Monday, June 30, 2008

Many the Miles...Day 2

We've completed day two and about 950 miles of our journey. So far so good. I mean really good. Everyone is getting along well and working very hard to be helpful and accommodating to each other's needs. There was one moment shortly into this mornings drive when Maria declared "I feel like I'm going to throw up." (Insert horror movie theme music here). We quickly threw a plastic bag at her and made quick work of getting her some breakfast. I think two hours of driving up and down winding mountain roads on an empty stomach was more than she could take. Those of us who are blessed to never get car sick forget that others might not be quite as hardy.

We are staying the night here in Wilson, NC where we are impatiently waiting for our good friends, the Roberts, to bring Caroline her partner in crime for the remainder of the trip. We'll have dinner together and then an early night because the beach awaits us tomorrow. Maria has never seen the beach and I can't wait to introduce them.

We've navigated the trip pretty well so far especially since my car has a Donstar system. Not Onstar but DONstar. At the push of the speed dial on my cell phone, Don has been at the ready with his laptop to make sure we are where we are supposed to be. The directions off the highway to both hotels have been a little off so Donstar to the rescue. I love modern technology.

I've listened to several movies during our two days, although I've now figured out how to work my sound system so I can listen to music separately from the girls' movie. Before I discovered this nifty trick I listened to Madagascar and Black Beauty. Some lines just seem funnier when they're merely listened to and not accompanied by pictures. Lines such as "If you have poo, throw it now" or "what's a little bite on the butt among friends". My favorite though is "Do I need to come down there and put the whoopin' on all y'all." I can already hear myself using that line at home!

I've enjoyed my blogging break but my back is to the girls in a hotel at in the middle of nowhere. Probably not the best parenting. I'll blog-in with you later.

Simply stated: So far so good.

Friday, June 27, 2008

My Bizarre Commute Home

I had a "business meeting" tonight at the Hob-Lob. The meeting time, 8:30 - 10:00 p.m., would normally provide for a quick commute home. The short 3-mile drive should have been uneventful and brief given the time of night. I didn't, however, calculate into my estimated commute time the topless, drunk women on the street corner near our house. As I sat at the stop sign, my options racing through my mind, she stumbled into the street. There was seemingly no other option. I had to do something before she got herself killed.

I rolled down my window a few inches and asked if she needed help. Duh. She said she needed a ride to her house just a few streets away. She volunteered that her boyfriend had done something but stopped short of making any accusations that she might later regret. I thought to myself...she's wearing jean shorts, a bra, and a bath armed and dangerous can she be? I sent up a quick prayer for protection and invited her to get in. I think my blood alcohol level spiked just by breathing in what she exhaled upon taking up residence in the seat beside me. I placed a quick call to Don letting him know what was going on and subtly asked him to stay on the line while we drove the mile or two to her house.

I asked her if home was safe and if she needed me to call the police. She answered yes and no, respectively. I asked her if she'd been drinking. Duh. I asked if she was sober enough to take care of herself to which she assured me she was. She then went on to state that she just needed to get home and get her car keys so she could go pick up her friend. WHAT?!?!?! I reminded her that she was drunk and could not drive anywhere and asked if I could pick up her friend. She, of course, told me no and that she wouldn't drive anywhere.

I asked her who was at home. No one. If by no one she meant several stumbling people milling around the outside of the house, then she would be correct. One half-dressed gentleman came out to the street when we pulled up. I quickly locked my door. He stood staring vacantly through the driver's side window until my passenger was able to muster enough balance to get out of the car. Once she shut the door I drove off, not nearly as quickly as I would have like to.

After all of the adrenaline started to make its retreat from my bloodstream, my next thought was I need to do more. What if she got in her car and drove somewhere? What if her boyfriend came back to finish what he started? When I got home I called the non-emergency number for the police. I told the communications officer what had happened. He asked numerous questions about descriptions and locations, seemingly nonplussed by the fact that a half-naked women was wondering around out in the middle of nowhere. Without missing a beat he asked if she was wearing a bra, as if this is a question he asks everyday. This struck me both as absurd and tragic. He asked if I wanted an officer to go to the address. I don't know, I replied, I just thought someone should know what was going on. He said he would send a car out to check on it.

