Two Boys in the Kingdom of Wray Castle 1840

Wray Castle
We recently visited a very special castle in England near Beatrix Potter’s Hilltop Farm. It had the MOST wonderful activities and adventures for children. This was where we discovered the 50 Things to do Before You’re 11 3/4. Welcome to the Magical World of Wray Castle.

It all began when we pulled up and saw 3 shovels in a pile of gravel. I thought that was where the adventure began and of course nothing was stopping our boys from grabbing those shovels and digging. I didn’t think we’d even get inside the castle because this was enough fun for them! A few kind men showed up to finish their job and were grateful to find helpers. Our boys shoveled all of the gravel into a wheelbarrow with the guys. It was so sweet and special and they worked hard 🙂

Wray Castle Helper

After they finished their job, we entered the castle. The very first room was filled with huge, foam blocks. You can imagine the joy on their faces when they first entered this room and as they built huge castles and knocked them down. We just enjoyed witnessing their enthusiasm and happiness!

Our next stop was a room upstairs filled with costumes, swords and castle tents! They both dressed up as knights, grabbed their shields and swords, got on their horses and played their little hearts out! Dana and I looked at each other and had one of those moments…Our boys are dressed up like knights and playing castle games…in a CASTLE…in England. It was a special moment, indeed.

knights

It is in these moments and so many others that we realize the magnitude of our journey and the role it is playing during these formative years for our boys. We are a family that is always together, all the time. This is what we choose and how we choose to parent. We know this way of living, with this kind of constant closeness, is not for everyone. We are always striving for balance and many times we achieve it. Many times we don’t. Even with the ups and downs we face, we wouldn’t change a thing.

Our intention for this trip was to gain perspective as individuals, a couple and a family. We wanted to share and experience the world and taste all that unfolded daily. This is exactly what we are doing every, single day. We are so thankful for this opportunity and for each other.

Ok, back to the castle. After playing knights and dragons, we moved over to the craft room. The boys cut out crowns and decorated them with glue sticks, markers and tissue paper. They were so proud to leave the crowns for the king and they hoped he would stop by for tea.

Castle Crafts

We went outside and made mud pies, swung from tires hanging in trees, hiked down to the beautiful lake and built rock forts. It was a perfect day. Yes, I’m using the word perfect.

I’ll never forget our 5 year old walking down the stairs at the end of our visit and throwing his arms up in the air.  He enthusiastically exclaimed, “Now that was a Fun Day!” What more can I ask for?

Great Day

Thank you Wray Castle for being so child-friendly and for giving our family such special memories.

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50 Things To Do Before You’re 11 3/4

Thank you to the National Trust Organization of the United Kingdom for putting together such a wonderful list of adventures for children. They can earn badges and rewards along the insightful journey of discovering nature. Sign up on their website and let the fun begin! http://www.50things.org.uk

Our visit to Wray Castle in England checked off 15 of the activities in a day! We may be completing this list shortly since our boys are such outdoorsmen! I thought of something today. I got through 5 and 1/2 years without a stroller. I wore by boys in carriers until they no longer wanted to be toted and since then, have let them run free. I’m not saying this has been an easy task. When they get tired, my husband and I carry them and always have. I’m often surprised by the strength we are given when it comes to our kids. Our fortitude and stamina far exceed what we believe we are capable of.

I see you with your headphones on and savoring a latte, while happily pushing your stroller. You seem organized, relaxed and comfortable. I will never know that comfort and I suppose I chose the hard way. Now that our boys are almost 40 pounds each, I must say, it isn’t easy when that time comes to pick them up and carry them up hill, in the rain. Yes, those are the stories our parents and grandparents told us…Uphill and in the rain. Now I know they were telling the truth 🙂 I sure do miss wearing my boys and I love seeing how active and athletic they are. They definitely take advantage of any land in front of them and seize each moment.

Enjoy exploring this world with your children and don’t be afraid to get dirty! Mud pies may not be tasty, but the joy we witness on their faces as they make them, is worth every bit of mess! Being outside, scouting and discovering nature and this planet, truly is the best education I’ve witnessed. The questions and learning that take place, during and after a day in the wild, are what education and knowledge are all about.

Our children are curious. They want to learn. They want to know Every. Single. Thing.

