Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Working from Home

Almost three years ago I left a full-time job and took on a part-time role so I could focus on our family and farm. That required much better time management, prioritization, and record keeping. It was the best decision I ever made. 






With the onset of COVID-19, the local, farmer-owned cooperative (my part-time gig) has greatly utilized Microsoft Teams, a business-oriented communication and collaboration platform that utilizes video meetings. In-person meetings have been cut drastically and now we use video cameras to conduct business. 


Basically, we’ve taken conference calls to a whole new level. 


No longer are the days where I can put the business meeting on speakerphone, mute the chaos on my end, and cut waffles into 34 perfectly symmetrical pieces while listening to harvest projections and herbicide resistance issues. 


With Microsoft Teams, I join the video meeting from my dining room table (my office) and every person on the video call can see the chaos unfold around me in real-time.


It’s a PR nightmare. 


Our bathroom sits just off our dining room, which has always been annoying, but this layout has become super inconvenient while working from home. I was in a video meeting, trying to describe to a commercial printer the needs of an upcoming publication, when Caroline busted out of the bathroom and asked if washcloths could be flushed down the toilet? Turns out, she already knew the answer to this question. 


Last week I logged into a video conference that was scheduled for an hour. All morning I prepped the kids by telling them how important this call was, and how quiet they needed to be, and once I was on the video, I couldn’t step away to help with anything. I needed them to quietly entertain themselves for one hour. I asked if they understood and both nodded yes. This was a lie. 


Three minutes into the call, Caroline developed an intense need for the purple Play-Doh in Cyrus’ hands and asked him if she could have it. After several declines, she took matters – or, the purple Play-Doh – into her own hands. This did not go over well. There was screaming, crying and TOP OF HER LUNGS JUSTIFYING WHY BOYS DON’T PLAY WITH PURPLE PLAY-DOH! This, of course, was unfolding 12 inches from my laptop, as they were seated at the dining room table with me. With my microphone on mute, I put a smile on my face and through a clenched jaw demanded that Caroline return the Play-Doh to Cyrus and pick another color to use. 


The fact that I could have a pleasant smile on my face (for all my co-workers to see) and still firmly speak to my children in a “Mom absolutely means business” tone actually put the fear of God (or, Mom?) in them both. Cyrus quit crying instantly and without blinking, Caroline gave Cyrus the purple Play-Doh and quickly grabbed the blue container.    


An hour passed and we were only halfway through our meeting agenda. The kids’ patience was wearing thin. I allowed them to get down from the table and play in the living room.


At one hour and thirty minutes, the kids begged to go play in their bedroom upstairs. I told them that was fine. 


At one hour and thirty-seven minutes, the meeting was finally to the point where I was expected to present on marketing and digital communications. Just as I took the microphone off mute, Caroline starts screaming at the top of her lungs about Cyrus getting dollar bills out of my nightstand. 


“Mom!!! Moommm!!! Cyrus has your paper money and he won’t give it to me!! Mooommmm!!! CAN YOU HEAR ME?????” she yelled from upstairs. Then, I heard a loud thud. 


In my head, I responded by saying, “YES! Yes! I can hear you! This house is 200 square feet and I’m inches from the bottom of the stairwell! I can hear you, so can 8 other corporate leaders all across Indiana and Ohio! The WORLD can hear you! YOU ARE HEARD! Dollar bills can wait! This is Mom’s Time to ACT LIKE I HAVE MY LIFE TOGETHER!”


The people on my computer screen began laughing as they heard the debacle unfold. I quickly responded, “I’m sorry. There seems to be an issue upstairs and I just heard a loud thud,” I explained while smiling. “I’m going to put my microphone on mute for just a second…….”






“Which is longer?” Caroline responded gently from upstairs. “15 minutes or an hour? Because an hour is taking foooorever.”




I went on to present my portion of the meeting and apologize for any interruption in productivity. Strangely, the three-ring circus in our house didn’t seem to bother anyone, except me. 


I don’t know how much this pandemic has altered life as we know it, or even what things we may never see again. 


I do know I’ll never regret time with my kids. But there is a 100% chance that I’ll regret time with my kids and my virtual co-workers, rural internet, and farmhouses. There is a whole lot that could go wrong there. 


And I’m living that dream weekly. 





Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Fireplace Mantle

Fireplace mantles were originally created to serve as a hood that projected over a fire grate to catch the smoke. Through generations they’ve served as a focal point of a room, proudly displaying family heirlooms, photos and artifacts. A time capsule of sorts, showing the world what is of value in a family.


Today, two sets of channel locks sit on ours. 


The mantle in our living room is one of the very few places our children, 2 and 4, cannot reach. There is no couch within short distance from which they can launch, no windowsill they can climb, no countertop they can access through sound footing like that of a reindeer on an icy roof.


Our mantle isn’t full of family photos, because there is no room for such items. Our mantle is full of things that must remain out of reach. 


Two years ago, Caroline received a toy racehorse with approximately 45 tiny accessories attached to it: a halter, saddle, saddle pad, breastplate, stirrups, bit, noseband, reins and beyond. It only took three days before we realized the choking hazard involved in such a gift.  45 tiny horse accessories: to the mantle.


In June, I was presenting in a virtual meeting when I was interrupted by a blood curling scream coming from the living room. The children had been playing with their channel locks (hey, they may not be able to read, but at least they’ll be handy) and Cyrus struck Caroline on top of the head when she would not let him park his combine in her horse barn. Channel locks: to the mantle. 


In July, Cyrus ripped a page out of a book that had an illustration of Jesus reading to children. He tore it in such a way that Jesus’ body was cut in two. There is just something about throwing away a picture of Jesus that doesn’t sit well with me. So, He got taped back together. Tiny torn Jesus: to the mantle. 


On Monday Cody busted through the kitchen door:


“Hey. I ordered a replacement American Angus Association membership card a few weeks ago and it should have been here by now. Have you seen it?”


“Yes. Caroline spotted it on the kitchen counter and was using it as a play credit card. Last I heard, she charged $700 worth of Teddy Grahams and horse movies to it,” I remarked without missing a beat.


He wasn’t overly amused. 


“Oh no! What did you do with it?” he asked. 


“What do you think I did with it? It’s on the mantle between the knife you brought home from Argentina and the 2019 tax returns we caught Cyrus stuffing into his lunchbox.”


I suppose in twenty years the kids will be in homes of their own and I’ll reclaim the mantle for my own use. Perhaps then I’ll display pictures of them at this age when almost nothing could escape the reach of their sticky sugar hands and constant curiosity, except those artifacts of this stage in life where I feel as though I’m constantly operating in survival mode. 


I think I dread the day. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

COVID County Fair

The Wayne County Fair sure looked different this year, but it occurred. When we look back on the summer of 2020, could that be all that matters?


The Wayne County 4-H and Purdue Extension team can’t be commended adequately for the job they did organizing the 2020 event. Woodworkers, photographers, electricians, seamstresses, and beyond still wowed the judges and those who raised livestock were still able to present their market and breeding animals.


It was different. 

It was lacking an urban crowd. 

It was managed unbelievably well. 


“Who was there?” Mom asked me on the phone one night after we’d returned from the beef show.


“Everyone you’d expect to be at the heifer show,” I said, then named the 3rd generation families that likely haven’t missed a beef show in 40 years. When your grandkid is in the ring, you show up, come COVID-19 or high water. 


There was no Sugar Grove Community Church lemonade shake-up stand, no queen contest, and no antique tractor display, but as a mother of two under four, it still got the job done. 


From the sidelines, too young to exhibit anything but stains down the front of their shirts, our children still had a ball. 


First, at the sno-cone stand where Caroline placed an order without parental supervision, leaving me no option but to run to the car for a wallet before it melted. 


Then with the rocks in Cyrus’ mouth because his hands were full, and his shorts didn’t have pockets. How else was he supposed to haul them?!


Then with the Play-Doh back in the camper area where friends had cattle tied. 


Caroline asked me, “What kind of Play-Doh is this?” holding up a tiny red stick.

“It’s not. It’s a day-old old French fry covered in ketchup. Put it back where it was. Someone may want it for supper”


That’s the county fair spirit!


Cody judged the beef show at another county hours away on that day. Every time the kids begged for cotton candy, I told them we’d get some when Daddy arrived (believing he never would). Low and behold, the Angus heifers walked into the ring and he arrived just in time. The man has a 6th sense for Angus cattle on display. 


All Angus classes and one division later, our kids appeared to be sweating cotton candy. 


Six minutes after that, the sugar kicked in and Cyrus began ripping the CAUTION tape (used for social distancing) off the bleachers. He’s never been a rule follower. That’s when I knew it was time to head home to Economy. 


