Selecting the Right Boat for Introducing Children to Whitewater

FriendsIMPORTANT

This entry is not meant to be a substitute for common sense, or a treatise on child care. The purpose is to provide suggestions as what has worked successfully for my family and other parents who have ventured into the water with their kids.

Lake BoatingAfter the birth of Ian, Brinn and I tentatively began planning our future adventures as a family of three. Brinn bought a baby carrier backpack for hiking, and our wonderful friends and family bought us a variety of outdoor items rugged enough to withstand our high impact lifestyle. After a great deal of scouring the internet, I finally found a riding helmet small enough to stay on his little noggin. Our outdoor plans were all coming together, but one area remained a bit murky: at what point should we introduce Ian to the water? This was a really tough question for us because there’s just not a ton of literature available on this topic, and most of our boating friends with children waited until their children were older before an introduction to whitewater. So here we were striking out on our own with no guide-book on this particular parenting quandary. While I still can’t tell you what age you should aim for to put your kids on whitewater, I can tell you what methods and techniques have worked for us. This entry will be the first in a series of posts on introducing children to whitewater.

All parents are different, and we all have different methods of teaching. That said, I’m Island Breakpersonally not a fan of the popular method of putting your kids in a solo boat and turning them loose on a river for their first trip. I consider this on par with throwing kids in the deep end of a pool and expecting them to learn how to swim. Some children might take to this method, but overall, I feel like this will largely inspire terror and set a child up for potential injury, violating our safety first rule. Instead of turning a first time paddler loose, I strongly recommend putting a child in your boat. But which boat is the right boat? That largely depends on your ability and your child’s needs.

 

Kayak Slide

Ian and Ashlee launching off a kayak ramp

1. Single person kayak: This method places an adult paddler in the cockpit of his boat with a child sitting in his or her lap. While some parents make this work, typically     they are exceptional boaters who may hold a world title or two. The major concerns with this method are the lack of room and limitations on movement. The child usually gets in the way of the adult’s paddle, making it harder to control the boat. Some parents will use hand paddles for this style of boating, but movements inside the boat will be restricted as well with the child’s weight. We’ve seen some really darn good paddlers take their children through sections of the Nantahala like this, but Ian has always been such an active, squirmy child that this option would be terribly uncomfortable for everyone involved. For other kids, this may work well.

    2. Tandem kayak: This method gives the adult paddler more room to maneuver since

the child is no longer right on top of him or her, and usually they have no problem using a traditional paddle. But again, the restricted seating in a kayak would still pose a problem for my wiggly five-year old who can’t sit still long enough to make it very far down river. Another concern for me is the ability for a small child to pop a spray skirt off in the event of a capsize. At five, Ian is still not strong enough to pull a bungee skirt loose from a cockpit yet, and I’m not sure he would have the presence of mind to pull it if he were to flip. Some paddlers choose to have their children wear a touring skirt, or no skirt at all, but both of these options come with the risk of taking on water in the boat that will have to be drained periodically. I feel that this method should also remain with only experienced paddlers who have practiced taking tandem kayaks out.

Lori

Lori and Dawit conquering some BSF rapids

3. Canoe: A canoe seems like the most logical choice for children to first experience     whitewater. For flat water, I heartily agree that a canoe easily outstrips all the other         choices, but for whitewater, I still have some misgivings. The advantages of a canoe         include more room for a child to stretch out and move around as they get restless,             along with the ability to quickly and fairly easily get away from the boat instead of getting hung up in it if it were to flip. These perks sound great, but the downside is that paddling a canoe can be  difficult job if you don’t already have some experience with it, putting you and your at a greater risk for flipping. However, if you’re already a bad ass canoeist, like our friends Spence and Lori, then this is the ideal way to get your child on whitewater.