Rain or Shine…We’ll see you outside!

Happy Travels and Exploring!

50 Things


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Pure Beauty

The Lake District of England

The Lake District of England

This has got to be the most beautiful tree I have ever had the pleasure of seeing and spending time under and around. It is next to the lake with sheep grazing nearby and benches along the grassy hill which our boys run down every day. I’ve photographed this tree at least fifty times because I just can’t get enough of it’s splendor. Sending Love from the majestic and absolutely magical, Lake District of England.

The World of Beatrix Potter

View From Beatrix Potter's Hilltop Farm

View From Beatrix Potter’s Hilltop Farm

Oh, if only I could bottle up everything I see and share it with you. I am so in love with this journey we are not only taking through life, which encompasses everything, but also the journey which includes the daily detours and discoveries we make traveling around this vast and delicious world.

I absolutely loved Ireland and Scotland. The landscapes were as majestic as I imagined they would be. I loved the warmth of the people, the overall energy and of course, all of the animals we had the good fortune of meeting and passing by.

Many people told us that England would be redundant. Although my husband and I  vacationed in London a few times, we never visited the countryside of this glorious place. The stone walls that line the narrow, tree lined roads are straight out of Fairy Tales. The depth of the views from each direction take my breath away. The mountains, the streams, the trees, the animals and the flowers blooming beneath the blue sky. It may not be blue often but when it is, there is nothing like it.

We recently visited the World of Beatrix Potter. Our boys are big fans of Peter Rabbit and I’ve always been intrigued by her story.  We visited her home which is a hilltop farm in the Lake District of England. It is everything and more that she captured in her imaginative and colorful tales. This was her very favorite place and I must say, I truly understand.

Front Entrance Garden

Front Entrance Garden

Mr. Mc Gregor was sitting on a bench protecting his garden. The sheep and lambs were strolling through the yard.  The winding roads and landscapes she illustrated in all of her books were right there…in front of us. We were taken back to the time she lived there in the late 1800‘s and early 1900’s. We touched and saw so many of the details from her books, including The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck, The Tale of Tom Kitten, The Tale of Mrs. Tittlemouse and so many more. These stories are all representative of Hill Top Farm and of her farming life and they certainly reflect the happiness and freedom she felt living in the countryside.

Mr. Mc Gregor

Mr. Mc Gregor

I could easily write a book right now just sharing facts about this woman and her life.  She was fascinating. I will simply add her wikipedia link here and I encourage you to read about her when you have time. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beatrix_Potter ) She was also very involved in breeding, farming and conservation and preservation efforts of land.

Witnessing our boys on this journey today was so powerful. They were so intrigued as they walked through Beatrix Potter’s home and gardens. They carried a few of her books around and saw the tables, dressers, beds, rat holes, and everything pictured on the pages. They especially loved the bed warming pans. These pans were used back then to warm the bed until bed time. Ashes of loved ones passed were heated over the fire in this metal pan with a handle to keep their beds warm and cozy.

Beatrix Potter's Lake District Home

Beatrix Potter’s Lake District Home

We walked trails, visited her home, farmland and galleries. She donated and left nearly all of her property to the National Trust,including over 4,000 acres of land, sixteen farms, cottages and herds of cattle and Herdwick Sheep.  Hers was the largest gift at that time to the National Trust and it enabled the preservation of the lands now included in the Lake District National Park and the continuation of fell farming. (Wikipedia)

The Lake District of England is an enchanting and wondrous place. Each night when we would arrive back to our house after enjoying the outdoors, it truly felt like home. I look forward to sharing more with you and I thank you for joining us on this adventure through life.


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It’s A New Day

boys and me

In recent times, it has been an arduous and turbulent period for me and my health. I want to update you and share my news.

As many of you know, I have Lupus. It has been something I’ve been able to manage for years. This hasn’t been an easy or uneventful illness to tame however, I had it under control for the most part…until recently.

Since we’ve been on our journey, I’ve had a few bouts with flu bugs, lupus flare ups and of late, a few things that really had me concerned and actually frightened…which I rarely allow myself to feel.

I met a divine doctor named Dr. Pat Malone of Sneem County in Ireland. We stayed at a very special place named Parknasilla Resort and he serves as their house physician. He called a few times to check on me while we were there and I saw him at his office in town. He took me under his wing like a caring angel and made arrangements in Edinburgh for me to get all of the further testing and consultations I needed. I am so grateful for this man.

