Thursday, October 30, 2008

Being Ostertag

I know some of you could care less about our dog and how he's adjusting. But he's a Kandt, so here's his Khronicle.

I already mentioned how happy I was with how Tag managed the trip here. And I can't say he acts stressed out about the move or anything. In fact, at the moment, he's in his usual position -- sleeping lazily on the couch. (No, he's not supposed to be on the couch, but we moved his blanket that usually covers "his chair" to his new bed, so he doesn't know where to go anymore.)

And that kind of sums up Tagger right now. He doesn't know where to go. Or where to "go". I'm cleaning up some kind of dog pee or poop in the house about every other day. It's getting quite old and very frustrating to have our newly cleaned carpets so quickly desecrated.

I'm not sure yet what his problem is. Some of it, I'm guessing, is that he just doesn't know yet how to signal to us that he needs to go out. The doors to the outside aren't as prominent in our living area here, and he hasn't developed a habit for that yet.

Part of the problem, also, is the lack of fencing. We had an electric fence in NJ, so he we could just let him out and leave him until we heard him scratching to come in. Now, somebody has to take him out on a leash whenever he has business to do -- and "leash" to Tagger means "oh boy, oh boy, fun, fun time running around the neighborhood!", not "do your business and get your mama inside out of the cold and wind". We did buy one of those stakes to attach him to in the yard, but he's pulled it up twice now. Stubborn mutt.

The cat that used to live in this house may be a factor as well. Maybe he's marking his territory. My room. My carpet. Stay away, nasty feline.

Plus, he's thirteen. He's old. He doesn't have as much control as he used to. And now he's got stairs to climb up and down when he has to pee, which is cumbersome. And I'm not ruling out the possibility that he's just letting us know his opinion on the recent disruption in his life. I can relate to the sentiment some days.

Any dog-lovers with great tips for us are invited to comment. We love our puppy, but I'm starting to wish I'd left him with the house in Sturbridge. Those carpets already needed to be replaced . .

Monday, October 27, 2008

There's No Place Like . .

As I was putting Leslie to bed last night, she had tears brimming in her eyes and she said, "I wanna go home . . "

Eastin called me up to her room about an hour after she turned her lights off to go to sleep. She had red eyes and a pouty bottom lip. "Mom . . I miss New Jersey!" And the tears started to fall.

I had the same symptoms yesterday morning while I was getting ready for church. Makes it hard to put on make-up.

We're all suffering from homesickness and friendsickness. We started back to school this morning, but I had to force it to happen. Most of our time was spent working on the sofa, me with an arm around each girl, trying to comfort them and keep them focused on their work at the same time.

I have a meeting tomorrow night with the moms in the homeschool support group, so hopefully I'll meet some new families there with possible playmates for the girls. Lexi next door has been great (in fact, she's over playing with the girls now), but they need more than one good friend. I know I asked many of you to pray about this, and I'm going to ask again.

Please pray that Leslie will find at least one or two "BFFs" -- girls that she has a lot in common with, that she can share secrets with. She left a couple of these in NJ. And every teenage girl needs her BFFs.

Please pray that Eastin will find playmates that get her -- that understand her, appreciate her, enjoy her, and seek out her company.

In fact, if we're going to pray boldly, I would love to meet a family or two that mixes well with our whole family. Dads that enjoy each other, moms that connect, kids that get along. Keith and I haven't had any real "couple friends" probably since we were in the singles group in Wichita. That's going on two decades now.

Everyone needs a BFF, after all.

Friday, October 24, 2008

HSM (how many of you know what that stands for?)

To begin with, several of you have emailed me about some of my blog posts because you said you had trouble getting in to make a comment. As I said, I'm a novice at all this -- but I think I have changed my settings now so that anyone can make comments, even without a User ID or whatever. So, if you had trouble in the past, try again.

And please do leave comments! I'm an approval junkie, you know -- I need to hear everyone tell me how wonderful I'm doing at this. :) Or, just to know that someone's bothering to read. (I wish this had one of those things that tells you how many people have viewed your site . . . or, maybe not . . .)

Anyway, on to the latest news. In case you haven't heard, High School Musical 3 opens today. (My fellow parent friends are saying, "Who hasn't heard?" Everyone else is saying, "What high school musical?") My daughters have been looking forward to this day for over a year. They (especially Leslie) feel a particularly personal connection to the franchise because in Springfield, we went to church with Lucas Grabeel, the actor who plays Ryan (Sharpay's brother, the kid with all the hats). But that's just an excuse -- they'd be HSM freaks anyway.

