It felt like Chloe’s tooth had been loose forever. When she first told us it was wiggly, we thought it would maybe be out in a week or so, but that rascally tooth just wasn’t interested in letting go. On one hand, I knew that there was no going back once that little baby tooth came out. Our sweet and sassy redhead’s face would never have that baby look ever again. But Chloe’s excitement over the milestone of having a missing front tooth was also contagious for all of us. Her brothers and sister all had advice for her on how best to wiggle it so it would come out quicker, and Todd gave it a couple “Dad tries” in an attempt to pull it out quickly. But it wouldn’t budge. It held fast, but continued to get looser and looser.

Here’s a picture of her when I first thought the extraction was eminent, just so I wouldn’t miss that “last day” of her baby teeth. (It was taken at least a week before it actually came out!)


Usually after dinner, we’d offer encouragement and a couple times Patrick even offered to yank it out. Andrew suggested a much more violent approach, as you can see in this picture.


She sported the Nanny McPhee look for several days, and although it looked a bit strange, it really didn’t bother her all that much. She wiggled it a lot, but no matter how loose it got, it showed no sign of giving up.


On the day of her 7th birthday, it seemed to be literally hanging by a thread! What was still keeping it attached to her gums was a mystery. She accepted some help in trying to get it out, and hopefully she won’t remember too much or be too traumatized by it. In the end, the tooth held firm. We wondered what in the world we all cared so much about it for…when a tooth is ready, it’ll come out!



The day after Ben and Chloe’s birthday, we were preparing for my parents’ arrival and she finally couldn’t take it anymore. She tried biting into an apple, but that didn’t work. She wiggled it by herself, but that didn’t work either. After exhausting her own devices, she asked Patrick to help her.

We gathered ’round to cheer her on, and finally, FINALLY, that pesky little tooth gave up the fight. Chloe actually pulled it out herself as she jerked away from Patrick’s grasp. She went one way, and the tooth remained in his hand. And “just like that,” it was out.


As usually follows after one front tooth comes out, the other front tooth is now also loose. It probably won’t be long before she is completely toothless–and just in time to ask for two front teeth for Christmas!–but for now, she’s enjoying the single-sided toothless look. When else in your life can celebrate that missing tooth grin?

And so…the redhead reaches another milestone of growing up….




Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can wait two years to do…

It’s the 30th of the month, and after staring down a to do list throughout October, it didn’t look too promising that the list would be completed. I knew we wouldn’t have the satisfaction of crossing most items off the list way back when I wrote it all down, but seeing it in print sprawled across the giant whiteboard in the kitchen helps all of us know what’s in my head. Some projects were easy, like move crazy piece of furniture that has been sitting near the door for three months (DUH! What takes us so long to get that done?! Why must we all trip over something before just putting it away?!?). Others, like “take out carpet in boys’ bedroom,’ requires a lot more planning and action. (Needless to say, that item will be transferred to the November to do list)

Ah well. Between homeschooling, regular housework, CC work and prep, and extra things like taking certain children for X-rays and a cast, some days don’t have many hours left for extra projects. Frustrating, but reality.

So imagine my surprise when I came back from my walk this evening and one of the kids rushed by me.
“What’s going on?” I inquired.
“Oh, Dad told us to go downstairs and find 20 things to throw away, 20 things to give away, and 20 things to put away where they belong!” he answered brightly and quickly, and continued back downstairs.

Well, OK, then! I didn’t even ask for more information. I simply sat down and for the next two hours, fielded questions about whether toys or other items that the kids found were keep, give away, or throw away. It was fairly painless in that nobody started crying (I was worried I would at some point; I really have to talk myself into the purging process, and this time I had no preparation whosoever), and lots got done. The kids brought up a bunch of different categories, and threw away the garbage that had been scattered here and there. By the end of their time, they had enough to drive over to the donation center with Todd.

Woohoo! That’s not bad! I didn’t even have to motivate anyone and Todd had them all down there knocking out a project.

