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.

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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.

Sunday Shenanigans

Sundays aren’t always good days at our house.  We are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, LDS or Mormon church, and one thing we are working on as a church collectively and also as an individual family is keeping the Sabbath holy.  Basically this means recommitting to worship, family, service, and rest on Sunday.  It can be very hard to resist the urge to clean, catch up on book-keeping, work in the yard, or various other chores that need to be done.  Also, our cows and farm ground always seems to need extra attention on Sundays, something we are working on with more pro-active planning.  Our kids also tend to turn into emotional monsters on Sunday.  It’s also tremendously and ridiculously difficult to take a 3 1/2 year old and a 10 month old to THREE hours of church.

However, as we’ve tried (and failed oh so many times) to improve our Sundays, little by little we have made some progress.  And I think I’m starting to look forward to Sundays rather than dread them…

Sometimes we fail at Sabbath day observance, but sometimes we build tents out of sheets and pretend we’re camping on a beach before getting dressed for church.IMG_5529.jpg

Sometimes we take mommy-daughter selfies to document the real changes that are happening to make at least one of my kids look a little more like me!IMG_5540.jpg

Sometimes we all work together to have a fun and relaxing imaginary experience.IMG_5543.jpg

Sometimes we practice including others in the game, even little babies who don’t know how to play “right.”IMG_5562.jpgIMG_5565.jpg

Sometimes Mr. Rancher and I take some time to snuggle on a twin-size bed, tormenting and teasing our daughter that we’re stealing her room, blankets and all.  Sometimes we even plan our week in advance while pretending to be blanket pirates.IMG_5570.jpg

Sometimes we all cram onto a twin-size bed to take a family selfie.IMG_5575.jpgIMG_5578.jpg

Sometimes we build kites out of trash bags, sticks, ribbon, and tape and fly a kite before church.IMG_5595.jpg

Sometimes we enjoy the many hours we have before going to church at 1 PM.  I wish most of our Sundays were this fun-filled and rejuvenating.  I tend to whine and complain about the awful church schedule we have right now–1 PM to 4PM, which really means 12:30 to 4:30, which is so so awful for kids who usually sleep from noon to 3–rather than appreciate the time we have to playing, connecting, resting, and serving before church worship.  I can honestly say we are doing better with Sundays, but we still have a long ways to go.  I appreciate the lesson of resting and changing our focus for one day each week.  I know that when I’ve done Sunday right and tried to serve others, spend unconditional and unscheduled time with my family, worship and meditate and study, and simply rest from life’s daily demands, I am more effective during the upcoming week and the people around me feel loved and fulfilled.

Sundays are a gift.  A gift we really have to unwrap and dive into before we can appreciate its true worth.  In fact, if we don’t really dive into it, we can view this gift as more of a curse than a blessing (i.e. more to add to the to-do list, more requirements to be met) but that’s our own fault for only partially opening the gift the Lord has given us.

Utah Trip

One challenge of raising beef cattle, or any livestock/agricultural product, is that you are tied to the cows, fields, pivots, tractors, basically the dirt you live on every day of your life.  This makes travel of any sort tricky and virtually non-existent.  However, occasionally the stars will align, there will be a pressing need to travel somewhere (i.e. a sibling’s wedding), the fields will be planted, irrigation not begun yet, the cows are all in the pastures they’re meant to be in (this is a joke!), and a rancher can go on a family vacation for a few days.  Such an event occurred just two weeks ago for my family and it was so delightfully wonderful!

We drove from our home through Southern Idaho and Northern Utah and stopped at many of the parks and sites along the way to Ty’s brother Tanner’s wedding.  Any of you familiar with the area might say there’s nothing to see along that drive, but with the use of many back-highways and the need to stop every 90 minutes for the sake of two small kiddos, I beg to differ.  Since school is starting again and spring is a notoriously busy time of year for my life, the pictures and story of our trip are in reverse order…and I’m too lazy to reverse it.  Enjoy!

Here are my girls on Saturday night, home and happy to be watching the familiar “Pinkalicious” show for a few minutes before bedtime.  Both were so relieved to be unbuckled from their carseats and given free-reign over their toys at last.

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Our second-to-last stop on Saturday was at the City of Rocks National Park.  What an amazing place!  The rocks are breathtaking, everywhere you look there is another huge formation jutting out from its otherwise flat surroundings.  We went on a mini-nature walk (I can’t call it a hike really) around Bathtub Rock and did a little amateur rock climbing.

