Wednesday, December 20, 2023

The Magic of Christmas

The magic of Christmas is alive and well in our home. Our oldest loves reading the advent calendar daily to her brother and our youngest enjoys squeezing the empty stockings each morning to monitor a change in weight. I am trying to relish in every moment. Even the weird ones.

Like when Cyrus woke up in hysterics one night because there was a Christmas fish swimming in his humidifier. Cyrus claims he was red, and Caroline is convinced the room has smelled like fish ever since. The magic of Christmas.

Last week the elementary school hosted a Holiday Shop, where students had the opportunity to bring a small amount of money to school and shop for loved ones.

I worked in Indianapolis that day, so Cody managed the morning routine. This worked greatly in the childrens’ favor because I planned to send them each with a five-dollar bill.

Caroline went to school with $20 (!!). She came home with three gifts for people she loved and $12.50 in change.

Cyrus went to school with $10 (!!), feeling like a king. He came home with one gift for someone else, a toy jet for himself and $.25 in change. 

He went on to tell us that his buddy bought the same toy jet for his father (what a thoughtful little boy) and Cyrus let him know that if his dad didn't want the jet, he could just bring it back to school and Cyrus would add it to his fleet. The magic of Christmas.

We made our annual trip to Kansas to share the holiday with my in-laws. The stomach bug and strep were both running rampant through the elementary school, and Cyrus recently fell victim. In an effort to curb anything that may came come Caroline’s way, I made a preparedness kit including Tylenol, ibuprofen, two trash bags, washcloth, towel, wipes and spare clothes. Still, just before leaving the house I had this nagging feeling that I was forgetting something.  

We made it three hours into the trip before I had my own Home Alone moment. You know the one, where Kevin’s mother sits straight up on the airplane and screams, “KEVIN!!” after realizing the one thing she left at home was her son.

Well, I didn’t do that. But it was at a Love’s truckstop in central Missouri that I screamed “AMOXICILLIN!!” In a quiet home in the refrigerator sat half a bottle that Cyrus still needed to ingest. But don’t you worry, I remembered my five pairs of earrings and two lipsticks. 2023 Mom of the Year!

Cyrus makes a game of observing semis, guessing what they’re hauling (95-percent of the time his guess is candy or toys) and then turning around to check out the grill to determine the manufacturer. I assumed by the time we reached the Greenfield exit his back would be sore from the break-neck action, but that wasn’t the case.

His personal favorite is “Fra-gee-lee” trucks, which he is certain are hauling leg lamps such as in the movie, “A Christmas Story”. It will be a big day when he does learn to read and realizes “Fragile” is actually pronounced Freightliner. The magic of Christmas.

Caroline hasn’t mentioned a Barbie Dream House this year, but she hasn’t given up on the campaign for a horse. Cyrus is relentless about a new bulldozer with greater horsepower. Been a tough argument explaining that the one he currently has is run solely on the force he uses with his own two hands.

We’re less than a week out and need to finish and practice our Christmas reading for church, go see the lights, bake cookies, go to the grocery and finally wrap gifts I remember buying but cannot find.

The magic of Christmas. May we never forget that the real magic happens when we forget everything I wrote above, and focus on what’s in the manger.


Friday, November 10, 2023

Parent/Teacher Conferences

If there was ever any question about the differences between our first and second child - though in my experience there never has been - that question could be quickly answered in how they address school. Cyrus, now 5, started preschool in the elementary school building this fall, while Caroline began second grade.

Our daily after school conversation goes something like this:

“How was your day?” I ask as we take off jackets.

Caroline jumps in, “Great day! We started a thing about apples that goes along with our field trip, and you know I love apples. We did cheer the whole time during recess until our legs got tired but it was good because the teacher came over and told us we couldn’t stunt. So that was ok. I really wanted to stunt then I remembered I had a skirt on so we didn’t stunt at all.  I ate all of my lunch and drank most of my water. My water bottle opened in my backpack and it's like, really wet. We got new spelling words today. Do you see this bug bite on my leg? It itches and the whole time we were reading all I did was itch it. Ms. Emily told me she liked my black and gold sweater. Did that cow have her calf yet? When we were coming up the road on the bus, she looked like she was still pregnant. Unless I was looking at the wrong cow. They’re all black so they all look the same. Well, most of them. Briella let me sit with her on the bus. It was a great day!!!”

