Tag Archives: family

My Journey of Faith, part 2.

my-journey-of-faith-2

My family moved a lot. In the years when I was 11-14, we lived in 3 different states for seasonal work, and 3-4 additional states for various other church or work-related reasons. So we weren’t in a ‘settled’ church. Mom asked me if I understood baptism, and she gave me a couple verses to look up in my Bible. I did look them up, and got excited about it. But there was still that issue of a church…

In the Mennonite church that we were part of, a person who got saved was expected to go through 6 months of ‘instruction class’ (where you were taught all the Mennonite doctines and church rules), then be baptized, and be taken into the church as a member. This structure was quite rigid; you couldn’t just be baptized without the 6 months instruction, and yet as a Mennonite, you wouldn’t be welcome if you went to a different church to be baptized. So I waited.

When I was 14, we were attending a small church in Oklahoma. It was made up of several families who had broke away from the Mennonites, and a few other christian families needing fellowship. We attended that church for about 6 -8 months, I guess. The first few weeks we lived in our fifth-wheel camper while we fixed up a dilapidated old house.

Dad had stripped the carpet and couch out of the back of the camper, and put a small woodstove in the middle. The floor was unfinished wood, and the six of us sat scrunched around that stove during the cold winter weather, pulling our folding chairs as close as we could without burning our shoes. I don’t remember where the chimney went… I guess Dad must’ve cut a hole in the roof to stick it out.

Anyways.

I remember Dad trying his best to get us kids to join in on family worship. He would read a passage of Scripture, and expound on it awhile, then ask us our thoughts. There were four of us girls at home at this time. All four of our brothers were out and about on their own. And us girls were used to our brothers and Dad loudly discussing ideas and thoughts. We scarcely knew how  to discuss Scripture, and we weren’t interested in discussing it with Dad and Mom. We just wanted to get family worship over with! So Dad got discouraged and finally stopped trying. (Shame on us kids!)

But the thing about this church was; they all seemed excited about God. I could see why Dad was drawn to them. It was a very young church, maybe 1 year old? And everyone was on fire for God. They were trying out new ideas and sharing God’s love and God’s dealings in their lives. They genuinely loved the Lord! We were only there several weeks when two of the young men were baptized. I stood on the riverbank and sang joyously with this new group of believers, resolving to be the next one in the river.

I told my parents that I wished to be baptized. Dad was happy. Mom was hesitant, but she also agreed. We talked to the preacher. He asked me and my parents to come over one evening to discuss it. He read some verses, and asked me to read some verses. While reading my verse, I mispronounced the word: vehemently. He gently corrected me, but I was mortified! I have never appreciated ‘grammar nazi’s’ since. 😀 We discussed my salvation, and I was nervous because I didn’t have a ‘grand’ salvation story, nothing real dramatic, and I stammered around, unsure how to say what I meant. But he was kind, and didn’t mind that I was nervous to the point of being unable to speak.

The next Sunday after service, the whole church drove down to the river again. Dressed in white, but wearing my secondhand rose-colored coat, I walked out into that muddy Cimarron river. It was cold enough to take your breath away, but I didn’t care! My teeth chattered as I answered his questions, but  I couldn’t stop smiling! As I came out of the water, the church family standing on the river bank broke into song: “Oh happy day, that fixed my choice! On thee, my Saviour, and my God!”

Image courtesy of Britannica

Cimarron River, Image courtesy of Britannica

Being baptized was a special experience for me. It was a public way to show my sincere love and commitment to Jesus Christ. I was taking my stand with Him, and telling the whole world that I was a child of God.

“Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:4

But I still did not understand how to gain victory over sin. My life was beset with lying, despair, temper fits, and unkindness. I had a sharp tongue and was not slow to use it. I tried – oh I tried! I hated myself. I felt so guilty for being such a mean person. But I was powerless. I listened in church, and yet never heard the answer I needed.

We soon moved on from that church, back to a Mennonite church in Illinois.
See, when I was six years old, we moved to this small country church in Illinois. We had moved away and then back to it many times. We lived in 7  different houses in that community, and one of the houses we moved in and out of, several times! My dad saw inconsistencies in the Mennonite church, but Mom grew up Amish, so Mennonites – to her – seemed like a good place to be. The inconsistencies that Dad noticed, she was ok with, since to her – it was just a chosen lifestyle.