I don't know why our paths crossed tonight. It was a "sobering" reminder of what alcohol can do to a person. In my overactive imagination, I like to think that I was able to do some small part in averting tragedy...either hers or someone elses. Maybe I just gave a drunk a ride home. I'll never know.

Simply stated: I did what I thought Jesus would do. I hope it was enough.

Many the Miles

The post-it-notes that have adorned Maria's headboard for the past week as a visual countdown to our roadtrip reveal only one night to go. I have mixed emotions as I contemplate and prepare for our sojourn. I've never driven this far without Don. I have often wondered if I could make it back east on my own. Here's my chance. I'm excited and scared spitless all at the same time.

Our girls only trip will encompass 12 days and 2,800 miles. Our pilgrimage will take us into Tennesse where we will spend our first night after 8 hours of driving. We will continue on to North Carolina where we will pick up Caroline's bestfriend, Jenna. At this point my co-pilot will transform into a giggling tweener. I wonder if Maria can read a map?

The next morning we will head out bright and early to drive to my Aunt Karen and Abby's house in Delaware where we will sleep in clean beds and shower in pristine bathrooms. The thought of their home after having stayed two night in hotels makes me positively giddy. We, along with my six-year-old niece, Hailey, will enjoy their hospitality and the beach for two days before heading to Pennsylvania where we will hang out with Dad and Mom, the sisters and cousins. The trip from Delaware to Pennsylvania, although comparatively short to the other legs of our journey, will consist of me, and only me, accompanied by 4 little girls. Whose idea was this trip?

After 6 days with Mimi and Pop, the sisters and cousins, it will be time to begin the long road home. Our trip home will take us through Virginia and back through Tennesse for one last night at the Marriott. Then home sweet home.

How do I plan to drive these many miles with just me and my girls?

10. With my new Sarah Bareilles CD blasting our trip theme song, Many the Miles. Caroline has mandated that we can only play the song once an hour.

9. With Lots of DVDs. Our Honda Pilot has a built in DVD player of which I plan to take full advantage. The children's minds may be mush and I may lose a few precious years of sanity but everyone should arrive alive.

8. With my cell phone at the ready for those moments when I'm feeling sleepy or lonely. My mom has already instructed me to call her and check in several times each day.

7. With a box full of coloring books, toys, CDs and whatever else Maria thinks she'll need to stay busy.

6. With another box full of snacks.

5. With a 3-ring binder of maps and our itinerary meticulously prepared by Don. It will be like having Don right there in the car, minus the cracking of pistachio nuts. And minus someone else to drive. And without his innate sense of direction. And sense of adventure. Ok, it's not like he'll be with us at all. I wish he were going.

4. By restricting fluid for all members of our travel party. We may arrive at our destinations a bit dehydrated but you know I have issues with public bathrooms. Maria said yesterday that she wished we could have a potty right there in the car so we didn't have to use other bathrooms. She really is my child!

3. With a cooler full of Diet Coke. #4 doesn't apply to me. I'm driving and I need caffeine. I will not give in to whimpering pleas for liquids.

2. With pure determination to make it back east so that I can spend precious hours visiting with my family. I'm really hoping that this will be a trip that Caroline (and maybe Maria but she's so young) will remember for years to come.

1. With lots of prayer. I don't think I could have made this trip 10 years ago. But I am confident in my God who holds my future in the palm of His hands. Whatever happens does not take Him by surprise. That is very comforting.

So tomorrow we leave. I'd like to tell you that I'll be blogging along the way, but I don't have a laptop. How sad is that? I'll try and post when I'm somewhere with a computer. If you think of us this week feel free to say a prayer.

Simply Stated: Are we there yet?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The boys are away... the girls will play. Don is in Minneapolis on business. Zack is on his second of back-to-back mission trips. Alex is making himself scarce by either working, housesitting, or honing his hacker skills. Yes, my friends, be very afraid.

