It's that time of year again, the highlight of everyone's summer combined with the worst part of everyone's year - time for the annual trek back to the motherland known as R&R. The children and I finished the last day of school this past week, we finally got tickets, and I've started going over my packing lists.
This year we've added an extra level of difficulty. Due to Brandon's leave issues, I decided to take the bold/suicidal/brave/foolish choice and travel with all six of the children alone so we could have an extra week at my parents' house. I had various reasons, the good one being doctor appointments for everyone, the okay one being a grandparent rafting trip for the older kids, and the selfish one being my desire to have extra time to spend with friends.
This year is the Sherwood reunion and we (meaning me) were put in charge of planning the whole thing. And for those of you counting, that means planning a week long family reunion for nineteen adults and twenty-five children. From halfway across the world. We got to choose the location, so I chose the beach. My family goes to the beach every summer, so to make things easier for us I just rented the same house for two weeks in a row. I was in transports of joy when I realized that I could go in and out of the exact same airport. No twenty-hour drives or 5:30 AM plane rides, just three and a half weeks in one state. It's almost mythical.
Also, I decided to come back earlier than Brandon because I'm pretty sure I don't want six children de-toxing from twenty-eight hours of traveling while at a family reunion. It's bad enough doing it in the privacy of my parents' large house where everyone only shares a bedroom with one or two siblings, but crammed into an overstuffed room with four or five other cousins? I'm just going to pass on that. Also I don't want to be shopping for breakfast and lunch food for forty-four people, feeding forty-four people (because we're cooking the first night), telling forty-four people forty-four times (let's be honest, it will probably be more than that) where their rooms are again, and trying to get my own children to sleep in the middle of all that while getting over crazy jet-lag myself. Pass on that, too. Just sayin'.
This means that on Thursday morning at five AM, I will board the first of four flights that will eventually land us in North Carolina by way of Istanbul, London, and DC. We have assigned seats on the first flight and last flight but not the two middle flights. Also the flight from Istanbul to London is late by an average of thirty minutes (that's average) and we have a two-hour layover. It ought to make for some interesting stories when we've all recovered from the trauma in a few years.
The children are, of course, ecstatic. Kathleen is looking forward to seeing her cousins and going whitewater rafting. Sophia is the same. Edwin is looking forward to flying on airplanes and visiting Grandpa's frogs. Joseph is looking forward to eating as many snacks and watching as many movies as he wants for twenty-eight hours straight. Eleanor is looking forward to seeing her grandparents. William will probably be scarred for life.
Beach week was always the highlight of my childhood summer and so it's no surprise that the same is true for my own children, especially when you add in the excitement (why they find it so exciting is completely beyond me) of international travel and the magic of returning to a country that has things like sidewalks, grass, parks, and Krispy Kreme.
And, if you subtract the pain (oh, the pain. Let's not dwell on it. It turns out that the pain of traveling is kind of like childbirth. Each time it happens you remember ever more clearly exactly what you're getting yourself into) of the opening and ending, it's the highlight of my summer too. I can't wait to see my cousins and siblings and friends and Krispy Kreme. I can't wait to stay up way, way (way) too late catching up with some of my favorite people in the world and playing all day on the beach. I can't wait to go to absolute dissipation sleeping in, not exercising (once or twice a long time ago I exercised on R&R. Ha), eating garbage cereal for breakfast every morning, reading books, eating dessert every night, and partying until I'm so exhausted that coming home to my regimented life actually sounds like a good idea.
Packing starts tomorrow. T-minus three days until vacation party time.