Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Monday, October 14, 2013

Road trip!

This summer, we embarked on the longest road trip we've taken since our 2007 trip to Boston. For that 18-hour (one way) trip, we had one 4 year old child in the back of our sedan (and one in my belly, but she never made a peep and never once asked to stop to potty). For this one, 12 hours each way, we had not one, not two, but THREE (ages 10, 5, and almost 2) children in the back of our minivan.

Y'all. I was nervous.

In theory, I love the idea of a roadtrip. I have wildly romanticized ideas of car trips. We might even hold hands and sing "Kumbaya" in those fantasies. Just maybe, I'm saying.

In reality, I hate road trips that last longer than approximately 34 minutes. They're boring, the kids get squrimy and wild - and so, so noisy. They complain a lot and somebody always has to go to the bathroom. So I was not looking too forward to our drive to the Sunshine State. I barely survived past trips to the coast of South Carolina and Florida is 3 times as far.

But I was determined to make it as smooth of a journey as possible. And guess what? It actually went pretty well. We had to leave a day late because my husband had an eye injury requiring him to keep his eyes closed as much as possible for about 18 hours. (A story for another day. And incidentally, we have the best optometrist EVER.) Since I wouldn't let him drive with his eyes closed and he did NOT want me to take over, we had to wait for his eye to heal before we could hit the road.

I think we owe our fairly easy trip to some meticulous planning...but mostly it was a gift from God. Even so, I thought I'd share some tricks and tips that helped make our trip smooth - maybe they'll help you, too. So here are my top 10 travel tips:

1. I made each child her own bag of snacks, which she kept within reach near her seat. I bought lots of snacks and put servings in snack bags and divvied them up into small tote bags. Each girl had plenty of options and I never once had to go through all of the choices and toss random bags of crackers around the car at children who didn't catch them and then dissolved into tears. (Not that it's ever gone down like that, mind you.) They were allowed to have a snack pretty much anytime they wanted and didn't have to ask. (Hey, anything to keep them quiet, right? My kids are pretty good about stopping when full.) Most snacks were fairly healthy but the big two girls each had a couple of "treat" options, too. One morning on the drive home, I popped a bag of microwave popcorn in our hotel room and divided it in to ziplock bags (see #5) for each one. They loved that! (But outside of that salty treat, I tried to make most snacks not too salty...then they just ask for drinks and you know what happens next. Pit Stop City.) I doled out drinks judiciously. (As a side note, I always have anti-bacterial hand wipes and hand sanitizer in my car. If you don't, be sure to grab some before a road trip. You never know when you'll need to "wash" your hands and sometimes the bathrooms you encounter don't have soap! Grody!)

2. Each girl also had her own "entertainment" bag at her seat. My oldest packed her own bag so I have no idea what she put in it, but she stayed busy the entire trip, so maybe she should be writing this tip. Grin. In the other 2 bags, I put coloring books, crayons, stickers, books to read, picture books for the baby, etc. - pretty much anything they could use in their seat and that have didn't a million tiny parts to get lost in the car. I tried to get a few new, small things for their bags for the sheer novelty of new.

3. A portable DVD player was a lifesaver, especially for the littlest babe. I refused to purchase a car with a built-in player because I think it should just be for long drives and I don't want to argue about it every day. But for a long trip, it's so nice to have. (We bought ours about 7-8 years ago for under $100. They're probably cheaper now but ours has lasted all this time in great shape.) I let the girls choose a few movies each; I took the discs out of the boxes and put them all in one small plastic box with a lid to save space and hassle. I kept the box easily accessible right behind the front middle console and I handled the setup.

4. Before the trip, I printed out some "scavenger hunt" lists and a couple of U.S. maps. The big girls looked for items on the list (one had pictures with the words for the 5yo so she didn't get slowed down by words she didn't know). The U.S. maps were useful for playing the license plate game (finding plates from every state possible) - the oldest would check off each state we found. (She also checked off states as we drove thru them, but there weren't that many.) We also played a few rounds of the venerable alphabet game. There are numerous resources online for car games and other road trip entertainment ideas far more brilliant than what you will find here. Amen.