Well, this church was one of the most caring churches that I have been to. They loved my dad and our whole family. And even though they would’ve loved for us to all be members and stay there, they didn’t pressure us, and always welcomed us back with open arms. Even after I was baptized in a non-Mennonite church, they welcomed me into the church later that year.

So when my friends were baptized and taken into the church, I sat beside them and was given the ‘right hand of the fellowship’ into the Mennonite church as a member. I thought that since I was baptized, and a church member, I would surely become more holy.

But it didn’t work that way. I still could not gain victory over my sins. I fell daily into anger, jealousy, unkindness, lying. I contemplated giving up. As our home and family situation deteriorated, I seriously considered running away. I thought about leaving the church behind and just living how I wanted! But two things held me back:

1 My mother had instilled a proper fear of God in me, from a child on her knee. I knew that I could run but I couldn’t hide from Almighty God.

2 My brothers loved me, and I couldn’t run away from home and ever be able to face them again. I just couldn’t. So I stayed home. I would rather be miserable than to disappoint them. They were my heroes.

So there I was. Stuck in the same frustrating circle of sins. I just wanted to know how to get out!

...Stay tuned for next week! Victory is coming! :)

Ohiopyle falls

O happy day that fixed my choice
On Thee, my Savior and my God!
Well may this glowing heart rejoice,
And tell its raptures all abroad.

Happy day, happy day,
When Jesus washed my sins away!
He taught me how to watch and pray,
And live rejoicing every day;
Happy day, happy day,
When Jesus washed my sins away!

’Tis done—the great transaction’s done;
I am my Lord’s, and He is mine;
He drew me and I followed on,
Rejoiced to own the call divine.

Now rest, my long-divided heart,
Fixed on this blissful center, rest;
Here have I found a nobler part,
Here heav’nly pleasures fill my breast.

High heav’n that hears the solemn vow,
That vow renewed shall daily hear!
Till in life’s latest hour I bow,
And bless, in death, a bond so dear.

Philip Doddridge, 1700’s

If you missed the first post, you can find it here:
My Journey of Faith part 1

January Snowstorm

snow covered log barn

“A snowflake is one of God’s most fragile creations,

but look what they can do when they stick together!”

The snow started last night and kept right on falling all through today. It is still snowing, even though night has fallen and all the children are tucked in bed. I think we have over a foot of snow, not counting the drifts. Of course, there were drifts and several inches already here – but now the lowest spots are still over a foot deep! drifted snow

Today I spent 6 hours decluttering, sorting, and organizing my house. When I was finished, I bundled up and went outside with my camera. It was my reward for a hard job well-done. I walked down past the barns and corrals, down to the horse pasture. I walked through the ditch, and the snow was up to my waist! I snapped some photos of the horses for my online gallery. It was fun to get some fresh air and some good pictures. I really enjoy  taking time to indulge my creative side! :) paint horse in snow

horse muzzle

I opened my online gallery this week, and to celebrate, I am offering 15% off when you use the code WELCOME. The sale only goes till January 7, though, so hurry over and check it out!

You can buy prints or ready-to-hang wall art, like canvases. Or you can buy digital downloads that you may print yourself.
Check it out here—>  ~Kay Schrock Photography~

red barn door in snow

While these storms rage – for there have been several – my husband feeds the cows and works in the shop. But me and the children, we stay warm and cozy beside the fire inside our little house. When the children are finished with their schoolwork, they get out books to read and games to play. Sometimes they play Chess or Candyland. Sometimes they draw pictures or write stories. Sometimes they watch Netflix shows like “CHOPPED” or “Dick Van Dyke”. We drink hot tea and eat thick slices of homemade bread, slathered in butter and crabapple jelly. It is all quite cozy and satisfactory.

Hot coals in a wood stove

A good bed of coals in our stove.

Horse herd in snow

I hope wherever you live, wherever you call home, is as cozy and sweet as it can be. May your winter be warmer than ours, but if not, may your stove be warm and your hearts full of love.

horses in snow

“So all night long the storm roared on:
The morning broke without a sun;
In tiny spherule traced with lines
Of Nature’s geometric signs,
In starry flake, and pellicle,
All day the hoary meteor fell;
And, when the second morning shone,
We looked upon a world unknown,
On nothing we could call our own.
Around the glistening wonder bent
The blue walls of the firmament,
No cloud above, no earth below,—
A universe of sky and snow!”
― John Greenleaf Whittier

Fall Works and Fellowship.

fall-worksThe past few weeks have been busy with shipping calves and preg-testing the cows. We were blessed with warm, lovely weather. November is not normally this beautiful in Wyoming, so we are thankful for every sunny, warm day!

