Food · let's visit · On The Ranch · Personal

#AskARancher

let's talk about food

This is something that has been on my heart for a long time. And this is a long ole post, y’all, I know. In the future, though, I’ll be sharing short and sweet posts on my Instagram and I’ll try and keep the novels to a minimum.

All around us, in this age of the Internet, we are surrounded by information about everything. Which, you know, is really stinkin’ cool in a lot of ways. We’re so connected, and that’s something that I love because it helps me feel less isolated out here. But, there are a lot of things I, like a lot of people, don’t love about the Internet, and the at the top of my list is the misinformation spread by people who pretend that they know what they’re talking about.

Spoiler: they don’t always know. Not so much. I mean, come on, people are eating Tide Pods. It’s a crazy world out there, folks.

Unlike eating Tide Pods, eating food is important. It’s *literally* what keeps us alive. So, I understand the heated debates and the emotions that surround food and how it’s grown and made. But, it breaks my heart to see people being scared about the safety and quality of their food or how it was raised based upon information they found online, put there by someone who either a) has no idea what they’re talking about, b) might know what they’re talking about but has an agenda or is sponsored by a specific product or company, or c) is also just freaked out and is acting accordingly and sharing anecdotal evidence like it’s verifiable, evidence-based science.

And listen, I know there are lots of people online who are totally, 100% qualified to talk to you about your food, and I’m so glad. But to me, it feels like for every one of those, there are ten more who are the modern-day equivalent of medicine show guys with their bottles full of sugar and heroine. It seems like the very, very passionate voices on either end are drowning out the reasonable, voices in the middle, and that’s no good.

 

Please, I implore you, if you have a question about beef production, ask a (real) cattle rancher or farmer. If you have a question about fruits, vegetables, or other foods that grow out of the ground, ask a (real) farmer. If you have a question about the nutritional content of anything, ask a (licensed, non-biased, professional) nutritionist. If you are concerned that your diet is incomplete or that you are unhealthy, ask a (board-certified) doctor or consult a (registered, accredited) dietician. Use your best judgment to choose players for your team who are going to give you the best, most inclusive information. Do not turn to people sitting behind screens who harp upon the dangers or benefits of things they don’t know about, or who are peddling products or a lifestyle that doesn’t suit you. When you read articles, look for the science. Look for the proof. Look for the citations, and where they’re from. Learn about who’s doing the writing, and why. And if they are evangelizing their food choices to others to scare them, belittle them, or make them feel poorly about their own choices, I would choose to be wary of the information they are offering up.

However, wariness aside, I am absolutely not here to attack others. I am not here to tell you that you should eat beef, or what kind of beef you should eat. I’m here to show you that the people who raise your food are just like you. We are wives and husbands and parents and business owners and sports fans and Netflix enthusiasts and environmentalists and democrats and republications. We love our communities, and our people, and want to meet you and know you and welcome you into what we do, because you have a share in this, too. We love our jobs, and our ranches, and our farms, and our animals. And we want you to trust us, because this is our life’s work, and where our hearts live. It’s not a hobby, it’s not something we are merely passionate about. Growing food for you is what consumes our days, in one way or another.

I know we’re not usually the loudest voices on the internet. Part of this might be due to the work-intensive nature of agriculture, or our lack of reliable cell signal or internet.  Part of this might be due to the huge amounts of dollars some of the louder voices have behind them. And it’s scary to put ourselves out there because the internet can be a mean place, where people forget that we are all people deserving of dignity and respect. And sometimes it feels like we have a whole lot more to lose because this isn’t just a job, it’s our whole life. We don’t sit behind laptops in an office to further our agendas and then go home to our house that isn’t connected to our business. We live where we work, and the agriculture industry is already risky enough; it’s scary to open up and add more risk. I’ve had people that I know tell me, unequivocally, that I’m personally killing the planet and should be ashamed (I’m not and you cannot make me feel shame for my life, ps). I’ve had strangers tell me that I’m a bad mother for raising my children where and how I do. I’ve heard offensive and unspeakable things said to people that I respect and heard comparisons about what we do to what we do to the Holocaust (I’m not kidding, people are that classless and crass.) So it’s scary. But, you know, telling the truth is necessary, so we keep sharing, in the hopes that someone will listen to us instead of someone on Facebook sharing photoshopped pictures of animal abuse.

That’s why this blog is here. And guess what? This isn’t the only blog like this. There are piles of blog and Instagram accounts and YouTubers who share the real story of ag, and most of them don’t have an agenda. They just want to share, and to invite you into their lives and communities, and know that the more good, reasonable, smart, forward-thinking, kind voices we have in this community, the better.

You’ll find that most of these folks are like me: raising a family, raising beef, and proud to help feed the world. Here are just a few of the highly qualified folks that you can turn to about your beef, and food in general.

Buzzard’s Beat: Brandi is a wife, mama, rodeo-er, and all-around #girlboss who also happens to have a Master’s in Animal Science. She’s one of my favorite sources for no-nonsense insights into beef, even the hard stuff.

Girl Carnivore: Do you like meat? Do you want to know how to fix it and make it so delicious? Then head over to Kita’s site and get your fill of meaty goodness and gorgeous photography. This girl can grill. 

