Dad, Where Are We?

You can’t learn before you set out, can you? You go along the road, and you learn as you go. – P.L. Travers

I love a Table of Contents. Whether it’s brand new or something I’ve read before, most every time I pick up a book I like to check its list of chapter titles. Sometimes I do it so I can learn something about the book, while other times I just like to see how many pages I’m in for! Either way, that Table of Contents does my brain good. It’s a key of sorts, a treasure map to get me on track and it often can help to clear a little path through a big forest of words.

And that is what I thought about when I captured this photo on our family’s hike through the woods last weekend:

Valentine Bigfoot Hike February 14, 2014

I’m not sure that you can really see it, but the brambles and thorny vines and ragged stones that envelop this particular area are especially arduous to navigate. Our littlest one is also just the right height to get swatted in the face by a stray branch. It also grows rather dark under the dense tree canopy here, even on the sunniest of days.  I can’t tell you how many times we had to turn back and detour around an obstacle while we were out there that day. At one point, we weren’t even completely certain which way was which. It was then that the girls would stop exploring and move closer to us and say, “Dad, where are we?” or “Dad, which way now?”  In other words, no Table of Contents.

It all makes me think just how much a hike with your family resembles life with your family. Sure there are sunny days and laughter and plenty of fun in the adventure of it, but there are also the thorns and the rocks and the brambles and the questions. Sometimes, we can answer their questions…and sometimes we can’t.  In other words, no Table of Contents.

The saving grace, though, comes in experiencing the hike – and life – together.  I’m certain of it.  Even the hard times have a silver lining when your family has your back.  There is simply nothing like it, not even a Table of Contents.

P.S.  There are two books about being a dad that have transformed my thinking and acting on the subject.  They are The Father Connection by Josh McDowell and These Things I Wish for You by Christopher Kimball.

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. – Izaak Walton

The Wisdom of Miss Frizzle

“Where the road ends, an adventure begins.” – Miss Frizzle, The Magic School Bus 


  Several years ago, we found ourselves completely lost. It was my wife and I and our three daughters in our Chevy Uplander.  The new-to-us GPS had somehow discovered a proverbial road-less-traveled and we were now on it. It was midnight in the far northeast corner of Kansas, just ten minutes from our destination. We were tired. I was not happy. And then we began to sink…a long, slow rain throughout the preceding day coupled with the darkness of the night and that blasted evening-sky mode of the animated GPS screen all worked together to disguise the mud-soaked portion of a path that we were nearly mired in.

Last week, our 8-year old came home from school and excitedly told me about the latest Magic School Bus book they had read in class that day.  It was a good book that she enjoyed from start to finish, but what she was most interested in was one quote by the famous, veteran science teacher of this venerable series, Miss Frizzle.  Our daughter was so “surprised by this quote I had to write it down dad.  She said, ‘Where the road ends, an adventure begins.’  Can you believe that, dad?  Right when I heard it, I took out a piece of paper and a pencil and wrote it down so I wouldn’t forget it.  Isn’t that the greatest sentence ever…Where the road ends, an adventure begins.”

What could it be about that sentence that so enthralled our third grader?  What could it be about that sentence that so enthralled her 40-something year old father?

It took me back all those years ago to that muddy swamp of a road that we found ourselves on during a “dark and stormy night,” a night that ultimately ended with no harm at all.  I took the road slow and easy and followed squarely in the ruts, just like my farmer grandfather taught me, and a few miles later we were back on the most wonderfully paved highway I had ever seen.  In no time, the whole event had become a great family story.

“Where the road ends, an adventure begins.”

May it ever be so – in a book, on a road, at work or play, among a family.  May it ever be so.




‘Land of the Not Lost’ Thursday Stories with Baby Frederico

*Every Thursday we introduce you to another quick bedtime story about our family’s favorite resident reptile – Baby Frederico. His backstory can be found here.  Enjoy!

 BF Home

Baby Frederico loves his Momma Mia and Papá Frita, his buddy Grenelda the Grasshopper, blue crayons, popcorn, and…The Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.; but he did not like to get lost.  Here is his story:

Baby Frederico and his parents loved maps.  They loved treasure maps and city maps, state maps and country maps, world maps and maps of the moon’s craters and maps of the stars in the sky, google maps and yahoo maps, history maps, book maps, even those big, colorful maps at the local shopping mall.  Mamma Mia and Papa Frita would often say to Baby Frederico, “We love maps because getting lost is one thing, but staying lost is another.”  This family loved maps!

The first map Baby Frederico ever loved was a big drawing of a magical world that had been painted across the entire wall of the waiting room at the doctor’s office.  It was colored in black and white and inhabited by a dozen different roads and castles and caves and mysterious animals and other unusual characters.  He loved to start at the bottom left corner of the wall and carefully choose which path he could trace with his finger that might lead to the monstrous dragon’s lair or the distant field of gold coins that lay beyond one of the massive castles and its alligator-filled moats.

After he learned to read, his Papa Frita bought him wonderful map-filled books like Winnie the Pooh and his 100 acre wood, Treasure Island and its eerie pirate treasure map, The Hobbit and his ancient Middle-Earth world that stretched from the Shire to the land of Mordor, and My Father’s Dragon and his Island of Tangerina.

Baby Frederico and his Mamma Mia would spend Saturday afternoons at the kitchen table drawing grand maps of other favorite books like Where the Wild Things Are, The Hardy Boys and the Secret of Skull MountainA-Z Mysteries’ The Deadly Dungeon, The Wizard of Oz, and Peter Pan in Scarlet.

Maps helped Baby Frederico understand things – from where he was to where he wanted to go, which way and how long it might take to get there, and how to not stay lost. Whenever he was away at camp or on a long band trip at school or just feeling worried about tomorrow’s tests, his Mamma and his Papa always reminded him to draw it out on a map – just so he could remember where he was headed.

And as he grew, he learned that no matter the easy or tough or narrow or crooked or funny or scary paths that popped up around him, whether in his family or at school or among his friends…he could always remember, “Getting lost is one thing, but STAYING lost is another.”