Wednesday, June 13, 2012

You Know Those People Who Lose Their Children....

Well we are them, but that comes later.  We have never taken our family on a vacation that didn't involve going to Utah to see family.  There was never the time or the money to do anything besides our yearly pilgrimage to Utah.  I didn't feel bad about it but this year when Dr. J got three weeks of vacation time, I was anxious to use one on a family vacation.  The first week, we originally saved to use on Cheetahs birth.  Of course she surprised us and came 11 weeks early.  Instead that week was used for Dr. J's kidney stone surgery.  The second week was a trip to, you guessed it, Utah.  The finally week we planned to drive down to North Carolina.  Then reality hit us.  We'd spent most of our savings on medical expenses and our house this year, we were broke, and we weren't really feeling the long drive.  That's when I remembered some friends mentioning they'd done some camping on the great lakes.  And I remembered a Parenting article that mentioned Indian Beech as one of the top 10 family beaches.  With less then half a day drive, the option to camp, and no worry of sharks it was easy to decide this trip was the one for us.

Location, Location
-When doing anything with children location is key.  Originally Dr. J wasn't to queen on the fact that our campground had showers and running water bathrooms.  Turns out with four kids they were a necessity.  Especially the night that Peach crawled into Dr. J's sleeping bag and peed all over him!  Boy was he grateful for the washing facilities then.  We were also close to a playground, the perfect place to send our high energy brood during set up and pack up.  Our site was on the back end of the dune and we were surrounded by sand.  While it wasn't the most pleasant to clean out of the tent on our pack up day, it kept the kids entertained for many hours!

I bought this tent for Dr. J Christmas two years ago.  This was our first time using it!  Hurrah for the eight man tent.  Turns out families of six with tons of child hud need the extra space :)

We also were super close to the nature center, a small museum about the dunes, the animals there, and the history.  It was a fun place to visit, a great place to watch birds, and these crazy squirrels, and later when we lost our kids a place to run for help.

Rainy Days Are Great Days To Hike
-The night we set up camp right after dinner and teeth brushing it started to pour.  We spent the evening in the tent reading Eragon before falling to sleep to the sounds of rustling wind and torrential downpour.  At one point the rangers drove round with an announcement, probably something about severe weather, but you couldn't actually hear them over the weather.  Since we'd come up to visit the beach I was worried our trip would be ruined. Instead the next morning the cloud cover offered the perfect weather for hiking.  After visiting the nature center we got a map of the trails.  There was one marked as rugged.  It was three almost 200 foot dunes, separated by forest trail.  We asked the rangers what they thought.  "Well," they said, "the kids won't have a problem.  You guys might, but with the cooler weather it is totally doable."  We set off to hike three massive sand dunes.  There was just enough of a chill in the air to keep things pleasant.

We started off together but the older kids kept darting off.  Then after a few hundred feet they'd rush back to where we were.

For the most part Peach walked herself.  Well until we got to the really big dunes.  Then Dr. J would have her walk, would push her part of the way, and then would finally pick her up when her cries of, "Daddy, my legs are hurting," got to be too much.
The dunes were easy for Captain E and Gigi.  With their long legs and light frames they were like dear in the forest.  They were torture for me.  Carrying my baby, and then all my never been lost baby weight I was the slow caboose.  Dr. J probably could have flown up the hills but trying to convince Peach to walk as much of the trip as she would he got slowed up.  The first dune the kids waited us patiently at the top before they continued.  That was the last time we saw them on the trail.

Loosing Your Children-Worst Feeling in the World

Here we are.  The last moment I was happy on this hike.  We'd just gotten to the top of the second dune.  We saw some people halfway up who told us our kids were going to be exhausted by the end of the day they were moving so fast.  We fully expected to see them waiting at the top.  They weren't there.  We continued a little faster.  Calling out their names about every thirty seconds.  When we got to the top of the third main dune and still couldn't see them I was frantic.  We saw a couple walking up an intersecting trail.  "Have you seen a little girl and a little boy?" I gushed.  No they hadn't.  Dr. J and I turned back to our trail and headed toward the beach.  Dr. J ran ahead.  He got to the beach and looked up and down it, yelling their names.  When he saw and heard nothing he ran back where I was struggling on the dune.  We decided then to split up.  Dr. J would start running the trails that intersected ours.   He'd take my phone since he hadn't brought his.  I'd have to retrieve mine from the camp site in order to call him.  I would return to the nature center with the two youngest girls and get the rangers out looking as well.  As I turned back to start back up the dune I ran into the couple again.  "I lost my kids," I let out with a shuddering breathe.  Then I trudged off with Peach and Cheetah in tow.

