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.

Rainy day wonders

“Yes, its cloudy…yes, bring your jackets”  “But WHY are we going to the beach in the rain mom?!”  “Because we live in Seattle and we cannot be thwarted by bad weather or we will miss out on everything!”

We had a grand adventure on Tuesday – it was an unusually low tide and we ventured to the beach despite cold weather and rain on the horizon.  Anyone want to take a gander at naming all the creatures we found!?

Impromptu adventures are the best kind…

I woke up this morning, early – before anyone was awake.  I love that.  It doesn’t happen too often.  I took one look outside at the blue shining sky and it seemed that the only thing that would do was to spend the morning outside.  I quietly gathered whatever food I could find that would travel, not having planned ahead at all on a monumental hiking adventure.  Wheat flatbread crackers, a ‘wheel’ of cheese wedges, carrots, apple slices, Larabars, cashews and waters.  We had (as always) some overripe bananas so I made some banana muffins for a to-go breakfast and filled water bottles for all.

When it seemed reasonable I awoke my husband (who gets up at 4:30 on weekdays and loves weekend mornings) and said, “We simply must go hiking today.”

So as children woke up, we told them about our pending adventure and they quickly dressed.  I love the bustle of unexpected fun.  It was wonderful. I decided to leave the camera and just relish the fun.

We set out for a hike we haven’t done all together for a long time, years I think.  Just the drive to the foothills of the Cascade Mountains was breathtaking.  Keep in mind we haven’t seen much sun for…well, a long time.  Seattle didn’t earn it’s reputation as the rainy city for no reason.

The kids bounded up the trail, taking in every little plant, rock, tree, centipede, the sound of the water.  It was magical.  I kept saying over and over and over “Beauty, beauty, BEAUTY!”  I found myself wishing I had Psalm 19:1 memorized,

1The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.

We were captivated by all that He had made and as we walked together, helping one another over big logs and steep inclines, I was again so thankful that learning and teaching are part of the natural fabric of our family.  We took turns answering questions and asking new ones, explaining eco-systems, naming plants, holding a bright centipede and making ‘erosion’ understandable.

Rylee enjoying the view (taken with Chris’ phone)

The kids cooling their feet in the icy river

And I learned the same lesson over again…being a mother requires you to go beyond what you think you can do, all the time.  The thing is we can endure more than we think and we are capable of more than we know.  I wanted to give up at the middle falls today.  I was sure my body would fail me if we continued to the top.  I’ve lost a few pounds but not enough to make a nearly 6 mile round trip hike with 1200 feet elevation gain feel like a walk in the park.  Did I mention I carried two year old Audrey in the Ergo carrier almost the whole way up AND down?  But my husband was determined and the kids were so happy, I wasn’t about to be the party pooper.

We made it.  I must admit I was quite proud of myself.  The fact that I can barely walk or move now is besides the point.  We experienced, we conquered and we enjoyed every single minute.

A great adventure by the numbers


I’ve been away.  Pretty sure no words can describe what the last week looked like but I’ll do my best.  I have a good friend who is like a sister to me whose husband is working in another state at the moment so she is home with her kids in a place that isn’t ‘home’ to her.  After an impulse purchase of plane tickets, we were off to Arizona while Daddy stayed here to work.  Hoping to bless my friend and make her time alone a little brighter we ventured out on my very boldest mothering adventure thus far….

2          brave mothers whose friendship currently spans several states

7          (combined) children ages 18 months to 6 years

8          days together with no husbands, babysitters or…any other source of respite

1          roof for all to sleep under

1          three hour plane ride by myself with four children

4          sweet children who traveled (mostly) very well

1          ten minute window that I am trying to block from my memory when I found out my friend had car trouble, was sending a shuttle instead to pick us all up at the airport and waited on a little concrete island with cars passing on both sides while changing a blowout poopy diaper on a slippery metal bench while trying to keep track of 3 other kids, 4 car seats, 4 back packs, 1 ginormous suitcase and 1 double stroller

    2          days spent in and around the house before the car was fixed and we could get out

    15        sword/light saber/fishing pole/stick battles that ensued in the sunny backyard

    15        times we had to remind them that all weapons must remain out of the house

    40        books read aloud (many by Rylee to her little friend Elise)

    21        shared meals with kids ages 1, 2, 3, 3, 5, 5 and 6

    21        times I was thankful my friend had done all the grocery shopping and meal planning before we got there

    10        hours spent building legos together

    20        times said legos had to be defended from those who wanted to destroy lego creation

    1          trip to the zoo in 90 degree heat stressing the whole time about not losing kids in the craziness of it all….only   learning AFTER we left that we went on a HOLIDAY

    300      pictures taken

    24        or more…times I was glad we’d come

    12        times we tried to talk to our husbands on the phone only to be interrupted by the sheer volume of so many little people in one place

    18        eggs eaten by my husband who doesn’t cook who did his best to feed himself while we were gone

    4          boys using the same toilet for 8 days

    2          boys who peed into the pool

    14        loads through the dishwasher

    2          late night movies enjoyed by

    2          tired mamas who savored

    2          bottles of very good wine along with

    2          cartons of Haggen Daz

    3          nights up with Audrey for hours letting her play at 3 AM hoping not to wake the 6 other children

    3          hours of sleep the night before we flew home

    3          hours up with Audrey the night before we flew home

    3          screaming, thrashing fits from Audrey on the plane ride home

    2          leaky diapers I had to change on the airplane

    2          blue pen marks on my face, trying to keep Audrey happy

    8          people on the plane who had to tell me about the pen on my cheek

    1          husband who was smart gracious enough to kiss me anyway and not say a word about the pen on my face

    13        times I wondered how we would make it

    1          enormous smile when we saw Daddy waiting for us at the airport

    4          so happy children to wrap themselves around their dad

    1          sleepy ride home

    1          pile of dirty clothes

    30        blissful seconds slow dancing in the living room with children swirling around our ankles….so happy to be home