Sunday, July 28, 2013

Cheyenne Frontier Days...and then some!

Hey Peeps—

Remind me next time I go to the thrift store to not bring Billy along.  Over the years, I've turned shopping at the thrift store into an art form, and last week when he thought it might be fun to join me, years of hard work were ruined.  I cannot even bring myself to speak to you about his new Mr. T tee shirt, or the other one that says, "Who are these kids and why are they calling me Dad?"  That one is particularly painful as it also says, "Playa Del Carmen" under the dad comment.  As if we've ever gone to a resort as a family.  No, that's not quite how we roll.  We don't do exotic.  We don't do passports.  We don't do expensive.  What we do is Cheyenne, Wyoming. 

We are all completely beat from the past four days in Cheyenne, Wyoming.  It happened to be Cheyenne Frontier Days, and yes, we did get in on some major events, but the real draw for us was to spend time with our sweet extended family.  There were 20 of us in all, and we made the most of our short time in that dusty little town. 

The first big event we attended was a concert! We managed to get 12 seats together to see Rascal Flatts, and sang as loud as we could to all our favorite songs.  Laura, cousin Sandra, and I "nailed it" as we made up moves to the lyrics, and impressed those around us with impromptu choreography.   We laughed and danced as much as we could in our tight little seats, and watched our family get into the beat as well.  Even cousin Tim cut loose, footloose, as his hand began to pat his knee vigorously.  It was a great concert, and Rascal Flatts delivered! 

The next morning we had to walk downtown about 2 miles to the free pancake breakfast.  There tends to be complaining and whining when there are 20 people walking that long.  In the heat.  And hungry.  We let the two oldest women in the group find a nice place to sit with the two youngest kids, as we went through the long and windy line to our free flapjacks.  As we approached our food, Roger quickly explained how the pro's do it.  He said, "As you get the pancakes on your plate, you have to flip them back for the girl to put butter between each one".  He was right.  They were divine.  Not to mention we looked like locals.

That night we hit the town again for another concert.  This time only eight of us went, as the older folks opted out of seeing Jason Aldean.  The crowd was huge—apparently breaking a record for the largest concert in Wyoming's history.  As the music rocked on, Laura, Sandra, and I pulled out more sic moves and wowed ourselves once again.  Jason's music is sassy and loud, drawing in the tight jeans crowd, and as we left, my sister told us next year she's starting a "sweater ministry" for all the young girls who seemed to forget to wear a shirt over their bras. 

For all the fun and excitement of Cheyenne Frontier Days, the real reason we were there was to spend some time with our newest family members.  My sister and her husband are in the process of adopting four siblings ranging from age 8 to age 5.  There are two boys and two girls.  And they are simply amazing.  Seeing them brought into their new family full of love, joy, safety…well, words can't do it justice.  They already had three kids, almost all grown up, so adding four more at this point in their life is a sacrifice.  But Laura and Roger would never say that.  They would admit it's going to be hard.  And that there are going to be a challenges.  And that they are going to be bone weary at times.  But they would also say it's completely worth it.  They can't wait to see the story of these kid's lives played out, and watch how God can make something beautiful out of something that wasn't.  For the last few days we marveled at these four little people who have changed our lives. 

I don't believe in coincidence.  I don't believe in luck.  I believe there is purpose in each one of us, and this weekend my family saw the miracle of God's timing in our lives.  We witnessed our loved ones living out their gospel, and celebrated with them as we join alongside this crazy, terrifying, breathtaking journey of faith.  God is good.  All the time.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A week at Gramma Camp!

Hey Peeps—

Some people drop their kids off at Gramma's for a week and go to Mexico.  Others drop their kids off with wild anticipation of a week full of entertainment, eating out, sleeping in, and all the freedoms that come with being child-free for a few days.  Billy and I tend to take a little different route.  Depsite the fact our kids were excited to spend a week with Gramma, Billy and I thought it was the stupidest idea we ever had, as we drove 286 miles away from our babies. 

