15 Blogs Depicting Life on a Ranch for Today’s Family

ranchIf you’ve ever longed for the wide open spaces or thought that living the simple life would be a blessing, then take a look at these 15 blog articles about life on a ranch. These bloggers let you step into their shoes and see what their daily lives and activities look like.  Find out what a horse rancher does on a day-to-day basis, as well as all of the ins and outs of cattle ranching.  Does the work ever end, or do these ranchers live, eat and breathe life on the ranch?  Find out by reading their blog posts.  Horse and cattle ranches aren’t the only ones out there; you can also learn about llama, ostrich and goat ranches, just to name a few!

Horse Ranch

One thing about ranchers is that they try to be self-sufficient, both to keep more money on the ranch and because they are often located quite a distance from civilization. Some ranchers will plant tons of vegetables so that the food can be canned or preserved for the future. You can even find out how to make your own saltine crackers! To read about daily life on the ranch, check out the next five blog entries.

Cattle Ranch

Thanks to a blogger turned television host, more people are getting an idea of what life on a cattle ranch is like. Ree Drummond’s blog Pioneer Woman is included in this list, so you can read more about her life on a ranch in Oklahoma.  Other cattle ranchers share their versions of life on the ranch and the challenges they face.  Take a look at these five blog posts for more ranch stories.

  • Spring Horse/Ranch Keeping Talk of saddle making and calf birthing can be found on this post.
  • Snow Days are Work Days for Farm Kids Read all about a new calf being born and what this family did to make things a little warmer for the baby.
  • It’s Official… Read this story about how this ranch gal spent the day moving mommas and calves from one field to another.
  • 13 Thursday—My Answers One blogger asks a bunch of questions to this blogger and she answers them in this post.
  • Sorting Pairs in the Cold The Pioneer Woman started with her blog about ranch life and went on to write fictional books, children’s books, cookbooks and to host her own cooking show.

Other Ranching

While cattle and horse ranchers get more press, there are many more types of ranches out there.  Read the five blog articles below to learn about raising everything from llamas to goats to ostriches. These blog posts will open the door to a whole new world and give you a glimpse of a lifestyle that is not common to many people.  Maybe these stories will inspire you to quit your job and go live on a ranch!

Responsibilities of a Nanny Employer

employersBeing a nanny employer is very different than owning a company and employing company workers. Nanny employers are household employers, so there are a different set of legal and industry standards that they must adhere to. Here’s a look at what those responsibilities are.

Pay the “nanny tax”. Household employers are required to pay taxes on their nanny and other household employees. This includes paying the employer’s portion of Social Security and Medicare and withholding and submitting the employee’s portion of those taxes. Plus, you are also responsible for paying state and federal unemployment. There might also be additional taxes owed depending on where you live. Paying your nanny legally not only protects you from back taxes, penalties and fines, but it offers your nanny a lot of benefits. She’s able to prove her income so she can buy a car or lease an apartment, it gives her unemployment protection and it adds to her Social Security retirement account.

Develop a detailed job description. As the employer, it’s your job to clearly outline exactly what you need from your nanny. That includes her schedule, childcare related tasks such as your child’s laundry, cooking healthy meals and cleaning up the bedroom and playroom, household related tasks such as family laundry, grocery shopping and dinner precreation, the type of daily environment you want her to create, activities you want her to engage your child in and other requirements and expectations. Unlike group care, where the owner or teacher decides what caregivers do, in nanny care that falls to the parent. This allows for a lot of customization, but also means parents must give some real thought to what they want and need from their nanny. A written job description gives the nanny clear guidance about what’s required of her.

Create a nanny contract. While there isn’t a legal requirement to have a nanny contract in place, it’s a very smart idea. As the employer, it’s your job to define exactly what your nanny is required to do, set performance goals, outline on-duty guidelines and detail a host of other things. The easiest and most effective way to do that is through a comprehensive nanny contract. A contract or work agreement will outline the wage and benefits offered and make sure both you and your nanny are on the same page about all the issues within the employment relationship. This will help you develop good communication habits and avoid common problems along the way.

Communicate with your nanny on a regular basis. Just like you’d have regular staff meetings at your company, you need to have regular meetings with your nanny. Daily check-ins are a great way for your nanny to fill you in on what she and your child did during the day. However, those few minutes at the end of the day aren’t enough. Monthly family meetings let you know how your child is doing, if there are any challenges or issues that need to be addressed and how things are going within the employment relationship. Often, your nanny won’t bring up a problem during the daily check-in, but will talk about it during a scheduled family meeting. Effective communication is one of the most important ingredients in a long term, successful nanny/family relationship, so investing in regular meetings over the short run will lead you to success over the long run.

