It feels like forever and a day since we threw my mom her retirement party, but I guess it’s only been a few weeks. I’ve been so excited to get these pictures edited and up, because there are so many amazing family and friends that made this day possible for us. For my lovely non-Kansas family/friend readers, let me fill you in. My mom has been a teacher since before I was born. She started out at a tiny school in Pomona, Kansas teaching first grade. Smartboards were chalkboards, computers didn’t exist, and there was no air conditioning. She drove my brother and me 45 minutes to school everyday and dedicated herself to teaching all those farm kids how to read and write. It was the kind of school where there may only be one class in each grade and music class sing-alongs were Garth Brooks and Clay Walker. A couple of years later, we moved out of our tiny little town (tiny being 200 and stop lights being four towns over – but we had a pumpkin patch!) to Shawnee. My mom spent the better part of her teaching career in a classroom there ever since, the overwhelming majority of it in first grade. It takes a truly patient person to not only put up with my brother and me as six year olds, but also 32 years (multiplied by 25 students) worth of six year olds. I would say I’m kidding but I’m really not. It takes a special person to do that job and to find themselves on the latter half of their career, still caring as much as they did on day one. But somehow Mrs. Brim found herself falling in love with her students up until the very last day. My dad and I started scheming how we could throw her the retirement send-off she deserved almost a year ago. In our initial discussions, we realized just how many people we needed to invite. And then we started to think about how we could (1) house and (2) feed them all. And then we realized we were throwing a party bigger than a lot of weddings (we think there were about 250 people there, ha!) and knew we were crazy. But we had to do it. So we found this refinished barn called the Thompson Barn and rented the space, because all those guests definitely weren’t fitting in my parent’s garage where we typically have our get togethers, ha! This place is an awesome refinished barn and books up quickly for weekend weddings. They only had two dates left for spring and summer, and as luck would have it, one was a Sunday evening two days after her last day of school. I called my dad so fast and he hurried over to book it. When he called me back and told me the space was booked, only then did I realize the event I had just committed to plan – true Kourtney style. I just can’t say no.
So naturally, I turned to Pinterest. We thought it was so fitting that her party would be in a barn, considering she started teaching in an old elementary school in a tiny farm town. Naturally, school was the theme of the party. I found any and everything I could that had to do with school and compiled it all in the weeks leading up to the party. Knowing there were a lot of people who RSVP’d (y’all, I was seriously so excited because I was afraid no one would come), we set up inside and outside to maximize the space. This venue was awesome, because it had the cutest tables that didn’t even need a tablecloth. Just had to throw a few things (mostly borrowed from my mom’s classroom) on each table and it looked great!
We solved the food problem with this genius idea. I’d love to take credit for it but I have to give my dad a pat on the back for this one. We got hooked up with this Taste of America food truck. They show up at your event with food, drinks, napkins, and everything. We had them serve our guests with everything but dessert (I had another fun idea for that!). With so many people, we kept that truck busy all night serving up cheeseburgers and Philly cheesesteaks.
Given that we were expecting a whole slew of first graders and former first graders, we set up recess outside. Who isn’t entertained by a good old game of four square? My brother and his girlfriend set this awesome station up, and the little patio looked almost like we planned it that way!
Probably the most challenging project for the whole event was putting together a yearbook for my mom. With 32 former classes, multiply that by about 25 to figure out how many students she had. I don’t know exactly, but it’s a lot. I compiled a yearbook full of pictures from every year, every class picture from former yearbooks, and letters from students of every year. By the time I was done, the thing was 200 pages long. I should have hired out to a high school student on yearbook staff but my genius self thought to do it myself. It turned out amazing, and for those who weren’t able to send in a handwritten letter for the book ahead of time, everyone signed a little note yearbook-style for her! HAGS, anyone?
She told me later she couldn’t read it before the party because she was tearing up. My goal was to make her cry with it, so mission accomplished.
My mother-in-law sent my mom this gorgeous bouquet of sunflowers. It really wouldn’t be a Kansas party in a refinished barn without some sunflowers. This bouquet was every bit of three feet tall and I wanted to take it on the plane home as a carry on.
We framed just a few of the letters written by her students. I wanted to frame them all, but there were just so, so many! Thank you to EVERYONE who sent a letter. My mom absolutely loved them. Each and every handwritten letter made it into her yearbook gift, and your first grade picture made it too 🙂 We had a good laugh looking at the yearbook pages from back in the 80’s and just how many hairstyles Mrs. Brim has had over the years, ha!
To welcome everyone to the party, we wanted to think of something creative. In her current district, the teachers make the back-to-school night a scavenger hunt. It makes sorting Kleenex boxes and sharpening pencils much more fun.
And so for her retirement party we made a Time 4 Retirement Scavenger Hunt! On the list was signing her yearbook, grabbing dinner, and taking a photo in the Photo Booth! A huge shoutout to my Tuesday night bible study girls for staying until MIDNIGHT to cut out the programs and tie the crayons on here. They were framing letters and pictures and painting chalkboards in an assembly line. I was SO appreciative of all there help serving someone they’d never even met. Humbling to say the least.
This venue was seriously amazing. I can only imagine the beautiful weddings they put on here. Luckily, the venue was so pretty that it didn’t need a lot of decorations. We threw up some centerpieces, and we were good to go!
In another attempt to entertain all of the kids at the party, we had a table with coloring pages and worksheets. Who knew so many kid would get excited over addition worksheets?!
