Well, hello there Friday.
We’ve been on our “spring break” this week, which actually has not been spring break at all, but just our regular six weeks of school, one week off routine.
I love our week off. I like not setting an alarm clock and having casual meals all week and just doing a little of whatever we want. It’s nice to purposely NOT plan an adventure or a trip on this week too (even though I am frequently tempted to adventure out anyway). Sometimes you just need a week at home with no real plans. I had seriously contemplated a day drive to the coast because – beach – but the weather was so severely uncooperative that I chose to stay local. And I’m glad we have really. I think being home has been just what my little band has needed. And me too, I guess.
This week Piper wanted to borrow my baseball cap. I let her borrow it and she declared that she liked wearing a hat so much that she would like to possess one of her own. (She looked so cute, after all, that I probably will honor her wish.)
Randomly, in the car, we all began to discuss what sort of hat Piper Finn might like to own. We talked about one from Sunrift, a local outfitters store we like here. Or one with words or a design or a team. (We aren’t big sports people, so our entire family’s “team” knowledge is limited to what Bergen acquires from his friend Samuel.)
Finally, Otto offers what he is certain will be the winning option for a hat for his sister.
“I know what you can have a picture of on your hat,” he says. “My face!”
Today’s fashionable option will be a fashionable option for your walls.
Two print options, actually.
If you spend very much time on the website Imagine Childhood you will fall in love with all they offer. You will gather every plastic toy you own and throw it away. You will begin to take your children on bird watches every morning with the sunrise. You and your children will begin eating with wooden utensils and dressing in clothing made entirely out of alpaca hair – from the alpaca you purchased and moved on to your front lawn. You’ll probably grow all your own food and rename your children forest animal names and sleep under the stars instead of in your own bed, which you will probably have already given away too, replaced by a bed of straw and sunbeams.
It’s a dangerous website, you guys.
But it is so FULL of sweet nature inspiring art and toys and books and feel good/do good products.
I absolutely love these songbird stickers for your wall.
Although, truly, my stomach turns at the price tag on these STICKERS. You guys, how can I afford frivolous songbird art stickers when I’m out in the yard grooming my expensive alpaca?
A much more affordable, and equally fantastic, option is this beautiful bird poster. (Which looks far better on their site.)
We already own the songbirds version, but now they have a bird of prey version that I would like to add to our wall collection.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year — strawberry season!
Of course I’ll be making strawberry jam.
A few weeks ago the kids and I were waltzing through a cute little cooking supplies store downtown and we were mesmerized by all the (probably unnecessary) tools for kitchen jobs.
But when we saw this little tiny gem – we all agreed that it was not of the unnecessary variety. I guess it is called a strawberry huller.
It does just what it is supposed to do – it hulls strawberries.
And, if your jam is strawberry jam, you NEED this low priced little tool.
It makes it SO much easier and it wastes less of the strawberry. And, at this house, we consume strawberries at an unreasonably fast pace. For jam. (We make more than a dozen batches each season.) For serving up with granola or strawberry shortcake or strawberry scones or strawberry pie. For storing in the freezer for future smoothies. All the good berry options.
I could just direct you to Ann Voskamp’s blog every Friday and that would be all I’d ever need to do. It would probably always be enough. This week she had a guest post from Ann Swindoll and it’s all about lack and how we define ourselves through this lack.
It’s titled What You Lack Is Not Who You Are.
Oh goodness, how often this is the lie my heart most believes.
I am what I lack.
I’ll always be what I lack.
Ann Swindoll writes ……
When we experience that ravenous hunger for the one thing we so deeply desire, we all find ourselves tempted to give anything in exchange for it, because we hate being less than whole.
We all know, in these shattered places of our souls, that we are made for wholeness and perfection. And those places where we find ourselves lacking remind us of how weak we really are.
They remind us of our neediness.
But the gentle truth is that if there’s one identifying mark of the Christian, it is the mark of neediness.
As followers of Jesus, we have already acknowledged our lack and our neediness in the deepest of ways—our need for a Savior, our need for salvation.
We can’t make up what we lack: we can’t help ourselves, fix ourselves, save ourselves. Only in Christ are we made whole.
Sometimes during our off week we have the opportunity to watch more Netflix series. (Opportunity? Was that really the word I wanted?)
