Saturday, May 30, 2015

Relax: 10 Things NOT To Do Before Baby Arrives

Browsing Pinterest today, my irritation grew with every article titled “Must-dos Before Baby” or “Baby Gear Must-Haves.”  Outside of your doctors’ directions (by the way, please listen to your doctor), there is nothing you must do to have a happy, healthy baby.

But I didn’t know that.
I’m kind of ashamed of the thinking that devoured my normal senses during my first pregnancy.  More regretful than ashamed, I suppose, for all of the self-imposed stress and worry.  Reading baby product reviews was my new anxiety-inducing addiction.  It was ridiculous.   
Our baby showed up a month early, which happened to be a day after this photo.

Then, my daughter surprised us by debuting a month early, and I couldn’t complete my pre-babe project check-list.  What happened?  We had a beautiful, feisty baby doll anyway.

This second pregnancy is cake compared to number one.  Mostly because number one keeps me way too distracted and entertained to worry.

So here’s my list.  Please, mama, please… stop worrying about these things…

10) Getting plenty of sleep while you can.         

Why do so many people say this?  I always wanted to reply, “You know it doesn’t work that way, right?”  You’re tired now and you’ll be tired, then.  Just keep reminding yourself, it’s only a phase.  J

9) Collecting clothes.

People will give you soooo many clothes.  Plus, for the first two months, I was too tired to dress up myself, much less the baby, to go anywhere.  After your baby shower, stock up on a few cheap onesies and sleepers, maybe a little something for first pictures, and call it a day.  My kiddo didn’t even have a “going home outfit!” I know… gasp!  Now that I think of it… nor did I ever order those first day hospital pictures… oops.

8) Decorating the Nursery.

Let’s be honest.  Decorating the nursery is more for your benefit than baby’s.  Proof: the blank walls and half-started Pinterest decorations hanging out in my toddler’s closet.  Pretty sure it would actually just give my sleep-hater one more way to distract herself instead of going to sleep.  If you’re enjoying it, have a ball.  If not, just quit.  I give you permission.

7) Finding exercises to make labor go faster.

Exercise during pregnancy is fantastic, but end the stress over that online daily dose of some upside-down, sideways concocted mojo to make baby magically show up lickety-split.  I walked… some.  Baby girl made it out before the doctor even arrived, so good thing I didn’t beef up those pushing muscles too much. J

6) Perfecting the packed hospital bag...

…or pre-packing one at all.  Here’s how my hospital bag got packed: I yelled at asked my husband to Google “what to pack for the hospital” while I curled up into another contraction.  He did just fine.

5) Stressing over the registry.

Some of the best advice I got was to try a few different types of the basics: onesies, sleepers, burp rags, pacifiers.  My discontent little sweetie didn’t give a rip how many people gave our swing or the baby carrier five stars.  The wipe warmer really did work wonders for my winter baby.  Each baby is different, and you’ll have to see what gear baby likes best.

4) Reading birth stories.

This practice should be BANNED.  My biggest mistake was reading birth stories one afternoon.  Holy smokes.  Here’s a little gift of truth:  people only write their birth story online if it was a crazy, traumatic experience.  You’ll do great, and worrying won’t make it better or worse.

3) Finalizing the birth plan.

Unfortunately, you don’t get to choose how your body reacts to labor.  Educate yourself about what to expect.  Decide if you’d like an epidural (but don’t even get hung-up on that… I’ll end that rant now before it gets started).  Please, do not be disappointed in yourself because you couldn’t have a “dream” delivery.  However you get a baby out of your body should be applauded!  Prepare your mindset for “if I have choices, this would be my ideal, but I’m good with whatever I need to do to keep everyone healthy.”

2) Embracing a parenting style.

Here’s my conclusion: your baby’s style dictates your parenting style.  I heard how following a strict schedule created the perfect baby, and how “I just let them make their own schedule” led to sound sleep for all.  We call these parents: very blessed.  Nothing I tried created a good sleeper… and I felt like a failure for a long time.  Looking back, I finally figured out what was wrong with her: she was a BABY.  Sometimes, they don’t sleep.  I genuinely believe we did the best for her, but she still didn’t sleep.  My high-strung baby is now a social, energetic handful who cracks me up every day… and still keeps me on my toes.

1) Getting stressed by my advice.

