They’re Getting Away

They’re getting away from me.

When did it change from them holding MY hand to me holding THEIRS?

My baby, seven and a half, spiking up his hair and wearing his favorite Santa Claus socks year round. He’s always wiping my kisses off his cheek with the back of his hand. Yelling at the TV, pestering his sisters, snuggling the dog. Throwing balls, skipping rocks, jumping scooters and bikes and ripsticks. Running away, giggling, when I try to smooch him goodnight. But still he snuggles me and sticks his two fingers in his mouth when he’s really tired. He’s kind and he loves little babies, even though he won’t come out and say it. He’s not scared to go outside by himself or upstairs by himself anymore. He’s brave and he’s fast and he’s strong and he’s hilarious and he’s so smart.

My littlest girl, so beautiful and sweet and soft-hearted. She wants so much to cuddle and hug me all the time. She likes to bake and draw and create things. She’s taken off with reading and she doesn’t need me to do it for her anymore. She loves comics and Calvin and Hobbes and Charlie Brown. She’s teaching herself to cook and if she needs to know how to do something, it isn’t always, “Mommy, will you…?” anymore. She just looks it up herself or she watches a video and she figures it out herself. She jokes that she is still “her own self’s girl” like when she was little. But she still looks to me for attention and to tell her that it’s okay. That she’s doing things right. That I love her. I worry sometimes that I don’t tell her enough just how much.

I feel like they’re growing so fast. That they’re literally running away from me at lightning speed and there’s absolutely nothing that I can do about it. That life is snowballing faster and faster and they are on. their. way.

And I love them so much it makes my heart feel like it’s going to explode.

And even still, I get so mad and I lose my patience and I say mean things to them and I fly completely off the handle and lose my mind when I can’t find my tape that’s supposed to be in the kitchen drawer next to the scissors because they stole it. AGAIN. Seriously.

They leave messes behind them, they leave wrappers and straws and crumbs and shoes and socks and pillows and blankets and Barbie dresses and broken Legos in their wake. They leave hairbrushes and toothbrushes and sticky spots of juice and glue and silly putty and melted popsicles. They leave behind cups and plates and dirty forks and hairbows and Nerf darts and purses and jackets and little piles of rocks and sea glass and coins.

But the messes, the piles and piles of laundry, the toys, the trash, the dishes, the clothes, the schoolwork, the books, the football gear, the craft supplies… it’s all a part of them and their childhood. Why does it make me absolutely crazy, but at the same time, sad? Sad that I know one day it will all be gone and I will miss the bright green slime on my kitchen table and the popcorn in my couch cushions?

My Josie, with her impish grin and the eternal sparkle in her eyes, the little dimple on her cheek and her freckles and her chipped tooth and her innate sense of style. She’s busy teaching herself the ukulele and cursive and reading giant books. She wants to learn how to weld and go skydiving. Her love of babies and her thrill-seeking, live-in-the-moment, life is beautiful nature is simply infectious and magnetic. She still will hold my hand in the parking lot, and she doesn’t care one bit who sees her do it. She says “swet dwems” to me every night. She wants to save everyone and help everyone and stop everyone from crying and rid the world of injustice and do all of the right things – and some of the wild and crazy things.

And my firstborn. She steals my shoes and my hair clips. She sits for hours with her sketchpad. She’s always surprising me with her ability to be like me and like her dad at the very same time. The way she watches people – studies them to decide if they are worth her time and effort or not. The way she doesn’t need to please anyone or need anyone’s approval. She knows what she likes and what she doesn’t. She thinks deeply and she cares about things, even though sometimes you would never know it. The big ideas and dreams that she has, and the way she straddles the line between childhood and womanhood, and she takes it all in stride. The way she seems to need no one at all … sometimes not even me. She seems so independent and strong and sure of herself that sometimes I don’t even recognize her. And sometimes I envy her.

And I sit here and think of wasted opportunities that I’ve had to be with them. I think of how now it’s happening so fast and now they want to go hang out with their friends and they want to go listen to music in their rooms and all of a sudden, there they go. Without me.

And I want to hold on to them so hard. I don’t want them to go.

