Wednesday, May 8, 2019

The Travel Journalist

I’ve had many aspirations over the years, and in my mid-twenties I loved the idea of being a travel journalist. At that time the only thing I had to spend money on was a mortgage for a small home in Greens Fork, dog food, gas to the airport and airline tickets. I traveled often during that phase of life, always with a Nikon camera and journal.

In my mid-thirties I travel with a lot of dry Cheerios, plastic grocery bags for any sort of urgent disposal and a smartphone that typically always runs at 23% battery. 

We went to Kansas last weekend, and I often get asked how long it takes us to travel to the family ranch. We’ve made it there in anywhere from 10 to 12 to 24 (the unbelievable Christmas trip of 2016) hours. This trip was fun because we made the voyage for a family wedding in which Caroline was a flower girl.

Facebook Caroline

Real Life Caroline

She cleans up pretty well for a tot who prefers mud over make-up. She did wonderfully in her dress and fancy shoes, but once we got back to the ranch she found mud and actually lost a shoe in the muck. It was good to have her back. 

Traveling with two under three has its own challenges, but nothing that prohibits me from suiting up to go again; we have airline tickets bought for June. This trip I introduced Caroline to the I Spy game and that was a big hit. Except she would tell me the color she wanted to find, already having her item spotted. It somewhat defeats the purpose of the game, but certainly doesn’t ruin the fun. We found the same orange ink pen clipped to Dad’s visor six times in thirty minutes.

Somewhere in Illinois we passed three school buses full of children and would you believe none of them were on electronics? They actually waved to us as we passed by and this was definitely a trip highlight for a toddler. She asked me where they were going and I told her probably a field trip. This started the “Why” game that lasted until St. Louis. I’ve never been so glad to see the arch. 

It was outside Columbia, Missouri that we stopped in the pouring rain for double diaper changes. I’ve mastered the art of in-truck changes for little Cyrus while he’s still small. Caroline is still curious about this process, but this particular change almost knocked both she and I out. So there I was: a belly-laughing, half-naked 9-month old across my lap, a 2 ½-year-old gagging out the window with the rain coming in our truck and a mess up to my elbows…literally. I wrapped it all up and asked Caroline to sit back so I could throw the mess out the window. Cody was still inside the truck stop, and I’d have him throw it in the trash upon his return. I tossed the 45-pound diaper out of the back seat window of our truck, and then looked across to see a man at pump five watching in disbelief. I wanted to explain myself and that I wasn’t littering, I was trying to save my daughter from throwing up on her brother, but I didn’t have the energy to do so. I just rolled up the window and hoped Cody would return before the judgy guy left. 

We stayed in a beautiful hotel in old town Wichita that was previously a cannery in the 1920s. Both kids slept well and filled up on all the junk food and toys that travel with grandparents they see four times a year. The grandparent’s room was like walking into the aftermath had a tornado hit a toy store and candy store in one swipe. There was a lot of candy wrappers and miscellaneous parts to toys we’ll probably never see again. 

I forgot my razor and had to get one at the front desk. Talk about a massacre. Despite my best efforts, I went to the wedding wearing a leopard print dress and my legs looked like I had to kill the actual animal I was wearing. 

The wedding was beautiful, the flower girls were cute as can be and the reception was a ball. We got a family photo that didn’t show my legs, both kids were well behaved and as I write this column, we’re sitting in traffic on the west side of St. Louis. We should hopefully be home by the time the blog goes live on Wednesday.  I consider all of these things signs of another good trip west. 

I don’t travel much with the Nikon anymore because it just won’t fit in the diaper bag. And I never did see my writing in the magazines they stuff in the airplane seat backs, but sometimes I get into the local Nettle Creek Gazette, so that is something. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Find Your Canna Lily

Caroline and I had a girls’ day on Saturday. We traded in our farm clothes for dressier attire and spent the day at the Indiana Angus Auxiliary annual meeting. It was a such a special day, just she and I, and other gals who are passionate about the Angus breed. The roll call question was simple: What is your favorite thing about spring?

