Justin Ricklefs


Together, We’re Better

“I cried the whole flight down. The first night I cried five times. The second night, three times. The third night, only one time. But after that I was good.”

She only had five nights total, so I guess that meant her last two were tear-free. Progress.

Addi got back this afternoon from a six-day, five-night adventure with one of her sets of grandparents. If someone walked our kids into a lineup and asked us to pick out the toughest one, we’d pick Addi 100 times over.

Bold, smart, tenacious, fearless with a bit of a nasty streak on the basketball court.


So it came as a surprise when Grandma (Oma to be specific) kept filling us in the first day or two that Addi was having a few tender times. Brooke kept joking that once someone gets used to this house full of noise, chaos and non-privacy, that to have two grandparents uninterrupted for days on end, would for sure be eye-opening. And maybe tear-inducing.

The gift of these grandparents taking their grandkids on a 10 year old adventure to warmer weather is special. Addi is the fifth in line for this tradition out of all the grandkids. Trips to the beach, time at the pool, visit to the zoo, late night ice cream, American Idol on DVR.

But more than the fun, these trips cement something more meaningful. It’s a signal, maybe a small one but a signal nonetheless, that they’re ushering into the big kid realm.

As Addi walked down the jetway without an adult accompanying her, Brooke said she saw her wipe a few tears away. It was about enough for Brooke to say, “OK that was a cute idea, but we’re done.”

I was at work during her departure and the exact text from Brooke was, “She cried. Ugh. Worst thing ever to watch her walk away crying.”

She made it fine, had a great first day, but then the call home on night one was a tough one too. The worst part perhaps was when Kamden talked to her on the phone and had to walk out of the room because she was in tears as well because she missed her sister.

Rowan, in her typical keep-it-awesome way, said, “Well I am definitely NOT going to Florida when I turn 10. Everyone is crying.”

She’s the best.

Five times that night. Three times the next. One time the next.

But then? No more tears. Sure it was only two more nights, but Addi did a bit of growing up the past few days.

Not to mention she held an alligator, rode on a camel, swam in the ocean, did flips into the pool, slept in and ate out virtually every meal.

Basically the opposite of what her siblings did while she was gone.

It came to a screeching halt for her today when she jumped back on a plane by herself to head home. This time though, she was met with a small army that couldn’t wait to tackle her.

Sure enough, when she walked through the gate, she was bombarded. Handmade signs, huge hugs and immediate picking on each other.


On the way home we heard about her adventures and favorite memories, a lifetime full of them you can already tell.

At home tonight, it was back to what it was a week ago. Some fighting, some playing, some wrestling, some jacking around at bedtime.

I probably hugged Addi 40 times tonight. Each time saying some version of, “I missed you a ton, we’re so glad you’re home. It’s better when you’re here. We’re better when you’re here.”

The thing about family, especially a big one, is that we weren’t made to be together all the time. Work, school, activities, friends, travel, the list goes on. All of these things cherry pick one or more of us and takes us away from each other. Sometimes for an hour, sometimes for six days.

But the reason leaving is always a little bit harder? And the reason coming home is a little bit sweeter?

Because together, we’re better. Together, we’re able to rebound, rejuvenate and recover from the world around us.


Tonight, at bedtime, we expected smooth sailing. But tough Addi started tearing up again.

As usual, Brooke owned it. Through some 10 year old sobs, she finally got out of her, “I just miss Oma and Papa, it was such a great trip.”

Together, we’re better.

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