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Preview: But I digress...

But I digress...

The misadventures of a museum director and mother of five

Updated: 2017-09-04T17:09:05.815-05:00


The Big European Adventure Day 11


As the huge Muppet fanatic that I am, one of my occasional earworms is the "I'm Always Gonna Love You" song from The Muppets Take Manhattan. And among all of her other ambitions, Miss Piggy sings "I'm gonna climb the Matterhorn..." I am not as adventurous as Piggy and always thought my Matterhorn adventures would be limited to Disney rides, and I was fine with that. So, on this particular morning in Switzerland, I awoke with what may be the biggest sense of nerves and wonder that I had felt since adolescence over the opportunity I was going to have to see the Matterhorn that day. (No, we weren't going to climb it. Can you imagine the liability associated with sending 260 high school students, their teachers, and some of their parents on that endeavor?)We took the bus to Tasch where we then boarded a cog train to go up to Zermatt. It is important to note that it was 58 degrees and rainy for our entire visit that day and made my Union Jack umbrella seem like a much better idea to Natalie than it had been when I bought it in London several days (and blog entries) ago about two minutes before it stopped raining. While we had brought layering sweaters and jackets, this was a little chillier than I think we had prepared for AND the drizzle didn't help. Still, it is hard to complain when all you can see around you are the Alps live and in person.One of the perks the gift shop was providing was the chance to order a customized Swiss Army knife that could be engraved while you toured. Dave has a fancy knife (or two or three), but Natalie and I thought this would be a great gift for her brother who is typically more difficult than his sisters when it comes to souvenir shopping. So, we ordered it right away. While waiting in line, I chatted with a recent high school graduate who had sacrificed a lot to come on this trip. She was so mature and so centered and such a joy to talk with that it almost made me feel better about my own daughter leaving home the next year. Almost...After I ordered the knife, Natalie and I strolled around Zermatt. We found a crepe stand for lunch, but the American dad eating there with his kids made such an obvious display of spreading ALL OF THE THINGS THEY OWNED across the tiny bar inside that we went back out into the rain to eat rather than infringe upon his very expansive personal space. One of the things we were told not to miss in Zermatt was the historic church, but we were cautioned not to disturb any Sunday services since that was the day of our visit. When we got there, the chapel doors were closed, but the surrounding graveyard was open. As we walked around to the back to take a closer look, Natalie speculated that the graves were all for those who had died climbing the Matterhorn. I disagreed until we looked at a few of the headstones up close and I realized she was right. It confirmed all of my thoughts of leaving Matterhorn climbing in the hands of the experts. And, of course, Miss Piggy.We still had some time before we were to take the funicular from Zermatt to Sunnegga, so we thought we might dry off and survey the wi-fi availability at McDonald's. And I was really hoping for some of the excellent hot chocolate that the McDonald's in Verona, Italy used to serve. Unfortunately, the wi-fi was spotty, the hot chocolate was not in season, but "Les Deluxe Potatoes" (Swiss potato wedges) were unlike anything you can get at McDonald's back home. (Or anywhere else throughout the remainder of our travels, unfortunately.) And now that I have listed our diet as crepes and potatoes for the day, perhaps I should not mention that this McDonald's also sold donuts. (But they weren't very good.) While at McDonald's, Natalie and I were really happy to meet up with Suzy and Brittany who were another mother/daughter pair we had become very friendly with on the bus and on many other tour stops throughout the trip. So it was with this foursome that we made our way to the station at Zermatt to travel a bit higher up to Sunnegga.As we walked over there, I was anxious again. The funicular looked like a ti[...]

The Big European Adventure Pt. 10


After a very relaxing morning and lunch, we gathered at the busses that afternoon and went to visit the castle at Chillon.I'm making a cameo in the bottom right.Touring the castle reminded me a lot of giving a guided tour of the Harn House, with a lot more rooms and much older stories. The kids were amused by the secret passageway used to sneak 'ladies' into the castle guardian's room, the bathroom, the 'symbolic' shape of some of the doorknobs and key holes; and the castle armaments even though it hasn't been 100% proven that this particular castle ever used them. Of particular amusement to me was a large room that had a door completely decorated with flowers. We could look inside, but not enter, "because it is used as a private rental venue and they are setting up for a wedding later this evening." I knew using spaces on museum properties as wedding venue rentals was a trend in the U.S. and I was more than a little amused to discover it had gone global. I checked the time back in Oklahoma and texted my co-workers. When I lived in Italy, we went twice weekly to a state-run senior citizen's home. One of the residents used to say to me "Tutto il mondo e' paese" (The whole world is one country.) And I found myself saying that as I watched the museum staff react in varying degrees to now renting part of their castle so it stays open and has enough money to operate. I could SO relate to them. (And didn't speak enough French to tell them so. Quel dommage.) Possibly the biggest highlight of the tour was going into the dungeon area and seeing the actual carved signature of Lord Byron.After touring the castle, Natalie hit up the gift shop for postcards. I eyed the suits of armor and replica swords for my DeMolay boys back home and, lacking funds and suitcase space for taking anything home; took lots of pictures instead. When she was done shopping, we had a choice: We could take a bus to Montreux or we could walk there around Lake Geneva. The difference was about half an hour in shopping time. Thinking back to our second night in London, we opted for the bus ride. I mildly regret missing the walk, but only mildly.Montreux is the home of a popular Jazz festival, but we were not there at the right time for it. We were there in plenty of time for shopping at H&M (remember my worries about having to replace clothes without speaking the language), checking out a few souvenir shops, and grabbing a drink at McDonald's (always chosen for its Wi-Fi and free restrooms). We did note as we traveled across Europe that each McDonald's seemed to have something unique to its menu, so we generally appeased our guilt by ordering that as well as a fountain drink to keep our experience as 'international' as possible. (Natalie and I would always walk into a McDonald's and find ourselves surrounded by fellow purple backpacks, which was also nice.) While at H&M, I was happy to find a clearanced satchel that looked like it would be perfect as a carry-on for the flight home since I doubted the purple backpacks would be quite such a priority once we were on the plane from Frankfurt; and I was glad to pay an American clearance price for it.After shopping and eating, we headed out to the town square where we were to meet up with everyone "at the Freddie Mercury statue." I did not know his last live performance was performed in Montreux, but apparently it was and there is a very nice statue paying tribute to that right on the Lake Geneva waterfront. Speaking of the Lake Geneva waterfront, it was a bright sunny day and there was a dock with ladders right there in the square to allow for public swimming. We couldn't participate as it was almost time to load the busses, but I remember looking at the water and the locals cavorting, reflecting back on my time in Italy and suddenly REALLY remembering my time spent in the beach towns of Rimini and Livorno during the summer months. I stopped Natalie at the door of McDonald's and scanned the area quickly to make sure everyone swimming was wearing a swimsuit of some sort and then la[...]

