Gentle and Classical Curriculum


If you're looking for two small children who are passionate about face washing, they live at our house. Two weeks ago, my three-year-old and two-year-old started Life Abundantly's Gentle and Classical Preschool curriculum, and let me just put it this way: They're here for face washing.

Let me issue this disclaimer though: I'm a firm believer that, at this age, a child's most important work is playing. We spend our days doing just that, reading a lot of good books, helping with real life tasks like pinning clothes on the clothesline and setting the table, taking solid naps, running around outside as much as possible and reading still more. 

I am not the mom who wants my child in every sport by age 3, memorizing his multiplication tables by 3.5, and trying out for Quiz Bowl at age 4. 

Ain't happenin' in this house. 

At the same time, I recognize that my little people are curious about everything (Why? Why, Mom? But why?) and that there is a benefit to learning to sit still, if only for 15 minutes a day. Thus, Gentle and Classical. 

So while you won't find us memorizing Latin declensions just yet or working on trigonometry (ever . . . if it were up to me), you will, for example, find us learning that tadpoles turn into frogs, searching outside for said polywogs, and listening to Frog and Toad

You'll find us singing our days of the week and months of the year, looking at the calendar to count down the days until family members visit, and marking out which day is "church day."

You'll find us memorizing Scripture and having deep toddler conversations that go like this: "No, F, you are NOT the Good Shepherd. Jesus is the Good Shepherd! That's what John 10:11 says!" and "No, G. Good Shepherd ME!"

And you'll find us counting the rocks we've picked up in the lane and hauled around in a small, dinged up Tonka dump truck. 

Teaching my little people that fish swim in the ocean and that patience is a virtue is one of the brightest spots in my day, and from the repeat question of, "Can C go take a nap so that we can do school, Mom?" it's clear to me that my two older kids love it too. 

Thanks to our little school routine, I now have two happy face-washers. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go see what week we learn how to fold clothes, cook supper and unpack the dishwasher . . .

the perfect house

We're in the midst of renovating and adding onto my husband's childhood home.

I say "we." By that I mean "my husband and lots of other people who know what drywall and HVAC and trim work mean." My job primarily is to act like I understand how load-bearing walls and can lights and roof angles work. {Failing miserably and owning it.}

When the house is finished, our children will be the fourth generation to live there. My husband's grandparents raised their children there. My husband's parents raised their children there. And now we will too.

Picking light fixtures and flooring, countertops and doors has caused us to have a lot of conversations about this home: how we want it to function, how we want it to look, and what we want to occur both within its walls and outside of them.

We know this:

(1) It will be beautiful, but it will not be a museum. We want our children to be able to be at the dairy with their dad, to come home dirty and dusty and smelling faintly of cow, and to be welcome there. We want it to be cozy and inviting, but we do not want it to be sterile for the sake of a blown-out Instagram post. 

(2) It will be a secure, thriving, warm place for our children as they mature. Because we intend to educate them at home, we want our play/homeschool room dedicated to learning and discovery, a space where they will be able to decipher poetry and dig into the sciences, admire art and cheat their way through math. {Whoops. That was me as a kid. Forgot who I was talking about there for a minute.} We want the views from that room -- of trees and crops and a lake -- to bring the outdoors in and allow for imagination and even a little daydreaming.


(3) It will have a traditional with a touch of funky kitchen and an inviting dining room so that we can welcome others into our home and feed them and make them feel loved and cared for. We want them to sit at our 100-year-old kitchen table and look at the kitchen cabinets Chris's grandfather built for his wife by hand and have a good glass of wine and a steak my farmer put on the grill and a big salad and a loaf of bread that I hopefully didn't burn and tell stories and ask questions and debate and laugh and lift their glasses for a refill.

(4) It will have a library because reading is life. We have a space where kids and parents alike can lose the smart phones and immerse themselves in a good book for an hour or two, or pull out a map to find where the a certain battle occurred, or play a game of chess. We also have lot of books . . . from Hop on Pop to Kristin Lavransdatter, books about theology and history and agriculture and all the classics we can get our hands on. {Kristin Lavransdatter is, by the way, a great book that you should all read. It may take you all of 2020, but it will be worth it.}

(5) Our kids will share bedrooms, because sharing is caring. {Or just a good way to teach them how not to be selfish.} We want them to have conversations late into the night when they should be sleeping, to learn how to live side by side with another human being, to strengthen the relationship between siblings because they are all they will have in this world. And also because, channeling my mother, I want to be able to holler up the stairs at least once a week, "Kids, it's time to stop talking and go to sleep!"

