Monday, May 29, 2017

The Graduate

 I truly do not know how we got to this point so quickly. The days were LONG and the years were SHORT! There are days in the last 18.25 years that are so easily retrievable that my five senses go into overdrive as I think about them.
-The day Emma was born: the smell and feel of her skin as Dr Matson placed her on my chest is so vivid
-The day we brought Emma home: walking in our house and feeling terrified because I didn't know what to do next.
-The first time I saw Emma's blood: panic struck as she smashed her nose on the tile floor at the Richey's house. No more dresses for crawlers.
-The day our toddler fell through the bleachers: this still brings me to tears! I can see her slip through my hands. I can feel my heart in my throat as we race to the ground. I can feel the warm blood gushing from her head onto my face. I can smell the antiseptic odor in the ambulance. I can see the terror in Chris' face as he walks in the hospital. I can feel the love of our church family surrounding us in the waiting room.
-The day Emma told the office about the new baby: I can see the outfit she was wearing and the proud smile on her face as she told Nikki and Marti that she was about to have a baby sister named Reagan
-The day Emma went to kindergarten: I can feel the joy of taking pictures on our front porch with Nana, Emma in a cute pink shirt and suddenly I was a mess as I realized I had the time wrong...she was late.
-The day Emma started her period: I was cooking rice, beans and sausage with Danielle at the ocean when I got a text. Not sure what she would have done if I wouldn't have seen my phone but she was terrified!
-The day Emma's heart was torn apart by her first love: I saw my girl walk in the door with a swollen tear stained face. I just held her until she could breathe again, my heart broke a little that day.
-The first day of Emma's senior year: The aroma of dinner (eihusen chicken) wafted through the dinning room as the family sat down to pray. The girls were ready to get the school year over with and I was praying for the time to pass slowly.

I know this list will go on as we build more memories. Em, you are going to do amazing things. Dad and I can't wait to watch you grow into the woman God created you to be. Your gifts are just for you, no one else can do what you do so don't waste your time comparing yourself to others.

The last three years Emma has played her cello during graduation and finally this year she gets to walk!

Senior Choir Members
The senior choir members sang For Good from the musical Wicked. I thought I would cry like a baby but I must have been too amped up to get emotional. In fact, when I sat down in my seat at 4pm I realized we did not have one single tissue with us. "What if I do the ugly sobbing cry" I asked Chris. To my amazement, not one tear was shed by this mama. I tell ya, some of the biggest moments in my life, like our wedding, the birth of the girls and now Emma's graduation I did not cry.
Headed to the Stage

Look Mom and Dad...I got it!
591 Graduates

Proud Aunt

Proud Grandparents
Thank you Dean and Linda (aka Papa and Nana) for not only being physically available to our family but also emotionally and spiritually. You are a model of love, patience, generosity, forgiveness, wisdom and faith. I love you!

The Fam minus Reagan
Graduation day and we are minus one family member. Emma's graduation and Reagan's out of state soccer tournament fell on the same weekend. What a fiasco! Without a doubt I was trying everything in my power to make it work. In the final days I cancelled the airline ticket so Reagan could travel with her teammates via old fashion van and highway. Good news: Emma still made it across the stage with out her biggest fan in the crowd. The girls love each other dearly but decided together that life would go on whether or not little sis was there. Reagan's one request was to capture a video just in case Emma tripped on stage. What a sweetheart!

You worked hard, most of the time.
You showed up prepared, most of the time.
You got good grades, most of the time.
You made us crazy, some of the time.
To be serious, we are proud of you, Em! You were involved in orchestra, choir, softball, track, church, volunteering, working, NETFLIX, family and still graduated with a 3.95, Magna Cum Laude. Good job girl! Use what you have learned, go out to make the world a better place one day at a time. Most of all remember, you will make mistakes but Jesus will love you just the same then as He does now. You can always run to the arms of the Father.

Happy High School Graduation Em! 

She Sings ... She Plays ... She Loves It

The Final Elementary music concert 
W O O   H O O ! ! !
What a great cheering section, Nana, Great Grandma, Aunt Holly, big sister Emma and always...Mom!

R2 Singers is a group of 4th and 5th graders, similar to show choir but not an audition group. Next year Liv will be back to regular choir and then in 7th and 8th grade I'm guessing she will try out for show choir. This girl loves to perform!

Our school district is in a financial crisis. Every year there seems to be a $5-6 million shortage and programs have to be cut. Starting 2017/2018 high school students will no longer be able to participate in band, orchestra and choir. I'm not exactly sure how this creates a financial win for the district but I also don't have all the background information. Liv has a few more years until she has to make that final decision. Middle school is designed to give students an opportunity to try out many interests.

