Archive for the 'Family' Category

Two beavers. Alone together. For four days. = )

On Friday, Katie worked from home and explained to me the whole situation with her work, which was at that time super stressful and emotionally draining. I felt sad about all she was going through. While she was in a Zoom meeting for work, I went to Walmart for a while and saw in the grass along the parking lot two Canada geese tending their two fuzzy little goslings! But my emotions were pretty shot, and when I got back to her house, I sat on the gravel road in the horse pasture and talked to God and cried.

During our time together Katie and I talked a lot. So much so that on Friday evening, until one of the members contacted her and said, “Hey, where are you?” we both forgot about her small group’s game night that night. Alarmed that she’d be late, I told her to please go, but she explained that it was–thanks to Covid–a Zoom game night. Ah, no driving required; just step across the room to her computer. Her friends were most gracious to include me even though I think I made the teams uneven, and we played a couple games of online Codenames, which I’m pretty sure our team lost. They are a really nice and quite interesting group of folks.

Saturday we went to Montpelier, which, under the direction of one Anna Roberts had recently reopened its grounds to visitors. Thinking through, planning, organizing, and executing all the many logistical details of that project was a big challenge involving many people, and she had evidently handled it all with her usual skill and aplomb. Everything was running smoothly and guests were enjoying picnics and walks throughout the truly lovely grounds.

The first thing we saw was amazing to me: an old abandoned building that was very long and narrow. It had been built in the DuPont era, and it was a single-lane bowling alley! VERY interesting. I guess that’s what you build when you have so much money you don’t know what to so with it!

We toured the gardens (so impressive), and I took a few pictures of the flowers. One of my goals on this trip was to actually take some pictures with the fancy-schmancy camera I bought some five years ago and have never used. Well, it has been used, just not by me. Andrew took a lot of pictures with it at Yellowstone in the summer of 2018, and last week Scott used it to take pictures at our vacation rental homes, but I’m embarrassed to say that it’s basically been sitting on a shelf in our office because I have always felt intimidated by it.

But, determined to conquer my fear of the unknown, before leaving home I had asked Andrew to give me an introductory lesson on my Canon PowerShot SX50 HS. Armed with knowledge of a few basic things like how to turn it on, how to twist the viewfinder, how to activate or de-activate the flash, and how to review pictures, I took it with me to Montpelier and took a few pictures there. Unfortunately, now I can’t figure out how to put those pictures in this post! I took the SD card out of the camera, but unlike my old computer, my new computer has no slot for an SD card. = {  Maybe Scott will be able to show me how to do it.

While we were in the garden area, I began to feel light-headed, and despite sitting down to rest, the feeling got worse and worse. I’m still not sure what happened, but Katie helped me walk slowly to the visitor center, snuck me in a side door (all buildings were closed to guests), found me a place to sit, and then went and found Julie, the gift shop manager who happened to be working in another capacity that day and is one of the nicest ladies imaginable. She used to work in (maybe as a receptionist?) a hospital E.R., is hypoglycemic, and has some medical knowledge. She suspected my problem was either low blood sugar and/or low blood pressure, so she brought me some Gatorade and pretzels and stayed with us till I felt better. Super nice lady. Once I was okay again, we wandered the rest of the grounds around the main house; very fun.

At Walmart that afternoon, we loaded up on groceries and searched for but did not find the gift Katie wanted to give Ezekiel for his first birthday: a hat for sun protection on bike rides with his mom. That failure began a wild goose hat chase that spanned several days, cities, and counties, but more about that later

We video chatted with Jessica and Ezekiel. WHAT a cute kid! He loves books, and that gave us more gift ideas…

We played a great game of Hail to the Chief, this time using the most difficult questions. Katie won (of course) but not by very much. We were pretty evenly matched, and we do both like that game. We also played a lot of Qwixx (Katie is a vicious strategist on that one), and one gorgeous afternoon we set up on the patio down next to the pond on the far side of the villa and played two wonderful games of Trekking the National Parks. (Note that we prefer requiring a player to claim 7, not 5, park cards to end the game.) The setting was peaceful and beautiful, the weather was absolutely perfect, and the game was interesting and satisfying.

Over our several days together, we rested a lot (ah!), ate whatever we wanted whenever we wanted, whether or not it made a conventional meal (ah!), worked on a puzzle, baked some delicious swirled brownies, walked a bit, had a great take-out brunch from IHOP, and I cleaned her stove. That ended up being a rather significant project that probably hadn’t been done in a while. = ) I very much enjoyed finishing it, and Katie was really thankful.

