Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Happiest Place on Earth...MOST of the time...(PART 1)

We finally had our very first family vacation. IT.WAS.AWESOME!!! 
Around Christmas of 2012, my mom and I began talking about vacations. Its kinda funny that we had both thought Disney World would be a great destination because Rob and my dad aren't exactly 'fans' of Disney. I won't even divulge in that conversation, but suffice it to say, every time a Disney commercial would come on and our older children would beg to go there, Rob would become more like the Grinch...with the heart size being 4 times too small or whatever.  However, with a little coaxing, my mom and I won the men over and we decided around Christmas that we'd plan for a Disney extravaganza over spring break.
This is the 'Rolling Terd' that we chose as our source of transportation!
When we began looking into transportation, the sheer cost of airfare was enough to choke yah. RIDICULOUS. I think it would have been over $8000 just to fly all of us to Disney World. And, because I'm WAY too cheap, this was absolutely unacceptable. We'd have to figure out another way. An RV is what my dad started looking into and we eventually decided on because it was the most economical and really, who wouldn't want to drive 2000 miles with 4 small children and 4 adults? LOL

 Ironically, it was really comfortable! And because there was enough room to spread out, we all were able to rest when we needed to. It really did have almost all the comforts of home and we didn't have to stop for potty breaks.

Our trip began in Denver, CO and we were going to hit as many states as we could so that I could use it for educational purposes. Really, homeschooling in this kind of environment was so fun. And my children got to SEE the states we were learning about and I feel like that made the state's history and facts so much more interesting because my kids could tangibly relate to what they were reading and learning.

Our first day driving was through Colorado, Kansas, and our destination was Lees Summit, MO. We've made this trip several times in the last year, so our kids were fairly up to date on facts in these two states.

We made it to our first stop was in Lees Summit, MO to visit family and to spend Easter there. It was literally the BEST Easter ever. Our kids got to see their cousins and hunt for eggs. We ALL LOVE going to KC and we are all loved so completely that it makes it hard to leave!!!

SO we started off with a quick dinner and then a glow in the dark egg hunt!!!

They had SO much fun. I think the adults were having just as much fun as the kids.

Unfortunately, we had to leave fairly early the next morning to begin the long trek down to Florida.

Josh was COMPLETELY done with all the excitement and opted out of the egg hunt.

Hollie and Greg were given 'Gwynevere' for baby Ava
We were pretty sad that we didn't get to meet baby Ava this trip down.
Our second day driving we went through the rest of Missouri, then we hit the tip of Illinois, through a little bit of Kentucky, and over to Tennessee. We stopped briefly to let the kids get out and run around a little. Even though the RV had a fair amount of space, we still needed some fresh air and a bit of a break from the closer quarters. I think when people saw us start piling out of the RV it was almost comical because we just kept coming out. Our main objective was just to get to Florida as soon as we could. We made it to the KOA in Georgia that night. It was interesting to figure out the easiest sleeping arrangements with 4 little kids. Josh still uses a pack~n~play, so he was probably the easiest. But Rob and I were to sleep on the pullout couch...until we realized that the bar that is supposed to support the mattress really only served as an annoying and horribly uncomfortable metal bar in the middle of our backs with a sagging mattress at our head and feet. I can laugh now, but I was worried for a few minutes there. We ended up putting it on the floor and the kids kind of slept around us...?

We got up bright and early again the 3rd morning, super excited to get on the road and get to our first stop in Gainesville, FL! We were able to meet up with Jerry and Debbie, our agency director and wife. If you have followed me for awhile, then you would have seen them here, on January 9th, 2012. I have updated pictures of all of us coming soon! It was a wonderful visit...the kind that end way too soon and never often enough. Because Gainesville is still a ways from Orlando and we had to be checked in at a certain time, we couldn't stay as long as we would have liked to. (I'll get those pix up as soon as I get them! :) )

(To Be Continued......)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Trimmed into Toddlerhood

Yep, this is a real thing. I have loved every aspect of becoming a biracial family and learning all there is to know about the culture my youngest son, Joshua, was born of. Its fascinating and, yes, even scary at times. And not scary in the, I'm shaking in my boots, but the overwhelming realization of: Oh CRAP...I have NO idea what this...means. Several of my AA friends will laugh at me, because I have no problem admitting the PAINFULLY obvious: I'M SO WHITE RIGHT NOW. And they are gracious and willing to teach me.

