Sunday, August 31, 2014

ONE simple trick to help toddlers and young kids behave at Mass (+ WIWS)

I've been reading a lot of blog posts floating around recently about helping toddlers and young kids behave at Mass. 

Unfortunately though NONE of them mentioned  my ONE simple trick that if we can pull if off, works for our toddlers and young kids almost 100% of the time to ensure good Mass behavior. 

That's right folks.  

With OUR kids, this trick works close to 100% of the time to ensure good Mass behavior. 

YOUR  results may vary.

Are you ready for the ONE simple trick that almost always works for us?

Just send me $19.95...and I'll send you my one simple trick!


Kidding, kidding.  Because I'm so nice, I'm going to tell you it for free (but I'll take $19.95 if you want to send it to me anyway). 

Here's our trick!


Just be sure to sit with strangers in front of you, strangers behind you, strangers to the left of you and strangers to the right of you. 
They don't even have to be strange strangers.  Perfectly normal strangers work great too. 

That's right DON'T sit on the end, sit in the middle of the pew.  And sit the "problem child(ren)" next to the stranger. 

If your kids are anything like mine, they will be too shy to misbehave sitting in such close proximity to A STRANGER.  

I'm pretty sure this is my toddler's thoughts process when sitting right next to A STRANGER. 

I can't talk, I can't cry, I can't move, I can't do anything other than cling to mommy or daddy because that strange person there might notice me and if they do, they might kidnap me and sell me to the gypsies where I will never, ever get ice cream or nana again.  That would be terrible. 

And that's pretty much what my kids do, for the entire Mass...quietly sit on our lap because they are too shy to be loud or talk or try to climb past A STRANGER.

If your kids aren't shy like that...sorry...I've got nothing.  

But it works for us. 

If you want to read more of my posts about children at church, check out. 

My Thoughts on Cry Rooms. 

Dear Parents of Young Kids in Church. 


And here's a picture of What I Wore today and our running toddler who did not run around at Mass today, because she hates strangers. 

The shirt is from Twice (which is an online thrift store).  I just tried them and love them.  If you buy something through that link, we each get $10.  So, you can go get a free shirt or something. And they offer free returns with store credit.  So, you're bound to find something you like. 

The skirt was passed on to me by a friend (my husband hates that skirt, but I love it). 

And, we won't talk about my shoes because you can't really see them in the picture anyway but rest assured I did wear shoes to Mass today. 

You can see more Sunday fashions at Fine Linen and Purple

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Friday, August 29, 2014

7 Ways We are Strict

Yesterday I talked about discipline and how loose-goosey we are when it comes to certain things. 

Just so you don't think we are total hippies, I thought I would mention 7 ways in which we are on the stricter side.

1) Media

We don't have cable right now...but even when we did, my kids never watched TV.  NEVER.  Heck, I never watched TV myself. Ben was the only one who did so, and even then, it was only for sports. 

2) Screen time

We do watch movies however...either online (Amazon Prime...we used to do Netflix) or movies that we own or get from the library.  They are (usually) only allowed to watch a show or movie in the evening, after dinner, after everything is cleaned up and after prayers (and they all have to agree on the show).  And, even then, they can't just watch whatever they want online.  

They also have a laptop, but screen time is limited to after they finish school (unless using it for school) and certain computer activities (playing chess, studying chess, Starfall, Typing Instructor). They can't just use it for anything. 

We no longer have any working Kindles (super sad) or any other hand held devices so the computer is the only screen time they get.  

3) Chores/School

They have to do these everyday.  Well not school everyday, but everyday we do school.  And they have to clean up/vacuum every day. They have to sort the laundry every day.  And they can't watch their one show until that is all done. 

4) Food

I've written about how we deal with picky eaters here, so as you know I'm not super strict.  But, I am strict in that certain foods can only be consumed at certain cream only on special times (or every Sunday) can't just eat chocolate chips or chips (when we have them) whenever you want.  They have to ask before eating any kind of treat food (cookies, leftover cake, candy from Halloween, etc.). With things like candy after Halloween or Easter, we usually do something like you can have 3 pieces a day until it's gone. 