By the time we got home, they were so deeply asleep that I had to wipe little rivers of drool and cotton candy off their faces. I washed their feet with a warm washcloth, in awe of how much they’ve grown. I put them in footed jammies so sand wouldn’t sleep in their sheets. I swiped Cyrus’ mouth for more rocks and he didn’t even try to bite me. That’s a big deal. 

As a parent, getting those two in bed early, completely exhausted was quite a feat. In fact, because of the great 2020 Wayne County 4-H Fair, later that evening…


I made no supper. 

Watered flowers. 

Tended garden. 

Meal prepped for the next two nights. 

Did two loads of laundry. 

Went to the bathroom and no one asked why.


Cody did all chores. 

Mowed pastures. 

Checked cattle at three different farms. 

He actually enjoyed a Diet Coke with no one hanging on his leg begging for a sip (chug). 


It was the most relaxing evening, ever!


So thank you, all who organized and hosted the Wayne County 4-H Fair. We don’t have exhibit-age kids but we do have two who enjoyed the event tremendously. 


And think of all the money I saved on Kemos. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Summer Road Trip

With no one in the house but me, I stood at the top of the stairway: Is there anything we’re forgetting? 


I’m fortunate in that I married someone who can handle every construction zone, detour, speed limit and time zone change quite well; Cody is a natural born trucker. When we travel west to visit his family in Kansas, I simply have to get the kids (and myself) in the truck. He does all the driving – both ways!


There was an extra outfit for Caroline that I’d remove from the suitcase two hours prior and placed on our bed. But on my final trip through the house, something told me to grab it. As I locked up the house, something told me to grab paper towels. I don’t know what was “telling me” this, but I did it. We travel to Kansas a few times a year; even in the kids’ infant stage, I’ve never packed paper towels. 


We weren’t five miles into Illinois before Caroline whimpered quietly, “Mommy. I’m going to be sick.” She wasn’t wrong. The best I could do was hold her beloved white blanky in front of her to catch what I could. Cody was driving, in the thick of a conference call about flying live beef bulls into Brazil. I don’t know if it was the sound or the smell, but he kicked that Ford F-350 into NASCAR mode and we were at a rest stop in less than two minutes. 


Suddenly, the last-minute paper towels and extra outfit sure came in handy. 


For thirty minutes I wiped down every inch of Caroline and the car seat that I could reach. I used the paper towels and public sink to wash her hair. We were in a rest stop stall when someone joined us next door. 


“She’s suuuure using a lot of toilet paper, Mommy. Please tell her not to clog the potty,” Caroline requested, using her outside voice. I was mortified, but also proud that she remembered the 4-square rule, even with an upset tummy. 


I used the hand sanitizer in Cody’s truck to try to kill the acidic smell. That didn’t work. It just turned our truck cab into a tiny pediatric center waiting room on wheels. 


Because of our frequent flyer (or, driver as we’re usually pulling a stock trailer fully loaded) miles, our children have become fantastic travelers. In fact, we find that Cody and I usually need a stop before either of them mention it. I pack a lunchbox of fruit, fiber and Pringles and that usually gets us through the “you’re not hungry, you’re bored” conversations. 


These days we avoid truck stops as much as we can while driving a dually, and utilize rest stops more often. There are always families of other ethnicities, dogs and yoga poses that feed our need to people watch. 


We were almost to the heart of Kansas City when Caroline announced she had to go. BAD. 


I tried to convince her otherwise, but I know that 4-year-olds don’t joke about these things. Cody quickly exited the interstate and stopped at a Taco Bell directly across from Kauffman Stadium (where the Royals play) and Arrowhead Stadium (where the Chiefs play). Much to our dismay, it was open to drive-thru traffic only. Thanks, COVID-19.


By this point, tears were streaming down Caroline’s cheeks. 


He then hastily drove around a vacant parking lot and pulled behind a dumpster just off the I-70 freeway traffic of Kansas City. We were so close I could see cars zipping past us through a chain link fence.


“What are we doing here?” I asked.


“This is the last place to stop before Kansas City traffic stalls us. It’s now or never,” he responded. It was 5:00 PM CST.


I got Caroline out of the truck and looked around. I was fairly certain I had recently listened to a true crime podcast about this exact parking lot not long ago, but desperate times call for desperate pit stops. 


