Chasing Turkeys

A few months ago, we went on a family outing to check our freshly sprouted corn fields and ended up chasing wild turkeys instead.  There are an abundance of wild turkeys around here every spring and Mr. Rancher has a knack for gobbling just perfectly so the toms will gobble back to him.  We all got a kick out of the gobbling match our guy got into with the toms.

And if this isn’t the best family picture we’ve ever taken, I don’t know what is.  Everyone is looking, three out of four smiling real, happy smiles, and the fourth isn’t crying.

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There’s the big tom, all fanned out.

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Bath-time Happy-Time

Becca and I had a few moments alone a few weeks ago while Henley was out working with Ty and the little miss had the chance to take a bath all by herself.  She loved the water as always and was excited to look at the darling baby in the mirror afterwards.

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My beautiful girl is all grown up now, a big, bad one year old.  Pictures of her birthday party to come soon!

Reading Aloud

Update: My mom called to correct my memory.  Apparently I was 4 or 5 when I got my first library card.  Once we learned to tie our shoes, my mom took me and my siblings in to get our own library cards.  This very grown-up card was our reward for learning a life skill.  This is a perfect example of using books/reading/positive characteristics as a reward for good behavior.  Sometimes the reward of behaving well is the good behavior itself, but sometimes we as parents have to come up with more material sorts of rewards.  Books, library visits, personal library cards for little people can all be great ways to reinforce both good behavior and the importance of reading with our children.  Thanks, Mom, for your awesome example!

 

In case you didn’t know, though I am nearly 100% positive that most of you do know, I am one of those crazy people who homeschools their children.

 

 

Have I lost you yet?  Probably not since most of you are family and stuck with me anyways!  So to re-cap, I am homeschooling my kiddos and since they are not school-age yet most of the schooling around here centers on reading aloud.  Two of my very favorite things lately include the Read Aloud Revival podcast/all things Sarah Makenzie and this book by Jim Trelease.

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I grew up in a family of readers and my parents read aloud to me and my siblings regularly when we were little.  I had a library card from the time I was 7 or 8 years old and my siblings and I always participated in the summer reading program. I read voraciously through elementary school (I had the most AR points by a long ways, I don’t remember exactly how much but I’m guessing about 200 or so ahead of the next high reader) and middle school but slowed down in high school due to extracurriculars and high school classes plus college classes and the textbooks that come with them.  My undergraduate degree in Family Life and Human Development taught me the importance of reading to children and the statistics reflecting the higher academic achievement of children who are read to from birth to age 5.  When Henley was born I started reading simple board books to her and we began attending storytime when she was 13 months old.  My own life experiences with reading and books and the evidence of advancement (large vocabulary, understanding complex ideas, speaking in complete sentences, creative storytelling) I have seen in my own child already set me up to value reading aloud to children.

Then I stumbled upon the Read Aloud Revival Podcast.  The host, Sarah Makenzie, interviews writers, illustrators, educators, and social scientists weekly about strategies and benefits of reading aloud to children.  She has a free booklist with suggestions of books that are especially lovely to read out loud (over and over again since young children like repetition).  Sarah also has a book called The Read Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kids through Books which compiles the information from the podcast and blog into one easy to read and reference format.  I love Sarah’s take on homeschooling, parenting, and life.  And I love that she introduced me to Jim Trelease’s Read Aloud Handbook.

Jim Trelease compiles and explains the research and benefits behind reading out loud to children, long after then can read themselves, and makes the case for reading aloud as the single-most important thing our nation, our communities, our families can do to raise test scores and, more importantly, raise education and character in our youth.  If I wasn’t already a believer in reading, and reading out loud specifically, the work of Sarah and Jim most certainly would have converted me.

Scenes like this make my heart so happy.

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Babies, very young babies, can learn to love and enjoy books and being read to, if only we will take the time and patience to do so.  Don’t worry about ripped pages, squirmy little humans, or constant interruptions.  All of these things are good and demonstrate a connection the child is making with the book.

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Another author I admire greatly Susan Wise Bauer stated “a few ripped pages are a small price for literacy,” in her book The Well-Trained Mind.

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I can’t agree more with this statement.  Reading aloud is a central part of the education going on in my home, actually its a central part of the home itself.  In our family, we read books together, in our home we read books together.  It’s part of who we are.

