Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sarah Palin

I think that Sarah Palin and I would probably get along pretty well. I think she's guided by her principles and not her political motivations, and her principles align fairly well with my own.

I think the argument that she is not experienced makes her more appealing to me since it seems that the longer an individual is in politics, the less true he or she usually becomes to his or her true self.

The video making the blog rounds in which she admits she doesn't know the daily duties of the VP doesn't shock me. Does anyone know the daily duties of the VP aside from those who have held the office and those who assist the VP in some capacity? Her job at the time of that interview was to be the governor of Alaska, not to study up on the daily life of Dick Cheney.

The critics who maintain that she isn't well versed in Iraq have obviously overlooked the fact that her son is headed there very soon. I'm sure she is well aware of the circumstances.

She appears to be an intelligent, articulate, and tenacious person who is not easily intimidated. Those are good qualities in a public official.

But every time I see a picture of her beautiful family, I cringe.

I can't help but think of that little baby whose mama is so very busy. I can't help but see those young girls who probably have a difficult time reserving a slot in their mom's day planner.

How she balances her career and her family is entirely a personal matter, I know. I would not want anyone to judge me for my choices regarding that matter.

I will vote McCain/Palin. I do not agree with the entire platform, but the alternative is so divergent from my own beliefs that it is not even a consideration.

And even as I cast my vote, I will wonder about how she will do it. How will she balance her marriage, her girls, and her special little baby's needs while she maintains the schedule of the Vice President? How does she do it as governor? I find it difficult to imagine the choices that she must make.

As a mom of four, I'd like to sit down and ask her about it sometime. We don't make moose stew very often, but I have served elk steak to company before. I think she'd like it.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

What I Thought I Wanted

I have always known that I would live in the country. In fact, it’s one of the few childhood goals that I have actually accomplished.

As an eight-year-old girl, I planned to grow up in short order and live in a two-story white house with a front porch swing overlooking a rippling creek and rolling pastures dotted with cows and sheep. I would never sell the cute lambs or calves, regardless of their gender. My ranch would be financed by my successful career as a veterinarian or pediatrician, and I would only consider marriage and family after completing my PhD.

My jolt into reality occurred at some point during the first two weeks of zoology, during which we were required to decapitate and living maggot and study the internal structure of the organism. Upon realizing that I could not endure year’s worth of tedious lab work, I changed my focus to becoming a writer, a teacher, or anything that didn’t require me to set foot in the science building again.

My dream further unraveled when I found myself married halfway through college, having a baby shortly after college graduation, and living on a farm with pastures that had long since been seeded to wheat.

While bits of my dream have remained intact, the two-story house remains elusive. The closest thing I have to a rippling creek is the Missouri River a few miles away, and if I had a front porch swing, I would be too busy to sit in it, anyway.

I now realize that some goals are best left unaccomplished, anyway. If I had persevered for the PhD, I would perhaps have joined the growing number of women who find themselves with a busy career but no one to go home to.

Yes, my eight-year-old wisdom was certainly flawed. I even sometimes wonder why I wanted to live in the country, especially this time of year. Sure, it’s beautiful in the summer, but living in the city and taking an occasional Sunday drive to the country would definitely be easier. In the city, a person can mow the yard in half an hour with a relatively small machine. In the country, mowing the yard means cutting the several acres around the house and outbuildings. It is an all-day affair and requires an expensive mower with a sizeable deck or, alternatively, a gate that is purposely left open so the cows can tackle the job. The latter method has its own shortcomings, such as the casualties of trees, flowers, and sidewalks, so it is only advised under desperate circumstances.

It was while trying to mow the “yard” recently that I considered another problem with living in the country. As I hopped on and off the mower a few thousand times to run into the house and make sure the younger kids were still napping and the older kids weren’t trying to set the house on fire, I realized that in the city, I would have access to babysitters, allowing me to actually start and finish a project during the same week.

As I write this, I have a half-pruned shrub, a half-watered flower bed, a half-mowed yard, a pile of half-done laundry, a half-balanced checkbook, and a not-even-close-to-half-clean house. Each of these projects was interrupted by a child needing to go potty, a nose needing wiped, a child needing dressed, a meal needing fixed, or an ouch needing kissed.

Still, when it comes right down to it, I am glad my kids have more than 500 square feet of yard in which to play, and they most certainly don’t care whether or not it is carefully manicured. When they look back on today, they will remember that I put down the trimmer and picked up a storybook. They will remember that I turned off the mower and turned on the sprinkler for them to run through.

