I had Labor Day off from work, and so I took the children away on a day-trip so that Kathy could enjoy a badly-needed Teacher Work Day. We hadn’t yet formally started school, and Kathy had been struggling to put together schedules and lesson plans for all five.
When I was employed at Amazon, I enjoyed a four-day work-week, with Mondays off. I used to take the kids away for the day, on some adventure or other, and let Kathy stay home. She is with the kids nearly all the time, as mother and teacher. I joke that we need to give her some â€˜down timeâ€™ or weâ€™ll end up checking her into the Whispering Pines Clinic for Homeschooling Moms, an imaginary treatment center for teaching moms who experience nervous breakdowns.
Maybe it isn’t quite as imaginary as I thought.
My parents hosted a Pastorâ€™s Retreat at the Refuge, and so on the Sunday afternoon before Labor Day I loaned them Joshua as a Gibeonite (a hewer of wood and drawer of water) to help set up for the event. The other four and I followed Monday morning, so that I could serve as a photographer and the younger kids could help out as needed.
There were about 25 pastors and their wives in attendance at this year’s conference.
Some Dads dread a day with their children, but not me; my children are a lot of fun to be around. Everyone seemed cheerful as we set off; the younger three read books quietly in the back of the van while Rachel and I chatted companionably in the front.
Setting up for lunch
At the Retreat center, the kids helped out while I snapped pictures, and then waited patiently for everyone to be served before sampling the lunch buffet.
The Refuge Dining Room
After helping to move all the chairs back to the meeting room (there was such a large crowd that we needed to use the meeting-room chairs for dining) the younger four and I went geocaching, while Joshua stayed to enjoy the second half of the Pastorâ€™s conference. In spite of the rain, we tramped up and down the coast of the Hood Canal and found all six of our intended caches.
A typical geocache is found in an old ammunition box, often hidden in a dead log.
Daniel, my middle boy, felt that he was badly treated by his siblings at one of the caches, and was inclined to sulk. â€œIâ€™ll just sit in the car, then,â€ he told me grumpily. Such incidents often spiral downward with Daniel, so I braced myself for a long afternoon of rebukes and punishments; but God had more cheerful plans. I was pleasantly surprised to see Daniel reverse course quickly and snap out of his selfishness, kindly offering treats from his backpack to the others and working hard to engage them in smiling conversation. I was proud of him for the effort he took to restore his relationship with his siblings.
Some geocaches are much smaller, like this one (the size of a pill bottle)
We returned in time to sample the dessert buffet.
â€œHow do you do that?â€ Joshua asked me. â€œYou arrive just as the line clears, but before all the dessert is gone. You must teach me this.â€
I smiled mysteriously â€“ I donâ€™t tell all of my secrets.
My parents were tired after the guests departed, and it seemed that we would be more trouble than we were worth, so we didnâ€™t stay to help clean up.
We did manage to score some leftovers, though.
Worried that we might return home before Kathy was quite ready for us, and wanting Joshua to get some after-dark driving experience, I decided to stop off in Shelton. â€œWeâ€™re here to stall,â€ I told the kids, in the Wal-Mart parking lot.
Usually we are quite anxious to get home, but for some reason, everyone seemed to accept this cheerfully. â€œI really want Mom to finish my chart,â€ Rachel insisted, â€œso we should take our time.â€ We wandered the aisles of Wal-Mart and managed to find one or two things that we hadnâ€™t realized we â€˜neededâ€™. No one (except Sarah) seemed to want to eat at McDonalds, so we jumped back into the van and I cruised the shopping center for an alternative.
Weâ€™re pretty frugal about some things, and so we donâ€™t eat out at restaurants very much. I spotted a Godfatherâ€™s Pizza and hustled the kids inside to enjoy the all-you-can-eat buffet, much to their surprise and delight. â€œYou have been hiding this place from me,â€ my oldest son reproved, eyeing the pizza hungrily.
Not our actual Godfather’s Pizza restaurant.
One of the cool things about parenting is that your children often reflect facets of the two people you love best in the world: yourself, and your spouse. I was very impressed to see all five of my children hit the salad bar first, and only then did they sample the pizza selections. Kathy has been an excellent role model in healthy eating, these past five years. They took after me in terms of the quantity of pizza that was consumed.
Having the dining area to ourselves, I asked to have the big TV turned off, and we laughed and told stories and carried on as though we were at home in our own kitchen. We played the â€œWhat are you thankful for?â€ game, always one of my favorites at meal times. Eventually the buffet closed, and we reluctantly tore ourselves away and staggered to the van.
Joshua drove us home, contravening all custom and common practice by staying in one lane and observing the speed limit, much to the consternation of the other drivers. I reflected on the cheerfulness of the day, and how devoid it had been of bickering, selfishness and mean words.
Laughter, yes; mean words, no.
How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! — Psalm 133:1
My heart was full of joy and pride, thinking of the grace, kindness and positive leadership that my children had shown to the retreat participants and to each other.
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. — 3 John 4