Colonial Calamities


Years ago we took the boys to The Kennedy Space Center. We followed their cries of “Wook! Wook at dis!” laughing and capturing pictures behind them. It was such a blast, we decided to go back the next year. I anticipated a repeat of the year before, but it wasn’t like that at all. Instead of “Wook, Mommy! Wook!” they said, “Oh, yeah. I remember that,” and kept on walking. 

Lesson learned: The first time is the best time. 

My favorite part of any vacation is the novelty and discovery of new things. The only thing that can compete with that is watching my children discover new things. When they cry out in joy and delight and immerse themselves in a new experience, it sends me over the top. Especially if I can get pictures or video of it all, so I can enjoy it again when I have time to slow down and take it all in.

So, I told Mike I didn’t want to repeat any vacations after that one, and he agreed. Novelty floats his boat, too. This was all great until I causually mentioned that the MOMYS (Mothers of Many Young Siblings) were taking reservations for the annual Williamsburg Retreat. I shouldn’t have brought it up at the dinner table. The children pounced on the idea and begged to go back. They waxed nostalgic about the first time we went, how wonderful, how perfect, how fun it had been. How they had made friends there and had longed for six endless years to go back, have another parkinglot picnic, and throw cheetos at the sea gulls with their old buddies. 

We caved. 

It was a good price. Really, an unbelievable deal. The MOMYS had already planned out the activities for each day, all expenses included. Our old friends who fed the sea gulls had also signed up. And, we would drive right by the house of one of my dearest friends, who would open up her home to us and feed us on both legs of the trip. Maybe this time would be just as good as the last, or even better...

The week before we left, David came home for his Spring Break, and I made appointments for him and Paul to have their wisdom teeth removed. The boys were understandably grouchy after this. David expressed disappointment that his Spring Break did not match up with the retreat and told me that he would have gotten himself a costume if he could have joined us. Paul spent an entire paycheck on a Colonial military costume. It didn't surprise anyone that he wanted a costume, he has always been into that, but we were surprised by how much he wanted it. 

He came into my room all dressed up, with his rustic mountian man shirt underneath. 

“Hmm…that shirt isn’t quite right,” I said.

“I know! I need a Colonial shirt with ruffles, but I don’t have time to get one,” he lamented.

While he was at work, I whipped up a cravat out of his great-great grandmother’s ruffled bedroom curtain. I tied it around the neck of his shirt and left it on his bed. When he found it, he was delighted.

The wisdom teeth removal depressed him, though. His face swelled up like chipmunk cheeks and he accused me of ruining his vacation, and his whole life, by scheduling this two days before we left. 

This was the only day the oral surgeon had available, and we were fortunate to get them both in. But his attitude stretched my patience a bit too much. I craned my neck, looked him in the eyes and said, “I am NOT ruining your life. I am looking out for you. You needed this done because they were impacted and would only get worse. And by scheduling this now, I have saved you from missing another week of martial arts. You will be fine by Monday.”

“I AM missing a week of martial arts,” he growled.

“You would have missed two. Vacation week, and another week to recover.”

Realization dawned in his eyes, but he did not apologize. I’m telling you, this boy has ruined at least two years of my life. 

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Only two not smiling.

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But we are smiling and did not yell at anyone…  (I have witnesses)

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...even though someone put a rubber snake in the overhead compartment where Mike keeps his sunglasses, and it attacked before we left the driveway.

So we dropped Chance at the kennel and David at college, spending the first night with Marie and her family. Everybody picked a best friend and cuddled up, except Paul, who could not talk, but he got a milkshake. 

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We did not get enough talking, because there were too many interruptions, and I suspect certain teenagers wanted to know what we were talking about. They would have nothing to worry about if they treated us right and didn’t give us so much material to discuss.

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The children slept in weird places like under the stairs and in closets, just like they do at home. I’m glad to know my children are not the only odd ones in the world. We feel more normal knowing there are others like us.