Two things that Katie and I both really, really like are exploring and conquering. We love making a plan and carrying it out, and we were both very highly motivated to find a hat for her to give Ezekiel. Also, after seeing on our video chat how very much that boy likes books (and as we thought about their home having so little space for toy-ish things) we decided that a few books to go with the hat would also be fun. Well, I think it’s fair to say that we left no central Virginia stone unturned in our quest for Ezekiel’s hat! It’s been a while, and I can’t remember all the details, but we when Walmart failed us, we searched all over the place online, although we both thought it would be important to see and feel the hat in person to confirm size and style. For the record, toddler girls’ hats were plentiful, but toddler boys’ hats very few and far between. We’d find a potential one online, but inevitably it was not in stock at a local store. We finally found one that said it was available in Waynesville, some 45 minutes away. Did we really want to drive an hour-and-a-half round trip to get Ezekiel’s hat? Heck yeah! It would be an adventure! And off we went, stopping to check at other stores on the way. I know we looked at Target, Kohl’s, and at least one other place in person. We had a grand and scenic drive, and we finally found not one but TWO hats, a monkey hat sized for now and a different slightly bigger one that he can grow into.

Not only that, but as we left the store with our precious headgear finally in hand, across the parking lot what did Katie happen to see but a Books-A-Million store that was actually open for browsing!!! (Many stores in that part of Virginia were curbside pick-up only.) A bookstore! Now, that was an irresistible temptation to which we succumbed with joy. We spent quite a while delightfully perusing the many, many, many board book offerings, and with much beavish analysis selected several great ones to accompany Katie’s hat(s). As a bonus, we found a framed Winnie the Pooh print for Katie’s wall at home that made us both so very happy. And I wish you readers had been able to witness the hilarity of the two perfectionists trying to get it hung level on her wall!

Then commenced the wrapping, the packing, and the planning of the shipping of our precious gifts for Ezekiel. And without a postal scale to get an exact weight (necessary to figure out if it would be cheaper to ship it in a flat rate box–board books being rather weighty–or in a regular box by weight; and did we even have a regular box? or could it all fit in a padded mailer? etc.) we used packs of frozen food to estimate the parcel’s weight and ended up nailing it to the ounce!!! With great pleasure we divvied up the cost of the contents and shipping (we really like figuring those kinds of details), and Katie took it to the post office on her way to work on the day I left.

She mailed it on May 26, and due to some various complications, Jessica had it in hand yesterday, June 23. Tonight we were able to watch Ezekiel open his gifts, which was great fun. He’d tear off the paper (with help), Jessica would hand him the book, and he’d sign “please,” wanting her to read it to him. Melt my heart!!! I had waited to write this post because shopping for Ezekiel had been such a fun part of my time with Katie, but I didn’t want Jessica to read about it before opening the package. She just sent us this message: “Just read him his new books. He wanted to read them all multiple times.”  = )

The night before I left her house, Katie did me another great service by plotting out the locations and FM settings of all the K-LOVE radio stations on my way home, so that I could listen to some contemporary Christian music while I drove. That all worked out great and I was so glad.

And I was even more excited about our Monday night conversation about the Enneagram. I’ve been curious about this way of understanding our needs, fears, personalities, and motivations, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that Katie knows about the Enneagram. When I asked where she’d recommend I start to learn more about it,  she suggested as an introduction a book that happened to have been written by the same Christian folks whose podcast I had just started listening to. So, small world and I’m eager to learn more.

All in all, my time with Katie was precious. As I told a friend who asked how my trip was, it was totally wonderful and the best thing I’ve done in a while. I surprised Katie on her birthday, and that moment when she opened her door and saw me was a moment I will never forget. I am grateful to Jessica for the crazy idea, to God for his grace and provision, and to Scott for all he did to enable me to go. I’m so excited that I was able to do the thing that was in my heart. I know what I did was important and it really mattered… to Katie and to me.

Cross-Country Road Trip #1 (continued)

As previously mentioned, on Thursday night May 21, I had arrived at Katie’s house uninvited, to surprise her on her birthday. All the planning, packing, and driving had paid off. She had been clueless and was thrilled to see me. = ) Scott had already gently researched her situation, so I knew she would be working on Friday (whether on site or from home, I didn’t know) and then have Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday off for the long Memorial Day weekend. However, since Katie is a consummate planner, I figured she might also have other adventures lined up; things she was planning to do without her mom tagging along.