Most of all, they will remember all the things made possible by a life in the country: the baby chicks that arrived this spring, the kittens discovered in the barn, riding their bikes up and down the driveway with no fear of traffic, and the sights and sounds that only summer in the country can provide.

Even though I'm not where I thought I wanted to be, I'm where I want to be.

How about you?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Tug Of War

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I'm in a constant state of battle with myself.

I desperately want her to stay little. I want to rock her to sleep, admire her chubby cheeks, and kiss away her tears.

I desperately want her to grow up. I want her to sleep all night without fail, to make it to the bathroom every time, and to zip her own coat.

It's the impossible position of a mother who has changed diapers for more than a decade. I'm simultaneously thankful that she is still little and thankful that she is growing up.

"I big now, Daddy," she announced this morning, nodding her head to acknowledge the seriousness of the topic.

Tonight at bedtime, she chose her cow footie jammies and shuffled across the floor to jump into my lap.

She's still my baby.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Harvest Ball

When I was growing up, our school always held a traditional fall formal dance called "The Harvest Ball." I always think of that event when I see the combines, trucks, and grain cart operators all trying to coordinate with one another in the field.

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The red combine is ours. The green combines are part of a custom crew that helps us out every year. Most of the crew hails from Saskatchewan, but this year there was an Australian in the mix.

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We also had help from Virginia. Some friends drove out to visit and were quickly put to work as grain cart operator and truck driver.

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Add to that our newly hired help from Wisconsin and you get a harvest crew was about as diverse as the equipment in the field.

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They might not have been all dressed up for the ball, but they surely showed their skills on the dance floor.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Finished

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The sun has set on another harvest season.

The adults are celebrating.

The children are melancholy. They protested when I told them we would be eating supper at the kitchen table.

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The boys have stockpiled enough cans of wheat to prolong their own harvest for many months to come. A farmer's work is never done.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Animal Processed Fiber

To some people, its odor is the smell of money.

To others, it signifies the nutrients that provide life to the garden.

Farm wives find that it is the bane of their existence, always creeping into the house and overpowering the smell of the ammonia in their cleanser.

For farm dogs, a specimen produced by a horse provides a tasty mid-afternoon snack.

In its dry form, it serves equally well as a Frisbee or as fuel for a campfire.

Chickens, if not confined, will excrete it almost exclusively on sidewalks.

If you are a rancher, chances are good that you have stepped in it today.

Agriculturalists have utilized it in creative ways throughout the centuries, and because of its – er - odoriferousness, it has acquired a number of euphemisms to protect its delicate nature.

Whether you refer to the substance as compost, fertilizer, discharge, muck, dung, manure, slop, or any other not-so-affectionate term, one phrase you have probably not associated with the stuff is “animal processed fiber.”

That is precisely what a group of scientists in Iowa has termed the inevitable byproduct of ranching. What is even more remarkable is that they are attempting to utilize it to create a “value-added” product.

Some ranchers are already benefiting from the accumulation of manure on their property. A quick trip to the local greenhouse will verify that some people will pay a premium for a bag full of – er – compost.

But if the past few decades have taught us anything, it is that consumers value a product in end form more than the raw goods. That is where the Iowa scientists come in.

They are developing such products as fuels and building materials using the same material that you have probably piled up behind the barn with your tractor.

Deland Myers and a team of scientists have determined that animals use natural processes to glue together particles of fiber in their excretions, similar to the process manufacturers use to create particleboard. When Myers and his team added additional materials, such as corn stalks, to the manure, they discovered a sturdy building material resulted.

Because they were conscious of the marketing weaknesses that may have a negative impact on the sales of such materials, the scientists wisely devised a new moniker for manure: animal processed fiber.

While people may still balk at the thought of living in a house made of – er – manure, in today’s culture of recycling, the idea just may catch on. I would wager that those who live close to the waste lagoons of large livestock-producing corporations would rather the stuff was processed and in their walls than simmering in the hot summer sun and wafting over the fences to intrude upon their summer barbecues.

Like all potentially successful value-added ideas, this venture has some obstacles. But the thought of using up something smelly that accumulates in our backyards is encouraging – especially during an election year.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Beautiful Country Home

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Stunning views. Quiet neighbors. Air conditioned. Historic origins. Nearby recreational opportunities.

Needs paint.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Rained Out

What do five-year-old farm boys do when harvest is rained out?

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They play auction sale around the kitchen table.

That swather sold for thirty eighteen thousand hundred dollars to the two-year-old bidder.

That's a pretty good buy these days.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

They're Really Much Too Little

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This child is really much too little to be in kindergarten.

