Category Archives: Uncategorized

Matt and I had the incredibly fun privilege of spending five days in Michigan kid-less (they were well taken care of by Grandma!) a couple weeks ago. Last Spring, we applied, and were selected for, a trip that the Farm Bureau Women’s Leadership Committee sponsors for recipients to experience another state’s agriculture. And experience we did! I’ll write more about that in another post, but we came back refreshed, excited and inspired by the opportunities that are in ag.

We had the last day and a half to ourselves, so we drove up the Northwest coast, through the ‘Tunnel of Trees’ to Mackinaw. Having unpressured time to ourselves was awesome to be able to reconnect. Sometimes the dishes and tired kids and to do lists make us forget how to have fun with each other.

Here are a few goofy outtakes while trying the master my mother-in-law’s camera she so graciously loaned two photography novices, one who thinks an iPhone is pretty high tech.

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DSC_0394(And then he went in the water.)

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I have to admit, I kinda, a tiny bit, hope heaven has lots of ‘coffee drinking, near the water sitting’ time.

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Love at five years

I remember on our wedding day, it was raining, but all the world was right.

Our best friends sang some song with lyrics I hardly noticed about having a household of faith. Our bulletin said something about God blessing us with this love. And I remember thinking we were different. We were together solely because God ordained us to be and together we were going to be a shining example of his love. And I really thought we could. Because we loved each other enough in that moment. We had dreams and we took risks, but they were our dreams. In synch, we were on the same page.

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I thought my new husband was just the greatest to wake up in the middle of the night to run and get me some medicine for my migraine, and I just knew I had married the best when he offered to hand chop a giant fallen tree at the bed and breakfast we stayed at on our honeymoon to pay for an extra night so we could stay longer than the three nights we had planned.

It was easy to love him when he made me breakfast. When he brought me flowers and we spent weekends together and there was nothing to complicate our time and devotion to one another.

But what I didn’t know was that while I understood the concept of what it takes to love, I hadn’t yet had a chance to put it into practice.

(Although I thought getting him into the tux store was a pretty good test run.)

That was before I knew that passion can be easily overtaken by busyness and cutting words can last longer than just in the moment.

That was before the honeymoon ended and we came home to a house that hardly had running water, and a roof that did leak water. That was before Matt got banned from Craigslist (and before we racked up seven washer and dryers and five refrigerators in less than four years). Before the pipes froze, a farm business deal went bad, and we could barely afford the debt we had ourselves in on our meager salaries.

Before two babies in 3.5 years of marriage and now suppers where there’s sometimes never a break in conversation but we don’t say a word to each other. Before cancelled date nights, loneliness even in the presence of one another, and crushed expectations. Before we knew that when it wasn’t easy to feel in love, we certainly didn’t want to put ours on display like we did when we said ‘I Do.’

Exhaustion and our own priorities and differences conspired to make us wonder not just how marriage lasts, but how it grows. How seeds and saplings ever grow in to trees that dwarf a yard. How they grow tall and straight and keep from rotting inside.

We’ve cried, and we’ve laughed. We’ve dreamed together, and we’ve had our own dreams. We’ve wondered “How we can each love the other, when deep down, we’re both purely selfish?”

How can we laugh when there are bills to pay, always things to do and kids that demand the attention we used to give to one another?

That question resonates around our dreams. Around our biggest dream: our farm. Our lifestyle. All the lessons about work and worth we want to gift our kids.

Where I grew up, there are lots of small farms and red barns. Here, there are lots of new metal shops, but you don’t see many old barns any more. And I understand why: wood attracts moisture and bugs, it needs painted and it wears down. My parents paint one of their barns every summer, by hand for most of my life.

The barn we have here is 150 years old. How many years did the forest have to grow before it could be cut to make beams that big that would hold the weight of three stories for the last century?

Who walked by the base of those trees trunks? Indians, Pioneers, settlers?

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I see that old barn a little differently now. It needs some siding, a roof, some love. But it’s strong. It’s majestic. It’s lasted. Through the changing inhabitants of the land and the homestead. Through the decades, during the periods it’s been full and when it’s empty, too.

