I would be less than honest if I didn't admit that my dream getaway has never involved endless dusty desert sand; driving instructions that include "turn at the abandoned bus - the cabin is right beside it;" or a last-minute addendum from the owner that there is no hot water and electricity is spotty! So it was with some trepidation that we packed up our five kids for two days on the basis of an online listing and headed for the outskirts of the tiny town of Pica (some 55 miles east of Iquique.) We mentally prepared ourselves for what we called a "mini-ca-venture" ("mini vacation adventure") because were really were not sure what we'd find!
To our relief, we discovered a simple but cute cabin with our basic necessities - and more importantly, we re-discovered our family togetherness. After a crazy year with startling surprises (i.e., pregnancy) and an exhilarating yet exhausting ten days of non-stop houseguests and activities, we felt an intense need to re-group and clear our heads. And with no electronic distractions, little in the way of entertainment beside what we could provide ourselves, and seven people in a small space, God graciously allowed us to do just that.
My favorite memories of our 48-hour getaway are these:
-snuggling under layers of warm blankets in the frigid desert night (the "cute" cabin had several gaps in walls, floors and ceilings)
-waking up with the sunrise, reading the Psalms and drinking hot milk with coffee next to my Love
-snapping picture of the kids looking cute wrapped in quilts all huddled together (we are not accustomed to cold weather anymore!)
-looking at the amazing expanse of stars on the clearest of nights in the Atacama
-playing board games as a family (Apples to Apples Junior, Ticket to Ride, Monopoly card game)
-listening to little brother Owen beg big sister Eva to play hide-n-seek and kickball (even going so far as to bribe her with a Snickers bar yet insisting this had nothing to do with how much he loves her company!)
-watching wild Nerf gun wars and soaking in the sound of siblings' laughter
-sensing that even unborn baby brother or sister appreciated the family time, as he or she was quite active during this vacation
-appreciating more than ever my husband's self-sacrifice as he played heartily with the boys even while desperately wanting nothing but a nap or reading time
-enjoying the long-awaited kickball game from a distance, photographing pajama-clad kiddos running "bases" around the sandlot on our last morning
It was somewhat amusing/exasperating to note the difference between vacationing with our teenaged girls and our three busy boys. Eva and Isabel would have been totally content to read, listen to music, write stories, and rock in the hammock for 48 hours straight. Owen, Ian and Alec on the other hand, could find no satisfaction if not engaged in some sort of very energetic activity. Admittedly, Mom and Dad would have rather sided with the girls! (In fact, Pedro hinted more than once that we should repeat this "minicaventure" sans children sometime soon.) But we tried to find a happy medium and decided that two days was probably just the right amount of time to balance these extremes in a small environment with few outside options for entertainment.
Pedro and the kids did go to the thermal pools for which Pica is known. The owner of the cabin told us of a larger pool just three blocks away which charged half the price of the more well-known, touristy "cocha." Since hot pools are not recommended in pregnancy, I stayed home in the intense quietness of the cabin and dug into some study for an upcoming pro-life conference, waiting for the report when everyone came home. According to my family, the pools were fun but very rustic (apparently our theme for this trip!) There was a cool pool with minnows swimming in it and a warmer pool as well. But, they had fun and that was the important thing.
Ironically, probably the most memorable part of this trip for the kids - at least what they have repeated most often since coming home - was our institution of what we called the "Haiti rule" (because I was first introduced to this little rhyme when heading to Haiti for our boys' adoption.) Since water was limited and - cold or not! - we didn't want to run out, we made a guideline for bathroom use. "If it's yellow, let it mellow; if it's brown, flush it down!" I know this sounds gross, but we also stuck with the rule of thumb by which most of Chile lives - toilet paper in the garbage can, not the toilet. (I did say this was the "rustic" vacation, did I not?!) Now the kids are oh-so-amused to repeat the rhyme and advocate for cabin rules at home. :)
These were two days that were long overdue. I am so thankful that God made it possible to take the plunge and "run away" just for a little bit. I need His help to keep the perspective of enjoying my family, not just on getaways, but every day in the often tiresome juggling of housework, schoolwork, church-work, and the hard work of relationships. This silly, cranky, colorful, irritable, lovable, imperfect yet exceptional family is a gift from God! Thank You, Lord, for your perfect gifts.