Of Risk and Reward: A Year of Life on the Ranch

Last summer, we packed up our three-bedroom suburban life and trucked it out 40 minutes to a sprawling five-bedroom ranch. The latest risk in a string of many we have taken over our thirteen married years.

I’m not sure when the dream began, but my husband and I have often talked of our country-living vision. The simplicity and beauty of country life beckoned to us from the suburbs, although neither of had ever lived it.

Every time I read books like Charlotte’s Webor Mr. Brown’s Farmto my kids, I would imagine ponds and ducks and children running in fields of green and yellow.

Living in the country this past year has definitely held its excitement; barns to explore, woods to walk, and views to see. But I’m not gonna lie here and say it has been all Fern and Wilbur. It’s been an adjustment. Because you can take the girl out of the suburbs, but you can’t take the suburbs out of the girl.

Target and Starbucks are my people. I just can’t help that. Most may not be proud to be from the cookie-cutter community that exists 30 miles outside the city limits, but I am not one of them. The country is wild and quiet. So unlike the noisy pre-planned community I am used to.

The first few months on our dream property were like a honeymoon. We woke up to golden hills topped with a bright orange sun, and were in awe that this was all “ours.” Eyes wide open we would go exploring and adventuring, learning the land and feeling free.

Then we began the first of many renovations. And like my husband is always apt to do, we went big instead of going home. We (I mean he, with a rope and a truck and a couple of saws) tore down our old unstable front porch. We filled three full size dumpsters with demo from the porch and treasures from the barn like old T.V.s, canned food, and carpet.

We replaced 16 windows, created a man cave in the barn, rebuilt our front porch, replaced siding, installed a new front door and built a beautiful brick staircase leading up to it.

Our first family picture on the ranch! Pj’s, bare feet, bellies showing, biker shorts (on me) and all. I actually love it. 🙂
We were so anxious to start hosting events, we signed up perhaps a little too early. Getting ready for a staff Christmas party in early December, there was a day we felt like we were on Extreme Makeover, Home Edition. We had plastic hanging in our hallway for guys patching drywall, someone painting the trim around our front door, guys taking down doors and painting in the man cave, laying brick, drilling on siding, and an interior designer trying to hang pictures in the hallway so our house wouldn’t look so bare. I felt like a bride getting ready for her wedding. I was pulled in a million different directions and asked a thousand questions which needed answers on the spot. And then there were kids. Five of them. I’m so thankful my parents were there through this season making sure nobody stepped on a nail or super-glued their head to the carpet.

We made it through those few crazy weeks and January left us tired and happy for the quiet and peace we finally felt in our new home. But then it got a little too quiet. And then with baseball in the spring, too busy. And it seemed as if we had in fact moved, which of course we did. We knew we were moving to the hills, far from our friends, but we hadn’t felt it until now. We are people people and we never want to lose the connection to our beloved suburban community. But the 40-minute drive was feeling farther than it had before.

Nine months later, spring left us wondering if country living was all it was cracked up to be.

It was a hard place to sit. When you risk it all, you have to be willing for the potential reality that things won’t turn out like you were hoping. That you will in fact, have chanced it all and lost. When we moved, we knew it was a big risk. We knew we didn’t know what it would be like to live in the country having been suburb kids our whole lives.

But we felt (and still do) that sometimes it’s better to try than to wonder, and so we took the chance and bought the farm.

And as I sort through feelings of missing crowds but enjoying space, I’m reminded that any change we face in life is like this: full of pros and full of cons, of risk and reward.
Now we were wrestling with that decision. Was it all we imagined it would be?  Did we want to move back to the land filled with bagels and flowing with lattes? (I love bagels and lattes).

Although we aren’t shutting out the chance that we may someday risk again and move back to the burbs, for now we are staying. Even in the worst of summer’s offerings (heat and dust aplenty) we’ve renewed our determination to stay. We’ve remembered the reasons we moved out here. Fallen in love with a mucky pond, four-wheeler rides and some barn dancing–just us.

There are a lot of hard things about suburban kids going country. But there are also a lot of perks. There’s painted sunrises and sunsets that we can actually see, horses to pet, trails to run and bikes to ride over gravel hills. There’s porch swinging and sipping and some pretty sweet campfires (in the rainy season of course). There’s dreams yet to be dreamed and room to explore.

And as I sort through feelings of missing crowds but enjoying space, I’m reminded that any change we face in life is like this: full of pros and full of cons, of risk and reward. Risking, venturing, change–all these are unsettling things bringing unsettled feelings.

