Word for 2016: Surprise 

Oh, 2016.  You were full of surprises.  So when I sat down to write my traditional year end summery blog post, it was fairly easy to choose this year’s word. 

Our biggest and most wonderful Surprise came in February when we learned that LL would be joining our little family.  As my friend Wade said, “You can’t plan a miracle,” and we are so glad that God’s plan for us included this sweet baby.

LL was far from some with surprises though, and her birth ended up being quite the adventure.  {If you missed that story, click here.}

We are constantly surprised with what BB has learned this year. He has changed so much and makes our lives amazingly fun. We celebrated his first birthday in September and I am just not sure how time passes so quickly. 

Not all surprises were happy, and we said goodbye to Husband’s grandpa in April.  After a month of being with him in the hospital, we were grateful to have had the chance to say goodbye and know that he was ready to go, but that does not make losing him any easier.  Watching Nana say goodbye to him was heartbreaking and inspiring all at the same time. Also, I will never forget Husband riding with his grandpa on the ambulance from the hospital to the hospice facility, where he would pass away 12 hours later.  More than once, Husband has commented on how much that meant to him. 

We made a couple of trips to the lake–one of our favorite spots–including one to celebrate Uncle Buddy’s 70th birthday with a surprise party.  

After thinking my bridesmaid dress closet was complete, I was thrilled when my friend, Dylan, surprised me with the cutest gift and asked me to stand up with her as she marries Austin.  They are one of our favorite couples and we can’t wait to celebrate them next year!

When Christmas rolled around, Husband completely surprised me with this amazingly beautiful gift–handmade Navajo pearls and a turquoise pendant with two stones, one for each baby.  I have never loved a gift more!

We were surprised to see how far off the vet was who preg checked our new cows…we expected calves on October and are still waiting.  Patience is running thin. 

The Presidential election was full of surprises all year, and I pray that God will help all of those elected to guide our country. 

We took a last minute surprise end-of-the-year trip, just husband and me, to Santa Fe.  It was a nice getaway and we enjoyed stuffing our faces with green chile and having some time together. 

I was surprised and honored to win a big award at work that took me to Waco for the presentation.  Of course, that meant a trip to The Silos was in order!

It is hard to imagine how 2017 could me more full or surprises than the past 365 days have been, but we will let it try.  Thanks be to God for all of the blessings he has given us and especially for the two little ones he has entrusted to us.  May we be worthy of this calling in 2017!


Harper’s Birth Story

Here is the second Best of 2016 blog. This was originally posted on Figuring Out the Plot.

I suppose Harper’s birth story really starts at our 36 week appointment where the nurse shockingly announced I was dilated to a 3 and 70% effaced. She was sure I’d have the baby by the next week. So, I kicked it into gear, packing bags, getting plans made, doing laundry, you know, the usual. (Meanwhile, my husband was working out of town for two weeks, staying overnight, everyone was a nervous wreck about Braun and I being home alone and living 45 minutes from the hospital.)

At the 37 week appointment, I was at a 4 and at the 38 weeker, I was a 5. No one could believe I was still going to work, taking care of Braun even walking my mile and a half a day at the gym, but I felt fine. I mean I knew I was having some contractions, but they didn’t hurt that bad and were never in regular intervals.

So after three weeks of false alarms, I wasn’t worried when my husband ran over to my parents house last weekend. They live about 1.5 hours from the hospital. He was going to just go for the day, but then ended up spending the night for several reasons–getting feed, hunters coming in, picking up sheep, needing brand inspection papers. He asked his mom to come and stay with Braun and I while he was gone. I thought this was ridiculously unnecessary as nothing was happening and I didn’t need a babysitter. Famous last words.

I felt fine all weekend. On Saturday night, I was having the same sort of mild contractions I’d had for the last three weeks. They were about 15 minutes apart, but never got closer or stronger, so I went to bed. I didn’t tell my husband when he checked in to see if he needed to come home or if he could spend the night. I figured it was more of the same that had been happening the last couple weeks.

At 4:30 in the morning, Braun woke up crying, so I got out of bed and headed for his room. As I turned the corner to walk in his door, my water broke. Just like the movies. Gush of water on the floor. Go time.

Now, let me add here that I told the doctor that I hoped my water would break so I would know when to go to the hospital. He laughed and said that hardly ever happened in real life and that I would be in labor before that. So, I prayed to my favorite saint, John Paul II that my water would break. And it did. So, good work JPII!