Our "babies" are 13, 10, and 8 years old, so I guess I probably ought to be straight about that from the get-go.  And "Gramma camp" seemed like pure brilliance back in March.  That's about the time everyone is talking about what posh and swanky camp their kids are going to during the summer.  I love eavesdropping at school while waiting for the kids to get in the car so we can go get Happy Hour slushes from Sonic.  "Oh yes, this year, Winston will be attending sailing camp while his sister London will spend a month at theater camp performing all of Shakespeare's greats." Last year Faith and Jack went to a Christian camp and loved it, so we just figured that would be the plan again.  Will also wanted to go to, but Billy told him not this year.  To Will's absolute disgust, Billy told him he had to wait at least one more year.  Then Faith decided that sleeping in a teepee among bears was hazardous, so she'd take a pass on camp this year.  In my motherly wisdom, I suggested the two of them spend the week at "Gramma camp".  They were thrilled.  After Jack broke his collarbone last month, his plans were changed and he too, was going to Gramma's. 

Billy and I dropped the kids off in Pagosa Springs, with their Gramma, Gilbert, and a great uncle and aunt from Maryland who were also at my mom's for the week.  For two days we prepared the four adults to be on constant guard, as our children tend to be curious, and as Billy likes to say, "they lack a sense for self-preservation". ( ie Jack's broken collarbone)  We left the adults instructions on how to handle every potential crisis we could think of, such as: fish hooks in the eye, and how to avoid rabies.  You might think I'm exaggerating, but they did plan on fishing at least once, and you'll never guess how many bat sightings there were IN my mother's house in the week we were away.  (Three to be exact )

Billy and I were so thankful to have our friend Beth with us on the drive home.  She knew to distract us with conversation, and snack foods.  If she hadn't been there, I'm certain Billy would've done his ugly cry for at least an hour, and I would've called my mother about 14 times before even getting over Wolf Creek Pass.  Arriving home was quiet and uneventful, as we unpacked the car.  The following few days were flat and boring, as we went about life as working responsible, functioning adults.  By Friday we were dying to get back to the kids and bring them home. 

As we drove up to my mom's house, we were greeted by hugs and excited descriptions of the events of the week.  Will couldn't wait to show us "Mace" his new horned toad he'd caught up on the hill.  He also was quick to inform us that Mace was his new pet and he would be bringing him home.  Quick fact: Horned toads are not actually toads at all.  They are lizards that, according to herpetologists everywhere, are very hard to keep alive in captivity.  We learned this after getting home with the aforementioned new pet, and had to be honest with Will about Mace's certain future.  Also, they are able to spurt blood out of their eyes, and while that is admirable, I feel it might make me want to step on Mace until his guts spurt out too. 

Billy and I just got done having a hard talk with Will about the right thing to do.  In his 8 year old brain, he is wrestling with concepts that are hard for even us adults to ponder.  Will keeps saying, "It's not fair to let him die, but I had so many plans for him as my new pet".  While choking back tears, he has decided it would be easier for him to let Mace go and be free, rather than discovering he has died while in Will's care.  He is so sad, and I'm prepared to buy him some happiness this week at Dairy Queen in the form of a large Blizzard.  

Being a parent is so hard.  Life lessons abound at every bend in the road.  Teaching, learning, holding on, and letting go—sometimes we stumble upon something that shows us our kids are learning what it means to love.  This was a really special week at Gramma camp.  Our kids were surrounded by family, by unconditional love, and made special memories.  It was hard for Billy and I to let them go, but just like Will is learning tonight, in order to really live, sometimes you just have to get out there and experience this wild wonderful world.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

I like to Go Big. But I'd rather Go Home.

Hey Peeps—

The theme of this past week was "Go Big or Go Home".  That's what happens when you quit your job after almost five months as a nurse.  Now listen, I didn't completely quit, besides they asked me to stay.  I might even say they begged me to stay, but that would be lying.  Nonetheless, I did cut my hours way back, and found another slightly less chaotic job that will begin next week.  So during my first string of four days off this summer, I decided it was time to get busy and have some fun.  This was delightful news to the children as the most fun they've had so far was dropping off a bag of old clothes to the ARC, and seeing a prairie dog on the sidewalk. 

On Monday, a wonderful idea came to me. I called my sister and asked her to bring her kids up and go to Elitches with us the next day.  Normally my sister is always busy.  She's currently adopting four kids, teaching Bible studies she's written, renovating homes, and homeschooling her already adopted children (yeah I know.  Try not to hate her.  She has her fair share of issues) But for some reason I caught her on a day when she was free.  So on Tuesday morning, the seven of us loaded up and headed to Elitch Gardens for a day of super fun. 

