Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sometimes questions are more important than answers ~ Nancy Willard

With a house full of giggly girls we have some pretty colorful conversations. And being a former teacher librarian I am pretty used to fielding questions. But lately I have been baffled by a few things I have had to explain to one girl or another or heard as a response to something I asked them. So I have been keeping a list and decided to turn it into a post of girly wonders.

I asked G2 the other day why it was so hard to flush the toilet after she went to the bathroom. As I am constantly finding it unfleshed when I find time to go. Her response was so that of little girl born in an automatic society. She said "the toilets at school flush automatically, so I am not used to it at home." And she was so dead serious as if that explained everything. Never mind the 15+ hours she is home at night, the 48+ hours on the weekend and the 2 1/2 months we just spent at home for the summer! Those 8 hours at school where she probably goes to the bathroom no more then 3 times a day make her forget! But to her that made perfect sense. (For $900 you can get a no touch Kohler toilet in your home - guess I better have the girls start saving their pennies!)

Just after school started G2 came home and informed me she now knew the F word (which was bound to happen because she had already told me the a and s word before) So I calmly asked her where she had heard it and without missing a beat she launched into letting me know a boy got on the bus that afternoon and as he was putting his window down he yelled "it's f#*%ing hot out!" While trying to keep a straight face, I let her know while it was rather hot that day, she should not be using that word as she was describing the heat that had so pleasantly hit Iowa just as school started. The even better part of this is when I told my husband the story that night his comments were what do you expect to happen on the bus, at least she could repeat it in the right context, and it was more than f#*%ing hot out today so it was at least a true statement. I guess riding the bus in the country with all ages of kids and riding the bus across town with only kids your age is a very different experience.

My husband would tell you that the girls and I watch entirely too much TV and G1 probably does, but despite what he may think we do spend time doing other things as well even if G1 is at times glued to the TV, but that would be a different post entirely! (Yet another difference b/w growing up in town and growing up in the country.) But I grew up watching soap operas with my mom and begging to stay up and watch the newest episode of Star Trek on Sunday nights with my dad. It was just one way we spent time together doing and then had another common thing to talk about during down time. So I guess that is something I started to do with my kids too. G1 and I enjoyed many episodes of Sesame Street when she was young and more often then not you can find the Disney channel on in our house. But the TV is not usually a babysitter in our house. We always talk about what we learned or what was happening on the show  (it has actually a good connection for some kiddos at school when I teach reading strategies - it gives us a common ground to meet on before we dive into reading an article/story I hope they are interested in but may fall flat with some.) Anyway there are some times I do get control of the remote and watch shows I enjoy and the girls sometimes wander in and out or sit on my lap and watch with me. I do not censor what they watch, but would rather be there to explain to them what is going on. (Which is sometimes lost in their childhood minds) But even occasionally I am caught by surprise at what they see and understand. One night I was catching up on General Hospital just before bedtime and G2 very honestly asked me why the two men were kissing? (Which was actually an innocent question for a six year old growing up in a small rural town so I hope this does not offend anyone) But rather it lead to a good talk about how we love who we love and we should not be afraid to share that love because of what others might not understand. I am not sure at the age of six she truly understands, but it gave us a starting point for when she does understand. 

Since my husbands job is dependent on the life cycle of the dairy cow there are many questions that center around birth and death on our farm. Why do we have only one boy cow? If you don't milk the bull why do we keep him? Why is that bull trying to ride that cow? Why is a steer different then a bull? Why are you flipping that calf over and putting a rubber band on it? How do you know when a cow is going to have a calf? How do the calves get out of the mommy cows? Why do you have those long rubber gloves on? You are going to stick your arm where? Why do you have to use a rope and chain to pull the calf out of the mommy? What is that other liquid coming out with the calf? What is that reddish/creamish pile of yucky thing on the ground where the calf was born? Why don't the mommy cows stay with the calves? Why is that cow not getting up after it did the splits in the holding pen? Why is that cow just laying in the yard? Why is their a trail of blood from where that cow was laying to the now dead cow waiting for the rendering truck? The calf I named Domino is not moving in his hut, what happened? Why did the vet come and cut that dead calf open in the belly? Where do the steers go after they get on the semi? All of which lead to a pretty honest conversation that I hope they will be able to make the connection to as they grow and learn about the life cycle of humans. (But sometimes that connection does not always come and questions from teenagers can still amaze you as I will never forget the reaction of a student at school as teacher I was working with tried to explain to him where all the babies in Africa come from when he asked why the population was growing so rapidly there!)  

Oh and I almost forgot - after hearing Dierks Bentley's 'Drunk on a Plane' 453,127 times on the radio G2 stopped to look at me wanting to know what this 'drunk' word - she had been shouting out so many times she belted out the song - was and why was this guy getting that way on a plane? I try to be up front with questions, so I gave her the high school health answer about how the alcohol changes your brain and makes you feel and act different if you drink too much at one time and it can be dangerous to your body if you do that too often or drive a car after you have been drinking. And of course at age 6 she think that sounds like a bad idea - so I hope that thinking continues when she is 16! 

The 'tail' end - What is the most surprising thing you have been asked by your child? 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

"There are two lasting gifts we can give our children - one is roots and the other is wings" Hodding Carter Jr

As summer has officially ended and we have had a few weeks to get back into the swing of being away from the farm at school each day, I was thinking about the things we do over the summer that I never thought I would do until I became a farmer's wife. I grew up a city girl. Some may even say I was a pool rat as I lived only a block away from the swimming pool in town and sometimes spent more afternoons there then in my house. Since this is my sixth summer as a farmer's wife, here is a list of the top six things for you -

6. Going for 'asleep' on a big RED tractor - Even when we first started dating and Mark still lived in the basement and then when we moved in together, I soon found out if I wanted to spend time with him I was going to have to learn to farm. One of my first experiences was helping chop corn - which involves many trips back and forth between the field and the bag to hook and unhook wagons full of corn silage then unload them into a VERY large plastic bag. It was such a fun day, by the end of it I was curled on the tractor floor sleeping! Now my girls have taken my turn on the tractor (and I believe all of them have fallen asleep in their daddy's lap - a place I am now a little too big for -at some point in time too.)

