Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Together again!

The Stringer Zoo is complete once again! Yippee!!!

I know everyone has been praying for all of us through this. It has definitely been a challenging period of time for all the members of the Zoo. We all have been challenged, and encouraged. The Lord has provided in amazing ways.

Psalm 91:1-2

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I trust him.

Now we are done, and the deployment is behind us. Reunion is sweet, I love hearing Scott's voice echoing through the house, and my heart melts at how Hailey runs around the house searching for "Daa-ee".

I'll have pictures later this week, I'm still trying to pull my memories together of yesterday. I know the pictures will help jump start the words. :)

Night all!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Just another way to procrastinate.

I REALLY should be attending to the crazy house, my screaming 2 year old, or the welcome home banners for Scott. Instead, I'm playing around online. :)

The wives and better halves of the men and women of HS-8 have been petitioning friends for baked goods, and businesses for donations as we prepare for the homecoming. I sent a message to my homeschool group asking for help preparing for the single sailors to come home. WOW! What a response. I've had 4 women volunteer their time to help paint welcome home banners for the 10 single officers in the squadron, plus several are spending time in their hot kitchens baking cookies and muffins for the single enlisted sailors. It is so awesome to be a part of a group that will wholeheartedly support my husband and his squadronmates. THANK YOU CFS - Chula Vista!

I've planned that today would be the last major cleaning day for the house. Emily and Beth are less than thrilled about this plan, but they are "willing" to help a little bit. I've been working pretty hard all week to straighten up, purge, and try to make this place a refuge for Scott as he arrives home. Funny how 3 little ones can really wreck havoc on a clean home in just a few short minutes! It may be a day of movies today - anything I can do to keep Hailey from screaming nonstop.

Only two more nights of being alone! The girls kisses are almost gone, it is time for Daddy to come home!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

4 and 0.4

Wednesday, August 22, 2007 was quite a momentous day for the Stringer Zoo. Katelynn and Laura (aka Nana) left Honolulu aboard the USS Stennis for the beginning of their Tiger Cruise. I was able to talk to Katelynn one final time while they were waiting to pull out. It is a really odd to think that my eldest daughter is several thousand miles away, among 5,000 crewmembers on a huge aircraft carrier.

Yesterday also marked the anniversary of Beth's birth. Little Miss Bethie-Boodle turned 4 years old and proudly announced that fact to each person she encountered yesterday. Anyone who meets Beth quickly realizes she had a special spark. Scott and I marvelled at this little baby 4 years ago and wondered what the Lord had in store for her. It is an amazing adventure to be her mother!

But the first excitement came early in the morning. I realized that I was only 0.4 pounds away from my first weight loss goal. Shortly after Scott left, already several pounds into my weight loss journey, I told the girls that when I lost as much as Hailey weighed we would celebrate. Of course at the time, Hailey only weighed 21 pounds - she now weighs in at 24 pounds, so I had to adjust our celebrations by 3 pounds. :) On Wednesday morning I was pleasantly surprised to be at a 23.6 pound loss! Yahoo!

Today, the Zoo and I will be heading to the beach to our homeschool group "Not Going Back to School" Party. I'm sure there will be a few more adventures along the beaches of San Diego today.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Growing up

I'm pleased to report that Katelynn has landed in Hawaii with Nana and has met up with Scott. My little girl is growing up!

It felt a little weird to watch Katelynn and Laura walk into the security queue at Lindburgh field this morning. I was holding Hailey, while Emily and Beth peeked over the temporary barriers. We waved, blew kisses and made funny faces until we couldn't see Katelynn behind the crowd.

The house has seemed oddly quiet today. Emily has embraced her role as the big sister and is doing her best to keep the peace between Hailey and Beth. I don't have Katelynn's constant stream of chatter following me around as I work. I'm sure we will all adjust to her absence, but we will definitely miss her!

Pray for Scott and his "tigers". I know this week will hold many memories.

One week from now, and we'll be a complete family again!!!!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Just a little bit eerie!

The Goughs and the Stringers have many similarities. We've often marveled at how easily our families mesh together. Having Melody and the kids here this past week really helped me in so many ways. However, Mel and I discovered yet another eerie similarity between Scott and Rich...

Melissa was here this weekend to help celebrate Beth's birthday. She had helped me rearrange the downstairs a while back and was ready to help move furniture in my room. After huffing and puffing, the furniture was slid, pushed, shoved and wrestled into new places. (I think Scott will be pleasantly surprised.) Then it was time for the dirty work - sorting through papers on the desk, and clothes in the closets.

