Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Dear readers,

This quite possibly could be the most crazy time of our lives, and yet, and YET, it truly is still the most wonderful time of the year. We have kicked off the Christmas season with gifts and gathering with my parents last night, where Jack (upon opening a Batman digital watch) proclaimed, "Best Christmas, EVER!" Bless him...he's just three. We'll continue our holiday celebrations with a grown up party (and the twins) tonight, and off to Joe's family for Christmas Eve.

Then, Santa.

Yes, Santa.

While Jesus IS the true reason of the season, and we try to keep that all in the forefront, but WHO DOESN'T LOVE SANTA?

Don't answer that if you're anti-Santa...

So, while the footprints of demo-dust are tracked all through my house, there's a desk in my living room, our only Christmas tree up is our baby "fake" tree, not our fresh cut real one (we have no room...this year), and my Type A personality is rearing it's ugly head proclaiming today is a "pick up day" (the kids are EXCITED, and I'm still using Santa as a threat...what will I do on the 26th?), I have hit pause to enjoy today.

And you're part of it! Aren't you so lucky??

Thank you for bearing with my hormones, harried mom posts, transitions, twins, mess of a life, and construction dust during this year. 2014 was truly one for the record books, and while last year at this time, I figured I would be lighting the fire that was my career and training for a marathon, I have traded it in for populating the world with two more amazing people, and training for a marathon...just not the running kind.

Enjoy your family in these next few days. We all have busy-ness, stress, strange relationships, and heightened expectations that get squelched, but this is truly the most wonderful time of the year thanks to the birth of our Savior, coupled with seeing the magic of the season through the eyes of those who believe in the magic of Christmas.

I am blessed to have this platform and to have you as loyal readers, even though I get opinionated and smarty about 99% of the time.

Thanks so much for reading, sharing, and believing in us. We feel your encouragement, welcome your commentary, and wish you a blessed Christmas season and a happy, happy new year.

Here's to a less eventful 2015!


Monday, December 15, 2014

Maybe You Are, Maybe You're Not

Maybe you've been wondering how we're faring after all of our changes during the past 8 weeks.

And maybe you're not, and I guess that's why I have struggled to write as of late. There's a lot, and I mean A LOT, more hectic, exhausting, happy, sad, interesting life stories out there, so please excuse me as I add to that pile.

First and foremost, we are adjusting.

And by adjusting, I mean, after selling our cows about a month ago, in the past week, we (and by we, I mean Joe), have purchased three new show animals: two heifers and a steer. They are currently being housed at their vacation homes until we get our more permanent set up, well, set up. Now, while three animals seems very, very small potatoes considering we (and again, I mean Joe) were dealing with 150 cows, calves, and all the chores that go along, having these three new friends gives Joe just a taste of the life of a cattleman.

Adjusting is the best word I can use to describe the past month. On Thanksgiving, we leisurely traveled to my father in law's, and spent the night, not worrying about any animal or crop or anything nearly 100 miles away. While that was heavenly to me, as I wasn't forced to pack up six kids for just a short day trip, but rather enjoy time spent on my father-in-law's farm, for Joe, it was strange. Thankfully, a few of our purebred cows are wintering on this farm, so Joe was able to get a little "fix" while we were there.

While there's much to do around here...a closet to demo to make room for a new basement staircase, papers to grade, babies to feed, kids to run around and chase after, the adjustment from farmer to non-farmer is hard. As I have written about many, many times, agriculture, especially when you're a producer, with your hands deep in the dirt and choring every day, it becomes a part of your soul.

It's not just a job, it's your whole life, so when that piece of your life's puzzle is removed, there's a lot of adjusting.

The kids have fared well, it's not like we've moved or anything. Our show animals will require daily chores, just in a different venue. And while my dad and my uncle still pull equipment out of the shed, just feet from our front door, there's a little piece of me that is slightly off, knowing that Joe really doesn't have to go out there and mess around in the shed, or take the Ranger across the road to check cows.

It's strange.

And we're adjusting.

Like I said before, it's not like we don't have plenty to do...our babies are growing and becoming a little more demanding. Our big kids are still filling our lives and calendars with their joyous activities, and Jack...well, he's three and is wearing. me. out. Joe is thriving as the community's new ag instructor, and I'm just trying to hold it all together and appear to have it all rolling along.

Notice I used the word, "appear," because six days out of seven, I'm NOT together, I just made it to the shower, before noon preschool pick up and had regular (although NOT the right size...ugh) clothes on.

We're all plugging away, trying to navigate our new roles, and when the first snow falls, we'll get over this weirdness and enjoy coffee and cocoa, knowing no cows of ours will be calving in a drift.

That's a good adjustment.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Ticking Things Off the List

It snowed a little last night. Nothing like upstate New York (which is now flooding...and I think I have problems. Sheesh.), but it snowed nonetheless. So, this morning, after kids were loaded on the bus, I spent time (read:money) ordering snow boots for my kids (Land's End is 40% off today!)...and a pair for me (thank you, Athleta gift card!).

One thing off the list.

Are you a list maker?

I'm psychotic about it. In college, my roommate would tease me about my overabundance of post it notes, many of them planning my day, hour-by-hour, including time slots to eat and shower. I was a little crazed, but I rarely forgot to shower, because my list told me to!

Anyway, I still make lists.

Yesterday, our list included such fun things as organizing the craft closet and, while I don't make a note to shower, laundry is always on my list. My girls were able to make a "fun" list, too, once they got their chores done.

Our life is like a list right now. Since finding out about the babies, Joe switching jobs, and our house project, our list seems to be never ending. However, there are things that have been ticked off the list:

1) Babies born (check)
2) School started
3) House jacked up (check)
4) Cattle sold (check)
5) Harvest completed
6) House set back down (check)

Did you catch #4?
Cattle sold?
What the?
Aren't we a "working grain and livestock farm?" Isn't that what this blog is all about.

Well, here's the deal: Sometimes, life doesn't work out the way you plan, no matter what's on your list.

What a prophetic statement, huh? I'm so deep.

But seriously, there are times when you have this plan, and you think that you have all your ducks in a row, and then...

Not so much.

This is us and our farming agreement. While Joe had an excellent herd and a good working relationship with our landlord, sometimes, plans change. People change, and life gets in the way.

Farming is hard, friends. For those of you in agriculture already, you know this. You know the feeling of being a slave to the weather, following markets as they rise and fall, the feeling of pride as you look out at your crops or animals, and the feeling of fear as you watch a storm roll in. You know the exhaustion from a long night of calving in the cold, the tug when you're working and want to be home. The rewards are great, and the risk is even greater.

Joe felt this. All of this. We first started when he was working his corporate job. We had a hired man. We had flexibility. In time, this flexibility waned; the corporate job thinned and farming took over our life. While that's not all bad, for some, it's too much. Joe likes to be in control, and in farming, there's little one can control.

So we persevered. We tried. Joe built his herd into a great one, but it felt like the list could never be completed. There was always so much to do, so little time, never enough money, and when you can't ever feel "done," you can't ever get away. It can wear on one's psyche.

When the ag teaching position opened up, Joe carefully considered all his options. He made a list. He decided to make a go of it, and try to keep up with the farm as well.

That's a list not even worth making, as it's impossible to tick anything off of it, especially with a wife, twins on the way (at the time) and four other active kids who love their daddy and his time.

So, he made another list.