I had assumed I’d be occupying myself on Friday, and while I had brought enough of everything I’d need if I stayed as long as through Monday night, I figured Katie might prefer me to leave sooner. So in our very first conversation Thursday night I told her that although I wouldn’t be able (physically) to turn right around and drive 16 hours back home on Friday, I had already done what I’d come to do and I didn’t want her to feel obligated to host me—on no notice!—any longer than she wanted to. I said I could leave on Saturday, Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday, whatever she’d prefer. She said she understood, and then she said something that still makes me tear up even now. “Mom, you can go whenever you want to, but my preference is definitely for you to leave on Tuesday.”

And so, beavers that we are, we made a list of things we might like to do and then very roughly sketched out when we might want to do them. The short version is that I had a grand time with Katie, resting, relaxing, meeting some of her friends, touring, tackling a puzzle, visiting, talking, playing games, shopping, baking, eating whatever we wanted whenever we wanted, and generally enjoying life together.

Yet to come in another post is the longer version, the list I made of specifics I want to remember, but here are a few notes about things that happened on my way to Hawkwood, including things* that made me cry happy tears.

  • passing the Gateway Arch in St. Louis (affectionately referred to as “The March” in our family)*
  • crossing the Ohio River at Louisville*
  • all those pipes and chimneys going into West Virginia, and the flames
  • Even in the misty rain, West Virginia was deeply, almost painfully beautiful. Following so many gorgeous gorges, crossing innumerable rushing mountain streams, lots of shades of green, amazing vistas, small towns along the river and road, all long and narrow, quaint churches, some little mansions. It just kept being amazing and beautiful hour after hour after hour.
  • the first sign for Staunton*
  • entering Virginia at last!*
  • I had terribly difficult driving in heavy rain the last couple hours, = { couldn’t see the white line, following trucks, SO desperate to get there before dark.
  • the wreck at the I-81/I-64 “Y.” Andrew researched it for me and talked with me for much of the 40 minutes I sat there, needing to pee.
  • Louisa County!* SO eager to surprise her.
  • exiting at Hwy. 15 and right then, SCC’s “Be Still” coming on my shuffle play Spotify (of my 100+ songs in that playlist). “Be Still” is the song I always listen to right before a counseling session because it calms me and helps me focus. Only God could arrange that song at that precise moment. He is SO good and kind and gracious to me.
  • waiting in the dark for her friend to leave, and then that glorious moment when she opened the door. I still cry remembering it!

To be continued…

Cross-Country Road Trip #1 was AWESOME! (a.k.a. Celebrating with Katie)

When various shutdowns related to COVID-19 forced Katie and me to cancel (but hopefully re-schedule) our glorious nine-day birthday celebration trip to Maine, and when I mentioned to Jessica that that very sad turn of affairs had left me feeling helpless to do anything really special for Katie’s birthday, she said cheerfully, “Road trip?!?” Hmm… I gave that a lot of thought for a couple days and then spent the better part of three weeks planning how to make it happen.

It’s a long story that really deserves a full play-by-play blog post, but despite my very best intentions, I just haven’t carved out time to do that. I’ve learned that if I don’t blog about an event within the first week or two of its occurrence, I generally never do, and since I’m now in the middle of Cross-Country Road Trip #2 (of three such journeys in four weeks!!!), I want to at least record the high points of #1. There were a lot of high points!  = )

NOTE: Although I am publishing it nearly a month after the fact, most of this post was written in the middle of Cross-Country Road Trip #2, just 12 days after Cross-Country Road Trip #1. At that time, Cross-Country Road Trip #3 was indeed in the works, but due to a set of very sad unforeseen circumstances which may eventually make good blog fodder, that third trip did not happen.

I drove 16 ¾ hours from Walnut Shade to Hawkwood, and I was so excited about surprising Katie that—if you don’t count the 40 minutes I sat on the freeway waiting for a wreck up ahead to be cleared and that final scary hour-and-a-half of white-knuckle driving in nearly torrential rain and deepening darkness—I loved every minute of it!

At 9:15 PM, I parked around the “corner” from her rural one-room cottage, and with pounding heart and shaking hands, called her.

Katie: Hi, Mom.

Me: Hi, Katie. How’s your birthday been?

Katie: It’s good!

Me: You were having some friends over tonight, right?

Katie: Yes. One of them’s still here.

Me: Great. Hey, just give me a call after your friend leaves.

Katie: OK, I will.

So, I pulled the cheesecake out of the cooler and sat in the dark in the Durango and waited for the friend to leave, wondering if I’d wait ten minutes or two hours.

About 9:45, I watched the headlights of the friend’s car leaving, and a few minutes later, Katie called back. She was pretty chatty, telling me about her party, which, to maintain social distancing, had been held out on the porch of the villa next door, and while we talked, I turned and drove up Katie’s driveway. After Y-ing to the left, it’s just a grassy path with tire tracks; here’s how it looked on a cloudy day, as opposed to the rainy night I arrived.

