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Wednesday, October 12th 2005

12:44 PM

Careful what you wish for...

October 12, 2005

Fall is a majestic season. The weather cools off and the leaves change. The deep greens of summer change to brilliant oranges, yellows, and reds. Leaves dance in the breeze until they come to rest in piles of crunchy leaves. Parks call to bundled kids. They search for mountains of leaves to stomp. A neat pile of leaves calls for children to throw them into the air and dance in the "rain". Days grow short. The fire flies of summer have found a warm place to pass the winter. Hot cups of cocoa welcome rosy-cheeked kids home from afternoons of adventure. It is a time to hunt for pumpkins and set out scarecrows.

Many parents will tell you the best part of fall is the start of school. As a homeschool parent, I do not have that joy to look forward to. Instead, we look forward to everyone else’s kids going off to school so we can visit our favorite tourist places without a crowd. Yesterday, we decided to take advantage of this and visit the National Aquarium with a group of homeschool friends. The boys are in the middle of a study on Australia and what a cool way to learn about the Barrier Reef than see it’s critters in action. Armed with cameras, the boys were ready to spend the day with their friends wandering the aquarium.

Chad often laments that he misses out on our adventures. It is true that he works long hours and often hears of our days after the fact. The kids email Daddy their narrations and often sneak back up from bed to tell him about their day but it is not the same as being in the middle of it. I was thrilled when I learned that our homeschool group was organizing the outing to the aquarium on his day off. I quickly signed our zoo up and cleared the calendar. What a wonderful way to spend a family day!

We live 90 miles from Baltimore, an easy hour and a half drive, maybe two in traffic. We planned to leave the house by eight giving us two full hours to get there by our ten o’clock deadline. A lost shoe and last minute potty trip meant we actually departed 8:15AM. Then, we had to stop and pull cash and grab breakfast. It was 8:30AM before we were actually on the Interstate headed in the right direction. Chad was very confident that it never takes more than 90 minutes to get to Baltimore. We would get there with no problem. I nonchalantly mentioned that we had not made the drive in rain coupled with morning traffic. Apparently, I challenged his manhood. He was determined that we were going to get there on time. We raced down the freeway, headlong into morning traffic. He tensed with every tick of the clock. These minor delays would not keep him from getting us there on time.

I have very few pet peeves but being late is one of them. In fact, it tops the list. This is unfortunate because I married someone incapable of arriving on time. He swears that God made him that way. I argue that if I am capable of arriving to appointments with four children ten minutes early, a grown man is surely capable of arriving at the appointed time. Chad isn’t. Thirteen years of knowing Chad has allowed me to find ways to coexisting without killing him. Much to his displeasure, I pad our trips by planning to arrive early. We had to meet everyone at the ticket office at 10:20AM so I told my dear but often late husband, we had to be there by ten. In my mind, this little stretch of truth prevents us from missing planes and being grossly late. This morning, it meant that we actually arrived on time. It was 10:20AM on the dot when we finally joined our group in front of the ticket office. Instead of being grateful for getting us there on time, Chad was furious that I lied. He was panicked that we missed everyone and did not appreciate me adding stress to his day. We were both a little intense when we walked through the doors and embarked on our glorious family day.

Most of the frustration was quickly forgotten as the kids dragged Chad around. The kids enjoyed a wonderful day with Daddy. He was very impressed with how much they know. Drew served as our personal docent. Even I was amazed at how many different facts he was able to accurately produce. Instead of a dolphin show, we got to watch a training session that was fascinating to us all. The kids are currently studying the Australian Barrier Reef for another project and had lots to add when we walked through the reef exhibit. Even Bekah was able to identify various fish and other critters. Everyone around us laughed when she loudly exclaimed, "That’s a whopper!" as a big fish swam by. We lunched on the world’s most expensive hamburgers but Chad was content to pay. He was simply happy to be in the middle of his zoo on an adventure.

Little did he know what an adventure he was on. By lunch, Kaleb was really starting to sniffle and cough. His cold medicine had worn off but the pills were back in the ZooMobile in the parking structure. The aquarium has a no stroller policy so I had been lugging Nate around all morning in the backpack. Chad had mercy on me and generously offered to hike back to the car while I waited with the kids. While I was clearing the table, my budding artist was inspired to draw a shark on his chair. This has been an ongoing battle but I was not about to make a scene in the middle of a restaurant. This was our family day and we were going to enjoy it. My artist quickly transformed into janitor and scrubbed his seat clean while I loaded the baby into the backpack. I had secured the last strap when I heard an ominous rumble from the depths of the pack. Murphy’s law states that as soon as you finish stuffing your child into their snowsuit, they have to go potty. Its corollary states a baby will fill his pants as soon as he is secured into a backpack. There was nothing to do but herd the children into the bathroom and change Nate’s pants. Only, the bathroom didn’t have a changing table and I discovered I had forgotten wipes.

Unwilling to change a dirty diaper standing up without wipes, I re-Velcroed him, stuffed him back into the pack, and herded my zoo to the visitors center. The volunteer insisted that this family oriented aquarium had changing tables. I agreed that this would be logical but incorrect. We walked back to the bathroom while Nate continued to grunt in my ear. Imagine that... Changing tables didn’t miraculous appear when the volunteer walked into the bathroom! We then herded over to another volunteer who enlightened us. They have a separate family bathroom so that Dad’s can change babies too. While I am a firm believer in Dads changing diapers, Nate was now squirming behind me and I became acutely aware that I failed to bring a change of clothes. We thanked the volunteers, herded over the to family restroom, and almost suffocated while we conquer the diaper of death. Bekah had found a mysterious puddle on the floor so everyone washed their hands, an ordeal in and of itself, and we finally herded out to find an exasperated Daddy waiting for us. Where had we been? He had hiked all the way to the parking structure (kid free) and I didn’t even have the courtesy to be there when he returned. I tried to calmly explain that we had a little adventure our of own that he should be grateful he missed out on. We were both determined to enjoy our family day so we went back to our corners. Kaleb took his cold medicine and we went on a quest to find the smashed penny machines.

The afternoon went downhill from there. The prohibition of strollers not only meant that I had to be Nate’s personal pack mule, but it also prevented Bekah from napping. There is no place to lay down a cranky child in the middle of an aquarium. Our darling daughter can be pure sunshine but the flip side of the coin is that she can also be her own little self-contained hurricane. By the time we finally found the stinking coin smashers, Bekah didn’t want to do that. She didn’t want to put the money in the slots. She wanted the penny to go in the quarter slot. She didn’t want the dolphin penny. Or the shark penny. Or any of the other pennies she insisted she must have the minute before. I suggested that Chad take her aside and "help" her see the light. He looked at me in horror. Why should he have to be the bad guy? He was just a visitor on this adventure and this surely fell in my department. A little grumpy myself from hauling Sir Chunky Thighs around all day, I was happy to put Bek in her place. We battled, I won, and the day went forward with a tired little girl skating on thin ice with a grumpy Mommy.

I think at this point Chad was wondering why he felt bad about missing our wonderful adventures. This was reinforced when we exited a dark exhibit and Kaleb stepped into the light. Our artistic Moose had come into contact with something he was terribly allergic to. His entire face was swollen. His eyes were all puffy and his face looked like a puffer fish. He looked very pathetic and immediately had our full attention. This is not the first time Kaleb had looked like a puffer fish. He had gone leaf jumping with a friend the day Nate was born and came to meet his brother with a similarly disfigured face. A good shot of Benadryl and he would be back to his handsome self. Daddy, on the other hand, did not see this as something to be simply dismissed. Kaleb was not fine. Couldn’t I see that he was about to pop? What if his throat started to swell close?

Kaleb looked very pathetic but I have had four kids and this one was going to live. Chad is often at work when I am at home playing Dr. Mom bandaging gushing head wounds, extracting foreign objects ("nose missiles") from noses and getting broken arms x-rayed. Welcome to life with kids. Weird stuff happens all the time and one of Kaleb’s quirks is his ability to swell up like a puffer fish. I have the paperwork in the ZooMobile for his allergy test. He looked a little funky but Kabs was going to live.

A swollen kid didn't phase me but Daddy was sick with worry! He drove like a crazy man down the streets of Baltimore to try to find help for his poor son. It would have been sweet to see if I hadn't been praying for my life as he jockeyed for position in evening traffic. City people sure do know how to use their horns! Chad cursed one-way streets while we tried to follow someone’s directions to a drug store only to finally get there and not be able to get out. There was no place to park and I was unwilling to jump out in traffic. Assuring Chad that Kaleb would like long enough for us to find another store, I convinced him to drive on.

I am directionally challenged. I have come to terms with my ailment and have no problem driving around aimlessly until I find where I am going. The kids lovingly refer to me as the Queen of U-turns. Driving through downtown Baltimore looking for a drugstore seemed natural to me. Chad, on the other hand, is almost fanatical about knowing exactly where he is at all times. His personal hell is driving around unfamiliar places, like Baltimore, without a map (I just cleaned out the car) while his son is swelling to death in the backseat. This difference in our personalities has occasionally generated heated conversations. Chad did not take well to driving aimlessly. He grew more stressed with every U-turn we drove. He did not take well to me randomly pointing out various sights along the way. Did you know that downtown Baltimore has a hundred really cool crabs that are all decorated in different themes. I know because I pointed them all out for Chad’s enjoyment. Cursing the one way roads, the decorated crabs, and maybe me, he drove over a bridge in an attempted to escape downtown traffic and find a gas station to stop and ask directions. It was perfect! We drove right into a hospital parking lot. Driving aimlessly really gets you places! Explaining that every hospital has a pharmacy, I jumped out and ran inside. Just my luck! The pharmacy had closed 15 minutes before but the nice security guy gave me directions to a nearby drug store.

Happy that we were close to our goal, I ran back to the car with my good news. Chad did not share my enthusiasm. Why was the pharmacy closed? Don’t they know that people need medicine at all hours? Didn’t I know that Kaleb was about to pop? How could I be smiling at a time like this? I did the only thing I knew to do. I called my mom. Chad and my mom have shared the typical love-hate in-law relationship over the years but she is a nurse, and he was convinced that his son was going to expire in the backseat. We answered all of Mom’s questions and determined that Kaleb needed to be helped but was, in fact, not going to swell to death, right now at least. Chad accepted the diagnosis and we went onto find the drug store.

I turns out that I am not the only directionally challenged person on the planet. The security officer was very nice but there was a reason he wasn’t working in, oh say, dispatch. We ended up sightseeing the darker parts of Baltimore before my beloved husband finally stopped at a 7-11 for directions. There must have been ten gang bangers hanging out in front of the store. I spent the next five minutes thinking what would happen if one of them made the mistake of messing with a stressed out husband who was lost and convinced his son was about to pop in the backseat. Thankfully, none of my grisly imagined possibilities ever materialized. He came out of the store looking relieved. Armed with Benadryl and directions, Chad was beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Little did he know it was really a train.

With the crisis behind us, I felt it was safe to finally broach the subject of dinner. I had been starving before we left the aquarium but felt it unwise to throw anything else into the mix. There were two favorite fast food joints in sight, so we drove through both before our quest to return home. Getting back to the freeway turned out to be more complicated than Chad had thought. There are many bridges in Baltimore and only one of them takes you to the right freeway. My husband didn’t appreciate my input so I quietly looked out the window and tried not to point out the funny crabs.

By the time we finally got ourselves on the correct freeway, Chad was wound tighter than a clock. Everyone reacts differently under stress. Some people snap. Some cry. Some yell. When I am feeling stressed and have no control over the situation, I laugh. Somewhere between the stoplight where a homeless person who was more metal prosthetic limbs than flesh and jumping across six lanes of heavy traffic to merge onto the wrong freeway, I crossed that thin line and got the giggles. The more I giggled, the more mistakes Chad made, which only made me laugh harder. He knows I can’t help it but after the day we had shared, he didn’t care. Needless to say, I was not his favorite person when Kaleb started retching in the backseat of our new car.

Our poor Moose! His eyes were swollen shut so he had difficulty finding something to throw up into. I reacted like most moms would. I dumped my drink out the window so Kaleb could have my cup. There is something about the strength of the wind generated by a car racing down the freeway at mach 5 that pushes liquid back inside the window. There was soda everywhere. If being sprayed with soda wasn’t enough, the mix of horror, disbelief, and disgust on Chad’s face sent me into spasms of giggles. Here I was sprawled across two rows of SUV trying to catch vomit from my pathetic puffer fish while my husband sat in the front seat wondering why he had taken the day off work. It seemed hysterically funny at the time. Somehow, Chad managed to pull off the freeway and park at a McDonalds. Kaleb finally finished and I started wiping up the car while Chad rolled down every window and threw on the air full force. It was a cold Fall night but my husband didn’t care. We needed fresh air. We all sat shivering in the McDonald’s parking lot while Chad supplied mountains of napkins for me to clean up the mess. In my haste of getting Kaleb his container, I failed to remove the rubber cup holder that had adhered itself to the bottom of my cup. It was now even to gross for me to touch barehanded, so I shoved it in the trash bag with the intention of dealing with it later.

