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Joy in the Little Things


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Friday, April 30. 2010

The past weeks have been filled with activity. Over a week ago, I lost my voice and picked up some type of allergy/cold and have not been feeling well. It is hard to function in the manner I need to to accomplish my daily tasks when not feeling up to par. I end up feeling at the end of the day, I have accomplished nothing. When I look closer, I may not have completed everything on "my list' for the day but I have accomplished something. At times, I had to look very closely at the day to find anything to put in the accomplished column but in doing so, I realized all the little joys of life and savored the moments that made each day special that I may have overlooked if I had felt better and had the energy to move full speed through my days.

I took time to truly soak in and enjoy the flowers in my garden as they bloom in full spring color. I watch as the tree blossoms load down the branches and the leaves grow on the trees. I listened as the giggles and pure joy of children playing outside filled the air. I enjoyed the time with my kids. We are so truly blessed. Today as I ran errands with the kids, I wasn't annoyed at the time wasted in the car but rather was so grateful to be in a van that I wasn't worried about a belt falling off wondering if I would make it to where I needed to go (I hadn't realized how much of a weight that had been until it was lifted). The kids and I had great conversations about how blessed we are to be able to have the resources and experiences available to us and discussions about how they can do little things to make a difference in the life of others. L commented at one point that she really likes to help people and the conversation quickly took off in several different tangents about how our family could help others from donations to assist others to sponsoring children in another country.

I'm glad I had to slow down a bit because it has reminded me to stay focused on what truly matters and to see the blessings in each and everyday.

A special project


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Thursday, April 22. 2010

This evening the girls and I joined a friend and her kids for a special project evening making diapers and bandages for Haiti. The diapers and liners were cut from t-shirts that had been donated and the bandages torn from sheets and then rolled and tied. Our children were the only kids there which was unfortunate as the kids had a great time and learned a lot in the process. This event took place in a huge church's basement and there were very few people there, perhaps maybe 25 people. It was disappointing to me to see how few people were there. The church is associated with a huge private school as well and I just assumed that the space would be packed. It wasn't but what I did see when I walked in were several people working very hard to make a difference in the lives of others. It was a great experience to be part of that process. The older kids assisted in the cutting of diapers and liners, ripping, rolling and tying bandages and helping where needed. The most impressive thing to watch was the two little kindergarten girls taking a pattern, pinning in to fabric and then cutting out the diaper liners. They worked diligently for 2 hours. The kids were all asking if they could do it again. There definitely is a need and what a great way to recycle and reuse on Earth Day.

Making Changes


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Wednesday, April 21. 2010

I usually take extra time to reflect, to look at little deeper at my life, wonder which areas are going well, which could be going better, which need adjustments and which need a full overhaul at least twice a year: New Year's and my birthday. Both of these times of the year for me signify, another year, the new year following the old year, being a year older and wiser (??), a time of growth, change and renewal.

Lately I have been struggling in a number of areas of my life. One is my role as a teacher to my kids. Homeschooling is currently challenging. I find myself needing to find a new way of doing things. One issue is in the amount of time wasted arguing over doing school work compared to the amount of work actually being done. The other is fatigue and they are very tightly woven. Another issue seems to be building in the accountability that is inherent in the school system. We had fallen into a negative cycle of kids not wanting to do their work, procrastination, negativity and minimal progress in the midst of lots of complaining. We are realizing that it is a lot harder than we had anticipated to try and accomplish our school needs while tending to the other needs of five kids. We ended up having to pile a lot into our one weekday that cousin L isn't here and by Friday the kids are too tired and just wanting to be together. Things needed to change. Earlier in the week we had made a list of things needed to be accomplished (part of our regular system, however it was laid out with each child's work on one page and printed off rather than white board) by Sunday. Typically I would have made that Friday but because of circumstances it needed to be Sunday to make the consequences feasible.

AJ worked hard all week. His goal was to get his work completed ahead of time so that he could have days with a lot more play time and a lot less school. He was focused and driven and he succeeded with the exception of the group activities which they all needed to do together.

A-girl also just plugged along, doing her work when asked.