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I woke up to the sound of sizzling and found Marie’s eight year old alone in the kitchen cooking bacon with style. I felt right at home.

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Twenty of us.

This requires three packages of bacon.


We arrived in Williamsburg too late to participate in any of the activities on Sunday, but we got an early start on Monday. I had expected to begin at the Visitor’s Center and walk all the way through, like we did last time, but Mike went to the Dad’s Breakfast, then we all went on a Colonial Life tour with the MOMYS private tour guide, and this changed it all up. Paul, Victoria, and Hope wore their costumes. 

As we walked together Paul said, “No one would guess these were my work shoes…  polished with hamburger grease and tartar sauce. Sabom Nim says these shoes are weapons!”

Hope sighed, “Who cares about your shoes?”

“Hope! Haven’t you ever heard about dancing ’til midnight, then running away and leaving your shoe?” Victoria asked. “It’s what you have to do if you want to get a boyfriend.”

“Ahem,” Grace interjected, “I’m afraid that method is not very reliable.”

“Yeah, but...” Ethan laughed, “it tends to attract princes."

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Paul perked up, as I had predicted, but Grace felt tired and wanted to rest when we went into one of the Museums. Paul gallantly sat with her while we explored the gift shop and the exhibit about Colonial style hospital care. 

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It’s best not to get sick in Colonial times.

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This was the hospital, NOT the jail. Jail is worse, but not much.

On the walk back to the house, Victoria’s old fashioned shoes suddenly incapacitated her, and again, Paul gallantly rescued another ailing sister. Paul does have many admirable character qualities. 

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That evening we went to the All Together Get Together, which was the only mandatory fun for the whole week. We shared a Mexican potluck and danced. We did not expect Paul or Grace to dance, but they surprised us and danced all night. The little ones danced, then played in the yard with the other younger children. Only Jonathan refused to have fun of any kind. He is thirteen, so I think I understand. I handed him one of the cameras and told him to help me document the vacation. 

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Mike gets down with Colonial boogie.

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Hope never stopped moving.

Paul realized non skid shoes are not conducive to dancing.

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Duck Duck Goose in the yard.

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Hide and Seek with her BFFs.

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Even proper young ladies need to hang out by themselves sometimes.

The next day, our good times came to an end. I woke up with a headache and felt like throwing up. I felt so extremely nauseated that I wondered if I was pregnant, and so could not in good conscience take anything for it. Despite my protests, Mike had taken a $100 bribe to listen to a sales pitch for a time share, and it absorbed the entire morning. We did not buy a time share, and I am not pregnant, but I was not feeling well at all. 

More than anything I wanted to go back to the house or lie down on a bench right in the middle of Williamsburg, and I would have, if it would not have called attention to myself. So I sat down, looked down, and tried not to think about puking. Paul and Hope wandered off in one direction, and Mike and the others in another, while I inwardly wailed because I was missing it all and we weren’t having fun, and weren’t having fun together.

I blamed what I thought was a "bad mood" on my unmet expectations. I told myself, This is what happens when you go back to the same vacation spot. Nothing is right. I am a wimp for wanting to cry over a headache and a barfy feeling, and a spoiled brat for not being happy. 

Then the Excedrin kicked in, my headache faded somewhat, and I managed to drag myself around the rest of the day. Mike thought I was upset that we did not start at the visitor’s center and walk all the way through like we did last time, and to be fair I did tell him I thought we should have, so he took us back so we could start over and do it right. 

We walked by the gift shop and an adorable red shirt, designed to look like a Colonial military uniform, jumped out at me. This would be perfect for the little boys, since they did not have costumes, so I popped in and bought two. When I rejoined the others and pulled the shirts out of the bag they all gasped and said, “You bought red coats? We can’t wear those!” Lucky for me, they also had blue shirts, which were almost as cute. I do like red, though. (I know, I know.)

By that evening, I felt well enough to make it to the Round Robin Dinner and host a dessert. I wasn’t feeling great, but good enough to fake it, especially with people who don’t know me and can’t tell the difference. I still thought my blah feeling was due to the repeat vacation. 

