Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Traveling Skinners

Ahhh, the joys of traveling and vacations, seeing family, seeing friends, relaxing.......or not really relaxing because you spend an hour writing the list of things to pack, spend 1 1/2 hours actually packing, spend 45 minutes loading up the car so that you're nice and sweaty by the time you put the kids in the car and then you drive in the car with kids who seem to wake up at the same time that you finally put in the CD that YOU want to listen to so that you don't have to spend one more second singing about the wheels on some bus (I must admit, I catch myself singing the wheels on the bus for 30 minutes without the CD even playing before I realize that I can have ME time in the car too!) and once they're awake, they want milk, they don't want milk, they throw-up milk, they want more milk.......ahhhh, the relaxation of it all!! You know, honestly, I sound like I'm complaining, but I absolutely LOVE our children and I LOVE their spunk and I had a great time with them on the trip that we just took.....they made me laugh, they made me smile, they gave me joy.....they just didn't give me relaxation - but I'd take all of the above over relaxation any day if it meant spending it with our children and my wonderful husband. So, do you want to hear about the trip??

Well, I got it in my head that it would be great to have all 4 of us visit my parents at their house in PA before we moved to Texas. So, to accomplish that, we planned it at a time when Chris was speaking in Northern, VA (just 2 hours from their house). The plan was, we both left on Tuesday, Chris to the airport to speak, the kids and I to VA by car. He spoke Wed and Thurs, I drove to Radford Tues - Thurs, then on Thurs I drove to PA stopping along the way at the rehab center where I used to work. Then after a week in PA all four of us drove down to Radford again for the 4th of July weekend and then back down to Murphy, NC. Everyone with me?? So, here's where the not-so-relaxing stories come in:
After our first 3 hours in the car, the kids were hungry. Caleb said he wanted a cheeseburger and Alethia just wanted cheese. (this was cute in and of itself because I'd never even heard Caleb say the word "cheeseburger" before and I didn't even offer it, I just said what do you want for lunch and out popped "cheeseburger"! I know, that probably doesn't make you giggle, but it did me!). Before pulling off at an exit I quickly prayed that God would bring us to a fast-food place next to a grocery store so that everyone's desires could easily be accomidated and I wouldn't have to stand firm in making everyone find something to eat at the same place! And, since God loves me, we pulled off at a Burger King which shared a parking lot with a Food Lion - YAY!! We got through the drive-thru for Caleb's burger and then we park the van to walk in a find cheese for Alethia. We got everything and had a little picnic inside the van, everyone's happy, everyone's sharing, Alethia feels so proud to have her very own bag of cheese cubes ("my cheese Mommy, My hold bag Mommy, My bag Mommy" etc). As we sat I felt like something was missing in our van......hmmmm.....ahh yes, our suitcase!! How convenient! Despite all my hard preparation, I forgot the suitcase which had all of my clothes and Chris' clothes and some medical supplies that Chris would need. PERRRFECT! It actually made me giggle when I realized it because for the last month I've been telling people that I'm about 90% organized but I just can't seem to get 100% - so apparently our suitcase fell in the 10%!! Just after I realized that I forgot it, Alethia rose up and passed the loudest gas, "iss jus gas Mommy"! So again, I laughed at how cute she is.......until I saw the "gas" running down the back of her leg - nice! (mind you, we're sitting in the van in a space about 1 1/2 feet wide and 2 1/2 feet long because of all the boxes and luggage). So I change her and her outfit, using the last of the wipes (again, buying an extra package of wipes were in that forgotten 10%.....maybe I'm not really a 90% gal, maybe it's more like 87.5%......hmmmm.....I'll have to do some self-assessment and get back to you on that one). So I decided that we'd finish our lunch and then go in to the store to get more wipes, knowing that we'd definitely need some more on the trip at some point. Right before we go in, Caleb poops! Excellent, no wipes. Well, no wipes except the clean edge of one of Alethia's used wipes....germ-a-phobes close your's true, I used the clean half of her wipe to clean up Caleb (confessions of a mother of twins). So off we go, back to the store, Caleb carrying his cheeseburger, Alethia her bag of cheese because at this point we're too emotionally attached to the cheeseburger and the cheese bag to leave them in the car. I buy the wipes, everyone's happy and as we cross the parking lot Alethia drops her bag of cheese. No big deal until she picks them up from the bottom edge and spills the entire open bag of cheese cubes all over the parking lot. And as cars wait to pass, she bursts into tears, "my cheese, my cheese, uh-oh cheese, my cheese" while Caleb quickly gobbles up every piece of cheese he can off the concrete saying, "Lay-Lay drop cheese, uh-oh Mommy, Lay-Lay drop cheese, Lay-Lay crynin, Lay-Lay cheese on floor". So I scoop them both up before we get plowed by cars and we leave the precious cheese cubes on the ground to be trampled by oncoming traffic for the rest of the day. May the cheese rest in peace because we certainly took a long time to find peace in the car after the cheese incident. But one thing that distracted us what Caleb having a HUGE poop once we returned to the car. So, I whipped out my newly purchased wipes, we changed clothes, cleaned up, and got on the road again! Not bad for our first food stop, huh??

