Friday, May 19, 2017

When Your Birthday Is in May, You Sometimes Get a List...

...but you always get a blog post!

Our little buddy, our only boy, our Jackson Richard is six today! Yippee!! Considering he laid his head down on the table earlier in the week and wept as Joe and I discussed the busy week ahead, crying, "Will we EVER celebrate my birthday?" and here we are...presents opened, birthday doughnuts eaten, and a cookie cake baking...I think we're doing okay!

He did spend the morning soaking wet at the state track meet for his older sister, but that's is not all about you, even on your birthday, right?

Life lessons.

So, without further ado, here's the top six things about being six about our precious little guy.

1) When you're six, you hum and sing about your new 500 piece Lego set as it is spread all across the kitchen table. That's what's awesome about being six. Our boy is quite the constructor of all things Lego. He's also a whistle while you work, sing while you structure, and narrate all of your building so that we all know the storyline that you're constructing in your head.
In other words, our boy is creative.

2) When you're six, you pretty much think everything is one extreme or the other. You're either super psyched to do things or are anti whatever you're being asked to participate in.
In other words, our boy is opinionated.

3) When you're six, you are in constant motion. Jack came home with a paper about what he wanted to be when he grew up. Not a farmer. Not a banker. Not a teacher. A ninja. Seems about right with all the kicking, running, jumping, spinning that happens with this boy.
In other words, our boy is active.

4) When your six, you're still trying to figure out your place in our family, even in the world. The stereotype of a boy is to be sporty, to be rough, to be loud. You're all those things, and none of them at the same time. There are days that you ride your bike too far, push too hard and yell too loud, but then there's those "other" days. Those are the days that I know you're still a little boy. Those days when the world in kindergarten is too much; the sisters are too bossy; sometimes the sun is too hot (insert an eye roll from Mom).
In other words, our boy is multifaceted.

5) When you're six, you pretty much want "home lunch" or a Nutella waffle at every meal. Every. Meal.
In other words, our boy is picky (we're working on that).

6) When you're six, you're still looked at by your mom and dad as their little boy. That little baby that we brought home one warm May day to three adoring sisters. That little baby that completed our family (but not totally complete!), "saved" the Webel bloodline (no pressure!), and made us burst with pride. You're the little boy who wore a cape nearly every day of your third year, a Cardinals cap most of the time during year four, and now a backpack as you head out to the bus like a big kid.
In other words, our boy is still our little boy.

It's been a fun six years with you, Jack. You're fun and creative and energetic and exciting. You make our family laugh, your dad and I proud. You're a neat kid, a nice boy, and we couldn't be any more excited for this next year of your life.

We will celebrate tonight with waffles and Legos: important things to this very important six year old.

Happy birthday, Jack Webel. We love you more every year. I promise to add more every year to your list!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Be Careful Little Eyes What You See

Hey there.

I'm doing the most therapeutically ironic thing that seems to be right today: writing about social media while cross posting it on social media.

Sounds about right for a first post in over a month, don't you think?

While I have not been here writing about the day to day, advocating for truth in agriculture and sharing my thoughts and opinions on basically everything under the sun, I have been writing. Sure, it's been a lot more technical, agenda-ish, presentation and health and well-being related, but I have been filling my communication void.

And friends, I just want to update you on something: I love my new job. The end.

However, there are days that I wish I could spend hours explaining myself. Explaining what I do, why I do it, why my work is valuable, and how I do it with all these kids around.

Because that's what social media in the past year has done to me: wanted to make me explain myself. Well, maybe not just in the past year, because that was the sole purpose of the start of this blog, right?

But still.

As my relationship with social media has matured, my reaction to it in general has not. I have allowed outside influences, your wins, your vacations and jobs and #makingmemories cloud the truly awesome things that have unfolded in my life.

Why is that?
Why have I allowed outside influences make me feel less about what I do, who I do it for, and basically everything else I do (or don't do) as a mother, friend, wife, eater, exerciser, professional, whatever? While I'm a typically confident person, why do I feel "less than" while seeing people, truly from afar?

While my confidence is a result of both nature and nurture, being raised to know who I am and find value from multiple sources lately, social media has tainted that belief instilled in my fabric. I think that our society and its reaction to relationships has led us in a direction that is moving to viewing from afar and commenting in your face. Through this shift, I have especially become less immune to feeling inferior. It is something that I have always battled, and I don't need to go into detail because when I do, it's DANGED embarrassing at the cushy "problems" I have perceived as hard in my relatively content life. So why am I STILL, at 39 (I had a birthday last week, and it was lovely, albeit not documented via Instagram...I know-How would you ALL know I had a birthday then???), sit on a Saturday morning, kids playing kindly in the background, one daughter off to a track meet, one son feeling better from strep throat, in my nice (not magazine perfect) house, sipping coffee and yet still feeling inferior?