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But he thinks he is quite cool enough.

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This child is really much too little to be in second grade, but she skipped down the sidewalk and into her teacher's arms.

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This child is really much too little to be in the fifth grade, even though I can now wear his shoes.

Maybe I'm having such a hard time with it because I still picture them like this:
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Alas, it is no longer 2004, and so here I am. Alone with the two-year-old.

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At least I won't be bored.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Sleeping On The Job

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The boss won't like this one bit.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Random Images

I've been a little under the weather lately. What I thought was a bout of allergies became a three-day fever and a chest cold. I think I'm on the mend, but I'm going to play it safe and share some random images from the past week instead of trying to solve the world's problems in one blog post.

I'm sure you (and the rest of the world) will appreciate random images more than my random thoughts.

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This is the harvest version of the tightrope.

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This is the harvest version of a highrise.

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This is the harvest version of delivery service.

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This is the harvest version of our dining room.

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And what dining room is complete without decorative lighting?

Answering My Own Question

Kris asked if I was going to answer my own question.

I suppose that would only be fair.

The problem is that I can't answer it very well. I'm not very well traveled, so I would have a hard time choosing which part of the world to explore. Australia is tempting, but I'd love to zip over to South Dakota and visit a farm. I've never been to Texas, and from what I remember of my brief trip to Kansas, it was one of my favorite states.

Farm Fresh Jessica has an edge on everyone else because she has a newborn. I'm a sucker for newborns.

I like to think that I have pretty good taste in the company I keep. Chances are that if I've ever commented on your blog (since I rarely leave comments), I'd like to visit you. Given the nature of farming and the fact that I have four kids, you probably shouldn't be expecting me anytime soon. But it's fun to dream.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Something to Ponder

If you could choose one blogger to visit in person, who would it be (and why)?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Kidless Cast

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The castless kid is planning a trip to the pool.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Everything Else Q&A

Jenny said...
Are the chickens this year's 4-H project?

Um, no. In keeping with my title of "Meanest Mom Ever," I told the kids they could only enroll in 4-H if their projects didn't include animals. Our fair almost always coincides with harvest, so I would be camping out at the fair for a week with four kids and the livestock. I just don't see that happening.


Beth from the Funny Farm said...
HELLLOO... I have lived this. Now I say "Keep your cell phone on you and ANSWER IT!!"

Evidence that we truly live in the middle of absolutely nowhere: we don't have cell service. Our local teenagers are textless. We usually don't mind, but there are times when it would be nice to just call the parts store from the field.

Not Hannah said...
Thought provoking. Have you read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Mineral?

I'm still trying to digest Omnivore's Dilemma. Life keeps interrupting me.

Dawn said...
This might be a stupid question... but seriously, they didn't label them somehow for you??

Nope. They come in a little cardboard box, cheeping away at the post office, with nary an ID in sight. Now that they are fully feathered, it's a little easier to identify them.

Treasia said...
Oh bless his little heart. Did he rebreak it or just have to change out casts?

He just had to change casts. And the big news is that it is scheduled to be removed tomorrow. If all goes well, he should have a few days of pool time before school starts again.

farmnwife said...
She's a natural. Is she showing anything else at the fair?

No. See the above cop out explanation.

Pony Girl said...
Is that Riley on Skip? How old is he?

I'm not sure which one you mean, so I'll answer for both. Skip is 11, and he is five months older than Riley (who will be 11 in October).

Andrea said... How many kids go to the local public school?

Our enrollment has dropped drastically in the past 10 years. I believe we'll have 65 in grades K-12 this year. My kids' classes have 3, 5, and 8 students.

Rose Davis said...
I was just wondering what your chores and responsibilities were as a mother and wife living on a ranch. I have a certain schedule I stick to~i was wondering if you also had a schedule that you follow.

Dawn said...
What is your daily routine like? Have you considered putting your posts together into a book about raising country kids, being a farmer's wife, etc.?

My schedule, just like my chores and responsibilities, varies with the seasons. My days usually begin at about 6:30 a.m. I'm just not a pop out of bed at 5 kind of girl (probably because I'm a stay up 'til midnight kind of girl).

This time of year, my first duties are to pack my husband a lunch and make some coffee before he heads out to the field. Then my days go by in a flurry of meal making, cleaning, mothering, yard working, chicken feeding, cow feeding, writing, and bill paying.

I keep the farm books and the cattle records, keep track of our finances, and very late at night, I write or do my other job as a layout designer and editor for an agricultural newsletter. In my spare time, I give a few piano lessons, babysit a bit, run the elementary religious education program at our church, and try to maintain a balance in my life.

