Monday, May 24, 2010

Lost: The End

SPOILER ALERT: Don't read this if you didn't watch the series finale of Lost, which aired Sunday, May 23.

The End.

I loved the artistry, the closure and the storytelling of ending it that way. Jack back in the spot in the jungle where he had landed in the premiere. Vincent at his side. His eye closes for the last time while the plane, now intact and full of friends, flies overhead.

I'm not so sure about gathering everyone in the church for a reunion. But what else could the writers have done? It felt like they just wanted to find a neat way to tie up loose ends and make the viewers happy. To me, it seemed silly to see them sitting so perfectly, without giving us an explanation of what happens next.

Are they dead? Are they in heaven? Will they go on living? Are they still alive in their other reality? Are they only alive in their memories? Can they ever leave the church and continue living together?

We are all left to interpret Christian Shephard's explanation of it all:

"Everything that ever happened to you is real. All those people in the church, they're real, too," he said. "Everyone dies sometime kiddo. Some of them before you. Some of them long after you... This is a place that you all made together so that you could find one another.

"The most important part of your life was the time that you spent with these people," Christian says. He explains they are all there for one reason: "To remember.... and to let go."

We knew our questions wouldn't be answered. And I'm satisfied they did answer the big questions of the night and left us to ponder the overall meaning. If they had wrapped it up any more nicely, it would have felt like a let-down to walk away without our imaginations still stirring about what it all meant.

And that's the question. What did it all mean?

To me, it was a story about second chances.

Just as ancient civilizations wrote myths and legends using people to explain basic tenets of human nature, that is what the Lost writers did through the passengers of Oceanic 815.

I loved that the final message was about the power of forgiveness. It brings reconciliation, restoration, hope and a second chance at life.

Throughout the six seasons, viewers asked themselves: "Who are the bad guys?"

Everyone in the show was highly flawed. They were all full of good and evil. They had let the circumstances of life affect not only their actions, but their attitudes and outlook on life.

But just because life deals some people a bad hand, so to speak, they still have a choice of which way to go. It's never too late to start over. Yes, what happened, happened. But that doesn't mean that someone can't change the future. There's always a second chance.

"Nothing is irreversible," Kate tells Jack, and at the same time explains to the viewers this is what the show is about. We have been told for so long by Eloise Hawking/Widmore that we can't change the past. But we finally learn from the Queen of Bad Choices and Running from the Past that we can, indeed, change the future.

And no matter how badly someone has inflicted pain, they can be forgiven. I loved how the two lives of the characters were merging in both realities to show us that despite how evil they might have been on the island, the off-island characters could now see the good in each other. They could see they were just people. Not perfect. But still worthy of kindness and love.

Jack could see John Locke, a total stranger, as a flawed, helpless human being. He didn't know him. He didn't know his past. And yet, he was someone he wanted to help. On the other side, Locke had been literally consumed by all that is evil.

The Smoke Monster was the living example of what happens when bitterness and hatred take over someone's being. The Man in Black is stripped of all that is good and is left with only black smoke to inhabit other people's bodies.

While Jack was using his scalpel to save Locke and give him a better life, FLocke was using his knife to try to destroy Jack.

I loved watching the characters coming together off island and experiencing their awakenings. My favorite was Sawyer and Juliet in such a touching moment when he hands her the candy bar and remembers their entire life together, including the moment when he let go of her hand and she fell in the pit.

"Juliet, it's me," Sawyer said. "I gotcha. I gotcha, baby."

My second and third favorite moments were when Charlie's drug-induced eyes clear as he remembers Claire, and when Sun and Jin remember their lives and start speaking perfect English.

I also loved that the writers gave us the obvious by letting Jack volunteer to be the protector of the island, but then turn it on its side and give the job to Hurley. And how sweet when he made Ben his second in command.

Finally, the finale emphasized the point that had been a recurring theme throughout the past six years: free will vs. destiny. Jacob's mother didn't give him a choice about his life, and Jacob seemed to be following his mother's example by pushing the Losties toward the island. But in the end, he did offer a choice. He let them decide who should take over his job.

And then Hurley realizes he doesn't have to rule the same way Jacob did. He could find a better way. I loved that.

Best quotes to explain the message of the show:

Desmond: "No one can tell you why you're here, Kate. Certainly not me."

Jack to John before the surgery: "There's always the chance I could kill you, but I'm trying to make you feel better. I'll see you on the other side."