You know why?

Quick answer: my own crazy.

Outside influence: social media.

As I sat having a nice breakfast, alone because my kids had finished and cleaned up their own mess ( shall I hashtag #momwin or #awesomekids ?), I started to feel inferior. I was scrolling through Facebook. As I scrolled, I noticed runners completing training runs, crafters doing awesome things, houses filled with kids from a birthday party, vacation goers squinting and smiling in the sun. I felt that icky, "Why aren't you there? Why aren't you doing something like that, Emily?" feeling. I hate to admit this, as it is absolutely ridiculous.

Someone's win is not my failure.

Social media for a person like me is a hard balance. I hide a lot. I hide behind filters on Instagram, funny posts, and then I hide people who I can't enjoy their successes in a way that is anything but a result of my own crazy.

Am I the only one around here who feels this way?

This is hard to write, but in the wake of this past election and all the "I'm no longer friends with you because I can't agree with you" posts I saw, I found myself rolling my eyes. However, I'm just as bad. I find myself comparing, contrasting, considering and contemplating WAYYYYYY too much about things that, if I were otherwise absent from social media, I would not even know or know to care about. Yet last night, first thing Josie wanted to do after her play audition was take a selfie.

What have I shown as value to my people?

Evidently it is outside approval, and that made me feel just plain silly.


So. Where do I go from here?

I'm not making a sweeping generalization that all social media is bad. I truly believe in the power of this medium for writers like me, women like me, parents to document their kids' lives and successes, and YET, and YET...I have to be careful what my little eyes see.

Remember that song from Sunday School?
"Be careful little eyes what you see. Oh be careful little eyes what you see. For the Father up above is looking down with love, oh be careful little eyes what you see."
Irony: I found out-on Facebook-that Myra, our lovely Sunday School music director, died. That's using social media for good, right?

I never want to be one of those Debbie Downer post sharers. While "keeping it real" is imporant, I do love a good filter, and will continue to do so (did I mention I just turned 39? #filterworthy). I want to rejoice in your blessings. I want to love and like and laugh at your funny quips. I just want to also stop comparing. Stop considering other's win as my inadequacy.

So, let's charge forward, shall we? Anybody?

Let me go first:

I'm going to be careful with what my little eyes see.

Human nature is shifting. We are seeking out "likes" and filtering our life and "curating" the CRAP out of everything. So I'm going to remember, when I see something amazing on a less regular scroll (I'm going to do better at that, too.), that my life is still comparably awesome, and my eyes are to just see your awesome as simply that. Not a comparison, not a jab at my inadequacies, because, let's be real: we've all got 'em, just some are better at covering them up.

So. What does this mean? Will I post a picture of me in my Cattlemen's Association sweatshirt and crazy hair this morning?

Probably not. I said "be careful little eyes" and your eyes may burn from the sight of me in the morning. My posts will continue to reflect my life in honesty, but my REACTION to others' posts will be the big truth in my change.

I am training. (yes, I'm training for a run in June and will most  likely share an "I finished!" post.) I'm training my reactions. Your successes are not my failures. My life is still happening. We are still #winning, just maybe at different races that what you're to speak.

Thanks for keeping me accountable. I'm not sure how you'll do that, but if you see me around and I high-five you for no reason, it's because I'm being careful for my little eyes to see you in a new light.

One that is unfiltered.


Thursday, March 2, 2017

A Dozen Years

***Blogger's note: I seem to be writing a lot of birthday posts as of late. Maybe it's the sheer quantity of birthdays we have around here, or maybe it's because it's the one day in my family member's years that I truly focus on them. Either way, it's March 2, Anna's 12th birthday, and here's her letter from her mama.

March 2, 2017

Dear Anna,

You woke up this morning, super early like you always do. I heard you downstairs in the kitchen. I skipped my run because it's cold today, and I was glad to be here to greet you first thing. However, as I heard you rustling around in the kitchen, fixing your own breakfast, getting your morning in order, I just listened. I took a few of those early morning moments, quiet and dark, to remember what it was like when you were little.

Because now, you're 12.

When you were first born, you were it, my friend. You were the only. The only grandchild on my side. The only kid in this house. We were overwhelmed, but not by lack of sleep or just the general shock of having a baby. We were overwhelmed with this joy of having you. Your dad and I wanted to have a family, and once you were born, I had this sense that you made us complete.

