Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Hurricane Katrina

Dani and I were talking tonight. We wish we could hop in the car, drive to the Gulf Coast, and help. What could we do? We brainstormed. We could make sandwiches. We could boil water. We could watch children so parents would have one less worry. We could pray. And when it comes right down to it, that's ALL we can do. In some ways, that oughta be enough. But in more ways, it doesn't seem like much. Know what I mean?

I was trying to explain to Dani that this wasn't "just another hurricane". This is the worst domestic natural disaster I can remember taking place in my lifetime. "Is it worse than the tsunami?" she asked. I said no. But then, the people in New Orleans and Biloxi and everywhere else along the coast might answer differently.

I can't wrap my simple brain around this devestation. It astounds me. The more stories I hear... the more pictures I see... the more my head swims. How will they rebuild? They've lost everything. EVERYthing. They have no jobs to go to. They have no businesses left. They have no industry to rely on. They have no roads, no vehicles, no power. They have no houses of faith in which to reconnect, pray, seek comfort. They have no income. Where do they go from here? How do they get there??

The worst isn't past. The worst is yet to come.

Gulf Coast families, you have my prayers. You have my tears. You have my word - I will come help. I don't know how or when... but I will help.

edited to add:
This is a first-person account from Rexann, a fellow scrapbooker who lives in Louisiana:

This morning we were listening to WWL...a New Orleans radio and TV station (the only one left able to broadcast! and they are on a skeleton crew of three reporters, a producer and a camera guy!). They are PLEADING for help! My dh is certified in search and rescue and he HAD to go...he just felt like he needed to do something. He got a boat, got a patrol car to pull it with and off he went.

Guys, if you have been watching TV, you are only getting part of the story! In less than four hours, my dh and several other volunteers pulled over 200 people off of roof tops and out of attics. They literally launch their boats off of the interstate exit ramps, ride into an area, turn off their engines and call out, listening for people beating on their attics from the inside. They then go to the house (he said EVERY house had water at least to the eaves!!!) and they literally hack a hole in the roof to get to the people inside. Worse yet...most of those he rescued today were elderly folks...dehydrated, hungry, and exhausted from yelling for help!!!

I still can't hold back the tears as I think of these people. Can you even imagine having to climb into your attic as the only alternative to allowing yourself to drown?! And then realizing you're trapped there unless someone can hear you scream?!! This is reality....this is happening all over the city and around it.

As for New Orleans and the surrounding areas, there will not be any power for over a month...not only are the lines down, the power stations are destroyed...it's like starting from stratch! There are fires everywhere and no way for them to be put out. There is crime happening and in many places the only way for the police to get to these places is by boat.

And, as much as I hate to pass this on, it is true, there are dead bodies floating around! My dh said there is no place to put them yet, they barely have place for the living! There is NO food, NO water and really NO shelter. WORSE...no communications!!! No land lines, no cell towers....


Pray for the workers and police (there have been several officers hurt and shot today!)

and pray for the people - no homes, no jobs, with the athorities saying schools won't start againg for months, power won't be available for weeks and because of the water, they have no clue where to put people! (FEMA usually sets up tent cities but with this situation, there is no place to do this!)

Hug your family tonight, thank God you aren't in an attic listening for a boat, send money to the Red Cross or Operation Blessing and PRAY!

Thursday, August 25, 2005


I can't be witty or quippy or observational or even conversational in today's blog, 'cause I puked my rice and grilled veggies up in the most disgusting Hobby Lobby bathroom this afternoon, and I still feel like puking now. This, once again, confirms for me that I can never be bulemic.


Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Overheard, part 2

"I've been bad. I colored on the table, 'cause I wanted to." ~Aidan, on the telephone to Grandma.

"I got in superDUPER trouble!" ~Aidan, answering Grandma's question of, "did you get in trouble?"

"I've learned all about being good." ~Aidan, unprompted, the day we lifted his being "grounded from his room for destroying his down-filled comforter with scissors and scribbling all over his train table and tracks".