Desmond to Jack: "You're going to lower me into that light, and I'm going to go someplace else... a place where we can be with the ones we love and we don't have to be on this island ever again. You are in that place, Jack... We sat next to each other on Oceanic 815. It never crashed."

Hurley to Sayid: "I think you're a good guy, Sayid... I know a lot of people have told you that you're not. You've heard it so many times that you've started believing it."

Locke to Jack after the surgery: "Jack, I hope that somebody does for you what you just did for me."

Jack when he ties Desmond to the rope: "I'll see you in another life, brutha."

Ben to Locke: "I'm very sorry for what I did to you John. I was selfish. Jealous. I wanted everything you had... You were special, John. and I wasn't."

Locke: "Well, if it helps, Ben. I forgive you."

Ben: "Thank you, John. That does help. It matters more than I can say."

Best funny quotes:

Sawyer to Jack: "So you're the new Jacob, huh? How about you come down off the mountaintop and tell us what the burning bush had to say for itself."

Hurley talking about Jacob and how he never explained anything: "Kind of true dudes. He's worse then Yoda."

FLocke to Jack: "Jacob being who he is, I expected to be more surprised. You're sort of the obvious choice, don't you think?"

When FLocke asks Jack how he thinks he's going to kill him: "It's a surprise."

Kate to FLocke after she shoots him: "I saved the bullet."

Miles while repairing the plane: "I don't believe in a lot of things, but I do believe in duct tape."

Other favorite moments:

  • Seeing Rose and Bernard again and finding out they have chosen to live their lives in quiet peace together "without getting involved". Don't we all have people in our lives like that? And yet, it doesn't seem that happy to me to miss all of the adventure in life in exchange for a life of safety to avoid getting hurt.
  • Richard finding a grey hair, signaling that he is finally starting to age. And now faced with his own mortality, Richard realizing that he wants to live.
  • When FLocke tells Jack that lowering Desmond into the well reminds him of the time the real Locke and Jack were looking into the hatch together at Desmond. Jack defends the real Locke: "You wear his face, but you disrepsect his memory."

In the end, I'm satisfied. I'm a little relieved that the story has come to an end. I'm glad the writers honored the viewers, the characters and the show itself by answering most of the questions while still leaving us with lots to ponder.

What did you think?

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Be The One

As my kids have gotten older, they (naturally) have been getting in more situations in which they have to make a choice about the right way to behave.

We've had lots of conversations lately about what they should do when other kids are encouraging them to do things they know they shouldn't. They have been complaining that often one kid is driving all the others in a group to misbehave.

During one of these discussions, a phrase popped out of my mouth that has started to become kind of a mantra at our house: Be The One.

Let me explain. Sometimes they are in a group with a strong leader. One kid can have so much power. He can influence all of the others to do the right thing. Or he might be stirring up trouble.

Well, they have a choice. They can either follow. Or they can Be The One.

They can Be The One to encourage the other kids to do good. They can Be The One to stand up for what they believe. They can Be The One to help other kids choose the right path.

This idea really struck a chord with my kids. And it has me thinking, too.

How can I Be The One?

Will I Be The One to talk to my neighbors? Will I Be The One to be a friend to someone who is lonely? Will I Be The One to help someone in need?

It's so easy to follow. It's easy to do what everyone else is doing. It's easy to not say anything when someone else is a bad influence.

But why not Be The One?

What do you think? Can you think of any ways you could Be The One? Have you had similar conversations with your children? And what has worked for you?

Edited to add: Oh, and by the way... my kids aren't always THE ONES to influence others in a good way. They definitely do their share of stirring up trouble. =]

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

The sewing class

About a month ago, I read the list of classes offered by our homeschool co-op to my 5-year-old daughter.

"Jewelry making, sewing and duct tape," she said. Those were the ones she wanted to take. (Duct tape, by the way, is a class that teaches kids to make bags, wallets and other projects from colored duct tape.)

I wasn't surprised by her choices. She's a very crafty girl.

But I found out this week she had put some thought into her selections.

You see. During the five years of her life, she has created quite a list of sewing projects for her mom.

"Can you sew, Mom?" she always asks.

My answer is usually the same. "Of course I can sew! I'll do it as soon as I have time."

I actually CAN sew. IF I had a needle. And some thread. A sewing machine wouldn't hurt, although I could sew without one. But the biggest tool that is lacking is the desire. And so, without really thinking about it, I have made my daughter wait and wait. And wait.