Little did I know five other friends would complete the package, but being a mom, having a family, made me feel like my life was truly just beginning.

This morning as I stared at the ceiling, I thought of the way we dressed you up like a doll at first, worrying if you were too cold or too hot or too hungry or too wet. You always let us know.
I remembered when you would navigate our one little step down to our family room in our first house, just so that you could look out the patio doors and see what was going on. Always looking back to see if we were watching, but doing it by yourself.
You were and still are curious, precocious, and so independent. As a toddler, your favorite phrase was "all by MYYYYYYYself."

Okay, then.

While pouring milk at age three and climbing up a tall playground structure as a preschooler made this independence hard for me to swallow, now that you're 12, your independence have served you well. In school, in activities, in church: your independence and confidence shine through. Your ability to just get things done have made your role as the oldest in this tribe invaluable. You are a really, really good big sister because of it, and your helpfulness with your siblings is one that should be celebrated.

I want you to know this is something that we are so proud of. This is something not everyone has, and you are so amazing for it.

Even though you're 12, even though sixth grade is almost halfway through, and even though you have the ultimate in independence: A PHONE, we're still here. We still love you like that little one we brought home in a little pink hat. We still are here to encourage you like we did when you were taking your first steps at 10 months (why did we do THAT? ha!). We still love you and want you safe and secure like the little one we would tuck in at night, always making sure you had your two blankies. We will let you do your own thing, chart your own adventure, but we're here as a safety net. Remember when you didn't want me to walk you into preschool art when you were four, and then ended up crying at circle time because you missed me? I love that story.
This year, like that story, you marched into junior high without a single ounce of drama but you didn't cry at your locker when you first got there. You know that you've got this, but I also want you to know that Dad and I are always here in case you do feel like that little girl at circle time...because you will, here and there.

Life is going to give you great things, and it will be good and planned well and exciting. It will also be hard and sad and tricky and unfair. Remember that you're ready to weather whatever, but that Dad and I love you enough to know when you step in and help.

My sweet girl: these dozen years you have been on earth are ones that have been joy filled and fun and hard and sad and happy and exciting. Each of the 12 March 2nds we have celebrated have been days that I  step back and revel in the fact that I am your mom. We are so lucky to be your parents, lucky to have you as our kid.

In the next dozen years, you'll go through a lot, but for now, let's celebrate the fun. Let's eat Mexican and lemon cake and text funny GIFs to each other today. It's been a fast 12 years, so let's slow down today and celebrate you.

Anna Grace, your dad and I love you more than you will ever know. Thanks for being YOU.

Happy birthday, darling.


Monday, February 20, 2017

Double 21

Hey friends.

You know what will make a person feel somewhat older, wiser, and more jaded?

For me, it was taking Josie to her voice lesson on a college campus where the biggest problems in the music building seemed to be where one can get the least expensive Converse and how long they had to wolf down their burrito before class.

Insert eye rolls.

You know another way to make someone feel a little old?

Realize your age is 21 times TWO.


I'm not speaking of MY age, nonononononononono....It's Farmer Joe's birthday today! Whoohooo! Nothing says happy birthday like a new heated mattress pad and apple pie, amIright?


When you have had the mentally exhausting, draining, and strange year that Joe has weathered since last celebrating a birthday, you would be ecstatic with some normalcy.

In all seriousness, Joe has spent the weekend doing what he loves: working with the girls and their cattle.

Honestly, this guy could be in a barn with cows, calves, and all that goes with it for hours...days...months. It's truly his happy place. It's where he feels centered. It's a place where problems can be solved; long talks can be had; benefits of hard work and patience can be reaped.

This is a perfect spot for Joe right now. You see, it's been a rough almost year. We have transitioned again from the operation in which Joe was on staff. Nothing huge, but being a person who is 42 and not 21, Joe knew that when the situation was not sitting well with his core values, his time, and his talents, he knew to hold his head high and get out.

Again, don't get me wrong. Lots and lots of moments of panic were had (mostly by me). Lots of what ifs and no ways and what the hecks were spoken (again, mainly by me), but in the very long run, this is a good transition. There's a big, bright light at the end of the tunnel of age 41, and as Joe turns over to 42 today, we are emerging from the tunnel.

I'm thankful to be Joe's wife. Thankful for his 42 years. Thankful that we are growing kids and cattle out here. Thankful for the rough patches that make us appreciate all the good and normal that is involved in our life.