Bright colors, fresh flowers, sweatshirts rather and bulky coats, new baby calves running around…these were all answers ladies and girls responded with. My answer: getting the kids outside without a 45-minute bundling process and also airing out the house. 

Spring is such a time for new beginnings, fresh starts, and new life. It’s no wonder so many call it their favorite season. Spring also offers boundless opportunities to learn from even the smallest teachers. 

A friend of mine gave me a box of canna lily bulbs a few weeks ago. On a warm day recently Caroline (the talker), Cyrus (the observer) and I (the worker) dug up an area around our beloved supper bell to finally plant the bulbs. I used a shovel and Caroline used her bare hands to dig the space. Would you care to guess which method was most productive? Nonetheless, we got all the bulbs in the ground and Caroline was ready for her first bath of the day by 9:30 AM. 

Since that day, we’ve worn a path to the dinner bell. Not to ring it, but rather to check on the flowers. Every day, we walk out and inspect the soil. It is still dark as night; no green to be seen. If you think a watched pot never boils, let me tell you about flower bulbs that never break through the soil and a curious 2 ½-year-old. Caroline insists they’re hungry or thirsty, so we fertilized with cow manure and I’ve convinced her we’ve gotten enough rain that I don’t need to carry a watering can to the bell. 

Still, we wait. 

It’s been a teaching process, for both of us. I’d like to think the whole process is teaching her patience as we wait, responsibility as she cares for something she started and persistence as we continue to monitor the progress with no signs of change. 

But it is teaching me a whole lot more. 

From Caroline and the canna lilies, I’m learning about being intentional with time and care. 

Her daily to-do list isn’t long. In fact, in a day she is only expected to brush her teeth, clean her plate and check on her little brother 659 times. But now that she planted something in the warm soil, she is quite committed to its care. And she makes a point to go out of her way to check on their progress, without fail. She has added this chore to her to-do list and has marked it off daily.

These are not our canna lilies, 
but I do hope they turn out this beautiful. 
Considering we planted ten bulbs, 
my expectations may be a bit out of whack. 
Story of my life. 

What if I, too, was that intentional with my time and care of something? What if I carved out mere minutes from every single day to check on a friend, send someone a kind note or offer encouragement? What if I cared enough about something's – or someone’s – success that I made it a priority in my daily routine? 

Sadly, I find my housekeeping falls to the wayside often because I don’t make it a priority. I sweep the kitchen floor daily but don’t ask the last time I dusted the mantle. 

I can get lost in marking off the next event, meeting or to-do in my work with Sankey Creative that I often lose sight of my objectives for the business I began. 

Finally, Cody and I pray together daily, but I don’t know the last time I asked my husband if there is something he’d like for me to pray about on his behalf. How sad that I don’t even know what that might be? 

What could be your canna lily? The one thing that you care so much about, that one thing that you want to see succeed, that you’re willing to check on it daily?

Growing your faith? Sustaining a marriage? Creating a space you enjoy coming home to? Your career aspirations? Your five-year plan? Your land? Your garden? Your store? What about your spirit?

I encourage you to find your canna lily. Plant it. Nurture it. Wait. Then watch it grow in great love and care. 

Sometimes children slow us down, make us late or complicate a simple task. 

But more often, children show us a better way to live. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Raising Them Rich

During Sunday’s sermon, our minister invited us to get out our devices and visit the website This site allows you to type in your annual income and it then calculates where you rank in terms of wealth in comparison to the rest of the world.

I encourage you to visit the site and see for yourself. It is quite eye-opening; I noticed many folks shifting in their seat (or, pew) as they typed in their income and saw the result. I’ll admit, I did the same. 

I left the sermon with this thought: Regardless of my global rank in terms of wealth, I think it’s important to raise our children with the understanding that they’re rich.

I hope Caroline will look back and remember she grew up rich because one of her doll babies got a new bracelet each time mom took the rubber band off a new head of broccoli. 

Just this week Caroline wanted more plastic hay bales for her farm set. I let her know that’s all we had (or rather, all I’d buy). That night I was pulling the living room together and saw that she had improvised: She had taken the orange peels from snack time and disposed of them in all of her feed bunks. Her cows may not have all the hay they want, but they had a citrus by-product that should get them by. 

