So Much Love

So Much Love

Last Friday, only a few hours after I posted I Wait, my father peacefully took his last breath. My mother and one sister were there with him and there was no struggle, no suffering, just a calm passing from this life to the next.

The response to my post was astounding. So many people expressed sympathy and prayers and a shared mourning. I could feel the love of friends and family through the computer screen.

Between my two sisters and myself, we gave Dad nine grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren. After his passing the grandkids with social media posted beautiful tributes to him, setting to words the legacy he passed on.

Their words not only honored him, they blessed my mother, my sisters and me, and glorified God. The responses to their posts were again full of sympathy, prayers and a unified grieving. Again, the warmth and caring that came through was astonishing.

My dad was a great man and together, he and my mother forged lifelong friendships and the respect and admiration of so many people. We, as a family, have been comforted and gladdened by the outpouring of love.

While this time is a sad time, there’s a complete joy and comfort in knowing where he is, a pleasure in our entire family being together, and an overwhelming peace that can only come from God.

All that love is overwhelming.

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Pleading for Resolution

I’m feeling very somber this morning. Not just somber, but my heart feels rather heavy. My very dear friend, Gretchen, and her husband have been working towards adopting two of the cutest little girls from Ghana. When I say they’ve been “working”, what I mean is they legally adopted them nearly two years ago. OUR government – the United States of America – is the reason why these precious sisters haven’t come home to THEIR family. And yet America opens the borders to illegal immigrants like it’s nobody’s business. How is that right? How is it right that a person can come into this country without any type of documentation and be welcomed with open arms and entitled to all the benefits, but these children, who have been legally adopted by two United States citizens, are not allowed to COME HOME!?

The newest fear in this story is Ebola. Ghana is not terribly far from the outbreak in Africa and is listed as an area at risk for Ebola emergence. This is obviously cause for concern on two fronts. One – nobody wants their child near an Ebola outbreak – especially in a third world country. Two – if there is an outbreak in Ghana all flights out of the country will be suspended, trapping the girls indefinitely.

All of this makes me sad and it makes me angry. There’s not one reason why these girls shouldn’t be with their mother and their father and their big sister and big brother. Not one.

I realize this is a fairly common story. Maybe not the specifics, but the feeling of helplessness in trying to get an adopted child home, only to have the mercilessness of red tape – their country’s or our country’s – stand in the way of what is right. I’ve watched another close friend go through the heartbreak and it is just so wrong. The time, energy and money spent by these politicians on squashing something that is good and noble and right should be used for something else. Why don’t they direct that manpower to something that’s a little more cause for concern?

The orphanages and the government should be judicious in these adoptions – make no mistake. The worst thing they could do would be to “traffic” these innocent children, who may or may not be orphans, to the wrong people. I get that and I applaud that. But come on. Doug and Gretchen have passed every test, followed every protocol, crossed all their Ts and dotted all their Is. Ghana has done their due diligence and has determined these girls are truly orphans and that they are the legally adopted children of my friends.

Six hundred plus people signed petitions a couple of weeks ago to bring these girls home, but their fight is just one of many. Last night Gretchen was on her local news and I’m praying this clip will make the rounds until someone with some power to do something will do just that. Not just for my friends, but for all the children who are trapped in their birth country and for all the parents who are waiting to bring them home.

You can see her news clip HERE.

Please pray for this family – all six of them. And please pray for the countless other families who are waiting to be united. And please pray for the families who have been forced to relinquish their dreams of adoption.

One last thing I need to tell you. Like my friend, Kati, who has fought more than just one of her own battles, Gretchen is a woman of great faith. I’ve watched them both deal with the hope and the grief and the joy and the heartache while on this rollercoaster. They both showed incredible determination to fight as long and as hard as physically and financially possible. But most inspiring to me is the way they both did so with such grace, relying heavily on God regardless of their situation.

There is no one holy like the Lord;
there is no one besides you;
there is no rock like our God

1 Samuel 2:2 (NIV)

I’m Still Around

Holiest of molies! Today marks the end of August and my last post was at the beginning of July. I promised myself I would never again go a whole calendar month without posting because, well, I don’t know why. But since I promised myself and I don’t like to go back on my promises, unless it was to promise my peanut allergic daughter that I would never eat peanut butter again until she was no longer allergic, I have to post something. Anything.