Five years later, I don’t always see my husband as the greatest. I don’t think we can ‘just will’ our love to be superior. We both let time, kids, our jobs and what we each want for ourselves get in the way of loving each other.

But I do see him as the selfless man who spent his birthday money on wood to build a swing set for two certain little girls who adore him. As the one who brought me wildflowers in a Mountain Dew can when we were broke, my favorite lilies when we were fighting, and sometimes the ‘Kroger special’ flowers just because. The steady man who provides for us, day in and day out, and then comes home and gets down and plays with our kids and makes sure to listen to my day. The one who is usually first to apologize, even when I’m the most wrong.

Our life isn’t as glamorous as I thought it would be. Sometimes it looks like shoveling manure together, or teaming up and each taking a crying kid in the early mornings. Sometimes it’s not all the romantic words and feelings that dominated our dating days, but just a squeeze of the other’s hand in the midst of the chaos.

These days, I still admire the shiny red barns and farmsteads. But I know that it isn’t the paint that makes them beautiful. It’s the strong beams that took a hundred or more years to fortify something that lasts a lifetime. And, with some care and a lot of grace, the lifetimes of children and grandchildren.

Love looks like the food prepared over a hot skillet that warms the body and makes it grow. Love looks like choosing the other one first when it makes no worldy sense to do so. The work that goes unnoticed, but without it, life unravels.

And encouragement to keep building, keep dreaming. To take our time, and build like our barn. Our dream and our safe haven.

Rachel Stine

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Last summer, I sliced my foot open on an outdoor electrical box. Gimping, sure I cut an artery, and seriously trying not to cry, I called my husband. The advice from the man who has broken more bones than I can count? “Just get in the pool. It will clean it out.”

I may never listen to him again …

I still have a giant scar that runs the length of my foot and disqualifies me from ever being a foot model. Just in case I ever decided that was a plausible option … I’ve hurt myself like that a thousand times in my life, but scars have a funny way of keeping the story fresh in your mind.

This past week, FireCracker learned a tough lesson. Just this summer, she’s grown tall enough to pedal her bike by herself. Ever since she got it for Christmas 1.5 years ago, she’s sat on it and asked me to push her. She’s been so proud that she can ride it herself, and the other day, we even went on a more-than-a–mile ride – a pretty long way for 3-year-old legs.

Well, the other night she left it in the driveway in front of hubby’s truck, and he hit it. I came out just in time to see the shock, horror and pure devastation on her face.

After a lot of tears and holding, we were able to work out a plan. She’s been doing chores (feeding chickens, setting the table and picking up all of her toys) to get ‘moneys’ to fix her bike. It’s normally an epic battle to get her to pick up her toys. It’s been a bittersweet process to watch her face disappointment and take ownership of her circumstances. It will take a while for her to save, but I don’t think she’ll forget this.

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Even several days later she says “I’m so sorry I left my bike out” out of the blue. This from the kid who I was almost certain was allergic to the word “sorry.”

After the storm a couple nights ago, I noticed one of my tomato plants had snapped and I need to weave the rest in to the fence better. Actually, Matt suggested I weave them better. I knew from when I did that before, the stems get little cuts, so I’d just left them be. They were fine until the wind came.

“What’s better, hurting them a little now, or having the whole thing break?” he asked.

I am slightly, a little bit ‘protective’ of my garden and it makes me nervous that I’m going to lose the whole crop when any little thing goes wrong. This is why I tend to overplant, and I’m about to go out and pick 42 cucumbers.

I’d assumed that rubbing the outside of the stem would ruin the plant. I just went to check them again. That tomato that broke? It’s healed nicely. The cut scarred over. It’s still growing.

These days, I’m learning to appreciate scars and the lessons they teach.

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Dear daughter:

While you were sleeping … I remembered all the things I forgot during the day:

That you’re a toddler now, your baby chub fast disappearing.

That toilet paper, toys and crumbs are fast swept up,

and so is time.

That days are long,

but years fly by.

That at worst a house unkempt is really a sign of a life well lived.

That when people ask what I’ve been up to,

“Not much, just the girls” is really a valid answer.

That potty training and self sufficiency will come,

and then I’ll miss the diapers … even the stinky ones.

