Thursday, October 31, 2013

October 31 – “Older … wiser”

Well, we made it home with little fuss.  Even managed to stop at Cracker Barrel for an early supper.  I think we were somewhere near College Station.  Lots of Aggie stuff.  It was a brand new store, though.  I could tell because all the antiques they have on display looked brand new.  Kel and his family were all here when we got back, so we had a regular welcome home party for a few hours.  I’m sure that’s not why they were here, but I’m pretty good at pretending.

I slept until seven the next morning.  It was nice to be in a real bed instead of a blow-up mattress.  Not that it was that uncomfortable, except that one night when it lost some air and the boys were already asleep so I couldn’t top it off.  Way too squishy.  I spent most of the day trying to catch up on the week’s preparations for Sunday.  And then I tried to send out an email to my Seaside contact list.  Well, apparently yesterday was not the appropriate time to make such an attempt.  Oh, the email was innocuous enough.  I was just inviting everyone to our Halloween party and Bible give-away.  But for some reason, yahoo has seen fit to declare such activities potentially subversive and/or terroristic.  They wouldn’t let me send emails to more than one person at a time.  The help screen asked such questions as, “Have you sent a lot of mass emails lately?” and “Has anyone else had access to your account?”  I guess that means they thought I might have been hacked.  And I was just about to start believing that they had my best interests at heart.  Silly me. 

The last screen I was directed to informed me that if I wanted to continuing my seditious sending of mass emails, then I would have to … drum roll here, please … I would have to start using their “brand new concept created just for yahoo so our members can create groups and send emails in the safety and security of the group email zone.”  There it was.  They wanted me to buy into their new idea, so they just made it impossible for me to do anything else.  So I was stuck, right?  Well, not exactly.  They failed to consider that I am an old guy anyway.  I just reverted back to the good old days (Well, not too far back.  I didn’t rush over to the telephone that was wired to the wall and wait for the operator to ask me how she could connect me).  Actually, I just sent each one individually.  Took some extra time, but one thing I learned from my Dad that only started to make sense as I got older … there is rarely a reason to rush so much that you put yourself in a position to make a careless mistake.  He applied it to everything from driving to schoolwork.  And it’s amazing how much wiser my Dad got as I got older. 

Leviticus 19:32 says, “Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord.”

Father, thank you for the wisdom of my Dad.  Help me to impart a little smarts to my kids and grandkids as well.  Amen.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

October 30 – “Welcome home”

The call finally came that baby Luke was officially cleared by the pediatrician.  He was coming home.  And as the time drew closer, things began to get more and more interesting around the house.  Here are a few samples:

Zak – when it was bathtime: “Only Mom can give us a bath.”

Zak – when Mimi was chasing him around the house with her hair gel to pretty him up to go see Luke: “Only Mom can put gel in our hair.”

Sensing a pattern here?

And on our way into the hospital to pick them up, I asked the Newborn Brother Question of the Day: Did Adam and Eve have an outie or an innie? 
Zak’s answer: “I don’t think they had a belly button.”
Nani’s response: “Unless God touched them right there.”  Of course accompanied by a wiggling tickle finger.

Once inside there was time to communicate with Daddy about the events of the previous evening:
Zak – when explaining about a sword fight he and Caleb had: “It was an epic adventure of my world.  ‘Zakary’s Adventures in the Future.’  Caleb was a skeleton and I was me …”  And the explanation continued into a fantasy tale of, well, epic proportions.

Caleb – as he pondered the events of the past week as well as those about to transpire for the rest of his life: “The tables have turned.  Now I’m the big brother.”

Christi – upon returning home and entering her bedroom (aka former home of the errant rat and the overpowering stench): “Well, I think it smells great in there.”
The absence of the rat carcass had much to do with that, but the dryer fabric softener sheets and the scentsy thing Josh turned on had just a bit of influence as well.  We’ll mark that one down as a win. 

Once Christi got Luke settled and secured it became evident that Caleb had missed his Mom.  They played Safari in the Savannah.  Caleb was a baby cheetah.  Christi was … a tourist, I think.  She had an imaginary tour guide and imaginary binoculars.  And with Zak’s help they built a nice nomad tent using the furniture and a sheet.

And Luke did receive his Mickey Mantle card from old DadDad.  It became a tradition a while back for DadDad to distribute some of the wealth of his baseball card collection from his pre-teen days.  Yes, that was ages and ages … and ages ago.  I apparently thought Mickey Mantle was something pretty special back then, so every grandchild has received a Mickey Mantle card as a special DadDad’s welcome-to-the-world gift.  Josh did comment that he thought I would have run out of them by now.  Getting close, Josh.  Which brings up the next question: So what are the plans for the future, my sons? 