A like-minded friend, Dani, and I have started a storytime for children 0-3 years old at our local library.  We have tried to provide a fun, entertaining, and delightful experience to the families who have attended, and we’ve tried to educate parents on the importance of sharing stories with their kids and a few tips and tricks for doing so with young children.  It’s been such a fun and challenging experience to plan these storytimes and I have loved the creative outlet which allows me to share knowledge on a subject I am passionate about.

I highly recommend the work of Sarah Makenzie and Jim Trelease, local librarians and storytime programs, and reading aloud to your kids (even if they can read to themselves).

 

And thanks for letting me get down in writing that I am, in fact, a homeschooling mama.  They say the first step to overcoming addiction (or stress, I’m going to take the liberty of adding) is admitting you have a problem.  I have the problem of chronic over-scheduling and over-reaching and here I am admitting that I plan to take the entirety of my children’s education upon my own two shoulders.  With a lot of grace (and some very wonderful books, mentors, and extracurriculars) I think we’ll make it through all right.

Checking Calves and Fields

One Sunday this Winter/Spring, we spent the morning feeding cows and checking for new baby calves with Mr. Rancher.  That is one of the only scheduling perks I have found for church starting at 1 PM.  After feeding, we took the four-wheeler up on the hill to look for new babies.  This little cutie was settled in a sagebrush nest just across the ditch.

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What a unique and darling face this little calf has.  Henley was in love the moment she saw the calf, her love grew even more when the calf was content to lay their and be petted by the three-year-old cowgirl.

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I’m in love with the markings on this baby!IMG_5421

This calf was oddly friendly for a newborn range calf, he walked right up to Mr. Rancher to meet Becca.IMG_5425

Moments like these make me fall in love with Mr. Rancher all over again.  Not only is he the calf whisperer, but he’s including our little munchkins in the excitement and teaching them how to handle animals.  He’s also genuinely enjoyed meeting the newest baby and scratching its chin.  The passion Ty feels for caring for this bovine creatures is written all over his face.IMG_5429

After caring for the livestock we took a drive out Crane Creek to check on our fields of triticale.  Miss Becca took a nice long nap.IMG_5435

Henley chatted with us, ate graham crackers, and kept everyone smiling.  Bo let his hair blow in the breeze and kept a close eye on Mr. Rancher.IMG_5438

If you look closely you can see the slight green hue the field was turning.  IMG_5444

I’m always impressed when Ty feels the dirt, hay, oats, etc. and makes judgment calls about harvest readiness, irrigation needs, or predicts growth rates.  Farming is much more than simply plant, water, harvest, sell.  It’s an art as much as a science and all the farmers I know (trust me I know quite a few) take pride in their work as an art form not just as a business venture.  Farming is a way to make money, but its actually a way to lose incredible amounts of money very easily.  Farming isn’t about the money, though that certainly is important, it’s about the lifestyle, about the artistry of working with the earth and weather to harvest bounty against all odds, to tame and nourish ground that used to be barren, devoid of sustenance, and cultivate it into productive land.

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I also always notice Ty’s inability to take his eyes off the crops/fields/cows until absolutely necessary.  He’s always on the watch while walking or driving by fields.

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And he doesn’t look away until he absolutely has to.IMG_5450

Driving with him, may or may not, be a tad terrifying at times.

The Man of the House

These girls sure are lucky to have such a great daddy.

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He lets them crawl all over him and tickle, hit, roll, ride, jump, body-slam into him all while laughing, crying, growling, or whatever expression of noise is most appropriate.  The best time of day is when daddy comes home.  Hands down.  He’s always happy to see his girls after long, long days of work and always has just enough energy to play with them.IMG_5358

Can we just take a moment to talk about that “red” hat?  Mr. Rancher has had that hat since before we were married.  It is faded far from its original bright, cardinal, red color, is stained with oil, sweat, and dirt, and has been lost and found many times.  Whenever I think that hat has finally been lost for good, it always turns up again.  Mr. Rancher caught me trying to sneak it into the trash one day, do you want to know what he said?  (Okay, so that was a rhetorical question since I’m obviously going to tell you anyway, but I thought I’d try to be polite).  “That hat’s been in my life longer than you have, and it’s not about to leave.”

Well excuuuuuuuuuse me for caring about the way he dresses and the reflection is gives to my laundering and housekeeping skills.

Good thing he’s such a good daddy.  A good hubby too, if I’m being totally honest.  Just watch out if you try to clean out his closet or hat rack.  Holey, stained, too small, too big, ripped, or shredded items that most normal people would chuck at first glance are full of far too much sentimental value and “wearability” to be tossed in the trash or donation pile.

