Mud and mothering
Friday found us exploring mud flats an hour north of here at a spectacular estuary where many small rivers flow out to a flat, shallow plain. It is a totally unique and rich habitat for many creatures. We learned first at the local visitor center more about the area, then set out to explore.
There were bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, snow geese and a multitude of other smaller lovely birds. I squealed with glee more than once at the sight of something interesting, different, special.
Escorting five children under ten to a mud flat was a new thing. New things force me to plan very well since there are likely variables I don’t know about and we are often far from home. I planned and packed for two days. To heighten the anticipation (and survive the long drive) I put little booklets together for each child. Word searches, crossword puzzles, coloring sheets, vocab lists, creature charts – all related to the unique environment of the estuary. I even brought out my always fun laminator and made color picture identification sheets so they could name the things they found.
Planning and preparing aside there was still the inevitable moment of crisis the morning of where we needed to go but someone had worn their boots in (not around) the creek and they were completely unusable AND when I said (taking deep breaths, trying to be kind) “I’m doing all the work here, please would someone help us get out the door!?”. When I figure out how to depart for a big adventure and NOT have that happen, I promise to let you know the secret.
Back to the mud. As soon as we were all properly booted up and loaded with our supplies and Finn was tucked safely in the Boba pack, we emerged onto the flat beach. The day couldn’t have more perfect, we’ve had so many weeks of rain. Cold, just about freezing rain that makes outdoor play last only 10 minutes and the view out my kitchen window gray and drab most days. But there was no rain cloud in sight. Only a vast, panoramic view of the archipelago that sits just beyond the shore of this body of water. Little islands, bumps of all shapes spitting right up out of the water, green and rich and beautiful.
There were crabs to be found, mud snails to collect and compare and mud, glorious mud to sink into. I wasn’t quite so brave, sporting a 30 pound toddler on my back, but the kids didn’t hold back. They explored out into the water, found the deepest, stickiest mud and moved rocks at least half their weight. Oh how boys thrive with the chance to grunt and lift and catch and discover!
When there seemed to be more mud ON my children than on the mud flats we decided it was time to wrap it up. Oldest boy had already weathered the losing of his boot in the mud and walked several steps to me while someone retrieved the boot. I thought that might be the end right there. But did he ever rally and pull it together and we forged onward. There had been sitting in the mud. Digging deep in the mud. And falling straight into the mud. I promise we added at least ten pounds to our clothes/boots by the time we found dry ground.
A head to toe change of clothes was required for entrance back into the van. A cup of still-warm cocoa from the thermos and a brownie from the pan was also in order for all. We sighed when we discovered the running water was turned off for winter. Baby wipes just don’t hold a candle to this sort of filth!
I could only laugh, what else does a mother do with all these kids and all this mess? It spoils the fun right out when I choose the freaking out over the finding joy. These are the things we’ll not forget. These are the things that leave me feeling just a tiny bit more brave for the next adventure we find. These are the things that are so very worth all that is required of me to make them happen.
When my hubby called and my pocket answered without me knowing, he would tell me later, “I heard you talking…oh my were you excited, going on about the day God gave you and how blessed you all were and the beautiful this and that and so on”. I replied, “Well, in case you wondered, now you know. I’m the same expressive, optimistic me when you aren’t here. Even when I don’t know you’re listening!”.
Lest Finn be left out of the giant mess of fun – about one minute after we departed, all clean, him having made the whole endeavor on my back – he gagged on a cheese stick and promptly vomited his entire lunch all over himself, the car seat, floor…everywhere. I had to pull over, strip him down and use the remaining 15 baby wipes to try and get things under control.
The jeans weighed so heavy and Chris took one look at them and said no way they were going in the washer like that. An hour later and a driveway covered in mud flat mud, they had been hosed sufficiently to go into the wash.
I learned the same lesson I wrote about here, again. I love learning it. Sometimes during the learning but always after. We can do more than we think. The joy of conquering great things, mud flats or the like, is one of the ways we weave a family.