Tuesday, January 31, 2012

2012 Goals - January in Review

At the beginning of the month, I blogged about my goals for the year.  They are not hard-and-fast, pass-or-fail rules, because knowing myself, that just sets me up for failure.  They are, however, targets to shoot for this year, things I want to keep in mind in my day to day life.  Accountability is a good thing, so here I am revisiting how I did on my goals, the first month I set them.

1.  Focus on Scott
Can you believe it, we went on two dates this month?  If you count a political function, we went on three dates (and, let's face it, any meal we get to sit down at, together, without the kids, counts as a date)!  I've also been very intentional in praying for him.  Sometimes (often) I forget that my big, strong man needs my backup prayer support.  I've tried to develop the habit of praying for him on my morning walks, as well as when I'm doing mindless household tasks.  On this goal, I give myself an:

2.   Focus on the Kids
I've been pretty consistent with homeschool this month.  We have done about an hour and a half a day, four days a week for the past few weeks.  Sophie can now make change with pennies and nickels.  She knows about 7 sight words (from the Dolch sight word list), and her fluency / confidence in reading has improved. Xander can now pick up a pair of scissors and hold the properly on his own, and can cut along a line (although he has trouble staying on it).  His one-to-one correspondence (counting) is improving, but he gets confused after number 13.  He can also now dress himself.
I've added many chores to their list (thanks to the handy schedule I made), and am happy to report that cleaning has become part of our morning routine.  They clean with me, and I'm starting to feel like we're a team.  It's a good feeling.  I have my friend Althea to thank for that (you can read the guest post that inspired me about her homeschooling experiences with her kids on my other blog).  They now:  vacuum their rooms and the living room.  Wipe down the toilets and bathroom sinks with Lysol wipes.  Wipe the surfaces in the living room and TV room.  Keep their toys organized.  Set the table.  Keep their rooms clean.  Pick up the living room and TV room.  Empty the bathroom trashes.
We've been diligent this month, so I give myself an:

3.  Focus on the House
No remodeling yet, but a project to put in french doors in the living room is underway, budgeted for, and scheduled to happen the last week of February.  I have, however, done a good job keeping up with my housework.  Again, thanks to the schedule.  The hour by hour schedule may seem over the top, but I've learned that I really don't do well without structure in my life.  There have been mornings when I just don't feel like doing anything.  I'm not sick, or particularly pregnant, just unmotivated.  These are the mornings when my schedule really helps me.  I can just go to it, and take one task at a time.  Before I know it, a few hours have passed and the house is clean.
In addition to maintaining a clean home, I:  organized the study this month.  I've also kept the pile of clothes that seems to reside continually in the laundry room folded and put away.  I cleaned out the fridge.  Go me.

4.  Focus on the Whole
I've done moderately well with my exercise this month, walking about 2/3 of the times that I plan to.  That bed is just so darn comfortable at 5:00 in the morning!  If I do get up, I then have time for my morning devotions, so I'd say I did those about 2/3 of the times I intended to, as well.  Pilates has gone out the window, I do not have the energy during nap time.  I nap during nap time.  I did really well with my eating for the first half of the month, but the past two weeks, I have started craving sweets big time.  Since I only cave in about half the time to the cravings, I consider myself a success on my goal to eat well.  Apparently I have entered the biggest growth (and eating) phase of my pregnancy.  So considering I'm 24 weeks pregnant, I feel that I've been a very good girl on this goal, and kindly give myself an:

How about you?  How have you done on your New Year's Resolutions / Goals this month?  Was it an easy month, like it has been for me?  I expect my motivation to take a nose dive in a month or so.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Evening Prayer

Luaniua's Anglican church sits in the center of the village.  Its whitewashed, cinder block walls rise only four feet, leaving the sides open to the ocean breeze.  It really is more of a pavilion than a church, except that at the front there is a raised dais with the alter, preaching podium, candle stands, and seats for the priest and catechists to sit.

Every sunrise and sunset the catechist rings the bell that hangs from the eves, summoning the faithful.  The church's 'bell' is really just a hollow, rusty propane cylinder, but it serves the same purpose.  When struck with a hammer, it echoes as far as the island's sandy tip.

I used to go to the evening service every night.  Our house stood just opposite the church, so my walk was a short one, past the carefully tended bushes that ringed the pavilion.  The old man who cared for the building kept the flowers meticulously trimmed, and at sundown every night they opened tiny, trumpet-shaped petals to release their soft sweetness into the air.

