Years ago when Bill and I were choosing our honeymoon spot, we decided to head somewhere relatively local and already meaningful to us—a place where we could easily return for anniversaries and where, eventually, we could bring the children we longed to have. Once we decided to honeymoon in the mountain town of Idyllwild, the question became where. We had been to Idyllwild a couple of times on a day trip but hadn’t paid much attention to the B&B and cabin rental scene. I still remember searching online with Bill for a bed and breakfast for our honeymoon. When we landed on the website  for the Strawberry Creek Inn we thought, “Hey, this looks pretty good. Let’s try it.” That one decision turned out to be one of the best we’ve ever made. That was May 2006.

On our first anniversary we returned to this special inn, Katie already growing in my womb. I still visit the bench we sat on in the inn’s garden while talking about names for boys and girls, her precious life already begun, while looking out over the creek and pine trees.

Some time after she was born, we had one more anniversarymoon (as we call them) there—I think it was when she was 19 months old. We haven’t stayed overnight since Eric was born, although we have taken both children every year to explore the creek and town on Valentine’s Day weekend.

As a Christmas present this year, Bill booked the Ponderosa Cottage—Strawberry Creek Inn’s stand alone cabin that allows for children and comes with neat amenities like our own kitchen and dining room, a jacuzzi tub, and logs for the fireplace. I’d rather have a gift of an experience—a memory—than just about anything else from my husband, and I was touched that he planned this for us. I’ve been excited for months, especially knowing that this would be our first stay as a family.

We have built intentional memories in this special place. This is everything we hoped for many years ago as we were making wedding and honeymoon plans. Intentional memories and family narratives, a shared history with layers of meaning not only for ourselves but for our children…
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I was surprised to find flowers and chocolates, although I shouldn’t have been! Bill has always had them put in our room for me whenever we have stayed. I just wasn’t thinking about them this time. He even gave me a clue on Valentine’s Day!! He said, “Your Valentine present will be there tomorrow.” I thought he meant the cabin/experience itself. So yes, I was surprised! We all shared the chocolates and I brought my flowers home today. So sweet.

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Panorama of the attic room…very cozy! We could hear the trees creaking and blowing the first night. Love the woods!

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Our enclosed dining room, flanked by two balconies. Many happy memories made here during our stay. We loved heading to the store each night and choosing what to make all together.

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Panorama of the kitchen, the door to the dining room, and the living room/room where we could pull down a second bed from a huge closet.

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Eric explores some garden art…

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Okay, so here is the well story. We were walking along when Eric came upon an old well. Suddenly, his foot went through a hole in a wooden cover that was partly covered by snow and pine needles. In fact, we didn’t even know it was a well when we were first near it and only by investigation did we see the whole wooden well

cover and set-up. His foot was partly still in his boot, and his boot was wedged a bit in the small hole. When Bill went to pick him up, the boot fell off.

At first I thought it was a simple matter of reaching my hand in the hole and grabbing the boot (we still didn’t realize it was a well). When I looked in the hole to judge how to angle my hand, I saw the boot about 10 feet below, bobbing in some water.

When I reported to Eric that I couldn’t reach his boot, he began to sob and sob—not just cries of inconvenience, but real sadness. “Me need my boot!” he wailed. “Me want my boot!” To understand this, the reader must also know how very proud he has been of his big boy boots ever since getting them. He even modeled them for his Nana and learned how to put them on by himself (“Me put boot on by my own!!” he had exclaimed proudly, right before this hike). His sadness touched some deep part of my chest and it felt almost unbearable. He and I are so very much on the same wavelength that I could feel everything he felt, including how upset he was at himself for losing the boot (“Me dropped my boot!”) Even when I tried to explain that accidents happen, he wailed more—I always feel overly responsible for accidents, too. I could tell he was crushed. That was not going to be acceptable in my world…

What to do? I decided to go investigate further. I thought about hacking off a super long branch and fishing for it. (My “mother bear” feelings had long since kicked in—you know, those feelings where you would absolutely do anything for your child, feelings that come from some place deep and untouchable inside). When Bill and I looked at the wooden cover, it appeared to have a padlock on it. My eyes went to the screws. Shortly after, I could see a metal ladder affixed to the inner shaft. I thought about getting a screwdriver and tearing it apart  gently and carefully modifying the cover so I could get in.

Bill could sense I was turning into the Mother Bear and reexamined the well cover. It turns out that the padlock was completely useless. I started to lift the heavy cover, and Bill helped me. I told him I was going in, and I think he tried for two seconds to stop me but he was more concerned (as he should be) about keeping the children away and, when he realized I was serious, about holding the cover open so it wouldn’t close on me.

My parents would later contemplate how this all happened as they saw pictures on our private Facebook group after it all took place. They couldn’t believe that Bill would let me go down the well, but I promise, there was no stopping me. It happened much too fast for him to make much objection. I can be headstrong, and I am no wuss.

Actually, I still feel I was in no immediate danger. Bill later asked what would have happened if I’d fallen off the ladder or if the ladder had fallen off the wall. “I can swim well,” I replied.

“But how long can you tread water?” he asked.

“Long enough for you to figure out how to get me out, I should hope. You’re a good problem solver.”

Anyway, when I got to the bottom of the ladder, the boot was floating behind me in some water. I couldn’t tell how deep it was, so I decided to stay on the ladder of course. I held on with one hand and reached behind with the other. Ta-da! Boot! Rescue mission complete!

Eric was so relieved and happy.

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See? There is the menacing hole.

We told this boot story over and over again this weekend. Mainly, Eric would tell the story. It made an impression on him. He dreamed about the “purple pump well” (I don’t think it was a pump well actually, but we’ve read about those in old books) on the first night. We went back the next day because he wanted to see it again…it kind of scared him, and he has a tendency to turn things that worry him into his “friends” so that all is right with the world. “Me see my friend purple pump well” he kept saying the next day. He wants his world to be right.

So that is the well story. I thought I was just doing what needed to be done and wasn’t really being unsafe—-but my parents definitely think differently, which just goes to show that perhaps I am not correct in that assessment. All’s well that ends well, though, right? 🙂

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Putting together a United States puzzle by the upstairs hearth, which was a fake fire. The downstairs fire was real, though!

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Panorama of the living room and the kitchen to the side.

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Reading before breakfast…we brought all of our favorite snow-themed books!

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Waiting for breakfast in the main part of the inn

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Beginning our adventure as we drive to Idyllwild!

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Exploring

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Cozy cottage with cozy memories

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Breathe in that fresh mountain air!

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Totem pole in the middle of town

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“Miles to go before I sleep…”

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With my valentine

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Eric helps to whisk hot chocolate—so grateful for our own kitchen this time!

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Yummy breakfast

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We had tea and a light lunch at Oma’s for lunch yesterday. Very lovely.

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Whee!

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Another hike!

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Rope course at the new playground

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Rock climbing

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Tranquility

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Trying the parcourse! Strong boy!

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Bubba’s used books, a tradition for us

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Another view of tea at Oma’s.

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My helper tossing the salad he made

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Did someone say s’mores? Note: this was not Bill’s definition of safety, either. Between this and the well, I think he was shaking his head… 😉

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Good morning, Strawberry Creek and mountain air

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Bill looks out to the snow…

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Snuggles after breakfast

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I hope we return to this cabin someday!

walking with my babies

“The only other sound’s the sweep/Of easy wind and downy flake…”

So thankful for a beautiful weekend in nature with my loves. I was also grateful for some journaling time, which, along with the mountains and snow and my family, gave me a real sense of peace and connection with who I am. Truly a magical getaway!