college football, sports, University of Wyoming

Long Live Sports

Back before I became Wyokiddo’s Mama, before I became Outdoor Guy’s wife, I was a die-hard University of Wyoming Cowboys fan.  I come by it naturally.  My dad played for the Cowboys for a time and graduated from UW, as did my uncle, cousins, brother and sisters.  I attended UW sporting events from the ripe old age of five.  While other girls had posters of the New Kids on the Block haning in their rooms, I had a posters of Randy Welniak, Dabby Dawson, Peter Gunn and Tom Corontzos playing football.  It doesn’t matter that UW doesn’t get a lot of respect nationally and some years they are down right terrible – the Pokes always have been and always will be my team.

Right now, the University of Wyoming is holding a contest to win tickets to their home opener next weekend.  The idea was to post a favorite memory of University of Wyoming football, and the one with the most likes would win the tickets.

I spent half an hour cataloging some seriously wonderful memories.  Hands down, my favorite memory is the 1988 game at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie when the Cowboys played the Brigham Young University Cougars. It was the first night game ever held in Laramie, with ESPN hauling in special lights just for the big game.  The game was a sellout and the atmosphere was positively electric (pun intended).  I’ll never forget walking up the ramp and out to our seats to see that green, green turf gleaming under the lights.  It took my breath away. My dad must have seen me gaping, because he squeezed my shoulder and said “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” It remains one of the most beautiful man made things I’ve ever seen – War Memorial lit up and full up of thousands of cheering Pokes fans.  And I will never forget the look in my dad’s eyes at that moment…part pride, part excitement.  I don’t know that I’ve ever seen him look so young.

It was one of those perfect games where you just knew, KNEW, your team was going to win.  There wasn’t any way they could lose, not with 28,000 screaming fans willing them to play their best.  Wyoming would go on to win the game 24-14.  I would go on to miss the first half of school the next morning because my parents were cool enough to not only take me to the game (we didn’t get home until after 11), but they also let me sleep in the next day.

But I’ve got so many other fun, crazy memories of Cowboy Football, moyst of which aren’t going to mean anything to anyone but me.  Memories like:
-Singing Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” on the bus ride home after a victorious Vegas Bowl, where Wyoming (a heavily discounted underdog) beat UCLA in the closing minutes of the game to give them their first winning season in four years.
-Running Cowboy Joe, UW’s pony mascot, around the field after every score during the SMU game. UW put up 59 points. By the end, I just kept thinking “Oh for the love of God, just punt the ball, I’m so tired of running!”
-Getting text updates from my friends during the 2003 UW vs. CSU game when I was in Louisville, Ky. When I finally got word we won, a bunch of us stood and sang Ragtime Cowboy Joe outside the restaurant in triumph.
-Playing football behind the bleachers in the old Knothole at War Memorial and collecting all the cups that fell under the stands. We had hundreds of those things!
-Getting to go sit with my big sisters who were students at the time. I was probably only 5 or 6, but my parents would let me sit with them for a little while. The sillier and more obnoxious the student section got, the more fun it was!  I can remember feeling positively exhilarated and giggling every time the students started the “BULLSHIT!” chant.
-Sitting in my office in Indianapolis in 1999, listening to the game on the computer and crying when I heard the band play Ragtime Cowboy Joe, UW’s fight song, because I was so homesick.
-Getting to take photos from the sidelines as part of my photography class.  As my best friend said at the time “You can practically hear them sweat we are so close!”
-Razzing my sports-inept college bff for cheering for a replay of a kick return while watching the Cowboys play TCU in Applebees in Laramie.  She kept saying “I can’t believe he’s done that three times now!”

I could go on and on. I’ve got a thousand memories, and that’s not even counting basketball. But the thing is, I remember very few of the actual scores and even fewer plays. The Ws and Ls aren’t what I hold in my heart anymore. It is the experience that makes it fun for me these days.

