I really struggled with what to post this week, given the general uneasy vibe as the world verges on what feels like potential crisis. I’ve felt so heavy, which would usually denote a heavy post, but I shared a big part of my heart on matters last week. And in a few Facebook posts. And in my Twitter feed. There’s nothing left that I want to say that others haven’t already said.
So is it okay to be funny? A part of me doesn’t want to be— there’s a lot that doesn’t feel very funny right now. But personally, I need to breathe. I need to laugh. Maybe you do too. And maybe that doesn’t mean we’ve lost our passion or compassion; maybe we just need a minute—a respite to refuel our tanks.
So, I’ve decided the best thing I can give you today are my silly observations from our family vacation. Before I start, let me ask you: Do you want to know yourself—really know yourself? Do you want to push yourself to the utter limits of your relational capacity? Do you want to understand life, love, and other mysteries? (Only my 90’s youth-group going, Point of Grace-loving friends will get that reference. I’m looking at you, Dianna.)
If you want to experience life at its best and its worst, take a family vacation. I dare you.
Our family recently returned from a once-in-a-lifetime trek around New Zealand, aka, God’s country. It is seriously, without a doubt, the most beautiful place on the face of the earth. Being in Brisbane, we’re only a three hour plane ride away, and we have plenty of NZ friends to hit up for free cars, housing, and food, so we decided to go for it. The day after Christmas, a time when things are not hectic or stressful at all, we loaded up and headed over and (farther) down under.
See? Most beautiful place on earth.
Apart from being reminded that God is a most generous artist, I learned a few invaluable lessons on our trip. Here are some life takeaways from this magical time:
Always look stuff up before making sweeping claims to your children.
A certain child of mine is incredibly arachnophobic. He takes after his grandmother.
“You’re going to love New Zealand!” I said. “There are no snakes and no spiders. Isn’t that amazing?”
He walks into his bedroom our first night there. Ol’ eight legs awaits him on the wall. First the scream, then the Google search. My bad. There actually are spiders in New Zealand. But they can’t hurt you! At least, most of them can’t. Moving on.
If your child throws up, you might not be able to comfort him, as you could-possibly-probably-will pass out.
What can I say? He woke me from a dead sleep, I jumped out of bed to chase him into the bathroom, and as my low, “I was just sleeping” blood pressure combined with that signature vomit-y smell, my body said, “Buh-bye.” All of a sudden, the edges of my vision started going black. Fortunately, I was able to kindly ask my ill son to fetch me a wash cloth before I hit the tiles. By the time Brian made it onto the scene, I was conscious once again and comfortably prostrate on the floor, wash cloth draped across my forehead. My poor son still had his head in the toilet.
I have no words in my defense. My incompetence as a mother is tragic.
Whisper-arguing is an art form.
We were in semi-close quarters for 16 days straight. This may come as a surprise to you Pollyannas, but my precious husband and I experience conflict from time to time, especially when driving four children ninety million hours around winding roads. We didn’t want to go full volume in front of the kids, so we perfected the whisper argue. The whisper argue is as intense as it is quiet, making it possible to get your message across loud and clear without ever raising your voice, especially in an urgent care clinic during a two-hour wait. Speaking of…
Words like, “Let’s just have a low-key day” are an invitation for expensive disaster.
As I get older and understand my introverted self (INFJs unite!), I see my need for down time. I do not thrive when I’m running from one intense situation to another, even if the intense thing is super fun. Hence, the request for a “down day” amidst our travels.
“Let’s go to a movie. It’s cold and rainy, and we (I) need to relax.”
We paid a ridiculous amount of money for tickets and snacks and enjoyed a decent—okay, probably a renter— movie for the whole family.
On the way out, we made a quick bathroom stop. All was well until the four year old got her fingers slammed in the bathroom door. You may have heard the scream from your house. Poor baby—you’ve never in your life seen such teensy-tiny fingers turn so big and purple. Sympathetic onlookers agreed that her fingers were probably broken and directed us to the clinic around the corner.
There was a two hour wait. And a large fee. And much screaming. This scene was not stressful at all, hence the whisper arguing.
Her fingers were not broken, thank the heavens. Unfortunately, our wallet was indeed broke.
Down day, shmown day. In family life, there is no such thing.
Kids never need to pee when you’re at a rest stop.
It’s physically impossible for them to even try, as they will loudly declare to you in the parking lot. This is because they 100% always need to go when the next exit is 5,678 miles away.
Apparently, beauty is not always free.
“Hey, I know,” Brian said. “Let’s go see some albatross.” (Albatrosses? Albatrossi? Scholars, help me out here).
These giant birds only inhabit a few places in the world, one being a certain cliff in New Zealand, so we drove up, up, up to see the majestic fowl.
“Kids, can you believe this? We’re going to see some albatross!” (Albatrosses? Albatrossi?) “How many people do you know that get to see them in their lifetime? What an unforgettable, priceless opportunity!”
(Visitor’s center employee): “You can only see the birds via our 90 minute guided tour. That will be 50 dollars per person, please.”
“Kids, the albatross is highly overrated. It’s just another bird. Oh look! A flock of baby albatross! (points to sea gulls.) I think we’re done here. Head to the van, children.”
Dream vacations do not take away your sin.
I’m so sorry to be the one to break this to you, but being in the most beautiful country on earth does not change the fact that you are a sinner or that you live in a fallen world. Staring wide-eyed at beautiful landscapes does not make you more patient; running in fields of purple flowers as far as the eye can see does not make you any less of a complainer. Even in picturesque settings, siblings fight and parents overreact and children vomit and fingers get slammed in doors. Vacations do not make you content for the long haul; they cannot satisfy in a staying kind of way. I know this.
But I have to say—especially after these surreal last few weeks—vacations are pretty great while they last, vomit and all.
So come on down to the southern hemisphere! I highly recommend NZ and Australia, although if you want to come to Australia, you might want to make plans real quick-like. Just sayin’. If you don’t get my nuance here, just refer to the latest POTUS tweet. That is all.