This vacation was difficult at times. We slept in a pop up (yes, all four us for 4 nights), but we spent all of our days at Maranatha. So, each morning we'd wake up, eat something for breakfast (minimal preparation) while we took turns grabbing a shower. Some mornings we did all of this in the rain ... After breakfast and shower for Mommy and Daddy we'd pack up everything we needed (less the stuff my parents have for us at the trailer) and keep busy. The kids went to playgroup (Ben less than half of the time because he was so tired and needed the nap); Mommy and Daddy went to hear Bill Crowder speak. By noon the kids napped (and Daddy went for a bike ride) and around 3:30 we were headed to the beach. We swam/played until around 5:30 when we'd swallow dinner, send K to playgroup, bathe Ben in the camp showers and try to get him down before going back to get K. Then we'd work her through bath in the campground showers and try and get her down. There were nights when Ben didn't get to sleep until well after 10 and there were nights when they were both asleep well before 9. Despite the thunderstorms, there was only 1 night when we (Steve) got up with the kids due to middle of the night crying. AND (and I'm truly proud of this), we were usually NOT the first people up at the campground!! (Woo Hoo!!)
As we were packing to leave for home we had some camper malfunctioning, some overtired kids, and a whole LOT of humidity!! It made us come home early with less than cheerful attitudes. So, it's tempting to say, "It was too difficult." or "Not a good call to try and camp." But, when I sit here, after 36 hours of space from the disasters of leaving, I'm coming up with LOTS of wonderful moments during the week. So, I thought I'd make a top 10 list, so that I'm sure to remember the things that made this trip amazing.
Moment #10: Learning some valuable lessons from Bill Crowder. I truly enjoyed listening to him speak. He's an amazing story teller - and truly blessed with a gift from God for discerning truth from the Scriptures. I was particularly fond of his character sketch about just how closely Moses reflected Christ Jesus's willingness to sacrifice for his people. Moses could have chosen to deal with the problems of his people (namely their enslavement to Pharaoh) through a bureaucratic method. He could have used his position as a son of Pharaoh to "make things better." BUT, having lived the life of privilege (and the life of slavery in his formative years), he chose to give up his position of comfort and power to become like the people he wished to lead. His heart was so moved by the suffering of the people, that he left his "father's" home, gave up his life and took on the life of a slave in order to fulfill his calling from God. WOW ... I never looked at it in such a way; what a selfless act! Learning from Bill Crowder was amazing this week ... what a blessing!
Moment #9: NURSERY STAFF!!! (Okay, so that's not a moment ... I have a "moment" for each child, but wow these kids are so GOOD!) B's moment: I picked up my baby boy on Sunday from the nursery and he was sitting in the arms of a familiar blonde girl. I remembered that she had talked with my dad on the beach last year, after having 6 week old, very fussy Benjamin in nursery. She said she loved holding him and hoped that he would come back. Well, he didn't go back then, but he came back this summer. Hannah remembered Ben, and me ... and made a point to talk to Ben at brunch after class. What a blessing to have these kids who pay attention to my babies and not just "watch them" but really care for them when we're gone. K's moment: Kayleigh cried a lot at being left, but never for more than a minute. Her toddler nursery was FULL of "boys and toys" to play with. One day we brought her in especially tired. We were met at the window by a friend boy (I later learned his name was Jon). He said, "Oh Kayleigh, you came at just the perfect time! It's SNACK TIME." From that moment on, she was smitten. "Her snack friend, the boy ..." as she called him, was someone she looked for right away! What a blessing to have a safe, friendly place to leave the kids in order to go to session (or even skip session and grab a coffee, which we did a couple of times).
Moment #8: Hearing Benjamin learn the language of our trip. He said, more than once the beginnings of "Grandpa" and "Grandma" and would point to the appropriate person while doing so. (Needless to say it got their attention REALLY fast). He learned quickly what "outside," "Pool," "beach," and "walk" meant. If you weren't ready to take him RIGHT AWAY, you might want to avoid saying the word. He'd crawl as fast as his four limbs could carry him to the door, stand up and reach for the door handle, ready and EXCITED to get moving on the fun!
Moment #7: The second to last evening that we had both kids (more on that later), Steve and I managed to get the kids SOUNDLY sleeping before 9:00 p.m. We hauled out the S'Mores and "contraband" (for Hoffmaster that is ...) :) and had a wonderful two hours of quiet talk time (without phones, computers, or even our books!) GLORIOUS!!! What a blessing!