During other seasons, I am more involved with livestock, and as the kids grow, I'm more able to help with that aspect of the operation. When Riley was younger, a schedule was imperative. Now that he is better able to cope with life, we strive for more of a routine than a schedule.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Harvesting Q&A

Round Two of the Q&A concerns harvest:

dayphoto said...
I really enjoy these photos and seeing your harvest. What is the grain you are harvesting?

Frazzled Farm Wife said...
Gorgeous pictures! How did the crops run? Our wheat was fantastic!

Brother in Christ said...
What kind of header is on the combine? I realize it is a draper header, but what manufacturer, etc.?

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Right now we are harvesting winter wheat. I use the term "we" very loosely here. Actually, my father-in-law, my husband, the hired man, some Virginians, some Canadians, and an Australian are harvesting the winter wheat. But that's another story.

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My girl is harvesting a little for herself.

The crops are good this year. We have had issues with worms and sawfly, but the moisture was good and the temperatures were fairly mild this summer.

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The header is a HoneyBee. It's long, it's yellow, and it has its own wheels. Sorry, but that's about as technical as I get.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Photography Q&A

I think I better split the Q&A up into a few sections. Today's topic is photography because of questions like this:

~ Straight Shooter ~ said...
Love them all Riley! You are impressive!BTW Momma, what kind of camera do you use? Always. Always, fabulous shots!

and this:

Kris said...
Sweet photos. I've always wanted to take some night harvest photos, but I'm always working! Did you have to set up a tripod and take a long exposure to get it right?

and this:

Pony Girl said...
I love the shots in general....the background was amazing. I forget, what kind of camera do you use?

In truth, I feel a little bit silly even using the term "photography." I certainly don't consider myself a photographer. I had a crash course in the art when I took a job out of college as an agricultural reporter for a small newspaper. Since then, I have switched to digital and practiced on the available subjects (namely kids, cows, and sunsets).

For the past year, I have been using a Sony DSC-H7. It is a point and shoot camera that has the capability to shoot on manual and adjust some settings, and it has a 15x optical zoom. It is small enough to toss in the diaper bag, but it has enough zoom to reach across the field without eating the combine's dust.


I do not use a tripod. In fact, the night harvest pictures were taken when I hastily grabbed my camera off the seat of the vehicle and clicked a few times. I think the "Steady Shot" feature on this camera must work quite well. Many of the photos on this blog were taken with a toddler hanging off my leg. Some were taken one-handed while I was driving a four-wheeler with the other hand.


While I'm not a photographer and I don't have professional equipment, I do have access to some beautiful photo opportunities, and I try to take advantage of that. I love the way that pictures can tell a story.


Someday I think my kids will appreciate my hobby.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Thankful

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As harvest progresses, I am thankful for a healthy crop and prayerful for the safety of those who are harvesting it.


I am also mindful that many farmers in the Midwest will not have a harvest this year.

While floods have never really been a problem for us in the middle of Montana, we have certainly felt the disappointment of a crop ruined by the forces of nature. That is why my heart is heavy when I think of the families who will struggle to put their lives back together and start again with next year's crop.

On a lighter note, I'll be answering some questions tomorrow. If you have one for me, leave it in the comments today.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Everything He Ever Wanted

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My husband's premature birth interrupted harvest 36 years ago, and last night a cloudburst interrupted harvest so that he could enjoy a rare indoor birthday party. Usually his birthday is celebrated with a quick dinner in the dusty field; we felt fortunate to eat cake without the interference of bugs drawn to the light of the candles.

Of course, by the time the kids were done blowing out the candles for their daddy, the cake was drenched with saliva.

We ate it anyway.

It was chocolate.

Following the cake was the much-anticipated gift opening session. Riley presented his dad with a circuit board that he wired to play "Happy Birthday." Anna made several pink frilly cards and wrapped up the 2007 edition of the Cabela's Master Catalog (hardback edition). He was very surprised.

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She also dumped a container of homemade confetti on his head.

I couldn't think of a thing to get him, so I gave him a card and a turkey dinner.

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He didn't seem too disappointed. Looking at this picture, it seems like he has everything he ever wanted.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Just To Be Clear

I didn't take that picture of the skunk.

After reading the blog post this morning, my husband turned to me and inquired, "If you got close enough to take its picture, why didn't you shoot it?"

I did not get close enough to take its picture (nor would I have wanted to be that close).