4. Raft: Like a canoe, a raft seems like a no-brainer at first. Rafts are the most stable boat

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Brinn and Amy guide Ian and Charlie through Lesser Wesser

on the water, there’s plenty of room to spread out in, and self-bailing rafts will drain out any water that they take on going through rapids. The disadvantage is that rafts also get stuck more than other boats since they tend to sit lower in the water and the width provides more surface area to snag rocks. Additionally, rafts are much easier to navigate with at least two paddlers, requiring an additional adult to go along. But most boaters can learn to guide a raft relatively quickly and be able to take multiple children down at the same time! One of my favorite features of a raft, is the option to put children in the floor so that they’re less likely to topple out when going through rough water. The raft is clearly my family’s favorite choice, but we also have our own in-house raft guide 😉

Slice 2

Zac and family ride the Hiwassee on their Slice

5. Cataraft: Catarafts like the Star Slice provide boaters with a two person raft that is much easier to guide down the river than a traditional raft. While these rafts can still get hung-up, they tend to punch through rapids easily, and they turn on a dime. More and more parents, like Zac, are turning to this option to get their children on the water. We don’t personally have a Slice, but I heartily recommend this option to less experienced boaters who are looking for a safer option to begin introducing their children to small runs.

6. Funyak: While my family found the raft to be our best vessel to introduce Ian to

Lilly

Ian and Brinn cruise down Lilly rapid

whitewater, I would probably recommend an inflatable kayak to anyone who doesn’t own a raft. Funyaks cost just a fraction of the price of a full-sized raft, and are terribly versatile boats. They are considerably more stable than a plastic kayak or a canoe, and are easier to get unstuck than a raft or Slice. Additionally, a funyak will fit down narrower creeks where a raft or Slice might be too wide. Small children can easily fit in a single ducky with a parent, but tandem duckies are also available, and provide more room for children to stretch out while on the water. Our original method of paddling with Ian has been to introduce him to new rivers in the raft, and once his confidence comes up, switch him into the funyak for return visits. Now that he’s getting bigger, we’ve started him on some new runs in his funyak –particularly on creeks like Clear Creek where the raft wouldn’t fit.

As you start considering your own strengths as a boater, I encourage you to get out on the water and try out your different options before you attempt to take your children down. Check back in a few days as I share the signs that we used to recognize that Ian was ready to step it up to whitewater.

Family

 

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Class of 2030

grad photoGrowing up happens in a heartbeat. One day you’re in diapers; the next day you’re gone. But the memories of childhood stay with you for the long haul.     

The Wonder Years

Parents belong to a club. This club requires tears and sweat, anxiety and worry for its graddues. Veteran members of this club love to impart their sage advice, cultured in experience, upon novice members. Sometimes the novices hang on every last shared word, and other times they scoff. I remember to my early novice days filled with exhaustion and long nights, thinking how crazy the veterans must be to tell me that these days will fly by. That I would blink and find that my baby is gone, and a little man would be left in his place. Those days of teething and diaper changes felt longer than the standard 24 hour model. How could such long days pass quickly? But yet, the veterans were right. And here we are, five years later, and I can only find my baby during brief moments when the little boy snuggles up next to me for a hug or falls asleep in my lap. Gone are the diapers and teething rings, and in their place are trucks, jets, and bulldozers.

img_20170328_164013546.jpgKindergarten now looms ahead of us, and preschool will quickly become another memory for the Kisers. We attended Kindergarten roundup this spring, and learned all about Kindergarten preparedness. From this giant event, we moved on to preschool graduation. Rather than resisting change, Ian eagerly looks forward to the move to his big new school. He insists that Kindergarten will be great and he won’t miss his momma at all. And that’s okay. I am thrilled to have a little boy who is so confident in himself and those around him that he feels ready to tackle these new adventures with no fear.

grad tired

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Puh-puh-puh Paw Patrol!

750_1874As Ian approached the big 5, he decided that he wanted to have a Paw-Patrol birthday party playing laser tag. With the help of Amazon, Joy, Lauren, and Cookeville Cyber Tag, this was not a hard feat to pull off. Ian’s requests were pretty simple this year: play laser with his friends and have a Marshall cake. Mission accomplished!

750_1897.JPGIn the last few months, the pups of Adventure Bay invaded our house. Ian usually does most of his cartoon-watching on his kindle when we’re on the road for long drives. Ian first met Paw Patrol two Christmases ago when Charlie gave Ian a Marshall along with his fire truck. Then last Christmas, Alanna and Rodney gifted Ian with an Adventure Bay play set. Most recently, I purchased a season of Paw-Patrol for Ian to watch on our way to and from my grandmother’s house over this winter since Ian seemed so taken with the Paw-Patrol toys he’d received. After making it through season one, we’ve gone on to buy a couple more seasons and Ian can now name each one of the pups along with their catch phrase. Chase is on the case! Marshall is all fired up! Rubble is on the double! Rocky says: “Green means go!” Zuma shouts: “Let’s dive in!” Skye invites: “Let’s take to the sky!” Ian can also clearly explain to you how each pup has their own house that converts to a particular kind of vehicle that can be driven to the site of a problem in Adventure Bay.