Dear daughter:

While you were sleeping, it hit me:

That you make me more mad, frustrated and helpless than I ever thought I could be,

and more overwhelmingly joyful, humble and grateful than I ever deserve.

That you don’t say things like ‘mezagine’ for long.

And you roll your eyes and say ‘Mom, it’s magazine.’

That I can and will cry when you do natural things like learn to ride your bike.

That not everyone gets the incredible opportunity to hold their baby every day,

and I should do it more.

That you’re strong,

but you still need your mommy.

That you’re big, so big,

and my arms won’t always be able to contain you.

Dear daughters, while you were sleeping, I knew that:

When we’re apart,

a part of me is missing.

That God loves you way, way more than I do.

And that breaks me when I realize he loves me even more incomprehensibly than a mother’s love.

That I am your momma,

and if that’s all I ever am,

that is more than enough.

Thanks to a combination of factors, including children waking up with the sun, weeds growing in the garden, the start of summer preserving and just plain a lot going on, I haven’t hardly sat down, much less to write.

And then there was that one night while the hubby was out of town I couldn’t do anything but watch my Amazon Prime after putting the kids to bed. Which didn’t turn out to be such a bad thing, because I learned Downtown Abbey is actually DownTON Abbey. Just keeping up with the trends!

Here’s what we’ve been doing:

1. We got a new pup! She’s only been here a week, but seems like a great dog. Her name is a little up for debate still. Since she’s around two years old, she came with an existing name (Tinker Bell … which I guess is technically two names). She answers to Belle, so that’s what I’ve been calling her. Matt seems to think she answers to Tink too, but I’m not quite on board with that. Name aside, isn’t she cute?

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2. FireCracker had her first-ever haircut. She didn’t get much cut off, but did get bangs, to help keep her hair out of her eyes for summer. For a girl who likens washing her hair right up there with going to bed during a party, she did exceptionally well. We even went for a ‘special drink’ (chocolate milkshake from ‘Old McDonald’s’) afterwards.

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Apparently, you’re supposed to save a lock from your child’s first haircut … thankfully, an older lady saved the day, and nearly pounced on her hair as the stylist was sweeping it up and throwing it away. It’s safe in her baby book now (along with some blank pages … which is why I’m blogging about it now!)

3. Our first pig got butchered. It wasn’t FireCracker’s favorite one, but I still thought she might have trouble with her leaving. Especially when she asked to say bye five different times. But no worries, her final words were “Bye Pinky, I hope you taste delicious!”

And that was nothing compared to the look on her face when she realized we were going to get bacon. “I want one, two, TEN pieces of bacon.”

Ah, we must be raising her well …

4. We’ve just been out and about, enjoying the warm weather, sunshine, water, family and friends.

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photo (27)I just love the look on Smiley’s face here! And please, notice FireCracker’s dress.

Through her eyes

Don’t get me wrong. Rain is a good thing. But rainy days are notorious for keeping mommas with little kids at home, inside. With the piles of bills and laundry. And the hidden Oreos.

So when I announced that it was probably going to rain today, I wasn’t exactly thrilled.

FireCracker on the other hand, her first response was:

“So we can jump in mud puddles!”

Uh huh. Exactly what I was thinking.

Later, I was driving down the road from our house when I noticed all of the beautiful yellow flowers dotting the ditch. They were pretty enough that I stopped to pick a handful, knowing FireCracker would love them.

Jumping back in my car, I looked down at them. For as pretty as they looked from the road, they were really just a Dandelion, version 2.0. And the inside coating of the stem was making my hands sticky.

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Disappointed and ready to chuck them out the window, I thought about my daughter. Realizing she wouldn’t mind one bit if they weren’t pretty by my definition, and positive she wouldn’t mind sticky hands, I took them home to her.

And I’m glad I did. Because she got her flowers, and I got to see a beauty filtered through the eyes of a weed.

The light in her eyes made me think about what I deem as negative, disappointing and anger-provoking is maybe too often filtered into the ‘bad’ of my thinking.

There was this one time I heard Zig Ziglar talk about finding, and naming, something good in every perceived ‘bad.’ For a can-be-Eeyore like me, it sounded like he must have taken one too many happy pills. And then I tried it.

