…and Everything Else

small dog

Today, I’m going to a just give you a random post about a little bit of “everything else” that’s been going on around here!  July, August and September threw for a bit of a loop and I’ve had a hard time sitting in front of the computer to blog about it.  It was a good loop, mind you 😉

1  Tent camping over Labor Day

Jeff’s family has camped in Noel, Missouri over Labor Day for decades, literally.  It’s a large family affair involving distant cousins, great aunts, etc.  Anyway, we have a great time, but due to livestock issues and the crowded conditions of the river (which Reece doesn’t do well with), we didn’t go last year.  Instead we started going during August in the middle of the week with Jeff’s parents and his sister and her family.  It had gotten really difficult for both Jeff and his dad to be gone at the same time because of the cattle operation and finding someone to water and check on everything, so they decided that this summer, they couldn’t both be gone at the same time. Well, we went camping in August for 5 days in our camper with Jeff’s sister and her family, but my girls and I really missed going over Labor Day with the big group.  So, we took a wild hair and decided to just load the truck up, drive over ourselves, and tent camp!

tent
This is our set up! We put the tent under a canopy so that we could keep the dew off of our outside stuff.

I’ll be honest it had been 16 years since I had slept in a tent and I was a little worried about my back (ha ha!), but we had an awesome time and the hard ground was a small price to pay 🙂  We didn’t bother with an air mattress or anything because I wanted to keep it simple and easy.  It was relaxing and the girls and I had a good bonding experience doing something like that by ourselves.  Plus, we had a blast hanging out with all the family and floating down the river!

2 Church Float in the Watermelon Feed parade

I don’t have any pictures from this one, but our little town of Oxford has a little festival every year the Saturday after Labor Day called the Watermelon Feed.  About 5 years ago, our church, Maple Street Baptist, decided to have a float in the parade.  So, we decorated a car trailer and Jeff pulled us with the farm Gator.

It’s become a tradition every year!

And, like some traditions, it’s gotten bigger and better 🙂

This year we decided to do an Operation Christmas Child theme (this has become our church’s main mission), so we decorated Christmas trees, hung Christmas garland and wreaths and wore red and green!  It was a blast and our whole church family looks forward to it every year!

3  Horses, horses and more horses….

horse
This is Jeff’s new horse, Ruger. He’s a sweet guy but not broke to ride yet….
big red roan
Introducing Indie- Elisa’s new horse! She got this guy back in August. He’s a little old, but well broke and fast. He’s also very, very big!!

As you know, my girls have been obsessed with horses.  Jeff is also a horse lover and a couple weeks ago, bough himself a project horse!  He’s a pretty 4 year old, named Ruger.  He’s halter broke, but not broke to ride yet.  Jeff’s been working with him almost every evening.  The girls have been riding their horses multiple times a week, so I’ve been out there with them a lot of evenings, either watching or riding Lily, our old family horse.  I’m getting better at my riding and I really want to master the art of posting while trotting!  It’s been a fun family activity that doesn’t involved work or farming, lol.  Well, it kinda involves work…. tacking up a horse is not a quick, easy job!  I had no idea what all was involved until this summer.  I’d only really seen it done in the movies, you know?  But between all the brushing you do beforehand to all the buckling and tightening you do on the tack, it takes a good 10-15 minutes to properly saddle a horse.

dark bay mare
This is our original family horse, Lily. We’ve had her for 9 years now. In the winter her coat turns black. She’s become “my” horse since everybody has their own 🙂 She’s super easy to ride and really tall.
horse
And last, but not least, is Lindy’s horse, Dodge. He’s young and short- just perfect for her. He also acts like a performance horse- he’s very regal and elegant when he does anything!

