The One Where the Running Ceased

Sometimes, when I allow myself to wander in thought, I think about the fact that at some point, (hopefully a point far, far away) I will go on my very last run and that will be that. I sometimes wonder if it will be an intentional last run, like a last big hurrah before I take to more gentle forms of exercise; or if it will be an abrupt and unexpected ending, one that I would rather not even imagine. (In case you are wondering, I try not to let my thoughts wander too frequently!)

At any rate, these were my thoughts as I was finishing up a fifteen mile training run on my treadmill two days ago when Kurt came in to chat. He hadn't been in the room for more than a minute when we heard a snapping noise and my treadmill came to an abrupt halt, leaving me stranded half a mile short of my goal in the midst of an obnoxious burning aroma. (Point: Abrupt and Unexpected.)

There were shouts of gladness and joy all around. We were filled with such delight. You know, like the delight a sweet little deer must feel the moment she realizes that following those two pretty glowing lights is a five thousand pound killing machine! "Oh, yippee! Look at De-light! De-light!" BAM!

If you have been following along, our first two months in Mars have been full of insanity: septic alarms going off, pipes bursting, flooded rooms, electrical shorts, phone problems galore, spotty internet, locked out email, dead car batteries (did I not mention that one?), overflowing toilets, and the list goes on and on. We have had so many technicians/specialists out that I am beginning to think we ought to just hire them on full time. So when the treadmill broke, well, I'd call it a last straw but as it turns out, it wasn't. It was just one more needle we didn't want to find in the hay stack but got stuck with anyway. 

So, for those of you who want to know how we like Mars so far…..it's simply delightful. Truly.

(Venison, anyone?)


Conversations from Mars

Lily: Mom, when you were little, did people have cars?
Me: What?
Lily: Were there cars when you were little or did people use wagons and horses and stuff?
Me: Seriously?

So I just chalked that one up to her being 7 but then not two days later this conversation took place between me and my almost eleven year old:

Me: Hey Aidan, I really like those jeans. They look really good on you.
Aidan: Thanks. This is the first time I have worn them because my favorite ones are dirty.
Me: Well, I think those look better than the other ones, more like a teenager.
Aidan (flushing): Mo-om, that's just because you are from the nineteen…..fifties?
Me: Uh, I assure you I am not from the 1950s! Try again.
Aidan: Oh, I mean the…. 60s?
Me: Seriously? Try some math!
Aidan: Oh, no, you grew up in the 70s, er 80s, yeah the 80s.

I think it might be time to start wearing make-up……or get my kids math and history tutors….


Three year old Solomon walked up to me while I was doing dishes and pulled on my arm with a serious expression on his face. I got down on one knee to see what he had to say.

Solomon: Mom, can I buy one?
Me: Buy what Solly?
Solomon: Buy a little bass guitar so I can play?
Me: Um, I don't think they make bass guitars that small, Solly.
Solomon: Yes, they do. I can put it right here on my tummy and play it (he says patting his belly with both hands).


Aidan was being a know-it-all one morning as we waited for the girls' school to open so they could go in. After a long lecture on Latin vocabulary, Madeline, in all seriousness, says: "Wow, Aidan….You've sure got some brains!"

That's one way of putting it.


Liam: What date is it tomorrow?
Kurt: January 30th.
Liam: What is the next day?
Kurt: January 31st. And what day is that?
Liam, impatiently: My birthday. But what day is after that?
Kurt: February 1st.
Liam (getting more excited): And then what day is it?
Kurt: February 2nd.
Liam: And do you know what day that is? It's the SUPER BOWL! Yay! Yay! Yaaaaaaaay!

(You know a kid is obsessed over sports when the "big game" is far more exciting than his birthday!)


More often than not, as we are driving in Mars, we see deer, lots and lots of deer; so many deer that I am beginning to think there are more deer than people around here. At any rate, whenever I see them I point and say, "DEER!" and all the kids excitedly look, as if it were the first time they ever saw one. (Or something like that.)

The other day as we were driving, I pointed at a big herd of deer:

Me: Hey, look at that kids!
Liam (shouting): Wow! Camels!
Me: Close enough.

Fast forward to the next day….we were driving to school and were about to pass a runner on the side of the road when Madeline shouts, "Human!"



The Day Faith Died

In the beginning, there was change. Enough changed to abundance. Suburban life changed to country living. The frenetic pace of yesteryear relaxed. Even time seemed to slow down. The change was exciting. And intense. And, at times, stressful. But it was good. Mostly.

