Friday, May 30, 2014

For My Father

My Dad's birthday is today, and you guys know he is one of my favorite people ever (and several of yours too!)

He will be enormously embarrassed by this. But.

Instead of getting you another button down shirt, I thought I would write this for you. (Oh wait, I did buy a button down shirt.  Whoops).

Corey and Griffin

Dear Daddy (Am I getting too old to call you that now that I have gray hair?  Surely not),

I know we are not a demonstrative family.  I know too much emotion makes you uncomfortable (hence the Door County restaurant recommendations as you walked me down the aisle, ha!).  But I also have always known how much you love us.  Because I've watched you.

I've watched you leave work early in the afternoon every Wednesday of my whole childhood, an entire fifteen years worth, to sit in rush hour traffic for two hours one way, so that you could spend 90 minutes with Kiernan and I, and then drive the hour plus back home.  You never missed, not once.  Not when you had a big case going to trial.  Not when our mother spent 20 of that 90 minutes yelling at you about something.  Not when you were locked out.  Not even when we were awful teenagers.  I know you must have been so tired of that drive.  You must have made sacrifices at the office.  You must have been so frustrated.  But as a child, I never knew, because you never complained.  All I ever knew was how much you missed us.  I watched, and I learned love, and endurance, and the importance of priorities.

I watched you when I moved in with you guys as a teenager.  You sat me down and told that you weren't going to make up a whole lot of rules, because I'd had enough of that in my life, and I was a responsible kid.  You told me that I was expected to do well at school and to never drink and drive.  And beyond that, you trusted me.  And that was more effective than a book full of rules, because I wanted to be worthy of your trust.  I watched, and I learned respect.

I've watched you put us through college.  You gave us money to go get dresses for sorority formals, big dates, rush.  You bailed me out when I overdrew my checking account.  Again.  And you never complained once.  But Rohini told me that you didn't buy yourself a new suit for work the whole time we were in college, so that we could have all those silly dresses.  I watched, and I learned selflessness and sacrifice.

I've watched you as you disagree with some of my adult choices.  I know you must still see me as a baby, no matter how old I get.  You line up all your arguments to see if you can change my mind, but once you know that you can't, you never mention it again, even if it becomes obvious that you were right.  (The longer I live, the more I see how often you have always been right).  I watched, and I learned acceptance, and humility, and grace.

I watched you sit through Notting Hill, at the theater, seven times.  Once on a trip to Europe.  And you never even tried to change our minds about the movie choice.  And I learned cheerfulness.  And perseverance, ha!  And patience again.

I've watched you always keep learning.  Your "to-read-for-fun" pile looks like a college syllabus.  You have always made it to the gym, no matter what.  You are still friends with your college roommates.  I know now that those things don't just happen, they take a real effort.  I watched, and I learned to make sure I keep something just for me, to remember who I was before all these babies.  And those things have rescued me many, many times over.

I can't tell you how often I ask myself how you would handle a situation, especially with my kids, and then try to follow your example.  You are so much better than I am at relaxing and knowing what is important.  I don't remember you ever raising your voice, not once.  Watching you parent Aidan and Indira is one of the greatest gifts of my life, because I get to see you how much you love us, and them.

When I was growing up, Jeanne always used to say "You're just like your father."

I would be so lucky.

Happy Birthday Daddy.  I love you with my whole heart.  You are one of the best men I know.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

When I Was a New Wife

I was at a party the other day, and ended up talking for a while to a girl who was about to get married.  She was so sweet and earnest in her anxiety about being a good wife and what that might mean, that she made me remember when Seth and I were newly married.  I had very different ideas of what it meant to be a good wife at that time than I do now, with all my infinite wisdom gathered during eight years of marriage.  (Kidding, people, kidding.  Like Grandpa said, 8 years is a long way away from 65 years like him and Grandma).

Back when I was a new wife:

* I ironed our sheets (yes, really).  I wanted to do everything Martha Stewart said a good housekeeper did.  I thought that she knew everything about running a home.  Now I realize that she is a good businesswoman, not a good home-maker.

* I thought that I was too special to do my husband's laundry (I'm ashamed to admit this, but it was true) or clean his bathroom.  I thought he needed to be responsible for his own needs.  I didn't realize that he was responsible for almost every important thing, outside our house, and that his work allowed me to be responsible for things inside our house, which is exactly where I wanted to be.

* I used to change out our seasonal decorating on the first of every month.  On the dot.

* I thought budgets were for uptight, annoying people who never had any fun and wore ugly clothes.  And yet, despite the money we were making and having several less kids than we do now, we sometimes ran out of money at the end of the month.  Huh.

