Category Archives: Family

It’s Warm Enough For Mud

Today the outdoor temperatures got to nearly 75F/24C. The boys had this idea to go play with their “streams”.

Here’s one of the cleaner moments:

I had set up an old pipe and a hose, with the water coming slowly out of the pipe onto a little mound of dirt. They can then use their fingers to make channels in the dirt for the water to flow through. They’ve found that sticks can become bridges, making a hole in the earth makes a pond, and, oh yes, it’s quite muddy and a lot of fun.

Oliver at one point realized that he could splash the mud all around quite nicely.

And he wanted to make sure I took photos of his hands.

They could have played out there for hours, I’m sure. When it was time to clean up, they enjoyed seeing the mud come off their sandals, arms, hands, and feet.

It was a perfect use for the first really warm day of spring.

Catching the mudball

“Dad, can I bring my mudball inside?” – Jacob

“Ooo, dad, I need a mudball too!” – Oliver

You’d have to have been there to see how excited Jacob was about his mudball. We had been out hiking down by the creek a day after a rain, and he, well, made a mudball and carried it around with him. I’m not used to finding mud all that exciting. To me, mud is something that my car can get stuck in, that my boots can drag into the house, that needs to be suppressed by a little gravel on top.

But to Jacob, he was holding a ball of excitement, of adventure, of discovery. And Oliver wanted in on the fun!

Jacob wasn’t thinking about consequences of bringing a mudball indoors, because he didn’t need to. He wasn’t visualizing the damage it could cause, the time of cleaning it up, or even the fact that a mudball doesn’t really stay a mudball permanently. He just wanted to carry his ball of excitement with him.

Being a parent means being a teacher, an example, and a leader. It is fine for Jacob to not think about the consequences of bringing a mudball into the house at age 6, but part of my duty as a parent is to make sure he thinks about consequences by the time he gets behind the wheel of a car. As we grow up, we are shown, taught, and prodded into thinking about consequences of our choices: getting good grades in school, thinking about the impression the clothes we wear to a job interview might leave, worrying about what people think about us when we talk in front of a group. We take on real responsibilities when we leave childhood, and the consequences of our actions become more significant.

But where’s the “off” switch? Shouldn’t there be a way for us to wonder about bringing the mudball indoors, too?

There was a time in our lives when we didn’t care one bit about whether we were wearing fashionable clothes, making a good impression, or doing things the “right” way. After being in the mindset of taking careful responsibility over life for so many years, it’s hard to re-discover that earlier time.

A colleague forwarded a little speech about Thanksgiving. It contained, “Those who live in thanksgiving daily have a way of opening their eyes and seeing the wonders and beauties of this world as though seeing them for the first time.”

This is something children know how to do, and we adults have often forgotten, because we are too busy worrying about dirty floors and stained curtains to see the potential for fun in mud.

I am convinced that, just as important as being responsible, is learning how to let go, to let our hearts feel peace and joy as if a child. We can’t open our eyes and see the wonders of this world if we’re too busy worrying about convincing someone else to vote for our preferred candidate, about saying things perfectly, about being right.

There’s beauty in that daily commute in a car or subway. Look around, and you might see kids with their noses pressed to the window, even if it’s mostly black tunnel outside. There’s wonder in that business flight, in the mud, in the doctor’s office waiting room.

When I see people using insults in a discussion thread on the Internet, I am saddened, because it means they have lost sight of the wonder of being able to communicate with and understand a person thousands of miles away, instantly, and are more worried about their position looking good, or are unable to see the beauty in a person that thinks differently.

I once had this conversation with Jacob in an airplane, probably surrounded by people impatiently waiting to turn on their electronic devices:

“Jacob, we are in the air!”


“Jacob, we’re flying!”

“Dad, I don’t know that I’ve ever been a butterfly before!”

I hope we can all find ways to be a butterfly more often.

The Superbowl Pirate Bus

I’ll forgive you for not noticing the bus full of pirates at the Superbowl. Because, well, unless you saw my 6-year-old, you have a pretty good excuse for missing it. I’ll give you the Goerzen Superbowl play-by-play, just to make sure you’re caught up. It involved pirates, cops, tractors, cookies, a card game, and yes, even troubles with HDMI.

We were invited to a Superbowl party, and were going to bring a party snack. The boys love to help cook, and I try to give them choices. I started naming off potential snacks, starting with healthy options. They listened attentively, until I mentioned cookies.

“COOKIES! ***COOKIES!*** Yes, cookies!”