Sitting in my dining room frustrated at the lack of progress on the house we’ve now lived in a year, and mad at the cherub wallpaper, I noticed what a beautiful view I have when I look beyond those walls.

(Yes, I was really angry about my wallpaper. First world problems. Just being transparent.)

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(See what I mean?!)

And then FireCracker hugged the flowers.

There are so many times I could use her perspective. To see …

… a mess as a day that was filled with fun.

… bills as us being warm, clothed, fed and happy. More so than we deserve.

… dessert as something to be enjoyed instead of guilt-inducing.

… a schedule more as a loose plan instead of strictly regimented.

… alone time (AKA, nap time) as time to refresh instead of freak-out clean.

… visitors as an opportunity to offer hospitality instead of stress.

… cancelled plans as a chance to relax.

… and, of course, rain as mud puddles in the making.

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“You are what you are and you are where you are because of what has gone into your mind. You change what you are and you change where you are by changing what goes into your mind.”  -Zig Ziglar

FireCracker often says things like “I promise I will be very careful,” when emptying out the bottom of the Dorito bag into her mouth while wearing a white shirt. Or “Not ever, ever.”

Since I’ve learned that absolutes – words like always and never – can be harmful in an instance like discussing trash-taking-out habits with my husband; and since I want her to understand the value of her integrity (try explaining that to a three-year-old), I’ve been trying to have conversations about the importance of choosing our words with FireCracker.

And then came the dress.

Since her three-year-old Parent’s Day Out program is tonight, last night at bed time, I casually asked her if she wants to wear a dress that was handed down by one of my cousin’s kids. Well, it took a whole ten minutes to talk her out of waiting until morning once I showed it to her.

(I should mention that she is the kind of kid who doesn’t forget anything, and thinks an impromptu tea party is the perfect occasion for sparkles, a skirt and some jewels.)

Fast forward to today, I put the dress on her. After calling Daddy, spinning around enough to wear a hole in the kitchen floor, and attempting to FaceTime with Grandma to show off the dress, her excitement wore down a little.

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And by a little, I mean she only dubbed it “the most beautiful dress in the world.”

She even happily obliged to wear a bib at lunchtime, two years after swearing the things off as evidenced by her daily throwing them across the room. I just thought the bib would be easier than the alternative … changing out of the dress.

Until it happened. The dress caught a glob of ketchup. I calmly explained that she had to take the dress off so I could wash it, and she couldn’t wear it for her nap anyways.

“But you said I could wear it to the program. You said. You promised. You said I could wear it forever.”

(We’re working on the exaggeration, too. It’s not like she learned that from anyone she spends any time with. There was just that one time I heard “for better … or for a copper farmhouse sink,” in the pause of our wedding vows.)

Anyways, enter some WWF-style combat wrangling to get the dress off (And there was that time when the chiropractor asked me if I’d been in a major accident to mess my spine up. Nope, I just have a three-year-old.), and you’d never guess she can be shy.

“Nooooooooooo. It can’t get wet. You will ruin it. But, but it’s the most beautiful dress in the world. Did you hear me say that? I said it’s beautiful.”

So in case you’ve been wondering what wonderful mothering/spiritual insight I’ve been gleaning in my blogging sabbatical, here it is:

I would really like to start a list of volunteer recruits to take this girl wedding dress shopping.

And while you’re at it, please discourage her from serving ketchup at her wedding.

Although at the rate we’re going, if we have any more weddings to pay for, it may serve as a cheap vegetable.

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I went to the grocery store and ran some errands the other day without my kids. Since we have a pretty tight grocery budget and I meal plan for a month at a time, I feel like I backtrack through the store a lot. On this particular day, I just knew I was taking forever. I was trying to get home to the kids so my hubby could leave, and it wasn’t working out.

When I got back to the car and looked at the time, I realized I hadn’t even taken that long. It’s because I didn’t have the kids! I’m not exactly known for my promptness anyways, but, throw two kids who can’t buckle themselves … or feed themselves … and a lot of times, both can’t walk for themselves, and everything is just s-l-o-w-e-r.

