Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Being Thankful (and crafty)

I actually decorated for Thanksgiving. OK, I don't know if you can really call it decorating if it's just one little thing, but it does makes things seem more festive. And not a moment too soon since Thanksgiving is in two days!

I stole this idea and modified it from spymommy's blog (I was way too lazy to cut out leaves, so we just did rubber stamps). The girls had a great time crafting with the rubber stamps (thanks, Katie, for loaning them to us) and then we wrote in what we were thankful for as a Family Home Evening activity last night.

Dan (participating via speakerphone from his office and Lily as scribe) is thankful for:

  • Sue
  • Lily
  • Amelia
  • Mistre (Mystery) Boy
  • His job
  • His leg heling (healing)

I am thankful for:

  • Amelia's smiles and Lily's hugs
  • Dan working so hard so I can be a stay-at-home mom
  • Living in Cokeville
  • Blogs and staying in touch with loved ones on the internet

Lily is thankful for:

  • Blessings
  • Famile (family)
  • Helth (health)
  • World (Jesus created the world, you know)
  • Jesus
  • House
  • School
  • Mistr Hach (Mr. Hatch, her teacher)
  • Food
  • Drinks
  • Myself
  • Books

Amelia is thankful for:

  • Biggie
  • Mama
  • Daddy
  • Baby Brother
  • Binky and Woobie
  • Horses and Cows
  • Playing in the wood pile
  • Grandparents
  • Books and Movies

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Cattle Country

This may seem a little Pioneer Woman wanna-be-ish, but Rhee's not the only city-turned-country girl who loves taking pictures of cows!

At the beginning of October I was sitting at the computer and Dan came in and said, "You're missing some real Wyoming culture outside." I grabbed my camera, headed outside and spied a huge herd of cattle walking down Main Street. There were tons of guys on 4 wheelers and kids on bikes trying to push the cows down Main Street and get past the railroad crossing.

There was a great hum, cows mooing, ranchers whistling and hollering, hooves clattering down the pavement.

Those cows caused a traffic jam, not unlike the 15 or 20 trains that go through in a 24 hour period, but with the cattle crossing, people knew they were in for the long haul and some got out to chat with the ranchers while they waited.

The amazing thing is that not two minutes after all the cows were across, a train came through. What luck! There are no schedules or anything so those ranchers were just chancing it. I guess that's why they had so many guys on 4 wheelers hovering by the crossing, so they could split the herd if a train came.

Fast forward a month...

Amelia got to tag along with Daddy while he was moving some cows with Brian & Keith. I drove to the pasture where they were pushing the cows so I could take some pictures.

"Are YOU lookin' at ME?" Half of these cows were practically on my bumper before they moved out of the way.

This calf totally looked like it had a milk mustache.

"You snooze, you lose!" All the cattle rushing the feed wagon.

Coming in at the rear was Amelia, riding with Brian since Daddy's horse was a little squirrelly. When she saw me she broke out in a huge smile; she was cold and snotty and ready to get off the horse after her 30 minute ride. My favorite part of this picture is puppy Merle, bounding forward in complete exultation. "I'm a ranch dog!" Merle's only been going out on the ranch for about a month, but Millie is a seasoned veteran and can chase those cows like nobody's business!

Dan rounding up a few stragglers, whoopin' and hawin' with the best of 'em.

Minus the cowboy hat, Dan is getting to be a pretty authentic ranch hand. He got his own pair of custom made leather chaps from Argyle Ranches (between Cokeville and Randolph), and if you look closely, you can see he has properly initiated them by getting elk blood on the right thigh. There's definitely something sexy about a man in chaps!

When I first tried to put Amelia in the car, she threw a holy fit and screamed, "No Mama! I want tows (cows)!" But once I forced her into her car seat and turned the heater on, she decided it wasn't so bad in the car. Rosy nosed and looking a little wind chapped, Amelia fell asleep within about 3 minutes of leaving the ranch.

Just a little something for my artsy-fartsy side. I got a real kick out of this old broken down piece of ranch equipment, so long neglected that the sagebrush had grown all around it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Peace, Love and Banana Cream Pie

All is well at the Richardson house again.