My ailments kept getting worse and I couldn’t wait to get to Edinburgh to get answers. Mostly, I couldn’t wait to feel better. My attitude has always been and will remain to be, positive. I want nothing more than to be healthy and strong so I can play and run around all day with my boys. I don’t like when things slow me down and I don’t like the toll this has taken on me or my family.

We spent over a week in Edinburgh and Dr. Malone referred us to the most fantastic hospital and doctors. Spire Murrayfield hospital was so special and if I had to go through all of this, this was the place to do it. My boys will miss the delicious custard cream cookies and we’ll miss the warm hospitality. The nurses were all so kind and helpful. I particularly felt fondness for Jan Lancaster and Cindy MacDonald. I hope we stay in touch, ladies. You are both very special women.

The two doctors I had the good fortune of meeting and getting care from were Dr. Utheshtra Chetty, who I just found out was given an honour by the Queen a couple of years ago for his services to Breast Cancer. He is officially, Mr. Chetty OBE (Order of the British Empire), and Dr. Michael Lambert of Edinburgh Rheumatology Practice. They are both very kind men and wonderful doctors. I also want to mention Edinburgh Clinic where I had my CT Scan taken. They offered us tea and cookies after my scan and set us up like we were in their home. It was lovely.

Ok, I just had to share about all of that but most importantly, I want to share this.

My biopsies and scans came back as benign. Thank God. My lupus flared many times recently but now, my numbers are normal!

Some things are still going to need a little time to heal but for the most part, I am feeling so much better and have a clear head. I am so grateful for my family and the fact that they stood by my side at each visit and during these challenging times. I am beyond thankful for this positive news.

I am turning over a new leaf and ready to continue this glorious trip and experience of a lifetime. The weather has just begun to change and the leaves are sprouting and the flowers are blooming. The sunshine feels wonderful. When you live without it for months, a sunny day is the most precious gift.

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your love and support during this time. Your prayers and thoughts give me comfort and obviously are powerful. Thank you.

I have so much to share daily and I plan on sharing more about our trip in the months to come. Let’s put this medical stuff behind us and continue to support each other. I can’t think of anything more important than Thinking and Living Healthy. It is the foundation for our mental health and strength daily.

I want to acknowledge Angelina Jolie on her brave decision and all she has endured since testing positive for the mutated BRCA1 gene. I actually had to take that test about a year ago because of my family history. I would have done the same thing she did had I tested positive. Thankfully I didn’t. We all need to make sure we do regular checkups on our own as well as regular mammograms or ultrasounds on our breasts. After this scare, I am again, grateful. I’m sending love to those of you who have suffered or are suffering with breast cancer.

Lastly, I want to acknowledge that May is Lupus Awareness Month. Lupus is a chronic, autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body (skin, joints, and/or organs inside the body). Chronic means that the signs and symptoms tend to last longer than six weeks and often for many years. In lupus, something goes wrong with your immune system, which is the part of the body that fights off viruses, bacteria, and germs (“foreign invaders,” like the flu). Normally our immune system produces proteins called antibodies that protect the body from these invaders. Autoimmune means your immune system cannot tell the difference between these foreign invaders and your body’s healthy tissues (“auto” means “self”) and creates autoantibodies that attack and destroy healthy tissue. These autoantibodies cause inflammation, pain, and damage in various parts of the body. (Taken from Lupus Foundation of America)

Every day, more than 5 million people worldwide struggle with the often debilitating health consequences of lupus, a potentially fatal autoimmune disease capable of damaging virtually any part of the body, including the skin, heart, lungs, kidneys, and brain.

My love and support goes out to all of you and your families suffering from this challenging disease. May you find strength and continue being the Warriors you are. This will only make us stronger.

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Rainy Days and Sundays

Happy P
We have been in cold, rainy and windy weather for months now! You’d think it would get these boys down but, NO. They can’t wait to get outside and run through it. We are bundled in several layers daily and we get warm by running fast and jumping over puddles. We look forward to sunny days but until then, rainy days and sundays will continue bringing us joy.