Happy birthday, Farmer Joe. Here's to doubling 21! Love you.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Now That You're Ten

Dear Josie,

You're now old enough to read this blog and understand its purpose. I am writing this note to you as I write on every birthday, but today, it feels bigger. A whole decade has passed since you burst into our life in a quick, easy delivery. Ten years have passed since that terrible snowstorm, just a day after you came home from the hospital. The days afterward, I would wake up with you and worry how in the world I would handle two kids. Two girls.


I write these notes because now, obviously, we have more than just you and your sister, and because of that, I have fallen short in the memory making department. I'm not very good at writing things in baby books, scrapbooking or even printing off pictures.

Sorry about that.

So I write.

I remember like it was yesterday holding you, marveling at how small you were. I remember listening to you have a full conversation with your Dad at lunch as a toddler, already arguing about napping or something. I remember the look of wonder you had on your face when Grammy brought you to the hospital when your baby sister Amelia was born, and remember the way you waved good bye to Jack as you headed onto the school bus for the first time as a kindergarten student. You have been such a wonderful helper with the twins, guiding them and entertaining them when necessary. You have taken to the stage, learned to play an instrument, lead a 1000+ pound animal in the show ring, all the while, keeping us on our toes.

A lot.

You are, and always have been, fiercely independent. This served you well as a baby, just 20 months shy of your big sister. However, it has proven to be a little difficult in a big family. You like to be alone, singing at the top of your lungs or tumbling in a space way too small to tumble. You have a strong network of friends, and, from where I see it, you are a good friend.

Like any parent does, we worry about you.
We caution you to "use your powers for good," as you have many. We worry that you will have to navigate a world that is unpredictable and different from what we have tried to create in our own little family.
We worry that with your independence, confidence and intense emotions, life may seem overwhelming at times. For ten years, we have tried to allow you to soar, but have had the ultimate say on your adventures, protecting you from the "hard stuff" we can keep from you.
However, in the next ten years, we'll have to let you go and let you fly. That makes me excited and a little apprehensive, maybe it's because I still see you as a little curly haired toddler...the one who, when asked what you wanted for Christmas, answered, "Long hair and a boyfriend." But what that toddler and this big girl today have in common is that you know what you want and you will figure out a way to get it.

(Not the boyfriend yet, though!)

You are just one of those kids that you know something big is going to unfold in front of you, and for that, I'm excited for the next ten years. Your dad and I will be watching you, keeping you in check and helping you figure out how to use those skills. Whatever you do, wherever you go, I expect our Little Jos will do something BIG.

Happy birthday, my spunky ball of fire. You are a light in our life, and I can't wait to see where that light will lead you.


Sunday, October 9, 2016


Dearest Mary and Caroline,

As I sit here in our office at the end of a really full day spent celebrating you, I am tired. I am grasping for words because I feel like the obvious doesn't need to be stated.

We are truly in love with you.

This is surprising because being a parent to two two year olds is daunting. I'm nervous about potty training, keeping my eyes on you, keeping you busy in a productive and not destructive way, figuring out how to manage all the other kids' activities while keeping you from trying to head up onto the stage/court/field, because you feel a part of everything the other ones do.

That makes me smile just thinking about that image.

It was just two short years ago that I was truly concerned about how you'd fit into our tight knit foursome of kids. I was afraid you'd get lost in the shuffle. I obviously didn't account for your sparkling and individual personalities in this mix. You don't let yourself be forgotten or left out. Both of you, each in your own way, have found the way to fit into our now tight group of six kiddos.

Mary, you are definitely the one with the most "leadership" skills. Your spunk is only rivaled by your older sister, Josie, making your opinions know with the best expressions: verbal and non-verbal. We love your heart for your little sister, protecting her when she needs space ("Stop it." being your go-to phrase.). I'm in awe by your budding vocabulary, your love of dollies and the "chicken" (kitchen). Your pigtailed hair-do reflects the just a tad on the smarty side personality that I have loved since it started to unfold. You're going to be fun as the years fly by.

Caroline. You are still our little puzzle, however, your pieces are falling together in such a beautiful and intricate way, and one that I can neither predict or control. You have freaked us out to no end from the moment you entered this earth, but in your set backs (like breathing...), you have had such great victories in the past six months. You decided walking would be fine, so instead of slowly working at it, you just did it. Talking is next. I hear you. I hear you working on your sounds. I hear you trying to mimic me and your sister. I see you working on your expressions. You are a beautiful, curly haired mystery that keeps us guessing, and will continue to do so, as the years progress.

