2023 Christmas Gift Guide

I have done these for years, and at least one person (hi, Emmy!) said they look forward to them, so here we are. Ha! Just a few of the things I’m looking at buying or we already own and love.

Many of these do include affiliated links, meaning if you order by clicking my links, I’ll get a little kickback to help with my own Christmas shopping.

With that…let’s roll!

Ordinary People Changed the World books. My friend Amy recommended these and I could not be any more excited about them! I love a good biography, and I’m confident my kids will too. They’re for reading level K-4, and there are so may great options of people to read about. There is a Strong Girls set, a gift set with the first four books, or you can buy them individually. My eyes are on Dolly Parton, Harriet Tubman, and Anne Frank! You can also pre-order an upcoming one on Dr. Temple Grandin, which will come out in March.

Then Sings My Soul album by Wade Bowen. If you’re a fan of the old, traditional hymns your grandma sang, this is the album for you. I listen to it with the kids almost every night! You can buy the actual cd, or on Prime music, or probably 100 other ways you techy people know that I don’t.

Little Buster toys. If you’ve got a ranch kid or stick show kid, these are for you. My two used some is their recent jackpot winnings to start their collection. Heads up, they’re kind of pricy, but seem to hold up really well.

Rolling cart with drawers. Braun calls this Mr. Rolly and requested it earlier this week to organize his legos. He then spent a solid five hours organizing them by color. The little shelf on the top is perfect for building said legos in one place. I’m a fan.

Art kit. Harper got this for her birthday and it has been a HUGE hit with both kids. It has a ton of different art supplies, which they love, and it is easy to keep them organized and stored in one place, which I love.

Dirt road dreamer hoodie. Here’s one on my list. I love this hoodie and have had my eye on it for a while!

Basketball goal. We will be starting basketball in a couple weeks (send help!) so this seemed like a great idea for the kids’ big gift this year. Here’s the one I’m going with. It’s on sale and the reviews look really good.

Mercy Watson book series. When my friend Cara recommends something, I don’t ask questions. I just add to cart. She told me these are perfect books to help kiddos transition to longer books with fewer illustrations. Reading level says K-3.

Yoto Player. This one also comes from my friend Amy. It’s basically a screen-free device for kids that lets them listen to podcasts, certain radio stations, and audio books. You just insert the card (like a hotel key) with the book you want and it will play. Her kids are big fans.

Cha Cha Chihuahua. My other friend Amy says this is a must have game for kids. Her kids seem extremely fun, so I trust their taste. It says ages 4 and up.

Uno. This is a huge hit in our house. Screaming is usually involved, but everyone loves it and I think it was good to help kids learn to identify numbers. My friend Kristin recommends Uno Attack, but I haven’t branched out yet.

Custom acrylics. If you’re a stock show family, my friend Dylan does amazing acrylics! She’s currently having a sale, so hustle over and get yours ordered. I get no commission here, but the cute models do belong to me.

Owala water bottle. I got one of these last Christmas and love it. They have several sizes and colors.

Beyond gloss. I’m hoping this lands in my stocking. The link is for my friend Britt’s Beauty Counter shop, so if you’re a make up person, there is lots of good stuff there.

Peloton. Y’all know I’m obsessed. They have sales going on right now for everything. I have a code to get you an extra $100 off a bike or tread if you’re ordering, so message me first! Also, I can give you another code to try the app free for 60 days.

The world needs more barns t-shirt. I ordered this for myself for my birthday from Raelynn and I love it so much! She has several different colors to choose from.

I Take My Coffee Black. I’ll do my annual book report soon, but if I had to chose one book to recommend, I’m going with Tyler Merritt. This book is hilarious and brilliant. He has a way of combining humor and history and difficult topics that is just amazing. I highly recommend. (On that note, I do want to mention two books I think everyone should read: Just Mercy and Love Does. You’re welcome.)

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Breaking the Mold & Being Grateful for Your Story

Last year, I was honored to be a guest on my friend Bunny Terry’s “I Love New Mexico” podcast. How did I never put this in a blog post?!

We had a great chat about chasing your own dream and being grateful your story, even if it might not look like what we think it is supposed to.

It was really fun to get to share some of my own personal story, as I’m typically chatting about the law when I’m doing a podcast episode. To listen to our conversation, click here.

A “Get To” Life

This article was initially published as part of the Our Rural Roots Column for Progressive Farmer.

We were recently in Reno showing at the Nugget All-American sheep show and sale. At the beginning of the sale, they bring all of the breed champions to the stage, play the song “Auctioneer” and lift the curtain for everyone to see. It’s a really cool tradition.

It was the first time on the stage for my kids and me, as my son’s Reserve Grand Champion wether. It was double special as were able to share the stage with my Dad and brother who had our family’s Reserve Grand Champion Ewe. Our whole clan was on Cloud 9.

