Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Cowboy Christmas

Well hello, there.

It's nice to be typing the computer keys again.

We're back from making the Christmas rounds with both sides of the family, and we have the wood stove stoked up to ward off the bitter cold temperatures we returned home to.

We spent the evening unpacking our new treasures. Our gifts are a cowboy's dream and a lazy man's nightmare:

Boots, gloves, hats, manure rakes, feed scoops, ropes, halters, grooming brushes, jeans, shirts, winter socks, tools, head lamps, chaps, a pallet of horse feed......etc. etc.

You know, the usual Christmas stuff.

Among the non "work related" gifts we received was a beautiful new Nativity set from my in-laws. We have finally graduated to a porcelain set now that the kids have grown older.  I painted our first Nativity set on blocks of wood when our son was a baby so he could play with them as we read our advent devotions each night.  Then, when the girls were little, I sewed a stuffed fabric nativity set for them to play with under the Christmas tree. It's hard to believe that we're out of that stage of parenthood, and can now display the breakables down low on the Christmas tree.

There were years I thought we'd never get to that point.

This year, we also got some electronics from my dad so that we can update our entertainment center and bring it into the current century. My husband is currently elbow deep in random cords and owner's manuals. It's best if I just stay away until everything's hooked up. This household doesn't always get along with new technology.

There's so much more to share with you, but it will have to wait. We're expecting more snow tonight and tomorrow which means we'll have extra chores to do.

I can't wait to catch up with all of you!


Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Defining Moment

When raising children, there are many defining moments and mile markers along the journey that bring tears of joy, and hearts overflowing with emotion.  

When our babies were born, we stood before God and family and promised to raise each one of our children in the knowledge of the Lord.

The words of Deuteronomy 6:6-7 had deep implications:

"These words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise."
Charged with an overwhelming conviction to live out this verse, we began to pour our lives into our children. For years we have been in the trenches, teaching them about God's Word day in and day out. We've been praying with them and teaching them to pray, and trying to live out our faith as an example to them.

We are imperfect parents relying completely on Christ to help us model his PERFECT love.

God has been so gracious to us through the years and one by one, each of our three children has asked Jesus into their hearts, and made Him Lord of their lives. Those were defining moments when we wept for joy!

As we continued to disciple them,  each one came to us and asked to be baptized.

We were overwhelmed with emotion as our children made a public profession of their faith through baptism on this Sunday morning, December 16, 2012.

It was an honor for our pastor to allow my husband to baptize our children since he is the spiritual head of our family. Yet another defining moment!

It was a beautiful day. Our family and friends drove through freshly fallen snow to gather in the pews and be witnesses to this act of obedience in our children's lives.

God is so good to us! He is so gracious, and I just wanted to share our joy with all of you. We have many miles to go in our parenting journey, but it is important to rejoice over every milestone!

Have a blessed day,


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The NFR in Las Vegas

We're back from our first ever trip to the National Finals Rodeo! It was a whirlwind adventure that we won't soon forget!

We dropped the kids off with Grandma and made the long drive to Las Vegas to meet up with several of our good friends. Together, we experienced what happens when tens of thousands of cowboys converge in one location. Las Vegas really does turn into cowboy central for ten days every December.

We had two main purposes for the weekend: The first was to attend round 3 of the NFR.

We arrived at the Thomas and Mack Center with swarms of other folks and took our seats for the most exciting rodeo I've ever attended. They leave no detail left undone, and the whole thing runs like clockwork.

Watching it on television all of these years just isn't the same as being there in person and smelling the dirt in the arena.

(I couldn't lug my Nikon around all night, so bear with me and the junky iPhone pics.)

During the opening ceremonies, Susie McEntire (Reba's sister) sang the national anthem. Afterward, there was a beautiful prayer said, and Rodney Atkins sang "Take a Back Road".

The action was non-stop all night! There were plenty of Arizona cowboys and cowgirls to cheer for. Two of the top team ropers come from around here, and one of them goes to our local community college...which is teeny tiny. Ha Ha. Also, I got to see (my friend and fellow blogger) Monica's cousin run barrels.