And everyone has to eat at least some vegetables at dinner time. We've been doing this for a few years and by this point vegetables are pretty much the ONLY thing everyone DOES eat without complaining. 

5) Bedtime

Right now, all the older kids go to bed at 9:00 PM and Elsa usually goes to bed earlier (she still nurses to sleep).  I honestly wish I could be less strict on bedtime and let Heidi stay up later. However, currently we live in a SUPER small house (basically just 2 bedrooms, kitchen, living room, bathroom) and there is no place where she can stay-up and where my husband and I could stay up without everyone getting into everyone's way and I need my adult time without ANY kids around. I'm dreaming of the day we have a bigger house with more space and a few extra rooms where we can spread out a bit more. 

6) Exercise/physical activity.

Our family tends to not be very naturally athletic.  We just aren't real sports people. I do exercise/work-out every day and I make my kids do so as well.  We used to go on family walks a lot, but unfortunately we currently live right on a very, very busy road without sidewalks so that makes walking not really possible.  So, now they find other ways to exercise (usually using an exercise step). 

7) Clothes.  

I'm not strict on what they wear on any particular day, but I am sorta strict on what clothes actually end up in their closet/dresser. No one has the money or means to buy clothing on their own anyway, so it's not really a problem and when they do need something, I usually just buy it for them. 

(Counting this as a Friday 7 Quick take)
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Thursday, August 28, 2014

I break all the parenting rules.

You guys, I've broken all the parenting rules.  And, I don't mean the ones  that everyone likes to laugh about breaking..the ones about no TV before age 2, or no putting the Bumbo seat seat on the table. 
Or the kids don't drive boats rule
  No I'm not talking about those rules.

I'm talking about the rules that EVERYONE agrees on.

Be consistent.

Don't give in to temper tantrums.

Be gentle but firm.

Don't let crying bother you. 

I've given in to temper tantrums. One notable instant was when Heidi was only 2 and I bought her large, standing toy horse in Wal-Mart because she cried for it.  Yes, I totally did. She was my first, we had more disposable income back then, and come to think of it, I would have loved a horse like that when I was a kid. So, I gave into the crying and I bought it.  Amazingly enough, it turned out fine. She didn't forever throw a temper tantrum every single other time we went into a store. In fact, I can't really remember another incident of a store temper tantrum with her. She's now 12.  She's not spoiled.  She doesn't have her own cell phone or her own ipod of even half the things that other kids her age are supposedly screaming for. 

And that's not that only time.
I'm totally the mom that gives in and puts the milk in the pink cup instead of the green cup. Or gives them the flowered plate instead of the plain white one.

I get to choose my own cup (I really love my horse mug) so why shouldn't they?  And occasionally I give in to myself and buy things I shouldn't. Just occasionally mind you. 

I'm not always consistent.  I forget my own rules. I forget my own rules A LOT.  Sometimes I say that we're leaving the park and then we don't leave right away because I get to talking and just can't tear myself away.  Sometimes I say no eating away from the table and then sometimes I let them (usually depends on what they are eating). 

I've actually found that most of the time it doesn't matter.  When my kids see that I'm really ready to leave the park this time...they come, willingly, without a fight. 

And sometimes I even change my mind.  Sometimes I realize that I said "no" too quickly or that it really doesn't matter if they do x, so I change my mind.  Sometimes I do that, even if they are crying or whining.  Not all of the times, just some of the times..just when I realize that I said "no" too quickly and that it's something that really doesn't matter. 

I let crying bother me.  A lot.  As you can guess, I've never let my babies cry it out.  But it goes beyond that.  I pick them them up and carry them when they want it...even if I'm tired and there is a perfectly good stroller they could ride in . I let Elsa eat on my lap even though I hate it.  Somehow I got into a bad habit of letting Elsa sit on my lap to eat.  Not sure how that started, but it's the way she wants to eat now.  If I'm sitting down to eat, there she is asking to get up in my lap and eat too (not off my plate, off her own plate). She eats super well that way...lots of variety, tons of vegetables, she's the least picky one in the family. 

