Archive for May, 2012

In Shenandoah

So, we did eventually get to our River Haven cabin at about midnight.  We were all pretty bleary-eyed, but what a sight for sore eyes that little house was.  It literally is hanging over the river, and, in a unique twist, you enter through the bathroom!  That night, we just hauled our stuff in, picked rooms, and crashed.

The cabin is quite small.  I would say it’s about 800 square feet on the main floor, with a loft.  There are two small queen bedrooms – so small that I could not set my Big Red suitcase anywhere in the bedroom; one bathroom with toilet, sink, and shower; a living room with futon and round dining table near the sliding glass door (onto the deck), and a small kitchen.  The appliances were full-sized, and we did have the luxury of a dishwasher, but you could work at the counter, use the sink, microwave or bake something, and unload the dishwasher all without moving your feet!  The loft with its two twin beds ran above the two bedrooms, but with the sloped ceiling, one could bang one’s head HARD on a rafter just by sitting up in bed.  The access to the loft was a vertical ladder.  That first night, the boys slept up, but Josiah later opted for the couch/futon (probably due to Andrew’s intermittent breathing).

The deck deserves its own paragraph.  It is HUGE.  I’m guessing that its area is nearly that of the cabin itself.  It has some built-in benches and a very nice table and chairs.  It was a great place to walk and pray, and the view was fabulous – river, ducks, geese mist, trees, a park across the way – just gorgeous.  In fact, the first morning, Katie told Scott, “Dad, thank you so much!  I think this is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been.”

Here are some of the things we (whole team or subsets thereof) did while in that part of the country:

* slept in

* ate junk food

* went canoeing on the river

* explored the park across the way

* shopped for groceries

* drove around Shenandoah

* went to McDonald’s for wifi

* drove along Skyline Drive!

* did laundry at a laundromat

* played bridge

* hiked two miles (750 vertical feet) downhill to a beautiful waterfall

* hiked two miles (seemed like 2466 vertical feet) back up to the car

* saw a mother bear and two cubs just off the shoulder of Skyline Drive!!!

* stayed up late

* took pictures

* mooed at cows and tried to run over a spastic rabbit

* did NOT cook

* ate ripe mulberries straight off the trees

* played computer games

* watched movies

* played Cash Flow

* got some awesome deals at Page One thrift shop

* played Chicken in the Party Van

* ate peach ice cream with strawberries

* talked about everything and nothing

* jumped off the dock into the exceedingly cold river

* splashed each other with canoe paddles

It was a super time.  In the end, we (well, really Scott) successfully crammed four suitcases, one sleeping bag, a cooler, two tennis rackets, three computers, two backpacks, a lot of games, and four of us into the Honda, and, saying our fond farewells to Katie, we departed at 4:15 AM (Central time) and arrived home some 17 hours and 1000 miles later at 9:30 PM.

In a future post, I may mention what greeted us at home.


The men are back!

Scott is highly motivated to do things that matter; especially things that matter for the kingdom of God.  Over Memorial Day, he decided to make a major investment into several men.

Some months ago, these guys all watched the movie, “Courageous,” participated in a 15-week “Resolution” study, followed up by a full-scale formal, public “Resolution” ceremony.  It was a BIG deal for those guys and their families.

One of the items in the “Resolution” involves calling out the man in your son and helping him transition from boyhood to manhood.  Scott felt it was time to invite the guys from the “Resolution” study to do that very thing, so he planned an overnight backpacking camping trip to the Falls at Hercules Glades.

They left Sunday after church – five 12 to 15 year-olds and their dads or surrogates – drove to the area, packed all their stuff some two and-a-half miles in 90 degree heat, and set up camp.  Over the next twenty-four hours, they swam, played, ate, and slept AND studied and discussed things like dating and marriage, responsibility, sex, pornography, and other topics related to manhood.

Evidently it was a very productive trip.  Scott summarized it by saying, “We took five boys and brought back five men.”

How clean is clean?

We did all make it to IHOP at 8:30 AM, although some of us got substantially less sleep than others of us.  Mom seemed to enjoy the breakfast and the time with three of her kids, one of their spouses, and three of her grandkids.  There were a lot of old memories shared and there was much laughter at that table in the back corner of the restaurant.

The North Carolina Three left from IHOP for their drive home, but not until after we snagged another patron to photograph the eight of us all together.

The Missouri Five then went to church at Free Life Church, where Katie’s been attending for several years.  It’s a growing, friendly congregation with good worship and good teaching that meets in the Loudon County high school building.  I liked the people, the worship, and the pastor’s style.  I later explored their website and, clicking on “What to Wear,” found this refreshing statement:  “At Free Life we are interested in you – not what you are wearing.  You don’t need to worry about dressing up – or dressing down.  Wear whatever you feel the most comfortable in; we want to be real.”  I like that!  I have decided that real is really important to me these days.