"Not if you just DO it!" ~Aidan, in response to Ian's whiny "But that'll take forEBBER!" argument when I told them to pick up their toys. That Aidan. He's been listening to me!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Keep me, protect me, share me...

Sometimes, I'll hear a song that draws such an accurate picture of my being that I'll think, "Man. I wish I had written that!"

Sometimes, as those who know we well can attest, I cry at commercials. But I've never been so touched by a commercial that I thought, "Man. I wish I had made that!"

Until today.

I am passionate about photos. I take a lot of them, and I badger non-photo takers into taking them, too. I spend my own money to develop photos that I take of other people, just so I can know that they have them. My own family is photo-rich. Easily, the most valuable things we own, both sentimentally and monetarily, are strap-hinged together on the bookshelves in my scrapbooking office.

But just taking and keeping the photos isn't enough. I'm passionate about recording the stories behind the photos. I was once a consultant for Creative Memories, teaching people how to preserve their photos, and selling the products with which they'd do it. I hated the selling part, but I loved the teaching. 4 years after I quit selling, I'm still teaching on a regular basis. I want every person I know to record their memories. EVERY person. I try to make that happen in a variety of ways: for the young women in the inner city of Fort Worth, I coordinate a scrapbooking ministry, where scrapbook donatations arrive from around the world (even from Japan, Australia and Canada) and dedicated scrapbookers are on hand to help out. For my missionary friends in Uganda, who have no place to buy the supplies (and who can't afford to anyway -missionaries don't have a lot of frivoulous-spending money), I do it for them. For people who DO have a lot of money but don't have time or desire, I hire out. I don't care what part of the social/economic spectrum you fall in: I want you to have photos, and I want you to link written memories to them. Sometimes I wonder that I'm more passionate about THIS mission than I am the Christian one.

Keep me, protect me, share me, and I will live forever.. Kodak says it way better than I can. Follow the link. Take the tour. Watch the video. (make sure the sound is up.)


Monday, August 22, 2005

Bringin' out the best in me

You've heard me say it before, and here I go again. I hate being a girl. I don't much like women in general. They tend to bring out the worst in me, and that's a hard pill to swallow sometimes. I don't want to be gossipy, snarky, or judgmental. And yet, sometimes, I allow myself to be those things when I'm with women. I always hate myself when I do, and it's been happening a lot lately.

Then there are those people who bring out the best in me. I really should spend more time with them. Today, for instance, they surprised me with this:

I sat down at my desk, not feeling like working at all, and as I reached for the scissors, I noticed this, sitting there next to my pens. It changed my day. It changed ME today. My boys (all three of them, lol) picked the flowers yesterday, put them in this little Coke bottle that I fell in love with in Ireland, and left it for me to discover on my own. I must've been in my office a dozen times since they placed it there, and yet, they kept quiet about it and let me make the discovery. How I love my men!

Then there's this girl:

She brings out the best in me, too. She laughs. A lot. She makes me happy. She melts my frustrations. She believes in me. She holds me accountable. She inspires me. She encourages me. She TEACHES me. How blessed I am to call my daughter, my friend.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

March of the Penguins

This afternoon, in full submission to the 101 degree heat, we took the boys to cool off at the movies. It helped that the movie was filmed on location in Antartica. Totally made me forget how hot it was outside.

What a beautifully made movie! My boys (ages 3 and 4) loved it. Several times, they laughed out loud.... when one of the Daddy penguins slipped on the ice, when a penguin lifted his wings and did a belly dance, and when the babies were learning to walk. And a few times, Aidan said out loud, "That's SAD." (When the egg cracked, when two babies died before the Mommies got back with food, and when the leopard seal ate one of the Mommies.)

A friend who saw the movie told me that the boys wouldn't like it. I'm proud to say she was wrong. They sat through the whole thing, paid attention, and talked about it later at dinner. It really made an impact on them. (But not enough to make them want to be penguins for Halloween. I know. I asked. They still want to be a Knight and a Dragon. ohkaaay.)

