Monday, August 30, 2010

Booty Baby (Not to be Confused with Baby Booties)

I'm not sure, but I don't think it's normal to carry your baby (when you're pregnant, I mean) in your booty. I'm pretty sure no males read this (except Chris and maybe Tom), but if you do, please just skip this post. Seriously, though, I think Sam is sitting a little lower than most babies do when inside their mommies. I've carried two of my others so low that I thought they might just fall out, but this is different.

For instance, the other night, Chris and I were sitting and watching a quirky but kind of cute chick flick, and I just couldn't concentrate. You see, someone on that couch had the hiccups, and it wasn't me or Chris. It was the person who is lodged in my backside. I don't know if you've ever tried, but it's a little difficult to concentrate on watching a movie, no matter how interesting, when you can feel someone hiccuping in your rear end. That's a phrase I never thought I would type in my lifetime. My life may have hit a new low point when I'm having to contemplate the weirdness factor of having a baby in my bottom. I wonder if this situation is occurring because my body has had as many babies growing in it as it can possibly stand. Perhaps my organs are in such weird places now and gravity has taken over in such a way that this has happened. All I'm saying is that it's a new experience for me, and not one I'm sure I'm entirely comfortable with.
Sam will probably not ever want to hear about what parts of my anatomy he was dealing with in utero, and I'm also pretty sure Luke will not want to hear how much he enjoyed my ob visits during this pregnancy. Last week, he was really enjoying playing with the stirrups as we waited for the doctor to enter the room. I tried explaining to him that one day he would most likely be horrified to know he even touched them, much less played happily with them, but he didn't seem to care in the least. It's one of those moments I'll wait until just the right time to bring up once he's all grown up. It could make for a great laugh if a party is ever having a slow moment.

I might as well throw in a Jack moment while I'm at it. While most of my life can be described as one long "Jack moment," I had a particularly hard time containing my laughter today, which actually made the situation worse. Jack was doing a great job reading this afternoon, when he got a little off base with one word. He can be a little impatient and just blurt out sounds that may or may not have to do with the actual letters on the page, hoping he might get it right and skip all of the long, boring, drawn out process of sounding out the word. So, when he was attempting "she" today, he just added a little "t" on the end. What was so funny was that he said it with such volume and passion which, combined with the surprise factor, made me smile just slightly. It was just a natural reaction, people. Well, when he saw that he'd done something amusing, he just continued to repeat it with increasing volume and passion. Of course, Maddie and Luke were in the room and, by some instinct, immediately stopped moving or making any sound and just stared at and listened to Jack with peaked interest. As soon as I could wipe the smile off my face and form words, I yelled, "Stop! Stop!" as loudly as I could just to overpower his volume. Now I will spend all of my time in public with Luke on pins and needles just waiting for him to reach into the recesses of his brain, pull out this word, and shout it at the top of his lungs in Walmart or the bank or, heaven forbid, church.

Okay, I can't leave Maddie out. She's not quite as full of funny moments as the boys, but she did have a cute one last night. We had been to the Lovelady Center to help my aunt and others do Kids Church. Now, many of you may have served in a Children's Church setting at your local church, but this is a little wilder and...well, WILDER...than any other Children's Church I've ever been a part of. These kids haven't had an ideal home life where they've been taught how to behave, so some of them are quite rambunctious, to put it nicely. I love that we get to take our kids there so that they can see #1) how blessed they are and #2) how they can serve others who may not have had such an easy life. Maddie, being extremely quiet and well-behaved (Not bragging. She just came out that way.), sticks out like a sore thumb as this place. But she doesn't mind going and doesn't complain at all about the situation. Last night was an especially high-energy evening and we got home rather late. I fixed her a very rushed dinner of pancakes and set it in front of her, but she just laid her head down on the table and stated, rather dramatically, that "Lovelady just wears me out." Poor, sweet girl.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

New Mercies for Each Day

Lamentations 3:21-26 Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him." The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.