They say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, so I kissed up to Dan by making a completely homemade Banana Cream Pie. And I guess the way to a woman's heart is to just do what she asks, so Dan made me happy by being around a lot more in the days following the drama.

A couple days after the blowup Dan was getting ready to go to his office here in town and he said, "Now, I've got a lot of work to do today, so I don't want any of your b.s. drama." I laughed and said, "did you read my blog?" He said, "No... man, why're you always outing me?" Later that day I was talking to my cousin Josh on the phone and he was like, "Poor Dan, his whole life and all of his faults are laid out for the world to see." I repeated that to Dan and he responded, "yeah, well, that was only one side of the story." I said, "well, then by all means, go leave a comment and tell your side."

I told Dan yesterday that I think most people missed the point of my post and he said, "that's just how women are, though." I didn't intend the post to be a "men suck, let's get the pitchforks, ladies" thing or a way to shame Dan. My purpose was to point out how we all get really worked up over things that, in the grand scheme of life, have very little meaning. The blog is a way for me to work out my thoughts as I write. I was regretting some of the things I said, especially after Dan told me to save the b.s. drama, and writing helped me think more clearly about how really blessed I am.

And, as is usually the case when I call Dan on something, I did not have all the information. Dan's not the type of guy who tries to defend himself and make excuses when I complain about something. He's just like, "whatever, if that's what you want to think, go ahead" and then as the days follow and he's not feeling so attacked, he'll tell me more about his thought processes or what was going on from his point of view. So the rest of the story is that Dan wasn't sitting around watching football for three hours like I thought. After eating, he was out putting up the horses, hanging the elk for skinning, and other ranch chores. He was out working after 5 or 6 consecutive nights of very little sleep and had just sat down to rest 20 minutes before I called him to take Amelia. I am duly chagrined.

So here's my question: I especially need my male readers to step up and give us women some perspective on balancing work, family responsibilities, and recreation from a man's point of view. Women, and stay-at-home mom's in particular, often have a hard time seeing their man's challenges from the vantage point of being at home with kids all day and being completely spent in the patience department by the time the daddy gets home. So men, some pointers on how your wife can be more of a support than a nag. Or if you just want a place to say "my old lady is killing me", by all means, go right ahead. Feel free to comment anonymously, although dug, I'm sure you can come up with something really witty for us all to enjoy. And if none of you step up, I'll just have to assume that Dr. Laura is right about how to keep your man happy: "men are pretty simple. If he's not horny, make him a sandwich."

Now, for you women, here is the Banana Cream Pie recipe:

Gram's Fool-proof Pie Crust (makes 2 pies)
3 cups flour
1 cup lard
1 Tbsp. vinegar
1 egg
5 Tbsp. cold water
1 tsp. salt

  • Cut lard into flour until pieces are pea size.
  • Add remaining ingredients and knead until smooth.
  • Divide dough into two even sections to make 2 pies (and try not to be like me and just eat the whole second section raw. I was going to half the recipe because I only intended to make one pie, but then I added too much vinegar and had to increase everything to compensate. You may scoff, but don't knock this raw pie dough until you've tried it. There's something addicting about it, maybe the vinegar... And it's not just because I'm pregnant. My mother can verify that I've been like this for years.)
  • Roll out dough in a circle, about 1/8-1/4 inch thick, leaving plenty of room for dough to go up and over sides of pie plate.
  • Press dough into pie plate and cut excess dough around edge of pie plate (or if you really need to grovel or impress, try pinching in a fancy design around the edges).
  • Depending on the type of pie filling you're using, you may need to pre-bake the pie crust.
  • Using a fork, poke holes all around the pie plate to prevent the crust from shrinking too much during baking.
  • Bake pie crust only at 400 degrees for approx. 10 minutes until edges are golden.

