Archive for the 'Kids' 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…

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!

Hard-working man

During the final week of Andrew’s Christmas break, we had him do quite a lot of work around our “homestead.” It was not work he chose to do, but I was so proud of his diligence to get it all done – well and without uttering one word of complaint. At least in my presence, there were no eye rolls, no deep sighs, and no negative comments.

Now that he’s back at school, everywhere I look, inside and out, I see the results of his labor, and I think of him and smile – and sometimes cry a little. (It’s what moms do.)

We just gave him this list and told him it all needed to be done before he left for school the next week. How and when he did it was his business.

First, he thoroughly scrubbed down the outside of the grill.

Then he took down the Morning Glory vines from the mailbox and disentangled them from the green plastic mesh they climb on. That’s a much-hated task that I usually do in November or December but never got around to this year.

He also cleaned out the whole mailbox flower bed,

and the big bed around the dogwood tree. The big bed has some perennials that will benefit from a covering of mulch and leaf litter over the winter, so I asked him to just clear out the big stuff and leave me a layer of ground cover.

Next he worked with his friend, Zach, to clean out the left garage.

And when I say “clean out,” I really do mean “clean out!”

Andrew emptied out the tomato barrels,

and dumped and spread their dirt in the back bed. Ever since we relocated the iris to the big front bed many years ago, this back one has never really been a “flower” bed, but now it has potential.

He power-washed the propane tank, which had been basically brown with some white showing through. Look at it now!

And that was just the beginning of the power-washing. He power-washed the smokehouse. It was a test; we wanted to be sure the paint would stay on before he tackled more important things – like the house.

First he power-washed the back of the house,

and the area around the back door.

Then the front steps,

the front of the house on the porch,

and even the porch railing!

Everything is so bright and clean. = )

Inside, Andrew de-cobwebbed the whole house, although I don’t have photographic proof of that.

And then there was the cellar. Ah, the cellar. For 22 years, we’ve collected more and more junk down there, especially to the right and up on the ledge. I went down there with him and told him I only wanted to keep three specific things: the milk crates, the stacking plastic cubbies, and a set of canning jars. Scott added miscellaneous paint and some other things to the list, and just look at the right side now!

I didn’t even ask Andrew to deal with the ledge, but I guess he was on a roll, and here’s how it turned out, clean as a whistle!

Andrew hauled two trailer-loads of junk to the dump.

He also cleaned all the first floor windows inside and out. Now I can look out back while I’m doing dishes, and my view of the bird feeder is crystal clear.  = )

Andrew, thank you so much for all your hard work!!! I really appreciate the many messy chores you did and your cheerful attitude while doing them. The results are wonderful, and so are you!  = )


Jeopardy question: What is “just giddy?”

Answer: The best way to describe me last night at about 10:10, standing out on the driveway, shivering, stepping back and forth, hoodie hood up, as Scott and I evaluated the sound of every eastbound vehicle. Based on a recent phone call in which I heard “approaching A and BB” (but I must’ve told Scott “at A and BB”), I had estimated 10:15 PM, he had estimated 10:13 PM, and we’re nothing if not competitive about such very important matters.

“Do you think that’s them? Well, probably not. Her new car is heavier than Lil’ Blue, but that sounds more like… ”

It was a truck.

“Sure is nippy out here.”

“Yeah, but this is what I do! I’m a mom… Hey, maybe…?”

“Naw. Going too fast.”

“And THAT can’t be them…!”

It wasn’t.

“How long’s it take from A and BB anyway? It’s 10:12, so any minute now… ”

And then, finally (at 10:15, consider smiley face inserted), the lowering pitch of a car slowing down, headlights reflecting off the pavilion across the highway, and in they spun, grinding gravel! (Why does the arrival of kids coming home always make me cry? Especially when I’m so thrilled to see them?!?) And Josiah grinning, and big hugs, and Katie stepping out of the car with a smile, having driven non-stop for 15 hours and 35 minutes, and more hugs, and “Welcome HOME!”

I was just giddy.

Three in three

That would be final shifts at three different jobs on three consecutive days.

Today Andrew did his final Rendezvous cleaning, a quick turn that he finished at 2:00 PM. He’s been cleaning that house for six and-a-half years, since he was 12, and today an era has ended. I think he told Scott he might be willing to stay on an emergency-only cleaners list, but he’s no longer a regular RVR employee.

Tomorrow he will clean the Life Christian Center church building for the last time. I think he’s been doing that job weekly for about four years. He told me today that Pastor Barb had gotten someone else to do it. I don’t know who that is, but I do know that while Andrew’s been thankful to have that steady income each week, he’s also glad to be free from that responsibility as he starts college next week.