By the time I was done, Chad was fit to be tied. What kind of a mom was I? Here was his son, swollen and retching in the backseat, while I laughed and played in his vomit. Chad is rarely irrational but we had pushed him over the edge. "He’s fine. Sure, he’s fine. Just look at the poor kid and you can see that he is juuuust fine." What had the world come to that my husband was impersonating in a McDonald’s parking lot. I am sure the other patrons were wondering whether this crazy was dangerous. "They are suppooooosed to look like they are about to explode. It is normal for them to PUKE all over the car. He is juuuust fine." All I could do was laugh. The more he ranted, the harder I laughed. I almost died when he grabbed my trash bag from me in frustration. I doubled over with laughter as he dropped the wet bag in disgust. The outside wasn’t exactly clean. Between breaths, I tried to explain that someone still needed to pull the rubber cup holder off the bottom of the puke cup but quickly fell back into hysterics as Chad looked at me like I was nuts. "Why didn’t you take care of that before you stuffed it back into the puke bag?!?!" He was horrified to have to touch anything more but too angry at me to give back my bag. He stomped away to the trashcan. He turned his back to us, I’m sure to prevent me from laughing harder at his disgust.

Although we were only fifteen minutes from home, the remainder of our drive was very long. I struggled to control my laughter, which was difficult because Chad was shooting me glaring looks. The kids huddled in their seats shivering but no one dared to ask Daddy to close the windows. I think they were also scared to get me laughing again. We finally arrived home, three hours and fifteen minutes later. That was a long 90-mile drive. Chad stormed into the house to deal with the mess the dogs made during their thirteen-hour lock-in. I extracted the frozen kids from their car seats and sent them into the house. The meds were finally kicking in and Kaleb could now see through little slits of eyes. He was anxious to jump in the shower and crawl into bed.

The rest of our night was spent in heavy silence. Chad tried really hard to calm down and I tried really hard to not laugh. Chad was never so glad as this morning when the alarm went off and he got to go to work. I think yesterday confirmed that he is simply not cut out for staying home full time with our zoo. Work is a much safer place!

Your Zany Zookeeper,


P.S. Chad disputes my perspective on this adventure. He claims that the horns were not necessarily directed at him nor was he driving mach 5 :0)

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Tuesday, July 5th 2005

12:00 AM

Rail Surfing

July 5, 2005

Fourth of July is my least favorite holiday. There is just something about intentionally setting something on fire to watch it explode that doesn’t seem sensible to me. Add danger loving dads and small children into the mix and it boils down to plain stupidity. My beloved pyromaniac, on the other hand, waits all year for the chance to set something on fire. His eyes light up when the firebomb stands go up. He spend hours determining which box will scare me the most.

Every year it is the same thing. The firebomb stands start popping up and I start drawing the line. Every year I lose. This year I got smart. Independence Day fell on a Monday giving Chad a three-day weekend. Camping is one of our family’s passions, one we haven’t had time to enjoy lately. A few well placed phone calls and everything was in place. We had reservations to spent four peaceful days camping in central Virginia, in a campground that prohibited fireworks! This was going to be the best Fourth of July yet!

I have forgotten how much work it is to go camping. It is definitely less expensive but I spent two days shopping, washing, and packing for our relaxing trip. Our popup camper has been in storage since we moved across the country. It needed to be aired out and restocked. The day after we return home from camping, the kids and I head out to California for a month. Our California bags needed to be packed. Chad adamantly determined the dogs were coming with us, which opened up another whole bag of problems. We recently got a new dog, Rosco, who isn’t the smartest pup on the block. He hasn’t learned to come when he is called, which is irritating but understandable. My problem is that he isn’t housebroken… and he is three! He doesn’t just drop his load anywhere. He has adopted my closet as his latrine. We are currently debating whether Rosco should remain a member of the Johnson Zoo or become a farm dog. I’m sure Rosco would be much happier chasing chickens and cow tipping. Since I haven’t convinced Chad of this yet, the incredible pooping pooch was making the three-hour drive with us. I needed a little R&R after all this preparation.

After much planning, some frantic packing, and a little yelling, Saturday night we hit the road. We didn’t exactly get the early start we had planned. Chad noted our departure time with great irritation. 9:45PM. Think of all the traffic we would have hit getting underway with everyone else. No worries! Besides, tomorrow we could sleep in.

Within an hour, the kids had finished their dinners and snuggled in for the night. Even Rosco settled down in a nest next to Kaleb. I never realized how little time Chad and I actually get to sit and converse with one another. We had two wonderful hours to just chat about nothing. We discussed work, homeschooling, politics, family, and our future goals. It is fun to think that even after eight years of marriage we still have so much to talk about! Two hours into our trip, I noticed gas prices were significantly lower so we pulled into a truck stop and topped off. After a half-hour of potty breaks, Chad took over driving and we jumped back on the freeway. Exhausted from preparing for our relaxing weekend, I slipped off my shoes, snuggled up, and dozed off.

I awoke to the sound of screaming metal. In a matter of seconds, we danced with a tractor trailer and then "surfed" 150 feet of guardrail. Before I fully realized what was going on, someone was opening my door yelling at us to get out. The van was spilling fuel. "Get out!!!" Mommy instincts kicked into high gear. I was able to pry the slider open and frantically started pulling the kids out of the car. I yanked Nate out of his seat and handed him to a stranger who ran him to safety. Faster than I would have thought possible, I ripped all four kids from their car seats and entrusted them to strangers while we struggled to get the dogs out of the van. Rusty followed his "pups" but Rosco had been launched from his nest and slammed into the dash. Disoriented and afraid, Rosco refused to leave the leaking van. Chad finally dragged him out only to have his collar slip over his head. Rosco bolted and ran wild on the freeway. I recoiled when I realized that my kids survived only to watch their get dog killed. Thankfully, emergency crews cornered him under the camper and dragged him away to safety.

Dazed and disoriented myself, I frantically searched among the cars for the kids. Within a few minutes we had found them all, understandably shaken but miraculously unharmed. It was only while I protectively cradled Nate that I realized I was standing on a freeway of parked cars. Blue lights flashed, sirens screamed. I remember Nate’s body trembling as the story spilled out from the onlookers. Two hours before, a drunk had come down the freeway the wrong way slamming head on to a tractor-trailer. The drunk driver was instantly killed and the truck slammed into another before flipping and bursting into flames. The accident had closed the northbound side of the freeway leaving thousands of holiday travelers stranded. Making the best of it, people pulled out their beach chairs and coolers and watched the drama unfold. They watched as ambulances and fire trucks raced down the emergency lanes to extinguish the flames. Every state trooper in the county had been called in to work the accident. People camped out and recorded the drama with their camcorders and cameras.

A tractor-trailer on the southbound side of the freeway had slowed to five miles an hour to take in the carnage. The freeway spectators were all commenting on how this rubber necker was going to cause an accident when we came up behind him. At one in the morning, our side of the freeway was pitch black aside from the truck’s running lights. He never hit his breaks. Chad slowed to fifty miles an hour because of the emergency activity on the northbound side but had no idea that the truck ahead of us was virtually parked on the road. He saw the running lights, went down a dip, and popped back up right behind the truck that hadn’t moved. By this time, we had the complete attention of the northbound side. The state troopers said they still don’t know how Chad reacted fast enough to miss the truck. If we had slammed into it, the camper we were pulling would have crushed us and we all would have died. Chad swerved, missing the tractor-trailer by inches. If it had just been the van, we might have pulled out of it but the trailer jackknifed, first left then bounced around and slammed into the passenger side of the van. The impact of the camper pushed the van up over the guard rail. The weight of the camper kept us from flipping completely over into the river below but our momentum carried us 150 feet down the guard rail. The impact of the camper blew out three tires, crumpled Bekah’s compartment, shattered her window, and slit the full gas tank.

While there is never a good time to dance with death, our accident could not have gone more right. Every imaginable type of emergency worker was already out working the northbound wreck. We had hundreds of witnesses, at least one of whom captured the entire thing on film. In those thousands of stranded travelers, a Search and Rescue team was stuck on their way home after a week long training course. They were sitting on the tailgate next to their bags of equipment when we started to swerve. Before we jumped the guardrail, they were already running toward us. Chad immediately hit the lights so we wouldn’t spark the fuel pouring out of the van, but it left the dark camper vulnerable to another impact. Two troopers make it to the scene and divert traffic before anyone hit us. The stranger who ran Nate to safety was a EMT in a party dress and pearls who had gotten stuck on her way home from a party. Within minutes, hoses from the fire trucks were ready to extinguish the van if the fuel ignited.

Fearful of an explosion, we stood across the median and tried to grasp the reality of our situation. Two and a half hours from home, we were now without transportation. All of our belongings, food, insurance information, and clothing sat inside a van that threatened to blow. Barefoot and shaking, I realized I didn't care if my Betsy blew. God had protected our family in a miraculous way and we walked away from the crash as a complete family. I have never felt more grateful in my life. Even as we waited for the van to spark, I knew that we had been protected. Spewing fuel, we took out ten guardrails and never ignited. The reality of how close it had been began to sink in.

Most of the spectators watched from a distance, but one wonderful family came forward. The woman wrapped her arms around me while her daughter, "big" Becca, entertained the younger kids. People came and took pictures of the boys dressed up in rescue gear. The fire marshal told Drew what a lucky young man he was and delighted him an explanation of the equipment they used. Food, drinks, and blankets appeared while the men headed off to retrieve what they could from the van. Animal Control brought a van to take the kids, dogs, and I to a hotel while Chad stayed at the accident. As much as I wanted to get away from the gas fumes and flashing lights, it was very difficult leaving Chad there. The tension was broken when Kaleb stopped and tearfully asked about the fate of his new water gun, still inside the camper. We all laughed heartily. Chad scooped Moose up and assured him that he would have a water gun to take to California. If missing water guns were the worst of our worries, we would surely be all right.

By the time we arrived at the hotel, the jitters had set in. Some people panic in the middle of a crisis; I break down after I know everyone is fine. The driver stayed with the kids and dogs in the van while I went inside to get a room. I was thrilled to learn they accepted dogs. I smiled to think that God was even looking out for our crazy mutts. My peace evaporated when the clerk told me I had to pay right then. Everything was back at the accident. I tried to explain but she remained steadfast. It finally occurred to me that I don’t carry a purse. Chad is forever riding me because I stuff my cards in pockets. I had bought dinner at the truck stop and left my main ATM in the center console of the van but relief washed over me when I discovered our backup credit card in my pocket. In my anxiety, I mispunched my pin. I fought to keep my composure while the attendant called her manager. The manager cleared the machine and I punched the right pin this time. The manager then informed me she would not provide us a room. They have a limit of five people per room and we are a six pack.

My composure crumpled. Didn’t she know that we had almost died? Didn’t she know that if she turned us away, I didn’t even have a car I could sleep in? Didn’t she know? How could she turn us away at three in the morning after all we had been through? I decided she couldn’t. With determined exhaustion, I explained that she was going to give us a room. Nate hasn’t even had a birthday yet so he couldn’t possible count. He was zero! Bekah is so small she could only count as ¾ a person at max so by my count we were only at 4 and ¾ people, well within their five person max. She just stared at me. She must have sensed my desperation because she accepted my twisted logic and handed me a room key.

I herded the kids and dogs into our room just before 4AM. Chad still wasn’t back from the accident and I was feeling worn. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to drop from exhaustion or call my mom and cry. I was still deliberating when I suddenly noticed a raunchy smell in the room. The kids yelled with delight when they discovered that Rosco, the incredible pooping pooch, had managed to poop in the trash can. Kaleb proudly declared that was the coolest thing he had ever seen. Once we had recovered from the stench and got everyone settled down, we realized we were hungry. Starving. Famished. Dancing with death apparently gives one an appetite! We were discussing this fact when Nate woke up and I discovered I had no bottle, no formula, and no diapers. Chad walked in as I succumbed to helpless sobs.

After everything that we had been through, the next hour was the longest. We were trapped in the middle of nowhere without a way of appeasing our children’s hunger. I can’t imagine living in countries where this is a daily fact of life. I felt incredibly helpless. The grocery store was closed. The vending machines were empty. Chad walked all the way to McDonalds only to find that they really wouldn’t serve him in the drive-through. They said he had to have a car. He managed to scrounge up a pack of crackers at a nearby gas station. Everyone drifted off to sleep a little before five.