 How many kids these days can say their parents fill their dressers with a new set of clothes every six months or so? Our “rich” children can. Only because we have cousins and neighbors who are kind enough to deliver bags and boxes of hand-me-downs at the conclusion of every growth spurt. Caroline proudly marched up to a daycare instructor the other morning and told her, while twirling, “Mommy got me a new coat.” She didn’t know it still has her cousin, Georgia’s, name in Sharpie on the inside tag. 

I hope they’ll both look back and remember they grew up rich because we had a garden where you could pick the best tomato in the world, pluck a pepper and prepare it for dinner or watch a zucchini double in size overnight. 

We live in a natural watershed area, making us mud rich. And when you’re 2 ½ and not afraid of a little dirt, mud rich is the best rich of all. We can be in the middle of an August drought and Caroline can find a standing body of water to roll in. I can only assume her little brother will emulate her example once he gets mobile. 

I hope they’ll both look back and remember they grew up rich because we could take hour-long (that’s about as long as ol’ mom lasts) wagon rides and never walk in the same place twice. We always had fresh air to breathe to make us sleep better and never once had to come home and worry about finding a place to park. 

I hope they’ll both look back and remember they grew up rich because they had a castle right in their own back yard. It has a front entry and a back entry, but the middle gets a bit tough to navigate. In the spring it blooms the most fragrant lilacs. Earlier this winter Caroline got hung up in her lilac-bush-castle and I had to set Cyrus down in the yard to untangle her. While waiting on me to get her bibs off a branch, she did find a bone from a pot roast I disposed of six months ago. It is a very fancy castle, one which the barn cats apparently also enjoy. 

This is when she tripped coming in the back entrance of

the castle and got stuck. 

I hope they’ll both look back and remember they grew up rich because we never took a vacation without bringing along friends and paying all of their expenses. Each time we vacation west, we load the stock trailer with cattle that we know by name or number. We take our friends – Naughty 702, Big Blackie or even Sterling the Bull – on vacation so they can reside at their new home, Grammie and Grampie Sankey’s ranch in Kansas. Lucky for us, these friends never ask for snacks when we stop to fill up on diesel. 

I guess I don’t care if our children move off to college and wish they had a newer car, better wardrobe or faster computer. I hope they move off college and realize they grew up rich in ways that have absolutely nothing to money, income or social status.

I guess, if we’re being honest with one another today, I also hope that by the time they get to college this old farm will be paid off, I can loosen the straps on this budget and they won’t have to go to their first day of collegiate class wearing a coat with their cousin’s name on the tag. 

But if they do, it builds character. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Mom Takes A Nap

The recent activity of the Purdue Men’s Basketball team has my sleep schedule – early to bed, early to rise – completely out of whack. I simply do not have the genetic make-up for pacing, screaming at a television and texting college buddies in the eleven o’clock hour. 

So, Sunday after church I was admittedly dragging. We all had lunch, then Caroline went down easily for her nap, but Cyrus was really fighting it. Which is normal; the kid rarely sleeps when the sun is up. Cody noticed that I likely needed rest shortly after I cut the food on his plate into tiny bites, then served Caroline a plate full enough to feed a grown man. He offered to man the fort while I rested my eyes. I nearly wept in gratitude. I told him I only needed 15 minutes, and I’d be right back to my normal self. He gladly obliged. 

I crept up the creaky, farmhouse staircase, careful not to wake the 2 ½-year-old. I laid down on our bed, pulled a Purdue (bless their hearts) hooded sweatshirt over my body and I was asleep in less than a minute. 

It was only seconds later that a woman knocked on the door. I ran through the mudroom and answered. “You have a bunch of black cows out here on the highway,” she reported in a slow, unamused voice. The cigarette almost fell out of her lips. Of course, I began having a full-blown panic attack. I strapped Cyrus to my chest in a baby carrier, then bundled Caroline up and strapped her into the blue Fisher-Price swing that hangs from the 100-year old pine in our yard. I then proceeded to call cows off Highway 35 for an hour. Lucky for me, boss cow 001 was quite helpful and stood along the double yellow to stop the traffic while the rest of the herd filed back through the double red gates. 