After dinner, Paul joined the other teens at the pavilion and danced. He said, “I thought maybe we would dance one or two dances, then someone would bring out their phone and we would look at YouTube, but no, they kept on dancing and dancing. They really like dancing.” He came home well after midnight, but he had both his shoes. 

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The next morning Victoria awakened me with the news that she and Grace had vomited. I sent her back to bed, then shortly afterwards I heard Grace call from downstairs in a very needy tone, “Mommy! I need Mommy!” I couldn’t remember the last time Grace was needy, so I rushed downstairs to find her standing in the hall crying, “I puked all over the floor and the wall. I tried to clean it up, but when I bent over and smelled it, it made me throw up again…"

I sent her back to bed and cleaned it up, joking with Paul that I was so glad we had not eaten spaghetti the night before. Obviously, I was back to normal. But Grace had it bad. She is leary of our natural remedies for minor illnesses and usually opts to go through the entire sickness without treatment, rather than drink a nasty tasting concoction and get it over with. 

Mike took the boys to a militia drill, Grace almost passed out in the shower, Victoria got dressed to go to the Mother Daughter Tea Party, then climbed back into bed. So Hope and I went to tea alone. 

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That afternoon Victoria mustered the energy to get dressed again and wanted to explore the town with us. Grace turned toward the wall and cried, too tired to get out of bed, and missing everything. 

Paul had seen a hair extension in one of the shops and convinced us to go back for it. Made of real hair and sporting multiple long ringlets, he thought it was worth the $35. He tried it on and it matched his own hair perfectly. Sadly, it was really $235.

 “Oops,”he said. “I thought the two was the dollar sign.” So we put it back and did not get a picture. He might try growing his own hair extension for free. He has a good start already.

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Get used to disappointment, boys.

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Stay away from the hard cider. It is not the same as apple juice.

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Hope talked Mike into buying her a souvenir and we overheard someone passing us say, “That won’t get old on the trip home."

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In the Governor’s garden Victoria found a quiet bench to rest on where she would not make a spectacle of herself. We casually mentioned how badly we hoped she would get over the plague quickly this time and the doe eyed teenagers waiting for us to leave melted into the background.

Mike, on the other hand, continually looked for opportunities to make mischief. The children had to put us in the stocks for too much monkey business.

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This did not deter him at all.

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Mercy! How will I ever live this down?


By the next day, Grace had not recovered, but Victoria was almost good as new, so we joined our MOMYS tour guide at the Jamestown settlement. Paul saw Mike and I whispering before we walked into Indian territory and asked what we were talking about.

“You don’t want to know,” I told him. (It was truly none of his business.)

He huffed and walked away. A few minutes later I saw Jonathan and my heart twanged, knowing that he would not be so sweet for much longer. I gave him a long hug and whispered that I loved him so much, and that he was one of my most favorite children. Paul stomped up to us and demanded, “What did she say? Did she tell you the secret?”

“No!” Jonathan replied bewildered. “But she loves me the most."

Paul scowled. “What then? What did you say?” he demanded again.

“I was just affirming him before he gets The Puberty and thinks we are trying to ruin his life.”

“Humph,” Paul snorted, squinting and glancing at Jonathan, “She’s lying."

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Making dinner. It is going to take awhile.

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I believe you can order these rush mats from Oriental Trading Company.

Free shipping on orders over $39!


“Oh, look!” I said. "Last time we were here they had a dugout canoe. It looks like they are making another one. What a lot of work!"

“We must help them!” Victoria said, enthusiastically scraping the log with an oyster shell and bringing volunteers with her. 

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Last time the boys put on the armor and bravely protected the fort with their own muskets. This time, they tried on the armor and said cheese.

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Ethan and Hope kept asking to borrow my camera.

It IS an interesting wall.

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I was chatting with the blacksmith, who was just inside the door. I loved his cottage, but he told me it usually smelled bad and was filled with hungry men. I don’t think I’ll stay.

