Playgrounds for Farmers

My children love the park as much as the next kid, but what they don’t realize is that much of our daily life on the farm/ranch is a playground.  Our latest favorite toy is our nicely tarped silage pile.

My girls have climbed the pile of chopped corn countless times and ran or slid back down.  It’s a never ending source of fun and excitement, what with the baling twine trip-wires scattered all over the tarp.

We are very aware of the blessing it is to living our agricultural lifestyle so filled with fun, adventures, and memories.

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Riggins Life (at home)

My girls and I took a nice leisurely walk–at the pace of Becca’s short legs–down our road to the stop sign and back home again.  We nearly made it to our driveway when both girls wandered into the barrow pit at commenced digging and sifting through the dirt.  My attempts to entice them back to the road and back home were largely ignored.  I found myself a nice broken piece of concrete, downloaded the latest episode of the Read Aloud Revival Podcast, and plopped down to observe the playing and catch up on some listening.

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Amid Sarah Mackenzie’s voice, I could hear snippets of my girls’ conversation.

“Becca, isn’t this just like Riggins Life?”

“Yeah.”

“Riggins Life is the best life, huh?”

“Yeah.”

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Apparently playing in the dirt is something unique to Riggins Life.  I guess we need a sandbox.

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The Ending of Graduate School

Sometimes I really worry that my children are not learning enough or receiving enough attention from me.  This past year of graduate school has been especially demanding, and increases in outside-of-the-home-obligations like storytime, Joy School, Sunday School teaching, Relief Society, and the ever growing ranch have really drained and depleted me as a wife and mother.  We have spent much more time watching TV this year, and far less time reading together, playing together, assembling puzzles, or doing something science-related.  I have changed from the kind of mom who limited screen time to one hour per day maximum and read one hour per day minimum to my children, to the kind of mom who allows a lot more than one hour per day of screens and sometimes misses a day of reading to my kids.  That’s hard for me to type!  I really have skipped days of reading anything with my children, and skipped even more days of reading anything that was not scripture with my kids.

Now, believe me, I am aware that my children are very, very young, and that there are many more days, weeks, months, and years for them to learn and become well-educated human beings.  But the reality is that my identity as a mother is one of reading aloud every day, playing with play dough (or something similar) every day, and being totally present and engaged for some period of time Every. Single. Day.  So to admit that I have not been that kind of mother for many, many days over the past year is the admittance of my own failure to live true to who I am and who I want to be.

Alas, graduate school is nearly complete.  I am eight solid pages into writing my forty page thesis and enjoying every moment of the writing/researching process.  I much prefer writing-heavy coursework than reading-heavy coursework.  Not that I don’t love reading, but I really, really love to write.  But I digress.

My point is that graduate school is almost over, and with it, the stress of splitting my attention 5 million different directions is almost over as well!  Sort of.  You see, I am no stranger to the phenomenon which occurs right when you complete a big project which has consumed hours and hours of time.  Upon completion of said project, you should now have hours and hours of free time, right?  Nope.  Not even close.  Something, somehow always sweeps in and fills that time, in a matter of moments one big project is traded in for another.  So while I am not counting on magically transforming back into Super-mom, reading hours a day from classics, baking cookies weekly, and teaching my children Latin, Spanish, and French before age five, I am thrilled to have my attention  and my precious early-morning and nap-time to use for pursuits/rejuvenation other than graduate work.

And do you want to know something utterly mind-boggling???  Not all the changes and shifts from my self-imposed Super-Mom requirements have been negative.

What?  My control-freak, self-exhausting tendencies don’t make the world go round? Ha.

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For example, my busyness has led to more independence from my girls.  Becca has learned to be quite content thumbing through picture books all by her little self.  Henley has learned to “read” books to herself and to Becca, to peel carrots, to make chocolate milk, to set the table, to tend Becca while they are playing outside, and to do about a thousand other chores around the house.  And, probably my most favorite, Ty has stepped up his game as Daddy and secondary educator in our family.  Here he is teaching Henley how to make a collage and keeping Becca entertained with some light paperwork.

