Kidnapping Plot on the Grand Canyon

I learned a lot about my eleven-year-old son this summer. The youngest member of a 25-person rafting trip through the Grand Canyon, led by four guides.

I had worried he was too small for whitewater. Silly mom.

The first to ride at the front of the boat. To take the big waves. Yelling at the river to bring it on.

On the trails with the nimble teenagers. What cliff? What slippery edge?

Launcher of river battles. The first to fire the water gun at the other boat.

Pulling his weight in the fire-line to unload and set up camp.

The other boat was filled with adults. Surprised when he stormed it to steal their weapons as we pushed off from the narrow beach. A little guy with a war cry.

The record-breaker swimming the rapids. “One more time?” as everyone else followed the guides’ call back to the boats.

The first to jump off waterfalls. To drive the raft.

A calming guide to “put your foot there” for the adults trying the jump he’d already done ten times.

An adventurer. Fun. A leader. A warrior. At home in the raging waters.

The other boat plotted to kidnap him. They envied his spirit. Wanted him for themselves. Named him MVB, most valuable boater.

I am so grateful for his week in the sun. 

Under the Eye of the Fox

My eight year old loves foxes. So on a trip at the start of summer, as we approached our Frontier Airlines gate, he was thrilled.

“My first time with a fox on the tail!”

But our gate had changed. We were flying on Mickey the Moose’s plane.

Later, as we suffered through a white-knuckle descent in windy skies over Washington, DC, he looked out the window. “It looks like the wings are going to brake off.” Pause. “Mom, if we crash, and I survive, you know what I’m going to say?”


“I knew we should have flown the fox’s plane.”

Tell Me a Story

“Do you have any stories?”

I was already dozing off when my guys piled onto the bed for back scratches.

“You mean once upon a time stories?”

“Or about you as a kid. Like what you did in the summer.”

We woke up early every morning and walked the half-block to swim practice. Sometimes a big group of us – age eight to eighteen, boys and girls – headed together to Montgomery Donuts after practice. Then back to the pool. We raced home for a quick lunch or the older kids would do a McDonalds run, and the clubhouse porch smelled of French fries for the rest of the day.

When it rained we stayed on the porch, counting the seconds between lightning and thunder, and played ping-pong and Uno. Sometimes the coaches caught us still there and dragged us into afternoon practice at 4:00. Then after dinner, back to the pool until after the lights came on under water. Or our friends gathered outside our house and play kick-the-can or capture-the-flag or ball tag.

We didn’t do camps. Every day was the same. Except for Tuesdays and Thursdays. Those were swim meets. They were at night, and all of our friends and their families went to get pizza together after – win or lose.

And every Sunday, our families met at the pool for dinner with big coolers of drinks and potato salad, hot dogs and burgers. And occasionally, if we were lucky, the Dads belly-flopped into the pool and threw their children in big, wiggling, screaming splashes.

My sisters and I did everything together.

“…like you guys.”

“That sounds awesome, mom.”

Attack of the Vacation Beasts

It is a good thing that all went well in March 2013, while on safari in South Africa. I have bad luck with vacation animals, and that was the only recent trip where the beasts were not on the attack even when our jeep got stuck a few yards from an alpha lion and his fiercer looking ladies.


On other trips, however, there were the all-night partying roosters who never learned to wait for sunrise.

The pack of chickens, led by Geraldine, who chased me through the barn, pecking at my calves because I had not brought them grapes.

The toad that made our dog vomit five times after going after “frog’s legs” for an appetizer.

The crazy swans who swarmed every time we went near the water, sending the kids into high-decibel shrieks and the Puritans in neighboring lake homes wishing we had never come.

And now, falling asleep each night, is it the swans or the frogs honking?

I miss our dog. She may roam the halls, nails clicking on hardwood floors like an alarm clock we do not need to set, but she sleeps through the night and doesn’t bite when she is hungry.


