48 hours

The O'Melia Bus

Picture a 12-passenger van filled to overflowing.

Every nook, cranny, and crevice utilized.

Stuffed animals, pillows, parkas, and parcels disappear into spaces we’ve created out of nothing.

We even have an impressively large Nesco cooker stuffed between the front two seats, the inside accommodating snow pants.

Where are we headed?

Onward to Massachusetts, for the second leg of our journey, to visit some of our favorite peeps.

 

The short jaunt over a single state border is rather therapeutic following the frenetic pace of Christmas Day.

The van is quiet, children content.

I reflect. I process. I bask in the solitude of uninterrupted thoughts.

 

We arrive safely a short time later and enjoy 48 hours of sweet togetherness with Duff’s side of the family.

 

I must have been recovering from overload.

Or perhaps my gluten-free diet had sent me into a crazy state of carb craving.

Whatever the reason,

I totally lost my mind, failing to take a single worthwhile photograph during my visit with some of the most adorable nieces and nephews ever.

The only thing I have to show for this precious time spent with loved ones are the following pics…

 

Operation Christmas Cookie

 

Going down the hatch!

Kanes' Donuts!

Bismark!

 

Seriously people…

What is wrong with ME?!?!

I was apparently just drooling over all the foods my diet denied me.

My stomach enjoying vicariously through pictures…

or something like that.

 

I think my biggest excuse is that I just felt so relaxed…my camera was forgotten.

 

Forgotten…while I interacted with the cutest little personalities.

 

Forgotten…while Uncle Duff played ‘Ticket to Ride’ with a table full of excited children.

 

Forgotten…while I was demolished in a game of ‘Ants in Your Pants’ by my 5-year-old nephew.

 

Forgotten…while I gorged myself on kale and sausage soup, fudge, and some sorta delicious antipasto salad.

 

Forgotten…while I caught up on life and enjoyed interesting conversations with some pretty great people.

 

I slept so soundly those two nights  and felt so refreshed, I should have suspected something was up that Sunday when we planned to head home to North Carolina.

 

Even after breakfast, when Keag complained her tummy was bothering her, I still had no premonition of things to come.

 

I left her taking it easy on the couch, so I could run upstairs and shower.

 

It was then, when I saw the text from Mimi-

“How is everyone feeling??!”

I thought nothing of it.

I assumed it was just her way of asking how everything was going.

I realized how wrong I was, when I saw her response…

Mimi's Text

 

We had left her 48 hours earlier.

Don’t panic, I told myself.

I returned to Keagan still lying on the couch, when Luke announces he’s going to take a nap.

He’s exhausted, he declares.

Must be the fact that the air mattress deflated half-way through the night, he reasons.

 

Auntie Colleen, Nana, and myself look around at each other wide-eyed.

We think about all the close moments of bonding that occurred the previous day.

We consider the fact that Maddie slept with the host during our stay in CT.

We reflect over how we just finished sharing bowl-after-bowl of popcorn .

Bowls we dug our eager hands into, grabbing fistfuls of delightful buttery, salty goodness and shoving it into our mouths.

Wow, we marvel, the perfect medium for the spread of pathogens.

 

We reminisce over past sickness horrors.

Oh, there have certainly been some doozies.

Auntie and I even begin to feel a bit ill. A little green.

Is this the hypochondriac in us, we wonder, or the power of suggestion?

 

Luke wakes up.  He ascends from the dark abyss of a finished basement.  His eyes struggle to adjust.  He looks at us.

Nana remarks, “Well, he’s as white as a sheet.”

Suddenly the vomit flies.

It covers couch and carpet.

The room becomes a flurry of activity as we quarantine kiddos, remove couch coverings, and clean carpet.

 

Uncle Jeff grabs the steam cleaner and begins singing as he disinfects…

It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas.

We are hysterical.

Nana jumps up and runs from the house screaming.

We have never seen her move so fast.

Sadly, she was running home to another house full of  sick people, unbeknownst to her or the rest of us.

 

We are paralyzed with indecision.

We don’t know what to do.

Do we make a run for it before the rest of us fall ill or set up an infirmary, postponing out return trip indefinitely?

Can we beat this bug home?

We cannot consult those around us, knowing they don’t have their own best interests in mind.

We don’t wish to infect our gracious hosts and we have no idea regarding the incubation or recovery time.

We decide to flee…hoping to get home before the entire family is stricken.

 

We grab bags, children, and miscellaneous stuff.

We hit the road.

We may have forgotten a few things.  Maybe.

We make it a couple miles before the first car-puking episode.

I would call that a victory, no?

Almost two hours later, Logan explodes down the front of himself and his new stuffed sea turtle, “Squirt”.