This is where Melody stepped in. We've always joked about how both Scott and Rich collect T-shirts. So, we took the opportunity presented before us and cleared out Scott's drawers of any shirts that had stains or rips, or that were older than Katelynn. (Yes, we found a few that were from our High School times.) Yet, the crowning moment was when I pulled out an old sports coat from the back of Scott's closet. As it sees the light for the first time in years, I hear Melody's chuckle from behind me.

"OK, I know it is a bit out of style, and it is dusty, but is it really THAT bad?" I think to myself. I soon find out that Rich had a nearly identical sports coat that he wore to their wedding reception, nearly 15 years ago! (If I'm not mistaken, Scott wore this coat to our Senior year homecoming dance.) Yes, Scott and Rich are really alike, in so many ways.

Melody and I even were able to get Alec to quickly pose for a picture in this vintage jacket. I'm waiting for Scott's blessing, but I think this coat is on its way out to bless someone else.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Today is almost tomorrow.

Tomorrow we'll celebrate Beth's 4th birthday, eleven days early. At the beginning of this adventure called deployment, we had hoped that Scott would be home before Beth turned 4. (The navy had other ideas, and he'll be home a little less than a week later.) In fact, during the month of January, while Scott was still home, we kept telling Beth that "Daddy would be home for her birthday." Each evening she'd greet Scott at the door with "Hi Daddy, it my birthday?" I guess we neglected to explain to her that going to work each day was different than a 7-month long deployment. :)

So, as things began to look like Scott wouldn't return in time for "THE day", I told the Zoo that we would celebrate with a party at Pump It Up IF Daddy didn't make it back by August 22. One thing led to another, and here we are with a house full of people who love Beth and are eager to celebrate with her. It should be a fun day!

Say a prayer of Thanks for this special little girl. Beth truly does brighten every life she comes in contact with.

Monday, August 06, 2007

34 and counting.

If you are born on this day, August 5, you have many character qualities that draw people to you.

Your attention to detail helps you to focus in on the "little things" in life.

Yet, you have the ability to see the big picture.
You are strong, and will help others in need.

You know how to kick back and relax,

or sit and enjoy time with others.

You never forget that everything in life is a gift from the Lord.

You are surrounded by friends who enjoy you,
and women who adore you.

You are loved.
Happy Birthday Scott!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

If you need a smile.

It has been a day of conflicting emotions here at the Zoo. The girls and I seemed to have woken up on the wrong side of the bed. Hailey was screeching, Katelynn was grumpy, I was down in the dumps, while Emily and Beth just tried to stay out of our way.

So tonight I have decided to post a few pictures, just to make you smile. No other reason. They're random pictures from my files, I hope you enjoy them!

Oh, and things were looking much better by lunchtime. Scott called, I had a good cry, Katelynn was over her "mood" and Hailey had stopped shrieking. We're all better now!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Fabulously unplanned.

Sometimes there are HUGE benefits to not planning life. (I'm really good at planning things in my head, I always come up with grand ideas, it is just the implementation that gets me down.) The drive from Atascadero to home this past Sunday was one example of where the unexpected can really bring joy to life.

The girls and I set out from Amanda's house with our sights set on the Borders bookstore in San Luis Obispo. Katelynn has yet again devoured all the books we have purchased since leaving home, plus all the books Nana and I bought her in Almanor, plus all the books I bought along the drive north. (I'm going to go broke!) So, with a 6+ hour drive looming ahead of us, and a limited supply of DVDs with us, I told the girls I would purchase each of them a book.

Eventually we were on the road again, and I thought to myself that In-n-Out in Santa Barbara would be a great place to stop for lunch, as it was now about noon, but we had snacks and drinks to keep everyone happy for the next 90 minutes. Plus, a movie was showing, so they girls were mesmerized and would temporarily forget any hunger pangs.

Unfortunately, the movie did nothing to help me - I was getting sleepier as each mile passed under my tires. We pulled over at a rest stop shortly before the coastline. I dozed for 30 minutes while the girls finished their movie. Once I was refreshed we hit the pavement and watched the waves crashing to our right side. Katelynn loved spotting the red kelp beds peeking above the surface of the sea. Before I knew it, the "Littles" were asleep, and we were nearing Santa Barbara.

I opted the let Hailey and Beth sleep, so we continued on, deciding to hit the next In-n-Out. I mistakenly thought there was one in Carpenteria, the next "large" coastal town. So southward we continued. I missed the exit for the In-n-Out in Ventura, so we were destined to have lunch in my hometown of Camarillo.