Have I done this? Have I somehow helped to create these … these amazing people? Where did they even come from? Where are my chubby-cheeked, toothless, jumping, squealing, reaching, drooly babies? Have I really traded them in for these four PEOPLE? People whom I barely recognize sometimes as they grow up and up and up and away from me?

I used to hold them, carry them… swing them up in the air. And now, they tend to hold ME. They come and tuck ME in, because I’m tired before they are! And I’m so glad they are mine.

I just want them to stay mine a little bit longer.


M&M’s and a Raccoon

Last month our church gave out little packets of M&M’s as an object lesson to help illustrate God’s love for us to our kids.

I, of course, proceeded to stick it on the fridge and then forget about it for a month. Tonight, though, I grabbed it while Jed was choosing a bedtime story for me to read to him and Adelaide.

So, the object lesson showed us how 1) M&M’s are all different, just like we are all different and unique. 2) M&M’s are filled on the inside, just like us (I especially liked this one – without the filling of God’s love, we are just like empty shells) and 3) M&M’s were created for a purpose, just like we were.

The kids really seemed to understand the metaphor (even though they were way more interested in getting to the eating part – even if it meant re-brushing their teeth) and impressively, they can now quote three ways we are like M&M’s.

After we finished, Jed handed me the book he had chosen: Adam Raccoon and the Circus Master by Glen Keane. If you’re not familiar with these little stories, they are parables re-told for kids with King Aren (a lion who represents God) and Adam Raccoon (a little raccoon with a penchant for getting into trouble. He reminds me of myself.) This one is a re-telling of my very FAVORITE story in the Bible,91n+Apiq82L The Prodigal Son. After running away with a circus and making mistake after mistake, Adam Raccoon decides to come crawling back home. He doesn’t know if King Aren will ever forgive him. But when King Aren sees Adam coming, even though he’s still a long way away, the king runs out to meet Adam with outstretched arms and then he picks Adam up and hugs him tight.

At this point in the story, both of my children are looking at me, not the pages of the book. Jed pats my arm and Adelaide hands me a tissue. They’ve both learned to deal with my emotional responses to, well, basically everything. But this time, they wanted to know more. They wanted to hear the real story out of the Bible so I read it to them straight from Luke 15. Here are their comments and the real reason I took time to write this out… I didn’t want to forget how M&M’s and a raccoon came together tonight to illustrate something wonderful to my babies.

Jed: “So God weally loves us. Just like that Dad. He didn’t even wait for him to get back. He just wan out to meet him.” Adelaide: “It’s like the ninety-nine and the one, Mom. He leaves the ninety-nine to go and find the one that’s lost. And then he’s just so happy when he finds that one. Just like when he finds us. Isn’t that called Reckless Love?”

Yes. Yes, it is.

And I’m so thankful tonight for little children and a church family who constantly remind me of the overwhelming, never ending, reckless love of God.

Catching Up

I feel like the days are just whizzing by. It seems like it was just Thanksgiving a few days ago and now it’s almost March. How is that even possible?

I try to make time for myself, time for my friends, time for my husband, time for God, time for my family, and special time for each one of my children but someone always gets left out. And I try not to beat myself up about it, but it’s hard to keep from feeling guilty. There’s always something to feel guilty about, isn’t there? The past few days I’ve been feeling guilty about not writing things down, so here we are.

Today it was very quiet in my house. My two older girls stayed upstairs for hours, getting extremely creative with hot glue guns, sequins, and construction paper. My two littler ones barricaded themselves in the toy room with a menagerie of little plastic animals, Slinkies, matchbox cars, and dinosaur habitats.

And so I did what most of us probably do… lost and reheated my coffee 3 times, tried to read the same thing twice before I gave up, loaded the dishwasher, played a word game on my phone, and read my email.

What a waste of time. Time keeps going faster and I somehow just keep on wasting more of it. I don’t really know where my days go. Reading, math, library trips, cleaning, laundry, cooking, grocery store, gym. That’s basically my life right now. And it seems like there should be more.

I don’t know, though. Now that I have time to sit and think for a minute, maybe life is just a lot of little moments.

walkPiggy-back rides down the driveway to the mailbox. Crazy outfits concocted from every pattern available in an 8-year-old’s closet. Strawberry muffins and homemade guacamole made by a girl with a faded pink blanket around her neck like a scarf. A million sequins and sparkles on the bedroom floor and the millionth “I’ll be down in a minute!” from an almost teenager.

