Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Case Of The Jellied Footprints

I'm taking a short break from my little travelogue to vent bring you up to speed with current events.

Since returning from our vacation, (stay tuned for the exciting conclusion, coming some time this Summer)  we have:

* Sent two boys off to Church Camp.  Cy had a bad asthma attack while there.  I thank Lori for the loan of her nebulizer.  I am so thankful for the great care he received from the guys in his dorm.  Bro. J. C., Justin, Billy and Beaux kept a close eye on him and kept me apprised of the situation.  Thank the Lord he didn't need to be hospitalized.

* Celebrated Alvin's 5th birthday with a wading pool party.

* Survived a week of random activities/Dr appointments that somehow managed to keep me away from home with all five kids all day every day for a week. 

* Conducted allergy tests on Cy.  He is allergic to Peas, Corn, Rice, Almonds, Cats and most trees, pollens, molds etc...  He is positively rejoicing over the Peas.  It's interesting, he doesn't like any of the foods that he tested positive to.  He is mildly allergic to peanuts.  He won't hardly touch a PBJ.  I am so thankful that gluten is not an issue. 

* Contracted a virus with non-specific rash, random fever, cough (for some including me, not everyone though), sore throat (Cy's throat is "inflated") general lethargy and chronic crankiness.  Although Strep Throat has not been ruled out entirely, mostly likely it is Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease.  I was joking that it could be Bubonic Plague, but then thought better of it.  Did you know the Plague killed at least 84 people in Madagascar last year?  I thought you should know, just in case you had run out of things to keep you awake at night.  You're welcome.

* There has been mystery afoot lately.  Outside doors are left wide open, lights left on all hours, shredded paper and chewed up crayons.  None of the inhabitants of this house could possibly be responsible.  They all have air-tight alibis.  But the most sinister happening would have to be The Case Of The Jellied Footprints.  It looked like a murder scene.  Thousands of innocent blackberries had been smeared all over the floor.  "WHO STEPPED IN THE JELLY?!!!" shrieked the horrified housemaid mother.  "You did, mommy", was the calm reply.  "WHAT DO YOU MEAN?  I DID NO SUCH THING!!!"   "Well, we noticed that someone stepped in jelly and we didn't know who, so we all put jelly on our shoes and made footprints to see which track matched.  None of our shoes could have done it, so it must have been yours." 

* You can go ahead and lock me up in the sanitarium.  I think the rest would do me good.

* I am currently battling to keep my spirits up and not give in to hopelessness, despair, guilt, depression, sarcasm, and/or Facebook addiction.  I've already lost the battle to sarcasm.

* The main problem seems to be that I am either too lazy or too selfish or (just possibly) too tired to keep on top of discipline for either myself or the kids.  I am trying yet again to re-organize and re-structure our lives so that everyone is kind, respectful, responsible, obedient, safe and happy.  I have no idea how to go about it or what to do next.  I am spiritually withering away because we are either too sick to go to church or I am too distracted for it to really sink in.  It seems like I spend all that effort to get us all dressed and ready for church, then I spend most my time in the nursery.

* God did give me a verse for today.  "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go.  I will guide thee with mine eye.  Be ye not as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding..." Psalm 32:8, 9  I am asking, I know He will send me the answers.  It's funny, He had to call me a stubborn mule to get my attention. 

* So, this is my Summer so far.  It is far from the idyllic visions of splash pads and bubble blowing contests or happy students filling out worksheets in the heat of the day.  But, it is also a  far cry from the war and devastation tearing apart the Middle East.  In all, I have so much to be thankful for.  It is appalling that I would ever complain or feel that life is difficult.  God is so good.  I pray that we, who have been given so much would use all that He has given us for His glory and the blessing of those in our path.  That is what it's really all about anyways.

* Now to find my mop . . .

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Most Restful Two Hours Of My Mommy Career - Vacation 2014 Part 4

Last time on "Do You Know Where Your Children Are?" :

A lady approached me.

"Do you have a little blond haired boy and blond haired girl?"