I’m not going to worry about the roughly 65,227 items that still need to be conquered in our house. Those seem to be quite content to wait for me to get to them. For tonight, I’m thankful that one more job was tackled by willing helpers who took the task on by themselves and worked it out. Progress indeed, and in more areas than I’d listed on my to do chart.

We shall see what tomorrow brings….

Despite what the weathermen are saying, it BETTER NOT BE SNOW…

Cast Liberation Day!

It’s been a busy three weeks since Andrew fell and broke his arm, and thanks to the blog-a-day challenge, it’s all chronicled in earlier posts. He was quite excited for this day to come, because even though he hardly complained a peep about his cast, whenever we asked him about it, he did admit that it was a pain and it itched every now and again. But anyone can live with the inconvenience of a cast for twenty-one days, right?

We had another quick trip through the process: didn’t wait long to be called back, only had time to look around the room before the nurse came in to remove the cast, X-rays quickly followed, and then a meeting with the doctor. He informed us that the bone was healing perfectly, and to continue the healing, he wanted Andrew to wear a removable splint for an additional three weeks. Hooray for removable! He only has to wear it during the daytime, and can easily be removed for a shower. Again I say hooray (and I’m pretty sure Andrew does too!)

Here are a few pictures from the process today…


Andrew listens while the nurse explains the process.

Andrew listens while the nurse explains the process.


It tickled!

It tickled!


How many times have I said that Andrew enjoys EVERYTHING?!

How many times have I said that Andrew enjoys EVERYTHING?!


FREE and feeling great!

FREE and feeling great!


And, as if Cast Liberation Day wasn’t enough, the kids had the chance to dress up for a masquerade at their church youth group this evening, and although they waited until the last minute, they managed to scrounge something together.   Patrick teamed up with his friend to be Thing 1 and Thing 2…


Thing 1 makes sure his hair is "just right."

Thing 1 makes sure his hair is “just right.”


One half of the Thing 1/Thing 2 pair.

One half of the Thing 1/Thing 2 pair.


Brendan used my scrubs from a past costume party to dress up as a doctor.  We had all sorts of fun coming up with Ebola-related names for him, but in the end, I only had scrubs–not a hazmat suit.  He liked that just fine, thankfully!

Brendan dressed up as "The Doctor," but he really wished he had found a duck mask so he could have been "A Quack."

Brendan dressed up as “The Doctor,” but he really wished he had found a duck mask so he could have been “A Quack.”

Ben went the extremely casual (and easy) route and wore this shirt.  It’s nothing if not clever!


Gotta love Ben, rocking the "costume, no costume" idea!

Gotta love Ben, rocking the “costume, no costume” idea!


Hannah went to a friend’s party and dressed up as a different “doctor.”

Hannah, Hollye, and Matthew pose for fun.

Hannah, Hollye, and Matthew pose for fun.


 It’s been a full and fun day!

Speaking to a group of moms has me all in a tizzy

Tomorrow night I’m scheduled to speak to a group of moms and share some wisdom that I’ve learned over my tenure as a parent.  For one thing, I can’t possibly be old enough to have any words of wisdom to share…right? Aren’t I just starting out on this parenting journey?  The calendar (and my oldest child) tell me that I have been a parent, in fact, for 17 years and so therefore I should have some thoughts to offer.   Here’s the list I compiled that may or may not make the talk tomorrow night:

1.  If you have boys, your bathroom will most likely be gross.  And by gross, I mean, in the running for Worst Outhouses of the Year.   I have come to realize that this doesn’t necessarily reflect poor housekeeping skills.   Five minutes after your best cleaning job, one of those little people could have to go and their aim isn’t really great.  Or even a high priority.  I do the best I can, and keep hoping that some day they will too.

2. There will always be errant socks in the strangest places in your house.  Don’t blame the dogs; the kids are the culprits.  I have found socks on top of the mantel, on the island, and one just recently on the deck.  But the day I find TWO socks in any one place is the day I will probably fall over dead.

3.  Kids will pick the best times to get sick.  (Of course, is there *any* good time to be sick? NO.  The answer is always NO)  Beware especially of car trips, large family gatherings, and the night before abdominal surgery.  That’s when stomach bugs are the most vicious and children are especially vulnerable.  Oh, and whenever you are nowhere near a proper–or even improper–receptacle.