I parked next to her car, stepped out into the misty rain, shut the door as gently and quietly as I could, and walked in the dark up to and around the corner of her house. You park behind the house and walk around the left side of it to her front (only) door.

I stood there in the rain–cheesecake in one hand, phone in the other–and made small talk for a couple minutes, but Katie and I can have some pretty long phone conversations, and when I realized that I might be standing there till I was thoroughly soaked, I decided it was time to take action. I held the phone away from my face, and trying hard not to cry in my state of almost unbearably intensely nervous excitement, called out my classic “loud-enough-to-be-heard-in-the-attic-when-supper’s-ready” call, “Kaaaaaay-teeee!” I paused. No response. I called again, and then Katie opened her front door. She looked at me in disbelief, and I think for a moment she was speechless. Then she said, “MOM!” and after a long pause during which I think we both started crying, “You’re here! Well… come in!”

And thus began a very wonderful five nights and four days together.

To be continued…

My Marvelous Mother’s Day

I got to see all four of my kids (plus a bonus “cutest kid in the world” grandson) all at the same time on Saturday when the big kids were on a group call on Andrew’s phone. Ah, how refreshing! Andrew, of course, was at home, sitting at the desk in Jessica’s room, working on his final “Jack the Ripper” paper for his Serial Killers class. Josiah was in transit between his home-away-from-home in Taipei and the Dragon Cave Cliffs park where he planned to swim. Jessica was in their apartment in Hong Kong along with Ezekiel, who was doing his adorable classic army crawl toward the phone. He wanted to get a closer look at his Aunt Katie, who was sheltering in place at her home in Virginia. It’s always deeply delightful to me to see all our kids “together.”

I had told Scott a couple days earlier that I wanted him to teach me how to use the chainsaw. The trees in our yard are in desperate need of trimming – many of them significant trimming and/or removal – and since Scott has been buried with challenges involving our vacation rental business and has less than no time, I figured that with a bit of skill and the right tool, I could deal with some of the lower branches. And no, I would not use a ladder or hold the chainsaw above my shoulders; just stand on the ground and remove some unsightly branch-age.

But Scott said no.

I think he thought I couldn’t do it, but whatever.

So Sunday morning, I told him that if he really wanted to do something extra-nice for me on Mother’s Day, he could spend an hour trimming trees, and I could pick them up and use the wheelbarrow to haul them to the burn pile. And he did! He spent almost an hour and-a-half trimming our first four trees along Coffee Road, I helped him pick them up, and he hauled them all to the burn pile; four wheelbarrow loads, I think.

My goal was to trim the plum trees. They were FULL of all kinds of brushy little branches that just made the trees look messy and unkempt. Well, they are unkempt, but that doesn’t mean they have to look messy. Eventually I wanted to go all the way down the yard along Coffee Road and “raise” the branches so that when the guys mow, they don’t have to twist and bend and duck. That would also let more sunlight get to the ground around the trees so more grass (well, weeds, but at least they’re green) would grow in the bare patches. But I figured that, because most jobs tend to expand and exceed the allotted time and resources, if we just got the plum trees done, that would be enough for one day.

Well, I forgot to take any before pictures, and that is a sad habit that I am going to work to break. Here’s what part of the job looked like in progress. Standing on the ladder he couldn’t get the right angle for sawing, and so climbed up into the tree.

And when that limb came down, so did the ladder, but he was so proud to have conquered it that he didn’t mind having to make a graceful unassisted descent (read: ease partway down, jump backwards).

And look how clean and clear the view is now!

I’m so pleased!

In addition to all Scott’s work, Andrew mowed and weed-eated the yard the same day.

And there’s more! Scott gave me a special card completely full of very encouraging and affirming words about the kind of mom I was and the kind of mom I am. It was really meaningful, and I treasure the thoughts behind his words. And then, to end that special day in a special way, Scott picked up Qdoba for us on his way home from tennis. Oh, it did so hit the spot. I had a bowl with chicken, queso, white rice, black beans, onion, cilantro, and extra pico de gallo. With a side order of chips and more pico. Ahhh! Even without the shredded Monterey Jack cheese I forgot to request, the bowl was still scrumptious and delicious. I calculated that it had been 55 days since I had eaten anything we had not prepared in our own kitchen!

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed My Marvelous Mother’s Day 2020.  = )

Far-flung but flourishing

Some folks have asked about our kids, specifically how and where they are during the current coronavirus pandemic. Other folks follow them on social media and probably know a lot more about our children than I do.