"Uh, maybe?"

"They were found wandering the halls.  They said they were looking for their mommy."

Cue creepy organ music . . .

I squinted up at the hotel clerk, trying to form a coherent sentence.  Something that wouldn't make me sound even more like the irresponsible mother I clearly am.

"Well, I actually have three blond boys, and two little girls . . .  But the baby isn't blond . . .  She's more of a strawberry brunette . . .  I mean it's just fuzz, really . . .  The baby, that is . . .  My two year old is blond . . . OK, where is their daddy!  I am going to kill him!!"

Sure enough, noses smushed against the lobby glass, were my children.  Elle wasn't wearing any pants.  Just a soggy diaper.

I don't even remember what they said as to why they were there.  A patron had found them wandering the halls and brought them down to the lobby where they said their mommy had gone to get coffee.

  Snores greeted me when I flung open the door to our room.  Rob and Cy were both conked out.  Dee was in the tub.  Ana was doing her best to raise the dead with her ear splitting wails, but obviously to no success.

I quickly got everyone else into bed.  You could stick a fork in it, this day was done!

Tuesday morning was a little more relaxed.  We already knew where we were going and how to get there.  I made a point of relaxing in the gardens with Ana and sending the boys with Daddy to wreak mayhem out of earshot.  It was a great time to get my focus back on the Lord and my blood pressure back to normal.  I just breathed for 15 minutes. 

Today it was Robert's turn to take the kids while I got to do the 2 hour zip line tour All. By. My. Self.  I am still thanking Robert for that.  It was like Mother's Day, Christmas and the Fourth of July all wrapped up in two glorious hours.  I zipped over the lake.  I zoomed through the trees.  Every two minutes I told my tour guides how happy I was to be there.  I bet they were happy too, when my time was up . . .  It was the most restorative two hours of my mommy career.

Everything about Tuesday was wonderful.  I had such a better attitude.  My glasses had been fixed.  Ana slept on her stomach in the stroller.  Even the security guards and first time moms seemed to be smiling.

We listened to a great lecture by Ken Ham on why Genesis matters.  The information he gave on the genetics of natural selection was very tantalizing.  I had just about made up my mind to attend the genetics lecture in the afternoon.  Rob and Cy wound up attending it instead.  I took Alvin and Dee to the climbing course.  That was a lot of fun.  They got to gear up in a harness with a hard hat and gloves, just like utility workers!  We spent an hour clinging to ropes and perilous pieces of wood.  The boys liked to just let go and dangle like spiders from their harnesses.

 I got into an interesting conversation with a fellow mom.  She was an OB/GYN that had made the decision to stay home and educate her girls herself.  It was so great visiting with her.  Obstetrics and homeschooling are my two great passions!  (Beep, beep, beep! Excuse me while I shut off the Nerd Alert . . . )  Then I found out that she herself had been homeschooled up until the 7th grade!  I was ecstatic!  I have just been waiting to find a home educated doctor.  It is amazing how many professionals today were homeschooled.  I find it very encouraging.  Maybe my kids will move out of my basement someday.

By the time we left the museum that evening we were all brimming over with questions, discoveries, perspectives, memories and a few sunburns.

The pool was still closed when we returned to the hotel.  The kids had to settle with taking a bath instead.  I kept a close eye on the door while we relaxed together with Animal Planet.

It had been a great three days.  We had planned on flying out of Cincinnati in the morning, but it looked like the flight was going to be too full.  We decided to take a road trip instead!

Next stop,  Knoxville, Tennessee.

P. S.  I  just want to take a moment to love on my Awesome, Amazing and Amazingly Handsome husband.  He is such a terrific father.  He is spending his Father's Day right now playing Risk with an 8 year old, 6 year old and 5 year old.  If that isn't love and the patience of Job, I don't know what is.  I love you, Babe!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Leaping Lizards! Where Is Alvin?!