If you have indeed been stressing over the registry, and 1) I’ve made you feel guilty because you know you shouldn’t, or 2) the idea of abandoning it stresses you even more, by all means, stress over the registry.  Don’t let my advice or anyone else’s guilt you.  Take it all in, file in the back of your mind, and pull out what works for you and your family when you need it. 

In my slightly-delirious, post-delivery state, sleep evaded me for fear that she'd stop breathing and I'd miss it.  Praying that God would take my worries away was all I had left.  And He did... every time I asked.

Relax.  Be proud of how hard you’re trying because you care so much.  Good luck, mama!  It’s hard; really, really hard.  I won’t even tell you that it’s allll worth it in an attempt to console your complaints - because you already know that.  When he or she arrives, complain, love on your baby, and feel good about what you’re doing.


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Field Food: "Kinda" Cordon Bleu

My, oh my, the muck and the mire.  (Just finished reading Little Blue Truck to the tot before bed.  Who else has that one memorized?)

Like much of the Midwest, our Spring has been wet.  In farm world, wet translates to: unhappy farmers who can’t get in the field. 

The good news: creative meals delivered to the field haven’t been required lately.  However, blue skies lingered just long enough for the farmer to get in a soybean planting frame of mind today… which means: a field supper. 

My farmer would be grateful for a plain ole hamburger or turkey sandwich, but the key to really making his day, is a small twist on a familiar go-to convenience meal.

Tonight, I pulled out a new recipe: “Grilled Chicken Cordon Bleu Wraps” from the Taste and Tell blog.  Very loooosely chicken cordon bleu.  In fact, in my efforts to simplify the recipe, I looked up “cordon bleu” to make sure I didn’t compromise the essence of the “cordon bleu.”

Ever look up “cordon bleu” before?  It basically means hoity-toity, fancy French spin.  Ha.  Haha.  Sorry.  That part of the essence of traditional chicken cordon bleu may be lost, but it’s still a nice mix-up to your field food routine.

Before the toddler and one on the way, I would have gone out of my way to follow the recipe precisely; but now, I find myself immediately wondering how I can simplify.  So, make the recipe as she recommends, or look to my adjustments below. 

The ingredients are pretty simple:


The original recipe recommends shredded chicken, which would be more savory than either of my options, but I already cooked two chickens this week… and it just wasn’t happening today.

First: pop those frozen chicken tenders in the oven.  This is the only part that might require a little planning.  Start about 30 minutes before you want to assemble in order to allow time to pre-heat oven and bake.  The package also gives microwave directions if you need to work more quickly, but they are crispier baked. 

Ways to tell you're a beginning blogger:
You're not really sure if you should put your name on the sub-par food photos. 
Pretty sure this pic of frozen tenders on a tray isn't going to be stolen.  Just consider this reality kitchen-testing.
While my chicken tenders were baking, I mixed up the very simple sauce.  I feel like the secret to field foods is often in the sauce.  Just a little taste of something different makes supper feel special. 

Easy-peasy: ½ cup mayo, 1 Tablespoon honey, 2 Tablespoons mustard, and salt and pepper to taste.  This is apparently what makes it “cordon bleu,” but I thought we just called this honey mustard.  Either way, I’m not a fan of honey mustard, but liked this one.  Here’s MY golden tip: somewhere along the way I learned to spray cooking spray in the measuring cup or spoon of sticky substances.  Honey spilled out clean, no clingy mess wasted in the spoon!

If chicken tenders or cooking a chicken aren’t for you…shhh… disguise that canned chicken and serve it up!  I tried it this way also because I didn’t have a full bag of chicken tenders… which is required to fill up my farmer and brother-in-law.  I mash it with a fork to make it look more like shredded chicken, and mixed in a generous third of the honey mustard sauce.

Assembling is all we have left!  Anything in a tortilla makes a great field meal.  Start with tortilla, layer a couple pieces of cheese (swiss if you want to be more “chicken cordon bleu” authentic), a few pieces of deli ham (or turkey if that’s all you have), and about half of the canned chicken mixture (one can was 12.5 oz, so half is about a half cup of meat).  Roll it up and set aside while you assemble the rest.

For the chicken tender version: smeared some of the honey mustard sauce on the tortilla (after tasting, I probably would’ve been a bit more generous than pictured), then cheese, deli meat, and chicken tender.
The original recipe calls for grilling.  Five wraps didn't seem to warrant the grill tonight, so I tried a couple of easier options.  

