So this is how this all went. We have gone through the whole summer. Heather is finally going to finish this semester next week. It is hard to believe that we already have been here for a whole semester! Of course, Heather has done awesome in her classes and is already establishing herself as a medical force to be reckoned with. Her classmates love her and so do her professors. And she is having a ball. And things have gone well at home. The kids have really acclimated well. There have been bumps - boredom is never a good thing for three kids in a small apartment. We actually had a rough stretch of a couple weeks where I was wondering if the kids had been swapped with human torturing robots. But it seemed everything turned late last week.
To what do I owe this transformation? I would like to have something really impressive like I cracked open a new set of parenting books or had a good talking to with them. But the fact of the matter is that we were at Sam's last week and bought a new Wii video game. DON'T JUDGE ME!!! I can see you shaking your heads already. The kids had been bored - and they had put up with a lot. So we were looking at the Wii games and Super Mario Galaxy was there for $25. I thought about it and had heard good stuff about the game. I had rented it and the kids seemed to like it. Well, I figured, "We don't go to movies. We don't go out to eat much any more. This is a better investment than those things." Well, the kids have found endless hours of play time - both Nat and Josiah like it. So that helped right away.
The other things that were giving us a some difficulties was the fact that we had not met anyone really up here. Heather had all of her med school classmates. And we, of course, have Greg and his parents. And there is Amanda, but she just went through a big life change herself. And then a couple of others - but nothing like we had in Orlando. We had not found a church, yet. We actually have only had a couple of Sundays to even have a chance to look. And that was really started to wear on us. Combine that with the "end of the semester financial strain waiting for the new disbursement to happen" and things were getting to be hard.
So here is the day by day rundown:
Heather got to go in later. And that night, Greg was able to come over. He and I went over to the Downtown Digital Dome to watch the U2 at D3 multi-media show. It was nowhere near as good as the stuff they do at MOSI in Tampa. But it was an hour of U2 on an awesome sound system. And it was free. And I got to spend some time with Greg, which is always a delight. Plus, it got us even more excited for the U2 concert in two months in Tampa.
Like every day, Heather had to take some time to study. This is normal - I can think of only a handful of days since May that she has studied nothing all day. But, we then went to dinner over at one of Heather's classmate's house. He is an old college roomie of a friend of mine, went to UF, and knew several ministers I know. He and his wife invited us over - neither couple is from Tally and neither of us knew a whole lot of people. It was such a wonderful evening, being able to have adult conversation. (Another one of Heather's classmates was watching our kids.) We all had such similar outlooks on life, faith, medicine. It was a really neat time with some new friends - which is something we desperately needed.
We were trying to get serious about finding a church. I don't like missing church and don't want my kids to get into the opinion that it is not important. We had planned on visiting a church across the street that meets in a movie theater. But Greg was trying Thomasville Road Baptist. This was one we had looked at visiting - it was recommended by some fellow ministers. But we just hadn't gotten there. So we decided to go. It was such a wonderful time. The service was not as contemporary as we have been used to. But the music was good and genuine. The pastor's sermon was very solid - encouraging us to pray boldly and specifically. It actually went against a lot of the (as he said) "broad, generic wimpy prayers" that are encouraged now. And the people were so friendly. As a church staff veteran, I know that there are people who "have to be" nice. These are greeters, staff members, deacons. But the people there who were not in those roles also reached out.
The kids loved their time. And Gabe actually made it through service and through part of Sunday School. The cool thing was that they buzzed us when he was not getting calm - a lot of churches take it upon themselves to help your kids acclimate. And when we got him, the director was very sweet to him and us. She smiled at him and said, "He did good. He made it an hour, which is good for a little guy in a new place." That meant a ton - to know that she wasn't going to lecture us on how we needed to be tougher. The strangest thing that happened was in Sunday School - or the 15 minutes we were in there. While I was talking to one of the guys in there, we were comparing similar things in our past. (His wife is from Oviedo, he lived in WPB and went to PBAC when my brother was there, he was a Marine like my dad.) He asked what I had done at the churches I worked at and I told him I was the Graphics Guy. A couple of minutes later, he said, "You do graphics?" I said yup. He asked what I was doing now. I explained how I was the stay-at-home parent. "You want a job?" Huh? Heather asked if I could work at home. He said, "Probably. I would have to check." He explained the situation and said to contact him this week. Whuuuu....? So they are looking at me as a freelancer. Didn't see that coming. After church, we went to lunch with Greg and a couple that he knows from TRBC. Another wonderful time with new friends. Sunday was a good day.
This was the weird day. (Oh, yes, weirder than Sunday.) Heather had school all day and we hung around the house - playing Wii, using the computer, doing our normal routine. Except we were adding in the dreaded realization that we had to go to the store. We were running low on the supporting characters for our meals and . . . (shudder) . . . diapers. When you have little money, shopping is not a cool thing to have to do (especially the money pit of diapers). Add to it that Heather didn't get home until 5:30, so dinner and grocery slammed up against each other. We came up with a game plan. We would go to Target to get their store brand diapers on one bank account, eat there (lousy cheap hot dogs), and then go to Publix for the rest. We toyed with hitting Wally World for all it, but I shot that down. I like Publix brand stuff and wasn't ready to switch at that point. So off to Target. I just couldn't stomach eating there, though. Every time we go there (as I wrote before) the food is a fiasco. I suggested going to Chick Fil A, knowing that it would be painful to the slim account. Surprise - it was KIDS NIGHT! So our final bill was the same as at Target. We ran over and got diapers and headed to Publix.
We were being careful, getting what we needed. As anyone with a caravan of kids know, you can be a spectacle at the store. The kids were being good, but they were still kids. Josiah had to go the bathroom, so I walked him over and then watched for him as Heather wheeled the other two in the gigantic truck cart. (Have you tried driving those things? With the kids in them, they weigh a thousand pounds. It's like pushing Volvo uphill.) Some guy saw us and joked about how difficult it looked and wondered why I was walking behind instead of pushing. We laughed with him about it and continued shopping. When we went to check out, he was in the aisle next to us and kept smiling at us. I started to feel a little weird, not being used to being ogled. I loaded up the food on the moving walkway. I scanned my card and the cashier told me, "You have a guardian angel. Someone paid for your bill." Uh, what? I looked over at the guy, as he deftly avoided my eyes. I couldn't believe it. I had heard of stuff like that happening. But never had it done. Someone just picked up our $71 grocery bill. He probably had no idea how much that meant to us, but it was unbelievable.
There's been lots of other things, too. Heather had two tests this week and did well on both. She has three next week, but seems really on top of stuff - no surprise there. A bunch of the kids' homeschool materials were 35% off for no reason at all. The kids have been awesome. In short, it seems like we have kind of hit our stride. Next week will be crazy. Heather has the tests, I am going to Orlando to teach some seminars for our old school, Heather has her White Coat ceremony next Friday, Heather's brother and sister in law are coming down to Jax, and we will be driving all over tarnation. We get a week off, and then school starts back up for Heather and the kids. It was kind of like this week was a good refreshing charge-up for the next race. It is just very clear, that even in this new place, we are not doing this alone.