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The Trip from Down There (You Know Where…)

Good Times

The Trip from Down There (You Know Where…)

63 Comments 05 June 2013

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We’re back!  Well, sort of.  If you follow this blog (or used to), you can probably tell that I haven’t been too good at keeping things up to date lately.  I would love to tell you differently, but unfortunately this isn’t likely to change in the near future, though I will really try to post more updates.  The good news is the reason for the absence – my work as owner of Eliot J Construction has picked up considerably which keeps me fully occupied during the work week and the kids are at an age now where we are running around quite a bit with them which keeps me pretty well occupied on the weekends.  In short:  a busier work week which enables me to better support my family + more time with the family on the weekends which enables me to keep my head clear and heart full = much less time to write blog updates.  We do still update the Facebook and Twitter pages regularly though so we haven’t completely dropped out and have no intention or desire to do so.  Being able to share our lives with friends, family, and supporters through all of the various media available to us has been richly rewarding and we have not grown tired of being engaged in this way!  We will continue to do our best to share with you the stories, the chaos, the fun, the struggles, and everything in between that comes with a life with five plus one…promise!

Here are a couple of quick updates before I get into the story of the trip from you know where…

The kids are growing like weeds, as they are known to do, and life is as crazy and hectic as ever.  No, it hasn’t gotten any easier yet, just different.  But life is as it always has been, probably more so in this regard – a lot of fun!  Seriously, with 5 uniquely goofy, creative, curious, needy, active 4-year-olds running around the house following their superstar big sister on adventures big and small, there is no shortage of fun and laughter in our home.  Life is equally demanding though as fights erupt with regularity, meltdowns over trivial matters are all too frequent, nights are restless, bladders are tiny, accidents of all kinds are common, and messes occur in the blink of an eye…all of this and then some seemingly every hour of every day!

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Eliot will be graduating from the 3rd grade in a few days and in anticipation of the hot Texas summer she cut her hair short for the first time.  She loves the new look which go great with her new braces…super cute!  The quints will be headed off to kindergarten in a little over a year’s time.  The 5 have been in a mom’s day out program two times a week which has been great.  Their teachers are awesome, the kids love going, and the 6 hours/week of free time that Casey gets out of the deal is priceless!  This past spring, Eliot McKenna resumed her role as the Internationally Known Soccer Superstar  with another successful soccer season and two of the kids, Jack and Britton, hope to follow in her footsteps this fall.  Lila, Brooklyn, and Ryan have chosen to dance and will be taking ballet when the other kids start up with soccer.  Yep, our crazy busy life is about to get crazier, busier, and probably a bit more chaotically cute, as always!!

I guess to sum it all up – life is good, God is great, and our kids are crazy!!!!  Now, onto the story of the trip from below…way below……….

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Ok, I have to admit…it wasn’t that bad.  We actually had a good time and came home with some fantastic memories of our time away.  We relaxed, we slept in, we strolled casually (I honestly cannot remember the last time I strolled casually!), we ate great food, embarked on adventures, and enjoyed the glory of God’s creation all around us.  In many ways, it was everything a weekend getaway without the kids ought to be and we are already looking forward to the next one.

I booked the trip without telling Casey and surprised her on Mother’s Day with the news.  On Memorial Day weekend we were to drive up to Denton, drop off the kids and the dog at the grandparents’ house, then head to the airport for 2 nights and 3 days in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the most enchanted of locales in the “Land of Enchantment.”  It was perfectly planned, perfectly timed, and perfectly matched to our increasing need for time away from the constancy of the responsibilities that define our life.  If only things would have stayed perfect……and it didn’t take long for it to go all wrong!

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Thursday night, 11:00, Casey and I are crawling into bed after a long road trip from Austin to Denton, getting the kids settled and put to bed, and making last minute preparations for our flight the next day.  We were to get up at 5:00 am on Friday, leave by 6:00 before the kids got up, and get the getaway started early.  No sooner had our heads hit the pillow did we know that this trip was not going to get off to the best of starts.  It started with Britton – she couldn’t sleep.  Then she had to potty.  Then she had to poop.  Then her tummy hurt.  Then she just wanted to fuss because that’s what Britton does.  Then Jack had to potty.  Then he just started yelling for no good reason because that’s what Jack does.  Then Lila couldn’t sleep, had to go potty.  Then Britton again, don’t remember why.  Then again and again and again.  In the six hours between 11:00 pm Thursday night and 5:00 am Friday morning, our kids woke us up 11 times.  Six hours, 11 wakeup calls………..11 wakeup calls!!!!  I think I got two hours of uninterrupted sleep; Casey wasn’t so richly blessed.  At 5:00 am, my head was throbbing, my joints were aching, my eyes felt like someone had been poking them with their finger for several hours on end, and our little getaway was already in danger of getting away from us.  Nonetheless, our spirits were not to be broken so easily and we headed off to the airport leaving our cares behind!  Nothing was going to stop us from relaxing and having a good time!!