Let me tell you people, I have a lot to say. A ton. A whole slew of stories. A plethora of tales. Heaps and oodles and scads of riveting adventures to regale you with.

But here’s the deal. Preschool starts on Tuesday, the day after Labor day. Do you know what that means? That means I’ve got stuff to do. Stuff that does not involve me recounting the past several months. So I will leave you with this tasty little morsel and pledge (because I don’t put as much stock in a pledge as I do in a promise, even though they’re the same thing) to tell you about my beeswax much sooner rather than later. Do we have an accord? Okay. Then here’s a snippet of a thing.

Todd and I are interim empty nesters. Katie is now a freshman and Taylor is a senior in college – both in Virginia. I don’t know what the deal with Virginia is and why it stole my children. Virginia is for lovers, not children.

Taylor is about 7 hours away and Katie’s about 8 hours away. I would like it if they were a bit closer, but they’re not. Any time I feel sad about that I think of my friend, Stephanie, who lives in Hawaii and whose daughter went to Rutgers in New Jersey. Now that’s a far piece. But then again, she lives in Hawaii so… yeah.

Anyway – back to the empty nest thing. It’s only been a week, but I think it’s going well. In fact, I think this next phase is going to be good. I might even like it. It’s peaceful, to be sure. I like peaceful.

And that’s that until the next time. 

A Happy June

June has been quite a month. A great month, really. From really close to the very beginning. I think I’ll tell you about it.

The first week of the month it became much too apparent that we needed a new washer and dryer. I was running the spin cycle a couple times, sometimes up to 5 times for bedding, just so things wouldn’t be dripping when I put them into the dryer, which nearly always took at least two runs to get mostly dry clothes. The set had been purchased when the original owners built the house 14 years ago so they’d had a good run. But it was time to say our goodbyes and move on.

While the thought of bigger, better, shiner and maybe even colorful was thrilling, the thought of paying for it was not. This year is already shaping up to be the year of needing money faster than we can pull it off the tree. Adding yet another large expense made me cringe. Until I started doing research and looking at the alluring beauties and learning what friends’ had and what they liked and what they didn’t. So one night while Todd was out of town Katie and I headed up to Home Depot to “look”. Looking turned into talking to an employee which turned into ordering it right there on the spot with Todd on the phone so he could answer all the manly questions that I didn’t possess knowledge of.

I ended up buying the white ones (cheaper), but aren't they lovely?

I ended up buying the white ones (cheaper), but aren’t they lovely?

The worst part about the whole thing — well, besides the money that is now forever gone — is that they delivered and hooked up the set the following Monday. I was not home that day, nor the next two days after that (which is part of my great month story I’ll be getting to in a minute). Todd had to wash all manner of bedding (which is another part of my great month story) and I promise you I was jealous. Never in my whole entire life have I ever been jealous of someone else doing laundry. Seriously never. Ever.

So that Monday, which was the 10th, was the beginning of my really great month. Katie was in the last week of high school but her finals were done. Thursday night was graduation and Wednesday was mandatory walk through, but she had gotten permission to miss it so she could attend her college orientation.

You read that right. College my-baby’s-going-away-in-the-fall orientation. More on that later. Much later. I’m not quite ready to go there.

Back to the 10th. Katie and I packed up Raven (the name she has given my new car – one of our please-take-my-money-because-obviously-I-don’t-want-it expenses) and hit the road, bound for Radford University.

Radford

Yes, THAT Radford. The Radford that’s been all over the news this past week for misspellings on their diplomas. At least it took the focus off their party school status.

Anyhoo, it’s about a 7 1/2 hour drive so we were fully stocked with good tunes and, well, that’s about it. I had my coffee and we each had a bottle of water. We made our appropriate stops at the great rest areas they have between here and there for a Starbucks and water and snacks, etc., and then began our search for the obligatory Cracker Barrel stop. After driving through some pretty heavy rain and cursing the 18-wheelers for spraying up water so that I couldn’t see where I was going, the sun peaked out and shined it’s ever-loving rays on the glorious Cracker Barrel sign about an hour out of our final destination.