Sports get get a bad rap these days.  We hear a lot about over-paid players acting like spoiled idiots, parents getting carried away and humiliating kids, student athletes cutting corners and cutting class and still getting a degree.  And some people even take being a fan too far, investing their emotional health in a game that has absolutely no direct effect on their lives.

But there are also great things about sports that shouldn’t be overlooked.  Sports give kids a place to learn discipline and teamwork.  Sports create jobs at the local, state and national level and bring in tourism dollars to local economies.  And sports create shared memories with family and friends that long out last the lights of the scoreboard.  For me, sports created memories of times spent with my dad and mom, my sisters, my sports soul-sister, my college friends, my Indiana friends and my husband.  And someday, I’ll share sports memories with my daughter and her friends.  What could be better than that?

Long Live Sports.


Kids, parenting

Letting Go

It’s been a big week for Wyokiddo.  A few nights ago, we said good-bye to the binkies and she became an “official big girl.”  There were a few tense moments, lots of tears and a few restless nights of sleep.

Wyokiddo cried a little, too.

Of all of the transitions Wyokiddo has made, this one was absolutely the most difficult for me.  But it was time to pack away the pacifiers.  We gave her warning, provided an incentive and set a night.  I quietly sought advice from friends and family on how to best make the leap into binky free life.  Then we set our deadline.  On the official night, Wyokiddo packed her binkies away and she had a little cry.  And then I cried.   And cried a little more.  I probably laid on our bed for 20 minutes, tears trickling down my face while Outdoor Guy held my hand and tried not to laugh at his crazy wife.

I knew it had to be done.  It’s part of growing up, like giving up bottles and potty-training.  We had relegated them to nap time and bed time only.  But she wasn’t giving them up on her own, as our pediatrician suggested she might.  And Wyokiddo wasn’t attaching to some other object, like a stuffed animal or blanket.  Her comfort item was always her binky.  So it was time, especially before I had another David Beckham moment with my mother-in-law over the topic.

So I set the stage by telling Wyokiddo about the Big Girl Fairy, who would come collect the binkies when she knew Wyokiddo was ready to be an Official Big Girl.  We promised the Big Girl Fairy would leave her a special present to help her be brave and strong.  The day before, we wrote her a letter on behalf of the Big Girl Fairy, explaining it was time to be an Official Big Girl.

In all, she has been incredibly brave and handled it well.

I thought we might have a setback this morning at the library, when a little boy her age was bebopping around with one in his mouth.  I had fleeting visions of her knocking him down, grabbing the pacifier and making a break for it out the open front doors.

“He has a binky, Mama,” Wyokiddo told me, in a tone that was a more than a little accusatory.

I held my breath wondering if my last glimpse of Wyokiddo would be of her with a Pete the Cat library book in one hand, a handful of the kid’s hair in the other and a stolen binky in her mouth as she screamed down the Main, butterfly dress flapping in the breeze behind her.

“Huh,” I told her.  If 3 years of parenting has taught me anything, it’s that sometimes the best defense is a complete and total lack of commitment.

“He’s not ready to be a big kid like me yet,”  she said in the self-assured, matter-of-fact way that only kids can do.

It’s hard to remember Wyokiddo being this small. Or having blue eyes. Now the eyes and the binky are gone, and I’m left with a rompin’, stompin’ preschooler. We are blessed.

I see now that my reluctance to shed this last bastion of childhood was as much about my own need to keep her small and innocent as it was about not causing her any pain.  She’s growing up, getting independent and forming opinions and ideas that aren’t mine.  She isn’t a toddler anymore, but a preschooler, ready to tackle whatever life throws at her.  It was time for me to recognize that transition, too.

As we headed to the car, she took one last look at the boy with the binky and asked, “Do big girls get a special snack at the grocery store?”

