Loss has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Growing up as a preacher’s kid in a small town you spend many of your days at the hospital and funeral home. Add to that the fact that one of my best friend’s was the funeral director’s daughter and that I later chose the profession of counseling and I guess you could say that sadly I sometimes feel too well versed in all of the hardships that people go through in this life. When you spend your days working with precious families that are going through huge, horrible things, it can feel wrong to be upset about the smaller ones. But the thing about loss is that it is all relative to the person’s perspective who is going through it. People grieve in such different degrees and ways, especially kids.
I have a little nurturer who is a lover of all things living. She’s actually a lot like me. Living on a farm where death and loss are commonplace can be very hard on a sensitive heart like that. Today, my sweet husband set out to mow after he had checked to make sure that the kittens were not hanging around the mower. Unfortunately when he started moving the sudden noise startled Lyric’s last little kitten who was hiding in the barn and caused it to dart out in front of him. He tried with all his might to change the course of what would happen next, but little Poppy passed away anyway. He was distraught….. We had given all but two kittens away this week and had the Momma cat fixed. The two remaining kittens were Kai’s cat Scotch, and Lyric’s little Poppy. Lyric had also lost her spring kitten to a rain storm so we were all hoping things would turn out differently this time. Sadly, they didn’t.
The conversation we had with her was hard. It reminded me so much of the time my Dad met me at the bus stop and told me that my childhood rabbit had died. I was so sad but I think his burden to bear was greater. Normally my guidelines for helping kids through grief are to give them as much truth as they can handle, validate their feelings, stay away from “cliche” statements that might be hurtful, give them a safe place to talk, and point them towards some healthy outlets for their grief. Although I did tell my oldest the truth about what happened, I knew that my youngest two could not handle the full story. So I did what I’ve never done before and I lied. I told them that she ran away and wouldn’t be back. I’m a truth teller in life but I just couldn’t see how telling this truth would be helpful in any way. Irregardless we are now dealing with the loss of yet another farm animal and I know there will be many more down the line. This is a life we have chosen and I truly believe it’s important for kids to experience these little losses and setbacks so they can be more prepared for the big ones life has in store. Still that doesn’t make it easy when you have a 5 year old that races home every day to snuggle her kitten.
It was tempting when the friend texted who had adopted Poppy’s mini me and offered her back, but it would have been the wrong choice. So tonight we grieve……And we hold onto Kai’s tabby kitten a little tighter(or a lot tighter in Lyric’s case…..Not sure Scotchie is enjoying her kitten cuddling program). There will be a day in my children’s future where life hits them in the face with big time loss. I’m just hoping that these smaller life experiences will give them some much needed perspective when that time comes.
Well, it’s official……. My baby is going to Kindergarten. Now don’t think for a second that I am one of those overly sentimental types that keeps every memento and weeps over every milestone. In fact, I’m not sure I ever got even a little misty eyed when my first two went to school. I think I may have even celebrated a little when my overly energetic middle child(who earned the name Dennis the menace early on) traipsed off for his first day of Kindergarten. During that period I was a Momma in the trenches. I was too overwhelmed to feel anything but relief about my eldest children heading out to a more structured and stimulating environment that was not a Mommy run DayCare.
I say all that to say that sending my third and last little one off to school feels a bit different. She’s our baby. The surprise sweetie that has been doted on by her Mom, Dad, and siblings. It’s not that I love her more than the others, because that is not the case at all. But instead she holds a special place in our family because she’s the last. Sending her to kindergarten feels like the end of something. The end of diaper days and sippy cups…..and the end of problems that are easily solved with a band-aid or a hug. We are closing a chapter in our family and I can’t help but feel a little bit of sadness that those days are completely behind us. Sure it was exhausting at the time in a very physical way. But what I have observed is that the challenges of parenting become more emotionally and mentally tiring as children hit the school age years. Suddenly their problems become bigger and harder to fix and at times we parents have to just sit back and watch them grow through painful experiences while we wait on the sidelines.
