Wednesday. Mid-week at the ranch.
This was THE day, my favorite day. (I think.) So exploding with perfect moments.
It started early. Again, because of the gift of my father being along for the ride, I had the freedom to take advantage of an early morning guided hike while the kids slept in.
6:45 am. You know I don’t like early morning wake up calls. So obviously I really wanted to do this hike. At the lodge it was just me and Amy and our guide Campbell. (Another fine LVL employee from our side of the states – a Georgia boy.) I had literally wrangled Amy into joining me on this steep adventure – it is only .9 miles to the top of Sheep’s Rock, but it is the highest point at the ranch. A hike described as steep and rigorous. Sounded perfect to me. I had actually put climbing this little mountain on my bucket list for 2017 because I was unable to do it on our last ranch visit.
It was a beautiful morning. The day before I had asked Campbell if he thought sheep would be up at the mountain’s top – and he said he had never seen any there since he had been working, but he’d see what he could do for me. (That’s guest service done right.)
We hiked on a trail for a little while. And then we climbed. Up. And up. Up and up. Then we crossed over one rock face. Then we faced a choice. In order to get to the next rock we had to either A. Crawl up a crevice in the rock or B. Climb up a dead tree with pokey branches as a ladder. Amy quickly picked crevice and I stood at the base of the tree, which won’t look all that remarkable in this picture, but which felt like a personal challenge for a person who actually is rather afraid of ledges and cliffs and such. It looked tricky. Scary. Hard. And awesome.
As we caught our breath I shared a short version of my story and of how there was a time that I decided that I would approach more of life with a “yes, you can” attitude. How so many circumstances in my life left me feeling like “no, you can’t”. Left me thinking “can I?”. And how I started to respond instead with “yes, I can”. That was the year I ran a half marathon and figured out I could homeschool my children and be a single parent and run a business. Yes, I can.
I guess I had already made my choice.
I chose the tree.
As I climbed my friend Amy offered me such lovely encouraging words that I wrote them down when I returned from our hike.
“I didn’t know the other you,” she said. “But I like this version of you – the ‘yes, I can’ version.”
(This week has been full of that, uplifting words, encouraging conversations, kind gestures. It fills a person up in all the right places.)
We climbed higher, the three of us, comfortable conversation and stories and although I’m sure Campbell could have reached the summit and hiked back down twice in the amount of time it took the two of us forty-somethings to get to the top, he was a gracious and capable guide. We scrambled across rocks, bouldering, which I remember fondly as my favorite from my own Colorado summer life once upon a time.
Then we passed through a “window” in the rocks and I stared at my beautiful mountain, Pike’s Peak. I know she’s my mountain. We’ve come to agree that’s true.
And – guess what was right on the mountain top? Three big horn sheep. Waiting for me. My requested sheep. Campbell delivered on his promise.
I don’t know what forty-three is supposed to feel or look like – and I don’t have any idea what people actually see when they look at me – but I don’t feel middle-aged. Whatever that means.
It was a glorious morning hike. I loved every minute of it.
We picked up our pace on the way down. Amy was eager for breakfast and it did not disappoint – for me it was egg in a hole, hash browns, a single strip of bacon and orange juice.
Wednesday morning is the Family Ride and the seven of us gathered at the corrals, the kids and I and Dad, along with two wranglers.
It was a breezy warm morning, so lovely and sweet I could cry – just watching my children ride horses under a Colorado sky with dad and all the trail before us and all the trail behind us. We loped and we trotted and who would have ever known that a ranch in the Rocky Mountains was going to become our family’s place?
After our family ride, Zach, one of the wranglers working with Otto’s age group this week and our family ride wrangler, pulled me aside. He told me, “I love your family. All of you. Your kids are just great – creative, respectful, kind, inventive, not whiny – just very good kids. I really do love them all.” And I’m sure he sees a lot of kids and a lot of families in his summers and I’m confident he loves lots of them. He’s one of the kid-magnet kind of wranglers – funny, light-hearted, quick with the jokes, calm under pressure, capable and engaging with all of the kids. They love him too. But oh – to my momma’s heart, how kind it was of him to take the time to tell me those thoughts. How glad I was to hear them.
At lunch we were regaled with stories from some former wranglers who worked at Lost Valley when the fire broke out. It was a privilege to hear the stories of that first hand experience.
When the afternoon ride came along I had to make another decision. The rides are categorized by the ability of rider you feel you are. Last year I only made it as far as intermediate, but this summer I was determined to give advanced the old college try.
I’d already climbed across a tree today, so it seemed as good a day as any. When Anthony asked for all the advanced riders to head to the corral, I thought, “Yes, I can.”
It was everything I wanted it to be. And more.
Longer. Faster. Trickier. Tiny trail on the side of a mountain. Water flowing below. Marmot. Mule deer.
Kansas, my horse, was a controlled tornado – she jumped a log, leapt across a stream and loped with the best of them. She was steady and sure-footed and I couldn’t stop grinning. (Also, one time I guess I squealed. It was during the jumping across the stream – or maybe the log. It wasn’t a scream of fear, it was all delight, but I guess maybe both of those sound the same on the back of a horse.)