Marshall has emerged as the – for Ian’s affections, and he requested Marshall18449875_10155798647305656_1588319498_n.jpg items for his birthday party. Joy saved the day by coordinating a Marshall cake with a bakery near her home. Lauren made Ian’s dreams come true by designing and creating a Marshall birthday shirt. Amazon finished off the party with Prime’s awesome two-day shipping for party supplies.

Laser tag is always an exciting way to spend a couple of hours. Add four boys to the mix, and it’s down-right hilarious! We greatly enjoyed watching Ian and his friends run around the floor while racking up points, and hiding behind walls to avoid shots.

750_1890.JPGIan’s friends and family are always too generous with gifts, and this year proved to be no exception. And can you guess what toys Ian received the most of? That’s right, Paw Patrol! Ian now has each pup along with its coordinating vehicle and the Paw-Patroler, and even a Paw-Patrol camping chair! The water gun will be a fun addition to our paddling gear, and will pull double as a park toy as well.

Another birthday has come and gone, leaving us with a big five-year-old boy. This little 750_1871.JPGdude just keeps getting bigger and more fun, but otherwise he’s changed very little. He still looks just like his daddy, and loves the color green best. His favorite flavor remains chocolate, and he’d rather eat carbs or raw veggies than anything else. We love our little booger, and can’t wait to see how much his fifth year with us will be.

 

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15 Years

fb_img_1492737621163.jpg15 years ago today, a raft guide yanked me out of my boat and dropped me in the Ocoee. 15 years ago today I agreed to a first date with a raft guide. 15 years ago today my life forever altered on its course.

15 years ago found me heading to the Ocoee with my brother and our friend Charlie to celebrate Charlie’s birthday with a rafting trip. Charlie was teaching Preston and me to kayak with the insistence that kayaking was so much better than rafting. Preston and I wanted Charlie to experience at least one rafting trip so that he would at least know what he was knocking. Reluctantly he agreed to give it a try, and his birthday seemed like a great chance for us to go. We loaded up in Charlie’s Volvo and headed down to Outland to meet up with our friend Josh, who had agreed to take us down the river for the day.

Josh had introduced me to Brinn a few weeks earlier. While hanging with Josh one fb_img_1492737600137.jpgevening before going out to dinner, this crazy beater came bouncing into Josh’s house to tell us all about his epic beat-down at Grumpy’s after snapping a Werner and chasing a borrowed canoe all the way below the ledge. Then he proceeded to share all of his bruises with us. While boaters have to deal with quite a bit of nudity as we are often changing quickly on the side of a road in cold temperatures, let me remind you that I was still a new boater at this point, and not at all comfortable with random guys letting their full moon shine. It was an eye-opening (or burning?) experience, for sure. Brinn managed to invite himself along to our dinner, and thus began his attempts to ask me out.

From there, Brinn and I didn’t manage to run into each other too often, as I lived an hour and half away and didn’t make it down to the Ocoee all that often as my beginner self tended to stick to local class II runs. Unbeknownst to me, Brinn had attempted to acquire my phone number during this period, but was denied by all he confronted. But he persisted, and finally we ran into each other again.

fb_img_1492734307657.jpgWhile out on the water for Charlie’s birthday, Brinn happen to notice Josh had a gal in his boat who wasn’t wearing gumby gear. To hear him tell the story, he told Country (another raft guide buddy) and some other friends who were out on a training trip with him, that they had to catch up with Josh’s boat to see who was in it. Brinn doesn’t believe in doing anything half way, nor does he just dip his toe in. This applies to flirting and swimming. He literally believes in diving in the deep end, which in this case meant pulling off a back flip into Torpedo right in front of our boat. Again, as a novice boater, I had no idea about Mystery Move, and had a slight heart attack when Josh’s crazy friend disappeared into the Ocoee. This crazy beater managed to pop up a few yards down river and got back to his raft and caught up with us once again just past Powerhouse. This time, when he paddled up to our raft, he leaned in as if he were going to speak to me, and proceeded to grab the back of my Lotus vest and yank me out of my boat. As he and his crew paddled away to a safe distance, he called out, “When are you going to let me take you out?” Josh promptly responded: “When they serve snow cones in hell!”