George Foreman: spray top and bottom grills with cooking spray and left on for 3 minutes.

Skillet: Med or Med High heat, spray with cooking spray, approximately 2-3 minutes on each side.  Or really, just until cheese melts, wrap is warm, and edges are sealed. 

Wrap it up in aluminum foil, pour a couple of iced teas to-go, and you’re ready to deliver! 

My verdict: not a particularly special recipe, but a super simple supper with a welcome twist.  My guy was all smiles, so we'll call that: Farmer approved!  (Both versions, though he slightly preferred the chicken tender version.  Grilling method seemed to matter not.)
Field update: one dry week this spring allowed for planting of corn and milo.  With the prospect of a little dry weather tomorrow, hubs was working on adjusting row cleaners and adding bean boxes so soybeans could be planted next.  Crossing our fingers that more field meals are needed this week so planting can be completed and young crops can breathe!
A bonus sunset photo from tonight... because if it works for Ree...


Sunday, May 24, 2015

How Have You Sacrificed Lately?

My teenage prayers easily embraced, “Lord, Your will be done.”  A blank canvas of life lay ahead of me with no commitments to jobs, husband, children, or mortgages. 

Now, I still crave to draw near to the heart of God and His will… but sacrificing my time, security, comfort, and routine generates a greater grapple of the heart. 

Our soldiers know better than anyone the likeness of Christ.  We may define Christianity as love.  That feels good, but we often fail to recognize the accompanying disclaimer: love in action requires sacrifice. 
Hopefully, our soldiers influence you not to just reflect and appreciate this weekend, but inspire you to claim how God may be asking you to sacrifice.

Occasionally, as youth leader, I write articles for our church newsletter, and this month, “coincidentally,” the idea of sacrifice in my newsletter article parallels my reflections this Memorial Day weekend.


Answering the call to sacrificial love

When I first attended a small group here, I clearly remember a study on the book of James.  I remember it so clearly because we never focused on much as Lutherans – and it oozed with practical points.  How had I missed this gem?

Luther probably de-emphasized James due to the times he was living in – one wrought with unethical church leaders touting works as the road to heaven.  Today, we know confidently that our good works cannot save us, but admit that genuine relationship with Jesus moves us to care for those He loves deeply.

Like our children and youth. 

Consider Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Do we grasp what it means if we deny the call to good works? 

It basically means that we mess up God’s plans… and we have no idea the ramifications. 

When three of us from Zion attended the Orange Conference last month, Andy Stanley’s message was a highlight.  He challenged us with the question “What breaks your heart?” in the context of the story of Nehemiah.   Andy framed the idea this way:

“You have no idea what or who hangs in the balance of your decision to embrace the burden God has put in your heart.” 

Like Pastor referenced in his recent sermon, what if Mother Teresa had decided to stay in Albania and just pray for the poor?  

What’s the burden God has put in your heart? 

Have you asked him? 

Why aren’t you doing anything about it? 

What can you do about it? 

What happens if you don’t do anything about it?

If there’s anything I’ve learned in my Christian walk over the last year or so, it’s that being a Christian requires sacrifice.  These sacrifices are often not rewarded on this earth; but, how beautiful when we do see the reward in the life of a child or youth. 

How do I know Christianity requires sacrifice? 

Our ultimate role model: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45. 

Andy Stanley also asked us “What is the next generation worth to you?”  If we reflect on that question, that should help us consider how much we are willing to sacrifice.

I’m calling us to some real soul-searching.   Burnt out?  Let’s cut back, but engage those issues that are most important.  What are our priorities?  Or maybe a better question: what is Jesus’ priority for you? 

I don’t intend to guilt trip you; I just see needs being unmet, and you’ll be fulfilled by meeting them. 

I know there are seasons of life when we are better equipped to serve than others.  So if you can’t completely solve what’s breaking your heart, what can you do to make progress towards it?  If you can’t serve the children and youth, how can you serve their parents?  (I have information for periodic Married People’s ministry activities.  Supporting marriages supports children.) 

You know foster children break my heart, but we just don’t seem to be in a season of life to make hosting them completely feasible.  So, we sought some God-inspired creativity, and are sacrificing for these children by hosting a Farm Camp for them this summer. 

