Monthly Archives: June 2016

Vacation: The Mitt (Part 5) — Journey to Hawks

The next morning we were to meet Tony’s parents and his 2 uncles for breakfast at a cafe in Boyne City.  As it happened, the cafe was across the street from an enormous wooden play structure.  What is it with Michigan and these enormous wooden play structures?  Never have I ever seen so many amazing wooden play structures in my life.  California is all about plastic structures that burns-your-bum-in-the-sun and that lasts forever.  And how is it that wooden playgrounds stand up so well to the extreme weather that Michigan encounters?

As I wandered through the play structure, following “William the White Rabbit” (again with the Alice in Wonderland theme), I noticed that I was walking through quite a few spider webs.  Offhandedly, I thought to myself how busy those spiders must have been to spin their webs so quickly overnight and how bummed they must be that the tall human was destroying the carefully woven web of captivation.  Then I learned a bit later (from talking to one of the other adults who was there with his grandson) that this particular playground had been closed for a good long while, and that it had just reopened that day, and the ribbon cutting ceremony for the reopening ceremony was at noon.  The timing of it all felt rather fortuitous.

Eventually, though, we had to load up in the car, go back and pack up our stuff, and hit the road.  As we drove back to the farm, I don’t think it’s possible for anyone to understand my delight when I found a giant metal chicken.  There’s a story behind this, and if you’re ever interested, feel free to ask.  But that giant metal chicken totally made my day and gave me the energy to face the day ahead.

Because… MORE ROAD TRIP (see previous post)!!!  This time, however, we were following Tony’s parents as we headed to the area where Tony’s dad grew up, and where Tony spent many of his summers in his youth.

We made a stop at the Cross in the Woods shrine and parish.  The walk out to the cross was the beginning of the ramping up of my mosquito phobia.  Anywhere there is stagnant air in humid places, there is likely to be a mosquito or three lingering around, and if that’s the case, then they will find me.  So I kept my step quick with an eye for avoiding the caterpillars that seemed to be dangling from trees like an aerial obstacle course.  I didn’t know anything about this particular place, except for what the sign in the parking lot said, so all my reading about it has been done after our visit.  When I saw it, it was rather jaw dropping… as one might expect of a 28′ bronze statue hoisted on a giant wooden cross.  From their website (link):

The sculpture of the crucified Christ was titled “The Man on the Cross” by the renowned Michigan sculptor Marshall Fredericks. It is made of bronze 3/8″ to 1/2″ thick. It weighs seven tons, is twenty-eight feet tall from head to toe, and the outstretched arms span twenty-one feet. The figure of Christ is attached by thirteen bolts 30″ long and 2″ thick that were made when the figure was cast in Norway. Fredericks wanted to portray Christ in a peaceful way. It was his dream to “give the face an expression of great peace and strength and offer encouragement to everyone who viewed the Cross”. Christ is symbolized just at the moment when He commends Himself to His Father. The sculptor received special permission from the Vatican to omit the crown of thorns and the wound on Jesus’ side. In 1992 because of damage to the crucifix caused by weathering and pollution, it was decided to clean the corpus. The Jensen Foundation for Art Conservation spent several weeks cleaning the corrosion from the bronze figure. It was then lacquered and waxed. Fredericks requested that the Cross be painted in a light tan tone to emphasize the bronze corpus. The corpus is waxed by volunteers every two years.

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After that, we headed to a McDonald’s/Gas Station/Gift Shop all-in-one combo place where you could fuel yourself, fuel your car and commemorate the visit with a souvenir.

We passed Moran Iron Works in Onaway, Michigan.  On their vast lawn, they have enormous metal sculptures of the World War II aircraft carrier Bunker Hill and a bust of George Washington.  According to Moran Iron Works’ website, Tom Moran (the owner of the company), is quite the artist and has done other items of art, which he either donates, gifts or displays throughout the state of Michigan.  You can see his art here:  Link

We stopped at a local grocery store as we neared our destination to stock up for the mosquito apocalypse that I was suspicious we were heading into.  Tony also grabbed a small can of bug repellent in a cheery orange canister and nonchalantly dropped it in the wheel well near my feet.  Then as our rental car reached more rural locations, our cell phone access got more and more spotty and finally disappeared altogether, coinciding with our arrival at The Kamp.

(Side note:  According to local lore, all “hunting lodges” or “cabins” in Michigan are called Camps.  I’m not sure why this is and, apparently, no one else really knows for sure, either.  When I inquired, there were a lot of theories that were spoken, but no hard facts were presented.  From the moment the name of it was mentioned, I changed the spelling in my mind to The Kamp, because “camping” to me is something you do in a tent.  So, camping in a building is more glamorous and, thus, should be dressed up with a K from the very start.)