Well played, my little one.  Well played.  I pray you handle all of these growing up moments with such confidence and aplomb.

humor, writing

Why Yes, I am “The Lady of the House”

The propane guys inadvertently made my morning.  Maybe my whole day, as I’m still giggling.  This morning, a contractor my husband had contacted to get an estimate on some repair work at the bird farm rang the doorbell at our house.  Only after the furry alarm system teed off and Wyokiddo was corralled,  was I able to open the door and see what he needed.  It was a harried, chaotic and noisy moment and not a great start to our morning.
“Hi!  Your husband wanted me to take a look at some propane tanks and lines, and to call when we got here,” he told me, standing on my front step with his hat in his hand.  “But I left his number on my desk.  I figured the lady of the house would know how to find him.”

ladyLady of the House?  Oh My!  I’ve never been called the Lady of the House.  I practically tittered.

Some lady.  Wyokiddo and I were enjoying a lazy morning and I was still in my pajamas and glasses (read holey yoga pants and stained t-shirt).

The Free Dictionary online clarified this fun new phrase for me:
lady of the house – a wife who manages a household while her husband earns the family income.  

Bedhead and all, I suppose I qualified as the lady of the house.  I might start referring to myself as that.  How very Mary Lincoln it would be.

“Downar Bird Farm, this is the Lady of the House Speaking.”

“The Lady of the House requests your presence at a barbecue at her residence.”

I like it.

Now before all you modern woman choke on your Cheerios and start searching for my address to mail me your dog-eared copy of the “Feminine Mystique,” hear me out.  I don’t think I’ve set the woman’s movement back 50 years.

I chose to take it as a compliment.  I do manage our household.  I balance Wyokiddo, the dogs and the occasional overlap between our home and my husband’s office.  I try to do so with humor, humility and grace, but some days I feel like a big fat epic failure in accomplishing that.  Like when the propane guy comes at 9 a.m. and I’m not even wearing a bra.

So being referred to as a lady, or lady of the house, was a kindness bestowed by the stranger.  In that moment, he made me feel calm and capable.  He made me smile.  And I felt empowered.

Why, yes, I am the lady of the house!  And I’m proud of it.  I run our household.  I keep it mostly clean.  I keep my kid fed, the dogs happy and my husband healthy and loved.  I do the dishes, make the bed, make three healthy meals a day, schedule appointments, read stories, kiss boo-boos, complete crafts, pick up puzzles and sometimes I even find time for a little Downton Abbey.

I am the lady of the house and freaking CEO of 3998 Road 42.  Even in pajamas. 🙂


politics, writing

I Pledge Allegiance

 The following post is part of my participation in Blogging 101.  Our assignment was to blog a response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “I Pledge Allegiance.”

IMG_0497I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Indivisible?  I’m not so sure any more.  Read a news paper.  Check out Facebook.  Watch the debates.  At every turn it seems like there is  an idea, group, or person trying to tear this country apart.  Ask anyone, and they’ll tell you in their opinion on why the country is going to hell.  In fact, Google “This country is going to hell” and you’ll get about 196,000,000 responses.  Well, now 196,000,001.

I don’t agree with everything going on in our country right now.  I don’t get our obsession with celebrities we’ve never met and idolizing those with the least morals.  I don’t understand how people can care so much about a lion in a foreign country they couldn’t find on a map when there are people starving and struggling around them.  I don’t understand why people ever take up smoking when they now know it is unequivocally bad for your health.  And I REALLY don’t understand common core math.

But there are still so many good and wonderful things about this country.  I could point out the obvious and talk about our infrastructure, our court system, public education accessible to all, public health care and the most abundant and stable supply of food in the nation.  These systems, any public system, can always use improvements.  But at their core, these systems are fundamentally sound and readily available to all.

But for me, the good things are much more personal.

Wyokiddo will know innocence.  She will grow up in a place where she can still run free.  A place where she can play in dirt, throw rocks and catch frogs.  And when she’s old enough, she can go to school and learn about all sorts of extraordinary things.  She lives where kids can be kids, instead of having to start working in their family farm or factory.  She won’t have to stay at home to take care of younger brothers and sisters while her parents work to provide a meager existence for her.