I would not have shot it so close to the house, either. He did that once, and it smelled skunky in my yard for the better part of three months.

However, I am getting desperate. This skunk business has been going on at least twice a week all summer long. The critter apparently pops in for a midnight snack, and when the dog surprises him, he retaliates. I'm guessing that's what took place last night, because when my five-year-old and I were on the four-wheeler with the dog this afternoon, we both smelled a little skunky after a few minutes with our passenger.

I'm a proponent of traditional male and female roles, and this matter is clearly the responsibility of the man of the house. I take the diaper changes, late night vomiting cleanup, and toilet bowl scrubbings. Anything stinky that happens on the outside of these walls should be his responsibility.

Don't you think?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Sometimes Country Life Stinks

One of the benefits of living in the middle of nowhere is that in the evening, when the sun sets and the cool breeze blows, you can throw open the windows and listen to the frogs in the pond. I look forward to this time in the evening when I can freshen up the house with cool country air.

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Except when the air is not so fresh.


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Then I spend the evening attempting to douse the odor with various weapons.

So tonight, my house smells like apple cinnamon lemon fresh clean linen spring rain skunk.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Night Life

This is about as exciting as the night life gets around here.

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Nothing says romance like a dinner date in the wheat field.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Reading This Blog Will Make You Smart!

At the grocery store checkout line, I find myself escaping the unpleasant sounds of my restless children by losing myself in the headlines of the magazine covers.

I’m not referring to those newspapers featuring double-headed aliens who have apparently been holding Elvis hostage.

Rather, I am drawn to the glossy covers featuring the fresh, airbrushed faces of women flashing perfectly straight teeth and no circles under their eyes.

Next to the model’s beautifully colored lips, a phrase in fuchsia ink screams out, “Lose 50 pounds by Christmas!”

Equally promising headlines blaze out from all directions.

“Work and Family: You CAN Have It All!”

“Organize your clutter in 15 minutes!”

“Five-minute beauty secrets!”

“How to make your man listen!”

“Eat chocolate, lose inches off your waist!”

I find my hand reaching out for the magazine, which I am sure holds the secrets to improving my life. But before I grasp it off the rack, a parenting magazine catches my eye with its clever alliteration.

“Secret sleep strategies!”

“Stop the sibling squabbles!”

“Time-out tricks!”

“Banish backtalking!”

“Making them mind without losing yours!”

Then yet another magazine beckons me with scary headlines.

“The top ten dangers in everyone’s home”

“Five deadly carseat mistakes every parent makes”

“Three signs your mate is having an affair”

“Detecting identity theft before it’s too late!”

By this time, my mind is reeling with the possibilities of eliminating my clutter, losing weight while dining on chocolate, sleeping through the night on a regular basis, ending the seemingly endless fights between my kids, finding out what is so dangerous in my house, and how I could possibly find the time to read all five magazines with all these groceries to unload when I get home.

A quick math computation in my head reveals that to have access to this vast amount of knowledge, I would have to shell out $24.75. Since the calf check won’t arrive until October and kids seem like they would rather have supper than a pile of magazines, I walk past the display stand and start loading the four gallons of milk onto the conveyer belt.

On the way home, I have a great idea for diversifying the farm income. I could start a magazine aimed at folks like us. I can just see the first cover’s headlines plastered next to a disheveled-looking, Carharrt-clad woman against the backdrop of a barn.

“Sure-fire ways to remove grease and manure from jeans!”

“Secrets to cooperative cows!”

“It CAN be done: Work livestock without fighting!”

“End the heart palpitations while paying the fertilizer bill!”

“Convince your spouse that you really DO need that new tractor!”

I would hope that most country folks have too much common sense to pay money for obviously empty promises. I guess the real secret to a fulfilling is being content with what you have and not yearning for the unattainable.

But I sure would like to know how to lose weight on a chocolate diet.

Monday, August 4, 2008

No Better Way

There's just no better way to spend a Sunday afternoon: one good horse, two faithful dogs, one beautiful sky, and four happy kids.


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Sunday, August 3, 2008

Is It A Bad Omen?

Is it a bad omen

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when the rainbow ends in the manure pile?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Hard To Say Goodbye

Tonight we're saying goodbye to a family from our little community. We have raised our kids together, and it's incredibly hard to say goodbye as they relocate to a different part of the state.

No one will take it harder than our youngest daughter.

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She has become quite taken with their oldest son, and it will break her heart to realize he's gone.

I knew I'd have to help mend my daughter's broken heart someday.

I just didn't realize it would be at age 2.

 
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