Cracker Barrel

“Ahhhhhhhhhh” (That would be the sound of angels singing.)

We ate our fill, emptied our bladders and bought chocolate. There was a very ominous black cloud ahead of us, but I wasn’t daunted. I had just driven through a rainstorm of epic proportions. I could handle this miniature dark cloud.

Except I couldn’t. Just as we were going over a bit of a mountain pass the cloud’s dam burst and we couldn’t see more than 10 yards ahead of us. It was horrifying. The only time I’ve ever driven through anything like that before was in the middle of Tennessee on I-40 and I had to pull off until it had passed. This time I put on my hazards, pulled onto the shoulder and crawled along with at least two other vehicles. Ten minutes and it was blessedly done.

We stayed in a hotel Monday night and Tuesday morning began the orientation. After the initial session parents and kids were sent in separate directions and we saw very little of each other after that. Kids and parents were actually supposed to meet up again for dinner, but Katie’s roommate was also there so they ditched me and left me alone to my own devices. I didn’t feel like eating alone in the cafeteria so I went to Wal-Mart, which has unconsciously become a routine stop on every one of my trips, no matter where I am. I don’t remember what exactly I got to eat, but in the spirit of being at college it was something overly processed, extremely flavorful and super unhealthy.

Oh. I forgot to mention that I stayed in a dorm room that night. It was a recently renovated room and had air conditioning and its own bathroom. But let me tell you this. It was no night at the Ritz. Or even Motel 6. When you stripped away those two conveniences it was still a dorm room. A kind of smelly dorm room with a very uncomfortable bed, no cable and no coffee maker.

dorm

Notice the coffee maker, mini-fridge and large flat-screen TV? Oh yeah. Me neither.

Wednesday morning Katie and I checked out of our dorm rooms, (Hers was worse than mine because it didn’t have air conditioning and she had to share her bathroom with three other girls. Only three.) threw our stuff in Raven and grabbed some coffee at the campus Starbucks. After that we split up again and then met up around 11 where we ate at the campus Chick-Fil-A and then headed for home.

Taylor stayed in Lynchburg after school this year because he’s taking two summer sessions and working. He had promised Katie that he would come home for her graduation, though, so after his class on Wednesday morning he and Shelby made for home. Both Lynchburg and Radford are in the same general vicinity of Virginia and I-81 is the way to go. I had joked with him that maybe we would see each other on the road.

Due to my less than comfortable bed the night before I was tired. Katie was blissfully snoozing in the passenger seat and somewhere along the line I started getting really sleepy so I decided it was time to pull off. As we approached a rest area there was a sign that said, “Next rest area, 33 miles”. I debated about waiting until the next stop, but at the last minute chose to stop at the first one. A stretch was really in order and waiting another half an hour did not seem a viable option. I pulled into a spot with no cars on either side, cracked the windows since Katie was still asleep and went into the restroom. As I was coming out she was walking in. She didn’t say much other than she woke up and thought she should probably go, too.

I got out to the car and there was a green truck parked next to me. This green truck looked suspiciously (and exactly) like Taylor’s green truck.

Truck

My reflection in the tailgate is an optical illusion. I’m actually rather tall and thin. (in my head)

Sure enough. He had pulled in after us and parked right next to Raven – the sporty little black car on the left. The funniest thing about all of this is that he had no idea it was my car he parked next to, no idea that we were even there until Katie came out of the bathroom and walked up to him while he was looking at his phone, waiting for Shelby, and said, “Hey, Bro.”

So we had a little mini-reunion at some random rest area in Virginia. This was a very fortuitous meeting for Taylor as I bought his gas and dinner for he and Shelby at our usual stop in Carlisle Pennsylvania right before getting on the turnpike for the last leg of the trip.

Todd and Sookie were extremely excited to see so many of their people getting home at the same time. But the fun wasn’t over quite yet. I went to bed rather early – I think before 9 – and Todd had to drive to the airport around 11 or so to pick up his parents who were coming in from California for Katie’s graduation.

Which is why we had all that bedding to wash. (See? I told you I would explain it.)