When they were still little my husband and I used to say that the days would drag on but the years seemed to fly by. When they enter the school age years what I’ve noticed is that both the days and years seem to fly by in warp time. Some days feel like a race to get everything done before we have to wake up and do it all over again. It’s harder to just slow down and sit in a moment… So on Thursday when I send my spunky, smart, hard working, last little sweetie to Kindergarten, there may be some tears shed. As a family we will be turning the page on a chapter in our life that held some pretty special memories. I’m hoping to make some new extra special memories in this next chapter too as this is the only year in our family history that all three kids and I will all be at the same school. Can you imagine my commute to work?! We may be saying goodbye to some major milestones but the cool thing is that we are also saying hello to the exciting new adventures that are ahead of us!
I’ve been wanting to do a retro inspired bathing beauties shoot for years and finally made it happen this week! As I have watched our summer dwindle down to it’s last days, I decided to throw some things together to make this shoot come into fruition. Janie and Jack is my go to place for girls swimwear as they have the cutest vintage inspired suits along with bathing caps so that was my first stop. Seriously! How cute are little girls in bathing caps?! After that I picked up some yard flamingos and a huge float off of Amazon. The finishing touch was a quick scrappy garland I made out of cut up fabrics I had on hand. Most of the fabric is from the mesh bags that Matilda Jane ships it’s clothing in. I find that those baggies come in handy for packing/traveling as well. I digress…… The goal for this shoot was that it would look vintage inspired and use a creamy color palette with soft greens, white, pinks, and yellow. You never know exactly how things will transfer from inside your head to reality but I was pleased with the results and I think the girls had a good time too! Next summer I would love to recreate this scene for a mini shoot as it was fun and easy. Here are some of my favorites!
If you are anything like me and are a Momma to kids of elementary school age, summer can become somewhat of a mixed blessing. The first week after school closes you are probably saying “Halleluja” and “Good Riddance” to rigid schedules, homework check ups, and generally running around like a chicken with your head cut off trying to check all the boxes you are supposed to check. As the days turns into weeks this feeling of relief will fade as your kids start whining and bickering while you grasp at straws trying to figure out how to keep them entertained all summer long.
At that point you either become the “Over Scheduling Momma” who fills up the weeks with various camps and activities trying to keep the peace, or you have to figure out how to strike a balance between relaxation and a schedule where people don’t kill each other. I have been the parent who has over scheduled to the point that it didn’t feel like the kids/myself had any down time before starting another rigorous school year. That was the summer of VBS….. The one where we went to every local vacation bible school to the point where we could have taught the classes. It seemed that every church within a 45 minute radius decided on the same theme that year and I still can’t get the catchy song “Journey off the map” out of my head. Believe me I have tried. I digress…….
In an effort to strike a better balance we now only do two camps per child per summer and try to plan other activities that allow them some engaging down time. In planning activities the goal is always to have them be technology free, creative, and for the most part independent from me. This is not because I don’t love my children and don’t enjoy their company but it’s because I don’t believe it’s my sole purpose in life to entertain them. They are going to learn to use their imaginations even if it’s against their will! What’s the point in having multiple kids if they can’t at least help entertain each other?!
So if you are already hitting that part of the summer where you are pulling your hair out, your house is trashed, and you can’t think of what else to do with these little people you used to think fondly upon as your children, here is a list of things that seem to work for our family.
Disclaimer: We are a quirky family and my kids may or may not be on the weird side so execute these ideas with caution. My husband did just make a gold mining sluice so we could pan for gold at whimsy so there is that…..
- The Lego Challenge: Give the kids a set time limit and challenge them to make an invention. All my kids have their own Lego sets and are competitive by nature so this one usually takes about half the day. That’s half a day that you can do laundry, clean, or sip a cup of coffee and read a book!
- The Nature Scavenger Hunt: Send your kids out with a baggie and a list to find items found in nature. If you live in a rural area you have an advantage on this one but before we lived on a farm we also used to do it in our neighborhood park. For little ones that can’t read I’ve used clip art or put them on a team with their older sibling.
- The Play Doh Contest: My kids can spend endless hours making Play Doh dresses for Polly Pockets, furniture for animals, or my favorite, trying to replicate Shopkins. The other variation we do often is to use Kinetic sand and bury small items in it or mold them into waves for surfing Polly Pockets.
- Make a video: My kids also spend a lot of time making “How To” videos as well as stop motion animation videos using their figures and things around the house. We often view them with a bucket of popcorn when they are finished.
