When headlines hit home

The headlines in the news lately have been overwhelming, to say the least. Whether it’s plunging markets, crop disasters, social unrest or just the “regular” ridiculousness that seems to be coming from the highest office in our country, it’s fair to say that for the most part I’ve been avoiding reading the headlines.

Until last week.

There was a blurb that caught my eye…and then it caught my heart.

Most of the time, when I catch the headlines, especially those with medical focus, I hardly glaze over it before I move on. The world of news is a tad over the top these days…and truthfully, I prefer not to drown myself in the negativity that seems to be occurring. But last week one headline had my full attention:

“For some people, too much protein can be deadly – “

Oh wow. That hits home.

What Eli has been diagnosed with is a urea cycle disorder. This could be his story. This is what we fight against.

Every. Single. Day.

George

Yep. This pretty well sums him up.

Every meal.

And it’s exhausting. And there are times when we aren’t as vigilant as we should be. But after reading about a bodybuilder who didn’t listen to her body soon enough, I’ll be on guard. I’m just grateful for the wake-up call.

Because wake-up calls are a lot easier to answer then the ones that end in tragic news.

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Why being a farm mom rocks

I have four boys…four rambunctious, crazy, wild boys. I thank God every day that we live on a farm, because I’m not sure town could handle them. Or maybe it’s that I’m not sure I could handle them in town. Without frequent visits from officers. And maybe child protective services. And calls from neighbors. And…well, I digress.

So how does being a farm mom rock? Let me count the ways:

  1. I get to deep-clean often. Like when someone brings in a bucket of toads. And drops them. In the kitchen. Near the stove. And fridge. And I’m too slow.

    The Toad Catcher

    These are what we found right away…a few had escaped.

  2. I get new utensils and dishes often. Mostly because all of mine disappear throughout the winter and don’t reappear until it thaws outside and they’re found it what used to be a snow fort.
  3. I don’t have to talk to them about the birds and the bees. They learn about it every spring, usually with commentary from their uncle.
  4. I know when spring is upon us. Because it’s warm enough to pee outside. With pants ALL the way down.

    Warmer weather

    But the best sign of spring? Outdoor bathroom is open for business.

  5. My kids will be expert drivers by the time the state says it’s OK for them to drive…just don’t ask me how they got to know so much.
  6. They understand the weather, and what it means to the farm. Rain doesn’t mean an event is ruined…it means the whole family gets to join in!
  7. Math is no longer some mysterious language that will never be used. They understand the importance of measurements (such as acres), area (field size), volume (bin capacity), etc. Math and science are definitely living and breathing on the farm!
  8. We learn creative problem solving – like how to get the wild barn cat out of the house without breaking everything.
  9. They also learn about teamwork – so Mom doesn’t find out about #8.
  10. They also learn about trust – and that a 3-year-old isn’t so good at it. See #9.

    laughter, children

    That little one on bottom left? Yeah, he’s not so good at secrets.

No matter what, these boys are my world. And I’m glad I can raise them in the best environment possible – our farm. They learn so much, but even more so, they learn how to become better people. They respect the land, understand hard work, and know where their blessings come from – I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I’m sure I could add hundreds more, but I’d rather hear about your reasons why you love being a farm mom…or maybe why you’re glad you’re not!

Finding Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving was never a holiday that my family celebrated all that much. The timing was usually off, coming at the end of deer season, and we would have other things to do – like cutting up deer, butchering pigs, mixing, stuffing and smoking sausage – whatever was needed to be done in preparation for winter. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not that we didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, we would always stop for a meal – it just wasn’t necessarily a holiday that brought together all of the family from the four corners of the Earth. Just those of us lucky enough to still be home.

So I have to admit that I’m a little distracted by the hubbub that’s being caused by the Thanksgiving holiday and Black Friday hours. Now, don’t get me wrong…I understand the importance of time with family. And I know how important it can be to have a reason to get together. But let’s take a little closer look at it.

Future Farmer

Thanksgiving isn’t just for one day…it’s for every day.

I’m now going to read to you every scripture that talks about God’s commandment for Thanksgiving:

 

 

That’s right…not once in the Bible does God say anything specifically about Thanksgiving, and yet our society is up in arms about the unfairness of businesses being open on that day in particular.