Psalms 118:24 says, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Father, this has been a good week.  We accomplished a few things around the house that should help out Josh and Christi a bit.  We got to spend good, focused time with Zak and Caleb.  And we got to meet a brand new little person who is beautifully and wonderfully made.  That’s a good week.  Thank you.  Amen.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

October 29 – “Not just any Sunday”

Sunday was a different one for me.  Luke was consigned to the hospital for yet another night with jaundice that just wasn’t coming under control.  Christi was frustrated, because the pediatrician on call told her, “If it had been a sunny day I would have let him go home.”  Yep.  Sounds odd to me, too.  Zak and Caleb were exhausted from the stress of Mommy separation.  Josh had a two sermons to preach.  So our assignment for the day was to hang out at the house with the two big brothers and let them play.  I know.  It was one of the toughest jobs we have had since we’ve been here, right?  But someone has to do it.  And I have to say, from the time their feet hit the floor, Zak and Caleb took advantage of their opportunity to do some heavy duty playing.  They became lego spacecraft pilots and super spy ninja fighters and ninjago … whatever ninjago does.  They did take a brief break when they saw Daddy on TV.  Pretty funny stuff there.  Josh and Christi don’t have cable and only get one station.  As it happens, on Sunday mornings that station airs the worship service of Columbus Avenue Baptist Church where Josh is pastor.  The boys were very quiet as the choirs sang and even as Josh welcomed everyone.  But when the camera panned the crowd during one of the songs and passed by their Daddy, both of them jumped to their feet and yelled, “That’s Daddy!  Hi, Daddy!  We see you!”  They acknowledged that knew him when he was preaching, but didn’t seem all that impressed.  Just that random pass of the panning camera.  Guess the excitement was all in the mystery and discovery.  So, Josh, don’t even try to be incognito with those two boys.  They would know you anywhere. 

I made a quick trip to Target and Home Depot.  I’m still working on “The List” that Christi had from two weeks ago.  Home Depot had the weather stripping for their front door.  Check.  Target had light bulbs.  I checked out two random light fixtures in their garage.  One was burned out, but was operated by an unusual kind of switch on the wall.  Looked like it was supposed to be automatic on and off with a photocell, but I don’t think that had worked for a long time.  The manual switch still worked, though, so replacing the bulb gave them a little more light.  The other fixture was in a closet at the back of the garage.  Nice little storage space, but very dark.  It was operated by one of those pull chains.  The fixture was hot, so the light bulb flashed on right away, but the chain was broken, so I couldn’t turn it off.  I unscrewed it a bit until we can get another fixture.  Always something, right?

I also made one trip to the grocery store.   Actually I filled the car up with gas first ($2.97 a gallon).  We needed some key essentials like toilet paper and corn dogs and cinnamon rolls.  Oh, and Blue Bell ice cream.  I found out that HEB carries the same frozen lemonade that they sell at the Astros’ games.  We now have four of them in the freezer here.  That’s some good stuff.  I did get a roast so Chris could cook something here at the house instead of everyone having to eat out yet again.  Of course when she called the boys for lunch, she was duly informed by Zakary that, “Today is Sunday.  We eat out for lunch on Sunday.  We only eat at home at night.”  Well, there you have it.  Get to know the family traditions, Nani.  On the other hand, Josh was ecstatic to have the change in diet.  Something about Mama’s cooking, I guess.  Of course he didn’t make it home until mid-afternoon.  He went by the hospital after church, and was told that they were admitting Luke to the pediatric floor to continue those glowstick treatments for jaundice.  His tests for that were revealing that he was holding steady, but the number wasn’t quite what they prefer to reach before sending a baby out into the cold, cruel world.  He was eating great, though, and his weight was also holding. 

That meant a trip back to the hospital with Zak and Caleb so they could have some Mommy and baby brother time.  Once they had their fix, we did take them up to the church.  Zak went to his Bible Buddies class.  Caleb got to take his usual Sunday night trip to the church library.  He also found ample room to practice his cartwheeling skills.  Afterwards, we went by McAlister’s Deli, got everyone a sandwich, and headed back up to the hospital for a picnic in Luke’s room.  It is amazing how the little one reacts and turns to the sound of his brothers’ voices.  I think he’s going to do just fine. 

Psalms 118:20-21 says, “This is the gate of the Lord through which the righteous may enter.  I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation.”

Father, thank you for baby brothers and seeing Daddy on TV and Mommies who want to cuddle even with the biggest brother.  Please bring Baby Luke home safely real soon.  Amen.

Monday, October 28, 2013

October 28 – “The Critter Search”

Note to readers: The following events actually occurred on Saturday, but the blogs have been running long lately. 

All four of the grandparents stayed at the house with the boys.  I think we were in bed by 9:30.  That meant I was awake by 5:30.  I made the coffee and waded through typing up my blog entry for the day.  Josh left us some money with instructions to either go get some donuts or take the boys with us to the Shipley’s that was not far away.  Grandbob and I made the trip.  Caleb just wanted “donuts without a hole in them.”  Zakary wanted a donut with pink icing and sprinkles. 

The other grandparents took Caleb and Zak to the store to get their Mom a “being in the hospital” gift.  Sensing my opportunity to get a few of the items checked off from last week’s list that went undone, I went out to the car and grabbed the hedge clippers and limb trimmers.  I was determined to at least get the hedges trimmed up so the neighbors would know someone was eventually planning to bring part of the wilderness under control.  I don’t imagine Josh or Christi will notice, but that’s fine with me.  It got done.  Check it off the list.

Chris headed to the hospital to hang out with Christi and Luke, and around ten o’clock Josh and I went on a critter hunt.  He decided to cut into the ceiling since we pretty well narrowed the stink source to one particular area.  We started in the center of the ceiling and worked our way toward the back door.  The first three holes were unfruitful, but we did manage to remove some pretty nasty looking insulation.  Just before we started the next cut, though, Josh got a call from the hospital.  Luke had to be admitted.  His belly rubbin’ was off.  I know that’s not exactly how to spell it, but it sounds the same.  It means he needs to spend some time under the untra-violet lights.  At least that’s what the picture they sent seemed to indicate.  The caption said he was going to be a glowstick for Halloween.  Josh rushed off to be with his family, so I stayed to continue the search alone. 