“Cyrus, buddy. How was your day?”


And with that, he walked into the other room to carpet farm.

All summer he tried to convince us that “farmers don’t go to preschool.” That kicked me into gear to tell the farmers we encounter: If Cyrus asks, you went to preschool. The majority of them were not willing to lie for my cause because learning to color inside the lines hadn’t advanced their farming career.

To our surprise, he has enjoyed preschool. It helps that they’ve done units on farm animals and equipment, so the curriculum is right in his wheelhouse. Still, every day when he gets home, he acts agitated that he had to attend because he still has so much farming to do. It doesn’t help that the school bus has been passing multiple combines and grain carts in the afternoon trips. Everyone always beats him to the field.

We have no idea how he acts at school, though we’ve received no negative reports, so our assumption has always been good. He has mentioned new names of children; we know he’s talking to and playing with someone. Hopefully, they are not invisible.

Earlier this week Cyrus overheard Caroline and I visiting about the approaching Parent/Teacher Conference.

“What is a Parent/Teacher Conference?” he asked while unloading beans at his carpet farm.

Big sister responded without hesitation, “It’s where Mom and Dad go to school and the teacher tells them how you act when they’re not around.” Oh, the dramatics.  

Cyrus froze. “I don’t think you should go, it doesn’t sound fun.” He reported upstairs.

He’s was curious about this “meeting” all week, asking questions about how long it lasts, who is in the room, if he can come. Cody and I began to get a bit nervous, wondering what we were going to walk into.

On Friday morning I went upstairs to wake him.

“Is this the day?” were the first words out of his mouth.

“What day?”

“Parent/Teacher Conference.”

“Yes, that is today.”

He slowly whispered as he watched the ceiling fan, “Today is going to be the worst day.”

I’m happy to report there were no alarming behaviors discussed, in fact they said Cyrus does well in school, though he has let the teacher know his aversion to coloring.

I guess some kids just can’t stay inside the lines.

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Barbie Dreamhouse

Two days before her seventh birthday, Caroline met me in the kitchen.

“Do you know what I want for my birthday this year?” she asked me while I cooked ground beef.

“Well, we’re having this conversation a little late, aren’t we?” Her gifts were hidden, unwrapped, in the luggage closet.

“A Barbie Dreamhouse. Remember?”

How could I forget? Every parent I know that has purchased one has advised against the massive piece of plastic with 250 accessories that end up in registers and vacuums.

“What do you mean, ‘remember’?” I was stalling.

“Remember. Dad told me last year, when I turned 6, that I couldn’t have one because our house was kind of like a tent,” she continued with gentle persuasion. I then flashed back to living in a tent for 12 months with two kids and three grown men. One, of course, being my husband. The other two were there to work on the house.

“But now that our house is done, and I have a bedroom, I can have one. Right, Mom? Dad said that.”

“Oh, Daddy,” I sighed. “He’s funny.” I picked up my phone to text him in a fit of rage.


Me: You failed to mention that you told Caroline she could have a Barbie Dreamhouse for her birthday now that the house is done


Me: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Cody: Did she bring that up?

Me: Just now. 2 days before her birthday

Cody: Thought she’d forget

Me: Has she ever forgotten anything? Every time we pass the Love’s truck stop in Booneville, Missouri she reminds me that’s where she puked up a Happy Meal. It’s been 4 years.


Me: So now what do we do?

Cody: Have you gotten her anything yet?


It was two days before her birthday. All purchases were made. They would be wrapped after the kids went to bed that evening. And when Caroline opened the gifts, Cody would be just as surprised as the birthday girl.