The following two and a half hours were some of the worst in my life only surpassed by the hour when my water broke at 27 weeks and I thought Cheetah was dead, and her subsequent birth 13 days later followed by the two month separation I had from her.  I say that with the knowledge that my kids were found.  A different outcome and it would easily take the cake and at those early moments I was frantic.  When I struggled into the nature center with an exhausted Peach and Cheetah in arms I was on the brink of hysteria.  "I lost my kids on the dune trail."  I sobbed.  The rangers looked up at me.  "Don't worry, happens all the time.  The trails loop.  How old are your kids."  When I said five and seven they jumped into action. Within two minutes the head of security was there.  He had taken descriptions of the kids, mapped out our hike, looked at pictures of them on the camera, and was coordinating ATVs who were now patrolling the beach and trails looking for my kids.  He then sent me back to our campsite to wait it out.  "I need you there if the kids show up."  The rangers assured me they would be looking at the nature center for the kids just in case they made it back there alone.

The feeling of loneliness I felt back at the campsite was immense.  I feed Peach some lunch and then sat down to nurse Cheetah but I didn't eat myself.  I kept thinking about how the kids weren't carrying any water or food and I wanted to know what they were feeling.  I couldn't eat or drink until I knew they were doing the same.  Occasionally Dr. J and I would talk on the phone about where he'd been or looked.  It was difficult.  I wanted to yell at him, "I always knew this would happen!"  He is often on me to relax and stop being such a helicopter mom.  I tried to stay calm.  I texted my mother-in-law and asked her to start praying.   Later Dr. J asked me why I freaked her out.  I told him I just needed someone else to lean on.  I prayed and when I didn't pray I worried.  I worried they were hungry and thirsty.  I worried they were scared.  I worried some stranger found them and was stealing them away.  I wondered if I should call the police.  I wondered how parents of missing kids make it through TV pleas for help and how they convince the police they actually lost their kids so that they don't wast time being investigated.  Like I said, I was a wreak.

Relief!  I finally got a call from the security guard.  The kids have been found, they are on their way to the nature center.  I grabbed Cheetah and Peach and rushed over.  Captain E was there when I walked in the door.  I burst into tears and smashed him a huge hug.  He rolled his eyes at me.  "Mom, we weren't lost.  We  were still on trail eight."  "Hi," the guy we met earlier on the trail said, "I found your kids."  I turned toward that Grandpa and I squished his guts out in a huge hug as well.  That's when I found out Gigi was still on the trail with his wife.  They were slower and Norman wanted to get back to the center fast to let someone know the kids had been found.  As he was telling me the story his wife and Gigi arrived.  They also got crushing hugs.  The wife told me, "When I heard your kids were lost I told Norman, we have to find those kids.  When I saw your face my stomach just dropped.  I knew we had to find them"  They walked down to the beach and they used their binoculars to scan up and down.  They kept walking and halfway up the beach spotted the kids on a dune.  Somehow they convinced them to come down.  The kids were resistant but they gave them enough details about us to convince the kid they were legit.  They then feed the kids all the water and granola bars they had.  Gigi kept telling the couple, "Our parents left us."  By then Dr. J was back.  Hugs all around and the signing of an incident report and it was over.  We gave the kids a talking about proper trail safety and whistles.  I will forever be grateful to this couple for their assistance.  I don't know what would have happened without them, and I don't want to know.  They were our living angles that day, our French Canadian, RV travelling living angels.

As Good As Any California Beach
-After a day of excitement what better way to relax then on the beech.  This part of the trip was everything I could have hoped for.  It was as pretty as any California beech I've ever been on, but since it wasn't the ocean I didn't have to worry once about sharks :)

Everyonce in awhile something would stick out to remind you that you weren't at the ocean.  

Like a far off view of Chicago.
The steel mill to the left.
The nuclear power plant to the right.

But honestly the sand was so beautiful and warm, the lake so immense you couldn't see across it, the sun radiant, the beach so fun to comb for shells and rocks, we were perfectly content.  When we initially got there is was still fairly early and the wind coming off the water, shockingly cold.  Our kids ran right into the water but after getting out were freezing.  That's when they started trying to come up with ways to warm up.  

1st, towel wrap
2nd, towel turtle

3rd, the face plant.  Gigi kept putting her face down into the warm sand.  I'm sure it was nice and warm but she had her face covered in it.

Eventually they came up with better things to do.

Learning to toss stones with dad.  The beach was covered in these amazing stones, perfect for throwing.