Favorite words used by the Scottish…Cheers, Mate, Whilst

The Circle of Life

On the Farm
We live. As we live, we evolve. As we evolve, we hopefully realize and tap into the reasons for our existence. There are two schools of thought that I am aware of. We either believe there is a certain path already set for us or we believe that we pave our own roads and create our own destinies.

I take a bit from both beliefs. In this life there are so many issues and causes I wish I could align with and make a difference for. A Cure for Cancer, the War on Terrorism, Child Abuse, Poverty, Mental Illness, Drug Abuse, Education…to name a few. For now, I am wanting to share about one that has always been close to my heart.

For the past couple of months, we’ve spent a lot of time passing by and visiting livestock pastures and farms.  I’ve been overwhelmed with sadness and a longing to save these animals from being commodities and used for commercial purposes.

I stare out the window and I feel compelled to pull over and just be with them, as we often do. We all talk to the animals and always tell them we love them as we pull away. I often cry thinking about their lives. They walk around eating grass and hay, they lie down and take in the sunshine, they nurse their little ones. I see little lambs playing around and chasing each other happily. I witness cows and their calves cuddling together on a hillside. It all sounds and maybe even is, lovely.

The sheep herds are tagged with big numbers and dyed with vibrant hues across their backs to separate and differentiate. The cows are adorned with yellow ear tags as they innocently graze through their days. I understand these are for identification and other useful purposes, but I can’t help but wonder if they are aware of their fate. Do they watch their friends, family members and babies get carted off to the trucks never to return? Do they realize they are numbered and their destiny is pre-determined by humans? Do they suffer when they are humanely, conscientiously or atrociously brought to their termination?

MomandBaby

I wish I didn’t think about this as often as I do because it hurts. As we drive through the beautiful countrysides and pass the Livestock Haulage trucks, I am sadly reminded.

I have been a vegetarian/vegan for most of my life. I originally stopped eating meat based on this same premise. My love and compassion for animals. We are raising our boys as vegetarians and people have asked why I don’t give them the choice. Beginning a person’s life knowing only this way establishes a foundation that is important no matter what they may choose when they are older. They love vegetables, fruit, beans, lentils and all things vegetarian. They would choose broccoli over candy. Yes, it’s true.

I am proud to be raising compassionate and loving boys. My 5 year old asked me the other day why people eat meat? I told him that people enjoy it and it’s what they’ve always known. I explained that we are simply choosing a different path. He asked if we could make a sign and post it on a billboard to read:

Please Don’t Eat Meat. We Love Animals. 

My 3 year old often asks if we can visit a farm or have one some day with pigs, cows, sheep and goats. He says he wants to milk a cow and get the milk out but doesn’t want anyone to drink it. He says he just wants her to feel better because she may be uncomfortable with all of that milk.

These statements and wishes melt my heart.

I’ve been told since I’m a little girl, “It’s the natural Circle of Life.”

That has never been a comforting or justifiable reason for me…

I know there are many debatable arguments you could present to me on this topic. The fact that there wouldn’t be enough farmland to grow fruits and vegetables if our population was all vegetarian. You might argue that meat, poultry and fish are healthy and necessary sources of protein, iron and omega 3’s. You could be a farmer providing jobs and food for your family. I know there are numerous reasons and facts you could quote. I’ve even witnessed vegetarians eating meat again based on these facts.

I am not here to debate you or tell you how or what you should eat. I am not judging you for not living the way I do. I simply feel the need to express my thoughts on this matter as it has always been a sensitive and important issue for me.

That said, I will kindly ask you to consider this…For you, an animal is simply a meal. For that animal, it is life itself.

Beautiful Cows

“If slaughterhouses had glass walls, the whole world would be vegetarian.” ~ Linda McCartney

With Love and Compassion,

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Guess Who Is Back?

hulkNothing can keep this little guy down for long.  A flu bug or virus ran through our family this past week.  Aston was hit the worst. 🙁 He was down for several days.  I can’t say enough how important our health is.  When I see him ill, I just can’t wait for his strong and energetic spirit to return.  Well, he’s coming back and he wants you to guess which superhero he is. We haven’t had internet for awhile and as dependent as we have become to it, we are letting go and taking it as a sign to be even more present to each other and our surroundings.

 Sending Love and Hugs to all of you.

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