Dinosaurs scattered on the floor. Dirty socks balled up under the couch. Popcorn in the microwave. A purple hairbrush everywhere except where it belongs. Handprints on the windows of the van. Laughter from the living room. Dance parties in the family room. Binge-watching of The Dukes of Hazzard and The Andy Griffith Show. Car Picnics. Sliding on the hardwood floor in sock feet. A constant pile of shoes by the door. “Mo-ommm!” at least 200 times a day.

“Breft-tast,” lunch, and dinner, day in and day out. Fights over whose day it is to unload the dishwasher. Candyland, Monopoly, War, Go Fish, Pass the Pigs and Pepper. Games and giggles and squabbles and pinches and stubbed toes and skinned knees and upset tummies. Shampoo in eyes and making giant soap bubbles in the kitchen sink. Searching for lost ______ (insert any noun here.) Hurt feelings, apologies, inside jokes (“I must confess, Mom. I ate Skittles off the floor today.”)

Building Robotics. Checking the Weather Channel and the Star Wars app. Studio C. “But have you ever KILT anyone?” Trying to wash the dog in the shower. Going on walks. Reaching back to hold a little hand while driving home. Fixing the outside pump in the pond, putting away laundry, writing funny songs, making videos, going to the park, helping Dad, reading out loud, playing hide and go seek in the dark, building burrows through blankets, putting on Thieves’ Oil and saying prayers. “Can I snuggle with you?” and “I had a bad dream” in the middle of the night.

I just have to remember to grab a one-on-one trip to the hardware store here, a special “You can ride in the front seat!” trip to the post office or grocery store there, a special night at the movies once in a while. Because there’s no doubt about it – they are growing up. And it’s happening fast. It’s happening right before my very eyes.

And they are amazing. They are the best, most wonderful things I’ve ever been a part of.

Maybe I’m wasting less time than I thought.

Piece of Peace

Today was a good day to go to a deserted beach. To breathe. To think. To pray.

Luckily, we just happen to have one 10 minutes away.

My oldest daughter had the great idea of heading to the beach – on a windy, fairly cold day. For no reason at all. My first instinct was to say no… but then I thought, “why not?”

We were the ONLY ones there. The only car in the parking lot. The only humans as far as the eye could see. It was good to be alone.

The smell of fall in the air mixed with the smell of the beach – sand, water, trees… my lungs were hungrier to breathe that in than I’d even realized.

My kids took off, excited to have the entire expanse to themselves. Theirs were the only footprints in sight.

15027909_10154797699523933_1973148621075045243_nI followed along but found myself sinking down to sit on a random driftwood log facing the uncharacteristically giant waves in our Great Lake.

And then I thought.

A seagull dodging the waves caught my eye and so I watched him. How he worked so hard, pumping his wings to get up to a certain height but then once he made it, he just spread out his wings and soared. Effortlessly. Peacefully. Until he came down and had to work once again to get up to where he wanted to be. He did this over and over. He didn’t give up. He didn’t curse the water or throw himself down or even fly away. He just dealt with it.

This might sound crazy, but that bird made me think: how sometimes waves flatten out just like glass, but other times they rise up like the ocean in a storm. And we are powerless to stop them. We are mere spectators as the waves just keep on coming. Sometimes it takes a LOT of work to get to a point where you can look around and soar.

Isn’t that the same as the storms that come through our lives? Through our families? Through our country? The only thing – and I mean the ONLY thing – we have complete control over is how we choose to deal with the storms.

A shriek of laughter floated back to me on the wind and I turned to see my children as they ran down the beach. Healthy. Tall. Strong legs dodging the spray, sturdy arms tossing rocks and dragging sticks to make “tail trails” in the sand.

Without warning, my eyes filled with tears.

How will I teach them to deal with things that shouldn’t happen? How will I teach them to love when it’s undeserved? How will I teach them the value of hard work? The importance of just letting some things go? To do the right thing, even when it’s hard? To treat people with respect even when you don’t understand their choices?

And I’m not sure about all of that. I didn’t have an epiphany. I still don’t know how to teach them, other than by example and a whole lot of praying.

