Monday, February 23, 2015

Celebrating FFA

If you follow any ag blog, have a friend who is of the agricultural persuasion, or have a person in your life who was ever in FFA, you already know that it's National FFA Week.

If you don't have any of those, your life probably has marched on without knowing that it's FFA week, but you should be aware, because, in my 36 years of life, a large portion of friends and acquaintances who have been involved in FFA sing its praises.

From their good jobs.

With eloquent words.

Seriously. I scoffed at FFA in high school...and my dad was a college ag teacher, and a former FFA advisor.

Pfft...why would I need to be in FFA? It's just the ag kids. I don't have time. I don't need it, and I don't think navy and black go well together.

Did that sound ridiculous?

Now navy and black are ALL OVER THE PLACE.

Seriously, not having any experience in FFA, and then coming into my marriage with Mr. FFA leads me to a different relationship with this organization.

No longer do I view it as a hick club. No longer do I consider the time spent in FFA activities as less important than sports or music or whatever. No longer do I p-shaw at navy and black paired together. Bless their hearts, it WAS 1928...the folks probably didn't have but one pair of pants anyway.

National FFA Week is a big week here for my family, as Mr. Webel is "celebrating" it with his students by pizza parties, contest practices, workshops, etc. In other words, I'm a single mom. However, that's okay. This organization is time consuming, on both sides of the coin. The teachers spend countless hours prepping their students, attending trainings, contests, and planning lessons for class as well. The kids, however, is what has amazed me in my new relationship with FFA. "Kids" is a relative term, too. These high school students are some of the most mature, well spoken, focused kids I have met. They balance work, school, and duties in a club that's not just another club to be put on their resume. It's a club that's prepping them for a career path.

I'm not joking. Some of my best friends, professionals I look up to, and just great people are FFA alumni. The training and time management and people skills these students receive by participating in FFA are beyond what you'd learn being a part of a team or on a stage. Now, I'm not discounting other extra curricular activities, as I am a believer in athletics and music and art, but FFA is more career prep oriented by nature. Grounded in agriculture, it began as the Future Farmers of America, but has morphed into a club that prepares students for business management, public speaking, defending their choices and beliefs by prepared and extemporaneous responses. Joe's Parliamentary Procedure team is not just preparing to win a contest, their prepping to be board members and know how to follow the correct procedure a meeting should follow.

It's pretty amazing, really.

So, while I'm not an FFA alumni, I have a house full of former and future FFA-ers. Long ago, I thought it was just the ag crowd that needed to be a part of this group. I was absolutely incorrect. Tractor driving and cattle and crops are a part of FFA and its tenets, but, as my friend Katie so eloquently put it in her blog, "Cows are not required."

Happy National FFA Week, friends. If you're not celebrating yourself, find a friend who was impacted by FFA and ask them about their experience. I assure you, it will be more about the friends, relationships, and skills acquired than the surface, snap judgement I once made.

However, I am going to ask about maybe getting a nice caramel color to replace the black pants.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Presents vs. Presence

Today's the day.

It's Farmer (Teacher) Joe's 40th birthday.

We've already read the cards, unwrapped the gift, had the cinnamon rolls for breakfast. Is it ironic that I got Joe a FitBit Charge, but made him cinnamon rolls for breakfast? Diet picks up again tomorrow!

Anyway, I could list forty things that I love about him, but then I'd just be another blogger who writes in list form. I prefer narratives. Call me crazy.

Ten years ago, as Joe embarked on his 30th decade, we were a young couple, married just shy of two years, ready to embark upon parenthood (read: I was ready to pop with Anna). We had a nice, quiet dinner. I can't remember if I got him a present.

Probably because I was pregnant. Without any other children.

You know, really busy.

Anyway, Joe is not a present guy. Don't get me wrong, he appreciates nice gifts, thoughtful gifts, practical gifts, but really he's not jazzed by things.

This is not my way.

I know this may come as a shock to you, but I LOVE PRESENTS. Big ones, little ones, sparkly ones, thoughtful ones, frivolous ones.