This week we started watching a show called The Kindness Diaries.
There’s this British bloke, Leon, (sure, the accent helps) and he is traveling across the world on his little yellow motorcycle and he is living and traveling only through the assistance of the kindness of strangers. But then, at some point during the show, when a family or a person has shown exceptional generosity of spirit to Leon, he surprises that person with an extraordinary act of kindness himself to that person.
I’ve liked each one so far, but goodness — Episode Two. It sort of wrecked me that morning. London turned back to stare at me, grinning, expecting to see exactly what she saw – those escaping tears down my cheeks. I really don’t want to ruin the experience for you, but there was a homeless gentleman who just gave of entirely all that he had and it was both humbling and beautiful to watch.
Every now and then I look into my archive of Posts I Forgot to Ever Publish. I’ve got journals filled with ideas and bits and pieces of article starts and story lines and sentences that go nowhere and words that have never seen the light of day.
I fell across a sweet one tonight though.
London is thirteen years old now. She has the recipe for her own specially curated potato soup inside of her head and she makes it spontaneously, no need to refer to to the original instructions any longer. She is capable of being an excellent map navigator and she is learning how to speak Spanish and how to handle algebraic formulas and she mothers Otto as tenderly as I do. She’s a sweet friend, a funny conversationalist, a good listener, a serious thinker. Her art is beautiful and she has a grown up haircut and opinions about clothing and our Sunday afternoon plans and the president and how people should act.
But she used to be seven years old. She used to have missing kid teeth and to be addicted to this one hat and to this one pair of those five-finger Vibram shoes that were so popular for a spell.
She used to be little and her world used to be full of new and never-before-known experiences.
And so when I found this little unseen post so full of this fond memory and realized that I had never published it, I could not resist bringing it forth into the light now.
She was seven. She’s not any longer. But this is all exactly and completely true still. I feel just the very same.
(And also. I might note – I was planning to mix current photos and older photos for this post. And then. Then, I found all of these older photos. And. I couldn’t stop adding them. My heart very literally hurts to see these. All the change. The precious and tender youthful beauty of my now-teenage daughter. My brain is a train wreck – instantly imagining those heart-wrenching senior picture slide shows full of pictures like this. NO. Time – stop it already. For. The. Love.)
I could tell it was a first-time experience because of the surprise on her seven-year-old face.
Our entire family was sitting in the living room, scattered on furniture and the floor and the giant red bean bag that the kids have nicknamed because it seems more like a friend than a place to sit.
And London was laughing.
Laughing so hard that she was, in fact, crying.
I don’t remember what was funny.
I just remember watching her body convulse with giddiness and tears stream down her soft cheeks.
I loved it.
I loved that she had never known anything could be so funny you would cry.
And that she had never realized that tears can be happy as well as sad.
And I loved that
I was there.
We were all there.
The whole jumbled, messy, confused beautiful lot of us.
The people who hold all your memories.
Like the time you lost your temper and said that one horrible thing.
And the time you got that phone call far too late at night for it to be anything but bad news.
The time you completed your first 5K and ran across the finish line.
Like the time you laughed until you cried. For the first time.
It is lovely. Noble. Sublime.
And difficult. Arduous. Complicated.
That is just how this family thing works.
It’s why it matters.
and why it hurts.
Because it’s both.
It is always both.
At the same time.
And we sleep and wake,
breathe and sigh,
live and die,
in that tension.
With one another.
I watch my children.
I study them.
Like it’s my job. Because, I think it is.
For the past few years I’ve noticed a trait in my oldest son.
Possibly it’s hereditary.
I’m not sure that it matters which.
I just know, I’ve seen it on my boy.
I have seen it on him like you would see a heavy cloak – or a bathrobe – or if he decided to play dress up in a grown man’s oversized dress shirt.
It’s dangly and uncomfortable and it doesn’t really fit his form. It’s hindering him at every single step and he is certainly going to stumble and stub his toe and cut his knees if he doesn’t discard that old thing and wear something that fits him better.
It’s shaping his actions and molding his heart and if I could – I would literally tear it from his body – and the Lord knows I have actually tried to do just that but it’s not coming off in my hands by my tugging and twisting.
And that fear has followed him and trekked along behind him and in front of him for a good long while now.
But I am, of recent months, seeing such change and hope in this boy of my heart.
