Friday, April 4, 2008

Favorite Foto Friday ---Hurricane Vacation

Once again, it is not the photo itself that makes it so memorable but the story behind it. Isn't that usually the case? This picture was taken in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico in July of 2005. What will forever be known to our family as the "year of the hurricane."

After promising the kids for 2 years that we would take them to the beach we planned a family vacation in Navarre, Florida. We loaded up the car and were ready to take off when we got the news that Hurricane Dennis (which is also my maiden name) was bearing down
on Navarre Beach. In fact, it wiped that area out completely and they refunded the deposit on the beach house we had rented.

Meanwhile, my kids were crying and saying, "we'll NEVER see the beach. You promised..." And since I don't want to be known as a parent who breaks her promises I spent 3 days looking for a plan B. I didn't even get dressed. I just searched the internet for a "hurricane free" area. One of my girlfriends was a travel agent and said she could get us into a Mexican all-inclusive for close to the same price as the Florida trip would have been. Way Cool! We got all of our birth certificates together and off we flew to Mexico.

We spent th
ree beautiful days on a white-sand beach in Playa Del Carmen. It was paradise! Since it was all-inclusive the kids could eat whenever and whatever they wanted. We went para sailing & kayaking, the resort offered kids activities and even beach soccer and volleyball for the teenagers. Needless to say, we were spoiled rotten and loving it!

Curiously though, the resort had blocked the weather channel on the TV. We heard rumors about a hurricane but when we asked about it we were assured everything was fine. HMMMM.... one thing I learned in Mexico is, they tell you whatever it takes to keep you happy!

Two days before we were supposed to go home, the resort called an emergency meeting to discuss evacuation. Hurricane Emily was coming and it was too late to try and leave. We were told we would be moved to a new hotel ( a mile and a half inland) and we would be put 21 people to a room. We would be allowed to take 1 small "backpack-sized" bag with us. Everything else should be left in the room. Evacuation was to begin first thing the next morning.

That evenin
g, as the kids swam and we prepared to evacuate, my 7 yr. old daughter fell in the pool, splitting her head open. Our first challenge was to find someone who spoke English and then to find a Doctor. Finally we got ahold of a DR. who agreed to come to the resort. In a small medical office with no airconditioning Cece received 4 stitches in her head with my husband and I assisting (John held the clamp, the doctor stitched and I cut the thread). She just kept crying and saying, "I want to go home to Kansas!"

It was at this point I noticed that my ankles had swollen to twice their normal size. In fact, my lips were swollen as well. I was blowing up and I didn't know why! Apparently I had a bad case of
sun poisoning. Fortunately, though it was ugly and uncomfortable it wasn't too painful.

Bright and early the next morning evacuation began. We were put on a bus with a sandwich,a piece of fruit and a bottle of water. The new hotel turned out to be......are you ready for this?.......a Mexican brothel! Literally, a hotel of ill repute! The sign on the wall read...........
"10 Minute Rate/Maximum 4 hours".
There was a mirror on the bed, hooks on the wall, and room service consisted exclusively of alcoholic beverages.

The room itself measured about 12 x 12, and remember there are 21 of us in there. There wasn't even enough room for all of us to lie down so we took turns sitting up and giving one another a chance to sleep. As the storm approached the power and water was turned off so we had no air conditioning and no way to flush the toilet.

After a long night of what sounded like a freight train on top of us, we emerged from the room to see the devastation. The resort asked for male volunteers to help "clean up" and my husband was the first into the truck. So now I am alone in a Mexican brothel with my 7 kids! And by this time they were running out of food and bottled water.

Eventually, we were taken back to the resort. Everything was a mess, to say the least. There was no power or running water so we took showers in the rain runoff from the roof. Of course our flight home had been canceled so we had to make arrangements to leave (not so easy when you need 9 tickets). By the time we finally did get home (2 days later), the evening news had caught wind of our adventure and broadcast our story along with our photos.

The funny thing is, I don't think any of us would change a thing about that trip. It was an incredible bonding experience for all of us. Yes, it was frightening and we were inconvenienced, hungry at times and uncomfortable but we endured it together. As a family, we grew closer to God and closer to one another. We even made some wonderful new friends. We also discovered that it is true: There is no place like home!

A few weeks after we returned home we watched the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. After that we were almost embarrassed to tell our story. No matter how difficult it was in Mexico, we knew we had a home, family and friends to come back to. We look at our "hurricane experience" and laugh, others aren't so lucky. It reminds me how much we have to be thankful for....."O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever."

Be sure to check out other FFF posts at Kiss the Frog For Me


Sarah said...

WOW! That was a vacation to remember! I am glad that you were able to find the good that came from the experience and bonded as a family! Have you returned to the beach since then?

Kelley at Aroma of Joy said...

Since the Mexico adventure we have taken two fairly uneventful vacations to Sanibel Island. We are planning to visit Perdido Key beach this summer!


luvmy4sons said...

