Friday, December 9, 2011

Close down!

    After a huge Thanksgiving weekend our gates are closed. It is very different not having swarms of people all over the ranch, but it is a much needed break for all of us.  It is unusual to only worry about feeding ourselves and the horses, to not have to clean the public restrooms two times a day, and to have a lodge where the lights stay off and the doors stay closed. I am appreciating the silence right now, but come February I will be ready for life and noise once again. Just to give you a little bit of insight into this strange feeling, I need to recap the last couple weeks for you. We have alot to catch up on. 
   We were able to celebrate with all of our staff and have Jack's 2nd birthday party up in what we call the Round-up Room. This is our conference and meeting room on the second story of our lodge. I get to look at birthday parties differently when we are shut down. I had the idea to bring in a bouncy house and then that idea led to actually buying a bouncy house for us to use all winter long.  So, now we've turned our conference room into a jungle gym for these months we're closed.  It has been our sanity!!!

I love you Birthday Boy!

   The night after Jack's birthday our management team put on a Christmas party for our staff that serve us so faithfully. We held a "cocktail" party in the dining room and the McClish's and the Warnock's cooked and served dinner for all of our staff who were just able to sit and relax. It was so fun to give back and let them be the recipients of our 4 diamond service.  Our staff is truly amazing!!!!!! The Fosters then hosted a dessert at their house and we had some sad good byes to say as we paid tribute to our employees that had worked at the ranch for over a year.  Our dear friend, Hammie, is leaving us and next season will be the first season at the ranch for the Warnocks to be without Hammie!!! I am in complete denial! It was an emotional night, but such a sweet night to be with so many people we love!

This is another sad good bye! CK, I all ready miss you!

Merry Christmas from Lost Valley Ranch...until 2012!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Lost Valley Thanksgiving

    There is nothing like it and this year I was very thankful to be spending the holiday with 167 people in our dining room. Our Thanksgiving weekend is booked months in advance and one of our favorite weekends of the year. Every cabin is full, every seat is full, and every serving platter in our commercial sized kitchen is used.  This year, we decided to attempt a "Martha Stewart" original and welcome our guests with a turkey made entirely of fresh produce. Our head chef made 40 jars of homemade apple butter for each family to take home and our centerpieces were made up of pumpkins (that my staff girls retrieved from the pumpkin patch about a month before) and white spider mums. I am thankful every year for the feast we get to be a part of and for the people that have become like family to us this time of year.  It takes an incredibly talented staff to pull off 13 cooked turkeys, 8 pumpkin pies, 40 jars of apple butter, 85 horses saddled to ride, a very competitive "turkey bowl" football game, and a talent show for the best of them. Thank you staff and guests for making this an unforgettable Thanksgiving!

Even Becca was able to help turn cupcakes
into turkeys.
This is the homemade turkey that welcomed our guests
to the cold line. ( He was our creation named "Godfrey")
Let the gorging begin.

The dessert table that could easily
be called sinful.

The table we gathered around.

And a family that I could not be more thankful for.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Dinner in a Pumpkin

     This is my second year to make "dinner in a pumpkin" for my family and staff. I wanted to share this fun recipe, because it is a creative presentation and could become a fun family tradition. I know there are several recipes out there and you can modify to fit your taste. Keep in mind I made this for forty and not four, so my quantities were a little bit different.

1. You start out with a round pumpkin that you cut a good size hole in the top and clean out. The kids (aka our staff) love helping with this part. (Save those seeds, season them with a little curry, roast them for about 20 minutes and have a great snack.)
2. Next, you just follow the recipe below. I modified by leaving out the water chestnuts and I know a good add on can be almonds. Also, it's a nice touch to baste the inside of the pumpkin with butter and brown sugar before you put the mixture in.

Enough to feed an army!
On a stovetop cook:
1½ lbs ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
2 Tbsp oil
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 can sliced mushrooms
1 small can cream of chicken soup
1-1/2 cup  cooked rice ( I used 2)
1 can sliced water chestnuts (drained)
1 green pepper
1 red pepper

3. Fill the pumpkin with the mixture and cook at 350 for about an hour or until the pumpkin is very tender. 
It will look like this. And be sure to get a bite of pumpkin with each scoop. Enjoy this Halloween tradition!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Our girl is growing.

    A couple posts ago, I shared my anticipation of change this fall. The fall is upon us and our 4 year old is changing in amazing ways everyday.  I wanted to give you a few updates on these changes we're experiencing and how the good Lord is carrying us after the summer we had. 