This morning, while he was volunteering at Carl Sandburg’s house, (Tell me again why I cannot live in that home? I promise to take exceptional care of it.) I watched him politely interact with strangers, answering questions about the newborn twin goats. Later, while nearing our car, an older guest to the farm and a stranger to us, joked with him, “Son, I saw you playing with some mud – what do you want to do that for?”
The old Bergen would have looked at me, looked at the ground, and perhaps made noise but would have never spoken real words out loud.
But today, the Hawkeye grinned. Looked at the stranger in the eyes and said, “I like mud – I think it feels great.”
It’s been a such a gift to watch this boy begin to shed his old garments.
To watch his confidence begin to grow as he weekly volunteers at the goat farm and as he weekly attends Trail Life and as he grows accustomed to being more and more comfortable in his own skin, aware of his own sense of humor and beginning to see what he brings to a conversation and to a situation.
He’s growing quicker to apologize to me, quicker to take the trash down the driveway without complaint. Quicker to make a joke with a new friend we are just meeting or guests we have over for dinner.
I guess he’s kind of growing up.
(He still avoids showers and math and folding laundry.)
But I like what I’m seeing. And I’m ecstatic to see him shedding the old skin of fear more often than not.
Grow strong, son. Be brave, my boy.
I’ll just be over here watching and cheering you on.
This weekend I had eight children at my home for the afternoon and evening. They played intense and well-orchestrated games of a Nerf gun version of Capture the Flag. I took them out to dinner at one of our favorite local restaurants in town. Those magical kind of lights hung across the restaurant’s deck, live music was playing, a bubble machine was going wild for all the younger guests’ entertainment. (And mine too, actually.)
The weather was dreamy. The night clear. The stars bright.
Afterwards those same eight kids and I bounced on over to a giant field of freshly plowed dirt with a series of white metal gates joined together to form a corral and bulls and horses lined up ready for an evening of classic American entertainment as grown men risked their bodies for eight seconds worth of maintaining their balance on the back of a bucking bull.
(Two of my brothers used to ride bulls. I can’t even believe it sometimes myself.)
The kids all fell asleep in a satisfied pile of humanity and the next morning I fixed grits and bacon and sausage and eggs and basically created a country diner at my dining room table.
After lunch a friend stopped over to borrow some camping gear and left one more boy at our house to join the rescheduled Nerf warfare happening in the yard.
At church, an extra friend slid over to our row and joined us while his mom volunteered in the nursery. After church another friend needed a ride home and so we tossed him in the car too.
And even though all of that (just the two days really) sounds full of kids not my own mixed in with kids my own, it really was nothing particularly out of the ordinary. It’s what my life looks like right now in this season. And I don’t hate it.
I’m not bothered by excess noise (generally speaking) and feeding a handful of extra mouths at the dinner table no longer concerns me in the least.
In fact, I like it all.
I like the laughter from the hall and the kids climbing trees and attempting to walk across the slack line between the two trees and the rope swings always being occupied. I like the pretend games of “store” as the girls post sticky notes on everything in the library because apparently it is all for sale with imaginary cash and imaginary credit cards and it’ll be days later and the note that says “Blankets $10” will still be resting on the top of the stack of blankets before any of us think of moving it, even though the game ended over the weekend.
When there was a Time Before Children Existed (that was a real time, wasn’t it?) I occasionally would imagine such thoughts as – How I Picture My Life With Children.
(Now, in full disclosure, there also existed a Time I Never Thought I Wanted Any Children At All. Funny how life (and love) shifts and shapes you, isn’t it? How it moves you all around and slides you through time and space until you land directly where you are and you can say it’s directly where you are supposed to be even when you aren’t entirely certain of the truth of that saying but you are where you are so in some ways you are incapable of denying a bit of the truth of that sentiment. And, anyway, time has had such a way with you that you have a difficult time remembering much of what you thought when you were thinking those thoughts at all.)
Now, back to the time of which I was originally thinking. (If I haven’t lost you entirely by this point. My thoughts are not so linear tonight.)
When I thought of How I Picture My Life With Children I envisioned a house where kids wanted to be. Where kids felt free to welcome their friends and free to be comfortable and free to be themselves. I’ll never own a white sofa or have light colored carpets. I don’t want to hold it against any kid when their inevitably muddy foot wrecks something. I want a yard with zip lines and rope swings, soccer goals and bicycles. I want woods to play in and a field to kick a ball in. I want a house where kids know it’s alright to grab a glass from the cabinet and pour themselves a cup of cold water.
