Wednesday, August 2, 2017

936

When you realize how little time you get, 
you do more with the time you have. 


Beside a layer of dust, relics of our late (incredibly admirable) granddads and an ancient photo of our homestead, there is a jar of rocks sitting on a side table in our living room. 


Frankly, I don't pay much attention to the jar, until I hear Caroline moving it around and then I move quickly. A jar of that size and weight could surely hurt a girl so small. 

But when Caroline's activity forces me over to that area of our home,  the jar - and all that it represents - tends to hit me square on the chin. 

You guys. I need stitches.

The glass jar is filled with 936 rocks.


936 rocks represent the number of weekends you have with your child before they go to college. 
Our church gave us this jar and asked us to remove a stone each weekend, so that we can recognize the number of weekends we have left to teach and guide our daughter before she frequents a space where we aren't always around.

When you realize how little time you get, 
you do more with the time you have. 

I thank you for reading this blog right now.  Sincerely
You are supporting me in more ways than you know. 

But I want you to put down your phone, close your iPad or shut down your computer and look around you. 

(but not until you read this next part!!)

Time is so limited. 
Time is so, so, so, so, so limited. 
With those we love, and those we need, and those we miss in a way we didn't know we could. 

If we have 936 weekends with Caroline between birth and when she moves to college, and we received this jar less than two months before her first birthday, and I'm writing this more than a month later................I think we basically have 3 weeks left together as a family before I have to do her first college visit. 
But I'm not good at math, so that may be off a bit. 

The point is: time moves really quickly. 

And I know that days are long and you dread the Mondays and you crave the weekends but each minute of those long hours comprise your life and the time you have left with the really amazing people that make up your story. 

I haven't taken a single stone out of Caroline's jar. 
Honestly, I think it would give me anxiety to see the bottom of the barrel. 
I cry when the I see the bottom of the Rocky Road tub - add babies to this deal and I'm DONE. 
Instead, I skip blogs, I skip sleep and I use more dry shampoo than a 32-year-old mother should ---- it saves me time, darn it. 


But I don't miss first words and first touches and first bruises (we have a lot of those these days). 

Today I want you to put down your phone, close your iPad or shut down your computer and look around. 

Nothing on this screen is comparable to those around you. 

936. 

When you realize how little time you get, 
you do more with the time you have.


Quit lookin' at my rocks. 
Go love your own. 


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Parenthood: Year One

We're now the proud parents of a one-year-old, and if the first year is indication of how the rest of them will go: 


Fasten your seat belts, folks, 
and keep all limbs inside the vehicle.
This ride is fast




Wow - year one went quickly. 

Mostly because this is how we spent the first twelve months:

Month One
Month one was mostly spent learning how to function on church lady meals (amazing), three-minute showers and way too much daytime television. It was spent trying to come to terms with the fact that I would likely never sleep again. Month one was mostly spent with Caroline and I crying a lot, Cody wondering what the heck happened to his bride and me washing baby clothes so big, I never thought she'd grow into them. Month one was spent wrapping her in a blue light blanket and praying for a good outcome. Month one was spent losing the same cup of coffee multiple times. It was spent counting my blessings until I fell asleep. Month one was my favorite month. 



Month Two
Month two was mostly spent wondering if Caroline was getting enough to eat. And googling stomach sizes of infants and researching ways to increase milk production and calling the pediatric center daily. Month two was spent tapping containers on the counter top to get just one more drop into the bottle. It was spent pulling the car over to the side of the road to get in the back seat to check if she was still breathing because she had miraculously quit crying. Month two was spent warming the same cup of coffee in the microwave three times before finishing it. It was spent counting my blessings until I fell asleep. Month two was my favorite month. 

