The past month has been nuts (my new favorite word). We went on a fun-filled family vacation. Usually we vacation with other families but this was just the four of us. We headed to Dayton for a free hotel stay with the warmest pool ever and went to the Air Force Memorial Museum the next day. So. Many. Planes. I dressed for the August weather but the museum was so frigid I almost broke through the display glass to steal one of the old snowsuits on display. The B-2 stealth bomber was awesome, though, and so stealthy you really almost couldn’t see it right there in front of you.
From there we headed to a campground near Cincinnati. We shopped at Jungle Jim’s, an international supermarket, and tried jackfruit for the first time. We also visited a farm park, the Cincinnati zoo, and Entertrainment Junction, the world’s largest indoor model train track. This elaborate chronology of the American railroad was surrounded with an intricate, miniature world. After paying almost $30 in admission for Neil and me (2 & under free, and Simon made the cut by 2 days!), we could barely get Simon out of the lobby’s gift shop, where a train table had him at first chug. Simon was far more enamored with the playroom, which included several train tables, one with a “craner” as he called the magnetic crane, and a play steam engine in which you could fake shovel fake coal from one side to the other. (Has anyone else ceased to be embarrassed by calling trains “choo-choos” in adult company?)
He demonstrated similar perseveration at the (thank God!) much smaller firefighter museum. He spent nearly the entire time in the display cab of a modern engine, subjecting the other visitors to a barrage of lights and sirens made accessible to his ilk.
Four days after we returned from camping, we hosted Simon’s third birthday party. Or more accurately, we came home with a car full of crap and mounds of dirty laundry, plus a sick & teething infant, an almost-threenager, and two very dirty parents, none of whom had slept well in five days. And the party was no small affair. Over fifty guests were invited for his first-ever and last-for-quite-a-while fiesta with friends. Not to mention when your invite the family, you’d better clean, though when you invite a dozen preschoolers, you’d better not clean. I was really trying not to let a 3-year-old’s party consume my life. There were no decorations, we ordered pizza, and Neil’s mom made a cake. But there are always those last minute details. I’d say the party was a success: a fire engine piñata, squirt gun favors, a 2-liter-shooting rocket, and no broken bones.
The next day, Neil left for almost a week in Chicago. We supposed to camp again the day after his return, but instead we attended a wake. We went camping for one night and returned for Neil to attend another wake-like function. Nothing like a funeral-camping sandwich to wrap up your summer. Labor Day was fun, with a last-minute birthday dinner for Neil with our friends, and the next day he was teaching a “worker’s meeting” for our Bible study, which, in the midst of all this chaos, is splitting into two meetings (which is good, but also required some planning time & meetings).
But what Neil didn’t know was that the meeting was doubling as a surprise party for him. So I scurried about with post-camping laundry & party shopping & cake-baking. I didn’t think through a lot of details until the day of since I just didn’t have time. But I pulled it off. He taught, there was a little discussion & communion & prayer, and then his man-bff Mark pulled him outside “to talk to him.” Mark suggested I do this as a way to transition to the surprise party, but I suspected Neil would just tell me it could wait till later. Mark was the perfect candidate since he is intense, always has something important to talk about, and Neil wouldn’t put him off. When he came back in, surprise! There were balloons and friends yelling at him, following by cake & singing, and a nacho bar. He was surprised and impressed and concluded I must actually love him. (Apparently I had never thrown him a birthday party before.)
But we’re not done yet. That weekend Neil & Mark traveled to Columbus for a seminary class. Oh, and they found out Thursday night they’d be teaching at the annual baptisms Sunday afternoon. Saturday I took the kids to Neil’s grandpa’s 97th birthday where Jane met her extended family for the first time. A few hours after we got home we discovered Simon had the dreaded hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD). Though rarely serious, it is extremely contagious for a week (see Quaratine). Luckily Jane was infected straightaway—how could she not be—so our week sentence ended promptly. I emerged briefly from quarantine Tuesday to teach our final home church meeting before splitting.
What did I learn? During the busy weekend of multiple wakes & upcoming teachings & meetings I thought, “When are things going to get back to normal?” But I already knew the answer. In this world, there will always be an overwhelming amount of needs. As much as I enjoy and sometimes need quiet moments with a book, I can’t live for those, because that’s not what life is about. “The harvest is plentiful and the workers are few,” Jesus said at the original worker’s meeting, and later, “The poor will always be with you.” When things are “normal,” I’m sure I don’t even notice, or I feel stressed anyway.
I tried to enjoy this quarantine more even though we missed our friends and normal activities. We are busy and on the go a lot and this was a rare chance to slow down, snuggle, play in the yard, bake bread, and even clean the house a bit.
I also get frustrated about missing our usual Bible teaching and times of fellowship. During the two meetings that someone wasn’t sick I was scheduled for babysitting duty. Before having kids, I thrived on these frequent times to hear the Word and enjoy friends. When I first became a mom I struggled with how much I missed out on; it almost felt wrong. (However, I am very grateful for the many people who have babysat for us to participate in meetings, retreats, and youth ministry.) The truth is, if my walk with God depends only on external structures, it’s time for me to depend more on Him. Maybe being a mom is a little like being a missionary who is isolated from other believers. People in that situation have to rely on God more than ever, relating directly and continuously to Him. Part of my quarantine company was Tim Keller’s The Reason for God. Yum. (That’s a whole ‘nother blog.)
Almost as soon as we re-entered society, I realized our fall schedule might be a little too ambitious once we factor in errands & play dates. It’s all optional, though, and sadly Jane produced some HFMD blisters on her back after being symptom free for most of a week. So we’ve settled in until our next outing, where we’ll no doubt catch some other contagion. #fhfmd #seeunever