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There is nothing more relaxing than a cat. After a chaotic few months with extra kids in the house, having an oversized kitty sitting on your chest massaging your belly and purring in your ear is a bit like heaven. It doesn’t hurt when you’re out in the country and the only other sound besides the bray of nearby horses is the occasional rumble of a passing truck.

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Even dogs understand the importance of rest when living the country life at the ranch. They run through the stalls of the barn pestering the horses, bound through fields chasing after the scents of local wildlife and when it’s over they stretch out in the comfort of a warm kitchen.

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I don’t think I realized the extent to which we had exerted ourselves in taking on the two new additions to our household–not until I got here anyways. Thanksgiving weekend a brother-sister duo was deposited at our doorstep and suddenly we had three kids all still in diapers. It was not an easy decision and certainly we didn’t know exactly what we were in for. We added the two new little folk to our routine or rather we were added to theirs. Our lives included a bit of chaos and felt at times out of control, but it became our normal. Sometimes it doesn’t become clear just how much crazy is in your life until you actually stop for just a moment.

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After our late night arrival, I think we were still a bit weary, none more than Lucas. Normally a trip on the shuttle bus to the airport for a trip to Seattle would have elicited glee, instead this face I think tells it all. It has been a heck of a ride for our little three-year old. I suspect if he had the wherewithal he would have thanked us dearly for giving him this break.

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The break was possible thanks to another foster family who took care of our two foster kids while we were away. While it was the right decision, it was still difficult. The kids definitely have become part of our family even through the bit of madness. This experience confirmed for me that love does not take time or any kind of shared DNA. Parental love can be spontaneous whether you’re looking down at the newborn face of your own child or kissing the top of a newly arrived two-year old’s head.

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I remember looking out the window that first morning, realizing just how quiet it was, not only around me but also in my head. Dense fog had settled in and a few of the horses were standing still wearing their winter blankets staring out in the pasture. For a while it was just me and then slowly the rest of the house began to wake. My brother was the first to come down fully dressed followed shortly by the rest of the family.

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We donned our jackets and watched as my brother fed and gave water to the horses. We stroked the nose of every horse. There was a fascination with the piles of manure in the stalls of all five horses–color, size and location were all fully discussed by our three-year old who is an expert in the field.

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Then there were the piles just outside the barn that required further inspection. There was great suspicion that these might also be manure and lots of it. Our little expert seemed unconvinced of our explanations. Not only were we claiming that these were dirt piles but that small creatures lived beneath the mounds.

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The ranch comes equipped with the requisite dogs, a Border Collie named Blue and this sheep-like creature’s name is Hero. If the horse is the centerpiece of the ranch, the dogs are what keeps the place in motion. They monitor the property and get into their share of mischief, then take their place inside as companions.

Our trip was planned in accordance with my mother’s milestone birthday. There was a fantastic party with family, friends and lots of good food. There was a splash of family drama, as there always is. We were able to spend time with our good friends and their kids. We slept a lot. We managed to pass the stomach flu to each other which fortunately didn’t last long. And finally we got a little wet towards the end of our trip.

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There is something special about staying at the ranch. It absolutely is about these surroundings: a calm and peaceful place, quiet but teeming with life. Without a doubt that has an effect over me and I suppose anyone that stays here. But there is so much more to the Ranch—there is this kind, animal-loving, kid-friendly atmosphere that permeates the house and its surrounding. My brother is as gentle and patient as they come. My sister-in-law is the care-giver who does not ask anything of us and won’t let us lift a finger. She is kind and loving. It is like heaven to be under their roof. Our son seems to grow closer to them each time we visit. Near the end of our trip, our weary little one began to show some signs of life again. I’ve come to appreciate him more these days. Along with the rest of us, I think he has grown through this foster care experience. He’s also growing up. Sometimes it takes some time away for all of us to see each other in a new light.

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Goodbye and thank you for your hospitality. It was fun–see you again soon Seattle.

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