Mission Accomplished!

We are home from our crazy trip, and are still marveling that we managed to pull this off. There were a number of curves thrown our way as this adventure unfolded. I think the easiest way to update you would be to just do a photo journal here (with LOTS of photos), using captions to describe the whole trip. So, come along! But be ready for quite a ride.

OCTOBER 19 & 20: Monday and Tuesday were days so full of insane packing that I would never be able to describe them here, even if I tried. The photos will give you a tiny glimpse.

Because our vans are so old and not dependable, we rented two 15-passenger vans. Greg drove one with his and Kristie's kids, and Scott drove the other and pulled a 12-ft. trailer. The six Rosenows who wouldn't fit into our van, rode on the Godwin van and the 30 bodies filled each seat. This would turn out to be an important piece of info later in the trip.

Because our van and the Godwin’s van are both so old and not dependable, we rented two 15-passenger vans for this trip. Greg drove one with his and Kristie’s kids, and Scott drove the other and pulled a 12-ft. trailer. The six Rosenows who wouldn’t fit into our van rode in the Godwin van, and the 30 bodies filled each seat. This would turn out to be an important piece of info later in the trip. This is a photo of our seating chart.

 

Packing actually began about a week before we traveled, but greatly intensified during the last few days. Robyn is the organization queen of the universe, and I'm so glad God chose to put her in this family!

Packing actually began about a week before we traveled, but greatly intensified during the last few days. Robyn is the organizational queen of the universe, and I’m so glad God chose to put her in this family!

 

AL #003

Meghan, Robyn, and I chose outfits for each child (including hair accessories) for each day/event during the trip, and loaded them into large ziplock bags, labeled for easier distribution. We packed 270 of these.

 

AL #008

We packed 18 1/2 pairs of shoes in one bin (Nathan can only wear one right now since he can’t wear his prosthesis), and 22 1/2 pairs in another.

 

AL #004

Carefully labeled bins (thanks to Robyn, Kristie, and Meghan) saved us!! The bins with pink labels had to be taken out of the trailer at hotel stops along the way.

 

AL #005

Those 270 ziplock bags were divided into groups of two kids, and packed (in reverse order) into large bins.

 

AL #006

We ran out of places to stack bins until time to load the trailer.

 

AL #007

We put together fun bags of travel toys – one bag for each bench in the vans. The kids loved these! Yay Target $1 bins!!!

OCTOBER 21: Wednesday morning, we woke bright and early and got busy with the final packing so we could start loading the trailer. During breakfast, Caelyn suddenly began experiencing intense abdominal pain. This pain increased over the next hour and brought back many terrible memories of her bowel obstructions and multiple issues before she had her colostomy surgery in 2011. She has been so healthy for so long that we had completely forgotten that she will be at great risk for obstructions her whole life.

We contacted her doctor (who is awesome and responded immediately). By this time, Caelyn was in agony, unable to stand unassisted, and vomiting. All bad signs. Her doctor told us to meet her in the ER, and made it clear that her expectation was to be heading right into surgery with Caelyn. We halted all plans of taking this trip, and headed to Children’s ER.

It’s hard to describe all that was going through our minds and hearts at the time, but mostly, we felt an unnatural peace. Many people heard what was going on and began praying immediately. We had no idea what God’s plans for this trip were, and knew that He might choose to cancel the whole thing. But He filled us with peace and the ability to just focus on each moment as it came to us.

By the time we got through triage, and Caelyn’s surgeon got to us, Caelyn’s pain was almost completely gone. X-rays indicated that the obstruction had resolved on its own. This does sometimes happen, but Caelyn’s have not ever done this. She has always required a minimum of three days in the hospital. Her surgeon allowed us to leave because she already knows us so well, but insisted that we text her cell phone with updates along the way. We rejoiced as we headed back home and jumped back into preparation for getting on the road.

Caelyn went from really horrible pain and plans for surgery, to this! So very thankful!

Caelyn went from really horrible pain and plans for surgery, to this! So very thankful!

 

We were six hours late getting on the road, but we were all so grateful to be on our way.

We were six hours late getting on the road, but we were all so grateful to be on our way.

 

We made it to La Grange, KY before we stopped at a Cracker Barrel for a late dinner.

