On near death experiences

I almost lost my Daddy 3 weeks ago. He had a massive heart attack and actually flat-lined at one point. Thankfully he is a stubborn man and, in his own words, “decided to stick around for another 30 years”,  but it still scared me. Badly.

He called me from the ambulance to tell me he loved me and to say goodbye. See if that won’t rip a person up and make them reevaluate their whole life. It did that for Cowman and me. It did that for my parents also, and I’m sure it did it for my brothers.

So where do you go from there? You can’t possibly keep on doing life as usual. It’s like a reset button is pushed and you have a brand new start. An opportunity to look at life through a new lens, to throw away the old, jaded, dented one, and to put on a fresh new wide-angle which is much better suited to capturing life at its fullest and best.

So what does this new reset look like? Some aspects are still emerging, some were instant. I was faced with the startling fact that I don’t get to keep my parents forever. I’m going to have to let them go at some point, and while I pray that that time isn’t for a long time yet, I don’t know. So those phone calls aren’t going to be put off anymore. In fact I’ve been trying to restrain myself from calling every single day. I told my Dad he was going to get tired of seeing my name show up on his caller ID, he just laughed but didn’t deny it either. ( I knew I was speaking the truth!) I’m working on finding that balance.

I also know that this reset is going to push me into some uncomfortable situations as I try to build relationships with other family members. As I mentioned in this post about two families becoming one, we aren’t a Norman Rockwell family. Do we wish we were? Sure. But facts are facts and that’s not our family. We have our moments and we love each other, but a lot of the time we don’t like each other. I have two brothers that I haven’t spoken to in years and I don’t even have the excuse that we live far apart. We have almost nothing in common and we see things from very different points of views. But is that reason enough to not try? Man, it would be so easy to say it was. It would be so nice to just agree to disagree and go our separate ways but I don’t think that is the life I want to live. It’s also not the life I want my kids to see me living. So ya, I’ve got some uncomfortableness in my future that this reset is going to push me into. I’ll deal with it.

I will be saying no more often to the good things that take time away from the great things. I’ve got a family that I only get to hold onto for a short period of time. I’m saying yes to them. I’m saying yes to folding the laundry later in favor of reading a book together now. I’m saying yes to leaving the dishes in the sink in favor of going outside and taking a walk together.  I’m saying yes to them helping in the kitchen even though it makes everything take ten times longer. I’m looking into their eyes when they speak to me and really listening.  I’m saying yes to the now. I’m saying no to the uncertain “laters”. I’m saying yes to not having any “what ifs” in our future.

I’m willing to take some risks if it means our family will be better for it. I’m willing to be uncomfortable for a while if it means relationships can be healed. I’m willing to step out into the unknown and trust if it means a more fulfilled life. I’m willing to change because I was faced with the knowledge that we only have so much time. I don’t want to waste it. I don’t want to look back and regret. I don’t want to wonder. I want to know that I had a life well lived and that I took the time to care for and about those around me. I want that to be my legacy.

So yes, almost losing my Dad was one of, if not the most, scary points of my life. I don’t want to go through it again. Ever. But it did reach me. God will use those moments to mold and change for the better if you let Him, and I fully intend to take Him up on the offer.

Love from here,

Bobbie

 

The Shopping list, or, menu planning part 2

You know that life is good when you have friends that enjoy putting you on the spot and watching you squirm. Take my friend, Val, for instance. We are starting a super fun soap venture together so today was not only Bible study day together, it was also make a couple batches of soap afterwards day. We were laughing and cleaning everything up when I realized it was 4:30. I had of course forgotten to put something in the crock pot and my brain was scrambling, trying to think of something quick and easy off of my menu list. (remember that list that we talked about here?) So I ask Val, as casually as I can, mind you, what she is making for dinner. She tells me and then so super smoothly that it totally cracked me up while catching me off guard says, ” Since you are asking me what I am making for dinner I’m going to assume you don’t know what you are making yet…. Didn’t you just write a post about menu planning? And here I was thinking that it was going to be a great idea and something I wanted to follow along with and get some good ideas from and now here you are asking me what I’m going to eat for dinner!”

