Oregon Trail

Location: Oregon, United States

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Fear Factor

William is not better. In fact, he has lost at least two more pounds since Friday and has developed a low-grade fever. Yesterday, we got the results back from the tests they had run. There is no indication of a bacterial infection, viral infection or parasite. Half the tests indicate there is inflammation while the other half indicate there is none. The short of it is there is no easy answer and we will need to run more tests. Meanwhile, it feels like I am watching William just wasting away.

I have read several places that when we undergo stress or are subjected to trauma, our brains tend to revert to the fight or flight response, or reptilian brain. It is as though our brains withdraw into themselves and focus only on survival. I feel like I am physically experiencing this process. It is as though my brain is creating a partial vacuum and I can feel the strain in the muscles of my face.

Paul can feel it, too. He needs to fight what ever it is, but we sit here not knowing what it is that's bothering William. We need an enemy with a name. We need something to fight.

The doctor called today. She has ordered more stool samples and blood work and is referring us to a pediatric gastroenterologist. She also decides to allow William to eat dairy again. He eats better and feels much better. I can feel the tension leaving again because we are moving forward and William is doing so much better. He comes with me to run a couple of errands, happy to be out again. But by late afternoon, he is obviously running out of fuel. By 7 p.m., he is running a fever of 102.

So, please continue to pray for all of us. There are too many things that it could be - some minor, some serious, some just a hassle. We need patience for the process, grace for William who continues to be a trooper, and wisdom for when to do something different.

Monday, June 26, 2006

First week of summer break

It is the first week of summer break. This frankly scares me to death. I do not feel like I'm a gifted at-home mom. I feel like I'm supposed to be either the activities director on a cruise ship, a police officer or Cinderella. Usually I'm just bored stiff.

The kids started swimming lessons at the pool in our neighborhood. They complain that they already know how to swim, but fortunately, we had just been to the beach and I can explain that they need to be strong swimmers in order to swim in the ocean. The pool is outside and the lessons begin at 10:15. It is still cool (okay, COLD) and I sit on the side in slacks and a sweatshirt. On the first day, I meet the father of one of Thomas' friends. I've already met the mom and the dad must feel like we've already met because he just randomly starts a conversation with me. He mentions that his son would try out for the neighborhood swim team if he had a friend to join him. I indicate that I will check with Thomas to see if he is interested. In the back of my head, I worry that this parent may be super-competitive and we are asking for trouble. But Thomas is interested and this provides new reasons to do well at swimming lessons so I push the worry aside.

The pool ends up being a great place to meet people in the neighborhood. Many of them are already familiar because we've been crossing paths at the kid's school. But now we have a chance to just sit and chat while our kids have their lessons or play in the water. It will be interesting to see how these relationships develop.

We are still down to one car until Thursday, when one of Paul's co-workers leaves town and lets us use her car while she's gone. THANK YOU!!! So we go to Target, the grocery store, the library and William's doctor's appointment all in one day. (This is a lot for us.) Here's the scoop on William: he's lost 6 pounds in five weeks without trying and he has a swollen throat. This is not good. I tell them that we've taken him off dairy for three days with no improvement and the nurse says maybe we should try taking him off wheat as well. This would be the end of the world as we know it, but I see her point. Many kids on the autism spectrum have food allergies, especially to dairy and wheat. I'm praying this is not the case, however. The doctor orders stool samples and blood work done. The only thing I will say about the stool samples is that I hope we did it right, because I don't want to have to do it again. Blea!

We bring the samples to the Lab and they do the blood work at that time. The technician misses one of the tests they want to run and she has to poke him again. William is a trooper, making funny comments right and left to deal with the anxiety. I don't know when we will hear the results, but we are supposed to stay dairy free until we do. Part of me agrees, but the other part of me thinks "what's the use? It's not working anyway!" I definitely do NOT voice this to William, as it is hard enough already.

Saturday, the neighborhood sponsors a huge garage sale. I decide to participate at the last minute and put a bunch of things slated for Goodwill out on the lawn. It is totally haphazard, but I work on organizing the garage while people stop by. We get rid of most of our large items, met more people from the neighborhood, and make a little money while we're at it. Fun! However, in the afternoon the weather heats up to nearly 100. The house doesn't have air conditioning but we decide to see how we do. The warmest room in the house gets up to 88, but it is comfortable in the family room. The kids and Paul go to the pool while I close up shop and by dinner time, the air outside starts to cool down dramatically. We grill and eat outside, open up all the windows and let the cool breezes come in. By bedtime it is comfortable throughout the house - not bad! Even the dog seems okay.