* I got bored at home sometimes.  BORED.  I am never bored now.  There is almost always something that need my attention.  Sometimes I get restless, or lazy, or I don't want to do the work that needs to be done, but I am never bored.

* I was annoyed when my husband came home 15 minutes "late" for dinner.  Now, during picking and planting, he isn't home for dinner or weekends for weeks at a time.  Lesson learned.

* I thought I was literally always right.  Yes, seriously.  I thought I should always get my way (because I was right.  Obviously).  Now I realize that when we have a difference of opinion, my ultimate goal is a happy life for my family.  Don't get me wrong, if I think my way is best for everyone, I will still make sure Seth knows it.  But back then, when I said "best", what I meant was best for me.

*On that same note, I had no idea how selfish I am until I got married.  Oh my lord, the selfishness.  Poor Seth.  He is not naturally selfish. At all.  He is a patient man.

* I thought people really wanted you to bring fancy food when they asked you to bring a dish to pass.  After a few rounds of things like seared tuna crostini that got politely pushed around the plate, I finally figured out that what people really want is what their mother would have made, just better and fresher.

* I scrubbed my kitchen floor on my hands and knees, even when I was hugely pregnant.  Now I give the kids a couple of Clorox wipes and let them ice skate around.  Good enough is good enough.  Five children will really beat the perfectionism out of you, I promise.

*I was scared my in-laws (the nicest people in the world, I promise) couldn't love me the way I was, because we were so different. (Did I understand this about myself at the time?  Of course not).  So I had a massive chip in my shoulder, and I pretty much dared them to challenge me with my sweeping pronouncements about how Seth and I were going to live our life. And they never did, not once. Thank God they saw through my stupidity and loved me anyway, because they are two of my favorite people in the world, and they are truly my family too now.

It has been an adventure.  :)

Long story short, be gentle with yourselves, new brides.  You will make plenty of mistakes, and you will do plenty just right too.  There is no one way to be a good wife, but there are lots of ways to be the woman your family needs.  You will find your way.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Life in a Country Song

Okay so some of you probably know that despite my city roots, I am a big country music fan.  I thought it would be interesting to compare country song lyrics to my reality here on the farm, so this is Day 1 of a new series.  I'm taking suggestions for other songs, if you get the itch.

Pie is apropos of nothing, except people in the country love pie.

First choice is: "Where I Come From" by Montgomery Gentry.  This song hit number 8 on the Billboard Charts, so obviously it spoke to a lot of people.  But it is accurate?  Official lyrics in black, my commentary in blue.

"Where I Come From"

Don't you dare go runnin' down my little town where I grew up
And I won't cuss your city lights (not true, they still will.  People around here tend to think the city is where you go to get raped and killed.  On Michigan Avenue.)
If you ain't ever took a ride around
And cruised right through the heart of my town
Anything you say would be a lie (Nah, you could take a pretty decent stab at it and get close)
We may live our lives a little slower (Good gravy, yes)
But that don't mean I wouldn't be proud to show ya' (definitely true!)

Where I come from
There's an old farm boy out turning up dirt (Yup.  Everyday.  Toddler boy and country boy heaven).
Where I come from
There's a preacher man in a cowboy shirt (Yes again.  People here don't wear suits much.  Or ever).
Where I come from
When a couple of boys fight in the parking lot
No, nobody's gonna call the cops (Totally 100% true.  Our little town has one officer.  No one would bother to call for a fight that everybody would know all the participants in anyway).
Where I come from

See that door right there, man I swear
It ain't never been locked (we don't even own housekeys.  Seriously).
And I Guarantee that it never will
That old man right there in the rocking chair
At the courthouse square I'll tell you now (there are actual downtowns here, which is awesome)
He could buy your fancy car with hundred dollar bills
Don't let those faded overalls fool ya
He made his million without one day of schoolin' (This took me an embarrassingly long time to learn.  People in Chicago with money are easily identifiable, if you know what you're looking for.  People here, you will never ever know by how they live, what they drive, what they wear....etc.  Make no assumptions)

Where I come from
There's a pickup truck with the tailgate down (yes)
Where I come from
The pine trees are singing a song of the south (not exactly south)
Where I come from
That little white church is gonna have a crowd (always.  It's the first thing people ask, "Where do you go to church?")
Yeah, I'm pretty damn proud of where I come from.

