60 Days to Go
After attending our first-ever Lighthouse Family Retreat last summer in Gulf Trace, Florida, and having what was basically one of our best vacations EVER, we were beyond disappointed when this year’s retreat was cancelled due to the damage caused by Hurricane Dennis. Actually, to be correct, I should explain that only two of the retreats were cancelled …. Lighthouse runs six-ten retreats a year, we just happened to have scheduled ourselves for the retreat following the hurricane (impeccable timing on our part, as always!) We were fortunate that the Lighthouse was able to schedule an additional retreat at the end of the season for many of the families who got hurricane’d out earlier in the summer --- needless to say, we were thrilled for another opportunity to attend.
Just like last year, it was a relaxing, inspiring, fun-filled stay at a beautiful beach -- this time, the location was Watercolor, Florida. Watercolor is a really neat resort-community, with dozens of rental properties, three community pools, a spa (which believe it or not, I actually used) a workout center (didn’t use that, no surprise there) a fabulous restaurant, bike rentals, walking trails, etc., and of course, the beach at your fingertips. If you are considering a Florida panhandle vacation, you would be well-done to consider staying at Watercolor. We loved it! Five stars!!
But better than all that was the time spent with the other Lighthouse families, family volunteers, and Lighthouse workers. Once again I find myself unable to express proper gratitude for all these people do … not only during the retreats, but year-round. Their mission is to serve children with cancer and their families at a seaside retreat and help them to laugh, restore family relationships, and find hope in God. If you visit the Lighthouse website and browse around, you’ll find several photos of Kendrie, and other Caringbridge kids that you’ll most likely recognize, on their site. And one embarrassing photo of Blaine in a coconut bra, but I promised him I wouldn't mention that.
Lighthouse is a truly deserving organization. I’ll write my formal thank-you this week, and include a donation. But Blaine and I talked about it, and our long-term goal is for our family to return to the Lighthouse in a few years in a volunteer capacity, helping another family to benefit from their time at the ocean just like ours has benefitted these past two trips.
So, thank-you’s and praise for this wonderful organization and the people who run it aside, I thought I would share with you some of the photos and wisdom we gained on this long weekend. You know that Escoe family ---- always learning, they are. Here are a few of the things we learned this time:
1. There is nothing quite as neat as an early morning, just-off-the-shore greeting from a family of dolphins. (No photo, darn it, I wasn’t quick enough with the camera! But trust me, it was really cool!)
2. It doesn’t matter if it IS Florida, unheated pools and the ocean are a little cool in October.
3. It doesn’t matter if it IS October, playing Beach Olympics in the middle of the day is still hot and sticky. But fun. And that’s what matters. That, and hanging your tongue out of your mouth to make you run faster.
4. Did we mention that Watercolor is a really cool resort?
5. We discovered the secret to a successful rock climb is to wear goggles on the top of your head. Something to do with reverse gravity and polarizing the sun. Or something. Maybe just looking cool.
6. It doesn’t matter if you think the fountains are lame. Your mom thinks they look like fun, and you will pose for a picture until she is happy or she will not let you rest.
7. Sometimes, kids honestly are willing to pose for a picture. There is no sweeter moment for a scrapbooking, camera-wielding, photo-obsessed mom.
8. Oh, look, here’s another one. They must have all been on sugar highs to be so cooperative.
9. The whole point of a beach-trip is the beach. Too bad there weren’t any minnows to be found, after Blaine made a last-minute trip to Wal-Mart at midnight to buy nets for the kids this year. That, of course, follows our trip last year, where there were minnows by the thousands, and not enough nets for all the kids. They did use their nets to catch lots of hermit crabs at night, though. No pictures there …. Those things give me the heebie jeebies.
10. When all else fails, and you don’t want to admit that the ocean is too cold, and your steroid personality makes you unspeakably rude to those around you, just pretend you are digging in the sand. You don’t have to talk, and no-one will be the wiser.
I mentioned Hurricane Kendrie in the last journal entry; thankfully, she was down-graded to a Category Annoying this past weekend in Florida. No blatant tantrums or meltdowns, but lots of whining, pouting, and my personal least-favorite, refusing to talk to other people. I mean, here these volunteer families are, spending their own perfectly good time and money to VOLUNTEER to serve in this caring, kind way for our family, and my child won’t look them in the eye. Or answer their questions. Or recognize their presence in any manner. Little brat. You know how, when you ask a two-year old their name, or their age, and they bury their face in their mother’s shoulder, it’s kind of cute? Well, when a six year old does it? Not so much.
Oh, and I forgot the most important thing we learned this weekend, the one lesson above all lessons to which we will stay true, no matter what:
11. The Escoe family will not be traveling more than one hundred miles from our home in any direction. Ever. Again. Ever.
Granted, that’s going to make our life-long dream of visiting Alaska rather difficult. In fact, we won’t be able to leave the state of Georgia, but it’s a small price to pay to avoid the travel-nasties that seem to afflict my children every time we are in the car longer than two hours.
The drive down actually wasn’t so bad. We made it all the way to I-10 in Florida before I whirled around and launched into my “Oh, no it is NOT too late for your father to turn this van around and drive all the way back to Georgia and you can just miss the whole weekend for all I care if you don’t start behaving” diatribe. The threat of going back home without dipping their toes in the ocean seemed to work pretty well, and they kept things under control the rest of the way. And the actual three days we spent at the beach? They were in reality, fairly pleasant, with only a few over-stimulated, under-rested “moments” taking place. (Any family who doesn’t experience at least one or two of those moments on vacation, well, I don’t want to hear from you. You’ll just make me feel lousy. Plus you’ll be lying and we’ll all know it.)
It was the drive home that made me consider building a time machine and traveling back in time about ten years to have my tubes tied. I understand you’re tired! I understand you’re feeing cranky! I understand you don’t want to leave the beach! It’s when they launched into “you’re stupid you’re stupider this is a dumb family he’s touching me make them stop I can’t hear the movie get off my side how much longer my butt hurts are we ever going to get there I’m hungry I’m thirsty” rants that I wanted to puncture my own eardrums just so I could stop listening to them. And how is it that the drive home is always twice as long??? Five unsynchronized bladders, Blaine’s never-ending need for coffee, his never-ending quest to find a gas station that makes decent coffee, us fighting over the a/c controls in the front of the van, the kids arguing …. and the ugly battle of wills over whether to watch Little Rascals or Home Alone 3 on the dvd player about pushed me over the edge. I was never so happy to see the sign at the front of our housing addition in my whole life, is all I can say.
But I’m still glad we went. Given the opportunity, we’d jump at the chance to go again next year. Even if it does mean breaking our “no travel more than 100 miles from home” rule. I’ll just invest in a really HUGE pair of ear muffs for the drive. For me. Blaine and the kids are on their own.
Thanks for checking in,
WORST PART ABOUT HAVING CANCER TODAY: Hmmm. Today I am feeling pretty good; well-rested and refreshed from hanging out at the beach. Did mom tell you that I took part in a karate exhibition for the Talent Show? I wasn’t really very talented, but it sure was fun! And I was way cooler than Brayden and her lame hula-hooping, that’s for sure. Mom is going to have to buy us Escoe kids some actual talent, if we go back next year!
BEST PART ABOUT HAVING CANCER TODAY: Well, if you ask *me*, it’s that we spent the weekend at the beach. But the best part about today specifically is that it’s my first day off steroids and hopefully the “good cop” part of my personality will begin to return!