Me: Yes. (rolling my eyes)

Cody: Any toys?

Me: No. I got her shoe polish and an iron skillet.

I deleted and didn’t send that last text. I put down my phone. It was time to stop the madness. Caroline had already left the room to tend to her babydoll.

She didn’t get a Barbie Dreamhouse for her birthday two days later, and if it crushed her, she covered it well.

I really struggle with more plastic in our home because I’ve seen our children the most delighted outside. Carrying sticks around a pasture fighting off pretend coyotes. Building forts from straw in the hay mow. Finding rocks they just know I’ll love. Catching and holding hostage lightening bugs, frogs, and inbred kittens. 

During birthdays and Christmas, I try so hard to remember that our job isn’t to put every marketed toy into the hands of our children (though, by the looks of their rooms you may not believe that). Our job is to teach them the joy of eating a tomato straight from a garden they helped plant. Our job is to give them the freedom to experience the feeling when you find the perfect stick to make a cowboy’s pistol. Our job is to let their imaginations run wild in hot, humid or freezing cold air. It’s quite easy to get swept away in wanting to make our children happy through buying, buying, buying. We just need to shove them outside and tell them to stay off the road.

The night of the mother/daughter kitchen conversation I later bathed the kids. There was a ring around the tub after it drained, grass and dirt swirling. We’re living in the good old days.

Caroline spoke up while I brushed out her hair. “I was thinking. If it’s too late for a Barbie Dream House, is it too late for a horse?”

We looked at each other and laughed.

“What?!” she asked laughing. “We already have the barn!”


Wednesday, June 14, 2023

The Fall

It’s been one month and one week since I fell.

It was a short fall, but an extremely hard hit and it left me with deep cuts and swelling. “There might be areas of your face that just won’t heal the same,” the ER doctor told me.

Darn it, I thought. In my late thirties I was just coming to terms with my face. It certainly wasn’t perfect, but it was mine and every sunspot or laugh line was earned. I have beat myself up for a month over this simple but impactful fall. How could I be so careless? It’s truly changed my mindset regarding many things, the biggest being how quickly health can change.

Our children didn’t look at me for days. In fact, Cyrus wouldn’t be in the same room with me until day five. That hurt worse than the open wounds. But in defense of the four-year-old, I didn’t like to look in the mirror. On the fifth day he called out for help in the bathroom. It was music to my ears. “Yes! Mommy can help you!” I said from the other side of the door. “I can come in there with you?” I asked permission before entering.

He paused. “Yeah. You can come in…just don’t look at me.” Pretty demanding for a kid who still wears Velcro shoes.  

After day four Caroline, the natural encourager, would give me a daily update on how I looked, as though the stranger squinting back at me in the mirror was lying. “Eww. Nose still looks scary. But I can kind of see one eyeball today, Mom. You’re getting better!” She’s the only child allowed to choose my rest home.

This fall has made me consider grace. Not just grace in a way that if I had more of it, I wouldn’t have these scars on my face today. But showing grace towards a person.

Grace: We’re usually very free to give it. Maybe in our homes with young children, we’ll always clean up their mess. Or with aging parents, we’ll always give them more time to finish a task. Or even new recipes that just didn’t turn out – we make notes along the page to improve it for next time.

Maybe we freely show grace in our careers as teachers, or loan officers, or line supervisors. We value that time as teachable, coachable moments. We extend grace and expect better next time.

Often, we freely extend grace to erroneous cashiers, mixed up waitresses or doctor offices running on their own time. Everyone has a bad day now and then.

We even show grace to the weatherman. He’s wrong fifty percent of the time and we still watch him faithfully every single morning!

We show grace to so many, why is it difficult to extend it to ourselves?

Perhaps your to-do list constantly looms over you, or you’re feeling overwhelmed by the demands of your day-to-day routine. Maybe you’re just sick over how a conversation went, reeling from a failed relationship, or a missed opportunity you can’t let go. Maybe your health has changed, or even your hair color.

