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long haul

We did it!  We drove to Captiva Island and back.  Let me tell ya’…that is a long haul!  Not only did we have a great time but the kids did a fantastic job along the way.  We equipped ourselves with every “I” possible…iTouch, iPad, iPhone…plus borrowed portable DVD players, books, crayons, markers, and movies.  But most importantly behind every successful road trip…THE BUCKET!!!  It may be gross but it works.

Captiva was a beautiful island that is 100 percent family-friendly.  There isn’t much to do other than go to the beach, collect sea shells, swim in the pool, and eat.  We enjoyed watching the kids be kids.

My favorite memory…skinny-dipping!  We rented a private home off of the beach with a screened in pool.  When we returned from the ocean the first day I told the kids to take their suits off and rinse in the outdoor shower before jumping in the pool.  They enjoyed being ‘free birds’ so much that they didn’t wear swimsuits in the pool for the rest of the week.  I hope they don’t getting any crazy ideas at the public pool this summer.

a bucket

I figured it out.  I must be a genius.  The recipe for a successful visit to St. Louis two years after a very rough road trip (written in great detail in FamilyPrint) was…A BUCKET.  Of course, the advancing age of the children certainly aided as well.

The only way to get 250 miles by myself smoothly and effectively with as few stops as possible was…A BUCKET.  You can likely guess at this point what our bucket was used for. 

My kids pee often.  It doesn’t matter if they drink or not.  They just pee a lot.  Every single one of them.  Heck if I was going to stop every 30 miles!

I am kind of militant when it comes to road trips though.  I tend to dehydrate myself on most trips.  Tim is the opposite.  It is excruciating.

I padded the bucket with paper towels (each time), placed it ontop of a thick towel, and we were golden.  Down the road we went to visit the Parker’s.

Susan and I have known each other since first grade.  She is my oldest (well…longest) friend.  I love her.  In eleven years, we have had eight children (Macie, Briggs, Chase, Owen, Gage, Emerson, Campbell and Avery). 

Surprisingly, it went well.  The kids had a great time.  There were few arguments, and we were actually able to talk. 

My favorite moment occured just before our departurewhen Owen decided to stick the head of an army man up his nose.  Amazing how life is never dull and how the issues are always changing.


I nearly killed Nate and Helena’s cat.  Seriously.  I have never felt worse.

I dropped them off at the airport for their trip to Sweden.  Rushed home for a series of conference calls.  I randomly parked in the driveway instead of the garage.  Ran into the house completely oblivious to the fact that a live animal was caged in my van.

To my horror, hours later I realized the cat was still in the car which by that time more resembled a sauna.

Luckily, Tim had opened the doors to the van earlier so it wouldn’t be ‘too hot’ when I left.  He had no idea Pumpa was in the van when he opened the doors.

When I reached her she was in terrible shape.  She had soiled herself and was soaking wet.  We quickly hosed her down with cool water.  Tried getting her to drink.

Ironically, we attended the Zoobilation charity event for the Indianapolis Zoo that night.  Here I was going to celebrate caring for animals and I nearly killed one.

The vet was gentle with me (and Pumpa) after rushing her in.  She promised to watch over her throughout the night.

Thankfully, Pumpa was fine.  She showed little signs of being overheated.  Her responses were good.

One again…Tim saved the day!  He has such a unique sense.  I am not sure what it is but he always comes to the rescue.

So…Nate and Helena…have a great trip.  Pumpa is alive and well.  Beware though…we are spoiling her with GREAT food.

Courtesy of CRUISEAMERICA.COM, we embark on another insane road trip tomorrow.  We are renting an RV to drive to Orlando.  Sound crazy?  Well…we are pumped.  Our kids can pee without pulling out the gallon jug and we can even fry an egg while cruising down the highway.   

Let the blogging begin 🙂 🙂 🙂

strange sign

I hate to admit I was rather preoccupied on the highway when I gazed at the sign on the back of a pickup truck which read “Professional Titty Puller.”  Am I missing something?  Could my city upbringing have left me short of some farm knowledge in which this saying would be relevant?  Hmmm…


My favorite quote from our pre-pubescent son on our fall break trip to Chicago. 

“Look, Briggs!  Isn’t that a neat marble building?”

“Do you think I don’t know my rocks and minerals?  That is a granite building, Mom!”

Sweet…I am so looking forward to his teen years.  I can be assured though his will be easier than the twin GIRLS!



becoming frannie

Road trips in the past haven’t necessarily been our forte.  But after a jaunt to the Smoky Mountains this weekend, it is fair to say, we are getting better.  In fact, it may be the first road trip we have taken that didn’t include barf.  And it was the one time I finally got smart enough to pack towels up front!  So, I figure we did pretty well.

There was however a moment where I thought I had turned a corner into adulthood. (I think I am still in denial that I am gracing my forties and have four children!)   Have you ever had one of those moments where you think you are turning into your parent? 

Well, I shot way passed that…I did something to my boys today that my GRANDMA FRANNIE made me do when I was a child on a road trip with her to the East Coast.  It horrified me.  I remember it vividly.  She made me pee in a McDonald’s cup.  She was a woman on a mission and my tiny bladder and frequent urination wasn’t going to stop her. 

I didn’t fall far from the tree.  I am the kind of road tripper (and there are plenty of us out there) that almost is dehyrated upon arrival to my destination.  When I get on the road, I stay on the road.  A lunch stop is within reason.  A refuel is necessary.  Anything beyond that is a waste of time. 

So, I put my well potty-trained girls in pull-ups.  Surely they cannot regress at this point?  And I told the boys to drink as little as possible.

Unfortunately, I didn’t quite monitor their fluid intake on our pit stop.  Gage had to pee within minutes.  Briggs followed.  My solution…a Gatorade bottle.  I said, “Listen boys…we aren’t stoppin’!  Slip out of your seat.  Pull your pants down and stick it in. Be quick.  And be careful.”

