NYC – A World Within A World

Our east coast destination: New York City. Our next home: Liberty Park, Jersey City, New Jersey. ETA: November 8. Actual time of arrival: November 10. This due to a break down on a Pennsylvania Turnpike, a tow to an Allentown mechanic and two night stay in a hotel while an alternator and belt were replaced. Now, the following truths were reinforced through this unforeseen detour:
1. Brian is the most wonderful provider and protector, handling the myriad of unpleasant details with humor and decency.
2. People are basically nice, kind and helpful.
3. It’s way more fun spending $(enter ridiculous amount here) on a detour in Door County.
4. Bowling is fun.
5. Little boys need to throw footballs and Frisbees, roll down grassy hills, and fly around on scooters and skateboards at least once a day.
6. Little boys can turn a black puddle in a parking lot into a good time.
7. Home is where ever the four of us are.
8. I am SO blessed.

Rolling toward New York city we could see the tall peaks of the Empire State building, the Chrysler building, the void in the skyline which used to boast of Twin Towers and the Statue of Liberty. Liberty Park, located in Jersey City, New Jersey, is where we called home for ten or so days. Out our front window we can see the Statue of Liberty and the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. From here NYC looks like a world within a world.

Liberty Harbor RV Park in Jersey City

After supper, in an effort to not waste even one NY mintue, we walked five blocks to the nearest subway (PATH) station and headed for Times Square. Friday night in Times Square – WHAT A ZOO! A very cool zoo, but a zoo nonetheless. Brian and I had been there before but it was a first for Ben and Jack. Whichever boy had my hand, I noticed a tighter grip than usual. Or maybe it was my grip that was tighter, I don’t know. We strolled among the sea of people representing every nation, every race, every language, and did our best to take it all in. We rode in a rick-shaw, saw some stiff, waxy famous actors at Madame Tussaud’s, got sucked into a Toys ‘R Us with a ferris wheel inside and ate some ice-cream before heading back home. A couple of games of Rummikub, which Brian always wins, and the day was spent.

On day two of our NY adventure we drove 50 miles north of NYC to Suffern to spend a couple of days with our good friends, the Notleys. Steve is one of the principal scholars in the Jerusalem School of Synoptic Research, an organization which Brian administrates. Sunya is always delightful to be with and Ben and Jack had a ball with their lovely daughter, Kathryn. We all drove up to West Point Military Academy on a blustery Sunday afternoon and toured the Museum, the beautiful Cadet Chapel and Trophy Point which looked over the scenic Hudson River.

Trophy Point at WestPoint Military Academy

We all enjoyed the Notley’s fellowship, stimulating conversation and warm hospitality.

As we made our way back to the city we made plans to have dinner with some friends from a company called Cartoon Pizza. David and Donna Campbell and Jim Jinkins are the geniuses behind excellently crafted and morally directed childrens’ programs like JoJo’s Circus, Stanley, P,B and J Otter, Doug, Hoop Dogs, and Monster Monster Trucks. Their offices are located right down the street from Central Park and across from Lincoln Center. We got to sit in the boardroom where their brilliant ideas come alive. The kids were given autographed Hoop Dogs T-shirts and Pinky Dinky Doo (Step Into Reading Series) Books. We also had the treat of meeting the Campbells’ beautiful and very fun little girls, Reed and Haley. We had dinner at O’Neals, a pre-Lincoln Center hot spot.

Ben, Jack, Haley & Reed at O’Neal’s

The kids hit it off brilliantly and Brian and I felt blessed to be in the company of such nice people, not to mention, inspiring artists. It was a rainy ride back to Jersey City.

Each morning we wake up whenever we wake up and prepare for a new city adventure. Today we planned a visit to the site of the World Trade Center tragedy and a trip to the Museum of Natural History. As the subway slows and snakes its way to the WTC station, you can view the sad, enormous hollow which used to house the towering twin peaks. Life rushes all around as usual because it has to, or stand threatened by evil mens’ blows. That’s just not who “we” are, so men in dusty hard hats work the site, to what end I do not know, but certainly to nurse and heal and triumph. The pictures rounding the square retell the tale, like anyone who witnessed it can forget the ache of September 11, 2001. We didn’t spend too much time there…too many questions welling up in four little innocent eyes.