The sewing project at the top of her list is her best friend. Pinky Bear.

Pinky Bear has gone everywhere with my daughter since she was a baby. Pinky bear has been loved. Hugged. Rubbed. And unstuffed almost to her death. She has had her head sewn back on three times. Usually by her father.

This is a new bear that is similar to what Pinky Bear once looked like.

Recently, we were discussing our possibilities for the fall. Should we continue to homeschool or send the kids to a private school? While the boys really want to homeschool, my daughter would prefer a classroom. Although... she pondered... what about that sewing class at our home school co-op?

Finally, I got to the bottom of her reasoning.

A few days ago, my daughter showed me a hole that has been growing in Pinky Bear's neck.

"I'm going to fix it, Mom," she said. "Just as soon as I take that sewing class."

You have to admit. That's ONE reason to home school.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The dentist

I had been dreading this for days. Weeks really. OK, months.

As I was getting ready to leave the house, the kids asked where I was going.

"To the dentist," I replied, with a sound of trepidation in my voice.

"No fair!"

"You're so lucky!"

"Can I go?!"

When I was a kid, we all had a common feeling about the dentist. Fear. Dread. That's how life was supposed to be. No one WANTED to go to the dentist.

But these days, if one child doesn't have an appointment with the others, she cries. A trip to the dentist means watching the latest Disney movie in the waiting room. Playing video games during the appointment. Choosing a new toy out of the treasure box. Not to mention getting a sugar-free sucker and a new toothbrush. Going to the dentist is fun!

Oh, if only I felt the same way.

Two days before I gave birth to my daughter, a filling fell out of my tooth. I called the dentist immediately, but he said he couldn't give me a filling so close to my due date. I guess he didn't want to deliver a baby if I went into shock. Dentists are so wimpy these days.

I knew the lost filling was only a sign of all the havoc that had been wreaked inside my mouth during the past nine months. Pregnancy has a way of sucking the life out of me. And causing my teeth to crumble. Literally.

I was so afraid of the dentist that I procrastinated for five months to get the filling replaced. I mean, come on. Isn't that why God gave me TWO sides of my mouth?

What I fear most isn't the drilling tool. Or that awful smell. Or the thing that sucks all the liquid out of my mouth.

It's the lecture.

"Have you been flossing?"

"Yes! I swear! I swear I have!"

"Every day? Twice a day? After every meal?"

"Cross my heart, I have!"

Then, she gives me that sly look of, "then why are your gums so red as if you just flossed the heck out of them to try to fool me. I've seen your kind before."

I was bracing myself for the worst as the assistant showed me the dental chair and began her exam.

"I LOVE your purse," she said.

"What?!?" I thought. I waited for the lecture.

She chatted about my purse for a while, and then gave me the good news that I probably wouldn't need a root canal to repair the long-lost filling. I started to relax and watched The Today Show for the first time in about five years.

Another assistant came by and again, started going on about the purse. Once we got our treatment plan in place (yes... there were a FEW cavities), the billing lady came by.

"I LOVE your necklace!"

"Oh, thanks," I said, as I flipped it right side up so she could see the front.

Finally, in came the dentist. I hadn't seen him in, oh, a couple of years, and he seemed a little older now than the college graduate I remembered. His teeth were perfect. I stared at the white squares that formed one straight line across his mouth. No spaces in between. Nothing crooked. I waited for a flash of light to hit them to see if they would actually sparkle.

For the next hour, he asked me to hold my numb mouth wide open as he drilled, filled and called out secret codes to the assistant when he needed a new tool. He stopped periodically to ask me how I was doing. Was I uncomfortable in any way?

I gave him the thumbs up since my mouth was wide open and too numb to speak.

He's lucky I couldn't talk. I entertained myself with my imaginary response: "Look, buddy. I have four children. FOUR times in my life a human being has lived inside of me pushing vital organs out of the way and causing my body to be stretched to its limit. I have been cut open and sewed shut FOUR times to remove these children from my body. Over the last five months, I haven't slept more than a few hours in a row. I have endured a constant tooth ache. I have been sitting in this chair for two hours and not ONE person has asked me to change a poopy diaper, get them a glass of milk or fold a basket of laundry. So, your little drill is like a massage to me. If you could find a few more teeth to fill, I would thank you."

Finally, we were done and I made my way to the front desk to make my downpayment on the dentist's children's college tuition.