We rode to places with cool names. Helen’s Rock. Government Bridge. I watched Pike’s Peak appear and disappear.
Uphill. Following cowboy hats and fast horses. Loping so fast, my smile so wide, pebbles flying up, smacking my sunglasses and my grin has left me open-mouthed and I’m tasting rocks and eating dirt and I could NOT be happier.
Later that evening, after a night of fun and entertainment and an outdoor meal down at the jail, we all rode wagons back to the ranch. Halfway along the route, I couldn’t help myself. I hopped off the slow moving wagon. Just to walk the quiet road back to the ranch. Just to help the night linger because the sky was just beginning to turn pink over Sawtooth Mountain and I needed to try to Slow It All Down.
As I walked, I thought about the week. About random bits, letting the ideas float and drift like the clouds across the pink.
I miss hearing my name.
Does that sound funny? Silly?
My children call me Mom/Momma/Mommy. Do my friends say my name? I guess. It’s not feeling familiar somehow. I like hearing my own name said out loud. This week I’ve heard it. It sounds nice.
It reminds me that I’m real.
That I exist.
I should remember this for other people. People who may feel lonely, unnoticed, left behind, out of place, discarded, looked over.
People who only hear one version of their names.
One version of themselves.
People who may be in danger of forgetting that there are alternate versions of themselves.
It’s wild what a walk in the night can make you think. What a week unhindered by Phone can produce and create and stir up.
It is wild, actually. And beautiful and rare and worth all the work to get there in the first place.
I’m grateful to the weather this week – although it’s been rainy and humid still, it has not been hot. And I, for one, will not complain about swinging into summer at moderate temperatures.
What I’m not grateful for this week is the major snafu I had with my Travelers Rest Here website. Apparently the server for that website had a limit on emails you could receive. Although they never made me aware of said limit. And – what they do when you reach that limit is – nothing. They do nothing. They simply stop receiving your emails. And those emails disappear for eternity. And that’s not good for business. It is embarrassing to send emails and then to receive a response but to never know that you did, in fact, receive a response. Therefore you never respond because it was essentially an invisible response.
Also. As if one ganked up website is not enough, this website has been acting wonky. The banner of photos up top is all out of sorts. The comment section has not been working properly. Everything is just off kilter – and so am I. Also. My skill set is writer. The end. It is not trouble shooting or fixing or understanding.
When I was on the phone with tech support and the guy thought he had all the email issues squared away he asked me to send a test email, to see if the program was back in working order. It wasn’t right then because I never saw the email come through. But he could see it. He asked, “Did you send the email?” I said, “Yes, I did.” He said, “Was the subject line URGH?” I said, “Yes, it was.”
And, although most of my tech problems are getting solved, I still feel the same way about the situation – URGH.
I don’t know if this is really funny – in fact, I’m sure it isn’t. But it’s what I feel like typing right now.
In the evenings this week, after the other kids have fallen asleep, London and I have been sitting together in the living room watching Netflix’s “Anne with an E”.
I was forewarned by friends that there were some inappropriate scenes for younger audiences in this new series. I knew I wanted to screen it before letting all of the kids watch the show.
Man, I don’t want to ruin it for anyone but I also want to rescue you from the train wreck. Maybe train wreck is too strong of a word. I don’t know. But – here’s the thing – the books have endured in popularity for more than one hundred years because we readers love Anne of Green Gables. The way L.M. Montgomery wrote her. The novels (like eight of them) are so full of dialogue and creative scenes that an adaptation need never stray from the pages to find more than adequate stories and words.
London and I kept saying as we watched the series – they should have called this show, “A Girl Who Resembles Anne but Only in a Vague Disturbing Manner”. I mean, the deviations from the script are downright absurd. They are often troubling, certainly bizarre on occasion and of course, in our opinions, completely unnecessary. And – pretty ridiculous. The actors themselves – they’re actually great. Marilla and Matthew are well cast. So is Anne really. Diana Barry was in Odd Squad and so that one’s a little hard to get over for my house, but I think the actress fits well really.
I think the writer who has adapted this story did not just take liberties or develop Anne’s story with depth, I think she ransacked it and threw Anne to the wolves – or to the house fire and the thieves and the attempted suicide she recklessly added into the story and the endless montages of flashbacks from which Anne (and the viewers) suffer ad nauseam.
Have you watched it yourself? What are your thoughts?
I love this cute little kid’s t-shirt I saw today when the kids and I were visiting Barnes & Noble.
This week’s Family Night was a Game Night. We pulled out Dutch Blitz, a card game Otto had just received as a birthday gift, and hannaH joined us and we played that high intensity game for a very very long time – like maybe two hours or more. (Side note: I just searched for Dutch Blitz on Amazon to provide the link and I see that it is on sale – $10 cheaper than normal. The universe is aligning and wants YOU to own this game.)
But this is an entry under the “flavorful” category.
Along with Game Night we all spent a long time in the kitchen making finger foods and dips and cutting veggies to go with those dips. That was the dinner that paired with Game Night.