Today is Alvin's fifth birthday!  It seems very appropriate that much of today's tale relates to Alvin's adventures on our trip.  He seems to be going through a "stage" right now.  (Dear Lord, please let it be just a stage.  Amen.)  A very curious, adventurous, destructive stage.  A "mom probably won't like this and would definitely tell me no so I better hurry and get it done" stage.  I remember going through this at the age of five myself.  In fact, five is one of my all time favorite ages.  Or at least, it was . . .

Where were we, oh yes!  Rob and Cy had left for two hours of ziptastic fun.  I had four children to shepherd through the Creation Museum exhibits.  Should be fun.

Where's Alvin?

There he is, looking at the mastodon skeleton.

If we can just get in line here to enter the Main Exhibit hall . . .

Where's Alvin?!

"Get off that ledge!!!"

Okay, you kids go through the spooky black light cave with glow in the dark scorpions.  I'll meet you on the other side.

Where in the Sam Hill is Alvin?!!

We had no sooner  passed from the first room (the Dinosaur Dig site) into the Lucy room when  Dee became deathly thirsty.  He seriously didn't think he could survive .   I callously assured him he could.

After examining  replicated bones from "Lucy" and duly considering the evidence from an alternative point of view, we passed into a series of exhibits demonstrating the importance of the Word of God.  It was all very interesting, but there were no dinosaurs in this room, so Alvin slipped into the next.  Ana had launched into an eloquent protest of her confinement to the stroller.  Dee was languishing from thirst and Elle decided since everyone else was malcontent, she should be too.

I drug my screaming/squirming brood through the Consequences Alley.  It really did look like a scary New York street.  The crumbling brick walls were papered with newspaper and magazine clippings of atrocities, disease and death.  These are the practical results of living in a sin cursed world.  The atmosphere was oppressive.  Even  Alvin stayed close by my side.

Unfortunately, even within "the church" things are not much brighter than that dimly lit alley.  The next exhibit let us peer into the windows of a suburban neighborhood.  The young people within were using drugs, exploring pornography and discussing options to get rid of an unwanted pregnancy.  Right around the corner we found the same youth sitting side by side, sharing a hymnal in a worship service.  The walls to this church have been smashed with a wrecking ball labeled "Evolution".  These kids might be physically sitting in a church, but they are already gone.  Believe it or not, this has everything to do with their view of the first 11 chapters of Genesis!

We then scampered through the Tunnel of Time, transporting us back to the Six Days of Creation.  I took the chance to nurse my totally depraved little angel during the beautifully filmed highlights of each Day.  Alvin kept sneaking out of the theater.

The next room was known as The Hall of Wonders.  More video screens with featurettes describing the science behind each Day of Creation.  Genetics, Micro-Biology, Astronomy, Physics.  There were so many things I wanted to learn about.  But right about this time Dee's head collided with my glasses.  The ancient, green clay masque encrusted nose guard snapped.  And I had pretty much had it too.  I think I must have been praying audibly by this time.  Dee suddenly decided he could hold on without a drink a little bit longer.  I threatened Alvin within an inch of his life if he ran off again.  And I think Elle was too scared to move.  I strapped the hapless Elle back into the stroller.  This time on her stomach.  She absolutely would not sleep on her back.  I was desperate for her to take a nap.  I kept waiting for a security guard or a first time mom to inform me that only Bad and Terrible Mothers place infants on their stomachs.  But, none materialized.   I think all the security guards and first time moms on the premises were just relieved that she had quit crying.  I shoved a kleenex between my nose and glasses and proceeded into the Garden of Eden.

From here on we wandered through scenes straight out of the Bible.  No detail was overlooked.  Interwoven with the stunning dioramas and landscapes were plaques and videos bringing the latest scientific research.  Animatronic animals, dinosaurs and people moved throughout.  Noah sat in the middle of a 1/100 scale ark and answered questions!

By the time we had reached the Tower of Babel I was beginning to get anxious.  I needed to meet Robert by the Mastodon soon.  But I was still stuck in Ancient Mesopotamia and had no idea how to escape.  We had been traveling through history for over two hours and I had yet to see an exit sign.   With the determination of a spawning salmon I reversed course and headed upstream towards the beginning.