1. Homeschooling
      I am LOVING it! Becca and I sit down three times each week in the middle of our busy home and the busy boys and work through the "Rod and Staff" curriculum that came highly recommended to me. As a proud mother and now teacher, I can say I have a smart cookie on my hands. We laugh, we pray, we count, we trace, we color, and we learn together. I taught 4th grade for 4 years and I love getting back to what I feel I was created to do and I LOVE teaching my little girl. I am learning she is afraid to fail, she loves order, and she has a strong desire to do it just right. I am daily thankful that as she learns how to write her numbers, I am learning how to teach, love, and nurture my little girl. 
     Now, as picture perfect as it sounds, please know that as we sit at that sweet little school table in the middle of our small double wide, there are little boys in the back ground shooting off nerf guns, turning crayons into guns, and turning themselves into guns. There is yelling, screaming, laughing, crying, and every other human emotion that a 3 and a 2 year old make very loundly. But, it works! I was told that, but I hesitantly believed that Becca and I could get anything accomplished with her little brothers around. We are making this a part of our routine and it does work! Today, I am thankful for the change that homeschooling brought and I will keep you posted on our journey.

2. Reborn

  Becca and I drive in together every Monday for her 45 minute ballet class. (So, yes I drive an hour and a half one way 3 times a week now.) The boys are babysat and we have a "girly" day each week in town. Last week, as we were still on the dirt road, Becca was asking about her grandparents and what has happened to Daddy's Grandpa. I told her that he had died and was with Jesus. She also remembered that this was what happened to our baby girl, Lucy Hope. There was a quiet pause and I heard from the back seat, "Mommy, I'm scared to die." I asked her about that and then explained why I was not scared to die, that I actually look forward to being with Jesus and not suffering anymore. 
     I shared my faith with my 4 year old. I told her about my hope even for my dead baby girl that the good Lord has given me. I will see her one day.  All by herself, she asked how she could have that. I explained that she can pray a prayer and accept that Jesus died for her and has forgiven her sins so that she could go to Heaven. I told her that we could talk about this more with Daddy that night if she would like. She promptly announced, "Mommy, I need to do that right now!" In the middle of that 9 mile dirt road, my little girl became clean. She pronounced Jesus as her Savior and we celebrated. She had lots of questions and that's all we talked about the entire way into ballet.  (That day, she was a "cushion" several times instead of a "Christian")
    I curse that drive some days, but I love that the Lord appoints that drive for our family. I was incredibly sad about saying good bye to our 4th child, but the Lord knew that her short life would bring eternal life to our first child. Once again, He reminds me these children are not mine and that He is good.
We did celebrate her "spiritual" birthday that night!

3. Riding
    This girl loves to ride a horse and now she is old enough to go out on the trail by herself. Last week, we had a few little girls as guests out here. Becca really hit it off with a couple of them.  She became that teenage girl to me who came to me each day and would ask if she could go ride with her friends. This actually came out of her mouth, "Mom, everyone is going." Becca, you are 4 not 14!!!! But, I just can't get over the change that comes with her independence. It was a great week and I am learning to embrace that change. But, I am learning as her mom that I have to change with her. This is what I desired this fall...change! And change is here. Thank you, Lord, for answered prayers. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011


     How have you let me go this long without introducing you to Jack and adding him to my "Family" tab? I will begin this introduction by pointing out the most "special" characteristic of Jack...he is now walking!!!!!!  Yes, he is my 23 month old that is finally using the muscles in his legs that the good Lord gave him. This does say it all about Jack. He came out the womb without a care in the world. He is the happiest, easiest, funniest baby and has been so from day one.

      Jack was born November 23, 2009 and was in the NICU for two weeks. I still remember watching those sweet nurses mess with his hundreds of cords and telling Tony that we have a sweet boy on our hands. He slept through the night steadily at 8 weeks and he is the reason I knew I wanted a fourth child. He makes my days easier. His smile and his silly faces make us all laugh constantly. As you can see from the pictures, his hair could not be any lighter and his eyes any darker. Strangers comment regularly about his unique look. His hair usually is sticking up in all directions and it fits him just right. 

      Jack continues to grow and develop at a slow but steady rate. He is now attempting many words and lets out a "pterodactyl" scream to let us know that he is happy or mad about something. Yesterday, I was able to drop him off at the nursery and he had graduated since he is now using his legs in life. He was able to do his first "art project", where he had colored two hand puppets of Bible characters. I tried to take them out of his hand so that he could hold mine and that "pterodactyl" scream soon followed. He held them for the next hour. He was so proud! I love this little man and I thank God for his joy and care-free outlook on life everyday. I know he has all ready made me a better mama.

