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Archive for May, 2006

Here are some of the highlights I remember from our wonderful family reunion.  Thanks to all my beloved family members for helping create memories we will always treasure:  Feel free to add your own memories to the list. 

  • Carol, Bob, John, Tom and Jen sing a song Carol wrote for baby Abigail Joy Mann, “Abby Mann” to the tune of “Barbara Ann” for Abby on Christmas.  She was thrilled.
  • Contino siblings singing Christmas carols together.
  • Uncle Bub’s very own Candy Cane Lane in the Mester backyard.
  • Natalie repeatedly activating the Christmas carol singers in the Mester Living room.  She loved hearing them sing “Silent Night”.
  • Ben giving Aunt Kiki an awesome backrub.
  • Nick entertaining us all with his jokes and stories.
  • Natalie, in record time, winning Uncle Bub’s heart and first place on his lap.
  • Peev yelling “Where you at” thus heralding his arrival on the Mester threshold.
  • All the delicious foods we ate; lasagna, ham, English Pea Salad, mashed potatoes and gravy, yams, soups, sweet potato pie, carmel apple pie, Mom’s chocolate chip cake, Food of the Gods by Gingle.
  • Baby Abby surrounded by Christmas wrap on the Mester living room floor.
  • The human cousins pyramid consisting of Jeremy, Jen, Paul on the first row; Nick and Ben on the 2nd row, and Natalie on the top!
  • Bub and Kiki smooching under the mistletoe in their backyard one night.  Bobby caught it on film.
  • Jeremy wrestling with Ben and Natalie and tickling them.  Denise rescuing Natalie from the clutches of “The Tickle Monster”.  Natalie calling Jeremy “Evilness”.
  • Annie surrounded by Christmas presents.  This year she got all the “good stuff” and all we got was“junk”!!!
  • Carol yelling her ritualistic call, “For crying out loud, let’s open the gifts”!!
  • The girls in their matching powder blue snowflake turtlenecks
  • Natalie in her Princess Gown charming us all with her feminine wiles.
  • Sir Nicholas and Sir Benjamin playing with their Knights of the Kingdom
  • Paul, Nick and Ben playing so well together.  Not once did they fight!
  • The grueling, 6-1/2 hour drive up to Tahoe in traffic and snow.  Not once did we need chains!
  • The 8-foot snowman that Jeremy and the cousins built by our condo at Lake Tahoe
  • The Scattergories, Balderdash and Mind-Boggling Boggle games.  I could never win.
  • The hilarious Mark Lawry DVD’s.  It was all worth it just to hear Johnnie’s gut-wrenching laugh!
  • Jeremy spinning and doing donuts in the Hummer at Squaw Valley’s snowy parking lot.
  • The snowball fights.  Nick smacked me in the jaw with one!  You’re gonna get it!
  • The awesome, awful waffles that Spissy (Pete) made.  Belgian with blueberries and lots of whipped cream.  Yummy!
  • The pretty puny pancake and sausage sandwiches and elegant egg McMuffins that Johnnie made.  Scrumpdillyumptuous!
  • The fiery, power-packed sermon of Brother Nickademo!  (Prai da Lawd!)
  • Kristin and Karen on a grocery shopping spree in Safeway at 11:00 at night! 
  • All our crazy communications on the walkie talkies while driving to and from Tahoe.
  • Laura’s and Emily’s sweet spirits in spite of suffering a great loss just a few months ago.
  • Jonathan encouraging Karen to sit down and relax.
  • Our dinner meal at Mickey D’s our last night at Tahoe (the one that made Krissy and Bub sick later).
  • Carol’s homemade corn muffins and French bread.
  • Misty basking in the attention of 17 relatives and friends
  • Pete being the hero of the day when he saved Misty from the jaws of a snarling black Labrador.  You go Spiss!  You gave that dog a run for his money!  He won’t ever mess with you or Misty again!
  • Baby Bro. Johnnie giving big Sis Karen a training session on Powerpoint (and a child shall lead them…).

Krissy says:

  • Finding Christmas all aglow in a certain home on Chipman Lane
  • Karen’s Italian Kitchen complete with Lasagna
  • A wrought iron clock at the Mesters
  • Starbucks Mint Mocha’s leaving Milwaukee (Gift Card), Suisun City (In bottles at Raley’s Parking Lot), Lake Tahoe, and Atlanta (Delta Food Voucher)
  • Natalie and Grammatino having a mini tea party at the Mesters and again at the condo, complete with princess dress and prayers.
  • Dolly Ann napping on Grammatino’s bed
  • Grammatino and Natalie napping at opposite ends of the bed
  • Natalie napping on Bub’s lap
  • Visiting my Uncle Dave Reece’s Turlock, California Home
  • A wrought iron clock at the Reeces
  • Laura and Emily baking Chocolate Chip cookies
  • Riding the Mule through the Almond Trees and Vineyards
  • Remembering Auntie Jenny’s Hospitality and Humor
  • Laura’s Fabulous Dinner for 12
  • White Tulips
  • “Is This Your Chicken” Towel Gag
  • The Connell’s Greco-Roman Castle
  • A frosted Victorian Christmas Tree
  • A wrought iron clock at the Connells
  • Drummer Boy Paulie’s drums, at last! A Rumpa Pum Pum
  • Carol’s Crooning “AB AB AB, AB Abby Mann . . .” “Pass her to the Uncles, Pass her to the Aunts,  Pass her to her Mom . . . When she poops her pants! Abby Ma-ah-ahnn”
  • Jennifer’s picture perfect poses and crossed eyes
  • Peter with the Kingdom’s golden key(s?)
  • Red lights coming out of ears, mouth, and nowhere
  • Nicademo . . . admonishing the acronym THANKS . . .
    • Tithes . . .
    • Haveta’ Pay Your Tithes
    • Always Pay Your Tithes
    • Never Forget to Pay Your Tithes
    • Keep Paying Your Tithes
    • Sho’ Nuf Pay Your Tithes
  • Reading the Christmas story with the Connells and Uncle Bob
  • Diving into the Christmas Gifts
  • Plumbing Problems
  • Gathering into the warmth of the Mester’s family room for the infamous “sacrificial lamb” . . .  which truly was a total treat that I can’t imagine ever missing again.
  • Tommy in his new exercise suit . . . don’t exercise it too much!
  • Chris and Annie  and Abby showing up sooner than we dared hope
  • Burying Annie in piles of gifts
  • Everyone diving in and opening their gifts all at once
  • Tommy pulling out the Christmas Song List . . . and everyone hollering out their requests
  • Nicky says, “Thank you for all my presents!  How did everyone know that I wanted Hot Wheels, Knights of the Kingdom and Backyard Baseball?”
  • Benny says, “I’m coming back next year . . . so remember to get me gifts!” Wink wink, at Jessica.
  • Avalon to Highlander to Sienna to HUMMERbird
  • Trading Natalie for Paulie for the trip
  • Listening to Focus on the Family “A Christmas Carol” “Back to Bethlehem” and “Aloha” on the forever journey up to Tahoe.
  • The Winter Wonderland of Lake Tahoe
  • Sleeping 17 in a Condo for 12  . . . and still wishing we had to find a place to squeeze in the Manns and Bob and Tom
  • Fitting Ben up in the crawl space above the balcony
  • Closing the Safeway with Karen and Mike
  • Drinks “chilling” on the condo balcony.
  • A huge snow heart with the initials  J.C.+K.C.
  • Everyone opening their hearts to Laura and Emily Reece
  • The Three November 1991 Babes . . . Jennifer, Tiffany and Emily
  • The Three GQ Musketeers . . . Paul, Nick & Ben . . .taking stud shots
  • Olympic Games of Balderdash, Boggle, Skipbo, Scattergories and Visual Eyes Fast Play (Ben still is arguing that Nick’s “There are Trees in the City” is 6 words and should not count!)
  • The blowing snow the kids all tried to endure up in the mountains . . . just to try to sled/snowboard.
  • Johnny jumping off a huge rock into a pile of snow  . . . again . . . and again . . . and again . . . the snowflakes that stay on his nose and eyelashes.
  • Jeremy gliding in and out on his snowboard without knocking down any people standing on the hill.
  • An out-of-control black boy . . . knocking down people standing on the hill.
  • Johnny tossing snowballs at the condo . . . just trying to pick a fight!
  • Tupperware bowls full of snow for the girls!
  • Aunt Kiki’s Awesome Cooking!”  (Nicky is trying to get away with smacking you with a snowball!)
  • Ben says, “Thanks Paulie, for smacking my Mom with a snowball!  She never lets us hit above the waist..”  Hmmmm . . . Nicky is going to get a beatin for hitting Auntie Kiki!
  • Boys . . . you better look out for Aunt Kiki and Aunt Krissy next time it snows!”
  • Visine-Pete “Gets the Red Out”
  • Getting the Fire started without the starter . . . and wondering if we should put it out . . . before Mike came back with the starter!
  • Karen successfully hides the potato casserole that “never really cooked at those altitudes” in her delicious Potato Soup
  • M&M’s and Mint Kisses in the Potato Soup . . . thanks JJ!
  • Laura and Emily treat everyone to honey-butter dipped pretzels
  • Shopping for my brother, Kurt’s, Christmas carabineer and a lost coffee shop in the Olympic village.
  • Joining in the village snowball fight.
  • Gathering around the huge Christmas tree for a snowy picture.
  • Look at the Lights
  • Carol and Pete “BOGGLE”ing my mind
  • Gourmet Breakfast in front of a flame of fire at the Blue Onion
  • My Mom (Kristin) trying to take pictures out of the moving Highlander as we were leaving Lake Tahoe . . . Natalie crying, “Don’t drop the camera, Mom!”
  • The rain finally stopped long enough for us to enjoy Mike’s impressive light display without shorting out.
  • Annie and Abby drop by for more spoiling
  • Jeremy returns from taking JJ home . . . Natalie jumps up saying “Denise is Here!” But alas, she wasn’t.
  • Karen’s perfect hard boiled eggs and packing us a picnic for the flight
  • Mike’s “Get Out and Don’t Come Back” Threat
  • Grammatino tucking more surprises in the kid’s backpacks
  • Wishing the reunion didn’t have to end
  • Are these all the Highlights?  “I Just Don’t Know!”

