Wander-school

If you’ve been around for a while, you might already know my propensity to load our car with gear, grab my kids, and hit the road for a month full of adventures.

We sometimes call it “roadschooling” (as in: homeschooling on the road) but really it’s just a beautiful, adventuresome piece of our life.

We took our first epic road trip in a VW Beetle when the kids were just 3 and 7. That autumn we spent a month wandering our way nearly 3,000 miles across the country to the Outer Banks of North Carolina and back again.

I’m not sure what inspired me to pack up such young kids for such an epic solo-parenting adventure, but I’m grateful that I did.

Roadtrips (as you likely already know) aren’t all picture perfect sunsets and smooth sailing. But even the turbulence is part of the adventure.

On our first month-long road trip, the tent that we borrowed from friends before we embarked broke to bits in a wind storm the very first time we set it up.

Fun? No. Memorable? Most definitely.

Indeed, there are always bumps out there on the road. But despite the inevitable hiccups, this journey (and the many that followed) was an unforgettable one. On that first trip were supported by old friends and new all along our route who offered hot meals, places to sleep, laundry facilities, showers and baths, and–yes–even a loaner tent for our month-long adventure. (Thanks, Tony and Nettie!) We had a team to call on, despite being so very far from home.

And the journey, of course, was transformational.

As a mother, as kids, as citizens of this country and of the world.

Our second big trip took place when Sage and Lupine were 8 and 13. The three of us embarked for another month away, heading this time to Vermont and Maine, visiting old and new friends along the way.

Since then Pete has joined us on a couple of two, three, and four week journeys, including a month road tripping around Ireland (talk about a life-changer!) a year and a half ago, and trips to Canada, Northern Minnesota, and Cayo Costa, Florida.

And?

The kids and I are eager to do it all again.

Seeing as they won’t concede with staying the age they are now forever, and instead insist on continuing to grow, it’s now or never. In a heartbeat Sage will be an adult, off on his own adventures. So I’m seizing the heck out of this moment. Because we homeschool; because we’re self-employed.

Because we can.

And because I might not get another chance.

The trip we’re planning now will carry us eastward again. We have a few destinations in mind–namely getting my 16 year old back to the Atlantic (a place where his heart finds such ease).

We all fell hard for Maine when we visited a few years ago, and have been itching to get back, to visit old and new friends there and (hopefully!) spend a little time promoting my book along the way.

And on our return trip, I’ll be attending (and vending, books and other goodies) at the International Herb Symposium in Norton, MA.

We’re thinking four weeks should do the trick.

With that in mind, I turn to you, my friends! We are currently accepting hot tips for places to visit and things to do in upstate NY, costal Maine, Cape Cod, and possibly Montreal (as well as places between).

Bonus points if your suggestions are nature-centered, free/affordable, or have anything to do with Tesla, Norse history and mythology, blacksmithing, or sword work. (I’m joking on that last set, but only half joking, as Sage would love anything you might throw his way on those subjects.)

For my friends between here and the Atlantic: we hope to see you along the way!

Oh, Canada!

20180904-DSC_6856With our damaged trailer hitch preventing us from circling the lake with our camper in tow, we were still committed to making a trek across the border, and to spend a few days exploring the Canadian lakeshore.

I found us an off-grid cabin on Airbnb, and off we set!

And, well, it was glorious.

The lack of running water, grid power, or an indoor toilet did nothing to dampen our spirits. If anything, it only added to the charm. And to have a bit of space to stretch out in after living for a week in a pop-up, a morning coffee view that was nothing short of breathtaking, and the perfect Northwoods sauna might have just been the sweet spot of our entire vacation.

Every corner of this cabin was it’s own work of art. Every drawer pull, every window sill, every handrail: intricately carved, painted, or otherwise adorned. We were entranced. And the birds just beyond the deck railing bordered on tame, nibbling seeds from Lupine’s hands and delighting us with their antics just a few feet from our chairs.

In short, it was perfect.