Wearability and fashion do not complement one another in this instance.

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So long as he keeps plunking himself on our living room floor to build cranes, trains, or airplanes with wooden toys and coming home with a smile on his face I can live with the sentimental attachment to old, wornout clothes.IMG_5946

Those clothes full of rips, tears, and stains sure are a testament to the incredible work ethic Mr. Rancher has.  Not only does he work LONG hours, but he nearly always has a smile on his face, time to help a neighbor, and an endlessly positive outlook on our future.

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He works hard with his hands, arms, back, with his entire body.  He places himself between the elements of nature, market swings, machinery breakdowns, irrigation mishaps, cattle obstinacy, financial stress, illness, and fatigue and takes the brunt of the storm upon his own shoulders so that I, my girls, and our livestock and farm can have peaceful and cared after lives.

At the end of the day he’s still able to come home, play, read silly stories, tuck the girls into bed, and snuggle with me for a few hours before arising in the pre-dawn darkness to do it all over again.  He doesn’t waver.  He doesn’t complain about the challenges.  He keeps smiling and reminding me to be patient and to enjoy all the wonders our life has given us alongside the struggles.

I’ve got one of the good ones, folks.

Summer Days

Ohhhhh summer.  Long, hot days with so much potential for fun.  This summer has been our best yet, what with two wonderful kids who are finally starting to play together (hallelujah! hallelujah! hallelujah!), round two of farming/ranching in the same location, and five years of marital bliss (at least more bliss than contention!) under our belts.

Here’s a look at our summer so far.  My mom gave us the very best gift, water toys!  The girls play with them every single day.img_5852-1

Henley waiting for me to get Becca down for her nap, so I can read and cuddle with her.  She’s been making her own bed and folding her own clothes this summer…it’s a work in progress.img_5849

Brushing her own teeth (this picture is for you Mary) and post-bath curls.  These are the very best curls and thanks to our bathing schedule they only come out an hour before bedtime.img_5845

Curls, curls, everywhere.  I’m even starting to see some waves and curls in Miss Becca’s hair.img_5848

My serious, opinionated, daring and determined second-born.img_5796

She likes to scale the slide backwards, turn around, sit down, and slide.  Then repeat.  This picture was taken earlier this summer, closer to ten months of age.  Now she’s walking everywhere, almost a big one-year-old, and even more determined to do what SHE wants, when SHE wants to do it, and how SHE wants to do it.img_5790img_5787img_5781

Building fairy houses and eating sticks.  It’s about balance.img_5783

Our two kitties blessed us with eight, yes EIGHT, kittens right at the same time.  img_5779

We’ve been able to pawn off five of the balls of fluff so far and are enjoying the remaining three.  Anybody want a kitten?  I can promise they will be good mousers, their mamas bring in at least three mice a day!img_5778

This umbrella has been used for everything from boating to housing this summer.img_5751-1

Hee hee…when sisters do your hair…img_5764

They built this fort all by themselves while I was on the phone with my mom.img_5766img_5776

I guess they kinda like each other.  Makes my heart happy.

Diversity

The following is my final paper written for my Diversity 598 class required for my masters program.  Excuse the formal tone and academic citations, this is a blog after all, but I hope you’ll enjoy this memory of a very precious and intriguing experience I was able to have.

The assignment was to experience a person or culture which is different from my own, to really step outside my comfort zone and become more familiar with diversity in action.  After the experience, I was assigned to write a paper describing the event and relating it back to the content studied throughout the course.

I chose to attend a Friday service or Jumu’ah at the Islamic Center of Boise and interview one of the female members of the congregation for this assignment.  Initially, I considered attending a Catholic church in my small town which offers meetings in Spanish, as I do not speak Spanish fluently, but I was already familiar with the Catholic faith and the congregation and really wanted to step outside my level of comfort for this assignment.  Having been raised in small-town, rural, United States, I had never met and rarely seen any Muslims in person.  I was thrilled to be able to attend the Friday meeting held on June 8, 2018.

Prior to attending services, I was extremely nervous concerning what I should wear and how I should move through the building and church meeting.  I contacted the center via email and was referred to one of the older female members named Dalia.  Dalia instructed me to wear modest clothing and to bring a head scarf for the meeting.  She invited me to come a little early to the meeting, to stay afterwards to discuss beliefs with her, and to participate in the evening meal to break the fast as my visit fell on the second to last day of Ramadan.  I invited my sister to attend with me, and we had several conversations and internet-searches between us as to what was appropriate to wear and do during a Muslim church service.  We were both very afraid of offending the members and of doing something inappropriate out of ignorance.