The Big European Adventure Pt. 9


As I mentioned earlier, I lived to regret promising to take Natalie's gear down to the bus with her on transfer days. Among its many redeeming qualities, there was one big drawback to Hotel Saphir: its elevator service. It had two very small elevators (typically European) that only worked part of the time. They were great for moving suitcases, but not so much for moving people. To compensate, there were long, steep, winding staircases. One that lead to the first and second floors (because in Europe the 1st floor is one up from the ground floor). And then a corridor that took you to a staircase leading to the 3rd and 4th floors. Just the trip to my room on the second floor was not a fun climb each day and Natalie was on the 4th floor. By the time I got to her room, she and her roommates were dressed, packed, and ready and I had made a wasted trip. Oh well, at least I got my exercise in before a long traveling day on the bus.I feel bad, but I don't remember much about the long drive from Paris to Crans-Montana except relief at being out of the big crowds and frustration at being unable to create playlists on my iPad (I have since figured it out). We stopped for meals at a couple of rest stops in France and I became very annoyed with a French woman who, upon seeing the long line at a cafeteria, complained bitterly about how "stupid Americans don't know how to stand in line". The reality was that we were lined up just like everyone else in the cafeteria, there were just a lot of us. It was at one of these stops that Natalie made the astute observation that "even the French rest stops are fancy". My favorite way to eat throughout the trip was just to grab a variety of items from the gas station and snack on the road. There was no one on the bus to complain that we were "doing it wrong" and there was a lot of fun swapping and sharing as we all pretty much felt like family at this point.Once we got into Switzerland, the bus got to make a climb of its own up the Alps. As usual, we may not have loved Gerd's annoying habits or his clear disinterest in us that bordered on dislike; but he sure could make those hairpin turns with that great big bus. The views as we circled Lake Geneva and then climbed way up high above it were breathtaking and my bus window pictures don't do them justice. I had heard the teachers who had made this trip before comment that everyone gets tired and stressed in Paris and then everyone chills out and enjoys the temperatures and laid back schedules in Switzerland and Austria. This is most definitely true.Upon arriving in Crans-Montana, the busses deposited us at a large tent before parking. It was explained that we would now be divided at individual hotels by bus in both Switzerland and Austria which meant that Jen and I each had our own rooms at separate hotels. I called my room at Hotel Splendide in Switzerland "Introvert heaven" and it was the perfect antidote to days spent on crowded busses in Paris traffic and racing from tourist attraction to tourist attraction trying to fit everything into a pre-established time frame. Dinner was quiet as there were only about 60 of us per hotel as opposed to 260. Like our dinners in France, it involved three courses and was absolutely delicious. And then, we learned the most important thing about our hotel, for 5 Francs, there was Wi-Fi. After three days, there. was. Wi-Fi! Thank you Switzerland!The following morning allowed for sleeping in and breakfast had a much larger selection of breakfast food. (Though I missed that chocolate bread.) This hotel also provided a laundry service as long as you turned in your clothes by 9:00 a.m. I had gathered mine and claimed Natalie's and set them on the edge of my bed just before going down to breakfast. Because it was a small, efficient hotel; my room had already been cleaned when we went back up to finish loading the laundry bag. The maids had placed Natalie's dirty clothes under my pillow and left mine in the laundry bag sitting out where I had it. It was 8:50 a.m. whi[...]

The Big European Adventure Pt. 8


The next day began again with "chocolate bread, braided bread, and buttered bread" before boarding the busses for a return to the Eiffel Tower. We were told we would have about two hours there, but by the time we got through traffic it was more like an hour and a half. The walk from the bus parking area to the tower did involve a couple of lesser interactions with similar "salesmen" from the day before, but they were a lot fewer, they were far less aggressive, and they seemed to disperse completely by the time we got to the lines for the tower tickets. Not coincidentally, I noticed a much heavier security presence at the base of the tower. And this was a military presence. Unsurprisingly, the Eiffel Tower is considered a much more likely terrorist target than Sacre Coeur at Montmartre and has a much bigger presence of both police and military. I did not mind at all.Natalie and I had already discussed it and agreed that we were not going up in the tower. Having seen the city from the heights of Sacre Coeur the previous day had satisfied our need for good photo ops and neither one of us are really that excited about heights. The length of the lines at the bottom of the tower clarified any doubts that we may have had when we got there. Instead, we took some great pictures of the tower from underneath and found a nearby crepe stand which was close to a carousel where a Roma girl was having her portraits taken, I suspect for her coming out party given her dress. Natalie, who has many "guilty pleasure" TV-watching habits loves everything "My Big Fat Gypsy" related and enjoyed the dress and the photo shoot very much. After the photo shoot, we enjoyed our crepes and watched several little kids enjoying themselves on carousel rides before making a leisurely stroll back to the bus parking lot. As we met up with several others who talked about their mad rush to get up and down the tower within the designated time frame, we knew that we made the right choice in skipping it.We then took the bus over to join the lines to see Notre Dame. This is another part of our Paris visit that absolutely did not disappoint. It was beautiful. They allowed us to take photos, but none do it justice. It was very spiritually moving, even though I am not Catholic. I spent a lot of time lighting candles for Catholic loved ones back home and hoped I was doing it right and not being blasphemous by doing so since beyond wanting to share good thoughts for my friends who I felt would be appreciative of it; I didn't really know the hows or whys behind the gesture. Natalie and I both very much intended good with our candles and I hope that showed with our actions. After being solicited for my spare change all day to the point of frustration, I happily put in my Euros when lighting candles and placed the rest of my coins in the basket that the sweet, elderly nun was holding near the exit that was in support of the preservation of the cathedral. Following our visit, Natalie and I found a bench, gave some directions in English to a nice American visiting Paris for a conference, and discovered a very pretty rose garden adjacent to where the busses would come to pick us up soon. The morning at the Eiffel Tower and the hour at Notre Dame were definitely the most peaceful part of that day's tour.Following that, the busses picked us up and rather quickly dropped us off in another spot where we all became part of a big scramble to get the groups together, through the traffic, into the underground tunnels, and out on the other side to see the Arc de Triomphe. I will have to admit, I was more than a little excited for this part of the visit and may have taken more pictures than necessary of the numerous dates and commemorative plaques scattered throughout the area. It is beautiful, I barely noticed the crowds (though they were plentiful) and would love to go back and see it again and pay the extra to climb to the top of it.After visiting the Arc, we walked over to the Champs Elysees. The tou[...]

