Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A Very Public Reminder that I Don't Have it All Together

So I just ate Chex Mix for lunch. After I ran, so don't be too judge-judgy.

It's the first day of vacation for the holiday break, and a day that I have spent mostly in the kitchen (thus the Chex Mix and the run!). I have been a little stressed today, to say the least, as we're down to the wire until the Big Guy comes and makes his presents (get it?? That's not a typo.) known!

Last night, as I was rejoicing in the fact that we finally got a Christmas tree (see previous posts about one year old destructive and curious twins and the other one about a loss in our family, and you'll understand), and humming along to Christmas music as I made dinner, I felt together. At peace. Ready for the season to truly begin.

Then, Joe received what started as hilarious and ended as an utterly embarrassing stream of text messages.

We had just sent out our beautifully, seemingly perfect Christmas cards. They were to arrive on the doorsteps of friends and family BEFORE Christmas. Whew.

However, this text made my Christmas daze of awesomeness come to a screeching halt.

The text asked if Jack was sending out his own Christmas card.

Huh?

Friends, I am not the Christmas card person in our family. Until last year, we sent a letter that Joe wrote. He takes the Excel sheet and updates addresses. He's the one to lead this. However, it was a busy time for him, and since we weren't doing a letter this year, I took the reigns.

And forgot a KID.

Friends, I FORGOT OUR SON'S NAME ON OUR CHRISTMAS CARD.

GAH.

The good news is, it's on the back, as we have so many lovely people in our family, we couldn't fit on the front. So, if you didn't even flip our card over, you wouldn't have even noticed. I also have heard some really awesome "oops" stories, thanks to my posting on Facebook the card and my owning my error.

However, it's moments like this that just make me shake my head at myself.

I do not have it all together.

Ever.

I may appear to at times.

But generally, it's just a facade.

This incident, to be known know as "The Year We Forgot Jack on the Christmas Card," will be a constant reminder that I am not together. I forget things, try as I may to not. I multitask to the extreme, and forget to double check things.

I'm human, and thus, a mess at times.

However, I am going to just own it, either way.
Yes, there are a lot of us.
Yes, I probably was holding someone or helping someone while I was working on Shutterfly.
Yes, I should have been more careful, and YES this is not a big deal in the grand scheme. It will make for a great story, and it will also wake a mother up at night, and possibly come out in therapy for our "forgotten boy."

Gah, again.

In light of this very public reminder that I am INSANELY HUMAN, I wish you all the Merriest of Christmas. I wish you peace and love in the time when we celebrate God who became Man. Our celebration is about the Son of God who came to us to be our Savior. During this celebration, may you remember that this time is not about a perfect Christmas card, it's about remembering those who are important in your life.

Even if you forgot his name on the card.

Wishing you a blessed holiday season!
Joe, Emily, Anna, Josie, Amelia, JACK, Mary & Caroline





Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Living in the Present

We lost Joe's grandpa yesterday.

While he was 90, and all the right things have been said, all the suffering and illness are gone, all the goodbyes have been shared, it's still hard. Even when you're 40, your grandpa is still indeed your grandpa.

This relationship, however, between Joe and Grandpa Dick is one that has spanned not just four decades, but acres of fields, many, many fence lines, countless hours spent in the pasture, and many, many, many phone calls.

When Joe and I first started dating, whatever we were doing on Sunday night had to stop for about an hour so that Joe could call and update Grandpa. "What do ya say, Dick?" was always the beginning, and once I was offered the phone, I knew I was "in" with the family.

I'll miss hearing his voice on the other end.

His last few years have been dotted with illnesses, some more severe in spirit than in body. Growing old was hard for Grandpa Dick. He was a young soul, and rarely did I ever think of him as someone who was pushing 90. I have to believe that it was because Grandpa Dick wasn't one to reminisce. He wasn't one of the old guys at the coffee shop who would talk about the good old days, the years he spent playing basketball (which he was really, really good at), or the times spent with his family as a child. He rarely spoke of any time but the present. He enjoyed the company of friends who were several years his junior, and loved being around his grand kids and great grand kids. As I think of this, I don't think there's a birthday party we hosted here that he didn't come to. That's pretty amazing.

From my observation, he lived in the present, the here and now.

No sense fretting about the past, and while he cared about the future, and his plans were set for the end, his role on the farm only morphed just a few years ago from one of the major workers to a more retired role. Joe always marveled after days spent working with his grandpa how he was outworked by a senior citizen. He never seemed his age, which was always a surprise to me when we would celebrate it. He was one of those men who seemed to never age, until only recently.

Joe has been hit hard by this loss. We lost his mom two years ago, and that was hard too, but this relationship was different. Joe was Grandpa Dick's sidekick from the earliest of his memories. Grandpa Dick encouraged Joe to show cattle, praised his efforts in the corporate world, commiserated with the ups and downs of farming, puffed up with pride when we named Jackson Richard after him. Grandpa was Joe's mentor. One of his biggest cheerleaders. One of his friends.

It's a loss that cannot be replaced.

I can only hope that with Grandpa's passing, we can take a moment to live in the present. To grieve this loss. To remember the life that was lived for farm and family. To hug each other tight as we remember good times (ask Joe about an unfortunate golf cart incident) and try to remember that the bad days he had are behind him.

I'm thankful I got to know Grandpa Dick. He has been a big part of our lives, and his memory will continue to impact how we live...he was never short on opinions, calling us "reckless" when we found out about the twins! Ha!

Rest in peace, Grandpa Dick. We miss you, love you, and will see you on the other side.







Monday, November 30, 2015

Cooking 101

Hi friends.

I trust you have enjoyed a lovely holiday. I am certain you spent a little bit of time with friends and family, maybe did a little shopping, napping, decorating, perhaps?

I did a lot of all, sans the napping, because what one year old set of twins wants their mama to NAP??

Anyway, in my quest for always informing you all about 1) my thoughts on life and 2) food and agriculture, I would like to take you on a little voyage. An educational pilgrimage, if you will, and it will be known as Cooking 101.

My friends. I have not always been a cook. As a single gal, I considered "tacos" (a shell and some cheese) and cereal as meals. I was the girl with the two frozen pizzas, a bottle of Moscato, and some bananas, like the one behind me at the grocery store the Friday before Thanksgiving. As I hauled my cereal boxes, produce out the wazoo, loaves of bread and gallons of milk, I looked longingly at her little basket full of "essentials," wondering if I could pull that memory out of the back of my mind.

Memories.
Good times.

However on this same evening, I was in the shoe department on my quest for the perfect black shootie (yes, that's a word). As I stood at the register happily purchasing my new kicks, I heard the clerks discussing Thanksgiving.

It was a little like this:
Clerk A, "I don't know how to do it. My mom just does it."
Clerk B, "Does it take ALL DAY?"
Clerk A, "I don't know, but wouldn't it break your oven?"
Clerk B, "I'm not sure. I have only baked frozen pizza."

Bless.

I couldn't stand it. Feeling high and successful because of my shootie purchase, I chimed in:

Emily, "Are you two talking about turkey?

I'll spare you the detailed dialogue, but yes, they were discussing turkey baking, and in my short interjection, I was able to hear that neither of these women, one in her 20s, the other 40ish, had ever used their ovens for anything other than a frozen fill-in-the-blank.

