Well, I did it. I just made first contact with a literary agent who may be willing to find a publisher for me.

I'm excited. I'm shaking. I feel sick.

But I'm happy!
Jeremy has been sick the past couple days; he's got a manly cold (which is quite different from a man cold). A manly cold requires overdosing with NyQuil, but pushing through the drowsiness to go to work and to get things done around the house. It also entails large amounts of sleeping, life-like dreaming and sleep-walking/talking. Thankfully, I know how NyQuil affects Jeremy, so I'm not alarmed at some of the crazy things that come out of his mouth.

Yesterday, he came home from work and collapsed into bed while I finished cooking supper. When it was time to eat, Liberty woke him up then came back to sit at the table and wait for him to arrive. About ten minutes passed before he stumbled sleepily into the dining room, "Don't be too angry at me, Missy," he pleaded as he entered. "I'm really, really sorry."

I paused from dishing food onto the girls' plates. "For what?" I asked, truly puzzled.

"For the Pepsi I drank. I'm really sorry. I know I shouldn't have, but it was in a glass bottle!"

Since being diagnosed with diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure recently, poor Jeremy has really battled his eating and drinking habits, and every once in a while, he gives in, so my first thought was he must have had a Pepsi during his Christmas party at work. But when my brain registered the part about the glass bottle, I knew without any doubt, I was talking to NyQuil Jeremy. I hid my smile and replied, "Oh wow, where did you get a Pepsi in a glass bottle?"

He paused, obviously confused, then he finally said, "I - I don't know. But I'm sorry for the hot dogs, too."

"The hot dogs?"

"They were so huge, Missy! So big. I couldn't say no. I tried. I really did." His voice ended almost in a whimper, then became joyful. "But they were really good!" He grinned at me so happily that I couldn't help laughing aloud.

"I'm glad you enjoyed them," I told him in amusement. "Now sit down and eat your supper."

He sat; Mercy prayed; we all ate. After five minutes or so, I noticed a new look on his face, an aware look. He'd finally woken up. We started conversing, and the night went on.

Several hours later, I was climbing into bed when from his pillow Jeremy told me, "I had the most wonderful dream earlier, Missy."

"I know."

"It was about these huge hot dogs; they were so good!"

"I know."

"And Pepsi -- in a glass bottle!"

"I know."

"And you were really mad at me for eating it all."

"I know."

"You know? What do you mean, you know?"
Yesterday at supper time, Mercy prayed before we started eating, "God, please help me blow on my food for me, so it won't burn my mouth. Amen." Jeremy and I chuckled to each other, and then Daddy helped Mercy add to her prayer, "AND thank You for the food you gave us, too! We love you, God! Amen."

I started thinking: the last few times I've heard Mercy pray, it's gone like this "God, please help me [fill in the blank]." That hit my heart hard, because while it's great to depend on God for all aspects of my daily life, I suddenly realized that I've been doing a lot more requesting than exalting. After all, Mercy learned how to pray by listening to me converse with God as I go through my day.

With those thoughts already tumbling around in my brain, I opened an email this morning from my friend Alicia who wanted to share her morning devotions with me. She closed with this verse.

Psalm 46:10 "Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth."


The word boomed and reverberated in my heart.


How can I be intentional about exalting, I wondered. How can I teach daily exalting of the King to my daughters?

I decided to have a Praise Party with the girls. The three of us stood in the middle of the living room, lifted our hands to the sky and shouted "I LOVE YOU, GOD! YOU ARE AMAZING! THANK YOU FOR BEING SO GOOD TO US!" Then we each took turns telling God about things He had done that we were so happy about. Mercy told God thank you for the snow; Liberty barked (because she was still Moona, the doggy) "Thank You for our wonderful house!" Then we jumped and danced and twirled to show God how great He was and how happy we were about Him.

We had a lot of fun, and I plan to do it again every day -- not only to teach my girls to praise, but to get me into the praising habit too.
Since moving, anytime I come across an item that doesn't immediately have a home, I've been taking it to my bedroom to sit until I have time to organize an adoption league. Well, today, I'm hitting my room and hitting it hard! When I'm done with it, it will be the cleanest, most organized room in the house. I declared it to be a pj day for the girls, and they're loving it. Somehow, pj days are mellower. I, on the other hand, am fully dressed and in action.

After breakfast, I pulled out our new Squiggly Worms game to keep the girls occupied, then I started at my bedroom doorway. I've worked my way around the room, spending a great deal of time cleaning and organizing the desk. I'm saving the desk drawer for the very end.

I took a break to view the armada Liberty and Mercy created in the bathtub using my tupperware bowls, and I would even have a video to post on here for you if I could locate my camera cord. Hopefully, it's in my bedroom, and if it is, I promise you, I will find it before I am finished with that room. (Ironically, it's probably in the desk drawer that I've decided to save for last.)

I am now so close to being finished with the desk, that I'll go ahead and call it finished. Then I'm moving on to the four boxes left to unpack. Sigh. I'm not looking forward to that job.

I stopped about two hours ago for lunch (leftover turkey sandwiches), and after lunch the girls and I made finger puppets with the new kit we -- okay, okay, they -- got for Christmas from Poppaw and Nonna. I would have some cute pictures to share with you if I could just find that camera cord...

The girls are napping now, so it's back to the bedroom for me!
Jeremy's family has come and gone. What a flurry of unwrapping we did during our early Christmas celebration! I'm still finding homes for all the new toys and games. Mercy decided to help me out by secretly storing the marbles for the new Hungry Hippos game from Poppaw and Nonna in my snow boots. After a few days of searching, I finally found the marbles when I tried to walk out the door in my boots. Today, I found a handful of beans from Don't Spill The Beans in my boot, and at Walmart, I discovered a stray plastic jewel when it shifted positions and attacked my foot in the middle of the store. I must have looked awfully funny hopping on one foot and shouting "Ah! Ah!" at Walmart. At least my daughters thought I did.

You know me. I'll do anything to add joy.

We're still struggling with the furnace in our new house. Apparently, our automatic thermostat is smarter than we are, and it believes we're looking for air conditioning during the cold winter months. We've had to resort to putting a tiny heater in the girls' room, while Jeremy and I survive under our arctic blanket via body heat. Someday, I'll find that special spot where I stored all of the instruction manuals for the appliances in the new house. (Mercy's probably hidden it in my snow boots.)

Last week, I sliced my left index knuckle so deeply that I could see my own tendon. (I suppose that's better than being able to see someone else's tendon in my finger, huh?) The girls were napping, so I went to my neighbor's house for help. She let me drip blood all the way to her kitchen sink, and she doctored me up. Then she offered to watch my daughters for me while I went to the ER for stitches. It's wonderful to have great neighbors! Four different families have stopped by to welcome us to the neighborhood and to chat with us since we've moved. I love it here!

The only thing that could make it better would be to find the perfect curtains for my gorgeous new bedroom.

I know I promised you another installment in my marriage certificate/driver's license story, but I'm not in story-telling mode right now. I'm in get-the-house-organized-and-all-boxes-unpacked mode. But some day, the muse will return.

It's probably still packed in a box and haphazardly stacked in the basement.
Jeremy got the internet up and running last night, and my very first act on my brand new internet is to type out a blog post. Well, not really. My very, very first act was to catch up on Amazing Race episodes last night.

So many funny things have happened since we moved, and I can't even remember them to tell you. I should have been taking notes.

We're mostly settled. Still working on organizing and finding places for things. I have a stack of boxes to be sorted for a garage sale this spring! I'm very excited about that. I have a few boxes left to unpack, and a lot of decor left with which to decorate.

A crazy occurrence happened yesterday, but I can't tell you about it because it relates to a surprise for my in-laws who are coming this weekend for an early Christmas celebration. (Nonna, you thought I'd let it slip, didn't you?)

Tonight is the first night of our church's Christmas play, and I'm reading to the nursery kids a story that I wrote. My church has put it into book format, and we're going to hand the books out to the kids to take home. I'm very excited about that!

Hmm, what else can I tell you about?

I know, it's not a very interesting first post back, is it?

Oh well, at least I'm back! Hooray for internet!!!
Hi, Everybody!

We slept in our new house last night!!!! Thank you, Tony and Amy!

Still lots more to do, and my internet connection may get lost when we move the computer later this week; we'll see.

When I come back, remind me that I haven't finished my marriage certificate/driver's license saga. (I have another installment for your reading pleasure.)

And now, it's back to packing for me.

I normally wait to blog until the children are a'bed, but this is just too good to wait. My two year old and four year old daughters are performing for their own enjoyment, a dramatic opera right this second. It's been going on for at least fifteen minutes, now.

For real.

With a plot and everything.

The storyline centers around a missing shoe. Apparently, there is a circus coming to town, and my daughters are supposed to dance in it, but they can't unless they find their missing shoe. Time is running out.

It's very dramatic with lots of sweeping arm movements and raw emotion.

So far, my favorite line has been the one where Liberty sings, "Ooooohhhhh, won't anyone help me find my missing shooooooooeeeee?"

And Mercy replies, "Yes! I will find your shoooooeeeeee!"

"Maybe it's in the forest," Liberty sings, and Mercy runs to the kitchen, stops short in confusion and then warbles out, "But where is the forest?"

I spewed my burst of laughter and had to wipe my mouth.

Huh, they must have decided that shoe was too hard to find, because now they are singing about BUYING a shoe.
Liberty, my dramatic, imaginative, mini-me, has been having nightmares every night for the past two months. Sometimes, she sleepwalks along with her nightmares. Grand times! As you can guess, Mercy is the only one in this apartment getting any sleep.

Jeremy and I have been praying for Liberty and praying with Liberty. We've changed her diet; we've changed her room temperature; we've changed her room lighting; we've allowed her to sleep with us; we've allowed her to sleep with Mercy; we've allowed her to sleep in a fort on her bedroom floor. I can't even remember all of the adjustments we have tried in an attempt to get her to sleep securely through the night. None of them have worked.

I have also noticed a daytime change in Liberty Grace. She used to enjoy discussing things with God randomly throughout the day, but in the last month or so, I have not heard her conversing with Him. At our meal table, she refuses to pray with us. If I ask her specifically to talk to God about any certain thing, she tells me she doesn't want to.

