Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Saving for a Dog

We have been slowly thinking about and getting used to the idea/possibility of getting a dog.  It started as a joke between Bruce and I.  Bruce is somewhat fixated on yellow lab puppies.  Don’t ask me why.  He’s had some yellow labs in the past and he thinks they are cute puppies, good looking dogs, and have good temperaments for young families.  So as the ball kept rolling, we decided that it would be nice to have a playmate for the kids.  A little security system.  A running partner.  Another family member to care for.

OoooooooOOOOoooo.... a yellow lab puppy!!  So cute!

OoooooooOOOOoooo…. a yellow lab puppy!! So cute!

I have, at times, not been thrilled about the idea of cleaning up after and taking care of another being.  I clean up enough after three kids and a cat, I’m not too enthused about adding to that list of responsibilities.  But then I think about how nice it would be to have a pet around here to go running with, to throw in the back of the pickup and take for a ride, to have sitting at my feet on a cold night.  I remember how much my childhood pets meant to me.

So, around Christmastime, we visited the humane society as a family a couple times  to see how the kids would react.  We told them we weren’t sure yet, we were just thinking about it.  Well, the girls only ever want to play with the cats or look at the cute little ankle-biter dogs.  But Russell.  Russell is into it.  There is something about a 7 year old boy and a dog.  He would assess the dogs and play with them.  The girls would oooo and ahh over jumpy crazy cute dogs and ask to bring every single one home.  But Russell would pet them and look at them and really think it over.  I’m afraid the day will come when he truly falls in love with one, and that will be the one we bring home.  The kid is very intuitive.

We learned about the adoption fees and costs of pet ownership.  At a minium, for us to become dog owners, we are going to need at least $200. That thought got me to thinking and stressing, as money always does.  My main concerns revolved around the facts that: A. We didn’t really have $200 just lying around to spend on a dog.  and B. That’s alot of money to spend, and there had to be a way to earn it so it would be appreciated. and C. I was not quite mentally ready to have a dog around.  Acclimating a lab-type dog to our house in the middle of winter was a little too much for me.

So I came up with a plan to address my concerns, give the kids some skin in the game, and teach us all a lesson about working together.  It started with the explosion that would happen as soon as the kids walked in after school.  Coats, hats, snowpants, papers, backpacks….they would go flying the second the door opened.  “Moooom! I’m hungry!!”  And in the midst of eating their snack, I would notice that a child or two still had yet to emerge from the mountain of kid-clothes.  Believe me, I’ve tried in the past to correct this problem, but it’s never worked without a lot of nagging.

So, I tried a new approach.  I said, “From now on, if you guys can come in the door from school and put your stuff away where it belongs, you will each get $1 towards getting a dog.  You will only get one reminder, if I have to remind you again, you won’t get anything.”  And like that, I solved that problem.  They came home, put their stuff away, and asked for $1 and a snack.  I’d put the money in a jar on the desk and fix them their food.  Yay for smooth transtions!

For a week, that was the only incentive I had for them.  But the next week I upped the ante.  I introduced a sticker chart on the bathroom wall.  We had been struggling with self-motivation towards personal hygiene.  So I introduced the same concept. Brush your teeth or take a bath, get a sticker.  10 stickers equals $5 for the dog. The kids filled their charts in a week, and I got a break from nagging!  And we were slowly getting closer to our goal!

Counting money with the automatic bank Russell got for his birthday.

Counting money with the automatic bank Russell got for his birthday. And yes, my kids are still in their pajamas…it was a snow day, we weren’t going anywhere!

The incentives and money jar spark good conversations about the dog… and money…and ways to earn it… and chores….and life lessons in general.  We count the money weekly, which makes for a good math lesson.   We created a chart to track our progress.  Everyone is invloved.  When the kids seem to be getting bored with the thought, we will do a little research into available dogs and re-invigorate their enthusiasm.  Bruce and I will dump our pocket change and spare money in on occasion to help out too.