I tried breaking her of it and that lasted all of 1/2 a mealtime. I couldn't stand the crying....couldn't stand the sad, pitiful look in her eyes.  The mommy, you've rejected me look.  Plus, her older siblings were all, Elsa, you can sit in my lap to eat. And, I don't want my older kids to lose their natural empathetic nature towards their crying baby sister.  I think it's good that they are bothered by crying helps foster empathy. 

So, I'm pretty sure she'll outgrow this.  I'm pretty sure she won't still be doing this when she's 10, or 7, or even 5.  Pretty sure. 

Be gentle but firm. I'm not always gentle because I sometimes yell, and I'm not always firm because I change my mind and give in sometimes.  Mary Poppins I am not. 

Sometimes this all bothers me. The fact that I can be so weak when it comes to discipline.

 But, I've come to realize that it's all okay. It really is.
  Despite all my faults and failings and weaknesses my kids are turning out okay and they really are very, very good kids. They really are. People tell us that all the good my kids are. Sure they fight and they bicker and they are messy and sometimes lazy and moody (but then I am all those things too). But they don't lie and they aren't sneaky and they aren't disobedient and they do their work and help out without complaining. They are kind and caring and empathetic and honest.  They actually tell us (all on their own) when they do something wrong.

I'm come to realize that parenting isn't a set of rules you can never break.  Parenting is about a relationship.  We compromise with our friends.  We compromise with our spouses.  And, it's okay to compromise with our children sometimes.  

It's not about who is in control. If I worry about "winning the battle" I've already "lost the war." 

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Dolce far Niente

Just to prove I'm smart, I thought I would throw out a little Italian for you.  (Actually, I heard that phrase on the Dick Van Dyke Show). 

Dolce far Niente

How Sweet to Do Nothing. 

Do you ever do nothing?


Sometimes doing Nothing is really doing the best thing there is.

No computer.  No phone. 

No books, no kindle, no e-reader.

No work, no laundry, no cooking, no cleaning, no school. 

No talking.


Just me and the thoughts running around in my head. 

Oftentimes praying feels like doing Nothing to me (because it's hard to stop those running thoughts). 

Watching kids at the park or at the lake sometimes feels like doing nothing (when I'm not trying to convince Greta that a piece of floating plant is NOT a baby alligator that is).

Doing Nothing is sweet. 

Everyone should spend some time every day doing Nothing.

Spend some time just being...just being with your family, just being outside, just being alone, just being in church, just being and thinking.  

Let your thoughts go where they will. 

My best thoughts come to me when I do Nothing. 

Doing Nothing recharges me

When I do Nothing, I frequently fall into praying...which is doing Something. 

Kids often look like they are doing Nothing. 

Just lying around, playing in dirt, picking up sticks.

But their minds are moving, their brains are processing and their Nothing is actually Something.

Just like my Nothing is actually Something.  The body may stop moving but the brain never does.   

Sometimes you have to do Nothing, so you know what that next Something is that you have to do. 

The Nothing Poem

When children come home at the end of the day,
The question they’re asked as they scurry to play
Is, “Tell me, what did you do today?”

And the answer they give makes you sigh with dismay
“Nothing, I did nothing today?”

Perhaps nothing means that I observed a bird’s nest,
Or counted to ten with Mrs. West.

Maybe I painted a picture of red and blue,
Or heard a story about a mouse that flew.

Maybe today was the very first time
That my scissors followed a very straight line.

Maybe I led a song from beginning to end,
Or played with a special brand new friend.

When you’re only 5 and your heart has wings,
NOTHING can mean so many things!

                             ---author unknown
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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Why I Don't (Usually) Wear Sunglasses and Other Dumb Stuff about Me (Plus What I Wore)

Linking up with Kendra for her last Answer Me This before she retires the whole thing for the time being.  So here are this week's questions and answers. 

