I am not exploiting my family’s trauma for a blog post. I want to make that very clear before we begin. However, as we were driving on our way home, we were cracking jokes about it. By the time we all were safe in our crappy little house, we were really laughing about it. Apparently this family has learned to laugh through the rough times. I have never been so proud of my little guy and gals. Or my heroic husband. So now, we shall begin our story.
BTW- This is a long one. You might want to get a cup of coffee and go pee first.
It started off as a last minute idea to take a family walk. We were all ready to have some well deserved family time, and taking a walk together seemed like such a quaint idea. I will also let you know that my family has long made fun of me for constantly carrying my iPhone with me. Making jokes like “It’s not a part of the family, Mom. Put it down.”
We decided as we were driving together that we should go to our county park and do a quick trail, at Tim's insistance. This is something we have done before, and most of the trails only take about a half hour to an hour. It was 7pm by the time we got there, and we found an unmarked trail and started off on our journey.
At first, it was really fun! We were all getting exercise, talking and laughing together, and decided this should be our new Sunday night routine. The trail kept getting longer, and we kept following the arrows. Pretty soon, we realized the sun was setting, so we started booking it. I have never power walked a trail until last night, but I was holding hands of kids and keeping their legs moving. And secretly trying to code to Matt that I was getting worried. The whole time I was writing the blog post in my head (as those of us who are serious bloggers do) about how dieting is like a trail that you aren’t sure where the end is, and you have to keep pressing on until you find the end. That is NOT where this blog is going today.
Pretty soon the trail got MIGHTY dark. I couldn’t see the trail anymore. It was at this point that my sweet little mini-me (Natalie) took the lead. I have never- in the entire almost 10 years she has been alive- seen such courage from my little lioness. She grabbed my hand and said “C’mon. I can still see the trail. We can do this.” And she led us a little further along. For the next 30 minutes, she was directing our family where to step, where not to step, and leading us through the darkness. Usually she is scared of her own shadow. Not during the time she was the head honcho, though. That girl had not one ounce of fear in her. I gained a new respect for her. She’s going to be ok out there in the world.
But pretty soon, it got too dark for her to see too. And she said, “Daddy, can you still see? I can’t tell where the trail is now.” He bravely took the lead, we all made a human chain and pressed on as long as we could. Matt said, “Honey, does your cell have reception out here?” “Yes, it does, but it’s in the car. We were having ‘FAMILY TIME,’ remember? I didn’t bring it with me!”
We had no phone, no flash lights, no water bottles, no clock or watch, and soon we would discover we had no guts, either.
Now, I had this crazy notion in my head that pretty soon, the park employees would see our car parked there after hours and know something was up. That they would come looking for us. So that is exactly what I told the kids. The park rangers would come find us. If not, God would keep us safe. No question about that.
As we sat down to finally rest, because it was too dark to fumble through the woods any longer, Matt said he would try to find water. He promised he would stay where we could hear him. The kids and I sat down in the pitch dark, grabbed hands, and prayed our tired little butts off. This part of the evening, still being confident that the local rangers would find us, I was confident that we were safe. So we prayed, and I shared with the kids that I pray for the friends they make, their future spouses, and everything about them. It was a fantastic time to tell them how much I love each and every one of them, and that I appreciate who they are as people. Not just as our kids, but as humans. That part of the night was amazing.
Pretty soon Matt ventured back, saying he couldn’t find water, and we would have to think of other things.
So we started telling stories. Matt told the kids that he had accidently eaten a bowl of ants on Saturday, to which they laughed uncontrollably. (And yes, he did. Everyone makes fun of me for putting boxes of cereal into containers. It’s to keep the ants out. One box didn’t make it in the containers like it was supposed to, and the ants got to it. Matt ate half a bowl before he noticed they were crawling over his peanut butter crunch.) With everyone in such high spirits, we decided to lay down on the poison ivy infested forest floor and wait for dawn.
Now, there a few fears I have. I hate being in wide open spaces, I am scared of dogs of any breed that I don’t know, and I am scared of ghosty stuff. I don’t watch horror movies. One time Matt told me that “The Blair Witch Project” wasn’t scary. So I watched it. And he then had to hold my hand as I peed in the bathroom cause I was so freaked out.