Wyokiddo will know the beauty of nature.  She will see mountains and streams and deserts and canyons, all largely untouched by humans.  She will see elk and moose and grouse.  She will watch bald eagles soar high over head.  She will have the opportunity to hunt.  She will learn the responsibility of being a meat-eater and make a first-hand connection between what we eat and the price that animal pays for our satisfaction.

Wyokiddo will have a chance to attend college and choose a career of her choice.  She can be a doctor, an engineer or a teacher.  She might not go to college at all, instead becoming a self-taught wildlife photographer.  Or a dancer.  Her future is up to her, not pre-ordained according to any religion or pre-determined by her government.

Wyokiddo will have a chance to marry a person of her choosing.  Or not marry.  We hope it’s a man and that he has a really nice ranch in northern Wyoming, but hey, parents have to dream…

So my pledge to my country is this…I pledge to remember that America still leads the world in the principles that matter most: the rule of law, equal rights, and freedom in just about every sense of the word.  I pledge to focus on what’s right with the U.S.A. and remind my friends and family just how lucky we are to live in the land of the free and the home of the brave.  She’s not perfect, but she’s closer to perfect than any other country in the history of the world.  And that is more than enough for me.


Kids, parenting, photography

Here’s to Kairos time

Farmer Emily 3Recently, a friend of mine shared a blog post called Don’t Carpe Diem.  In all honesty, I didn’t care for the post.  But she does reference “Kairos” time, and the concept resonated with me.

Wikipedia defines Kairos as follows:

  1. Kairos (καιρός) is an ancient Greek word meaning the right or opportune moment (the supreme moment). The ancient Greeks had two words for time, chronos and kairos. While the former refers to chronological or sequential time, the latter signifies a time lapse, a moment of indeterminate time in which everything happens.

In Christian theology, kairos is “the appointed time in the purpose of God.”

No matter which definition you prefer, the concept is a powerful one.

As a mother, and wife, I can get caught up in chronos time.  When time did Wyokiddo get up?  How long did she nap?  How long will it take me to get dinner on the table?  How long to I have to tinker with my blog before my husband needs the computer?

But sometimes, I get out of my own head and just enjoy the moment instead of worrying about what should, or could, come next.

As the blog author described her interpretation of kairos time, I couldn’t help but think back to this photo, one of my favorite I’ve taken of Wyokiddo this summer.  She was having fun picking up dandelions and blowing the seeds into the wind.  Watching her that night, in that moment, time stopped for me.  I wasn’t worried about if she knew her ABCs well enough or if she watched too much TV.  I didn’t care if we were late for bedtime or if the house got vacuumed that night.  I simply enjoyed an amazing moment with my beautiful, precious, precocious 3-year old.

I need more of those moments.  No, wait.  More accurately, I need to make space in my life for more of those moments.  Because kairos moments happen all the time.  I’m just too wrapped up in myself and the worries of my day to notice.

So here’s to letting go of the chronos and embracing the kairos moments, when the world stops and love and life and happiness and sadness come together in a glorious, shining moment.

country living, insects, photography


Praying MantisTonight was another creature first for me – a praying mantis!  This beauty was climbing its way across the potted flowers along our driveway.

I’ve since learned they are more accurately called mantids and that there are more than 2,400 species of mantid, praying or otherwise.  They have compound eyes that are spread wide across their head to give them a wider field of vision.  The dark spot on each eye is a psedudopupil, which really isn’t a pupil at all, but an optical phenomena.

Praying mantids are highly predacious and feed on a variety of insects, including moths, crickets, grasshoppers and flies. They intently watch and stalk their prey. They will eat each other.