But as I sat there with the sun on my back and the wind in my face, I realized that sometimes, you just have grab onto a tiny piece of peace wherever and whenever you can. And you have to tuck it into your heart to save for the rough days that are bound to come. And when you have to work – really work – to climb back up to where you want to be (and you better believe it’s going to happen again and again) you just have to bring that peace out and hold onto it.

Hold it tight. Love your children. Love your country. Love your neighbor.

Fall Day

Tonight the fluffy black cushions on the swing outside my kitchen looked so inviting that I glanced around to make sure no one was looking and then I collapsed onto it. Rarely do I ever just sit and do absolutely nothing. It makes me feel guilty somehow (I’m pretty sure it comes from being raised by two hard-core workaholics.) But tonight, it was cool with that newness of fall that is so welcome after a long, hot summer. The breeze was blowing through the leaves of the giant oak tree in our yard and the crickets were chirping. I could hear a frog or two from somewhere in the backyard along with the clatter of dishes from inside where the kids were cleaning up from dinner. Next door a dog barked and I heard the muted sound of a telephone ringing from a house across the street.

Doing nothing gives you time to think. Maybe that’s another reason I don’t “do nothing” very often: I’m a worrier and I don’t really WANT to think about a lot of things. Or perhaps I should say DWELL on them, seeing as how that’s what I’m good at doing.

But tonight, I just thought about my day. This morning, Jed went over to play with our neighbors while the rest of us took Sadie to the eye doctor. Her eyes were fine. It turned out that her seasonal allergies were making her sight a little blurry. Josie and Adelaide were very interested in the whole eye exam procedure and they were even more enthralled at the way the optometrist talked. It was so hard not to laugh at him (he sounded very much like Mr. Mackey, the “MKAY?” teacher from the South Park cartoons. I was shaking with laughter and trying to remain silent but my laughing made Josie and Adelaide laugh, and it just got worse and worse as he said to Sadie, “How’s 2? And three? And what about 4? Mkay… and 5? Well then what about 6? And then 7?”

After we made it out of there without totally offending him (I think) the girls and I bought Icees and shopped at Walmart. We needed gummy vitamins and gum, so of course I ended up spending $98. Sadie checked her blood pressure in the little machine next to the pharmacy. Adelaide asked for whitening toothpaste and Josie needed a new pair of leggings (we used her old ones with holes in the knees to make a scarecrow yesterday.) The girls were good the first 10 minutes, but then they got on my nerves with their singing (yes, SINGING) and general goofiness so we packed up and got out of there.

It just so happens that our local thrift store is right next to Walmart AND Wednesday is half-price day. It also just so happens that my girls love thrift stores (and a good sale) like nobody’s business. They begged to go in. I gave them 15 minutes. Sadie found brand new boots, Adelaide found a hat, and Josie found a “Josie-ish” sweater. I love that they love thrift stores and that they couldn’t care less about brand names and labels. It thrills the cheapskate in me.

We picked up Jed and the mail (my great uncle sent me a stack of old photos today!) and then we met my mom for lunch – Mexican, of course. Adelaide and Josie got in a fight over who got to sit by Grammie. Adelaide cried, Josie stomped off to the bathroom, and I sat next to Grammie and told them both to get over it. Sadie was only concerned with having her very own cheese dip. Jed was pretty focused on pounding tortilla chips to crumbs with his fist. It was a good lunch, especially since we looked through the photos while we were waiting. Josie thinks her Papaw was pretty much the most handsome guy who ever lived – even more handsome than Tim Tebow, and that’s saying a lot.

We read The Penderwicks in the car on the way home. Adelaide even read an entire paragraph all by herself and her sisters congratulated her. We all love that book – how the sisters take care of each other and stand up for their “family honor.” We talked about how one of them should name her little girl Rosalind someday and Sadie called dibs since it’s been her favorite book the longest (she’s read it five or six times.)

We also talked about how cultural norms are different from one country to another – and how on this very day in India, a little girl the same age as Sadie is working as a servant to her in-laws-to-be and drinking the water that she used to wash their feet in BEFORE she’s allowed to eat her breakfast (this may or may not have been used in comparison to the ridiculous poor pitiful me attitude displayed by Josie with her new leggings, Icee, and lunch in a restaurant for no good reason.)