Support your nanny in her role. You hired your nanny to care for your children and you trust her to use her best judgment as she does that. Give her the authority she needs to be an effective caregiver with your children. Let your kids know that you and the nanny are on the same team and support each other’s decisions. Follow through on the rules and consequences she puts in place. Not only is that the best approach for your children, it’s also the way to be a great employer.

Treat your nanny as a professional. Although your caregiver works in your home, she’s still a professional. Respect the boundaries of her job description and don’t allow favors and unrelated tasks to become part of her day. Honor her daily schedule and make sure that you’re home on time or that you give her ample notice if you have to be late. Pay her on time without reminders. Provide her with the supplies she needs to do the things your kids love to do. Treating your nanny like the professional she is will go a long way in making her a happy employee.

It can be hard juggling the responsibilities of having a nanny sometimes. But parents who take their role as nanny employers seriously are more likely to have happy nannies who want to stay in their jobs for the long haul.

10 Productive Things You Can Do While Waiting in the School Pickup Line

carlineBalancing all of the tasks of parenthood in today’s busy world can feel overwhelming, especially if you’re trying to juggle a family and a busy career. What you may not realize, though, is just how much time you spend in waiting rooms and standing in lines, waiting for the next task to start. School pick-up zones are notoriously crowded, and can take forever to get through. You can end up spending a load of time in a state of suspended animation when you have to show up early to get in line and aren’t able to move until well after the last bell. Taking that time back and making it work in your favor by turning your daily pick-up chore into a time that’s packed with productivity can help you knock out a surprising number of items on your to-do list.

  1. Return Phone Calls and Text Messages – Talking on the phone or sending and receiving text messages while you’re driving is both dangerous and, in many areas of the country, illegal. Rather than risking an accident or a citation for allowing your phone to be a distraction while you drive, hold off on returning those calls or messages until you arrive at the school. Chances are that you’ll have plenty of time to attend to all of them while waiting for your little ones to be released.
  2. Check and Send Emails – Work emails don’t stop just because you’re off the clock for the day, but wrapping up any loose ends or responding to emails with your smartphone allows you to manage as much as possible before your children climb in the car with tales of their day and big accomplishments.
  3. Plan Meals for the Week – Cooking a healthy, balanced meal every night can seem like a task that’s simply too large to manage for busy, working moms. What you may not realize is that planning the meals for every night of the week in advance and selecting quick, easy recipes can make preparing dinner each night a snap.
  4. Make Your Grocery List – Grocery shopping without a list increases your chances of forgetting vital items, and can even cause you to spend more than you intended as you fill the cart with impulse items. While you’re waiting for that last bell to ring and the kids to come flooding out of the doors, why not put the finishing touches on your grocery list?
  5. Do Some Online Shopping – Picking up that last minute gift for a friend or relative, saving money on household items from online retailers and even finding the perfect outfit can all be done quickly and easily while you’re waiting in line to pick up your children from school.
  6. Catch Up on the News – It’s not easy to find time each day to dedicate to reading the news, but staying informed of current events is necessary during such turbulent times. Grab the newspaper on your way out of the door or pull up headlines on a smartphone while you’re in the pick-up line.
  7. Foster a Hobby – Something as relaxing and rewarding as knitting or crocheting is definitely productive, especially if you turn out a scarf or a darling pair of mittens along the way. Knitting and crochet projects can be easily transported in a small, dedicated bag and whipped out at a moment’s notice. Remember that it’s never too late to learn a new skill, and that any time spent improving yourself by increasing your knowledge is certainly time spent well.
  8. Organize Your Calendar – Keeping up with everything you have to do, all of the upcoming events in your family and the schedules of your children can feel like a full-time job all by itself. Getting a calendar organized and ready to go for the days and weeks ahead can be done while you’re waiting in the pick-up line, and can minimize the likelihood of important appointments falling through the cracks.
  9. Read – Whether you’re reading a hefty instructional tome or mystery fiction, it’s difficult to argue with reading as a productive activity. Because books and eReaders are also quite portable, you can easily take them with you while you wait in school pick-up traffic.
  10. Map Out an Exercise Plan – Getting in shape requires dedication and determination, along with a solid plan of attack. Spending the sedentary moments of your pick-up wait time to organize your exercise routine and plan a new diet is a great way to pass the time in a healthy, worthwhile fashion.