Josh’s retort must have stuck, because Brinn didn’t ask me out again after this, but he did magically show up at Outland later in the day while we were still around. I had decided to stay with my friend Alanna that night, and was looking for something to occupy myself with the next day since she had trips. She had her Ultrafuge with her, which was identical to mine and fit me like my own, so Brinn piped up and volunteered to take me down the river. When the next morning came around, however, he ended up spending most of his day passed out on a picnic table sleeping off his adventures from the night before, so I ended up spending the day in a book. Later that afternoon, a groggy Brinn apologized and insisted that I did not want him to lead me down the river that day. He missed out on taking me paddling that day, but he did leave with my phone number and a first date for the next Saturday.

fb_img_1492733855250.jpgSince that cold plunge into the Ocoee 15 years ago, I’ve swam on that river at least a dozen times, and Brinn’s been there to haul me out of the river every single time. We’ve been on countless ski trips together, dozens of movies (some bad, some good), concerts, and many adventures skiing on the lake. He’s sat through countless jump rounds at horse shows to watch my goes, and even taken care of the “honey hold” horse show boyfriend duties. I’ve watched him paddle big rivers, and he’s led me down small rivers. I helped him start a business while he saw me through two degrees. We bought our first house, and completed many of the renovations ourselves, with many still left ahead of us! Through the many good times, we’ve had each other, and even through the bad. I’ve sat in the waiting room through four surgeries now, and Brinn has sat in the ER with me as well.

Big things come in fives for Brinn and I. We married one another after dating 5 years, then had Ian five years after that. Now here we are at 15 years! I’m not sure what life altering events are in store for us this year, but I have a wealth of memories to look back on at this point. Words cannot even describe how much I love this beater who flashed me with his bruised rear when we first met. He pushes me out of my comfort zone and I make him use big words. He’s my person.

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And Out Like a Lamb

img_20170312_153155829.jpgWhile March may have roared in with rain and snow, it has yielded to a mild and dry spring as it exits quietly. The middle and end of this month have flown by with some of the most fun that we’ve had so far this year. Who thought that a family with two injured adults could stay so busy?

img_20170312_120520027.jpgWe celebrated Saint Patty’s day early this year with a quick trip to our favorite stand by, Rock City –or in this case, Shamrock City. Green currently holds rank as Ian’s most favorite color. I think brand awareness has quite a bit to do with this. Thanks John Deere. So of course Shamrock City completely satisfies Ian’s green obsession with the green waterfall, green kettle-corn, and green shamrock beads given out. The absolute best part of our Rock City visit was spending it with Amy and Charlie! We got to see Charlie right before his big birthday. I can’t believe he is a big five-year-old now!

From Rock City, we slid on through the month and made it to a Saturday dinner with some of img_20170318_204627075.jpgour favorite cousins, the Ziegler! Brent grilled the most amazing steaks, and Karen provided us with a beautiful salad with so many sides that I think I’m still full. They didn’t warn me in time that Emily was going to make a mouth-watering strawberry strudel that I had to eat despite coming close to exploding. They also didn’t warn us that we had walked into an active war zone. After arming a four-year-old with a Nerf gun and foam bullets, Emily explained that there was a closet dedicated to this sport, and the entire family participated in battle, cousins not exempt. As the acting field journalist, I managed to catch quite a bit of friendly fire, but I’m pretty sure Brinn spent the evening without thinking about his sore elbow at all. And Ian slept the entire drive home to Cookeville and well into the next morning. Thanks guys! We were happy to sleep in on Sunday!