Anyway. Take your kids. The mating scenes are totally discreet. Even the seal scene was handled discreetly. There was no blood or gore or ANYthing that was scary to my boys. It was obvious what was happening, but it was handled so gingerly that it didn't scare them. Mostly, they loved watching the penguins. And Darren and I enjoyed the whole film. What those majestic animals go through to just SURVIVE is nothing short of amazing. What the filmmakers went through to get it all on tape is even more amazing still.

March of the Penguins

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Dear Aidan


I love you. I want to go upstairs right now, scoop you up out of your bed and hold you like a little baby. I want to stroke your cheek, kiss your nose, smooth your hair and watch your eyes flutter and twitch as you dream.

Today was such a very hard day. You tested me at every turn. You pushed every limit. You acted out in every extreme. You exhausted me. A few months ago, I often described you as the boy who "only wants to make people happy. He'll go to great lengths to please you, to make you proud, to make you smile. He's thoughtful, obedient and sweet, by nature." Today, and actually for the past two months or so, I would not use that description.

You're not a bad boy. On the contrary, I believe that the core of you is still very good. You desire to be good, and to do good. I think this is just a phase. A very miserable phase for both of us, but a phase just the same. My heart hurts, because today, more than once, I said to you through clinched teeth, "Aidan, you are a BAD BOY." The second time, you just looked at your feet and said, "Yah." I'm so sorry. You made bad choices today, but you are NOT a bad boy. You remember EVERYthing. I swear, Aidan, you have the memory of an elephant!! I know that you'll wake up tomorrow morning and remember that you're a bad boy. And that breaks my heart.

And so, tomorrow, I'm going to do everything in my power to remind you that you are a GOOD BOY. 'Cause you are. You're precious and sweet and all that is pure. And even on days like today, when I want to take you down to the zoo and move you in with Mama Monkey, I love you. From the very deepest depths of my heart, I love you.

When you grow up and are big enough to read this, I want you to know that.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Bok Bok

There's this song we sing at church - "Shout to the Lord". It's a beautiful song to sing - slow and expressive, and just about perfect as devotional-style songs go. To trigger your memory - in case you know it - it starts like this: "My Jesus, my Savior, Lord there is none like you...all of my days I want to praise the wonders of your mighty love...". I love it.

Apparently, so does Aidan. He hums the tune a lot.

Today, he's not humming, though. He's singing it. Only he's not singing the actual words. He's singing in Chicken Speak....

"Bok bok bok bok, bok bok bok, bok bok bok...."


Death of a Blog

I'm in mourning.

Dani killed her blog.

She started it shortly after I started this one. It had but one post, on June 19th. It was titled "The People I Love". It was about why (and how much) she loved each of her brothers, and her Dad, and me. I read it often, as it was beautifully written and the words made my soul happy. I never printed it out...

but now I wish that I had. Because it's gone. She's taken down her blog, probably to start a new one somewhere else. She's fickle like that, silly Dani.

Silly me, for being so sad about a dead blog. But I AM sad. :(

Friday, August 12, 2005

Nerds 'R Us

How nerdy are we that we're spending our Friday evening watching Whiz Quiz Live on a local public school TV station, and enjoying it?

Off to The Greek House to redeem ourselves.


Today, while driving around running errands, Dani and her friend Michael were jamming to Christian rock on Power 89.7 FM. I've started listening to this station a lot more regularly than I listen to Christian Comtemporary station 94.9 KLTY. The music on Power FM is edgier than the mostly-bubblegum stuff on KLTY, and I'm finding that I enjoy it more. Plus, I get increasingly annoyed at the number of remakes that I hear on KLTY.

So, we're driving down the road, and suddenly, U2's "Sunday Bloody Sunday" starts playing. Only it wasn't Bono singing.

"Dani, did you put it on KZPS?" (my favorite classic rock station).

"No. This is Power," she answered.

