Category Archives: I Left Home for Awhile

Letter to our 5 year 6 month old

Dear William,

On June, 8, 2017, you turned 5 1/2 years old.

Personality:

These days you seem to be a very sensitive and sentimental person.  You hold on to each moment with a desperation akin to the way my grandma used to save the last bite of food on her plate at dinner.  She had been through WWII, but I’m not sure what your excuse is?  Maybe that you’re 5.

One morning when you had awakened, you told me you’d had the best dream about a Monstro whale and that he was a really nice whale, and he liked you.  And you really liked him.  And  you were so sad that he had left you.  You started sobbing.  I told you that sometimes a goodbye isn’t forever, sometimes it’s just “goodbye for now.”  This gave you hope.  I also told you that sometimes you can see your dreams again the next night.  I know sometimes i have the same dream.  You took hope from that… but then there more tears the next morning, because you didn’t see your whale again.  At that point, I suggested that you draw your whale so I could meet him, too.  You were thrilled with this suggestion!  You sat down the next day and drew out the story, like it was a comic strip story… the initial meeting and how happy you were, the playing time with each other, and the the sadness when you left each other.  Now, whenever we go somewhere, if you see a picture of a whale, you claim it as “your whale.”

Dentist:
I finally found a dentist who was willing to do the work that was needed on your molars without general anesthesia. You met with her for a cleaning and you both just fell in love with each other. It was an instant connection. The first visit was cleaning and x-rays, the 2nd visit, she tackled the toughest two teeth (2 hours in the chair), the next visit she did two more difficult teeth (1 1/2 hours in the chair — you decided to take a nap), the 4th visit she did 2 easier teeth (you told her you were going to take a nap… haha) and the last visit she did just a couple fillings… all on your molars. I am relieved and thrilled that we were able to find someone who is so skilled with teeth, such a good fit for your personality. She is now my dentist, too, and when I leave her office, I feel like I’ve just visited a really good friend. We are so blessed!

Travel and Activities:
We traveled to see my Aunt Marjorie in April, and when we got there you curled up in the hallway under all the family photographs and started crying, “I want Uncle Jim back.”  I know you were grieving his loss, and I know that it wasn’t really real to you that he was gone until we got there and you actually realized that he wasn’t there, but … damn… could your timing have been just a bit better?

We’ve visited Legoland and Sea World several times each in the last six months.  One of the times (for each park) we brought your Grandma D.  You held her hand and acted as her personal tour guide around each park, sharing all the things that meant so much to you.  Your Grandma D. is a true treasure, she just let you lead her around and soul-feasted on your joy in sharing with her.

In April we enrolled you in beginner’s basketball. My boss at work was coaching her son’s basketball team and she said she wanted you to remember her always as the first person who contributed to your fame, so she sponsored you.  We have tried… gymnastics, dance (ballet and tap), swim class (although not as a sport, just to learn), ice skating, aerial arts … and it appears as if basketball is your love.  You LOVE basketball.  You were excited the first night, even though it was orientation, and wanted your ball despite the fact that your ball was flat. You didn’t care. You wondered where your coach was… you’were ready!  As far as I can tell, the stories I’ve heard, you are a willing and eager participant in learning to play the game.

The end of May found us doing a road trip to the Monterey peninsula, with an overnight stop on the way to visit a long-time friend of mine in Ojai, who graciously offered their home to us so our drive wouldn’t so long and sent us on our way the next morning with a delicious breakfast under our belts.  We stopped next at Hearst Castle on the way to Monterey. We also, later, drove up further north to see the Redwoods. We were thrilled to be able to meet our friends, Cat and Jake, and their daughter, Scarlett at both Hearst Castle and the Roaring Railroad camp near the redwoods. It was such a unique trip and you loved having Scarlett there to play with. We also met up with my best friend from high school, Bridgett, who also happens to be a cartoonist and she drew you an octopus in your sketch pad, and her friend, Judy, looked for shells with you. They also brought us a yummy lunch from a local deli. It was just a delight to spend the afternoon on the beach with them! Pictures from our trip can be found here: LINK

Education:
You finished out your Awana season in the Cubbie group, and next year you’ll move up to the Sparks group. You were excited about that and then the next day you randomly realized that by becoming a Spark, you would no longer be a Cubbie.  Child, I think you outgrew being a Cubbie about halfway through the season, as you towered over the other kids in your class.  You are going to thrive in the next level; you are SO ready.

Your teacher at the co-op preschool group you’ve been attending left the group.  She was driving a long distance to teach our little group and traffic in California is increasing rapidly every day.  It just got to be too much for her.  With her leaving, the other child who was your age also left the group, and the remaining children are a year younger than you.  I think the socialization has been good for you, but I’m evaluating whether it’s time to move on.