- The Voice: This one works really well if you have swivel chairs in your house! Have your kids take turns debuting their talent and kindly judging others as you act out your own rendition of The Voice. This one brings a lot of laughter into the home as my kids also like to come up with fake names/personas and sing in the voice of their own quirky character. Another spin on this is to have a dance contest.
- Water Day: There are so ways to do this one but I say use what you have. Slip N Slides, diving for gems in blow up pool, water balloons, sprinklers, you name it! When it is hot yet you don’t want to have to put your swimsuit on at the public pool these things will buy you a couple of hours!
- Art Camp: One thing I’ve learned over the years is that if I make up a bogus contest my kids will buy into it every time hook, line, and sinker. This means that I can turn any art activity into a contest. Coloring, painting, crafting, you name it! Buy in is important if you want little ones to do something for a long time. That is why you have to get them excited about it. Maybe open an art exhibit where they hang pictures they have created all over the basement with painters tape. My kids also don’t seem to notice that I basically find a way to give them each a praise/win over the course of the activity.
- Hide and Go Seek: Another favorite is to have a person hide something like a sock monkey and then take turns finding it. I usually start this game when I need a good 30 minutes to finish something I’m working on. Simply grab the the item closest to you and say, “Hey! hide this thing and see if your brother and sister can find it”! Remember, if you sell it well, they will buy it!
- Cooking Contest: Obviously you have to have an older responsible child monitor this one if you are going to use the stove but it can also be done with younger kids by giving them proper boundaries. My oldest daughter watches a lot of cooking shows like “Chopped” so we like to have cooking contests and then throw in a weird ingredient to see how they can fit that in.
- Summer Theater: Have your kids put on a mini play where they write the script, dress the part, and perform it for the family.
- The Lemonade Stand: This one has been tricky since we moved out to the farm but we still figure out ways to work it in. The lemonade/sweets stand is a good way to teach your kids about entrepreneurship. They have to make the goods, use marketing, sell the product, count the cash, and then decide how they will spend/save it.
- Reading Time: Every day at a certain hour require some down time where your little ones have to snuggle up with a book. You can read my previous blog for book ideas!
- The Doll/Stuffed Animal Cafe: My girls love to create an American Girl cafe and use items from the house to make seating/decor as well as create food using clay. This could also work with stuffed animals for boys.
- Summer Olympics: This one is on Maizy’s list for the summer. The basic idea is to create a fun outdoor event and compete in different areas like hula hooping, bike races, etc.
- Camp Out: Borrow a tent, make some smore’s, and sleep out under the stars with the kids. We tried this one recently with a bunch of families on our farm. We ended up having a horrible storm that night so only a few stayed all night but I haven’t abandoned the idea for next year.
- Learn Something New With Your Kids: This is one that is always on the list at our house as living on a farm seems like an endless opportunity for learning new things. From taking care of animals to planting a garden and canning, there is always something that can be shared and passed on to your children.
- Tournament Time: I wouldn’t describe the Rioux family as an overly athletic one but we do like to have Bocce ball tournaments in the summer and have added other sports like kickball and softball as Kai’s interests have headed in that area in particular. We will often invite other family and friends over to make it more fun.
- Field Trips: This one probably goes without saying as many people take field trips to the zoo, library, etc……but try to think outside of the box and expand your world view a little bit. Maybe hit a museum, national park, exotic pet store. Follow your children interests and see where it takes you. I know that my girls in particular have a love for antiques like I do so we will visit a quaint little town an hour away called Bell Buckle that has been preserved in time and has many antique stores. We’ll shop all day long and then eat in the cafe ending our journey by buying dessert from the local Malt Shop.
- The Goodwill Hunt: I’m a lover of Goodwill as you never know what you will find there. Since my kids share my love we will often search there for treasure together. You can often find Maizy searching for vintage dishes, Lyric looking for forgotten Lalaloopsies, and Kai digging through the junk bin for Lego mini figures or Pokemon cards. We often find family games, puzzles, or projects there that we can later do together which then results in a family activity that we can engage in that evening. That’s a two for one special!
- The Kindness Game: Teaching kids to do things unselfishly for others is a good thing any time of year. Maybe visit an elderly neighbor who loves kids, deliver dinner to a family that is struggling in some way, or make a care package for the homeless man that sits at Kroger. Try to get your kids thinking about ways to serve others.