Cowgirl Boots and Running Shoes: Michaela is an ultrasound technologist-turned-fitness coach (among about ten other things) and she and her husband are raising their three children on her husband’s family farm and ranch in Nebraska. She’s my go-to for beef from a perspective of nutrition and fitness, and is so motivating!

Agriculture At Its Best: Mike has decades in so many aspects of the beef industry from livestock production and sales to 4H and the Extension Service. And, surprise, another Master’s!

Faith Family & Beef: Terryn and her family live in the Sandhills of Nebraska where they raise cattle and have an amazing pack of ranch dogs. She has a background in feeding cattle and shares what everyday life is like on a ranch in the Sandhills with three kids, and also has a ton of great recipes.

Meet Your Beef: Brooke is a fourth-generation rancher, and is also an animal health company territory manager and runs an amazing boutique (do you see the #girlboss theme here?).

Johnny Prime Steaks: Steakhouse reviews, killer photography, irreverent humor, and now a butcher shop. If you like steak–or food–at all, he’s your guy.

Arizona Beef Blog: This is the blog of the Arizona Beef Council. It showcases families and ranches from around the state to show how Arizona does beef. It’s run by Tiffany, who found a love a cattle through her love of horses.

The Circle L Ranch Blog: Naomi and her family raise cattle and horses, and also runs several businesses including a feed store and a rodeo production company. Another #girlboss who talks about everything from cooking to rodeo to parenting to ranch life, and features other dynamite women in agriculture.

Tales of a Kansas Farm Mom: Nicole and her family run a farm where they raise crops like wheat and soybeans as well as cattle. She shares recipes, stories, and what it’s like to run a diversified farm operation while being a mama.

Kellie For Ag: Kellie is another diversified farmer who raises crops and beef cattle in Iowa. She grew up in a farming family and has always wanted to be a farmer, and her passion and knowledge of the industry is plain!

Blessed by Beef: Tierra has an amazing story, and raises Angus cattle and bulls on her family’s ranch in Oregon. She’s also a photographer, and has a background in livestock marking.

Blue Eyes and Cow Pies: Kiah is a seventh-generation California cattle rancher (yes, seventh) who now lives and works in Kentucky. She knows her stuff, y’all.

Wag’n Tales: Val is a mama of four boys who farms crops and cows in North Dakota. She writes about everything under the sun, including what it’s like to be a farm mama to a little one with a serious medical condition.

Scott Stebner Agricultural Photography: Do you want to see some absolutely gorgeous photos? You do. You really, really do. His portraits move me to my soul. Head over to his site, you won’t be sorry.

Ag on the Forefront: Kelsey, her husband, and her son raise Red Angus cattle in Eastern Colorado. She’s another sharp-as-a-tack gal with a Master’s and has some amazing posts. I especially love her posts on animal welfare, and antibiotics.

The Truth About Ag: Michelle talks about some really hard things, and tackles head-on some of the most controversial aspects of ag. Her posts are well-researched and are a resource I often turn to, myself!

Dairy Carrie: Carrie and her family are dairy farmers in Wisconsin and I love her blog because she unflinchingly and very directly tackles some of the misinformation out there. I don’t know a ton about dairy (we raise beef cattle), but what I do know I’ve learned from reading her blog. It’s made me smarter!

Mom at the Meat Counter: Janeal (or Dr. Janeal as I refer to her in my head) is a bonafide meat scientist at the University of Arkansas. If you want to learn more about meat, she’s your gal, and a really excellent teacher and resource.

The Cow Docs: Jake and Carolyn are (mostly large animal) vets who also raise cattle. They blog about cow things, industry things, life things, food things…lots of things! But seriously. Two vets. With a blog. Check em out!

So, when in doubt, #AskARancher. #AskAFarmer.

Home · Personal

Ode to My Dishwasher

 

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Dishwasher, we haven’t known each other long
But my love for you runs deep and strong
For awhile, you weren’t here, and I was blue.
But now, every night, it’s just me and you.

You wash, you soak, you scrub, you dry.
I don’t lift a finger or bat an eye.
No more nasty hands for this gal, sis,
You take care of every dish.

My glasses sparkle, my plates shine;
I no longer deny that the bowls are mine.
No more gritty forks or knives,
No more soggy food that gives me hives.

I’m not the toughest, but I’m tougher than some
But darn it if I don’t hate washing every one
Of those dishes that stack up in my sink
It’s enough to push me to the brink.

So dishwasher, though you’ve been here but a day
I hope you’ll never, ever go away
You’re saving me from a dreaded chore
And making my evening not a bore

I now have time to relax and unwind
While you do your thing, I hope you don’t mind.
I assume you don’t, since you don’t haw or hem.
Sweet dishwasher, you really are such a gem.

My dishwasher arrived a few days ago and I am deliriously, inappropriately, over-the-moon happy about it. I don’t mind telling you that washing dishes takes years off my life and makes me want to die and turns my already-gross hands into an even grosser swamp creature and also makes me kind of mean because you should see the dishes we seem to generate and also tiny toddler and baby things suck to wash.

Everyone’s got their favorite appliances. I love me some goooood dishwashing…that I don’t have to do. I told Bert last night that there are not many kitchen appliances I would sub in for my dishwasher, save the oven, refrigerator, and running water. I would gladly mix things by hand, toast things over an open flame, make rice in a pot, slow-cook things in an oven, and use a griddle pan for everything else than not have a dishwasher forever.

