The media has done a number on us as a whole, desensitized us to trauma and heartbreak and disaster. I can read a horrible story, and just keep on clicking to the next link on the news, weather, disaster, sports update, rape, gardening, click, click, click.
But this one is different, and a day hasn't gone by that I don't shed tears and say prayers for the Berry Family.
Ther Berry's lives were turned upside down when, on their way home from a family vacation in Colorado, another vehicle ran into them. Head on. Everyone was buckled in. But at 70 mile an hour on a stretch of dark two lane highway in West Texas, tragedy could not be prevented.
Six-year-old Willa sustained a broken arm and ankle. Her older brothers, Nine-year-old Peter Berry and eight-year-old Aaron Berry sustained major spinal cord injuries. Both boys are paralyzed from the waist down.
Both their parents, Joshua and Robin Berry died immediately.
While I don’t know the Berry’s personally, but I know several people who do. They are neighbors, co-workers, educators, cousins, and friends to the Berry’s. It is a testament to how interconnected we all are as a community. Not just the Houston community, but our regional and national and world community, too, regardless of age, race, religion, sexual orientation, political affiliation, socioeconomic status, or geography. In the midst of unspeakable heartache, people close and people from far away are rallying behind the children, determined to provide support, medical care, love, friendship, and guardianship for these three kids who are not only faced with uncertain physical conditions, but who have lost their Mom and Dad at once.
Please, PLEASE, if you are so moved, please contribute to the Joshua and Robin Berry Children’s Trust Contributions will help fund all of the children’s ongoing needs, including medical rehabilitation, physical therapy, psychological support, and education. For updates on the Peter, Aaron, and Willa and to find out what may be going in your specific community to help, please visit theberrychildren.org
It was a Monday morning, the Monday morning that Jennifer was out of town, the Monday morning that I was attempting to shepherd two kids, a lunch sack, a backpack, and a laptop into the car, having just barely made it into the garage whilst leaving the house in show-ready condition on our way out. Jennifer and I had switched cars since she would be traveling with a colleague and the SUV would be better suited for hauling kids around, rather than sitting in a parking lot. I had fifteen minutes to get the kids to Vacation Bible School, and it seemed, now with the kids buckled into their car seats, that I would get there on time.
Except that the car wouldn’t start.
I think I said aloud: “you have GOT to be kidding me.” It was the familiar sound of static-filled clicking, a sound I had heard not two months earlier, also when we had switched cars, also while Jennifer was out of town. I remember the AAA guy telling me “You’re battery is running on the lower end of average. You probably have a good six months of use before it dies.” Click static click click.
I immediately called AAA and they said they could have someone at the house within half an hour. BRING A BATTERY, I said, I’m almost certain it’s dead. I made a couple phone calls to move two meetings around, something I wasn’t feeling too great about considering I had sent this email to my boss the night before:
Then I proceeded to unbuckle the kids and get them back inside, all the while wishing I had hung onto the gate at the bottom of the stairs so that I might, in this moment, minimize the damage the kids would do the Show Ready house.
Yep, it’s dead, he said. Turns out, scorching heat, while alone doesn’t kill a battery, will drain a dying one more quickly. Unfortunately, he said too cheerily, I don’t have a battery for your car. But I can go get one and you’ll be on your way in half an hour. I’ve got too much going on this morning, what if we just jump it? We can do that, he said, just try not to cut the engine.
So while he did that, I went inside, corralled the kids again, tidied up, got them back in the car, and we were on our way. After dropping them off, I called AAA again and asked them to meet me at my office where they installed a new battery for me while I finished up the previously delayed meeting.
The next day, I woke a little earlier, got dressed. In a dress even. Got the kids up, dressed, the house cleaned, and Jennifer still out of town, frantically rushed to leave the house on time to get them to VBS. It was a smooth drop off, and with the battery running well, I made my way the eighteen miles trip to the office. About half way there, I got bit by a mosquito. They’re vicious around here! And when I leaned down to scratch my ankle, I noticed I was still wearing my around-the-house flip flops. With a dress. To work.
It was too far and I was running far too late to go back home, so I had to stop off at a Target and buy some shoes. While there, I phoned a colleague and asked if he might pick me up at Discount Tire because we knew that the SUV wasn’t going to pass inspection with nearly non-existent tread on all four tires. Sure, he said, and nearly a thousand dollars and a couple hours later, the car was ready.
The tires expenditure had been planned for that week, though the inappropriate shoes had not. We were glad to have a new battery, too, given that we would be heading to San Antonio for a niece’s birthday party at the end of the week, and needed a safe and working vehicle to get us there.