We made it to La Grange, KY before we stopped at a Cracker Barrel for a late dinner. We were disheartened to discover that it would be impossible for us to complete any meal stop faster than at least two hours because of the kids’ cathing schedule; the logistics of seating, ordering for, and feeding 30 people; and the fact that every stop involved  multiple Q&A sessions with sweet people whose hearts were touched by watching our curiosity-inducing group.

 

AL #012

Even though we always called ahead an hour before any meal stop, 30 of us presented quite a challenge to restaurant staffs. They were all incredibly good to us each time, and we were blessed on many occasions during our interactions with our servers.

 

AL #013

We had our first Divine encounter here when a lady came to our table after her dinner to share with us that she had seen our website on Greg’s t-shirt and had already used her phone to visit the site and look at the children listed there. She said that she is interested in adoption and that maybe it’s time now.

After dinner, we headed south again, but it took us ten hours to make a five-hour journey. This got us to our hotel close to 1:00 a.m. Everyone was exhausted. Our careful planning did help a lot, but it still took us forever to give everyone their medications and to dole out sleeping bags and overnight clothes to the four 2-bedroom suites. It was after 2:30 a.m. before the adults got to bed. The kids all thought it was just a great adventure.

AL #016

Aunt and niece, looking for their beds.

 

AL #017

Three of our littles with a bad case of the giggles.

 

AL #018

Kathryn, super happy to stretch her arms and legs a bit.

 

OCTOBER 22, 2015: Thursday morning came way too early, and some of us woke up a little bit grumpy and weepy. Thankfully, attitudes turned around pretty quickly.

AL #019

AL #020

Loading up again for the second day on the road.

 

AL #021

Kathryn in her custom-made car vest. Unfortunately, it was made incorrectly with a zipper up the back, instead of buckles up the front. A new one was being made, but we had to use this one on the trip. All that hair and a back zipper made for slow transitions in and out of the van.

 

AL #022

We made it to AL before dark, but still had to get food for everyone again, and still had about 3 1/2 hours to the lake house where we were staying.

 

AL #023

The Birmingham skyline.

 

AL #024

Erin’s little dog Teddy traveled with us, and when it was too hot for him to wait in the car, Erin and a sibling would eat outside. This restaurant in Hoover was amazing. The manager insisted on serving Erin and Madlin himself, and even brought dog cookies for Teddy.

 

AL #025

Teddy enjoying his special snack

We arrived at the very dark lake house after the sun was gone, and after everyone’s energy was depleted. Scott and Greg headed to the closest grocery store (which was 40 minutes away) as Kristie and I began trying to divide bedrooms and unpack necessaries for the night. There was quite a fiasco at the grocery store as, one by one, Scott’s and Greg’s credit cards were locked every time they tried to use them. “Suspicious activity.” We’re glad our credit card fraud departments are so vigilant, but come on! They finally managed to reach someone at one of the departments and got one card unlocked so they could pay for the groceries and the tired (but very kind) staff could close their doors and go home. Once again, it was very, very late before we got to bed. The only picture we got that night was of the little visitor who shared the family room with the kids who were bunking there. They named him Leonard. (I’m glad I wasn’t sleeping in the family room!)

Leonard the Lizard -- the welcoming committee at the lake house.

Leonard the Lizard — the welcoming committee at the lake house.

OCTOBER 23: Friday morning, after the breakfast chaos as we continued trying to unpack, the rest of our Cincy family began arriving at the lake house, and we got ready to greet my parents and my sister who were coming to celebrate my mom’s 80th birthday and meet grandchildren and great-grandchildren they hadn’t met before. It was a very special day.

AL #029 AL #030

AL #031

Cousins playing with each other. Be still, my heart!

 

My parents meeting Allan's son Keller for the first time.

My parents meeting Allan’s son, Keller, for the first time.

 

All grands, spouses, and great-grands together in one place for a special day

All grands, spouses, and great-grands together in one place for a special day.

 

AL #035

Four generations with my mom.

 

AL #036

Four generations with my dad

 

AL #037

Keller with his mommy, his MiniGrams, and his Grandmother.

 

AL #040

We captured Leonard and released him outside where we found several of his friends waiting for him. Within two hours, he sneaked back into the family room through a crack under the door, and settled back into what he clearly considered his home.

 

AL #041

Sure looks like a Roll Tide house to me!

 

AL #038

Keller playing with his MiniGrams.

