Monthly Archives: January 2016

Finding the Faith During the Ride

I will be hosting some guest writers on my blog, to give you a peek at other ranch wives’ daily lives. I do not necessarily endorse every view expressed. Welcome to our first guest contributor: Richelle, from https://blueskiesandredcows.wordpress.com/

finding the faith

Moving heifers always requires at least one more person than you plan for, strong fences, and a keen sense of reading into the future. One day you might ride out into the herd, and the calves don’t even raise their heads or pay you any attention; the next, it is like you have a magnet stuck the side of your horse, and those same critters literally run over top of you to check you out. Point them in the direction you want, and watch them scatter like dust in a windstorm. Take it nice and easy, let them have their space, and watch them run away at Mach-3 like you zapped them with a hot shot. Pretty much no matter how hard you try to keep in charge of the situation, these young ‘uns tend to end up being the ones calling the shots. A sign that God is blessing you with a teachable moment…

In my experience, raising children (especially girls, about the ages of 3 and 5), is a lot like working heifers every day of your life. Just when you think you have this momma gig all figured out, one of your kids crawls right through the proverbial fences you thought were tight and strong; leaving you standing a few lengths behind wondering what in the world just happened. Moms and dads are the ones that are supposed to be in control, to give their kids room to grow, to be able to anticipate their children’s every move; but sometimes it feels like no matter how hard you try to keep them safe and teach them to be a respectable member of society, they are the ones teaching you a lesson. These are tests the Lord gives you to see how you perform as a parent, like it or not.

In my house, “free time” is generally spent snuggling a child through a nap, folding laundry, or doing dishes. Between a full time job in town, running the books for our trucking business, blogging, photography, and being a wife and mom, the time I actually get to spend riding my horse and working on my family’s ranch is few and far between. Because of this, I find myself struggling to find my faith day in and day out. When you don’t get to do the things that give you an outlet away from the hustle and bustle and demands of “city life” (we live on my mom and dad’s ranch, but my kids go to daycare in town, and I spend 8 hours a day in a cubicle; therefore, I am stuck in a city-fied life), taking time to have a grateful heart and really speak with the Lord seems almost unattainable most days. I pray best when in the saddle, but I would guess that God has forgiven my poor lack of prayer practice as of late. I used to struggle with prayer, because it always seemed like such a one-sided conversation. I would tell God “thanks” for everything, ask him to help me with some issue I was facing, and that was it. I never gave it a lot of thought or put much effort into it.

I have been a “part-time single” mom since our oldest daughter was born five short years ago. I can’t claim to be a single mom, because I have no right to claim that when my husband is home at least three out of seven days of the week. Even so, much of our daughter’s lives have been spent being bossed around by mom, and mom alone.  I have never been very good at setting aside time for myself, or to talk to God; and when my babies were in bed and the only company I had were sleeping dogs and Facebook, our little farm house felt awful lonely.

Abandoned House: Sometimes my heart feels like this old house; full of holes. But I know that those holes are just places waiting for God's light to shine through.

Sometimes my heart feels like this old house; full of holes. But I know that those holes are just places waiting for God’s light to shine through.

I realize, now, though, that God has been here all along.

He has been with me on those long nights, when the tears wouldn’t stop and the toddler wouldn’t go to bed. He was there when I was hurting, because of people that were hateful and unkind. He was there when the kids were sick, and I was sick, and daddy was on the road. I might not have been able to see him, or hear him; but like that extra rider when the heifers got a little crazy, I know that he was always there, riding herd. Tending to this house. Tending to me; not because I said the perfect prayers, or always had a gracious heart; but because that is what He does.

Sit tall in the saddle no matter what kind of horse you ride on this journey through parenthood!

Sit tall in the saddle no matter what kind of horse you ride on this journey through parenthood!

Being a parent is hard work. No matter if you are in a great partnership with your spouse, going it alone, or doing the part-time single parent gig, it isn’t for the faint of heart. But I truly believe, that if you open your heart to God, he will help you get through the tough times. He will fill your heart with so much joy that sometimes, you think it is going to explode. And just when you think you can’t keep up, he gives you a fresh horse to ride; a new day, a new chance, to start fresh. No one is perfect; especially not our kids. We are all a work in progress, so swing your leg up over the saddle, sit tall, and enjoy the ride.