Never had it up past 400 degrees.
Never had it on for more than 30 minutes.

I asked them if they ever did a roast or anything like that, and they had never heard of a roast.

WHAT THE HECK?

These women had helped me find the perfect shootie, and yet they didn't know the glories of a roast cooked all day in a Dutch Oven!???

Again, bless.

I left them, offering cooking classes in jest, and just shook my head.

Friends, this is a crisis. These are the people we need to share our knowledge with. These ladies need to understand the budget friendly meals that are pork roast, roast beef that will stretch for days, and turkey.

Friends, the "processed food crisis" is real, and it's not because of the marketing or the placement or whatever. It's because of the convenience. The not knowing when it comes to cooking.

So, this weekend, I did some research...

I watched Food Network and read Better Homes and Garden.

Here's the problem. All of you folks who claim that cooking it "too hard," or "too time consuming," or "too messy" need a Janet.

That's my mom.

Put down the Better Homes and Garden. Look away from Giada, Rachael, Guy, and Bobby. Your cooking does not have to be fancy to be delicious. You just need to understand the basics:

Mama Janet enlightened me on these basic principals in the past 12ish years I have been the primary cooker:

1) Your oven can operate all day without burning your house down.
2) There are essential spices, oils, canned goods, etc. that you need in your arsenal.
and
3) Don't be afraid.

Cooking is all about experimentation. Now, while I did not make the Thanksgiving dinner (thank you Jessica and Jeremy and Heather), I could have. I'm not a rocket scientist, but there are things that are tried and true and just take time and patience.

Cooking is one of them.

While a whole turkey is generally a once a year thing, roast beef and pork and potatoes baked in the oven or mashed are things we have quite often around here.

And it's not because I'm gourmet.

It's because it's easy to sear a roast, season it, and let it simmer in the SAME POT all day. When I pull it out at 6:00, it falls off the bone. Now, I know we're spoiled with good beef, but I will tell you, you can find it, you just have to look.

I know, I know. Time is of the essence.

Do you remember I have six kids?

I have no time, and there are days we have corn dogs, take out BBQ and cereal still (those nights are lovingly called "randoms."), however, I cook most days. Nothing too crazy, but I have my recipe box that my grandma gave me in the fourth grade and the list of "quickie meals" my mom swears by.

There are times we venture out of our comfort zone, and it flops. There are times that our family gets in a rut, but my cooking has evolved as I have been the primary food prepper at our house. I think that's because I have learned to not take my cooking too seriously. I have learned that with good meat, veggies and fruit, you can have a meal that will satisfy. You don't need crazy ingredients all the time. You don't need to freak out. This is food, and because I have a first grader, I know that food is one of our "basic needs." Thank you, social studies.

We have decided that food has to be an event. All the time.

That's a lot of pressure, folks.

I have gone the opposite way. While there are times that I revel in my culinary prowess, nine meals out of ten, we just eat them. No fanfare. No worries. Just dinner.

I have never been one to be a crazy foodie, so if I offend all you food picture takers, I'm sorry. I'm an eater out of bodily necessity and a cook out of family role. The end. I think the trend to have this beautiful meal that goes on Instagram the minute you plate it is ridiculous. Friends, can't we just eat our food, and not have to worry about it getting its accessories right? I guess it's hard enough for me to be showered and ready, why should I worry that my pork chops are perfectly Pinterest placed on the plate. Good food is easy to enjoy without worrying about making it camera ready.

So, as you slip out of your turkey coma and into the holiday season, enjoy some time spent whipping up a favorite recipe from your childhood. Or, if you don't have one, send me an email, and I'll send you some of mine.

Again, I'm not fancy, but I do understand the importance and brevity that is an oven.

And a good shootie.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Never Lost in the Shuffle

Today, Josie is nine.

I can remember vividly being anxious about our second child to arrive. How in the world would I have two children?

Ha.

My biggest concern was her getting lost in our shuffle of life. Her big sister was the center of the universe around here...how would she fit in? She was going to be born around Thanksgiving...how would we celebrate her birthday around the turkey and dressing? Would she feel like a second fiddle, being the second girl in our growing family?

Thankfully, Josie burst into this world with lots of personality, and hasn't quit. She's one of those kids that comes into a room, and you know it. She's full of life, charm, songs, stories, and endless energy. She's the last kid to fall asleep at night-the whites of her eyes shining as I come in to tuck her in. "I can't sleep. There's so much to talk and think about."

Obviously, she's my kindred spirit. Josie and I are so much alike, it can be scary at times.
We will never cease in finding the perfect outfit.
We are always finding excuses and reasons to hang out with friends.
And we never. stop. talking.

Sorry, family.

Josie, I am happy to say that thanks to your bubbly, spunky personality, you'll never be lost in the shuffle.

This year, her birthday landed on Black Friday. When a birthday coincides with a holiday, a party will have to come a few weeks later. While our Thanksgiving with family took precedence, she enjoyed a birthday cake and presents yesterday amongst the pumpkin pie and football, even announcing the events that were to come next: "And now it's time for candles!" and "Time for presents!"

Today, though, Josie really seemed all of her nine grown up years. As she opened her presents, I flashed back to when she was one, getting her first dolly, and two, all the dress up clothes, and four, her bike. She squealed as she opened her "experience" gift, a trip to St. Louis to see Wicked, her favorite musical...even though she's only heard the soundtrack. She then spent the rest of the morning shooting iMovies about her gifts! She's always one to entertain herself, and in turn, entertain us.

What has kept Josie from being lost in our movable middle of kids is her helper spirit. She has always been good with all of our little ones, no matter what age. Today especially, as we were loading up to go to Grandma's for Thanksgiving, she was zipping Jack's coat, grabbing for whatever needed to be carried out, and were holding the door for us. Anna and Dad are gone today at a cattle sale; I needed help, and she was, stepping in.

Our Josie is a helper, for sure, and that will never have you lost in any shuffle.

Oh the silly things you worry about as a parent. You have these little beings, and all these worries and expectations and plans and thoughts, and then they come with their own opinions, and if you choose to embrace it, what a ride. Josie is going to go places. She's going to be something big, some day. And I can say with great confidence, she'll never be lost in the shuffle.

Happiest of birthdays, sweet Josie. We love you!





Monday, November 23, 2015

Let's Go To the Movies

So Joe and I went to the movies yesterday.

No, it wasn't to see Mockingjay, Part Two (which we are both hoping to see. I know, nerds.)

No, it wasn't The Peanuts Movie with the kids (which we are both hoping to also see. Yes, nerds again.).

It was Farmland.

Yes, Farmland. For those of you who did not give birth to twins or have a major home renovation, I'm sure you're rolling your eyes that I, a self-proclaimed advocate for agriculture, had not actually seen this award winning movie yet.

I'm sorry. 2014 was not a year in which I saw movies.

Unless you count movies I listen to as my kids watch them in the car.

Anyway.

I finally sat down to watch Farmland, thanks to the good folks at our county Farm Bureau. You see, this was an outreach event. Joe was to emcee the whole shebang, leading the farmer panel afterward. We headed to Galesburg and the beautiful Orpheum Theater, the one where I graced the stage as a hairlip sister in the musical, Big River, and tap danced (poorly) in Crazy for You.