Running in the serf.  Captain E loved this so much that when we got home I put the first five minutes of Chariots of Fire on for him.

Beech Dance Party, showing off their smooth (or not so smooth) moves.

An older gentlemen with a dog walked by and asked if we wanted a picture.  His bouncy pup kept running around us.  These are the only family shots we got so I hope you enjoy them :)

Building sand castles and motes.  

Even the birds wanted in on the action.

Just hanging out enjoying the sun, sand, and rocks.  Even as an adult I still think rocks are awesome!

It was the perfect day.  

Revisiting One's Youth, Not Always Possible
We finished our day with a trip to Mount Baldy, a giant dune that is moving inland.

The water was beautiful and it was the perfect place for Dr. J to teach the kids about dune jumping.  He would pay for this later.

The old man can still fly but it came with a price.  This particular part of the dune was actually quite hard and compact, not like the usually sandy mess that makes climbing them so hard.  When he came down this second time his ankle yanked a little.  Later that night he was moaning in his sleep.  Finally he wakes up and and ask me for Ibuprofen.  The next day when we wake up it is swollen and purple.  

She was just randomly singing and dancing on the beach, she was so happy she couldn't help it.
The moment when there is no bathroom, your son has to go immediately and there are too many people around to say go pee on a tree.  Dr. J walked him into the water and said, "Pee on the next wave."  The kid was laughing so hard it made me laugh.  Sure it's gross but welcome to parenthood.  And for those of you who don't know, swim diapers don't hold in pee :)

I wish I had a beach home.  I'd love to wake up to this every morning.

Selective Memory, It's a Good Thing
I gained a new respect for my parents on this trip.  As a kid I used to be annoyed it took them so long to get the car packed.  Well guess what, it just does.  It used to drive me crazy they'd pack it up and then my dad would go and take a shower.  I didn't but I suddenly understood why he wanted one.  I now understand that not only were my parents also bored in the car, but they were also irritated because we kept asking when we could get out of the car and would we hurry up and get there.  This trip was not without drama.  Besides the whole being lost thing there was the normal sibling fighting and selective obedience.  At one point I thought, "Is this even worth it?"  That was as my kids were fighting in the car they didn't even have to be in, both of them were crying, and I snapped a pic I told them I was saving for blackmail purpose later.  But then I realized, you know there were six kids in my family.  The chance that we made it through a single half hour of any family vacation without some drama is a big fat ZERO!  And yet when I look back on those family trips I can't remember a minute of it.  What I do remember is the fun we had camping.  Our trips to the beach.  How much I loved Disney.  The time my hair caught on fire and my dress got ruined and my mom trimmed the ends and bought me a new one.  I remember the perfect peach in Seattle and trying to fish with cheese.  And the truth is, that thought made it all worth it.  Sure there was some drama but I had a blast and I hope when my kids look back on their childhood it will be the fun things they remember, not the endless mounds of laundry.  I want to be the remembered as the parents who took back roads so they could eat homemade ice cream (I had roasted almond, fudge, and coconut...pure heaven) or gave up on the best hamburgers in the state to instead eat at the railway museum.  This long overdue vacation was so worth it.  Can't wait to take these kids out again!

You like how they are on the "keep off" rail car.  Dr. J told me the owner gave them least that's what he told me ;)


  1. SO SCARY! The missing kids. The rest of the vacation sounds nice.

    When I was about four years old, I got separated from my family on a hiking trail in the Wilamette Gorge in Oregon. Two nice hikers found me and kept me with them until my mom found me. Thank goodness for wonderful people who watch out for missing little ones! I'm glad yours are safe.

    1. Bridget were you scared? Did you even realize you were lost? I'd love to hear this one from your mom. How did they ever find you? Thank goodness for carrying strangers. You get so worked up about creeps you forget all the wonderful helpful people in the world!

  2. Oh Crystal! I can't even imagine! I lost jack once for all of 20 minutes and I was so panicky it took my body a few hours after we found him to get back to normal. I don't think I could have handled 2 1/2 hrs!!! It's a good thing the rest of the vacation went well. It looked beautiful!

  3. Yikes! Crystal, that made me cry! I can't even imagine your panic and I'm so glad they were found!

    I'm also glad that you had a good vacation and, just think, next time you want to drive to North Carolina for a vacation, we'll be there! :D

  4. A scary time for sure! Isn't it wonderful that you had two angels to help look for your little angels? I am glad this wasn't the last day, so you had some wonderful memories after that to help balance out the terror!

    I am glad you had such an overall good vacation! I hope we get one sometime later this year. Guess we will just see if my knee and Scott's install schedule will work together.



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