December and January…

Ahhhhhh the sweetness of the holidays.  They’re full of family, driving, delicious food, and short on sleeping, cleaning, rest, and boredom.  Then January rolls in and the daily grind picks back up even more intensely than before.  In my household this is due to the resuming of graduate work, tax preparation, budgeting, and meetings with bankers, landlords, and accountants.

Here’s a look inside the window of our life.

Bo is the best dog.  The best dog ever.  Both Henley and Becca pull on him, squeal high-pitched squeals which certainly can’t feel good to his ears, and generally make themselves a nuisance to him.  But he bears it all with unfailing good humor and love.  Becca followed Bo all around the room, tugging on him anywhere she could reach.  He eventually just laid down and placed his head onto her belly.  I think he was hoping to keep her in one place and was resigned to his fate of being used as pull-squish-chew-kick-slap-squeal-ride-toy.

Here he is again, playing the pillow for Miss Henley.  Working on Daddy’s schedule must be hard for a cow-dog as well as a cowgirl.

Here is Henley modeling some of her birthday and Christmas presents.  Uncle Tanner got the hat and stick horse for her and Aunt Lexcie got her the cow jammies.  She loves this horse.  And she loves her rocking horses.  And she loves her stuffed horses.  And she loves her real horses.  Horses of all kinds!

And little sister has to have a go with the stick horse.  Becca thinks her ears and mane are the best thing to chew on and run through her fingers.

Somehow I missed sharing this picture months ago, but this is how much of our days were spent during the October and November months.  Becca’s head was developing a flat spot from always sleeping in the same position.  The cranial specialist told us that her flattening would repair itself with more time spent off the back of her head.  So I became the tummy-time drill sergeant.  Henley was my happy helper.  I am amazed each day at how much Henley has fallen in love with her baby sister.  Not once in the busyness and stress of adding another member to our family has she disliked or complained about having her sister.  She may fight against me, or whine to Ty, but she doesn’t place any blame on her baby.  I’m so very grateful for her bond and attachment to Becca.  And for Becca’s attachment to her.

Along with her sister-ing skills, Henley has discovered a new talent…

Don’t ask me how she does it, I’ve tried and can’t do it.  She’s got a special talent!

I’ve made time to make homemade bread several times this last month, and that means making time to grind cups and cups of whole wheat flour.  Henley usually helps me with this job but she was helping feed cows so Becca had to step up.  The ear muffs are for muting the high-pitched whine of our wheat mill.  She didn’t mind them for about fifteen minutes, then she was done, done, done.

Oh these dresses!  My mom bought these as Christmas gifts for my girls and they are adorable!  I can’t tell you the number of people who commented on how cute they were for three Sundays in a row.

This misshapen doll was a project my mom and Henley undertook together.  I do believe I cut out the pattern when I was nine or ten.  My cutting skills obviously needed some improvement.

Here’s Miss Becca in her jammies from Aunt Lexcie.  The jams remind me of the long red underwear worn by the characters in old Western films.  Straight outta Mama’s saloon, drunk on milk!

Oh boy.  When big sister is away, little sister will play!  Henley bought this princess castle off of Craigslist with some of her Christmas money.  She is pretty good about sharing with Becca, but doesn’t usually let her have free reign with the entire castle like this.

We had a fun day of sorting, counting, and more sorting of our calves a couple weeks ago.  Becca and I stood outside the pens counting everything as it ran through the chute.

Henley used her sorting stick to help push the calves through the chute.  She had her first experience of being yelled at by the boss (aka her daddy) and the hired hand (aka her uncle Trayce).  Both times she was left in a puddle of tears because she “knows what she’s doing!” and she “did it like that last time!”  I had to reassure her that Daddy does really want her help while also teaching the lesson that when it comes to working cows, Dad’s instructions are the law and are to be obeyed when he says and how he says.  She pulled herself together and rejoined the work with a little more respect for what Ty instructed her to do.

Here we see the daily phenomenon of “Disneyland Dad” making his way into the house after a long day of work.  I spend all day, every day with my girls and make every effort to create enjoyable, educational, loving, and secure lives for them.  But the second Mr. Rancher walks through that door, it’s as if I don’t exist.  He strolls in, throws the baby around for a few minutes, lets the pre-schooler ride on his leg around the living room, and in less that ten minutes he’s like Santa Claus.  Moms just can’t compete with the roughhousing fun dads so naturally bring to the household.