Alright. Let’s see. We’re now on Thursday. Yeah.  So Thursday was supposed to be graduation, except the weather was unpredictable (much like it’s been for a while) and the graduation class is very large so moving it inside is a logistical nightmare and reduces the number of people who can attend. They finally postponed it until Friday. So it went like this:

Thursday:

I ran to the drugstore early in the morning for milk and cereal because there was no food in the cupboard. Seriously – nothing good to eat. And I knew grocery shopping was going to be an all day event but I couldn’t let all those people in my house starve whilst waiting for me to get back with the goods. A storm was rolling in and I wanted some sort of sustenance for my guests before the epic weather hit.

I forgot to mention that at this point I hadn’t had a shower since, um, Monday. No, Tuesday. I did take a shower at the hotel Tuesday morning.  I guess it wasn’t so horrible. I hadn’t started really smelling yet so we were good.

I made it home from this quick run right before a good storm rolled through. I then took a shower. A gloriously hot, steamy, long shower. I love guests and all, but at that point I didn’t care if I used up all the hot water. I figured I had risked the tumultuous elements so they wouldn’t starve, I had done my unselfish deed for the day. Besides, there was a lot of shaving that had to get done.

Katie and I then spent the day buying consumables. We started at Costco, brought that stuff home, and then went to the grocery store for all the rest. I know I’ve mentioned before that I hate grocery shopping. That day was no exception and boy was I glad to be done with it!

Friday:

We had sandwiches for dinner – but not lame and wimpy sandwiches. I had the good bread, the good lunch meat, all the toppings and condiments along with chips, dips, salads and all that good stuff.

Then we went to the football stadium for the graduation ceremony. It turned out to be a perfect evening for an outdoor event.

Graduation_2636

600+ kids takes a long time to get through, however, and those bleachers are not exactly barcaloungers, if you know what I’m sayin. Still, as far as high school graduations go, it was pretty decent.

After the graduation we went back to the house for desserts and our friends, Kris and Shelby (not to be confused with Taylor’s Shelby) came over and joined us. It was nice.

Saturday:

Todd’s parents took us all to dinner to celebrate the following:

Taylor’s 21st birthday (April)

Shelby’s graduation (May)

Mother’s Day (May)

Katie’s graduation (June)

Father’s Day (June)

Our Anniversary (June)

And I think that’s it. We went to a place called Parc Bistro and ordered rather exotic foods like lamb chops with merguez stuffing and mustard barbecue sauce; sauteed king salmon with whipped okinawa sweet potatoes, warm asparagus and stone fruit chutney; venison loin wrapped in applewood smoked bacon, served with cous cous, balsamic glazed brussels sprouts and port wine pear sauce. I would have taken pictures (because that’s what I do) but since it was a rather upscale place I resisted. Not only that, but I had already eaten half of my dish before I even thought about memorializing the meal in a photo.

Sunday was a sad, sad day because Taylor and Shelby left. But it had been a really great visit with them.

Though nice, the following week was much less exciting. Susan and Philip were still here, but Todd and I both had to work and Katie had several things she had to do as well. Philip went on a walkabout with Sookie every day. I’m talking miles and miles. They would be gone for an hour at the least, sometimes up to two. Someday I might do that, too. But I would want to take my camera with me and it would take me infinitely longer to walk the same distance because I’d be stopping to take pictures along the way. So maybe I won’t.

We didn’t get to do any real touristy stuff and I felt bad about that, but it was a nice and relaxed visit. Saturday morning Todd took them to the airport. On Sunday he went back to the airport to fly to Akron and Katie hopped on a bus with a ton of other teenagers for their annual teen conference – this year in Michigan.

I know you’re all intelligent people and I don’t have to spell it out for you, but I’m going to anyway. I was alone. A-L-O-N-E. From Sunday afternoon until Friday morning. I watched what I wanted or I watched nothing at all. I ate what I wanted. It was a delightful week.

Sidenote – When I took Sookie for a walk on Monday we went around the block. The big block – almost a half a mile. When we got back to the house she gave me this look like, “Are you kidding me? That’s it?” Yep. That’s it, dog.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my people a lot.  I love them a lot of a lot. And I missed them, too. But I relished the temporary aloneness. It was just nice. I was more than ready for Todd to come home, though. Probably by Wednesday. And I’m definitely ready for Katie to get home tonight as well.

