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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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.

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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Branding 2018

Branding the calves is always a great time of year.  There’s the mounted help, the ropers, the cowboys.dsc_0634

Annnnnnd there’s the ground crew.  That is, in fact, me wielding the branding iron.  This year I succumbed to the pressure to learn a job a swore I would never do, brand the calves with a searing hot iron.  Don’t get me wrong, I know it has to be done, I just don’t want to be the one doing it.  There’s something almost artistic in the way different ranchers approach branding their cattle, how they walk up, take their stance, angle the iron just perfectly, and press down, hold for a count, then lift up to inspect the job.  I am sure this year’s batch of calves are sporting the ugliest, most sloppy brands of any we’ve every raised.

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When I mentioned the act of branding as a form of artistic display, Mr. Rancher replied that ear-marking was actually more of an art.  Strange to think of any sort of animal husbandry as artistic or creative…only truly amateur connoisseurs of art (such as myself) would think so.  Or perhaps I’m improving my ability to find beauty and grace whatever the situation around me, I’ll let you decide.

Either way, I really don’t want to learn ear-marking.  Which is why I will never voluntarily or intentionally carry a pocket-knife to a branding.

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As you can see, our ground crew this year consisted of Mr. Rancher and a bunch of women/girls/babies.  My niece Megan was the best innoculator this side of the Rockies and asked a million questions about the cows and calves.  She’s fascinated with animals and a hard worker making her a pro-branding-hand.  My sis-in-law Lexcie, my branding bud for life, stepped in to help any way she was needed.  She’s a peach and always will be in my book.

Say what you will about equality of the sexes, females simply are not equipped to throw steers and heifers to the ground in the same effortless way males are.  Point of fact, I had to throw down many of our calves (another first time experience) and I was dog-tired by the end of the day, not to mention much slower and clumsier than my husband at the work.  Most of the time, Lexcie and I had to both work the calf together in order to get it secured on the ground, while Mr. Rancher handled even the largest ones all on his own.  True, my hubby is a manly-man and tough-as-nails and super-strong and a-really-hard-worker and all that masculine jazz, but you know what?  Lexcie and I are pretty tough too, and we still couldn’t keep up.  Next year, I’m advocating for more men on the ground crew!dsc_0643

Miss Becca was a champion branding-buddy for 3.67 minutes.  About as long as it takes to snap two photos in the melee of the branding pen.

Don’t I look like such a bad*** ranch mama?  It’s all a show, folks.  All a show.  This blog, though based on our real life, only shows snippets and snapshots, not the whole picture.  The reality is that my gracious sister spent most of the day caring for my baby and pre-schooler while I worked with Mr. Rancher.  There is simply no way I could have done both and I’m so grateful my sister was there to fill the gap.  She’s a good sport and a generous soul.dsc_0638

Here’s the kid-crew.  These monsters I mean munchkins had a grand day of exploring, playing, and even fighting.

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My curly locks and cousin Cambree (in the red shirt) had a knock-down-drag-out-fist-fight over a football.  Neither girl was seriously injured, neither girl ended up crying, and neither girl was ready to stop the brawl until Grandma pulled the two apart.  Tough cookies that simply don’t have an ounce of “give-up” between their two little bodies.  They’re really the best of friends…and maybe it’s healthy to have a sparring buddy…ya know, to get rid of pent up aggression in a healthy, supervised manner…maybe???

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At the end of the day, branding brings together so many people and requires input from everyone to get the job done.  Cowboys to rope, ground crew to brand, camera crew (Thanks, Liz!) to capture the memories, kids to entertain and teach, family to cook, help, care for kids, rancher to make the whole thing happen, and so on and on.

I sure do love my crew, cowboys, ropers, ground-workers, Mr. Rancher, sisters, munchkins, cousins, in-laws and all.  Don’t know what I’d do without ’em.

New Year (title from Jan. 2016)

Maybe I should clean out the drafts box on my blog more often.  Lookie what I found today that just gave my heart a chuckle.

It’s a new year and Henley is sleeping through the night!!!

I repeat: She is sleeping through the night!

It is such a wonderful feeling to get a good night of peaceful, restful sleep for the first time in thirteen months.   She is also starting to talk a bit more.  She’ll say no-no-no all day long, mainly because she does things she shouldn’t all day long.  On the upside of all the “no’s” and tantrums, Miss Henley has also started giving and blowing kisses.  Even while we are feeding the cows, she’ll lean up against the tractor window and send kisses to her dad while he flakes the hay off the wagon.

Winter is always slow and even a tad boring for ranchers.  Ty feeds the cows every day but that only takes a few hours and then there’s the rest of the fog-filled, cold day ahead…

Clearly, I trailed off elsewhere in my thoughts and never got around to completing this blog, but what a precious reminder of Miss Henley’s baby days.  Miss Henley had not once slept through the night before this post that was written January 2016 when she was 13 months old.  And the “no-no-no-no” chorus!  How could I forget that???  We’re heading down that same track with the alarming speed of a freight train as Miss Becca starts talking more and more and doing more and more things she shouldn’t.  Like throwing the yogurt carton out of the shopping cart causing it to crack and yogurt to splatter all over the grocery store floor…

Just as Baby Henley sweetened her attitude and willfulness with baby kisses, Miss Becca’s serious yet impish personality adds a touch of humor and wonder to her naughtiness that is irresistibly funny and exasperating at the same time.  Gotta love these girls.

I’m mentally preparing myself for the next  verse of the “no-no-no-no” chorus.

Daily Life

Just catching up on sharing some pictures over here…don’t mind me.  These girls keep me so occupied!  I was about to type “busy” but since reading a great book…I believe the title is Real Moms: Making it up as we go along (forgive me for not getting off the couch to make sure)…in which the author discusses the fallacy of busyness especially for mothers, I’m trying to avoid saying “I’m just so busy!”  Not that I’m not busy, because believe me I am (what with two kids, a business, graduate school, church, a house, a yard, ten cats, one dog, riding lessons, family, friends, etc.) but so is everyone else, and I am working on owning my decisions and allowing myself to be happy with what I’ve decided rather than just busy. 

Lately, Henley has been making huge strides in her development.  As you can see, she is mastering more and more penmanship skills.  She can now write O’s, 6’s, C’s, and B’s (which aren’t pictured).  And she’s been doing this without any instruction from me.  Self-directed learning makes me a happy mama.  Thankfully, she still wakes up after every night and nap with a lion’s mane of hair which reminds me she’s still my little-love.

We’ve been having regular tea parties with our gorgeous, china tea set.  We have tried milk with graham crackers, hot chocolate with cinnamon toast, and peach tea with buttered toast.  We’re not big fans of the tea…but the party is simply delightful.  Miss Becca has also made great strides in her development.  She’s mastered the art of horseback riding, so long as she’s on this tiny rocking horse.  What’s more, she’s perfected the art of unloading each and every piece of clean clothing from either the drawer, dryer, or laundry basket and depositing it on the floor.  Helpful little girl.