The Big European Adventure, Pt. 7


I awoke the next morning ready to see Paris! My roommate and I went down to breakfast which was, as we affectionately called it: " Chocolate bread, buttered bread, and braided bread" and a piece of fruit. I was a little dismayed at the lack of yogurt we had enjoyed in London, but a do-it-yourself hot beverage machine in the breakfast room made up for it. That was the morning of the "mom table" where a lot of us sat together comparing notes about previous experiences with Europe, where we were from, and who our kids were. A lot of the moms were concerned about some things we had been warned about during our travel meeting the night before; in particular, the detailed instructions about how to avoid pickpockets. Apparently, they would be out in full force at Sacre Coeur in Montmartre , which was our first destination. I remembered similar vendors in Italy and told them all that I didn't think "it would be any big deal" because no one had ever touched me or been aggressive once they saw that I wasn't interested and I couldn't imagine things would "be that different here." (I REALLY need to learn to keep my mouth shut.) So, we finished our bread, grabbed our body safes, purple backpacks, and camera bags; and we were on our way.The traffic just to get into Paris was awful. And those Muslim tent cities set up under several Paris overpasses that you occasionally hear about on the news? Those are real. And when you are stuck in traffic on a large charter bus, you get to see them in great detail. (And now I see why they didn't fully commit to sending 260 American teens and their families into Paris until April. And I am editing to clarify that we were never physically close to them except while entering and leaving the city on a bus.) Still, we were in Paris, and there was a lot of scenery to be appreciated once we finally got into the city proper. I don't remember much about the walk to the base of Montmartre except for the usual scramble to cross a street in Paris without getting hit and then weaving our way through a string of scary tourist shops with very pushy salesmen. The hike up to the top of Montmartre to get to Sacre Coeur involves climbing so many steps that even a Google search didn't reveal their total number. (I saw that there are 300 to get from the church to the top of its dome, but that is not what I need to know.You climb a staircase. And then another one. And so on and so forth. You do that until you reach the top, exhausted and winded. And then, right there at the top of the stairs, are 4-6 men trying to sell you a "bracelet" by tying a string around your wrist, charging you one or two euros for it, and surrounding you if you refuse to pay. We were told not to make eye contact and, if one of them grabbed our arms, to yank them back out before they got the string tied. I couldn't believe these men would just touch us without our permission and then I saw them doing just that. I put both hands on Natalie's shoulders, marched behind her, and said "no" over and over again until we were through the crowd. I wasn't supposed to make eye contact, but wound up shooting the stink eye at someone reaching for her and I guess a Mama Bear's stink eye is universal because he backed away from both of us. It was a very unpleasant experience and, while illegal, seems very uncontrolled in that area.The church building itself was beautiful and worth the view inside and out. After touring the church, Natalie and I soon sampled what would become the main staple of every "meal on your own" while we were in Paris: the crepe (pronounced "krep"). This time, we went with one sweet (Nutella and bananas) and one savory (ham and cheese). And then I indulged another long-neglected passion: Fanta aranciata! (Orange soda that has NOTHING WHATSOEVER in common with American Fanta.) While sitting on the steps and eating, we noticed that our friendly, neighborhood salesmen were only favoring one side of the twin staircases leading up[...]

The Big European Adventure, Part 6


This morning marked the first transfer day and I was downstairs and ready to hand my suitcase to Gerd with bells on. (For someone who had so little use for us, he was quite gallant about all of the moms and their suitcases.) I sat at breakfast watching for Natalie and felt my anxiety start to multiply in 30 second increments the longer the time passed without her or her roommates making an appearance in the dining room. Just as I hit the panic button and asked her teacher if he had seen any of them, he pointed them out standing in line to get food. Natalie looked incredibly disgruntled. It turns our her roommates had been moving slowly and, though she was ready, she didn't feel like she could just leave without them. By the time she had made it downstairs, Gerd had gone into breakfast with the other bus drivers and had locked the bus; leaving them unable to load their suitcases. In the grand scheme of things, it really wasn't a big deal to me; but seeing how flustered she felt at the appearance of not having followed the rules; I resolved to go and 'escort' her down to the bus on each subsequent transfer day. (This would have hilariously annoying consequences in Paris.)As I suspected, Gerd was back and the bus unlocked a good 20 minutes before we had to board, and her suitcase got loaded up just fine. While the travel guide advised us to stay awake and see the Devon countryside as we drove from London to Dover, we had all had pretty good naps by the time we got to the ferry station. My Uncle Bob lives in Seattle and knows how I love the ferry, so I have ferried to and from Seattle on almost every trip I've ever taken there. But nothing prepared me for the organized chaos that was crossing the English Channel.First, a French customs agent came on board and stamped all of our passports (one of the reasons we were told to always have them on our person). Then, we were driven to a huge garage where they opened up the luggage area on the bus and inspected several suitcases at random-not mine or Natalie's, though it wouldn't have mattered. After that, we drove into the line of other large vehicles waiting to drive aboard. During the wait, the teachers gave the kids a few safety precautions about the ferry. One of them was to "make sure you don't fall asleep unattended, unless you want to wake up with Pepe LePew". A nice Warner Brothers comparison as a way to warn them about the potential for predators seemed pretty genius to me, until my child said: "Mom, who is Pepe LePew". At which time I face palmed and her Father (when he heard about it later) proclaimed her "adopted." How could she not know a Looney Toons character when her father and I are children of the 70's? She remembered pretty quickly thereafter which is good because I was beginning to question my claim as a GenX mother.One of my good friends had given me some very sound warnings about the crossing which boiled down to "It is a rough ride and even if you don't get seasick; others will." With that in mind, Natalie and I each bought a Coke from Gerd's ice chest (at 1 pound, 1 Franc, or 1 Euro per drink, he had some loyal customers among his passengers). Once we boarded the ferry, we bought some bread and resolved to use the bread and cola to keep our stomachs settled. After some "thrift anguish", I also used my credit card to pay for Internet service on the boat. (Technically, you could use cash and buy a card in one of the onboard gift shops, but I didn't feel like wandering around looking for one.) I didn't know it yet, but it was the last time for three days that I would have any wi-fi access whatsoever. So it was a good call.It was a very rough ride across. Say what you want about the unhealthiness of bread and Coke and I won't disagree, but it certainly worked for us! However, I remember thinking that if I were a person prone to motion sickness; I would be miserable on this boat. As my friend Jennifer had warned me, the bathroo[...]

