Family Gift Guide

I thought it would be fun to jump on the gift guide train and share some of our favorite items. {This post does contain some affiliate links–so if you are ordering, click on those babies for me!}

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First off….if you’re doing any online shopping, you need to sign up for Rakuten (formerly called Ebates).  I’m telling you, it’s free $ with no catches.  I’ve used it for 3 years and made almost $1200.  Click here to use my referral link and get $10 when you make your first purchase.  If you have any questions, I’ll help you get going!

For Mama

My favorite skirt.

Skirt

I’m no fashion blogger, but I fell in love with this skirt on Amazon. It’s available in tons of colors and costs less than $25!! Runs true to size.  I’m actually considering getting a second one in either navy or black for myself.

The new Pioneer Woman cookbook.

I own every one of Ree Drummond’s cookbooks.  As soon as I saw she was releasing a new one just in time for Christmas, I requested that baby be under the tree for me.

Keep Collective jewelry.

My friend, Crystal, sells Keep Collective jewelry and I’ve gotten myself several pieces this year.  I. Love. Them.  First off, you can get free custom engraving on every piece.  That, alone, makes me love this brand.  They also offer $10 off your first purchase of $50.  Crystal is an awesome stylist and can help you out with any questions you have or info you need!  I have already purchased a couple of bracelets that will be found under the tree on Christmas morning in our house.

jewelry

Stitch Fix box.

I think gifting someone a fix would be a super fun Christmas gift.  They do offer gift cards and if you’re doing your first fix, Ebates/Rakuten offers $5 cash back.  Stitch Fix great because they pick out 5 items for you and mail them to you.  You try them on, decide what you want to keep, and mail everything else back in an envelop they enclose.  The cost is only a $20 styling fee for the box.  If you keep nothing, you’re only out $20.  If you decide to purchase an item, the $20 goes toward your total.

My favorite pajamas.

pjs

Last year, I decided to treat myself to some pajamas and I adore these.  I’ve got two pair that are the long sleeve/pants version and one of the short sleeved/short version.  They’re so comfy.  They cost less than $30 and right now, Target has a promo where if you spend $40, you save $10 on clothing.

For Dad

Kuiu pull over.

My husband is for sure the hardest person to buy for.  Recently, he ordered himself a pull over sweater from Kuiu–a hunting brand–that he wears all the time.  In fact, he’s asked for one in a second color for Christmas.  {Right now, they’re offering 3% cash back on Ebates/Rakuten….keep an eye out on Black Friday and Cyber Monday to see if that increases!}

Hey Dude shoes.

My husband doesn’t have any of these, but tons of my guy friends have them and love them.  They have a ton of colors and look really comfy.

Get Out of Your Own Way by Dave Hollis.

You guys know I love Rachel Hollis.  She’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I feel like her books and podcasts have been helpful for me.  Her husband, Dave, has written a book similar to Girl, Wash Your Face, but for guys.  I think Dave is smart and hilarious, so I think this would a great husband/boyfriend/brother gift.

For the Kids

Jesus Storybook Bible.

Hands down, this is the favorite book in the house.  We read Bible stories every  night.  Harper like Jonah the best and Braun goes between Joshua and Jehrico and Joseph and the colored coat.  I love the way they wrote the 23rd Psalm, myself.  It’s beautifully written, wonderfully illustrated, and does such a great job of telling the Bible stories in a way that’s theologically sound but perfect for children.

Magnet tiles.

I think this may be my kids’ favorite toy.  They got these magnet tiles last year for Christmas and absolutely love them.  They play with them constantly.  If you’ve got littles, you need these and they’re less than $40!

magnets

Stinky and Dirty toys.

My kids love this cartoon on Amazon Prime called Stinky and Dirty.  It’s about a garbage truck and a backhoe and I’m telling you, they’d watch it all day every day if we let them.  I found a few little figurines from the show and think they’re going to be so excited to open these.

Christmas books.