I finished pulling out one level of that nasty old black insulation with no results other than the smell seemed to be getting stronger.  Which direction to go next?  I stuck my head as far into the crevice as I could get it and … followed my nose.  The next segment of sheetrock was the one right by the back door.  One side done.  Side two done.  I had to work around the stud, so side three was particularly difficult.  Finally side four cut was complete and I eased the piece of sheetrock down.  Setting it on the ground I glanced up to see where to cut next when I saw it.  The back half of a critter.  Furry body.  Long naked tail.  Quickly I texted the family, “Got him.”  Then I took a picture to verify the location.  Hey, I have watched enough CSI.  Pulling my gloves on a little tighter, I reached up and carefully took hold of the tail.  I eased the body backwards toward the opening.  Two inches.  Three.  Four.  Six.  Finally the head appeared and the whole body slipped into my hands.  I placed it on the ground and took another photo to show the entire body.  Unbeknownst to me, the family by this time was thinking I had a opossum for sure.  But I knew better.  This was none other than a good, old-fashioned rat.  As I positioned my phone to take a closeup picture, I noticed more movement.  Not from the ceiling, but from the rat himself.  Would I need to perform CPR?  Rescue breathing?  I knew Galveston Fire and Rescue had been given some animal sized rescue breathing masks, but I was in Waco.  No, he was definitely not still alive, but there was the movement again.  Near his eye socket.  And his nostril.  And out of the eye socket crawled a nice, juicy, plump maggot.  And he was not alone.  Numerous of his friends and relatives followed close behind.  More photos.  More texts.  But success.  I placed one of the mega-deodorizer bags directly on top of where the rat had been.  May as well take it directly to the source.  And then the cleanup began.  Took four of Christi’s perfume-laced garbage bags to hold all the old insulation and the culprit, himself.  I ran the vacuum cleaner several times to get the remnants.  I put the tools away and finally went in to take a much-needed shower. 

By the time I got out it was almost 1:30.  Josh texted to say they were coming to pick me up for a trip to Fuddrucker’s for lunch.  Following that culinary interlude, we returned to the house so the boys could have a rest time.  As we pulled up, there sat our good friends from Arlington, Cary and Kay Lynn Winkle, waiting for us.  It was great to see them again.  We talked for an hour or so, and some of us also dozed a bit.  Finally I rode with the two of them to the hospital with the promise to return soon to pick up Josh and the boys.  Chris joined me for that return trip.  After buckling in all the boys and grabbing a quick pizza to bring with us, we returned to the hospital.  We didn’t stay long that time, though.  The boys were pretty tired, so we piled them and Josh back into the car and got them back home for an earlier bedtime.  Josh stayed at the house so he could get a full night’s sleep before preaching.  Come to think of it, I needed an hour or two of sleep myself.  A rat chaser’s work is hard, stinky, and most assuredly tiring.

Genesis 2:19 says, “Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.”

Father, thank you for all of those little critters you created, even the ones we aren’t particularly drawn to.  Oh, and thank you for answering our prayer about the location of that smell.  Amen.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

October 27 – “If you need me …”

Josh and Christi had a critter problem.  Not that some cute little opossum or perhaps raccoon had taken up residence nearby.  Whatever this critter was, it was dead.  And we couldn’t find it.  And as a result the stench that centered around their master bedroom had become almost unbearable.  Desperate to solve the problem before Luke came home, Christi had been calling critter removal people for days with no results.  They have an account with Terminix, though, so that guy had to come out to honor their contract.  With Josh staying the night at the hospital, it fell to me to host Mr. Terminix.  He arrived around 8 a.m., and we searched that bedroom from top to bottom.  Sadly, we found nothing.  He finally gave us an address of a place that sells mega-deodorizer bags and bid us good luck.

Meanwhile, the heater went out at hospital.  Wonder if that same mystery kid (who “might” have caused the alarm-blaring, door-locking fiasco of the day before) was lurking anywhere nearby?  So we brought up a space heater and some jackets.  When we arrived, Josh, Christi, and Luke were all snuggled up together in the hospital bed keeping each other warm after a night when everyone on the hospital floor was miserable.  It got so bad that they had to keep a special watch on all the babies’ body temperatures. 

We got to meet Taylor, Sarah’s husband.  Sarah was the one who took the boys to the zoo.  Josh and I went to get the mega-deodorizer, and Taylor met us at the house to try to look under furniture and inside of the box spring to locate the source of the odor.  Taylor brought us some great sandwiches.  Toasted bun, ham and turkey, melted cheese, and some really good cheese soup.  Have to get the name of that place.  After turning over furniture and carrying mattress and box spring outside, we decided the dead animal must be in the tiny space between the roof and ceiling of an addition in master bedroom.  The only way we could see to access it short of tearing out ceiling sheetrock would be to peel off a board or two from the eaves and shine a light in to see if we could see the offending critter.  Problem is, the only way to do that would be with a 20 foot ladder.  So we hung the deodorizer and hoped for the best.  It was supposed to take around 24 hours to absorb the odors in the room.  It also said “carcass removal not necessary.”  Now that I have to see.  

