Family Travel, available at: ForYourMarriage.org


Happily Even After

Family Travel


July 12, 2010

We just undertook a somewhat convoluted “vacation” over the course of twelve days, two states and eight legs of plane travel.  Gratefully the children were only a part of four of the legs of the plane trips.

Joshua and I were interested in attending a conference at Notre Dame for work.  As we live thousands of miles from our family and anyone we could consider leaving the children with for more than one overnight, we weren’t particularly optimistic that it would work out until I spoke with my mother.  She suggested that we take a vacation around the dates of the conference in Florida where they live.  We would fly down some days ahead of the conference, then leave the children with them to head north to South Bend, and then return to Florida to “pick them up” on the way home.

I suppose this is what our lives have come to living in such a spread out society.  Folks live and work in the same towns, cities and states as their parents and siblings far less frequently.  We don’t live in the same town (or state) in which either of us grew up.  Yet we are both very close with our families.  One of our largest financial investments is in plane tickets to visit them.  And even though it isn’t the same as living across town, they are eager to fill the same roles with our children as they might if we were much closer.  Enter mom’s suggestion.

One fantastic and unanticipated bonus to her plan was that some very dear friends of ours from graduate school were willing and interested in meeting us in Florida for the first part of our stay.  The five of them, seminarians in grad school, are all now ordained Holy Cross priests.  Yes, we took our family vacation with my parents, all our children and five of the greatest, most enjoyable men we know.  That was the good news to the vacation plan.

The challenging flipside to the plan was that because of the time of year, our children were still in school. Unfortunately we didn’t make that connection until after plane tickets had been purchased.  Seriously…what parent “accidentally” takes their third grader out of school for 9 days of school so they can go on vacation?  Me, the bad parent sitting over here.  You should have seen Josh’s and my faces when we made the connection.  A great photojournalism opportunity there. 

In the end the plan worked out beautifully.  The family had unforgettable times on the beach in Florida with the guys (including daily mass with 5 concelebrants), Josh and I got to experience a wonderful Symposium at Notre Dame while the children enjoyed grandparent time, and Oscar’s teacher and school were incredibly accomodating.  He brought all his books with us and worked a little each day.  In the end, I suppose it was a little flavor of home schooling for him.

The universality of this fine-tuned, twenty-first century version of family bonding got thrown into crystal clear relief for me when we were on our last leg of the journey home to Portland.  Sweet Simon (4) was doing a super job on the plane, enjoying some cartoons on the direct TV in the headrest in front of him.  They had already illuminated the fasten seatbelt sign for our decent and the turbulence had started, when he turns to me and says, “Mommy, I’m going to throw up.”  Now, how many generations of mothers have had exactly the same experience with a young child?  Maybe it was in a car instead of a plane, or even a covered wagon for that matter (we do live in Oregon).  But is family life so very different now? 

How did it end? Well, I couldn’t pull the plane over and open the door for him and I couldn’t even get up and take him to the bathroom.  But I did manage to grab the motion sickness bag before he started…and then another (that’s right, for a total of three bags)…and Josh managed to get in our stowed carry-on for the wet wipes, handing them to me across the aisle and taking filled bags in exchange.  When all was said and done, there wasn’t a spot on any of us and Simon turned to me and said, “Ok Mommy, I feel better.”  That’s what I call a successful family vacation.

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What I Learned in the Ice Bucket Challenge

What I Learned in the Ice Bucket Challenge

The “ice bucket challenge” is flooding the internet, and I knew it was just a matter of time until it reached me. I could see it closing in through our circles of friends and family. It arrived this week when my sister challenged me to participate.

 

I’ve been pondering what my response would be to this challenge. The basic premise is that a person either donates $100 to support research to fight ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), or donates $10 and dumps a bucket of ice water over their head to raise awareness. The participant then “calls out” others by publicly asking for their participation within 24 hours.

 

The whole phenomenon began early this past spring with a social media-based charity fundraising challenge to jump into freezing cold water. The ALS Association commandeered the bandwagon this summer when it morphed into a much safer ice bucket dump, and has raised more than $50 million, not to mention the public awareness of the disease from these viral videos.

 

(A little investigation reveals that the ALS Association supports research that uses embryonic stem cells, which is problematic. Many people are responding to the challenge by donating to institutions that fight disease with research that uses adult stem cells, such as the John Paul II Medical Research Institute: http://www.jp2mri.org.)

 

Lou Gehrig, the best first baseman to play baseball, was forced to retire at age 36 when he was struck with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The disease causes the deterioration of motor neurons, which control voluntary and involuntary muscle movement throughout the body. Muscle atrophy from the illness leads to paralysis and death.

 

Ice Bucket Challenge videos are captivating because it is fun to see how people we know react to the cold water dousing. It is also attractive to witness and be a part of a social movement that supports a worthy cause.

One reason for the success of the campaign is the public pressure it creates to follow through. Our whole family had been called out, and I felt like our whole circle of extended family and friends were watching to see if we’d participate—many of them completed the challenge, after all.

 

Something in me bristled at submitting to public pressure, and I wanted to be sure that our kids came away from this experience with the strength to follow their own convictions, whatever they are. The whole point, after all, is awareness and support for an important cause, so I talked with them about ALS, described the disease and the campaign, and encouraged them to respond to the challenge in a thoughtful way.

 

I laid out their options: They could just ignore it (a perfectly fine response that Stacey opted for—she’s not one to be pressured into anything). They could follow through and participate with a dousing and donation to raise awareness for ALS. Or they could use the opportunity to support or raise awareness about another cause they feel strongly about.

 

At bottom, the Ice Bucket Challenge earns the undivided attention of people in one’s social network who are watching for the payoff: a freezing-cold soaking. This is a privileged platform for our voice to be heard, so it should not be taken lightly. What a great opportunity to help our children learn about social action.

 

What did we end up doing? Watch here and see:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TslKGhg8f2g&list=UUmn5ZlSNS–S4oO6cQHQ7Zg

 

 


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