What we did not plan for was for Jennifer to lose our car key somewhere at Fiesta Texas that Sunday afternoon, an hour before we were supposed to head back to Houston. You see that look on Harper's face? THAT WAS JUST THE BEGINNING. We were moments from leaving the park, having cleared the locker, returned the stroller, and gathered our bags, when she discovered the key was no longer in her pocket. IN HER POCKET.
Hello, AAA? We’ve lost our only car key and we are not in the city where we live. Can you make us an extra key? Oh, you can? That would be so awesome. Sure, I’ll hold. Wait. So you CAN’T make a key? Because of a computer chip? And only the dealership can make one? Plan B.
Phone call to the Honda dealership: ring, ring, ring, ring, our normal business hours are Monday through Saturday, 8am to 8pm.
It was a Sunday. Plan C.
We called my mother to come get me and the kids. They were due for a nap. And a snack. I would get them down and then head back to help Jennifer. While we waited for my mom to drive over (thankfully she is a short 15 minutes away from the park), I hedged against a meltdown by telling the kids we’d go get some ice cream, which was directly across from the bench from where we had been sitting. It’s finally my turn and the teenager working the Cold Stone Creamery tells me sorry, the machine is down and we’re only taking cash. Cash. Cash that I did not have. I studied this peach-fuzzed young man, looked down at each of my children on either side of me peering into the cold ice cream filled glass, looked back up at him and said, in a very calm voice “This is what we’re going to do.”
You see these two kids? I told them they could have some ice cream before I knew your machine was broken. I do not have cash. Our car key is lost and their other mother is right now searching for it in lines of sweaty people wearing too little clothing and showing too much PDA and we’re on the verge of a major meltdown here. So what I need you to do is get two small spoons, sample spoons for all I care, and use them to scoop some chocolate ice cream onto them and then hand them to me like that’s exactly what we ordered. When I get back, I’ll give you some cash.”
After getting the kids back to my mom’s house and tucked in for a nap, I returned to the park in my mother’s car. Thankfully, we had recently purchased season tickets and a season parking pass so my second lot entry for the day was covered. Jennifer met me just inside the entrance where she gave me an update: still no key, reported to lost and found, backtracked every ride. So we did the only thing left to do. We rode all the rides we couldn’t ride with the kids in tow.
Speaking of towing, after the rides were ridden, I sent a text message to my sister-in-law to let her know that her brother’s friend (a locksmith) never returned my call but thanks for trying! To which she responded your brother wants to know what you’re doing with your car. He’s concerned that someone may have picked up your keys, not turned them in, and will go “shopping” as the park closes. When combining this with security’s suggestion that we come back around 10pm to be sure that the car is still there, we moved to Plan D, the plan in which I would contact AAA for the third time that day, the plan where AAA would tow our car the eight miles from the park to my mother’s house.
With all options exhausted, I knew that there was no way we were going to get home that day, and possibly not even until late the next day. I had to send my boss an email message, the exchange shown below:
First with the hey-I'll-be-late-all-week long, then with the I'm-going-to-go-ahead-and-take-Friday-off-afterall, then with the we-lost-the-keys-and-can't-get-back. I couldn't help but worry I was quickly become that employee.
Our Monday began at 8am with me calling the Honda dealership and explaining the situation. Our options were (1) have the car towed to the dealership and they would make a key, or (2) go to the dealership for a demo key, return to my mother’s house, go through a series of brake pumping and engine turns with a certain number of seconds in between (I’m not exaggerating), return with the SUV, then wait and have a key made.
We chose the latter and actually had TWO keys made, and nearly eight hours later we were finally on our way home. I burned a vacation day at a Honda dealership, sure, but if you're going to lose your only car key and have to go through what we did, doing it in the city where your entire family resides is the best place to do it.
Two weeks ago, Mateo and Harper participated in a week-long “church camp”. We enrolled them two weeks prior, just one week after first visiting the church we’ve attended every week since. From the very first visit, it felt like home, a sentiment no doubt present in part because from the very first visit, the kids loved their pre-school Sunday school class, a comfort no doubt in part because their Sunday school class incorporates Waldorf and Montessori methods, a universal language that our children are already familiar with. This from the website: "Because we view teaching in a holistic way, we always teach to the whole child, remembering to engage spirit, mind & body in all we do." Also? There is a strong undercurrent of Love there and I think the kids sense it and respond accordingly.