The Big European Adventure Pt. 5


I can't remember if it was the previous night after the long hike or on the following morning that I noticed that my ankles were swelling. After a long flight, lots of time seated on a bus, not to mention the unintentional road march of the night before; it makes sense that it happened. But at the time, I was horrified at the sight of them and immediately Googled "swollen ankles while traveling". I should not have done that. What WebMD should have told me was: "You've been traveling for five days straight, it's normal." What it seemed to say was: "It may be normal, but you could be spiking record high blood pressure. Seek medical help immediately." I fretted a bit about it and ultimately decided that since there were two doctors on our bus and a multitude of nurses, I was going to proclaim in "normal under the circumstances" and let my bus friends know if it continued to be a problem. With as much anxiety as I am capable of experiencing, just letting it go like this was a big deal for me and I'm glad that I succeeded at it.We boarded the bus that morning for a guided tour of London. Our tour guide came on right behind us. Her name was Diana and she was THE BEST. We spent the morning driving around seeing The London Eye, Big Ben, Parliament, and Westminster Abbey. We parked the bus and hopped off at St. James Park so that we could hopefully see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. Now, everyone remembers that I'm a Muppet fan, yes? Because this will be important in a few more sentences. We walked around the park and I felt like I knew it, though I didn't know why. I took pictures of Princess Diana's Memorial Walk which I knew I had never seen. I took pictures of the pretty greenery at the park and tried to put my finger on why it The Great Muppet Caper!! To say I was excited is an understatement. As Diana walked us over to a prime viewing spot for the changing of the guard, I alternated between my good camera and my iPhone snapping pictures of every spot in that park that I thought I might recognize from my many, many viewings of that Muppet classic. Everyone else was facing the street as the sound of the band got closer, and I was still facing the park behind us taking pictures and humming "Couldn't We Ride." It's OK, I turned around and got a ton of good pictures of the guards and Buckingham Palace too.looked familiar. And as we walked on, I looked more closely at the path we were following. I noticed that it was very wide. Wide enough for several bicycles side by side...bicycles..."side by side"(Warning: This is when Melessa really geeks out). "NATALIE!! DO YOU KNOW WHERE WE ARE??!!" (It's OK, you can feel sorry for my poor 17 year-old daughter here. I do.) We were walking in the same place where, long ago, Jim Henson and friends filmed the famous bicycle scene inAfter our walking tour, we took the bus over to the London Tower. We were given sack lunches upon arrival, mentioned only because Natalie wanted to take ours and eat them "Someplace where there are no pigeons, Mom." No pigeons? At a tourist locale on the waterfront with lots of snack stands and people picnicking? Sure, no problem. We compromised by making sure not to drop any food to attract the pigeons and we watched other people feed them. Natalie's adorable defense against pigeons is to glare at them and tell them to "go away"! (This hasn't changed since she was four, but it much more entertaining to watch now.) After lunch, we got a Diana-sponsored tour of the Tower grounds before lining up to see the Crown Jewels. Afterwards, at Natalie's insistence, we got pictures of Anne Boleyn's memorial and bought some souvenirs for the folks back home. (Tristan, who brought a dagger he called a "letter opener" home from Spain last year, asked for a sword. So we found a wooden child's toy at theTower gift shop and bought it for him rather gleefully.) The one thing we did not find at the Tower wa[...]

The Big European Adventure Pt. 4


The plan for keeping us up all day and into the evening was to help us get acclimated to the time change. And I have to admit that it really worked well. The next morning, I was up with my alarm clock with no problems. Of course, that might have also come from not wanting to annoy my roommate with its noise and very much wanting a shower after the last 48 hours. I was very happy that it was a stand-up shower with decent water pressure. Both things were hard to come by during my 16 months in Italy. I was also appreciative of the hair dryer because I didn't have to dig mine out of the suitcase and hope it would work with the adapter. (That rarely went well in Italy either.)It was an early morning because the hotel served breakfast at a set time regardless of the day of the week. (Which was Sunday, though it was still hard to keep track.) After breakfast, the choir was bussed over to the church where they would have their first performance. The band got to stay behind for additional prep time and parents had a choice to go with the choir or to wait and ride over later with the rest of the group. I went ahead and rode over with the choir. They were performing at Wesley Chapel, called (by them) "The seat of Methodism". My paternal grandparents are Methodist and I thought a lot of pictures of the chapel (which had several historic areas as well as John Wesley's grave onsite) and maybe shooting a little video of the choir rehearsing might make them proud. It was very peaceful and very moving and though I'm not usually a "first one there" person; I really liked being one this time. I wandered the church grounds, exhibits, garden, and private graveyard and enjoyed my alone time quite thoroughly.The service that morning was beautiful. The Reverend spoke about "Happy Families" (church sermons are posted here in multiple formats), he inserted as many "Oklahoma" references as he possibly could, and both those words and the words he spoke about embracing all families were quite touching. I mentioned that my grandparents are Methodist and so were my (great-great) "Grandmother Mac" and my Aunt Marguerite. Throughout the service, throughout the choir performances both on their own and jointly with the church choir; I felt such a kinship with my family that when it came time for communion, I didn't think twice about participating-even though I don't normally do that at other churches. It was a really meaningful morning.After the choir performed, we were back on the busses and on our way to Victoria Embankment Gardens for the band concert. The weather could not have been more perfect (and thank goodness for sunscreen!). We enjoyed quick sack lunches while seated in the grass and handed our trash and uneaten food to a couple of eccentric gentlemen who went from group to group asking for them. Then, the band was sent to a stage area for set-up. The choir and all of the parents were instructed to leave the surrounding chairs open for the concert patrons, so I found a park bench within earshot and got comfortable there. This was the first time I got to hear the band perform and they blew me away!! They were so good. The concert band played for an hour and the jazz band had a thirty minute set that followed and they were both brilliant groups. (I walked over just in time to glimpse the two eccentric gentlemen selling our leftover, uneaten lunch foods to the concertgoers. Only in Europe...) Throughout the concert, the choir students entertained themselves with a life-sized chess board and a nearby ice cream stand and it was one of the most idyllic afternoons that I can remember from the trip.After the concerts, we walked from the park to The British Museum. (I didn't know it yet, but this would be my favorite museum on the trip.) During the walk, I chatted with some of the other parents and teachers as we were just starting to get better acquainted. On[...]

The Big European Adventure Pt. 3


My memories of Windsor are slightly blurred by a sleepy, excited haze because that's exactly how I felt for our entire visit there. When we left the bus park and climbed a flight of stairs; we seemed to cross into what felt like a different world! Natalie and I snapped pictures of a train that looked a lot like the Hogwarts Express and posed for pictures with those very British red telephone booths (even though we have one here on the OU campus). We wandered through a maze of stores in an outdoor mall until we came out on the other side and saw Windsor Castle right in front of us.We were sleepy, we were hungry, we were in a foreign country; and it goes without saying that we were overwhelmed. We couldn't decide where to eat or if we wanted to go stand in line to see the castle or what we wanted to do first. Walking around to find the end of the queue for the castle (look at me speaking that proper English) we passed a fish and chips place. And that made the rest of the decisions for us. After lunch and a small round of souvenir shopping, we decided that we would photograph Windsor Castle from the outside and spend the rest of our time exploring the surrounding area. We got good pictures of the castle, Eton College, and the Thames (which I am totally pronouncing correctly even if you can't hear me). I was saddened at the presence of a Subway sandwich shop (The first of many that we would spot along the way. Really Europe? You don't need these!), but otherwise enjoyed our time there. Our last couple of stops were at a candy shop that really wants to be Hogsmead's Honeydukes (Hello Kinder chocolate my old friend!) and a park close to the bus area that I wish we had spent more time exploring. But all too soon, we saw other people gathering around the bus and boarded for the hotel.While most of the kids (and some of the adults) had been super-wired from the airport to Windsor, the drive to the hotel was much quieter while Gerd navigated traffic, one of the other busses got pulled over, and most of the Blue bus slept. I did wake Natalie up to "squee" when we drove past Kings Cross Station, but we passed it so quickly we have no photographic evidence. Shortly thereafter, we arrived at our hotel; The Barbican Thistle.  We were given time to check in, put our suitcases up, and then report back to the dining room for dinner. I was a little concerned when they announced all of the room assignments and I never heard my name. But it turned out that my roommate would always be on "Brown Bus" and we would only meet up at our assigned room. Given my introverted existence, I was a little nervous about roommate assignments, but I shouldn't have been. I don't mean to brag (maybe a little), but Jen was the best roommate ever and we had a great time chatting about our kids, our busses, and our adventures throughout the entire trip.The rooms in London were some of the nicest on the trip. We each had a desk with its own outlet and the room provided an iron AND a hair dryer. We also each had our own key to the room and it was an actual card key we could carry with us all day long. (It's the little things you learn to be grateful for, but we did not yet know what was waiting in the other destinations.) From the time we boarded in Atlanta, we said goodbye to our regular purses and wore body safes with our passports, local currency, and (in my case) debit cards and room keys zipped inside. On our backs, we all were required to wear purple backpacks that identified us as part of the same group. I was a little jealous that I hadn't thought about attaching the purple backpack to a larger one before I left as many others had done. But looking back, I am proud that I learned to pack pretty much my whole day into one small drawstring sack.With my camera bag and body safe in place, we went to dinner without our backpacks as requested [...]

