Tuesday, February 23, 2016

FFA Week from an FFA Family

It's National FFA Week, friends!

Have you been celebrating?

If you're friends with anyone agriculturally geared, you may have seen Facebook posts and pictures of kids (who are now adults) in their FFA jackets. You will read really great perspectives on how FFA has allowed opportunity, growth, challenges, and ways that have strengthened character.

And that is awesome.

That is FFA.

However, can I just give you another perspective? Can I allow you to peek into the window of the world of an FFA advisor's family? While this extra curricular is a part of many agriculture teacher's contract, there are many, many interpretations FFA programs can take. It's like anything, you can make it or you can fake it.

My husband, however, makes it.

And that is awesome.

The program is thriving. Joe inherited a historically good program, and with his continued guidance and ability to groom young individuals, they have carried on this tradition. The kids have "bought in" to Joe's philosophy of professionalism, and just yesterday, one of the bus monitors, who's son is in his class, stopped our oldest to tell her how Joe has been helping her son become a fine young gentleman.

That's awesome.

There are many, many, many positives to FFA. I have sung its praises since I have realized that it wasn't just big trucks and camo and cattle (Sorry Dad...and Mr. Main...and all you FFA-ers).

There are also the parts of being an FFA advisor that the kids don't realize, heck, some parents don't either.

There are the 16 Saturdays that Joe missed last year from December to April because of contests. 16. While parents carted their kids to basketball and birthday parties, we spent our Thursday nights and into Friday arranging for car pools and grandparents to care for kids and get them to where they needed to be.

There are the late, late nights spent driving an activity bus to public speaking, parli pro, horse judging. Joe will have nights that he doesn't get home until after the kids are in bed, and leaves before the littlest Webels rise.

Because on top of these extra things that are grooming great adults, there's the classes he actually has to teach, papers to grade, lessons to plan.

Friends, FFA is great. This is not a post knocking its ability to consume an advisor's life, but there are sacrifices your advisor took/takes to make it a great experience. We are proud of Joe, and all of our friends who are teachers and advisors. Those programs, however, are not just built during school time. Those kids don't magically get to the ski trip, the hockey game, the summer camp without the help of an advisor, time spent figuring out rides and costs, or a family back home that had to plan everything around the next event. Families of FFA folks need to be commended. We are a family that has learned to adapt and plan as well as appreciate FFA.

This FFA family is breeding another generation of members. We think we may have some officer candidates, livestock judgers, etc. It because of the way of life FFA promotes, our kids have it in their DNA.

So while you're enjoying all the great throwbacks and memory posts, take a second to consider your teacher and your teacher's family and how their love for FFA and sacrifice for family time, Saturday mornings, late nights have allowed you to be who you are today.

Maybe buy them a cup of coffee or a Mountain Dew while you're at it...they might be tired from the night before's activities.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

And Now, You're 41

Farmer Joe is 41 today.

Unfortunately, and probably because it’s my doing, our morning was just like a typical Saturday morning. Joe burns many candles at many ends. In the Facebook group, Farm Hats, he could share picture after picture of the different hats he wears in a day: farmer, cattleman, accountant, teacher, father, vet, Farm Bureau board member, kid chauffeur, etc., etc.

Today, it was a quick kiss and he was out the door to vaccinate calves.

While the morning was nothing special, Farmer Joe to this family is. Quite frankly, without him, this blog wouldn’t exist! Where would most of my material come from??

Ha, ha.

Joe, like most dads and husbands, goes through the day and just doing what they should, and often try to stay out of the way, stay out of the spot light. I appreciate this, as I am a spot light lover, and try to be in charge at all times.

So it works.

Ha, again.

I’m very thankful for another year on this earth with my farmer. We have navigated a lot in our time as a family. These past few years especially have been filled with loss, transition, sadness, confusion, happiness, relief, and some sleep now and again. We have rewritten our story, usually starting these new chapters with a hearty, “Well, here we go, and where is it we’re going?”

