“These are my daughters, Kelly and Lauren,” I say to Lisa who, in turn, introduces her daughter and her daughter’s friend.

I put our bags down, hand Lisa the cupcakes Kelly baked and start talking to friends gathered for a family-friendly “mini-mudder” at the Meyers’.

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“The kids get jealous when we do mudders, so we thought we’d make one for them,” Lisa explains. (Most mud runs don’t allow kids under 18).

Five minutes later, I scan the yard for the girls and am surprised to see Kelly with the rest of the kids looking at the homemade obstacles around the pond — complete strangers bonding over a soon-to-be-shared experience. It’s unlike Kelly, who usually says near me in unfamiliar situations.

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At the first obstacle — Where’s Walldo?— she surprises me again. She’s near the front of the line and smiling. I expected to have to reassure her. She’s usually nervous about trying new things, especially athletic stuff, and even more so when she’s with a bunch of people she doesn’t know.

But she climbs the wall without trepidation, even posing at the top for a photo.

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Together, kids and parents jog, laugh, and encourage each other through the Meyers’ course, from the I-Need-More-Cowbell rope climb to the Walkin’-the-Line pond cable bridge to the Frog-Log balance beam to the I-Got-Your-Back partner carry.

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At the Going Banana’s monkey bars, Brady teases his mom, saying she won’t be able to make it across without falling in the creek below. When she does, she chases him down, tackles him and kisses him in front of everyone — a fate that would make any 10-year-old boy scream. And scream he does, but he’s laughing, too. He secretly loves it, of course. (Aren’t all young boys closet mammas boys?)

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I have to look away because the scene is too sweet, and it makes me want to cry. I’m so grateful. For this day. For these friends. For healthy friends. For friends who spent God knows how many hours building a mud run course to give their kids (and mine) a taste of the FUN (and friends) to be found in fitness. I’m grateful for Kelly’s confidence. For Lauren’s energy and enthusiasm (she did every obstacle three or four times). For the perfect blue-sky summer day. For this life.

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At the last obstacle, the kids repeatedly take turns cannonballing into a grape bin filled with ice water. When their body heat and mud turn the ice bath lukewarm, they get out and hit the pool while the adults clean up and get dinner ready. John grills hot dogs and hamburgers. The rest of us buzz around the kitchen, uncovering salads and desserts, opening bags of chips and condiments. Kids sneak in and steal cupcakes and cookies.

Again, I look for Kelly and I see her at a nearby table with two other girls her age. Laughing. Joking. Talking about who knows what. Again, I’m surprised (that she joined in). Again, I’m grateful (that she was included).

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Later, we gather around the bonfire talking, laughing and, reliving the highlight of the mini-mudder — when the rope over the pond broke and sent four grown women into the murky, muddy water.

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The kids are off playing basketball, then they are on the trampoline, then they are in the clubhouse making bracelets, then they are cooking marshmallows for s’mores. Not once, from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m., did I see any of the kids with an iPod, a phone, an iPad or Kindle or any other screen. For once, technology took a backseat to family and friends and nature.

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About Just Write
“What ends up revealing itself when free writing is that everything has meaning. That is a magnificent gift of writing. If we write from a free heart-gut place, our souls start speaking