Personal

Finding God in the Busy Seasons of Mothering

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I was nervous to post this, but it’s been on my heart so much lately what with some conversations with friends I’ve been having and eerily timely podcast episodes and devotional verses that I feel compelled to do so. I’ve always been pretty private about being a Christian; I didn’t grow up in a very religious household, and honestly didn’t really start thinking about religion in any meaningful way until college, so it’s not something that most people I grew up with associate with me, but you know what? It’s good stuff, and it’s part of my daily life that make me a better person. Hiding it is ridiculous.

I have always been a believer, but until I met my husband I didn’t really become a Believer, and that’s only intensified since we’ve been married. I just can’t see how we could have met each other without someone planning it–we certainly couldn’t have planned it, but it was so obviously intentional that I couldn’t ignore it. Things fell so perfectly into place and I’m glad we both picked up what Jesus was laying down.

Fast forward seven years, and here we are with two boys. We’ve had some wonderful times, and some hard ones, but it’s so plain to see that our lives have been guided by someone with a program. We’ve learned so much together, and everything is a step forward, even if it’s hard, because it’s teaching us lessons we need to learn to be better people and the best parents we possibly can.

We’re in a funky season right now. In addition to some more private things that are constantly on our minds, we have a new baby, the toddler has become a capital T Two Year Old, and we’re in a busy season on the ranch with breeding and branding and springtime, so we’re both doing a little more with a little (sometimes a lot) less. It’s not a bad season by any stretch, but it is one where we’re both feeling the effects of More with Less sprinkled with some uncertainty. In my younger years, this would have really stressed me out. I would have gone into full-on Control Freak mode (just ask my roomie/best friend in college. It’s not pretty), and tried to force change where I could to make the situation more within my command. Now, I’m learning to see the lesson and the grace where the stress used to be, and lean on God to help manage the worry and uncertainty. This has been especially true since becoming a mother–it would be easy to let worry swallow me whole, because there are now tiny humans completely dependent upon me and their daddy to take care of them. Instead of that, I’ve been talking to God. He’s helping me learn to give the worry to Him.

In busy seasons, though, particularly those with young children, it can be hard to find structured, devoted time to lean in, or even make it to church. This is doubly true when you live in a rural area and churches or bible studies may require driving time that is hard when you’re in the season of naptimes, messy babies, and active toddlers. I was listening to the most recent episode of the Coffee + Crumbs podcast on our walk this morning, and it really got me thinking about ways to lean in when everything seems so busy. It helps me so much to do so, because it makes it easier for me to find the blessing in whatever it is that we’re dealing with, and it makes the stress seem so much more manageable. I also don’t want the boys to have a constantly worried mama, and since worry is my default, I have to actively try and give it away.

For me, it’s all about fitting things in with whatever we’re doing. We spend a lot of time in the car or stroller, so having music to listen to when I need an uplift is helpful. I’m not a fan of most modern worship music, but I love gospel and hymns. I have a playlist on my phone that has Randy Travis’ gospel music, some bluegrass renditions of traditional songs like “I’ll Fly Away” (Willie Nelson has a killer live version), some recordings of gospel choirs, and some Hank Williams and Josh Turner, among other things. I also listen to sermons via podcast pretty often (Antioch Waco is my favorite, I really enjoy Carl Gulley’s sermons and his It’s Complicated series), and I love that I can find them based on topics because sometimes I really need a lesson on something specific. I also pray a lot. We pray in the car, I try and pray before bed, and if I get up in the night with Buster, I try and pray a little then, too.

If I get a quiet few minutes–most often while pumping in the evening, moms can’t do just one thing at a time, you know–I devotional it up. I have a few that I rotate depending on which style I’m feeling at the time, and lately I’ve really been into my Lara Casey Write the Word journal. I bought it over a year ago, and at the time the verses that were in there just didn’t speak to me or seem super relevant to that season, so I put it down and didn’t really think about it until this spring, when I randomly picked it up again. And you know what? The verses now are speaking to exactly what I’m struggling with, exactly what we’re going through, and are perfect for this season. It’s not a coincidence, y’all.

In case you’re wondering, I’ve been spending time in the book of Matthew, which is teaching me how not to punch people in the face when they are awful. So far, it’s worked. Pray for me, though, because some days it’s real hard.