All presents. All the time.

So when Joe's birthday comes around, I find myself in a conundrum. Do I get him something that's practical like underwear or socks, or something fun and flashy, because he'd never buy it for himself? There were times this Christmas that he proclaimed the flooring or the doors or the door knobs for our basement would be just fine for his gift.

I never uttered such a proclamation, and enjoyed my Chanel perfume and bracelet like the good little consumer that I am.

This is why Joe and I work well together. While I love all the flash, he's more concerned about presence than presents.

I know, I married a good guy.

This is something I have had to learn to appreciate. When you're young and starting out, it's fun to shower each other with flashy, fun things. You have time to shop. You have time to have a quiet dinner together. You're spending your energy on each other, because when you're young and in love, that's what you do.

Twelve years together and six kids later, it still is nice to wrap up something shiny. That's actually easier to let Amazon do the talking for me through a gift. It's easy to buy a gift. It's easy to give a thing. It is satisfying to give something to someone.

However, at this stage in our life, we need to be present with each other. The quiet dinners can happen, by moving heaven and earth, hiring a babysitter, and praying it doesn't snow. In this stage of our lives, it takes more time and thought and effort to be present, not give a present. So, we've been talking about Daddy's birthday for weeks, planning how we will best be present for him. I'm working on my girls to appreciate presence, like their dad. I do have to admit, Amelia was horrified Joe only had one present to open today. She's her mama's girl.

So today, it's all about presence.

While he was able to unwrap a gift, we're working hard to be together. Since taking his new position, Joe is gone all day. Even though it's February, Jack and I are still getting used to this. As long as we've been parents, Joe has been flexible in his employment. We have had lunch together, shared preschool pick up together, given each other a break at 2:00 if necessary. I realize that there are many things I don't miss about Joe farming full time, but the in and out and pop-in visits during the day is the one thing I miss the most. Jack especially misses his daddy. So today, we're celebrating with our presence: Jimmy Johns at the "big school," and some time together as a family tonight.

Happy birthday, Farmer (Teacher) Joe! Here's to many, many more happy years ahead, and to being present with each other.

And presents...don't forget presents once in a while (especially April 15th).

(and August 2nd)

(and Christmas)

(and Valentine's Day)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Tiny Twinge

The other day as I was running down our road, I had the weirdest feeling. A tiny twinge of sadness. A wave of weirdness.

I had hit the point in my run where I was at the very end, the bitter end. Coming back after having twins has been hard, but this is not a post about running. I use landmarks on this particular route to keep me going. At the end of this one, actually every one as it's right before our house, I have the timber, the Price Pasture, the junk buildings and the big pasture and then I'm done. So, as I rounded the corner onto our gravel road, I started repeating: "Timber, Price's, Junk Buildings, Big One." If I can make it to the Big One, I'm home free.

Only as I repeated it a second time (no, I'm not OCD...just DYING), I had this twinge.

None of this is ours any more.

ouch.

I felt the twinge a little as I drove Anna to a lesson or practice or something in town, but ignored it. She noted the pasture's gate was open.

"They left it open, Mom."

"Mmmhmmm." I answered, oh so eloquently.

"But that doesn't matter to us, right?" she finished.

Silence.

"Nope. I guess it doesn't."

It's weird, friends, this not farming thing. I think maybe it's a little weirder to me, as I have been home bound for the past four months. Joe has his new job, which he loves and fits him well, and gets to work our show calves with Anna, so his farming itch is somewhat scratched.

Mine is not.

Did I just say that? Do I have a farming itch?

I guess so, and here's why. Farming is not just a job. It's a complete lifestyle. The whole package. It's your schedule, your bankroll, your identity, your circle of friends. You learn how to grow and how to understand death. You learn how to work really, really hard only to watch things fall apart thanks to nature. Those are stressful times, and ones that I don't miss, but my identity as this farm wife has shifted. Our address is the same. I'm essentially the same, but one year ago, everything, and I mean everything, was different.

So there's this twinge.