I curled my lip. I have this pet peeve. It's called "remaking a classic song and pretending it's a Christian song", and it seems to be a prevalent trend in Christian music today. The same thing happened with Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes", in a cover by Nichole Nordeman. I might be less critical if the cover was a GOOD one, but it's not. It's bland. It's the same arrangement as Gabriel's, but with standard, programmed Christian pop instrumentation. Blech. Besides, "In Your Eyes", I'm pretty sure, was not intended to be a love song about God. And even though "Sunday Bloody Sunday" mentions the word "Jesus", I wouldn't consider it a Christian song, either. GREAT songs, songs that I love, songs that are on my List of Favorite Tunes, but not Christian songs.

So I listened to the rest of it, then announced with conviction, "U2's is way better."

Later, after dropping Dani and Michael off at the movies, I turned the radio back up, just in time to catch this chorus:

"I smoke two joints in the morning
I smoke two joint at night
I smoke two joints in the afternoon
It makes me feel alright

I smoke two joints in time of peace
And two in time of war
I smoke two joints before I smoke two joints
And then I smoke two more"

I about choked on my iced tea. HOW in the WORLD can THIS be playing on Christian radio? A quick push of the button told me that Dani had switched the station again - to 102.1 The Edge. Okey, fine. THAT, I can deal with.

Am I getting old?

edited to add:
A little Googling alerts me to the fact that there's a whole ALBUM of Christian acts who've covered U2 songs. Grrrreat. Well, at least it's for a good cause. Hmpf.

Good Day

Dani did the dishes, and I didn't ask her to.

Aidan and Ian picked up their toys and took them upstairs, after I said, "Boys, there are too many toys down here that you're not playing with." I didn't TELL them to put them away. But they did.

Aidan told me he loved me several times.

Darren worked late, arriving home at 9:15. But he still took the boys out to the hot tub, then put them to bed.

Sonic screwed up and gave me a large drink when I'd only ordered a medium. They must've KNOWN I meant to order a large. I NEVER order a medium. :)

I called the internet store from whom I bought my wide angle lens last month to tell them it's defective. (Was completely bummed when I couldn't use it in Ireland. My fault for not checking it when it arrived.) They said that they have a 30-day return policy, and today was day 30. Lucky me. I had no idea. I'd been putting it off all week and MADE myself call today.

I slept late. Yah. The jet lag is completely gone and I'm already slipping back to my old (baaaaad) ways.

The kids LET me sleep late. When I awoke, Dani had just fixed the boys cereal and was cleaning the kitchen.

I'm a lucky duck!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Ian: the best brother

Aidan got in big trouble today. It was almost time to leave for church, and I told the boys to go get their shoes and socks. Ian immediately obeyed. But Aidan said "I wanna watch the rest of my movie!"

I said, "No, Aidan. It's time to leave. Go get your shoes and socks."

The arguing continued. He screamed, he kicked, and he yelled "NO!" at me. I finally walked over to the TV and turned it off. He defiantly stomped over to the TV and turned it back on. I spanked his butt, picked him up and planted him by the family room door, and ordered him to get upstairs and get his shoes and socks. Instead, he scrambled over the couch and back to the TV.

Darren stepped in and threatened to throw the DVD in the trash if Aidan didn't comply. Aidan again said, "NO!" We gave him several chances to change his attitude.

So Darren threw the movie away. There was much screaming and gnashing of teeth. Aidan was beside himself. He tried to retrieve the DVD from the trash, screaming, "I DON'T WANT IT TO GO IN THE GARBAGE TRUCK!!!"

"Too bad," said Darren. "It was your choice."

Ian came down the stairs crying his eyes out. It was HIS movie too, and it wasn't fair that it had been thrown away. Darren said, "Aidan, it's not fair to Ian. He's sad. Ian, why don't you go tell Aidan how sad you are?" So Ian walked over to Aidan, but before he could say anything, Aidan huffed, "I don't WANNA talk to you." Ian's eyes welled up, and he said quietly, "Aidan doesn't want me to talk to him." Then he cried.

I was furious with Aidan, and I ached for Ian. So I decided to try something different.

"We have to stop at the store on the way to church. Ian, since you were such a good boy and minded me, you get to have a treat at the store!"

