I met my husband Gregory Kenneth 8 years ago in northeastern Tennessee. We were both working for a small private college. He was a Professor in Computer Science and I was an Assistant Director for an Arts Outreach Program. We were the only two SINGLE people younger than 30 in the small rural bible belt town. Luckily we hit it off and ended up glued at the hip, despite our default status.
Our first date was pretty amazing…I convinced him to ride along in my jeep Cherokee for 45 minutes of real mountain driving otherwise known as BACKROADS! I am a shoulder hugger which doesn’t sit well with middle-of-the-road drivers like Gregory Kenneth. I wanted to take him to the Smokey Mountain Brewery in Gatlinburg, TN. Driving in a car for 45 minutes with someone you have never spoken with could have been nerve-racking. But from the moment he opened the car door, I felt completely at ease. We didn’t stop talking until he was safely returned to his Jeep 4.5 hours later. We had beer and apps, we listened to some great music, walked along the streets in downtown Gatlinburg, and stopped at an arcade so I could ‘school’ him on a civil game of air hockey. I WON! He doesn’t remember it that way, but when it comes to air hockey, I always win!
A year and a half later we decided to get married on April 1, 2004 in the oldest courthouse in Tennessee….without telling anyone….without inviting anyone…..in other words, we eloped. Afterwards we ate crab cakes, fried green tomatoes and sipped on cold chardonnay in a quaint little restaurant, whereupon leaving we forgot to retrieve our marriage certificate. The nice waitress ran out to deliver our lost piece of paper…and I headed back to my part-time job as a front desk clerk in a hotel.
Thus began the quirky story of our little family. After a year of marriage, we decided we were ready to grow our little family. A dog was the perfect addition to our family and would allow us to practice our parenting skills. We decided on a Golden Retriever puppy and chose the name Bear (due to the abnormally large size of his butt in comparison with the rest of his teeny body). By this time, I was attending ETSU in pursuit of a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education while still working part-time at the hotel. I was also a Grad Assistant for the Make A Difference (MAD) program at ETSU. Our primary goal was to assess behavioral problems in young students in the surrounding city/county schools in order to provide teachers/professional staff with tools to help manage these particular students. I was two classes shy of my degree when my husband applied and received a position at a state college in northwestern Nebraska. Yet another small rural town. What is it about us and small rural towns? We were interested in an adventure, so we packed up and moved across the country.
He was loving life in his new position and after a semester of teaching Kindergarten, I found a job that suited my degree and goals a little bit better…a Director of an Early Childhood Program. We were fitting in so well into our new surroundings, getting to know everyone in our small town, visiting the park 2 blocks from our house and our New Year tradition of visiting Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. It was in this rural northwestern Nebraska town that we welcomed our first daughter Abigail Leigh on November 6, 2006. We were smitten, nervous, anxious, protective and overwhelmed with love right from the start.
After Abby was born I had a strong desire to stay home with her. Greg wanted to give me the opportunity to stay at home with Abby so he went into the computer industry…which meant he was going to travel, sometimes for weeks at a time. For a year, our little one car Subaru Forester, family drove together to take daddy to the airport sending him off to the big world only to pick him up a week later. It was an hour and a half trip one way. We wanted another child and were quickly growing out of our 950 square foot home as well as my coveted Subaru Forester. We ditched the cool urban car and went for the mini-van. We searched the area for new homes, but decided with the amount of travel Greg was committed to, we would move closer to my family until we could find out ‘where’ we wanted to live.
Our first rental in TN was in a growing city in northeastern TN. The neighborhood was a little scary and the house was ok. Not completely desirable, but it was a step in a direction. 2 months after moving, I was pregnant with our second child…another girl. on November 5, 2009 we welcomed our second baby girl, Phoebe June Spranger.
Our little family was getting a little bit bigger and I was hormonal and growing impatient with our living situation. My mother had a condominium in a neighboring town that was rather large and currently unoccupied, so I persuaded her to let us rent it for a small fee and promised I would make small repairs on the home so she might have better luck selling in the future. I think now might be a good time to mention I grew up in this condo…all the way from 5th grade to senior year in High School. Here we are, my husband, dog and two daughters living in the home I grew up in. Low and behold, 8 months after moving in I found I was pregnant yet again.
6 hours after Cecilia Rae was born we were told the on site pediatrician who was observing her suspected she might have Down syndrome. My body felt like a furnace that had just been lit. Heat began to rise in my body from my feet all the way to the top of my head. In the hours/days that followed I would come to know what the definition of ‘marriage’ means to me. The pediatricians suspicions were correct, she does have Down syndrome. I want to share her birth story in another post, but for now…2 months 1 week and 5 days later I am completely consumed by love for this beautiful little girl who continues to surprise us with her development and her emerging personality. We are SLOWLY getting into our groove as a family of three beautiful, happy and healthy little girls.