2021 Christmas Gift Guide

As has become a bit of a tradition, I’ve pulled together a little holiday gift guide. This does include some affiliate links…so if you’re going to order these, click my links here and I’ll get a little cash for my own Christmas shopping!

Here are links to the lists from years past: 2020, 2019, 2018.

With that….here are my ideas for 2020!

For the kiddos…

Books. Books are always on our list! Here are a few of our favorites.

Jesus Storybook Bible. If I could only have one book in my house, this would be it. We read it literally every single night. For years, I let this kids choose the story–I’ve basically got David and Goliath and Joseph and his colorful coat memorized at this point. But about a month ago, we started reading it through in order, and we plan to have read it cover to cover by the end of the year. It’s the best thing I’ve done for my kids’ faith. And listen, it’s been awful good for my own faith too! (This is also my go-to baby shower gift, so if there is ever a good book sale, I stock up!)

Hank the Cowdog. Ever since I played them the Matthew McConaughey Hank the Cowdog podcast, my two are obsessed. If you’re a ranch kid, these are right up your alley! My two will be finding this one and this one in their stockings.

Little Blue Truck series. As you can see from the photo below, we love Little Blue and his friends! These are some of my favorite children’s books. We also have the Christmas one, but I haven’t broken the holiday books out just yet. If I had to choose my favorites, I think I’d go with the original Little Blue Truck or Little Blue Truck Leads the Way about his trip to the city.

The Christmas Story. I’m a big fan of this book. It’s from the amazing women at She Reads Truth. I ordered it several years ago and it’s one of our very favorites year after year.

The Animal’s Christmas Eve. This is a super fun Christmas book for less than $4! It may be because of my own Christmas experiences in a barn (which I wrote about here), but gosh I love the way this book tells the Christmas story through the eyes of the animals who were there that very first Christmas.

Fearless Faith by Melanie Shankle. My Goddaughter will be getting this from me this year! It’s 100 devotionals for girls from one of my very favorite authors. I’m positive it won’t disappoint!

100 Days to Brave Kids by Annie F. Downs. Heads up–this is a pre-order and it won’t arrive until January. But hear me. I don’t think anyone has formed my faith more than Annie F. Downs in the last couple of years. I am ecstatic about this book for kids, and you bet I’ve already got my pre-order in!

Board games. This is a fairly new item on my list, but my kids are now at the point where they love playing games. It lets me sit down and be still…so win-win! Here are a few fun options.

Alphabet Go Fish. Go Fish is no joke around our house, and these cards have both led to near-fist fights and also taught my kids their letters. So…all in all…I call them a success. They also cost less than $3, so perfect stocking stuffer!

Candy Land. It’s a classic, what can I say. If you’ve got a girly girl like I do, I recommend the Candy Land Unicorn version.

Guess Who? This was one of my favorite childhood games as a kid, so I’m buying it for my two this year. Here’s hoping they enjoy it as much as I do!

Operation. Another classic…will the noise drive me absolutely insane? I’ll let you know in January. Apparently there is also a Paw Patrol edition.

Ticket to Ride First Journey. My friend Bri raves about this game, and she’s super fun so…into my cart it went!

Kwik Stix Paint Sticks. My neighbor got these for Harper’s birthday, and they’re hands down the best crafting supply we’ve ever had in our house. My kids use them every day, they make no mess, dry almost instantly, and wash out of clothes. If you’ve got budding artists, this has got to be on your list.

Keepsake jewelry. The last couple of years, family members have gotten Harper keepsake jewelry as gifts and I love it. I have her a little jewelry box, and when she gets something, I write a little note an tuck it in the box. So one day, she’ll be able to look back and know the Montana Silversmith necklace was from Grandad for Christmas in 2020, and her Navajo Pearls are from Uncle Dent and know that her first squash blossom came from Aunt Elaine. I just think it’s such a cool tradition to start.