So the estrogen-packing members of our family have been left to entertain ourselves. We've done so by crafting, shopping, and a free movie thrown in to break up the monotony.

Our first project involved using strips of fabric to decorate flip-flops (1/2 price at Hob-Lob this week) to make weird funky footwear. These will be our summer "house shoes" since we don't wear our street shoes in the house. And yes, big surprise here, I have great issue with wearing shoes in the house that have ever set foot outside. Have you ever taken a moment to look at the ground and actually see what you walk on? Just thinking about it makes we want to throw-up a little. Gotta move on.

Next we made a new and super summery flower arrangement for the bedside table in the girls' room. The flowers were on clearance at Hobby-Lobby and every time somebody came through my line to buy them, I thought of my girls. I just had to bring some home. And, oh, how I love a good sale.

Speaking of good sales...I got this fabulous skirt at Kohl's for $4.80 (regularly $48.00)! Caroline and I both agreed that I couldn't afford not to buy it. I know however, that Don will not agree with our flawed logic. But, hey, he's not here! Unfortunately for my debit card, I don't have a top to go with this skirt which will require...more shopping. Tomorrow is another day.


Our free movie was Shrek III. I'm glad it was free because it wasn't worth the price of gas to drive to the theater. Now I'm far from prudish and I can laugh at "potty" humor with the best of 'em. This movie, however, was over the top including portraying one of the step-sisters from Cinderella as a cross-dresser. 'Nuf said.

I think we're in for the evening, although the dog does need food. If he get's too hungry, I'll give him a bowl of cereal. If it's good enough for Maria's dinner it's good enough for Shorty!

Simply stated: I love summer!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Ouch, my aching ego!

How is it that Don and I both gave up careers for ministry and Don was able to pick up where his career left off while I'm schlepping fun-foam and wiggly eyes for a living? Why is it that his career wardrobe includes grown up clothes and a brief case while mine is accessorized by a blue smock and a feather-duster?

Don't get me wrong. Hobby Lobby is, bar none, one of my favorite stores. In fact, the girls and I will be trolling the aisles today for some great sales. For those of you who have never experienced a Hob-Lob, it's like the Mecca of the crafting community. I'm not sure how many square feet of retail space it fills, but it's some where between the size of a grocery store and a Home Depot. I know this because I have walked it from one end to the other many a nights frantically trying to find a home for an item that a customer had carelessly and randomly tossed aside because they changed their mind and were too darn lazy to put it back. No bitterness here! I was once that customer. After all, don't they pay "people" to put those things away? I am that person. I have now repented of my thoughtless retail ways. In fact, I've caught myself restocking (or "recovering" as we say in the retail biz) in stores that I don't even work in!

But I digress. Our store is loaded with crafting supplies, home accents, candles, sewing notions, florals, and all sorts of "must-haves" for crafters, home decorators, I don't actually mind the work or the people that I work with. It's just a bit humbling. Most of my "colleagues" and managers are much younger and more knowledgeable about store procedures than I am. I'll often find myself asking an associate the age of my sons what they would like me to do or how I should process a transaction. What a gal won't do to make her car payment.

And then there are the customers. Most of whom are very nice. After all, shopping at our store is for the most part fun and stress-free. Except for the vacant-eyed and weary parents who come into our store the day before a school project is due, paying out obscene amounts of money to make sure little Johnny or Susie get an "A" on the project that they waited until the last minute to start. In general, our customers are courteous and amicable. There's just that look that they give me. Or maybe it's the look that my ego perceives they are giving me. The look that says, perhaps you should have gone to college and gotten a real job for a woman your age.

If I had my way, my name tag would read:
"Welcome to Hobby Lobby. My name is Stacie. I have a college degree. I had a career. I've got skills. I have a portfolio filled with my graphic design pieces and letters of gratitude from employers and satisfied customers. I gladly gave it up for ministry and motherhood. I have no regrets. So quit looking at me like I'm a loser and swipe your credit card."