4 School!!!

A big part of our days is spent doing school, as homeschoolers often refer to it 😉  Lindy is a 6th grader and Elisa is a 10th grader.  Our days always start the same- I get up early to pray and workout (either crossfit, yoga or running) then I get Reece ready for school.  The girls both get up around 6:45-7 am.  They have chores every single morning involving dogs, horses and cattle.  Depending on what day it is (every other day they have to go way up north to a pasture to check on some heifers), they get back around 9 am and immediately start school.  Lindy and I usually get done around noon, but Elisa usually has to do a subject or two after dinner (that’s our noon meal, fyi).  School time is sacred for us!  We don’t do anything else during the mornings so that we can get it done every day.

girl working on school
Doesn’t she look so happy to be doing Algebra 2?? I told her to not look at me, but she started laughing and couldn’t stop 😉

5  4H

I know I talk a lot about 4H on here, but it’s a big part of our lives and the only “activity” we do!  This month was elections and Elisa and Lindy both got officer positions!  Elisa is the new secretary and Lindy is the new treasurer.  They were very excited and I’m happy that they’ll again be forced out of their comfort zones.  This will mean extra prep for meetings, but they’re excited to tackle it.

We also had to complete record books this past month.  Record books are a way for the 4Her to look back on their year and summarize it.  They pick one of their project areas to focus on for the book and they have to write goals, experiences, expenses/income, plus all awards and any other activities they were involved in.  They have to write a long (6 pages for the older kids) essay detailing their 4H story from the past year.  It’s a big deal and takes some time to complete it all.  When it’s done, their 4H leader has to sign off on it.  The record books then get turned into the extension office where they are judged.  The kids get their books back on the annual Achievement Night in November.  The books get critiqued so that they can improve for next year.  This whole exercise is suppose to prepare the kids for filling out scholarship and college applications some day.  We were more than relieved when those record books were safely dropped off!!

6  Other randomness…..

girl playing guitar
Our neighboring town (and my hometown) of Winfield hosts the Walnut Valley Festival every year in September (called Bluegrass by locals). The night before it starts, the downtown businesses host a “music crawl.” Well, my mom owns a quilt shop so Elisa performed in front of the store. It was pretty cool! Her name was on the promo posters around town and everything 🙂
country music concert
As an early Christmas present, I surprised the girls with tickets to the Tim McGraw/Faith Hill concert last week!! We love country music in our house so we had a blast 🙂 This was Lindy’s first “big” concert and she was beyond thrilled. They both agreed it was a GREAT Christmas present 🙂
long haired terrier mix dog
I’ll leave you with a picture of our little guy, Sparky. Isn’t he so stinkin’ cute???? He and Lindy will be starting up the 4H dog project again in just a couple weeks. Lindy’s thinking she needs to give him a little refresher course for all of his commands 🙂

Well, that’s been some of the main happenings around here this month.  Hard to believe that October starts on Sunday!!  Eeeeekkk!!!  I know pumpkins and hot chocolate and sweaters are popping up everywhere on Facebook and pinterest, but on the farm, October means fall harvest.  We have soybean harvest and cotton stripping to look forward to.  Unlike the rest of the United States, farmers are looking at long days and late nights and suppers in the fields instead of pumpkin patch trips and evenings spent around a fire 😉  But, we all crazy and generally love it, lol.

What did your September look like?  Do you look forward to fall?

Feel free to share with your friends!

5 Lessons Learned from 4H and the County Fair

fair ribbons

 

fair ribbons

Our county fair has come and gone.  Lessons were learned, tears were shed, sleep was lost, awards were won, and fun was had.

I grew up always going to the Cowley County Fair.  I helped my grandma run the open class art department and always entered baking and art.  The carnival rides and grandstand events were a huge hit and, as I got older, I loved running around the fairgrounds with my friends.

man and boy in grandstands
Here’s Jeff and Reece in the grandstands at the Figure 8 races. We all love a good race with lots of close calls and maybe a few wrecks 😉

When most people think of the county fair, usually 4H comes to mind.  Well, I was only in 4H for one year when I was 10, so the fair and 4H didn’t really sync together in my mind.