Hazel can't quite grasp the math concept, but she does get into coloring the chart!

Hazel can’t quite grasp the math concept, but she does get into coloring the chart!

It’s been a great project so far.  We’ve re-enforced so many good, real-life concepts to the kids, such as: routine, discipline, teamwork, appreciation, goal-setting, achievement, and patience.  They have realized that they are active participants in this household and that their contributions are important.  All of these things set the stage for us as a family to embrace and take on a new doggy family member.

And yes, we’ve already decided to keep it up after we reach our dog goal.  The next mission will be a vacation!


First Day of Kindergarten!

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90 Years Young

Three of Harold's five children were able to make it to celebrate his big day.

Last week we celebrated Justin’s Grandpa Harold’s 90th  birthday.  What a milestone in life!  Harold has been a huge part in the success of our farming operation over the years.  He is who built it up so that the following generations of the family have had the opportunity to farm.  Harold took a lot of chances over the years and put in a lot of hard work to ensure that those chances were good ones, and he has a lot to be proud of.

We had a small gathering at the nursing home where Harold resides.  Delicious cake and punch were served courtesy of Aunt Annette and her girls, Michelle and Kelly.  One interesting thing in the family is that Harold is almost exactly 60 years older than Justin’s brother, Kevin, whose birthday is in August.  That also makes him almost exactly 60 years older than me.

So I asked Harold if he had any advice for me, about to turn 30.  He said he really doesn’t remember turning 30.  Well, that puts my worrying about it into perspective, huh?

Opening gifts.

Our gift to Harold was two framed aerial photos of the home farm, where Harold lived his entire life.  The first photo was taken in 1949, right around the time Harold married Bernadine and bought the farm.  The second photo was taken this year.  Harold changed the farm a lot through those years, and it was really neat to see the two pictures side-by-side.

Yes, Harold has a lot to celebrate.  A business that is being sustained yet today, and hopefully for many more years.  And more importantly, a big, happy, caring family.

Here is what the home farm looked like in 1949, when Harold was just getting started.

The home farm 20 years after Harold got started farming.

And today, so much progress has been made, so many opportunities, sparked by one man's hard work and determination.

Farm Visitors

Baby animals are always a hit.

Over the 4th of July, we had an awesome opportunity to showcase our farm to some of our less-farm-familiar family members.  My husband’s cousins, Charlie and Scott, grew up around Iowa farming country, but then moved away and started families.  We had a big party on the 4th of July at Justin’s aunt’s house, which isn’t too far from us.  We got to talking about the farm and plans for the weekend.  I extended the invite to them to come on over, get reacquainted with their roots, and show their families where the food on their plate starts out.  They were glad for the opportunity.

So, the next day two vans full of “cityfolk” pulled into the driveway.  They ranged in age from 4 to grandparent.  We first showed them the yard of cattle in our back yard, and then proceeded down to the farm where our hoop barn is.  It just so happened that we had a “surprise” baby calf and his mother in the barn.  Justin ushered him over to the fence for the kids to pet.  They got to see our bulls, who are housed right next to the barn.  That sparked some interesting dialogue that got very close to a “birds and bees” discussion.  Luckily, there are lots of other distracting things on the farm.

The calf (and his momma) were pretty cooperative!

Even the adults wanted to pet him.

We then proceeded over to the pen where my horse, King, was.  A few of the kids were interested in going for a ride, so I saddled him up and gave a handful of kids their very first horseback ride.  They all did really great, and I think they all liked it.

Then, Justin got out a tractor and gave everyone who was interested a chance to ride in, and then drive, the tractor.  I think we may have persuaded a few of them to consider a career in agriculture. 🙂 Finally, we treated everyone to a meal of bbq beef sandwiches, fresh melon, and ice cream cones on our front porch.

Everyone was genuinely interested and asked some very good questions.  There were a few times I had to remind Justin to quit using farmer jargon.  I have to say I think I learned as much from them and their interest in the farm as they did from me.  I think Justin would say the same.