4.  Drinks usually spill on and dirty shoes traipse through any floor that was just cleaned.  I think they have radar for such things.

5.  You would not believe how many variations kids can come up with when placing a shirt on a hanger.  I have counted about 27 so far.

6.  Just when you think you’ve lost your mind with the lack of sleep, crazy schedule, and endless to do lists scratched on napkins or the back of your hand, one of those little people spontaneously wraps his or her arms around your neck and exclaims, “You’re the best Mommy there is!”


Then suddenly, of course, it all makes sense.  You don’t do it for the accolades (huh? Is Worst Outhouse of the Year considered an accolade?), and you don’t do it for the money.  You don’t do it so you can fight the urge to compare yourself to the other moms you know who you’re sure are getting this mommy thing down better than you.  You do it because those little people are your little people, and even though they may leave a trail of destruction behind them and make you want to pull out your hair some days, they are a lot like you: works in progress.

And you just love them.


Nothing to see here…Keep moving

It’s been exactly a week since we began our saga through the heartland of America that ended so very, very badly. Since Tuesday evening, it’s been quite a relief to go back to life as usual–or close to usual–and not have to worry about anything overheating. Let’s be honest: I didn’t have to think about my coffee pot overheating; my flat iron gets pretty hot, but it hasn’t ever overheated; and I like to boil my pasta on high, but that’s not considered overheating. Good, good, good.

Meanwhile, the auto shop owner/manager was hard at work behind the scenes. By Thursday, Todd and Kevin had come up with an agreement. Without going into too many details just yet, we’re getting a new engine. I can probably explain more later. We are looking forward to picking it up sometime Monday when it is anticipated to be repaired! Finally.

Of course, you’ll understand if I don’t completely trust our vehicle until we’ve driven it much further than 3.3 miles.

Until then, we can focus on much more important things: to Ebola or not to Ebola; what will the menu plan for the week be; and whether our puppies will grow into mean little balls of shedding hair or mellow into friendly furry guys… You know, the “important” stuff.

There really isn’t anything else exciting going on around here, and I am SO glad to say so. School work as usual, life as usual, business as usual.

Throughout last weekend and the beginning of this week, it was easy to get frustrated that what we’d planned was so far away from what actually happened. I planned to leave early on Friday so we could get to the hotel early and have lots of time to spend with family…that didn’t quite work out. Our trip home was delayed a few days and included a totally unplanned stop at my parents’ house on the other side of the state from our destination. We completely inconvenienced Mike and Nicole (among others!) more than once throughout the three days. It just felt like everything was a mess and nothing was how it had been designed. Then I came across this gem of truth:

“The truth is, of course, that what one regards as interruptions are precisely one’s life.”

Collected Works of C. S. Lewis (1994)

So who knows.  Maybe the “plan” wasn’t supposed to be the “real plan” all along.

I can definitely be OK with that.



Back to Normal…ish

I heard Mike’s truck fire up just after 12:30 this morning. Since we hadn’t talked to him after we said our goodbyes and he’d gone to try and catch a nap, I had no idea whether he’d been able to sleep or not. Nevertheless, he was on his way home. I texted him a quick “be safe and be careful” and tried to sleep. It was tough! I couldn’t help but wonder if he was sleepy (how could he not be!?) or if the drive felt interminable.

Imagine my relief when I received a text from him at 6:01am saying he for home safely. Wonderful. I know he still had to return Mom and Dad’s car to them, but it felt like the most difficult part of the ordeal was finally over.

Back at the ranch, it felt like I woke up with a hangover. But since we’d missed several days as it was, the kids didn’t even fight me on the return to schoolwork. (Hannah had even studied as soon as we unpacked the day before.) Our fall break was indeed a break, but not exactly in the way I think any of us would have planned. Though it was a slow day, we managed to get through our work.

Todd had not left the key with the van when he and Mike dropped it at the shop the night before, so he took that over at some point today, guaranteeing him the opportunity to speak to someone (or someones) in person. By the end of their business day, we had not heard anything. Not sure what to think about that, but for just a few hours, if at all possible, I really did not want to see, think about, or in any way have to deal with that vehicle.

