Our summer with no big vacation plans has turned out to be our summer with one mini vacation after another.
We were home from the camping trip in Michigan just long enough to wash six loads of dirty — and I mean ground-in dirt, sand, creek sludge and lake water DIRTY — laundry before we were off for a trip to meet up with CapableDad’s family in southern Indiana.
We planned this trip about six months ago when we realized we would be celebrating 270 years of milestone birthdays this year. We have a 90+(50*2)+(40*2). That is cause for a family get-together!
I had the bright idea to add on a trip to Holiday World to our weekend get-away. In case you haven’t heard of this world-famous amusement park, second only to Disney World, it is a holiday-themed wonderland in the middle of absolutely NO WHERE at the southern edge of Indiana.
I learned during our journey that just because two destinations are in the same state, it doesn’t mean they are necessarily en route to one another. It seems there are no really good highways from Chicago to Santa Claus, Indiana, (where ELSE would you find a place called HOLIDAY world?) and the amusement park is actually about three hours from the lodge we are renting with family.
Oh well. Fortunately, my husband’s family likes to have fun. And they never complain about little things like driving hundreds of miles unnecessarily. Or about rain.
This has pretty much been the summer of rain. It rained on our first camping trip. Rained on about half our trips to the pool. We have had cooler temps and more rain than any July in the history of the universe in Chicago. (I made that up, of course.) It’s a good thing we didn’t plan a trip to Seattle this summer, because we would have been stuck in our normal Chicago temps of 90 to 100 degrees everyday.
And honestly, I’m starting to enjoy life in our new Seattle climate here in the midwest.
Back to Holiday World. I love this place for several reasons. They have a lot of rides for the smallest of riders. Little flying airplanes. Bumper boats. Carousels. Trains. The smallest roller coasters you can imagine. A tiny canoe ride.
The park has plenty of big rides and big roller coasters for adults, too. Plus a huge waterpark. And the best part is that throughout the park, they have drink Oasis stations with self-serve fountain drinks that are free. All you can drink for free, all day. Our kids, who usually don’t get to drink pop (or soda, depending on where you are from) were enjoying a Root Beer high all day!
It turns out, the little kid rides were great for our two older boys, who are 8 and 6. They are a little timid when it comes to moving quickly through the air and dropping suddenly.
But our daughter, who is 4, could have spent her whole day on the biggest waterslides in the park. Once she got a taste of her first plunge around a spiraling flume and into the giant “toilet” as she described one ride, she couldn’t get enough.
About every two hours, a dark raincloud would open up and drench us for about 20 minutes. We finally accepted the fact that as long as we were already wearing swimsuits and wet from water rides, it really didn’t matter if we were pelted with rain.
We were quite amazed, however, during the final storm, which was at the end of the day. The rain was coming down in sheets so thick we could barely see the trees in front of us. But off in the distance, we could see that people were still filling the largest roller coaster and braving not only the big descents, but doing so while being completely drenched.
Once the storm stopped, we made our way to the parking lot. The only way across a big road to the car was to walk through an underground tunnel. The drain had backed up, and the tunnel was now full of knee-deep dirty rain water.
The park staff were working furiously to open the drains and got the water to only ankle level after a short wait. Still, people were demanding that the park workers help them climb a 6-foot fence to cross the busy highway.
Because, you know. If you have already spent a whole day at a water park, and your clothes are already drenched from rain, you definitely would NOT want to get your feet wet!
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We just spent the last four days camping at a state park along the coast of Michigan. I think that makes it sound really exotic to say the campground was “along the coast”, don’t you? I’m not even sure if that is the correct term to use when you are talking about Lake Michigan, but let’s put it this way: The campground was right by Lake Michigan.
My friend, A Musing Mom, and her A Musing Family have spent one week every July for the past five years camping at this same state park. They have to reserve their campsite six months in advance, so we figured it must be a really cool place. This year, we decided to jump on board and find out just how much better a real-life Michigan state park campsite is compared to our usual camping time spent at The KOA, which requires exactly one hour of lead time to make a reservation.
