We've planned our family vacation for this year. We've got the dates set, the activities planned, and all the last minute crisises that inevitably pop up when things seem perfect.

This year, in April(on Edwin's birthday no less) we're going to Alabama to see my family. Yes, I'm from Alabama. No, I don't speak with an accent. Yes, I wore shoes to school. Any other questions?

All kidding aside, my family there can be difficult annoying interesting. As it is, we're apparently flying into TANTRUM 2010 as my father and his parents aren't seeing eye to eye. Again.

Last time I was there visiting, nearly eight years ago, I ended up being basically asked to leave my grandparents house because of my dad. It was a mess, largely started by my father, that resulted in me getting the brunt of the difficulty.

This time, I'm going prepared. I'll have a back up plan and a no-nonsense attitude. Those of you who know me in real life know that right now, I'm lying to myself.

How is it family is the master at minupulation? They always seem to know exactly what to push to get what they want. That's not to say that I'm guilt free, I've been told I minupulate, mine just isn't concious like other peoples. I don't set out to do it.

Going home to Alabama raises some interesting issues. I love the enviorment and atmosphere and charm of the south, I just don't especially like my immediate family. Well, that's not true, I just don't like SOME of my immediate family. There's always a few who stir things up.

This time we're going down for a week and we'll be going to the AWESOME aquarium in Chattanooga, Tennessee. My father took me there once before and I remember being in awe of it! I know the kids will love it. The plan is then to stay in a local motel for the night, then drive the couple hours to Huntsville, AL for a little something special for Edwin. He dreamed of becoming an astronaut as a child. This will be an awesome exerpience for him as well as the kids. The rest of the time, we'll likely stay visiting family. I'm eager to introduce my husband to my family and show him where I grew up.

I want to show the kids fire ants(notice SHOW not introduce!) and hopefully avoid chiggers. Using mason jars to catch fireflies in the evenings. The things that I fondly recall from childhood. I want them to have a memory of my grandparents and all their awesomness. Because, with kids, they're awesome.

We'll see how things pan out, hopefully drama free as this is our ONLY vacation, but with family, you never know. Just ask Clark Griswold.

Some of us are fortunate enough to know someone who's a genuinely good person. Who doesn't seem to have a selfish bone in his body or ill word for anyone. I knew someone. He was a good man and a gentle soul. It wasn't a mask or pretend, he just was. His name was "Tex". He was over 6 feet tall and skinny, but was a teddy bear none the less.

He was a best friend and would have one day been a great husband and father. He had a softer spot than most for children and animals. When he left school he joined the Army. I know that seems to contradict everything I've said about him, but he did it so he could help people. He told "Jessi, this way I can help all over the world."

While in the Army he met a woman who had a child. He fell madly in love with her. Perhaps just in love with her child. We'll never know.

They married and seemed happy. He was over the moon to have an instant family. He loved her little boy just as if he were his own.

A few months after they got married, Tex came down to visit as he was stationed the next state over. He mentioned that he was having some marital troubles and suspected his new bride might be cheating. We were not surprised because we had not thought them a good match. He had been firm so we had supported him in his happiness. He was concerned about what to do, about how it would effect his new son. We encouraged marriage counseling and perhaps divorce. He said he'd talk with her and think it over.

After that weekend we said our goodbyes and parted ways. The next day we received a phone call asking if Tex was still with us. He'd never arrived home and never reported back from leave. We called hospitals, police, anyone we knew in between our home and his. No one knew where Tex was.
We wrung our hands and searched on our own in known places. Two days later we got a phone call from police. Tex had been found dead by some hikers. He'd driven up to a favorite camping spot and killed himself in his car. His car had been littered with religious brochers, from churches in the area,  explaining what happens after death. There had also been a note. To his wife, his friends, and his son. He had felt it was better this way.

The Army held a nice funeral for him and his wife brought her lover to the funeral. She left before it was completely over. Tex's parents were devastated. The loss of their son and the cold distance from his wife during their grief.

When Tex's grandmother stood up to speak of him, she said a life times worth in just a few sentences. Her closing was "I can't believe he's gone. My gentle giant is gone." That line still brings tears to my eyes. It was so him. He was a gentle giant.

Our gentle giant has been gone 8 years today. I miss him just as keenly now as I did then. He's left a hole that will never heal and never be filled.

Sean Michael "Tex" Smith. You lived with honor and kindness. The world should  strive to be more like you.

 All of us, having fun about 6 months before he died. From right to left we have: Ian, Anthony, me(sitting), Sean(standing), Emily(sitting), Sharron(standing), and Chad. Behind the camera is Holly.
I'm working on a book. I can see the concept in my head. I know exactly how I want it to look and what I want it to say. I made some great starts in the book formatting last night. I had the 'bones' of it put together and when I went to save, the program crashed and hours of work was lost. I was beyond furious.

Thankfully Edwin has been super supportive. He's very behind the idea and thinks it will be great.

The start up cost is prohibitive. We're going to have to be stealthy with the budget to do what I want to do.

I'm so thankful that I've got a supportive family who's willing to bend over backwards to facilitate my dream.

Everyone had a great Christmas, even if it took me a month to post the photos. :-)
Getting back into the swing of life has been difficult. With the holiday break and the loss of a pregnancy my schedule has been lacking. 

We are doing well, healing, making no decisions. Just taking life as it comes. Of course, if we decided to make a decision, every one has an opinion. I've gotten more unsoliciated advice about whether to concive again than I did about being pregnant. Everyone knows best. 

But, that's life, that's people. Well intentioned I'm sure but unappreciated.

The kids had a good Christmas and break. Getting back on schedule has been difficult for them. 

Lori got her hair cut short after a long time of fighting about bathing and grooming. Plus, she kept getting food in it, but wouldn't wear it back. So now it's in a type of pixie and she's much happier with it. Have to cut David's because he is starting to look like a q-tip head. All poof on top of a skinny body.

Time is flying by. Lori and Michelle are going to be 9 this year!! David will be 4. 4!!!! How the heck did I end up with a 9 and 4 year old?! 

Sometimes, life seems to fly by in the blink of an eye.
I'm trying to change my template and am failing miserably. I'm so irritated at blogger I'm ready to throw something. Please stand by.