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REMEMBERING (The Bug Jar Days) by Bob Contino

Contino Kids and Mom - September 2005  

When I was a kid, not yet old enough to be enrolled in any science classes, I used to conduct experiments of my own.  One of my favorites was the Bug Jar Experiment.  It consisted of three states:  In Stage One, I would obtain an empty mayonnaise jar and collect as many different kinds of bugs I could fund-spiders, worms, ladybugs, tiny red and giant black ants, bees, a centipede (if I was lucky), an occasional wasp, those roly-poly bugs that no one knew the real name for, crickets, grasshoppers, caterpillars, anything that creeped, crawled or disgusted my sisters was fair game.  In Stage Two, I would shake the jar vigorously.  In Stage Three, my favorite, I would watch delightedly as the imprisoned insets bit, stung and generally destroyed each other.  Ironically (and justly, I suppose), when I got to be a bit older, the tables turned, and I experienced the bug jar for myself.

In the fall of 1974, my family had to give up a spacious, three-bedroom home with a big backyard to move into a chicken coop turned recreation room, but to us Home.  The edifice boasted a 15 x 30 foot span; no bigger than our former living room; a mere bug jar,  if you will.  We went into the venture expecting the worst.  Rather than tearing the family apart, however, being thrown into very close quarters under less than ideal conditions actually strengthened our relationships.

We called our new abode “the closet”, because to us, it seemed just about the size of a rich person’s wardrobe.  There was no room for complaining though (literally!).  After all, it was far from the gang-ridden neighborhood we had left behind; it was close to good schools; it was clean, it was much easier on my Mom’s filing clerk salary, and it came furnished with the best hand-me-down furniture that pity could buy.  So Mom told the six of us kids to make the best of it.  We were a Brady Bunch of sorts, with three girls and three boys ranging in age from five to fifteen, but no Alice to do the housework.  Also, we came in two generations:  The “big kids” were each born a year apart, and after a gap of five years came us “babies”, also born one year apart.

Peeking through the battered screen door after we had settled in, our curious neighbors beheld a new concept in interior design:  An afghan-covered couch next to the stove, an army cot bordered by our giant, prehistoric, dust-laden television set, a dining table surrounded by bunk beds.  You see, “the closet” had no rooms.  A tiny bathroom in the northwest corner, with a carpeted sliding door, provided the only privacy in the place.

This was new to us, and at first, we absorbed our living arrangements haltingly and delicately, like couples in a pre-arranged marriage.  Inevitably though, the fighting began.  Some of the most heated battles were waged over bathroom privileges.  Finally, we came up with a “calling” system to schedule bath times.  Cries of “First bath!”  “Second bath!”  “Third bath!” and so on were commonly shouted out in the waking hours, but only led to more arguments as calls were contested and challenged later.

Once while Mom was “using the facilities”, Johnny and I broke into a wrestling match right outside the bathroom door.  One thing led to another, and at the height of our struggle, we lost our balance, slammed into the bathroom door, knocked it off its hinges, and fell clinging to each other and the door onto the bathroom floor.  Mom screamed, powerless to chase us from her seated position, while we scrambled to fix the door and scurry away.

More often though, we were forced to depend on each other, to work together to overcome obstacles imposed upon us by our lack.  Laundry and kitchen duties had to be split and shared by all.  Providing enough food for six hungry, growing children was a constant struggle for my mom.  I remember times when ketchup packets and a hunk of government-issued cheese were the only things left in the fridge.  Whether we liked it or not, we had to share.  Though it was a small area, our home was heated by an aging, rusted space heater, located near the door.  On cold wintry mornings before school, while waiting for the bathroom to free up, the rest of us huddled together in front of the heater, wrapped in blankets, shivering in anticipation of the metallic clicking sound that signaled the release of a fresh blast of hot air.  That nondescript old heater became a great equalizer, bringing us together, if momentarily, to share warmth and exchange conversation at the start of the day.

