Our First Vacation as The Freelen Five.

Two weeks ago we headed for what would ultimately become one of our biggest, most stressful, crazy, sweetest adventures to date. Our first vacation as a complete family- in an old beat up truck, a camper, and two dogs on the beach in Texas.

I was convinced nothing could go wrong… Until we got about an hour and a half from our destination.

It had been a decent drive. We had driven through intense rainstorms with the excitement of getting to the beach masking any stress we felt. Our children had been road trip warriors, hardly asking too much of us. Just a mile before our turn off the interstate the truck refused to go into the next gear, bringing us to a speed of forty-five, then thirty-five, then twenty-five miles an hour on the highway outside of Houston.

We limped into the auto parts store of the next town just minutes before they closed and attempted to fix the problem. The problem wasn’t fixed but we were determined to get to the campsite.

Nine hours after our departure we landed in our spot that was supposed to only be five hours away. We quickly set up our camper and took our girls just to get a glimpse of the beach as the last light began to fade.

The next morning, we ate breakfast and gave our girls their first beach experience. All three of them loved it. They played in the water without fear, dug through the sand, caught some waves with their life vests, and even our baby crawled toward the ocean every chance she got.

Throughout the week that is about all we did. After taking the truck to a reputable mechanic we were forced to spend our time at the beach or the camper. Stranded but thankful for the close walk to the sand.

We made the most of all we could and laughed at the comedy of errors.

Storms blew in bringing tornado warnings, flash flood warnings, and sixty mile an hour sustained winds to our campsite. All five of us huddled in bed while the wind threatened lift up our camper. Somehow all four members of my family slept through the chaos as I cried out to Jesus to calm the winds.

By Friday evening we had spent every day at the beach, dodged a few more storms, had picnics on camper beds, and looked for shells. That evening we finally got the truck back knowing there was still more to fix; however, we didn’t let that stop us. As the sun set we made our way to a recommended seafood restaurant, once again making the best of it.

Saturday was our original departure date, but due to the truck we were given an extra day to attempt the journey home. That morning we got up, headed for the surf, and found ourselves quickly walking back as a storm blew in around us. Not wanting to be cooped up in a camper for our last day, we decided to grab some ice cream until the storm passed. After ice cream we decided to take the ferry over to Galveston to enjoy a few hours of sight-seeing. The girls loved the Rain Forest Cafe ride, while their daddy and I cringed every time they touched an item in our favorite beach store Murdoch’s. We watched the birds on the beach, appreciated the beauty of the evening, and took a few photos. As the vacation drew to a close, we watched dolphins jump and swim around us on the ferry back to Crystal Beach.

As parents, the trip was a mix of sweet, simple, frustrating, scary, and chaotic. The things we meticulously planned for ahead of our trip didn’t go right. But to our girls, this was the trip of their life. More than once they remarked “This is the best day of my life!” And those words alone made it all worth it.

While we didn’t get to explore and do as much as we wanted- we were given the gift of simplicity and ingenuity. We simply made the best of our situation. We sang songs when the storms scared us, we walked along the houses instead of driving to the beach, we spent time playing, coloring, and exploring more then we spent time hopping from place to place.

The next day, Mother’s Day, at 4 am we started our journey home. By 8 am we hadn’t even made it 70 miles. Thankfully, my in-laws were swift to action and close enough to help us home. It was a long day, and certainly not the picture perfect Mother’s Day, yet I finally went to sleep in my bed overwhelmingly grateful for all the people surrounding us with help, and still grateful for some time away with my family.

It was the vacation of errors. It was the vacation of making the best of it. It was the vacation to remember for a lifetime.

I can’t wait to go back next year.