The wonderful world of Justice and Mommy aka Mary!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Support Justice Gerber In Scouting

It's that time of year again! We are selling Trails End Popcorn to raise money for Scouting. This is our third year participating in this fundraiser and we are so happy to announce we were the highest seller in Pack 714 last year with $3,175.00 in sales! Justice even won a special prize from Council as he had the highest sales in the over $3,000 category! He also eaned the Trails End College scholarship which means 6% of last years sales have been put into a college scholarship for him and 6% of every sale he makes this year will also go into his college scholarship! Your purchase will not only go to support local Scouts, it will also help pay for Justice's cost of college! The sale runs from October 2nd- October 30th.

As many of you may know I have been a Scout Leader since Justice started Scouting. When we started I thought it would just be something fun to do with some cool camping trips thrown into the mix. I have to tell you, this program is so much more than I ever anticipated. I have watched Justice become an incredible little salesman spending over 80 hours of his own time doing fundraisers for Scouting in the last two years. He has learned many new skills such as Wall Climbing, BB Gun Shooting, Archery, Leave No Trace Principals, Cold Weather Camping, Public Speaking and more. He has also learned how to give back to his community by participating in Conservation Projects, Collecting Food For Families and various other Volunteer Projects. Personally I have recieved top-notch training which has helped me become an effective Scout Leader and have had the opportunity to expand my outdoor skills and learn invaluable life saving techniques.

Justice even got to see snow in Florida when camping with the Scouts!

Of course Scouting costs money and the program is designed for Scouts to earn their own way. To do this Scouts participate in well organized fundraisers. Will you help us pay our own way in Scouting? Your purchase of Trails End Popcorn will help us pay our own way. 70% of your purchase goes back to Justice, his pack and his Council. If you don't like popcorn you can always purchase a Militairy Donation and Trails End will send popcorn to men and women in the Militairy. 100% of your Militairy Donation is tax deductible. We have tried most of the products and can tell you first hand they are fantastic!

In order for Justice to get credit for his sales you must follow the procedure below.

Please go to....

You will see a green bar on the right that says "You are supporting no one. Change."
Click on "Change"
enter Justice's Scout ID 3118672
The Green Bar should now say "You are supporting Scout Justice G."
* You can get FREE SHIPPING on all orders over $150 placed between now and October 15th. Just enter code 100YEARS at checkout!
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posted by Mary Gerber at 10/02/2010 0 comments

Sunday, September 6, 2009

BSA Family Award Journey Part 1

As I was gearing up for this Cub Scout year I began to plan out what achievements and awards we would work on and what would fit well with the Wolf Scout advancement requirements. Some things like belt loops can be earned quite easily while other things like pins and awards require more work and involvement, so I decided a mix between the easy and hard would work best for us. I have identified several things that Justice can earn this year both on his own and with his unit; but, the award I am most excited about is the BSA Family Fun Award.

This award is able to be earned by both the boys and their families which makes it quite unique from most other awards. The point of the program is to strengthen the family by spending more time together by doing things like playing games together, reading and doing community service. You also develop a deeper bond by learning about one another as you do things like explore your heritage, develop a family council and learn how to communicate with each other. Last but not least, you have the opportunity to strengthen your relationship with God by visiting a new church, having open family discussions and helping those who are less fortunate in your own community.

To make things easy, they have broken the program down into five categories that will strengthen your family- Shaping Your Family Identity, Developing Personal Skills, Building A Family Team, Connecting With Your Community and Facing Family Challenges. To earn the basic award each family must choose two activities from each category and complete them over the course of several weeks or several months. Once that award has been achieved, you can earn pins in each category by completing two more actives in each area.

After reading over the Fun For The Family book and pouring over the activities, I realized this was much more than just an award we could earn. This was an opportunity to take a good family and make it a great family. We could use this program as a way to make permanent changes in our family and continue to make use of the activities even after we have attained our goal.

With so many things to choose from, I decided we would develop a family motto and make a poster of it which could be displayed on our living room wall. We could use that motto to help us relate to each other better and help us to make better choices even when things are rocky. After talking with Justice we settled on "Have Love, Faith and Hope Like Christ" If we can model ourselves after those three principals, we can accomplish anything.

Justice seemed to enjoy making a family motto and seemed to be excited about the things we would be doing throughout the year as part of this project. We have decided to bring back the Sunday Dinners of long ago where the good china gets used and everyone gets dressed up. We have decided to play more games together and turn off the TV more often to read aloud. We have also decided to try and save our money for a big treat at the end of the year and will be exploring many other aspects of this project as the weeks and months progress.

I will be using a portion of our blog to track our journey and hope to use it as a tool in the future, so stay tuned for more instalments as time goes on. If you decide to try any of these things at home, please leave a comment and let me know how it worked out for you!
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posted by Mary Gerber at 9/06/2009 0 comments

Monday, March 16, 2009

Our First Shuttle Launch

I have always wanted to see a shuttle launch up close ever since I was a child. I can remember watching launches on television with awe and wonder and I can remember watching the Challenger blow up in real time. I remember the shock and horror we all felt in my fourth grade classroom and I can remember our Principal, Sister Elaine coming on the loudspeaker to lead us all in prayer directly following that tragedy.

