Friday, June 22, 2012

almost heaven

The second week of June we bought Juniper a backpack, drew her a map, and told her we were going on a big adventure.
We boarded a plane, flew over our soaring mountains, changed planes in Chicago, got in a car, drove through the green, green mountains and ended up in the arms of my man's family.  We'd been awake since 4:30 that morning.  The second June bug's head hit the carseat, she was asleep.  When she awoke--somewhere along the Virginia-West Virginia  border--she exclaimed, "Daddy!  We're in the JUNGLE!!"
 :: The hastily-drawn map (drawn in the car, at 5am, on the way to the airport) proved to be the key to our travel success.  Anytime J bug was tired, bored, cranky or confused, we'd say, "Where are we on the map?  Should we get out your map?"  "Yes," she'd say matter-of-factly and unzip her backpack.  I love feeling like I've got this parenting thing down.  I love the chin-lifted air of confidence when I feel like I'm in sync with my kids.  I remember the first time I felt that way, when Juniper was just a wee babe.  But since Hazel was born, I've had a few days of parenting pirouettes, but mostly I'm treading water.  The map was perfect.  It was awesome.  I can't wait to go on another adventure myself.  Next time, we'll draw a better map.

:: After landing in the arms of family, Juniper waved her hand prophetically and announced, "These are all my people."  When we live so far from family it's easy to forget there are people out there who love our kids as much as we do.  Family.  Where someone else is always holding my baby and not because I asked.  
Aside from my Wyoming husband and his Montana brother, my man's family all live within a 3 hour radius of each other.  This is almost unfathomable to me.  My whole life, my family has been scattered like stardust from Ohio and North Carolina to the Pacific coast.  Stardust may be dreamy, but I like the cluster effect.    
We didn't see everyone, but we saw most and even met the newest addition.
We talked about how much Hazel seems to resemble her great-grandmother,
who was the one person who could rock her to sleep.  
Juniper went fishing with cousins,
and kayaking with their mom while great-grandpa fished.
This conversation was reported back to us:
Juniper: I have a spider on my arm.
Aunt M: Do you want me to get it off?
Juniper: No.
I love her no nonsense confidence, the personality she carries in her stride.  One day soon, she'll learn from someone who learned from someone to be afraid of spiders.  These days, it's only the big, primal fears that emerge in the darkness of night.

:: Our trip was quintessentially West Virginian.
Our first night, a black bear bit the bumper of our rental car, chewed the rear wiper off, pawed around the gas tank trying to figure a way in, then did much worse to the car owned by my husband's cousin.  That old bear got the door open, ate a happy meal and some goldfish crackers and chewed up some seats while he was at it.
(Every. single. time. we got in the car, for the rest of the week, Juniper asked, "What'd the bear do to our car?"  Now that we're home, we're paying the true price for the bear incident.  For the last three nights, Juniper has been having nightmares about bears.  Last night was the first in months that she ended up in our bed.)

:: Of all things West Virginian, I melt for their summer weather.  Warm bordering on hot, and humid.  A drippy, saucy, slow, southern-accent kind of humid.  I love the rocky mountains, I do, but ohhhh....swimming in warm, slow rivers that don't freeze your testicles!  (Or, in my case, ankles!)
:: Late-night impromptu missions to catch fireflies--those dizzying, magical lightening bugs--wearing nothing but thin cotton pajamas and no jacket.  That's right, NO JACKET.
:: Juniper found a box turtle laying eggs.
 :: Went fishing with dad and grandpa.
:: And went on what is becoming the family tradition choo-choo ride.  (Like the bear, the choo-choo has been a subject of lots of excited talk and at least one nightmare.)
:: And in a flash, we had to turn the map around and go back the way we came.  Leaving our people,
Those twisty-turny-up-down-all-around appalachian roads,
The dripping "jungle",
And father-in-law on the cusp of retirement,
To fly back home.


  1. You're back!!!! I love the map idea, will try it for our next adventure.

    As always, great photos. I love the one of Juniper with the railroad hat on with her papa looking at her.

    Your words are poetic.

  2. "These are all my people!" Love that.
    That picture of daddy and hazel is amazing.
    We have plenty heat in *these* Rocky Mtns, but all that green is lovely on the eyes.


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