I recently returned from my latest jaunt...this time to visit the Roederers in Hampton, VA. As always, during my trip, I try and formulate in my mind how I will recap the trip in a blog post. This one was hard because there were so many things I could talk about (and so many things that I can't talk about). So I decided to boil it down in "fives"...the five people I visited, and five of the ka-zillion memories made.
Rod - The rock of the family. If I had to give him a superhero name, it would be the Silent Giant. That is fitting in so many ways. When the boys get out of hand and drive Julie up a wall, Dad steps in. For you young parents out there, discipline works, because no matter the punishment, those boys always got excited when Dad arrived from work or they hadn't seen him in a while. And, they were proud to show me the chores list from the fridge that Dad put together of all that they do to earn their allowance. Rod also knew, without a word spoken, that his mission during my visit was to be Dad and occupy the boys so Julie could have time with me since she's had limited girl time at Fort Monroe. One of my favorite moments was when Rod proclaimed "All boys report to me" and they marched to the back room, aligned their game plan for the day, and off they went. That is a man who adores his wife and loves his kids. Husbands and Dads...take note.
Julie - It's hard to believe the same girl that was voted most school spirited and was one of my newspaper staff pals...and went to kindergarten with me is now spending her days as an Army wife and Momma. A far cry from her dream of being a local news anchor. But she wears her titles well. I don't believe she could love her husband more or her children...or even her "bonus" son (as she calls Daniel). She cooks like a dream, adores her husband like she just saw his face for the first time and could eat her children up (or "sop them up with a biscuit" as she puts it). She models much of the Proverbs 31 passage, although she'd roll her eyes and say I was smokin' something funny for saying that, but I'll just have to personally show her one day.
Daniel - The hottie 17-year old that looks like a taller version of his Dad when he was in high school, which is freaky to see. Daniel has come a long way and will be following in his Dad's footsteps by heading off to the Army after he graduates high school in June. I'd love to be a fly on the high school hallway walls to watch how the girls react to him. I'm a girl and I'm certain he is the talk of the school. The one thing that truly impressed me was the way he was with the little boys. I overheard him one day telling them to quit being so smart aleck...followed with "Remember what we've talked about guys" indicative of his past discussions on this topic with them. I told him I wanted to approve all girls he dates, to which he responded "I'm not getting married until I'm 30." We'll see how that goes.
Jackson - I can sum him up in one statement - "He wears his 13-year old very well." He's caught between being a kid and being a teenager. And he is just oozing with aspirations of being just like Dad. He spots every Army man he sees out and notes their rank. He is obsessed with discussing all the military acronyms. He "drops and does 10" just to show you he can. In less than five years, he'll be walking in Dad and Daniel's footsteps, I believe...which will make Mom and Dad very proud.
Clayton - If there ever was a boy that could make you feel like the most beautiful woman in the world, it's Clayton. I love that kid. He never went a day without telling me he loved me...telling me how great of a hugger I am...and how he didn't want me to leave. I'll always cherish the night we said prayers together...it melted my heart. He is an artist and is never far from paper and pen to sketch out his ideas. When we went to the Virginia Living Museum, Clayton took his notebook and pencil and stopped at every display to draw the animals there. No one understands us creative types, but I do. One of the hardest parts of leaving was physically letting go of Clayton...he was attached to me like glue my last day there. He sure knows how to woo a woman...look out world.
Nor'easter meets Ida - I flew into Newport News in the midst of the Nor'easter last week. Thankfully my flights were on time and no problems. That was a God thing for sure. I failed to tell Julie that bad weather seems to follow me on trips. I've been to Alabama three times...two of which resulted in ice storms.
Bonding with the Boys - Not being a mother, yet having that strong maternal instinct, I loved being able to be the cool "aunt" but also be motherly. I had conversations saving them from impending wrath to discussing why the story of Esther was important that Clay learned about in Sunday School. We played Army Monopoly and Daniel and I dominated by occupying "death row" as we called it. We owned all the hot properties and filled them with battalions and divisions. Jackson was not happy I owned the US Army and the Pentagon -the Boardwalk and Park Place equivalent. Daniel and I declared ourselves winners. I also was a bit of a bad example...showing them how to do a snake with a straw wrapper...their Mom will kill me for that one.
Girl time with Julie - As I mentioned earlier, Rod was gracious enough to take the bullet and occupy the boys so Julie and I could have time together. From shopping to Starbucks, we had a glorious time. Although I've shopped along with her via phone in the past, it was fun to actually be present. And, we could dance in the store aisles and not make any of the kids embarrassed. And, I could make her laugh so hard she started wheezing. Sometimes you just got to be a girl.
Church on Sunday - I listen to the sermons weekly from their church, Liberty Baptist, and love the pastor, Grant Ethridge. It was awesome to be there live and in person to experience the worship and the sermon. An added bonus for me was to hear Rod teach their Sunday School class. A last minute need for him to fill in made my visit to church a double blessing. A bonus memory...on Saturday night Rod tried to have an inspirational dinner by asking the boys about favoritism. The lesson was on James 2 and how we shouldn't show favoritism to those less fortunate than us. It was like a scene straight from The Cosby Show as the discussion took place...until finally Rod said, "I give up." Never fear, I think something did sink in.
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving - Prior to my visit, Clayton decided we were going to watch the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special together and have the meal they had while viewing. If you recall, the meal consisted of pretzels, popcorn, toast and jelly beans. Julie and I went shopping for Jellie Bellies and she made all of us (yes, even Daniel and Rod) plates so we all could watch and eat our "meal" together. When the scene appeared with the characters around the Thanksgiving table, Daniel astutely noticed they each had ice cream sundaes and made sure Julie knew we weren't completely authentic unless she served ice cream. She ignored him. Sometimes you have to have junk food for dinner to make a memory.
I could list a thousand more moments of memories from the trip, but I'll save my readers from the world's longest blog post. It was definitely a memorable trip, one that I'll not soon forget and one that can't be encapsulated in a blog post or even in pictures. But the memory of my time with sweet friends will linger on for many days to come.