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I cannot express how happy these photos make me.  I am so happy that even though Becca is not receiving the same focused attention, reading, teaching, and guiding that Henley received at that young age, she is still ridiculously advanced, precocious, and in-love with books and learning.  I am amazed at Henley’s growth since she became a big sister.  She is a very capable little girl with a wonderful imagination, deep mind, and overwhelming intensity for her passions.  IMG_6290

Most wonderful of all, Ty and I are more united in what we want from our family.  He has been incredibly supportive all throughout school, and he was the one who encouraged me to keep going when I really wanted to quit.  He has learned to read stories to the girls with all the right voices and inflections to suit their particular literary taste.  He has listened to endless soliloquies about child development, and even longer rants about stress and exhaustion.

So many things about the past two years have been very hard and very discouraging.  I have learned things about myself that I would honestly rather not know.  And I’ve learned some things which amaze and inspire me.  However, the principle lesson I have learned is that my family is full of remarkable people.

Also, I’m no Super-Mom and life is better that way.

September

September flew by this year, in a haze of canning, school, Joy School, and farming.  Here are snapshots of our life during that crazy, busy month.  I hope to never repeat the intensity it brought, but am thankful for all that was accomplished and that it is behind us now!

New Traditions: Family Home Evening

Our primary takeaway, as a family, from General Conference is that we need to hold Family Home Evening once a week.  This is not a new admonition, or better phrased invitation from the Prophet, but it is something we have struggled with and largely ignored in our home.  Still, in an effort to show our children that we follow the Prophet’s counsel (really the Lord’s counsel) both Mr. Rancher and I have tried to incorporate one evening a week of learning the Gospel of Jesus Christ and fun as a family.

Here is our first attempt at such a night.

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In preparation for FHE, I printed copies of our family mission statement, purchased red marking pencils and small spiral notebooks, and assembled the aforementioned with scriptures, regular pencils, and the framed copy of our mission statement and motto onto our kitchen table.  Ty conducted and assigned Henley to say our prayer and selected a song for us to sing.  I then jumped in with our lesson on what it means to be part of the Ty, Rachel, Henley and Becca Hawkins family and we read through and discussed our mission statement and motto.  We read a scripture in Mosiah (Book of Mormon) about families and ended with our motto (Hawkins Have Fun!), prayer, and playing outside and a movie.IMG_6244

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We’ve met for one more FHE since our first and it was a smashing success as well!  A few things I attribute our success to:

  1. Ty (the father) is totally on-board and co-operative.
  2. I (the mother) take primary responsibility for planning and teaching the lesson, with the support of Ty.
  3. Everyone has their own materials.  Becca spends FHE chewing on her pencil or ripping pages from her notebook, which I’m fine with.  So long as she sits at the table for the fifteen minutes and is quiet, I don’t care what she’s doing!
  4. We eat something very simple for dinner.  To date: ramen noodles and frozen pizza.  Both are kid-friendly, easy-peasy to make, and quick to clean up.  Mama has to have energy and pep to make FHE successful and nothing drains those faster than cooking and cleaning.
  5. We only meet for 15 minutes of formal learning.
  6. We spent a month developing our mission statement.  It is a process and doesn’t happen overnight.
  7. We admit that we are trying to form a new habit and commit to listening to the Prophet’s counsel.
  8. Everyone can contribute and all ideas are treated as valid.  Henley taught FHE this week, on the 10 commandments, and had some interesting commentary on why we shouldn’t steal…but it was her lesson and nothing she said was false doctrine so we went with what she had to say.
  9. It’s fall-time and Ty is able to be home in the evening.  No joke, FHE will be much harder in the summer.
  10. Heavenly Father is blessing us for making this offering of our time and energy to follow Him.  We don’t have it perfect yet and are still very new to this whole thing, but I know He has blessed us for our efforts thus far.