And if you are one of those people that “enjoys washing dishes,” mazel tov, truly! It takes all kinds of kind, although your kind of kind is bizarre to me but I think we can still be friends provided you don’t also enjoy de-clogging shower drains and scrubbing kitchen cabinets because then I might be worried you’re actually a Westworld droid. Actually, if you love those things a lot, or are a (non-homicidal) Westworld droid, come on over and do mine?

(Yes, I recognize I was without a dishwasher for like, 2.5 months. That was 2.4 months too long #noshame.)

(Also, did you know it’s hard to take a pretty picture of a dishwasher in a not-so-pretty corner of the kitchen? It is.)

Friday Favorites

Friday Favorites: Things I Actually Own and Love Edition

Happy Friday! We’ve had a busy week round these parts but I’m glad to say we don’t have much planned for the weekend aside from looking at baby calves and working on the house and our side projects. We’re getting closer and closer to having things “done” enough that I’ll quit fussing about them for awhile and shift my “house” focus on things I really ought to be doing like scrubbing every single kitchen cabinet. #priorities.

This Friday Favorites is inspired by things that I have that I love and actually own! I love reviews: reading them, writing them, comparing them, so here is my offering to the reviews universe.

Favorite “Farm” Decor: Plaid Pillow Cover. I bought two of these for our living room and I love them. Nice and thick, and they seem decently made, especially for the price. I’m trying to figure out how to style our living room and so I didn’t want to invest a whole lot, but I’m really pleased with these! They seem to be smaller than they say, I have them on 22×22 pillows, just fyi.buffalo check pillow
Favorite Repeat Recipe: Pioneer Woman’s Chicken and Noodles. I make this for dinner once or twice a month with homemade stock made after I roast a chicken (I use Ina Garten’s recipe, and then just omit PW’s stock-making steps in this recipe) and it’s one of our favorite meals. I think the turmeric is what does it!

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Favorite Recent Read: The Glass Castle. Generally, I’m not a memoir person, because I find that many of the ones I’ve read (or tried to read) are a bit dry (I think I am reading the wrong ones), or have subject matter that make me not want to read them (I’ve gotten sort of sensitive, I guess, which is why we only watch the first disc of Lonesome Dove or at least fast-forward through the part where Deets dies in the second one) but this one was so, so good.  SO GOOD. Just go read it.

the glass castle

Favorite hair product: Unite Argan Oil. I have really thick hair that tends to err on the side of dry and frizzy, but this stuff really does the trick for me, which I knew it would since my hair expert (Cameron at Blondie’s in Denver–if you’re in the area, go see them. If you’re not, like me, make appointments months out and go see them anyway). It’s expensive, but it lasts a really long time, and works so much better than any other Argan oil that I’ve tried since it’s more concentrated.

Unite Argan Oil
Favorite Cookies: A Bountiful Kitchen Tried and True Chocolate Chip Cookies. I’ve posted about these before, but they’ve been on repeat at our house this winter since all the boys love them and Wacey really enjoys helping me make them! My changes: I use half regular milk chocolate chips and half mini semi-sweet chocolate chips. I use a smaller cookie scoop and bake for nine to nine and a half minutes. They are theeee best chocolate chip cookies. Seriously. Multiple non-paid, non-related-to-me, non-threatened people have said so.
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Favorite shirt: Heifer Please. I have been getting more into graphic tees lately because they’re so fun to throw on with jeans and a sweater, and this one cracks me up, plus it’s very soft, the color is great, and fits well. I get asked where it’s from wherever I go! I like to support small shops too. And wear shirts that say things like “Heifer Please” that slightly embarrass my husband.
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Favorite I Know This is a Kid Thing But Can I Get One Too?: Star Lamp. Wacey’s almost-three-year-old sound machine with a ceiling projector finally died and since it had been dying a long, slow death for two years, I didn’t replace it. Instead, we got a more low-profile sound machine (he’s a “rain” setting kid, in case you’re wondering) without lights or a projector, but we noticed that he seemed to have trouble going back to sleep if he woke up in the night. He sleeps with a star projector at my in-laws, so I knew he was suuuuper hip to that jive. I bought this from Amazon (in blue) after seeing it on another blog, and we’re hooked. It’s magical. I love to lay in bed with Wace after we read books and sing songs and just look at the stars. Magical, I tell you. If Bert could stand it, I’d have one in our room. I’m not kidding. And, spoiler: no more night-time wakeups for Wace, which is wonderful both for him and for us.
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Favorite Floor Thing: Gray Rug. You guys. You guys! This rug is amazing. Amazing! So amazing it makes me speak in duplicate see? Duplicate! I bought it on Amazon with part of some Christmas giftcards earmarked for home stuff, and I’m so glad. It’s in Buster’s room, where we really needed a rug to tie things together (and hide some stubborn stains on the current carpet #ranchhouses) and this is perfect. Now, it’s $45 rug, so it’s not Turkish and it’s not super thick and squishy. But I didn’t want mega thick and squishy since it’s on top of carpet, and it doesn’t feel cheap at all. It’s big and soft, the pattern is subtle, and it seems well-made. I’m considering buying another I like it so well!

