Friday, June 25, 2010

Finding Chad

Every once in a while, one has a day that ends very differently than one thought it would. Like yesterday ...

Started out as a typical week day for us. Nothing out of the ordinary. Then, while Todd went to a class at work (just what he wants to do on one of his days off) the rest of us decided to go for a walk. How we came to the decision of walking where we did, doesn't really matter (we all jokingly have been blaming each other). The fact remains that we chose to walk on a trail that we didn't know much about. That's where the trouble began.

This trail is out among wetlands and mostly along a bay, not far from our house. We've walked some of it before but not very far. It's very windy there, as it is everywhere around here, especially near the water. After walking just a little ways, I decided I'd had enough of the wind. It had been a warm day and now I was cold. Chad wanted to keep going. So, brilliantly, I suggested I would take the younger two kids and meet Chad further down the trail. So he kept walking and the kids and I went back to our car. I was thinking that I could drive on the main road and meet up with Chad fairly easily further down the trail. If this sounds confusing, it is or it became confusing very quickly. We drove past way too much beach shrubs and trees until I finally found a very bumpy, long, long road that ended up in sand. I couldn't go any further. And there were some creepy teens hanging out there. I couldn't see the bay or any sign of a trail - just grass, shrubs and the bluff. Back down the bumpy road and on to the next possible way to get to the trail. It was in a marina, along an inlet from the bay. More grass and a long, long trail. By now, I was scared. I figured Chad would keep walking until he met up with us. So I kept going, hoping that around the next bend, we'd see the bay. Nope. I turned right into another trail and came out into a big, sandy clearing. I kept the kids at that trail opening and walked all over that area, screaming Chad's name. Walked up on a bluff - no trail, no bay. No Chad. I couldn't believe what I had gotten us into. A Coast Guard helicopter flew over and I screamed, "Do you see him?!" Silly, I know, but you had to be there. I was getting desperate. I knew I needed help - I couldn't find him on my own. So the kids and I walked as fast as they could manage back to the car. Lord, it was far. And it had gotten hotter. I had been crying and praying, I was exhausted but I kept going. On my way back, I called 911. I decided that this was emergency enough - I didn't know the trails and couldn't find my son. After losing reception and actually dialing 991, I finally got through to 911. The calm dispatcher handled the situation and after listening to my description of Chad, she asked, "The one with glasses?" It turned out to be my neighbor, Wanda! "Oh, Wanda!", I wailed. How cool to have a neighbor helping me! (Wanda is a 911 dispatcher and I knew that but at that moment, it didn't occur to me it was her!) We lost reception during our conversation but she called me back. I told Wanda that I was returning to where the trail started and she said a policeman would meet me there. He was there when we arrived (I actually drove right passed him - duh!) I managed to be calm enough to tell him everything he needed to know. It was surreal, describing my son's clothing and such. The officer said they had two other policemen out and they would cover the trail from three different ways. He assured me he'd find him. I was so grateful for this man's can-do attitude. Very comforting. There was an espresso hut in the parking lot near this trail head and the employee working there saw the police car. Right at that moment, her parents drove up for a coffee. She told her Dad to go tell the policeman that a boy had asked to use her phone to call his mom and had asked her more about the trail. So, her folks relayed the message to the officer. Can you believe the timing of their being there? So, now we knew Chad had been back there about 10-15 minutes before and this helped him to be found. While I waited, I went over to thank the espresso employee. She said when we drove up the second time, she saw Alec and thought he looked just like Chad. Then she remembered that we had been there before and had seen us all walk over to the trail. When she saw me the second time, she said I looked like a Mom who had lost her child. This lady was very reassuring. We talked while I waited and amazingly, she didn't have any customers during this time. She was my age with kids about my kids' ages so it was like an instant bond. Just what I needed. Then, I saw a jogger leaving the trail and I asked if he'd seen Chad. He said no but he passed a policeman and heard on the policeman's radio that they'd just found him. I was so thrilled - the jogger was happy, too! So, I knew Chad would be coming back soon but it didn't dawn on me how they would bring him back. As I emptied a ton of sand out of my shoe, a police 4-wheel vehicle drove up. I saw Chad waving frantically from the back. The officer got out and I said, "Did you cuff him?!" He laughed and let Chad out. Chad ran into my arms and we hugged and hugged. I thanked the officer tearfully but I was amazed at how calm I was at that moment. Chad was the one that was shaking and starting to cry. I guess because I'd had a few minutes to calm down after talking to the jogger, that it made it easier for me to calm Chad. I went from being the frantic one to being the comforting parent (have you been there?) What a moment.

God is good.

God is good even when I am stupid ... STUPID! I know better than to let my son explore a trail that we are both unfamiliar with. I feel so stupid that I put us all in this situation. When I was calling out his name, in the middle of what seemed like no where with absolutely no one around, I kept apologizing to him, to God, to my family, for making this stupid mistake. I asked God not to let Chad be harmed because of my stupidity. Those creepy kids I had seen really added to my fears. And, of course, with all the headlines about that 7 year old who disappeared in Portland a few weeks ago (have you heard about that?) I have been more vigilant about keeping my kids safe. We had no business on that trail, really. The espresso employee said she wouldn't take this trail alone or any of the trails along this bay. Too secluded.

Anyway, all ended well because of the quick action of the policeman, the dispatcher, the espresso lady and her folks, the jogger. Think of all the people God brought in to help us. I am so grateful to these people, used by God.

