Friday, June 26, 2015

So I Guess June Was My Blogging Vacation?

Sorry friends.

I have done a lot of sharing on Facebook (if you haven't followed me there, search Confessions of a Farm Wife, and there you go).

I have put pictures on Instagram (again, follow me @emilywebel...evidently I need more friends?).

But blogging has come in a very, very, very distant third.

Sigh.

I would love to have an exotic tale of how Joe and I were whisked away on some summer getaway, or that we all went as a family on some well planned, family friendly vacation.

Unless you consider trips to the pool, grocery store, softball games and endless hours spent refereeing twins who are evidently training to be baby WWE wrestlers vacations, then we've just been here, trying to figure out how to do summer with six kids.

So far, so good...I guess. I have to laugh at myself, however. When we first had the twins, folks asked how in the world we were able to get anywhere. The babies were on heart monitors, learning to nurse, etc., etc., but they were NOT MOBILE and OPINIONATED. Mary and Caroline were complacent, compliant, portable newborns.

Now?

Not so much.

Mary is working on mastering crawling, and Caroline has been the queen of rolling and rolling and rolling, so when they are in lock down (i.e., their car seats or a stroller), they are miserable.

It's super fun.

So, getting places is an act of sheer will. Getting out the door is insane (plus, we are currently in the outdoor phase of our construction, so our usual door, with the sidewalk directly to the garage is no longer usable, and if it WOULD STOP RAINING, we could actually start on the final phase of our project. And quit looking like someone who doesn't care lives in the house...I'm digressing.), and with all the big kids' activities and their want to go and do, blogging or completing a thought that doesn't involve logistics of some sort is very low on my totem pole.

However, today, you're in luck! A whiny post about how I can't post!!

Anyway, here's just some basic "what's going on" on the farm updates to tide you over until I have another stretch of quiet (see you in 2025).

1) Josie and I got to get away for an afternoon and do what we do best: shop! We ended up choosing new Wayfarers. Not until we snapped the pic did I realize we chose the same style. She is definitely a mini-me!!
 2) Anna has had a few cattle shows, and this one was particularly special to me: my home fair grounds, sponsored by my old high school. Thanks Jen Beard for this beautiful picture, and for confirming the fact that I need a "big girl" camera.
 3) As a part of Joe's job as Ag Teacher, he helps facilitate a lot of community activities. In the summer, there's a festival per week it seems, and around here, one must have a pedal pull! One of his students constructed a new sled for the pedal pull, and Jack went to test it out. Please excuse the red tractor he is sitting on...we needed something *ahem* not as fancy to pull the sled! Ha!

3) Amelia turned 6, and needed a spa party...because, well, of course! She and two little friends were pampered at Spa Webel.
 4) Finally, LOOK!!! We finally got it together to have the babies' six months pictures, two months late. Amy Davis, at Amy Davis Photography, took this beauty (and I'm sure many many more) yesterday. Amy and I run together (well, not so consistently thanks to these girlies), hang at the pool together, and she just so happens to take amazing pictures. She also sympathizes with me about our construction, as her house is under a big remodel. Her husband is crafting an unbelievable space for her family, and when it's done, I hope to steal ideas from her!! Anyway, how CUTE are babies in baskets??? To answer very common questions: Yes, they do NOT look alike, but are starting to resemble each other. Yes, Caroline is smaller than Mary. Yes, Mary is sitting up better than Caroline, and YES, I am certain they are twins. Seriously, the last question is truly asked more than you would think.

Thank you for being patient with me this summer. I promise, I'll have opinions on various ag related issues, the weather, and a host of other earth shattering topics as they come about. I promise.

I'm sure you're waiting with bated breath.

Happy summer!

Friday, June 12, 2015

You Thought the Internet Was Big? Well...

What about electricity?

This was a conversation my grandmother had with one of my cousins as they were discussing the amazing capabilities of the Internet. She listened intently with great interest, as she always does. When he finished explaining how life changing, amazing and innovative the virtual world was, she replied, in her quietly calm voice,

"So was electricity."

Touche.