These are just a few ideas that will hopefully help you survive the long, hot days of summer! I also should probably mention that my kids do have chores to do over the summer months and that we try to get those things out of the way before we play. When I’ve exhausted my list and the bickering starts, I usually invite friends to come over for an activity. On the farm we often have “Popsicles on the Porch” days where friends come over to play for a few hours, pet some animals, and eat some popsicles before they go home. And who knows? During the last weeks of summer when the going gets tough, I may even sign them up for another round of VBS! I hear the theme is Submerged this year 😉
It’s our first kidding season here on the farm and just like any expectant parents, we’ve approached it with excitement and some trepidation. Months ago our vet came out and performed an ultrasound on our two female goats. At that time the Vet said it should be a couple of weeks so we read the literature and watched over those goats like we were their security! Every day, we’d check for any signs that would prove that this would be the day! While I was at work I would even have my awesome husband text me “goat hiney” pics just so I could see if they were dilating. Of course he was concerned that at some point he’d have to explain all of the goat butt pics on his phone but I lovingly reassured him that I would take the fall if it ever came to that…..
As the weeks passed and turned into months, we sort of gave up hope that they would ever come. Our vigilance waned and we decided that Vet medicine was a lot of guesswork with so many species to be knowledgeable about. Of course the moment we quit watching over the goats like hawks was the very moment something would happen! The first goat delivery we missed completely as we picked our kiddos up at the bus stop and then went out to the pasture to do the chores. Voila! A precious baby goat stood in the goat stall by her Mom looking like she’d been there all along! There was a blundered gender reveal/the hubs may not be the best with goat anatomy….But this kid that was first named Larry and later Lacey was adorable and strong and took to life at our little homestead quickly. There were tea parties, goat cookies, dress up, a visit to the local elementary school, and lots of goat singalongs….
When our second goat delivered it was the coldest night we were up against all winter. We had just put our two younger children to bed and headed back out to the pasture with our oldest child because we had watched Daisy laboring hours earlier. By the time we got there, there was one very vocal baby goat bleating and moving by Momma Goat and then much to our dismay a completely still/quiet newborn goat that looked like he had been discarded in the corner of the stall. Maizy immediately started toweling him off and trying to work some life in him. After about 45 minutes we heard a weak cry from our weakling and it was about that time that we got a big surprise in the form of another set of hooves making an appearance as they exited our sweet Daisy. Now we had heard that it was rare for a goat to have twins during her first kidding but we hadn’t even heard that there was a possibility of triplets! The other shocker was that they were all boys!(I checked this time) Not the gender we had hoped for but still a blessing to finally see these guys. Two active, tan and white bucks that closely resembled their mother. And one pitiful, little, pure black buck that would barely lift his head. We then got on the phone to ring all of our goat people for their best advice and sprung into action! We blow dried the babies and then my poor husband had to move the (200 pound)Mom while Maizy and I moved the baby bucks to our other building for a better chance of survival. They would still only have a little space heater to keep them warm but it was the best we could do without bringing the whole lot of them in the house.
The next day we were all relieved to see that they had survived one of the coldest nights all year but still our wimpy kid, Coal, wasn’t looking so hot especially when you compared him to his more aggressive young brothers named Bert and Ernie. We took the wimpy, little guy indoors and tried for hours to bottle feed him with no success. Maizy held him all that morning rubbing milk on her fingertips just trying to get him to eat something. When we started to lose hope for him is when a friend suggested letting Momma Goat have another go of it. We took him back to the building and of course he would suddenly look alive when seeing her again as he shakily walked right over to her to start nursing!
So, as it stands today we still aren’t out of the woods yet(cue the Taylor Swift music), but we have made some progress! And I’ll take that over having to give bad news to our children any day! We are learning that just like with parenthood of the human variety, the fears and worries don’t cease when they are out of the womb when they are of the goat variety either. Oh! and I know that most people find it odd that the Rioux clan gets so sentimental about goats, and pigs, etc…… But the truth is that when you live like this and care for farm animals with your kiddos…you get invested in the outcome because life is precious and all of God’s creation seems like a miracle! Here are some baby goat pics!