The campground was great, and I do have quite a bit to say about our camping experience. There is so much to write about: the beach, a creek, a really big lake, tall trees, campfires, bike riding, an air mattress that wouldn’t hold air, a prego woman’s struggles with finding a bathroom in the middle of the night and a rock star shower stall that I managed to snag four — count them FOUR — times in a row.
But before I can write about all of that, I need to just document the most incredible display of God averting a storm and opening the sky to make a statement that I think I have ever seen in my life.
A Musing Mom and I have pretty much the same view on camping. It’s great to get away and enjoy the outdoors. But the perfect vacation might include a little more shopping, pampering, meals prepared by someone else and maybe even a Broadway show.
Let’s face it. A girl can only handle so much dirt.
Thankfully for me, A Musing likes to plan little get-aways from the campground to add a little culture to the camping experience. This year, she found out the Christian music group, Avalon, would be performing a free concert at a weekly Sunday evening show, called Worship on the Waterfront, in the nearest little town.
We convinced our combined six children and hubbies to put on their best cargo shorts and the least dirty shirts they could find and trek into the quaint little waterfront town to enjoy a concert by a real-live group that is famous enough to get a bunch of songs on the radio.
Personally, I love a concert, even if the singers aren’t good enough to get themselves on the radio. So I was excited to go and could only hope the audience was going to stand up, wave their arms and do a little woo-hoo-ing.
I’ve never been good at estimating crowd size, but a LOT of people piled into the big outdoor grandstand for the show overlooking the lake. Maybe hundreds, but not thousands. Anyway, a bunch of us were all squeezed tightly onto the metal bleachers waiting for the beautiful people to come on stage and sing with their beautiful voices.
(Here’s Avalon after the show.)
It had been kind of a gloomy day at the campground, but in town the weather was beautiful. By the time the concert started, the sky was still bright and sunny, but off to the right of us, it was black. And when I say black, I am talking black. And we could see the streaks coming down from the black clouds, which could only mean it was raining. really. really. hard.
As Avalon came on stage and performed their first few songs, those clouds were coming toward us.
Can I just be honest here and say it had been a pretty blue day for me already? It was the one-year anniversary of the day our friend, Leslie, had ended her 10-month battle with cancer and went home to heaven, leaving behind her husband and now 3-year-old son. I had been thinking about Leslie all day, as well as some of my own struggles that seem to be dominating my crazy spinning brain lately.
Anyway, looking at those clouds, I had a few thoughts.
First, this was really going to dampen our fun. And I was kind of hoping for a little joy at that moment, rather than drenched clothing.
Next, we were going to have to figure out what to do when the sky opened up and dumped water on our six children.
Would people run out of the grand stand, causing each other to slip as they tried to bolt for the gate? Or would this nice crowd be so considerate they might not even move in an effort to be as courteous as possible to everyone around them?
We were sitting on metal bleachers. Might the lightning strike the bleachers, sending a rush of electricity that would kill all of us in an instant? I always ponder what the headline would say in an instance like that: “500 people killed by lightning at Christian concert”.
But wait! The floor of the bleachers was wood. If we kept our feet down, would that somehow ground us and keep us from getting electrocuted? Hmmm. Should I tell all the children to keep their feet down just in case?
Just as the storm was about to pass over us, Avalon asked the audience to join them in singing a hymn: “In Christ Alone”. The way the stage was positioned, I don’t think the group could see that we were about to be swallowed by a black cloud and torrential rain.
They told us to sing, so we sang.
Behind the stage, was the lake, and on the other side was a hill. At the top of the hill, directly in our line of view someone had planted a tall cross.
(This is a photo of the cross taken a bit later.)
As we sang, the black clouds rolled behind that cross. A circle opened in the sky and the sun beamed through the opening, lighting up the cross like a spotlight. Then the black clouds separated and rolled away. The sky turned blue, and the storm was gone.
Gone. Not even a drop of rain.