Give yourself grace. The same kind of grace you would extend to a stranger.

If they deserve it, why don’t you?

Cyrus captured this photo after the fact, while we packed T-ball treat bags. 
I was strategic. 

A month later, we’ve settled into a new normal which includes a lot of Mederma, doctor appointments, and ball cap wearing.

Last week I tucked the kids into bed and left the room. Cyrus called me back.

“Yeah buddy?” I asked.

“Will we be able to have a birthday party this year?” he asked softly.

“Of course – why wouldn’t you?” I responded.

He put his hand up and motioned in a circle all around his face, referencing the mess I’d made of mine.

“CY-RUUUUSSS….” Caroline groaned as she rolled her eyes. “Just because Mommy hurt her face doesn’t mean we can’t have a birthday. Besides. She’s not as ugly as she used to be.”

See? Grace.

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Work Calls from the Farm

The world of virtual learning and meetings have exploded in the time our children have grown from infants to early school aged children. I cannot count the threats made, bribery conducted, or clinched jaw instruction given during that time. It’s been a joy. Our children don’t remember a world where Mom couldn’t visit face-to-face with someone in California at the click of a button.

The children were recently home on spring break and I was spending my days in a delicate balance between providing them with a fun spring break and keeping up with work deadlines.

“OK kiddos! Day Two of Spring Break at Sankey Angus! Yesterday you got all the stalls cleaned out. What would you like to do today?”

“Go to grandma’s.” 

Having them home meant I took a lot of video calls uncertain of what might bust through the door at any moment. That is an unnerving feeling. I appreciate it when they agree to be quiet little soldiers for me, but then worry what they’re getting into that has them so fascinated. Play dough in the carpet? Glue sticks on the new white walls? Teaching the dog to drink out of the toilet - with demonstrations?

Recently I was on a Teams video call with folks from our corporate office in Indianapolis. I had my door shut but could hear excited conversation on the other side of the house. Then I heard the door to the mudroom open, then screaming, then running across the house in my direction, then the footsteps getting closer.

Like the professional I am, I instantly shut off my camera and muted my microphone. Whatever was about to bust through the door did not need to be seen or heard by anyone but Mommy.


“Cyrus! Quiet, buddy! I’m on a call.”

“PUPPIES, MOMMY!” he continued oblivious to my instruction.

“Cyrus, Sadie is not having puppies. She IS a puppy. She’s not even bred,” I tried to explain to him. Sadie, our Australian Shepherd puppy, had just turned one days prior.

“YES! She’s having puppies and I need to pull them out with a show stick!” and with that, he turned around and rushed out of the room.

“Would that work for you, Lindsay?” a coworker on the computer asked me. I had no idea what she was referencing, I could only think about Cyrus, unsupervised, using a show stick (long, metal stick with a hook on the end to place cattle’s feet in a show ring) to extract Lord knows what out of our dog.

“Repeat the question, please. I got off track,” I requested. They kindly did.

We made a few quick decisions and set a date and time to visit again about the upcoming event. I was in the mudroom with the kids in a matter of seconds once the call concluded.

Caroline appeared mortified, while Cyrus couldn’t contain his enthusiasm for the mess on the concreate floor.

Sadie was not having puppies. She had, however, gotten into a pile of afterbirth from the pasture and was now sick.

I explained the situation and began clean up, we all gagged, Caroline patiently put the dog outside while Cyrus took photos on my phone to show Dad, smacking his knee at the fun.

On this family farm, we all have a job. Some just do theirs better than others.




Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Calf Hut Conversations

Every so often I find an Amish man at our door in the wee morning hours.

While his early morning knocks are startling, I’m always more concerned about his intentions. When a craftsman such as Ben arrives, it always costs money.

“Cody!” I yell across the house. “Ben is here!” I continue packing lunches, thinking for a second. Why is Ben here?

A construction project was about to begin.

“Remind me why Ben is here?” I asked Cody as he entered the kitchen and threw on a jacket.