As someone who messes up a lot in life, I find these verses full of comfort and hope. After a week like the one I just had, I find myself truly appreciating the fresh mercies of God that wait for me each day when I wake up. Though I wander and falter, He is faithful. He is my Rock, my Fortress, my Refuge. I love those names of God that remind us of His unchanging nature and unfailing love. When my emotions are all over the place, He is immovable. His Truth stands firm. I am so thankful that I do not serve a God who changes like shifting shadows, but One who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. That's the kind of God we can trust when everything within us screams that no one could still love us.

The Lord has blessed me with a wonderfully refreshing weekend with my family and friends. Everywhere I turn, I have been reminded of the blessings He has showered upon me. Blessings that I certainly do not deserve and definitely do not always appreciate. Besides a wonderful husband who sticks by my side when I am being very unlovable and three sweet kids who forgive my horrid behavior in a heartbeat, smothering me with hugs, I have also been blessed with very sweet friendships. Even in the last couple of days, I have received so many encouraging words from many of you and offers of time spent together in the coming days. I'm pretty sure I've already done a sappy post on this before, but I was just reminded of the gift of friendship so clearly through the kindness of others and the sermon this morning at church. There was no deep theological truth that I picked up on, but there was a very clear and much needed reminder to appreciate my friends, but also to be a better friend myself.

I don't know if it's just me, but when I get in the midst of a busy week, or when I get totally overwhelmed by boredom within the four walls of my home, my focus is totally on me and not a bit on others. After being showered with the kindness of friends and reminded of God's goodness toward me, my aim this week is just to be a friend in small ways. A note here, a kind word there, and definitely more prayers lifted up on the behalf of others. I would remind you all to do the same, but, from my recent experience, you're all doing a wonderful job of this. I would ask that you - being true friends - would hold me accountable to all I aim to do this week. Most of all, I want to keep my focus on the Friend of all friends. Oh, how truly thankful I am that He walks so patiently beside me, whether I am being a friend to Him or not. My He be our portion this week.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Baby Blues...A Little Early

ADDENDUM: I must say, before you read the following (if you haven't already), that I have a very sweet friend and a very sweet sister-in-law who both entertained Luke and I this past week. Those were much bigger highlights of my week than a root canal. However, the fact that I overlooked these events in my original post just makes me more negative and psycho than I first thought. Thank you, dear ladies, for sticking with me through thick, thin, and crazy. Love you!

ORIGINAL POST: I have stayed away from blogging because, frankly, I didn't want to pull anyone else into the cesspool of blues than I already had. I don't know what's going on with me, but I've been feeling a lot like I usually do after I have a baby...only I haven't had a baby yet. Dear Lord, let this be getting things out of the way early and not a sign of things to come...for the sake of my family.

Hormones or moodiness or depression or just plain psychosis is so annoying. I can feel that I'm out of sorts and know there is no reason for it in my mind, but I still cannot seem to control my emotions or my tongue! My children are probably ready to have me committed and my husband is probably ready to send me packing, and despite the fact that I know this, I'm still acting ridiculously...well, ridiculous.

This all seemed to start when Chris and the kids went back to school, leaving poor little Luke and I at home with nothing to do but laundry, clean the house, and play with toys. We are usually pretty busy, but, for some reason, the past few weeks we've had a serious lack of important things to do. I really hate the fact, but cannot deny it, that I am not a happy or nice person when I feel trapped at home for days on end. It's really saying something that the highlight of the last two weeks was my root canal. Pathetic. And, while I know that we are super-blessed to have plenty to eat and a roof over our heads, the last three years of financial tightness just came to a head for me. Basically, I think when I'm at home with nothing to do, my pessimistic and incredibly selfish mind just turns to things that are wrong or stressful, and it snowballs from there.

Now I'm going to add to my blue attitude by the shame of having shared all this boring gobbledy-goop with the bloggy world, but I guess I'm hoping to get all this out there and move on with life...acting totally sane. Not likely, I guess, considering I never act totally sane, but let's just say as sane as I normally act. That would be a huge improvement. Thank the Lord that Bible study starts on Monday for me, so I have to at least pretend to be sane and nice for one day a week.