We made it to our hotel with no trouble, checked in, dropped off the bags, and though we were both dead tired we hit the streets of Santa Fe in search of a good time……it was a struggle.  Don’t get me wrong, Santa Fe did not disappoint – the weather was beautiful, the restaurant we ate at was fantastic, the people were friendly, blah, blah, blah…did I mention we had less than two hours of sleep the night before because 3 of our 6 kids decided to do everything in their power to make us hate them??  Fortunately for the kids they didn’t succeed, but neither did we in our efforts to put it behind us and carve out a relaxed, happy time.  We powered through, took some pictures, bought a few trinkets…….and got into bed at 8:45.  And that’s when things suddenly got better, much, much better!

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The sheets were soft, the down comforter was fluffy, and the sleep came easy, 9 glorious uninterrupted hours of zzz’s plus an hour of simply staying in bed, eyes closed yet fully awake, enjoying the silence of a domicile that contained only two people both over the age of….well, neither of them were kids!  This is what getting away was all about and this was worth all of the trouble it took to get here!!!

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The rest of the day did not disappoint.  We decided to take a road trip out to Angel Fire and see what adventures we could get ourselves into in that little part of the world.  After a leisurely, picturesque, windows-down drive through the mountains, we arrived in time for lunch at the base of Angel Fire ski resort.  We had no plans, but quickly came up with something to fill the day.  I’m not sure how I pulled this off, but somehow I convinced Casey to strap on a helmet, elbow/forearm pads, and knee/shin pads, load a downhill mountain bike onto the back of a ski lift, and hop on with it to get to the top of a 10,000+ foot tall mountain before pointing her tires downhill and rumbling down the mountainside over rocks and curves, dirt and dangers of all kinds.  IT WAS AWESOME!!!!!  Neither of us had done anything like this before and had no mountain biking experience, but we were able to not only make it down alive, but do so with only one scrape on Casey’s thigh from a little tumble she took near the top.  By the time it was over, we were both sweaty, covered with dirt, and smiling from ear to ear!  We hit the road back to the hotel, cleaned up, grabbed some dinner, then headed back to our gloriously peaceful slice of heaven (otherwise known as our hotel room) for another great night of uninterrupted sleep…..nothing better!

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And then it all came crashing, clanging, banging, and screeching to a halt and it all ended with one little text message.

From Casey’s mom, 7:30 am, Sunday morning:  “Casey, I hate to bother you with this on your vacation, but I feel I have no choice.  Lilly Belle has been throwing up all night and this morning she won’t stand up or move at all.  I’m afraid she must have eaten something in the yard and her intestines are blocked.  I don’t know what I should do, but she is in very bad shape.”

NNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  (That’s pretty much all I remember doing for the next several hours.)

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Let me tell you something about Lilly Belle – she’s a great dog and we love her dearly, but she’s a dog and therfore she can be really, really stupid in spite of her breed’s supposed intelligence.  She is half golden retriever and half poodle – a combination of two of the smartest dog breeds in the world and through her training, etc. she has proven to have some smarts…dog smarts.  But she’s still a dog and dogs as they relate to humans are stupid.  They can be trained to do really smart-seeming things, but left to their own devices, dogs are as stupid as stupid gets.  Loveable, cute, adoreable, wonderful in many ways, but dumb as dirt on a lollipop when compared to the intelligence of even some of the dumbest humans around.  There are exceptions, of course.  Lilly is no exception.

Lilly has a fiendish appetite for eating two things that no human no matter how intellectually challenged would ever dare to ingest – rocks and socks.  She doesn’t chew the socks up, she swallows them whole.  By absurd and wholly incomprehensible contrast, she chews on rocks and sometimes one slips down her throat.  We’ve found both socks and rocks in her poop and her vomit since she was a pup and we have been unable to get her to stop eating these things as well as incapable of keeping all of the rocks and socks away from her.  We feared that this dreadful day might someday happen, but of course we were completely stunned when the day actually arrived……at 7:30 am…..in a hotel room……in Santa Fe, New Mexico……while we were supposed to be getting away from our stressful lives for a tiny little 3 day getaway……..

