The Thrill of the Hunt

Yesterday I had one of those random thoughts that crossed my mind and rather than dismiss it as something to do on another day, I chose spontaneity instead.  Ava was at school and the boys and I were just hanging out at home.  The weather here has been unseasonably cool lately and we woke up to some rain and overcast skies.  However as the morning wore on, the clouds parted and the rain lifted.  It was actually a lovely, Fall morning and I had an itch to get outside and enjoy it.  
But more than that, I had an itch to spend some quality time with this big guy.  Carter has been such a trooper this Summer and Fall as he has adjusted to so much transition in our family and especially in his little world.  He's handled the shift of attention that Walker has demanded from me so well, we've been equally thankful and proud of him for that.  He also patiently stood by while we prepared and focused on getting Ava's Kindergarten journey off the ground for the last month or so.  I expected him to want the backpack, supplies, new clothes, etc. that we've had to get for her, but he hasn't asked us for any of it.  He's been able to grasp that this is her turn and in a few years he will get one too.   I can't believe how much he's grown up in the midst of all of this too.  He is not the little tag-along that he's been for the last few years.  He is his own little boy now and I have been feeling my heart turning toward him even when I haven't always had the time to give him.  
But yesterday I knew we had a good chunk of time to spend without any distractions and I know the Lord prompted my heart to gift him with it.  Maybe that's been the lesson I am learning via trial and lots of error right now.  My time has never been so divided and my energy level felt so low and yet, often I feel like my time needs to go toward laundry and dishes and housework, etc.  It's never because I want to do those things, it's just that we have to eat, need some space to walk and clothes to wear!  However, I am learning that even despite all of those things, I need to choose my kids more.  
 It's easiest to choose Walker, he can't survive without me!  And Ava often gets my time because I have to get her to school, help her with anything she needs to bring to school, answer her questions or whatever.  But Carter gets the least amount of me sometimes.  He's just kind of the one who has to go with the flow and who does a lot of waiting in the meantime.  I do think it's good to have to wait sometimes, there are character lessons to learn there and that's part of life, but my heart has been sensitive for him these last few days and I just wanted to make sure he knew it.  
So I told him I wanted to go on a little adventure with him, looking for some treasures in nature together that we could collect.  
Is there any better word for a boy to hear than "adventure??"  It took him all of 2 seconds to agree and immediately we began getting dressed to head out.  The sink was overflowing, a basket of clean but yet-to-be folded clothes sat on my bed and puzzle pieces, cars, and blocks were strewn about all over the floor.  It seemed irresponsible to leave it all untouched and yet, to see the sparkle in his eyes and to see his face light up at the mention of our adventure, I knew immediately I made the right choice!  
We grabbed a bucket, put on some boots (in case there were any puddles that needed jumping in) and bundled up for some fresh air.  I had no real agenda and I didn't care what ended up in that bucket, but I did want some time with Carter.  He was my priority for an hour and a half yesterday. 
 Walker came along for the ride too, but he graciously napped the whole time so his big brother could have me all to himself. I think Carter and I were especially grateful for his generosity! 
 We are so blessed in Minnesota with amazing landscapes and so many trails.  In our own neighborhood, we have lakes, parks, trails, and a million trees all around us and every time we venture out among them, I am amazed and thankful.  We did lots of stopping so we could really see everything before us.  Like tree roots.  I'm not sure the last time I stopped to really investigate tree roots, but as I did my best to explain them to Carter I found myself in awe of them. 
I wanted Carter to know what was all around us and why, but I also wanted him to know WHO made all these things and why God as our Creator is a truth he can grasp and believe.  
We looked down at the roots, but we also looked up at those big trees and saw their branches reaching toward their creator too.  
Pretty unbelievable to comprehend, really.  It's good for the soul to take in such beauty and to marvel every now and then at what God's given us to subdue and enjoy.  I loved this foliage hanging down in front of this big, majestic tree.  It reminded me of Rapunzel's hair hanging down from her tower! 
Look how big this tree was and how tiny Carter looks next to it!  I forget how incredible it is to see these huge trees and to ponder how old they might be.  They kind of reminded me of the trees in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  
 We found an old stump and counted the rings together.  I found myself so stunned by the pops of color I kept seeing through my camera lens.  Like these bursts of green in those rings.  Amazing! 
 We ran into this odd sculpture from the 70's.  Carter thought it looked like a "creepy monster" and I couldn't really disagree.  It's kind of crazy.  
 Isn't it funny that I had to bundle him up in a coat??  
He slept like a rock while Carter and I were in hot pursuit of some cool rocks! 
And color.  We were looking for color all around us.  
Like this picture of green, on green, on brown.  
So gorgeous.
 And then out of nowhere, pops of red!  I don't know what this little berry is, but it sure was pretty.  
 We got really close and marveled at the red, orange and green berries we saw and I especially loved the little flower shaped caps that held the berries to the stems. Isn't that detail beautiful??  
What an artist our God is! 
 We poked and prodded stuff with sticks.
And found some additional Fall colors along the way that were so thrilling to both of us.  
 So good.
 Just a couple of boys and their Mom, out for a little adventure on the trails.  
 Can you see the yellow starting to peak through all that green? 
 And speaking of green, even the algae was a gorgeous shade of green.  I love the life that we get to enjoy in the spring, summer and fall after a long bout of winter with no leaves, no grass and no green.  In a few more weeks, this trail will look completely different.  There will be fewer leaves and a lot less green.  But right now it is still thick and lush and gorgeous.   
 A sure sign of Fall in the air?  Paths covered in leaves! 
 We encountered several forks in our road...
 ...and learned how to navigate a map.  Which is pretty thrilling when you're almost 4.  
 We ended near the lake and got to see some of the trees that are just starting to turn color, ever so slightly.  Pretty soon, this will be an unbelievable display of orange, red, yellow, burgundy and rust.  
I can't wait! 
 We found flowers popping out of weeds and talked about how God surprises us like that, with beauty and hope among circumstances that can seem pretty ugly and hard.   
 We had a goal to find a red leaf on our walk, but when Carter spotted these purple flowers and this pink bush, we immediately thought of Ava.  
 This is one of my favorite places in the Fall because it is the most brilliantly colored wall, as the Fall emerges.  
We snipped a little pink cluster and added it to our bucket so we could bring it home and show Ava.  
That was Carter's idea because he's sweet and sensitive like that. 
I love that about him.  
Tough and tender.  It's a good mix! 
 I can't tell you how much fun we had together, just talking and walking and hunting for our treasure.  
In the end, Carter ended up with a bucket of things that mattered to him and that he wanted to share, but I got the real treasure simply because I got to spend this time with him.  
 I'm trying to choose my kids over all the other stuff, as often as I can.  It's a juggling act now, with 3.  But I love the challenge and I love each one of them so much.  I'm exhausted most days but every now and then I get these pockets of time and energy to invest in my kiddos and I'm grateful for the grace to take them.   Even though a great meal is a worthy investment in their health, and a clean and organized home can be a haven for them, if I miss their hearts in all of it, I've missed the most important part of mothering.  
They are worthy of my time, divided as it may be and I love one on one interactions whenever I can get them.  
Carter and I had a blast together, but what about this little love?  Well he slept the whole time, just like this.  What a cute face to stare at in the middle of God's beautiful Creation.  
He definitely trumps the trees, the leaves, the flowers and all the colors in the world.  

It was a great morning of adventure with my boys!  
The first of many to come, I hope.  

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