Really, though, as Sam's arrival nears, say a little prayer for me...and mainly for my poor family. I am truly praying that we can make it through those first few weeks of his precious life without an atomic bomb going off in our home courtesy of good ole Mom. Now all of you see why I'm not one to do the self-imposed eight weeks home with a newborn like some very responsible and germ-conscious moms do. Let's just say the greatest risk for my babies is not germs but that Mommy will go to the Looney Bin before their two-month birthday. Okay, now that I sound totally psycho and phones are dialing the number for DHR, I'm going to muster all the energy I have, lug my big belly to the kitchen, and try to cook a meal that does not consist of chicken nuggets for my kids. Go ahead...mail in your recommendations today to the Mom of the Year committee, because you have now located the prime candidate. I would also like to add to my list of recommedable qualities...I'm a yard-saler. I never go to yard sales, but, at Maddie's request, we went to two whole yardsales this morning and I got Sam six outfits and/or onesies plus six little bibs for $3.50. That's me...frugal and totally sane and a gourmet cook. Please hold your applause.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Baby Days Ahead

It's becoming obvious that Baby Sam will soon be making his arrival at our house. A new chest of drawers has made its way into...where else...our dining room. It is slowly being filled with slightly-stained baby clothes that have belonged to two Bond Boys before this one. A baby car seat is waiting in our basement and there is at least one pack of those unbelievably tiny newborn diapers in the top of a closet somewhere. Hopefully a bassinet will arrive soon. Really, what else do you need for baby #4?

This baby's sweet brother, Luke, is doing his part to make sure that we are quite used to the lack of sleep for mommy and the general crankiness of the next-to-the-youngest child that will probably ensue when Sam is added to our family. Let's see...the kids have been back in school for eight days today, and Jack began getting sick last week. Public school, aka, a Cesspool of Germs. Since we are so successful at teaching our kids to share, Jack was very generous with his germs and allowed Luke to have a few for himself. As all Bond boys seem to do, they've been wheezing up a storm. When Luke is sick, he DOES NOT SLEEP. Now, his health cannot be blamed for the early hours he's decided to wake up the two weeks prior to yesterday. The earliest morning was Friday at 4:45. Yes. 4:45. Chris and I both tried to explain to him that it was completely unacceptable and we would not stand for it, but that did not seem to alter his chipper mood in the least. He was ready to start his day. There are just so many important things for him to do, you know.

I thought that was bad until last night when he arrived at my bedside at 1:45am (after I'd gone to sleep at midnight) and proceeded to spend the rest of the night/wee hours of the morning wheezing, asking for drinks, climbing all over me, and requesting cereal with milk. I don't know if I've ever mentioned this, but I'm not the nicest person between the hours of midnight and 6am. I'm really not ever a super-nice person, but those hours are especially challenging for me. I appreciate Luke doing his part to prepare our household for Sam. I just hope and pray that once Sam arrives and takes over the wake-mommy-up-at-all-hours-of-the-night duty that Luke will feel that his job is done and be content to pass the baton. Because, heaven knows, if I get a newborn to sleep and then a cute (but not that cute) two-year-old decides to pay me a visit at 2am, we might be back down to three kids.

I am looking forward to that fuzzy newborn head and that silky soft skin and those scrunched up, skinny little legs and the fingers and toes that are so tiny that you just swear your other kids' could never have been that small. Oh, and the smell...that amazing baby smell that kids over the age of 18 months just can't seem to pull off, no matter how much Johnson's baby bath and lotion you smear on them. There are definitely wonderful moments that make the lack of sleep worth it...obviously, since we're doing this for a fourth time. That's what's great about the third and fourth times around. You've done it enough times before to know that you'll forget most of the hard stuff and cherish those precious things about this season with your children. Well, I will never forget the emotional breakdown on Luke's first Easter morning that ended with only 3/5 of our family headed to church. But we won't talk about that now...

