July 27, 2012

There is Not Voodoo Happening

As you could imagine the adventures do not stop when our family camping trip ends. It seems like this past trip is a great representation of how our lives go... We narrowly escape some disaster, we are blessed beyond belief, then we hold our breath waiting for the next crisis to avert.

So much of life is like that - our travels, our adoption journey, some of our family relationships, our mission to sell our house... People make the comparison of a roller coaster ride, but we spent our first day back home at a local amusement park, and trust me... The ups and downs on an actual roller coaster are a lot more fun to experience. (With the exception of the jerky stops on the Jack Rabbit, something ought to be done about that. Seabreeze of Rochester, NY.)

I guess life IS like a roller coaster, sometimes, but it can also be a lot like water boarding. My problem is that I often see God for what He does or chooses not to do, instead of worshipping Him simply for WHO HE IS. My sense of feeling loved by God, or blessed, or protected by Him, is way too closely linked to how I think He's handling the task of giving me what I want. (I realize this is a heinous and selfish expectation, and embarrassingly immature. It's also a true story.)

Sooo... I am working on it. I am working on my lack of faith in a God who loves me in tropical thunderstorms, and in 106 degree heat. He loves me when I inadvertently squeeze the eyeball of an innocent bystander, or when I frisbee the children's breakfast out the car window. He loves me when I get my way, and He loves me enough to NOT give me my way all the time. Or ever, as it sometimes seems. I am learning that what circumstances I face do not change the simple fact that He is who He says He is, and I get to be loved by Him, even though I don't deserve it and I fail and fall short in every possible way.

I do not know how long it will take me to actually get it, but I am trying reeeeally hard to get over my obnoxious self and see the big, fat picture because I know the bottom line is that regardless of how crazy life, or a trip (or the real-estate market) may seem... God is for us and His plan is always for our good, and He is always for me, even when it feels like someone is out there with a gangly, curly-haired voodoo doll, just a-pokin' away.

Our trip ended with Robb and Tab Hibbard taking us in and becoming great friends (no longer almost-friends) who took us sledding in July and fed us cupcakes. Our curse of bad happenings followed us there and broke their dryer. We got the call about a maybe-baby and then a call saying definitely not. We explored the deepest caverns on the east coast (which seemed fitting because of how emotionally low we were at the time). And we almost went into wax museum, but the children were afraid of seeing "boys made out of ear wax" with "frozen faces."

So it wasn't all bad... We got to see "Honest Dave" (honest Abe) and some other really great things. We were able to teach the children a lot of great lessons... Like, when life gets rough, it's okay to quit if you can blame the weather.

But the best part was that the day we got home we got another call about another maybe-baby, this one a boy, due in October who's birthmother felt a strong connection with our family when she viewed profiles.

We don't know if this will be our baby for sure because a million roller coastery things have to happen between now and then... But the hope of new life and the possibility of welcoming this baby and his birthparents into our family was a sweet and beautiful homecoming... One that we desperately needed.

Below are the last pictures from our trip, and one of Marlie and me on her first roller coaster ride! The last one is a picture of London's camping uniform... Underpants, visor, wand, and so much mung on her face. (There is a definite age when this outfit is no longer acceptable.. It just wasn't as cute on Tom.)

July 24, 2012

gone baby gone

I am very sad to say that we are on our way home.

Yesterday we got a call from our adoption social worker about the possibility of adopting a baby girl who is due in a few weeks. After hearing and praying about all the specific circumstances, some of which may be challenging, we decided to go ahead and submit our family profile for the birth mother to review.

Right after that our realtor called to let us know that a potential buyer wants to look at our house.

These two things felt like the last of a million arrows that were pointing us to go back home early.

So, we left with the intention of showing our house and saving those vacation days for when we need to bring the baby home if we were chosen. Sadly for us, the birthmother decided that she preferred a childless couple.

Deep down, I am thrilled for the couple that will become first-time parents. But the more shallow, self-focused part of me is just plain sad. It felt like all the junk that kept happening on this trip was going to make perfect sense, because it was all leading up to our baby.

Unfortunately, we have come to the realization that all the junk that happened was probably leading up to a bear mauling, and God knew that only the possibility of more babies was gonna tear mama away from this trip.

July 22, 2012

When Should You Call it Quits?