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The cabin, situated at the top of Sibley Peninsula, was perfectly placed for us to enjoy the Thunder Bay region and all that it has to offer, without our needing to set foot on the busy city streets.

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Rain! It’s the theme of this trip, I tell you.

But also there was sun. Thank goodness! Sun for hiking, sun for wading in the Big Lake, sun for picking rocks along the shore. And we relished it.

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After a few days across the border, it was time for one last lingering visit to the sauna, to sip a final cup of coffee on the deck, then pile in the car and drive south toward Minnesota once again. We took one more detour through Fort William Historic Park (a place I haven’t visited since I was Lupine’s age), and then rolled back into our friends’ driveway and our awaiting camper just before bedtime.

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This weekend we’ll be wrapping up our last few days of travel. We’re repacking our gear, saying goodbye to our over-the-top generous friends who have hosted us (and/or our empty camper) for the majority of this ill-fated trip, and heading back to the Driftless.

We’ll be home by Monday–one week and one circle tour around the Big Lake short of our original plans.

Plans change. And the theme we established for our first ever month-long road trip back in 2009, remains our road trip motto: “go with the flow”.

And so we did.

Plan G

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Well, hello there! It’s been a while.

Low on data on our cell phone plan and living largely WIFI-free out on the road, we’ve been off-line for most of our trip. It’s been both a treat and a challenge, depending on what’s going on outside of our little bubble that requires our attention.

Mostly it’s been a simple pleasure, like navigating with paper maps for the first time in more than a decade (I know! Paper maps!), and having abundant face-to-face time as a family, without phones or laptops or work to distract us.

Plugged in again today, I thought an update was in order.

20180830-DSC_609720180830-DSC_610520180829-DSC_606720180829-DSC_6083After a soggy few northbound days, we rolled into safe harbor: a friends’ homestead on the North Shore of Lake Superior. We set up camp in their driveway, dried out our gear, and did a few loads of wash.

What a difference dry socks, some home-grown/home-cooked meals, and a hot bath can make!

Pete even found someone willing to weld our trailer hitch back into place, hopefully in the next few days. (Did I even mention that it was breaking? This trip, I tell you. I’ve honestly lost track.)

With a few of our many troubles mitigated, we were able to lace up our hiking boots and take a proper tromp along the shore–at long last.

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A hike, some rest beside the waterfalls, and a touch of much needed sunshine worked wonders! And all the while our family mulled over our next move, contemplating what now must be plans E, F, and G for the remainder of our trip.

The flooding, you see, continues at home. More rain is coming tonight, and the river nearest our home is over the bridge once more. Our house, we hear, is doing fine, but it’s been terrible for so many of our friends and neighbors. We’re feeling the pull to head back much sooner than we originally planned in order to be there for whatever comes next.

I’m afraid I’m rambling a bit. It’s hard to go a week without blogging and know where to even begin! While I ramble, let’s jump here: a birthday just happened as well.

Without want of fanfare, Sage quietly turned 16 while we were on the shore.

The day was spent with friends in a bog (on a bog?), gathering yellow foot chanterrels (and a few pocketfuls of usnea and labrador), casting for trout, and otherwise being in awe of this wet, misty, magical wonderland.

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We arrived home tired, wet (again!), and more calm and centered than we’d felt we started packing for this journey north.

It was a perfect day made even better (because it ended with cake).

I feel so grateful for friends that welcomed our sorry, soggy lot in, help us get dried out and back in proper shape for our journey, share birthday festivities with us, and otherwise help hold our floundering little craft together.

Grateful, I tell you. May I be half this gracious when friends show up in similar shape at our door!

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And then? It’s off to Canada with us! More on that in the coming days…

Until then, stay dry, my friends. We’ll hope to do the same.

Love,
Rachel

The first few days

Screen Shot 2018-08-30 at 9.20.10 AMWe departed last weekend on what was intended to be a circle tour around Lake Superior.

The theme, in a way, was water, as we circled the largest freshwater lake in the world.