Then last week at bedtime, Liberty said, "Mommy, will you sleep with me, please? I don't want to have any bad dreams."

I was unable to lie down with her at that exact moment, and I didn't want to be tricked into a new bedtime routine. "I'm sorry, Honeybunny, I can't right now, but you know that God is always here with you."

"No," she said sadly, "He's not. God is not real."

If you could have heard her tone of voice right then, you would know that she was not referring to the fact that God is invisible. She truly believed and was distraught over the fact that He did not exist.

"Oh, Liberty, yes, He is. God is here with us right now. He can hear you, and He can see you, and He loves to take care of you and keep you safe."

"No, Mommy," she responded as though I were a little child, "God is just pretend." She sounded infinitely sad and heart-broken.

I gathered her up into my arms as I sat on the bed, and I prayed. I asked God to show Liberty truth. I asked Him to help her continue using her brain in a very smart way, and to reveal His existence to her. Jeremy came in and cuddled both of us together, and he asked God to give Liberty happy dreams that night. We hugged and kissed our little girl and tucked her into bed.

Then we went to our own bed and continued praying for good dreams for her.

Our entire family slept all night long.

The next morning, Liberty announced, "DADDY!!! I HAD SIX HAPPY DREAMS LAST NIGHT!!!"

She was beside herself with glee. We were, too. "Wow! How did THAT happen?" Daddy asked happily.

She quieted down and thought about it very seriously, and finally her brain must have arrived at a conclusion that she could not deny, even though the way she said it made it seem that if she could deny it, she would, "God gave them to me," she said quietly and with conviction in her voice.

"That was nice of Him! Thank you, God!" I said, and we continued making breakfast. The Holy Spirit prompted both Jeremy and I to leave the internal work up to Him.

When our meal was prepared, and we were all seated at our plates, Jeremy asked Liberty if she would like to thank God for our food. As usual, she declined strongly.

A week has gone by since then, and yesterday, as the girls and I were driving home from our new home, Mercy dropped a toy between her car seat and the wall. She asked me to pick it up for her, but I could not reach it.

"Mommy!" Liberty spoke up with excitement, "I could pray to God about it, and He can make your arms grow longer!"

I laughed internally at the specific request, but her offer excited me. I cautiously questioned, "Would you like to talk to God about Mercy's toy, Liberty?" I fully expected her to refuse as usual, but she didn't.

"Sure, Mommy!" she said, and she started praying.

I started praying, too. Okay, God, it's really not funny that THIS is the prayer You have put on her heart as her very first request now that she's back on speaking terms with You! Give Mommy longer arms! I know anything is possible with You, but I don't really WANT longer arms, and I don't want to disappoint her, either. You are too funny! And THANK YOU, THANK YOU for breaking through to her! HOORAY!! Okay, now, what do You want me to do?

When Liberty finished her very lengthy prayer full of dramatic pleading with God and convincing Him of what importance to Mercy's eternal happiness the obtaining of that toy would be, I pulled the car off to the side of the road. I unbuckled my seat belt, whirred the mechanical seat as far back as it would go, adjusted the seat-back into an almost completely prone position, and I popped my shoulder out of joint (it goes back in painlessly because I'm double-jointed) reaching behind me to the toy. I came back up with it triumphantly and deposited it into Mercy's lap amidst much cheering on Liberty's part.

"Oh, God!" she squealed, "Thank You, thank You, thank You, thank You!"

"Yes, thank You," I breathed, referring to Liberty's renewed connection with Him and the work He did to accomplish that.

Liberty has had no nightmares since that first night of six happy dreams, and I am enjoying the great privilege of SLEEP. Ever since her conversation with God, yesterday afternoon, Liberty is now back to discussing her every day life with Him just like normal, and I love eavesdropping on her conversations throughout the day even more than I enjoy sleeping!
Yesterday, I informed you of my drivers license woes, and several people commented on the trouble with our marriage certificate. Do I have a story for you!

Let's rewind to 2003.

It wasn't until 1:30 pm, the afternoon before our wedding day, that I remembered to pick up a marriage license. I knew that most states required a waiting period between the obtaining of the marriage license and the actual marriage ceremony, so my forgetfulness prompted a slight panic-attack. Jeremy and I rushed to the county clerk's office to pick up our paperwork.

The motherly woman behind the counter expressed her felicitations at our wonderful event, and told us we had to wait twenty-four hours before getting married as stated in Illinois state law. I looked at the clock. It was 2:04 pm. Our ceremony was scheduled to start at 2:00 pm the following day.

The woman joked with us about watching the clock and being sure to wait, then she handed me two papers. One made of card stock, beautifully printed in rainbow colors with a Bible verse embossed in gold at the bottom: Mark 10:7-9 "‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” And the other paper, a flimsy, smallish, square, badly-photocopied, ink-missing-in-spots note stating that the bride and groom had been married on a certain date at a certain place. It had blanks for all of the pertinent information to be filled in and places for witnesses and the marriage official to sign. The lady firmly told us that the pretty copy was not official. It was only for our viewing pleasure, and meant to be framed and hung on a wall of our home. People frequently were confused because the non-impressive looking paper was the real certificate. She instructed us that we needed to have it signed by the pastor and witnesses, then return it to the clerk's office within seven days so they could record it and stamp it, then I would need to mail it to the social security office for a new SS card in my married name.

Other than the rehearsal dinner, I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening running various wedding errands, and then my bridesmaids and I white-gloved my apartment, since I would be moving to Iowa with Jeremy immediately after our wedding. I tucked my papers into a special folder in my suitcase so that they would be easily findable the following morning amid all the chaos of my not completely packed up apartment.

In the morning, the bridesmaids and I all finished packing my car with odds and ends, including my honeymoon suitcase with the important file folder. At the church, I pulled the folder out so the pastor could sign our marriage certificate. I handed him the fancy one, and he reminded me that it was not official, but when I checked the folder for the pathetic photocopy, I could not find it. A mad search ensued, but no document came up. We delayed the ceremony slightly because the pastor was helping me search. Finally he said, "Never mind. I'll go ahead with the ceremony, but remember, you won't really be married until I've signed that paper." Then he walked towards his spot at the front of the church.

Can I give you readers a word of advice?

If you are ever a pastor marrying a couple, NEVER joke like that to a nervous, panicky, did-not-sleep-last-night bride.


It was not humorous. All of the scenarios I had had nightmares about for the past three weeks did not measure up to the idea that after waiting this long (Jeremy and I had dated six years) and after all this trouble (several things had gone crazily wrong at the last minute with the wedding plans -- for example, when I had called the florist the day before to verify the time that our flowers would be delivered, I discovered that no one there knew who I was. It turns out, the sales-person who had sat down with us and pain-stakingly researched flower colors, meanings and seasonal availability, the woman who had stayed in contact with me over the past several months, the woman who had given us a signed copy of our flower bill quote had been fired the week before, and she took all of her client files with her. When I presented my copy of the quote and the list of flowers, they told me that over half of those flowers were not available during this season; the sales-person had been dreadfully mistaken in both her floral listing and her quote-price; the flowers on my list would have to be drastically substituted or flown in from some distant climate - but none of that would happen because the shop had decided to refund my money with their apologies because they were already completely swamped with weddings that WERE on their calendar.) Yes, after all THAT trouble, we would STILL not be married. Even my nightmare about "The Unity Candle Falls On The Wedding Dress And Engulfs Me In Flames And I Have To Be Rushed To The Hospital And Our Wedding Is Canceled Because I'm In The Burn Unit" did not prepare me for the panic that flooded my blood-stream at that moment.

With wide eyes, I looked up at my dad standing next to me. I knew I was about to sob hysterically. He shook his head at my un-asked question, "No," he whispered, "he was just joking." But his voice rose slightly at the end of the sentence, giving me the impression that my dad -- MY DAD -- was unsure of the facts.

If that won't shake you to the core, then I don't know what will.

As I sedately walked down the aisle, arm in arm with my father, my mind lingered on the possible whereabouts of that document. While Dad gave his giving his daughter away speech, I mentally searched every nook and cranny of my almost empty apartment. During the singing of the song Jeremy and I had picked out for this occasion, my brain checked clothing pockets of every garment I had come in contact with over the past twenty-four hours.

Only Jeremy's extreme stage-fright brought my mind back to the present, and I had to whisper encouragement to him during the rest of the ceremony. He told me later that it was not nervousness about getting married; it was the fact that he had to stand in front of everyone. If only he had known then what being married to me would be like, he might have been more nervous about the proceedings.

He's a riot, that guy.

During the reception, my sister Hannah went back to my apartment to search for the missing document, but she came back over an hour later, empty-handed.

"That's alright," the pastor told Jeremy and me, "You have an entire week before the license expires. You'll find it in a day or so, and I'll sign it then. No problem."

"D-do you think it's okay for us to go on our honeymoon without it being official?" I whispered anxiously and feeling dumb.

The pastor laughed heartily, winked and said, "I think it's okay," at the same time that Jeremy declared, "We're GOING on our honeymoon!" with a bit of a growl in his voice.

I began breathing again. Good. So long as we're all in agreement!

Jeremy and I headed to the Poconos for our honeymoon. We got stranded in Cincinnati when several flights were cancelled on account of torrential downpours, and we did not reach our Pennsylvania destination until the wee hours of the morning. We wandered the airport, trying to find a taxi to take us to our hotel, but every vehicle was taken.

Except one.

A lone man dressed all in black stood leaning against an airport column, listening to us as we walked from counter to counter, reciting our tale of honeymoon woe, and he took pity on us. He lurched away from the pole, and asked, "Yous need a ride?"

When we nodded, he jerked his head, "Follow me, I can take you."

Jeremy and I glanced warily at each other, but neither of us were receiving odd vibes from the friendly man. We allowed him to take our bags for us, and we followed through dimly lit back hallways until we finally stepped out of the building into the pouring rain. The man waved us back under the building's overhanging roof, while he put our suitcases into an old, black hearse.

I am totally not joking, you guys.

When we hesitated, he explained that the limo company he worked for had refurbished the interior of the hearse so that it was now a limousine. He opened the door for us, so that we could examine the inside. Sure enough, it boasted mirrored walls, leather bench seats, gorgeous light sconces, a refrigerator stocked with miniature soft drink cans (a selling feature for my new husband). We hopped in. You didn't really think Jeremy would pass up a hearse with a fridge in it, did you?