As I was standing there, a hygienist zoomed by me and called out, "That is the cutest sweater EVER!"

OK. Now I get it.

I get to watch TV all morning. Sit quietly in a chair. And they send various people into my room to compliment me on my outfit. Plus, I got a brand new toothbrush and a little tube of toothpaste. This is the life.

How soon can I go back?

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Lost: Across the Sea

In the beginning... there was a crazy woman.

SPOILER ALERT: Don't read this if you haven't watched the May 11, 2010, episode of Lost.

Finally, it seems that the Lost writers have switched gears. They have stopped jumping through time and creating questions. They started at the beginning and they are telling us the whole story. Yes, we still have many unanswered questions, but we also got lots of answers last night.

But my biggest revelation from the episode is simply that I need to accept the fact that I am watching a myth, an allegory or a fairy tale. I thought I was watching a show about a plane crash and trying to survive on a deserted island. Then, I thought perhaps it was science fiction. Maybe the story was a modern-day mystery, drama, whatever.

Now, I have to accept that the show itself has no rules. It isn't about what might happen in real life. And all of my questions won't be answered.

And that is probably a good thing because sometimes their answers come in the form of: "In the beginning there was a crazy woman living on an island, guarding a river of light, which represents the good that is in all of us, but don't be tempted to touch it because your body will be spit out and you will become a big shaft of black smoke."

So what did we learn last night?

Jacob and Man in Black are twin brothers. I think most of us called this one. I still go back to my earlier post that Man in Black's name is probably Esau. Don't you love how they were even dressed in light and dark blankets when they were born? Did Esau ever ask his mother if maybe HE could wear the light outfit for a change?

Remember when FLocke told Kate he had a crazy mother? Boy, he was not kidding.

Man in Black was the special one. He was the one his killer adoptive mother loved most. He was the one she wanted to guard the island.

Jacob, on the other hand, has always been a follower. He never did really know WHY he is guarding the island. He is just blindly following the instructions of a woman who killed his real mother in cold blood and refused to answer any of his questions.

I have to say that I have a lot more respect for Man in Black after this episode. At least he had the moral conscience to leave Crazy Woman when he learned she had murdered his real mother. He is the thinker. He is the one who asked questions and refused to just go along with her games when she wouldn't even explain why.

Both boys learned Mother was a liar when she told the boys they were the only ones who exist, and yet Jacob was too weak to leave her. Reminding me of Ben Linus, Jacob was so desperate for his mother's love and approval that he would rather stay with her and be manipulated by her than seek the truth.

We found out how the smoke monster came into existence. But I still don't understand what happened to his body. We know it decayed and became the skeleton of the island's "Adam". But then at the same time, he (or someone else) was able to continue living in that body.

We also found out that once Jacob drank the wine, he and his mother were "the same" or did she say they were "one". I can't remember. Whatever the case, it seemed that Jacob took on her belief system after he drank it. Now that Man in Black shattered that bottle of wine, does that mean Jacob's replacement won't be able to drink from it?

We learned, as suspected, that the boy who appeared to FLocke in the jungle was the young Jacob. And we found out that only "special" people can see the dead on the island. If that is the case, we know that Locke was special, and so was Hurley, Sawyer and Walt. Who else?

We still have so many other huge questions to answer.

Who is Mother? Has she always been on the island? Is she the beginning of all people? Or, as she said, did she have a mother?

When was the big Egyptian statue built? I'm assuming Jacob's temple will be built on the river of light? And did someone else come along and complete the donkey wheel, which by the way, made PERFECT sense, huh? I mean just channel light and water with a donkey wheel and you should be able to leave the island, right?

How did Jacob get off the island to go on his recruiting missions (maybe the donkey wheel)? And why couldn't his brother leave? Esau tells Jacob that eventually he would be able to create his own game and make up his own rules. Was Jacob's "game" to bring real people to the island and play with their lives, rather than pieces on a game board?

Finally, I have given up on trying to determine good and evil in this show. I don't think it's about good and evil. I think it's making a bigger point about the nature of people. Inside all of us is both good and evil. We decide which to follow.

Likewise, some of us will be followers and others will be leaders. Sometimes we will follow people who are actually followers themselves and don't really know where they are going. Those people might lead us by not giving us a choice (like Mother did with Jacob and Jacob did with Ben).

Other people lead by giving us information. They think about things and try to figure things out. Does that make them bad? Does it make them good?