How much the theme would become water had yet to be seen.

Our departure was planned for 10 am last Saturday. Naturally, this means that by the time we finished loading the car and worked out the many bugs of pulling a pop-up camper for the first time, we rolled out of town at 5:30 PM.

Miraculously, everyone was still smiling. A good sign for the (inevitable) future bumps along our journey.

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Despite our late departure, we couldn’t resist a couple of detours along the way, then spent our first night in a free public campground somewhere between home and the lake.

The next morning we drove the final stretch to the Big Lake, and began our circle tour in Bayfield, WI, at a friend’s coffee shop (which seemed a logical place to start).

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We went to the lake for a wade/swim, then started moving westward along the shore.

And then the rains began.

As we worked out way toward Duluth-Superior and our second camping stop, it rained.

And rained, and rained.

We set up camp in the deluge, our rain gear failing, our mattresses damp, and weathered the next two days of flash flooding, as our phones alerted us again and again to “seek high ground” from the storm.

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In that imperfect way that we humans so often do, we saw this as an inconvenience for us, dampening our spirits and soaking our camping gear. It was raining (as it were) on our parade.

In truth, we had it easy.

We received news the next morning that the flash flooding we experienced on the south shore was nothing compared to what was going on at home. The Driftless, which has experienced multiple 100- and 500-year floods since we moved there in 2006, was underwater once again, at record levels even for this flood-prone region.

Our farm-sitter reports that aside from our driveway being rutted by runoff, we’ve faired quite well, but many of our friends and neighbors have not been so lucky.

This knowledge of how things are going at home, paired with our wet camper and wet gear as well as some hopefully minor car troubles that I’ll space you the details of, makes us feel pulled back homeward, perhaps sooner than we originally planned.

As this trip is our plan C already (after the fires chased us away from the Southwest and then the Canadian Rockies), we’re now mulling over the idea of a plan D: going only partway around the lake, then doubling back toward home to clean up from the floods (if we can get home at all, with all the bridges that are gone, that is).

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Tomorrow there is more rain in the forecast.

Today, however, we have sunshine.

So we’re headed back to the lake. To hike, to pick rocks, to regroup, and watch the waves.

Where we go tomorrow has yet to be seen, but we’ll make the most of this break in the clouds, and send dry wishes home to our loved ones in the Driftless.

Off we go!

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Those of you who have been around for a while know that while I am a undisputed homebody, I also love to take long road trips with my kids whenever I can.

When they were just 3 and 7 we spent a month wandering our way nearly 3,000 miles across the country to the Outer Banks and back. When they were 8 and 13 the three of us embarked for another month on the road, heading this time to Vermont and Maine.

And then last September all four of us packed up, boarded our first plane as a family, and spent a month exploring Ireland.

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So, so good. Each and every trip.

And today? My nearly 16 year old, high school-aged kid is continuing his homeschooling path. We’re still together–nearly every day. But in just 2 years he’ll be 18, and Lupine will be high school-aged. Who knows? She many just might opt-in to formal schooling.

That means that than in just a couple short years, these luxurious month-long family road trips may be a thing of the past.

So we’re going for it. This year, and (I hope) every year until someone’s schedule dictates otherwise, we’re taking September and hitting the road.

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As for where we’re bound now, we contemplated a return to Maine, a return to the mid-Atlantic, and a trip to the California coast. Ultimately we settled on the Rockies. I’ll save you the details, but the fires and smoke out west had us change our plans at the very last minute, so instead of points westward, we’re heading North: for a trip all the way around our favorite lake of all. Lake Superior.

We’ll visit with friends, pick rocks, swim in waterfalls, get our kayak paddles wet, and otherwise explore this beautiful territory that begins just a few hours drive from home.

We can’t wait.

As for our digs for the month, Pete spent the summer restoring a pop-up camper that we were gifted. (The little 1990’s RV we bought for our trip to Maine is sadly too small to accommodate the four of us.)

