We're back from vacation. We didn't plan very far ahead this year. A few weeks ago, we decided to find something through Government Employee Travel Opportunities--a great program, BTW, which we heartily recommend to anyone who's eligible (any kind of government employee, and you can extend the program to your families as well). We wanted to keep it fairly local, so as not to burn too much gas on the way there and back, so returned to Massanutten, about three hours away in VA. (We stayed there two years ago, the first time we tried this program.) It's a nice resort, and we knew the sleeping arrangements would suit our kids' needs. A major drawback is that you have to pay for just about anything you want to do there. Last year, we went to Williamsburg, and the resort we stayed at there had more stuff included in the price--miniature golf, arcades, etc. Of course, those were two of the activities Ian was really looking forward to, so we had to limit his fun. We did the timeshare "tour" (read: sales pitch) again, so we could afford the water park. They have a big indoor/outdoor water park--fun, but pricey. This year Ian was just tall enough to do everything, which meant we had to pay full price for him. The $100 we got for enduring the three-hour tour (not nearly as much fun as Gilligan's Island would lead you to believe) didn't quite cover the admission fee for one day. At least we maximized what we got out of it. We got there when they opened, and aside from a couple of breaks for meals, Julie and Ian were there pretty much the whole day. I stayed in the condo with Jenna for her second nap, which was fine with me.
Anyway, it was a very relaxing time. I didn't bring a lot of reading material, so I could focus more on the kids and on spiritual preparation for chrismation. I'll give my confession this week, so I had some soul-searching to do for that. I also wanted to make sure I kept a regular prayer rule throughout the vacation, when a lot of other routine was out the window. I didn't attend a service on Sunday, but I did make it to vespers for the Ascension. There appear to be three Orthodox parishes, all about an hour's drive from the resort. The Russian parish wasn't having a service because the priest was away; that left a Greek parish and a Ukrainian. I heard back first from the Ukrainian priest, and it seemed more likely to be an English service.
It was a beautiful drive down and back, alongside the mountains. A strong storm came through during the service, which left fog visibly resting on the slopes as I returned. Julie said it hit the resort earlier in the evening, but we got it toward the end. The power went out at the very moment that the service ended. (I thought they were just very prompt about turning out the lights at the end, until someone commented on it in the narthex.) The parish has been there about ten years. The priest and his wife are Carpatho-Rusyn and found the Ukrainian bishop to be the most cooperative about starting a new parish for non-Greeks in the area. I had a good talk with both of them after the service. I also met someone who lives in Harrisonburg, up by the resort. I think it's bad to have to travel 35 min. each way to church; they've got to run closer to an hour each way! With gas prices climbing, I don't want to think about it . . .
The service was very refreshing and a great way to keep me going through the week. In my spare time, I also worked on learning how to crochet. I've been thinking for some time about trying to learn some kind of hand craft. It comes up a lot in ascetic literature, not only as a source of income for the desert fathers, but more importantly to keep productive and awake while praying. For my circumstances, none of the more traditionally "manly" crafts seems to make much sense. I don't have the kind of work space for serious woodworking or anything like that. Even basket weaving seems to require some room to spread out, and it's not very portable. Whittling might be an option, but it's pretty much an outdoor activity (and it doesn't look like I'm going to have much of a porch for it any time soon). So, for compact, portable, do-almost-anywhere crafts, it's hard to beat crocheting. Even knitting requires a bit more equipment and elbow-room. I have no idea yet what I'd make with it--right now, my interest is more in the activity than the end product. I have one skein of yarn (black, of course--there has to be something masculine about it) and one hook to start. This week I muddled my way through some written instructions. Hopefully I can get some input soon from someone who actually knows what they're doing, before I establish too many bad habits. (I know both my mom and my Godmother crochet, so help is there.)
I guess those are the highlights from my standpoint. We went some places, saw some stuff, did some things. Ian said constantly how much he liked being on vacation. He also said he liked being home when we got back today, so it seems like a good balance. Jenna found the condo to be suitable for rolling, but it seemed like most of our outings involved harder surfaces than she really cared for. She might have enjoyed eating gravel, if I hadn't intervened. She started freaking out a few minutes from home. Julie sang "Twinkle Twinkle" over and over (backed up by Ian), until she was gasping for air and everyone was laughing. Even with that, it took Jenna quite a while to calm down, but we made it, safe and sound.
Oh, and one nice thing. Julie was rear-ended a couple of weeks back, and to keep a long story short, we couldn't get the car into the shop for repairs until this week. We were able to drop it on Saturday, it was fixed by Friday, and we can pick it up any time now. Part of the week's rental is covered by insurance, so at minimal cost we got to spare the extra wear on our own car and drive someone else's. If we play our cards right, we'll even get to drive separately to church tomorrow, so I can get in one more service before the chrismation. Woo hoo!