At last we were back in range of a water fountain!  Dee could guzzle all he wanted.  Bathrooms were naturally the next stop.  It was with grave forboding I sent Alvin and Dee into the Men's Room alone.  I took the girls for a much needed change.  I tried to hurry.  I really did.  But the plain truth is, two little boys are going to be finished with  their business long before a momma and two diapered girls.  I could hear Dee outside the door yelling for us to hurry up.  I opened the bathroom door.

"Dee, you can stop yelling now.  The whole county can hear you, for Pete's Sake WHEREISALVIN!!!"

"Oh, I don't know.  He left."


"I guess he got tired of waiting.  You took too long."


Commence frantic searching.

When we are at the park I have a rule.  I'm not allowed to panic over missing children until I have first slowly counted to 20.  99.9% of the time they resurface by the time I get to 18.  It wasn't working this time.  He was plainly missing.  I put out an APB to the lady taking tickets.  I checked nooks and crannies.  I hyperventilated.  I turned to the last person who had seen him. 

"Dee, did you actually see Alvin leave the bathroom?"

"Well, no."

"How do you know he left?"

"When I came out of the stall he wasn't there."

"Go back to the bathroom and check again."

Guess who had been obediently waiting in the bathroom!

What a relief.  That's enough adventure for one morning.  I was ready for lunch.

Needless to say, by the end of the day I was frazzled.  All I wanted to do was send Robert with the kids to the pool while I relaxed in the room by myself.

The pool was closed.

The kids were bouncing off the walls, the bed, the floor.  I felt the room closing in on me.  I laid the sleeping Ana in her bed, picked up my book and told Rob he was on duty, I was going for coffee.  I walked out the door and didn't look back.

Down in the lobby I bought myself a chocolate bar to go with my coffee.  Then I headed for the lounge on the patio.  At last!  Peace, coffee, chocolate and a good book.  Now this is a vacation!

A lady approached me.

"Do you have a little blond haired boy and blond haired girl?"

"Uh, maybe?" 

"They were found wandering the halls.  They said they were looking for their mommy."

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Vacation 2014 Part 2 - Getting There

It would seem that the retelling of our summer vacation is going to take at least 15 posts.  I started to feel guilty for the sheer verbosity.  But then again, this is for posterity's sake.  I mean, this is how my children are going to remember the good ol' days.  This is my proof that we did have some crazy good times.  I'm horrible at taking pictures.  But words are a different matter.  I can reconstruct the entire week with my words.  It's just going to take a lot of them . . .


Sunday traveling went pretty smoothly.

Or as smoothly as dragging five kids out of bed before sun up can possibly go.

I will have to say, the one piece of advice I can give to a mom flying with a baby is: Take your stroller!  I was so glad to have my nifty jogging stroller along for the ride.  We checked our two suitcases and three car seats with the sky cap.  I strapped Ana into her stroller, draped my diaper bag over the handle, grabbed Elle's hand and we were off!  My nimble jogger turned on the proverbial dime, thus preventing me from flattening the random travelers littering the walkways as we raced to our various gates.  The boys spread out, alternating between running too far ahead and stopping smack in front of the stroller with some leisurely lollygagging thrown in for variety.  Far down the corridors, I could spy Rob's blue shirt as he strode purposefully to our destination, unimpeded by clinging toddlers or errant preschoolers.  Good thing I don't hold grudges.

 Or retaliate by blogging behind his back.

Since Rob works for an airline, we are able to fly for practically free.  The drawback is, it's standby and you never know if you will actually be able to make your flight.  But this time there were plenty of seats.  We were all in a jovial mood and the two hour flight to Chicago "flew" by.  I was really hoping we could snag some Chicago Deep Dish Pizza for breakfast.  But that will have to be for another trip.  We settled for Subway sandwiches instead.  Ever since our honeymoon, we have made a practice of splitting meals when we eat out.  Usually it works out.  Sometimes not.  (I'll never forget Rob surgically dividing the lone lobster lump floating in our bisque, right down the middle.)  This is particularly helpful when you have small kids with unpredictable appetites.  3 foot long sandwiches more than fed our family.

