Vacation: use it or lose it. When life is as busy as ours is, it can be hard to schedule vacation time. My vacation year goes from July 1 to June 30, and if you've been following my life, you know that our July through the beginning of November and mid-December through January were characterized by foster children, and we're not really supposed to take foster children out of state. There are some who suggest a "stay-cation" but that's really impossible for us; a small town pastor is rarely not "on call."
So February came and we were looking at our schedule, and we realized that Jonathan will be playing soccer in April-May, and Andrew is going to play t-ball in May-June, and I don't particularly like to take vacation during Lent (though I worked with a senior pastor who took Holy Week as a vacation week). That left us with a few weeks in which to squeeze vacation... then we had to decide to go somewhere warm or cold.
Since we had been somewhere cold all winter, we decided on warm. Then Tara found a good deal on a cruise. We had never been on a cruise, so I was a little nervous about it. Would we get seasick? Would we get claustrophobic, stuck on a ship (or stuck in a tiny stateroom)? Would the kids enjoy it?
We headed down toward Miami, taking a couple of days' detour in Kentucky at the grandparents' house (and catching up with a friend for a tough trail run). Then we hit the road, and on the way, we were treated to an unexpected surprise... driving down I95 toward Miami, we started noticing tons of traffic at every intersection. We realized they were all out to watch the Space Shuttle launch. As we continued along the intersection, we kept our eye out... and got to see the launch! It was unbelievable. I never thought I would actually see one in person.
Some highlights from the cruise itself: I had seen all sorts of pictures of the Caribbean, but it was amazing to actually see how clear and blue the water was. It was amazing. I loved snorkeling; I wondered if I would like it; would I see fish? (answer: yes! yes!) The fish were all colors, shapes, and sizes. Imagine going to a store that specializes in tropical fish, but instead of having the fish in separate aquariums, they are all just swimming free through the coral, and you can swim with them and enjoy looking at them.
We seriously loved Antigua; our driver pointed in the direction of the Methodist Church there (I wondered what it would take to get appointed there). We loved the smaller islands - we had a great walk around St. Kitts that we enjoyed a lot. The weather was fantastic - while Ohio was getting yet another snowstorm, we were suffering through 80* and sunny.
On the return trip to Miami, we were making pizzas with the boys (as part of the kids' programming, which the boys loved). I was looking out the window, thinking I might see some marine wildlife (every wave "might" have been something), and off in the (not-so-far) distance I saw something... it could have been a fin or a tail or a wave. But then I saw a spray and I knew it had to be a whale. Then it blew again. By this time, I'd called everyone over, and then it started to show off. It was a humpback whale, and it jumped clear out of the water a couple of times! It sure looked like it was having fun!
It was a fantastic vacation - very relaxing, very fun, and nice and warm, and we got back in time for Lent!