Sadie then made up an awful song to the tune of “Winter Wonderland,” except that her song was about loins that were burning and butts that were churning. Perhaps the Mexican food did not sit too well with her or perhaps she’s a little too much like her dad. I think her song is called “Pooping in a Toilet Wonderland” and it is a great source of enjoyment to everyone in my house (under the age of 13, anyway.)

We came home and the kids played pirate ship outside. This is their new obsession. They pile up lawn furniture and jump from it while holding the rope on the Killer Death disc swing outside. They swing over to Jed’s motorized Jeep and come aboard the “deck.” This is all done in full pirate regalia. I hear voices yelling things like “Aargh, me mateys!” and “Avast! Aghast! Whatever that word is!” and “Crème Brulee! (that last one is Jed’s new favorite – at least it’s better than “Wiener Sausage.”)

Jed had football practice tonight and he made a touchdown on offense and stopped a touchdown of defense. He was very pleased with himself. Sadie, Josie, and Adelaide played Monopoly and a rousing game of “Run Around the Ottoman,” which is exactly what it sounds like… don’t get this one confused with their other game invention, “Guess What’s in the Sock.” I’m pretty sure Milton Bradley will not be hitting them up for ideas anytime soon.

That’s pretty much it. We school year-round so we take days off when we need/want to, and the end of September is the best part of the year to spend outside, in my opinion. My re-thinking of the day is complete, but this swing is so comfy that I think I might sit outside just a little while longer.

Colorado Travels

Last month we went to Colorado.

This was a family vacation a long time in the making. My husband was born in Denver and he spent several years of his childhood in Colorado Springs, so the Rocky Mountains have always felt like home to him. He’s wanted to take me and our kids there for years.

When we found the deal of a lifetime on airfare, we decided that we couldn’t afford NOT to go.

Three of our 4 kids had never flown before, and one of our favorite memories happened before we even left the ground. We stopped to grab lunch at a burrito place inside the airport, and as all six of us sat down to eat, I noticed my husband reach for a Chick-Fil-A cup to take a drink. I said, “Who went to Chick-Fil-A?” As terror dawned in his eyes, he spewed the drink from SOME RANDOM AIRPORT PERSON’s cup into a napkin and the girls and I yelled, “Eww! Gross! That was a cup someone left on the table! Arrrrgh! Blech!” As we were all spluttering and making faces, Jed sidles over from the other side of the tables where he’d been people-watching and reaches for the Chick-Fil-A cup. It was like we were all in slow motion and powerless to stop the inevitable. Like father, like son. I snatched the offending cup from his hands (and straw from his lips) and threw it away before anyone ELSE could make the same mistake. Eww. Just eww.

When we made it onto the plane, we were all a little nervous (except for the Dad – he never gets nervous). I reminded the kids of the bible verse that says if we are down in the depths of the ocean, God is there. And if we are in the highest heights of the heavens, God is there. So no matter where we go, we won’t be out of His hand. In light of this information, Jed asked a good question: “So… can we SEE God up here or what?”

When the little bell sounded for the fasten seat belts sign, Adelaide said, “What is that?” and their dad said, “Oh, someone’s at the plane door. It’s probably Thor, since he can fly.” This was followed up by many Thor jokes, ie: “I have a Thor foot” and “Is anyone else’s throat Thor?” and “You thought you were right, but you are Thor-ly mistaken.”

Once we landed and picked up our car, we drove through the outskirts of Denver – Brighton and Commerce City were regular old places – lots of haphazard buildings and old barns, storage facilities and big mausoleums. At one point, Adelaide said, “It really smells like wet dog in here!” but Josie pointed out that it was probably just her sister’s feet. I told everyone my new joke: “Two cannibals were eating a comedian. One asked the other, “’Does this taste funny to you?’” Ha! Gets me every time. Josie broke up the long drive through miles of claustrophobic, steep, rock-walled canyons-on-either-side of us by informing us that she could predict the future. “Hey Mom, in exactly 2 seconds I shall pinch you!” and then it happened. Amazing.

As we continued to drive and gain elevation, 2 things happened. Sadie and I felt sicker and sicker from the altitude and the other kids watched a movie on the rental’s built-in DVD player. To Jed’s delight, it was one of his favorites, “Oh Brother Oh Doubt There,” known to most of us as “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?”