L, in typical L fashion dug her heels in and her intensity shone through yet again. I decided not to argue, persuade or beg but to unemotionally (which was hard as we both trigger each other into not so positive interactions) explain what was expected and wait. And wait. And wait. It was hard to sit back and have the work piling up knowing that it wasn't going to get accomplished easily as the days ticked by.

By Sunday morning, AJ and A-girl had only one group activity and piano left. L on the other hand had almost everything left. She ended up spending almost all afternoon and evening deeply immersed in school. It wasn't pretty. The other kids were outside playing and enjoying the day. We were stuck inside. Our wonderful friend A came for dinner and L missed out on a lot of the interaction and play time. It was hard for everyone. Huge emotional responses on her part that are very draining to parent through. Huge emotions for me as I tried to stay supportive while fully exhausted. It was a long day and when she finally realized that she wasn't going to complete all of her school work and that she would need to face the consequences it all seemed to finally click. We weren't playing games. Things were going to change. By about 9:00pm she started realizing the time that was required to complete her work and the time left before the deadline were not in alignment. She started negotiating for an extension. Needing to play a week's worth of piano in an evening just isn't feasible. The notable thing was that this was a very calm process. She asked to be able to do the remaining 40 minutes of her piano and the several math exercises Monday morning. We agreed.

Sunday was an extremely hard day. I was exhausted. I cannot teach 7 days straight. I need a break and so do the kids. Bits and pieces are OK on all 7 days, however intense, focused work for 8 hours straight with the exception of meals is draining as a parent/teacher, however we believe it was necessary. It was hard to have to give up my day, to be inside when the sunny day was calling my name and to feel very frustrated with the whole situation but knowing that you needed to do it.

She got up Monday morning and started working. Things went smoothly. All the kids worked together in a way we haven't seen as much lately. Tuesday was more of the same. She struggles with some subject matter (mostly math) but we are just plugging along.

Things have been so much smoother for everyone because of the change in L's attitude and behaviour. It continues to be a hard process, however overall things are flowing better. We had another glitch today when AJ decided he was not going to do much on his list until later in the week. I know the schedule and I can tell there won't be the time we need and I don't want a repeat of last Sunday but he needs to learn that for himself. I am really hoping he figures it out before Saturday.

Things in my physical fitness area of life also are needing changes. I have Hallux rigidus, a degenerative arthritis of the toe joint, that was diagnosed about a year ago. The one option given to me was surgery which requires over 6 weeks recovery time is not feasible. I looked into chiropractic and acupuncture and it reduced the symptoms for several months allowing me to ski, to walk relatively pain free and to not be too limited physically.......until the past few weeks. The pain and swelling is back and is intense. In the past year, I had to stop some of my exercise and physical activity regime due to it aggravating my foot. The end result was weight gain which when mixed with chronic intense pain starts to wear down a body and adds to exhaustion, lack of patience and affects the joy you can bring to your activities each day.

I have returned to more aggressive treatment and am searching out various footwear options and other treatment options to allow me to lose weight and stay in shape. The shoes I need are about twice the price of shoes I typically buy but I am at the point now that I will wear anything that relieves the pain even for a short amount of time no matter the price or how ugly they look. Today, I finally went looking for shoes. It became apparent that I would not have a chance to shop child free and I couldn't go to another weekly chiropractic appointment stating that the pain was still unchanged wearing the same shoes despite her recommendations to try different ones. It was not an easy task to keep 5 kids content while waiting for assistance and then being fitted etc but we managed and despite the large outlay of cash, I do feel some relief in the foot so hopefully it will come. I quickly realized in the shoe fitting process that I wasn't going to find a pair that miraculously stopped the foot pain but I did learn a fair bit about shoes that will work for me and it does make a difference even if just slightly.

Now I am hoping to get back into some type of regular exercise program to help with weight issues and also stress relief which directly impacts the symptoms of Chrohn's. All is so tightly woven.