The boys were skeptical of the name “museum”, but they completely enjoyed the Snakes and Lizards Exhibit and the Butterfly House. Great job on those butterflies, God! The dragon lizards and flying snakes were pretty great too – but not as pleasant up-close as the butterflies by far. The space exhibit was fun. Knowing what you weigh on Haley’s Comet is always helpful, don’t you think? And those dinosaur bones!

Museum of Natural History

Brian disagreed with the all-knowning “suit” inside who said that dinosaurs lived squixty-squillion years ago. Could be around 10,000 years old for all “they” know but the fact is “they” DON’T REALLY know. Average-Joes know so much less than “them” so average-Joes believe whatever “they” tell them to believe. No thanks, I’m not buying it. The museum was great. But dinner was better. Down the street from the museum was exactly what Brian had been hankerin’ all day – New York-style pizza. Ray’s Pizza to be exact and it was awesome. We still had a good part of the evening to fill so we were off to see the movie “Flushed Away.” My review of the movie is that it was the second worst movie I have ever seen…but I’m not 5. That day ended with a long taxi ride to Pier 11 and a water taxi ride across the Hudson River to our “home-sweet-RV”.

Brian had the privilege of attending one of Steve Notley’s classes in Manhattan one afternoon, so the boys and I took a ferry to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Ellis Island was fascinating.

Ellis Island Museum

I explained the gist of the museum to Ben and Jack and let the exhibits and scenes depicted in every room and on every wall tell the bigger story. Jack imagined people going through the process of becoming Americans before “moving to Poplar Bluff Missouri.” Where else? Our rich heritage unfolded before our very eyes.

Before we toured Lady Liberty we enjoyed lunch in the open air of the island. We were joined by a very interesting “guest,” sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi.

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Frederic Auguste Bartholdi and the boys at the Statue of Liberty (or as Jack would say-Liverty)

As we ate, this lovely “Frenchman” treated us to a first-hand, behind-the-scenes account of the creation of this precious monument. We learned SO much from this character…uh, I mean…Mr. Bartholdi. After lunch we hiked as high up into the statue as was allowed. I was expecting a 354 step hike but after 9/11, security deemed the higher heights unsafe. My quads were strangely glad about that. She is as majestic up close as she is greeting the huddled masses from a watery distance. Thanks France! Wish you weren’t so snotty today!… Anyway…

We filled a bag with souvenirs and returned home on the ferry, anxious to see daddy. And as if that weren’t enough fun for one day, Ted Brackett, Brian’s cousin, and his lovely wife, Penelope, invited us to their home in New Jersey for dinner. We all had the greatest time enjoying a delicious dinner and lots of laughs.

Jack, Coulton, Ben and Kaz

Their children Kazden, Lily and Coulton, made the evening even more memorable for Ben and Jack. The only downfall of the evening; getting lost numerous times on the NJ highway system. What’s up with that?

On our very last day in NYC, we trekked into the mad mecca for one last escapade. Now, this city life-style is not for everyone – namely Jackson Becker. He has grown weary of the walking, the wild taxi rides, the schedule we’ve been keeping. He has a great time when we get where we are going, and you’d think he’d trust us by now but… This morning as we were leaving for The Paper Bag Players’ production of Dandelion, he sang, almost in a chant, “I’m going to have a good time today- I don’t want to go but – I’m going to have a good time today.” WHAT FAITH! Go baby go! This mantra served him well as the NYC finale was a busy one. We attended the play, Dandelion, held at a public school. Ted, Brian’s cousin, is a long-time member of the legendary theatre group, the Paper Bag Players. The cast consists of four adults and one musician performing original musical theatre for kids. All props, costumes, stage sets are made out of paper! We had a blast! Next we taxied to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Once again, the name met with groans and moans yet we had a fabulous time viewing the Egyptian Exhibit, which followed along with some history Ben and I had been learning about, and the Armor, Sword and Gun Exhibit. That is not what it’s really called but that’s what we saw and it was very cool. Upon leaving the Met, we fortuitously came upon a park where the boys could run and jump and climb and swing.


Whew! Couldn’t rip and tear like that in the Met. Jack’s faith at work! One more wild taxi ride took us to the building where Reed and Haley, the two little girls we’d met earlier in the week lived. Ben and Jack were beside themselves with excitement to get to spend more time with them. We picked them up, subway-ed to Times Square, ate dinner and went to the movie Santa Claus 3: The Escape Claus. Now that’s a great movie (and I’m not even 5)! The girls’ parents, Dave and Donna, met us out front, in a van, saving us (temporarily) from a walk in the pouring rain, and dropped us off at our subway stop. Two more precious bonds of friendship tucked warmly into the hearts of my little boys. Thank you, God.