Sunday and Monday are supposed to be near 100 again. We go to the mall for supper on Sunday and hang around in the air conditioning there, leaving the dog with a bucket of water, access to the cool floor in the garage and praying she stays okay. When we get back she is super-perky and wants to play. Whew. Maybe we will all go to the beach or a mountain today (Monday), we'll see.

I'm not bored! The kids and I worked out a chore plan so I'm not Cinderella! The pool provides entertainment for free twice a day! I'm still a police officer, or mediator, but I figure this keeps my skills honed for when I do get a job again...

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Latest

Here's what's been happening since Red Tape Days:

William finished out the school year! He had been saying his contract ended on June 8th, which was when school ended in Minnesota, but he toughed it out and made it. We also met with the staff at his school and got services set up for him for next year. He is actually looking forward to next year as the school is a much nicer facility and he will have some choices about electives and so on. Prayer request for him: his stomach has been upset for some time now. I thought he was better, but noticed he is actually looking thin and asked how he'd been feeling lately. He said he'd been feeling woozy and his stomach had been upset for a long time. (Good job, mom. Way to be on top of things.) Hopefully, with school being done, lowering the anxiety level, and eliminating dairy for a few days, we can get him back on track.

Thomas was in a play/skit at his school. They had done a unit on Japanese culture, and the skit was a way to put together all they had learned - dances, Kabuki theatre, martial arts, etc. Thomas portrayed a young person in conversation with an older gentleman about the various things young people did long ago to pass the time. He was also in a graduation ceremony for all the 6th graders at the school. This is a big deal here, as they move on to the Middle School next year.

Stephen also finished out his year well. They went to the Children's Museum during their last week and he came home with a sculpture he'd made out of wood and foam and announced that he wants to make more stuff out of wood. Hmm, I wonder where that will take us? Maybe we will make a bat house... more trips to Lowe's!

Paul has wisely given up on his car and is driving the van to work most days now. When I need the car, he has been able to get a ride from a co-worker. We are considering our options re: our next vehicle. Bus? Bike? Another car?

For Father's Day, he wanted to go to the beach again. Then a co-worker told him about a Christian Surfers club that was holding a competition in Lincoln City, so we decided to swing down there on Saturday for the day. The drive was really nice but not what we expected. First, as we went south, the land suddenly turned into farms and stayed that way for the majority of the drive. Along the way, there were tiny little towns that had one or two nicely renovated or decorated buildings that ended up being wine tasting boutiques. Then over the mountains along the coast, and there is the ocean! It was a cool, windy day but we were dressed appropriately and had a great time. William found a place to hang out out of the wind with some of the people at the event and ended up being a great helper. We enjoyed time with Paul's co-worker and her husband and met a few of the other people putting on the event as well. The rest of us took turns running around on the beach, watching the surfers, and playing "chicken" with the sea (and losing - note to self: also bring a change of clothes for the kids). Then they had a barbeque, which we were not going to stay for until we found out that they had salmon and chicken in addition to hamburgers. Nice! We drove back a different way, this time through more mountains than farmland (where is that mini cooper when I need it?) and got home at bed time.

Lydia tried out two churches, volunteered to do set-up for Thomas' graduation program at his school, painted the master bedroom and the downstairs bathroom, attended a training for the homeless youth service she is volunteering at over the summer, and got pulled over by the police.

First, about the church shopping. (Yes, I will tell the story about getting pulled over, just relax.) Church shopping is weird. The first place I went to was almost exactly like the church we've been going to - right down to the chairs in the sanctuary. The worship was good, the message was sound. However, I was only greeted by one person and then only when we were told to say hello to the people next to us. After this person greeted me, she turned to another person that she obviously knew, greeted him and had an entire conversation while I stood there looking for someone else to greet. Everyone was in little mini conversations with one another so I stood for another minute and then sat down again. Too bad. Amazing how important being greeted and welcomed was to me.

The next church I went to is a new church plant meeting in a high school nearby. At least five people greeted me, asked my name, showed genuine interest and thankfulness that I had showed up, and welcomed me. Wow! Worship was good, word was solid. Downside here is there is no established program for youth and because they are meeting in a school cafeteria, it felt REALLY LOUD which would wreak havoc on William's nerves. Still, I would definitely go back. They also spoke of a building fund and a new building by August so the noise may be a non-issue. We'll just have to wait and see.