I know this is all very riveting, but this is as exciting as it gets when you've been home for about 10 days, with your main goals being to stay awake during the daylight hours and not be seriously injured by an avalanche of laundry and ironing. And I'm saving the truly enthralling potty-training update for another day. Let's just say, when, or if, Luke ever figures out how to actually urinate in the potty at least one time, there will be some major celebration going on by one excited mama. Have I ever mentioned how cute he is?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Life of Blessings, Root Canal Included

You'll all be glad to know I seem to have survived the root canal I had this morning. However, the numbness is just now starting to wear off four hours after I left the endodontist's office, so we'll see how things go from here. I am so thankful for little Sam rolling around inside of me, but I find myself not so thankful for the fact that I am limited to Tylenol as my pain suppresant option. C'mon. Does anyone actually choose to take Tylenol on their own? I might as well eat M&M's. Let me rephrase that...I'd be better off eating M&M's since at least I'd get a moment of pleasure from their yumminess. Tylenol is completely useless to me. It is so far inferior to ibuprofen that I do not consider them in the same league. But, this is the price I pay for another bouncing baby addition to the price of rotting teeth. Ever since I had Jack, my life has been filled (Ha!) with dental problems galore. Really, this is our last baby! Really! (But he's so worth it, I'm sure.)

In trying to alleviate any pre-root canal anxiety, I tried counting my blessings, and realized that they are so numerous, how could I complain over one little endodontic procedure? Even if it does mean drilling a hole in part of my body, ripping nerves out of my head and then jamming some artificial substance in their place? I even count the fact that I am able to get my teeth fixed and that I can do it with local anasthesia rather than experiencing an amount of pain that I'm sure would make me want to die a blessing in and of itself. I won't bore you with the long list of blessings in my life, but that is a nice segue (can I tell you how impressed I am with myself for spelling that word correctly on the first try?) into Part 2 of my Vermont trip. How is that, you ask? Well, it was just one big, humongous ball of blessings!
I think when I look back on this trip months and years down the road, I will not first think of the beautiful scenery, or the lovely accomodations, or even all the YUMMY food. My first and fondest thought will be of the people I met along the way. If you don't already know, I'm not really one to meet and befriend a lot of new people, especially total strangers. But having people around like Jackie makes it impossible to not meet people. Her mouth would open, heads would turn, and the inevitable comment would come: "You aren't from around here, are you?" Really? What gave us away? So, we'd have an open door to launch into our reason for being in their lovely state, which led to various other topics of conversation, mostly relating to the fact that we loved their weather, for if we'd been at home, we'd be roasting in 100+ degree heat.
Of course, the people we spent the most time with, and got to know the best, were Trey and Robyn and Paul and Eva. Trey is the pastor of New Life Community Church, which our local church partners with. Trey is originally from our home church and has been in Vermont for a few years as a church planter. The other couple, Paul and Eva, lead another church in the town of Northfield, Northfield Bible Fellowship. Basically, they've formed a partnership as two of the only evangelical, Bible-believing churches in the town. How awesome to see the body of believers cooperating rather than competing! The VBS we helped with was held at Paul and Eva's church, which happens to also be their house. When you raid someone's home and cook dinner in their kitchen every night, you get to know them pretty well. Jackie charmed them with her southern drawl and her grits, while Emily matched wits and sarcasm with Paul. I think they just felt sorry for me - the big pregnant girl - and even threw me my first baby shower for baby #4. It consisted of Paul throwing some water on me from a plastic cup and presenting me with a guitar onesie for Sam, to commemorate Paul's obvious love for all things guitars, including apparel. It was really such a sweet and thoughtful surprise. They wanted Sam to always remember his trip to Vermont.

In addition to these two pastors and their wives, we got to meet and spend some time with several members of their churches. I just love seeing how different all these people are, how unique and beautiful their testimonies are, and how they all have the same Lord and Savior. One woman had been to the point where she wouldn't get out of bed, but came to know the Lord this past Easter and is now an active member of the church. She was at VBS to help out for four out of the five nights. Then there was the older gentleman who is struggling to make ends meet and keep his life going after the death of his wife. He admitted that he didn't have much to offer, but came each night to try to help anyway he could. We had several unchurched kids who came to the VBS and four who accepted Christ. This area of the country is largely poor and we were able to feed some children who probably really needed the meal. In Vermont, people don't go to church because it's expected or to gain social status or to find clients. They go because they are looking for something, or Someone, to fill a void in their lives. They're a mixture of people all seeking the same Jesus, and the church is a place where they come to be loved and to love. It's refreshing, really.