Babe, you are a joy to watch perform. Keep working hard to improve your skill as God has given you a beautiful gift of music. No matter what you do, we love you forever and always.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Grad Party Decorations

May 2016 was filled with end of the year craziness and graduation parties. It was at that point Emma began thinking about her party this year. I kid you not, parties range from a cake and lemonade to a full "wedding" spread with alcohol and a band. We knew our party would land somewhere in the conservative middle and would require lots of creative thinking to keep costs down. Right away we planned a breakfast themed day and then we jumped on to pinterest which can make a person overly ambitious. My two favorite creations: 1. chalkboard photo booth 2. Giant "E" covered in photos. Both were a labor of love and many people have asked me to make one or both for them. Here's the thing, they can't or don't want to make it themselves but also want to pay me pennies to make them. The photo booth would be $70 to build which doesn't include the artwork and my time. The "E" doesn't cost that much in product but took FOREVER to make.

Below I have attached several pictures of our day, thank you Susan for taking pictures because not only did I forget to take any, I also didn't assign the task to anyone.
my people

Our menu was pancakes (lots and lots of pancakes), 68 lbs of bacon, strawberries, grapes, pineapple, 500 donut holes, cereal bars, cookies, apple juice, coffee and water. I'm so glad we nixed the yogurt bar and egg cups. Keep it Simple!
breakfast goodness


the Grad
Somewhere there are pictures of Emma and Sierra. I will have to dig them up. The trash can really adds something nice to this photo. HA

emma's table
The pallet with pictures strung across was a last minute alteration. We were going to do a cute thing on the wall but I was afraid of losing our deposit so plan B came into play. Here is an example of why Chris should be happy that I kept these pallets in the garage for the last year. Already the pallets have been borrowed and we may never see them again.

my amazing friends who made
pancakes for 3 hours
I can not thank my friends enough for helping us make Emma's grad party a huge success. Tami and Steve drove from Grand Island, which that in itself is huge but they worked from 9am until 3pm, setting up, cooking and cleaning. I love you guys!! Susan and Jill came through like no other. I knew I could say to them, "take this job and if there are problems just do whatever makes sense to you." As far as I know, there were no problems. Truly a stress free day, what a great celebration for Emma and Sierra.

cello cookies
This may sound strange but these were my pride and joy...edible cellos. My cookie artist, Angie lives in Branson, MO. She shipped 5 dozen (plus an extra 2 doz just in case) cookies and only ONE was cracked. Angie Foley, a sister of a dear friend does this for fun. I paid her but no where the amount she could have charged. Thank you Angie for your attention to detail and amazing gift.

hmm, hanging out at the donuts

we had a great turn out
Our party was from 11am-2pm and between the two families we had a constant stream of guests. My estimation is about 325-350 people came through. That's a testament to our sweet girls!

thank you susan

reagan and friends who helped set up
Reagan had 3 friends show up early to help blow up balloons and hang signs in the neighborhood. What great kids! Obviously Reagan had to be there but Katie, Grace and Aaliah were just good friends. Thanks girls!

On a more somber note, almost exactly six years ago my sweet Aunt Delma died. This lady loved her nieces and nephews more than anything else. She told her everyone, even strangers she met on a walk all about me, my brothers and my cousins in Seattle. Once we all had kids, she had more loved ones to brag on. Oh how I miss my aunt! She cared about whatever I cared about. She was interested in my life. She was excited to learn about my husband and girls. Aunt Delma would be so proud of Emma and all she her accomplishments and dreams. I love you and will see you again one day.

So HAPPY GRADUATION PARTY day to you Emma! You are worth all the work. We love you and are so proud of you. Just a few more senior events then off to graduation, Europe and then the University of Nebraska-Kearney. Much love!

Monday, May 15, 2017

CCC Senior Banquet

Do many high schools do a Baccalaureate service any more? 
Our district doesn't and my high school didn't do one when I was graduating back in the day. Our church, Christ Community Church, offers a more personal alternative, the senior banquet. Emma has been involved in children's and youth ministry since the day she began making too much noise in during church. I'm guessing it was about 2-3 months into her little life that we took her in to Nancy's Nursery at CCV (Deer Valley High School) and the child has never asked to skip a Sunday since.

Emma's years in the youth ministry at CCC have been great for her. Not all kids like youth group but Em found her niche there. Have you been in a high school recently? I don't really care if it's public or private, there are lots of hurting kiddos walking those hallways. Even in the suburbs of our Midwestern city, VERY FEW kids attend church, abstain from illegal substances, try to keep their bodies pure and actually like...well mostly like their family. I'm not saying church kids do all that stuff perfectly but they do at least have a slightly better track record. Remember that thing about, "we are all sinners"? Emma has great friends in school but only ONE close friend shares her faith and comes from a family who shares similar values. I'm so tired of people calling out the youth, saying "kids these days are terrible!" It starts at home people! Kids can be great, they do what has been modeled. (Hey, don't yell at me, I know there are always exceptions and my kids are no where near perfect!! It's called free will...I have it too.)