The final five block walk back to the RV from the PATH station was…dramatic. The wind was about to turn Jack into a kite and the rain pelting our faces had Ben shouting, “OW, OW, OW…!” The wind velocity made even my footsteps heavy and deliberate. But at last, we made it safely home.

Touching Base With The Familiar

The boys have been counting the days until they get to see the cousins and Grams and Papa back home. It is time to touch base again with the familiar. We parked the RV at Bob’s old house on the farm in Williamsville. The big front windows of the coach look out over a farm field with horses grazing in the distance. It is particularly pretty in the morning when clouds rest along the grass. Fall, a season I hate to miss, is in full glory and the foliage is most impressive on this beautiful piece of land.

The ten or so days here got quite busy as there was much catching up to do with all of our friends. Jack and Ben ate up their time with Coulton, Andrea and Kaylin. They spent time at Grams and Papa’s house. We were able to fill our tanks with the company of many good friends, (Myers, the other Myers, Hudsons, Rhenda, Cheyenne & Chelsea, Grandma Mazie & Grandpa Howard, Osborns, Kim & Logan, a very pregnant Tanya, Laseters, RuthAnn Brickell) but didn’t get to see EVERYONE we would have liked in the time that we had. Halloween provided an opportunity to see lots of friends. Ben was a very believable Jack Sparrow, complete with a moustache and beard that his dad GLUED to his little face. I mean industrial style glue! Jack was a red Ninja for the afternoon parade in Williamsville but changed to a blue Ninja for the evening festivities. We trick-or-treated in the old neighborhood with Coulton, Cheyanne and Chelsea before spending the rest of the evening at First Baptist’s Fall Festival . There were LOTS of old friends to catch up with there. Ben got to see his friends from kindergarten and first grade at O’Neal; Savannah, Hunter, Kaitlyn, Elizabeth, Grace, Jantzen – to name a few!

Grace, Nathalie, Hunter, Ben, Kaitlyn, Savannah: former school mates of Ben’s

Cheyanne, Tanya, Coulton, Brianna, Jack, Ben & Chelsea

Corin, Jack, Kyle, Logan

Jack had a very special opportunity one day to spend an afternoon in Mrs. Renee’s class, where he got to hang with several kids he knew from pre-school. What a nice invitation that was! Jack thoroughly enjoyed it.


Ben had the pleasure of being in Renee Lovelace’s class and enjoyed her very much. We feel so blessed to have had our kids under the wings of such fine teachers as Renee, Betty Doherty and Christi Todd at First Baptist Pre-school and Kindergarten. They really gave me much to aspire to when I made the decision to become my boys’ teacher.

One of the last details to see to before leaving Williamsville was voting absentee. And vote – we did. Would that our two little ballots could have turned the tide at least in our home state, but it would not be so. Mid-term elections rendered the SPANK heard around the world. Brian and I extend our deepest, heartfelt congratulations to our Democrat family members and friends from coast to coast. Brian and I humbly concede. America has spoken! No gloating, Ned!

Before leaving the state we spent a long weekend in St. Louis. We attended a Mercy Me/Audio Adrenaline concert in St. Charles, thanks to our buddy, Scott Brickell. Kory, Dawn and Kyle Myers joined us from Poplar Bluff for a very uplifting evening. We went to one of our favorite churches in the city called Grace Church. Actually, because we’ve gotten lost and been late every single time we’ve ever visited there, we decided to sleep in their parking lot! No excuse now! And it sort of worked. We were not…too…late…but we weren’t early either. What’s with that? We were joined for Sunday lunch by Theresa Smith (Luecke) and her lovely daughter, Caroline. After lunch we went to the movie “Open Season.” It was so nice spending the afternoon together. When we returned to the RV to move to another sleeping spot, the security guard at Grace graciously suggested we stay the night so he could make sure we were safe. God’s hand is always upon us everywhere we go! On Monday, we got to see Aunt Dianne, who had just returned from Russia. Now if you think we’re on an adventure, talk to this fun lady. She lives one of the most adventurous lives of anyone we know.

East coast – here we come!

