Unexpected and Unplanned Blessings

 

unexpected post pic

 

My baby turns 11 today!  How is that possible??  I don’t feel old enough to have my youngest child be that old!  And to put a different perspective on it- my youngest brother was 11 when my twins were born!  Crazy how time flies.  I had so many people tell me that when I was a young mom deep in the trenches of babies and toddlers, but I don’t think I really believed them?

Anyway, I’ve been spending the morning reflecting on the day Lindy came into our lives and what my expectations were for that day and for my life in general.  Looking back, I can see a little glimpse now of what God had planned…

So, to give you a background-

I’m a planner and I always had a plan for my life.  I was going to get married in my early 20’s and have my first baby by 25, pop out a few more over the next few years and have this lovely large family of blond, blue-eyed children.  Basically, I wanted to recreate the family my siblings and I had!  I come from a fairly large family (there were 5 of us kids) and everybody in the family (aunts and uncles) also has lots of kids, minimum 3.  I had 20+ cousins on both sides of my family!

Enter real life-

I got married at the ripe old age of 21 (I thought I was so old and mature!) and had the twins at 22 after a horrible pregnancy full of many medical issues.  Reece (my autistic son) had some physical challenges (low muscle tone), but after a year of physical therapy, he seemed fine.  So, when the twins were on the verge of 3 years old, we decided it was time for another.  I got pregnant right away and spent the next 8 months in virtual pregnancy hell.  I had worse complications than I had with the twins (complications with hyperemesis gravidarum) and I was more than happy to see that pregnancy come to an end!  So, on March 23 after 18 hours of pitocin induced labor and an emergency c-section, Lindy Sue came into the world!  And I tell ya, I should never question God or try to give Him orders because He knows what He is doing!  He gave us the exactly perfect child.  She was my saving grace!

You see, during my last trimester, Reece was showing signs of autism and over the weekend that I was in the hospital having Lindy, he completely flipped.  I came home to a blank-eyed boy who wouldn’t sleep, ran around stimming all day and who quit playing with his twin.  It was crazy and heart-breaking and depressing and horrible.  But, I had a little beautiful baby who rarely cried, was always happy, was completely easy going and who was my bright spot in a suddenly dark and confusing world.

Lindy grew up to be have strawberry blond hair (a total surprise inherited from her great-great-aunt!) and bright blue eyes.  She is her sister’s best friend and my baby girl.  She’s shy around others, but a total ham at home, full of one-liners, just like her dad.  She’s not what I had pictured all those years ago when I was telling God how things were going to be!  Nope, God taught me another lesson (He’s all too good at that!) and blessed me with kids that I needed, not the kids that I wanted.

So, on this day, March 23, 2017, I’m giving thanks to Him for the past 11 years with my littlest baby!

What are blessings has God given you that were completely unexpected? Does your family look like you pictured it would? 

 

Why My Kids Don’t Have Chores

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Ok, so technically, we do have chores around our house and farm, but the farm jobs are the only ones we deem “chores.” I have never implemented the “chore chart” idea or assigned anything to anybody.  I’ve often pondered it and once bought an expensive magnet chore chart system at a homeschool convention, but after attempting it for a week, I gave up and a couple years later, I sold it.

Yet, my kids still help me around the house daily.

How do we do it?  Everything I’ve read maintains that assigned chores are the way to go and I’m one of the only moms I know who doesn’t “assign” their kids specific tasks for a specified amount of time.

There are two reasons:

  1.  I’m somewhat lazy and disorganized and I’m not a list fan.
  2.  My kids don’t want assigned chores.

Of course, you say.  What kids want assigned chores?

So, here’s the deal.  My kids are 14 and 11, so I’ve been doing the parenting gig for awhile and while I don’t pat myself on the back often for perceived parenting wins, I think I may have done something right way back in the day when they were toddlers and preschoolers of which I am now reaping the benefits.

Here’s what I did:

They constantly “helped” me around the house every day, all day.

And now, after a decade of it, it’s totally normal for my now big kids to help me when I need it, sometimes without asking (some things are just automatic) and sometimes with asking (but in a cheerful, non-nagging way).  We work together all day.  When we have our weekly deep cleans, they help- no complaining.  When we have meals (which is every day, 3 times a day), they help clean it up, do the dishes, and clean the kitchen- with me.  Sometimes we divide and conquer- “Elisa, you sweep the floor, while Lindy loads the dishwasher and I’m going to switch out laundry.”  It works beautifully.

