This week we are hosting a little Sisterhood Storytime. You might want to pull up a comfy chair, a cozy blanket, and a box of wine. . .
Once upon a time, Erin’s parents left town to visit her brother in California. Thinking that their daughter was married with 5 kids and living two hours away, they did not feel the need to take away her key or inform her that she shouldn’t be planning any big parties while they were away. Big mistake.
Erin addressed The Sisterhood, “Hey, I have got a this-shit-is-gold kind of idea. My parents are leaving their house open for a week at the end of June, who wants to come?”
Every hand shot up. The Sisterhood does like to party.
“Oh, and we’re bringing kids AND we are going hiking AND I signed us up for this thing called Parkquest so we will not only be hiking, but hiking with a goal and a purpose.”
Only 4 hands remained—Vickie, Laura, Mary, and Ellen—and it all began.
“What is this madness?” you ask.
It’s Parkquest! Maryland State Parks runs this program where families form teams and can participate in “quests” free of charge at participating parks. Quests can involve hiking, biking, kayaking, canoeing, horseback riding, etc. If you can do it outside, it’s probably on a Parkquest. Each team gets a passport that you present to the ranger for a coveted stamp to verify you completed the quest. Teams who complete 10 quests get to go to the Grand Finale where you compete some more and have the chance to win prizes.
“How do I sign up??” you ask without any trace of irony.
This jamboree of family fun is in its fifth year, and 1000 families closed out the registration in 2 hours time. The spaces are all filled.
“That’s madness!” you say.
We know! But we have upped the crazy factor by 1000% by doing Parkquest The Sisterhood Way. We even have a name: Big Love. And t-shirts too, but that’s a whole other story . Ellen was not involved and Erin sucks at crafts—the results were less than perfect.
So, back to the story. Try to stop interrupting. Big Love began when we descended on Erin’s parents’ house in Western Maryland 4 years ago.
“Wait, isn’t Big Love the show about polygamy?” you sputter.
You’ll keep listening to the story now, won’t you? But anyway, four moms and 14 kids shoehorned into the four bedroom home like possums in a hollow log. Somehow Ellen got a bed to herself, so all was right with the world. We really do love her and gave her a break because she had flown in from Costa Rica the night before and was operating on four hours of sleep.
The next morning we fed the troops army mess hall style and departed on the first quest. Even we had enough sense to be nervous. For the love of Mother Nature, we were taking 14 kids ranging in age from 2 to 15 out into the Wilderness.
Everything went off just fine. Except for Ellen getting lost. And the poisonous copperhead snake.
“WTF!” you say.
No worries from the snake. If you don’t bother them, they don’t bother you. We’re not sure this is true all of the time, but we’re sure glad it was true that day.
The worst outcome from the whole experience was the grudge Ellen’s daughter Jellybean now holds against her for getting them lost in the woods. That ax is still grinding even though Ellen has outfitted herself with a compass and snake bite kit from Walmart. FYI– Walmart also has bear whistles.
“Good to know,” you mutter as you make a mental note to never go into the woods with Ellen and Erin.
Because this first “successful” quest left us relatively unscathed, we were emboldened. We put on our sassy pants (Aisle 3, Walmart), picked up our lassoes, and herded the cats to the next quest. We even drew more people into our rodeo as Erin’s brother Brian and his son joined the stampede.
So, we loaded ‘em up and hauled them to the top of Mount Washington State Park. We were in the parking lot trying to get everyone fed and organized. Going back to the cat analogy, there were kids everywhere and we were quite the spectacle. We grabbed the attention of a very elderly old man.
“Creepers,” you say.
We know. Unwanted conversation ensued with Ellen. He should have picked Erin—Ellen doesn’t talk to strangers.
And now if Ellen could go back in time, she would waste her trip on this moment so she could deliver this line—“Yes, we are sister wives, and that is our man. If you wait real patient like, the camera crews will be along in about 10 minutes.”
But it didn’t matter anyway, because Big Love was born and we loved the idea so much, we. . .
And agreed to do it again and again and again. Sister wives are we! You can peruse more of our memories and photos here.
We have even added a Big Love Big Daddy Style trip where we get the hubbies involved. Curious?
-Ellen and Erin
By Ellen Williams Erin Dymowski