Which leads me to revisit a comment I made earlier about her going to college in the fall. Right now she’s been gone for a week and I miss her and the realization that I will be going weeks, if not months sometimes, without seeing her makes me sad. Ask me again next Saturday after she’s been home for a week. I might have a completely different outlook. Typically it changes from day to day, sometimes hour to hour, or even minute to minute.

But all that is a post for another day and I have wasted enough of your time waxing poetically about the beauty of my June. That is assuming, of course, that you actually made it to here. And if you did, thanks for hanging around. I appreciate it.

NoThanks – Day Twenty-Five

Today I’m thankful for my parents and everything they taught me.

I had a really great childhood. It was happy and secure and I never questioned whether or not my folks loved me and my sisters. I was never worried they would divorce and always knew there was nothing I could do to make them hate me or throw me out of  the house (though I never tested this principle). In this way they taught me about unconditional love.

Mom and Dad were the first to teach me about God.  I learned that God is involved in everything and in every day, not just church on Sunday mornings. I was instructed that I could pray to him at anytime, anywhere and for any reason. I watched my father study his bible and commentaries in preparation to lead a Sunday School class or fill in for the minister on a Sunday morning or maybe just because he wanted to.

They taught me that church wasn’t a building you go to on Sunday mornings, but rather an assembly of people who love God and who love each other. This teaching included a lesson on serving others -whether at church or in the community – and was taught by example, not lecture.

My parents taught me respect. Respect for myself and respect for others, regardless of who they were. I was never made to feel less than anyone else, but neither was I ever made to feel that I was better than anyone else.

My father taught me an appreciation for music and especially a fondness for classical, bluegrass and Dixieland jazz. My mother taught me that singing (or whistling) while you work really does make housework better. She also taught me the joy of laughter.

They taught me that marriage is a serious commitment and not something to be taken lightly. Next April will mark their 60th anniversary. I learned that you enjoy the good times and work through the not as good times and that giving up is not an option. I observed my dad’s grins at my mother’s mischievousness and her smiles at his dry humor and realized the importance of “inside jokes”.

Mom and Dad taught me how to be a parent. Everything they did was done in love and for my best interest, even when I didn’t like it. I learned about gentleness and discipline and the importance of family.

I am who I am today in large part because of these two people who taught me so much just by the way they conducted their lives.

And that makes me very thankful!

NoThanks – Day Nineteen

Tonight I’m thankful for a great celebration of the anniversary of my 39th birthday!

The morning didn’t start out so well. I had planned to leave early so I could stop by Starbuck’s and get my complimentary birthday beverage. Everything was running on schedule, but I didn’t account for my chatty family. Or the loose lid on my baked oatmeal container which fell off, spilling sticky baked oatmeal into my unzipped purse. Or the frost on the windshield of Todd’s truck that I had to drive this morning, making me have to wait for the defroster to kick in. To add insult to injury I don’t know how to work Todd’s stereo and was forced to listen to music I don’t like on the way to work.

Work was pleasant, though. Nothing stressful or difficult and coffee was involved. Starbuck’s coffee, to be exact. Not a white chocolate mocha or a pumpkin spice latte, but some delicious, hot French Roast nonetheless. After coffee, the half of the baked oatmeal that didn’t fall out of the container and a few projects, I was taken to lunch by a few of my friends. We had Mexican. It was delicious. And fun. And free for me.

From there I drove home and then Todd and I immediately left for a visit with his elbow surgeon. He had elbow surgery over a year ago and he still has severe tenderness and even nauseating pain when he rests his arm on a table or arm rest or whatever. The doctor’s office was running behind and we were there for nearly two hours. The doctor thinks he has scar tissue pressing on nerves in his elbow and we’re going to try some therapies before we get to surgical clean up. He’s also had a lot of pain in his right index finger and it turns out he sprained it. So yeah. He’s a mess. But at least now we know why.

Anyhoo, between the traffic and our stop for Chinese food it took us an hour to get home. When we walked in the door Shelby was making my birthday cake from scratch.