A shuttle launch is something that almost everybody can appreciate and stand in awe of. For this reason, I wanted to share that first time experience with my son. I wanted to sit right next to him, waiting in anticipation and bursting with excitement, so when the Discovery launch had to be rescheduled due to a hydrogen gas leak, it provided the perfect opportunity for us to enjoy this experience.

We left West Palm Beach around 2:30 in the afternoon and drove up I-95 to Titusville for about two hours. As soon as we got off the highway, I made sure to stop at a gas station and fill up our tank, because I knew traffic was going to be a nightmare when the launch was over. I also made sure we both used the bathrooms, because after doing some research, I found that Spaceview Park does not have facilities and being that there were only two of us, we could not leave our spot to find a bathroom.

After we had taken care of our "business", we drove a few more miles to the park and when we arrived, we could see the entire area was already bustling with tons of people and cars. It took a few minutes to find a parking space, get out our chairs, coolers and entertainment bags, then we began walking to the park to find our perfect viewing spot.

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The south side of the park was already overcrowded; but, we were very lucky to find some prime viewing area on the north side. We only had one row in front of us and they had camera's set up on tripods, so the space was not packed with people. We set up our chairs and arranged our bags and coolers strategically in front of us to prevent anybody from trying to encroach on our space and sat down to wait.....wait for 7:43pm to arrive.

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It was amazing how many people had small children with them and how they were all able to sit and wait for such a long period of time! For us, I had carefully planned a few things to do. We had a deck of cards, books, small toys and friendly chit chat to keep us entertained. We also had a nice array of snacks, drinks and sandwich fixins to provide a nice picnic dinner while waiting for the big moment to arrive.

There were so many people all around us! Behind us, there was a large family from India and right next to us was a man from Michigan who had scheduled his vacation so that he could see the shuttle launch. Many of the other people around us had never seen a launch before and were just as excited as we were and some of them had seen launches before and were there to take pictures and video's they could sell for money. A few overzealous photographers even set their tripods up in the intercoastal and stood in knee high water for hours waiting for the launch to take place.

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As the time got close, it seemed everybody was on their feet. The level of anticipation in the crowd was sky rocketing and everybody was on pins and needles. Soon, we all began to watch the time and we were lucky enough to have a woman nearby who was keeping track of the NASA countdown from her phone. With only four minutes to go, I took a quick video clip of Justice so I could share the excitement with you.

From this point on, Justice kept asking me "How much longer?" about every thirty seconds. We could hardly contain ourselves as the minutes ticked by. I turned to Justice and said "Can you imagine what it must feel like for the astronauts in the shuttle right now? Can you imagine what they are thinking and how they must have butterflies in their stomachs?" He looked at me and shook his head, while the man from Michigan answered "I can't even begin to understand what they must be feeling."

Then it happened....5,4,3,2,1, LIFTOFF!

In the video, you can hear the wonder and excitement of not only us, but those around us as well. It was awe inspiring and for many people, a once in a lifetime experience.

Its kind of hard to see; but, in the picture below if you look to the left of the brilliant smoke, you will see a tiny dot. That dot is the actual space shuttle. Separation had already occurred when I took this picture.

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We watched the sky until the shuttle was completely out of view then sat down to soak up the experience while allowing the crowd to disperse behind us. After a few minutes a path had cleared, so we packed up our belongings and headed back to our car. Once there I fixed us a few more sandwiches, then we patiently stated our journey home in stop and go traffic.

Justice was "in bed" by the time we reached I-95 safely buckled in his booster seat leaning on a pillow and covered with a blanket while I attentively watched the road and drove back to West Palm Beach.

All in all, it was one of the best experiences I have ever had and even Justice agreed that all the waiting was totally worth it!

PS I found this video on youtube of the cockpit view of the Discovery launch on July 4, 2006!

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posted by Mary Gerber at 3/16/2009 2 comments

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Bike Safety

Since Justice's father moved to another state, we had to find another way for him to make his child support payments. He decided the postal service's priority mail would be a good system to use and I had no objections as long as the money arrived on time.

Unfortunately the postal system is only as good as the idiots using it. Josh mailed out his payment in time; but, failed to write the correct zip code so the payment did not arrive when it was supposed to. That put me in a real bind. I depend on that money as my income plus the child support is just enough to make ends meet. If I miss one payment that means there may not be any grocery, gas or electric money.

After several days of no check in the mail and desperate phone calls from me, Josh finally realized his son was going to be sitting in the dark any day if he did not find another way to make the payment. This time, Western Union was used.

Justice wanted to ride his bike to pick up the money and since it was one a block away, I thought it would be a great way to teach him about bike safety on sidewalks. Of course he always wears his helmet; but, there is so much more to safety than that.

He learned how to get off his bike and walk it safely across the street.

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And, he also learned how to look both ways extra carefully when walking a bike across the street.

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It was so cute to watch him learn. He really took what I was teaching him very seriously.

Thankfully when we got to the store, the money was there waiting for us. We were now able to pay our electric bill, put some gas in the car and buy some groceries. Of course we kept checking the mailbox for the missing check; but, it did not arrive. This was in May.

Around the end of September, about four months later the check arrived at our house. I was completely dumbfounded. I have no idea what the post office did with it during those months; but, it somehow managed to get to us. If only it had been addressed properly it would not have taken so long to get to us!
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posted by Mary Gerber at 10/12/2008 0 comments

Welcome Alethia

Just in time for summer my cousin Michelle gave birth to her first baby, Alethia Helen Millington! We went to visit her in the hospital; but, they would not allow Justice in to see here, so he toured the hospital with a friend while I ran in to see our new little cousin.