For her…

Peloton. I know it’s expensive. I know. But…I also know it is hands down the best thing I have ever done for myself. I’ve had several friends also get one in the last few months and everyone loves it. They have a ton of different classes like biking, walking, yoga, strength, boot camp, stretching, meditation…

If you want to do a little test drive, I can send you a 60-day free pass to check out the classes. It will give you a feel for what they’re like abs you can do the non-bike ones!

If you’re ordering the bike or treadmill…I have a code that will get you $100 off, so message me before you order!!

Cookbooks. I love getting cookbooks! A couple on my list are the new Pioneer Woman cookbook; this one and this one from Half Baked Harvest; and this one by Shanane Flanagan. I’ve also got my eye on this pre-order option from Half Baked Harvest as well.

Santal essential oil. This came from Melanie and Sophie at the Big Boo Cast and I diffuse it non-stop in my house. It smells so good! They also have a scent called hotel that might be worth trying.

Hoodies. Who doesn’t love a hoodie? It is basically my winter uniform. I love the shirts at This Farm Wife. The “Dirt Road Dreamer” one is my favorite, but don’t everyone order them and make her sold out before I get my own! Brooke Clay Taylor has some cute clothing options in her shop as well. I really like the choose adventure hoodie.

Books. Lastly, on the book front. Here are a couple of my favorites that I read this year. Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey–but get the audio version. I don’t know what awards there are for audio books, but he should win the Oscar for this. I am a huge, huge John Mark Comer fan. I loved Garden City, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, and am currently reading Live No Lies.

Pajamas. Every mom I know in her 30s has these pjs from Target in multiple colors. We all love them.

For him…

I find “him” the hardest category to shop for. So if you have good ideas, send them my way! Ha!

Books. I helped my Uncle Buddy write the story of his year in Vietnam in a book called All I Ever Wanted to Be Was a Soldier. I’m biased…but I really think it’s a great story. People have loved it and he donates proceeds to various charities helping veterans. I love following Carlos Whittaker online. I’ve read his book Kill the Spider and I still think about it all the time. I’ve got his book Enter Wild on my list and trust that it will be fantastic.

DeWalt Leaf Blower. Ty got one of these several years ago, and I swear it is used at least once a week. It’s a super handy gadget, especially if your guy is Type A and a bit of a clean freak. That first link is just for the leaf blower–which if course works with any DeWalt battery (what a genius system that is). If you need the battery and charger to go with it, click here.

Dino Cornay art. If I want a sure-fire hit on a gift for my husband or brother, Dino is where I go. He’s a pencil artist from Northeastern New Mexico and his work is absolutely amazing. When I was in high school, he coached the livestock judging team at the high school where he lives, and my ag teacher told me the reason his art was so good is because he really knows good livestock. Our family has collected lots of his work over the years.

What You Don’t See on the News

I was recently discussing the current status of the United States with someone. He was offering a litany of things wrong in America today. It resembled what you might hear on the evening news. Issue after issue, crisis upon crisis. And he wasn’t wrong—all of the example he gave happened and are terrible. America isn’t perfect—heck, that might be the one issue both sides of the aisle can agree on.

But I’ll tell you what I know to be true. She’s also not as terrible as you hear on the news.

I think back on some of what I’ve seen in the last couple months that didn’t make headlines.

A new couple dancing under a star full of skies at a wedding. Communities gathering to remember those whom they have lost with a cafeteria full of home cooked dishes. People sharing their mental health struggles in hopes of encouraging others. Babies being adopted. Families together smiling for backdrop pictures at stock shows. A little girl holding baby kittens. A fundraiser for a high school football star who will need ACL surgery. A tearful embrace between two friends to celebrate a joyous occasion. Men and women of all faiths and backgrounds holding up a family when a pilar of the community was suddenly gone. A couple of kids riding their horses down the road to visit their neighbor. People dropping everything to pray for strangers. Friends driving from other states to attend a rosary for someone’s mother. Kindergartners so excited as they learn to read and pre-schoolers repeating parts of the school fight song they heard at a pep rally.