The Big European Adventure Pt. 2


Do you want to know what's difficult? Knowing that you are one plane ride away from seeing London, Paris, the Swiss Alps, Austria, and a return trip to Venice and getting ANY sleep on that plane that is taking you there. We had been admonished by the trip organizers to sleep, previous experience told me that I should sleep; but I struggled to actually manage it.Natalie and I had decided upon boarding to stay awake for the first two hours until they served "dinner" and then we would try to sleep. To entertain myself during that time, I found This is Where I Leave You as an in-flight movie option. If you love Tina Fey and Jason Bateman (who play siblings), have a very inappropriate sense of humor, and aren't easily offended; I highly recommend it. Natalie (who did NOT watch it) really gave the best review when she said "Every time I looked at you, Mom; you were either laughing at it or about to cry over it." And she had a point. (Though the crying was only once-and well-deserved.) I know it wasn't something for her eyes, it's debatable that it was OK for mine. But, I really liked it anyway. (Even though I cringed at it a time or two myself.)After the movie and "dinner" (Natalie's first introduction to an in-flight meal and her face was very entertaining), we both put our headphones on and tried desperately to sleep. But it wasn't easy. I kept watching Natalie flip between Breakfast at Tiffany's and Singin' in the Rain and bit my tongue not to chastise her since my whole goal for her senior year in high school is to teach her to leave home, as sad as I already am that it's going to happen. At this point, she needs to learn for herself when it is "bedtime". So keeping my mouth shut was a struggle. Reflecting on the fact that we were FINALLY having the European adventure that I have so longed to have with any of my children and feeling emotional about that also kept me awake. And then there was my own excitement at seeing The British Museum and The Louvre for the first time...I dozed in snatches here and there, but I was almost relieved when they turned on the lights and served "breakfast" in anticipation of our landing so that I could drop the pretense of sleep altogether.Natalie and I from the backWe landed at London Heathrow and were instructed to "keep together as best you can." There were 260 of us. We made a solid effort. It didn't feel very promising when, at customs, I could barely understand the Englishman's "English". He had a very thick accent and, since I am not British, I can't tell you where he was from; but I can tell you that it felt like that scene in Bon Voyage Charlie Brown when they go to a pub and have no idea what the waiter told them to order. Fortunately, my inability to understand the Queen's English when I heard it did not hurt my chances to enter England. Pretty soon, my passport had its first stamp and we were navigating the airport ladies' room at baggage claim. Reflecting on my previous travels abroad, I had packed a tiny pouch containing a small toothbrush, sample-sized toothpaste and deodorant, bobby pins, safety pins, a small comb, make-up wipes, a powder compact, a small tube of solid sunscreen, tinted lip gloss, eyeliner, antibacterial wet wipes, tissues, small bottles of Tums, Advil, and hand sanitzer, as well as some samples of lavender oil, lemon oil, and peppermint oil. It came in handy to pull myself together after the long flight and continued to come in handy for the entire trip. I credit not only my travels, but also my time as a Mother Advisor for my "polka dot pouch" which may not have been as magical as the beaded bag that the Harry Potter novels made famous. But I found it just as handy.Before long, we had our luggage and were assigned to our busses. Natalie and I were with her teacher, his wife, the other two students from Norman Hi[...]

The Big European Adventure, Pt. I


Just before the end of my oldest daughter's sophomore year, we got a letter from the Governor's office telling her that she had been selected to participate in the Ambassador's of Music program. We went to a meeting at her high school, and the finer details were that any of the selected band/choir students were invited to participate in a European concert tour provided that they could cover the cost within the year of the trip. (I'm sure that my daughter would like me to note that not EVERYONE at her school was selected. And, as a proud mom, I would like to note that too.) All of my children have a nice little legacy intended to help cover the cost of their college educations, courtesy most recently of Aunt Marguerite, but carried on by the tradition established by her mother, my great-great grandmother; Mrs. Etta Mae Lacy McLaughlin. (Whose voice is the one that most frequently hear when I speak to my children these days. A process that both terrifies and enchants me in turns because that woman was THE matriarch of my mother's side of the family. And I never pictured myself as such, though she did often tell me it would be my turn someday.)I don't think my great-great grandmother ever traveled farther than the move she made with her father and sister from Ames, Iowa to Coalgate, OK (to escape the shameful gossip that accompanied their mother divorcing her father so she could marry his younger brother) and then from Coalgate, OK, through McAlester, and onto Oklahoma City to prevent her in-laws from seizing custody of her 5 children, following the premature death of her husband. Nonetheless, she always told me (and my mother, and my grandmother) that "all proper young ladies should tour Europe and attend college." And then she established trust funds for each of us to ensure that we could afford to do just that. Aunt Marguerite, my great-grandma Bessie, and even my precious Gran Doris may not have completed college; but they were all very well-traveled. My mom attended college, but has not seen Europe since childhood. My 16-month sojourn to Italy following the completion of my degree in Classics/Latin must have pleased her (and I know it made my grandmothers proud). And, with Grandmother Mac's words ringing in my ears, I was determined to make this trip happen for Natalie. Natalie was very insistent that she wanted me to go with her so that I could not only revisit Italy, but see some other places too. And since she very much wanted to have this experience with me, who was I to say "no"? Especially after staying home and watching her brother travel to Spain with a different tour group the previous year.So, arrangements were made. Passports were secured (my picture now is SO much worse than my original). Money was paid. And before I knew it, we were at the Will Rogers Airport watching heavy band instruments get checked (as I thanked my daughter for being a singer), last-minute Sonic drinks get consumed, parents watching sadly through security checkpoint windows as their kids waved "goodbye" (and feeling grateful that I wasn't standing there with them as I had been the previous year), cringing at one poor traveling couple's chagrin at having to stand in line behind all of us, and enjoying that Okie kinship with the other parents and students as we tried to let them get ahead of us so that they wouldn't have to wait. (Security sent them to the other checkpoint, but there were none of us who would have minded letting them go ahead of our large gaggle.)The flight to Atlanta was uneventful. The wait in Atlanta was more than a little tedious, broken up by the entertaining arrival of a large group of people in green shirts and plastic bowler hats all boarding our flight back to London after what had clearly been a festive visit to the good old USA (or, as they [...]

