Doing research on our Alaska to Argentina expedition, I discovered a family who was riding their bikes along the same route - all the way from Prudhoe Bay to Ushuaia.

Nancy, John, Daryl and David Vogel finished their journey in April/May and are now living in Boise, so we decided to take the opportunity to go see them before heading further south.

We arrived Friday afternoon, spent some time visiting, checked out the new house they're renovating, played some legos (the kids, not the adults) and made arrangements to visit the farmer's market in downtown Boise the next morning.

Saturday a.m., after the 'get ready' routine, we were on our way.

We parked the truck and walked a couple of blocks to 'the Grove' where the market was being held.

Aaliyah found a new friend.


This water fountain would have been tempting on Friday - it was soooo hot. But Saturday was significantly cooler, and cloudy, so we passed on getting wet.

It was a normal outing- we perused the stands, bought some breakfast, tried all the free samples.

Then after we crossed the street headed toward the 'craft' section, we stopped at a booth to look at their home made products. It was then that we counted only four instead of five.

It happens so suddenly. They're there, and then they're not.

Had he gone ahead? Was he still behind? Did he cross the street with us? When was the last time we remember seeing him for sure?

The search begins. Greg runs behind, back across the street, while I hold baby Atlas and scan the crowd ahead for any sign of him.

Returning a few minutes later, Greg gives me a look through the crowd - "Do you have him?"

I shake my head.

He runs off to search in the other direction, and somehow Nancy's arranged for me to call security, so now I'm dialing the number.

"Hi, Ive lost a child. Seven year old boy. Tan shirt with stripes. Brown hair. Answers to Parker."

Greg returns, again empty handed, and looking frantic.

"I've contacted security, they're meeting me here."

"I'm going back across the street to look again, I'll meet you at the water fountain," and off he runs. Nancy goes to look too.

I wait for security, give them more details when they arrive so they can alert the police, then leave my kids in Daryl and David's care and set off to search on my own - I can't just stand here and wait.

I walk the streets, trying to walk in the shoes of a seven year old, very confident little boy. What would he be thinking? What would he do? Where would he go?

He's not one to wander off. He's too obedient for that. He might have been distracted. Or maybe he just got separated.

Nevertheless, I check the game store, and I poke my head into Jamba Juice (he'd promised before to get a free sample for his little sister who'd missed out).

I pass Greg, who is frenetically searching, and looks downright frightened.

"It will be okay," I tell him. "We'll find him."

I walk all the way to the end of the farmers market, stop, and stare across the street. What would he do? Would he leave the market area? Would he go back to the truck?

I pause, clearing my mind. It's been about 30 minutes, and he's not here, that's for certain. Praying, I realize there's a couple of options I could choose from right now:

  1. I could freak out. I could panic, and allow these notions that are on the outskirts of my mind to take center stage - that he's been snatched, kidnapped, taken and I'll never see him again. Isn't that every parents greatest fear? Bad things do happen, and they could happen to me.
  2. I could keep calm. I could expect the best. I can be a 'reverse paranoid' and believe that the world is out to do me good. I can believe in the goodness of people, and assume that anyone who sees my lost child will be there to help him, not harm him. Yes, bad things may happen, but more often, good things happen.

Which choice will do me more good? I choose number two. I calmly walk in the direction I came, still scanning the crowd, but confident that my little boy will be found.

I find Nancy and security - still no sign of him. The police are watching now. They want someone to stay here so they'll know where to find us. Greg has gone toward the truck to see if he headed that way.

"Why don't you go with the kids, I'll stay here to wait for the police," Nancy offers.

There's a small tear that wants to escape as I cross the street again. But I feel calm, everything will be okay.

I find the kids, who are waiting patiently.

"Did you find Parker?"

"Not yet, but we will."

Then I look up, and I spot Greg through the crowd, triumphantly carrying a tear-free Parker on his back.

Greg lets him down and I squat next to him and scoop him into my arms.

"What happened?" I ask between hugs and kisses.

"I was walking, and I turned around and I couldn't see you, and so I tried to find the truck, but I couldn't remember where it was, and some people helped me, and then daddy found me," he explained, working hard to hold back the tears.

