Fall Thoughts and Announcements

Mid-November is by definition fall, but the weather a few weeks ago looked exactly like winter. We had our first measurable snows of the season, and Speedy was delighted by the white-coated roofs and stomping around in boots and snow pants.

Forty degrees has returned a few times since, so winter is not here to stay just yet.

Since I last wrote we survived through a busy stretch of corn silage harvest and fall field work, we moved the last of the cattle off pasture, and our family got two new nephews. Speedy ran his first race at the Twin Cities Marathon Toddler Trot (and Mom met professional runner Gabriele Grunewald!), and we took in the wonders of small town trick or treating.

We also celebrated Thanksgiving twice, and I heard many gleeful “gobble, gobble!” noises from my 2-year-old whenever I even suggested he tell me what a turkey says.

I can not believe the Christmas and New Year holidays are now so close. The year felt long at points, but of course I’m not ready to see the calendar turn to the final month already.

I deeply love the holiday season, but I also feel exhausted, behind, disheveled, and unsure of how to make it memorable and happy the way it deserves to be. The farm work and office work never ends, and I often don’t know where to find the hours for the extra preparations. I keep attempting to guard and carve out the personal and family time I feel I need, and lately I’m coming up short. Sleep and exercise are the first things to give right now, and for December I pray for the peace to be okay with that.

January will bring a much anticipated and much loved new baby to our family!! I acknowledge that may be a logical reason for my exhaustion and generally frazzled feelings — in spite of how happy it makes me. I’m gratefully looking forward to meeting this baby, bringing it into our family, and watching Speedy as a big brother. He happily announces he’s getting a baby, and I hope he stays just as excited once it’s here.

August, 16 weeks

November, 31 weeks

Speedy has grown up so much since the summer, and my heart melts when he sweetly talks about playing with and helping with “his baby.” When I find myself strategizing over how all the necessary work will still get done, there he is thinking of the most important things. Clearly he provides just the perspective I need as we get closer to being parents of two.

Posted in Baby Calf Care, Being a Mom, Family Fun, This and That | 1 Comment

Saying Goodbye To His First Home 

We sold our house this summer, and it almost killed us. 

I’m half kidding but only half. 

I think I’ve mentioned before we moved into the house on the dairy farm over the winter. We never had a big, official move, but we slowly hauled over boxes and bags packed with varying levels of care until we made a dent.

Spring got closer, and we focused on cleaning stuff out of our previous home and trying to attractively arrange the remaining furniture.

 

He said goodbye to his old room many times before it was official.

 
This turned into some new lighting, painting the walls that still had paneling, and installing new kitchen flooring. 

Before I really knew what hit me we were knee deep in a bathroom remodel, picking out carpet, and making multiple trips to the home improvement store every week. 

And, you know, by this time it was also May spilling into June. Somehow we made it through spring field work, our first cutting of alfalfa hay, and all the day-to-day animal care and farm management while working through the rapidly growing house project. We tackled bathroom drywall and trim (mostly ourselves), painted nearly the whole interior of the house (which we thankfully hired out a good chunk of) and lots of weeding, mulching, mowing, and general outside upkeep. 

Final supplies looking messy in the basement

By the time we listed our home for sale I think we’d done everything we thought about but never got around to when we bought it six years ago. Even small but time consuming details like new doorknobs and outlet covers throughout the house were finished. 

Many times I felt the late nights or super early mornings of painting or cleaning were not worth it, especially when I found myself working alone in an empty house. Truthfully JR put in more hours than I did, and I know it was long for both us. Often it would be just one of us at the house while we traded off child watching and work at our “real” job on the farm.

Speedy did make trips to the house with us when needed, and I was pleased we only had one incident of sticking little hands in wet paint.

When the time finally came to list our house we were thankfully rewarded with plenty of views and some good offers. July 13th marked our closing date and the end of our house saga.

 

Waving goodbye on one of the last days. Gosh — I will miss these flowers.

 
 Somehow it’s now September 1st, and I still find myself unpacking random boxes and unable to park in the garage. Where does all this stuff come from?? 

We are both burned out on moving things and house projects, so our current home will wait a while longer before we attack it with the same vigor. 😊 We are comfortable and can find (most of) our stuff (usually), so I’m going to be rational and have patience with myself. 

Aside from the work of fixing up and selling a house it’s been a challenging year to be a dairy farmer. I won’t go into lots of dreary details, but milk prices are quite low and got worse with the tariffs and instability in our international trade negotiations. I think of myself as a realistic optimist, and as I follow these issues I hold onto hope at least some positive economic changes may be coming for agriculture. 