I know how snooty some of my "real" theater friends (LOL!) are about High School Musical. (Even just some of my "real" childless adult friends.) Here's the deal. Yes, it's a Disney channel movie, but for its genre, it has no equal. Yes, it's trite and cliched, but it's also peppy and funny and fun and the music is catchy and the dancing is fantastic (and gets better with each show).

Leslie was in the stage production at drama camp this summer. I was kind of dreading that because I thought I'd had enough of the show. But actually, the stage show was even more fun to watch. Really! Everyone singing and clapping along -- it's been a long time since I had that much plain and simple fun at the theater. I'm really hoping that I get a chance someday to direct that show, or at least choreograph it.

So, no pity is necessary for me -- I'm actually looking forward to seeing the 3rd installment this evening. I just hope the theater isn't full of screaming fanatical girls -- THAT can be exhausting. (Just imagine what it's like for poor Lucas . . )

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A New Nest

I love my new house! But it is rather intimidating. As I told a friend or two already, I find myself walking around here thinking, "I just don't have enough class to live in a place like this."

Although everyone reading this has an open invitation to come visit us (but do give me a few days warning), I understand that my NJ friends may not be able to make that trip. (But you should try, really!) My Facebook buddies can see pics of the house on my profile (although those were taken when the former owners were living here). When we get all of our various computer cords found and sorted out, I'll ask Keith to show me how to upload some house pictures here to the blog.

In the meantime, let me tell you some features of the Kandts' new home in Siouxland.

- A walkout basement -- which makes it look like a three-story house from the back, which is why those who have seen the pictures keep saying "It's HUGE!" It's actually not bigger than our NJ house, and has even less real storage space. (Good excuse to get rid of stuff -- see earlier blog.)

- An incredible view from the back deck. I'm sitting here looking at it now from the kitchen table. We're on the south edge of town, so behind us is a hilly pasture area which is turning some lovely fall colors right now and which our neighbors tell us hosts some cattle and the occasional deer.

- A central vacuum system. I plug the hose into one of the various receptacles on the walls throughout the house and vacuum away. I haven't quite decided yet, though, how much preferable this is to my traditional vacuum. It's a really long hose and kind of a pain to carry around.

- A fireplace in the main living room and one in the master bedroom. Our only beef with those is that they are both gas. No wood-burning fireplaces apparently in Sioux City -- at least Keith didn't see a one in the plethora of houses he looked at. That's a bummer. Our family LOVES the smell from a wood-burning fireplace . . and toasting marshmallows. Someone suggested we get one of those outdoor ones. That's a thought . .

- The place is decorated beautifully. The former owners hired an interior decorator and the results are fabulous. That's a blessing, because I have no eye or talent for that kind of thing. (Those of you who visited our NJ home will recall the white walls we had for ten years.) Christopher Lowell, who hosted an interior decorating show I loved years ago, used to say, "If you can dress yourself, you can decorate your house." Well, I'm lucky to dress myself, so the house needed to be dressed before I moved in.

- Top-of-the-line appliances (washer, dryer, fridge, dishwasher) that are not only very energy-efficient (yay, Robin!) and cost-effective, but quite complicated with all the various buttons and options. I'm keeping the manuals out for the foreseeable future.

- A gorgeous, open, curving staircase going upstairs and downstairs, which you can see the minute you walk in the door. Beautiful. Definitely one of the biggest selling points on the house for me. I'm thinking Christmas swags. I'm thinking daughters descending in lovely prom dresses. I'm starting to well up.

Of course, our house only becomes a HOME when we start living, loving and growing in it. Which has been happening already, but that will start in earnest Monday when we rev up the homeschool again. (At least, that's the plan . . but as we know, the best-laid plans of mice and men . . )

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

To Abandon A Child

OK, this has nothing necessarily to do with my own family, but I woke up to a story on the news this morning and felt the urge to comment. I don't know how many of my NJ friends have heard about this because I've only heard about it here in Iowa. Apparently, the Nebraska legislature passed a "safe haven" law in July, where a parent can drop off a child at a hospital and effectively abandon them, no questions asked. Several other states have such laws -- the idea is to give mothers an option besides tossing their newborn in a trash dumpster if they feel they can't care for it.