(6) It will have a family room with a fireplace and piano so that we can gather together every night, as we already do, for devotions and giggles and singing and the general chaos that comes with small, noisy people, namely Dad roughing kids up and kids shouting for more and Mom telling everyone they're supposed to be calming down instead of getting riled up.

(7) It will have a guest space in the basement so that our family and friends who need a quiet respite from life can find it. We want them to sleep in, to enjoy the sunshine, to make a cup of coffee and look out over the fields, to have their own space, to feel replenished, to feed on some stillness in the midst of a world bent on noise and chaos.

(8) And it will have porches, because the First Article gift of being able to sit on a porch with a glass of lemonade, and a slight breeze, and the sounds of bugs chirping and birds singing and wind blowing through the corn is rare, and it is good.

Our list goes on, but we are doing our best to keep those main goals as our focus: to provide our children with a place to grow in faith and understanding, to care for those around us, and to enjoy time with one another in all the best ways that country living has to offer.

Perhaps, better put, our goal for our new-old home is this, as Tolkien wrote, "That house was a perfect house, whether you like food or sleep, or story-telling or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all. Merely to be there was a cure for weariness, fear, and sadness."

And if, when we're all finished, we -- and anyone around us -- thinks that, we'll be tinkled pink.

Here I Swap 2019

 Lutheran ladies, it's mug swap time! (I was going to post the "Let's get ready to ruuuuuuuumble!" video here but that didn't seem quite appropriate.)

Now read this next part closely.


Closer still. 

A little more. 

There you go! 
  1. Ready to swap mugs? You sign up here. 
  2. I pair you up with another gal and send you both the information you'll need to know about one another (names and adddresses, etc.). You're matched up with one person, and she's matched up with you.
  3. You put together a little care package for her. You're free to add as many goodies to the package as you'd like -- as long as it doesn't cost you more than $20.00 -- but you have to include a mug. (I mean, this is why it's called a mug swap.)
  4. Stick that package in the mail! (But seriously, for real, because having to track people down who don't hold up their end of the bargain makes me grumpy.)
  5. Instagram your pumpkin spice latte while waiting patiently by the mailbox for your buddy's package to arrive for you. Or don't. Whichever. 

Are you game?

 If you're 21 or older, sign up by clicking this link and filling out the form. 

  • Sign-ups close September 15, and you'll receive information on your swap friend by October 1. (Yes. It may take that long to send all the emails out. I'm a wife and a mom of three 3 and under. You understand.)
  • Again, after reading up on your new friend, head to Walmart or Home Goods or any place in between to put her fall swap package together, which must include at least one mug.
  • Send the package -- along with a little note with your name and how she can connect up with you -- by October 15.
  • Post a picture of your swap package when it arrives. Use the hashtag #hereiswap2019 on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Wait. Do people still even tweet? 
  • Finally, I'm hoping this swap remains a helpful way for Lutheran women to encourage each other, but unfortunately, I can't be held responsible for your partner's actions. If she doesn't send you a package, feel free to follow up with her via email! A healthy dose of the Law never hurts, amiright? 
Are you excited yet? Sweet.

Let's get swapping!

it takes a village (of the dairy variety)


I've written about silage season here and here before, discussing that unique time of year that is a pretty big deal to dairy farmers and remains unheard of by . . . virtually everyone else. And while I usually end up spending a lot of time thinking about cows and all their bellies and how these couple of weeks are so critical to keeping them fed for the whole year, this year I've spent a lot of time pondering the people behind the season. 

The milkers and herders who keep milking while everyone else is out in the field. 

The guys in the shop who keep the choppers and trucks running. 

The herd health guys who keep the cows cared for and on top of their game.

The people who make parts runs. 

The people who cook and bake to keep everyone fed. 

The guys in the pushing and packing tractors who put in 15-hour days driving back and forth all day long.

My mom, who helped me make Chris a million sandwiches to eat while chopping. 

My sister and her children, who came for several days. She helped me make 20 meals for 20 silage truck and tractor drivers while her older two boys swept the shop and picked up trash and tracked silage truck loads.

The girls who drive big ole tractors like it's no big deal.

My sister-in-laws, who brought protein balls and caramel corn for hungry farmers to snack on while trying to stay awake and delivered snacks and Red Bulls.