This is my grandma, though. It's been a big week for her, for Amelia, for all of us. We have celebrated my Grandma Mary's 101st year this week. I am so thankful for her, and what makes her birthday even more special, is that she shares it with our precious third child, Amelia. Birthdays on June 10th are celebrated at Grandma's house with a big dinner around her table, stretched in her dining room, covered with the same perfectly pressed white cloth that has been covering that table since I can remember. Now we celebrate with two cakes: one big one for Grandma, and a little one for Amelia. In Amelia's six years, this has become the tradition, and while some six year olds may complain about having a joint celebration, Amelia is the type of kid who loves to have her birthday shared with her beloved great grandma. While Amelia is too young to completely understand how truly remarkable this celebration is (she just loves the little cake, and singing "Happy Birthday" twice), I am nearly brought to tears every year we have had this celebration. Not very many people can say they have their grandparents at age 37, let alone one in triple digits who willingly orders a special cake for your little girl.

It's a great day.

It's bigger than the Internet being invented.

It's bigger than the presents we give.

It's bigger than anything I can put into words on this dreary day.

My Grandma Mary and my Amelia are lights in my world. While I know that 101 years is a number that is hard to keep one-upping, much like the invention of electricity, I have truly learned to cherish my sweet grandma. Sharp minded, she still plays games with my kids, asks them detailed questions about school, calls Joe about his cattle he keeps on my uncle's (her son's) pasture.

I feel this same unbridled happiness towards our sweet Millie. She is one of those kids that exudes life. Like her birthday buddy, she's a listener. Maybe that's because she's the third kid. She always has a story or a funny joke or just some sort of funny expression. We are so lucky to have her personality in our mix. She makes the other kids laugh, helps with our babies, and is Jack's best buddy. While being the third kid out of six has its challenges, she has tried to adapt and figure out how to be the best Amelia she can be. As cheesy as that sounds, she has perfected it.

It's been a great week. While I am a few days late on this birthday post thanks to the busy-ness of it all, I am so lucky to have had a week like this.

Happy birthday, Grandma Mary and Amelia. June 10th is the best day, thanks to you two.





Monday, June 1, 2015

It's Summer? Really?

I'm only saying this because I'm sitting here in a closed up house with a jacket on over my running gear. It's cold here!

It's summer?

Really?

Really.

It's summer in that we've already had ballgames and a sleepover and swimming. It's summer because there's been daily calf washing, groaning about Mean Mom's screen time rules.

It's summer because 50% of the kids are still sleeping, and it's a quarter to eight.

I'm typing fast. Time's ticking!

This summer is an adjustment for us. Joe is home (sans a few FFA/Ag teacher conferences). There are two babies (who enjoyed crying for a majority of the early evening hours last night. Thank you, teeth.). There are four other kids who are used to picking up and going. Now, it takes a plan, an army of snacks and diapers and the correct time to get anywhere.

So, because my time is ticking and my table for eight is being delivered soon (whoohoo!!), and my rock chip will be fixed today (it's a big day here!), I'll give you some highlights since last we met.

1) Planting and side-dressing is complete. There's a lot of jockeying of equipment around here. It's like a big game of Tetris to get our equipment in the machine shed. I think all of those years my dad spent as the "Master Packer" when we went anywhere on a trip or back to college has prepped him for these days.

2) Speaking of my dad, he'll be in Cuba (as in the country...if you're in Illinois where we are, there needs to be a distinction thanks to a tiny town nearby!), starting Sunday. He's one of few commodity representatives amongst other government officials going, and we're excited to hear what Castro has been doing all these years.

3) Cattle shows. My girl has a slate full this summer. While, again, that means planning and prepping and hard work, this kid has committed to working on her animal with love and care. She's also adopted the "cut off sleeves" look for this time in the barn. When she asked me to cut off the sleeves on her shirt, I referred her to her dad, as I froze. Do you cut off above the seam, or at it? I'm too preppy for this endeavor. Luckily, Dad to the rescue, and as I folded her shirt, I remarked to Joe about how she's now a sleeveless shirt wearing girl, and he said, and I quote, "This just reaffirms her awesomeness." End quote.

4) Team Beef Illinois. Had the best time last Tuesday. I got to pretend I was working again, in heels and everything, and traveled to Bloomington for a Team Beef Illinois advocacy training with Daren Williams, Executive Director of Communications for the National Cattelmen's Beef Association.
Wow. My advocacy for beef has been upped a notch, thanks to his information, and I would like to work for them. The end.

(If you're in Illinois, or any cattle producing state for that matter, and you run, I encourage you to find your Team Beef group. Check out our group on Facebook, Team Beef Illinois.)