Of course Justice was a bit disappointed; but, later that week when they had been released from the hospital, he got a real treat. He got to hold Alethia under our watchful eyes for just a minute.

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posted by Mary Gerber at 10/12/2008 0 comments

Itchy 2008- An Epic Tale

Last year Justice and I started to camp with the Outlanders and out of all the trips we went on, one in particular became an instant favorite- Tubing The Itchetuknee Springs. It was a long drive from home, almost five hours north of West Palm Beach and it required us to be up at 5:30 am on a Saturday in order to get our tubes and make it to the park in a timely manner then drive all the way back home the next day; yet, it was all worth it. We loved the lay of the land in northern Florida and loved the long, lazy float down the spring even more. The sheer beauty of the spring and it’s inhabitants was breathtaking and almost more than we could take in. It was like an instant classic for us.

When the opportunity to take this trip with the Outlanders presented itself this year we were ready to go. The only downside was, the last day of the trip was Father’s Day and it was the day Justice was to fly out of PBI to visit family in Delaware with his dad. This meant we would have to make the 5 hour drive to the park after I got out of work on Friday, be up at 5:30 the next morning to go tubing and drive back home that afternoon when we were done. I decided it would be worth it. Had I had a glass ball, I might have decided differently.

We left home on Friday the 13th filled with excitement and anticipation. In retrospect, while I am not a superstitious person, perhaps I would have done well to take note of the date and add an extra ounce of caution to everything we did. Unfortunately I did not; however, it does make one hell of a story if nothing else. The journey begins here.

It was almost 10:30 before we reached the park that night. As I got out of the car to unlock the gate I was faced with a long, dark, desolate road lined by immense trees which hung in the shadows of the night. It looked like a scene from a horror film where everybody is screaming “No! Don’t get out of the car! He’s in the woods with a knife!!!!” Of course there was no killer in the woods; but, it was pretty hard to convince my imagination of that.

I fiddled with the lock nervously to no avail. For some reason I couldn’t get it to pop; but, as luck would have it another camper pulled up behind me and came to my rescue. That’s the thing about campers. They are always willing to help. The normal selfishness and detachment from others most Americans live by seems to be checked at the gate of most campgrounds. While we all have our own tents and our own food, somehow we all realize that we are in this together and nobody gets left behind.

We drove forward into the forest wide eyed and full of awe. It was so different from what we normally see in Palm Beach County. It was towering and teeming with life. A symphony of crickets and other unknown insects were performing a piece that even Tchaikovsky would be jealous of and we were lucky enough to be there to enjoy it. It followed us all the way to the campground and even lulled us to sleep later that night.

Upon our arrival, the other Outlanders were happy to lend us a hand with flashlights and such and help us get settled into our tent. It didn’t take long and even though we had to get up super early the next day we had a little bit of time to hang out before turning in for the night. As usual we didn’t know everybody on the trip, so we made our introductions and enjoyed a bit of idle chit chat with our new friends before retreating to our tent for the remainder of the night.

Luckily the weather was nice and cool in stark contrast to the previous year in which just laying in our tents was nearly unbearable. I actually ended up in the bathroom talking to Lynette early into the morning that year in order to avoid being in the little inferno we called home that weekend. This year was a dream in comparison to last.

I like to camp in style, so I brought a nice fan and a very long extension cord with me, memory foam pillows, a soft velor blanket and a fluffy down comforter with a nice duvet in order to make our tent as homey as possible. As Justice and I snuggled up under the covers I was thankful that I brought those items. Neither of us were quite ready for bed so we stayed up for a bit whispering and giggling about nothing. I felt like a child again at sleep away camp trying not to get caught by the counselors. It was fun; but, short lived. I knew getting up at the crack of dawn was going to be difficult, so the more sleep we got, the better we would be. Justice did not agree; but, he’s not calling the shots, so we went to sleep before the night got away from us and enjoyed a trip to slumber land in the dense tropical forest surrounding us.

As the first rising of the sun began to peek through the canopy of leaves and branches I made the transition to lucid dreaming almost seamlessly. Somewhere between waking and sleeping it seemed as though an animal brushed up against the side of our tent shaking it vigorously. Was it real or was it a dream? I wasn’t sure.

I laid there slipping in and out of sleep a bit longer trying to enjoy my last few minutes of rest when I felt the shaking again. This time I knew I wasn’t dreaming. Something shook our tent. Should I scream? Should I play dead and hope the animal went away? I was paralyzed with uncertainty. Luckily the feeling didn’t last for long. I soon realized the “animal” was Scott, waking us up without disturbing the other campers in the park. I was relived and Justice was still sleeping.

When I began to wake him I met some resistance. We get up early each day, but never this early. It is almost unnatural to rise side by side with the sun as far as I am concerned and I think Justice agrees with me. He looked up at me then out the window into the not quite lit woods and said “Mommy, it is not time to get up.”
“Yes, it is baby” I said
“No, maybe we should just go home.” he said
I laughed at him and told him I did not drive five hours to sleep in the woods, then drive right back home. I assured him of the fun we were about to have and he forced himself out from under the covers with just a bit of reluctance. The rest of the Outlanders were up and the activity seemed to help us make that last step to the final stage of waking. We were ready for the day to begin.