I checked out this cookbook at the library and it is full of dips and sauces and such. London made a buttermilk ranch dressing and I made a spinach dip from the recipes in this book and those were both good, but the star was a simple herb dip. (You guys – I am NOT making this up. This cookbook is on sale at Amazon right now too. That no longer seems like the universe helping you. It seems like the universe spying on you.)
Anyway – that simple herb dip is what I want to focus on here. It was delicious.
It would never last five days in our house. In fact, at dinner we served it with peppers and carrots. And during “Anne with an E” time London and I finished it off with chips.
I didn’t have tarragon and couldn’t find it at Trader Joe’s. I probably doubled the garlic by using fresh garlic – and extra of it. And I probably had double the amount of arugula too. (I’m not big on measuring precisely.)
This week I love this song – God of Battles Won. It was written by two men from my church and I think it’s lovely.
We visited Barnes & Noble while the middle schoolers in our family attended a youth event that involved water and chaos. (Ah, middle school.)
And something pretty neat occurred. Otto decided that he wanted to spend his money on the purchase of a book. This is small, I’m sure, but it was all kinds of sweet to me.
This is the first book Otto has ever purchased on his own. He rarely has any money anyway (he’s 8, after all) and so for him to want to spend his seldom-in-his-wallet funds on a novel was just too adorable to me.
I love that little guy and his smile and his laugh and his impersonations and his cuddles. And his book buying ways.
We first heard about them in an Okee Dokee Brothers video actually. (Which is why you’ll notice Otto is wearing his Okee Dokee Brothers t-shirt in these pictures. A little full circle, friends.)
The Great Sand Dunes.
This vast area of – well – piles of sand. But not at the coast. Not near an ocean at all. In the southern part of Colorado actually.
Bergen was the first proponent of the idea when I pitched it to the kids. “What if we visit the Great Sand Dunes after Lost Valley this year?” I asked them. Like a post-trip consolation prize. A help-us-get-over-the-LVL-blues that descended heavy upon us as we drove south and then east last year.
Of course the boys were in immediately. It looks like a giant sand playground. Why would any human child say no to this?
I was intrigued by the diversity of the snow capped mountains paired with the gigantic hills of sand paired with a flowing river paired with green grass. (I know that’s grammatically too many to be pairs. I know.)
After a tiny bit of research I realized that the dunes would be great for more than just staring at and wandering aimlessly up and down them and pretending to be in a Star Wars film. You could sled down them. Just walk right up to the tops and then slide right down. Or snowboard. Well, sandboard technically I suppose. I contacted the owners of Kristi Mountain Sports in Alamosa, Colorado, a town “nearby” the dunes. (Nothing is exactly nearby the dunes, for the record.) The owner and I exchanged a few emails, he sounded like an interesting guy – and apparently he thought my idea of taking five kids from South Carolina to Colorado sounded heroic because he told me he thought I deserved a prize. (After that last sixteen hour haul on the way home, I am apt to agree with his assessment after all.)
We stayed at a hotel near Kristi Mountain Sports. The shop opened at 8 am and, in looking back, I wish we had arrived exactly at 8 am because we quickly learned that the earlier you can arrive at the dunes, the better. (Beating both the crowds and the heat.)
We were there before 9, however, so it was still a great start for me and my crew. Kelly, the fine fellow working at Kristi Mountain Sports, had our reservation taken care of quickly with no problems at all. He handed us one junior board, a snowboard (sandboard) and two regular sleds. “Waxing is the key,” he told us. He demonstrated how and where to wax the board and gave us a few additional and simple instructions for the boards. Then he handed over the boards and waxing supplies and told us they’d be open until 8 that evening.
And we were off.
It took probably 45 minutes to drive out to the national park itself. Of course, the drive was pretty because – Colorado. Once at the national park there was a visitor’s center. I knew I should go all educational and have the kids go in the center and learn the science all behind the mystery of a bunch of giant sand dunes in Colorado. But the sun was already rising, we had been warned that the dunes get very very hot throughout the day and we just wanted to put feet to sand and see what would happen. There was a booth and a place to pay upon entering the park. When we reached the window, however, a sign had been hung saying that the entrance fees were waived currently and to enter without paying. That seemed like a nice stroke of good fortune so we drove right on through. (I did see cars stopping to pay on our way out, so I have no idea how much the entry fee actually is. Whatever it is, it’s worth it.)
At the parking lot there were restrooms and changing areas and outdoor showers (because – sand). And – a payphone.
You leave the parking lot and to get to the giant sand dunes – the big prize – you have to cross the river. The river that is flowing gently and yet boldly with ocean-like surges around the giant sand dunes on a warm June morning. The river. You guys – it was so pretty. So beautiful. Such cool water and refreshing and all kinds of lovely. When we arrived people were pretty sparse, but the numbers of guests increased as the temperature rose. I think lots of families just came to splash in Medano Creek and I don’t blame them at all. That creek alone is well worth the trip out there. (There’s some kind of magic reason for the surges and they only happen in May and June typically so, turns out, it was the perfect time to visit. I’m pretty sure that visitor’s center would have told me all the info I needed to know, had I stopped.)