The third area of my life that truly needed some attention was my support system. I have some incredibly encouraging, supportive family and friends. Without their support, I know I wouldn't be where I am today. I also have some who are critical and unfortunately their drums beat the loudest and the negativity sticks. I have a lot of growing to do as well in the way I am a friend and a support to others. I know that I have great intentions, however due to the same reasons as many others experience (demands on time, family needs, limited monetary resources), the follow through is not always there. I make mistakes and amends. I want to be more aware of my interactions and be more intentional in my actions.

I have some friends that I have known ever since we started our parenting journey and others that we have had the privileged to meet along the way. We have a great mix of friends from different walks of life and over the years, they have truly enriched our lives. Lately though, it is becoming evident that some are not as positive or supportive as they could be or that I need them to be. Some don't agree with our choices (kid's schooling, S going back to school, activities we have the kids in despite them being the same ones their kids are in) and the comments have been negative, biting and far from supportive. I don't think that everyone needs to agree with me/us and our choices. What a boring life that would be. I like to hear people's feedback, ideas, and suggestions. It is not the content I question but rather the way it is conveyed. Recently discussions have had things said that have value, however the tone, the words chosen, the body language have been very negative and as other friends pointed out (some there at the time) have been quite mean spirited. I kept thinking it was something I wasn't doing right and kept trying harder but over time, things haven't changed and I realized that I needed to re-evaluate where I was getting my support. It doesn't mean that I am walking away from anyone, it is more about personal work for me, knowing there is always something to learn from others, listening to their thoughts, ideas and opinions but not having to become them. Its more about finding a better balance and a more positive focus in people I choose to be around on a regular basis. I can be me and my value isn't associated with other people's views and judgments. It hasn't been easy but I have noticed that my self esteem isn't taking as hard a beating from the outside (I do it quite well enough on the inside) and my confidence is recovering. Its hard to never feel "good enough" in a friend's eyes and to feel that they feel that all would be fine if you would just be more like them. I have also been judgmental and though I likely wouldn't say it directly, I have thought it and I would like to be more accepting and more supportive. I have been with people in various groups that talk about, judge and criticize others and while I didn't actively participate, I did nothing to stop or change it and I want to change this in myself.

Parenting can be challenging enough and too often I think our society judges and tears people down rather than providing the support we all need to succeed in this journey. I know I am guilty of it as well and as I continue to reflect and make choices in this area of my life, I too hope that I can be more open and accepting, learning and growing as I walk my life's path.

Another area of my life screaming for attention is time for me outside of the demands of being a parent and keeping a house in order. I can't remember the last time I really did anything to re-energize or re-create me. My focus tends to be on others, serving them, finding my value in serving them and not much is left over for me. I need to find a balance in this area. Recently, I was invited to dinner at a friend's house to celebrate my birthday. I couldn't remember the last time I had had that kind of an evening (great dinner, group game). I haven't been scrap booking in over a year. I don't get together much with friends (busy schedules, hard to coordinate) and I miss that. Knowing that life will be different as S perhaps heads back to school 9waiting to hear if he has been accepted to grad school) and we adjust to a new normal, I am trying to find ways to build these types of things into my schedule. Again, not an easy task for me, however I am listening more when people throw out ideas for get togethers, joining this or that and instead of immediately saying to myself "that likely won't work for us" I am trying to be more open and consider not only would it work for us but also would it give me the re-creation, relaxing types of things that are currently missing.

Change is moving through many facets of my life and even though at times I don't like change, I am trying to be open to it and embrace it, ready to grow and learn.

Where does the time go????


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Wednesday, April 21. 2010

It seems like only yesterday that I was awaiting the arrival of L, shopping garage sales, second hand stores, clearance and display racks in department stores for her clothing. It doesn't seem like it is already time for her to have shoes within two sizes of mine or for me to be buying her extra small clothing from the women's department in the same area of Target as I buy mine.

Where did the time go???

She will always be my little girl, but perhaps only in word.

How does time go by so quickly????

We love you L! You are one incredible tween.

Progress??


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Sunday, April 18. 2010

AJ has a hard time getting his socks into the laundry. Since they rarely are in a load of wash, he tends to get frustrated with the lack of socks in his drawer, however one could argue that is a valuable lesson in natural consequences.