5. Besides the snacks mentioned in #1, I had a large plastic box (i.e. Rubbermaid) filled with more snacks - it held full-size boxes and other assorted snacks. These were our snacks for while we were at the beach and to refill the individual bags before the return trip. Another important addition to this box was ziplock bags of all sizes. I took one gallon sized bag and tucked a large stack of other sizes inside so it didn't take up much room but had all we needed. The bags were so handy for making individual servings for daily jaunts, the beach, pool and short car trips during the week. In the hotel room, I used disposable cups for their snacks, but when there weren't enough, I'd use snack bags. No mess, nothing to wash. (And just to note, I'm no Scroooge - I let the kids have the thrill of getting a snack from the vending machine or gift shop a couple of times, but it saves a ton of money to not have to get ALL snacks that way. And yes, I'm aware that my method is not green at all. But we don't do that at home.)

6. I also brought along a case of bottled water, a couple of boxes of juice pouches/boxes, Coke (for us, not the young'ns!) and a bottle of grape juice for the hotel. It ended up not being that hot while we were beachin' it, so we didn't need as much water as most years, but I like being prepared and not having to run to the grocery store. (Or worse, spend $2 on a bottle of water from a vending machine.) I kept a small cooler near my seat so we had cold drinks while riding and I could also carry it to the beach or on day trips. But as I said earlier, I made sure the girls didn't overdo the drinks while we were riding, just to minimize stops a little.

7. Some years, we bring along bread, peanut butter, jelly, etc and make the kids PBJs to take out on the beach if we plan to spend several hours there. I know many people rent condos and cook many of their meals. But I figure I cook every day at home, vacation is, well, a vacation! So we go out to eat. Some days, we eat a late breakfast, early dinner and no lunch - or just a snack or ice cream - and some days we eat a cheap breakfast or lunch, but we do prefer to dine out. Without breaking the bank, of course.

8. When we're taking a couple of days to reach our destination, I pack differently. This time, we were spending one night in a hotel somewhere between home and the beach (and vice versa on the way home). While most of our stuff was packed in our individual suitcases (hubby and I share one but the kids each have their own small one), for that one night I put each person's change of clothes, pjs and basic toiletries in one suitcase. Then, when staying for only one night, we only have to take that one bag inside instead of half a dozen. I repack and rearrange on the way home to do the same thing and put that bag on top in the back of the van for easy access. The kids usually have their special pillows and stuffed animals in or near their seats and they take them inside for the night.

9. Remember to take your address book, list of addresses or access to that info online. Kids love to send postcards, so it's nice to have address info handy. Stamps, too. Some hotel gift shops sell stamps, but not always. Tip: most Walgreens drugstores sell books of stamps. My kids insisted on sending postcards to almost everyone they ever met, so we had to hit Walgreens for more postage.

10. Laundry. It's a dirty word, is it not? But we sure do produce a lot of it. I'd prefer not to do laundry on vacation, but I usually do 1-2 loads toward the end of the week. (That's less to do when we get home, at least!) But I take along my own detergent and fabric softener so I don't have to either buy overpriced items out of a machine or run to a store to buy full-size versions I have to drag home. I either buy a small, travel-sized bottle/box of detergent or just put some in a small travel bottle or ziplock. I throw a couple of fabric softener sheets in there and I'm good to go. I'll start a load or two one night as we're settling in for the evening and it's clean and dry by the time I go to bed. (I'm not one to stay in the hotel laundry room with my clothes. I stick 'em in the washer and leave, return to put them in the dryer, leave and come back when they're dry. I'm not that worried about someone stealing our not-expensive clothes. Who does that?)

I'd call our trip a smashing success and my careful preparation certainly helped make it smooth. What tips do you have?

The end of our real estate story...2.5 years later

Reading through some old posts, I realized that I wrote about our horrid real estate ordeal but never updated the blogosphere about it later. And since I know everyone was waiting on pins and needles, wondering, "Did those nice people ever sell their house?", I thought I'd update. Grin.