One that included walking away.

That was hard to swallow.

However, from my short time of blogging and being a part of agriculture, I have come to realize that to be involved in ag, one doesn't have to just have a list that includes checking calves and buying seed. Agriculture is a career genre that encompasses so much more, and is more of a lifestyle than just a "job." I have blogged otherwise, but have become wise thanks to my interaction with other non-farmer ag people.

So, a few weeks ago, Joe ticked off list item #4: selling the cattle. His half of the herd. Two nights at the sale barn, a great financial reward for the hours and days and years spent on these animals,

and a big lump in our throat.

It's weird.

Our list has changed.
Our life has changed.

Yesterday, we didn't go to church (again), but Joe and Jack played Batman and watched Sesame Street together.

They've never done that.

While I know that Joe likes his list to be full, this time to just breathe and enjoy the children we have and the job that he has from Monday to Friday is precious.

We'll be back in the cattle business, however. The kids will still show, as arrangements have been made with a neighbor for Anna's show animals until our space has been built. And, like many careers, cattle farming is something that's in your blood, and you can't get out.


Joe's list may have changed a bit, but our goal here to keep you all abreast of what life on the gravel road is like won't change. I'm grateful that while we may be stepping out of the production side of agriculture, we are still invested in the ag community, and that's what's awesome about it. There's no list of requirements to be welcome as a member of the agriculture community. Once you're in, you're in. No items to tick off to enter.

And I'm so grateful for that.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

One Year, Two Babies, and a LOT of Change

One year ago, we were in a place that we knew was inevitable, but still were not prepared for.
One year ago, we were experiencing emotions, navigating the pain through our children's reaction, trying to be strong for them and for each other.
One year ago, we were driving to be with Joe's family, sifting through pictures, choosing things that weren't fun to choose, and accepting food. Lots and lots of food.
One year ago, we lost Karma, Joe's mom. It almost seems like it happened a week ago, for me, as I can remember weird details. What I was wearing, the look on my sister-in-law's face when she found certain pictures that made her laugh, and cry, the smell of the house with food and family and Karma's cleaning products mixed together. It's strange.
However, it also seems like ten years ago. Babies born, job changes, house remodels, and some insignificant changes make this day seem like an eternity away.
Nevertheless, today is similar to the feeling I had one year ago. Joe's family is amazing. They are strong. They are close, and they are loving. So today, like one year ago on November 20th, I don't know how to be supportive. When a family is strong and tough and loving and close, when you're a puddle and (this year) horribly hormonal, how do you show your support without seeming like a mess, still? She wasn't my mother, but she was like my mother. Joe and I are so busy right now, I hardly know what to talk to him about that doesn't involve carting kids around, appointments, plumbers, drop or non-drop ceilings...etc.
So here I am, writing, because although I generally have no problem talking to anyone about anything, this is hard.
Maybe it's because so much good has happened, and she hasn't seen it. Maybe because she's still here, in little things and big (like Caroline's bald head...her mother said so! ). Maybe because I still don't know what to say when Josie shares that she misses her Grammy and asked last night at choir practice for the Christmas concert for the choir to pray for us today.
Oh the heart strings. Pulled taut already, proud and sad.
Anyway, before I become more of a puddle, here's some cuteness and progress to share in honor of my sweet mother in law. She loved babies, and loved HGTV, and I feel like we're a great representation of both right now!
photo credit: Amy Davis Photography
We had a photo shoot with my sweet running partner (I've been given the go ahead to go on a run, and I CAN'T WAIT...but it's now 2 degrees to I will wait!) and friend, Amy Davis. We had so much fun trying to keep the girls asleep, then awake, bows on, then off...it was a hoot, and aren't they adorable?
Oh friends...sweet, sweet friends. Do you know what these stairs mean? They mean that PROGRESS IS A-COMIN'!! We are now in the phase of our basement remodel that means we will have water and heat because the plumbers and HVAC dudes won't fall to their death from the utility entrance when starting to re-install our water and heat! Can I get a WHOOOOOHOOOOOOO????????

Small changes and big, this year has been one for the books, for sure. While we rejoice babies and steps, we also remember Joe's mom, and honor her today.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Survival, Harvest, and Working Toilets

There is a need for a big poignant post, explaining truly what's going on here on the farm.
But today is not that post.
Today is fluff, because I do not have the mental capacity for a statement post, because all I really want is a toilet that flushes, someone to not walk in while I'm nursing, and heat. Oh, glorious heat!
So, here's some fluff:
First of all, harvest. Remember that? Remember that this blog is agricultural?
Oh, yes.
Harvest 2014 should be wrapped up today. With a big bow. And a cherry on top. Joe has not had a big role in harvest this year, as he is at school all day, but my dad, uncle and cousins have been going great guns. Typically, we head to our local elevator a mere five miles from roughly anywhere we farm. However, this elevator has received a major facelift, and wasn't operational until last week. Big sigh to the stupid wet summer and its influence on all things construction (GAH). Anywhoo, Dad had to haul all over God's country to get the bumper crop somewhere that wasn't our full bins. However, I hope that alongside a big explanatory post, we'll have a collective hallelujah from our corner of the country that we're done TONIGHT.
How's that for a cliffhanger?
Secondly, our house. We are no longer "floating," as Jack says, but are set back down on the new foundation, and if everything goes as planned, should be back in the HVAC and soft water business in just a few days/weeks. All of you who are either in construction or who have built anything are laughing.
That's why I am typing from the comfort of my mom and dad's house. I had had enough on Saturday. When the plumber never came back to turn on the valve for my hot water to the kitchen and laundry, and I was washing breast pump parts in my bathroom sink, only having the dude come in and mention they had hit our phone/internet line while digging the absolutely necessary new septic system, and I had to drag my son back inside, as there were 53 ways to die in our yard. I HAD HAD ENOUGH. So, an hour and a half of packing later, the kids and I headed to Mom and Dad's where we have enjoyed the comforts of home (like heat and hot water), and I have been sleeping on my Mickey Mouse pillow ca. 1980.
I do have to toot my own horn for a bit. I feel like I have done well, despite the craziness. I have held it together despite giving birth to preemie twins who had to stay in the NICU for nine days. I have held my craziness in despite the four kids who need me to run them to their various activities. I have a great support team, don't get me wrong. I can't do this alone. Between Joe and Grandma and babysitters...we were doing fine. However, when your job becomes solely to feed, clothe and bathe children, and you have a house where you cannot do those without baling water in an ice cream bucket from one sink to the other, and your floor is cold enough you wonder if socks and slippers and shoes would be a good option, you may have had enough...for the time being. My husband is rolling his eyes at my lack of ability to rough it, but considering there's never been a time that I haven't lived without cable TV, I'm not known to be able to rough it. At all.
So, here we are.
In other news...The babies are doing well. Growing, gurgling, sleepingeatingpooping...the kids are taking this all with good, age appropriate responses. Jack is ornery as all get out, and is happy to be with his people...Grandma and Grandpa. The girls like pretending to be town kids, and I am enjoying having a break once in a while when Grandma whisks kids here and there.
And Joe? How's Joe, you ask? Joe, if you're reading this, I'd love to see you. He's been holding down the fort, keeping our pipes from freezing and being the ultimate multitasker, and teaching America's youth and trucking grain when he's not on the clock. We'll look back at this and laugh, right? In the meantime, happy 12 years of being together, as we marked that date yesterday...only I remembered it by a Facebook post that the girl I used to babysit wrote about her birthday, which made me remember we got engaged on her birthday.
So, I sent Joe a text.
This is where we are, friends.
Survival mode. No frills. Just survival.
So, bear with me...and enjoy blogs from other excellent writers, such as Holly and her 30 Days Campaign, which includes my friend Katie. They are highlighting some pretty amazing people.
I am not one of those, as I cannot even keep it together to remember to make my bed, and it's 11:30 in the afternoon.
Either way, happy Monday...here's to a new week and working toilets!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

If You Can See God's Hand in It, Then Why Is It So Hard?