In a recent blog post, Ree Drummond of Pioneer Woman fame made mention that many people in agriculture are people of faith, because their whole livelihood is at the mercy of things that are completely out of control. This is so true, and really resonated with me both on a rancher level and a mama level. I feel lucky to have finally found my faith because I don’t know what I would do without it.

Probably punch someone in the face, and you know that’s not good.

 

 

Celebrate · On The Ranch

Miss’ First Mother’s Day

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Guess who got to celebrate her first Mother’s Day yesterday? Our mare, Miss! Her little baby girl was born late last week and I am one proud horse grandma! She’s beautiful. I’m sorry for the poor quality pictures, I took these with my phone but will get out with my big camera this week.

So far, it looks like everything is great–babe’s walking and running around, and Miss is a wonderful mother. It’s so fun to see her be so attentive to her baby. The other horses are a tiny bit jealous of all the attention we’re paying to Miss and Little, though, I think, because Steve was a major camera hog.

We haven’t named her yet, but she looks just like her mama! Welcome to the family, Little Miss!

Celebrate · Family · Personal

Mother’s Day

buster snugglephoto credit: Elizabeth Jane Photography

Today, of course, is Mother’s Day. So far, my third Mother’s Day as a mama has been glorious. My morning looked like throwing on some comfortable athleisure-wear (that’s a thing, right?) (You’ve all tried Old Navy’s workout gear, right?) and going to have some coffee alone. I also picked up (chocolate cake with sprinkles) donuts for the boys, ravioli for dinner tonight (#notcookinganythingcomplicated), and literally seven boxes of blackberries because they were on sale and Wacey is obsessed and since one of my duties as a mother is to prevent my offspring from contracting scurvy, I can get reeeeaaaallll hip to that fruit-obsession-on-sale jive.

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I sat, enjoyed my Vente Espresso Frappucino Light and Butter Croissant and with Two Napkins while beginning Wacey’s Prompted Journal (hey mamas–go get you some of these journals for your babies) and subsequently getting teary while writing the birth story and early days of the boy who made me a mama.

I then checked a big to-do off my list (the best feeling) by vacuuming the car (no kids+time to kill+enough crackers in the backseat to feed a small, pro-gluten country=two rounds with the industrial vacuum at the car wash and a burden off my soul and the axles of the car) and getting the top layer of dirt off the car so now we aren’t slovenly country-dwellers, we’re just sort of dirty people who live on a dirt road.

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Then, Bert called and asked if I’d be okay running to the farm store to order some chainsaw things, and I said of course because I was alone and like putzing around sans bebes. While I was there, I of course had to check out the kids’ clearance section and I hit the jackpot with clothes for the boys. Five button-downs (two matching sets) and two onesies for Buster for $50 WHAT. Sorry boys, but you’re going to have to dress alike.

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Lunch, a long walk, an easy but delicious dinner, and an ice-cream-and-movie-night with Bert (strawberry and Passengers and now I want my own Arthur and clean-up bots) and I feel like a new woman. It’s the simple things, folks.

Mother’s Day is kind of a weird holiday. You grow up celebrating it, but then once you have children you become celebrated yourself and it’s lovely and also a little strange, or maybe surreal is a better word. My family never subscribed to the Mother’s Day Brunch tradition (which I’m convinced is only nice if everyone is going to be well-behaved so we won’t be testing that one out any time soon), opting instead to go to the nursery together so my mom could pick out new flowers, so we’re trying to build our own Mother’s Day traditions. So far, I like this year’s the best: a quiet, leisurely solo jaunt to Starbucks filled with lots of reflection and motherhood goal-making, followed by a non-hustling walk and plenty of post-nap horsing around with the babies and a delicious, easy dinner, and very little in the chores and cleaning departments.

Today has been such a gift. Every mom is different, but for me, the gift of leisurely time to myself to recharge my batteries is wonderful. It makes me a better mama and a better human!

Motherhood is hard, guys. Hats off to all of the mothers out there (or maybe hats on if they’re going to have to pick up the aforementioned hats off the floor). Being a mother has definitely increased my appreciation for my own mother, and for the mothers in my village. We literally wouldn’t be here without our mothers, or their mothers, or their mothers (how’s that for existential?) so, you go moms.