This reaction was, I must say, not exactly a surprise.

Then I asked them what KIND of cookies. Jacob immediately knew what he wanted, so of course Oliver took a minute to come up with something else. No matter; we could make two kinds of cookies. Jacob, of course, picked a kind of cookie that needs cherries, while Oliver picked one that needs chocolate chips. Thus they both had opportunities to “have a small taste” of ingredients while we prepared the batter.

And so make cookies we did. Plus a loaf of bread. Anyhow, once we got to the party, Jacob and Oliver saw a huge tub of Legos and were at it in a flash. One of Jacob’s friends was pretending everything was a tractor, but it wasn’t long before Jacob started in on his evening’s project: building the largest bus he could build.

He was pleased when he got 4 lego people into it. Even more happy when he got 10 into it. And by the time he figured out how to get 35 into it, he was quite proud of himself indeed. Oliver, meanwhile, in classic little brother fashion, tried to corner the market on surplus lego people. He appears to have the hardline negotiation skill down already, and perhaps is appreciating the value of artificial scarcity in the lego market

Eventually the bus seemed to hit the limits of engineering and joint strength, and Jacob gave up for a little while. He had a cookie and some carrots, commented on the exciting game of Uno going on, (“Who is the loudest?” “All of them!”), brought me some carrots, and periodically commented that “The ball team is ahead of the SF team. Sure is. They have more points!” (This from the “BAL” and “SF” text on the screen.)

And then he went back to playing. And here’s where the pirates come in.

Jacob’s new bus had a lego flag that he decided was a pirate flag. So the bus was a pirate bus. He built a platform out the back for them to use to “steal things”. So his pirate bus went around the lego area, stealing this from one pile, stealing that from another, until it got almost as long as his first bus.

Pretty soon, along came a police boat to chase the pirates. But the police boat appeared to suffer a humorous series of logistical failures and never could quite disrupt the pirates. But never mind that, for little brother Oliver was getting bored with the lego mountain he was building and decided it would be more fun if he would disrupt the pirates. An opinion that Jacob quite strongly disagreed with.

When it was time to go, Jacob tried to extract a promise from the party hosts to not let anyone take apart the pirate bus until next time we would be there.

Then this morning, Jacob and I had a discussion about pirates.

“Dad, are pirates real?”

“Yes, Jacob, they are.”

“Do they steal things?”

“Yes, but they are far away. There are no pirates here.”

“Are there pirates in Kansas?”

“No. There are some pirates in Africa though.”

“Oh. What state is Africa in?”

“Africa is so far away that it isn’t even in a state. You’d have to take a boat or a plane to get there.”

“Or a train!”

“Nope, a train couldn’t get across the ocean. It’s too wide!”

“They’d build a bridge!”

“It’s too wide for a bridge. It’s more than a thousand miles!”

“WOW – a thousand miles! Great! OK dad, it’s time for me to get on that school bus!”

Today is Pretend St. Patrick’s Day!

Today in the USA is Martin Luther King, Jr., day. But sometimes these holidays get confusing for a 6-year-old.

I asked Jacob the other day if he knew what holiday was coming up. He thought about it for a second, then declared it would be St. Patrick’s Day. He was excited because St. Patrick’s Day is green.

When he realized that it was really MLK Day, he was disappointed. “That day isn’t green.” So I said, “Jacob, how about we celebrate pretend St. Patrick’s Day on Monday?” His face lit up, he got a huge smile, and said, “Oh yes! Great idea, dad!” Oliver got all excited about it too.

I was already planning on us doing some cooking, and thankfully had green food coloring already. So I sort of discarded my plans so each meal could have something green in it.

When the boys woke up this morning, I wished each of them “Happy Pretend St. Patrick’s Day!” We all wore green. Jacob put his shirt on backwards so the side with more green would be facing front.

For breakfast, our green dish was green crepes with a succotash (based on baby lima beans and corn) filling. The boys were excited to discover that the crepes could be green on one side, and green and a little brown on the other. Jacob was unsure of the succotash idea, but after having a few bites, declared it “excellent”.

After breakfast, we made bread. They loved watching the green food coloring disperse in the water. We checked on how green the dough looked periodically. We watched how it was rising and whether it was staying green. And we checked in on it backing, as the crust turned from green to brown. We discussed green bread over and over. Important questions were asked and answers were attempted.

And then, of course, the moment of truth – removing the loaf from the pan.

