While the rest of you are griping about winter ..

There isn’t a day that goes by I don’t hear someone complaining about how long and how harsh this winter has been.  I too, am ready for spring.  So I get it.

But there are a few I know ..

One of my fav shots from the weekend -

One of my fav shots from the weekend –

.. who just can’t seem to get enough of it.

The cold and snow have meant a playground of sorts here at the ranch all winter.  I know I’ve posted pics of our crew sledding before, but there were very few moments the kids (or the Cowboy) were inside this weekend.  If they were, it was momentary as they came in to warm up.

Sledding South Dakota style -

Sledding South Dakota style –

And then they would head back out again ..

The Cowboy and his little girl -

The Cowboy and his little girl –

While I don’t typically show faces, the expressions I believe, are what make these photos.  At least to me.

All smiles -

All smiles –

So many more great snapshots from the past few days.  Thought would be fun to share even a few ..

About to lose one.  Holding on with all his might ..

Holding on with all his might –

.. as we all still wait on spring.

Wind Break

Today’s snow came early, was heavy, wet and fell fast.  The Interstate is closed to our north, to the west and throughout much of the state, officials are asking people not to travel.

Break From the Wind

Break From the Wind

We made it home just before noon and are bunkered down for the day.  But I had to run and grab a few pics when we pulled back into the drive.  It’s the first time I’ve seen the herd all lined up along the tree and fence line in an effort to get relief from the South Dakota winds.  Beautiful.

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February Snowstorm

Pork, Sauerkraut and Potatoes.

Dinner had been done for over an hour.  I love that we were still tonight, seated around the kitchen table ..

…………

As a child .. almost every night was spent at the dining room table, together.  Family meals were our norm.  Most often, my dad would be at the stove already hard at work on some never measured out concoction that would taste fantastic when all was said and done, before our mother would ever get home.

We would all then sit down to eat.  And talk.

In our various family forms since my daughter came along, we have done the same.  But the time I currently have at the ranch has allowed me a lot more time to cook, think about meal planning and to stay seated at the table well past dinner being done to hang out, talk, enjoy each others company.

………..

Tonight, it was a dish dad used to make all the time.  My first attempt.

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Pork chops, potatoes and sauerkraut.  Dad would usually throw it all in the pressure cooker.  (“Don’t touch it, it can explode,” dad would say of the pressure cooker.  I have been afraid of them since.)  I threw tonight’s meal in the oven.

An hour and a half later .. it was done.  The Cowboy had just come back in from working with one of the horses.  Our 11 year old was shortly behind him after spending time on her favorite horse as well, despite the frigid temperatures.

They both were cold.

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The food was hot.

“That was really good,” said the Cowboy.

My daughter simply cleaned her plate (minus most of her sauerkraut) and then asked for more.

Horse Show …

The dusty trail from Chicago ..

.. brought us back one more time to the last night of the Horse Show in Fort Atkinson.  

Flip flops and shorts were quickly exchanged for jeans and boots. 

Camp comes to a close ..

Last walk up with a friend ..

It has been one of the hottest June’s on record here in Wisconsin and this week at camp, the girls .. most of them anyway .. didn’t seem to mind.  Other than one day.  They rode in the morning and went to the pool in the afternoon.

“Well,” my daughter tells me on the way home as she is reliving some of the fun that went on this week outside learning better horsemanship .. “some of the girls got really crabby the last couple days.  I think it was just too hot.”

We laughed a little about it, especially since we were at that point, sitting in the air conditioned car.  I looked at the temperature gauge.  99 degrees.  According to the car.

Hugs, introducing parents and taking last day pics ..

Our 11-year-old absolutely loves this camp ..

Showing families all they’ve learned ..