This holiday photography season was the busiest I’ve ever experienced as I started out saying that I was only going to do a day’s worth of mini shoots and ended up shooting every weekend for 2 months straight! I had trouble saying no especially since I could shoot so easily at the farm this year. At the time I thought I might not survive it but looking back despite some weather hurdles, one naked toddler incident(my own), and one broken finger/donkey accident, it was a lot of fun. It’s always a joy to connect with families and see how much everyone has changed and grown over the year. There were babies in spades which Maizy in particular loved. My kiddos also loved serving everyone milk and cookies when the photo shoots wrapped up. I’d say the only exception to this is when after a long day without available parents, a screaming Lyric ran out to where I was shooting in only her muck boots! The only other incident we had was when I was taking some shots of some teens with our animals in the pasture and the horse and donkey got into scuffle over grain. Burpy our donkey tried to get out of the way of Snickers and barreled into my finger which resulted in a broken pinkie… You know what they say about working with kids and animals! Overall though, it was great recording some sweet memories for some precious families. Unfortunately, I didn’t keep the first two days worth of pics on my computer to save room for more and then I had a word press issue uploading some, but here are a few of my remaining favorites! Thanks so much to everyone who came out and let me take their Christmas photos!
I recently shot some fall and winter photos for Wildly Company. They are a new company that produce ethically made kid’s clothing. What is ethically made clothing you may ask? Well, I’ll tell you! It’s clothing that promotes fair labor practices while creating sustainable jobs for families. The clothing is cute, simple, and comfy. You can check them out at willdlyco.com! Wildly is also partnering with Jonas Paul Eyewear which you can see Lyric sporting in a couple of pics. You know how this family loves their glasses! This child focused glasses company reminds me a lot of Warby Parker which sends frames straight to your door to try out. I love how simple that is. You can find them at jonaspauleyewear.com.
My oldest daughter, Maizy decided she wanted to have a Pioneer Girl Cooking party to celebrate her entrance into the double digits. This wasn’t a huge surprise as Maizy has been getting up at 5:30 in the morning for several years just so she can catch a couple of Pioneer Woman episodes before school each day. She’s also been making family meals for years and has become quite the chef herself!
In preparation for the big day, each girl received a recipe card in their invitation so they could share their favorites at the party. The decor was all Pioneer Woman cookware found at Walmart. Maizy has been slowly collecting it and placed it on the tippy top of her birthday wish list. The thing I love about it is that it very much matches the colorful vintage style of our home. We even whipped up a couple of simple bunting banners to match! Sweet G’s in Nolensville also made the most adorable sugar cookies inspired by Ree’s cookware line.
As girls entered the party, they picked out a vintage apron to wear. Maizy and I have a sickness when it comes to collecting things like retro aprons so there was an abundance to choose from. We kicked off our cooking party by making mini pies in mason jar lids. We had a pie bar on our farm table full of every pie filler and ingredient you could imagine. It was fun to watch the girls get creative with their ingredients as well as their decoration of the pies.
While the pies were cooking we hit them with a blindfolded taste test full of food items like: dark chocolate, asparagus, and even pop rocks! Then when the pies were cooling, we made the Pioneer Woman’s french bread pizzas which were delicious and very easy.
As lunch was winding down the girls all decorated plates with icing. We lined them up in our front window for judging and noticed that our oldest Great Pyr, Abel wanted to get in on the judging as well. The winner of both the plate contest and the taste test won a Pioneer Woman mug full of candies. We finished up by singing Happy Birthday to Maizy as the girls ate their mason jar pies with ice cream. They were sooo good! I think I may have to make mini pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving, that was how easy/tasty they were. It was also the perfect dessert for the event since Maizy has never been a big fan of cake. I’m not sure she’s mine…… After that the girls put their boots on and ran straight out to the pasture to hang out with the animals and play freeze tag. It was one of those parties where I hardly snapped a pic after it started because 4th grade girls are very busy! Here are a few of the pics I did take….
My experiences with kids over the years have led me to believe children come programmed with their own personalities, likes, dislikes, etc… Although we can try to persuade them in different directions as parents, the reality is that they are their own beings. Obviously the environment we grow up in is influential, but that nature part of things is huge! Case in point, my daughter Lyric. I have 3 children and although I had huge dreams about my son in particular taking to this new farm life we are living, it’s truthfully my youngest daughter that has become the farm kid.