To any decision in life we make, there are perks and there are drawbacks. Advantages and disadvantages, pros and cons. We can never be free from both.

And something I’m learning more recently is that there is risk in taking risk, but there is also risk in not taking it. It’s risky to get married, to have children, to move to a new city or take a new job. But there is also risk in NOT doing these things. In order to save ourselves heartache or loss by staying close and keeping safe, there’s a world out there of things we miss. Things we never knew we would love or people we never meet.

High risk, high reward, my husband likes to say. The risk is that there may not be a reward. But how will we know unless we try? And if we try and fail? Well then, we have learned to be brave. We have learned to live unencumbered by fear of failure, and that in itself is success.

Because like hockey great Wayne Gretzky said, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

Me and the ranch man.
So we took a shot and we’re giving it one. We are committed to continuing this country thing, and letting the rewards of peace and quiet seep into our souls. We are taking the good, the bad, and the ugly (a.k.a the tarantula we saw on our front porch) and being extremely grateful for the opportunity we have before us. The opportunity to raise our kids in the great outdoors. The opportunity to live big and love big. To host parties and people and use it for His glory. The opportunity to live beyond our limits of comfort and find new strengths in new seasons.

Waiting on the Wind

You guys!! By God’s great grace, something I wrote was posted with (in)courage today! I am so grateful for this opportunity to share what God has shared with me. You can click on the link below to read more.

Thank you friends for all your encouragement to me along the way.

God bless!


Waiting on the Wind

I’d Rather Be Real

About Brooke Frick


I sent this picture out as our Christmas card last year. My husband thought I was crazy. He still thinks I am. We’ve certainly taken better family pictures, so why I chose this one he didn’t understand.

But this is my family. This is our house. And this is one of my all-time favorite pictures of us. Why? Because it’s real life. It’s crying and pouting kids and a big ‘ol messy house. Yes, if a picture is worth a thousand words, this one describes us.

I’m ever grateful our house doesn’t look like this anymore, but it still isn’t perfect and neither are we. And what this picture reminds me, and hopefully others, is that even when things look a little better on the outside, life still isn’t perfect and it never will be. And I’m beginning to think God’s more concerned with the process of redemption, than the result of perfection.

There are a lot of “Instagram stars” out there these days. People with lots of followers who post pretty pictures with perfecting filters, and whether they mean to or not, they make life appear better than it really is. To be fair, it’s hard to be real, it’s hard to see real on social media.

It’s easy to get caught up in the rat race of social media. It’s easy to want people to see us as pretty, happy, stylish, women. Women who discipline their kids perfectly, decorate like Joanna Gaines, and age like Jennifer Anniston. Women who have it all together.

I know people can look through my Instagram account and see a different story than the one I know, even if I didn’t intend them too. And that is why I love this picture. It’s my chance to be real and vulnerable with you. To open the door to my house, (or front yard) and show you the reality of my messy wonderful life.

Because in the end, I’d rather you walk away from time with me feeling relieved and encouraged, than impressed. I want you to know you aren’t the only one with piles of papers on your desk, or piles of rotten wood in your front dirt. You aren’t the only one whose children pee in the grass and run through the aisles at Target.

Instead of leaving you fascinated, I’d rather leave you encouraged. I’d rather be real.

So I’d rather not impress you with our house, our children, or my sense of style. Instead, I want you impressed with the fact that we are all in this together. Impressed with our collective desperate need for a God who gives us infinitely more grace than we give ourselves (and each other).

I’d rather a friend or a stranger leave my presence– in person or online–grateful for her own gloriously hard mom life than envious of mine. So I’ll post this picture all day long, if it encourages us all to live life a little less filtered, a little more vulnerable, a little more real.




I’m Gonna Miss This

Last week, I took the pictures off my walls and I cried. The red-eyed ugly cry.

I took the curtains down that my neighbor, Judy, hemmed for me and I cried some more. I sat on the bench behind home plate and watched one of the last neighborhood baseball games in our backyard and I sobbed. I tried to hide it from the kids, but as I went around snapping pictures with my phone I couldn’t keep the tears from rolling down my cheeks.

We are moving in two days, and these are the things that get me.

Moving is such a strange phenomenon. Your home is your home. It’s where you come back to at the end of every day. Until one day you don’t, because all of the sudden it isn’t yours anymore. The door slams behind you, and you hand somebody else the keys to open it.

This house has been home to us for the past three years. It may sound silly to be so attached in such a short amount of time, but I don’t think it’s the home I am missing. It’s the memories that have been made here. And they’re some good ones, folks.

