Dodging storms and perfect timing

I’m finally getting a chance to continue with my story of how we ended up doing homeschool away from home. Click here if you want to get caught up.

We picked out the only stretch of time we could get away without interfering with too many other activities. We planned a four-day drive to Florida with stops in several major cities and a two-day drive home. We would be gone almost three weeks.

But just a week or so after we had made all of our plans, CapableDad found out he needed to meet a client in China. His trip would cut into the first part of our vacation.

I was bummed.

We had two options. We could cancel, which seemed most logical. It was a pretty crazy idea to drive 23 hours across the country with four children, especially a four-month-old who still was rarely sleeping more than three hours straight at night.

Our other option was to push back our departure by a few days and leave as soon as CapableDad got home from his 11 days in China. As soon as he got off his 12-hour plane ride. When he was completely jet-lagged.

We got together with our small group right after we heard the news about his China trip. I remember saying that if we had to cancel the trip or push it back, I just wanted to know there was a reason. I just wanted to feel like God cared about it. That it wasn’t just our stinky bad luck.

Finally, we went with Plan B. Because that seemed the rational choice, right? Get in the car and drive for four days, departing an hour after my husband’s plane landed? It usually takes him a week to recover from a China trip, so I couldn’t imagine how he was going to survive the next four days on the road.

Since he had been gone for 11 days, I also was exhausted. I had been scrambling to get everything ready to go, including all of our homeschool work for the next few weeks. And the day before we left, our family got pink eye, and I decided I should wash every sheet, towel and blanket in our house before leaving.

CapableDad got home from the airport around 3 p.m. and by 4 p.m., we were ready to go. We drove five hours the first night to Louisville, Ky. The next day, we drove to Nashville and then to Atlanta. We spent the next two nights in Orlando before driving four more hours to southwest Florida.

As we were driving all of those days, we kept listening to weather reports about the storms that were hammering Georgia and Florida. IF we had left two or three days earlier, as WE had planned, we would have been driving right through those storms.

And IF we had left when WE had planned, we would have spent our one full day in Orlando sitting in our hotel watching the rain.

IF we had departed when WE had planned, we wouldn’t have been able to spend an afternoon sitting around the pool in Orlando with CapableDad’s parents who just happened to be at a conference the same day we were there.

And IF we had departed when WE had planned, we also would not have been able to meet up with good friends, who just by chance were spending a week at Disney World. Because we left a few days later, we had perfect weather and an awesome time together at the park. We also were able to meet up with a friend who works for Disney and got three of us into the park for free.

After we made our original plans, our friends who own the house where we would stay also asked us if we would be able to drive an extra van of theirs to Florida. Because CapableDad travels so much, we were able to get one-way plane tickets home for free.

This was an amazing blessing for two reasons. First, their van is actually a lot more reliable than ours. Second, while in Florida, we heard about massive flooding in the Nashville area that actually destroyed that beautiful Opryland hotel we visited on the way down. Since we were flying home, we didn’t have to worry about running into any trouble along the highway due to the flooding.

We have been amazed at how everything worked out. And I have been so thankful to see so many reasons that our trip really DID need to be delayed. In the end, it was all perfect timing.

So, what have our days been like doing school away from home? Coming soon…

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The oasis… now underwater

If you were reading my blog last week, you will remember those photos I posted of that beautiful oasis where we stopped on our drive to Florida.

That was the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, where flowers bloom year round in a 9-acre enclosed dome. Having just been there a week ago, it’s unbelievable now to look at photos of the flooding in that area.

That beautiful hotel is flooded with more than 10 feet of water. If you haven’t seen the news coverage, check out this video:

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Island life

The day after our seashell collecting adventure, we went back out to the island for more exploring. This time, we drove out to the opposite end of the island, Captiva.

I love imagining what it would be like to live on an island…

where coconut trees grow in the front yard…

where the earth is so full of seashells that even the rocks are made of seashells…

where people live in brightly-colored houses…

where giant flowers bloom in vivid colors…

where dolphins play in your backyard…

and you have to watch out for manatee…

where you can see from one side of the island to the other…

and you can feel the warm sand between your toes.

What about you? Have you ever lived on an island? Would you want to?

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Walking along the beach, she noticed a seashell in the sand. Instinctively, she stooped to pick it up. She rubbed her fingers along its smooth white surface. She inspected its shape.

Then she saw another. And another.

Soon, she had collected 10, then 20. Minutes later, her bucket was half full.

She stopped and looked around her. The seashells were everywhere. They were too numerous to count. Too plentiful to collect. Yet, each one unique. Each one calling us to pick it up.

We were on Sanibel Island, home to more seashells than most other beaches in the world. As the waves washed onto the shore, they left piles of shells. Large shells. Small shells. Crushed shells that had been battered by the waves.

The sand was covered with shells. In fact, the white sand itself seemed to be made of the tiny remains of crushed shells.

Collecting seashells here is like looking for rocks on a gravel road. Finding flowers in a field of wildflowers.

We had to change our focus. We searched for only the most unusual. The ones with the most beautiful shape. Those with striking colors.

The smooth white shells that had once seemed so special were now quite ordinary. We were looking for fossils in a creekbed of pebbles. Four-leaf clovers in a meadow.

We sorted through the shells looking for the conches. The lightning whelk shells. The brown cockle shells. The blended tulip shells. The sand dollars. We separated those into our bucket of “special” shells.

We dug deep into the sand. We waded into the ocean and waited to see what the waves would bring.

Finally, it was time to leave the beach. We tried to walk along without staring at the sand. “Don’t pick up anymore shells,” I instructed.

We had more than we could carry. More shells than we could ever take home. But who could resist? Just one more. We couldn’t stop admiring their beauty.

And we thought of their Maker. The one who had filled the sea with more creatures than we could imagine. Each one different from the others. Each one unique. Too numerous to count. And yet He knows them all.

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Our home(school) away from home

A few years ago, when our kids were still in private school, conversations with friends frequently focused on our schooling options.

At that time, the idea of home schooling was the one thing I hoped I wouldn’t ever have to do. “But if I ever DID home school, ” I would say, “I would use all of the money that we would have spent on private school tuition and travel around the country doing school.”

The kids were getting older, and they are good travelers. I imagined us living in a cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains in the fall. In February, we would find a place on the beach in Florida. And spring would be a perfect time to see the Grand Canyon.

What better way to study geography than to see it all first hand?

Shortly after we made the difficult decision to do school at home, I also found out I was pregnant. And I resigned myself to the reality we would be doing home school… at home.

Then, a few months ago, a friend offered to let us use her rental home in Florida at an incredibly generous price. Once again, my mind started racing with the possibility that we really could take our schooling on the road. The house had high-speed internet access so my husband could work from there almost as easily as he could work from our home.

We started making plans to pack up our school work and my husband’s work and take it on the road. We plotted out a four-day drive across the country with stops at several major cities along the way.

But what happened next? Coming soon…

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