I love the friends my kids have. I love the moms and the dads attached to those kids.
When I think about How I Pictured My Life With Children I naturally hoped and assumed some things would be true:
There would be kids hanging out together a lot.
Our yard would be full of fun and kid friendly items – like giant Jenga and rope swings.
A dad would be living in the house and sharing this with us all.
Animals would play a significant role.
Kids would spend time exploring woods and building camp fires.
A “yes” attitude would exist when it comes to inviting people over.
I didn’t hit the entire list, obviously.
But this weekend was a pretty sweet reminder that I am meeting an awful lot of the hopes and assumptions Younger Lacey had for How I Picture My Life With Children.
I’d say, like so many other aspects of my life, that – for now – the good parts I’m marking off the list outweigh the bad parts I can’t check off the list.
And I’m okay (today) with calling that Enough.
It’s been a good week. A full week. A week where my eyes did not shut frequently enough.
So Friday is here already all over again, like it does.
Thursday’s rain was slow and welcoming, except for when the dog spent his day getting soaked outside and then dreamed of still sleeping in my bed. That’s unacceptable Ryder.
I did see this really fantastically awful music video that my friends Tom and Erica showed me. Parts of me really want to share it, but parts of me really feel kinda sorry for the misunderstood gent who is performing his heart out.
So, I’m not going to share it here. But, if you see me in person, I can connect you with a good smile or two.
Instead, let’s say for this week – I’m going to reach way far back into my mental archives. (Well, relatively far back. Time is relative – am I right?)
When we were first introduced to this video, the kids and I watched it obsessively. We could not not stop. We still sing parts of it all the time. And, if anyone anywhere EVER says the phrase “stuff like that” in front of me, you can guarantee that I am missing their next eight words or so because I am instead singing this song in my head. (It was brought back to our memories recently because one of the guys in this video does one of the silly songs that stick in your head from the movie Moana.)
Good grief, it’s like I have a corner on the market of all the talented friends.
I’m sorry, guys. I’m not trying to keep them all to myself.
Olive + Grey is a local business making the best t-shirts. (But you don’t have to be local to buy or wear their shirts. Naturally. Enter – the magic of the internet!)
I like both of these, but she has lots of other great options.
Sometimes I secretly feel like a traitor when I wear clothing that says “home” and shows a South Carolina outline as opposed to a Virginia outline. But, I’m also probably suffering from a gigantic case of denial. I’ve been calling South Carolina home for almost an entire decade this spring. My Wilde Otto Fox was born here. He’s a for real native of this southern state. So I guess I can wear a South Carolina home shirt with a regular amount of pride and truth.
My friend Tanya, who owns Olive + Grey, also is carrying this great trucker hat.
I heart trucker hats.
She also makes fantastic signs and lots of other pretties that you’ll want to own.
One of the biggest fundraisers my small school participated in every year was this far-reaching, day-consuming, pretty much over the top, candy egg making sale.
School practically shut down and we turned the cafeteria into a candy egg factory. We made (from scratch) peanut butter eggs, coconut eggs and buttercream eggs. They were giant – like the size of your fist.
And they tasted amazing.
People would buy them by the dozens – even though they were pretty expensive – and freeze them and hoard them. Mothers would eat them after their children were in bed. My brothers and I would buy our own with our own money so we were not forced to cut them up and share them with one another.
I have yet to try to recreate them myself, but this week a friend from that sweet old Virginia school shared the peanut butter egg recipe.
Maybe this year we’ll start a new Easter tradition. I’ll buy the ingredients and I’ll let the kids make these peanut butter eggs for me.
I’m still searching for the buttercream egg recipe, if anyone out there has it.
One place God showed up this week:
When I pulled up in my friend Katie’s driveway, unannounced and uninvited and asked, “Want to walk your neighborhood?” And she didn’t act like I was interrupting, although I surely was. It was dinner time(ish) and she has four children and her husband was feeling under the weather. She smiled, genuine and beautiful. “Absolutely.” And we walked and she has this gift of saying what needs to be said, of being quiet when she needs to be quiet. Of smiling and sympathizing when the stuff is just too heavy and of calling it exactly what it is – even when the words aren’t pretty and polite.