Suddenly, the sides of the canyons we’d been driving through parted and fell away. Without warning, the landscape opened up in front of us. I’ll never be able to explain the feeling when that panoramic view met my eyes. At our first glimpse of the majestic Rockies, our collective breath was taken away. It was a moment I will never forget. We had reached Estes Park and it was nothing short of incredible.

The next few days were filled with Rocky Mountain National Park, altitude sickness pills, boulder climbing, elk and bobcat sightings, the hotel that inspired The Shining, drinking tons of extra water, a toy store named Estes Ark, slot car racing, leaning over cliffs at 10,000 feet up, eating boar, elk, pheasant, and bison at The Hunter’s Chop House, and finding out that an oxygen bar is *not* anything like a granola bar. We met someone from Ashe County, NC (near my hometown) in our hotel breakfast room, and Jed thoroughly enjoyed his first rendezvous with a bagel toaster.

We drove through Roosevelt National Forest, saw bison in Boulder, stopped for quiche and waffles at The Happy Cooker in Historic Georgetown, then we ran through the pouring rain to visit the old-timey hardware store’s candy counter. Adelaide said the store smelled like Rudy, her Mamaw’s poodle. (What is it with this kid thinking everything smells like dogs?)

On our way to Steamboat Springs, the kids grew desperate for a game to play, so they made one up. It was called “Guess What’s in the Sock?” You can probably figure out the gist of the game. Someone took off their sock and hid tiny things in it and the players had to guess what was in there. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

We ate at a place called Dude-n-Dan’s (we had lots of fun with that name) where Josie actually drank the BBQ sauce. We bought Adelaide a rabbit skin at a fur-trader store, and we drove up to the hot springs at the end of a washboard-y dirt road tucked way back at the top of a mountain. Since we got there late in the evening, we were informed that it was “clothing optional after dark” so the kids weren’t allowed in. As we turned to leave, the kids’ eyes were darting all around and they stage-whispered: “Does anyone see any naked people!?” Jed was concerned that if people got in naked, “Dey will burn dere penises right off!”

As we continued our tour, we saw statues of Sasquatches, clouds shaped like cobras, trains, gold mines, and amazing rock formations. We stopped in Eagle and climbed in an old train car. In Glenwood Canyon, we built stacks of stones and we almost stepped on a snake. Later we stopped for lunch, where the kids had a noodle duel with their spaghetti and I almost flipped out because I was starving and the place didn’t want to sell me a meatball for some unknown reason. We’re calling that “The Great Meatball Flip Out of 2016.”

Glenwood Springs was also home to Glenwood Adventure Park which was at the tip top of a very high mountain that could only be reached by TERRIFYING CABLE CARS GOING STRAIGHT UP. The kids loved it. I was petrified. Especially once we got to the summit and a big dark storm rolled in… and they closed down the cable cars. Yeah. No joke. Luckily, there was a lot to keep us occupied up there – including a tour of the caverns down inside the mountain and a little playground where the kids could go spelunking through a tiny little fake cave called “Jam Crack.”

We lived through the trip back down (my eyes were closed the whole time) and we drove through Aspen and Vail. We continually gazed, googly-eyed, at the amazing mountains all around us. The line from The Grinch kept coming back to me “10,000 feet up, up the side of Mount Crumpet, he rode with his load to the tip top to dump it!” The kids played with their Shopkins in the car and took turns drawing crazy-looking pro-wrestlers. Then we stopped in Redstone, a tiny little town close to rows and rows of weird coal “coke ovens” left over from the glory days of the booming coal industry. We visited a beautiful little church full of stained glass windows and we fantasized about buying one of the houses by the banks of the river there and turning it into a bed and breakfast.

We visited Paonia, where we ate lunch at a tiny “small town America” diner on Main Street. The kids ate outside (Adelaide bemoaned the lack of cheese dip) and pointed at cloud formations “Dere’s a giant in da sky!” Jed got a haircut at the ONLY barber in town and Sadie searched for a bathroom and a new book at a weird little thrift store. Josie found some beaded Native American earrings to go with her fabulous red cowgirl boots.

