Parenting · Perfecting Dysfunction


One of the greatest reasons to travel with your kids is the time you get to spend knowing them.  One of the worst reasons to travel with your kids is the time you get to spend knowing them!   For the good and the bad of it, there is an adventure in finding out what is on your kid’s mind.  And one thing for sure:  teenagers rarely tell you what you don’t want to hear.

There is a subtle way around information gathering — and I’m not talking about dogging your teens on SnapChat, Instagram or Twitter.  Give them a camera. When we traveled the world, I created a ‘road’ school class of photo journaling. Each boy had to take some pictures every day, post their “favorite” to their Tumbler account each night, and write 3 full sentences or a paragraph describing the photo(age length). It was a challenge but worth while. Here’s what we discovered:

Tyler has a good eye for photography.  Even in dense smog he pulled out a great Taj Mahal photo. And he patiently waited for evening light to grab one more photo. (The key to being a good photographer is patience!)

Ty's mom 2Despite how my sign language, hugs, and rough attempt to speak to everyone seemed to drive my sons crazy, down deep they didn’t actually mind it at all.

Parenting lesson #1:  “Teach a good lesson even if you don’t talk.”  We all became better huggers after this world trip!  Take THAT to the diplomatic table!

Food prep in other countries will bring home a touch of reality to any American kitchen.  Trenton’s photos of this kitchen in India, spoke volumes about his heart. We hoped this photo would be a gentle reminder each time he or either of his brothers opened our refrigerator at home to say: “We have nothing to eat in this house!”


This is a shot Colton took but that’s another…

upside downAnd finally one of my personal favorites which pretty much explained how each of us felt from time-to-time on our trip. Of course, you can pretty much correct anything in Photoshop if you know the problem.

And you can pretty much correct anything in the training ground of hands-on parenting,  if you are willing to see the problem!  If you don’t have a clue where to start, give your kid a camera!

You will discover a whole other side to your child’s vision of his world.


Encouragement · Perfecting Dysfunction

The moments in-between

France!  Toward the end of our trip, we were barely in control. Since we had all(not Ron) vowed not to cut our hair the entire 7 months, it was no surprise that it had lost the battle several weeks  before.  We hadn’t come to do the things other families do, or to send home the photos others send home.  And that was a good thing.  Because we were having too much enjoyment out of photo failures.

They missed the assignmt.Some of my favorite French moments  . . . . say fromageWhat’s ‘fromage’?fr. wall walker

Somebody once said: “when you try to control everything, you enjoy nothing.”  And I get it.

I know I drive them crazy with schedules, lessons, practices, studies and all but it is how we function.  And when I say “we” I mean “me”: it’s how I function.    I have to have plans, goals, milestones, and objectives.  But we all need ‘free time’ and occasionally ‘me time’ to explore, let our minds wander, and sometimes just sit in each other’s company just waiting for the gems to pop out of their mouths, into our minds.

“What did we love most about our world trip?”  I guess I would have to say, the moments in-between.

And just when you think you cannot get it right, no matter what, the accidental Christmas Card photo appears!

great fr, family photo

Have a great weekend!



education · Encouragement · Parenting · Travel

To the teachers

Legs BP logoTeachers!  They are the ones that walk beside us, behind us, and in front of us leading the way, so that one day they will step into our shoes and be the teachers.

boys walking holoc.The boys seemed to sense the reverence of these war memorials in Poland and Germany, and were certainly affected deeply by the remnants of luggage, shoes and clothing left behind.  But I wonder if anything touched them as deeply as the talk their father gave them about the concentration camp introductions? (check out and our facebook today for the video)

When we were in Japan, we also were touched by the museums and affects of the bombing of Hiroshima.  But things become more personal when a name or photo was attached to the story.  Ron took the time to read to the boys as they bedded down on the floors of the hostel in Japan. He chose the story of Sadako Sasaki, who was just 2 when the atomic bomb dropped in her city.  At 12, she was diagnosed with leukemia from radiation — referred to in Japan as the ‘atom bomb disease.’  Sadako took on the task of folding 1000 paper cranes, according to the Japanese legend that 1000 paper cranes would allow a wish to be granted.  Her wish was to live. Although Sadako only folded 644 before she died, her life is a legacy and tribute thanks to her friends and family who exceeded her task, raising a statue in her honor, publishing a book of letters about those who died from result of the A-bomb and placing her paper cranes of hope at the NYC 9/11 Memorial, at Pear Harbor, the Museum of Tolerance, in other places of honor.