We took turns carrying the sleds and we all ambitiously picked out a dune we wanted to conquer – like three dunes or so away. The sand was already hot and even though we kept on our shoes – definitely KEEP on your shoes – we still faded shamefully fast. You know, we never made it to that far away ambitious dune. Turns out, the first set of dunes – and the second set – are more than plenty to sled to your heart’s content. (We were wearing a combination of Chacos and Keens on our feet. I would advise not using flip flops – they just aren’t sturdy enough for that sort of sand trekking.)
We carried our water bottles – which I think was a must. Some people had camp chairs and coolers and all sorts of stuff. It was HARD to carry just our sleds and ourselves across that sand, I’m not sure I could’ve carried a cooler too. I think a good idea would be to keep the coolers back at the creek and do the dunes with as little baggage as possible. But maybe I’m a weakling. It is possible.
We took turns sledding and found that having only four sleds for six people was a-plenty. After dragging our exhausted selves up to the top of sand dunes we were all glad to rest while someone else went careening down.
You could sled down lesser hills and make it back to the top faster, but where was the fun in that? We wanted big slides, every time. Except when we stood at the bottom and stared back up at the top.
It was a surreal kind of fun. And gritty. And pretty warm (even though on our day the temperatures were not at all out of control). Kelly, back at Kristi Mountain Sports, told us that on some summer days, the sand can reach temperatures of 120 degrees or more. That’s insane. I don’t want to put my feet in that.
Bergen was all about the board version – it was his first time trying it – on snow or sand – and he loved it. The kid has no problem sacrificing his body for flips and fun though. I preferred the sit down sled. And, actually, I even preferred the junior sled. It was smaller, obviously, but that also meant it was lighter to carry back up the hill. You could sled double as well. And – Kelly was right – waxing was the absolute key. We learned quickly the right amount of wax and the application process. Trial and error was a good and speedy teacher.
You could pick up some serious speed crashing down the hill. And, if you did nothing to slow yourself down, it felt downright out of control in the most satisfying of ways. Until it was literally out of control. Then the satisfaction was decreased and replaced with another sort of feeling altogether.
I wish I could have seen me on my last sled run – I knew I had only one more in me because I knew I was unwilling to hike back up to the top after that last ride. I tucked my feet in and didn’t drag my hands or do anything that would potentially slow me down. I was soaring. Until I wasn’t. Then I was crashing and eating gulps of sand and feeling like a little tornado of sand and fury. And maybe sound too. (Sound and Fury – get it?)
When I popped up and the kids called out to check on me, I was laughing. Because it was funny. Funny feeling and – I am certain – funny looking. I checked out my little elbow, which hurt way more than it looks like it should. (And still does a little actually. What are you going to do? 43.) When London reached me she said, “Mom, you should see yourself. You’re kind of sandy.”
Everyone who wanted took another ride or two down the sand dunes while I waited at the bottom. With Piper and Otto – who had used two boards to build a makeshift shelter from the sun.
We trekked it back to the river where for certain we could have stayed the entire afternoon, all content and satisfied. (We couldn’t, however, because Texas was calling our name. (If I had known Texas was also calling the name of another tornado warning, I would have chosen to stay at the sand dunes instead.)
We washed off in the creek – careful to keep our boards far away from the water as Kelly had warned us that the sleds were severely allergic to water.
The sleds were as easy to return as they had been to check out and we were all a little disappointed that we didn’t get to use them for the full day.
The sand dunes were magical. A place that, like so many other spots in Colorado, I can happily visit on a yearly (or more) basis and never grow tired of seeing. They’re worth the time and the drive and all the grit you’ll find in your face and in your ears and in your everywhere for days afterwards.
Last night we cheered Otto on as he finished his last flag football game of the season. (We missed two games due to our Colorado adventures so the season has felt pretty short.)
It was his first venture into team sports and our family’s first venture into football of any variety. (I still have a hard time explaining how Otto performed if anyone asks. “He scored a touchdown,” I’ll say. “And then he caught the football in the end area for the throw that happens after the touchdown that is for a much smaller amount of points.”)
We’ve got the best fans too.
Before the game I asked Otto if he could hear me cheer for him during games. He looked at me, straight-faced. “Yes, Mommy,” he said. “I can hear`you. It’s all I hear. It is rather loud.”
Alright then, son. Good talk.
Certainly I am biased toward my own son and his skills. But I like to humor myself and believe that I am not oblivious to when my children do not perform well at certain tasks too.
I think it’s safe to say that Otto likes football. And I think it is also safe to say that Otto has well-developed eye and hand coordination. He’s fast. And he is beginning to grasp the concept of the game and he is beginning to master the maneuvering of his body to outrun opponents and to intercept passes.
I think the following conversation between Otto and his coach says it all. (And also makes me laugh.) The conversation went something like this:
Otto: Hey, Coach. Do you think in the next half of the game I could try out that other spot?
Coach: What other spot, Otto?
Otto: You know, the one over there.
Coach: Do you mean the bench?
Otto: Yes. That spot.
Coach: Well. Uh. That isn’t exactly a coveted spot. Why do you want to try that out?