On this First Mother’s Day Being a Mother of More Than One Child, I am so grateful. I love being a mom–I’m shocked at how much I love it, actually. I never thought I would have two boy, and I never thought I would have two kids two and under and still want another one. These boys keep me on my toes, keep me honest, and keep me moving forward and trying to be the best I can be. We have our tough moments (I’m looking at you, yesterday’s two hour nonstop whine/cry jag), but most of our moments are glorious and hilarious and probably kind of gross.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms–the moms to babies on earth and in heaven, and those who are hoping to be mamas someday.

Also: preview of tomorrow’s post. Do you see what I see?

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On The Ranch

Why We Brand Calves

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It’s Monday (or it was, when I wrote this. The fact that I’m posting it on a Wednesday is a testament to how Monday it was). Usually Mondays aren’t so bad considering I basically work from home but man, today I’m dragging. Friday we branded calves, Saturday we went to a neighbor’s branding, and Sunday I spent most of the day baby showering one of my best friends, and then Bert and I took the boys to Mexican afterwards. It was a lovely, full weekend, but there’s a TON of laundry, a pile of dishes in the sink, grit on the floor, and my motivation to take care of any of it is nil.

But life is short, so I’m deciding I don’t care.

Now, speaking of branding…

Branding is one of the oldest traditions as far as raising cattle goes, and the spring branding season is a time for ranches to invite family, friends, and neighbors over to brand calves and have a meal. Some ranches have one big branding over an entire day or weekend, some (like us) have a few smaller brandings, and some ranches–particularly the large southwestern ones with thousands of  cattle spread out over hundreds of thousands of acres–will have weeks of branding each spring.

It struck me the other day that I’ve talked an awful lot about going to brand calves, or what the boys do while we’re branding calves, or the glory of Starbucks before branding calves, but I’ve never actually talked about why we brand calves.

Spoiler: it’s not just so I can take thousands of pictures of my studmuffin husband roping calves or my hilarious two-year-old running amok in his cowboy hat. Or so we have an excuse to get together for a fun day with neighbors, although that aspect of it makes it look a lot less like work.

The long and short of it is identification. Also, in some states (like ours) it’s the law. In the days before ear tags and the like, a brand was the only way to distinguish your cattle from your neighbor’s, and in the event that they got mixed or an animal got loose, a brand ensured that you knew which cattle went where. We still brand cattle today for the same reasons because while ear tags can get lost fairly easily, brands are permanent. Other forms of permanent ID (freeze brands, tattoos) are more for individual identification than owner identification.

Branding is often accompanied by vaccinations, and treatment of any sick animals since the calves are already roped. The cowboys know how to rope and handle the calves to minimize stress on the animals, and they hop right up and go back to their mothers once their turn is over.

Thus, even though cowboys are no longer trailing cattle thousands of miles from Texas to Montana, brands are still the most effective, long-lasting way to prove ownership and differentiate your cattle from your neighbors’. Cattle still get mixed, or are run together on grazing cooperatives. Branding is a great time to see to the health of the calves, too, and it’s a great time to spend with neighbors in the sunshine.

If you have any questions about branding at all, please comment here or email me!

Friday Favorites

Five on Friday

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one: hallelujah the spring weather is back! We had a lot of snow and rain over the past week, and yes we needed the moisture and no I have no control over the weather but gosh we were going crazy. I’m glad to get back to going on walks in the morning with both boys and be able to play outside to shake our sillies out rather than having to deal with boredom- and confinement-induced toddler tantrums. We branded today and it actually got hot.

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two: shout out to my amazing husband, who kept the boys two evenings in a row so I could go out for a half hour of exercise. I’ve been trying really hard to stick to my workout routine, but it’s hard when it’s too cold to take Buster in the stroller, and naptimes are reserved for work only, so the treadmill hasn’t been happening (plus b.o.r.i.n.g.) Thankfully, Bert’s supportive of my quest to get back into shape a little faster this time (I miss my old pants!!!) and I’m still feeling the effects of two hard solo workouts in a row days later.