We had just one more short flight to Cincinnati.  When I turned my phone back on there was a message from my sister.  Her pain was considerably worse and she was on her way back to the hospital.  I knew that there was nothing I could do for her, even if I was at home.  But she was heavy on my heart and mind.

By the time we hit the rental agency, the kids halos were slipping a bit.  They had been perfect up to that point.  But there are limits and I could feel we were fast approaching ours.  Rob was inspecting our van before we took possession.  I mean literally, noting and documenting every scratch and scuff to make sure we weren't blamed for any previous damage.  I'm glad he thought of that.  It's interesting to see how a lawyer looks at the world sometimes.  I would have grabbed the keys, cranked up the music and been off in cloud of dust with nary a thought of any sort of liability.  That's why God mixes things up when he puts couples together.  Two are better than one!

We rested at our hotel for a few hours.  The kids took turns badgering us to let them swim.  Rob and I took turns deflecting with typical parent-speak, "Not now.  There will be plenty of time later.  Don't ask me again.  Stop bugging me!"

The Best Western in Harrison, Ohio was truly a lovely place to stay.  The rates are reasonable and they have a Creation Museum package with discounted adult tickets.  The Museum itself is waiving children's admission for 2014.  So this is a good time to visit, if any of you have the opportunity.

We were up and at 'em first thing the next morning.  In spite of a 20 minute drive, we were still the very first patrons to pull into the parking lot, a full hour early.  We were met at the gate by the kindly Henry.  He welcomed us warmly and encouraged us to enjoy the botanical gardens while we waited.  The gardens were so beautiful.  Lush vegetation, koi ponds, a creek, secluded nooks where you can reflect (and nurse) in privacy.  The kids loved scampering across the suspension bridge and the floating bridge.  There were an abundance of birds, frogs, and turtles sunning themselves on mossy logs.  It compelled me to google the lyrics to Morning Has Broken.

At last the museum doors opened to a surprisingly diverse crowd.  Tattoed bikers rubbed shoulders with Amish families.  And then then there the boring people, like us.  Rob and Cy joined the group of thrill seekers at the base of the zip line tower.  I herded my small flock towards the main exhibits. 


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Vacation 2014 Part 1 - Where Do I Begin?

"Where do I begin,
To tell the story of how long two weeks can be?"

So, maybe those aren't quite the correct lyrics to Love Story . . .

I have to begin somewhere though.  When exactly did our family vacation begin?  When did it end?  Has it ended yet?  Will life ever get back to normal?  Will I ever catch up on laundry?  And do we count the pre-vacation mishaps in the retelling?

I guess you could says the adventures began on the day I commenced packing.  I'm going to take you back, back, far back into the hazy realms of distant memory, a full 16 days ago.

It was a Tuesday, as I recall.  I had spent all the previous day washing a mountain range of laundry.  Now I had the Himalaya's to put away.  That's when I had the Brilliant Idea.  Why not just pack all the clean clothes right into the suitcases?  So I did.  And that is how all the boys and Elle came to be packed four days in advance.  Sure, Dee didn't have any clean socks.  Evidently he didn't have any dirty socks either, because all the hampers were empty.  But as soon as we located and washed all his missing socks then I would pack them too.

I had just finished mixing up a batch of Tabouli for supper.  I was so proud of my accomplishments for the day.  This vacation was going to be thoughtfully planned and flawlessly executed.  Finally, no stress.  No last minute rushing.  And there would be ample time to have 30 close friends and family over for a barbeque two days before we leave.  (You can see where this is going, can't you?)

Just as I closed the refrigerator door, my sister called.  She was 28 weeks pregnant, having contractions and in a lot of pain.  She needed to get to the hospital.

Within thirty minutes her father-in-law and sister-in-law had shown up at my house to watch my kids while her mother-in-law and myself loaded Joanna into my van and we headed out to the big hospital in our area.

