Tag Archives: puppy chow

A Pinterest-Worthy Birthday Bash in a Church Basement. Also cake.

Of all the months on the calendar, April, May, and June seem to be the biggest months for birthdays and such in my year– my sister, my dad, my mom, my husband, my sister-in-law, several friends plus Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and I feel like I’m constantly falling behind on cards and calls and celebrating. (Also, I’m bad at mail and phone calls and such. Real bad.) Fortunately, all those people know how much I love them (so so much!) so I don’t think it’s a problem.

October was kind of like that this year too… not the norm, but when you turn 90, it calls for a big celebration. And a big celebration turns HUGE and relatively difficult to coordinate when it’s a Stankowski-style celebration, so my grandmother-in-law’s birthday party was moved up from December 17th to a weekend in October. We celebrated in Halder, Wisconsin, the same day my Grandma Rita celebrated her fourth annual 73rd birthday (how nice that she stopped aging at 73 years gorgeous!) in Lansing, Michigan, and my friend Krystal and Aunt Susan had some celebrating to do shortly after that.

So, as you can imagine, October became a month for celebrating some seriously amazing women… although, I’ve got to admit, that first party in a church basement in Halder was mildly panic attack inducing (yes, it’s an oxymoron and I know it) because I looked around at 90 years worth of a life well lived and thought “wow” followed shortly by “crap! I am so behind!”

Rational me: “Behind at what?!”

Crazy me: “Ummm… life! Obviously!! I should have at least” [pause for mental math…] “four kids by now if I want any hope of my 90th looking anything like this!”

Rational me: “Good point.”

And it was all over from there. Crazy is always more convincing.

You see, my father-in-law is one of 12 children, 10 boys and 2 girls. Not to take anything away from any of the boys because they are very talented at many things, but the two girls are absolutely reee-dic-u-lous at throwing meaningful and gorgeous parties. (Also they both try to give the other all the credit, but I have a sister of my own and I know that they are synergistic as a pair. That’s how sisters work. Btw, did you know that the term synergy was originally coined based on combining the words “sister” and “energy” into something even greater?! Seems reasonable, right? Maybe it’s even true…)

All 12 Stankowski sibs with their parents... just two of twelve girls. Good looking bunch, eh?
All 12 Stankowski sibs with their parents… just two of twelve girls. Good looking bunch, eh?

So Nancy (left of center) and Margie (right of center) did their thing and when I walked into that church basement I was absolutely floored.

Each table was decorated with a centerpiece carefully selected to represent some part of Lucille’s life.

From left to right, top to bottom:
From left to right, top to bottom: cookbooks and a hot pad, gardening tools, a rosary and favorite hymn, hummingbird nectar and canning rings, clothespins and clothesline, cookie cutters, buttons and a zipper for repairs, canning tools, lemon drops and a deck of playing cards, and denim for patching.

A childhood photograph of each and every one of Lucille’s nearly 30 grandkids was made into a flower.

Love, love, love these sweet pictures! Is this not the most Pinterest-worthy decor you've ever seen?! But it gets even better!
Love, love, love these sweet pictures! Is this not the most Pinterest-worthy decor you’ve ever seen?! But it gets even better!

Handmade Happy Birthday bunting.

The color scheme, the handmade-ness of it all, so in love!
The color scheme, the handmade-with-love-ness of it all!

Streamers, balloons, photos, food…

It's a big family-- hence the church basement.
It’s a big family– hence the church basement.

So much good going on!

Except, amidst all that good, I got a little sad, because like my crazy brain said, what on earth would my 90th look like? I’m (sniffle) not going to have any of that. It’s hard to have grandkids and great-grandkids if I can’t even manage to have kids. And spiral.

(Please note that I completely recognize the self-centeredness of the above. For real, my husband’s grandmother is amazing and she is the matriarch of an incredible crew– I’m super lucky to have been welcomed into the clan and I was really happy to spend the day celebrating Lucille. Unfortunately, my own truth has to be based in self-centeredness (see this post) so it’s going to sound that way for a little while… but I think we’ll get to a happy (and delicious) point and you’ll forgive me for the pity party, k? k.)

Later that month, Seth and I dropped our crazy fur baby off at my in-laws and headed to Green Bay for the weekend to celebrate our friend Krystal’s birthday and to meet their sweet new baby girl Amelia Mae and see her sister Charlotte Jean (I use their full names here mostly just to brag about what pretty baby girl names my friend Krystal picked). We had a blast with our friends basically doing nothing, as per usual. Their girls are incredible and so so so much fun and we always have a super relaxing and generally hilarious time when we hang out with the Kussows here, there, or wherever. But I have to say, and self-centeredly so (see disclaimer paragraph above), that the highlight of that weekend for me was the puppy chow.

Me, Seth, Krystal, and Justin… we have a problem with puppy chow. A delicious problem. Justin had made a big batch for us to munch on when we got there and when we finally got around to singing to Krystal and cutting the cake, here’s what she found:

Did I just learn how to make collages for Instagram? Why yes, yes I did...
Did I just learn how to make collages for Instagram? Why yes, yes I did…

A puppy chow pinata! Yessss!!!

So we ate and we laughed and we drank and snuggled Amelia and played with Charlotte and her puppy (and some of us got mani/pedis and went shoe shopping because it was Krystal’s birthday, after all) and basically just had a good time.

And that’s when this blog post started writing itself. Because I’m pretty sure that Justin and Krystal (they’re younger than me) and Charlotte and Amelia and Charlotte’s and Amelia’s someday babies will all come to my 90th birthday party!