Driving the big blue tractor was a highlight for some of the kids.

A Three Day Potty Training Journal

Not a baby anymore!!

Day One

Got off to a rough start this morning. A busy weekend left me with a messy house, and an ignored alarm clock. Not to mention little time to mentally prepare myself and the rest of the family for the next few days of “potty boot camp.” But we’ve been through this before, and today is the day that I marked on the calendar. I rearranged the day care schedule, there’s no turning back now. Justin helped me get kids up and out the door. Lucy went to day care and Russell is spending the day with Justin. So that leaves me to focus on Hazel and no more diapers.

I’m following Lora Jensen’s Three Day Potty Training Method. It worked well for Lucy last summer. And I really like the idea of just getting the diapers over with. I think it’s easier for everyone in the long run. The general concept is that you quit diapers cold turkey and go straight to underwear. It involves three days of being attached to the potty trainees side, lots of positive reinforcement, and “silent” rewards.

So, after breakfast, I took Hazel’s diaper off, helped her put on some “big girls,” and showed her the potty and what goes on in there. I do believe I have uttered the phrases, “Let me know when you have to go potty,” and “Your underwear are dry, good job!” at least 100 times today.

I started out the day with about 30 pairs of underwear, and we went through all of them. Hazel just doesn’t seem to get it. I am beyond frustrated, I don’t remember this being such a challenge with Lucy. Then again, maybe it was. Lora says to stick to your guns, sometimes it takes the full three days of accidents before it “clicks.” Urrrrrrrgh, I hope not! She also hates sitting on the potty, which Lora also addresses, saying that you should simply set them on the potty and not force the issue if they wriggle right off….it will “click.” Again, I hope so…

Day Two
Justin took Lucy to daycare and Russell is spending the day with him again. Hazel still screams when I take her to the potty. I attempted to feed her fruit snacks while she sat there, but she just threw them on the floor. I’m really trying to keep the faith that she will get it, but I’ve got to admit that I’m thinking about quitting. The only thing that keeps me going is that I have blocked off this entire week for potty training, and I don’t know when I’ll be able to find the time again.  Staying postive has been a huge challenge for me today.  Thank goodness Justin didn’t have much going on on the farm and was able to take over for a little while so I could get out of the house.  (All I did was mow lawn, but I needed the break.)  Please God, let her “get it.”

Hazel took advantage of Russell not being around and played with his toys.

Day 3

I woke up with a new resolve today to keep at it no matter what.  Hazel wore that down pretty quickly though. I finally got her in the middle of peeing, got her on the potty, and some of it went in.  She was screaming and resisting the entire time.  I got super excited for her though.  Told her, “Listen! That’s you’re potty going in the potty! Yay! I’m so proud of you!”  She still didn’t care or get it.  I made us ice cream cones to celebrate.   She was ok with that.

We caught a few more accidents in progress and got them in the potty, and I can see Hazel’s resistance softening just a little.  She has told me “Mommy, Potty” a couple times, and willingly sits on the potty, but nothing happens.  At least she’s sitting on it.  Justin and Russell were busy working cattle, so Hazel and I had to pick up Lucy from day care.  That went fine, Hazel stayed dry through it.  I think it acutally helped to have Lucy around.  Hazel got excited when Lucy cheered for her.

The day ended in flames though.  I lost my patience.  I didn’t get mad at Hazel, but I did get mad.  I felt like a total failure, stressed, and disappointed.  Hazel just was not getting it.  I was sick and tired of constantly following Hazel’s every move, and I just wanted a solid 15 minutes to myself.  When I get mad I slam and throw things, and then I cry.  Justin got home about and hour after my mommy meltdown.  He took the kids into the living room so I could get supper finished.  After supper I had to make a Wal Mart run, and Justin put the kids in bed.  I saw a lot of people I knew at Wal Mart, and have come to the conclusion that after 8 on weeknights, Wal Mart is the place to be if you’re a mom.  I returned home with some new incentives (hersey kisses) for Hazel, and some Skinny Cow treats for myself.