Yes ladies and gents, she totally went there and proved how human Bobbie really is. It was great though because it led me to a point that I wanted to make sure I went over with this menu plan of mine. It’s a very fluid plan. Meaning I don’t assign days to each meal. I know that Wednesdays should be a crock pot day since it’s Bible study day and super busy, but sometimes my brain doesn’t turn on when it’s supposed to and I forget. And that reason is why I write down a handful of super quick and easy recipes that I can pull out on such a night as tonight was. Stroganoff! When making your menu, add some of those gems in, we would be lying to ourselves if we acted like we had it 100% together all of the time….well, except for Val, she actually might have it all together all of the time.

So to pick up where we left off on my last post, you have your menu list written out by now, right? If you do then it’s ready to go into the form of a shopping list. Now this is obviously going to look very different for each person. Some are going to have bread on that list while others are going to have bread ingredients on their list. Either way doesn’t matter! You might make your own ketchup, you might buy pre-cooked hamburgers, we aren’t here to have that debate today. Today, we are going to make a list so you don’t have to go to the grocery store more than once a month. Our goal is to save that headache for one special day a month, only 12 times a year! Think of that, only grocery shopping 12 times a year!! Breath in that feeling of enchantment and savor it cause that’s what we are going to accomplish here today!

Ok, you have your list and those recipes are telling you how many pounds or cans of each item you need. Start with one ingredient, say, chicken, and figure out how much chicken you need for all of the chicken recipes you wrote down. Say you need 11 pounds of chicken total. Does the cut matter to you? If yes, write it down. If not, then write down 11 pounds of chicken. Costco sells 15 pound bags of chicken for a great price. Great, get one of those and then you won’t need to buy as much chicken next month. Now move on, to say, beans. Do the same thing, 4 recipes call for pinto beans, 6 cans total. You can write down 6 cans of pinto beans or you can write down to get a case of them at Costco and have some extra for next month. This is easy, I promise!

All of your recipes for the month get this treatment until you have written down everything you need to cook with. There are going to be things you don’t have to get a lot of times, like salt, but check them anyway just to make sure you won’t run out. I check spices every month because I have run out of some very basics before and it’s not fun. Not fun at all.

You’ve got your list, and you’ve checked it twice, you know your budget, so now it’s time to shop. If you get yourself into the store and you know that there are isles you don’t have to go down, do yourself a favor and don’t go down them! It’s a trap! We have whole sections of Costco that we never cruise past. Not on the list, don’t need to look. Shopping gets a whole lot easier, faster, and less painful if you just avoid the temptations lurking down those dark isles to start with. Teach the kids that it’s a game. How fast can you get in and out? We have Costco down to 45 minutes from the second we walk in until we walk out. *disclaimer* if you shop with your husband, who only gets to town half of the amount of times a year that you do, shopping is going to take longer and you are going to find things in your cart that you don’t know how they got there. They are just watching and waiting  for your back to turn so they can hide that 4 lbs. of summer sausage under the bags of flour. Cowman, I’m looking at you!

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yes, there is the cereal…remember that we aren’t here for that debate today.

Tip, don’t take your menu with you shopping. Take your shopping list but leave your menu safe at home. I had a friend tell me that she always loses her menu when she goes shopping. Put it on your fridge or on the inside of a cupboard door, or in the front of a binder like mine. This is my Pinterest recipe book. I slip my menu in the front so I can see it, but it doesn’t get wet, dirty, or lost….or used as scrap paper, or drawn on by kids who don’t seem to remember that we have a file drawer full of unopened packs of printer paper… The point is to stick it somewhere that you can see it and it can stay safe.

 

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Safe from crayons, phone messages, and spilled drinks…and isn’t my tea box adorable?…just sayin’.

 

The last part of this is probably the most important part. You’ve planned. You’ve made your shopping list. You’ve shopped. The last crucial step is to USE IT!! I promise that you won’t regret it. And I promise you will be hooked on not having to keep going back to the store, and your budget will love it too! All around everyone will be happy! This post seems so simple, almost too simple to write out. But usually the most simple things are the things that make our lives more easeful, and often times they are the things we overlook first. So here is to getting back to the basics!

