24 August 2014

Vacation #4 - Check! Part 1 - the Drive

Recently the kids and I got back from our much anticipated and very wonderful vacation visiting Sierra in San Antonio in the great state of Texas. You can read Sierra's version of our amazing trip HERE and HERE.

It had been a long time, much too long, since I had seen Sierra. Mike even got to visit with Ryan and Sierra when he was in Ohio for pre-deployment training earlier this year. Me, however, not so much. Sierra PCS'd to San Antonio at the beginning of the summer, and San Antonio is a lot closer to Albuquerque than Dayton, Ohio. So I decided to plan a trip, pack everyone up, loaded the van with stuff, and the kids of course, and drive on down.

It was a twelve hour drive, not including stops, so I decided to break the trip up into two days. I have to say I was very nervous about doing an over-night layover road trip with the kids by myself. I came pretty close to canceling the whole thing, but I did a lot of research and found a hotel that I thought would be safe in Lubbock, Texas, and off we went. And I prayed a lot. A lot a lot a lot.

The drive was . . . pretty good overall. We ran into some really scary weather on the way there (and back), but that was really the worst of it. Desert monsoons can be intense - just outside of Albuquerque we ended up driving through this massive wall of water. Before we hit the rain, I remember looking out the window to where the rain curtain had already curved over and I couldn't see anything except this gray wall of moisture. A few seconds later we hit that wall and I couldn't see anything. Not the cars next to me, not the cars in front of me, not the cars behind me. I could barely see the white line of the side of the road (you know, that one right next to the passenger tire?). I would have pulled over, but I was afraid I would hit someone who was already pulled over since I wouldn't have been able to see them until I was about three feet from them. I couldn't exit because I couldn't see any exit signs. So I slowed down quite a bit and drove through. Ten minutes later, or what really seemed like an hour, we made it out on the other side and I was shaking like a leaf in a cold wind. A cold, wet wind. We prayed and thanked Jesus we made it safely through the rain.

And we continued on. We ended up taking a detour because the rain (that same rain we drove through) had washed out the main road between Santa Rosa and Clovis, New Mexico, so we continued east on I-40 to Tucumcari and headed south from there. This added about an hour to a trip. We stopped at the truck stop right at the exit for the road, and before we got out of the van, the road was not closed. When we got back in the van, the highway patrol had just closed the road. We were very fortunate that we stopped and that going potty took as long as it did, because if it hadn't, we would have continued on, then had to turn around at the river and head back, and then take the detour. So I was not mad about the detour, I was relieved that it wasn't longer.

Let me tell you, New Mexico is a huge state. On this small back country road from Tucumcari to Clovis, there were times where the only humans I could see as far as the horizon went in any direction where the ones in the van with me. It was nothing but rolling green prairie and blue skies dotted here and there with puffy, white clouds. Think Toy Story wall paper in Andy's room.

We stopped in Clovis at a McDonald's and I got the kids a snack and they played in the very nice, air-conditioned play place. I was hoping to meet up with a friend who is stationed at Cannon AFB, in Clovis, but she wasn't able to meet up at the time. So we planned for the trip back. After a little while, we got back on the road and headed towards Lubbock.

I had mapquest directions that I had printed out, and I followed the directions to a T - and ended up in the middle of no-where. Literally. Okay, it was the very outskirts of suburban Lubbock, but the hotel was no-where in sight. There was a small housing development and fields and a dirt road. It was then that I realized I had printed out two sets of directions. The first set had directions to the hotel address, the second only to "Lubbock, Texas". Guess which directions I brought with me?? That's right, the latter ones. So that added another thirty minutes or more to our trip. I was able to call the hotel and get directions and the lady who answered the phone was very helpful. Turns out I was on the same road as the hotel, I was just a long way away. I was pretty worried about not finding the hotel before it got dark, but we made it just in time, after driving through some very sketchy parts of Lubbock. More prayers answered for safety though!

So we arrived at the hotel and there was a parking spot very close to the main door, so we headed in, got checked in and got into our room with no trouble at all. This step was what I was worried about the most - small woman, with three very small children in tow, by herself, at a hotel - well, it just sounded like a quadruple homicide or kidnapping waiting to happen. Paranoid much? Yep, I am. Moving on.

We got up the next morning and loaded our stuff into the van and headed back into the hotel for breakfast. Turns out breakfast was Texas-shaped waffles. Welcome to Texas! Texans are very proud of where they come from; I like that about Texans. After breakfast, it was back into the van to drive pretty much straight south for a few hours.