“The calf shed. The one me and you and the kids built. He’s going to take it apart and rebuild it….better. The thing is falling apart, and we really need that space.”

He was right. We are outgrowing the huts we have along the windbreak in the far west pasture. More calves, less room. During these cold, winter months vulnerable calves need a place to safely rest. 

I drove to work that morning thinking about that shed. That simple scrap tin shed. I became a bit emotional driving across the interstate.

The kids were so small while we built it. Cody and I had to crouch down to drill in the screws, while toddlers ran wild inside. I remember being thankful for a new playpen, if only for an afternoon.

Then the shed was moved to the pasture to take care of 70-pound, Angus and Shorthorn babies.

It became a sanctuary. 

Place of prayer. 

My breakroom.

I remember the shorthorn bull calf. I found him 8 hours later than I probably should have; I worked in the city that day. He was tucked away in a corner, cold, hungry but without the gumption to find his momma. I worked to warm his sides, checked his eyes and nose. Checked his mother’s udders to see if he’d nursed. After no positive signs, I called the vet. I prayed over that calf until she arrived.

I remember the Angus heifer calf. We really looked forward to the arrival of this one because of her genetics. It was quite cold when she was born but it warmed up shortly thereafter. She developed a respiratory issue. I remember a presentation I’d help develop during my time at Elanco about the cost of one dead calf. It was real money. Money that isn’t thrown around on a farm. I prayed over that heifer.

As a farm wife, I prayed so many prayers inside that tiny metal hut. 

There was weight on my shoulders not even realized then. I remember many times resting along the solid tin, warming up a calf, and wondering if it was the first time I’d sat down that day. I remember bedding it with fresh straw and wondering about the last time I changed our own bed sheets. I remember returning to the Kubota to find a crying toddler and a sleeping baby and feeling like the worst mother, ever.

Then Cyrus got sick.

And we spent six days at the children’s hospital, three days at home, then five more days at the children's hospital, and finally 18 days at home with a PICC line in his tiny arm. Talk about perspective.

Calf hut conversations changed.

It certainly isn’t that I didn’t care about the cattle we were left to tend to on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10) – that would never be the case. It was that human health became so much more relevant. We could go on if we lost a calf over a respiratory issue. It no longer compared to a sick child.

Calf hut sessions focused on God’s will, not mine. Calf hut sessions focused on everything outside the tin hut, not within. What a simple, quiet place to reflect. Calf hut sessions focused on taking a break, if even just to gather myself.

Mom once told me about a lady that lived on mom and dad’s farm many years before they bought it. This woman would walk out to the pasture and sit on the same large rock daily to read her devotionals.That rock still sits on the farm today, more than 60 years later. What a place to connect.

Our calf hut came down and has now been reconstructed into a sturdier building that houses more and is more functional. We had a sick heifer two weeks ago and we found her in the calf hut. Cody held her while I gave her three boluses then we turned her loose. I was encouraged by her effort to run from us. I thanked God for her energy. I thanked God for healthy kids watching us from the Ranger.

I guess we all find God in different places.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Reunion in Washington, DC

The summer between my junior and senior year of college was spent interning in Washington, DC through Purdue’s College of Agriculture. My role served as the liaison between ConAgra Foods (at the time) and the USDA, though not limited to food science. At one particular event I was tasked with visiting with a congressman regarding the fuel tax on corporate air travel.

That summer I got to know the three other Purdue College of Ag interns so well. The four of us, three coming from Indiana farms, one raised closely to Indiana agriculture, defined “when country comes to town”.

We lived on the Georgetown Law Campus in the heart of DC.  

We tried everything and went everywhere. 

Asked all the questions. 

Got ourselves in really odd situations and engaging conversations.  

We drove the wrong way down one way streets, ended up on the wrong side of the city when the metro shut down for the night, and learned how to prepare meals on a dime. 

We navigated without GPS, sent postcards home to our parents (because we were trying to conserve our cell phone minutes) and attended every political fundraiser to which we were invited to ensure we’d have supper that night.