Lately, he is doing a bit better although many of his socks never make it to the washing machine. He insists he puts them with the dirty clothes yet they never appear. I am wondering if a little laundry fairy comes each night and removes them since most of the time they barely resemble socks and look more like they should be out in the garden as at times I think they contain more dirt than any amount of fabric.

Last night, as I folded clothes out of the dryer, I was thinking we had made progress. One sock, then another and then another. This could be a banner load. Three pair actually making it into the laundry. As I finished up folding, it became evident that although three socks had made it to the wash which was a major accomplishment, their mates did not. Suddenly the progress I thought we had made wasn't really all that great and I was left wondering if we had really made any progress at all.

Educational Games??


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Wednesday, April 14. 2010

This week, we have changed things a bit in our home school routine to keep the kids motivated as the warm sunshine pulls them outdoors and away from their academics. AJ has requested to go back to having all of his week's work listed at the beginning of the week so he can work ahead and have more "time off" to play. This system really works for him and he works hard to accomplish things on his list. Poor L just seems to get bogged down and procrastinates even more. A-girl refreshingly jsut does what she is asked.

As part of their activities this week, I had asked them to play two games together. It was fun to listen to them work their way through the games and as they played Scrabble I found myself wondering if they were truly learning anything valuable. They seemed to be arguing a lot over the spelling of words. AJ insisted that the accurate spelling of socks was sox "because he had seen it on a uniform! He also was giddy about the possibility of spelling words such a snot, fart and ass on the board. Perhaps I need to add some rules and guidelines around content.

Bad Omen Follow up


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Tuesday, April 13. 2010

It was not a bad omen but a software issue that was dealt with by extremely friendly staff at the dealership. We have had such bad experiences with the dealership where we purchased our last van and were not looking forward to having to go in but S took the van in and had nothing but positive things to say.

They fixed a tail light, replaced a tube in the air conditioner, updated software (I can't handle the updates on my computer and now I need to worry about the van too?!?!) and took care of a couple of "rapid response" items.

Catching Up Part 2


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Saturday, April 10. 2010

Just when I thought I could say I was catching up from being away, we threw ourselves into the task of finding a newer van. We spent our evenings searching the internet, going to look at and/or drive various vehicles and while we were gone the dishes, laundry and general messes were piling up. Each evening we were out looking meant the kids went to bed late which presents with its own set of issues. As the week progressed, things got a little rough. Luckily, things fell together for us Thursday night when I finished work and we looked at a 2008 Chrysler T&C van. We picked it up yesterday afternoon and have been enjoying it. It definitely has a bigger trunk space than our old one and when we finally got around to going grocery shopping at the big box store after a month and a half it held it all beautifully. I think the automatic doors and mid row windows that actually open will be nice once the novelty of said features wears off. I must say that my favorite thing at the moment is actually being able to open the trunk and having it stay open without having to hold up the heavy door while trying to grab a piece of wood to position in such a way to keep it open. Very freeing. Now if I could just catch up with the laundry, dishes, cleaning and other things I put on hold, I could kick back and take a drive without any hesitation.

A bad omen?


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Saturday, April 10. 2010

Is it a bad omen if the van you bought less than 18 hours earlier has the check engine soon light on? I had really hoped we had walked away from all the quirks of an older van, at least for longer than a day.

Things seem to have resolved but we'll have it looked at next week at the same time we have a chip in the windshield repaired.

Stressed


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Thursday, April 8. 2010

If you asked me if I was stressed lately, I would likely answer that I was not. I don't feel stressed. I feel busy but not really stressed. It is hard coming back from time away (it is not a relaxing vacation in any sense of the word) when we are all recovering from extended period of time in the car, lack of sleep, and the emotional ups and downs of visiting and then trying to get back into our routines when we get home but I still wouldn't call it stress. Add in looking for a vehicle when you hoped you had a few more months to pull funds together and things get dicey but still I wouldn't call myself stressed. Then there are some relationship issues outside our immediate family, ongoing kid struggles and the realization that things in less than 2 months are really going to change with S heading back to school and factoring in his time away, tuition costs, book costs, program costs and parking. I still didn't really think I was stressed, I figured that its just life and you flow with it.