Darren tried a different approach too. He offered to let Ian have the movie out of the trash. At first, Ian was happy about it. But then Darren said, "But Aidan won't be allowed to watch it with you." At that point, Ian's face dropped, and he said, "I don't want it."

At the store, Aidan stayed in the car with Darren and threw a wall-eyed FIT. He was completely out of control. Darren actually had to sit in the back seat with him to keep him from escaping from the car. In the meantime, Ian chose a bag of Cheetos (a favorite snack that I NEVER buy) for his treat. "These chips are HEALFY, Mom! They have CHEESE! So it's not junk food." :)

At church, Aidan apologized to me, and all was forgiven. But the punishment stood, and he knew it.

Back at home, Aidan said, "Ian's gonna share his Cheetos with me!"

I said, "Aidan, those are Ian's special Cheetos. He doesn't HAVE to share them with you. Ian, you do not have to share."

Then Ian marched into the family room where I sat, furrowed his brow, and looked me straight in the eye.

"Mom, I am going to share. I am."

What a sweetheart. He's the best brother ever.

I love my boys, on good days and on bad. On the good days, I think we're doing a pretty darn good job as parents. But on the bad days, I question my judgments and doubt my abilities. This parenting thing... whew. I don't think you're EVER experienced. Because each kid brings a whole new set of rules and demands a whole new set of approaches.

We're doing the best we can. I just hope that in the whole scheme of things, we get most of it right.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

It's the little things, I tell ya

Dani walked to the neighborhood convenience store today (because her bike tires were flat - otherwise, she'd have ridden) and brought home the following:

Diet Coke and Snickers for Mom
Strawberry Milk and a chocolate Tootsie Pop for Aidan
Chocolate Milk and "emmyM's" for Ian
Diet Vanilla Cherry Dr Pepper and Almond M&Ms for herself

With her own money.

I think I'll keep her.


Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Catching Up

We barely had time to catch our breath last week before we jumped back into everything with both feet. Dani has completed Freshman Orientation and we've finished most of her school shopping. (All that's left is the school supplies that she'll find out about the first week of school.)

I got some estimates on the air conditioner, and it's been replaced. For a nice, tidy sum of $1500. Thank God for credit cards. Evil that they are.

We had all 13 rolls of film put on CD, and then we merged them into files with all the digital pics. All told, we took just under 1200 photos in Ireland. !!! We pruned and pruned, and had just under 400 of them printed. Tonight, Darren and I organized them with the memorabilia we collected, and got everything ready to scrap. I finished the title page, which is weird for me. I usually do the title page last!

Yesterday, we spent all day with friends from church, playing Spades and Charades, and eating homemade ice cream. Afterward, I went out to dinner with Kristi and Cara. It was so nice being with friends and feeling relaxed. Before our vacation, I was so stressed and so busy that I hadn't taken time to just be with my friends. So yesterday felt great.

I'm really gonna try to get Ireland completely scrapped this week. There are two reasons for this: I have a job that's supposed to be arriving this week, and next week, I've scheduled a special album project with Sherilyn: we're going to scrap our trip to see Donna last summer. Next week will mark the one-year anniversary of that trip. Actually, there's a third reason. So many people are chomping at the bit to see our photos, and I'm just fanatical enough that I don't want people pawing through them until they're safely in a scrapbook. :) Plus, Darren's dying to take the completed book to work. :)

Played Chutes and Ladders with the boys this afternoon. Aidan completely FREAKED when I wouldn't let him just go zooming up every ladder he happened to come across. It seems that GRAMMY lets him do that. I'm a mean Mom. I made him play by the rules. HE hated me for about 10 minutes. He can cheat on Grammy's time, but he'll play by the rules on mine. Isn't that what Grammy's are for, anyway? :) Part of me was thinking, "Good GRIEF, Stace. THis is Chutes and Ladders. What's the big deal if he doesn't follow the rules?" But the bigger part of me was thinking, "Little battles win the war." And so I stuck to my guns. At dinner, Aidan announced to Darren, "Daddy, I'm a cheater." ROFL! Poor kid. What have I done?