Playing in the Water 2018

We love playing in the water.  I think I said that once already, but it bears repeating.

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These two photos are from a trip up to Mundo Hotsprings in June.  We went to check a river crossing and portion of fence Mr. Rancher was building in preparation to the arrival of our cows.  We brought swimsuits and played in the shallow, warm water of the Weiser River.  Isn’t the picture of Henley amazing?!  My mother-in-law took it with her iPhone, I love how clear it is.  And I really love that mop of curly hair on one of the happiest girls I know.

The girls and I played near the shore, in the very shallow water until Ty finished his work, then we all swam/floated down the river to the dam.  We ran into a family of four otters on our way.  They were wildly entertaining to watch swim, dive, and chase each other around the river.

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These next photos are of our favorite vacation destination: the Salmon River in Riggins, Idaho.  We spent six (I think) weekends here rafting, playing in the sand, and checking out the Seven Devils.  Henley repeatedly declares that “Riggins life is the best life” and I think we all agree.IMG_6042IMG_6040IMG_6024

We finally convinced almost all my side of the family to come rafting with us!  As expected, everyone had a blast and can’t wait to come next year.  Also, they are all aware now that Mr. Rancher is NOT shy or quiet or nice like he may seem.  Once you get to know the “river Ty” you know the real Ty.  He’s fun, wild, crazy, full of energy, relentless in his teasing, and the life of the party on the rafts.IMG_6011IMG_6009IMG_6045

My girls do not go down the river on rafts yet as Henley is afraid of the big water and Becca hates wearing her life jacket for very long.  Luckily, Riggins is home to lots of sandy beaches.  They are content to stay on the beach playing with the sand and rocks for the entire day it takes to raft the river.  Grandma Hawkins helped them build this dragonfly out of the river rocks.

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Hen trying to chop wood.  Poor girl has inherited her mother’s talent for handling an ax.IMG_6171

We also ventured up to Lost Lake, on what appears to be the smokiest day of the year.  I can’t wait to go back next year, when hopefully there is not a raging wildfire in the area.  The last and surrounding scenery were beautiful and perfect for paddle boarding.

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Becca is such a champ on the paddle boards.  So long as she is with me.  She doesn’t like the water with anyone else.

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Thank goodness for Aunt Lexcie who helps with Henley or Becca whenever or wherever we need her to.IMG_6182 (1)

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We even scored some child-free time on the paddle boards!  Not a regular occurrence, nor do I want it to be, but fun every so often.IMG_6177

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General Conference October 2018

Thanks to a challenge from Carleen Tanner, we put much greater effort into our preparation for General Conference this year.  For those of you who are not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, General Conference happens twice a year, in April and October, and is the primary forum where the prophet, apostles, and other district leaders speak to the entire congregation of the church (really to the whole world, the broadcasts are public) regarding what the Lord wants us to be doing.  Sounds great, right?  The downside is that these proceedings last for 8-10 hours…

Small children, fairly mono-tone speeches on doctrinal topics, speckled with singing of hymns accompanied by pipe-organ music, for 8-10 hours…

Not so great.  This is a photo of our efforts last April, as you can see there are toys strewn everywhere and varying levels of concentration from all members of the family.

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This time around we put considerable more effort into preparing for Conference.  I went grocery shopping, all alone, to stock up on candy and junk food to use as brain-power and bribery and successfully secreted away my stash until the big reveal on Saturday morning.  We also clipped photos of the General Authorities from the Ensign and framed or posted them in high-traffic areas of our home.

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Okay, so Miss Becca looks absolutely miserable, but it wasn’t from the Conference preparation!  She was in the midst of cutting four teeth, a high fever, and nasty cold at the time of this photo.  She really did enjoy looking at the pictures.