Greg goes to tell Nancy and the police that we've found him.

I'm impressed with Parker's bravado. I asked him if he was scared, he nods his head, but otherwise he seems unshaken. Wow.

Greg and Nancy return, and we walk toward the truck like it's any old day at the farmers market, probably with a little more careful eye on where each of the kids are - though that may be an unnecessary caution at this point - they're all keeping close by.

We'll definitely be reviewing our 'what to do if you get lost' plan - but other than that, my reverse paranoia has proven true.

The world is a good place filled with good people.

The Vogels are definitely good people.

Have you lost a child in a public place before?



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12 Responses

  1. Mack Reynolds

    This sounds like a rather alarming situation. Now that I think about it, I don’t think we had a contingency plan if we got lost. We did, however, have family code words… I’m not sure we were very pragmatic in our approach, but me and my siblings made it out alive. Glad Parker made it out fine.

  2. Ali Workentin

    What a smart little boy you have…so glad you found him and all is right with the world again. The panic of not knowing where your child is can be so frightening.

    We have friends, Roxine & Kurtis, who have Waterwheel Gardens, from Emmett, ID, who have two booths at the market in Boise. They are a wonderful home schooling family. Wonder if you saw them.

  3. Amy

    Oh my goodness you had my eyes watering! I lost my youngest once in a department store. Scariest five minutes ever. Ended up he was hiding on me and thought it was the funniest thing ever. We had a looooong talk after that! I can’t imagine losing them for a half hour and I am amazed you were able to stay calm 🙂

    • Rachel

      Yep, we had a little talk too – we told them it’s hard to ‘find’ someone when you’re playing hide-n-seek if they are always moving 🙂

  4. Mary

    I’ve lost my older son twice. The one time in a very busy train station where I had stopped to look at something while holding my younger son, told the older (then 3) I wanted to look, well so did he… at something on the opposite end. When I realized he was gone I just kept saying his name louder and louder when I saw an employee with her hand up. He was standing next to her. I was alone in a neighboring town for an event, the parking lot was huge next to the station and roads to cross… I was terrified.
    Since then I made them elastic band bracelets with beads with my cell phone number on them. Now they are older and very active in sports like running races and triathlons they both have a Road ID that they wear for those events in case they get hurt, but they also wear them when we are in a crowded place, theme park, where they may get separated and need some good person to call Mom!

  5. Alisa

    WHEW! What a relief! Good note to self that we should make a plan when arriving at public areas and events like that! Way to stay calm!!

  6. Rachel

    What an incredibly scaring thing to happen but good on you for staying calm. I don’t have kids so have never experienced this myself but I have ‘found’ kids that I’ve helped re-unite with their parents. Once in a park and a couple of times at a previous job which had a kids play area. You’d be surprised at how often this happens but over half an hour is a scarily long time to be looking.

  7. anon

    Three times, all within five weeks of traveling with our two kids! It was a bit of a reality check how easy it is to lose a child while traveling. There is just SO much going on and so much you don’t expect.

    One time, our 4 year old boy was playing with a few other kids inside small guesthouse’s courtyard. It was evening, and he’d been playing with the owner’s children for days without any mishap. We felt we knew them well and kept a fairly close eye on them. Anyway, I went to put the baby to sleep in the room and my husband went to the bathroom. When he returned, our son was gone and no one knew where he was. The father/hotel owner got on his cell phone and found out that his older son had offered our little 4 year old a ride on his motorcycle! Our son was returned to us (standing on a scooter with no helmet). Yikes!

    Another one was even worse… We were staying at one of the more expensive hotels in the area (shabby chic cabins set in beautiful courtyards). We were setting up the bed after arriving late in the evening. Our two kids were playing together nicely exploring the room. Then we looked around and realized the little one was gone. After a moment of silence and wonder, my husband yelled “She fell! She’s down below!” She had slipped through a gap in the flooring by the edge of the A frame cabin and had fallen 10+ feet to the concrete footings below. In sheer terror, we climbed down the ladder to collect her bruised little body. She was trembling and crying, but only had a few faint bruises and a couple scratches. Thankfully, she did not incur any major injuries.


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