After almost 2.5 years on the market, we got an offer in October 2010. It wasn't a terrible offer, but it was a contingency, meaning the buyers had to sell their house before they could close on ours. We accepted it with the understanding that we'd take another, non-contingent offer should one come up. (Meaning we continued to have showings and such.) Strangely enough, a couple of weeks later, we got an offer. It wasn't a stellar one, but we had pretty much resigned ourselves to accepting a not-as-great offer for the chance to finally get the heck outta Dodge.

Caroline and I spent several full days house hunting with our realtor. I counted one day and I took her in and out of the car 18 times. (Caroline, not the realtor. That would be weird.) We narrowed the field until we had about 5 houses that were our top choices, then Eric went to see those. There were a couple of decent options, but we both agreed that our favorite was a quaint Cape Cod in a great location. We saw it at least 4 times before making the offer (and I hereby apologize to the sellers for that). The offer was made and settled, but the poor sellers were quite gun shy - they'd almost closed on it shortly before that but the offer fell through at the eleventh hour. Literally, like the day before closing. Which worked out well for us, but I understand how frustrating it was for the sellers and how they didn't really believe we were seriously going to buy the house until we closed.

We were supposed to close on 12/17, but we had numerous delays related to our buyers. They had to redo their loan and all sorts of things that caused delays - they weren't their fault and they were still all in, but it was certainly frustrating. By the time everything was ready to close, it was actually January 7. We closed on our old house that morning in a bit of snowstorm. Luckily, our buyers were willing to let us stay in the house until the next evening, so we had time to move. The only teensy problem was that we weren't sure we could close on our new house yet and the sellers weren't willing to let us move in before closing, even though they were already moved out. (Their realtor advised them to not let us do that...bugger.) We were potentially going to be homeless for the weekend if we couldn't close until Monday. So we had closed on the old house and returned there and finally got a call around 1:00 that we could, in fact, get closed on the new house that afternoon at 3. WHEW! So we closed and spent one last night in the old house and officially moved in Saturday.

Did I mention that about a week before Thanksgiving, we'd found out I was pregnant with Charlotte? While we'd kept the news to ourselves, it certainly added another layer of stress to the whole thing!! It also meant I shouldn't be moving furniture or heavy boxes around. Luckily, we had several guys helping us move, so I was able to sit out the heavy lifting without anyone questioning me!

The next few weeks were crazy - getting unpacked and settled in a new home, Emily starting a new school (she started when they went back after Christmas break, just a few days before closing), and also planning for a baby. About 2 weeks after we moved, we found out she was a she and also shared the news with the world. I felt compelled to get everything possible done around the house before the baby arrived, so I spent the rest of winter and spring organizing, painting, etc. By the time baby arrived in June, it felt like we'd been here forever.

We love our new house and it's in a great location, close to everything and convenient to nearly everywhere we go. It was a terrible ordeal of real estate horrors, but we made it through and we're very happy with the end result. Every day I am thankful that we have a comfortable, cozy home I love in a great neighborhood, we have awesome neighbors, I can get to Target in 3 minutes and I do not have to prepare the house for showings all the time. Hallelujah!!!!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

My funny kids...

Back by popular demand (okay, not really...I made that up) - things overheard in my house:
"Stand right here where my pants are."
"You smell like bones!"
"I don't want a chicken sandwich - there's chicken on it!"
"If my face was a hamburger, I'd eat it!"       
"Stop it! You're scratching my hair!"
Emily (10), ordering breakfast: "I'll have two biscuits, kill the gravy."

And a collection of funny things in our household over the last couple of years:

I was bragging on Caroline's great work toward reading - she's so close to reading independently.
Eric: Wow, smart AND cute! A deadly combination.
Caroline, with a sigh: But I still can't snap my fingers.

Not exactly the news I want to hear from upstairs: "Mommy! My window is in the yard!"

A firstborn has the best, cleanest, most age and developmentally appropriate toys. A third child hears these words from her father: " with these socks."

I was putting the Pack and Play (portable crib) in the car.
Caroline: What's that, Mom?
Me: The Pack and Play.
Caroline: Oh. Is that Spanish for "bed"?

Quote of the trip: in the car, Caroline asked me to start her "Animal Baby" CD over (yet again) and Eric said: "Ugggh...I'm gonna poke out my earballs!!!"
Second prize goes to Emily, who warned me, "Before you start harassing my father, you need to know that vibrant colors do NOT match those shorts."

