Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Holding His Own

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

Mainly because I feel nostalgic and love to celebrate them.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Ha, again.

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

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


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

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

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

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

Happiest of birthdays to you, Little Man.

Friday, May 15, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don't make it a war.

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

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

Friday, May 8, 2015

Growing Souls

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

Regardless, we're talking about mamas today. 

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

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

The view is stunning.

The view is growing.

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

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

Moms, we are farmers too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 1, 2015

Being Extreme Is Just, Well, Being Extreme


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


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

Har, har.

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

But I digress.

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

I'm digressing again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

It's just extreme.

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

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

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