In the last few months, you went from shunning coloring other people’s pictures to coloring them with vivid colors and you focus really hard to stay in the lines. You prefer to paint things over coloring them. You still prefer to draw your own pictures. To that end, I found the Draw. Write. Now. books that show you step-by-step how to draw things, starting simple and gradually getting more complex.  I will find you with those books pulled out, a piece of paper folded into fours, and you diligently working on drawing something.

One evening after finishing watching the Moana movie, I had instructed you to go upstairs for your bath.  You disappeared and I followed you upstairs… except when I got up there, you weren’t there.  You had tucked yourself into the corner in the living room behind your desk with construction paper and markers, and you were drawing freehand the kakamora (coconut pirates) that you were seeing on the screen like it was the most important thing you’d done you’re entire life.  When you were done, you instructed me to send them to Disney so they would use them in the next Moana movie.

You’ve also had a turn of attitude in the last few months about workbook sheets, you are now seeing the value in them. You still prefer to work on a chalkboard or a slate instead of paper. If we do that, you will sit there with me for 2 or 3 hours and do the work.  We completed one workbook in a weekend that way, you just wanted to keep doing more and more pages. Even in just the last couple of weeks, I’ve seen that you fix your “pencil grip” yourself without a reminder from me. It is so thrilling for me to see each step of progress that you’re making!

You love, love, love to be read to, especially The Magic Tree House books.  You love good story lines that involve adventures,  journeys or mysteries.  Because of that love, I somehow stumbled onto the Five in A Row curriculum for learning.  We have had the BEST time working through those books and we love the flexibility of it to explore every topic and subject we can think of while reading through the recommended classic literature. You are working hard to learn to read and write, sounding out letters, learning how to shape your letters. One day you sounded out Happy Birthday all by yourself, and wrote it down… backwards. That’s OK, if I remember right, Leonardo da Vinci wrote things backwards, too. ha

As you’ve grown and changed in the last few months, I find that you are more analytical and are sometimes a step ahead of me in your mental processing skills. Yet, there are still gaps that I’m seeing as far as the end result of your decisions. I find that I’m working harder these days to evaluate how the things I teach you will impact you as an adult, and find myself pausing more as I respond to you, while I try to give you coping and problem solving skills that will serve you well throughout the next few years. I see everything in that perspective these days because I’m realizing that some of the methods that have been used by the people who taught me were designed to “shut down” the process of learning instead of “working through” the problem to a solution. I see now, in parenting you, how I have “learned” responses that result in panic and anxiety, because of the “shut down” method I was taught as a child resulted in a fear response instead of a “solving” response.

Our sweet boy… I treasure my time with you. You are equal parts silly, funny, sweet and mischievous. You are always on the move, experimenting, and yet you go completely still if I’m reading to you. I love our snuggle time and I love our active time. Time spent with you and your father are the best times of my day.


Love you forever,

Mommy

Pictures from the last few months can be found here:
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Filed under Best Husband, I did something Special, I have Friends, I Left Home for Awhile, I Stimulate the Economy, Letter to William, Our Kid is Cute, Travel and Adventures

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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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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More About Last Month’s Vacation.

In a previous post, I shared one of the funny moments that happened late in our vacation while it was still fresh in my mind. I also shared some tidbits of things we did while on vacation in William’s monthly post. I wanted to share an overview of all the things we did.

