Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Tha Language of Adoption

As we near the one year anniversary of the day Maria joined our family, I’ve been reflecting on how our family has changed. There are the obvious changes such as going from three children to four or progressing backwards from the youngest being eleven to a youngest of five. While the adjustments were challenging at times, we had experienced similar transitions as each of our biological children joined our family.

More profound yet subtle has been the change in our language. Not from English to Spanish. Rather this last year, like no other time in the life of our family, has taught us to be thoughtful and intentional about the words that we use.

We learned this first by necessity. Adopting an older, non-English speaking child initially required that we change our language to use simple words. This is hard for me. I like words, big words, and lots of them. Despite this, we adjusted our language to choose rudimentary words whose sole purpose was merely to communicate the necessities of day to day life. In no time Maria’s vocabulary and understanding increased to where conversation was no longer cumbersome.

At this stage we began to relax and revert to less intentional word choices. It was then when we learned that sarcasm, colloquialisms, and teasing are not appreciated by a child new to both our family and our language. Maria’s literal interpretations, although comical at times, were more often than not a cause of great distress for her. We adjusted our word choices once again to avoid confusing or potentially hurtful language. This is challenging for a family that practically drips with sarcasm. A year later this is still a major need for Maria’s continuing adjustment into our family. While we don’t always do this perfectly, we do our best.

We learned quickly as well that even when a conversation did not directly involve Maria, her need to understand what was going on was vital to her emotional well-being. Quick-witted bantering at the dinner table or spontaneous laughter would often trigger her insecurities. If Maria didn’t understand what was being said she would immediately assume that she was the topic of conversation or the cause of the laughter. As a result she would become distraught and withdrawn. And so we slowed down our dialog allowing ample time for repetition and explanations.

We have also acquired new language. Most notable is the use of the word adopt in all its various forms. I struggle a bit with the need to continue using the word. Not that I would for one minute want to avoid the topic or gloss over the facts of how Maria joined our family. I just thought we’d be done with the word by now. After all, one year after our older children each joined our family I wasn’t still recounting their birthing stories. I want it to be the same for Maria. But adoption is different. Not inferior, just different. I’ve begun to understand that by keeping Maria’s adoption story at the forefront, we are in a sense making it the new normal. By using adoptive language in an intentional and positive way, we are affirming Maria and the journey that brought her to us. Her story is what makes her who she is and what completed our family. It’s a story that did, and always will, include adoption.

Some words are difficult. For me the phrases “your first parents” or “your first mommy” are challenging. I would be less than honest if I didn’t admit that these words are brutal to my mother’s heart. I want to be the only mommy that Maria has ever had. And, although I’m the first and only one to fill this role in her life, I cannot pretend that another woman did not give her the gift of life. It’s an issue I’m working on. I hope that one day these words will flow from my mouth with grace and ease, bringing healing and comfort to Maria’s heart. Meanwhile, it is my challenge to mention her first parents with some degree of regularity, my words always seasoned with compassion and gratitude for the gift of our daughter.

There are also the sweetest of words. Maria has begun to earnestly appreciate the gift that is a family and she verbalizes this frequently. Mercifully, most six-year-olds have never gone without a family and therefore can not fathom life apart from one. Maria can. Almost daily she will mention how wonderful it is to be part of family and how happy she is to be with us. Her expressions of joy and gratitude are often accompanied by emotional tears. What a blessing it is to be the recipient of her heartfelt sentiments.

This past year has conditioned us to be ever mindful that words are powerful. We are a better family because of it. We have learned that the language of adoption is quite simply adjusting how and what we say to most thoughtfully communicate. It’s using words to intentionally build one another up and convey a sense of belonging. It’s the language of love. Of family.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

More "little pool" adventures

It is stinkin' hot here in Little Rock. Heat index today of 103. And it's dry. I can't remember the last time we saw any significant rain. The sky will spit on us every once and a while. Just enough to turn the dust on the car into mud spots.

Because it's so hot and dry, a community of yellow jackets has discovered the "little pool" and made it their personal watering hole. Once again the Arkansas wildlife had taken over the little pool. Until today when Maria's friend came over with a bathing suit and towel prepared to swim. Always the accommodating hostess, and not wanting to disappoint our guest, it was time to reclaim the little pool.