Nebraska was different, however, because they opened the law up to any minor, which in Nebraska is up to age 19. So, in the last three months, 18 "children" -- about half of them teens or pre-teens -- have been left at Nebraska hospitals by their parents. One unfortunate widower left 9 kids, aged 1 to 17. Just in the last few days, a woman drove from Michigan to Omaha to drop off her teenage son. Now, some Nebraska lawmakers have decided this wasn't such a good idea and want to change the law to specify that the children involved need to be no more than 3 days old.

I had quite a swirl of thoughts and emotions about this issue flying through my head this morning lying in bed.

To begin with, I think it's pretty hysterical that the Nebraska state legislature would think a law like this is a good idea. Was there nobody in this large group of relatively intelligent human beings that foresaw such consequences and was able to sound the alarm? Or did somebody sound it and find themselves ignored?

Then the whole question of the wisdom of a "safe haven" law, even for newborns, troubles me. No, I don't want babies dying in trash dumpsters, but I'm not convinced this is the best solution to the problem. Although, I can't say I know what is the best solution . . .

Then, my attention turns to these families dropping off their teenagers. I'm not sure what to think of these parents. Apparently, most of them said that they were simply unable to handle their children anymore. Obviously, without knowing the specifics of each situation it's hard to judge each case. Yeah, maybe some of them are truly deadbeat loser parents who just won't take responsibility for their kids. But if they're this big of a deadbeat, might the kids indeed be better off in another home? Or perhaps the parents have drug or mental issues. The reason the legislature opened up the law to older minors was in the hopes of alleviating abuse situations.

Or perhaps this parent is genuinely trying to do the right thing and just doesn't have it in them. We all, probably, are aware of some family where the out-of-control, rebellious teenage son is three times the size of his meek, fearful single mom and she has no chance of keeping him in line. I think it's possible that, for some of these parents, this was the most difficult and courageous thing they could have done to help their kids. Again, without knowing the details of each case (which we don't know, because of the "no questions asked" part of this law), it's hard to judge.

And what can you imagine is going through the hearts and minds of these children? It's a sad, sad situation.

I remember when I taught high school, I worked in the at-risk student program, with the kids who were one step away from dropping out of high school altogether. I don't know how many times I called parents to talk about a problem with their student and heard, "They're out of my control. I can't do anything about them. You're completely on your own." So sad.

Back in those years, I remember feeling a calling to not only teach, but to specifically do something to help families like that. Somehow, as I started raising my own children, that fell to the background. Justifiably so, I guess. And actually, I probably needed to go through the struggles of parenting myself before I could really help anyone else anyway. Lord knows how many of the harsh words I spoke about parents back then that I have eaten in the last 12 years!

Anyway, my own personal issues aside, I would love to hear what anyone else thinks about the safe haven situation. As I said, I'm torn in a lot of different directions here . .

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Riverzzz Edge

Wow. Three blogs in eighteen hours. I'm bingeing or something.

So, Riverz Edge Church. The "z" still annoys me. The church motto, on banners at the back of the platform: "No perfect people allowed! No one stands alone! No making out in the back row!" Hmm. I was prepared for something "edgy" after looking at the website. But the guy handing us our program looking like something from ZZTop should have given us a hint that this likely wasn't for us.

I was right about it being loud. Seriously loud. Rock concert loud. Like when the vibrations pound in your chest and you wonder if your heart is still beating in its appropriate rhythm anymore. Electric guitars, full drum set, colored lights flashing on the black walls. For some reason, Scott Koerwer kept coming to mind . .

It was very good music. I would have enjoyed it if I'd been there for a rock concert. But for me, it just wasn't conducive to worship. It apparently was for most of the rest of the congregation, though, so that's cool.

But one of the main reasons I wanted to visit was to see the preaching. They have videos of some of the sermons on the website (, if anyone's interested). They seemed to be very creative. There was a series called "My Dream Home", and the platform had living room furniture on it that the pastor used while he spoke. Another series -- "Pirates: Reclaiming Your Lost Treasure." Like I said, creative.

Unfortunately, we didn't get to hear that pastor. In fact, there was no mention of him -- we're wondering if he's not there anymore. The church is in the process of establishing some kind of satellite relationship with another church in town -- the one we visited last week. So, the sermon we saw was the pastor from that church on a video. Kind of disappointing. Been there, done that.