It was through this lingering incense I walked, prayer book in hand, to take my place on the woman's side of the church.  The sides were strictly divided by sex, with the women on the left and the men on the right.  Children sat at the very front, their little butts squirming on the worn, 1 x 8 benches.  Behind them were the teenagers, with adults at the very back of the church.

The village catechist ran the weeknight services.  They were always the same, read with comforting predictability from the Melanesian Anglican Prayer Book.  Opening song.  Liturgy.  Sing the Magnificat.  Scripture readings.  More singing.  Prayers.  Benediction.  Dismissed.

The very last prayer, read as the sky purpled and the first star appeared, was a hushed request to the unseen God.
Shine on our darkness, we pray you, Lord, and by your great mercies keep us from all troubles and dangers of this night, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Media Monday - Downton Abbey, Season 2

Happy Monday, folks.  Time to bring you yet another movie / documentary / show I have found (for free) online.  I've already heard a lot of buzz about today's selection, but couldn't resist adding my own two cents:

This is one for all you period drama lovers out there.  "Downton Abbey" offers an enthralling look at the inner workings of a post-Edwardian English manor.  It showcases both those living upstairs and downstairs, following the drama and intrigue of their lives as they interact with each other and the changing world around them.  As the first World War collides with their aristocratic paradigm, each character struggles to cope with the shifting times, and discover where his or her place is in this new world.

The character development in this series is fantastic.  I lived, suffered, loved, laughed and despaired right long with the residents of the Abbey.  The plot takes unexpected twists, and sweeps the characters masterfully through the historic setting.  The costuming is fantastic.  I now want to bob my hair and get some drop waist dresses.

As of today, we are three episodes into the 9 episode second season (I reviewed the first season last Spring).  You can watch all the episodes streaming on the PBS Masterpiece Classic website here.  The website also has cool extras like a look into the style of Downton Abbey, and a fun quiz to discover which character you are most like.  Definitely worth checking out!

*** Edited to add:  After some wiki reading, I discovered that this entire series has already aired in the U.K.  Lucky you!  A third season is in the works, to be aired in the United Kingdom in September 2012.  It will be set in the Roaring 20's.  So we know the costuming will be fabulous!  

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Few Pages Sewn Together {or} The Problem With E-Readers

I've reached the stage in my pregnancy where the nesting urge is kicking in ... big time.  Good thing, too, because all these piles of stuff that have accumulated around our house need to be dealt with before my head explodes from the disorder.  Yesterday I took myself to the study, to straighten the piles of books that were threatening to avalanche if I didn't do something about them.

Books, to quote another missionary kid I know, are my oldest and truest friends.  There are some I just cannot throw away, no matter how tattered and worn their pages get, or how many times their covers are taped back on.  The characters that live within them have never changed through the years.  No matter how much I grow and change, Emily Starr still spins her mystical stories in the garret of old New Moon, Meg Murry's stubborn inquisitiveness continues to motivate her in her search for her father, and Digory and Polly always put on the rings when Uncle Andrew tells them to, even when I urge them not to every time.

These books, my old friends, greet me when I open the pages with the elusive, musty scent of old paper.  A new book's pages are stiff, shiny, impersonal.  But an old book has pages soft and supple as muslin, feathered at the edges by years of turnings and reshelving.  The covers have faintly ringed watermarks and faded grease spots, testimonies of all the tea and toast consumed over years of readings.

An E-Reader, no matter how much storage it provides or how convenient it is, can never become a personal friend.  The tears I shed over Fred Weasley's death won't stain the pages, and the random crayon scribble by my one year old daughter won't still be inside the back cover when she's five, ten, or fifteen.

Here's my call to you.  Buy books.  Real books.  Books that will become treasured and worn.  Books that will age with you even as the characters within them stay young.  Or visit the library and get books for free that hundreds of others have read, loved, marked up and coffee ringed.  Become part of the faceless community of book lovers, connected by the pages they read and the characters they love.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

When Change is Constant

My mom said the other day, "I have left pieces of my heart all over the world."  She and my dad have only been back in the States since last summer.  I understand that feeling of being caught in transition, trying to balance on the tectonic plates of multiple cultures that shift and bump into each other, change the only constant in your life.

