We haven't gone down south in two years. Down south is where my extended family lives and I have been missing everyone. So the next few posts will be a travelogue of our vacation--not too exciting for most readers. For now I write for Arielle and Liana because they were there and I want them to remember the good times we had.
We left right after the Moore, Oklahoma, tornado. The images were still vivid in my mind. I think of the people I saw on TV, their land, their accents, and it is all too familiar. We lived in Mustang in the 80's, about 15 miles from Moore. I remember the sirens when a tornado was bearing down, the green, angry sky and the fierce winds howling through the house. No basement, no place to hide. We got lucky. The closest touch-down during that time was 8 miles from us.
This day it is great to hit the road and put all that behind us. Instead of going west, then south, we decide to take a diagonal to 81, stopping in Gettysburg. It's our favorite nearby vacation spot. We stop at the visitor's center (again) and then take the auto-tour (again). It is hot and humid today, so that puts a damper on our desire to get out and walk around the battlefield. The girls want to climb one of the towers though, so we stop there. Fred never climbs it as he hates heights, but I always do. Today it is difficult. Am I so old I can't do this? Then I realize it has nothing to do with strength and endurance. It's all about the heat. It's not just uncomfortable but a health risk for me since I had a heat stroke years ago. But I made it up, just more slowly than before, all 9 flights of steps. The view was spectacular!
We ate dinner at Ping's, our very favorite Chinese restaurant, and shopped at Peebles, our favorite store. Then we found an exhibit we've never visited before--The Lincoln Train Museum. Fred is a railroad buff and I knew he would enjoy this. We were the only tourists there and so we were able to take our time and enjoy all the historical information and artifacts. There is a huge model train display, kind of like the Choo-Choo barn in Strasburg, but most interesting for me was the memorabilia from Lincoln's life, including many photos of him before he was President. We watched a video about his funeral train as it crossed the country from Washington, D.C. back to Illinois for his burial. Fascinating stuff. I can't imagine any other President has ever had such devotion. In every town where the train stopped, thousands came out to pay their respect.
After an evening of swimming and a good night's sleep, we were ready for a day of driving.
Could life get any better? I don't think so. What a glorious long Mother's Day weekend with my dear and precious family. I am so grateful to God for all you people who bless my life every day.
Friday night was my granddaughter Laci's 5th birthday party. We all gather at Nick's house for good food and family time. Cousins! The bigger kids run off to play and the adults enjoy the babies. So many babies! Even Dominic and Stacia are here with baby Caden, meeting his family for the first time. Joey is running around chasing the dog and we pass Jordan around to love on her. Deacon can't be caught so after chasing him around for a hug, we give up.
Saturday Dominic and I head to a greenhouse for a gift for Stacia--her first Mother's Day. I am so glad to have some time with my son on this beautiful spring day. Later all of us head to Valley Forge for a walk. So many memories here! When we first moved to Pennsylvania from the barren plains of Oklahoma, we would come here often, my little boys and I, marveling at the autumn colors. The pictures in my mind come to me like ghosts. Walking through the overgrowth of foliage under the train track so we can see the river. The boys excitedly running in and out of the log cabins. Our fearful single file hike down a busy road when we lost the trail through the woods. I recognize one particular tree where we collected leaves one fall. We wore the giant leaves like hats and the boys jumped joyfully in the crunchy pile. Blond little Jonathan with his Care Bear sitting right over there on the rail fence, my sister beside him. Deanah is gone now; the fence remains.
Today we make new memories. The family wants to explore Washington's house, so I take baby Caden and walk along the creek, whispering to him until he is asleep. I tell him how much I love him and how one day I will tell him the story of his first visit here.
The next day is Mother's Day! Fred has to usher at church, I so get up early and make breakfast for all the dear people sleeping in this house. Arielle and Liana present me with gifts and homemade cards that I will treasure and keep forever. We have a surprise visit from Anthony, Kim and Joey, and our kids filling the kitchen with laughter and talk gives me great joy. We look through an old photo album and pause at a picture of very young me with my newborn Nicholas. I look in the faces of those gathered around this table and think, who would ever have guessed back then that I would have ALL THIS?
The next day Jon, Chrissy and Lana come over and we have a celebratory taco dinner. They have just come from a doctor's appointment and have new ultrasound pictures. The new baby is a girl! Grandchild #10! But the excitement never fades or grows old. We can't wait to meet this new person who will join this big, crazy family and who will be so loved by all.
You with little ones right now in the midst of sleepless nights and toddler defiance and runny noses--this is your heritage and your reward! "Gray hair is a crown of glory..." Proverbs 16:31.
Well, not really the last day. Arielle and Liana won't be finished totally until June. But the 24 weeks at our co-op is over. I believe we ended well. I can't believe I really did all that teaching--considering how fearful I was last summer when I was anticipating all I had to do.
The girls have flourished at their school. They are more outgoing and confident. I attribute this to the kind, loving kids here. These kids are not clique-ish and are welcoming to everyone. My daughters were fully loved and accepted, just as all the students are, no matter how quirky they are or how different they might be perceived by the world outside of school. Arielle made a comment at the beginning of the year that all students here "could just be themselves."
I found out Arielle and Liana have an inner drive to succeed in school. They studied hard to complete what was expected of them. Arielle gave a required speech and I was witness to her poise and assertiveness. (So unlike me!) The girls' attitudes toward their teachers were sometimes quite different from their attitude toward me as their teacher! But that is good. They are also somewhat competitive. Little did I know. I feel we have the best of both worlds right now. They have this "school" experience in a safe environment, but they are also being homeschooled the way Fred and I long ago determined was best for them.
I also discovered this year that I love teaching. My students are vibrant, energetic kids who get excited about science and learning. What really surprised me most was that many times other students would join our class unexpectedly during their free time. We have laughed a lot in class this year and we've done some fun projects. In physical science it was our cornstarch experiment that was the best. It was supposed to simulate plastic rock, the proposed theory that a layer of our earth is made of a material like this. The kids created quite a mess, but they were amazed by the special properties of this mixture and continued to play with it long after class was over. When we studied electricity, I brought in a gadget Fred made when he was in school to become an electrician. One boy was so interested in it that Fred let him keep it.
In biology, the awe-factor came from our microscopic study of pond life. All the kids, including me, were fascinated by the unbelievably complex creatures that live unseen by our eyes. We also dissected some larger animals, and I was surprised to see there wasn't the ick-factor I'd anticipated. The kids had a sense of wonder about what lies beneath the skin.
For the first time I was the recipient of all those end-of-the-year teacher gifts--a handwritten card, miniature roses, homemade truffles. But the laughter and joy in the classroom were the best gifts and I had that all year.
I've been asked to teach biology again and also anatomy and physiology. My girls will likely take more classes next year at the school, and they are excited about that. Seeing friends on a regular basis makes all the work worthwhile.
For now we need to finish up here at home--the grammar, the algebra--those tedious subjects. And then, I want to clean my house! Can you imagine what it looks like after 9 months when cleaning is often neglected because other things take top priority? Well, yes, many of you have seen it.
Back to work...