Some days

Some days are so confusing. True?

We drove our final miles to the house we rented. We pulled up and saw a sweet 100 plus year old house.  The doors were unlocked and Steve and I walked around checking things out. So cute. So many original details. Yes a small truck route raced by out front but look at the yard. Oh wait… Look at the yard!  I had no idea there would be a railroad line directly out back. Oh and a well hole. And wait, Samuel is running as fast as he can from thing to thing. And then we get inside again and the kids go upstairs to the fire trap of an attic with debris everywhere and the smoke alarms pulled apart. And again, Sam raced past me to run outside. And I cried.

I went out to the van and cried. I told Steve that I’d obviously made a mistake and how were we going to keep Sam from hurting himself. And I was mad. At myself, to be honest. Little Miss Responsible hadn’t thought this thing through.

See, we came to PA for Isaiah’s surgeries but in the process of readying ourselves to come we felt up against a wall in our parenting where Sam has been concerned. So I dug around and an e-friend found us an attachment centre nearby for us to get coaching. And for Sam to continue his work towards healing. The problem is that I wasn’t thinking of what he would need when we’d get here.

8 beds?  Check.

Driving distance to hospital?  Check.

Safe environment for Sam?  Um no.

In the end, I’m standing in the driveway feeling sorry for myself and one of the homeowners drove up. I told her my concerns (I’d obviously been crying, poor woman) she rolled with it, assured us she’d work with us and within an hour her husband came and installed some locks and smoke detectors.

If that was the end of the story that would be no surprise to anyone close to me. I’m way too controlling and take way too much upon myself in regards to protecting our kids.  But God wasn’t finished with me yet. Gulp.

I started some laundry after we ate supper, while Stephen tucked in the two littlest boys into bed. He came downstairs and I ran upstairs to kiss them goodnight. And to God’s glory between reading the Mt. Rushmore board book to Isaiah and fielding requests for more water, a little conversation started up with Sam that made my world screech to a stop.

A few months back we celebrated that Sam had asked questions about sin and God and he’d asked us to talk to God with him about it all. It was a beginning.  A great first step in softening his heart towards God. Well last night Sam told me he had never really asked God to come close and he had some really good questions and comments about hearing God and knowing God had really taken his sins away. He was vulnerable with me. He really opened his heart to ask big questions and he wanted real answers. We ended our chat with prayer and hugs (I had called Stephen up at one point to join us.).  I saw him visibly relax.

And then I went downstairs and really thought about this confusing, mixed up day. My control issues. My fears. His care for my kids. For me.

I’ve been doing this Christ follower thing for a really long time. I think my first awareness of my need for Him was when I was younger than Samuel. He’s allowed me to see miracles. I can’t say that there have been times in my life where I have felt honestly alone. Lonely, angry, selfish, frustrated, heartbreak. But despair and separation from Him?  No. That really begs the question, is he leaving my kids alone?  Is there ever a time when He turns His face, His love, from them?

I think that there are so many people that I have revered as mentors in my life (real life and e-life) and somehow I find myself striving to be That Mom. The one who’s kids love her, respect her, seek her wisdom. And yesterday reminded me yet again that God in His wisdom grabbed hold of my heart at the age of five so that there would never ever be a time where I could in all truthfulness claim superiority of wisdom, knowledge and mercy. I am nothing without Him. He is the greater one in this relationship and that extends to my family.

I haven’t blogged about our life (although it’s on FB if you read there) these past few months, but in honour of keeping things real, life has been totally upside down.

Our business has been shaken up with new leadership and some changes with our clients. We made the decision to build a house and put ours on the market only to back out at the last minute. And God made it crystal clear to Stephen and I that we needed to put our focus on more intentional service. In the midst of preparing for this trip to PA God has been bringing us low so He can clean house in our hearts. I’d say yesterday was just another example of this and of His ultimate goodness. It seems a glaring issue will come up and He mercifully show us the answer in such a way that the fear, worry, anxiety is bookended with His love, strength and wisdom. Is it neat and tidy and roses and rainbows?  Not at all. But being able to see Him in it has made these regular spotlights on my weakness easier for me to let Him be God and to be more honest with Him.