Where I come from
There's a big ole' moon shining down at night (the sky here is incredible, truly).
Where I come from
There's a man done wrong gonna make it right (yup.  If you live in a small town, it will become very important to correct your mistakes, because everyone knows everything).
Where I come from
There's an old farm boy out turning up dirt
Where I come from
There's a preacher man in a cowboy shirt
Where I come from
When a couple of boys fight in the parking lot
No, ain't nobody gonna call the cops

Yeah, that river runs across that Oakland rock
Where I come from
Where I come from

Song accuracy to my real life in a small town: 95%.  Only because we're not from the South.  :)  Nice work, Montgomery Gentry.

Monday, May 12, 2014

How Do You Run Errands With a Big Family? Medicated. Just Kidding. Kind of.

Hi, Friends!

You guys have asked me some good questions, so I thought I'd try to tackle one finally.

Brace yourself, I'm going to boss you around now.  :)

No, seriously.

(And also, there are just totally random kid pictures in this post.  You're welcome).

How do you go to the *doctor, grocery, pool, church, etc* with all five kids?

Well really, the answer varies a little bit by location, but some things carry true throughout.  First, we deliberately have trained our children to behave in certain ways that make taking them out in public possible for one adult.  The biggest thing underpinning all our activities is probably obedience.  I know people my age tend to shy away from that kind of parenting, sometimes with good reason, but for safety's and sanity's sake, the bottom line in my house is that someone has to be in charge, and that person has to be me (or my husband).  With so many kids under a certain age, there is no room for a kid to decide to do whatever they feel like.  It's just plain dangerous.  Obedience in our house means an immediate, complete, and cheerful response.  I know this sounds incredibly strict, and it is, but it's actually not difficult or harsh.  We don't beat them or anything.  :)  We have just always consistently trained them that they must do what I ask of them, and for the most part, they do.  Please understand, I am well aware that my children are a work in progress, and if you know us in real life, you absolutely will see them mess up.  But they know the standard of behavior required, and we generally don't have too many long-term issues on that front.  (For example, I don't have to be physically touching my kids to make them stay with me in a parking lot, crowded store, etc).  If anyone is interested, I can go into the "how" of making this happen some other time.

Second, as I just mentioned, we are really clear with the kids about the standard of behavior required in different situations.  We train them at home by rehearsing different scenarios, and asking them what they should do.  Try role-playing with the kids about "if this, then what?"  I also always go over the rules of a situation in the car on the way there.  Every.single.time.  (My oldest is sick to death of hearing all that, but it helps remind the younger kids what to do).  

I had no clue that training was essential to successful parenting when my oldest was a toddler.  I had never seen anyone parent that way.  I thought good behavior would just happen, and I was frustrated when it didn't.  (Hint: it didn't).  Being intentional about training for our expectations makes all the difference here.  Of course, being intentional also means that you will have to sit down and figure out exactly what your goals are, and exactly what good behavior means in your family.  Every family's priorities are different.  So, for example, in the grocery store, my kids know to stay by my cart, not touch anything on the shelves that we are not going to purchase, and how to use an indoor voice.

Third, be prepared.  I never, ever take the kids anywhere at naptime or when they need to eat.  Never.  Except very special occasions, if it happens during naps, we won't be there.  Why?  Because you are setting the kids up to fail.  You cannot expect good behavior out a child who needs some rest time or a meal.  Unless they are a newborn, they cannot just nap in the grocery cart or the car.  Or rather, they can, but you will be punished for it later.  ALWAYS.

Lastly, prepare yourself.  If you are pushed to your limit for the day already, skip the trip to the store and feed them pb&j.  They will survive!  Even with well-behaved children, many of these outings can still be stressful.  The doctor's office, in particular, can be brutal with a bunch of littles.  I try not to do it with all of them.  (Oh yeah, did I forget that?  If you need help, get help!)  Don't expect it to be easy, and then you won't be resentful when it isn't.  I pretty much still end every trip to the grocery store sweaty and exhausted (this is doubly true if you are pregnant or have a nursing newborn).  Make sure you are mentally prepared.  I try to use what I call my "Mrs. Duggar" voice when I am overwhelmed by an errand.  The more stressed I am, the sweeter and quieter I get.  Why?  Because the kids respond really well to it, and because speaking calmly helps me *feel* calm.  Plus, no one likes to see other parents hollering at little kids.  :)  Also don't forget to make sure YOU are fed and hydrated too.  Always bring a water bottle with you.  You will need it.