We pulled into the parking area of The Kamp and a cloud of mosquitoes greeted us with great anticipation.  Like true vampires, they had somehow caught our human scent long before we even knew they were in existence.  As we sat there captives in our car, 25′ from the Kamp’s front door, mosquitoes pinging our windows, our cell phone access gone, like a super hero, Tony bravely stepped out into the cloud of vampires to run into The Kamp to open it up for our occupancy.  Four mosquitoes slipped in before he could shut the car door, and I grabbed that cheery orange canister of bug repellent and frantically sprayed them.  Now, mind you, bug repellent doesn’t work quite like an insecticide would, killing bugs on the spot. No, no, it doesn’t, and I knew that.  But I sprayed enough of it that they drowned in it, and from then until the end of time, the seats of the car should have been invisible to them.   I had unbuckled William in preparation for going into The Kamp, and as he climbed into my lap, he bravely declared, “It’s OK, mommy, I’m the Bug Killer.”  I stared at him in horror, for he was an innocent.  An untested.  He had never seen a mosquito in-person before this day.

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My purse slung over my shoulder, my son’s hand in mine, and that cheery orange canister in my other hand, I opened my car door and yelled, “RUN, SON, RUN!”  And I blasted that bug spray in a cloud all around us like it was a massive weapon of destruction with a tiny nozzle, while we ran for our lives to the door of the building.  In retrospect, I suppose I could have just casually sprayed us before we got in the car after we visited the grocery store and that likely would have been sufficient.  Or, you know, even as we exited the car at The Kamp, but that sort of rational, calm thought did not seem to make sense in the face of desperate, hungry, ravenous, starving mosquitoes who all had big eyes, sharp teeth, a kamikaze attitude, and hadn’t eaten all winter long, and here we were, served up in beautiful Volkwagen Jetta platter, just in time for dinner!

–To Be Continued–

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Filed under I have Family, I Left Home for Awhile, Our Kid is Cute

Letter to our 4 1/2 Year Old

Dear William,

On June 8th, 2016, you turned 4 1/2 years old (or 54 months old).  You are 46″ tall and weigh 49 pounds 8 ounces.  Despite it seeming as if you are getting lanky and your father thinking you were getting stretch marks on your sides (you’re not), you are wearing the same clothing and shoe sizes as last month.

Things we did this month…

  • Finished Ms. Robin’s class with a great performance (Road to Rio).  We are now taking a break.
  • Completed Tot 2 Ice Skating Class; taking a break.
  • Finished the 1st season of Cubbie Bears in Awanas; starts again in September.
  • Took a vacation and went to Michigan for a family wedding.

Monthly interview of favorite things…
Color: I have no favorite color… uh, white and red.
Song: It’s about… Who’s Dory
Movie: Finding Nemo
Food: Chicken and chocolate
Snack: Melon balls
Dessert: Cake! Uhh, fudge, actually.  And cake.
Fruit: Grapes … and plums.  And peaches.
Vegetable: Broccoli
Class: Basketball
Teacher: My basketball teacher.
Store: Where they have lots of restaurants and a lot of stores in a building.  A mall.  All of the stores.
Restaurant: All of the restaurants.
Vacation spot: Michigan and Big Bear
Toy: Garbage truck and Big Buzz and Woody, and Big Jessie and Bullseye and Big Rex.  But I couldn’t find him today.
Favorite Park: All of them.
Theme Park: All of them.
Best friend: That girl I found at the park today.
Favorite Story: The Sugar Plum Tree
Favorite thing to do with Mommy: Go to Disneyland
Favorite thing to do with Daddy: Go to church
Favorite thing to do with Grandma: Eat ice Cream
Favorite Shirt: All of the travel shirts.
What do you think about being 4 1/2?  It’s good.  But that girl I met at the park today was 4 1/2, too.

How did you sleep this month…
Sleeping has been great this past month.  Even with the travel we did to a different time zone (East Coast), you slept great.  I was so surprised when you slept until 9 AM at the hotel in Michigan our first night there.  You had trouble falling asleep one of the nights when we were traveling, but that had more to do with the room, than you.  You’ve had a couple nights where you had trouble turning your brain off since we got back, but eventually you did fall asleep on your own (I had to go take care of chores.)

Things I want to remember about this month… 
You greet me when I come home from work with an exuberant, “Hi Sweetheart!”

We were using anything and everything as leverage for you to do well in your aerial show.  We had a credit for 3 admissions at an indoor playground and I came home from work to you telling me this:  “Grandma says she’ll take me to We Play Loud if I do good in my show!”