Two hours later I stood waiting for the grocery store to open. I decided I would make up for last night’s hunger. For the first time in my life, I bought my kids sugar cereal. I found the biggest, chocolatey-est box I could find that had the "75% less sugar" stamp. I still had to get these kids home! I picked up donuts and grapes, milk and juice. When I got to the register, I discovered that I didn’t have my money. Sleep deprivation doesn’t aid one trying to suppress emotion. I slinked back to the hotel, grabbed my money card, and then walked back to the grocery store. By the time I arrived back to our room, I was burning with injustice. Why does everything happen to us? What were we supposed to do now? Money is already unbearably tight and now this. How much more do we have to endure? Chad just kissed me and held me while I cried. It is wonderful to have a life partner who knows exactly what you need.

My grandparents came down and rescued us. There is a reason I don’t buy sugar cereal. My grandparents walked into a noisy room of bouncing boys, exhausted parents, and barking dogs. It is amazing they didn’t turn right around and hightail it out of there! We packed up into two cars and headed over to the wrecking yard.

I was shocked to see the condition of the van. Had the accident really been that bad? How had I opened the slider? It took everything Chad had to yank it open. How did we all walk away? Bek’s compartment was crumpled and the entire backseat was littered with shards of glass. Chad climbed under the van and came out shaking his head. My injustice was replaced with shame and gratitude. We have been blessed beyond measure. As difficult as it was going through the van, I can’t imagine doing it while grieving the loss of a family member. Our cuts and bruises are so minor. All it would have taken is one spark. We slid 150 feet, metal on metal, without a spark. Who cares if we are down to one car that won’t hold us all? We are all alive. We are all unharmed. God is so good.

In that day they will say,

Surely this is our God;

We trusted in him, and he saved us.

The is the LORD, we trusted in him;

Let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.

~Isaiah 25:9

It has defiantly been a Fourth of July to remember. Now I am really ready from some R&R! Before we leave tomorrow we are going to follow Kaleb’s suggestion and have a celebration dinner. Tonight we celebrate our safety, God’s providence, and family members who accept collect calls at three in the morning! Maybe next year we will just stay home and let Chad play with fireworks…

Your Exhausted but Abundantly Blessed Zookeeper,



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Thursday, December 2nd 2004

1:15 PM

Nate the Great

December 2, 2004

Hello to all our sane friends and family out there,

After months and months of waiting, we are very excited to announce the arrival of the newest Johnson member... and not a minute too late. You know its bad when strangers sympathetically cluck as you waddle by. I took the kids through our local drive through and when I got up to the window, the girl exclaimed that I just HAD to have the baby soon because it looked like I was going to bust open. I should have just peeled out then because the embarrassment was just beginning. She proceeded to grab her coworker and loudly point out the amazing size of my girth. Her girlfriend made such a racket that two other burger flippers were standing on their tiptoes to get a good look at my incredibly large belly. Just when I thought I would die of mortification, Kaleb piped up from the backseat, "You should see her button. It sticks out like a cooking thermometer." Out of the mouth of babes. Simply said, that was the end of fast food for the remainder of my pregnancy!

As anxious as I was to have my body back, I felt apprehensive about the whole reclaiming process. Chad reasoned as only a man can. Having successfully brought three rascals into the world, he reasoned I already knew exactly what was going to happen. I am a pro. What was the problem? Husbands, do not combat pregnant emotions with logic. It does not make for a long and healthy life. I usually feel a little twinge of pride when Chad brags how nice I am in labor but this conversation made me reconsider. Maybe I make it look too easy! The reality of the situation hit me when we went to the pumpkin patch and Kaleb picked out a ten-pound pumpkin. We were all excited about his monster pumpkin until it dawned on me that this was the same size they were forecasting for our baby. Ten pounds suddenly seemed like an awful lot of baby. When I voiced my concerns to Chad, my loving husband just chuckled about a "no returns" policy. Cute. Very cute.

I wasn't the only one concerned about delivering the Great Pumpkin. My doctor decided to induce me two weeks early. After my epiphany at the pumpkin patch, I was more than game to catch this critter while he was still likely to fit. My enthusiasm dampened, however, when the nurse informed me that I was scheduled to be ripened Monday and then induced Tuesday. Excuse me? Do I look like a Veggie Tale that needs to be ripened to you?!?! I am not a Veggie Tale... I am not a Veggie Tale... Oh, God, please don't let me turn into a Veggie Tale! I guess there were some residual effects from being the drive-through freak show. When she finally stopped laughing at the look of horror on my face, the nurse explained that "ripening" was a simple procedure to soften my cervix so they could induce me. Ramming a pumpkin sized head against a rock hard cervix sounded like something to be avoided. Ripening it is!

Monday morning I arrived at the hospital with a book in hand. I am not a Veggie Tale. I am not. I'm not. I'm not. Plan A: get "ripened", walk the halls in my ever fashionable hospital gown for an hour, and then go home so I can come back tomorrow for a healthy dose of Potosin. It sounded simple enough. I was actually looking forward to a little R&R before the big day. Curling up with a book for a few hours without children underfoot sounded like the best way to start an exciting week. Heck, a few hours doing anything without children sounded great.

My plan started off great. The doctor was running late so I got to enjoy three chapters while the nurses brought a steady stream of ice water and juice. I was a little surprised when the doctor walked in. Not totally convinced about the whole ripening story, I went home and called a girlfriend after my doctor’s appointment. She assured that this wasn't some backwater West Virginia procedure. A quick dab of gel was nothing to worry about. I don't know what gel she was "ripened" with. My doc was armed with what appeared to be a dishwashing tablet. Reassuring myself that this was a well-respected physician and not some quack, I consented to go along with the plan. It was that or wait for the Great Pumpkin to come out on his own.

Looking at the dishwashing tablet made me seriously consider the later until I remembered the size of Kaleb's pumpkin. How big of a kid did I really want to push out the birth canal? A few minutes later I was up roaming the halls. When I become queen of the world, I am going to put treadmills in every maternity ward. The Incredible Belly Woman felt incredibly lame waddling the halls in her ever-fashionable hospital gown. The woman screaming in the delivery room made me grateful I had a day to steel my nerves while the babies in the nursery window reassured me that it would be worth it. After an hour of walking, the food cart rolled by and I happily waddled back to my bed.

After a quiet lunch, the nurse informed me that I was good to go once she heard back from of the doctor. It was almost 1:30. If I got out there in the next few minutes, I would have time to swing by the post office and gas station before the kids were up from rest time. So much for the plans of mice and men... By the time the doctor returned his page, I had enjoyed my first contraction. The nurse returned three minutes later with the release papers. One look at my pink cheeks and white knuckles changed her mind. On a whim, she decided to check me before sending me home. Change of plans… I was dilated to seven and we were having a baby.

We were having a baby! After nine agonizing months, we were finally having a baby! We... Wait a minute! It was all good until I realized Chad was working three states away. The whole point of being induced, in my mind at least, was so Chad would witness the birth his son. OK, and so he could help me through labor. Here I am three contractions into labor, dilated to seven, and my husband is missing the boat. I am not a happy prego. I tearfully explain to the nurse that my husband is in Pennsylvania and, bless her soul, she assured me he would arrive in time. Before it occurred to me that she had no basis for her declaration, I was breathing through another contraction while they wheeled me into the delivery room.

The rest of the story is history. Both Chad and my mom, who had flown in from California, arrived in time for the big event. We were beginning to wonder if the doctor was going to make an appearance, but he strolled in just as I was ready to push. Five minutes later, we were blessed with a ten-pound baby boy. I had successfully delivered the Great Pumpkin! It took longer to stitch me up than it did to push him out, but that didn't matter. We had been blessed with a beautiful son and Chad arrived in time to watch. Holding our huge bundle of joy, the past nine months proved worthwhile. The Johnson Zoo was finally complete!

Now that we had a baby, it was time to decide on a name. In light of the fact that he is already half of Bekah’s current weight, Littlest Bit was no longer appropriate. Jolly Green Giant seemed much more fitting! After months of the great name debate, the list had been narrowed to three contenders: Luke, Nathaniel, and Joshua. In the past, Chad has come up with all sorts of creative solutions to narrowing the list to one. During Kaleb's delivery, he actually wrapped a coin in medical tape, wrote the choices, and then flipped it. Husbands, do not reason with your wife mid-contraction. The delivery nurse was so astounded by his actions, she declared me the winner by default. As a result, we have a Kaleb. I suspect the election coverage had something to do with it but Chad purposed we let our Johnson Chronicle readers vote. I had read too many e-mails in support of Luke to let that one fly so we compromised. Each of our children has a biblical first name followed by a familial middle name. It only seemed right that Grandpa Erdem pick the baby’s first name since it would be his namesake, even if he didn’t know that yet. The hard part was keeping our plan a secret!

Grandpa was never able to have children of his own and had never held a newborn. Even at ten-pounds, the miniature features of Baby Johnson awed him. It was fun watching him caress itty toes and melt when a tiny hand wrapped itself around his finger. Baby Johnson was already three hours old when Grandpa arrived so he was surprised we still hadn’t decided on a name. We explained that we had narrowed the list down to three. When asked which he liked, he paused before responding with Nathaniel. You should have seen the look on his face when I handed him his great-grandson, "Grandpa Erdem, I would like to introduce you to Nathaniel Erdem Johnson." The delight and surprise on his face made everyone laugh. Nate the Great was finally here!

The next five days crept by. It turned out that Nate the Great wasn’t as healthy as we had hoped. A lightning delivery prevented me from getting a full course of antibiotics and, as a result, Nate had some respiration problems. He required close monitoring for the first few days but was otherwise fine. After his breathing slowed back down into the normal range, the doctors heard a loud heart murmur. It turns out that he has four holes in both the upper and lower chambers of his heart. He is going to live a long and active life, but we have some bumpy months ahead of us.

It didn’t take long for us to hit turbulence. During his first three weeks, Nate had a few episodes of blue lips but I wasn’t overly alarmed. For the first time in my life, I am thankful for the nightmare we had lived through with Moose. Blue is a matter of perspective. A number of friends have remarked on my calm attitude towards Nate’s color changes. They weren’t around during Kaleb’s first year. I am definitely a seasoned mom when it comes to dealing with blue kids. Blue tinted lips are nothing after watching Kaleb turn shades of Cookie Monster blue.

Panic set in the day before Thanksgiving. I walked in and found Nate’s lips a disconcerting shade of blue and the usual flick (for that deep breath before the cry) didn’t work its magic. I felt like I had been hit over the head. I could only remember the frightening memories of Kaleb’s ordeal. No, Lord, not again! The next step was to undress him. I was startled to see the skin sinking into his rib cage. The doctors had explained that this might happen but I never pictured it looking so surreal. Ms. Calm was nowhere to be found!

Four hours later, we returned home from the hospital. Nate was none the worse for wear. The doctors had restored him to normal oxygen levels and armed us with an Apnea monitor to alert us at the first sign of trouble. Some people panic during the emergency, "What’s the number for 9-1-1?" Then there are people, like me, who fall apart after the crisis is over. I sat in my driveway and cried. Now that I had been assured that Nate was alright, I was overwhelmed by a case of the "What Ifs." What if I hadn’t walked in? What if his color hadn’t returned? What if this happens again? I just cried. Finally empty of tears, I herded everyone into the house and called Chad to fill him in on our morning.

Emotionally, this had been one of the roughest days since we lost the twins. The last thing I wanted to do was sort the mail Drew had carried in. I had to at least peruse it and make sure I wasn't missing something important. I was puzzled to find several oversized envelopes. I didn’t recognize the sender’s names but they were all stamped with the same web address. I can’t express how blessed I was when I opened envelope after envelope to find "Angels for Hope" enclosed. Apparently a friend had submitted our names to an organization that crochets angels and butterflies for struggling families. Each angel was meticulously decorated with obvious time and effort but what really struck me was the attached tag, "Someone special has requested that you receive this ‘Angel of Hope’ so that you know that you are loved and cared about. Our thoughts and prayers are with you." My tears ran free. I walked in from the hospital only to learn that there were strangers out there, thousands of miles away, praying for us.

God is so awesome! The angles have continued to trickle in, each time reminding me that we are not alone in our struggle. On Drew’s suggestion, our host of angels has been fastened to Nate’s bassinet. Every time the Apnea alarm brings us running, we are greeted by Nate’s angles and are reminded he is going to be ok. Even in our darkest times, we are so blessed!

It is hard to believe that a month has passed since Nate came into our lives. The kids are completely enamoured with their little brother. Drew was thrilled to discover the magic touch that soothes a fussy brother. Kaleb is the proud sibling. He introduces anyone who will listen to our newest family member. You never realize how busy the market is until you stop and meet everyone shopping there! I think Bek is Nate’s biggest fan. She is content simply holding him. Sleeping, crying, pooping- it doesn’t matter as long as she is holding her "baby budder". The most amazing thing is Nate’s ability to sleep through all their noise!