I can’t even sum up the emotion of that moment. It was like the sun was bursting through not only the clouds in the sky, but the heaviness in my heart.
I haven’t had many moments in my life before that when I felt God was saying in such a visible way, “I am here. I am in control.”
Yep. In control. He is there for me in my struggles. He was there when Leslie died. He is there at a concert on the waterfront. He controls the weather. He is bigger than all of life’s problems.
I think the words of the song we were singing say it best:
In Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.
In Christ alone, Who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save.
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied;
For ev’ry sin on Him was laid—
Here in the death of Christ I live.
There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain;
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me;
For I am His and He is mine—
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.
No guilt in life, no fear in death—
This is the pow’r of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow’r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the pow’r of Christ I’ll stand.
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I just looked at the little pregnancy calculator widget on my Google homepage and realized that I am exactly half-way done! Isn’t that hard to believe? Today marks week 20: 140 days down, and 140 days to go.
Now that all of the nausea is over, I have felt so good that I STILL often forget I’m pregnant!
I usually wake up in the morning and go through the same groggy thought process.
“Something is different… what is it? … what is it? … I know there’s something…”
Then I feel a little flip in my tummy. This is the most amazing reminder. I’m usually starting to come out of my coma at this point, and it hits me.
“THAT was a person! THAT was the teeny tiny foot of a 10-once person who actually lives inside my body!”
I usually lay there for a few more minutes just to be sure.
“She turned over! I felt her bottom brushing against the inside of my tummy. Crazy!” I think.
And then I realize it’s not just ANY baby. It’s my daughter! It’s a little girl who will probably resemble my other children and who hears the sound of my heartbeat and knows the sound of my voice and will immediately recognize my scent as the smell of her mother!
My disbelief is compounded by the fact that my stomach STILL does not look big enough to house a baby with a beating heart, pumping lungs, kicking legs and a fully-formed head, complete with eyelashes. I might even have my doubts if I had not seen her for myself when the doctor did the ultrasound.
With all of my pregnancies, I seem to carry the baby in such a way that my stomach doesn’t stick straight out until the very end. I just sort of get thick all over. So, I get tons of comments throughout the day about how I don’t look pregnant.
And that’s fine. It’s really a compliment, and I’m thankful that it’s going so well. But it also causes me to spend a ridiculous amount of time analyzing the size of my stomach.
The movement helps ease any fears I might have. I treasure every flip, kick, turn and punch. It’s one of the rare times in life that I get to be part of a miracle. The amazing miracle of a 10-inch baby who lives inside my tummy.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
Psalm 139: 13-14
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We’ve spent a lot of time the past two days teaching my two youngest children how to ride their bikes without training wheels.
We should have taught my 6-year-old last summer, or even the summer before. But he wasn’t interested. And when he isn’t interested, he can’t be convinced otherwise. It’s pretty much a losing battle.
Earlier this week, the kids were visiting another family and realized their 4-year-old had mastered his two-wheeler. Suddenly, our 6-year-old and 4-year-old were ready to give it a try.
The 6-year-old picked it up almost immediately. His only problem is that he likes to chat. And look around. And enjoy nature. And talk about his day. And discuss the world’s problems. And look at mailboxes. And trees. And cars.
His lack of focus tends to cause him to swerve. He usually makes it past a few driveways and then ends up bumping into a bush or riding into the grass. We finally put him in the middle of the street and gave him a specific target on which to focus.
“Do not look at ANYTHING other than that yellow fire hydrant!” we instructed.
My daughter has a different issue. She loves the fact that her 8-year-old brother is so kind and patient that he will hold onto her seat and run down the sidewalk pushing her. The second he lets go, she takes her feet off the pedals and swerves to a stop.
She simply doesn’t believe she can keep going unless he is holding on to her seat. Her bike-riding struggles are completely in her head.
It can get frustrating. As a parent, I know they can do it. I know what is holding them back. And I so want them to overcome their fears and their distractions so they can be successful. I can see how close they are. And yet, they cry out:
“I CAN’T do it! I just CAN’T!”