Anyway.

The Orpheum Theater is a restored theater in the heart of Galesburg, the biggest town in our county. The most urban area our county Farm Bureau could reach. After the Santa Clause parade, the doors to the theater opened up for a free showing of this movie.

Nice, huh?

That's not my point. We are nice people here, but the movie, friends, it is something to behold.

I'm not going to give you a whole review of it, as it just needs to be seen. It is award winning for a reason, and it's not because of its one-sided view on agriculture. Represented in this cast are conventional, production farmers, organic producers, small CSA/Farmer's Market growers, and livestock producers. The verbage is easy for those of us who don't speak "ag," without being insulting. The story follows a growing season, thus makes it a logical conclusion when harvest hits.

What really struck me, and got me misty-eyed was the story. As advocates, we are told to tell our story, tell our story, tell our story. However, telling your story in a "I grow blah, blah, and we do it this way because blah, blah." is, in fact, BLAH, BLAH.

There are few folks who want to hear the nuts and bolts of farming before they know that you have a heart, a soul, and a story. You can feel the heartbeat in this movie. It shows the brothers disagreeing, the son missing his recently deceased father, the rancher welcoming twins (not calves, kids). There's the only child who's mom still makes him a sandwich, and the daughter who set out on her own to farm who's mom thought she was crazy. These are real people with real stories who were given the opportunity to really share.

Friends, if you have questions about ag, this is a good place to start.

To start.

After this, however, I implore you to ask more questions. I loved the farmer panel aspect of the movie viewing we had last night. This is a movie that has no agenda. There's no scare tactic used to lead you to believe that what you're eating is terrible. There's no hidden camera footage, other than the snippets that have been floating around the Internet that we all have seen. For lack of a better term, this movie felt organic, real, truthful.

I urge you to see it, if you haven't already, since it HAS been out for over a year.

Ask questions, seek truths, and enjoy some popcorn while you're at it.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

World Prematurity Day

Well, this is not exactly agricultural, but in light of all that has been happening in the world, and all that has happened in our little world in the past year, I thought I should recognize this day.

Facebook has told me of this holiday via my sweet sister in law. Joe's sister, Jessica, and her husband Jeremy are parents of four beautiful children: three girls and a boy. Their middle two, the twins, were born at 27 weeks. I was barely pregnant with our first at the time, and visiting Jessica in the hospital that August afternoon was about the scariest thing I ever saw as I was beginning to embrace being pregnant.

Fast forward eleven years, and her twins are perfectly perfect. Willowy and wonderfully smart and athletic, they defied all odds that were shared with them in the NICU for the three months they were there. We experienced just a taste of this family's journey during their first few months: monitors, check ups, missed holidays thanks to colds and flu that would send these tender babes back into the hospital.

After having four healthy, term babies, I figured I was only going to be an aunt of preemies.

Ha.

So when I found out I was having the twins, I was told I would probably go a little early. Twins are most likely to not go the full 40 weeks, and I was more of a higher risk because I was considered "maternally advanced," aka, old.

However, the NICU was for tiny babies.
The NICU was where my friend Julie worked.
I wasn't high risk. Sure, I was old, but not THAT old. I was in great shape pre-babies, never have had high blood pressure, blah, blah, blah.

Ha, again.

Our babies were born at 35 weeks and 4 days, just three days shy of the "out of the woods" area. Mary came out as pink and screaming as a normal baby. She was small, but doing okay, considering her early birth. Caroline, however, was a different story. I'll spare you the gory details, but I will never forget Joe's facial expression or the doctor's tone of voice as they began to work on getting little Caroline out.

She wasn't crying.

That's all I remember.

She wasn't crying.

I asked Joe why she wasn't crying and if something was wrong, and he said words that I will never forget.

"I don't know."

That's all I remember, as I was pretty drugged up and going into shock.

Luckily, my sweet friend, my talented friend, my amazingly gifted friend Julie worked on our girl. Born in respiratory distress, gray and struggling for life, Julie got her breathing. As they wheeled me from recovery to the NICU, she hovered over my face and told me that Caroline had a hard time coming into this world, but that she was going to be taken care of by the best, and would be okay.

And while she and Mary both were taken care of and are fine, Joe's words that completely freaked me out are quite prophetic and appropriate for a NICU parent.

You just don't know.

You don't know what can happen, and you don't want to leave, but you need to. You just don't know, even though you begin to speak the language, listening during rounds for words or tones that are encouraging. You are in a constant state of awareness, despite mental and physical fatigue.

Our nieces were there for three months. There are babies there for longer. We were there for nine days, and while I know we are very fortunate for this short stay, once you've been a NICU parent, you know.

I have read all the post with the National Prematurity Day hashtag. I saw faces of parents in the NICU during our time with the expression of guilt for being exhausted and confused and fear for their child's life. I think that's what has struck me today, seeing all the photos of my friends and folks around who are part of this club. The look on all of our faces in our first pictures is roughly the same: a mix of exhaustion and elation. You just don't know what's really happening, but you're holding it together because it's your kid.

Time spent in the NICU is time that has stood still. Lights are dimmed, so you have a sort-of sense of day and night, until just before dusk and just before dawn. The temperature is so warm, I was wearing tanks and t shirts at times, even though it was October. It's confusing, but you begin to speak the language, Bradys, PICC Lines, catheters, etc. fall into your conversation very easily. A NICU parent deals in feedings and changings, timing each and measuring all. And, in the back of all of our minds, is the dread that news won't be good. Babies will stay sick, or worse. Our family was lucky, and tonight, we should also pray for those who weren't.

Fellow NICU parents, we are a strong group.

We should be celebrated, even if it is just a hashtag and a picture on Facebook. Being in the NICU, even though for a short time, changed me as a mother. I had taken my other four easy births for granted, bringing home each baby with me as I left, not leaving my little ones, driving home with empty car seat bases in the backseat. That's tough. I can still smell the soap and feel the bristles of the brushy sponge we had to use before entering the NICU. However, whenever I drive by our hospital, I can't help but lift up a prayer of thanks to all the people who worked on and with my girls, who are back there saving precious lives every single day, around the clock. How they work 24 hour shifts is beyond me.

Friends, I don't have to tell you that we live in a hard world. Life is difficult. Life is confusing, but life is precious. I am so lucky to have given life to six souls who will hopefully make a mark on this world that will give back to those who helped make their life happen.

Happy World Prematurity Day, fellow preemie moms and dads. You are a part of a special, select group. A club membership given to you without being asked, but you are a part of it nonetheless. Whether you tuck your baby in tonight or pray to her to see her some other day, today is a day to remember, and I celebrate you.












Thursday, November 5, 2015

Big Announcement with John Deere

Friends.

There has been much chatter in the world of John Deere this week.

Mainly because Deere and Company has purchased Precision Planting LLC from Monsanto, which also means they are discussing details about "digital ag" with the Climate Corp, according to this Farm Futures article. My ag Facebook groups were quite abuzz with this information. However,the big announcement we have been excited about is this one:
Yes, my beloved readers. While Precision Planting and The Climate Corp do affect our farming operation, nothing makes a bigger impact at my house than a new toy, especially one that comes IN THE MAIL!!