Goodbye weekend getaway, hello stress bomb!!!  Goodbye casual stroll, hello frantic texting!!  Goodbye savings account, hello to even more belt-tightening!!  Goodbye clear headed peaceful tranquility, hello questions with bad or no answers, difficult decision-making, and partial solutions!!  What do we do?  How much is this going to cost?  What if she doesn’t survive the condition or the treatment?  If we spend the money and she does survive how are we going to prevent this from happening again?  Wasn’t I supposed to be sipping a mimosa and meandering through an art gallery right about now????

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Well, we did the frantic texting and got the bad answers – yes it is an intestinal blockage, yes she will die without surgery, yes it will cost way more than we can afford, yes dogs often swallow things they shouldn’t, no there isn’t a good way to keep them from doing so.  Fantastic.  Then we made the difficult decision – yes go ahead with the surgery.  I never got that mimosa, but I did meander through a few art galleries…it was an angry meander though, nothing like the casual stroll of the day gone by!

Our flight left later that day and we eventually got back to our parents’ house around 9:00 that evening.  Lilly had made it through the surgery – a rock, a sock, and a ponytail holder were extracted from her small intestine (way to pack it all in, Lilly!) – and she was in recovery. The kids were thrilled to see us and we were……..um, yeah, we were thrilled to see them too….yeah, that’s what we’ll go with.  I wish I could say the drama was over by that point, but apparently our bad luck had not run out quite yet.  Lilly was not recovering well and needed to stay on IV’s for at least another day (it ended up being another four days) and yours truly came down with a stomach bug just in time for the drive back to Austin.  Faaaaannntttaaaasssssstttiiiic!!!!

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So we did get some good sleep on our trip and had some great weather.  We also had a near-perfect day on Saturday; I honestly do not know how it could have been any better.  The kids had an absolute blast with Nana, Bappa, Summer, Angel, Grandma, and Grandpa and that always gives our hearts a smile.  And I got 64 consecutive hours alone with Casey Ann.  And even though our time together was mostly spent either sleeping, sleep-deprived, or stressed out of our minds, time alone with my lady is absolutely priceless and I’ll take it under any conditions.  Lilly did survive, finally came home from the vets, and will be coming back to Austin in a few more days.  Our bank account will survive as well (though, unlike Lilly Belle, it will take more than a few days for it to recover).  So all’s well that ends well, right?  Right?  Right??!  RIGHT???????!!!!

God bless,

Ethan

 

Marriage Counseling

Good Times

Marriage Counseling

11 Comments 18 July 2011

Casey and I spent last week in an intense, 24-hours-a-day, life changing marriage counseling session last week and it was tough!! We struggled, we fought, we laughed, we learned new things about each other, and we firmly positioned our marriage on solid ground for the foreseeable future. Thanks to a few (or five) little changes in our lives, it has been nearly 5 years since we had submitted ourselves to such a grueling effort and it was long overdue. We needed a refresher, a kick in the seat, a jump start, and a reminder of just how important our relationship is to our lives and to our family’s health and if you haven’t done the same for your own marriage and family in awhile, I highly recommend that you do.

Alright so maybe I’m not being entirely forthcoming here. What we actually did was go on vacation…just the two of us…NO KIDS ALLOWED!! Taking nothing away from marriage counselors and those who have sat in their chairs hoping to repair, revive, and restore their relationships, I must say that a couples-only trip to somewhere, anywhere actually, can go a long way to achieving the same goals…….

Our chosen destination was Cabo San Lucas on the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, the last strip of land that separates the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortes. We’ve been to Mexico a few times and absolutely loved it – the culture, the beaches, the diving, the people – everything about a Mexican beach vacation is incredible! But we have never been to Cabo, the most Americanized Mexican resort town, so we were a little wary of what we might find when we arrived. And I am happy to say that other than some overzealous timeshare/transportation providers at the airport who wanted us to defy the laws of economics, physics, and humanity in order to get to our resort, Cabo did not disappoint in any way!

We spent a day on an excursion to the famous arch and another day 60 feet underwater doing an open-water dive; we spent another day doing a whole lot of nothing and another on a fishing boat in the Pacific surrounded by porpoises as far as the eye could see. We went to the market, we went to the beach, and we went to the pool. We dined at the resort and we made our way to a few cantinas for some local flavor. I got pummeled by the massive waves, filling my shorts and my lungs with sand and saltwater, and I got stung by a jellyfish I never saw (on the face!), but neither fazed me a bit because the beaches were too grand, the sky was too clear, and the lady by my side was far too amazing!!!

All-in-all we just took the time to focus on each other without all of the distractions and responsibilities that all of you parents out there know all too well. It was fun, it was relaxing, it was refreshing and revitalizing, but most of all it was vitally necessary! All kidding about marriage counseling aside, I have to say that if you haven’t done something like this lately with your mate, you need to stop reading these words right now and start planning your getaway immediately!!

