Forty-three and Counting

We met through the mail when I was 15 and he was 21. He was in the Navy and I was in high school. Just before my 17th birthday we decided we wanted to get married, then got officially engaged on my 18th birthday, and married the next summer on my parents’ 25th wedding anniversary – July 3, 1976.

July 3, 1976

We’ve now been blessed with forty-three years of marriage and two children, Matthew and Elisabeth. We’ve seen God provide godly spouses for each of them. Icing on the cake…before long, the Lord blessed us with grandchildren: three grandgirls and three grandboys.

We’ve also been blessed to put down roots in only a handful of places: one apartment and three houses we have called “home.” I remember back in 1977 we discovered a little gem on 49th Street that would only cost us $10 more per month than we were paying in rent for our little furnished apartment. It wasn’t very big, but it was ours and perfect for our little family of three (soon to be four). God provided then, and He still provides for us now.

Over the years we’ve owned our fair share of pets (thankfully, not all at the same time) : one guinea pig, one cockatiel named ‘Jingles’, two gerbils named ‘Digger and Aaron’ (apparently NOT brothers, as evidenced by their very large family), one hamster named ‘Houdini’ (he actually did disappear and we’re really not sure where he went), two “free” dogs (Dusty and Hooch), and one porch kitty who adopted us three summers ago.

On this day, our 43rd wedding anniversary, I could think of no other person on earth who is as perfect for me as this man. May the Lord bless us with more years to walk together in love, as Christ loved us.

Ephesians 5:2:”And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God”.
Life is Good!

Alzheimer’s through a Great-Granddaughter’s Eyes

Let me introduce you to Violet. This granddaughter has held my heart for 15 years now and I am quite certain she has a special place for me in her heart too. Any time we spend together is special.

Not only does she love me well, but she also has a special softness in her heart for her memory impaired great-grandmother. Violet goes out of her way to be a bright spot in my mother’s day as often as she is able. Most recently she wrote a few letters to her and asked me to slip them in her purse every now and then so she had something new to read. On other occasions she will come with me to visit her GGma.

Violet and I share in common a love for writing. I love reading what she writes and especially love finding her thoughtful notes sprinkled liberally throughout my house. On a recent visit, Violet picked up a pencil and a notepad and poured out some thoughts on paper about Alzheimer’s. I asked for permission to share them on Barefoot Lily Lady.

Alzheimer’s
By Violet Cynthia Schultz

Family becomes strangers
‘Home’ becomes lost
Books become confusing
Memories become a maze.
Guests become intruders
Flowers become weeds
Shouts become whispers
Old stories are forgotten
making them new again.

Yet the smile of a stranger
can still brighten up the day
Help from a friend becomes a blessing
when you’re lost.
The old photo album
jogs memories new and old.
The surprise intruders
become a highlight of the day.
The countless weeds
spark the old passion of gardening
And the whisper of a voice ensures
comfort, rest, and security.

Need a little Violet in your Day?

One of our nesting boxes bit the dust last year when it was chewed up by neighborhood squirrels, so my grandkids Violet and Charlie painted this one. The birds have already set up housekeeping and we expect to hear little chirps and tweets very soon.

Spring is having a tough time making up its mind, but little signs of beauty to come are poking up all over the yard.

Only a few crocus are open, but there are more to come! I only wish they would hang around for a little bit longer.

Sempervivum is one of the first garden inhabitants to announce the arrival of Spring. I love how its color perks up as the soil warms.

A little garden trellis lends a splash of vibrant red. Now I just need to decide what I will grow on it this year.

Last, but far from least, a little gift from my favorite ‘flower’ and most frequent garden helper – my granddaughter Violet. She likes to fill jars with lots of little notes of love, encouragement, and blessings…oh, and a little bit of glitter to add an extra measure of sparkle to my day.


It feels good to finally get a little dirt under my fingernails again and to wander around my garden taking photos. Well, that’s my Six for this week. I hope you’ve enjoyed them. Check out all of the other Sixes courtesy of
https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/

Our Family’s Decision

The past few days have been especially wonderful. Even though it sometimes felt like I was always cooking, having our kids and grandchildren gathered here and being surrounded by family refreshed my spirit.

Three nights in a row of good sleep didn’t hurt either.