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Home at last!

Five hours later, we were pulling up to our house. Darren's dad had met with an A/C repairman on Monday, and learned that the compressor for our upstairs unit has gone kablooie. Has to be replaced. Cannot be repaired. So now we're getting estimates. (The initial estimate was for $2000. We'll shop around.) Darren and I pulled one of the futon mattresses downstairs and slept in the family room. The boys slept on the couch. Dani braved the heat and slept in her room, so desperate was she to sleep in her own bed again.

We were all sound asleep my midnight. And we were all awake by 7. Jet lag... not such a bad thing!

Ashlie was supremely happy to see us. She meowed and meowed... I think she was crying! LOL!

No time to breathe today....Dani has to be at her new high school at 1 to get her student ID. TOnight is parent orientation. And tomorrow, Dani has freshman orientaion all day.

Mom called a little while ago. She says we're not allowed to travel ever again, as she was sick the whole time we were gone with worry. She said there were times that she couldn't even hold a pen or dial a phone number because she was shaking so badly.

Yah. We're home. Everything's just as it was when we left. Mom's still a nutcase, TExas is still hot, and we're still a happy, active family.

Just checked my mail and found two happy packages... Jolee's die cuts of double decker buses, red phone booths, and Big Ben from Debbie and Jean. THANKS, MY FRIENDS!! After all of our big adventures, it's still the little things that mean the most. :)


We arrived at the Renaissance Skydome sometime after 1 a.m. Toronto time. I called the 800 number to rebook our flight, but finally gave up at 2:30 when I was still on hold. At that time, we had been awake for over 24 hours.

The next morning, I called again, and sat on hold for 59 minutes before finally talking to an agent. Once again, our seats were all over the plane, but she fixed it then and there. We had 11 hours until our flight left, so we decided to see a little bit of Toronto.

First, we took the boys swimming in the hotel pool. Then we walked down to the harbor and had lunch at Pier 4, a seafood restaurant. We asked how much the trip to the top of the CN tower cost, and decided to just admire the view from the ground.

We arrived back at the airport 3 hours early. Good thing we did, too. Everything was completley backlogged, trying to make room for all the cancelled flights from the day before, plus all the scheduled flights for that day. We stood in line after line, and arrived at our gate 5 minutes before they began boarding.

the luck o' the Irish

The day started off just fine. We arrived at the Dublin airport on time, returned the rental car, and made our way to check-in. It was there that the problems started.

The conveyor belt was broken, meaning that no one's luggage was being transported to the planes. Which meant that we stood in line for 2 hours, waiting for the problem to be fixed. When the line started moving again and we were next in line to check our bags, the people in front of us brought our progress to a screaching halt. Their bags were too heavy, and had to be re-packed. And re-packed. And re-shuffled. And shuffled again. Finally, after loading some of their stuff into boxes that the airport provided, they were under the weight limit and it was our turn. We had planned to stop for a light breakfast at the airport, but there was no time for that now, so Dani and I ducked into an airport store to spend our last few Euros on bottles of water and chocolate. Yum - breakfast!

For some reason, the airline had assigned us seats all over the plane. The ticket agent had tried to fix it at check-in, but at the gate, we were still all spread out. Small problem here: Aidan, Ian, and a 7-hour flight. We needed to be together, at least in groups of two. THe flight attendants did some magic with other passengers, and managed to get us all in two rows. And off we went, bound for our connection in Toronto.

Or not. We had no idea, as our tickets didn't reflect it, and it had never been mentioned anywhere... but our flight was scheduled to stop in Shannon, less than an hour away. No problem, we thought. We'll just wait on the plane.