Month Three
Month three was mostly spent and washing, folding and sorting the baby clothes (that I thought she'd never grow into) so they could be moved to storage because she had outgrown them. Month three was spent trying to get into a really solid routine so that month four wouldn't hurt so badly. It was spent crossing state lines in an airplane and learning how to travel with an infant - nearly perfectly. It was spent packing and unpacking suitcases and realizing you can never pack too many burp cloths. Month three was about getting out and going. Even though, on one trip to my Grandma's I pulled over at these locations to check her, as her neck appeared weird in the backseat mirror: 
  1. Abandoned Copper Kettle restaurant gravel lot (100 yards from our driveway)
  2. Economy fruit stand
  3. Closed down Williamsburg general store
  4. Stuckey's at Centerville Road and I-70
  5. Centerville Christian Church
  6. Abington Fire Station
  7. Aunt Debbie's driveway
  8. Empty parking lot in Boston
Then I drove way too fast, four more miles to Grandma's. The 40-minute trip took well over an hour. We both napped upon arrival, and Great-Grandma found us boring. Month three was my favorite month. 

Month Four
Month four was mostly spent crying on the way to work and exceeding the speed limit on the way back to the daycare after work. It was spent not working a minute past 5:00 and being the first person out of the parking lot. Month four was spent calling the daycare every day to ensure Caroline was ok and to see if she'd asked about me. And scrolling through photos and video on my phone every time I needed a break from my career. Which was once an hour. At least. Month four was about finding joy in the 5:00 AM hour, waking before the rest of the world and holding someone so small, so tight, in such darkness, realizing how precious those moments are. Month four was my favorite month. 

Month Five
Month five was mostly spent sitting at the top of the creaky farm house steps on Saturdays, waiting on a baby to fall and stay asleep. It was spent judging breathing patterns from twelve feet away and trying to see a little chest move up and down. Month six was spent trying to figure out how I was going to get back down the extremely squeaky stairs without undoing everything I just did. Month five was about learning to let go and let sleep. Everyone. Month five was spent trying to quietly hide from an emerging, energetic personality. Month five was my favorite month. 

Month Six 
Month six was mostly spent packing for a Christmas adventure to Kansas then wondering if we'd ever survive it. It was sorting through weeks of clothes, for a 5-day trip and cramming diapers into every available space inside a Ford F-250. Month six was about learning how to travel via stock trailer, not airplane, while working around a baby and a few cow/calf pairs. Month six brought a whole new joy to the holidays. Month six was spent humming the same two songs over and over to get the baby to sleep: Silent Night and the theme song from Cheers. Month six was my favorite month. 

Month Seven
Month seven was mostly spent in Carhartts and insulated boots. It was spent zipping and unzipping many layers, feeding and checking cows in the dark 6:00 PM hour and being thankful the diesel growl of a Kubota puts a baby to sleep. It was mostly spent wondering who in the he** engineered the blue ball waterers that constantly freeze and if there is a warrant out for their arrest. It was spent begging a baby to try bananas and green beans. Then wiping bananas and green beans off the dining rooms walls. Month seven was my favorite month. 




Month Eight
Month eight was mostly spent traveling for work and taking a round-faced, brown-eyed baby with me. It was learning that no one sleeps well in a hotel room and no one can get out of Evansville, Indiana fast enough. Month six was spent chipping ice out of water tanks and  putting mittens on a baby who must suck her thumb. Month eight was a real humdinger. It was spent trying to make our way through 3 (more) teeth, 2 (more) ear infections and many more wipe-downs of the dining room walls. Month eight had all of us nearly tearing down the walls to reach fresh air outside. Month eight was my favorite month. 

Month Nine
Month nine was mostly spent wondering how you get a baby to sit still long enough to get her hair in a rubber band and out of her eyes. I was spent it wondering if it's too early to spritz some tail adhesive in the mess and call it done. Month nine was spent wondering how someone so small can find every lady bug in the house, after we had to spend an entire weekend at home because I couldn't find my car keys. Month nine was mostly spent on the living room floor clapping and singing and giggling and wishing bedtime wasn't so early but thanking God that rest was minutes away. Month nine was my favorite month. 

Month Ten
Month ten was mostly spent removing batteries out of remote controls and putting covers over all reachable outlets; then realizing she has really good reach. Month ten was spent outside studying trees and blooms and rain drops and baby calves. Month ten was spent touching everything and washing our hands a lot. It was spent learning that baby teeth are the sharpest teeth in the history of the world and their jaws can move quite quickly. Month ten was spent logging many hours swinging in the tree and dancing in the kitchen. Month ten was spent waiting for the gagging noise, then peeling a piece of the Angus Journal out of the roof of her mouth, againMonth ten was my favorite month. 