Yesterday, our children, along with our three lovely granddaughters, lovingly came alongside us in support of a decision that Wayne and I had already prayerfully made. A spot in a lovely memory care home has opened up for my mother. Together as a family, we acknowledged that my mom deserves to receive the 24/7 care I can no longer give her.

This has been an especially hard decision for me, as it has always been my desire to walk Momma all the way “Home” here in our home. Now that mom is under home hospice care, it seemed like we were almost there. But God has given our family wisdom and showered me with peace in the midst of my tears.

Last night, Mom was out of bed before our Friday date night caregiver left our home at 10:30 p.m. Bless sweet Kathryn’s heart, she tried so hard to get mom to bed and asleep before her shift was over. It was not meant to be. Sleep would not come for Momma until a few minutes before 5:00 a.m.

Today I’m feeling physically worn out and emotionally spent. The frustrations of my sleepless night and my groggy, bone-weary body served as confirmation that the decision we made as a family is the right one.

Nine days from now it will be different.

Round-the-clock care will be available to redirect my tired and anxious mother back to the safety of her bed while I am sound asleep in my bed a few miles away. There will be no more trips up and down the stairs between my bedroom and hers all night long. No need for cameras and a video monitor to keep tabs on Momma. No need for baby gates, a multiplicity of grab bars, wheelchairs, walkers and bedside potty chair. Someone else will vigilantly monitor and carefully dispense drugs, change and launder soiled clothing and bedding, cajole her into bathing (and washing her hair), and keep her from wandering away.

I find comfort in the hope of being able to attend school concerts, participate in church activities, go to the gym more regularly, travel with my hubby, take an unhurried bath, have impromptu play dates and sleepovers with my grandkids, and play in garden dirt whenever I want. The list of all the things I’d like to do now is very long indeed.

As much as I look forward to finding our new normal, I also understand the transition will not be easy–for her or for me. The tears which trickle down my cheeks without warning remind me that I will miss taking care of mom. It has truly been an honor and a privilege and the hardest thing I have ever done.

Caregiving truly is the hardest job I ever loved.

Henry’s Basilisk Birthday Cake

We recently celebrated our grandson Henry’s eighth birthday. I haven’t a doubt in the world that he has already begun planning what his ninth birthday cake will look like and what should be on next year’s birthday gift list.

My daughter described her boy so very well on her Facebook post commemorating her second son’s birth.

“This kid will start a conversation with a stranger with “Do you want to learn about me?” He refuses to let a bee sting slow down his fun. He crosses his eyes in his school portrait just to make people laugh. He’s always thinking about something grand. He has my heart. Happy birthday, Henry!”

He has his Grandma Cindie’s heart too.

Henry snuggled up to me on the sofa at our family Thanksgiving gathering with a special request. He wanted US to decorate his birthday cake together. This boy always has a plan.

“We’ll have mommy bake the cake, ‘cuz her cakes taste good,” then gushed with great anticipation, “and I will help you decorate it because you make the cakes look good.”

How could a grandma refuse?

Henry further informed me of his grand plan. He wanted a “basilisk” cake, then told me everything he knew about basilisk lizards. It’s a good thing that this boy is a walking encyclopedia when it comes to anything reptilian because I had NO IDEA what a basilisk was. Henry and I poked around a little bit on Google so he could show his less than informed Grandma Cindie what one looked like. I didn’t know there were basilisk snakes (of Harry Potter mythology, of course) and basilisk lizards. Henry assured me he wanted the lizard variety. “It’s cool, Grandma! It can run on water.” (Click here if you’re even remotely interested in learning more about basilisks.)

Yes, that is pretty cool. And a pretty ambitious decorating feat for the two of us. I am by no means a professional cake decorator but willingly spend an entire day trying to come up with whatever a beloved grandchild dreams up.

We were up to the baking and decorating challenge.

I ended up baking the cake using my daughter’s recipe, baking up three chocolate 8″ layers to hopefully carve up and assemble into something that resembled a lizard…a basilisk in particular. My hubby helped me shop for a few of the details we would need, per Henry’s ideas, like orange M&M candies to make the eyes and animal crackers to crush and use for making the sand the basilisk would be crawling on.

As his mommy said, “He’s always thinking about something grand.”