I am missing my weekly fix of This Is Us. Sigh. Maybe it’s for the better. It DID NOT end the way I would have preferred. In fact, the season’s last episode left me dry-eyed and feeling ….. nothing at all. Come on, This Is Us, you owe me more than that for my previous time and emotional commitment to your show and your people. Jack? I’m looking at you, buddy.
This week was a super fun mail week though. (I hope I never get so old that receiving real mail no longer excites me. Every day there’s a tiny sense of wonder and hope when we check the mail – will it be all bills and weird sales flyers or will there be a handwritten note? A letter from a friend? A card? Or – the height of surprise – an unexpected package?)
This week there were a couple of goodies – those really great t-shirts arrived, a card from one of my favorite aunts, and a magazine with my first Travelers Rest Here ad featured in it.
Running this business has been a huge learning experience, but lots of parts have turned out to be quite fun and completely rewarding. Like the culmination of this tidy and pretty ad, designed by Emma, photographed by Jane and featuring Amanda.
How could it go wrong?
It’s painted on my bedroom door.
The words of one of my favorite authors, Wendell Berry, from my favorite book by him – Hannah Coulter.
You mustn’t wish for another life.
You mustn’t want to be somebody else.
What you must do is this:
Pray without ceasing.
In everything give thanks.
I am not all the way capable of so much, but those are the right instructions.
I see the words when I go to sleep. And when I wake up. Otto Fox has them memorized and quotes them often to me.
The whole bit is beautiful. Poetry.
But the part that always pierces me begins right at the start.
You mustn’t wish for another life.
You mustn’t want to be somebody else.
Life is a minefield of mental triggers – right?
So many parts ripe for comparisons.
House, job, clothing, have your pick. Shoot, even a hairstyle, for the love. You can compare your kids to the well behaved neighbor’s kids. Or to the truant neighbor’s kids. Your car, your shoes, your marriage, your friendships, your relationship status, your checking account. It’s all available to size up, measure against, shine the light on, place in the dark corner, you name it.
You’re giving what feels like impossible advice, Mr. Berry.
And yet. (There’s always the “and yet”.)
I don’t actually want to compare. I don’t enjoy the process. I never come out on the other end a winner, whether my comparison lands up or down on the scale.
And, truly, I don’t want to be in the position to wish for another life.
I want to want this life. The one I am square sitting in.
That takes up all my self-discipline some days though. All my mental chatter and talking myself off the edge of cliffs.
To be satisfied. Content.
(I’m not saying complacent. That’s a different story.)
To be alright, even to be good, with where and how you woke up this morning.
To be satisfied with the way your life has lined up, panned out, churned around, dive bombed, settled nicely, shaken down.
To be where you are and to feel that it is enough.
(Not that you’re stuck. Not that you’ve settled. Not that you’re marking time.)
These are the things I wish for.
To not wish for another life.
To not wish to be someone else.
Maybe, just maybe, the secret to the first half of the quote is found in the second half.
But good grief – that feels backwards and, frankly, too cuss word hard.
Perhaps if I could
Pray without ceasing.
In everything give thanks.
I would find that I was no longer wishing for another life.
That I was no longer wishing to be someone I wasn’t already.
My word, Wendell Berry, why you gotta make it so hard on a person?
Sometimes in home school (in life) we make things so complicated. Well, sometimes I make things so complicated.
My family moved from the coast of Virginia to the mountains of Virginia the year I was leaving the sixth grade. In my old school on the coast, geography was taught more exclusively in seventh grade. In my new school in the mountains, geography had been taught in the sixth grade.
I missed the window.
Therefore, I have nursed a deficiency in geography for most of my life. I am good with directions and carry a pretty decent mental map around in my head of my own hometown and my own area of residence, wherever that has been. But – the big picture – the whole world – has been a struggle to me. I’ve learned a lot over the last years with the kids as I’ve taught them and I am always aware that I want my kids to excel in geography and not to suffer because of my own lack.
I’ve purchased programs and books and tried a handful of different tactics and approaches.
This year, after more than a decade of homeschooling “professionally”, that little book that changed my trajectory and ironed out my wrinkles – Teaching From Rest by Sarah Mackenzie – suggested a more basic approach.