We made our way back to the hospital and later Chris and I took Zak and Caleb and Josh to the park to run and play.  It took a while to get there, and not just because Josh kept having to stop and turn around and make u-turns here and there.  It really was a long way from the hospital.  The playground was great fun, though.  Me, Josh and Zak had a contest to see who could swing the highest.  I think it was a draw.  Zak did want me to keep going and swing all the way around the top.  Hey, I’m an awesome granddad and all, but I had to draw the line somewhere.  The boys then took turns pushing and crawling all over Josh on what must have been a special handicapped swing for adults.  It was like one of those seats at a theme park ride, with the bar that comes down over your head and locks you in.  Unfortunately, I had to take my turn in the hot seat as well.  After a few races on the playground apparatus (where Zak absolutely excelled in climbing and swinging and pulling his way through some difficult situations, all while humming the Indiana Jones theme song), we went down to the river (The Brazos, I think.  Still learning Waco geography and history) to do some exploring and toss in some rocks.  Along with the trash from previous fishermen, the place must have been full of ragweed.  I was miserable.  The adventure was worth it, though.  Zak continued the Indiana Jones theme as he climbed from rock to rock, often dangling precariously over the water.  His Daddy kept a watchful eye.  Sort of.  Well, at least he warned him that if he fell in the water we had no replacement clothes, so he would have to get in the car wet.  Perfect Dad response to dangerous behavior, wouldn’t you say?  Once Indiana Zak completed his mission, we headed for the car.  As we drove away from the playground, Caleb proclaimed, “If you need me, I’ll be back here asleep.” 

Finally, we headed back to the house for rest time.  And it was officially designated “movie rest time.”  Spy Kids 2.  Josh went back up to the hospital to try to catch a nap there.  I dozed on the floor.  Chris napped a bit on the couch.  Zak was enthralled with the movie.  Caleb couldn’t tear himself away, either.  And when the movie ended, Caleb, now sprawled out across the ottoman, made this observation, “Sometimes after movie rest time, I find that I still feel a little sleepy.”  Ah.  Me, too.  By the way, the bedroom still stunk, but rest of house was really not so bad. 

Psalms 118:19 says, “Open for me the gates of righteousness; I will enter and give thanks to the Lord.”

Father, help us get a handle on this critter situation before Christi and Luke come home.  Amen.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

October 26 – “A Crisis Averted”

You might have noticed no mention of The Brothers in the last post.  Zak and Caleb had been invited to spend the day with friends from the church, so they had already been to the zoo and had eaten a good supper when it finally became their turn to meet their little brother.  Knowing that their visit was impending, I hurried out to the car and returned with the little crocheted (or knitted or whatever that’s called) and stuffed light sabre that Anne made for him.  I wanted him to have it when The Brothers arrived.  Protection, you know?  We got a few pictures of his earliest Jedi moves and texted one off to Anne. 

Finally word came that Zak and Caleb were in the parking lot, so I joined Josh and Brittany (a friend from South Oaks who now lives just down the road in Temple who was leaving) to greet them.  Just as we entered the lobby, though, alarms went off.  We found out later that someone had triggered the security alarm at almost the exact time we had exited the secure unit.  Hmm.  I don’t remember getting that close.  And we didn’t have Luke with us, so it couldn’t have been us.  I do remember passing a kid about 10 years old or so who was standing right by the security keypad.  Not blaming him or anything, but if I was 10 and an unguarded pad of buttons was hanging right there on the wall just waiting to be pushed, well … 

We did our best to ignore the high-pitched noise filling the air, said goodbye to Brittany and walked to the front doors.  They were the automatic, slide open whenever some approaches variety.  Except they didn’t automatically slide open.  No, I didn’t walk right into them and smash my face, but I suppose that would have been pretty funny.  I did back up and try again a time or two, and I noticed a counterpart on the outside trying the same thing.  Nothing.  Locked shut.  I tried to pry them apart manually, since the sign on them said to open manually in case of emergency, but apparently this didn’t qualify as an emergency.  I was glad Chris wasn’t around, because the idea of being trapped inside any enclosed space brings about near panic attacks in her.  As the crowds began to grow on both sides, the receptionist responded to questioning looks with a perplexed look of her own.  She had already pushed every button she knew to push, and now she was doomed to wait with the rest of us for security to arrive.  And the alarms continued.

In the midst of the crisis, Zak and Caleb and their host for the day, Sarah, arrived bearing a birthday cake and some special cards they had made to welcome the new brother to the fold.  They grinned and waved excitedly when they saw us, and we responded in kind, but only a taste of the mass confusion greeted them as they approached the door.  By this time Josh had made a decision to investigate a secondary exit possibility.  He disappeared down a back hallway, and after a long several minutes, there he was, hugging the boys and no doubt reassuring them that baby brother was doing fine.  He took Caleb in his arms and Zak by the hand, and the four of them began the trek around to the back of the hospital and the secret entrance Josh had uncovered.  And the alarms continued.

Meanwhile, custodians arrived and tried their hand at solving the dilemma.  Brute force didn’t seem to do any good, so they reverted to a more cerebral approach.  They turned the automatic feature of the door off and tried again.  This time the inner door swung open and one of them raced to the outside door to try the same thing.  Success.  The old guy who had been my counterpart managed to get inside the building.  Others were more hesitant, preferring instead to watch the proceedings from the relative safety of an escape route to their car.  The custodians continued working until, with one outside the building and one in the breezeway between worlds, the doors decided to lock up tight once again.  At that point it became evident that they were just as confused as everyone else.  I offered to do whatever it was that they had done to make it work the first time, and he happily agreed to let me try.  Alas, however, the doors refused to budge.  And the alarms continued.

