Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Camel Ride at the County Fair

It's been a while since I've sat down to write. But I'm back in the saddle, now...

I took our two small children to the Wayne County Fair last week. The county fair always feels like going home. Except we don’t keep our fat rabbits in cages; ours apparently like to set up camp in the garden. 

When I was in 4-H, a week at the fair was spent exhibiting our livestock and drinking approximately ten Mt. Dews a day from a cooler which we packed from home. We only knew there was a carnival side to the event because we could see the bright lights as we left every night; I always thought the place was on fire. But nope, we’d return at 5:30 the next morning to find everything intact. Very confusing for a 10-year-old. We always stayed in the cattle barn and tended to our stock. 

With this in mind, it becomes fuzzy about how I got to this stage of parenting. 

We arrived at the fair Monday evening to watch the hog show and the first thing I fed my children was chocolate ice cream from the Dairy Bar. That was never my intention as I walked into the situation, but I saw someone I knew, we began visiting, and the next thing you know I’m at the window and Caroline requests a chocolate cone. At this point, I’ve lost all sense of my surroundings and I hand over a sweaty dollar bill. 

Seven minutes later, Caroline is handing me a soggy cone, Cyrus is crying because he is eating a veggie straw, realizing he is the obvious second child and I’m trying to get chocolate ice cream that I didn’t even consume out of my white t-shirt. 

That’s right. 

I wore a white t-shirt to the county fair, which is a sure sign that I’ve lost all ability to think critically in the last three years. Everyone knows that the only justifiable reason to wear white to the county fair is if you have a Holstein heifer at the end of a halter. 

Moments later, Caroline spotted the camel in a small pen over near the antique tractors. We were there to watch the hogs; camels weren’t even on my radar. But there we went, over to the camel pen. Moments later I found myself on the said camel, with Caroline sitting in front of me, waving like she was a queen riding through the desert. I must say, she is a real natural at camel riding. Let us hope this is not indicative of a future with the circus.

I’ve played many roles throughout the years at the county fair, including first-year exhibitor who cried in the show ring, fair queen, post-4-H-age-show-ring-poop-scooper and Wayne County Cattleman’s ribeye booth order taker. I had no idea I’d eventually become a camel riding mother who broke her last five-dollar bill to saddle up on a single hump. 

From somewhere in the distance Tim McGraw’s song, “Something Like That” began playing. This song is about a guy who goes to the county fair, falls in love and eventually gets a barbeque stain on his white t-shirt. Bump…Bump…Bump…Bump. While still riding the camel and wondering if my hips were now disjointed, I thought back to when that song came out on KICKS 96. I was a freshman in high school and didn’t have a care in the world. I sure didn’t know then that I’d hear it again twenty years later ironically at the county fair, wearing a white t-shirt with chocolate ice cream down the front. Motherhood is so humbling. 

We dismounted the camel and Caroline was quite happy, so that made the shaggy, shedding camel hair stuck to the inside of my legs almost worth it. She asked for another ice cream cone, but I told her I wasn’t falling for that trick again. She wasn’t having anymore ice cream until she got something healthy in her belly, like a Sugar Grove Church lemonade shake-up. She obliged. 

By the end of fair week, we’d had our share of ice cream, lemonade shake-ups, walking tacos, tenderloins, ribeyes, french fries, camels, and even Ferris wheels. In (another) moment of weakness I said yes to a single ride on the Ferris wheel, despite being absolutely terrified of heights. Caroline was only tall enough to board the ride because of the extra three inches her giant hair bow added. Safety first!

I think we spent more money on fun displays as a visiting family this year than we ever did growing up as 4-H exhibitors. I look forward to the days when we have livestock at the county fair and I can instruct my children to not leave the show box unless they need to go the restroom, and if they’re hungry or thirsty they can eat what I packed in the cooler. 

Ahhh, the good old days in the 1990’s when the county fair didn’t rob me of all my cash or leave camel hair in my dryer vent. 


Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Alexa: Earmuffs

My niece, nine-years-old and pretty as the day is long, emerged from my old bedroom at Mom and Dad’s farmhouse not long ago. 