fb_img_1490648911906.jpgLast weekend the Muddy River Festival took place on Spring Creek, our home creek that runs just a few miles past our house. A local festival meant lots of boaters around our parts! While the surgeon has told Brinn he could begin doing some light paddling, Brinn was ready to get back on the water. Terry rolled into town Thursday night, so he and Brinn were able to take Ian out for his first ducky trip down Clear Creek, then Ian was off to his Nana’s to spend the weekend on the sailboat. Ian also managed to get in a trip to the aquarium in Gatlinburg, and quite a bit of time at a park on the lake. I’d like to think that he missed his parents, but largely he was too busy having fun with his Nana to spend any time talking on the phone with us. After the departure of Ian, we spent Saturday hanging out with good friends around the creek, Brinn ran Spring img_20170325_174723663.jpgCreek with a giant group of our friends, then many of those friends made their way back to our house for a very informal, loosely planned dinner. It was chaotic and disorganized, two conditions that typically make me insane, but actually we had the most amazing time. Wes and Rachel sautéed peppers, mushrooms, and onions in a ton of butter with Worcestershire to go on our sandwiches while Racheal and Wayne brought fresh deli rolls and so many chips (I may have eaten half a bag of black pepper chips by myself). I’d left a crockpot going all day while we were at the creek so we had warm shredded Italian Drip Beef to pack into the rolls and smoother with cheese. Alanna made three calorie loaded desserts, and darn if they weren’t all delicious! The last I’d heard, Todd had decided not to come to the festival, but then he magically showed up in the living room behind me. We ate in shifts as people arrived, and I’m pretty sure I ate with each new person that walked through the door. I’m sensing a theme with my food intake every weekend.

As the festival wound down, Brinn and I found ourselves faced with half of a Sunday with no child. While compulsion encouraged us to go pick up Ian early, we trespassed on Nana’s patience a little longer, and we went to lunch together to a restaurant with no children’s menu! Amazing how much fun two adults can have doing nothing but eating and talking when all they have to worry about is eating and talking. We look forward to be able revisit the Bull and Thistle again soon, and hopefully when one of our friends is playing there with his band.

img_20170329_165039537.jpgBefore March has totally disappeared for good, Ian managed to add a little more variety to our lives by bringing home two ducklings from Tractor Supply. Brinn swears that he had left Ian looking at the ducks while he went to find an item he needed to purchase. When he came back, Ian had talked someone into boxing up two of the baby birds for him to take to the front register. Angie, are you reading this? I suspect you may have had a hand in this adoption scheme 😉 So now Ian has two baby ducks he’s caring for…in my living room. I feel like we just got his last batch of chicks out of the living room, but now the heat lamp and water trough is back. Ian’s a little older and a little more careful this time around, so now he has birds that run to him instead of away from him. He’s been enjoying taking the ducks outside for walks and watching them waddle across the yard to catch up with him. Unfortunately Ian woke us up at 5:00 AM this morning to inform us that he’d been up to check on his babies and they were doing good. To be honest, at 5:00 AM I would not have been upset if they were not well.

So here’s hoping for an April that’s just as busy with friends and family, but maybe with fewer avians.

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Healing and Recovering

img_20170304_133155861.jpgAs winter considers belching one more cold front before spring officially rolls in next week, the Kisers are healing up and almost ready to resume our normal lives. For the past four months, we’ve been tiptoeing around our usual activities as health issues interrupted our regularly scheduled broadcasts. The first issue occurred back in November with my car accident. What we initially thought to be extreme soreness showed up on an MRI to in fact be a bulged disc in my neck. So while it’s been a pain in the neck (pun fully intended there), it has been a relief to actually have a diagnosis so we could chart a plan of treatment. While I’ve been rehabbing my weak neck muscles to better support my poorly functioning disc, Brinn has had his own fun with nerve surgery. After carpal tunnel and ulnar nerve surgery, he’s joined me for my tri-weekly physical therapy sessions. We’re just such a sweet couple that we enjoy sharing everything, even our physical therapist.

Timing wise, we probably picked a fairly convenient winter to kick off. The weather has been mild, almost too mild. There’s not been a whole lot of water for paddling, nor much snow for sledding or skiing. At least we don’t feel like we’re missing a whole lot this year. It probably has been one of the better winters for riding, especially as the roads have stayed clear for trailering out to trail rides, but Reggie hasn’t seemed too upset to continue her tenure as a full-time pasture pet.

