There and Back in a Blink

Thanks to some very generous people here in Amarillo, the boys and I were able to fly home quickly in time for Brenda’s first visitation in Chattanooga on Tuesday night, and thereby be a part of her second visitation and funeral service in Maryville on Wednesday and burial on Thursday in the family cemetery in Townsend. In between each event was time spent with the extended Miller family, all 800 of them, who each took a moment to love on the boys and tell me how sweet they are. (As if I wasn’t already stunned by their near-perfect behavior this week…) I have a separate post coming on each child and how he responded to Brenda’s passing.

Though this week was emotionally difficult, it wasn’t without times of laughter and shared memories with family and friends. We were even able to carve out time with Karin and the kids and the Valovcin family. Those were two boosts I personally needed.

Leaving today was a struggle. It didn’t help that we were running on empty after spending the week eating drive-thru fare and getting too little sleep. On top of the emotional drain, we barely made our flight, and if Chuck hadn’t been there to carry Jackson the second leg of the concourse, we wouldn’t have made it.  Choking back tears, we raced on the plane only to find a bunch of empty middle seats, nothing practical for a mother and two young children. Jeremy led the way to the back of the aircraft, where I proceeded to ask a group of total strangers, “So who wants a four year old between them?”

About 20 faces stared back at me blankly as I waited for someone to move. No one did, so the tears I’d been choking back all day, all week, and for the last four months, came flowing down my face.

“Will any of you let me sit with my boys, please?”

With that request, and probably out of fear, four people immediately stood up and offered to switch seats so I could be in the same row with the boys. Then another two men offered to get my bags and a flight attendant brought coloring books. We settled in as I wiped my eyes, feeling foolish with a flushed face. One more gentleman spun around and said, “Are you okay?”

An entire dialogue played in my head: I’m just so tired because I haven’t slept all week and I’m with the kids alone and my oldest is in a real trying phase right now and we almost didn’t make the flight and I hate flying and I’m tired of saying goodbye and there’s a whole lot of other stuff I’m worried about and I haven’t run in a long time so I’m extra tense and I’m leaving a job I love and I really miss Tennessee and my house won’t sell and I’m so sad that my boys won’t have more memories with their grandmother and…

But all I said was, “We’ve had a death in the family.”

With that, the two men on either side of the boys graciously engaged them in conversation so I could take a moment to breathe. From then on, it was mostly about fighting the urge to nap and keeping the boys in good spirits along the way home.

So we’re home and my sweet Salem hasn’t left my side since I walked through the door. And though I’ve spent the evening unpacking and pondering the week, I am most excited about Daylight Savings and that blissful extra hour of sleep.

The Fist in My Back

Last weekend, as in 11 days ago, I woke up with a stiff, sore back. I took a couple of Advil, went to the chiropractor Monday morning and started to feel better. By Thursday, I was suffering again, unable to turn my head to the right, much less brush my hair, lift something heavy, or sleep comfortably. I went back to the chiro on Friday and felt better Friday night. Saturday morning was horrible, so I laid out on the living room floor on ice packs for the bulk of the day.

Sunday was still bad, mainly with twisting and raising my arms above my head to do anything. (Ask me the last time I washed my hair.) I went back to the chiro on Monday and by last night, I was moving around with only limited mobility and little pain. This morning is a different story. I just spent 30 minutes laying with a heating pad between my shoulder blades watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse with the boys. It’s as if someone has grabbed my spine with their fist, twisted and won’t let go.

Part of the blame lies with the mattress. It’s 800 years old and mushy, but until that money tree blooms I won’t be buying that sought-after Beautyrest. Part of the blame lies with me. My regular workouts aren’t so regular as I’ve let stress and tension build up like weights in my shoulders.

The boys and I are traveling soon, so my brain is calculating (and re-calculating) what I need to pack, buy, replace, and have handy before I wind up on an airplane with two rowdy boys, a jacked back, and an empty bottle of Excedrin Back & Body.

The Great Wolf Lodge

I’m slow on picture editing from our Great Wolf Lodge weekend but I have my reasons. They mostly revolve around some form of procrastination, but I’ll just say that I’ve been playing catch-up on the book and trying to reestablish myself as a runner. Plus, I have a lot on the DVR.

Because I knew editing would be delayed, I didn’t take as many photos as I normally would, and that means I’m uploading even fewer. I’m sorry to say there are no pictures of me in a bathing suit. I’m sure my sister has some, BUT SHE KNOWS BETTER.

Whirlwind Weekend

In what seemed like three seconds, we spent three days with Becky and her family at the Great Wolf Lodge in Kansas City. It’s a favorite little spot to meet because it takes each family about eight hours to get there and it’s hours of fun in a bathing suit. We’re all a little sunburned and worn out from the water slides, but I tell you this – every second of that long drive, every dollar over-spent, and every sting of our sunburn is worth it. It’s been one solid year since our four boys played together, so you can image the amount of photos we took.

There are more to come, but here’s one from Monday night at the White Sox/Royals game. Obviously, I was a White Sox fan by proxy, as were my boys. We sat next to five other White Sox fans, so when the whole stadium booed, we were the 13 who cheered. The White Sox lost, but hey – the margaritas were good!

Hyde Memorial State Park

We had not been camping since 2004, when Jeremy was a mere 18 months old and Jackson wasn’t even a thought yet. And to say we went camping in 2004 is even a stretch. We packed up our things for a week, grabbed the dog and the toddler and drove to Pipestem, West Virginia, a place my parents used to take my sister and I as kids. However, I wasn’t able to relive the nostalgia because thunderstorms rolled in, and after one full day and one long night of raining, we packed up camp and headed to my grandmother’s house. We haven’t camped since.

Mountains above Santa Fe

Hyde Memorial is about seven miles north of Santa Fe, New Mexico, nestled below a ski resort among the beautiful aspen trees. It isn’t until you head up the mountain that you realize how dense the woods are and how secluded you are from the city, which is exactly what we all needed.

Because it was Jackson’s first camping trip, there were a few concerns I had for him, namely sleeping in a tent, hanging around a fire, general issues of having no fear, etc. Fortunately, the only misfortunes we suffered were the usual – boys not sharing, pushing and tattling, and being Mommy’s shadow. All non-camping related, naturally!

Fire sitting My favorite three boys Playing army guys Sweet brothers May 2010 Throwing rocks

Camping was just what I hoped it would be, minus the golf balls in my throat (that finally shrunk to jelly beans by Day 3), and the drastic drop in overnight temperatures that drove Chuck to the store at 3 a.m. for extra blankets. As an added bonus, I got to blow a bunch of money shop at Whole Foods on Saturday. Overall, the weekend was lovely.

Hyde Campsite

Hank at Hyde Memorial