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“Do” Live in the Moment

11 May
Elyse Johnson - Bishop Miege Graduation

Elyse proudly holds her diploma!

So, my youngest niece, and the youngest of my four nephews and nieces, graduated from high school yesterday. I’m so proud of her as she heads off to KU with scholarship in hand! But it’s so bittersweet as with each year she gets older, it’s each year, month, day that I’ll see less and less of her. Just like it has been with Nick, Katie and Ian. When they were all young, I’d get to be with all of them practically every weekend and in some instances more often. Can an Aunt have empty-nest syndrome? Oh most definitely! I know they still love me but there’s only so much time: they have jobs, responsibilities and now with my great-niece Laura, even children of their own.

Ian Elyse and Joanie

My nephew Ian, Elyse and my sister-in-law Joanie.

Elyse is always such a ray of sunshine, always fun to shop with, go out to dinner with. She’s a magnet for energy and happiness. You cannot NOT have fun when Elyse is around. Yesterday her graduation was fun, she was smiling and cutting up, marching in and out of graduation. She lives in the moment and the future, and while the past has happy and certainly sad memories for her, she moves on, keeping all of us in the moment as well.

The picture/poem below is something I put together for the “family ad” in her yearbook. They are all favorite moments I have had with Elyse. From making her that funky puppy dog costume for her kindergarten Christmas pageant, to her beautiful Cotillion photo, they all bring a smile to my face. I’m so proud of her for the young woman she’s become, so proud she’s decided to go to my alma mater and become a Jayhawk and so proud I’m her aunt and she’s my niece. Congratulations Elyse, I love you so much!

Elyse Johnson Yearbook Ad

The yearbook “ad” or tribute for Elyse.

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Do Rejoice: School’s Out for Summer!

3 Jul

Elyse back in the swing of things a month or so after her surgeries (at the 6/18 McWilliams' family picnic).

Elyse just finished her Freshman year of high school. She did so with honors grade-wise. She did so with grace and a positive attitude. And she did so with remarkable courage.

Shortly after making her high school’s varsity swim team as a Freshman (and posting some of the best times among the team!), one evening in early April she started experiencing intense pain in her upper-right side of her abdomen. After a few h0urs and a few Nuprin, the pain wasn’t going away, so my sister-in-law and brother took her to the emergency room.   
 
The hospital emergency room did their due diligence, ruling various things out, taking blood, taking her temperature and more.  This was on a Wednesday or Thursday. But they found nothing. They told my sister-in-law to take her to a female specialist, since maybe she had a cyst or something, (despite Elyse saying the pain was higher not lower).  But an appointment couldn’t be made until the following Tuesday, so Elyse suffered Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday until she saw this specialist on Tuesday.  But they found nothing. 
 

My sister-in-law then tried to find GI specialists to take Elyse to find the source of the pain. But only one GI specialist in the city had a pediatric license  and he was booked for days. An appointment was made, but that night (Tuesday), the pain was once again so intense that Elyse was taken back to the emergency room.   

Finally it was determined that Elyse had gallstones.  But that one and only pediatric specialist in the city who could remove them only did so on Fridays. (Most GI physicians aren’t licensed to work on children under 16 due to the high cost of malpractice insurance; Elyse is 15.) So she was checked in and stayed in the hospital until then. The diagnosis was a surprise and something unusual for her age and for her health, as she is an athlete and in great physical condition.

So late that Friday afternoon the pediatric GI specialist did laparoscopy, removing four gallstones safely. We were all relieved after so many weeks of Elyse being in pain, and by this point she had missed two weeks of school.  She stayed overnight in the hospital and late Saturday afternoon was released to go home.  The doctor did recommend that Elyse would need to have her gallbladder out since gallstones would/could come back, but suggested doing so during the summer when she was off school since she already had missed so much.