When we bought this house, we had no idea what the neighbors were like. In fact, it never even crossed our minds to be concerned about it. We knew it was a nice neighborhood, and as people are generally good, what did it matter to us who those neighbors were?

Well, they happened to be some of the best people in the world. It’s like God knew, (which of course He did), that we would need these wonderful people in our lives when just ten months later we found out we were adding twins to our three boys.

I feel, in many ways, that God had us here for “such a time as this.” It was short and it was sweet, and it was exactly what we needed in this stage of our lives.

Our yard was just the right size, and always full of kids (mostly ours). Our basically-three-bedroom home worked fairly well for our five little kids. Our children enjoyed hours of entertainment sitting on the fence between our house and our neighbor’s, trading Pokemon cards, throwing a baseball, selling rocks, or playing with stuffed animals.

There have been meals given and meals shared, carpool rides and all-day play dates, swimming and baseball, sewing lessons, babysitting, borrowing toys, and a lot of “popping in.” It’s been so good it almost feels like an act of betrayal to be leaving them so soon.

But all good things come to an end. Nothing stays the same forever, I know. And I guess, if it wasn’t us it would be them. In a year… or two… or maybe three. It’s the way of things.

Tomorrow night will be the last night in our home. I just cried writing that.

The next day, we will scrub the toilets one last time, and put the keys in an envelope. It won’t be in our possession anymore, but it will always be in our memories.

I’m thankful for that.

The Sanctity of Summer

I call it “distracted mothering” and I’m really good at it. Too good.

It might be a text, or an e-mail, another child, or a floor that needs sweeping. It might be laundry or lunches or washing my hands. It could be a conversation I’m trying to have with a friend or a table covered in syrup. The circumstances change but the outcome is the same. I am distracted from mothering. I suppose in some ways, these things are a part of being a mother. But in most ways, they are drawing me away from the very thing that makes me a mom: my kids.

It’s summer now and all the kids are home. Messes are a plenty and spirits are high. The very sort of thing that causes me to go into “crazy mom mode,” the mode where I yell and nitpick and become Captain Party Pooper.

I’m too smart to think this is an acceptable way to spend summer vacation. Nobody (including me) has any fun when all I do is nag about wet feet, spilled Cheez-Its, and basic hygiene. This, I know, is part of the whole parenting deal. I get that. But the wiser side of me knows that these days are far too few and will be gone too soon, as everyone is so quick to tell me.

So I am going to have to rewire my brain this summer. Rewire it for craziness. Rewire it for crunchy Cheez-It crumbs ground into the living room rug. All. Day. Long. Rewire it for science experiments, homemade play dough, and cheerfully schlepping all five kids (and their soggy beach towels) to the pool in a van that’s a thousand degrees.

I will try to listen with my eyes, when my kids are telling me about the latest Magic Tree House book they are reading, the rock that they found, or the bird on the fence.

These moments seem so ordinary, so dime-a-dozen, that it doesn’t come naturally to me to pause and remember. But the wiser side of me knows I need to store up these memories for the grey days when I’m older than I want to be and my house is way too quiet.

They are my children–and they won’t be children forever. And they call me mom, not the janitor or the chef. The mess certainly doesn’t bother them, and they could live pretty well on pretzels, so I’m not going to worry so much about what they will eat, or what they will wear. Because isn’t life more than food or clothes?

I know Jesus was talking about much more than that when He said those famous words in Matthew chapter 6. He wasn’t speaking to mothers about their children. But He was speaking to worriers; to those who labor and spin and miss the point of it all. I can absolutely relate to that. Days are replete with so many tasks, so many necessities, that it’s hard to see the lawn for the toys.

So I am going to set down my phone, hang up the dishtowel and hide the broom (for an hour at least). I am going to smile, and cheer, and watch them play baseball in the backyard. Because before I know it, summer will be over and my house won’t be quite so messy or quite so full. And I’d choose full over empty any day.

For the Love of Baby Teeth

Let me start this by saying that my husband is a wonderful man. A man who knows me and loves me well. He washes dishes, does the Costco run, plays football with the boys in the backyard, changes dirty diapers, reads bedtime stories, makes pancakes the size of my two year old’s head, and other really fun and helpful things. He tries really really hard to get things right…most of the time. He cares about my sanity, perhaps more than I do. (Which is probably because my lack of sanity affects him more than it does me.)