And then I heard the fire alarm going off inside our house. I FORGOT ABOUT THE PIE! I had volunteered to make a pie for an auction, organized by a local church of which I’ve never even attended. This was to be my big break to 1) be noticed for my pie baking skills by someone (anyone), 2) collaborate creatively and 3) very likely become best friends with The Pioneer Woman in Oklahoma. But stray stock and a toddler still swinging in a lone pine tree now had smoke barreling through our farmhouse! 

I did what any clear-thinking, strong-willed mother would do: I drug a hose from the barn to the house and fought the Great Pie Fire of 2019 with a baby strapped to my chest. I was basically the poster woman for the next Duluth Trading  ad. The kitchen was a wreck, but the pie surprisingly turned out alright. I flaked off the black parts into the trash and added some butter for character. 

Then I remembered that when Caroline was in sixth grade, I never paid for field trip dues and she wasn’t allowed to go the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and meet Dale Earnhardt Jr. (I know, this doesn’t make sense). And because of my lack of pay, she didn’t get into her first-choice college and basically never loved me in the same way again. 

Only seconds after that fiasco, Cyrus quit eating baby food and regressed to preferring only “almond milk”. Which is quite terrifying for a mother who clearly understands that you cannot milk an almond. Don’t get me started on the fact that I just bought 40 tubs of baby food at Meijer because they were on sale. 

My hands were sweating. My hair was falling out. My children were turning against me…and milk.

And then, I woke up. I didn’t make a move, but laid on the bed and listened. 

I heard Cody playing peek-a-boo with Cyrus downstairs. I heard Caroline talking about black bears in her sleep, one room over. I looked at my phone: I’d been asleep for almost an hour. 

This snoozy Sunday situation only confirms 
the fact that mothers never actually sleep, 
we just worry with our eyes closed. 

And I will probably never nap again. 
It’s just not worth the stress. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

An Opinion of Mud

I hadn’t even changed the first diaper of the day when I was asked this question:

“Mom. Jump in mud puddles today?”

I’m not sure if she recognized the rain pounding on the roof throughout the night as I had, but our 2 ½ year old has a way of planning the day before pajamas come off. 

It’s been a long winter. I’m a big fan of cold weather, but this season seems to be relentless. As the snow stops falling, the rain has set in, and with livestock, it’s hard to tell which natural element is worse.

As someone required to work in mud daily to care for livestock, I view mud differently than our little girl. 

I view mud as the thing that keeps my feet stuck into the deep, soggy ground when hungry heifers shove me around as I toss buckets of grain in the feed bunk. 

I view mud as the thing that causes me to get our Kubota stuck in two-feet-deep ruts while my husband’s instructions of “DON’T TAKE YOUR FOOT OFF THE GAS!!” echo through my head. He’s in Montana for the week so my week’s priority shifts from keeping all stock fed and alive to digging or pulling out a diesel Kubota without leaving too much proof of the incident. Talk about covering your tracks. 

My opinion of mud changed after the first time I got muddy, flowing water down into my waterproof boots, then again after I lost a boot in the mud and had to sacrifice my socks and reputation in front of customers, then once again when I learned how muddy navels on a calf can affect their health. 

Mud isn’t nearly as fun when you’re in your mid-thirties and considering a double knee replacement due to months of carrying feed buckets several yards through the relentless brown tar far up your shins. 

But when you’re 2 ½, mud looks much different. 

When you’re 2 ½, you’re not worried about topsoil washing away, wet basements or newborn calves finding their way. 

When you’re 2 ½, mud becomes the medium for which you can paint murals on the side of barns, trucks and cement pads. 

When you’re 2 ½, mud brings worms and worms are quite interesting creatures. 

When you’re 2 ½, mud allows you to stay outside longer because you must wash your boots. For several minutes. Using a scrub brush. To get them spotless. Then spray the kitties for good measure. 