Right before the curtain lifted and the music played, the coordinator apologized for us “having to bring the sheep over for this.”

I laughed out loud. Having to? Who on earth would be complaining about getting to line up with their family on the champion row? There were a host of exhibitors back in the barn who would have gladly taken a spot on that stage. Until this year, I was one of them.

Since that day, I’ve been making a conscious effort to notice how often people seem to be living “have to lives” instead of “get to lives.” It has been shocking to me.

I heard it at the feed store when someone was talking about having to feed cattle in the mud, and I thought of how many ranchers in a drought pray for a porch full of muddy boots. A woman in the airport complained about having to sit in a middle seat on a plane to the beach, and I thought of friends who have never been able to afford to take their children on vacation. I overheard someone in a doctor’s office complain about having wasting time at this checkup, and immediately thought of women I know fighting cancer who would love to get to go to a routine doctor’s appointment.

This little exercise has really changed my perspective. When you are consciously trying to live a “get to” life, it’s amazing how many opportunities to do so arise!

Be a Good Neighbor

This post was written as part of the Our Rural Roots column for Progressive Farmer.

It was late one evening as we were driving home from checking cows. Everyone was tired. That’s when we saw our neighbors’ cows were out on the road. We immediately started to help gather them.

It’s what neighbors do. It is a lesson we all learn growing up in agriculture, and one we are working hard to teach our own children. We help others. Period.

I’ve seen neighbors stand in the gap for each other over the years. They’ve formed volunteer fire departments, served on fair boards, and carried caskets at funerals.

My neighbor sold me my first cow. Over the years, neighbors helped me practice speeches, assisted with science fair projects, and never told me no when I was selling a fund-raising item.

I’ve seen neighbors step in after a fire with a place to stay, after a baby with a casserole for the new parents, and after a death with the advice that helped save a legacy. Recently, I had a neighbor offer to fight a city official on my behalf after my dog was picked up and taken to the pound. I declined but appreciated the neighborly sentiment.

The bond is often particularly strong in rural areas, because often a neighbor is all we have. Still, we all know instances where those bonds get tested when ideals don’t exactly mesh or communications break down, or worse yet, pride gets in the way.

All I know is to teach my children that to have a good neighbor, you need to be a good neighbor. And, to practice what you preach. It starts with the fact that we are better together. Our relationships are deeper and our lives richer when we help others — no matter how tired we are, and no matter how many cows are out.

Old Friends

I read this quote from Shauna Niequist:

“I felt profoundly grateful for the familiarity, for knowing someone across decades, for having the kind of history that allows for shorthand, shared language, a thousand inside jokes, but even deeper than that, an awareness of one another’s hardest days, darkest wounds, scars, and secrets.”

I count many dear friends amongst my greatest gifts. But there is something extra special about the ones who have been around since I was a kid. Shauna described it so well. I catch myself being so grateful for conversations where no back story is required-they know because they lived it with me.

I’m blessed with several of these kind of friends. Like Shauna, I’m forever grateful for that familiarity.

Come On, Nana!

Last night, we stood on the porch during the storm and I was yelling “come on rain!” (Our house is very calm and quiet, obviously.)

Harper started yelling, “come on, Nana!”

I asked what she was saying.

She replied, “uh, mom, Nana is in heaven sending the rain.”

{Thanks be to God and to Nana, because we have 1.20” in the rain gauge this morning.}

“Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom.” – Matthew 18:4

Marky

We’ve been praying for the Runyans since the moment we heard the news.

When my kids asked me about Mark, I told them he had the best laugh, gave the best hugs, and made everybody feel special.

He always treated me like one of his own. My guess is that most of the “kids” in Eastern New Mexico would say the same. The world is a better place because of Marky.

Just an example of his sense of humor, his fantasy football team every year in our league was called “The Runs” because he wanted to tell everyone “this week, you’ve got the runs” when you played him and “you got beat by the runs” when he won.

My gosh am I glad I got to know & love him for the last 30 years. He will be incredibly missed. Please, keep Lisa, the boys, and their families in your prayers.

God is Faithful

I saw a friend post a rain gauge with a glorious inch of rain in it this morning with the caption, “God is faithful!” Indeed He is, and we should post about it every time we have that full rain gauge.

But it strikes me, the same is true when our rain gauge is empty. When our grass is brown, the cure doesn’t come, the marriage is crumbling, the child is dead, the dream is gone, hope feels lost…we have to believe that God is just as faithful in the dry times as well.

And that’s sure not as easy to do. I am good at praising Him when my kids are jumping in mud puddles and my cows are standing on green grass. It takes a lot more effort on a morning like this, when I catch a glimpse of the empty rain gauge and the dwindling pile of hay bales and wonder how this will all work out. Or an evening when the chance of rain blew right on past and my kids ask why God hasn’t answered our prayers that we pray every night.