We ate something – frankly, I don’t remember what – and then we headed in our two remaining cars, the Honda and the White, back to Patrick Henry for the Cleaning Of The Dorm(s).  Katie has been an R.A. for the past two years, and that has been a nice thing, as it has fully paid her room fee for those two years.  However, resident assistants do incur some, shall we say, inconveniences, and Sunday afternoon was decidedly one of them.  There are five dorms and all five have to be spotlessly clean before ANY of the R.A.s can leave campus for the summer.  Each dorm has several (two?) floors, with two wings to a floor.  Each wing has an R.A., who is responsible to move out of and thoroughly clean her own room, check out the detailed cleaning (done by each out-moving student) of every other room in her wing, and work with the other R.A.s in her dorm to clean all the common areas (study room, lounge, lobby, laundry room, etc.).

To say that PHC’s standards for dorm cleanliness are over the top would be the understatement of the decade.  Furthermore, Katie knew that once she completed all the above and her dorm was officially declared “white glove clean,” she was obligated to go to the next dorm and do whatever it took to get that one into the same condition, and so on, until all five dorms were clean.  At that point, she would be free to leave the campus for the summer.  Well, in her case, forever.

It was about 12:45 PM when we arrived back on campus, and our vacation home on the Shenandoah, two hours away, was waiting for us FIVE to all sleep in it that night.  Last year, Katie said it took them till about 11:00 PM to get the dorms clean.  Scott had considered him and the boys going to buy groceries and driving on to the house, while Katie and I stayed to clean and came out later, but the thought of driving we-didn’t-know-where in the dark without a map, while Scott might be asleep and unable to give us directions didn’t seem too smart.  The decision was made that Team Roberts would work together until the infamous dorm cleaning job was done.

I am pretty sure I have never cleaned anything so well in my entire life.  = )

STEP 1:  Remove everything from Katie’s room.  I do mean everything.  She had one old suitcase and two smallish boxes in which to pack everything she owned.  When those were full, we resorted to trash bags.  It took a maybe a couple hours to get everything out of there.  We “packed” while she ran around overseeing and checking progress on her wing-mates’ rooms.  Thankfully, Amy had already moved out and had done a lot of the requisite cleaning.

STEP 2:  Clean Katie’s room and bathroom.  This would be deep cleaning – vacuuming out drawers, cleaning windows and frames and sills, washing baseboards, scouring the shower, cleaning the vents, wiping down the light fixtures – everything. This took another hour or so.

STEP 3:  Mark a detailed checklist to inventory the number and quality of all fixtures in the four rooms and two bathrooms on her wing.  As in, number and condition of drawer knobs, number and condition of drawers, number and condition of pegs that allow one bed to be bunked above another, number and condition of electrical outlets, number and condition of door knobs, etc.  Clearly a beaver with a VERY flat tail made that list.  There were about 25 items on a page for each room; which is more items than you would think could possibly BE in a room that is totally empty and white-glove clean! I spent the better part of an hour doing this for Katie.  She gave me permission to do it because she knew I’m good at detailed tasks.  = )

STEP 4:  While various ones of us worked intermittently on STEPS 1-3, others among us, mainly the males, hauled things down to the lobby, the dumpster, and/or the car(s).  We all went up and down those stairs (Katie’s room was on the second floor) enough times to complete our aerobic workouts for the next two weeks.

STEP 5:  Clean the study room.  This is a room containing some dozen or so “cubes” that various girls had used throughout the school year.  The dorm rooms have two desks each, but in some cases there were three girls to a room, so the extra girl’s assigned desk space was in the study room.  Even with all their personal stuff removed, there were a lot of surfaces to wipe, nooks and crannies to scrub, cabinets and chairs to clean, and floor space to be vacuumed.  Worst, however were the windows, which had eight-foot tables pushed against them.  We sat or kneeled on the tables and scrubbed the windows, the frames, and the inside and outside sills. Working together I think we tackled this in about 30 minutes.

STEP 6:  Clean the lounge.  Thankfully, this was much easier than the study room, and a good deal of the work had already been done by someone else.  15 minutes?  We were appropriately thankful.

STEP 7:  Vacuum the entire wing well.  I tried my darndest to do this, but the vacuum cleaner I was using was not cooperating.  It left a jagged pattern of dust everywhere I vacuumed, even though the bag was new.  Hmmm. . . ?  I frustrated myself silly with that stupid vacuum cleaner and finally ended up using the long pointy attachment of a canister vacuum to swipe back and forth over every inch of the hall.  My back was not too thrilled with that.

STEP 8:  (Although we actually did this earlier)  Remove all decor from the hallway walls.  Katie’s wing had a Winnie-the-Pooh theme, which was truly delightful.  She had nifty quotes up all over, each appearing to be behind a little wooden stick window frame.  I LOVED those quotes!!!  They were up with blue tack, and there were also two zillion and eleven leaves, each affixed to the wall with a nail which could not be removed except with needle-nose pliers.  We initially had none of those and so were using fingernails (and teeth?), but Katie borrowed some needle-nose from some gentleman somewhere.  I’d say it took an hour to get all the stuff off the hall wall and figure out how to save most of it intact.

STEP 9:  Clean the stairs and bannisters and all their spokes.

STEP 10:  Haul Katie’s stuff to Katie’s apartment 15 minutes away.

STEP 11:  Go with Aaron K (who has a truck, who graduated PHC last year, who works as an admissions counselor now and who actually did Josiah’s admissions interview, and whose last name – he’s Hawaiian – can be neither spelled nor pronounced) to pick up a chair from Katie’s office that the company was going to discard, but which she said she could use in her apartment.

