Motherhood, Photography, Ranch Life

The Photo Shoot

Last month was school picture time. We can all remember school picture day… my sisters and I seemed to have a knack for picking the trendiest, least timeless outfit from our closets (think puffy paint sweatshirts, Hypercolor, Garth Brooks style western wear with lime green Roper jeans that served as a bra in addition to their function as jeans, and the list goes on).  The Little Cowboy didn’t really get all that excited about “Picture Day”…it was just another day where it just so happens your likeness will be preserved for all entirety only to re-appear in a high school graduation slide show. He picked his outfit and we tried to make sure his hair wasn’t sticking up.

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One of his little classmates brought pictures of herself to share with the class. He quickly declared that he wanted to share pictures too… great… we can cut up this little 1×2″ school pictures where he was positioned just so, with his shoulders off-center to the camera and his smile as awkward as can be. But no, those photos would not do.

In more of a senior photo shoot style, he had plans to share photographs that expressed who he was and what he loved. The instructions were laid out… he needed his pony for these photos. Every good cowboy needs to showcase their horse. He would borrow a toy gun with sound (even though it was a still photo and not videography) from his Grandpa. He had his rope, saddle, chaps, cowboy hat, and vest. He was a cowboy not of the Country Music Signer era with rhinestoned back pockets but of the Old West, where grit not glitter defined a cowboy.

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I learned this summer when we visited the Range Rider’s Museum in Montana (this kid’s Disney Land) and I had asked for a photo that “cowboy’s didn’t have smiles back in that day”. So the Little Cowboy with his infectious giggle and round, rosy cheeks will cross his arms, tilt his hat, and straighten his mouth like the weathered, worn cowboys that rode the range.

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I snuck a smile. 

While the Little Cowboy may be tough in spirit he is still my 5 year old baby boy, apparent when giant tears rolled down his face has he mounted his pony. He remembered his tumble off her when she had put her head down to eat and he was afraid.  His Dad is more patient and knows just what to say to calm his nerves… he asked him to sing one of his favorite songs…

“Sit tall in the saddle. Hold your head up high. Keep your eyes fixed where the trail meets the sky and live like you ain’t afraid to die. And don’t be scared, just enjoy your ride.”

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His Dad seemed to know that this Little Cowboy needed a job to distract his fearful mind. So off he went to push heifers out the corral.  As it turned out the photo from this moment was his favorite….the “ONE” that would be shared with his entire classroom. “I need nine of this picture Mom!”

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The ‘ONE”

So don’t expect that traditional school picture. Instead you will be getting a photo that truly captures who he sees himself as…a working cowboy mounted on his trusty little pony tending to his stock. It is a picture that could have been taken one hundred years ago and told the same story.

 

“Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever…It remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.  

– Aaron Siskind

 

Life Lessons, Motherhood

No means No…or Does It?

*I wrote this one weekend a while back and just let it sit… but I wanted to revisit the topic as we move into the holiday season.*

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My toddler is far less verbal than my first kiddo but one thing that seems perfectly clear is “No”.  He has always been interactive and communicative in his own way and understood everything you say but words haven’t been his strong suite. The toddler just turned two in August and has really come into his own at expressing his clear disagreement with “No” clear as a bell.  In fact he has multiple “No-s”.

There is “NOOOO” with a angry vibrato and deep conviction. “Hey buddy we will need to finish up playing so we can go home soon.” With frustration and anger his whole body will growl “NOOOOO!”.

Then there is the annoyed, how dare you ask “No- aah” with a little toddler sas. “Did you want to play with this toy?” Then the clearly “you don’t understand my preferences and desires Mother” response of “Noo-ah”. This is also a popular response when the suggestion of a nap  is made.

The final most distinct variations is the quick, sharp “No” or “Nope” which is done when he is just too busy and needs to get us out of his hair. While he is busy running around outside, we might ask “Do you want some water?” and without much acknowledgement as he sprints by “No” and he is gone.

That is in stark contrast to my “No-s”?

“Well maybe?”

“We will see.”

“If I have time.”

“I will think about it”

“Probably not”

“I don’t know.  I don’t think so.”

“I am not sure…we might have…bla…bla”

There is the “Well actually, umm…”

Or the ignore the request until it hopefully just magically disappears or they forget to ask again…

I was wisely told “Let your “Yes” be “Yes” and your “No” be “No”.

Simple enough but it really isn’t. I had to really reflect on how many times my brain and body are screaming “no” but out of my mouth comes some wishy washy answer that implies there might be a chance.