Oh happy day, my friends, a new toy has arrived. Our little guy was the lucky enough to test out this John Deere Mega Force Tractor with articulating scoops and Jackson the operator, among other fun accessories, thanks to the good folks at Tomy and Deere.

When first removed from the package, after having to have what seems to be a masters in engineering to remove it (why is this??), Jack was ecstatic!


Before we even had all of the accessories out of the package, Jack was using his imagination with this product. That's what initially struck me. Joe was very skeptical, as it didn't seem as "real" as Jack's other John Deere toys (have I mentioned we deal exclusively and obsessively with John Deere around here? Sheesh.). While the double articulating scoops do make it less realistic, our boy loved that aspect. 

Why? 

He's a KID. 

With an imagination!
Working the scoops.

The tracks are actually mounted on very smooth moving little wheels. It's pretty slick.

"Please Jack? Can I play?" Mary, age one

I could hardly get him to be still for some pictures. It was very exciting at our house, and all the kids from our one year old twins to our 11 year old (who wanted to blog about it too! Ha!) wanted to get in on the action. 

While the double scooper makes for an interesting option, our son especially loved the fact that the cab popped up and down, while making a satisfying relatively real start up sound. Lights add to the fun, but neither the bells nor the whistles such as lights and sound take away from the fact that this toy offered imaginative play.

That's my biggest factor that determines success in a toy. Does it offer free, open ended play? 

In this case: YES.

While many farm boys are content to set up their farm scenes and mimic what they see their dads and grandpas and uncles do on the farm every day, our little guy is a slightly different. Jack is our make believe dude. He loves to act, set up scenes, pretend to be someone else, particularly super heroes. Farm toys are generally filled with Batman, Robin and villains as a part of make believe play. This toy falls into line with imagination expanding play. As a former educator and mother, I believe this line of toys allows for kids like Jack to use it in many different scenarios: farm and fantasy.

Age difference: Age four and age eleven. No fights, just playing for about 15 solid minutes. That's a win, my friends.


Sweet success! Mary finally got a turn! She didn't tear it up, either? Durability is a plus!





The articulating scoops even can play the piano! It's the toy that does EVERYTHING!

We were thrilled to be chosen to review this product. Thank you so much to the good folks at Tomy and Deere and Company for the fun toy. From a mother's basic toy needs, it had a lot of great qualities: opportunity for imagination, durability, and age appropriate for many different kids. From a kids' perspective, well, this should be enough of a plug:




Jack tested and approved!
While this is not a sponsored post, this is a review of a toy we received c/o Tomy toys, and all opinions are mine and my four year old's. Just a disclaimer. However, if you're interested in having me reviewing any of your products, I had a lot of fun receiving and reviewing, and would love to do more! Please contact me at farmwife.emily@gmail.com should you have something for me to look at and try out. Joe will tell you that I'm never short on opinions!


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

News Flash: We All May Die...Someday

Have you seen this?

It's the World Health Organizations latest news flash about cancer and its relationship with eating meat, processed meats, specifically.

So it got me thinking. Do you know what processed meats are, specifically? If you don't, let me make you a list. If you do, skip this list.

Processed meats are things like hot dogs, brats, sausages, bacon.

Yes, friends, bacon has been forsaken by the WHO.

Now, while I know some of you are obsessed with bacon (I've seen your posts. I've read your t-shirts. I'm looking at you, Ted Mottaz...that's my dad), I would like to remind you about good things.

Good things are sometimes not that good for you, in large doses.

Have you seen things like this:

Okay, this is not just having bacon with your eggs now and again. This is ridiculous. 

There's a reason Homer Simpson has been portrayed as a glutton. It's pictures like this pizza.

However, I am not a huge fan of the processed meats. I enjoy a good wiener roast, but mainly because of the weather and the scarf I'm wearing and a s'more, not the hot dog. Foods like hot dogs make my stomach turn into knots, and while I do enjoy bacon occasionally, it too makes me feel a little, well, greasy and gross, so I try to exercise moderation.

But friends, and those of you who are experts, here's a newsflash: WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE SOME DAY.

Yes, I would love my life to be of good quality, and yes, I believe that eating a pound of bacon is probably bad for you, and yes these meats may be linked to cancer. 

But do you know what else is linked to cancer at about the same rate:

THE SUN.

PLASTICS.

YOUR MICROWAVE.

And guess what I did just the other day? Ran in the sun, wearing my plastic sunglasses, only to come home and later that evening enjoy a bag of microwave popcorn. 

I guess I'll be dead by tomorrow.

Seriously, friends, cancer sucks. Believe me, I know. Our family lost Joe's mom nearly two years ago, and it hurts still every day. 

Do I believe that bacon or sausage or hot dogs or plastics or the sun had anything to do with her cancer? Maybe a little. 

Do I wish that she could have lived to see the twins, celebrated not just her 60th birthday, but her 70th, 80th, and 90th birthdays? Yes, yes, and OH YES.

However, I am taking a page from her book. She wasn't ready to leave this earth, but she knew that one day we all would depart. 

The end.

She was at peace with that, and that had nothing to do with bacon, and everything to do with finding peace and having an understanding of eternity in a bigger sense.

I never claim to be an expert. I am not a scientist, but I will leave you today with a few nuggets of my "expertise," and the rest, sweet friends who love the internet and its spoils, you're going to have to make some judgements yourself. 

  • We're all going to die some day, so live with that in the back of your mind, not the front. Exercise more, eat less, but enjoy all of it, bacon and hot dogs and ribeyes and running and fruit and water included. Have a lovely meal, but don't be shocked if you feel bad or are unhealthy, should you choose to eat crappy every single day. This is not rocket science. This is common sense. 
  • Too much of a good thing is never a good thing. Yes, another common sense aspect. So yes, World Health Organization, I get it. Processed meats are bad. They're full of salt and junk that is not that great for you. But, instead of freaking everyone out, please don't use words like WILL CAUSE CANCER, instead, remind folks to be moderate. Enjoy a hot dog, but not every day, every meal. To that, I end this with the oh so effective, yet oh so uneducated word, "DUH."
  • Stop with the bacon. The Baconater. The Bacon 5K Runs. The hot dog eating contests. Stop. Can we all quit being so danged obsessive, and then shocked that something we overuse or overeat may cause our bodies harm? This goes for the uber-healthy, too. Knock off the obsession over crazy new diet fads that some person thought of to peddle on Facebook. I'm done.
In closing, yes, this probably is not good PR for my Team Beef. However, I'm not worried about it. Pretty soon they'll move on to dairy or broccoli or something else new. 

That's because we're human. We're fickle, and we're all going to take a long dirt nap some day.







Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Subway: Eat Fresh, Stay Politically Correct

Oh Subway.

Seriously?

You've joined the ranks of Chipotle and Panera, and I'm not just disappointed, I'm confused.

You see, you dot the town streets of nearly every rural community I drive through. More than a McDonalds, Subway restaurants are found everywhere. While I prefer a Jimmy Johns (I know, he hunts big game, but he bakes one heck of a loaf of bread), and would rather not pay $5 for my intake of carbs for the week, I appreciate your commitment to rural communities. Your sandwich wrappers most likely are found in nearly every tractor or semi cab during the busy times. Lines are long after football games. We supposedly support you to eat fresh.

Your commitment to small communities is to be admired.