They may not be blood, but family often isn’t. It’s nice when it is, of course, but family can be so much more. I blurred the lines between family and friendship just the other day, albeit in the other direction, but today I want to point out that the opposite can also be true. It’s what happens with in-laws, and you know I wouldn’t trade my bro-in-law Stuey or Uncle Ed for anything, so what’s the difference here? Not a thing.

On my Grandma’s previous 73rd birthday, I told you about how amazing she is and how welcoming a place her house always is, even on big “family” holidays like Christmas or Thanksgiving. There were always friends and neighbors and other people amongst the crowd. I always thought of them as other people though. I imagine that my Grandma probably does not. To her, they’re probably just more family. Because family is a choice and can be built and blended in any which way.

So, when I turn 90, I want tables decorated with mason jars full of things that remind you of me (oh look, I’ve already got one full of rocks to get you started)… you’ve got 60 years to be my friend and make more babies for me to love and then let’s celebrate just like the Stankowskis did one recent weekend in October.


Isn’t that just like me? Bootstrapping my way up out of a pity party day after day? (And she’s humble, too…) You should consider filling a mason jar with bootstraps at my party. What are bootstraps anyway? I’ve always imagined them as boot laces, but then why bootstraps? And why is boostrapping suddenly a genomics/bioinformatics term too? I really don’t even get the concept. I ought to stop using the word. Maybe wiki can instruct me… huh… that is enlightening… the intro is worth a read if you’re interested. Idioms are hard.

A Creepy Ode to My Friend Krystal and a Reminder to Keep Trying

This morning a beautiful e-card full of hummingbirds and flowers popped up in my inbox. It was from that crazy nice security guard who gave me a ride on Friday– he was thanking me for the doughnuts! All I wanted to do was thank him for being so kind on so many yucky days! Goodness gracious, do I ever love living in Wisconsin. The kindness in this place, it’s nearly overwhelming!

A Jacquie Lawson e-card. A huge smile on my face.
A Jacquie Lawson e-card. A huge smile on my face.

It’s the littlest things, isn’t it?

This is the reward for trying.

I was reminded of that all weekend. How important it is to try, even when you’re scared or shy or nervous or anxious. Trying makes all the difference.

You see, my friend Krystal came over this weekend (and she brought her husband and daughter with her– also kind of cool!) and I was stressing before hand. Why? I don’t know… but I always do. Krystal is super happy and kind and fun and pretty like you wouldn’t believe. She’s an amazing mom and crafty and hilarious and has excellent taste in movies and gorgeous, super long, curly hair. Every time I see Krystal I get nervous all over again that she’s not going to like me.

Except the first time I really met her, she proved me wrong right away.

Seth was one of Krystal’s husband’s groomsmen and I flew to Green Bay from DC for the wedding. I didn’t know them much at all– I just knew that they were cool (perhaps a little too cool for a nerdy girl like me) and that Seth loved them. I had to go to the rehearsal with Seth since he was in the wedding and what else was I going to do in GB (in January!) while he was busy with wedding stuff. I thought it would be awkward and I’d be out of place, but I wasn’t! At all! Krystal was so warm and kind and actually excited to meet me. Krystal’s one of those people who attracts people just like her too– her family was warm and kind, her friends were warm and kind, everyone there was just welcoming and happy and all around good to an overwhelming degree.

In my warped mind I kept thinking… but, she’s pretty!! how can this be? and yet it was, and my warped mind was w-r-o-n-g wrong. My second track tries to get it’s punches in every time I am going to see Krystal again, but when she gets out of her truck, smiles big, gives me a hug, squats down to pet my overly-excited pup and then gets excited that Curly still pees for her (Krystal is literally the only person who still gets excited pee from Curls, quite the compliment), I’m instantly at ease.

I don’t have any babies, but Krystal trusts me with hers. My dog is a maniac, but Krystal loves on her anyway. I’m not an exciting person, but Krystal is content to chill on the couch and watch movies. I make a lot of Harry Potter jokes, but Krystal always laughs at them. I tell Krystal a story about eating an entire can of Pringles, and Krystal tells me that not only did she eat an entire can of Pringles, but she did it laying down and got so many crumbs all over her chest that her husband threatened to take pictures.

The best part is that Krystal does all of this even though she’s seen me at my worst. I remember going to their house in GB one time when I was in the midst of a pretty deep depressive episode. I could barely force a smile and I was horrible, horrible company the whole weekend. Another time I had a migraine like you wouldn’t believe and all I wanted to do was lay down on a cold pillow in the quiet dark and pop a couple Excedrin every couple hours. They took me to the drugstore for Excedrin (sweet relief!) and made sure we had enough puppy chow (mmmmm… puppy chow…) to get through the weekend. (I really, really like puppy chow.)

It’s true that things don’t always work out as you’d hope, but trying is always worth it because it just might. My sister-friend* Melissa told me one time that while she’d prefer never to see me hurt, she would always prefer that I get hurt for trying rather than for not. (And FYI, she told me this on a phone call from the freaking Ritz-Carlton Laguna Beach while she was celebrating her birthday with her husband. Taking the time out to call me– crazy woman, and crazy good friend!!!!) Even though it’s scary and the prospect of not being well-received is difficult, it’s worth it for those instances in which you befriend a Krystal or make someone’s day with doughnut holes.


*On vacation, Melissa and I automatically become sister-wives and it’s awesome. Our husbands joke then that they are brother-husbands, but that’s ridiculous and doesn’t make any sense (obvs). We are sister-wives in that we cook together and hang out together and take care of the (Melissa’s) kids together… and all those things are more fun because of it. It’s so awesome! I’m pretty sure I would not dig the polygamy aspect of sister-wifery,** but the companionship part? Totally!


**Pronounced WHIFF-ery, not WIFE-ery… like the brothers Deslaurier on The Mindy Project.