Family Care

We’re Off to Find the Leprechauns!

Nothing feels normal in this house. Tomorrow we drive to O’Hare airport and board a plane for Dublin. We’re all so excited we can’t think straight.

These photos were all taken on our last flight to Dublin. Irish flight attendants are AWESOME.
These photos were all taken on our last flight to Dublin. Irish flight attendants are AWESOME. “Tea? Tea? Tea?” And all the Americans blinked in polite refusal. Because NO. NO tea.

And by “we” I mean WE. All four of us are going, plus my mom.

As usual, Eric and I feel a little weird about this trip. We went to Italy a few years ago and got plenty of strange looks from friends when they learned of our plans. People seem to assume we’re either wealthy or we’re putting our vacation on the credit card, because international travel seems so… ostentatious… maybe. Certainly out of the range of normal middle class behavior in this community.

That stretch over the Atlantic feels like you're NEVER GOING TO GET BACK TO LAND. Just take me home, Sweet Jesus. Can't tale this no mo'.
That stretch over the Atlantic feels like you’re NEVER GOING TO GET BACK TO LAND. Just take me home, Sweet Jesus. Can’t take this plane no mo’.

Eric worked really hard to find the absolute best airline ticket prices, and we’re renting a house that will cost far less than a hotel room. We’ll be buying our groceries at the local store and cooking most of our own meals, and then taking inexpensive day trips around the island.

But I know that one of those inexpensive airline tickets costs as much as the monthly rent some people can barely make, and it doesn’t sit well with me. We’ve been financially blessed; I know we’re called to share our resources with those in need. And we do. But even with generosity as a top budget item, we’ve still managed to carve out some money to take the family to Ireland.

Thank goodness for the English, because Irish is not offered in rural American high schools.
Thank goodness for the English, because Irish is not offered in rural American high schools.

To do so, we’ve made budget cuts in all kinds of places. Eric’s car is almost twenty years old and his driver’s side door barely works. He climbed in and out of the passenger door all summer long. We buy the bulk of our clothes at the resale shops. Our kids aren’t involved in expensive extracurricular activities like travel hockey or dance classes.

Do you know how much money you can save when your kids’ greatest interests are going to the library and hanging out with friends??

Enough to go to Ireland, frankly.

I was all bound up in all kinds of conflicting feelings this week, but Tsh Oxenreider’s book Notes From a Blue Bike settled me back down. The Oxenreiders have literally traveled around the world with their kids. (You can read all about their story here.) In her book, she says this:

Once they’ve traveled, kids have permission to question the how and why of their surroundings, because they’ve tasted and seen that other people live differently. While may not be the most comfortable way to go through life, it’s the most honest– and this honesty opens the door to making life choices that feel right in your bones. (p. 147)

This is what I want for our kids. I want them to see beyond American life, with our huge SUVs, mammoth refrigerators, and vinyl-clad houses. I want them to taste food they didn’t know existed, meet people who speak the same language with a totally different accent, and even ride in a car on the other side of the road.

I want to encourage them to think big as they make plans for the rest of their lives.

I’ll let you know how this giant experiment goes. Eric says it’s all going to be fine, or it’ll be a disaster and I’ll have fodder for the blog for a long time. Either way, we all win! I’ll be posting from Ireland as much as the wi-fi allows, but since I’ll be blogging from my smart camera you should count on lots of pictures and not so many words.

In the mean time, I have a million things to do and not enough brain cells to get them all done. I’ll get back to you soon!

Jess

I stole this quote out of Tsh's book. I didn't actually talk to Augustine to get that wisdom directly.
I stole this quote out of Tsh’s book. I didn’t actually talk to Augustine to get that wisdom directly.

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How a Non-Camping Family Goes Camping

Before we begin, let me define camping:

Camping, noun. Any event which requires an overnight stay in a location with rustic living conditions, no toilet hooked to the “living” structure, being forced to make dinner over some sort of open flame, and the likelihood of a tornado picking you up while in a sleeping bag and tossing you into Indiana. Because you’re too dumb to sleep in the real house you already own.

If you think camping involves a tent, meager supplies, and tinkling into the foliage then we are not of one mind. Please adjust your expectations and feelings about me accordingly. I can live with your disappointment.

I want to like camping, I really do. I just don’t. But I also know my kids love camping and my laziness shouldn’t deprive them of a wonderful childhood experience. My family camped all the time when we were kids. We’d hook the ancient camper to Dad’s Jeep and trundle off, stuffed to the gills with sleeping bags and marshmallows and bug spray. Eric’s family camped for years (and his parents still do) in tents! Tents! For a family of five!