However, it is overshadowed by your blind politically correctness.

I forgave you when you listened to that crazy, the Food Babe, and made the proclamation that you removed whatever chemical you had that was also in yoga mats. Although sickened, I still have patronized your restaurant after learning of the Jared pornography scandal, citing that because you're locally owned and operated, it wasn't the franchiser's fault.

However, this statement, this proclamation to ditch all meat treated with antibiotics is ridiculous.

This is just politically correctness at it's finest, and I'm done.

I am trying to take a chapter from the book of my 101 year old grandmother's life. Never in her life has she taken a huge stand on something. She's very moderate. However, she has not lived in moderate times. She has endured the Depression. She's lived through polio, the mumps and measles. She believes in science and vaccines thanks to those times, and yet she is the greenest cook, although living in the "innovative" food time of SPAM. She and my grandpa raised their own beef, "put up" sweet corn, and enjoyed cherry pies from her tree. While she's the ultimate in living off the land, she balances it out with a flair for nice things and getting her hair done. She would find this ridiculous, would I even share it with her. But, it's not worth her time, or mine.

I'm sorry Subway. You're missing the point. You're making claims especially about beef or pork that are not supported by those in the industry. The beef you're eating on your roast beef does not have any antibiotics in it when it comes to your Subway. Period. It may have had some to keep the animal alive to keep the farmer in business to keep your costs down (hello? Supply and demand? Consumer Ec 101), but once it is sent to market, it has to be tested and cleared. Have you ever met a beef inspector? We have a connection. I can introduce you, should you have questions.

I'm done. This is another bang my head on the desk, don't feed the crazies moment. I hate this. I hate that because of "wellness" and "health," we're trying to "wreck" and "demonize" livestock farmers. I welcome you, Subway, to come to my father-in-law's hog confinement to see the care and time and careful management he takes in raising his pork. I invite you to see the care we put into our beef cattle, the few we have. Put them up ones who don't receive the necessary care in a blind test, and I guarantee you'll choose the ones that receive help when they're sick (which, I might add, is not as often as you probably think).

Subway, you're just another sheep in the flock of food fear. You're just trying to keep up, keep ahead of the trendy spots, and that is disappointing.

When is it a farmer's turn to reap the benefits of being politically correct?

I bet I'll have to live until I'm 101 to see that.

Friday, October 16, 2015

A Refreshing Perspective, Soda and Super Bugs

If you've been paying any attention to health, fitness, wellness or your Facebook friends or bloggers who are now lifestyle experts (ahem), you'll know that if you even admit that you may drink an occasional Diet Coke, or regular Coke, or whatever soda (or pop) you prefer, you will be shamed.

Damned even.

But here's my question: When did we all become experts at health and wellness? What works for you may work for you, but doesn't work for me, but it's not because of my ignorance. It's not because I'm ignoring "facts." Maybe I have my own set. Maybe I like being healthy and well in a different way that includes science, exercise and an occasional cheeseburger and Diet Coke.

I'm not trying to be mean or nasty about this phenomenon of wellness. I love wellness. I get up at 4:30 three mornings a week so my wellness level can skyrocket. I run. A lot. However, I refuse to be extreme. I have posted about this before, so I'm not going to waste your eye energy on rehashing my feelings on moderation.

However, I have been refreshed. In a virtual world that reeks of quick fixes, extreme challenges and before and after pics, I have read two different articles this week. Only two, so I'm not claiming to be an expert, my interest just piqued. One is online, and one in my Runner's World, and they are as refreshing as my fountain Diet Coke I let myself have when I have had a hard day, and have been up since 4:30 AM.

These writers contend that maybe we should knock off the food shaming.

Seriously.

And, I would LOVE to add, these folks are both very healthy people, AND, they lead very normal lives. Normal to me, that is: lives that include barbecues with hamburgers, a life that wants to be fit and trim, but also likes chocolate ice cream. These folks contend that maybe, just maybe, we should listen to the experts and exercise and eat all in moderation.

Huh.

Isn't that something?

So refreshing.  Like the sweet, sweet nectar of Diet Coke.

Don't shame me for loving me some DC on after a long day.

I admit it, food discussions have become such interesting platforms for us folks in agriculture, blogs are full of great discussions, and I have been able to meet some great people and hear some good, differing perspectives because of it. However, I believe that all this information, discussion, and available products to buy and sell have allowed us (me included) to feel as if we're all wellness experts. It has allowed us the power to feel like we can shame those who are doing things differently, eating differently and working out differently.

Friends, that's wrong.

Can't we all just get along?

I would like to go back to a place reminiscent of Mad Men (which is my new Netflix show to watch when all are sleeping, and beware, you may want to start wearing suits and ties for men and dresses for women, and you may feel like you don't drink or smoke enough. ha!). When can we just go back to having meatloaf without judgement? Why can't I want to work out to feel good, but also be able to wear my skinny jeans? When can I just have a meal and not have to make a stand about it? Why are TV shows even weighing in on GMOs and super bugs? Can't we just get back to episodes like where Ross can't get out of his leather pants and there are close talkers?

Gah.

My perspective may make people upset. I'm very sorry about that. Truly, I am, but we are living in a world where the belief is if you don't believe what I do, you're wrong. If you don't believe me, watch any talk show or even our presidential debates. My friend Holly wrote about it here, and friends, people who may disagree with you may will also be mean. And potentially psycho. Read the commentary.

Anyway, I'm not insinuating that what some folks may be doing is wrong, I'm just all for the refreshing "I'm okay, you're okay; we're different, and that's okay" perspective I have read about this week.

I'm so certain that you do what's best for your family. My perspective is just different than the extremists. I like sustainability (whatever that means), and these crazy perspectives of don't do that, you'll die in a minute just don't shake out. Life happens. I'm trying my best, but that will always include a cheeseburger, a set of vaccinations, and a good sweaty run.

And even, GASP, a refreshing Diet Coke.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

All Is Quiet, Sort Of

The irony of this title is that I now currently have a baby talking upstairs. Thought I could post really fast before the awakening of the twins.

Oh well.

Anyway, it's relatively quiet right now, which is odd, because it's harvest, we're the site of the big bins, the gas tank and the machine shed, and we're evidently a thoroughfare for the neighbors as they cruise past our house in their grain truck at about 60 miles per hour. Have I ever discussed the ramifications of going too quickly on a gravel road? No? Well...that's a post for another day.

Anyway, my point is, it's weirdly quiet. Dad and my uncle are harvesting at a farm not near us, hauling grain (I'm assuming) to town. Our house project is at a bit of a standstill, as the exterior of our mudroom/porch is done, but the electricians have yet to show up. Some day, my friends...some day, I'll give you a house tour. Maybe in 2016. The wind is even calm.

Strange.

The quiet has caused my mind to ponder harvest.

Harvest was a time in our farming life when the hustle and bustle kept our mind busy. When Joe's mom was gravely ill, we were kept busy with the necessary tasks at hand. Joe could lose himself watching grain pour into the cart or semi trailer. While harvest is the end of the growing season, it keeps a farmer's psyche alive.

As a wife, this was always a lonely season. Other farm wives have blogged about this. On Facebook, friends have shared their sunset pictures as they share meals on tailgates and in combines. Parents kiss their kids goodnight long after the kiddos have fallen asleep. But harvest is a time when that loneliness signifies the end of hard work. You're happy to get there, get started, and get done. It's a strange pairing.