My kids, on the other hand, are extremely involved in 4H!  This was our 4th county fair as 4Hers and let me tell you, 4H at the fair is a whole different ball game!

But, the lessons my girls are learning are invaluable.  And I think they are lessons that are only unique to 4H and participating in the county fair.

Here are the lessons my girls learned this year at the county fair:

1  Good enough doesn’t mean great.

Lindy decided to do woodworking this year for the first time.  She and Jeff decided to make a saddle stand (Lindy needed one anyway).  Well, Jeff is a machinist and likes precision, so when it came to the construction portion, Lindy learned how to run a mill and make everything fit together tight and perfect.  She learned how to countersink screws and run a radial arm saw and everything.  I was in charge of the teaching her about the finish work.  So she learned to run my sander and how to stain and poly.  Here’s where the lesson comes in.  It took her and Jeff a couple weeks to get the stand put together and by the time my part came up, it was only 5 days before the fair.  After spending 2 1/2 sanding it, she decided it was good enough.  She put two coats of poly on and decided it was good enough.  I told her I thought she needed to sand more and that it needed 3 coats, but she informed me it was “good enough.”  Guess what happened when the judge looked at it.  When he awarded her a red ribbon (not a great ribbon in the 4H world), she bawled.  She had gotten docked because it wasn’t sanded enough and needed 3 coats of poly.  Well, after the initial disappointment wore off after a couple days, we talked about it.  That’s when she realized that “good enough” doesn’t translate into great and it will be awarded accordingly.

girl staining saddle stand
Lindy’s working hard here! She HATED the finishing work, which is the part I love the most!

2  Listening to criticism and applying the advice given can make you a better (fill in the blank).

Last year, Lindy did photography for the first time.  Elisa and I are amateur photographers and thought her photos were really good.  Well, the judge that she got disagreed and judged her like she was a 10 year veteran photographer.  He was harsh!  Even I was a little appalled.  She took it hard (tears were shed) and vowed never to do photography again.  As the sting wore off, she decided to try it one more year.  But, she took to heart what that judge said and really tried to make her photography great.  Guess what…. she won grand champion in her age bracket 🙂

girl with grand champion photo
She was super excited!! We were all a little shocked, actually. The photography project is a very popular one and it’s HARD to get a grand champion! Funny thing, Elisa got a grand champion during her second year of photography, too 🙂

3 There may be people who are better than you at (fill in the blank) and that’s OK.

Elisa has been the reigning grand champion crocheter at the county fair for a couple years now.  She’s taken pride in that, but this year she got reserve champion instead.  But, you know what?  She saw that the grand champion winner had made a better product and that’s ok.  Sometimes you get beat, but it’s not the end of the world.  She also showed beef ( a market heifer) for the first time this year.  She knew her heifer (just a nice looking heifer from our regular herd) wasn’t exactly show quality.  Some people spend big bucks on expensive animals and consequently, they get the better awards.  But, she was fine with that.  You may not always be able to come out on top and there’s nothing wrong with that.

girl with purple ribbon and pysanky egg
So, it doesn’t want to load my picture of Elisa with her crochet, but this picture illustrates the same principle. Last year she won grand champion in the arts and crafts with a pysanky egg. This year, she got a purple, but no grand or reserve.

4 Sometimes having fun is more important than being the best.

Lindy showed goats for the second year.  Like Elisa’s heifer, we didn’t spend big money on show animals.  She didn’t win anything grand and she didn’t win anything in showmanship.  But, she had fun and that’s all she cared about 🙂  In our competitive society, that’s become somewhat of a lost art I think.

girl with her goats
See? Doesn’t she look like she’s having fun??