She went back to school on Monday, made it through most of the day, but by the end of the day she was having the same intense pain.  So back to the emergency room she went, and by this time while she didn’t verbalize it, Elyse was getting so frustrated – she was getting tired of nurses poking her, putting her on an IV, taking blood. She was tired of being in pain. And she had good reason. She wanted this to be over!  But the gallstones were back right away and they needed to schedule gallbladder surgery. 

Once again my sister-in-law and brother faced the hospital and healthcare bureaucracy and that there was only one GI pediatric surgeon that could really do this procedure.  And now he was out-of-town.  The hospital wanted to put a feeding tube on Elyse along with a pain IV, and have her stay through the weekend until the following week to do the surgery.  This was ridiculous!  Elyse would have had to wait over seven days to schedule the surgery (as a result, now missing almost four weeks of school).

My sister-in-law had talked to the hospital’s patient advocate, as well as making a few more calls trying to get someone to do emergency surgery within a day or two rather than waiting another weekend, going into the next week.  Apparently pediatric surgeries were primarily done on Friday at the hospital, so that Friday morning the round doctor said they would talk to the general pediatric surgeon on duty to try to work Elyse in so she wouldn’t have to wait over the weekend into the next week. 

The doctor on rounds said late that Friday afternoon that the attending surgeon knew of Elyse’s situation and getting scheduled for surgery would all depend on how the schedule was proceeding since surgeries were completed by 5PM.  The patient’s advocate and the other call pressure must have worked, because at 5PM the doctor on rounds came in and let Elyse know that they were going to do surgery soon. Finally, sometime after 6PM they took Elyse to surgery and she had her gallbladder taken out via a laparoscopic cholecystectomy.

During this surgery, a laparoscope (a small, thin tube with a camera on the tip of it) is used to remove the gallbladder. Several small incisions are used instead of one large incision. The laparoscope is put into the body through a tiny cut made just below the navel. The surgeon can then see the gallbladder on a TV screen and do the surgery with tools inserted in three other small cuts made in the right upper part of the abdomen. The gallbladder is then taken out through one of the incisions.

Elyse made it through the surgery with flying colors! Her three incisions and the one in her belly button were her badges of honor. She stayed in the hospital of course on Friday night and again on Saturday, but was able to go home on Sunday afternoon.  On Monday, school was out for a teacher’s conference, but she finally went back on Tuesday (after missing almost five weeks of classes!).

Elyse gave me permission to share this story on my blog. She wants to get the word out that kids can and do get gallstones. She wants to let people know the challenges her Mom and Dad had dealing with emergency room physicians, the rounds’ doctors, the specialists and the surgeons. You would think when a young teen girl suffers with pain that it wouldn’t be so routinely dismissed (until she was finally diagnosed, Elyse believed that many of the doctors thought she was making this up to get out of school or something)! She wants to warn other parents/kids that there are very few pediatric GI specialists in this city, even in the country. She wants to let others know that gallstones are getting more common in teens.

But I wanted to tell the story to show how brave and patient Elyse was. How much courage she had when she went through two surgical procedures on back-to-back Fridays. How strong she was to suffer through weeks and weeks of pain.
She got back to school just in time for finals and had to catch up five weeks of lessons. The school was awesome in developing an action plan for her to do so quickly – they delayed her finals by a few days and gave her some time to finish her Freshman year.

She had to read The Odyssey, and write a report on it as part of finishing her honors English class. (Fitting, since she had been on her own odyssey.) She had to catch up on lost weeks of math formulas and Spanish vocabulary. She had to rapidly catch up on chapters of reading for her Religion and History classes. And as the last bell of the year rang loudly signaling to the kids that “school’s out for summer,” she sat all alone in a classroom making up missed tests and taking her finals as all her friends ran out the doors to begin their summer.

Like I said at the beginning of this story, she made second honors, pretty remarkable for missing about 30% of the semester. And while she didn’t get to complete swimming on the varsity team or be in any tournaments, she’s swimming competitively this summer with a coed team, achieving new personal bests. But Elyse shows her personal best at all times – never complaining, never crying, always keeping her sense of humor and gregarious personality, and always worried about others.