Finally, the lone security guard on duty in the building arrived, making his usual rounds.  Seems the alarm had been confined to this particular lobby, and he never heard a thing wherever it was that he had been.  He quickly explained that doors were not going to operate in any way until he entered the code to turn off the ever-sounding alarm.  Before anyone could sarcastically encourage him to do just that (Not that I would have actually said anything, mind you), he hurried over to the very punch-pad that the youngster had been loitering near and tapped in his master code.  And mercifully, the alarms stopped.  The trapped custodians backed away from their respective doors, which then opened as usual to let them back in, as if nothing out of the ordinary had ever occurred. 

Within seconds Josh and the boys arrived from the rear, having heroically made their way through the hazards of the back of the hospital.  As thrilled as they were to see me, they were more than ready to meet their new Brother.  We ushered them into the room and both of them rushed over to Christi and Luke, gently caressing his face and tapping his little body.  They greeted him warmly and hugged their Mommy and presented him with the birthday cake they had helped make and the cards they had worked so hard on.  Later one, when Caleb he finally got some one-on-one time with his baby brother, he gently said in his very best, brand new big brother voice, “Hi, Luke.  I love you.  Are you all better?”  Oh, and in the interest of fairness, I have to include a quotation from Zakary as well.  He was quieter in the hospital room, though none the less gentle and loving.  But he did come up with a zinger later on, after we had returned to the house for the evening and were preparing for bed.  Chris was in Nani mode, encouraging them to get pajamas on and the like.  At one point Zak passed me in the hall.  With a conspiratorial grin he glanced from side to side and whispered to me, “I don’t have to brush my teeth because there is no one here to tell me to do it.”  I sure admired his spunk.  But guess how that played out with Nani?

Psalms 118:17 says, “I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done.”

Father, I do indeed proclaim that you have done some great and mighty things.  But this week, thank you for the tiny and helpless things as well.  Amen.

Friday, October 25, 2013

October 25 – “Happy birthday, Luke Grayson Vaughan”

A flurry of activity began at our house around 11:26 yesterday morning.  That’s when we received a text from Josh saying, “We’re going to have a baby!  She’s at a 3 and they’re checking us into the hospital.”  Notice, even in his excitement, the correct spelling of “they’re.”  Nice job, Daddy.  I saw the text first, so I called out to Chris, “Let’s go.”  She knew immediately what that meant, so we kicked into high gear.  She had been cleaning house for home group, so she headed for the shower.  But first she helped Mom into her clothes for the day and got her situated on the couch.  Then she called Jennifer to come on over and stay with Mom.  And … of course, this was the day that Jennifer didn’t have her car with her.  That added another level of frenzy to our preparations.  I texted Kel to see if he or Christina could come over until Jennifer could get here.  He texted back that he would go get her for us, and that became the new plan.  We had to call Nathan to bring him into the picture, because we were supposed to pick up Cailyn from school and he was on duty.  Always the reassuring one, he insisted that he would take care of it, and urged us on our way. 

Next, I let Cory know that he would have the service at Seaside Sunday.  And I do mean the service.  Jimmy can’t be there either, so he has responsibility for music as well as preaching.  He can handle it, though.  He used to prepare like that for the youth group all the time, so I knew the church was in good hands.  I was sent on a quick WalMart run.  No surprise there.  We needed some milk and some things for Mom.  While I was out I topped off the gas tank.  That was a little bit of my Dad coming out in me, I guess.  Meanwhile, back at the ranch, er, house, the packing began.  It is always hard to pack when we are leaving the Island for a while during this strange season (in other places, at least) called Fall.  Will it be cold?  Will it be stifling hot?  I know we were going to be in Texas, but it is so hard to predict the weather anywhere off the Island.  And for how long?  We were going to help with caring for Zak and Caleb so Josh could spend as much time as possible at the hospital with Christy and Luke, so would we just need enough to get through the weekend?  A week, maybe?  How about a coat?  Light jacket or heavier?  At least Hurricane Ike thinned out our options in that department.  Grab the pillows.  Put a few root beers and Dr. Peppers in the ice chest along with some fruit.  Pack up the computer.  Phone chargers.  Camera.  Camera charger.  Book to read in the car.  Crossword puzzle book for … well, because I like to do crossword puzzles and they help put me sleep every night.  Hedge clippers.  Limb trimmers.  Hey, we never got around to that part of the to-do list when we went last time.  Blow-up mattress and electric air pump.  Oh, and sheets for the mattress.  All the while checking for text updates from Josh and peeking at the front door to see if Kel and Jennifer had arrived.  Somewhere in there we managed to eat a quick turkey sandwich and some Cheetos.  Gotta have those Cheetos.  I tossed all the little stuff into my briefcase.  I’m still not sure what all is in there.  The stuffed light sabre Anne made for Luke was on top, though.  That was important.  And a flashlight.  Always be prepared.  I was pretty sure my wallet was in there somewhere.  Oh, and some money.  We might actually have to eat again at some point. 

Not long after we got the last thing loaded into the car, Kel and Jennifer arrived.  Chris flew through her usual instructions routine.  That usually takes forever, but this time it went amazingly fast.  We were finally on the road by 1:30 or so.  And then the really hard part of the waiting began.  Oh, we were making good progress.  Chris was driving, and I heard an occasional, “Oh, you better get out of my way” or something like it, when traffic got congested.  I started reading the book I brought along, but as is my custom, I fell asleep somewhere in Houston.  There was nothing we could do to get there any faster (nothing legal, anyway), and the baby would arrive any sooner than God intended, so for the next three and a half or four hours all we could do was wait.  Better than sitting in the waiting room, I guess.  At least this way there was scenery.  I have to admit I did get a little frustrated with our google maps lady.  She was always several miles behind where we actually were in telling us the route, so she really wasn’t much help.  I guess we were moving too fast for the GPS signal to keep up with us.  Not that we were speeding.  The speed limit through there was 75 most of the way, and that GPS voice was only going 60 or 65. 