Literally can’t compete, my 19 pound baby is hard to throw around very much.  I use up all my strength just toting her around the house and dancing “my sillies out” with the three year old.  Thank goodness for Daddies.

We’ve been practicing letters and rudimentary spelling for several months now, and just bought a magnet board to make use of our fun magnetic letters and numbers.  Becca even joined the fun, she made quick work of scraping all the letters from the board and onto the floor.  Babies are just so tidy and neat, aren’t they?

Henley was aghast at first, then she plopped herself down and proceeded with “this is A, this is H, this is Q, this is W…” as she replaced the letters.

*Ahem* there is a serious aversion to pants plaguing our house.  It’s been going on for about a year now.  I’m not sure what to do about it.  For now, I’m content to keep it contained to my house so long as it doesn’t spread to public places.

And look what we have here!  Another mischievous baby rolled and scooted right over to her dog.  Bo knows he’s been caught playing with the baby again.

As always, we’re a very blessed bunch.  We hope the same for all of you!


Days with Daddy

Ty is a wonderful father.  Last week Henley and I were having a rough, rough, rough day with each other.  She was mad at me, I was mad at her and we were both sleep deprived basket cases.  I finally got her settled for a nap and decided to take on myself.  Ty came home just as we were both waking up and heard all about our disaster of a morning.  He offered to take Henley with him.  I think we both said “Yes, please!” before he’d even finished making the offer.

He whisked Henley away to the Weiser River place where the two of them drove this monstrous articulating dump truck, filled with rock to a wash out along the river.  The snow and flooding earlier this year washed out a portion of a road on our place and Keith, the manager of the hunting-side of the Weiser River place is working to fix the road.  Ty offered to drive the dump truck and Henley got to ride along.  It wasn’t too long before Ty called saying Henley was sick and tired of driving the truck back and forth and could I please come pick her up.

The rest of the week, Henley accompanied Ty to work almost every day.  She had so much fun working with Ty and actually worked all day with him without getting crabby or complaining.

This convoy you see below is what it took to move our grain drill to a very secluded field near Paddock Resevoir, about 30 miles outside of Weiser.  It took five vehicles to move the drill, the tractors, and the seed to the new location.  I actually got to tag along on this expedition and even got to drive our brand new tractor by myself for the first time this year.  All that tractor lacks is a heated seat.


See how much she loves being outside? Or being with her dad? Or helping on the farm?

This is Samantha.  She’s a weaned bottle-baby who is still very tame and willing to let little cowgirls pet her.

Days with Daddy are the best days.

Hauling Cows with Two Kids

Hauling with two kids in tow is similar to hauling with one kid in tow.  Except now there are two little people complaining that they are hungry.  Two little people are tired and in need of a nap.  Two little people not wanting to be buckled in their carseats.

I have discovered the real purpose of carseats.  Carseat manufacturers may say that the purpose of a carseat is to keep your child safe while traveling in a car.  This is certainly one benefit, but the true purpose is to keep your child in one place while driving!  To keep them from crawling all over the seats, the controls, the steering wheel, and your lap during your road trip.  All it takes is a couple minutes of hauling in the semi for me to realize just how much I love my kids’ careseats and their restraining mechanisms.

Amid the crying and whining, though, there are sweet moments like this.

I love the sleeper-area of our semi where the girls can play while the cows or hay or whatever is being loaded.  The bed is the perfect place to take a nap, snuggle, change a diaper, feed a baby, read a story, feed a pre-schooler, or play with your little or big sister.

Hauling Hay with One Kid

One of the few jobs I could help with, while pregnant and mothering a vivacious two-and-a-half-year-old was hauling hay out of the field and up to the hay shed.  Hay hauling is pretty low impact so long as you keep a sharp eye out for holes or ditches in which you could sink a tire or two of the semi.  The semi-seats are air ride which makes for fairly smooth work for the driver.  The only thing wrong with the semi is that it is equipped with far too many buttons, knobs, and gadgets that a certain little child simply can’t keep her hands off.

Inevitably, though, hay hauling leads to napping in the sleeper of the semi.  It’s a hot and long job and Miss Henley always succumbs to a nap on the pile of sleeping bags in the back.

I just wish our dog Bo hadn’t also taken a nap on those very same sleeping bags.