Remember that productivity doesn’t just consist of cranking out projects and crossing items off of lists. Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is simply relax, so don’t be afraid to spend part of your time in line meditating, praying or breathing deeply in a bid to collect your thoughts and get motivated for the rest of the evening.

10 Weight Loss Strategies for Busy Moms

scaleWhen most of your meals consist of scavenged chicken nuggets and cookies that are gobbled while you stand at the sink during a rare window of narrow opportunity, managing your weight is a challenge. Adding the demands of a career and running a household while struggling to drop remaining baby weight even years after giving birth makes the process even more difficult, and can be so frustrating that it’s very tempting to simply give up. After all, who has time to go to the gym and prepare perfectly balanced meals? Actually, you may be surprised at how easy it is to work simple, effective lifestyle changes into your everyday routine that will help you reach your goals.

  1. Make Your Smartphone Work for You – Most modern, productive moms have a smartphone that they rely on for everything from scheduling to family photo storage. What you may not realize is that your phone can also be a fairly powerful weight loss aide. There is a plethora of diet and fitness apps available for a variety of operating systems, making it easy to keep track of your diet or calorie intake as you go about your day.
  2. Set Up a Support Network – When you have a support network of other moms with similar goals, you may find it much easier to get yourself in shape. A partner or a small group are very helpful when it comes to accountability, and will also give you a built-in shoulder to cry on when the going gets a bit tough.
  3. Take Advantage of Every Opportunity to Be Active – You may be surprised by how much of your day is spent on inactivity. Rather than whipping out your phone to play games or an eReader to keep you company while the kids are at soccer practice, take the opportunity to go for a walk. Park farther from the door when you shop, and opt for the stairs rather than waiting for the elevator. Remember, every bit of exercise will add up!
  4. Think Before You Eat – Scarfing a handful of cookies and washing them down with a swig of soda may seem like a quick-fix solution when hunger pangs strike while you’re on the go, but you can make it easier for yourself to make healthier choices. Before you eat something, stop to think about how healthy it is. That one brief pause may bring you to your senses, and several of them can help you lose weight.
  5. Remove Temptation at Home – Even if you have a houseful of sugar-addicted children, there’s no real reason why you have to keep tempting, unhealthy food items in the house. Toss out the empty calories and fill their space with less fattening fare. Getting your kids in on the act may cause a few protests at first, but it will also help them form the foundation for better eating habits as they reach adulthood.
  6. Play With Your Kids – Chasing after a healthy, active child is no mean feat. Just managing to keep up with a child can be physically demanding, which is why going the extra mile to engage in active play that’s appropriate to your kids’ age groups can have real results. You’ll also be killing two birds with one stone, as you’re providing the little ones with the one-on-one time they need.
  7. Plan Meals a Week in Advance – Pulling together a healthy meal every night just isn’t something that the average, harried mom has time for. When you set aside a bit of time on Sunday evening to plan simple, healthy meals for the entire week and even do a bit of advance prep work, you’ll be able to whip up healthier and significantly cheaper meals than those you share in a restaurant.
  8. Stick to Water for Hydration – Sodas, energy drinks and coffee all have their appeal, but they may also be filled with artificial sweeteners, chemical additives and loads of empty calories. The next time you start feeling a bit dry, reach for a glass of water instead.
  9. Don’t Let the Scale Discourage You – If you’re pairing your dietary changes with physical activity, the scale probably isn’t your friend. Replacing fat with lean muscle can even raise the number on your scale’s display, but your “skinny jeans” are a far more accurate measurement tool.
  10. Keep a Journal – It’s easy to say that you don’t have time for a journal, but it can be as simple as a quick email sent to yourself each day detailing what you ate and how much physically active time you had each day. Writing down everything you eat forces you to be honest about your habits, and can be a very powerful motivator.

Whatever you do, remember not to be too hard on yourself. Getting discouraged when you don’t feel like you’re losing enough weight is easy, but it’s important to keep the old adage about Rome being built in a day in mind. Your progress won’t happen overnight. In fact, it may be quite gradual. Still any results are better than no results, and you won’t obtain them if you don’t persevere.