Once Katelynn and Emily heard we were to be eating practically in Papa's backyard, they became determined to visit with him. In God's plan, John was home, wasn't busy, and was able to meet us for our very late lunch at In-n-Out. How fun it was to watch John drive up and park next to me and to hear the chorus of "PAPA" ringing out from the rear seats of my truck! Eli grinned away as he realized who was reaching in the window to pet his head.

John kept the troops entertained while I ordered our extremely high maintenance meal. If you know anything about In-n-Out, you know that they do not have a very large menu. Hamburgers, cheeseburgers, fries, shakes and drinks. That is it, nothing else. However, I've learned that there are endless variations on HOW you order your food. Plain, un-toasted, animal style, you name it, they can do it. So it takes a while for me to get all the various peculiarities of my girls tastes relayed to the associate behind the register.

About halfway through the meal, I realized that if I continued on as "planned" we would hit LA at 5pm. ARGH! Not a good idea. OK, time to rethink the "plan". I realized that Scott's aunt, Lucy, had a few stray Zoo items at her house from our last visit, so why not stop by her place? Since she wasn't due home from work for a few hours, that left us free to visit with Papa!!!

The girls and dogs stretched their legs while John and I had a great talk. It was so awesome to just be able to sit with Scott's dad and enjoy our time. It was so evident to me during this conversation the depth of John's love for Scott. John and Laura did a fabulous job raising Scott and Amanda, and it shows in how Scott and Amanda treat others and live their lives. I will treasure this time with John.

Then it was back into the truck for the Zoo, and we descended upon Aunt Lucy. I dug out the girls bathing suits and they played in the jacuzzi right outside Lucy's front door while Lucy and I talked. I was privileged to look through her sketches, and throughly enjoyed our adult conversation while the girls played. Hmmm, you think the Lord was filling me up with great conversations to ponder as I work so hard this month? Something to think about!

We left Aunt Lucy's full of yummy food and ready to be home. I had to return to her place to pick up my purse, thank God I realized I had left it before we were even 1/2 of a mile from her home! I filled the truck with gas, bought a hot coffee and some munchies and hit the road. It wasn't too long before the girls were asleep and I was left "alone" with my recorded book and the grey asphalt in front of me.

We pulled into the driveway around 12:15 in the morning. The girls already were dressed in their pajamas so they crawled into bed, hardly even opening their eyes. I, unfortunately, wasn't so lucky. I always take a while to wind down from a long drive, and this night was no exception. It was nearly 3:30 before I was ready to get some sleep. I think the wonders of our unplanned day just took a while to sink in.

And of course, I'm up past my self-imposed curfew of 11pm tonight. I've got so many things rolling around inside my head. I have really enjoyed the memory building time the girls and I have done while Scott was away, but I'm done. I need my husband to come home. August 27 can't come soon enough.

IthinkIcan, IthinkIcan, IthinkIcan...

Friday, August 03, 2007

Atascadero and points south

When we last left our story, the heroine was weaving her way through the curved forest road. Her red horse stretched his muscles, carrying her swiftly over and around any obstacle. Four young princesses rode in the carriage behind, giggling with delight as they bounced over rocks and dodged trees...

Oh, oops. You don't remember that from last nights blog? Hmmmm. My bad.

The Zoo and I arrived Amanda's castle, I mean home, right around noon. Cody, their black lab, greeted us by enthusiastically wagging his entire body as he waited for me to let Eli and Abbey into the backyard. As the dogs got reacquainted, the girls and I surveyed the newest project - a new chicken coop being built when Tyler appeared out from in front of the house. Yahoo! The cousins were back together!

After a quick lunch, Amanda and I caught up on the family news while the kiddos played in the pool. Hailey slept, and I laughed at the twins antics. If you've read Amanda's blog lately, you know that Aiden and Ashley are now moving. Aiden is fully into crawl mode, while Ashley is really good at scootching. (If you've had kids, you know exactly what motion that silly word describes.) I had so much fun getting Ashley to giggle at her silly Auntie. Aiden wasn't quite sure what to think of his "Crazy Aunt Janell". I'm sure over time he will come to think of me as something to be endured - kind of like Hannah, right Auntie Mo?

Dinner was fabulous, Amanda is really a good cook! Oh, I still want that recipe if I can have it. Emily even finished all of the chicken that was on her plate. That says a lot. The "big" kids had a slumber party in the front room when Amanda and I had "adult" time watching Flip this House and drinking cocktails. What a great way to unwind!