1. What is your favorite picture book?

I really love this book. 

And this one. 

This is such a fun poem book.

There are both really fun books to read aloud and generally I'm not a fan of reading aloud, so I appreciate any book that makes it more fun.

2. Are you a boycotter?

No, not really.  I don't really have any strong feelings on boycotting one way or the other but we generally choose which businesses to patronize based on a few factors (cost, location, and what they carry) and I just don't bother with adding in another factor about what other companies they they might or might not support in a tangential way (plus it seems to keep changing and I read conflicting reports). So as long as I'm not directly giving my money to a place I don't support or don't agree with, I don't really worry about it. 

3. How do you feel about cheese?

I'm a big fan of cheese.  All types (except fake cheese..can't stand that stuff). I don't eat gluten for health reasons, but I'm so glad I can eat cheese, because giving up cheese would be way, way, way harder than giving up gluten. 

4. How many pairs of sunglasses do you own?

I think we may have 2 or 3 pairs lying around.  I very, very rarely wear sunglasses (only if I'm someplace where the sun is unusually the ocean during midday) and even then I frequently don't wear them.  There are a few reasons for this. 
1) I wear glasses...I sorta need them to see and I think sunglasses that are big enough to fit over my glasses look dorky on me.  And, I don't like the look of those sun-darkening prescription glasses.  I just think that people who wear them look a  No offense to anyone who wears them...I just don't care for them. 

Plus, I'm crazy and believe everything I read on the Internet.  Just kidding.  But, I did read that sunglasses interfere with how your eyes (and consequently your brain) interpret the amount of light and this can have negative consequences on mood and burning.  Melanin production is triggered by sun on skin, but I wouldn't be surprised if the eyes and how much light they perceive play a role as well. Sunglasses interfere with the brain's perception of the amount of light there is (making your brain think you are in a darker environment) and consequently some of the mood-increasing benefits of sunlight may be lost. 

Makes sense to me anyway.

Plus, before I got regular glasses, I used to wear sunglasses all the time and my eyes got SO SENSITIVE to the sun.  I mean, I would have to wear sunglasses to drive even on cloudy days or rainy days.  It was crazy.  When I stopped wearing sunglasses every time I stepped out of the house, it was a big adjustment, but over time my eyes got less and less sensitive to the sun and now most of the time I don't even feel that I need them.

5. How long has it been since you went to the dentist?

It was about 8 months ago. And that visit inspired this rant. 

6. If you could visit any religious site in the world, where would you go? 

Seeing as how I've never been to any religious sites anywhere, I have no idea.  Probably the Vatican. 


Now for What I Wore Today...(with a photobombing toddler). 

shirt: thrifted
skirt: Old Navy
shoes: payless

I had a hard time deciding what to wear today.  Ended up with a black/white theme.  Original.   We went to Mass at a friary for a special occasion and the friary has a "modesty policy" (ie. no sleeveless) and no I had to dress to be modest but also not overheat.  Of course, I'm just a big wimp when it comes to the heat, because while I was all worried about being too hot, my husband wore a shirt and tie, and the friars and sisters wear wool habits.  So yeah...I feel a little guilty that I even worry about getting too hot.  Anyway.

Go see FLAP for more Sunday outfits

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Friday, August 22, 2014

7 Ways to Encourage Independent Work in Homeschoolers

If you homeschool, let me let you in on a little secret. 

The secret to surviving homeschooling is to get your kids working as independently as possible as soon as possible.  Especially if you have multiple kids. 

Because I don't know about you but I ain't got no time to sit down and walk each kid through all their work.  As my kids get older, my job as a homeschooling mom tends to change from teacher to overseer...they do more and more on their own and my job is relegated to answering questions and correcting stuff. 

Trust me..we've had many a homeschool day where we were still going at 4:30 in the afternoon and those are NO FUN. 

