There and back again

April 19th, 2010

There are a few choices before me.

1. I could say that we had a perfectly lovely vacation. Wait, that’s not really a choice at all since it is wrong to lie.

2. I could ignore the fact that we just took a vacation, and write about something else altogether. Very tempting.

3. I could go out on a limb and tell the truth. The possible benefits to this make it the worthwhile choice, painful as it may be.


May I present a series of lessons we would do well to remember when planning Family Vacation 2011?

~Before leaving, it would behoove us to review some ground rules for getting along with others when spending long periods of time in close quarters with them. These circumstances have a way of revealing weak spots in relationships, and dealing with these weak spots is not an ideal vacation pastime!

~It would be wise to let go of unrealistic expectations ahead of time. This includes trusting weather forecasts, picturing a vacation without conflicts, wanting to give a perfect meal and visit to guests, hoping to hear and meet a certain speaker, and the list goes on.

~Every time we make a stop for a bathroom break, every single member of the family must at least “try.” Not sure why we didn’t remember this from other trips, but we had this one down after the first day.

~Night traveling is not for us. Most of the members of this family do not sleep well in strange surroundings as it is. It compounds the problem to reach our destination past midnight, meaning that the responsible members of the family don’t lie down to sleep until 1:30 AM. Which means that the parent who is the light sleeper may deal with a wakeful toddler for at least another hour after that.

~If the light sleeper is up very late and hopes to sleep in, it is best for her to remember to turn off her cell phone alarm. Otherwise it will cause her to completely wake up far earlier than necessary and not be able to fall asleep again. <grrrrr>

~When traveling in the springtime, pack clothing for cold, warm, and hot weather, just in case. It is unbelievably cheaper to bring one’s own thrift store clothes from home than to try to find good deals at Target. Traveling light is good; traveling too light is expensive.

~Remember what it was like to be a teenager and don’t believe everything yours say when they are upset, even if they are ordinarily respectful and logical. Breaking this rule will at best cause the sleep-deprived mother to lose her composure, and at worst, to doubt her sanity, her salvation, and her worth as a human being.

~If she follows up such an episode with a night of 2 1/2 hours of total sleep, she should probably stay at the hotel and nap while the rest of the family finds something to do elsewhere until she recovers. This would be preferable to spending the day trying to smile and keep pushing the stroller, and trying not to fall asleep or burst into tears. Seriously, these simple tasks required superhuman strength, and all I could think to pray was, “Help.”

I’m not sure what I was doing in this picture, sleeping or praying!  Stephen fell asleep not long after this~

An unforgettable lesson to me was learning that serious sleep deprivation causes all the classic symptoms of depression in me. Except it only lasts until I catch up on sleep, which takes me more than one night to accomplish. I can’t imagine living this way all the time like some folks do, and my heart goes out to them now like never before.  The accuser of the brethren doesn’t fight fair, attacking us when we are physically and emotionally weakest.

And I wrote wryly about the family conflicts, but truly, I am thankful now for what was revealed through them. I know that this part of our vacation was planned by God for our good. Think of how high the walls of offense would be between all of the sinners living in this family if He hadn’t provided a way to keep tearing them down. I am so profoundly grateful for the repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation that He can work in us, and for the patience He shows us although we deserve none of it.

I post all this in the brave hope that someone besides our family may perhaps learn from our tale of woe!

Truly amazing to me is that the children enjoyed this vacation! Children have a gift for squeezing all the fun out of things that they possibly can!

We all loved being at the spacious lodge where we stayed the first two nights (Lakeside Lodge in the Raccoon Creek State Park), and we hope to make it a destination all its own in the future. Being at the end of a mile-long driveway in a state park surrounded by forest and lake is ideal for us. Plus, $75 a night combined with their “buy one night get one night free” offer puts it into our price range!

This was a perfect time of year to be out and about. The weather was Absolutely Beautiful.

If you look closely, you may find a little Stephen-gnome in this picture~

James being helped up the hill by a big brother’s strong arm~

Happy girls and pretty flowers belong together!  Jane with Virginia bluebells~

Oldest son and youngest son~

Yikes! Where’d they all come from?

Nobody threw up, caught colds, was stung by anything, or was otherwise injured.

We got to meet up with some friends we rarely get to see.  Yay!

We didn’t run out of things to do for all those hours on the road.

Laura and Jane~

The four little ones turned out to be pretty good travelers, considering that we were expecting them to perform the unnatural feat of sitting strapped into seats for hours on end! They didn’t even have any potty accidents!

John Michael deep in concentration~

Peter enjoying his activity book~

James snuggling with Rabbit~

Stephen and his dimples~

I didn’t feel motion sickness and I did get lots of writing done, including stories in Verity’s baby book that I haven’t included on this blog. That was a poignant task, but I am so glad it’s caught up now.

Most of the discussion time we had while traveling was fun and profitable, sparked by a list of questions taken from “The Book of Questions.” (I can’t recommend the whole book, but the questions we used were very thought- and discussion-provoking.)

No rotten tomatoes for this one, please! We all enjoyed eating fast food that we don’t ordinarily get. Subway is by far our favorite. The chili from Wendy’s is pretty good either plain or over their baked potatoes. Frosties? Yum. Homemade gourmet pizza has spoiled any other pizza for us, though!

There was a Target right near our hotel where I could find short-sleeved shirts for our poor, sweltering toddlers~

One of the friendly workers from the Creation Museum actually remembered us from last year, and had an encouraging chat with us about the benefits of growing up in a big family. He had six brothers and sisters of his own.

At one point, we were hurrying through the museum to get to an event on time, with me trailing behind pushing Stephen’s stroller, when I turned a corner and came upon a father and his two young sons. The one holding his father’s hand looked like he was about six years old, was dressed in jeans, t-shirt and sneakers, and sported super-cute glasses. But for a while after seeing him, I struggled to hold back the tears and had to temporarily push him out of my mind to regain my composure and try to catch up with my family. Yes, he had Down syndrome. I haven’t thought through why seeing him suddenly like that brought tears and still does now as I write. Maybe the ordinariness of the whole picture?

On our way home, we stopped to fill up on gas when I noticed steam coming out from under the hood of the van. Joe was able to determine the problem and do a temporary repair to get us safely home, without too much wasted time or expense. Thank the Lord!

From the perspective of the mother of many children, by far the most satisfying part of this trip was observing the loving interaction between our older and younger children. God has richly blessed us.

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3 Responses to “There and back again”

  1. maureen says:

    Hi Susanna!
    Thank you for being honest about your family vacation.  I was actually just looking up the Creation Museum and possible lodging options.  I figured you would have some great suggestions, so I clicked on over here to see if you had posted anything new.  It was so refreshing to read about an honest account rather than just see some pictures that made it seem as though things were perfect.  (I know people always ask me how I “do it all” with this big family, and I just stand there dumbfounded, wondering what exactly it is that they think I do while I hold back from sharing all my fears and failures.)  It’s enough of an accomplishment that you just got all of those people there and back safely.  The good times?  Icing!  I love how the children remember all the fun and none of the frustration.  Sounds (and looks) like a successful, memory-making time had by all. 
    Love and blessings to that big, beautiful family of yours! :biggrin:

  2. Sabrina says:

    I loved hearing about your vacation too!  Real life. Beautiful pictures.  Beautiful children.

  3. Shari~hotfudgecustard says:

    Wonderful post with so many nuggets to think on!  Right now we’re packing for our own family vacation.  “Traveling light is good; traveling too light is expensive.”  Good to remember!

    I enjoyed the pictures!  What a sweet family!

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