The more I read about Charlotte Mason (my home school philosophy guru) and the more I work to steadily implement her strategies, the more I am reminded that simple is usually best. That structured and routined, repeated and a little bit every day is the more lasting approach for long term retention of information. (And long term love of something. And long term habit too. All the long term benefits.)
Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.
– Charlotte Mason
This year we’ve ditched all the fancy curriculum.
I printed out a map of Africa, because that’s where our history this year has been focused. I drove to Staples. I made about one hundred copies of this blank map.
And now, at least three times a week, but usually all five school days, I hand the kids a blank map.
The lesson goes about like this:
- Label every country you know.
- Receive a copy of a completed map.
- Compare and check your own work.
- Add in about three countries you did not know.
Repeat this again the next day.
And we just do this over and over again. The kids are doing it at the same time, but obviously the second grader is completing it differently than the eighth grader.
Once the child knows the map and is consistency labeling the countries correctly most days, I might add in capitals or rivers or lakes.
A few years ago we learned the United States map in the same manner.
I also printed about one hundred blank copies of that map at Staples too one Friday night. (That’s how I party on weekends, guys. I’m so wild.)
Every few days I hand out the United States map instead of the African map.
Once we learn Africa and move on, I’ll keep periodically adding it back to the rotation. That way the knowledge base can be maintained.
This lesson takes all of five minutes, sometimes eight if the child is a slow writer.
A tiny amount of work every day and it has proven to be more effective than all the other geography systems I have attempted to incorporate into our school years.
You don’t have to home school to do this one. If you know your kids are limping along with their knowledge of basic geography, print out some copies of an area for yourselves and practice routinely.
I really need to remember to do this with them more often myself. It’s appalling how easy it is to forget these.
As we add to our knowledge and memory banks, I’ll just rotate through the maps of the various countries and continents repeatedly. I like how easy this little system is to use for kids across every age range.
It’s also completely portable so it can travel when we travel, or easily come along on our coffee shop school days.
I like spring.
And I’m welcoming the sunshine with open arms and an open sunroof.
Today I made a labor intensive meal and it was pretty delicious.
In our science lesson today we talked about barometric pressure. (Well, the author of the book “talked” about barometric pressure because my brain hardly comprehends how barometric pressure operates or what it actually is.) Anyway, there was a part of the lesson that spoke about the physical effects weather can have on people and I’m telling you, from personal experience, weather does change me. That’s for certain.
I love the promises of spring. Of blooming flowers and afternoons in the sunshine. Walks in the woods. Eating lunch on a blanket. The privilege of Easter. Days holding tightly onto sunshine longer each evening. The birds singing with more boldness each morning and that one bright cardinal that loves to sit on the camilla bush right outside my bedroom window every morning, like we’re buddies or something. (We are buddies, actually, he and I.)
This weekend my friends and I enjoyed a spontaneous lunch together, three grown up women and more crepes than we needed and the freshest orange juice you can imagine. Not all laughter and jokes dominated our conversation, because not all rainbows and unicorns are living in our backyards, but it still was a lunch filled with a certain light and hope and comfort to it, nonetheless.
When I purchased our milk from our favorite little roadside store, I was ecstatic to see immense and bright local strawberries sitting in their traditional white buckets and I shared my exuberance with the two gentleman who run the shop and offer my children far too many pieces of free double bubble gum each week. They’re good old boys and I’m glad to see them each week and they seem glad to see us too.
I have this trunk at my house. It’s legitimately crammed with notes and cards and letters. Journals and my diploma. Old photos of my mom and her siblings. Notes from Susan in fifth grade and Sara in seventh grade and the card where I told Kevin that we were expecting baby number five. There are old love letters and old break up letters and histories both worth telling and maybe worth not telling. An old friend from what feels like a life time ago reached out and we spent hours reminiscing and it is shocking how decades can stack on top of decades in such a hurried fashion. It’s a little like that Jenga block game, you know. Towering wooden blocks that could topple over in a loud pile when you pull this piece out or push that piece in. But there’s that edge to the game too, right? That tension you feel when you push that one teetering block out to the side and nothing happens and the tower remains stable and you let out your breath and say, “Will you look at that?”