I think we can all acknowledge that what began as a rough start has morphed into a rough trip altogether. I keep asking Tom if he thinks we should just go home and he said "No, we're not gonna go home, I just wanna keep toying with the idea when things go bad."

We have had a lot of fun, and obviously some memorable hiccups (disasters) in our plan. We have had to change course so many times that we are a couple of days behind schedule. It may seem like no big deal to switch gears, but when each day you are in a different state... Being a few days behind means that we are hundreds of miles behind schedule. It also means that campsite reservations have to be canceled and new campsites found, and that all of the planning and research we have done ahead of time (and some fees paid) are all out the window.

We spent three nights in Virginia beach with Uncle Paul. We had a great time visiting with him, and the kids loved every second of playing "lobster meat," bird watching, crashing the neighbor's sleepover to jump on their trampoline helping make the pancake breakfast. And despite the flash floods... We got to see most of what we hoped to.

We got all of the laundry done, re-ziplocked all the clothes, re-packed the car and re-stocked groceries for the next week's meals. We drove a few hours through the Outer Banks, NC to do the driving trail through the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. It is said to be the one place in North America where you can predictably see a black bear. (This is why we opted for the driving trail instead of hiking right into a bear's mouth.)

We got there at 4:32pm (32 minutes after they close the gates.) One of the park service police officers saw us sitting outside the gate and came to see if we needed help. When we explained that we needed some tips on where to go from there since our plan fell through his only advice was to "take a Xanax and go to a hotel" because we are "crazy."

Quite the outdoorsmen.

When we arrived at our campsite, we were greeted by a very crowded, wet, swamp of a campsite, and the top third of a large man's butt crack.

We knew that if we stayed there we would be at risk of drowning in our sleep, and we would also be at risk of getting a peak at the other two thirds of the big, bad b-crack.

That's when we called for reinforcements. A few days ago we got an offer from some friends, Robb and Tab Hibbard, to come and stay with them in Virginia. We know them well enough to be excited to see them, but definitely not well enough to actually take them up on an offer that I am certain they made thinking "Let's just put it out there, I mean... There is no way they'll take us up on it! That would be so rude! We hardly know them!"

Well, surprise! We really are that rude. Or desperate as the case may be. So, we are doubling back about 5 hours to stay in a not-swamp with almost-friends who, I am certain, will keep their cracks concealed. God provides.

So, we are not calling it quits just yet. We will collect ourselves and forge ahead with a new plan. Or we will just join the Hibbard household permanently, depending on how it goes.

Big shout out to Uncle P and to Uncle Robb and Auntie Tab for their generous and hospitable willingness to house the pathetic. And an even bigger shout AT the man who's trousers were just low enough in back that it made you want to gouge out your eyes.

Day 8 - fail

Day 7 in Review

We successfully made it to Colonial Williamsburg. We paid a small fortune to rent gowns and bonnets for the girls... Which fulfilled a dream of mine and theirs. Harper tipped his colonial cap to all the fair maidens and offered a "g'day" to all in sight. One shop-keeper asked if we could take the credit for such well-bred and finely dressed children.

They loved being in character and they fussed over their gowns and bonnets all day. They felt less fine and well-bred when we were sprinting back to the visitor center when the flash floods first started.

Yep. That is how it went down. We were having a lovely time discovering what the children thought was "Colonial Williamsburger," when the on-and-off rain switched to full throttle monsoon. We tried waiting it out, but it just seemed to get heavier and heavier... So we made a break for it.

I have never seen anything like it! Within minutes of our run back to the car, the walking paths had turned into streams complete with baseball sized rocks rolling down the stream! There were some places that were ankle-deep!

It goes without saying that we didn't get the full Williamsburger experience... but the kids had a great time and I got to quote lines from Pride and Prejudice all day.
And even if we didn't get the full, historical experience... We will always cherish great memories of our first Colonial Flash Flood.

July 21, 2012

My Dear Young Maiden

We made it to Colonial Williamsburg!!!

Okay, Maybe It Was A Pity Party.

Alright... Maybe I was being a touch negative when I listed everything gone awry in one 24 hour period, but you gotta admit that this trip has gotten off to a rough start.

We did not make it to Colonial Williamsburg because of the constipated tunnel, but we ended up spending the day at Virginia beach... And if a day on the ocean is our plan B, then can I really complain?? Now that I have some perspective, I can give the overview of the past couple days without spiraling into the deep-dark.