When we finally arrived in Waco, we were counting on that google voice a little too much, I think.  Chris kind of remembered where the hospital was, so we trusted our instincts and we were doing really well.  Until we missed the turn for the hospital.  That meant driving on to the next exit and turning around.  We finally did reach our destination, and I hit the text I had already typed, “We are in the parking lot.”  And remarkably, at virtually the same instant, a text from Josh came through:
“Luke is here!  Mom and baby are doing great!  6lb 8oz  19 in.”  I would surmise from the use of exclamation points that somewhere in that hospital was a very happy and somewhat excited Daddy.  It took no surmising to know that a certain Nani and DadDad were excited. 

We made our way inside and through the security door just as Josh was on his way to invite the grandparents in to meet Luke.  This timing was not too shabby after all.  We joined Christi’s parents and went into the birthing room.  Christi was holding the little guy.  She looked gorgeous, as usual.  Everyone gathered around her and the picture-fest began.  Luke was awake and took in the activity with a sort of detached interest.  After allowing us time for our initial oohing and awing and snapping photos, Josh gathered us all in a circle and prayed a very sweet Daddy prayer, thanking God for his protection and love.  And then the holding began.  Individual times for each grandparent to interact personally with this new little addition to the family.  When my turn came, I resisted the urge to hold him up to the sky like Mustafa or whatever that baboon’s name was.  Instead I opted for a quiet prayer of praise and thanks, an assurance to Luke that DadDad loved him, and as I traced a small cross on his forehead with my thumb, I prayed his own personal Aaronic blessing over him:

“Luke, may the Lord bless you and keep you; may the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; may the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”  (Numbers 6:24-26)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

October 24 – “Cauter-bury Tales”

We had to make a trip into Texas yesterday, Houston, to be exact.  So no baby yet on the Waco front.  Well, at least no baby with the Vaughan last name.  Well, at least no baby with the Vaughan last name and direct blood ties to me.  Well, Christi is still great with child as far as we know.  And if she is not and Josh hasn’t called us, then he’ll have to deal with his mother.  So … we went to Houston.

The reason for our foray into the far reaches was a doctor’s appointment for Mom.  We took her to see her Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist so he could check out all the nosebleeds she has been having.  Fortunately the appointment wasn’t until three in the afternoon, so she was beginning to wake up and be fairly alert.  We loaded up the wheelchair and walker and made the trek without too much trouble. 

The doctor did his check with almost no difficulty from Mom.  Quite a change from the regular doctor visit.  She balked big time when they approached her nose then.  This time she was obviously uncomfortable, but seemed to be all right with the process.  He asked us if she had been showing any signs or symptoms of allergies, but she really hasn’t at all.  He said the nose looked like she had been having lots of allergy-type trouble.  Then he asked if the bleeding had been from the front or back of the nose.  How would we know?  I figured if it was in back maybe she would have been spitting it out, so I finally decided that since it was coming out in geysers from her nostril that it must be from the front.  He seemed to agree. 

His inspection revealed no tumors, but he did find two places that were obviously irritated.  Apparently that was what he had expected, because he pulled out a little vial of silver nitrate.  That’s the stuff they use to cauterize wounds.  He dipped a long Q-tip into the solution and began to touch it to the irritated places.  And got an immediate reaction from Mom this time.  She did really well at first.  But after the third or fourth time she tried to help him, so Chris held her hands.  I think he must have hit the spot, though.  There was definite evidence of blood on the Q-tip. 

Follow-up care?  Oh, that will be fun.  We are supposed to keep it moist.  That means squirting saline solution up in her nose three or four times a day.  Wish us luck with that one, especially in the mornings.  But we will deal with it.  That is certainly better than worrying about major nosebleeds all the time. 

Psalms 118:15-16 says, “Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous: ‘The Lord's right hand has done mighty things!  The Lord's right hand is lifted high; the Lord's right hand has done mighty things!’”

Father, thank you for the medical miracles you have allowed us to discover.  Amen.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

October 23 – “A million dollar idea”

We had some visitors late yesterday afternoon.  Kel is at a conference somewhere up near San Antonio, so Christina brought the boys and Noa over.  She also brought a lasagna for supper, always a plus.  Actually she dropped the lasagna off on her way to the library so Chris could get it going in the oven while they browsed.  I was outside at that point pulling up some stickerburs, and Josiah wanted to join me, but his Mom convinced him that he would have another opportunity when they returned.

They did indeed return just in time for a hearty meal.  And not long after the last bite Josiah remembered the promise.  He was ready to do some exploring outside over in 40 Steps.  That’s his name for the vacant lot next door, that wonderland of dirt and rocks and hidden treasures that is every little boy’s dream play site.  I joined him and Micah for a stint of treasure hunting and creative frolicking.  I was intrigued watching Micah at one point.  He had a large piece of rock or something in his hand, and he was scraping it along the dirt, forming what appeared to be a large roughly diamond-shaped image on the ground.  When the last lines finally met, he called me over to see his masterpiece.  As I arrived, he took up a position at one corner of the diamond.  Without saying a word, he mimicked grabbing something with both hands, whipped them across his body and took off running along the crooked lines.  Of course.  It was a miniature baseball diamond.  I cheered him on as he rounded the bases and scored a home run. 