We took photos with a camera because we were still operating off flip phones. 

On Saturday night we’d visit bars where we couldn’t speak the language and on Sunday morning we attended churches that none of us were affiliated with. 

We grew tremendously. 

All four of us went broke that summer, but the good news is that August came back around (much too quickly) and we had jobs waiting for us back home – all including livestock and farm machinery. By September we were back on Purdue’s campus studying agriculture.

It was one of the best experiences of my life.

Sixteen years later, I was texting with one of the four who spent that summer together. Today, she spends her time travelling the world as a manager of digital aftermarket deployment for John Deere. My life of babies, blogging and beef is about as opposite of hers as one can get.  It was high time we reconnected to visit the city again.

You can probably imagine what it was like telling our children that Mommy was leaving for a couple days – 48 hours to be precise.

“Why are taking a dress?” Caroline asked while I packed.

“Because Chrissie and I are eating at a restaurant where sports coats are required.”

“So….why aren’t you packing a ports coat? ….What even is a ports coat?”

Cyrus was less curious about my suitcase and more concerned about my intentions.

“When will you be home?”

“In two days. When you get home from church on Sunday, I’ll be here,” I assured him.

“Is that before Christmas? Will you be home for Christmas?” he asked.

Give me a break! I was leaving for 48 hours!

A trip of such brevity required an agenda. So in August we began planning the excursion: what to eat, what to see, where to sleep. You must know my friend Chrissie to understand the necessity of an agenda. She travels internationally quarterly, drives to the Moline, Illinois headquarters on a whim if she thinks she wants to discuss something with a coworker face-to-face. She does not let the grass grow under her feet. She also walks incredibly fast.

By 8:15 AM on our first morning in Washington DC my Apple watch asked if I wanted to begin tracking my workout. I declined the offer as I was not working out; I was simply trying to keep up with Chrissie while on vacation.

We ate breakfast at a hole-in-the-wall diner just off Pennsylvania Avenue. The syrup bottle on our table was labeled “non-fat”. Chrissie called over to the waiter and asked for full-fat maple syrup (this is why we’re friends). The gentleman proceeded dump the contents of the non-fat bottle into a bottle labeled “Original” from the adjacent table. He slammed it on the table and mumbled something about marketing.

The diner, the building where Chrissie once interned, The Georgetown Law campus to see our old apartment, The United States Postal Museum, Union Station, The Capitol Building, The Ronald Reagan International Building food court with approximately 800 field trippers, the National Cattleman’s Beef Association (my first place of employment following graduation), Freedom Plaza, The World War 1 Memorial, The White House, Hotel Washington and CVS: All places we visited before 2:30 PM on day one. We walked over nine miles and spent $7.36 on Band-Aids for our feet at the final stop. We were in bed by 9:30 PM.

The next day we knew our limits, mostly because our body was quickly revealing them. We took it a little slower, enjoying brunch then shopping in Georgetown, a city with magnificent architecture. While there we stopped in a quaint cupcake shop. A man held up the line because he wanted to ensure his carrot cake cupcake had vegan carrots in it. Chrissie and I exchanged “GET ME BACK TO INDIANA” glances.

Our old apartment building on the Georgetown Law campus

Out where the ports coat was required

By 6:00 AM on day three we were on an airplane headed home.

Cody welcomed me home with a nearly spotless house, Caroline welcomed me with open arms, and Cyrus greeted me with, “That wasn’t long. What’s for supper?”

Turns out, mom can leave the farm occasionally, after all and no one freaks out. 

Except for mom. 


Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Phone Storage Space

Every so often my phone alerts me I’m out of storage space. I find this rather annoying because I’ve downloaded apps to aid me in these efforts, where I can upload my photos to the cloud (don’t ask me the details on the cloud, it sounds dark) and then delete them off my device.

In theory, this should work. I should have plenty of space. But I also have a six-year-old.