I ventured out to get a good feel for the situation. 4 or 5 bees were lounging around the pool blissfully lapping at the water. They seemed totally unphased by the carcasses of their dead bee friends floating between the top of the water and dip in the pool cover. These dudes are either really dumb or really crappy friends.

I mustered up enough instestinal fortitude to pull off the pool cover thus causing quite a ruckus among the lounging bees. I was a bit afraid until my eyes were drawn to the bottom of the pool revealing the watery grave for about 15 more bees. Aha, so they're just plain dumb and haven't figured out that the little pool is a death trap.

I called Don out to witness the carnage. Then together, armed with a Tupperware strainer, a can of wasp spray, and a fly swatter we waged war on the yellow jackets, dead and alive. While I was busy scooping and hurling the dead bodies, Don was using the fly swatter to send the live ones sailing back into the yard. This went on for what seemed like an eternity but given the temperature and relative humity it was probably only 1o minutes. The little pool was deemed safe for human occupants.

Until the girls got into the pool. And the bees returned.

For the next hour I stood guard with the fly swatter and wasp spray (admittedly some of time was spent watching from inside, but it's REALLY hot). Nobody was getting stung on my watch. Thankfully it wasn't too long before Maria's friend was ready to get out and come inside.

A side note: In preparation for writing this post I thought I'd take a picture of the little pool. As if to prove my point, when I approached the pool with camera in hand, a couple of yellow jackets stopped by for happy hour. One was floating on the water, one was already water-logged enough to be resting at the bottom of the pool and another hopped in while I watched. Can you say euthanasia? Sure I could have rescued him but after a long day of battle I felt justified in holding him under water assisted by my Tupperware strainer. By the way, a bee can hold it's breath for a surprisingly long time. I have pictures. Wanna see?

The "little pool."

Don't do it...

I warned you!

I have a feeling this problem isn't going away anytime soon. I think I've pushed my luck enough for one summer. Tomorrow we'll go to Wild River Country instead of the little pool.

Simply stated: Once again I've angered the bee community. We might have to move.

Monday, July 28, 2008

It is well...with my soul...

I've been in a bit of a funk this past week. I'm not sure why. Just lots of niggling issues that need to be resolved. I'd almost feel better about my lack of peace if there was something major going on. At least then my melancholy would be justifable. (That looks even more ludicrous on screen than it sounded running through my head). But, by the grace of God, it's just a me issue.

Even in the midst of my self-induced, self-centered pity party, God showed up on Sunday and opened my eyes to my blessings.

As worship began, I did a mental headcount of my family and their whereabouts. Don was sitting to my left having just returned at midnight from a week long trip. Caroline was on my right, pen and bulletin at the ready to take sermon notes. Maria had decided to stay in Children's Worship and I cheered her decision to be independent and spread her wings. Alex was positioned at the back of the worship center in the sound booth running the video and powerpoint for the service. Zack was upfront on stage playing drums with the worship band. As I finished roll call a blanket of peace and gratitude settled over me, almost bringing me to tears. My whole family, present and accounted for, serving and worshiping.

Simply stated: "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." 3 John 4

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Words you don't want to hear...

"Mommy, come quick! This is not good." (It sounds so much cuter with her hispanic accent!)

I could tell by the pitch of Maria's voice and the fact that her pants were not pulled up all the way, that this could be a potential plumbing crisis. I was relieved to see that the bathroom was not flooded. Instead the little spindle that holds the toilet paper was floating in the toilet. And the water in the bowl...was yellow. To flush or not to flush? That is the question.

It's important for you to understand how our family works. Don handles all toilet emergencies at our house. Yesiree, he's one lucky man. Unfortunately for me, he's in Chicago this week. And, big surprise here, I don't like sticking my hands in toilet water. Especially toilet water with pee in it.

Case in point. When our kiddos were potty-training, I would throw their soiled underwear away rather than stick my hands into the toilet to rinse them out.

In my defense, I did try to remove a #2 from a pair of training pants...once. I gingerly held the offending article of clothing by it's waist band and slushed it around in the water while flushing at the same time. This method didn't work very well as the force of the flush tore the undies from my tentative grip and sucked them to wherever it is that toilet water goes. I called Don and asked him if our septic system could digest a pair of size 2 underoos. I heard him roll his eyes through the phone.