Becca had a great view atop Mr. Rancher’s shoulders.  This guy is such a fun-loving and adventurous dad!  Just one of the many things I love about him.IMG_2079.jpg

We even let Miss Becca climb around the base of the rocks.  Honestly, she is probably the strongest out of all of us given how much time she spends crawling and climbing everywhere.  If she was a bit more balanced, she could’ve climbed the whole thing without even breaking a sweat.  I however, would have been breaking a sweat watching her do it.IMG_2074.jpg

“I got this, Mom.  Chill out.”IMG_2070.jpg

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I can’t chill out!  Becca wanted to go anywhere she could and did get frustrated with my ever-present hands ready to catch her.  Henley only stayed with us for a minute before climbing with her dad.IMG_5741.jpg

She’s a real rock climber!IMG_2065.jpg

We were so lucky to have cousins with us on this trip.  Jake and Tina and their kids came down for the wedding and we got to spend lots of time playing at the Lodge where we stayed and playing at the various stops on the way back.IMG_2064.jpg

Miss Independence loved having the older kids to play with and loved playing at the City of Rocks.  IMG_2060.jpg

Here you see our vantage point from the top of Bathtub Rock.  Mr. Rancher, me, Jake, Lexcie, Trayce, and Joely made the scary (though definitely amateur) climb to the top to see the natural bathtub formed in the top of these rocks.  IMG_2057.jpgIMG_2056.jpg

I’ll admit, my head was spinning from the top of the rocks.  I’ve never been afraid of heights or nervous about things like climbing rock walls or roller-coasters, but there must be something about having two kids that messes with my sense of balance, invincibility, and nerves overall.  IMG_2055.jpg

The view was awesome, but I wasn’t sorry to climb back down.  Unfortunately, there was a troop of Boy Scouts waiting for us to get out of the way so they could climb up and I had an audience to watch my less-than-graceful descent from the start of the climb which was a makeshift re-bar ladder several feet off the base of the rock.  I couldn’t seem to find a place to plant my foot as the ladder ended and did a nice belly-slide down the front of the rock.  Graceful.

Ty stayed on top much longer and said “Take one last picture of me, just in case.”  Gee thanks, honey.  He’s too much of a daredevil for me sometimes.  He wanted to bring Henley up with us, but I put my foot down there.  That doesn’t happen too often, but the steep climb and possibility of falling hundreds of feet to, at the very least, a set of broken bones. IMG_2054.jpg

Wonderful Aunt Lexcie! She was so much fun on this trip, helping with the kids and showing us the best places to go.IMG_2052.jpg

We made it! IMG_2051.jpg

In an effort to document Mr. Rancher and me, rather than just Mr. Rancher and the kids, I took many more selfies this trip than usual.  Going through my blog, I realized that I don’t have many pictures of my husband and me, so I’m trying to be better about getting in the picture myself and to take photos of my marriage along with my family.IMG_2040.jpg

Henley loved spending so much time with Aunt Lexcie on this trip.  They even shared a bed at the lodge.  On our way home Henley let out a big sigh and said, “oh it’s so sad! Lexcie doesn’t get to sleep with me tonight!”  I’m Lexcie slept just fine without a three year old’s knees in her back.

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Friday was the day of the wedding.  Here we are, all dressed up and ready to head to the temple.  IMG_5742.jpg

This is Miss Becca, aka the sumo wrestler, just before getting into her very beautiful but very restrictive dress.  Joely was the best babysitter and actually had to be grounded from holding Becca so that the baby could have a crawling break. IMG_2033.jpg

This was Thursday night, just before bed.  These three were trying to watch Leap for probably the third time.  I don’t think they ever finished it since they insisted on starting from the beginning each time they sat down to watch it.IMG_5736.jpg

We spent Thursday in Salt Lake City at Hogle Zoo and Temple Square.  This is a photo of us driving back to the lodge after a long day of site-seeing and walking…IMG_2031.jpg

One of my favorite things about Salt Lake City is this Christus.  It is amazing how large, beautiful, and majestic our Savior looks up close.  Henley thought it was amazing for about five minutes then was ready for the next adventure.  IMG_5730.jpg