I cooked for the crew when they were working here, then went over to the boss’ place and helped with lunch when the crew was over there. Well, the boss’ wife did most of the cooking – I mostly just talked. 😀 It’s good to get together with other ranch wives, though.

shipping

shipping

shipping

This week we drove to our neighbors’ Bible study on Wednesday evening. Everyone brought a pot of soup or a salad, and we shared God’s Word over home-cooked food.

There is something special about fellowshipping over food. Sharing stories and doing life together. Laughing and eating and praying together. We read of Jesus often sharing stories and teaching around meals. He knew that eating together is a great way to be informal and relaxed.

We don’t sit down to eat with our enemies. We eat with our friends. We relax and start to open up to each other when we are seated around a table. We love Thanksgiving and Easter and Christmas in part because of the warm friendship and family times we have around good food.

shipping

shippingshipping

We drove over to our friends’ house and brought food, but they had to be willing to open their home, so we could all join in. Someone had to send that invite, make the calls, prepare food, sweep the floor, tidy the bathroom, you know — get ready for guests. No, it wasn’t fancy, (thank goodness!) it was a homey and inviting place, there was a stack of paper plates and a table loaded with help-yourself food, but the fellowship was heart-warmng. There was no stiffness or awkwardness, just simple food and warm smiles and genuine hospitality.

shipping

But someone had to open their home. We wait and wait for someone else to invite us, to organize something, to fill that need in our lives. We need to open our homes. To stop waiting for someone else to initiate and just be a friend. Invite someone over for lunch. Don’t worry if you aren’t a ‘hostess type’. Just do it. Everyone needs friends and fellowship, someone to do life with. Someone to listen and understand and say: “me too”.  Just text a few friends and say “hey, want to come over tomorrow night for tacos?” Don’t stress over ‘hostessing’, just invite friends into  your life. Open up your heart and your home, and be real.

What would happen if we all started reaching out on a regular basis? It doesn’t have to be a bible study – it can be supper. Or lunch. Or tea. Whatever you do – do that. Stop waiting on the others, and start being a blessing to those in your area.

shipping

That terrible parent was me.

sad mama

I can’t even read them. Those harsh, accusatory, squinty-eyed comments that people left everywhere when a baby boy was drug away and killed before his daddy’s eyes. When a little boy fell into a cage with a dangerous beast, or even when a boy accientally knocked over a Lego sculpture. (That last one is so pathetic, it’s not worth talking about.)

They say the parents weren’t watching, weren’t being responsible, hadn’t taught their kids a thing about obedience, not touching, not reading signs, and on and on. Seriously??

You know what? I was that terrible parent.
That was me.
I had a baby boy who drowned.
He was 2 years old.
I wasn’t watching him 100% of the time, and there you go – 5 minutes later he was being swept downstream in a current so strong an adult could barely stand up. I know because it was only the adrenalin  coursing through my body that gave me the strength to stand up, hanging onto a tree branch for support, feeling around the creek-bottom with my stocking feet, screaming and crying into the wind.

A huge burden of guilt came crashing down on my back the minute I realized it wasn’t going to end well. I couldn’t look my husband in the eyes for hours. I didn’t blame the Deputy who was over-zealous in examining me and my parenting. I heard the cold accusations through his standard questions: “Didn’t you know that creek was dangerous? Do you normally allow your kids to play outside unsupervised?”

I wearily answered him, just wanting him to leave so I could flop onto my bed and cry my heart out. (He later was reprimanded by his superiors for his uncaring method of questioning.) I didn’t care. I knew he was right; I had let my baby play outside alone. For 5 minutes while I started lunch. His lunch – hotdogs. There is something exquisitely painful about putting hotdogs into a pan to heat, and an hour later serving them to 2 children instead of 3.

Do you know what it feels like to be having a wonderful, happy day, then to be plunged into the worst living nightmare? And to know it is your fault? You can’t blame anyone else. And you feel like everyone is blaming you, even when they don’t say it?