 

#7 Down!

 

Makinley, certain that a gold medal for synchronized puking was within her grasp, joins in on the fun.

 

#6 Down!

 

A Walmart stop becomes necessary.  We gather supplies…

Gallon Ziplocs, wipes, paper towels, and scented trash bags are acquired.

 

Supplies

 

Meanwhile, there are people in the front of the van boasting about how perfect they feel.

They request food.

They stuff their faces…

The Fry Guy

 

gleefully.

 

Not Yet Stricken

 

My stomach becomes increasingly convinced that nothing can make one feel queasier than the combination of these odors…

Febreze, vomit, and french fries.

 

Child #5 falls.

Child #2 is next.

Yours truly, succumbs.

Our firstborn follows.

 

The scene inside our Chevy Express is sheer madness.

I’m moving from one child to the next catching cookies.

No.

End.

In.

Sight.

A Hefty bag hangs from the side door, already filled to overflowing.

 

Duff however is on a mission. Home is his goal. He doesn’t comprehend the state of things from his perch behind the steering wheel, that has become very clear.

He still believes we can somehow pull this thing off.

He is wrong.

Mama Bear is officially down and she was the glue holding this absurd juggling act together.

I think we may need to stop for the night, I suggest.

We only have 359ish odd miles to go, he encourages me.

I begin praying that God would impress upon him, very clearly, that this feverish, aching mommy cannot carry on her assignment as “lead vomit catcher”, for a moment longer.

I continue to expect a sudden exiting from the highway when my message is delivered.

We approach another exit ramp…

Nothing.

I drop status updates.

Nothing.

I watch his eyes catching glimpses of the madness in the rear view mirror.

Nothing.

I give him the most pained, distressed, tortured look I can muster.

Nothing.

I admit defeat and resort to begging-

“Duff, I can’t do this all night. I’m in pain. I’m vomiting. I can’t stop shivering. I cannot go on.  I must get out of this van!!

Yes, I was admittedly the weak link…the one who eventually cried mercy.

 

We got a room somewhere in Delaware.

I shivered my way uncontrollably to a bed where I slept for hours under many layers of warmth.

Duff was on duty for the remainder of the night, catching vomit as it flew from the three youngest.

I got up once to use the bathroom and that was a mistake. I dropped to the floor and crawled back to my designated spot.

I dreamed of crushed ice and occasionally my beloved would drop a spoonful into my mouth.

Morning came and neither Duff nor I could move.

Well, that settles it then.  We’ll stay another night, we decided.

We snoozed and watched Food Network and Myth Busters ALL DAY.

Nobody really moved. We were reduced to a zombie-like state.  All of us.  Never before had our family been this quiet.  Spooky.

 

Mommy Down!

 

Late morning, Gavin seemed most well, therefore he was chosen to represent.

We sent him on a special ops mission to procure drinks and ice for the family.

We armed him with dollar bills, change, and the ice bucket.  We explained to him that our livelihood depended on the success of this assignment.

We sipped sweet tea and chomped on ice for the remainder of the afternoon.

By dinner time we managed a pizza delivery, each of us putting away one slice before turning in for the night.

 

We slept so soundly, the nine of us all in that small room, yes we did.

We were strewn all over the place in the most haphazard of ways, surely breaking every fire code known to man, yet somehow it worked.

A new day dawned.

We assessed our strength and concluded it was time to mobilize.

We would hit the hotel’s continental breakfast and then head for home.

We took inventory, once the reality of actually having to leave the room sunk into our clouded minds.

I assessed and evaluated my people, and let me tell you, it was a sad state of affairs.

 

I don’t mean to frighten you, but we hadn’t changed our clothes, bathed, or brushed our teeth since the sickness began.

We had two kids without shoes.  We had one kid without undies.

It would take forever to find anything or to undo everything and bring it all inside.

Our van was packed extremely tight, the carseats were doused in vomit, and there were way too many individual bags.

We just needed to get home…as quickly as possible.

And so we set off as we were, in search of the small room boasting free breakfast.

 

As we entered through the glass door, intense heat assaulted my face accompanied by the smell of coffee and waffles.

I’m immediately convinced that I’ve mistakenly discovered the hotel’s sauna.

Queasiness creeps up.

I’m wearing two shirts

The one underneath should never be worn by itself

It’s essentially sheer.

I care not.

I’m so nauseated by the heat that I’m going to be sick.

I tear off my outer shell, comforted only by the fact that I will never see these people again in my life.

It was then that the familiar face came into focus from across the room. Okay, I’m kidding!  Totally kidding.

Didn’t know a soul in that place.  Whew!