Simply stated: Thank you for shopping at Hobby Lobby and have a nice evening.

Monday, June 23, 2008

My Sweet Husband

Don left for his weekly travel this morning. He left a day early and left us girls sitting in our pajamas and feeling totally unmotivated. In the few short moments that I saw him this morning he did manage to touch my heart in a way that only the love of my life could do.

He had left for the airport a little earlier than planned to make an urgent stop at the store for more Chigger-X. This is a miracle cream of sorts that helps to relieve the itch caused by chigger bites. Unfortunately for Don, the chiggers love him.

Not 20 minutes later the door opened and in walks Don. Uh-oh, what did you forget I inquired. He came out of our room slipping his wedding band on his finger. "My ring." It seems that in his itch-induced haste to get out of the door that morning he had forgotten to put it back on. Knowing my insecurities like only Don does, he knew that if I were to discover his wedding ring left behind I would have concocted all kinds of scenarios for why he would have forgotten it. Don realizes that his traveling is hard on me and my wild imagination and he wanted to make sure I had no reason to doubt him. So much so that he didn't even have time to get the Chigger-x.

I'll have to pray this week that God will reward this man with a miracle and make his two-day supply of Chigger-x last all week. You know He can do it!

Simply Stated: Don, your sacrifice was noticed and appreciated. Love you!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

My Dad

I didn't know what to get my dad for Father's Day. After all, what do you buy an ex-Suburbanite who has returned to his red-neck roots out in the Pennsylvania countryside? Give the man an acre of land and his John Deere tractor and call it heaven. So instead of the traditional Father's Day tie or mug, I decided to write a blog about this incredible man. I'll try and keep it brief but there is much that I could say.

I don't know a lot about my Dad's childhood. The facts I do have are ones that do not make for an idealic boyhood. Not that you'd every hear my Dad speak poorly of his parents or his upbringing. I think my dad chooses to reflect instead on the benefits of growing up in the country when life was simpler. Rather than play victim to the circumstances of his childhood, my dad made the choice to do better for himself and for his family. He broke the cycle to create a loving and nurturing environment for his children. For that reason, he is my hero.

I'm far more acquainted with my dad's parenting years because, well, I was there. He loved sacrificially during our childhood, denying himself hobbies and leisure to divide himself among his professional responsibilities and the demands of a wife and five daughters. I think Dad would be the first to admit that much of the day to day stuff of life he willingly deferred to my Mom (for which he gives her much credit). There where, however, many roles that only Dad could fill: coaching softball ("you throw like a girl!") dying Easter eggs, carving pumpkins, decorating Christmas trees, after dinner wrestling, driving to no place special, and creating art projects just to name of few. These were the moments that let us know that Dad didn't merely endure our presence in his world, but that he enjoyed engaging with us. In these memorable yet subtle ways, he made known to us that we were people of value and that we were loved. For that reason, he is part of my heart.

I also had the privilege of knowing my dad in a role that few children do, as a boss and co-worker. Dad gave me my first "real" job in the professional world. He taught me well and expected much. He taught me that anything worth doing is worth doing with excellence. I will always reflect on my days (sometimes 36 hours straight!) of working alongside of my dad as the best of my career. I will never forget how proud I was when Dad would take me on appointments and introduce me to his clients. It was such an honor do be know as "Steve's daughter." But above all else my dad instilled in me the importance a strong work ethic. He accomplished this in a way that makes my dad a true man of integrity. Not with words, but by example. For that reason, he is a success.

And now, as I begin to release my own children into the world, I think I understand and appreciate my dad even more. I know the heart of a parent. I realize that my dad gave himself completely for his family and strived to do better for us than what was done for him. I value the quiet strength and the selfless intentions that guided the decisions that my dad made as we were growing up. I can empathize with his struggles and doubts as a parent. In the end, my dad and mom have raised five little girls to become five strong women. Women who despite our vast differences on religion, politics and life in general, come together time and time again because...we are family. That is an accomplishiment!