Tonight I had no choice. I was going in. Using only two fingers, I quickly and somewhat frantically pulled out the spindle. A little gagging ensued. With the speed and agility of an olympic athlete I rushed the infected spindle to the sink where I rinsed it, and my hands, with half a bottle of soap and scolding hot water.

Poor Maria was positively distraught that she had caused Mommy another encounter with the toilet. I think she's still a bit scarred from the stool sample episode.

Truth be told she was only trying to do what the semi-adult members of our household had been too lazy to do for themselves. Namely, put a new roll on the holder. I will never understand the aversion to replacing the empty roll with a full one. I guess the last person to benefit from actually having paper on the roll figures the absence of paper is the next person's problem. Such a thoughtful family.

As we were leaving the bathroom Maria said with all the sincerity and remorse that she could muster, "Mommy, I'm so sorry I had to let you touch my pee."

It's o.k., darlin' girl. That's what mommies are for. Apparently this now qualifies me as the "best mommy in the whole world."

Simply stated: Is it me or does my hand smell like pee?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Now Showing: Many the Miles...The Movie

Please silence your cell phones and enjoy the show.

Simply stated: And a good time was had by all.


Simply stated: A picture is worth a thousand words.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Best Friends

You know there is too much wildlife around your house when you can recognize, name, and become emotionally attached to the various creatures.

Recently, two little toads have taken up residence in the retaining wall by our front walkway. Most days, all day, you'll see them sitting side by side doing whatever it is that toads do. Maria will stop each time we leave the house, squat down and oh and ah over them.

This morning however, Maria was feeling a bit blue when we left to run errands. Lately, she's really been missing her best friend from Guatemala and this morning was no exception. As much as she loves her new family and new life here in Arkansas, she has experienced a deep and profound loss. One that I can't fix, as hard as I try.

So as we walked out the door and spotted the toads I told Maria that I had a great name for them...Nayeli and Maria...because they're best friends. And here they are:

Simply stated: Everyone needs a really good friend to just hang with.

Alex's Run in with the Law.

Got your attention, didn't I?

First things first though. The second phase of the floor project is almost done. It's a beautiful thing! I'll post pictures when all of the finishing touches are done. However, between work on Friday and Saturday and putting the house back together, there hasn't been a whole lot of time for blogging.

So, I'm diverting you over to Alex's blog. He had a much more interesting day than the rest of us yesterday. I wish y'all could hear Alex tell the story in person. We were are all laughing. You know the kind of laugh with tears and snorts. Just click here to read more:

Simply stated: I hope you enjoy hearing from Alex.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

What were we thinking?

The flooring in our home has long been a source of frustration and discontent for both Don and I. The combination of hardward, poorly installed ceramic tile, vinyl, and carpet (often a mixture of two or more in the same room!) not only made the house look smaller and made arranging furniture difficult, it is just...plain...ugly. We carpeted downstairs earlier this year and the results were amazing. But like most home improvements, this only served to spotlight how horrendous the rest of the house looked. But now, due to the untimely yet profitable demise of our brick mailbox, which met the wrong end of a trash truck, we finally have some money to put towards redoing the floors.

It all started with a trip to Home Depot (or the Orange Store as Maria calls it) and a pallet of discontinued wood laminate flooring for 99 cents a sq. foot. We crunched the numbers and we had enough money. So early Saturday morning as I shuffled off to Hobby Lobby, Don and Zack began tearing out the ceramic tile in the dining room. I know many of you cringe at the idea of tearing out ceramic tile because it is the hot choice for flooring these days. Not when it's butt ugly. Not when the grout is 1/4" wide in some area and 1/2" wide in other. Certainly not when it cuts a path right through the middle of your living room. The demolition took most of the day and involved multiple trips to the orange store. It also resulted in a thick layer of dust throughout the entire upstairs living area. Upon my return from Hobby Lobby at 9:30 p.m., we spent the next 3 hours dusting. I even had to dust the loaf of bread sitting on the kitchen counter.

By Wednesday afternoon (keep in mind Don has a real job to do while chipping away at our flooring project) the dining room was done, minus the toe molding. It is a true masterpiece.

My window of opportunity for actually enjoying the floors was slammed shut that very same afternoon when Zack, his friend Joel, and Alex began moving the furniture from the living room into the dining room to begin phase two. I guess everyone hates that old floor and wants it out of here. Truth be told, the boys are hoping for a new TV once the renovation is done. Let me know if you want to come climb our money tree in the backyard. Anyway, my dining room now looks like this...