And yet…Exodus 20:8-11. 8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

Oh, and then there’s Deuteronomy 5:12-14. 12 “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do.”

So why is it that we are so willing to stand up for a holiday that celebrates an event that should be done every single day – and yet we are so willing to go against what God has specifically commanded us to do?

Now, don’t get me wrong – as a farmer’s daughter, a farmer’s wife, and a mother of four, I completely understand that life throws you curve balls on occasion. Animals need to be fed, people need to eat, crops need to be brought in, and sometimes the only day in which the weather cooperates is Sunday. Truthfully, the only reason I mention it at all is because we need to be aware of the convictions that we have and the reasons that we have them.

Perhaps, instead of criticizing those that make decisions that are different then our own, we should focus on what Thursday is supposed to be all about. Let THAT be our message to share with the world – instead of commercializing the holiday even more.

First of all, why is it that we need one day out of the year to get our families together and give thanks for the gifts we’ve been blessed with? Is this not something we should be doing at a minimum of at least once a day? If not almost every minute of the day? I don’t believe that there is a single person in this church that doesn’t tell God how grateful we are on a regular basis.

We see these gifts every where we look – we just have to be willing to open our eyes. Like we read in Hebrews 12:28, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe…”

I haven’t always been a thankful person. I didn’t grow up in the most prestigious manner. I didn’t have a church family that I felt I belonged to, and my upbringing was unconventional at best. Some may call it the school of hard knocks, I just call it a lesson in reality. You win some, you lose some – and most importantly, only you can decide what your future may bring.

But my outlook and heart had a pretty drastic change following the events that began in the spring of 2009. For those that may not know me that well, that was the year in which our youngest son, Eli, was born.

None of my pregnancies were easy – and I will openly admit that Eli was no different. I had problems with my kidney, as well as undergoing emergency surgery in my fourth month of pregnancy to have my gallbladder removed. I was grateful that there was a planned end in sight, with a c-section scheduled the day after my own birthday. Eli came into the world at 9 pounds, 10 ounces.

As with all of my boys, it was love at first sight. And even though I never once questioned my love for him – I did question his health. For weeks, and then months, I kept having a nagging suspicion that something wasn’t quite right. He developed jaundice late, and it hung on for weeks. He wasn’t gaining weight. I always joked that he looked like the saggy-baggy elephant.

Finally, I took him in to see the on-call doctor – and the events that unfolded from that moment on became a roller coaster for the next 18 months. I shudder to think what may have happened if my family hadn’t pushed for answers. If Eli would have been the oldest instead of the youngest. Would I have been so willing to keep pushing? Would I have listened to my instincts?

But the fact is, none of that matters. And after Eli was diagnosed with his condition, and I saw him finally starting to grow, and develop, and become the child you see before you, I realized that the path we took to get here may not have been the easiest, but I’m grateful for the experience.

You see, we can’t always change the events that happen around us. The diagnoses we receive. The actions of others. The hours that a business sets. But we can change our response to it. We can change our attitude. And with that, we can change the world.

Thursday is Thanksgiving. But true thanksgiving doesn’t happen every year at the end of November. It’s not marred by a business trying to improve their bottom line. It’s not determined by whether or not a family is sitting down for a meal together.

Thanksgiving happens in our hearts – every day. It’s in the gratefulness we feel towards doctors and the advances we’ve been blessed with in science. It’s in the wonder we feel when we watch our families gather. It’s in the strength of a person who faces adversity with tenacity and determination. It’s in the eyes of a 6-year-old who defies the odds that science has set.

Thanksgiving doesn’t happen once a year. And it doesn’t take place at Walmart at 6 p.m. on November 26.

And for that – I am thankful.

Where popcorn leads me…

Today was a rough day. It began pretty decent, work was a little stressful, some funny stuff regarding pork roasts on a sidewalk happened in between, then it was home for supper, a couple-mile run, canning salsa and getting my discussion ready for tomorrow night’s first “Led by the Spirit” meeting at our church…also led by me, funnily enough.

I decided to get going on George’s Cub Scout popcorn sales, because the deadline for signing up for the website is tomorrow. (Yeah, I plan ahead like that.)