I am so thankful I have loving, caring friends and family who never blamed or shamed me. They encouraged, prayed, cried, and hugged. But they never said the obvious: “Why DID you let him play outside when you knew that canal was a mere 100 feet from your door?”
My husband could’ve allowed it to make him bitter at me, but he didn’t. He worked through his own struggles without blaming me.

Jesus has healed me from the pain, set me free from the guilt, and is teaching me to shut my ears to the Devil’s accusations. He can heal you too, if you are struggling with something similar. Jesus is the Great Healer!

I wonder how many of the name-callers on social media these days have ever been responsible for a small child 24/7? Do they know how fast a toddler can scale a fence or run toward a croc-infested lake? Have they ever searched for a missing child with their heart in their throat, screaming wild-eyed, and cold with adrenaline?

If they have, how could they possibly be so cruel? As soon as I heard of the croc story, my heart went to those parents, especially the mother. She is the one who will live with the guilt long after the world has forgotten about them. She will go to bed with red eyes for weeks. She will find a random missed sock in the laundry and break down all over again. And the father… he will question every move and replay that scene over and over. He will wonder why he wasn’t just a bit faster, a bit stronger. He will cry in the shower and when he is driving alone to work.sad mama

I don’t know the details of the story. No one does, really, except the ones on the scene. I know that more signs or a gator round-up isn’t the answer. That may prevent some tragedies and that’s great. But the thing is; hard, painful, searing things happen. And when they do, we need to rally around each other with love and prayer and hugs and tears. We can grow that way. This condemning and criticizing is killing our souls and our country.

I have no words of judgment. How can I?

That terrible parent was me, once.

Can we learn, somehow, to love and support each other even when they make mistakes or – gasp – have an accident? We all, ALL do stupid things. Some of us get away with it and no one knows. Some of us pay dearly for our mistakes.

Walk a mile in their moccasins. Love like Jesus. Practice the Golden Rule: treat others the way you would like to be treated. And if that’s too hard to do, at least take your mother’s advice and ‘be quiet if you don’t have anything good to say’.

Read my story here: Andy

Summer is here and what I’ve been doing.

Flying a kite

It’s been a bit crazy around here the past few months.
That’s actually an understatement.
It’s been really, really hectic. Like; two brandings in one day and then a wedding to photograph and a church conference and 3 Dr. visits all in 10 days, kind of hectic. Whew. Which leaves home as more of a refueling station, and we pass like ships in the night, between running to events and tossing a load of laundry in the washer.

I dislike that kind of life. Now, I can do it ok, I know how, but I really prefer a quieter schedule. Puttering in my house and lighting a candle at mealtimes, and reading a book with my littles, or playing in the sandbox with them… that’s more my style! :) Ok, so that’s not completely realistic, either, but at least have some days at home, ya know?

home on the ranch

12 days ago I drove to town and handed ‘my’ baby over to his father. I handed over all the boxes of things we’d collected for him in his 6 months with us, then I got in my suburban and drove away. foster care goodbye
“I could never do that!”
I hear you. I do. I used to say that too.
I still don’t enjoy doing it. But if God calls you to step up, He will also lavish His grace and strength upon you. He will equip you for every job He has for you. This is why we need to be so very careful to stay in His will for our lives.
We had this last placement (foster child) for 6 months. He was like my own. The kids bonded so well. We are still adjusting to life without our baby, but we are also happy that he is with his biological family. He seems to be adjusting well. As well as can be imagined, considering everything.

Obviously, it’s frustrating to not be able to share more details, but for his safety and our legal obligations, we are not allowed to share much. Suffice it to ay that he is in a good place, and we are happy for him. In this case, foster care has worked exactly as it was designed to. And for that I am grateful!

Meanwhile, we are taking a break from fostering. I’m not sure how long. I’m not sure if we will ever open our home again, or if we are done. But we are taking it slowly and deciding things one case at a time. I did agree to do respite for 4 kiddos next week. Yikes! 😉

Oh, my heart will always, always be with the foster care system. So many kiddos sitting in social workers’ offices, so many crying babies who need a nurturing mama, so many hopeless teens whom no one wants. I pray God will call many people to this ministry, to care for ‘the least of these.’
foster care goodbye

Fix your eyes on Jesus today!