5) Babies. They are now crying, and so I'll end with this. Watching all the tragedy in the world, flooding in Texas and Oklahoma, and now the Northeast, families killed for money, cancer, terrorism, etc., I'm so hopeful that you will spend the summer finding joy in your every day. This is my goal for the summer. Joy in the everyday. My babies are screaming. I have laundry in the dryer that needs to be folded. There are papers that must be filed in an office that is partially put together. These are not things of stress. These are happy times. Please help me remember this as summer wanes on, and I get my pity party on.

Stay warm today, Midwestern friends, and remember, it is really summer out there!


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Holding His Own

In case you haven't noticed, I tend to blog on my kids' birthdays.

Mainly because I feel nostalgic and love to celebrate them.

And then there's also the fact that I have given up baby booking/scrapbooking/videoing anything other than on my iPhone...etc., etc.

So, today's Jack's fourth birthday. Just a few months ago (read: four years ago), I wrote this about him. So full of questions about how this little guy would fit into the land of girls. Little did we know, right?

He burst into this family as a happy baby. Easily pacified, easily entertained, always being held, comforted, cared for by his sisters. He fit perfectly as the man amongst the women. Jack loves the attention his sisters give him, and play Barbies willingly, as long as Batman is a main character, and Barbie uses the potty. Lots.

Just one year ago, we were done. Jack was it. He was the baby, and we thought that was that.

Ha.

With the birth of the twins, he went from the baby to the middle in a four minute span. But before that four minute change,  I was nervous. I was nervous for many, many reasons, but at the forefront was concern for my little man.

How would he handle having not one but two new babies around when he was the one friends and family called "Baby Jack?"

Plus, last summer, he was at his peak of toddler naughtiness. When asked his name, he'd tell everyone, "Jackson Richard Webel," as he heard his three names. A lot.

However, my worries were put to rest. He has thrived at becoming a big brother, and the middle man in our kid line with amazing resilience. The babies are his biggest fans, and he's enjoying being the main attraction.

And now my little man is four. Almost a whole hand, as Amelia reminded me today.

Four years ago, we were worried about how he would fit in. We were concerned about how having a boy would create a different dynamic on the farm. We were excited with the possibility of another cattleman coming into the family.

Ha, again.

Although our life has definitely changed in the past four years, especially the last four months, Jack's life as a farm boy has not changed too much. He still does chores with the show calves with his dad. He still rides in the semi with my dad, hauling grain. I think, too, my uncle has a soft spot for him, and would take him with at any time.

Jack's spunk, slight orneriness, and sunshine make up for the constant questions he fires at us at an exhausting rate. No less than nine thousand questions about crops and cows are asked on our way to preschool.  However, the question that comes up about once every couple of days that breaks my heart is, "Mom, is Dad still a farmer?"

Gulp.

Answering that questions with a, "Yes, he is, just a farmer of young minds and show calves," is a little tricky. In my time in agriculture, I have come to realize that the name "farmer" is not a one size fits all term. I once wrote a post about how hobby farmers aren't really farmers. That's not necessarily true, just a picture painted with a different brush. Now that we're in flux with our relationship with farming, I still feel like we're farmers, just a different type of crop. We're grooming agriculturalists. My landscape fence still includes soybeans or corn (depending on the crop rotation), there's still anhydrous tanks in my driveway, and I consider Jack a farm boy, through and through. He can identify equipment, animals, crops, you name it. Just maybe not from the cab of a tractor sitting next to his dad.

Jack's sweet demeanor has helped me work through this time. In his four years, he has developed this personality that is ornery and sweet nearly simultaneously. Is that being a boy? Currently, he's trying to "scare me to death" with his new Batman robot, but in a few minutes, he'll tell me how beautiful I look (Is that not Joe Webel's son or what?? Always working the ladies...). This light has kept a lot of laughter in this house when it could get a little tense.

He truly has held his own during our crazy time of transition. Jack brings such light and life to us, I hardly have the energy for it some days, and others, I just want to bottle it up and save it. And those questions...I should be so thankful to hear that little voice from way in the back of the vehicle. I should record his sweet voice announcing the comings and goings of the world around him. We should all be more aware and in tune of our surroundings, right?

Thank you, Jack, for coming into our lives and holding your own with this crazy crew. We love you and can only wonder at what the next four, fourteen, forty years will bring for you.

Happiest of birthdays to you, Little Man.




Friday, May 15, 2015

He Took the Words (and the Burrito) Right Out of Mouth

Friends, while I have called out Dr. Oz and other extremist about GMOs, I AM for choice in food.

Who am I to tell you what to buy for groceries? I don't know your religious, social, health, whatever issues.