Our neighbor has a little dog that she carries in a sling when she is outside.  The tiny dog is really old and her youngest son just learned to ride his bicycle without training wheels, so she was on her bike with her dog in the sling and her two boys were riding around her.  You were on your “balance” bike and the only thing you were interested in doing is petting her little dog.  She kept edging away, trying to get her boys back home, but she adores you and kept talking to you and you kept petting her dog.  It was so funny to watch you reel her back to you so you could keep petting her little dog in the sling.

You have all these plastic bugs that your Godmother gave you when you were about a year old.  You love them and role play with them now.  You were putting them in the birdhouses that we decorated a couple years ago, and I don’t allow you to play with mine because I have tiny, breakable furniture in it.  So you told it, “I’m sorry, Cricket, but you have to sleep somewhere else tonight.”

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Monday mornings are never easy for you, or for us, as adults, either.  Some mornings you sleep through our morning snuggles, or fall back asleep.  One Monday morning, your Grandma D. reported this to me via text:  “Mommy?”  “Daddy?”  “Oh.  It’s YOU again!”  — these were William’s words as he woke up a few minutes ago.  I thought it was hilarious!

You like to watch the Signing Time videos, and sometimes they’re kind of like a game show spelling bee.  One night, you told me, “Lollipop, it’s like you’re holding the stick and sucking on it. Lollipop.”

One of our friends has a new baby, so I asked you what you would tell a mommy who wants to nurse her new baby.  You responded, “I think she should let her baby suck on the nah-nahs whenever the baby wants to. It’s very good.”

Your father and I always try to get as many snuggles from you as we can.  You kind of skimped your father on the hugs one day and your daddy asked, “When will I get more snuggles?”  You replied, “When I get dessert.”

One night you asked us, “Where are we going to eat tonight?  Rubios?”  Then you asked with a huge grin on your face, “Is it Taco Wednesday?”

We took you to the doctor to have your ears checked, because you were complaining of ear pain.  Afterward, outside, you spotted a sea gull who was hanging out near the fountains.  You started to chase him, and I admonished you not to chase the bird.  You said, “I’m not chasing the bird.  I’m doing a fast dance.  See?”

You said to me, “Whoa, Whoa!!”  I said, “What’s that?”  You said, “It’s like a Spanish word.”  haha

Driving down the freeway to a little petting zoo, your father said, “We’re almost to our exit on the freeway, and then what are we gonna do?”  You replied, “Go to the zoo and poo!”

Just this last week, you told me, “I’m tired of summer. I just want it to be Halloween now.”

After our visit to Mackinac Island, you were playing with my five legged camera pod.  You twisted and bent it all around and then told me, pointing at it, “This is the island, here’s the fort and the flag… We’re right here right now.”

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Reading the menu on the airplane, you pointed at the picture and said, “I want the chocolate dinner.”

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We went to breakfast one Sunday morning, and the wait for our food was interminable.  You were looking for something to play with and you asked for some cars.  We didn’t have any, and so you told your father, “Daddy, if you don’t go home right now and get my cars, I’m going to be a bad boy.”  That threat didn’t work out for you at all, of course, but nonetheless, we found it to be quite funny.

Out of the blue last week, you told me, “I miss Awanas, mommy.  I want to do Awanas again.”

There have been a couple of times this past month when I’ve purchased various items with the intention of doling them out as a treat, or I purchased some figurines on sale for the upcoming movie, Secret Lives of Pets, and I left them on my lounge couch in a plastic bag.  The curiousness that is you has asked, “What are these?”  I smile at you without answering and you ask, “Are they surprises?”  When I answer in the affirmative, you happily walk away, without investigating further.  This is an amazing thing to me, because it’s not something that I’ve really thought about all that much, but you are accepting of the fact that it’s a surprise, therefore you WILL get it sometime in the future, and you’re willing to wait until that time.

Another interesting example of this is that one weekend we went to Walmart with you on a Saturday, all three of us. You requested to visit the toy department and we reminded you of our rule that we take care of our shopping list first.  Well, we didn’t end up visiting the toy department that day, because we ended up on the other side of the store and we all forgot about ti.  We went again on Sunday, just you and me, and you again made your request about seeing the toys, and I reminded you that we had to take care of our list first.  Again, both of us forgot about it.  On Monday, your Grandma D. took you to Walmart and you requested to go to see toys, she took you to visit the aisles and you had the best of times… and you even thanked her for taking you to the aisles.  I told her what had happened over the weekend and she was so surprised and so pleased that she had been able to make the time to take you.   She shared that she had even asked you to go get her a shopping cart to help her out (watching you, of course, the whole while) and that your reward for doing that would be a visit to the toys.   Of course, when your father asked you about your day, you told us that you hadn’t gone to Walmart.  Furthering the cliche of what happens with Grandma stays with Grandma.  haha

And, finally, it is noteworthy to me that life lessons start this young, as evidenced by this text my mom sent me one day about a couple of older boys who were being generally unkind to you (they took your shoes away from where you had left them to climb a structure, and then laughed at you when you got upset) and were just looking for ways to get into trouble… “William learned about trouble makers today…two little boys at the park. I tried to teach him about getting in with the wrong crowd as i took his hand & we left for a different park.”