On the way home from school, we saw an old toilet put out to the street for the trash service to pick up. Emily (9) said "I've heard of Porta-Potties, but that's ridiculous!"

Charlotte was squealing and screeching about something this morning.
Caroline (4): Charlotte!! A) you're too loud and B) you need to stop screaming!

Emily: I feel sorry for gravity.
Eric: Why?
Emily: It has to work SO hard!

At church, we had communion. Caroline gladly took the bread, but when offered the cup, she shook her head and politely said, "No, thank you!"

1. "I'm pretending I have a baby and it's getting milk from my boob."
2. Me: Who wants to get my phone for me?
Caroline: I will!!! Then can I have a dollar?

Our Emily is a budding greeting card designer. Her best homemade Valentine's card was for Daddy. It read: "Did it seriously have to come? I mean, mistletoe is bad enough but a holiday *devoted* to kissing?" (inside) "Yuck in complete and utter capitals!" This barely topped the one for her teacher with a poem that began "Some teachers are crabby. Some pencils are stabby..."

We had a big fly in the house and never caught him. The next day, Caroline spotted him in a cup of water on the counter. Without missing a beat, Emily said, "Is he doing the backstroke?"

Actual conversation: we were talking about a new girl in Emily's dance class who just moved here from Iowa, Eric says ,"Wonder what brought them to this area?" Emily says with a shrug, "Maybe they like hillbillies." Dude. Beverages nearly exited noses.

Caroline, O Child of Great Expectations, tore open an Easter card from Grandma while commenting, "I hope there's dollars in there!!!"

Caroline: "I like cats. I don't like squirrels...actually I do like squirrels, but I don't like skunks. Can we go to the playground?"

Our comic relief this week was once again provided by Miss Caroline. First she requested the song "Chinese Buffet"...that would be "Surfin' USA." (Though I think we could come up with some pretty funny lyrics for her version.) Then we were in Wal-Mart when she wrinkled up her cute little nose and commented, "It smells in here."

We're in the car and Caroline starts talking to the car ahead of us..."Get off the phone and drive!! Stop smoking! QUIT PLAYING WITH YOUR HAIR AND DRIVE!"

Emily: "I had a bad dream last night, but I know it's not real because there's not a sink in the van."

Caroline walked into a restaurant and ordered Germ-X with her food...classic!

Emily was telling Caroline about the Elf on the Shelf who keeps an eye on their behavior and reports back to Santa each night. Em said, "If we're bad, then Santa just brings us lumps of coal!" Caroline excitedly added, "or SOCKS!!"

Caroline's funniest questions of the week:
"What is God's middle name?"
"Do ghosts have eyebrows?"
"Why does Pal's have a mailbox?"
"Does the moon go to sleep at night?"
"Is Grandpa your brother?"
 "Mommy, why doesn't Grandma have kids?"

Eric: Let's go over the river and thru the woods to Grandma's house.
Caroline: Can we just go to Grandma's and not in the river?

Today's installment of "not the answer I was looking for"...Me: "What did you do with X mess?" Child: "I wiped it on your pillow." Um...

Yes, my 3 year old likes to sing "Viva Las Vegas." Only she says "Jesus Las Vegas." Funny in more ways than one.

So, you know how some Christmas ornaments have strings or ribbons on them to use for hanging them on the tree? And on others, you need to attach the little metal hooks? Yep, those are called...hookers. Ah, Christmas According to Caroline!!!

I feel confident that Emily is getting adequate Daddy-time...we passed a police car and she commented, "There goes the Po-Po!"

Caroline: Why don't cars have feets?
Emily: The Flintstones car had feet!!

Water, water everywhere

So I wrote this about 4 months ago. Just now publishing. Yep, I'm the ball.

2012 proved to be quite a summer for my family. So many things happened and strangely, there was an overwhelming theme running through those months: water.

First, it was our inaugural "pool summer" - we had a pool membership at the local country club for the first time. We had visions of spending many a summer afternoon lounging around the pool. (Or something like that. We have 3 kids, you know.) We kicked off the summer right, spending Memorial Day soaking up the sun and fun at the pool.