The afternoon ended on a happy note as everyone not staying at the lake house said their good-byes and headed for the various locations around Birmingham where they were being hosted.

Unfortunately, that night as Scott was preparing the trailer for the next morning, he fell and cracked or bruised some ribs. He was in significant pain for the remainder of the trip, and is still dealing with quite a bit of pain even now. We know from experience that there’s not really anything we can do about this except wait it out.

OCTOBER 24: We all finally got to bed close to our normal bedtime Friday night, but due to an unfortunate miscommunication, the alarm in the girls’ section of the house went off an hour early the next morning as we woke up to begin getting ready for my brother’s award ceremony. The mistake wasn’t discovered until more than an hour later. Everyone was too tired to see the humor in this, but we did all at least manage to recognize how thankful we were that it hadn’t gone off an hour late instead of an hour early.

There were a few other little mishaps as the morning unfolded — a broken zipper on one of the girl’s dresses (we managed to get it to work well enough to wear to the ceremony), one of the boys mistakenly brought navy pants instead of black and was wearing a black tie (we swapped ties with a brother and all worked out well).

In spite of these little annoyances, we were running right on schedule that morning and preparing to load the van when Erin decided to take Teddy outside for one more potty break before leaving. While she was outside, she slipped and fell on one of the flagstones marking a path down the back hill. She cut her knee so badly that the kneecap was exposed, and it was immediately clear that we were dealing with a pretty serious injury.

Initially I considered just curling up into fetal position on the floor and never getting up again. Obviously, this wasn’t an actual option anyway, so I asked God for the strength to keep moving forward, for clear thinking about what to do for Erin and about the ceremony, and for the faith to hang onto the truth that everything that passes through our lives is brought to us for some loving reason. And He answered these prayers by filling our hearts with peace and by leading us, via our awesome sister-in-law Karen, to the closest hospital (which was still an hour away.) Since everyone was almost ready anyway, we wrapped up those few remaining pieces, piled everyone into our vans, and headed toward the hospital, praying that maybe we could still somehow make it to the ceremony.

Once at the hospital, Scott and I headed inside with Erin, while Greg and Kristie stayed out in our vans with all of the other kids. Karen met us there at the hospital, and after awhile, it became clear that we were faced with a choice. We had to either give up all hope of making it to the ceremony, or we had to leave Erin in her Aunt Karen’s hands and trust her to care for Erin while we went to the ceremony.

In the end, this is what we did, but it was very, very hard to leave one of our children behind on such a special day. Erin was so upset at the thought of her accident making me miss this day for my brother, though, that we knew it would be best for her not to have to carry that guilt around — even though none of it was her fault, of course.

The hospital staff promised to take good care of her and told us that the consents we had already signed would allow them to treat her with Karen overseeing things in our place. So we kissed Erin goodbye and raced (can one actually race in a 15-passenger van while pulling a 12-ft. trailer??) to the ceremony.

In the meantime, the survivors of the shipwreck who had served with my brother before the accident and his death, heard what was going on. They arranged for the CG to delay the beginning of the ceremony to allow us time to get there, cath the kids, and get settled in our places. A group of them also met us in the parking lot and helped push wheelchairs inside to get the kids up to the third floor in a teensy elevator that required many trips to get the last Rosenow upstairs.

The ceremony was beautiful and special, and it was an incredible blessing to see so many old friends from high school days there to share this special day with us. It was also such an honor to see, again, the survivors and their families we met in Tampa back in January. These men and their families felt like family to us the moment we met them in Tampa, and will be our friends forever now.

Karen texted updates throughout the ceremony and reception so we would know what was going on. The doctor determined that there was no bone damage and that he could repair the tissue damage without surgery. The wound was so deep and wide that they decided to use staples instead of sutures. It took twelve of these, and Erin handled it very well. She spent the rest of the afternoon napping off the pain meds at Karen’s house, with Teddy snuggled close against her.

After the ceremony, we picked Erin up and headed to a really nice evening, gathering with our extended Rosenow family. It was so great to see everyone again, and we had a blessed time with them all.

AL #042

Erin in the ER after they stapled the soft tissue over her knee back together.

 

AL #044

The presentation of my brother’s award to my parents. This was a very emotional moment for all of us.

 

AL #045

Gary’s Meritorious Service Medal

 

AL #046

Gary’s MSM Certificate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AL #047

The MSM Citation

 

My parents surrounded by some of the mean who survived the shipwreck that night. Very, very special men — every one of them.