I'm not saying that I want things to be different, because we're in a good space, it's just a twinge. Weirdness. Strange feelings.

Plus, this has been a mild winter, so we haven't had the chance to rejoice that we're not choring in the subzero temperatures!

I still identify myself as a farm wife, farm mom and I have farm kids, but there's still this undercurrent of identity crisis that rears it's wonky head once in awhile.

I'm sure I'll get over it.

Remind me of this waxed-poetic post when Joe decides to buy more cows, okay?


Monday, February 2, 2015

Snow Day, Hot Topic

So.
It snowed last night. While it didn't snow as much as it could have, it was a nice wet snow for the kids to play in earlier in the day...for about twenty minutes. Why do I see all these Facebook pictures of perfect snowmen and smiling children, and all I see and hear is whining and complaining of cold? Maybe I just have summer kids. Or maybe some of you are better at making snowmen and posing your children around it, and I'm a deadbeat who just wants to take a shower while the kids are outside.

Whatever.

Anyway, it snowed, and then it started to blow. Cars using our road for alternative routes home thanks to the Super Bowl (and the beverages, I'm assuming) seemed to slow and chug by our house, fighting the crummy roads. The girls were placing bets not only about the winners of the Super Bowl, but whether or not they would have school. By 11:00 PM, we had two people in the ditch, and, Joe, being the good Samaritan, went out to pull the girl's car out and her boyfriend's, too (even though I begged him not to, because I have been watching Scandal and there are evidently a lot of people who want to kill each other...but ooooohhhh...it's so good.).

By 5:00 AM, we wondered about school, and received the call, later than usual, but were not surprised:

School cancelled.

Here's what is surprising to me, and I'm sorry if this makes folks irritated.

If school had not been cancelled, everyone (okay, the maybe just the loud people on Facebook...can you be loud?) would have been yelling about the safety of the children, etc.

However, when school is cancelled, parents are irritated about the time frame, posting road conditions and griping about finding places for their displaced kids to go. News flash: Have a plan B, and C, and/or keep your comments quiet so that people like me who had to quit her job to stay with my gaggle of children won't become high and mighty and post a snarky blog post about snow days.

I admit it. I used to complain too.

I was a teacher in one town, and lived in another. I had to take my little Cavalier through treacherous roads to get to work. However, it was all on city streets and Interstates. I never considered the bus factor. The side road. The country kids who have to bump along in a bus on a regular day, let alone one where roads are less than favorable.

Then we moved out here.

Our road drifts in three places. From our house from the "hard road" is just shy of a mile. It drifts in THREE PLACES in that one little mile. Three PLACES. Friends, when the wind is howling and your road commissioner is doing his best to tend to all the little side roads in the township, you can't keep up with drifting snow. It's like me trying to keep my house orderly on a snow day. Not going to happen.

Until we moved out here and had school aged kids, I never got it. Snow days are no joke out here. They are inconvenient to those of you in town. They are scary to those of you who still have to drive to work. And I'm certain (and although seemingly not thanks to this post's tone...I do empathize) that they are logistically a nightmare to get your kids where they can be entertained, safe, and not at your desk during a conference call. However, if your school district is a rural district, you're at the mercy of your road conditions at exactly the time that the buses need to be rolling out. Snow routes could be employed, and we could try to get the kids there ourselves, should the school decide to not run buses, but what's the harm in one day off? In the grand scheme of life, is one day off of work or school that hot of a topic? Sheesh.

I would never want to make that call.  Ever. No one is ever happy or satisfied or pleased. Ever.

However, on days like today when I want to tear my hair out with the bickering and constant in and out of the snow and wet gloves and snotty noses and hot chocolate (did I mention our oldest has the stomach flu too? Good times.), I am thankful to have received the call that school was canceled. Our kids' safety would have been at risk, had they ridden the bus today. It was nasty out here.