About a week and a half into summer vacation, we headed for our annual beach trip. (See? More water. Stay with me.) We had to skip our trip last year for the very good reason of me being approximately nine hundred months pregnant with one Charlotte Olivia, so we were extra anxious to hit the surf and sand.

The first couple of days were filled with - guess what? Rain! Finally, on Wednesday, we were able to take full advantage of all the beach has to offer. We spent most of the day and the next at the hotel water park, the kids' favorite place. Thursday afternoon, we went to one of the pools with a couple of small water slides. Emily, 9, walked up to one of the slides and slipped, falling on her left arm. She came out screaming bloody murder. Given her strong propensity for the dramatic, we assumed she wasn't badly hurt. She finally calmed down, but never really recovered. We moved to the beach, still assuming she was fine, but she just laid on a towel and wouldn't play. She wanted to return to our room, so she, Charlotte and I went back. She struggled to change out of her bathing suit and said she didn't feel well. I was beginning to suspect she had truly hurt herself since she was carrying on for such a long time.

Finally, after an early dinner, we decided either a) talk of taking her to a doctor would snap her out of it or b) she really did NEED to go to a doctor. We went to one Urgent Care facility and it was closed. (At 6pm. For real.) So, we stopped by the hotel to ask about the nearest ER and off we went. Strangely enough, the ER was empty and we got right in. Emily was very upset about being there but seemed to know it was necessary. But she was so nervous and jumpy that when a nurse came in to ask questions, Emily screamed, "Don't touch me!!! Nooo!!" (And I DO mean screamed. Y'all. It was downright embarrassing.) When that same nurse came back a bit later with two syringes full of Motrin, Emily nearly jumped out of her skin, thinking they were shots!!

We spent about two hours there - Eric and Caroline in the waiting room, Caroline (4) having been threatened within an inch of her life carefully instructed to not touch anything - Charlotte (the world's biggest mama's girl) with Emily and me. Emily got several views on an xray and we received the unfortunate news - she had a badly broken humerus, which she immediately said was not funny at all. Bless her heart.

She got fixed up with a snazzy sling (no cast, apparently they don't do that much anymore, plus the break was so high near her shoulder that it would've been hard to cast anyway) and we left the hospital around 9:30. Poor baby!! We felt awful that we'd downplayed her pain and waited so long to take her to the hospital. As a side note, this will be the feature story on my Mother of the Year Award application. It should seal my victory, yes? But we reassured ourselves a smidgen by remembering that she is a classic wolf-crier and that the break itself didn't get any worse in a couple of hours. (And she'd instinctively kept it almost entirely still because of the pain, so she didn't do any more damage. She suffered through the pain a little longer without any relief, but it was going to hurt regardless.)

This part of our story is also known as "How to Double the Price of Your Summer Vacation in One Easy Step."

We immediately assumed our summer was down the drain. We were pretty bummed, but Emily was a tough cookie - she had a pretty positive attitude from the start. What a kid! The next day, a gorgeous, hot, sunny day, Eric took Caroline to the water park for the day and I took the other two shopping. We hit the party store for birthday party stuff for Charlotte (her first birthday was the next week) and the mall. We had a great time and it took Emily's mind off her arm. Girl loves to shop.

After returning home that weekend (and surviving the first attempt at bathing the broken-armed easy task!) we had to visit the pediatrician Monday morning. He sent us to an orthopedic specialist, who took more x-rays. He was super reassuring and even said Emily could get in the pool and let her sling dry out afterward. That made her feel much better!

The next weekend, Eric was golfing while I took the girls shopping for new bathing suits - Emily needed one that was easier to maneuver with her sling and of course, Caroline had to have one, too. When we got home, I walked into the bathroom to wash my hands, carrying the baby. (Paranoid germaphobe that I am, I have to wash my hands as soon as I get home from anywhere. And Charlotte spends 75% of her time on my hip.) I turned on the faucet and - snap! - it broke off...water shot straight to the ceiling, running down the walls and pouring gallons of water on me immediately. I was in shock! I screamed, set the baby down on the floor in the hall and realized I couldn't turn off the water with no handle. Fortunately, I thought quickly enough to get under the sink and shut off the water supply, but of course I was already soaked and the bathroom was flooded. Wow! (Husband was impressed that I knew how to turn off the water supply. Du-uhh.)