First of all, I'm not Job. If you're struggling, and you're not a Bible reader, read the book of Job, then you'll feel like you're just whining about the dirt on your kitchen floor.

However, everyone has issues, am I right? Some are better at hiding them via a flat iron and eyeliner and a cute outfit (ahem), and some are an open book train wreck at all times. Either way, we're all in this world for a purpose, I believe, and it's a Godly one.

So, then, why is it that I feel like at times God's hand is guiding me, and yet, it's so stinking bizarre and hard and roundabout?

Let's back up. It's been a year, friends. We're nearing the one year mark of losing Joe's mom to cancer. Her birthday was last week. Her fingerprints are in our fall traditions, still, one year after her leaving this earth. It's still hard. I'm just the daughter-in-law, but having the babies without Karma was something surreal.

Then, move into our jobs. Joe has changed professions...well, gone back to his original profession. I have left my professional path...again, and then there's the whole "do we keep farming or not."

That question is for another post, another day.

Regardless, with the blissful birth of the babies comes sleepless nights, tossing and turning and reconsidering every decision you've made since age 18.

Good times.

I know I'm on the right path; I can feel it, but in the midst of all this chaos...and by chaos, I mean late night groggy feedings, no water softener (and for a Type A Neatfreak, this is enough to push one over the edge), and the hectic time of harvest, one can start to question God's hand and plans for oneself.

Like today.

Joe's selling cattle today, and while I said I would post a more clear picture of this, we're re-inventing ourselves in the field of agriculture. He and his dad worked yesterday loading and sorting, and while part of me is excited for a new chapter, one with more freedom and less risk, why am I so teary?

If this is a part of our plan, then why am I so upset?

The thought of the unpredictability of a new chapter, yes.
The redefinition of ourselves, yes.
Hormones...oh, heck yes.

Either way, God's plan has unfolded in front of us, and unlike that commercial where the insurance agency leads you with a green line, we're searching for something, some direction, some indication that this plan will bring not only glory to Him, but happiness and stability for us.

Selfish, I know, but who doesn't want to be able to say, in nine years, we'll be able to start paying for our daughter's first semester of college (we had the "is Santa real" conversation last night with Anna, and I feel like the next step is sorority rush.)?

In the end, literally and figuratively, we'll be okay. We're not Job. We don't have Ebola. We're not living in a van down by the river. Our kids are healthy...our bills are paid. However, the unknown is strange and uncharted.

So, if you're starting to worry about your path, and wonder if God has a good sense of humor or just likes playing, well, God, remember that with every good, there's a bad.

And would you remind me of that when I start to feel like we need a few cows here and there? Remind me I can go on a vacation or a run without worrying about chores.

There's the light! There's the silver lining! Whoo hoo!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

What Did You Do In the Past Two Weeks?

Hi friends!

According to my calculations (the date on my last post), it's been over two weeks since last we met.

Two weeks.

Seems like two years.

What have you done in the past two weeks? Had a busy time? Enjoyed a pumpkin patch? Harvested or watched someone else harvesting? How about a football game? Today's my alma mater's homecoming...and I'm not there. Again.

Why, you ask?

Well, in the past two weeks, we've had a lot going on. Not only has harvest started around here with equipment coming in and out and all over the place, but we still have our house have we suspended in the air. We have moved out, and then moved back in (only to still be up on jacks...you should feel this puppy shake when I do a load of towels).

Besides our logistics being a little "up in the air" (pardon the pun), we brought home our most precious portion of the last two weeks last Saturday.

Mary Kathleen and Caroline Suzanne were born a month early, safely, after a pretty scary delivery. I have done this birthing thing before, on my own accord, and when I was kicked out of the hospital October 9th, and then told again by my doctor at my weekly appointment that day that I would be pregnant for another week or so, I was not happy. Not comfortable, not hearing it, and NOT believing it. In fact, by the time we got back to our house, I was contracting. Then, by the time my kids had dinner and were shipped to Grandma's, I was contracting regularly enough that I KNEW it was coming. So, off we went to the hospital again, after a phone call to my doctor where I explained I was NOT going to be kicked out for a false alarm again that night. Babies were coming.

And come they did...just a few minutes after being admitted, my water broke, and we were on our way to a c-section room. I had spoken with my doctor that afternoon about the positioning of the girls, and we agreed, safety first. So, while I was told in my first delivery I was a "born pusher..." uhhhh...thanks?, and that I had delivered naturally four times before, this was a different case.

I will spare you the details, but those of you who have had c-sections can attest that it's major surgery in a scary sterile room. This was completely different and scary for me, but when they delivered Mary, she was as pink and dark headed and YELLING as LOUD as she could, just like my previous children. However, when I was told I needed something to relax to deliver the second baby, and then the look on Joe's face when she came out, I knew this was NOT like my last delivery.

Caroline came out, but had been basically trapped by my contracting uterus (sorry if you're squeamish about this stuff). She was stuck, and while safely delivered, was not breathing and her color was not good. I didn't realize she had been delivered, as the rush of NICU, labor and delivery, and doctors covered her from my sight, but the look on Joe's face told me the story.

And it wasn't good.

For two minutes, which seemed as long as these two weeks, they worked on our precious girl. One of our dearest friends leading the charge (Julie, I love you for saving my girl). She was breathing, with assistance, and for two minutes, we weren't sure. However, she came through, took a big breath on her own (I'm assuming), and both girls were whisked to the NICU.

I spent a good hour in recovery...I think. I was kind of in and out. I was then taken to see my girls in the NICU.

In isolettes.

In different rooms.
Caroline hooked up to a C-PAP machine so I couldn't see her face; Mary covered in monitors so I couldn't touch her.

I know hormones are raging at this point, but any mother who has had to endure this should be given a pass if they are hysterical.

Our girls spend a week at Hotel NICU, at Children's Hospital of Illinois. I will tell you, if you're ever in need of great, and I mean world class care for your infants, this is the place to go. While I had to leave them last Monday, as I was discharged and needed to be with my other kids, too, I knew that the twins were in good hands, and I would get to take them home when they were ready.

Thankfully, last Saturday, they were ready, and we've been home for a week.

Sleep is a distant memory. Space is at a premium, and our hearts are filled with joy of our healthy girls, helpful big kids, and generous and loving friends and family who have fed us, ran our kids around, and just taken good care of us. My mom, especially, deserves a medal. Anna said she was like our cook and chauffeur! It's the truth...she's been amazing, and it's because of her taking my kids to her house this afternoon to play that I am able to crank out this lengthy and rather newsy post!

Anyway, what have YOU done for the past two weeks, huh? I'm competitive in about everything, but these past two weeks and all that have gone on is a competition I was willing to forfeit.