Encouraging independent work has really helped lesson the number of those days.  Because there are 3 of them and only one of me and I can't help more than one kid at a time, our days were dragging out FOREVER.  One kid was having to wait while I helped another kid and things were just taking A VERY LONG TIME.  The more my kids can do independently, the sooner they finish their work and that makes us all happier. 

1. Have age appropriate expectations. 

Independent work isn't really possible in kindergarten...or first grade.   With my experience, it wasn't until around the middle of second grade that my kids started to become more independent.   

This picture is staged.  John (1st grade) can't read that book independently yet. 
And, if your child isn't reading well by then, it could very well be later. And that's okay. The good thing is that generally the younger the grade the less work they have...and to be quite honest, you really DON'T have to do science and history in the 1st grade. In the early's okay if you only focus on reading, math and handwriting (and religion if you are religious)  It's great if you can do more, but if you do nothing but reading/phonics, math and handwriting in kindergarten and first grade, you're doing just fine.  

2. Be sure they know what to do and where it is. 

This is probably the biggest thing for encouraging independent work.  Kids must know what they need to do and where they can find the materials/books. Some families use workboxes, which can be great.  We don't, because we don't have the space or the boxes, but we do something similar.

The way our homeschooling works is that we basically do each subject, every day.  Generally we follow the syllabus from Mother of Divine Grace (although we do tweak a few things). 

My older kids know how to find the syllabus, look in it to see where they are, and if possible, do the work on their own. After they complete each day, they write their initial next to the lesson plan.  That way they can see at a glance where they are in the syllabus and we can use the syllabus for multiple kids.

3. It's okay to change things.

We do change things in the syllabus.  For example, the Mother of Divine Grace syllabus has kids memorize catechism questions and answers and practice them with a parent every day.  We don't do that. My kids who are old enough to read, practice them on their own.  It works better for them and me.  My kids tend to be visual as opposed to auditory learners (same as me).  They remember things that they read better than things that they hear.  When they are just listening to me be all blah, blah, blah on, it is easy to mentally "check out" and get distracted, but if they are actively reading and focusing on the questions themselves, they tend to remember them better.  And, this way I don't have to sit there and go over the questions with them 

4. Have a system for checking their work

One thing I've learned the hard way is to always check up on their work.  Always.  With the aforementioned catechism questions, about once every 2 weeks, we do a "check" where I ask them the questions. With other work (like math or Latin or Language Arts), I check it on a daily basis.  With some subjects, especially with Heidi (7th grade) I just check the quizzes/tests.  
Checking their work is easy for potty-training class.
It's a bit more involved with math. 

The important thing is to keep on top of what they are doing...check their work and make sure they are doing it thoroughly and completely.

About the worst thing in homeschooling is to realize that a child has NOT been doing the work you thought they were doing and they are now a month behind. 

5. Encourage working together.

My kids will frequently help each other with their a "you read me my spelling words and I'll read you your spelling words" type of way.  This is a good thing.  Again...just be sure to check up on them. 

6. Keep the momentum going.

This I found is probably the most important least for us.  It is helpful if my kids can move quickly from one task to another without having to wait for me (which is why independent work is so important).  Some families do well with lots of breaks, but we don't.  We tend to do best when we just keep going. Taking a break makes it harder for us to get back into work.  We try to take just one break a day at lunch-time and the rest of the time move straight from one task/subject to another. 

7. Have natural consequences/motivation.

We have certain rules in our house... playing on the computer/outside until schoolwork/exercise/piano practice is done. That provides them quite a bit of natural motivation to keep moving and "finish early".  Having that natural motivation built into the day really does work for us. 

What about you?  Do you have any tips for encouraging independent work?

(linking up with Jen and other 7 Quick Takers).

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

5 Things I Bought That Actually Weren't a Waste of Money

I don't know about you, but I've been guilty of making a few unnecessary purchases a time or two...Just a few (okay maybe more than a few) but every one of them is guilt-inducing.  I have a bad tendency of getting it into my mind that. I NEED something, and then hopping over to Amazon...ordering it..and then by the time it comes...I don't need it anymore.  Whoops.  But, of course, I never return then I've wasted money and have this useless "thing" cluttering up my house. are 5 things I bought that actually WERE worth it. 