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Once we had the pictures up, we went through each Prophet/Apostle individually and learned about their lives, families, work interests, and church service.  We selected one phrase to describe each one and wrote it on the whiteboard.IMG_6141

Then as each one stepped up to the pulpit, we were able to say “Oh! That’s Elder Gong, he and his wife like to paint murals with children wherever they visit!”  This tiny tidbit of information really helped us relate to the speakers and pay more attention to their words.  Henley was especially excited to see the speakers she recognized–we only studied the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, perhaps next time we’ll add in the auxiliary leaders and seventies as well.  IMG_6163

As you can also see, we had considerably fewer toys out, cluttering our floor.  I printed pages for the girls to color or take notes and cleared the white board for coloring.  Other than that and food, we kept the living room fairly free of distractions.IMG_6164IMG_6194 (1)

I am truly amazed at how restful, uplifting, and inspiring General Conference was for me and for my family.  Our preparation was truly minimal, and required only small changes to our day-to-day schedule, but it yielded wondrous results.  I am grateful for the challenge from Sister Tanner to increase my preparation to receive the words of the Lord through his Prophet.  I will continue to improve my efforts to learn and grow and create meaningful, fun, uplifting, and bonding family experiences through church programs.  Sometimes I get caught in the rut of feeling burdened by Church and the responsibilities it places on me and my family; however, if I can change my mindset and view the responsibilities as opportunities to create new traditions and have fun, then everyone enjoys the experience and learns more from it.

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Pringles are not my favorite chip, but even I can’t deny they are very fun to eat!

Becca’s Birthday

Ohhhhhh Miss Becca.  What a year it has been (technically 13.5 months) since you’ve joined our little family.  You’ve challenged me in entirely different and strikingly similar ways as your older sister.  You’ve added such an element of structure, joy, and unity to our family.  It’s been rough, at times, but also so wonderfully sweet at others.

It is fun to have at least one member of my little nuclear family that has a birthday in the summer.  Even though Miss Becca only turned one, and that is not really the funnest birthday for cousins, friends, whoever is not intimately involved with the child, we decided to invite a bunch of cousins for a fun pool/outdoor party.  Becca was overwhelmed with the sheer number of people packed into our tiny house but she enjoyed cruising around outside and watching the chaos of ten kids in a water trough pool.

She would not taste her cake, not at all.  But she did help me make the frosting and had a few licks off the spatula.  The candle was mesmerizing and she needed some help to get it blown out.  After her party, the presents were super fun, but during the fact there were too many helping hands (cousins, BIG SISTER) to really enjoy the novelty of the books and toys.

We’re pretty lucky to have such a fiesty one-year-old in our house.  She’s going to be a very strong and independent woman one day.  For now, she’s trying to be the tyrant of our family, and we’re working hard on teaching and guiding her to accommodate the other three people that live here.

We love you Becca Boo!

Cooling Off

Summers around here are HOT.  Triple digit weather for days and days and nights that don’t drop below 85* make for a hot couple of weeks/months.  We have spent so much time in the water this summer trying to beat the heat.  Water slides, pools made from straw bales and plastic, or a simple tote filled with water straight from the hose, we’re not picky about the water!

Trying to Be Quiet at Church

Two separate Sundays.  Two separate methods to try to keep these girls quiet.  Forget about helping them feel the Spirit or understand what is being said.  Just hoping to keep them quiet enough to not distract those sitting two rows in front, behind, or to the side of us.

I’m sorry for the ones who sit just one row in front of us.  Or behind us. Or to the side.  Y’all get to enjoy the show Sunday after Sunday.

This is five minutes into the meeting and Daddy has miraculously wrangled both little tyrants onto his lap to color pictures in a teeny tiny notebook.  Sacrament meeting went swimmingly that day, for fifteen minutes.  Too bad the meeting lasts for one hour fifteen minutes.

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Next day in question, we brought toy tractors on a complete whim from me as I was hurriedly throwing toys in the diaper bag, since our regular fare of books, lacing cards, snacks, pens, and coloring books was not working out.

And these happy faces made it all through the first half hour of sacrament meeting.

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What am I going to have throw in the bag to make it all the way through the 75 minutes of quietude required?!