Thursday, December 31, 2015

Family Getaway

*This is my last chance to publish this post this year, and--by golly--I'm gonna do it!  I've been working on it since EASTER.  The stupid problem my computer has been having with pictures caused this post to be impossible to prepare.  Each and every picture took anywhere from 10-20 minutes to upload.  Ridiculous.  But I win.  I'm publishing this thing.  Happy Easter and Happy New Year!

One night several weeks ago, Jared and I were discussing the upcoming Easter weekend.  We realized that it is the only Sunday during the entire year when neither of us has responsibilities at church.  Whole year--one Sunday off.

We contemplated this fact.  We added other facts.  He was running ragged at work.  I was running ragged at home.  We missed each other and desperately wanted time with just our family.

These facts added up to one very controversial conclusion:  we should go away for Easter weekend.  That's right:  we would not be in our home church on Easter Sunday.

Before you get too bent out of shape, keep in mind that we try to be grateful every single day that Jesus died for us and rose again, conquering death and allowing us to be forgiven and spend eternity with Him.  Prayer led us to a sense of peace about skipping town for Easter weekend in order to be renewed as individuals and as a family.

We didn't even book our trip until about a week and a half before the getaway weekend.  Jared picked both the location and the actual house we rented.  I didn't make a packing list.  I didn't plan meals ahead of time.  We did not schedule activities ahead of time.

If you know me at all, you know this is NOT the way I usually operate.  I admit it was kinda awesome.

So where did we go and what did we do?

We went to a little town in Southern Illinois and stayed in an awesome house on lots of acres of land, including a pond for fishing as well as woods for exploring and rocks for climbing.

The house had one wall of windows, and it led out to a balcony with rocking chairs.

The back side of the house with an outdoor eating area and a grill

We weren't sure how the kids would do with this kind of vacation.  They expect "vacation" to mean beach and pool.  We did have our amazing vacation last year to Michigan, but even that had swimming in the lake and a brief trip to a beach at Lake Michigan.

The first day we were there, I suggested that we go hiking in the woods to see what we could find.  The kids referred to this as "exploring," and it became their favorite thing ever.

When we were out exploring for the first time, Nolan and I had this conversation:
Nolan:  Mom, I've never seen you get dirty.
Me:  See?  I told you Vacation Mom is different than Everyday Mom.
Nolan:  I like Vacation Mom better.
Guess what?  I like Vacation Mom better, too.

On our exploring trips, we tried to find as many things as possible.  We focused on plants, animals, and other living things.  I found that taking pictures of the things we found helped me not to get too grossed out.

It's too bad this picture came out so dark because it is FUNNY!!  The lizard moved suddenly right as I took the picture.

There was a road from our house to the nearby pond.  We LOVED fishing there, and we also found more critters in and near the water.

These are slimy strings of frog eggs, and there were tons of them everywhere!

A tiny minnow Griffin caught in his net

A clearer view of the frog eggs

Ants on a log.  Literally.
There were about six turtles that lived in the pond, but they never let us get close enough to get a decent picture.

We weren't sure how fishing was going to go.  Jared had to do all the gross jobs of baiting hooks and touching slimy things, of course.  Griffin hooked nearly every family member at one point or another.  For awhile, it was just a game of keeping everyone safe and not bleeding.

Eventually everyone found their fishing groove.  The kids figured out how to cast and how to enjoy the game of trying to get a fish.  Jared and I even got to fish once we got the kids set up.

Jared caught the first fish.  Then I caught my own little bluegill, just slightly larger than Jared's.  Then the boys caught bitty fish of their own.  Nora pouted because she was the only one who hadn't caught a fish.  And then, she caught THE fish of the trip.  And on a Barbie fishing pole, mind you.

This is one of my very favorite pictures!

Seriously.  She puts her Nora girly flair on everything, even fishing!

Griffin ADORED this tiny baby bass

I loved the kids using their imaginations with the sticks and rocks.

We were not afraid of dirt on this vacation

When Jared and I wanted to sit together, the kids could go play on the swing set.

Going on another adventure

My boots!

We had a super awesome Easter egg hunt on the property.

These were the "horses with shirts" on the property next to ours.

This is "Donkley" (named by Nora).  He is a lovable donkey who enjoys eating fresh chives pulled from the ground and hand fed to him by adorable children.

It was such an amazing weekend filled with adventures and all sorts of new things.  We will remember this family getaway forever!

And we might not be around next Easter either...