We set up a bunch of stations throughout the room. I really wish I had time to do a better job photographing the details of the event, because there were so many fun little parts, but I simply didn’t have time. By the time I pulled out my camera, guests were walking in and it was too late! Note to self – event planning, photographing, watching two toddlers, and trying to catch up with all of our family friends who I hadn’t seen in forever is a little hard to do in just three hours, ha! This little corner here, we dedicated to memories with Mrs. Brim. There were four prompts (i.e. Mrs. Brim made me laugh when… I will miss when Mrs. Brim…). Everyone filled out a few and hung them on the wall for her to read at the end of the night. Some of them were really funny and some of them were super sweet. It was a fun little activity and certainly made my mom feel deservedly special when she read them all!
If anyone knows me, they know there was going to be some kind of picture area. Y’all, photobooths are expensive! Low-budget-Kourtney put together a fun little table and backdrop for everyone to snap cell phone pictures throughout the night, and I took a few too!
Everyone showered Mrs. Brim with gifts to send her into her retirement. She told me over and over again to make sure people didn’t, and I gently told her it was a little unavoidable. Teacher retirements are like Teacher Appreciation Day on steroids. She already had her thank you cards started by the time I left Kansas, but on behalf of Mrs. Brim, thank you so much for spoiling her and making her feel like the most loved teacher in the world! She always tells me she has met some of the best families through teaching and she cherishes these friendships.
Onto one of my favorite parts – the dessert table! I thought it would be so fun to have a table full of cookies and milk cartons. We bought out Sam’s Club cookie trays (400 cookies later).
I was even more excited for my cheap/easy idea to put them out on lunch trays! We had white and chocolate cartons of milk to go with the cookies (who eats cookies without milk?!) just like in the school cafeteria.
The venue was set up just in time for people to start showing up! We had a little miscommunication and I forgot to tell my dad to go pick up my mom and she called before it started asking where he ride was. I felt a little bad until I remembered she and my dad forgot to pick me up from basketball practice for my seventh birthday party because they were so busy getting ready (ask her about that story sometime, ha!). She had so many wonderful coworkers from her current school. The whole night was such an awesome showing of all the teachers she has been able to work with over the years!
I was behind the camera most of the day, but I had to pop out for a picture with Dee and Shorty! They are from my mom’s very first school, and they’ve been there since I was born! I don’t think they missed a birthday party for my entire childhood! They were at my graduation party and our wedding reception and every family event that comes to mind. They are the most supportive people out there, and we love them so! Steve especially loves Shorty, and he always keeps us laughing.
Even some of her former student teachers drove hours to be there! We were so happy to see you, Morgan!
I snuck outside a few times to take a few pictures. I was amazed that it was as lively out there as it was inside. Everyone loves Mrs. Brim so much!
The photobooth was a big success. Everyone wanted a picture with Mrs. Brim! I could not possibly put everyone’s picture in the blog, but I think I got them in the collages! If anyone wants pictures of this event, please reach out to me because I will send you a link to download them!
Last, but not least, we made sure we got a family picture. It is so rare these days that we all get together. With Steve’s deployments and the distance between Kansas and North Carolina, it’s a challenge getting everyone in one place! It’s so fun as our family grows with grandchildren, and my brother’s sweet girlfriend, Melanie! I love all of these people to pieces and I wish we could see them all the time.
Julia was my little tagalong all night. I could pretty much count on seeing this whenever I looked down. It makes things so much easier, she says sarcastically. Just kidding, it’s mom life and I love it.
Last, but not least, I have a whole slew of thank you’s. I certainly could not have pulled off this party without some serious help. I have the best family – I really do. The night before the event my brother, dad, and husband spent hours untangling Christmas lights and cutting foam board to help me make those big marquee letters perfect for my vision. They helped me tote half of my mom’s home decor (good thing she loves the old schoolhouse look) across town to the venue. My parents let us borrow their brand new truck for the weekend and drove around my brother’s old car. My brother let me run errands in his truck. They kept the kids so I could scramble to get everything done in time. And were absolutely amazing helping set everything up when we got to the venue. Colby and Melanie are both very talented artists, which was hugely helpful and made the decorations so much better!
My parents are the cutest!
Moving onto this family. I nannied these two kids once upon a time. Now Caden is taller than me and I want to borrow all of Morgan’s clothes!
This girl has turned into the most beautiful teenager – inside and out! She gave up her whole weekend to hang out with me and help me with the party. What 16 year old likes hanging out with grown ups either?! She made me feel so much older yet way cooler at the same time. She helped me tote all 400 of those cookies out of Sam’s Club on the way home. She stayed over past her curfew to tie ribbons on all of the milk cartons. She help drive a whole bunch of decorations in her SUV to the party (now THAT makes me feel old). She spent two hours helping us set everything up, totally took in the memory wall project and did it all by herself. Then she helped clean everything up from the party and tote it back to the house. To say she was a help is completely understating. We couldn’t have done it without her. I texted her mom asking if I could borrow her for the weekend and I definitely did that.
Nichole is moving schools to my elementary school next year! I know my mom loves having teacher friends around and we really love this family.
And finally, I want to talk about my brother’s sweet girlfriend. He couldn’t have picked a nicer person to have around. I just love them to pieces. Mitchell and Julia love having Uncle Colby and Aunt Melanie to play with and we love having them to babysit. I’d move them out to North Carolina if I could. I’d move all of these people out to North Carolina – and every trip back home I remember how nice it was growing up here!
This week was full of friends and family we miss so much being stationed so far away. I am grateful to have grown up in such an amazing community. We are all so proud of my mom’s accomplishments throughout her teaching career, and she had everyone fooled that she might actually retire. More on that later!