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Favorite Pretty: Johnny Was Yasi Tunic. This was my annual Johnny Was birthday purchase (now sold out but I bought it from my favorite boutique, the Rollin’ J. Look ’em up!) and gosh it’s so pretty. I mean, obviously, because it’s JW. It’s soft, and the colors are beautiful. I wear it with skinnys and a cardigan and tall boots or ankle boots and feel lovely the entire time with minimal effort. Oh and it’s machine washable, darling, that’s a new feature.
johnny was yasi

On The Ranch

Oh, Mother.

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I wrote this post years ago, and honestly, it’s so much funnier now that I’m a mom. Is it okay to call yourself funny in retrospect? I hope so, because I’m doing it. No shame in my game.

The heifers have started calving, and it makes me miss our days of being knee-deep in calves for months when we worked for registered ranches (commercial ranches typically aren’t as hands-on, for a variety of reasons), but then I remember how much work that was and how exhausted we were and how much of our diets consisted of snacks and sweet tea and I think I’ll stick with my fond reminiscences. As Bert says, it’s easier to get up in the night to feed a human baby than to go check calves because at least you get to stay inside and don’t have to get out of your pajamas.

Which is where I laugh at him, because he’d always get fully dressed to go check and I’d just throw my coveralls over my jammies and call it good. Including one time when I was wearing footy pajamas which almost resulted in an embarrassing bathroom situation but don’t worry, it got, ah, taken care of.

Being around so many bovine mothers has made me realize they’re similar to human mothers in that while each one is, of course, unique, every mother can be loosely grouped into a category based on her parenting style.

The Helicopter Mother is the sort that won’t leave. Ever. You’ve seen her–that mom at the soccer game/swim meet/dance class that the ref/coach/teacher has to keep chasing off the field/pool deck/floor. She wears fanny packs and has a tote bag full of band-aids, kleenex and medical supplies a triage nurse would envy. Also a change of clothes, in case things get wild. She does Junior’s homework, plans all his extra-curriculars, and stays home whenever she hires a babysitter to supervise the babysitter supervising her child. In bovine form, this mother will hardly get out of Junior’s face long enough to let him nurse, much less let him walk somewhere. She’s mastered the art of bellering hysterically and never taking her eyes off of you or her calf while walking backwards. It’s hard to tag her calf because she won’t leave enough space between Junior’s head and her own for you to get a tag in edgewise. She’s annoying, but you deal with her because she’s a good mother, mostly–besides her child never being able to socialize properly due to her overbearing hovering.

The “You’re On Your Own” Mother is the sort who–by laziness or by design–lets her child learn for itself and just watches when it does something stupid. Every now and then, she’ll say (or moo) some instructions or advice, like “A little to the left, Ashley,” or “Watch out for that hole, Rutherford,” or “Don’t fall of the edge of the bridge, Harriet, I won’t come in to get you,” but she usually just stays involved in whatever activity she was involved in when Junior went for his adventure, which is usually eating. This mom’s alright–she’ll usually intervene before little Cletus does something really dumb.
The Satellite Mother is a mother we all know. She’s seems rather uninvolved and distant, perhaps even neglectful at times. However, her children are impeccably groomed and always have the best lunches. She attends all of their recitals, concerts and games, but in a mysterious, back-of-the-room sort of way, and lets the other mothers be front and center. Until, of course, little Timothy is unfairly tackled or little Prunella is pushed during the ballet recital, and then her presence becomes immediately obvious and the offender wonders where in the world she was but vows never to mess with her kid again. In cow form, this mother will never be near her calf, as far as you can tell, but you know they must have some sort of interaction because the calf is fat and healthy. But, she somehow knows where it is at.all.times, and will come racing at a dead run if you get anywhere near the little pipsqueak, bellering and carrying on, making you jump back with your hands up (“I swear I was just checking on him!”) and get the heck out of there.

The Overbearing Mother is similar to a Helicopter Mother, but not quite as protective and well-meaning as, well, overbearing. A Helicopter type will usually let Junior walk in the direction he chooses (as long as he can navigate around her ever-present hovering) and lets him pick his own place to nap in the straw (as long as it IS on the straw–no freezing down for this calf!), this mother does not. She chooses when Junior walks, where he walks, how fast it takes him to get there, when he sleeps, where he sleeps, which side he stands on to nurse and what sort of bull he’ll be when he grows up–and will continually make her demands known by hollering at him until her complies. She’s not opposed to moderate head-nudging to get her point across. In human form, this is the sort of mother that people give the nickname “The General” or “The Tank” or “Sir.” She makes the decisions, and by God you’d better just do it or get out of her way.

We also have our share of the Abusive and Neglectful. In these cases, we act live Bovine Social Services and place the calf up for adoption. This is where grafting comes in. Unfortunately, in some (most on a commercial ranch where the calf crop is more important than genetic potential) cases, jail or rehab is not available for such gals, especially if they are repeat offenders. Their sentence is often Arby’s via the sale barn. It may seem cruel, but if a cow is a calf-killer, or fails to successfully raise a baby at all, she is not productive and becomes a money pit, when is not a viable option for any sort of business.