This thing is awesome. I LOVE it.  We have an old house with broken screens, and as a consequence we've gotten way too many flies inside.  Enter the bug zapper...this things works wonderfully at keeping the population of flying insects down.  It catches flies, mosquitoes, fruit flies and moths.  The best part is it makes a deliciously, loud zapping noise anytime it kills another flying insect.  It just warms my heart to hear those flies get zapped to their demise.  Go me to the SPCF (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Flies)..I don't care.   Plus, it's totally safe for kids, as there is a grate over the electronic part so a person couldn't possibly get zapped.  


We eat a lot of yogurt in this house and making our own saves A TON of money.  I used to balk at making my own yogurt, because I could never get it thick enough.  However, now that I have a yogurt strainer...I can strain my yogurt and get it super thick and creamy and delicious without any added artificial anything. You DO know that Greek Yogurt is just regular yogurt strained..right? Actually, I didn't know that until a few months ago myself.  Once you get the hang of it, making yogurt is surprisingly easy and saves A TON of money and is way healthier than the store-bought stuff. 


I just started taking Epsom Salt baths, but have noticed a big health benefit from doing so.   Magnesium is such an essential nutrient and is absorbed through the skin, so some people find that they absorb magnesium better this way. 


 If you only buy one essential oil, I suggest this one!  Frankincense is considered by many to be the "king of oils" and has so many uses. I mix it with Castor oil and dab it on anyone who has any illness, aches/pains or even just a cranky mood and it does help. 


 This product I did not actually buy, but was given my first bottle for review.  I have subsequently bought other bottles. This is a very high quality fish oil and taking fish oil is an important part of my anti-depression strategy.  The high EPA especially tends to be effective at combating depression and anxiety. Most people are aware of the health benefits of fish oil and omega 3 fatty acids, and unfortunately most people (myself included) don't eat enough fatty fish to get it from diet alone..which is why supplements can be so important.  The Body Vega brand is a good, high quality brand that is molecularly distilled to be free of all contamination. It contains a whopping 1500 mg of omega-3 fatty acids...which is higher than most other brands on the market.  I've been supplementing with fish oil for several years now, so I've tried many different brands, and I am quite pleased with this one. *

(This post contains affiliate links.  If you click through and order ANYTHING from Amazon...I get a few pennies....doesn't cost you a thing!). 

*While I was contacted by a representative of BodyVega and offered a bottle of fish oil, the opinions stated are all my own. 
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Monday, August 18, 2014

The Day We Almost Spent the Night in the Woods

Alternative Title: The Day I Almost Strangled My Husband.

"Let's go creek-hiking" he said.
"It'll be fun." he said. 
"We can't possibly get lost." he said. 

You the can take the man out of Tennessee but you can't take the Tennessee out of the man. 

Apparently creek-hiking is a thing in Tennessee.  As in you hike through a creek....yes, through the muddy, mucky waters with the snakes and the fish and the alligators. I guess there are no alligators in Indiana...except for the ones that were just seen in Indianapolis.  Hopefully they weren't on their way to visit their cousins up in Fort Wayne.

So...on Friday, we visited a local county park and went hiking.  It was a nice hike. Kinda a wimpy long trails, no getting lost, no big hills., no mountains to climb.  Just an easy 1 mile stroll through the woods. 

Except that the creek-hiking-loving husband spotted the creek...with lots of paths leading down to it.  As we hiked along, we noticed several paths along the way that lead down to creek.

So, when he suggested going back on Sunday to actually do some REAL creek-hiking, I agreed.  Because I figured we'd go through the creek a little ways and there would be lots of paths to get back up to the trail. .nice and easy.  Plus, the creek looked small...I didn't think it ever got past knee-high.  
Little did I know (insert maniacal laughter here)

So, just as we are arriving at the park, Greta announces that she has to go to the bathroom.   If Greta had not had to use the bathroom the entire course of our afternoon could have been altered.  However, she DID have to go, so instead of parking at the parking lot we were at on Friday, we drove down to the further parking lot...the one with the bathroom.