STEP 12:  Listen to Andrew complain about being A) hungry, B) tired, C), thirsty, D) tired of cleaning, E) weary, F) starving, or G) about to die of exhaustion.  Unknown amount of time invested.

STEP 13:  Try not to cry when Valerie – the overseer of all women R.A.s and final inspector of the cleaning project – commented that a shower that I had personally checked and deemed to be perfectly clean needed “major work.” Only two minutes and I didn’t cry, but I will say that that shower was far cleaner than ANY shower in my house has ever been!!!

STEP 14:  Wait.  A long time.  For Valerie.  Because as we got to around 7:00 PM, and the dorm was getting cleaner, there just wasn’t much to do until Valerie could come back around and see if the (whatever thing she had told us twenty minutes ago wasn’t clean enough) was now clean enough.  For example, Katie asked me to sweep the two stairwells at either end of the building.  I picked the near stairwell and began sweeping down from the top.  It was a royal pain, simply because the stairs have these ridged rubber treads on them, and the treads run parallel to the stair.  Safe for running down in the case of a fire, I suppose, but nearly impossible to sweep.  But the odd thing was that there was NO dirt on the stairs.  None.  Not even really any dust.  In fact, when I got to the bottom of the two or three flights, or whatever it was, I couldn’t even see a pile of stuff to sweep up!  So I went to Katie and asked her if anybody even uses those stairs.  No, no one does. But I went to the other stairwell and did get a tiny bit of dirt; like, and I’m not kidding, a few crumbs in a pile the size of your thumbnail.  Basically, those stairwells were almost as clean as a whistle before I started, and definitely clean as a whistle when I was done.  But get this.  Valerie later checks things and says, “The stairwell’s not clean.  There’s a bug on a windowsill in one of those stairwells.”  Sweet Georgia Peaches!  I couldn’t believe THAT, so I went back to look.  Wouldn’t you know it?  There was a teeny tiny dead ant on a windowsill.  It was so small that if I hadn’t been actually looking for a bug, I never would have seen it.  Well, obviously I didn’t see it while I was sweeping.

STEP 15:  Help other R.A.s in other wings of the dorm get their stuff off their hall walls and packed up; vacuum any place that looks like it needs it; do anything you can think of to help other R.A.s lift, remove, haul, and clean (especially the showers of) their own wings.  Andrew, who cleans bathrooms in our vacation rental home, did LOTS of bathroom cleaning in the dorms, because Valerie said he was really good at bathrooms – and showers!  = )

STEP 16:  Sweep and mop the lobby floor – a true exercise in frustration, as people keep walking on the wet parts to haul things out and tracking dirt back onto the dry parts when they come back in.  Clean the lobby bathroom.  And God forbid that anyone should need to relieve himself or wash his hands!  Those tasks must now be done in the Hodel Center across the street, because once Valerie declared a bathroom clean, no one was fool enough to set foot in it again, for any reason.

SETP 17:  Wait for Valerie.  I, bored with STEP 17, went over to the Hodel Center for a drink of cold water fountain water and found a piano with a hymnal there, so I played around with that for a while, while Katie spectated.

Finally, at 9:45 PM, we got word from Valerie that Katie’s dorm was “clean!”  YAY!!! It was clean enough for us to move on to help in another dorm, but Valerie said that because Katie’s entire family had been working hard to help for nine hours straight, even though none of the other dorms were done, and all the R.A.s had to stay till they were ALL done, Katie and our family could leave!!!  WOW!!!  What favor!!!  We were really blessed and thankful.  We thanked Valerie and hopped in our cars (males in the Honda, females in the White) and left quickly, before she could change her mind.

It was dark.  It was spitting rain.  It was a two-hour drive into the boonies.  In a fluke of poor planning, we had no music, so with Katie driving and getting sleepy – well, shoot, we were all getting sleepy, given nine hours of hard physical work following the short previous night with that strange man – Yours Truly provided constant commentation, in a noble effort to keep her driver awake, as we plunged into the darkness of north central Virginia, toward the Shenandoah River.

To be continued. . .

That strange man

Through the years, Scott and I have developed the habit of sleeping with white noise.  It’s very difficult for us to fall asleep if the room is silent.  Many years ago, I purchased a noise maker that we usually leave set to “waterfall,” and we fall asleep to that.  We take the noise maker with us when we travel and even to electric camp sites.  Scott has also taken it to China with him.

There’s some deal with my cell phone that causes really loud static pops to periodically go through the noise maker.  This can happen even if my cell phone is not in our bedroom.  It took us quite a while to figure this out, but I have now learned that, to avoid being rudely awakened during the night by obnoxious cracklings of the noise maker, I must turn my cell phone off at night.  I normally do this right before turning in.

I must now explain the configuration of the “queen office suite” room at TownPlace Suites.  You go in the door and there’s a bathroom and then a tiny kitchen on your right.  On your left is a closet and then a desk along the wall.  Past the desk is a couch which makes out into a double bed.  Past the tiny kitchen is a queen bed.