It’s been a grey, damp, rainy day here, and it certainly didn’t help with anyone’s mood as we navigated through the afternoon. After schoolwork, I took a shorter than usual walk, but after at least five days of hardly walking at all (unless my FitBit counted the pacing around the front end of the car while Patrick inspected under the hood and I talked to Todd on the phone…) The neighborhood trees are changing so quickly, and it is such a treat to watch them change daily.

Speaking of trees, that was one of the best parts about being on the road (even if it was often the same road) this weekend. We saw some absolutely brilliant displays of fall foliage. The colors were just breath-taking, and I’m grateful that we occasionally lifted up our heads from our downcast spirit to really take them in. What a constant reminder, mile after mile, of God’s handiwork. That helped the frustrations seem a bit less important.

Compared to past days, this is a short entry, but I’m just worn out. I was thankful to hear from Nicole that Mike had an early bedtime, and I’m trying to follow somewhat behind him. It’s good to be home, and it’s great to all sleep in our own beds, although I have to say, the bed at the hotel was one of the most comfortable hotel beds I have ever slept in.

Not that I’m looking to drive back there any time soon….

Third (or twenty-seventh) verse, same as the first…

Are you even still reading about this crazy saga? I’m growing weary of writing about it… Hopefully I can get to the end quickly…

We woke up Sunday morning after a lovely wedding day, ready to go pick up our repaired van and head back home to Kentucky. After enjoying one more breakfast with as many family members as possible, we cleaned up our hotel rooms and geared up to say goodbye and head our separate ways.

As for my family, in order to get our party of seven back to Indiana, it took feats of maneuvering to work it all out. The plan looked like this: Mike and Nicole were going to drive two cars (theirs and my parents’) with all seven of us down to Angola. My other brother Tom (who drives a Honda Civic. mind you) was going to take his girlfriend, my parents, and my cousin Janine (who was staying with Mike and Nicole until the next day when she planned to fly home). Tom planned to drive his car to my parents’ house and drop off Mom, Dad, and Janine, who would wait for Mike and Nicole to drop off their car and pick up Janine. We packed the cars appropriately so we could easily unpack our stuff once we got to the van, and wouldn’t have to tear apart two cars.


We left the hotel sometime after 11am, and had gotten about twenty minutes on the road when Nicole passed Mike (a strange thing to do). We waved and smirked at her, but she was waving her phone at us. Oops! She had been trying to call us, but Mike’s phone was on vibrate and mine was too quiet to hear. Mike called her just as she pulled off the highway. She told Mike that Ben was complaining of feeling sick to his stomach and thought he was going to throw up. OH MY WORD. HOW COULD WE ADD ONE MORE THING!?!? By this time, I was sure my brother and sister-in-law were beyond done. But they weren’t. They so were not.

Mike had to take the next exit and then turn around to go back. By the time we did that and found them at the gas station, I ran in to hear that Ben had in fact thrown up. I was fairly certain that it wasn’t a stomach issue that caused his mid-trip barfing, but was as a result of his coughing from having some serious congestion. Those sensitive gag reflexes are nothing to joke around with. The poor guy emerged from the bathroom looking pretty rough. We took some grocery bags and paper towels, and although I had started out in Mike’s car, we all agreed that it might be better if I stayed with Ben, so Brendan and I switched cars to keep everything even.

Ben was fairly green and pitiful when we all climbed back into our cars, but he was a trooper. Although he moaned and complained a few times between the first stop and our destination, we made it unscathed for the most part. No barf in the car…that has to be a very good thing!

It was around 1ish or soon after when we pulled up once again to the Best One shop and our van. Hopefully, this was the last time we’d see it. The kids helped us completely unload the luggage from the car and into the van, set up the DVD players, and got everything settled for the trip. We said our goodbyes to Mike and Nicole, thanking them repeatedly for all that they’d done for us over the weekend, took one last picture to commemorate the occasion, and we all went our separate ways (well, two separate ways, anyway…).


