Friday, June 18, 2010

Day 20 - what's (not to?) love about today

Kingman, Arizona

Not lovin' that the day started at 4:30 a.m. or so after another night of various adventures.
Lovin' that the boys had their best car day ever with matching 1 hr. naps and 2 hr. naps. Where have they been all these weeks?!

Not lovin' that we were pulled over for going 78 in a 75 speed limit state. Really? And what kind of profiling leads you to pick on a minivan with a roof top carrier that is full of kids ready for a stop?
Lovin' that the cop let us off with a warning after 15 min. of stalling and the kids hung in there.

Not lovin' that Arizona has closed all of their rest areas. Without any forewarning. Oops, you'll have to drive another 50 miles for bathrooms and stretching and eating. (Did I mention that this hit us on the same stretch that we got pulled over?!) You just can't do that, budget crisis or not, in a state that consists of only cactus, mountains, and some oversized cracks in the ground.
Lovin' that we found an awesome park for lunch in Flagstaff. Daily picnics, whether at fun (open!) rest areas or random city parks are one of our favorite things about road trips. Random tip: Besides AZ, most of Maryland's rest stops seem to be closed this summer too. Illinois' are consistently awesome. And Texas' too. Except the last one we were at there also had signs all over to watch for rattlesnakes. Details.

Not lovin' sleeping in tight quarters again tonight and driving through three time zones in two days. (Can't believe we're about 3300 miles into our trip - over half way!!!)
Absolutely lovin' that we are going to be in California tomorrow - with no intention of driving more than about 5 miles for at least the first few days there, and enjoying every square foot we're given at my parents' house!

Hope you are finding plenty to love about your summer (mis)adventures too :).

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Day 17 - babies!

Dallas, Texas

The boys are 7 months old today - hard to believe. Spent the day packing for our driving blitz to California, enjoying an afternoon at the pool - including both boys in for the first time, and grilling (again) with Uncle Dave. Winding up our three days in Dallas hanging out with Dave and finally being "on vacation" - not renting, selling, cleaning, packing. Wonderful!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Day 11 - moving our bigger family

(outside our hotel in Maryland)

Champaign, Illinois

Our house is under contract (yay!), and so our trip has taken a detour back to Champaign for a couple of days. Because it is set to close within a couple of short weeks, much sooner than we expected, we've spent the last couple of days moving all our STUFF into a storage space until our Aug. 1 lease begins, and tying up final loose ends here. At one point, we were planning to be camping in the Smoky Mountains now. Instead, the air mattresses and camp chairs are being used in our now empty house.

Moving used to be a pain when there were two or three of us and some stuff. We've discovered this time that moving has become almost overwhelming, both because we have acquired so much more than before, and we have the little guys now. Which wouldn't be so bad if the little guys hadn't acquired colds and poop in abundance this week (becoming an expert in diaper rash remedies!). Anyhow, lots to complain about and agonize through, and inspiration for us to avoid moving for as long as humanly possible!!! Finally time for the grad students to become the family in the 'burbs.

After plenty of frustruation with all the moving work this week, I had a little epiphany this morning that completely changed my attitude (for the better!). While discussing job benefits over the kitchen table that now exists only in our imagination, I realized a two awesome things -

1. We are moving to what can be a permanent location. Not a temporary postdoc or a city in the middle of no where or a school with a rock bottom salary. It is an enormous blessing that "staying put" is even an option for us. There were plenty of interviews that would have led to temporary jobs instead.
2. So many of our daily details the last couple of weeks have involved HR joys such as health insurance, life insurance, school enrollment, etc. We are blessed beyond measure to have what I decided this morning is a HomeTown Buffet of state job benefits.

Thank you God for a great job opportunity and all the little rugrats that help complicate things along the way!

Oh yeah, and pictures to remember the best moments, no matter how few and far between they may feel :).

(above, hanging out with my girls in between feeding bottles to the boys in the back seat)

(on a walk a few minutes from our hotel in Maryland)

(the little rascals!)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Day 9 - Baltimore, first impressions!

Cambridge, Ohio

Two posts in one day, whaddya know. Enjoying the luxury of being left behind with two sleeping babies, and trying to capture some memories for myself!

So, I actually never set foot into the "city" of Baltimore this week, but we logged plenty of miles driving around the north/central suburbs - Towson (new jobs!), Lutherville (new house!), Timonium (new elementary school), Cockeysville (hotel), and other interesting new places.

The people we met were ridiculously friendly. The girls in line at the grocery store, across the way at our hotel, on campus, at Abby's new school, the landlady who had us over for two hours of visiting. And more. And not friendly in a lazy sort of way, but nice and on the ball. The first girl I met at the store literally chased me down to give me her phone number for when we moved here.

Trees! and Hills! It's really pretty here. Not as beautifully landscaped as where we're coming from in Illinois, but just naturally really pretty. Hiking at what would be a state park back home - at a city park just 5 minutes from our hotel. Wow!

Row houses. Old house packed together. Pretty different. We looked at several, but opted for a place with more of a yard...

And the baby has awoken. So there you have our bits of impressions!

Day 9 - "Recalculating"

Cambridge, Ohio.