Month Eleven
Month eleven was mostly spent taking imaginary bites of soggy graham crackers when the baby wanted to share. It was spent hugging and kissing her dolly and teddy bear when she thought you should and helping her climb onto her rocking horse every morning and every night. Month eleven was spent picking white seeds out of seedless watermelons and squeezing her into a swimsuit two nights a week. Month eleven was spent folding clothes in the 11:00 PM hour and wiping your tears with footie pajamas that have grippers on the feet because you realize how fast life goes when you're living for something new. It was spent doing a "cheek check" after dinner and again before bed because you realize babies and chipmunks are both hoarders. Month eleven was learning that there is something incredibly intriguing about me stepping foot inside the bathroom. Month eleven was my favorite month. 



Month Twelve
Month twelve was mostly spent on my hands and knees, wiping spilled milk up of the kitchen floor and whispering "spill-proof my ass" before coming back up to where the baby could hear me. It was spent looking in the refrigerator and finding things that can be cut into tiny pieces that will - even after mopping the floor - end up stuck to the bottom of my bare foot as I walk to the bathroom at 2:57 AM. It was spent learning to not be surprised when the baby brings me things - such as little pieces of steak, that is now beef jerky - that I haven't served for two weeks. Month twelve is about wondering where toddlers hide food and if the house might have an ant problem. Month twelve is what we just got through, where we learned moreso everyday that children don't need stuff or over stimulation. They need hugs and experiences. Month twelve was my favorite month. 



I offer sincere thanks to each of you 
who have encouraged me through motherhood over the last year. 
I've wanted to be a mother since I met my own, 
but it wasn't until I became one 
that I realized just what motherhood entails. 

And we haven't even approached 
potty training, 
long division or 
wedding dress shopping. 

Prayers appreciated. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Making the Ordinary Come Alive

I heard the following three lines - or something much like them - several times over the last two months:
Big party planned for Caroline's first birthday?
What's the theme of her party?
You probably have a Pinterest Board completely dedicated to her first birthday bash. (<- That person obviously didn't know me well.)

And then Cody began asking what our plans were. I was quite honest with him right out of the gate: I don't want a party, I just want to enjoy the day. 
He was all in.

Caroline spent her first birthday having bananas and milk, and a graham cracker or two. 
She checked cows with her dad and watered the garden with me.
We read books we'd not yet cracked opened from her baby shower more than a year ago.
Her cousins came over and she had help opening pretty wrapped presents. 





We swam (splashed) in the kiddie pool for just a bit before an inch of rain came over the farm. By the way - we've had 10 inches of rain in the last 12 days. 


Then the cousins left and we took a tour of the yard and barn lot in the wagon (better known as a utility cart) that we got Caroline (or, me. Think of all the buckets that bad boy can hold!) for her first birthday. 




After a solid nap, we headed to Bowman Superior Genetics to celebrate with one set of grandparents.

And Midge. 


Lots of crawling - it's faster than walking right now

 I made cupcakes for the occasion 
and made enough to send 6 home with 
Mom and Dad's help, James. 

This is probably the same tissue paper 
I used when wrapping Mom's Christmas gift. 
I get it honest. 

Who loves who more?

This wasn't a gift, but it's sure fun to ride 
when we visit Grandpa and Grammie's. 

"You're going to blow out the fire stick 
before I have to eat that, right?"



She always lets us know when it's time to head home. 

We wrapped up the day checking cows again (this time with a graham cracker in hand) and one last wagon ride for the day. 



We didn't really think this part through. 

One day we'll splurge. 
And we'll go over the top. 
And we'll invite family and friends. 
And I will spend more than $4.17 on her party food (cupcakes and icing).
And I might even have a Pinterest board of ideas and must-dos. 
But I don't know when that will be. 
Perhaps her wedding?

For now, Cody and I are spending our time exploring life's ordinary with Caroline. 


No question that - for Caroline's first birthday -
we made the ordinary come alive. 



Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Side Ditch Surprise

If Mom hadn't called, I would have never noticed the side ditch surprise. 

Let me back up. 

On Monday night I took Caroline to her first ever Wayne County Grand National of the World. 
Which is also our county fair, but by the way some parents act, you'd think their kids were competing for some sort of international-full-ride-scholarship-title. 
I digress. 

Anyway, I picked up Caroline from daycare, stopped by mom and dad's to circle the wagons then we headed to the fairgrounds. We didn't make it through all the livestock barns, but we had a ball seeing many of the moving parts of a mid-America county fair. 

Then Mom offered to do something she would have never done for her own children: She offered to buy a pony ride for each of the grandkids that were there that evening. After dishing out half of her life savings to a gal who was wearing a Jim Beam apron and speaking Spanish to run-down ponies, Caroline, Oscar and Georgia (cousins) saddled up for three rides around the pen. 


Many thanks to my friend Heather for snapping these photos for me. 
Check out Heather's site!

Mom, why do you always get me in these situations?


This was Caroline's expression during the entire 4-minute ride

She held tight to the horn and rode that pony like a real prairie queen. Or a terrified 11-month-old. Either way - it was fun...until our time was over. WOWZA can this little girl throw a fit when you're peeling her off a pony. 

Cody is in Kansas hosting 45 Argentines this week so I was anxious to send him pictures of our little girl on a little pony.  He has also done some time in the saddle, you know. 


The next day...

Yesterday I went to the post office; on my way back to the office Mom called. 
I'll be quite honest: my favorite song was on the radio and I considered not answering, and calling her back when the song was over. 

I'm so glad I answered. 

We chatted all the way (7 minutes) back to the office, then I put my car in park in the co-op parking lot as we visited more. But then something got my attention. Something across the street. 

"Mom. Wait. You know that tanning salon across from the co-op?"
I asked, unaware if she answered or not. 
"I think there is a tiny saddle out front. Let me call you back."

I hung up on my mother. 

You guys. Don't ever hang up on your mother. 
Unless you spy a tiny saddle in the side ditch of the tanning salon that also sells used cars. 
Next to the muffler shop. 
Across the street from the gas station best known for syringes hidden in toboggans in the back lot. 

I got out of my car and crossed the busy street, anyway. 


I've always been a junkie for junk. 
I was actually on a date once when I asked the guy to pull his truck over so I could load two antique doors out of someone's trash pile and into the bed of his truck. 
We didn't have a second date. 
But I still have those damn doors. 
Anyone need doors?

Anyway....
So when I saw a little saddle laying in the grass along a busy road, I thought back to the previous night and the joy (I think? Her face didn't change until the dismount) Caroline had riding a pony. 

I texted Cody, unsure if he'd be able to answer me with his international guests. 

It was right about then that I remembered that Cody is Harry Shepler's great-grandson. He doesn't exactly take saddles lightly.
Also, we're first-time parents who think our daughter can take on the world: 




Twenty minutes later I left the tanning salon with no sun, but a saddle I spotted in the front yard, for a horse that we don't even own.





This story is a two-part lesson:

1. Always answer the phone when your mother calls. You never know what slowing down for a few minutes and visiting with her will do for you. 

2. Take time - even in a world glued to cell phones - to notice all that is going on around you. In the hustle and bustle of a busy day (and life), how often do we miss opportunities because we're not even aware of the things that surround us? I may not be talking about discounted toys or treasures; I may be talking about people. 

Caroline turns one in ten days. 

There is work 
- scrubbing - cleaning - oiling - polishing -
 to be done 

Stay tuned. 



Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Swim Lessons

Just when I thought I couldn't take on any more with Cody's travel schedule (he's on a 10-day run, currently), I recently enrolled Caroline in swim lessons. 

Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. 

Yep, she can't walk, but I'd like her to make it across should shit get real and we have to ford the river as a family. 



Truth: I'm not a strong swimmer but I'd like Caroline to be.
I want her to be better than I. 

We arrived to lessons thirty minutes early because I knew I'd have to sign my life away on paperwork saying they weren't responsible if Caroline slipped out of my arms. Or if I slipped on the wet tiles. And also that I'd not take pictures of anyone in the locker room. This is the world we're living in. I initialed "no promises" on the first two but signed off on number three. 