Pickin' And Grinnin' In Nashville

It is great fun staying in Nashville because we park our house right next to Scott Brickell’s house. Our kids and their kids can’t get enough of each other and Brian and I thoroughly enjoy the comfort of the Brickells’ hospitality. Brian coordinated a songwriter night at the French Quarter, featuring Laura Sullivan, Nathalie Whisnant, Jayron Weaver, Lane Turner and yours truly. It was a wonderful night of high quality entertainment and fun with our amazing friends.

Brian booked Sunset Blvd. Studios to get a few more songs recorded. I finished “Liberating Paris,” a song I wrote based on Linda Bloodworth Thomason’s book of the same name, on the road from Florida to Nashville. As usual the Dream Team of David Cleveland, Steve Brewster, Mark Hill and Jason Webb gave the song wings. We cut “Surrounded”, written by David and I, and “My Favorite Sport”, written by Brian for Ben to eventually sing. I was SO proud of my little boy when it came time for him to sing it for the guys. We knew he was nervous but he threw off the nerves and sang like a pro. Very impressive! Soon Ben and Jack will have their own CD to share with their friends. I am so proud of my two little boys. To hear them sing thrills their daddy and I to no end. Ben picks out harmonies and nails ’em. Their pitch is dead-on. They’ve even written a couple of songs. When I hear their little voices in the back seat belting out, “Mary’s gone to heaven rainbow in the sky”, I’ve arrived. There’s no greater joy that music could possibly hold for me. I pray that Ben and Jack will know the satisfaction that I have fully appreciated, of being able to sing a song, to accompany themselves, to write a song, to be in a band with amazing musicians, and to share that with people. Not for the gain, not for the glory, not as a means to an end, but for the pure joy of it. What a gift – to be a musician.

Florida – Take Two

We’ve never spent time in northern Florida so our stay in Navarre Beach was wonderful. Our RV site looked out over the bay of the Gulf of Mexico. What a sight to fill our eyes with each morning and evening! Each night, the cotton-candy-sunset-sky found me lounging under a tiki tent, watching Brian and the boys fish from the white sand at the water’s edge. Perfect.

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My beautiful boys

Brian attended an internet conference in Orlando so we stayed at the Marriot for a few days while the RV had warranty repairs done. In pure “keeping up with the Disneys” fashion, the hotel looked like its neighbor’s yard with palm trees and flowers everywhere. The pool had cascading waterfalls and a water slide. It was a very cozy stay while our RV was in the shop.

We surprised an old friend, Scott Welch, one Sunday morning, when we showed up at the church he pastors in Oldsmar, near Tampa. Scott is the guy Brian and I patterned our youth group after back in ’93. He’s a brilliant communicator, a very funny and cut-to-the-chase kind of guy. We even got to see his daughter, Jordan, who was younger than my kids are today when we brought 20 youth down to Florida to bike the Keys with Scott’s group.

Scott Welch & Brian

He offered us his condo on Indian Rocks beach while the RV underwent further warranty repairs. Our stay there has been a highlight of our travels to date. We could see the ocean from our windows, the beach just a short stroll from our doorstep. Once again the boys were in fishing nirvana, heading out every chance they got with their gear. One day they ventured out to the great deep on a charter fishing boat. I know they caught something because we choked on the smell of it for weeks each time we boarded the Envoy, as the bag of goodies never made it to the fridge, let alone the frying pan. I loved walking on the beach as the sun rose and taking in the majestic sunsets from a beach chair with a little boy on my lap. Jack and I were always quicker to retire than the fishermen. However, one thick night sky witnessed the triumphant catch of a shark, a truly satisfying end to the means.

Finally, our home was finished and we set off for Nashville.

Travelin' Texas

On long hauls like this one we “boondock” in Wal Mart parking lots to save the time and energy it takes to get hooked up at an RV park or campground. It’s kind of weird, but when all the shades are closed, it really doesn’t matter to me where we lay unconscious during the twilight hours. Brian did, however, have an amusing revelation one morning while showering, “Hey, I’m naked in Wal Mart parking lot!!” It’s best not to think too deeply about it…

We found our way to Dallas where we stayed at a very nice RV resort on Lake Grapevine. The summer drought had taken a toll on the lake so fishing wasn’t what we’d hoped BUT the Dormadys were Dallas’ biggest attraction.