I've had some time to heal, to put down roots, to come to a safe place where my feet are firmly planted and my heart can grow.  Interesting fact:  when infants begin to develop, they can only develop one skill at a time.  They are born with their voice boxes high up in their throats, for example.  At first they can only cry.  Loudly!  But then their voice boxes begin to drop, and they begin to make other sounds.  When they start to crawl, however, an interesting change happens.  The vocalizing takes a back seat to the developing gross motor skills as baby tries to figure out how to coordinate his arms and legs.  Only one area of the brain can develop at a time.

I think our hearts act the same way.  When we're in constant shift and transition, we focus on adapting to each new change.  The heart issues of who we've left behind, broken relationships, and denied self, take a back seat.  It's only when we've stopped moving that the heart can then start to sort all the backlogged emotions.

Monday, January 16, 2012


Kohimarama is the Solomon Islands' Anglican seminary.  The nation's training ground for new priests sits about an hour or so down the coast line from Honiara, nestled against the rising mountains, surrounded by cocoa and pineapple plantations.  There is a potholed dirt road that connects Kohi with Honiara and the rest of Guadalcanal, cutting through the jungle but never out of sight of the beach.  It was down this road that I bumped in a public transport van, sharing the seat with a local friend.

I was excited, high on the thrill of independence.  My parents had never let me take this trip alone before, but it had been determined that I spend the weekend in Kohi with some friends.  And best of all, I would ride the jungle road on my own.  So I sat hugging  my backpack, watching the trees reach over the road and relishing my happy freedom.

Every fifteen miles or so the van would stop at wayside villages, picking up and letting off passengers.  There weren't many travelers today, or perhaps there were more transport vans than usual, but either way the seats in our little van remained relatively empty.  My legs stuck to the vinyl, sticky from countless sweaty passengers before me.  My friend was closest to the window, her head leaning out so that the breeze could lift the curls from her neck.  I said a silent thank you that we didn't have to share our seat, which was made for three, with a stranger.  I didn't want to be stuck between two perspiring, swaying bodies.

My luck lasted to the next stop.  When the van slowed and the door opened, people started piling in.  We all began the inevitable dance that repeats itself in elevators, buses and subways across the world.  Who shall sit where?  The seats filled up quickly, until the only places left were the seat opposite me.  And beside me.

I should stop here and say that I was the only white skin in the van.  I was used to being the conspicuous on Guadalcanal, my blond hair and pale skin made more obvious by my height.  On Luaniua, everyone knew me, and familiarity had long ago nullified any gaps caused by physical differences.  But in other places in the Solomons, I was immediately categorized by the strangers around me as loose, easy, and rich.  Most Islanders' exposure to Westerners came from movies, and  most white women in moves filled these stereotypes.  The weight of men's assessing eyes and women's judging ones became a familiar, if not easy, burden whenever I was on the mainland.

So I sat there on the van, trying to ignore the invisible bubble the Islanders had created around me.  My friend's leg pressed comfortingly against mine.  A woman boarded last with her daughter and a large basket of taro.  She quickly took in the situation, and barked at the girl in Pidgin, "You sit with the Arokuao.  I'll sit here."

I could feel my friend stiffen beside me.  The woman had used the Island equivalent of the 'N' word we use here in the States, except it was their word for a white person.  The daughter was looking at me, her face betraying her hesitance at having to sit next to the white skin.  I gathered grace around me and smiled at her.

"You can sit here, there's room,"  I said, in flawless Pidgin.

As the girl slid down next to me, I looked over her head and watched her mother's slowly dawning realization that I had understood what she said.

To quote the inestimable Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, "Darkness cannot put out darkness.  Only light can do that."

Saturday, January 14, 2012

2012 Goals - Weekly Schedule

Warning before you read:  This is just a little update on my 2012 goals, and therefore will be pretty dry.  Feel free to skip :)

This year, one of my big focuses is organization - household organization, and organization of my time.  I found a few years ago that as a stay-at-home mom, I do best when I create a schedule for myself to guide me through the day.  If I don't, I end up wandering from one task to the next, leaving each half done, and feeling overwhelmed because there is SO MUCH TO DO and I don't know what to focus on first.  With a schedule, I know that the kitchen floor will be mopped on Friday, and the cabinets wiped down on Monday.  So on the other days, I don't worry about it!  It's pretty freeing.

I used Microsoft Excel to create my schedule, creating it just like I used to make my weekly schedules when teaching.  It's posted below.  I'll let you know how it works for me, and if we're able to stick with it.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Another Boy!