If there were only one or two people in the room, sharing the queen bed, there would be plenty of room to walk around.  However, if someone (Josiah) is sleeping in the pulled-out sleeper sofa, it ends up that the foot of that double bed is literally a mere seven inches from the foot of the queen bed.  Nothing can be done about this, as the queen bed is firmly against the right wall of the room, and the couch out of which the sleeper sofa has been pulled is firmly against the left wall of the room.

In addition, our boys cannot share a bed.  In fact, our boys cannot sleep in the same room, and sometimes we wonder if they can sleep in the same county.  Josiah claims that Andrew “breathes intermittently,” and that keeps him awake.  Whenever we travel, we always get one hotel room for the four, five, or six of us. . . although when renting a vacation home, we try to get 3 bedrooms – one for Scott and me, one for the girls, and one for Andrew; Josiah typically takes the living room couch, or some place on the floor, including, but not limited to the kitchen and/or the bathroom.  When we camp, Josiah sleeps in the van, rather than sharing a tent with Andrew.  He feels as deeply about this as anything.

So, Saturday night in Sterling, it was me (later to be joined by Scott) in the queen bed, Josiah on the pull-out bed, and Andrew on the floor (between the desk and the kitchen) on couch cushions.  Please note the VERY limited floor space this would have created, bearing in mind that there were also four suitcases (mine being enormous), two backpacks, three computer bags/backpacks, two dirty clothes bags, and a cooler also occupying said floor space.

In order for me to fall asleep, I really needed to turn on the noise maker, but with my cell phone still on, it was a sure thing that the noise maker would “bark” in the middle of the night, thus waking all four of us. I should therefore turn off my cell phone, but it was about 11:30 PM, and Scott was not “home” yet.  I did expect him within the next fifteen or twenty minutes, and I was not worried about him, but given that he was very tired and was driving around in the dark in an unfamiliar area, it seemed like it might be a good idea to keep my cell phone on, just in case.

Or, I could just call him and find out where he was, and tell him I was turning my phone off for the night  Now, that was a good idea!  So I called him and he answered somewhat sleepily.

Me:  Where are you?

Scott:  I just dropped Katie at the college.  I should be home in about 30 minutes.

Me:  Well, I was going to turn off my cell phone so we could us the noise maker, but I can just wait till you get back.

Scott:  No, no!  You should go to sleep!  Turn off your phone and turn on the noise maker and get some sleep.  One of us ought to, anyway!

Me:  Well, okay.  But I do have a question.  You said you dropped Katie off, right?

Scott:  Uh-huh.

Me:  So she has her old White car right?

Scott (slowly):  No. . .

Me:  Well, I’m just curious.  How’s she going to get to the restaurant in the morning?

[There was an extended pause in the conversation.  Possibly My Hero had not considered this complication.]

Scott:  I’ll just have to get up real early and go get her.

Me:  Awww. . . I hate for you to have to do that!  We have to be at IHOP (15 minutes from the hotel) at 8:30 AM in order to eat and get to church at 10:30 AM.

Scott:  I’ll take care of it.  You can go to bed.  PLEASE go to sleep.

Me:  OK.  I’m turning off my phone.

Which I did, and I turned on the noise maker, and sometime a little before midnight, I drifted off.

When I am asleep, and generally for the first few minutes after I wake up, I’m kind of groggy and not very clear-headed, so when I heard noises that sounded like someone bumping through the room in the dark, I didn’t fully wake up; I just assumed Scott had come in.  I decided it was best to just ignore him and try to keep sleeping.  In my semi-conscious state, I did vaguely hear a lot of stuff that sounded like bumping and stumbling and luggage zippers being zipped and unzipped, but I was still pretty comatose.  The bed moved and some covers were pulled, and that woke me up a bit.  At that point I began to look around in the darkness.  I turned over in bed.  I tried to get comfortable.  I mostly tried to fall back asleep, but that was not happening.  I assumed Scott was asleep, so I didn’t talk to him.  I just laid there and tried not to think about things (stressful things, emotional things, unknown things) and mostly I TRIED TO FALL ASLEEP! 

I didn’t know what time it was, but I knew that in order to get all four of us through the shower and ready to leave, I’d be getting up pretty early.  Shoot, in order to go get Katie, Scott would be getting up even earlier.  Occasionally, I have trouble sleeping, and when the insomnia cannot be overcome, (assuming it’s no later than 2:00 AM), I take half an Ambien.  I knew Sunday was going to be a full day – what with the early breakfast, church, going to PHC to help Katie move out, helping clean the dorm (which could reasonably take until 11:00 PM), and then driving two hours to our vacation home on the Shenandoah River – and I really needed to get some decent sleep.  I decided to get up and go find the Ambien. 

I knew where the Ambien was.  It was in a small Zip-loc in the outer zipper of my Big Red suitcase.  I had purposefully left my suitcase on the floor, opposite the desk and adjacent to the kitchen, propped open, so that I could easily grab my clothes and get into the shower first thing Sunday morning.  However, on our Thursday night in Columbus (same type of hotel with same floorplan) and on our Friday night (the previous night) there in Sterling, we had had issues with Andrew.

Andrew is an HGTV aficionado.  He lives to make spaces beautiful.  Even at home, he is FOREVER re-arranging MY areas (which I have carefully organized to work well for me) to make them more aesthetically pleasing.  I am not so into aesthetics.  I am into FUNCTION, and I get very frustrated when he moves my stuff.  I tell him he’s free to move his own stuff as much as he wants, and when her moves out into his own place, he can do whatever he jolly well pleases with EVERYTHING, but until then, he needs to leave my stuff alone.  