Ben, Marcus/Breck, Jack, Quinten/McKenna (I think)

Mike, Lisa, Quinton, Marcus, Breck and McKenna were finally settled into their new home after leaving Poplar Bluff last summer. Lisa held me together on more than one occasion during our “pulling away from Poplar Bluff” days. She inspires me. It was great to see them happy in their new life, especially with their new church, Gateway. We enjoyed every minute we got to spend with them and have already planned to see them again in December.

Moseying a bit further south we drove our house to my sister’s house located in the gorgeous hill country of Georgetown Texas. She lives there with her husband, Larry, and four kids in a beautiful Tuscan villa style house that Larry designed and built. Jenni may be my “baby” sister but she is wise beyond her years and I’ve followed her lead on many issues including home schooling. She home schools 13 year old Alexandria, 11 year old Nathanael, and 8 year old twins, Micah and Elijah, and makes it look easy – but that’s Jenni. She’s brilliant. We have a lot in common, the most special bond though is our faith in Christ. Visiting Jenni’s family always feels like a retreat and this trip was no exception.

Alex, Jenni, Brian, Nathanael, Larry, Micah, Ben, Elijah and Jack

When we’re together, we laugh and talk, we relax and have fun. And the kids! We hardly saw them once they were cut loose from school to play. They ran wild around the yard playing cowboys and Indians, hunting for treasure and lizards and snakes.

Micah, Jack, Elijah, Nathanael & Ben

When they weren’t playing under the big Texas sky they played in the RV, having commandeered it as their fort. With nine special days worth of fun well spent we pulled away from Georgetown and headed to my old stompin’ grounds – Houston.

In the middle of the Ginormous sprawl of Houston lies a quaint RV park, complete with fishing pond and swimming pool, just four miles from Westbury Baptist Church where I was scheduled to do a concert. While there we were fortunate to catch up with old Poplar Bluff friends, Eric and Carol Luecke and two of their kids, John Carl and James, as we all played hooky one day to hang out at the campsite.

James, Jack, John Carl, Eric & Ben

My “spiritual mom,” MaryAnn Parker, lives in Houston. MaryAnn had eternity in her sights when she befriended me all those years ago, making sure our friendship soared beyond this earthly plane. She told me about Jesus, she told me Truth. I gave my life to Jesus while walking on the beach in South Padre Island, near the club where my band played in the evenings. This was in 1987. I didn’t know how to “do it” or “what to say.” I just traded my life in: I gave God mine and He gave me His. It was so simple and seemed too good to be true. But true it was and I knew in that instant that I was not the same and would never be. What a mighty warrior MaryAnn is and I am deeply grateful for our friendship. Today she is waging a battle against cancer, how severe it is I don’t exactly know, because she doesn’t let it show. She is “unaffected” it seems because she holds such a grasp of the big picture. She is SO not of this world and will lead a very extensive trail of souls in her wake to the Presence of Almighty God when all of our time here is fully spent. I’ll be there! Jenni will be there…and the roll goes on and on.

The concert was a lot of fun. It was refreshing to spend time with the friends who came to see us: Pat Hunt, Jeremiah Jordan, Pat Fleming, Leann LaRocca, Stan and Jan, Steve and Sherry Adell, MaryAnn, Ruby Chapman, Keith and Ray Parker, Pierre DuBois, the Lueckes and many more. I appreciate the help of Kyle Damron and Keith Haggett in making the concert happen.

Wisconsin Does Too Have A Thumb!

Heading to Wisconsin whips up lots of memories. My childhood lives there. I can hear my dad’s voice interrupting his station wagon load of mostly curly headed kids, coaxing us to, “Smell that air! Smell how fresh the air is!” To which we moaned, “What? Smell the air?!” It smelled more like cow poop – but that was dad. How I miss him. Ask Ben and Jack if they’ve ever heard me say, “Smell the air!”

On the road to Shawano we came upon signs for Door County, Wisconsin’s “thumb.” Once upon a very long time I played at a club in Baileys Harbor with my band, Blue Blazes, and I’ve always wanted to share it with Brian. Then in perfect gypsy-like fashion we made a detour. The next thing you know we’re snuggling the RV between the towering pines of Egg Harbor Camp Ground in Door County. Now that is my kind of camping.


Not Brian’s ideal kind of camping, I would soon discover. He prefers the concrete pad, all roomy, level and clean. Not a bad thing but c’mon! It’s Wisconsin…we’re camping…in the Northwoods…on the verge of Autumn. Our planned few days off the beaten path turned into eight, as we just couldn’t pull ourselves away from the awe-inspiring beauty of that special place. It is truly one of Wisconsin’s greatest treasures.