Old-fashioned Banana Cream Pie (found on recipezaar.com)
1 9-inch pie shell, pre-baked
3 cups whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 egg yolks, slightly beaten
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 bananas

  • Combine sugar, flour and salt. Set aside.
  • Have egg yolks, slightly beaten, set aside and ready.
  • In a large saucepan, heat milk until almost boiling (scald the milk).
  • Slowly add mixture of sugar, flour and salt.
  • Over medium heat, stirring constantly, cook until thickened.
  • Cover, and stirring occasionally, cook for two minutes longer.
  • Stir a small amount of the hot mixture into the beaten yolks; when thoroughly combined, stir yolks into hot mixture.
  • Cook for one minute longer, stirring constantly.
  • Remove from heat and blend in butter and vanilla.
  • Let sit until lukewarm (I cooled mine in the freezer because I'm far too impatient.) Tip: cover the surface of the concoction with plastic wrap so it doesn't form a "skin" on the top.
  • When ready to pour, slice bananas and scatter in pie shell.
  • Pour warm mixture over bananas.
  • Refrigerate until serving.
  • Top with whipped cream as desired. (Cool whip, or if you're married to Josh, get the canned whipped cream because then you have the added bonus of watching him spray it directly into his gullet until he gets a bellyache).
Note: If you leave out the bananas, you have vanilla cream pie. If you add 1 cup shredded coconut to milk as it's being heated, you have coconut cream pie.

Monday, November 3, 2008

That Naughty Bird wouldn't even wear her costume

Here's the Halloween report.

Amelia was supposed to wear a white doggy costume (a hand-me-down from Lily) but when it came time to get ready, she wanted nothing to do with it. She refused to wear it and only wanted a painted nose like Biggie. Have I mentioned lately how stubborn she is?

Fortunately I had dressed her in Halloween colors that day so at least she looked somewhat festive. And the nose gave her just enough credibility to pass as a trick-or-treater.

Now Lily, on the other hand, has been planning her black kitty costume for a couple of months and was so excited to get all decked out. Originally we'd been looking for one of those thick fuzzy costumes because we'd been told that Halloween is always freezing in Cokeville. Kids' costumes are usually disguised under snowpants and scarves, but we got lucky this year and got away with just a couple layers under a sweatshirt. Good thing because we never did find a fuzzy costume.

Lily loved her fuzzy tail, but personally, I thought it was the cowboy boots that really made the costume.

I don't think that whole career as a makeup artist is going to work out, so I'll keep my day job. Even though Lily has had her big girl teeth for awhile, I still just look at her and can't believe how big she's getting.

"Hi Kitty, how are you?" Carlsons, insert petting kitty paw here...

That's Merle, Brian and Becca's ranch dog, in the background. I'm a big fan of all the ranch dogs around here because the girls can get their doggy fix and then we can go home to our dog-hairless house and I don't have to pick up any poop.

There was a cake walk at the Halloween Carnival at the elementary school. I used to love cake walks as a kid. I would hover over the table, planning which cake I would choose if I won, but usually ended up getting the saddest looking "a 7 year old made this" cake. My mom used to bake cakes for the school cake walks. One year she made a football cake, a green 9x13 field with a football cake set atop Don's football T (boiled first, of course.) Her cakes were always one of the first ones chosen.

When we moved here, Brian's parents Keith and Lynette basically adopted us into their family and treat us like one of their own. The girls love their Grandma Lynette (Brian's mom) and she gets such a kick out of spoiling her grandkids. She made little goody bags for each of her grandkids with candy, popcorn balls, and a jar of play-doh. Amelia thought that was the coolest!

We set out trick-or-treating but I only lasted a couple houses before I gave up and went home. I'd had a long day of walking around and Mystery Boy was protesting, so I went home and laid down while Dan took the girls trick-or-treating. He's decided that next year he's going to rig up a little wagon to the back of the four wheeler and cart the kids around town that way.

The aftermath.

Now, on to Thanksgiving...

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Spare me the B.S. Drama

I didn't wait long enough to cool down after getting mad at Dan.

Whenever he does something that pisses me off, I usually try to wait a day or so to cool down. Often, I'll just vent about it to Becca or my sister, then having said it outloud, decide it's no big deal and just forget about it. But this time I just kept getting madder and no matter how I tried to be rational and exercise some self-control, I ended up saying something stupid.

The gist of my frustration was not getting enough relief from the kids and feeling like Dan spends all of his free time with Brian instead of us. It was a hard week, the longest Dan has been gone for work so far. He was in Salt Lake from Monday-Friday and the day he got back was Halloween, so there was a lot going on. Dan came home exhausted (he only slept an average of 3 hours/night while he was working) and frustrated over a way-too-long shopping trip in Evanston. I had been looking forward to having some help with the kids, going to the football game, going as a family to the town Halloween Carnival, taking the girls trick-or-treating, and hanging out at Brian and Becca's for Brian's birthday party.