Okay! The story you've all been waiting for: True Confessions.

The entire family was in the car in order to go to a meeting at William's school. I, Lydia, was driving. Our house is near a main thoroughfare called "T.V. Highway". Running parallel to the highway is a railroad track which we must cross every day when we want to get on the main road. This railroad track has been giving me a hard time since we got here. There is a Big
White Line where you are supposed to stop so you don't get squashed by the oncoming train but nobody ever stops there. When I stopped there for a red light, someone honked at me like I was screwing up so I went across the tracks and stopped at the crosswalk. They scooted by me and turned right but it felt like the back end of my car was hanging precariously close to the track. I'm sure this is not the way it is supposed to be done but what am I going to do, get out of the car and explain it to the people in back of me? Yeah, right.

So, on this particular day, we are all in the car and we approach the tracks with the Big White Line in front of it. At this intersection, the Big White Line is WAY back from the highway and the crosswalk because the track runs at an angle. I needed to take a left, the light was green, there were two cars in front of me waiting to take a left as well. The first car was in the intersection, the second was on the crosswalk and I crossed the Big White Line thinking no problem, the light is green and I will have plenty of time. Little did I know that there was the slowest pedestrian in history making their way across the intersection, that the light would begin to change, and that my car would be sitting squarely on the tracks. I made a split second decision to go for it and follow the other two cars rather than sit on the track. The light turned red before I hit the intersection, Paul (being extremely funny) made a cute little siren sound, I said yep, I know that was a screw-up but I'd rather do that than get hit by a train. Then I saw the lights in my rear view mirror. I said, "Oh man, I really am going to get pulled over." So I pulled into a parking lot, the cop pulled up behind me, blocking part of the main road (I'm sure they do this just to embarrass you), and came up to the car to have a chat.

He asked me if I knew why he was pulling me over and I said I imagined it was because of the left turn. He asked me what I thought I was doing and I explained my reasoning. He asked if I knew what the Big White Line was for and I said yes, that I had made an error in judgement and I admitted it was a mistake. I said "Sir" about 25 times and turned 8 shades of red. Then he looked at the kids and asked them if they thought he should give me a $242 ticket. They all graciously said, "No, please don't!" Then he looked at Paul and asked him why he hadn't said anything and he graciously said, "Well, actually, I did." Thanks. After picking on me, the officer then said that not only did I deserve a ticket, but so did the two others in front of me. Then he said that because I had been very polite, and because I had the peer pressure of the family in the car, and because he was four minutes away from the end of his shift, he was going to let me go with only a warning this time. SWEET!!! Thank you, SIR! All I could think was that if this had happened during Red Tape Days, I would have gotten a ticket for sure. And for the record, Paul said that it was particularly funny to him that I got pulled over because by all rights, he should have gotten pulled over 100 times but he never gets stopped for anything.

Later that night, Thomas was called to dinner along with the rest of the gang but failed to come because he was sucked into the vortex of a video game. After dinner, he wanted to finish the level. We confronted him about not coming when he is called. He had all sorts of excuses but the bottom line was he DESERVED to be punished, which I made very clear. No sooner were the words out of my mouth when I remembered the story of the ungrateful servant from the Bible. He was forgiven a debt, but turned around and demanded payment from someone who owed him money in return. I looked at Paul and he looked at me. I told Thomas that he deserved to be punished just like I had deserved to pay that fine but that I had been given grace. And I let him go finish the level.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Red Tape Days, Part II

Okay, the good news from yesterday's entry was that I DID make it home on time for the kids. Miracles do happen.

Now, for the continuation of the saga:

As I mentioned, I could not get my license plates for the car because I needed to have an emissions test done. I had half expected this, so wasn't too frustrated. Besides, who knows how long it would have taken if I WAS ready? I wonder how many steps are involved in getting new plates? I might still be there.

So I figure it's new day, and I will attack it with gusto. I go to the testing station, have a nice chat about the 10,000 lakes with the attendent that tells you which bay to drive up to, then sit in the car to wait my turn. I am confident that this is going to go smoothly because the car is in good shape and I take care of it.