Maybe it’s because he’s older than me and wiser (wink, wink), his go with the flow attitude is the ying to my yang. Although I fight it, begging him at times to get upset about something with me, it is good for me to have this balance. I am grateful for this difference in our personality.

It works.

Whether it’s listening to him parent our big girl, telling her to care more and hold her head high because she’s a Webel, or watching him rough house with Jack, throwing him a little higher than makes me comfortable, he is truly a strong, loving dad to our kids. Hearing him encourage our middle two girls as they navigate being the middle two girls is comforting. Watching our twins light up when he walks through the door…these are all things that make the season of our life, sometimes the drudgery of being in the thick of it all, bearable and, frankly, enjoyable.

So now, you’re 41, Farmer Joe.

What’s this year going to bring? A little change, a little time off (maybe?), a little more life lived in a seemingly small way that is really making a big impact on our life.

Thanks for being my partner in this world. Thanks for enjoying my company at all times, right? Thanks for understanding that we’ll some day celebrate somewhere fancy or not, but for today, we’ll just celebrate you with chocolate cake and presents.

Because that works, right?

Happy Birthday, Farmer Joe!

Friday, February 19, 2016

You'd Think the Five O'Clock Hour Is Untouchable

I have a lot of kids.

Thank you, Mrs. Obvious, right?

So, I have to do a lot of planning. While I tend to err on the side of color coding and lists, I have become more flexible as I have aged, and have had kids who decide the night you're supposed to be with friends is a GREAT night to throw up.

I'm digressing.

My life exists in somewhat harmonious chaos because of my scheduling. It's the way it has to be, and as I get up in the wee hours of the morning to do the one thing for myself, I remind myself that this is a season. A season of getting dressed in the dark, waking before some college students even rest their heads, and go work out.

I love my 5:00 time. Quiet drive. Sunrise on the way home. Friends at the gym. A good sweat.

These are things that make for a good day, in my book.

However, when your alarm goes off at 4:35 (note the :35, so that I can "technically" sleep a little later), and you notice the all-to-familiar glare of the iPad from the chap next to you, you groan, just a little.

Not because it's so early.

Not because you don't want to work out.

It's because it's the Calf Cam: Joe's key to calving surveillance. It's been a game changer this year, for sure. We have enjoyed following the miracle of life, and Joe has enjoyed not having to get dressed at 2 AM to go drive the mile and a half to the barn to check mamas.


However, you'd think that these mamas would be sympathetic to another mama...aka, me. You'd think, those of you who live in a "normal" world, that the five o'clock hour would be untouchable.

In livestock, and I'm sure other professions (can I get an amen from OB docs out there?? Sorry for my early morning births. How about funeral directors? Firemen? Tow truck drivers?), this is just a joke. There's no hour that isn't untouchable.

So, while I read all the workout pages that I follow that proclaim there's no excuse for no workout, I would like to thank them for their shaming and back handed encouragement. Then, I would introduce them to my six children and husband who spent the morning working on a mama who eventually delivered via some "encouragement" (read: pulling), but no C-section! Then, maybe one can understand my plight to physical fitness has to include the births of animals.

This time is important to me, but let's be real friends. Working out and "me time" are slivers of time that help me be a better mom, wife, friend, fit in my skinny jeans, whatever. However, knowing that I missed a workout because Farmer Joe worked on an animal for nearly three hours, saving her life and the calf, only to come home, shower and head to school with minutes to spare makes my exercising seem of small importance.

Unless, you take into consideration swimsuit and shorts season. Then we are back on an even playing field.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Old Rusty Gate

I'm so excited to share with you an amazing story of how I wowed a huge crowd, giving an inspiring message to those in attendance, all while being completely relaxed and absolutely prepared for my audience.

I'm thinking that story will be shared after I do a few more speaking gigs.

You see, I'm rusty.

Like, really rusty. Rusty like an old gate in the back pasture, rusty.