We walked over to a grove of trees and I studied the debris on the ground before encouraging her to take care of business. A lot of coordination and sanitary measures went into the next few moments, but you need not know those details. My fear is that Caroline will remember this pit stop when she’s 30. 


All of the sudden, loud sirens began blaring on the interstate just 20 yards from us. Absolutely startled, Caroline takes off running through the thicket and across the parking lot…pants not yet up.


“Caroline!” I called out. “What are you doing?!”


“Run Mommy! We’re going to jail for pottying in the ditch!” she screamed. 


So there I was. 


90° heat outside Kansas City with a 4-year-old running pantless around a parking lot screaming about getting arrested. When did life take such a turn?


While running to catch her, I had serious concerns going through my own head about her seemingly innate decision to run from the law. 


Cyrus handled the long trip (and dramatic big sister) like a champion. He tolerated diaper changes in the bed of the truck and somehow had the sun in his eyes 80% of the time. On the way home we were fueling up when a panhandler came to the truck asking for money. Cody was inside the store, so it was just me and the kids. After telling her no multiple times (I’d actually watched she and a man get out of their car and approach several people before coming to us), Cyrus chimed in from the backseat with, “No! No! No!” 


It was a good life lesson: If my dog or my kid doesn’t trust you, I probably won’t either. 


We’re home safely now. I always set out on these road strips with a bit of nostalgia running through my head (packed full of great expectations). I envision a family of four on a calm scenic drive maybe down US 40, enjoying the views and the company. Very Rockwell-esque. Then reality sets in and I realize anytime the four of us load up into the truck and head towards those Kansas plains we more resemble the Griswolds. 


Clark Griswald, 1983: Why aren't we flying? Because getting there is half the fun. You know that.


I’m not convinced.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020


Just when I thought this old farmhouse was packed to the gills with toys, hand-me-down clothes we’re waiting to grow into, fine china we use once a year and people, our daughter (nearly 4) invited a friend to live with us. We’re now a family of 5. 


For the last week “Matilda” has found refuge in our house and while she doesn’t take up much space (I have yet to see her), she sure is a handful. 


On Sunday morning Caroline told me she didn’t get much sleep because Matilda kicked her all night. I shrugged it off. She’s talked about Matilda before. Matilda was a friend and playmate of Caroline’s at the daycare before the daycare shut down due to COVID-19. Since reopening of the facility, we haven’t seen Matilda’s return. It’s been a big deal for a 35-pounder. She’s quit asking about how many days until Christmas and has begun asking when she’ll see Matilda again. 


So, when she mentioned Matilda kicking her in bed, I figured it was a dream about her long-lost friend. 


On Sunday afternoon I heard a thud, followed by Cyrus – who is typically extremely even tempered – screaming. I dried my hands on a dishtowel and dashed into the living room. There I found Caroline scolding Matilda for shoving her little brother into the coffee table because he was rearranging Caroline’s corral system. What a protective big sister. 


On Monday we went to IGA and I asked both kids to hold my hand as we crossed the parking lot. Caroline put out her hand but stayed two feet from me. After stopping twice and asking why she wouldn’t hold my hand, she reminded me that Matilda was in the middle. How could I forget?


On Tuesday she asked why I didn’t pack a paper sack lunch for Matilda. On Tuesday afternoon she reminded me in a high pitch scream – as I put the car in drive – that I forgot to buckle Matilda into the car seat. I nearly drove though the church sign and wondered what kind of insurance Matilda has. 


On Wednesday we went out to do evening chores and I asked Caroline if she needed to go potty before we began our adventure. She said no. Fifteen minutes and through three gates later, I hear her screaming over the diesel growl of the Kubota. 


“Mom!! Mommy!! Matilda has to go potty!”


“Tell her to hold it. We’ll be back to the house in 30 minutes,” I yelled to the bed of the Kubota where the kids prefer to ride. 


“She can’t hold it! Has to go pretty bad!”


I didn’t know if I should put Caroline in time out or acting school for such a sham.


I stopped the Kubota and asked, “OK. Caroline. Is it you or Matilda that has to potty?”


Without missing a beat, “Mom. It’s Matilda. But I’ll probably go, too, since we’re having a break.”


I stopped the Kubota in the middle of the pasture and helped Caroline. Then, and I can’t believe I’m even telling you this, I also helped Matilda get her britches back up. Let me just say, Caroline, Matilda and I could win a wicked game of charades. 


