Sunday, June 19, 2016

Just Part of the Family

Allyson's family birthday party was delayed a bit this year because she wanted Aunt Amy to be there, and the logistics were a bit difficult to arrange. Mom, Dad, and Rick recently passed the wheelchair transfer training at Amy's rehab center, and that meant Amy could now go on family outings. So when I found out that Amy was coming to our Father's Day celebration at Rick's house last night, I asked if we could celebrate Allyson's birthday at the same time.

Four Generations of Dads:
Rick, Dick (Dad), Miles, Mitchell

For this third birthday celebration, Allyson requested Aunt Melody's strawberry Oreo Cool Whip pudding dessert. I told her we might have to find another recipe since Aunt Melody was traveling in Japan, but imagine my delight when I found the recipe in my email inbox a few hours later. Turns out, text messages work in Japan, too. Some days I just love technology.

I toyed with the idea of modifying the recipe to adhere to my LEAP diet, but I soon realized that would be impossible. Sure, I could have substituted real whipping cream and made pudding from scratch, but how on earth could I replicate the artificial goodness of Golden Oreos?

I accidentally let her eat a piece before we sang Happy Birthday :( 

Therefore, I decided on the next best (or better) thing: I would make homemade ice cream!

Wow. Do you know what's in homemade ice cream? Well, it's very fattening and terribly expensive. I guess that's why we only have it once or twice a year. In case you're wondering, Mom's recipe takes:

  • 2 quarts of milk (the $8/gallon organic kind, when I'm making it)
  • 1 quart of heavy whipping cream
  • 2 cups of sugar (make that raw turbinado sugar, for me)
  • 2 cans of Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk (Mom says only Eagle brand will do)
  • 2 cans of evaporated milk (I had to let the carrageenan slide, but maybe I shouldn't have)
  • 1/4 cup real vanilla extract (nearly the whole bottle!) 
  • most of a box of rock salt
  • a big bag of ice (10 pounds is not a big bag, apparently) 
That's the actual recipe, if you want to make it. You just mix it all together and pour it in the ice cream maker can. Then the hard work starts. Good thing I had Dad to walk me through it--or do it for me, as the case may be. 

Me and the family ice cream expert

We soon realized that my 10-pound bag of ice wasn't going to cut it. I hadn't realized how much of the ice melts and pours out on your feet during the process. (It feels really nice when it's hot out.) So I kept running to the kitchen to use up all of the ice in Rick and Diane's freezer, and Dad crammed it into the dripping tub and poured more rock salt on it. 

After 45-minutes or so, we had 3 quarts of soft, sweet perfection.

"Hey, Allyson!" I called. "Want to lick the dasher?"

"What's a dasher?" she replied.

"Come on out and see. You don't want to miss this."

"When Aunt Emily and I were girls, we used to always lick the dasher after Grandpa made homemade ice cream," I explained. (I left out the part about how we fought over it.) 

That is a dasher! Licked clean.

I handed her a spoon and proceeded to show her how it's done, using a spoon of my own. 

She pushed me away. "I got it!" she said. Evidently, she takes after her Aunt Emily. 

Not to worry; there was plenty to go around for all of us. I should know. I had three servings that left me moaning with a belly ache round about midnight last night. I would do it again--probably will, given the opportunity. 

But the ice cream was not the best part of the evening. Not even close. The best part was having my sister Amy, who had a massive stroke about three months ago, right there in the middle of all of us. 

Puppy Love with Sweet Howie
Isn't that a lovely smile?
At the end of the night, Amy and I agreed that we loved the way she was just part of the family. It wasn't a visit with Amy; it was Amy delighting in a family celebration just as she always has.

This morning Amy told me she also loved the way our family worked as a team to make her very first outing a success. She'd been feeling sick earlier in the day, and she almost canceled for fear she might not be able to use Rick's bathroom with its regular-sized door. But then she remembered how excited Allyson was to have Aunt Amy at her birthday party, and she just had to come. We are all so glad she did. There were challenges, but we managed them just fine.
  • Mom and Dad picked Amy up and helped her transfer from the wheelchair to the car. 
  • Ethan arrived just in time to help Amy get into the house.
  • Rick figured out how to take Amy's blood pressure at the appointed time. At first everyone was stumped as to why it didn't do anything when they turned it on, but then Rick realized he needed to squeeze the bulb. 
  • My niece Hillary deciphered the cryptic medication instructions and determined that we'd given Amy a blood pressure pill when she didn't actually need it, and then Rick calmed everyone down. Her reading had been right on the borderline, so no harm done. 
  • Emily and Mom worked together to help Amy get into Rick's bathroom. Amy had to walk a few steps to the toilet, and she did just fine with their help. 
  • Rick showed Emily and me how to help transfer Amy into his car for the ride back home. Amy does all the work, and needs a steadying hand to help her keep her balance. 
It was a wonderful Father's-Birth-Day celebration, and I'm so thankful that our whole family was there.
My Father's-Birth-Day Photo with Allyson

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