There are times when all I can see in this world is the evil, the scary, the terrifying and the frightening.  It can all be overwhelming sometimes as an adult.  I’ve often made the joke to your father that the reason I don’t watch TV or the news is because I’m always left with the sense that it’s a miracle there are even people alive any more, and the news seems to revel in reporting the most horrific ways a person can lose their life.  Horrifying stories about shootings, acts of terrorism and, even, devastation that crawls and wiggles its way into a family vacation in the form of an alligator in Disneyland, leaving a family bereft of a child that is younger than you.  My reaction to these stories is to hold you longer when I put you to bed, to feel your heart beating more often, to seek to watch you laugh more often, I bend down to hear your words more frequently, I hold onto the miracle of the time that we have with you and each other as a family.  I pray more passionately to God for your protection, for our protection, and that He will guide the path of our lives.  I know that no matter the safety precautions in place that the very act of living, of having a heart beating inside a human body, is a miracle.

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Love, Mommy

More pictures from this month can be found here:  LINK

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Filed under Letter to William, Our Kid is Cute

Insurance Policies

It’s that time again, where Mercury decides to hike rates when policies come up for renewal.  So, here I am shopping again.  I did this three years ago and was dismally disappointed to stay with Mercury because, even though they’d gone higher, everyone else was higher still.

Last week I started shopping for insurance. I had predetermined that if AAA could beat Mercury’s price that I would go with them, so I submitted a quote request on their website.  I would have thought that would kind of make me a “dream lead.”

Within 2 minutes, I had a call from an agent out of an office 25 minutes north of me. I called him back a couple hours later, provided him with the coverages that I had with Mercury and asked him for an apples-to-apples quote as a starting point, and told him that after I had that, I wanted to go through my limits and tweak things.

He did not give me an apples-to-apples quote, he gave me what he thought I should have as coverage, or maybe what he thought would make the most of an impact. So, when he called me back, I again told him what I wanted and made him play with the amounts until I had something close. But he STILL didn’t give me an apples-to-apples comparison.

So I emailed him the Excel spreadsheet I was using to break things down for myself. He expressed shock that I had created such a monster, but I hoped that he would see that I was serious when I told him what I wanted.

Then after going back and forth a few more times, this week he called me and I still had questions that weren’t being set to rest, and he started in on me with a close. I busted him on it. I said, “Look at you, trying to close me!” He said, “No, no, I’m not trying to close you, we’re not commission, I have no reason to close you. But, come on, either you’re going to do this or not” Surprised, because I’d already told him what I wanted, I said, “Here’s the deal, I’ve already decided I’m going with AAA, but I still have unresolved questions on the quotes you’re giving me.” He said, “How about I send you over the contract and you give me your credit card and I’ll collect payment.”

He emailed me the contract and, somehow, the cost of the home premium didn’t match up with any of the quotes he had given me. Also, he had William’s name wrong on it, he had both of the adults listed as “homemakers” and a couple other minor details were wrong. Nothing that would impact the numbers, but insurance policies aren’t “just” about numbers.  So, I called him and told him to revise it and requested he explain the discrepancy in the amount. He said,”Oh, those details don’t matter… and, remember? We changed the content overage amount, that’s why the premium is different.” I did not remember that, because I had told him to take the contents coverage down, so how on earth could the premium go up?

So, today I took my binder with all my research, my Mercury policies, the 5 different quotes that the agent had sent me (because apparently my request for apples-to-apples was too complicated for him), and walked into the AAA office that’s 1.5 miles away from my office and sat down with a broker there. We went through it all, line by line. He resolved my questions, found why the premium was higher on the home policy vs. the quotes (the other agent had erroneously increased a percentage in a drill down screen to 25%, when it should have been 10%), as Detailed Agent was going through it all, he corrected William’s name, and then nonchalantly changed it to all capital letters to match the other lettering… and, that right there? I slammed my fist down on his desk and said, “SOLD!”  Because that kind of attention to detail is the kind of guy I want handling my business.  He laughed at me and told me it would have bugged him if he hadn’t.  And when he said that, I figured that maybe we could even be friends!! ha

Even though I initially was there to only get clarification, after Detailed Agent found the discrepancy, he told me, “We’re commission based, so I can’t take this over, you would need to go back to Top Agent guy.” I said, “Well, now that you’ve found that discrepancy, plus all the other things, I want to switch to you.” I guess this isn’t normally something that happens, because Detailed Agent had to get clearance from his supervisor to proceed with it, and he could only proceed because I hadn’t actually signed anything.