We went to beautiful Ouray, enjoyed the hot tubs outside our cabin, climbed up to an amazing waterfall (“Dat was da best expewience I ever had!”) and we found out that I had been unknowingly stalked by a bear while doing laundry late at night. Josie slammed her finger in our cabin door and we saw a giant fish skeleton in the bed of a dried-up river. We saw mule deer and a wolverine (also known as a skunk bear) and we crossed the Continental Divide. Jed sang “I Won’t Back Down” over and over and Sadie spotted a bobcat hunting at his very own fast-food restaurant, the prairie dog village in the field next to the road.

We went through Telluride and saw beautiful Swiss clothing in a boutique, along with some yodeling toy prairie dogs. Adelaide was starving so she asked, “I don’t like fish… do you think you can you go catch us a hot dog in the river?” We all laughed and Sadie replied, “Don’t worry, Adelaide. We as a family will get you the help you so desperately need.”

We stopped in Rico for hot dogs and to buy some organic homemade lip balm and cupcake soap. Then we met up with Jesse’s cousins at his long-lost Aunt June’s house in Cortez. Jed gave out candy to his little boy cousins (he was happy to have some guys to play with) and said, “Want some candy? It’s for free!” since usually his candy does not come without a price. They spent a nice afternoon climbing hills and digging tunnels in Aunt June’s yard. There must’ve been some war play involved because later Jed informed us that “George Washington always wins” and “dat is why I want to be George Washington!”

We spent lots of time with Emily, Micah, Eli, and Brenna over the next couple of days and Jed had a great discussion on dinosaurs with his buddy in the back seat of our car on our way to Durango. This was overheard as we drove to Mesa Verde National Park: “Look at all those dead trees. Don’t come here on Halloween!” And “Why did the banana cross the road? To get to the banana shop. To go get an eyeball for his BRAINS! HAHAHAHA!” Boys come up with the goofiest jokes.

The girls enjoyed time with their newfound best friends/cousins and their new little shadow, 3-year-old Brenna. We had a great evening playing outside at a local brewery with live music and delicious fries. The next day at a restaurant in Mesa Verde, they gave our order the name Chevy Chase (each order got its own Hollywood name) and Josie ate an entire Navajo Taco, which was a gigantic open face taco on some kind of flatbread. Adelaide tried some weird candy and remarked, “Those taste like those grape vitamins that take away your pain!” We saw eagles in the wild and climbed around near the cliff dwellings. The views were astonishing and it was humbling to think of the generations and generations of people who had lived and walked there on the very same ancient ground.

Then we went to a fantastic, veteran-owned tourist trap called “The Hogan” with a giant teepee and giant arrows out front designed to attract your attention. Boy, did it work! They had tons of jewelry and ornaments made from rocks and local gemstones, arrowheads, furs, slingshots, you name it. It was probably my favorite stop. I love tourist traps!

In Pagosa Springs, we finally made it into the hot springs and let me tell you, they don’t call them hot springs for nothing. They are HOT. There was one pool called “The Lobster Pot” that was 120 degrees! Each pool had its own name and its own temperature. It was so amazing to be out under the big Colorado moon next to a raging river in a burning hot pool. We stayed in until closing time – even when another storm blew in and we could see lightning out over the mountains.

We also stayed at an absolutely wonderful Bed and Breakfast called Elk Trace. I wish we could’ve rearranged our trip and stayed there much longer. The kids loved touring the stables and feeding the horses. I loved the barbell in the workout area and the sauna. We all loved the luxurious log cabin with a huge wraparound porch and amazing views. None of us could believe it when dozens of teeny little hummingbirds flew up to the feeders and several landed right on the kids’ outstretched fingers!

We went on a family horseback riding adventure – my first time on a horse IN MY ENTIRE LIFE. It was fun. But I’m not planning on competing in a rodeo anytime soon. Horses are way taller than I thought they were.

We drove up the terrifying, exhilarating, beautiful, (did I mention terrifying?) Pike’s Peak. It was hot at the bottom and freezing cold at the top. We all felt sorry for the people on motorcycles, since we could barely stand it inside our car! Jed chose a stuffed bighorn sheep as his souvenir and promptly named it “Horny.” Then he proceeded to scare Sadie to death when he escaped her at the summit and she thought he was going to blow over the edge. 14,000 feet is a long way down. The national park service in Colorado should seriously consider their guardrail situation. That’s all I will say about that.

