We kicked off our first day of our visit with the Foxes by visiting the church where Jason serves as a pastor. We even got to hear J preach, which was a treat. He is such a talented teacher with a visible passion and a talent for making the word seem accessible and applicable. Brad and I truly enjoyed the opportunity to hear him teach.
After church, we headed back to the Fox den for a quick lunch and then we changed into lake clothes and headed out to Lake Cumberland. Jason's parents, Laura and Steve, had just purchased a brand-new houseboat that was due to be delivered that day. They graciously invited us all to join them for the "maiden voyage" of the boat across the lake. After a drive across the lake in the "runabout" (a very nice 22 foot Sea Ray ski boat), we boarded the "Restoration," a lovely 84-foot houseboat that had every comfort of home. Unfortunately, due to windy conditions, we decided not to take the new boat out that day--but we all enjoyed a chance to talk, catch up, and share a meal together (although Aubrey was in, what I fondly call, "birth control mode" that day). After another bumpy trek across the lake in the runabout, we loaded into our cars and headed back to the Fox Den.
The next couple of days, we romped and played in the pool, swimming and splashing the days away. Aiden and Stella played and fought and played and fought, pretending to be husband and wife one moment, then doctor and patient the next, then superhero and princess. Aubrey and Vivian alternated between fighting over toys and flat ignoring one another.
One evening, Brad and J went out to the lake to learn all about the new boat and help Laura and Steve get it settled into its new home at the marina, while Em and I stayed home with the kids. Aiden and Stella were playing in Stella's room and Aiden came out at one point, proudly wearing Stella's mary jane-style Crocs with some adorable white ankle socks. "Mom, look--Stella gave me these shoes to wear!" He was oblivious to the fact that they were girls shoes, and I didn't have the heart to tell him, so I smiled and told him they looked cute, and then went about chatting with Em. After dinner, we decided to take the kids to the park to run off some energy before bed. It wasn't until after we arrived and Aiden was running about the playground that I realized he was still wearing those girls' Crocs and ankle socks! Aiden and Stella ran about, I chased Aubrey and Em entertained Viv and we gals tried to fit in some conversation between running after the little ones.
But a little later, Stella come over to me: "Ms. Angela, Aiden wants his mommy." I looked up from chasing Aubrey and noticed Aiden sitting on a park bench by himself. I ran over to him and asked him if he was OK. Well, a very pale Aiden explained that his stomach hurt--he had gone too fast on the merry-go-round and didn't feel so well. I picked him up and carried him over the bench where Em and I had been sitting--and then Aiden proceeded to puke all over the ground in front of him. Stella was fascinated by the whole process, staring in wonder at the whole spaghetti noodles that had come up. I scraped up what puke I could with a discarded plastic cup that I found, then threw gravel over the rest of the vomit, and then rounded Aiden and Aubrey into the car. We headed back to the house, Aiden still feeling pukey, and Em took the girls inside to give them a bath while Aiden and I sat outside, waiting for the motion sickness to pass. A neighbor's cat come over to cheer Aiden up, rubbing against him and playfully batting at him. Even a firefly come to light on Aiden's hand, and before long, his color had returned and he was back to his rambunctious self. Even so, Stella couldn't resist asking repeatedly about Aiden and his red, noodle-y puke.
Wednesday, we headed to the lake for a few days on board the new houseboat. We arrived, unloaded the cars (my goodness, the amount of stuff we had to take for just a few days at the lake with 4 kids!), and then settled in. We decided to stay at the marina the first night, with the threat of severe weather on the horizon, and then voyage on out to the lake the next day, where we found a quiet, calm lagoon to park the boat for the duration of our stay at the lake.
The next few days were a blur of tantrums and laughter, swimming and playing, napping and exhaustion. We all had a great time, but the kids were in rare form. It was a symphony of crying, whining and tantrums, with one child starting out, their screams reaching a fevered pitch, and another one joining in as the first wore out. If they were awake, they were making some sort of noise it seemed, whether it was talking, making annoying noises, fighting, screaming, or crying. Each night, after they went to bed, the grownups would sigh and crash on the couch--and then begin pouring mojitos or popping open beers and chatting the night away, catching up and laughing and enjoying time with good friends. By Friday, we were all at our wits end and the adults were on the verge of having their own meltdowns. It had been a fun time, but even though the houseboat was very large, it seemed tiny by the end of four days with 4 kids on board!
Laura and Steve met us at the lake that last day for dinner at the marina restaurant that is managed by "Mr. Sonny," a young man from India that the Fox family has taken in as one of their own. After sharing a meal and turning over the boat to them, we began loading up to head home. But then we realized that Laura and Steve, who had bought a new recliner for the houseboat, weren't going to be able to load the recliner from the runabout to the houseboat by themselves. So Em and Jason decided to stay, ride out, and help them off-load it, then meet us back at the house. Stella piled in the van with Brad and I, and J and Emily took Viv with them. We parted ways, returned home, and got the kiddos bathed and in bed. Later we got a call from Jason and Emily: apparently, none of us had realized that the houseboat, which was still tied to land out in the middle of the lake, was almost completely out of gas! So Jason and Emily had to stick around to help Laura and Steve untie the boat and take it back to the marina to fill up with gas. But then they realized that the water level of the lake had dropped while we were out, meaning that the giant houseboat's front was stuck on land! They ended up having to tie the runabout to the houseboat and pull it off the land. Then they had to try to cross the lake, at night, with an empty fuel tank! The ended up running out of gas, having to have a refueling boat bring them gas out on the water, then continue in to the marina to fuel up. When they finally got back to the marina after the fiasco, it was after 1:00 AM and Viv was sound asleep, so they decided to just camp out on the boat and head back in the morning.
When they returned in the morning, we were all bummed that our last night 'together' had been spent apart. But while we loaded the van and prepared to leave, Aiden and Stella began playing together better than they had all week, pretending to be a married couple. Aiden was a secret-agent-turned-baseball coach, Stella was a mommy and dance teacher, and the two went shopping together and played together and even went on a "beachside vacation" to the pool together. They were adorable, hosting tea parties and playing together. And while they pretended together, Emily decided to "Fox-ify" Aubrey by giving her pigtails and two giant hair bows--she looked adorable! (And I still have no idea how she got her to be still for that long!)
Saying goodbye to the Foxes was the hardest part of our trip. There were a lot of tears in our eyes that afternoon as we pulled away from their home. Even Aubrey was sad, saying "MeMe! MeMe!" (her name for Emily) as we drove away. But the great thing about friends like the Foxes: no matter how far apart we are or how infrequent we may see one another, when we get together again, we'll just pick up where we left off, like no time has passed at all.