Love from here,

Bobbie

Menu Planning, One Month at a Time

Let’s talk food for a minute. Everyone needs it, everyone enjoys it, some people even enjoy preparing it. (Crazy, I know) I’ve got six people in this house that seem to think three meals a day is a normal event. When, might I ask, did this happen? I make breakfast (most mornings), get it cleaned up, start some school and laundry, turn around and BAM, it’s time for me to start lunch. Get that one cooked, fed, cleaned up, do some random chores and wah-lah, it’s time for me to start dinner. Who created this schedule anyway?!

If you’re anything like me, it can become a bad habit to find yourself at 11:30 and 4:30 each day wondering what in the world you are going to cook. You stand in the pantry, staring at shelves of ingredients, begging them to speak some creative language to you that inspires a meal different from what you ate three nights ago. You wander from pantry to fridge to freezer and back to the pantry again. Surely walking laps and staring mindlessly at the same things will spark some culinary genius that’s hidden deep inside. Surely….. right?

You quick jump on Pinterest to scour your food board only to realize that all of your recipes call for chicken, of which you are out, or they call for 3 hours of cook time and now you are down to 45 minutes. So you quick search for quick and easy dinners with 3 ingredients or less, only to find that they all call for spinach and bags of some ingredient that you don’t have. At this point the children have started circling like sharks and you have promised them that dinner will be ready soon, no you may not have a snack, put that banana down, go in the other room until dinner is ready, of course Mommy knows what she is making for dinner! (insert plastic smile here), no I am not going to tell you because it’s a surprise! Panic has set in and suddenly you find yourself eating pancakes. Again.

Oh the circle of life. Every. Single. Day……Unless of course it’s been a month that I took the time to plan a monthly menu before I went grocery shopping. We only do this once a month, the whole town and shopping thing that is. When you go once a month it’s not even called grocery shopping, it’s called ‘laying in supplies’. And it’s a big thing. Now, we are pretty darn proficient at it, having done it for enough years now, but it still takes planning if I don’t want to have a full month of the scene I laid out for you above. And the goal is to avoid that if at all possible!

So that means planning, planning, planning. I can’t just jump in the truck and go to the store if I find I need something. EVERYTHING has to be taken into account before shopping. It sounds scary, but the good news is how much money it saves you by not going to the store every time you realize you need one or two things for dinner. The bad news is that it takes, need I say it again?, planning. *sigh*

So, you’re ready to give up the vicious cycle of never knowing what’s for the next meal? Or thinking you know what’s for the next meal only to find out that no indeed, you are out of tomato sauce and noodles so you won’t be having spaghetti for dinner after all. Or are you just sick and tired of repeating the same meals every 10 days because you’re in a rut? (been there, done that way too many times. Did I mention pancakes?) If you are a yes to any of the above I am going to do my best to help. I’m not promising anything ground-breaking here, but the urging of a friend of mine has prompted me to just share some basic tips that I have learned over the years since we have been living this way.

I would love to ease some of the meal planning / grocery shopping madness if possible. If this sounds like something you are interested in, stay tuned, because I’m going to need to break this up into several posts or we would be here for hours! (Pssst, this is where subscribing is going to come in handy, that way you don’t miss one of the posts in this series!)

How to Menu Plan, One Month at aTime

To get you started, find a notebook and write down some recipes that you would like to make this month. I have six columns on my monthly list, Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Snacks, Sides, and Desserts. I start by writing down meals that I know we love, but not every single one that I can think of. Save some of those for next month. I try very hard to try at least one new recipe a week, a lot of times I can manage 2-3. Especially when I’ve planned ahead. After I’ve written down what I would like, I poll the crowds for some meals that they would like to have. By the time I’m done with that, there aren’t many spots left to fill and that is where my Pinterest board comes in handy. We are compulsive pinners for a reason, right?