When you’re 2 ½, mud allows you to hunt for bears more effectively, searching for tracks of the beasts that fascinate us so much right now. We’ve found countless “bear” tracks across our farm in the last several weeks, and we’re also convinced Mr. Brown Bear lives in the woods just off Charles Road. You’ve been warned. 

When you’re 2 ½, mud creates opportunities to learn a whole new vocabulary from Mom when she gets the Kubota stuck in the mud and Dad is two time zones west. Mom is not proud of this. 

Oh, to have the optimism of a child, waking in the dark to the excitement of a day ahead, instead of dread. I laid in bed that morning thinking of how tough the day was going to be, and she woke with plans for the day to take advantage of what nature had presented before us. 

I think her mind will change the first time she loses a boot in the mud with two feed buckets in her hands. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

One Day I'll Carry a Purse Again

There are certain things that have no place in our home, so they ride around in the back storage area of my vehicle: a bag of Goodwill clothes that never made it to the store, 12 reusable grocery bags, and three purses.  

Cody was loading the double stroller into the storage area of my vehicle not long ago and soon realized it wouldn’t fit because of the baggage - literally - that was taking up space in my life. 
He was quick to ask, “Why haven’t you delivered that bag of Goodwill clothes we sorted through back in January?” 
Because I always forget they’re there. 
Then, “Do you really need a dozen reusable grocery bags?” 
No, but six don't have an insulated liner in them and six don't have a sturdy I don't know which ones to toss. 
Finally, “These three purses have been in here for a year – do you really need them?” 
My immediate and firm answer was YES.

I’ve not carried a purse since July 1, 2016 – the day I became a mother. I packed an overnight bag and a diaper bag to go to the hospital, and I never picked up a purse again. Not because I didn’t want one, but frankly I don’t have enough hands. Instead, I've tucked everything I need for myself inside a small wallet.

In My Purse, BC (before children) was an array of things, part CVS store, part time capsule. Before children, you could look in my purse and find: a can of Friz-Ease hairspray, two lip glosses, four lipsticks, four credit cards, 45 bobby pins, an array of gum and mints, a risky can of mace, a mirror, expired coupons, band-aids for bad shoes, shabby Kleenexes, most with a mint inside, a Keith Whitley CD, a Robert Earl Keen CD, outdated business cards from two jobs ago, Advil and ticket stubs from shows I went to in 2014. 

But there is no room for those things in a diaper bag. 
Diaper bags are much more selfless and extend beyond one’s self.

When I carried a purse, I spent time in an office, talked a lot to my girlfriends, and cared much about my appearance. Today, I spend a lot of time in a pasture, talk a lot to bred heifers, and do care about my appearance, only because I’m certain a someone could stop by at any given moment and ask about our Certified Angus Beef barn

But one day I’ll carry a purse again. 

Because one day there will be no more diaper bag. There will be no more need for extra bibs tucked in every compartment. There will be no more gummy spoons or Ziplock bags of dry cereal that busted open during the trip. There will be no more thermoses of warm water, waiting for the next bottle. 

There will be no more stickers from the doctor or dum-dums from the bank. No more hair bows to dress up an outfit last-minute, dinosaurs to occupy a baby or toys to keep someone quiet in the waiting room. 

There will be no more crushed goldfish crackers, ground graham crackers or animal crackers without legs. No more dried blueberries, extra pants in case of accidents or one stray shoe. 

There will be no more books with pages stuck together because of fruit snacks left in between, no more earrings with no match, no more spare socks so small that even the smallest in the family outgrew them six months ago. 

There will be no more diapers by the dozen, no more wipes and no more Desitin. No more rattles. No more Tide pens. No more Vaseline. No more pacifiers. Right now, I have a hard time imaging a world without pacifiers. 

There will be no more packing for anyone else but myself in order to leave the house for two hours. I'll no longer need much, at all. 