Working Cows with Pre-schooler and Baby

I can’t believe this happened with baby #2!

Henley did this as a baby…


at right about the same age too.  Something about that playmat I guess.

Back to present day, Becca was just so tired she had to snag a nap right before we piled in the car to go help Ty give our calves their second round of vaccinations last Saturday.  Henley rode with Grandma Hawkins to help gather the cattle while Becca and I walked around.  Miss Henley decided that cutting cows was too jolt-y and joined us for our walk.  We visited the pack goats that live at our new corrals (well the new-to-us-old-corrals that are on the new place we rent along the Weiser River) and climbed over every single fence on the place.  Henley is big enough to climb over the fence all by herself, as she repeatedly told me when I offered my hand.

She also learned how to do this…

go through the gate…

push it closed…

and latch the chain!  Never forget to close the gate!  I am surprised daily at how grown up and responsible my Little Miss is becoming.  I notice her development even more now that I have the fairly helpless comparison of Miss Becca.  It is so nice that Henley can do more and more for herself without my help and she is so engaging to talk or play with.  On the other hand though, she is getting to be a little sassypants too.  That is definitely one perk of the tiny baby stage, they are generally sweet little things.

Becca hung out in our Lillebaby carrier (the best thing ever!) all day, except when she needed to eat, and loved it.  This is the only way I can convince her to snuggle with me.  Thanks to our baby-wearing success, I was able to help give the vaccinations by filling the shot guns and mixing the vaccine.  Henley was eager to help give shots as she is now “big enough” at least by her standards.

After all the calves had their shots and had been returned to the pasture, I decided to test the abilities of my Lillebaby to the max and got on a horse.  I’m happy to report that it worked beautifully and really was comfortable for me and Becca.

We are trying to find some free time in the next two weeks to go riding as a family.  I’m a little surprised at how much I liked riding, even for ten minutes, with Becca.  It is so important to me that my kids see me doing things, especially ranch things, that are maybe not the most convenient or easiest things.  I want them to remember their mom being part of the ranch and for them to be part of the ranch from a young age.  For women who grew up riding horses or working cows this may not be as much of an intentional decision as it has been with me.  Since I am still a fairly novice rider myself, and not the most comfortable around cows, it definitely takes effort and a steeled commitment to leave my comfort-zone and let my children take part in this lifestyle and join in myself.  I can honestly say that over the past four years I’ve come to love this way of life and I’ve gained a huge sense of accomplishment from Henley’s comfort and love of animals and agriculture.

Bath Time

Becca loves her baths.  She will sit in the water for a full twenty minutes without one squawk of protest.   

I think these pictures really show how chubby she is getting.

You can see her double chin, neck roll, the start of her shoulder roll, and the bicep roll she’s just starting to get.  If we had pulled the towel up you could also see the three almost four rolls cascading down her chunky thighs.

We barely made it through one box of newborn diapers and I don’t think we’ll make it through the two boxes of size 1 diapers we bought.  She fits into her 0-3 month clothes, but just barely.  I’m going to have to go shopping for clothes and bigger diapers for this chunky monkey of mine.

True to his ranching profession and the county-fair-time of year, Mr. Rancher tells me daily that we should enter me in a dairy competition for quantity and fat-quality of milk.  You can’t possibly imagine what a treat pregnancy, childbirth, and lactation are when one is married to a rancher (or I suppose a dairy farmer).

Summer Happenings

Summer has always been a busy time for the Hawkins family, but this summer has been especially hectic and full.  Obviously an active two-year-old, cows, a dog (who is temporarily crippled, more on that in another post), and a very pregnant wife/mother adds up to a busy household and lots of responsibilities, but that’s not all we’ve had going on.  You see, this year we have had the truly wonderful and incredible opportunity to increase our farming operation big time.  Like quadrupled, maybe quintupled the amount of acreage we farm.  In one year.  That means a quintupled amount of work for Mr. Rancher.  More ground working, more planting, more irrigating, more hauling, more marketing, more invoicing, more bill paying, more bank meeting, more away-from-home-and-family being, and more not-sleeping.  Henley and I have been on our own for most of the summer, and if we did want to see Ty we hauled lunch or dinner to the fields and drove the tractor while he ate.  So while we are all thrilled to have more ground and this chance to really grow our business, it has been a hard summer.

