Thursday, August 29, 2013

What Today Consisted Of

--Being woken up sometime after midnight by a fuzzy-headed little boy tapping my shoulder and telling me that he needed more sunlight on himself (it was pitch black outside).

--A good ol' fashioned crick in my neck.

--Snuggling with Annie in her new hand-me-down nightgown with Cinderella on it (long sleeves and short skirt, I've never understood why they make them like that).

--The last of the Macy's coffee imported from Flagstaff (sad trombone).  Now we don't know what we will drink.

Don't YOU want to drink coffee that a naked European man has been sitting in?

--Cold cereal, always the same: Oatmeal Squares for Annie (though she calls them Oatberry Squares), Cinnamon Toast Crunch (Grandma approved) or Kix (mother approved) for Evan, a mixture of as many cereals as he can get away with (but usually just Frosted Mini Wheats and Life) for Sam.  Certain bowls, certain spoons, setting up the pins for knocking them down.  (Oh, I ate yogurt with cornflakes on top...must be just the right amount of crunch per spoonful...and I would never eat cornflakes with yogurt replacing the milk, that would be just plain disgusting).

--Sore throat, not allowed!  It's summer!  I'll ignore it.  I'm the mom.

--Playdate at the park with school friends...getting back into the swing of things.  

--Ripped shorts, quick trip to Old Navy.  Left with neon yellow stretchy shorts...but not before I noted the "30% off of the Entire Store" signs which should have really said "Danger!  Run Away!"  That would have been more helpful.

--100 degrees and some humidity.  It was uncomfortable.  Then I decided that doing errands would be more desirable than sitting at home.  That was dumb.  We melted and I bribed the kids to be pleasant in the car with melted Smarties.

--Taking a special package to the Post Office. The package contained Annie's "Special Baby" who needed to go to the Doll Hospital.  Hoping they honor their promise to a concerned little girl to handle her Special Baby with care.

Special Baby's arms and legs were tearing off.  For being expensive (Corolle), the company wasn't very helpful.  That's all I'm going to say.  Nothing about them being French.
 --More shopping at Old Navy where Annie got to hang out with her "family".

--Splashing the heat away...then Thrifty's Ice Cream at Rite Aid afterward.  Chocolate Malted Crunch like always.

Can you spot the new neon yellow stretchy shorts?

--Grandma getting a haircut, us being a disaster at Target (including but not limited to me locking the kids in the car so I could run back and find the iPod we left in the cart and me also telling Annie to just pee in her pants).

--All sorts of chances to practice parenting.  And patience.

--New Lunch Box with lights and sounds (really? is this necessary? but it was like that scene in Despicable Me 1 when Agnes wants the unicorn because it is so fuzzy she might die).  Grandma spoiling.  Happy Samuel.

--Backyard "swimming", mommy yelling from her chair a safe distance away, not always in the nicest voice.  It's not fun to get squirted when you are trying to read a book.  But I still shouldn't yell.

 --Bubble wrap popping...still more fun than most toys.

--Dinner making, eating, cleaning, PBS kids for babysitting.  More setting up the pins for knocking them down.

--Just when the guilt for too much tv watching started to creep in, and just when the resentment for having to do all the cleaning (which I don't) kicked in, the cutest tiniest lizard poked his head out and said hello.  Catching him, naming him, finding a place to keep Dart Lizardy safe and alive till morning (fingers crossed) took over and the evening was redeemed.

--Bat watching...since when did my kids learn to shout "Epic!!!"?

--Telling the kids we'd read and then getting lost on Facebook, only to find them in the hallway like this.  (Yes, the closet did indeed projectile vomit behind them).

--Putting the kids to bed by declaring "Bedtime!  Mom's done."  It was true.  But they didn't go to bed before Annie insisted on wearing her 2nd pair of brand new hand-me-down WINTER pajamas and stating "This was our biggest day ever!"

Sweaty sleeping girl, even though Special Baby is in a box headed to the hospital.
Fuzzy headed boy, almost no room for him in bed with all his favorite stuffed animals

And Samuel, sleeping on a ripped mattress pad and no sheets because I still haven't done laundry...with his brand new lunch box.


Oh wait, the kids left the light on in the minivan.  And Jeremy is still off writing his thesis.  And we're supposed to go to the beach tomorrow.  Well, goodnight in a little while.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Tale of a Bionic Minivan

Today I had the pleasure of driving to Victorville to pick up our van from the shop where it was getting a new transmission.  Which brings me to the point where I tell you that my van broke down on the way back to California from Arizona.  You may remember this picture from earlier this summer:

 when the van was having trouble on Jeremy's birthday.  Most people would take that as a sign that something is wrong and maybe the van shouldn't be driven across the desert in the dark of night, laden with almost all of our worldly possessions (except for the ones at my parents' house and the ones in that storage unit under the freeway in old town Placentia) stuffed into or strapped to it.  But we're not those kind of people.

A few years ago, I thought I had had the pleasure of breaking down in The Exact Middle of Nowhere while on a youth group trip to Hume Lake for summer camp.  Here are some visual aides:

This is Jeremy kicking that vehicle, affectionately dubbed "The Fun Bus"
 On that occasion, I had the privilege not only of getting to ride in a dorky church bus, but in a dorky church bus hoisted high above the other cars passing by on I-40, lumbering along on the top of the tow truck (accompanied by excited teenagers and Chad Arminio).  I know you wish I had a picture of that!