The funny thing was, I went out to the living room (which is all of about 10 feet from the bathroom) and the girls just looked at me like "What? Why are you all wet?" They hadn't even responded to my screams. Thanks a bunch!

The faucet was completely broken and not fixable, so we had to buy a new one and wait to have it installed a couple of days later. (We're not the fix-it types.) It was inconvenient to have one less sink, but what can you do, right? Here's the purty new hardware, brushed nickel:

That same week, the big girls went to VBS...the theme? "Operation Overboard." MORE water! The entire church was transformed with ocean and water images. The girls had an absolute blast and VBS itself kind of answered a prayer, as we were looking for a new church home. (Long story, but some very high-school-clique-style drama at our old church had really turned us away. We weren't involved in it at all, but we didn't want to be there anymore.) We ended up joining the church where the girls went to VBS and we love, love, love it.

But I digress. (How unlike me.)

As the summer continued, we spent as much time at the pool as possible. Emily was a good sport even though she couldn't really swim - she was just happy to be able to get in the water. July was awfully rainy, though, stealing away some of our pool days. (Sometimes about 5 minutes after we'd get to the pool. Blargh.) After 6 weeks in the sling and a couple of more appointments with the orthopedic doc, Emily was set free in late July! The break - which had been a very clean one - was healed completely and she was allowed to work back up to regular activities. She even learned to jump off the high (and low) dive - for her that was HUGE. Huge, people.

As we got into August, we were trying to enjoy the last bit of summer - school starts early in these parts - and spending the last before-school weekend at the pool. That Sunday, we were poolin' it when a vicious storm rolled in. We went inside the "snack shack" to eat dinner and wait out the rain, hoping to avoid being drenched. It was the worst storm we'd had all summer and the rain continued to pour - POUR - down for an hour before we finally decided to make a run for it - it didn't seem to be letting up. Eric got the car and picked us up as close to a door as possible, but we were still soaked instantly. Leaving the club, we saw standing water in several places. We were amazed at the amount of water everywhere.

School was supposed to start the next day and Emily's school has a ridiculous policy of not posting the class lists (letting kids know which teacher they will have) until the first morning. Each year we've checked the night before just in case but apparently a list-hanging ghost posts the lists at 6am that day. (Really, what's that all about?) We decided to give it a try, though, and drove by the school on our way home. That meant taking a different route than usual, but it's only slightly out of the way.

We drove by school - no lists, of course - and then headed for home. About 1/2 mile from home, there was a bit of water in the street. It was a totally flat area of the road and little indication there was any need to worry. We considered turning around but decided it was okay to keep going. Mistaaaaaaaaaake! As we drove into the wide but seemingly-not-deep puddle, it began to rise, water rushing down one street and into the intersection where we were. And then...the engine died. So there we were, water rapidly rising and the rain still pouring heavily, and our car is deadsies. We sat in shock for a minute, wondering what to do. Another car was headed in our direction, but they saw us and stopped about 30 feet away, a safe distance from the rushing water.

A man emerged from the car and walked over to see if he could help us. God bless kind strangers! We decided we needed to get out of the car and the man offered to drive us home. But there was the teensy problem of a foot of muddy water standing around the car; we quickly decided we'd have to climb out the windows so all that water didn't rush into the car. Yep, Dukes of Hazard style. First, I reached back and unbuckled Charlotte and brought her into the front seat with me. Eric climbed out his window and slogged around to the passenger side. We had the girls leave their shoes (flip flops) behind so they didn't wash away in the water. I remembered to grab the garage door opener and my cell phone and I held onto them tightly...I wasn't about to go fishing! Eric pulled Emily out the back window and the other man pulled Caroline out (she's a lot more easygoing about strangers and stuff). They carried the girls through the water and to the other car, where the man's wife and young son were waiting. Then Eric came back and got Charlotte so I could climb out my window. (Amazingly, no one fell out a window into the water...not even klutzy old mom!) The water was up to my knees. We'd decided Eric would stay with or near the car (it was smack in the middle of the street, after all) and the nice strangers would drive us girls home. So, off we went - luckily there is a different, simple route home that didn't involve the flooded area because of where the man was parked. (We couldn't have accessed that route without going through the flooded area, though, in case you were wondering.)