It is my turn, and the guy tells me to get out of the car and wait in the waiting room. After less than 5 minutes, he comes in and tells me the car failed the test because the engine light is on and that means it's a code 90145 or something and that means there's a problem with the emissions. That light has been on for 5 years. I told him I think it is on because of some fluke because I've had it checked and no one ever comes up with anything. He acts like I'm a dolt for ignoring THE LIGHT because OBVIOUSLY it's a code 90145 and you would be remiss to just let that go. Okay, fine. Now I get to find a repair shop to fix whatever it is that may or may not be there. Wonder how much that will cost?

I go to a bookstore to purchase a gift for Paul's nephew. The clerk points me to the section I need and makes a suggestion. It is Precious Moments. If you know me at all you will realize that this was a huge mistake. I smile and laugh and say, "I'm really sorry, but I hate Precious Moments" and the guy gets all hurt on me and says, "Well, I didn't know that when I showed it to you." Now I feel really bad for hurting the guy's feelings when he was just trying to help. Crimony. I ask a few more questions and he is able to direct me to what I am looking for, which I hope makes him feel better.

Next item on the agenda: Well, since I won't be going to the DMV, I might as well go get my debit card at the bank. Paul's company had some representatives from their local branch come to his office and assist the transferred employees in setting up new accounts. All I need to do is go in to any Bank of America, show proof of identity and give them the account number, and get the card. At least that's what I've been told. By Paul. Is anyone else seeing a theme here? I can't find the papers because of his filing system, it is his nephew, it is his bank... hey, come to think of it, the whole reason I'm HERE is because of HIM! So you can guess that the process wasn't as smooth as I'd been told. And it took the staff about a half an hour to figure that out. I need to come again in person with him and then I can get the card. Maybe I don't want the card anyway. Nyah!

I get home and Paul calls to tell me his car was overheating all the way to work and he thinks the fan is broken. That car never should have come here in the first place. He thinks he can make it home and I call a neighbor that indicated they have a shop up the road. Maybe that guy can fix my car's emissions, too.

I decide that maybe today isn't the best day to try to get a license for the dog. It just doesn't feel like a good idea. I call to find out what I will need to have with me in order to get the license so I can start the grueling process of collecting all the data.

I've had it, so I decide to blog it. The site is down. Okay, really, this is ridiculous.

I go to fix dinner. Paul calls again to figure out how he is going to get to work in the morning. I tell him he can have my car because I'm able to go without it. He puts me on hold so he can talk to his coworkers about it. What is there to talk about? I just said you can have my car! I hang up on him because I'm stuck to the phone on the wall (I have only been able to find one of our cordless phones and the battery is low) and I'm trying to make dinner. He calls back to say goodbye. I put everything down that I'm doing so I can pick up the phone and say goodbye back. What a nice guy.

Okay, this is not really red tape, but it is a continuation of the rant. Hopefully after this entry, the ranting will be OVER!

This morning, I get a call from William's case manager re: his work in 5th and 6th hour. William has been saying that "his contract is up" on June 8th, when school ends in Minnesota. He is only half-kidding and it appears that he is shutting down prematurely at school. The phone call comes right before William is to leave for the bus. He loses his place in the process and misses the bus. Generally not a big deal until I realize I have the un-car as a vehicle. I figure it is not too far and we can make it.

I start the car and it revs to the point of no return. I figure at this rate, the car will overheat in two blocks and that won't be so bad. Paul has not mentioned the revving lately. I turn off the car, go in the house to get my cell phone because I feel like I may be needing it, come back outside and look under the hood at the fan. Seems to be moving okay, but I don't see the belt. Of course, cars aren't really my thing, so what do I know? I try to start it again. It calms down a bit and we leave. The car revs the entire way as though it would like to be doing 85 or maybe 105 in a 40 mph zone. I ride the brake and try not to use the clutch too much because that makes it worse. And I try not to let it jump into gear and hit the person in front of me. I'm sure everyone is looking at us and thinking I don't know how to drive a stick. Humbling. I feel like I'm on the Rez and everyone else is in the 'burbs. At least we aren't stuck in reverse.

I also wonder if this is what Paul does every day on the way to work. He would, you know. And then he would think it was cool because he drove that car until it officially died right there underneath him. Or cool because no one else would ever drive this heap to work, especially not to a job at the corporate office of a bank. Or funny somehow, I can't even imagine.