Sadie and I went into a rock shop at the base of the mountain and got some very cool jewelry made of out gemstones. Then we stopped at a Sinclair gas station with dinosaurs you could climb on. Jed was suitably impressed.

Garden of the Gods was fun for the kids and Jesse. They liked scampering over the rocks like mountain goats. I liked the scenery. And the weather. Slippery rocks and loose gravel = not an ideal situation for a clumsy person such as myself. I held it together though. I only slid down once. Okay, twice.

I must admit that I had my doubts about this trip when Jesse planned the whole thing out. Keeping everyone together in the airport? All that luggage? 4 hour flights? All of those hours in a car with all the kids? I could do it… but could he? He surprised me, though. One of my favorite memories is climbing onto an elevator with the kids as I took them down to the pool so Jesse could get some work done after a LONG stretch in the car. Adelaide said, nonchalantly, “Welp, Dad’s doing pretty good so far. I’m proud of him. He hasn’t even freaked out at all yet.”

And honestly, it was a great trip. Lots of family togetherness. Lots of Mexican food. Lots of “ooh-ahh” moments. Shared memories. Shared experiences. Shared Chick-Fil-A cups. Breathtaking scenery. Little hands holding mine. My husband taking a bajillion pictures of his “homeland.” Bedtime prayers in hotel rooms and fresh waffles for breakfast. Roadside waterfalls and wildlife spotting. The presence of God in His amazing creation.

I can’t wait to go back.

Date Night with my Daughter

Last night my oldest daughter and I had an impromptu “date night.”

Over the past month, she read all of The Hunger Games Books (she’s 11, almost 12.) I waffled back and forth over whether or not she was “old enough” to read them, but I finally decided to let her go ahead. I read them and loved all them – I think it took me about a week to finish all three (the first one I devoured in about 24 hours.)

Anyway, her dad got the first 3 movies for her and they had a little movie marathon over the weekend, much to the dismay of my other children – I’m somewhat adamant concerning my “read the book before you watch the movie” stance.

So last night, he took over dinner and bedtime duties and sent the two of us out on a Mockingjay Date. As we drove to the theater, I explained to her that this was a big honor for her, since usually if a movie is one I really want to see, I go by myself. That way I don’t have to worry about anyone talking, asking questions or ahem, or making fun of (I’m talking to you, dear husband) the story lines, plots, special effects, etc.

She replied with, “Tell me about it! Dad talked through all three movies because he didn’t know what was going on! I had to explain everything!” I cast a sidelong glance her way. “You know why?” Simultaneously, we said, “Because HE didn’t read the books!” Then we laughed. It’s nice to share a love of reading with my girl, who is growing up at a somewhat exponential rate of speed.

Sometimes I feel like I don’t know how to talk to her anymore and it scares me. I know she’s my same little girl in there, but she looks (and acts) so mature. She “gets” things – jokes and puns and metaphors – that a couple of years ago I would’ve had to explain to her. Heck, she “gets” more things than I do these days.

We only whispered necessary information to each other (like “What happened when I was gone to the bathroom?”) and she was a perfect “important movie” companion.

My favorite moviespart of the entire night was when she reached over to hold my hand during one of the scary parts (she knew it was coming – I’d forgotten all about it.) Later she put her head on my shoulder. Snuggling with this one is a rare occurrence… she’s got it in her head that she’s a loner, but I suspect otherwise.

On the way home, we stopped for a milkshake. She’s a Mint Chocolate Chip and Oreo kind of girl. We talked about the movie and the story line in general. We talked about possible meanings and themes and applications in our lives today. I tried to listen more than I talked. She’s such an interesting little person.

Well, not so little. She’s almost as tall as me. She’s strong, she’s thoughtful, she’s helpful, she’s kind, she’s so smart and reflective. I’m so proud that she’s mine… and that she’s her own person, too.

I have to remind myself to enjoy these moments more instead of worrying that they are going by too fast. Sometimes I ruin them by overthinking it. Live in the moment, right? Seize the day!

And also, when your almost-teenage daughter offers to hold your hand and snuggle with you, especially in public, seize that too.