December 10, 2011


Bender Family Adventure and Game night (BFAGN) was officially declared last Saturday night.

This tradition goes back to when the kids were little and we played games at night. As our kids got older this wonderful tradition has disappeared and although we try to have dinner together every night, we isolate ourselves after dinner with our respective technology. We are feeling disconnected from the kids and this is not good. Alex spends too much time in front of the Disney channel believing that life is a Disney show and being sedentary.

We decided a complete removal from all types of technology was the key to the success of BFAGN so a change in venue was in order. A friend of ours has a double wide in Moab, UT he is rehabbing. We use it when we can and although it is rustic, it has running water and heat, all we need. Alex protested as it is hard for her to adjust to last minute plans. Her immediate reaction is always one of refusal, but when we agree she can stay home by herself, she always folds, and she always has the most fun.

Moab is a three hour drive from us and located near Arches National Park in the eastern edge of the Utah desert. It is a great rafters place in the summer, but this time of year it is a bit desolate and cold. A perfect place to get away from technology and have some good family bonding time.

To prepare for the trip Tom and Alex each chose two games. Tom decided on cranium and monopoly, and Alex opted for high school musical and yahtzee. Lucky for me, we discovered High School musical needs a CD player (phew!) and Alex threw in poker instead. I added scrabble, a personal favorite.

We left our house and headed west at dusk. The feeling of togetherness in a small space comforted me and I felt we were connecting already. This time away from distractions gave John and me a chance to catch-up about the kids, and our lives. Sometimes we can be so apart even though we are so together.

Alex is about as competitive as they come, and it has been suggested (erroneously of course) that this competitive streak came from her mother. Alex is always looking for the winning edge, and asked me to partner with her for the contest…oops I mean evening of games. I was flattered.

We laughed, chided each other and competed well past midnight. Alex and Tom bonded, which is hard for Alex as she resents her brother for what he can do – and what she cannot. But as always, Alex laughed the loudest, played the hardest and made us smile for over five hours.

The final tally was as follows – although only Alex and I were keeping score:

• Alex and I lost at cranium to John and Tom
• We came in second in poker to John
• Tom beat us at monopoly
• And the best of all - Alex and I won at scrabble by beating John on the last word, a feat never to be forgotten

The final prize, and the one that meant the most to John, Tom and I was the two mile family hike at Arches. Alex fights me every time I even suggest a walk – but in true BFAGN fashion Alex agreed to participate. The trail was cold and rocky, but once again in our brief blistery hour long adventure Alex was the happiest rock collector and hiker in the State of Utah.

Spending time together is a priority for all families, and the time escapes us so easily and so often. I wish this was not the case, and it is so important to maintain these family and community connections for our children and young adults with disabilities. Alex will need to use her connecting tools to advocate for herself as she gets older. She will be creating her own community and circle of support, we will help of course, but in the end it is Alex’s life, not ours, and it does not include the Disney cast of characters.

I am not sure who enjoyed our 13 hours together the most – John, Tom, Alex or me. I put my money on Alex who particularly enjoyed my chicken dinner!



  1. We hiked Arches when I was pregnant with Claire and I can't wait to go back when I'm not pregnant so we can see some more of the park.


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