My mother-in-law, who makes the world's chewiest oatmeal cookies, which keep ALL the team's spirits up, and who lets a whole lot of family camp out at her house while all of the rest of this is going on.

Little boys, who ride in silage choppers with their dads and uncles and think talking to each other on the radio and being around big machinery constitutes living their best life.  

My brothers-in-law, who drive silage choppers like they're stolen and whip trucks through muddy fields like they're in a demo derby, and live on iced coffees for several days in a row, and have fun doing it. 

My husband and father-in-law, who manage it all from chopper seats and pick-up trucks and can somehow talk on a radio and a phone at the same time without confusing who is talking to whom. 

If you're not a farm family or if you don't know a farmer, just know that for two weeks, everything on the dairy centers around getting corn chopped for cows to eat for the following year so that they can make milk so that you can eat cheese and yogurt and have something in which to dunk your cookies. 

And for those same two weeks, farm families come together to care for one another and for team members, and employees step in and step up to help those who are chopping and hauling silage. 

Everyone is tired, and the work - no matter what it looks like -- is hard. 

It takes a lot of people. 

And it's all so very good. 

A Merry Band of Bloggers

My sister lives in Colorado, where the sun always shines and the air is always fresh and the temperature is always just right. So when she visited recently and stepped out of her car, she about fell into a small heap in our driveway because breathing humid Missouri summer air is not for the faint of heart.

Or the faint of hair.

So let's hear it for all the food bloggers and dietitians who willingly volunteered to visit the dairy on a hot, humid Saturday morning, knowing full well what it would do to their hair. I mean, hearts. I mean, heat. It was hot.

Ok. C'mon, guys. Just clap.

(And while you're at it, please give a gentle, quiet "Hooray!" -- we don't want to startle them after all -- for the cows, who start feeling heat stress in about January and don't get a break from it until the following December. Well, not quite. But let's just say they love water misters and fans in the summer as much as kids love a good water park. More maybe.)

Thanks to our friends at Midwest Dairy,  we were able to host these brave blogging souls on a warm day in June, giving them a chance to see where their food comes from up close and personal. Like, so personal a calf could suck on their fingers personal. (Sorry for my white legs. My spiritual gift is getting sunburned without tanning. Clearly.)

Our merry band of bloggers got to see baby calves, only a couple of hours old, and hear from my farmer how we care for the littlest animals on the farm. Between the calves and our multitude of kittens, everybody would have been fine being done at that point.


And by that I mean that we kindly nudged them on to meet some of the older heifers and the mama cows who took time out of their lunch to pose for photographs.

#2780 showing off her best side.

(Let's face it: Every girl has a best side.)


We rounded out the tour with a trip through the commodity shed to see what our cows eat, explain how our nutritionist tweaks the ration, talk about what silage is and discover why it's an important part of a cow's diet.

After that, we headed back to the shop to guzzle a bathtub full of water (Did you know that's about how much water a cow drinks in a day? Almost 35 gallons! And here you thought your eight glasses of water were good . . . ) and enjoy a meal together, surrounded by silage choppers and wrenches and flies because that's what life is like on a real dairy.

Lauren Lane, one of our favorite food bloggers, even made us brownies for dessert, and I'm not saying that I maybe basically skipped lunch and just went straight for the chocolate, but I CAN say that there was one extra pulled pork wrap left over because, well, I maybe basically skipped lunch and just went straight for the chocolate.

Side note: Brownies taste even more fudgy when enjoyed with milk. And because milk is healthy and so wonderfully good for you, you can even have a second brownie if you want. They basically balance each other out.

This is why you need farmers in your life. We can be helpful when you're trying to make important life choices like this. 


We're thankful for our social media influencer friends -- whether they're Instagrammers or bloggers or Facebookers or all of the above -- not just because they took time to come to the farm and see how their food is made, but because as farmers, we're busy . . . you know . . . FARMING. And that means we don't always have a lot of free time to chat with every person in the grocery store or on the street about why dairy is such an affordable, healthy food option.

But people like Cara of Streetsmart Nutrition and Lauren of Lauren Lane Culinarian do. They have the gift of story telling, photography, research and knowing their followers so that they can share information with them in a helpful and winsome way.

 So when a Lauren or a Cara or a Steph of KC Cheeses or Shanna from Wellness for the Win want to know or be reminded of see for themselves where their food comes from, and when, seeing how we care for our animals and land and each other, they believe as strongly as we do about milk and butter and cream and eggs, they help us tell our story in really fun ways.