I make it to the school and back, leave Paul an email telling him to kill the beast and ranting at him for continuing to drive it this long. I had no idea how bad it was. He calls back laughing. See? I told you he would think it was funny! I still don't get it.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Red Tape Days

Red tape days would be the opposite of red letter days. They are a nuisance, an irritant, and a pain in the tush! I'm off on a rant, so here goes:

Yesterday, I decided I was ready to take the knowledge test in order to get my Oregon driver's license. In order to do this, I needed to find some basic paperwork to prove my identity and my address. This is not a big deal, but things are still in, shall we say, some disarray, so it is a pain. Then I decide that as long as I'm at the DMV, I should get my license plates for the car. This means I will also need the title to my car and proof of insurance. Paul has been doing (or not doing, as it were) the filing, so finding the title may be a crapshoot. Which it is. If you were a Paul, where would you file it? Under A for automobile? T for title? C for car? It is not in any of these places. I locate a box of papers from the laundry room that has not been filed and find the title to his car. I find the proof insurance to his car in my glove compartment. Finally, in frustration, I call him at work and get his voicemail. Then I leave an email. By this time, it is 11:00. What a waste of a morning!

Paul gets back to me around noon and tells me I can't find the title "because I'm not looking in the right place!" I'm not laughing. He says it's in the fireproof safe in the garage. Now why didn't I think of that? And where is the key? Hmm, maybe it's in any of three places, all of which are notorious dumping grounds for things that Paul doesn't have a logical place for. I locate a few promising bundles of keys and try them one by one. I am ready to break out the crowbar when I notice that the lock has a series of numbers on it. Sure enough, it matches the key and I'm in and the title is there. Now I can go to the DMV.

Ha! You thought the rant was over! No! The DMV is a rant in and of itself! It was all I could do not to organize a mutiny while I was there. I certainly had the time. Getting a license consists of several steps which I will now enumerate:

1.) Enter DMV office. Look around for some indication of what to do next. Read sign stating that you should take a number and speak to the person at the information desk to get the correct forms. There is no person at the information desk. I take a number. It is 225, and they are currently calling number 175. Only 50 to go!

2.) Sit down and wait. While waiting, watch other people entering and attempting to figure out step one. This provides some decent entertainment.

3.) Read the fine print on your number slip because there is a lull in incoming entertainment. Realize that you are supposed to have the paperwork filled out when you approach the counter.

4.) Locate the wall with all the papers displayed on it. Or nearly all. I think. Because how would I really know? There is no one at the information desk! So I take one for the license plates and another to apply for a Class C Commercial license. This doesn't sound quite right, but it is the closest I can get, so I sit down and begin filling them out.

5.) Wait some more. By this time, it is more interesting to watch the people who have been here a while. Especially the woman running out of the place with her teenage son saying loudly, "Son, we've just broken every law in the book. Now RUN!" While he looks bewildered and follows after her. Sure would like to follow up on that...

6.) Wait some more.

7.) Get your number called! Locate the person behind the counter that called your number (there is no flashing light, or flag, or any indication which person called your number...what if I was hearing impaired? What if I didn't speak English?) This person ends up being very nice and informs me that a.) I cannot get my license plates today because I need to have an emissions test done and b.) that my other form indicates I would like to drive very large commercial vehicles. Which I don't. So I explain to her that that was the only form I could find, which she did not acknowledge, and we proceeded to fill out the correct form which she magically produced. Then I paid her for the privilege to take the test, she gives me the paperwork and instructs me to put it in the Red Bin across the room.

8.) Put paperwork in Red Bin. Look around to ensure this is the correct Red Bin because it feels really random.

9.) Wait. Watch others as they put their paperwork into the Red Bin. Or not. Some people stand there and get the man's attention behind the counter before putting their papers in the Red Bin. Just to be sure. I don't blame them. At this point, I am watching the clock. I got here around 12:30. It is now 1:30 or 1:45. Can I take the test and jump through the other hoops necessary before I need to leave to be home in time for the kids?

10.) Have your name called so you can take the test. 30 questions with 80% accuracy required. I am stinking nervous about this test and my stomach is in a knot. I figure they will ask me all the stupid questions like, "What will your punishment be for your first DUII offense?" I did not pay attention to this portion of the handbook as it most likely won't apply to me. Now I wish I had, because I'm sure 90% of the questions will be on this section. Fortunately, they don't and I only get one wrong - "What is the speed limit in a business district if the speed limit is not posted?" I guessed 30. (It's supposed to be 20 - I looked it up when I got home).