Here are some Jackpot highlights:

I can't believe my baby is almost 2 years old! He is a blessing in our lives everyday!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Happy Birthday!

    Today is my cowboy's birthday.  This year, I need to take a moment to publicly appreciate him for being the man that he is. I have introduced him to you before, but after the summer we've had, I have seen and experienced Tony's character in a deeper way. He is a man of integrity. He is brave. He is one of the most loving and compassionate daddy's our kids could have. (He's the one they want when they're sick or scared.) He does make everything seem better. And after losing our baby daughter, he is my rock. He pointed me to truth, he held me while I cried, and he made me laugh to stay sane. I love that he faces "the hard" without looking away and with such courage. I love you, honey!

     I was also going to thank Tony for the best date we've had in 6 months a few days ago. We brought in a babysitter, bought a hotel room through Hotwire, and had uninterrupted conversation for 24 hours. If you have small children, whether you live on a ranch or not, get a night with your husband. It is the only way I fully relax with no laundry to start, no dishes to clean, and nobody who needs me.  Tony especially enjoyed this date because we enjoyed good food at a restaurant in Denver he had been wanting to try.  So, here we are sharing drinks, great food, and great conversation. It is moments like this that we remember why we fell in love. Now, on to the next 30 years together!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A New Season

      The leaves are changing, my children are growing, and my heart is healing. My munchkins and I took off yesterday to drive 45 minutes the other way down the dirt road and end up in a quaint mountain town to eat pizza. (It makes us feel like we have neighbors.) The drive is beautiful, especially this time of year. 

      The aspen leaves are glowing and I am reminded to thank the Lord for this new season of life. Isn't it amazing that our Creator ordered beginnings and endings? The end of Lucy's life was a little over a month ago, but this ending brought so many fresh beginnings. I have been given a new season at the ranch, as a wife, as a mom, as Becca's homeschool teacher, and now as a blogger.  

    This autumn watching the leaves change, I welcome change. Life changed forever last month when we lost our baby girl and I will always be changed. This does mark for me a new season of gratitude, hope, deep down joy, and peace. I pray this daily for our family. And I pray with anticipation knowing that our Lord gives abundantly. So, this year I have never been so grateful to see the yellows, oranges, and reds of fall...such a sweet reminder.

I'm signing off for now, but this new season also will mean more blogs to come! It's good to be back!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Hope is here.

      On August 2, 2011, Tony and I had the privilege of meeting and saying good bye to our sweet Lucille Hope Warnock.  As I scroll back through my few posts in the last couple months, it has only included news about our 4th little one on the way or about Becca's hospital visit...that sounds about right. This summer has been hard, but good. I went in two weeks ago for my 20 week ultrasound and no heartbeat was found. We went directly to the hospital to be induced. We heartbreakingly walked into a delivery room that had always represented joy and excitement, but that day it represented death and fear. I was terrified to bring little Lucy into the world knowing we would never get to know this precious little girl. In the process, there were so many decisions that needed to be would we be able to say good bye, what would her name be, how would we memorialize her, how would we handle this grief and still be there for our living children, our ranch family, and finish out a busy summer at the ranch?  

   After about 5 hours of labor, it was time to bring Lucy into this world and say good bye. The moment that I had feared the most ended up being the moment that brought me the most peace. We met her and held her and knew she was the Lord's.  Lucy will always be a reminder of the gifts that God has given us to steward. These children, living or dead, are not ours and there is hope in that. Through tears sitting by my bed, Tony read Lamentations 3:24. It says, "The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in Him."  We knew she was to be Lucille Hope. The Lord has used her short life to change ours forever. I am still crying even writing these words, but minute by minute I am experiencing the Lord's mercies in new ways. 

    My sadness still comes in waves and washes over me every few days, but I do feel like I am walking through this with an old Jesus. I have walked with Him almost my entire life and through losing our baby girl, I realize I trust His character because I am so familiar with who He is. He is good and my soul finds rest in that. So, Tony and I do consider it pure joy to have met and loved sweet Lucy and we will forever be changed by her.

    One week after she died, we decided to have her cremated and do a memorial at our home. We welcomed anyone who wanted to attend and were blessed by having some of our closest friends and family attend. One of my sweet staff gals has such a gift with photography and she gave me this slide show last night. One of the hardest things about suffering the loss of a child at this point in pregnancy is that nobody else gets to meet her or know her, so I am hoping and praying this gives you insight into her little life. My incredible husband led the memorial and we then sprinkled her ashes into our pond at the ranch. It was beautiful!