But, it turns out, that was not The Exact Middle of Nowhere.  No, I was lucky enough to pinpoint that spot two Saturdays ago while alone in the car with my 3 children.

Our van has had a turbulent history.  We have wanted to drive it off of a cliff on multiple occasions.  Just a few months ago, I almost wrote a post about it and what it has cost us and what it is not worth.  I wrote about our experience when we bought it here (though I didn't REALLY tell about how stressful it was) but even buying it was a challenging experience.  It has needed so many new parts, has had so many repairs that I am now dubbing it "The Bionic Minivan."
Once, in MOPS, we did a little slideshow about superstar moms and how they are just like us.  A few of us made paparazzi photos of is mine in front of The Bionic Minivan when it was just a normal Minivan and was full of cracker crumbs and coffee stains and boogers smeared on the windows and concoctions mixed in the cupholders in the backseat.  Oh wait, it still has all those things.
The latest chapter in the minivan repairs saga has been the transmission.  One time, a very friendly homeless woman with an eager-yet-raspy ashtray voice and a great smile (minus a few teeth) accosted approached me at the gas station in Kingman asking for money because she had been broken down and the guy had sold her "three bad trannies.  Can you believe it???  Three bad trannies!!!  (raspy nervous laughter)"  At the time, I hadn't really understood what she was talking about.  But NOW I do, and I feel a little bad for her (though I still feel a little tense when I remember her voice).  We had the van's transmission replaced (I can't even remember the specifics...I've blocked it out of my mind) and then have been to car shops countless times since then to get it looked at, fixed, or who knows what.  Every time it started acting up, it had a terrible smell accompanying it (the children describe it as a smell that burns their eyeballs) and once we were even told that it was just a plastic bag melted to the engine.  No, it wasn't.  Now I know.  It was the smell of a bad tranny.

So almost two Saturdays ago, I had just finished drinking a whole bottle of Diet Coke and we were jamming to Dave Matthews Band and cruising along to California.  I had had a distinct impression that I should have set the trip odometer when I got onto the 40 in Flagstaff, and I had also had a fleeting thought that I should put extra water in the car.  But again, I'm just not that kind of person.  

There's nothing that special about it...the dials on the dashboard did some funky dancing and the eyeball burn smell started wafting in and then the final clue--the smoke started streaming from under the hood.  But this is where it could have been worse and it wasn't.  I had a nice wide shoulder in which to pull off.  T-Mobile has seriously improved their coverage, so I had reception and could call Jeremy, who remembered that Evan had a flashlight in his backpack.  Jeremy instructed me to open the hood and the engine didn't blow up, which I'm sure wasn't probable but I have an overactive imagination.  Jeremy happened to call a tow company (Hook & Book Towing from Barstow--I hope you don't ever need 'em, but if you do, tell them I sent you) that ended up being really great and looking out for me--literally going the extra mile (or 80) for me.  They even called a competitor to see if they could get a better price for me, and the wife drove instead of her husband so that I could be more comfortable.  

Maybe it all means nothing...but I can't help but look for God in these kinds of things.  I love a good story where every detail works out in a significant way.  The details of my night on the side of the road don't seem very significant but they were meaningful to me all the same.

I got to spend some time with the kids, who were calm and cheerful most of the almost 3 hours we sat in the dark.  Sam was really helpful.  We were "safe"...even when I ran quite a long way away from the car in my flip flops, trusting that the kids would obey my command to stay in the car and not open the doors while I went to look for a mileage marker.  We were in America.  My cell phone was threatening to die, but it didn't.  I held the Diet Coke in and didn't have to pee in the dark ravine on the side of the road.  The kids had really wanted to watch the Perseid Meteor Shower and thought they couldn't...but we had a great view (for almost 3 hours).  The Highway Patrolman showed up just when I felt the most nervous.  We worked as a team with my parents and they were willing to drive to Victorville in the early hours of Sunday morning to get us and unload all of our worthless and priceless junk into their cars.  We have a common, fond memory now...we needed each other and it was a good thing.

Somehow, in what could have been one of the worst days in recent personal history, I didn't feel bogged down or stressed out...I felt filled with peace and joy.  It was such a strange thing...I remember experiencing it before, like the day I was in Mongolia and my teaching supplies were stolen and two men threw rocks at me and another groped my chest at the bus stop and yet I couldn't get the smile off of my face because God was there and I had seen him in the joy of sharing my faith with a Mongolian student.  He was there with that joy while I was sobbing in my car on Route 66 a week after my college roommate died.  He was there again, on the side of the road...80 miles west of the AZ border and 80 miles east of Barstow, in The Truly Exact Middle of Nowhere, he was there with me in my car.

The last year has been hard...the summer was hard and good but hard...and yet there has been more joy, more peace, more purpose, more unity of mind and heart with my husband.  It hasn't been hard and good like "Hard times make you closer" has been hard and good like James 1 and the joy in trials and perseverance finishing its work.  It's making me a God addict.  I want to keep seeing him so I keep on this long hard road, waiting for the good, good end.

The blog post about the van that I almost wrote a few months ago was going to be called "The Price of a Van."  I was going to tell about all the money we have spent on it and all the memories we have in it and how if we were going to sell it on Craigslist we would have to list it for like a million dollars because of what it is "worth."  Now I can just be satisfied to call it my Bionic Minivan and know that it keeps me humble and keeps me watching for God's provision.

(But now that we've invested so much in it, that darn thing better keep running for another 10 years.)