Besides all the people we met as a direct result of our work with these two churches, we met several interesting characters just randomly during our days. Unfortunately, due to the unexpected nature of these meetings, I don't really have pictures of them. I really wish I did, because it's not everyday in my life that I meet such interesting people. There was Mary, who seemed to be in charge of The Square Biscuit, which is a restaurant in Northfield that claims to serve real Southern cooking. Naturally, a group of women born and bred in the South simply had to go see if it was the real deal. I will say the food was my least favorite meal of the trip (aside from the sloppy joes we fixed), though they did know how to fry bacon for a blt, and the sweet tea did not pass my taste test. However, Mary was very friendly, if a little on the manly side. She had noticed the fact that we prayed before our meal, which obviously is not as common in New England as in the Deep South, and, as we paid for our meal, she asked us to pray for her. She has battled cancer before, and it has returned. She attributed her previous recovery to prayer, but in that vague "spiritual" sort of way without actually indicating she believed in Jesus. I'm praying that Trey and Robyn will be able to get to know her better, but I'm thinking I probably should have made an effort to share the gospel with her myself.

One night, we made a stop at the neighborhood grocery store just down from our luxury suite at the Hollow Inn & Motel. My mom, Emily, and I stayed in the car while the other two ran in for muffins, pluots, and other assorted and important food items like chocolate covered raisins. We parked next to a woman who was poring over a map. When she opened her truck door and headed toward us, I figured she was going to be very disappointed that she was asking directions from three ladies from Alabama. She did proceed to ask us if we could tell her where she was, which we could barely do, and then she shared that she was just looking for a hotel to stay in for the evening. Well, she actually came to the right place for that. Who better to ask than three temporary residents of the swankiest place in town? It turns out that she had spent the last thirteen days and nights driving alone in her camper-shelled pickup truck from Alaska to New Hampshire. She had spent all thirteen nights in various campgrounds alone which she happened to come across on her journey. That just blows my mind! This girl here has never spent even one night in a tent of any sort. I have stayed in a campground multiple times, but I was always in my grandparents' decked-out rv. I'm thinking that doesn't count as camping, but that's as close to it as I ever plan to get. So, anyway, Superwoman just wanted a mattress and a shower, and since the Hollow Inn & Motel did have running hot water and mattresses that weren't all that bad, we went ahead and recommended it. She wanted to make sure it wasn't too nice or pricey. I just had to laugh.

The next morning, we saw her at the Deluxe, Extensive Continental Breakfast and she looked very refreshed and ready to continue on her way. She even took our picture to commemorate the only part of her journey where she met five Southern girls who just laughed when she complained of the heat in Vermont. Jackie proclaimed that our new friend was also her new hero, because we all agreed we would NEVER go on a 14-day journey alone across a continent, camping along the way. There was a certain lonliness about this lady, who was just so grateful for friendly faces and a warm shower. I will always wonder where her journey really took her.

Now to my absolute favorite person that we just happened upon during our most interesting trip. One morning, we volunteered a few hours at a local food bank. It was our job to sort donated food into one of many categories or to declare it useless garbage and toss it into a giant garbage box. After a very quick and detailed training session, we were put to work with three people from the department of corrections (otherwise known as criminals) and one very sweet man who appeared to have Downs Syndrome. We sorted and tossed and pondered what in the world borscht really is and why anyone would want to eat it, but after a while we were told to take a break. We made our way to the handy dandy break room and sat down with Shawn...our only co-worker who had actually chosen to be there that day. Little did we know that we were in the very presence of an Olympic gold medalist. That's right. He won six gold medals at the Indiana Special Olympics at their first ever ballroom dancing competition! I could have kicked myself for not bringing my camera. He humbly told how he was interviewed by the newspaper and the local news channel, and then how his dance instructor gave him a surprise party. It was so sweet. Evidently, he comes up to Vermont every summer to spend time with his brother's family and spends a significant amount of his time there volunteering at this food bank. In fact, we were there on his last day for this summer, and all of his coworkers gave him a surprise going away party later that morning. It was such a blessing to witness his sweet spirit and how happy he was to come spend his time helping others. There was almost a fist fight, however, between Emily and one of the "criminals" who wasn't treating Shawn so well. Fortunately, I was able to restrain her and we avoided any police presence on our trip.