My mother-in-law offered to drive me, but at that point, I wasn’t in any pain and I didn’t want poor Braun to be drug out of the house to the hospital in the middle of the night. So I told her I could handle it if she could stay with him. I mean, women used to have babies on dirt floors. And cows just lay down and calve. I could drive 45 minutes.

I called Ty. He reports seeing my name on caller ID at that time and thinking, “Oh crap.” He said he took the fastest shower ever and headed this way.

My brother heard him and texted to say, “You having a kid?” Ty said yes. My brother was only concerned with his cooler that was in the back of our truck–didn’t want it stolen at the hospital. Apparently, my brother went back to bed and then got up early to guide a hunter. He didn’t ever tell my parents what was going on, so they had no idea. My dad said he heard someone getting around, but he just assumed it was Ty and my brother getting up to hunt.

I don’t even want to know how fast Ty drove his truck. He kept me on the phone until I got to the hospital. When I arrived, he was about 30-40 minutes away.

I had been very concerned about where to park my truck. You have to go into the emergency room to get to labor and delivery in the middle of the night and I didn’t want to get towed. Ty kept telling me how stupid that was–just pull in like you own the joint and deal with it later. Must be a woman thing, because a couple of other girls have asked me where I parked and said that would have worried them too. Fortunately, the first space next to the ER was open, I whipped right in, and walked into the ER.

I told them I needed to get to L&D now. Everyone started moving really fast when they saw me have a contraction. The poor girl who got stuck driving my wheelchair up there kept saying, “Please don’t have a baby before we get to the third floor, please don’t have a baby until we get to the third floor.”

We got there, I told them what was going on, and they got me checked in at 5:30 am. By this point, contractions were about 3 minutes apart. The nurse checked and said I was at a 6. So I texted Ty and told him he could slow down a bit, we had time. Famous last words again.

The nurse asked 5 million questions. Most of my answers included the word “epidural.” The conversations went something like this:

Nurse: Don’t worry, the doctor has been called for someone else so he is on his way.

Me: What about the epidural guy? Is he on the way?

Nurse: We’ve got a lot to do before you can have an epidural. I’ll do my best.

Nurse: Do you have a birthing plan? 

Me: Yes, get here and get an epidural.

Nurse: You doing okay?

Me: Just give me any drugs you have. I will take any drugs at this point.

At 6:05, Ty texted “I’m here.”  About that time, I told the nurse I thought she better check me again. She said, “You’re an anterior lip!” and she started scurrying around. I asked what that meant and she said, “You’re a 9 and the baby is coming fast.”

I called Ty at 6:07 and just said, “You need to get in here NOW.” He was in the parking lot.

The nurse said, “Do not push, Dad’s not here yet.” I probably asked for drugs again if I’m being honest.

Then she said, “Oh crap,” and screamed, “We need a doctor and more hands in here now!” At that time, 6:10 am (40 minutes after getting to the hospital), Harper was born, the nurse caught her, and Ty and the doctor both ran in the door.

The doctor took Harper. Ty grabbed my hand with one hand and the scissors to cut the cord with the other. And that was that.

I asked “I guess I don’t get that epidural, huh?” The nurse said, “You don’t need it now!” I said, “Well, I guess that saved me $700.”

We let our parents know. I called my folks and my dad sleepily answered. I told him we had the baby. He said, “Oh my gosh, we have to get Ty!” He didn’t realize he had left the house. About that time, Ty texted him a photo with me and Harper, and everyone calmed down.

And just like that, we were a family of four.

Life seems to always be an adventure with us, but we wouldn’t want it any other day. Happy Birthday, sweet Harper! We’re glad you’re here!

Christmas 2016

Christmas came and went in a whirlwind. BB was old enough to understand the idea of opening presents, so watching him do that was a riot.

We decided to just put up a tree this year and skip the rest of the decorations.  With two babies (way) under two, I just didn’t have the time or energy.  

Knowing BB, we knew the teee would need to be under lock and key, so we ordered a baby gate and that worked quite well!  He absolutely loved the tree and didn’t seem to mind looking from afar.  Each morning I let him in to turn on the lights and admire the gifts and the ornaments. 

My friend Lyndse made these awesome Santa sacks for each of the kids.  Not only are they adorable, but it saved Santa from having to wrap lots of presents! He just stuffed them in the sack. And he appreciated that. 

Check out Sweet Sager Designs on Facebook or Instagram to get yours

Speaking of Santa, he came early and delivered a big gift for a little boy…a teepee!  {This is it, but we got it on major sale.} It has been used some as a teepee, but also as a mountain to climb and a large object to drag around. Hoping as B.B. gets older, he will use it more.

