Thursday, December 23, 2010

'Twas the Night Before Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas at Himmerick Farm,
Where the 4-foot snow drifts had lost their charm.
The chickens were nestled all snug in their coop,
Though Brent really needed to clean out their poop.

Inside the kids were fighting and screaming,
And I was soooo wishing I was just dreaming.
The decorations were up, the lights sparkly and bright,
But I couldn't wait 'til the kids were in bed, tucked in tight.

When out in the driveway a great noise started then.
Oh, it was just Brent plowing with the 4-wheeler again.
I wondered to myself, would it ever stop snowing?
The 16-foot pole barn was now barely showing!

As I thought about all the presents yet to wrap,
I couldn't believe how much I had spent for the crap;
All the toys, gift cards, books and clothes I had bought.
My gall bladder began to act up at the thought.

The cookies were baked, though I'd eaten most anyway.
I feared I'd never get the house cleaned before Christmas Day.
As I worried whether we'd have enough food,
It was just one more thing that was dampening my mood.

Then as I looked out on the new fallen snow,
I noticed a star and watched it twinkle and glow.
At that moment I realized that all of the fuss,
Was not what this holiday should mean to us.

As I tucked in my children and gave each a kiss,
I told a story to remind them what Christmas really is.
Christ came into this world on this glorious day,
Sent from the Heavenly Father to take sin away.

So when the holidays get messy and your head starts to ache,
Remember what's important, for goodness sake.
It's about God and family, so forget about the rest.
Merry Christmas to all.  May your days be most blessed!

Monday, December 13, 2010

National Lampoon's Himmerick Vacation

When Brent proposed the idea of renting an RV and driving down to visit his sister in Arkansas, I said, "Yeah, that sounds like a great idea!  We've always wanted to do that with the kids and they have a few days off of school in October for MEA weekend, so why not?"  Famous last words.

So I'm going to do a service to all who may be contemplating this form of travel, especially with small children.  I encourage you to use my experience as a learning opportunity, a life lesson if you will, and that is what I've decided to do as well.  Here are the things I learned from our trip in the ol' RV. 
  • Renting an RV does not cost less than purchasing 4 plane tickets.  It was about $2000 for 5 days.
  • An RV is more convenient if you have to travel with baby stuff, because you can just load up what you need and don't have to worry about checking any of it at the airport and possibly arriving at your destination with damaged or lost goods.
  • RV's are nice for traveling with a dog, but said dog will likely hog the front passenger seat.
  • Having snacks for kids within arm's reach at all times is a blessing.
  • A novice RV driver (a.k.a. Brent) doesn't realize that when you take corners or proceed forward from a stopped position, you need to do so gently, so as not to fling your wife, kids, dog and all of the items on the counter or table to the opposite end of the rig.
  • Being flung across an RV leaves a nasty bruise.
  • If you suffer from motion sickness, as I do, riding in the back of an RV will be approximately 4 times worse than any motion sickness you've experienced in a car.  Especially when your husband drives in the aforementioned manner.
  • Dramamine is a life-saver, but it takes about 30-60 minutes to kick in.
  • If you tell kids not to touch something, they will do it anyway.
  • Gas station bathroom stops are inconvenient but necessary when RV bathroom doors have been locked from the inside by meddling children.
  • If Brent gets mad enough, he can yank a locked bathroom door open so it is usable again.
  • RV trips do not strengthen marriages.
  • DVD players on board an RV are awesome.
  • When little fingers mess with the audio/visual system, DVD players become obsolete.
  • Markers and coloring books can help kill time...about 30 minutes...tops.
  • The words, "How much longer 'til we're there?" are not just words we used on trips when we were kids.  Kids still use them today...often.
  • When driving into 50 mph winds, an awning ripping off the side of an RV sounds very scary, but is rather breathtaking when you watch it fly quite freely across the highway.
  • They do indeed have good BBQ in Kansas City, MO.
  • Fried okra is fantastic!
  • Kids fighting in an RV is worse than kids fighting at home.
  • 13 hours from Minneapolis to Branson, MO feels a lot longer than that.
  • In Branson, most visitors have bluish-grayish hair and are sleeping by 9 p.m. and do not appreciate an RV pulling into their peaceful RV parks at 11:30.
  • RV beds are small and not incredibly comfortable for adults; however, kids do very well in them.
  • 2-year-old Kierney is much more adaptable to different sleeping environments than I would've originally given her credit for.
  • A good night's sleep can improve moods dramatically.
  • I hate to admit that I would probably go back to Branson when I have more time to check out the shows.
  • Lamberts (Home of the Throwed Rolls) is a really cool restaurant with huge portions of good ol' southern food and people that walk around the restaurant offering you different side dishes for free and throwing yummy buttery rolls at you.
  • The Water Ducks are fun for adults and kids and the attraction has a huge candy store with every flavor of taffy you can dream of; $24 buys you a pretty good variety of them.
  • Taffy makes everyone happy.
  • A little fun can help repair relationships damaged by RV traveling.
  • The trip from Branson, MO to RoseBud, AR is short and not as painful.
  • It becomes a little bit painful when you tweak your back unknowingly and can't sit or stand.
  • There are a lot of "dry" counties in MO and AR; bring your own alcoholic beverages.
  • Finally arriving at your destination is a wonderful feeling.
  • Memphis, TN is not a very long drive from Arkansas, so a trip to Graceland to see The King is a great plan.
  • Graceland is very commercialized, but it is still a really cool experience.
  • While at Graceland, it's perfectly normal to imagine yourself in another time, perhaps as a pretty little thing waiting for The King down in the Jungle Room.  I think.
  • While in the Memphis area, a trip to Beale Street for some BBQ is a must; 'Rendezvous' is off the beaten path in a dark alley, but SO worth the walk if you like dry rub bbq.
  • My kids amaze me sometimes when they behave like almost-perfect angels in places where I would've completely understood if they were bored to death and naughty.  They must love the south!
  • A relaxing day in Arkansas, just visiting with family you don't get to see often, is what trips like this are all about.
  • My sister-in-law is one of the nicest, most generous and welcoming people I have ever known.
  • I'm sorry I never got to meet her late husband, Nick Bacon, who was a Medal of Honor recipient.
  • In an RV, there is "gray water" and "black water" and you should know the difference between the two and if going on a longer trip than we did, make sure the RV rental place gives you a hose to pump out the "black water."  Pumping stations do not supply them for you.
  • When setting out for a non-stop trip back from AR to MN, leaving at 4 a.m. is a good idea because Dad gets a few hours of peaceful driving before the kids wake up; this makes the trip seem much shorter.
  • Bring a bigger selection of kid movies along because once you've seen each of them a few times, you will want to throw them away...or throw up...or both.
  • In the words of the pretty girl in the ruby slippers, "There's no place like home." 
Most of all, this trip taught us that we are probably like just about every other family out there.  Cramped quarters and long trips can bring out the worst in all of us, but once you're home and have had time to reflect, the experience is kind of like child birth; you forget about the pain and the yelling and screaming and just remember the good things.  Mostly.