Now, as for the suitcase, I am blessed to have wonderful friends who do anything for me, so I called our friend Angie at home and asked her to mail the package of Chris' medical supplies and his shirt and tie for a wedding he'd be attending to my parents' house. If we received it by Friday Chris would have it in time to go to his friend's wedding in St. Louis (he was leaving Sat AM from my parents' house and returning to my parents Mon). She mailed it and it was guaranteed for Thursday. Then I called two friends who are my size and begged to borrow clothes for myself, and upon arriving in Radford I had an entire duffle bag full of fun new clothes (new to me at least) to wear for our 2 week trip! (great way to get a new wardrobe by the way, I had donations from all sorts of friends the whole trip and ended up getting several hand-me-downs which I love!). Problem solved!

So the next leg of my journey with the kids happened on Thursday on our way to PA. We stopped for dinner in the DC area at a Taco Bell and KFC. As soon as we pulled into the parking spot Alethia threw-up, "uh-oh, uh-oh, My spill milk Mommy!" She sure did spill her milk! As I picked her up out of her carseat, I realized that her entire carseat was soaked with diarrhea, all the way up her back, down her legs, and then she had vomit down the front, sweet little girl! So I stripped her and got her in fresh everything and placed towels down over the carseat for the rest of the trip and we all went in to the restaurant. They both said they wanted cheese-wraps, but once we were sitting at the table in high chairs, Caleb decided he wanted nuggets, so we all pack up and get in line for nuggets. Of course once we got the nuggets he was upset because they were too hot and he's never shy about saying something is hot, "TOO HOT MOMMY, BLOW, MOMMY BLOW, MOMMY BLOW!" I'm sure everyone in the restaurant was ready for me to cool off these nuggets. Once they both said they were all done, I packed up the trash and started returning the highchairs. Well, apparently Caleb had grown emotionally attached to his chair and was not prepared to say good-bye. So he proceeded to scream, stomp his feet, and flail his arms as he blocked my path in returning the chair. I kept my voice calm and continued to tell him that we were all done and he needed to be calm....bla, bla, know the things you say as you feel all eyes of a restaurant on you, watching your every move as a parent. He got louder and stomped more, so I decided it was one of those times where you pick the child up and carry him kicking and screaming out to the car. Now, this would've worked in my favor had he not been carrying an entire box of popcorn chicken. As I scooped him up he threw his hands up and out flew all of the chicken, all over the restaurant. Bummer. I couldn't bring myself to walk out having spilled all that chicken, it just felt rude to the staff, so I put him down in the corner in "time-out" and picked up the chicken. Of course he continued to yell and cry, but thankfully he stayed in the corner. Meanwhile, Alethia walked around saying, "Alub cynin, Alub in time out, Alub cynin Mommy, Alub chicken on floor, Alub in time-out." After gathering the chicken and throwing it away, which caused an added outburst from Caleb as he saw his precious chicken go into the trash, we got back to the car. After several time-outs in the car, Caleb finally said he was sorry and became calm. I got both kids into the carseats and pulled out of the parking lot when I heard Alethia grunt and then say, "poo-poo Mommy, poo-poo." For real?? There were no places to pull off easily so I had to go down several blocks past our entrance onto the highway before I found a place to pull-over and change her diaper again! But we eventually got to PA - whew! And I'm sooo thankful that those little episodes were the only thing that happened, no car accidents, no injuries, everyone healthy and safe! Thank you Jesus!