So calm down, everyone. Go out and make your beautiful snowmen with your children, and take your picture and #makeyourmemories. But don't come road tripping out here to see what our drifted road is like. I may hold my good hearted husband back. You might be an axe murderer. I watch Scandal, you know.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Halfway for Beef

Three kids ago, I ran my "comeback" half marathon. It was my first since I started having kids, and since it was in Champaign, where I had started my long distance running love and trained for all of my other marathons and halves, so it seemed only appropriate.

And I ran it with a ribeye on my racing shirt.

Seriously.
See? And, oh my heart! Look at my big girls...they're so little!

Check out the charbroiled goodness...on my shirt that is!


While I got quite a few funny looks, and a lot of questions, I was proud of my Team Beef shirt, and went on to purchase another one and one for my running partner two years ago.

Team Beef, Amy and Emily, rocking the Yates City 5 K!!

I purchased them, gladly, as I knew the money was well spent, marketing our product, and was going towards promoting the Beef Checkoff.

I was going all the way, by manner of half marathons, for Team Beef.

However, when I googled Team Beef, to link for this post, I not only got the link to the Idaho Team Beef where I have purchased shirts, but there's a link to nearly every large beef producing state, each having its own Team Beef. My friend, and former neighbor, Kandy, just ran her first half in Austin, Texas, and the Texas Team Beef?? They're for real. They sponsored runners, free t-shirts! There were a whole bunch o' beef runners!! I was THRILLED!!

So, I'm looking into how I can a) be in Texas to be sponsored b) try to get Illinois Beef to start up a Team Beef chapter...I couldn't find a link (anyone out there know of the Illinois Chapter?), and then c) try to train for another half...maybe. So far, the only half I have done is half-way cleaned the bathroom, and while I'm up and running, just the logistics of training and then getting to a place to run a half is exhausting to me already.

So, if you're interested in being a part of Team Beef, let me know. I'm doing some investigation...and I'd love to flood the start line of races this year with Team Beef shirts!!

Happy running!


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Date Day at the Farm Bureau Meeting

I know. You're at the edge of your seat with the excitement that this title brings.

Joe and I really know how to live it up! The funny thing is, we DID have an actual date night...but it started at a design center for our new bathroom and ended at Target.

Again, we know how to live it up.

Anyway, Joe is a board member for our county Farm Bureau. It's my home county, Knox County, and I have written about how I have come to terms, and have come to enjoy my home county (more than I thought I EVER would!). So, when I walked into the banquet facility, I was not only greeted by happy, familiar faces of the staff and neighbors, but dads of friends from elementary school, life long friends, and even folks who were good friends with my grandparents.

It's a good feeling.

Having Joe on the board has meant a few more evenings that he's gone, which can get tricky, but this past annual meeting was particularly eye opening for me as a Farm Bureau member. Maybe I was paying better attention because I was just there, sans any kids. Maybe I was more in-tune because now I understand a little more, or maybe I was just more engaged in the speaker because I was the speaker with my good friend Holly two years ago, so I know how it felt to be paid attention to (or ignored).

Who knows?

Regardless, I actually took notes! The speaker, Mark Gebhards who is the Executive Director for Governmental Affairs and Commodities, was eloquent, and with the changing of the guard in our state (we now have a Republican governor, and in a room full of farmers, you can imagine the excitement level!) and the changing role of government in a farmer's operations, it was an interesting talk.

I won't bore you with the details (although I was not bored...just hungry by the end...it's a lunch meeting...and we're on a weight loss challenge...and I'm nursing...and was within eyesight of the CAKE) of the talk, but Mr. Gebhards challenged our already very active county. Farm Bureau, for those of you who may just think its name is indicative of yee haw and drive your tractor to the meeting, is quite the opposite. The level of professionalism by not only just the state, county and volunteer staff is astounding, but also the impact its programs have is pretty impressive. Sure, there's some flaws, every organization has them, and there's a lot of patting each other on the back with awards within the system, but who doesn't like to be recognized?

I'm digressing.

Back to the challenge.