With Love,
Richelle

How to make photo albums.

how to make photo books online

I am going to share with you the way I get my photos out of digital storage and into my house. I’ve had many “how do you make these beautiful books?” questions, and today I am showing you step-by-step how I do it. I am not a techy person, so if I can do it – you can too!

Technology is an amazing invention, but sometimes it gets in the way of tangible memories. For instance, how many SD cards, thumb drives, or discs do you have laying around with 1,000’s of photos on them?

I know.

Problem is, we all think that we will ‘someday’ get them printed. Well good luck with that! 😉 Life gets in the way of doing the work. Plus we’re not quite sure how, or where, to print them. Aren’t photo albums outdated anyways? Why not just put them on a digital photo album? Oh yes. Scrolling through a couple thousand photos on your laptop – with relatives and friends hanging over your shoulder – is so exciting! Right?!

Let me tell you, my kids have enjoyed so many quiet hours, paging through our photo books. It is fun for them (and everyone else) to pick up a photo album and look back at  the previous years. I like to keep them on in the living room in a visible spot, so guests can entertain themselves. They are great conversation starters, too!

I will walk you through how I do it, and then give you a few extra tips later. Don’t be overwhelmed by the length of this post – I just give detailed instructions. If you are familiar with copying/pasting photos, it will be a breeze! :)

Here you go:

1. Soon after the beginning of the year, (I do it in January) go back through the previous years’ photos on your computer or phone roll, however you store yours. You do have them uploaded, right? 😉

2. Go through them with a pen and paper, writing down the number of each photo you want. Try to pick only the best ones. You really don’t need 5 photos of your new car. One will suffice. (You’ll thank me later!) I have my photos organized by month, so I do it one month at a time. You do whatever works for you. I realize not everyone has as many photos as me! I have a photo addiction.

3. Once you have the numbers written down, go back and select the ones you chose. I have mine on a Windows desktop — sorry I haven’t figured out the Mac photo thing yet! Anyways, to select multiple photos, you hold the Control ( Ctrl ) button down as you select the ones you want. Once they’re all highlighted, right-click on one of the highlighted photos, and ‘Copy’.

4. Start a new folder for the book photos. Title it appropriately; 2015 Book, or something. Now paste your copied photos into that album. Repeat until you have the best photos from your whole year into that folder. Now go through it and make sure you really need 469 photos! :) If there’s a few you can cut – do it. Whew! The hard part is done! Even if you have to take a day or two for a break, you now have the best sorted out. Just like yearlings ready for market.

5. Go to an online photo printer like Mpix, Snapfish, or Shutterfly. Sign up for a free account, and upload your photos. If you’re tired of working on photos by now – use their autofill method. If you are like me – spend another couple hours placing the photos just perfectly with the correct captions for each! Save it when you’re finished. No – save it after each page is done! I hate losing work!

Frank getting ready to help gather cattle.

Frank getting ready to help gather cattle.

Extra tips: 
Ordering:
You can go ahead and order it at this point. But I like to sign up for their emails and wait on a discount code. I have never paid full price for an album yet. Not sayin’ they aren’t worth it – they definitely are! But when you are on a cowboy’s wages, you learn to be frugal.

Where to start?!!
Start with one year and spend 30 min per day going through them and marking the ones you like, uploading them, and placing them in a book. 30 min per day will get a year done in less time than you think! And just think: a few days of this and you will have a nice album to enjoy forever! Just stick to it. You are an adult. You can do things you don’t enjoy. 😉

I’m so behind I’ll never catch up!!
See, I know how discouraging it is! Let me advise you: keep at it until you are caught up. Do one year per week, or whatever, then let that frustration remind you next January to get right on it! :) You can do this! You just have to sit down and do it for a few days. I missed last year, so for the first time, I have 2 years worth of photos, plus a Florida vacation, multitude of brandings, and miscellaneous events to catch up on. I’m predicting it will take 4 books to catch up. Yuck. Next year you can bet I will get it done in January!