Josh's culture, from what I've learned, considers this move from infant to toddlerhood to be a very big deal. A sort of coming of age and because I want to respect his background and ethnicity, I want to make sure I follow traditions as much as I can. AA boys, and girls I think, do not cut their hair until they turn one. This hair cut represents the switch into toddlerhood and I actually struggled with it a lot!! Joshua's black Auntie Caldonia, and our cherished friend, helped me accept and embrace my role as a white mom to a black child. I felt like I was going to be judged or do something wrong and Caldonia was God's instrument to help me walk WITHOUT fear. So naturally I call her or text her whenever I have questions with skin, hair, attitudes...what have you, I know she's got my back!

So this is my precious baby's first hair cut. We waited until we got back from Florida to do it, so he was more like 15 months and not exactly one, but theres been some gray area as far as when the 'right' time to do it is. And there has been mixed feelings on the haircut in general and the real tradition or meaning. Most will say, if you were to cut the hair before the child is one, it messes up the natural curl and natural growth pattern. When you see Josh's hair, you can see that there IS a pattern and its the most incredible thing! I thought you were supposed to brush it in a certain way or put product in that would curl it in sections, but Josh's hair does this naturally and its just amazing! Others believe that you must wait because the tradition of this stepping into toddlerhood is a very big deal. Because we don't have the absolute pleasure of having this conversation with our birthmom and her thoughts on the matter, we chose to wait and honor both the seemingly logical idea of the growth pattern and the tradition.

I also chose to go a more natural path with Josh's hair. I LOVE the kids line by Taliah Waajid. Its the Kinky, Wavy, Natural. Its AWESOME. Its yellow and smells DELICIOUS. It also conditions Josh's hair so its soft and super kinky. I am not trying to be gross of crass, but after he takes a bath and I wash his hair, it always looks like a bunch of little pubes everywhere. Seriously, I died laughing because my husband got into the shower a few hours after one of Josh's bathes and it made him very worried what was all over the bottom of the bathtub.

Anyway! Here is a picture of Josh's hair and his LONG locks. I was SO sad to cut these off. But frugality and time consumption won out. Its EXPENSIVE to maintain this kind of hair and this MUCH of it...and he's just 15mos'll grow back!

Josh doesn't exactly possess a tolerance of hair time. In fact, he HATES it. LOL

in this picture you can see his natural curl. I love it. It's incredible

Because I can already 'hear' my brother inlaws commenting on this picture's contents...that is HAIR...not something else. I just cut off an inch and a half!
Since this time I have actually buzzed the sides and faded it so that, per Duncan and daddy's request, Josh has the same hair cut as the big boys!

It is SO hard to fade this boy's hair! Fortunately for me, I got it good enough. LOL After I use the Taliah Waajid conditioner I put in the Kinky Curly Style and Shine so that it continues to moisturize and protect his hair. It also keeps it smelling good and doesn't let it turn into an afro. A great blog that I follow is called Chocolate Hair Vanilla Care. This site has AMAZING information and can help you figure out what kind of curly/kinky hair you or your child has!

I LOVE this face. He's not happy with me because he really didn't like the sound & feeling of the clippers

"Hey, lots of people go to school for 7 years..."

"I know; they are called DOCTORS." 

 It was a requirement that whoever I married would share my affinity for hilarious movies and have an entire conversation made up of only movie quotes.