I truly, truly believe you can eat whatever the heck you want. However, seriously consider WHY you're making these choices. This article from the Washington Post is BRILLIANT, and helps explain that while shopping at Whole Foods and eating at Chipotle may not be evil (per se), but if you're doing it out of a social injustice or for "scientific" reasons, stop and think.

Shop at Whole Foods, eat at Chipotle, but don't turn around and make a big Facebook post or a blanket statement as you leave the store or restaurant that a farmer who uses GMO seed to resist drought and will ultimate use less chemicals is bad. What's your science behind this? Check your facts and your figures and talk to a farmer. Don't make your statement just because, you know, Whole Foods told you to.

This is so true: “The trouble starts,” says Kahan, “when this communication environment fills up with toxic partisan meanings — ones that effectively announce that ‘if you are one of us, believe this; otherwise, we’ll know you are one of them.’ ”

Food wars is exactly what this man says: Us vs. Them. Friends, look around. We are so lucky. We are not dealing with third world issues. My biggest decision today is when will I work out, and what will we have for dinner, thanks to my full freezer, fridge and pantry.

We are not hungry. We are not dying of basic diseases that have been inevitably eradicated. We are lucky to have food, medicinal, and other choices.

Don't make it a war.

Read this article, and then make your decision. It's easy to be a follower. It's fun to be trendy. You think you're doing right by following the masses. But sometimes, majority doesn't rule. It's just scary. Shall we talk about all the crazy leaders in the world? We often tell our Josie, who tends to err on the side of smarty and bossy (where does she get this from???), use your powers for good. Leaders are blessed, loud, and some times incorrect.

Take some time to read this article. You won't regret it.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Growing Souls

If you’ve landed here, you’re either a loyal, lovely reader, or if you're a new friend, maybe you wanted a peek in my window of craziness.

Regardless, we're talking about mamas today. 

I was asked to write for Illinois Farm Families in honor of Mother’s Day, reflecting upon being a farm mom, only I have struggled with this. Maybe it’s because our role on the farm has changed. Maybe it’s because I just read a few really sad blogs about people who dislike Mother’s Day for numerous reasons. Maybe it’s because one of the twins was up at 4 AM, and I’m ready for a nap.

Anyway, I wrote one post, and scrapped it. Then I stared out the window (I know, productive, huh?). In our office, we can stare for miles of open farmland. Fields, pasture, hay fields, grain bins, you name it.

The view is stunning.

The view is growing.

Today was the first day I noticed how much growing was going on. You can “row” the corn plants. Tiny lime green leaves are sprouting happily through the dark earth. For acres, you can see their happy hearts lined up like school children. It’s pretty amazing.

But you know what’s truly amazing about this? Farmers and mothers are really leading parallel lives.

Moms, we are farmers too.

While my dad and uncle grow grain, and Joe raises beef cattle, we are growing souls, friends.

We are producing people. 
We are not just throwing our seeds out haphazardly. Like a good farmer, we wait until our conditions are right to start our growing season. As moms, we wait until our seeds are ready to go on that slide alone at the park, ride the bus like big kids, or wave good bye as they drive off, freshly licensed.

However, before we let go and let it grow, the prep work has to be done. While farmers work ground in preparation to plant the crop, mothers cultivate just the same. Singing a lullaby at night, helping with homework, pushing on the swing, schlepping kids to another doctor or dentist appointment, and yet another soccer, softball, dance practice, we mothers are prepping the foundation for our kids to become independent, creative people with problem solving skills who have compassion, patience, and a sense of humor.

Farmers tend to their fields by watching for weeds and insects, and being good stewards of their land. As a mom, I’m a farmer of souls, so I want to keep the weeds of not so great influence out. Guarding my kids’ innocence is top priority. Words like “stupid” are still naughty, and I’m okay with keeping them nerdy like that. I want to weed out the bad in this world until they’re mature to stand tall and handle it. A plant against a hard wind could snap, but if the roots and stalk are strong, it can weather the storm. I want my kids to be able to stand by their convictions, their beliefs, and be a person others want to be around. Stand up tall when life starts to get tough. Understand how to weather the storm. If I keep tending to their soul with kind words, a good example, patience (oh, is that hard), they can weather the storm that is life.