However, life is good. Babies are sweet and content, and we are so blessed.

Thank you for all your prayers, and thanks for your understanding that while I signed up for Holly's post-a-day challenge in November (my series is entitled, Survival), I may be absent, as my life here is full. I'm efficient, but this portion of my life is sucking the efficiency and energy out of me.

However, I AM in pants that zip and button, and ARE NOT MATERNITY!!

Small victories, folks.

Here's some pictures, too...in case you hadn't seen them.

Here's to a less eventful two weeks!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

#iam4H...Now, but not When I Was Really IN It

Oh, sweet, sweet irony.

So, like 20some years ago, I was a member of the Oneida Mix N Fix 4H Club. Cute name, huh? Totally appealed to the dudes and the dudettes, right?

Kind of.

Ask my brother...not so much.

Anyway, I was the president, I think, at one time, went to State Fair in sewing, showed my "Graphic Arts" projects (even though I have NOT ONE SINGLE CRAFTY OR ARTSY BONE IN MY BODY), and even went to the State Fair in Public Speaking for demonstrating how to French Roll one's hair.

Hard hitting, huh?

However, I never really bought into it. I never got involved beyond our little club that met in the basement of the Presbyterian Church. I never held a position, never wanted to be a part of the bigger 4H picture.

Then, sweet, sweet irony stepped in.

Meaning, my daughter.

Anna joined 4H last year, her first year of eligibility. She was pumped. She signed up for her projects, worked hard, and had a really successful first year, scoring blue ribbons, and doing great at the livestock show.

I'd say she's all in, considering she's in year two and is currently the secretary.

Now, our club is not a big one, nor is it a mighty one, but it's a group of kids who meet once a month who are doing something a little different. While the meetings (well, let's be real...the ONE I went to), could be a little jazzier, and we need a 4H flag to "pledge our head to clearer thinking" to (I still know all the words, thankyouverymuch), the basic premise of 4H still stands the test of time.

The motto is: To make the best better.

Seems simple enough, and kind of goes along with Joe's and my parenting philosophy. If you're going to do something, do it and do it WELL. I'm not saying I'm a tiger mom by any stretch of the imagination, but if Anna's going to be in 4H, she's going to actively participate. She's a kid that doesn't have to be coerced into trying something new, or going someplace different, or being a part of a new group. She's also a kid who strives to do her best, always...I credit my perfectionism gene for that...so maybe with the other kids, it will be hard to "make the best better," but for now, Anna is the hashtag for this National 4H Week: #iam4H.

Which just blows my mind, because nowhere in my pre-kid parenting picture was there a 4Her, and NO WHERE was there a mom or a dad who were co-leaders (Joe), and as I sat at the meeting on Sunday, I thought, "You know, if I wasn't so grossly pregnant, I would help out more."

After this summer's showing experience, I see how 4H can benefit a kid and his/her confidence, work ethic, and personal motto. To make the best better shouldn't just apply to making a good heifer the reserve or grand champion, but to work hard to reap the benefits and the satisfaction of just working hard. Not to sound like a grandma, but kids these days are participating in things that are so parent driven, so coached, so structured, that if you had something like oh, a 1000 lb. animal you had to lead around and had to trust you, you'd take the initiative to work hard to not, well, get stepped on, for starters. 4H is different than sports, piano lessons, and the like. It's a choice, a commitment, and a time in your life when you can receive what you sow, so to speak.

So, I guess, because we'll have 6 4Hers for the next 19 years, I need to revisit my opinion and experience in 4H and help my kids see how by participating in this seemingly little part of their lives, they are making the best better for the next generation.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Stereotypes, Harvest, and a Scary House

It's a mixed bag today, friends.

It's Homecoming week at our school, which usually means a dress up day or five, a potential float to be built, and some later nights due to activities at the school. On a normal year, we'd be happily participating, digging through dress up clothes, painting our faces, whatever.

However, we are currently nomads.

Our family has had to move out of our house because of a huge remodel project. And by huge, I mean, our house is currently 3 feet lifted off the old foundation, and being driven under and dug out by skid steers and other digging equipment. My mom and I visited it today.

It's pretty amazing.

And scary.

Looks like a nice home to bring your newborn twins to, right?


However, we're making big progress. This all started last Friday, and we're already talking concrete, footings and dewatering methods. It's all good stuff.

And scary.

And, it's also homecoming, and with a three foot entryway step (with no steps) and a 34 week pregnant mama, getting the kids clothes gathered on a regular day to be packed and then taken to grandma and grandpa's while there's no water and no way to sleep at our own home makes for a challenge.

Good thing one of the days is "Dress Like a Farmer Day."

I write very, very sarcastically.

Yes, I realize our town is Farmington.

Yes, I realize our mascot is the Farmer.

However, seeing what people think farmers look like on a regular day makes me roll my eyes.

Don't get me wrong, I love the pictures of cute little girls in braids and jeans. I love that some of our farmer friends (the occupation, not the mascot) are taking it seriously, and dressing the part how they would be on a regular Wednesday. 

But, come on.

The note from the elementary school says, something to the affect of get out your straw hats and bib overalls.

Maybe it's karma getting me for being pro-Chief Illiniwek, but I get kind of snarly about the "aw shucks, I'm a hick farmer." I have mentioned it before, but our farmers have master's degrees. Our farmers run equipment that is technologically cutting edge, and have to go to classes to learn how to run equipment, to properly apply and use spraying equipment. 


So, forgive me for sending my kids today in their "farmer gear," which meant nice jeans, button downs, and cute cowboy boots. 

No bibs.

No freckles ala Hee Haw.

No straw anything.

Harvest has started for us, as of Monday, so it is fitting that today is "Dress Like a Farmer Day." Because of Joe's current employment, our operation has had to shift a little with duties. The farmers are dressed and rolling happily, as the yields of the crops are bumper (although the prices aren't great), and there have been little issues in the few days we have been rolling. It's an exciting time, for sure, and I would say our farmers are dressed for success right now. Corn is testing well for yields, and our moisture is at 17%, which for all of you who don't know what that means...it's good, considering how wet the past few weeks have been.

Of course, they're calling for rain tomorrow and Friday, so our farmers will be dressed in their pajamas, staring at the radar, hoping for no wind and just a small sprinkle to settle the dust and not set them back.

However, this is not going to rain on our parade! My farmer is wearing his tie and getting a float ready for the parade on Friday, rain or shine. Mr. Webel will be in full FFA mode, despite the scary house, harvest craziness, and an equally insanely uncomfortable wife. 

My farmers are dressed the part, just not the stupid stereotype that the world insists on keeping up in our little town with our hillbilly mascot.

Maybe someday I'll be less snarly about it, less of a cluster of random life changing events, and not have two newborns on the way, and I'll get them to change our mascot to a nice looking, successful businessman, not a hick from the sticks.

Probably not...but it's worth a try!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Do You Know the Food Babe?

Have you ever heard of The Food Babe? Maybe you follow her on Facebook. Maybe you have seen her on the Today Show, NBC Chicago, and the like? Maybe you've seen this graphic that was crafted to scare all of you pumpkin spice latte drinkers:

and this one:

I don't know much about the Food Babe, other than there is not a time in my life that I have ever been considered a "babe," and much less would want to be professionally known as a "babe."