Otto: Because I never have.
It comes with the territory.
Post-vacation, summer bedtimes being lax and rise and shine times being delayed. Time on their hands and high humidity in the air.
It all adds up around here to some pesky attitude issues. Some delays in obedience. Some just-about eye rolls. Some slooooooow to finish their chores. Some excessive complaining about doing incredibly normal things – like going to the grocery store and putting away your shoes.
Makes a momma think the schedule might be more of her friend than she realized, even with big kids.
I’ve given a few speeches already. Reminded a few certain individuals of impending consequences for continued delays in “hearing”. Tried to encourage with words of hope and kindness. Used a little bribery for an especially drudgery-type household chore that we’d all been avoiding.
And I also changed up the words on the mantle – maybe a more subtle reminder to my children to change the tune they’re singing.
Today I registered the kids for next year in our homeschool organization and my heart skipped a handful of beats when I wrote down London’s grade as NINTH and Otto’s as THIRD. Yes, I double checked with everyone within hearing distance and London said, with exaggerated maturity and sympathy to the others, “Mom just doesn’t like to embrace anyone getting older.”
No. Mom does not.
Today I had lunch with friends. A business lunch. A lunch designed to be about a business partnership. And it was a business lunch. A working lunch. We talked about business. We accomplished what we came to do. But we also shared a handful of stories and laughed so loudly and for so long that I thought maybe we would be kicked out of the restaurant. I mean, I can’t even remember when I last laughed like that – out of control, couldn’t get my words out, tears coming to my eyes – laugh out loud. My abs hurt from laughing. My face felt funny from grinning so much.
It was a fantastic way to spend a few hours. Laughter is just about my favorite thing. I hope my kids remember their mom as laughing a lot.
I also finally made that trip to the grocery store – the first one after our return home. (I held out a long time, didn’t I?) Our cabinets were bare. I had two extra kids with me at the store and I’m sure we looked like a cartoon. I’ve long ago gotten over caring how we look when we roll into a place any more though.
Rereading my notes from the ranch is like diving into cool mountain water on a humid South Carolina afternoon. I’m enjoying it immensely and I sincerely appreciate your indulgence in allowing me to keep writing about our days out west. The processing is slow and long-winded and it’s likely I enjoy it more than y’all do.
In regular life news it was a busy weekend – flag football and friends for dinner, editing a novel and cleaning house, ice cream contests and uplifting gatherings.
It’s raining now and we’re all tucked inside in relative comfort and I’m pulling out my journal to see what Tuesday at Lost Valley looked like this year.
The notes are a little rag tag, less paragraph and more bullet point-ish.
And now here they are …….
6 am wake up call. Which is really my 8 am if I pretend I’m in South Carolina. (Since Dad is with me on this trip, I can take advantage of the early morning adventures offered and the kids can all still sleep in and meet up together at breakfast.)
Cold, vest zipped up. Maybe six of us gathered at the corral for the pre-breakfast ride with our wrangler Zach. Gorgeous weather, crisp sky.
In just a few minutes we’re saddled up and it’s not long before we’re loping and I cannot NOT smile. Instantly, I also feel the familiar pain (in my literal bum) of sitting on a saddle and then comes the painful trotting. Back to loping again soon though and I care about Nothing In This World Except Exactly Where I Am and that is always Enough because how often does that get to happen in regular life?
We’re heading to Helen’s Rock and mule deer are watching as we trot around the corner and then – she was waiting for me. PIke’s Peak. All glorious and snow capped and beautiful. She belongs to me now, you know. In some dreamy way, she’s mine.
Each ride it seems I keep being grouped with this one fantastic family, so much so that it’s like they’re mine now too somehow and I like their stories and I’m watching their interactions and it’s both a show and an education. I love that line from the poet Tennyson, “I am a part of all that I have met.” And that means, for me, that the converse is true too – all that I have met is a part of me.
I like my growth, slow and sporadic as it has been.
I can tell people now (and I do) that I genuinely love my life.
I love my people and I like my trajectory and I’m happy and I believe (quite strongly) that Happy is not my goal, nor my life’s purpose, but I’m glad to be happy anyway.
(And I don’t just love life at Lost Valley, I love it in South Carolina too.)
After the ride (with hot chocolate on this high rock here as we rested from our ride for a few minutes and stared at my friend Pike’s Peak) we enjoyed a breakfast in the lodge. Pancakes with strawberries on top with Amy and Dad because 6 am earns me a pancake if I so choose.
The kids were all on their own wrangler-led adventures for the morning so I spent some time in the hot tub, pretending it was a water massage. I leisurely showered and leisurely dressed and leisurely fixed my hair. I did everything at a pace that says, “time is my friend”.
I sat by the pool. I wrote some of this. I wrote a letter. I wrote in Mosely’s life journal. Chatted with a few staffers. London eventually joined me. Berg and Otto gathered fishing supplies, hopeful to catch their own dinner. I just sat there and breathed, deep and slow, happy and satisfied that it was still only Tuesday.
“By Wednesday you feel like butter,” Ted, my ranch friend, told me. I’m already certain he’s right.