The Mother Hen momma is one of my favorites. You know this mother–she’s had multiple children of her own, and nothing fazes her. She’s generally a little older, and more experienced in the trials and tribulations of raising children, but loves each and every one of them all the same. She’s seen it all! The You’re-On-Your-Owns and Satellites and neglectful mothers often leave their calves under her careful supervision, while they take some “me” time and chew their cud gazing a mountain view, or have girlchat over a meal of particularly delicious hay with their girlfriends.

The “I Have No Idea What I’m Doing But We’re Going To Make This Work Darnit” mother is often a young or first-time mother who said pish-posh to all those parenting handbooks and advice from experienced mothers–and now regrets it. Not that she’ll ever tell! She’s generally bewildered by the whole idea of motherhood and the living being bursting forth from her loins. This sort of mother usually has the best intentions, but needs a little extra coaching to help her learn the ropes.

The “Oh Another One” Mother has had so many children that she can’t keep track of them, nor does she care. Like the Mother Hen, she’s experienced and has seen it all. She, however, is not as interested in the fuzzy little bundles of joy she always seems to be carting around. She loves them, sure, but is not as affectionate as she might be. She raises ’em, weans ’em and says hello to a couple of child-free months before it all starts again. She’s often like a Satellite who’s fallen out of orbit–she always knows where her calf is, and will never truly leave him, but Junior usually has the responsibility to go find her when he’s hungry–she won’t come a-wassailin’.

 

Family · On The Ranch · Personal

Back in the Saddle

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Every mama I know marks the first years of motherhood by a series of milestones not only for the baby—first bath, first laugh, sitting up, crawling, walking, speaking—but for herself. It starts small—first time to the grocery store with the kid(s). First time out without the kid(s). First time exercising, first time sleeping well, first time you start to feel like yourself again. First time some of your old clothes start to fit, first time out with girlfriends, first time you realize that you’ve got this, whatever this is.

And then comes the bigger things: maybe first time back to work, or first time deciding that you are going to stay home. First time starting a small business so you can stay home. First time realizing you’re in a routine, and not only can parenting be wonderful, but it can also be really fun. I love the firsts, especially around the fourth month when the baby’s personality starts coming out, and mine starts coming back. Then, even though there are the inevitable hard days and meltdowns and breakdowns, at least I feel like myself doing it, and not a weird sleep-deprived zombie blob who doesn’t know what she’s doing.

Now, don’t think I don’t feel like a weird sleep-deprived zombie blob after ze bebe in question is four months old. Because sometimes, or lots of times, yeah, totally. But around 4-6 months, I’ve found (the two whole times that I’ve done this) that things start to level out, and I start feeling more the Cassidy the Mother instead of someone I don’t know very well who is surviving and taking care of all the things but isn’t very connected to herself because hormones and alien skin pouches and newborn sleep cycles and pumping and oh yeah getting the hang of a whole other person. You know?

(Cassidy the Mother [is this an allegory?] sounds weird, ya? I can’t say Mama Cass for all of the obvious reasons. Or, maybe I should say Mama Cass for all the obvious reasons.)

So. We have babies, and every time we come back to ourselves, our husbands, our children slowly, slowly, and then faster and faster and bam! We’re back, baby. Or at least back enough, because I was talking to a teenager (young adult? I don’t know, the kid was in college), and I’m never going to be that back. That ship sailed awhile ago, but the land on the horizon disappeared almost exactly three years ago and there’s no going back.

I’m not sad, though, because golly the fraughtness (that is a word; I say so) and the drama and the uncertainty of being that age. No thank you, hard pass, been there done that, no mas.

Anyways. I’ve had two babies. Each time I’ve gone through almost the same milestones for myself and watched for the same for my babies. Yesterday, I hit another one, and it made me very contemplative, as these things can do.

Bert looked at me on Saturday and said “Let’s ride tomorrow.” And after thinking of all the reasons we shouldn’t–so much to do–I said “Let’s.” I’m not going to tell you how long it’s been since I’ve been horseback. This isn’t a huge, huge deal to me, to be honest, because I know it’s a season and someday, when the kids are all in school, I’ll ride as much as I want.

But, as my husband helpfully pointed out, if I waited oh, ten years to ride a horse it would be a) a travesty because we ranch for heaven’s sake b) ridiculous because we have nice horses and I really enjoy it, and c) I’d have to pretty much start over, at least muscle-memory-wise, in a ten-years-older body, and I hate starting over, and feeling old, so better now than later. So, we snuggled Buster in the stroller, saddled some horses, and rode in the round pen. Wacey played in the pen next to us, roped with Bert, rode with me, and it was prettttty amazing.

When we were done, the horses were put up, and I was sitting on the sofa marveling at how tired I was because Lord, we used to ride all day, I remarked to Bert that I felt good riding, that I felt like I actually had a pretty good seat, which was surprising considering the muscles that are used for riding are also the ones that are pretty consistently wrecked by pregnancy and childbirth, and I’m not exactly exercising consistently. I expected him to laugh a little and say something nice while also saying no, I looked like a sack of potatoes, but he said “I thought so too. I think you looked better than before, actually.” Friends, that was great to hear, because so many things are so hard after having a baby, and it was nice to have something be not so hard. Or that getting back in the saddle was, really, just getting back in the saddle and picking up where I left off, or maybe even a little ahead.