I also know, just from briefly perusing her website and reading the words, "Monsanto Milk" on this graphic, that while we may share interest in keeping our families healthy, obviously use a nice flat iron, and maybe would have been in a class or sorority together in college or a something like that, we do not agree on food production and consumption. We maybe would be Facebook friends, but after reading some of her insights that are rather one-sided and ill researched, I would hide her. I'm not an unfriender, just a hider…I know, passive aggressive. I tend to err on the side of my grandma, who is 100 and still living in her own home, sharp as a tack. She would choose water over this latte, but if she had one, she'd probably not keel over, as the Food Babe is suggesting by her marketing.

Anyway, back to the graphic: Do you see the trendiness? Do you see that she mentions there may not be real pumpkin in this latte? Umm…no kidding. That's why it's called flavoring. It's a version. And
"possible pesticide residue" because the beans were not organic. Possible.

Again, I haven't done much research on this woman, and perhaps she has a zillion degrees in nutrition and food science, but I'm just guessing that she is trying to scare the pants off of you to get you to join her #FoodBabeArmy and reap the benefits of a good blog following.

That's just my assumption, and I would be happy to change my tune if necessary.

So this is the beginning of my research. Do you follow the Food Babe? Why? Are you a believer in her research? Do you think she's onto something? Do you follow her to disagree with her? What's her secret to getting her #FoodBabeArmy, and where's the agricultural antithesis of this?

I'm getting to the bottom of it, my friends, as I'm curious.

And I may have mentioned in a previous post, I had a mocha today…and it wasn't vegan, or decaffeinated, yet it was delicious.

Fall? Really?

It's true.

It's becoming more and more fall-ish every single day, and I couldn't be happier. A day like today makes me want to head to a college campus and soak up the atmosphere. Is it weird how I crave to be on a college campus during this time of year? Is anyone else like that? Does anyone else crave college football and walks amongst brick buildings on a quad during this time of year?


How about boots with skinny jeans?

A little more?

How about harvesting a field of corn or soybeans?

That's better…that's what this blog is about.

Anyway, our fall is a little trickier than usual, as you can imagine, if you're a faithful reader. All of our ducks have been in a row to fall in such a way that we'd have our house construction at a reasonable place when our babies were coming, and then harvest could start, and we'd be all good.


But, again, this is not a whiny post ( I know, shocker…I treated myself to a leaded (read: not decaffeinated) mocha today, shhhhh…so I'm hopped up on goof balls), this is a fall post, and an I LOVE FALL post at that.

I really don't have much agricultural progress to report. We are all a little nervous around here, and I have heard the phrase "stalk integrity" uttered more than once. The corn prices are down, and with that, we're hoping that this corn crop will not literally fall down, thanks to the wet late summer. We're basically one bad windstorm away from downed corn, so the farmers on my side of the world are hoping that we can just hold our breath and utter prayers strong enough to keep the corn up while the breeze dries the muddy soil.

But back to fall…beautiful, crisp fall. Fall with your colors, your pumpkins, mums, boots with jeans and combines and college football. Fall…please do not disappoint. Please keep this weather like today, and keep our spirits alive that we can do all that needs to be done before the winter months take hold.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014


This has been a strange week.

We have settled into a school routine, but the kids are exhausted.

Joe has settled into being a teacher and farmer, but that's a lot, and I mean A LOT. There's so much to do, and only 24 hours a day. I'm not the help on the farm farm wife, either, especially now, considering I can't even bend over or stand for long periods of time, so I can only make him a nice dinner (when I don't feel like crying from exhaustion of the end of the twin pregnancy) and sympathize.

That doesn't help when there's chores to be done.

To top it all off, it's raining and raining and raining, so that's kind of brought everyone down (sorry friends who are out west and dry). Our house looks like someone took a bulldozer to it, intending to work on it, but since it's still raining, and will continue to do so the rest of today, no one is working…so we look like someone had good intentions of construction, but maybe forgot about it. In other words, ghetto superstar is the perfect name for our homestead right now.

Then, we've had too many lives taken from us this week. A church friend's husband lost his battle with cancer, but leaves behind children ranging in age from 20s to 5. A dear co-worker's son died Sunday, unexpectedly and tragically. A long time church member and fixture in the community died, after a full life, but still sad when one reflects upon losing someone who was always there and active.

Life seems overwhelming right now.

We're at the cusp of harvest, and that feels somewhat overwhelming, but we have so much else going on, I hardly can wrap my head around the fact that the beans are turning and the corn is turning "orange" as Jack says, otherwise known as getting ready to harvest.

Overwhelming joy, too, in the midst of this stress. We're (oh who am I kidding… I am) nearing the end of this pregnancy. In roughly 6 weeks, our twins will be here, and although overwhelmed doesn't even begin to describe the feelings I have in regards to giving birth and bringing home two infants, we have been overwhelmed with joyful friends, generous gifts and fun parties for our babies. It's been a fun couple of weekends with friends and family. I only have pictures from my "friend" shower…but Joe's family threw me one, too…luckily I was wearing the same outfit, so I could pass this off as both! Ha! The joys of only a few items still fitting!!
With two of my bests…the hostesses, Kathleen and Rachel

All the "mums" who either had twins or six kids in their families.

One of my college buddies, Sunny.

My teaching partner-in-crime, former roommate, fellow twin mom, and always entertaining friend, Andrea. 

Josie and Amelia modeling the scarf my co-worker CJ made! They were pumped to be at a "fancy party."

Overwhelmed in a good way.

While my house right now is not ready for the babies in the way that it should be, according to babycenter.com…who is telling me via shaming emails that I should be prepping the nursery. Uhhhh…prepping our nursery means moving the changing table to the hallway and the dresser to the nook where our dress up basket used to be…we're ready enough. I'm not getting overwhelmed with those logistics, because if I start to think about that, I'll remember the overwhelming feeling that I have no control over the weather, and thus no control over our construction, and thus will have no control over the never ending harvest that will probably ensue thanks to this crazy amount of moisture.

Deep breaths.

Anyway, we are overwhelmed, in good ways and not so good, but it's nothing that we can't handle. It's nothing that won't make us look back in 10 years and laugh…potentially.

This is a time in our lives when energy is low and emotions are high. Time is limited, and work is mounting. While Joe is trying to figure out how to balance work and farm and kids and me…I just want  some help cleaning out the garage so that I can nest some more, because that's important. Note the sarcasm.

Friends, we covet your prayers during these fall months. It's overwhelming to see the support our friends and family are giving us, but if you could just whisper a good thought to us once in awhile, we'd be grateful.

Overwhelmingly grateful.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Turn, Turn, Turn

Fall is coming, I can feel it.

Even though it's supposed to be hotter than the bowels of hell tomorrow, I can feel it. I saw it. 55 for an evening low. 75 for a daytime high.

Come on, please fall…I need you to come so I can quit sweating just walking to the garage (that could be my "current state," but nevertheless).

Labor Day marks the end of summer, right? We spent that day pretending it was summer, lazing around at the pool, but now it's closed, our suits and towels are tucked away for the season, and it's time to get fall going.

Then today…This:
This truly marked the beginning of a new season. Our boy started preschool. Although he has truly been clingy and hasn't been transitioning from one thing to another lately, he did great. He was excited to go, and even more excited to pick up lunch and surprise Daddy at school today, chatting the whole time about Circle Time, Play Time, and the ever-important Snack Time. Happy, happy times for this happy, happy boy.

We'll see what tomorrow brings.

