It was the weekend that almost wasn’t. Three days before “the girls” were scheduled to leave on a much-anticipated camping and rafting weekend, Megan looked as if someone tried to stuff a grapefruit under her eyelid. She had an allergic reaction to something mysterious and the doctor recommended rest. Another friend fell down the stairs holding a laundry basket and broke her rib. The daughter of another friend was being treated for MRSA. Things did not look good for our little band of wanna-be campers. I didn’t take the car to get serviced. I didn’t make the last grocery store run. I told the babysitters that the trip was off. And then, it wasn’t. Powerful drugs took care of the citrus-under-the-eye condition and the daughter responded quickly to treatment. After talking to the other girls via conference call the night before our departure (yes, we’re dorks), we were in agreement to go for it. We were desperate housewives, indeed. I threw caution to the wind and packed up my 15-year-old car without an oil change, I hit the grocery store on the way out of town, and I trusted that my babysitters would figure it all out. I headed to the hills. What a peaceful drive that was. Starbucks in hand, windows down (because the motor was stuck and I couldn’t fix it), and that great feeling of anticipation deep in my soul. It felt strange having only myself to look after. I did not have to contort my body in strange positions to distribute food to the little people in the back seat. I did not have to make superfluous potty stops. I never had to referee a single disagreement over (fill in the blank). I honestly cannot remember the last time I embraced such freedom. I did miss the kids, of course, but I feel it was essential to be away from them for a bit to appreciate it. West Virginia was wonderful and the perfect backdrop for restoration. The first night I tucked myself in my cozy tent for one, I lay awake for a long time listening to the rhythmic chant of the tree frogs. I breathed in the last smoky smells of surrounding campfires and gazed at the mostly full moon. It felt like magic. I hardly wanted to go to sleep because I was enjoying myself so much. I need not have worried because the next few days were full of adventures and making memories – just the way I like it. When we stumbled down to the trip check-in the next morning, the plan was to reserve our place on a raft. The big yellow kind with lots of people and a guide. When we arrived, our fearless leader, Joe, talked us all in to paddling individual kayaks instead for these more gentle rapids. I believe his exact words were something like, “Come on. You don’t want to be river dorks, do you?” So we signed up for kayaks. I must admit that I was a little unsure of that decision. After all, I had, um, exactly zero experience navigating any kind of boat in whitewater. I was worried I wouldn’t get to visit with my friends. I was afraid of things I couldn’t even articulate, but I signed the waiver. I certainly didn’t want Joe to yell “River Dork!” at me all day long. Once we got on the water, I could not have imagined tackling the class II and III rapids any other way. It was empowering to be the captain of my own craft. The girls and I enjoyed paddling around at our own pace and then coming together to chat, splash, and visit when the mood struck. I was glad I opted for the unknown. A few hours later, our group arrived at the popular New River attraction called Jump Rock. We got out of our boats, scrambled up the high pile of loose rocks, and prepared to fling ourselves off a ledge at least 20 feet from the water. Once again, it was a bit scary. From the water, the rock didn’t look all that intimidating, but the view from the top made me doubt my sanity. I remember thinking, “Does this make any sense? Why exactly are we doing this?” The first three times I approached the edge of the precipice, I totally chickened out. I even ran right up to the rim one time only to skid to a halt and teeter at the last minute. Finally, after realizing there was no easier way down, I took a huge gulp of air, closed my eyes, and stepped off. I think I counted three Mississippis before I finally hit the water with a chest-pounding thud. And it was awesome. We climbed right back up and did it again. Comfort zone officially expanded. The next day, we tackled the Class IV rapids of the Lower New River together in a big raft. The whiter the water, the happier I was. A few hours into the trip, we arrived at another Jump Rock. This towering group of boulders was even more intimidating than the one before. We estimated that it was almost twice as high and definitely twice as difficult to climb. I was still a little scared, but I had no second thoughts. When it was my turn, I hopped right off the edge and counted all the way to Four Mississippi before I remembered to take off my hat and hold my breath. Crash! I would have gone again if weren’t for the line. Oh, how empowered I felt! Where’s the next hurdle, the next challenge? I’m ready! As we paddled the rest of the way down the river, I thought of Charlie, Poppy, and Mary Hazel back home. I made a mental note to bring them with me on this very trip when they are a little older. In the meantime, I reflected on the big leaps they are taking this week as well. Charlie and Poppy start Kindergarten! How the heck this happened is still beyond me. I know they are a little afraid to attend a brand-new school, meet new teachers, and be away from home all day. I’m sure they would be happy to stay with me and the baby for a few more weeks, but I can tell that they are ready. They have changed this summer from my babies to my big kids. It’s time for them to exchange their rafts for their very own kayaks. When they teeter on the edge of that scary ledge, it is my hope that they can draw a deep breath, take the flying leap, and cheer for more.