Regular Joes

By: Brady Evans Venables

Well, we’ve finally done it. We just sold the farm. Moved into a subdivision. Downsized from 6 acres to .3 acres. We don’t see our horses every day anymore. They’re 2 miles away from our neighborhood being boarded. We’ve officially changed our lifestyle – we used to exude “horse people” status and now we are just regular joes.

The farm

The farm

Why did we do it? After quitting our jobs in North Carolina 5 years ago and giving up our nice, comfortable home to live on the farm? Why sell it and start all over again? It was the kid.

We used to work arm to arm on the weekends – we’d do some manual labor, hop on the horses for a ride, take showers, and head to town for a dinner out. The baby came along and with the baby comes a full time caregiver. We began tag-teaming farm work and parenting, passing in the night, doing “shifts,” barely connecting with each other. We felt guilty for not having family time, guilty for not having horse time, guilty for not having couple time.

Our family on the farm

Our family on the farm

It all started when my husband walked in the door and said “sometimes I almost wish we didn’t have this farm,” sighed, and collapsed on the sofa. I felt like a ton of bricks had been lifted off my chest because I had been thinking the same thing for weeks but was too scared to say it.

We started talking about selling the farm, tabling the discussion, and bringing it up again. We started looking at the finances of moving and boarding the horses, perusing Zillow.com for houses in family-friendly neighborhoods, and crying.

Halloween outside our new home

Halloween outside our new home

We knew what we had to do. Sell the farm. Prioritize our family. Get rid of the guilt. About 15 months after our first discussion about giving up the lifestyle, I sit here in our new home with a tiny yard and neighborhood pool, having just visited the horses 2 miles away, and sigh. Relief.

Our son won’t grow up on the farm and learn “work ethic” like everyone claimed he would. But he will learn the value of family and he can learn work ethic like my husband and I did – in a regular suburban home. We miss it. We don’t regret it. Learning that missing something and regretting something are two very different emotions was an important step in this journey.

A Pantry Essential

By: Brady Evans

When you think of a pantry item you should never be without you may immediately picture flour, rice, canned vegetables or soup. I’m here to tell you that the pantry item on your
grocery list you should never be without is SALSA. Salsa is cheap, adds tons of flavor and salsafiber to meals, can be used a million different ways, and you will soon see why it is the MVP of your pantry.

Recipes you can make – from slow cooker feasts to quick and dirty snacks – with salsa are endless. Whether you are a vegetarian or live on meat, salsa is here to turn your dinner dilemma into a dinner you can’t wait for!

Here are some of my favorites that feature salsa as the main ingredient:

Salsa chicken – Combine one jar of salsa and chicken breasts (or a couple of cans of black beans) in the slow cooker and allow it cook all day.  Chicken breasts can even start frozen.  Serve over rice, in tacos, or in burritos when it is dinner time! Protein, veggies, and flavor!  What’s not to love?

Scrambled eggs and salsa – Scramble some eggs and top with salsa for a spiced up spin on your usual breakfast. Or have this breakfast for dinner.

Salsa soup Recipe here – Salsa, protein, and some chicken broth are combined to make an awesome soup. Top with a squeeze of lime, avocado chunks, and some cilantro and you’ll feel like you are eating at a restaurant.

Salsa chicken chiliRecipe here – Warm up with salsa chicken chili. You’re only four ingredients away from your new favorite meal.

These four recipe ideas should add some spice to your meal routine!

Teaching Our Children

By: Brady Evans

My heart broke over Christmas break. I was with my son for two weeks straight because I’m in education and have the luxury of that winter holiday break. And there we were, sitting in the living room, kissing each other, and wrestling, and hugging each other, and talking when I decided that I’d sing some nursery rhymes. After all, at 20 months he seemed of-age. So I busted out the first song that came to my mind, “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” I saw my son, standing in front of me, smiling, and he immediately began the hand motions of the spider crawling up the spout, the rain coming down, and the sun coming out.  And initially I smiled SO BIG and SO PROUD because he knew this song and was executing it so beautifully with such a grin and we were having this special moment. And then it hit me: I didn’t teach him this song. I didn’t teach him “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” He learned that from daycare. And tears filled my eyes.

Hanging out in the daycare parking lot after I picked him up because I couldn't stand to just drive straight home without spending quality times. Most days little buddy is asleep when I leave for work so it is nearly 24 hours when I see him again.

Hanging out in the daycare parking lot after I picked him up because I couldn’t stand to just drive straight home without spending quality time. Most days little buddy is asleep when I leave for work so it is nearly 24 hours when I see him again.

What else does my little boy know that I don’t know he knows? What other vocabulary words, songs, lessons, and more am I failing to reinforce at home? What else did he learn from daycare and not from me?

Don’t get me wrong. It isn’t that I don’t want daycare to teach him. Of course I do. I toured daycares and asked questions about curriculum, lessons, and more (my husband and I are both teachers so obviously it was a priority) but that moment when he sang that song like he’s been doing it for months just hit me hard. I had a feelings of pride, gratitude, jealousy, and hurt all rolled into the tears that filled my eyes.

Watching his obsession with understanding how the wheels on his little bike work - I assume he does this at daycare too - pushing and pulling and analyzing how the wheels turn on their grocery carts and walking toys

Watching his obsession with understanding how the wheels on his little bike work. I assume he does this at daycare too – pushing and pulling and analyzing how the wheels turn on their grocery carts and walking toys.

I know I can’t be the sole teacher of my child and I don’t have a monopoly on filling his brain with knowledge. I know sweet Benjamin will learn from other people throughout his life. I know my son loves his teachers and smiles adoringly at them and I know they love him. They KNOW him. They know when he’s happy or may be slightly feverish. They know what he likes (swinging, books, fans, and lights) and what he doesn’t like (dirty hands, tall slides). And I am thankful for that. I am thankful that I trust his teachers and caregivers to love him, take care of him, and teach him.