I asked them a couple months ago if they would rather have assigned jobs or do they like our current non-system.  And you know what?  They liked the status quo.

I think our lack of chores fosters a better sense of actually working together as a family rather than each individual completing an individual job because that what the boss (me) assigned.  Yes, someday they will have jobs in the real world and that might be a scenario for them.  But they will also have families in real world and I think a family home should be a much different place than a work environment.

So, let your littles work with you everywhere in the house (I know it can often seem counterproductive at the time!).  That stage is so short in the grand scheme of things and before you know, you will be seeing the results of your hard work and patience.  Clearing the table isn’t such a chore when you all work together and you can talk and chat and laugh.

And that is why we don’t have “chores.”

 

What do you think?  Do you have a chore system? What is something you did when your kids were little that has benefited you and them now that they are older?

What Are You Scared Of?

What are you scared of?

There’s the usual list of things, I’m sure.  Snakes, spiders, tornadoes, fires, floods, speaking in public, etc.  I generally consider myself pretty tough and daring (I AM a farmgirl, after all!  We pride ourselves on being a tough breed, lol!).  I don’t flinch in the face of most of those.  But there is one thing that absolutely paralyzes me….

FAILURE!

Because of that very real and debilitating fear, I don’t let myself do anything that I think I *might* not be good at.

I have no problem experimenting in my garden, trying a new recipe or even encouraging my husband with new endeavors on the farm.  But, really, I don’t feel like anyone SEES those things.  So if I fail, nobody knows, right?  When I was a kid, I was very hesitant to try anything new in front of anybody.  What if I wasn’t good at it?  What if they laughed at me?  What if they critiqued me and I couldn’t handle it?

So, I became very good at not doing much of anything outside of my safe little box.  This fear followed me to high school.  While it seemed that everyone else was trying different classes or new clubs or new sports, I stuck with my tried and true (which was orchestra.  I played violin and was pretty good at it, so I felt confident in orchestra.)  My junior year, I went out on a limb and joined the debate team, which I discovered I loved!  But… my best friend was already part of the team, so I felt like she paved the way for me.  So, it really wasn’t me 100% by myself trying something out of my comfort zone.

Enter marriage and kids in my twenties.  I married a farmboy and lived on his family farm.  Not a real stretch for me because I, too, grew up on a very similar farm.  Sure I moved across the county line, but it was only 8 miles from my family’s farm and the town that I grew up going to school and shopping in.  So, yeah, no fears to face there.  My life is pretty much just like I wanted it to be, which is a fabulous blessing, I know!  Not everyone gets to live that dream.

But, there are two things that I have been wanting to do and both scare me to the bottom of my toes- one dream I’ve had since I was a teenager and one that started about 10 years ago.

Wanna hear what they are?

OK, here goes…. I want to write and publish a book (my dream since I was a teenager) and I want to have a successful blog (my more recent adult dream)!

What if I fail?????

What if nobody likes them????

Those thoughts pretty much stop me in my tracks.

You know what I realized this week?

So, what!!

So, what if I fail!  So, what if nobody likes my writing!  God knows my dreams and my heart.  If I’m suppose to do those things, He’ll help me.  He does not give me a spirit of fear, right?  I do that all on my own.  So, I’ve been praying and talking to Him about it and I’m going to try my hardest to put myself out there and see what happens…..

 

What are your biggest fears?  What can you do or are doing to confront them?

 

 

When You Don’t Get Your Miracle (Autism Journey)

Ten years ago, our family experienced a sudden shift in our life journey that no one saw coming.  Our son became autistic.  There were subtle warning signs starting when he was about 15 months old, but nothing jarring that really made us question his development.  That’s for another post. But, the fact of the matter is, at age 3 1/2 our only son swirled into autism and our life was changed.

I tend to gravitate towards challenges and I always like to be great at everything I do (or I won’t even attempt it- its a flaw of mine!) and once we had our official diagnosis, I was determined to beat it.  My son would be cured come hell or high water.  We would be one of those success stories.  Besides, having a less-than-perfect son was NOT in my life plan!