Okay not exactly that, but to have a man with a good sense of humor was an absolute MUST. He also had to have blue eyes and blonde hair. (I still am not sure why this was a prerequisite?) A Christian with strong morals and values that matched mine. A man that made me feel like a woman; small, adored, cherished, and treasured. A man who's 'horn's matched the holes in my head' kinda thing. I wanted a man who desired to have an adventure in his life and make me apart of it. 

What did I get? Rob Riggins. Ironically he does have blue eyes AND 'blonde' hair...but he blew my list of requirements out of the water. Christian with strong morals and values? Oh yeah, in fact he usually makes me crazy with his undying need to follow rules. Make me feel like a woman? Yep...he looks at me like I hung the moon...he's also 6 feet and 200lbs, so of course I feel small! hahaha but above all, he does cherish, treasure, and (what I love the most) adore me. I am a very blessed woman. This man has chosen ME. Above ALL others. Not only is this HONORABLE, this is BIBLICAL.

Rob and I met when I was 12 and he was 16. I had just been enrolled to go to a Christian private school in Denver and before school started for the year, every student went up to a camp called Idrahaje. Pretty fun...but what I didn't expect was to find my future.

It was a fun week of the normal camp stuff and I had managed to sprain my ankle playing basketball the 2nd to last day. So I was lucky enough to get to sit in the gym and watch the other kids, mostly the high school boys (*swoon*), play basketball. It was in one game that one really tall, almost scary looking guy got mad at a shorter, skinnier looking guy and the scary guy threw the ball at the skinny guy and walked off the court. Yikes. Scary guy wasn't someone I'd really seen much of and I didn't think he'd be someone I'd want to run into ever. So the next day as I'm crutching over to the van to throw my backpack into the pile and get ready for the ride back to Denver, I'm startled completely by a deep voice that says, "God, you are a klutz." I clumsily spun around to see the scary guy right behind me! I had no idea what to say and managed to squeak out a, "thanks...?" That was where it started...we began school soon after camp and Rob became less scary. It was a very interesting year. But at one point I remember coming home to tell my mom, as I threw my backpack on my bed, that I was going to marry Rob Riggins some day. She scoffed and laughed and said that I probably wasn't...I enjoy rubbing it in sometimes that I was right. ;) Rob and I broke up near the end of the year and I moved to MN that summer and didn't have much contact with him until my junior year of high school.

Rob joined the Marines and traveled the world. I stayed in contact with his sister for awhile after I left and in one letter she told me that Rob was in a relationship and it was pretty serious. I wasn't upset at all by the news, but wanted to maintain a relationship with his sister anyway. When my dad announced we were moving to Wyoming, I got ahold of Rob's sister again and asked for Rob's address so I could write him. Just a letter to mend any bridge that may have been broken since I knew that I'd be going to a CO college when I graduated high school. Rob was in Naples, Italy at that time and we began writing a lot. Come to find out he was not in a serious relationship at all and later I found out that when he got my letter, he knew it was God's confirmation that I was the girl he wanted to end up with. (awe)

I was a junior in high school when Rob flew home for a funeral and he actually drove up to Douglas, WY to meet me for a day. It was AWESOME. He continued to pursue me long distance. I graduated in 1999 and decided that I wanted to go to college without any strings and so we were 'just friends' for my first year of college. I was also interested in someone else and didn't want more than a friendship with Rob. It was odd, but he was like a bad penny, man, he kept popping up!!! LOL!!!! I moved to Greeley, CO  right after I graduated high school and began a full 21 hr schedule with UNC. I loved college and I only wish now that I had enjoyed it a little bit more! Rob got out of the Corps in 2000 and seriously, he would not go away. I see it as the greatest leap of faith for him, because I literally had no intention of being with him. His family had actually moved to Greeley, so that was very coincidental!

I had been spending a lot of time with Rob, but still only as friends. It wasn't until late 2000 that I finally agreed to go on a date with him...with a whole group of friends. We saw The Cell...not exactly 'romantic' by any means!!! But it was enough that I let him in a little bit more.