We all got into our cars, started our engines and followed each other down a single file line to the parks entrance then off to Lowe’s tube rental. This is one of my favorite parts of the trip. Most people have no idea how interesting tube renal can be off the beaten path. Often times the country folk running the place can be some of the most pleasant and colorful people you will ever meet and their methods for tying tubes and rafts to vehicles can be thoroughly entertaining in and of itself. Lowes is no exception.

When we got to Lowes we wasted no time picking out our tubes. We had our choice of a single or double tube or a raft. Justice wanted his own single tube; but, upon careful inspection of the tube I realized the adult sized hole in the middle would be a bit too large for him to handle himself on a 3 ½ hour tubing trip. Some of the other Outlanders suggested we use a double tube, which Justice wanted no parts of. I almost conceded; however, I took the time to look ahead and envision our trip. The vision of two single tubes was not good; therefore, I gently coaxed him into picking out a brightly colored double tube. This would give me more control over him down the river and ensure his safety.

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The most amusing part of the tube rental is picking watching the workers tie the tubes to the vehicles. They tied a small tower of tubes to the roof of one of our cars and a gravity defying row of tubes to the back of another. It was unlike anything you would ever see in the city.

After our tubes were secured to our cars we drove down another series of country roads until we reached the entrance to the Itchetuknee Springs State Park. Once we were there we got in line behind the other cars which were all waiting for the same thing- the parks opening. They only let a certain number of people down the river each day, so the early bird gets the worm. If you want to tube down the river you must get there early or you will be met with a “Closed” sign. That’s no way to begin your day.

As soon as we got there Scott quickly popped the trunk of his car and set up our breakfast table. Due to time and cooking constraints we had a spread of breakfast pastry’s, granola bars, fruit, milk and juice. It was a nice light start to the day. Of course as quickly as breakfast started it ended. We didn’t have much time before the park rangers directed us to enter the parks long road to the front gate. Apparently they have been trying to reduce the amount of traffic on the side of the road; therefore, they now have two entrances and try to get as many people off the main roads before the day begins. This didn’t affect our plans too much and we followed suit when the cars in front of us crept along to the gate then stopped.

It didn’t take long for the park to open and us to make our way in. The drivers needed to take their cars to the midway point and take a shuttle back to the launch site where we entered and since I was a driver I was included in that group. I was planning on taking Justice with me; but, Sandy graciously offered to keep Justice with her. That was a real blessing as it was much more enjoyable for him to play in the park and playground while I took care of the logistics.

After we had dropped our cars off and returned to the park we wasted no time getting on the river. I was a little disappointed by this because last year we walked down to a couple of the springs to swim and take pictures. I was awe struck when I saw the icy blue springs and astounded when I realized that the deeper the water got the lighter it appeared. It went against everything I knew. I was hoping we could walk down to the springs at the end of the run; but, fate it turns out had other plans for us.

Instead we all made our way down to the launching pad and within minutes we were off. Immediately we were transported into a summer wonderland that would rival even that of Narnia. The crystal clear water was only amplified by the vibrant sea grass rippling softly in the current and the banks were flanked with all sorts of subtropical plants and trees. Spanish moss hung from many of the more impressive trees like warm icicles in our tropical paradise and the local inhabitants of the spring made regular appearances throughout the run.

As we continued to glide across the water in our brightly colored inner tubes we kept our eyes peeled for wildlife. At one point to my sheer horror we passed under a low lying branch, our bodies mimicked the backwards lunge of those doing the limbo and we were met with a large spider crawling inches away from our faces threatening to drop onto us at any given moment. After that I became overly aware of all low lying branches.

The rest of our wildlife sightings were much more enjoyable. We saw several trio's of turtles resting on logs and countless birds of various types; but, it was the family of raccoons that were the highlight of our trip. One after the other three masked bandits swam across the river in broad daylight. These normally nocturnal animals are rarely spotted on river excursions, so we felt very blessed to watch them on their little excursion. Unfortunately we did not spot any river otters trotting along next to us. That is a first for us; but, I'm sure our next trip will end with a sighting.

After about an hour Justice started to get a bit tired of "just floating" he wanted to go swimming. I know how funny he can get when he is a little too far away from me for comfort in the wild water, so I had to put my foot down and say no. My answer was not popular with him; but, it is not my job to be popular. My job is to be a mom and I take that very seriously.

Soon we came upon the midway point. It was lunch time which was exactly what we needed to ready ourselves for the last leg of the trip. We had to walk up a fairly long pathway with our tubes to reach the cars and picnic area; but, it was not an unreasonable trek.

Once we arrived, I dropped my watertight camera box and car key on the table while Scott started to get lunch ready by emptying the trunk of his car of its contents. Onto the picnic tables went the bread, chips and fixings as another portable table was set up to hold the drinks. Crunch, crunch, crunch went the chips in Justice's mouth as he snacked on some ranch flavored potato chips in anticipation of lunch. Lunch was set and ready to go.

The remainder of our group had arrived and we all enjoyed a much needed lunch as the day continued to wear on. It was nice to sit there and connect with each other in idle conversation. There's something special about sharing a meal with others and I think that's why the Lord so often connected with others via a meal. Feeding the five thousand with fish, the wedding feast at Cana, the last supper, the infamous meal with Mary and Martha,. Jesus liked to eat and fellowship. We are called to emulate him and so we did that day. We ate and fellowshipped.

