Investing in Us

  We had a weekend away. It's always a hard balance for me.  I want to be frugal with money and a wise steward of what we have, and yet, there are things that we choose to spend money on that are more than what they seem.  We do without a lot of things that most people see as necessities (or at least understood as "deserved" wants). We choose to have no cable.  Starbucks is a rare treat. An expensive meal out (for all of us!) is a total bill of $25.  Due to what we do and the size of our family, we have to be careful with our money at every turn.  There isn't room to be frivolous. So it comes as a surprise to many that we often stay in hotels, just for the sake of staying in a hotel.  We will even do it in our own town. It may seem like an extravagant waste, and at times I don't let us enjoy it, but it is so much more than just paying for a hotel. It is investing in us.  Investing in who we are.  When we go away—get out of the house, truly relax, and focus on each other (instead of the things at home that vie for our attention)—we come back renewed, refreshed, and ready to dig our feet in and get started with "real life" once again with a fresh perspective and purpose.  When we go away, we invest not only in a hotel room but in our family's memories, our traditions, our children's sense of worth. We are building—piece by piece—an entire childhood for our kids.  We want them to have special memories  and "we always did that" recollections.  When they are older and have moved away from family, we want them to have something solid to think back on.  Our little tradition of staying in hotels is a part of that. It had been a while since we had done it.  The kids and Jason went a few weeks ago but we hadn't gone away as entire family since July. It was time.  We've had a long and rough few months around here and we needed some distance from "real life" and some time to just enjoy one another.  Time for being lazy, for swimming, for reading, for relaxing, and for talking about dreams and plans. I came back thinking, "We really need to do that more often." It may seem extravagant, but can you really put a price on family?

And now, our weekend in pictures (and a few words):

Our weekend actually started on Wednesday.  Jason had a half-day in school and so after he got home, we headed into town to do some grocery shopping (grocery shopping here is at least a 4-5 hour ordeal).  We were having a few friends over on Thursday for an early meal before they all left for Bali and we needed to pick up some things as well as do our regular weekly shopping. The next day, we cooked and prepared and welcomed our friends over for a simple Thanksgiving meal.  The kids were really hungry at this point and were doing their best to wait patiently.  I think the huge platter of cucumbers and carrots I put out ahead of time kept the smiles on their faces while they waited.     Our guests headed out for their trip and finally, it was just us.  We packed for our trip and were ready so that we could get up early the next day for our trip to Jakarta. Our first stop was for a doctor's appointment.  Afterward, we found our hotel (a new one for us) and played on the playground for a few hours and ate lunch while we waited for our room to be cleaned.  When we finally got to our 26th floor room, we were in awe of the view (and to be honest, a little bit nauseous!) Bethany needed to go down for a nap so Jason and the other kids headed to the pool.  Bethany must have known that everyone was having fun without her and therefore woke up from her nap very early.  So, off to the pool we went!   The next day, it was Jason's turn for the doctor and I stayed back with the kids.  We hung out, went to one of the three playgrounds, let the kids watch TV (they love going to Jakarta because "the TV's speak English!") The rest of the day was more swimming, more relaxing, more reading, and more resting. On Sunday, Jason and the kids headed back to the pool once again while I stayed with Bethany for her morning nap (and I finished a book I have been wanting to read since September!)  Before I put Bethany down, though, I snapped a few pictures of my girl. Don't mind the drool...she has three teeth coming in! And then, it was time to pack up.  Sad to leave, but excited to get back home and to routine. Only three weeks until Christmas break!  I tried to take a few more pictures of my beautiful eight-month-old. Then the other kids started popping in.  They love their baby sister! Might as well bring them all up on the bed! Lot's of good outtakes and no real keepers, but a pretty good representation of reality! As I look at these pictures and think back over the past few days, I am reminded once again how important it is to invest in us. Putting time and money into building memories, traditions, and family fun is far more valuable than spending money on more and more stuff. My very best memories of my childhood having nothing to do with any tangible gift I received or nice looking decoration in our home.  No, my best memories are the trips we took as a family.  The travelling, the squabbles in the car, the treats that were only for travelling (like McDonald's!), the hotel rooms,  and my dad's annoying music in the car (especially the opera that put us to sleep!)—those are the things that bring a smile to my face now. And so, as hard as it is sometimes to put money into something that appears to be temporal (a hotel room), I realize that the investment pays off in ways that I am only beginning to see the true rewards of. This Thanksgiving weekend, I am thankful for us.

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