After a few more at-bats and a dozen or so found shells and interesting rocks, we went back into the house to “check on Mommy.”  It didn’t take Josiah long, though, before he was bored with playing with inside toys and watching Jachin read his graphic novel version of the Iliad.  Fascinating stuff, these graphic novels.  Everyone thinks they are such an exciting new invention, but I looked over Jachin’s shoulder a time or two.  That book was very similar to the old Classics Illustrated series of comic books.  I experienced more than a few of the old masters that way myself.  Keep on reading, Jachin.  Back to Josiah, though.  He approached me about joining him back outside. 

Josiah: “DadDad, would you like to come back outside to 40 Steps with me?”
Yes, he really does talk like that.  Impressive manners, huh?
Me: “But there are too many mosquitoes out there.  I don’t want to feed them any more of my legs.”
He stared at my legs as he pondered that image for a long few seconds.  Suddenly his eyes lit up and a wide grin spread across his face.  It was obvious he had found just the answer for my reticence.
Josiah: “We can feed them ant poo.”
Yes, he really did say that.  I was impressed with his creativity, I must say.  I can’t say as I have ever seen a mosquito sucking blood from an ant.  I didn’t give in too easily, though. 
Me: “If I knew they would eat ant poo, I would for sure go outside with you.”
The wheels started to turn again in his mind, and I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see how he would answer that one.  But his Mom made the “time to go” declaration, so his energies had to refocus on figuring out how he would answer her.  Guess I’ll have to do some investigating on the pest control possibilities of ant excrement.  Hey, I could end up a millionaire.

Psalms 118:14 says, “The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.”

Father, I never cease to be amazed at the creative power of the unfettered childhood mind.  Help me regain some of that.  Amen.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

October 22 – “Just like Daddy”

I had one of those “child vs. the parental unit-types” confrontations yesterday with Cailyn.  In this case I was the parental unit-type in case you were having a hard time deciding.  I was assigned the responsibility of picking her up from school.  Not usually a problem there.  She really likes school and always has something exciting to share with us about her day.  In fact yesterday she greeted me by handing off her backpack and saying something was fantastic.  But the noise level is incredible right there in front of the school, with children waiting for parents, and parents arriving on foot and by car.  Mix that clamor with my two hearing aids and there is not much I can hear beyond a steady drone of noise.  But for some reason I was able to pick out the word fantastic.  Sounded like something went well for her.  I found out later that she had helped one of the teachers and he told her that she was fantastic.  Great discovery he made there, by the way. 

So we made our way away from the den of din and approached the street in front of the school.  I sensed the impending altercation before it actually happened, so I made Cailyn an offer.  “Do you want to hold my hand or part of your backpack while we cross the street?”  I had read her correctly.  She pouted up her bottom lip, pulled away from me, and stepped into the street.  Now safety is not a negotiable issue with us.  It trumps all else, even embarrassment, so I followed quickly and took her hand.  She did her best to fight me, but I carefully explained that there was no discussion on the safety issue.  Her ire riled up instantly, and she began to cry.  Never a happy time for a grandparent, right?  I held my ground – and her hand – until we crossed the street, and then I let go.  But the damage had been done.  Only four years old and already she felt humiliated in front of her peers.  Of course it never occurred to her that every one of them had a hand that was safely tucked into the palm of their parental unit-types.  I’m pretty sure they understood the rules of safety. 

Her cry quickly gave way to frustration and downright anger.  She dug in her heels on one side of the car, crossed her arms, looked at the ground and communicated with her body language that she wasn’t going anywhere.  That’s when the verbal war of words began.  But would it be considered a war if I didn’t fight back?  She went through a laundry list of lashing out, and I responded quietly each time:

“I wish you weren’t my DadDad anymore.” 
“I still love you no matter what.”
“I want Nana to come pick me up.”

“She loves you too, and she’s waiting for you at our house.”
“I want my Daddy.”
“He loves you too, but he’s at work.”
“I want to see my Mommy.”
“She loves you too, and she’ll be at our house in a few minutes to pick you up.  Whenever you are ready we can go meet her there.”

Before long it became evident that she was desperately seeking a way out of the situation that would allow her to save face.  So my middle child, “salvage the situation at all costs and leave everyone feeling happy” syndrome kicked in.  She glanced up at me with longing in her eyes.  I smiled back and in a conspiratorial whisper said, “Oh, and when you are ready, I got something at the store this afternoon that you wanted this morning and we didn’t have.”  Instantly, her demeanor changed.  With a wave of relief, her tears turned to laughter and she ran over to me, asking “What is it?”  I couldn’t resist one final comment, though.  With all the sincerity I could muster, I ventured, “I thought you were mad at me and didn’t want me to be your DadDad anymore.”  Her eyes sparkled as she giggled and leapt into her car seat, “Oh, DadDad, I was just kidding.” 

Ah.  Of course you were.  We headed home to enjoy one of the new poptarts now in the pantry, talking excitedly of dressing as a fire fighter in home center.  Wow.  “Just like Daddy.”

Psalms 118:8-9 says, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.  It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.”

Father, thank you for second chances and “just kiddings.”  Amen.