I’m so very proud of my niece and how she handled herself during this ordeal. And I hope she rejoices that her Freshman year is over, and has a wonderful summer!

(Here’s a video from February 2010 when Elyse was in 8th grade and swimming with the Kansas City Blazers Swim Team…just a few shots before the meet started.)

“Do” Introduce Your Niece to Nordie’s!

14 Nov

Showing off a new outfit from Nordstrom's

The first time I ever went into a Nordstrom’s was the weekend that it opened in the Kansas City area (in Oak Park Mall/Overland Park, KS).  Mom, Elyse (who was about 4) and I went to just look, but an hour or so later we came out with bags loaded with really cute dresses and outfits from the children’s department.  And of course shoes! 

Mom and Elyse discovered the children’s shoe department and there was no looking back, the two of them would visit that department over the years many times a year, until of course Elyse’s foot outgrew the department – then she moved downstairs to shoe heaven – Nordstrom’s Women’s Shoes. 

Elyse learned to become a “strategic strike shopper” at Nordstrom’s.  Strategic strike shopping is Elyse’s definition of stocking up on lots of new, complete outfits all in the span of a couple of hours.  And we do this several times a year.  The three of us always go together. 

When she was still in the children’s department we’d head upstairs to the third floor and she would pick out several cute outfits.  She would also pick out accessories to go with the outfits – a hat, bangle bracelets, a jacket, or a one-of-a-kind-to-die-for-cute-purse!  Then she would look at my mom and say excitedly, “shoes!”  

Elyse at the Nordstrom's fashion show.

At some point during our shopping visit, we would go to Nordstrom’s Cafe.   We’d need a break from our shopping blitz, so Mom and Elyse would go sit down and I’d get in line to order three small bowls of their famous tomato basil soup (with the crostini’s!) and we’d split a ham and cheese panini sandwich with the pommes frites.  This soup is wonderful goodness, and always hits the spot!

After being restored and re-energized, we were ready to shop a little for Mom and myself, but we were typically there to shop for Elyse.  She was about 11 or 12 when the children’s department manager asked my Mom if Elyse would want to model in their Fall children’s fashion show at the store.  Since we were frequent customers there, we were on a first name basis with Shirley, the department manager.  Of course Elyse would want to model!  How exciting!  Plus she’d get a new outfit for doing so!

By then Shirley knew Elyse’s tastes – she was almost ready to move across the store to the BP Juniors Department, as Elyse never liked to dress little girl frilly.  She had then and still does an innate fashion sense for hip, stylish well-made clothes, and she always added something with a little bit of flair.

The black velvet jacket from the fashion show did double duty with a white blouse and gauchos. Elyse tied a black silk ribbon as a belt for that finishing touch!

The fashion show was a success, and Elyse looked adorable of course.  She had on a jean mini skirt with black leggings, and a black velvet jacket over a black camisole.  She wore a plaid newsboy cap, and carried a black suede purse.  And of course she wore new shoes – flat, ballet-style with interesting diagonal straps.  All the kids (from age 3-13) came out from behind a stage, walked down a small runway, stood on a circle for a moment then walked back.  Elyse did so with such confidence and charm, it was as if she had modeled for years.

Now that Elyse is in high school, she has broadened the stores we shop at – but unfortunately (or fortunately) Nordstrom’s set a high mark.  While we still shop at Nordstrom’s of course, our strategic strike weekends now include J. Crew, Von Maur, Hall’s on the Plaza.  She went through an American Eagle phase for a while, but when she wants to replenish her wardrobe while replenishing her soul, we head for Nordstrom’s for the day for clothes, tomato soup and shoes. 

Another "Strategic Strike" outfit: dress, sweater, hair clip from J. Crew; shoes (trust me, they're cute!) - Nordstrom's!

In fact, every now and then I’ll get a text message from her on a Thursday or Friday that simply says “Nordie’s???”  And we’re off that Saturday – Mom, Elyse and myself.  We now usually start the day with lunch – three bowls of tomato soup of course. 