Katie is working from her home near Charlottesville, VA. As of yesterday, the county she lives in was NOT under a “shelter in place” order. She’s having lots of Zoom (video conference) meetings, both for work and for church, and because the internet at her house is not super-fantastic, she sometimes goes to another location for some of those meetings. She is well-supplied with food and essentials and is more than ready for baseball season.

Jessica, Matthias, and Ezekiel are living – and ministering as the situation permits – near the YWAM base in Yuen Long in “suburban” Hong Kong, a city which is some four to six weeks ahead of the U.S. as far as coronavirus is concerned. Hong Kong-ites being more compliant than Americans, they’ve had no mandatory “stay at home” orders, and the situation had been steadily improving. But as things got better, people began to get out more, and now Hong Kong has had a second spike in cases. Our kids there are fine; healthy and able to get most things they want and need, staying home from church for the time being, and ready – Jessica, in particular – to be able to get together with friends face to face, hopefully soon.

Josiah lives in the Bay area and works in downtown San Francisco, and as he saw things rapidly going south and realized how very bad it could be, he decided to leave town for a while. A friend of his who also wanted to maximize his chances of contracting COVID-19 has relatives in Taiwan, so the two of them decided to rent a place in Taipei for a couple months. I think they left about two days before the whole city was locked down. Someone else Scott knows sent us this video (four and-a-half minutes long) that explains how Taiwan has dealt with this virus. So for the next month or two, Josiah’s working remotely from Taiwan (during the night, to accommodate his colleagues in CA) where he has three or four more days of quarantine. He says it rains all the time there and he’s getting tired of take out (delivered) meals.

Andrew enjoyed about five days of spring break on the beach in Florida and returned home (symptom-free) to find that, as an R.A., he wouldn’t be allowed back into his dorm until he had completed a 14-day quarantine. Wanting to protect Scott and me from possible exposure, he has opted to “do his time” in a house with a friend who lives in Springfield. He’s currently on day eight, and yesterday the mayor of Springfield issued a mandatory “shelter in place” order. Andrew’s classes will resume online on Monday, and at some point he may or may not return to campus as an R.A. for the students who remain on campus because they have nowhere else to go. He may come home. He is ready for some answers about his work on campus and/or his work at White Water this summer.

I think it’s accurate to say that just about everybody is ready for some answers, but we and our progeny are all healthy, safe, provisioned, and thus far only mildly inconvenienced. God is most gracious, and we are grateful.

Scavenger hunt results

When we last left Team Roberts, our four Walnut Shade-based team members were heading out for a Christmas Day scavenger hunt. Having collected ourselves and with a copy of the The List on each of our phones, we departed home at 10:51 AM. Here, in the order obtained, are the pictures that document our finds.

20. A living mammal


27. A outhouse (yes, there really is one back there)


23. A church bell


24. Lichen on rock (it’s orange)


2. Something triangular


10. A mile marker sign that ends with .8


3. Something orange and yellow


1. Something that has at least three stars


15. A hot Starbucks drink


4. Something with military significance


7. The words “Thank You”


19. The number 29


17. A “For Sale” sign with red letters


11. A Christmas tree painted on a window


18. A gumball from a sweet gum tree


21. A steering wheel with a colorful cover


22. A non-Branson school bus


26. A geocache


29. A person in a boat on the water


13. A coil spring (in the underbelly of a four-wheeler)


9. An Iowa license plate (finally and with much effort, after two got away)


12. Baby Jesus in a manger (surprisingly hard to find at Christmas time!)


5. Something that has six to eight legs


28. A fire tower (top-down: Andrew, Scott, Katie)


14. A woodpecker tree hole


6. Something squishy (it’s a slug!)


30. A picture of all of us (Scott, Patty, Katie, Andrew) with none of our feet on the ground


25. A “Slippery When Wet” sign


16. Hot French fries


I don’t think we ever found a reptile or amphibian, but we got all 29 other items! We started at 10:51 and finished at 2:02. Very hungry and eagerly anticipating our “breakfast” feast, we arrived at IHOP at 2:05 PM, only to be told that they had closed at 2:00. MAJOR BUMMER!!! But we went to McFarlain’s in the IMAX complex and had a good meal including “hot French fries.”

We covered a lot of miles, had loads of fun together, are especially proud of #30, and expect to long remember our Christmas Day Scavenger Hunt of 2019!



A new tradition?