Morals of the story:
Pay attention to details — this is important for both parties.
If you can’t close a deal, figure out what’s unresolved and address it.
Don’t be lazy when completing paperwork. Take the time to do it right. The boxes may not matter in the whole scheme of things, but it matters to me when reviewing it.
If someone asks for something specific, either deliver it or explain why you can’t — and don’t theorize or make something up.
In no case is it OK to presume that you know what’s better for me.

As a client, I’m looking at the details. If I find something wrong, I’m going to wonder what else might be wrong that I can’t see.  And I will investigate it until I find it.  Something tells me that Top Agent Guy is going to be pissed about this.

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Filed under I ♥ My Miata, I feel Irritated, I own a Home

Vacation: The Mitt (Part 4) — Journey to Boyne City

After our visit in Kalkaska, we loaded back up in our rental car and got back on the interstate.  We’re driving along and wouldn’t you know it?  We found that road painting truck again.  I was kind of surprised, because DON’T THESE PEOPLE HAVE A HOME SOMEWHERE?  Shouldn’t they be having the “What are we having for dinner?” conversation that unites couples everywhere with SOMEONE?

We lingered behind them for awhile, and then the person behind Tony roared past us and the truck with a great big gust of wind, and that was all we were waiting for.  A cue that passing them (when safe to do so, of course) was legal.  With that, Tony floored it and we were on our way.

I remember road trips with my mom and brother with great fondness.  It was the adventure we had together as a family that bonded us with mutual experiences which we would remember with love and alchemy for the rest of our lives.  We would stop and take pictures with interesting sites and pose with each other, an arm slung around each other’s shoulders, as proof that we had been there, here is what “there” looked like at that moment in time, and we loved each other, by golly.  See?  Evidence.  Look how happy we were together!
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OK, well, maybe that’s a bad example.  Let’s try again a couple years later when we were older and more mature …

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Uh… well. Huh.

Well, this road trip experience with Tony and William was quite similar.  Except now that I’m the adult I can eject myself the moment the car stops and close the door, leaving the madness contained inside strapped helplessly in the child’s car seat in the back!  It’s not always awesome to be a grown-up, but sometimes it has its perks!

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Because now I’ve got a kid in the back seat whose toes seem to suddenly be  7 inches long and they reach into the front seat and poke us in the armpits.  This kid, who when he climbed in the car, the first thing he said was, “I don’t like this car. It doesn’t have a snapper.”  Confused, we asked what a “snapper” was.  He didn’t expound at all, instead he exclaimed with great delight, “Oh!  Here’s the snapper!”  And he reached with his extended toes and started snapping the cigarette lighter cover repeatedly.  OH, OF COURSE.  THE SNAPPER.  YIPPEE!!  Then we have the “Are we here  yet?” question.  And, everything beyond that is just bonus.  Pure bonus.   For your viewing pleasure, a video with lots of bonus footage!!  Go ahead.  Watch it.  You know you want to.

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And I began to ask myself why I was being a hero.  Exactly what kind of bonding are we experiencing here?  The survival type of bonding?  A weird twist of the Stockholm Syndrome, except William is our captor?  And that’s when the internal negotiation begins with myself.  When the “I will never…” part of it becomes the “the trip is over two hours and we need to concentrate on where we’re going.  Yes, I know we stay on this interstate until it doesn’t exist anymore, but we need to concentrate, dammit!  Concentrate on the silence.”  And I hand the child his iPod which has short movies on it.  And breathe a sigh of relief at the instant silence in the car.  Suddenly, the trees are greener, the grass is prettier, the road ahead melts back into a possible harbinger of good things instead of a never ending connect-the-dot maze leading straight to hell.  Suddenly, I can enjoy the journey instead of wondering where the hell our destination is.

And then your child hands his iPod back to you and tells you he’s done.  He doesn’t want to watch a movie. He doesn’t want to play games.  And you hear, “Dun dun dunnnnnn” in your head and momentarily give consideration to actually picking up a hitchhiker, because a real live person would certainly entertain the child, wouldn’t they?.