Receiving the alert that I’m out of space triggers to me to check out my media album to see what kind of gems I may discover:

Exhibit A: Cat breeding video, Total time: 8 min. 12 sec.

At some point, the children got ahold of my phone and discovered some interesting action out the south windows. The shaky video camera finally focused long enough to spot two cats in a predicament.

The scene pans around the backyard, stopping sharply out by the cattle corral system.

“Cyrus! Come look at this!” Caroline yells. You can hear the patter of his feet come to the window.

“What they doing?” Cyrus asks, perplexed.

“Piggyback rides,” she matter-of-factly explained. “Cats play too.”

The scene keeps rolling and the cat racket can be heard on the film. Both kids giggle.


“Gary Gray Tail (probably should have named her Greta) does not like that!” After a few minutes, the children lost interest and left my phone on the dining room floor.

Minutes later you can hear me asking where my phone is. Both children deny knowing. Recorder shuts off.

Exhibit B: Teeth Brushing Tutorial, Total Time: 9 min. 2 sec.

At some point, Caroline got ahold of my phone and decided to put on a tooth brushing tutorial which included a whole lot of spit. She covered basic principles such as getting the tops and the bottoms, counting to one hundred while brushing (she got distracted at 24), and how – if you’ve made too much of a mess – it’s best to use 400 Kleenexes to clean up the counter rather than the washcloth mom has provided for such events. That tutorial was followed by an abbreviated synopsis of her morning routine, which included brief, but not rare, footage of Cyrus eating breakfast without using any silverware. The video was only brought to a screeching halt when you hear me yell “KIDS. FOR THE THIRD TIME. GET YOUR BOOTS ON, NOW!”

Not my finest work.

Exhibit C: Walk Through Home Demolition, Total Time: 6 min. 48 sec.

This Academy-worthy piece took place last summer, when we were in the trenches of the home renovation. I, again, set my phone down somewhere and tiny hands with the swift ability to get to the video function found it before I did. Caroline recorded a walk-through of the current progress of the home. It was a disaster zone, full of insulation, tarps, plastic wraps, lumber, sawhorses and wiring. Every so often Cyrus would move across the screen, hauling plaster and lath on a trailer across the wooden floors. He’d dump it down the in cracks within walls, which had been exposed by the demolition. Caroline talked of what used to be where.

“So…this is a bedroom. Or, it was. Grampie and Grammie used to sleep in this room when they come stay. But now it’s just this bad area….so……...,” she’d find herself questioning just what kind of dusty, disorderly mess we’d found ourselves in.

Weren’t we all?

Today, I sit on the couch and delete photos and videos off my phone, in awe of how our home turned out, keeping us warm on this February day with a wind advisory. Not too long ago we’d feel a draft move through the living room on days like this!

I’m also in awe of the number of cats running around this farm. 

But now we know the rest of the story.


Monday, January 23, 2023

Home Renovation: Time Capsule

I always wanted a black front door. 
And wouldn't you know? I came home one day 
and Uncle Rex had finally made that dream come true. 

My parents did a complete remodel of the house I grew up in during the late 80s, early 90s. Some of my best childhood memories smell like saw dust and stain. Within the walls torn down, they found a lace-up buckskin child’s boot, a calendar from 1919 and a bottle of homemade wine. They still have these three artifacts today.

You can imagine my delight when our contractor began finding things in the walls during our total home renovation in 2021-2022. Weekly he’d set aside treasures that had fallen between the cracks of a floor or along walls: Ornate glass bottles, hair barrettes, playing cards, and handwritten recipes for Washington Pie and Orange Cake. 

He even found a multipage booklet from the Eighth Annual Wayne, Henry and Randolph Counties Agriculture Association event, held in Dalton Township, Wayne County, Indiana on September 6 – 9, 1887. And we were told our house was built in 1920!

I value history, stories, and junk, so naturally, when it was our turn to replace walls I was ready to create our own time capsule of sorts. The way this house was reconstructed, I expect it to stand at least another 150 years, but when someone finally decides this space isn’t suitable for their family, there are a few things we strategically placed for the next occupants to find.