I have to say that watching the best of the best competing all together in one rodeo is about the most exciting thing I've seen in a while! Around here, there's a whole lot of "no score"  and "no time" and " no catch" announced in the rodeo arena. Not at the NFR.

After the rodeo, we went with our friends to hear one of the best country bands I've ever listened to, and my hubby twirled me around the dance floor.  It felt like we were on a date back in college.

The second purpose for going to Vegas was to attend the famous "Cowboy Christmas" sale. It encompasses not one, but TWO convention centers.  With over 800 vendors, it was GINORMOUS!!!!

If it's western, you'll find it at Cowboy Christmas.  I lugged my poor husband around for 5 hours the first day, and two the second day in order to see all of the booths.  We bought oodles of great Christmas gifts that I can't talk about right now in case little eyes are reading this blog.

It was so massive that for the first time ever, I thought there might possibly such a thing as too much of a good thing. I was overwhelmed for the first couple of hours.

Then I got over it's massiveness and began to shop for the whole family.  I was too busy, and too loaded with bags to take any pictures of it, but I did snap one picture of the one thing that I LOVED but didn't come home with:

This crazy looking thing would have been so cool in my living room.  I have tan walls with brown furniture and this would have really "popped" against the sea of brown.  I would have put the TV on top of it, and the DVD player in the center cabinet with the rod iron design. I can just see it all right now. At $1350 it was out of my price range, but a girl can dream can't she?!?

As much as we loved the rodeo, and the shopping, and the people, we really don't care for Vegas. It's just yucky.  I wish the rodeo festivities were in any other city but that one.  We stayed in a beautiful hotel, and the lights of Vegas sure do shine at night, but it can't hide the oppression and filth that goes on there.  With just under 48 hours in that city, we were ready to go home!

I took some photos of some of the highlights of the city to remember it by.

At the Entrance to Caesar's Palace, they had the statue dressed with a cowboy hat and rope to welcome rodeo fans to the hotel.

The strip was all lit up for Christmas, and there was even an outdoor ice-rink and Christmas music for guests.

The lobby of the Belagio hotel was gorgeous, and all decorated up for Christmas.

They have an Atrium filled with fresh flowers and larger than life animals made from plant materials like they do in the Rose Parade.  It was pretty spectacular to see.

I got a kick out of this "art" piece found in one of the hotel lobbies.  From what I know of Vegas, some folks come in like that, but  most leave empty handed.

It was definitely a trip to remember!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

7 Random Things

1. We had our annual Christmas tree hunt last weekend. My girl could care less about finding a tree. She thought she found a much better treasure in the woods:

It broke my heart to tell her that she couldn't take the elk skull home after she carried it half a mile, but I did not want that thing residing in her bedroom. It doesn't match the flower motif.

2. My husband showed his softer side by taking us all to our town's Christmas light parade. It was a true sacrifice for him because:

 *It took longer to drive to the parade than it did to watch the parade which was a mere 14 minutes long.
 *He hates traffic
 *He hates crowds
 *He hates parades

But... he LOVES us!

Give kids a glow-stick and they'll have hours of entertainment.

Below is the company float that our family helped to decorate. The kids put lights on Rudolph.

We enjoyed our little parade, even though my husband wouldn't let the kids see the last float with Santa on it.  We were too busy sprinting to the truck and 4 wheeling out of the parking lot before there was a mass exodus of vehicles clogging the highway.  Like I said, the man hates parades.

3. My husband left the house very early yesterday morning, and instead of telling me where I needed to water the cows, he left me some sort of treasure map indicating where he moved the stock tank, and where to find the water.  It's not exactly a love note, but it was drawn with thoughtfulness, and that's just as good.


4. There is a little catfish that has been living in one of our stock tanks for nearly 8 months now.  We  somehow sucked him up with a pump while hauling water, and he's been living in that tank ever since.  I can't believe he's survived this long, and doubled in size. With winter coming on, I think we'll have to relocate him before the tank freezes. The kids will be sorry to see him go since he's the first thing they go to see every week when we fill the tank.