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There might have been a slight bit of panic in my mind when Tony handed me his cell phone and said, “Here, call my dad and find out where they are.”  I reply, “What do you mean, find out where they are?”  And then I call his dad and find out that they are not at his aunt’s farm, that no one is at his aunt’s farm, his aunt’s farm where we are supposed to go and sleep is empty of people, and all of the people who might welcome us to his aunt’s farm, those people are all over at  Uncle Al’s house having dinner.  A nice, grown-up, leisurely dinner at 8:45 PM with elderly people, whose children have left home and live on their own as successful contributing members of society.  So they have no comprehension of my anxiety, which was rapidly escalating because of the REASON of that anxiety, a delirious 4 year old in the back who needs to go to bed.  And Tony’s all, “Calm down, it will be OK!”  And I hand the phone back to Tony, while his dad is explaining something about how to stop by Uncle Al’s house, and said something along the lines of, “I can’t deal with this…”

We found Tony’s aunt’s farm, laid out just as he remembered it, stretched out along a hillside.  A barn standing across a single lane dirt track, a tool shed of sorts beyond that, a meadow beyond the barn, all framed like a perfect picture by tall trees.  Grateful to be there and grateful that out in the sticks of Michigan, people don’t always lock their doors.  Shocked that it was still light outside at 9 PM and grateful that I had packed black out drapes, we hustled inside and set up for William’s bath and bedtime, and prayed for a good night’s sleep.

The road trip wasn’t done yet.   The next day we had TWO MORE HOURS, maybe longer, depending on how fast Tony’s dad planned on driving, and how many stops he might be thinking of making.

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Filed under Best Husband, I have Family, I Left Home for Awhile, Our Kid is Cute

Vacation: The Mitt (Part 3) — Kalkaska, MI

When I was in the planning stages of our trip, and after I had initially contacted my two “online” friends, I finally took the time to work out the timing of our drive to Boyne City from Holland, and I started to feel a little anxious about it, because I knew William would be operating in delirium mode. For, you see, William no longer sleeps in the car. But I really wanted to somehow meet up with my second online friend, Sarah, and her son, Kellen. We would be this.close to each other. It seemed a shame to drive right on by… and, the irony of following that busy road painting truck once we were on the road, well, I was glad we had worked it out that we would be taking a break!

Fortunately, Sarah apparently felt we were worth meeting, and she spent several hours researching parks along our route, asking her co-workers for input and ultimately finding an amazing park that none of our cumulative Google searches had revealed. Chalker Park had all sorts of bridges, swings, rooms, stairways, alcoves, lookouts, cut outs on paintings for cute pictures, rope ladders — ideal for kids (and adults!!) who had been cooped up in a car for way too long. There was even a huge painted dragon on one of the tall walls of the structure. Then, on top of all that, she hurried through her after work routine and drove out of her way to meet us there.

2016-05-26 Chalker Park Kalkaska

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When Sarah texted me that she had arrived at the park, I was busy watching the line of cars behind the road painting truck! When we finally arrived, I wasn’t confident that we had actually found the right place. I was expecting a slide and a patch of grass like we have here in California. This park was so huge that I couldn’t see anyone anywhere in the structure. There were a couple kids on the swings nearest the parking lot, and their moms were ambling around nearby, but none of them looked like Sarah or her son. I sent a desperate text to Sarah, “Where are you???” and we started to leave the parking lot thinking there must be a smaller park down the road a bit, but William freaked out thinking we were leaving (instead of investigating), and after having been cooped up in the car for a couple of hours, he wanted OUT. So we pulled back into the parking lot and unloaded ourselves. Once in the structure, Sarah magically appeared from the yonder side and William was intent on running and climbing all over the place and seeing every bit of it that he could see. He did not want to “sit” in a swing or sit anywhere. He started an imaginary “Alice In Wonderland” scenario and wanted everyone to follow him while he chased an imaginary white rabbit to an imaginary tea party. I’m not certain what it was about this park that triggered that, maybe the maze-like hugeness of it? But it was quickly apparent to me that he wasn’t open to any other kind of game.

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Kellen, Sarah’s son, was intent on swinging on the swings and exploring the park in a more calm and solitary manner, and suggestions to either of the boys to play together, or even in the same area of the playground, were not being met with any sort of interest. To apply a cliche to it, it was a bit like herding cats in a roomful of rocking chairs. So, for awhile, Sarah and I were kind of like two pendulums, going opposite ways as we followed our boys, and then passing each other as we briefly chatted and then going the other way.