Justin and I have decided to keep it up with Hazel until Monday, and if there’s no signs of progress, we’ll take a break for a few months and try again.

Day 4

A miracle happened today!  Just when I lose all hope, and was about to give up, Hazel said “Mommy, Potty.” I took her, she sat down, and went potty! We had a couple accidents after that, but she finished in the potty with those instead of just letting them go.  Finally, progress!  Just as I was about to throw in the towel.  Then, she stayed dry through her nap and while we went to pick up Lucy.  We got home and I was sure she’d be going soon.  We had a snack.  I told her I needed to go potty, and her response was “Mommy, Potty.”  So I held it.  She went up to the potty, matter-of-factly pulled down her undies, sat down, and went potty.  HALLELUJAH!  Lord, please tell me we are over the hump!  She’s a girl after my own heart, she just needed a little chocolate bribery with the kisses!

The rest of the day sort of plateaued.  She had some flat out accidents where she just stood there and watched the potty go on the floor.  And there were a couple other times were she asked to go potty and got some in the potty.  Then there were times where she was just looking for a treat and nothing happened.  Slowly, progress, slowly.  I guess that’s better than nothing!

We’ll see how tomorrow goes with all three kids in the house.

Day 5

Frustration and progress.  Those are the two words that defined today.  Hazel seems to be getting that potty goes in the potty, but she doesn’t seem to understand the significance of keeping her underwear dry.  We ventured to church this evening.  I figured a half an hour tonight would be better than trying to get through an hour plus tomorrow.  She did great, right up until the closing song, when she peed on the pew.  (Don’t worry, I thoroughly cleaned it up!!)

Two more days, and we’ll see what the verdict is.  Right now I’m thinking she’s made enough progress that going back to diapers would be very confusing for her.  We shall see.  Please, God, I’ll keep it up as long as it takes, but I would be ok with it being sooner rather than later.

Day 6

Today was pretty much a repeat of yesterday.  A little bit more “clicking” happening, but the frustration (and potty puddles) are still happening.  Justin “made” me go for a long horseback ride tonight.  I am so glad he did.  I REALLY needed it.

Day 7

I have decided to break one of Lora’s cardinal rules.  I am going to convince Hazel to use the potty instead of reminding her to tell me when she needs to go.  I’m also going to quit pushing the liquids.  My mother’s instinct tells me she needs to feel dry for longer than an hour, and realize that is the norm.

I’m am glad I made this decision.  We had far fewer pairs of wet underwear today, and even success with pooping on the potty!  I’m beginning to feel like maybe there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  We decided to keep her out of diapers, and keep on with the training.  Tomorrow Hazel goes to day care.  It will be interesting to see how she ends up doing there.  Could be either way, I think.

Day 8

Today is the first day I can say that our efforts have been successful.  Hazel stayed dry all day, aside from one accident that I don’t really count because she was in the process of getting her pants off at the potty when it happened.  SHE FINALLY GETS IT!  Sometimes she asks to go, and sometimes I have to convince her.  But, I feel like I can take her out in public with little fear of horribly embarrassing situations.

Day 9

Today has been good.  One accident, but she knew it and went to the potty right away.  We’re going to the fair tonight, which will be a real test.  Wish us luck!

I think I can finally say that we are done with diapers in this household.  Boy, does it feel good!

What a learning experience!!

Our first big outing in big girl undies was to the fair.

Day 10 and beyond

We’ve been doing pretty good, made a few outings, which surprisingly, she does better during them!  We still deal with an accident or two per day, but sometimes they aren’t all Hazel’s fault.  She definitely “gets it.”  She knows what’s expected of her, and soon the days of smelly diapers and wipes will be nothing but a faint memory.  🙂


Swimming Lessons

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Adventures in Pickling a Cow Tongue

The finished product.