Time for Another Travelogue


After a ridiculous hiatus, I am back!! Before you get too excited, it won't be to do the daily drivel that virtually no one used to know and love; but I did take the trip of a lifetime with my oldest daughter, and I've been dying to write about it since our return. (Or even since we were on the trip, but I knew that wasn't happening.) But before I do that, it's time to play catch-up:

When I used to regularly update this blog, I had four small children and was struggling to figure out what I wanted to be when I really "grew up". Those four little kids now range in age from 11-17 and have been joined by an almost 6 year-old "baby sister" whose first, middle, and last name should really be "surprise." It turns out, while I may not have planned to become a museum director for my grown up job, that is indeed what has happened. And I have been doing it for four years now. I took over back in February 2011, but the official anniversary will be July 1 because that's when our fiscal year starts.

The kids continue to enjoy singing and performing and they are getting older so much faster than I would have imagined possible at the beginning of this blog in December 2003 (Wow! I'm old.) I am serving as Mother Advisor for Norman Assembly a la "Mr. Shue" in the now-defunct Glee series, and to have just one more thing in common with that show; we lost "mom" back in February and everything I do well with Rainbow now feels a bit like a tribute to her. She used to get choked up during ordinary moments of our meetings so often that it used to amuse us. Now I wonder who she was thinking of in those moments and whose memory she was honoring. (Did I mention, I'm old now?)

So...why did Natalie and I spend two weeks crossing Europe? She was selected as an Oklahoma Ambassador of Music by her choir teacher about two years ago. Because my great-great grandmother believed that all young women "should be well-educated and see Europe", she left behind a legacy that included college money for me and college money for my children. We tapped into those funds to pay for this trip with what we feel was her blessing. (And that is the only time I will really discuss cost as it pertains to this trip because I feel like asking me how much it cost or how we paid for it is tacky-also a holdover from time spent with my great-great grandmother.) We had an amazing time and I really want to write about it before I forget anymore details. I hope you all will stick around to read it!

Friday Flashback: Summer of 1996


We hadn't seen each other in more than three years, but when I saw his car parked in front of the Shortstop convenience store just a scant block from my apartment, I knew I had to stop and say "Hello" at the very least. He was in the process of slamming down the phone receiver as I walked in the door. I could tell that he recognized me when our eyes met, but his greeting words of "I hate women!" were a little off-putting to say the least. He quickly back-pedaled, clarifying that it was the ex he had just finished talking to on the phone that he disliked, not women in general. Before I even had time to think about what I was going to say, I found myself answering him with: "Well, that's a relief. Because I stopped in tonight to ask you out."

#WhyIStayed (Thursday 13)


  1. Because I was sweet, shy, and trusting; and therefore was easy to manipulate.
  2. Because when I told me I wasn't "pretty enough" to find someone else, I believed it.
  3. Because when he said "If you leave, I will kill myself." I didn't want him to die.
  4. Because getting close to him was awkward enough, I couldn't imagine starting all over with someone else.
  5. Because he could drive and I couldn't, and I liked not being stuck at home anymore.
  6. Because his family was close-knit, sweet, and funny; and I liked being a part of them.
  7. Because I knew his secrets and he knew mine and I thought we should both keep them to ourselves.
  8. Because our friends/family seemed to like us together (at least that first year), and I didn't want to let them down.
  9. Because he was SO VERY SORRY every time he hit me.
  10. Because he blamed my sharp tongue and sarcastic sense of humor for his loss of temper, and being possessed of both of those qualities in abundance; I blamed myself.
  11. Because I was in over my head, and too proud to admit it to any of the adults in my life.
  12. Because I thought I could "save" him. (And myself by doing the right thing and marrying him, since I judged myself so very harshly for being so involved with him in the first place.)
  13. Because after 2 years with him, I no longer knew how to function independently and was more afraid of being alone than being abused.
Bonus: Because I had never been hospitalized for any of my injuries. And, in my teenaged mind, that's what happened in "real" abusive relationships. AKA: "Those poor women who never talk back or smart off and get hit anyway." As opposed to me, who could be sarcastic, and therefore was asking for it. The day I found myself in the E.R. getting an x-ray and trying to lie to the nurse about what had happened in front of my best friend (who had seen it) was the day I started re-examining what I was doing there in the first place. It wasn't the day I left. But it was the day I started thinking about it.

Wisdom From Presidente


Last month, the missionaries from the 1995-1998 Italy Padova missions held their 20 year reunion early. This was done because our mission President has terminal cancer and they wanted to be sure he would be able to attend.After a bit of soul-searching, I opted not to go. This was mostly due to timing and expense, but there was a little angst thrown in. My first mission president had been a very businesslike, down-to-earth man who understood that an adult convert brought different things to the table as a full-time missionary than did someone who had been raised in the church and might never have left Utah. I don't have the reverence for priesthood leaders that women raised in the church seem to be born with. I respect the office they hold and, if they conduct themselves appropriately, I gain the respect of the man who holds the office. But that isn't something that can be expected of me until I've had the chance to get to know the man behind the title. President A understood that and gained that respect accordingly. President D expected it from the outset. He was horrified, upon our first meeting, to learn that I unabashedly missed my sisters, my close friends, and was regretful to have missed out on the birth of a niece. He was also shocked to learn that, understanding my period of service was for 18 months, I had no intention of staying any later than that-although my date had been extended for me from mid-December to mid-February courtesy of SLC.* An outcome that my non-member parents and family poised to celebrate my grandparents' 50th anniversary on December 30th found to be unacceptable. And ultimately, he sent me home according to my wishes and theirs; although I think he thought me a bit presumptuous to request it. (And perhaps I was, though my family would NEVER have forgiven my absence.)In the end, Presidente D earned my respect and trust, but I'm not sure it was reciprocated on his part. I knew there would be former missionaries that he would be pleased to see at this surprise reunion, and I strongly suspected that I was not one of them. In addition, after the rash of LDS unfriendings following a heartfelt, but perhaps ill-timed, declaration of my support of gay rights a few years ago; I didn't want to feel awkward encountering former companions whose FB rejections of me still sting so mightily. (Yes, I AM that sensitive, and at 42, have my doubts that will EVER change.) And so, I stayed home and enjoyed the FB posts and pictures of others who did go and who manage to love the former Sorella Lawson, flawed though she may be.But don't let my absence fool anyone into thinking that I'm not heart-broken for President D's diagnosis, for his family, and for a good man who deserves a better ending that what he will get in this life. Because I am. I mentioned that I came to respect him, and it happened when he gave these remarks at a mission conference (possibly in Florence, they all seem to run together now). He said "The work will go forward with us, or without us. It isn't that everything depends on you, it's how small or how great a part you want to play as it unfolds." I loved this because it took the horrific pressure off of us as individual missionaries to convert and baptize hundreds of people, and made it a group effort. It was no less inspiring in terms of making you want to go out and remain part of the whole, but it took off the overwhelming fear of 'What if I screw up and ruin it for everyone by failing to talk to the right person, saying the right thing to the wrong person, or simply falling prey to language mistakes when communicating in a tongue not my own?' (At least these were my daily overwhelming fears as a missionary-your[...]

