Thursday, November 19, 2009

Announcement: On the Edge of Your Seat

For starters, a disclaimer: I have not actually been trying to make you all crazy with anticipation for this post. Local friends keep asking me if we're telling the sex of this baby (we are) or if we're keeping it a secret (we're not). When I reply, they then get agitated with me and ask why on earth I haven't posted a blog on this subject yet. I've also received Facebook messages, emails, and texts from many of you, demanding that I hurry up and deliver the news.

I really haven't meant to wait so long to fill everyone in. As some faithful readers might recall, I actually drove back to Indy from Peoria last month to get my ultrasound, and then Ben and the girls and I all returned to Peoria to be with my family while my grandpa was in the hospital. That was The Big Ultrasound, and I truly meant to fill everyone in right away, but we didn't reach Peoria until very late that night, and then my grandpa passed away the next day, and things were nothing short of crazy after that. After all the stress and driving associated with the funeral were over, I then had Bryn's blowout birthday party to contend with, and, well, you get the idea. Stuff has just been busy. So there's my (somewhat) lame excuse for not posting sooner.

Anyway, I digress. At The Big Ultrasound appointment, we learned that, most importantly, we're growing a healthy baby. Secondly, we learned that this baby is VERY active--no surprise to me, who is now getting rather used to being buffeted from the inside. Thirdly, we learned that this baby is..... a BOY. Ben about fell out of his chair with excitement. I now feel comfortable admitting that I was actually pretty sure of that for the entire pregnancy--not sure why, maybe just mother's intuition kicking in early. At any rate, we are extremely excited about coming addition, and Bryn and Shay proudly tell everyone what good sisters they will be to their little brother.

This ultrasound picture is from this month (I had to have another one because he wasn't cooperating and letting the tech get all the photos she needed last month). I thought it was really cool, since I'd never had anything except the traditional one before. As you can see, it seems that this little guy is a bit camera shy already!
So, friends, I'm sorry to have kept you in suspense for so long. You may now officially all start shopping for blue things on our behalf, as our house is rather heavy on the pink right now. :) In addition to Ben's excitement that he will finally have another male to help him break up the all-female party at our house, we're also excited to finally be able to use the baby name that we decided on before we even got married. So, come early March 2010, you can all join us in welcoming Baby Liam to the family.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Now that the Birthday Haze Has Cleared....

As always, November has been a bit of a "birthday haze" for us here at the MeyPfan house. Bryn's birthday kicks off the month on the 3rd, followed by mine on the 11th, followed by Shay's on the 27th. So Ben is kept quite busy providing goodies for all his girls! Of course, each of these birthday celebrations actually morphs into 3 or 4 once you account for family celebrations, parties with friends, and out of town relatives. Here are the highlights of Bryn's 4th birthday bash:

We kicked off the festivities with our annual trip to Chuck E. Cheese. To see how Bryn has grown since previous years, check out this link from last year. This year, we got smart and ate dinner at home beforehand, since trying to keep the kids in the booth with all the lights and noise is definitely a losing task. Both Bryn and Shay loved the rides and games, and Ben and I were kept quite busy chasing them around all night!

Here's one of our big girl opening her mound of gifts. These were the presents from me and Ben, with a few from Grandpa Dave and Grandma Diane mixed in. She had a whole separate gift-opening spree with gifts from Nana Helen, Papa Tom, and Grammy Tina. She even got to open her presents from Aunt Jill and Uncle Jim this past weekend, and we're hoping to meet up with Uncle Brian soon for some delayed celebration. So she has certainly been a busy girl! Most of the gifts from us were books, although she also received a Strawberry Shortcake DVD, a "big girl" belt (which she had been asking for), some new shirts, and a purse shaped like Minnie Mouse's head, which she adores.

Here are the birthday girl and her mama following her party at preschool. As you can see, she is holding up 4 fingers to advertise her age. :) She decided that she wanted an "animal party" at school, so we got animal cups and plates for snacks, which were frosted animal crackers, and made gift bags with all kinds of animal-themed snacks (Goldfish, Teddy Grahams, animal-shaped fruit snacks) and games (coloring book, craft) in them.