If we turn off the tv and look around, I just think we would see a very different America. A country full of beautiful stories they will never be seen on a tv screen. One that is certainly still imperfect, but of which I think we could be pretty proud.

Put Your Shadow on Them

I went to a beautiful rosary last night. When they invited friends and family up to speak, a man said “the best thing you can put on a child is your shadow.”

Man, isn’t that true.

I think back to my own childhood and what I remember is the time my parents invested in me. Whether it was hours at the show barn or setting irrigation tubes. Studying judging contest questions or shooting free throws. Practicing speeches to watching volleyball games. My parents, and numerous other adults in my life, put their shadow on me, and that’s a gift for which I will always be grateful. I remember one night after a particularly stressful night working sheep and pigs at the show barn, my Dad said, “It may not always be fun, but you’ll remember I was always here.” That’s always stuck with me—there is an important gift in someone’s presence.

It’s so easy to get caught up in everything else—life and activities and clothes and the list goes on and on. There will always be dishes to wash and laundry to fold and floors to clean. But there won’t always be little people around on whom we can put our shadows.

The most important thing we can do is be intentional about spending time with our kids. I’m grateful for the reminder. I love the visual with the statement about the shadow. I don’t think I I’ll ever forget it.

Love Well

Someone recently asked me what I most hoped to teach my children.

There are so many things, aren’t there? How to pull a baby lamb and saddle a horse and water ski. How to pick up after themselves (soon please!!), be winners, and have the confidence to speak to a crowd. How to spot someone hurting and make a perfect pancake and appreciate green chile.

But at the end of the day, the answer for me is simple.

I hope I teach them to love well. Jesus. Themselves. Each other. Everyone else.

Lord, may it be so.

Remembering Mike

When I became friends with my law school bestie, Brett, I didn’t know his family would basically adopt me as well. I’ve got so many memories of nights at his parents’ house, games at The Pit, dinners at Pelican. They had me over the night before I sat for the bar exam. Mike and Margo always treated me as one of their own.

Anyone who knew Mike thought he was their biggest fan, myself included. He had a gift.

In the Jewish faith, they say, “may his memory be a blessing.” Mike’s will, of that, I am certain.

Please keep the Danoff family in your prayers.

Microwaved S’mores & the Shores of Lake Tahoe

This article was written as part of Progressive Farmer’s Our Rural Roots.

On a family vacation to a sheep show (do other people actually take family vacations without involving a stock trailer?), I watched my kids hiking the trails and playing on the sandy beaches of Lake Tahoe. It was breathtakingly beautiful. It was the perfect, sunny day for our first trip to see such a large body of water and our first time ever to sink our toes into the warm sand of a beach. The look of wonder on their little faces was priceless.

I realized, though, standing on the hills above the bright blue water with the snow-capped mountains in the distance, that I have seen that look before.

Those expressions of absolute joy, excitement, and almost disbelief that life can be this good appears in less majestic places, too. It was there the first time I showed them how to make s’mores in the microwave and every time they ride our old horse Lou.  It’s therewhen they go check irrigation ditches with their Grandad; when they hear their Aunt Elaine is coming to visit or when they sneak into Nan’s kitchen for a cookie before dinner.  I’ve seen it when they catch a frog; when our first squash plant sprouts in the garden and when they bottle feed a new baby lamb. 

Children hold a secret that adults too often forget: Joy can be ever present. Daily life can be viewed as a grand adventure.  

So, here’s to living with eyes that seek wonder in the day-to-day no matter our age. Here’s to taking time to discover a child-like delight in life, regardless of the location. Here’s to microwaved s’mores and the shores of Lake Tahoe and taking precious moments to appreciate both.

Always Up for an Adventure

There are a lot of things I hope to teach my kids. Always being up for an adventure is one of them.

I’m so grateful for my twenties when I did things like hop a plane on 24 hours notice to watch an OSU game and drink a limee at the Penny. I’ll remember drinking coffee in Vienna and white water rafting in Costa Rica and hiking in the hills above Switzerland. I’ve stood in the locker room and rushed the field at Notre Dame Stadium and ran a half marathon across the Golden Gate Bridge and ate lasagna and gelato on the streets of Rome. I’ve dressed fancy for Tavern on the Green, snorkeled in Cozumel, and drank wine all day and margaritas all night in Napa.