Our airline experiences this time were much better and on par with what I expect from Southwest Airlines. We managed to rack up $400 a person in complimentary vouchers from Southwest for the shoddy way they treated us last October, and those vouchers mostly funded our trip to San Francisco the end of May and our trip back to Nebraska. Sadly, since they did so well, that is the end of our free ride. Thank you, Southwest Airlines!
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We stayed with my dear Aunt Marjorie (paternal side) for a few days while we visited the Omaha Zoo and Lauritzen Gardens again. We had visited those places last October, but our gardens visit got cut short due to a fast moving rainstorm. They have a model train garden that is quite amazing to watch, it’s so detailed! So we visited that again, and also walked up to see the two real-size, huge, famous engines they have on display.
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We were well pleased with our visit to the zoo last time, except they had ended the season of camel rides and their train wasn’t running the day we went. This trip it was overwhelmingly hot and humid. While the weather wasn’t necessarily a surprise, it was challenging for me (us?) because we’re used to California’s weather. Sadly, I wilted quicker than I expected in the heat. While at the zoo, We managed to meet up with some friends, a lady I know from an online Facebook group (and her family). Fortunately, they were willing companions for our agenda and didn’t protest when we suggested going and getting lunch. She had her two boys with her, the older of them shares a birthday with William. William LOVED meeting him and I loved hanging out with her. Tony pretty much gets along with anyone, and her husband was great to converse with. So, we kind of went to get some lunch and then just never stood back up again until it was time to leave.
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The timing of our trip was stipulated by a family gathering that happens annually the last Sunday of July in Albion, Nebraska. So, we did a road trip from Omaha to the middle of Nebraska, a two hour drive made longer by construction and ill-timed traffic lights on a timer in the middle of nowhere.
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My uncle (maternal side) graciously hosted us in their basement, which was blissfully cool and mostly comfortable. They are gracious hosts and very accommodating to quirky travelers. I highly recommend them. I just love staying with them on their farm. They have animals galore… cats and kittens(!!), dogs, horses and ponies, goats, guineafowl, cows, and… I’m sure I’m missing naming a species here. Also, my cousin has two girls and William just loved playing with them!
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The drive to the family gathering was mostly on dirt roads, which William thought was fabulous thanks to the off-roading scenes in the Cars movie. It was made more entertaining for me by texting with my cousin, who was in the vehicle in front of us. She acted like a tour guide with such things like, “This is corn fields on your right and soybeans to your left. Upcoming to your right is a house where no one famous lives.” She would switch the types of fields appropriately. As we drove, we passed a farm that had a bunch of old buildings on it. There were a couple of churches, a sheriff building, and other things. It looked like a little Western town. I later learned from my uncle that the owner of that farm had a vision of building a little town, but he passed away and now his family doesn’t know what to do with the buildings. I guess his vision isn’t theirs.
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At the family gathering, the couple who hosted it are 2nd or 3rd cousins, once removed, to me, I think. I’m not really sure. Anyway, they have grandkids around William’s age, and while the kids weren’t in attendance, their toys were. William and my cousin’s girls had a fabulous time playing down in their basement. They have a pool table down there and William loved putting the balls in the holes and then listening to them rumble to the end. Best kid entertainment ever! I enjoyed seeing one of my cousins who I haven’t seen since he was 6 or 7 years old, and meeting his wife. There were also other distant relatives there and it was just an enjoyable relaxing time. The food was set up buffet style, entrees on one side of the kitchen island and various “salads” (the notion of salad is very different in the Midwest vs. California) on the other side. Also, desserts.
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The days went quickly (surely a sign of a good vacation?) and before we knew it, we were headed back to Omaha to stay with my Aunt Marjorie one last night and catch our flight the next morning. Now… where do we go next?

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

A Story from Vacation

We just got back from traveling to Nebraska and Iowa yesterday. We stayed part of the time with my darling aunt (my dad’s sister) and my uncle (my mom’s brother), and their families, as well as visiting with other of my relatives during our stay. It was a wonderful time. Not so relaxing as one might think or expect, but I don’t expect that these days. In fact, I just laugh when people ask if it was relaxing. No. No, it wasn’t.

What I hope for is that my son will build the kind of memories I had as a child with my cousins with his (2nd) cousins and that my aunt will get to know my son, who is the only continuation of her (deceased) brother’s genetic line.

I’d like to share one of the stories from our trip that will have me laughing for years to come.

My cousin’s youngest daughter, Abby, just turned two years old. In fact we celebrated her 2nd birthday with them while we were there. She doesn’t say much, but has these unimaginably huge blue eyes that communicate (along with her pointing fingers, body language and her giggle) pretty much most anything she needs. Monday morning, the last morning we were out at the farm, I was busy with a project that my aunt asked me to do and Tony was carrying suitcases out to the car.

William was in the house, playing with the girls. They had been playing hide-and-seek, a game that has moments of loud and moments of quiet. So when things got quiet, I assumed they were in the hiding part of the game until I heard William yell out, “MOMMY! I NEED YOUR HELP!”

I got up quickly and asked him what he needed, mostly to track down where he was in the house by the sound of his voice. I found Abby standing one step into the bathroom, her eyes huge and her finger stuck in her mouth conveying all sorts of uncertainty and concern. William stood further into the bathroom, his underwear on backwards and pulled halfway up his legs.

“Did you go to the bathroom?” I asked curiously.

“Yes!” He replied, matter of factly. “I went poopy and I also peed. I didn’t flush it yet.”

“Oh.” I responded. I went over and checked the toilet and it was as he said. “Did you wipe?”

“No.” He answered, and exasperation entered his voice to a level only a 3 year old can muster, as he continued, “I told Abby to wipe my butt, but she didn’t do it. That’s why I need your help.”

I glanced over my shoulder at Abby, her finger still stuck in her mouth, her eyes huge as saucers and her diaper soggy, and visible below her little dress. I smiled a little and said, “Yeah, dude, I don’t think she knows how to wipe butts yet.”

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