Several months ago, our good friend Mike entered a contest for a free vacation. The entry was an essay describing why you and a group of friends and family members deserved a luxury vacation together. We didn't know anything about it until Mike emailed us to give us the good news - he was one of three finalists for the week-long get-away at a nearby vacation destination, and we had been included in his entry essay. The catch? Four days of the trip would be filmed for a reality television show. Hmmm...
John and I were skeptical. Neither of us had any desire to be on television (I already knew that my acting skills were less than stellar, if my 9th grade production of The Princess Bride was any indication), but how could we pass up the opportunity to stay in a nine-bedroom house on a lake with our good friends, just two weeks before they moved to Italy for a year? Besides, we reasoned, Mike probably wouldn't win the contest anyway. Sure, we told Mike. Go for it.
It was this exact same kind of reasoning that got us into the Foreign Service.
So, as you have by now realized, Mike won the contest. Along for the ride would be Mike's parents, Alexis's parents, Mike's best friend and his seven-year-old twins, and John, Jack, and yours truly. Over the past few weeks the details started to trickle in: this would be a "working vacation." We should plan on leaving tired, since the crew had a very full schedule planned for us. We were to pack for outdoor activities (and lots of them), to wear bright, solid colors, and to prepare ourselves for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
|The view from the deck|
On the first evening, we met with the director, two producers, and the makeup artist. The first person who spoke to me was the producer. "And who do you belong to?" she asked sweetly.
"I'm the wife of him," I said, pointing to John, "and the mother of that." I pointed to Jack. The director came over. "And who is this cute young girl?"
Aw crap, I thought to myself. They think I'm someone's daughter. Sure enough, the makeup artist said cheerfully, "I thought you were a teenager!" It was three days later when the producer and the makeup artist confirmed that I was thirty-one, not twenty-one. They assured me it was a compliment and that I would appreciate it one day. "And don't worry," the producer added, "you'll get boobs one day, too."
|This is exactly the kind of behavior that makes people think I'm twelve, isn't it?|
|Jack kept himself busy by hugging inanimate objects...|
|I particularly loved how this one was located two feet from the ash tray.|
|Once again lowering my maturity level; at least I have an accomplice.|
|Jack checks out the "dog on a stick," aka the microphone thingy.|
|This family is made of cheese.|
|Only Jack would dare take a moment to stop and smell the flowers.|
Falling out of a raft in the middle of a class 4 rapid isn't my idea of fun. It's incredibly disorienting, especially if, like me, you end up underneath the raft. After feeling two bodies fall on me, I struggled to the surface, only to find the raft on top of me. Once I popped up into an air pocket and could see, I calmed down a little, pushed out from under the raft, and tried to swim for shore. I had swallowed a lot of water (no doubt from screaming like a mad woman as the raft flipped) and the current was way too strong for the likes of me. Fortunately John was swimming nearby and managed to pull me to shore. Ugh.
A few minutes later, a very happy director ordered us all back into the water, so that we could climb out of the water again, this time smiling and waving and saying how much fun it all was. "Is the river made of cheese?" Alexis asked. "Melted cheese!" John answered. All I could think about were the eight ways I'd like to kill our guide. And how badly my mascara was running, natch.
|"Hey - no monkeying around! Don't you know we're shooting a reality show, kid!"|
The next morning the girls got to go to the local farmer's market. This was probably my favorite scene of the whole thing. It didn't feel nearly as contrived, and I also wasn't thinking about Jack the whole time. There was what I can only imagine will be a hideously unflattering shot of me eating a whoopie pie, which fortunately really was delicious so I didn't have to fake it. The farmers at the market were great sports about the whole thing, and we only filmed for an hour or so.
|Yummy produce at the market|
|Jackie and the Whale|
John and I looked at each other. "No, we just couldn't go on the boat because we have our son here."
The man nodded. "So they hired you because you have a kid?"
"No," I said, "we are actually friends with these people."
I'm still not sure the man was convinced. I suppose I should be flattered. It was probably the only time in my life I'll be mistaken for a model!
|The cameraman said we staged this scene, but I maintain that Alexis and I really are that wholesome.|
|Jack explores the woods.|
|Jack tests out the water...|
|"I'm the king of the world!"|
We were supposed to be filming more of our arrival scene, but the weather was good so the crew decided to film us hiking to a waterfall.
|A thirty second break in filming|
|I guess I can't blame the poor kid for losing his mind.|
And thus ended my brief television career. All I can say is, "Snooki: Respect."
|Aaaaand I'm done.|
|Hanging in a giant chair, as you do.|
And the truth is, John and I are just as attached to Uncle Mike and Auntie Cupcakes as Jack is. We'll probably see them a couple more times before they leave for Italy, but it was just a preview of what the real goodbye is going to be like. I have to admit there were moments where I wondered how in the heck Mike had gotten us all into something so out of our comfort zones, but in the end, I'm really glad he did it. It definitely was a vacation we'll never forget.