Take breakfast for instance. What used to be a mad-dash to pour the cereal and milk in a bowl and rush to my car, has now turned in to an hour-long affair filled with ‘And now what can I have next to eat?’ You’d think my girl was training to be the next Michael Phelps the way she can put down food … when she wants to, that is.

(And, yes, I ate cereal on the way to work … almost daily. And spilled it more than once. I do not recommend this. However, it is slightly better than cracking an egg you thought was hard boiled over your dash. Oops.)

After breakfast, we go feed our animals. Again, FireCracker wants to help with and Smiley wants to watch.

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She spills the feed. I bite my tongue. She asks questions. For the third time. I sigh. The day drags on, and I can’t even go to the bathroom by myself, because Doc McStuffins is following me singing “Time for your checkup.”

On our way in for lunch, we walk past the garden.

“Hey, look! The peas are growing. There’s the rhubarb,” FireCracker excitedly chimes.

Those are the peas that she helped me plant the time she was more interested in filling my trench with worms than dirt. They’re leaning a little now in the wind; they need their fence finished so they can keep climbing and growing.

Just like the peas have changed in the blink of an eye, I’m aware that my girls do too. Sometimes I don’t see it because they’re always with me, and a lot of our days are filled with the same, day in, day out. But having them and having been forced to slow down has taught me a few things. Here’s just a touch of what I’ve learned by living my life a little slower with kids.

Slowing down fosters independence. Fire Cracker has been potty trained for almost a year now. Up until a couple months ago, I’d been doing most of the dirty work for her, accompanying her to the toilet and cleaning her up. It’s been easier for me to wipe her and wash my hands than to lift her up, scrub her hands for her and then clean up the mess she made in the water. I finally realized I can’t send her to kindergarten without knowing how to do the whole potty process, so I found a stool that has lasted more than three days. I showed her how to step up, turn on the water, and wash her own hands after going. One morning she shouted from the toilet, “Mom, why am I wiping my own self?”

That’s obviously an important life skill. But when I’m in  a hurry, I’ve caught myself dressing her, putting her shoes on or spoon feeding Smiley instead of letting her figure it out. I don’t want to stifle their ability or their pride in facing a challenge and figuring it out for themselves.

Slowing down gives me a new filter. We picked some flowers the other day on a walk. At FireCracker’s insistence, we stopped and plucked all 82 of them. When we sat down to supper, my husband commented on the intricate design and beauty of the flowers. They were just ditch flowers I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed had I not taken the time to stoop down to my kid’s level.

Slowing down decreases materialism.  Don’t get me wrong, I love to shop and even going to the grocery store makes me a little giddy (you really don’t have to feel bad for me!). But with two kids in tow, it’s harder to up and go to the mall, and when I do, it never fails we spend more time on the merry go round than in the store. Being home with the kids, we go less places and create more fun in our backyard or on our bikes or with blanket forts. I am working on a list of local places to experience and fun things to do at home with the girls for summer, but to them, it’s about the fun to be had, not the things we need.

Slowing down creates relationships. It’s so funny to hear the things my older daughter comes up with sometimes when I take the time to put my phone down and just talk to her while we’re eating lunch. Entertaining her thousand questions and then turning around and listening to her rabbit trail of a three-year-old answers reminds me just how important it is to talk and to listen. 

I’ll admit, I’m usually still late and often feel like I’m rushing. But these days, I’m trying to take an extra minute to see life through little eyes.

Five minute Friday {I} Mess

I blog about the pretty, but really my life is a mess. Trying to keep the water in the sink and the shoes in the closet and the clothes in the hamper, somehow they end up a mess anyways.

It’s been a rainy, cold, yucky week. My daughter asks if she can jump in the mud puddles. I say yes, but when I turn my back, she’s face-planted in the mess. Just one more to clean up.

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It’s not just the mud and dishes and laundry that I clean. It’s my heart. Ridding it of bitterness and jealousy and disappointment and unmet expectation, I’m free to let myself be a part of the mess.

One of my favorite childhood memories is making ‘groundhog soup’ out of sticks and leaves and mud. Now it’s a story I tell my daughter at bedtime.

Dropping the need to impress and control, I take in her mud soaked cheeks. And instead of being mad, I just grab my camera.