So it's a boy.  There was no doubt, when the sonographer found the between-the-legs money shot and yup, there was definitely some equipment down there.  I'm ecstatic to have another little guy, a playmate for Xander, someone else for Scott to pass down his 'man lore' to.  There's just something about snugly little boys with big, loving, trusting eyes that make this mommy's heart turn into play dough.  Do what you will with me, little one, because I'm all yours.

With every pregnancy I'm amazed all over again when the little life begins to move inside me.  I know the science and technicalities behind conception and fetal growth, but you can't tell me this isn't a miracle.  And with this baby, every time he moves it feels like he's saying, "It's OK, Mommy.  I'm here.  I'm safe.  I'm growing.  See you soon."  How is it that this little guy is already connected to my heart and I've only ever heard his?

When I pray for him, he jumps inside me.  When I have moments of worry or some latent fear starts sneaking up on me, he jumps inside me.  Just now as I wrote this and pondered our connection, my heart full, he jumped inside me.  What a special little man he is going to be.  

God in Heaven orders the paths for our feet, He numbers our days, He reigns supreme and loving.  Sorrow may last for a night, but joy really does come in the morning, when you find your joy in the only One who remains unchanging.  

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Roger, Copy That

At church on Sunday, the baby's insistence on using my bladder as a kick board sent me to the restroom during worship.  By then it had emptied of the pre-service rush, leaving only myself and one other woman, singing off key to herself in the next stall.

"Aww," I thought.  "She's happy to be here."  We finished at the same time and queued up in front of the mirror next to each other to wash our hands.

She suddenly raised her finger to her ear.  "Hello, are you there?  Yes.  Is the ear piece working?  OK, good. You'll have to report in later because I have just arrived at church."  This was all in a semi hushed, furtive tone.

Keeping my eyes firmly on my hands, I dried them and quickly left the room.   Thank you, secret agent bathroom lady, for making my day that much more enjoyable.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Media Monday - Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead

Wa-hoo!  It feels good to be back on my normal blogging schedule.  It also feels good to have a cup of coffee beside me.  Coincidence?  I don't think so.  I'm enjoying this once daily dose of caffeine allowed to my pregnant self 'to the last drop'.  But back to the task at hand.

It's Monday, and that means today I bring you a review of something I found online (Netflix, Hulu, Vudu, or other websites) that caught my interest.  Today's selection is a movie Scott and I watched back in November, which made such an impact that it caused us to go out and drop some money on a specialty kitchen appliance.  And you know that when these cheap skates spend money, it's not without conviction.

This documentary kept popping up on my Netflix recommended queue (it's also on Hulu), and I passed it over time and again.  The cover and title are pretty ridiculous.  I mean, those grey boxers don't inspire a lot of confidence.  But I finally decided to give it a try and, as usual, Netflix was right on in its recommendations.

'Fat, Sick, & Nearly Dead' chronicles one man's journey to health and wellness through a self imposed, 60 day juice fast.  He doesn't drink your typical grocery store apple juice.  Joe Cross, with the help of a juicer, makes his own nutrient-packed juice from fresh fruits and veggies.  Starting at 301 lbs and suffering from a chronic disease, Joe takes a road trip across America subsiding only on his home made juice, and the results at the end of 60 days are no less than jaw dropping.

I won't give away the ending, but along the way Joe meets a truck driver, morbidly obese and desperate, who decides to join Joe in his own juice fast.  The two men's valiant battle to regain their bodies, and lives, is nothing short of inspiring.

I highly recommend watching this film.  It will inspire and educate you about the benefits of healthy eating, juicing in particular.  I just bought my own juicer, and have been juicing every day as part of my New Year's goal to eat more whole foods.  It's amazing.  A glass of fresh juice peps me up like a cup of coffee, stays with me, and revs up my energy for hours.  Of course I'm not doing a juice fast right now, being pregnant, but hope to do a short one in the summer to detox my body (if it's OK while nursing).

SO.  Just give this documentary a try, even if the cover looks silly and the idea of an entire movie about juice even sillier.  You won't be disappointed.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Sophie Says What?

Last night, my husband and I were heatedly discussing (very loudly), the Republican presidential primary candidates.  Sophie, who we thought we had safely tucked into bed and was adventuring in dreamland by then, poked her nose around the corner.