Do I wish I could have a “do over”?  You bet. Do I need to get over it and get on with my day?  Yup. Is tomorrow going to have its own issues?  Uh huh.








Coal Miner’s Daughter

image image image image

(Don’t mind the upside down photos, I’ll fix them later.)

Peoria, Illinois to Steubenville, Ohio

So technically we have been driving through a lot of urban sprawl but for some reason all day long I’ve had “Coal Miner’s Daughter” in my head. (Wasn’t Loretta Lynn from Kentucky??)  Anyway, in the irony that is my life, what did we pass on our way here tonight?  A HUGE coal refinery. It was awe inspiring to drive past it’s huge lights and towering smelter (?).  Actuallseasy a little frightening because on first appearance it seemed to appear out of no where.  Kind of freaky cool.

Lots of hours in the van again. We met some really interesting people at each of our pit stops. Real characters.

I like chatting with people in settings totally foreign to me (odd but true). This trip has proven that most people just want to share a bit about themselves and hear a bit in return.  We’re all pretty curious and when you get right down to it most people are more than willing to share a smile or share a moment. I think it’s one of my favourite things about travelling.  Now when I think of South Dakota or Illinois I have that cast of characters to hang memories on.

The kids played a number of rounds of Bingo. Faith avoids all games like the plague and Isaiah is content to hold a card. The other four duke it out pretty fiercely. So far the wins are:

James – 11

Garnet – 8

Grace – 5

Samuel – 3

Prizes are received at stops along the way. Mostly junk food which Faith does not generally care for and Isaiah begs for until some passing sibling shares a piece of their winnings. Truth. It passes the time nicely.

We are getting close to our temporary residence now. Stephen and I are becoming more snappish and feeling more ages and pains. The reality of the next week has hit. The treatment plan or the decision to not treat Isaiah will be worked out by Monday evening.

It’s always such a mixed bag when you are raising kids with complex physical, emotional or cognitive needs. First and foremost they are your child. You cheer them, correct them, lead them and basically do life in the same way as every other family you know. But, when you are faced with a new medical procedure, a new treatment or therapy, that’s when it hits you that something big is looming.  Be it for good or bad, it looms. And I takes it’s toll on each of us in the family herd.

No matter what the outcome of the hospital visit on Monday, we’ll all be okay. We’ve done hard before and each of us has found ways to not only survive but thrive.  I guess at the bottom of it all we just wish in these moments that it wasn’t our kid facing it too. But I’d say that probably that makes us fairly normal. Average even.

So, onward we go!

As an aside, we are staying at a hotel within the grounds of a Franciscan University. It is really quite nice but between the style of the hotel and the goosebumps the coal plant gave me, I couldn’t help but think of a character out of the classic Scooby Doo characters when we met one of the staff here down the long subterranean hallway. Okay, maybe not entirely subterranean, but definitely out of the way. Stephen just shakes his head at me. Remember what I said about a cast of characters though?  It looks like I have a new one for Ohio!  😉







All about the bugs

Omaha, Nebraska to Peoria, Illinois

Today ended up being all about the bugs. The giant ones on our windshield and the loud ones at the rest stops.  Same ones? Cicadas?  Not sure, but they sure sounded like the ones we heard last summer in China.

We ended up eating pie at one of those rest stops for lunch and ordered pizza in for the 5 oldest kids. They set up their xbox and relaxed tonight. Steve and I took Isaiah out for a walk and supper.

Low key day. Until we got to the room after supper. I’m standing here writing this and what is happening?  I’m smacking myself and picking ants off my arms and body. Seriously.

And now I’m laughing. Let’s just say that that bugs are ruling the day!