The boys jabbered excitedly that there was some green peeking out. While we waited for it to cool, we went out to the creek. The creek is dry this year, so we got to walk in it. Jacob used his stick to make a line behind him. I asked him, “Is that a line so we can find our way back?” “Oh! Uhm. Yes!” And then he added arrows so we’d know which way to go.

Jacob stopped every 20 or so feet to collect pretend train tickets from Oliver and me. Oliver eventually grew tired of this, so Jacob started collecting Oliver’s ticket from me. They climbed on some trees, managed to find some mud, drew outlines of train cars in the dirt, and then followed Jacob’s line back down the creek bed. They pointed out any green things they saw.

Then we went back to the house, took off our warm coats, and cut into the bread.

Can you imagine the excitement?

I hadn’t realized “green” is a flavor, but it must have been somehow, because those boys absolutely loved this green bread. When we got out the jam, Jacob realized that it was red on the green bread, and that now his bread was Christmas-colored.

All sorts of green bread discoveries were made, but the best among them was that if you hold a slice of green bread up to the bright sun, the sun makes it glow green and it looks like a stained-glass window.

Sometimes a few drops of food coloring can add a ton of excitement to a day.


A couple of weeks ago, I walked in to a nice, sit-down restaurant, with a smile on my face. It’s the kind of restaurant with folded cloth napkins on the tables. “Table for three, please” – as Jacob and Oliver were with me.

This much isn’t unusual. I have periodically taken them out to eat for quite some time, and they enjoy it.

But there were a few unusual things about this particular day. I suppose the main one is that they had just been doing this.

Yes, painting your own face can be a lot of fun. And also serious business.

The boys and I were in Santa Fe, NM on a train trip. It had been a year since their last train trip, and that’s longer than they are typically used to. I’d taken Jacob on a train trip with just the two of us before, but this was the first trip with just the two boys and me.

And one of the places we visited was the excellent Santa Fe Children’s Museum. It may be the best children’s museum I’ve ever seen. Not the largest, or the flashiest, but that’s part of the reason I say “best”. They had chimes (and many other percussive “instruments” to produce different pitches, including mounted hubcaps and varying length wooden planks). They had a great magnets table with washers and nuts, so children can build their own bridges, stairs, etc. using magnetism. A giant bubble table, tunnels to crawl in outside, etc. A great place.

And, apparently, the thing they were really known for — I did not know this in advance — is the paint your own face station. Jacob and Oliver really got into it. Oliver informed me he was a lion and I heard “ROAR! ROAR!” periodically all afternoon. Jacob asked me to help paint a J, and the spirals, on his cheeks. After some careful thought, he informed me that he was “spiral man”.

Next to the paint your own face area was a clean your own face area. Most kids were being helped to clean their own face by their parents on their way out. Jacob and Oliver protested that plan, so I figured, if they want to enjoy painted faces all day, why not?

And this, of course, led into lunch with self-painted faces. Nobody at the restaurant commented, but the owner had a huge grin when he saw them. (It was a Mediterranean place, and I’m sure the owner would have commented had there not been a language barrier.) Incidentally, the boys became quite the fans of souvlaki.

Later, as we walked around Santa Fe Plaza and another museum, they drew smiles all over the place. Several kind people asked them, “Did you enjoy the children’s museum?” Yes, everyone in Santa Fe seemed to know precisely where kids with painted faces had been that day.

Santa Fe is an amazing and beautiful city. It was warm and friendly, and the architecture and layout was fun to see – and pedestrian-friendly. We walked past the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi several times, and went in once. For some reason I could never fully explain, I could often smell their incense even a block or two away. It added to the crisp wintry feel of the plaza.

The point of the trip wasn’t Santa Fe, though. It was Jacob and Oliver on Amtrak, which is the thing they were really most excited about – of course. They were excited as usual, and despite the fact that the train comes through this area only at around 3AM, were plenty excited to be on the train. And, in fact, didn’t fall asleep again until about 5 due to the excitement (though they did an excellent job of being quiet). Of course, 6AM was “morning” so they were wide awake by then.

Jacob had been planning what he’d eat on the train for days already, and had announced he would be having French toast for breakfast and pizza at lunch. He was a bit disappointed to see that French toast wasn’t on the menu this time, but pancakes saved the day.

While waiting for the dining car to open at 6:30, we went to the lounge car for awhile. I had brought along various things for them to do on the train, of course, and among them was a notebook and some markers. Jacob loved drawing suns and stars, and sometimes writing short notes. He gave notes to several friendly people that happened to be visiting with us on the train. Oliver enjoyed it too, but he was more intrigued by the cheap set of multi-colored post-it notes.