5 Don’t be scared of trying new things.

This is a lesson that I struggle with!  I have always stuck with doing things that are “safe” and that I’m pretty sure I would be good at without a lot of practice.  My girls, though, have shocked me in their willingness to try new things in 4H.  The one year that I was in 4H I did baking and sewing- 2 things I already knew how to do.  Lindy and Elisa, though, thrive on trying new and scary things!  Like showing livestock, for instance.  Neither Jeff nor I grew up showing (Jeff had a bucket calf once, but that hardly counts).  We’ve had to all step out of our comfort zone with this one, but the girls most of all.  And to get in that show ring and compete against kids who have been doing it forever and who had parents who did it forever, takes guts.  I wouldn’t have had the courage to do that.  I limited myself greatly in high school because I was too scared to compete against the experienced kids.  This ability to try new things no matter how scary they might look is a priceless skill that will serve them well as adults!

girl with her market heifer
She actually ended up not caring all that much for the “showing” aspect of having livestock. She liked training her heifer the best 🙂

 

The girls have deemed the 2017 Cowley County Fair a huge success and they can’t wait to get started on next year’s projects.  I think I need a short break first, though 😉

 

Did you participate in 4H as a kid?  What lessons did you learn?

 

Feel free to share with your friends!

Unexpected and Unplanned Blessings

 

unexpected post pic

 

My baby turns 11 today!  How is that possible??  I don’t feel old enough to have my youngest child be that old!  And to put a different perspective on it- my youngest brother was 11 when my twins were born!  Crazy how time flies.  I had so many people tell me that when I was a young mom deep in the trenches of babies and toddlers, but I don’t think I really believed them?

Anyway, I’ve been spending the morning reflecting on the day Lindy came into our lives and what my expectations were for that day and for my life in general.  Looking back, I can see a little glimpse now of what God had planned…

So, to give you a background-

I’m a planner and I always had a plan for my life.  I was going to get married in my early 20’s and have my first baby by 25, pop out a few more over the next few years and have this lovely large family of blond, blue-eyed children.  Basically, I wanted to recreate the family my siblings and I had!  I come from a fairly large family (there were 5 of us kids) and everybody in the family (aunts and uncles) also has lots of kids, minimum 3.  I had 20+ cousins on both sides of my family!

Enter real life-

I got married at the ripe old age of 21 (I thought I was so old and mature!) and had the twins at 22 after a horrible pregnancy full of many medical issues.  Reece (my autistic son) had some physical challenges (low muscle tone), but after a year of physical therapy, he seemed fine.  So, when the twins were on the verge of 3 years old, we decided it was time for another.  I got pregnant right away and spent the next 8 months in virtual pregnancy hell.  I had worse complications than I had with the twins (complications with hyperemesis gravidarum) and I was more than happy to see that pregnancy come to an end!  So, on March 23 after 18 hours of pitocin induced labor and an emergency c-section, Lindy Sue came into the world!  And I tell ya, I should never question God or try to give Him orders because He knows what He is doing!  He gave us the exactly perfect child.  She was my saving grace!

You see, during my last trimester, Reece was showing signs of autism and over the weekend that I was in the hospital having Lindy, he completely flipped.  I came home to a blank-eyed boy who wouldn’t sleep, ran around stimming all day and who quit playing with his twin.  It was crazy and heart-breaking and depressing and horrible.  But, I had a little beautiful baby who rarely cried, was always happy, was completely easy going and who was my bright spot in a suddenly dark and confusing world.

Lindy grew up to be have strawberry blond hair (a total surprise inherited from her great-great-aunt!) and bright blue eyes.  She is her sister’s best friend and my baby girl.  She’s shy around others, but a total ham at home, full of one-liners, just like her dad.  She’s not what I had pictured all those years ago when I was telling God how things were going to be!  Nope, God taught me another lesson (He’s all too good at that!) and blessed me with kids that I needed, not the kids that I wanted.

So, on this day, March 23, 2017, I’m giving thanks to Him for the past 11 years with my littlest baby!

What are blessings has God given you that were completely unexpected? Does your family look like you pictured it would? 

 

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