“At the foot of the statue (of Sadako) is a plaque that reads:  “This is our prayer.  This is our cry.  Peace on Earth.”

Sadako_and_the_thousand_paper_cranes_00Make history come alive for your child.  It takes time.  It takes creativity.  It takes knowledge.  It takes love.  Be a teacher.


Adventure with Engagement AWE · Family · Perfecting Dysfunction

Seek the Treasure

Here we go — only a couple more months and they’re back in school.  WHAT??

No one would be calloused enough to say that out loud the first week of summer vacation,  but I know at least one mom that secretly wonders ‘how long’ this 24/7 Social Director/Cook/Supplier-of-All-Needs/and Boredom-Conqueror-Job will last.

But I beg you, don’t let this summer get away without a plan.  Your family needs some time together spent more creatively than at home or at the pool.

It’s summer vacation.  Don’t fill it up with busyness, but make some plans.    I’m not talking about jumping off big – just a little dip into the strange and wonderful world of family adventure.  We call it AWE – Adventure With Engagement, because after all, everything goes off pretty smoothly in life until you add the people.  And then, it’s the wild west and you are slinging around your sassy lip and six-gun trying to control things.

New friend in S. Africa

You don’t have to jump right into a world trip like we did, but unless you take a step toward AWE, you will look back at the summer of ’17 when you stayed stuck.  There are so many close-to-home things to do with your family to drum up AWE:

At the beach, (or near a stream, lake or river) rent a salt-water metal detector and at low tide push your way onto the shoreline. There is nothing quite as exciting as hearing the sound the detector makes when you find a treasured ‘thing-a-ma-bob.’  Better yet, seed the earth with weird little hardware to be found by young kids.  I know a lady whose favorite beach vacation activity is to plant hidden treasures for early morning seashell hunters.   She gets up at dark-thirty and “seeds the beach” with store-bought oversized conch shells.  From her front row beach chair, she sits with her morning coffee and shares the adventure with complete strangers as they find treasures.

IMG_0803Bamboo Raft Thai?

Make a family plan before the summer is over.  Hike a different path, get mud and gook under your fingernails, climb a hill or a tree because it is there, offer your family’s help to a Camp for underprivileged kids, feed the hungry, seed the beach.   Love to hear your quirky ideas.

Seek the Treasure.


Encouragement · Faith · Perfecting Dysfunction

Puttin’ up yer dukes

Dawn color punch.jpg
One of my friends shared something very personal with me this week:  She, like many of us,  felt God had let her down.  Unlike so many of us, she had the guts to express her disappointment and share her journey back to faith.

I get it.  When we lost Ryan, Ron and I were ready for a fight with God.   We both had a terrible time understanding how a loving God could allow such a tragedy.  It’s been 16 years, and we are no closer to understanding now than we did then.  But the stories shared by encouraging friends are building blocks to restoration. And God continues to bless this family.

My friend has come back into the fellowship of her church and the understanding that she doesn’t understand everything about God;  but, she understands a few things about God.  And one thing she knows for certain is that He has never forgotten about her.

Few of us have the courage to actually admit we get angry with God.  But honesty and  transparency is a gift to and from your friends – the TRUE friends who will never use confession against you.  My friends have helped me understand that just because I question why He allows bad stuff to happen to good people, doesn’t necessarily mean lightning is gonna come out of the sky and fry me. God respects an honest spiritual struggle.

journey.jpegThank God.  And friends!

Have a great weekend!




