It is hard to believe, but summer break is almost over. In the next few weeks, school-aged kids will forego lazy days, late nights, beach trips and just hanging out in exchange for backpacks, homework, earlier bed times and dreadful school lunches.
The pastor at my church once reflected that your kids are only children for 18 years. He said that means only 18 summers to spend with them.
He urged parents with young children not to take that time for granted, and to enjoy the 18 (or fewer remaining) summers you have with your kids while they are still children.
I think about his pointed remarks often, and at the end of each summer reflect on what more I should have, or could have done with my kids. Time is precious, and you can't get it back.
Last week we took the girls to North Carolina, where we rented a house on Lake Toxaway with a pontoon boat. We spent lazy mornings fishing off the dock and tubing on the lake. Since our part of North Carolina was experiencing long and heavy downpours every day, most of the afternoons were spent indoors playing games, reading and watching more children's movies than any adult should ever be forced to watch.
We played cards, and I got beat playing "Junior Monopoly" by my three girls, who have a combined age of 21 to my 42.
Donald Trump, I apparently am not.
For me, fishing with the girls was the greatest highlight. Watching them watch me hook live red-wigglers, night crawlers and neon-green Canadian night crawlers - which I was equally fascinated by having never seen them before - was a treasured moment.
I strive to make sure my girls don't grow up to be too "girlie" and encouraged them to hold the worms and hook them themselves, but after Mia, age 6, hooked her own finger, I stuck to bait duty. And bait I did. Over. And over. And over.
The girls pulled out more bluegills than I could count. The biggest one they caught was perhaps all of a pound, but that didn't keep Jordyn, also 6, from saying, "That's a whopper!"
At the end of the week we dropped Casey, 9, off at camp. She's been to the same camp twice before, but that didn't stop her tears from flowing when reality set in that she would be without mom, dad and her sisters for the next two weeks. On the drive home, I must have told my wife Amy a dozen times, "She'll be fine," after her comments of concern about Casey being homesick.
During the 10 days we were away, I didn't read my cherished morning newspaper because it was hard to come by (at least any worth reading); and with the kids with us all day long, I avoided the TV news, which tends to not be appropriate for the under 10-years-old crowd.
Still, I caught glimpses of news here and there on my phone. Something about a royal baby that I could not care less about - and am perplexed by the fact that anyone does.
A HAZMAT situation at the Port of Tampa.
More unrest in Egypt.
Anthony Weiner can't keep his pants on.
In the end, we returned to Tampa, and nothing had really changed in the "outside" world, but in our inner "family" world, the summer and our trip to the mountains tightened the bond and our love and appreciation for each other.
On the drive home Mia blurted out, "My friend Kai is the best boy in school, but daddy, you are the best boy in whole wide world.
"Even when I get married Daddy, you will always be a little bit more."
I'll take that over the news any day.
Chris Ingram is a Republican political consultant and analyst at Bay News 9.