When gastro serves you a lemon…. how to use a sudden week at home

jug of lemonade
When life serves you a lemon…

For months we’ve been looking forward to Family Camp. It’s a week-long camp with other Christadelphians for parents with young children, and it’s all about helping each other raise children who learn respect, care for others and above all, love God. We’ve been twice before and loved it, so booked into this one as soon as we could.

With 120+ kids between 0 and 12 in close proximity for a week, it’s not surprising that preventing and managing contagious sicknesses is a high priority – last year a dozen or so families had to go home sick as a gastro bug swept around the camp. So you can imagine our disappointment when our eldest girl suddenly got hit with a bout of gastro only 48 hours into the camp! A few others got the same thing on the same night so all the affected families had to disappear for two days until it had passed; but for us living some distance from the venue, and with my wife having to leave a day early for a funeral anyway, it seemed manifestly unlikely we’d be back.

We packed our van and headed home rather forlornly on Monday morning. Yet the cloud was not without a silver lining, as the talk we had on Sunday night had really got me thinking about some things I wanted to do with the kids when we got home. It just turned out that ‘home’ came a lot sooner than we’d expected! I believe all things are under God’s control, and even if He didn’t make it happen He certainly could have prevented it and chose not to. Sure, on the one hand gastro had served us a lemon, but I decided it was time to make some lemonade! I had the week off work and suddenly had no plans at all for what to do, so we decided we would have a family week even if it was just us. We all threw in ideas on the way home of things we might like to do and came up with quite a list! Here’s what we ended up doing with our ‘bag of lemons’!


After we unpacked the van and all caught up on some sleep, we pulled out the face paints and got totally decorated up. Most of us were pirates while #1 was a headmistress! After this I pulled the 1:10 RC truck out of the shed and ordered all the bits I needed to get it working again. The boys were really excited to see it again!


With the weather starting to blow in a bit of a change we bought some lengths of dowel from the hardware store and made some kites! The kids decorated them all up, I showed them how to use a hacksaw and when they were done we took them down to the oval. Unfortunately they didn’t exactly fly that well but we had a heap of fun making them. I also had the RC truck there but while I was toiling with the kites, #2 managed to accidentally strip out the motor drive gear by pushing it around and around (it’s got a brushless motor which absolutely flies under full load so it’s heavily geared down to limit the truck to (only!) 45kph, so all the mechanical advantage through the drivetrain places a lot of load on the drive gear when just pushing the truck around by hand. The gear wasn’t an original one and looked like it was on its last legs anyway). So this excursion wasn’t everything it could have been!

In the afternoon I taught #1 (who is now 9) how to play some card games slightly more advanced than Snap and Matching. It was nice to just focus on them for a while rather than all the jobs around home.


A few months ago I picked up some pallets and have recently finished turning them into a ventilated bottom-hinged dual-compartment compost bin. One of these days I’ll get to post about that. But in the course of this I had thrown around the idea of a cubby with the kids. They didn’t exactly use the one in our last house and at 5, 7 and 9 I thought they were getting a bit past it. But they really liked the idea and I’d thought of making one. Well Tuesday night I thought to look on Gumtree and found a few OK looking ones for $100-$150, which I figured was a lot less than the time it would take to make a full one from scratch. So we found one at Rostrevor which looked perfect. Being a fair drive from us we decided to make a day trip of it and have a picnic lunch at Morialta Falls. We got the cubby first, dismantled it and loaded it onto the trailer, then drove to Morialta for lunch. It was so peaceful sitting by the stream, looking at tadpoles, smelling the whiff of native garlic chives and hearing the bubble of the water flowing by. We then walked into the park, stopped at the Giants’ Cave and took in the beauty of the falls.

We returned home about five hours after we left and got the groundwork for assembling the cubby done.

That evening we were toying with the idea of heading back to the camp when #3 brought up his dinner, which put a stop to the idea once and for all!


Thursday morning was all spent assembling the cubby and re-engineering a few parts of it. Once it was turned over to its rightful occupantts, it became in turn a fort, a vet surgery and a pirate ship and so far they’ve loved it. We then had to take my wife to the airport to travel interstate for a family funeral, leaving dad to play chief cook and bottlewasher to the tribe! I taught them a bit about planes and aviation while we were in the terminal, watching landings and take-offs, explaining turbo-props, turbo-fans V1 speeds, and the different services working on the plane between flights. On the way out we watched a few take-offs from the viewing platform, and at home they all helped make dinner.


Three Muddy Monkeys
Three Muddy Monkeys

I got some touch-up paint for the car, which meant it had to be washed and cleaned properly before applying the paint. While I was doing this the kids played nearby in the cubby, then moved to onto “Dad can we have a little bit of water in this cup to make some medicine?”, finally, and almost inevitably, turning into three monkeys painted head to toe in mud! In the afternoon we visited my brother in hospital and stopped off at Hungry Jack’s on the way home for tea.

While we were there we had a thoroughly educational experience watching another child ‘interacting’ with his parents about it being time to leave, but I’ll save that for another post. It was however one of the best parts of the day because the kids saw for themselves the pointy end of lax discipline, broken promises and unclear boundaries.

Friday night in our house is always games night, so we finished off with a game of Headache.


The parts for the RC truck were in so we took it for a run at the oval, which has a velodrome around the outside so plenty of space to open it up! Unfortunately it met a cyclist which snapped its rear wheel off but I have spares! In the afternoon we made a trip to one of Adelaide’s many white sandy beaches.

On the way home I stopped off to buy some lemons. Because, fittingly, I thought I should explain to the kids what I’d been doing all week and what better way than by turning a bag of lemons into a jug of lemonade. This was the first time I’d ever made lemonade and it sure won’t be the last! The kids seemed to get the idea – you can’t control what life serves up, but you can control how you respond.


The challenge for me now will be to maintain as much of the family enjoyment time once the daily grind starts up next week. No doubt a good percentage will sadly go back into the cupboard; but it’s been a revealing experience for us all to see just how much fun we can all have together when gastro serves you a lemon!

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