Anyway, we get to a hotel, we haul in our massive amounts of individual stuff, and some of us position ours so that we can find it when we need it.  We then leave the room for some legitimate reason, Andrew re-organizes things, and we later can’t what we’re looking for.  This would be bad enough at home, but when one is traveling, needs a certain things, and has to stop and think where and how that thing is packed, one can get really steamed when the entire container the thing should be in has mysteriously disappeared.

In fact, one  day, my entire red suitcase evaporated!  It turns out that Mr. Interior Decorator determined that it couldn’t sit on the floor of the hotel room.  It had to be put away in a closet.  Which he did, but he didn’t strap the stuff down before closing the suitcase, so everything shifted and tumbled.  What a mess.  Ugh.

So, although I knew exactly where I had left the Ambien, I knew that in the dark, in could be difficult to put my hand on that little bottle.  Besides that, even if Big Red was still where I had left it, Scott may have closed it and put his own suitcase on top of it.  Maybe that was the bumping and shoving and zipper-zipping stuff I had heard some unknown amount of time earlier.  I assumed Scott and the boys were asleep, so I didn’t dare turn on a light.  It was dark in the room, but I was able to see some vague shapes and forms. 

I stepped out of bed (scantily clad, but since all the guys were sleeping, that didn’t really matter) and felt my way along the edge of the bed down to the foot of it, where I would turn left and hopefully bump my foot into the corner of Big Red.  At that point, I’d just bend down, feel for the outer zipper, hope Scott’s suitcase wasn’t on top of mine, unzip it, dig out the Ambien, and in fifteen minutes be blessedly sound asleep. 

But as I worked my way along the edge of our bed, and as my eyes adjusted better to the darkness, I saw a very odd sight.  Josiah, who had been sleeping in the pull-out bed, was now sitting up on the bed, cross-legged, and doing something with a cell phone!  In the middle of the night!

Now, long-term readers may remember that Josiah has had a long history of sleep-walking.  He’s been known to do any number of odd things in the night.  For purposes of this post, we’ll just leave it at that.  So I thought to myself, “Oh, great.  Josiah’s sitting up in bed, but he’s really asleep.”  But what the heck was he doing with a cell phone?  And then it hit me.  The hair.

All Josiah’s life, he’s had very short hair.   There are reasons for this.  For one thing, his hair is very wavy, and when it grows out it gets curly and it’s hard to deal with.  For another, there was a rather long season during which there were so many other challenges with Josiah that I decided to choose my battles and win decisively.  Hair was not worth messing with, so every four to six weeks, I buzzed it.  It was care-free hair.  No need to comb it or anything.  Well, a few months ago, he decided to let it grow out a bit.  He looks good with it longer, although there’s been a bit of learning curve on the care and styling thereof.  Anyway, we now say that Josiah has long hair, even though it’s still up over his ears and in fact is probably shorter than most men’s hair.

But something was amiss with Jo.  As I struggled in my semi-awake state to peer through the darkness at him, I realized that his hair had grown out quite a bit.  And it was straight.  And down past his . . . shoulders!!!  OH, MY GOODNESS!!!  What had Scott done now?  This long-haired fellow sitting on the pull-out bed was NOT Josiah.  And he was awake.  And in our hotel room.  In the dark.  And I was scantily clad. 

Scott’s been known to do some pretty crazy things.  I could list them here.  But, to bring a strange man into our hotel room in the middle of the night?!?!?  Without even telling me?!?!?  Did he pick up some hitchhiker on his way back to the Sterling from the college?!?!?  And even if he did, why didn’t he just give the guy some money, or buy him some food, or go rent him some hotel room of his own?  Why bring him into OUR room in the middle of the night?!?!?

I was getting a little angry, and I was waking up a bit more, and I was way more than a little curious.  If Scott thought it was safe to bring this strange man into our room in the dark, then I surely had a right find out who the heck he was and why on earth he was there.  Stepping carefully into the seven-inch space between the two beds, I leaned over and peered into the man’s face.  Slowly and quietly, in a low voice packed with intensity, I asked, “Who. . . ARE. . . you?”

And a soft female voice replied, “Katie.”

I was so stunned I didn’t know what to say. Katie?  Why Katie?  What was she doing there?  My poor addled brain could not process that information, and I began to laugh.  I laughed more.  I laughed louder.  I could not stop laughing.  My laughter woke up everyone in the room.  Or maybe they had not really been asleep.  Soon we were all laughing!

I did dig out the Ambien, and I took it and fell asleep fifteen minutes later. 

The next day, I got the whole story.

It turns out it was a very good thing that I called Scott. In all the mass confusion of people, vehicles, and schedules, he had not, in fact considered that the Saturday night transportation plan left Katie stranded at her dorm without a car.  After he got off the phone with me, he must’ve called Katie, and they decided that the thing to do was for him to go back to PHC, pick her up (along with whatever stuff she needed for the night, the breakfast, and the church service), and bring her back to the hotel.  They assumed I’d be asleep and they didn’t want to disturb me.  (Aren’t they nice and considerate?)  So they snuck in as quietly as possible, and since Katie is a woman, it was decided that Josiah should give up his “bed” for the lady.  Andrew, already having snagged the couch cushions as his “mattress,” Josiah was, I think,  relegated to sleeping straight on the carpeted floor, with I don’t know what as a blanket.  Or maybe there was a sleeping bag somewhere, for some reason. . . ?