When the twins were born, in all his amazingness (and what am I saying–out of necessity), he took complete responsibility for morning and nighttime parental duties for the three older boys. He rocked it.

He had those boys dressed, fed, lunches packed, and out the door to school by 7:40 every morning. He even picked up two neighbor kids along the way. He did this all before I had even gotten out of bed. Did they have fruit snacks for breakfast? Sure! Did they go to school in mismatching clothes? Of course! But they were never once late to school, and their little lunches full of every sort of imaginable prepackaged food brought delight to their innocent hearts when they sat down to eat.

At night, he got that bedtime routine from 20 minutes down to about 5. He had those kids in bed before they could say, “bedtime story?” He was the master. He pretty much singlehandedly silenced the whining and endless cups of water. I’m not sure how he did it. To this day, I am almost scared to mess with his routine. It goes so well. There is so little complaining, so few requests. If I enter the room all of the sudden I am playing the  bartender fetching three cups of water, at, of course, three different times, whispering prayers, and listening to very important things that they forgot to tell me until just now. Fifteen minutes later I am dragging myself from their room like a hostage escaping the wreckage.

In short, he’s amazing. But there’s one thing the master doesn’t do. One thing that gets to me. One thing he won’t do, despite my continual urging. He will not brush or “check” their teeth.

“I don’t do teeth,” He’s told me several times.

This completely and utterly baffles me. Why? What is so hard about brushing children’s teeth? He will wipe stinky, slippery poop off of a kid’s bottom, but he will not stick a little toothbrush in their mouth and wiggle it around for a few minutes?

I don’t understand. But here’s what I do know.

You cannot pump a two year old full of fruit snacks all day, and give him a toothbrush with a glob of blue fluoride toothpaste on it at the end of the night and call it good. There’s no way those teeth are getting clean. I know. I know because I know two year olds. That toothpaste gets swallowed faster than the time it takes to squeeze it on there. It never even comes in contact with the teeth. It just doesn’t.

And just because a child is say,  6, or maybe 7, doesn’t make him much better. Sure, he may not directly swallow the toothpaste, but he will give his teeth a cursory sweep and then let the toothbrush hang from his mouth like a cigarette while he reads a book forgetting all about the Captain America toothbrush dangling from his lip.

But the man won’t do it. He draws the line at teeth brushing.

The annoyance soon gave way to worry, and I began to see scary visions of our next dental visit in which a very condescending and judgmental dental hygienist (we’ve met before) would give me such looks and say such words that would leave me to feel like the absolute worst mother on the planet because my  three boys had a combined total of one hundred and thirty-five cavities.

So I did what any wonderful wife would do: I told my husband he had to take them.

The day of reckoning was going to come and I wasn’t going to be the one getting the stink eye from the dental hygienist because my two year old has seven cavities. I wasn’t going to subject myself to such derision, especially when it would be so wholly undeserved. The “master of everything other than brushing teeth” was going to have to face Ms. Judgy as she explained the importance of diligent flossing.

There was a teensy part of me that thought an upcoming dental appointment might in some way instill a little healthy fear in him, and he may actually start caring about our children’s hygiene. I wasn’t so lucky. I totally underestimated the fact that my husband is a boss and unhappy middle-aged women who want to make you feel like a failure don’t bother him. The stink eye? Bring it. He’s not phased. (And that’s what I love about him.)

He had no qualms then about bringing the boys to the dentist. He put it on his calendar. It was settled. They don’t tell you when you’re newlyweds that 10.5 years into marriage the definition of true love is going to be taking three children to the dentist. But it is. Be still my heart.

Well, wouldn’t you know, sickness and other variables caused us to miss said dentist appointments and it defaulted to me to bring the boys to the dentist, lest another 6 months pass and allow for an additional hundred cavities to develop in their young mouths.

When the day of dread finally arrived, I dressed my best (you know, jeans and a nice cotton shirt) and held my head high. I was ready to defend the fiery arrows those piercing eyes would shoot my way because I hadn’t flossed my toddler’s teeth every morning and night. (Should I mention I have twins? Five kids? Blame my husband?) I didn’t. Like a lamb before the slaughter, I was silent. My big girl underwear were working that day.

And an amazing thing happened. Well, a couple actually. Number one: Ms. Grumpypants wasn’t there. The second is possibly the biggest miracle of them all. We walked away with absolutely no cavities! I smiled a genteel smile when they shared the news. I knew it all along. I mean, we haven’t been that remiss.

So let’s hope it stays that way. But, if it doesn’t, we all know who’s to blame.


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