As the sun sinks toward the Missouri River, the picnic tables at Les Bourgeois in Rocheport fill up one by one. A few women hold spots for the rest of the group. Some show up right on time at 6 p.m., but most trickle in at their leisure.
That's just fine, though. Leisure is exactly what this night is all about. For the MOMS (Moms Offering Moms Support) Club of Northern Boone County, this is the one night a month they all spend away from their children.
By 6:30, nine women have arrived and most sip on wine and snack on cheese. Laura Miller, new to the group, is introduced. MOMS members such as 2 1/2-year veteran Laura Waye welcome her.
Waye knows how important the support from other mothers is to the group. "It's the toughest job in the world ... to raise children," she says.
Most of the women like the night out because it gives them a break and offers some relief from the daily work of being a parent. "I forget sometimes that I need to take care of myself, too," Waye says over a glass of white wine. "There's only so much peek-a-boo you can take before you go crazy."
And the women of the Northern Boone County club are not alone. The local chapter of MOMS is one of more than 1,000 chapters that make up the International MOMS Club. The nonprofit organization is based on the belief that a mother should not have to raise a child on her own.
The Northern Boone County chapter's support network includes everything from food delivery for sick mothers to a babysitting co-op. And, of course, the monthly night out.
The conversation this evening in the bluffs above the Missouri River covers topics from husbands to work and food. Inevitably, though, it always comes back to the kids.
At 6:45, two more women arrive - Sara Echternach and Micky Beadle, with 7-month-old Jacklyn Beadle riding her mother's hip. The youngest night-out attendant instantly becomes the center of attention, and Beadle hands her daughter off to the moms as she settles into a seat.
The night out usually is designated as the only MOMS' event that doesn't include kids. Beadle made an exception for herself, though, because she is breastfeeding.
After about 10 minutes of conversation, Beadle says, "Truthfully, this is the one time a month I don't have a kid with me ..." But before she can finish her thought, Beadle interrupts herself with a laugh as her daughter is handed down the tables and back into her arms.
There's always next month.
BOONELIFE is a weekly photo column that explores the daily lives of the people in Boone County. If you have suggestions for this column, please contact Jeff Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (573) 882-1690. Story archives can be found on the Web at www.columbiamissourian.com/features/boonelife.