We drove through more back-country roads (with very beautiful scenery) with minimal human existence. Let me pause here to say something about overpopulation in this country. Take a road trip! Seriously! I haven't driven too much of this country, but I have driven through some pretty expansive areas where there are hardly any humans, or evidence of humans. I mean, for miles and miles and miles. Hours even. People who think this country is over crowded really need to get out more. Get off the interstate and away from the cities and open your eyes. Okay, done with mini-rant.

I have to say I was very grateful that I was able to find some really great radio stations the entire way, from Albuquerque to San Antonio. Our CD player in our van died a few weeks before the trip, so there were no renditions of Frozen or our Oriental instrumental music to listen to. Just the radio. I was so thankful that we didn't hit any dead radio spots. Yay! So maybe we didn't stray too far from civilization, if there was a radio signal - although we did go through a few areas where there was only one radio station to pick from. Just one. Luckily it was public radio and I like public radio.

Continuing on, the drive was pretty uneventful. The kids were pretty good - I think this was their best road trip to date. It also helped that I moved Butterflies car seat to the middle row and put Flower in the back with Little Man. That made a huge difference! And the kids loved the new arrangement as well.

We finally arrived at I-10, and then we just had a little under two hours to go! We were almost there. I got a picture of a sign for Fredericksburg, Texas, the sister city of the city I grew up in (that would be Fredericksburg, Virginia). We made one last stop, in Fredericksburg, for potty and snacks.

Soon enough, we hit the rush hour traffic of San Antonio. Luckily, very luckily, Sierra lives in the northwest part of the city, and that was where we came into the city, so it wasn't too much of a drive. I was so afraid I would miss a turn or go too far and take even longer to get to Sierra's house.

Finally, we reached the road where Sierra lives. Then the housing addition. Then her street. Then her house. And we had arrived!! I was so relieved we made it safely with no mishaps, no car troubles. And I was so excited to see Sierra again!! I got the kids out of the van and we ran up to the door and rang the bell. We could Maya barking excitedly inside and the kids fumbling with the door. And then the door opened and there was Sierra!! We had made it! Lots of excited hugs all around. Forget about unloading the van - we had to catch up!

And now I'll leave you hanging before I get to all the great and wonderful adventures of exploration that we had together. I'll give you a preview: we saw the Alamo, we ate on the Riverwalk, we explored Natural Bridge Caverns and more. So stay tuned!

Also, pictures to be added later . . .

23 August 2014

The Changing of the Routines

This week was a big week. A week where we reached a milestone. A week where we transitioned from being a family of preschoolers to a family that is straddling two stages of life - school age and preschool.

Leading up to this big week we transitioned out of the past year of therapies and running around and transitioned into school life, and more running around.

Butterfly started Kindergarten this week. I can't believe that we have arrived at this huge moment in our, Butterfly's, life. Before I dive into all that is the first week of school life, a little bit about closing up the past year.

The first week of August, one year ago, Butterfly started the long awaited and much anticipated Speech Therapy. (By long awaited, I mean she was on the waiting for three months, after going through two months of evaluations by APS and waiting and more waiting.) Then, seven weeks later, Butterfly started going to Occupational Therapy.

Therapy life was . . . interesting. At first I found it to be incredibly stressful getting all three kiddos (then aged 2, 3 and 4) out the door at an early hour, and then keeping the younger two entertained during therapy, and of course getting to therapy on time, and keeping everyone fed and accident free (Little Man was only recently potty trained when we started) and it was just hectic. I was trying to figure out and deal with everything going on with Butterfly intellectually and emotionally and to be honest, I just wasn't coping well.

My sanity was found in bi-weekly play dates at the big, covered park on base with my wonderful German friend. Our kids got along great and we would often stay much longer than anticipated talking about life. We sat on our picnic blankets and ate lunch, and then while the kids played, we shared, we vented, we encouraged, we sat together in mutual contemplative silence, we did life together. It was not uncommon on Fridays for two o'clock to roll around, after arriving at eleven thirty, and the kids were sprawled out on the grass, spent from playing and running, and we were trying to shoo them off to go play some more so we could squeeze out a few more precious minutes of quiet, and friendship, and beautiful Albuquerque afternoons.