No, I never envisioned that this day would end with me seeing my son climbing out of a police vehicle. He didn't like it at all. We joked (later) that it's all the more reason to never do anything that would land you in one again. But this wasn't his fault. I'm so proud of him for trying to do the right thing. I had wondered if he'd return to the trail head and I'm proud of him for asking for a phone to call me. He didn't, however, leave a message - I think he was just a little too shaken up to think of that. So his next solution was to get more info to try and find me again. We were both so exhausted when we got home. Fortunately, we have both been walking nearly every day so we were in better shape to handle this than we would be otherwise. Alec and Carmen never once complained or gave me any trouble. They prayed for Chad and trudged along with me, even though they were hot and tired. All I had to give them in the car were breath mints! And this is the Mom who is always prepared with water and stuff! I tell you, I just royally blew it yesterday. Today, Chad and I said it would be awhile before we venture out on a walk. It was cold and cloudy out today so it felt good to just stay home. Yesterday, after we got home, Todd and I headed out to the store for a few things to make a quick and easy dinner. I kept quietly sobbing every now and then. I forgot what I wanted to buy. I forgot to swipe my Safeway Club card. I think it was post-traumatic stress or something. I was still out on the trail, mentally, screaming for Chad. I'm fine, today. He's here and we can (and do) hug often. Yesterday, Chad said he figured I'd call the police at some point - boy, that kid knows me so well!

Friday, June 18, 2010

I Have Nothing Against Chickens

I'm thinking about doing a "Cooking Camp" with my kids this summer. Spending the whole week working with them in the kitchen, teaching. I want Todd to be in on this as well, since he's the one who taught me how to cook.

I was wondering if any of you had any helpful hints, tips, recipes to share. I am open to any suggestions, including comments like, "Are you crazy?" (just kidding!)

I have to get over my fear of eggs. My kids have never cracked an egg, except for the one time Chad attempted to make French toast. He was about 8 or so. I had the crazy idea that making French toast would be an easy thing to start with. I let him crack the first egg. Somehow it exploded and egg was on the counter, Chad and the floor. Since I was also the mother of a 5 year old and toddler, I did not exactly have the patience to deal with the mess so I ended up making him feel badly about it (I didn't mean to). Since then, he has avoided cracking eggs. And I have not asked anyone else to do so. I didn't really mean to follow down this path, it has just seemed easier. But I feel I'm doing my kids a disservice by not letting them learn this simple task. And the careful handwashing required afterward! (Remember, I'm queen of handwashing!) So, at the risk of sounding more paranoid, let's just say I am considering egg-cracking to be a required lesson during our Cooking Camp. Again, if you have any advice, I'd appreciate it.

But did you know, there are lots of recipes that don't require any eggs? Believe me, I'm nearly an expert on this topic, so if you want a terrific applesauce cake recipe (sans eggs), just ask. (Pathetic, pathetic!)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Sun Day On A Saturday!

Glory be! Sun, sun, sun! It was a GLORIOUS sunny day! Just when you think it's never, ever going to happen, God gives us this beautiful day! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

Lest you think I'm nuts, it's just been so long since I've spent the day in capris and a t-shirt. With the windows open, no less. I'm not pathetic, just jubilant.

On days like these, I tend to go a little bonkers. What do we do with such a day? It seems a shame to stay inside and do chores, even if they need to be done. And Todd had to work so we had to stay close to home. So the kids and I went for a walk on the river walk in town. O.k., so I had to put on jeans and wear a fleece for most of it (it's nearly always windy on the river) but it felt so good to be warm. Warm! Even the wind was mostly warm. I changed back into my capris when we got home.

The railroad track runs along the river walk even though a train hasn't been out our way in several years. (Joke: How do you know a railroad has been here? Because it left tracks.) We do have a trolley that runs up and down the river, the length of our town and when it passes by, one feels compelled to wave. I appreciate the kindly tourists who wave back. We ride it once a year or so, it's fun to hear the conductor talk about the town, etc. But not today, no, today was for being outside. We heard chirping along part of the track where it split into three rails. We found some adolescent sparrows hiding down under the unused track, calling for their mom. We walked among a large flock of pigeons. Then we spotted an enormous container ship entering the river under the big bridge that spans across to Washington. The pilot boat zipped across to sidle up to the ship. We knew we were in for a treat. The river pilot shimmied up the ladder hanging on the side of the container ship (these guys are nuts!!) While we waited for the hand off, a raccoon scampered up from the river bank and ran across the tracks in front of us. After several minutes, we spotted the bar pilot walking on the deck, then making his way down the side of the ship on the ladder. From there he safely made it to the pilot boat. Whew! This happens several times every day but we don't get to witness it very often. From our living room at home, we see the helicopter take off that takes the bar pilot out to the ship in the ocean that needs to enter the river at the "bar". It's dangerous work. The bar pilot is deposited by cable down on the ship. He pilots the ship through the bar and into the river. That's where the pilot boat comes in and delivers the river pilot to the ship. Greetings are exchanged, as well as information. Then the bar pilot climbs down the ladder and literally jumps on board the little pilot boat. One false step ...

It's always amazing to watch, it's never boring. I couldn't help but think that with all of today's technology, there are some things that are still done the same way they've been done for a long, long time. Brave men, these guys are. And it pays good money, too (anyone interested?)

Our walk back to the car was uneventful, everyone being hot and tired but we all had fun. We went home, I made dinner, Todd went to work. It was still beautiful out. Chad set up croquet and we played. He beat me, the scoundrel! Then Chad and I went for a walk around our neighborhood. We spotted a large flock of cedar wax wing birds. They flew down onto the sidewalk in front of us for a minute. They are such pretty birds and rare in these parts. We got home and still I wanted to be out. So, close to sunset, I took Chad and Carmen out to the river, this time at the end of the boat docks, to watch the sunset. A lovely ending to a warm, wonderful day!