We chatted happily with our new friend (I can't remember his name now) about our wedding and his wedding and our airport adventures and our future plans. He told us that normally, the charge for this car was pretty high, but the party that requested it had been delayed even longer than we had, and he thought it would be nice to give us a free ride as a wedding present. Jeremy played with buttons on his side console, accidentally turning the sconces on and off, accidentally turning the floor lights on and off, accidentally lowering and raising the windows and drenching the two of us in the process until I turned to him and said, "Stop it. What are you doing?"

"I'm trying to find the wall between us and our driver," he muttered. Our friend laughed and said, "I was wondering when you two would get around to that." Then he pushed a button in the front and the wall went up. He then proceeded to drive like a maniac for more than an hour through the rain-slicked, winding mountain roads. I had to stop kissing Jeremy because I needed a receptacle for my car-sick stomach. (How romantic.) The ride continued.

In order to get some relief, I finally had to lie face-down on the coffin-shaped floor where I begged God to make the ride end before Jeremy changed his mind about me, while Jeremy removed ALL of the tiny Mountain Dew cans from the fridge. When we stopped, and the courteous limo driver opened the door for us, I remained on the floor unable to move because of the dizziness. He and Jeremy stood outside the open car door in the slight drizzle that was now falling from the sky and chatted. Jeremy offered him a Mountain Dew, and the two of them chugged away. I heard him offer to pick us up and drive us back to the airport when our honeymoon was over, and I heard Jeremy accept his offer while my entire being silently screamed NOOOOOO, but I couldn't speak.

I'll fade to black for the rest of our honeymoon. We did have three more hilarious adventures, however, two of them do not involve clothing, so you'd have to ask me in person for those details.

On our fifth morning of being married, I rummaged through a suitcase pocket for some article of clothing, and my fingers met a paper-like object. I pulled it out. An envelope. Hmm. I opened the envelope.

"Jeremy! I found our marriage certificate!!! The real one!!" We counted the days, and realized it would expire within forty-eight hours. We filled in the blanks and signed our names. (Only, I filled in my maiden name instead of my married name. Didn't know I'd done it wrong.) Then we rushed to the concierge office. She listened to our crazy story and agreed to over-night the document to my parents for free! She also placed a long-distance call from her desk phone to my parents for us, and we explained the situation. My parents needed to sign as witnesses (our maids of honor and best men had witnessed the decorative one), and my dad needed to take it to the pastor for his signature. Then my parents would need to take it to the county clerk's office so they could record it in their books and do some kind of special stamp on the back of the document.

My parents received the certificate the following day and signed it. Then my dad took it to the church for the pastor's signature. The associate pastor told him that the senior pastor had gone home early; he was about to start his family vacation. Dad drove out to the senior pastor's house, only to find that the family had already departed and would not be back for at least a week.

Dad drove back to the church and explained the situation to the associate pastor who sympathized but had no solution. My dad asked if the associate pastor would sign the document, but he refused since he had not married us. After much debate, the associate pastor finally agreed to sign the senior pastor's name to our document, and that is why we are the proud owners of a FORGED marriage certificate. The associate pastor jokingly swore my dad to secrecy.

Which is why my dad told us, and which is why I am now telling the internet.

(But you will notice the names have been withheld to shield the guilty.)

Jeremy and I returned from our honeymoon, stopped off at my parents' house to pick up our infamous, official marriage certificate, and moved directly to Iowa. I mailed my certificate to the social security office, and they called to inform me that I had filled it out with my maiden name. I needed to send a certified letter showing what my married name should be. I did so. They mailed the official certificate back to me along with a new social security card reflecting my name change.

Jeremy and I went to the DOT (Division of Motor Vehicles) in Iowa to obtain our driver's licenses. The officials there frowned at my certificate and told me it was just a photocopy. They wanted my real one. Jeremy and I argued and argued with them, but finally we went home to our new apartment and gathered up the "pretty" certificate, the mailing envelope from the social security administration, all of the various and sundry pieces of government papers showing my name change, and the phone number for the county clerk's office in Illinois in case all else failed. We returned to the DOT, and stood in line for the same worker. After more arguing, some very close perusal of our paperwork, and a phone call to Illinois, he finally gave me a license, but he still expressed doubt about my marriage certificate.

Whew! Jeremy and I have joked about that paper several times over the years.

Until this past Saturday.

Today, I called the State of Illinois, and inquired about the nature of their marriage certificates. The lady verified that their certificates do not show any numbers or codes at all to prove that they have been recorded. I asked for a certified letter from the State of Illinois listing this to be true so that I could take the letter to the Indiana BMV as they had requested. The lady told me that the State could not do this for me, but that if I called the clerk's office of the county where I was married, they could probably help me out.

I called the county clerk's office. That lady told me that they could not write a letter for me, but that if I showed the special raised stamp on the back of the paper to the BMV workers, that should be proof enough.

I turned my certificate over. "But there is no special raised stamp on the back of my certificate," I told her.

"There isn't?"

"No. Are you telling me there should be?" A sinking feeling began in my tummy.

"Yes, there should be. You must be looking at the decorative certificate. That is not the official one."

"No, I know that. I'm looking at the official one," and I described it to her, "plain white square of paper, looks like a bad photocopy..."

She interrupted me. "No, our official certificates are multicolored and have a stamp on the back. You must be looking at a photocopy of one."

I paused, not even wanting to finish this conversation. "No," I said dully, "this is not a photocopy. I mean, it IS a photocopy, but it is the original of what I was given at your office seven years ago. The signatures are originals."

"Huh," she thought about it. "I'm not even sure what that could be."

You know what?

I don't even care if we're legally married or not. This is ridiculous.

"Ma'am, can you do a favor for me? Would you look in your computer system and tell me if I am listed as married in there?"

"Oh, honey, I wish I could, but I'd have to see your current photo ID before I'd be allowed to check for you."

Let me tell you a story...

of a man named Charlie on that tragic and fateful day. He put ten cents in his pocket, kissed his wife and family, went to ride on the MTA. But did he ever return? No, he never returned, and his fate is still unlearned. He may ride forever 'neath the streets of Boston. He's the man who never returned.

Sorry, it just came out of me.

Let me tell you a story...(about me and my patriotism).

I attempted to get my driver's license switched over to a Hoosier (Look! I used the official term!) license within thirty days after moving to this great state, but they told me I needed

1. A Birth Certificate
2. A Marriage Certificate
3. A Social Security Card
4. An Iowa driver's license
5. A piece of federal, computer generated mail dated within the past year and mailed to my new address.
6. An Indiana voter registration card

While this list seems excessive and ridiculous to me, I did not complain. Instead, I returned to my new apartment and searched through box after box to find these documents. I found all but the birth certificate. I searched and searched and searched and searched.

Finally, I concluded that my birth certificate must be in storage. Although, why it isn't with all the rest of our important paperwork, I do not know. Since back then I lived under the delusion that we would soon be into a home, and our storage items would quickly be reunited with us, I decided to risk not having an Indiana license and wait for my birth certificate to be returned to me in due time.

I have now been waiting a year and a half.

A few weeks ago, a policeman pulled me over for a rolling stop at a stop sign, and he discovered that I am an unlicensed Hoosier.

I'm sorry; I have trouble with that name. It makes me feel like a vacuum cleaner.

The kind and wonderful officer decided to extend grace to me, and he told me I had four weeks to bring my new license to him, or he would impound my vehicle. I am SO thankful that he didn't impound it right then!

Instead of continuing to wait for our storage items to be delivered to our new home (which should now take place in THREE WEEKS!!!!! HOORAY!!!!!) I decided to order my birth certificate from the state of Illinois. I ordered it online and received it in about three days: impressive. While I was ordering a copy of my birth certificate online, someone stole my identity and accessed our bank account within about three days: not so impressive. (Don't worry, our watchdogs caught them before they could take anything: impressive.)

Last Saturday, I happily marched my rear into the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and prepared to take a written test for my license. It felt so good to be almost legal again! But the woman who looked over my documents told me I would not be allowed to take the test because my marriage certificate was not valid.

Say what??

It's true, her supervisor informed me, my marriage certificate does not have any official numbers or codes on it that shows it has ever been registered with the state of Illinois. They turned me down, flat. Wouldn't even allow me to take a practice swing at the written test.

But what about voting next week? I wailed to the BMV Nazis. They sighed in sympathy. Nope, no voting without a driver's license. They did suggest that I take my voter registration card and my Iowa license to the polling place and see if they would still let me vote.

I did.

They didn't.

I'm beginning to think I'm just not meant to vote...or drive.

But wait! There's more.
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I had an appointment with the brick mason at our house today. Is it redundant to write brick mason? Should it just be mason? Hmm, I suppose there are concrete masons, right? So brick mason would not be redundant.

I talk to myself in real life, and apparently now, I blog to myself. This is getting serious, people.

Where was I? Oh yes, driving to the new house.

From the backseat, Liberty pipes up in a voice of sincere regret, "Mommy, I'm very sorry that I was playing tiger, and I went into the house, and I said I was going to the bathroom, and I went to the kitchen, and I needed some tiger food, and I got a chair, and I couldn't reach anymore, and I climbed on the table, and my claws were too sharp, and I poured too much cinnamon, and it was spicy in my mouth, and I licked the top of it, and I had to wipe my tongue off, and it is still burning spicy in my mouth, and I'm very sorry for that, Mommy. Will you please forgive me?"

I stared through the windshield trying to process all that and wondering what kind of mess I would face in the kitchen once we returned home.

"S-s-sure, I forgive you."
I declared yesterday to be pajama day at our house. Pajama days are the best because it means we do not have to fight over what outfits we will wear or fight over whether or not the brush has actually hurt us before it has even touched our hair. Pajama days contain no responsibilities, no errands, no schedule.

On this particular pajama day, we started off by watching Kronk's New Groove while eating breakfast in the living room. Then I meandered into the kitchen to do some dishes while the girls danced to some Kid's Praise tunes. We ate pumpkin pancakes for lunch and watched tornado-wind pound rain into the glass patio doors.