There were two happy, and somewhat tired, boys getting off that train in the middle of the night when we returned.

The world is still a good place

At times like these, it is easy to think of the world as a cold, evil place. Perhaps in some ways, it is. I saw this quote from Fred Rogers floating around today:

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.

Sometimes I think that Fred Rogers’ wisdom is so often under-appreciated. What he says is true, very true.

I know what it’s like to fear for my child’s life. And sometimes the shoe has been on the other foot, when I have been one of the helpers.

Many of you know these last few months have been the most difficult in my life. And despite having gone through the deaths of three relatives, nothing has quite compared to this.

I can not even begin to express my gratitude for all the care, compassion, and love that has come my way and towards the boys. People I barely knew before are now close friends. Random strangers have offered kindness and support. I have never before needed to be cared for like that, and in some ways perhaps it was hard to let myself be cared for. But I did, and all that caring and generosity has made an incredible difference in my life.

Most of us don’t see our pain on CNN or BBC, but that doesn’t mean it’s less real. And it doesn’t mean there’s nobody that cares. Open up to others, let them care for you. Things can and do get better.

The people in Newtown did nothing to deserve this. No matter what evidence is found, they will never get an adequate answer to “why?” Children have been frightened, families torn apart, lives ended, for no reason at all.

But they will survive the terrible pain. In time, they will find happiness again. And they will feel love and compassion from people around the world — something to sustain them in their grief. I am certain of this.

I recently read this quote, part of a story about a dying cancer patient:

“Don’t forget that it doesn’t take much to make someone’s day.”

Yes, the world is still a good place.

Difficult Times & Hope

This past month has been the most difficult in my life – and that of my family as well. I’m not going to go into it for the whole Internet, but any well wishes, happy thoughts, prayers, whatever you want to send our way, whether we know about it or not, would certainly be welcome. And, of course, the reason I’m not very active online right now is that I’m focusing on family, work, and other pressing matters.

I have had some measure of comfort from hearing from others that have had pain in their lives. It is good to know I’m not alone, good to have people to talk and share with. And it is good to find some way to have hope in the midst of difficulty and uncertainty.

I sing with the Kansas Mennonite Men’s Chorus, and when listening to one of our recordings recently, was struck by these words in a whole new way. Let music never die in me is a powerful message.

I dreamed a dream, a silent dream,
of a land not far away.
Where no bird sang,
no steeples rang
and teardrops fell like rain.

I dreamed a dream.
No alleluia, not one hosanna,
No song of love, no lullaby.

And no choir sang to change the world.
No pipers played, no dancers twirled.
I dreamed a dream, a silent dream.

Awake! Awake!
Awake, my soul and sing!
The time for praise has come.
The silence of the night has passed;
a new day has begun.
Let music never die in me!
Forever let my spirit sing!
Wherever emptiness is found,
Let there be joy and glorious sound.

Let music never die in me!
Forever let my spirit sing!

Let all our voices join as one
to praise the giver of the song!

Awake! Awake!
Let music live!

The Awakening, Joseph M. Martin (excerpts)

See a performance here.

Even when hope is dim, or the music is playing only softly, it’s not dead. I hear it when an 85-year-old person in church, comes up to me with tears in her eyes and gives me a big, silent hug. I feel the music when when I can share about things with people, when I sing, when the beautiful Kansas sunset peeks out, when I share a smile or laugh with someone, and when I see the delight and happiness of children.

Let music live!


It’s been a hot year in Kansas this year. Really hot. Our average high for July was 101F / 38C. It’s also been extremely dry. So we haven’t had too many pleasant opportunities to enjoy a bit of an upcycling project I had with the boys.

When we renovated our old farmhouse, we had two chimneys removed. The bricks were saved in a large pile out back, and we haven’t really touched them in the last 5 years.

I got the idea at some point that it would be nice to have a fire ring on our yard. The boys love campfire-style cooking, and enjoy helping gather kindling and watching the fire grow. I had looked at fire rings in stores, but just couldn’t bring myself to pay $60 or $100 or even more for what was really a piece of round metal. I decided we would find a way to build our own fire ring.

So the idea of chimney bricks seemed perfect. Some of these bricks still have mortar on them, so the result is imperfect, but it is functional. More importantly, the boys helped. They picked out bricks one at a time, set them in the wheelbarrow (or even carried a few themselves, as Jacob insisted on doing sometimes.) Then we’d dump them out on the ground, and I’d make some attempt at making the thing round, while the boys would put them on the pile.