We were delighted to have my brother, Pat, his wife, Christine, and their two adorable boys, Milo and Leo, visit us from Green Bay. We only had one afternoon so we fished off the Pier in Fish Creek and returned to the RV for a very fresh fish fry complete with Wisconsin sweet corn on the cob! Yum!! Pat is a very talented musician and a very gifted teacher. Christine is also a wonderful teacher. These two take two dozen or so high school students to Belize each year, to give you an idea of how amazing they are. My only regret is that we didn’t break out the guitars around the campfire. What were we thinking?

One simply perfect day the four of us ventured off on a 10 mile bike ride through Peninsula State Park. It was breath-taking; Our human frames dwarfed by the towering canopy of giant pines, the fluorescent green moss and wispy ferns gently blanketing the forest floor, wild meadows out the corner of one eye and the diamond sparkle of the Green Bay with its pristine dolomite pebble shoreline out the other, just having the opportunity to take that all in with my three favorite people on earth – Precious!

Speaking of my favorite people on earth…my very best childhood friend, Wendy Crawford, her husband, Sam, and daughter, Morgan, have a beautiful home in Door County.

Morgan, Ben & Jack

We were able to hang with not only them but Wendy’s mom, Sandy, and husband, Bob. Wendy and I have known each other for all but about five of our forty six years on the planet. We have experienced so much of life together that even our stories have stories. It is a rare gift from God to have a life-long friend!

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that an old musician friend of mine, Jay Whitney, lived and played in Door County. I recognized his name in a local entertainment magazine and was thrilled to see that his band was scheduled to play in the park in Egg Harbor.

Jay Whitney playing with the Big Mouth Blues Band

It was a wonderful gift to be able to see him again and catch up on life after all those years. He was as nice a man and as brilliant a jazz/blues musician as I remembered him to be. For old time’s sake I took the family to dinner one night at that famed Florian ll Restaurant in Baileys Harbor and much to my surprise, my rock and roll days there were among those being commemorated in pictures at the club’s entrance, celebrating their 50th anniversary! There we were – rockin’ with the band way back in the day. My kids’ faces said it all as they tried to reconcile the pictures of mom with short, short hair (a one-time-only-EVER-cut) and chick singer threads to the mom standing there giggling in reverie.

With countless hours of fishing under my boys’ belts, many pages of good books savored by me and numerous S’mores consumed by all, we left the Peninsula for Shawano in time for the annual County Fair, a Labor Day Weekend tradition. We stayed at the Shawano County Park on Shawano Lake, a spot that brings back the sweetest of childhood memories. To this day I roll down my window and “smell the lake” as soon as I’m near enough to draw it from the air! I wonder where I got that?

I am so blessed to come from a big family. I just love my six brothers and sisters and I thank God each day that we are all still enjoying healthy lives AND that we genuinely enjoy each others’ company. All the in-laws are great too. Shawano is home to many loved ones. My beautiful sister, Debbie, (whom I just adore) flew in from California and stayed with us in the RV. My brother, Jay, a.k.a. Mr. Bossy Pants (fondly named so by Ben & Jack), came in from Minnesota for the weekend. We spent lots of time catching up with my brothers’ families, Mike, Karen and Amanda, (we missed seeing you Sarah), and Pat, Christine, Milo and Leo. Having five of the seven siblings in one place is pretty special. We did a lot of stuff but basically we just had fun being together.

Jay, Mike, Debbie/Jack, Ben & Karen
Milo, Leo and Jack at the Fair
Aunty Deb & Ben on a wild ride
Jack, Jacob and Dustin

My cousin, Todd, and his wife and son, Denise and Jacob, hosted a “cook-out,” as we say up north, which brought together even more of us. It was wonderful to see Aunty Van, cousin Steve and his wife, Kim, Aunty Carmen, Uncle Ben, cousins Jamie and Nick (no Hillary this time 🙁 ), and a whole beautiful bunch of my cousins’ kiddos. Nothing like a cook out to bring folks to one spot for a feast of food and fellowship. It is always so good to see my family.

We had a great time, as always, with the Crawfords, spending one night together at the fair. Ben and Jack made new friends with my friend Rhonda Krueger’s daughters, Gabby and Chloe.