   "The Purest Place" was the song we chose for J. Ham and Jason to sing at the end of the memorial. Through heartache, I have experienced in such a pure way the Lord's love and I do only pray that He will always keep me in that place. 

Thank you, Hanna, for this perfect dedication to always remember our baby Lucy. Thank you to the Fosters, McClish's, Jeff, Brittany, Freyschlags, Smiths, and our entire ranch family for grieving with us. Every tear you shed brought us comfort and healing. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for being incredibly generous to help us through this process and for loving us so well. Thank you, Jennie and Katie, for being so much more than sisters to me and for loving Lucy like you have.  And thank you, Nana and Papa, for being you! We were so grateful you were a part of this. I know I have not personally been able to thank every individual for every sympathetic word spoken and every prayer lifted up, but words cannot express to each of you how much it means. You are the representation of our Lord's love...Thank you for being His hands and feet.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Home from the hospital...

      Two days ago, we returned from an adventure in the hospital. My sweet oldest daughter, Becca-boo, was knocked down by Daddy who was knocked down by a horse. You heard me right. Tony has never had a horse do this, but he had a horse come after him while he was holding Becca's hand. Instead of the horse getting to Becca(praise the Lord), Tony made sure to intervene and his knee went into her back. She's such a scrawny little thing that it was enough of a blow to cause damage to her liver. All of you that have followed these events, have been incredibly encouraging and the Lord has answered every prayer along the way. We spent 3 nights in the hospital and having so much time devoted just to our one oldest child, we remembered what a hoot she is.

Becca was a very brave patient. She truly does like to "mother" anybody and everybody and our sweet Peds surgeon came in and she even told him what to do. I think she won his heart over, though, because he told us he would take her home if he could. He gave us very specific discharge instructions..."no bronc bustin or bull ridin." 

She was more disturbed by the IV's in her arm than the pain in her liver. She thought she was in the hospital for this reason. She told me to take this picture because she thought that her brothers would think it was crazy.  During one of her panic attacks about the IV's, a sweet nurse told her how the needle doesn't actually stay in the arm and it is actually a straw that stays. So, every nurse and doctor that checked on her, she informed them they were not going to use anymore needles or straws. 

One of the more difficult parts was keeping her from eating the first 24 hours. They are very careful about what the liver has to process during the first day. She was finally given the go ahead to eat and this is what she wanted. We all know she loves her big breakfast!
This is our dear friend, Caroline, who used to work at the ranch. She had bought Becca all types of games and puzzles. Her favorite was princess bingo. We played probably 100 rounds of bingo. My favorite memory was watching my cowboy, Tony, play with her. (I think his favorite was Cinderella.)
This is Becca's friend from our Bible study, Sojie, and she came to visit too. She was a great bunk mate for a while.
I had never had to stay at a children's hospital, but my goodness was it nice. They think of it all. Everyday a volunteer would come by and do art projects, take Becca for a roll, or bring her new toys to play with. This was the last day she was at the hospital and was obviously feeling better.
When you live an hour and a half from any hospital, the logistics are daunting. The boys stayed at the ranch and Tony drove back and forth alot. When I found out we were going to have to stay one more night, I just asked if the boys could atleast come see us and they did. The next day Will told his Daddy that he was sick like Becca and needed to go to the doctor. I think he just needed his sister and his mama.
When we told Becca it was time to go home, she informed us that she wanted to just live there. Of course, 100% attention on her, meals in bed, princess movies around the clock, and an incredible play room right down the hall. I don't blame her. She was a brave little soldier and we will never forget the journey we've been on. Thank you, Lord, for taking care of one of the most precious gifts we've ever received.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

"The icing in the cake"

       Before we left for a beach trip with my family I had an appointment to find out the gender of our fourth child.  I scheduled the appointment weeks ago, but also knew that it was summer at the ranch and the chances of Tony and I both being able to get away was not likely. So, I devised a plan for our entire family to find out in a fun way. The ultrasound called our baker after the appointment, told her what the gender was, kept it a secret from me, and then our sweet baker baked a cake with either blue or pink icing in the middle. I just assumed it would be the kids and us after dinner and a few staff who would be pretending to be interested just because they love us well. Instead, we ate in the dining room and Bob announced the unveiling to all of our guests as well. I couldn't believe how many people watched us cut that cake(a little terrifying) and this is what happened...

That's right...IT WAS PINK! We are so blessed to be having another girl! That makes it 2 boys and 2 girls and we are ecstatic!!