Monday, December 13

A Weekend Retreat from the Chaos of Christmas

A sea of headlights and taillights greeted me as we drove past Short Pump Mall Friday night. Our minivan headed in the opposite direction, away from the congestion and noise of holiday shoppers toward First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach.

While the majority of humanity filled the streets and stores in preparation for Christmas, we took our kids camping. This past weekend was our second annual “Family Longhouse.”

Our Family Longhouse is an offshoot of the YMCA Indian Guide/Indian Princess program. The YMCA program is designed for fathers and their children. Through monthly meetings and twice-yearly camping trips (called “longhouses”) it provides opportunities for dads and their kids to share experiences and have fun together.

The camping weekends with daddy are a highlight of my children’s lives, so much so that they wanted me to experience a longhouse weekend too.

“It’s okay,” I assured them, “There’s no need for Mommy to go camping. I’ve been camping and I’m really, really, really happy that Daddy takes you.”

But the kids insisted. “You’ll love it!” they declared.

Seeing the excitement on their little faces, listening to their stories of longhouses past, I finally relented. But with some rules.

When Mommy goes camping that means a cabin with running water, electricity and a coffee maker. I love being out in nature—during the day, with fresh clothes on, a clean body and fully caffeinated. Those are my standards. I don’t do tents, sleeping outside, bugs, shivering, and percolating coffee over a campfire.

While I refuse to be without indoor plumbing, there were a few modern conveniences I was happy to leave behind—namely, TV and computers. Void of our customary entertainment, we amused ourselves with cards, board games and outdoor activities. On the beach we kicked the soccer ball, tossed a football, played Bocce ball, horseshoes and laughed at our dog Snickers as she ran into the ocean playing with Ricky, an exuberant chocolate lab. (Snickers was so excited to play with her new friend, she forgot she hates the water. Until a wave struck her chest, then she made a hasty retreat.)

We hiked along Bald Cypress trail, climbed up the Old Cape Henry Lighthouse and with hot chocolate in hand, drove down the boardwalk to view the holiday lights. We even had time for a long, luxurious afternoon nap.

As we returned home Sunday afternoon, traffic still clogged the entrance to the mall. I couldn’t help but imagine all the harried shoppers rushing to finish their Christmas shopping. I have a list of items to attend to as well, but I’ll get to those later. For the moment I’m savoring the quiet time spent with my family. 

Climbing trees at First Landing State Park

Enjoying Virginia Beach

Snickers (brown dog in the foreground)
after she remembered she hated the water.
She stood at the edge, only getting her paws wet.

Playing "Life." My career was a supermodel and I made
$2 million a year. Clearly, it was just a game. And I lost.
Even in the fake world I couldn't pull it off.

Hiking Bald Cypress trail

The girls with Snickers

My beautiful family. Except that old guy.
Where'd he come from?

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