I'm hopeful that it starts to get noisy around here again soon. I love seeing the guys "catch on the go," love the potential of my little guy hopping in with grandpa for a round or two. This is our first harvest without a clear set of duties, but since we're here, we're still in the thick of it. I'd like to consider myself an active participant, but on days when it's just quiet, it's a little strange. Heck, I even talked to my dad the other day about learning to drive a truck! Who AM I??? If only we had a sleeper cab. I don't think I can stuff two car seats beside me.

Oh well.

My hope is that the crew will roll back in here soon, so I can keep tabs on this harvest, reporting my findings to you, my friends. Just call me the rural route Mrs. Kravitz.

Except when it's quiet, then I'll just wax poetic.

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Chapter That Rewrote My Story

Dear Mary and Caroline,

Today, you are one.

Wow.

While we have already begun celebrating this milestone with sweet gifts and preparations for a pumpkin party on Sunday, I feel like I need to celebrate on my own. No, not just that we have survived this first year, because, frankly being mobile scares me more than your heart monitors!

Today, I celebrate my mental state. I celebrate my acceptance. I have finally come to terms with the fact that you are in my life.

I know, sounds strange, kind of like a toddler who has finally realized the new baby(ies) is/are here to stay. This is my truth, though. This year has passed with so much change and heartache and happiness and zigs and zags, but now that I have soaked it in this past week. I feel at peace at being your mother.

You see, you rewrote my whole life plan.

Did you know that?

You were a chapter in my life's book that I didn't expect. I suppose as a writer, I should marvel this unique plot line. A strange twist in an otherwise predictable story. My mothering story was complete, or so I thought. I had four kids already, and unfortunately and embarrassingly, I spent most of my pregnancy with you in shock at this twist, wondering and worrying way too much. How would you two fit into our already full life?  How would my career would survive with you in it? How would our life on the farm would weather this strange storm? How would our marriage stay afloat?

Here's the short answers:
You make our family complete.
My career is on hiatus, and that's okay.
Our life on the farm has zigged, and we are zagging.
And, marriage is hard. Kids make it harder, but we're going to come out stronger...and with great stories.

While this may seem like a sad letter, a tale of a life turned upside down. It isn't. I promise you.

Having you has rewritten my story. With this new plot line, you have made me see myself in a different light. While I had this grand plan, your lives have allowed me to see that life isn't about a plan or a schedule or a structure. Life is about love and change and choosing joy in the face of the unpredictable. This year I have realized I can be stretched in so many different ways and not break. I can love even more than I thought I could. I can balance and plan and fail and succeed and love and get frustrated and angry and forgive even more than I realized.

And it's because of you two.

It's taken me a whole year to say that, though. At first, I was scared. I didn't think I could do it. I didn't think I could be the mother I wanted to be for you. I am older than I was when I had the big kids. We are busier thanks to fun new chapters with the girls. Dad made a career change. We jacked up our house to make room for you.

But the thing is, twins, while I'm older, and more tired and busy and still scared at times, I'm wiser. I know to keep the main thing the main thing. I'm raising up little people who are independent and creative and funny and smart and fun, and that's what matters. My years of previous mothering have allowed me to realize I can get most of it done (whatever "it" is that day), and the rest will just have to wait. My schedule is full, but my heart is fuller, and love always wins.

It took me a full year and a big, deep breath to admit that.

It didn't take me a year to know that I loved you, however. From the minute you two came into our lives, we knew we were in for an adventure. I am in love with you, you two. There are two of everything around here, personalities included, and that has made this truly an adventure.

Mary, you are our spunky twin. You like to be first for everything. However, as of late, you have taken to just resting your head on my knee as I feed your sister, grabbing my legs and holding on as I change Caroline's diaper. You want to be near us, with us, and into just about everything at all times. It makes for a sweet, spunky personality. You love your big sisters and are already taking care of your little one. You are going to be fun to watch grow, we'll just have to make sure to really watch you! You're quite inquisitive...and a daredevil.

Caroline, you greet me every morning with a big smile and a round of applause, but, really, I should be applauding you. You have come through so much this year, and still are so sweet and smiley. Born in distress, watched carefully, still seeing a specialist for a small kidney issue, you are surprising us every day with your tenacity. Because of this, you have taught me to slow the heck down and enjoy all those little things in your precious life. You are my miracle baby, and I am so thankful that this year has come and gone with all of worries being quelled with you meeting your milestones or a doctor telling us, "she's fine." Whew. Your sweetness has cemented your role as the baby of the family. Your siblings adore you.

Girls, I am so lucky.

Yes, my hands are full, but sweet babies, my heart has been made fuller. You are blessings that I wasn't sure I needed, but God knew better. I am so lucky to be your mom, and when you're old enough to understand how freaked out I was about you, I hope you realize it was just for a moment. Well, okay, more than that, but in the grand scheme: just a blip.

Happy, happy birthday, my sweet twins. Thank you for rewriting my story. I can't wait to read the rest of it.

Love,
Mom














Monday, September 28, 2015

Wild Kingdom- A Weekend Recap

Have I ever mentioned that I am not necessarily of the animal loving persuasion?

Don't get me wrong, fuzzy kittens are cute. Puppies are fun, too. Baby calves, showing cattle, pigs all piled up on their mamas, baby chicks, all those sweet country images inspire me to say, "Awwww. How sweet." just like the rest of you people.

However, getting up close and personal with the wild kingdom isn't what I like to do. I have been given the opportunity to have many pets since living out here, and by the grace of God, have not had to be the primary care giver, per se, although I do seem to be the prime pooper scooper, water giver, move-out-of-the-wayer, etc.

I'm digressing.

Anyway, our dog barks. A lot. He's a beagle, and I think a bit neurotic and afraid of the dark, so after hours, if you're tooling around our road, you may hear Joe hollering, "Walter...SHUT UP!" Walter loves animals in our yard at night (note the sarcasm), and now that we have these two kittens (Bolt and Joy...guess which one is the boy and which is the girl based on the names, and you'll be WRONG!), he feels a sense of purpose up on our porch at night.

Thus the treed raccoons we woke up to on Saturday morning.

Not just one, mind you, but THREE.

Is a weekend's mood predicted by the presence of three raccoons in your front tree?

For this weekend, the answer was yes.

So, Walter had done his job, treeing these furry rascals (my kids were convinced they would attack anyone who went out there, thanks to the movie, Elf.).

So, no one would venture outside in the early hours until our furry visitors exited the tree. 

Which they did, eventually. After a lot of yelling to Walter from the safety of inside the house. 
Whew.

But our luck with the four legged didn't end there.

Joe, who was going to be headed to the field later in the day, and Amelia were loading up to go to a soccer game. Waving good bye, I sauntered out to the front porch to see if the kittens needed water (see? my job.). It was then that I saw one of the kittens very, very close to the wheel of our Yukon. Now, these kittens are sweet. They are frisky and cute and the kids have loved having them. But, you'd think after seeing car after car, truck after truck, and now semi after semi come through our driveway, you'd think that they'd learn to steer clear. 

Evidently, we have kittens who are either daredevils or not very bright.