After the rain stopped and the sun came out, the girls went out in their pajamas and came back covered head to toe in mud. They took their time in the shower, playing with multitudes of plastic dishes and some ducks and frogs, while I sat back with a cup of hot chocolate.

They dried off and came to me for new pajamas; then we all cuddled up together and read library books until nap time.

What a lovely day!
The builder told me this morning: November 17th!

Can it really be true?

My brain is packing up our apartment belongings, fitting boxes into our van, driving them over to our new house and arranging things in just the right spots.

And while my brain does all that work, my children are leaping from the kitchen counters.

Back to reality.
Normally, I wait until the girls are in bed at night before I take a shower, but I was lazy last night, so ended up choosing to risk a shower after the girls woke up this morning.

"Mommy, what are you doing?"
"I'm taking a shower, Mercy Jane."
Accusingly: "You got me wet!"
Dryly: "You're not supposed to open the curtain, little girl."

Voice DRIPPING with sweetness: "Mommy, I'm going to close your bathroom door for you."
"Because I want you to have some privacy."
"Hmm, thank you, Liberty, but I'd like you to keep it open."
"But Mo-om, I want to close it."
"No, I want it to stay open."
"Why, Mommy?"
"So that I can hear what you and your sister are up to while I take my shower."
"No, I think that's a bad idea, Mommy. You might get us into trouble."
(I'm such a bad influence.)

"Mommy! I hurt my finger!"
"Oh, that's sad, MJ."
"I want you to kiss it."
"Uh, can Liberty kiss it for you?"
"No. I want you to kiss it."
Accusingly: "Mommy! You got soap on my finger!"

"Why do you have a crack on your tummy, Mommy?" (referring to my c-section scar)
"Liberty Grace! Close that curtain!"
"Okay, but Mommy, why don't I have a crack on my tummy?"
"Um, because God made everybody different, HoneyBunny."
"Could I ask Him for a crack for my tummy?"
"Why don't you go play in your doghouse?"
"Okay. Mercy Jane! Let's be doggies together!"
The sound of uncontrolled laughter bubbling out of children's mouths is one of my all-time favorite sounds, and I've been listening to more than my normal allotment of it the past two days! Our neighbor's great nephews have been visiting her because their mom is in the hospital, so the two boys have spent quite a bit of time in our apartment.

The four kids - Kaleb, Kameron, Liberty and Mercy - have had a blast creating mountains out of cushions and sledding down from the top, forming landing pads out of blankets and pillows and catapulting themselves off of chairs onto the bouncy softness, and turning back flips and somersaults until their brains spin about inside their heads. And the laughing! Oh, the laughing!

Today we took a short non-stop-action break to paint pumpkins and the inside of a paper sack. I cut the sack so that it would lie flat on the table, and it formed a long line of brown paper that the kids loved. They each claimed a section and painted away, completely absorbed in their creativity.

Then back to the lure of cushions!
As we checked out our groceries in Walmart tonight, an older couple at the next register caught my attention. The woman had been grinning at Liberty and Mercy and enjoying their smiles back at her. After a few minutes, the lady said to her husband who was operating the self-checkout machine, "Those are apples."

The man grunted, "Huh?" in that gravelly voice that older men have. He had been holding a two-liter of Coke.

"Don't get snippy with me!" she raised her voice at him.

He stopped and looked at her. "What? I didn't say anything to you but 'Huh?'"

"I heard good and well what you said!" And she quoted what she thought he had said to her. It was a long sentence full of meanness, and I wondered how she could have possibly misunderstood his single syllable for a complete sentence.

"Woman! I didn't say anything but 'Huh?'" he shouted back.

"Huh!" she responded.

And that was the end. He continued checking out in silence. She continued smiling at my daughters.

Is it just me, or did Walmart just play the Twilight Zone theme song over the speaker system?
We went to see our new house today. (Just like every other day.)

It was hard to leave it tonight, though.

Since the lights have not yet been installed, we always rush to get there after supper but before the sun goes down, and this time, we stayed even after night fell. We just couldn't tear ourselves away. It felt so good to be there.

Just for fun - and because if I didn't do this, I would cry - I played Pretend Day In Our New House with Liberty and Mercy. We started in their bedroom "sleeping." Then we woke up and rushed to the kitchen to cook breakfast. We took our pretend plates to the dining room table to eat, then cleared our plates and ran with them over to the sink. Then it was back to the bedroom closet to change our clothes. We quickly took our dirty clothes across the house to the laundry room, and then ran to the bathroom to brush our teeth. Then we headed to the toy room and remembered to exclaim "Thank you!" to Nonna and PopPop for the abundance we found there. After a short play time, we decided to do some crafts, so we pulled our pretend craft supplies out of the toy room closet (I wonder if I will be brave enough to store them there when we really move in) and accomplished some imaginary crafts.

Poor Jeremy had finally had enough of our nonsense; he'd been shaking his head bemusedly at me the entire time, and he announced it was time to go back to the apartment. The fact that it was pitch black in the house probably helped him determine our timeline. So I called to the girls, "Clean up your craft supplies, Girls! It's Library Time!"

"Hooray!" "Yay!" they shouted and very quickly picked up their fuzzy balls and glue sticks and glitter and paint and shoved them all into the closet. Of course, I had to make them pick their supplies up off the floor and put them away on the shelves they imaginarily came from. Then they ran to get pretend coats out of their bedroom closet and raced to the (real) car.

Once in the car, Liberty complained, "Mommy, I thought we were going to get into our 'tend car so we could go to the library."

Stopping her imaginary life and living the real one was not fun. About as much fun as stopping mine was.


They say we've only a month left!
Part One

I looked for an opportunity to address the shorter, gray-haired woman when we reached our evening stopping point, a wayside inn, and at last found her out of hearing distance of her younger companion just before our small group entered the dining room for dinner. "I apologize for...earlier. I do not mean any harm," I quietly said at her side.

She turned to face me, and her eyes boldly searched my facial features, looking for I'm not sure what, but I must have passed inspection. She nodded curtly and her features softened somewhat. I noticed that her full cheeks matched that of The Green-Cloaked-Lady (as I had taken to calling the young woman in my mind).

I surmised that they were relations, possibly mother and daughter, and I also amused myself by deciding the nose must have been passed down to the daughter from her absent father as it certainly was not present on the mother's face. With these new observations tucked into my mind, I strode across the wooden boards into the dining room and towards my dinner.

In satisfaction, I took note of the ten people seated on benches flanking the long table, only four of them familiar: the mother and daughter (as I had decided they were), the fidgety school teacher (as I had dubbed the young lady who'd been seated beside me during the ride) and "The Kid" the young boy about twelve-ish (whose role I still puzzled over) - these four had ridden in the stage coach with me all day. The other five came from a second stage coach driving Northward in tandem with ours which supplied for my pleasure new faces to observe, new personalities to enjoy. An aristocratic older woman with head held properly erect and silver hair immaculately pinned atop sat proudly at the wooden table awaiting her turn to be served. I decided the middle-aged woman with a quiet face, plainly gowned and seated beside the lady must be her maid-servant. Three men also traveled in that carriage. One full-bodied in every aspect - a head full of disheveled dark hair, face full of disheveled dark beard, deep, boisterously-toned voice, thick, muscular body. Amused, I noted that even the clothing he wore appeared thicker than the average man's. Made of home-woven cloth, the ensemble appeared to be designed to outlast the man's energetic activity level. The second man gave the impression of honesty and nose-to-the-books attention to detail. I immediately decided he worked with numbers, most likely a financier or accountant. His acorn brown hair slicked back from a thin face on which thin glasses spanned the bridge of his impossibly thin nose. I unintentionally breathed a low laugh as I compared the two men, Thick and Thin. The third male had chosen the seat next to mine, so my observations of him could not be as thorough, but he apparently had heard my chuckle.

He turned to me with an easy grin on his slightly freckled face, "Share the joke, Chap?"

I hesitated to share, for the joke would be at the expense of our table-mates, but something in his open, ready-to laugh expression eased my caution. I nodded towards the two men across the table, "I've named them Thick and Thin." I left it at that, thinking to myself, If I have to explain, he's not as humorously astute as I thought him.

The auburn-haired young man grinned knowingly, "You didn't ride with them. I've named them Flam and Clam." At my wrinkled brow he elaborated, "Flamboyant and Clammed Up."

I easily guessed which was which and smothered a short guffaw. I stuck out a hand, "I'm Matt." The grinning man next to me gripped my hand in his and shook quickly, "Jedidiah." Just over my new friend's shoulder I could see The Kid's face in profile. While his head bent towards his plate, his eyes had flicked upward to view Flam and Clam, a fleeting grin pulled at his full lips, and I was certain he had overheard our conversation.

Although I had tried earlier that day with poor results, I leaned over Jedidiah and addressed The Kid, "Son, I like your sense of humor." My outstretched hand was ignored, but I did receive a brief nod to acknowledge my words. Instead of his face, I could view only the top of his hat. After a second or two, I shrugged at Jedidiah and put my body back in its ready to eat position.

"Young man, remove your hat as befits a proper gentleman at the table." The high-pitched, authoritative voice belonged to the silver-haired woman across from me. Her stern gray eyes fixed on the top of The Kid's hat as she waited for his acquiescence. The clatter of knives and forks against stoneware continued all around, and Flam's rollicking tale of a friend's recent fishing adventure boomed over us. I kept my eyes on my newly filled plate, not wanting to risk glancing up and seeing Jedidiah grin.

I felt for The Kid. No boy trusted with journeying on his own wants to be bossed and reminded of etiquette by a stranger in front of strangers, but his next action surprised me. With a muttered "Excuse me," he quickly and quietly stepped backward over the bench and slipped out of the room. His exit was so smooth, I believe only Jedidiah, Lady Silver and myself even noticed it. I considered going after him, but on second thought realized how embarrassed I might have felt at his age. Twelve-ish is hard for a boy, I remembered. Better to let him work it out on his own.

Besides, the roast in front of me had reached the perfect temperature and tenderness, and it wouldn't stay that way for long. I hungrily shoved a forkful into my mouth.

Part 3
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At first glance, I classified the woman across the aisle as beautiful, gorgeous even.

