As it happens, the loveliest day of our vacation turned out to be the one in which we had to come home.  Sunny and 70, it was the kind of weather people travel to Florida for.  The kind of weather we traveled to Florida for.  And we were so thankful for it.  Partook in all those fun last-day-of-vacation rituals, like wondering if you really need that pair of shoes anymore since you’re pretty sure they are going to throw your suitcase over the fifty pound limit and feeding the kids whatever is left in your fridge just so it doesn’t go to waste.  We did those things and more and at the end of a delicious day, still dragged ourselves to the airport and came home, even though none of us wanted to and no one less than my sister who has to move on Tuesday, but could forget about that as long as she was in Florida.  We said goodbye to all our favorite places and promised we’d be back as soon as we could.  Sooner, even, if we can.
And in the end it was our memories that kept us warm on the flight to the frozen north, Peter sick as ever next to me.  I joined all the college kids at Meijers, restocking our fridge and pantry in the middle of the night so I wouldn’t have to do it today.  Which panned out well since we spent a lovely, lazy day in our warm nummies, looking at pictures of our trip (which are decidedly lacking in quantity, I must admit) and reading and moving Lucy into her new big bed.  Tess fell sick this afternoon and Peter’s coughing sounds like an entire Tuberculosis ward contained in one little boy and with a major snow storm forecasted for Tuesday, I’m especially thankful we can hunker down and weather it out with a full pantry and a new appreciation for the beauty of a snow covered landscape.  Florida is great, but we love Michigan, with all it’s seasons and weather quirks and fresh water lakes.  But we’ll go wherever our family is, because that is home.



Possibly our most beautiful day yet, evidenced by rosy cheeks and noses and probably three hundred more freckles sprinkled across Grant’s cheeks.  With Peter still down, but on the upswing, we split up, leaving one parent inside with him and the other supervising pool activities.  And since I did sick duty yesterday and since I still can’t get my nose out of Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, I took pool duty.  It’s one of my favorite things: sitting in the warm sun, watching kids splash and play and chatting with people I love.  One of my favorite things even though my sister left this morning.  One of my favorite things even though part of my heart was inside with Peter, sick on the couch, and wishing Dan was next to me on the lounge.  One of my favorite things even though it was the last full day of vacation and as such, sent my mind spinning between what we have yet to do before we leave this wonderful place (like a last burger at Cheeburger, Cheeburger, and renting a surray bike and visiting the shell museum) and what the coming week is going to hold (back to school, birthday parties, grocery shopping, working in Tessie’s room, hosting lunch club, getting chicken food).  One of my favorite things even though we leave tomorrow and, while we pray we’ll be back some time, we have no immediate plans to do so and so it’s wistful.  But I’m so thankful for this sweet sweet time and so happy to have spent nine days with my family, large and small.  So happy.


While the dads once again took off with the kids, this time to the Naples Zoo, the moms and a couple stray children stayed behind to hang out and soak up a little sun.  Unfortunately, Peter is still so sick, so my day was spent snuggling him on the couch and reading.  Speaking of which, if you haven’t read Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, head to Costco where it’s cheapest and get your hands on a copy.  It’s the true story of Louie Zamberini and his fight for survival after his bomber crashed into the ocean during WWII.  If you’re not a fan of non-fiction, let this be the book that breaks you out of your genre comfort zone.  My dad passed it along to me a couple of days ago and I’ve had my nose in it ever since.  And while I’m praying hard for complete healing for Peter during the night so he can enjoy his last day here tomorrow, I’m selfishly so thankful for a few blessed hours this morning in which to lose myself in history and well placed words.  And since the zoo visitors got to see poisonous snakes up close and personal and watch some crazy zoo-keeper man feed a chicken to an alligator, we’re all happy.  Until I think that tomorrow I have to say goodbye to my sister and watch her fly off back to Norway.  Then I’m a little sad and wistful.  But I’m still happy.


After a night of helping two of my four kids make it to the bowl on time, we spent a lazy morning doing more of the same.  The fever that came on so suddenly in Tess left just as quickly, but Peter nearly always takes longer to recover.  He’s still throwing up and hot.  And with our vacation running out and the list of things we wanted to do here still largely unchecked, we find ourselves wistfully wishing we’d not left it all for the end.  But c’est la vie.  Even if we don’t do anything else for the rest of our time here, we’ll still leave completely satisfied that we spent precious time with family.  And if the last few months has taught us nothing else, we’ve learned that putting our to-do lists aside and just being with family is precious.  Very much so.  And so is listening to Tessie’s ever growing list that begins with, “The fing I like most about Fworida is…”, and watching Grant head off to the tennis court for the third time today and seeing Lulu’s curls get even tighter so that I can watching it twine around my little finger and become lost in it’s soft springiness, and watching Dan’s beard get longer and longer as he shrugs off all the weight of keeping us and his work afloat at home, the length of his stubble a testiment to how relaxed he is.  And even snuggling with Peter on the couch, putting my cool fingers on his hot forehead.  Those things are precious too.  Very much so.