So the evening went something like this:

Dinner

Laughing

Scrabble (I won, but they said they let me because it was my birthday.)

Giggling

Cake (It was spectacularly delicious. It’s her grandmother’s recipe with a secret ingredient that I am now privy to, but I can’t tell you because then it wouldn’t be a secret anymore. It was chocolate with a yummy icing, topped with dark chocolate pieces and then drizzled with peanut butter sundae topping.)

Yummy sounds

I think I’ll run to Starbuck’s tomorrow morning to get my belated birthday beverage to drink with my breakfast. The breakfast that’s chocolate with icing and dark chocolate pieces and peanut butter sundae topping. Just exactly like my birthday cake.

Spoons and Forks Only

I’m struggling a little bit with this phase of my life. For twenty years I’ve been a mom. That’s been my thing. And I’m a pretty good one, too. Not perfect. Not great. But pretty good. I mean, my kids have made it to 17 and 20 with a minimum of mental and/or emotional scarring so that must say something.

It is easily the best and most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done. But now, all of a sudden it seems, my services are no longer as necessary. Sure, I’ll always be their mom. That will never change. And sure, they’ll always need me to some extent. But they have their own lives now. Taylor just started his third year of college yesterday. And while he still technically lives at home, he was only here for a very short time this past summer because he was off being a young adult in another city. And I may be jumping the gun where Katie is concerned, but she gets so busy with school, work, church, singing, friends, etc., that she’s hardly ever home either. And in another year there’s no telling where she’ll be.

I’m glad for them. I’m proud of them. I want this for them. This independence. This making their own way in the big world. This cutting of the apron strings…

Okay. So the apron strings aren’t completely cut yet. But they are being sawed on with a table knife. Slowly but surely, each thread of the string is being severed and I’m helpless to stop it. And I don’t necessarily want to stop it. Except I really, really want to stop it. Just for a little while longer. I’d like to take away the knife and hand it back when I’m ready.

And nobody ever told me that the apron strings keep a mother’s heart afloat. With each thread that snaps I feel my heart sink just the teensiest bit. I suppose, though, that it’s the selfless love of a mother that keeps the heart from plummeting completely. The love that motivates my desire for my children to become the adults that God wants them to be. Even if that means that someday they will not just go to college far from home, but may actually live far from me.

I recently told them both that I demand they always live within three hours of me and have at least two, three would be better, but four would be preferable, children once they are married and settled. They both said okay, but I get the feeling they thought I was joshing. Maybe because I don’t have a great track record as a daughter where those demands are concerned. (FYI – my mother never placed that demand on me.)

A friend of mine had a very premature baby a couple of months ago and he was finally able to come home for the first time about a week or so ago. It was very questionable for a while as to whether or not he would even survive. Thankfully he did survive and is doing quite well now. This is her first child and she made a comment to me that I’ve heard several other women make about a child that they could have lost in infancy. She said (paraphrased greatly), “I think I love him even more than most new moms because I almost lost him.” Not to belittle the horror and then profound relief of her or any other mother’s similar situation, but I disagree. Didn’t we all feel like nobody could have ever loved their child as much as we love ours? A mother’s love is a fierce and unimpenetrable force. There is nothing to be done against it.

So why am I so surprised at how hard all this is on me? Between this and everything going with my dad I feel like there’s always a little bit of sadness just under the surface. I don’t like it. I don’t do sad well.

And here’s the funny thing. I didn’t even start out writing this post! I was going to talk about how I don’t have my kids to play with anymore so now I’m going to play with my friends this afternoon and go kayaking, but this is what came out. Which is why I’ve been so bad about blogging. It’s always a little maudlin so I delete it. I guess I’ll just leave it be – apparently I needed to get it out.

Hopefully I’ll have a much more Jensteresque post after my kayaking adventure with Tina this afternoon!

Love Notes

Todd and I went to second service yesterday, after which he went home and I went to a meeting. Katie had to wait on me for a little bit so she hung out at my desk until I was ready to leave. I didn’t pay any attention to my cubicle as we left and was pleasantly surprised when I went into the office this morning. This is what I found:

I wasn’t stressed or frustrated, nor did I need to be cheered up, but I was impatient and there was no note for when that might happen. So I just opened them all. Would you like to see? Yes? Okay.