I was perusing the site when I stumbled across a few cool things – like Cub Scouts that sell enough popcorn can earn a scholarship! And that popcorn sales online get shipped directly to the customer. And a large chunk of the money from the sales go to local programming. All very cool.

And then it hit me – scholarship. College. Life.

George, summer 2010...we've come a long way, baby!

George, summer 2010…we’ve come a long way, baby!

I’ve been so busy worrying about today, that I’ve somehow forgotten that I need to plan for George’s tomorrow. And then other thoughts started invading my head. Like do we give back the money if George doesn’t make it? Does it qualify for any further education? Even if it’s special needs? How do you even deal with that?

The point being that I used to get involved in these types of things and not even think twice about the meaning behind them. I would plan every day as if they were the same. Yet, nothing is further from the truth.

Yep. This pretty well sums him up.

Yep. This pretty well sums him up.

George is here. He’s making a splash in first grade and we’ll have check-ups at Mayo in November. And I’m going to let him grow up, and make plans – and sell Cub Scout popcorn. And we’ll aim for the scholarship. And wait for the future. And plan. Including a plan for Christmas that will knock his socks off! (Can’t wait to share, but it’s a surprise!)

So I ended the night with a few tears – because my baby is growing up, even when they told me he probably wouldn’t.

What will his Eagle Scout project be? How about living?

If you’d like some Cub Scout popcorn, here’s George’s link – don’t worry if it says “Eli”…that’s his real name. George is just my nickname for him on here, and his dad’s nickname for him all the time. And if you do order, I’ll have George send you a real life thank-you. 

When you worry about a worrier

My oldest child is a worrier. Yes, I know that it’s common for the oldest to take responsibility on, but this is a bit extreme. He worries about things that most children should never even think about – paying bills, ensuring that the cattle are safe, listening to the news, etc.

In fact, just last week we had a discussion that really opened my eyes to his level of concern – he wanted to know about the selective service process, when he needed to start signing up and his likelihood of being drafted. He’s 12.

My oldest son...he has the kindest old soul.

My oldest son…he has the kindest old soul.

I’m guessing that there was a conversation about this topic through health class. I am grateful that he comes to me with his concerns, but I wonder how long he let it bother him before he finally broke down and asked his questions. He sometimes has a hard time sleeping because his head is so full of questions.

I have no desire to change who he is as a person. And I am most certain that his worrying has not reached a level of needing medication. It’s not that he’s incapable of concentrating on anything else when he’s worried…it’s just a distraction.

An idea hit me on Sunday afternoon that I thought may work for him. In fact, I had read about it in a fiction book, but at the time it didn’t occur to me that it may help my son. But now I think it may be just the ticket.

In this particular story (sorry, I cannot remember the name of the book), the character worried about a lot of things. In order for her mind to rest, she would right down the problem, then write down the potential solutions. Nothing was too outrageous to write down. And finding a solution also gave her an outlet to research the problem. She was able to focus better, because she had an immediate source to go to with any problem that she encountered. And she didn’t spend so much time worrying about the “what-if’s.”

And I think this could work beautifully for my son. A journal of sorts. Yet he’d be able to write down the answers to his questions.

Maybe I can help him spend more time enjoying the little things...we all need to do that.

Maybe I can help him spend more time enjoying the little things…we all need to do that.

I’ll keep you posted on how it goes. I’m pretty excited to try this out and see if it works. And I think he is, too.

I never in a million years thought that as a mother I would have to worry about my son’s tendency to worry. But I’m willing to help him in any way possible – because that’s just what mothers do.

I’m there for him. And that’s one thing he’ll never have to worry about.

My letter to George…

My dearest little boy,

I am certain you know how much I love you. If I have said it once today, I have said it a hundred times. You have taught me so much about life, but you have taught me even more about love. I have learned from you to not take time or life for granted, for we never know what tomorrow will bring.

For the last five years I have held you in my arms and protected you from everything that I could. I asked questions when I wasn’t satisfied, I have demanded action when I thought it was needed, and I have fought for what I thought was right for you. And it’s been worth every sleepless night and every tear-filled moment.