Last night, I was able to attend the Women in Ag Dinner Series in Marshall, Illinois. While it was a long way from home, I was so flattered to be asked. It has been a long time since I was able to speak to a group without moving heaven, earth, and bringing along twin babies. The route we drove was familiar. I cruised past the church where Joe and I were married, my alma mater, the neighborhood I lived in as a single gal, the exit for the town where I used to teach.

I love memory lane.

Anyway, it was a nice drive, and one I didn't have to go alone. Evidently, when you're almost 38, a mother of six kids, and a (somewhat) professional, one's dad still worries about his daughter driving home late at night in fickle Illinois February weather. So, I had a chauffeur. Thanks, Dad.

As we rolled into town, my nerves started to settle in.
What if no one comes?
What if people DO come?
What if I don't stick to my notes?
What if I READ directly from my notes?

On and on and on.

So, with time to spare (thank you, good folks at OnStar!), I decided to take advice from the freshly minted Grammy award winning and beloved singer of my nine year old daughter, and Shook It Off. I steeled myself to be ready to take whatever was thrown at me.
Big crowd? No problem.
Little crowd? How intimate!
Lots of questions? Great.
No questions? I can talk to a brick wall.

So, as guests trickled in, I started to survey the land. It was a small group, so I decided to go unplugged, no power point, no handouts, just chatting, with my notes as a guide, but not the gospel. I'd let the conversation flow.

This is when I realized: I'm rusty.

While the talk itself flowed, and I think I hit most of my high points and allowed for the participants to determine the destination, to an extent, my after the fact nerves hit.

Did I make all of my points clearly?
Did I even really make any of my points?
Did I let them talk too much?
Did I talk to much?

Yikes. Overanalyze much? No wonder I'm exhausted today.

However, that's okay. Overanalyzation leads to excellence, right? Presentations that have to be adjusted on the fly are okay. Not always being perfectly perfect is PERFECTLY NORMAL. I may be like a rusty gate, but like that gate, I still can get the job done, even if it isn't pretty and seamless.

So to those sweet ladies in Marshall last night, thank you for bearing with me as I navigated through my first time back at it. Thanks for letting me get out for a night, wear heels and my new watch, and let me spend some time with my dad in the car...even if I did fall asleep for a little bit of the way home.

For those who have me on their books for the upcoming weeks: NEVER FEAR! The rust will be knocked off, and I will be as charming and amazing as you have me built up in your head.

Either that, or I'll be just as dependable as a rusty gate, and that's a good thing, too.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

My Love Language Is Rodent Removal

Oh you know, it's just a typical Saturday around here.
I'm awoken at the break of dawn to affix a perfect ponytail for my eldest, on her way to her first livestock judging meet (Thanks, Teresa for the lift!). As I stumble down the stairs to say good bye to Anna and Joe (who is also off to chore, take kids to State Degree Interviews and chore again), I am jolted awake, not by a sweet cup of coffee handed to me (which, in reality, Joe had already made the coffee, so that's a win), but the harrowing tale of mouse extraction from our same stupid cupboard that seems to be the Maui of Mouse Culture.


I couldn't have been more happy. You see, Joe's gone for most of the day today, and should I have opened that stupid cabinet to remove my electric skillet to make the Saturday Morning Pancakes and would have seen this mouse, I would have FREAKED THE FREAK OUT.

I hate mice.


I know, I know...I have heard it all:

You live on a farm.
There's a ginormous field behind your house.
Mice need a warm place to live.

I get it.

Let me reiterate though:
I hatehatehatehatehatehate mice.

I hate that now I have to clean the cupboard again. Hate that this little one, as it was stuck in the trap gnawed on the cord of my crock pot, because I guess when you're in your final hours, you need to gnaw on something. Maybe I'll understand in my final hours.

Despite my hatred, my love language is assuaged when Joe removes mice without any grandeur. Never is love shown more deeply to me than a mouse extraction without me having to find it first.

So husbands/boyfriends/special life friends, in this month of love, I advise you all to find a simple demonstration of love for your significant other. There are days that something like this can make all the difference.

