Thursday, January 30, 2014

Trying New Things: Cross-country Skiing

There are some things that are just unacceptable. Like the fact that I've lived in Colorado for nineteen years, and had not been on skis until yesterday. (And no, I don't snowboard, either.) In fact, I can count the number of times I've been sledding on one hand. Honestly, my favorite thing to do when it is snowing is drink coffee and sit by the fire. I'm a sissy.

But alas, it was time. And so we decided to rent some skis and take the girls cross-country skiing. Fact of the matter is, I married a man who actually enjoys this sort of self-inflicted pain in frigid temperatures. And he wanted to share that, um, pleasure, with our daughters. And me.

To be fair, it wasn't as bad as I expected. And happily, I can still walk today which I thought was a nice bonus. And I wasn't actually cold the whole time, despite the fact that it was 25 degrees outside. Probably because cross-country skiing is an incredible amount of work, and using muscles I didn't know I had makes me sweat.

The best part was watching the girls though. Giving them new experiences is so much fun. And unlike me, they really, really love anything to do with snow.
The Oldest was a natural. She was ahead of the rest of us the whole time, going up ahead, then coming back to see where we were, then off she went again. She's apparently fearless, going down downhill slopes without a second thought, never afraid of falling. It was good fun watching her. I just hope she doesn't think this is something we'll do regularly now...

Littlest One wasn't quite as adept. The good news though, is that she thought falling down was all kinds of fun. Good, because that's mostly what she did. Over, and over again. But at least she didn't get upset.

Eventually we traded in her skis for snowshoes, mostly so The Daddy could actually ski instead of just holding her up by the back of her coat. Then The Daddy and The Oldest could go up ahead, while Littlest One stayed back on her snowshoes to make sure I was doing okay. She was concerned about how slow I was going, I think.
All in all, though, it was a good day. Life is about trying new things, which is something I'm really not good at, especially when it involves something I'm guaranteed not to be good at. Or when it involves snow. I want my girls to try new things fearlessly, and this is the kind of thing we have to do to give them that confidence.

Also, it made them sleep really well. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Farm Life's Hardest Lesson

If you read any "What I Wish I Would Have Known" articles written by modern homesteader types, one of the first items on their list is always going to be this:

You don't have to do it all at once.

Take it slow, they say. Give yourself grace, they say. Just a little bit at a time and don't overwhelm yourself.

I've read dozens of those articles. And I've always nodded in agreement, as though I've always known perfectly well that that one little bit of advice is absolutely correct.

Except that I didn't.

My best friend and I used to joke that whichever one of us ended up moving to a farm first was going to end up sitting in the middle of her pasture, crying the ugly cry, absolutely overwhelmed by what she had taken on and that the other friend was going to have to listen and comfort and try not to say "I told you so."

Turns out, I was the first one to move to a farm. And that prediction wasn't as far off as I'd like for you think it is. Except that it's snowy outside, so I was sobbing in my bedroom, while staring at my pasture. Which really isn't any better.

I haven't blogged regularly in almost a year. There's a reason for it though.

The past year has been seriously rough. My husband has been working out of town - sometimes out of state - for the past year. He's gone two weeks and then home for a week. That means that two thirds of the time, every responsibility of this property falls on my shoulders. In the past year I have raised a rather large garden, milked two goats and kept another 50 or so animals alive, homeschooled a first and fifth grader, kept a 4600 square foot house clean, raised 700 bales of hay on a 25 acre pasture using nothing but a shovel and some tarps. I've raised and butchered enough chickens to last a year, canned a year's worth of fruits and vegetables and dried or frozen what wasn't canned, cooked dinner every night,  run my kids around to their extra curricular activities, driven an hour each direction every time I needed groceries, hauled horses to 9 gymkhanas and rodeos, and hauled chickens to the county fair. And almost all of this with very little help from The Man of My Dreams, except for the weeks he was able to spend at home.

What I learned is that I really can do it all. I'm working from 5:30 in the morning until 9:30 at night, every single hour of the day, but I can get it all done. Until something goes wrong. As soon as the slightest little thing happens to upset my very rigid schedule, I lose it. I get so overwhelmed that I can't function and all I want to do is give up. Or cry.

The bad part of that, though, is that in this life, something happens to change your plans Every. Single. Day. Nothing ever goes the way you expect it to, or plan for it to. An animal gets sick. A kid misbehaves. A neighbor needs help. A fence needs fixed or a goat gets out or a deer dies in your front yard or your dog gets skunked or the well runs dry (again) and you have to spend an hour hauling water. The list of Things That Can Go Wrong is infinite. And each one of those things is guaranteed to happen when you least expect it. That is reality.

And with a schedule as packed as mine has been this year, and a brain so overwhelmed by constant mental to-do lists, there just isn't time to stop and enjoy all those little things that are supposed to bring me joy. I don't have time to watch my kids play with animals or build a fort or raise a puppy. I don't have time to relax with my husband and just sit and watch the sun go down. I've spent every waking moment just keeping up, keeping my head above water, that I've lost touch with every reason we moved up here in the first place. And that makes my heart hurt.

It's a lesson no one can just tell you and expect you to understand: You don't have to do it all at once.