So we're attempting to road trip the summer away (60 days?), with two main goals - find a house in Baltimore, and then visit my parents in California. And enjoy each other (all 6 of us!) along the way.

One word, supplied daily by our new GPS-voice-lady, sums up our trip thus far: "recalculating". Which, in case you've never used a GPS, like me before this week, is what she says when you take a wrong turn, hit construction, find a new on-ramp to the freeway, etc. She's been very helpful actually, except for the time I asked her to take me to Walmart and we ended up in a wooded subdivision.

We left a week or so ago with big plans. Our trip to Baltimore included encounters with Indy 500 traffic, Appalachians, sleepless babies, Memorial Day traffic back into Baltimore, thunder storms, etc. Within a day, we recalculated that we would no longer take our summer trip. A first for us, and that's with several 3000+ mile road trips under our belt with kids. Very disappointing.

A few days later, with the memory of our rotten drive fading, we began recalculating how to scale the trip back and yet still make it to CA. And we found a house in Baltimore! (Thank you God!)

On the way home from signing the lease, we got a call that our house was close to going under contract (all but sold). And that the new owner wanted to move in ASAP. Recalculate again once that happens, as we must now head back to Champaign and move our boxes out of the house and into storage. But for good reason at least!

Today was our first of two days heading back home, and the drive is going better. But our plans are still changing by the moment. I think we have working our way through plans A, B, ... Z and may be at plan AA now. We've wasted quite a bit of time making plans that circumstances have rendered impossible.

So what of all this recalculating? This week it has gotten me thinking. I grew up being taught that God always has a very distinct "will" for each moment of my day, and I'd better find that or feel guilty. But maybe it's more that he's got an end goal for us, and is willing to recalculate for us with every curve ball that life gives us or we make for ourselves. Fixing a "wrong" turn doesn't always involve a U-turn, incidentally. Often just a path through a different neighborhood. (For us, lots of ways that we can be together and make it to California. Or just get to that next rental we need to look at.)

A good friend of ours who we were set to visit this summer went into the hospital last weekend, just as our trip began. Unexpected medical problems that have temporarily kept her away from her young kids and have potential to be quite serious. I imagine that they are feeling the need every day for direction for what to do next. Besides ask for miracles.

Yes, we're looking ahead with a plan for our trip. But are giving up a bit on planning more than a day ahead, after all. Today, we tried some new things and they seemed to smooth things out. I sat in the back of the car for a couple of hours, touching all four kids at once but helping keep the peace and subdue the hunger. I thought and prayed for my friend, who I'm sure wishes she could be with her three little ones today. This is the thought that comes to mind. Worry/plan less, and leave the recalculating to the GPS lady, and more importantly, God.

Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. Matthew 6: 26-34

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Day 3 - Happy anniversary?

Cockeysville, Maryland

Yesterday was our 9th anniversary! And, true to form, it was unusual. June 2 has fallen during our "month off" as college teachers for every year of our marriage. Our first anniversary was spent changing a flat tire on a road in Michigan while the Amish drove by in their trusty buggy. Every other year has followed suit.

This year was no different, but actually worse. We would have celebrated a mere flat tire I think.

The year has been an especially intense one, with the baby twins, a huge job search, my own part-time work, and OH - John working long, long hours getting finishing school and landing a job. Much to be thankful for, but possibly the most challenging year that either of us have ever lived.

All was to become easier this summer, when we left on a two month road trip vacation last weekend. We hoped and planned in spare moments for relaxed time together as a family... So we left, and the fun lasted, oh, an hour. Starting with the boys no longer sleeping well (in the car in particular), and continuing with an exhausting house hunt in a new city, our first week out of town has been quite rotten.

Enter June 2. The boys kept me up nearly all night, again. The morning was an all out scramble for the 5th day in a row to get out the door and see rental options. Tag team, feed, fuss, drive, run into a house, back out, discuss, repeat. No spare minutes for the gift basket he thought about having delivered, the champagne I was going to buy, or even a card. Just surviving.

And yet somehow it turned sweet. Abby made us a card. That had a wedding cake with a big "MD" on it for both Mom and Dad and Maryland. It said "You are both nice. You met nine years ago! On this day you got married. Happy Annivinsery. Love, Abby"

Our hotel was serving free dinner. The first cookout of the season, so free burgers, kebabs, hot dogs, all the fixings and cake for dessert. For free. When we felt like it. Right outside our front door.

We took a walk afterwards. Through the parking lots next door. Rachel pushed her brothers around, and we talked in baby free peace, discussing all our housing options and moving towards a decision. You have to understand that such peace was a near miracle after the week we've been having.

The kids all went to bed calmly. An hour earlier than all week. Silence descended on all four of them at once, and we were free to again talk through our week behind the door in the lighted bathroom (hotel, remember!), then fall asleep without the sound of anyone crying. (side note - which is not to say that the boys slept well for the rest of the night!)

At the end of the day, we were together, and most importantly at peace and happy together. A card from a six year old, a hotel dinner, a walk through a commercial district, and four kids sleeping in our room. We felt loved and celebrated in the oddest and yet best ways possible.

Thank you God for finding just the ways to "happ-ify" our day, for helping us through this year, and for taking us into another one.

(But maybe we could just try "normal" next year?!)