Heavens to betsy! that is truly a vactaion to remember...or forget....LOL! So nice to see that you appreciate it all! God bless you!

Jenny said...

That is one vacation I'm glad I missed! Except your right on the family bonding, even our recent lake house experience was nice in that respect!


Kim said...

Wow....thats a vacation!!!

Isn't it amazing how times like that bond your family together.

Aside from your story...I do have a SERIOUS ? for you!

How are you so thin after having 7 children???? Goodness sakes.

You LOOK friend.


ClarkFamily said...

Now that is what I call a vacation - we should all have one like that ... what a story - thanks for sharing it and your family photo is great!

Rebekah and Jaden

Joyful said...

Wow Kelley...what an adventure! Love how you find the good in it all. I think all I would have remembered is 'fear' and 'survival'. Your family pictures are great!!! You look amazing! Thanks for sharing this 'thriller'.
Have a great weekend,

Kristen said...

WOW! What a vacation! ... and such a gorgeous family. I love the photo. I can't help but ponder how your vacation is like our earthly life - sunshine, fun,(beach) fear (impending storm),sin (brothel), devastion, (results of a hurricane) restoration,(clean up) memories - Yes, Lord! We will praise you in the storm!

Faithful Froggers said...

Oh, my! What a story you have . . . definitely a vacation you will never forget. But how awesome that God can bring good out of it!

Your family is just beautiful!
Love & FROG . . .

Jenelle said...

OH my gosh. What a crazy story! They put you in a brothel?!! Wow. If I ever go to Mexico, I'll make sure it's not hurricane season!

The Journey Begins Here said...

I loved the post on Salt and Light. That has been my theme this week...well, light anyway. Just like Jenny talked about.


Jamie said...

The picture of your family is a beautiful one. That was some vacation...memorable to say the least.

MrsJoeB said...

This was so funny and yet so horrible!! I shared it with my husband. Our vacations are so mild mannered compared to yours!!
Have a blessed weekend!!

In His Graces~Pamela

peace for the journey said...

That just nearly exhausted me! What I find amazing is how you took everything in stride without consigning yourself to the 7th floor of the nearest hospital!

Certainly and surely, God gives us the exact portion of what we need when we most need it.

I'm still in awe of the "seven kid" thing. Write a book for the rest of us...seriously. Yours is a rare and wonderful blessing.


Rhonda said...

What a trip! And what a memory your family will have forever. I'm glad that some of the memories are of such fun and of a beautiful place.

The end of the trip certainly wasn't the best part, but those times really do bring a family together, don't they!

I agree with Kim...You certainly look great after seven babies!!

Kathy S. said...

I just found your blog, you have the cutest family ever!! And those things you like-the photos after this too. Looks like you are in a beautiful area.
Blessings, Kathy

Becca said...

Oh my word! What a story to tell - you've got any vacation story I could tell beat! A brothel? Wow.

Peace and Hugs,

Rachel said...

OH wow! I vacation to remember! What a beautiful family you have!

Yolanda said...

That is memory making to the max. I love it when we come through a situation, and see God all over it.


Our son and his family live in Cape Coral. So it's a trek, once a year, to go visit them.


Jennifer said...


Now THAT is what I call a blog post! My goodness! I am a retired Flight Attendant so I have some adventurous travel stories but nothing quite like that! And you're right - there is no place like home! We live in the midwest too.

You have a beautiful family! Thanks for sharing your pictures.


Susan said...

Hey Kelly,

I came over to see what song you posted and saw I did not see THIS post!

OH MY, I'm exhausted! This is something to put in a Reader's Digest!

I know you will never forget this, and neither will your children!

I'm just so blessed things ended well, and God took care of you all!

I'm a "Katrina survivor", but we left in time to miss the storm.

It's almost 3 years later, and the remnants of that storm are still all over New Orleans, very sad...


Stephanie said...

Wow! I always thought I had some lulu vacation stories, but you WIN!!Hands down, you win! You were a shoe-in for the prize even before you described your new digs at the brothel!

Christina said...

This sounds like it became on of the coolest trips of all time. It's funny how you couldn't go to one place because of a hurricane and then went to another place where a hurricane found you. I guess God had a plan in all this. The family bongding sounds well worth it and the fact that you all survived and have some pretty great memories of this vacation is pretty cool. It would of been nice if you had missed the head injury, but at lest you found a doctor to help you. I'm not sure how much fun the hotel was, but it makes for a funny conversation. I thought this was a really neat story. I'll bet your other vacations were not quite as eventful as this one.

Kelly said...

WOW! My eyes got bigger and bigger throughout that whole post and when I got to the brothel part of the story, my eyes nearly fell out of my head! Were most of the people in your room "of 21" from the US? I think it is so wonderful that you were able to see the blessing in such a vacation. The pictures are beautiful as is your family! I'm so glad you guys were fine after all that. Thanks for posting your FFF on Sarah's blog...what an inspiring post to read! :)