Gradually, in slow increments that sometimes went unnoticed until the change had been in place, things got better. The 45 minute long screaming fits stopped. Communication started, haltingly at first, and then one day, it just clicked. Butterfly found her words, I found more patience and understanding, and life got better. By the Christmas season, Butterfly's concentration was improving, her communication was improving and things were getting more in the direction of normal, whatever that looks like.

And then, summer came, as it always does, and like every summer, in the beginning it seems to stretch out in front of you like a huge, green field that invites you to run and play under the hot sun. And so you take off as fast as you can racing for the end, and you think that the green, and the flowers, and the warm sunshine will never end, so you don't slow down and then you stop, abruptly, because you've reached the end. Only you didn't take the time to stop and smell the flowers, and enjoy the warmth of the sun and feel the soft grass under your feet because you had plans and you were running. And then there we were at the last of our therapy sessions. More goodbyes after the goodbyes of the end of the school year, three months before.

I thought I would be relieved to not have to be out of the house by seven thirty twice a week, usually getting McDonald's breakfast burritos for breakfast on the way, hurrying the kids out the door, hoping I didn't forget anything. Only, I wasn't. I had adjusted to our routine. I found that I miss going to therapy. Butterfly's therapists were wonderful, and amazing, and caring, and helpful, and supportive, and they did such a great job teaching Butterfly. And we're all finished with therapy and it's so weird that we are done. I am so grateful for all that they did for Butterfly, and I know that they have made a lasting impression on Butterfly. Butterfly has mentioned that she misses them too.

But life goes on, and routines change, and here we are, the first week of official "school", Kindergarten, finished. Butterfly did go to school last year, and it was wonderful, but that too had to come to an end. Now she is at a new school, the base school, and we are walking almost every morning, and walking home in the afternoons and she loves it!

Butterfly was so excited for her first day of school. The week before we went to orientation and met her teacher, and saw her classroom, and dropped off her school supplies. The night before I had made sure that Butterfly had everything she needed for a successful first day of school: lunch money (she wanted to buy lunch at school), a somewhat healthy snack, her journal, a copy of her IEP for her teacher (not sure why her teacher didn't already have a copy, but anyway). clothes laid out, shoes ready. Monday morning came, and I had my alarm(s) set and we all got up early, and I fed the kids a good breakfast and we got out the door only two minutes late, which I tried not to freak out over.

We had decided to walk to school, so I got out the bike trailer/double jogging stroller, aka The Rocketship, and Little Man and Flower climbed in, which Butterfly was quite upset about, but once we got to school, she got over it. She was going to school! And Little Man and Flower weren't (which they were upset about). There was a new playground with big swings to play on, and friends that she knew, and most of all, she was going to school!

With her semi-shy way, Butterfly stayed by my side when we showed up at the school and joined the other parents on the periphery of the Kindergarten playground while the kids ran and played, dropping backpacks hither and there. Butterfly just observed, and beamed with excitement, and watched and smiled up at me as I tried to stuff my tears away for another time (which I was successful in doing - so successful in fact that they never came).

Then the first bell rang. Butterfly's very first bell of the Kindergarten year. Of her school career. Boy did that bring memories! The other kids lined up and Butterfly did as well. It was new, but it was old hat at the same time. The parents got to go into the classroom with the kids on the first day, so we all filed in. Kids mostly excited, but a little anxious, finding their seats with their names on their desks - all set up in clusters of five, facing each other. Parents, less excited and more anxious, stayed on the outside, forming a sort of protective ring around the students. The last barrier of toddlerhood, about to end; a new world beginning. The first day of the rest of their lives, for the children. The teacher went over a few things, while I tried to wrangle Little Man and Flower, as usual, and then parents were free to go. One last hug for Butterfly, who was eager to start learning, and we were out the door.

The door clicked shut behind us and suddenly I was the outside, and my first borne, my Butterfly, was on the inside. She was on her own, ready to learn and she had officially begun her school career. It was bittersweet.

Butterfly did go to school all of last year, and to the CDC in the mornings, but this feels different. She learned so much at school last year and did really well, and loved it, but the official "Kindergarten" milestone seems to mark something. It's big. It's the end of preschool, and the beginning of school age. It's five years old, and almost a quarter of the way through childhood. It's an end and a beginning. It's the first huge mark that Butterfly is growing up. That one day she will be an adult, on her own in the world, with responsibilities for herself and to others, and my influence will fade away as she grows and learns. It's the first time I really have to step back and let go and let her go on her own, and do her own thing. I am so glad that she loves school - that is a huge blessing. I hope that she never loses the joy of the learning, the thrill of discovery and the yearning to know and experience more.

