Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Family Vacation

Donny and Grampy spot a loon...or is it a boat?

We are on vacation this week. In return for seven days without internet access, we get to enjoy a private lakeside beach, nightly cook-outs on the grill, and the company of family. We are nearly halfway through our vacation already, but this is the first time that all three of my boys have been asleep at once. After using up the play dough and bubbles from our limited stash of emergency toys during yesterday’s quiet time, I decided to let Donny nap today rather than face another two hours with a restless three year old. Hayden has been ornery all week, so naptime was certainly a necessity for him as well. And my hardworking husband deserves a day to rest, so I am glad he is taking this opportunity to nap on the couch while the cottage is quiet.

Having children changes everything, including vacations. The four of us are sharing a bedroom that has two twin beds, so we set up the Pack N Play for Hayden’s naps, and put the two twin mattresses together on the floor to create a makeshift king-size bed (just what we have been needing!). When Don and I tiptoe into our dark room at night (I didn’t think of packing a nightlight, and of course there are no streetlamps here to shed light through the windows), we usually find Hayden curled up on one mattress and Donny on the other, and we have to push them aside just to carve out a place for each of us between them as we try to avoid getting wedged in the crack between the mattresses. Then every morning around 7:00 am, I wake up to a little face just inches in front of mine, whispering, “Mumma, the sun is up!” Yes, Donny, the son is up. And even on vacation, when most people would sleep in late, if my sons are up, I am up too.

Activities have to be adjusted as well. We made a special trip to the nearest Wal-Mart - about 30 minutes away - to buy life jackets for the children so that we could all go out in the canoe. After bundling up the boys in their colorful new life vests and setting sail, we paddled only about 30 feet away from the shore before Donny started asking if we could turn around. Soon Hayden stood up and declared that he was, “All done!” So, we turned the canoe around, dropped the children off at the beach with the grandparents, and Don and I enjoyed a quiet canoe ride around the lake together. Thankfully, our new purchase was not completely wasted; Donny is getting plenty of use out of his life jacket by sporting it as a stylish top whenever he goes near the water. Hayden, on the other hand, is “all done” with the flotation device and prefers to make his grandmother panic by running out on the dock sans life jacket or chaperone.

As we paddled around the lake, I admitted to Don that I have changed my sentiments about family vacations. I used to think that spending a week with extended family was more of a social obligation than a time of relaxation. More recently, I have realized that having family around makes it much easier to vacation with young children. Relatives can play with the children while I enjoy a mini-date with my husband or take a much-needed shower, the children get plenty of attention and affection, and it is always helpful to have another set of eyes to tell me when my toddler is playing with garbage and eating questionable items off the unswept floor.

Something about the peaceful quiet of the lake, the rustling of the wind in the trees, and the freedom from everyday distractions make this a perfect time for reflection. Years ago, my family owned a trailer on different local lake, and I would spend hours playing by the water composing stories in my head. This week – and during this season of my life – vacation has been more about making sure that everyone has snacks and sand toys and sunblock than about sunbathing with a book or dozing off in the lakeside hammock to the sound of the waves lapping on the shore. Still, thanks to the help of family members and naptimes, I have managed to carve out a few moments such as this when all is calm and I can reflect on what God is teaching me during this time away.

The way God created things is good. He made the placid blue lake, the rolling green mountains in the background and the bluer mountains beyond. He created the loon who calls during the night and made an appearance just a few yards in front of our canoe. Even the ants that marched across the kitchen table last night are part of His Creation, though I often question why the Lord declared insects to be necessary components to our ecosystems, as I would happily live without them. And He created people to be in families. I am so blessed to be a wife and helpmeet to my strong, handsome man who can swim with a three year old on his back and catch a minnow with his bare hands. I am blessed to be a mother, not because my children are always perfect and wonderful, but because the challenges they bring are perfecting me. I am very blessed by my generous parents, who not only invited us on this vacation, but are also grilling steak and potatoes for us to eat when I would have served leftover spaghetti. And I am blessed to have siblings and siblings-in-law so that Don and I can practice our skills at Mad Gab (not that we need practice; we beat everyone else in record time) and Texas Hold ‘Em, and so that our children can read books with their aunties and learn to fish with their uncles. (In fact, Donny caught his first fish today with Uncle Matt! I don’t have a picture, though; I was in the house at the time, eating lunch with my mom.)

Yes, the way God designed families is good. Even if our children’s cries disrupt the peace of a quiet lakeside morning and wake everyone up prematurely, we are blessed to be surrounded by people we love and who love us in spite of our imperfections.

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day. - Genesis 1:31

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