Then yesterday, in my inbox, was an email about the signs of stress. I was going to ignore it but then started reading it. Hmm, perhaps I was more stressed than I thought. Headaches, stomach aches, itchy skin, increased severity of allergies to name a few that caught my eye. I was just chalking all those things up to our recent activities and life events. Perhaps they were not. It doesn't really matter what they are but rather what I do with them and the information I have. I have not been doing anything for me or taking time to exercise in any sort of structured way. As a result, my weight has increased as have feelings of isolation (not related to the weight gain). Realizing our schedule in the upcoming months, things are not going to get easier in these two areas but in fact harder. With S's changes (full time school and full time work), he is not going to be around much to help out with household tasks or chores or kid activities and what time he is here I want to be family time to maximize the time he does have. To compensate, I am trying to get more rest and exercise and try to find more of a balance in time for responsibilities and time for just me (well OK finding any time for me will be a start).

Now that I see the stress is there, I am working on putting in strategies to manage it.

A rainy day


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Tuesday, April 6. 2010

Today has been a very rainy day. One that makes you want to grab a blanket, a mug of hot chocolate, some munchies and head for the couch in front of the fireplace and enjoy a wonderfully quiet day as you listen to the rain drops dripping on the roof and slip into a lovely mid afternoon nap if I choose.

But wait......that's not my reality!!! Instead, I am with my children who have been very spoiled by the wonderful warm spring temperatures and the ability to run outside and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine and not wanting to be inside the confines of a house. They are also having a hard time getting back into the routine of school and regular day to day chores and tasks after a week of spring break, travel and visiting. To add to the annoyance of the rainy day, we picked up new sand for the sand box and the little guys cannot understand why I am not willing to stand in the pouring rain, add the sand and then be out there with them while they play. Its quite cool today and very wet which hasn't stopped the kids from being outside at times, however they seem to be very frustrated that they need to keep coming in to warm up and dry off. As a result there is much complaining, whining and discontent. No one is really happy with anything. At the moment, we seem to have found an activity that is keeping everyone momentarily satisfied so I will take that.

I like rainy spring days as it seems to refresh and renew everything. I am hoping for my sanity that it rains at night when my lovely children are all in bed.

Caling the tooth fairy


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Sunday, April 4. 2010

L lost her 9th tooth this evening. The other one is sitting right there pushing its way in so we knew it was just a matter of time before her tooth would come out. It seems that bedtime becomes the perfect time for L to work at her tooth, cause it to bleed and delay bedtime. This evening, she managed to get it out.

A-girl has her first loose tooth. We have been anticipating the loss of her two upper front teeth that were broken almost 18 months ago. She was to lose them initially but she managed to push them back into place (from being pushed back flat against the roof of her mouth) and the ligaments tightened and she hasn't had any trouble with them since. We were told she would lose them within months of the incident but they are still in there showing no signs of coming out any time soon. So we are now anticipating the loss of her first tooth, that happens to be a lower front one rather than either of the front two that were broken. It is becoming much more wiggly but still not quite at the point to come out.

AJ also has a tooth that is starting to wiggle. He is quite excited as this would be one of only a few of his missing teeth that he will have lost without trauma. His two upper front teeth were removed surgically due to damage from a fall, another upper front was knocked out due to a sledding incident and then 2 other ones were knocked out at two different time fooling around with his friends.

The tooth fairy is going to busy at our house over the next several weeks.

Happy Easter


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Sunday, April 4. 2010

Wishing everyone a wonderful Easter and hoping that today brought love, hope, joy and peace to you.

We had a great day celebrating with family, a very moving Easter morning church service, fantastic food and fellowship with friends, a fun egg hunt and a great afternoon of being outdoors enjoying the sunshine.