The first ride we got on was Twister 2.  Tanner rode solo in front, Laura rode with Faith, and I rode with Will.  Madelyn and Jack hate roller coasters so they sat and watched us scream our heads off with excitement.  We went once more and then on to a day of adventure.  We didn't have long lines, and the weather was perfect.  Even Jack, with his broken clavicle, managed to have some fun and got soaked riding Shipwreck Falls several times.  Laura and I made a bleak discovery while riding Spider—a ride we'd done a million times.  Turns out something changes from the time you are 31 to 41, and going around in circles while dropping 20 feet at a time makes you feel like you will throw up on whatever child is riding with you.  It's a miracle neither of us did.  We decided to sit out some of the next few rides however, and enjoyed watching our sweeties having a ball from a nice distance.  Unless they were spinning.  Then we just pretended we were watching them. 

Wednesday night was exciting as well, and if I were the braggy type, I might even call it a night on the town.  A friend of ours is in a band called "The Long Run" and are an Eagles Tribute band.  They played Wednesday night at The Promenade and we were invited to come and watch.  Billy gets his freak on by walking around the stage several times appraising the guitarist's choice of instruments.  My joy at these types of things comes in watching middle-aged women dance without a care in the world.  Some of those ladies sure know how to gyrate their pelvis.  The kids had a blast with their friends until Faith found out she wasn't getting ice cream with all the other girls (she'd had her ice cream outing already, so stop judging me) and then Will got soaked in the fountains with his buddy Coleman.  Free entertainment, good friends, and "Hotel California"…seriously.  Even on a bad day, that’s just fun stuff. 

The last big event of our week was a 4th of July hike up Beaver Brook Trail.  It's been almost a year since we've done a family hike and I was VERY excited.  We hit the trail by 10:00 am and brought along a GPS so we could find a geocache or two.  After our first cache, we decided to stick to the trail a bit and see how far we could go.  We all had walking sticks, and I had to remind Will several times to keep his low, as not to impale his siblings.  Jack managed the rocky trail, even with a sling on, and Faith maintained her fashionable look while relishing the beauty around us. She tried not to be jealous when the butterfly we admired landed on my hand and not hers.  Several times we had to remind Will to stay close, as he tends to dart about, climbing whatever rocks he can find.  He got up one rock wall, about 10 feet high and after I took a picture we told him to come down.  Billy walked over to help him, and just as a large boulder was loosened and making a B line for Will's head, Billy was able to grab him as the rock struck him in his lower back.  He began screaming "MY BACK, MY BACK!!!"  As I prayed aloud, Billy carried Will to the shade hoping he hadn't broken anything.  It was an awful moment, and we had no idea how badly he was hurt.  Some other hikers came to help us, as they heard the screams, and we assessed his injury.  We knew he was okay when he could stand and walk slowly.  Billy thought he might throw up at this point, much like me on the Spider, but managed to hold it back. 

We walked slowly to the car, where I kept reassuring Will I had my First Aid kit, well equipped with Neosporin, gauze, advil, and other nursey items.  He and I got to the car first and yelled to Billy on the trail, "Hey, unlock it for us!  We're here!"  We stood there for several seconds and I began to sense something else was wrong.  Billy couldn't find the key.  Not here.  Not there.  Not anywhere.  We sat down in the shade and he headed back down the trail to look.  It was during this time that Jack, who typically lives in fear of such situations began to ask questions like "Hey mom, are we going to die up here? " And "Will I ever get to buy any more Lego sets?"  I made an executive decision to head back toward Billy in order to avoid Jack's questions.  It wasn't long before Billy met us, exhausted and dejected, no key in sight.  Thankful for a phone signal, we made a call and the locksmith was on their way.  We only waited two hours.  We ran out of water, and our food was locked in the car.  At one point Jack began to sing, "Jesus take the wheel" and we talked about who might play us on the show "I shouldn't be alive".  Instead of panicking, we were able to laugh and enjoy the view.  After our rescue, we were too tired to hit the Lego store, and too wiped out to go to any bar-b-ques.  We managed to get a Blizzard though, and when we got home, we all breathed a loud sigh of relief. 

Sometimes you go big.  And then when you go home, it's the only place you want to be.  I'm thankful for a roof over my head, and a family that knows how to keep me on my toes.  God is good.