We have started a little tradition with the kids of getting them Christmas pjs and a book or movie.  This year, the kiddos got matching deer pjs and the book selection was Tractor Mac Saves Christmas. So they can use them for more than just one day, we gave them on the Feast of St. Nicholas and plan to continue that in the coming years. 

Jammies from Carter’s.

Also on the tradition front, we made these ornaments last year for BB and decided to do a different version for LL.

We decided to have Christmas for just the four of us at home on Friday before we hit the road to see the families.  I love celebrating with just our little family, and from a practical standpoint, it doesn’t make sense to haul gifts for each other all over and then back home.

Husband got binoculars and an embroidered pullover.  BB got clothes, a tractor and grain cart, and cowboy boots.  LL for some clothes and sweet moccasins.  And I was completely surprised with this beautiful, handmade necklace.  The beads are Navajo pearls, each made by hand and the two turquoise stones represent the two kids.  I have never loved any Christmas gift more. 

He got it from the folks at Acquisitions, Antiques and Collectables on Facebook

Saturday morning we headed to see Husband’s family first and had Christmas at his mom’s house and his Nana’s with the extended family.  Gifts there included customized Rtic coffee mugs, blocks, a John Deere excavator, a giant Jenga set, and lots of clothes for the kiddos! 

Then we loaded up and went to my parents’, arriving just in time for Christmas Eve church.  We spent most of the service in the back or down the hall with BB running around laughing and talking.  We then had our traditional Christmas dinner of tamales, posole, and beans with our neighbors. 

BB was in heaven with all of his gifts, but in particular he loved his giant combine from Uncle Denton.  

I think his favorite gift, however, was this activity cabinet his Granddad made.  I showed my dad this activity board on Pinterest. 

But he took it to a whole new level with this cabinet.  Not only is there a mirror, flash light, whistle, and light switch, but multiple cubbies each with a different latch and fun toys inside.  BB has already played with this for hours!

Christmas Day we headed home and we are still trying to get everything unpacked and unloaded! 

We are so grateful for the people in our lives who love us and our little ones so much. To say we are spoiled is an understatement. And, of course, we are blessed to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior.  It is the only gift that really matters.

We hope you all had a wonderful Christmas as well!

The People in Rural America 

This is out first in the Best of 2016 series.

This post was originally published on Figuring Out the Plot and was subsequently published in several newspapers. It is my most-read post ever.

I grew up in rural America. And my husband and I have chosen to raise our family here. In town without stoplights or movie theatres or malls. We don’t have Starbucks or fancy shops or live music (well, except for Fourth of July in my hometown or the rodeo weekend in my current town, both of which are kinda big deals). The high school I attended didn’t have a band or offer French class and there were 200 kids, in one building, grades K through 12.

One of the best parts of living in rural America is the people. I grew up surrounded by neighbors who were like family to me. They helped with homework, they bought whatever crap I was selling as a fundraiser, and they pulled together when things got tough. A month ago when one of our cows got out and I was 9 months pregnant with a husband out of town and a one year old, two of our neighbors jumped right in and had her put up and the fence fixed before I even got home. When a neighbor’s house burned down, the whole community rallied to raise money and offer support. This is what people do here in rural America. 

I can tell you the names of my neighbors dogs for the past three decades. I bought my first cow from Robert when I was 9 years old. I still remember where the owl clock hung in Faye’s kitchen, although she has been gone now for over 20 years. I will never forget the taste Aunt Jean’s cheesecake she always brought to my grandma’s New Year’s Eve Party. 

And, so, on election night when the media kept referring to rural Americans like me, my family, my neighbors, and my friends, as “uneducated” it really made my blood boil. 
These people raise children. They raise the food the people in cities–including snooty news anchors–eat every day. They go to church and school carnivals and fair board meetings. They serve on the volunteer fire department and organize prayer circles and throw the best wedding showers.
And while some of us did receive a college education–I like to think my two college diplomas I earned while being first in my class (meaning the country kid beat the city kids) might deem me “educated,” the rest of us have received an education in the world. Some of the smartest people I know never graduated college and live in rural America. These women can sew anything you can think of, make the best tamales, and raised some of the best people I know. The men can fix anything, work circles around any man in a suit, and will spend hours helping their neighbor in a time of need. They understand agronomy, economics, and animal husbandry better than most people with PhDs.  

Recently, my dad figured up cost per acre on dry land milo on the back of an envelope in about 5 minutes, and the economists I worked with confirmed he was spot on after 3 hours of complex spreadsheets. He may not have walked around the gym in a cap and gown with a doctoral hood, but he is far from uneducated. 

