The last three days since I returned from Wyoming have been a whirlwind, all-encompassing and passing all too quickly. I made it a priority to spend as much time as possible with Nathan, so I let the unopened mail lay on the table and my dirty laundry from Wyoming remain unwashed and piled on the floor.
Friday morning, after she took Nathan for a haircut at Uncle Tripp's salon, DeeDee (my mother and Nathan's maternal grandmother) called me and asked if I wanted to meet them for lunch at Long John Silver's. Of course I did. I gave Nathan his newest bling, a turquoise and leather bracelet and tomahawk necklace from Wyoming. While I was away, the elusive Power Rangers: Ninja Storm DVD I had ordered for Nathan came in, so he got that too. Lunch together was a fun time, except for the less than joyful LJS employees and the part where DeeDee dropped her keys in the garbage can, but we got some great pictures together.
After lunch I went by DeeDee and Grandaddy's to help Mama organize some things on her computer so that it will be easier for her to accomplish her most frequent tasks. Friday evening we went out with the Hoods to Red Lobster. Love those Cheddar Bay biscuits! Later, Nathan and I stopped by Best Buy to check out the Nintendo DS and Gameboy Advance games. He spent some of his birthday money on Spiderman 3, and I got a free 3-episode Showtime sampler DVD.
Saturday morning everybody met at Fred's Market Restaurant for the breakfast buffet. I would be remiss if I didn't put in a word here for Fred's. It is the restaurant I miss the most when I am away. There have been days I have eaten all three meals at Fred's. They have the best country cooking this side of Mama's table, and it would suit me fine if they opened a Fred's Market satellite location in North Georgia.
After breakfast, Nathan and I went to the movies at Lakeside Village in Lakeland. We arrived early, so we puttered around Books-a-Million for a while, checking out some of Nathan's favorite books such as The Boxcar Children. (I remember reading it to him at bedtime in the mountains two summers ago. We finished it the night before his 4th birthday.) We also played a bit at the Thomas the Tank Engine table. Precious memories! How many train cars have I bought over the years? Thomas must be a very rich train by now. Lady, or "Wady" as Nathan used to say, was always my favorite engine.
In spite of it's high ratings, neither Nathan nor I cared much for Ratatouille, Disney's latest animated feature. We had difficulty understanding the accents of the French rats. At one point Nathan even asked me if it was almost over, a rarity for a movie-head like him. Sorry Remy! You just can't compete with Cars, Nathan's favorite! We drove on down to Mulberry after the movie to shop for more video games at Wal-Mart, but he ended up buying Power Rangers DinoThunder and Kim Possible 3 at Game Stop.
Lest I fail to mention it, let me say that while driving around in the car this weekend we have listened to the unseasonable Newsong rendition of You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch over and over and over and over (you get the picture) with Nathan hitting all the burps at the appropriate times. Sorry DeeDee! Grinch and the Rascal Flatts recording Life is "On" Highway from the Cars soundtrack seem to be Nathan's current favs. Personally, I prefer the James Taylor tune Our Town.
We drove from Mulberry to John & April's for their Hoods goodbye party. John and April put on a spread of crab legs, steak, fried turkey, red beans and rice, crab dip, Paula Deen cheese ball, and more. Lisa brought her bacon & mashed potato salad, and Tonya brought her famous oatmeal cookies and other desserts. In spite of the sadness of the occasion (check out April's face), it was great to be together with everyone again. Nathan spent the whole time in the pool with his cousins Hailey Blount, Jacob & Heather Ross, and other friends. Thanks for everything, John & April!
There was also a sadness that day for our friend and fellow-singer Shellie Massie who lost her mother earlier in the day. After the party a group of us loaded up and drove over to her house to lend Shellie our love and support. Shellie, you are in our prayers. We LOVE you!
Sunday the gang all met for lunch at China Palace in Valrico where Carla gave me her car salt shaker to remember her by. She knew I really wanted it, and that's the truth. We went to DeeDee & Grandaddy's later that evening for Spanish bean soup, sopa Paraguaya, Mama's salad, and pound cake. When everyone had left for the evening, I took the opportunity to give Nathan a mizpah to remember me by. A mizpah is a medallion inscribed with the verse located at the top of this post. It is cut in two and each half is on a separate chain, one for the person who is leaving and one for the person who stays. Nathan listened carefully while I explained what it was all about and read the verse to him. Then he put his head on my shoulder. I could tell that he totally got it. But, hey, he loves anything to do with bling!
Nathan was getting wound up. At first we found a secluded location, and I let him run, then we decided to ride the moving sidewalks. We visited the Universal Studios store and the Sea World store and ended up, you guessed it, buying another necklace. This one had a shark's tooth medallion inscribed with Nathan's name.
We left the store and met up with the rest of the group. Then it was time for the inevitable goodbyes, and they were tearful to say the least. I instructed Todd & Carla to take care of my baby, because he's mine, too. They promised they would. Then, I kissed my sweet boy and asked God to protect him. They walked through passenger screening, and then they were gone.