After church, we gathered for a great meal with 8 friends. Following the egg hunt and the meal, we went flying kites at a nearby park. All 6 kids had new kites to fly. Who would have guessed that the youngest of the 6 kids (LJ) would be the best kite flier. He kept his kite up the longest and the highest and absolutely loved watching his owl kite fly all over. L had a fish that also flew very well. Before going to the park, the kids played in the front yard at our friends' with their kites and AJ's needed repairs. His dragon had trouble flying so it was a bit frustrating for him at the park. A-girl had a turtle kite that also needed some adjustments but she seemed just as happy to fly hers by running around and having it hover overhead. One of the other boys had a Star Wars kite that flew really well. He did manage to wrap it around a light pole at the end but we were able to help him get it down. The other boy had a frustrating time with his as it just seemed too heavy to get up and stay up in the limited wind. Despite the frustrations, all the kids had a great time being together and enjoying the outdoors.

LJ stood in the same place in the field and thoroughly enjoyed his first kite flying experience. Then he decided to move around a bit as the older boys were doing and he got hit kite stuck way up at the top of a tree. Initially he thought it was quite funny. Our friends tried to help him get it out of the tree but unfortunately the string broke and the kite was showing no signs of coming down. Slowly, the reality of the situation sank in and poor LJ began sobbing about his lost owl kite. Not a good way to end the kite flying. He recovered amazingly quickly though and was all play again shortly afterward.

We came home late this afternoon and the kids played outside for another couple of hours with bubbles, skipping ropes and balls. Got to love spring. I noticed this evening that I got a little sun burn so will have to keep that in mind for the many hours of outdoor fun ahead.

Tomorrow is back to our old routine after having had a week of change.

Catching Up


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Saturday, April 3. 2010

In the past 24 hours, LJ has slept 5 hours more than the previous 24 hour period, which just for interest sake was his best sleep day of our trip. I have done three loads of laundry, have five waiting and am working my way through the bags and unpacking/putting away.

Slowly we are getting things back to the way we were around our house before we left. Unfortunately, one of the issues of coming home just before a holiday means that you have to jump into the holiday activities the kids are hoping for. I am wanting to clear off the table that has all the treasures from the trip on it and they are already eagerly waiting to dye eggs, pull out their baskets and get out their "stuff."

My house won't be neat and tidy, my laundry won't be washed, folded and put away but I will have a lot of fun celebrating Easter with family and friends.

Van Search


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Saturday, April 3. 2010

We took our van in as soon as we got home for an overdue oil change. We kind of cringe and hold our breath when we drop it off because inevitably the mechanics find something wrong. We really like the little local garage we go to and trust these mechanics fully. The past several months, we have been repairing the things that are safety issues or absolutely necessary and leaving the rest. Our hope was to have the van make it til at least the fall before getting a different. As a result, we have a gas tank that you can't fill due to a rodent chewing through the small plastic fill tube at the top of the tank and taking the $100 rather than the $800 plus repair. We use a piece of wood to hold up our trunk every time we need to open it and the fan/air/vent over one of the middle seats doesn't work. A belt slips off when the conditions are right (which we haven't quite figured out yet as it happens in hot temperatures and also in cold wet ones) and leaves the van inoperable. S has figured out how to put it back on but that doesn't help me when he isn't around but luckily it happens infrequently. At times we can turn the key "off" in the ignition and pull it out and the van stays running. Various lights on the dash stay on when they shouldn't be and it definitely has some electrical oddities. Our van has quirks but the main thing is that it runs and we don't have any monthly car payments. We bought our van almost 6 years ago as we awaited the arrival of A-girl and couldn't fit three car seats across the back seat of either of our other vehicles. We found a great used van that met our needs and when our trusted mechanics inspected it and said they would buy it themselves, it became ours. Now it is coming to the end of its time with us. At 11 years old and just shy of 150,000 miles, it has served us very very well and taken us on trips to Colorado, Ontario and Manitoba. It has been part of car pools, gone on many camping trips, carted girl scouts and hockey players all over the place.

After the oil change was complete, our mechanic called and the news wasn't great. There are issues with boots and brakes that need attention (in the next 500 miles) and the cost is higher than feasible for us. When the cost to repair an old vehicle with high mileage is more than 4 car payments on a new one for us (a used van about 5 years old to fit our budget) one needs to question putting that kind of money into it. So we have started the search for a new vehicle which to me is frustrating but necessary. So today, between dying Easter eggs and preparing some things for a dinner with friends we'll be checking out vans that S has researched on the internet since our return home.



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