But for tonight, I'll simply begin by recording five sweet moments during (and immediately after) the trip--small happenings that I don't want to forget because they bring a smile to my face.
First, one of Josiah's speech events is Impromptu; and in that round, they are given a topic (actually, they are given two topics, and they can pick whichever one they like), two minutes to prepare, and then five minutes in which to give a (hopefully) well-constructed and meaningful speech. It's quite a challenging type of speech, as you can imagine; but Josiah did well in one of his rounds in this category. His topic? The quote, "She left beauty wherever she went." In his two minutes of prep time, he decided to speak about three women who are special to him: his sister, who is inherently beautiful/cute; his mother, who is inherently wise (I'm not sure about that! I think he might have stretched the truth!); and his maternal grandmother, who is inherently good. I was so astonished and moved when he told me about this! His judges were apparently impressed by it, too, because they ranked him highly. He didn't fare as well in his other rounds in this category when he was given other topics; but for this topic, he speedily pulled together a speech that moved his judges and brought delight to my heart!
Second, as much as I enjoyed being in Black Mountain and having time with the older half of my set of children, I missed Jeff and the younger three incredibly. Jeff and I kept in touch through texting; but one evening, he called, and I had finished judging a round and was able to step outside and take his call. I got to talk to Jeff and to each of the children (well, Benjamin didn't do much talking, although he DID listen to my voice!) ;-), and it made me so happy that when I walked back inside, I was beaming. A few parents were standing there in the hallway and commented on my big smile, so I got to explain to them that I had just enjoyed a wonderful conversation with the dear ones I was missing so much!
Third, Josiah was so busy competing in the rounds or watching his friends compete that I didn't see him a whole lot; it's just how these tournaments are. But one day, he came and sat down by me in the hang-out area, and we talked for a little while. Before he got up to leave, he leaned over and gave me a kiss on the cheek. I feel so blessed by the affection he continues to show me!
Fourth, all the way home on Friday, my anticipation grew and grew as each mile brought us closer to the rest of our family; and the crowning moment was when we pulled in the driveway--at last!--and spotted Shav and Moriah racing across the lawn to us and Jeff following more slowly with Benjamin in his arms. The sweetness of reunion is hard to put into words. When we had come inside and were all jabbering away, trying to share with each other all the things that had transpired during our absence, I held Benjamin and sat down on the little couch beside Jeff. Benjamin snuggled into my shoulder and just nestled there. David, who had missed his littlest brother quite a bit too, picked up Benjamin to carry him around and bounce with him like Benjamin often enjoys; but at that particular moment, he was NOT interested, and he squealed like a little pig until David put him back in my arms. I was so glad to hold him again! :)
Fifth, that first evening home, my dad offered to take us all to Country Cookin, so we gratefully said yes, since neither Jeff nor I had the energy or inclination to cook. ;-) We all piled into the big white van and drove to the mall; and then, as we walked into the entrance closest to Country Cookin, Josiah looked around at all of us, gave a happy sigh, and said, "It's so good to be together as a family again." He had made a lot of speeches during that week of competition; but you know, that one sentence was perhaps his truest speech of the week! ;-)
~ the four travelers, during one of our stops on the way down to North Carolina for the tournament