Moment #6: Waking up one morning and turning right to our phones (to see what time it was) and realizing that both kids had slept past 8:00!!!! Just as we were about to roll over and go back to sleep we hear them stir ... (Here's the dialogue) B: Momma ... Dadda... Yayeigh??? Yayeigh??? (That's Kayleigh, for you "novice interpreters) K: Oh Benny roo (through groggy morning eyes and speech), it's so good to see you this morning! B: YAYEIGH! YAYEIGH!!! (pointing and clambering up the bench to touch her) K: Oh Benny roo! Be careful! Would you like to come in my bed? You can come in my bed if you want Benny roo! You can read my books with me ... Mommy and Daddy's hearts melted across the camper ... WHAT A BLESSING!
Moment #5: FULL SERVICE VACATION ... (again, not really a moment, but something my dad said repeatedly). Because we spent so much time (and so many meals) at my parents trailer, I did VERY LITTLE cooking and only one load of laundry ... YET, when I arrived home, I had no more laundry than if we had gone away for a day or two. Why? Because my dad and mom offered a "full service vacation." I'd bring bags of laundry over from the previous day and by the next morning, my dad would have it sorted and folded, ready to be re-packed. He also served us some great dinners and took care of all of the clean up. It was so nice not doing any of that prep work (that totally WOULD come with any normal camping trip)
Moment #4: I spent a little time meeting a woman named Kathy at the pool. We talked about ourselves, our families and our education. She was nice and I didn't think much of the meeting (which ending quickly when Ben had one of his "epic" disasters). Later that week she approached me to ask if she could take the kids pictures for her photography website. I said sure ... well, the photos she took turned out to be a HUGE highlight of the week for me ... I'll let you preview them in a blog to come. WHAT a BLESSING she was!
Moment #3: Benjamin's Night Alone. We asked my parents, towards the end of the week, if they would stagger watch each child (and then both) so we could do some special "dates." Benjamin had his night out with Mommy and Daddy first. We were very intentional about these dates, hoping to give each child something they'd truly enjoy doing! The best we could think of (without TOTALLY tiring Benner out) was that Ben would LOVE going to the Hoffmaster Beach. So, we got him in his suit, let him ride atop Daddy's shoulders and gather leaves (he knows the word and grasped at them frequently) on the long walk down. While in the water he screamed, splashed and belly laughed. The kids was BORN to be in the water. His smiles, his laughter and his genuine love of life (that were noticed by MANY people on the walks to and from the beach) were pleasure enough for his parents. After his shower, he fell fast asleep (presumably VERY tired from his night swim) and we reminisced by the fire about the things that make Benner amazing.
Moment #2: Kayleigh's Big Date. We thought Kayleigh would like nothing more than seeing the Musical Fountain in Grand Haven. For the first time with her we picked a TRUE winner ... it was a perfect night. After her beach pictures, we went to Starbucks (Kayleigh truly adores this place) for hot chocolate. She filled our coffee house time with chatter, laughter, and lots of starry eyed looks speculating what this musical fountain would be like. Not knowing what traffic would bring, we arrive 45 minutes early, parked and walked the boardwalk. Kayleigh sipped her hot chocolate in the stroller until Daddy and Mommy decided more spoiling was in order. Her empty hot chocolate was replaced with a bag of flavored popcorn (caramel and peanut because this girl is obsessed with peanuts!!). Then we found a spot on a grassy hill to watch the fountain. For the first song, she was entranced and snuggled nicely. BUT, true to Kayleigh she wasn't going to do that for long. When Dancing Queen came on as the second song, she said, "Mommy, we just have to dance!" We moved to the back and she danced and danced and danced for the entire musical fountain performance. I have a little "picture memory" in my head of this lyric about fireflies and saying goodbye and she's slowly twirling about with a soft summer breeze blowing in her hair. It could have been straight out of a movie ... Steve and I were just talking about some of our favorite moments as parents and when he saw the same picture, he whispered to me, "I'm amending my top 10 moments ... this has to be in the top 3." Tears flooded my eyes because I knew just how right he was.
Moment #1: Date night with Steve. The kids went to my parents and Steve and I were able to finally see Harry Potter 7.2! We are HUGE HP fans and might have, in our pre-children days, joined the throngs at the midnight showings. BUT, as 30 approaches for me, it became impossible to do that. So, we went to Harry Potter and LOVED IT and chased that down with appetizers, dessert and a drink at Applebee's. We laughed at ourselves because we tried downtown Grand Haven, but we just found that we were "too old" for those restaurants at that time of night. We settled on the familiar, chain-like restaurant and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. WHAT A BLESSING to have lived with my best friend for nearly 7 years now and I'm still able to enjoy just hanging out :) I'm sure it'll just get better with time :)
Ahhh ... what a wonderful collection of memories from this summer's vacation adventure!