As a side note, can you believe her outfit? Way too trendy for me! She is obsessed with those boots and wants to wear them every day. Such a little fashion diva!

And another side note - yes, I know that I'm getting big. More baby news to follow....

Bryn's big birthday bash was the Saturday following her birthday. Let me tell you, this party wore me out. I worked on getting it ready literally every day for a month beforehand. Yes, I am THAT mom, who goes totally over the top. But hey, our next-door neighbors had a bounce house in their backyard when their little girl turned 4! I can't shell out that kind of money, but I can get crafty, so that's what we did. Bryn wanted a Strawberry Shortcake party (she actually says she loves Strawberry Shortcake more than princesses these days--whoa!), so I got creative and set up all kinds of games, crafts, food, gift bags, decorations, etc. that went with that. It took a LOT longer to pull together when doing it all from scratch, and Ben swears that I need to write an instruction manual of everything I did and sell it online. Meanwhile, I'm already wondering how I'll have time to plan two separate parties next year, since Shay will get her first official birthday party next year as well (Bryn's was also when she turned 3). What can I say? I've always had somewhat of a desire to become an event planner, so maybe I'm just practicing. :) At any rate, here's the birthday girl in her strawberry shirt and Strawberry Shortcake hat before the party began.

And here's a picture of the actual festivities, Bryn with her "pin the strawberry on Strawberry" game. You might also notice the Froot Loop necklace, a remnant of another game. She had 9 friends over (she made the guest list herself--so big!!), plus their parents and siblings, plus Nana Helen, Papa Tom, Grammy Tina, Aunt Kristin and her boyfriend Brian. So we had quite the full house! I know I had a great time though (with the exception of my aching legs, which is pretty par for the course for when this pregnant lady overdoes it), and Bryn was over the top with excitement. Thanks to all who shared in the special day!
My own birthday was also mostly a good one. I say "mostly" because we started out the day with dental appointments for the whole family (do I know how to party or what?!?!), which were met by varying degrees of whimpering from all of us. The day definitely improved from there, though, featuring lunch out with my friend Jill, a nice nap, and dinner at Puccini's with Ben and the girls. I also received literally hundreds of birthday wishes via phone, email, and Facebook, so I felt quite loved. While 31 isn't nearly the fun of turning 4, it was still a good day.
Coming soon (tomorrow?)..... announcements and updates about the baby.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Remembering Parky

My grandfather, John C. Parkhurst, was exceptional in every way. He was a noted community leader, pivotal in Illinois legislature, devoted to service, and a respected attorney. His works helped to create the Peoria we know today, not to mention impacting the entire state of Illinois. These are some of the articles that have appeared in the Peoria Journal Star since his death two weeks ago:

John Carlton Parkhurst remembered for service, song

Who's next in line to put their stamp on Peoria?

The link to his obituary is no longer active, but it was written by his six children and was a beautiful tribute to his life.

But as accomplished as he was, I remember the grandpa, not the statesman. I was the first of his twelve grandchildren, his "Famous Amos." I remember playing at his great old house growing up. A creek ran through his backyard, and he and my grandma Hattie used to bring out wicker baskets into the backyard, take us down into the creek, and play Moses in the Bullrushes with us. Parky was always the loudest voice singing the hymns at church, booming out from the balcony. He taught Sunday school, and when I got into high school and college, I became his teaching partner for the fourth and fifth graders. Parky talked to God like He was a friend, and his great faith was evident in everything he did.

I used to spend the night at Hattie and Parky's house when my parents were out of town. It was a great old house, full of interesting things. I remember how patient and loving he was with me. When I was little and refused to eat vegetables, he recited a poem to me about "peas with honey," then smeared a butter knife with honey and painstakingly lined up peas in the honey for me to eat. He played with me on the staircase, helping me find the halfway point, then read me A.A. Milne's poem about sitting on the stairs and being "halfway up and halfway down." I remember going out for breakfast with him, and Parky making me write down my order before I could eat, so that I could practice my spelling. He sat in bed with me at night, reading endless bedtime stories, not just the words on the page, but discussing the illustrations and what I thought about the stories. Parky loved with written word. He read constantly himself, and it was the eloquent letters that he wrote home to my grandmother during World War II that caused her to fall in love with him. He loved playing with words to find just the right combination, and every birthday and family occassion growing up was accompanied by an original Parky Poem. When I grew up to become an English teacher, it was due in no small part to the love he instilled in me for reading and writing at an early age. As I began work as adult, Parky always asked me what my classes were doing, and he constantly told me that he wished that I "had been his teacher."