1980s Girl Ping-Pong Champ Rises Again

Many years ago, at a small summer swim club, an unassuming teenage girl learned to play Ping-Pong. She wasn’t an athlete. Rarely earned a ribbon at a swim meet. Was known for getting out her aggressions on the tennis backboard, but never played against a single, real foe.

Then one fine summer, she dominated at the Ping-Pong table. In fact, that year, she was proclaimed “girl champ.” Top of her game.

A fine summer indeed.

Today, nearly a quarter of a century later, that champion found three new foes – tough and agile at 6, 10 and 11.

The six-year-old played her first. He added rules in-play. He threw all he had at her. Even saw things that might not have happened. Added imagined points. But the champ held on.

The ten-year-old tried his slams on her. Tricked her with crazy serves that spun. Laughed to disarm her. But the champ held on.

Then, as the eleven-year-old battled fiercely in a two-point match all the way to the finish, she revealed, “Well, I was the girl Ping-Pong champ at my pool when I was a kid.”

“Well that explains it,” he said, relieved.

“You never told us!” said the ten-year-old, suddenly reconsidering his recent loss. Not too shabby when it’s against the champ, eh?

And when that 11-year-old shook the champion’s hand, conceding a narrow defeat, he said, “It’s okay, mom. I had a good swim meet today. I am still in a really good mood.”

“Me too.” It looks like another fine summer lies before us.

Summer Writer’s Block

This summer, I have struggled to come up with topics to write about. I carry my notebook everywhere. I put pen to paper and either stare off into space or cross out whatever it is I manage to put down there.

I wait for my boys to say something funny.

I hit my head against the desk.


Then last week, we were on a four-hour drive during which the boys played Minecraft in the backseat between snacks, while my husband played seven episodes of a more than 150-episode podcast on the history of Rome. He was still pre-Caesar, but I know what you’re thinking…it’s the podcasts.


I looked back at the kids, and my nine year old glanced at me and smiled. His blue eyes sparkled and his grin stretched across his freckled face. Then he looked back down at his game.

That’s when it hit me.

I have been spending too much time with my guys. While our days are fun and relatively care-free all summer, I have not had a date night, an appointment, a haircut, a few hours alone or time with my friends. The boys’ cuteness – that thing that often inspires me to write – doesn’t always seem so cute, creative, amazing after the millionth time in a given day when your hair looks like Medusa’s.

I am tired of saying “stop annoying your brother,” “stop touching your brother,” “turn off the iPad,” “stop with the attitude,” “did anyone just hear what I said?!”

When they are at school, they are happy to see me when I pull up in carpool line. They tell me stories about their day (sometimes). Their translations of life are hysterical. I get hugs after an especially long day.

Then my nine year old flashed that grin on our four-hour car ride like a slice of another season.

All those moments that I cherish during the school year are happening. All the things that I typical write about are there.

I just need time off…

…because my boys are great kids. They tell me funny stories. They play nicely most of the time. They tell me jokes. They want me to swim with them, play basketball with them, snuggle, hug, listen, laugh with them. And we are having a great summer. There is so much to write about.

And all it takes is one smile and an overdue date night to bring me back. Inspired.

I Almost Forgot

Family life stole something from me that I had almost forgotten until this week vacationing on a farm – a place where our three boys run from field to field, play Frisbee and baseball, ride ATVS across the countryside, help split wood for an afternoon…. And then sleep deeply for hours.

Each morning on the farm, I wake up to the sound of birds singing and the sun shining through the window. A cool breeze blowing across the sheets on the bed. I lay there peacefully for ten minutes, thirty or more, soaking it in.

Fresh air. Quiet.

No dog paws clicking across the hardwood floor, or growling at the bottom of the bed. “Time to go out.”

No child tugging at the blanket, morning breath in my face, by 6:00 a.m. “Mom, I’m bored!” “I’m hungry!” “Are you awake?” “Can you come downstairs?”

No list of errands.

Just me. My muscles slowly stretching. My brain turning on one thought at a time. The singing birds. The sun for a few moments before it all begins.