In the morning, our oldest sons asked if they could take a walk together before we started school. Frankly, I was a tad bit suspicious of this question because one of them loathes extra exercise and both of them don't often get along all that well unless they're scheming.
Against my better judgment, I allowed them to take a "quick walk."
Almost an hour later, they had yet to return. Then our youngest son started telling me his thoughts about his brothers' whereabouts. Apparently, his assumptions were created out of some stuff the older boys had told him before and some other elaborations he felt made the story more interesting. But as I listened to O, I began wondering how much of it was truth.
At that point, I left S in charge of J, O and E. I set out to find the boys where I suspected they might be "walking." It was within five minutes walking distance when I spotted them.
They were in the arroyo near our house.
If you are not familiar with arroyos, they are giant, dirt ditches (for lack of a better word) created naturally, I assume, when our rainy season and frequent flash floods occur. The water gathers in these low spots -- the arroyos -- since we live in the desert and the ground is really too dry to soak up a lot of water quickly. The arroyos save our homes and streets from flooding, but they can also be a very dangerous playground.
We try to keep the kids out of the arroyos, but the boys, especially, love to explore them -- for them, this is the closest patch of wilderness. Hard to take the explorer out of the boy. We warn them constantly that if they feel even one drop of rain fall on them, they need to high-tail it out of the arroyos and come home. When flash-flooding occurs, it's often only just a few minutes from dry, sandy arroyos to a raging river ready to drown anyone in its path.
Here's a better definition of an arroyo if you really are curious.
Anyway, so I saw H and Z out there on the side of the arroyo and H was apparently digging a giant hole, while Z swung an axe -- yes, you read that right -- at the dirt near his brother's feet.
As a mother, I was mortified and terrified and completely irritated at the same time. But I kept breathing prayers as I walked and soon, I got pretty close to them. I was surprised how close I could get before they looked up to notice my presence. When I was about 15 feet away from them, Z noticed me and I thought he was going to dart, so I called out, "You guys just stay there."
They were dumbfounded. I yelled a little (so much for that therapy goal) and gathered the axe and a little saw they had in their possession. The saw was hidden under some tires and a gross, old pillow that they'd found as they built a sad-looking fort (forts were easier in the northeast where trees exist). I kept yelling at them about the fleas that were probably in that pillow. It was seriously grossing me out and bothered me almost more than their carelessness with dangerous weapons, er, tools.
I started the walk home. Quickly.
Z tailed way behind, yelling insults at me because this is his way of trying to regain control of a bad situation, while H jogged to keep up with my steps, all the way apologizing for letting me down and doing something he knew was stupid. He was making promises to never be so stupid again. I ignored those promises and won't hold him to it.
I still do stupid stuff and I'm 39.
When we got home, I sent Z up to his room for a bit for being so disrespectful as he was caught and didn't do anything further to H (though later, I gave the boys a lot of extra chores to make up for it). Z eventually regained his cool and came downstairs to apologize to me.
Fast-forward about 2-1/2 hours.
We all headed over to our local Veterans Memorial Park, where several people were gathered to honor veterans and hear our mayor speak. As we entered the park, there were more veterans present than any other represented group of people. I did notice one other family with a few school-aged children, so I'm assuming they were homeschoolers, too, but I never got over there to ask.
As we entered -- all five of our children and my niece, E, were with me -- I watched our sons approach obvious veterans (elderly men in military uniform and others with vests and hats that were labeled with which wars they fought in). They each extended their hands to greet these veterans and thanked them, one-by-one, for serving our country.
I was moved almost to tears with pride.
Those were our kids. Our sons. I was so proud of the young men they were becoming and how well they represented our family in a forum made up mostly of soldiers. Uniforms make ordinary men seem regal and almost superhuman with all their presumed courage and toughness. A weaker man might feel intimidated to approach one of them, but our sons spoke in confidence to each one of them.
How the heck did the boys with the sharp tools in the arroyo become these mature, respectable young men in just a couple of hours? I was blown away because I literally have no idea.
Anyway, I was very moved to witness this ceremony. A military chaplain gave the invocation and closing prayers, several government representatives spoke (mostly staff of senators and congresspeople), as well as our mayor. There was a salute and a pledge of allegiance to the flag. The whole thing took almost an hour and it was pretty well freezing outside. Our kids sat quietly and listened and watched and were so well-behaved.
I almost couldn't believe these were our kids. The ones God has given us to love and raise. But there's no doubt ... I have the papers to prove it.
Following the event, we were actually interviewed by local news (not sure if we made it past editing yet -- but we'll watch news at 10:00) and we got to go up and meet the mayor. Our kids were most excited to search the area where the blanks had been fired for remaining shell casings to take home as souvenirs. They found three out of four.
The day was definitely adventure-rich. My kind of day.