This is only our second year of overnight .. but she’s been fortunate to come for years to the day camp.  There is something about it.  The place.  The people.  The other girls.  Learning something new.  Being close to home but not too close to start to really learn to feel more comfortable in her independence.  Perhaps most importantly, it’s just camp.  Late night chats.  Secret stories.  Running around like crazy.  Freedom of being a kid in a cool place and confidence building in life and social skills.  That experience she’ll remember for a lifetime.  That she’ll perhaps tell her own daughter about.

One last ride for this year anyway, on Quincy ..

She gave a few hugs.  Said many thank you’s.  Bought the standard camp sweatshirt.  Grabbed a Gatorade and we hit the road.  Ran errands.  Then having had enough of the heat all week, grabbed the dog and headed for the River to cool off.

What a beautiful day.

………………..

While she has a few other camps coming up yet this summer, ones that I know she will love in very different ways ..

As we were watching early 4th of July Fireworks from a friends pier on the lake last night and she is leaning on my chest with her arms around me, she says, “Mom, I really miss camp.  I’m worried I won’t be able to go back next year.”

“We’ll see,” I told her.  “If you love it that much and it is important to you, that might be one of the things we’ll make sure you’re able to do.”

She hugged me tighter and said thanks.

Summer camp ..

“She can check in starting at 2pm, and we plan to be there between 2 & 2:15 so she can get a “good” bunk.”
……………..
I met my ex and our daughter at drop-off for camp this past Sunday .. can’t believe we’re halfway through the week already.  
It’s the second year in a row now, we’ve done a week of overnight camp.   She’s wanted to do it for a long time but finally mustered up the courage this past year for her first week away from home.  She didn’t want either of us, her parents, to leave.  But then at pick-up, she .. as you can expect, also didn’t want to come home.
I’m so excited for her, camp was always something I enjoyed so much as
a kid, but never got to do much of.  Went to one track and field FCA camp .. basketball camp a couple times .. but that was pretty much it.  Ever.  I felt pretty lucky I got to go to those that I did.  And very few of our friends ever went either so I thought it was the norm that camp was a pretty big deal.
My (our) daughter on the other hand, has pretty much been in camp non-stop on some level each summer as she’s grown up, because quite honestly it’s been one of the easiest, most reassuring she’s in good hands and economical options for her parents (myself and the ex).  She’s gotten some great experience and had a ton of fun over the years.  Music, sports, water, pure social, acting, art, animals, you name it .. she’s probably been at the camp.  Week after week.  Just about every summer.
But last summer..
She asked to not have to go so much.  And as she’s gotten older, I agree.  There are better ways for us to manage the time involved, the value of and the expense of it all.  Plus, there are only a few camps anymore she really asks to go to .. some she’d like to attend and a few I think would be good for her.  And I want her to be able to have those experiences.  
This week, it’s horse camp.
And .. it’s only the hottest week so far of the year with temperatures soaring into the 90’s for days on end.  I’ve been a bit worried about the girls and the staff this week .. I called to ask a counselor this morning if there might be anything any of the parents can do or bring ..
“No, we should be good,” replied the young woman who answered.    
They will be spending perhaps not as much time on horseback this week and more time on field trips or in a pool or spraying each other with water.  Either way, she told me, they are good and camp will be keeping a close eye on them all.
Whew ..
Can’t wait to see her Saturday.  Hear all about it.  And have some downtime together before ‘Camp Bayfield’ next week, not really camp.  But where we’ll all be together with the Cowboy and his kids and a few friends .. and just have time to play.
…………….
“Did you go to summer camp when you were a kid,” I ask the Cowboy this morning as we chatted quick over the phone.
“No.  Well, we went to rodeo bible camp.  But our camp was going to rodeos every weekend with the family.  That was camp,” he added.
…………….
There truly are so many great values to camps:  Opportunities to learn new things, do good things, meet new friends, earn new responsibilities, grow, change, evolve, be active in ways you wouldn’t otherwise .. I feel blessed to have such great resources in our area to send her to.
However ..
I am just as fired up for her to have more downtime this year.  To not have to go all the time.  To not still believe every child gets to go to different, fun camps all summer long, because many don’t.  It is a luxury not every family can afford or chooses to even if they can.  But it’s a great option.
The other option we’re excited about .. (during her time with mom anyway) will be spent with the neighbor boy and his mother, who is a teacher.  She will be keeping them busy for awhile each morning doing some math and spelling to keep them progressing hopefully as they both head toward their first year of middle school.   That will be part of the day.  The other part will include responsibilities at home, chores around the house and taking care of the animals she so desperately loves and wants to have but truly has no idea how much work they are.  Most importantly she will also have a great opportunity to spend time doing what a lot of other kids do during the summer .. and that is, enjoy some free-time.  Figure out how to not be bored on their own.  Be a kid.  
Chances are .. anyone reading is all grown up by now and knows how quickly camp .. summer .. and being a kid flies by.