If you can’t do it all, what can you do?  Be realistic, but be relentless.  Make sure the type of serving you’re doing is the type of serving God would have you do.

Serving Youth

(Some ideas for serving Youth… you could skip ahead to the last couple of paragraphs if your call to sacrifice is in another area)
For a long time, the Youth have needed you.  An effective ministry cannot be done with one person for a variety of reasons. 

Different students will connect with different personality types.  Your friend’s favorite teacher in school was probably different than yours, and there’s good reason for that.

Moreover, as one veteran youth leader would often say, “Even Jesus only had twelve disciples.”  If we want to see growth, we have to have more “disciplers.”  A pastor and children or youth leader can only directly disciple to a few effectively.  We need you.

We each possess a variety of gifts, but we have ALL been called to discipleship.  Your job is to chat with God and figure out how you can do that.  Pray.  Ask him to give you a name, an action, a vision.

The Youth need regular, caring influences on Sunday nights.  You don’t have to volunteer for every Sunday night (or you could), but take a series of three or four weeks or a rotation.  Perhaps, you’ll volunteer to do games each week so someone else only has to worry about the lesson.  Bring snacks and chat for the first fifteen minutes of Youth Group. 

Do they need the snacks?  No.  Do they need to see their church is invested in their ministry? Yes. 

Plus, I need the feedback of folks invested in the ministry.  The more of you familiar with our Youth Ministry, the more God-inspired vision can influence the ministry for the better. 

A member proposed that each Adult Sunday School class host one or two activities for the Youth during the year.  What passion could you share with the Youth?  Invite them fishing, swimming, to work at the food bank, teach them to cook something and take a meal to the foster home or snacks to our shut-ins.  Our skeet shot/frog gig was quite popular last year.  Investing in them piques their interest.  Just let them live life beside you once in a while.

Please pray for our Youth ministry, and all of the discipleship happening in our church.  I know you love them.  I know you support them.  I know how incredibly difficult it is to find more time to give, especially if you’re working full time, have sick family members, or any of the many other curve balls life throws our way. 

But like the poor widow in Mark 12, find something to give.  Close to the end of Andy Stanley’s message, he asked, again, those thought-provoking questions:

What would you like people to line up at the end of your life and thank you for? 

What breaks your heart? 

Who or what hangs in the balance if you refuse? 

What is the next generation worth to you? 


How have you sacrificed for another lately?

Inspirations in this writing taken from Andy Stanley, the Orange Conference, Relevant Magazine, and God-Almighty. J


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Why I Chose to be Second-Rate

I’ve been in an unpleasant mood for a few days...

This topic tends to draw forth a bit of passion in me.  And the passion turns to anger... so I considered abandoning the issue altogether.
But… someone wise once told me that if you want to find and fulfill your passion, start with what makes you angry.  (The ability to calm that anger and turn it into productivity is the key.)
Last week, Time posted an excerpt from Sir Ken Robinson’s new book Creative Schools, titled “WhySchools Need to Bring Back Shop Class.”  I vaguely remember the mention of Sir Ken in my Master’s Degree classes, and the professor that urged us to follow him on Twitter… but I was busy teaching, unknowingly trying to accomplish exactly what Sir Ken was promoting: engaging the marginalized, stereotyped kids in our midst.

“Viewing vocational programs as second-rate is one of the most corrosive problems in education.” – Sir Ken Robinson

Don’  Vocational teachers are also often viewed as second-rate.  Much to the chagrin of my hopeful parents, I ran towards a generally low-respect career.  Why?  (Here’s a hint: surprisingly, it’s not because “those who can’t, teach.”)
Many teachers and parents show huge support for "vocational" programs, so I don't intend to demonize anyone.  Sir Ken noticed the attitude problem and drew attention to it first.  His 2006 TED Talk is the most watched in TED history: so let’s consider his opinion for a bit.  I listed a few quotes from his article below, but you should stop.rightnow.really. go to the link and read it before continuing.
While I deeply appreciate the attention someone of his influence brings to the issue, to my knowledge, he has not dove into the trenches of “vocational education,” and I want to add to and clarify a few ideas.  (My comments relate specifically to agriculture education due to my experience as a student and teacher in that content area, but I've seen this happen in other areas, as well.)
1)      “…a study from 2013 estimated that almost 6 million American between the ages of 16 and 24 are neither in school or work.” - Sir Ken Robinson