And, finally, when we follow, sometimes it's after carefully thinking things through... And other times it's by blind faith. Is one way better than the other?

What did you think about last night's episode? I would love to hear your thoughts. And for more Lost recaps, check out Rocks in My Dryer.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

And the other reason...

we like

The diapers come in a really big box.

The kids spent more than an hour this afternoon in the basement making a new spaceship. Is anything more fun for a child than a big empty box?

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Have you heard about...?

Most people who know me in real life have heard me talk at one time or another about my favorite toys (Discovery Toys), my favorite coffee maker (Keurig) and my favorite computer (my iMac). That's because when I love a product, I can't help but tell everyone about it.

So, it seems interesting to me that the latest trend in marketing focuses on paying people to tell others about products or services. I have started using three web sites lately that use this type of marketing, and so far, I'm a fan. In fact, I would want to tell people about them even if I DIDN'T get anything in return.


The first one is If you've ever watched The Brady Bunch, I'm sure you've wished you had your own Alice to take care of everything around the house.

With six people in our family, I need an Alice just to help me push my shopping cart through the grocery store. I usually have to get that mongo cart with the park bench at the back. I put two kids on the bench, another one in the baby carrier in the cart and I often have another one hanging off the side pretending he's a firefighter.

By the time I get that Mama loaded with groceries, I can barely push it. And it never fails, I get to the end of my shopping trip and remember I need paper towels and toilet paper. Too bad. No more room.

This is where Alice comes in. Alice is an online store, sort of like Peapod. However, she specializes in non-perishable items like cleaning supplies and paper products. She also carries pantry items like coffee and tea, make-up and baby care items.

I just used her for the first time, and I liked the fact that she reminded me of all the possible things I might need. I could compare prices and brands easily, and she even included coupons for some of my purchases. She remembers what I ordered and will remind me when she thinks I'm about to run out of garbage bags or anything else on my list.

And shipping is always free, so I don't have to worry about toting all that stuff out to my car. It will just show up on my door step in two days.

If YOU would like to try Alice, just use my referral link and I will get a discount on my next order. If you like it, you can pass along your referral code and get future discounts, as well.


I've also been using since Baby #4 was born. I like because I can buy the super deluxe, humongous box of diapers, which gives me the best price. I usually can't find the really big boxes in the grocery store.

The price is comparable to shopping at a large warehouse store, like Sam's or Costco. However, you SAVE even more money when you use a referral code.

If you use my code at check-out, EMIL9445, you will save $10 on your first order and get a $5 credit toward your second order. When you use my code, I also get $10 off my next order. Once you have ordered, you will get your own referral code you can pass on to others.


I first heard about around Christmastime. This is a search engine that pays you to search the Internet.

Another blogger wrote a post about how she earned so many swagbucks, she was able to pay for all of her Christmas shopping with the money she earned. I was curious, but I didn't feel like looking into it. This week, she posted that she had earned enough swagbucks to buy her family a brand new iMac! OK... it couldn't hurt to give it a try!

If you decide to use it, download the swagbucks toolbar and make it your home page. You will start racking up points, just for searching the Internet. You get lots of bonus points if you refer someone to the web site.

If you want to try it, please use my referral link. After you get started, you will get your own referral code to pass on to your friends.

So... what do you think? Have you earned money this way? Do you like this type of marketing or does it bother you?

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Saturday, May 8, 2010

Highlights of our trip

Ahhh... Home sweet home. It was hard to say good-bye to the summer temps, the beach and the pool, but it's always great to be back home.

Before we left... back when I could just sit around by the pool updating my blog... I put together these highlights of our trip:

1. Spending the day in Disney World with good friends.

We only had one day at Disney, so we started when the park opened and stayed until it closed. It was a long day, but well worth it when we saw the fireworks over the castle. You know the old saying, "if you've seen one fireworks display, you've seen them all?". Well, with all things, that is NOT the case at Disney World!

2. Finding more seashells than we ever imagined. We didn't have to go searching for seashells because they came to us! I would pull my chair up to the edge of the ocean and watch the shells wash ashore with each wave. I would sort through each new batch of shells looking for unusual ones. The water would carry the other ones away.

When we would dig into the sand to build a sand castle, we found that the beaches here are literally made of sea shells. If you look closely at this photo, you can see that our sand castles are covered in shells.

3. CapableDad was in China on my birthday this year. So, for my belated birthday celebration I asked to watch the sunset on Captiva Beach. Captiva is at the very tip of an island off the coast of Florida. This beach is at the end of the island, and it feels like you are sitting at the edge of the world.