And keep emergency lollipops hidden in your bag, but don't give them out so often that the kids expect it.   :)

These things alone make a huge difference in our everyday lives.  The training part can be tiring, but if you are consistent, it will make the rest of life so much easier (well, as easy as going anywhere with a raft of kids is going to be).  When we start to get lazy at my house, we see some backsliding in behavior, and it can be a train-wreck.  It is SO much better to force myself to be consistent than to deal with the consequences.

There are plenty of more experienced mamas out there to get encouragement from, and I would love to hear from you guys in the comments!  This is just what works for me.  You know what works best for your family, as always.

And if you took them all to the pool alone today, go pour yourself a drink.  You earned it.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Exciting News

No, I'm not pregnant.  :)

This is something I honestly thought I would never be saying.  Ever.  And I am scared to death, but I am also so excited to tell you guys that I am opening my own Arbonne business!

But WHY?!
I never ever thought that I would ever do any kind of sales.  I hate pressuring people and I hate trying to sell ANYTHING.  But I do I love to share things that I find that work for me, especially when I am shocked.  Here's how this all came about:

I started using Arbonne products about three years ago, after Henry was born.  I had a friend at church who had lost her baby weight with Arbonne protein powder and other nutritional products, and she looked amazing!  I am hypoglycemic, so I have to be very careful how I eat.  After asking her a ton of questions about the sugars and carbs in the powder, I took the plunge and ordered some for myself.  Not only did the protein shakes I made with it not bother my hypoglycemia, but I lost the 20 pounds that I had been trying to lose without success before!  (This is how I lost the weight after Griffin too, FYI).

Okay, so I liked two or three things.  No big deal.  I still wasn't interested in even hosting a party.  Because I don't do that, right?  Well.  As time passed, I tried and used more and more Arbonne products, including makeup, face wash, moisturizer....the list goes on.  And I truly loved every single one.  Guys, I am super particular.  I have tried all the high-end makeup and skin care brands.  And often, I liked the Arbonne product better. I was surprised, to say the least.  So I finally asked my friend Nikki to do a spa night for me at my house, so we could get a chance to try more products.  We had the best night laughing and getting facials, with no high pressure sales junk.  Just foot soaks and facials and wine.  That night, Nikki had us try the new Genius pads as part of our facials.  I liked them right away, but they are pretty pricey, so I didn't add them to my order.  By the time I woke up the next morning, my skin looked so incredible that I emailed her immediately and ordered.  And guess what?  That exact thing happened to three other girls at the party-we all emailed her the next morning to add them to our orders!

Similarly, we tried the Skin Conditioning Oil at the spa night.  My older daughters both struggle with cracked and bleeding hands.  We have tried everything, even prescriptions, to try to heal them.  I bought the Skin Conditioning Oil that night, and two applications later, my girls' hands weren't cracked anymore.  I know this sounds like no big deal, but we had tried EVERYTHING.  We have been trying to heal this for years.  Again, I was blown away.  Why had nobody told us about this?  (Well, the truth is, someone had.  I had just been resisting!)

In the meantime, over the years, I had watched Nikki's business grow incredibly.  She was earning great money and having FUN while still being able to keep her kids and her husband her main focus.  I have never been tempted to work since I quit seven years ago.  Not once.  I am completely happy being at home full-time and homeschooling.  But I truly believe Arbonne products are amazing, and not enough people have gotten the chance to try them.  (I had never even heard of Arbonne three years ago!)  I decided to become a consultant first and foremost because I think these are safe and excellent products-better than any others I've tried, and I want everyone to know it!  I love sharing things that work for me!  (That's one of the reasons I started blogging in the first place!)  Secondly, I saw what owning her own business had done for Nikki and some other girls I know.  I think this opportunity can change your family's life, without you having to go out and leave your kids.  I wouldn't have believed it, but I saw it happen again and again with my own eyes.  Most of you know that I went to law school, and I have the massive loans to show for it.  I want to free us from that debt and help my husband grow our farm!

I completely understand if you are skeptical.  I certainly was.  I HATE being sold stuff.  So it is a measure of how special Arbonne is that I have decided to sell it myself.

What exactly does all this mean for you guys?  Nothing, if you don't want it to.  I am still going to blog here like always, and I promise it's not going to become a sales pitch everyday.  I will mention to you when I think certain products are amazing or special, but that's it.  If you are interested in anything Arbonne, email me and I will get you set up with samples or an order.  (Arbonne has a great 45 day money back guarantee-try anything for 45 days).  If you would like to host your own small spa night with facials, let me know-I would LOVE to come help you!  We had such a great time when I did mine here.  If you are interested in building your own business as a consultant, I would love to talk to you about that too.  Feel free to share this post or my contact info to spread the word!  (You can also order online here: Arbonne.  You will need to enter my consultant number, which is: 14882635)

Thanks for listening friends.  This is something new for me, and I am so grateful for your support.