Now, tip number one, don’t write down 30 different breakfast recipes and 30 different lunch recipes. It’s ok to repeat! I have 11 different breakfasts this month, and yes, one of them is cold cereal which will be the one that is repeated multiple times. I try very hard to plan 30 different dinners, but that’s just me, maybe you want to have tacos 2 nights this month, great! Don’t stress yourself out trying to think of 30 different dinner desserts. Unless baking dessert is your favorite thing to do, you probably aren’t going to get to all of those recipes and it can start to look like a to-do list instead of a helping tool. This menu is here to help you, not to be a task-master.

So start there, make a list with the columns that fit your schedule. Write down some recipes, ask your family what their preferences are, look at some cookbooks or online resources. Don’t go crazy, just write down some ideas. We’ll go over how to get that menu onto a shopping list next time.

Love from here,

Bobbie

How to Menu Plan, one month at a time

How two families became one

 

Once upon a time there was a small family. A mom, a man, and two kids, a brother and his younger sister. The man was not a nice person and he did things that a man is not supposed to do when he is part of a family. The mom one day realized that she and her kids deserved better. She went back to school to become a nurse and the man was no longer there. She took good care of her kids and loved them very much and they loved her. This could be the end of their story. Let’s leave them right here and look at another story.

Once upon a time in a kingdom not far away is another small family. A man, his wife and their two kids, brothers. They were happy, but one day the wife got sick and one day was no longer there with them. The man mourned with his two young boys. He loved his kids and they loved him. This could be the end of their story…..

However, as most stories go there is more to these two than first meets the eye. You see, these two sets of siblings went to the same small country school. These families knew each other. Not like have each other over for dinner, know each other, but like nod your head “hi” when picking the kids up at school because they are in the same classes and share the same teachers. If you have read enough happy stories you will have guessed that these two parents slowly got to know each other better and realized that making two small families one big family was an excellent idea. So that is what they did. And they all lived happily ever after. The end……

Ya, ummm, so maybe that’s stretching it a bit. Perfect stories don’t really happen here on earth. Let me correct that last bit. These two families joined and struggled to find ways to mesh. They meshed and they clashed and they mended and they clashed again and loved each other and fought and added another brother to the fray and laughed and cried. They had really, really hard times, and they had beautiful moments that showed God’s hand in the midst of their imperfect selves. And while many around them thought that this blended family would surely fall apart, while many actually encouraged these two parents to just give up, they stuck it out. They knew what they were fighting for.

They were fighting for us. They were fighting for the chance at a loving, blended family. They were fighting against the odds so that us kids could grow up knowing that if you want something really good, it’s not just going to happen. You have to pursue it. You have to keep pursuing it. You have to keep going back for more, even when it’s really ugly. Even when it would be so much easier to just give up. You fight because of love.

In the first story I told, I didn’t have a dad. There was a man, but that is all. In the second story I told there was a woman, but sometimes people don’t get to stay on earth, and those boys were left without a mother. In the third story I was introduced to the man who would become my Daddy in so many more ways than just his last name. I was given the best father of all. Those boys were given a mom. They were given someone who would challenge them to grow and become better. Someone who would love them, even when they annoyed each other. We as children were given a very special gift. The gift of second chances.

It wasn’t easy then, and sometimes to this day it’s still not easy. But it’s worth it. Every day with them is another reminder of what a gracious God we serve. A God who cares about broken families. A God who cares about hurting families. A God who cares about us as individuals and wants us to be loved. I know that not everybody always gets those things, and because of that I count my blessings, and my parents and siblings are at the top of that list. (along with Cowman and the kiddos of course)

Please don’t let little things hold you back from your family. Mend the bridges if you can.  Tell them you love them today, because tomorrow is never promised. Love on them with all of your might, right now.

Love from here,

Bobbie

Spring doesn’t promise tulips here

Spring mostly doesn’t promise tulips here because the ducks ate them a few years ago. True story, but it’s a moot point anyway because about the time the tulips were thinking of blooming it was time to plant the garden and they would have been in the way. So perhaps the ducks did me a favor. After all, that is the very end of May, beginning of June and aren’t they supposed to be a herald of spring? Like a promise of more things to come in May and June? Not happening themselves in those months?