Then last week happened.

After a week of no dial tone, our home phone was finally back up and running. After finding out how ruthless and unforgiving tile can really be and after having two new phones stop working thereafter, (because that is how modern advances work in our house…..not very well) Kurt finally had a working cell phone. Things were finally looking up. Kind of.

On Thursday, as I was preparing to make breakfast for the five kids and get them out the door to school, the electricity in half the kitchen failed. (Don't worry, it was only the half that starts things like the coffee maker, toaster oven, stove top, microwave….um, everything but the overhead lights to be exact.) So, we skipped the eggs and oatmeal and had cold cereal and fruit instead. No big deal.

Later that day, our IT guy came over to help Kurt with his computer/phone set up. It was at that point that Kurt's new cell phone stopped working. He was so, so pleased. You could tell by the joy and triumph in his eyes and the extreme calm in his tone of voice…..

At any rate, I dropped Liam off at school mid-day and went out to run some errands. Solly and I were just finishing up at Target when Kurt called: "The Septic Alarm is going off, I do not have time for this, please call the Septic people." He gave me the name of our Water Guy and I pulled over to Google the number on my phone.

I arranged for Water Guy to come out, because who knew he was different than Septic Guy (I suppose this is a good separation.) Then Solly and I went to Staples. I was derailed when Solly announced he needed to go to the potty. (Oh, did I mention this was the week we decided to potty train Solly?) What he meant was he had already gone and after stripping him down in the restroom I realized I had grabbed the wrong diaper that morning and he had been wearing a swim diaper. Now, if he had been swimming then I am certain this would have sufficed. But if you know anything about diapers you know that swim diapers are not meant for actually holding anything of the liquid variety….. It was while realizing I had no extra diapers on me and Solly was naked because his britches were doused in urine, that Kurt called again to tell me to call off Water Guy (wrong guy) and call his mom who should have the info I needed to call the right guy.

Leaving Solomon standing there naked in the bathroom stall, I called Water Guy (again) who happens to know Septic Guy (for the record, I would so rather be referred to as Water Guy than Septic Guy, you know, if I had the choice) and then I packed Solly up in his wet clothes and quickly get him to the car (in negative 3 degree weather…) so that I could get ahold of Septic Guy.

When I got home, Septic Guy had me check the alarms out. Apparently we have two. After he explained to me how to silence the alarm, the conversation went like this:

SG: Which alarm is going off; it should say on the box.
Me: Um, I believe it says Sand Filter.
SG: Oh great! (He sounds relieved.) Well, not great but that's okay. Well, not okay but….
Me: Not okay-okay but okay for now, I got it.
SG: Yes, let me call you back and come on over in a couple days to check things out. I can't do anything right now but don't worry, nothing bad will happen. And if you don't hear from me, try me again next week. (This is really reassuring…..)

When I got home, Kurt was gone to replace his phone, again, and IT Guy was working on the computers. Electrician had fortunately been to the house about some other issue and was able to fix the kitchen short. All was well……

But later that night, Faith died. (Faith was Lily's fish, you know, the one that replaced Spikey, the Dragon. Seriously, the kid can't catch a break.)

There was eating and there was sleeping, oh, and a brief moment of grieving before the big flush. This was Day 1.

On Friday, all began well. Electricity was working, septic alarm was silently on but there were no problems, all phones were working. Then we head to the bank and Kurt spends several useless hours in which the bank can't get Kurt's business accounts transferred over because of a bunch of stuff that doesn't make sense to anyone but the bank, and really, maybe not to them either. He was very, very delighted and overjoyed with yet another issue to deal with. (Please insert sarcasm at will if you have not done so already.)

Later, after a series of bad phone calls (from what I can gather) we hear Kurt say that he cannot handle one more thing. (More or less.) The kids and I stay quiet in the attic watching a show until Kurt is ready to join us.

Aidan takes the night off of swimming so that we can just relax, order Chinese Take-Out and watch a movie as a family. We need a break.

There was some running and eating and sleeping (and perhaps some choice words here and there).

This was Day 2.

On Saturday, all was seemingly on the up and up. Good sleep all around.

Kurt took Aidan to his swim lesson and when they got back we went to the donut shop down the street (and by down the street I mean like 15 minutes away). These are the best donuts we have ever had. They are cake donuts, made fresh every morning and still hot when you get them. And what's more, you get to pick the icing and toppings and filling you want and watch the Donut Guy as he puts the whole thing together just like you want it. Everyone enjoys this. All is well.