Watching them attempt to ride their bikes up and down the sidewalk these past few days, I have realized that I am just like them.
In a few areas of my life, I have checked out mentally because I’m not interested. Like my son, no amount of convincing is going to make a difference.
In other areas, I am so distracted. My mind has been swirling with serious thoughts, ideas, suggestions, but I can’t seem to make sense of anything. I have a half dozen blog posts waiting to be finished, but I can’t think of the words to write. Friends from other areas of my life are excitedly telling me about their plans and goals. I listen intently, but my brain can’t seem to really absorb what they are saying.
And like my daughter, there are areas of my life where I’m just doubting myself.
I want to be like my son yesterday when he fell down on his bike and skinned his knee. He started screaming at me: “It’s all your fault! You TOLD me to ride on the sidewalk! You TOLD me to do it!”
But who can I scream at?
My husband took the kids off to a big parking lot for a couple of hours last night. When they came home, both my son and daughter walked in the house and said, “Mommy, I have successfully completed my bicycle training.”
Yep. They learned how to start and stop on their own and ride successfully in straight lines and circles. But how?
“Well, the parking lot was just so big and wide open. We didn’t have to worry about bumping into anything.”
And you know what? I guess that’s where I am right now, too. Just riding around in circles in the parking lot. I’m not really accustomed to zooming around without a destination. And I know it’s not a permanent condition, but it’s where I need to be right now.
It’s really not so bad. Just riding around in circles. Not going anywhere. Just enjoying the ride.
How about you? Have you successfully completed your bicycle training? Or are you distracted? Lacking in confidence? Or just enjoying the ride?
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An interesting thing has happened since the worlds of my 40-year-old pregnancy and my blog collided.
You would not believe how many women have secretly confided in me that either:
a. They have a child-shaped longing in their heart that won’t go away, but their husband isn’t on board with the plan.
b. Even though they are of advanced maternal age, they would like to have another baby.
c. They would secretly love to unexpectedly get pregnant.
d. They really want to wear cowboy boots but don’t have enough nerve.
So, I would like to dispel a few myths about advanced maternal age, as well as propose a new idea that I believe will sweep the nation.
I realize I’m only 20 weeks into this process, but this honestly has been the easiest pregnancy I have had.
With my first pregnancy, I was commuting into the city everyday, walking several miles to and from the train station, working long hours, stressed out and had no hope of taking a nap.
With the second pregnancy, I had a 1-year-old boy running around who was not the slightest bit happy with the idea of his world being invaded by another baby who might want some of his mother’s attention.
And with the third, I had two little boys, 3 and 1, who still wore diapers, needed help getting in car seats, had to have scheduled naps and had very strong negative opinions about using the potty.
Now, I have three children who can actually help empty the dishwasher, fold the laundry and clean the toilet. They can’t wait to start reading books to the baby, learn how to change diapers and help push the stroller. And the best part? They love nothing more than for their mom to take a nap because this idea holds the hope that they might get to watch TV!
So, with that reassurance, I think it’s time for all of the 40-year-olds out there who secretly want another child to come out of the closet. I know that some of you are close to sending someone off to college. You might even be enjoying long weekends away with your husband because your children are old enough to babysit for themselves. Maybe you are entering a new phase where all of your children are off at school all day and you can finally focus on your own interests.
But come on! Isn’t all of that a little over-rated?!?
Just think of a cute, cuddly little baby with soft skin who smells like baby powder. Think of the tiny clothes, the first words, first crawls, first steps.
Besides, if more people would just join me in this, we could start a whole PRODUCT LINE! We could make a special line of wrinkle remover for pregos. We could start our own exclusive playgroups for moms over 40! What about a healthy line of food for old pregnant people who are watching their cholesterol?
This could be a GROUND FLOOR opportunity! Don’t you want to get on board NOW before this idea takes off??
Come on, Ladies! Who’s with me?
Anyone? … Bueller? … Hello?
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