An old and ragged camper in need of some love came into our lives a year ago. Once Pete dug in on the restoration we realized it had moisture issues and wasn’t easily salvaged. Amazingly, a second pop-ip of the same model was up for grabs from my parents, and between the two Pete was able to create one, beautiful new/vintage camper.

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* Before *

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* During *

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* After *

(I’ll share photos of the inside during our trip.) For now, however, I’ve got a car to load, some knitting to cast on, and a lake to visit.

Want to follow along? Subscribe to my blog below. Then I’ll send you an email each time I post about our trip around the Big Lake.  You can find postcards from previous roadschooling adventures here.

See you from the road, friends!

Love,
Rachel

10 tips for visiting the City Museum

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I promised you one last post from the road, this time from the City Museum, arguably what inspired our whole trip here in the first place. (That National Park visit was simply a bonus. Sorry Mather, Albright, Roosevelt, et. all.)

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A childhood friend tipped us off to the City Museum years ago when we were embarking on a different road trip, and although it was not on our route, we knew we needed to plan a detour soon.

This visit–our first with St. Louis as our final destination–was our third trip to the City Museum.

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The City Museum defies explanation, so I’m not sure I should even try.

But since this blog post would be rather thin without at least some framework, here goes:

In essence, the City Museum is a theme park of architectural salvage pieces, created by an artistic genius. There is not a wall, an inch of floor, or a passageway here that is not also a brilliantly conceived and artfully built masterpiece.

Pictured above? A full-sized, full-on school bus, that extends precariously off of one corner of the building, 11 stories up. (Homeschool bus!)

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From the 10 story twisting metal slides to the rebar tunnels crawling with kids winding through the ceilings overhead, this is the sort of place where no matter how long you explore you will never see it all.

My tips if you come here are many. I’m sure the locals have many more tips to offer, but as an outsider, these are the things that have worked for us.

For those who might have a visit, read on for our family’s top 10 tips to make the most of your visit. For the rest of you, just scroll and take in the pictures.

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1. Pick the right mindset

This is not a place to visit expecting a serene and restful day. Come with a sense of adventure, unbridled curiosity, and a healthy dose of allowing, and you’re bound to have an amazing time.

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2. Plan for a full day

The first time we came we had only 1 1/2 hours to explore. They kindly slipped us in for free because they knew how futile our mission was, but that brief visit sealed the deal on us needing to come back. 1 1/2 hours barely touched our ability to explore this wonderland.

Our experience has been that at the end of the school year this place is crawling with kids (end of year school field trips), but by around 2:00 PM the crowds drop off as the busses leave. Come early, but brace for the chaos of so many children.

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3. Dress for it

This place is rough-and-tumble defined. Delicate, flowing fabrics are not your wisest move. Sturdy clothing that you’re not supper bonded with is a good choice. (We’ve snagged and torn clothes here squeezing through narrow passageways or zipping down industrial metal slides.) Supportive, grippy, shoes are smart, too, like sneakers or hiking boots.

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4. Food and Drink

There are drinking fountains everywhere, but we bring water bottles inside so that we have water whenever we need it. If you’re traveling with younger kids (god help you), bring snacks. If you park in the paid lot outside the door ($10), you can head out to your car for lunch. It’s also a welcome break from the chaos, that all four of us needed. (Vending options also abound, but we prefer bringing our own.)

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5. Other things to bring

Nice-to-have additions include a headlamp and (if you’re tender) some knee pads. Sage brought armor which proved helpful, but I’m assuming leather shin and forearm protection won’t be found in most of your closets.

Pete and I have used our cell phones to find each other when lost, but honestly, it’s so loud in there they’re almost impossible to hear. And if you’re stories underground in the cave systems when you’re separated, yelling to one another might be more effective anyhow.

Pack light, since the real estate of your backpack can limit your ability to move through some of the tunnels.

On more than one occasion, we wished we had thrown in a bottle of Arnica 30C.