Music Monday: So What?


The kids and I have almost reached the point where we drive each other crazy with our differing music tastes, each time we drive somewhere en masse. When I take Elisa somewhere, she wants Radio Disney. Natalie and Caroline want anything but that. Alexis wants her Disney princess CD mix (which her older sisters all still enjoy, thank goodness) and I don't even know what Tristan would listen to if given the choice because he is perpetually outnumbered.

However, there are a few newer songs that we all love. I'm playing this one because, the first time we heard it, Tristan said something along the lines of "Well Mom, I don't think you are bi-polar, but otherwise this could be your theme song." And I think he is right.

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Back when I used to post regularly, I wrote a lot about domestic violence, having endured it for two years, one month, and one week at the hands of my high school boyfriend. In honor of domestic violence month, I recently posted this picture to my Instagram account along with the following essay:

We had broken up almost three weeks prior, but I promised I would go to one last holiday gathering with his family. He didn't want to tell them we broke up, I didn't want to fight with him anymore. Honestly, while it was surreal and more than a little sad, that last afternoon wasn't terrible since I knew and took advantage of my last chance to see his relatives (to whom I had become very close and would miss terribly) and because the house was so small that there were absolutely no opportunities for us to be alone at his great-grandmother's. He may have gripped my shoulder or my arm a little too hard here and there and the names he called me under his breath were awful, but I knew as soon as Christmas dinner was over, I would be free of him forever. 

A family friend of theirs, who was quite the photography fan, snapped this with a 1960's Polaroid and handed it to me shortly before I left. I think he knew what was up. I've always thought this picture should be titled "Finally Free". I'm glad I still have it now. Once dinner was eaten, he drove me to Christina's house, we decorated her tree, and I never looked back. #whyIstayed

Is This Thing On?


Long time, no write. Things sure are different than they were when I started this about 10 years ago. (Has it really been that long.) My husband bought me an iPad for my birthday and a small keyboard "so you can do more writing". So I feel like I should try and be more productive with it. (It is probably the most "he gets me" thing he has ever done in the history of our marriage.) In my mind while I drive to work or sit in a waiting room, or have other down time; I am always writing something. When I actually get a moment to write, words fail a little bit. But here's what has been on my mind this week:

-I've had to stay off of Facebook most of the week because all of the talk about domestic violence, while timely and appropriate, has been a big trigger and left me feeling very vulnerable. Twenty-freakin'-three years later. Hello PTSD, now say goodbye, I don't enjoy your company. Recently, a friend referred to me as "brave" for "surviving all of that and coming out on the other side." I don't feel brave or like a survivor in the heroic sense of that word. I just feel like I got luckier than other victims. I can go for weeks, months, and sometimes years without remembering and I'm not sure why it's so strongly present with me right now. So that's no fun.

-Reading books (when they are good) is vastly more entertaining than Facebook. Hello Outlander series!

-My daughter Natalie is wise beyond her years. I would love to quote her, but I kind of feel like I need permission now that she is almost 17. Needless to say, I don't worry about her as much as I did when she was younger. But I still hate the fact that she has a boyfriend, nice though he may be. 

-All of my kids are amazing, but growing up too fast. I'm not sure who hit the fast forward button on my life right now, but I wish they would slow it down to normal speed.

-I must be doing something right. Natalie and Tristan literally scheduled their night to go to the movies with their friends so that they could be home in time to order pizza and watch Once Upon a Time with their parents and siblings. Also? They were hanging out together at the movie theatre. Again, I must be doing something right. After all.


It's Been Two Months?


Time flies

There is so much that I want to write about and so little time to do it. I want to write about how my oldest daughter was right five years ago when she insisted that I was "sad inside" and that working with Rainbow would make me happy. I want to write about the increasing challenges of raising the teens and tweens who were all so very little when I started this blog. I want to write about the bittersweet of my youngest baby starting school full time and feeling closure as I move on to this very new phase of life. I want to write about finally finding middle ground in a marriage that really does make me happy the older that I get. Most recently, I want to commend my oldest on being a gracious loser and how proud I am of her for stepping up so well regardless of the outcome. I want to write about how full it makes my heart to have good adult relationships and to be back in the same trenches we shared as teens.I've got lots to say, and no time to say it. Not to mention, the aforementioned teens and tweens are really kind of hung up on their privacy.

The good news is that in sparing any remaining readers those details, you also don't have to hear about the lines on my forehead and my newly discovered gray hair.

Conversations with My Family


Me: We were so lucky Alexis wasn't hurt worse when that mirror fell on her. I think maybe it was because Uncle John, Aunt Martha, and Gran Doris were acting as her guardian angels on the other side, protecting her.

My Cousin Jonathan: Well, it still fell on her hard enough for her to go to the ER and get stitches. That sounds about right if you've got them as guardian angels.

A few days later...

Natalie: Mom? I've got to be at school for choir practice by 7:15 tomorrow morning.

Me: Lovely...

Natalie: Would you rather me tell you 'Mom, I'm going to blow off school and go shoot up heroin tomorrow'? Count your blessings and set your alarm clock.

You've gotta love us!

A Beautiful Mess


And about three minutes later, all five of them were at war in my kitchen. So, a beautiful mess indeed! And a ride I wouldn't trade for anything.