After Washington DC, and after the urgent care stop, we finally made it to Virginia beach, where we have been saying with Tom's Uncle Paul. We got in around 11:00ish at night and the kids were exhausted and starving.

Uncle Paul, being a more-than- gracious host, greeted us with homemade personal pizzas and a bucket of toys from the "sand bunny." (thanks a lot Uncle P, we had sooo much room in the van for more loose items.) :) We were also greeted with indoor plumbing, which we had been missing sorely.

After spending day 6 at the beach with Uncle Paul, we had an amazing dinner and spent the evening sharing ridiculous stories (and critiques of the various stages of Tom's facial hair growth) with Mr. Todd and Ms. Julie, Uncle Paul's neighbors.

I don't know if Uncle Paul knew what he was getting himself into when he allowed the six of us to visit, but I have a feeling it is a bit of a departure from his cool, bachelor living. I have a feeling that there have been more spills (and food eaten) in his house on our two night stay than there have been in the past year before we arrived.

In keeping with tradition, some things had to get a little crazy. I discovered that I had some sort of poison ivy, JUST under my wedding ring. So, for the first time in 9 years, I took the ring off for the day. And it got lost.

After a thorough search of every drain and surface, we finally found it in the dirty laundry pile. It was a little stressful, but all is well, expect for my finger is itchy.

We are heading now to Colonial Williamsburg, the tunnel appears to to be flushed free of all blockages and we traded the defective stroller in for one with ALL FOUR wheels! Things are looking up.

Because of all the craziness, we have had to rearrange the itinerary several times. This means that we are gonna cramp Uncle P's style for one more night... And then we head to North Carolina.

Well, that is the plan... But we've all seen how well our plan goes. So, I guess we'll see. We had a little conference with the kids, and we talked about how the trip has had a rough start and that it seems like maybe we should pack it in and go home... But after a family vote, we unanimously agreed to push our luck, and push through in the hope that the worst of it is over and that we can still have a great time.

I am a little skeptical about how the rest is going to go, but I will take skepticism over the desire to fake my own death. I consider this an improved state of mind, so on we go, like total fools ignoring major signs to go home.

July 20, 2012

Pre-horse bite

Just before London got nibbled.

All is not right in the world.

Everything is going wrong.

I am not throwing a pity party, and I am not just a completely negative person. Trust me, you have to have a delusional amount of optimism to plan a trip like this. So, when I say that everything is going south... It is a realistic estimation of this trip.

To save myself time (and to prevent myself from sliding into a deep, dark depression by going over all the ridiculous details) I am just going to list all of the crazy upsets from day #5.

-London peed her car seat, two more times.
-Annalee injured her big toe. Not sure what happened, but it is red and swollen and painful to walk on. For a trip with a ton of walking, this is a major problem.
-We took her to an urgent care and the doctor acted like I was an idiot for bringing her in. (somehow it was MORE stupid to bring her to the doctor, than to have ignored it. My inner rage-aholic almost punched him in the jaw, but thought better of it because Annalee was there.)
-we forgot a stroller and hiking pack for London. Also bad news for a trip with this much walking.
-we paid double the regular price for an umbrella stroller outside DC.
-when we got to DC and opened the stroller it was MISSING THE FRONT WHEELS. So we pushed London around the city popping a wheely the whole time. Apparently, in DC, you pay twice as much, for half the wheels.
-a state police horse named Stonewall thought London was an apple and munched her head, leaving the top of her covered in bubbly horse foam, and maybe a little traumatized.
-A man with a machine gun asked me to please keep the children back from the fountain, leaving me a little traumatized. (Is the machine gun really necessary, sir? To guard the fountain?)
-half the monuments in DC were closed and the reflection pool was nearly dried up. It was a sad, sad representation of the economic times. Orrrr just a good idea of how hot it was.
-we spent three hours stuck in traffic.
-the kids did so awesome in the car, we stopped to buy ice cream to make orange soda floats on the road. The ice cream was spoiled. Ice cream doesn't spoil you say? Oh, yes it does... Just ask 7-11, it's all they sell.
-mid-drive, our GPS spontaneously takes it upon itself to switch to "least use of freeways" mode. This added hours to our driving time.
-I suspect that the GPS also switches to "least gas stations and highest crime rate" right around the time we need to fill up for gas.
-our GPS is clearly a saboteur.
-we are perpetually running one thousand minutes behind schedule at all times.
-we have had to forbid the children from doing the following (absurd) things at one point or another: repeatedly asking for socks, laughing at such a high-pitch only dogs (and parents) can hear it, touching surfer Kyle until your snack is finished, spitting in your hand and rubbing on your legs like lotion, standing too close to a stranger's backside, standing close enough to a horse that he thinks you are an apple, saying "the yellow marker was mine," screaming like you're on fire, unless you are actually ON fire.
-as I type this, we just discovered that the tunnel (ie; only way out) from Virginia Beach to get to Colonial Williamsburg is blocked and we literally cannot go there today. I mean, come on!

