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 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.
I want you all to be the first to know that as of this morning, Jeremy and I are the proud owners of...

A PLOT OF LAND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We're buildin' a house, y'all!

It's that small plot near the pond and the playground in the neighborhood that I blogged about earlier, and maybe I have shared this with you already, or maybe I haven't (I can't remember), but did I ever tell you the story about my street names?

I haven't?

Well then!

When I first graduated from college and contemplated the idea of living on my own, I made a vow to myself. I promised me that I would always, no matter what, live on a street with a lovely name, and that if I were ever interested in a dwelling place that was NOT on a prettily-named street, I would walk away immediately.

My first apartment sat on the curve of Camelot Circle.

After Jeremy and I married, we moved to an apartment on Aurora Avenue.

We built our first house on Rose Lane.

Although the street name for this apartment is not something lovely like the other places we have lived, at least it's not a run-of-the-mill name that took no imagination on the part of the namer. (Plus, I've convinced myself that this one doesn't count since we didn't choose to live here and don't plan to stay any longer than necessary.)

The street name for the Yellow House was a BIG deterrent for me. The worst of all the types of street names, it was a numbered street like 15th Street or 23rd Street. How awful. I shuddered every time I thought of how my return address labels would look. My only consolation was the fact that since the house had such a looooooong lane, I planned to purchase a custom made street sign with the words Sunshine Way imprinted on it and have it posted at the beginning of the lane. That way, although my address labels would still be horrid, at least I could pretend that I lived on Sunshine Way. (I also planned to call the town's office and request that my street name be officially changed to Sunshine Way, but I did not hold out much hope that they would capitulate.)

But now, I don't need to worry. Our new house will rest on Bear Creek Pass. Isn't it just delightful? Images of stony mountains and blue skies and forests and berries and thickly-furred bears and rushing rivers full of salmon burst into my mind's eye, and I am immediately refreshed and exhilarated.

Today I saw a glimpse into my future.

Mercy sat at the table with her leftover tuna tetrazzini spread on the plate before her. She watched me in the kitchen preparing my taco salad also from leftovers. "Iwan tcees, pease!" she suddenly announced.

I considered the level of cheese left in the Tupperware bowl. "Tell you what, Mercy, after you eat your tetrazzini, you can have some cheese."

"No," she responded firmly. "Iwan tcees, pease."

"Sure, after you finish your tetrazzini."

"MOM. Iwan. Tcees. Pease." She fixed me with a firm stare.

"No." My single word hung quietly in the air, and I watched as Mercy's eyebrows lowered angrily and her little jaw jutted firmly from her face. She put her fork deliberately down beside her plate, and stared pointedly at me. Her intense blue eyes communicated anger. I recognized the uncompromising wall she had just built: she might be silent about it from now on, but she was not giving in, and she would NOT eat her tuna tetrazzini until I had given her some cheese.

I considered my options. Knowing that the verbal defiance had ended, I could easily ignore her power play by continuing my lunchtime as though the conflict were over. If she chose not to eat her tetrazzini, then she would be hungry when lunchtime was over -- a sad, but natural consequence for this particular decision. But the suspicion that this moment in time contained the potential for more far-reaching results than I could presently see seeped into my consciousness and would not leave. She may not get the cheese or the tuna, but she would keep the rebellion, and it would settle deeper into her heart.

How should I handle this? I silently asked God for wisdom. Every scenario I ran in my mind dealt solely with the outward, none of them reached her heart. And any that I thought might reach her heart required a discussion filled with logic on my part. She's not quite two years old, so discussions, logical or not, have close to a zero-level affect at this point.

Suddenly, that angry defiance on such a little face struck me as funny, and a laugh bubbled into my mouth. I held it back, prayerfully considering Mercy's feelings, and then let it out. "Mercy!" I breathed, "Your face is so funny! I wish you could see it! You look like this," and I imitated her expression. When her face did not change, I said again while laughing hysterically, "It's so funny!" I imitated her again, this time with some exaggerated comical expressions thrown in for good measure.