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6. Establish a meeting place

Never has a space been more brilliantly designed to separate parents from children. Set up a meeting place on the main floor that is easy to get to where you’ll meet up if you get separated. It’s not uncommon for a slide or tunnel to come out in a different room or on a different floor than where you expect, so a meeting place is a must.

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7. Adult-child ratio

This depends on so much, from your kids’ ages to their temperaments to your own constitution. My kids, at 11 and 15 could roll with just one adult here, though having 2 is nicer. The first time we came, when they were 8 and 12 I was so glad to have both Pete and I along.

We met two little boys in the underground tunnels this visit who were having the time of their life. “Are you looking for your adult?” I asked. “No, we’re fine!!!” they squealed – and then they were gone. A few minutes later, after they would out of site I heard a mom calling for her boys. (They were reunited later one floor up, but our whole family was trying to find them in the meantime.)

The upshot is, I don’t recommend one adult bringing a lot of kids here. Even 2 to 1 can be tricky, so bring as many grown ups as you can. At least for how I’m wired, doing it otherwise would just be more stress than I could integrate.

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8. The rooftop is optional

This was the first time we visited when the roof was open. It costs a bit extra, but there is a pretty sweet old-school ferris wheel up there that’s included in the price. Which Pete and I happily rode.

The roof was fun, to be sure, but if you’re already breaking your budget it is by no means necessary.

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9. Take a break

Make time to wander through the more quiet, restful parts of the City Museum. There are sections that are unexpectedly museum-like. Make time to find them, to catch your breath, to check in with your crew.

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10. Find your inner child

I won’t lie. This place is overstimulating. But when you view it through the eyes of your kids (or the eyes of an artist) it’s a wonderland. Sit and rest and just watch some of the time, sure, but make sure you do more than just that.

Crawl through the tunnels and climb the treehouse and ride the ferris wheel, and take a trip down the 10 story slide. And laugh with your kids at the insanity of it all.

Because all overstim aside, this place is absolutely delightful.

Has your family visited the City Museum? What tips would you add to the list?

City Museum: 10 tips to help you plan your visit #citymuseum #stlouis

Road trip!

Screen-Shot-2018-05-22-at-7.50.29-AM.pngLast weekend we loaded up the car and set out on a mini road trip. All four of us!

We intended to take this trip in April, over my birthday, but the weather was uncooperative so we decided to delay by a few weeks in order to snag more sunshine and blue skies along the way.

For our time away, I packed knitting, Pete packed books, Lupine packed art supplies, and Sage packed medieval armor.

What you prioritize when packing says a lot about you, don’t you think?

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Our first stop was Cahokia, a fascinating place that Sage first introduced us to after reading about it in a book years ago. We’ve been here before, but it never ceases to fill us all with wonder.

How I spent my entire life only one state away from this historic site and only found out about it from my kid baffles me still. This ancient First Nations site is comprised of earthen mounds dating back to the 1100s. It’s worth a detour if you find yourself in the area.

Unfortunately, I neglected to bring my camera along, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

Our next stop? A day in the city, working our way toward (and up!) the St. Louis Arch.

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Why St. Louis?

As cities go, the kids are a little obsessed with this one. Our visits have always been hasty overnights on our way further south, and we have all wanted to make a trip just to visit without another destination on our agenda.

What do we love (aside from Cahokia)?

Let’s start with dessert, because: vacation. Our favorite ice cream shop on the planet is here (it’s possible that we visited twice in as many days). And of all the places our family has traveled, our all-time favorite attraction-that-denies-explanation, the City Museum, is here as well. (More on that later this week. Because the City Museum deserves its own post.)

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This day though? It was all about the arch.

After two previous visits to St. Louis through the years, two attempts to go in and up the arch but both times finding it closed for construction or other NPS to-dos, we finally made it to the top.

Which, in case you were wondering, feels exactly like this:

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I’ll share another post from the road later this week, as well as a peek at how we pack food and eat on a budget when traveling!

 

Carpe this diem

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Earlier this week, the kids and I loaded up our little vintage camper and set off on our first foray of the season.

