My first stop was at The Anderson Crew's house in Dallas, TX. She and I connected briefly at Hope Spoken but hadn't gotten to know each other all that well. But she was so gracious in opening up her home to us on our way further South into Texas. Emily's home was even more beautiful in person than in photos. I was constantly staring at her walls. It was wonderful getting to know her better in person since I've been following her family's journey for about four years. And the funny thing was, her kids were all exactly how I imagined they'd be. Just goes to show what a great writer she is. I fell in love with each and every one, but particularly those sweet girls. Gah. I loved loving on those girls for the half day we were together. There were lots of Olive snuggles ("I wanna hold you!", she'd say over and over) and lots of hair braiding all around.
Bennett climbs on ALL.THE.THINGS. and had Caedmon following suit by the end of the afternoon.
My Dawson doesn't have the posing stamina that those Anderson kids have:
This is one awesome family. Emily has that house running like a well-oiled machine. I took a few notes while I was there. Can't wait until I can hang out with my twin-sized friend and her crew again. I fell in love with those kiddos.
We left around 2:30 and headed to my dear friend, Chrystal's in Austin, four hours away. We got there around dinnertime and she had the guacamole and margaritas ready for me. The next morning started out with an unforgettable breakfast of waffles and all the fixins. They were truly the best waffles I'd ever had and gluten free, no less. (And yes, those are strawberries on the mason jar glasses! She claimed it wasn't fancy but I ignored her.)
We went to a nature center for the day (I totally forget what it was called but can find out if anyone wants the info) and it was such an incredible day. It was one of those hot summer days that you just want to last for days. These trees were straight out of my dreams. We spent a long time swinging and climbing in the shade. Bennett fell in the only patch of mud for miles because that's what he does. It was so relaxing and rejuvenating.
This whole place was just stunning. All these flowers and open spaces and sunshine....the best.
I'm so glad Chrystal snapped this photo at the end of the second evening we had together. I was reading to Bennett and her big boys just climbed right in there and curled up next to us, crunching carrots in my ear. It was one of my favorite moments of the two days. I guess I don't have all that much experience with older elementary aged boys but I would imagine not all of them are this much fun to be around. I knew I'd have fun with all of my friends on this trip but I did not anticipate having so much fun with all the kids! They were incredible boys. Polite, funny and totally social. Chrystal has such a gift for hospitality and I just love her to death. Her love for others is incredible. It comes so effortlessly for her. I don't even think she knows how well she loves. I soaked up her gentle spirit and listened to the way she spoke life into her boys. I've stolen a couple of her parenting lines already ;)
We left after breakfast on Monday and drove an hour and a half East to my dear friend, Lynsey's. She and her husband own Yonder Way Farm. This isn't a great picture but its the only one we took together so we'll go with it.
When the rain finally let up, we all grabbed a pair of boots and headed out into the mud. We got to watch Lynsey and Jason catch several escaped pigs. That was no easy task. It was like trying to catch 400lb stubborn two year olds. It took them a couple of hours to get them all back in. And Lynsey was still laughing when it was all over.
Their third daughter, Ruthie, staked her claim on Bennett and they tromped all over the farm hand in hand. It was the cutest thing in the whole world. (Ahem, arranged marriage.)
Dawson figured out if he lifted his boot all the piglets would come over for a sniff.
Exie didn't let go of that tiny umbrella all day long. Some serious dedication right there. And she was quite distressed when she slipped and got mud on her dress. These are the sweetest little ladies who just happen to be tough farm chicks too.
The most amazing flower I've ever seen, growing on a vine right through the pig pasture:
Finally the sun came out before dinnertime and it was glorious.
I have an unhealthy obsession with this next picture. I hope it's in their wedding slideshow.
I wish we'd had at least three more days there. But these short visits were also great because I knew we weren't a burden on anybody. And they left us all wanting more, which is a good thing. These four chicks and their mama left such a huge impact on my heart. I loved each one of them. Kalyn's grace, Lainey Rae's strength, Ruthie's connection to others and Exie Jo's joy. You better believe I'm gonna keep getting my boys together with her girls over the years. Lynsey and Jason are absolutely incredible parents and it was such a blessing to be in their home. I was just filled up to the brim after a day with them.
From Lynsey's house, we drove eight hours north to Ashley's in Oklahoma. We stopped for a potty break at 9:30 and then I had to fill a tire around 10 (but the boys didn't get out) and we didn't stop again until 4:30!!! I just kept on driving expecting to hear a plead for the potty but it never came! It was awesome. They just helped themselves to snacks all day long. I was so proud of my road warriors. (And this time I was prepared with cash for the Oklahoma tolls. On the way down I didn't have any and the lady very unhappily let me through without paying! Yikes.)
We got to Ashley and Chris's for dinner. The boys disappeared up into Lego land and we didn't see them for a couple hours. I had such a great evening getting to know Ashley better, along with her sister Lesley who came over. I had connected very briefly with Ashley at Hope Spoken but spent a decent amount of time talking to Lesley. They are such incredibly talented women, with such a huge heart for the Lord. Our time was brief but rich. And boy, does she do hospitality well. She had so many sweet touches to make me feel welcome. Its a perfect halfway spot down to the farm so I'm sure we'll pass through again.
Ashley had to leave very early in the morning to be with a friend in the hospital but the kiddos played Legos together again out in her studio. I was pinching myself, waking up in that dreamy space. Ashley has always seemed a bit larger than life through her blog, but I can assure you, she was perfectly human and her kids' rooms were perfectly messy ;)
It was such an incredible experience staying in these four different homes and getting to know my friends on such a deeper level as they interacted with their families. And one big thing I took away from the week was, despite the fact that all four of them are seriously talented women with huge hearts for people and for the Kingdom, none of them were perfect. Not one of them was a superwoman who did everything. Each of them had their areas of focus and let other things slide. We tend to champion a couple of key areas in our household but tend to feel guilty about the things we're not good at. At least I know I do. It just gave me a little more permission to keep fighting for my areas of passion and to not get so hung up about everything else. Another thing I came away with? Man, I love roadtrips. I could just live like that- a total gypsy. Although I think the boys were done with all the transitioning and ready to be back home. I was beyond exhausted on the way home and heard angels singing when I finally saw a sign for Caribou coffee. But it was so worth it. We even stopped at my good friend Lindsey's (another IG-turned-real-life-friend) in Kansas City to let the boys jump in her neighborhood pool. It was a perfect pitstop. She and I gel so well with our spontaneous spirits and wild boys. Phew! It was a whirlwind but I loved every minute of it.