Back to the kitten. As Joe pulled away with me yelling, "STOP!" I heard a loud yelp. 

Gulp.

I was sure the kitten was a goner. 

She ran to the cinder blocks stacked by our nearly completed front porch and laid down.

Oh. My.

Now, while I am not ever going to go to veterinary school, I do have a heart. Poor kitten. 

I went to check on her. Joe jumped out of the car. Dad came to see her. She looked like a goner.

So, I went inside and broke the news to the kids. We were sad, but as reported in previous posts, are quite jaded to the Circle of Life.

As I came out to assess the damage again, I was greeted by our obviously bionic kitten.

What, you say?

Yes, the CAT CAME BACK! 


She's fine. 

Honestly. We have stared at her, checked her, and made sure she was out of the way of the vehicles every time we have left since then.

This is all within an hour of my Saturday beginning, friends.

So, the weekend went on pretty smoothly considering how it began. Our church had a great party where our girls sang and played the guitar. The kids and I headed to the local racket...I mean...apple orchard and overpaid for some country fun. But got some good doughnuts out of the deal, so I guess that's considered a wash.

And harvest. Oh glorious harvest. We continue to roll. Joe went and helped out his dad two hours south of us, hauling beans. Meanwhile, the farmers here rolled on, and evidently over a large sharp something, as my dad is currently outside with the mobile tire people repairing a HUGE flat on one of the semis. 

Maybe a flat tire is an omen for a week's events.

Kind of like a treed raccoon. 

Or three.

Happy Monday!

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Ironic Twist to Farm Safety Week

So this week was/is Farm Safety Week, and like Daughter's Day, I forgot to post about it (Sorry five daughters I have...I DO love you!). While it's imperative to be safe at all times on the farm, especially with children and PTO shafts and augers and combines and all that, I think it's also good to be protected from a political level as well.

With our new governor in place, we in Illinois thought we were being heard, safe even. Our new governor, who shall remain nameless, as I don't even want to utter his name, appointed great Director of Agriculture. The former Illinois Farm Bureau President and farmer, Philip Nelson was asked to join the staff, and the agricultural world in Illinois shouted, AMEN! My family is familiar and friendly with Mr. Nelson, as my dad has a working relationship with him. He's a great guy. A true class act. A farmer with a passion for policy and a working understanding of what it is truly like in the trenches of farm life.

Great, huh?

Well, not so much.

Because I live in Illinois, I am jaded to sketchy politics, so this should come to no surprise.

Phillip Nelson was forced to resign yesterday. Not a lot of details are coming out- shocker, I know-but I guess what hits me the most is that agriculture had a voice. It was being heard. Action was being taken.

We were safe.

Safe.

Obviously farming is dangerous to life and limb thanks to big equipment, chemicals (gasp) that are used, and animals that do in fact outweigh folks by at least 1000 pounds. That's the easy definition of the dangers of farming and the importance of farm safety. However, the dangers of policy and bureaucracy and regulations and interest groups are becoming more and more of a threat to farmers.

So we need a voice.

We had a voice.

And that voice is silent.

I am so disheartened. I feel like the rug has been once again pulled out from beneath us as producers, and that in a state that is filled with combines and corn fields and cattle, we as agriculturalists are unheard. Silenced in the political realm thanks to our shady politicians and connection to that big city to the north (which I do love, sweet home Chicago, but there ARE families south of I-80).

Shouldn't Illinois try to not be a joke politically? Shouldn't we quit playing the game? Shouldn't we try to get the right people in and keep them there until the mess of our budget and state is complete?

Shouldn't we feel safe in our profession, the very profession that surrounds all of our big cities and creates jobs and livelihoods that are amazing and lucrative and last generations?

I have been an Illinoisan for my whole life, and embarrassed by it for my entire adulthood. We should feel safe and represented and want people to move here.

Not looking for a way to move out.

Share your thoughts. I feel like our voice is loud, but is not being heard, almost like we're yelling behind a Plexiglas wall. But those walls can be broken, and I urge you to use your voice, however you can, and bring our safe feeling, our feeling of being heard, back to the forefront.



Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Looking from the Outside, Technically on the Inside

Harvest has started. Have you noticed that? Followed any slow moving vehicles lately? Brushed any red dog off your car? If you're a city person, have you felt that nip in the air? That dry afternoon heat? That's good stuff, people.

Fall is here.

Harvest is here.

Yet, it's a whole new season, literally and figuratively, for us. Jack spent a wonderful afternoon in the combine after preschool with my dad and uncle. However, when he reported on his ride to Joe last night, he ended the commentary with, "but you weren't there."

Ouch.

This space where we are is still unfamiliar and strange.

What makes it the hardest is our location. We live in the heart of the farm, my family's farm. The combine comes to rest at night in our driveway. The big bin is filled, and fills my windowsills with red dog. There is not a time I should feel lonely out here during harvest. Yet, it's weird, because this year, I do.

We live out here, and yet we're watching from outside the lines.

That strange pang from spring of last year has come back to my stomach. The reminder that while our heart is in agriculture,--Joe teaches it, for heaven's sake--- we are now just country livers.

Strange.

If I were to have told this to myself four years ago during my yearly harvest heart attack, I would have laughed, scoffing at the waxing poetic thoughts. Suck it up, Emily, you can have a date night during October now.

Regardless, we are still a farm family, just in a different role. While different is not necessarily always good or always bad, different is just different.

Here's the good: we will be back. I have this strange feeling, behind the weirdness, there's a sense of calm. I look back at the time we were in a magazine, singing the praises of being a farm family, and know that while our role is different, farming and farm life is something you can't run away from. My kids identify themselves as country kids. Jack has had a light bulb moment of all the coolness that is large farm equipment. Anna and Josie now are both working with show calves. I have a feeling that while our income may not come from the semi loads that are rolling in, there will be another chance to define ourselves as true farmers.

For now, we'll watch. We'll ride. We'll enjoy a date night in October, and we'll wait.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Beef in the 'Burbs

Team Beef Illinois was at it again this weekend.

My good running and cattle women friends, Christy, Jodi and Jill and I hit the road for a lovely half marathon along the Fox River. Along with our favorite Illinois Beef Association Staffer, Shelia, and friends with the Kane County Cattleman's Association, we were well represented.

So happy at the start line! From the right: Christy, Jill, Jodi and me.


All in the name of beef.

While it wasn't my greatest half marathon time, it was one of my most fun. Training in itself was a feat: I squeezed runs in between practices and performances. I ran while pushing my twins. I would often head out before dawn for long runs before church, and when I was desperate this summer, I would head out down our road, phone in hand while Anna would babysit (don't report me. Mama needs a break.). I focused on miles, not necessarily speed, and gauged my success by whether or not my skinny jeans fit. Here's my big win for this half: THEY DO.

Anyway, the purpose of this run was fun and advocacy. What was interesting about this, is that St. Charles, Geneva, Batavia, all the towns we ran through are technically suburbs (and BEAUTIFUL ones, at that. Wow. Very enjoyable house watching as I ran shady streets with big yards and even bigger houses.). Sure, these towns were settled way before urban sprawl met them with a Starbucks influx and the Noodles and Company invasion on every corner. While folks who live in Kane County consider them suburbanites, I do too--any place within less than 20 minutes from a Pottery Barn is suburban to me. However, these towns have a big agricultural presence.