Elyse then carefully selects outfits to try on.  Mom sits in the waiting area, and I go to the dressing room to help out – I’m more like her lady-in-waiting, taking things off the hanger for her to try on, hanging items back up, and dividing up what’s staying at the store, and what’s going home with us. 

She then goes out to model in front of her Grandma and the sales clerk (who’s magically showing up with other things Elyse “might like”).  And after we’re done with lunch and shopping in the BP department, we head downstairs to shoes. And now we’re also making quick hits in the cosmetic department. 

There will be other stores for shopping with Elyse, other lunch places to discover, but Nordstrom’s will always be top of the list for both.  It’s a special place.  It brings such a smile to her face.  The joy,  fun and memories we have together there are priceless.

A summer "Strategic Strike" outfit - part Nordstrom's/part J. Crew

“Do” Risk Taking Them to Movies with Subtitles

30 Aug

One of the movies that was all the buzz in late 2000, early 2001 was Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.  Ian and Elyse were over on a weekend and as they were watching television, a commercial came on for the movie showing the younger heroine Jen Yu leaping between rooftops and bamboo trees.  “I want to see that movie!” Elyse exclaimed.     

She was quite adamant about wanting to see it as she was in her “power girl” phase.  She had just turned five at the time and one of her favorite Disney videos was Mulan.  She would watch Mulan over and over again and was enthralled with the story.  Another Disney favorite was The Rescuers Down Under.  She started dressing like Cody and it was almost impossible for anyone to get her out of the Australian bush adventure jacket, and the brown short boots.  And then there was Peter Pan.  I had made Elyse a Peter Pan costume for Halloween that previous year and no one could convince her to take it off after that, she wore it for weeks  and always stayed in character!  The beloved, thread-bare costume was finally “retired” by my sister-in-law.     

I had also wanted to see Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon — the academy award nominations had just been announced and it was nominated not only for Best Foreign Language film (which it won), but for Best Picture as well, among a whole slew of other nominations.  So I wanted to see it before the Oscars were on and besides, the commercial had hooked me as well, the movie looked fascinating.    

The Rio Theatre in Overland Park, KS (Photo by Nathaniel Paluga ~cc-by-sa)

 

So Mom and I took Ian and Elyse to the matinée the next day.  It was only showing near us at the Rio Theatre, a movie house that had recently been beautifully restored and was known for showing art films.  So just going to the Rio was an adventure itself as none of us had seen a movie there yet.    

We purchased popcorn and sodas, and sat down.  Mom was on the aisle, then Ian, myself then Elyse.  I knew Ian (who was nine) would love the film as he was always game to see and try anything new.  But I wondered a little if Elyse would like it.  Was it too soon for her to make the transition from Disney cartoon characters to a Chinese female action martial arts movie?  I should have never had one doubt.     

Within the first five minutes of the opening we all sat mesmerized and excited, including Elyse.  One word described this movie, WOW!    

The film’s story takes place during nineteenth century China, in a beautiful, mystical setting inhabited by the Wudan, spectral warriors from legend who effortlessly leap among the bamboo trees.  It is hard to describe what Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is as it transcends genres:  it is a fantasy, romance, historical epic and thriller all in one.      

Soon after the first five minutes of “wow,” Elyse starts tapping my arm.  I was so mesmerized by the movie I hadn’t noticed.  Suddenly her little hand cupped my chin and she rapidly turned my face towards hers and she whispered, “what’s happening?”    

The movie was in Mandarin with subtitles!  It didn’t dawn on me that this could be a problem.  But Elyse couldn’t read yet, so while she was enthralled with the movie, she couldn’t understand it.  So I whispered in her ear what had happened so far.  However because the film was so engaging and fast-paced, Elyse got up on her knees and leaned next to me, “tell me what’s happening,” she kept whispering.    

I felt so bad that I had brought her to this wonderful movie that she couldn’t understand.  Finally I put her in my lap and whispered in her ear, reading the subtitles to her as they appeared.     