During that time in my life I was struggling with events that happened in my childhood. Being sexual in nature, it crippled me in every aspect of my dating life. Bound up by fear and resentment, I was unable to pursue a healthy relationship, much less maintain one. I chose to seek out counseling since the school provided free services and began talking with a psychiatrist who, in what turned out to be our last session, asked me to describe in every possible detail one situation. It made me sick. It was awful. I came home from that session, got into the shower fully dressed, turned on the water, and vomited. After sobbing on the floor of the shower, I got out and dried myself off, took off my jeans, and wrapped myself in my favorite blanket...the 'Elk Blanket' that was my dad's and my brothers and I constantly fought over it growing up. Its a HUGE, heavy cotton comforter that is soft and fuzzy...and it is the one thing that I had from home that always brought comfort. My parents were still living in Wyoming at the time and my younger brothers were in school, making it impossible for my mom to come to me and help me through this excruciating time. Her only direction was,"Call Rob Riggins and talk to him."    "No mom, I don't want anyone to know this stuff, especially him."    "Honey, please, call him. I need to know that you are with someone safe and he's a very good guy."  So that was it. I had no one else. My roommate was in class for several more hours and I literally couldn't call anyone else. So I dialed him up. I was a hot mess and I didn't say much because of choking back tears and the conversation wasn't more than him answering and then 3 seconds later telling me that he was on his way over. Click. I didn't have to tell him much, but what I did say, and I would assume that by the look of me, was enough to shock anyone. What I thought I'd look up to see in my shame shook my entire world. This man sat across from me in my room, at my desk to give me a safe distance, and cried. For the life of me, I couldn't understand why he was crying? It changed everything.

It was in November of that same year that God ripped the scales from my eyes and solidified, in my heart, that Rob was my future husband. We were laying on the floor of his parents house watching The Perfect Storm. He was falling asleep, like usual, and I was snuggled beside him. I stretched at one point and my arm fell in a way that my hand was in his hand on the ground...a perfect fit. Strange to know something like that in a movie like that, but either way, that was it. He bought me a promise ring and we dated for another year.
you know when the groom is pulling the garter off the bride's leg? Yeah, this comedian pulled out these underwear instead. 

Most people have these super amazing the baseball game with a huge audience and boo hooing. Or the Christmas/holiday 'surprise' with friends and family...or the huge surprise in some public area....I WAS ARRESTED. No no, you read that right.... I WAS ARRESTED. Let me back up, Rob is a Deputy Sheriff and has cop friends all over he called in a favor.

