Outside Week: Worry Wednesday


Taking the kids outside of the house means exposing them to germs. Forget fresh air; people don’t cover their mouths when they cough and sneeze around town.

Since I can’t actually isolate my children, they do get sick. My son started getting a fever on Tuesday evening—101.4 going up to 102—which pretty much shut me down with worry for the rest of the night. Yes, despite me knowing that it’s not even that high of a fever.

It’s not so much worry as it is dread, I think. Author Orson Scott Card once wrote about dread: “It is that tension, that waiting that comes when you know there is something to fear but you have not yet identified what it is. The fear that comes when you first realize that your spouse should have been home hours ago; when you hear a strange sound in the baby’s bedroom; when you realize that a window you are sure you closed is now open, the curtains billowing, and you’re alone in the house.”

(I’m pretty sure that’s what I remember reading from a story collection of his back in high school. I couldn’t find the quote firsthand, so I turned to the Internet for help and can’t vouch for its total accuracy. I mean, it seems fine, but often so do words of wisdom mistakenly attributed to Einstein and Lincoln.)


At bedtime, I read a story packed with similes to my girls, and we took turns practicing creating some of our own: “We are as cozy as … ”

“Mice!” my firstborn said.

“We’re as sleepy as … ”

“Mice!” she said again.

I then turned to specifics of our family, saying one girl was as sweet as … and the other was as fun as … . Then I threw out: “Your brother is as sick as … ”

“A sick baby!” my secondborn shouted.

While my firstborn said, “Cancer!”

The little dude’s fever was gone the next day, and I know modern medicine has relegated to folklore the idea of teething causing a temperature rise, but darned if he didn’t have a giant tooth sticking out of his gums where there was just a little sliver of white before.


Outside Week: The Sun


I don’t get outside as much as I should. I don’t take the kids out as much as they should get out, either.

I see photos of other parents taking their children out for bike rides or hikes and wonder, Where do they get the time? And, more importantly, Where do they get the energy?

Part of the problem is that my wife and I start the bedtime routine at 6:30—a time requested by my exhausted firstborn when she began kindergarten. By the time I get home from work and we all eat dinner, there’s not many minutes left for a trip anywhere.

Sure, I suppose we could take a walk around the block. And as I type this, I’m wondering why we don’t. And as I type that, I’m remembering that a simple stroll through our complex is anything but, since one kid will start complaining that she’s tired and wants to be carried, which will prompt the other to want to be carried—both by the same parent, both on the shoulders. Since that’s physically impossible, it becomes a fight.

In preparation for a jog-a-thon at my firstborn’s school earlier this year, she suggested training by running laps around our complex in the mornings. We tried it, and the first attempt started strong with a burst of enthusiastic speed, followed by a dawdling hunt for sticks and leaves that resembled letters so she could spell her name out of items from nature.

It’s not like we’re cave dwellers. We do take walks, and by “we” I mean “my wife and kids while I’m at work.” We aim to get out and about on the weekends: to local parks, usually. When it’s warmer, we swim at the pool or play games in the spa. And we just signed up my firstborn for softball and my secondborn for ballet, so there’s activity right there.

I don’t really have any good excuses for not getting out more, though. I mean, I do have excuses, but they’re not good ones. And I certainly don’t want to be mumbling something about tight schedules while my pasty children shield their eyes and hiss toward the sky, “The yellow face! It burns us!”

How do you incorporate the outdoors into your (presumably) busy life?

Outside Week: The Wall


I had my son with me for a little while at work today, so when I got a break, I took him out to a large lawn on the other side of the parking lot from my office. I work underground—literally—so some fresh air and sunshine always sounds like a good idea after I’ve been staring at a screen for a couple of hours.

The lawn slopes a tad toward a large white-brick wall, on the other side of which is a jungle-like tangle of plants covering an even steeper slope that leads to a creek.

When I freed my boy from the carrier in which I’d imprisoned him, he ran a few delighted steps on the grass, then headed straight for the wall and tried to climb it.

It’s what I would have done at his age. It’s what I still do, in fact, when faced with similar surroundings.

But why?

My son had a football-field-sized swath of green (proportionally to him, anyway) on which to walk, run, roll, whatever. There were plenty of dead leaves to kick around and crunch, sticks for waving and poking into eyes and nostrils, and little green and white pellets that were probably fertilizer, but looked like candy. But despite this carpet of riches, he focused on the wall.

He’s a bit young for strategy, I think, so I ruled out any desire of his to take the high ground and thereby gain a tactical advantage over his enemies.

Then I had two simultaneous thoughts. Try to read the next two lines as one single, overlapping sentence, to best approximate what was going on inside my head:

It must be our nature to not be content with what we have, to ignore what’s in front of us while we try to escape to what we imagine must be something more and better despite not knowing what it is.


I am amazed at humanity’s fearless urge to explore this world, to not be content with the known and the safe and the carefully manicured and curated, to strive despite ferocious odds against the barriers we see or sense but do not accept.

Yes, I’m that eloquent in my head, even on the fly.

The opposing feelings made me laugh (again, in my head—I probably looked like a crazy person to passersby). Something as simple as my son trying to scale a wall more than double his height made me at once frustrated and proud, for him and for all people.

There is a tension here, in this life. Even at our happiest, I believe, we are still, however slightly, yearning for something more. The Not Yet. We are still looking to what Aslan, in the Chronicles of Narnia books, would call “further up and further in.” To believe in God—the Christian God, anyway, as I do—is to embrace (or at least be OK with) paradox. This life is great, on the whole, but there’s still something on the other side of that wall. I can be happy and discontent, grateful and dissatisfied. Here and there. Or wanting to be in one. Or the other. Or both.

Faced with such mysteries unfolding unexpectedly in the middle of a workday, I scooped up my son, handed him a stick too long to cause any eye-gouging damage (on himself, anyway), and plunked him on top of the wall. He refused to even sit on it without me holding his shoulders or hips—at first. But he soon raised himself to standing, and, with my help, leaned out over the other side to poke at leaves and branches growing close enough for him to reach.

Then he took my hand and walked the length of the wall, never once looking down at the ground on either side.