On Thursday Caroline asked if Matilda could come to her 4th birthday party and I told her yes, only if she brings a gift and doesn’t spend the night. 


On Friday we stopped by the farmer’s market at State Rd. 38 and Turnpike (a column in itself) and I allowed both kids to pick something from the goodies. Cyrus chose a loaf of honey wheat bread and Caroline chose a cup of lemonade. Matilda, apparently, wanted pickled beets but I talked her off the ledge and she settled for splitting the lemonade with Caroline. That was fun, requesting a second, empty cup from the elderly Amish lady. 


Here it is, Saturday night, and I’m exhausted from welcoming another child into the family on such short notice. I’m also googling how to kick minors out of your home without retaliation. Didn’t Dr. Phil do a show on this?





Wednesday, June 10, 2020

This Is the Day

My favorite child will always be the one who cries out for me in the night, then proceeds to cover me in little bits of supper. Because it is that child, in that moment, that needs me the most.

It was a beautiful day. Birds were singing a morning song, I could hear my husband zipping around the farm feeding cattle and a little girl singing a Frozen tune downstairs. I was stuck upstairs rocking a sick boy, with the blinds shut in a room dark.

“I can’t believe this is happening,” I thought to myself. On a beautiful day when I had so much to do!

I had a long list clouding my mind. Sweep all floors, then mop. Vacuum the carpet. Slice the watermelon. Wash the rugs. Sweep grass clippings off the patio and sidewalk. Pick up 250 toy cows and horses from the living room - and every other room in the house. Clean the toilet. Put away all the laundry I had washed yesterday. Water the garden and flowers. Get things ready for our first Sunday back into the church. Check on a few loose ends regarding approaching work events: signing contracts, reserving chairs, updating an excel sheet with new plant progression numbers and writing a script for an upcoming agronomy video. 

Rocking a sick toddler - for who knows how long - was never on the list. I felt myself getting anxious about the mounting pressure to get it all done. 

But then I looked down at Cyrus and studied how long his eyelashes were. Where did he inherit those? And I noticed how his blonde hair still stands straight up after a warm bath. And I realized that I needed to trim his tiny fingernails – a job that puts us both on edge. Then I watched his tiny chest go up and down slowly; he was finally calming after a rough morning. His breathing got slower and his eyes began to close. I do not recall the last time I studied him and rocked this extremely active almost two-year-old to sleep. 

So, I rocked him back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. 

And as I did, I sang, 

This is the day, this is the day
That the Lord has made, that the Lord has made
I will rejoice, I will rejoice
And be glad in it, and be glad in it
This is the day that the Lord has made
I will rejoice and be glad in it
This is the day, this is the day
That the Lord has made

It’s incredible what a simple vacation Bible school song can do to a 35-year-old heart. 

Suddenly, my entire outlook on this morning changed significantly. I couldn’t think of one thing on my to-do list that mattered more than the moment I was in. What a small window of time I had, not to mop or sweep, but to cradle this growing child in my arms!

I wasn’t put on this earth to slice watermelon for our afternoon snack or pick up rodeo remnants from the living room floor, though doing both serves our family. 

I was put on this earth to care for, love and raise human beings so they grow into good people. How selfish of me to think otherwise. 

Sick kids on sunny days sure have a way of humbling mothers. 

Well and back to himself

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The Turtle Dove

We were eating lunch one day last week when I first noticed the turtle dove outside our dining room window. The bird would land, peck around our wood pile, then take flight again, finally landing in the nearby lilac bush. This sequence took place many times through the duration of our feast of leftover ribs, reheated baked beans and cold milk. 

That afternoon I sat outside on my laptop and worked in the sun while the kids napped. I am not a bird watcher by any means, but I was excited to recognize the turtle dove back again, busy as ever. I stopped my work in order to observe hers. 

She was picking up twigs and dandelions and taking them into the lilac bush to build her nest. Incredible! Piece by piece she plucked and placed. Sometimes she’d drop the twig or weed and would swoop down in a rush and try to find another. I slowly walked over to the bush to confirm my belief and saw the nest, quite large, resting on a branch. I got back to work so I wouldn’t bother her. 

Then I made the mistake of hosting a post-nap ecology lesson for the kids. We went outside and quietly (as quiet as 1 ½ and 3 ½ year olds can be….which isn’t) snuck over the lilac bush to spy on the turtle dove.