5. Workout videos have left me in a perpetual state of soreness for the last two weeks. It's torture at its finest.

6. Yesterday my 500th blog post came without fanfare. I thought I'd run out of things to write about by now, but apparently I'm even wordier than I thought.

7. Lonesome Dove is one of my all-time favorite westerns. It has some pretty understated and thought provoking quotes. Sometimes lines in a Western book or movie are so simple that you almost miss their depth. Every fan of Lonesome Dove knows the classic quotes, but I typed out a few gems from the book that I had forgotten about.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

A Different Approach

There are some advantages to being the baby of the family.

By the time our third kid came along, we had smoothed out the rough edges in our parenting skills.  We were somewhat confident in our child-rearing abilities and no longer cared about what our peers were doing. We threw out all of the parenting books after the first-born, and decided to raise all of our kids "Commando" style.

There are many little things we trained our children to do, but for us, teaching our kids to ride a bike was one of the toughest challenges.  

It was waaay harder than teaching potty training, shoe tying, and long division.

This is partly because we live on wash-board gravel roads where training wheels spin out,  partly because we have snow half of the year, and partly because we don't have much time to ride in the summer.

With our first kid, we were over-achievers.  We took the training wheels off when he was pretty young.  After countless training sessions and a few tears, he was the first of his buddies to learn how to ride a bike.

Our second kid had it rough.  She was always competing with her big brother, and wanted her training wheels off A.S.A.P!  We had less time on our hands for training,  but thankfully she picked up the skill quickly. She had a major setback early on when she crashed and burned on a bike ride.  Her whole face was covered in road-rash. Despite wearing a helmet, we made a trip to the doctor to make sure her giant goose-egg wasn't a concussion.

When our third child grew to riding age, we decided to take the lazy laid-back approach.  We had so many other priorities that we never really pushed the bike training.  Our baby spent her summer on horse-back, and didn't seem to mind that she hadn't conquered bicycle riding.  That was just fine with us because we came to dread the bike riding lessons.

This fall, she finally expressed interest in learning to ride, and so we had a training session up and down the gravel road.

Since she was older than the other kids, she took to it very quickly!  Besides, she was sick of being left out when her brother and sister went for a ride.  That was incentive enough! With just a couple of trial runs, we let her figure the whole thing out on her own.

She was all smiles and no tears when she rode alone for the first time.

"Petal, petal, petal!" were our only words of advice as she took off down the road.

Now that she's burning up the gravel with her new skills, we can't keep her off her bike seat.  She's obsessed with riding!

She's still figuring out the brakes, though.  She does a combination of pushing backward on the petals and dragging the heels of her boots to stop.  Whenever she gets out of control, her "stabilizers" come out and kick up dust until she's at a more reasonable speed.

As you can see, her "brakes" and "stabilizers" are wearing out quickly. Ha Ha! I think it's about time for a new pair.

It's well worth it, though, to have another childhood training item crossed off the list.

I'm glad we waited until she wanted to learn, instead of pushing her to do it earlier. The whole experience went so much smoother.

I have to confess that there have been a few times that I've seen pictures of smaller children riding without training wheels on the sidewalks in the city, and I've felt a little panic-stricken, thinking that I wasn't doing my job in a timely manner, but then I remember that everyone has different training priorities.

Kids learn what they need to know for the lifestyle they're raised in.

Our baby knows her way around a horse better than some adults.  All of our kids were brave enough to hold their ground while working cattle in the pens, and could differentiate between breeds of cows before preschool. They knew the difference between a heifer, cow, steer, and bull by the time they were just little tykes, and have lots of skills that city kids may never learn.

Every child is unique, and there is no "one size fits all" parenting.

I'm glad we're through with most of the tough stuff.... until the teenage years hit. I need a few years of rest before we start driving lessons. If her boots are any indication of her future driving, I'm going to get a whole lot of  whip-lash, and burn through a few brake pads on the truck before the girl turns 16.  I may even see my life flash before my eyes a few times.

Lord, help us all!