We love Christmas books at our house.  Here are links to a few of our favorite.  Tractor Mac Saves ChristmasPeppa Pig and the Lost Christmas List; The Animals Christmas Eve; Little Blue Truck’s Christmas and new for this year will be….Construction Site on Christmas Night.

 

Sibling Support

Recently, there was a bit of an issue at school with the kids. Buckle up…this is a good one.

Harper was at the top of the slide doing something that was not allowed. A teacher headed over to get onto her, but she slid down and took off running away from the teacher.

About this time, Braun decided it was a good plan to cheer her on. “Go, Harper! Run faster!!”

I could have been angry and talked to them about doing what the teachers say and not cheering for bad behavior…but really, I couldn’t stop laughing and decided I’ll just appreciate the sibling support and try again tomorrow.

Weekend Win

It’s Monday morning. My laundry is not put away. The sink is full of dishes. My hair is just going in a ponytail. I could feel like I failed to get enough done this weekend.

Instead, I am celebrating what I did get done.

We read Christmas books and rode horses. We went to the park and painted a playhouse. We played fire trucks and farm.

I have found that I have to be intentional about time with the kids because if I don’t, I’ll miss the things that matter most chasing all the things that just don’t. So this weekend, I didn’t get some things done but had some great moments with my kiddos…and I’ll call that a win any day of the week.

Small Acts

I’ve really got a heart for the homeless. In this season of my life, I don’t have the time or ability to do as much as I would like. But I’m a believer that God can use our small acts in big ways. So, I thought I would share a couple simple things I do to try and make a small difference for others.

First, I always carry protein bars in the console of my car. I buy them anytime I see them on sale or if there is a good rebate on Ibotta. Then when I see someone who might need something to eat, I’m ready to go. People are always so appreciative of this simple gesture.

Second, when I travel for work, I always take the little toiletries from the hotel. These are the perfect size to take to your local homeless shelter or resource center. I think about how good a hot shower feels after a long day and hope that my collecting these little bottles can give that feeling to someone else.

Lastly, I’m trying to teach my kids to see the less fortunate. We talk about people who need help. Each winter we let the kids go to the store and buy clothing items to donate. I’m hoping to take them to to serve at a holiday dinner at some point. We try to remember to pray for those in need and for all of those for whom no one prays. I think that if we can raise a generation that sees and serves even better than we do, the world would be a much better place.

Harvesting Life Lessons

I wrote the following article as part of Progressive Farmer’s Our Rural Roots.  

Fall is my favorite time of year, and I am fairly sure I have passed that on to my two farm kids. Every day on our way to day care, they excitedly watch and report on everything they see in the fields along the road. “Combine!” “Grain cart!” “Boll buggy!” Trust me when I tell you, if Mama identifies a piece of equipment wrong even three fields away, they’re happy to correct me. It is nearly impossible not to be excited about harvest being around the corner when you experience it through the eyes of children.

Last year toward the end of the season, we passed a shiny new red combine. I pointed it out to the kids, commented on how fancy it was and told them about some of the technology it had inside.

I asked, “Don’t you wish we had one like that at our farm?” My son, Braun, quickly replied, “No. I like Grandad’s.”

Grandad’s combine is a 1974 model John Deere. The air-conditioner is broken. The seat is rotted out. There is no yield monitor. We kind of quietly pray each year she makes it through harvest. Anyone in their right mind would prefer the new combine we passed, wouldn’t they?

Not my son. He knew that the old green combine of Grandad’s had something the shiny new red one did not — memories. That green combine was there for Braun’s first harvest. It was where he learned about the differences between wheat and milo while talking to Grandad. That old combine has the perfect spot for a toddler to see firsthand how farmers reap what they sow.

Braun’s comment is an important reminder: We can begin comparing our yields, our machinery lineup, our lives to others, but the best fruits of the harvest are the memories made with the people we love — old rusty combines and all.