I think, though, this might be when believing in and proclaiming His faithfulness matters most. I also think this is why having a discipline of gratitude and faithfulness matters so much. We need the discipline not when it’s raining, but when it’s parched.

Shaun’s Neiquist puts it this way in her book I Guess I Haven’t Learned That Yet: “It’s easy, of course, to buzz the beach (look for beauty and joy) and find the sparkle on good days—the days when the sun is shining and your heart is light. When it gets really dark, though, that’s when you start to understand that it’s a discipline, and you need it in the dark so much more desperately than you need it in the light. Joy and celebration are practices for the long haul.”

So today, I’m re-reading Psalm 46: 1-3. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”

So, here, with my empty rain gauge, I’ll say it again. God is faithful. God is faithful. God is faithful.

Remembering Nana

The first time I met Ty’s Nana was Thanksgiving at her house when Ty and I had been dating about 6 months. I hadn’t been there 15 minutes when she pulled out a photo album full of pictures of wedding cakes she made and tasked me with finding the ones I liked. Ty and I hadn’t even talked about getting married and here she was quizzing me about cake details? I guess it worked, because when we did get married the next October, she made exactly the cake I envisioned. For my Braun and Harper’s first couple of birthday, she made tractor, train, and pink cakes that were, of course, huge hits.

Since her stroke Nana frequently didn’t recognize me. But she always knew my kids and Ty. Anytime I would show her Ty’s picture or FaceTime from her room so she could see him, she would get so excited and tell me repeatedly how handsome he was. “Oh he is just so cute, just look at that face.” She might have been glad to see me, but I was no Ty.

During covid, I was able to kind of sneak the kids in to see her at the nursing home. You have never seen anyone so proud to show off a couple of kids as she was. She had many gifts, but I feel sure that being a Nana was the one at which she shined the most.

Over the last couple of months, I spent quite a bit of time with her in the hospital. This was where I got to see more of feisty Nana, and she was my favorite.

They kept her legs wrapped and she was not afraid to tell you that she was NOT a fan. She kept asking me take them off and I told her I couldn’t. Exasperated she said, “just give me your knife and I’ll do it myself!” I told her I didn’t have a knife on me in the hospital room. She looked me square in the eyes and said, “I am so disappointed in you.”

Later that same day, our discussion over the leg wraps continued. After some more back and forth she got frustrated and told me that if I didn’t take those wraps off, she was going to fight me. I’ve got to be honest, I think she could have taken me!

Another time she had been sleeping most of the day, but I knew she liked the Country Hymn station on Pandora, so I had it going. The nurses came in to adjust her position so I turned it off while they were working. I was standing next to her bed when she grabbed my shirt and sternly said, “You! Sing!” I’m for sure no singer but you better believe I scrambled for that play button.

But my favorite Nana story came last Christmas at our house. It was a pretty simple brisket dinner. But she acted like it was fit for a king. She had to have eat enough for 3 people and made me sneak her a to go bag for the car. When it came time to pray, we circled up as we always did. I then realized that it was Nana who always prayed. But after her stroke, she struggled with her words and sometimes got frustrated. I didn’t know what we would do. But Jana didn’t miss a beat and said, “Mom, will you pray for us?” She did, and every word was right. Standing there in that kitchen I just thought what a testimony that was to God’s kindness and Nana’s faith.

Nana went home to Jesus today. What a beautiful moment that must have been. We were lucky to be loved by her.

Hope Remains

This article was initially published as part of the Our Rural Roots column for Progressive Farmer.

As I write this, the wind is blowing at sustained speeds of 45 miles per hour with gusts even higher. The sky is brown from all the dust in the air. Stubble from the sorghum field north of our house is currently piled up like snow drifts in the yard. We have not seen measurable rainfall—actually, any rainfall—for months. Grass fires seem to pop up with more frequency. It is easy on these days to feel defeated and to want to throw in the towel.

And yet, hope remains. We see it all around. We see it in the excitement we feel as we prepare for calving season to start in the next two weeks. We see it as the farmers and ranchers spend a cold January day at an Extension meeting getting their CEU credits and learning about the variety trial results from last year. We see hope when farmers are buying seed on Friday and praying for rain every Sunday in our in tiny little church. We see it when generations work together like grandfathers teaching their grandsons how to drive a tractor or granddaughters to band a lamb’s tail.

It is near impossible not to hope when the weatherman says that each day it does not rain just gets us one day closer to the next big rainstorm.

If there is one thing farmers and ranchers must do well, it’s hope. It is as much a part of our DNA as the dirt beneath our nails and the working sunup to sun down. We believe better days will come, and when they do, we will be ready with our seed selected, rain gauges in place, and caving book ready for entries. Here’s hoping for better days, greener pastures, and rain in the forecast.