“Alexa, what time is it?” she asked. Not a sound followed, except my mom shuffling through cattle registration papers downstairs. Marlee stretched and raised her voice. “Alexa, what time is it?” Again, no response. She tried another question. “Alexa, what’s the weather?”

My mother, extremely confused, stood at the bottom of the steps and asked, “Who are you talking to, Marlee?”

“Your Alexa, Grandma. Where is she?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about. I don’t even know anyone named Alexa. If you need to know what time it is, there is a clock in the bathroom. It’s about twenty minutes behind. If you need to know the weather, there are four windows in that bedroom. Look outside.” 

Marlee became quite confused, as the generational gap widened. 

For those who might not be familiar with Marlee’s friend, Alexa, she is Amazon’s virtual assistant. She (it) can sit on a table or kitchen counter and pick up simple voice commands, such as turn on the lights, give a weather report, turn down the thermostat, play desired music or add something to the grocery list. She is constantly listening to your household commands. In my opinion, Alexa is much like the super creepy cousin at reunions who doesn’t talk but only observes. 

Recent reports have come out revealing that Amazon is recording conversations with Alexa, on the basis of determining sound quality and interpretation. Anyone who understands modern marketing probably knows that Amazon is likely using these recorded conversations to understand buying trends to better market to certain lifestyles. 

I can be in the same room with my husband and ask him what he’d like for dinner, and he may respond with, “Rain the next three days.” I can ask my toddler if she needs to go to the bathroom and she may respond with, “Mommy. Do you need go to bathroom?” I can tell my 10-month-old baby I love him, and he then bites my shoulder. I don’t need to invest in a nosey robot to misunderstand me in the unbelievable way my family can. 

I think if we did have an Alexa, and she began listening to our family conversations, she’d probably need a vacation. 

Typical day: 

Cody: “Don’t forget. The Brazilians are in the high plains next week, so I fly out Sunday night to Bozeman. East to North Dakota. I’ll fly out of Sioux Falls on Saturday morning. 701 and 3601 may cycle into heat so take the kids out and check them before you guys go to bed if you can. Feed comes Wednesday. Those papers need to be signed by Tuesday, but you can do an electronic signature and just email them.”
Me: “Got it. I need to check my email. I haven’t in days. Do you need dry cleaning done before then? I thought 3601 was bred? Will you be home for supper Saturday? We still need to talk about if I’m flying with the kids or driving to Kansas for the sale. I can do it….If they sleep for twelve hours of daylight. When will you take the cattle?”
Cody: “Not sure yet. Still a way off. About dinner: I’m flying Southwest, so yes, probably.”

Or this:

Caroline: “Mom what’s check heat. Cows hot?”
Me: “No, honey. Cows are in heat when they give piggyback rides. It means they need to be bred.”
Caroline: “Old bread, Mom? Green bread? Like our bread?”
Me: “No, bred means they’re going to have a baby.”
Caroline: “Brother or sister?”
Me: “You mean bull or heifer…….We’re getting into the weeds. You’re only two.”
Caroline: “Weeds itch. Yuck. I don’t like weeds. I am two. Good job, Mom.”

I think sweet, simple Alexa would probably ask to have her batteries removed in order to be put out of her misery. 

We live in such a strange time when people would actually buy something like this to make their life easier. As if taking 37 seconds to turn on the stereo (do those still exist? They do outside Economy, Indiana) and adding toilet paper to the grocery list hanging on the refrigerator was too much work. And perhaps I’m old school. I have, in fact, been wearing mom jeans since I was fifteen. 

Regarding privacy and technology: You all know how I feel about Alexa listening to your dinner table chats - don’t even get me started on Apple watches. The only difference between an Apple watch and a probation bracelet is the watch doesn't alert authorities when you take the trash out. And DNA heritage tests....Nope. Nope. Nope. I'll keep my DNA to myself, thank you. 

I guess if I wanted strangers to know the dirty details of my family, where I am every week or what goes on within the confines of our family home….I’d write a weekly blog.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Clear View of the Western Sky

I've never been in a hostage situation. 

