On The Ranch

Oh, Mother.

Flour the baby calfroosterjust born calfDSC_0085DSC_0581momma and baby calfDSC_0732DSC_0585DSC_0068

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

DSC_0038
IMG_0101
DSC_0051
DSC_0047
DSC_0053

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

DSC_0057

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.