Here’s the kicker: The USDA report issued this week proclaimed the vast opportunity for college graduates in… drumroll please… AGRICULTURE.  (What? Dumb farmers? I don’t get it.)  The press release titled, “Oneof the Best Fields for New College Graduates? Agriculture.” reported that 57,900 jobs opportunities would be available to the only 35,400 students graduating with degrees in agriculture this year.  My husband and I both hold bachelor’s degree in agriculture and are prime of examples of the students Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack is speaking about when he says,
“Not only will those who study agriculture be likely to get well-paying jobs upon graduation, they will also have the satisfaction of working in a field that addresses some of the world's most pressing challenges."
Terrible photo quality, but look at those young pups. :) Long before any romantic sparks flew, the hubs and I led our senior FFA banquet, utilizing the skills we learned and preparing for the next step: our respective colleges of agriculture!

2)      Vocational Education doesn’t exist anymore.
It’s now Career and Technical Education (CTE).  We have an association and everything. ;) The Association for Career and TechnicalEducation (ACTE) includes business, agriculture, industrial arts, culinary arts, medical certifications, and the list continues.  Typically, a hang up on a name would annoy me.  However, to Sir Ken’s point, we need a transformation in the attitudes towards CTE.  Sir Ken, if you want to change perception, please join the rest of us by using the correct terminology.  CTE professionals realized this during the revision of the Perkins Act in 2006 and officially changed “Vocational” to “Career and Technical.”  We no longer prepare students for dead-end vocations.  We teach skilled career and college bound students.  Branding matters. 
3)      Please don’t refer to my protégés as “shop kids.”

It’s the same concept.  How we refer to our students matters.  Labeling a student a “shop kid” or “Ag kid” seems innocent… but the connotation it often brings is unfair for a student.  When a teacher complains to me about those “farm kids” that never settle down in his class, my heart breaks a little.  Let’s not stereotype.  Please consider that every camouflage clad student that misbehaves in class may not be part of a CTE program that emphasizes technical, leadership, and personal development skills.  If they are, maybe their misbehavior comes from the sense of disrespect they perceive from you.  Many of our enrollees are fantastic students, please show them all equal respect.

My big brother and I preparing for a show at a local fair as part of our SAEs.

4)      Agriculture Education Programs have been doing real-world learning for the last 100 years.
Sir Ken interviews a teacher explaining that the students will be working with local business leaders to figure costs and market their class projects.  This idea offers great benefit to the student, but it's not a new one.
The Smith-Hughes Act of 1917 created this type of real-world learning through vocational education, with agriculture as one of the primary leaders.  It established agriculture education programs that offered out-of-class, application-based learning projects that we still teach today.  Every student enrolled in agriculture education courses has a Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) where they can apply their in-class learning to a real-world context.  If you learn how to vaccinate livestock in class, you can use that knowledge in your SAE at home.  Students are required to maintain records on these projects, including receipts, expenditures, cash flows, inventories, and project goals.  My brother and I had a beef cattle herd where we learned about feed, shelter, and veterinarian costs; as well as, the impact that fluctuating markets, breeding genetics, and marketing had on our income. 
The extremely competitive and rigorous Career Development Events (CDEs) held by the State FFA Associations and the National FFA Organization, require students to learn all aspects of a professional area. 
In addition, students in our agriculture education program had the option of taking courses like Agribusiness Management, Agriculture Science, or Agriculture Communications with embedded Personal Finance, Science, and English credits.
Our entire program revolves around the idea of giving meaning and application to core curriculum: one of the few educational trends that has lasted almost 100 years. 
5)      CTE classes aren’t just for low achievers.

As a teacher, I was upset when a talented student approached me after class with her card to sign up for classes next year saddened that she, “wanted to sign up for your Agribusiness Management class.  But [another educator] told me that since I took Business Econ, I couldn’t take your class.”  Many students came to me with similar stories.  That's particularly frustrating in light of the USDA report about agriculture job openings.  Plus, any student pursuing a career that depends on technically skilled workers will be in far greater demand if they understand the practicalities of how their designs or management plans will function practically in the field.