My parents surrounded by some of the men who survived the shipwreck that night. Very, very special men — every one of them.

 

Our kids were so loved on by everyone at the ceremony, and Owen, who is completely enamored of anyone connected with any branch of the military spend a long time conversing with the Lt. Cmdr who officiated the ceremony. As we were leaving, he surprised Owen by removing his uniform hat and giving it to Owen. It has barely left Owen's hands since.

Our kids were so loved on by everyone at the ceremony, and Owen, who is completely enamored of anyone connected with any branch of the military, spent a long time conversing with the Lt Cmdr who officiated the ceremony. As we were leaving, he surprised Owen by removing his uniform hat and giving it to Owen. It has barely left Owen’s hands since.

 

AL #050

Rosenow cousins, 2nd cousins, brothers and sisters-in-law, etc. all spending an evening catching up on each other’s lives.

 

So good to spend time with Scott's brothers and their wives. So much has happened in everyone's lives since we last saw each other.

So good to spend time with Scott’s brothers and their wives. So much has happened in everyone’s lives since we last saw each other.

OCTOBER 25: Sunday morning, we took things fairly easy and ate a big bacon and egg breakfast. That afternoon, we loaded up again and drove back to Birmingham where we did our first pre-Orphan Sunday presentation at Grace Community Church. We were welcomed with such encouragement and love, and were thoroughly blessed by our time with everyone there that evening. Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to get any pictures that night.

This commercial size griddle was amazing for our family.

This commercial size griddle was amazing for our family.

OCTOBER 26: Monday was a day filled with much repacking as we prepared to move to Huntsville the next day. My parents and sister came back for awhile in the afternoon and spent some time with the kids while the adults and older kids all worked like crazy to pack up again. The repacking turned out to be almost harder than the original packing job.

AL #053

Did we really bring all of this stuff with us?!

 

AL #054

Granddaughter Victoria was so tired that she found a snuggly pile to climb into and fell asleep while we worked on repacking.

OCTOBER 27: Tuesday morning, we woke up kind of waiting for the next unexpected calamity. The morning proceeded as smoothly as could be expected under the circumstances, although at one point, Scott and I commented to each other that the house felt exactly like the crazy morning scene in the movie “Home Alone.” We drove in rain all the way to Huntsville, but the rain stopped in time for the unloading when we reached the lovely home of our dear friends, Phil and Becky Butler. I can happily report that there were no disasters that day! Yay!

That evening, friends provided a potluck dinner for all of us at the Butler’s home, and we had the blessed honor of seeing again one of TSC’s very special children. Adriana Clark came home to her family in 2009. In fact, we were in Huntsville the day she came home, and we got to meet her briefly then. It was truly astounding to see her again this time. She is such a different little girl. So full of confidence and charm and joy. She was thrilled to discover that Colin has a cane just like hers. We thank God so much for these little glimpses of the work He is doing through TSC.

Loading up and leaving the lake house.

Loading up and leaving the lake house.

 

A long rainy drive to Huntsville

A long rainy drive to Huntsville

 

Arrived right on time to our friends' house!

Arrived at our friends’ house right on time!

 

AL #059

One of many beautiful views from the Butlers’ house.

 

AL #060

The fabulous front porch.

 

Colin and Adriana comparing their canes. A precious moment.

Colin and Adriana comparing their canes. A precious moment.

OCTOBER 28: Wednesday morning, after a lovely night’s sleep in the Butler home, Phil and Becky quietly slipped into the kitchen while the rest of us slept, and prepared a huge pancake, bacon, and fresh fruit breakfast for us. What a special blessing to be cared for in this way.

We spent most of the day catching up on baths and hair-washings and preparing for another pre-Orphan Sunday presentation at Kingdom Life Fellowship that night. Once again, we were welcomed and blessed in so many ways as we spent time with this warm group of Believers.

AL #063

AL #062

Three of the kids warming up before singing at Kingdom Life

Three of the kids warming up before singing at Kingdom Life

OCTOBER 29: Becky once again blessed us with a hearty breakfast before we hit the road Thursday morning, heading toward Cincinnati and home. We wondered, again, what kind of surprises might await us that day, but we felt peaceful as we trusted God to take us through whatever He already had planned for us.