I won't go into details, but things didn't work out as I had envisioned so I was peeved. But I figured I'd be over it after a good night's sleep. On Saturday morning, Dan left at 3:00am to go hunting with Brian and another guy. I try to make a point of supporting Dan in his recreational activities. I know he works hard and I want him to feel like he has sufficient free time to pursue his interests and recharge. I don't want to be the nagging wife who is always bitching about how much time my husband spends away from home. So I was feeling pretty pleased with myself for not minding him going hunting. I'd told him the night before that I needed to use his laptop all day on Saturday so I could retouch and finish a wedding album order that needed to be uploaded by Monday (my computer won't be done until mid-next week.) In my mind, I thought that he would understand that I needed some help with the kids so I could work.

That was my first mistake, not making my expectations clear. After Dan returned from hunting, I was just leaving to take a very cranky Amelia for a walk so she would tire out and take a nap. Again, I was smugly pleased with myself for not immediately demanding that Dan watch Amelia (Lily was at a friend's house.) He went over to Brian's to eat lunch and watch some college football. Amelia napped for almost 2 hours, during which time I worked on my photo order. When she woke up I called Dan to see if he would come take her. Becca had just put Kaden down for a nap, so Dan wanted me to wait. I reminded him that I needed to get my photo order done since this was my only day with the laptop and asked him to come home and play with her. His response was, "then I can't watch football."

I could share with you all the expletives and nasty remarks I wanted to use, but I'm sure you can use your imagination. Digging deep for some self-control, I said, "remember I'm trying to work. C'mon and help ease my burden." To add insult to injury, it took him about 20 minutes to show up. The thing that pissed me off the most was the fact that I was trying to work and he seemed more interested in doing what he wanted instead of helping me. I suppose I've done it for years, worked while trying to take care of the kids, but that was when Dan was off at his job and not available to help. The fact that he was next door watching TV while I was trying to balance the pressure of completing an order for an angry bride (I've had her order for 5- yes FIVE- months) while Amelia whined to be held and then wouldn't stop messing with the keyboard, was just about more than I could tolerate.

Dan took Amelia for an hour or so, then came back saying that Becca had invited us to dinner, could I make some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, and he and Brian needed to help Keith (Brian's dad) round up a wayward calf. To his credit, he asked if that was OK and I told him that was fine since I needed to start on the cookies and I could let Amelia watch a movie for a bit since dinner was only 45 minutes away.

The errand, like all ranch errands, took about 4 times as long as projected. I've come to expect that. In fact, before we moved here, Dan and I talked about the fact that he would probably spend a lot of time helping other people with ranching chores and that it would always take longer than it was supposed to. One of the things I love about Dan is his willingness to serve other people, and that has been manifest over and over since moving to Cokeville, that he offers his time willingly to help others without any desire or expectation of reward. He's just glad to help and be out on his motorcycle or a horse, doing "guy" stuff. And he really loves being a part of and helping in this community. While I admire that about him and understand his fatigue when returning, I can't help but feeling a little bitter that he just spent 4 or 6 or 8 hours hanging out with his best friend and riding his motorcycle.

But I'm being childish. The rest of the story is that I just kept festering over the whole "I'd rather sit and watch football while you take care of your job and the kids" and by the time church was over this morning (Amelia was a real pill during sacrament meeting and Dan wasn't there to help) I was up to my eyeballs with rage. Again, I tried to cool it, have a nap with Amelia, and hopefully calm down enough to have a constructive conversation.

When Dan got home from working around supper time, I told him I needed to talk to him about some concerns I had. I aired my grievances, telling him that I appreciate his hard work, that I try to give him ample time to recreate, that I wasn't mad about the last night's ranch errand taking so long, rather I was mad because I didn't feel like he was helping me with the kids enough and that it really hurt my feelings about the whole football thing yesterday. I was doing fairly good, a few sniffles, but trying to stay calm when Dan got all defensive and didn't think my complaints had any merit.