I was deeply concerned how a new baby was going to disrupt our routine. How was I going to juggle our stamp business with a newborn and keep the boys on track with homeschooling? Oh wait, you want clean clothes and hot meals too? Surprisingly, the fears I had wrestled with throughout my pregnancy seemed less threatening now that I had a baby in my arms. He didn’t cry incessantly nor did he demand to be held for hours on end. Better yet, Bek was content to entertain the baby while the boys fell back into their homeschooling groove. Maybe all that worry was for nothing!

Or not. Ever feel like things hold together just long enough to give you a false sense of security? Every parent has a least favorite aspect of the job. Some people can’t take the broken sleep. Others gag over dirty diapers. My personal pet peeve is having babies urp in my hair. I long ago abandoned lofty expectations of pressed clothes and peaceful meals. A mother of three learns to find joy in the little things… brushing my teeth before noon, going potty without an audience, taking a shower without a little voice calling to me through the door. I am no longer repulsed when the feverish little body laying next to me expels hot dogs all over my sheets but please, please, please keep it out of my hair!

It had been a great day. The boys were homeschooling. I had written the html code for our new auctions. I was a mommy of four who had it all under control. Until Nate erupted. In the blink of an eye, my day took a turn for the worse. My precious child blasted an amazing amount of regurgitated milk in my hair, down my shirt, and covered the couch. After I recovered from the initial shock, I couldn’t suppress a triumphant grin. And Chad thought the couch covers were a waste of money! A little urp, even if it was matted in my hair, was old hat for a mommy of my caliber. Determined to keep my cool, I set Nate in his bouncer, stripped the couch, and headed to the laundry room. A quick load of laundry and a hot shower and I would be as good as new.

Nate had other plans. I was getting ready to head for the shower when I heard juicy sounds coming from his direction. You know it is bad when you can smell the diaper across the room. He would rest so much better with clean pants. But my hair is so… sticky! I could probably enjoy a longer shower if I changed him now. Where are those stinkin’ wipes? Wouldn’t you know that this child had managed to smear it knees to nipples! Note to self: I need a pay raise.

Off to the bath! I long ago abandoned the cute little baby tubs. Some babies love the bath. They coo while you wash their hair. They smile when you smother them with lotion. Drew screamed like a banshee and in his flailing managed to launch his cute baby tub to the floor. We are now a sink family. There are many benefits of scrubbing your kids in the sink. Mainly, gravity is not your enemy. Secondly, it frees up the real tub for big brothers and sisters. It also frees up the tub to steam green nosed children. Since the adoring siblings had already bestowed their cold upon their little brother, I threw the shower full heat and started running tepid water in the sink. This may have been an unscheduled bath but I was proud of myself for killing two birds with one stone. Pride cometh before the fall.

Nate is not a baby who enjoys warm water running over his chunky parts. He screams. And screams. And screams. As a result, bath time is my most stressful time of day. Not only do I have the company of a screaming, squirming child covered in soap but his objections drown out the sounds of the rest of the house. Though I have often wished my children came with a mute button, I depend on their commotion to keep me alert. Loud clunks are bad but even a small stretch of silence necessitates immediate attention. Nate’s screams leave me deaf to the activities of my beloved rascals.

You would be amazed at the destruction wrought by three children in ten short minutes. You be even more astonished when you realized that it was not malicious mischief. One thing simply leads to another until the whole house collapses around them and they realize they are in big trouble. To avoid casualties on either side, I leave my children in the hands of a capable sitter, the television, with clear instructions that no one is to move. My rascals are thrilled to get t.v. time, a rare commodity in our house, and I have a small hope of returning to an intact house.

Satisfied that the big kids are fully immersed in their t.v. coma, I take Nate to the bathroom. The steam has warmed things up and Nate doesn’t object when I strip him. Maybe the fourth kid is the charm… I am really excited when he doesn’t cry as I apply shampoo. My day of glory has come. Nate has finally embraced bath time!

I should have known it was too good to be true. A glance in the mirror reveals the flaw in my grand plans. The dog has taken it upon himself to jump into the shower. In the blink of an eye, my seventy-pound pup realizes he has been spotted and takes off like a shot into the living room. My unprotected couches! I throw Nate in a towel and tuck him under my arm football style as I race off to save my furniture.

The kids think it is hysterically funny that their mother is chasing a wet dog. The cheers and laughter only make the dog, if possible, even crazier. He runs around the room spraying everything with water. He dodges my grasp and makes a beeline for the couch. I am usually a kickback person but I am not seeing the humor in this at all. In fact, I am now almost as furious at the kids as I am at the dog. Yelling at them to grab Rusty was a bad choice. Bad. Bad. Bad. We must have looked like a nutty parade. The dog raced around the entire house while my hysterical kids chased him and I chased them, howling towel still under arm.

By the time we had finally cornered the dog, I was exasperated, my couches, bed, and carpet were drenched, and the baby was covered in a new round of poop. I may have been able to see the sick humor of the situation if I hadn’t walked back into the bathroom. I had left the sink running in my haste and now the water was cascading onto the floor.

There are times when I am glad that Chad works three states away. I can only imagine what he would have thought if he had walked in at the moment. The house was destroyed. The dog was soaking wet. His wife was sitting in the middle of a flooded bathroom, crying, holding a very poopy baby.

So much for a seasoned Mommy! I suspect that my life just got very complicated.

Welcome to the zoo, my son.

Your Exhausted and Slightly Frazzled Zany Zookeeper

17 total marks / leave your mark

Saturday, July 24th 2004

1:18 PM

Six and a half Months

Up to this point, each day of this pregnancy has felt like an eternity. The debilitating morning sickness, the depression over my disproportioned body, and the chronic fatigue were enough to kill any joy I might have mustered towards our new person. Chad’s hearty attempts to encourage me while he held my hair back out of my own vomit only made things worse. "You are half way there!" I know from experience that the first half is the easy part. The last trimester is filled with painful twinges, even more physical limitations, and an overall discomfort that makes eating, sleeping, and breathing a chore. "Babe, today you are 26 weeks!" brought me to tears. How am I going to endure another 14 weeks of this?

I will once again declare that I have the world’s best husband. But my husband comes home from work sometime between nine and ten at night to a clean house, children who have been sentenced to reading in bed, and, on a really good day, dinner. He is not around for the actual cleaning of the house. I don’t mind sweeping the floor but it won’t be long before I will need a crane to pick me up after I have scooped everything into the dustpan. The baby is riding uncomfortably high which makes breathing a feat. I can’t tell you how many times I have sat out of breath on the stairs this week wondering why, oh why, someone as intelligent as a house designer hasn’t put the laundry room on the same floor as the bedrooms. Chad usually misses out on the excitement of Mommy trying to reach over the tub to scrub somebody hair and the nightly hunt for lunch pails and pool towels. All this after I have survived yet another meal with my kids. The days may be flying by for Chad but that clock runs in slow motion while he is away at work.

I have come to the determination that my kids will go barefoot until this baby is born. I am officially incapable to stooping down to pick up their endless supply of shoes that are always underfoot. Frustrated, I attempted to train Bekah to be keeper of the shoes. Being closest to the ground, she seemed to be the best candidate. We played games and effectively trained her to put shoes in the shoe cubby. Unfortunately, I trained her too well. Now it is nearly impossible to get both of your shoes before she grabs them and returns them to the shoe cubby. It might sound funny but there is nothing cute about it when you are frantically herding three kids out the door, behind schedule of course, and it takes twenty minutes for everyone to put on their shoes because of an overly helpful shoe fairy. To be totally honest, I probably wouldn’t care except that the boys gets distracted on their way to retrieving their stolen shoes. I have to heave myself up off the floor (Note to self: think Velcro when walking through the shoe section…) to retrieve the shoes and the children to start the process all over again. Repeat this scenario five times because my children take off their shoes the second they come through the door and I am plum exhausted without starting any of the other household chores. And my beloved husband doesn’t understand why I cry when he tells me I am "already" 26 weeks along!

This chronic uncomfortable thing has definitely gotten old and, to Chad’s bewilderment, I was really starting to get depressed about the whole pregnancy business. We are witnessing the mysterious miracle of life… It won’t be long before I have baby toes to love on… I have always bounced back and lost those pregnancy pounds… blah, blah, blah. Fourth time around, how mysterious could it really be. The real mystery is how I am going to be able to homeschool the boys, entertain Bekah, and still manage to stock clean underwear once those non-sleeping baby toes get here. Sleep deprivation does not bring out the best in anyone and I am still trying to forgive myself for locking baby Drew in a running car in the middle of Sam’s Club during our annual California storm. Because my husband is safely at work, he is not home to see that the reason I lose the weight so quickly is because I don’t have time to eat between bouncing a colicky baby, changing mustard diapers, and washing the clothes stained by malfunctioning diapers not fully equipped to handle poop of a mustard consistency. Woo hoo, we are having another baby….

Most of the baby books address the postpartum blues but they don’t really talk about what to do when you are depressed before your little person even arrives. Feeling like the world was about to end, and unsure whether I had the energy to care, I prayed that God would please change my perspective. Having had issues with the whole "His Timetable" thing, I meekly added that sooner would really be better all around than later. "Thanks for understanding… Love Heather, the City Girl who keeps you entertained down here in West Virginia." Albeit, this was probably not the most respectful way to talk to the Creator of the Universe, I figured He already knew where I was coming from and I might as well lay it out on the table and be frank instead of compounding matters with deceit.

Many of my friends have a totally different view of God and lately I have wondered if maybe I’m the one who has it all wrong. I still haven’t decided if it was the simple act of praying, even if sarcastically, or a true change of perspective, but walked away from my God Conference feeling much better. Whether I can intellectually grasp it or not, in my heart, I still believe there is someone out there who care about me. There is something comforting about being able to hand over a big problem to someone who is so much more capable of handling it than me. The situation hadn’t changed. I still can’t see my toes. The pool is still full of stretch mark free, itty bitty little things wearing Band-Aid sized bikinis. I am still winded going up and down the stairs. But, now I don’t go through the day fighting back tears.

Even better, I am able to find humor in the rigors of pregnancy. I used to tease Chad unmercifully about being a slob because he was constantly dropping food on his shirt. It turns out there is something about a rotund belly that attracts food. I jokingly hypothesized that messy foods are somehow more magnetic. That will teach me. Now, Drew wants to scientifically test my theory! Each new spot now brings a smile to my face as I do the laundry. I recall the embarrassment of having to apologize to Chad and Drew’s enthusiasm over his newest experiment. As uncomfortable as Littlest Bit’s position is, I can’t help but laugh myself into tears (and the bathroom) when my belly starts jumping around with hiccups. A little of the mystery has returned.

The last week has been an exciting one for us. The first thing people ask when they find out we moved from California is, "Why?!?" There are days, particularly humid ones, I wonder this myself. Truth be told, we came to build a house we could afford. California is an awesome place to live if you can afford it. Unfortunately, when we chose to homeschool, we no longer fell into this group. Things never quite seem to go the way we plan, and our dreams of building a house burst four months into Chad’s adventure on the East Coast. I had already sold the house so we decided to go ahead with the move, but it was definitely not the way it was supposed to happen. Chad is one of those people who is content waiting for things to fall into place. If patience is his virtue, impatience is my vice. We are in a wonderfully spacious hundred-year-old house complete with backyard and garage. But, it isn’t mine. I can’t paint it funky colors or change the carpet. I want a house of my own!

It looks like my dream is (finally) going to be granted. Tomorrow we sign the contract to buy our first house! Today, I am vacillating between disbelief and indescribable excitement. We are just at the beginning of a very complicated process. There are all sorts of things that could come up to void the transaction. The little voice inside my head is desperately trying to keep my excitement contained. Unsuccessfully.

For the very first time, I am going to have a nursery to decorate. My kids will have 2,500 square feet of open space to play in. The boys will have a blast repainting the playhouse out back. I am going to have my very own craft room, in addition to the library, homeschool room, and play area. Two of my kids will sleep next to the laundry room! The kids can play out front without being run over by a semi truck. We still have a front porch swing to watch the rain! Central air conditioning!!!!! I can paint every room a different color!!!!

Poor Chad doesn’t know what to do with me. Mr. Constancy is not totally ready to embrace the change ahead of us. While he is anxious to be in a house of our own, he doesn’t see empty rooms just waiting to be decorated with my enthusiasm. He is suddenly experiencing a new appreciation of eggshell white. He released an audible sigh of relief when Dr. Brown reminded me that pregos are not to be painting their new house. No worries! It just means that I will have the prep work all done so the rooms are all ready to be painted when he gets home. We are buying a new house!