This year, well, actually 2019, we celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve, in order to better accommodate our whole far-flung family, specifically Ezekiel, who was likely to be in a more festive mood at 8:00 AM than at 10:00 PM. For the past, oh, six or seven years – minus maybe one year when Jessica was stateside? – we have celebrated Christmas by opening gifts together over Skype at about 8:00 AM December 25th in Walnut Shade, which is 10:00 PM December 25th in Hong Kong. This has worked out pretty well because Jessica and Matthias had other activities during the day on Christmas, and being young and childless, they were willing to stay up till the wee hours. But now, with six-month-old Ezekiel participating, they asked for a schedule change to which we gladly agreed.

This was also our first-ever Christmas without Josiah on site. And yes, I did cry, but I am okay now. Jo lives in California and, having spent nearly nine (wonderful!) days here with us at Thanksgiving, he opted to visit friends in Santa Cruz for Christmas. For our traditional opening-of-the-gifts, the eight of us ended up meeting for about three hours, beginning at 6:30 PM December 24th MO time (Scott, Patty, Katie, and Andrew eating breakfast casserole and fresh pineapple for supper), 4:30 PM December 24th CA time (Josiah sitting with a pile of packages in his friends’ unfinished basement!), and 8:30 AM December 25th HK time (Jessica and Matthias doing most of the gift opening, with Ezekiel helping, guiding every present to his mouth, and occasionally napping, nursing, and pooping as needed during the festivities).

A few days before Christmas, the Walnut Shade contingent discussed the fact that, for the first time ever, we would have basically nothing to do on Christmas morning. It seemed like after opening the gifts on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day itself would be a big let-down and kind of depressing. Bummer. Of course, those who were so inclined could sleep in, but then what? So we talked about doing something new and different as a marker of this “new and different” Christmas season in our lives, but frankly ideas were few. There’s just not a ton of fun outdoorsy stuff to do here in December, and most of the indoor “activity” places would be – as well they should be on Christmas – closed. We considered going to see the newly released Star Wars movie, but although we were both willing, that was not a huge draw for Scott and me. We talked about going on a hike, but that would have been a major negative for Andrew.

Then two days before Christmas, I had an idea. Maybe we could do a photo scavenger hunt by car. We could make a list of interesting things to find, pile into the Durango with our list and cell phones, and see how long it would take to drive around and photograph each item. Before mentioning this crazy thought to the rest of the gang, I started making a list, coming up with 25 random goals.

It turns out that Scott, Andrew, and Katie were all game for it, and in order to enjoy the luxury of sleeping in on Christmas Day we agreed on a 10:30 start time. Scott even said that if we finished by 2:00 PM, he would buy us all lunch at IHOP, a special treat for the breakfast food lovers among us! We all reviewed my proposed list, Scott suggested some additions, we dropped a couple that seemed confusing or too challenging, and on Christmas Eve afternoon, we refined our list to the following 30 items.

Something that…

  1. Has at least three stars
  2. Is triangular
  3. Is yellow and orange
  4. Has military significance
  5. Has six to eight legs
  6. Is squishy
  7. Has the words “Thank You”


  1. A reptile or amphibian
  2. An Iowa license plate
  3. A mile marker sign that ends with .8
  4. A Christmas tree painted on glass
  5. Baby Jesus in a manger
  6. A coil spring
  7. A woodpecker tree hole
  8. A hot Starbucks drink
  9. Hot French fries
  10. A For Sale sign with red letters
  11. A gumball from a sweet gum tree
  12. The number “29”
  13. A living mammal
  14. A steering wheel with a colorful cover
  15. A non-Branson school bus
  16. A church bell
  17. Lichen on a rock
  18. A slippery when wet road sign
  19. A geocache
  20. An outhouse
  21. A fire tower
  22. Someone in a boat on the water
  23. A picture of Dad, Mom, Katie, and Andrew with none of our feet on the ground

I’ll share the results in my next post.  = )

A rolling stone gathers no moss.

I sent the following to a friend a couple days after Scott got home from a five-week mission trip.

“Scott got back from India – after short stops in Hong Kong (to see Jessica, Matthias, and Eli) and California (to see Josiah) – at about midnight Saturday, August 24. In the 68 hours since then, he has:
 ~ attended a church service
 ~ attended an informal dinner for missionary friends who were in town from Niger, West Africa
 ~ played basketball for an hour at 6:00 AM at the RecPlex
 ~ mowed and weed-eated our rather large yard
 ~ hosted those same missionary friends for dinner here
 ~ got a haircut in Forsyth
 ~ helped Andrew buy a car in Willard
 ~ helped Andrew get said car licensed in Springfield
 ~ sold the “needs a new engine” car Andrew had been driving before we learned why it had been overheating
 ~ worked extensively on refinancing one of our vacation rental homes
 ~ and played tennis for two hours”
In reviewing that list, the thing that strikes me is that while Scott doesn’t usually buy one car and sell another one all in the same day, the rest of it is just normal life. Still a bit crazy to me (though we’re only pushing 32 years), but overall… fairly normal.  = )



Jeopardy question: What is TC5 X5J?