Brady and Benjamin

Knowing that even though daycare spends more time with him, nothing replaces mom.

But I never will forget that feeling of not knowing what he knows. Seeing him, at 20 months, have this amazing skill he didn’t learn from his parents. It’s just another artifact of being in a family where both parents work very, very full time jobs.

Virtual Christmas Cards

By: Brady Evans Venables

Our whole lives have gone digital.  Televisions are so crisp that they are almost 3D. Lights are LED and are no longer incandescent. Our smartphones organize everything for us and more. We primarily communicate via Facebook, text, and email. Maybe by telephone if we have to 🙂

Christmas cardsYet, the holidays are the time of year when we all throw back to traditions of yesteryear – mailing greeting cards. Cards get pinned to the refrigerator or placed on the mantle. If you’ve had enough time, you may have searched Pinterest to create a unique holiday card holder.

As for us?  We don’t do Christmas cards. When we had our son, people started dropping comments about looking forward to cards. People would post comments on particularly cute pictures on Facebook saying, “This one is Christmas card material!” I love receiving cards; don’t get me wrong. But I just can’t think about getting cards printed in October or November to mail in December. Choosing the right photo, the right layout, the right stamp. Addressing the envelops! The cost!

So this year, I stayed true to the digital world we live in and used Animoto.com.  You basically type in the words you want, upload a few pictures, and you get a movie-quality video that you can email to your loved ones or post on social media. We’re just a few days out from Christmas and the rest of the holidays, but if you are feeling the urge to get a last-minute holiday greeting out, give Animoto a try!  Here’s ours.

Limiting Our TV Time

By: Brady Evans

We are in the middle of moving. We were living on a small hobby horse farm and we gave it up in favor of subdivision life – where kids are riding bikes instead of horses, lemonade stands are summer activities rather than mending fences, and spare time is spent chatting tvwith the neighbors rather than mucking the barn. We are giving up a lot that we’ll miss but we are also gaining a lot that we’re looking forward to.

In the move, we were without television for about two weeks. Just tonight it was reconnected. And I’m a little bit sad. I loved the two weeks of silence. I loved that the impulse of turning on the TV after work to check the news was gone. Having no interference in conversations was nice.

TV has an importance place in our life, for sure. I learn so much from television. I use it for entertainment on Sunday nights (The Walking Dead!).  It helps me stay connected to local and national events. If you aren’t careful, though, it can become an additional “family member.” Always interjecting – interrupting conversations – participating at the dinner table.

So now that the TV is back, what can we do to make sure it doesn’t regain the place it formerly had in our family?

  • Set an egg timer or timer on our phones to limit the amount of TV
  • Put the remote in an out-of-the-way location
  • Turn it off while doing other activities instead of having it as background noise
  • Don’t channel surf – if something we are interested in is on, watch it.  If nothing we’re interested is on, then lose it.

Now that we don’t have the farm – the chores, the to-do list, the hobby – we may fall into unhealthy media habits. Even though we’re in a neighborhood now we can still definitely get out and be just as active with a little special attention.

What I Do for Fun

By: Brady Evans

The other day someone asked me what I like to do for fun. I sat there, stunned into silence. I know I have fun. I laugh and smile. I take pictures and post them to Facebook and Instagram. But what do I like to do for fun?

Parenting

I know what I used to like to do.  I used to like to ride my horse, train for endurance runs, and run my food blog.

I can’t remember when I last rode my horse, I haven’t run regularly since 2013, and my food blog no longer exists on the Internet.

I am embarrassed to say that what I like to do for fun is play with my child and spend time with my husband. I am not sure why. There’s this expectation, maybe put forth by my own consciousness, but probably put forth more by society, that I am supposed to have something external to my family that I do for fun. Being a mom can’t be my fun. Parenting can’t be my hobby.

Parenting

Why? The thing I look forward to every day is picking up my son from daycare. I live for Saturday morning naps with my baby. My husband and I have pillow talk each night about how our son is growing and developing. We relive the funny things he did or retell stories of his day that the other parent may have missed.

Parenting

I don’t run anymore. I don’t ride my horse. I don’t food blog. I don’t miss those things. What I do for fun is mother. And that’s okay. It shouldn’t be embarrassing. I should be proud of it. This stage of life is no longer about me – it is about us. So when you ask me what I do for fun, consider asking what WE do for fun. We walk our dogs, we go to the park, we have tickle fights, and we read books about animals.

The 21st Century Baby Book

By: Brady Evans

My child’s baby book is actually an email account. When I was pregnant with him I secured his name as an account with my email provider and began writing him short notes. Now, 18 months since his day of birth, I imagine his inbox is filled with hundreds of short notes, images, and videos documenting his life.

Letters to my son

That’s what this world has become.  Paper baby books aren’t a thing much anymore, I imagine It wasn’t much of a thing even in my infancy. My book is only partially filled out from my days as a baby. We all organize and live by our phones, so it made so much sense to me to be able to document milestones and memorable events via my phone rather than sitting down and filling in the blanks on some printed template. What if I want to share things that there are no spaces for in the book? What if there are spaces in the book for things I don’t know?

Letters to my son

I haven’t yet imagined the day when I will give him the credentials to sign into the email account. And it may be painful – after all, the account is filled with memories from loved ones who may have passed on by that time. And when I give him the credentials he may not even care to sit down and take the time to read through the overstuffed inbox. But I know when he’s in my situation – hopefully with a child of his own on the way – he’ll wonder about his childhood and this is the perfect way for us to document it.

Letters to my son