I can only hope that 20 some years from now as my children stop to reflect on me as a parent, that they will do so with as much love and respect as I have for this wonderful man, my Dad.

Simply Stated: I love you, Dad!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

What Not to Wear...

We've recently upgraded our cable television to include Disney so we've been watching Pooh and Friends each day. While I think the show is great for children and actually encourages problem solving and critical thinking, I find it disturbing that many of the characters wear shirts and not pants. Wouldn't it be better just to wear nothing like real animals? Or, if clothes are necessary put on a pair of britches!

Simply stated: Does anyone else think of these things or is it just me?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Chicken Pot Pie

At some point I really do think that all women turn into their mothers. Tonight I took another step toward becoming Joan as I served frozen chicken pot pies to my family for dinner. I'm not really sure what made me do it. It started Sunday at Sam's Club when the green Marie Callender's box caught my eye. Hmmm, chicken pot pie, I thought to myself. Quick to prepare, fairly nutricious and definitely nostalgic. Don was a little hesitant to actually transfer the box from the freezer to our shopping cart but he did it. I'm sure he was even less thrilled when I announced that I would be serving them for dinner tonight and not saving them for one of the nights when he was on the road.

The irony is that I absolutely abhorred chicken pot pie nights at our house when we were growing up. The only meal that was worse was creamed chipped beef on toast which I think my mom only made once. That dinner ended with us girls being sent to our room for not eating what was on our plates followed shortly thereafter by my dad sneaking us food because he too thought that dinner was disgusting.

So, what do you suppose makes us continue the chicken pot pie cycle from generation to generation? Could it be something deeply profound and rooted in our subconscious or it could be pure and simple necessity for a guick and easy meal. It's like a lot of things in life. I'm not sure anyone really enjoys it but it's just what you know. Or maybe I'm just making a big deal out of a little pie. Either way, dinner was served and bellies are full.

Simply stated: We'll be looking for a snack by 9:oo!

Going Under the Knife

How's that for drama? I did actually have some outpatient surgery yesterday. Something akin to uteran maintenance. While it wasn't fun it did provide some humorous moments that I now get to pass along to you, my cyber friends. And if it fixes my problems it will be well worth a day at the hospital.

We arrived at the hospital at 10:00 for my 12:00 D&C, hysteroscopy, and ablation. The check-in process started by signing the obligatory insurance waivers. And yes, I know I can die during any surgical procedure. Thanks for reminding me. I then proceeded to the lab where the phlebotomist took take 4 tubes of blood and then asked me, the person who hadn't had anything to eat or drink for 16 hours, to pee in a cup. Being the compliant person that I am, well, let's just say I made it happen.

Now usually when you leave a urine sample at the doctors office, you leave your donation in something that looks like a two-way medicine cabinet. You open the door on your side, place your specimen cup on the paper towel and once your door is shut a healthcare professional can open the door on their side and do whatever it is that they do with your pee. I like this method. Very discreet and very hands-off. Not so at the hospital. I guess they figure the humiliation of a hospital visit should start early and often. Instead I had to parade my meagerly-filled cup to my pre-op staging area. Once there I didn't know what to do with it so I just sat it on the counter. As soon as the nurse and lab tech entered my area the nurse made quick work of grabbing a glove and using it pot-holder style to hand over my cup. I really think that in this day and age of medical advancements they could come up with a better pee-pee transport system.

With all of the lab work behind me it was now time to don a hospital gown. The nurse took a quick yet sweeping glance at me and grabbed the gown that had been pre-heating under a blanket. She sheepishly said "Um, I'll be back in a minute with a better gown for you." What she really meant was, wait while I go and get a plus-sized gown for the big girl. I didn't mind so much. I am what I am. Not that I in any way advocate being overweight. At some point I guess you learn to laugh, otherwise you'd cry.