Ty being gone so much has really been tricky with the Little Miss.  We’ve had to get creative about family time and I’ve been solely responsible for caring for her.  Poor kid has been stuck with a largely pregnant mother all summer!  Even so, we have carved out a little time to have fun and make more memories this year than just working around the clock.

Here Henley is in her favorite dress, all ready to go to church.  She felt so fancy in her new shoes, poofy dress, and pigtails.

The Budweiser Clydesdale horses stopped over for a break in my hometown this summer and we got to see them!  They are huge horses and very friendly.  Henley wasn’t too sure about petting this guy at first.  I think something about his monstrous size put her off.

Okay…bragging moment right here.  Here I am 37 weeks pregnant and surfing on the Fourth of July.  If I’m being honest, I only managed to stay up for a few seconds but I did get up!

Mr. Rancher actually made it to the boating party–yay!–and totally rocked surfing.  And don’t even ask about the hat.  He has a weird compulsion that makes him wear it, all the stinkin’ time.

Miss Henley had a blast with her cousins, grandparents, and aunts and uncles.  Her she is chumming with my big sister Ruth.  I love this picture.

We have a very trendy (it’s funny to me that stock tank swimming pools are a trendy thing) swimming pool made from a leaky stock tank that we have patched up and added a filter to that we spend every afternoon in.  It’s been a life saver for me and Henley loves to play in the water.  If I could only keep the dirty cowdogs from jumping in every time they walk by it might stay clean a bit longer.

Muffins!  We’ve made so many batches of muffins and thrown basically all of them in the freezer for when Baby gets here.  Henley is a champ at using this old-fashioned egg beater to mix all the ingredients.  She is my helper–and she has gained enough coordination and focus that she really is helpful around the house.  From making muffins to sorting laundry, she helps me get everything done around here.

Another freezer item: homemade burritos.  Henley’s contribution to this project was eating half the grated cheese while I filled and rolled the burritos.  She’s a cheese monster too.

I sent this picture to Mr. Rancher partially to make him hurry home for dinner and partially to brag on my cooking skills.  Trust me, dinner does not always look or taste this yummy.

Thanks to all the snow and rain this year, the mosquitoes are horrible.  Wretched.  Awful.  They don’t care if you have insect repellent on every inch of your exposed skin.  They will bite through clothes and spray.  Since we have animals and plants and just the basic need to be outside every day, we improvised mosquito-wear from loose button-down shirts–thank you Mr. Rancher–and long pants.  Thankfully, our landlord came and fogged our yard last night and it seems to have cut the numbers down, at least for a little while.

Finally, I bought a paddle board!  I have wanted one for years and found a great deal on Craigslist so I went for it.  I am super proud to report that I can do it, even pregnant, and am actually kind of good at it.  Mr. Rancher prefers rafting.  He doesn’t do so well with balancing…but don’t tell him I said that!  Henley is great about riding with me, though she is still mad about the one time I fell off and left her alone on the board.  Even Bo has ridden on the board with me, though he really gets nervous the further we paddled from the shore.

All in all our summer has been a busy but beautiful one.  We’re all working hard to keep things going at home and on the farm/ranch.  Now if I could just have this baby, that’d be great.  I’m tired of not being able to reach my toes and being a human heater.  Henley is excited to meet her baby sister and has been practicing her baby-care for weeks now.  Ty is so over having a pregnant wife who is cranky a lot of the time (hey, it’s hot, okay? Cut me a break!) and the six pillows it takes me to be any sort of comfortable at night.

Hope you all are having a good summer!

Preg-checking Repulsion

Mr. Rancher had a few cows and calves to move to a new pasture today and Miss Henley has been dying to go with him and ride her horse so she got to spend most of the day with Daddy.  I joined them around noon and helped vaccinate and brand the calves.  Just before loading the animals on the trailers for transport Ty re-checked three of the cows without calves to see how far along their pregnancies were.  For any of you who are not familiar with livestock or how a cow is checked for gestational information, you may be disgusted by what is about to follow.

Trayce and Ty secured the cows, one by one, in the chute and Ty proceeded to insert his gloved-to-the-shoulder-arm into the cows’ rectum and press downward onto each one’s uterus to feel the size of the calf.  Often cow-poop has to be pulled out of the rectum before the rancher or veterinarian can really feel the uterus.