So, I’m beginning to notice a trend in my family.  We seem to like to eat weird food on special occaisions.  I’ve posted before about Justin’s special meal that he appreciates more than any hallmark card.  Then there’s a famed Nieman dish called Suet Pudding.  I’ll just let you google that one, I’ve yet to attempt it.  Although I have tasted it. 

Well, the cow tongue notion comes not from Justin’s side of the family, but mine.  As a little girl, I can remember a jar of pickled tongue being an occaisional installment in our refridgerator.  I have a very clear memory of my dad pulling that jar out at opportune moments and asking houseguests if they wanted some.  It was always amusing to watch their reactions. 

I had kind of forgotten that part of my history, up until a few weeks ago.  Dad called me up to say that he had just made a really good roast (from one our cattle, of course) and wanted to put an order in for a quarter of beef the next time we send an animal to the locker.  So, in our discussion of how to cut it up, we somehow got on the subject of cow tongue.  And it all came back to me. 

Well, I drive by our local locker at least 4 times per week when I am taking the girls to daycare.  I was pondering what to do for Dad for Father’s Day when our conversation switched on the lightbulb in my head.  I stopped in at the locker and asked what it would take to get ahold of a cow tongue.  Again, that priceless look.  I’m guessing they must not have many inquiries specifically for cow tongue. 

 “WHAT FOR?!” was the first thing out of the butcher’s mouth! 

“Father’s Day,” was my response. 

“You mean, like, a gag gift??”

“Well, no.  I mean, like, to cook and eat.”

“Oooookay.” He then proceeded behind a door for few seconds,  came back out with a rubbery looking cow tongue on the tip of his knife, slapped it down on the table, and wrapped it up for me. 

“So, how much do I owe ya?” I asked.

“$1.00.”  Transaction complete, and I was on my merry way home with the cow tongue.

After the kids were in bed, I pulled out Justin’s old pressure cooker and dusted it off.  The gods of Google had bestowed a recipe upon me.  I took a moment to metally prepare myself, unwrapped the tongue, took another moment, picked up the tongue, took another moment, trimmed some of the funny looking parts off, got over it, and washed the tongue in cold water in the sink.  I cut 6 slits in it, and put a clove garlic into each.  Into the cooker it went, along with a gallon of cider vinegar, a gallon of water, two cut up onions, and a “handful” of pickling spice.  

This was my first experience with a pressure cooker.

The tongue is in there somewhere...

I turned the heat on high, put the lid on, and waited.  And waited. And waited…………And waited some more.  Finally the pressure gauge started climbing.  When the little valve started acting like it was going to blow off, I turned off the heat and went to bed.  I was supposed to take it out after 40 minutes, but by then it was 1 AM and I could barely function.  So, I got back up and at em at 5.  I pulled the tongue out, and pulled the skin off it.  (…sh sh shiver….)

This is after cooking...I forgot to take before pics.

I was surprised at how tender it was.

I sliced it up, put it in a jar, filled it with the pickling juice, cooled it off, and put it in the fridge to wait for Father’s Day.

We had a spur of the moment get-together at our house for Father’s Day.  It turned out to be a wonderful day.  My Dad and his girlfriend, Deb, came down and brought their horses.  We went riding over the farm while Justin and the kids prepared a delicious meal of ribeyes, fried potatoes, and carrots on the grill.  We also had fresh lettuce salad from the garden and watermelon.  Grandpa Nieman, Uncle Kevin, Aunt Melissa, and Abby came over too.  Dessert consisted of one of Grandpa Nieman’s favorites, German chocolate cake and ice cream.  The kids took a dip in the kiddie pool, and it was just a perfect summer day. 

The reaction to my Dad’s unique gift was just as I remembered.  Dad eats it like candy, everyone else, not so much.  Some humour him, some taste it only with a big glass of water at hand, and others turn a little green just looking at it. 

My Dad and his cow tongue.


Happy Father's Day Grandpa!

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