Sunday, July 13, 2014

All The Pretty Ponies

I am watching my girl grow up before my eyes.  I've realized as I have been riding with her this summer just how grown up she is.  I can remember her first horseback ride when she was just a toddler -- she was in love with horses from the start.  Now I watch as she rides without fear.  I am both very proud and very much afraid.......but mostly proud.  They grow up so fast!

Julia and Bonnie.  2014.
Finally a horse to call her own.

Julia and Marc's horse, Truffles.  2009.
Struggling to get that big stubborn horse to listen!  Truffles had a mind of her own.

Julia and sweet Annie.  2006.
This sweet pony got my girl hooked on riding.
I believe she has the hang of it!  These two are quite the pair. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Life. Keep it Coming.

Sometimes I have to just sit and count my blessings.  God's mercies seem overwhelming at times -- especially when I really start to think about them.  I marvel sometimes at the tapestry God weaves out of our lives.  Looking back on difficult times helps me appreciate how He has used our trials for good.  Lately we have been able to really appreciate the good.  In light of the valleys we have been through, the high ground seems so much more beautiful.  We are enjoying some sweet times and a refreshing perspective these days!

Over the Fourth of July weekend we went up the mountain to horse camp with John and Sheila & Co.  I've known John and Sheila for what seems like forever.  Before we had kids we hiked, camped, and hit the trails on our horses.  After I became pregnant with the twins we remained close friends, but the productivity of our relationship waned.  We used to be able to play and work together as two couples -- camping, hiking, riding, working on house projects, farm projects, putting up hay.  After the boys were born it has been years of juggling life's demands between the four of us.  First I was pregnant and breastfeeding.  The next year was Sheila's turn.  Then mine.  Then hers.  Mine again.  Hers.  As our brood grew we would take turns watching the kids while the more "able" mom helped with hay or projects.  Then we built houses.  We went first, then John and Sheila.  Marc got sick and he became the focus.  John and Sheila helped us during that time just as they always have done.  Then, Sheila followed suit with a devastating breast cancer diagnosis.  Life.  It just keeps coming. 

During this crazy time of our lives we have always been friends -- always circling round to help each other out and enjoying each other's company.  Every time we meet up we reminisce about the days when we would go on adventures, or work nonstop, without worrying about nap schedules or little ones underfoot.  We talked about the hope of future days when the kids would be old enough to join us on long hikes or horseback rides.  On our bucket list was the ability to horse camp again.  With small children and full lives it always seemed too cumbersome and hard to pack the kids, horses, and all the equipment.  "Someday," we said.  Someday.

When Sheila got sick we focused on her year of treatment.  At the end of treatment we vowed that we would go riding and camping.  The bucket list that we had put off because of life's responsibilities was now the reward at the end of a grueling treatment cycle.  Sheila finished her very last treatment this week.  She is healthy -- infusions complete and surgery behind her.  She is a survivor.  Life.  It just keeps coming. 

So, over the Fourth we made good on our promise to get out and enjoy our families and our animals.  We headed up to Mt. Hood with four horses, seven children, three dogs, and four optimistic (or naive) adults.  It was a great time!  Everything worked out great -- a success all the way around.  I kept thinking to myself during our trip that we actually did it.  I was amazed.  Wow.  After so many years and lots of challenging times, we actually got to enjoy what we love.  Who would have thought it?

Sheila and I took the girls out for two days of riding.  The second day was a fifteen mile ride!  I think I overindulged!  Ouch!!!  John took the older boys and did a twelve mile hike.  Brian and Kami took the two youngest kids and played at the lake and rested at camp.  By the way...a big thank you to my sweet husband for making this trip easy and enjoyable for everyone.  Without his help we couldn't have made this weekend a success.  He's amazing.  I did manage to get Brian out for a bit of a ride Friday night.  It was nice to ride away from camp for a bit of time together while the kids hung out at camp.  Sweet freedom.  Those moments are much appreciated.

Some pictures from then and now.  My how we have changed!


Sweethearts.  1999.  Awwwww.
John, Simon, and Skipper.
Our last trail ride before we had kids. 

Our last trail ride at Timothy Lake.  1999.
I was four weeks pregnant and hadn't a clue.  

Sheila and Allison over the weekend.
Looking good!

Julia and me.  Saddle sores and all!

A snapshot from my evening ride with my hubby.
Peaceful and anomaly for us. Sigh.
Last but not least....
We had another significant triumph over the weekend.   Like I mentioned, Sheila and I have spent the last 14 years swapping childcare duties so that one of us could help the guys.  This has been especially true during hay season.  When we arrived home from camping this weekend our hay was cut, baled, and ready to load out in the fields.  John and Brian had to work Monday so Sheila and I headed to the fields with the kids!  Everybody pitched in and we loaded and unloaded everything in just a few short hours.  Just us girls and our seven kiddos.  I feel like we have arrived!  Where...I don't know, but wherever it is I'm happy in this new place.  Life.  It just keeps on coming.....


How far we have come.....Wow.
Great friends and amazing kids.  Love each one of them!
With love and gratitude....