There has seriously been one road block after another, metaphorically speaking. Now, we are switching over to LITERAL road blocks. Tom is gonna jerk the wheel.

At one point I was begging Tom to let us to fake our own deaths so that we didn't have to tear down camp, and we could just leave everything there and escape across the border. This may have been an all-time low.

I am trying to look at the bright side and all I can come up with is that maybe the uni-bomber is following the same itinerary as us, so God is sparing us from our imminent doom.

July 19, 2012

Even a little vomit is a game changer.

Okay. If you thought our day-o-urine was upsetting then hold on to your butts because we saw our first debut of vomit to kick off day #4.

Harper woke up yesterday morning complaining of a stomach ache. We were all concerned because it was Washington DC day, and it would be a lot of walking. Washington went right out the window when Harper threw up on his arm.

The temperature was supposed to get up to 108, so we immediately scrapped the idea of dragging a kid with a stomach virus into a crowded city so he could boil, and then inevitably vomit on the fanny pack of a tourist.

We carefully selected a hotel room. (We learned a few years ago not to just snag the best deal, when we had a room where the check-in clerk stood in a bullet-proof glass booth in the parking lot and it looked like someone shaved their back on all the bath towels.) So, we took our time to read a zillion reviews and we booked a safe and chest-hair free hotel room.

Sweet, sweet relief.

Harper only threw up that one time, and we spent the 108 degree day in the hotel swimming pool doing "camping balls." (London is very confused about all things camping and road trip... So for her, cannon balls makes as much sense a camping balls.)

I think maybe Harper was just so disgusted at our choice to drag them around the country that he just finally puked about it all. Either way, he made a full recovery once we got him out of the wilderness.

We had to rearrange the schedule to do Washington DC today and we are on our way now. For those of you who have waited in eager anticipation for the ATATT debut, the time has arrived.

Me: Tom, what would you like all your fans to know about your expectations going into the trip this year?
Tom: "Another wonderful adventure with the family... Buuuut, in underwear-boiling temperatures."
Me: Can you tell us a little bit about your reaction to the first four days? And what are some of the emotions you've experienced.
Tom: "Well, there's been a lot of 'what in the world were we thinking' and 'this is really crazy' but also plenty of 'this is really fun.' It makes me think that there must be something wrong with all these people who are here camping, and ignoring government health warnings... About extreme heat, severe weather, ticks and chiggers... You know, the ones that scroll by in red when you are checking the weather. But what really keeps me up at night is the self-realization that not only am I one of those people, but that we subject our children to it. Oh, the other thing that keeps me up at night is the torrential sweat downpour triggered by nothing other than lying perfectly still in the tent. I will say my WWPRD alarms (what would Paul Robinson do?) were sounding loud and clear very early on this year." (first-year readers may need to double back to previous years to appreciate this reference.)
Me: In your opinion, what was the scariest creature we encountered at the aquarium?
Tom: "Opinions aside, the most terrifying encounter was when I was in an enclosed space with a wild, unpredictable and potentially violent creature. I was in the elevator with a twelve year old girl who yelled at her little brother for no reason. We made eye contact twice and I really thought she was going to yell at me next."
Me: What have been some of your extra duties since I have been injured?
Tom: "I've had to do pretty much everything short of feeding Lara, little baby choochoo style. I have also served as Mobile Barbie Recapitation Services.
Me: what has been the most ridiculous thing said on the trip at this point?
Tom: "I'm about to duct tape him to the ceiling."
Me: How has this trip compared to the past two?
Tom: "Roughest start yet, but I also feel like we are more prepared because we've already done it twice before."
Me: What animal is your focus this year? Trip 1 was the buffalo, trip 2 was the moose... What is the animal obsession this year?
Tom: "This is Sasquatch territory we're heading into this year."