And we are -- and remain -- grateful for that.

Photos courtesy Wheat Photography

A set of mule deer in aisle 3, please.

Does anyone have a pair of tigers? Maybe a set of lemurs? Because if it doesn't stop raining, I am full-on prepared for the Lord to start encouraging us to build arks and start rounding up animals.

It rains a day. It's dry a day. It rains. It's dry. It's a farmer's nightmare. Too wet to get the rye silage out. Can't get crops planted.


Last year it was a drought. This year it's a flood.

It's just that at least with droughts you get some sunshine now and then. And dust. Usually a lot of dust. But whatever. SUNSHINE.

My farmer -- the optimist -- and I -- the pessimist realist -- saw each other for a few moments in passing last week. "I got a guy mowing and one is merging and I'm chopping and he's tilling and that guy's planting and another's spraying, and there's stuff going on at church, and there's stuff with employees, and the vet's coming tomorrow and the forecast says rain again tomorrow but if we can miss a shower this afternoon, we can at least keep working into the night," he said while chugging down an iced coffee.

Or as I say, "IT'S ALL THE THINGS."

And then he ran back out the door and jumped in his pick-up and the kids and I waved white hankies in his direction like ladies standing at the dock when ocean liners would take off for the other side of the world with their husbands and sons aboard.

Actually, it was a napkin and that's just because someone spilled yogurt on the floor, but the idea was there.

I could tell he was . . . well, we don't use the word "stressed" in our house. We just say we're busy . . . or our plates are full . . . or we're juggling a lot of balls. Because if one thing stresses us out, then it's easy to say something else does, and pretty soon making dinner is stressful or deciding what book to read next is stressful and then basically just doing life is stressful and that's lame.

So let's just say I could tell all the plates available were spinning.

Now, a nicer me would have texted him and said, "You can do this! You didn't get to where you are by letting 87,000 inches of rain and a forecast sent from the underworld itself get you down! I believe in you!"

And there are days for that.

But today he needed his BFF Jocko Willink. Jocko says that there's a two-step process to dealing with stress: (1) detach and (2) don't worry about things you can't control.

You detach yourself from the situation. Is it raining like you're in the midst of a hurricane? Yes. But are you freezing at the Battle of the Bulge? Are you walking with your feet tied in rags like men in the Revolutionary War? No. So stop whining. You don't have it so bad.

And stop fretting about things you can't change. Can you stop the rain? No. So use it to your good. Turn it on itself. Make it your ally.

So like any kind, thoughtful wife, I MPed my farmer and said, "You think you have it bad? You don't. You're not getting your legs blown off. You're not in a foxhole. You're not starving in a concentration camp. Rain has nothing on you!"

I'm helpful like that.

And you know what? By the end of the day, he was happy to report that he had turned the rain into an ally, made some decisions about the future that would make spring time easier in seasons of endless cruddy weather, and had a beer to celebrate his success.

Now, the point of all of this is not to gripe about the rain (ok, but seriously, it can stop any day now) or to claim that Jocko and I made any difference on my farmer's day, but it is to say that the Lord really can use difficult situations for good. I mean, so what if the kids can't play outside again until they're 45? We can still learn from this! And grow! And become more resilient!

There are times for empathy and understanding. And there are times for pushing and prodding and tough encouragement. I'm thankful for a farmer who doesn't let me wallow and who shows me that -- even when all the balls are in the air and someone tosses ten more in -- we don't freeze up or melt down. We embrace the suck. We just lean in and push even harder.

Which is good for him especially, considering he'll need all those muscles to build a house boat for our family to live on until the ground dries out again . . . in roughly 2025.

So here's to soldiering on, chins up, shoulders straight through the tough stuff. It can't last. The sun does come out again. It has to. In fact, it always does.*

*Or so I'm told. 

rye silage

Amy Grant may think that Christmas it the most wonderful time of the year, but at the dairy, we think silage chopping time is actually the best!

Or maybe just the most high energy. 

Ok, fine, Amy. You were right all along. But silage is still a pretty sweet time of year, no matter how many CDs you sold!

Where was I? Oh! What is silage? you're wondering. 

It's ok. I was too the first year. Turns out I have this handsome farmer who is happy to explain. Have a read!

Me: What is silage?

Chris: Silage is harvesting and ensiling a forage. 

Me: Wait. What's a forage? Isn't that what dogs do behind dumpsters?
Blogging tips