I scoop her up, her three-year-old limbs spilling out of my arms. And we role play like she’s Anna from Frozen. I’m Kristoff, and I’m carrying her. She almost missed her fun, and I almost missed this.

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{I’m linking up with Lisa Jo Baker for Five Minute Friday. Today, the prompt is mess, if you haven’t already guessed. Goodness, I never thought I’d do a writing prompt post-graduation!}

Oh how I admire people who are easygoing and flexible. On this front, that means I don’t admire myself. Like at all. I tend to get a little grumpy when things go less than the way I planned. Take this week for instance.

Our trip to the doctor for the girls’ one-and three-year appointments consisted of two potty stops on our normally half-hour drive. After a check in (by me) and something like a circus training (by kids) that took fifteen minutes due to upgrading to digital records and an insurance switch, the girls saw the doctor. Somehow, we walked out with more tears from the child who didn’t have three shots and two blood draws than from the one who did.

Since I couldn’t get all my grocery shopping done before their appointment (due to multiple potty stops), I had to stop again on my way home. (I don’t recommend going to the grocery twice in one day with two cranky kids, just in case you would ever consider this.)

While I was unbuckling Smiley, FireCracker pulled down her pants in the car and announced that she had to potty “right this very now.”

(This is why I always carry a kid potty in the car.)

Not having quick access to wipes, I wiped her down with a the window shammy I keep under my seat.

This is my life. This is my day that consists of feeding little people and wondering how in the heck the doctor’s office expects me to fill out six forms while corralling two kids onto the scale and away from the doctor’s tools and grocery shopping twice and kissing boo boo’s and feeding them all over again. Not bad … just different than I had planned.

With the emotion of a Midwest Spring (ever changing), I wondered how in the heck people do simple and necessary things like go to the store with kids … at least with my kids.

Even still, on the other hand, I’m grateful my kids are healthy enough to have the energy to beg for popsicles, and that I have all day to take them to town. Even if it does take all day.

I got to ride in the planter with Matt on Sunday night. For the few minutes it took to plant the small patch that surrounds our home, looking up at the nightlight in the girls’ window, I drifted back to my high school self.

Determined to win the state FFA essay contest, I read all the farm papers my dad subscribed to cover to cover. I came across a regular columnist who, on that particular day, was talking about doing chores with her kids. She said she had the best job in the world – mom, farm wife and writer – and I agreed.

Although life has looked a little different than I planned (I didn’t ever dream of broken pipes and shattered expectations and too-busy schedules and having to put the groceries back on the shelf because we under budgeted), in so many ways it’s more than I planned.

(Kind of like when your husband asks you to make that casserole again that you first thought might be kind of iffy.)

I think back to that farm column from nine years ago. I now am a mom. I am a farm wife, even if we just have our few acres and handful of livestock. I am a writer. I even have an article coming out that includes the sentence “Normal testicles and a high scrotal circumference is directly related to the buck’s fertility,” to prove it. (I had to spell check a couple of those words.) Ah, living the dream, writing about goat anatomy!

But really I am.

I get to work in the comfort of my own home on my own time. My kids get to experience the wonder of growing and raising their own food. I never have to miss their first words or first steps or the joy of them discovering something new. We have room to roam. We don’t have everything we want, but we have plenty more than we need. My days and my life usually doesn’t go like I’ve planned, but I’ve come to realize that’s a good thing. I’ve also come to realize there’s a better plan.

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Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish immeasurably more than we might ask or imagine.                                                                          Ephesians 3:20

God promises to give us more – to an extent that we can’t even measure – than we imagine. Even in the trials I wouldn’t have ever picked: in wearing slippers in my house for a solid year because we just had sub-floors and in job change and losing a bunch of money when we didn’t have any to start with and in feeling isolated when I first had my babies, he gave me exactly what I needed and he grew me to where I didn’t ever think I’d be. And the good far, far outweighs the ‘bad.’

Now we’re off to feed the pigs and chicks and bake monster cookies at FireCracker’s request … and probably ignore most of my To Do list. If the phone calls don’t all get made and the floor is still littered with breakfast, I know I’ll feel unsettled. But today, I also know there’s more.

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