4. On one of our beach excursions, we went to Ft. Myers Beach. The beach was gorgeous with the most perfect sand for building sand castles. When we arrived, I was a little alarmed to see a sign warning visitors to move their feet around in the water to avoid sting rays. The sign said sting rays were most often found between May and October.

Well, it was only the first week of May, so I told the kids we probably didn't need to worry. The water was as warm as bathwater and the sand underneath was unbelievably soft. It was the perfect environment for sting rays.

We didn't think we would really see one, but we were feeling wary. Then, my son and I spotted something like a small brown piece of carpet under the water. We made a mad dash to get out of the water. We kept watching and saw the sting ray about 10 more times. It got so close to us that we could see its eyes.

I snapped a ton of photos of it, but didn't realize my memory card was full. This is the only one where you can see it.

5. Jumping in the pool. First thing in the morning. Right after lunch. Swimming until bedtime. Ahhhh....

And now... it's time to face reality and put away six suitcases full of clothes!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Our days in Florida

I wasn't sure if this idea of doing homeschool away from home would be one of my many Great Ideas that are better in my head than in real life. We still have a lot of school work to complete before we can end our school year, hopefully, at the end of May.

So, we had planned this as a "working vacation". I created a binder for each child with the assignments for each day we would be gone. We would only do our five to six core subjects, rather than all of the work we typically do at home.

Each day of our drive, we were in the car for at least four hours, so I also included school work for those days. Doing school in the car went way better than I ever imagined. Unlike at home, when the kids are distracted by wanting to take breaks to play or get a snack, we didn't have anywhere to go in the car. And it turned out to be a good way to make the ride go faster.

Once at our friend's home in Florida, we mostly kept the same schedule we do at home. We would do school first thing in the morning.

We did several subjects outside by the pool.

CapableDad had his own home office.

Once we were done with school, we jumped in the pool to cool off.

And then, we usually spent the rest of the day at the beach. EverydayBaby stayed home and took a nap while her dad worked.

We spent lots of time building sand castles, searching for seashells and looking for ocean life. Our most exciting find was when we saw a large sting ray swimming around in the shallow water near our feet. We ran out of the water as fast as we could!

In the evenings, we would grill out by the pool, swim, watch a movie or play games. Since this is a rental home, the closets were empty. The kids created a clubhouse in one of the walk-in closets. A second closet they called their "auxiliary game storage".

My friend who owns the house stocked it with games, puzzles and activity books. It was often difficult to pull the kids away from the games, even to go in the pool.

We all agreed that the best part about Florida was the slower pace of our lives. We weren't constantly being pulled in different directions by the phone, places we had to be or other commitments. Even our daily drives out to the beach seemed peaceful compared with the fast pace of battling traffic where we live.

And even though we still did our school work, this definitely felt more like a vacation than home.

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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Dodging storms and perfect timing

I'm finally getting a chance to continue with my story of how we ended up doing homeschool away from home. Click here if you want to get caught up.

We picked out the only stretch of time we could get away without interfering with too many other activities. We planned a four-day drive to Florida with stops in several major cities and a two-day drive home. We would be gone almost three weeks.

But just a week or so after we had made all of our plans, CapableDad found out he needed to meet a client in China. His trip would cut into the first part of our vacation.

I was bummed.

We had two options. We could cancel, which seemed most logical. It was a pretty crazy idea to drive 23 hours across the country with four children, especially a four-month-old who still was rarely sleeping more than three hours straight at night.

Our other option was to push back our departure by a few days and leave as soon as CapableDad got home from his 11 days in China. As soon as he got off his 12-hour plane ride. When he was completely jet-lagged.

We got together with our small group right after we heard the news about his China trip. I remember saying that if we had to cancel the trip or push it back, I just wanted to know there was a reason. I just wanted to feel like God cared about it. That it wasn't just our stinky bad luck.

Finally, we went with Plan B. Because that seemed the rational choice, right? Get in the car and drive for four days, departing an hour after my husband's plane landed? It usually takes him a week to recover from a China trip, so I couldn't imagine how he was going to survive the next four days on the road.

Since he had been gone for 11 days, I also was exhausted. I had been scrambling to get everything ready to go, including all of our homeschool work for the next few weeks. And the day before we left, our family got pink eye, and I decided I should wash every sheet, towel and blanket in our house before leaving.