Note #1:

Note #2:

Note #3:

Church was a very moving, poignant experience for me yesterday and I think the emotional exhaustion was still lingering this morning. Walking in on these notes was just the medicine I needed to lift the fog and give my day a kick-start.

Man, I love that girl!

Best Weekend Ever

Day One, Thursday:

We had a firm, no exceptions departure time of 9-ish AM and successfully met the “ish” portion of our goal by pulling out of the driveway at 10:30. Our normal 6 hour, one stop drive turned into an 8 hour, four stop trip. Partly because of all the fluids I was drinking to keep my system flushed and partly because the truck runs through fuel like poo through a goose when pulling the trailer. Or maybe in this case it would be more appropriate to say it runs through fuel like pee through me when drinking a lot of fluids to keep my system flushed. Besides, I’m not so sure the “poo through a goose” saying is accurate. I’m not hip to the bowel habits of water fowl.

Anyhoo, we finally made it to the Virginia Byway, the road the campground was on. When I had originally put the campground address in the GPS (which on several occasions throughout the day wanted us to take some crazy route) only Virginia Byway showed up, no actual address. As we were winding our way west, blinded by the setting sun and trying to find the campground, it was like we fell off the end of the earth. There were no roads on the GPS, only a river. Not only that, but we had no phone service at all. And then we heard dueling banjos.

Just when I had given up all hope (not really, but it sounds so much more dramatic this way) we saw the light. Literally. We saw the light from the campground sign. We checked in, Todd got the trailer set up and we settled in for the evening. Unfortunately we were unable to call Taylor to let him know we made it safe and sound.

Day Two, Friday:

Katie, Sookie and I did a little exploring this morning and the campground is really nice. There’s a lovely pond full of ducks that intrigued Sooks to no end, but thankfully she didn’t try to catch one. Though if she had maybe I would know the deal with the poo and the goose, or duck, which I figure a duck’s fecal habits are probably very similar to a goose’s. We had a delicious breakfast of pancakes (no bacon – we’re saving it all for tomorrow’s breakfast) and Todd has gone off the mountain for a Wal-Mart run and to contact Taylor. The plan is once Taylor finishes his last class for the day at 1:00 he’ll come up and stay for a bit. He also has some friends that are coming up tonight for a weenie roast and s’mores-a-thon.

So stay tuned…

And I’m back.

Todd made contact with Taylor and gave him directions to the campground. Take Business Rte. 29 South out of Lynchburg to 130, aka Amherst Byway, aka Virginia Byway, aka Elon Byway where you take a left and drive about 16 miles to the campground on the right. Taylor said he’d be out to the trailer around 3:00. So when he hadn’t showed up by 4:00 this mama was getting a little agitated. Not only was my child somewhere between here and there, he had no way to get a hold of us. Once again Todd made his way down the mountain so he could call Taylor. Katie and I took Sookie for a walk and napped and watched a little Sleepy Hollow – anything to keep my mind off both my boys who should have been here and not there.

Finally they both pulled in around 5:30 and this was one happy mama! I think I nearly hugged Taylor’s head right off. Turns out he followed Todd’s directions – Business Rte. 29 South. Except the campground is north of Lynchburg.

Another hour or so later three of Taylor’s friends from school arrived. We roasted hot dogs and made s’mores and I think they had a good time. Eventually the friends left and the four of us settled in for the night.

At that moment, with Katie in her bunk and Taylor on the couch and Todd and Sookie and I on the bed (yes, I said Sookie. Don’t judge.), I was perfectly content. Not just a little, not even just a lot, but totally and completely.

Day Three, Saturday:

Taylor had to get up early and drive back to school for work. Good thing he knows the way now. The rest of us had a fairly lazy morning. Well, Todd did have to go back into town to buy sweatpants. He only brought shorts. I would go on about how I told him multiple times in the last week that it was going to be deliciously chilly this weekend and how yesterday he said he saw my lips moving but he never listened to what I was saying, but that would be rude and cast him in a bad light. And he’s already got the directionally challenged thing going against him so I’ll be a good wife and not harp.