Back to my original thought, Emma has thrived by surrounding herself with great girls. Youth group has been important because it offered her a support network, lots of fun and freedom to grow in her faith not to mention incredible youth leaders. In 6th grade Emma began attending journey groups and has been fortunate enough to keep several girls from the original group together all these years. From the time Emma was born, one of the many things I have prayed over her (all 3 of our girls actually) was that God would put friends of good character in her life. I knew one day my words would not mean as much to her as those of her friends. That day came and she could talk to people like Amy Nelson or her leaders Pam Grabowski, Ellie and Jocelyn Medrano who would speak truth to her, even when it wasn't popular. Praise God! Don't think one minute that my prayers have stopped. Emma is about to meet a whole new campus of fabulous people and I pray that God will bring devoted followers of Christ into her life in college, work and play.

Thirty-two seniors attended the youth banquet. It was a powerful night of funny stories, empowering messages from leaders and peers and great prayer. I am so grateful for Klint Bitter and Brad Mock for leading the youth of our church closer to Christ. Keep it up guys!

Emma's Seniors at Church

Emma, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
Matthew 22:37

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Senior Spring Strings

Her Last Orchestra Performance

Senior Recognition
Can I just be honest? I was a little disappointed that the recognition of seniors in orchestra consisted of, "when I call your name please stand." That was it!! OK so they did get, nine years of practicing, four years of a very successful but sometimes overly crabby instructor, more concerts and competitions than I can count, one marching event in the Millard parade carrying a cello (not even kidding about this), two big school trips, early morning rehearsals, music instructors fighting over students and lots of wonderful memories. It's just that band and choir really celebrate their seniors, I would have loved to see the same thing happen for Emma.

Mrs Ritchie

Brianna, Saisha and Emma

The Symphony

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

For Such A Time As This

Esther is one of my favorite people in the bible. I encourage you to read the book of Esther especially if you find yourself in a place that God does not seem to be inhabiting. I promise you whether you see Him or not, He is with you in the good and the bad. 

In no way do I want to say my life is bad. But right now I do have a lot on my emotional plate. Once in while it seems like too much. Consider this, God is good all the time.  He can accomplish more than I can ever imagine, with or without me but maybe I was created for such a time as this. Just like Esther, she could have avoided the risks, stayed safe and God would have still saved the Jews. Instead she chose to obey and be used by God. It was hard. It was dangerous. It was unknown. It was a blessing!

My girls gave me a necklace with Esther 4:14 inscribed on it. LOVE IT! When I don't know what to do next I remember that it is no accident that I have sick friends, lost loved ones, financial uncertainty and the list goes on. God is working in the dark days too. Read below...

God’s sovereignty is best summarized in Mordecai’s exhortation to Esther: “And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).
When events seemed out of control to Esther and Mordecai, when the king dictated ruin for their people, when evil was poised to triumph . . . God was at work. He worked through their dark days (Esther was taken to the harem [2:1–16]), their faithful obedience (Esther risked her life before the king [5:1–3]), and their victories (Esther revealed Haman’s plot and the Jews’ destruction of their enemies [7–9]). This message is clear: God is sovereign even when life doesn’t make sense.
God is also the great Promise Keeper. Mordecai said to Esther: “If you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish” (Esther 4:14). Mordecai’s words reflected his faith that God would honor His eternal covenant with Abraham and David.
So even though I have been struggling emotionally with all kinds of issues, big and small, plus trying to be a mom and wife it's important for me to remember to Thank God for the incredible blessings He is pouring out.

 Spending time with my sweet friend Danielle. Just a few months ago we were scrapbooking in Tonya's basement but now we are both praying for a miracle of healing and praising God that if He does not heal her on earth, she will soon be in Glory for all eternity.

My Senior!
Preparing for graduation is a full time job. There are forms to fill out, pictures to send in, parties to plan, financial decisions to be made, banquets to register for and lots of prayers spoken.
serving platters
the front room is a mess

3' letters covered in photos

 So many last concerts for my senior. District contest was an incredible success for Millard West choir, orchestra and small groups. All 1+ scores! Great job Em!

 Olivia is also enjoying concert season. 
She has performed with Minnesingers, R2 and Sing Omaha. This week was her band concert and next week will be school choir and orchestra. This girl has a passion for music!
not a good thing to see first thing in the morning. 
It has been a while since I could get a good picture with dad.
He is recovering from pneumonia and has a super strong heart. Love you dad!

Reagan honored Aunt Lois in Kicks For A Cure game
Soccer season is flying by quickly. Monday night was the first victory of district tournament, Reagan had a hat trick. (3 goals) The team has suffered some devastating injuries, each game I pray for every kid out there to walk of the field at the end of the game. 

This week I am prepping for Sunday's grad party...65 pounds of bacon takes a while to cook. I still have some decorations to finish and oh what about that video montage that everyone shows at their grad parties. Hmm, I may or may not get that done.

We all have a story. Whatever brings you to your knees, remember that God has fully equipped you to take on the day. I know I was created for such a time as this, to love and be loved.

Go make a difference!