I guess one day I’ll carry a purse again and it will be a big, vast space waiting to be filled of pieces of my life. With a house key, an array of coupons I'll never use, expensive lipstick that need not be kiss-proof and really great hairspray. Perhaps at that age, I’ll start packing the vast space with my insurance card, eye glasses and tums. And probably a nose aspirator because I have a really hard time letting go.

Between you and I, 
I absolutely dread the fact that 
one day I’ll carry a purse again. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Saving Grace

It was a busy Friday. 

We had two plumbers here making improvements, going from the exterior of our home, to the basement, to the kitchen, to the bathroom, multiple times. 

Cody was working diligently to prepare the farm for his upcoming travels. 

I was in the house – trying to stay out of the plumbers’ way – making lunch, when I heard a strange, loud noise. 

“Call 911!” I heard my husband frantically yell from the yard. I grabbed my phone and looked out our kitchen window: a red SUV was in a million pieces in the ditch in front of our house. I heard the two plumbers run up our basement steps and dart outside. 

I tried to figure out what was going on while on the phone with dispatch: 

Serious car accident on 35. No one is getting out of the car. Car flipped several times. Windshield busted out. Both ends of the car are crushed like a pop can. Was another vehicle somewhere I couldn’t see? There is no way this is a single vehicle accident. A woman is crawling out! She is screaming for her baby. Oh no, there is a baby in the car. We need help.

The plumbers ran across 35 and jumped onto the vehicle and somehow got the car seat out. The dispatcher told them to keep the baby in the car seat, but get it somewhere warm. Cody suggested our milkhouse, but my motherly instincts told me to get the baby in our warm home. This would prove to be a mistake. 

It took a while for the mother to realize her baby was in someone else’s care and in our house. This was the first red flag. She came in extremely distraught as anyone who had just rolled their vehicle three full times (this according to investigators) across a state highway would be. She was barefoot, bloody and disoriented. Her concern then shifted from her baby, who would be fine, to the ramifications of what she’d just done. She suddenly had a break down in the middle of my kitchen. Reality had set in. 

While I stayed in the house with our two little ones, the paramedics, officers and others rotated in and out of our kitchen gathering details of how this could have happened. I tried to keep our children quiet while watching the clean-up from a window. There was debris and glass all the way across the highway, ditch to ditch. 

The woman was traveling from a clinic in Richmond back to her home in Muncie. I don’t know, or care to, the details of how an accident that horrific happened or the choices she made that lead to it. What I cared about what that the baby was ok. She was. Her blanket was covered in blood; the baby didn’t have a scratch on her little body. She was giggling by the time they left my kitchen. 

“I have no idea how this baby is fine. She doesn’t have a scratch,” I texted Cody. He was outside working with officers and moving equipment so EMTs could get in our driveway. 

But Cody knew. While they were picking up the debris, something caught his eye. Among the bottles of cheap perfume, fast food trash, clothes, toys, sub woofers and more, a leather-bound Bible lay in the middle of US Highway 35. That baby was in much better hands that afternoon than we realized. 

There is a grand plan for the child; her story is just beginning. From the moment I took the bloody blanket off her and saw her big, healthy smile, I just wanted to hold her tight. 

But I soon realized that little girl 
was being held tightly and lovingly already, 
by Someone far stronger than I. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Bundling Up

I love cold weather, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make things more challenging on the farm. Especially as Cody travels, the weight of calving and keeping stock (alive) weighs on me. I’m sincerely glad to do the work; I grew up in this lifestyle and knew early that I wanted to spend the rest of my life around cattle. 

So, what is the worse part about raising livestock in the winter? 
Fixing frozen waterers? 
Getting cows in the barn during a wind storm? 
Carrying buckets through drifts? 
Nope. None of those things. It’s bundling up the kids to go outside. 

Here is my daily routine:

Change two diapers. Put Vaseline on cheeks and lips. 