Well you can imagine there was a whole lot of giggling.  They weren’t horrified in the least, as I was when Frannie suggested the same thing 30+ years ago.  They collectively thought it was about the funniest thing to do while cruising down the interstate. 

Now…the only part that makes this story worse (or more comical depending on how you look at it) is subjecting my fifteen year old neice, Evane, to all of this nonsense.  She took it all in and more as a resident of the Stoner van on the return home. 

Poor girl said to me through tears of laughter, “Now I thought I had seen it all last summer when you told the boys to pee outside the van at the museum parking lot.  This brings it to a whole new level.” 

But after the bladders were relieved, the kids needed something else to do.  I threw back some markers and coloring books.  It got quiet so I figured they were busy coloring.  I probably was just in my highway-zone at that point though.  The next time I checked the status of things in the rearview mirror Evane had decided it was okay to be the subject of their art.  I think she had just given up by then. 

Thank goodness for simple pleasures in life…like having a fifteen year old along for a long ride.   And, of course wide mouthed Gatorade bottles!


after a year…

…I got some pictures of our trip to Hawaii from Nate.  It is hard to focus on your personal images when you focus on your client’s for a living.  Anyway, we visited Maui just a few weeks after Tim’s home from his deployment.



Is there a better way to start vacation than four sleeping children?

Well…it definitely was a great way to start.  But let’s just say…it wasn’t all sweetdreams.  I will openly declare on this blog, “We, The Stoner Six, shall never stay overnight in a hotel room again until our children our older.”   Hotels and us…just don’t work.  We need more SPACE. 

In a matter of our two-day stay at Great Wolfe Lodge:

Briggs and Tim spent six hours in the ER for a suspected Brown Recluse Spider bite on the bottom of his foot.  It did not happen on premise but became quickly infected and appeared as if he was getting blood poisoning.  Good thing my ‘medevac’ husband saw the early signs.

So I had the three little ones in an enormous waterpark but wasn’t able to get my eyes wet!  Hmmm…a feat in and of itself.  I recently had LASEK surgery and my eyeballs are still in a volatile state.  Dr. Keeling insisted that having water from Great Wolfe Lodge splashed into my eyes would be like spashing s**t into my eyes!  A thought I preferred to avoid with sunglasses.  I looked ridiculous.

So, after Gage’s slippery escape for nearly twenty minutes, I found him happy as a clam in the wave pool.  The kid is a intermediate swimmer at best with absolutely no fear.  Meanwhile the twins either ran in different directions or needed to go to the bathroom out-of-synch.  Couldn’t they just get it so that they need to pee at the same time?  Public restrooms outside swimming establishments are never clean and dry.

Considering, I was exhausted after chasing my wet creatures, I decided to retire to the room.  There I promised them a rental movie and popcorn.  Within three minutes, our room was filled with smoke and the fire alarm was ringing.  I moved the kids to the balcony and threw Cheerios down for a snack and/or game.

The engineer from Great Wolfe indicated he had to reboot the entire hotel system.  Wow!  We really know how to make our mark on a place.

The highlight of the trip to me…a quick visit from Betsy and Drew.  

The highlight of the trip to Briggs…he was not allowed to go into the water after the ER visit which meant lots of video games. 

The highlight to the girls…the water and the ice cream. 

The highlight to Gage…playing water basketball and the water slides.

The highlight to Tim…just being with the kids.

It is great to be home.  I think home vacations are more in our future…at least until I forget my declaration.


My Aunt Nine died. And if you followed the Letters from Tim blog, you know “Aunt 9”.

I, along with my family, am devastated. She was the matriarch of our family…a position she fervently took on once her mother passed in 1991.

Aunt Nine was our first stop on the ‘Insane Road Trip.’ As we left her home, she insisted I had inadequately packed enough food thus loaded us up. She was just as she has always been…perfect. Two days after we headed further East, she was gone.

Would I have hugged her tighter if I would have known? Without question. More importantly I would have looked deeply into her eyes and said…

“Aunt Nine, You are the matriarch of our family. The rock. The glue. Your home, particularly, your kitchen, is the center of our gravity.

Your role has been greater than that of a beloved aunt. You are one of my dearest friends. You are a compass from which I have been given wise direction, and consistently seek out.

You are irreplaceable.

Some of the first characteristics people recognize you by are your bold voice, flamboyant personality, and broad smile. All of this is wrapped under a cloak of warmth that you immediately feel in your presence.

You are a bold woman with conviction. You are not wishy-washy, you don’t hug the fence, and you easily make decisions.

You are strongly opinionated. I certainly did not like all of your opinions growing up but I respect that you have opinions.

You make me laugh. And I don’t mean chuckle, I mean belly-laugh.

You are an open communicator. Everyone knows where they stand with you. There isn’t a lot of beating around the bush.

You are the kind of mother others should be measured against. Your daughters, Betsy and Suzy, are more like my sisters. I love them.

You are fascinating, with a brilliant mind and thirst for knowledge. Your memory holds the tiniest of details.

You can find something in common with everyone.

You are organizationally challenged yet can pull off a dinner for 25 without any detail overlooked. You are the ‘Martha Stewart’ I turn to for tips.

You have a distinct walk. It is etched into my memory.

You are beautiful. Despite the extra pounds you consistently complain about, you are stunning.

Your support knows no bounds. I cannot begin to list the things you have done to support me in my lifetime, in addition to, Tim and the children.

I love you. I am blessed to have known you. I will see you again someday.”

The last few days have been some of the most emotionally heart wrenching that I can recall. As my uncle said, it is ironic that she died of an enlarged heart because that is exactly what she had…a big heart!

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