Need a dirt road.

Need a dirt road.

Not to be confused with Makes Me Want to Take a Backroad.  Which is a great song and true to.  Can relate to that as well.  But for now …

When I wrote this it was about 1am and I was trying to unwind.  Had been a long day.  Have had a lot of them lately.  So was listening to music late at night.  And dreaming about how wonderful it would be to just get in the car and take a road trip to one of my favorite places on the face of this earth, Big Sky Country.

Some random thoughts:

Am loving right now, the Band Perry (along with throngs of others, I know).  Have been working on learning All Your Life on the guitar and Backroad from above (but not sure how that song sounds with a chick singing it) along with a bunch of others including a few from one of my favorite bands, Little Jane and the Pistol Whips who I believe are out of Bozeman, MT ..

Talked with the Cowboy for just a few minutes tonight on the video phone.  He was wiped out and was falling asleep as he was also playing guitar.  He figured he better call it a night before it was lights out either way in the armchair.

It’s Rodeo Bible Camp week in SD.  Heard some fun stories last night and was only the first day of camp.  Already done with school, the kids are with him for their first full week – he’s bummed they don’t have more down time together, but they seem to be having run regardless.  The four of them seem so happy to all be together for an extended period of time, and the kids that they are getting to go to camp with their dad.  One of the twins, who until now, has had a tough time getting his rope going in the right direction, gave us a demonstration this morning that he’s got it down and can now do it the way he’s supposed to.  Nothing like the look on a kids face when they realize they’ve learned something and really got it down, and they can now work on improving that skill.  Priceless.

Talked with my own daughter for a bit.  She’s still in school but excited there is now officially less than a week left for the 2012 academic year.  They had picnic lunch today and a presentation of poster boards they put together on a state.  Remember doing those?  She, no surprise, had Montana.  She really wanted me to see a couple others, including the boy’s that she has a crush on and her friend who had South Dakota.  To which she excitedly made some comments about the state, the Cowboy and possible life changes.  I gave her a squeeze, smiled and told the sweet girl who’s project we were looking at great job, and we moved onto the next.

As if I don’t have enough to do .. my workouts are suffering over getting other things that ‘need to get done, done.’  Think I need to find a triathlon this summer and start training.   That usually helps, but I’m not motivated.  Wanted to go to the gym for a swim tonight (last night).  Feeling like schlep that I chose not to and had glass of wine instead while going through paperwork and watching Wisconsin’s historic recall election results and speeches come in.

Feels like trying to get caught up is a never-ending battle.  Or trying to fit everything in, between family, friends, work, each other, etc etc etc .. is never possible without disappointing someone.  The Cowboy and I are trying to figure that out .. as we have events, graduations and various other commitments in towns hours apart this weekend for family and good friends, all of whom are important to us.  But that we know we can’t spend enough time with.  How do you juggle successfully?  Or, do you even try?

Is that ever possible anymore?  Feeling caught up?  Fitting everything in.  Getting things done?  Feeling like the important thing are taken care of so that you can take care of yourself, or your/our family in this case?  We know we could be so much better if we could all be under one roof.