Answer: The license number of Andrew’s “new” 2005 Honda Accord, titled in his name!

This morning, one of Andrew’s profs allowed him to leave class early, so that Scott and I, in the Durango, could pick him up at MSU and drive to the house of Kim (the seller of said vehicle, from whom our family members have now bought a total of seven used cars) before she had to leave for work. We arrived there at noon, and by 1:00 PM, he had signed the paperwork, bought the car (with a loan from the First Familial Bank of Walnut Shade), driven to the license bureau, paid the sales tax and licensing fee, and was headed with license plates in hand to Chick-fil-A to treat us to lunch!

For one thing, if you ever want to buy a great used car in the Springfield area, go to Hughes Auto Sales. Kim buys and sells them, and Carlos fixes them up like new. They make a great team. (I had to nearly drag him to get him into this picture. He’s a superb mechanic and an all-around super nice guy.)

Andrew, Kim, & Carlos

And now I simply must tell you about the license bureau deal.

It’s located on the Park Central square in downtown Springfield, just a few doors from where Josiah used to live and work, and near where Andrew gets his suave hair cuts. Scott and Andrew were in Andrew’s car and I was following in the Durango. Andrew dropped Scott in front of the building and turned off the square (which is more like a circle) to find a place to park. As you probably know, parking in downtown Springfield – like parking in most downtowns – is hard to come by, but Andrew found a little lot just a block away that said “Free Customer Parking – 2 Hour Limit.” The lot was nearly full but just happened to have exactly two empty spaces, which we snagged.

We walked back to the building and found the appropriate office on the second floor. Andrew went in there while I, who on principle almost never pass up a bathroom, took care of other business before returning to the office. It was a standard, boring license bureau office: long line, no decor, one clerk, rows of folding chairs, etc. Scott and Andrew were up at the counter, no one was sitting in the chairs, and the long line (of nearly a dozen people snaking out into the hall) started back on the other side of the chairs. Feeling a bit self-conscious with all those people waiting, I walked past them and joined my handsome men at the counter, acting like I belonged there.

The clerk was nice enough, but she, Scott , and Andrew were just kind of standing around, and it seemed like something must be wrong. It turns out that Andrew was missing one of those four vital pieces of paper we all know you MUST produce in order to license a car in Missouri: title (well, he’d just signed that a few minutes before at Kim’s house, check), proof of insurance (the agent had emailed that to him and it was on his phone, check), proof of inspection (Kim had graciously had the car inspected and given Andrew that paper, check), and a paid personal property tax receipt for a year that I to this day can never figure out without looking it up. I had thought briefly about the personal property tax receipt, but since Andrew had never paid any personal property tax, he obviously wouldn’t need to produce such a receipt.

Well, I was wrong about that. Duh. You can’t just tell them you’ve never paid any personal property tax and don’t owe any; you have to prove it. Scott, brilliant man he is who thinks on his feet, thought, “Hmm, personal property tax, that’s a matter for our County Assessor,” so standing there at the counter he called Chuck Pennel! When we all get to heaven, Chuck will have extra jewels in his crown for all the times he has helped, advised, encouraged, and rescued the Roberts family. So Chuck told Scott what he’d need to do about that situation, and the clerk just calmly stood there with Scott on the phone and Andrew occasionally looking sheepishly over my head (he always looks over my head) at the long line back by the door.

The clerk said Andrew would need some certain form, and I think she – or was it Chuck? – gave Scott a number to call to have them send her the form that would prove that Andrew doesn’t owe any personal property tax. So Scott made another call, and while he was waiting for them to answer, he asked the clerk how much Andrew owed, and she told him. Young people today – and maybe all people today – only have debit cards or credit cards, and although the license bureau would take Andrew’s debit card, they would charge him a service fee, so, old school mom that I am, I whipped out my checkbook and wrote a check for the amount (which Andrew later repaid), and she handed him a receipt and two shiny license plates! Meanwhile, Scott gave whoever he was talking with on the phone all the pertinent info, and they looked Andrew up, and was he from Kansas City, and no he was not, etc. And then “they” evidently sent the required form, and just then, at that very moment, the clerk said, “Well, the internet just went down.”

I. Could. Not. Believe. It.

Not only would that mess up our own deal, what about all those people patiently standing in line on the other side of the chairs?!?

