Burning brakes and fall fun

Last week I set aside this day to take the kiddos on a fall color drive and hike. We set out this morning with no real plan in mind other than starting at Reddish Knob, a high mountain lookout I frequented in my youth.

After enjoying some time on top of the mountain, we decided to try a road I thought would take us to Sugar Grove, WV.

This will be fun, I thought, no rules for the day except to have fun. No GPS. I can always get us “un-lost.”

What I didn’t anticipate was cooking the brakes on our aged van. We laughed at chipmunks running across the road, marveled at the reds, oranges, yellows, rusts, and greens, enjoyed the deer and a moss-covered rock, but as we continued down the steep winding road, I started smelling the brakes. Then I noticed they weren’t responding much when I applied pressure.

Make this out to be NO BIG DEAL for the sake of the children, I thought as I stopped in the middle of the road sandwiched between two blind curves. There wasn’t a place to pull off.

I turned on the hazard lights and told the kids the van needed to rest. By this time the whole interior smelled of burning rubber. I allowed them to get out and play by the side of the road. I tried calling my husband, but there was no cell service. I wanted to be sure if I let them rest I would be safe to continue. After about a half hour of not being able to reach him and no one driving by, I decided we would try again.

I geared down this time, and we inched our way around a few more corners. I assured them if we had to drive into the ditch to stop, we would still be okay because we were going so slowly. I saw a pull off and decided to give the brakes a longer rest. We spread a blanket on the ground and had some lunch.

I heard a vehicle coming up the mountain and flagged down the pickup truck. The young man said we were down the steepest part. Just one more switchback, a few sharp curves, and the road would level out.

I got the kids and the dogs back in the van, feeling confident we could navigate without incident. Thanks be to God, we did.

We found the Trading Post in Sugar Grove, and the elderly gentleman behind the counter welcomed the children with a smile and a cow tail candy. We visited a while. His son is postmaster at the other end of the building. His daughter lives and works within six miles of our house. I asked if they had a restroom.

No, he said, but see that church across the street. The basement door’s open. Go in and turn right. You’ll find what you need there.

To the delight of our daughters, the church was “glittery!” It was covered in pieces of broken glass. I marveled at the metaphor of brokenness shining in the light of the sun.

We drove another twenty miles to hike the Confederate Breastworks Trail, knowing it was manageable for all levels of dogs and children while also getting us closer home.

After the hike, we decided to surprise Dad at work. He kept wondering why he hadn’t heard a peep from us, he said. I was glad I couldn’t reach him when I tried and that I was able to guide us through the brake debacle without alarming (and especially without harming!) the children.

Besides a lovely day enjoying the majesty of an Allegheny autumn, I felt my lately-crumbling confidence grow ever so slightly from working through a scary situation without help nearby. Well, except the most important help.

First Day of School

Barefoot o’re the dusty pathway

Through the pasture, was the rule

Skipped the girl with brunette pigtails

As she hurried off to school

Ah, the summer filled with daydreams

Hailed her with its final call

Breezes yielded July’s sweetness

To ripened hints of early fall

Deep inhale, she sniffed the pencils

As the sharpener ground the wood

Buried nose into her textbooks

Smelling knowledge to be learned

Classroom chatter all around her

Catching up on summer fun

Couldn’t rival her excitement

Of a new school year begun

Bother math, it still confounds her

Language arts, she wanted more

Reading, writing, singing, playing

Timeless knowledge didn’t bore

Oh those sacred childhood memories

Held forever in her heart

Well from deep within her being

As her own, their school now start

Letter to a Teacher

Dear Teacher,

Our son is about to enter your kindergarten class. Admittedly, this mama is a nervous emotional wreck. As a former preschool teacher, I know that a child’s caregiver knows more about that child’s family than the parents would ever want to admit. But that’s not what makes me emotional. I have not yet been able to comprehend sending my child to someone else for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. I am grieving the loss of time I will be able to spend with him.

We considered homeschooling, but ultimately, we believe YOU have something unique and special to offer our precious child. We are trusting you to see him as an individual, not just as a student.

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You see, he was our second-born living child, but sadly, the first one we were able to bring home from the hospital. From birth, he has had an amazing ability to sense sadness and loneliness, and respond with compassion, wisdom and tenderness beyond his years. Death has been a part of our everyday language, but he is still filled with vibrant wonder, trust and belief in God and humankind.

He always remembers his angel sister he never met and is fiercely protective and loving of his baby sister. He adores his dog, Sampson, and his cats, Green Bean and Nelson.

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He loves camping, fishing, bugs, mud fights, swimming, campfires and helping daddy around the house. He has an incredible ear for music and knack for memorization. If he talks about healthy and unhealthy, it is because he helps me cook and garden and our conversation is often centered around nutrition during those times.

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He clothing style is shaped by his farming, cut-up t-shirt wearing Uncle Mikey, whom he adores, as well as by his love of bull-riding he shared with his late grandpa. His grandma intervenes with some dress clothes you might see him wear on occasion and he loves to wear ties like his daddy. There are times when he insists on wearing ties with his farm shirts, but I don’t mind because he is so cute.

Although we’ve had “the talk,” he might occasionally bring up a conversation about guns or knives. Rest assured, these are all tucked safely away in a locked cabinet. Our family values living off the land as much as possible and that includes harvesting game to grace our table and fill our tummies when we can. Even his BB gun and fishing pole require one hundred percent adult supervision.

He is a fairly typical child in many ways. He will certainly need your instruction, your affirmation and even your discipline at times. It is my prayer that you will see him and all the children in your classroom as unique as their DNA proves them to be. All of them come to you with a diverse set of stories and circumstances and will learn through the lens of their own experiences. You have a difficult job, a calling that I am not equipped to walk in. You hold in your possession the power to help shape the lives of these precious children into responsible contributors to our world.

I know it’s not all up to you. As his parents, we commit to continue our part at home. Please let us know the ways we can best support each other in raising this precious gift we cherish so dearly. And know that while he is making you laugh, testing the limits or trying your patience at school, we are eagerly awaiting his return to our arms every day.

Sincerely,

Eli’s Mom