11.) Pass the test. Check in with the guy behind the counter for further instructions. He tests my eyesight, puts my paperwork on another woman's desk, and tells me to wait. Big surprise.

12.) Wait as instructed. Good thing I'm a rule-following first born. Watch people finishing their test. Now I know that the ones who have their eyes checked passed and the ones who don't failed. Ooo.

13.) Watch the woman who now has my paperwork have a complete sneezing fit and disappear.

14.) Watch the clock as it ticks away the minutes before I have to leave.

15.) Watch the woman who has my paperwork reappear and make a phone call.

16.) Look away so I don't have someone come and haul me out for threatening her with my eyes. So help me.

17.) Have my name called! Pay the woman so that she will give my paperwork to someone at the other end of the room.

18.) Wait at the other side of the room. Good thing I can walk.

19.) Have my name called! Have my picture taken.

20.) Wait while they print and laminate the ID.

21.) Have my name called! Win the prize for butt-ugliest ID photo. Maybe if I hadn't been there for 2 1/2 hours my makeup would still be fresh and my hair would be doing what it is supposed to! Ugh! I hate this place! And I get to come back tomorrow to do it all over again for the license plates. At least I know to bring a book...

To be continued...

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Weeks 8 and 9

May 22.

This week brings a couple of cool things:

1.) I meet with a person re: volunteering at a drop-in center for youth and

2.) My parents come to visit/help with working on the house.

I called the woman I'd met at the homelessness forum and she directed me to a gal named Bridget that is currently running a drop-in center for youth in Hillsboro. It ends up Bridget is from Wisconsin, went to school at Gustavus and has a friend finishing the MSW program at St. Thomas. Okay, I knew the world was small, but really! We discussed my interests and the programs she is aware of, and agreed to meet Thursday.

When we meet, I find out that she had just been to a workshop in Portland and met one of my co-workers from YouthLink as well. She had actually considered working there if she
had stayed in Minneapolis. She is all excited about having a volunteer with my qualifications, and tells me the Youth Shelter is opening in September. I am all excited about being able to DO something and have a low-key way to check out the resources in the area. Also, the shelter opening in September may be promising - summer off, no worries, then back to work. Assuming there is a job there that would fit the bill(s). We arrange for me to begin after my folks go home again.

My mom and dad arrive Thursday evening. It is really good to see them! I am still amazed by how much we got done around here. I kept asking what they wanted to see here, and they acted offended - we are here to WORK, and work we did. Dad and I assembled bookcases for the family room, installed closet doors in Thomas' room (Ugh!), painted two bathrooms and William's bedroom, visited Lowe's each day, just to name a few. Mom filled in the gaps by doing dishes, laundry, cleaning, vacuuming, and spending time with the kids. We also ate and ate, and I was able to convince them to do SOME fun things like the farmer's market in the rain, the zoo, the arboretum and the Japanese Garden. We drove through the Pearl District and they loved that - Dad is dreaming about a condo there. The mountain peeked out from the clouds a TINY bit one day, but we decided maybe it was a mirage and there really is no mountain.

On the Friday before they leave, I notice my dad is no longer just working with me, but teaching me how to do things after he leaves. A very subtle change, but I begin to feel the loss immediately. I cry off and on without anyone knowing on Saturday until Paul asks me how I am doing as we get ready for bed. Then the tears just pour out. Ugh. It is almost taboo to grieve openly in my family, but I am determined to deal with it, so I talk about it with Mom on Sunday morning after breakfast. Dad comes in and out of the room and sees us crying together and stays very busy even though I assure him it is perfectly normal for us to be crying. Then he goes to Lowes again.

We putter around on a few projects that day and go shopping in a cute area we noticed earlier. The kids are ornery and crabby when we get back so Paul and I take them on a mandatory trip to the park. The kids have been mostly ignored by me (which equals more t.v. time) as I run around working on the house and getting dinner on the table, so the crabbiness is no surprise. Thank God, the trip to the park actually works and we have attitude adjustment. Then we all go to eat at a restaurant and say goodbye to my folks. Eating and saying goodbye would be a family tradition as well, I think. I don't see how we can enjoy the meal, but we do. And then we say goodbye, cry only a little in public, and go our separate ways.