This article was published with the Progressive Farmer Our Rural Roots series.
Under quarantine, the days started to run together, and life began to feel mundane. The kids were going stir crazy locked up at home and, if I am honest, so were their parents.
So, in an attempt to find some fun and salvage our sanity, we cooked up the idea of a fancy Sunday dinner.
These days, on Sunday nights, we simply prepare a little fancier meal than normal. In reality, the affair is nothing fancy. But to my kids (ages 4 and 5), you’d think it was dinner at Tavern on the Green in New York’s Central Park.
The menu isn’t complicated. It involves a lot of steak (of course). Dessert is always on the menu.
The kids make paper placemats for each of us. Our son, who is learning to write his letters, often works to write each person’s name and decorate each masterpiece with that person’s favorite animal.
We let the kids choose their own glassware. A wine glass with a twisty straw (because it’s a party!) is nearly always the vehicle of choice. We use the “fancy dishes,” which are honestly just our regular Fiestaware plates, but they feel fancy when compared to the paper plates that often get called into service during the week.
I hope when they are older and they look back on the chaos of the year 2020, my children will not remember too much of the hard. Instead, I hope they remember steak and macaroni and cheese on turquoise plates and apple juice in a wine glass.
I hope they remember the clanking of crystal glasses at least 57 times per meal and the joyous shouts of “cheers” as we raise our glasses high in salute. I hope they remember the real recipe to making things memorable is the simple ingredient of togetherness.
We had been praying for a family friend who was very sick with COVID. We included the kids in these prayers for weeks. When our friend passed away, we told the kids that he had gone to Heaven.
Braun responded with, “He died? We have to make an angel for his family so they can remember him.”
After some negotiating and convincing the kids that we, in fact, cannot make a nice angel sculpture out of items in our house or concrete, we agreed that he and Harper could select an angel at the store to give to our friends.
There are times where I wonder if we are doing anything right on the parenting front. Days where it just seems full of fighting and whining and refusing to obey.
And then there are days like this. And I see that the seeds we are planing in their little hearts are growing. And those days make me full of hope.
Oh, and we also included a large drawing of a euoplocephalus because what says “we are so sorry for your loss” better than a large, herbivore from the Cretaceous period?
I published this article as part of the Our Rural Roots Column for Progressive Farmer Magazine.
Well…2020 has been quite a year. A number of people have lamented about all of the negatives the last 365 days have brought and cannot wait to kiss this trip around the sun goodbye. While I understand the sentiment, I decided to take a different route to wrap up the year.
In March, when we were knee deep in the chaos of the pandemic (which for me involved trying to work at home with two kids under the age of 4…yikes), I found myself grouchy and unhappy much of the time. So, I started a little gratitude practice. Every day, I took a photo and wrote a couple of little things I was grateful for.
This one act completely changed my outlook. As it turns out, when we look for things to be grateful for, we find them all around. My lists each day grew longer and longer. Instead of listing two things, I had seven or eight some days. None of the listed items were extravagant or fancy — they were as simple as a beautiful sunset or a new calf, my daughter’s laugh to a purring kitten, my son teaching me about dinosaurs and an afternoon spent on horseback.
Looking back over my daily photos, I have so much to be grateful for in 2020. I bet you do too. As we wrap up this painful year, let’s take the time to really consider the good as we look forward to 2021. Reflect on what went right, on what gifts the forced slow down offered, and where we saw the goodness in people and in the world. It is my hope that by making time to look back with gratitude on the year coming to a close, we set ourselves up to see an abundance of good in the one to come.
We bought our North Place one year ago today. It was really a dream come true. We had wanted to own ranch land for several years, but just couldn’t find the right place. The way we found it had to be God, pure and simple.
It’s been fun to watch our dreams grow on this ground. The kids swimming in the tank. Picnics in the pasture. Hours of identifying plants. Our cattle herd growing. Ty getting to shoot both an antelope and deer on our land. Caking cows. It’s been such a blessing in a year of so much hard.
Ty said last night, “If you take care of the land, it will take care of you.”
I heard a preacher say that it was important to stack our stones. When the Israelites escaped Egypt, survived the wilderness and crossed the parted Jordan River, they stopped on the other side and made a stack of stones. A memorial, so they could remember for generations what God had done for them. It mattered, because we so easily forget what He has done. The miracles fade and in our humanness, we move on to think about other things. But the stones would remain, and their reminder would continue.