Life on the farm here is transitioning, too. Just a few weeks ago, we were remarking at how green everything still looked. Now, however, the corn is starting to turn. Silks are browning up, the lush green is now more of a light green fading to brown. It won't be long. 

The beans are a different story. I'm no agronomist, but from the table talk here, the wet late summer has been hard on our little friends. Sudden death is popping up in fields around us. And for those of you who are wondering what sudden death means…it's just that. Suddenly dying beans. There's more science to it, but it's never good.

But, it's not much, and we're starting to dry out, so that's a good thing.

Fall will be here before we know it. Time for boots and sweaters and legitimate hot chocolate (my kids like to drink it at church when it's 95 outside after services…ick.). Things will change. Leaves will change, crops will change, our life will change.

To everything…turn, turn, turn.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Facebook Just Chastised Me

Thank you, Facebook.

Not only do you make me feel as if I'm not vacationing enough, spending enough "family time #makingmemories," and taking artful Instagram pictures of it, now you're chastising me for not posting on my blog's page.


It's Labor Day, for heaven's sake! That's just what you want to wake up to, as you're checking emails in the morning…a virtual wrist slap that you've been a slacking blogger.

Pardon me for gestating twins, starting school, trying to ready our house to be jacked up, and chasing after four children.


Anyway, thank you, Facebook for the chastising, and here's some random updates and thoughts that I'm sure you've been wondering about…

1) Twins: Just 6-8 more weeks left. The end.

2) School: All children will be in school as of this week! Jack heads to preschool for a few precious hours three days a week, and while I have read a lot of blogs about the sad moms who are sending their sweet babes to the wolves…I mean teachers…at the beginning of school, I'm more like these people.

I love my children, but they need to be on a schedule that is not just imposed by me. They need to be off the farm, with their peers, learning all the wonderful things that come with school. Like this.

3) Farmer Joe, aka, Mr. Webel: Joe has enjoyed the exhausting first two weeks of school. Truly. This is a good thing for him to be back with the people. He's doing great, and is having to juggle a lot. Chores in the morning and evening, a clingy three year old who is used to him waltzing in and out during the day, and all the extras that come with being an ag teacher and FFA advisor: namely, a pedal pull during a family party that he had to miss. Bummer. However, it's all good. We look at each other often and comment on how in the world we're going to do all what we're planning on doing in the next few weeks, but we just keep plugging away. These are all good things. Everything we're encountering will only be a blessing in the end. That's what keeps us going and going and going.

4) The final hurrah of the summer: In honor of Labor Day, I'm hopeful to waddle my happy rear to the Country Club pool for one last float. However, we're at the mercy of the potential for rain showers (STOP RAINING…we have construction to commence), the lawn needing to be mowed, and a steer to be washed and clipped for the final show/sale of the year. Anna has one more steer show in town this weekend, and Anna is struggling a bit. It's hard to get excited about this show. It's small. It's late in the season. It's right next to a railroad track where trains go by during the show and freak out the cattle, and Anna's steer can err on the side of jumpy. There will not be a lot of love loss when she sells him this weekend. However, this is not always the case. Our dear friends came to visit yesterday, and when their sweet boy had to sell his steer, lots of tears were shed, lots of explaining had to be done, and there's been some really great blogs about this same situation. It's the circle of life of a show animal, but when you have invested time, money and energy in caring for an animal, thinking about selling it to market is a hard pill to swallow for a 9 year old. Read this for a great perspective by my friend Holly's friend Christy. Did you get that???

And then read this, and get just as ticked off and roll your eyes about one thousand times for how one sided and Hee Haw showing animals STILL is seen as. And then…read this response, because it's awesome.

So there you go, friends…my life in a list. I hope this quells Facebook's reminder app.

Happy Labor Day.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Majority Heads to School

Like everyone, I'm sure, you've seen a lot of cute pictures on Facebook, showcasing new backpacks, new running shoes, a new year.

We did the same. It's been an exciting day so far, and it's only 8:15. My girls headed to school: a fourth grader (who has a new, excited, and YOUNG teacher. I think I could be her mother.), a second grader (who's best friend is in the SAME CLASS!!!), and--deep breath--a KINDERGARTENER!! Amelia is ready for kindergarten, but is kindergarten ready for her???

However, the biggest excitement (despite the fact that I will only have ONE child at home for a few weeks…before I have two more, but whatever.), is that Joe has headed back to the classroom as well! Yes, Farmer Joe, my farmer, has made a leap into the educational world, after 7 years of "just farming" (side note: I hate saying, "just farming," because farming is full time and hard work, but when we started our endeavor as a farm family, it was to be on a semi-part time basis with a steady job and paycheck on the side. Hopefully, I haven't offended any full timers, because, believe me, I get it.). Anyway, Joe started his career 15 years ago as an ag teacher. He loved it. He was good at it. He was moved up the "ladder," so to speak, until the economy tanked, and schools ran out of money to hire his services. He not only taught kids in the classroom, but he supervised teachers in the state of Illinois, and then moved on to develop curriculum and trained teachers across the country…from Delaware to California to Texas. He presented in front of the USDA in Washington, DC…he was a big deal. He is a big deal, and this step back into the classroom makes me want to BURST with pride. 

My dude is a smart one, and it's time for him to show it to the community. 

Plus, he's pretty cute. Please tell me you like his pattern-on-pattern tie…he wasn't convinced, but like a good husband, he wore it!! 

So the majority of my house was gone by 7:30, and that is just plain strange. A good strange. Although it's weird to have Amelia, Jack's partner in crime, gone all day, I'm not the mom that cries at the bus stop. I am made of steel, friends…just kidding. However, I taught. I know that the girls are getting the best love and the great experiences all kids need in school. I loved school, too, even though I cried every day of first grade, but we won't go into that today. I loved it so much that I became a teacher. I think that's another reason why I'm so excited for Joe to start his new chapter. As a teacher, I bloomed. I made lifelong friends with my colleagues and parents. Heck, they even bought me diamond earrings for my wedding day…that's the type of relationships I had as a teacher. I'm so hopeful that Joe will find that bond with his fellow staffers, as being a farmer can be a lonely profession. 

This is going to be good.

So, we have a big day, my boy and I, as the majority is out of here. Right now, he's singing as he watches for birds in his Batman cape. He needs this time, too, before more changes rock his world, but for now, I'm so excited that my people have embarked on another year…and it's not just because I don't have to make lunch for more than two people.

Happy first day of school, my loves.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

When Did Canned Food Drives Become Controversial?

Oh friends.

It's the last week of summer vacation here, and like the last few days of summer fun, my spark has waned. Maybe it's because I'm entering the hardest part of carrying twins. Maybe it's because I'm ready for a change. Maybe it's just because there are times I want to just beat my head against a wall because I feel as if I STILL can't advocate for conventional agriculture properly.

Case in point: yesterday. As I sat at a staff meeting at work, hearing all the great things our United Way staffers have been working on (have I ever mentioned how great it is to work for an organization that, with the help of the community and generous corporate matches raises roughly 12 million dollars a year? In just PEORIA, Illinois? That's pretty impressive.), we reached the point in our meeting where we discussed our rather large scale food drive that is organized in conjunction with our campaign's kickoff.

A very sweet lady on our staff raised her hand then and asked if we could please have the grocery stores and drop off points specify that we would prefer organic canned goods so that, and I quote, "healthy foods can go into our family's mouths."