This is pretty evident with my kiddos. The question goes “Can we do X after supper?”. By all accounts there is no way on Earth we are going out after dark to hunt coyotes while sleeping under the sheet they fashioned as a tent when the temperature is 32 degrees. So instead of a “No, let’s do this instead” I say “We will see….” See about what Jessie, about the temperature suddenly warming 40 degrees or the spring equinox coming back around to extend the day light.

Saying “no” is hard because it makes me realize in saying no I might disappoint someone or create conflict that would be easier to push aside.

Saying no is really an art to balance your own personal happiness and joy and the requests that seem to never stop some days.

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I am not an expert (far from it) at saying “No” but here is what I am working on:

  1. Priorities: What do I value? They say you make time for what matters so instead of pushing off requests and invites either they matter enough to say yes or the honest truth is I have other priorities. I realized that the only person I am truly not replaceable to is my family. A client may say they adore me but the reality is they will get their needs served elsewhere if I should drop off the Earth or even just be unavailable for a simple day here and there.
  2. Am I just being nice so I get praise and attention? What is the reason I am saying yes. Will it really bring joy or am I doing it for someone’s else’s approval and attention.
  3. Will saying yes now create a precedence for the future that I am not prepared for. This happens with my kiddos a lot…but yesterday you said we could have ice cream at 11pm
  4. I can say “No” and that be OK. I don’t have guard anyone against the disappointment or emotion that may come with that sacrificing my own feelings.

….How do you say “No”? Are you a “No” means “No” person?

Motherhood, Ranch Life

Date Mornings

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Fall is officially here. The morning sun is slow to rise and quick to bed and there is a briskness in the air that warns of the impending winter. The alarm went off before the chickens crowed, the house still quiet and sleepy. We dressed the kiddos half asleep and started our day, ready for our date morning.

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We have seemingly abandoned the idea of date nights where it seemed the exhaustion of the day meant just the idea of sitting in a restaurant stuffing our faces  seemed too much to bear. We have embraced “date mornings” that start before the sunrise and end with breakfast and coffee. The morning is fresh and without the irritations and annoyances that build up thru the day otherwise.

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The horses were saddled and in the trailer. The rules for the “date” were pretty simple. Take as many pictures as you want (but don’t expect to stop) but try to be quiet and don’t talk. That would be hard for me but quiet time together is better than no time together. Without the need for forced dialogue, perhaps I could just enjoy my company.

My meteorologist hubby suggested I wear a T-shirt and sweatshirt as it was “warm” this morning but the wind was bitter and fierce so I was forced to dig out an oversized jacket from the backseat. I figured it wouldn’t only provide warmth but perhaps act as cushioned airbag should I hit the ground.  We headed across the National Forest Service Lands in search of deer (preferably a large mule deer buck).

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The morning was almost meditative as the steps of my horse caused a rhythmic rocking and the morning sun cast a golden glow on the fall foliage. My horse huffed and puffed up and down the hillsides in protest of my lacking athleticism and weight, but in truth was more likely a reflection of his own fitness. The peak of color has passed and the hillsides are darkened with bear branches awaiting their snowy winter highlights.

We rode the ridges with no protection of the wind as it swirled and swooshed, acting as an annoying near constant shove against our bodies, determined in its efforts. The juniper stands offered a welcome relief from the wind and a comforting fall smell as my jeans brushed past.

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We saw no deer aboard the horses but the young horse and I gained some much needed confidence and miles under our belts. The conversation was sparse but the memories many.

Times have sure changed since our young love “official dates”.  We don’t frequent fancy restaurants and am not sure the last time we went to the movie theater or bowled together. But I value working along side my hubby and cherish our quiet moments together, no matter the time of day or location. Life is chaotic and messy most days but sometimes it just seems important to carve out a little time together.

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Community, Life Lessons, Motherhood, Ranch Life

I Go To Nature

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“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order”.
~John Burroughs

I love sensory bins and experiences…I have Pinterest boards full of bins with beans and rice or water beads…I follow Instagram slime enthusiasts! I do what today’s modern good mother does and sensitize my kiddos!

Yet, the ultimate sensory experience though remains out our front door…in nature!  A couple of weeks ago on a Sunday morning, our little family dressed and hit the dirt road before the sun rose in search of deer sightings.

 

The fall brings warm days but brisk nights. The moon was still in the sky and the air cool as we drove thru neighborhood. The dawn is a perfect time to spot wildlife as they are busy feeding and moving before the heat of the day and bright sun drives them to their beds.