P.S.:
  • An awning replacement costs $1079.
  • If you do not have comprehensive coverage, your auto insurance won't pay for it.
  • If your insurance company makes a clerical error, they will end up paying it anyway. :)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Weddings and Marriage

In honor of my cousin Jason's marriage this Saturday to his beautiful bride Sheilla (pronounced 'Sheeya'), I decided to write about weddings and marriage.  Since I have been married for 10 years, I should know a little something about the subject, but I will tell you that I learn more every single day.  One thing I have certainly learned is that weddings are easy; marriage is the hard part.

Like most girls, I dreamt of my wedding all my life.  I always knew I would have a traditional church wedding with a dinner reception and dance to follow.  I knew I would wear an ornate white wedding gown with a train and matching head piece with a veil.  I knew I would have several of my closest girlfriends as bridesmaids and I knew my groom would be handsome and successful and we would look fabulous together.  So when, after four years of dating, my then-boyfriend Brent proposed to me in front of my family one June day in 1999, my body went almost immediately into planning mode.  What date should we choose?  What venues were available?  Should we have an engagement party?  How much should we spend on a photographer?  The list went on, and after a little over a year of planning, the big day came.  No matter how much time you spend on details, you're never really prepared for the range of emotions that hit you that day.  I was nervous about pulling everything off without a hitch, worried that I would forget something important, sad that certain family members couldn't be there but knew they were smiling on us from heaven, and excited for all the festivities that come with a wedding.  I cried whenever someone told me how beautiful I looked and I laughed when us ladies all did shots of liquor in the dressing room at the church, knowing fully well we were breaking the #1 rule that the pastor had set before us.

However, rather than focusing on every detail of the wedding, what I should've been focusing on is the new life that I was beginning with this man who would be my husband, partner, lifelong friend, confidant and father to my children.  The wedding lasts a day.  Marriage is meant to last forever.

