My parents have what we often refer to as Grandkid Heaven.

Right around the time that Chris and I started dating, they went in with three other families and bought 70 acres of land 20 minutes out of town. It was the cheapest land anyone could buy, because it was completely unreachable – a mountain on one side, and a creek on the other three sides.

My dad, however, is quite handy. So he and the other neighbors built a bridge. A bridge sturdy enough for every piece of construction machinery that needed passage to build three houses. A bridge that is still in beautiful working condition fifteen years later.

We the children rewarded their hard work by giving them five grandchildren who think their Grandparent’s house is the stuff dreams are made of.


They’re not wrong.

My parents have antique cars and chickens and bees and a creek and a sandbox and rocks to paint with chalk and blueberries and blackberries to pick and a garden full of vegetables and eggs to collect from the chicken houses and flowers to gather into bouquets…

it couldn’t possibly get any better, except for once a year when our entire extended family comes out,

Family Reunion Picture

And the party gets real.


There are tire swings to catapult through the air and horseshoes with which to nearly decapitate your cousins.


There are even hamster wheels – which surveys show are approved of by nine out of ten kids.


Much more frequently than the annual family extravaganza, my parents have their five grandkids over at the same time to foster relationships and childhood magic.

IMG_6281Eli – 6 years old, Ali – 7 years old, Andi – 3 years old, Noah – 3 years old, Tessa – 5 years old, Model T Ford, 100 years old.

That would be my two kids and my older brother’s three kids – all delightfully attached to each other.

Despite the obvious positives, though, we the four parents are always a tiny bit worried.

“Are you sure you can handle all five? They’re a LOT…”

But Mom always assures us that it’s no problem at all and she lives for this kind of thing (while my Dad looks at her like she’s full of hippy dippy baloney).

Until…The Last Time.

Mom had all five completely to herself, as my dad and little brother were out of town.

They all sat off on a nature walk. It was a lovely day, and there’s nothing my Mom loves more than educating children on the wonders of nature. She knows to whom every leaf, bark, and bird chirp belongs, and can tell the children about them with such wonder that they actually care.

(This is a magic that only a grandparent possesses. I say, “Listen! There’s a Mockingbird!”, and Ali says “So? Why are you telling me that?!”)

The kids were in the mood for a butterfly hunt, and Eli spotted one first. His butterfly led him and the other children running after him and my Mom running after them to the creek. The creek was immediately deemed more fun than catching butterflies, so the chase was cancelled and all five kids began wading in the water.

Besides his butterfly chasing skills, Eli is freakishly adept at climbing trees, and superhuman in his ascent speed.

Which explains how he managed to climb a tree in the middle of the creek before my Mom realized his feet had left the ground.


And, for some reason, that was the day that he decided to get stuck.

So my mom quickly got the other four kids to shore and waded through the creek to answer his plea for help.

While Mom was busy, Tessa decided that it would be a grand opportunity to throw sand in the other three kid’s faces.

That’s what cousins are supposed to do, right?

She did not, apparently, expect the other three to begin screaming as if someone had thrown sand in their faces.

Ali worked up her most self-righteous oldest-kid voice and told Tessa that she was going to be in big trouble, then started yelling, “Graaaaaaaaammmaaaaammmmmaaa!!! Tessa threw sand!!!”

Which made Tessa flee the scene.

Mom had completed her rescue of Eli, who was not at all grateful for her services and was arguing his case for re-climbing the same tree again as she was trying to get back across the creek to remove sand from six little eyes belonging to three little screaming mouths.

Which is when she discovered that she was once again down one kid.

Mom called for Tessa, but Tessa wasn’t returning calls. Thanks to Ali’s proclamations, she thought she was in trouble so she was keeping a low profile, erroneously thinking as kids often do that time heals all wounds.

Mom hurried three kids up to the house (Ali, Noah and Andi), told Ali she was in charge, and kept Eli with her for his eagle eyes to help in The Tessa Hunt.

She set off, calling for Tessa and completely freaking out on the inside.

Which is when Noah began screaming as if his life was over.

Mom rushed back to the house to find out which tragedy had befallen her next.

Noah wanted to play with the blocks. ALL the blocks. And Ali had a couple of blocks that he wanted.

In a desperate state of being, My Mom told Ali, “Give him whatever he wants. Whatever it takes to make him not scream.”

(She never told my brother to do that for me growing up. We should have run away more often.)

Then she ran out of the house again to search for the missing child.

“Tessa!! TESSA!!! TESSSSSSA!!!”

Runaways don’t answer.

Eli was much too busy chasing bugs and butterflies to look for his missing sister, therefore tying Mom up with keeping him from also disappearing.

Worried that Tessa was wandering further and further away, mom decided that it was time for more power and control in her situation. So she put Eli on the golf cart and took off, even searching across the creek and onto the next road.

On her way back over the creek, as I’m positive her heart rate was reaching dangerous levels, Mom finally spotted Tessa, darting from one hiding place to another. She was taken into custody and what was left of my mother was finally able to return to the house, all five grandchildren in her possession, and holding Tessa especially close.

When he returned home, my Dad forbade her from keeping all five by herself ever again. And we all said a very hearty Amen.

…Except for Mom, who still regularly says, “Oh it will be fine!! They’re no problem at all!”, prompting Dad to start calling around for openings at nearby mental institutions.

14 thoughts on “The Runaway Incident.

  1. Eli – 6 years old, Ali – 7 years old, Andi – 3 years old, Noah – 3 years old, Tessa – 5 years old MODEL T FORD 100 YEARS OLD

  2. Wow. That sounds really stressful, but also really normal. Everyone did their part. Maybe a stern reminder to the grandkids that Being Missing is way worse than Being In Trouble?

  3. Uhm….hello….your dad built a bridge? All by his lonesome? As AMAZING as your dad’s design/skill set, I resent this credit oversight :-)

    1. That’s the breaks of history: kids always remember it as their parents did it all: both bad and good. Your kids probably remember that you built the bridge completely alone – no help from any of the men!

      I fixed it. :-)

    1. Yup – it was an HDR photograph and she moved too quickly. I don’t usually use HDR with kids in it but I wanted the clouds and they were getting left out with regular photography. Check out this one of Noah from last summer:

  4. There are certain people who (in my opinion) walk a fine line between sainthood and lunacy when it comes to dealing with children…and I have nothing but awe and admiration for them. No offense to your mom, but I think she might be one of them.

    This reminded me of my mother-in-law, who kept my six-year-old niece for two solid weeks–24/7–this summer. On the last day, she told me wearily, “Nan is WAY too old for this. Nan is going to the Smokies for a week to sit in the RV and read.”

    1. This is so true. And those people that walk that line are unbelievably important to parents of small children.

      And I love the story of your mother-in-law! I hope she had a nice quiet time in the RV.

  5. Have to agree with Stephanie’s comment. There is a fine line. I’m grateful it exists, though, since it allows for 11 day anniversary getaways while our kids are at Gramamma and Pop’s :).

  6. Although I have only met them in person once, I have to say your parents are pretty cool and amazing. That whole situation would have done me in. I have mild panic attacks when I am left in charge of my 2 nephews I can’t imagine 5. Is it wrong of me to have thought that Eli was the runaway. Never would have thought it from Tessa. I know that my Sister is grateful for my mom looking after the boys. But I also agree there is a fine line between sainthood and lunacy sometimes.

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