Many of you know my mom by now.
Perpetual (voluntary) servant.
And what I love most about her ability to hostess with the mostess is the ease with which she shows hospitality.
Hospitality is her gift. It oozes from her fingertips. It wafts from the open windows of her living room.
And it doesn’t matter if the person she is serving is eighty-eight years old or a prince or a pauper or her 33-year old daughter or a one-year old who has no idea what is going on…
she loves and she serves and she gifts and she ministers and she parties.
How blessed are the children in her life who are growing up under her grandmotherly wings, and my prayer is that her gifts will live on and multiply in the lives of her grandchildren, bringing light and hope and comfort to a world that needs all of the above.
On Valentine Eve, I packed up the last of our things at the house, I threw my finally finished sugar cookie valentines into cellophane bags, and I gave her a quick call to see if we were still on schedule for this year’s “homeschool Valentine party”.
“Come on out anytime! But, now…don’t expect much…” she warned me. “I didn’t go ‘all out’ this year.”
I snorted, used to this sort of humility from her, knowing full-well that her party would be off the chain.
Which it totally was.
We happily left behind the Valentine catastrophe that was our own home…
And we headed to the country where Grandmother and cousins and parties and rest and relaxation were waiting for us with anticipation
The children were forbidden to enter the party place and had to wait on the porch, but I snuck in to get a few pictures before the chaos descended.
How did she describe this party, again?
I DO know what she was trying to say with the “not much” stuff, though. Rather than a big meal and desserts and party games like we’ve done in the past, this year we decided on a simple tea-time party, with cake and ice cream only and lots of free play-time for the kids.
The decorations consisted mostly of things the kids could take home: a giftbag of fun candy for each child, a Valentine activity book under their plate, a small mason jar filled with roses and then a special wrapped gift from Grandmother. The girls received a silver necklace with a heart charm, the littlest children received various toys and whatnots and Gideon got his very own tortoise comb in a leather case that is embossed with the words “Hey, Slick!” (I die).
The kids were instructed to line up on the porch and await further instructions.
Heeeerrrre’s, Grandmother! Hi, Grandmother! You’re beautiful and amazing and we’d be lost without you!! Just in case you didn’t know that!!
Time to come in!
I love their happy faces. These kids word hard in school, and it is so fun to take a day off for some pampering and celebrating.
Sigh. Is there anyplace more satisfying in the world than a familiar table with the ones you feel at ease with?
I honestly don’t think there is.
Not surprisingly, the kids tore into their presents first.
Here, Betsie shows Abel how to work his new train whistle.
and then the candy was tackled! There was some good stuff in those bags. (I know, because I stole some when the kids weren’t looking)…
And then we dove in to the dessert. There was pink milk for drinking…
ice cream hearts with sprinkles for eating…
and enough chocolate cake to keep our tummies happy until suppertime.
And one of my favorite things about these parties is that she never forgets the mamas!
But the highlight of the party turned out to be, without a doubt, the activity books mom bought for each child. They worked on these books all evening long, from the 3-year old to the 10-year old. You never know what’s going to strike a chord with little people, do you? I’ll share a link to these books at the bottom of this post. If I remember.
And then we were DONE!
As beautiful as the pre-party table was, I am training my eye to see the beauty in the aftermath, as well. Good things happened here, even though it looks like a disaster zone.
After dessert, the kids ran around and exchanged the valentines they had made for each other. It was a mad-house! And so fun to watch! So fun that I forgot to take a picture! But here’s Abigail with her valentine from Gid.
By the way, I told my friends that I should get a medal for making it through homemade valentines with Betsie this year. Hours. It took hours.
She had very particular things she wanted me to write on each card, most of which were very obvious, such as “Dear Gabbie, I am making you a valentine card. I am bringing it to you at church tomorrow. Valentine’s Day is this week…” and so on and so forth.
But this one was my very favorite.
I don’t know why, but that just tickled me. “I am so happy for you”.
Anyway, after the great valentine exchange, we went outside for a few group pictures before everyone got changed for the next phase of the party.
I could not love these people more if I tried. Not possible.
(the next is my new favorite picture of Sheppy, haha!)
So on to the “next phase of the party”…
this was my dad’s doing, and so typical of his idea of a fun time. The kids were directed to throw on some play clothes and work boots, and off they went to do some labor, loading up their Granddaddy’s backhoe with rocks. :)
But I think they had as much fun doing this as they did partying. And so I love the way this Valentine celebration showcased the personalities and preferences of my mama and daddy so well.
By the way, we did not purposefully arrange the kids into a heart shape in the next picture. It just happened. Valentine’s Day is powerful like that.
The kids were MOST thrilled when, returning back to the house after their “job”, their Granddaddy blessed them with a wage! They lined up, oldest to youngest, and closed their eyes while he rummaged through his wallet for their earnings.
Betsie was so happy with her 3 dollars.
And the rest of the evening was just spent relaxing outside…
A couple of hours later, with the sun setting in the distance, we finally wandered back into the house.
The kids played with their valentines…
and then there was a pretty epic game of hide-and-seek.
It did a little somethin’ to my heart to see this new generation hide in all the best spots my brothers and I used when we were little.
We supped together and finally, to wrap up the evening, we gathered around in our pajamas to watch one of the best animated love stories of all time, “Beauty and the Beast.”
Close to midnight, after lots of giggling and switching beds and getting situated, the last child fell asleep and I turned off the lamp.
Nestled up on one of the couches with my firstborn, I could hear the peaceful breathing (and a few light snores!) of seven beloved children, and I thought my heart was going to explode.
Valentine’s Day sure takes on a new spin when there are children in your midst, does it not?
FAR too early, morning came, and seven alarm clocks roused me from my sleep.
We had a pancake breakfast…
and just like that, Amy and her kiddos were loaded up and headed back home.
And we were so very sad.
It was the best “not much” party we’ve ever been treated to, and we can’t WAIT to see what Grandmother has up her sleeve come Easter. <3
Special thanks to my mama for another great party. You are an integral part of our homeschooling operation, and we are so, so grateful.
And if you are interested in the activity books for next year’s Valentine’s Day, you can find them by clicking on the picture below.