I’ve heard robins are the same thing. I remember as a kid we watched for the first robin and would then run and tell mom . She would always proclaim that spring was here because robins were the first thing to show up. Now, I’ve seen a robin this year as he sat hunched in a snow drift looking for all the world like  a very cruel prank had been played on him. Can you just hear it playing out, ” Hey Rob, we are heading out first thing in the morning,  the early  bird catches the worm and gets first pick of the girls! ” Rob of course, always being the last in the bunch at everything was determined to get a jump on them and prove for once that he was capable, man they would be so embarrassed and would have to admit that he was worth keeping around after all. The girls would sure look at him, when they all finally arrived…… Meanwhile the others are still in Texas laughing.

I’m not kidding when I say that that is exactly what he looked like. All he needed was a caption bubble above his head. So no, I don’t look for robins anymore.

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I hope every year to find one of their feathers or a hatched egg shell, but to no avail.

 

I wait for the cranes. They absolutely fascinate me. The sound they make as they are flying over sends my imagination into overdrive. They truly sound like what I think dinosaurs had to have sounded like. Then there are those legs, carrying around all of those gorgeous feathers and their red masks. Seriously, the whole bundle makes me happy. And when I say a big bird makes me happy, you know it must truly because big birds tend to scare me. (mom had mean geese when I was a kid, I’m working through it….) To me, these birds, not the calendar, say when our version of spring is here. This year it came on the 17th.

Sring doesn't mean tulips here

The view out the living room window

The cranes don’t promise warmer weather, but they do promise a difference. It’s a difference that say’s maybe we will have days of rain mixed in with the days of snow. A difference that says the mud is coming, the creeks are indeed breaking up, the grass is going to start showing up in little patches, and that maybe, just maybe, it’s safe to get out the graph paper and start planning this years garden.

I’ll just make sure when planning said garden, that it’s nowhere close to the ducks….

Love from here,
Bobbie

Spring doesn't mean tulips around here

And just when Red thought she knew every bird around…

What are the things that say spring to you and when does your spring arrive? It’s ok, be truthful, I won’t get (too) jealous!

I cried in church today

I think of myself as a fairly strong person. No, not physically. Anyone who knows me knows that while I can carry feed bags around and buckets of water, I’m not going to win a strongman competition. I mean that mentally, I’m a fairly strong person. I’ve got some pretty good patience skills, some great coping skills, and it’s really hard to rattle me. So why did I dissolve into a crying mess in the middle of church today? Why did someone’s encouragement have me in tears? To those that were standing close enough to sympathy cry with me, I love you and I’m sorry!

Maybe it’s because I cope too well for too long. Let me explain. With Cowman night calving right now, our whole schedules have changed. Everything. Which I don’t mind, really. I know that Cowman loves to night calve more than day calve. He finds it peaceful and I get that. I’m not a slave to a schedule either. ( Honestly, sometimes it would help me more if I were.) However, Jolly Rancher doesn’t like when things vary too much from normal for too long. If you remember from this post, Little Jolly Rancher  , Jolly’s CP has some strings attached to it. Strings that we are fully aware of, strings that seem to get more flexible as he gets older, but strings that can also decide to get tied into knots at the most random and unexpected times and places. Like church the last four weeks.

Jolly Rancher loves music, doesn’t matter what kind, he just loves music. Which means he loves church! He loves the piano and the drums and the guitar. He loves watching everyone sing and making his own music to blend in. And he loves to do all of this while Cowman is holding him. Yup, Cowman who is on nights right now. Cowman, who is at home sleeping while we are at church right now. Cowman, who is not there holding him. Do you see where this is going?

For the last four weeks we get to church and do our normal greet everyone, smile, take our seats, everything is great. Then the music starts. And Jolly Rancher starts crying which quickly escalates into screaming / throwing his whole body around and basically letting himself be heard by everyone in the church building and parking lot and any unsuspecting person walking past on the sidewalk, ( I promise we aren’t torturing anyone in there!) Yes, I  get up and walk out to the other room with him but you know what? All I really want to do is stand there and sing with everyone else. I want to be able to tell him he needs to be quiet and to have that be the end of it. I don’t want to smile at everyone while I am seething inside as I carry him out, AGAIN. I just want to stand there and sing.