Now, as for Chris' journey: he met up with our friend Gareth from England when he got to the airport. Gareth came over to travel with Chris to the 2 speaking engagements and then to the wedding before heading back to England. After speaking on Thursday morning, they spent the rest of the day in DC going to all the tourist places, the white house, Lincoln memorial, Washington Monument, etc. Chris noticed that his wheelchair batteries were really low, but he was hoping that the chair would continue to move. And it did until he was halfway on the Metro train and halfway off. That's right, his wheelchair died in the doorway of the metro! Gareth didn't know how to switch the chair from drive mode into manual yet, so Chris was quickly trying to explain to him before the doors shut and he was slammed into a wall as the metro took off with only half of him in! He told a lady on the metro to pull the emergency stop but she must've been nervous to do it so she didn't. Just as the doors closed, Gareth got it in manual and they got on the train! However, since Chris was now in manual mode he rolled all over the metro! When it took off, he was flown backward, when it slowed down he rolled all the way forward, like a bullet. Fortunately people jumped out of the way and he didn't run anyone over! At the first stop Gareth was able to put it back in drive mode so that he wouldn't continue to roll everywhere. Then as he sat there minding his own business a man ran onto the metro and shoved a woman out of his way and she fell down, she yelled, he yelled, others yelled, name-calling, racial-slurs, people elbowed each others, tensions were high and Chris was stuck in his wheelchair right in the middle of it! His batteries were dead and the metro was so crowded that he couldn't get out of the way, so there he sat, expecting a riot right on his lap, while Gareth sat in the back singing "Shiny happy people holding hands...." Eventually a huge, strong marine walked onto the metro and everyone stopped talking and shoving immediately. So we all finally made it to my parents' house Thursday night, again, thankful for our health and safety. I mean it. I was so thankful. And at this point I really wasn't feeling grumpy or snappy from the days' events and struggles. I was just happy to have our children in our lives. I mean that sincerely, not just cliche. However, Friday I started to lose that "big picture" perspective. Chris' package of medical supplies never arrived and after spending over an hour on the phone with UPS we were told they couldn't do anything about it. So, we had to find a way to get the supplies he needed in order for him to be able to leave the next day to go to the wedding (and even if he didn't go to the wedding we had to find supplies for the weekend and the rest of the week!!). Then there was the whole issue with the wheelchair batteries. We charged the chair again Thursday night, but it was still dead on Friday. So Chris started calling wheelchair vendors and found that there was only one facility in the state of PA that had the batteries he needed. They were in Harrisburg, which was 1 1/2 hours away. After several phone calls though, we were able to have to batteries ready to be picked up at the same time that my brother and his family were driving past Harrisburg on their way to my parents' house. It was only 15 minutes out of their way! So I was VERY thankful for that! However, the batteries were $560, the medical supplies were $120, then I realized I needed to refill one of his prescriptions which was $915 (it used to be $40, but now we're in this coverage gap in his insurance with prescriptions so we pay out of pocket for a while until we reach a certain amount and then insurance picks it up again), and I was just tired. Tired emotionally and mentally trying to figure out how to get everything done so that we had what we needed. Obviously there were still things to be thankful for - we were still all healthy and safe, yet that perspective had left me and I was thinking about why things seem to be so difficult all the time. Why can't things just be smooth?

Chris reminds me often of the verse in the bible that says it's "the LITTLE foxes that are ruining the vineyards, while our vineyards are in blossom." Song of Solomon 2:15. He's gotten so good over the years at letting go of the little things that are hassles but are things that he can't control. I mean really, when I see the amount of things that he has no control over in his life it's amazing that he can truly experience joy. Yet he does. And I know that that is something that he has learned to do through practice and self-control. And it's something he chooses. He actively chooses to enjoy his days even when everything seems to be working against him. And I want to be able to do that as well. I don't want to let the LITTLE things ruin the "blossoms" and precious moments of life. Who cares about diarrhea, temper-tantrums, broken batteries and lost supplies? As long as I have the people and relationships in my life that are precious, I don't want to allow myself to be grumpy on days where I could be cherishing the memories. You know what I mean?? I know it can be something that sounds good on paper but isn't practical. But I feel like life is too short to NOT make it practical. So again, I'm learning to do this every day and I'm learning to consider it pure joy even when I'm tired and tempted to be grumpy!

ps Sorry I didn't include pictures, my camera was in the suitcase!!! yeah, maybe I'm even 86% organized!

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