It's almost more than a person can take. As a result the girls and I found reasons to be gone from the house today while more demolition took place. Don gets smarter with every home improvement project and this time he put up plastic to help with the dust. This is what my entry way looks like...

The demolition is almost complete in the living room. Don also tore out the built-in cabinets that were dated and hindered furniture placement. Now the living room, and Don, look like this...

Poor thing. He's so tired. This is a BIG project. Hopefully floor installation will begin tomorrow. If there's a "fun" part to this project, that's it. Don says we'll have to wait awhile to do the hallways. Maybe it will be like child birth. With time he'll forget the pain and want to do it again. Or maybe not.

Simple stated: What were we thinking?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Men vs. Women

The Chalupka girls were in a bit of a quandary today. After a busy afternoon of shopping for birthday gifts for some cousins, clothes for back to school, and a few groceries for tonight's dinner (enchiladas), Maria was practically bursting at the seams to get into "the little pool." This is how she refers to our 8' x 3' wading pool complete with an inflatable rim and an actual pump system. You know the type. You probably own one. These blue orbs have surfaced all over suburbia like a mutant strain of crabgrass heralding "we are a family with small children who can't afford a real pool."

While Maria was busy getting ready to take the plunge, Caroline was wading in the pool inspecting the debris that had settled to the bottom. The leaves and sticks, while an eyesore, were not enough to curb her enthusiasm for swimming. The large spiders sprawled out on the bottom, looking very much alive and menacing to our arachniphobic eyes, were a bit more problematic. Before Maria could dip even a single toe into the pool, Caroline was out and dried off, declaring that the pool was unsafe until the spiders could be properly disposed of. I'm quite sure that if she'd had access to a roll of yellow crime scene tape, she would have officially quarantined off the entire pool area. I couldn't disagree with her. This was, of course, more than even the most easy going of six-year-olds could handle and Maria promptly burst into tears.

In my younger and more rigid days of mothering, I probably would have told her to just suck it up. Life's rough, kid. Time and experience, however, have taught me that it's o.k. to be sensitive to a child's disappointments. This doesn't make you less of a disciplinarian. It just makes you a little more human. So we filled the tub with cool water and in she went swimming, bathing suit and all. She didn't play for long, but it was enough.

All that remained was to devise a plan to remove our uninvited pool guests. This off course had to be a strictly hands-off method which did not require me to actually get into the pool or spend an extended amount of time the middle of summer. No ideas were forthcoming. Out of desperation, I asked Don a question that I'm now embarrassed to repeat. But, I'll tell you anyway. I asked him if we could use the shop vac to vacuum the bottom of the pool. It is, after all, a wet/dry vac. I'm sure it took every bit of restraint in his weary body not to say something to the effect of "are you an idiot?" But he didn't. He just shook his head and said no. Then he left the room.

Meanwhile, Alex had caught wind of the continuing spiders in the pool crisis. And, seeing as he has a soft spot for crying little sisters, he quietly slipped outside. He returned several minutes later and, in true Alex fashion, matter-of-factly informed me that the spiders were gone. Amazed and in awe, I inquired how he had performed this feat of wonder. He stared at me dumfounded, coincidently the very same look his dad had given me only moments earlier, and stated "uh, with a stick and my hands." Continuing my dimwitted line of questioning, I then asked him if the spiders were still alive. He just shook his head and said no. Then he left the room.

There you have it friends. Just one of the many examples demonstrating the difference between men and women.

Simply stated: I think using the pool cover is a good idea from here on out.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Major Bummer

I didn't get the job I had been hoping for at LRCA (where two of my crew will attend school this fall). I had turned the outcome of my application and my interview for yearbook advisor position over to God months ago. After all He knows what's best for me and my family. I had even talked myself into thinking maybe I wouldn't take the job if it was offered. Well it wasn't and rejection hurts. Zack (who is a major player on the yearbook staff) cheered me up a bit by saying that the new person better be good or he would quit. Thanks for being on my side, son.

It's crunch time for career planning. Do I stay at Hobby Lobby and increase my hours? On the upside of this job it does offer some flexibility with little stress. It does, however, require working one evening and every other Saturday in addition to school hours. Or do I find something else? The downside to this is that no one's offering me anything. Maybe a reality check is in order. I think I'm facing a little mid-life crisis here. Perhaps some shopping therapy is in order. But that will have to wait cause right now I need to get ready for work. *sigh*

Simply stated: What do I want to be when I grow up?