We left way too early the next morning - at least according to Tyler and my girls. They definitely needed more time together. It was tough to buzz through so quickly, Amanda and I agreed that it was too short of a visit. But we had appointments to keep, and places to be. Of course, I discovered that I had mixed up some dates in my head and the girls and I accidentally missed our dentist appointments as we drove along the coast in Pismo Beach. Darn it! Can I call that a senior moment?

There is so much more yet to come in our drive home, only we didn't know it at the time. I have to keep you in suspense a little longer, but it is 11:30 and I need my beauty rest. :) Sorry!

There is just one more thing I want to share while it is fresh in my mind. I wish I could bottle up this moment: When we drove home from Bible study tonight, Katelynn's voice quietly rises from behind me. "This year has been the best one of my life."

Once again, my children surprise me.

Katelynn, Emily and I were able to briefly talk about how even though this year could have been the worst ever - Daddy was gone - the Lord worked it out for good. Never again will the girls and I experience life like we have in the past seven months. Silly days of doing school in our pajamas, late night dinners in front of the TV, ice cream for dinner, an eleven thousand mile road trip, mornings spent sleeping in because we stayed up too late the night before... It has been an awfully wonderful time.

As much as my heart has ached constantly since Scott flew off on January 20, 2007, I would never ask to have the precious memories of this year erased. When the ideas for how to cope with deployment began to be discussed, my biggest desire was that the girls and I would build memories. Eight and a half years ago, Katelynn and I endured a six-month separation from Scott that is a hole in my mind. I remember very little of those months alone with her. I did NOT want that to happen this time.

It didn't.

Thursday, August 02, 2007


If you have spent any length of time with me, you will know that I can often mix up my words. I have a horrible habit of leaving sentences half finished (this drives Scott nuts). My brain often works faster than my mouth, so the result is often a jumble of words that have no relation to each other. Go figure.

So, the next few blogs will reflect this unique part of my personality. I've decided to embrace my procrastination and my mixed up words at the same time and write about the month of July - backwards. I'll start tonight by writing about the drive home from Lake Almanor, and then work back towards Singapore, and even before if anything strikes my fancy. What do you think? Feel like sticking around for "The Rest of the Story"? (Any Paul Harvey fans out there?)

I've discovered that I REALLY like to drive. I don't enjoy packing, and I hate leaving my house, but I truly love to travel. That may sound like opposing ideas, but they really aren't. Or, at least in my head they aren't. :) However, even though I love to drive, I really dread the nearly 700 mile drive from San Diego to my in-laws home near Lake Almanor. Anyone who has had the "pleasure" of driving I-5 through the middle of California knows why I dread this drive. There is nothing to see but grass (brown grass), plenty of large, slow semi-trucks to impede steady speeds, and lots of cattle farms to smell. (Eli really liked the last part - he'd nearly stuff his nose into the vent every time we'd pass a cattle farm.)

So, it really surprised me to truly enjoy the time I spent on the road this past weekend! The girls and I left Lake Almanor around 2:30 in the afternoon (late, even by my standards). I had been having difficulty finding a hotel room for us to stay in that was along our route, accepted the dogs, charged less than $75 for the dogs to stay with me, had 2 beds and cost less than $200. I know, picky, picky, picky. :) Once that task was accomplished we stuffed everything we could find into the truck and took off down out of the mountains.

This portion of the drive was gorgeous. Tall pine and cedars lined the road, the sun was high and the sky was such a clear blue. Rascal Flatts and Brad Paisley surrounded us as we talked about all we needed to get done before Scott gets home. It was a good beginning.

Dinner was an adventure, as I was tired of fast food, and my GPS has decided to not pick up satellites. So, without a working GPS, I couldn't scan for a decent restaurant near our location. We eventually found a Chili's restaurant in the middle of Stockton, and settled in for some grub. We spent the night in Santa Nella, CA, at the Ramada - not ideal, but livable.

The next morning found us once again heading south, but we were able to turn off of I-5 and head west on CA-41 as we drove towards Aunt Amanda's house just outside of Atascadero, CA. Whew! Scott had said the girls and I would enjoy the drive, and boy was he right! The last few miles were full of dips, bends, turns, and loud "Wheeeeeee's" from the back seats. My road-hogging Suburban sure felt like a sports car!

I'm sorry to break this into a two-blogger, but it is now almost 11pm. I've promised myself a full 8 hours of sleep each night, so I need to head upstairs within the next few minutes. I'll write about our visit with Amanda, Tyler, and the twins tomorrow, as well as our unplanned but fabulous Ventura County stops.