It will break the bank to buy all the books I need!
OK, calm down. Remember I said wait for a coupon? Well, many of these are ‘buy two get one free’, or something like that. And they send a couple per year. So here’s what you do: You make them all right now. DO NOT WAIT. When you get the coupon email, you often have 3 days to use it. You will always be busy those 3 days. So you do not stop till you have made all your books and are 100% caught up. THEN you save them in your account, and wait to purchase till you have a coupon code. I mean, how easy is it to log in, select the book you want, and checkout? But if you think you will wait till you have the coupon, to make the books… well, you won’t do it. Trust me, I know! I let a lot of coupons go unused the past two years, because I didn’t have a book ready, and didn’t have time to make one! So learn from me. 😉

Phone photos
Phone photos actually print off ok as long as they are small. Don’t try to make a phone photo an entire page spread. OK is a relative term… of course they aren’t very great quality, but if the phone photo of your child kissing mama is the only one you have – by all means include it! 30 years from now you will be glad you did. Bonus: if you have mostly phone photos, you can fit a lot more in a book! 😉

Isn’t Snapfish awful quality?
It’s not Miller’s Lab, that’s for sure! But hey, I am not rich enough to pay premium prices on photo books. Sometimes you have to sacrifice quality to get the job done. Don’t worry what people think. It’s better – a thousand times better – to have a finished book in hand, than to be snobby about quality that you will never afford. We are a ranch family – we don’t make a lot of money. (and no, this blog makes no money either!) So far, my friends who look at my books are always surprised when I say they’re made at Snapfish and Shutterfly! I am not endorsing or reccomending any site in particular – just telling you what I have done. Hey, if you only do Chatbooks, at least that’s something! (I will probably unfollow you on Instagram, but do whatever works for you! 😉 ) NOTE: I am more and more dissatisfied with the ‘cheap’ photo printing places. I guess getting quality prints does spoil a person! But I still say – do whatever you can do. 

Cost?
Depends on how many pages, what size book, etc. I usually do the 8×11 books with a 50% off coupon, so they run around 15$ each. (on snapfish) But sometimes I make a 11×14 which is really nice! The coupons usually specify page count, like 20 or something. Pay attention to fine print.

Here is a Shutterfly code: https://invite-shutterfly.com/x/1Y1MYX This will get you a free 8×8 photo book. Plus I will also get one if you use this link. 😉 (new customers only)

OK, I need to get back at it – I still have 2 books to make…
Let me know if I forgot something, ok?
And tell me – do you get your photos printed?

The Making of a Mom.

The Making of a MomThat busy, scatter-brained, slightly frumpy person who knows where to find everything and how to soothe owies and hurt feelings… She didn’t start out that way, you know. She was made. She too, once believed she could avoid the mom-jeans and frizzy hair. That was before she realized well-fitting jeans come at a price that a family budget rarely can fit in. That was before she had a colicky baby who wouldn’t allow trips to the salon, and the salons, by the way, also came at a higher price than she remembered.

She used to be fit. Or at least, young and trim enough that she looked great anyways. But somehow, the years of sleep deprivation and the multiple small humans resting inside her belly wrecked that girlish figure. The chocolate eaten in hiding and the extra coffee to keep her awake  after nights with 2 hours of sleep – they took the vibrance from her skin and the youthful glow from her face. Of course, her smile is bigger now, and her eyes beaming with love! (or is that exhaustion?) 

She sometimes glances in a mirror (mostly to swipe on a dash of makeup, to try and makeup the years and aging), but mostly she avoids mirrors and photos – alarmed at the sight these produce. Instead, she snaps countless photos of her precious family, and tells her husband he looks great – because somehow the years look better on men than on women.

This mom-person was made by countless trips to the baby’s crib in the middle of the night. She was made with sticky jam kisses and screams of anger from the average toddler. From cleaning up puke for 3 nights in a row, although sometimes that odor made her puke, too. She was made in a thousand early mornings, cuddling a new baby – inhaling the fragrance that is better than any perfume. She was made in the laughter shared with teens and the tedious repetition of homework with a first-grader. Crumbs in the car and kitties at the back door. Town runs that include 3 kids under 3 years of age, with every other person looking sympathetically at her. She bites her tongue and smiles, while holding the toddler in one arm and steering the cart with the other hand. No one knows how the correct groceries get into the cart.