Then we traveled to the ladies' locker room to find it full of ten or so young girls, around age nine. Let me tell you about the confidence they had....I loved it so much. They were giggling and talking and joking and pulling spandex out of places that would have mortified their mothers. But they were having fun. I kissed the forehead of the chunk in my arms and hoped that one day she would feel comfortable in her skin, enough to have such fun. 

I've done a lot with Caroline, just she and I. At just 4 weeks we flew to and from Kansas City alone. That was just the beginning. I told a coworker recently that the more I do with her, the more empowered I feel. She doesn't prohibit me from anything - I just learn to get creative or stronger. In the last week she and I have planted the garden, checked, fed and rotated pastures for cattle on three different farms, pulled weeds, watered flowers, done our bill paying, grocery shopping, laundry, made freezer meals, attended church and a BBQ, and somewhere in there - we slept at the same time. And I went to work.
But none of this is impressive to any other mother. 

Let me tell you the hardest thing I've done with Caroline, yet: Swim lessons. 

Infant swim lessons are like an episode of Ninja Warrior where you don't let the participant sleep for 11 months, then you strip them of all modesty, then you tell them the reward at the end is passing a McDonald's at exit 137 off of I-70. 

The best thing about the young, confident girls in the locker room was having such hope in what is to come when raising a daughter. The second best thing was the fact that Caroline was so fixated on them that she had no idea that I changed her diaper into a "Lil Swimmer", stripped her of her daycare clothes and then attempted to stuff her into her tiny bathing suit. 

It was when I had to stand her up to stretch the straps over her shoulders that she realized mom was getting her into another "situation". Bless her heart. 11+ months old an already too long for a 12-month suit. We made it work but I think I have a few coupons to burn this weekend. 

FYI: I made quite sure no one else 
was in the locker room before snapping this photo. 

The secret in pre-gaming swim lessons is not letting her skin touch anything that any other person in the history of the world may have come in contact with. I'm not a clean freak (have ya seen our farmhouse?), but I've read just enough on the internet to know that public locker rooms are breeding grounds for bad stuff. 
Also, I got athlete's foot once when I was 13, and I'm not even athletic. So I know it travels. 

I had to change her diaper and put her in a bathing suit, then put myself in a bathing suit, without setting her down. Anywhere. She was in my arms the entire time. 
Shimmy Shimmy Coco Puff. Shimmy Shimmy....WOW.
And, I kept my shoes on. 

The easy part was the swim lesson itself. For not having a bathtub at home, Caroline sure acted like a water baby and was anxious to get out of my arms to explore the water. Unfortunately, my life jacket often got in the way and she had to pull me back to shore.  

The true test came after the lesson. 
You know, 
when you have to shimmy 
two soggy suits off of
two girls 
who wear their suits 
two sizes 
too small. 

Caroline only says three words clearly right now, but I'm certain that during this escapade she mumbled, "Mom, this is ridiculous."
I couldn't agree more. 

Once we were stripped of spandex, we reluctantly stood in line for the one shower in the joint that provided warm water. There we were, just she and I and a whole lot of skin, with other people watching. It was like labor again, but worse. At least when I was in labor I had enough sense to wash my face prior to, and I didn't look like Kiss crossed with a strung out mom. I didn't even think to wear waterproof mascara for swim lesson days. Caroline kept looking at my face and taking her tiny finger along my running, wet mascara and then licking it. She must have thought it was chocolate. 
If only. 

Once the public shower was ours, I gave her a quick sponge bath consisting of baby body wash under a shower head that spray every direction but straight. By the time I got the suds out of Caroline's hair the line for the warm water was seven deep. I felt guilty. 

I wrapped her, dried her, patted her, covered her, diapered her, lotioned her, and then stuffed her into a sleeper. She wasn't overly impressed but we were approaching bedtime so nothing short of her daddy would have impressed the baby. 


Caroline slept the entire ride home. I considered pulling into McDonald's for a quick cat nap, but people passed out in cars while kids are in the back seat is how you end up on the news. 