We did this over the course of several evenings, with me filling in on some of it after they lost interest. When we got it done, they of course loved cooking outside. I made sure that we placed it in a place that will be in the shade every summer evening so we’d be comfortable. I made no attempt to mortar it in; this way, it’s easy to move or resize. And it’s safer for the boys than a metal one, since the outer edge never even gets warm to the touch.

Anyhow, it finally got a little cooler last week, so we cooked out there for dinner two days in a row. One day, after eating, the boys came back out to help put out the fire with the hose. After that, Jacob and I went out there to eat dessert. He sat on the grass, and I sat down next to him. He scooted over a bit to be closer to me. Pretty soon, Oliver came running out too, and sat on my lap. The three of us just sat there on the grass, eating our desserts and enjoying the evening. It’s the kind of moment that makes a dad happy.

The other evening, they again helped me put out the fire with a hose. They’d been active that day, so after I finished hosing down the fire ring, I gave them each a small spray with the hose. After a brief flicker of indecision, they both decided this was hilarious. Jacob took off running, yelling “You’ll never catch me!” (And clearly hoping I would.) Oliver copied him, and so I proceeded to chase them around the yard with a hose for quite awhile. There was much laughter from them, and they wound up totally soaked and happy. Another good evening. You never know what will happen outdoors, but so often it is very good.

I introduced my 5-year-old and 2-year-old to startx and xmonad. They’re DELIGHTED!

Two years ago, Jacob (then 3) and I built his first computer together. I installed Debian on it, but never put a GUI on the thing. It’s command-line, and has provided lots of enjoyment off and on over the last couple of years. I’ve written extensively about what our boys like to do, and the delight they have at learning things on the command line.

The looks of shock I get from people when I explain, as if it’s perfectly natural, that my child has been able to log in by himself to a Linux shell since age 3, are amusing and astounding. Especially considering that it is really not that hard. Instead of learning how to run an Xbox, he’s learned how to run bash. I like that.

Lately, Jacob (now 5) hasn’t been spending much time with it. He isn’t really at a stage where he wants to push his limits too far, I think, but yet also gets bored with the familiar. So I thought it was time to introduce a GUI in a limited fashion, perhaps to let him download photos and video from his Vtech toy camera (that takes real low-res photos and videos which can be downloaded over a USB1 link). He’s familiar with the concept, at least somewhat, having seen GUIs on Terah’s computer (Gnome 2) and mine (xfce4 + xmonad).

So last night, Oliver (age 2) and I went down to the basement on a mouse-finding expedition. Sure enough, I had an old PS/2 mouse down there that would work fine. The boys both helped string it through the desk up on our play room, and were tremendously excited to see the red light underneath it when the computer came on. Barely able to contain the excitement, really. A bit like I remember being when I got my first mouse (at a bit of an older age, I suppose.)

I helped him them in as root for the very first time. (Jacob typed “root”, and I typed the password, and provided the explanation for why we were telling the computer we were “root”.) Jacob and Oliver alternated typing bits of some apt-get command lines. Then while we waited for software to download, I had to answer repeated questions of “how soon will the mouse work?” and “what does ‘install’ mean?”

Finally it was there, and I told Jacob to type startx. I intentionally did not install a display manager; more on that later. He pressed Enter, the screen went blank for about 5 seconds, and then X appeared. “Excited” can’t begin to describe how they acted. They took turns playing with the mouse. They loved how the trash can icon (I started with XFCE) showed trash IN the trash can.

But they are just learning the mouse, and there’s a lot about a typical GUI that is unfriendly to someone that isn’t yet proficient with a mouse. The close buttons are disappointingly small, things can be too easily dragged on and off the panel and menus. When I sat down to think about it, the typical GUI design does not present a very good “it always works the same” interface that would be good for a child.

And then it occurred to me: the perfect GUI for a child would be simply xmonad (a tiling window manager that can be controlled almost entirely by keyboard and has no need for mouse movements in most cases.) No desktop environment, no file manager in the root window. Just a window manager in the classic X way. Of course!

So after the boys were in bed, I installed xmonad. I gave Jacob’s account a simple .xsession that starts a terminal and xmonad.

Today, Jacob informed me that he wanted his computer to look “just like yours.” Playing right into my hands, that was! But when he excitedly typed startx, he said it wasn’t just like mine. Uh oh. Turns out he wanted the same wallpaper as my computer uses. Whew. We found it, I figured out that xli(1) loads it in the root window, and so I added a third line to .xsession. More delight unlocked!