I jumped into exploring autism with everything I had.  I read and I researched.  I left no stone, no diet, no supplement, nothing unturned.  We found a bio-medical doctor four hours away.  After a battery of tests, it was determined that he was deficient in a bazillion different vitamins and minerals and he was intolerant to a bazillion different foods.  I ate, drank, breathed and slept autism (I seriously literally dreamed about all the diet and supplements he was on!).  At my ten year high school class reunion, I told everyone that I fully expected him to be cured by the next reunion.  I wasn’t gonna be one of those parents that just let it all go, come what may.  No, by golly, we were gonna beat this thing!!!

Over time, something happened. Or rather didn’t happen.  Our son wasn’t getting better.  We begged and pleaded with God.  I said the same prayer every day, “Lord, please heal him.”  I was doing everything I was supposed to do!  We were on the right diet and were giving him the right supplements.  But, he wasn’t healed.  Oh, we’d have our steps forward, but we had just as many backward.  I kept thinking that there was something else out there, that if we just found the last piece of the puzzle, that it would all be better and we’d have our “normal” son back.  I had our book written in my head.  You know, the one with our family’s picture on the cover where I tell all about our journey and how we healed our son.

But, about 3 years ago, I finally realized it- we weren’t going to be that miracle family.  It just wasn’t going to be us.  Our son would always have “special needs.”  God wasn’t going to grant me my miracle.  After seven years of desperately trying and hoping for that bolt of lightning, I stopped.

Our story doesn’t end there.  I didn’t spiral into depression and I didn’t quit loving our son.  I didn’t stop praising God or question His sovereignty over my life.  Instead, I looked back on our journey and thought about the what-ifs in a different way.  What if he was normal?  What would our life be like?  Would we be a happier family?  Would Jeff and I have a stronger marriage?

You know what?  When I changed my perspective (or perhaps God has changed it for me, slowly working on my over the years), I saw different answers to those questions.  My son and his quirks have made me a better person.  They have given us a stronger marriage.  They have made his sisters more compassionate kids.  They’ve shown me traits (both good and bad) in other people that I didn’t know were there.  Where once autism was the enemy to fight, the one bad thing in a really good life, I have found that autism hasn’t been the enemy.  A cure for it is not the miracle I needed.  God knew all along that for me to grow in my faith, for Jeff and I to become an extremely tight partnership, for my girls to be able to see people in a better light, for our family to be healthier and stronger, He would have to give us something to make that happen.  He chose autism for us.

While I still have hopes for our son to live a “normal” life, I also don’t worry as much about the future with him.  God has seen us through all the time.  He knows what we need and He knows what our son needs.  Who am I to question that?  That is the real miracle.

 

 

Fall Harvest- a view from the combine

About a month ago, this thing called “Fall Harvest” started around here.  On our farm, we grow wheat, milo, soybeans, cotton, hay and have cow/calf pairs.  I grew up on a farm in the neighboring county and we had a similar operation, but without the cows and hay.  Since we are in southern Kansas, we plant our wheat in the fall and harvest it in June.  But the milo, soybeans and cotton all get planted in the spring and get harvested in the fall.  Hence, “Fall Harvest!”

Unlike wheat harvest, which is a fast paced, adrenaline pumping week or two with late nights, fall harvest is somewhat slower paced and drags on for a LONG time!!  Generally though, we love it 🙂

Off and on I have had the privilege of doing this:

combine

I absolutely ADORE getting combine time!!  I grew up operating all the farm equipment (tractors, trucks, the combine).  In fact, when I was little I idolized my dad and wanted to be just like him when I grew up.  I was the biggest tomboy!  As a teenager, I worked all summer long on the farm and whenever I could during the school year.  After going to college in the city, I realized I missed the farm and for my own sanity, NEEDED to live on a working farm for the rest of my life.

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My 9 year old took this picture while riding with me one day.  Yes, those are my arms 🙂

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When your in the combine cab, here’s the view to my left.  This is called a header and it literally combs the crop into what’s called the sickle bar, which cuts the crop off, then a round auger (its the green thing in this picture) pushes the cut plants into the combine.  As a kid, the reel (the black thing with fingers on it) was mesmerizing.  It will literally hypnotize a child and put them to sleep!