Parky loved music of all kinds. One of my earliest memories is of sitting at the piano with him, listening to him sing and play "Ball and Chain." Photos show him also doing this with each of his six children, as well as his 12 grandchildren. He sang in the church choir, and he performed in Corn Stock, a very cool local theatre group. All six of his children caught his love for music and passed it on to their kids. My uncles still sing in church choirs, and most of the siblings have performed in various bands over the years. My uncle, as well as his wife and kids, are still deeply involved in Corn Stock. As for us cousins, nearly all grew up to play the piano to some degree, and most of us also sing or play various instruments. None of us have quite the same booming voice as Parky, though--no one does.

That voice was famous while I was growing up. He was on speech team in high school and never outgrew his love for oration. He delivered messages at church and spoke at numerous community events, in addition to his full load as an attorney. He focused not on just word choice, but on projection, enunciation, and dramatic pauses. Every time I ever did any kind of reading or public speaking in front of him, his critique afterwards included exhortations to "enunciate" and "project."

Hattie and Parky's house was always open, to everyone. I think most of my childhood friends made it over there at least once over the years. They hosted at least one huge family gathering every month, often in the backyard on Parky's Patio. All our Thanksgivings and Christmases were there, and we have a series of great family photos in front of the fireplace, watching our family grow each year. Growing up, I was as much at home at their house as I was at my own. We kids ran wild across the big yard, playing in the creek, under the huge pine trees, in the sandbox. My mom and her siblings tell stories about the many parties and gatherings held in their house as they grew up. I remember Hattie and Parky taking us out to dinner all the time, in various locations across Peoria, most particularly Vonachan's, Lum's, and my personal favorite, Long John Silver's. Even though Hattie and Parky were famous in our community, they never acted like it. We went out for fast food with both of them wearing sweatsuits. They were completely unpretentious.

Still, though, there was no denying the fact that everyone knew them. Being the child of one of his two daughters, I didn't share his last name, so people didn't always realize that I was related to him. But there was always an odd little feeling of pride that came when the recognition would spark in adults' eyes and they would say, "OH, you're John and Harriet's granddaughter" and look at me with a new measure of respect. Everybody who met them loved Parky and Hattie, not just for their endless civic accomplishments and awards, but for the love and kindness that they showed everyone they met.

My grandmother Hattie lost her battle with cancer when I was a junior in high school. She was the love of Parky's life, and after her passing, he spent hours and hours every week sitting at her gravesite, telling her in detail about what all of their kids and grandkids were up to. He always talked about how he had been so blessed to have her in his life. When I graduated high school, his gift to me was the center diamong out of the engagement ring he had given her way back in the 1940s. That diamond is now the stone in my own engagement ring, a reminder not just of my commitment to Ben, but of the overwhelming love that my grandparents both shared and exuded, and an inspiration to live in the same way.

The past few years have been very rough on Parky. He has been living in a nursing home, moving around in a wheelchair, often assisted by oxygen. He was in and out of the hospital, and there were many close calls with his health. There were times when he needed to be reminded who the people around him were. But everyone at the nursing home loved him. Even if he was confused about who was who, he still treated everyone around him with respect, and would ask people, in that great booming voice, his tone making it clear that he genuinely cared about the response, "And how are YOU today?" When Bryn Elizabeth was born in 2005, he was already in the nursing home, and all of our pictures of them together show him in a wheelchair. But he was thrilled to meet her and told everyone, "When I was young, I had a Tin Lizzie. Now, I have a Bryn Lizzie!" He was so proud of his entire family.

I could go on and on about what an amazing man our Parky was. He exuded love, faith, and commitment to helping others in all that he did. They don't make many like him. He will be sorely missed.