Motherhood has consistently reminded me that I can do hard things, that the human body is amazing (but also gross), and that getting back into things that remind me about myself are very, very important.

Which leads me to this aside: If you saw my stories yesterday, you’ll also know that my riding pants finally fit, which is a BFD for me because if you know me at all, you know I have very specific ideas about how work/riding pants should fit, and that I hate buying new pants, and that I found my last few pairs of these unicorns at a tiny feed store in Pennsylvania, and that they’re the last jeans to fit, usually, because of how they fit and the lack of stretch.

I don’t think we need to “bounce back” after baby (ew, stop), but for me it’s so nice to feel at home in my favorite clothes again. And to not have to wear unacceptable pants to ride in.

So, if you’re a mama who is in the early days, or wondering when you’ll recognize yourself, it will happen. It can take a long time, or a not-so-long time, and it can definitely vary by kid. If you’re a mama, or any person, really, that is worried about getting back in the proverbial or literal saddle, do it. Take a leap of faith! It might work out, it might not (like the last time I tried to put on my riding pants, or actually buy everything on our grocery list with both boys in tow), but at least you’ll know that it’s not time yet, and to try again soon.

Happy Monday! Try something new this week!

Personal

2018: Looking Forward

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For 2018, I once again used Tsh Oxenreider’s questions. I’ve never approached a new year like this before, and I really like her approach because resolutions seem to be more self-focused: “Lose weight,” “Get a promotion,” “Eat healthier,” etc. but these questions are about yourself but also your relationships and your family and how you can do things to improve all the important areas of your life without feeling overwhelming. I plan on coming back to this every few months to check and in a course correct when needed!

What skill do you most want to learn this year?
Social media. I want to learn especially more about how to reach more people on Instagram and make my feed look pretty, but not overdone. Also: how to give worry over to God. I’m a worrier, even about things I absolutely cannot change or influence, and sometimes I annoy or stress out myself with all that worrying, and there’s no point to it!

What is one skill you already have that you’d like to improve this year?
Writing. I feel like I’m a fairly good writer, but I want to improve to professionalism of my blog and IG posts, and get better at expressing hard things and being vulnerable (which, as I type it, sort of makes me shudder, I won’t lie).

Name three books you most definitely want to read in 2018.
Daring Greatly (on my nightstand!), A Gentleman in Moscow (on hold!), A Man Called Ove (on audiobook right now!!)

In what specific area do you most want to encourage your spouse? What are some ways you can do this?
I want to encourage Bert in his non-work endeavors, whether it is starting colts, making leather stuff, ranch rodeoing, etc. I can encourage him by helping him find the time, and making sure to leave money in the budget for supplies and such, and generally supporting him, and not begrudging him the time, either. Also, I know he likes when we go with him, so I need to make that a priority.

Think of one of your major life goals. What will you do this year to make you one step closer to reaching that goal?
Get serious. It’s time to treat my life goals as things that hold weight and are worth my time—my real time, not just my marginal time.

Name your kids’ biggest strengths. What are some ways you can specifically nourish those strengths? Wacey is such a funny, kind, social kid. I can nourish that by making sure he gets time to play and socialize especially with other kids, and by prioritizing family adventures. Buster’s biggest strength is that he’s the world’s happiest, mellowest baby, and I can encourage that by letting him get loved on by as many people as will love on him, and take his cues for when he’s had enough and needs to recharge.

Name your kids’ most prominent weakness. What are some ways you can encourage their ability to overcome it?
Wacey’s biggest weakness is not having a lot of try and giving up easily. I can help him by encouraging him to keep at it instead of jumping in, and helping him see that he can do it, even if it makes him frustrated, and how to try different ideas until one works. He’s got a short rope when things don’t work (just like his mama) and it will be good practice for us both to work on that together. Buster’s most prominent “weakness” (isn’t it funny to think of a baby having a weakness? He doesn’t have a weakness. He’s currently 27 pounds of perfect) is that he doesn’t sleep all night consistently yet. I can help him by keeping him to a good routine, and helping him learn to self-soothe, and that he doesn’t actually need a bottle in the middle of the night. Also: can someone direct me to size 5 or 6 diapers for #huskytots? We’ve tried them all, and about every other night he pees straight through and wakes up because he’s soaking wet!

What is one of your strengths. Think of some specific ways you can exercise it this year.
I’m good at getting things done, especially when my plate is full. This year, I want to fill up my plate a bit more, because it’s seemed a little empty, and really get back into my groove of getting s**t done. I’m much more productive and happy when I have a lot to do and less idle time!

What is one of your weaknesses? Brainstorm ideas on how you can overcome this deficiency.
Coming off of the fiasco that was the latter half of 2017, I feel like I have four hundred weaknesses and that they all need to be improved upon. But to pick one, I need to prioritize self care and time management. I put these together because I am a better mom, wife, daughter, person driving behind a slow driver, retail customer, restaurant patron, person in line behind the guy at the feed store who doesn’t seem to know what he wants but expects the person at the register to ESP it for him, and all-around human when I’m exercising and eating healthy and not spending piles of my time in idle pursuits like scrolling through my phone or plucking my eyebrows to death. I need to be exercising, eating my fruits and veggies and protein, and busy.

