Take me to the Ranch!

I’ve been (mostly) MIA the past couple of weeks as summer has wound down. Summer, which normally feels lazy and laid back, became crazy busy. Between work, camp for the kids, and my nights spent working on the Closet project, I stayed busy. I was burning the candle at both ends and by last week I was in dire need of time to rest and recharge. We had booked two vacations at the end of the month, one for our annual family reunion at the lake, and the other at a Ranch in upstate New York. The Ranch trip was first.

Now let me preface the rest of this post by saying I’m probably a little high maintenance, but at the same time, I have a soft spot for the country and would love to live in the country at some point. Despite coming from a family who is very into horses (several of my cousins own, breed and show horses. One is a professional rider), I am….not. I grew up far away from them, and never had much opportunity to ride. I spent my childhood on boats and the water, but despite a love of horses, I’ve always been a bit nervous around them.

We booked the trip with some family members that we have vacationed with in the past. They have been going to the ranch since childhood, and they asked us to join. We decided to jump at the opportunity as we know we vacation really well with them. We share a similar vacation mindset. That’s very important when travelling with others. If you don’t kind of have the same vibe when it comes to how you vacation, you may feel either you didn’t fully get the experience, or you may feel like you need a vacation from the vacation. This collective group just worked like a charm, and I knew fun was to be had.

We arrived at Rydin-Hy Ranch on a Saturday. I had had a stressful few weeks leading up to the trip, and unfortunately got a call with some bad news about a family member on the drive there. I arrived stressed, but looking forward to having some down time, as was my husband. My kids were wanting to do all the things. As we pulled in, I saw log cabins, and a gorgeous lake ahead of us. Our cabin looked out towards the lodge in front of us, and the lake to our right. It was simply stunning. We checked in, dropped off our stuff, and headed out to explore. My daughter, who LOVES horses, was eager to ride, so we signed up for a trail ride. The boys headed off to check things out. We wandered over to the barn where there were loads of beautiful horses. The cowboys that work the barn (that’s actually what they are called on the ranch) chose horses they thought would be a good fit for everyone. They helped each of us get on the horse, and we got in a line to go for a slow leisurely trail ride. I was nervous and a bit anxious the first ride. Ok, I was the same on pretty much every ride, but I couldn’t help but have fun.

After the ride, we headed off to the lodge for dinner, which was delicious. The easiest way to explain it is that the food is simple, yet done well. Each family has their own table for the length of their stay, so you simply wander in during meal times and sit at your table. The staff there were extremely accommodating. After a delicious meal, we headed off to the bar for drinks and laughs. We had a fabulous night out at the bar, and a good time was had by all.

Each day in the lodge, they put up a chalk board with the times and locations of all the activities. This is the moment when you start to realize that your kids have likes and know how to do things that you had no idea about. To my surprise my son signed up for a ping pong tournament. I didn’t know he enjoyed ping pong, as he’d never mentioned it, but he said he played at camp all the time. Turns out he’s really good at it! My kids were very eager to try archery. My daughter wanted to do the banana boat, which is a long inflateable yellow banana looking boat that you sit on while a speedboat tows it at a pretty high speed in the water. I went on, as well as her aunt, and the three of us were laughing hysterically as it pulled us through the water. I sat amazed at how fearless my kids are, and how much joy they got from trying new things.

My sister in laws’ cousins were there the first day and were extremely kind enough to leave us their kids’ bikes to borrow while we were there. This gave our kids another layer of freedom. There is an incredibly strong feeling of “home” at the ranch, in the sense your room door is unlocked throughout the day (you get a safe for valuables) and kids are considerably more free range than you see at many vacation destinations. Of course parents have an eye on their kids but you feel safe allowing them to roam a bit if they are older. My son, a teenager now, loved having the freedom to come and go as he pleased, riding the bike throughout the ranch from place to place. He went to the gym to work out, played basketball, and attended activities on the board that piqued his interest. My daughter loved spending time riding around on the bike while the adults were relaxing outside. One of the things I loved was that kids were a bit more free range there, and it all felt super safe and easygoing.

While I was there, I got a call with some more bad news and needed a bit of time to process it. Travelling with the Aunts, Uncles and bonus grandparents made it easy for me to ask for some alone time, as they were happy to oblige and take the kids to different activities. The ranch sits on a beautiful lake, and they have plenty of paddleboards, kayaks, rowboats and paddleboats for the guests to use at any time. I hopped on a kayak and took off across the lake to have some quiet time to process things. It was exactly what I needed, and I found myself feeling really calm and collected when I arrived back to the beach. I ended up kayaking multiple times per day and each time enjoying myself more and more.

The resulting sunburn? Not so much.

OOF. One night my skin felt like it was on fire.

The bed? Well, the bed was way firm. Perhaps it wasn’t super firm, it’s just that my bed at home is so soft it’s just ridiculous. I have a double pillow top with a massive feather bed on top, and a down comforter. It’s like sleeping on a cloud. Heaven. The bed at the ranch was the polar opposite. Not uncomfortable, but firm. I told myself it was the cowboy life for me that week and to suck it up, buttercup. I was so tired from all the activity each day, I slept like a log. The first night, I had multiple dreams I was laying on the floor, so my brain was certainly processing I wasn’t at home and was on a firmer setup than usual.