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three: one of my greatest friends is having her baby shower this weekend, and I’ve been planning my outfit for a while–dressing the postpartum bod with a limited wardrobe is no joke, plus I’m Type A. And, this is one of those social situations where I want to feel and look my best. We’ve all been there, right? Those gatherings where you don’t have anxiety, necessarily, but maybe it’s a group of people you don’t see much, or maybe it’s a little out of your comfort zone,  and you want to give yourself a little confidence boost. My outfit is planned (no boots and jeans for this fancy affair!), but I’ve always found I feel more put together when my nails are done. I’ve been meaning to go and get my nails done for months and months, but who has time for that, especially when the closest (and not the greatest) nail salon is twenty miles away? So I scooped up this little gel situation from Amazon and I can’t wait to try it! It’s gotten rave reviews from my friends and from beauty bloggers, so I’m excited to see if it will truly last a long time. Just to be safe, though, I’m waiting until after branding to do my nails. I’ll report back!

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four: speaking of dressing the postpartum bod, I had a little bit of sleepiness-induced trigger finger and ordered this dress from Brickyard Buffalo at around four am yesterday. Brickyard Buffalo is a flash sale site like Jane, but I find their items to be a little more unique and classic. I’ve seen dresses like this everywhere, but they’re always sold out, so you’d better bet I grabbed this one while it was in stock. It’s got full short sleeves, pockets, and a flattering cut, and I’m pretty darn excited for it to get here. I haven’t worn dresses in years, since they’re not that practical on a ranch, but I want a few items that are easy to wear while playing or running errands with the boys that will fit while I’m losing the Buster Belly. I’m trying to be very intentional about new clothing purchases as we, like the rest of the free world, are spring cleaning and bemoaning our (okay my) lack of discretion when it comes to certain purchases. Many Goodwill sacks and a huge ThredUp bag later, I am determined to only buy clothes that are filling a need, will get worn to death, or replacing a current item in my closet, and I think this will fit right in!

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five: #loveyourvillage. Mother’s Day is fast approaching, and this is such a beautiful idea. I balk at Mother’s Day being a gift-giving, must-have-brunch holiday. A gift is lovely, but most moms I know want a few things, in various forms, that aren’t gifts: recognition and appreciation, a little time alone, and a day where they don’t have to cook or clean. Being a mom myself, I know that just a little of these things goes a long way. So, love your village. Send a little card or give a little gift or bouquet to those gals in your life that get you through, or gift your mama friends the Coffee + Crumbs book, because it’s really lovely.

Happy Friday, and Happy Cinco de Mayo! I don’t think we’ll probably be having tequila, but I might go super #basic and make fajitas tonight like everyone else, plus I have a bunch of cilantro that’s about to go bad. Plus fajitas are deeeelish. And thanks, internet, for making me talk about fajitas after a dusty morning of branding because now I really, really want a marg.

Food

Balsamic Steak Pasta

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It’s springtime, which in our house means it’s time for delicious, produce-heavy dishes that are light on the sauce. One of my favorite recipes to make all year, but especially in the spring/summer, is a steak and pasta recipe based loosely on this pasta salad recipe.

What you need:
— one (3/4-1 lb) steak. Boneless cuts like sirloin and flank work the best, but I’ve used just about every steak under the sun for this recipe and they all turn out great. You could also use leftover steak if you didn’t season it with anything except salt and pepper.
— 2 cups pasta. Tubular kinds work best; I’ve used penne, rigatoni, campanelle, and cellentani pasta to great effect.
— lots of balsamic vinegar, like 1-2 cups
— a little brown sugar
— one large shallot, sliced thinly
— 2-3 garlic cloves, minced, more if you’re a garlic fiend or having a date with someone you don’t want to kiss.
— salt, pepper, and garlic powder
— olive oil. Points for a fancy olive oil bottle and flourishes while pouring into the skillet. Extra extra points for liberal usage of “BAM!” like Emeril.
— veggies. I like to use a thinly sliced whole red bell pepper, a bunch of asparagus, green beans, sometimes broccoli, but you do you.

First, make a reduction of balsamic vinegar by simmering it over low heat until it reduces a lot and coats a spoon. Tutorial here, since “reduces a lot” is in no way helpful if you’ve never done this before. I like to do this in advance in big batches on days when the boys aren’t in the kitchen and I can have the windows open. Reducing vinegar can make quite the eye-watering fumes, and it’s a pain to do every time so make extra and keep the extra in the fridge. I also add in a sprinkle of brown sugar right at the end just to make it a little sweeter, although some people like to use honey.