Liberty, who had been seated next to Mercy during this entire exchange and who had been intensely interested in the doling out of justice began to giggle. I could see the indecision on her sister's face. She seemed to be asking herself, Do I give up my position to join in the laughter, or is it worth it to hold my ground? I deliberately turned my laughter and silliness up a notch, and Liberty automatically followed my lead. The laughter said to Mercy, What a grand time we are having, and look at how much fun you are missing by sticking to your anger!

She hesitated a few more seconds before deciding it wasn't worth it. She laughed whole-heartedly with us, and the three of us began making faces at each other. When we finally calmed down, Mercy looked at me with a happy smile on her face and picked up her fork. That look almost blew me away. It communicated to me that her acquiescence was done with full knowledge of her decision. She knew she had given up her stand against me, and she knew it meant following my rule of no cheese until she finished her meal.

I pondered this new revelation of her character as she happily ate several forkfuls of noodles. After what might have been her sixth bite, I stood and walked back over to the Tupperware bowl of cheese. "Mercy, since you made such a great decision to obey happily, you may have some cheese now. You don't have to wait until you have finished your tetrazzini," I said, and I spooned a small helping onto her plate.

"Thank you, Mommy!" she responded.

If only our future conflicts could be resolved this easily!
We have had a busy two weeks full of celebrations!

Jeremy's birthday and Father's Day landed at the same time. I succeeded in keeping a few presents secret, only because I sneaked them in while Jeremy's little scouts weren't watching. The helium balloons proclaiming "HAPPY BIRTHDAY!" and "WORLD'S GREATEST DAD!" were the highlight of our present-shopping as you can imagine, and I only pried the balloon strings from the spies' hands after they fell asleep at naptime. I hid the balloons in the bathroom closet, hoping my little moles would forget about them in their sleep.

To my surprise and excitement, they did! Until Daddy came home from work. Then they shouted, "Daddy! We have balloons for you! We have balloons for you!" I compromised and brought out the birthday balloon from it's hiding place, but the espionage agents would have none of it. "Daddy, we have TWO balloons! TWO balloons, Daddy!" "And ICE CREAM CAKE!" Daddy encouraged their loose tongues every step of the way.

And the celebrations began.

Later that week, our friend Cheryl got married, and we attended the wedding held at her home. Gary and Cheryl were married by the pond, and the reception was held in the yard. They had rented a bouncy house complete with water-slide for their younger guests, but the sandy beach at the pond was the biggest hit for the kids. At one point, Liberty sailed too far on her float towards the middle of the pond, and Daddy had to dive in a rescue her. Later, Cheryl sidled up to me, eyeing Jeremy's wet wedding clothes and said that her nephew had come running to her shouting that a man had fallen in the pond! She told me, "I knew immediately that it was Jeremy. Am I right?" I laughed quite a bit over that one before I shared with her how heroic my husband was. :-)

Gary and Cheryl used fish in tiny fishbowls as the centerpiece for each table, and when we said our goodbyes, they insisted on giving us a fish and a balloon for each girl. We ended up with a black and blue boy and a white and pale-orange girl. Back at home, we puzzled over what to name them. "Gary" and "Cheryl" were obvious choices, but we kept thinking. Finally, in honor of love and weddings and such, we named the boy "Hugs" and the girl "Kisses." I bought goldfish flakes at the store and attempted to feed them, but both of them refused the delicacies. After several days of starvation, the fish still swam happily around their individual bowls, but I began to worry.

That's when the next celebration occurred. Alicia, my roommate from college, and her husband Rodney, another close friend in college, stopped by for a visit! Bringing with guessed it! GAMES!!! They were on their way home from a gaming convention, so they were laden down with a multitude of new games to play. So little time...

They suggested that Hugs and Kisses might be beta fish instead of gold fish, so we offed ourselves to Wally World (notice I reverted to college-speak) for some beta pellet food and a bigger fishbowl and a plant, because I had googled "beta fish" before we left. We also picnicked at a park and introduced Rodney to Lady Jane who cuts Jeremy's hair. Rodney pronounced it his best haircut ever, and he promises to come visit every few months or so to get his hair cut again. We're holding him to that promise.

Our fishy friends are still refusing to eat, and my next option is bloodworms. I hope they're not as graphic as they sound.