Monday, July 12, 2010

A Time to Go Out and a Time to Return

We have been home from our vacation (and Rob's study leave) for two days. I think I can find a couple of minutes to blog about the trip. I haven't been here for a while and I am hoping that this week will mark a return to our regular routine. We'll see; the conference we attended talked a lot about a "new normal" after a deployment and I think that I should be prepared for that myself.

We left home on Saturday the 26th and drove about six hours, through Washington's Crossing in New Jersey to Valley Forge, PA. We picnicked at that first stop which was quite lovely and we could have spent more time there. We moved on, crossing the Delaware where George Washington did on Christmas 1776. (The opposite direction of course.) At Valley Forge, we went to the visitor's center where the kids were "drafted" into the Continental Army - a 45-minute demonstration complete with costumes, arms, and drilling. All began as privates, though Katie through her great knowledge was promoted quickly to corporal and Rob (appropriately enough) made captain. Ian was dubbed "the General," as his main task seemed to be to shout at people from the rear, hit them with his musket, and do a lot of drinking. The nickname has sort of stuck. That night we stayed in a Motel 6, though there is a lot of camping to come! Oh yes, this is also the beginning of two weeks of the children not going to sleep until about eleven o'clock every night. Not my favourite part of travelling!

The next day we chose to sleep in for the aforementioned reason instead of going to church at Valley Forge as we had planned. It was worth it. We had a fairly long drive to get to the caverns at Natural Bridge, VA, just outside of Roanoke. Along the way we continued to read C.S. Lewis's The Last Battle which the kids just devoured! The cavern tour was just the right length and was only ten minutes from our campsite. There was a bit of drama as we discovered all of the things we'd forgotten (hooray for KOA stores!) and the kids worked out their squirreliness. Rob set up the tents while I cooked dinner (hot dogs), then we made smores and went swimming. That night I journalled and made a list of all the injuries to that point: Ian: 3 face bashes, light sunburn, dog bite; David: skinned hands, knees, scraped ankle; Emma: scraped back (fell off the picnic table); Me: good sunburn, bashed shin on car door; Rob: head bites (from Ian), ears scratched (also Ian), knee hurting. I stopped keeping track although in order to include the whole family, Katie was bitten by a yellow jacket a couple of days later.

The next morning we packed up and then played at the playground there at the campsite before we left, bringing full circle my childhood camping experiences. I remember my dad playing with us at a campground once. It was a good memory and it was fun to do with my kids. We arrived that evening at the Bonclarken retreat center in Flat Rock, NC, where we were to gather for the next three days with other Presbyterian military chaplains. It was a full time emotionally. While the kids participated in some kid activities, Rob and I attended sessions with two different speakers teaching on how God knows you and how to translate that into ministry to those who have experienced trauma. In this case, they were looking particularly at the military, but the wisdom is for anyone. They were looking particularly at the stories of Jacob wrestling with God, Psalm 139, and the resurrection. I found that it was bringing up all sorts of emotions that I thought I’d either dealt with or had let go. It was wonderful to be in a place with so many people who understand what we’re dealing with in our circumstances. I cried a lot that first day and have since enjoyed journaling and working things more deeply.

We left there on the 1st of July and had some errands to run before we met with a dear friend in Georgia whom I haven’t seen since her wedding seven years ago! The nook we bought to feed Katie’s reading habit stopped working right before we left and we had to find a Barnes and Noble to replace it. We also needed to pick up some more groceries for our camping times. One of many blessings: there was a Whole Foods right across from B&N in Greenville, SC. I haven’t been to Whole Foods in a year and a half at least! Such a treat! Our stops made us late for our lunch date (sorry, Nicole), but we had a lovely visit with my friend and her daughter. A nasty accident on the freeway again changed our plans. We pulled off the road to get dinner and to plan. We ended up at another KOA campground with a huge trampoline pillow. The kids were thrilled. By the way, they were great travelers most of the trip, flowing with the changes and accepting that this was an adventure, even if it was not the one we’d planned.

The next morning we had longer to go than we wanted and Katie threw up in the car (did I mention it’s starting to get really warm down south?). We visited the Jamestown Settlement from about three until six and what a treat that was! It’s a great learning place and the kids loved it. Then we set up camp, again Rob setting up the tents while I burned dinner.  I had a sweet time with my girls that night as we did the dishes and then showered. We sang and helped and shared together. They are angels!