I was still reeling from the excitement of them accepting our offer the night before when I pranced into our doctor’s office yesterday. We are buying our first house!!! I happily assumed the position on the scale and didn’t even flinch when the nurse had to bump the little weight thingy up a notch. After all, I have always bounced back and lost those pregnancy pounds. I happily waddled after the nurse and climbed up on the table. I handed her the videotape and anxiously waited for the ultrasound to begin.

Did I mention that my husband agreed to buy me my house but it was conditional? I could have the house of my dreams if, here is the catch, we find out the sex of the baby. Hmmm…. House of my dreams or a surprise? It wasn’t really going to be a surprise because we gave away all our boys clothes when we left California and I still have every bow, hat, and outfit that Bek has ever owned. God has a sense of humor so we are going to have a boy. House of my dreams or confirmation that we are having a boy?

Even though I was still unsure about surrendering, I could feel my excitement building as we waiting for the doctor to come in. Chad was so sure we were having a girl. We had narrowed the girl names down to two: Abigail or my favorite, Noelle. The boys’ list has been shortened to a healthy fifteen or sixteen. Finally, Dr. Brown came in and the ultrasound began. The four chambered heart was pumping perfectly. Littlest Bit’s alien looking head was complete with eyes, nose, and mouth. The spine was all there and in good order. Right now, we are not on course to have another behemoth child. Watching the doc measure this and that, more of the mystery of life returned. In nine short months, it felt short laying there watching our child move around on the monitor, a tiny mass of cells grew into a living, thinking person. In three months, this little alien will pop out and be able to grasp my finger, recognize my voice, and melt my heart.

Moving down the body, Doctor Brown was ready to tell us the sex of Littlest Bit. With firm certainty, he announced the final score of the Johnson Zoo… Boys: 3, Girls: 1. Bekah will remain reigning princess and Kaleb gets the baby brother he "ordered". A John Deere nursery it is!

We are buying a house! We are being blessed with another baby boy! I am not totally sure why Chad left the doctor’s office clutching his wallet. :0)

16 total marks / leave your mark

Sunday, July 18th 2004

5:52 AM

Are we there yet?

Are we there yet?

This question keeps popping up at the darndest times... tying shoes, (unsuccessfully) trying to find that comfortable sleeping position, running to the potty for the umpteenth time. While Chad may find my bulging belly "cute", I admit I am a little disturbed by my resemblance to some of the more rotund veggietale characters. Anxiety jumped to full-blown horror with the realization that I still have three more months to grow!!!

When I am not gasping for air after lugging my hefty self up the stairs for the thousandth time (why can't they put laundry rooms on the same level as bedrooms?!?!), I am chasing (blessedly not yet a full fledged waddle) after the kids. Drew is enrolled in a wonderful science camp that runs him ragged from nine until three. He spends his days exploring the nature preserve learning about various areas of science and, best of all, it give me six wonderful hours with only two little pairs of shoes to keep tied. Kaleb is enjoying a summer of swim lessons. Bek keeps me on my toes as she provides entertainment for the waiting parents.

With July fully upon us, I can fully appreciate why people fork over the bucks to live in sunny (and dry) California. As much as I detest the icky sticky humidity, in some sick way I think I am actually growing to enjoy the seasons. I don't think I will ever embrace the discomfort of humidity but I absolutely love our afternoon thundershowers. There is something about sitting on our porch swing watching the rainfall that completely soothes me.

Summer has also brought us visitors. My mother-in-law just went home today after her first visit to Wild and Wonderful West Virginia. I wasn't completely sure how everything was going to work out but we all had a grand time. The kids enjoyed hearing funny stories about when their Daddy was a little boy, told only the way a Grandma can.

We have survived yet another Fourth of July. As a homeschooling family living in the middle of some of the greatest Civil War battlefields, it seemed appropriate to do a little site seeing the morning of Independence Day. We drove to Antetium, the site of the bloodiest battle in our nation's history. It started out as one of those things a good wife does to appease her history loving husband, but it turned out to be an incredible experience. They had a breath taking flag exhibit (check out our photo gallery!) to honor the people killed in 9-11. Eleven hundred full sized flags were tagged with the name, age, and residence of every person killed. It was one thing to understand the catastrophic loss through the media but it was something else entirely to stand in the field and SEE how many people lost their lives. At the little information booth, there were two large flags flying. One has the names of every person killed and the other was the Flag of Heroes, with the names of every man and woman killed in the line of duty trying to save others. The combination of the battlefield setting and the symbolism of sea of flags made us all stop and think about the cost of our freedom.

The next day we decided to drive into D.C. If you have ever navigated New York City or Downtown LA, you can appreciate the excitement we enjoyed just trying to find a parking spot. I might have compounded things, as I was the driver. Being directionally challenged, Chad's calm directions quickly transformed into frantic yells, "Left, Left! No your other Left!!! Watch out for the pedestrian!!! Sorry....." It was nothing a few years of marriage counseling won't fix. Despite my beloved's best efforts to invite bodily harm, we all arrived unscathed.

Our first stop was Arlington Cemetery. For those of you who have never risked your lives on the poorly marked beltways of D.C., Arlington is the burial site of several presidents, thousands of veterans, and as Drew put it, "lots of other dead famous people". He had recently studied one of the astronauts from the Challenger Disaster and learned that the Memorial was at Arlington. Still a little high strung from our driving adventure, we ventured off to find the memorial.

I have fond memories of being dragged all over boring historical places while monotonous narrators painstakingly detailed the lives of long dead American heroes. I don't have many childhood memories, but I do recall swearing I would never, EVER, inflict such torture upon my own young. Somewhere between childhood and childbirth one starts forgetting such promises. Sure enough, I found myself half cajoling, half threatening a very tired, icky sticky four-year-old through a dead person stomping ground. I don't think any child has ever whined as much as Kaleb did that afternoon. Every four steps he informed me how uncomfortable he was. He was thirsty. He his legs were tired. His armpits smelled. His undies were bunching. You named it, and he complained about it. Not only was it hot but there were tour buses cruising about giving everyone, but us, a ride. He didn't care that tickets had not been built into our budget. Look at all those lucky people riding around on buses while Mean Mommy made him walk.

Peace came only after we returned to the car and then the little booger had the nerve to tell me how much fun he had looking at this monument and see that statue and what a funny name this person had!!! All of that motherly guilt I endured frog marching my poor son through a long hike in unbearable heat and humidity was totally wasted. The little booger wants to go back again!!!

From Arlington we went into D.C. proper (with more frantic directions and leg hair pulling) where we toured some of the monuments. I think I can honestly say that we found every bathroom in the District of Columbia. Lincoln and Washington were nice but I can give you details about the fifteen potties we visited. I think I spent more time standing in line for a stall than I did seeing the rest of the sights! Chad was taking bathroom duty with Drew while I took Kaleb and Bek up to "meet" Mr. Lincoln. Being the subject of Chad's thesis, my kids have heard more about Lincoln than any sane person should have to endure. Drew was excited about seeing the monument in person but Kaleb was still stuck on his smelly armpits and sticky undies. He was mid complaint when the elevator doors slid open. I wish I had the camera when came face to face with the huge statue. "Wowie Zowie! What big hands you have Mr. Lincoln!" We stood there in awe a minute while I read him the Gettysburg Address. Then he totally cracked me up when he grabbed the hand of a woman standing next to him. "Ma'am, did you know that Mr. Lincoln stomped out the slaves? That's why everybody likes him now." I tried to explain that Pres. Lincoln helped stomp out slavery, not the slaves, but Kaleb was stuck on Mr. Lincoln’s incredibly big feet. We will have to work that one out later!

I think that sums up our exciting month. My belly has grown even bigger, the kids are busy with summer activities, and we are finally getting around to seeing the sites. I'm not totally sure how I am going to pass the next three months but Chad assures me that someday I really will be holding Littlest Bit and will look back over the worries of the past nine months and laugh. Granted, he can still tie his shoes so his opinion is automatically discounted. Next week we have the ultrasound to determine if we are on track to have a monster baby (whale). We are still deadlocked as to whether to find out the sex. The Great Name debate has heated up. Sage is still being vehemently renounced although Abigail (Abigayl!?!), Genevieve (sp?), Joshua, and Jacob are currently under consideration. My heart goes out to couples who have multiples. I am ready to throttle Chad and we only have one name to agree on!!!

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Thursday, June 3rd 2004

5:44 AM


It is hard to imagine we are almost halfway there! The first half has been difficult. Debilitating morning sickness landed me permanently on the couch while the kids did their best to function on their own. Daddy valiantly tried to keep up with laundry, groceries, and dinners. I am certainly not complaining about pink socks or junk cereals! My husband is a saint...

Thankfully, the smell of French fries (and anything else for that matter, no longer send me dashing to the bathroom and I am once again in charge of the house. The second trimester is a wonderful time when God grants Mommy-to-be's renewed energy to conquer all those projects we want to get done before the baby arrives. Littlest Bit sleeps through most of the action during the day but perks up at night. The little pokes are still soft enough to be fun but just strong enough that Chad occasionally feels our newest addition.

As you can see in the pictures, my figure is rapidly expanding. I am very excited to say that I have only gained a half pound so far! Not that you can tell by looking at me but I guess my bazillion trips up and down the stairs each day pay off. When I am rich and famous, I am going to put the laundry room on the main living floor!!! Until then, I will continue to tromp up and down the steps and schedule my day around naptime!

We want to thank everybody for their support so far. After losing the twins, I REALLY didn't want to have to go through this again. I admit that my attitude has been occasionally stinky and I thank those of you who have let me cry and reminded me of the light (and baby toes) at the end of the tunnel. I can't say I was enthusiastic about swelling up like a beach ball on steroids but when I got home from a shopping trip with my best friend, I had a new perspective. I don't know whether it was just getting away from the kids, enjoying a meal without nausea, or strolling through miniature shoes but something clicked and I came home ready to be a "six pack". Perspective is everything. It is amazing how the last three weeks have flown by!

To answer everyone's question... we don't know what we are having. It will be at least another month before our ultrasound and we are currently debating whether to find out. Seeing how I really thought I was done, I gave away all the boy's clothes and Bek's were bagged and ready to follow. This of course means that we will have a boy! I tried explaining to Chad that while it would be nice to give the Grandparents time to shop, I can't promise restraint if I know I am going to have to completely replace a boy's wardrobe. He argues that I am going to shop anyway (this might be partially true...) and I might as well know what I am shopping for instead of buying for both. To my defense I have only picked up a few little boy things- but they were calling me! I have shown enormous restraint because I only suspect there will be a stem on that apple. I tried to point out how many other little baby shoes begged to come home with me. Two pairs even jumped into my cart but I diligently put them back on the display. I don't think I would have the will power to do that if I knew for sure. He could give me the green flag for shopping and then I would be happy to find out. This comment shot milk out his nose, which I took to be a negative. So, the debate continues....

The name game is another favorite Johnson pastime. Mr. Conservative wants a bible name followed by a family middle name. He has axed Sage, River, Hunter, and any other good name I come up with. I was even willing to compromise and trade a Sage for a Charles the Fourth. I was sure I him! He said he wasn't naming his baby after a plant, handed me a bible, and said to go a-hunting. I'll go a-hunting all right! Here, honey, honey, honey.... Disgruntled as I am about not getting my Sage, we have found a few names that are semi-palatable (but not near as pretty!). The current name list includes Hannah, Abigail (Gabby Abbey!!), Sarah, Faith (it IS in the bible...), Luke (Chad's favorite so I'll have to axe it), Joshua, and Micah. If Chad had his way, the poor kid might end up Methuselah or something! That's why God gave kids two parents...

On a side note, we are currently being inundated with ugly bugs called cicadas. These have to be the ugliest creature I have ever seen, complete with hang over red eyes and the loudest, most annoying drone you've ever heard. Really, you can hear them over the radio as you are driving down the interstate. These suckers are LOUD! Besides being loud and ugly, they are infamous because of their cyclic lives. Every 17 years, these ugly things crawl up out of the ground, eat everything in site, mate, lay eggs, and then die. The babies hatch, crawl down back into the ground, and hibernate for another 17 years until they are ready to reek their havoc.

I was a little disturbed by these flying critters until I realized they were another way to measure the passage of time. Right now, Littlest Bit is just a tickle in my tummy. The next time these little beasts come around, we will have enjoyed our first smile, lost front teeth, graduated Kindergarten, and be armed with a driver license. The boys will be in college and Bek's butterfly kisses will be a faint memory. I am still not an advocate for these noisy locusts but it is neat to think where we will be 17 years from now. All in the life of a Country Gal!

