As much as I love to travel, I’m realizing more and more that you don’t need to endure long flights to have an adventure, family bonding can happen anywhere, and there are plenty of activities to enjoy right at home. My kids generally hate walking unless they forget that they’re walking. A moderately easy nature hike was the perfect distraction. We took them to Red Rock to hike a two mile trail and they LOVED it. Traversing the same distance on a city sidewalk would have elicited whines and complaints, but rocky mountainous terrain leading to a dribbly “waterfall” was totally exciting and fun for them. It’s incredible how much my relationship with my children has changed over the course of the last several months. It’s no longer wrought with guilt and anxiety. I no longer view them as burdensome little creatures who make impossible demands on my time and sanity, and I no longer feel guilty for thinking of them as burdens. When I was working, I was so exhausted by the end of the day that I couldn’t wait to send them to bed, even though I spent so little time with them. I used to blame my job for my failings as a mother, but lack of time and sleep weren’t the only culprits. I wasn’t in the right frame of mind. At the beginning of my sabbatical, I didn’t enjoy spending long stretches of uninterrupted time with my kids; I wasn’t used to it. I found them annoying and tedious. Maybe they’ve matured, but I think the real explanation is that I’ve matured, and learned how to be a mom. I’ve been trying to practice mindfulness, living in the moment, being present, hippie zen stuff like that. I also try not to be too hard on myself. I’m not the perfect mom, but I’m good enough. Sometimes I’m great! A change in perspective can be life-altering. Of course I’ve always loved my kids, deeply and wholeheartedly, but after spending so much time with them day after day after day, I can’t even begin to explain how much I adore them, how utterly and obsessively in love I am with my kids! I love them like crazy. As soon as they enter my field of vision, my face and my heart light up. This wasn’t always the case. I once read about some empirical study that measured the happiness levels of parents and found them to be less happy, on average, than childless couples. A year ago I would have said that those results were spot on. But now my kids bring such joy to my life that I’m filled with inexpressible gratitude for their existence and for every moment I get to spend with them. I didn’t expect to turn into one of those corny and sentimental moms who can’t stop gushing about how magical their kids are, but here I am.