Not wanting to seem rude, I avoided a full-on stare, but the glimpses I snuck whilst appearing to examine the landscape passing the carriage window translated to my brain bits and pieces of her countenance. I fitted the pieces together mentally to receive a complete picture of her and recanted my initial classification. Strictly speaking, she may not pass for gorgeous: in profile, her nose rested a bit on the masculine side if one were being completely truthful. Her cheeks appeared slightly too round for her facial proportions. A bump on the right side of her face suggested a recent encounter with possibly a mosquito or an insect of some sort.

The dark green hooded cloak covering her form hid the shape of her body and all but a few strands of her lightly colored hair. I hesitated to name the hair color. Was it brown? No, too light. But certainly not blond. Dishwater blond. I have heard others use the term, and it fit in this case. She seemed lost in thought, her barely pink lips a non-committal line turning slightly down in repose. Because her gaze remained focused out the window, I was unable to determine her eye color, but her pale lashes caught a gleam of sunlight and glowed golden.

Too late, I realized her traveling companion had noticed my interest. Our eyes met, mine attempting to convey boredom with the journey and the monotonous clopping of the horses hooves, hers flashing a warning akin to what I imagine a she-bear's eyes would posses just before rearing up on its hind legs and walloping a man. I dropped my gaze to my lap and examined my trouser legs while the horses clopped ever northward.

Part Two
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A snippet of conversation from our restaurant lunch table today:

MJ: "Nooo! Gace! Mommy, Gace is kicking me!"

Me: "Grace, stop kicking your sister."

LG: "I'm not kicking her. I'm just touching her with my foot."

Me: "Then don't touch her."

MJ: "Mommy! Gace is touching me!"

Me: "Liberty Grace!"

LG: "But, Mom, I'm not touching her."

Me: "Liberty, don't lie to me. I can see your foot."

LG: "I'm not lying, Mom! I'm not touching her! I'm touching her shoe."

Yes, stretched as far out as she could get and still be in her own chair, Grace's shoe could just barely reach Mercy's shoe. Sigh. I remember those days, and now it's payback time. Why, oh WHY did I torture my poor parents this way?
My previous post plopped you smack dab into the center of a story and quickly yanked you back up from it before you learned the ending. I'm here to remedy that -- Missy to the rescue!


This year we decided to have a real party for Liberty's fourth birthday. Normally, we just have a cake and family hang-out time, but Liberty has figured out what a birthday party is, and she's been begging for one ever since Mercy's birthday in July. Since I'm not a big party planner, we decided to invite a few friends to play with us at the park.

After searching the calendar for an appropriate date, we finally realized the only day that would work for us was a Sunday which happened to be Liberty's actual birthday. In order to make that arrangement work for everyone involved, we would have to take a picnic lunch to the park after morning church, so my easy, no-work party quickly expanded to feed the party-ers and their families.

On Monday, I read through the lesson plan for my four and five year old Sunday School class, and noted a few random craft supplies that I would need. I planned to shop for them and the party items on Friday.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the supply lists in my head played themselves repeatedly until I could have recited them in my sleep. I was so worried that I would forget something.

On Thursday I thought it was Friday, so the girls and I shopped at the Dollar Store for everything we would need for the party: pretty paper plates, napkins, party hats, and a package of squirty toys to hand out as party favors. The helium balloons (two matching princess ones so that Liberty and Mercy could not argue over who was holding whose) and the chocolate cupcakes had to wait until late Saturday so they would still be in good condition for the party.

On Friday, I reviewed again the lesson plan for my four and five year old Sunday School class, and realized that I had not purchased those craft items when I shopped for the party supplies. "Oh well," I told myself. "I'll just have to pick them up when I buy the helium balloons on Saturday."

On Saturday, we all woke bright and early and finished up various family errands before heading to the zoo for Jeremy's company picnic. What a gorgeous, crisp, sunny day, it turned out to be. We thoroughly enjoyed our stroll through the zoo paths, and Liberty cracked us up by whipping out her notebook and pen at every exhibit. She told us she was taking notes about the animals. I have a few pictures that I wanted to add to this post, but I cannot find my camera, of course.

When the zoo day was over, we ate a wonderful supper at a restaurant and then toyed with the idea of returning to our small, dark, smelly apartment. I'm sure you don't need to be told what we decided. Jeremy pointed the van towards a furniture store, and we spent a few hours dreaming about how we would decorate our new home. We finally arrived back at the apartment around nine pm.

After Jeremy and I undressed, dressed, read to and tucked the children into bed, I whipped up the batter for the chocolate cupcakes. I put the first batch into the oven and stepped back to take stock of what still needed to be done. Finish baking, finish shopping, pack the party supplies into the van, prepare the craft project for my Sunday School class and review my lesson a final time.

That's when my brain hit the panic button.

Jeremy offered to finish baking and cooling the cupcakes while I went shopping. As I made a list of items to buy at Walmart since the Dollar Store had closed at eight pm, Jeremy made requests: "Will you buy a box of chocolate pudding while you're at the store, please?" "Did you know we are out of Aquafina? You should pick some water bottles up, too." "Mmm, I could really go for one of those spicy chimichangas they keep in the section near the pizzas."

I remember hearing his requests; I remember responding to his requests; I remember thinking specifically about walking back to the pizza section to pick up one of his requests, but when I arrived back at home, I had not purchased any of the items he had asked for. In fact, I did not even realize that I'd forgotten until he said, "Where's the pudding?" as he helped me unpack the grocery bags.

I looked at him blankly, "What pudding?"

"The pudding I asked for before you left."

"Oh," I stared at the bags, "Uh, I don't think I bought any."

"That's okay; I didn't really need to eat that anyway, but where's my chimichanga?"

"Your chimichanga?" I repeated. Then I remembered his requests. "Oh no! Jeremy, I didn't buy any of the things you asked for, not the pudding or the chimichanga or the water. I completely forgot about them. I'm so sorry!"

He looked at me strangely, "Why not?"

"I don't know! I didn't even think about them." I looked at my list to see if I could figure out what had gone wrong. "Oh my goodness, I didn't even write them down. Look!"

"So I don't even get a can of Pepsi?" he said sadly.

"A can of Pepsi? You never asked for a can of Pepsi."

"Yes, I did."

"Well, even if you had, I probably wouldn't have remembered."

"That's true," oddly enough, it sounded as though this logic cheered him up.

I surveyed the finished cupcakes sitting on the stove top. They had turned out perfectly. Then I stared at the items arrayed before me. Paper plates, napkins, toys, craft supplies, balloons, presents that still needed to be wrapped, my lesson book, my Bible, Chadder - our class puppet, diapers that needed to go into the diaper bag...and something inside me broke. I think it was my brain. I started walking in circles. First I walked to the bedroom to get my Sunday School bag. Then I realized I had not prepared the craft, so I stopped and walked back to the kitchen to get the poster board. As I walked into the kitchen, I passed the diapers that needed to be put into the diaper bag, so stopped and walked back to the bedroom to get the diaper bag. Halfway down the hall, I started thinking about what else should go into the diaper bag, and I realized that the chocolate cupcakes would be messy and diaper wipes would be the perfect solution to all that mess, so I turned around to find the diaper wipes.

Are you getting the picture?

This went on for several minutes, until Jeremy stopped me to ask what in the world was wrong. When I was unable to get my thoughts into a complete sentence to tell him my trouble, he decided it was time for us to go to bed, after all it was close to midnight, and we could finish everything in the morning. Of course, I refused to go to bed with so much left undone, so he went to bed without me, and I walked in circles for another hour.

That's when I decided to sit at the computer and blog because blogging usually calms me down and helps my brain get back into a straight line.

I could tell while I typed that it wasn't going to work for me that time, so after posting, I went to bed where I thought and thought and thought about all the things that I needed to finish before church the next day. I think I fell asleep around four in the morning.


The following morning, Jeremy very thoughtfully decided to let me sleep in. He got the girls ready for church and woke me up to tell me that he was taking them in, and he would be back for me shortly.

I jumped out of bed, and cried out to God for HELP; I knew if I tried to hop right in where I left off last night, I would end up running in circles again. God prompted me to take some slow time to sit at the table and make a list of what needed to be done. Surprisingly enough, after reading my list, I realized there really wasn't a lot of work to do. Just some organization. I prioritized and set to work.

Jeremy returned with breakfast from a drive-thru and made me stop to eat it while he read my list. Then he picked an item and got to work on it. We quickly formed an assembly line: when I finished something, he would pack it up and walk it to the van.

We got to church ahead of schedule, and I had everything I needed for a smooth lesson time with my kids.

Afterwards, we drove to the park, and our efficient teamwork continued. Jeremy wrangled the kids while I set the table and prepared our supplies. At one point, I looked up and saw Jeremy climbing up the monkey bars to the platform about 20 feet in the air. He slid down the slide with Mercy in his lap and climbed back up again. Later, he set all the little girls giggling by wearing two party hats, one on each ear. What a wonderful man I married!

I declared the party to be a success even though I forgot to bring any cups, and even though I packed my camera and then couldn't find it. (I still can't find it.) Liberty turned four = success. Liberty and her friends had fun = success.

Really, what more could you ask from a birthday party? (Besides pictures.)
It is one o'clock in the morning, tomorrow is Liberty's birthday and immediately after morning church we're celebrating at a park the very first birthday party I have ever planned/hosted for my own child, I have many more items to check off my to-do list before I'm ready to party, and I'm teaching Sunday School in the morning.

I'm so busy, I can't stop to sleep. I'm so tired, I can't finish my list of things to finish. I'm so excited, I can't sleep even if I were allowed to.

I'm going to head to bed. My brain can't take fit another rational thought into it, and my body won't accomplish another task no matter how small. Oh, Sleep, wherefore art thou?

Wish me luck!
It is with great excitement and even greater trepidation that I announce to you: I have written a book.

Er, I have written what I hope will be a book. It is currently being illustrated (it's a children's book), and I obviously am genetically incapable of keeping a secret.

I tried. Really, I did. I've avoided posting because with the exception of Rachel's story, the only thought on my mind was the book, and I wanted to keep it a secret until I knew what the publisher would say. But do you know how much stress I would be under if I couldn't tell anybody for THAT long?