There’s a request form that sits on a dresser in our cabin – you can ask for more pillows or shampoo or a stuffed horse for all I know. And I find out that London has taken matters in to her own hands when I see her standing there, holding a stack of extra blankets and grinning. “I requested these. For Otto. He’s sleeping on the floor. It made me sad – I thought he needed extra.” Otto was oblivious to his condition and quite comfortable actually, but I love that London noticed a perceived lack in her brother’s comfort and addressed the situation independently.
Today Otto was invited along on a four wheeler ride with Tony (the ranch’s CEO/boss/chief/whatever his appropriate title is or should be, if I was in charge I might make it king, which is why I am not in charge) and his boys to head to the lake and fish for a few hours. I’m certain you already know Otto felt like he won the lottery. And I found it so humbling that Tony would take my son on an adventure on his own very limited time off.
Tuesday night is Square Dance Night. And we love it. Swirly skirts and all the boys in plaid pearl button cowboy shirts and the good manners are high and I’m just going to go ahead and assume that those manners come straight from the teachings of southern mamas.
I love the square dance – the watching as much as the participating.
Bergen danced this year – although I later learned that Campbell bribed him with the promise of a milkshake the following day. You should have seen that Hawkeye hop and jump and smile all the while.
When the kids head to bed here they’re falling asleep as I am tucking them in. There’s zero effort on my part to encourage them to remain in bed. No asking for water. No reading for an hour. No tossing, no turning – just head to the pillow, see you in the morning.
I decided to cuddle with Otto until he fell asleep. It took all of two minutes.
And the same is true for me.
That’s the secret – right? The cure to insomnia?
Physical activity. Outdoor activity. Forgetting there is an internet. Sunshine. Laughter. Labor. (Repeat.)
I’ve seen a handful of you lately but it’s been a while since I documented you in this blog post.
It’s back to the routine in a host of other ways – meals to prepare on my own, stories to write, kitchens to clean, work to do – so I guess it’s high time I stick to the schedule here too.
- The jokes we made in the car at Hour Fourteen on the Road on the last day.
- The new season of Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix. It’s not as funny as the first season – which I’m sort of thankful for. I have no desire to binge watch six episodes beginning at midnight. I’m satisfied with one episode every couple of days. Much more manageable amounts of humor.
- This really weird horse head that Jon keeps in his garage – for what, I don’t know. Moments like this, I guess.
I peeked into the Title Nine store again while we were in Colorado Springs because it’s full of just all of my favorite types of dresses and skirts.
I bought nothing. (Please applaud my self restraint with me.)
Those are built in shorts under there. Which is a bonus and I love that feature. Because you just never know when you are going to need to do a cartwheel. (A hotel lobby. The boardwalk at Audubon’s state park. Emma’s front yard. Rocky Mountain National Park. You know.)
After returning from a trip, one of the worst parts of getting back to the grind is food preparation. It’s not that I mind meal time or feeding kids or fixing dinners. It’s that I cannot stand that very first back to the grocery store outing. I was thrilled and ecstatic that hannaH had supplied our basic needs and we had food for a few days. But I’ve yet to make the journey to the store yet to really restock our cabinets. And I don’t want to.
I will, of course. But so far we’ve found some interesting options in the freezer and in the recesses of the cabinets.
Which means, my mental resources for thinking of a flavorful option this week are scant.
However. One of my favorite summer treats – and one that I especially love for my friend Amanda to make and for me to consume – is Fruit Salsa. (Served with cinnamon chips.)
Have you had it?
It is SO good. As in – eat it until you feel ill good. (Do I have a problem with excess?)
When you make it, you should invite me over. Or just send it to me. It’s probably better if I indulge in my excess in the secrecy of my own home. I like to eat Cadbury eggs alone too. There’s really no reason to explain why.
Faithful. Easy to rack these up over the past few weeks. Safety over 4,000 miles. Safety despite two run ins with tornadoes. (What is wrong with the weather anyway?) Friends welcoming us home. Dad caring for us along the journey. Able to hang out with All The Brothers. Good news for loved one’s health issues. Friends who enthusiastically cared for our dog and our kitten while we traveled the country.
So incredibly much to be grateful for.
I know that people have to move to all kinds of places all across the globe for all kinds of reasons.
After leaving the glory of the Rocky Mountains, I sometimes struggle with being content to live anywhere else besides at their very base.
Which is why, when Jo invited me to join her and Hilary for a little adventure to Sassafrass Mountain, the tallest vista little old South Carolina has to offer, I said yes.
It was hot by the time we finished our trail and the bugs seemed to have it out for us all, but goodness – there was a pretty view up there. Green valleys. Blue skies. Ridges rising up and down and so much space to see and breathe deeply.
It was good to be reminded that I live in a pile of pretty here too.
Deep calls to Deep.
Wild calls to Wild.
Where have I heard that? Did I read it somewhere? Did someone speak it to me? I’m sure I’m forgetting my source and not giving credit where it is due.
Last year I wrote the same thoughts in some other version.
When I say these words – Deep calls to Deep – I am thinking of my oldest son.
