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27. Bonding Time at Rockin’ Horse Ranch

Here is an example of a limiting belief that I was introduced to in my first astrology reading: how can I go on adventures when I have the responsibility of raising two kids on my own? I still remember the answer clear as day: “Take them with you. They signed up for the adventure. They wanted Indiana Jones for a mother. Take them with you.”

Part of why I resisted having kids in the first place was because I thought that would mean having to give up traveling. And then as I divorced, and wanted to get back into adventure, some loved ones expressed their concern about me going out on my own so much. But after years of living like a hermit, I just couldn’t resign myself to giving up traveling and exploring, yet realistically, my ex didn’t take the kids enough for me to go on jaunts that lasted more than four hours at a stretch, and my family was getting maxed out on the babysitting from helping me out with work.

It was a big dilemma I was facing, trying to marry the two sides of me as the responsible mom and the need for variety.

So when I heard those words, the biggest lightbulb went off. How on earth did I never think of that before? I mean, no, I couldn’t take them with me for a girls weekend in Atlantic City, but I certainly could take them to different places and expose them to exciting new cultural opportunities, unique activities and other out-of-the-house moments. Maybe that would be the best thing for them, to experience life outside of our four walls. My childhood was very home-based, and there was such a security in that, growing up close with our neighbors and having family parties.

Yet, I always yearned for something more. What if my kids were the same way? What if they didn’t want just the security and shelter of home and neighbors? There was only one way to find out.

I decided on a spring weekend when my daughter had off from school to take them somewhere new. This would be my very first trip alone with them. I had done plenty of day trip adventures with them, both alone and with family members, but I wanted to do something completely different. I needed to get past this fear about being a single parent. I needed to push myself outside of my comfort zone and prove to myself that I was more than capable of taking my children on vacations on my own, and bonding with them as a family unit.

I needed to see that being just the three of us was more than okay; it was an adventure itself.

After some research, I decided on taking them to a place upstate, the Rocking Horse Ranch. It was a resort I had gone to for my senior trip in high school, and I remember it being a pretty cool place. They offered a package with a room, meals and amenities, so I thought something all-inclusive that was a distance away, yet not too far away, would be a great first start. We only went for a few days, and it certainly was an experience to remember.

They were really excited about the idea of going somewhere on a “vacation,” and since they were so used to long car rides, it was a piece of cake to travel to. When we got there, they were all cute and curious. I told them it was a ranch, and it had horses and cowboy stuff, so the three of us decided that we should all get cowboy hats. After checking into our room, we went down to the souvenir shop and each picked out our own hats to wear and then walked around showing them off.

It completely brought out my inner child, and since they were so used to seeing me as a serious mommy (what I thought I had to be), there was pure joy in their faces to see me get all silly and playful with them like this.

The first night we spent just walking around and getting settled into our room. We looked at all of the different things we could do the next day, and then after dinner, we just hung out in our room. That was a bit of an adjustment for them, not being in their own beds. Thankfully, they were two little tiny bodies because the only way anyone was going to get any rest was if the three of us were in the same bed, making a mommy sandwich. Once they felt safe that I was right there with them as they fell asleep, they got comfortable and settled down quickly.

The next day started our exploration. It was a bit misty, with a threat of rain, and the pool was closed, so there were a lot less activities we were able to do than I expected. I didn’t consider that much of the outdoor events I thought were included wouldn’t be open yet since the weather wasn’t warm enough. We played a bit on the playground, and then I took them to go on some pony rides. My daughter was absolutely petrified, and I tried to get her to do it, but forcing her was not the best idea, and I had her taken off after a round. (I had thought that once she got on, she would be okay, but apparently not.) My son was too little at that point to get on, so that idea was a bust.

Luckily, there were some arts and crafts activities going on for us to do, and the kids loved that. They got to paint and make a big mess, and they both ended up making me something, which I still have and treasure today. By this time, the rain had come on full force, so we had to make do with what was inside. We started out with the arcade, but neither one of them were big fans. We walked around the shop and lobby, and it was pretty boring. I remember feeling like this was not going well, and that this wasn’t a good idea after all.

Our first adventure together was a complete disaster.

Until we discovered there was an indoor “waterpark.” I didn’t remember seeing anything about that on the website, or being told about it when I got there. So after finding this gem, I asked the front desk about it, and it was included as part of our package. Score! We were going to try it out the next day. I took the kids around to look at it, and they both seemed to light up a bit with excitement. We went to bed to get a good night’s rest, and then after a good breakfast in the morning (a quick one—there were too many tugs to come on already to really sit down and enjoy it) we were on our way to see what this indoor water area was all about.

Up until then, both my youngin’s were squeamish about being around water. They didn’t really like to swim, and really didn’t like sprinklers. But something intrigued them about this, and there was a perfect little area set up for the smaller children with wade-deep water, a few slides and some squirting sea creatures. The giggles flowed as much as the water. They jumped, laughed and splashed, and I got in on the action with them. They loved the slides, and trying to run away from the sprays before they got squirted. My previously scared-on-a-pony, avoider-of-pools daughter found her brave side and surprised me by trying out the “big” slide that landed her in a foot of water. She went on it over and over, and my son soon caught on and wanted to go on as well.

Before I knew it, my two little munchkins had opened up their inner adventurers and were having a complete blast.

They didn’t want to leave. We spent the entire day there, save for our meals and dessert. We were going home the next day, but seeing that kind of joy on their faces, I decided that after checkout, I would let them play a little longer and we would just leave later so that they could enjoy the water again.

It felt good to see them so excited over something, with such pure joy, and I received tons of hugs of gratitude for being “the best mommy ever.” It was an experience that truly did begin to bond us as a unit of three, and it was extremely healing for me. I accepted the concept of this being my family without my ex-husband; that I could do this on my own; and that adventure can absolutely include my children—and in fact, proved to be an even better adventure than my others because of one simple difference: they brought out my inner child, and I realized that for the first time in a very, very long time, I myself felt safe to play.

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Jean Puhlman
Jean Puhlman
Sep 16, 2021

I so love that you discovered "they signed up for the adventure" and went to the ranch with them. I love reading your blogs 😍 and your fabulous book!

Replying to

Thanks! It really was a mind-blowing moment to realize that I could take them with me!!


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