In any case, they packed Katie and her stuff in, so it was us five and no more vying for bathroom time in the morning, but we made it work, and it was refreshingly good to be missing only one kid instead of the customary two we’ve lacked for the past five months.

I’m thinking now that “Who ARE you?” will go down in Team Roberts lore like, “Your bag is over.  If you pay I kill you,” and “Not until two tomorrow.  It’ll be dark outside.  You’ll need a flashlight.”

Saturday night

The most humorous event was early Sunday morning, but things had begun getting complicated Saturday night.  For this story to ANY sense at all, one must comprehend the various locations and how they relate to each other.

For four years (and in August Josiah may be beginning “four more years”), Katie has lived with her wonderful roommate, Amy Kucks (“Cooks”) at Patrick Henry College (PHC) in Purcellville, Virginia.  Amy’s parents, Dr. and Mrs. Kucks , live 15 minutes away from the college, to the southwest.  Our family, as well as Scott’s mom and two sisters, were staying at a hotel in Sterling, about 30 minutes east of the college.  We had planned to take Scott’s mom to breakfast on Sunday morning at IHOP in Leesburg.  Leesburg is between the college and Sterling, so here’s a simplified diagram:

(KUCKS) <—15 min—> (PHC) <—15 min—> (IHOP) <— 15 min—> (HOTEL)

You may be familiar with the logic puzzle of how to get the fox, the goose and the corn all to the other side of the river in one boat.  This is reminiscent of that!

Not counting Aunt Becky’s red Mazda, in which she, Mom, and Krit had driven from North Carolina, there were three vehicles at the hotel Saturday evening:  Katie’s old car (“White”), which she’s been driving for four years and which will probably stay somewhere in Virginia for Josiah to drive in the fall; Katie’s new car (“Blue”), which we drove to Virginia from Missouri and which is temporarily licensed to Scott in Missouri and currently sports a paper tag to such effect; and Scott’s Honda (“Honda”), in which us four and no more – plus ALL our luggage and vacation gear – intended to drive home six days later.

All of us were at the hotel for supper – Scott, Patty, Katie, Josiah, Andrew, Grandma, Becky, Kristy.   All three cars were also at the hotel.

However, Katie had not yet moved out of the dorm at PHC and she would be sleeping there that night.  A car would be required to make that 30 minute drive, and she would then drive the 15 minutes back to IHOP at 8:30 for breakfast.  Oh, did I mention that most of northern Virginia would also be taking its mom to IHOP in Leesburg for breakfast that Mother’s Day morning?  Well, we didn’t realize that Saturday night, but in any case, Katie had to get “home” to the dorm for the night and then back to breakfast in the morning.

In addition, it was important to Katie to be able to say her goodbyes to Amy that night.  Furthermore, after dorm cleaning on Sunday afternoon (a whole ‘nother story, trust me), we five Roberts’ would be driving our Honda and Katie’s old White to Shenandoah, Virginia, some two hours away, for a few days of family vacation, before we drove back to our lives in Missouri and Katie began her new life as a well-educated and gainfully employed adult in Loudon County.  Our vacation would leave Katie’s new Blue car unattended for several days, and we all know it’s not smart to leave a spiffy car – wearing only a temporary paper tag – sitting unattended for almost a week in an apartment parking lot.

So. . . the Kucks agreed that it would be okay for Katie to leave the Blue parked at their house while we did our family vacation.  The Blue was, understandably, unable to drive itself to their home, but if Scott took Katie there on Saturday night, she could say her goodbyes to Amy and they could drop off the Blue for its little sabbatical.

It should be noted that earlier Saturday evening, following Scott and Andrew’s diligent cleaning thereof, we did, yea and verily and with the fare of several some fans, give Katie her graduation gift – the 2005 Blue Honda Civic hybrid.  Katie is not given to mass displays of emotional exuberance, but she did seem well-pleased with the car, and she took several of us for a brief spin about Leesburg while she got acquainted with its features.  It is a very nice car; frankly the nicest car our family has ever owned – even temporarily!

So Scott and Katie left the hotel a little after 10 PM in the Blue and the Honda.  Scott expected the round trip from the hotel to Kucks to PHC and back to the hotel to take about an hour and-a-half.  That was fine.  Mom and I visited for a while, and the boys were playing on computers when I went down the hall to ask Bec a logic question.  “If they took the Blue to Kucks, then they would have to drive the Honda back to the hotel and drop Scott off here and have Katie take the Honda back to PHC, so she could drive it to the restaurant in the morning, right?”  But the Honda is a standard and Katie can’t drive a standard.  So Bec and I stood in the hall and tried to figure out this fox-goose-corn thing, and when we couldn’t, she finally said, “The only way it could have worked was if they had taken three cars and three drivers.  But since Mom, Krit, you, Josiah, and I are all still in this hotel, they couldn’t have done that!”  At which point I decided to apply what I’m learning about boundaries and responsibilities.  I said, “Well, I KNOW for sure that Katie has a bachelors’ degree; I saw her receive it this morning!  And your brother is also highly intelligent, so I’m sure between the two of them they have it all figured out.  I’m not going to worry about it!”  And we both had a really good laugh while I went back to our hotel room to drag the boys and their laptops off my bed.