Me:  "What do you need, Sophie?  You should be in bed."

Sophie:  " ....... "

Scott:  "Honey, Mommy and I weren't fighting.  We're not mad at each other.  We were just really excited about what we were talking about."

Sophie:  "What were  you talking about?"

Me:  "Well, we're talking about the election for the President."  (Sophie knows about elections, since she got to see one first hand two years ago with Daddy).

Sophie:  "Who's the President?"

Me:  "He's the boss of everybody in America."

Scott:  "And we want the boss to be a good guy, not a mean man."

Sophie (with an indignant look and clenched fists):  "But JESUS is the boss of everybody!  And He's God's Son!  And He takes care of us!"

Well, that put our grownup discussion into perspective.  Why have fear when the God of the Universe is in charge?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Slice of Sunshine

For some reason there have been pineapples in the produce section of our little desert superstore.  They called to me last week from their little plastic crates, and on impulse I found one that smelled just right and put it in my cart.  Its rough skin felt like the handshake of an old friend in my grasp.

When it was time to cut the fruit open, I stood barefoot on my kitchen tiles, my belly pressed against the counter, knife in hand.  The first slice released the sharp, pungent, sweet smell of the fruit and I was instantly transported back through time and space.

During the pineapple season on Guadalcanal, the Honiara market undergoes a transformation.  Usually the red, spit-stained walkways reek of spoiling, over ripe fruit, the ocean's catch of the day, and hundreds of sweaty, poorly washed bodies.  The sun bakes up this teaming mix of goods and humanity, making the stench palpable from the street.

Pineapple season, however, is different.  For a few weeks every year, each mat is piled with a bumper crop of the prickly fruit.  Warmed by the sun, the fruits release their spicy sweet smell into the air and the whole world smells like pineapple.  The scent lays so heavily that everything around you seems to turn golden, just because of its bright influence.  Pineapple paints the world.

Mom would come home with her van piled high and fragrant.  Ten for $2, fifteen for $3.  She'd slice it up and freeze it, and for weeks afterwards we'd snack on cold little slices of sunshine.  She'd blend it up into smoothies, or dehydrate it and save it for our morning granola out on Luaniua.  My favorite way to eat pineapple, however, was straight from the cutting board.

I'd snag a couple wet, sticky slices and take myself out to the front veranda.  Our house in Honiara perched on the spine of the first big hill that rose off of the harbor.  Balanced on the railing, my toes swinging into nothing, I would slowly eat my snack.  Always save the center for last.  Nibble down around the soft outer flesh that pans it like the sun's rays, the juice trickling down my chin.  My nose filled with the spicy sweetness of the pineapple and the underlying fragrance of frangipani blossoms drifting over from my left.  To my right, softly waving fronds framed the view down to the sea and the islands beyond.

This was bliss.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Year, New Goals

Happy New Year, everybody!  There's something about starting a new year fresh.  Full of possibility.  You haven't made any mistakes yet, you haven't failed, you don't know what's behind the next bend in the road.  Exciting.  A bit scary (who wouldn't have some trepidation at the state our world is in as we turn the corner into 2012?).  

Looking into the next 12 months that stretch in front of me, I have a few goals I'd like to work towards.  You can call them 'guidelines', or 'things to keep in mind as I live my life'.  Definitely not hard and fast rules, or, for heaven's sake, resolutions.  I did it last year, and although I only kept up with the blog through September (that first trimester was a doozy), the goals remained on my mind throughout the year.  Over 2011, my relationship with Scott reached new depths of intimacy, trust and communication.  My kids and our family became a top priority.  I started to curb the unhealthy lifestyle I had been living, and started a new course towards health.  I wrote more than ever before.  I really think I accomplished these things because I gave myself a target to shoot for in January.

So here are my goals for 2012.  

1.  Focus on Scott.
Yep, it was my number one goal last year, and I'm keeping it for 2012.  Why?  Because I need the reminder that I am a wife first, and everything else second.  Poor guy often gets the dregs of my attention after a long day with the kids and errands.  