We were soaked with rain and flood water, and the man - who was wearing jeans - was soaked from helping us; he'd walked right into the flood water to help without a second thought. At least we were still in bathing suits and cover-ups! When we approached our house, I could see the driveway and street were flooded. We had to stop ahead of it to avoid the water. Just as we stopped, two of our neighbors, John and Keith, walked up, looking for us. They'd decided to check on us since they hadn't seen us and weren't sure if we were at home. We have awesome neighbors! I opened the garage and immediately, water poured into it. Some had seeped in anyway, but more flooded in right away. But it was the only way to get inside. The water in the garage was only about to my ankles, so it wasn't too bad. It's all relative!

After getting the girls out of the rain, I ran back outside with my camera because I knew Eric would never believe the water. I snapped a few shots of the foot of water by our back fence and side yard, which was entirely under water. Many neighbors were out checking on each other and marveling at the water - everyone said they'd never seen anything like it before. 4-6 inches of rain fell in an hour! We do have a creek in our backyard, but it wasn't even the real problem - the drainage system is simply not made to withstand that much water that fast. This is a portion of the driveway and side yard...

John and Keith, having been brought up to speed on our situation, were planning to help Eric push our car out of the water, but Keith and his wife needed to pick up their son at church first. Eric had been taken in by some kind people we didn't even know, so he had a dry place to wait. (Our car was close to their house.) After Keith returned about 15 minutes later, he and John headed up to help Eric. They were able to push the car out of the water, but it still wouldn't start. They all hoped it would start after drying out for a few hours.

They brought Eric home, and by that time, all the standing water had drained. It had been less than an hour, but somehow it was all gone. (And no, he couldn't believe the pictures.) Everything was sopping wet, but there was no standing water left. The garage had drained - but it smelled so bad!! We found only a tiny bit of water inside the house. Amazing.

The next morning, the car still wouldn't start so it had to be towed. Boo. We were able to get a rental late in the day (not easy when you need a minivan - we were lucky it only took a few hours!) We filed a claim with our insurance, which lifted a potentially huge financial burden off our shoulders. We found out the next day that the car needed a new engine and carpet, so we had to wait for the insurance company to look at it to determine if it would be deemed a total loss.

Guess what? It was.

Because of the severe flooding all across the city, the first day of school was delayed by two days. A few of the city's school buses were damaged and a couple of schools had minor water damage.

Thursday, we had to go clean out all of our personal items from the car...and boy, did it stink in there. Yowsa. Many things were water-damaged or just flat out soaked through. I had to throw away a few things from the back of the van. We rescued all the girls' stuff and such, and said goodbye. (Goodbyes are very difficult for Emily.)

That weekend, we had to go car Ugh! We were fortunate to be able to find a newer van (same model we'd had) with less miles on it for almost the exact same monthly payment, with some bargaining and a down payment of our settlement check.Whew!

The flood was the end of our water-related incidents, at least for the time being. But what if we choose to look at water in a different way? Not as the injury-and-disaster-causing element, but as the life-giving one. Water is essential to life and water is also symbolic of the Holy Spirit. Maybe all the water was supposed to remind us of God's presence, His ability to bring us through the deep waters, His love as deep as the ocean. He kept us safe through all these trials, most  all of which could have had far worse outcomes.
Consider John 4:13-14
“Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’”

And to borrow from one of the kids' VBS songs from this summer....

"The river's deep
the river's wide
The river's water is alive
So sink or swim,
I'm diving in!
So sink or swim,
I'm diving in!"

At times we might have thought we were sinking, but we've gone through the deep waters and come out swimming. Thank you, Lord, for that!

And despite all the troubles, it was ultimately a wonderful summer - those puddles of discontent were nothing compared to the oceans of despair that almost drowned us at other times in our lives. (I'm talking to you, 2010.) We can look back and smile at those puddles...they make fond memories and great family stories.

And just a little take-away advice...don't drive through puddles. They're deceptive little boogers.