Anyway, we determined that this is not the church for us. Kind of like Edison finding 199 ways to not make a light bulb. (Keith did enjoy the free bag of popcorn to munch on during the sermon, though.) Finding a church can be a long process.

But I am encouraged to know that there are churches like this in Sioux City. There's a mass of people out there that would never find their way into a traditional church. Glad they have a place here. I may even check out the Saturday evening service once in a while. But I'll take earplugs and sit at the back.

The Lapkes

I haven't written yet about our wonderful new neighbors. The Lapkes. Jeff and Pam. He's president (I think) of a small local bank (great business to be in these days, eh?). She owns her own purse and jewelry store across from the mall, open only on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Sweet deal.

Their 10-year-old daughter Lexi (I think that's how you spell it?) brought us cupcakes the day the movers moved us in. And she played with the girls every day after that until they went to Kansas. Their 14-year-old son, Trey, is cute, friendly, and "very responsible" according to the previous home-owners who recommended him to mow our lawn until we got a riding lawn mower (we have a huge spread of land -- ain't no push-mowing happening here).

Before Lexi came with her cupcakes, Pam brought over a goodie bag for us -- an Iowa State bag that plays the Cyclone theme song when you open it. Ah, it's good to be back in Big 12 territory! I didn't have the heart to tell her we're KU and K-State fans. I suppose we'll root for the Cyclones when they're not playing a Kansas team.

They invited the girls over to sit in their hot tub one evening, since they would have it closed up by the time they get back. They invited me, too, but I declined -- too darn cold to be wet and outside. (The weather does seem to be markedly chillier in Iowa.) The kids jumped from the hot tub to the pool and back again all night in the chilly air. Nutcases. But they had a great time.

Then, the next morning, Lexi came to the door before she left for school with a flask of milk for us for breakfast (I had yet to be able to get to the grocery store) and -- get this -- Pam's cell phone for me to take while I drove the girls to meet their Aunt Vicki. She didn't want me driving that far without a cell. What a gal! How many of you would loan your cell phone for a day to someone you've only known for 48 hours?

[By the way, for those of you who are concerned about my cell phone situation (and I know it's been weighing on you, keeping you awake at night), I bought another and my minutes transferred over. ]

Then on Sunday, we came home from church to find Trey mowing our front lawn, Jeff mowing the back, and Lexi pulling up the thistles that were growing wild all over the yard. They said they were working on their own yard, and knew we didn't have a mower yet . . what great neighbors!

I know many of you have been praying for us to have good neighbors here, so there you go! God is good!


I know I just posted last night, but I'm on a roll here . . :)

Keith and I are visiting a church this morning called Riverz Edge Church. The misspelling annoys me -- too "cute" -- but from the website, it looks like an interesting cross between HOPE and Sojourn. I anticipate it being loud. I must be getting old -- every church we've visited so far has been too loud for my taste.

All but one. Our second trip here, we visited a very traditional, Southern Baptist church, very like the one I grew up in. It was so comfortable and familiar, I felt my blood pressure dropping by the minute. But I also kept thinking, "What's wrong here? Why is this not OK with me anymore?" I've always smugly reminded my Methodist HOPE friends of my status as the resident conservative Baptist (well, Randy and I, but he's further along this road than I am). So I couldn't figure it out.

It wasn't the music . . I love the old hymns sung to a good pianist. It wasn't the people . . they were very friendly, probably the most friendly we've encountered. It wasn't the activities . . they had a couple's retreat, mission work, even a kids' basketball program. It wasn't the smaller congregation . . I don't need a huge church. It wasn't the preaching . . it was Biblical and solid. It wasn't the markedly different atmosphere . . as I said, I found that rather soothing and worshipful. It wasn't the lack of young folks . . that was a problem for us, but it wasn't the specific thing that was bothering me right then. I just couldn't pinpoint it.

Then, toward the end of the sermon, the pastor was talking about discipleship. (All together now HOPE friends: "The process of being conformed to the image . . " yada yada ). He said that discipleship should be "obedience-focused".

And then the alarms went off. I knew what he meant: obedience-focused as opposed to knowledge-focused. Doers of the Word and not hearers only. And I fully agree with that.

But as soon as he said "obedience-focused", the voice in my head yelled, "No, no, no!!! That just makes Pharisees like me! Discipleship should be relationship-focused."