We have heard from so many people (most with far fewer children I might add) who say that they have never taken a parents-only vacation since their kids were born or that they can’t even find time for a date night or some other sort of thing like that. WHAT?!! Are you kidding me?? Sorry to be so blunt, but if you care about your marriage and you care about your kids then YOU MUST DO THIS!! Casey and I firmly believe that our marriage is the foundation on which this family survives and just as the foundation of any structure needs maintenance and occasional repair so does your marriage. And if you do not take the time to maintain your marriage then what are you teaching your kids about its importance? And what will be left of it when the kids are grown and gone??

Alright, I’ll get off of my soapbox now. And please don’t get me wrong – if you are one of those who hasn’t taken the time for a parents getaway, I’m not coming down on you. I know, it’s hard…it’s hard to plan, it’s hard to find the time and the money, it’s hard to be gone from the kids, and it’s hard to get things back in order when you get back. And it’s an easy thing to put aside when the daily demands of life deny you the right to relax…especially when your life is like ours – driven in the fast lane, your hands on the wheel of a car packed full of kids!! We just believe strongly that the marriage relationship has to be the first priority if any family is going to survive and thrive in this dastardly, devious, world of ours which is too often anti-marriage and anti-family. So in the words of Nike, the goddess of tennis shoes and other athletic apparel, “Just do it!”

Wait, one more thing…I can’t get out of here without a HUGE, GINORMOUS thank you to Nana, Summer, and Angel, Grandma, Grandpa, and all of the volunteers who chipped in to take care of the Six Pack while we were away!! We cannot thank you all enough for your love and support of our family!!

God bless,

Ethan

Good Times

Baby Dedication This Sunday…(after our mini-vacation to Six Flags)!!!

2 Comments 13 August 2009

Alright, the original three are headed south again for another mini-vacation. Casey, Little Miss Sunshine, and I are headed to San Antonio in about one hour to begin our trip!! We are headed to the Riverwalk tonight for some good mexican food, a couple margaritas, and a good amount of sweating in the August heat. Tomorrow, Six Flags Fiesta Texas is the destination for some roller-coaster riding, water parking, and more sweating in that danged ol’ August heat!!! We come back Saturday to a house full of babies, volunteers, and grandmas and grandpas (and hopefully escape that crazy Texas heat)!! Thank you to Tricia and the Harrison family along with all of the incredible “helpers” (that’s what Eliot calls the baby volunteers) who are making this trip possible!!!!

And then the big event, the moment we’ve been waiting for since it was scheduled in early June – the babies’ dedication to the church happens this Sunday! I cannot begin to express how excited we are about this day!! Not only will it be our first real venture out into public with the entire family, it will be the Fab Five’s first appearance at Riverbend Church which has been such a strong supporter of our family during this incredible time. We will all be up onstage for both services, 9:45 and 11:15, along with our superstar volunteer, Tricia Harrison, to introduce the family. The service will also include a couple of cool little extras prepared by the Riverbend staff…very exciting!!!!!

I feel a little bit out of place (in other words, a little girly) commenting on this next aspect of the day, but I have to mention what the babies will be wearing for the big show. A high school friend of Granda Bill’s, Beth Lewallen, made dresses for the girls and a suit for Jack out of Casey’s wedding dress…seriously, that is really cool!! The dresses are absolutely adoreable, Jack will be looking totally dapper, and I am pumped because I no longer have to lug that silly dress around every time we move!! Ok, really, what a great idea! On top of that, she included a monogrammed handkerchief for all of the babies – and one for Eliot, too – to be worn in their own weddings…like 40 years from now! And then on top of that she also made a pillow out of the gown’s bodice to be used to by the ring bearers in each of their weddings…which will all happen at least a year or two after I am dead and gone!! Huge, GINORMOUS thank yous to Beth for doing this for us!!!!!

So come on out for a wonderful, happy time in celebration of these five little miracles as we dedicate them to the care of the church and as we dedicate ourselves to raising them up in a Christian home! We loved the experience of doing this for Eliot when she was a baby and really value the symbolism and importance that this event will hold in our lives as a family!!

God Bless,
Ethan
http://www.joneslife.net/

Good Times

The Original 3 Head South

Comments Off 12 July 2009

Here are a few pics from our mini-vacation July 2nd and 3rd. We had a blast playing in the sand and the surf (though I think Eliot preferred the hotel pool) then cooled off later taking in Ice Age 3 – Dawn of the Dinosaurs in 3d. It was great to get a small taste of what our life used to be like before diving head first back into reality on the 4th!!

God Bless,
Ethan


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