As I sat there, with a few glances from some coworkers who know me well and read this blog…I froze. This was work. This was where I was a literacy project manager, not an agriculture advocate. However, my life as a spokesperson (well, the few years anyway) flashed before my eyes. Yet, I was frozen. FROZEN. Both of my bosses were there at the table, do I dare create waves? And was she SERIOUS? Isn't a canned tomato a canned tomato, and not a bag of Fritos? And weren't we feeding the hungry? Would they really turn down a food donation bag if it were all conventionally produced.

My head was swimming, and for what seemed like hours, I sat there, mouth agape, and still receiving looks like, "you're going to say something, aren't you?"

Finally, I pulled myself together and said something like, "As a conventional agriculturalist, I absolutely disagree with this, food is food."

And that was it.

Now, if you know me, I am rarely at a loss for words, but I hardly knew where to begin, and again, I WAS AT WORK. And since when did canned food drives become a battle ground for conventional vs. organic food? And WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? Why couldn't I speak up for myself, our plight, our beliefs, research I have quoted…


I blame it on pregnancy, but in reality, it was because I felt painted in a corner. I wasn't sure how to approach the topic in a staff meeting. It wasn't the appropriate time to have a discussion about organic vs. conventional practice and choice and statistics, etc. Even though I was frustrated about my lack of a poignant statement in regards to the food wars, I guess what frustrated me was that what she was suggesting that we, as a staff, as a marketing campaign, to market a more "healthy" campaign to our very generous donors of food. A choice was asked to be set out in the forefront of the canned food drive, and it was one that was based on false pretenses.

Now, I'm NOT contending that you're not allowed to go out and buy canned organic tomatoes and give them to the needy. I'm not contending that organic farmers are any less of a farmer than we are, but to market it as more healthy is FALSE. A tomato is a tomato. Wash it, peel it, cook it, dump it out of the can. It doesn't take a powerful statement to plead the case that a can of tomatoes (organic or conventional) in a food pantry basket is more healthy for a family than Cheetos or shells and processed cheese. However, to market it as healthy from a non-agricultural perspective, just an emotional plea is FALSE.

So why couldn't I have said that yesterday?

Oh well. The food controversy wages on, my friends, and it's not just what you put in your basket for your mouth. We're moving onto the needy.

So much more work to be done…if I just had the energy.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Hitting the Fork in the Road

So I'm a day late and dollar short (thanks for the phrase, Kathleen!), and thus my happy anniversary post to my husband…a day late.

And I was not a dollar short, but quarantined to my home this week, so not even a card was exchanged.

However, we enjoyed a lovely time yesterday at my cousin's beautiful wedding, and dined on my uncle's dime, so Joe was off the hook for dinner! Thanks, Uncle Jeff!!
Us, August 2, 2014

While the same exact date, eleven years ago, Joe and I were truly quite different people, in different places (geographically and career wise), and had the whole rest of our lives ahead of us. Watchingmy cousin and her new husband (who are the sweet, tender age of 23 and 24…was I EVER that young???), exchange their vows and enjoy the night, I couldn't help but replay our night, eleven years ago. Dancing, good food, good friends, a beautiful ceremony (despite a little hail…yes, HAIL), but where we were in that moment is what got to me.

And us, August 2, 2003

Joe was poised to be a force in ag education and training. I was teaching, but was ready to start my first semester in an educational administration program, tracking me to be a principal in five years. We traveled; we ate out; we even had a pool in our backyard.


A pool. And a principal? Who the heck did I think I was? Grad school was college without the fun. And a pool. Honestly...

Anyway, looking at Joe and me eleven years ago and comparing us to who we are today would be unfair. Life has thrown us curve balls, has changed our paths, has exhausted and excited us. In our eleven years, we started with a plan, but that's okay. However, this year has caused us to look at each other and feel a day late, and a dollar short (sometimes literally). Our life plan has changed. Our life path has hit a fork, and we are standing at this crossroads, hand in hand, but looking at it in bewilderment.

This has been a hard year, one for the books, actually. But the thing is, when you're with someone who you know has your best interest and your love in the forefront of his decisions, even if you're not on the same page with all the time…maybe not even in the same book, for that matter, you can face that fork and forge through together.

Joe and I covet your prayers. Our marriage is strong, but with trials come stress, with change comes consternation, with great big scary life altering events come big fat hairy exciting blessings.

It's been an interesting and unpredictable eleven years, Joe Webel…and we're planners! In fact, right after we got engaged, we told my parents, we shared with friends, and then scheduled an appointment with the financial advisor. Such a romantic…

So, in spite of our stress, in spite of our exhausting and overwhelmingly full household, here's to many, many more forks in the road. Let's keep plugging away, surviving, thriving and planning only to have our plans laughed at, but let's keep doing it together.

I love you, Farmer Joe.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The BlogHer That Never Was

Remember this?

Oh so happy. Oh so free. Oh so alone. Yet, kind of having back pain…

Well, fast forward from that picture to a few hours later, and we were in communication with my doctor in regards to severe back pain, and I'll spare you all the gory details, but it wasn't pretty. 

He told me to cancel my trip.

I never made it to BlogHer14.

My bags were packed. Every electronic I was bringing was charged. Friends were contacted to meet for dinners, drinks (water for me), and sessions were being discussed.

I was ready.

Alas, it was not meant to be.

Instead, on Thursday, when I was supposed to be sipping decaf coffee with my friend Katie in the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, I was being wheeled through the emergency room to be treated for a severe kidney infection.

Have you ever had one of those?

I've had four kids, and this pain was comparable to the worst labor pains I had with each one.

Fun times.

I spent my vacation time hooked up to IV fluids, receiving sonograms (babies are A-OK, by the way), barfing in front of good friends (Sorry, David and Katie), and being very thankful to be in the care of skilled health care professionals instead of in a hotel room across the country with a potentially dangerous health issue.

And still…

As I was enjoying the comfort of pain meds, I lived vicariously through the friends who were enjoying BlogHer14. It looked like a great time. I'm sure I would have had fun. Am I glad I didn't make it there, absolutely. Am I sorry to have missed out on the fun, of course, but you cannot choose your schedule some times, and I think this may have been a clue from the Big Guy to SLOW THE HECK DOWN.

So, that's what I'm doing…no poignant post about how BlogHer14 changed my writing life, or what new friends I made. Nope…I'm just happy to be able to pee today.

And that needs to be enough for now.

Until next year, BlogHer14. I'll bring the twins.

Monday, July 14, 2014


Today was Anna's 4H Livestock Show.

When I say I really have nothing to do with Anna's 4H experience, it is no understatement. While she and Joe had headed to the general projects show on Saturday, I stayed at home with the kids (and maybe took a nap). Yesterday, they loaded up to take the cattle to the weigh-in, while I loaded up my kids to the country club pool.

Today, however, I went to the show, loading up my crew and snacks and toys once again, putting on shoes I didn't care about, and herded my friends to the fairgrounds.

The fairgrounds I went to as a child.

The fairgrounds in my home county.

The fairgrounds where my uncle, my dad, and now my girl had/have their hands in the livestock show.

As I pulled into the fairgrounds lot, careful to park in an area that wouldn't have to back up around trailers (have I mentioned I'm terrible at backing up? Even with sensors and a camera? Sheesh.), it hit me.