To be continued. . .

More Virginia trip details

*  After the baccalaureate service, we were privileged to meet and visit with several of Katie’s professors.

*  Of note is the fact that, without exception, they went on and on and on about what a great student and wonderful person she is.  Dr. Spinney and Dr. Favelo also said how thankful they were that they’d be keeping her around and that she’d be working for them.  What did that mean?!?  It seems they have hired Katie and Leslie part-time to help proof freshman papers (the incoming class is about twice as large as theirs was, and since all PHC students take history classes their freshman year, the history profs are anticipating an unusually hefty workload) and to help tutor freshman students in writing history papers.  Knowing that these top-notch profs want and value your daughter’s help definitely does a mom’s heart good.

*  Furthermore, the history profs, realizing that their four graduates – yes that’s FOUR history majors (allegedly the most difficult major at PHC) out of 57 graduates – had done highly commendable work, wanted to give them some tangible reward for their exemplary efforts.  They pulled the students and their families together and gave Katie, Leslie, and their two classmates each a genuine 1946 Congressional Medal Of Honor, which had been awarded to combat veterans of WWII.  WHAT an awesome and appropriate gift for those history majors!!!  Katie wore her medal on her gown the next morning when she graduated.  I smiled through tears.

*  For me personally, Friday night was the high point, but Saturday morning was great, too.  The service  was long and numerous people spoke.  Katie graduated summa cum laude with high honors and a 3.94 GPA.  I was terribly proud and happy!

*  In addition to Scott, Josiah, and Andrew, these friends and family were present for the Big Event:

~ From North Carolina, Grandma Roberts, Aunt Becky, and Aunt Kristy

~ From Arkansas, Grandma and Grandpa Varner

~ From Delaware, Dave, Sue, Ryan, Courtney, Emily, and Rachel Brown

*  It was challenging to try to figure out how to best accommodate and please so many people (who had all come from so far) in such a short span of time.  We have learned, in this graduation season, that these kinds of events bring together groups of people who are all close to the person being celebrated, but not necessarily close to each other and sometimes that can be awkward.  We opted for a picnic lunch at a nearby park.  Turns out we snagged a pavilion that another couple of PHC grads had reserved for their party, so we cut that short.

*  Katie’s apartment is small, but quite functional for the three young ladies.  They will make it their own in no time, and I’m sure it will be a blessed home base for them in this season of their lives.  I won’t mention here how high the rent is, other than to say that we’ve never paid that much a month for anything!  I guess when you live in the most expensive county in the continental U.S., you simply have to trust God, work hard, and deal with a cost of living that is so far over the top that it makes my head swim.

*  The Browns left after the picnic, my folks left later in the afternoon, and the North Carolina, Missouri, and Virginia contingents retired to their hotel.

*  The Aunts took Andrew to Starbucks.  Why did they feel compelled to start him on this habit?!?  He now claims to like coffee, but I’m pretty sure he really only likes all the stuff you can put in it.

More to come, including that mysterious man on the bed. . .

We’re back!

We’ve really been back for several days, but they have been several fairly hairy days, so I’m just now re-committing to ye ole’ blog.

We had, as SCC would say, a great adventure to Virginia and back to celebrate Katie’s graduation (3.94, summa cum laude, with high honors and FIVE cords – yes, that was a completely shameless brag) from Patrick Henry College with a B.A. in history.  My pride, pride in a the good sense, that is, known no bounds.

I always regret not being able to write about things right when they happen, because life moves on so quickly that there’s always other stuff yearning to be written about, and then I just don’t have the time or memory to give the prior event the blogginess it truly deserves.  At that point, I am forced to the bullet point list, which is not nearly as colorful as the actual experience, but it’s the best I can do, so here goes.

*  We drove Katie’s new blue car and Scott’s exquisitely road-ready white Honda.  Exquisitely, because he just had a LOT of routine scheduled maintenance done on it, AND gave it four new tires.

*  We sent the boys up to get gas in the white car the morning we left, while Scott and I tied up a few loose ends at the house.  We were supposed to meet them at the gas station, but it seems that the key to the blue car had been misplaced.  There’s nothing quite like standing in your driveway, looking at the car you’re about to drive away in, and realizing that without the key, you are going nowhere fast.  Scott found the key somewhere.

*  I did a lot of the driving.  I did most of the driving.  I like to drive.  I very much enjoy driving.

*  Josiah drove in the mornings, but we discovered on this trip that llamas are required to take an afternoon siesta.  They can be forcefully kept awake, but in that condition they are useless for the any tasks involving driving, planning, remembering, searching, or thinking.  Clearly, computer games require none of the above.

*  The grasshoppers in Illinois have died.  It’s very sad.

*  Eaton, Ohio, and especially the countryside surrounding it, is simply lovely.