We have since finished cutting our beans and have moved back to milo.  If it dries down enough today, my 13 year old daughter and I will get to run the combine some.  I’m suppose to give her lessons so she can run in it, too.  We start ’em young here on the farm 🙂

Oh, and for proper pronunciation everyone says you’re cuttin’ beans or cuttin’ milo.  We ag people are sticklers for proper English 😉

 

How to Water Bath Can on a Glass Top Stove

water bath canning

So last week, I FINALLY started and finished my canning!  Hip-hip-hooray!  On one hand, I actually enjoy the process and the feeling I get as I gaze at all my lovely jars filled with garden goodness, but on the other hand, the canning itself takes so much equipment and set up.  I’ve been putting tomatoes in the freezer as they’ve been ripe, plus I had tomatoes left over from last year still in the freezer, so I spent four days and got them all done.

This year, I tried something different.  I have had a glass top stove for the past thirteen years and I’ve always read that you can NOT use a regular water bath canner on the glass top because of the concave bottom.  I’ve read that it can trap heat under the pot because of the uneven surface and possibly cause your stove top to crack.  Years ago, when I first started dabbling in canning (jellies, primarily), my handy machinist/farmer husband made me a custom rack to go in the bottom of my large stock pot.  I could can 7 pints in it, but no quarts (it wasn’t tall enough to cover them with enough water).  Using my stock pot has served me well, as long as I was only canning jellies and pints of applesauce.

A couple years ago, I expanded my canning repertoire to add my grandma’s tomato soup.  We use this as our base for chili.  But, canning it in pints meant that it would take three pints for a crock pot of chili, plus if I was also making applesauce that year, I just didn’t have enough jars to accommodate this!  I really wanted to be able to can quarts.  An option is using a pressure canner (since they have a heavy flat bottom), but I didn’t want to invest in one just for quarts of tomato sauce and, honestly, pressure canning kinda of scares me 🙂  I know, I know, it’s only lack of experience, but still.

After much research and bouncing ideas off of my sister, I arrived at a workable, non expensive, non scary solution for water bath canning on a glass top stove- canning outside!  We have a propane camp stove, so I set up a table in my carport right outside my back door, set the stove on that, and voila! I can can quarts 🙂

water bath canner

Was it wonderfully convenient?  Yes and no.  Yes, because canning outside frees up a burner on my stove inside for preparing meals during the day and no, because, well, I had to carry the full jars outside!  But, it was worth it.  I canned 21 quarts of tomato soup, so we are set for the winter on that!  I still used my trusty stock pot canner for pints (I did 32 pints of salsa, 12 pints of soup, and 15 pints of thick sauce), mostly because I ran out of propane and didn’t have time to travel the 13 miles to the nearest store while I was in the middle of canning.

Before I leave you, I have one more fabulous, life changing canning tip-  use a roaster for cooking your tomato concoctions down!

roaster with soup

My sister and mom learned this from a neighbor lady and it has revolutionized their canning!  You free up your burner, it cooks down FASTER (because its being heated on all sides, not just the bottom) and you can turn it way down and walk a way for awhile if something comes up and you need to leave the house.  I made all of my salsa, soup and sauce this way and I will never go back to using my stove for that again!  I borrowed my mother-in-law’s and my sister borrows my mom’s, so if you don’t want to invest in one (or like me, don’t have storage space for it!), ask around and I bet you can find one.

What have you canned this fall? 

Where to begin??

I’ve thought about a blog for years….

I even started one with blogger about 5 years ago.  I wrote maybe 3 posts or so then a month went by, then another month, and it was hanging over my head that I had a blog but wasn’t writing on it!  So, I quit.  I hate having undone things in the back of my mind, you know?

Time has passed and the desire to write is still very strong, but due to changes we’ve made in our life I’ve decided to try it again.  I’ve researched and researched and read and read and I feel unsure of myself.  I hate failure and I don’t like to try new things unless I can be sure I will be GREAT at it.  Will I be great at blogging??? Will I be successful???  Will people actually want to read what I write???

I have no idea….

But, you never know unless you try.  So, I’m giving it a shot and only the Lord will know how this will go.

 

Welcome to The Farm Chick!