Parenting · Travel

Role Reversal

“Where do they get all that energy?!” my mom would ask my dad, referring to my brother, sisters and I when we were young kids.   I didn’t catch the full meaning  till I had my own kids and then I heard myself ask the same thing.

The roles reversed when we decided to take our family world trip.  Call it a blessed infusion of energy, a burst of enthusiasm or just the knowledge that we had bitten off a huge footprint to cover and schedule to maintain.  We were all infused and enthused!

Our day would start with rigorous exercise for each Hirn. Road School began with PE:  Physical Education to some, Physical Exhaustion for others.  Go ahead, call me Drill Sergeant.  You’re not the first.

Our trip would include plenty of walking, carrying, keeping up and waiting and I knew we needed stamina to stay sharp, alert and energized.    Ron and I told the guys to make the best use of their down time, to rest when they could and ‘cop a squat’ wherever possible.  Tyler perfected the position.cop a squat.jpeg“Conserve your energy,” ”pace yourselves,” we told them.    And sometimes they chose the craziest places to catch up on rest.    9,999 rooms in the Forbidden City had sapped their energy.pooped Forbidden City.jpegBut did our kids ever complain?   What do you think?  They learned to complain creatively, always supplying some sort of show and tell to support their abuse claim.    Ouch.  

Ow!.Czechjpg.jpegBut hangnail, stubbed toe, blisters or cuts, we kept right on moving.  And in a moment of role reversal, as they rehearsed their whines,  I’m certain they looked at their old mom and dad and asked each other:  “Where do they get all that energy?”


Perfecting Dysfunction

Family matters.

No this isn’t a private blog just for the Hirn friends and family. It’s an observation.  A simple sentence:  Family matters.  A subject and a verb.

But there are times for every mom when running away sounds like a good option.   “Me time” some mothers call it.  But it’s difficult for mom’s to actually find “me time” ever.  One day you will take that vacation or long lunch, read that novel, and take that bubble bath.  The fact remains:    family matters.

Lately I’ve become painfully aware that my 2 teens and pre-teen boy are finding it less comfortable to have their mom close by.  And by ‘less comfortable’ I am going by the looks on their faces when I tell them that I will be in the front row cheering for their achievements, competitions and awards.  Their mom is not timid.  She has a vicious whistle that has blown eardrums from Alex City to Hong Kong.  She is an entire cheering section by herself.  But she wants to be present.  Because family matters.

Gone are the days of hand holding.

Colt Dawn london Airport.jpgAWE in Tut Tut in Thailand.jpgAnd cramming together in a tuk tuk may be beneath a teenagers level of ‘cool.’  But I still believe the family that plays together, stays together.  And we have had and still do have plenty of practice.

Family matters.  So regardless of what your kids say, as they beg you not to join them,  hang close.  And for heaven’s sake: get the uncomfortable moments in a photo or a video.  The moment of embarrassment is a lifetime of pleasure!



Family · Parenting · Travel

Home of the brave

I love America and am so thankful we have the freedoms our forefathers gave us – One Nation Under God — though we are having a bit of trouble with the  ‘indivisible part’  lately.    America is still a democracy!!

The Hirn home is not a Democracy.   If we operated on the democratic principle our boys would be on their screens, skip school most days and exist on Cheetos and soda.


Ron and I are the leaders of the Hirn Family — a united front – and though we want our sons to have a great youth, it is not our goal to see them constantly happy.   This fact, of course, troubles them often because “when they get to be parents they are going to let their kids make up their own minds.”    I simply am repeating what they tell me.

IMG_3792 copy.JPG

The Hirn family operates on Monarchy principles and on occasion we are forced into Dictatorship.  But we operate out of love, which often separates good from evil.  When we first announced the concept of a 180-day family World adventure, you could see the confusion on their faces.    Each kid was mentally pushing off from a different dock!


Joyce Meyer once said: “The best way to get along with people is to not expect them to be like you.”  That goes for family members too.


