters.  We felt we knew them intimately (especially because so much of you, Ellie Bean, is woven into their personalities).  But it’s always important to know when it’s time to say good-bye… this quote by Walt Disney rings true, “Always leave them wanting more.” 

And now here is our yearlong bedtime story/stories (with many chapters to write!) for you. 

So as for our weekly guidelines: I write a piece, then your Mimi has to finish it and we will do this every week (your Mimi’s part is in italics and mine is in regular font).  The only things your Mimi and I agreed on were the characters- Ellie and a magic teapot.  Anything else is fair game.  We also need to figure out an illustration to go with our part.  Our goal Ellie is to have a beloved bedtime tale for you and future generations.   

Ellie and the Magic Teapot: Off to the Park Part 12

Skeeter was kicking the dirt on The Hill with his feet while the rest of Red Team went over to shake hands with the Pink Team. 

Slyguy said to Lion, “Gosh, it looked like you guys had such a good time playing.  You really know how to have fun.”

Slugger overheard Slyguy and shook his head in agreement as he shook Ellie’s hand and whispered, “I wish we were on your team.”

Alfy, Ajax, and Abner reached their hands out to Shortstop and Speedy for a handshake but they got all tangled and the group fell onto the ground and couldn’t help but laugh at each other.  “This looks more like a congratulatory hug!” giggled Shortstop who managed to be on top of the pile.

It was among these celebratory moments that everyone heard Skeeter howl in pain.  Concerned, the two teams all immediately turned their heads and saw Skeeter hopping around on one foot while holding his other foot in his arms.  They could see his toe throbbing in redness.

“Are you ok Skeeter?” asked Lion compassionately.

He scowled at him then winced in pain and explained, “When I was kicking the dirt I didn’t see that rock.”  Everyone looked down near his foot and saw a jagged stone jutting out of the ground. 

“You know Skeeter, I had a bump on my leg this afternoon and I forgot I had this,” Ellie said as she reached into her black pants’ pocket and pulled out a reusable plastic ice cube that was swathed in fur, made to look like a rabbit.  Ellie saw Skeeter eyeing it skeptically.  “The fur is what keeps the plastic ice cube cold for a long time, it acts like a cooler,” Ellie described.  She bent down gently and pushed the cube against his toe.  Skeeter jumped, startled by how cold the ice cube really was but then relaxed as his wound became numb and the pain lessoned.  Lion came over a short time later with Mary’s band-aid from their pile.  “Let me wrap it with this now,” he said to Skeeter, “It will help protect your toe and hopefully keep the swelling down.” 

As Skeeter was getting his toe bandaged, his face relaxed and he looked around at what used to be two distinct teams but now were just a bunch of friends hanging out as equals.

“Why are helping you me?” Skeeter asked out to the group.

“You may be competitive Skeeter but you’re our friend,” Slyguy answered.

“It’s admirable that you will go to great lengths to win Skeeter but you need to know your limits.  Remember winning isn’t everything,” Ellie softly scolded.

“I don’t know why you stayed with me the whole time,” Skeeter said acknowledging the Red Team, “Gosh, I was a real jerk.  I don’t understand why I become such a sore sport.”

“Everyone feels different things Skeeter but it’s important to recognize that in yourself so that you can stop it, especially when it’s just a game.  You need to control your emotions not let your emotions control you,” Lion reminded him.

“I guess I owe everyone a big apology,” Skeeter started but before he could finish, there was a horn blowing in the distance.

Skeeter slapped his hand on his forehead knowing that the Queen was beckoning for him.  “I hope the Queen is as kind as you all.  I really skimped out on my duties today at the Ant Farm.  I guess I need to say I’m sorry to the colony now too.  Don’t worry Red Team, I will tell the Colony that it was me who came up with the idea to play hooky and that I blackmailed you all to come along.”

“Blackmailed?” Abner asked curiously.

“Yeah, I told them I would tell the Queen that they were the ones that stole the desserts from storage room the other night even though I knew it wasn’t them,” Skeeter admitted sheepishly.

“So you know who really did it?” Abner asked astonished and a bit upset after going without dessert last night.

“It was me.  I got up at midnight the night before and was really hungry.  The soldier ants fell asleep on the job so it was easy to sneak in without getting noticed.  But after I stole the food, I didn’t want to get in trouble,” Skeeter said red-faced.

“Well, I guess it’s time that you face the consequences Skeeter,” Ajax said.

“I need to learn how to be a team player.  I bet the Queen will make me be a carpenter as punishment.  It’s the hardest job around here,” Skeeter explained to Ellie and Lion, “They build the ant pile and it’s hard labor.”