At that weekend lunch I think we maybe talked a little bit about a life that sometimes feels full of the highs and full of the lows versus a life that sometimes feels like a flat and steady line across the range of years. The rides up and the rides down can make my stomach hurt a little, but I’ve never been much for living on a flat line.
If it’s whiplash you get from both loving parts of your life and not loving other parts of your life, I guess I’ll have to deal with that. The whiplash. The juxtaposition. The duality. The on one hand. The incongruity of my days.
The last few days have felt like spring. Like hope. Like the promise of better days and that feeling you get when your hair is dried wild and free because your windows are all down and you’re playing that one song (“White Flag” for me) and wearing your sunglasses and the roads are clear and the mountains are high and you’re not running late and no one’s waiting on you for anything.
It’s during those long winter months and darker days when people like me start to think about spring and summer and vacations and trips and sunshine.
It’s true, I like the planning nearly as much as I like the traveling. Well. I don’t know if that is entirely true. The point is, I love planning trips. I like looking at maps and measuring distances and thinking of ways to make the road trip fun. I like looking up funky road side attractions and making lists of where we could stop for the best BBQ in Nashville or the most delicious dessert in Kansas City.
And thinking about summer makes me think about the ranch that my family fell in love with last summer. (This picture looks all postcard and unreal – but – you guys, it is SO for real. Just my little iPhone’s camera and it was THIS beautiful.)
I’m not actually sure I ever did its beauty and charm full justice through my blog posts, but I wanted to try again to share our ranch experience. And to tell you, if you’re thinking about visiting this summer, you should be making your reservation already.
From the minute we arrived at Lost Valley Ranch, we felt welcomed and celebrated, like royalty or something. (And that is how they treat everyone who crosses the cattle guard.)
It’s all the little things:
Your name and a personal message on your door’s chalkboard.
The Keurig stoked with hot cocoa, tea and coffee in our cabin.
The logs stacked carefully to build a cozy fire with a fire starter and matches and a log with the LVL emblem burned into it.
Nightlights scattered around the cabin.
Turn down service every single night. Seriously! While we enjoyed a delicious dinner, fairy elves were in our cabin, setting the extra pillows to the side, turning down the covers and leaving a little chocolate treat on the pillows.
Beds made every single morning. Yes! While we enjoyed a fantastic breakfast with many options, those same fairy elves were in our cabin, making our beds, tidying our space and doing all the hard work for us.
Flashlights in the cabin – just in case.
Quality soaps and a sewing kit and lotion you actually want to use.
Homemade fresh cookies available every minute of every day in the lobby area with the giant leather seats and the comfy couches.
Their hospitality is a gigantic part of the beautiful service of the week at the ranch.
The first night the ranch owner is welcoming us all and the kids and I are grinning non-stop, happy to have arrived at the end of this dusty road and happy to be free from distractions and chores and responsibilities. Tony says in his welcome, like I wrote before, “Beyond these cattle guards, we know you’ve got issues and problems and struggles – but this week, let us handle them all. Let us feed you and let your cell phones not work and let us take care of you.” Words like that can make a mama like me cry genuine tears of relief and hope.
Lost Valley Ranch is sort of like a family summer camp. Kind of. It’s all inclusive, which aids the relaxation and no pressure attitude of the ranch. Once you’ve paid your price you are good to go. (I mean, obviously if you want to buy souvenirs at the Trading Post, you’ll need to spend more money, but you know what I mean. You’re not paying extra for horse rides or meals or whatnot.) Each evening a cute newspaper is waiting in your cabin with the next day’s activities and weather forecast and anything else you might need to know.
After breakfast with your family, where you can sit with other ranch guests, you can plan your day. Kids are divided by age and head out to the corral to go on a ride. You – the grown up – can go on a ride in the morning. Or, you cannot. You can learn to fly fish or skeet shot or you can hike a mountain, soak in one of the several hot tubs or hang out in your cabin all quiet and cozy like. Also, if your kids don’t want to ride horses that day, no problem. They don’t have to. At lunch you meet back up with the kids and have lunch with all the other guests.
There was a touch of the element of a get-to-know-you mixer at first, but since everyone is pretty much on their A Game – kids happy, no cooking required, no distractions – it was fun to meet and chat with the other guests. Lots and lots of them were long time fans of the ranch and many had been visiting with their families for years and years, summer after summer. (I did struggle the first few days remembering who was who – especially when people look so very different when they switch from baseball caps to cowboy hats.)