As for these two? Well, they’ve already dipped their toes in Lake Tahoe and seen dolphins on a boat in the Gulf of Mexico. They’ve hiked in Palo Duro Canyon and shown sheep at the Nugget All American and sipped juice in vineyards in Fredericksburg. They’ve done a polar plunge and a Raptor Run and a kid pony show.

I’d say we’re off to a pretty darn good start…

Adults in Your Corner

As I was watching Braun walk into kindergarten yesterday, I couldn’t help but smile.

Two weeks into school, and I had seen him head in that door one day with a Hobbs Show Lamb shirt and another day with a Foscalina Club Lambs cap.

Most people at his little a school won’t know who these people are or where they’re from. But Braun does.

He knows that his Hobbs show lamb shirt came from his friend Megan who lives in Kansas. He knows that at Reno, she always took time to say hi to him and that he was welcome to come to her camp and hang out.

He knows that Foscalina Club Lambs hat came from his friend, Mr. Charlie in California. The guy who let Braun’s mad Harper sit with him for at least an hour of the ram show drawing dinosaur pictures on notepads and who we send cookies to in the mail.

And here’s what I think we can overlook. This 5 year old little boy has adults across the country in his corner. I just have to think that matters.

I read a lot when we write about the benefits of showing livestock. There are many. Learning responsibility, animal care, time with family, earning scholarships…the list goes on and on. But I don’t often hear the value of kids knowing they have other adults in their corner.

I know that was a big deal for me, knowing how many adults cared about me, rooted for me, and had my back. I think it really helped give me the confidence I have today.

I’m loving see it become a big deal for my kids as well. If it takes a village to raise a child, I’m grateful to have these kind of people in mine.

Summer Recap 2021 – Part 1

I’m not sure I could have written a more fun summer story. For someone who loves adventure and has a touch of wanderlust, it was just what I needed after 2020.

The best part was discovering my two little adventurers love traveling too and taking them along. Here is Part 1 of our summer recap.

We kicked the summer off with the kids’ first ever 5k, the Raptor Run in Canyon, TX.
Then we finished Braun’s t-ball season.
We spent a lot of time getting lambs ready for Reno
Harper became Instagram famous for her barnyard closing choices
We did lots of showing practice…
…and leading practice
And we spent one evening in a storm cellar.

RENO/LAKE TAHOE

We kicked off our Reno adventure with a day trip to Lake Tahoe.
We kicked in the hills above the lake…
…then took some time to do some swimming.
Our Chief Safety Officer, Harper, vetoed our jet ski idea, but found this pedal boat acceptable.
Then, the sheep arrived and it was time to get to work.
We made lots of great friends
Braun showed Cookie
Harper helped Mama show Splat
We talked to just about everyone in the barn
Braun showed Cookie like a champ on the big stage with Uncle Dent
And we spent lots of time with Grandad.
And the kids declared that they will be going to Reno every year from now on!

Leftover Strawberries

My friend named Ron has a hard life. Most days he stands on his corner with a sign asking for help. That’s where I met him.

For two years now, I’ve stopped when I see him to say hi. I always make it a point to call him by name and to tell him I am glad to see him. I worry that he might not hear that very much.

I wish I could do something big for him…but mostly it’s cups of coffee when it’s a cold, bottles of water, protein bars, or a couple of dollars.

This weekend, I stopped and had a bag of strawberries left over from the lake. I told him I knew it was weird, but offered him the bag. You would have thought he won the lottery. Turns out, strawberries are his favorite, and he hadn’t had them in years.

I know it’s hard to feel like you can’t do enough or that what you have to give doesn’t matter…I also think those thoughts are lies from the devil to keep us from doing what we can. So look around. Do what you can where you are. Maybe your leftover strawberries can make someone’s day….