All too soon lunch came to and end and it was time to finish the last leg of our trip. We carried our tubes back down to the river and jumped back onto the river. This time I allowed Justice to ride in the raft with Marla, a new friend and I manned our double tube by myself. We tied ourselves together to ensure we did not separate and I felt pretty secure as we continued on our way. If only I knew.

It did not take long for me to realize I was facing the wrong direction. The way we had tied off placed me facing the rear while Justice and Marla faced the front. I trusted Marla; but, I wanted to keep a close eye on him and ensure he was not becoming a nuisance so I decided to turn around. When I changed positions on the tube, I realized the place I clipped my watertight box onto the handles was not optimal. I decided to move it to another spot. I can not be sure; but, I think this may have been my fatal error....."to be continued later in the story"

For a little bit Justice was happy to be the navigator. On the first half of our trip he had begged for a paddle which only came with the rafts relentlessly. This was his chance to say which way we would go and he was ready for it....for a little bit. It did not take long for him to decide the grass was greener on the other side and he wanted to transfer from the boat to the raft. I knew this was not going to go well.

Justice gets nervous when he feels as though he is not in control. I knew he would get nervous the second he was out of the raft and not in the tube and I was right. As soon as his little legs slipped over the edge of the raft and all he had to do was go under and swim into the large opening in the tube he freaked out.
"I want to get back in" he said frantically to Marla.
She looked at me knowingly and said "No, you have to go to your tube"
I agreed and he knew he was stuck. He wasn't happy about it; but, within minutes he was safely harbored in the double tube. and all was well again.

The exit point came up almost too fast. It was time to exit the river. I was surprised at my energy level and felt I was ready for the long drive back to West Palm Beach. I was even contemplating a pit stop in Orlando to Universal Studios to ride the new Simpson's Ride. I was up for almost anything. Almost is the key work here.

We exited the river and walked our tubes up to the return area. After we dropped our tubes in the appropriate spot, we entered the line for the tram which would take us back to our cars and soon we were off to our final destination. The ride was bumpy, yet enjoyable and I couldn't help but notice the beaming smile on Justice's face. He was happy and so was I.

The tram stopped, we all exited and made our way to the cars. As I grabbed for my car key, a horrible realization washed over me. It was gone. It was not where I left it latched to the rock climbing clip which was attached to the watertight camera box which was attached to the inner tube. This was not good.

Justice needed to be back in Palm Beach County by 6am the next morning for an outbound flight to Delaware with his father. A missing car key would not fit well into this puzzle. Frantically I began to check my watertight box and the surrounding area hoping to catch the glimmer of a car key in the sunlight; but, I came up empty. Justice was thirsty and had been bugging me to get him a drink from the snack bar; but, this had to take precedence.

After checking with the park ranger we decided to ride the empty tram back to the pick up point. Perhaps I had lost the key when I unhooked the box and turned our tube in. Yes, that's it I told myself. It had to be where I lost the key. It made sense. As soon as the tram stopped we jumped off and hurried down to the tube return area searching again in vain.

We walked down to the river bank looking all the while scouring the pathway for the key....nothing. We talked to the park ranger who was overseeing the tubers exiting the water. She hadn't seen a key either and gave us the same ominous look every other ranger had. Apparently this happens quite often, several times a day in fact.

While is was somewhat comforting to know I was not the only idiot out there it did not make my key appear out of thin air and as we walked back to the tram yet again I had a sinking feeling in my stomach. This was not good. We had looked everywhere and found nothing. My last hope was to find the key in the car and as we rode back to the midway point that's all I could focus on.

Once we were there I decided to call AAA and get a locksmith out to open the car. It took me a little bit to find that one patch of grass where I could get enough reception to make a call and held onto it for dear life. After punching a few buttons and communication with an automated service I reached a liver person. Being the unlucky weekend it was my AAA had expired ten days before and I had to renew it in order to receive service.

I knew I didn't have enough money in my account to cover the membership, so I called my "benefactor" who was not home. I waited a bit and called again only to get an answering machine. I walked over to the car and tried to jiggle the windows and pushed and pulled to no avail. My car was locked and I had to face the facts. I have to call AAA and pay for the service and accept the overdraft fee.

Once I made the call, I knew we had an hour to kill and it was then that I remembered that Justice was thirsty. He had been so good and such an angel in the midst of all this stress, so I decided it was time for a treat. We walked over to the snack bar and got some nice cold sodas, a soft prezels and a cup of cheese. Comfort food.

Justice was happy and I was, well I was as whatever I could be at that point. We sat down at a wooden picnic table close to the parking lot and enjoyed our snacks. It did not take Justice very long to finish his and he wandered off to the fire safety table that had been set up nearby. Although he had met the firefighters after lunch and gotten a bag of goodies from them, he wanted more.

It no time at all Justice had won the hearts of the firefighters and made his way behind the table. He was so thrilled to be able to pass out balloons and Frisbee's to the other children who passed by. For just one day he was a fire safety specialist and he took his job seriously. They entertained him almost the entire time we were waiting for AAA. It was a huge blessing.

Just before the locksmith came one of the firefighters came over to show me a couple of pictures he took on his camera with Justice. They were so cute and he was nice enough to offer to send one of them to me right from his phone! Below is the picture he sent.

