Knife-filled suitcases, Kryptonite and Car rides.
Happy Thursday friends.
Last week found us heading to Youngstown to visit with some of the Sistas.
Once I finally found the right coffee shop it was great to catch-up until it was suggested that we peruse a few consignment shops in the area.
This not being the greatest of areas, when one with barred windows was suggested, I decided to "Hold the Fort" in the minivan while Sister-in-Law number One went to scope things out.
She's going to love that I called her number ONE.
She jokingly called back to tell us to come and check on her in ten minutes if she hadn't reappeared.
I was hoping this would be quick and easy because her parking alongside the shady shop left MUCH to be desired.
Sister-in Law number Two decided it was time to make sure her sibling wasn't stuffed into a cardboard box, so she ventured in.
Ten minutes after THAT the two nieces decided to follow suit leaving me illegally parked and all by my lonesome.
I was still scanning for drug deals when my daughter came out to grab the keys and tell me to join them in the store.
I was dumbfounded.
What on earth could they be looking at in this place?
Well to make a long story short, we came out an hour and later having purchased a piano and a fancy briefcase filled with Swiss knives.
Which oddly sounds like the perfect Youngstown, Ohio Meme.
When my niece commented on the cool-looking "Coat of Arms," hanging above us and the shop owner mentioned that she could only get that if she married into the family, we knew it was time to skedaddle.
Besides, we had half the Titanic in artifacts to load into my Sister-in-Law's illegally parked van.
I thought I had learned my lesson about doubting Sister-in-Law number One, but I stand corrected.
I still won't play ROOK with her or any of her blood relations, but I will for sure follow her into a shady store.
Especially since I now am the proud owner of a suitcase of Swiss knives.
Can't say I trust myself with that Cleaver.
That resale shop truly was a "Diamond in the rough."
So we turn around and head back to Youngstown today, back to said shady shop with a U-Haul, a hope and a prayer that this store owner will remember who I am and that I did indeed pay for this piano we are picking up.
Maybe I should have brought one of the steak knives back with my receipt.
You can't make this stuff up folks.
And since we will be in the area of my favorite family-owned jewelry store I thought I'd pop in and get the ring they made for me cleaned and checked because it makes me feel super Uber fancy to do so.
And they have free Andes mints.
For our 10th anniversary, Joel bought me the most beautiful ring.
It was fancy and way too expensive for our stage of life at ten years, but I've always enjoyed its extravagance and meaning.
One large stone in the middle representing the Lord, one on either side for Joel and I, and three small stones on either side of those for each of our hoodlums.
Then for my 40th birthday Joel had the original diamonds replaced with the kid's birthstones.
Well, he did leave one to share the month of April with me.
This then made it even MORE meaningful and luxurious. An anniversary ring AND Mother's ring all-in-one.
(As a side note, I just stopped my husband and made him try to spell luxurious. It took him three tries.)
So little number six (the only kiddo on this trip) gets asking about her birthstone and my husband decides to tell her that the name of her birthstone is Kryptonite.
See, I'm not the only mean one in my family.
I turn the ring around on my finger to see her little stone and remember the Jeweler asking us if we wanted man-made stones or genuine birthstones.
I swallowed hard when Joel decided on genuine birthstones.
ESPECIALLY when this Jeweler explained that the last of our Mohican's birthstone is extremely rare and costly.
We had to laugh a bit to ourselves.
Of course it is.
Just like this girl who came two months early costing us more physically and emotionally than we even knew we had to spend.
Not to mention all of the help her arrival brought from friends-like-family loving our brood while we made a bazillion trips to the hospital.
I remember just where her bassinet was in the NICU and how I'd place my hand on the glass outside her room and wonder if she would ever come home to stay.
One afternoon when we couldn't make the usual feeding, a nurse mistakingly gave our youngest some other Mom's breast milk. I think of this when she forgets to unload the dishwasher, or what six times nine is.
I guess I've never wondered who got MY milk that feeding...
Deepest apologies for whomever's child frequently eats peanut butter out of the jar.
The Jeweler went on to explain that he would guess that all of the known Alexandrite discovered today would fit in a wheelbarrow.
If this crazy child busily doing schoolwork on the drive, would've come in August like a good little girl, we would've saved a chunk of change in the planning of this ring.
But that's what makes a family a family.
The costly, the rare, the secret and special that parents alone can appreciate and admire.
You wouldn't care to go through the rough parts again, but they give you a deep appreciation for what it took to get this family here.
So when this girl looked-up "Kryptonite" per her father's prompting, she was amazed to find that her birthstone was a "fictional green glowing rock," the only Achilles heel for Superman.
We got a good laugh out of that.
After we explained what an "Achilles heel" was.
So I look at this little blue/green stone and thank the Lord that she came just when she did and that I am still here to wear a ring to prove it.
Today on this road trip she gets Hot Cocoa and french fries and revels in the fact that she will indeed one day be the last to get all the treats.
Lo and behold we find that my resale shop lady remembers me and most importantly remembers the cash I shelled-out for her lovely piano.
My dear husband comments on said Coat of Arms and said owner repeats what I had just told him about "marrying into the family," to get it.
I told him so.
Watching my husband wield the U-Haul trailer to load the piano made me want to gather and crowd and cheer.
But I hadn't remembered my knives if things got out-of-hand.
If punching someone in the face classifies as an Olympic Sport, surely backing-up trailers should qualify for something other than one wife clapping in a run-down parking lot.
We pick up this steal of a piano in all it's glory and of course a ginormous stock pot to process meat chickens in this Summer- the ones that aren't even born yet.
But that's a whole other story.
The piano comes home and makes a new home in our living room.
We find some old beginner piano books and after a thorough dusting it becomes a whole family affair to watch Mom and Dad play a duet.
There may have only been eight notes a piece, but our kids cheered and clapped and we laughed a good bit at the silly that is our family.
That is until Dad tells the kids that He and I should play this duet entitled, "The Baseball Field," for an offertory at church.
To those words they all mumble their displeasure scattering like cockroaches, hoping we truly don't mean it and embarrass them all into oblivion.
And we laugh again because we just wanted to be alone anyway.
A dear gal at church just had her first little one.
One that has been prayed for for many years.
And holding this answer to prayer reminded me of holding my own gems.
Each birth story unique, each personality different, just like their birthstone.
Some calm and radiant, some clear and sparkly, and some even super hard to find and costly.
Each take up residency in this heart and in this band on my left hand.
Some would say one or two are tightly "wrapped around this finger," but that's only because they keep their rooms clean.
(word to the other children)
Though one of them would trade their stone for another, I wouldn't trade one of them for all the wealth in the world.
God planned their birth, their life, their story for his glory and even the stone to align them with.
I am just a steward of a bit of that.
And asked to carry them in my body, my heart and always in my prayers.
I've stopped carrying their belongings to their rightful places for them, but I will always wear them proudly on this hand.
And how I pray that they are bright gems for HIS crown.
We used to sing this a lot when the kids were little, the Hymn "Jewels," by William O.Cushing:
"Little children, little children,
Who love their Redeemer,
Are the jewels, precious jewels,
His loved and His own.
Like the stars of the morning,
His bright crown adorning,
They shall shine in their beauty,
Bright gems for His crown."
Lord, use these stones to build your kingdom. This is my earnest desire.