*  There really is a Fazoli’s restaurant in Dayton, Ohio.  It is not easy to find.  I followed Scott 45 miles off the freeway in search thereof.  When we found it, some family members could not see it, but they all ate there and enjoyed the meal.

*  If you stay at TownPlace Suites, whether in Columbus, Ohio or in Sterling, Virginia, be advised that they do not have any rollaway beds.

*  If you have two boys who cannot or will not share the pull-out bed, the smaller boy can make a reasonable go of things by sleeping on couch cushions on the floor.  He will not, however, have a blanket.  You will need to go to the front desk to get one of those.

*  Since TownPlace Suites provides you with a very small kitchen, they also provide you with a very small “Grab ‘N Go” breakfast – cold cereal, granola bars, hard-boiled eggs, bananas.  There is a small bench to seat three, but other than that, you must “grab” your breakfast and “go” back to your room to eat it.

*  The baccalaureate service at PHC was very special to me.  We got to sit right up front, directly behind the (two tallest male members of the) faculty, in all their doctoral regalia.  Katie sat with us, and she was beautiful.  The chorale sang a splendid a capella arrangement of several well-known songs, which I especially enjoyed.  Dr. Farris gave a really good talk on humility, and I cried when the various profs prayed for Katie.

This list will be continued when I get around to it.

One of those skills our kids should master before leaving home

Today I taught Josiah how to do something he hasn’t done before.

Well, he may have done it a time or two, but it’s surely not a task he’s practiced with any kind of regularity.

No, it’s not ironing, although that is on my mental list of “skills to pass on to Josiah this summer.”

No, it’s not cooking, although I probably should add that to the list.  Cooking’s priority rank  is lower because, while his R.A. at PHC will give demerits for not having his pants creased, he won’t starve if he can’t cook.  And that food is going to cost us all (sigh).  Katie never eats breakfast and so went with the 14 meal-per-week board plan, but Llamas definitely prefer to input calories at least three times a day – more if you include the mandatory evening ice cream serving.

Josiah has opted to grow his hair a bit longer, and since he’s doing a presentation with his dad this evening – and he needs to look sharp – I had to teach him how to comb his hair.

He bought a comb today for that very purpose.  He’s never owned a comb before.  You see, as a young child, the Llama was a bit of a challenge, and I decided to cut my losses (pun intended).  I buzzed his hair short, and it never needed to be combed.  Believe me, we all had enough else to deal with, without that!

So his hair has always been short, until last week.  When it started to get long.  And last night I trimmed it, just because if you have very coarse, thick, wavy hair, when it gets long it starts to curl around your ears, and that’s okay if you are a girl, but not so okay if you are a young man!  So I trimmed it around the edges and left the rest of it long.  This was no simple task, because, as I’ve told Scott for years, I really have no idea how to cut men’s hair.  Buzz it all one length, yes; actually cut it properly, no.  I think it turned out okay, and I told Josiah that I wouldn’t be offended if he wanted to go to Wal-Mart and have someone there fix it.

Tonight, there were various curls sticking out in various places, and it needed a part of some kind, so I told him to soak his head and towel dry it.  I combed it and then sprayed it like crazy.  It held for a while, but after the presentation tonight, it was coming loose again.  I think if he’s going to wear it long (er) like that, he’s going to have to go with some mega-hold gel or putty or something.

Like other aspects of my life, it’s just a new season!

Fracture, no. Freedom, yes.

We’re pleased to know that Our Llama simply has a badly sprained left right ankle, as opposed to the fractured left right ankle he was concerned about.  He hied his own manly self to the Urgent Care today, dealing with insurance, forms, payment, etc.

I think it’s really nice to have younger mammals about who can handle all that stuff without needing a legal guardian present.  It’s the same feeling I had when Katie finally turned 12 and could take the younger kids to ride the balloons at SDC.  It was so wonderful that they could have fun without my having to be nauseous.  It’s also similar to the feeling I had when I first drove away from the house during the day, leaving all four kids at home.  I’m pretty sure  you call that sensation, “freedom!”

I can touch type

Really, I can.  I just proved it to Josiah.  He wanted to know if I have to think in order to type.  I thought that was a silly question.  Of COURSE I have to think in order to type!!!  What he really wanted to know was if I had to think about where the keys are.  I said, yes, but he further wondered if I had to look at the keys in order to type.  I was pretty sure I did (I always do), but just out of curiosity, he asked me to type, “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.”  Which I did.

“The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog/.”

Only one error; not too bad.

Then he asked me to do it with my eyes closed.  Sweet Georgia peaches!!!

“Rghe qwyucj vrioewb foir junoed iver the kast fij,”

We both had a good laugh over that.  Then I tried it a few more times, just for fun.

“Ehe wucko brown dghol jumped ovet the laus dfogh,”

“The qyuick brown gfox jumped over the lasty dog.”

“The auick brown coah jumnped ove thds lasy fgo,.”

At least I improve with practice!  Up to a point.

Josiah asked if I have to look at the keys ALL the time, and I told him that there are a few words that I can type without looking because I use them so frequently.  He said I have those words in muscle memory.  He then typed that same sentence (perfectly) with his eyes closed, and announced that, due to touch typing, for him ALL words are in muscle memory.  We therefore concluded that I either have no muscle or no memory.   = )

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