It’s looking like we may actually get a little bit of winter weather this weekend, and I suspect this will be old man winter’s last big hurrah for the 2016/17 winter season. This suits me just fine as I believe that we have almost turned the corner towards recovery. Brinn’s doctor has finally released him to slowly resume normal activity, within reason. I’m not sure that this doctor really understands that Brinn rarely participates in reasonable activities, but she did emphasize to him the risks that he takes if he pushes too hard too fast, and she did recommend that while paddling something tame in the funyak with Ian should be okay, she did advise that he avoids guiding any Ocoee trips for the next few weeks. I have another few weeks of therapy to look forward to, and then I get to undergo evaluation to see if I’m improving. Hopefully at that time, I’ll dazzle the socks off my therapist and doctors and they’ll all agree to release me back to a normal life.

img_20170303_175230584.jpgIn the meantime, we’ve found a few different ways to entertain ourselves over the last few months. Aside from feeding Reggie and her minions (can you believe that she still wants to eat everyday, even though I’m not riding??), we’ve been able to enjoy a few meals with our MSR family.

 

Ian has probably stayed busier than Brinn and I put together these last few months.He’s img_20170219_124932138.jpghalfway through his semester in gymnastics at the Little Gym, and still faithfully chasing his chickens around the yard everyday. Black Chicken still remains a very nice (not black) rooster and let’s Ian catch him without spurring him, but here lately even the hens have been letting Ian catch them. I’m not sure if they’ve just given up, or if they’re not as nervous as they used to be. Either way, everyone is laying and no one is flogging, so we’ve not had any fresh soup stock in a while.

img_20170301_185822185.jpgLast week, we decided to load up on Wednesday to go see some of our friends for the evening and check out MTSU to see what their weekly roll practice is all about. Holy moly! This place was awesome! I mean, yeah, it was cool to hang out with our friends and other boaters, but the slide! Their pool has a giant water slide that the lifeguards turned on for Ian. Then Brinn and Wes took turns standing at the bottom to catch Ian every time he came flying off the end. I think this does still count as developing kayaking skills because Brinn worked on river signals with Ian to img_20170301_185827557.jpgcommunicate, and Ian couldn’t start down the slide until he used his signals to verify that his catcher was in place. Parents take note, this may be the best pre-dinner activity on the planet for children. After leaving campus, we joined the group for a quick dinner at one of their local haunts. Ian brought his blanket inside, curled up on one bench of the booth beside our table, and promptly slept through the entire meal. Brinn and I had an entire meal with our grown-up friends to enjoy doing nothing but eating and gabbing. I’m pretty sure we’ll be attempting to repeat this scenario soon. Despite Ian’s obsessive fascination with the slide, we also had other entertainment in place at the pool, including watching Sarah climb inside Ian’s teenie tiny Fun1 kayak and squirt it around the pool (suggested weight range 30-80 pounds; Sarah’s weight? Probably around 110 pounds). Even Todd took a go at the kiddie kayak.

img_20170219_185256083.jpgIn another news, Ian also spent an entire week of sleeping on the floor. Blanket forts not being elaborate enough for the experienced outdoorsman, Ian kept half the living room tied up with a tent for a full week-long. Mogwai and Chaco were not thrilled with the sleeping arrangements of this indoor adventure, as Ian insisted that they join him in his tent every evening. Finally the nights grew cold enough again that we needed to resume using the wood stove, so the fabric sleeping shelter needed to safely return to the closet. Thankfully Ian has not asked to pull it back out again over the last two weeks.

Hopefully recovery time is right around the corner. The rains are coming more steadily now, filling the creeks a bit more these days, and some warmer days have turned loose the hair on Reggie and Badger. They’re both due for some pretty heavy-duty groomings and some major trotting sessions to help jiggle away their winter pounds. The Ocoee begins running again next week, and our hometown Muddy Rivers Festival takes place just one week after that. We’ve got a lot of springtime activities to look forward to!

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Ian’s Favorite Prayer

17092395_10155574191875656_1147787001_nPrayer can be a really hard concept to teach to adults, let alone children. Ian’s been asking some tough questions lately. Particularly at Christmas, when he asked why he couldn’t see God in the nativity scene set up in the lobby at his preschool. When I tried to explain that he could see God in the form of baby Jesus, I got the side eye. Obviously I didn’t do an adequate job attempting to explain the holy trinity to my four-year-old. But heck, the trinity is a tough idea for me to wrap my head around. Luckily we’ve asked Whitney, one of the pastors at our church, to give it a go explaining this idea to Ian. You know, since it’s kind of his job to teach this stuff.