After lunch that day, we met our first and only surprise of the day. And thankfully, it was a minor one. Scott started the van and then accidentally hit the door lock button before closing the door. Our only set of keys was locked inside the running van. We were very thankful that none of the kids had been buckled into their carseats yet, and we were thankful to find a locksmith who was available and came to our rescue within a half-hour. It turned out to be an educational few minutes for the kids, and then we were on our way again.

We arrived at our hotel early enough that evening to order pizza in the room and to get everyone to bed on time. This was wonderful!

Watching the locksmith break into our van. Don't try this at home. :)

Watching the locksmith break into our van. Don’t try this at home. 🙂

 

A special treat at the hotel that evening. The kids' first taste of chewy SweeTarts.

A special treat at the hotel that evening. The kids’ first taste of chewy SweeTarts.

OCTOBER 30: We got an early start on Friday. Everyone was feeling the cumulative effects of our demanding adventure, but they did great.

We stopped for a late lunch/early dinner at another Cracker Barrel, and had several more very blessed encounters with customers and servers — just as we did at pretty much every stop along the way. In fact, we ran into friends while we were there, and as they were leaving, they secretly paid our whole check. What a beautiful gift!

We had an overall smooth last day of driving, although we hit terrible traffic in Northern KY and were quite a bit later getting home than we wanted to be. And, of course, we had to make a “quick” trip to Kroger on the way to our house to pick up some essentials. Scott and I both felt like zombies as we forced ourselves to hurry through the aisles and focus on what we needed immediately.

Once home, we unloaded only what was needed for crawling into bed, greeted our very, very happy dogs who had missed us a lot, and then my eyes filled with tears as I noticed that our house/dog sitters (and very dear friends) had totally deep-cleaned our house while staying here. What an incredible gift to come home to.

Since then, we have just been trying to catch up on our sleep; unpack and settle in again; make some necessary appointments for the kids; complete adoption post placement reports for Roslyn and Jaden that were due yesterday; answer our publisher’s questions about the press release they are preparing for our book’s release; and get this update written. And a few of our kids finally reached their breaking point and began to fall apart a bit, so Scott and I have spent a lot (a LOT) of time trying to help them pull things back together. I’m sure they will all be back to normal in a few days.

This trip was such a blessing and stretched us in so many ways — physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. We will never forget it and thank God so much for making it possible.

Now we are looking forward to our next talk on Orphan Sunday at North Cincinnati Community Church. We will be speaking in both services that day (Nov. 8) — the first at 9:00 am, and the second at 10:30 am. We hope to see some of you there.

Wake up sleepy head. We had some very tired "everybody's" by this point in the trip.

Wake up sleepy head. We had some very tired “everybody’s” by this point in the trip.

 

Scott's last time to pack up the trailer. His poor ribs were very happy to hear this news.

Scott’s last time to pack up the trailer. His poor ribs were very happy to hear this news.

 

Our excitement for this day was that we actually forgot Erin and Teddy. We never actually drove away without them because Madin noticed one empty seat in the van. 30 seats for 30 people means that if a seat is empty, someone has been left behind. When Meghan ran back to get Erin, she was just resting her knee and listening to her music.

Our excitement for this day was that we actually forgot Erin and Teddy. We never actually drove away without them because Madin noticed one empty seat in the van. 30 seats for 30 people means that if a seat is empty, someone has been left behind. When Meghan ran back to get Erin, she was just resting her knee and listening to her music.

 

An awesome brunch at IHOP that included free Scary Face pancakes for all of the kids, and Wiki Stix with their kids' menus.

An awesome brunch at IHOP that included free Scary Face pancakes for all of the kids, and Wiki Stix with their kids’ menus.

 

AL #071

We were so happy to see this sign!!

 

AL #072

After a ridiculously long delay in N KY traffic this almost made us cry with joy. Home! At last! We were so ready by this time.

4 thoughts on “Mission Accomplished!

  1. Can’t decide whether to laugh or cry as your adventures sound so much like our own ( scaled down just a bit!) Praising the Lord for allowing you make the trip and for all the gracious people He placed along the way.

    Like

  2. Pingback: I’m a Junk Drawer; But They Call Me Mommy | Owning My Nothingness

  3. Pingback: It Doesn’t Really Matter Now | Owning My Nothingness

  4. Pingback: Cancer Treatment: So It Begins | Where Love Learns Its Lessons

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