Jacob mastered the basics of xmonad really quickly. Alt-Shift-C to close a window. Alt-Shift-Q to quit back to the “big black screen”. Alt-Shift-Enter to get a terminal window.

We launched thunar (the XFCE file manager) and plugged in his camera. He had a good deal of fun looking at photos and videos from it. But then I dropped the true highlight of the day for him: I offered to install Tuxpaint for him. That’s probably his favorite program of all time.

He watched impatiently as apt-get counted down 1m30s for tuxpaint and its libraries. Then we launched it, and he wanted to skip supper so he could keep playing Tuxpaint on “my VERY OWN COMPUTER!”

I’d been debating how to introduce GUIs for a very long time. It has not escaped my attention that children that used Commodores or TRS-80s or DOS knew a lot more about how their computers worked, on average, than those of the same age that use Windows or MacOS. I didn’t want our boys to skip an entire phase of learning how their technology works. I am pleased with this solution; they still run commands to launch things, yet get to play with more than text-based programs.

At bedtime, Jacob asked me, very seriously:

“Dad, how do I start tuxpaint again?”

“First you log in and type startx. Then you can use the mouse.”

Jacob nods, a contemplative look on his face..

“Then,” I continue, “you type tuxpaint in the terminal, and it comes right up.”

Jacob nodded very seriously a second time, as if committing this very important information to long-term memory. Then gave a single excited clap, yelled “Great!”, and dashed off.

26 Hours At The Creek

I’m back from one of the best experiences a father can have – a whole day with two happy boys.

I took Jacob (5) and Oliver (2) camping with me out by our creek. This was the first time we’d camped there, and also the first time I’d taken the boys camping without Terah along. So there were some unknowns, but it worked out great.

When we got out there, I started to get the tents set up. The boys were interested, but pretty soon invented some games. A large nearby tree with plenty of low branches on its trunk became their locomotive, and certain sticks made the “train” go forward or backward, whistle, or ding its bell. This was good for quite some entertainment. Another nearby tree, near the bank of the creek, had some erosion near it. Combined with its roots, this made some natural steps. Jacob named some the “enter steps” and others the “exit steps”, and I sure heard about it if I walked the wrong way on the exit steps.

We then gathered up sticks and the things we needed to build a campfire. We cooked up brats and zucchini. Although it was later than usual for supper, they loved it just the same.

After that, we made smores for dessert – another thing they loved. Then, one of the big highlights: sleeping in tents and sleeping bags. I had showed them the sleeping bags earlier, and they were excited to try them out.

Morning was beautiful – when the sun came out, it was shining right on the heavy dew on the ground, making the grass shine brightly.

It’s not every day that they get to start their morning slowly waking up by a warm fire. They were content to sit for quite awhile while I got things going for breakfast.

It was chilly outside, so I helped them change clothes by the fire where. I then cooked them some scrambled eggs – which, despite the lack of salt and pepper, seemed so much better than normal to the boys – and then we went exploring. I took them to some areas with erosion, which Jacob called “the big holes in the ground.” It’s really quite beautiful in spring, which this cellphone photo completely fails to capture.

The boys loved climbing up and down these areas, some of which were quite tall. They discovered different kinds of rock on the way up and down, and with my help avoided discovering too much of the mud at the bottom.

We hiked back to our camping spot through grass almost as tall as Oliver — much to his delight — and then after warming up by the fire for a bit, went off in the other direction. There is a grove of trees by the creek over there, which — surprise — became another train. Here are the boys explaining how it works.

They helped pack things back up, too. Actually, it took some convincing to get Jacob to not pull up all the stakes for the tent before I was ready for them.

Things didn’t go perfectly, but then, they never do, and that was OK with everyone. Camping is an adventure, and it wouldn’t be an adventure if you knew every detail beforehand.

It is rare in life to be able to think that I have enough time to do anything the boys might want to do. Spend half an hour pretending a tree is a train — sure, no problem.

Today Oliver asked to go camping again, and was a bit disappointed when I didn’t agree to go camping again right this minute, today. Jacob said, “we had an EXCELLENT time” and gave me hugs thinking about it.

I have a lot of happy memories about the creek. We camped at the same spot where I went fishing or camped as a child. There have been family gatherings and even a birthday party out there. The boys and I have enjoyed a hike or a wagon ride to the area, but as I learned, nothing could possibly match the excitement of camping there.

It is wonderful to add another happy memory of a time at the creek. And it’s even better to see another generation of Goerzens discover that there’s a lot of fun to be had down by the creek.