At every meal, when the waitrii (that’s the name they call themselves) ask you about the next meal’s options (it’s always food, food, food there – SO many delicious meals), you should always choose half and half. That is – half of each option. “Would you like to try the salmon or the fiesta salad or half of each?” It never mattered what they offered, I always answered, “Half of each, please.”
In the afternoon the schedule looked much the same. Kids can ride with their wranglers and kids their age. Adults can do the same. Or not. As for our gang, we all rode every day. Otto awoke each morning, “Mom, I get to ride today – right?”
The flexibility was phenomenal. All the good choices all day long. Ride or not ride. Hike or hot tub. Southwestern salad or pulled pork. Fly fishing or target shooting.
The evenings have a lovely rhythm and routine too. One night there’s a square dance. One night a melodrama that was equal parts quirky and goofy and the kids found it hilarious and it was loads of fun. One night there’s a cookout down at the “jail” and we all ride hay covered wagons and watch the most amusing night of sing alongs and talent show style entertainment. One evening the teens get their own campfire and late night experience. There’s a guest rodeo the last day and a wrangler rodeo the first day. Sand volleyball is available and swimming and lounging poolside and chatting with your horse – the one you get assigned the first day and make buddies with through the week.
It’s such a great week that the crash when you leave Sunday morning is actually physically painful. I mean, if you are my family, anyway.
It sounds like a cliche, but we actually made friends at the ranch that we’ve stayed in contact with throughout the year, friends that we’ve actually visited with since that summer trip. Like a magical summer camp for grown ups and kids too, it’s a ranch paradise in all the best ways.
Oh you guys, just writing about Lost Valley makes me itch to break out my cowboy boots and hop in the car and start that long journey all over again.
This week has been a catch up and refocus week.
How is it that just one week off of your regular routine can really blast that routine into smithereens?
It was ONE week, people.
Hey kids, remember, we have a schedule?
Apparently it only takes one week to forget everything we worked on ALL year.
But, regardless, here we are Friday. How are ya’?
Here are some funny things:
The writer Roald Dahl.
The movie Holes.
Wouldn’t you know it?
I don’t even know what Stella & Dot is but I’m guessing it’s another LuLaRoe, Pampered Chef, Norwex, Usbourne Books, Arbonne type company that you became a seller for and promote their products. (I’m not saying anything is wrong with any of those companies. I’ve purchased something from all of those businesses at some point or another – except Usbourne Books somehow.)
But whoever is selling Stella & Dot, I’m just letting you know – I think these earrings are adorable.
We eat tuna at least once a week. It’s SO convenient. I always have some in the cupboard and it can take many forms and all of the kids love it and therefore it is a go-to in my meal planning routine.
Probably three or four years ago I won this cookbook on a blog giveaway.
It’s on sale today on Amazon – isn’t that funny? (Seriously, are they watching my house?)
Inside of it is a fish cakes recipe that I always use. I think it’s for salmon, but I just use whatever I have – frequently tuna.
The kids love these little tuna cakes and the recipe is very forgiving. I’ve used bread crumbs. When I’ve been out of bread crumbs I’ve ground up crackers or diced up bread. I’ve once crushed croutons and I’ve definitely used combinations of all of those. I add shredded carrots for both texture and added veggie intake.
London makes a mean tartar sauce to accompany these guys.
Even on days when I feel like this, an assortment of friends and family remind me that what I see is not necessarily the whole truth.
That God is not a liar.
That God is a lover of justice and He promises to make all things right.
Otto has a blanket. If you’ve been around our family for more than a millisecond, you’e probably met Otto’s blanket.
His name is Baby Timmy.
Baby Timmy used to be yellow. Shoot, it used to be an actual blanket.
Now it’s a tattered dirty stained mess of knots that semi-resemble its former self.
When I tucked Otto into bed tonight he invited me into a good solid “cuddle” and I smelled the strong scent of peppermint oil.
Baby Timmy was lying across his chest, in all of its brown and shredded glory.
Dirty, but smelling minty.
Turns out, Otto has been pouring peppermint oil over Baby Timmy’s knots routinely to “help his nose sleep better”.
Love the words?
Feel free to share that love!