Monday, October 21, 2013

October 21 – “Monday”

Monday.  Has kind of a gloomy ring to it, doesn’t it?  Especially on a day like today when the skies are dark and cloudy and another week stretches out before you.  But, hey.  Consider where you have just been.  I don’t know what your past week looked like, but you made it through, right?  And today is one more chance you have been given to begin the rest of whatever is next.  Always helps me to change my perspective when I get depressed.  You never know what might happen next, so approach it with a sense of anticipation and excitement.  Today might be the day Luke is born.  Today is the day someone will discover that Jesus is all he needs.  Clouds bring storms.  Storms bring rain.  Rain brings new life.  New life brings excitement.  Monday.  Doesn’t have to be so gloomy after all. 

Still no baby in the Josh and Christi Vaughan house.  I guess Caleb is hanging on to his “youngest” status as long as he can before giving in and accepting the middle child role.  Of course I think he will manage just fine.  He has just the balance of creativity and self- assurance that he needs.  He will find ways to make his presence known and carry the middle child mantle proudly.  Hang in there, Caleb. 

Speaking of storms, the kids’ sermon was an interesting one yesterday.  I told them I had been struggling with something we could talk about, but I couldn’t think of anything.  I really needed their help.  As a result they started suggesting all manner of things we could discuss.  We brainstormed together for a few minutes before I suggested that we think of something that was related to the Bible story we were about to hear.  That way the adults could learn something as well.  I gave them a quick summary of the story – Disciples on a boat in a storm, Peter walking on the water to Jesus, taking his eyes off of him and almost sinking, and crying out for help.  And then it hit me.  I had asked them for help, just like Peter asked Jesus.  And they helped me, just like Jesus helped Peter.  So they were being like Jesus when they helped me.  I thanked them and we prayed together, asking Jesus to help us all be more like him every day.  It was a fun connection to make, and you certainly can’t beat having a goal of being like Jesus.    

Psalms 118:5-7 says, “In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free.  The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?  The Lord is with me; he is my helper.”

Father, thank you for that promise to be there with me.  Oh, and the being set free is a great one, too.  Amen.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

October 20 – “Hisss”

One final anecdote from our Waco trip.  No, still no baby yet.  At one point a decision was made that it was time to play a rousing family game.  There was much discussion between Zak and Caleb as to what that game would be, so we decided to play one of each of their choices.  Zak agreed to wait for his choice of Chutes and Ladders, since he had actually taken Nani in a game earlier.  So we started with Caleb’s choice, a game I personally had never heard of, called Hisss.  That’s not a typo.  It had three “S’s.”  It was a card game where each player draws one card at a time from the master stack.  The cards have portions of a snake drawn on them in various colors, so the idea is to match up the snake portions with other cards already played on the table until a complete snake is formed.  Whoever finishes the snake gets to keep the cards in that stack, and the person with the most cards at game’s end wins.  It wasn’t really as complicated as the explanation may sound.  Unless, of course, you have trouble distinguishing between shades of colors, in which case you definitely need help.  But hey, it was a family game, right?  And I did get a lot of help. 

Now to the memorable part of the story.  When Josh got the cards all ready to begin, Caleb interrupted him with this statement: “I think our guests should go first because that’s the politest thing ever.”  Hey, how sweet is that, right?  Of course what he said next was better than that.  He added, “DadDad, you go first because I like you best.”  There you go.  Take that, world.  Somebody likes me.

Psalms 118:1-4 says, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.   Let Israel say: "His love endures forever."  Let the house of Aaron say: "His love endures forever."  Let those who fear the Lord say: "His love endures forever."”

Father, what else can I say but, “Your love endures forever”?  Amen.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

October 19 – “Dreaming”

I had one of the most vivid, yet unusual dreams that I have had in a long time, and I didn’t even take any pain medication before I went to bed.  Not that I particularly understand it, but here it is.  I was in our front yard, tossing rotten fruit into the air and hitting it with a croquet mallet I was using like a baseball bat.  All kinds of fruit.  Satsumas that had fallen off of our tree in the back yard, apples, even a banana, which even in the dream I recalled as seeming kind of weird.  After one particularly crushing blow, I happened to glance at our neighbor’s front porch, and there sat Mom.  I immediately went over to see what she was doing.  She was calmly eating a sausage sandwich.  I asked her where in the world she got it.  She explained that she got it from our house, but it was too spicy hot to eat.  She handed it to me to try a bite.  She was right.  It was one of the spiciest things I had ever tasted.  Just as I was about to race home for some water, she grabbed my arm and quite urgently said, “I want you to go see Deanna Hudson and buy her some jeans and a coke.”  I repeated it back to her, and she affirmed that I had heard her correctly.  Puzzled, I turned to leave, and … I woke up. 

Now that was strange indeed.  Was it a message?  Or perhaps a specific call to task?  I have no idea who Deanna Hudson is.  I do know a sweet lady named Darlene Hutson, but that’s as close as I could come up with when I woke up.  Darlene is the mother of one of the firefighters who came to Seaside when he was a teenager, and she even comes now when she can.  Of course I don’t know what business I would have buying either of them a pair of jeans, but I’d be happy to get both of them a coke.  Oh, well.  Deanna or Darlene or whoever you are, I prayed for you around 3:30 this morning.  Hope all is well with you and yours.

Psalms 117 says, “Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples.  For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.  Praise the Lord.”

Father, thank you for that faithfulness of yours.  There’s no one I would rather count on than you.  Keep watch over Baby Luke and bring him forth in your time.  And once again, meet whatever needs my mysterious dream friend may have.  Amen.