Sure enough, she was resting in her newly created home, sitting straight up and alert to the chaos on the ground. I swept the kids up and we went to the barn to pick on someone our own size: Daddy.

When I was preparing for motherhood and in the act of delivering our children, I didn’t have an appetite for fanfare. My mother even asked to come in and visit and I declined the offer. This wasn’t the time to ask me if I’d seen how nice the produce selection at Aldi had become. Minutes later, she was at my bedside, encouraging me. I’m not sure who let her in, but something tells me it was my husband who needed a break from the 26-hour ordeal. 

I guess this is why I’ve tried to keep the kids away from the turtle dove for a few days, while she hopefully prepares for her family. At every meal we talk about her and every morning Caroline is quick to run to the bush to see if she is home. It is not easy keeping curious minds and hands away from something so intriguing and special. 

Particularly when we need some new life around this place. We scraped a cat off the highway two weeks ago and on Saturday Caroline brought me a cracked egg in one hand and a feather-less baby bird in the other. I didn’t react well to her presentation. Another ecology lesson and much hand scrubbing followed.

I think, now more than ever, it is critical to help our children find the magic in ordinary days. 
To watch a bird build its nest or an ant fill up on dropped popsicle pieces or clouds evolve into shapes and animals in the sky. 
To enjoy ruining clothes in soil and gravel and sand. 
To feel soft grass on their tender feet and experience eating a grape tomato warmed from the sun. 

We should be cautious about what they see and hear. There are unsettling words, stories and images all around them right now. 

Caroline prayed recently, “God keep away the wolves, werewolves, coyotes, the virus and mean geese.”

I was taken back that she knew enough about the virus to ask for God’s protection from it. I was also curious about her experience with mean geese, but I decided to save that question for another day. 

So for now, we’ll shut off the damn news,

focus less on mean geese

and be more like hard working turtle doves

who have built their home

on visible hope for tomorrow. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Quarantine Cut

After looking at Easter photos I realized that Cyrus’ hair was so long you could barely see his piercing blue eyes. It was beyond time for a haircut, but all the shops remained closed due to the times we're living in. 

I asked my husband if he could cut Cyrus’ – an extremely active 1 ½ year old – hair, because I certainly wasn’t doing it. 

Do you remember a time when you came to the realization you weren’t talented in an area? I remember clearly a day that I decided to trim my Barbie styling head’s hair. Barbie styling heads were a big deal in the late 80’s. They were simply the large head and shoulders of a Barbie that you could apply make-up to and style the hair. It was very basic training for your first homecoming dance. 

With purple Fiskars in hand, I began the trim on one side, and slowly twirled the head around while I snipped precisely, from ear to ear. When I finally got around the entire head, I spun her around to learn that the cut ended in a perfect spiral. In fact, the left side of her hair was down past the chin, and by the time I got done, the right side of the head had hair above the ear. 

It was then that I knew: I wasn’t cut out to cut hair.

Fast forward thirty years and my husband was plugging in clippers and snapping on guards in our kitchen. My blood pressure was rising.

I sat Cyrus on my lap and wrapped a towel around him like a cape, then kissed his cheek. The clippers began buzzing and he jolted. But dad talked to him throughout the process and he became completely calm. He giggled when Cody went around the ears. 

White hair began falling onto the towel and he fought to get his arms out. He grabbed a handful and studied it like snow. 

I grabbed a handful and set it aside. That handful now rests in my cedar chest in an envelope, “Cyrus’ Quarantine Cut 2020”. If you come to his graduation open house in 17 years, you’ll probably see it on the display table. 
I have a damn hard time letting go.

Then, the mood suddenly changed when Cody began dropping hints about how badly he, too, needed a haircut. The hints were unnecessary; I’d been living in the same house with him 24/7 for 45 days. 

I told him the Barbie styling head story and he either didn’t care or didn’t listen, because by the time I wrapped it up, he was sitting in the chair with a towel wrapped around himself like a cape. 

Two minutes, many verbal complaints and an acre of dark hair on my kitchen floor later I told him:

“Listen, pal. I can’t do a fade. I can’t blend. I can only take little bits off a time and hopefully not an ear.”
“OK,” he replied. “Well, my girl in town can do all of it. Just try.”
“Ok, well, your girl in town went to school for this. She has a license to run these clippers. I only have a license to drive a car,” a snipped back.