Today, I, along with so many people across the country, spent the day begging for a miracle for a sweet baby named Agnes. Her parents my dear friends and my own baby’s Godparents.
She had a complex surgery. Her parents were told it would be difficult. That they wouldn’t be able to completely untether the extremely complex spinal cord situation she was born with.
Today, I will stack my stones. I will write it down. I will keep telling everyone. So I will never forget that our God is still a God of miracles.
He heals the lame. Parts the seas. Raises the dead. And he untethers spinal cords.
May my stones and my words help me never to forget the prayers offered, the tears cried, the tethers loosed for sweet Agnes. It’s a miracle for her, and a reminder for us.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means if you click the links and order, I will get a small referral fee. Your price will be the same, it just gives me a little $$ for pulling the links together.
Back in September, I was sick of reading the same 3 books approximately 57 times a week. So, I decided to do a 100 book challenge where we set the goal to read 100 books by December 1. We got a cool poster board and some stickers to track our progress. then, we got to reading!
I also thought it would be fun to each pick our two favorite books from our list of 100.
Mama chose A Lady Has the Floor, a great book about Belva Lockwood the first female attorney to argue before the US Supreme Court. My second book was When I Pray for You by Matthew Paul Turner. I love all of his books, but this one is especially sweet. The illustrations are beautiful, his words are sweet, and I love that his books are so inclusive–having children of different races and abilities in every one.
I was so honored to be chosen to be a featured guest on the Rural Redefined Instagram account earlier this week. Rural Redefined is an account all about empowering rural women, so I was really excited to share a little about my story.
I thought it might be fun to share those same posts here.
Disclaimer: This post does contain some affiliate links…which means if you will click on my links to Amazon products, I will get a small commission on the purchase. And you know…every little bit helps.
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Has there ever been a year that we need Christmas more than the year of our Lord, 2020? No. I think not.
Here are a few fun ideas I’ve come up with…
For the kiddos
All the Colors of Christmas by Matthew Paul Turner. Every year to kick off Advent, I get the kids a Christmas book and new Christmas pjs. This year, I went with Matthew Paul Turner’s new book. We have every book he as written and they are beautiful, so I cannot wait to read this with the kids!
Dinosaur Devotions. This will be under the tree for my 5 year old dino-obsessed boy. A friend of mine highly recommended it and I know that he is going to love it. I feel like getting kids started with a devotional habit at this age will serve them well in the future.
Spirit horse set. My 4 year old girl love Spirit, so we will be super excited to have any sort of Spirit toys under the tree.
Hot wheels triple loop track. My kids have a few hot wheels vehicles, but we’ve never really had a track or anything that allows them to play with them much. My friend Bri recommended this and I’m really excited to let the kiddos play it.
Magnetic building blocks. We’ve had these several years and they are one of those toys that both of my kids play with all the time. If you have littles, you need these! They’re kind of a cheaper version of Magnatiles.
Perfectly Unique by Annie F. Downs. This is on my list for my Goddaughter, who is 8. I’m super excited about this because Annie is one of my favorite authors, so I can’t wait to introduce my Goddaughter to her.
Second hand store finds. I love me a good second hand store for kids stuff. I recently found Harper’s Halloween costume for $3. Santa spotted a rainbow sequined backpack for her for $7 and it will be arriving in the sleigh. Don’t overlook this option!
For the ladies
My favorite pajamas. These are a repeat on the list from prior years because they are for sure still my favorite pjs for sure.
Bath and Body Works Aromatherapy lotion. Okay, listen. I know that Bath and Body Works scents can be real overwhelming. But….I love their aromatherapy lotions. I keep the Sleep (lavender + vanilla) by my bed, Hot Springs Spa on my desk at work, and I’ve got my eye on the Sunrise Yoga scent.
Kitchen Aid mixer shredding attachment. Y’all. I need this. Grated cheese is a million times better than cheese in the bag, but who has time to freaking grate cheese by hand for every dang meal? This seems like it would solve this problem and I’m here for it.
It’s a 10 leave in conditioner. This is hands down my favorite beauty product and it would be perfect stocking stuffer! It’s pretty pricy, so you might want to do the travel size, so I linked that!
RBG t-shirt. When Justice Ginsburg died, I ordered myself a t-shirt with my favorite quote on it. I love this design too!