As I was giving him my e-mail address, I caught a glimpse of a maroon locksmith van entering the parking lot. The moment of truth had arrived. I flagged the driver down, took Justice by the hand and walked him over to the car. He introduced himself as Al and in the very same breath he told me he couldn't make a key for this car until 9am Monday morning. He needed the Honda dealership to open so he could get the codes to cut the key. I looked at him in disbelief and started to cry and I'm not talking about a few random tears slipping down my cheeks.

Al popped the lock on the drivers side door then waited patiently while I scoured the car for the non existent key. One by one I flung items aside hoping to find my key; but, instead I found a mess that needed to be cleaned up. The key was not there. I looked back at Al hoping he had something else to offer; but, he did not. Within minutes he was back in his car and I knew I had a phone call to make.

I was dreading this moment. It was the moment I had to call Josh, Justices father and tell him I was stranded until Monday nearly five hours away. WHOOSH, I took a deep breath in, looked up his number and pressed the call button on my phone. RING, RING "Hello" he said
"Hi. Um what kind of mood are you in right now?" I asked with some trepidation.
"Uuuuh I don't know"
"Well, um, I lost my car key in the river and the locksmith said they can't make another key till Monday morning."
"We're stuck here. I can't leave until Monday when I can get another key made." I reiterated.
More silence
"So, what are we going to do about Justice? You both have to be on that plane tomorrow morning. Can you maybe rent a car or borrow one?"
"Um, uuuuuuh, I don't know. I guess I'll have to let you go and see what I can figure out on my end." he said
"Ok, just call me back and let me know. I'm going to try to get to Allie's in Ocala so we have somewhere to stay."
We hung up the phone.

I was shocked. I expected to have him scream and holler at me. I expected him to treat me even more horrible than he normally does; but, he did not. He was calm and accepting. It made no sense. Normally I do nothing wrong and often he commits some terrible act against me and yet I am the one who gets yelled at and verbally abused. This time it was I who had done wrong and I got none of that. It is a puzzlement that I will never solve.

The day was wearing on and I knew it was time to call the Outlanders for a ride back to the campsite and figure out how to get to Ocala so we had somewhere to stay until a new key could be made. Scott arranged for Liz to come get us and I tackled the obstacle of getting a waitress on the phone while at work. It seems logical that if you call somebody's place of work and say "It's an emergency." the person on the other end should say "Oh, I'll get them right away." The restaurant business does not work that way.

I was put on hold twice and actually had to tell Allies manager that I had a serious emergency and would wait however long I had to for her to get to the phone. I could tell she was annoyed with me; but, she got Allie nonetheless. As soon as Allie got on the phone, I wasted no time giving he a quick recap and the bottom line. She promised to come get us as soon as she was done work and told me she would call before she left.

After that I started to breathe a bit easier until my mind wandered onto a subject I had not thought of. The monsters- the cats. I had not arranged for anybody to watch the cats because we were only supposed to be gone for 30 hours. I started to panic and had terrifying visions of four dead cats, wasted away from starvation and dehydration , then I remembered I had given my cousin Michelle a key to the house months before. A huge wave of relief washed over me and I decided to call her later when I got to Allies and could relax.

Soon Liz pulled up and we hopped into her car with all of our luggage which was to sustain us until Monday. For once, I was thankful for being a heavy packer. Those extra outfits, shoes, makeup and shower items I packed were really going to come in handy. We were not exactly going to be rolling in full style; but, we would have what we really needed to get through the next few days.

Once we had arrived at the campground all I wanted to do was sit down. I needed time to breathe, time to think. Then, the phone rang. It was Allie. She had arranged for her husband to come and pick us up earlier. That was good news. While I LOVE camping, I can only handle so much stress and at that moment I needed floors that were not made of dirt and a climate controlled atmosphere. I needed to be in a place where I felt at home. Allie's country home was just that place.

After I spoke with David her husband, I realized we had a couple of hours to kill before he arrived. We sat down and enjoyed the company of the other Outlanders and played a board game to kill some time. Soon dinner was ready and we had a nice meal before it was time to pack up what was left of our bedding and get ready to go. Liz had offered to drive us to the highway and we were happy to accept.

It did not take long for us to reach the Kentucky Fried Chicken where we were to meet Allie's husband and when we arrived he was already there. Within minutes we had transferred our luggage from one car to the next and said our good bye's. We were headed off to Ocala.

I was a bit apprehensive about the drive at first due to the fact that David and I have not met eye to eye over the years; but, it turned out to be ok. He wasn't quite the monster I thought him to be and my attitude towards him and Allie as a couple softened just a bit. The best friend always has her girlfriends best interests at heart and sometimes it is hard to see past the fights and issues you hear about. Sometimes it is hard to see the better half you hear so little about.

When we got back to the house I was finally able to breathe a sigh of relief. Nothing was fixed; yet, somehow everything seemed to be better. Justice took a warm bath and I took a hot shower, we put clean clothes on and sat down on a comfy couch until Allie came home....with McDonald's! My bff sure does know what I need when things are rough. Nothing heals like fried chicken and French fries.

Later that night we laid down to sleep on the same air mattress we slept on the night before, only this time we had a new carpet beneath us instead of a thin layer of nylon lying on a dirt floor. My mind was racing with thoughts of a now missed flight, a day of missed work on Monday and the snowballing loss related to the infamous key. Somewhere between sheer mental exhaustion and rocketing stress levels I fell into a deep sleep. It was just the medicine I needed.

