My four-year-old boy’s word order grabbed me by the throat.
Instead of saying, “You’re too fast, Mama,” he blamed himself for the meltdown.
“I’m not fast enough,” he said.
My husband, David, left on a business trip for Turkey that week at the end of May.
I had been zipping along solo and trying to squeeze in everything — Ray’s speech and physical therapies, Andy’s water activity day at preschool and Carl’s kindergarten graduation — on top of working, cooking, cleaning and doing laundry.
The grocery store meltdown happened when I tried to fill a prescription there with the extra 15 minutes I had between finishing Ray’s physical therapy and picking Carl up from school.
Instead, I experienced the saddest moment in my parenting journey thus far, and I knew I needed a road trip for the soul to Trout Lake Camp in north central Minnesota.
We left Illinois at daybreak then and finally pulled into camp after dinner to begin what turned out to be one of the most fun weeks together at a place once remote enough to be reputedly used as a spot for mafia guys to lie low.
Our tribe enjoyed the usual stuff: swimming, horseback riding, fishing, family-style meals, games and funny skits.
But even then, at 17, I appreciated why the Minnesota Baptist Conference dubbed it “A meeting place with God.”
It exists for campers like me, for people often too self-centered or too soured by daily frustrations to notice the magnificence of a loving God’s handiwork in the bushy pine trees, in the clear water lapping the beach, in the faces of friends and loved ones and strangers.
Back home, in 2012, I had been reading “A Minute of Margin: Restoring Balance to Busy Lives” (NavPress).
This book of daily reflections by Dr. Richard A. Swenson includes one entry titled, “The Benefit of a Good Transmission.”
He proposes that people enjoy a healthy lifestyle when they more intentionally use their four gears instead of just one — overdrive, the burnout gear.
Those gears include: park, for contemplative times of resting and recharging; low gear, for interacting with family and friends; drive, for productively working and playing; and overdrive, for tasks that require a burst of extra energy or effort.
I so looked forward to downshifting, and I began the process the day after Carl graduated and David returned from Turkey.
Though terribly jet lagged, my husband jumped in the car with us to head for the land of lakes 1,008 miles from our home in Colorado. There, we tucked in for a long Memorial day weekend of moving between park, low and drive gears with our kids and our four-year-old twin niece and nephew, Abbi and Jakey, who live in the Twin Cities.
A princess fork?
A princess fork is an ordinary stainless steel fork. But it has standard-issue swirls on the handle versus the ordinary, smooth-handled utensil.
Thankfully, dining hall staff stocked both.
Our time together often went like this — discussing princess forks and paddling mostly in circles in our canoe while Ray and David napped in the cabin.
We also watched a box turtle claw at the air until the kids gently released him in the lake.
David later spent more than an hour helping the kids make bottle rockets before we climbed on beached docks waiting to be shoved into the chilly water when summer camp officially started in June.
I soaked up the pace and the peace of this special place, where I worked on summer staff at the waterfront in 1985 and 1986.
Then, I could not predict my return more than 25 years later or my desperate need to nourish family life.
But here we were and happy at that.
During our visit, I got what I wanted — time to reflect on God and lots of chances to dote on these kids, especially on little Andy.
“Andy? Do you know how much Mama loves you?” I said.
Those words came out just right.