Getting ready for a summer furlough is so much easier with only three children who are actually not children, but teens. It's an amazing blessing that they can each pack and carry (!) their own bags, decide what books and music they need for the trip, and even go to the store on their own for whatever snacks they might want for travel days.
In the early days I used to put the little ones through "furlough boot camp." To prepare them for a season of being completely thrown out of their routines, I would make the preschoolers take naps in strange places around the house. No more comfy cribs or familiar beds. I would put a blanket and pillow somewhere on the floor and say, "Nighty-night," and leave them to figure out I meant business. This did help once we were on the road and staying in different people's homes because they were accustomed to going to sleep wherever and whenever I told them.
During boot camp, no matter what food I served them, they were not allowed to comment unless they really liked it. They were never to beg for seconds unless I specifically offered them. They had to say please and thank you with a smile on their faces. I trained them to respond to a discrete snap of my finger, wave of my hand, or lifting of an eyebrow. We'd make a game of "coming quickly when called." We even practiced walking in tight formation so we wouldn't appear to be as big a family as we really were. Each older child had a younger one they were responsible for, and the middle child was responsible for the diaper bag (or dog when we were dumb enough to travel with a pet). By the time we left for furlough, we were looking good!
With this said, I must confess that I took the "training exercises" a bit too far, and pridefully drilled into my children how to be perfect little house guests. After all, we wouldn't want unruly children destroying the houses where we would be staying. Seriously! We do need to train our children, and furlough is a good excuse to go into high gear. On a deeper level, though, God only knows my true motives were nothing short of arrogance. I didn't want to risk anyone seeing what we were really like. Instead I painstakingly taught my children to become little hypocrites, acting the part of loving, well-mannered Christians, when their hearts were not quite there yet. I am sorry for that.
It wasn't until after I read the book Shepherding a Child's Heart (which I HIGHLY recommend, by the way), that I became convicted about only working on the outer appearances rather than focusing on heart issues. From then on I vowed to discipline my children for the purpose of training their hearts to fear God, not merely to make Mom look good in front of her friends. I'll never forget the time we went up with one teen and his big ol' afro, and other teen with his long stringy hair. It was still a struggle to not consider "What will people think?" but I forced myself to look at it from God's standpoint. No sin was being committed. Their hearts were good. Why should I require a haircut just to please our conservative support base?
Ironically, it wasn't until I stopped being so paranoid about our "real selves" being revealed in the presence of our supporters that people began to connect genuinely with me. I once had a woman tell me that she used to berate her children after we passed through as house guests, saying things like, "Why can't you be more like the Loker kids? They never...." Oh, my, what damage was done due to my pretense of having well-behaved children? This same woman was quite relieved on a later trip we made to the States, when she saw my children acting like the kids they really were, and even not acting very "Christian" (read between the lines: they were fighting!). Then she began to talk to me on a deeper level. No pretense. No shame. Just honesty. It was a good thing.
With that said, I have heard some frightening tales of things missionary friends' children have done on furloughs that made me glad I had trained mine to be inhumanly perfect. (Ha! Like that's possible.)
Maybe you can flesh this out with some real life experiences of funny things your children have done on furloughs.
IRL* The flip side is that I have fewer stories to tell.