If you’re curious about the current dynamics of Minnesota’s dairy economy this is a good read: http://m.startribune.com/milking-cows-on-an-industrial-scale-arrives-in-western-minnesota-and-some-farmers-shudder/490589351/

We haven’t done a lot of extras this summer, but thankfully I keep carving out a little time to run. Speedy is a great sleeper, and many days I can set off in my running shoes and be back before anyone else is awake. The dogs always hear me, but I just pacify them by feeding them early. 🙂 

Our busiest season of corn silage is just a few days away, and that will put most other parts of life into survival mode. The weather has given us abundant corn, so I pray for a safe and smooth harvest. 

What’s on your mind as summer winds down? 

Posted in Agriculture ( in general), Being a Mom, Family Fun, This and That | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Families, Kids, and Immigration

I shared this on Instagram yesterday, and I thought it fit nicely here, too. 

  
As I’ve picked up and held this handsome babe over the last week my heart has been so heavy with the knowledge that hopeful immigrants at our American borders are having their babes taken away. I don’t care about the whys, the arguments, or what “side” you’re on ;
that is heartbreaking.

I called all my national elected officials today, and it still left me feeling hollow and sick. This afternoon, I heard with relief the news of the new executive order which should stop most family separation. I don’t think this fixes broader problems with immigration. I also wonder what happens to the thousands of children who have already been taken away. I pray for their safety and comfort and hope reunification is made a high priority soon. 
I’ll keep wanting a solution that addresses the entire process. I hope someday we can align American immigration policy with our values of inclusiveness and equality and our rich history of being a melting pot. 
Still, at least tonight I have renewed energy to keep being hopeful and being an advocate. Many things in life aren’t easy. Being a dairy farmer among them. But I know my hardest days don’t compare to the monumental decision people must make when leaving their whole world behind to seek a chance. Just a chance for freedom from poverty, violence, famine, and worse. Let’s not make it even harder for them. If you worry they are breaking the law, I ask you two questions. 1) Is it illegal to seek asylum? 2) Isn’t it time we reform immigration laws to give people a chance? 

I don’t need your answers to these, and I don’t want to argue the merits. Just think about them in your own heart as you hopefully hold your loved ones close. Reach out to your own elected officials on these moral issues as you are so moved. 

Posted in Being a Mom, Christian Reflections, This and That | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Earth Day Run 2018

One month ago I ran the Earth Day Half Marathon. It was a beautiful spring day in central Minnesota – which was welcome after a true blizzard the weekend before!

I had been training “okay” through the winter, but I hadn’t followed a set structure. I also didn’t put in as many miles as is normal – or advisable – for half marathon training. I was still confident in my ability to cover the distance Especially on this course which I was running for the eight time. I’d also been dabbling in heart rate training over winter; more specifically running most of my runs at a heart rate under 140 to build a solid aerobic base. That meant a lot of slow runs, but it felt okay because heart rate training gave me a scientific reason and real permission to run slow.

Race day was sunny but cool with just enough breeze; I don’t think I could have designed a better weather day. I took things out easy and kept my heart rate under 140 for the first few miles. Then I quit looking at numbers and just focused on keeping the pace feeling easy. I went along like this until about mile five when a woman running next to me actually commented on how relaxed and effortless I looked. I thanked her and told her that was the plan!

Around mile six we headed out toward the paved river trails, and this is where I knew I felt good enough to pick up the pace. I kept pushing the pace a little more each mile, and it felt harder but not awful. Normally I really feel fatigue setting in by mile ten, but not today. I charged up the hill leading to the tenth mile, and I encouraged people and gave high fives as I went. I kept up my effort level without really looking at time, but by mile eleven I was curious. My “pie in the sky” goal was 2:05 – 2:10 considering how slowly I had been training, and I realized I was on pace to finish faster than that.

Last year I had pushed hard to come back and run this race as my first half marathon since giving birth the year before. It was an early and mild spring that year, and I put in multiple long runs, often with the stroller, and lots of solid training. I came in with the goal of breaking two hours or bust. Somehow I pulled off that 1:59, and I was thrilled but it left me hobbling for days after. This year was far more relaxed. I wanted to run and finish, but the time was secondary to completing and enjoying the race.

