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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.

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 🙂 🙂 🙂


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!



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!

Tim and I have discovered that home is where you make it. Many told us we were crazy to take our kids across the country on what we have named the ‘Insane Road Trip.’ And…we still may be. But there are a few things I know for certain…

1) If you want you children to see the world, you have to start sometime.

2) If you want your children to be flexible, you might as well take them out of their comfort-zone.

3) Home can be anywhere. Our kids already love the comfort of the van. After our daily excursions, they feel comforted crawling into their car seats and heading down the road for more adventure. If the kids have their blankies, they can sleep anywhere. We have two portable cribs and it is just as if they were in their regular cribs.

4) Our expectations were set so low on this trip that we are bound to be pleased.

5) While the kids are fighting (who didn’t fight with their siblings on a road trip?), it isn’t that bad…in fact, probably better than it is at home. I think they are actually having a lot of fun together.

We have graciously been hosted by Aunt Caroline and Uncle Wally, Grandpa, Uncle Dee and Joellen, and Todd and Jenny Tuttle along our journey. Thank you so much! Off to Sesame Place tomorrow.


My Aunt Nine and I, along with my children, witnessed something incredibly disturbing yesterday. We were enjoying an afternoon at the local pool in Chagrin Falls, Ohio (the first stop on our “Insane Road Trip”).

We noticed soon after arriving that there was a mother that appeared to be bullying her oldest son. We paid little attention at first. Honestly though, I remember thinking no matter the state, no matter the town, there are unfortunately, nasty people everywhere.

Anyway, an hour into our visit, this mother conveniently turned her back to everyone at the pool, including the lifeguard. With her large stature, she had a firm grip of her son (which we estimated was about 12 years old) holding him around the chest. She proceeded to dunk him from side-to-side, holding him under water.

My aunt and I immediately moved into her peripheral vision as we noticed this boy was clearly struggling. I even yelled to the lifeguard, “That mother is trying to drown her child.”

I believe a mother’s intuition is enormously powerful. I trust it ALWAYS. My aunt and I both had the same response at the same moment.

Well, as soon as the mother saw us close in on her, she began acting as if it was a game. She immediately released her son. Put a smile on her face. Even chuckled in a sick, disgusting way. Believe me…this was no game. Soon another bystander commented that she thought she had seen her bite his cheek earlier.

As we were walking out, I saw the boy make his way to the snack shack. I said to him as he passed, “Hey Bud, is everything okay? It looks as if you were in some trouble back there.” He was clearly taken by surprise and responded that everything was fine.

So…I was conflicted then and I am conflicted now. Could we have done more? Could we have misjudged the situation?

Briggs was mortified. He had so many questions. Why does that mommy want to hurt her son? Why doesn’t he tell anyone? I handled the questions with total honesty. I told them that the problem with child abuse is that the children are often conflicted…they love their parent but are also afraid of them. As much as they would like to tell someone, they are afraid their parent would hurt them more. I explained that kids often are not believed, and it can take a lot of time to remove a child from their home.

A nice testament to Briggs’ grandmother (my mom) is when Briggs figured he had come up with a solution for the boy in the pool. He said, “I know. Why doesn’t he go live with his grandma?” If it were only that easy.

Briggs and I prayed for only one person that night…the boy at the pool.