The next day was better. I got to hang out with Allie and take a ride into town. Yes, I meant that- you actually have to ride to town in a place like Ocala. We went shopping and had a secret McDonald's lunch which we told nobody at the house about. We had a couple of hours to just be two girls hanging out with one child in tow, Justice.

After she went to work I decided I needed to call Lee and apologize. Lee is Justices Mom-Mom and it was her who purchased the airline tickets that went unused. The conversation was short, but necessary. I gave her a re-cap of what had happened, apologized for being the biggest idiot in the world then put Justice on the phone with her. It was what it was. Not good, not bad, just something that had to be done.

The next day we all got up bright and early. Getting a key for the car and making our way home was our main priority. Of course, nothing went quite as planned. Allies husband was not sure if he was going to have to work and if he did, I would have to ride up to the car in his semi. We waited around for what seemed like an eternity until he was finally told he did not have to work. That meant we would have to ride up on his motorcycle in order to save money on gas.

I do not make it a habit of getting on the back of anyone’s bike; but, I knew her husband was a very good driver so I said a quick prayer, borrowed a long sleeved jacket to protect my skin, then got on the back of the bike. As we began to drive down the dirt road, I waved back at Allie and Justice. To be honest, I could tell Justice was quite jealous and was wishing it was he who was going for a motorcycle ride!

As luck would have it, soon after we got on the highway a rain storm decided to follow us hot on our heals. Now, if you have never ridden on a motorcycle before on the highway, you may not realize how badly the rain complicates the ride. First of all, it hurts. Those sweet droplets of rain which so lovingly nourish the land we live on become stinging, silver bullets when flying along at highway speeds. To make matters worse, the wet roads seriously increase the risk of hydroplaning and loss of control, so it is not something to be taken lightly.

To compensate David decided to drive faster and outrun the rain. Under normal circumstances, I would have a heart attack if somebody had me going 117mph on the back of a motorcycle; but, under these circumstances, I decided the threat of the rain was worse than the threat of high speeds. I began praying fervently at this point.

About an hour later we arrived safely at our destination and I called AAA to place my service call. I was told we would have about an hour to wait, hung up the phone and waited. I had never really hung out with Allie’s husband before and did not have the highest opinion of him, so I was a bit apprehensive about spending a whole hour with him; however, it turned out to be a good thing.

We took a short hike down to the river and back and talked about a-lot of different things over that hour. I got a chance to see a side of him that is more amicable than the one I normally hear about. My heart softened towards their relationship a bit that day and I realized he wasn’t all bad. Sometimes we have a habit of telling our friends all of the bad stuff about our significant others and not enough of the good stuff; but, that day I got a better picture of who he really was. Not great, not horrible, but sometimes an ok person.

An hour later the AAA driver showed up and it was Al again! He was chuckling to himself in a friendly way as he got out of his car. When we called earlier we had gotten his number and given him the vin number to the car in order to speed things up; therefore, he already had the key for the car. He opened the door and started the car with ease as I sat there somewhat dumbfounded. Something so simple was so impossible just a few days ago!

With a great sigh of relief I got back into my car and began to follow David back to Ocala. Our crisis was nearly over. It felt so good to be back in the car and in the drivers seat. I knew things were not fixed at this point; but, I also knew things were better than they were before.

As soon as we got back to the house in Ocala, I wasted no time packing the car up with our belongings and getting ready for the trip home. Allie had to go to work, so we said our goodbye's and decided to indulge Justice in one last treat before leaving.

David happened to have his work truck parked in front of the house and it provided the perfect opportunity to give Justice a quick tour of the inside of a truckers cabin. He was so excited to see what it looked like, he ran all the way out to the truck. I have to admit, even I was a bit curious as to what it looked like in there.

After our tour, we gave Josh a quick call to see what was going on and he said there was no way they were leaving that night, so I asked him if it would be ok if we stopped off at Universal Studios so Justice could ride the brand new Simpsons ride. He agreed and we made our way to the park for a quick ride.

Due to the time and the longer than expected weekend, I explained to Justice that we would only be going on the Simpsons ride, then we would be leaving. Of course the line was long and you could not take pictures on the ride; but, I did snap one photo while in line.

Justice absolutely loved the ride and I thought it was good, but not great and that brought an end to our epic tale of 2008.


Out of sheer astonishment, I had to add a footnote to this blog. While Justice was up in Delaware Allie and I attempted to have a girls weekend only. We realized that we had not spent a single day together without any children in over six and a half years and felt our time was way overdue; however, we ended up having two children with us during our “girls only time.” *Sigh* I suppose we will just have to keep looking forward to one day…

Anyway, as we checked into our hotel in Orlando and got ourselves ready for the next day, I realized I needed something from the glove box in my car. I had had some work done recently and the mechanic had rummaged through the glove box, leaving it somewhat disheveled. I paid little attention to it at the time; but, this time when I looked in there I saw something that made my jaw drop to the floor. I saw three Honda Civic car keys sitting very unassumingly in the bottom of the box.

Now I know I had checked the box over several times looking for spare keys while in Itchetuknee; but, I came up empty every time. Then….I had a vague memory of my Uncle placing those keys in there when I got the car. My mother sent it down on a transporter and he had been kind enough to receive it for me.

I felt like Dorothy in The Wizard Of Oz. I had had the power to get home the whole time and did not know it. While she only had to click her heals together three times and say “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.” All I had to do was think to check inside the envelopes and use one of the three shinny keys to start my car and go home.