And suddenly, it felt like the last 15 years of my spiritual walk -- First E Free, HOPE Church, friends I've known, mentors I've learned under, Bible studies I've done, experiences I've had, trials I've lived through, books I've read, homeschooling, The Shack, Blue Like Jazz -- it all came into focus. So cool when that happens!

It was quite an epiphany moment. But we won't be going to that church. No kids. But the girls (at least Eastin) will be playing basketball there this winter.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Lettin' Go

I've spent another day unpacking box after box . . after box . . and I'm finding my family and myself to be rather interesting psychological studies.

For one thing, we have just too dang much crap.

Many of you know my penchant for books. As much as I get after my family members (namely Keith and Leslie) for being such packrats, I have to admit, my book collection is perhaps a bit out-of-hand. I have books -- piles of them -- that I've never read. Most of them I intend to read. But some I don't. Why do I keep them? Good question.

Some of them belonged to my parents. (Both of my parents passed away several years ago, for those of you who don't know.) I have big historical overview-type books that my dad had on his bookshelf as long as I remember. I keep thinking, if these books were significant enough to him for him to keep for that long, there's probably something in there of value to me. I should read them! But I don't.

I also have some Grace Livingston Hill novels that my mom apparently enjoyed in her later years (some kind of Christian romance or something, I believe, which you'd find pretty funny if you knew my mom). I keep thinking, Mom enjoyed these, maybe I will, too. I should read them! But I don't. And I doubt I ever will. They went into the garage sale pile.

A couple Christmases ago, I accomplished my first small step of getting over clinging to my parents' stuff. I inherited most of Mom and Dad's Christmas decorations when they died -- mainly, I think, because my sisters were wiser about this stuff than I. Every year, I religiously put them all out (well, most of them anyway--I didn't have room for all of them).

There was a set of three ceramic Christmas angels that I remember always being on the back of our piano when I was growing up. I had them on a shelf in the hallway. Then two of them got knocked off and broken. For a moment, an imaginary knife pierced my heart and I started to cry. Then it occurred to me --you know, I don't like these angels that much. They're not necessarily beautiful, or meaningful . . . they were just Mom's. I don't need these ceramic angels to love Mom and remember her Christmases. Truth be told, I don't need most of this stuff. So I kept the important items and ditched the rest. And it was remarkably liberating!

God willing, I'll be even more liberated before the end of the year. Now, if I can just convince Keith and Leslie . . .

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Back to the 21st Century

We're finally online here in the house! No phone service yet -- I had it for about an hour last night and then something went wrong . . but after so many days of no cable, no internet, no phone, no cell phone, and one day without even a car, we're counting our blessings today. Leslie said she had been starting to feel like Laura Ingalls Wilder. I reminded her that Laura spent most of her days helping her mother around the house -- and she dropped that comparison pretty quickly.

The movers came Monday morning. After a beautiful warm sunny weekend, they started moving in our stuff in 41-degree rainy weather. We were all pretty miserable. But they did get everything in and I've been unpacking for the last three days. I've broken off all of my fingernails, my head is spinning, and my feet are aching. But it's starting to look a little bit like a house someone actually lives in. And this afternoon, I picked up groceries, finally, so we can eat real food again!

I drove to Nebraska City this morning to hand the girls off to Vicki, Keith's sister. She's taking them on to Lindsborg to stay with their grandparents for a few days. I'm all alone. Wow. It's been a LONG time since I've been all alone! And when Keith gets back from his business trip tomorrow night, we'll be all alone TOGETHER. After living in separate states for two months, THAT'll be a treat!

Thank you to everyone who has been leaving comments or emailing me about the blog. It's great to know people are reading! I'm insecure like that, you know. "What if I wrote a blog and nobody read it . . .?" :)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Hawkeye State

We've arrived! Still staying in a hotel, until the furniture joins us on Monday, but the driving is over at least.

A few initial observations on my new home state:

1) There's a lot of corn growing in Iowa. I mean, fields and fields and fields of it.

2) Premium gas is cheaper than regular here. Something to do, I assume, with ethanol and the aforementioned abundance of corn.

3) Although all the pollsters and pundits seem to have Iowa labeled as a solidly blue state, we saw scads of McCain signs as we crossed the state, and not one Obama one.

4) Wind farms are not only smart, but they have a majestic beauty as well. An awesome sight, really. Go, T. Boone -- you da man.

5) Wide expanses of farmland over gently rolling hills are downright beautiful. Certain individual farms, however, stink to high heaven. A few select spots here should be required to own a windmill to blow that stench into the stratosphere.