Equally discouraging was the day an educator leading a professional development day informed us that if a student was not on track to graduate, they would start “pulling them from blow-off classes like P.E.”  Valid point, bad adjective choice.  Sitting in a room full of several non-core teachers, the grim attitudes grew thick.  No classes should be labeled as “blow-off.”  We’re all professionals.  If we find any evidence that every content area offers equal potential for success of students, it is in the teaching professionals in our schools.  Was the teacher implying that since I enrolled in high school agriculture courses, I must not have been college-bound material?  Of course that wasn't her intent, but it stung.  Luckily, I grew up in a home that taught me better, but that’s the attitude our students perceive from other adults in their school and community.  And that’s tragic.  Even Sir Ken knows it.
Meet the masters at investing in students.  Teachers' pets or knuckleheads, my ag teachers could challenge any type of student to better themselves in regards to agricultural skills.  They taught me that agriculture and professional are indeed two words that go together.

6)      We draw forth potential in low achievers.

CTE programs are sometimes viewed as “dumping grounds” for low achievers or students with behavior issues.  This didn't happen at our school as much as others, but surprisingly, it bothered me little as a teacher.  Low achieving students often find rare success in our programs.  When the academic student turns to the low achiever for welding advice, it completely transforms their relationship and respect for each other, not to mention the built-in, real-world cooperative learning that happens in those project-based learning scenarios.   I chose to be seen as second rate to advocate for students who are seen as second rate.  The agriculture industry is VITAL to our national health, and students with an interest in agriculture are just as vital.  The students who need someone to teach them how to respect themselves and expect from themselves, possess as much potential as any other.  Sir Ken was dead on with the last three paragraphs, particularly the first of the three.

“Those who feared they couldn’t achieve anything discover they can.  In the process, they build a stronger sense of purpose and self-respect.  Kids who thought they had no chance of going to college find that they do.  Those who don’t want to go to college find there are other routes in life that are just as rewarding.

So, are all non-CTE teachers and community members judgmental jerks?  Obviously, absolutely not.  I immensely appreciate teachers and counselors who encouraged my students: when core class skills are strengthened, so are CTE skills.  We need to walk hand-in-hand, instead of battling for “Most Significant Content Area.”  However, communities and funding sources often force us into that position.  Leaving behind the mission to teach students self-respect was tough when I decided to spend more time at home.  The good news: at that time, our administrators were open to investing in our courses, such as weighing courses and having conversations about the new CASE curriculum for agriculture.  Also, I’m encouraged to hear education super-stars like Sir Ken Robinson and a cabinet member like Secretary Vilsack touting the merits of CTE.  I'm hopeful that this is an upward trend that continues.
Most certainly, I had incredible core teachers that expected a great deal of me in high school.  However, I attribute my abilities to confidently utilize those skills to my time in agriculture education programs and the FFA under the influence of my high school agriculture teachers.  I hope my children have the same opportunity to benefit from CTE programs supported by their communities and role models at school.

My sweet farm baby this week at our most recent local FFA Banquet, which recognized students' leadership and skill achievements.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Eleven Ways to Know You're a Young Farm Mama

Cooking, cleaning, wiping bottoms… no doubt, mothers deserve a day of honor.  Pitching straw bales, steadying oneself after a spirited cow knocks you around, hauling an assortment of dirty, gross farm items in your car… the list of sacrifice grows deeper for a farm mom. 

For those of us growing up on the farm, we often take for granted that our mothers performed at a different pace with unique challenges.  I remember fondly the adventure of running cows back to the barn as my mother and I were on our way to the Easter Sunrise Service in our Sunday best.  I would guess she doesn’t remember it with the same affection.  I know now why she emphatically repeated to me, attempting to engrain on my memory, the best practices for removing caked on, five-day-old manure stains from our good “cattle show” jeans.  (Lay pants out on basement floor, douse with stain pre-treat, wait, soak in wash sink with detergent, wait... again, get new water with detergent as you scrub with a stiff bristle brush, rinse, wring, take upstairs for the good washing machine.  Simple, right? Credit me when you pin those laundry instructions.) 

Each mother faces her own set of challenges: the single mother, the military mother, the mother whose husband always travels for work.  However, growing up with a farm mom, and well into year two of farm motherhood myself, here’s a list to honor the type of mother I know best.

Eleven Ways to Know You’re a Young Farm Mama

11) You only know how to cook in batches for 100.