The day after tomorrow will be his final shift of the season as a lifeguard and ATL (Assistant to Lead) at White Water. He’s worked there for the past three summers, making “a lot” of money the summer after his sophomore year, “an amazingly huge amount” of money the summer after his junior year, and “some” money this summer after graduation; the reduction being result of his grand summer of travel. Andrew really wanted to go places and have fun this summer, and he’s been to:

~  Waxhaw, NC with Scott and me to see his grandma, aunts, uncle, and cousins (5 days traveling)

~ The Barn at Maryville, MO with his Chamber Singers friends (4 days traveling)

~ Yellowstone National Park, camping with Katie, Jessica and Matthias, Josiah, Scott, and me (12 days traveling)

~ Faith Ministries Youth Camp at Bear Trap Ranch in Colorado (8 days traveling)

~ Kansas City with his friends (2 days traveling)

In addition to those trips, Andrew’s also had a lot of fun closer to home, what with lots of hanging out with friends, bowling, a couple kayak trips, and going to a St. Louis Cardinals game with Jess and Matthias. And oh yeah, he’s also had a fourth job this summer: singing and serving ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery. I’m pretty sure he’s worked his final shift there, because it’s Thursday now, and following a cookout here on Sunday with his friends and a number of their moms, he’ll be moving into his dorm at MSU on Monday.

I’m really proud of that man. It’s not just anybody who can wrap up three jobs in three days, but Andrew’s definitely not just anybody. He’s my son.  = )


We’ve got an ATL!

What exactly, you may ask, does ATL stand for? And is it something we want to have? The short answers would be, respectively, “I don’t know,” and “Yes, absolutely.”

Andrew, who started last year as a Life Guard One (LG1) at White Water and has since been raised to Life Guard Two (LG2), recently applied to be an ATL. It’s a step above LG2 and a step below Lead, and it involves some level of oversight of other guards, several more responsibilities, and a pay raise. All good things. Details I don’t yet know include:

  • the particulars of other guard oversight (although I know ATL’s help train guards, make sure guards are doing their jobs properly, and confront/correct/instruct them when they’re not)
  • an ATL’s specific additional responsibilities (although I know they clear the pools when needed – like in a rescue situation or when there’s lightning, and they are the ones who clean up “spills” – like when a guest poops or pukes in a pool)
  • pay rates for LG1’s, LG2’s, or ATL’s

I do know that ATL’s serve as assistant managers to the “Leads,” so I’m guessing that ATL might stand for something like “Assistant to Lead” or “Always Too Lucid” or “Able To Laugh.” I also know that Andrew felt that his interview went “pretty well,” and he was quite pleased to have gotten the job. Today was his first shift as an ATL,and he was scheduled to work 10:20 AM to 10:30 PM. I suspect he will sleep pretty well tonight.

Two saves, one assist

No, these are not baseball statistics. They are SON statistics!

This is Andrew’s second summer working as a lifeguard at White Water, our local water theme park. All the guards receive extensive initial training (which they pay for) and then weekly on-going training that includes practice in rescuing people and dealing with all kinds of emergencies. Last year, Andrew worked all summer without having to personally handle any crisis situations.

One month into this summer, it’s been a different story.

First of all, he got the highest possible grade on his Ellis audit. Ellis is the organization that trains and certifies the White Water lifeguards, and they show up occasionally (incognito) and audit a guard. That is, they watch him carefully to see how he’s doing his job, and sometimes they do or create some situation to see how the guard responds. Generally, guards don’t know who is being audited; they only find out after the fact when they are told by their supervisor what grade they got.

Andrew is certified as an LG2 (he began his lifeguarding “career” as an LG1 last summer), which means he can work the wave pool in addition to all the other rides and slides. The wave pool is huge and six feet deep at one end. It’s the setting in which more serious incidents are more likely to occur, so some additional training and experience is required for those guards. I think there are four to six guards on the wave pool at a time.

One day a few weeks ago, Andrew was working the wave pool, when a male guest hollered at him, “This lady’s having a seizure!” Andrew immediately stopped the wave machine and jumped in. The woman was quite large (350+ pounds), on an inner tube, and completely unconscious. Andrew got her to the side of the pool, and then it took some six guards and/or guests working together to get her out of the pool and onto a backboard. An ambulance was called, and she was beginning to come around by the time the EMTs arrived.

Andrew was taken into the office and told he could go home, but he didn’t want to. The management questioned him to make sure he was OK emotionally and able to continue doing his job, and he was fine. But I will say that when he got home that night and shared what had happened, he was a pretty somber fellow. I think the fragility of life really hit him.

Then just a day or two later, he was not working and went to White Water as a guest to hang out with friends. As he was walking by the wave pool, there was an emergency. A female guard had jumped in to save a kid who was drowning. She had followed protocol;  first turning off the wave machine and notifying the office of the emergency, which should have brought immediate assistance. She had jumped in and – alone – gotten him out of the pool. Now she was working on the kid alone, performing CPR with a crowd of guests around, but STILL no help had arrived, and Andrew was appalled. He stepped up, took charge, ordered the crowd to back away and give them space, and maintained control of the situation till more help arrived. He was obviously not in uniform, and when a belligerent guest asked him who he thought he was, Andrew said (very firmly), “An off-duty guard. Get over it.” The guest dropped his ‘tude, the boy recovered, and management commended Andrew for his stepping in to assist as he did.