CapableDad got home from the airport around 3 p.m. and by 4 p.m., we were ready to go. We drove five hours the first night to Louisville, Ky. The next day, we drove to Nashville and then to Atlanta. We spent the next two nights in Orlando before driving four more hours to southwest Florida.

As we were driving all of those days, we kept listening to weather reports about the storms that were hammering Georgia and Florida. IF we had left two or three days earlier, as WE had planned, we would have been driving right through those storms.

And IF we had left when WE had planned, we would have spent our one full day in Orlando sitting in our hotel watching the rain.

IF we had departed when WE had planned, we wouldn't have been able to spend an afternoon sitting around the pool in Orlando with CapableDad's parents who just happened to be at a conference the same day we were there.

And IF we had departed when WE had planned, we also would not have been able to meet up with good friends, who just by chance were spending a week at Disney World. Because we left a few days later, we had perfect weather and an awesome time together at the park. We also were able to meet up with a friend who works for Disney and got three of us into the park for free.

After we made our original plans, our friends who own the house where we would stay also asked us if we would be able to drive an extra van of theirs to Florida. Because CapableDad travels so much, we were able to get one-way plane tickets home for free.

This was an amazing blessing for two reasons. First, their van is actually a lot more reliable than ours. Second, while in Florida, we heard about massive flooding in the Nashville area that actually destroyed that beautiful Opryland hotel we visited on the way down. Since we were flying home, we didn't have to worry about running into any trouble along the highway due to the flooding.

We have been amazed at how everything worked out. And I have been so thankful to see so many reasons that our trip really DID need to be delayed. In the end, it was all perfect timing.

So, what have our days been like doing school away from home? Coming soon...

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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The oasis... now underwater

If you were reading my blog last week, you will remember those photos I posted of that beautiful oasis where we stopped on our drive to Florida.

That was the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, where flowers bloom year round in a 9-acre enclosed dome. Having just been there a week ago, it's unbelievable now to look at photos of the flooding in that area.

That beautiful hotel is flooded with more than 10 feet of water. If you haven't seen the news coverage, check out this video:

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Sunday, May 2, 2010

Island life

The day after our seashell collecting adventure, we went back out to the island for more exploring. This time, we drove out to the opposite end of the island, Captiva.

I love imagining what it would be like to live on an island...

where coconut trees grow in the front yard...

where the earth is so full of seashells that even the rocks are made of seashells...

where people live in brightly-colored houses...

where giant flowers bloom in vivid colors...

where dolphins play in your backyard...

and you have to watch out for manatee...

where you can see from one side of the island to the other...

and you can feel the warm sand between your toes.

What about you? Have you ever lived on an island? Would you want to?

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Saturday, May 1, 2010


Walking along the beach, she noticed a seashell in the sand. Instinctively, she stooped to pick it up. She rubbed her fingers along its smooth white surface. She inspected its shape.

Then she saw another. And another.

Soon, she had collected 10, then 20. Minutes later, her bucket was half full.

She stopped and looked around her. The seashells were everywhere. They were too numerous to count. Too plentiful to collect. Yet, each one unique. Each one calling us to pick it up.

We were on Sanibel Island, home to more seashells than most other beaches in the world. As the waves washed onto the shore, they left piles of shells. Large shells. Small shells. Crushed shells that had been battered by the waves.

The sand was covered with shells. In fact, the white sand itself seemed to be made of the tiny remains of crushed shells.

Collecting seashells here is like looking for rocks on a gravel road. Finding flowers in a field of wildflowers.

We had to change our focus. We searched for only the most unusual. The ones with the most beautiful shape. Those with striking colors.

The smooth white shells that had once seemed so special were now quite ordinary. We were looking for fossils in a creekbed of pebbles. Four-leaf clovers in a meadow.

We sorted through the shells looking for the conches. The lightning whelk shells. The brown cockle shells. The blended tulip shells. The sand dollars. We separated those into our bucket of "special" shells.

We dug deep into the sand. We waded into the ocean and waited to see what the waves would bring.

Finally, it was time to leave the beach. We tried to walk along without staring at the sand. "Don't pick up anymore shells," I instructed.

We had more than we could carry. More shells than we could ever take home. But who could resist? Just one more. We couldn't stop admiring their beauty.

And we thought of their Maker. The one who had filled the sea with more creatures than we could imagine. Each one different from the others. Each one unique. Too numerous to count. And yet He knows them all.

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