Kurt rests the second half of the day while the kids and I attend Saturday night church. During prayer requests, I asked for prayers for our family as we deal with all the little issues and annoyances that seem to be popping up; we could sure use a little peace and calm right now so that we could begin to settle in and feel more at home.

When we get home, Solly is in great need of a new diaper (so much for the potty training!) and as I am changing him Lily asks a question no parent ever wants to hear:

"Mom, why is it raining in your bedroom?"

Me (leaving a very stinky/soiled Solly standing naked in the hall): "What?" then: "KUUUUUUUUURT!" (Think Fred Flintstone yelling for Wilma…..only without the trendy caveman outfit and super fun dinosaur.)

This is when time seems to stand still even as all hell breaks loose (as does the ceiling) and the scene unfolds like something out of a movie. No sooner do we get one bucket under the leak when another hole pops up spewing more water. It is like a nightmarish circus game, where we are the objects being hit in the head by someone above spraying water from the gun……(I am thinking they must've won the biggest darn stuffed animal known to man!)…

As the kids go running through the house to find more buckets and bins and towels, I quickly get Solly re-diapered and then rush downstairs to attempt turning off the water. I am at a loss: there are so many levers in so many different places. I sprint to the phone, call our neighbor and ask him to please come help us. When I look in the room again, the ceiling is beginning to open apart, like the heavens opening wide to allow a dove to descend upon us and proclaim the good news…..oh wait, no, not at all like that.

Within moments, Knightly Neighbor shows up and runs downstairs to start turning off any and all water he can find as well as shutting off the electricity to our well and bedroom. During all this, Kurt has been making dozens of calls trying to find someone to help. No one will come.

The water finally stops. A collective sigh runs through the house (if you can call it that). Aidan and I go around and clean up the water that is now dripping into the basement via recessed lighting. We get a few more buckets in place and dry up the hardwood floors.

After our neighbor leaves, Kurt and I put the kids in front of the hockey game and I drive to Lowes with only 15 minutes till closing. Two elderly men help me figure out that my best bet is a rentable Rug Doctor……I fondly recall our last carpet episode in MN and think, "Well, at least I know how to use this thing." One of the old men offers me his phone number in case we should need anything. I tell him we will be okay, and thank him and I realize just how much I truly mean it.

The irony of water damage is that with all that water drenching your house, you are without usable water…a problem if you want to do things like use the plumbing and, um, drink, so I picked up a big 5 gallon jug just in case and as I was trying to get to my car a couple who had been eaves dropping at Lowes offered to help me to my truck. She pushed the cart, he carried the machine. My faith in humanity is restored.

There is cleaning and quiet and much tossing and turning. This is Day 3.

When Sunday rolls around we feel pretty defeated. It has been a really tough few days and weeks. I take the kids to breakfast so that we can use the bathroom and wash our hands and I explain the situation to the kids….blah blah blah need your help blah blah blah lots of stress blah blah blah please be on best behavior and keep the noise down for your daddy's sake…..I am pretty sure they only heard the blah blah blahs.

After breakfast we took Lily to a birthday party at a mall half an hour away. As we are stopped at a red light across from a big non-denominational church, I happen to glance at their scrolling sign which read: This Week's Message: "You will get through this." I snickered but thought surely this is a sign (sorry, bad pun) and began to feel at ease. Then Kurt called. Warranty won't pay for a frozen pipe and only covers the plumbing part anyway. Oh, and our insurance has a $28,000 deductible. We will have to pay for this out of pocket. Good feeling gone.

Kurt's Aunt met us at the mall. She was going to pick Lily up after the party but we hadn't seen her in over a year and so I needed her to be there so Lily would know who to go home with. She arrived in a lovely blue coat and immediately I felt calmer even though I knew Kurt was having a complete crisis of faith (and of everything else!) at home. But, my sense of calm was real and I was thankful. (Not my timing but yours dear God…..thanks I guess.)

And strangely enough, the aftermath has left a certain calm in the air as we take the necessary steps to resume normalcy and work toward restoring our home. It isn't what we would have chosen mind you, and we would have been totally cool with a little wave of God's gracious arm as He sent peace to us without all the chaos, but somehow, I think this is teaching us to let go and remember that there are just some things we can't control. And as Emergency House Restoration Guy pointed out: It could have been a whole lot worse. At the very least, it's been an interesting and adventurous beginning here in Mars.

(And we still pray for Faith….for our own as well as our dear little fish, who is now showing up in Lily's nightmares….yay.)