As with all foreign movies with subtitles, someplace during the movie you cease reading the subtitles and you begin understanding the movie without comprehension of the language.  Halfway through the movie that happened to Elyse.  She sat back down in her seat, and she only asked for explanation a couple of more times.     

Elyse (5-years-old), the year of her "Power Girl" phase

 

At the end of the film we sat in our seats just blown away and moved by the ending, stunned at what we had just experienced.  It was very quiet in the theatre as the other people in the Rio were in awe as well.   Elyse suddenly said, “that was the very best movie I’ve seen in my whole entire life,” causing a few heads to turn, and a few people to chuckle.    

A man in front of us turned around and said to her, “so did you understand the movie okay?”       

Thinking he was quizzing her about the plot instead of inquiring about her comprehension of the language and the subtitles,  Elyse replied proudly, “I sure did, it’s about this  stolen magical jade sword and…”      

 The man laughed and said “I guess you did understand.”

“Do” Understand Tooth Fairy Economics

31 Jul

 

One of the very first teeth lost

 

It’s amazing how children learn to put two and two together fairly quickly.  Especially when they’re getting ready to go into kindergarten and have an aptitude for math and it involves cash.  One of the rites of passage for any niece or nephew is to lose their teeth for a period of about 5 years when they’re about age 5 through 10.  And then of course the tooth fairy comes and leaves them a monetary surprise for the pain of losing the tooth.   

Elyse lost her first tooth at home and her Mom and Dad gave her the going rate for the first lost tooth of a shiny silver dollar.  She lost her second baby tooth at home as well, and then received a dollar bill for that one.   

She happened to be at my house when she lost her third tooth.  She was really upset that she wasn’t at her house that night, but I explained to her that the tooth fairy was magic, she would find Elyse and come take her baby tooth to someplace special in Ireland (because that’s where fairies are from of course) where all baby teeth were kept.  (Thank goodness she didn’t ask what the fairy would do with millions of baby teeth!) 

Never afraid to smile for the camera!

 

She wrapped her tooth up in some tissue, and put it under her pillow.  Tucked safely in bed, I had a conversation with my Mother about what to have the tooth fairy give her.  We didn’t really know what my brother and sister-in-law were giving at the time, but we had always been generous with the other kids when they lost a tooth with one of us and had given at least $3.00 a tooth or a special silver dollar.  So with consideration to tooth fairy inflation, and the fact we had no silver dollars, we agreed $5 would be appropriate.  

Wiggling a bottom tooth with her tongue to encourage losing it in "Johnson County!"

 

Unfortunately, I didn’t have $5 handy.  I had a couple $20 and $10 dollar bills, a dollar bill and two quarters.  So what’s an aunt to do?  Give her adorable, toothless little niece $10 of course!  When she woke  up, she was thrilled with what the very generous tooth fairy had left under her pillow.   The tooth fairy bar had been set high. 

For the fourth tooth, she was at home and the tooth was about ready to come out.  She told her Mom and Dad that she wanted to come over to my house, but she didn’t tell them about the loose tooth.  She came over and she wiggled and fiddled with the tooth all night.  Finally it came out (Elyse just gave it a good yank herself!).   Before she went to sleep she said, “I hope the Johnson County tooth fairy comes here again.” 

Johnson County tooth fairy? Who’s that? Where did she come up with this? 

Elyse went on to explain.  “Well I get far more money from the Johnson County tooth fairy versus the Jackson County tooth fairy.”  

Temporary St. Patrick's Day tatoos on Elyse's cheeks highlight her beautiful toothless smile!

 

Elyse and her family live in a nice neighborhood area of downtown Kansas City, in Jackson County.  My house is located in a suburb of Kansas City, on the Kansas side, in Johnson County. In her mind she had figured there couldn’t just be one tooth fairy, because how could she travel all over the world collecting baby teeth?  She thought that there would be fairies stationed everywhere and that they each handled their jobs differently.  Basically she decided she had hit the jackpot with the “Johnson County” tooth fairy.    