Once we had our head scarfs properly situated, we entered the center after removing our shoes and were greeted by Tyler (he has chosen to use an Americanized name) who is a refugee from Africa (he did not specify which country).  He shook our hands, a gesture I waited for him to initiate thanks to the work from Al-Mutawah (2016) and introduced us to Dalia.  Dalia led us into a room separate from the men and found us seats near the back so we could view all the proceedings.  She provided us a brief outline of the service and left us to pray and socialize with the other women.  We viewed the imam leading the prayers and giving the sermon on a large television screen.

There was a mixture of African and Middle Eastern women and several adorable babies participating in the service.  The African women, as explained later by Dalia, were primarily refugees from various countries and cultures.  As Mutua (2016) explains, I as a member of the host community held pre-conceived ideas of refugees as desperate, impoverished, and potentially harmful.  What I actually encountered were mothers, much like myself, who struggled to keep their small children content and quiet during worship services. The small children drew shapes in the carpet when they were bored of the sermon.  Much of the sermon was difficult to understand as well as all the prayers as so much of the language used is Arabic.  We were unsure of what to do during the prayers and chose to stand with the congregation once then remain seated for the duration.

Afterwards Dalia, my sister, and I discussed what we had experienced and Dalia answered questions regarding her faith as well as her culture.  She shared with us the story of Muhammed as well as of Abraham and Ishmael from the Islamic perspective.  We discussed the dress and health code, religious obligations, family dynamics, contraception, education, prejudice and politics.  I have a follow-up appointment with Dalia to discuss more questions which came up after I had left the center, we will be talking on the phone on June 26, 2018.

This experience was completely new, intimidating, exciting, and eye-opening for me.  I understand on a deeper level why Delgado and Stefancic (2001) as well as Chin and Rudelius-Palmer (2010) focus on storytelling and actually experiencing diverse peoples and cultures as the only true way to practice inclusion.  I understand the Muslim religion and culture far better than I did before this experience, and have the beginnings of a friendship with Dalia.  I will admit that I was nervous and fearful about attending a Muslim service.  I was concerned I would be offensive in some way or seen as an ignorant and materialistic westerner.  My pre-conceived biases stemmed from nothing other than snippets and pieces of news headlines that mainly centered on terrorism and Muslim extremism.  I was so unfamiliar with Islam that I was a little fearful to attend the Jumu’ah. What I encountered in the Islamic Center of Boise and in the individual Dalia was completely different from anything I had learned through headline news.  The story of Dalia and her culture have indeed brought understanding between two cultures: mine and hers (Chin & Rudelius-Palmer, 2010).

I plan to join the Muslim community and my new friend Dalia for a day of Ramadan next year and also plan to attend the Jewish Synagogue in Boise; the comparison of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism is just too tempting to resist.  Kahil (2016) states that “The more people travel, establish diverse friendships, and experience the richness of each other’s cultures, the less likely they are to bomb them (p. 338).”  Not that I have ever wanted to bomb anyone, but I have found that the more diversity I experience, the more diversity I want to experience, which is how I interpret Kahil’s (2016) words.

This experience with Islam and Muslim people has forever change me and the way that I view the world.  There is a vast religion and belief system which I know little about and want to know more.  I realize now how lacking my understanding of politics and history is on this subject, and I cannot afford to simply rely on news headlines—highlighting conflict and terrorism—to shape my view of such a large portion of the world.

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I did, in fact, have a follow-up call with Dalia on June 26 and was able to explore and learn even more about Islam.  Dalia is one of the most gracious women I have ever met and was so kind to answer all of my questions, including those which must have seemed very naive.  Diversity 598 has been the most difficult class thus far in my masters program, as it challenged me to analyze and question every belief or world view I possess and compare it with other’s perspectives and experiences.  This class changed my outlook and helped me to see there is such a vast richness of culture to be experienced and appreciated, even in my small community.  I loved this class and look forward to exploring and learning more about other cultures, faiths, and belief-systems in years to come.

Outdoor Art

“I’m going outside to paint all the colors of grass.”

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“I’ll mix this one with this one…”

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“Oopsey daisy, got some on my dress.”

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You all spy on your children and eavesdrop on their talking-to-themselves conversations too?  Glad I’m in good company.

Here’s the finished painting, I’m going to call it “All the colors of grass ended up on my dress.”

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