 

I begin to pray that the barefoot children will fly undetected beneath the radar.

I watch as they approach the buffet.

But what is that?!

I am horrified to discover that my 11-year-old has a rat’s nest on the back of her head that screams “worst mom ever” from the rooftops.

Duff ushers her outside the room, per my request, to do something, anything, to make it more presentable somehow.

I’m really just trying to survive this meal so we can get our funkfied selves home and begin project decontamination.

I’m in disbelief, finding the present nature of our circumstance incompatible with everything I know to be true about myself.

I try my hardest to find something palatable that I might throw onto my plate and down my children’s throats.

I’m heading back to the table, eyes only on my people.

The words halt me.

“Don’t you know what causes that?”

I’m silent.  There I stand in my semi-sheer shirt looking like death warmed over.  Words escaped me.

But inside my head I’m thinking, this man has no idea!

Absolutely no idea where I’ve been, and what we’ve been through.

My mind quickly flashes back through the images of the past 48 hours.

And suddenly I’m laughing out loud the most stilted, sarcastic laugh you can imagine.

Yeah, i know exactly what causes that!

I can only hope that nobody judged us too harshly.

 

We scarfed down our food and made a quick getaway.

We could not get home fast enough.

 

A New Day dawns bright..

 

Project decontamination began in full force…

 

LAUNDRY!

 

Until everything (and everyone) was sterilized and squeaky clean, once again. :)

 

All clean!!

 

A lot can happen in a measly 48 hours.

Jack Bauer’s got nothing on us!

 

Christmas 2014

Makinley

We wrapped up a long week of driver’s education, wrestling, schoolwork, laundry, and last-minute gift buying.

We headed for New England while the rest of the Eastern Seaboard slept.

It’s not that it’s easy for us to travel for the holidays…

but when reality stares you down, and you understand that none of us are promised tomorrow,

that we’re all really living on borrowed time (especially my dad),

you go.

Simple as that.

There will always be exhaustion, chaos, and, of course,

plenty of germs to be shared.

Just comes with the territory of a large family traveling.

But I promise you, there will also be moments of tenderness, joy, connection, and togetherness,

with the circle of people you have been called to love.

Memories that will be etched forever in your heart.

[Read more...]

Saying Goodbye to Pop

Pop and Baby Kin

I wrote this tribute to my dad last June, on Father’s Day.

I wanted him to know what he meant to me,

to us,

before it was too late.

 

My dad thanked me profusely after reading this, for all of the kind words, but didn’t feel he really deserved them all, he said.

 

My dad knew he wasn’t perfect.

It’s part of what made him Pop.

He could laugh at himself and he could laugh at Mimi.

Nobody could tell a better Mimi story than my father, by the way, although my sister Kath has definitely inherited the gift and is gaining ground.

 

Mimi, Maddie, and Kath

[Read more...]

Why DO I Homeschool?

NC Zoo Geyser

 

When I was first introduced to the idea of homeschooling,  I truly thought it was the most ridiculous concept in the world.

It was so countercultural that I found myself struggling to wrap my head around it.

It was laughable, really.

Because how could I, a single individual, be an expert in all things and teach every grade level?

How could I possibly replicate the school environment and its many offerings at home?

I would be depriving my child of a proper education.

My children would miss out on all the fun group activities and events.

Homeschooling went against everything I knew and understood to be true about education and future success. [Read more...]

Cheesecake Fixes Everything

Sherry's Signature Cheesecakes

 

When this whole trial began, I immediately felt as though I was under some kind of spiritual attack.

An attack intended to elicit fear and sabotage my trust in Him.  I know this sounds super hocus-pocusy, but stick with me.

I  had recently been reading the words of Jesus as though for the first time.  Those little words printed in red were coming alive in entirely new ways.

I read Matthew 25:31-46 and I could not shake it, those words quite frankly, they scared me.

Mercy!  I was frightened that I might actually be one of the goats!

And you have to understand, the sound goats make, you know- “meh-eh-eh-eh”, it’s like the only animal sound that my husband has ever really “mastered”.

So immediately, I’m hearing this creepy, persistent bleating, as I consider how many times I’ve turned my back on “the least of these”, and therefore on Jesus Himself.

It caused a change in me.  Not the creepy bleating, but the words of Jesus.

I began stepping out more boldly in faith, to serve and give.

I began deliberately silencing any doubts, listening to that still small voice, believing that He would provide.

[Read more...]

Hilton Head 2014

The House

 

Y’all,  we had been looking forward to our beach vacation for forever.

We were headed to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.

A place that feels warm and tropical. A place filled with fond family memories.

We chose a house that had plenty of room for us all!

[Read more...]