Think of an important relationship aside from your spouse and children. How will you nurture that relationship this year?
Naming just one would be remiss, because I neglected my relationships so much last year. This year, I want to make a concerted effort to talk to my far-away friends on a regular basis, and to be more patient in the relationships that frustrate me. If I had a word for my friend relationships, it would be show up (okay that’s two words, but still), and if I had a word for the more complicated (but not bad, mind you—just more to navigate) relationships, it would be grace.

Name a few ways your physical health could be improved?
Sticking to a workout routine, even loosely, and eating more fruits and vegetables. I’m learning how much of an impact my diet has on how I feel and my mood, and I want to give myself the best chance I can to be a good wife, mother, and #girlboss and ain’t no gal going to get that done if she’s tired, hangry, and bloated. Plus, it’s awfully nice when all my pants fit.

Name a few ways your family’s financial health could be improved.
I’m so excited for this one. I have a plan about opening some new bank accounts to help myself budget, and I’m really going to pay attention to when things are cheaper on Amazon and Walmart/Target.com and such and order as much as I can and have it shipped to the house (or within 25 miles of the house. I’ll take that). Also, we’re hoping to pay off student loans this year, and that would be phemonenal. Once I figure out all of this, I’ll write a post because gosh, no one wants to talk about money, but if the Dave Ramsay or the No Spend Year doesn’t work for you, it might be helpful to read what someone else does that works for them. Right?

(PS—what works for you?)

In what ways do you want to draw closer to God?
I want to learn more about the Bible itself, and His story, and what He teaches us.

What is one area of home management that frustrates you? Think of some specific ways you could improve your attitude about it.
The clutter. Oh, the never-ending, always-underfoot tiny children clutter. I’m not sure I can improve my attitude, but I’m mostly focused on setting myself up for success by making sure everything has value and a place, and getting rid of the things that don’t. This year’s home theme might be The Purge. I’m not a minimalist, but I am a “If it doesn’t have a place we need to make a good one or get rid of something” ist.

Family mission statement
We are working on this. Tsh Oxenreider says to sit down over tea with your spouse (to my knowledge, Bert has never sat down over any beverage with any person, much less tea, which he has never consumed except for in the Sweet Iced and Arnold Palmer forms, unless you count coffee at crew meetings), so the ranchy version of that is to print out the questions and take several long drives to answer them, right? Plus this sort of thing is like pulling teeth to Bert, and he’s more likely to go along with it if he’s otherwise occupied yet free to visit, like when he’s driving and both children are strapped in carseats.

Name one specific thing you could do with your spouse this year that will deepen your intimacy.
Prioritize more just-us time. When the evenings warm up, I’d love to go back to roping a dummy for a little while when the boys are in bed, we have great talks while we do that. We’re also establishing a regular out-of-the-house, no-kids date night (we’re hoping for once a month or so) and a regular weekly at-home date-night where we eat a special dinner or dessert together and watch a new movie (we’ve officially signed up for the old-school DVD Netflix since our streaming is…questionable). And working on projects or doing something together instead of sitting on our phones in the evening.

What is something that is continually undone in your life? What will you do to fully complete it this year?
My projects. My blog and Instagram are always an afterthought, and I don’t want that to be the case any more. Also, I really want to up my meal planning game with some sort of (self-created?) tool to help with grocery lists, because I always forget something and that sucks even when you aren’t super rural.

In what ways will you be involved with your local community?
I’ve joined the local cattlewomen’s group and I’m so excited. We’re doing a cookbook and it’s going to be great. I’m also working on finding some charitable pursuits, but it’s honestly been a little hard because we’re that rural. It’s hard to commit to a whole lot more driving in this season, and so I’m exploring some ways I can help remotely.

What is one thing you’d like to accomplish by your birthday this year?
I can’t choose one, so I’m choosing two (#typical): a thousand followers on Instagram, and the implementation of Phase 1 of a project I’m working on with a professor at my alma mater (CU Boulder). A client or two for my small business would be fun, too.

Think of three words you’d like to describe your 2018.
Growth, grace, joy.

Personal

2017: It Was…A Year

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Tsh Oxenreider has a great set of intentional questions to reflect on the previous year. I’ve listened to several podcasts where they answer these questions, and I really love them and would like to do them every year from now on! The questions helped me have much better perspective about last year, which is always good.

2017 was tough, but gosh we learned so much. I prefer to think of 2017 as The Year That Buster Was Born, instead of the Year We Moved Twice because he’s the very most important thing that came out of this year, and I don’t want his birth year to be…tainted? Glossed over? Locked in the “no thank you” pile in my brain? I don’t know. But even though it was tough, it was great, full of lots of little amazing moments. Big and little highlights: Buster. Wacey and I (and Buster in utero) were in a Dove commercial. We finally got an AQHA member number, transferred the horses to us, and registered our first baby horse. I can fit into my old pants. Wacey can talk. We paid off the pickup. I learned how to properly roast a chicken. I got a new camera lens and it’s ah-mazing.

Onward.

What was the single best thing that happened this year?
Buster being born, obviously. He’s such a puddle of joy! I am so grateful that our transition from one to two was pretty much seamless and that labor, birth, and recovery were so much easier this time around, despite (because of? Someone please answer this for me) no epidural. He fits into our family just perfectly. And seriously, he is the happiest darn baby, he makes us laugh all day long!