Yes, gross, I know.  I’ve become acclimated to the grossness of agriculture in the past four years.  My beautiful daughter, however, has not had quite as much experience with doctoring bovines as I have.  Today was her first experience with preg-checking, and it is very safe to say that she was completely horrified by what her dad was doing.  She stood next to me, holding my hand, little mouth slightly ajar, eyes darting back and forth between Ty’s hand up a cow’s butt and me.  I explained to her that Ty was just checking to see if the cow had a baby calf in her tummy.  Her look of horror turned to one of pure repugnance and I realized that she was equating what Ty was doing with what the doctor must do to check my tummy for a baby.  I quickly told her that that is not at all how the doctor checks on her baby sister.

Can you even imagine?  It’s as if my whole body tensed with even the very suggestion of such an undignified act, my body’s very physical was of saying “Oh H*** no!”  It is far worse watching preg-checking when one is actually pregnant one’s self.

The best part of this whole experience was listening to Henley’s bedtime prayers wherein she asked Heavenly Father to bless those cows that “daddy grabbed the poop from their tails.”  She also reminded me to bless those cows that “daddy pulled the poop out of their bums” during our family prayer.  Preg-checking made a big impression on her little mind.  I can’t wait to hear from her nursery leaders at church on Sunday–she is quite the story-teller and always has a funny story (usually ranch related) to share with her class of 18 mos. to 3 year olds and their two teachers.

I’m not sure if her relationship with her dad will ever be the same though.  I’ve never seen her look so disgusted in her 2.5 years.

Teenage Chickens

Chicks grow fast!  Ours are no longer chicks, more like young adult chickens.  They have mastered the art of putting themselves to bed at night (hallelujah!) and venture out into the yard, hay fields, and sheds on a regular basis.  The other day, I reached in to grab their feeder and one of the rotten things pecked my hand!  Naturally I grabbed her and let Henley hold her for a good ten minutes until she calmed down.  She wasn’t a fan of being held and petted, but she needed a lesson in manners.


Clearly Henley loved the experience.  She was so gentle with the hen and kept telling her what a good and pretty bird she was.


The chicks are so fun to watch.  They try to act like grown-up hens who strut around the yard, looking for bugs and clucking away.  Just when you think they are really grown up, something like the leaves rustling or door closing startles them and the run, flat out, for the cover of the lilac bush, peeping as they go.  There’s an odd resemblance between the behavior of half-grown chicks and toddlers…

Babies, babies, babies

That’s what’s been going on around here lately.

This sad baby got sick or something and was abandoned by her mother.  Poor thing spent the weekend in the vet clinic and is now home for us to look after.  She takes a bottle with a lot of help from us and sometimes, like in this photo, looks like she’s about to give up.  At the last check though she was holding her head up and looked quite content.  Morning will tell.

These little ladies were a gift to Henley from her grandparents.  They just graduated from my laundry room (Hallelujah!!!) to the big coop outside.  We love watching them scurry around outside and explore our yard.  Who knew chickens could be so entertaining?

I had my ultrasound today to check in on our little one and guess what…it’s a GIRL!  Go figure, since every other infant creature around this place is female. Henley is simply thrilled to be having a baby sister!  Baby Hawkins looks healthy and perfectly formed.  Now Mr. Rancher and I can really start fighting over what to name the newest member of our little family.

All I’m trying to say is: the names he dreams up are totally and completely and undeniably awful.  No way, no how am I going to saddle a poor, innocent child with his suggestions.  Naturally, Ty has to object to every single normal name I throw out, just as a matter of principle.  Clearly we have a very mature and mutually understanding relationship based on compromise and patient deliberation of important matters.

We are all so stinkin’ happy about the beautiful spring weather.  Thanks to the calf and the chicks, we spent most of the day outside, and even though the evidence of dirty playing showed up in Henley’s brown bath water, I am so happy she can be outside again!   She would dart from her trampoline to the calf’s box to the chicken coop back to the pots she was filling with water and begin all over again.  I did my best to convince her to keep her shoes on her little feet and to wash her hands after touching any of the animals.  It’s no wonder kids who grow up on farms develop fewer allergies, for goodness sakes the darn whippersnappers are kissing, hugging, and petting the animals every chance they get regardless of whether string cheese or graham crackers happen to be in their hands at the same time!

Seriously though, her bath water was as brown as a mud puddle.