How do I even begin to start naming the ways I am thankful?
First, and foremost, I am thankful for Thomas, healthy and strong, who is alive and celebrating this day. Last January, the future was clouded and dark and we really didn’t know how many holidays we would have together. How can we be thankful enough for his life and health? It is overwhelming. Included in the thankfulness for Thomas’ life is our continued thankfulness for the Lord’s faithfulness through this journey and His unending mercy. Never, even if we said it every second for the rest of our lives, could we ever name our thankfulness for His love.
In the wake of our recent trip to Hawaii, I am also incredibly thankful to Make-A-Wish for their generosity and thoughtfulness in sending our family to Hawaii. It was a trip to be savored and enjoyed, each moment a gift we will remember for many years. Yes, it was fabulous. We are generally adventure travelers, more comfortable in the stinking markets of Cambodia than the upscale world of Waikiki but how can one be unhappy in a place where it is 83 degrees everyday and the beach is always warm and inviting? It must be said that travel can only be somewhat relaxing when traveling with six children. Somehow, the six children are still there when lying on the beach and wanting to quietly read a book; they don’t magically disappear. But once the expectation that one will lie quietly on the beach and have uninterrupted sleep is dispensed with, one is free to not be disappointed and annoyed with all of the bubbling life and excitement brought by the six children 🙂 Mark and I had a moment of panic when Titus woke up at 5:30 the morning after we arrived and would not go back to sleep. We looked at each other, wondering which one would get up and take the screaming baby out of the room, and both agreed this would be the vacation from hell if Titus decided to do this every morning.
Mark got up and took Titus, Theo and Mercedes, who were now all awake, out on the streets of Waikiki in their pajamas and proceeded to have the “best morning of their lives” according to Mercedes. They went swimming in the ocean and tromped around the city, drinking orange juice and eating pastries. They will be appearing in the home videos of many Japanese tourists who thought their antics and their outfits worthy of documentation. Thankfully, so thankful, Titus eventually figured out Hawaii time and woke up at 6:30 the rest of the trip which felt like a real treat after the 5:30 wake up call the first morning.
We ate breakfast on the beach just about every morning which was a treat for me. I can never get enough of the lapping of the waves and the smell of the salt and the sun gently rising over all of it. Sipping coffee and watching my kids happily jump in the waves over and over and over again was worth the entire trip. Our kids thought the fresh pineapple and breakfast sandwiches from Starbucks were the height of all possible treats so we were all happy.
It is nice to know people in lots of different places; we ended up seeing my nephew Samuel and his wife Rosalie, my sister Michele and her husband, Greg and our friend and former violin teacher, Ellie. Mark and I agreed – knowing people in the places we visit makes the trip more meaningful and rich. We visited Pearl Harbor with Michele and Greg and Theo renewed his adoration for Uncle Greg. He would not be parted from Greg’s side and seemed to grasp the big ideas of Pearl Harbor as related by Greg, and wanted to know why we weren’t killing the ‘bad guys’ anymore. Thomas was fascinated by the whole story and wanted to spend many more hours than we did touring the site. We ended the day with a windy picnic on the beach, watching the para-surfers (?) glide over the waves.
Wednesday brought snorkeling and one of the highlights of the trip for all of us – snorkeling with dolphins. We all went out on the boat, even Titus and Theo, and the guides were gracious enough to watch the littles while Mark and I got into the water. We went in search of a dolphin pod and found a group of nearly one hundred. We jumped in the water as they swam past. Amazing! They are beautiful animals and even the kids on the boat enjoyed watching the dolphins jump and spin.
Our activities centered around the ocean which challenged both Mark’s and my opinions of the ocean. I think we both held a certain fear of the immensity and power of the ocean. I can safely say I have never desired to sail or boat for extended periods of time, probably because I get seasick but also because the ocean kind of scares me. We paddled canoes out on the ocean with our friend, Ellie and Thomas, Mark and Sophia got to sail with Ellie’s friends. Thomas was definitely bitten by the sailing bug and said without a doubt, sailing was his favorite part of the trip. He even got to be the skipper of the sailboat for a time and tried his hand at sailing the boat through the waves. Riding the waves on the beach was another favorite moment for me. The little kids stayed high on the beach as the powerful waves crashed into the sand but the big kids and we loved the huge waves sweeping over us. I also enjoyed walking everywhere which I don’t think my kids shared. We tramped around Waikiki from top to bottom and from side to side. One misses so much in a car, I insisted, and what is the point of being in a city if you don’t walk around it and see it in all its parts? We came across an art fair, farmer’s market and lots of little stands we would have missed except for being on foot.
I think we all found a deeper love for the ocean and water in general. The kids have plans for us to paddle our own family canoe and Thomas is wondering when we are going to get a sailboat. Right after we buy that BMW, we informed him 🙂 The entire trip we thanked Make-A-Wish again and again. After every meal I didn’t have to cook and when we returned to the hotel room and all the beds were made and when we drove around the island in a car provided by Make-A-Wish, their praise was ever on our lips. We thanked our friend Ellie, again and again, for all of her efforts to feed us and help us enjoy our stay as much as we could. She provided us with all of those things that are expensive to buy for just one trip – maps, books, beach toys and blankets and she fed us, all eight of us, two times! Not for the faint of heart!
It felt restorative and peaceful and every time I watched Thomas run, or jump or swim my heart welled-up with so much thanks for the boy who is here today. Mark was looking at pictures from Thomas with no hair and a feeding tube and marveling that it is almost hard to remember him like that. Thankfulness again and again….
Pictures still to come…