So there you have it.
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When you say thirty-two-oh-five, you think solely of a number (although why you would say 3205, I'm not quite sure), but when I say 3205 -- which I do from time to time -- immediately hugs, laughter, friendship springs to mind. Thirty-two-oh-five was my dorm room number during the 1998 - 1999 college school year, and four of us girls laughed, cried, loved and played in that room: Brandy (who we called Caprice), Allie, Rachel and Me.

Allie and I became girlfriends to the men who are now our husbands while we lived in that room; Caprice chose to give her former boyfriend a second chance while she lived in that room (oh, what hilarious and serious pros and cons we discussed during that decision!) and Rachel cheered us all on. Caprice and Dan also got engaged towards the end of that year, and the rest of us watched and made suggestions as she cut out dresses from magazines and sewed gorgeous lacy underthings in preparation for her honeymoon. That girl could SEW! My goodness!

Together, the four of us survived Hurricane Georges, hunkered down in 3205, with our essentials at hand in case we had to flee to the hallways and stairwells: bowls of popcorn, liters of soda/pop/coke (see how I compromised there?), textbooks, Bibles, card games, flashlights, blankets and pillows, ID cards. Dan was on hold on phone line one, Rachel's parents were on hold on line two, Rodney held on line three, while Jeremy held on line four. We did not dare disconnect because every other college student on campus was also routing calls through the switchboard, and disconnection meant The End of your outside contact, Forever! The four of us rotated phone time easily. We didn't keep track or time each other. If I had something funny to tell Jeremy, I'd just ask for the phone. When Rachel thought her parents might be getting antsy, she'd ask for a turn.

That was the year the emergency hurricane boxes containing accidentally frozen solid lunches were delivered to dormitories full of starving college students, and the lines for the microwaves rivaled the length of the Great Wall of China! Jeremy and I still refer to Georges whenever we encounter food unfit for consumption. "Well, at least it's not frozen," we say with a grin, or sometimes simply, "Georges," and shrug.

I share these memories with you today because my friend and sister Rachel died peacefully in her sleep earlier this week. Although she had an inoperable brain tumor, she had been living with it for decades, and her passing took us all by surprise.

Allie and I wrote a tribute to her to be shared at her funeral because we cannot get to Canada on such short notice. Allie's words are in bold; mine are italicized.

Yesterday morning, I took some quiet time to write a little history of my friendship with Rachel. When I sent it to Missy, she added her own words, and I think you'll agree that the harmony tells a unique story. This side of heaven, we'll never know all the lives that Rachel touched, but this is the story of how she touched ours.

Rachel ~ September 19, 1978 - September 14, 2010

I met Rachel our first week as college freshmen at Pensacola Christian College, in 1996. Not quite 18, we were both far from home and needed someone to talk to. At that point, we became acquaintances, and she was simply someone I recognized as I moved among the thousands of students, someone I always associated with our shared birthday, a special connection that somehow set her apart in my mind even though we spent little meaningful time together that year.

In the summer of 1997, I met Missy, beginning a friendship that will always be inextricably linked with Rachel’s. Missy and I requested to be roommates for the school year beginning Fall of 1997 and then again in 1998. I remember getting our room assignment that second year and rushing over to see who our new roommates would be. Stacked to one side were boxes with Rachel's name, and another stack with Brandy's (who we all knew as Caprice back then). I was so excited that I already knew who Rachel was. That year was the highlight of my roommate experience.

I remember Allie's excitement the day we read Rachel's name on those boxes. Somehow, in that brief getting-acquainted time a year earlier, Rachel had made a really wonderful impression on Allie. When I asked her what Rachel was like, she said, "I don't really know her; I just feel like I do. I only met her once, and since then we've said hi, but I know you're going to like her! I've been wanting to know her better for a long time. She's going to be a great roommate!"

It turns out, Allie was more than right; both Caprice and Rachel were amazing.

What a blessing it was to have such good friends to come “home” to at the end of the day. As roommates, we did more than just talk about classes and boys (although we did that, too), but we prayed together. More than the mandatory nightly “Prayer Group,” we would wait for “lights out” every evening and take turns praying aloud. Sometimes, in twos or threes, we would go to the “Prayer Room” on our floor to open our Bibles and really talk to God.

Praying together after lights out was the highlight of my year also. It was after dark one night during an impassioned discussion from our bunkbeds when the four of us determined that we would always be "Sister Vessels," a term we made up to define our longing to be used wholly by our Lord and to love each other through anything life brought, always strengthening each other and pointing each other back to glorifying our Lord.

I don’t remember when Rachel’s academic struggles began to intensify. She never focused on her limitations. Years later, she would remind me of how difficult some things were for her, even then, but all I ever saw was her strength. All I ever knew was that we understood each other, that our faith was stronger together. “My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (from 2 Cor 12:9)

I did notice Rachel's physical struggles, but as Allie said, not because Rachel spoke about them or made them prominent. I watched Rachel prepare her hair in the mornings or sit at the desk in the evenings and attempt to focus on her homework. One day I asked her about her symptoms, and without asking for pity, she calmly described a typical day to me. She talked about her frustration in the classroom. She talked about her inability to keep up with her friends. She talked about her embarrassment when she fell in front of others, especially boys. That's the kind of easy, no-pretenses type of relationship we all shared in that college dorm room. Rachel knew that, with us, she did not have to cover up or act like she was able to do everything. We all loved each other the way we were.

What impressed me the most was the way she did not make excuses or ask for a pass on life. She proudly told me how hard she had worked to get to where she was. She ALWAYS gave glory to God and credit to her parents for her present condition and abilities. She was so thankful to have made it to college, and she was determined to finish. Rachel was a very driven person, but in chatting with her, you would never know it. She always made time to stop and talk. She always made time to hug a friend that she happened to be passing. She always asked passing friends about intimate details of their lives about which she was praying. She looked beyond herself and blessed everyone nearby.

After most of our classmates graduated in May of 2000, Rachel and I had one more semester to go, and again, we spent it as roommates. In July of 2001, she flew to California to be a bridesmaid in my wedding.

For the next few years, our contact was sporadic. She was always good about sending cards, but we both had a lot going on with our adult lives. She became involved in several different ministries over the years, but none of them seemed a good permanent fit. I suppose her light was too special to be hidden away in one place. Never was this more apparent than in 2004 when Rachel joined Live Journal. In the days before everyone was on Facebook and people everywhere could tweet from their phones, Rachel took to blogging like a bird taking flight.

Rachel shared with me one time that blogging for her was freedom from her limitations. Somehow, typing used a different part of her brain, an unhindered part, and her thoughts and fingers flowed effortlessly together in a way that rarely occurred for her in any other activity. When that effortless activity finally became fettered too, she struggled internally with that limitation, and that is the first time that I recall seeing her truly down.

Rachel was also an artist. She had an aesthetic sense that I could never comprehend. I could see a pretty picture, but she had an intuition of how to crop it, add text, and lay it out on a page. She was almost always crafting, typically painting or crochet.

Rachel was the best sounding board. She always made me want to do better while still reminding me not to be too hard on myself when I didn’t succeed.

So true! Rachel had a rare combination of compassion, drive and practicality, and as my Sister Vessel, she hugged me, pushed me, and brainstormed with me through various life situations. Oh, how I needed that and will miss her in my life!

Happy Birthday, Rachel. Your pain and limitations are gone. You always wanted to live to the fullest, and now you have life that will never end. I hope I never forget everything the Lord used you to teach me. I hope I always remember to glorify Him in all things as you did.

You made it, Rachel! You finished your race well, and your broken vessel is filled with God's brilliant glory spilling out through all the cracks and overflowing from the top, just like we dreamed.

Thank you for being my friend.
Jeremy has been complaining of chest pain, tightness and pressure for the last four months, but being a guy, he just hasn't been able to gather enough courage to visit the doctor. I'm not sure why that is. He regularly conquers stuck pickle jar lids, grumbling car engines, lagging budgets, scraped knees, and all of my amorous pursuers, but nice doctors who can help are not on his resume. (Spiders aren't either, but that's okay; I can handle spiders myself. It's the crickets that I need his manly shoe for.)

Of course, his visit in 2007 to the emergency room in our Iowa hometown for more acute chest symptoms did not inspire him to return to an ER any time soon.

Finally, last night around midnight, he became uncomfortable enough that he could not sleep, so we decided to visit the emergency room here -- you know, just to see how they've chosen to decorate it.

It was lovely. Beautiful deep blue chairs with curving rich wooden arms.

Oh, sorry.

Long story short (I'm famous for the shortness of my stories, you know. Just ask my parents whose favorite phrase for me when I was growing up was, "Get to the point, Missy!")

(How boring.)

Anyway, long story short, Jeremy was not having a heart attack. He has nothing wrong with his heart at all! Instead, he's been suffering from a viral version of pleurisy. The doctor prescribed a heavy dose of Motrin for about a week, and voila! Perfectly healthy husband!


Plus, we got a wonderful, late-night date from it. To celebrate his relatively clean bill of health, Jeremy and I shared a cardboard container of Arby's curly fries around 3:30 in the morning.

And a side of heartburn. Appropriate for the occasion, I suppose.
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Yesterday, I stood at the stove cooking our omelets, and Liberty kept coming to me and giving me little kisses. After a little while, she said, "Mommy, do you know why I'm giving you so many kisses?"

"Because you love me a LOT, right?" I responded, fairly sure that I had the correct answer.

"No, it's because you are cooking food for me."

Yeah, I should have known that; she takes after her daddy.

Later, after four days of exhausting myself to get my daughters to clean up their toys each day, I finally told them that they had one hour to get everything put exactly where it belonged before I came through with my trash can. I purposefully kept my voice very kind and conversational, trying to convey the idea that I just wanted them to know what the consequences for their actions would be, but the choice to obey or disobey was completely up to them.

Mercy either had no clue or pretended to have no clue and continued pursuing her own agenda. Liberty on the other hand seemed to have grasped the idea that something unpleasant loomed in her near future, and she tried several times to persuade her sister to clean up. However, she put more effort into getting her sister to work than she did in performing any actual work herself.