A family trip is always a great challenge.  Foreign soil adds obstacles to the mix.      It’s important to acknowledge each member of your troop. Though they are your children, not one of them sees life the same as you do.   Take time with them, encourage their feedback, help them face their concerns and give them value by listening to what they have to offer.  Listen long!    Being in the leadership position of any organization is difficult.  But I think being lead in a family is even harder because it requires more love than skills!

family venice

Practice the leadership secrets of Nelson Mandela and “Lead from the back — and let others believe they are in front.”


Adventure with Engagement AWE · Parenting

Seek the treasure!

Our lives have become too neat.

Remember those days years ago – you were just a little kid then.  You and a friend decided life in your part of the ‘hood’ was just a little too dull, so became ‘explorers’ and set out to find new and exciting discoveries.  You cut your way through the unexplored areas beyond your backyard and ventured forward to find the treasure – whatever that was.  You didn’t know.  You didn’t care.  It was all about the experience.  And today, it’s all about the memory.


Guinea pig lunch in Peru


You met strangers in the jungle – kids that went to schools outside your county.  But you weren’t afraid because you had your buddy with you who could validate the experience or protect you from harmful enemies. Rather quickly you learned kids are kids wherever you go.  Sure there are some bad notes:  Straight out of the movie The Christmas Story you may find a Skut Farkus who taunts you mercilessly.  But they are rare finds.  And you suddenly realize, your fears of people like that are way bigger than reality.  (BTW, this fact helps you later on in life.)   Fear not the Farkuses of the world!


Remember those days?  That little kid still lives inside you.  Even though he or she is all grown up now, you may still have that kid in you still.  Don’t you think it’s time you share your grown-up kid with that little kid?


Seek the treasure.  Whether it is a walk through the deep woods with your family, hanging around a campfire, jumping a creek, finding a hiking stick or simply talking about life, moments like these are vital to your health!


And at the end of the day, as you sit together over a cup of cocoa picking burrs out of your jeans, you can talk to each other, about your experiences.  Fill your 2018 with good old-fashioned AWE – Adventure With Engagement.  It’s free for all Americans.  So wander with your family.  Seek the treasure.



Happiest New Year!


Family · Parenting · Perfecting Dysfunction · Travel

Too much stuff

I have 5 potato peelers in my drawer.  Five!  Not that I cook potatoes every night like my grandmother did, but should we decide to have potatoes, I can find five different ways to peel ‘em!

I’m not alone.  The Wall Street Journal writes, “Americans spend $1.2 trillion annually on nonessential goods—in other words, items they do not need.”  Like five potato peelers!  Psychology Today reports Americans spend more on shoes, jewelry, and watches ($100 billion) than on higher education.

And even with five potato peelers, four can openers, three scented candles, two pair of UGGS, we still can’t fit everything into our homes without at least one storage facility!  Does this make us happy? Ask Psychology Today that one.  Depression is on the rise.

Who can we blame?  You can try to pin the thing on Steve Jobs, but we have abused the technological opportunities he provided.  We must blame ourselves. We are so busy providing stuff for our families, we overlook the importance of spending time together – away from the normal structure of things.  And psychologists say spending time with your family is itself a huge gift!!   Ron and I have been trying to sell you on the idea of family travel because the experience was so incredible for us.  World travel costs far less than you would imagine, if you plan ahead.  We did, and still love looking back on our adventure:  The voyages of the Starship Hirn – to boldly go where we hadn’t been, to  explore and seek out strange new (and very very old) civilizations.  

In the weeks ahead I will be giving you some tips on how Ron and I were able to take this trip.  Your family deserves the trip of a lifetime.  You can dig up memories year after year — no storage required!   And seeing places up close and personal beats the socks off a two dimensional photo on a web page.  Yes, you can afford it if you cut corners and plan, plan, plan.   Ron, Tyler, Trenton, Colton and I all did so much homework.  Then, we lived it!

Or, you can stay home and complain that you just can’t afford to travel,  while you stockpile newer technology, another car, boat or hover board.  Your choice.  But remember, the stuff you cherish cannot hug you back.

Anyone need a potato peeler?