It’s written all over Bergen Hawkeye’s face.
His body language.
His easy conversation with the folks at the ranch.
This boy feels at ease here. Feels comfort and feels free to be wild. (Not rowdy-wild, free-wild.)
And I know my boy needs this, like vitamin D and his daily servings of vegetables.
He needs the air and the freedom and the “yes, you may”.
The exploring and the edge of safe.
Maybe all boys need this. Maybe all children. Maybe all humans.
And I’m guessing it takes different forms for different people.
For my son, for his heart and his design and his posture, the rugged west draws him in. The landscape and the sweeping views, the terrain and the animals. The access to explore and to find his own way, to make a path and to follow the ones he finds.
Deep calls to Deep.
I stood in awe and watched him expand, watched him come to a fullness of self in the mountain air.
Capable and curious.
Exactly what twelve should look like.
Returning to Normal Life can be a challenge.
It’s not just Colorado that’s dreamy with its Pike’s Peak and its no humidity and its no biting mosquitos.
What is also dreamy is pushed aside deadlines for work and zero meal preparation and no daily chores and a sense of time standing still.
Exchanging all of that for high humidity and a one hundred plus year old house and e-mails pouring out of their inbox is a sort of brutal position right off the bat.
To add more insult to the injury of rising early after an excruciatingly long road trip, the car dashboard has set itself in a bright array against me. Service engine soon. Washer fluid low. Exclamation mark. Dust and bug guts covering every inch of the car.
You know you missed an important email that somehow slipped through the cracks and you’re pretty sure you missed a payment that you thought you had already made.
Your body can’t decide if it is still on mountain time or coastal time and your old friend Insomnia has settled in for his nightly visits. You set your alarm in time for the next day’s task – take Bergen to his last day as a volunteer at Carl Sandburg’s house. The alarm goes off. You hear it. The humidity is oppressive already before the day has even begun and it’s not Florida here, so what’s the problem and you decide to just sleep a few minutes longer. Sudden panic startles you awake again and the clock reads 8:35 and you should have been in the car at 8:25. Welcome back to life.
All of this is true.
All of it.
And yet there is so much good too.
The kids and I came home extremely late Sunday night, nearly one in the morning. We spent the entire day in our car. The. Entire. Day. We left Dallas, Texas before 8 am. And we never really left our car all day long. We stopped for gas three times. We stopped at one Starbucks and drove through one Arby’s fast food lane. We didn’t pull off the side of the road for bathroom breaks or for sight seeing. We never left our car. We just drove. On that same Sunday I imagine you got up, ate breakfast, showered, maybe went to church, hung out at home, had lunch with friends or family, spent the afternoon relaxing or doing errands or swimming, the evening you had another meal, perhaps saw more friends, accomplished something, maybe watched a movie, got ready for bed, fell asleep for a few hours. You did ALL of those things and during ALL of that time I was sitting in a car with my knee bent just so and my hands resting on the wheel in nearly the same position for the length of an entire day.
We were exhausted. I was exhausted.
But when we came home there was a poem from Hannah on our counter and food in our fridge. There was cereal for breakfast and hummus and carrots and cucumbers and pita chips for lunch. Milk and chips and a chocolate treat. There were supplies for tomorrow night’s dinner because everyone knows that what you don’t want to do after a fifteen hour drive is to get in the car the next day and go to the grocery store. What a ridiculously thoughtful and kind gesture.
And then the next day, my daughter texts. “Hey. We want to hear all about your trip. We’ll bring dinner to you guys.” My grown up daughter prepared dinner for all of us and that’s really so very kind. And her family came over and we watched all the videos and every single picture we had taken over two and a half weeks and how very generous of her and Aaron to sit through all of our fresh memories and to listen to our stories and to let us wash over them with a flood of this and that from our journey.
After the delayed wake up call the next morning for the Carl Sandburg volunteering, I take Bergen in late and then I drive over to a nearby bakery in the charming little town of Flat Rock. It’s the mountains and it’s still early and the weather is not oppressive and the trees on the porch of this shop, coupled with the breeze, make this a downright dreamy spot to sit for an hour. I drag out my computer and I publish the article that was delayed and sitting on my shoulders. I have a list of eight time items to do and I get four of them completed and that’s half an it’s not even noon and I think that’s success. Then, the breeze is just my best friend and the temperature is kind and my cup of English Breakfast tea is warm and satisfying. I sit there and I type and I do my work. There is a man at the table behind me and he’s doing the same thing and there’s this mutual vibe we’re both sending and we pause to say it out loud to one another. Two strangers. What a rare privilege to do our work, outside, warm beverage in hand, to do our jobs under shady trees on a Tuesday morning in a picturesque town with a cute name like Flat Rock. We both know that, right then, our lives are lovely and good and we’re grateful. The two girls at the table in front of me are enjoying this morning too. Smiling and laughing and having a fantastic morning with their scones and with one another. I pause on my way out, stop at their table for a brief moment. Tell them I’ve enjoyed watching them love their lives that morning. What a gift – laughter and good company. Also, I tell them that I like the girl’s tattoo placement on the back of her arm, directly above her elbow and I wish them a good day. And they return the favor and talk about their scones and then they tell me, sleep deprived forty-three year old human that I was right then, that they liked my style. They liked my outfit that day. And I thought how pleasant that was, a compliment. Nice words spoken freely and without an agenda. I needed to hear those nice words. They didn’t know that I overslept and got dressed in the dark. That I absolutely chose that outfit because I have yet to open my suitcase and so I was left to choose any article of clothing that had not made the cut to go to Colorado, whatever had been left in the closet and in the drawer. The not good enough to make the trip clothing. Hair assembled in the dark in two minutes.