We made the decision to live in rural America consciously, and there is no place where and no people around whom I would rather live or raise my babies. If you ask me, a lot of city folk would be better off if they spent a little time around some of these “uneducated” rural Americans. I am sure grateful for the ones in my life. 

One of the Good Guys

Five years ago today, we lost my Uncle David.  This blog post turned into me giving my first eulogy.  Please say a little prayer for my Aunt Midge today. Time passes, but the pain of this day doesn’t get much easier.

“To live in hearts you leave behind is not to die.”

My Uncle David was one of the good guys. The kind that I’m not convinced they make anymore.
A real cowboy, who used to rodeo with Chris LeDeux. Who could fix whatever, threaten to fight anyone, wasn’t afraid of anything, and liked a cold Coors Light. A guy with a booming voice, a look that made you instantly sit up straighter and say, “Yes sir!” and who constantly threatened to the kids that he was “gonna kick your butt!”

And yet, the same guy who spent part of Thanksgiving dinner playing peekaboo with my two younger cousins and used to untangle my toy puppets. A man who would give you the shirt off his back if he thought for a second you needed it. He was one of the good guys.

I don’t know if our family is like most others. Aunts and uncles here are not just people that we see once a year and who buy us crappy Christmas presents. In our family, they go to ball games and speech contests, graduations and weddings, and take you out to dinner anytime they are in town. Oh, and they buy really good presents. Aunts and uncles are part of our lives, and for that, I’m grateful.
“To live in hearts you leave behind is not to die…”

My Uncle David was one of the good guys. The kind that I’m not convinced they make anymore.

A real cowboy, who used to rodeo with Chris LeDoux. Who could fix whatever, threaten to fight anyone, wasn’t afraid of anything, and liked a cold Coors Light. A guy with a booming voice, a look that made you instantly sit up straighter and say, “Yes sir!” and who constantly threatened to the kids that he was “gonna kick your butt!”

And yet, the same guy who spent part of Thanksgiving dinner playing peekaboo with my two younger cousins and used to untangle my toy puppets. A man who would give you the shirt off his back if he thought for a second you needed it. He was one of the good guys.

I don’t know if our family is like most others. Aunts and uncles here are not just people that we see once a year and who buy us crappy Christmas presents. In our family, they go to ball games and speech contests, graduations and weddings, and take you out to dinner anytime they are in town. Oh, and they buy really good presents. Aunts and uncles are part of our lives, and for that, I’m grateful.

My Uncle David was the kind of uncle every kid should have. The only guy I knew as a kid who was brave enough to curse in front of my mother. Curse word of choice: Dammit as a new first name. (For example, my Aunt would say something that made no sense and his response would be, “Dammit, Midge!” or my mom would be worried about something or lecturing someone and his response would be, “Dammit, Sue!”)

He was the guy who everyone knew. At the State Fair, he would park himself at the corner of the pig show ring bleachers and never leave, because people who knew him just kept on coming by. He knew more about loco weed and winning a science fair than anyone you’ll ever meet. He became quasi-famous (maybe infamous is more like it) after he was quoted in the paper for this gem: “Pigs can’t read.” We were so proud.
You could always spot my Uncle David in a crowd, because he’d wear the same thing, without fail. Boots, Wranglers, solid colored shirt, black hat. He might mix it up and add a tan vest if it was cold or take his hat off at the table. For 28 years, that’s how I expected to see Uncle David.
Uncle David hated Olive Garden. But Aunt Midge and I loved it, so when they would be in town to take me out to eat, that was often the destination. He would moan and groan all the way through his shrimp alfredo. In fact, a couple of weeks ago he texted to check on me when I had a medical procedure done. I told him they had found a food allergy. His response, “Probably from that damn Olive Garden.”

Speaking of texting—if you knew Uncle David, you might find it strange that he texted. He told me he didn’t have a choice if he wanted to communicate with his grand kids. There was, however, a rule. When you wrote Uncle David, you used correct grammar and spelling if you wanted him to answer. Otherwise, you would not get a response, and would, instead, probably get the new first name described above.

And he loved to text me during Oklahoma State football games. I’m not sure if I’ve watched an OSU game in the last several years without a text from Uncle David. My favorite was the text I got the morning after Bedlam a few weeks ago. Here’s the conversation:

Uncle David: “Okay, so what hospital are you in? I saw on tv that 13 people got taken to the hospital after getting trampled while rushing the field, and I knew right away you had to be one of them.”