Well, as I cruised along feeling strong in the final miles this year I got a little competitive. I wanted to see just how close to two hours I could get. I was just racing at this point and not looking at my watch, but it’s fun to look back on the data. I covered the final mile of the race in 8:36, my fastest of the day, and the final .1 (more like .2) at 7:53 pace with an average HR of 191. So I’m pretty sure I was working as hard as my mind and body would allow me at the finish. I finished in 2:02, and I was grateful, surprised, and truly happy with the run. I’ve run plenty of faster races that I let myself be disappointed with, so I’m proud to say I enjoyed and celebrated this result.

  

 
  
Even though I was only following one simple strategy of keeping my heart rate under 140, I can already see results and progress from heart rate training.  So guess what? I’m back in the Train Like a Mother Club –  which you might remember I used to train for Twin Cities Marathon last fall. Only this time I’m in heart rate training. I’m entering my third week of Heart Rate 101 and loving it. Especially as the weather heats up and the humidity kicks in, it gives me permission to listen to my body and really get what I need from my workout while still feeling successful. And Coach MK is awesome entertainment if you like listening to podcasts.

 

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Being Intentional About Singing in the Kitchen

Speedy and I like to run around the kitchen exuberantly dancing and singing. Everything from nursery rhymes and Christmas songs to the latest pop hits. We laugh about our ridiculous moves until the dogs perk up their ears and stare as they try to figure out what they’re missing. Sometimes this fun erupts into two-year-old tears, but usually it’s just silly, spontaneous playtime.

  
Our life can often feel chaotic. Our home features the above mentioned two-year-old, two big dogs, and two less-than-neat adults. It is also a busy dairy operating 365 days a year with farm employees, twice daily milk truck pickup, and feed/supply/service deliveries. I won’t lie; at times things feel overwhelming and I wonder how we can keep doing ALL THE THINGS. But I’m also good at intentionally finding the joy. That saves me. I love seeing Speedy smile and laugh – whether looking at new calves or dancing in the kitchen. We carve out little precious bits of family time because it’s a value we want to weave into the core of his life.

I also deeply value talking with JR over coffee on the mornings that aren’t too crazy. Or it’s good to get tasty takeout pizza and unwind and talk instead of cooking when we’ve had an especially long workday. We have to find time to talk and reflect and laugh. If life becomes nothing but work and stress about work then what are we really doing?

It’s no secret on this blog that I intentionally make time to run. I don’t always have to be racing or training, but I need those miles of cool morning solitude or those afternoons of happy chatter as I run with Speedy in the stroller. Mentally and emotionally it is so important for me to put in those miles, and I’ve finally realized I don’t need to apologize or explain why.

I enjoy my time volunteering to teach elementary kids at church each Wednesday afternoon, and I intentionally spend these hours because I feel and see the difference it makes. I also bring Speedy to worship as often as I can, and we focus on mealtime and bedtime prayers. Hearing his emphatic little “Amen” makes my heart swell. I certainly have a lot of stumbles and worries in my faith journey, and I see my own failings so much more clearly as a parent. But I pray for guidance and a joyful heart as I do my best to model values of love and acceptance and service. Speedy soaks up everything like a little sponge at this age, as I was eloquently reminded of by this post from The Art in Life called “Creating an Intentional Family Culture”. 

I don’t keep up with many blogs at the moment, but this post popped up in my feed at just the right time to resonate. My son is only a few months older than the blog author, Hannah, and I think we’re both in the same place with a lot of parenting milestones – though our everyday lives are drastically different.

I’ve always had thoughts on being intentional about love and faith and care for my child, but parenting is more than even that. Over the past few months I have gotten better at having Speedy help me with household tasks like filling the washing machine or dryer and putting away dishes. Often the chores take longer, but that’s not the point. I hadn’t thought about it until I read this post, but it’s part of creating the family culture we want. We believe in teamwork, helping each other, and trying to offer a comfortable hospitality. I am far from a perfectionist about my house, but some things have to be done.

It’s more important for me to offer someone a hot cup of coffee and kind words than perfectly sanitized countertops, and that will probably always be my normal. Maybe Speedy will grow up to be neater than I, but that’s less important than the values that come through us working together. At age two it’s easy to assume I should do most things for my son, and then I’ll feel stressed that I’m not doing enough. If I have the courage and patience to start doing more hand-in-hand together he can take joy in the learning journey and in the result.

I don’t have everything figured out, and being intentional with my time, pursuits, and values is something I’ll always be working on. Reflecting and writing helps me, and sometimes priorities will indeed change. I am hopeful I will always make time to sing and dance in the kitchen with my kids joyfully leading the charge.

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