You never know when a simple outing can turn into an adventure, as was the case for a trip to the lake house a couple of weeks ago. Samuel had won a county competition with 4-H for a project he did on white tigers. When we went to the county meeting and he won first place, we were given some paperwork for the next level of the competition - that would take place at Rock Eagle 4-H center. Samuel was so excited, but he begged me to go along as a chaperon. Now don't get me wrong - I love kids, and I love nature, and I was a 4-H member myself in the fifth grade. But something about a 2.5 hour bus ride with fifty 5th and 6th graders, and a handful of acne-covered high school kids as "counselors" just didn't appeal to me. Not to mention getting up at 5 am to catch a school bus. "I have an idea," I told Samuel, "I will see if someone will cover my shift at work that weekend. We can go up on Friday and spend the night at the lakehouse. It's just a short trip to Rock Eagle, so we won't have to get up at 5 am. We can have breakfast out, and go meet your classmates at the competition." Samuel thought this was an enchanted idea. He bugged me nonstop until I had emailed the 4-H office to make arrangements, and had found a staff member to work for me for part of the weekend. For two weeks, we talked about our trip, and how we would leave Friday night and go to the lake house by ourselves. "Mitchell and Georgia can't come," Samuel told me, "Because they would be bored at the competition. And besides, I want it to be just me and you." How sweet is that? So Friday FINALLY came. I packed an overnight bag for us, with our clothes for Saturday and warm pajamas. I knew that the thermostat is normally turned way, way down when the lake house is not in use. Three cheers for thinking ahead. After dinner, we kissed everyone else goodbye, and headed out of town with our overnight bag and one awesome presentation on White Tigers. Just outside of Gainesville, I stopped for gas and let Samuel get a blue raspberry slushie inside the gas station. All the way through Athens, Samuel raved about that blue slushie, "Mmm! Mmm! This is the best slushie I've ever had! Mmm! Mmm! This is a great trip, Melissa! This is the best slushie in the world!" in his usual dramatic way. When we finally got to the lake house it was late. It was dark outside and we hurried to get the water turned on and the heat going. Inside the house was very chilly- and I was thankful for the warm pajamas. We were both tired but I let Samuel stay up watching cartoons for a little while, just to make the trip even more special. On Saturday morning, we woke up and got ready, left the house around 8:30 and headed over to McDonalds to grab some breakfast. From there we headed over to Rock Eagle, which is 12 miles from the lake house. We found the bus from our county and were right on time. Samuel gave his presentation on white tigers at 10 am and afterward we ate lunch with his classmates and another mom. I watched in amazement as Samuel and three classmates ran around the Rock Eagle campus, happily experiencing a little independence - or as much as eleven year old should be allowed to experience. He ate his brownie before his chicken at lunchtime (I didn't say anything about it) and picked out two small items in the gift shop, totaling $7. I took a few photos of the kids, and soon it was time to head to the awards presentation. Although Samuel didn't win, I think he had a good time and grew more comfortable with making public speeches. As we headed out of Eatonton, Samuel asked me if we could stop for another blue raspberry slushie. I told him yes, we would find another Quicktrip gas station on our way out of town, and we did. Samuel sat back in his seat with that slushie in his hand, slipped on a pair of Cody's sunglasses and looked over at me with a smile. "Well," he said, "This has been the best weekend of my life."
Wow! What a compliment! The best weekend of his life- and all it cost me was two slushies and a tank of gas. And so, friends, the moral of the story is this: never underestimate the value of time together.