But because for now, that’s not the case ..

Spent awhile last night trying to find the comfort of a dirt road or a small town in the middle of, if not South Dakota with the Cowboy .. Big Sky country (Even Bayfield will do, where I took the photo of my daughter and the Cowboy, below.) .. in my mind at the very least, since it’s the best I can do at the moment.  Looking at a big open sky.  Feeling the gravel and dirt below my feet.  Not seeing anyone or anything for miles.  Feels like there’s room to again breathe.

That whatever it is on the to-do list or that has me stressed isn’t all that big a deal, in fact, it’s small in the grand scheme of things.  And the busyness of the day-to-day is my/our choice.

Maybe I just need a good session of yoga or a massage.  But I like the dirt road theory.

Dirt roads usually take you somewhere more simple.  More quiet.  Calm.  It all re-grounds me.  And has me coming back at it all again today, refreshed.

Foothills Rodeo ..

His old roping partner called him up about three weeks ago ..

Foothills Rodeo.

He was going to be back in town and thought it would be fun to enter.

The Cowboy didn’t want to do it.  Doesn’t like the thought of ‘doing something half-assed,’ he always tells me.  Or putting money up to rope when he hasn’t been working at it.

The Cowboy hasn’t been doing much rodeoing for a couple years now.. since the divorce and especially this past year.  Many weekends are spent on the road between South Dakota and Wisconsin.  To which I am grateful for, but I know they have put a serious dent in what used to be his lifestyle.

He told me about the call.

“C’mon,” I said.  “It’ll be fun .. plus, I’ve seen you teach others how to do it, I’d love to go watch you actually rope.  And I’ll be at the ranch that weekend.”

Reluctantly, I believe, he agreed to go.

…………………

We all piled into one of the Cowboy’s best buddies trucks just before noon Sunday, me, the Cowboy, Scuba Steve and his pregnant wife, and Little Brother Trucker ( .. his partner.  They’re going to kill me for the names.) yesterday, horses in tow and headed for the Foothills Rodeo.

“You’re on the hot and dusty now,” said the Cowboy.  Laughing.

It wasn’t long .. stories started flying about their history together.  Their travels.  Their friendships.  And all the things they would do to one another while on the road.  The Cowboy says these are among the best friends he has in the whole world.  He’s spent a lot of time with them over the years and he laughs as he tells me, you really get to know someone after spending 48 hours together in the same vehicle, sleeping in same bed, living in 5×5 quarters.  You have to learn a lot of coping skills on how to get along.

For them, and I would assume many others in their shoes, it’s meant a lot of pranks and joking around.

And it literally didn’t take long for the sh*t to start flying yesterday.  We no more than parked on rodeo grounds.  They get the horses out and the Cowboy goes back into the horse part of the trailer to take .. um, use the facilities.  Just number one for the record.  (If the horses can do it, why can’t they?  Had never thought of that.)  The trucker locks him in.  Apparently this is a regular thing they do, or did in the past .. to each other.

The Cowboy says, “Remember what I did to your brother the last time he did that to me?”

“N …” says the Trucker.

But before he could even finish that one small word, a wad of horse sh*t schmucked his shoulder and face.  We all bust out laughing and immediately starting wondering, worrying a bit actually what the Trucker would do now, to get him back.

Thankfully he had brought another shirt.

The rodeo came and went.  None of them did as well as they had hoped.  But where they may have taken it hard in the past, life has them all in some very different places now.  And it seemed …

.. they were just happy to be back together.

Win or lose.

Even locked in with the horses again.

You would have thought the bathroom at the restaurant where we stopped for dinner on the way home would have been as easy to use as the back of the trailer .. but Scuba Steve’s pregnant wife, who was about fed up with the teasing, decided it was too easy two of them were standing in there bonding with the horses, again.  She locked em in.  Said to the rest of us, get in the truck.  And away we drove ….

Looking forward to the next rodeo.