Does that make me selfish? I don’t think so. Does it make me insensitive to his special needs? Trust me, nobody is more in-tune with those needs than Cowman and me. What it does make me, is a mom. A very human mom who does a pretty darn good job of holding it all together and looking on the bright side, but who sometimes has coped for too long. The problem with coping for too long is that I in turn am never in control of when I’m going to break. Not break as in, oh go get her some counseling, but break as in bursts into tears at the super nice thoughtful comment as simple as, “Hey Bobbie, I hope you know that we never mind when Jolly gets loud, we understand!” You know why I cried? Because I care.

Sometimes I just want normal, and I can’t have that. And I feel so guilty for even saying that because I wouldn’t trade Jolly for all of the “problem” free kids in the world. But sometimes it’s hard. It’s just plain hard. And you sound awful and whiny for saying it out loud because you know that there are so many people out there who would love to have as simple a situation as yours, but it’s there anyways. It lurks, and no matter how much you are ok with the situation, no matter how deeply rooted is your love for this child, the longing for “normal” moments will always be there. Again, does this make me a bad mom? No, I know that it doesn’t. But no matter how many nice things you say to me I am still going to feel guilty to a certain degree about this.

So yes, that is how I found myself crying in the middle of church today. When I was supposed to be corralling the kids and teaching children’s church I instead walked out of the room (yes, with older kids there to keep a watchful eye) and went back upstairs to find those who would cry with me, (again ladies, I’m sorry for that!). And you know what? I cried, I got it out, I hugged and I went and taught that class. Because sometimes that is all you need. You need someone to just be there while you get it all out, even if they don’t fully know why or what you are getting out, they stand there and let you let it go.

If you know what I am talking about with this post, please know that you aren’t alone. You aren’t a bad parent. And please don’t cope for too long. Don’t wallow, but don’t hold it in for too long either. Our kids need to see us strong, but they also need to see us vulnerable, and open, and yes, crying with others in the middle of church for no apparent reason.

Love from here,

Bobbie

I hesitate to call it a job

I’ve set up a new space for me. I’ve drawn a figurative line on the floor of where the kids can’t cross without asking first. It’s not an uncluttered space, but it’s mine and if it’s cluttered with all of the makings of my hundred different hobby’s supplies it just makes me that much happier. With the view of my barnyard  critters unhindered, (yes, I know they are in my yard and not a literal barnyard, details, details…) I find myself drawn to this space more and more. Heck, I even washed the window here. It’s the only window in the whole house to receive this special treatment so you know it’s a big deal!

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The one clean window in the whole house.

Adding the computer to my spot was something I didn’t really want to do. I moved it and then considered just covering it up with other stuff so I didn’t have to look at it. However it sits here and stares at me, a blinking reminder that I love to write. That I need to write. A reminder that I would love for writing to be my job one day, which means I need to do it already! I even took away my one main excuse of “well, I don’t have a place where I can go to write that’s not surrounded by distractions.” darn it, why didn’t I think this whole process through the rest of the way?!

I hesitate to call it a job though. That word tends to suck the joy out of most things after a certain period of time. At least for me it does. How do you cross that line successfully? How do you go from, I write just for fun, to, I write for a living?  Maybe it’s by writing while at the same time taking photo’s of the ridiculous waterfowl in my yard.

 

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Duke is always so suspicious…..

Maybe it’s by writing while wondering if they are going to leave me any grass to come up later this spring.

From a Montana Front Porch Ducks

The divots that they are making right now……*don’t think about it, don’t think about it*

Maybe it will happen even amidst the pauses I find myself taking to explain multiplication to Super Ranch Boy and color matching to Ranch Pixie. I’m thinking that if I don’t cover this blinking screen up, it will just happen.

And hey, I have the background music of our new webbed footed cheepers to keep me company.

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Because, you know, 6 didn’t sound like enough.

Maybe they could be a business tax write-off, you know, an investment that keeps me coming back to do my job……

Love from here,
Bobbie