The week of church camp took some planning for as they would be going five days that week. Granted, it was to be from 9am to noon, but nonetheless a huge change in their routines. And ours. Jennifer would be out of town that Monday and Tuesday. There were emails to send to my boss about the week’s crazy schedule, letters to write to their school that they would not be attending that week, nanny’s to arrange to pick up the kids on the days that I couldn’t and stay with them the remainder of those two days, meetings to rearrange to accommodate the week’s schedule, snacks to be prepared so they’d have something to eat at pick-up (by noon, the kids have normally eaten three times and are on their way to a nap, but with church camp they’d have one snack mid-morning and no lunch), a house that had to be left each going in pristine condition (we’re on the market again, don’t even get me started), karate class to get to, pest control appointments to work around, prayers to be prayed while someone else had my kids in their car, and lots and lots of driving. Not to mention the car issues we had that week and the extra pair of shoes I had to buy, a series of events which can only be described in its own post.
In the middle of one sweaty, chaotic morning, laptop in hand, asking the kids to get into the car no less than a thousand times within forty apparently-full-of-distractions feet hoping traffic wouldn’t be nuts and contemplating calling my 930am meeting and moving it to 1000am, it occurred to me: THIS WILL BE OUR LIVES COME SEPTEMBER.
Right now, it’s somewhat chaotic two days per week, the days I take the kids to school near my office. Before that insensitive bitch known as Daylights Savings started coming over before 630am, the kids would sleep until some time between 645am and 715am. Occasionally, we would have to wake one of them up to get him or her ready for school and that was very, very ugly. So I guess I should be somewhat thankful for Daylight Savings. (But I’m not.) While I got dressed for work, Jennifer would make their breakfast, having prepared their school lunch and snacks the evening prior, and put it in their LunchBots for dining in the car. Around 730am, I’d make my way downstairs to help finish getting the kids ready, and between 745am and 800am, we’d be on our way. (There has been more than one instance where I have had to turn around or where Jennifer has had to take a detour to the school on the way to her own work because of a woobie or a raffy that needed retrieving from the house. Usually dropped somewhere in that forty apparently-full-of-distractions feet between the playroom and the garage). At this point, Jennifer could finish getting ready for work, tidy up the mini-tornadoes to have the house ready for a showing, and on Thursday’s, take the trash out.
These days, the unwelcomed guest of Daylight Savings has the kids waking between Inappropriately Early and 645am. You would think that this would mean we would just start the process earlier and get out of the house earlier. You. Would. Think. In reality, however, all it’s led to is the kids taking their breakfast before we leave (which means dishes that must be washed before leaving. And crumbs. How is it that the crumb volume exceeds the meal volume?), a slower process in me getting ready for work what with the nearly constant interventions when living in the same house with two three year olds, and a house more thoroughly wrecked, something even a morning episode of Fireman Sam hasn’t been able to stave off.
As much as I love my kids, and appreciate the little things they say and do in those moments we’re crammed into the master bathroom with plenty of sharp edges, slippery surfaces, and electrical outlets, the thing I miss most is not having to share three square feet with two other people while I take my morning poop.
The invasion of that much privacy is redeemed by the fact that on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Friday’s, the kids are sometimes worn out from a busy weekend or school the day before, they’re moving a bit slower, and we don’t have to have them fed and dressed by any particular time. I don’t have to herd two kids through forty apparently-full-of-distractions-feet, and thus my clothes are not sticking to me by the time I get into the car. Something I’d probably get over faster if my car’s air conditioner wasn’t on the fritz. Jennifer doesn’t have to prepare snacks or find water bottle tops or have to leave the house in pristine condition in the event there’s a showing, and she can get dressed at her leisure. This is because by 845am, our nanny arrives and the kids fall into a melodic rhythm that can only be brought about by someone who isn’t their parents.
In March, just as we were returning from London, we received letters of acceptance to the two schools to which we had applied last summer and fall. This came as a surprise to me, but my sister said we were probably shoo-ins from the beginning, citing the Modern Family Effect as her source of conviction. I would say it was the combination of a little luck and what may or may not have been more than one visit to the schools for parent orientations or information sessions and a sidebar or two with administration about the finer points of Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius.
It's true: I have no shame.
Both are Montessori schools, but after much discernment, we chose the one we did mainly because they allot more time for naps (they’re just barely three years old and I’m not ready for them to have to function on the same rest periods as elementary school students), because the ratios are smaller (1:8!), because the school extends through high school should that be the best match for each of them, and because until they’re six, it’s a full-day, year-round program - something I think we can all agree is just plain AWESOME especially for two working-outside-the-home parents.
That week of church camp was a good one. The kids enjoyed going to “church school”, and managed the change quite well.
New school altogether. New rules. New routines. No more nanny. No more respite. No more leisurely mornings. The tired wakings will be all ours. Breakfast will still be on the way to school. But the backpacks and the pillows and the lovies and the lunches and the shoes on the correct feet will be ours five days a week. It’ll take adjusting to. For all of us. But we’re excited.
Well, not excited about our nanny moving on to another family. I’m in denial of that. Not ready to address that. At all.