“Daddy. Who is your girl in town?” asked Caroline. 
The three-year-old took the words right out of my mouth. 

It took twenty minutes and four trips to the bathroom mirror for Cody to agree that we could end the charade. 

He was somewhat content with his fresh quarantine cut, 
the kids were covered in dark hair from playing on the kitchen floor and 
I was hiding a dirty little secret: a 1” x 1” patch I shaved bare behind his left ear.

You can keep a secret, right??

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Line for the Bathroom

There was a time in My Life, B.C. (before Caroline) when I’d stand in line for the bathroom and it didn’t bother me much. Maybe at a concert or a baseball game, I’d usually make a new friend along the way. We were all there for the same reason, and we laughed that the line never moved quickly enough. 

Fast forward a few years and two kids later, I find a significant part of my morning routine standing in line for the bathroom, again. Except for this time, there is no Eric Church jamming as background music, only the Frozen soundtrack. Sigh. 

When we bought this farm, we were interested in the pasture, fence, and outbuildings. The house was a second thought for newlyweds who didn’t have a family on the brain, yet. 

Boy, was that naive. 

Potty training in a single bathroom home could have been a book in itself. Inevitably, every time she decided it was finally “time” there was someone else in the bathroom and an accident would happen. There were lots of tears of frustration and embarrassment. The whole training process took longer than it should have and I believe some of that had to do with waiting in line. 

Now that Caroline is potty trained and seemingly running on her own schedule, the bathroom has taken on a whole new role in the home. 

“Why is the bathroom door locked?” Cody asked last week. 
“I think Caroline is in there,” I responded. 
“The 3-year-old doesn’t need to use a lock. That’s way too dangerous and she’s way too smart,” he remarked. 

Two minutes later:

“She’s still in there,” Cody said, sounding annoyed.
“Well knock and ask her to get out.”
“Caroline! Times up. Wash your hands and come out. I need in there.”
“Can’t daddy. I’m only halfway through my Earth book. It’s a pretty big book.”

Cody looked at me, “I really hope she didn’t take a library book into the bathroom.”
“No, that’s one of ours. She did take an Angus Journal in yesterday,” I told him, trying not to laugh. “I’m not sure which issue it was, but I think she put it back on your side table.”

That really fired him up. Angus Journals are prized possessions (to him), as a source of great beef knowledge, Angus history and cattle pictures. 

“Caroline! Out! I need in there. The bathroom is no place for storytime.”
“Dad! Don’t rush me! This stuff takes time.”

He mumbled something about “Lord help us when she’s 15” and went outside. I never saw him again. 

Cody came in the house yesterday and Caroline and Cyrus were both sitting outside the bathroom door. 

“What are you guys doing?” he asked. 
“I have to go and Mom’s taking forever,” she said. 
“Have you knocked?” he asked. 
“Yep, she told me to go play.”
“She only wants in here because there is a Barbie in the shower!” I yelled from inside.
“Caroline, why did you put toys in the bathroom?”
“Cyrus and I were going to give Barbie a bath and wash his tractor,” she explained.
“Bbbbbmmmbbbb” Cyrus started making a tractor sound and pointed to the door. 
This explained his stake in the bathroom game. 

Ok, you both need to get off the floor and leave Mom alone. She’ll be out as soon as she can.”
“No, I won’t. I brought my cookbook in here and I’m making my meal plan for the week ahead. Don’t worry. I’m sitting on the sink. It’s the only room in the house with a lock,” I yelled through the white door covered in handprints on the bottom 1/3.

The room is only 8 ft. x 6 ft. (yes, I measured it to ensure accuracy for this column), but for whatever reason, one person cannot go inside without the rest of the family following them. 

I went in to floss Saturday night and both kids fought for a spot on the toilet lid to watch me “string my teeth.” Cody shaved Sunday morning with an audience. “If you’re going to be in the way, you might as well be useful. Hand me a towel,” he told them. 

I hope one day we can add on to this old farmhouse and another bathroom will be on those plans. I dream of a day where I can go into the bathroom and not give an oral dissertation as to why. Because frankly, between you and I, I actually locked myself in the bathroom last week to eat a Reese’s egg from the Easter Bunny. I shouldn’t have to explain that to anyone. 

In my defense, it’s the only room in the house with a lock!