Or not. Since we were getting a new flight crew, everyone was required to get off the plane while they boarded and settled in. When we re-boarded, the new flight crew wasn't helpful, especially when a few beligerent passengers refused to give up their seats. We placed Ian across an aisle and up a row from Grandma. I had just told a man that he was going to get to sit beside Aidan for the long flight when a couple (Irish, no doubt... the KINDEST, most accomodating, most laid-back people on earth) offered me their seats. It meant that Ian, Aidan and I could sit on the same row. I tried to fight it, but the tears won... and as I thanked them, I had tears flowing out of my eyes. I was so relieved that the kids wouldn't be stuck sitting with strangers for the duration of the flight. Grandma was sitting across the aisle, a row back... and Dani was sitting two rows up, across the aisle. Darren was in no man's land at the back of the plane, sitting next to a boisterous gay man who wouldn't stop talking the whole flight. Even though I was stuck taking care of both boys by myself, I still got the better end of the deal. LOL!

The boys were GREAT, and the service was exceptional. We got orange juice as soon as the seat-belt sign was turned off, which was followed by a lunch choice of vegetarian lasagna (YUM!!) or chicken (the boys' choice). The food was delicious. Following that, we were served ice cream cups. THen came the drink cart, a mid-flight snack of chocolate chip cookies, and then a dinner of pizza. It was the most service and the most food I've ever experienced on a flight, and the boys thought it was awesome. Between entertaining them and making them take turns with the Leapster and helping Aidan write words and keeping Ian from kicking the seat in front of him, I was actually able to enjoy two movies: Million Dollar Baby and Fever Pitch.

Then the captain came on the intercom. We were only an hour from Toronto, but because of bad thunderstorms there, he was going to divert to Montreal until the weather cleared. He assured us that we'd be back in the air in 30 or 45 minutes. 30 or 45 minutes later, the captain came back on and said that there had been a plane crash in Toronto, and that he didn't have any more information. He'd try to see if Montreal would at least let us off the plane.

In the meantime, Nancy's seatmate, who works for a news station in Vancouver, was able to get wire reports from co-workers via his cell phone. It was then that we learned that the plane was on fire and that the airport was closed.

Montreal would not let us get off the plane, because we were an international flight at a domestic gate, and there was no way to process us through customs. The captain even tried to let us off just to walk around on the tarmac outside the plane, but the answer was a strict no. So we sat. And sat. For 5 hours, we sat.

The boys and I took several walks around the cabin. We colored, we drew, we played games. We listened to music, I read to them, and finally, after 4 hours, they fell asleep. During all that, Darren sat with us in our row, so that was good.

Finally, Toronto opened partially: they were accepting international arrivals only. So we went. And landed. And sat. A plane at the gate couldn't start his engines, so we couldn't pull in. THey were waiting for a truck to come tow him out of the way. Once out of the way, we pulled forward, and sat. We were waiting for a crew to guide us in. The captain came on again, and we could hear the frustration in his voice. He said that we were sitting a mere 20 feet from the gate, but that he was not allowed to pull forward until a crew arrived to guide him in. He had asked numerous times for a crew. He vented to the auhorities. He explained that his passengers had now been sitting on his aircraft for over 12 hours, and that if he didn't get a crew NOW, he'd shut down his engines in protest. We got a crew.

Once inside the airport, we waited and waited for a bus to take us to another terminal where we could process through customs and get our luggage. We were given an 800 number to call where the airport would provide us with a discounted-rate hotel room, and another number to call to get our flight rescheduled. We waited and waited in the phone line. We called, discovered that the nearest room was 30 minutes away - a $53 cab ride - and that the discounted room rate was still gonna set us back $170. As I was discussing this with Darren, the person on the other end of the phone said, "Ma'am, in an emergency situation such as this, I can't allow you time to discuss it. Either take the room now, or I'll have to take another caller." I took the room, and we hailed a cab.


On our last day in Ireland, we picked up the Owen-Griffiths at the airport at noon, then spent the day touring the grounds of Malahide Castle, which included a model railway exhibit that the boys loved.

We spent the remainder of the afternoon at a nearby beach on the Irish Sea. Our first day of clear, blue skies happened on our last day of vacation! But we were happy to have it. This was the boys' first ever trip to a sandy beach, and they had so much fun discovering seashells, building castles, watching the sailboats and running in the sand.

That night, we stayed at a hotel near the airport, and prepared ourselves for the long flight home....