Yes, she sometimes sighs a tiny sigh over the complexion she once had, the exercise she can’t seem to fit in, and the books she had time to read in years past. But mostly she smiles. Her heart warms every time she looks at this tribe that she calls hers. She knows them inside out, and loves them with every fiber of her being. And the amazing thing is; they love her too! Even when they sometimes get mad at mom, or forget to leave a cookie for her, or wear her favorite boots to the barn – she knows that one day they will grow up and leave, but always and forever, they will call her: Mom.

the making of a mom

Focusing on the good in foster care.

Focusing on the good in foster care.It has been easy for me as a foster parent to focus on the negativity and the stigma that surrounds foster care. The ignorant or ugly questions, the bad advice (well-meaning or otherwise), the lowered eyebrows and the insensitive remarks. The constant probing, unanswerable questions.
It’s hard to get past that. It’s hard to overlook that. It’s easy to focus on that. Easy to feel that pressure and allow yourself to be stuck in that sad little corner.

But I have found that I can change my focus, and thereby change my outlook. It’s true – the first and most frequent remarks and comments I get, are ignorant at best and hurtful most times. There are many times when the foster family gets overlooked, in favor of the ‘normal’ families. But the fact is, there have been many prayers on our behalf, many kind and encouraging words, several gifts of love, and a couple true-blue friends who invest in my journey as a foster mom. They are there with a listening ear and willing hands.

I can either focus on the unpleasant people, or I can focus on the kind and wonderful friends. The choice is simple. It would be foolish to worry what people think about foster care. The thing is, if God called us to walk this road, then it doesn’t matter who understands. Every person on earth could misunderstand and disapprove, and it would not matter one whit. God is our guide and our Judge, He sees the intent of our hearts, and His alone is the only good opinion I seek.

So I am counting my blessings.
1. A friend who babysat for me with only 12 hours notice, then offered all the baby gear she owned for my foster baby.
2. A friend who faithfully prays for our family and each foster child that we care for. She blesses each child and shows the most devoted love.
3. Sisters who are ready with a listening ear when I am exhausted or excited. They never remind me in the hard times, how excited I was at the beginning! 😉 The sister who is local is always good for baby-snuggling when I am tired and needing a break. She also brings chips.;)
4. Faraway family and friends who send gifts and prayers and love my way.
5. Social media (Instagram!) friends who share their stories and thereby encourage me daily. Their courage, devotion, and faithful love for these little ones bless me tremendously. To hear the struggles, triumphs, and funny stories – these gals get me!

My heart overflows with the blessings God has given me. I snuggle the current tiny one, and breathe in his sweet baby scent, and thank God for allowing me this great blessing of caring for ‘one of the least of these’.

Focusing on the good in foster care.

Another Year Beginning

winter cows 1It’s a new year, a new beginning, a new date to remember to write. I used to scoff a bit at New Year’s resolutions, but the past few years I have made a few of my own. Some have stuck, and some haven’t. But I decided it’s fun! And it does usually get me a lot closer to my goals than I would otherwise. 😉

The year is no different – I resolved to:
get in a couple days of exercise each week,
to work through some Bible teaching, ( HERE  )
take a month off of Facebook,
and write daily.

snowOf course, there will be days so full that I miss my exercise or daily writing, but overall, I believe it is a goal I can reach. The bible teaching is the number one thing I want to keep up with. There are enough short podcasts (all transcripts available as well) to give me 15-30 minutes of listening or reading per day. I’m already enjoying this!

Writing… you know, it’s one of those things that I feel almost driven to do, and yet it is the first thing that gets scratched off my list when life gets busy. I hate that! I would rather give up social media or tv shows or something rather than keep on this way. So that is definitely a priority as well.

A good friend of mine recommended this book, so I have it in my cart at Amazon, ready to buy once we get paid. I am excited to read it!


(affiliate link)

So what are you resolving for 2016?