You have to learn it, first hand. And it's painful. And it involves a lot of frustration and even more tears. But eventually, you take a step back, and you realize what you're doing to yourself, and you decide things have to change. Priorities have to be considered. You have to give yourself room to bend, and time to relax. You have to remember that there are so many years ahead of you to figure this all out and get it all done. And there will never be one single year when you actually accomplish everything you feel like you should. Living this life isn't something to mark off the to-do list. It's a process - a life long process - and it will never actually be finished.

And so, at a time when so many of my friends are moving out to the country and starting their homesteading lives, here is my advice:

You don't have to do it all at once.

Take it slow.

 Give yourself grace.

Just a little bit at a time.

Don't overwhelm yourself.

And when you are sobbing in the middle of your pasture, don't hesitate to give me a call. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Best Tooth-Losing Story Ever

I love the tooth-losing stage. I love the the gaps in the smiles, the lisp when they try to talk, the Tooth Fairy, the constant wiggling. And I love the awesome tooth-losing stories that inevitably come with this stage.

Every kid should have at least one really cool "How I Lost My Tooth" story, and Littlest One managed to create herself a pretty great one.

I haven't yet written about Princess (I haven't written about much lately, actually) but Princess is the puppy we got around Christmastime, especially for Littlest One. Every kid should have her own dog, we decided, to have grow up with and to have grand adventures with. And the grand adventures, apparently, even include the losing of teeth.

She was trying to leash train her pup, making her 'heel' around the living room and rewarding her with treats. When she ran out of treats in her pocket, she needed to get more out of the jar. Which requires two hands. So instead of just dropping the leash for a moment, she decided to put the leash between her teeth to hold her pup there while she got more treats.

And then the cat walked by.

Princess loves the cat, and the cat loves her. And Princess wanted to play. So she promptly took off after the cat. And she took the loose tooth with her.

I wasn't watching much of this ordeal, but when Littlest One came up to me with eyes big as saucers, she said, "Princess helped me lose a tooth!" It took a minute to figure out what happened. She looked like she couldn't decide whether to cry or laugh.. but eventually we all decided it was a great way to lose a tooth! That's a story she won't ever forget!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A New Year's Eve Bash - Family Style

It was the first New Year's Eve that both girls would be staying up until midnight, and so I decided to make a celebration out of it - one that we will all remember for years to come. We're not cool or social enough to have anyone to get together with, but we made plenty of our own fun!

I started off early in the day hanging balloons - each one marked with the hour it was to be popped. Inside each balloon was a strip of paper with an activity written on it. Then I placed corresponding gift bags filled with "supplies" on the hearth. Doing it early meant they were forced to wonder All. Day. Long. what was to come. The suspense was wonderful.

At 6:00, the festivities began. The first activity was to decorate the living room. The bag was filled with streamers, balloons, ribbons, etc. plus leis and "Happy New Year" crowns. It is apparently tremendous fun to get to do the decorating for a party. We also turned on some good music, and had snacks and appetizers laid out on the table. Throughout the night, The Daddy played guitar for us.

7:00 started the "Craziest Party Hat Contest". The supply bag was filled with every craft supply I could find in the craft room - feathers, pompoms, pipe cleaners, stickers, buttons, glitter glue, sequins, ribbon. We spread it all out on the kitchen table and set to work creating the wildest hats imaginable.

Each hat was indeed pretty wild!

 It was promised that the winner would receive a "Big Surprise" after we were finished and had voted on the best. The Daddy won, and he did indeed get a Big Surprise.

The girls had as much fun giving him the surprise as he had receiving it... probably even more!

After that, we spent an hour looking through all of the pictures from the past year on the computer, talking about the things we did, re-telling stories and remembering some of the highlights of the year. Then we made our Top 10 list of our favorite events of the year. Topping the list was our first year of baby goats, and also much to do with our other animals: getting new horses, a milk cow, a puppy, gymkhanas and rodeos, and plenty of fun experiences. After our Top 10 list was made, the girls opened an envelope that held little cards I'd made for all of us to write a wish for the coming year on. Then we attached our cards to helium-filled balloons, and sent our wishes up into the sky.

Next was an hour of more snacks and some board games. We let the kids pick the games and sat amidst the balloons and streamers and enjoyed some friendly competition.

At 10:00 we sat down to watch a movie together after making some root beer floats.This was probably not my best idea. It was hard to stay awake while trying to watch Hercules, at a time when my body was sure it was bed time. So I had some coffee.

But at 11:30, the celebration took off again. I filled that last balloon with confetti, along with the slip of paper. The supply bag held noise makers, plastic champagne cups, and party poppers (the kind that shoot confetti and ribbon everywhere.) We filled the cups with sparkling grape juice for the kids, champagne for the adults, and tried to stay awake until midnight.

 The Oldest barely made it.

But then came the countdown to midnight - we blew our noisemakers, shot confetti all over the living room, and toasted to the new year. The Littlest One changed our 2013 banner to 2014, and we all hugged and kissed and promptly went to sleep.

It was a blast planning all of it, and seeing it play out. The girls - despite the fact that it was just our little family - were thrilled to have so much excitement. And The Daddy and I enjoyed sharing all the smiles and laughter with them. I think we can chalk this up to our best New Year's Eve to date!

Here's wishing all our friends and family a happy, prosperous 2014!

On a side note: All this stuff came either from the dollar store, or from my craft and party stash. This had to be the most inexpensive party I've ever thrown. Also, the dollar store is my new favorite store. I'd never been in one until this year. But seriously, who wouldn't love a place where you can buy cans of silly string for a dollar?