Colonial Williamsburg was only about 15 minutes from us and July 3rd was our day set aside for that. The kids dressed up as colonial kids and were given tasks to do in the town (mailing letters, planting seeds, joining the local militia, etc.). This, too, was a fun day, though for any of you planning to go to the area, if you can only do one, do Jamestown. Much less expensive and more hands on! We’ve got lots of pictures of these days which I’m hoping to put on Facebook soon. Check back often.

Our great nation turned two hundred thirty-four years old the next day. Quite amazing really, when I considered that two days earlier I spent the afternoon at a settlement that is celebrating four hundred three years. Even Colonial Williamsburg is older than the country. It seemed strange to me. We were staying a Fort Belvoir, and Army base near Mount Vernon and greatly enjoyed spending the 4th of July celebrations with other military members there on base. The fireworks were wonderful and it was especially enjoyable to watch Ian learn to like them. A very late night, but important as we continued to teach our children about the founding and sustaining of this nation.

We spent the next day in Washington D.C. The heat wave that hit the east and other parts of the country was pretty intense. It was right around 100 degrees. We took the Metro in (note to self: the kids liked this enough that maybe next time we can skip everything else…hmmm) and visited the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. Then we rode an open-topped bus that was touring the city since we knew we wouldn’t be able to get to even a quarter of what there is to see there. That was dreadfully warm, but worth it. We had dinner at a restaurant called the Bilbo Baggins in Alexandria then fell completely off the wagon and had ice cream at an ice cream parlour nearby.
The next day it was a little bit difficult to get out of bed. We were starting to be ready to go home. It was over 100 degrees that day as we walked around the city and we were pretty drained. We took a tour of the capitol building first thing. It really is an amazing system of government we have. Quite the “great experiment” and I’m not entirely certain it will work. It’s certainly not a sure thing. It requires much diligence on the part of the people – a diligence I think we have lost a good deal of. I pray we’ll recover it. Next we visited the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. The early civilizations and the mineral and gemstone exhibits were favourites, especially since the early civilizations were what Katie studied in school this year and she’s getting ready for geology in the fall. I discovered about myself that I love beryl, particularly aquamarine. There is something “otherworldly” about it. Also on display there was the Hope Diamond which was cool to see because of its fame, though it wasn’t the most beautiful specimen there, I thought. While walking to the Metro we partook of the Hickinbotham family tradition of Missile Popsicles in D.C. Then we headed to some friends house for dinner and some time in their swimming pool. Very refreshing! (Thanks, Hyders!) Also, the kids picture was taken by a news photographer for a story about the heat wave. A full and fun day!
July 7th, we were supposed to visit the Gettysburg battlefield but the heat was just too much. And we were tired. So we slept in and decided to drive up that day but do the park the next. That meant skipping the tour of Philadelphia but we were a little museum fatigued anyway. The tour of the park the next day was very moving for me. My family used to go to Gettysburg two or three times a year for several years when we lived in the area. I don’t remember being so moved before. It’s a peaceful place, but very sad. We camped that night at French Creek State Park where I saw more bugs (quantity and types) than anywhere else in my life.
We met up with my brother and his family the next day at Longwood Gardens (just outside of Philadelphia) and spent the morning in that beautiful place. The kids’ fountain garden was particularly delightful! Imagine a place where the kids can play in all the fountains without being told not to touch! The garden even has towels on hand in case Mom and Dad didn’t know about the water! We spent the rest of the afternoon, after being drenched on our way to the car, at a local park. We played soccer, used the playground, and adventured in the creek until dinnertime. It was a really special time with my brother.
My journal entry from the 10th of July says: “Home at last! Home at last! Thank God Almighty we’re home at last!” Yes, it was a day earlier than we’d planned; we were mainly just ready to be home. Another contributing factor was that at about 5:30 that morning it began to pour. We enjoyed the noise and the coolness for about an hour until we realized that our tent’s seams were leaking and we were lying in puddles. It was hilarious as we got the campsite packed up in a break in the downpour. (God was so good!) By the time we finished though, Rob and I were soaked through, as were our tents. The thought of unpacking and sleeping in wet gear was unappealing, so we spent the afternoon with our friends in Southern New York and then we drove home. A beautiful rainbow guided us home and we even managed to get all of our wet gear hung up after the kids went to bed.
I had forgotten how much work it takes to come home from vacation, but it is good to be back in familiar surroundings, weeding the garden, caring for our animals, going to swimming lessons. God blessed us and carried us through this whole trip and we are very grateful. I pray your summers are going well and you are seeing God’s hand in all of your days.
holy experience

1 comment:

  1. Wish I'd known you were here! We live 45 minutes from Williamsburg and spent the 4th at Yorktown, another wonderful (and appropriately patriotic) place you might enjoy next time you venture this way!



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