It’s a mantid eat mantid world out there.  Be careful, folks!

agriculture, photography


Sunflower SunsetI discovered a new happy place tonight – a field of cultivated sunflowers is growing just to the west of our house.  And for good measure, a few wild sunflowers are growing along the roadside.  Sunflowers make me smile.

According to the National Sunflower Association, the wild sunflower is native to North America but commercialization of the plant took place in Russia. It was only recently that the sunflower plant returned to North America to become a cultivated crop. But it was the American Indian who first domesticated the plant into a single headed plant with a variety of seed colors including black, white, red, and black/white striped.

Did you know there are 70  species of sunflower?  Most people love the sunflower for its vibrant color and beauty, but sunflowers are also an important food source.  There are two species of commercial sunflower, and they are grown from the Dakotas south to Texas.  Sunflower oil is a valued and healthy vegetable oil and sunflower seeds are enjoyed as a healthy, tasty snack and nutritious ingredient to many foods.  Sunflower seeds are also a favorite of wild birds (and squirrels, the industrious little buggers).

Bushy tailed critters aside, seeing a golden field of blooming sunflowers stretched out before me is the perfect end to another great day here in Eastern Wyoming.



Whistle While You Till

When we told everyone we were moving from Western Wyoming to the eastern side of the state, a friend commented that I wouldn’t have anything pretty to photograph anymore. She couldn’t have been more wrong. Eastern Wyoming, while very different, is full of amazing things to photograph, including agriculture life. Just check out these beautiful photos from Liz, a friend of mine in real life and the blogosphere over at the

The Farm Paparazzi

Drilling 2015 | The Farm Paparazzi Drilling malt barley seed

Happy First Day of Spring! It’s been beautiful here in Wheatland. Our trademark Rapid Air Movement (RAM, a.k.a. wind) has been kind to us, the temperatures have been favorable and we haven’t yet gotten dumped on by a major blizzard. I’m sure this also makes the ranchers happy as they calve this time of year.

Drilling 2015 | The Farm Paparazzi Filling the grain drill with malt barley seed

We’ve been in full swing getting malt barley planted. It’s one of my favorite crops to watch grow and to harvest. Nothing like seeing beautiful fields of green and, later on, golden waves of grain!

Tillage 2015 | The Farm Paparazzi Malt barley growing in June 2014

Malt Barley Harvest 2014 | The Farm Paparazzi Malt barley harvest 2014. Combine harvests the grain (left) and the grain cart takes the grain to load on the trucks (right).

In order to prepare the seed bed for the malt barley, we’ve been busy tilling; discing, plowing and roller-harrowing. I’ve…

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Kids, Little Girl Bedroom

Zebra Cowgirl

In a few short weeks, my daughter will officially be a preschooler (SOB!).  When we moved, we promised Wyokiddo we would create a new “big girl” bedroom for her that she could help design and decorate.  Originally, she asked for black walls.  Outdoor Guy said no.  Then she asked for pink and black and white and green and purple and blue.


In lieu of making her room look like one giant package of Skittles, we settled on aqua for the walls with black, pink, white and purple accents.  Since she’s been spending the last few days with her grandparents, I took the opportunity to get to work.  I’m pleased with the results.  I call it Zebra Cowgirl.

I love the paint color (previously it was a dark blue that made the room feel like a cave) and the pop of pink added by the bedding, rug and outlet covers.  I also repurposed some coffee cans with a little pink spray paint to create colorful canisters for her toys.  But it’s the little touches that I hope make Wyokiddo feel right at home, like her name above her bed, and vinyl cow silhouettes.  After all, moo cows are her most very favorite animal!

Soon enough, the cows and horses and Minnie Mouse stuff will be replaced with pictures of boys and clothes and other assorted tween and teen paraphernalia.  But for now, it’s a room perfect for my cow-loving, pink and black and white and purple and blue and green craving little dynamo, who outgrew her nursery but is still perfectly little enough to snuggle with Mama.


Zebra Cowgirl Room

photo (3)