In preparation for our big lizard making day, I poked around on Pinterest for a few ideas as to how to create something that resembled a lizard. I baked the three layers of cake ahead of time, then made up some delicious chocolate cream cheese buttercream frosting. I cut one of the cake layers in half and “glued” the two halves together with froting to make the body of the lizard, using this dragon cake as a general guide. I wrapped the body and the remaining cake layers in wax paper, then slid them into freezer bags and placed them in the freezer. Several Pinterest reviewers suggested this step of freezing the cake would make carving the cake and frosting the cut sides of the cake a little easier (it was a good idea).

Dragon cake - naked
Idea and photo credit: http://www.dinnerwithjulie.com/2010/08/07/chocolate-dragon-cake/

We would celebrate Henry’s birthday on the Saturday which followed his official birth date. Henry would come over in the morning after breakfast. We’d work on constructing his cake throughout the morning, Papa would take him out to lunch (so grandma could do parts of the construction that were better done without the help of an 8-year-old), then we would resume decorating the (hopefully) lizardy-looking creation during the afternoon. All of this in anticipation of a family celebration of his birthday with pancakes for supper (his request) followed by his special birthday cake and presents.

We had fun together. I’m not sure that we ended up with the basilisk of his imagination, but one thing was clear. No matter how it turned out, Henry would love it because he had worked on it with me. Several heartwarming times throughout our day together Henry told me he loved me.

As we worked side by side, at one point Henry asked me if we had bought a birthday present for him. Before I could answer, he quickly added, “It’s okay if you didn’t because making this cake with you today is like the best present ever already!”

My heart smiled.

I assured him we had a present for him too then teasingly asked, “Do you want me to take your present back?” Eyes wide open he wagged his head an emphatic no.

Making Animal Cracker Sand

The first task for Henry was to crush the animal crackers to create the sand that would be used later in the decorating phase. As he rolled over the crackers with the rolling pin, he retold the family story of how he would squirrel away animal crackers under the cushion of his highchair so he could help himself to a treat when Mommy said no to his request.

We laughed together.

Next step was for Henry to carve the tail out of one of the layers of cake. We made it fatter than a real basilisk’s tail because nobody would want a piece of cake that skinny. Henry deemed it the perfect lizard tail. I popped that tail back into the freezer while we worked on carving the legs and head and crown-thingy (the crest, I think) out of cake. Henry let me do most of that carving, adding ample praise as I worked.

Tail-carving time

Henry told me about his best friends at school.

It was lunch time. Papa took Henry out for lunch so I could pay attention to my mom’s needs. Momma has Alzheimer’s. I had worried that she would not cooperate, as she can be a handful on one of her bad days. Thankfully, she had rather enjoyed watching us work at the kitchen table together.

While Henry and Papa were enjoying cheeseburgers at Culver’s, I put the lizard head together and affixed it and the tail to the body with more frosting. Returning from their guys’ lunch together, Henry was super excited to see what had been accomplished in the construction phase, and we set ourselves to work creating a cross-section of a tree for the lizard to climb. We stuck the lizardy-looking parts in the freezer again while we worked together to create tree rings and bark out of chocolate frosting.

Next came the hard part. Frosting the little guy. I made a batch of cream cheese buttercream frosting without chocolate. I reserved a little plain white, then tinted the remaining frosting in a few shades of green. We propped Mr. Basilisk on the log, then added legs and started frosting with a crumb coat of green. (Freezing the cake greatly helped keep the cut edges under control, as did using a frosting spreader dipped in warm water.) Once he was thoroughly crumb coated, we started piping on frosting, smoothing here, adding “scales” there, shoving bits of leftover cake and frosting into gaps, and chatting as we worked.

Henry added the orange M&M eyes and was happy with how it looked. Basilisks also have white dots that run down their sides. Henry carefully added  white chocolate chips for the bigger dots and then and dotted white cupcake sprinkles in just the right places to make the little ones.

While he worked on those details (and snitched a few white chocolate chips), I melted some of the white chocolate, then tinted part of it green and part of it orange (took a little artistic liberty on that color). I piped this onto wax paper to create the  arched fin-like crest that continues along its back and tail. After the melted chocolate hardened off on my chilly back porch, we peeled it off of the wax paper and added those fun details to his birthday cake.

The birthday boy’s eyes lit up. He had one word to describe our creation.

“Awesome!”

That’s the same word I used to describe my day with the birthday boy.