I'm digressing.

My point is, Team Beef was not just represented by myself and my three friends. Passing out top sirloin, fresh off a charcoal grill at the finish line was the Kane County Cattleman's Association.

The crowd was primarily suburban. These friends are true Chicago-suburbanites, stereotypes who gauge distance from anywhere in the suburbs and city in minutes. These folks cheered on the dude wearing a Bears jersey in front of me the whole time with great gusto. These people take the Metra downtown from the Park and Ride. Amongst all these folks was a large group of farmers, cattlemen, specifically. These friends gave up their Sunday morning, to serve real beef. They gave their name and money from their group to be a sponsor, so says my long sleeved tech t-shirt!

That's awesome.

Beef is in the 'Burbs, baby!

It's funny. Running for Team Beef the first few times, just in Champaign and in my home town, made me more nervous than running in this venue. Sure, this time I knew I was running with friends, for starters, but also the presence of farm life in this area was palpable. Old barns dotted the landscape amongst strip malls and cul-de-sacs. Farmsteads were converted to nurseries, using old barns as places to pick your fall mums and straw bales. Nothing says suburban like a straw bale. The young cattlemen representing Kane county were young, active advocates for beef, their corn fields mere minutes from a Crate and Barrel. These western suburbs have roots in farming, and the advocates and farmers in this area, specifically in this venue, beef is getting good press.

I was hollered at on the race route, not heckled. "We love it! Team Beef!"

One group of men runners teased me about packing steak flavored GUs at mile 10.

Ew.

At the finish line, I was grabbed by a few runners, congratulating me on a good run, thanking me for pacing them in my red shirt.

That's pretty awesome.

I highly recommend finding something you love to do and pair it with a cause. It doesn't hurt that pairing my cause with a baked potato also makes it delicious.

Go Team Beef!
Done! And in just under 2 hours (unofficially...)





Saturday, September 12, 2015

Don't Cry in Your Ribeye

Well, whew. Cattle showing season is done for us. Anna's run with her nice steer has come to an end, with the punctuation of a Reserve Grand Champion
(which is second overall)
(second to a really, really, really good one.)
(like, really, really, really good).

She was satisfied, and when he went to auction off, I watched her face.

My girl is made of steel evidently.

For those of you who were like me who thought show steers became pets and hung out happily living out their lives in a green pasture, ala the Psalms, you're living a LIE.
For those of you who are also like me who love their ribeyes cooked medium with some sauteed mushrooms and a side of garlic bread, you have to sell steers at their prime (no pun intended...I dislike prime beef).

So, Clyde was sold, generously purchased by a local bank with whom my grandmother has done business with for nearly a century (seriously...she's 101) (lots of parenthesis today), so we were happy.

But last night, as all the kids were tucked in bed, and I finally sat down to process the day, alone as Joe and Anna hopped back into the truck and trailer to buy another set of show calves in Indiana this morning, I got a little sad.

There's no secret that I am not a big animal person. Never in my life have I wanted to pet something unless it was laid out at Von Maur saying "please touch the merchandise." God's creatures are great and all, but it's just not in me.

However, when your kid is interested in something with all her heart, investing time and money and sweat and energy, you seem to take on this similar perspective. Anna loves her show animals, but is a realist. This is where she's more Joe than me. She led Clyde into the ring to be auctioned off with confidence and realism. She knew going into this process that he would be sold and led to the locker to be made into beef for our freezer or someone else's.

Yikes.

How many ten year olds have that in their life skill set?

I didn't.

I still don't, really.

But, you won't find me crying in my ribeye in a few weeks. While Clyde gave us a good run this summer and fall, he will add  to both Anna's checking account and our freezer. We'll look at the pictures and ribbons and trophies from a fun summer. I'll remember her face at Fairview, first taste of winning, and her face when he was misbehaving, hurt from being rammed into the gates, willing herself not to cry.

Life is a cycle, friends. Animal rights activists may beg to differ, citing this as cruelty, but there's not a lot of arguing to be had about this. There are times to reap and times to sow, and that applies to animals, too.

Especially when they are served with a butter cream sauce and baked potato on the side.



Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The End of the Line

So. We're into September. Can you believe that? Last week, I completely felt it. I was ready. The weather was perfect. Jeans, flats, running in crisp morning air. Lovely.

Today?

94 as the high and 1000% humidity. This weather mocks me. Reminding me that, "Hey, remember you live in Illinois? Sweet, fickle weathered Illinois? September is still summer, sucker!"

It's been hard these past few days, as the kids are not excited to be outside, cue the fighting after school, and our poor carpenter is putting house wrap on our porch project in the middle of the day, trying not to succumb to heatstroke. With the crazy weather comes the ever present threats of storms. But today, there was a little knock was on my door, and I realized who it was, I was so excited!!

THE GENERATOR IS HERE!! THE GENERATOR IS HERE!!

Yes friends, nothing says you have arrived in your late thirties when you're excited for your hard wired, continuous, you'll-never-know-the-power-has-gone-off GENERATOR!!!

Yes, I'm that excited, and here's why. We are the end of the line. The power lines from town (which is just a mere 5 miles away) finish up about 10 feet from my driveway. So, when a power outage comes, guess who is the last to see the sweet, sweet folks from Ameren?

The Webels.

Lucky us, huh?

I'm not knocking the power company. They do a job that I could never do, and one that I could also never do without. Case in point: one week after Amelia (our third) was born. Here's the short version: straight line winds, tree into lines, power out. Power out for nearly a week. Country house with three kids under four, one being a one-week old with NO WATER OR POWER OR AIR CONDITIONING = one crazy mama. Did I mention my parents also had no power, and some sort of stomach bug that resembled the plague?

So, we contemplated a generator.

For a long time, evidently, as Amelia is now in first grade. However, a finished basement and all that has been invested into that (plus, we don't want our kids to float away, thank you sump pumps!), so the finishing touch to our house (besides grass and landscaping...minor details) is a generator.

The good folks from RKE came out today, and as I was planning my day yesterday, Joe proclaimed they would have the power off for maybe 15 minutes, 30 minutes tops.

Ha.

The electrician said two to three hours, maybe.

Yikes.

As excited as I was to have this generator placed lovingly in a rather conspicuous location (again, we need bushes), I was NOT excited to have no power on a hot day with three kids, one of whom just threw up on the carpet and needed a bath (Thanks for that, sweet Caroline). Have I mentioned we have no water when we have no power. Those country folk readers are nodding their heads, but this town girl had no idea one couldn't flush during a power outage. Who knew?

So, after begging the men for five more minutes, running frantically shutting off lights and ceiling fans, checking to make sure the laundry wasn't running or the dishwasher, I was packed up and ready to head out of here to enjoy the cool of the Discovery Depot Children's Museum as my Generac was being set up.

Lo and behold, we are still the end of the line, but I will laugh at you, power outage! I will scoff in the face of a storm. I will watch my TV (unless the satellite runs out), charge my phone, and even do laundry as other less fortunate folks curse the good folks of Ameren, because, we now have a big ol' generator.

Life at the end of the line is good!

***this post was not affiliated with Generac, however, if Generac would like to give us our generator for free, I'll sing a little song I made up about how much I love power and water and generators!***