George, summer 2010, before we had a diagnosis more than "failure to thrive." This picture sometimes makes me cringe...wishing I could go back and cheer myself on...pushing harder. But you know what they say about hindsight.

George, summer 2010, before we had a diagnosis more than “failure to thrive.” This picture sometimes makes me cringe…wishing I could go back and cheer myself on…pushing harder. But you know what they say about hindsight.

I have spent so much time ensuring that you have a long life…and now it’s time for me to let you live.

Kindergarten. I wasn’t sure this day would come. They’ve said from the beginning that we can’t take the little things for granted. That there’s a chance that some day we’ll have to start over – you may need to learn things over and over again. They’ve warned us about regressions and delays. But they weren’t prepared for you.

They do not know your spirit. But I do.

This is the George that we know and love...he just needed a little help getting to this point. We sometimes slip, and it's  not all roses, but that smile and those eyes make it all worthwhile.

This is the George that we know and love…he just needed a little help getting to this point. We sometimes slip, and it’s not all roses, but that smile and those eyes make it all worthwhile.

You will get on a bus this morning and start a new chapter. And I will have to fight against every fiber in my being to keep you safe with me. The world does not know how to protect you like I do. I can tell them all they need to know, but that does not mean that they will understand what’s on the line. But you will show them.

They will see the light in your eyes, and they will understand. You are not just a little boy going to kindergarten. You are hope. You are love. You are life.

Yep. This pretty well sums him up.

Yep. This pretty well sums him up.

My dearest George, you are meant for great things. Your story was written before time began. You will touch people in ways that they won’t understand for years to come.

You are going to school to learn so many new lessons. But what they don’t know is that you will teach so many as well.

You have faced adversity and tribulations that many could never imagine. And yet, you continue to trust with a loving heart that so freely gives that it sometimes takes my breath away.

Kindergarten. Such a big step. I’ve worked so hard to ensure that you’ve been growing. I forgot that it means that you’re also growing up.

This is what love...and hope...looks like.

This is what love…and hope…looks like.

I do not know what the future holds. And I would be lying to you if I said that I wasn’t scared. And I’ve always promised not to lie to you. Even when something may hurt. And as much as this hurts me, and as unsure as I am, I know that I can not hold you back. Even if I wanted to.

My dearest little boy, as you walk into that school tomorrow, I can only hope to be half as strong as you are. And never mind Mom if her eyes are a little damp, and she holds you just a little longer – I’d hold you forever if I could.

I know it’s just the first day of kindergarten – but I think I know what it feels like to have sent the first mission to the moon. I’ll rest easy once you’ve landed back home.

I love you, little man – to the moon and back.

Mom

It doesn’t take distance

I recently traveled with my boys on our first “real” vacation. It was a blast, and I have to thank Miss A for planning 99.9% of it. I seriously do not know what I did to deserve her, but I thank God every day that she’s been in our lives.

A vehicle of love and fun...no matter where we're going!

A vehicle of love and fun…no matter where we’re going!

After returning, I started thinking about the trip and what it meant to my family. And then a comment was made to me that really got me thinking – do we really need to get away to love each other?

Now, hear me out before you judge what I’m saying.

I love my boys dearly. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for them. And they knew that, whether or not we went away on a vacation. Our relationship did not improve, nor did it change, just by leaving the farm. All that the vacation did was give me some amazing memories and removed a few distractions. It didn’t strengthen my love. It didn’t change how I felt. It wasn’t a magic cure-all.

Because it doesn’t take distance to know how you feel. Your heart knows…whether you travel a mile, or 1,300 of them.

The same can be said for anyone in a relationship, whether it be husband-wife, sisters, friends, etc. You don’t have to go anywhere to make someone feel loved. Does it feel good to sometimes “get away” from it all? Sure. But it shouldn’t change your feelings towards the people you’re with. No, going on a vacation just relieves a few of the pressures. It eliminates that nagging feeling that there’s something else you “should” be doing. It makes it easier to just enjoy the moment. But it doesn’t change the heart.

Do I love my boys more now that we’ve returned? Nope. But I don’t love them any less, either. My love was never based on the place where we were located.

Because the distance between two hearts is no greater than the space you allow.