As adults, this is appalling to both Eric and me because the work involved in packing, setting up, and repacking is horrifying. Eric and I both spent all day at work last Thursday, came home, tried to shove all the required things into the minivan, and then drove to the grocery store.

Eric almost lost his life in the middle the cracker aisle when he asked what I had packed for breakfast the next day. What he meant was “Do we need to stop in the breakfast aisle to grab some cereal?” What I heard was “I hope you remembered to pack some breakfast along with everything else you did today.” I nearly jumped for his windpipe with my claws extracted, but he saw the frantic look in my eyes and rephrased before I committed a violent act near the Cheese-Its. (Cheez-Its? It seems like sketchy spelling is involved in that snack cracker.)

Camping just really stresses me out. That’s my only excuse.

After spending more on groceries than we would have spent at a restaurant, we finally made our way to the campground where we had a cabin reserved for the night. This is the very same campground my family loved back in the 1980s, except WAY BETTER. Triponds is duly named for the three ponds on the property, and I spent my childhood happily swimming in the one with a beach (the other two were for fishing or something). The ponds are still there, but the family who owns it has added a pool, mini golf, a cafe, another swimming beach, tons of extra camping spaces, and cabins.

It’s like Audrey’s bike was made for this place!

Sweet, adorable, cabins. It’s tiny house living for a night at a time! I was in heaven until I realized I needed to unload the van. But I ate a few chips as we unloaded and felt better.

It really was fun, I have to say. Even getting up in the middle of the night to walk to the bathroom wasn’t too bad. But I realize this experience had nothing to do with actual camping. No bears ransacked our tent, we could have turned on the air-conditioning if it got too hot, and swimming pools hardly count as roughing it.

The kids had fun, although they would have had a lot more fun if we’d let them bring some friends. Maybe next year. Maybe if I get brave enough to try it again we can camp with their friends.

Lord, give me strength.

Because at the End of the Summer We Simply Hope for Survival

Back in yon day, school started at the end of August. My poor friend Teri has a late-August birthday and many of her special days were completely ruined by the first or second day of school.

Not anymore. My kids are still home, thanks to some recent Michigan legislation that forces public schools to begin on the Tuesday following Labor Day. Our social media feeds show kids from other states already back in the classroom; the shine has worn off the new backpacks and the bus drivers have mastered their routes.

The sunflowers are ready, so that means we should be back to school. But we're not. Huh.
The sunflowers are ready, so that means we should be back to school. But we’re not. Huh.

Not in our house. In our house we’ve moved beyond summer fun to holy-crap-we’re-out-of-things-to-do. This is actually the first summer I’m not the one going crazy. The kids are finally old enough that they neither want nor need my constant, hovering attention. They’re just fine without me for hours on end. I’ve had complete thoughts and time to myself for the first summer since 2003. I feel like a new woman!

No, it’s the kids who are losing it. They’ve lost that summer glow. They’ve lost their wills to live. They’ve done all the swimming and the biking and the ice cream eating. Audrey’s dying to see her friends. Caleb’s dying to get back to the math. (That last part is a total lie.)

This was Audrey two years ago. That was the same face she made at me yesterday, minus the goggles and the pool.
This was Audrey two years ago. That was the same face she made at me yesterday, minus the goggles and the pool.

Yesterday they came with me to the office and Audrey sat in the visitor’s chair across from my desk. She stared sullenly at me for many consecutive minutes, until I finally cried, “Get out of here! You’re making me crazy!”

“But what can I do? I’m so bored,” she whined.

“I don’t care! I don’t care! Go take a nap on a couch. Take your brother and walk to Walgreen’s. I don’t care, just stop staring at me!”

I left them home alone today. They’ve probably watched six straight hours of television and had Fruity Pebbles for lunch, washed down with brownies and chocolate milk.

Come back, Mr. Bus. Come back!
Come back, Mr. Bus. Come back!

Fine. As long as I don’t have to see it directly, I don’t care. We’re in survival mode for the last free week.

Jen Hatmaker recently wrote a blog post for Today.com Parenting, and she put it like this:

Part of the reason Back to School is such a shock treatment is because we’ve spent the majority of our summer basically running a frat house. No schedules, no bedtimes, no fixed mealtimes, no mental development, no worries. What? You want cereal for lunch? At 2:30pm? Fine. It’s a free country. Summer Happy Hour starts in an hour and a half, so you just do you, man.

Amen, Jen Hatmaker. Amen.

While we  haven’t spent the entire summer in Frat House Mode, I think a week won’t kill us. At this point it’s all about simple survival, and praying we all make it out alive.

How’s it going at your house?

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