We're going to stay the course and attend every class we can this summer. 
Right after we buy swimsuits that fit. 

Thursday, June 1, 2017

A Day Off and a Dollar Short

Did you guys know yesterday was Wednesday?
Yeah. I figured that one out about eight hours prior. 

As Cody rolls his suitcase through the living room:
"Boy, you're packing early. You don't leave until Wednesday!" I remarked, folding clothes, lightly thinking about his next coast-to-coast trip. 
"You know tomorrow is Wednesday, right?" Cody responded at 7:54 PM. 
It was as though I ran into a wall without standing up. 


Darn You Three Day Weekend!

Isn't is amazing what one day off can do to a routine? 

Since your kids are out on summer break and you still haven't put on mascara, let me tell you about our Memorial Day Weekend and the days that have since followed. 

At approximately 3:12 PM Saturday I ran out of cash at the Amish greenhouse and tried really hard to bargain with two 10-year-olds who only spoke dutch. They had no interest in trading succulents for Caroline's dishwashing talents, so we rolled outta there without hens & chicks. I told them I'd come back Monday with adequate funds...but I didn't have the guts to show my face again. 


At approximately 5:07 PM Saturday afternoon unexpected company rolled up our lane. My genetics kicked in and I instinctively grabbed everything I could find and threw it someplace no one would ever think to look: the shower. 

At 9:00 PM the day cooled down, I had planted every thing I'd purchased, I put Caroline in the kiddie corral and started a shower for myself. I let the bathroom fill with steam then cracked the window for some awesome springtime air. 
Then I climbed in. 
Twenty seconds later, my soil-covered self came to realize that I was suddenly showering with everything I'd hidden in the shower at 5:07 PM.

Who else in the entire history of the world can say they have showered with:
Two issues of Country Living 
A Farm Bureau bill
A lapel pin from judging the Ft. Worth Stock Show
Two dirty dish towels 
A cup of oatmeal, 12 hours old
A baby spoon
An oatmeal-caked bib 
Keys to a 4-wheeler
A wedding invitation from 2016
A light bulb
Two packets of hotel coffee
and finally: Caroline's rubber ducky. 
I do believe I've never had that much fun in the shower. 
Everything is now drying on the back patio. 

The next afternoon I drug myself into CVS and bought
Dry shampoo 
Waterproof mascara 
Diapers
A sympathy card
A probiotic
Shoe polish 
and finally: Wine 
With every scanned "BEEP" I felt like I was being judged. 
But then I thought: add manure to this fiasco and it's pretty well my life summed up in a red plastic basket. 

An hour later we returned home and I sat in my vehicle and leaned against the headrest while Caroline slept, 18 inches away. We sat there for less than two minutes and I drifted to sleep, dreaming about the state of California sinking into a sea of Pace Picante. 
So that's my life right now. 



For Caroline's first Memorial Day Weekend we honored, listened, swung, prayed, sang, ate, twirled, rocked, climbed, drove, checked, watched, rolled, giggled, and rested very, very little. And Caroline still woke at 4:03 AM Tuesday morning. We are committed to teaching her the true meaning of Memorial Day. 



It wasn't until the "Boy, you're packing early. You don't leave until Wednesday!" comment on Tuesday evening that I remembered that I'd lost a day of writing in this week.

On Wednesday afternoon my trusty Outlook calendar kindly reminded me that I had a dentist appointment in 15 minutes. Again: I thought it was tomorrow. 
I texted my boss and told him I'm an idiot and would be leaving early, went to the ladies' restroom and flossed/brushed my teeth, then sped out of the office as a woman on a mission. 
Ten minutes later I found myself parking my car at the pediatric center, not the dentist. I sat in the parking lot for ten seconds quite confused. Where am I and how did I get here? It was as though my car was on auto-pilot from the last 6 months of ear infections. 
I'm convinced that stress overload and a three day weekend can cause havoc on any (semi-) sane person. 


So here I am. 
Hoping the Farm Bureau bill dries out before it is due and awaiting a new fitting for my night gear retainer, at age 32. 

Life has a funny way of humbling people 
when they think they have it all together.