Each day we found ourselves excited to see what was planned on the board in the lodge. Activities differed from day to day. This was an interesting lesson in learning new things about my kids. I was surprised to find out my son really enjoyed ping pong after playing it at camp, and was also very good at it. He’d never mentioned ping pong to me before, but he was looking forward to entering the Ranch’s ping pond table. I was surprised my daughter was eager to do the banana boat ride after seeing it tip over at a fairly high speed, dumping all the riders into the lake to be picked up by the pontoon boat. She was all in. I was surprised when my son said the horseback ride he took was his favorite part of the day, as while my daughter takes lessons, he’d never shown much interest before. Even my husband really enjoyed riding. The boys went hiking to check out what was around. The girls did some water sports. I tried paddleboarding for the first time (harder than it looks but I enjoyed it). We attended our first rodeo, and my daughter was thrilled to see a girl close to her age doing the barrels. We all tried archery. The adults spend the evenings around the bar laughing and talking. The bartender took a shine to my daughter and let her sit with us, handing her a rootbeer in a bottle. She joined in for late snacks and sat happy to be a part of the group. My son, more of an introvert, rode his bike at night around the loop and did manage to squeak in a few texts to his friends. Considering the wifi in the room was minimal (it was good in the lodge) and there wasn’t a TV in the room, my teenager acclimated well to a minimally electronic vacation. My daughter, the early riser of the four of us found great joy in being able to run up to her Aunt and Uncle’s room to hang out in the mornings, while my son relished in being the last one of out bed. Even my husband and I, neither of us early risers, found ourselves getting up early to see what the day held. By the end of the week, I think we all tried something new, and everyone left the Ranch relaxed and smiling if not a bit bruised. Personally, I felt like weights had been lifted off my shoulders.

I arrived home with bruises on my legs, sore arms, but happy and content. After a busy and chaotic few weeks, to come home feeling peaceful and relaxed was perfect. My mood was great, my body was battered but felt strong, and my family were all smiling.

We enjoyed the ranch so much we booked another trip for next year.

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Another Birthday, and A Year in Review

This time last year, it was a hell of a rough week. My birthday popped up as they tend to do, but both kids were sick. We all felt a bit off our game and kind of run down. My husband sent me off for some alone time, to, you know, get my nails done or do some birthday shopping. With one of our cars broken, and a slow month work wise, I ended up having to use that time to myself to sell something with great sentimental value to cover some of our needs. It was also tough because I had two sick kids who I was worried about. I came home a ball of stress, the antithesis of my husband’s best laid plans, and chalked it up to just a no good, very bad day. Then, because some people are often inherently pieces of shit, the family member who stalks me as her second job decided to get mouthy and start up the usual nonsense. (She’ll be reading this in no time, trust. Stalker is as stalker does.) It was an exhausting couple of days, to say the least.

This year started off pretty hairy with each kid getting either the flu or the nasty stomach virus going around. Being the primary caretaker and hug giver, I contracted BOTH so far this year. Have you ever had to barf and have the runs violently at the EXACT SAME TIME? Because I have, and it feels like your soul is getting vacuumed out of your body at that very moment. We started off the year with that horror show, and transitioned into the little getting her braces, while the older child is gearing up to become a teenager. There is ANGST in the house, y’all. Hormones and sore teeth, means I have kids that ultimately want mom to hug them or get away quickly depending on the second. With school, my massive coat drive, kid friends, gymnastics, events, feeding everyone, looking after pets, the worst medium experience ever, the odd excursion to visit my dad or somewhere interesting, I have been BUSY. Plus it’s been cold and dreary so many days that I have a love affair going….with my bed. Ah, bed. I love it. I love it even more so this time of year. A choice between going out to anywhere that needs real clothes, or curling up in bed with netflix, a book, or even just my phone is an uneven choice, because bed will WIN. Pj’s, a snack, and bed? Perfection.

Well, the other day, the ol’ birthday rolled around. I got the little up for school, and then crawled back into bed while my husband took her to school. He arrived home with breakfast sandwiches and hot coffee, which was DELIGHTFUL because I got to enjoy them in bed. I headed off to get my nails done and get a pedicure, and enjoyed a nice shoulder massage. Heavenly. We then hopped a train into NYC. (If you call it “THE NYC” you’re a simpleton and a douche, just saying). We went in with almost no plans except to eat ALL THE CALORIES. Heading to New York City with no real plans is kind of odd feeling, but also very freeing. We walked everywhere, and only took a cab the very last few minutes to try to make a train that we ended up missing anyway.