When I got back into the room and told Allie what I had found she was as speechless as I was. We both agreed not to tell David and exchanged an “I don’t even frigging believe it!” look before settling down for the night. It was one of the most surreal moments of my life.
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posted by Mary Gerber at 10/12/2008 0 comments

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Bridging The Gap With Boys Town

As I sent Justice off on his first day of school, snapping pictures all the way, I had the same dream and vision every mother does. My boy would go to school and outshine all the other students in academics and behavior. He would be the star student, well on his way to Harvard. The apple of everyone’s eye.

Let’s just say things did not go as planned. It did not take long for the notes to start coming home. “Justice is not following directions.", "Justice is talking out of turn.", "Justice needs to complete his work in class.", BLAH BLA BLAH….

It was not what I had envisioned. By December, Justices teacher realized he was falling behind academically due to his behavior and we felt it was time to have our first parent teacher conference. I was careful to schedule it around a time when both Josh and I could be there. He never showed that day. I sat there with Justice’s teachers going over his progress. They presented me with cold hard facts. He was bright and engaging; but, he was also defiant, distracted and causing excessive problems in the classroom. His seat had even been moved away from the rest of the class. He was THAT kid.

It was a hard pill to swallow; but, thankfully I’m good at swallowing pills. I absorbed the truth then moved to the next step. It was time to take action. The school recommended an early intervention program with Boys Town. It was very intensive and would involve a one-two hour in home commitment from me. A case manager would be assigned to us, meet with us in our home every week and monitor Justice in school as well as meet with his teachers. The goal was to get everybody on the same page and stop the small problems before they became big problems. I was game.

In a few weeks a got a call from Jeremy Makefield. He was a case manager from Boys Town and he had been assigned to us. We spoke for a few minutes and agreed that Thursdays at 5:30 would be the best time for a weekly meeting. I was not sure of what to expect from the program; but, I knew I needed help. I couldn’t be there at school with Justice, so I had to do whatever was asked of me to support him during those precious hours where he was out of my control. I needed somebody who could bridge that gap for me. Mr. Makefield and Boys Town were just the bridge I needed.

Our first meeting went well and was filled with background and history. Mr. Makefield listened intently as I described the issues we were facing. He took note of the key issues and began to develop a plan of action in his head. Our situation was not so unique as I had originally thought. He had seen it all and even though Justice was an individual he did fit a certain sort of pattern.

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Mr. Makefield prescribed consistency, practice and understanding. All were within my reach. The prognosis was good and we all felt as if success was on the precipice. He warned me things may get worse before they get better, but promised things would get better. I was ok with that.

Justice responded well to Mr. Makefield. He was thrilled to have a consistent and positive male influence in his life. As the weeks wore on I became more and more surprised at the results. Justice had flipped from bad to good like a light switch. He went from earning mostly sad faces and negative notes to mostly happy faces and well deserved praise. It was the miracle I had been looking for.

As quickly as everything came together it fell apart. Justices father had been living with a married woman who he impregnated. As her stomach swelled with bastard life no explanation was made to Justice. When she moved out of the apartment taking most of her things he was not spoken to about the new living arrangement. He was left to fend for himself and figure things out on his own.

Luckily I became enlightened to the situation. Justice got the explanation he was looking for; but, the damage had already been done. To make matters worse, his father moved to Delaware somewhat unexpectedly right after Mothers Day. It was all a bit too much for Justice. He started to slide back down the hill he fought so hard to climb up. He was angry and scatterbrained. He was sleeping more than 12 hours a day. I almost want to say he was exhibiting signs of clinical depression. It was hard to watch.

I felt bad for Justice and wished I had a magic wand to make all his troubles go away. This is where it becomes very difficult to be a single parent with a father who behaves recklessly. Honestly I couldn't care less what he does, except for the fact that his actions directly affect my son. Why doesn't he see that? Why do some parents think they can behave any way they want and then lie to their children to save face? We expect our sports hero's to lead lives worthy of adoration by our children and when they do atrocious things off the field like Michael Vick and the dog fighting scandal, we call them out on it. So, why don't we hold fathers to the same standard?

It is a puzzle to me which may never be solved; but, I am very pleased to say, with Justices father out of the picture I was able to provide an ultra-stable home life and helped him get back on track by the last two weeks of school. Unfortunately Justice lost his trip on the hot air balloon which was promised for a huge, consistent change in his behavior.

It was so hard for me to keep my word and cancel the balloon trip. It just wasn't fair. Justice had no control over the craziness his fathers life and it was no surprise that it affected him in such a way. I really feel like he should have been cut some more slack; but, if I did not keep my word I knew I would be setting myself up for disaster in the next year. My word would mean nothing.

I promised Justice he could have the trip next year if his behavior was good and consistent and assured him of my love. It was one of the most difficult decisions I have had to stick to as a mother. I know I did the right thing, but it hurt so bad to do it. The light at the end of the tunnel is shinning bright and I believe I will emerge into it at the end of next school year.

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With the influence from his father greatly diminished, I have the ability to provide an ultra consistent day to day life for Justice and I look forward to it quite eagerly. In my heart I know the upcoming year is going to be much better and I have great hopes for my son. With the proper love and guidance I believe he can reach for the starts and meet any goal he sets for himself.

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posted by Mary Gerber at 9/28/2008 0 comments