When the internal walls were not yet drywalled we wrote many scriptures along the studs. Just think: if someone does tear down these walls in 150 years, the message within the scriptures we left will not have changed; they’re everlasting. In the dining room I wrote out the words to Surely Goodness And Mercy, a hymn sung before every meal when our large Bowman family gathers.

The contractor's notes at the top of this photo reveal 
where this reminder in scripture was written. 

In a small Rubbermaid tote we collected small pieces that tell the story of our family and the renovation: A current family picture where Caroline was pretty as a doll and Cyrus was scowling at the camera. A 2022 Bell Contracting wall calendar to identify our builder and the current year. I placed copies of Western Wayne News in the box, and these particular issues had my writing in them. We included a sale catalog that provided insight into the breed and type of cattle we raise. I wrote a 3-page letter describing the modifications made to the home, our family, our farm, the current state of the world and the price of gas, groceries and oddities.

I asked each child to put a tiny toy in the box and you would have thought I asked them to donate an arm. It took 6 days for each to decide on what they could part with, which is disturbing considering the number of toys they have. Cyrus committed a tiny tractor with no rear tire and Caroline gave up a tiny foal that was the victim of the lawn mower in 2021. I’m sure the kids who find such “gifts” will be startled by such generosity.

We sealed the tote and the contractor placed it under the landing of the stairway before enclosing it.

Of course, my hope is that this house never comes down and it remains well-loved forever, as it is today. I hope the walls remain strong and white (Who am I kidding? There are already handprints on the door frames as the kids use them to stabilize themselves during high-speed chases), displaying family photos and children’s artwork.

But if they do come down and another family with big dreams decides to renovate this home, at least they’ll have a broken tractor and a three-legged foal to get them through the chaos.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Counting Down the Days

Our children are six and four this Christmas. They’ve been waiting for December to come back around since December 26, 2021.

We have several ways of tracking the countdown to Christmas in our farmhouse.

The Scenes from Kansas wall calendar is the most obvious. Now that both children know numbers (for the most part, as Cyrus consistently skips seventeen) and months, we’re crossing off the days before even getting into our footie pajamas of an evening. I personally think it’s bad luck to cross off a day before it is over, but I’ll lead the charge on any routine that gets them in bed by 8:00 PM.

The advent calendar is my favorite. We always had a simple paper advent calendar growing up and I loved the anticipation of The Greatest Story. Today we have the same in our home. But today you can buy advent calendars with chocolate, wine, toys and even dog treats in them. Every day is a new offering. My friend Chrissie (remember, the world traveler with no children) bought our kids an advent calendar two years ago that was full of farm toys. Every day, for 24 days, a new toy was in the hands of children who rarely picked up the toys they already had. It was nearly the end of Chrissie and I’s friendship.

Who can forget the paper chain from church that hangs on our tree? Each morning, the children shove one another down the hardwood steps, swing around the banister nearly ripping off the garland, and push their way across the vinyl flooring to see who can get to the paper chain first to break the daily link. They rip with such force that two or three come off at a time. It’s a true lesson in practicing the fruits of the spirit, including love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. None of which either child displays between 6:30 AM – 8:00 AM, daily.

The amount of pine needles found in inappropriate places tells me we’re getting closer to the 25th.  I washed my face Sunday and plucked a needle out of my washcloth. Caroline was howling two nights ago because there was a pine needle wedged between her toe and sock. Cyrus, on the other hand, has been quite resourceful with the needles. He loads them into his dump truck, and when he gets a full load, he dumps it down the register.

A friend recently visited and asked what pine air freshener I used. Imagine her surprise when I revealed that the scent was a mixture of propane heat flowing through a register vent, heating the Christmas tree needles organically in the comfort of our own home.

She didn’t ask for a refill on her coffee.

How many days until Christmas?

 We made the voyage to Kansas last weekend. 

Check out these grandkids with Grammie Sankey