Arbonne info: all products are vegan, gluten-free, mineral oil-free, and artificial fragrance and color-free.  Their tag line is "pure, safe, and beneficial", and they take that very seriously.  If you have any questions about ingredients, feel free to contact me.

Mothering, and Mother's Day

Two classic reposts, for any new readers:

Teach Me to Number My Days

and on Mother's Day:

On Expectations

Thank you for being here and sharing!

Thursday, May 1, 2014


Easter 2014

So.  Let's pretend I didn't just take a yearlong break from blogging, shall we?  :)  For all of you wondering out there, Baby #5 seems to be the place where things start falling off the proverbial plate.  There have been so many things I want to talk to you about, and I wrote posts over and my head.  While I was walking a cranky baby.  Or listening to a beginning reader (for the love!).  Or folding laundry (someone asked me the other day: "Did you know that five kids come with a lot of laundry?"  Um, no.  I never noticed.  And they're expensive too you say?  Huh.  Sidenote: I love people).  Anyway, incredibly, posts written in my head never make it you here.  Strange.  :)

Quick update on us:

Olivia turns 9 in June.  Amelia turns 7 this month.  Charlotte is 5.  Henry is 3.  And Griffin is 17 months.  Seth and I are as young as we'll ever be.

We are still farming with Seth's family, which is an amazing blessing and a huge challenge.  We adore living close to my in-laws and Seth loves working with his dad.  Farming is his/our dream, and we are so grateful to have the opportunity to do it with people we love and respect.  Having family that we see everyday is such a gift, for us and the kids.  I didn't grow up around extended family, and I am constantly surprised how much I love it.

 Farming is still a big challenge to both of us too.  The spring and fall bring long, long, long hours 7 days a week for Seth, and so no Daddy at home for us.  Seth has worked really hard to learn to balance a big family and the demands of farming.  The kids and I are still working on rising to the occasion.  :)  The hours around bedtime can get a little hairy.  And honestly?  I just plain miss my husband sometimes.  On the other hand, I have really seen my kids pull together to make our house run better, serve their siblings, and learn that they can work through days that seem rough.

We are also still homeschooling.  Olivia is in 3rd grade this year, Amelia in 1st, and Charlotte Pre-K4.  Henry and Griffin mostly just destroy the house, er, play during school-time.  We joined a Classical Conversations group this year, and it was a great decision.  I am constantly amazed at what they are learning. CC pushed the kids much further academically than I ever would have, and the girls LOVED it.  Our community has been so giving and welcoming to us.  If you're thinking about joining CC and on the fence, I highly encourage you to try it.  I thought about it for almost three years before we joined, and I so wish I had done it sooner!

Olivia, 8
Olivia is still into horses and riding, and reading.  She learned to sew this year, and she is constantly turning out projects.

Amelia, 6
Amelia is definitely our animal girl-she enjoys anything to do with animals, dead or alive.  :)  She still loves zebras and the color orange.

Charlotte, 5
Charlotte continues to be our firecracker.  She learning to read, and loves ballet class and doing whatever her sisters do.  All three girls are going to be in the ballet The Enchanted Attic with our local studio later this month.

Henry, 3
Henry is absolutely obsessed with tractors and trucks.  Since he was a tiny thing, he has loved spending the day with Seth at the farm.  People always ask if we encouraged him, but I truly believe it's genetic.  Our playroom has turned from pink and dolls to green and John Deere.

Griffin, 1

Baby Griffin has been walking for quite awhile now, and so has progressed to climbing anything and everything.  He chases after his siblings and loves to be outside.  Not really talking yet (perhaps because of the four other children who never stop!)  He is wearing me out...I had forgotten how busy the toddler boy stage is!
Seth has continued to experiment with smoking meats and making bbq.  The farm entered a local bbq contest last summer and took home some awards...his stuff is GOOD ya'll.   I started running again last year and ran a half marathon last November.  This is the longest I haven't been pregnant since 2004 (yes, seriously), and I'm started to almost feel like myself again.  (A much busier, crazier self, but still...)

Christmas Crazy, 2013

I *think* I've hit all the major points from the past year, but I could never really explain what life is like around here.  I feel so, so lucky.  I truly don't know why I have been so blessed with this life and these babies.  At the same time, both motherhood and farming are very stretching experiences for me, and I am operating outside my comfort zone about 100% of the time.  Some days feel really hard, but there is so much joy here.  I am grateful.