Thursday, July 10, 2008


We've made it home. And with 2,800 miles of driving time, I've had plenty of opportunities to ponder the world around me. And, since I was born woefully lacking any ability to self-censor my thoughts before they become public, I will now share my epiphanies with you.

First, the amount by which a person knowingly and willfully exceeds the posted speed limit is directly proportionate to the proximity to ones home. I tried to be responsible about my lead foot (maybe that's where that extra 50 lbs. hangs out) and only drive 5 miles above the speed limit. This was not hard to do since Caroline regularly inspected my speedometer. At one point she proudly proclaimed "Wow, Mom you're actually going the speed limit." My rate of speed is one of those do as I say, not as I do issues. I'm not proud, but I'm nothing if not honest. Anyway, my speed limit plus 5 method was sufficiently fast until home was within a few hundred miles. I won't detail numbers as it might incriminate me, but I will tell you that I made the 6-hour trip from Nashville to Little Rock in 5 hours and 20 minutes.

And speaking of driving, people need to move out of the passing lane on our highways and interstates. I will admit to a touch of road rage when caught behind slow people in the "fast" lane. I tried to keep my name calling to minimum using words such as "moron" and "idiot." Then I came up with the Move Over song, sung to the tune of "Ten in the Bed." It was a crowd favorite among my passengers.

And speaking of songs, you can never have too many CD's on a roadtrip. My CD case never made it from the Suburban to the Pilot. I think it's in the "bag of junk from the old car to sort through and see what goes in the new car" that's stashed in the laundry room. This left us with Sarah Bareilles and High School Musical II. Now, I will admit to being a closet HSM fan. In fact, I love all sorts of show tunes. But even the best of soundtracks start sounding like nails on a chalkboard after five continuous hours. I needed something to keep me awake. We got smart on the way home and picked up the WOW 2007 CD and the soundtrack to Camp Rock. Which, in my humble opinion, is not nearly as good as HSM!

And while we're on the topic of staying awake, the human jaw was not designed to chew gum for 12 straight hours. It's seems I'm genetically wired to be sleepy (chronic anemia doesn't help), and anytime I sit for more than 30 minutes without moving I begin to doze off. Note: sleepiness is not to be confused with laziness. They are two very different syndromes. Anyways, for obvious reasons this is a problem when being the sole driver on a long road trip. Chewing gum, however, provided just enough movement to keep my eyes open. Not sure how the two actions work together but I never fell asleep at the wheel. I just can't move my jaws.

Staying with the tired theme, why is it that long car rides will suck every last bit of energy from an adult while at the same time acting as some form of energy drink for the kids. Each night I'd drag myself up to the check-in desk at the hotel looking every bit the part of the exhausted traveler. Behind me the girls would hop, skip, and jump into the lobby squealing "when can we go to the pool, can we go to the pool now, can we, can we, huh, huh?

There is no clever segue for this next observation. Toots never go undetected when traveling with a six-year old.

Speaking of old farts (please forgive me, I couldn't resist)...Grandparents rock! They have an uncanny ability to turn even the most mundane of tasks into an unforgettable adventure. My children's lives are truly enriched by their relationships with their grandparents.

Sitting with sisters and talking about every and anything is some of the best times a girl can have. It doesn't hurt when the waitress spills coke all over one either! I hope that my girls will enjoy each other as adults as much as my sisters and I enjoy each other.

That's it for now. I'll end on a sweet and pleasant note rather than one dripping with sarcasm. Needless to say it was a great trip but it sure is good to be home.

Simply stated: Many the Miles...the end.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Many the Miles #4

Today is our last day before starting the many miles home. The girls have taken a walk with my dad (Pop) to go see the fish hatchery. I'm starting some laundry and pulling together the parts and pieces of our visit and shoving them placing them neatly into our suitcases. We will be spending our last day trying to catch up with most of my sisters who are spread across Maryland and Pennsylvania, and, like most busy moms have crazy schedules.

We'll be treating ourselves to a Rita's Italian Water Ice of those special east coast treats that we can't find in Arkansas. I will also be trying frantically to figure out what's wrong with our in-car DVD system which has failed us this last leg of the trip. We NEED it for our 10 hour drive tomorrow.