Small towns have the nicest people

Keystone, South Dakota to Omaha, Nebraska

A pretty long, low key day.  Drove from South Dakota, to Iowa, to Nebraska.  The highlight, not pictured, was stopping at a small town diner where the waitress fussed over us (Isaiah especially) and where a who was heading out the door after her meal ran back to the kitchen to grab me a towel when I spilled my coke all over my lap.  Apparently her boyfriend works there and so it was no big deal.  Somehow, in the process of it all I laughingly said that it only happens when the clean clothes are limited on a trip.  She agreed and said that she finds the same thing when she is travelling to take her son to Cincinnati Shriners!  Well, we had a nice camaraderie after that!

The only other tidbit was during the first hour of the day.  I brought out the Interstate Bingo cards that Stephen had bought early in the summer.  Boy did we suddenly see Grace’s head pop up out of her screen!  She was on it!  It was a rather loud and exuberant hour, and in the end, Garnet won once and James, yes, our dear eldest, won six times!  I think we need to rig it tomorrow for better odds!  Haha!


Good morning, Isaiah!  He LOVED the rocking chairs out front of the hotel.

Good morning, Isaiah! He LOVED the rocking chairs out front of the hotel.

How I travel.  Map book and camera.

How I travel. Map book and camera.

An Iowa sunset through the bug-kill.

An Iowa sunset.

Samuel has become very focused on colouring today.  I don't think he's coloured this much in all his prior 6 years!  He even tucks his crayon behind his ear to hold it while he adjusts his clipboard and colouring page.  VERY cute!

Samuel has become very focused on colouring today. I don’t think he’s coloured this much in all his prior 6 years! He even tucks his crayon behind his ear to hold it while he adjusts his clipboard and colouring page. VERY cute!

South Dakota.  Very flat and Saskatchewan like in the south east.

South Dakota. Very flat and Saskatchewan like in the south east.

Isaiah was pretending to nap.  All of a sudden he burst into song along with the music that was playing... with his eyes squished shut, of course.  We burst out laughing!

Isaiah was pretending to nap. All of a sudden he burst into song along with the music that was playing… with his eyes squished shut, of course. We burst out laughing!

Early pilgrimage to the van.

Early pilgrimage to the van.

Stephen reloading the van - again.

Stephen reloading the van – again.

She's a cutie.  Curious about what's in Faith's backpack?  A sketchbook and novels, naturally.

She’s a cutie. Curious about what’s in Faith’s backpack? A sketchbook and novels, naturally.


Tourist by day and night

We had a later start this morning but made up for it with a full day of sight seeing. We visited Mt. Rushmore early in the day and followed it up with their light up ceremony in the evening. We really enjoyed walking the presidential trail and seeing the monument from various angles. It is truly a marvel. The evening event was exceptionally patriotic and over all we appreciated the overview of American history. There were a few statements made that smacked a bit of propaganda, however I was pleased to see our older kids pick up on it on their own. In its context it is interesting to see the American viewpoint. We appreciated the flag ceremony and presentation of active and veteran servicemen and women at the end of the day.

Midday, we went to Besr Country USA which is a drive thru animal park. I saw more bears than I have seen prior combined. Dozens. Even a full sized adult grizzly, although thankfully it was in it’s own enclosure. We saw dozens of black bears, as well as enormous elk, wolves, bison and many other animals. A very cool experience!

A surprising side trip led us to Dinosaur Park in Rapid City. We followed some signs that led to a n almost 360 degree view of the city. The surprise?  The life size yet cheezy dinosaur statues at the top of the hill.  The rest of the crew laid low in the a/c in the van.  Garnet had a photo shoot on the dinos, and Steve and I burned off some steam climbing the stairs and walking around up top. We followed this with a trip to Boston’s, the US version of BP. It seems to be a family favourite when we travel.

The gift shop at the Bear place was interesting too. Watching Samuel choose a stuffy is a highlight for me even though it is always a lengthy process. He has to stroke them all for ultimate softness, give them the hug test and finally tuck them under his arm to see if he can carry them easily. I honestly love watching it all unfold. Finding a toy for Isaiah is all about buttons he can control himself (success with a glowing, swirling thingamabob).  Grace zeroes in on the animals. This time it was a small animal figurine. She loves to display her treasures. At the light up Samuel found a junior park ranger vest with roughly a million pockets. We were sold. So much better than a back pack for him to carry his treasures.