These are my people.

The people in the stands, the names on the animals were all familiar, if not darned friendly. Name after name after name were of people I knew from towns I grew up around, played sports against, and thought I would never, ever see again.


However, I boomeranged.

I'm back in my home county, and now that we have kids involved in county events, it's more apparent that I am truly home. As she took the ring, she did so with a young man from a family who have known me since the toddler years, had my dad as a teacher, went to church with my aunt and uncle.

The man in the ring, guiding the cattle, assisting as needed? He's the dad of kids I used to always babysit for.

The guy cleaning out the chicken coops as the little kids and I walked through, killing time between classes? He's my old neighbor who teaches Ag at my high school.

On and on and on and on I walked around seeing people I hadn't seen in years, and who didn't expect me to be there. I must have made it abundantly clear I was never coming back.

The best part? Our name was pronounced right. Not just ours, my cousin's (Mottaz, my maiden name…I know, I went from bad to worse in the name department) was pronounced correctly. When my girl won Reserve Grand Champion, we had a cheering section, even though my parents are on opposite sides of the country this week. Neighbors, friends, relatives. People knew us. They recognized us. They were supporting us.

It was surreal.

While speaking to a couple I have known all my life, who have been 4H leaders long since their kids have left the hallowed halls of 4H, I spoke of moving home to the "home farm." Pete, the dad, choked up as he spoke of the honor it was to have his daughter and family in the same situation.

I never thought of moving back to the home county in a way that would choke up my dad.

But it means something.

My boomeranging isn't just nice because I have someone to talk to at cattle shows, someone to cheer on Anna as she won Junior Showmanship (YES… SHE DID THAT, TOO!! Proud, proud mama!!), it's nice because it means something. While I never was a huge 4Her, I was a Knox County girl, and am a Knox County girl, and when people know your history, your beginning, that's a big deal. A comfort. A happy place to be when you're sharing your home with your children.

The lure of what's bigger and better and broader is strong. I felt it. I needed to branch out. I'm happy I did, and there are days I wish I could head back, but the boomerang affect is strong. Roots are stronger. Friendly faces and correct pronunciation of names may seem small, but in a big, big world, it's nice to come home to a familiar place.

Today, I truly came home, and I couldn't be prouder.

Such a great day for such a hard worker! Great job, Anna!!!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Bit on the Edge

Joe and I are a little on edge this week.

We dropped off our oldest at camp this week (five miles from our house, mind you, yet still away from us and our eyes) for the first time. If you've ever sent a kid to camp, it's a little disconcerting. She's my helper with the little ones; Joe's helper on the farm. We're a little lost, and a little freaked out.

Hay is also happening, as late as it may seem. Mowing hay, baling hay before the random rains hit, and getting everything and everyone ready before the hay choppers come today have been on Joe's to-do list for weeks, and today's the day the choppers come. He's a LOT on edge. It's 7:20 in the morning, and he's already been up on the top of the silo.

However, our crops look good. That should make us a little less freaked out, however, on Monday night, as Joe was scrolling Facebook, posts from friends in his home county were flooding his news feed. A three year old had wandered into a corn field, just after 6:30, a storm was coming, and after a few hours (A FEW HOURS), search teams from neighboring towns, counties, even helicopters were called in.

A three year old.

Like our son.

By the grace of God, this child was found, safe, SIX HOURS LATER, near midnight, but can you imagine? Can you imagine the fear this sweet little girl felt as storms raged above her head, surrounded by green, green and more green. And what about the parents? I don't even want to go there. There are no words for the anguish and helplessness and fear I would feel.

As I sit here, my backyard is surrounded on two sides by corn, in tight rows for greater yield potential, taller than my tallest relative. While looking out there on this beautiful morning should give me a sense of hope for a bumper crop and great harvest, today, it makes me completely freaked out. Jack is adventurous and inquisitive. I, though I try, can't be everywhere at all times, and it could happen- to anyone.

This story has led us to quiz Jack about the safety of our backyard. We've successfully freaked out our older two kids (we'll work on Anna when she gets home) with this story. I won't shelter them from the danger of this story, as it's IN OUR BACKYARD.

So, we're a bit on edge.

The country life offers calm, peace, and tranquility. However, small things can turn into big ones in the blink of an eye. We are so thankful that this family in Pike County found their little girl safe, but scared, and that this will be a learning moment for folks out in the sticks who use cornfields as fences.

For now, however, I'll keep Jack especially away from the backyard border, enticing him with bubbles and sticks fashioned into swords and all the things he loves to play with…in the front yard.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Just the Right Tool

Have you ever decided to get a project crossed off your list, only to find that the exact tool you need is nowhere to be found?

This happens to me every single time I clean out the garage. 


You see, when you live in the country,  and especially our country (read: dirty, gross road), your garage becomes the most ridiculously disgusting display of Little Tykes toys, John Deere Power Wheels, and cattle necessities. Seriously. Now as adults, we spend time in friends' garages during parties in town. I always take a good look around and marvel at the lack of nastiness. This attention to detail (read: anxiety) has been in my persona since I was just a kid. When we'd go play with our "country friends," I remember being worried about the amount of dust and cobwebs they had in their playhouse. I was not only afraid of getting dirty, but was curious how everything was so dirty in the first place. Town playhouses and garages were not this gross.

However, that's how it is in the country, and our garage is the epitome of our dirt road life. All of our kids' bikes have a small film of dust on them, even after I hose them off. Our lawn chairs are brought to ball games with just a slight bit of grime on them. Each freezer needs a good dusting once in a while. It's gross. Don't even get me started on the amount of dead bugs in our garage's window sills. Blech.

For a person like me, it's enough to send my anxiety to the roof.

I try to turn a blind eye.

I try to embrace my country life, love my dirt road and my constant state of film as character.

But on a day like today, I couldn't take it any more.

Thus, I needed my shop broom.

Do you have one of these? If you're a town dweller, as I was (once upon a time), you probably use it to push your lawn clippings off the well maintained sidewalks. You probably sweep your garage twice a year, and don't make but a small pile of dust and rogue leaves. 

I have one of these, and it makes my pile of dust and grit and, even one time, a dead bird, so much easier. However, I usually have to beg one of the farmers to return it.

Today was no exception. 

My boy was happily riding his John Deere Gator (not caring that it is filthy…ahh, the innocence of a carefree non-anxious child), so I figured it was time. As I unloaded my garage, moved all the dusty toys, old appliances that have yet to be taken to be recycled (why have I not done that yet??), and moved my car, I realized it was gone. 

My shop broom is just the right tool for this job, thanks to the sheer quantity of nastiness and grime that our garage seems to house. However, it is also just the right tool for about 15 other jobs on the farm, such as keeping the stalls clean in our barn, sweeping out the shop, and sweeping out the bin when it is nearly empty of grain. Regardless, it's never on my hook in my garage.

It's a handy little devil, and handy little devils tend to walk away, just when you need them.

I did get my garage cleaned out today, don't worry, I just used an old kitchen broom, which worked well as I knocked off old bug bodies and cobwebs from corners. No dead birds today! Score!

Maybe some day we'll have a lovely garage with just a puff of dust, and my shop broom can be loaned out whenever, and I'll never miss it.

But for now, I'd ask nicely for my shop broom to make its return, because in a matter of days minutes, our garage will be dusty again.

Or maybe I'll just run to town and get a new one...