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It was interesting to see these two boys together. They are very different personalities, and I would hazard a guess to say they are actually opposite personality types. William is an extrovert, as well as an external processor (meaning that he processes what he’s thinking or feeling verbally) and, while he’s learning what’s OK to say or not say, he doesn’t always say things with intuition, tact or gentleness. Kellen tends toward being an introvert (says one introvert about another), but he also has Childhood Apraxia of Speech. As a result, he leans toward doing his processing internally, articulating his needs only. After a bit of time at the playground, it seemed that Kellen started to feel overwhelmed, so he retreated to be alone, and began requesting an item that made him feel safe. Yet, after a bit, I noticed that he began to share his “safe” item with William, but wanted to maintain ownership — which, of course, makes total sense. I’m fairly sure that the sharing wasn’t being done on Kellen’s terms and, as a result, both William and Kellen were expressing frustration with each other and Sarah and I were doing our best to help them navigate through it.

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It had been about 30-45 minutes of running around at the playground, and so it was timely that Sarah happened to glance over her shoulder (or maybe she was looking for an escape route???) and spotted a place that advertised pizza. Ahhh, pizza, the great unifier! Alas, we had solidarity! Because who doesn’t love pizza? Plus, CONTAINMENT! We were all apparently a bit more “hangry” than we initially thought. We demolished a large pepperoni pizza (pizza!!), breadsticks and salad, and we managed to fit in some adult chat time while the boys finally settled into a bit of a groove with each other.

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I was so impressed to finally meet Sarah and Kellen. It was a gift to watch mother & son together, and Kellen has a bond with his mommy that is beautiful to behold. Not surprising, because Sarah has one of the most beautiful hearts that I’ve ever seen in a person, and any person who has the opportunity to learn from her is blessed, indeed. I suppose I’m most astounded by the fact that, not only does Sarah face navigating the sea of being a voice and advocate for her son who is working hard to find his own voice through this disorder that frustrates the heck out of him, but she chooses to do so with understanding, kindness and by giving grace and forgiveness to those they encounter as they move along on their journey. I intuitively knew ahead of time that our visit might present some challenges with our boys, but I left feeling humbled and grateful for her patience, kindness & willingness to allow herself (and Kellen) to be vulnerable to us by allowing us some learning moments.

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When it was time for us to get on the road again, we took some pictures and gave each other several hugs before we left each other. Once again, I felt as if I were leaving behind another friend as we traveled on.

I know Sarah is working to bring awareness to Childhood Apraxia of Speech, and so I’m linking her blog here, as well as a recent interview she did with Courtney Curtis of her local news station. For more information about childhood Apraxia, see Apraxia Kids.

— To Be Continued —

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Vacation: The Mitt — Holland (Part 2)

Prior to our trip, I had reached out to a couple of friends who live in Michigan. After having “known” them online for over 4 years, I was pretty excited to possibly meet them in-person.

I wasn’t certain what we were going to do with each other. Like, an activity to be a distraction in case we totally hated each other. First time in-person meetings can be a little scary, you know? Tony doesn’t bother with that kind of social nonsense, he just assumes everyone loves him. Which is great, because then I can go along with that mindset and pretend like I felt that way all along, all confident and happy and stuff (not neurotic and worried, nope).

So, after we landed and we were following the directions my friend (we’ll call her Amanda) sent me via text to avoid the road construction as we headed toward our hotel in Holland (but, you know, could TOTALLY have been directions to the nearest funny farm), and I said to Tony, “I sure would like to get a swim in.” Tony casually suggested we invite my friend, Amanda, and her family over for a get-together at the hotel pool. It was the perfect solution. I mean, who doesn’t love a pool party? And, if you hate each other, just dunk ’em, mess up their hair and post it to social media. If you love ’em, have your 4 year old splash ’em, mess up their hair and post it to social media. Awesome!

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As it turned out, the hotel pool was pretty nice! They even had a private yard outside the pool that has trees and green grass and a side of BBQs, picnic tables and a couple hammocks to go with it. (Look! A silly selfie I found on my phone that Tony took of himself in one of the hammocks!) And, even better, the impromptu pool party invitation was well-received by my friend, Amanda (and her two kids) and they came over to the hotel to play! Also, my friend’s 4 year old son is going to be the next Thomas Edison, so he was enthralled by the light in the pool and spa which changed colors. I pretended that every time it changed color it either zapped or tickled me, but he wasn’t buying my silliness.
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I guess our first date went well, because my (now) in-person friend invited us to meet her husband at Windmill Island the following afternoon for a picnic. We were so excited! The first thing we did after Amanda left us was to locate the local WALMART and shop for picnic stuff! Plus, if you know anything about us, you know we love to explore WALMARTs in any new location.