Branding near Wheatland.

We went to help our friends brand calves yesterday. Cliff loaded up the horses and older kids and left by 5:30 am. I woke the little ones and fed & dressed them and followed in the suburban by 6 am. (We can’t all fit in the truck, so I had to drive separate.) It was a gorgeous morning, sun rising through a bit of clouds and into a clear sky.

branding

By the time I reached the ranch, the cowboys were almost done gathering the cattle. The lane runs through the pasture, so I was surrounded by cowhands at one point. It always feels a bit like I’m living in a western movie set, when I see cowboys riding down the hills on either side of me. :) Never gets old.

Looking for strays.

Looking for strays.

The wind wasn’t too bad, thankfully, so the baby didn’t have to gasp for breath. 😉 Babies just don’t appreciate this Wyoming wind much. I strapped him in the stroller, and assigned an older kid to keep track of Reata while I ducked around horses and cowboys to take as many pictures as I could. I knelt in some questionable damp stuff with my new jeans – yuck. And I was awash in branding smoke most of the time, but I did get a couple of nice ones, in between feeding and changing the baby, and getting him to sleep.

My 3 older kids.

My 3 older kids.

branding

Brandings are a favorite time of year for most ranchers. We reconnect with friends and neighbors – some we haven’t seen since last year’s branding! We share jokes and tips and stories of the past year. We gather for a huge feast afterwards, always a highlight! Yesterday they served prime rib, which is a very delicious cut of meat. Most of the time if a fellow ranch wife comes to a branding, she will bring a dish to add to the table… a pie or salad or some rolls. It is not required, but always appreciated.

Cowboygirl.

Cowboygirl.

Dragging to the fire.

Dragging to the fire.

Cliff and Jenni wrestled calves a while.

Cliff and Jenni wrestled calves a while.

And remember, calves hide (skin) is ‘way thicker than yours, so branding them is not nearly as painful as it would be for you. 😉 And besides that, it is required by law.

branding

Jane Grove branding.

Jane Grove branding.

branding

Branding

The myth of sleeping when baby sleeps.


 

The myth of sleeping when baby sleeps

You’ve all heard it: “Sleep when your baby sleeps”, but really? Have they actually tried running a household while sleeping when baby sleeps? I mean, the baby is awake for the grand total of 1.5 hours, and 97.2 percent of that time is consumed with changing their diaper, feeding them, and trying to get them back to sleep. In the approximately 3 minutes remaining, it is pretty hard to make a meal, launder grungy clothes, clean the bathroom, and comb your hair. Let alone get the nail polish out of the carpet in your toddler’s bedroom, or actually eat a meal.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me who never outgrew their dislike for childhood naps. Or maybe it’s because every time I decide to be good and lay down for a nap – that’s when my 3 year old decides to wake up early from her nap, or my 6 year old feels its an appropriate time to start screeching “NOT FAIR!!” at her brother (who made sure I was drifting off to sleep before starting to teasing her).
Perhaps I am the only one who has no ‘off’ knob on my brain – and as soon as I lay down in a (relatively) quiet spot for 3 seconds, my brain thinks it’s a perfect time to remind me of that closet that needs organized, and that gunky stuff I saw this morning in the fridge, and did I remember to send the car payment or am I gonna wake up from my nap with no car in the drive?

I try. I really do. I think:
“Today I will get a nap no matter what.”
I carefully instruct and warn (threaten) the older kids: “No fighting! None! A scream will earn you extra chores and you know how bad you hate cleaning the fridge when there’s gunky stuff in there! NO teasing! Actually, you two don’t even talk to each other! On second thought – you all go outside and don’t come back in till I say you can!”
“What If we’re hungry or thirsty?”
“Drink from the creek – pretend you’re pioneers, OK? And you won’t starve in 1 hour, I promise… now go.”
I then carefully get the baby asleep and immediately lie down myself. Its quiet. Peaceful. I will put all thoughts of empty socks drawers and crunchy floors out of my head. We can go barefoot tomorrow. It won’t be fun – with the crunchy floors an all – but I am getting a nap!

I am drifting off to sleep, finally, after several stern self-talks and mental floggings. Then I hear it – screams.
Happy screams. Shouts of laughter and joyful calling to one another, but right outside my bedroom window! I sigh and stick my head under my pillow. That does next to nothing for the volume level. I decide I can sleep through it, and will myself to ignore it and focus on the bird songs and whirring of the bathroom fan that I left running to drown out kid-noises.