Several weeks ago, one of Whitney’s Sunday sermons focused on prayer. I greatly enjoy listening to him speak, but I know it can be tough for a little boy to make it through an entire message. Little did I know that we’d have an opportunity to put this sermon into practice so quickly.

17101737_10155574182385656_470216831_nAfter church ended, we bundled up and took off to Standing Stone State Park do a little hiking through the snow. The snow swirled around us while the trees swayed in the wind as we set out to climb down the mountain through the safety zone. About halfway into our descent, I told Ian that he could let Mogwai go for a little while as Mogwai was ready to stretch his legs out a bit more than Ian can manage. For about a quarter of a mile, Mogwai stayed right with us, and would run up into the trees and back to us as dogs delight in doing. And then a squirrel ran across Mogwai’s path.

My dad has always said that the time to hunt with dogs for squirrels is when the leaves are off the trees. We got to see this in action first hand as Mog ran to the tree that the squirrel zipped up, then from tree to tree as the squirrel jumped across branches, right up the side of the mountain, and then over the ridge line braying as he went. Meanwhile, the wind continued to howl and drown out our voices as called for him. As we continue to hike, not wanting to stop and get cold, hoping that the our dumb dog would return to us, we saw more and17094085_10155574183725656_53807449_n more signs of the wild hogs that have invaded this area. Trees were coated in red clay as high as three-foot up, and roots exposed in the side of the hill. Pigs cause such destruction to the landscape. We made it to the creek at the bottom of the mountain, then decided to turn around and head back up the trail to see if Mogwai might retrace his steps and run into us.

17028802_10155574198345656_299149110_nIt was at this point that our little family started snapping at each other. Brinn stressed over Mogwai, and snapped at me for letting him go. Our legs were burning from the incline and our lungs gulped air from our lack of conditioning. We all guzzled water from the nalgene bottle we carried. Ian wanted to help find Mogwai and started yelling for him, which irritated Brinn who was trying to whistle and listen for Mog. Chaco became fed up with all of us and barked at us, or squirrels, or the wind for all we know. Then Ian moved into doom and gloom mode. He complained and carried on that something happened to his puppy dog. A hog got him. A hunter shot him. He’s lost forever in the woods. Eventually between Brinn’s snapping and Ian’s commiserating, I finally lost my patience.

In exasperation I finally spun around and let Ian have it. 17094116_10155574192665656_2019178520_n“Baby, complaining will do absolutely nothing to help your doggie right now. If you want to be productive, the only way you can help is to pray that Jesus will bring your puppy-dog back to you.  “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength” (Psalms 8:2). And in that instance, my four-year-old shamed us by doing the one thing that his parents should have shown him and led by example. Ian stopped in the middle of the trail and he prayed. “Dear Jesus. Please bring Mogwai back to me.”

Do you know that not five minutes later, that silly dog popped up out of the tree line and came running down the trail to us? After wrapping his disobedient dog up in a bear hug, Ian stopped to pray again. “Jesus, thank you for bringing Mogwai back to us.”

17124639_10155574193730656_1501889541_nNow when we ask Ian if he would like to say the blessing at meal times, he usually asks us if he can pray his favorite prayer. It has nothing to do with thanking God for his food, but everything to do with thanking him for bringing that goofy dog back to us a month ago. If you ask Ian if he wants to pray, he will gladly say yes, then launch into his favorite prayer: “Jesus, thank you for bringing Mogwai back to me.”

Today we’ll be teaching a new prayer. Mogwai’s safe return can remain his favorite prayer, but we have a friend with a special request for prayers for his sweet grand baby. Ian now believes with us in the power of prayer. The Apostle John wrote, “Now this is the confidence we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him” (1 John 5:14–15). John also wrote, “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:22).

So, dear friends, I ask tonight that those among you who keep confidence in Him, that you join us in prayer for healing and health for baby Breaker, and help us all see as Ian has seen, the power of prayer. Our savior can hear the seemingly insignificant request of a little boy missing his dog. Now let’s talk to God about a family praying for the health of their child.

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