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I don’t remember a thing this one said.


We mosied over to the tiny ships the Jamestown settlers traveled on and marveled.

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Over 70 people traveled across the ocean in something about like this.

So cozy.

I don’t know why they weren’t BFFs by the time they landed.

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Tiny table.

Tiny berths.

I wonder what the rations were like.

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Tiny bed.

This bed belonged to the captain. 

He got it all to himself, but the room is not much bigger than the bed.

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This is amidships and you can see a coffin like structure behind the colorful sailor (who is a politically correct but historically incorrect girl). The wooden box is a bed for regular people, two at a time and is about the size of a baby crib.

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The staff (sailors) slept in these berths, two to a berth, but not at the same time. 

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Heave ho!


We had time to go back to the Art Museum and to get gas before the King’s Ball. 

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This doll house is big enough to climb into.

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This outfit is kind of what I was going for when I made Victoria’s costume. 

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At the King’s Ball.

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I borrowed a dress and felt ridiculous all night. 

Mike bought a hat and enjoyed being ridiculous.

On the morning of the last full day Jonathan greeted everyone with an epiphany, “Hey everybody! I figured out why it is so cold in Virginia! The thermostat was set to 65! I jacked it up to 80. I was so cold last night.” He shivered in his fleece jacket.

That’s right. The Floridians will fix Virginia. May it never be cold again! (Would you believe it snowed after we left? The maids must have turned the thermostat back down.)

Grace still felt puny, but she got dressed anyway. After she spent two full days in bed, we didn’t want to go to Yorktown without her. On the way there Ethan called from the back seat, “Quick, quick, somebody! Pass me a barf bag!” and he yacked neatly into it. “I threw up last night, too,” he added.

“What? Why didn’t you tell me?”

“You didn’t ask.” He shrugged and grinned.

He didn’t have much energy afterwards, so we found a bench and he lay his head in my lap and fell asleep. We hadn’t noticed it yet, but Jonathan’s health also steadily declined as the day wore on.

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Jonathan and Victoria sat listening to the tour guide for awhile, then they lay down on a bench as well. Our guide explained how General Washington attacked the Hessians the day after Christmas, when they were all hung over. “Does anyone know what a hangover is?” he asked. 

“When you hang your head?” a young homeschooled child guessed.

“It is severe dehydration,” a teen offered.

Everyone laughed. 

“Parents, will you forgive me for telling your children what a hangover is? (haha- they have to learn sometime) It’s when you stay up too late, drink too much, get severely dehydrated (nodding to the one who mentioned this), and wake up with a very bad headache and nausea.”

“Ewwww,” the good children murmured. 

“Oh... that’s what’s wrong with us,” Grace whispered weakly. “All the kids in our family have hangovers. Except Paul."

The rest of our group got up and moved on. 

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Grace lay down on another bench. 

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But Paul enjoyed himself, very much. His vacation was not ruined at all. 

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Then Jonathan propped himself halfway up on his elbow, threw up in the grass, spat, and lay down again. About this time a friend texted me to say she would be in town (in FL) on Saturday and maybe we could meet up. I texted her the pictures of sick children above, and we laughed together via text, because what else can you do?

Then another tourist group came and sat down, so we had to move into the museum. Jonathan and Ethan rested on every bench we passed. We took them to the car and drove to a certain redoubt Mike had to see. Paul had gone on a walk with his new friends, and lacking boys, Mike turned to the girls and said, “Girls! Let me take your picture next to this mortar!”

“Not yet, Daddy, we have to make it pretty first!” Hopesie said, picking dandelions and tucking them in crevices.

“C’mon!” Mike wheedled, “You can pretend you are camp followers!”

“Uh-Mike, aren’t those…prostitutes?”

Sigh. “Yeah…I guess we don’t want to pretend that…”

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Victoria sighed and said, “The only good thing about Yorktown is these nice hills.” But she had no energy to play on them. 