The van started up rough, but I figured it was just because it had sat overnight without the usual workout we give it. I prayed for the trip home (and for Mike and Nicole), and headed out towards the road.

It wasn’t strange at all when the Service Engine Light came up when I started the van. It was more than a little disconcerting, however, when it flashed as I pulled out into traffic. That was something different… I swallowed hard and prayed it was just a weird fluke. It stopped.

Siri instructed us towards 69 south, but before we reached the highway, I knew just about everyone in the van needed a potty break. We turned into a Marathon station, which turned out to be a fantastic choice, mainly because it had only one bathroom. Super.

We waited in line–all seven of us–to empty our bladders so we could get going. It seemed to take forever! Finally, finally we all got back to the van and started out again. What happened next completely boggled the mind. After paying a lot of money to have Mike the mechanic repair our van and give us assurances that we were good to go, this happened once again:


It got hotter than that, but at the time I wasn’t recording it. It goes without saying that I flipped out. I absolutely could not believe what I was seeing. WHY WAS THIS HAPPENING AGAIN!?!

I quickly pulled into the first parking lot we came to, which was a Speedway with the entrance ramp to the highway in view. There was NO way I was going to try that.

At this point, I really did not know what to do. I wanted to scream, cry, and frankly, bash the front end of the van in. Instead, I made one of the two most dreaded phone calls of the weekend: I called Todd. I’m sure you can imagine his reaction. He immediately instructed me to call Mike, but I resisted. After everything already? HOW could I call him again? Besides, as long as it had taken us on the bathroom break, there was no way they could still be in town. Still, I had limited options at this point.

And by limited options, I mean one option.

Calling Mike and Nicole again.

I was unable to drive the vehicle I needed to take my family home. Oh, how I dreaded making that phone call as well… But I had to.

When Mike answered the phone, I felt like crying but kept it together. Mike sighed and asked where we were. He wasn’t upset (or if he was, he never showed it), and he just assured me that it happens. While we were on the phone, he turned around from the parking lot where they had stopped to eat and use the bathroom, and started off to meet us. Nicole later told me that she just followed him without knowing what in the world he was doing. (Remember, we had gone “the right way” a few times already throughout the weekend, and she knew this was a “different than the right way.”)

We spent the next hour trying to figure out the best course of action. We checked the radiator, we googled a few things and checked out fuses. Todd was on the phone a lot of the time. All the while, Ben’s stomach and coughing were giving him fits and he kept threatening that he had to throw up. Eventually, we made the plan to attempt to drive the van back to the repair shop. Mike and Nicole would drive us to my parents’ house and we would try to figure out what to do after that. Because it was Sunday, no one would be available to look at the van before the next day, so we’d be stuck for at least that long. I was beyond sick about the whole thing. Mike and Nicole had just driven two hours out of their way on a fruitless trip to drop us off to a useless vehicle, only to have to pack everything up again in their car and drive us to my parents’ before they could even go to their home. Sick doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt.

The trip back to Mom and Dad’s was tiring, frustrating, and long. Ben was miserable, but he made it. I suspect the entire situation probably only added to his ill feelings. I felt like throwing up myself. How we were going to get out of this, I had no idea.

I can’t say enough about my family and their selflessness and generosity. My parents opened their home to us without blinking, and Mike and Nicole never complained even once. Amazing.

Once we arrived at Mom and Dad’s, we heard hilarious stories of how my dad, Jessica, and cousin Janine had to maneuver to squeeze into the backseat of Tom’s Civic. They showed us on the couches how they’d had to sit in the car, laughing the entire time. Apparently, at least on their end, the inconvenience led to some definite hilarity. It lightened the mood a bit.

Mike, Nicole, and Janine left soon after that, and headed for their home and certain bedtime.

It was fairly easy to ready the kids’ sleeping spaces for bed and once they were settled for the night, the rest of us weren’t far behind. The weekend had taken its toll. Before bed, I spent some time talking to Todd about what the next step would be. He mentioned that his friend had offered to let us borrow an 8 passenger vehicle that had towing capacity with the possibility of towing our broken down van home. Todd could drive up to get us, we would drive back to the van, and take it home. It sounded like a way we could avoid inconveniencing too many more people.