Start bundling Caroline: Firstly, get warm socks on her. This consists of spending two minutes explaining why socks are necessary when it is ten degrees outside, then crushing her dreams of wearing her Crocs in the snow. Wipe tears. Lots and lots of tears. Put her hooded sweatshirt on her. Not the easy, slightly large one, but she insists that she wear the old one with a horse on it, the one that I can barely get over her head. This one is apparently the only one that is suitable at this stage in her life. Find her pink coveralls. Sit her on my lap and stuff her into pink coveralls. Stand her up, then tuck her horse sweatshirt down into the coveralls. Zip up the coveralls, forgetting to tell her “chin up!”. I zip her chin. More tears. Tell her I’m sorry then give her my phone to pacify her while I bundle Cyrus then myself, and also to buy her love from zipping up her chin. 

Next, Cyrus: Get Cyrus out of the jumper. Cyrus smells. Back upstairs for another diaper change. More Vaseline for good measure. Grab his snowsuit and head downstairs. Try to find a two-foot by two-foot space on the living room floor that does not have a toy, blanket or shoe on it. This is very difficult.  Lay snowsuit on the floor and place baby inside. Kiss baby and tell him I’m sorry we have to do this, but it will be over soon. He rolls his eyes because I use the same line, daily. Lay baby in the snow suit and zip it up. He is smiling. He is easy. 

Instruct Caroline to stand by the door because we’re almost ready to go outside. Repeat myself. Caroline cannot hear me because she’s watching Baby Shark for the 3,532,694th time and has lost all sense of her surroundings. 

Go to the mudroom to find my clothes. I forgot to lay my gloves on the register after breaking ice this morning and they’re still soaking wet. Search our bottomless bucket of nice gloves that fit and match. This is very difficult. I choose one advertising a semen service and one advertising a bovine estrogen drug. One day these kids will be able to read and I’ll have to explain this to them; today is not that day. 

Shimmy into my snow pants; they should not be this tight. Pull my hair up and pin it into a toboggan. I have to do this before putting on my coat because I’m not able to raise my arms well once it is on. Get coat on. Check pockets for adequate Kleenex supply; supply low. Open door to kitchen and ask Caroline to get Mommy a Kleenex. Repeat myself. She cannot hear me because she’s now watching videos of Asian children wash their hands and has lost all ambition. 

Cyrus is crying. I tiptoe across the kitchen floor in an effort to not leave a trail of mud – or other – across the floor. My kitchen floor is extremely clean and I want to leave it that way. If you believe that last line, you don’t read this column enough. Find the baby in the living room screaming his head off. Someone has placed a stuffed chicken on top of his head. Something tells me it was not him. Ask Caroline again to go stand by the door. Miraculously, she hears me. With her newfound alertness, she realizes that she has on several layers and it is 70° in the house. Suddenly, she is on fire, screaming that she is hot. I understand how she feels; I started sweating when I was trying to stuff her into warm socks. I tell her there is a draft by the kitchen door and she will feel better when she gets there. This is not a lie. 

I put Cyrus into the car seat and buckled him in but do not pull him tight. His snowsuit is so big on him that there is very little room left in the car seat. He’s not going anywhere. I set the car seat by the kitchen door so he, too, can enjoy the natural breeze. I go back out to the mudroom and put on my boots. I carry both kids to the mudroom and instruct them to stay right there. I have forgotten Caroline’s gloves. Her gloves are on the register. I have to take off my boots and tiptoe across the floor again. But the register is empty. Someone has moved her gloves. I go back to the mudroom and ask her where she put her gloves. She admits that she took them upstairs and hid them under her crib. I am really sweating now. 

I try to dodge every toy, blanket, and shoe on the living room floor to make my way upstairs. I cannot find her gloves but I did find an unwrapped granola bar. Suddenly, our mouse problem begins to make more sense. I go to her dresser and find a pair of pink mittens, knowing full and well she will lose her head when she sees they are not her favorite Mickey Mouse mittens. This is a battle I’m willing to fight mostly because I started this process 45 minutes ago and we have probably had four calves born during this “bundling up” process.

I report back downstairs to the mudroom to find Cyrus crying and Caroline taking 50 pairs of gloves out of our glove bucket. This is fine. This can be addressed later. Right now, I need fresh air and enough stamina to make to the barn. I get my boots on and put my phone in my pocket.