First stop, Tea and Sympathy. It’s a tiny tea shop that has all British food. Every time I go to the city, I stop there now, just for rhubarb crumble with hot custard on it. It reminds me of all things childhood and feels like a hug from my mama. SO good. We then wandered, popping into a few stores, checking out window displays, and watching the people. NY is an amazing place to people watch. Millions of people, all living in close quarters, all getting on with life. Celebrities walk by seemingly unnoticed and unbothered (we saw John Turturro pass by). Every type of person….gay, straight, bi, black, white, hispanic, asian, homeless and mega rich, old, young, every viewpoint, every experience, and every single description in between, all living in close quarters without much issue. New York is a melting pot where everyone seems to fit right in. We people watched, pointed out cool buildings or displays, and chatted about the old NY vs the new modernized trend. You have older stores filled with wares, and new, modern stores that seem to have not much to sell, but a lot of space. It seems extremely odd in a place known for rents that will make your eyes water. As someone who doesn’t like crowds, I had to leave a few stores because they were just so busy. New Yorkers seem perfectly comfortable in crowds and navigate quickly and efficiently through them.

I watched my step count on my watch and saw the miles add up. At this rate, I thought, I’d probably drop 3 sizes by the time I got home! Sadly, not the case, but I racked up nearly 10 miles of walking there. Sadly, after a sandwich, rhubarb crumble, a latte, and some tea, we had not finished with ALL THE CALORIES, and proceeded to finish out our day with dinner. Dinner consisted of King Crab legs at The Boil. King crab with garlic butter? Yes please! Dinner was awesome, despite a large table behind us that was ridiculously loud. They were so loud, we couldn’t hear each other. Aside from that, it was awesome.

We stepped back out into the cool air, and began walking again. I had wanted to go to Barnes and Noble before we left. I don’t read nearly as many books as I used to, which is a shame. That being said, I have a deep love for book stores. Sometimes, on a bad day, I will head over to one of the few book stores still around near me, grab a coffee, and stroll the aisles. Billions of words, knowledge, stories, and perspectives all at one’s fingertips. Book stores are calming places, and there is typically something for everyone contained within those walls.

The weekend rolled around and my daughter approached me Friday night to see if I could take her to a horseback riding lesson. The farm we go to is very laid back, which fits me perfectly. I simply call the morning of, and if they have a slot, she puts us in. I’m pretty sure she would reserve a time if we so requested on a regular basis, but with the weather being iffy and January/February being months where every illness spreads like wildfire, I’m content to call day of. I was a bit sad my morning to sleep in clearly wasn’t meant to be, but I told her I would try to get up early and call the farm. Saturday morning appeared and I decided on a whim to schedule a trail ride….for both of us. Now here’s the thing. I come from a horsey family. Many of my relatives ride, and some even do it on a professional level. Me? Not so much. I haven’t ridden a horse in YEARS. One time I did on vacation, and the beautiful ride on the beach took a scary turn when the horse decided to try and drown itself by charging at full gallop into the ocean. I love horses, I’m just not confident on them. I’m also afraid of heights. That would make riding a double no.

Except my daughter had asked me to do it with her. Begged in fact. And, she took it really well when I explained my fear and hesitation. There’s also the fact that she’s really nervous about an upcoming surgery, and I wanted to show again that facing fear head on is an important lesson. Lastly, she has been doing well in school, I got reports of her doing really kind acts for others, so I figured it would be good to hoist my big ass on a horse if it made her happy. The kid had earned it. Off we headed, and yes, I got on the horse.

The instructor was really pleased with both of us, saying we were doing things right. My horse, however, got pretty hungry from hauling me around and decided to head for a snack. It stopped, bowed it’s head and wasn’t moving. I was laughing and while the instructor told me to pull up, the horse was adamant it needed a few moments. I told the instructor I wasn’t surprised the poor horse had an appetite hauling me around. Finally we got going again, and a short while later, the horse tripped and I almost fell off. That being said, I held on tight, and despite an initial moment of panic when I felt the horse trip, I was pleased to see that I didn’t fall off. The little one was beaming from ear to ear afterwards and said she really enjoyed it. We headed to Starbucks to caffeinate me and get her a snack. Mother/daughter day success!

This past year was a doozy. It started off rough, but there were so many happy moments. Our family trip to England was a highlight. Both kids announced they want to live there someday. It made me so happy they got to spend time there at an age when they will remember it, and I’m going to start working to take them back again soon. We had a sad end of school year last year, I was on the PTA for a hot minute, but I used that time productively to raise money for kids that needed it. In some ways, I softened. In others, I hardened up a bit, and not in a bad way. It felt like my eyes were opened in new ways. Starting off a new age year, I feel content but antsy. Antsy for new adventures, but also quite content to skip a night out and curl up in my bed with a book. I’m trying to learn balance more. Getting older is an interesting experience. Everything shifts, including your mindset. I feel a bit like a pair of favorite jeans. They show signs of wear and tear, but they fit just as they should and are comfortable.

I’ve had people ask me how I feel to be getting older. It’s something we all complain about sometimes. While I look in the mirror and see some of the fine lines and “wisdom glitter” in my hair, I also see someone who is so very fortunate to see another day, to get another hug from my family, and to create a new experience. Some folks won’t have that today, so I try to always be mindful of that. My friend who died doesn’t have those opportunities, and that is something that never quite leaves me. Getting older can be a pain, but it sure is better than the alternative.