I had decided to back off from the $10 and go down to $5 with this tooth (still higher than the Jackson County tooth fiary), but with Elyse’s establishment and expectation of the Johnson County tooth fairy, how could I?  So I slipped $10 under her pillow in exchange for the sweetest little baby tooth (which I kept and still have).   I figured, how many teeth could she lose at my house?  I figured wrong. 

The next tooth to come out happened at her house.  But several days later, she came to stay all night, and with her, wrapped up in a tissue, sealed in an envelope so she wouldn’t lose it, was the tooth.  “I wanted to bring my tooth to the Johnson County tooth fairy, she’s my tooth fairy and she needs my baby teeth really bad or else she wouldn’t be giving me so much money for them.”  

Elyse missing a whole bunch of teeth, but cashing in!

 

She also told my Mom and me that when comparing income from tooth fairies with her friends, the other girls mentioned getting anywhere from a quarter to a dollar, and Elyse told them they should go to Johnson County to lose their teeth.  My brother and sister-in-law hadn’t been able to convince her that it didn’t matter where she put her tooth, and they thought it was kind of funny – “more power to her” my brother told me.  

From then on, with just a few exceptions, Elyse would bring her teeth over as she lost them, even if she wasn’t coming over for a couple of weeks.  And yes, the Johnson County tooth fairy really needed those baby teeth, and gave Elyse $10 for each and every one.

“Do” Help Your Niece Find Her Moondoggie

9 Jul

Ready to take-off in San Diego

 

I went to San Diego a couple of years ago for a conference and it was around Spring Break for Elyse.  Her big brother was off doing something else, and being a Sagittarius just like my Mother, Elyse is afflicted with wanderlust, and was wanting to go someplace fun for her break.  So my Mom decided to take her, my sister and myself to Coronado Island and treat for an extended weekend at the Hotel Del Coronado right after my conference.    

Elyse had turned 12 a few months earlier, and this was one of her first trips without Ian.  So I was a little concerned that she might get bored without him, since we weren’t planning on doing anything but relax at The Del.  But she loved the water and easily made friends, so this wasn’t a stumbling block at all.  Besides, she and my sister were swimming BFFs, and there was so much to do at The Del.    

Elyse holds her surf board (standing south of The Del) on Coronado Island

 

Laying by the pool and swimming had its fun moments, unfortunately there were no kids around the first day and I could tell she was getting a little bored, but I knew she would never say anything.  I had noticed that The Del gave surfing lessons.  I casually suggested this to Elyse (who is an awesome swimmer) and she jumped at the opportunity.  We went and signed her up for two morning classes for Saturday and Sunday.   And she would be in a group of 10-15 year old kids, so maybe she could meet some kids for the weekend to hang out with at the beach or the pool.    

She took to surfing like Gidget on just the first day!  In fact better than Gidget!  (Baby Boomers reading this will know who Gidget is of course!)  Elyse listened intently to the instructor and was up on the board catching the waves in no time at all that first morning.  She absolutely loved it and had so much fun.  And she was excited to tell her friends at school that she learned to surf over Spring Break.  The class was just three hours long, and afterwards, she came over to where I was reading on the beach and sat down next to me.  We had some lunch and Elyse shared with me the thrill of surfing and how that was now going to be her new sport.  I reminded her that she lived in the heart of the Midwest, and that probably wasn’t practical.    

After just a handful of attempts, Elyse was up on the surfboard in no time at all!

 

 While eating our lunch, there were some kids on the beach building a really awesome sand castle and on later inspection it was actually a sand fort.  They had dug this huge hole and were building a fortress around it.  One of the boys working on the fort had been in Elyse’s surfing class and he was about a year or two older than her.  She said to me, “don’t you think that boy is cute?”  I agreed and suggested she go down and help them with their fort.  Surprisingly she got very shy, and said no it would be too awkward, and what if they didn’t need her help or what if they wouldn’t talk to her?    

