Thursday, June 27, 2019

Welcome to My Circus- for Mercurial Stories

I am at a loss for words.  I didn't even know what to do first. Where I should start.  I slept in today.  Oh, a glorious extra hour.  I have been so tired, not sleeping well and I was reveling last night at even the idea of a much needed, long sleep.  I don't know what I was thinking.  I am a mother of 5. Let me repeat that. 5 kids.  Our house is what I like to refer to as organized chaos. More of a focus on chaos than organized. 

The hour of extra sleep that I was so looking forward to, became something I would regret, the moment I heard the crash at 7:32 a.m.  And when I say crash, I mean more like the sound of an explosion. Not a single sound that only lasts a moment. More of a cacophony of echoed crashing that never seemed to end. I bolted upright in bed.  What was that?!  Was I dreaming or did I actually hear a disaster happening just one floor below my bedroom? I swung my legs over the side of the bed and listened. And sure enough, The screaming and crying started immediately.  

"MOOOOOOMMMMM!!!!" Etna, my oldest had this way of calling me when there was a real problem. Almost as if the elongation and volume of MOM was the indicator to me that there was really a serious problem on the main floor rather than just calling me because someone was lazy and wanted a glass of water, with ice cubes, crushed, not whole. 

I grabbed my robe as my see through holey night gown was such a painful sight, that my kids would easily find yet another thing to make fun of.  I quickly opened the bedroom door, only to find the screaming and crying and one of my kids losing their mind, only increase in volume.  Did they hear me open the door and chose to make it worse than it already was?  I descended the stairs maybe only hitting one or two of the stairs as I had become an expert and scaling whole flights when everything seemed to fall apart quickly.  

I rounded the corner and wished I was still in bed.  The baby sat painting the wood floor with the honey that had been spilled when the plastic container hit the floor.  My 5 year old sat next to the baby eating raisins and offering them to the baby.  My 8 year old was sitting in a pile on the floor holding his ankle like death was pending. And then I saw the mess.  Or the war zone as I will now refer to it from this day forward.  From what I can deduce, my 8 year old attempted to climb the shelves in the pantry to reach the upper cabinet where the kid sugar cereals reside. Said 8 year old, almost 9, had failed to realize that the shelves would never hold him and decided climbing the shelves rather than locating a chair was the best means of acquiring said kid sugar cereal.  When the five shelves crashed down to the floor, the contents they held followed, and my eight year old fell to the floor screaming.  My 10 year old was still sitting in front of the TV in the living room completely oblivious of the chaos that surrounded her. And Etna. Sweet 14 year old Etna, stood next to the kitchen sink crying her eyes out in a state of disbelief at what just happened while she was in charge of her siblings.  

But was Etna really in shock? Because let's face it.  This crap happened all the time at our house.  Hands stuck in mouse traps,  dog poop on the walls, chocolate syrup squeezed on couch cushions. Etna was crying because she knew I would need her help cleaning up the mess.  Everyone stopped crying when they realized I was in the room.  I grabbed the baby and handed her to Etna. I told her to strip the baby and give her a bath in the kitchen sink. I washed my 5 year old's hands and sent him to watch TV with the 10 year old.  I met eyes with my 8 year old and knew right away that he was okay.  Maybe a bruise or minor sprain, but we weren't dealing with gushing blood or protruding bones. I wiped his tears, kissed him on top of his head and picked him up off the floor from his messy food pile. I wiped cracker crumbs off of his pants and removed a stray crouton or two from his toes.  I told him no more gymnastics in the kitchen, to always locate a chair or ask for help.  He smiled at me, I ushered him into the living room with an ice pack from the freezer for his ankle to also watch TV. 

Leaning into Etna as she thoroughly washed the baby in the sink, I kissed her shoulder.  What would I do without this precious girl, my first born? My helper, my sweet girl.   "Thank you, Etna."

"Mom, I am sorry, you didn't get to sleep in. I... I tried."  Etna apologized.