5. Pretending I have the muscles to 'throw' around some bales of hay and straw - Anyone who knows me knows that I have little to no muscles, but every summer I break out the ones I do have to help unload bales of hay and straw from the many wagons that make their way from the field into the yard. My girls have always liked to watch and now my middle one really wants to be big enough to help. (I hope that enthusiasm continues for the next five years until she is able to help!)

4. Mixing up 'milk' in a 5 gallon bucket (or two or three) twice a day - This was one of the first jobs I learned how to do on my own on the farm and now my six year old has done the same. This summer she had about a two week stint when she got up with her dad and learned how to mix up milk, fill bottles, and put the nipples on all by herself - I was not allowed to help with the preparation. It was neat to watch her take charge and learn how to do it on her own. You can also often find her up in the new free stall barn petting her favorite cow (605) or telling the cows what 'movie' is playing on the imaginary big screen she said was in the barn when her dad asked why all the cows were standing together on one end of the barn on a hot day!

3. Knowing my husbands mood by the weather outside - I am not sure I can ever count the number of times I have heard 'Did I ever tell you I hate the cold, snow, sleet, rain, heat, sun, clouds (insert any weather word here!) And because we live in Iowa we burn both ends of the candle. When the Polar Vortex marked extreme cold temps this winter the snowmobile goggles came out to ride the tractor when feeding the cattle and the calves needed coats, but last summer when the temp marked 100+ almost daily a sprinkler system traveled along the fence line to keep the cows cool.

2. Planning life around the cows - Cows need fed and milked two times a day 365 days a year - there is no day off. This includes all major holidays. Christmas has become the most interesting to work around. Last year we added making homemade cinnamon roll dough in the breadmaker and baking the rolls so we had something to do to wait for daddy - and usually stockings get dumped out to play with what is inside ;) I heard an idea from a friend about a scavenger hunt they do with their boys to make opening presents a little more exciting and I think that may make its way to out house next year and maybe even get us out to the barn to help daddy get done sooner! We are lucky enough to have family close enough to help if I can convince my husband he needs to have a little time away so we usually take at least one or two overnight trips in a year. And we also do some really fun day trips that I hope my girls will remember. One of the best I can remember is a day we took a ferry with van and all across the Mississippi on our way back from Cabela's in Prairie du Chien - the girls (and mommy) found it fascinating the van could float across the river. I hope these are the things my girls will remember when they grow up and have families of their own.
1. Watching my girls hold their daddy's hand as they follow him around and learn the 'way' of the land - It is pretty handy that we can walk out the door and find Mark somewhere working most all times of the day. (And on occasion he can take a break and join us for some fun as well.) They see him in action most all the time - as he never seems to slow down. (which has given me the idea for a different post - so stay tuned for that!) I am not saying that I did not learn A LOT from two of the hardest working parents when I lived in town, because I did. It was just that I did not live the job and that is what we do here. They can join in and help and anytime which not only makes us a family, but a family who works and plays together.

The 'tail' end - what do you like the most about where you raise your family? 

Monday, September 1, 2014

These pink farm boots aren't made for wearing

About a month ago we were shopping at 'The Popcorn Store' (aka Thiesens) and our oldest G told us she needed a new pair of farm boots so we browsed the shoe aisle and came across a pair of pink ones that light up when you walk. She was sure they were perfect and would make her want to come outside more to help with chores. (As of today she has wore them twice to bring her youngest sister outside to find us.)

You see our oldest G probably has the least amount of farm girl in her and would actually prefer to live in town. We often tease her and call her Marcia because she acts a lot like my husband's middle sister when she was growing up on the farm. She is very much a girly girl who prefers to wear dresses and be inside watching TV or pretending to be a teacher, chef, mom, hairstylist, or whatever pops in her mind that day. Which sort of reminds me a lot of myself as a little girl. (When I was eight I organized and hosted a wedding and reception for my five year old brother and the neighbor girl.) 

When I was deep inside the darkness of myself during the worst of my postpartum depression I believed this was all my fault. I always knew the farm was important to my husband and there are times it feels like the farm comes before everything else in life - which at certain times in the year is probably true. Even though I love that my kids will have a chance to grow up in the country and learn from the hard work of their daddy there are times when I wish there was a little more time for family togetherness outside of the milking parlor or cab of a tractor. So when the oldest G was born I made it pretty clear she would make the choice on what she wanted to do about her time on the farm. My husband was not a full time farmer when she was born so going to the farm when she was little was an adventure that we went home after.  We also did not live on the home farm at first when he did take over so she did not have as much time lounging in the stroller (covered in flies) as the younger two G's. So in my irrational mind it was all my fault she does not spend as much time outside helping as the other two.

I now understand that she is her own person and it would really be boring in this world if we were all the same. I will continue to encourage her to put on those pink light up boots and come out to help us, but it really needs to be her own decision as she grows up and learns more about herself. There are times when it is not a discussion because she needs to help so we can go somewhere when we are done or just because she needs to get outside the four walls of the house and the glow of the TV screen. And isn't that what parenting should be about? Guiding our kids to make the best decisions for them.

The 'tail' end - What are some things you do to guide your children to the best decisions for them?