I'm sure I'm forgetting someone, and I'm sure no one has made it this far in this super-long post anyway. But you get the idea. God blessed us with the chance to meet some very interesting and even inspiring people. I live most of my life in a bubble of sameness, and it was so good for me to get out in the world and meet people who are really totally different than I am. In each one of them, however, I saw the goodness of God, whether these people even really know Him or not. I won't soon forget them or the lesson to just open my eyes as I'm doing ordinary things. You never know who might notice you praying before a meal or who might be very appreciative of something you find pretty ordinary or unpleasant. It's funny. We go on these kinds of trips with a mission to spread God to others in some way, but it always ends up that God uses others to show us more of Himself. He's just amazing like that.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Post-Stress Post

I just have to update quickly and say that God was faithful to make a beautiful evening out of what seemed to be nothing but a mess. I guess He wanted Plan D all along, but knew the only way to get me there was the winding path He took me on. We got to share a fun evening with a great family and some children who may not have earthly parents, but who have a Father in heaven who loves them even more than a human father could. God just continues to teach me day by day that He has a plan for every situation if I will just be obedient in taking the small steps He shows me. I'm so thankful that He is faithful and true, even when I freak out, and that He's blessed me with a husband who is supportive, helpful, and thoughtful.

Tonight was another crazy night which didn't go exactly as planned, but God showed up in the missing purses and flat tires of our evening. He's also really working on my critical spirit. Maybe I'll end up being an optimist after all...that would definitely be a miracle of God! I'm trying to be optimistic about my root canal Tuesday morning. I really don't want to be taught anymore profound least not ones that involve my teeth, unless it involves healing my teeth without root canals. Just a suggestion, God. I appreciate any and all prayers you'd like to throw up on my behalf. :)

Saturday, August 14, 2010


I do not care for stressful situations, especially when they involve making last-minute decisions that involve other people and fairly large sums of money. I'm a girl who likes to have a plan and likes for that plan to work out smoothly. Unfortunately, it seems that more times than not, I find myself in situations where my plans go down the toilet and I'm left a big ball of nerves. I suppose God could be teaching me to trust in Him and His plan, but this morning, He didn't seem willing to let me in on what His plan actually was.

We've been trying to do something nice for some people, while also involving our small group from church and getting them involved in ministry. Well, we're now on Plan D (at least) and not so many people from our group were able to help out. I'm very thankful for the ones who are giving of themselves to minister today, but, in the end, all the planning and outcome rested on the very frail shoulders of Amy and her supportive husband. This whole event really does not involve me using any of my strengths, other than possibly organizational skills, but it's hard to organize an event that completely changes every few days. I'm NOT a good hostess, I'm NOT a fun party girl, and I'm NOT good at last minute. In the end, the fact that I'm NOT a good last-minute decision maker was my biggest problem, I think. All of this to say, God had me in a place where I had nowhere to turn but to Him and I honestly felt that He just wasn't communicating with me.

At this point, we've made a decision - and hopefully one that hasn't ruined anyone else's day. Plan D is a go, and I'm not even worried about forking out a little extra money, just because I'm so relieved to have a viable plan. I still feel pretty abandoned by God (though I know He's right here and if there is a communication problem, it lies with me) and like the whole thing is a big flop. The next few days will be spent seeking Him and what He wants me to learn from this whole thing. Needless to say, I'm going to be a little gun-shy about sticking my neck out and planning things in the future. I just pray that the very capable God of the Universe brings beauty and fun from the ashes of my weak human plans and abilities. If nothing else, I'm reminded that "we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us."

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Too Much Fun

The last couple of weeks have been an absolute whirlwind for me. After a week being away on the funnest mission trip ever, I arrived home to birthday parties and school starting and a pile of housework. I'm still trying to dig out of all of it, which is difficult since I'm so distracted by all this pregnancy back fat that I'm afraid will never leave. I know, I have issues.