White Water guards wear lanyards with their whistles on them, and when they save someone in some way, they are issued a bead to display on their lanyard. Andrew received a bead for his rescue of the woman who had the seizure.

A couple weeks ago, he was again on stand at the wave pool in the afternoon. He’d been treated rudely by some guests, and he was pretty fed up with the antics of a group of young people who obviously couldn’t swim and were clowning around, pretending that they were drowning and hollering at him. I’m sure it’s difficult to stay calm when you’re being provoked like that, you can’t retaliate, and you have to discern who is and who isn’t really in danger. The guards at the wave pool have to scan their assigned area every ten seconds, and on one of Andrew’s scans, he saw a young lady (who clearly couldn’t swim) fall out of her tube and begin to go down. It was like the boy who cried wolf. The guy with her was trying to save her, but he was actually drowning both of them, so Andrew and another guard, Haley, both jumped in and did a two-man rescue. Both guests were OK.

Andrew later asked his head boss about a bead for that “save,” and John told him he’d take care of it “tonight.” Afterwards, Andrew felt bad about having asked about it, and he texted John. Here’s a copy of their conversation:

A: Hey John, I’m sorry about asking for the bead so soon after everything happened. That was selfish of me. If you choose not to give me one, I understand.

J: Ha! It wasn’t selfish at all. Well deserved my friend. The only reason I said “tonight” was because I figured you’d jump at the chance to go home. I’m super proud of you. You have handled yourself so incredibly well in some very pressure-filled situations. You’ll get it tomorrow if you’re here.  = )

A: Okay, haha. Thank you! I just didn’t want you thinking that a bead was my main motivation for saving someone.  = {

J: Andrew… You’re one of my favorites and one of the best and most exceptional kids I know. You’re an incredible lifeguard, but you’re a better young man. I know beads don’t motivate you to save people. Maybe free food, but not beads.  = )

A: I’m not going to say that I cried, but I came pretty close [referring to when he read John’s comment previous comment]. That means a whole heck of a lot to me and I appreciate you and everything you do for us lifeguards probably more than you’ll ever know. Thanks for making me look forward to coming into work every day.  = )

Wow! How’s that for an atta-boy?!? I’m so proud of our exceptional, incredible son that if I were wearing a dress shirt, my buttons would pop!

As Gomer Pyle would say,

“Soo-PRAZZ, soo-PRAZZ, soo-PRAZZ!”

Katie moved from Charlottesville to her new (actually quite old) cottage in another town on Tuesday, November 1. I am quite certain she moved that day because once she was somewhat settled in and partially unpacked on Tuesday night, she sent me a panoramic photo of the interior of her new house. So very fun! I also knew she’d have several days off before starting her new job at Montpelier the next Monday, and she had told me she’d be using that time to shop for furniture, get things set up, and maybe take in a national park or two.

Wednesday night, I got home from church about 8:45. I walked into the dining room, and Katie was standing there!!! Looking at me and smiling. Or. . . was it just someone who looked a lot like Katie? I was so totally stunned!  How could she be here? She was in Virginia! Was she even real?!? And how on earth had she gotten here?!? I couldn’t believe it! I just stood there and cried.

She had driven 15 hours that day, having left home at the unheard-of hour of 6:00 AM. She drove all that way just to surprise us and spend three days with us. WOW!

We had so much fun together. On Thursday, she and I went exploring and took a delightful, all downhill walk on Reno Springs Road and Reno Hollow Road. We were so far out in the boonies that we covered parts of three counties, and in so doing found a deserted sheep ranch, a gorgeous yard with a suspension bridge out front, and a series of mystery pipes. Then we drove all over the place to figure out exactly where we had been and how the roads connected. (Robertses love to explore off the beaten path.)

That night, Andrew’s Team Extreme volleyball team won their match for us, and on Friday Katie and I hit EIGHT thrift stores in Branson, picking up various items for her house, after which she treated me to lunch at Wendy’s. It was a glorious time. That weekend we had missionary guests from the Philippines plus a Take the Challenge fundraising dinner at the home of one of our ministry board members. Katie was a great help to Scott in preparing various technical things for his presentation at the dinner (which was a super success). She was able to spend most of Saturday gallivanting about Springfield with Josiah, and we even managed to play one game of Beans and two games of Dominion, so I think it’s fair to say we maximized her three days with us. She drove back to Virginia on Sunday, thankful that the time change was in her favor.

It was great to have Katie home for a surprise visit, and although everyone who knows me well knows that I hate surprises, I loved this one! It was the best surprise I’ve ever experienced!


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.