I Still Have Things to Say


I can't believe it's been almost a month since I last posted anything here. I never realized while slogging my way through grad school and four small kids (and posting about it almost daily) that I would miss those days, but I do sometimes. I feel less-inclined to write about the older ones than I used to since they are now old enough to find this blog themselves, but rest assured they are doing well. The four year-old is completely recovered from her ER adventures and I am less inclined to jump to the worst conclusions every time my cell phone rings as each week passes since the 'mirror incident of 2014.'Last night I took myself to see "Mom's Night Out" in the Director's Suite as my Mother's Day gift to myself. Dave had intended to join me, but when I went to buy tickets, there were no seats together and sitting separately at a "chick flick" was not what he had in mind for his Friday evening. So he sent me alone with his blessing. (Making this is the second movie I've seen by myself in my adult life.) I don't know why I was so determined to see it. I usually limit my movie dollars for films whose special effects would be wasted on the small screen, Disney/Muppet movies, and projects like The Veronica Mars movie that make me want to send a message to the film studios rewarding them for their greenlight. I'm not a huge fan of Sara Drew (aka "April" on Grey's Anatomy) and even the trailer for it seemed a little silly. BUT, Sean Astin had a big role and I haven't stopping loving him since the first time I saw The Goonies. And how often do I get to see Mikey/Rudy/Samwise Gamgee on the big screen? So, I was GOING. Even if it was by myself.This was a rough week for me as a mom, not for any exceptional reason; but for all of the usual ones seeming to hit me at once. Teens with attitude, too many spring performances, meetings for the big fundraiser at work next week, and no one who wants to get up for school anymore even though they still have two weeks left. It's been rough on all of us, but last week seemed to affect me more than the kids or my husband (Who has come a long way since I first started writing this, but still fails to see "the big deal" in the tempests of my life. Which I think may be less of a shortcoming and more of a gender requirement), and I needed a few hours to myself. And Sean Astin. Don't judge me.Apparently, this little 5:40 p.m. Director's Suite showing was a group 'thing' that I seem to have crashed. When I arrived, over half of the other women in the Suite (which admittedly doesn't seat all that many people), we wearing black bedazzled "mom" t-shirts. I wasn't sure I wanted to stay. But, at $22 bucks per ticket, I wasn't going to leave either. As I am quickly exiting the demographic of "moms with small kids" (and never entered the "moms who love to bedazzle" one), I wondered if I had made a mistake to come to the movies by myself and if I would be able to ignore the pitying glances of the bedazzled crowd taking up the two rows behind me since I was obviously alone. But then, I got into one of those wonderfully comfortable Director's Suite heated recliners and a waiter appeared almost immediately to take my order. And after a long Friday at work, who was I to complain about what had the potential to be such a nice evening.As it turned out, the ladies behaved themselves with nary a "poor thing" look my way, and the movie was very sweet, funny, and touching. Apparently, it's part of a big movement in Christian fami[...]

Follow-Up and Random Thoughts from This Weekend


The four year-old seems healed and will be back at day care tomorrow. She was probably fine to go back today, but the stitches had to stay dry for 48 hours and with all the dried blood surrounding the injury; we didn't think she should go back to school until we could wash her hair which we can do safely tonight.

Tristan turned 14 yesterday. He had a friend party on Friday just before all of the excitement, so he feels appropriately celebrated. He's going to take me to Game Stop so we can pick out his gift together. I was mildly amused to see all his birthday greetings on his Facebook wall from all of the family members who like to pretend that I don't exist. I resisted the urge to comment "You do know where he came from, right?" (Spoiler alert-it was most definitely me. I was there and I remember it well.) But of course, I didn't. It doesn't make it any less true though.

On a kind of related note, when we went to the hospital with Alexis, the admission people came in to get our information. They said they would have some of it on file from our last visit which was when Alexis was born. They had Dave and I listed as about 10 years younger than we actually are, Alexis' birthdate about three days after we left the hospital with her. And, yet more maddeningly, it still said that we were an "uninsured" family. (Which is now illegal, in case you didn't know.) 

It was easy enough to correct everything, but with nothing to do today but keep Alexis calm and dry; Dave and I chatted about this at length because, while the delivery part went well, the hospital day staff at NRH really treated us like crap when Alexis was born. We had to provide them with proof of insurance daily throughout out stay (which had never happened previously) because they kept coming in, throwing out our visitors, and asking us how the heck we were going to pay for all of this. And daily, Dave would pull out his card, prove them wrong, and we would think the situation was rectified; only to repeat it the following day. They also treated us like uneducated white trash idiots, dumbing down their language and acting incredibly patronizing. I have a Master's Degree and had had four other children. I finally took one staff members head off informing her that I had advanced college degrees and she didn't have to refer to my rectum as my "bottom" (and then I shared a few other technical terms that I won't share here). But now that I know she thought my birthdate was in August of 1982 which would have made me 27 with 5 children ranging in age from 11-newborn, it makes a bit more sense. It's still not OK, but it makes sense.

We have some pretty funny "conspiracy theories" about who screwed up our records. But the bottom line is that no one should treat anyone like that whether the facts are accurate or not. At least we got good service yesterday and everyone who met us thought we were a great team and an even better family. And you know what? We are.

Well, THAT Was Unexpected


This weekend was supposed to be crazy. Fundraisers for various Masonic youth orders all weekend long, Tristan's birthday party, my niece Madeline's party, my nephew Keagan's party, and then church and a family gathering on Sunday.

Saturday morning had me up and running by 6:15 a.m. By 7:45 we had finished supporting the Norman DeMolay pancake breakfast and were headed to Moore to load up the spaghetti lunches we had sold to car dealerships throughout the metro. Even though it was believed that we had enough roasting ovens to hold to deliveries, I sent the girls ahead with another advisor and went back to my house to pick up mine at the request of the lady in charge. Just in case we needed it.

I had picked up the roaster and was passing the last Norman exit en route to Moore when my cell phone rang. My husband told me that either Elisa or Alexis had gashed their head on something in the dressing room at the lodge (where he was still helping the DeMolay) and "probably needs a few stitches." He basically implied that I could go about my morning and that he had it covered. After I got him to clarify that it was our youngest, I thought perhaps my presence at the hospital might be required after all.

I called to make sure my roaster wasn't needed and (not knowing the real situation at the ER) even offered to deliver it before turning around and going back to the hospital. The lady in charge (aka Nancy for those who know her) told me immediately that I should take the next exit, turn around, go to the hospital, and worry about helping at some other fundraiser. (She's the best!) I was nervous en route to the hospital, but when I saw my nine year-old sobbing outside of the ER exam room; I had a feeling Dave had downplayed things. I was right.

I walked into the exam room to see my four year-old covered head to toe in her own blood with Dave filling out paperwork and our friend Jason applying pressure to the gash on her forehead (something he had been doing since finding her underneath a crashed mirror at the lodge building). A paramedic student was cleaning her up. She was shaking and nauseous from shock. I didn't blame her. They had established the large gash in her forehead would require stitches, that she had a few other minor cuts and bruises, and that because she was nauseous and favoring her right arm; she needed a cat scan and an x-ray just in case. As Jason reassured me "It looks a lot worse than it is." And indeed for a child who had a mirror fall on her, we got very, very lucky.

The cat scan and x-rays were clear, the stitches were tricky because of the way her forehead was cut and if I never have to hold another child down for stitches, it will be too soon. :( She spent the day shaky and nauseated and I spent the day panicking any time she fell asleep even though her cat scan had been clear. We aren't going to do much the rest of this weekend but appreciate the fact that she had some heavy duty guardian angels this morning.