So with my fear of wide open spaces, fear of unknown dogs, and ghosts, we were supposed to fall asleep on the ground, covered with spiders and sticks up our rears and possible coyotes. When it is pitch black in the forest, you can hear every sound the creatures make. Raccoons climbing up trees, deer rubbing antlers on tree trunks, rabbits hopping around- every sound made us jump. I seriously thought at one point that I was going to have a heart attack. The kids were praying for Jesus to return, for the park rangers to rescue us, and for us to get home because they were scared. It’s hard to put on a brave face for your kids when you are terrified out of your wits. But Matt and I did our best. Each of us laid on the outside, with the kids huddled together in the middle, so anything that might eat us would get to mom and daddy first. No coyote was going to drag away one of our babies.
We couldn’t sleep. We were cold, thirsty and scared. And it was DARK. You couldn’t really see your own hand in front of your face. Barely. And the moon made freaky shadows onto the ground. Natalie mentioned that one shadow looked like a body without a head. It did, and I told her she was scaring her brother. Nope. She was scaring her mom. I peed my pants a little.
So we laid there, and pretty soon we heard the inevitable pack of nearby coyotes. Howling. Running. Plotting to eat us alive. We all got worried then, and each of us (except for Matt) was crying as quietly as we could, so as not to attract coyotes closer.
Pretty soon, we must have all fallen asleep. I don’t know for how long, but I awoke to the sound of footsteps going right in front of my head, and Natalie saying “MOMMY!!!”
So I started screaming. And Natalie started screaming. And then the whole family, including Matt, got on our feet and began screaming. For a full solid minute at least until we gained our composure.
We realized that we were super jumpy and it was probably just a rabbit or a coon or a possum meandering through the woods. And with all of our screaming, we were certain we had either scared it off or sent it into little woodland creature heaven.
Pretty soon, we were all standing in a circle, our backs to the middle so everyone could watch for something creeping through the woods, with Mama and Daddy holding all three kids at once.
And that was right when my stomach growled really really loud.
And Natalie started screaming. And everyone started screaming. And I was worried that something was really attacking us.
Now, I have never seen Matt jump into action quite like this before. He was 5 places all at once. He was behind us, in front of us and on all sides within split seconds. He was screaming and throwing his life and body in front of our unseen attacker on all sides.
Which happened to be my growling stomach.
The kids saw him protecting them, and I saw him protecting us, and he officially became our hero of the night. Pretty soon, we all figured out what had happened, stopped screaming (again), and calmed down. It was then decided that as soon as my stomach growled again, I was to softly say “tummy- it’s my tummy” so that no one started screaming again. We also had our 5th family prayer circle. This time facing outwards and keeping our eyes open.
The worst part was we had no clock to tell us what time it was. For all we knew, it was barely midnight. It was the longest night of our lives.
But pretty soon, the light began to change, and we could almost see the trail again. It was close enough for us, and we began walking again. As we walked, the trail began to open up from a narrow passage to a wide path, and the dawn began to break. Right as we got to a spot where we could clearly see the lake, we saw the sun rising. It was gorgeous. And we saw it together as a family, still holding hands. Confident that we had faced utter darkness and unknown foes together, the dawn was here, and we didn’t wind up as coyote food. We kept walking for another hour, crossed the dam, and pretty soon we saw asphalt. Sweet civilized asphalt. I have never been so relieved.
By the time we found our car, we must have walked at least 12 miles. And checking my phone (which was in the glove box) we saw it was 6:02am. We piled in and drove out of there headed to our sweet little house. I called the kids in from school, and then called my mom. It happens to be her birthday.
Happy birthday, Margaret the Saint. Your kids and grand kids didn’t get eaten by coyotes.
We got home, Matt fixed hot chocolate for the kids, and I helped them with showers, scrubbing any part of them that came into contact with poison ivy. They were something akin to the shower scene from the movie “Silkwood.” But no one complained. I washed backs and made sure the kids got every bit of their body that was exposed washed off. So far, no one seems to be breaking out from the ivy. Thank heavens.
I gave everyone in the house (including mom and daddy) a Benadryl, made oatmeal for all the kids (which Tim didn’t eat. He tried…. by the way, his shirt says "Every great idea I have gets me in trouble" and it couldn't be more ironic.)
and we went to bed about 8am. I lost 3 pounds yesterday (I think from the constant shaking with terror) and we are all fine with hating nature.
Matt asked me before we fell asleep, “So, do you really think we should do this every Sunday night?”
I cannot repeat my response, but let’s just leave it as being in the negative. From now on, THIS FAMILY is hiking at the mall.
I’m leaving the coyotes for the wolves.
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