We wandered just a couple of hours from home, to see the magnolia blooms and spend a few days playing at our makerspace. There’s something about stepping away from our own rooms and the rhythm of home and sharing this micro-small space… it’s our jam. We thrive in that tiny, quirky camper together.

Being on the road with the kids once more had me remembering the epic month-long road trips we have taken, setting off cross-country to Maine and North Carolina, just the kids and me for 4 weeks at a go; and our recent month-long family road trip around Ireland.

And in remembering these journeys, I was struck once more by how fast the past years have elapsed. Lupine was three when I loaded them up and headed to the Outerbanks. Sage was only seven. But now? They’re big, and showing no signs of stopping with this growing up. I can see the last grains of sand slipping down that steep incline of the hourglass.

Fleeting, indeed.

This summer Sage begins driver’s ed. Last night he said casually, “The next time we take a cross-country road trip, I can help with the driving.”

Um.

How did this happen?

Because like 20 minutes ago I was overwhelmed, under-slept, and all touched-out.

And then, poof.

All at once we’ve begun the last pages of the chapter that changed everything. As we complete this transition from small into big, parenting feels simultaneously more rewarding, more complex, and more important than ever before.

I have never felt more bereft of the skills required to do a job than I do now, nor more rewarded by my fumbling, awkward efforts.

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Remember that feeling when your midwife finally left, or when you came home from the hospital with your newborn and you looked at your baby and wondered, wild-eyed and possibly aloud:

“What were they thinking? They just left me with this little human, and I have absolutely no idea what the hell I’m doing.”

This new chapter of parenting is kind of like that all over again. Except now the small shoes suddenly belong to you (the kid feet long ago eclipsing your own in size), and your kids outpace you in their quickness of thought, wit, and motion.

And you feel like you should know what you’re doing by now, but like every other stage in parenthood, things shift and change in an instant. And you find yourself learning new skills every step of the way (or that’s how it is for me anyway).

Yet, the basics of parenting remain the same: validate, listen, connect. Be honest and gentle and kind. And for goodness sake, play.

We circle back to this foundation, time and again. Sometimes we forget, but our kids will remind us with their expressions, their words, and their actions.

At the same time that we learn these news skills – this complicated new dance – the rewards of this journey have grown proportionally with the people. These older kids inspire and amaze me constantly with their skills, their wisdom, their spirit, and their wit. They are a delight to talk to, debate with, be around, and hang out with. I adore them – as my kids, yes, but also simply as people. And I can’t wait to see who they become as adults.

My kids. As adults.

Whoa, nellie.

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Which brings me back to Nellie, our camper.

With Sage turning 18 in two short years, the proverbial light is no longer at some distant end of a tunnel. It’s so close it’s burning my retinas. So we decided to carpe the living heck out of this diem.

Did I mention that neither of my kids go to school and Pete and I are self-employed and we already sold the sheep? We can go anywhere. So maybe we just will.

The world is waiting, and childhood is fading. Let’s savor every drop.

We’re planning to take an extended road trip together each year. I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to fund another trip oversees like we did last year (we spent all of our abundant 15-year stockpile of airline miles). But to load up our funky camper with cozy quilts and hiking boots and knitting projects and so much Irish tea, then get out there and make some more memories? That we can swing.

We’re contemplating Yellowstone and Yosemite, the California Coast and a loop around Lake Superior. The desert southwest and the redwoods are calling, too. But the truth is, we don’t have that many years left before adult things like jobs or college or business start-ups get in the way, so we’re narrowing it down to our top 2 or maybe 3 picks. 

Because that’s all the time we have left for this carefree childhood we have created.

You could say I am binging on childhood, an accusation I will happily own.

Because it’s fading before my eyes. And the young adults that will remain when childhood is gone will be every bit as inspiring and delightful as the kids they left behind, but for me – for now – I want to make the most of our copious free time and togetherness. Of this last breath of childhood.