And, we decided to start hiking from there...and just find our way to the creek. This is a small county-park/nature preserve.  How hard could it be?  And it was super easy. We found a trail, we found our way to the creek and there were even STAIRS leading down. Stairs.  It was perfect.

We were confident that if we just started hiking down the creek there would be MULTIPLE paths leading back up to the trail.

At first it was fun.  The water was cooling. I had Elsa on my back in the Kozy. With a sense of high adventure, we made our way down the stream.

Then in certain parts the water got a bit deeper, up to waist high (or higher), and we had to hold John up.  Ben had to hold the wallet and cell phone up above his head to keep them from getting wet (because no way was I was going hiking without a cell phone...or my wallet).  But, it was fun and we kept hiking on.

Past the snake. 
Not the actual snake we saw.  Because I wasn't about to risk my camera getting wet in the creek.  And even if I had it, no way was I getting that close to a SNAKE.

Past the HUGE spiders.  And, when I mean HUGE, I mean HUGE, SCARY spiders. 

But, we valiantly soldiered on.  We weren't going to let a little thing like snakes or spiders stop us.

By and by we started to get tired and started to look for a path up the creek leading to the main trail.

So we looked....and looked...and looked.  We kept walking and walking and walking and walking and walking and walking getting more and more and more tired.  Because walking through a creek is NOT easy.  It is way, way, way, way harder than walking on land. 

But we soldiered on...just SURE that just around the NEXT bend would be a path. But the next bend came and went, and there was no path...and not at the next bend, nor the next one, nor the one after that. 

It was getting late.  We started creek-hiking shortly after 4 PM and it was now about 6:45 PM.

Finally, finally, finally, finally, finally, finally we came to a path that lead up the creek-bank.

It took some scrambling and some hand-holding but we all made it all the way up.  Even me, with Elsa on my back. 

That path lead to another path.

Not one we had ever seen before, but we took it anyway.

And, we walked, and walked and walked and walked...past a few smaller branch-offs, but we decided to stay on the main-looking path.  We pretty much had no idea where we were and the mosquitoes were awful..but we had no choice but to keep walking, hoping it led out of the park somehow. 

Until we came to a branch off and Ben was all "hey, this path leads down to the creek, we're exactly where we started.  We just went in a big circle."

Insert family-wide groans here.  No tears though. Amazingly enough no one cried.

So, we back-tracked.  We took a branch-off path, we followed the trail.

Then we heard the BEAUTIFUL sound of    Hooray!!

We came to a parking lot.

Except it wasn't the parking lot where we parked.  And, we weren't at the entrance we came in.

Somehow we ended up clear across the park at a totally different entrance.

There was nothing to do but keep we started walking down the road.  We didn't get very far, before Ben flagged down a guy in a red pick-up truck

I prayed, he wasn't an axe murderer.

Spoiler Alert:  He wasn't.

We asked him for directions and he gallantly offered to drive us to the other entrance of the park near our car.

So, we all piled into the cab of his pick-up truck.  I was nervous about the lack of car seats, but then walking another 4 miles to the van along narrow country roads didn't seem like too much fun either.  So, we risked it and hitchhiked a ride from a good Samaritan.   Thank you to the guy in the red pickup truck from N A Insulation.  If I ever need anything insulated, THAT is who I'm going to call.

Although come to think of it, I probably need to impress on my kids a bit more strongly, why it's generally a bad idea to take rides from strangers.

We were wet and tired and hungry...but we made it back to van.  Before it got dark even...I think it was about 7:30 by that point.

So, we didn't have to spend the night in the woods after all and I didn't have to strangle my husband (because if we had spent the night in the woods, there would have been some major strangling going on). 

All is well that ends well.

Now...the question we want to do it again next weekend?

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