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While Hubby and the oldest headed out to scout and glass along the horizon of the Badlands, the Little One and I headed out on a nature walk.

Sharing nature with a child, allows me to see what my eyes and senses have been blinded to.

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The Little One is always searching for birds in the sky or bugs on the ground. Finding the littlest of ants is cause for the biggest of celebrations.  While the eyes are searching, the feet are exploring the terrain. I have seen the uneven plastic stepping stones to encourage balance offered for sale on Amazon. In the cow pasture, dried cow pies serve a similar purpose as the Little One jumped from one to the next as he balanced on top of the irregular circle of undigested fiber.

 

Sticks, moss, and bark stimilate the developing nervous system as we touch and feel. My favorite grass is Little Bluestem and the hill sides come alive in its vibrant red this time of year. As we walk by and rub the sage with our pant legs, our noses are filled with the pungent earthy odor.

We crawl under and over and thru branches and brush. The Little One tests his strength and balance as he finds his limits.

Being in nature truly engages all one’s senses as we listen to birds sing and the hum of the oil pumper melodically pumping up and down, up and down.

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We went to a new location to scout and as we rounded the road tens of butterflies were disturbed from their feeding on golden rod. As we walked amongst them it was like being in our own private butterfly conservatory.

There is so much nature all around us to enjoy. Here are some things we have cultivated amongst our kids.

1) Encourage quiet observation. In our busy world, slow those little minds and have them truly observe their surroundings. Do you see wildlife? How many rocks are on that hillside?

2) Touch it… why not! Unless it is poisonous or going to bite feel the textures of nature.

3) Don’t forget the sounds… animal calls are big in our house. Beyond “what does a cow say?”  we do turkeys, moose, squirrels, etc.

4) Be careful but not too careful! Explore! Test limits but don’t fall down the ravine.

5) Fresh air is good for the body and mind! Get that heart rate up climbing hills or hiking those trails!

“The senses are a kind of reason. Taste, touch and smell, hearing and seeing, are not merely a means to sensation, enjoyable or otherwise, but they are also a means to knowledge – and are, indeed, your only actual means to knowledge.” 
~St. Thomas Aquinas

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Community, Motherhood, Ranch Life

Mud Run Birthday Party

 

 

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Prepare  for a photo overshare! The little wild one turned 2 and we celebrated with a mud run…it was fantastic! Some vowed to stay clean but the temptation of mud was too strong. I was left with a 1″ layer of mud on the bottom of my tub, but priceless memories!

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Homemade ice cream and pizza were on the menu! Thanks to everyone that came and joined the fun. As it turns out many of us grew up in female dominated families but now we are over-run with boys…wild, loud, fun-loving boys!!! Being a boy mom definitely has its perks and mud runs are one of them.

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The obstacles included a rope swing over a pool, pallet climb, tires, spider web…and of course the mud part of the course. I think some of them made a dozen laps around!

The Wild One was a hose spraying maniac. He even got a little glint in his eyes and the entire spectator section also got a little water hose spray down!

 

So. Many. Photos!

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So. Many. Photos!

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“At the end of the day, your feet should be dirty, your hair messy, and your eyes sparkling.” – Shanti

Motherhood

Raising Kids and Dogs: The Run-Away

“I was a perfect parent until I had kids” starts many a story in my life. I laughed at the thought of baby harnesses and leashes. What type of parent needs a leash to control their kid when my Labrador can walk on a heel and has a pretty solid recall. Well apparently this parent needs one!

The little one is a runner. To be fair I raise my kids like a raise my cows….free range! The joys of farm life are the freedom to run and explore while still understanding the dangers of animals with hooves, teeth, or beaks and of the risks of large equipment with poor visibility going thru the yard, that balance of promoting exploration while wanting to swarm over them as the anxious helicopter parent.

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I admitted the problem after our family vacation. There are about 10 ways to die for every mile in Yellowstone National Park so we had some serious talks on safety.  That being said the 1 year old was determined to see just how serious we were. Every board walk required he be tightly held for fear he bolt off into certain horror. Every hike he found the “edge” of the trial and if there wasn’t an edge he tried to climb the rock walls. I turned to Amazon for options for safety harness or hand cuffs to force him be by my side…if they can deliver to middle of nowhere ND maybe I could set up a delivery for Old Faithful!

We all survived the trip (even after the little one took off after a rabbit in the camp ground like a frenzied wild hound dog!). But we had a problem.