Our wedding day was a lot of fun and most things did go off without a hitch (save for the air conditioning going out in the reception location on a 90+ degree day), but the thing I remember most was the sweet things Brent whispered in my ear when we were dancing as husband and wife.  I was sad when the day ended and I had to take off my dress, take down my perfect pin curls in my hair, and take off the makeup that was put on so carefully that morning, because I knew I would never look that beautiful again.  But I was also looking forward to all the things that the future would hold for us.

Fast forward 10 years and so much has happened since that whirlwind of a day.  We've had dozens of job changes between the two of us, as we've strived to climb the corporate ladder in our respective industries.  We got a dog (our first baby) as a companion and a way to practice for having human babies.  We suffered two miscarriages and a lot of frustration, but went on to have three beautiful children.  Through it all, we've had fights, some of them nasty and hurtful, we've insulted each other and distrusted each other's intentions.  We've struggled with the inability to communicate our feelings to each other and we've blamed, ignored, and even threatened divorce.

But what we've also done is made up, forgave, talked through issues, compromised, apologized, cried, hugged, made new promises, and put a lot of effort into staying together as a family.  Like I said in the beginning, marriage is the hard part.  But it can also be so rewarding.  When I think about the fact that I've been with this person for 15 years, and 10 of them in marriage, I realize that we're not doing so badly.  We make a lot of mistakes, but something we're doing is working for us.  I know that we love each other, but love can only get you so far.  The pastor who married us said that a marriage cannot be founded on love and compatibility.  It has to be founded on commitment.  Life hands us many trials and obstacles, but if we are committed, marriage can be the absolute blessing God intended it to be.  And, like so many pastors I know, he knew his stuff.

God bless all the married couples out there, and the couples who are about to make that commitment.  Guard your marriage with all that you have and, as my uncle Kent said, "Put God at the center of your relationship and your marriage will never fail."

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What's Blogging?

Recently a friend of mine was telling me all about the several blogs she reads on a daily basis.  She shared a couple of them with me, and then she went on to tell me that her dream job is to be a full-time blogger.  Stop.  What?!?!?  I didn't know there was such a thing.  I guess I've read a few blogs here and there but never knew that you could actually make a living just by pouring your heart and soul into a public diary.  This made me curious.  So I decided to really start reading a couple of the blogs that have caught my attention in the past, to see what the craze really is all about.  What I realized is that this may be right up my alley.  What have I been missing?

When I was younger, mainly in high school, I wrote.  I wrote and wrote and wrote.  I still have storage boxes full of notebooks which I kept as diaries that document my every silly adventure, every fight with my best friend, mom, sister, brother, every boring night spent at home wishing I had a boyfriend, every date, every whirlwind romance, every dream, every aspiration, every disappointment, every love.  It was an outlet and it got me through those tough years, the years that every teenage girl thinks are the hardest years of her life, but then in retrospect, realizes that those were actually the best years of her life; and wishes she could do them all again, but with the knowledge and wisdom she now possesses as a result of all of those experiences. 

I uncovered my boxes of notebooks a few months ago as I was cleaning out my basement and as I poured through the pages, I found myself amused, brought to tears, and most of all in awe of how well I actually wrote many of the entries.  And some of the poetry I wrote could pass for the lyrics on a Taylor Swift album!  I also wrote short stories...never finished most of them, but still they were wonderful beginnings to stories with no end.  Mostly, I just wrote about stuff, whatever was on my mind.  And believe me, there was a lot on my mind.

At some point, though, in the summer after my senior year, the writing stopped.  I'm sure I just got busy with post-high school activities, college planning and boyfriend drama, but maybe at the time I also felt I had outgrown my notebooks.  I don't really recall.  Whatever the reason, I have a gap of about 20 years where my life has not been documented for future prosperity.  That may be a good thing, but I also think that had I kept it up, I would've been delighted with myself for having such a perfect record of my life to-date.

I've felt called lately to begin writing again, even before my blogging conversation with my friend.  Lack of time prevents me from getting out the old notebooks and hand-writing my thoughts in all sorts of colored inks.  So maybe this whole blogging thing was planted in my head to give me the tool I was subconsciously searching for so that I can resume my writing.  Maybe at some point, too, I'll go back and fill in the 20-year gap...what I can recall of it anyway.  For now, though, I'll start with my life at present.  As a wife and mother of 3 with a full-time professional career, and lots of family activities to fill the in-between, my opportunities to write are limited.  But those are also the reasons that compel me to record my thoughts and experiences in writing.  After all, if it's on my computer, then it no longer needs to take up space in my busy brain, does it?