Me: “Ha! Well you are correct—I did rush the field—but you will be proud to know I only twisted my ankle and went to a bar and not a hospital.”

Uncle David: “I’m so proud of you for not being a dumbass.”

And you know, I’m happy I made him proud. 🙂

We lost Uncle David yesterday. A week after he was diagnosed with cancer. And Saturday, we will gather to say goodbye. I know that there will be tears, but I also know there better be one heck of a party. Because if there’s not, I’ve got a feeling that there may be a booming voice from Heaven giving the rest of us that new first name.

Best of 2016

Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing my top 10 blog posts (from my prior blog) from 2016 with you.  It may feel like tv right now with all the re-runs for my regular readers…sorry about that!

Here’s the official list:

  • The People in Rural America
  • LL’s Birth Story
  • Go Home and Love Your Family
  • Enjoying Your 10 Cows
  • Raising Livestock
  • Advice to the Class of 2016
  • Aunt Edith’s Turn
  • Grandpa Joe and the Question 
  • You Can’t Plan a Miracle
  • The Perfect Baby

Stay tuned!

My Favorite Christmas Song: I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

It was written during the Civil War. It’s hard to think of a worse time, one in which peace must have seemed so far away, so unlikely.  A country divided against itself.  Brothers fighting brothers.  Bloody battles on American soil.

The author lost his wife and son.  And though the road he traveled was dark, he heard the bells ring out that Christmas and was reminded of the truth.  “God is not dead, nor does he sleep.”  And he remained hopeful that peace would one day reign. 

{Listen here.}

May the bells you hear this Christmas offer the same hopeful reminder to you.  Wishing you and yours a wonderful Christmas!  And may we have peace on Earth, indeed.

Essential Oils…Getting Started

It feels like essential oils are everywhere and for a long time, I have been interested but overwhelmed when it came to this topic.

Joy’s essential oil cabinet

There seem to be a million oils and  three million recipes to mix them. Some you put on neat (had to google that) and some need a carrier oil.  There are a ton of different companies.  It seemed so complex that I didn’t know where to start, so I didn’t.

But recently, two friends have taken me under their wings and helped me get going.  

Joy is a huge oil user and has been kind enough to answer all my questions and send me samples.  Jennifer teaches Facebook classes on oils that are super helpful. 

So I finally took one of Jennifer’s classes to learn what oils are and the different ways to use them.  And then I called Joy and asked her to tell me her three “must have” oils for someone getting started.  

Her verdict: lavender, peppermint, and lemon. In that order.

So I started slowly with these three and a Breathe bend my babysitter gave me.  I ordered a diffuser off of Amazon.  And we were off.

So far, I diffuse lavender at night in BB’s room.  When he is congested, I add Breathe.  It does seem to help with sleeping somewhat and it smells good if nothing else!)

I’ve also diffused a mix of lemon, lavender, and peppermint during the day to help with seasonal allergies.  Again, it makes our house smell amazing.

I have a Breathe Again roller bottle that I have used on Husband and my neck and feet and on BB’s feet. Not enough evidence to make a determination yet.

As I learn more, I will share more info. If you want to chat with my expert friends or order anything, let me know and I will get you in touch with them. They’re the ones to talk to.  I also found this blog post to be very helpful if you are getting started like me.

Book Report: Love That Boy

Author: Ron Fournier

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Favorite Quotes:

“From their first breath-if not sooner-our dreams for our children are at least in the ballpark of perfect, because great grades, championship trophies, lots of friends, and professional success lead to happiness, right? Actually, no. When a parent’s expectations come from the wrong place and are pressed into service of the wrong goals, kids get hurt.”

“First I had to learn to love my boy for who he was, rather than who I wanted him to be.”

“We should measure our children not by the mountains they conquer but by their efforts to climb. Oh–and let them pick which hills to scale.”

“What do I ultimately want did my kids? I want them to pursue the happiness that is found in goodness. On a day off, I want them to bring outgrown clothes to a bad neighborhood.”

“There are no small victories in parenting. Only victories.”

“My parents had big expectations for me. They wanted me to be what I wanted to become.”


If you know me in real life, you are probably sick to death of me talking about how great I thought this book was.  I have recommended it to pretty much everyone I know. 

The book is written by the father of a boy on the Autism spectrum.  The dad is a political writer who took trips with his son to study several different Presidents in an effort to connect.  What he found–heck, what I think all parents find–is that his son teaches him more than he teaches his son.  It is, essentially, a book about coping woth (and overcoming) parental expectations. 

In my mind, it’s a must read for all parents, moms and dads alike.