My Brother’s Wedding

Oh it was going to be a doozy.  I knew this heading into our travels.

We were planning to hit Boston and Connecticut in a whirlwind trip totaling 6 days.

We would pick Maddie up from CYT (Christian Youth Theatre) about 10:00 PM, van fully loaded, and head north on the interstate.

I expected to be the primary nighttime driver since Duff intended to put in a full day’s work the day of our departure.

No worries.  I had a plan.

I would take the five youngest to Pullen Park that morning.

Pullen Park

[Read more...]

Update on the Joyners

It was difficult to celebrate Father’s Day over the weekend without thinking about the Joyner family.  I first introduced you to them here.

James and Tracy Joyner have nine children.  They live in Selma, NC in a modest older home in need of many repairs.

James was diagnosed over a year ago with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and underwent radiation treatment. Recently it was discovered, through tests and biopsies, that the cancer has returned very aggressively throughout his body.

He completed chemotherapy at the end of May and doctors are considering an autologous bone marrow transplant as the next step.

This week James will have a PET scan completed 6/17 and a bone marrow biopsy on 6/19.

After the results of these two tests are in, they will meet with the bone marrow specialist on 6/26 for a work-up appointment to begin the transplant process.

They will really not know anything for sure until then, but if this transplant is the Lord’s will for James, it’s looking like July could be the big month.

During treatment at Duke, James would need to live off campus in Durham (in case of emergencies) and have a 24-hour caregiver. The duration of his stay could be from 6 weeks until only the Lord knows when, depending on his response to treatment. Insurance has already approved the transplant and will provide a spending allowance for James’ daily lodging.

The only question on James’ mind is, “How can my family be up here with me?”

They have five girls and four boys but their oldest daughter would be living at home with Tracy’s sister.

Tracy says, “We know that a plan is already mapped for the journey, so please pray with us for direction. Please do not hesitate to pass this email along to anyone that knows someone who has already been through this and could direct us to the resources that can help with financial and lodging needs for a family of 11.”

If you have any friends or family living in the Durham area, who might be able or willing to help this family, please contact me so that I can put you in touch with Tracy.

Let’s lift this precious family up in prayer, as they travel along this most difficult path that the Lord has set before them-

Lord, I lift up the Joyner family to you.  I pray you would direct each and every one of their steps along this journey, that there would be no doubt, only certainty, as to which way they should turn at every juncture.  

I pray you would grant them Your perfect peace, that which surpasses all understanding.  I pray this testing of their faith would draw the entire family closer together and closer to you.  I pray this valley would build their faith and trust in your ways, that they may never question them.  I pray they would run to you with every problem big or small, resting sure in your promises, Lord.  

I pray also for the healing of James’ body in the name of Jesus.  I pray James would become a living testimony here on Earth, letting his light shine before men and glorifying you in Heaven.  

Lord, I pray you would specifically minister to the Joyner children.  I can’t imagine how heavy or confused their little hearts must be seeing all that their daddy has had (and will continue to) endure. I pray these little eyes would not only see the difficult parts of this trial, but also see your goodness in and through all of it. Please wrap them in your love.

Lord, I pray you would handle every detail concerning the Joyner’s housing needs.  I pray you would make a way for this family to reside together during the bone marrow treatment process.  You are the “Master Landlord” (as Tracy pointed out), we place our trust in you, Father.  I also pray that you would provide for them financially during this most difficult time.

Asking that you would mightily use the Joyner’s story to reach the lost of this world, Lord.  

I know you have a plan, something bigger and better than we are even capable of imagining, and all of it will work together for good.

I praise You for your never-ending love and faithfulness.

Matthew 6:25-27 (NKJV)
“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?”

Romans 8:28 (NKJV)
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

My Dad

 

Pop and Gabby

You watched countless soccer games.

You organized backyard baseball.

You attended recitals.

You let me pretend to shave with you in the wee hours of morning.

You took me ice skating.

You let me pick out my favorite ice cream flavor at the Friendly’s take-out window.

You took me to father-daughter square dances.

You looked forward to family vacations.

You sang ‘Barbara Ann’ at the top of your deep voice.

We went fishing and actually caught fish.

We rode bikes in Cape Cod to pick up the morning paper.

We body-surfed the waves and leisurely walked along the shore.

We collected golf balls and used the driving range after-hours.

You took us for nighttime swims. [Read more...]

Rising to the Call

My Crew

People often tell me…

You’re an amazing mom. 

I don’t know how you do it. 

You must have the patience of a saint.

Bless your heart.

And if you know anything about that last one (a notoriously southern phrase) it can be interpreted in a myriad of ways. ;)

[Read more...]