Gabby & Ben eating s’mores
Jack & Chloe

They buddied up at the fair but also roasted marshmallows at the RV one night before we left Shawano – until next year…

Driving Our New House Past Our Old House

Part of our “unplugging”process was purging ourselves of the mountain of stuff we’d piled up at Fox Drive. We could just feel the weight slide off our shoulders as the Rescue Mission took the last load away. There isn’t a whole lot of room for stuff in our new home, no boat garage or cedar closet to fill floor to rafter. Brian’s brother Bob’s “dome home” in Williamsville provided a great staging ground to ready us for our new nomadic life.

Before setting off for points far off we just had to show our new home to our Fox Drive neighbors and make good on a promise we had made to two little neighbor girls to take them on a weekend RV adventure. Nothing like driving your new house past your old house. Strange. We were able to see Cheyanne and Chelsea, Grandma Mazie and Grandpa Howard, Tanya and Brianna and Heather and Cameron. For the record: Cameron did NOT enjoy the earsplitting air horn of the RV and was too scared to come on board no matter how hard Jack coaxed. Sorry little buddy!

Fox Drive was a wonderful place to live. Each of us carries the fondest memories of living there: The neighbors we met, the block parties each October, sledding down the street on snowy days, catching fire-flies in the back yard on hot summer nights…Many people we lived with on Fox Drive will remain dear friends through life.

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Halloween ’99 with Riley Jane & Allison and ’05 with Tanya & Brianna

Snow day fun with Cheyanne & Cameron

Chelsea, Ben & Jack in backyard sandbox

It was great fun stealing Cheyanne and Chelsea away for a weekend and heading to St. Louis where we stayed at a campground on the famed Route 66 near Six Flags . We enjoyed a day at Six Flags but my fondest memories are of the kids just being wild and free, playing outside at the campsite. They discovered a creek under a train trestle where they spent hours catching crawdads, tadpoles and frogs.


Now that beats the heck out of Six Flags if you ask me…but I’m not 8. I just love watching kids being kids; getting lost in their imaginations, creating adventure as they go. One fun idea leads to another and another after that. I used to be like that. Sometimes I feel sad that I’ve lost that sense of playful abandon. Childhood is playhood. And so it should be…for as long as possible.

Our Maiden Voyage: Slowing Life Down In Florida

We left Poplar Bluff under cover of a balmy July night, after celebrating Ben’s stellar baseball season with his team at Dairy Queen.


We arrived in even balmier Tampa Florida many hours later where our Coach awaited. Our new home will be the vehicle through which our lives are forever reinvented. Off we go!

How cool is Florida anyway? It is the consummate mash of the organic elements of paradise merged with the height of man’s penchant for inventing wild things to entertain himself.


OK, I, personally would prefer more of the organic and less of the man-made but there’s no turning that bus around, so we enjoyed a stay at Disney’s Wilderness Campground and a day at Magic Kingdom and Blizzard Beach Water Park.


Tons of fun, but a memory that sticks out in my mind was not made there. After setting up camp at the Red Coconut RV Park on the beach in Ft. Myers Beach, Ben and I took a walk on that beach as the sun was going down. We played tag and held hands (once or twice) and laughed as we walked. I thought, “Man, I love being with this kid, holding this little hand! Take this in!”

The next day Brian and I sat back and watched the boys take on the sun, sand and the sea. They looked so small against the backdrop of the giant deep. The sound of their little boy voices laughing and screaming over the roll of the surf – so worth slowing life down for. Free.


Unplugging From The Mainstream

This world has a way of putting the big squeeze on a person. Life gets so busy and chaotic that it seems to live you instead of the other way around. I’m not quite sure who is to blame for the insane schedules that families keep these days, but it seems that between work, school and “extra-curriculars”, the fewest number of hours in the day are spent with each other and the greater number of precious hours are spent with…others. I rather like spending time with my little monkeys and I’m kinda jealous over our time together as a family. There was a time, in the not-so-distant-past, when I wondered if Brian and I were ever going to have children to share this amazing life with. Then to have TWO perfect little boys!
Ben and Jack are such reminders of God’s faithfulness to us!. We don’t want to squander a minute of time we’ve been given. I feel blessed to disconnect from the tangle for awhile in an effort to slow life down and make our precious moments together count. To tell the world, “Hey, you ain’t the boss of us!”