“No Skeeter, I bet the Queen has another job in mind,” Alfy said, “I bet she puts you in charge of the nursery.  You could probably do a lot of good teaching the younger ants what you learned today.  Come on, I’ll walk with you down to the Queen.  I know it can be scary telling the truth.”  They joined arms and before walking down toward the Ant Farm, they said good-bye to Ellie and Lion…

“Well the Scavenger Game was certainly a lot of fun Lion!  I had a great time, even though Skeeter was a poor sport for most of it.  I do believe though he learned a valuable lesson on how one should act and react when playing a game.  How about you Lion… did you have a good time?” asked Ellie.

“I did Ellie.  I really did.  Who would have thought that playing with ants could provide so much entertainment?” Lion responded, “And I think you are correct about Skeeter learning a valuable lesson.  I just hope from now on he really works hard at becoming a positive role model in team leadership.  But right now don’t you think it is time we get back to your house before your mom realizes we are gone?”

“Yeah.  I guess we had better get back,” yawned Ellie.  “I’m kind of tired.  Lion, do you have the teapot?”

“No.  I don’t.  I found it was too awkward carrying it all around while we were scavenging items, so I set it down on the picnic table underneath the pavilion when our team was over there,” he answered. 

“Ok.  Well, if we walk over to the pavilion can you retrieve it and walk it over to the water fountain near the parks entrance?” asked Ellie.

“Sure.  And then what?” questioned Lion.

“Listen carefully,” and Ellie laid out her plan while she and Lion set out for the other side of the park.  Once there she directed Lion, “I want you to stand directly beneath the water fountain bowl and hold the teapot upright with its lid open.  Then I will crawl up the side of the fountain and once I’m at the top, I will sit on the operating knob.  I will shift my weight as best I can and try to aim the waters spray just far enough so that it will spill over the side.  Hopefully I’ll have enough strength in my body to hold the knob down long enough for the water to fill the teapot to its brim.  When we’ve accomplished that, you need to signal me so that I know when to crawl back down the side of the fountain and put my feet back on solid ground.  As for the signal I want you to use… hmmmmmm… what would be a good signal?  Oh I’ve got it.  How about… you whistle?” 

“Brilliant idea!” beamed Lion.  And the two friends followed Ellie’s plan to a ‘T’.

Now that she was standing next to Lion again, Ellie pulled their two tiny teacups out of her pants’ pocket giving one to Lion while she held the other.  “All right Lion… while you pour our tea, I will say the magic words that will take us home.”  So Lion tipped the teapot, and Ellie spoke the magic words, “Baooohhhaoooahaljaljljljafooj”.  That quickly rainbow colored glitter swirled through the air while music filled their ears lifting both Ellie and Lion up, up, up and in a blink of an eye set them down on the blue chairs sidled up to Ellie’s red table located in her bedroom.

At that same moment Ellie’s mom walked in to her room to apologize for being on the phone so long and was about to suggest that they now go to the park when she noticed something odd.

“Ellie-bean,” her mom hesitated while looking down at Lions furry body.  “How did your Lion get grass stains up and down its legs?  And where did your tutu go?”  And then she shifted her focus to the area around Ellie’s shoes… “And where did that little pile of brown dirt come from on your white carpet?” Getting down on her knees for a closer examination, Ellie’s mom realized something was amiss.  Something was moving.  “Ahhhhhhhh… Ants!” she screamed.   Jumping up she rushed out of the bedroom and practically flew down the steps reaching the garage in record time.   She was in search of the spray ‘Ant Be Gone’ and knew exactly what shelf to find it on.

Ellie giggled, “Come on Lion, we only have a matter of minutes to get our little insect friends out of here and take them where they will be safe before mom returns.”  Seeing what she thought was a nod of approval from Lion, she scooped him up in one hand and the tiny ants in her other hand.  Dashing out of her bedroom and quickly running down the steps for the front door, she passed her mom running up the steps.  “I’ll be right back mom.  I need to find my hat and sunglasses,” she fibbed.

“Alright.  I’m going to be a few extra minutes anyway,” her mom fretted.  “I don’t like bugs and I have to figure out where those ones in your bedroom came from.  Maybe I’ll just spray everywhere and say good riddance to those creepy crawly creatures!” she said somewhat distractedly and to know one in particular.

Once downstairs Ellie tiptoed to the front door and opened it ever so slowly so that it did not make a sound.  She then crouched down and released her ant friends to the outdoors.  Holding Lion tightly, she took his arm into hers and together they waved goodbye as the insects marched away.  She whispered after them, “Anytime you need extra team-mates for another Scavenger Game, Lion and I will be ready, willing and able!  Till next time little friends… till next time!”  Then she stepped back inside the house closing the door softly behind her.  Walking over to the coffee table, Ellie picked up her pink flowered hat and butterfly sunglasses.   Placing them on her head she yelled up the stairs, “I’m ready to go to the park mom!  And I know a fun game we can play.  You just need to bring a pencil and a piece of paper so we can make a list of some unusual items to find!” Then she winked at Lion, her mischievousness partner and together they ascended the stairs to get her mom.  They were ready for a park adventure… again.

We love you Ellie Bean!
Mom & Mimi