By the time their chance to clean up had run out, about 80% of the mess remained on the floor. I decided to make a few unobtrusive walk-throughs while the girls were goofing off in another part of the room in order to rescue items that I did not want thrown away, but I purposefully left some precious things on the floor. Things like Liberty's pink blanket. *Cue the dramatic music, please.*

Then from the kitchen, I made a production out of getting the garbage can outfitted with a brand new bag, and I calmly started my journey. Liberty watched the first few items rustle their way into the garbage with something like shock on her face. Mercy ignored it all, or rather, she dumped over a bucket of chalk, and then looked at me in order to communicate that my idea of bad consequences were really of no consequence to her. So I walked over and began nicely scooping chalk pieces into the garbage can.

"NOOOOOOOOOOO!" shrieked Liberty, and she ran over to frantically salvage a few that I had not yet scooped. "Mercy Jane, don't do that!" she yelled.

I moved on to the next closest pile of items and began picking them slowly up one at a time. I did not move so slowly that my actions could be detected as stalling, but I tried to give the girls time to come rescue their toys if they cared to. As I worked, I told them that they were welcome to come rescue whatever they wanted to keep. By this time, poor Liberty sobbed in heaving gulps, and I felt just terrible. But every time I was tempted to stop, I pictured the next time I would have to ask them to clean, or I told myself, "My job is not to have happy kids at all times; it is to equip them to be responsible adults," and I kept going.

When I finally worked my way to Liberty's blanket, I asked her, "Honey, do you want your blanket back?" She nodded, still sobbing and gulping. "I will put it here where you cannot reach it, and when you have done some extra chores, you can earn it back. Understand?" She nodded.

In the meantime, Mercy stood back at the chalkboard tray just waiting for me to glance over at her. When I did, she deliberately swiped the chalk pieces back onto the floor and looked at me. So, I calmly walked back over there and began placing them one piece at a time into the trash. Liberty ran with me and dropped to the floor crying as she tried to block my fingers from their work. "Mercy!" she said. To my surprise, Mercy also dropped to her knees and began picking up the pieces and returning them to the tray. I never saw her face, and she never said a word, so I'm not sure what went on inside her head, but I was glad to see her helping.

We had one last pile in front of a toy box on the far side of the room to pick up, and the two girls ran to get there before I showed up. They randomly tossed things into the toy box, but the small ball that poor Mercy aimed over and over kept missing the box. She got so frustrated that she started to cry, so I stopped and helped her put it away, then I returned to my terrible work.

Finally, the entire room was clean. Liberty continued to wail and heave, and I recognized a good bit of anger in her cry. I decided to let her cry, hoping that her anger would eventually turn towards her own disobedience if I gave her enough time to think it over. But in order to drown out the sound, I plugged the vacuum in and began vacuuming the living room and dining room. Her cries had not subsided when I finished, so I decided to vacuum the hall way and bedrooms.

(Parenthetical sidenote: It's a good thing God has freed me from my fear of having my children taken from me, because all that wailing would normally have paralyzed my heart, and I would have been panicked from worry.)

At last, she had worn herself out. I wrapped up the cord and put the machine away. Then I walked up to Mercy and hugged her. "You made a good decision to help clean, Mercy Jane," I told her warmly. She smiled at me, "I love you, Mommy," she said. "I love you, too, Mercy Jane."

Then I walked over to Liberty. "I'm sorry that some of your toys had to be thrown away, HoneyBunny," I told her compassionately and put my arm around her. She nodded. "I want to sit in your lap, Mommy."

"Okay, why don't you go pick out a book, and I'll read it to you."

"No, I just want to sit in your lap, Mommy."

"Oh, okay. I want to cuddle with you, too, my Liberty Grace."

So we sat and cuddled, until I just had to try to enforce the lesson. "That must have been pretty sad to have your toys thrown away, huh?" I asked her.

She nodded.

"Well, my HoneyBunny, what decision do you think you might make next time I ask you to clean up?"

She solemnly answered, "To get more toys at Walmart."
What a wonderful Thursday we are having!

I knew it would be: my hair looked great in the mirror this morning, so I could just tell.

The girls and I took a trip to the library for something different to do. Of course, I have a huge fine that I can't pay right now, so instead of checking any books out, we spent an hour reading together in a lovely, cozy corner.

Now we are back home, and the girls are wearing bathing suits and rain coats and splashing in the rain puddles outside while I loudly play Big Band/Swing music on my Pandora station. The only thing I can find to be sad about is my hiding camera.

But I can easily remedy that sadness by thinking of what we'll be having for lunch: veggie omelets and a fresh fruit salad!

And now that Pandora is playing some get-up-and-go music, I believe I will get up and go make lunch. Especially since my tummy is grumbling at me.

That is all. Carry on, and don't forget to dance!

**I asked Liberty what I should name my post, and this was her recommendation. (Aye Go is Diego, from Nick Jr.)
You know what? I am tired of being afraid. I'm tired of keeping my voice down, of finding terror in every little scrape or bruise my little girls acquire from a busy day of playing. I'm tired of over-thinking every word that comes out of my mouth or keyboard. I'm tired of trusting in myself to keep my family together.

I haven't told you what happened, not because I'm a private person (obviously, I'm not or I'd have a lot less words recorded on this blog), but because I've learned to fear.

Even now, I'm questioning the wisdom in telling you. Is it wise? I'm going to stop and ask God before I type any further, and if He says no, I'll delete this, and no one will ever know that I started to write a blog post tonight.

Because of Liberty's burn and our call to 911 and her ambulance ride to the burn hospital, our family was investigated for child abuse. Since then, I have had countless, innocent friends, neighbors, even strangers come to tell me, almost always in secret, that they too have been investigated in the past. In fact, the social worker assigned to our case told me that SHE had been investigated when HER children were small. I know the police and social workers care about children, and if I'm thinking rationally and detach myself from the picture, I am thankful that someone is checking on kids' safety.

But don't check on MY KIDS.

Don't threaten MY FAMILY'S togetherness.

MY kids are loved and safe (you know, except for the occasional horrific burn accident...) Sorry, that was meant to be a joke. Did it not come across as funny? I did tell you that my favorite coping mechanism is laughing, right?

Anyway, the fear that moved into my house has not just stolen my joy and killed my light-heartedness. It has choked my relationships. It has destroyed my playfulness. Part of me wants to wrap my children in bubble-wrap (popping those plastic bubbles would keep them busy for a while) and surround them with feather pillows until they are at least eighteen. But I suppose the child protection agencies would frown on that sort of thing, huh?

That is precisely what I am afraid of. I'm afraid that the government has more power over where my children grow up than I do as their parent and that they may frown on me. I'm afraid that any one single accident or tumble or ANYTHING could be the last time I ever see my children. I know that is not what the social worker intended by visiting us, and I know that she went out of her way to be kind and worry-relieving. I know that some of the investigation was just routine because the accident involved a small child. I know that my fears are irrational...well, maybe I don't know that my fears are irrational.

But there's Someone else I know.


I know that He is more powerful than any child protection agent. I know that He has the power to keep my children safe no matter where they grow up.

(Liberty and Mercy are NOT in danger of being taken from us. I just wanted to clarify that point. The investigation proved that this was just a fluke accident, but it stirred something inside me that hasn't calmed down.)

At least, it had not calmed down until tonight. Our Ladies' Bible Study class is starting a series by Beth Moore called Living Beyond Yourself, and tonight, Beth mentioned a Bible verse that God used to talk directly to my heart.

John 10:10 - "The thief [Satan] comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I [Jesus] have come that they [anyone who trusts Me] may have life, and have it to the full."

Have it to the full? I'm barely sure that I have life at this point! The thief has definitely stolen and killed and destroyed quite a bit this past month. I used to live life very fully. What changed?
My focus. I started focusing on the waves around me threatening drowning and causing fear, but God is bigger than the waves!

Living Beyond Yourself is an appropriate title for this study because left to my own control, what else would I focus on? It's natural to see the waves and try to avoid them. But when avoiding them is taken out of my control, I don't have to fear!

I can live using the Holy Spirit's power that God has given to me. I don't have to be afraid anymore! I can be joyful! I can live fully and allow my children to live fully! (Bubble wrap can still be part of the picture, but only if it's not used as clothing.)

A month of blankness. At least on my blog. My life, unfortunately has had so much in it, that I couldn't blog. Someday, I'm sure our family will be able to look back at this month and tell funny jokes about it, or find something to be amused about. (At least I hope we will, as that's my favorite coping mechanism.) But I think instead, we will look back on this month, years from now, and hold each other tighter -- thankful that we're all in one piece. We made it.

I know I promised my facebook friends some details, but I don't really want to re-live it all, so you're going to have to make do with what I chose to share here. (I'm not worried; I know you'll still love me!) :-)

About a month ago, Liberty was severely burned on our stove, and since that time we have been occupied with medically related concerns. She has now been officially released from doctor care, and she is expected to fully heal (as long as I can keep her from picking her scars into bloody messes.)

Now that I've explained my silent blog, let's move on to things that are infinitely more fun to discuss.

Our new house has WALLS and WINDOWS and a BACK DOOR! But no front door. We are having a wonderful time walking through the shell and imagining where to put furniture. (At least, I've been having a wonderful time doing that. Jeremy's brain has been focused on the best spot for boring stuff like speakers and computer equipment.)

We've already made friends with our neighbors on one side; they have a second grade boy. A four bedroom house is going up on the other side of us, so we're hoping a family with young kids will move in next door. The girls LOVE the park behind us, and through it, we made friends with another family in the neighborhood who also have two girls. Their girls are six and eight, but that has not stopped Liberty from bonding with them, and Jeremy and I really enjoy sitting and chatting with their parents. We've met up at the park unintentionally three times now. It's been nice, one of my favorite ways to spend a dwindling summer evening!

But it sure isn't fun to have to leave our home behind to drive back to this apartment when the sun settles below the tree line. One more month!

If Jeremy were here, he'd make me tell you that it's really two more months because this is the beginning of September, and we probably won't be in the house until the end of October, but he's not here! I can tell you that it's only one more month because this is September, and we'll move in during October!

Sometimes questions seep into my brain and keep me awake at night. Questions like "How many licks does it take to get to the tootsie roll center of a tootsie pop?" and "Where could that Big Bird video we rented from the library be?" and "What caused The Great Raccoon Massacre of Twenty-Ten?"

That last question has plagued me for several nights now, and it occupies my mind every time I get into my van and drive down the road. It all started innocently enough...

