Last week, Mom Brand and I went to the St. Louis area to attend a Ladies' Retreat that she founded many years ago. It was nice for her to reconnect with her friends; I saw a lot of people that I hadn't seen for several years. Dad Brand's sister, Aunt Jeri ,was there as well. We both had great time at the retreat. We stayed over a couple of days to visit with Mark's older brother, his wife and children, as well as other friends in the area. I was happy to hear my niece play the piano and sing some worship songs. I enjoyed eating at the restaurant where my nephew works. I had a great shopping trip in Granite City, Illinois with dear friends: we went to the Dollar Tree and The Salvation Army thrift store. The Dollar Tree has a nice little teacher's corner where I got some stickers for homeschooling, etc. The Salvation Army was great as well. I got 2 videos: "Mrs. Arris Goes to Paris" and another one that I will pull out later, along with some books that I put back for gifts, Christmas, or birthdays.
Mark offered to watch the children while I was gone. I gave him many instructions. I had a paper with their schedule: their activities, the things that they needed for school, the names and phone numbers of the people that would be watching the children while he was in meetings, etc. I did lots of laundry and had the kids' school clothes hanging in order in their closets. I bought extra groceries including frozen pizza, chicken pot pies, and hot dogs to make menu-planning quite simple. I prepared a lot and knew that everything would be fine. Besides, it's good for the kids to have some Daddy time without me.
In order to insure a blessed time away, I have learned to not worry about what my children are eating or be concerned about what my daughter's hair looks like...
Because my cell phone did not work at the Ladies' Retreat, we didn't communicate a lot until a couple of days before I came back. My daughter reported in with the news in that they had been eating some highly nutritious meals: Papa John's pizza one night and Wendy's the next. Mark told me that he was ready for me to come back. He was exhausted and told me that he was a grateful husband…He did tell me not to come home early, because the house was a mess. I wasn't planning to come home early. We had our tickets, and I wasn't going to change them anyway…
When we arrived, everyone looked happy to see us. My daughter came out to greet me in muddy clothes (she had been having fun!) Riley, our dog, was overjoyed to see Mom Brand. (She regularly feeds him from the table.) Mark was in the middle of cleaning up a mess that the dog had made the day before on our nice dining room rug. Our guess is that the dog was sick…The washing machine and dryer were busy. The dishwasher was working and Mark was hand-washing dishes. I was surprised. I expected to come home to a big pile of dirty laundry and a house that I could not walk around in...
Little by little, I began to understand what had happened during the week…I took the clothes out of the dryer. They were all whites- Mark's nice dress shirts, white hand towels, etc., but they were all white. When I emptied the clothes in the washing machine to the dryer, I was a bit surprised to find all together: one of the kids' navy polos from school, dishtowels, and a white t-shirt with writing. But everything was its original color; I did separate things to dry them. My son's soccer uniform had been washed, but he hadn't been to a game. Mark thought that he had sent him to practice in his uniform. (No harm done. Besides, the coach and his wife knew that I was out of town. She helped my son with his homeschool work one day.)
I got ready to start dinner. The frozen pizzas and chicken pot pies were still in the freezer. I chose chicken pot pies and put them in the oven. I noticed that the industrial-sized lemonade was significantly lighter than when I left. Had they accidently spilled half of it on the floor? I discreetly asked my daughter, "So, did you all drink quite a bit of lemonade while I was gone?" "Oh yes, "she replied, "we had it for breakfast and dinner, because Dad kept forgetting to get milk." They also had lemonade at Chick-Fil-A. And which meal was that? I think the only decent meal that they had was prepared by the dear African sister that helped the kids with their homework one day after school.
I did notice that there were two containers of ice cream in the freezer. My dear husband couldn't remember to get milk, but at least the kids got some calcium from not just one, but two yummy kinds of ice cream. "Oh, by the way, while you were gone, the Lebanese pastor came over for pizza and ice cream." In this house? What did it look like then? Oh well, I'm sure he understood.
I had left water bottles, yogurt, etc. for the kids' lunches. It really looked like a lot of it was still in the refrigerator. Mark said he didn't know where the refillable water bottles were, so he went to the store and bought real water bottles to send to the school every day. That works. My daughter told me that Dad forgot to send her lunch one morning. Since she didn't have the morning snack that was packed in her lunchbox, the school receptionist gave her one of the snacks that she has on hand for such emergencies. When Mark brought her lunch later that day, it had a total of 5 cookies in it. Dad had given her 3 for her dessert and then there were 2 in the Lunchable he sent. I'm sure all of the cookies helped make up for lunch being delivered a bit late.
It was good to sit and talk with Mark. We got caught up on the last few days. In the meantime, the kids played outside in the mud and eventually got in a big mud fight. They were so dirty that they had to take baths before they could eat dinner.
We ate dinner and everyone seemed really happy to be eating chicken pot pies, green beans, and salad. Mark needed to leave and buy some reading glasses. He had lost his the night before. He also needed to finish some sermon preparations for the next day.
Soon, the kids were in bed. I stayed up to check my e-mail, since I had not taken my computer on the trip. I called Mark two times to remind him to get some milk; he's not into details. He had a great prayer meeting and brought home 2 gallons of milk. Life was getting back to normal.
It was nice to be away, to be with family and dear friends…Mark had a great time visiting with our pastor friend from Lebanon. The kids enjoyed some extra attention. In reflecting over the last few days, Mark and I have both concluded- "A Good Time Was Had By All!" J