So I suggested that she walk down a ways on the beach (opposite the direction where they were building the sand fortress), then turn around and casually stroll back by them.  I told her to stop and say “Hi, I really like your fort, do you need any help?”   

She giggled, got up to do it, then ran back and said “I can’t do it.”  I was somewhat perplexed by this new shyness, as she’s always been confident around other kids, including boys, and never had a problem meeting new people.  Then I realized she was being shy because this kid wasn’t just any boy, but because like Gidget, she had found her Moondoggie (except she was a junior Gidget and he was a junior Moondoggie!).     

Elyse with her "Moondoggie" working on the sand fortress at The Del

 

I gave her a few words of encouragement, and told her there were girls around him, probably his sisters, and to talk to all of them instead of speaking just to him.  She walked back down in the opposite direction, casually turned around, and started strolling back in the direction of the kids on the beach building the sand fort.   

In no time at all, Elyse had said hi, told them they really had a cool fort, asked if she could help, and then was inside the fort digging out sand and forming a wall while standing right next to her Moondoggie.  As I suspected, the other girls did turn out to be sisters and cousins.  And Moondoggie turned out to be a very nice boy named Brendon.  They were from Arizona, and their family was also on Spring break.   

Elyse hung out with them on the beach all day, and had the best time with not only Moondoggie, but also his sisters and his cousins.  They also had fun surfing again the next morning.  While there wasn’t a permanent connection with Moondoggie, Elyse ranks this trip to San Diego as one of her favorites and has been after us to go there again soon – not only to surf, but on the remote chance that her Moondoggie will be there, and that she can accidentally run into him walking on the beach.  Because like Gidget said, I’m sure Elyse would agree that “honest to goodness it was the absolute ultimate!”   

“Don’t” Make Your Niece Look Like a Donkey

21 Jun

Elyse with my Mom, her Grandma

The other day I was in the car with my Mom and my niece Elyse, doing some “strategic strike” shopping as Elyse calls it, and we were talking about social media – Facebook, Twitter, blogging and more. I mentioned my idea for this blog, and they both got really excited about it. Elyse said, “Call it the Do’s and Don’ts of Aunting” – and tell about all of our trips, adventures and fun times!”  And then she started rattling off some “Do and Don’t” examples and we all started laughing and having fun with just the handful she named.  So I’m going to start this blog with a “Don’t” in honor of Elyse.      

Elyse is getting ready to start high school at the end of this summer having graduated from 8th grade this past May. It was the start of grade school as a kindergartener that this particular story happened. During her school Christmas pageant, it was tradition that the kindergarteners all marched in from the back of the church as animals. Having some moderate seamstress skills, her mom asked me to whip up a costume – and Elyse wanted to be a puppy. How hard would that be?   

I went and bought a really cute puppy pattern, two colors of furry material and some Velcro. The suit was a breeze to make, but the headpiece, which was basically a bonnet to carry the ears, was a bit more challenging.  I thought it looked cute, sort of like a basset hound (don’t think that was the puppy she had in mind nor even knew at the time what breed that was!) and excited to see what she would think of her finished costume when I dropped it off the night before.       

Donkey or Puppy?

Well take a look at the picture; the ears were a little too long and floppy. (The Velcro didn’t exactly get in alignment when she put on the costume.)  And when she walked down the aisle with the other kids, her puppy suit could have been mistaken by some as a donkey, but surely they would know she was a puppy, right?       

Elyse doesn’t let people get to her, and doesn’t take anything from anybody, so when she got a few “that’s a cute donkey suit,” or “wow Elyse, why did you want to be a donkey, I thought you were going to be a puppy” comments, she didn’t let it bother her.  But I’ve heard about it every year since then, as she had eight more Christmas pageants, where all the new kindergarteners would march in wearing their costumes reminding her of that donkey suit with the silly ears that she had to wear.     

But as always, she was one of a kind, and no one else – that year or the remaining eight years of grade school – was ever a donkey!  And what a cute donkey she was!