And the clerk said, “I didn’t get the form, but that’s OK, I heard you on the phone, so you’re good.” We said, “Good? Like, do we need to do anything else?”

“No, you’re all done. You can go. Have a nice day.”

And we went!

We went past all those people standing in line, and they were actually quite nice. They didn’t throw anything at us, and they didn’t say nasty things to us or about us. Some of them actually rode the elevator down with us, cheerfully joking with Andrew that it was all his fault, but nobody seemed the least bit mad or put out. It was all the favor of God!

After lunch I took this picture of The Man and His Car.

Andrew with his silver ’05 Honda Accord!

A mere 90 minutes later, he sent me this text: “the mileage is 107,344 and the license plate number is TC5 X5J. it has license plates on it, a parking pass, insurance papers in the glove box, and air fresheners on the vents. 🤪 oh and it’s registered with the University.”

That all makes for one very happy young man!

Roberts Reunion 2019 – Part 1 (Friday, Saturday, Sunday)

It’s family reunion time, in honor of Scott’s mom being 85 this year. Memorable events of our trip thus far include:

~ My decision to drive 5 mph over the speed limit for the duration (and a good thing I did!)

~ Siri’s sending us on an unplanned visit to Karnak, IL (was the Highway 60 Mississippi River bridged closed or not?!?).

~ Finally arriving at Town Place Suites in Knoxville at 3:15 AM local time, assuming we’d need to leave by 7:00 (meaning get up at 6:00), gratefully learning we wouldn’t need to leave till 10:00 (meaning sleep in till 9:00, ah!), and then being startled awake by a phone ringing incessantly at 8:15 (it was Stuart, very cheerful, just calling cheerfully).

~ First seeing Katie and Grandma walking toward our apartment at JAARS.

~ Playing Five Crowns – first with Scott, Patty, Andrew, Katie, Grandma; then dealing in super-tall Florida John.

~ The look on Katie’s face when she found all the freezer meals and I told her why they were there.  = )

~ Stuart and Susie came over, left for a short “date,” returned, and told us Hannah’s flight had been cancelled; she’d arrive right at reunion time on Sunday.

~ Fun supper of white chili, watermelon, and misc munchies with all eight of us crammed around our loaded table.

~ A brief late-night visit to Joneses; their driveway gives new meaning to parallel parking.

~ Sunday morning worship at Stuart at Susie’s apartment – guitar, flute, “Step By Step.” Kevin, Elsa (flew in) and John – “wow, have they grown up too!” Stuart challenged us with a message about discretion.

~ A fun grocery run to Waxhaw’s Walmart Neighborhood Market with Andrew and Katie; if you can’t find sausage biscuits, just get the croissants.

~ Had a sandwich lunch (with cheddar & sour cream potato chips, yum) with us four and no more, before heading to Waxhaw Bible Church for the actual, “official”reunion.

~ Present:


Kevin, Elsa, John

Stuart, Susie, Hannah, John (later Maggie and Mitchell by Skype)

Scott, Patty, Katie, Andrew

Becky, Milt, Ian, Rachelle, Amanda, Isabel


~ Many games were played (Five Crowns, Trekking the National Parks, Spot-It, Cornhole, Angry Birds(?), Risk, and Kevin gave massages to Milt, Andrew, and Grandma.

~ Circle time with many questions was wonderful, and the goal of making Grandma smile and/or cry was definitely achieved over and over. Lots of great and funny stories were shared – dancing on the car, where the Roberts killer competitive instinct came from, skiing at Crested Butte – along with some bittersweet ones – what she’s learned in the past two months.

~ Milt and Becky presented an awesome slide show of pictures of Grandma through the years, to the song ”  ?  ” (more tears for many of us). I intend to get a a copy of that video.

~ Grandma catered Chipotle for dinner and we all built our own burritos.

~ After a quick clean-up, we all trundled back to JAARS for a professional photo shoot that went well and wasn’t too long.

~ Part of the gang stayed at Stuart and Susie’s to finish (?) their Risk game, while Andrew knocked out his chemistry, and Becky, Milt, Grandma, Scott, Katie, and I went to Joneses to play Bridge. I bid poorly, and Grandma bid in mysterious ways that no one could understand, and there was great laughter. (Note for future reference: a two opener means that one has 20+ points, NOT that one has 6 points and ace, king, queen of a suit… unless the one happens to be Grandma!)

~ While there we got to Skype with Jessica and Eli, who was on maximal cute detail. What a kid! What a mom!

~ Back “home,” we had a rematch of Trekking the National Parks. It’s definitely best with three or four, and Katie prevailed mightily.

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