This summer I made the decision that our family needed more adventure. We aren't really an "outdoorsy" family. We're not campers or hikers or really into anything that requires us to dig a hole when nature calls. You feel me? But for some reason I've been feeling like my kids need more adventures. It was the end of the summer and I knew if we didn't do it soon, they would be back in school and we would never do it. I wanted to do something before the monotony of school and sports' schedules took over our lives. My sister-in-law had told me weeks before how much fun she and my brother had taking 2 of their kids canoeing. So I thought, "That sounds fun and it's on the water so my kids will probably love it! I've also been doing the row machine at the Y so I'm pretty sure that makes me an expert canoer. Is "canoer" even a word? No matter, I've totally got this. And since the 2 oldest are big enough to paddle, it won't matter that the hubs isn't with me because they'll totally help me paddle." Perfect plan. (I feel like I should also mention that when I told Kyle what I was doing, he gave me raised eyebrows and a "Wow". Not, "Wow that's awesome". More like "Wow, that might be a tad ambitious since no one you mentioned has ever canoed before. And our kids pretty much always let you know when they're hot/hungry/tired/bored, so that could be interesting. I'm almost sorry I can't come just to observe the disaster that is sure to ensue.") I called and set up our reservation and peppered the guys with questions like, "So, how long is the shortest course?" 2 hours. "Will there be other people out there canoeing with us?" Oh yeah. "Do I need to bring anything in the canoe?" Nah, it could fall out and get wet so leave all your valuables in the car. Done. I can totally do this. The next morning I get the kids up and out the door by 8:15 because it takes 30 minutes to get to the canoe shop. I pack a couple of water bottles for the canoe because Lord help us if a child gets thirsty. It's as if they live in the Sahara and haven't had water in days. We pile in the car and go. Google maps does me right and gets me there in exactly 30 minutes. We're there a little early and I'm looking around the shop. I ask the guy which course we signed up for and he shows me on their little map. He says, "Ya'll are on the 2 hour course and it usually takes 3-3 1/2 hours to complete." Ahem, say what? 3-3 1/2 hours. Why wouldn't you call it the "3-3 1/2 hour course" if that's how long it's going to take? So that's going to put me getting home around 1:00. Let it be known that I have a weird phobia/anxiety-ridden fear that if my kids don't have food in their bellies by noon, they might turn into ravenous beasts that may or may not eat each other. Or the other option…..they. will. whine. Incessantly. Until I rip my ears off. Neither of these are good options. So I push my fear back down where it belongs and try to stay positive. Another group of people show up so we are ready to go. We all get into a van that's going to take us to the river. Right now the kids are stoked! So ready to go on this adventure! The van comes to a stop and we all get out. The driver gets the canoes out and takes the other group down to the river. We start to follow and he tells us this isn't our stop. They're going on the 4-hr course (translate: 6 hr). He said our drop off point was further up the river so we all get back in the van. We drive for a bit to get to our drop off destination and this is when fear started to creep in. We get out of the van and the driver realizes he forgot kid life vests for my 2 youngest, so he has to drive back to the canoe shop to get them. During this time I began reflecting on my decision to take the kids canoeing. By myself. Ignorance is bliss until you choke down a heaping tablespoon of reality. My reality is this: 1. I've got 3 kids completely dependent on me to get them down the river.
2. I've never paddled an actual canoe in my life.
3. I have no phone to call for help.
4. I have no watch to know what time it is or how long it's taking us to get down the river.
5. I have to pee and there are no bathrooms.
6. I have no food.
This is going exactly as I had imagined. (Sniff, sniff. Smells like sarcasm). As I'm playing the worst-case scenario game in my head, it's becoming apparent I'm going to have to succumb to the call of nature and pee outside. I tell the kids I've got to go find a spot to go to the bathroom. They are completely confused and understandably so. I mean, one, I'm not a boy so I don't/can't pee on a tree. And two, I'm an indoor girl so peeing outside is not something I do. Once I found my spot, I was pleasantly surprised that the squats I'd been doing were paying off. No trouble hovering whatsoever. Glad that's over. The driver finally shows up with the life vests and helps us into our canoe. Then he leaves. And we're alone. It does cross my mind that we could totally die out here and no one would know. I did have my ID and bank card just in case I die they can identify me, then clean out my bank account. The other situation I thought would probably happen would be basically the movie "The River Wild". In this case, I'm obviously Meryl Streep and some bad guys hijack our canoe and we are their hostages. The only redeeming thing about that scenario is that at some point my kids will get hungry/tired/whiny in which case they will probably let us go.
So we start down the river and relief washes over me when I see the river is not deep at all. It hadn't rained in a while so the water was low. Like ankle deep low. I felt sure no one would drown if the canoe took a tip. While I was glad that the chance of drowning went way down, I realized quickly the chances of us getting stuck on rocks went up about 1000%. We got stuck on rocks a good bit and I may have pulled some back muscles using the paddle to get us loose.
And remember when I thought because my kids were bigger they would help paddle? Well, that was only the case about 50% of the time. The other 50% was them holding their paddle in the water but not paddling. I'm no scientist but I'm pretty sure that when one paddle goes forward and the one if front of it is stationary, it makes the canoe go in a circle. At least, that's what happened to us. So there may have been a few times that I may have told/yelled at my kids to get their paddles out of the water if they weren't actually paddling. #momfail
The fun part was when we would come up on the rapids. Some would say they looked like a babbling brook. But trust me, they were rapids. I would never embellish. Every time we were coming up on one I made the kids yell, "Rapids! Dead ahead!" The more rapids we came across, the more I realized that rapids=rocks. And in our case, rocks=stuck canoe. Trying to jimmy us off the rocks with my paddle was a good test of our balance. Thankfully, we never tipped over which I deemed a great accomplishment!
Overall, it was a great experience. The kids enjoyed being on the water and looking for turtles. There were definitely times when the kids complained about how long it was taking and there were some tears over a cut foot, but I do think my kids had a fun adventure. I think I had the best time just being outside in God's creation doing something fun and new with my kids. And even though I still think it wasn't the smartest thing to take the kids canoeing my myself, (Did you know canoeing is pretty much nothing like the row machine?) it turned out to be a blast. It made me realize I need to face my fears more and do things I'm not sure about because that's when I feel the most empowered. God made me to do stuff, so I need to go do it.