In his position, Gebhards walks with the politicians, talks with them, gives them insight to how producers are being impacted by various regulations, rules, etc. He challenged us to stay involved, at a very basic level. Calling legislators, writing letters, staying involved with programs like Illinois Farm Families, and Ag in the Classroom (to name a few local programs). By being active, we ACT like we CARE.

Who would have thought?

Well, me, in starting this blog, but that should be the tip of my iceberg. He cited an instance where he was sitting in Senator Durbin's office, addressing a bill or something that would impact farmers. Durbin asked Gebhards if the farming community would be impacted negatively by this particular issue. Gebhards answered, "Yes," emphatically (and if I were paying really great attention, I could tell you what it was...sorry, my blood sugar was plummeting by this point of the talk). Durbin then shared that he had received over 10,000 phone calls from the other side of the coin, and only SEVEN...like one hand and two fingers SEVEN...from the ag people.

That's ridiculous.

I am on my phone all the time... why not add Senator Dickie Durbin to my list of contacts, and instead of whining to him through the TV, TALK TO HIM.

So that was interesting.

Our date concluded with a lovely meal, and at the risk of sounding 75 years old, I'll spare you the menu, but at an ag function, you tend to eat good beef.

I will challenge you, friends, that if you're at all interested in agriculture, if you're not a member, or if you even are a member, do a little research on the Farm Bureau. You may be surprised how active your area may be, and you don't even realize it. You may notice programs that are happening that are sponsored by your county's Farm Bureau. You may want to join because you get a great deal on a rental car, who knows. I have decided to find out more because they just had their annual national meeting in SAN DIEGO...in January...how can I become more involved and go THERE???

Our unconventional date day was a success, I'd say, even if we traded in the more traditional movie theater/dinner date with politics and beef. Either way, I was fed, and was happy.


Friday, January 9, 2015

When Three Months Feels Like Three Seconds or Three Years

In an amazing feat of grace and sleeplessness, and through massive piles of laundry, doctor's appointments, and kid shuttling, Joe and I have emerged and made it through the first quarter of our twins' first year.

Did you read that?

They have already lived a quarter of the year.

Yikes.

These past three months have felt like three seconds: Caroline and Mary are both smiling, and are so close to rolling over, as they hate tummy time. Albeit important for development, why must I torture my babes this way??? And didn't we just sell our cows? The past week has made us feel happy, sympathetic and especially warm in our house as we think of our dear friends and all of you livestock men and women out there. However, it feels like three seconds ago that Joe was dressing as a Northern Ninja in his face mask and heavy Carhartts to assist in birthing calves on what seemed to always be the coldest day of the year.

Along the same lines, these three months have felt like three years. It seems like a long time ago that we were up in the air with our house project, and although we have insulation and the words, "drywallers arriving soon" have been whispered, it seems like we will NEVER have our space, that our office will always look like a disaster of storage totes and demo-dust, and that I will constantly be covering up for fear that a plumber/electrician/contractor will walk through as I am feeding babies. Yikes.

Such a strange feeling.

While I know that this year has been and will continue to be a blur in many ways, I find myself wanting to make time stand still. The twins suck the life out of me, and yet are so cute and pleasant, and AREN'T mobile, so I'd like to keep it that way as long as I can.

Then there are my big kids.

We are in such a sweet age spot for the big kids. I know it sounds cliche, but they are growing up so fast: becoming more and more independent because of our circumstances; able to put their own laundry away, entertain themselves and have good conversations with....that's a sweet spot. Enjoying the holidays with them was happy, and yet I found myself wistful as we have just a few more years where the magic of the holidays will still be the majority.

Anyway, before I start singing, "If I could have time in a bottle," I'll leave you with this question, how do you make time stand still? No, I'm not asking for something magical, I'm asking how do you preserve your memories? Are you just a rememberer (because I think I'm using that as an excuse for not filming/photographing everything...in actuality, I'm just tired and forgetful...not just "enjoying the moment)? Are you a scrapbooker? Instagrammer in the hopes it will never crash? Baby book writer?

Help me enjoy these next three months without waxing too much poetic. Otherwise, you'll be the readers of some pretty sappy blog posts!!