Postpartum Depression

“The gospel is perfectly demonstrated through the daily labor of parenting.”  ~Jen Hatmaker

I just got a call that a young mama of three that I know took her own life yesterday.  She leaves behind a 4 year old, 2 year old, and an 8 week old.  This topic matters. We’ve got to talk about it. We’ve got to fight it. We’ve got to save our struggling Mamas.

 

Several friends of mine recently had precious little babies whom they adore. It’s a beautiful thing.

And it’s freaking hard.

I don’t think we talk about that second part enough. We post newborn photos and talk about how blessed we are, but never tell people that we are wondering what happened to our lives and crying in the shower (that we can only manage to take every 4 days…).

After I had Braun, I suffered from postpartum depression, and had it not been for my friend Kelly sharing her own struggle with me and counseling me through it, I’m not sure how I would have made it trough those first 6 weeks or so.


I kept hearing people talk about how much they loved the newborn phase. Cuddling the baby and wearing pajamas all day and what a beautiful thing breastfeeding was.    And that’s great for those moms who feel that way.

I did not.

I hated the first 6 weeks of being a mom.  There’s no sugar coating it.

I loved that baby, don’t get me wrong.  But I was a mess.  I cried every afternoon.  Why?  I have no idea.  But about 4:30 this sense of impending doom would hit me and I’d be in tears. I was exhausted.  I felt trapped in the house.  Chained to the baby.  I had absolute hell with breastfeeding and Braun had terrible reflux.  I remember thinking multiple times….is this what my life is going to be like from  now on?  Because I really didn’t mean to sign up for this. 

If you feel that way too, you’re not alone.  You’re not a bad mom.  It is okay–no, it is necessary–to ask for help. Whether that is a girlfriend coming to watch the baby or talking to a counselor or taking medication, getting help is the best thing for you and for your family.

Your life won’t always look this way. One day, you’ll look around and it will feel like you can breathe again.  That’s the best way I know how to describe it.  It won’t come with fanfare or a big milestone.  I was in my kitchen one day and the weight seemed to be gone.

You’ll be in a routine.  Everyone will sleep for more than an hour at a time.  You’ll be able to take a shower regularly, wear normal clothing, and set your baby down to cook dinner.  And that day, when you can take that breath, will feel amazing. 

(If you’re like me, the next week you’ll pee on a stick and figure out you’re in for this all over again in 9 months…)

Two little thoughts I found immensely helpful were these.

My friend Kelly told me, “Tiff, as long as you’re trying, you’re not screwing up.”  That was my mantra for at least a month.  I repeated that to myself probably 15 times a day.  I didn’t always believe it, but I kept saying it and hoping it was true.  Based on what I can tell, it was.

One of my favorite authors, Jen Hatmaker, wrote a great article called On Parenting Teens in which she explained that every mom has her strong phase.  Some are wonderful with newborns.  Some thrive raising toddlers.  She said that raising teenagers was her jam.  So even if you’re like me and would gladly skip the newborn phase, you’re going to hit a time and, just like Jen, declare it your jam.  If the newborn baby stage isn’t it for you—it sure isn’t for me!–that’s okay.

So for those of you in the trenches, hang in there.  Ask for help. Find a friend who has done this before and will shoot straight with you. If you don’t have one, call me. I’m serious.  Get help if you need it.

Trust that God picked you to be your baby’s mom for a reason.  Know that you are a good mom. Trust that things get better.  They get easier.  And you will all be just fine. 

Let’s Talk Livestock & Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Recently, someone mentioned that in my hometown elementary school, a lesson went home discussing a New York school adopting Meatless Monday and the negative impact on the environment livestock cause due to greenhouse gas emissions.

My hometown is in the heart of cattle country. In a county where cattle outnumber people 4 to 1. We have a proud ranching heritage. one my own family has been involved in for generations.

Now hear me when I say this, I think everyone should have the right to eat what he or she wants. You want to spend extra at Whole Foods for organic? Go for it. You don’t want to eat meat or gluten or GMO, that’s up to you. (I do think it is important to keep in mind that many people do not have the financial ability to make these kind of choices so we need to be careful here, but that’s a different rant for a different day.)