My nurse returned promptly with my new and "improved" gown which I dutifully put on placing all of my other clothes in a bag for Don to keep watch over. I was then instructed to climb into the bed with the heated blanket. A heated blanket sounded rather nice at the moment ... until I crawled in. This heated "thing" was made out a fabric that can best be compared to fabric interfacing. It was quilted with large tube-like channels running through it and small holes that blew out warm air. This was a nice feeling for the first 10 minutes or so and then it became just stinkin' hot. Poking my feet out the bottom helped to keep the heat stroke at bay.

Nurse Number Two then came in to take my vitals and put on the blood-pressure tourniquet cuff. Can anyone tell me when did taking one's blood pressure become so darn painful? I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I have a bruise on my arm from having my blood pressure taken. I think every time I heard the automatic pump begin, my pressure probably rose 20 points. I then got the stickers for my heart monitor (which by the way also left some bruising).

Soon Nurse Number One returned to put in my IV but apparently the veins in my hands stayed home yesterday so instead I got an IV in my arm (which by the way left a VERY LARGE bruise). Finally, all the prep was done and Don got to come back to my pre-op staging area. He prayed for me which made me cry and then we laughed about hospital jargon until we were both crying. Phrases like "mild discomfort" and "a small stick followed by slight stinging." What they are really saying is pain like you've been kicked in the gut by a field goal kicker or a piercing pain by a 3 inch needle followed by burning throughout your extremities. Hey, if they can understate the facts, I can exaggerate them!

Finally, we got a visit from the anethesiologist and with it the final blow to my last remaining shred of dignity. Like each healthcare professional before him, Dr. Sleep rattles off a list of questions and conditions. Nope! I replied to all of them, I'm healthy as a horse (excluding my current status as a hospital patient). I must have gotten a little to prideful because he then asks for my weight...with Don right there in the room AGHHHH! I don't believe in keeping secrets from your spouse...except for that one. So in matter of seconds my closest guarded secret was out there, for Don and the world to know. Through 22 years of marriage I've kept him in the dark. But I'm out now and you know what? He still loves me. All *** pounds of me!

So, a final kiss from Don and I was rolled away to the operating room. I almost started crying when they wheeled me in as the memories of having the three big kids via c-section came flooding back. I just kept thinking I can't cry or I'll get all stuffed up and won't be able to breathe in the anesthesia. Within minutes however I was out for good and my next memory was waking up being rolled down a hallway. That was about it.

We were ready to leave the hospital about an hour later. Once at home, Don and Maria took great care of me. My friend, Emily, watched Maria all day (Caroline is in Branson) and another wonderful friend, Leah, brought us a meal. One pain pill at 8:00 and I was off to dreamland. I woke up this morning feeling great. By the way, I just got the call from the Doctor that all of the pathology reports came back fine. Thank you, Lord. All in all it wasn't a bad experience. I'm just glad it's over with and we can get on with the summer.

Simply stated: Beware on nosey anesthesiologists!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Things We Do For Love...

Finally...after almost two years without a real haircut...the time has come to cut Caroline's hair for Locks of Love. It's seems like we've been measuring her hair every other day to see if it's grown to the mandated 10 inches to be able to donate. And she made it!
Here's the before picture.

and the back. Wow, that's a lot of hair. It had gotten so long and thick that it took both of us to brush it after a shower or the pool.

This is our friend Amy from church making that first brutal cut. Her salon (a very nice one I might add) donates a haircut when you donate your hair to Locks of Love. Thanks Amy!

It took 3 pony tails to cut off that thick mop of hair but it's gone, gone, gone.

Here they are...the beauty and the beauty maker.

And here she sweet Caroline. It's bittersweet to see her looking so beautiful and grown up. It's especially poignant tonight as she officially leaves the children's ministry at church to join big brother Zak with the student ministry.
More important though, than her stylin' new do and her radiant smile is the compassionate, servant's heart that continues to grow inside of this dear child of mine. I can not tell you the number of times that I encouraged her to cut off her hair before she could donate it just because it was too big of a hassle. But nope, she stood firm in her desire to give something of herself to someone less fortunate. I pray that God will continue to grab a hold of this precious child of His and use her in mighty ways.
Simply stated: I love being Caroline's mom!