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Tuesday, February 3rd 2004

1:23 PM


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17 total marks / leave your mark

Saturday, September 6th 2003

1:20 PM


September 3, 2003

Greetings from Wild and Wonderful West Virginia. We are approaching our two-month anniversary in our new home. I would love to report all boxes unpacked and pictures hung but, sadly, life in West Virginia is no less hectic than it was in California. I suppose it was a little naive to think that moving across the country would somehow reduce the chaos in my life…

After nearly a month of downtime following our little medical emergency, I am happy to say that I am back in business. And not a moment too soon. I don’t think we have had a rockier month in our six years of marriage. For four weeks, I had fought Chad to do anything. I was lucky he didn’t think of a bedpan or I would have never gotten up off that couch. This is only a partial truth, of course, because Chad had to go back to work. The second the van pull out I was up cleaning and unpacking and chasing rascally kids. "Downtime" is relative when you have three small children. After swearing a blood oath that I wouldn’t do anything crazy, I was freed from my couch prison. Freedom definitely had its price. Tired doesn’t begin to explain the exhaustion that I am still battling but anything beats watching everyone else have all the fun. Despite whatever Chad says, I have been taking it easy. It’s all in your perspective!

With my promise at the forefront of my mind, I decided homeschool would be the best way to get us back on our feet. I can be low key yet the kids’ energies are being directed at something a little more constructive than running wild through the house. We have a fantastic backyard with countless types of plants and critters. Armed with paper and crayons, we ventured outside to learn the art of observation. It was my first day back on the job and I was being careful not to push it. An oath is an oath. We sat quietly on towels and listened to the chirping crickets and songbirds. We took a short stroll and smelled the flowers birthed from the spring rains. We were simply enjoying God’s handiwork, and most important, I wasn’t doing anything that Chad might consider strenuous- which is almost everything!

The second part of our morning was spent observing the differences between plants in our yard. We identified types of edges, lengths of stems, designs of veins. I was starting to regain some of my confidence about this whole homeschooling thing. The fun started when I showed them how to make a leaf rubbing. You can make a rubbing of almost any object by laying it on a smooth flat surface, covering it with a paper, and then coloring the paper to reveal a replica of the object, in our case a leaf, below. My little trick generated more enthusiasm than I could have hoped for. Within an hour, we had rubbings of nearly all the leaves in our yard. The boys excitedly distinguished between the textures and shapes of the leaves. As far as I was concerned, our experiment couldn’t have gone better!

You can take the girl out of the city but you can’t take the city out of the girl. After restless weeks on the couch, I was excited to share our morning’s accomplishments with Chad. He politely listened as the boys jabbered about our experiment while he eyed me suspiciously. I didn’t even have to feign innocence. I had quietly sat there on my towel while the kids ran around and collected their specimens. I was still getting the evil eye when the boys brought out their rubbings. "Leaves of three let it be." Am I the only person on the planet ignorant of this cute little rhyme? Yep. City Girl did leaf-rubbings of poison ivy. What can I say? Yes, I was in girl scouts but our focus was more on the cookie side of things. I am sure that we had campouts but our parents had enough sense to take us someplace free of poison plants! Everyone was fine, if you don’t count poor Drew. Bubble Boy had it ALL over his face, down his back, arms, legs, buns… even his little button had bubbles! This was not a good way to kick off our science unit.

If at first you don’t succeed, try try again. Who comes up with these stupid sayings anyway? I think a more apt expression would be, "If at first you douse your children in poison ivy, rethink your hands-on science curriculum." Two itchy weeks later, Drew’s face almost looked normal and City Girl had gathered up the courage to resume homeschooling. We were enjoying an uneventful afternoon at the park with some new friends when the subject of butterflies came up. Being country homeschoolers (who know the little rhyme thingy), their children had just started growing monarch butterflies. It never entered City Girl’s mind that perhaps her plate was already full with moving and recovering and such. It never occurred to her that she would be bringing in another life to be responsible for. What could be cooler for her budding scientists than watching complete metamorphosis in action? My unsuspecting friend informed us that there was milkweed (their food) in that very park and our adventure began.

Our experiment began with three not-so-little caterpillars. Two were beautiful monarchs and the third was a funky black and yellow guy having a bad hair day. Diversity! I threw the milkweed in a jar of water safe on my kitchen table and waited for them to do their thing. Imagine City Girl’s astonishment when she came downstairs the next morning to a kitchen table completely covered in caterpillar poo! I still marvel that three cute little critters could generate that much waste. They must have set a record or something because it was unbelievable.

After reclaiming my kitchen table, we ran to the library to check out books on our new houseguests. It took a half-hour of reading for Drew to determine that City Girl was going to kill his caterpillars. "Mom, water is the enemy of caterpillars! You can’t put them in a jar of water. They are going to drown if we don’t save them." Of course Kaleb picks this very moment to inform us that a caterpillar had just fallen into the ocean abyss. Completely forgetting my promise to Chad, I make a mad dash into the kitchen to rescue my little furry ward. I never made it. One minute I was running, the next minute I am flat on my back seeing stars. Have I mentioned that our entire house is hardwood flooring? This beautiful alternative to carpet is deadly when sabotaged with killer hot wheels. The boys don’t care that I may be maimed for life; they half drag me into the kitchen to save their drowning caterpillar. Have I mentioned that these are very poopy caterpillars? It turns out that Kaleb was watching the waste drop off the leaves. I killed myself to rescue a floating turd.

Fearing that my next dash might be my last, I grabbed Drew’s caterpillar book. According to the experts, you are supposed to wrap the branch stems in wet paper towels and then put them, caterpillar and all, into a butterfly box. It doesn’t say anything about avoiding your kitchen table so this box must somehow contain the poop. I’m sold. How do I build this sucker? The directions for our butterfly hotel seemed simple enough. Cut out side of a box, insert critters, attach mesh over open side. How hard can it be? After a quick lecture about the importance of stewardship, we whipped up one fashionable caterpillar hotel. Our science curriculum was really coming along! We had fully recovered from our poison ivy and there was no longer poop covering my table.

Do I sound over confidant to you? Drew’s book said nothing about what to do when invisible eggs hatch and you jump from three cute houseguests to ten hungry ones. Neither did it say how long they could munch on dried out leaves. Do I have to make a milkweed run now or can it wait until morning? It did inform City Girl that that cute black and yellow guy, the one with the bad hair day, was poisonous. Unfortunately, it didn’t say what to do when he escaped into her kitchen. It was also silent on how to deal with heart broken (and rather accusatory) children when their "favoritest" pets in the whole world went AWOL. A nice boring textbook would be so… safe. But nooooo, City Girl was determined to take a hands-on approach to science.

This morning we had ten very hungry, very poopy caterpillars. Being a good host, we packed up (despite torrents of rain) and headed to the park (again) to find more milkweed. Those of you who have potty trained your little ones will smile with understanding when I say that the park is in the middle of nowhere. There is just something about being miles from a potty that makes nature call to your toddler. By the time we had gathered our milkweed and make not one but two trips to the potty, I was soaked to the bone. Even my little puddle jumpers were ready to change their clothes. Two billion years later all three kids were buckled into the car seats, the precious milkweed had been secured (after checking very closely to make sure we had no hitchhikers), and I was way ready to head home.

Ever wondered why everyone in the country drives a pickup? It’s because they come with four-wheel drive. Having spent my entire life in the city, I casually listened to the locals advise me on purchasing a new car-- one with a four-wheel drive. I have three kids. Why would I trade in my spacious mini van? I have a double stroller the size of Manhattan Island, three car seats, and all the junk that comes with hauling these rascals around. I have no immediate plans to do any off-roading. Why does a City Girl need a four-wheeled drive?

Stranded at the park in the middle of nowhere, City Girl remembered she lived in the country. In California, it sprinkles a few days a year making everyone forget how to drive. Here, it rains for days on end like God is going to re-flood the earth. My very hungry caterpillars didn’t care that I might get washed away during their milkweed run. I had taken them from their home so I felt obligated to drag my kids out in the rain and find them some food. City Girl here decided to park as close as she could to the stinkin’ milkweed. She was obligated to feed her very hungry, very poopy caterpillars but she didn’t have to be out in the storm any longer than necessary. The park doesn’t have roads per say, you just drive where everyone else has already killed the grass. She gave no thought to the fact that day of rain makes a grassy field quite muddy. It never crossed her mind that after she secured her precious milkweed, she would not be able to back up the muddy hill in her 2 wheel drive mini van. No… City Girl parked as close as she could so she wouldn’t get so wet.

"Mom, do you know we aren’t going anywhere?"

You think? Is that what the flying mud in my rear view mirror means? Thank you very much, Mr. Smarty Pants. He doesn’t get that from my side of the gene pool! Through gritted teeth, I remind Chad’s child that I am the one with a driver’s license and am perfectly capable of driving my vehicle. Granted, it is a California license. A place where they believe in paving their roads and where it doesn’t rain buckets. Having made my declaration to Oh Insightful One, I was in the position of getting us home. It is now raining harder than when we hot here, if that is a physical possibility. There isn’t a soul this side of the Mississippi foolish enough to think about driving to the park so yelling for help would be an exercise in futility. There are no phones in sight and we frugally disconnected my cell. Lovely.

If it’s not a four-wheeled drive then one should deduce it is a two-wheeled drive. Never being into the whole car thing, it takes City Girl going out into the storm to figure out that the mud flying in her rear view mirror meant it’s the back wheels that aren’t getting any traction. I make a mental note not to make any gene pool comments this adventure is behind us. Even a city person would have the sense to stay home in this weather. They are just stupid caterpillars. Who really cares if they go a little hungry. Here I am stuck in Nowheresville with no food to feed my kids and I don’t know how to unstick my car! Having established that it’s my back wheels spinning, I am no closer to freeing myself from this mud hole. Didn’t the Dukes of Hazard guys use 2x4’s to free the General Lee once. Darn, fresh out of 2x4s. The next time you are stuck at the park in heavy rain, heavy paper is not a viable substitute for 2x4s.

"Was that supposed to do something, Mom? We still aren’t moving."

Desperation was starting to sink in. The only way I was going to get home was to push my van backwards up the hill. Four or five feet should be far enough to let my wheels grab fresh grass. Ignoring my blood oath of rest, I pushed that van with all my strength for ten stinking minutes. Pushing a van uphill, in the mud, after surgery, is not a good thing. I actually had it going once, but I was so surprised I lost my footing and fell in the mud. And to think I parked here to stay dry!

Why did we move out to the country? What is the attraction of being in the middle of nowhere, with no one to help you when you are stuck in the mud? Today I realized country life is so much more than living in a post card. In real life, the post card smells like cow manure, has torrent of rain, and has insects the size of small children. In the country, only city people are dumb enough to go picking milkweed in a storm. All the country folk know the little rhyme thingy about leaves of three. Leave it to City Girl to do leaf rubbings of poison ivy. I miss California concrete and crowds. You might have to wait forty minutes in the checkout line, but by golly you can have three kinds of taco sauce when you leave. I climbed into the car, if possible, even wetter and, definitely, muddier than before.

"Mom, do you know you’re getting the seat all wet?"

I can be miserable just fine outside. I felt like Pooh Bear, "Think, think, think." Don’t think about the very poopy caterpillars who got you into this mess. Don’t think about how warm and sunny and paved California is. Don’t think about shipping your backseat peanut gallery to Timbuktu. Sadly, I came to the realization that my van was not going to back up that hill. That just meant it was going to have to go forward. A log was preventing me from driving further down the hill so it would just have to be moved.

Do you remember the day you realized you were old? I used to be athletic. I could run without dying of oxygen deprivation. I lifted weights. Who would have thought that three babies later, I would meet my demise trying to push a log off the road? Blood oath? What blood oath? Surely Chad would understand that this was really the lesser of two evils. Once they take your staples out, you should be much less likely to pop back open, right? The fact that I thought of these things before I got started should have been enough to deter me, but they didn’t. I was mad at my poopy caterpillars. I was mad at my know-it-all son. I was mad at the unrelenting rain. I was ready to take on the log.

It took a few minutes of serious heaving, but I managed to move the log. I was so busy rejoicing it took me a minute to realize that the van was now moving, all by itself. In fact, my van was now slowly sliding sideways down the hill! I worked an hour to get that beast to move and now it is sliding sideways down the hill. My kids are locked inside a car that is sliding down the hill. Realizing that this is bad, very bad, I do what any right-minded mother would do. I step in front of the van. It never occurred to me that if I couldn’t move it without momentum I was certainly not going to reverse the momentum it now had. Hindsight is 20/20 when you are nice and clean and dry sitting in some city café drinking a five-dollar latte. I am a quick study and did eventually realize that my best chances were to hop in the car and try to steer it to a place where I could turn around. Fifteen minutes later, we were safe at home swearing I would never drive my stinking two-wheel drive again.