Put the pasta on to cook and heat the broiler.

Cook the veggies. Saute the garlic, shallots, bell pepper, and green beans (if using green beans) with olive oil over medium-high heat until they’re cooked to how you like them. I like my green beans limp but not dead, and my shallots on their way to being caramelized. If I’m using asparagus or broccoli, I roast those in the oven since I like the taste better and the crunch is a nice addition.

For the steak, season both sides with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Broil for eight or ten minutes or until desired doneness, flipping halfway through. I find four minutes each side works pretty well for about medium-medium rare on a steak about an inch thick.

Once the steak has cooked and been allowed to rest for five minutes, cut it diagonally across the grain (key for tenderness!) into thin slices.

Combine everything–pasta, steak, veggies–into the skillet you used to cook the veggies. Drizzle with the reduced balsamic vinegar until evenly coated. Toss and serve!

This recipe is SO versatile, and can be modified a thousand different ways to include more or less meat, and whatever produce you like, and is easily made gluten-free if that’s your jam. For a more summer-friendly option, grill the steaks and cook the veggies on the grill! This can also be eaten cold, although I do prefer it hot. I’m not a big wine drinker (champagne get at me though), but if you are, I’ve heard that a sauvignon blanc is lovely paired with balsamic vinegar, and Food and Wine has a great list of wines to pair with grilled steak. If I’m drinking wine with steak, I prefer a Malbec, which is on the list so now I feel a little more fancy and cultured.

…until I remember that I’ve had wine and steak together approximately five times. I blame the fact that if I have small children and thus have been pregnant or nursing for literal years now, and also the fact that if I have just a little bit to drink, I fall asleep, and if I have a lotta bit to drink, I’m hungover, and having to mom or work cows hungover is the worst. Please refer to the day after St. Patrick’s Day, 2013 for evidence.

Happy Wednesday! It’s dreary and cold here today, which I’m trying not to mind, and it’s the perfect day to run to town and get a coffee, which I’m trying not to do because seventeen miles each way is a little much for a frappucino when there’s no emergency. Thank goodness we don’t live close to a coffee shop, our budget would never survive!

 

 

 

On The Ranch · Personal

It’s Spring and it’s Springing

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Usually on Sunday afternoons when Bert is home, I can sneak out during the boys’ nap to go on a walk by myself. I love walking with the boys, but it’s nice to go alone without a stroller, snacks, and having to stop every so often to distribute or collect said snacks or adjust a sock or have an existential conversation about the crick or airplanes or the cows.

This past Sunday we were all pleasantly surprised that the blizzard that looked like it would continue into the afternoon quit in the morning, and the snow started melting in a fast fast hurry, hallelujah! So I threw on my muck boots, gathered up Gaucho, and put on a podcast (the Pica episode of Sawbones) and went a-walkin’.

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Gaucho

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We strolled past the neighbor’s little crew of Mini Herefords and said hello. They crack me up, they’re so funny and small!

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While jaunting around in muck boots isn’t the most ideal of situations, the muck boots are necessary for the several reasons, the most important of which is that they enable me to actually jaunt (rather jauntily, if you want to know), the next important of which is that the slush and mud is six inches deep in some spots and soggy running shoes are a real buzzkill, particularly when learning about the widespread occurrence of pica throughout the centuries proving that it’s a medical thing, not a cultural thing.

In other news, don’t eat too much clay. You could die. A little is okay though, as long as it isn’t toxic.

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We continued on to say hi to the girls, who obligingly stood still before running away in pretend fear of the fearsome canine that is my right-hand man, whose full name is in fact Gauchito Burrito Lorenzo Sergio Eduardo Juanston.

And if you pick up on the Gauchito-Burrito Three Caballeros reference, then we are already best friends

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April showers might bring May flowers, but you know what else they bring? Mud, and spontaneous crick action, and flooded everything. However, we’re not complaining in the slightest!

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Happy Tuesday! I hope wherever you are that spring is springing, and maybe it’s a little warmer than here, and also maybe it’s sunny and maybe you’re going to Starbucks or having a smoothie or playing with glitter or confetti or horses or something.