6) Ain't no marketing gurus naming Smalltown America. We drove through the thriving metropolises of Early, Moville, and Correctionville, among others. (However, I've got the perfect city motto for Moville: "Mo' is Mo' Better!")

7) My NJ friends who have never visited The Heartland simply can't conceive of how expansive and beautiful the sky actually is.

I've used the word "beautiful" several times here. I suppose that bodes well for our stint in the Hawkeye State, huh? :)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Whoever's praying for me to learn patience, CUT IT OUT!

Not a good title, because I'm refusing to let myself be negative tonight. But it got your attention, right? :)

We're lounging in the Quality Inn in Cedar Rapids, watching Harry Potter for the umpteenth time. I won't go through the litany of little frustrations we experienced today -- the construction, the tolls, the traffic (I think driving through Chicago cured me of my complaints about Philadelphia). Instead, I'm going to talk about the little blessings the girls and I were recalling today.

The dog has been a dream. I had all sorts of fears about traveling with him but it's been great. And he's learning to love his bed, which will come in handy in the new house.

The weather's been gorgeous. Bright and sunny. And it's easy to appreciate that when you can see the sky from horizon to horizon.

Pennsylvania was absolutely gorgeous to drive through. The leaves are turning and the mountains were breath-taking.

Despite my lack of a full-night's sleep either night, I haven't been sleepy while I was driving. Tired, but not sleepy really.

And considering all we're going through, the girls have been doing well. Tuesday night was awful -- I mean, I knew there would be tears, but I truly wasn't expecting the avalanche of grief that fell on us all. But we're past that. Just wanting to get settled in one place again. Leslie even commented today how amazed she was that she has yet to get bored in the car.

So, despite the ticket and the lost phone, I shouldn't complain too much. As my dear friend Eileen says, "Apparently the Lord believes I require further sanctification." :)

The final leg of the journey tomorrow . . .

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Day 2 . . ugh . .

Well, we ended our second day of travel in South Bend, Indiana. And frankly, it's been a lousy day! It started with a bad night's sleep -- back to the Ambien tonight. Then, I got a speeding ticket this morning. All my fault . . I was distracted and forgot I had a cruise control on the car. Then when we got to the hotel tonight, I realized I left my cell phone at the last hotel this morning. Grrr!

The experience wasn't all a total loss, though. I managed to squeeze a spiritual lesson out of it all. The policeman who stopped me this morning was none too nice about it. When he went back to his car to write up the ticket, the girls kept asking, "Why does he have to be so mean??" I tried to explain to them that policemen never know what to expect when they stop someone, that they often get people with an attitude who just argue and make excuses for themselves. Which I didn't do. Just then, the cop came back and let me know that he was going to give me a break and not indicate on my ticket that the offense was in a construction zone (save me the doubling of the fine).

I have been talking with the girls lately about the need to humble yourself when you know you've done something wrong -- to 'fess up right away and take the consequences without making excuses. About how Jesus showed love to the "sinners" he hung out with because they never pretended to be anything but sinners. It was the Pharisees who claimed to have it all together that got his wrath. And here came a perfect object lesson for that truth. I just hope it isn't a terribly expensive one . .

I know many of you are praying for us. Please don't stop now! We're only half-way there, and already the dog's sleeping drugs are sounding tempting to me. Lord knows I need a good night's sleep! :)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

And We're Off . .

Greetings, friends! I decided to try this blogging thing . . so people can keep track of our new lives in Siouxland, if they are so inclined. As I type, I'm in a hotel room in Somerset, PA. The kids are in bed and the dog is drugged and sleeping soundly (if the girls behave as well as the dog on this trip, it'll be a breeze).

Leaving NJ was a trial. We spent about an hour sobbing through the house, picking up last minute left-over items. I was afraid that, driving through all my tears, I'd wreck the van before I got out of the state. Then we came to a complete standstill on the Walt Whitman. God is good -- he knew the best way to stop the flow of tears was to get me focused on the things I won't miss in New Jersey. Number one: THE TRAFFIC.

Anyway, I'm still figuring out this blog thing, so be patient with me in the meantime. When I get settled and have more time and more access to my computer expert (Keith), I'll figure out how to make it more aesthetically pleasing. Right now, I'm hoping I can figure out how to actually get it up on the web at all . .

Do write comments and such, so I know you're reading. I already miss you, my NJ friends!