Where my oldest daughter likes the garden and cooking, and my middle child likes rural living when it suits him, my 4 year old is the one that knows how to do everything on the farm. Lyric is the one who feeds the animals with me daily. She enjoys being outside pulling weeds, running around barefoot, and caring for all of her furry critters. When she goes out to the pasture, every animal out there runs to her because they know that this is the person that takes care of us! I so enjoy watching her stand up on boxes in the feed room to reach the feed scoops as she opens the food bins to get her job done. I love hearing her encouragingly talk to the chickens as she gently scoops them up to check for eggs. After that she carefully puts the eggs in her dress pockets and even though we often crack a few on the way, it’s so worth it to see her becoming the responsible young lady she is becoming. I don’t have tons of pasture pics of my other kids because unless Maizy is riding Snickers or Kai is chasing goats or our cat Scraps truthfully they aren’t out there all that much. But I could take pics of Lyric daily out there doing her chores. Pictures of piglets following her, ponies nuzzling her, and chickens clucking around her. I have a feeling that these are some of the memories I will hold most precious someday.
We now have 8 months of rural living under our belts and it has been quite a wild ride! From the undertaking of a major renovation to adding farm animals to our lifestyle we’ve learned a lot. Mistakes have been made along the way but we’ve also met some great people who have taught us a great deal. In fact we pretty much stay in touch with every family that we either bought animals or plants from. My Kindle is now full of books about raising chickens, goats, and equines as well as topics like companion planting and clean living. And as much as I’d like to say we’ve got it all figured out, there is still so much to learn.
When we started this life overhaul several short months ago, we had envisioned a life where our kids would grow up learning about responsibility and where food comes from. I think it has been so much more than that. My son who was diagnosed with ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, and severe Anxiety was one of the major reasons we made such a drastic change with our lives. I especially wanted to see him playing in the dirt, interacting with animals, and developing confidence. Although there is no magic wand to make the issues he faces go away, I do believe there is value in unplugging him from his device and plugging him into a more hands on lifestyle. I’m not going to say he is a completely changed child as a result of our endeavors but we have watched him making great strides in certain areas. A boy who was formerly terrified of his own shadow can now be seen running with the goats, holding chickens, petting equines, and wrestling with the dogs. That feels huge when I look back to how he used to climb his Dad if he even thought a dog was nearby a year ago. And for the whole family things like weeding the garden, feeding the animals, and gathering eggs have replaced a good majority of T.V. and iPad time at least in the months where it has been enjoyable to be outside.
One of the coolest aspects of this whole project is that this place has not only helped our own kiddos but I’ve also watched it boost the confidence of the children who come over to visit. It has become sort of a mission to reach out to other families especially those with special needs children in the emotional realm. I have been counseling kids and families for close to 20 years and yet I feel like what can be done on our little farm far outweighs what I can do in an office. It definitely has Chris and I thinking about how we can use what God has blessed us with and make it into more of a ministry to others. Right now our little hobby farm consists of the following animals: Abel- Our number one Great Pyrenees. He’s an old soul who loves kids and is often seen with several of them sitting on his back. Prim- Our 8 month old Great Pyrenees who loves getting into things and is always ready to play. Snickers- Our large 24 year old pony. He’s a funny older gentleman with a sweet nature and a stubborn streak at times. Burpy- our mini donkey that is often confused about her breed. She loves people but can often be found hanging with the dogs who she is supposed to by nature hate…. Sky- Our hermaphrodite fainting goat that was bottle fed and as a result adores people and acts more like a puppy. Rosetta, Daisy, and Bob- The rest of our goat crew. They are a more exclusive group but love people when it is feeding time. Scraps- Our resident barn kitty who likes to peek in on all the animals. And last but not least we have seven Easter Eggers that lay beautiful olive green eggs each day. Of course Chris is also trying to talk me into getting a KuneKune pig but we have such a harmonious group out there right now, I hate to upset the balance. Whatever the future of this place holds, I think we are heading in the right direction! So stay tuned! Here are some pics of the animals on our funny little farm. Update- Looks like we ended up with a stupendous pig after all! Meet Peppa the pot bellied pig!