One particular day, I needed to run down to another store to return a pair of shoes since the size wasn't in the store near us. It happened to be an hour away...and was SOUTH. Rob came and picked me up and we had planned on running errands. Well, he turned NORTH...and was heading for a town that I didn't like because it was dumpy and again, we needed to go SOUTH...not North and I'm not exactly in the mood for a detour because I wanted my new shoes! So we are driving and I'm thoroughly irritated and making my sentiments known. "Why are we going this way? We need to turn around and go south, Rob. Seriously, I want to get down to this other store!"    "I thought we could take the scenic'on, its pretty..."    "No, its not. And I hate this town anyway. Turn around." One of my biggest pet peeves is when people don't use their blinkers to change lanes or turn. I think Rob does this sometimes just to irritate me and was doing so on this day as well. "You are a cop. You should always use your blinkers. Its just rude. You're probably going to get a ticket, which will make us even more late to get down to the other store! You're killen me, Smalls!!!"  
Huh, as though the cop outside our car heard me point out his lack of blinker usage, lights are illuminated behind us and we have to pull over on the main thorough-fair in a mini lunch rush hour. HUMILIATING. And I knew it! Ugh! See? USE YOUR BLINKERS PEOPLE!!!! LOL we pull into an abandoned parking lot of a closed down Dairy Queen, and Lookie Lou's are everywhere.  I gave him the dirtiest look I could muster.  "Awesome. I told you. Watch, I'll probably have some warrant out for my arrest and I will never get my shoes. I hate this town. UGH!" The officer gets out of her cruiser and comes to Rob's side and asks the usual, "License and registration." But then she looks at me and says,"Ma'am, I need your identification also." WHAT!?!?!? "No, I'm not driving."   "Ma'am, I need your identification please."   I was FUMING by this point. I am not driving!? I look at Rob like, are you kidding me??? And he says in a strained voice,"Sweetheart, give her your ID!"    Whispering forcefully, "NO! I'm not the one driving and I ALWAYS use my blinkers!"  He hands me my purse and says, "Give her your ID NOW." I stubbornly get my wallet out and hand her my ID and she takes our information back to her computer. We wait just a couple of minutes and she comes to MY side and begins to open the door. "Ma'am, I need you to step out of the car. I have a warrant for your arrest." I begin shaking....OH MY GOD, WHAT!?!?!?! WARRANT FOR MY ARREST!?!?!?! I look at her. "I'm not even is there a warrant for my arrest???"   "Step to the back here." She begins grabbing my wrist and putting HANDCUFFS ON ME.  ITS LUNCHTIME AND TRAFFIC HAS NOW STARTED BACKING UP BECAUSE PEOPLE ARE GAWKING. "Ma'am I have a warrant for your arrest for theft." THEFT!?!?!?!? I DON'T STEAL THINGS!?!?!? I'VE NEVER EVEN STOLEN GUM!?!? Immediately I'm racking my brain trying to think if I had accidentally taken a pen from the bank and a camera saw and that's what I had stolen...but a warrant? That implies I did this a long time ago, right!? What bank branch did I need to return a pen to!? In this micro second, I hadn't even noticed where Rob was...and then the click of the handcuffs brought me out of my brain scanning to the present to see Rob kneeling in front of me laughing and hand shaking, as he held out a ring to me. "You have stolen this man's heart." The officer is now laughing and Rob's crying and my crying is now in full force, but out of joy and merriment, instead of horror and humiliation. The officer unhooked my cuffed wrist so Rob could put my ring on and I held off punching him, since I'd probably be rearrested for domestic violence. And yes, I did get my shoes that day.

Its been 11 years since that day.
Where has 11 years gone? In the last few months I've noticed that I'm so attracted to this man. I mean, duh, we have 4 kids together...but I'm talking about this way-down-in-my-gut surge. Its not even necessarily sexual...I'm not trying to be cheesey or corny...its completely overwhelming. I am SO in love with this man! Don't even think for one moment that we haven't had our EXTREMELY hard patches...there have been moments when I've screamed out to God that He made a huge mistake! But I'm pretty sure thats normal, even healthy...I bet Rob's had a few of those too...only a few though LOL. We've had to make huge decisions that redirect our ENTIRE family. We've had to make choices that are REALLY unpopular. But I think my foundation of security is this...that a man shall LEAVE his mother and father and CLINGS TO HIS WIFE. He CLINGS to HER. And in the same way, SHE CLINGS TO HIM. WOW!!!!! Father and mother, siblings, relatives have NO bearing on this union that GOD created. That's pretty intense. And so much freedom is found there. Maybe my overwhelming attraction comes from this pure and simple fact: we cling to God and each other. Its awesome. Its beautiful. Watching my husband embrace his role whole-heartdly is like the most brilliant firework display you've ever seen.  WOW. And I'll say this now: I cannot wait for my children to have marriages like this. To be completely overwhelmed by the blessing of a marriage relying on Jesus. TO be the oxen that pull TOGETHER in the SAME direction. For a long time it felt like we pulled in opposite directions or that I pulled and he drug his feet...but now he leads...and we pull together.

Phew! I'll step off that soapbox for now...I'm sure someone was gettin queasy. LOL And we're about to watch Liar Liar, so I gotta go get my Jim Carrey fix...

"New to the building?"
"Yeah, I just started on Monday."
"Like it so far?"
"Yeah, everyone's been real nice."
"Well, thats because yah got big jugs. I mean, ..."