We were headed to church on Sunday morning -- my husband driving, myself reclining in the passenger seat and our two daughters strapped in behind us -- when we passed the massacre scene. Five raccoons, dead in the road. Immediately, my detective radar beeped on high alert. One would expect to find one raccoon in the road, or possibly even two separated by an appropriate distance, but five? Five within ten feet of each other?

Maybe you are smarter. Maybe you can figure this out. Picture this for me, if you will:

A two lane road flanked by trees on the right and a corn field on the left. Two carcasses side by side on the right side of the road. Approximately four feet away, a third body near the center lines and three feet beyond that a fourth body in about the same position. The fifth cadaver occupied the left side of the road, not far enough over to be out of the way of traffic.

Now I ask you: what could have caused this mass destruction? I first surmised that poison had been involved. This must have been a renegade band of marauders, stealing from dumpster to dumpster, becoming a public menace that the mayor had sworn to obliterate. The Coonsters (as they had started calling their gang) had escaped the snares set before them time and time again, but this time the mayor's campaign promise to rid the town of these bandits changed the dynamic. He knew if he did not carry out his pledge, his re-election bid would be toast. The Coonsters swaggered their way around town late Saturday night, confident in their ability to scavenge successfully, but unbeknownst to them, one dumpster was a trap! The garbage bags had been laced with poison. As the gang stole away to their next crime-scene, the poison slowly worked its way through their systems, and WHAM! Killed them instantly in their footsteps as they crossed the road!


Then I wondered, "Do raccoons travel in packs?" "And if they do, is it likely that a poison would kill them all at the exact same time?"

Oh great, more questions to keep me up at night.

My next theory follows thusly: A bored young man, a stolen gun and a moonlit night rendezvous by the side of the road. He must have previously studied the nocturnal habits of these lumbering mammals. He must have known that they habitually crossed the street right at this spot, and so he waited. Possibly perched in the bed of a truck. Possibly sitting in the driver's seat of a run-down car. Oh! But I've checked and rechecked that stretch of road for a likely parking spot. There is none. Therefore, did he take a lawn chair out to the field with him? He waited. Along came the first raccoon, unaware of his coming demise. BANG! It only took one shot. An hour or so passes before the young man hears another tell-tale rustling in the grass. He waits until the coon has halfway crossed the street. BANG! Oh rats! He only clipped him. BANG! He shoots again. This one lands on the center line. Another hour passes. The third ringtail enters the roadway, but wait! It sniffs the breeze. Something doesn't smell right. Slowly, unsure of where the danger lies, it turns around and heads back into the field. The boy un-tenses his shoulders and tells his brain to let the animal go. There will be more. He knows this.

What do you think? That's the answer for sure, right?

Maybe not?

Well, how about this scenario: a race car burns rubber as it accelerates down the street...

I do have more, but it just occurred to me that you may be bored with mine and want to submit a theory of your own.

If you will, please, tell me, WHAT CAUSED THE GREAT RACCOON MASSACRE OF TWENTY-TEN? I need to know so that I can stop imagining possible events. I need my sleep!
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It is a dreary, rainy Tuesday in Indiana. This morning Liberty woke around six to tell me she was hungry. (We're not normally up until about 7:30 most mornings. Yay for me! You were probably up much earlier this morning, but six is hard for me.) We kissed Daddy goodbye, then Mercy woke up. Mercy's my sleep-in girl, so that was a surprise. After breakfast, the girls asked if they could play in the rain. I looked at the chores to be done inside, quickly agreed to their plan, and out we went.

We thoroughly enjoyed watching the garbage truck do its dumpster-lifting trick. Thoroughly. The garbage man must have enjoyed our cheers and shrieks of delight because he kept smiling and waving at us. I wonder if he's ever so validated in his work as he is when he shows up at our apartment building?

After a while, I retrieved my Bible and prayer journal and sat on the covered patio in a lawn chair, thinking I might be able to concentrate on my time with God while the girls splashed in puddles and rode their bikes up and down the sidewalk. The drops pounding down into our personal patio puddle quickly showed me in no uncertain terms who was boss of the patio. The short answer was Not Me, and I had to take my books back inside.

We are now back inside, too. The rain continues to splash a soothing percussion outside our windows, and the girls are playing happily together in their "dog house" made of cushions, chairs and blankets. The Newsies soundtrack plays cheerily in the background, while I valiantly push onward in my quest to become the next Miss Procrastination USA.

Household chores, who needs 'em?
Late on a Friday night, a phone call came from North Carolina and started us on a journey. We were informed that Jeremy's step-dad was in the hospital with a staph infection that had gone into sepsis (which means that it had gone into his blood stream and had spread through his entire body). We spoke with his doctor via telephone around midnight that night and packed our suitcases immediately afterwards. We then caught a few hours of sleep in preparation for our (according to Google) twelve hour drive to see him.

I'd like to chronicle our trip for you, but I think my Facebook statuses can do a better, more entertaining and more concise job of that than I could by just blogging it. So here you go:

(Parenthetical Note: Since Jeremy calls both his dad and his step-dad "Dad" I used the terms interchangeably. Please do not be confused; only one person was sick.)

July 16 at 10:40pm
Sister-in-law, Melissa:
I hear I get to see ya'll soon! YAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAY!!!!!

July 17 at 9:34am
My response:
Yeah! We called you last night but your phone just rang and rang. It never even went to voicemail. We're on the road now. Maybe getting to NC around ten or eleven pm? We'll call when we get closer.

July 17 at 12:39pm
Status Update:
Roadtrip to NC! Lunchbreak in Columbus, OH.

July 17 at 1:02pm
Mom-in-law, Brenda:
Looks like Nonna will win the wager!!! Love ya'll be safe! Kiss n hug the girls and my doggies!!!

(They had placed bets on how long our trip would REALLY take us.)

July 17 at 1:07pm
My response:
What were everybody's guesses? I say one am!

July 17 at 1:12pm
Mom-in-law, Brenda:
Well, we didn't pick actual times, only how many hours. So what time did ya'll leave? Around 9am?

July 17 at 2:16pm
My response:
You're right on the dot, despite Jeremy's plan that we would carry our sleeping children to the car at five o'clock this morning! Haha!

(Jeremy's notorious for making early plans the night before and then not waking up in time to carry them out.)

July 17 at 2:35pm
Mom-in-law, Brenda:
LOL!! Nonna is always right so remember that one and pass it along!!! LOL!!!

July 17 at 2:26pm
Status Update:
Whew! After two non-air-conditioned hours filled with lunch, diaper changes, a blocked-off interstate and navigational recalculations, we have finally put Columbus behind us! And the air is working again, hooray!

July 17 at 4:55pm
Brother, Zach:
Air not working in your van?

July 17 at 5:42pm
My Response:
Well, yes and no. The air works fine, but Winnie's engine threatens to cut off if she is not traveling more than 25 miles per hour while the air is on. Since we were crawling through a traffic jam for two hours, we chose to turn our air off to give our poor little engine a chance to calm down and realize life is not as bad as she thought.

Only problem with that is that without air conditioning, we quickly realized that Winnie was right. Life's awful! lol

July 17 at 4:41pm
Status Update:
West Virginia

(Can you tell that Jeremy posted for me? He's not as verbose as I am. I was driving, so I couldn't update, but I told him that I really wanted everyone to know when we passed the state Welcome signs each time.)

July 17 at 6:01pm
Status Update:
My heroic husband, Jeremy, just scored a Butterfinger candy bar from our quick, gas station pit stop for the family to share. What a man! :-)

July 17 at 7:49pm
Status Update:

(I was driving again, but this time I specified to Jeremy that I wanted him to put an exclamation point after the state. "This is exciting stuff!" I told him. He laughed at me, but he gave me an exclamation point. Isn't he wonderful?)

July 17 at 8:17pm
Status Update:
Wheeeeee! Love these mountain roads!

July 17 at 9:13pm
Status Update:
Whoops, apparently Mercy's poor tummy DOESN'T like these twisty mountain roads as much as I do. Her "pink blanket" (which is actually blue -- we're still working on her colors) is now out of commission until we get to a washing machine.

July 17 at 10:06pm
Status Update:
North Carolina!!!!!!!!!

(That was Jeremy again, but look at all those exclamation points! He did me proud that time, or maybe he was really excited that the trip was about to end?)

July 17 at 11:45pm
Status Update:
Google says two hours left. I'm so tired.

July 18 at 1:12am
Status Update:
We're driving through downtown Raleigh, and Jeremy's reminiscing. Stories are pouring out of him. :-). I love it!

(What I thought was even better was the fact that we did not need to be in downtown Raleigh at that point in time. Jeremy just couldn't resist his old stomping ground.)

July 18 at 2:15am
Status Update:
Uncle Rom and Aunt Donna's driveway! At last!

July 18 at 2:16am

(I was tired. So very, very tired.)

July 19 at 7:55pm
Status Update:
Thanks, everyone, for your prayers and encouraging words to us. Jeremy's dad seems to be improving, and the two of them were finally able to have some good conversations today! Please keep praying. In the meantime, we are squeezing in some great laughter and some relieving tear-sessions with FAMILY.

July 19 at 8:29pm
Status Update:
Jeremy and I just realized that today is our seventh wedding anniversary!!!! We told each other "Congratulations!" and shared a cup of banana pudding from Smithfield's BBQ to celebrate. :-)

After several days spent with Jeremy's step-dad and extended family, we realized that we could not stay much longer. On Thursday, we headed North again.

July 22 at 11:25am
Status Update:
Starting our looong journey home. Please keep praying for Jeremy's step-dad.

July 22 at 9:12pm
Status Update:
Gorgeous sunset in Ohio! Stopping at my brother's house for the night.

(We stayed the weekend.)

July 25 at 4:59pm
Status Update:
A hard/wonderful week in NC followed by a tiring/fun weekend in OH has come to an end. I LOVED our time with family, but I am thankful that I am about to be reunited with my own bed. On the road yet again... (Please keep praying for Jeremy's dad.)

July 26 around 11:00 pm
Excerpt from my comment response:
We're home now and slowly unpacking the car, catching up on sleep...you know, all those back home again kind of things. What a week this has been!

July 26 around 11:10 pm
Status Update:
Just got a phone call: Jeremy's step-dad is doing better, and the doctors are making plans for the next step in his recovery! Hooray! Thank you all for praying for him.