Our visit to Windmill Island was just as fun as our pool party was the evening prior. We got to hear their organ play (the 4 year old people in our party covered their ears because LOUD), we toured their windmill (they even started the windmill because there was a breeze), we had our picnic, played on their playground and the kids rode the carousel. And then, when our picnic was done, we hugged several times (because once wasn’t enough) and I silently cried inside that we had to leave each other.
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After Amanda and her family left, we hurried to our car (after visiting the gift shop, using the bathroom, taking pictures, tracking down wayward family members who went in the movie room, herded everyone out, took more pictures) and got on the road. We passed 8 mile road, 9 mile road, 13 mile road, 18 mile road, 19 mile road… seriously, Michigan? What is with the roads that are in increments of miles? I kind of wanted to buy a 100 mile road and name it Million Mile Road, just to confuse everyone. That would be funny, right?

As we drove past all the mile roads, we somehow ended up behind a road painting truck that everyone was scared to pass, or maybe it is illegal to pass them? Or maybe they were afraid of somehow injuring the road worker and having to pony up to pay the $15,000 fine for seven years that the road signs threaten. I’m not sure, but everyone stayed behind that truck and … well, if I were the painter on the truck, I’d kind of be annoyed at that and would probably get performance anxiety and then all my lines would be crooked and I’d start painting in Morse code or something. The whole thing kind of made me laugh because “TRAFFIC JAM” in Michigan, people!

We did finally make it to our next stop on our road trip, albeit, a few minutes later than anticipated. Because TRAFFIC!

–To Be Continued —

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Vacation: Tip of the Mitt (Part 1)

Last December, as a combo-Christmas card, we received a save-the-date request to attend Tony’s cousin’s wedding in Michigan on 5/28. This particular cousin is the 5th of 6 siblings, and we attended her older sister’s wedding a few years ago. There is one more sibling who plans to get married next year, probably in August, he says. We’re already tentatively planning to attend that wedding, too, because we had such a great time this trip.

This family is one of those that leaves you with a warm feeling in your heart when you encounter them. No muss, no fuss, kind, genuinely caring and interested in you, creative, builders, and unstoppable. I cannot say enough good things about these people. They face tragedy, loss, snowmobile accidents, therapy, chemotherapy with an attitude that seems to say quietly, “this is part of our life now and we will look for the blessings in it.” All of that to share just how much I debated with myself about affording the airfare to go back, but the scale in my mind was tipped to going because I very much wanted to see how their projects had progressed since our last visit, plus… as strong as a person is inside, life is still tenuous and fragile. I wanted to grasp seeing these amazing people again, because we never know what our future holds.

So, we embarked on our ticket purchase, our vacation requests, our planning. We even acquired our passports in case we decided to do a day trip up into Canada. We packed and strategized, I kicked myself for purchasing a ticket for a flight time of 6:45 in the morning with a 4 year old in tow.

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It was totally a non-issue, though, as it turned out. We took him out of his bed and in his Darth Vader jammies to the airport. A friend had given him a carry-on bag with Darth Vader’s face, so that was quite a funny thing to see. The kindness of strangers — people in line in front and behind me, helped move our luggage forward (Tony had gone to park the car before check-in). Gratefully, William did really well and was SO EXCITED to be going on adventure that he engaged everyone around us (instead of yelling in my ear), there was no way he was going back to sleep. How quickly time moves, for I remember just a couple years ago, I could nurse him on the plane and he would fall asleep because of the drone of the engine and the magic that is breastmilk (aka “nah-nahs”), but even that didn’t work this time. William was WIDE AWAKE. Although I did think about offering that poor child in the back of the plane some nah-nahs because every time the elevation changed a millimeter, that poor baby screamed bloody murder. I assumed he was teething — around 18 months, snotty nose, watery eyes — I really wanted to cry for him and for his poor mommy.

Our flight was delayed out of Orange County, and there were worried passengers throughout the plane. The flight attendant walked the aisle 3 or 4 times checking connection times. She had me worried, because our connection was short at 30 minutes and we had to go from C terminal (where we would land) to F terminal (for our connection). I finally realized that half the plane was going on the same connecting flight as us, and when I asked if any of the first class passengers were, she laughed at me. I shrugged and smiled. I’ve seen planes held and the Mercedes on the tarmac drive one of my bosses who has status with United Air, so it was a totally reasonable question. Fortunately, we made it with time to spare and our connecting flight actually filled up completely and we departed 4 minutes early.

 

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I made sure to crowd Tony in his seat and violate his  personal space by leaning on him every chance I got.  He did the same to me.  We were mimicking a girl across the aisle who had the window seat and the guy in the middle seat had fallen asleep and kept leaning on her, and with a look of distaste on her face, she would push him back to his seat.

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We arrived in Grand Rapids, MI, without further ado, and as we landed, William declared, “I love Michigan. It’s so beautiful.  Look at all the grass and the trees!  It’s so GREEN!”  We decided to stay in Holland for our first night and see a bit of the town the next morning, before heading up to the tip the next day.

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–To Be Continued —

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