A child’s mind, unfettered by the more cerebral and dignified stuff grown-ups invest their short lives in, such as politics and the lunacy of network news, is a world of boundless imagination. In the span of an afternoon, my very own eyes have witnessed the metamorphosis of an otherwise innocuous cardboard box, into a cornucopia of creative ideas.

A princess, armed with a fistful of washable markers, saw an enchanted castle. A small boy later discovered a school bus. Then just before nap time, they all decided the somewhat failing box best served its purpose as an ill-fitting fat-suit piloted by three hysterical toddlers careening about the house crashing into whatever and whoever lay haplessly in their path. Invariably there were tears, but on the journey to that inevitable tragedy, the house was awash with uncontrollable little belly laughs. The kind that make me envious and fill the most worrisome faces in the house with ear-to-ear smiles.

And so yesterday, devoid of any suitable boxes, we decided it was the right season for a high-desert safari. We rose early, took a hearty breakfast, then strapped on our provisions and survival gear, bid a loving goodbye to Mom and baby Cole, and they set out on foot with Dad, their stalwart guide to find adventure.

Our house sits on the edge of the desert. A block from our front door is a trailhead. It’s a mountainous and rugged trail for someone with short legs, but they have peered into the abyss before and have begged me to take them there. And so we went.

A few minutes later and according to my compatriot’s best recollections, we had been hiking for hours in this barren wasteland, yet we had not seen a single dinosaur, pterodactyl, or even a snake. I assured them they were there, lurking, watching, waiting. Hushed tones and careful steps revealed a renewed vigor for our hunt and we pressed on.

Every odd-shaped rock or dried up chunk of wood surely beheld a clue and a thorough examination was required. Prickly cactus and clumps of bush were highly suspect and much whispering, the kind that can be heard from a hundred yards away was needed to communicate the best way to investigate these lairs of potential deadly creatures.

We stopped every twenty feet, or miles depending on who you are talking to, to sit on a rock and hydrate. The discussion would invariably turn ominous as we considered our next steps. We discussed at length the dangers that may be lying in wait for us and devised elaborate plans on how to vanquish those enemies if it ever came to that. Emboldened by our collective courageous words, we took to the trail again, eyes peeled and nerves at the ready. And so the day went, an adventure with Dad to a strange and forbidden land lost in time. There were many close calls that day, a couple of little prickly things to remove from a curious hand, and some dusty little bodies to clean when we got home. It was a pretty big day all things considered.

As far as hunting goes, we came home empty handed, but our little adventurers found great solace in my explanation that their fearlessness had inspired the dinosaurs and pterodactyls and snakes to run for their lives when they saw us coming. We had protected our house, Mommy and Cole, and it was a day worthy of a cold drink and tasty meal when we got home.

The whole event maybe took an hour, if that, but it will be with them forever. And while my forever will most assuredly be shorter than theirs, it will be among the many moments I have spent and will get to spend with these precious little souls that God brought to us, and I would like to think that my last breath will be taken with a warm smile remembering every last one of them.

Many people have said that Ana and I have saved these kids. The truth is, they saved us, from adulthood mostly. They invite us into their world, and for a time, we get to play like kids again. And from spending time with them, I have learned what is important in life.

No matter how hard I work, I can’t buy the happiness being with them brings, or the sense of purpose in shaping their lives, or the pure and honest love we have overflowing in our home.

I thank God for Ana and our children every day.

And I play with them every chance I get.