Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Home, sweet, home!

After a full year almost to the day of moving to Amarillo, we returned to Knoxville for the first time to visit family. When we landed, we saw the Smokey mountains with a perspective we never had before. The hills looked huge and we never realized just how much water the Tennessee River provides in the area. It was certainly a sight for sore eyes, and although the leaves were past peak, we were still able to see some vibrant colors here and there.

Arriving on the eve of Week 9 of pregnancy, baby offered a reprieve from massive fatigue but decided growing means throwing up is a thrice daily activity. The good news with the break in fatigue meant mom could throw up and go on about her day.

We arrived on Thursday afternoon (November 1rst). My dad surprised us by sporting a 'stache when he came to pick us up. I was expecting a goatee, which I had seen a picture of, but the mustache was a new thing for me. I enjoyed making a few "I mustache you..." jokes. :-) We rested most of Thursday evening after mom got home from school and enjoyed catching up with my parents.

On Friday, we had lunch with the very Reverend Amy Figg fresh off of sabbatical. It was great catching up with her. There's something to be said about catching up with people you have so much history with - one two hour lunch just wasn't enough! It was so good to hear about her sabbatical - which sounds like a fantastic way to regain perspective after some pretty packed years of ministry. It was also good to get to share about what is going on a Beautiful Savior face to face. If anyone is a model for good youth ministry it is Pr. Amy Figg so I had fun sharing stories of middle school Sunday school. Of course Stephen also took some time to brag on the mission spirit of BSLC with Snack Pak, the food pantry, sewing group, ramp project, etc etc.

John and his fiance Cat and Cotton the best behaved dog in the world came in later that evening. We talked a little wedding and I caught up with them while Stephen went to hang out with his parents for a while. I had not seen John and Cat since we went down to visit them summer before last before we moved. John has great taste in jewelry and Cat's ring did not disappoint. Mom and I gushed over wedding ideas and flipped through family pictures of my and all the cousins weddings helping Cat get wedding ideas. It was funny to hear my parents tell Cat how she should keep things as simple as possible when I felt like the bar, table linens and flowers were all a bit over the top...At the end of the day, we all had a good time and I expect nothing less with the Quesada-Ward wedding. It also means March will bring more time with family which sounds fantastic after this year without!

Saturday, because it was one of the very few times the entire Ward clan was together, Dad suggested we do something fun and go to Dollywood. It sure has grown since the last time I went! I stayed away from rides for obvious reasons, but that didn't stop John, Cat and Stephen from having a little fun riding a few roller coasters!

This is Stephen in front of Thunder Road. It's one of the newer wooden coasters and it crosses in and over itself 32 times at crazy speeds.

They also got to ride the brand new roller coaster that's supposed to be the best new roller coaster in the US. It drops something like 12 stories right off and goes into two loops with little time for recovery. John said his stomach dropped at the beginning and then never really came back up until they stopped. I was a little jealous I couldn't try it. You hang off two sides o the track. This isn't our picture, but it shows you what it's like.

We also ate lunch at the backstage restaurant where I got to take this fantastic picture of the family. 

In the original picture Stephen and mom weren't cropped out...don't knopw what happened with that. But you can get a good luck at the hair on dad's upper lip! John is growing a goatee as part of "No shave November" a campaign to support prostate cancer awareness which couldn't help but make Stephen and I think of Gerry Holman who recently died in our congregation and made waves in prostate cancer awareness to his dying day and beyond - complete with a blue funeral bulletin. Gerry made such an impact on us for the short time we got to share life with him.

Of course, no trip to Dollywood is complete without a train ride! It sparked memories for John and I of riding on the Tweetsie railroad in Boone which we did more times than Dollywood when we were younger. My memories of the two trains seemed to run together. 

Dad as we waiting to head down the track. 

 Stephen and I on the train... and then chugging down the track.

We came off covered in soot, but it was a fun ride. When I was little it seemed SO much longer...it's funny how that happens! I can't wait to take my little one to Dollywood!

We walked most of the park for most of the day and headed home with full bellies of fried apple pie, funnel cakes and if you're me...frozen yogurt and a bite of most everything else.