What was the single most challenging thing that happened?
Moving was hard, of course, but I think the most challenging thing that happened was the realization that we were going to have to move. We were so happy where we were in Colorado, and still can’t believe that we aren’t there anymore, but things change. Having to drive eight hours home and deal with holiday drama really cemented it for me. But, I’m slowly getting over the whys, and the disbelief, and the anger, and have accepted that we are where we are for a reason.

What was an unexpected joy this last year?
In the middle of all of this moving and shuffling around, we’ve started to make friends! (!!!!!!!) This is a big deal for us, because we’re sort of hermits by natures, but add in that ranches are spread out (due to all that ranchin’) and we’re so tickled that in the absolute middle of nowhere there are multiple families with children that it seems like we might get along with pretty well. I mean, you guys, we were invited to a New Year’s party. This has never happened. It was so much fun to ring in the new year not only awake, but with a glass of champagne surrounded by wonderful people. Also, the cattlewomen’s association here is going to be great. I’m helping with a really cool cookbook. I am excited.

What was an unexpected obstacle?
The first ranch selling. That was weird. But you know, it actually worked out for the very best, and so it doesn’t seem so much an obstacle as a hiccup.

Pick three words to describe 2017.
Survival, uncertainty, hope.

Pick three words that your spouse would use to describe your 2017.
Tired and stressed but hilarious.

Pick three words your spouse would use to describe their 2017.
Stress, excitement, disbelief.

What were the best books you read this year?
The Lilac Girls, The Century Trilogy, Hillbilly Elegy, The Nightingale.

Who were your most valuable relationships with?
This year, I’ve sort of sucked at relationships, but I’m glad that Bert and I have been doing this year together, and it seems like we’ve done a good job of keeping the transitions as smooth as possible for our boys. I love knowing that the Lord chose me to be both his wife and the mother to my children. It’s reaffirming and gives me confidence and hope.

What was your biggest personal change from January to December this past year?
This year has been a year of learning my weaknesses, and I’m starting to see that some things that I thought I was really good at (managing stress, budgeting, taking care of myself) are actually some of my weakest areas. I don’t like to acknowledge weaknesses or being wrong, so seeing the cracks and how I can improve is going to be really, really good I think.

In what ways did you grow emotionally?
I’ve done stressful things before, of course, but going through big changes as a mother—especially as a mother to two very young children—has made me see what I need to function the best, and has also made me see the ways that stress affects my emotions. I am getting better and checking myself when I get cranky with my family, and at re-starting our day if we’ve begun on the wrong foot. I feel older, and a little more known to myself, which is cool.

In what ways did you grow spiritually?
I really, really relied on my devotional and prayer this year, and I’m learning to give over worries to God rather than fussing and stressing and being short with people. I also learned that I can be angry with God, and that’s okay, and I can come out on the other side of that anger feeling wiser, if a little sheepish because, you know, He’s got this.

In what ways did you grow physically?
I’m learning my (post-two-babies) body, and it’s so exciting to know what works for me and makes me feel good, and what doesn’t. I also learned that this body can do hard things, like push out an eight and a half pound baby with no drugs. Go body!

In what ways did you grow in your relationships with others?
Like I said, I sort of sucked at relationships in 2017. Turns out that when I’m stressed I become even more introverted (not the way to go, ps) and so I neglected a lot of relationships last year. But we’re starting the year off strong, having been with friends when the ball dropped, and we had lunch with friends over the weekend (something I’m not sure we’ve ever done, guys!). I’ve also really thought about how I deal with some of the more complicated relationships in my life, and need to make like Elsa and let it gooooooo.

What was the most enjoyable part of your work (both professionally and at home)?
Professionally, I really loved engaging more in the ag community, and am excited to increase that tenfold this year. At home, I enjoy being a mother to my children. This was a hard home year, too, since we had three homes and have lived in a constant state of semi-packed or unpackedness since July, but gosh I enjoy those little boys. I love hearing Wacey talk, and seeing Buster’s personality coming out!

What was the most challenging part of your work (both professionally and at home)?
Work-wise, the hardest thing was leaving my job in August. A huge part of my identity is my job, and so I really, really miss it. At home, the hardest part was by far and away was packing and unpacking everything multiple times and being in an unfinished house for months and months. We’re almost all the way unpacked and organized here—all that’s left is a few more organizational purchases and hanging art and curtains, and it feels so good to not have to climb around boxes to get to things.

What was the single biggest time waster in your life this past year?
My phone. By far and away, my phone. Whether it was scrolling aimlessly through social media or spending hours trying to sort out new health insurance and rural package delivery, I sort of hate my phone at the moment.

What was the biggest thing you learned this past year?
I learned several big, equally important things. That I can do hard things, and parent through hard personal seasons, and that everything will, in fact, be okay. I also learned how to try and see what God is doing in our lives even when I’m frustrated with Him. And I learned that when I get stressed, self-care is the first thing that goes out the window. Exercise, sleep, and good eating habits fall by the wayside and I become a hermit and it’s bad.

Create a phrase or statement that describes this past year for you.
We survived—together—and we’re stronger for it.