Until that darn (local, talented Cambridge City gal and fellow 4-Her) Lindsey Monroe, Channel 13 meteorologist, decided to start her tornado talk on Memorial Day. 

The day had been near perfect. Cyrus slept past 5:00 AM. Cody did all the chores. We treated the kids to lunch at The Dairy, then went to the Hagerstown Park. Then, we really splurged and went back to The Dairy for ice cream. After checking heat, pulling weeds and clearing supper dishes, we were all ready for bed. But instead, we began watching the radar. 

I was two storybooks in, upstairs with the kids when Cody yelled up the stairwell, "You guys need to get down here, now!"

I knew storms were rolling in. From our bedroom, I can look northwest and see anything coming from Randolph or even Delaware counties. The lightening was unreal. The clouds were eerie. The wind was picking up. 

Here is an important detail of this story:

When we were looking for a place to purchase and call home six years ago, we had many stipulations. But probably the one my husband was most adamant about was having a clear view of the western sky. He is a Kansas native, raised in the beautiful Flinthills, and he prefers to see for miles. A clear view of the western sky allows his type to prepare for anything heading our way. 

In our search for the place to start our story (have you read that story?), we walked dozens of farms. And walked away from a few simply because they didn't offer a clear view of the western sky. 

So when Cody summoned the crew back downstairs (sleep seemed so close) and then the tornado warning went off on both our phones, things got serious. Fast. 

He instructed the three of us to sit in the closet under the stairwell. 
Great idea. 
Except the closet under the stairwell is home to six suitcases, five hooks with old jackets hanging on them, four cowboy hat boxes, three Rubbermaid tubs of farm receipts, two king size pillows and air vent tubing leading upstairs. 

No room at the inn. 

So then he suggested the bathroom. 
Great idea. 
Except our almost-three-year-old, who at this point was crying, hanging on my leg, has been demonstrating a peaceful protest against the bathroom since she caught on to our potty training tactics. She avoids the bathroom like the plague. Unless Mom is in there. If mom is in there, she will beat down the locked door with nothing more than a cup of whole milk and one soggy veggie straw. 

Try again, Al Roker.

By this time, the TV had cut out, Cyrus was screaming his head off and Caroline was sitting on the couch under her farm animal umbrella. I could hear the hail pelting the house. I hadn't seen Cody in twenty minutes, but he was kind enough to crack the west windows so we could hear his weather updates from the yard. There was a lot of new vocabulary, and also many, "This is not good."

After we realized the bathroom is far from a safe zone, he then suggested the basement.
Great idea. 
Except I'm scared of the basement on 72-degree sunshine days. Don't even think about putting me down there with two kids under three during a tornado when our protector is one hundred feet away, in the front yard trying to catch hail with a breeding sleeve. 

I lose sleep over a lot of things, but one of those is not content for future science fair projects, because we have a farmhouse basement. 
I have found a cat down there when we did not own one. 
I have found an army of frogs down there in a five-week drought. 
Every time I go to the basement I find a surprise,
and my favorite books were always the "choose your own adventure" kind 
because I don't handle surprises well. 
Especially if they're breathing. 

Try again, Jim Cantore. 

The red cell of fury sat over our farm for an hour. You never want to lie to your children, but on Memorial Day 2019, I told Caroline so many lies about why I had snacks (priorities), flashlights and cell phone chargers in my pockets. Lindsey Monroe finally shifted the spotlight to Ohio and we retreated back to bed, for a second time that night. 

Cody and I only dated for a year and a half before we wed. During that time, and the nearly six years following, never have I faced a tornado situation with him, until this one. I learned that his dire need for a clear view of the western sky isn't completely crazy. I also learned that he goes into super protective father mode when the wind stops and things get oddly still. I also learned that hail, straight-line winds and unbelievable lightning don't seem to phase him near as much as I, as he spent the entire evening standing in the front yard, taking photos and calling home to Kansas. 

I also learned that I should probably clean out a few closets. 

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.