*To say that getting Tom to answer these questions is like pulling teeth is an understatement. I pulled one of Marlie's teeth this morning, easy breezy compared to the trillions of seconds that elapse between the Q and the A.

July 17, 2012

Bladder control actually IS all its cracked up to be.

If day #1 was nightmare, and day #2 was recovery, then day #3 was urine.

Incident one: London pees her pants just before bedtime. In her car seat. Any parent can relate to this feeling of "if you have to pee/poop/vomit, I'd seriously rather you do it in my hair than on your car seat." It is a huge pain any time, but to deal with a peed car seat on a road trip was enough to make us briefly consider blowing up the car.

Incident #2 started around 2:30am when my motherly instincts woke me up with an overwhelming need to cover anyone who seemed chilly, uncover anyone who had a sweat-soaked head, and pull anyone back who may have slid off their sleeping bag into no-man's land. (Feel free to be impressed with my motherly instincts, I certainly was.)

Until I realized that my motherly instincts failed to remind me to put a pull-up on Harper. (I know this is where half of you stop being impressed and start judging me for having a four year old still in pull-ups, I will thank you very kindly to shut up. Unless you have a really good trick for bed-wetting boys.)

So, here was Harper, out cold, just marinating in his sleep bag.

As one could probably imagine, it was not easy to clean him, the tent, his camping pad, and his sheets and sleeping bag - in the middle of the night, outside, with no washing machine. A stay a local Ho-Jo never sounded so good.

We cleaned everything up, except all the laundry which we ended up bringing to a 24 hour wash-n-fold in the morning. People do your laundry for 89 cents a pound! It was pretty cheap!! If there hadn't been 8 pounds of urine in his 3 pound sleeping bag, it would have been a total steal.

We got our famous crab cakes, then spent all day at the aquarium. It was a great day... So much for the kids to see, so much air conditioning. It was a beautiful thing. Then incident #3.

London brought it home with one more undie-soak. This led to me speed-washing her underpants in the bathroom sink before anyone could come in and report me to the aquarium sanitation police. I was not quick enough apparently, and nobody seemed to appreciate the sight of a woman using the public hand dryer to dry some drawers. Like they've never done it. Psh.

Now in London's sweet baby defense she is just now two and a half, so this is totally age appropriate (and so was baby Huey's sleeping bag fiasco, by the way, you can ask any pediatrician.)

Just before our trip London told me she had to go potty "willy willy bad" and when I told her she needed to hold it, she grabbed herself and yelled "I'm holding it! But if I let go can my undies hold it?" Clearly we still have some ground to cover with her, so I should have seen this coming.

Overall though, It was a really great day, and the kids had so much fun at the aquarium. And when you are surrounded by that much water, honestly who WOULDN't pee themselves? I know Tom considered it on several different occasions.

Tomorrow is Washington D.C. and the kids have very high hopes from our Nation's Capitol. Since nobody in D.C. has ever let anyone down, I see no reason why we shouldn't be feeling pretty good on this side of it. I plan to keep fresh underpants of all sizes in a holster tomorrow, ready to pull out the moment anyone gets the teensiest bit excited.

*a note to ATTAT fans, tomorrow I will be conducting an intensive interview with Tom himself. You can expect lots of exciting things from this full-length feature, including his reactions to all the events that have transpired, and what one creature in the aquarium genuinely terrified him to the point that he said an interaction with said creature would "make him cry." Stay tuned to hear that, and more, tomorrow on All Tom, All the Time.

World Famous Lexington Market

The Lexington Market in Baltimore has lots of interesting things to offer... like "hog jawls" pictured below. We passed on those, but we did get the world's best crab cakes from Faidley's Seafood.

We learned about the family-run seafood stand from a PBS documentary about the best public markets in the US. (it is as riveting as you would expect.) This was my second time eating them, but the last time I had one I was with Sam and we got mugged by a gang of hoodlums. Oh wait, that didn't happen at all... buuuut, she did feel overwhelmed.

This time we met the owner who took no credit for the crab cakes, admitting that he was just "sleeping with" the crab cake master (his wife of 54 years.)
We took a picture of him with the kids, Harper compared his "sweet mowhog" with that of the guy taking our order and we happily slammed an amazing crab cake.

We are headed now to the aquarium where London "will not be wis all da shoiks." (be with all the sharks.). Which may be true because we are probably gonna have to leave we as collateral to afford the parking in this joint.