You guys. Say nice things to people. It’s really kind.
This is a good life. There is so much more good than bad. I think of that Anne Frank quote.
I don’t think of all the misery, but of all the beauty that still remains.
Who says that? Who believes that? Anne Frank???
Yeah, so there are lights blinking in my car and I was late this morning and I’m wearing my second rate clothing choices.
But it was a good day.
Traditions matter deeply to me. (Even traditions at their genesis.)
Which means, on this day, on the way into the ranch, we would be stopping at The Donut Mill in Woodland Park, Colorado.
This time my dad was able to join us for our adventures, making even these sticky sweet treats even sweeter.
We all oohed and ahhed over their unnecessarily gigantic cinnamon roll (large enough for an entire family) and we all enjoyed our ice cream or our donuts. (My choice was a maple glazed donut. I just loves me the maple.) I asked again, the same as last year, “Hey guys – doesn’t this donut shop have the best view of any donut shop ever?” (It does.)
And then we drove right on, down the picturesque road with views for days, past the tiny town of Deckers – a “town” apparently consisting of one shop, one restaurant and a beautiful wide river made for fly fishing.
Turn left on the dirt road. Okee Dokee Brothers turned on to “Good Old Days”. (A song we all agreed not to listen to on the entire 25 hour drive out just to save it for this particular moment.)
And I slow it all down.
Nine miles of dirt and narrow lane, wide views and rising excitement.
I’ve already switched my phone to airplane mode (where it will rest happily for seven glorious days) and I want time to come as close to standing still as it possibly can.
The plan is to Make It All Linger.
Yes sir. Yes sir – those days were fine.
Yes sir. Yes sir – but these are the good old times.
We’re all quiet, but united in our affection for this ranch. The boys are anxiously awaiting me to grant to them permission to stick their heads (eh, their entire bodies) out of our sunroof.
My dad is in the passenger seat and I’m behind the wheel and I’m grinning and then I feel tears (you know how I do) and I have to say out loud, “Oh you guys. You know me and you know I have to just say out loud some ridiculous things I’m feeling.”
Rushing wind from the rolled down windows and the open sunroof and Lost Valley Ranch dust settling in the car and sweet silence and attentive kind ears.
“Last year this ranch was a divine miracle for our family. And I was so grateful for what it gave to us. I never thought we could have a second year. And we even get to bring Grandpa along too.”
I sigh. Deeply. The satisfied variety.
And Piper Finn, always my advocate, chirps up. “That is NOT ridiculous Mommy. I think that’s beautiful.”
The turn in the road arrives that is our mark for heads out the sunroof.
The boys have unbuckled and burst through before I can blink. I laugh and we talk about their view and Dad looks at me, “You want to join those boys, don’t you?”
Suddenly I realize that he is right. I do.
And so we switch drivers and I poke my body up through the sunroof with my sons and I get to be both the mom and the daughter all at once and it feels like the perfect way to start this week. Piper embraces her fear of all the dangers and warns us continuously about the dangers of what we are doing. Until Grandpa makes an offer. “Piper, it’s safe up there and lots of fun. I’ll give you $5 if you just give it a try.”
Seat belt off and blonde haired daughter perched with us in a matter of seconds.
All it took to conquer her fear was $5?
We’re greeted at the cattle guard with an oooooh-ahhhh and a pair of smiling cowboys.
If last year’s entrance was all Anticipation and Novelty, then this year’s entrance was all Enthusiasm and Homecoming.
Almost every one of the guests at the ranch this week are returning guests from last year. Piling out of the car it was hugs and high fives and how’s it going?
How good it is to be welcomed.
The same sort of magic is here to greet us. Logs stacked in our cabin’s fireplace – just so, top log branded LVL. Names on the door as a welcome. Tidy rooms. Welcome notes. Snacks and drinks awaiting.
I felt like family. Like we belonged.
The kids’ comfort levels were through the roof.
At the corral, we’re assigned our horses – Otto gets his Ace and Bergen will eventually saddle up on Joanie – Mosely’s trusty steed from last summer. London is on Annie, Dad gets Dallas. When they ask me if I want last year’s ride I confess that I do not. “Shiloh just wasn’t speedy. Can I get a faster horse this year?”
I find it ironic, superstitious, suspicious even, disconcerting, hilarious, when the head wrangler Anthony smiles at me and asks, “How about Kansas?”
I know this could end badly. Let’s hope it’s redemption and not foretelling. Fingers crossed that Kansas doesn’t turn out to be a tornado under my saddle.
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