However, we need to all be aware of the actual information and ensure we educate ourselves and our children accordingly so that we can make educated decisions based on the facts.

The EPA data indicates that the agriculture industry as a whole is responsible for only 9% of US greenhouse gas emissions. With regard to livestock specifically, they make up only 1/3 of those agricultural emissions, or 3% of the total greenhouse gas emissions. Also, keep in mind that production agriculture and forestry are two industries that actually help sequestration carbon in the soil, reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Obviously, I am not at all against reducing carbon footprints and caring for the environment. We should all be taking steps to do these things. But I didn’t hear about the lesson for the students encouraging transportation free Monday (which makes up 29% of emissions) or electricity free Mondays (28%). In fact, research at UC Davis found that going vegan for a year would result in half the impact of one trans-Atlantic flight.

All that to say, take the time to understand the facts to make your food and lifestyle choices accordingly. Wondering how to help reduce your carbon footprint while still enjoying beef as part of a healthy diet? Here is a great article from a Kansas rancher offering some practical tips (and some shocking stats on food waste!) that I’m incorporating into my own life.

F-O-U-R

Our boy is four!

He is so smart and funny and kind. He’s crazy competitive, knows every piece of farm equipment, and I predict he will be an engineer one day.

He loves Bible stories. David and Goliath, Jehricho, and Jesus calming the storm are his favorite. He’s learning to speak Spanish, and he sings the best songs.

His heart is kind. He wants to do the right thing. He loves his sister, going to Grandad and Nan’s, and sleeping with his stuffed cow.

Our lives–the world–are better because his little soul is here.

Happy birthday, Braun!

9/11 in the Show Ring

The sheep show ring was probably the most impactful place of my school years. I made many of my best friends around a show ring. I learned to set goals and work hard and never give up standing on that dirt. Literal blood, sweat, and tears fell there. There are little moments seared in my memory–a hug from my Dad as I walked out with an unlikely banner, playing cards in the pig barn with friends who are now gone, seeing tears in my ag teacher’s eyes over the fence–that all happened in a show ring.

I suppose it was fitting that I would experience what feels like the most defining moment of our nation in the show ring too.

Photo by D. Felger Photography

Tuesday, September 11, 2001 was sheep show day. Keep in mind, back then we didn’t have smart phones, and the news was slow to reach the barns. My mom had heard it driving over from the motel and told us about two planes hitting the World Trade Center. I remember the Sullivan’s trailer had a tiny black and white tv that they set up with the news on and everyone would take turns crowding around that little screen trying to make sense of what we were seeing.

The show went on. Bad news kept being relayed. The Pentagon. A missing plane. A crash in a field in Pennsylvania. All flights grounded. The fair closing down to everyone except for animal exhibitors.

I remember that afternoon, the adults gathered all of the 4-H and FFA kids in the sheep show ring. We held hands and prayed. Looking back now, on a day that felt completely out of control and like there was nothing we could do, that was the perfect action for a group of adults to plan for a group of scared kids.

That night the fairgrounds was empty. I can still see the Midway usually packed with people, completely empty.

It was a day none of us will forget. It was a moment that changed the world as we knew it. And while there was no good place to face such a horrible day, in a show ring with my parents, brother, and other people who felt like family to me, sure seemed like the only right place to endure something so wrong.

Still Standing

It’s been a heavy few weeks around here. Medical issues for me. News of cancer returning for a little friend. The upcoming anniversary of losing a dear friend of mine. Prayers for miracles going unanswered (for now) for several.

Today I drove through Southerland Springs and felt like I had to take a minute to find the church where the horrific mass shooting occurred. Heavy, again, standing there, praying for the families.

But it was also inspiring to see that little white church that withstood such an act of hate still standing strong. It is still there, in the midst of the unimaginable sorrow.

Maybe, not unlike us. Still here in the midst of a broken world. Still standing and holding on to faith and believing that good will overcome evil because of Him.