Girls, I admit it. I'm tired. There are days that I think back to your first years and wonder how we did it. There's no tried and true plan or book we read or whatever. We just did it out of love: out of love for you, for your sisters and brother and for each other. Love gives you energy when you don't have an ounce left to play in the sandbox, paint another picture, even give another bath. Love is what I can point as I sit in the office on a Sunday night after hosting two parties today, dropping off at another sleepover, and needing to do my Bible study homework that I'm two weeks behind on. Because I love you, I write this tribute, like I will every year, so we can remember the little things from the day and year.

Thank you for this love, girls. Because you came into our lives, we have felt a deeper love because of the hard stuff.  You have given me a new life, a new path, a new set of priorities and goals, and it's because of the wacky way you fit into our big, loud, busy family.

Happy, happy birthday my sweet twins. May you have sweet dreams of cupcakes and Cozy Coupes tonight.


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

An Exceptional Life in Moderation

*Disclaimer: I realize that I made a sweeping post about how this blog had to be on hiatus. Some eat their feelings. I write mine. Lucky you.

My Grandma Mary lived 102 years on this Earth.

102 years.

In her years, she saw so much advancement. The highway that now cars zip past over 60 (or more) miles per hour, was once a dirt road where she and her sisters played tennis.

Lying in twin beds with my brother, she used to tell us stories of her getting a ride in the sleigh to church or school on winter days, pulled by a HORSE. A HORSE! The eight year old Emily freaked out at a HORSE taking Grandma to school. I was also the kid who had to be told what the window cranks in a car were. #firstworldkid

When a cousin of mine was trying to convince Grandma of the importance of the Internet and its impact on the world, Grandma answered simply, "Can you imagine something else making such an impact? Electricity."

Mic drop.

She headed to college during the Depression, wanting to be a school teacher. She did it bit by bit, coming home to teach in the country school alternately, saving money for the next semester's tuition.

She was a third grade teacher, most famously, in the local school district. While her world was small (never having lived any place for too many years but the home her father built when she was born), her reach was broad. When I moved back to the area and would reference her, there were so many former students who expressed their gratitude and love for Mrs. Shortness.

She was kind, understanding, level headed, smart, and soft spoken. Where I came from, I have no idea. However, this woman is exceptionally organized, one of my better qualities that must have come from her genetics. There are empty closets in her home. She has labeled everything. My girls each have a quilt from either Grandpa or Grandma's families. They all have a tiny white bag (that she sewed) with a note on a small piece of yellow legal paper explaining who made the quilt and sometimes for whom. No fluffy story, no long explanation. Just the important facts.

That's Grandma Mary.

She is an exceptional woman who lived an exceptional life, but exercising exceptional moderation.

She believed in exercise, working in her garden, walking the farm, playing sports as a young (and somewhat cavalier) lady. However, when I took up marathoning, she asked me if that particular distance was necessary. When I explained my reasons, she remarked, "Everything in moderation, Emily."

Duly noted.

When dinners were served at Grandma's (and by dinners, I mean lunch), it was an affair. A main dish followed by colorful sides. Always. Potatoes, fruit, veggies...a cheese and pickle tray. Her homemade rolls. Pie for dessert. However, in typical Grandma Mary manner, she always ate slowly. Not because she was overly chatty, just because she enjoyed small servings of all the dishes slowly. Pie was usually the dessert of choice, and if you were Grandma, you'd truly enjoy it because you had room. You ate everything in moderation.

Except ice cream.

And pop.

Those were the things she despised, but never made a stink about it, just said no thank you and moved on.

Oh these stories make me miss her. I am so lucky. Grandma was something special. She was so influential in my decisions. When I would do something ridiculous in college or even now make some smarty comment, I feel remorse when I think about what Grandma would feel if she knew about my actions.

She set an example that was good and a bar that is high. I'm hoping to achieve that.

There are so many more stories and happy times I could share, but I know that you all have memories of loved ones that are similar.

I will leave you all with this perspective. In a world where excess of stuff, loud voices, extreme opinions and craziness are celebrated, a life like Grandma's, one in moderation, is one that should be highlighted. This was a life that was lead in a way that the world should look to. I am so lucky to have had such an influence in my life, one that was shared in my children's life, and one that I will always cherish.

Thank you, Grandma Mary for teaching me to live a life in moderation, but having loved me in abundance for 38 years.
Grandma and Amelia at the first of their many shared birthday parties.

Grandma holding Amelia just after she was born. She drove to our house that day at age 95!