"Et, it is okay. You know your brother.  He is my climber. What can I say.  And a hungry climber."  I took the baby and dried her thoroughly with a clean towel from the drawer, wrangled a new diaper onto her and placed her in the high chair.  Etna quickly followed behind with Cheerios in hand and placed them on the tray.  

"Come and eat!" Etna shouted as she pulled bowls from the cabinet and milk from the fridge.  Her long arms easily grabbed three of the desired kid sugar cereals from the upper cabinet so that each child would be able to choose their favorite.  

Children being fed, I started to tackle the mess of all of our pantry food lying on the kitchen floor. No, I didn't get to sleep in, but had a very successful purge of all of the shelf stable food and now my floors are super clean from sweeping, scrubbing and mopping. So there's that. Maybe tomorrow the desired and elusive sleep will be had.  But until then,  I still need to figure out clothing for my brood and activities for this hot day. 

These are my monkeys. Welcome to my circus. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

When You Can Not Go Any Further

I am in love with the state of Tennessee and the Smoky Mountain National Park.  We are here vacationing and staying at a cabin at Shagbark in the mountains.  Our best friends from Georgia met us here and we are enjoying spending time together.  Meals shared around our table of eight.  The last three days we have played dominoes and watched movies, and played charades together in the evening. We have also enjoyed going to the local Baptist Church on Sunday morning, tried to swim in the too cold pool, gone to the aquarium, gone shopping, played mini golf, and arcade games.  And we have spent hours catching up laughing together.

Today, we headed into The Smoky Mountain National Park and planned to go to the Grotto Falls.  We found out soon after getting into the National Park that the road leading to Grotto Falls was closed.  We decided to head to Rainbow Falls.  2.7 miles straight up.  I thought I could do it, but I couldn't.  I had surgery five months ago, and thought I was fine, I was not. The pain set in almost right away.  I only made it about a 3/4 of a mile up. If I had been walking on flat ground, I probably would have gotten a lot further. But today was not my day to climb the mountain to Rainbow Falls.

I had to encourage my husband to go ahead and continue without me.  He didn't want to go. He was concerned about leaving me alone without cellphone coverage in the mountains. I told him I would be fine. I had no intentions of going down the mountain myself and promised him I would stay put and explore.  He was hesitant as we had already encountered three bears. I finally convinced him and he raced to join the rest of our family.

The reason I wasn't sure that I could descend the mountain on my own is because of my crazy cyborg eyes.  I have intra ocular lenses in my eyes and struggle with depth perception.  I never feel sure footed especially on steep terrain, rocky paths or uneven ground. I decided I would for sure stay put when I realized that I didn't even have keys for our vehicle.  The National Park was very busy today, so I knew that I would encounter quite a few people along the beaten path.  And I knew they would be curious why I was remaining in one location and by myself.

First, I knew I needed to scope the local area and make sure that I knew my surroundings. I came up with a plan if I encountered bears or if I felt in danger for some reason.  There was a large tree I could hide behind.  I knew there was a stone rock wall I could carefully climb down to get out of the way visually. And I can scream and people were almost always within sight, but would for sure hear me.  I had nothing to fear.  I spent more time enjoying nature than anything else.  Pine cones, huge acorns, twisted vines, poisonous centipedes and huge red body daddy long legs.  The singing birds were a beautiful sound along with the constant sound of running water in the creek.

I also had some great conversations. Met a couple from Wisconsin who were a little concerned about me and stayed with me a bit to make sure I was really fine like I said.  They were worried about the bears because just as we sped up and passed them, the momma bear decided climbing on a car in the road was appropriate. They have had a few encounters with bears themselves in Wisconsin.  The woman from Texas was sweating very badly in the 98% humidity.  She was panicked because they had passes to the Dolly show and she wasn't going to miss the show because of a hike she didn't want to go on in the first place. The funniest conversation I had was with a woman who was more upset about the amount of moonshine she still had in her stomach than the fact that she knew she was never going to make it up the mountain either.