Side note...don't get any ideas about Valentine's Day, Farmer Joe. I already have a pest man, so jewelry or flowers are just fine. Mice extraction is an every day love demonstration.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Looking Back Without Cringing


It's been six years since I started this little blog.

Six years. I will spare you the list of things we have accomplished or changed or whatever, as I tend to skim that part of all other blogs, because a lot happens to a lot of people in even one year's time.

Anyway, six years have passed, over six hundred posts have been written, lots of friends (virtual and IRL...in real life (I learned this term via blogging, too!)) have been made, some posts have been shared and allowed me opportunities I never thought I would have, others, let's just forget them, okay?

I have been so lucky to have this platform. While it's still pretty small in the scope of blogging, I have been able to document our journey as farmers, a family, an advocate, a mother, a working mom; the list goes on and on.

Looking back at older posts is fun. There are so many funny memories, times when I got uber passionate about weird things, and some times cringe at my candor. If there is one thing that I have maintained as I have evolved as a writer, it is that I clearly have the "real" factor. If you meet me in person, my voice is the same as what I write. The End.

However, I have evolved. Looking back, I tended to be quite defensive (some of you are raising your eyebrows at my past tense verb). I felt like agriculture needed to be defended, and I was just the gal to do it. Front lines. Livestock. Little kids. Trendy boots. I could do it. What I have learned, however, in my later years of blogging is that no one wants to read something with a defensive tone. I take that back, only crazy commenters who will attack you and all that you stand for, are the ones who want to have a defensive post be shared all over the Internet. Reading some of my earlier posts makes me cringe at my tone, and I am still working on it. I want people to know our story. Hear our story, and will ultimately understand our story. However, where I live is completely different from where you may live, so how in the world can you understand my life with a freezer full of beef that was once named by my kids (sorry newbies, I know, ewww). How can I do anything but sound judgmental to those of you who have chosen a different way of eating, living, believing when I am just sitting here in my house in rural Illinois. My point is, I have been trying to perfect the art of advocating through understanding. It's hard, but I'm working on it.

My early blogging life had me reacting to every story in agriculture that had anything negative or bad or whatever. While it is important to keep all bad press at the forefront, bad press is sometimes just press. Slow news day, knee jerk reactions to what's going on in the first world problem filled world we live in. Maybe it's because I have one year old twins who are currently trying to type with me and/or unload the desk at where I am seated (yikes), or maybe it's because I just can't keep up, but I am trying to listen, react appropriately, and pose a response that is specific to our life and can be applied to others without seeming too obnoxious. Does this make sense? Life is too short to be offended by everything, so if you ever disagree with me, please know that I hear you, and I have my beliefs, and you have yours. If you leave a negative comment, thanks for reading, but I will not necessarily respond because Mama doesn't have time for negativity. My early blogging self would take this to heart, worry for days, and pose a crazy response that would end up sounding grouchy. Now, whatevs, friends. Let's all stand underneath the umbrella of peace.

Finally, I am trying to use my (very limited) power for good. I have been asked to write or speak or respond to many, many things. I like that my blog is pretty organic (for lack of a better term). I would love for someone to come to me and offer me piles of cash so that I can write for a living, but I will share with you that (thanks also to the wise counsel of my blogging friends), I have learned to say "no" to those who are not in line with my beliefs and values, and enjoy and embrace the voice I have. I remember an early conversation with my brother in law about what my goal was with my blog. "The Today Show?" I remember him asking. Don't get me wrong, YES TODAY SHOW, please have me come on and be a part of your group, but that's not necessarily the ultimate goal. I am still unsure of my goal. A book? Yes. A regular podcast? Yes. A better website? YES! It's coming soon. All these things, but I will share with you that this voice I have uncovered has helped me navigate just being a mom, figuring out the ag world, and understanding people and how our relationships have evolved since the dawn of the digital age.

So, I can look back without cringing. I love posts about my babies who were not born. I love reading about our life with calves in our gross basement (which is now quite lovely). I love the friendships I have forged, the people who share and are fans, and I thank you so much for these six wonderful blogging years.

Here's to six or sixteen or sixty cringe-less years more!