Tomorrow is another driving day.  Mt. Rushmore was full of surprises. A fun stop over on our way to the east coast.






Center of the Known Universe

Billings, Montana to Keystone, South Dakota


Out of the buffalo, elk and venison, the elk won hands down.

Out of the buffalo, elk and venison, the elk won hands down.

Picturesque views through the bug guts. :)

Picturesque views through the bug guts. 🙂

Ok. Maybe not. But after a few misdirections we stopped off at the Geographical Center of the US. Photo op time. Some disgruntled travellers in our group. In the end we met a pleasant Korean War veteran who turns 90 soon and toured a teeny, tiny cabin built for a family of 9. It was maybe 150 square feet including loft and a separate parlor – children invited in by invitation only!  Our friendly guide had a good chuckle over that!

We arrived at our destination and at a pricey restaurant which received so-s reviews from our family. Isaiah felt his gourmet meal needed a little dash of something extra – ketchup. :/ Ah well, can’t always know ahead.

Settling in for the night. Busy day tomorrow.



Wild, Wild West

image image imageCouer D’Alene, Idaho to Billings, Montana

Another day focused on driving. I took a bunch of scenic photos with my big camera but as usual, the site is getting the dregs from my phone. 🙂

The kids are still doing really well. Isaiah is definitely a year older and needs more entertaining but screen time and kid meal toys help.  Samuel is happy to walk in his updated boots and the four oldest are definitely a team. So far so good!

Oh and the last photo is hard to see, but as we crossed the crosswalk a quad came driving up to the light. This town is such a mix. It has a hundred thousand people, is smaller in numbers than we are used to, feels more urban and yet has a quad on a Main Street and a side by side on another. Feels a bit like the Wild, Wild West.


Free to Play

image imagePortland, Oregon to Couer D’Alene, Idaho

We arrived safely after a semi-short driving day (9 hours including stops).  The kids were looking forward to this stop because they were going to have the chance to play in a favourite park (built like a wooden fort right on the lake) and take a swim in the pool. It was probably the warmest day yet and the pool was almost as warm as grandpa’s. We saw a bunch of dust devils (baby tornados Steve told a nervous Sam) and I was driving when we ran low on fuel. We made it but let’s jut say that it took an extra long time to fill the tank. :/  James spent some time working on his courses. He’s back to working on his college work. I’m so thankful he’s been able to join us. We really enjoy his company. I know the kids love having him back in the mix.  Overall a good day!


Well, that was worth the wait!



What you can’t hear is Samuel saying, “I like walking!”  You also can’t hear the most wonderful clicking noise as his new knees activate with nearly every single step. You also can’t hear the missing squeak-thud of his crutches with each movement. Honestly such a surprise! We thought he’d just be getting a refit!


Oh yeah. And we drove up to Cannon Beach for lunch at Mo’s and to play on the misty, warm, soft sand.

Suddenly the appointment seems a bit more significant.  🙂

Now we wait in bumper to bumper traffic. We need to drive back over to Red Robins so we can pick up a credit card we left behind. I think we’ll be ready for supper once we get there.


I call it…

Eight People in a Photo Booth.


We visited OMSI today (it was rainy) prior to waiting for Samuel’s check socket visit. That just means he had the chance to test out the working model of the new prosthesis.  It looks amazing. Well actually it’s unfinished but HE looks amazing. Nice balance.  He’s getting a bit of a stride down. Again, much stress relieved. We drove over the bridge to Vancouver, WA and ate at a Red Robins. Yum. Balloons. Followed by a visit to Target. The little boys are buddies. That means they love, they squabble, they love some more. The bigs and middles are also buddies. I always forget how they all seem to fall into their pecking order when we travel. It feels really good.