The next morning, Mike my brother called before we’d heard from Mike the mechanic. He’d already hatched his own plan: he’d rent a trailer that could hold the van, drive down to Angola and pick it up, come back to my folks’ house, pick us up, and drive to Lexington. I’d have to drive my parents’ car in order for all seven of us to fit, and then once we arrived in Lexington, he would put their car on the trailer and drive it back to them.


I seriously hoped it could work out a different way.

Before lunch on Monday, Todd called me with the dreaded diagnosis: blown head gasket. I think we all knew by that point, but it still stunk to hear it said out loud. The van was undriveable. Who knew what I’d already done to it by driving it 300 miles north in the first place. We all realized it was just a vehicle, but by this point, it was nothing more than a colossal headache and money pit.

I won’t go into the details of the conversation between Mike the mechanic and Todd, but after that, Todd and Mike my brother spoke and a final plan was hatched: the convoluted plan I mentioned earlier. There really seemed to be no other way. Again, more sick feeling.

Mike’s plan was to get the trailer and van Monday evening and then come to get us Tuesday morning. I just could not believe he was willing to do all of this for us. How do you even begin to thank someone for all of that?

Meanwhile, the original shop in Lexington who replaced the thermostat the first time called Todd wondering “if his wife made it home.” (He’d called them either Friday or Saturday to let them know what had happened. I wish I had been a fly on the wall for that conversation. Although I know Todd wasn’t yelling or cussing them out, I also know that the mechanics heard the saga of the van. They agreed to “take care of fixing it,” although as of right now, we don’t know what that is.

Despite all the unknowns and anxiety, my parents were gracious hosts for us. We had an enjoyable extra day at their house, and the kids got to see their grandparents a tad extra. That was a blessing for sure.

The story almost comes to an end today. We woke up early and packed Mom and Dad’s car once again, making sure we were ready for Mike when he arrived. He had been driving the night before picking up the van until almost 11:30 (he had to go after work), and was right back on the road that next morning.

When Mike pulled up, this is what we saw.


I really wanted to kick the bumper again like I had before we left it in Indiana (again) on Sunday.

After saying our goodbyes to Mom and Dad, and thanking them for entrusting us with their car, we began what I really hoped would be our last journey home. Mike wasn’t sure how fast he’d be able to drive with such a heavy load, but we were ready for whatever it took. I hated that he had committed to so many hours of driving.

This is what we looked at for most of the day. More feelings of wanting to kick it ensued, to be sure.


Except for periods of rain (and a few downpours), and a couple slowdowns because heavy traffic, the trip went quite smoothly. We arrived in Lexington at almost exactly 5pm. I was so thankful to pull up to our house, and so grateful that everything worked out. Mike’s truck had successfully hauled our piece of junk–err, family van–home.

Todd and Mike delivered the van back to Exhaust Pro for whatever the next step with that will be, and they loaded up my parents’ car on the trailer. We had dinner together before Mike decided that he’d sleep for a while at our house before trying to wake up and drive back home through the night. I hate that he still has that leg of the trip to make on his own, but if I’ve learned anything about my brother this past weekend (that I knew before but has really been solidified in my mind), once he gets focused on a problem and the solution to fix it, there is almost nothing that will stand in his way. He’s a beast. I simply can’t speak highly enough about him, or Nicole, or my family.

So now, we wait. We have been taken care of this entire journey, even when it felt like we were stranded. My family has been a shining example of how it’s supposed to be done: when someone needs help, and you can help, you help. That’s pretty much it.

I pray that someday–any day–when the opportunity to come to someone else’s aid arises that I will remember how grateful I felt when so many people did that for me. And then just do it, no matter the inconvenience or sacrifice.

Once Mike returns safely home, this “weekend trip” will officially be over. Of course, we have many decisions to make regarding the future of our van o’ vexation, but it seems oddly secondary now to the real lessons.

So I guess, the saga lives to see another day…

Friends don't let friends drive repeatedly overheating vehicles.

Friends don’t let friends drive repeatedly overheating vehicles.


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