Earlier this year Lindon's parents graciously invited us on a Fowler family vacation to the Smoky Mountains. As soon as we agreed to go, I began to worry about the week.
With four families, seven kids, and eight hours in the car (with a mostly-potty-trained child who still needs some monitoring), there were plenty of reasons to be anxious. Add to that the stress of the first vacation with two kids and trying to get Shields to sleep through the night, and I was a total train wreck.
To cope with my anxiety, I made lists. Lots of them. Things to pack for Shields, things to occupy Levi in the car, things to do to prepare to occupy Levi in the car, things to eat, things to do once we got there, and timelines for when I wanted to complete all of the aforementioned lists. It was list mania.
And then came last Sunday, the day that we left for the much-anticipated vacation. Eight hours in the car turned into 10, and when we arrived, we entered a scene of merry, stir-crazy chaos that made me want to curl up in the fetal position. And even though I had made a list for every scenario I could envision, there was an entire realm of factors that had not crossed my consciousness because I had never vacationed with children. In the first five minutes, I had written the week (and myself) off as a total failure.
But then something happened. On Monday we had breakfast at Chick-Fil-A and enjoyed lots of quality time at the pool. On Tuesday Lindon and I took our kids on a hike. Lindon carried Levi in the borrowed backpack (or just carried him), and I wore Shields in the Baby Bjorn. We had a great time and even got a glimpse of a bear. The little cousins were getting along, the older cousins were oh-so-helpful, and the grownup time was really refreshing. Suddenl I found myself relaxing and smiling. This failure of a vacation was turning into a very nice time.
On Friday we even joined everyone else on the strenuous 4-mile hike that I had initially ruled out as too much for our kids. I decided we probably could tag along, but we (I) certainly wouldn't be able to make it to the top. Then we made it to the base of the exposed rock outcrop that must be climbed to reach the summit, and I found myself thinking, "I'd like to pass Shields off to Lindon so I can climb higher." And then I voiced this desire to Lindon who gladly took Shields so I could climb. And THEN I found myself climbing an exposed rock outcrop to reach the top of Chimney Tops trail without once asking myself if it was a good idea.
And you know what? Of course you do. It was awesome, and I am incredibly glad I did it. All of it. I am glad we deprived Shields of a few morning naps and strapped him in the Baby Bjorn for some hikes. I am glad I carried that child on those hikes. I am glad we endured 10+ hours in the car each way with our kids. And I am glad I climbed that mountain without hesitating for a second.
As the photos indicate, this was a great week. I am already thinking about when and where Lindon and I can take the kids for our next hike. At the end of the week Lindon cautiously asked if I might consider one day taking the kids on a camping trip out west. While I did not give him a hearty "yes," I am considering it. And for me, today, that is one step closer to fearless.
Note: All of these photos are borrowed from Lonnie and Sara Fowler. Thanks!