My day was exciting.  I spent a lot of time by myself, but I had a great day.  I enjoyed God's creation, spoke with some interesting people and came up with a makeshift survival plan if I was assaulted by bears.  Rather than getting upset that I physically wasn't able to go all the way to the top, I was thankful that I made it as far as I did. I was overjoyed that no one was asking anything of me and my job was to be immersed in my surroundings.  No, I wasn't able to enjoy the view from the top, but the view from where I was, was pretty amazing.

When you can not go any further, when your body gives out, when pain takes over, when your heart can't do it anymore, never view it as giving up.  Today I made the wise decision to stop, catch my breath and let my body heal. I wasn't giving up, I was changing course. I was experiencing an unplanned adventure that I may never get the chance to experience again.  And for that, I am eternally grateful.  It wasn't a fluke, it wasn't an easy out, my body just wasn't ready to climb a mountain.  And that is alright with me.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Vacances S'il Vous Plait

I woke this morning is a town called Mt. Juliet, Tennessee.  Near Nashville, our family has enjoyed being on the road the last few days.  Leaving Minnesota bright and early this past Thursday morning, we drove straight through to St. Louis.  We were ready to be out of the car. We enjoyed a good dinner out and then went back to the hotel for a swim.  The "heated pool" made us long for a non existent hot tub.  We all were more than happy to fall into a deep sleep that evening.  After breakfast at the hotel and a mandatory Starbucks stop, we drove to the Illinois side of the river and enjoyed the Gateway Arch from top of an amazing three tiered ramp.  It was a beautiful park and we took our time before getting back on the road.

Once on the road, we headed to Nashville. We thought it would take us less than 5 hours, but we were greatly slowed by multiple accidents on the freeway.  Once in Nashville, we drove around a bit,  briefly enjoyed a few sites and then headed to the hotel and out to dinner at Cheddar's. Now, my family usually enjoys this restaurant in the southern states.  It was not a great experience.  Our meals took forever, my drink wasn't great, our waiter was actually rude when I questioned the small portion of the dinner portion of crap salmon I was served, my daughter was disappointed with her meal and Zach wasn't interested in it at all.  We tried. At least we had dinner in us.  We headed back to the hotel and enjoyed a wonderful swim in a quiet perfectly heated pool.  A quite evening of cards and a movie before heading to bed.

As we woke bright and early today, we packed up, ate breakfast again at the hotel an headed to Starbucks for our mandatory visit. 
Now on the road to Gatlinburg and The Smoky Mountains, we are enjoying a peaceful drive and the beautiful rolling hills and trees.  So excited to spend this week in the mountains at an Airbnb. And even more excited to meet our best friends there. We have missed our friends as we haven't seen them since February. The 8 of us haven't all been together since last summer when they came to Minnesota for a visit. We then traveled to Stockholm, WI together for a nice stay at The Refuge.

This week will be filled with great conversation, excellent food, lots of games played, walking and exploring, admiring God's creation, swimming and more great conversation as we catch up on each other's lives.  I can't wait to hug our friends. To love on them and hug them again.

Our kids are as excited as we are.  Vacation may

Saturday, June 1, 2019


By: Kelli J Gavin 

I have been told it is too small
My bucket, that is
Too small to hold it all
Hopes and dreams should be big I am told
Bigger than what my bucket can hold
I believe it is just the right size
It contains everything I need
Kindness extended to me
Lessons learned
But what it contains is mine
A little bit of who I am
Of what I have become
When I pour it all out
I gaze at where I once was
Savor where I am now
It is all together inspiring to me
That my small bucket holds
Everything I need
Hopes for my children
Dreams for my loved ones
Satisfaction of a life being lived well
Stop worrying about my bucket
Start addressing the hole in yours

I Know What That Means- By: Kelli J Gavin for Writers Unite!

I Know What That Means By: Kelli J Gavin After my family moved to Minneapolis three years ago, my parents refused to visit us in our ne...