I don't even know where to begin in describing the blessing of my mission trip to the beautiful state of Vermont. I wish I'd had a computer with me to capture it all as it happened, because now my feeble brain has forgotten so many details. Maybe that's best, though, since all of you may not have found the details as exciting as I did. One of the biggest blessings I experienced was just the perfect chemistry of our mission team. I think I mentioned previously that we ended up with a small team of just five women. I was a little bummed about that for a while, but, wouldn't you know, God knew what He was doing. Imagine that. We had a member in her 20's (my sister-in-law Emily), one in her 30's (that would be yours truly),

one in her 40's (the fabulous and energetic Mrs. Jackie), one in her 50's (my great mama),

and then we skipped a generation and had one in her 70's (the surprisingly spunky Ms. Pat).

We had all kinds of personalities and stages of life, but, in Christ, we bonded and worked together perfectly.

It turned out that the jobs we were sent to do were perfectly accomplished with five women...or four women and one good-for-very-little pregnant woman. Our main task was to cook dinner each night before Vacation Bible School for the kids, their parents, and the workers.

We also helped some during craft time, assisted with set-up and clean-up, volunteered a few hours in a local food bank, and gave the church we were there with a big cleaning and organizing. It was "woman's work," as they say. Really, though, it hardly seems like work when you're laughing your head off the whole time.

Our trip up to Vermont went very smoothly, which Emily pointed out many times. Naturally, that totally meant that our trip home would be more eventful. We all tried out raw sugar snap peas, which I discovered weren't so horrible that I couldn't eat them if I were stranded on an island where the only edible substance was sugar snap peas. Emily sat by some interesting and talkative people on the plane, but, fortunately, I got to sit by my mom. Once I said goodbye to the kids and Chris, I handled the whole missing them thing pretty well the rest of the week. I didn't even get too worried about dying in a plane crash. I was, however, disappointed to find that you don't even get a microscopic bag of honey roasted peanuts or the world's dryest pretzels on the plane anymore. In fact, on our first flight we didn't even have ice for our drinks. Other than that, we arrived in Barre, Vermont about midnight that night with no major problems or issues.

My first (and one of the few) disappointment came when we arrived at the Hollow Inn and Motel, which boasted "super-size rooms" on its sign because that was pretty much the only thing it could truthfully boast about. I would have to recommend that they remove the part of their sign which advertises an "extensive continental breakfast," unless they're comparing it to the breakfast buffet that would be served in a starving, remote part of Africa. For those of you who know me well, you know that I have serious issues with staying in hotels. Even when we stay at brand spanking new places which are part of reputable national chains, I do not enjoy staying away from home. I will have to say that, in all the traveling I've done, my mom and I could only recall two places I've stayed that were worse than this place, and both of those instances were decades ago. Let's just say the peeling paint on the door, the overwhelming smell of must that greeted us in our room, and dim, crooked light fixtures were not good signs. Some positives, though, were the good decorating tips Emily got for her new house (such as the iron and ironing board wall-hanging above the couch, which proved to be both functional and decorative) and the fact that our room did not smell of cigarette smoke and insecticide as did Jackie and Pat's. Our room connected to theirs by way of a very filthy porch complete with a broken railing. In the pleasantly cool evenings, you could sit out there and enjoy a nice view of the shirtless, beer-drinking men sitting below, enjoying their cigarettes. By God's grace (seriously), I did not find out until our last day about the roach that Ms. Pat had killed in her room on our first night there, whose dead carcass remained to greet them every morning, despite the fact that our rooms were supposedly cleaned everyday. And one tip for your next hotel stay: when you request a room with a kitchenette, you might want to specify that you want a stove that actually has knobs on it. Don't ever try to say I haven't suffered for the name of Christ.

I have lots more to share, but if I sit here for too long, my swollen feet and legs will likely explode. So, I'll take a break, let all the excitement of this post settle in with everyone, and return later for the second installment. I hope you can contain your excitement until then.