Once we had changed our clothes, it was time to turn our attention to our hungry houseguests. I don’t honestly know if I was more angry or surprised to find five of our ten caterpillars missing. Those ungrateful little critters. Didn’t they know what a service we were doing driving out in ungodly weather to find them food? How dare they not appreciate their cozy caterpillar hotel where they could quietly live out their life cycle. We had made a promise to protect them and now I had lost half my wards. What kind of an awful zookeeper am I? My guilt was further compounded by Kaleb’s tears, "Poor Raven the Ravenous! Her big brothers are going to miss her so."

A frantic search turned up two of the five missing caterpillars. Apparently, Sammy the Great and Hungry Henry had decided it was time to move on to bigger and better things. They had spun themselves into cocoons. I would have been excited it they had not done this on the outside of their mesh cage. I had no idea how they had escaped but now that they were spun, I couldn’t very well just pop off the cocoon. I made a pledge to protect them and so I would. Very carefully I trimmed the mesh where they hung and duck taped it, cocoon and all, to the top of the bug box. This action meant that I would need to do some fancy footwork to keep our other caterpillars safe inside their cozy homestead but it was part of my duty. It was also my duty to figure out how these little creatures escaped from their haven.

It didn’t take long to find their escape route. The box had a large crack running down the back, which I had meticulously duck taped. For some mysterious reason, part of the tape didn’t stick and had fallen back to reveal a hole. When I went to re-secure the tape, I made a gruesome discovery. One of our three escapees was stuck to the tape!

Some steward I turned out to be! I take three poor creatures away from their home so I can watch them live out their life cycle under glass. I justified this with the intention of setting them free once they became butterflies. I end up with seven stowaways, two of whom are still missing. I can only pray that they are in better shape than poor Willie the Wiggly here. Little did I know that my cozy hotel was really a caterpillar tar pit! Poor Willie. All of his legs were completely stuck to the duck tape. He was a very angry caterpillar.

I spent my afternoon trying to free Willie. What a heart wrenching afternoon! I could just imagine his little caterpillar screams as I tried to free each of his little legs. After two hours I had manage to get his front (almost) half free and his back (almost) half free. We would have been in great shape if he didn’t have those middle legs glued down. This poor caterpillar was just living out his mundane existence until I dragged him into the Johnson Tar Pits.

I felt only pity and guilt at first but then those middle legs just refused to let go. I guess there was just something about prying those legs free that brought out a callousness in me that I never knew was there. Caterpillars grow by shedding their exoskeleton, something akin to a snake or crab. I started to feel myself growing angry with Willie. If he would just hurry up and shed this darn exoskeleton, we could move on with this whole business. I beeged and I pleaded with him. I promised to take care of the duck tape. I assured him he would be that much close to being a beautiful butterfly. I even threatened to help him along if he didn’t pick up the pace. Wiggly Willie refused to shed that darn exoskeleton.

By this time I was a mess. I wasn’t a zany zookeeper. A caterpillar mutilator was more like it! Poor Willie looked like he needed a break (maybe an eternal one), so I calmed myself down long enough to call Chad at work. Can you believe that he had the nerve to laugh at my caterpillar crisis! He reminded me that this was "just" a caterpillar. Just a caterpillar? He went over the line when he suggested we change his name to Tiny Tim and make him some little crutches. I was horrified. What if we did manage to set him free? What if he was going to be crippled for life. Worse, what if we had touched him too much and his fellow caterpillars ostracized him. What if they wouldn’t let him into the Caterpillar Club anymore- all because I insisted on a hands-on science curriculum? Didn’t Chad realize that this was about more than just a caterpillar? My whole homeschooling foundation was at stake here. We were supposed to be starting an aquarium for our fish unit. How can I bring delicate fish into my house when I can’t even manage to keep all of the feet on my caterpillars? I reminded him that I still have two caterpillars missing, one of which is poisonous. What kind of a mother loses a poisonous caterpillar in her kitchen? What am I supposed to tell the doctors when Bekah finds it and decides to see if it tastes good? What kind of a family eats their houseguests?

Despite his ill-timed jokes, Chad came home and rescued Wiggly Willie. The other two are still missing in action, but Chad has faith that I will have some butterflies fluttering around the house in a week or two, assuming I don’t find some way to mutilate them between now and then. I have decided that when I become rich and famous, I am going to start an education campaign for Monarch butterflies. This mess has definitely revealed an important gap in caterpillar literature. Never put very poopy caterpillars on the kitchen. Beware of the inherent drowning dangers caterpillars face. Never go on a milkweed run in the middle of a storm. Most importantly, never ever, under any circumstance mix duck tape and caterpillars. Who knows, maybe this city gal will even author the first "Monarchs for Dummies" book… what not to do!

Your Zany City Girl,

Heather Johnson

13 total marks / leave your mark

Wednesday, August 6th 2003

1:28 PM


August 6, 2003

Salutations from the East Coast!

We have just survived our first month here in West Virginia. Our cross-country drive was wonderfully uneventful. I was surprised to learn that the roads all go crazy once you leave California with their curves and hills and loopy loops. Driving seemed to help control my carsickness so I did a great deal of the driving. As a result we arrived two days early! Along the way we made lots of stops. Drew loved the Petroglyphs in New Mexico but the Oklahoma City Memorial was definitely the most moving. Kaleb didn’t really care where we went as long as they had blueberry pancakes. I never thought I would say it but I am looking forward to our next driving vacation!

We hadn’t been here a week when I realized that our East Coast adventure was going to have a twist. We were standing in the middle of Sam’s Club when the carsickness hit. Hmmm… I wasn’t able to brush it off for long. Having experienced the joys of morning sickness thrice before, I realized that my East Coast visit for Chad’s birthday was going to bear fruit! Even after a positive pregnancy test, we were still in shock. What was I going to do with four little rugrats!?!?! Now we would never be able to afford to pay for baby-sitting! I had just left all my friends and family. Who was I going to invite to my baby shower? Who would watch the kids when we went into labor? Where was the hospital?!?! How were we going to explain this to our family?!?! Looking back it is funny to think of all the apprehensions we struggled with.

We decided to wait on breaking the big news to everyone until we were further along. Each day the idea of a new little person grew on us. Unpacking surfaced a number of newborn socks that helped us along the way. It also didn’t hurt that I was suddenly surrounded by pregos. There is just something about being pregnant that makes you notice that unmistakable waddle. I counted eight visibly pregnant women during a single shopping trip. Seeing these women also reminded me that pregnancy as more than feeling a little green around the gills. I was going to lose my toes. My poor button was going to be sacrificed, again. My butt was going to spread and my center of gravity was going to drop. Fourth time around, I couldn’t be happier. Chad and I decided on names though the debate was still raging whether to find out the sex beforehand. We were going to have a baby!

We were quickly approaching our second trimester mark (a huge stepping stone!) when I started to spot. This isn’t inherently bad but it isn’t exactly a good sign either. Both Bekah and Kaleb gave me a run for my money but this time it was different. I can’t really explain how except to say that it was. Chad tried to pacify me but my fears proved true.

Two weeks later the miscarriage was confirmed. We were devastated. In many ways it was easier because we hadn’t told anyone. We didn’t have to break the news to everyone but at the same time, we didn’t have anyone to grieve with us either. It felt strange to be so devastated by the loss of an unplanned little person. Logically, we were right back to where we thought we were just a month before. Unfortunately, hearts don’t work like that. Intellectually, I know that the baby was so small, there was nothing I could have done to hurt it. Emotionally, I struggled. What if I had hired a moving company instead of doing it myself? What if I had started taking my prenatals sooner? What if I had sought medical attention sooner? My grieving was also complicated because I felt guilty about mourning our loss. Many of our friends have struggled with infertility and miscarriage empty handed. I got to cuddle Bekah while I mourned our little person. It doesn’t seem fair.

After a short time of grieving, I decided it was time to move on. We had a house to unpack. The morning sickness initially prevented me from tackling the boxes so I refocused my energies. I attacked the mountain of boxes while the children slept in. By the time the kids were dressed it was lunchtime. We spent the hot afternoons exploring the roads trying to find landmarks so I could find my way home. My plan worked. My days were packed full and most nights I enjoyed an exhausted, dreamless sleep.

Our thoughts were also distracted with the upcoming visit of Auntie Holly. We have all been homesick to varying degrees and we were all looking forward to having Hol around. It was fun counting down the days to her arrival. She couldn’t get over how much Bek had changed and the boys blasted her with questions about California. Having Hol around was also a special treat for me. I really miss the time we got together last year and now I got to love on her as a sister instead of a teacher. We were looking forward to school shopping and fishing, trips to the ice cream shoppe and our local parks. So much for the plans of mice and men!

The week before Holly’s arrival I began feeling ill. I couldn’t really put my finger on it except to say that I felt puny. It wasn’t even consitantly puny. One minute I would be fine chasing the kids around the horse and the next minute I would be doubled over with stomach cramps. We have just come through a really stressful time with Chad being away and then moving the kids across the country. I knew I was pushing my body to the limit and would most likely pay the price once everything settled down and I had time to get sick. Figuring that we had at last slowed down and begun to settle in, my body was going to make sure I rested! Throughout the week I deteriorated. I felt nauseated and lightheaded. Confident that as little R&R would do the trick, I stayed close to home and looked forward to Holly’s arrival.

The day finally came and we were finally reunited with Auntie Holly. Holding her in my arms at the airport was almost as good as having actually flown "home". I wonder how long it will take for West Viginis to become "home"? We are more than an hours drive from the airport which gave us lots of time to catch up. The boys bombarded her with stories of our adventures and descriptions of the house and their new rooms. She caught us up on her summer and passed on hugs from Mom. It was so great to have her back I almost forgot how lousy I was feeling.

The first week of her stay we kept close to home. The time change mixed with home sickness was giving Holly a run for her money and I seemed to be feeling worse by the day. Determined to show her a good time, we did some exploring and I got to introduce her to some of our new friends. Her body adjusted to the time change before I was feeling better so I encouraged her to venture out with Chad. Friday night, they enjoyed a big church function while I stayed home and enjoyed some quiet time with the little ones.

They hadn’t been gone an hour when the cramping began. They had taken Drew along so Kaleb and Bek were on their own while I waited for the spell to pass. It didn’t pass! By the time Chad arrived, I was curled up on the floor in agony. Poor Chad looked like he wanted to call 9-1-1. I convinced him a hot bath and some Advil would do the trick. We made it through the night and I felt great the next morning. Chad argues that I didn’t look great but I was sure feeling better than the night before. Over the next few days we picniced, visited friends, and attended church. I was back on my way to becoming the picture of health. By the time Monday rolled around, I had completely forgotten my promise to see the doctor. Chad hadn’t forgotten and pestered me until I picked up the phone. To my delight, not one of the doctors in the area was seeing new clients until October. So sad! Chad shot me a look of disbelief. Like I would outright lie to him… I might skew the facts to get out of a doctor’s visit but certianly never outright lie. The receptionist said she couldn’t fit me it but said to go the emergency room if I needed to be seen any earlier.

Me and my big mouth! Within an hour I had been dragged in the ER. Now, nobody likes going to the emergency room but I was mad and I was hungry and I was perfectly fine. I can be sweeter than honey on a bisquet (That’s my West Virginia roots talking!) but I freely claim ownership of a little rotten streak. I have the best husband in the world but sitting in that waiting room at that very moment I would have preferred to be single. I tried flattery, whining, begging, demanding…. Chad flat refused to take me home. By the time they called my name I was more than a little put out. How dare he drag me in here. Why, I am the picture of health. Humph! I smiled with vindictive glee as we were lead to the O.B. exam room. The rest of the ER consisted of wide-open stalls but we were to have the room of honor. Chad ignored the smirks he got from the male inmates, I mean patients. I guess it ws too much to hope he would wait in the lobby. He must have known I was planning a back door escape! Begrudglingly I pulled on the lovely hospital gown and sat down to sulk. We waited. And waited. Did I mention that we waited? I did take this opportunity to point out all of the projects we could have been tackling at home.

A doctor's assistant finally graced us with her presence. Despite my reluctance to cooperate, I was touched by Virginia's compassion. She was sincerely concerned and was obviously bright enough to see that I was just fine. Her innocent inquiry to our history of pregnancies led to an earful! If I had known she was 25 weeks pregnant with her firstborn, I would have withheld some of the details. Oops! A half hour later, she was all caught up with our history of pre-term labor and the miscarriage just a few weeks before. With the paperwork behind us, it was time to start the party. "Let's take a peek."