The idea of 18 hours of driving to get home is far from appealing at this point. What is appealing is home itself. Hugs and kisses from Don. Grunts from my boys. Sleeping in my own bed. Driving on familiar streets. Sitting in our recliner. Going to our church. Oh, I could go on and on. These are the things that motivate me to get my girls back in the car.

We've had a wonderful visit. Mimi and Pop have done their very best to spoil my girls which is evidenced by the fact Maria wants to pick up our life in Arkansas (house, friends, church, etc.) and place them right next door Mimi's house. It's one of those hard lessons that all of us girls have learned or been retaught this trip. The joy of visiting with family and friends is, for a brief time, replaced by thoughts of missing them again. After we dropped off Caroline's friend I asked her if the fun of spending time together was worth the pain of having to say goodbye again. Even through her tears she was able to answer, "Yes." All and all we've had a very fun and successful trip. But...

Simply stated: there really is no place like home.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Horses and Buggies

Good bye birds and bees...hello horse and buggies!

I knew our trip would provide some humorous content for blogging. Our drive yesterday provided some great material.

We were riding through the beautiful Pennsylvania countryside enjoying horse and buggy sightings when the obvious question was asked, "Why don't they drive cars?" I explained that the Amish prefer to live a simple life without modern conveniences that might draw them away from God. Caroline thought the idea was absurd.

We then engaged in a sweet conversation about our relationship with Jesus, our Savior and God, our Creator. My six-year-old niece informed me that parents created their children. I really should learn to keep my mouth shut but I decided to take the conversation a little deeper. Big mistake.

I told Hailey that God created the very first people and that they, indeed, then had children of their own.

"Hey, Aunt Stacie, how DO mommies and daddies make their babies?" Well, umm, cough, sputter, umm "That's a really good question, Hailey. And God has a wonderful plan for how babies are made and I know your mommy wants to tell you that story." I thought that would be enough and was busy congratulating myself with imaginary high fives for having successfully avoided a real answer when the conversation continued...

"Hey, Aunt Stacie, how do babies eat?" This led to a discussion about, belly buttons, umbilical cords, and a natural segue into breast feeding. This elicitied an empassioned "o, yuck" from Maria. And then, of course...

"Hey, Aunt Stacie, how do babies poop and pee in their mommy's tummy?" which required another gently worded answer and another "o, yuck" from Maria.

At this point the big girls were snickering and I had begun to glisten with nervous sweat. A quick inventory through my arsenal of parenting tricks led me straight to the fine art of distraction. Food and a pit stop!

Once back on the road, the conversation was a distant memory (I hope for my sister's sake) for my younger passengers, replaced by mouthfuls of chocolate chip cookies. Myself, well, I'm a little scarred yet a little smarter by the whole exchange.

Simply stated: Nothing is simply stated when you're talking to an inquisitive six-year-old.

Many the Miles #3

Newville, PA

Woo hoo! We made it to Dad and Mom's and sane. We arrived last night around 6:30 p.m after an uneventful four-hour drive from the beach in Delaware. What a wonderful two days we had being spoiled by Aunt Karen and Abby, watching Maria enjoy new experiences, and listening to Caroline and Jenna go on and on about absolutely nothing.

Maria's favorite part of our visit was looking for seashells with Aunt Abby and playing in the sand at the beach. The waves were big and the water cold so she wasn't really impressed by the ocean itself. Caroline experienced a nasty wipe-out while standing in the surf. Unfortunatley this happened within our first 5 minutes on the beach. She spent the better part of the next two hours trying to discreetly dislodge rocks from her swimsuit and nursing her bruised and scraped leg. Caroline did, however, enjoy the boardwalk on Wednesday evening. Shopping, rides, and games. Could there be a better setting for sharing with your best friend? I've got lots of wonderful photos but I have no way to show them now. I think we'll do a slide show when we get home.

So far we've seen two of my four sisters. We'll see sister three today and four tomorrow. Lots of family fun to come. I'm really missing my men today and wishing they were here, especially my main man. Once the sisters and cousins arrive I'll get distracted and won't be so homesick. Maria is watching a movie by herself. I think she's enjoying a little downtime after the constant whirlwind of activity. Caroline and Jenna continue to carry on about absolutely nothing! Remember those days of hanging with your best friend with life was care-free and everthing was hysterical?

Simply stated: More updates later.