This growing souls can be worrisome, though, can't it? It can be tiring. Farmers feel our pain, ladies. Up all hours of the night, watching out the window, worrying: farmers and mothers are truly parallel beings. We’re just waiting to reap the benefits of our harvest, watching progress, willing potential. Will they get sick? {Will the soybeans have sudden death?}
Will they make it to school safely? {Augers, my friends, very scary things.}
What about that sleepover? {Working late into the night can be dangerous and difficult.}

Then there's the more selfish milestones I can't wait for: If I can just get the twins to sit up; when Anna can babysit long enough for me to get a long run in; when Josie and Amelia will make their own lunches; when Jack gets to kindergarten...my harvest will be bountiful, regardless of the worry and waiting in between. Farmers are the same. Ask any of them, regardless of what they grow. They're waiting and worrying.

I’m a lucky woman. Six little souls call me “Mom," and while I worry and stew and fret and wonder, I know that, like that little corn plant popping through, there’s so much potential, so much possibility. I just have to be patient and wait, and when it’s time to enjoy the harvest of my hard mothering work, I’ll have a gift that is better than any I could ever receive.



 ***This post was written as a guest post for the Illinois Farm Families blog. Enjoy more blogs from farm folks like me at www.watchusgrow.org

Friday, May 1, 2015

Being Extreme Is Just, Well, Being Extreme

Okay.

So my family farms. We are a grain farming operation, specifically growing corn and soybeans.

Grains.

We also grow kids around here. Lots of them. Healthy ones. Smart ones. Funny ones, and sometime ornery ones.

Har, har.

I don't contend to be an expert on anything, except maybe what NOT to wear to a school concert: answer, pajama pants, camo anything, and Kool Aid colored hair in adults should be outlawed. That, and talking during a concert.

But I digress.

Like I said, I do not contend to be an expert at anything, but I feel like after having six kids, I tend to be pretty well versed in all things baby/toddler/little kid. I'm getting there with early tweens, but that's uncharted waters that freak me out.

I'm digressing again.

Anyway, our babies are now nearly seven months old. They are getting better at sitting up, rolling around, and the other developmental milestones associated with living and thriving for half a year. So, we have started introducing grain cereals into their diet.

Like I did for the other children. Maybe at different times for each kid, but rice cereal and oatmeal are the first foods I used to introduce solids to my kids.

So far, so good. All children seem to be in good health.

However, today, I was alerted that there's a new suggestion for new moms: Do not feed your baby the first food of anything related to grains.

Oh new moms, bless you. Long, long ago, I was a new mom who had the time and energy to cut the dissolvable puffs in half (even though they were designed with a baby's throat in mind), so that my baby wouldn't choke. Long, long ago, I pored over articles and books and asked advice about everything. Again, I'm not claiming to be an expert, but I have learned in my ten years as a mom of a gaggle of kids, that all advice on kids are 1) just advice, a suggestion, if you will and 2) generally a trend someone is trying to push.

So, back to grains. Evidently, "food before one is just for fun" is a catch phrase as well as pushing no grains in a baby's diet. So, I did a little research (read: a google search, and let's be honest, the moms pushing this new trend probably did the same), and came across some suggested foods for babies instead of the bland, safe rice cereal some of us obviously idiotic mothers have been giving their sweet babies:

From the blog, The Healthy Home Economist, the suggestions of  a soft boiled egg from a pastured hen is a good first food. In the same blog, she also suggests a bit of raw grass fed beef and/or a buffalo liver, but since I'm completely grossed out by those two, let's focus upon the soft boiled egg from a pastured hen. This writer claims that these hens, who are living the dream life waltzing around a pasture, have more of the good cholesterol and omega 3s that babies need, ones that are found in breastmilk or formula. Okay, I get that. Rice cereal is probably a whole lotta nothing special, but I would like to remind my new found friend (read: source of laughing out loud) that I'm not just feeding the girls rice cereal whenever they're hungry. I don't need to go into any more detail about being the source of their omega 3s, but my girls are doing just fine, and wouldn't you think that RAW BEEF would be worse for a baby's tender stomach than RICE CEREAL?

Seriously.

Like all debates on food, whether GMO, organic, conventional or feeding your baby buffalo liver, being extreme about food is sometimes just plain ridiculous.

It's just extreme.

It's making your life consumed by what you put in your mouth. If I had to think about finding a pastured hen and hard boiling an egg for the babies I may be someone who is, quite frankly, a rich, fat American with first world problems.

Please note that I am neither rich or fat, but that I do tend to have very, very first world problems.

In closing, let's quit being so danged extreme about everything. Eat to be satisfied and nourished. Try your best to eat well, and for heaven's sake, put the raw beef down. You'll thank me later.