(Pictures to come later.)

20 August 2014

Continuing the Journey

This school semester, I am continuing on my journey once again towards my Bachelor's degree. A journey that started back in 2003. Yes, over a decade ago.

What started out as a journey to be a meteorologist, and then changed to nursing, has now pretty much been cemented as a degree in General Studies. Basically this means that I have a lot of credits in a lot of different schools of the college, but not enough in any one to get a degree in it. For example, I have over 21 hours of biological science - but not the requirements for a Biology degree. I was in nursing school for a year and a half (part time), but am not a nurse. I've also got a lot of hours in psychology and English. What does this mean? I will have a very varied degree when I'm done. I'm know a little bit about a  moderate amount of subjects.

Even though I have not reached any of the destinations that I planned for, I have really enjoyed my journey as a college student. I would have preferred to go to school right out of high school and live at college and do the whole dorm experience and on campus experience, but when you make bad decisions when you're young, you live with the consequences. For me, that means night classes and on line classes spread out over a decade, with a big gap in the middle when I had my kids. Lord willing, I will graduate in the spring of 2015.

Two classes this fall. Two classes this spring. I'm really praying that I can finish.

So what am I taking this fall?

Well, one of the beautiful, wonderful things about a degree in General Studies is that you pretty much get to take whatever class you want, as long as you can get into it, and for me, as long it is an upper level course. So, I am taking Creative Writing I and the Literary Works of C. S. Lewis. I get to read The Chronicles of Narnia for college credit? How great is that!

I'm two days into classes and I've had quite the spectrum of feelings already about my classes, ranging from excitement to anxiety (I have to do a video presentation - I really abhor video presentations, I'd much rather do it in person) to enthusiasm (I get to read academic articles and research - yay!) to fear (both classes, for whom I have the same professor, have student-critiquing sections in which we all read each others' papers and critique them - what if what I write is awful?!?).

One of the things I love about college, is that it forces me to write. No matter how many goals I set for myself in regards to blogging, or working on my novel, I seem to fall short. I need accountability. I love to write, but it is a discipline (we're talking about that in class). So I am really hoping to start writing on my blog more often, just for the sake of writing. I realize that I will need to sacrifice to do this - this probably equates to less time on Facebook, which isn't a bad thing - and I need to follow through.

Even though I have started writing a novel, and I do want to have in it published one day, I have to come to realize that I still haven't figured out what I want to be when I grow up. I realize I'm in my 30's and that life is just zooming by, but I'm still working out how to do this thing called life and there are things that I want to do. Even though I said I gave up on being a nurse, I think I would still like to pursue that one day. There are other things that I want to do too. Maybe I'll be a "full time writer" one day, whatever that looks like, and maybe not. I don't think I'll ever stop writing, but will I do it as a profession one day? I don't know. I'm still figuring that out.

For now, I have taken a small step towards completing my college journey, and who knows, perhaps I've taken a small step towards something bigger. :)

18 August 2014

Created for Influence by William L. Ford

The world today is a place of uncertainty, fear and change. Sometimes it seems like the Church is powerless to shape and influence culture and community the way it once did. This is far from the truth though - Christians today have the tools to influence the world around them, in their local community and globally. Created for Influence: Transforming Culture from Where You Are by William L. Ford III shows Christians how they can be a positive influence right where they are, through prayer. If you are ready to join in the fight to change the world for the better, than this book is for you.

Ford's book was eye opening and enlightening. Often times one can feel quite helpless about the horrors that occur in our world - far away or even right down the street. Created for Influence is a powerful reminder that as a Christian, we have the ability to change the circumstances around us through prayer. With numerous Biblical insights and explanations, poignant and at times heart wrenching testimonies and Godly counsel, Ford provides example after example of how Christians can alter the course of destiny the way the Church once did.

I really enjoyed reading Ford's book. There were a few parts of the book that I felt were a little far-reaching, but overall I found Created for Influence to be a great guide for practicality in prayer in daily life. It was refreshing to know that there are prayer warriors on the front lines praying for the leaders in our nation and for the devastating problems that plague our people. I found this book to be very encouraging and a great reminder of what it really means to be a Christian.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Chosen, a division of Baker Publishing Group book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”