Because despite the stress and frustration and overwhelm and messes that make up so much of parenthood, it’s going too damn fast.

And like the most breathtaking sunrise, I don’t want to look away for an instant.

The day will surely be beautiful, but the fleeting magic of the sun cresting over the hills? That I will pause to savor.

So that I may never forget.

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Home

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After four weeks away we returned home, just in time for October.

As we pulled into the embrace of these hills, though we were still an hour from home, Sage gave a long exhale and softly said, "Home." I found myself driving more and more slowly the further into these hills we traveled, drinking in the beauty and comfort that comes with returning after being gone for so long.

We were home.

And that's how it feels every time. No matter if we've been gone for a day, a week, or a month. A long exhale escapes our lips when we roll back into these hills. Because these hills are home. 

Perhaps it's true that coming home is one of the sweetest parts of travel. The opportunity to return with fresh eyes and abundant gratitude for what you had all along. Our house – thought still unfinished, still cluttered, still plain – was a near paradise, holding all of the familiar comforts we had missed while we were away. And just moments after unloading the car everyone scattered to opposite ends of the farm – to the workshop, the tree house, the orchard, the creek, to check in on what they missed most.

Oh, yes. We're home. 

And it feels so right.

 

Postcard 12: the boat

Before our trip I stumbled upon a comment on an Ireland travel forum that made mention of touring canals in a rented barge (basically a tiny houseboat designed for navigating canals). I dug a little deeper and found a family owned barge rental company with an opening during our stay in Ireland. As it happened, their vacancy aligned with the last four days of our trip. 

We went for it.

Four days, four people, one fabulous little boat. What could be better?

Of course, as I am prone to be, I was anxious when we arrived. (The boat looked SO small! Too small to sleep four, certainly!) I paced about nervously waiting for the owner to arrive and walk us through. I had told him there were four of us, hadn't I? I had.

My stomach kept flipping.

We were early, so I had plenty of time to fret while we waited.

Finally he arrived and my fears melted. There were three beds! Of course. And a full kitchen! And everything we could possibly need for four days on the water. My nerves turned to excitement as he walked us through the how-to's of steering, operating, and maintaining the boat. 

And then we were off! 

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The barge is equipped with a full sized bed and two twin-or-smaller bunks, a full galley kitchen, a bathroom and a cozy little peat stove.

Operating the barge also meant operating the locks that line the canal, something Sage in particular couldn't wait to get to work on. Built in the 1700's the locks have operated the same way since the boats using them were pulled by donkeys or horses from the trail alongside. How amazing is that? 

And for four days and four nights, this was home. Our last hurrah in Ireland, at just the perfect pace.

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The locks set the rhythm of our days, breaking up the steady travel with plentiful problem-solving and teamwork. It suited us that since we had no phone we couldn't call ahead to arrange for for a lock-keeper to assist. (Amazingly, this job has been handed down from generation to generation since the 1700's, and often the lock-keeper who meets you bears the same name as the lock. And the lock-keepers we did meet were a wealth of information and conversation.)

Twice a keeper happened to find us moving through and happily lent a hand, but for the rest of our travels we were on our own.

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To be sure, there were mishaps along the way. (Please don't ask me about the shore-to-boat jump that went awry, leaving Sage and I both icing our legs and applying comfrey and yarrow poultices, nor that unfortunate incident that left us fishing the chimney out of the canal with the barge pole!) But truly I think our time on the boat was easily the most memorable part of the trip.

Four magical days that none of us will likely ever forget.

And with that, we're heading home. Home! To the States, to Wisconsin, to the Driftless, to our favorite hills just beyond our favorite creek.

As we depart, I'll quote one of our favorite B&B hosts with his modified version of a traditional Irish farewell –

"Slán, Agus Beannacht de leath – Goodbye and God bless… any god!"

See you stateside, friends. So soon!

Love,

Rachel

 

P.S. I nearly forgot! Several of you emailed for details on our rental. You can find them here. I can't recommend it enough.