And now I’m going to go outside and cook up the two pounds of bacon I brought to have with breakfast yesterday and today, but will be eating on BLTs and possibly burgers tonight instead.

So until the next time…

I’m back. I cooked two pounds of bacon in an electric griddle on the picnic table outside. I’ve decided bacon should always be cooked outside. Just saying’. Taylor showed up just as I was finishing my classic BLT and asked if that was his. I love him and I’m a good mom, but I’m not THAT good of a mom. He had to make his own.

The four of us watched RV – which never, EVER gets old – and then Todd grilled hamburgers. After dinner we played Bookopoly, a book version of Monopoly. I despise that game. Really a lot. But that’s what the kids wanted to play so fine. I’m kind of a good mom so that’s what we played. I don’t think it’s fair that nobody ever wants to play Scrabble. But do I whine about it? No.

Not a lot, anyway.

Maybe a little.

Anyway, Katie and I are much too ethical and not shrewd at all so we decided to consolidate our efforts and STILL ended up in the poor house. Todd and Taylor, on the other hand, concern me a little. Smarmy wheeler dealers, if you ask me. Sure, they both ended up with bank loads of money, but are they really happy? At least Katie and I know what’s important.

Taylor left to go down the mountain in the rain at about 10:30 last night. The mom in me hated – HATED – the fact we didn’t have phone coverage and he wouldn’t be able to call me when he got home. Does that ever end? I think prolly not. *sigh*

Todd turned the heater on last night and we think the clinks and clanks messed with Sookie’s delicate sensibilities because she was shaky and whiney and generally annoying. Seeing as how Todd was going to have to drive home through 15 miles of switchbacks or so pulling a 30 foot trailer, I felt he should probably get some sleep. So I mostly dealt with the dog, though her scratching and woofing still woke up Todd.

Which leads me to…

Day Four, Sunday

Our plan was to get an earlier start for our trip home than we managed on the way down. We figured we’d get up around 7:30 or so, secure stuff, hook up and get on the road around 9:00. Once again we got on the road around 10:30. The difference this time was that we managed the trip in 6½ hours as opposed to 8.

I did have a text from Taylor waiting for me when we finally got to where there was service. That and 80+ emails.

Now we’re home and everybody is comfortable, especially the dog. She’s sound asleep. Because, you know, keeping people up all night is exhausting business.

No More Camp

Taylor left for his sophomore year of college last week. I was happy to see him go.

Psych! I wasn’t happy to see him go, though I was much better about it than I was last year. If you’ll recall, last year I told everybody he was going to camp. That seemed so much more… I don’t know. Temporary?

The growing he did during his first year of school was amazing. Don’t get me wrong. He’s still my little boy, but I’m thoroughly enjoying the man he’s turning into. Except for when he keeps forgetting to clean the bathroom or wash the dishes or whatever it is that I’ve asked him to do. That I’m not so keen on. But the overall guy is pretty cool.

This stage of parenting is just weird. I can’t think of another word for it. I’m sure those of you who have older kids know exactly what I’m talking about. He’s still not an adult, but he’s not a child, either. He had nine months on his own and then when he comes home he’s still that independent 19-year-old, and yet our rules and expectations haven’t changed all that much. The rules may have loosened a little, but the expectations have actually increased. After all, he’s nearly a grown up.

So then I find myself in that same place I’ve been in the last few years. I miss my little kiddos. A lot. And yet I love my big kiddos. A lot! I’m so thankful for the relationship I have with both Taylor and Katie and wouldn’t trade that for the world. Do they exasperate me? Sometimes on an epic scale. Do I exasperate them? Surely not!

And now Todd and I are starting to see a life without children in our near future (relatively speaking, of course). That infamous empty nest stage is knocking on our door and is met with a mixture of sadness and excitement. For 19 years everything we’ve done has been dependent on our kids, which is how it should be, but we’re starting to get away from that. And I kind of like it!

But then I look at pictures like these and I realize just how much I miss that part of our lives.

I have thoroughly enjoyed every stage (except for the parts I have erased from my memory) and I figure this next stage is going to be just as good, only different.

And no, I’m not counting the days until the first college break. Weeks, yes. Days, no.