Sometimes, when there’s just too much to say, and there are way too many stories to tell, and emotions have been running high, my words can get a little bottled up.

And I have to just let things flow, any which way I can.

So, here goes.

First, this happened.

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And a week or so later, so did this.


I’ve decided that the stories behind and within those pictures are more than I can capture in a blog post. Parts are too tender. Or messy. Or meaningful only to me.

So, instead, I’ll give you a glimpse into R-girl’s grad party…

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…and I’ll tell you three things:

1) Pulling off this party tapped pretty much every emotion in me that you could name.

2) If not for the love and support of a swarm of incredible friends and family, there would have either been no party at all or I would be in the crazy farm.

3) Experiencing the care and sacrifice that people poured out for R-girl – and me – was… beautiful. And humbling.

And incredible.


Oh, and also this:

4) If you don’t live in the Midwest, you might not even know what this whole “grad party” thing is. That might not be a bad thing.

5)  I have a perfectly sized house for three people. Not dozens upon dozens of people.

6) We were pelted by hurricane-ish weather until about half an hour before the open house began. As in, a tree blew down across the street while we were struggling to put the tent up. (The rains continued all day; thank God, the winds died down.) The tent had four sides and we used them all.

7) Fortunately, some of the aforementioned friends scrambled to completely encase my screen porch in plastic – so we didn’t lose that space to the rain.

Which was important because we needed it for this.

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Yep, that’s right. We had a full-service barista in our screen porch – direct from R-girl’s favorite coffee shop, Urban Bean Coffee.

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Urban Bean is where R-girl spent many an evening and weekend during her senior year – doing endless hours of homework. It’s an impeccably designed space that inspired her best work. (And some of her best Instagrams.)

And so, instead of serving the usual lunch spread at her open house, we went with a coffee-and-pastries theme. Because this party was all about R-girl. And this is so her.

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I can’t even begin to tell you how many people spent hours and hours making these amazing pastries. Our table was literally overflowing with the love and creativity and generosity of our friends and family. 

I wish we didn’t end up needing to turn off most of the lights in the house (to keep the espresso machine from continually blowing a fuse). And I wish it hadn’t been quite so crowded in our little house (thanks to the rain). These circumstances made it a bit of a challenge to find – and see – the treat table.

But if I ate sugar, wheat, or dairy, I could confirm for you what I heard over and over from those who found the goodies. It all tasted great. Especially the cake pops.

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And the espresso bar? It was a hit. (Our rainy day was perfect for lattés.)

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And the other beverages looked as good as they tasted.

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Which was all great.

But can I just say?

It was a completely overwhelming experience to one minute be sneaking a picture with R-girl in our empty backyard tent, wondering if anyone would actually show up…

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and the next minute be surrounded by people from all corners of our lives. People who came to wish R-girl well. A steady stream of people – for four hours straight. So many people it was sometimes impossible to move from one end of our house to the other.

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Even people like my cousin Amy, whose oldest daughter was getting married the very next weekend. She drove four hours round trip to be with us – in the midst of her own chaotic prep work.

grad party-shorts and longs-julie rybarczyk23It brought tears to my eyes.

And then there are the people like these who also brought tears to my eyes.

grad party-shorts and longs-julie rybarczyk33grad party-shorts and longs-julie rybarczyk32Over the past couple of months, these friends (and so many others – you know who you are!!) and my sweet family helped me literally transform our yard, rebuild and paint our screen porch, plan the menu, make the pastries, clean the house, paint party signs, and pick up supplies from all corners of creation. They let me ask for help, borrow their stuff, process plans, and vent as needed. On the big day, they showed up to raise the tent (in the driving rain), move furniture, display the pastries, decorate, manage the kitchen, restock the food, empty the trash, do the dishes, calm my nerves, and pretty much run the show while I mingled.

One friend even ran to Costco the morning of the party to buy me more pastries and beverages because I was panicking about not having enough. Turns out, I had way (way!) more than enough. But I figure the price I paid for all those extras was well worth the soothing it provided for my anxiety.

Oh, and a crew of folks with big, strong muscles tore down the entire operation for me at the end of the day. In about 30 minutes flat.

Truly. I could not have done this without my village.

I’m so very thankful for every one of them.

Because being able to pull off an all-out celebration of R-girl

(and getting this hug from her in return)…

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  • Mom

    Words are not adequate…..it was so amazingly wonderful…..you worked so very hard and with such creativity…..what dear memories for Alex to always hold. You bless Dad and I so very much. Love ya! Mom

    P.S. We are still eating brownies…..:)

  • Julie

    Lora – I checked out your grad party projects and pics on your blog and – seriously. ADORABLE!!!!! I don’t know how you pulled that off PLUS your shop projects. Amazing. I’m so glad you ended up with a sunny day!! Great job right back at you. Love it! (Oh, and it looks like our grads will be at the same school next year!)

  • Julie

    DyAnn – Thank you for being such an enthusiastic cheerleader!! Coming from you, these kudos are incredibly meaningful. And you are right. I am blessed. Oh, and P.S. After all that work, I may not allow R-girl to have a wedding. At least not anytime soon.

  • Julie

    MaryAnn, thank you so much for your kind words – and for thinking of me in this new phase of life. I know you understand seasons, and you’ve walked through this one before me. I so value your encouragement. Thank you!

  • Lora Bloomquist

    Oh. I. Know.
    Does kinda make me want to do a girl party, now, though (I’ll need 3 years to recover, though)
    Great job, mom! Love the creativity!

  • DyAnn

    Oh Julie….so beautifully touching and even emotional! I love your talent, creativity and beauty. Your ability to utilize something from nothing and make it into something brilliant! As always, another stellar memory for gorgeous Alex. I can only imagine her wedding! You are such a wonderful mom! Alex is so very blessed. You are extremely blessed with really good children, friends and family surrounding you. Love you so much! Very proud of you!

  • Mary Ann Carey

    Oh sweet Julie. As usual your words and pictures touch me deeply. I love sharing your life journey though from afar. You are an amazing mom.You send your precious daughter into this next phase of life knowing she is loved and loved well. My life experience has shown me that , other than teaching our children about Jesus, the best thing we do for them is love them well. God Bless you Julie as you too enter a new phase of life.


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