Except it doesn’t. Nothing drowns out those happy shouts from 10 feet away. I grin a little, and roll out of bed. Sitting there on the edge of the bed I say aloud:
“I give up. I just give up.” And I stand up and walk to my waiting laundry.
“Sleep is not that important”, I tell myself, soothingly. “You can sleep all you want when the kids are gone.”
I know that’s probably not true – but visions of long, uninterrupted nights in my (very distant) future gives me the umph to go on putting one foot in front of another, sorting laundry and sweeping up kitchen floor crunch. I yawn a few times, and whisper pleadings for strength and grace for the rest of this day. To be happy and patient. To love unconditionally and relentlessly. To have a calm and sweet voice and not bark at my family. Because God has been so good and gracious to me – how can I be less to His children? He does, you know. He does give me grace and patience. Love upon love. And joy. True joy that tiredness can’t quench.
But I have to stay nestled in His arms, covered with His grace, and bathed in little prayers throughout my day. Church and friends and good books and long naps won’t get me through. Only my Father God and His power.

The myth of sleeping when baby sleeps.

We love each other! :)

Note: I don’t recommend having your kids drink from a creek. Especially where 800 head of cows also have access to it, if you know what I mean. They will probably get cooties and leeches and all sorts of gross things. Yuck. Please send a bottle of water out for them to drink. 😉 

February in Wyoming.

Pulling a calf to the warm barn, with mama following.

Pulling a calf to the warm barn, with mama following.

February is a month of love. Valentine’s Day, candy, hearts, and roses. But on the ranch, February is much different. It means long nights of checking heifers, pulling calves, wading through thawing snow, and bottle-feeding bum calves.

It is also the middle of the long Wyoming winter – blizzards and high winds and ice. We have been having crazy high winds the past few days, 75+ mph. It blows over semi-trucks, and blows shingles off houses and blows over anything not weighed down. If the windmill blades aren’t locked down, they will blow right off!

We have been dealing with some sickness,  (not too bad) and it got the baby. One day he was feeling so poorly, that I took him for a drive – just to lull him to sleep. I don’t remember ever doing that before – taking a baby for a drive to make it sleep. But by baby #7, you tend to relax on some things. 😉 Plus, with Cliff sleeping during the day, I couldn’t have him screaming in the house. Anyways, he did go to sleep, and I moseyed around the ranch, stopping to snap a few pictures from the window.

calving cows

The snow has mostly melted, for the first time since Thanksgiving. We had giant snow piles along the lane for months. But I don’t relax too much, because March – May are normally our snowiest months! :) I expect several more big storms before we see real spring.

I am busy with our foster baby – he is a good baby, but still… babies require a lot of time. I almost forget how often they like to eat! 😀 He’s getting chubsy and smiley and oh! so fun. We are all falling in love with him.

Note: I can’t say much about him, due to confidentiality laws. But I’ll address the most asked questions —
No, I can’t tell you why he is in foster care,
No, we are not planning to adopt (we always work to reunify kids with their families), and
No, we have no idea how long we will have him. :) 

So that is why my blogging suffers, right now. I’m busy making bottles, changing diapers, and rocking a cute little boy. :)

February in Wyominghorses on a ranch in wyoming

Today it is really warm outside, and the first calm day for a long time. So the kids ran outside as soon as they finished morning chores – determined to not waste this lovely day! I was happy to see them go. The older ones promised to watch their littlest sister carefully – which made me glad. Teens are the coolest! (lots of tractors/trucks/horses/bulls make the ranch yard not terribly safe for a tiny human)

Yesterday we had a recertification meeting with the foster care co-ordinator. I was nervous, (which was unnecessary,) but as always, she was calm and helpful. I hear so many horror stories of caseworkers and foster care workers, but I guess we are just really blessed. Ours are the best! I mean sure, some are more strict than others, and some are naturally more cheerful, or whatever, but I haven’t had a bad experience with any, so far. Really kind and helpful.

Ok, I’m starting to ramble. I better go throw a load of laundry in the washer.
I hope your day is pleasant and you find a bit of nature to relax in. :)

Wide open places are my therapy.

Wide open places are my therapy.

 

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