Capri Blue volcano candle. I don’t know the back story here. Is it made from volcanoes? Allegedly smell live a volcano? I don’t really care because what I can tell you is it smells amazing and you need one. If you want to try a smaller (and cheaper) version first, click here.
For the Guys
Kuiu hunting gear. Listen. This is expensive. I got some for my husband’s birthday, but found it on sale! So…you may need to watch for black Friday sales on this one.
Cordless leaf blower. Don’t laugh….this is legit the most used tool in my husband’s shop. He’s a total clean freak, so he uses it to clean the shop out every day. It’s so much easier than a broom, and I don’t know how we’d survive without it. We’re a DeWalt family, so I linked that version, but here’s the link to Old Milwaukee if you’re into that brand.
Comfy pj pants. My husband never really wears pj pants, unless it’s super cold. You know, like the freak October snow/ice storm that left us without power for 3 days. I am going to a pair of these so we’re not caught without pants down (literally) again!
Air frier lid for the Instant Pot. I know this could go on the ladies list, but who do you think I’m cooking for all the dang time?! Him! Anyway, here’s the scoop. I have an Instant Pot and it’s fine. But once I bought the lid that turns the Instant Pot into an air frier? Game changer. I can make hands down the best jalapeno poppers I’ve ever had in there. It’s perfect for reheating anything. The kids chicken strips and nuggets are delish out of the air frier. This one is a winner for sure. Be sure you double check the size of your instant pot. The link here is for the 6qt.
Texana Olive Oil. If the guy likes to cook or grill, this is a good option. This olive oil is amazing and this sampler 6 pack lets you try all the flavors. The mesquite is so good use as a rub on any cut of beef. The herb is my go to on any roasted veggies. The Cajun has some heat and is great on eggs. Trust me on this being a gift you will all enjoy.
We don’t all four sit down to eat at the kitchen table every night. That bothers me…because my parents always seemed to make that happen. So I decided that we would really try to prioritize two meals—Saturday breakfast and Sunday dinner—and make them a big deal for the kids.
I really talk up how fancy our meals will be. We can use “real” plates (not our usual paper), the kids draw placemats, they set each place complete with party napkins (leftover from birthday parties gone by!), they get the drink of their choice with no lid (big deal) and everyone helps to get everything cooked and on that table. They absolutely love it.
This weekend, we celebrated fall with some Pillsbury pumpkins cinnamon rolls, bacon and eggs for Saturday breakfast. Then for Sunday Dinner we had the amazing meatball recipe (homemade in that Dutch oven) from our friend Britt and Bell Road Beef and a chocolate pie.
It may not be every meal, but I think that we will make some special memories for our little family with this new tradition.
Okay, you guys had a ton of questions and interest when I posted in my Insta-stories I was trying laundry stripping this weekend. Here are the answers to all the DMs that I got.
What are you talking about?
Laundry stripping is basically soaking your laundry in hot water and a mixture of cleaning solutions to try and remove any built up gunk that the washing machine can’t get. Mostly, it would be things like soap residue, dryer sheet or fabric softener residue, hard water residue, etc.
I’ve seen several people try it, so I decided to give it a whirl. Everything I read said you probably don’t need to do all of your laundry, and recommended sheets, towels, and any particularly dirty clothing. So…I tried sheets, towels, and my workout clothes.
How do you do it?
The formula is easy.
Run hot water in your bath tub and add in 1/4C Borax, 1/4C Washing Soda, and 1/2C powdered laundry detergent. Stir (I used the broom handle).
Then dump in the clothing. You might want to sort and do like colors if you have more time, concern, or interest than me. Some of the colors did bleed into the water a little, but it did not affect any of the other clothes. Do what you wish with that info.
Stir the clothes about every 30 minutes for 4-5 hours.
At the end, drain the water and out the clothes into the washing machine on normal wash.
Did it work?
Yea, I think so. I mean, the water was gross when I was done. The running clothes were by far the worst, as you would expect. I have a couple shirts that I feel like always smell like sweat and I do think it helped those. I couldn’t tell a huge difference in sheets and towels, but I saw the gross water so it couldn’t have hurt!
What was the worst part?
Having to get all these sopping were clothes from the bath tub to the washing machine. That wasn’t great.
Would you do it again?
Eh, maybe. At least in the workout clothes. Everything I read says you don’t want to do it too often—maybe every 6 months to a year. We’ve got super hard water so I might make this a yearly ritual.