Most women would be mortified to have their husband present for a "girlie" exam. Any other time I would have asked Chad to step out but since I here on his account, I figured he could sit there and squirm while I was poked and prodded. Did I mention I have a little mean streak that flares up when I am forced into ER when I am perfectly healthy.... After declaring everything just fine (I told you so....), she ordered some cultures and lab work. The local vampire stopped by for a bite and five vials of blood later I got the pleasure of wandering through the ER in search of the potty. It isn't bad enough that these gowns are more than a little breezy but then they expect you to venture out into the world with a potty cup. They don’t even give you a little cup you can discretely tuck away in your gown. They give you a collection cup large enough for a horse and then tell you to tramp through the place blowing in the breeze until everyone sees what you are carrying. Lesson #1: A hospital is a place of indignity.

I returned to my little room properly mortified but none too worse for wear. The nice nurse popped in to inform us it would be a "few minutes" while we waited for the results. We buckled down for the siege. If they make it a point to tell you there is going to be a "little" wait, leisure suits will be back in style before you are acknowledged again. Sure enough, we had quite a wait. For the first time since we left the house, I was appreciative of Chad's company. The O.B. exam room isn't exactly prepared for guys so Chad passed the time reading the magazines provided. He didn't just read me the articles the way one might a newspaper. He read it impersonating a hormone raging teenage girl-- on crack. To his credit, he read every word but with such hysterical inflections and sound effects that I was in tears by the time he finished. I knew there was a reason I married this guy! We laughed away the next three hours. I never realized what an amazing source of wisdom I’ve neglected every time I passed the magazine rack! In three hours we learned the secret to getting thin on a chocolate diet, how to convert our house into a model home without spending a dime, and how to reignite our passion in the bedroom. Passion in the bedroom… isn’t that what landed me in the ER? Never mind....

Centuries later, they returned to inform me that some of the tests had returned. The verdict: my baby hormone levels were higher than expected. By my calculations, we were about 13 weeks along when we miscarried. Our baby hormones were approaching the 16-week level. Since these hormones drop when you miscarry, they speculated I was farther along than I realized. Hmmm... I joke about being Fertile Mertile but Chad has been 3,000 miles away. I saw him once during that time. Unless I missed a chapter in that Sex Ed textbook somewhere along the way, I know exactly when we conceived. By this time I was starving and was ready to go home. Sure, we were farther along. Can we eat now?

I had finally convinced Chad to grab me a hamburger when a doctor popped in. Figures! Four and a half hours later the last of the test results were in. Verdict: my baby hormone levels were higher than expected but I otherwise appeared fine. HA!! I was trying to catch Chad’s eye to shoot him an "I told your so" look but he was focused on the doctor. Rats! I tuned back into the doctor just in time to hear that on the advice of another doctor, they were going to do one more test and then send me home. Burger King here I come!!

The news of my pending freedom almost helped me overlook the breezy ride to the ultrasound room. Don’t hospitals have blankets? We must have strolled through ten miles of cold hallway and passed every person in Martinsburg before we arrived. To Chad’s astonishment, they refused to let him join me during the exam. I guess they figured he already knew what was up my skirt but seeing pictures of my uterus was too much. With dinner just minutes away, I couldn’t help but smile at his frustration of being excluded.

One of the few highlights of pregnancy (aside from midnight chili fry runs) is the ultrasound. Nothing can explain the wonder of seeing your little alien move and hiccup on the screen knowing that in a few long months it would pop out a perfect precious child. I have struggled with moments of sadness since our miscarriage but I was not prepared for the wave of grief that swept over me as I laid down on that cold table. There would be nothing to see on the screen.

Looking back on it, I am glad I was preoccupied with my thoughts. The lady doing the exam looked like she had never weighed more than a hundred pounds let alone carried a child. Mechanically, she probed and pushed with her cold "camera" taking pictures of my empty uterus. When you are expecting, they adjust the screen so they can identify the various body parts for you. "Here is the backbone." "This beating blob is the heart." "Look at her suck her thumb!" "Op, he’s not modest. It’s definitely a boy!" The silence only pushed me further into my thoughts. I was jolted back to reality when Ms. Light as a Feather picked up the phone and called for the head radiologist. By this time, I had already had four people "take a peak" and I was far from thrilled to have another person pushing and prodding down there. I tried to relax and think about my big juicy whopper. Maybe I would order ½ Dr. Pepper and ½ Diet Coke! The doctor was definitely less gentle than the first gal was. I was about to suggest to him to by a stress ball instead of using his patients when he stopped and picked up the phone. Hello! Can you please chat on your own time?

I may not be a rocket scientist but three doctors whispering over a screen of your insides is not a good thing. Past experience tells me that radiologists cannot give you a diagnosis. They only take the pictures and it’s up to your doctor to break the bad news. Thinking that they had forgotten the poor girl on the table, I cleared my voice and tried to get a look at the screen. They turned the screen further from view. At least they acknowledged my existence… I was now a very hungry, very unhappy camper. I insisted on knowing what was so interesting. Lesson #2: Watch what you wish for. "Ms. Johnson, it appears that you have a sizable growth. You are so young, there is a good chance that it is benign." All thoughts of french fries went out of my head.

Benign? Benign as in opposite of malignant? As in possibly cancerous, benign? Cancer. Isn’t that what old people get? It’s what happens to chain smokers, not young healthy 24-year-olds who have never touched a cigarette.

I never did get my hamburger. They wheeled me back to my room where I broke the news to Chad. The doctor scheduled me for a MRI two days later and told me I could go home. I was almost dressed when he came back in and said to wait. The doctor he had consulted with earlier was on his way to the hospital to check me out. I had, apparently, been on his mind all day. I was ready to go home. I did not want to climb back into a drafty gown and I did not want to give anyone else a peek. I had some kind of a growth in me and I just wanted to go home and hug my kids. Dr. Brown showed up before I could make a break for it.

It is now 9:30 at night night. Aside from dying of hunger, I have felt fine all day long. I am a perfectly healthy young lady. Dr. Brown was saying something I didn’t care about when a wave of pain hit me. So much for being a picture of health... It had to have been all those exams. I had honestly forgotten how bad I felt the week before. I was sure that it hurt because Chad had dragged me into the ER. I must have caught something from that man coughing in the waiting room. Why do women marry again? I looked up to glare at Chad and saw only compassion in his eyes. "I told you so" was nowhere to be found on his face. At that moment I realized that he had really put up with all my snootiness because he was really concerned. The next wave of cramps made me forget my embarrassment and I was glad to have Chad holding my hand.

The rest of the night is a blur. Dr. Brown seemed to sense that I was no longer an attentive audience. Was I all right? As much as I wanted to go home, I couldn’t bring myself to tell him I felt dandy- not that he would have believed me. I explained the cramping would pass but an aspirin would be appreciated. Doctors are so funny. "On a scale of one to ten with ten being eternal torment, how are you feeling?"

My next memory is being wheeled down a hall on a gurney surrounded by little green men. Chad said there were nurses in surgery green garb too but the drugs had already kicked in. I do recall trying to make a run for it before I realized I was tied to the gurney. What kind of a place is this anyway? It never occurred to me that someone might suspect that I was an escapee patient. I guess the I.V. and fashionable gown might have given me away. Chad said later that he wished that he had a tape recorder. Before I started singing a song I had threatened to treat the ER to a fashion show. Senator, I have no recollection.

The next few days melted together. Some stranger told me to roll over so she could shoot my bum. Chad stroked my hair. My doctor came in and informed me I should be dead. I couldn’t sit up. I was burning hot and arctic cold at the same time. The room was silent. The phone rang but I don’t remember who I talked to. My entire body hurt.

Three days after surgery I began to feel more lucid. I remember most of the people who called and recall the kids bringing flowers. Chad came back later in the evening and explained what had happened. It turned out that we had been pregnant with twins only the second baby had snuggled up in my fallopian tube! Most ectopic pregnancies only last about a month before it is big enough to put pressure on the walls of the tube sending mom into agony. I have an incredibly high pain threshold and brushed it off. I was a bit uncomfortable during the week I moved our belongings from our house into a U-Haul, into my father-in-laws and then into the moving semi. We proceeded to drive across the country and then six days later pull everything out, load another U haul (twice) and unload it at our new house. I did most of the CA move on my own so I wasn’t surprised I was a little sore. I didn’t even really know I was pregnant yet! Once Dr. Brown dug in, he found a huge ectopic pregnancy about three and a half months along. The Friday night excitement had probably been my fallopian tube rupturing. No wonder I had been feeling puny! The doctor said I shouldn't still be alive. Apparently my ovary was damaged and between the internal bleeding and the out-of-place pregnancy, my appendix and bladder weren’t doing so hot either. Doctor Brown said that I would probably not have lived another twelve hours let alone survived long enough to return for my MRI.

Pretty sobering stuff! I have had some pretty dark moments but try to focus on the positive. I can’t imagine the chaos a set of twins would add to our zoo. My heart breaks to think that we lost two little people but I know that they are with Jesus. Sometimes it helps to remember that I will see them again but oftentimes I struggle to get past the selfishness of wanting to hold them in my arms. I wish it didn’t hurt so much to cry. I am trying to focus on the time I have been given with my rascals. It occurred to me that if Chad had not dragged me kicking and screaming into the ER, Bekah would have no memory of her mom. Kaleb might have some recollection of our crazy adventures, but Bek would only have pictures to know me by. I have always valued my time with the kids but this really brings the importance of family home.

I wold also like to publicly declare that I have the most incredible husband in the world. He patiently endured my torment in the ER quietly refusing to take me home. Exploding body parts and stuff aside, Chad probably had a harder time with the surgery than I did. I was unconscious and out of it for the most part while he had to wait to find out if I would be ok. Now that he has me back, he is even more protective than ever. I think he would staple me to the couch if he could. Anytime I get up (admittedly, often), he is there to sit me back down. He refocuses me when I am blue and loves me when the meds kick in making me more than a little loopy.

Have you ever been embarrassed by something that bothered you? Deep down you know that you have nothing legitimate to complain about but even deeper down, you are really irked anyway. I have a confession. I have only the utmost respect for Dr. Brown. The ER was preparing to send me home, probably to my demise, but he drove in from his house, in the middle of the night, while it was storming, to check on me. He took action and saved my life. I shouldn’t complain. What I have taken issue with is that he then proceeded to staple me closed! I know all of the logical reasons for using staples. They hold well... There is less scarring... They are easy to put in… Yata yata yata. The man shot me with a staple gun! Not only did he shoot me with a staple gun, but he shot me a lot. What kind of a sicko invented this procedure anyway? I was so loopy at the hospital I never thought to look at my incision. I can’t describe the mortification I felt when I removed my dressing for the first time. I knew I had been stapled but I didn’t know I had been STAPLED! I looked like a cyclops wearing braces! There must have been three dozen of these suckers holding me together. I can’t believe he stapled me!

Yesterday, I was finally liberated. After all I’ve been through, it seems silly to be apprehensive about the removal of those repulsive staples but I was none the same. I walked into the ER convinced I was the picture of health. By the time they announced my dinner date was cancelled, I was too busy planning fashion shows to be concerned with how they were going to hold me together. It is a completely different story when you have to walk yourself in, lay down on the table, and be still while a nurse approaches you with instruments of pain. I was really nervous and even considered postponing my appointment… indefinitely. Realizing I would have a difficult time passing a metal detector, I conceded and slunk into the office. If you are ever so unfortunate to be stapled like a piece of lumber, you can have peace because it really and truly doesn’t hurt to have them yanked out. Granted, I didn’t notice when my fallopian tube exploded, but you can take me word on this! So much for being staple free… Now I am scotch taped together. Really, I have strips of tape holding me together for the next two weeks. What next? Rubber bands? Paper clips? What ever happened to the good old needle and thread?

Dr. Brown keeps telling me that I have an unusual story. I have been informed that it is extremely rare for a twin to embed itself in the fallopian tube. It is even more rare to carry an ectopic pregnancy four months. Why did I have this adventure? I don’t know. Why did this happen after I left everyone and everything I knew in California? I don’t know that either. I don’t know why the twins didn’t make it, but I do know we serve a faithful and loving God. He kept us safe as we crossed the county and watched over me, even as my fallopian tube ruptured. He gave me an off duty doctor who had the insight to save my life, even as my discharge papers were being printed. Lesson #3: Look for His handiwork, even in the darkest of days and you will find comfort.

So much for living out a boring existance in West Virginia! It seems the adventure continues. I want to send out my thanks to all of our friends and family who have loved on us this week. Your phone calls (even if I don’t remember them!) and notes have lifted our spirits and encouraged our hearts. Please continue to keep us in your prayers as we heal and begin our new life here in West Virginia.

Your Stubborn and Not So Zookeeper,






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