Because we had no rooms of our own, we had no secrets; what one went through, we all experienced.  One dark night, returning home from work, Tom unknowingly rolled over a skunk with his bike.  When he got home, we immediately smelled the stench, except Tom, of course.  Strangely enough, the skunk encounter provided a bonding experience as we each offered creative, often ridiculous solutions for getting rid of the smell.

Then there was Mike Mester, a gangling youth from a neighboring community, who spotted my oldest sister Karen at a roller rink and immediately fell for her.  Not knowing her name or anything about her, he somehow tracked her down to our humble dwelling place.  He knocked on the front door; my mom answered.  He inquired after this mystery girl he had met at the roller rink.  Immediately, five more heads appeared at the door, checking out the tall stranger, while one head disappeared quickly into the bathroom hiding.  Mike instantly formed the impression that this was going to be a package deal, and he was right.  We couldn’t help but cheer and jeer from the sidelines as Mike and Karen embarked upon each new phase of their sometimes stormy but long-lasting relationship.

A flood of memories stirs in me when I think back to those bug jar days.  I remember us “babies” clinging to each other in the bottom bunk in fear and joy, begging Tom in the top bunk to be the “werewolf” again.  I remember Carol sharing with us her dark and searching poetry and inspiring me to try some of my own.  I remember the generational gap closing as Tom treated his kid brothers to pizza and bowling or Karen and Carol fixed Annie’s hair.  And why is it I recall the neighbor kids, with their nice houses and families of their own, always wanting to spend the night at our place?

We lived there for almost 12-1/2 years.  And a strange thing began to happen as we made the best of it in the “closet”.  We went from being siblings and a single parent, thrown and shaken together, to being friends; lifelong friends that time, distance and circumstances have not separated.

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 Paint me with colours the shade of faith,

Make me a picture true.

Let the canvas be tinted with trust,Of every possible hue. 

Prepare me a portrait of steadfast love,

Fashioned by God’s own hand.

Let the brush stroke my frame with belief,

That in God alone I stand. 

Add in some pigment of suffering too,

To make the picture complete.

Cast the dye for the spectrum of hope,

To shelter me from defeat. 

Paint me with colours the shade of faith,

Use only tones resolute.

Let it be a work of art,A masterpiece of thy Truth. 

Stain the canvas with your own blood,

So cleansing and so royal.

Decorate each tint and shade,With friendship that is loyal. 

Paint me with colours the shade of faith,

Prepare me to be unveiled,

To the One who gave unreservedly,

Twas for me He was pierced and nailed. 

Paint me with colours the shade of faith,

An image of God’s own.

There in Heaven forever to hang,

Close to my God’s throne. 

By:  Karen Mester

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by:  Karen Mester 

 Men don’t panic when you view,

Someone who looks better than you.

Don’t envy his muscular physique.

Though he seems to be a hunk,

Remember, “God don’t make no junk”.

You are truly special and unique.

Better than one in a million,

That’s what you are to God.

When you think of all the billion

That on this earth do trod,

How God made only you to be you.

It says so in His letter (bible).

And we all know His word is true,

So no one can be you better.

Ladies don’t you turn all green,

When you see a beauty queen.

Don’t you whimper and wish that was you.

Remember that your kind is rare.

So don’t go trying to compare.

There’ll never be another one like you.

When you see a famous preacher,

Or a highly skillful teacher,

Or anyone whose talents seem perfected.

Remember that resident in you,

Are resources that our God can use.

And know that in His eyes you are accepted.

Don’t try to be what you ain’t

And don’t try to mar and taint,

That which God intended you to be.

From the day of your own birth,

You are of great prize and worth,

To God Almighty and to humanity!

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The Gift of You

Don't give me diamonds although I love

Their sparkle and their hue.

Friend, if you wish to bestow a gift,

Give me the gift of you.

Don't give me sapphires although I esteem

Their dazzling shade of blue.

Listen and hear and give if you please

The wonderful gift of you.

Don't bring me rubies although I admire

Their deep undertones of red.

Keep all your jewels and bring to me

The gift of you instead.

The only true gift is the gift of you.

Diamonds and rubies will never do.

They're just a weak apology

For the real gift that was meant to be.

He gives nothing who gives not of his heart.

Though his gift may appease, it can never impart,

The warmth that comes from a human soul.

T'is far greater than any gem I know.

1999 by Karen Mester

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Hello Bloggers!  Welcome to Kiki’s little korner.  A place of Karing, sharing, poetry, inspiration and maybe even some silliness.  Hope you are blessed.

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