Monday, August 23, 2010

Empty House

What a blessing to have Nathaniel fly home last week for a whole month of post-deployment leave! Now that his unit has left Iraq behind for good, they are all allowed an entire month to get away. Nathaniel arrived on Tuesday morning, having flown from Hawaii the day before, and with the exception of a nap or two, hit the ground running. With the end of Summer quickly approaching, the weeks have filled up with more and more activities.

After a bit of recovery on Tuesday, most of the family joined me for a run on the Thune trail. I forget now exactly how that came about, but in the end it was a demonstration of the route we would be running for the Thirsty Thursday race, and convinced Isaac and Jim to join us two days later, along with 400 of our closest friends, for the 5K!

Thursday evening Erin, Nathaniel, Jim, Isaac and I donned our racing numbers at Trooper Thorn's and took off with the pack. I was so proud of Isaac, who has only recently begun running with the Middle School cross country team. Since this race is so very crowded on a narrow trail, I had him stay right with me until the crowd thinned out and he had gotten the hang of it. Right before the half-way point he looked at me, said, "I'm passing!", and took off ahead. Passing people at this point was difficult since there were now folks running in both directions and we didn't have the whole trail. I saw him after he'd turned around, and caught glimpses of him ahead of me on the straight-aways later, but he was running his own race. What fun for us to have been able to complete that together. Erin and Isaac each came in third in their age groups, the rest of us were thrilled to finish. I was still behind my first time, though I suspect that my starting position had something to do with it, since this time my running felt alright.

Saturday we all piled into the van to go to cousin Ginger's for a Birthday/ Graduation/ Eagle Scout/ going away to join the Navy party for Kyle Nelson, (not a relative, but might as well be). Nathaniel was able to meet and be met by this branch of the family at last, and we enjoyed a relaxing evening visiting with Ginger, Gladys, Brent, the Nelsons, and the gang. We had planned to leave around 6-ish; 7:30 arrived and we said we needed to go; at 9:15 we were finally back into the van and pulling away... Good times.

Yesterday was a blessed Sabbath of worship with our church family, lunch then rest at home, and prayer meeting at the Sallade's in the evening. In between, the kids were all busy packing. Nathaniel, after all, had plans, which were a mystery. All week he had been dangling this mystery over their heads, tormenting them with clues and non-clues. All they knew was that they were going away for several days and they needed to pack for a water activity, a theme park, and a tourist destination.

This morning, bright and early at 5 am they left for Busch Gardens, Water Park USA, and Colonial Williamsburg, all in Virginia! At some point in the first couple of hours of driving he told them where they were going. What a treat! With his military discounts the park tickets are very reasonable and the hotel rates within easy reach. Their first stop is Ft. Eustis, where Nathaniel trained for his job in the Army, to pick up the tickets. So they even get to see a bit of his personal history which we'd only heard about from him before now. But the most special aspect of it all for me is the love that these kids share with one another, that they would so enjoy going away together like this. They are going to build a lifetime's worth of memories in the next few days, and they are will need to work together and get along even when they are tired or wanting to go in different directions.

Once they get back our lives swing into high-gear with one last day-trip for all of us, school beginning for Erin and Isaac, and Kate leaving for Lancaster to begin at the Pennsylvania College of Art and Design. But for now they have this time together, just the five of them, for fun and memory-building.

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