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Paul joined us in the car right after Ethan retched again. Mike asked,”Does anyone want lunch? Jonathan, do you feel up to sushi?”

No answer from the farthest back seats. 

Grace said, “Daddy, the people who regurgitated should not eat for six hours. It’ll just be wasted. I kinda tested it…”

“Grace!”

“You know… science,” she explained with a shrug and a grin.

Ethan heaved into his bag.

“It sounds like he is burping,” Grace observed. 

Ethan looked up and giggled, “I’m barping. It’s both.”

Victoria sighed, “Why do we always get sick on vacation?”

Paul asked, “Daddy, do you think I can get a ride with someone so I can go dancing on the green?”

“I'm surprised boys like dancing,” Victoria said. “It’s such a girl thing. Can we Face Time Chance at the kennel?" 

(BARP from the back seats)

“We probably should all get souvenir barf bags,” she continued matter-of-factly.

Mike turned around and said, “Ethan, did you barf IN the bag? Good boy!”

“You have ‘carfing’ skills,” Grace laughed. “You know, barfing in the car.”

“Daddy, if I had two crackers, my tummy would be filled. That’s how hungry I am,” Victoria said.

Ethan came up for air. “I just want some gingerale.”

Mike went back into the museum and found a ride for Paul. When he rejoined us he waved a handful of plastic bags in the air and said, “I got souvenir barf bags for everyone. I asked the lady for a bunch of plastic bags and she gave me these little dinky ones. I said, ‘No, I need BIG bags. Big enough to barf in.’ She looked at me funny.” He couldn’t help laughing.

(If you are a big family, I know you are rolling on the floor right now, because you get it. Small families may think otherwise, but I tell you we are barf hardened. Life, like barf, goes on. And on. And on.)

Paul went off to dance with the pretty girls. We dropped Grace and the sick boys off at the house, and the rest of us went for a long walk that ended with some tea. We stopped at a garden and bought a bee skep, because I have secretly always wanted one, and it really was only $35. One of the interpreters asked Victoria and Hope to help him water the plants, because they “looked like they were dressed for the garden."

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"Tea with the girls" means cappuccino for Mike.

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Good advice, if we swap the coffee for tea.

We found Paul, caught a parade, heard Lafayette rouse the crowd, and saw some shooting.

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The band is five times the size of the army. 

If I didn’t know the end of the story, I might be concerned about priorities.

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On the evening of the last day, Hope suddenly became too sick to help pack. “But did you notice how she wasn’t too sick to run down the sidewalk to say goodbye to our friends?” Grace asked. 

Jonathan added, “Yeah, and she limped back, hahahaha!”

“Guys! Is this how you want people to treat you when you are sick?” Grace asked.

“Or faking?” I added, and we kept laughing.

We drove back to Marie’s house and Mike felt sick and went to bed early. The children ran in packs and we still didn’t really get to talk. 

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This was the one moment they weren’t actually running back and forth.

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Pete knows how to feed an army.

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Ethan threw up at Marie’s house after I went to bed. Grace woke me up to tell me and I found Marie cleaning the bathroom upstairs. 

“I got it,” she said cheerfully as she sprayed the toilet with Clorox, “I just wanted you to know about it, since he is a little one.” And we stood there in the barfy bathroom and laughed and laughed about vomit. Anything can be a party with the right people.

When we finally got home I looked around and said to Mike,“Our yard is more beautiful than anything I saw in Virginia. Why do we ever leave it?”

Paul began, “When we go back to Williamsburg next year…”

“Oh, no!” Ethan rushed from the dinner table, “I’m going to barf again!” 

The dog hunched his back and began heaving in sympathy, and we dragged him out the front door just in time to save the Turkish carpet from ruination.

Even though we loved seeing our friends, took many more lovely pictures than I have room to share here, and found something to laugh about all week, mostly keeping our sense of humor intact, I don’t ever want to do this vacation again.


March 2016

© Being Fruitful, 2012