To make a long story short, Baby was rolled over on top of Joanna's kidney, thus causing pain, swelling and regular contractions.  When the nurses gave Joanna a shot of terbutaline to stop the contractions, she had a bizarre reaction.  Instead of her heart rate elevating (which is normal) hers fell.  As did her blood pressure.  All the way down to 79/28 or something like that.  The nurses were scrambling to get oxygen and figure out what was going on.  Lisa called Joanna's husband (who was finishing up his shift)  I stood there and prayed for her and the baby.  Things eventually evened out.  Joanna was kept overnight so they could continue running tests.  Lisa and I hit Taco Bell on the way home.  It was about 1 a.m.

Wednesday and Thursday were a bleary eyed blur.  Joanna was sent home.  Mom came up and stayed with her for the rest of the week.  I cleaned like mad, trying to get ready for our Thank You dinner.  The suitcases stayed in the corner, untouched.

Friday arrived.  We were so excited to have everyone over that had helped fight the fires and evacuate our stuff the week that Ana was born.  We had been waiting for me to get my strength back and a good time that everyone could make it.  Memorial Day weekend looked perfect.  We would party on Friday.  Pack on Saturday.  Fly to Cincinnati on Sunday.  Spend Monday and Tuesday at the Creation Museum.  Fly home on Wednesday.  Maximum fun for minimum days off work.

The dinner turned out well.  We had a full house.  Kids were dangling from the ceiling fans, but no one seemed to mind.  After dinner we played games suitable for a large group such as Mafia, Identity and the Dictionary game.  A couple of the boys' friends stayed the night.  The rest of us got in bed around 1:30.

Saturday.  At last.  Time. To. Pack.  Seriously!!!  I spent the day throwing away red solo cups and stuffing underwear into the largest suitcase for Robert, myself and the baby.  I had made fairly good progress.  I figured if I kept at it there might even be time for a movie after supper while I finished the packing.  I had just thawed some chicken leg quarters in the microwave when Cy came hobbling in, holding his side.  It was a scooter wreck, he informed me between gasps.  He had been flying down our neighbor's paved driveway at a high rate of speed when he had to swerve suddenly to avoid hitting Alvin.  He had landed smack on his left side.  Already the area was tender and swollen.  I immediately googled "location of spleen".

Taking Evel Knievel to Urgent Care seemed to be the most prudent thing to do.  Especially since we were supposed to be out of state in twelve hours.  I took him over to our favorite Urgent Care Clinic.  Everyone there has become quite familiar with our family.  Unfortunately, they closed 4 minutes before we arrived.  I headed over to Plan B Clinic.  This place is supposed to specialize in pediatrics.  I think they specialize in ripping people off.  They have this weird policy that requires them to take your credit card number, invent an arbitrary amount that they think might be billed by the insurance and then proceed to reassure you that if the amount billed happens to be lower, they will credit your card.  If if happens to be higher, they will just charge your card without your knowledge.  Sign here.

The doctor came in, palpated Cy's abdomen for 20 seconds and urged me to take him straight over to the Emergency Room.  She was concerned about his spleen too.

That better not have cost me the estimated $209!

So, back to the hospital for the second time in 4 days.

The doctor on call had an atrocious bedside manner.  She was snappy and short tempered.  Not gentle at all.  And she was offended at having to compete with Sponge Bob for Cy's attention.  You knew this was pediatrics you signed up for, right Lady Doctor?

We were blessed by a visit from our friend, Bindu.  We met Bindu in the ER when Dee swallowed the quarter.  She was very kind to come check on us during her break.  She was very reassuring and pointed out that the spleen is way up high, not where Cy was experiencing pain.  Thank you, Bindu!!

A CT scan confirmed that the spleen was fine, nothing was ruptured.  Cy was just really bruised.  Thank the Lord for that!  I made it home, finished the packing and got in bed . . .

. . . around 1a.m.  We needed to get up at 5.

Let the vacation begin, I need it!