Sunday we did marathon church day hitting St. John's for the early service (our home church) and Messiah Lutheran Church (where Stephen was baptized and my parents attend) for the late service.

During the announcements before the offering at St. Johns, Amy about jumped out of her seat making sure Pr. Steve announced we were pregnant. Later, I asked Pr Steve if he knew because it was a bit of an awkward moment where he looked like he wasn't sure what to do. He let us make the grand announcement  but I'm pretty sure they got it after Pr. Amy mouthed baby about as obviously as possible! <Thanks for that by the way...it was fun to share the news!>  Pr. Steve being oh so pastoral wasn't sure the big news was public even though he knew, so he was nice and polite and stalled until it was clear we had to say something. We were happy to share.

At Messiah, it was great to hear a fellow LTSS alum Pauline Pezzino preach at Messiah. She was a senior when Stephen was a middler (aka, second year). I remember dreaming about days when we would get to see ordained seminary friends preach and preside after Stephen graduated. It was truly inspiring, not just to be at that point in our lives, but Pr. Pauline pretty much knocked it out of the park with her sermon. There we were married, visiting as Pastor and spouse, expecting and getting to see the fruits of all the hard labor that goes into to seminary for any seminarian be displayed in all the ways the Holy Spirit works. It was one of the moments in life where you want to pinch yourself and see if you're dreaming!

All that excitement left me wore out, but we rallied after a nap to go see Stephen's grandparents in Oak Ridge with Jim. They seemed very well and it was great catching up with them. It's so nice to slip into the comforts of family. Per their usual, Roland and Mitzie had seen several productions and were making rounds at Oak Ridge High School football games. Roland, who reads textbooks for the blind filled us in on the math book he's currently translating into speech...I don't envy that job, but I didn't like math when all I had to do was solve, much less try to explain a graph or illustration to coincide with a problem. I think if I did that I'd have to limit my time to History and Literature books! There's no way I could make a math book make sense to a listener, but I guess you're a little better with that when you had a career working in a National Lab!

Monday, mom and I went shopping, I took yet another nap, and then we headed over to the Friedrich's for dinner. We had eaten so much heavy food and I had thrown up so much of it that I swear chicken breast and  pasta tasted like manna from heaven. I was so thankful for Jim cooking such normal food! Afterwards, I got to look at Stephen baby pictures and school work. Stephen was such a cuter baby than I was! Being born three months early, my skin was funny color and I did not make many expressions until I was much older. Stephen had such chubby cheeks (jowls as Nancy called them - to Stephen's dismay - however I thought they were the CUTEST thing ever) and chubby legs. He was the cutest smiling chunker ever...except perhap maybe the one that's baking in the oven right now. 

I have to say though - I had heard and experienced Stephen being a bad speller, but his writing from the 1992-93 school year was phenomenal! I had so much fun reading them out loud. I have to give him credit, if he was trying to spell them out phonetically by what they sounded like, he came up with some very convincing Tennessee dialect spellings. Points for creativity for sure! On the flip side, his penmanship was very nice! 
This one is tame..

Other highlights included two journal entries/letters from Jim. One written just before they headed over seas to live in Vienna, and another written to Stephen on his birthday. They were very sweet and heartfelt. I hope we remember to do things like that for our kids. While Stephen may or may not have understood their significance at the time, it was a very nice momento to read down the line. One of my favorite quotes from Jim regarded around Stephen and Craig's insistence to play and make guns despite Jim and Nancy's greatest attempts to keep toy guns out of the house. 

"Every time I turn around, you're either shooting me, shooting Craig, or rolling around in the grass (and mud) trying to dodge enemy fire. When you're thirty-five, I hope you have a kid who stalks you with a toy gun ten hours a day, then you'll know what it's like!"

To think, that kid grew up to be a pastor who's darn close to a pacifist. Of course, some of his early childhood writings did mention how evil Sotumlusan (Sadam Hussein) was - compliments of the gulf war, I'm sure. 

We wrapped the evening up earlier than I would have liked to catch our flight early this morning. We arrived without a hitch. My predictions of the cat ignoring me at first then begging for attention five minutes later were spot on and soon we were enjoying a nap and each others company. 

We'll call this trip a success for sure! 

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