That's when I blew it. I said, "If you think your only responsibility in this family is to work and I take care of everything else, why don't you and Brian just move in together and send child-support money to me and Becca if you're not going to do anything for us anyway."

Seeing that in print verifies how immature it was. Dan just shook his head and said I needed to decide what it was that I was really upset about, was it because I don't get enough alone time without the kids or that I wasn't getting enough time with him, because I was giving conflicting messages. A few more things were said and I told him that even though he had come home to have dinner and spend time with us, I needed to go cool off because I was too mad. He reminded me that he still needed to work tonight and I snidely remarked, "that didn't seem to matter to you yesterday when I was the one that had to work." He said, "the difference between your job and mine is that you've already been paid for your job, it's been sitting there for several months and there's no hard deadline, and the worst thing that could happen is the bride could get really pissed and say she's never going to work with you again. Which doesn't matter because you've stopped shooting anyway. If I don't meet my deadlines on Monday and Wednesday, I won't have a job. It's a very immediate consequence. Not to mention the fact that I won't get paid until the job is done."

I left and bawled in the car for awhile then went over to Keith and Lynette's. I figured that talking to another woman right then wasn't going to be too constructive because she'd just commiserate with me and agree that men suck sometimes. I needed to hear a man's perspective and I've always admired and respected Keith for his hard work and his commitment to the gospel. He's a father figure for me so I went to talk to him. First he just gave me a big bear hug and let me cry on his shoulder for a few minutes, then listened while I talked. He admitted that he never understood the pressure young mothers were under until he became a bishop. He said it really opened his eyes to how much women have to deal with. He said he was pretty sure that being a Mormon Mom was the hardest job on earth. All you have to do is raise perfect children, be the perfect wife, and do it all with a smile on your face. That brought a chuckle and soon we were talking about other things and I was able to relax.

When I got home I gave the girls a bath and read to them. After I put them into bed and Dan finished packing to head back to Salt Lake tomorrow, he came into the living room and said, "the next time you want to have a conversation about our relationship, save all the bulls--- drama and maybe we can have a constructive conversation." Then he went to bed.

I'll admit that I pride myself on being a pretty reasonable wife, one not given to emotional outbursts, one that tries to think about my husband's perspective and needs before mine, one that doesn't nag and complain all the time. But I've been too smug. Too sure that I wasn't like those "other women" who drag their husbands down. Turns out that sometimes I'm just as big a pain in the ass as "they" are.

This whole small town life and non-traditional work schedule is a big adjustment. Dan has been telling me from the moment we moved here that I need to get on a schedule of activities, things I can do with the kids, with other women, ways to recreate and maintain my sanity in this town of no movie theaters or scrapbook stores. When I am honest with myself, the truth is that I've have become increasingly anti-social as I've gotten older. I let myself feel like it's too complicated to find a babysitter or arrange activities with other moms that have a lot of children. I feel like it's just going to be a further burden for another already busy mom to try to spend time with me and/or my kids. And a lot of times I feel like the thing that would refresh me most is to just have some peace and quiet, time alone rather than with friends.

But what I'm doing is obviously not working, so I'm going to try some things.
  • I'm going to ask Lynette if she will give Lily and I sewing lessons. It's a skill that I really need to learn, that I want Lily to learn, and I finally have the time to pursue it. And Lily has been begging to learn sewing for a couple years now.
  • I'm going to see if Becca wants to trade babysitting at least once a week for a few hours.
  • I'm going to suck up my paranoid concerns and start calling the other moms and arranging play dates for the kids and for me.
  • I'm going to find someone who loves scrapbooking that wants to do that a couple times a month.
  • I'm going to try to go walking everyday, preferably by myself.

In all of this, I am humbled by an entry on Dan's friend Elden's (Fatty's) blog. Click here to read. His wife has been battling cancer for quite some time and her fight is coming to a close. Elden has begun hospice care and Susan is likely down to just a few more days or weeks at the most. When faced with his reality, I know that my petty concerns mean nothing and that I am so blessed to have the husband that I have. One who works hard, is loyal to me, loves his children, and lives the life of a quiet Christian.

So yes, I will try to edit out the b.s. drama and appreciate what I have.