We had successfully taught the concept of “range” and “recall” to our dogs so how hard can this be right. He is an intelligent, communicative toddler…but with a clear mind of his own desires and ambitions! We worked on emergency stops and recalls as a “game”. Turns out cheese cubes make a nice reward treat for young dogs and kids in training (Mother of the Year I know). We discussed consequences and safety as much as you can to a 1 year old.

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The farm life provides many “live and learn” lessions

Then the other day the little adventurer slipped between two corral panels just 4 inches wide, luckily into an empty corral. I found a cow halter and fashioned a leash…yup I did it! I leashed my child for his own safety! This is a problem.

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A few evenings ago we were enjoying one of those free range evenings when I thought I would test the little one. Maybe he was just testing me so I hid behind a tree while he wandered ahead. He turned his little blond head and uttered a “Mama?” realizing I wasn’t following behind. Then newly aware of his freedom, he promptly found a new gear and headed off with dust rising from his little cowboy boots to the chicken coop. How can something with such little legs be so dang fast?

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Just like we taught the new puppy to enjoy a “collar grab” in the event we need to quickly restrain him maybe we should do the same for the little one and fit him with a baby restraint handle. The final test came when we headed into town.

Town brings its own unique safety dangers…namely cars! The rules are clear…no roads, stay on grass. No bolting and stay with an adult. So of course the little one bolted. I stayed back to see if he was testing and this only resulted in my having a undeniable handicap in our race to freedom. My shoe-less feet hit the steaming hot payment and I envisioned those zen persons walking on hot coals to prove their inner peace and here I was running on hot asphalt to prove my worth or dis-worth as it was as a mother!

I envisioned the road being lined with fresh lined baking sheets and I mind over matter chased “The Bolter”. Then I hit the dry crisp brush and weeds…my feet were screaming at me so I called for help, like there may have been a shoed super hero nearby that would swoop in to collect my unruly toddler. My mind quickly surveyed for danger… a child-hating dog could soon emerge from a home, the black bird flying over was probably a hawk ready to swoop in and carry him off, and of course for CARS! Dangerous speeding cars!

I had failed as a mother as he ran faster and faster while I was perishing on our own version of parental “Survivor”. He was making a large circle and I was rounding the corner. I parked bike caught his attention and I used this distraction to gain some ground, screaming “Stop” and “No”. In hind sight when my dogs had taken off I had most luck running the opposite direction screaming “Who wants a treat?!” so apparently my mind didn’t translate that into a parental version.  Then came the broken glass part of this feet on fire motherhood walk. Why had I not had shoes on?! One must always be prepared for emergencies like a run away.

I finally swooped him up and gathered him in my arms only to have him protest, squirming and fussing. I didn’t know wether to have flames of fiery rise from my head or tears of joy that it ended with no harm. We limped back to the house and I nursed my wounded soles, pulling slivers and scraping the pieces of tar and gravel from my heels.

I had read in our dog training books no off-leash activity until your dog is solidly recalling and can be safely and reliably trusted. So back to “training” we go. My children need to be self-aware of the dangers in their world and learn to take appropriate risks. They may just be doing it with their baby harnesses securely fastened and their long-lines in tow!

Community, Motherhood

Parade Time

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There was no raining on this parade. Though with our recent drought conditions a downpour would have likely been more celebratory than the parade itself. Yesterday we partook in our annual RoughRider Days Parade. Small town life is friendly waves and an enjoyment of days much the same as the last. But every year 4th of July brought a big celebration with rodeos, street dance, 4-H activities, fireworks, and parade.

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As was tradition, every year on that designated Saturday morning in July, we sat street side to see the local businesses parade down Villard, with hopes of filling our pockets with candy. Now I share that same tradition with my own kiddos.

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My sister and nephew. His 1st parade of many.

 

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Aunt Stephie time

 

 

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There is an excitement and nostalgia. No float is really that extravagant. The only requirement it seems is a business banner and maybe some streamers or balloons. If you have a unicycle, old car, or vintage tractor your are welcome too.

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Suckers were his favorite! He picked up each and every one!

 

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Look, more candy!

 

 

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It was quickly overflowing and they moved on to the next container.

 

For years I carried flags horse back in the parade and my sister painted her face and placed on her clown nose to take her part in the parade.  Those traditions continue.

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DSC_3939pIn the past, there was more of a celebration of our agriculture and western edge heritage. With the resurgence of oil in the area, the companies have brought prosperity and wealth to many in the area and they sponsor many local happenings. There addition to the parade demonstrates a changing time.

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It was a great Saturday enjoying our local community and celebrating with family! Happy 4th of July everyone! Anyone else take in a parade this year?

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