Monday, October 6, 2008

St. Louis, thieves, and angels (family update)

We just returned from a 5-day trip to St. Louis to tag along with Derek at a conference for work (since hotel and gas were paid for). We left mid-day Wednesday, taking the kids out of school after lunch and drove the 8-hours to the Marriott Renaissance Grand in downtown St. Louis. The gentleman who checked us in was gracious enough to upgrade our double room to a suite for the same price. Thanks Mike! That made our trip much nicer.

We spent all day Thursday at the FREE huge lovely Zoo, packing our lunch (which we did every day) and then heading to O'Charley's for dinner since the kids eat for free (which we also did everyday...great deal...mostly...more later). Friday we said "hasta luego" to Derek while he attended the conference he was actually there for, and me and the kids headed to the huge awesome science center (again...FREE) for most of the day. Saturday we went to the Gateway Arch, which we rode up to the top of, and toured the Westward Expansion Museum underneath it. Very cool. Then we headed down to the Mississippi riverfront where we rented a canopied 6-person bike and rode along the river for an hour. That was very fun! Then we went back to our hotel to catch the afternoon session of general conference with Derek’s laptop and the hotel room’s internet connection and felt so inspired by the wonderful talks.

The trip was so enjoyable, and so many things made us happy--free fun things to do, an unexpected suite with a fridge to cut down on food costs, enjoying family time together, perfect weather--but lest we feel too fortunate, our final adventure (which we could have done without) occurred Saturday night over dinner at O'Charley's.

We finished our dinner and went to the restroom before our drive back to the hotel. Derek and the boys finished before the girls and I did, and headed outside to the van. As he exited the restaurant he saw what looked very much like our van, backed into a parking spot (not the one we left it in) with 2 black guys sitting in it. He started to cross the parking lot to take a closer look, and the van peeled out of the lot and down the street as Derek caught a sickening glimpse of our Alabama plate. He ran back to where we had parked the van to see an empty spot, and then realized for sure that it was gone. He then ran back into the restaurant to find me and the girls, but missed us as we had gone out around the opposite side than he had. After a few minutes of panic for him thinking we had been in the van as it took off, we finally all met up and realized what a mess we were in. The restaurant manager called the police who arrived quickly and got the scoop from Derek. Then she took me and the kids inside, got us free ice cream, bought the kids toys, games, and candy from the nearby Target, and paid for a taxi back to our hotel. I just have to say that the managers and servers there were angels sent from above and made our nightmare so much more bearable...especially for the kids who were frankly pretty terrified.

It turns out that our van was the 3rd car to be stolen from that same lot in the past 2 weeks. The police suspected it was a gang initiation where prospective members had to steal so many cars in one night, because they would steal one, drive to another lot, leave that one there still running, and take another one, etc. So next to where our van had been was someone else's van, still running, which they were very grateful to get back.

Miraculously they found our van a few hours later in fine shape (minus the passenger side lock and the ignition which were punched out) with only a few items missing. Through another series of miracles we were able to get our van out of the tow lot on a Sunday (which has never happened in the last 2 years according to the employee) and get home before 8pm last night WITH OUR VAN!! The kids were great driving home without the advantage of our TV/VCR to watch their Veggie Tales on, and we’re so proud of the way they handled this whole situation.

Although we would have rather avoided this whole mess, we all feel extremely blessed at how well everything has turned out. God truly is a God of miracles and tender mercies, and sends angels to bless us along our way. Things easily could have been so much worse.

Derek:
1. His poster presentation went well at the conference.
2. His position went through for sure (saw the pay stub) and we’re so thrilled.
3. He’s spent a lot of time fixing both cars this month, but for now things seem to be stable.
4. He was cleared in a lawsuit brought by a woman who was involved in an accident with us and someone else over 2 years ago. We were rear-ended at a complete stop by a driver who knocked us into her. I’m not sure what she was thinking including us in the lawsuit seeing as we had no liability, but it’s all good now.
5. Through work he was able to get our family free dinner and tickets to a Birmingham Barons baseball game (local minor league team), and we had a great time.

Me:
1. Since the beginning of September I’ve been getting 2 or 3 substitute teaching jobs a week at the elementary school. I enjoy it, it’s close by, and it’s great to be home when the kids get home.
2. The music (and everything else) went great at Stake Conference. So glad that’s all over!
3. To cut back on our monthly expenses (as I haven't been working since May) I’ve been trying out some food storage recipes. It’s always good to rotate that stuff...gotta love those beans!

James:
1. He has made some friends at school, and we had one of them over (Adam). All three boys played together so well.
2. He and Jeffrey earned a bunch of activity badges, pins, and their Webelos badges at the last pack meeting.
3. Derek and I enjoy watching him mature and become a thoughtful brother and son.

Jeffrey:
1. Finished an awesome replica of an Iroquois longhouse for a school project.
2. Has improved a lot on his overall cooperativeness at home.
3. Has done very well with our decision to try “medication vacations” 1 or 2 days a week to help out with his growth. We’re very proud of his efforts.
4. He and James both lost molars one night after they went to bed within a few minutes of each other.

Ashley:
1. Attended the bowling/slumber party of a school friend, Michelle.
2. Has been a scooter maniac lately riding around the garage when she can’t go outside (along with the other kids).
3. Has shown a little more “attitude” than I’d like to see lately. Please tell me this goes away soon. =)

Lexie:
1. Missed a few days of school with a fever/stomach virus.
2. Had a fun birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese’s with our whole family and the family of a little friend from school.
3. Has some loose front teeth that make eating difficult—we all hope they come out soon.

Enough excitement for now...don't you think?? Moral of the story: If you're ever in St. Louis, don't go to O'Charley's!! =) We love you all and miss you. Take care!

5 comments:

TheLegacyLady said...

Wow - what an adventure Aly! I am so grateful you were able to get home and have your van to get home! Neat story. Hope you have a wonderful week.

Lara said...

Oh wow! That's crazy, but you are very blessed to have gotten it back.

I'm glad to know that Ashley is showing some attitude lately...well, not really GLAD, but glad that Bria isn't the only one. Maybe it's just this age for girls. Sigh.

Hannah said...

Hi - I found your blog when I was googling food storage and yours came up since you mentioned it in your post.

If you are ever looking for some food storage recipes, check out our blog! We've got some great ones, and they only call for common non-perishable items.

Good luck with the recipes!
Hannah @
http://www.safelygatheredin.blogspot.com/

Jana & Jim said...

oh my gosh...how crazy was your trip?.....i'm glad you guys made it home o.k....beside the car theft, sounds like you all had a wonderful trip.

Stefanie Eskander said...

Aly- so glad everything turned out ok, sounds like a harrowing experience! But the silver lining were the positive parts of the trip, including great service at your hotel. Great for them! Glad your DH got his well-deserved promotion & raise! Also glad Stake choir turned out well... I just sang in our stake choir yesterday, and I'm so in awe of our choir director... I thought about you as we sang!