2.  Focus on the Kids.
This year, this particular goal means 'homeschool'.  Sophie's turning 5 next month (*gasp* how did that happen??  Wasn't she nursing yesterday?), and it's about time I buckled down to take her education seriously.  I 'play' at it now and then, but haven't put a lot of time and effort into a real schedule for her.  Poor Xander's gotten the short end of the stick as far as my educational attention goes.  What he knows he's basically picked up from Sophie.  I have several goals for both kids.  In the Spring I'm not going to put too much focus on homeschool, because I know in a few months it'll be all I can do to accomplish basic household tasks.  
But by May, I do want Sophie to:  1) learn to count coins.  2) sight read number words.  3) count by 2's and 5's.  4) improve her fluency (and confidence) in reading.  
For Xander:  1) improve fine motor skills (drawing and cutting).  2) learn the letters of his name.  3)  accurately count items from 1 - 20.  4)  learn his shapes.
I also want to implement a workable chore system for them, that we can keep up with as a team.  Sophie'll start getting an allowance as part of this system.

3.  Focus on the House.
It's about time we started all the remodeling projects we've been planning for 3 years.  THIS is the year, Scott and I have decided, that we'll put time, energy and money into getting our home the way we want it.  This includes updates, and also things like creating organizational systems that work for us.  By the end of 2012, I don't want piles of stuff everywhere in the house - like my mother always said, 'a place for everything, and everything in its place'.  

4.  Focus on the Whole.
This is my 'me' goal for 2012.  I want to lead a 'whole-istic' life this year.  I want to be spiritually whole, protecting my hour in the morning with God.  I want to be physically whole on the inside and outside, exercising daily (pilates and walking while pregnant, then working up to running 3 miles again after the baby) and feeding my body (and family) with as much whole, unprocessed food as I can manage.  I want to be creatively whole, giving my writing its proper place in my life and pushing through to write even when the muse takes a vacation.  

These are my goals to live by this year.  I'll revisit them every month, because the accountability last year kept me on track.  My friend Ami's doing the same, which makes sense because she's about as OCD as I am.  Head over to her blog and see what she's doing, and stop back in next month when I grade myself.  

What about you?  Have you made any goals / resolutions for the new year?  

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Muse Returns, and a Panhandle Pit-Stop

Oh my goodness it's been so long.  I haven't pushed myself to write lately (and the muse took a VERY long vacation) but suddenly today I feel that old stirring inside of me.  No, it's not the baby.  It's my creative itch, that oldest friend of my soul.  I feel suddenly like a part of myself that had been lost is now found.  So forgive my superlatives (and the two smileys on my facebook status update, excessive, I know).  I'm so incredibly extremely superbly happy to be writing today.

So we just returned home from a little trip into the Texas Panhandle to see the in-laws.  Any of you who have driven that God forsaken wasteland that lies to the west of Lubbock and Amarillo know that once you pass the succulent town of Hereford, you're out of potty break options until you reach Clovis, NM.

A note on Hereford.  Driving into town, we passed a billboard that read, 'BEEF is NUTRITIOUS!'.  No arguments from these travelers.  Scott and Xander would subsist solely on beef alone if they had their druthers.  Hereford, according to its 'welcome to town' sign, is the Beef Capitol of the World.  It's also the Stink Capitol of the World.  Ten straight miles of feed lots emit the most gut wrenching, vomit inducing smell you'll ever encounter in your life.  Imagine the thousands of cows, all packed together in metal pens awaiting slaughter, doing nothing but eating and stomping their ever increasing piles of feces into a sun fermented soup.  You can understand why we had no desire to stop there for bathroom breaks.

Once it was safe to breathe again, we found ourselves in the wide, flat wasteland of West Texas.  Unbroken furrows of red dirt and grass stretched to the horizon on all sides.  The 'towns' we passed through were little more than an abandoned homestead or two, and a post office with an rusted flagpole out front.

All four of us, having taken full advantage of the hotel's free breakfast an hour ago, were feeling the intense need to relieve ourselves.  The kids were squirming in the backseat, and it wasn't just from excess energy.  The baby was doing aerobics on my bladder.  Scott looked desperately at the odometer.

"It's still 20 miles to Clovis,"  he said.

"I don't think we're going to make it."  I told him.  We both looked out into all that unbroken emptiness.  Our eyes met.

"I'll find a county road,"  he said.

A minute later, we had pulled off the highway, bumped painfully over some railroad tracks, and were a safe distance up the compacted red dirt of a little country road.  When it was his turn, Xander took literally Dad's instructions to, "Pee on the tire."  He had never been given permission to pee UP before!  We sped down the road with a little wet arc on our rear wheel, leaving that particular part of red Texas dirt marked with four little wet spots.