                Okay, maybe not 100.  And maybe that’s not the only way you know how to cook.  However, you’ve learned the hard way that you never know who’s going to show up for supper.  The teenage neighbor boy was called to help put up hay before the rain, and he can put a dent in the pot pretty quickly.  You know the look of hope in your brother-in-law's eyes when you deliver a field supper to your hubs, wondering if there’s one for him, as well.  No, you’re not required to feed them all, but you know how hard they work on these 17-hour days and feel the least you can do is keep their bellies filled.

10)  You get along with the in-laws. Period. 

                Not only are mine fantastic people, but survival depends on it.  Farm decisions have to be made, babysitters are needed as your farmer works late for the twelfth dry night in a row, you need the brother-in-law to step in when your farmer is MIA, and when the work is done, we all need someone to enjoy iced tea and homemade ice cream with on the porch.

9) Your two-year-old farm baby correctly identifies the combine, sprayer, tractor, planter, etc… and you never taught those terms to her.

                The only explanations: either this knowledge is instinctually born into all farm kids, or she learned it intuitively as she heard Daddy say “I’ve got to get back to spraying,” while he walked away from the car towards the big rig.

8) Every holiday warrants adding a minimum of one new farm toy to the collection.

                You don’t buy the farm toys. (The farm baby is two.  She’s not going to remember if Mom and Dad got her anything for Christmas, so like good frugal farm parents… we rewrapped toys she forgot she had.)  You’ve told the grandparents that you really don’t need more toys.  Yet, Christmas is not complete without the arrival of a new toy barn with all the accessories or a combine and grain cart that look just like Daddy’s.  Now, you must find a place for them all.

7) Every piece of machinery that drives by the house is greeted with “Hiiiiiiiiiii Daddddddddddy!!!!!!!”

                “Mama, it’s Daddy!  Daddy’s in the tractor!  I’m gonna ride the tractor, too!”  No reason to correct her.

6) Moo-moos, brum-brums, and strange interpretations of snorting hogs (as farm baby tries to figure that sound out) constantly fill the air from the backseat...

                …and it’s music to your ears.  Sweet, sweet farm babies. Sigh. *Heart melts.*

5) “Do that, again, and you won’t get to ride in the tractor tonight!”  is a legitimate threat.

                As farm mommy, you know not to overuse that one, but always keep it up your sleeve in dire situations.  Of course, it works every time.

4) Regular bedtime – what’s that?

                Farm mamas see the routine-based mamas shaking their heads, and they may even feel guilty that first farm season with baby.  Luckily, we find each other in the sisterhood of farm mamas, quickly realize we have support, and tough it out; because field suppers need to be supplied, farmers need to be picked up in one field and dropped in another, parts need to be delivered, and one more ride in the combine is allowed (as those memories are the stuff of life and bath time can wait… yes, sometimes until tomorrow since farm baby passed out on the way home).

3) You’ve removed, “stay out of the mud,” from your vocabulary.

                What’s the point?  Farm babies shall be farm babies.  That’s why your farm mama taught you the proper manure removal process, after all.

2) You find yourself explaining certain facts of life sooner than you anticipated.

                I find myself already planning how to manage the damage from our farm baby’s visit to the birthing mother cow, knowing our second farm baby arrives soon, and she’s sure to make the comparison.  Thanks a lot for that one, farm dad, because you know she will remember.  At least the situation’s not quite as bad as the time my dad allowed my inquisitive young cousin to be present for A.I. (artificial insemination) day at the farm.  Moreover, what farm dad would deprive inquiring minds of all the correct terminology?  “First you find the cervix…” isn’t a phrase most mamas quiet in the check-out line.  Farm mama, you are special, indeed.

1)      Photos like these bring tears to your eyes.

The unspoken love your farmer passes down to his kiddos, and the admiration they hold for their Super Dad, in return, blesses your soul and makes it all worth it.  That’s not to say that farm mama doesn’t deserve a little recognition this Mother’s Day.  However, she knows May falls smack-dab in the middle of busy season, and truly understands farm dad may not be able to make it extra special… but a thank you sure goes a long way.

Farm mamas are tough, hard-working problem solvers… with great compassion and gentle hands to care for the farm family and neighbors who fill their hearts.  Who are the farm mamas you need to thank this Mother’s Day?