The warmest day yet, nearly 75 balmy degrees, and we took full advantage of it, basking, swimming, souveniring.  Lucy’s curls get tighter and more riotous by the hour, leaving us with an eyeful of bouncing spirals as she runs: away from us, toward precariously balanced displays, into danger.  Curls.  Tess got her first pair of Havaianas, much to my delight, pink, pearly ones that make her feel all grown up.  And everyone picked out their souvenir.  But only after Tess and Peter melted down in the toy store, chagrined at not being able to get Legos or a Barbie mermaid (a policy we later revoked on account of Tess asking in possibly the sweetest way for the mermaid she’s apparently wanted her whole life).  Embarrassed and utterly ashamed, we dragged them to the car with threats we couldn’t possibly see through.  Threats that involved leaving the island and/or keeping them out of the pool all afternoon.  Instead, we drove to another store and left them outside the door while we went in a bought Grant a souvenir as our thanks for being the only one who hadn’t thrown a fit at the last store.  They watched, shame faced through the open door as he was handed his bag, then asked our forgiveness, which we gave of course.  After a penitent afternoon with no one asking if we can go get a souvenir now, please?, we did.  And so tonight we’re tucking four tired kids into beds with their new souvenirs and happy smiles and heading there ourselves.  Can’t wait.


As if sitting by the pool all day, watching the kids swim and alternately purusing design magazines and chatting with my dad wasn’t enough, today was perfect in all it’s other parts.  The dads headed off to take the kids to bet on the crab races while the moms and babies took off in search of Naples shopping.  Hours later, Tessie’s hermit crab, Unicorn Love, took the red second prize ribbon and won her thirteen dollars, more money than she’s ever had in her piggy bank at one time.  And the moms and babies had driven hours for less than twenty five minutes of shopping, but my stomach hurts from laughing and my soul has been filled in a way that the necklace I saw on sale at Anthropologie can’t (although I was sort of convinced it might at the time).  This time is so sweet.  And even though tomorrow is calling for thunder and rain, we’re together and that’s the best part.


So much sun, I’ve completely restored my vitamin D levels.  Worshiped at a lovely church this morning then hit the farmer’s market, but couldn’t find the strawberries I was looking for.  Spent a magical afternoon on the beach on borrowed chairs watching the kids make sculptures with borrowed buckets and shovels and fried my chest.  Am looking forward to another Keloid scar as a result and have decided to name this one Francis. 
Tomorrow promises to be sunny and high 60’s, which we’ll take.  Any day.  Cause we’re here and so is our family and lots of the people we love, including my brother in law who flew in last night, changing places with my baby sister who flew out at the same time.  So we’re breaking out the chemical chips and calling a moratoriam on good sense in the interest of having fun.


We’ve been forced to completely obscure our snowbird feathers under layers of sweatshirts in an effort to ward off the chill.  A family of matryoska dolls.  It’s in the low forties.  Too cold to swim, or even be outside, really.  Still, we’re not home, so the adventure continues.  So happy I made packing our fleece blankets (all of them) a priority, since wrapping up in them and watching HGTV is so totally on my horizon tonight. 
Drove to Captiva Island for an insanely expensive dinner with bread that I’d pet a snake for.  Seriously.  Realized in the middle of the night that we left our stroller there.  Am going back for more bread.  Might pick up the stroller if I think of it.


Bar none, best part of today was walking into my parent’s place and finding my sister from Norway sitting on the couch.  Still can’t believe it.  Totally can’t believe it.  Eight more days of catching up with her (it’ll take us that long) and watching the kids run on the beach and maybe actually finishing a sentence with my husband.  Overcast and cool today, but we’ll take it.  Ate a rocking burger at Cheeburger, Cheeburger, one of our favorite island burger joints.  A cool fifties place that allowed Papa a serene hour of knowing all the lyrics and telling us.  We will be going back for seconds before the week is up.  I can feel it.


Not the number of pieces of luggage we took.  Not the number of times the kids asked if it was time to leave yet.  Not even the number of packages the UPS man delivered with sandals and swimsuits and sunscreen.  Day 10 saw us flying the coop with 21 members of my family, 13 of them children, all of us giddy with excitement.  None more so than Nana.  We’re off.