I open the storm door and get Caroline outside and pick up the carrier with Cyrus strapped in. All three of us are outside of the house; now, we can start chores.

And my husband wonders 
why I insist on 
feeding the stock only once a day. 

You must always pay the help.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019


Since we're still talking about Christmas....

I watch too much Dateline for my own good. There is something about a real-life murder mystery that reels me in every Friday night (I have a crazy exciting social life), then in turn makes me run as fast as I can from the barn to the house after the 5:00 AM feeding, unsure of what lurks in the early morning hours outside Economy, Indiana. Dateline does nothing for my mental health. 

So, you can imagine the thoughts that went through my head when Cody stood at the bottom of our stairwell on the Wednesday before Chritsmas and said that a truck driver was broke down at the intersection of 1 and 35 and needed a ride to Economy. A few questions I had for him:

1.   Who has ever needed a ride to Economy?
2.   Why did you even tap the breaks when he flagged you down? KEEP DRIVING AND DO NOT MAKE EYE CONTACT!
3.   Doesn’t he have AAA?
4.   Do you have a weapon?
5.   Do you want me to follow you?

Of course, Cody thought all of my questions were ridiculous. He reported that the man crossed the 1 and 35 intersection to flag him down to ask for help, and Cody felt compelled to do so. 

Ten minutes later, Cody texted me: “This is the wildest trip ever. Wait until I tell you.” 
I hoped he would live to do so. I was packing for our Christmas trip to Kansas with two kids and my feet and anxiously awaited his return home. 

The trucker’s name was Spanky. You read that right. He revealed that he was from central Kansas, and while he typically hauled livestock, this particular assignment to gain some extra cash for Christmas (he was married with children) had him hauling a load of batteries to Muncie, Indiana. The fact that he was from central Kansas certainly made Cody’s ears perk up, as Cody’s family ranch lies in the same western plain. Cody asked for a more specific area in Kansas and Spanky said Great Bend, Kansas, just 140 miles west of my in-laws ranch. 

During the brief drive to Economy, Cody revealed that he, too, was from central Kansas and his family is still there today. More specifically, his grandmother and uncle still reside in Sterling, not far from Great Bend. As irony would have it, Spanky attended college in Sterling, population 2,300. A Kansas town just a bit bigger than our beloved Hagerstown. 

The mechanic that Spanky was trying to find in Economy was nowhere to be found; his truck wouldn’t be repaired that night. He asked Cody for a ride back to his rig, still parked at 1 and 35. Cody gave him one of our Sankey Angus business cards and asked if he could bring him dinner (a double cheeseburger from a local joint – only the best for our guests!); Spanky obliged. But when he looked at the business card, Spanky asked, “Sankey. You don’t know a Larry Sankey, do you?”

Larry Sankey is Cody’s paternal grandfather. 

As absolute fate would have it, while in college, Spanky (I have no idea of this man’s birth name, so we’re assuming it is, in fact, Spanky) went to the small-town bank on business and asked a teller (Cody’s grandmother) if she knew of any places where a college kid could live. She thought they might have a place on the ranch he could rent, and the rest is history. Spanky moved into Larry and Melva’s rental and Larry nearly killed him (his words, not mine) the day Spanky decided to trim the shrubs without asking. 

Thirty-five years later, Spanky breaks down ¼ mile from Larry’s grandson’s Angus operation in Indiana. Small world, indeed. 

Our son woke at 4:00 the next morning, and when he was done eating, we loaded the truck and headed west for Christmas in Kansas. Spanky’s truck was still parked at 1 and 35. We hoped he was sleeping soundly, and would make it back west in time for Christmas. While in Kansas, we told grandma Melva about the trucker and she didn’t really remember him, but she did remember a guy who Larry almost killed because he trimmed the shrubs at the ranch house. Some men are just particular about their landscape, I guess. 

I'm a firm believer that amidst disappointment, God puts people in our lives to make the frustration more bearable. This Christmas, we remembered how He crossed Cody and Spanky’s paths, making the 800 miles that lie between Sterling, Kansas and Economy, Indiana feel just a bit closer to home.