Our token family photo before leaving the zoo for the day.IMG_5726.jpg

Another selfie…with my honey.IMG_5723.jpg

The polar bears put on such a great show! They dove and swam all around their enclosure.  IMG_5721.jpg

You can’t tell by this picture, but Becca thought we needed to bring the polar bears home with us for her entertainment.IMG_5718.jpg

Lazy lions sleeping in the sun.  All the big cats were too sleepy to be very interesting.IMG_2029.jpg

This is a snapshot from our drive down to the zoo.  In hopes of playing in the splash pad with Henley, Mr. Rancher wore a tee-shirt and swim trunks to the zoo.  He acts like a complete nitwit when he wears tees and shorts and this time was no different.  He chewed fourteen pieces of grape-flavored gum the whole two hour drive and repeatedly blew bubbles the size of soccer balls.  It’s so clear to me why he almost always wears button-down shirts and jeans…he needs the clothes to make him act like a sensible adult!IMG_5709.jpg

Catching a nap on the way down.  Didn’t look comfortable then and doesn’t look comfortable now.IMG_5706.jpg

These last pictures are from our very first stop of the entire trip in Twin Falls, ID.  We were lucky enough to see ten base-jumpers jump and land from the bridge over the Snake River.  It was so scary to watch!  I will never be participating in that activity.IMG_5692.jpgIMG_5685.jpgIMG_5684.jpgIMG_5683.jpg

Overall, our trip was so much fun!  It was a much needed and overdue break from the routine of our daily life.  We were happy to get home and back to normal, but so grateful for the break and the chance to just play for a few days.

 

Let’s Go Fly a Kite

We love to be outside.  Absolutely love it.  The one weather phenomenon that constantly foils our ability to be outdoors is the wind.  The wind is so hard to dress against and find enjoyment in.  But sometimes, just sometimes, we find ways to enjoy even the wind.

Like a few weeks ago when we went to Grandma’s and flew kites!  Remember the part in Mary Poppins when the children are trying to explain to their father that the kite got away and they were simply trying to get it back home but got lost in the park and that was why they ran away?  My wispy daughter Henley almost was carried away with the kite.  It’s so fun to see the wonder and amazement on her face as she experiences so many things for the first time.  Miss Becca was far more impressed with the barking dogs than the kites flying.  To each her own!

A Little Imagination Goes a Long Way

Any guesses what game these girls were playing?

Pirates?

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Maybe busy housewives, who have their hair tied back so they can scrub floors, akin to the head-wear worn by pioneer women during housework (let’s face it, all these girls like to watch and imitate Little House on the Prairie)?

Nope.  These three were watching Tangled, the Disney rendition of the Rapunzel story.  All three of these girls wanted long hair just like Rapunzel, and they were the ones to bring me the scarves to tie on their little imaginative heads to make “Rapunzel hair.”  They alternated between watching the movie and running through the house as fast as possible to make their “hair” fly out behind them.  They even found small toy animals to tuck on their shoulders for their own version of Pascal the chameleon.

A little imagination goes a long way.

 

Library Trips

One of our very favorite activities is attending our small town library’s storytime.  Henley and I have been going to storytime since she was 13 months old.  We’ve become one of the regular “mommy and me” couples, and have passed the bring-your-toddler-to-storytime-or-pull-your-eyelashes-out-with-needle-nose-pliers-since-it’s-basically-the-same-amount-of-torture test.  As you can see below, Henley has learned to sit nicely by her friends and actually listen to the story.

She can also check out our books all by herself.  She pushes the heavy book bag over the counter, scoots a chair over, and hangs over counter to chat with the librarian as she scans the books.  It almost makes me a little sad to see how grown up my first-born is; then I am dragged back to reality by my second-born who is now capable and oh so willing to pull every single book off the shelves and drool on each one.  Each stage is fun, and I tend towards looking forward to each new one and the progress of the child rather than bemoan the fact that they can’t stay little forever.  Sure the little stage is fun and sweet and cute and doesn’t last forever, but the getting older (hahahaha as if three years old is “older”) stages are fun too.  And they open up a whole world of possibilities.  Like passing the torch of checking out the library books.  With each passing day, Henley is taking over more and more tasks for me.  Pretty soon I’ll be able to lay in bed all day, reading and napping while she runs the household…

 

 

Not likely, but it is nice to daydream about sleeping (haha).