We Moved: The Before and After Edition


I still can't find my daughter's doll bed, and the library claims we have one of their children's books, which, I mean, we might in a tub of Christmas decorations somewhere (because I've unpacked all of our books and it's nowhere to be found, so I'm banking on it being some place utterly ridiculous), but we are home, and it is the most lovely feeling. 

Especially when you can't leave. 


My husband spent the past year renovating, adding onto, and pouring his blood, sweat, and highly caffeinated self into his childhood home, the one his grandparents and then parents lived in as well. 

I kept the children alive. He poured concrete. I packed boxes. He got to know the folks at Lowe's and Menards so well they're practically sending each other Christmas cards.  

These are a few of the before and afters.

But after months of decisions on his part and "Wait. Did I say I wanted . . . ?" on my part, we are here. And it very much feels like home. 

Our big kids still ask about the "old house" sometimes and wonder if we're moving back or who's living there or why we couldn't move the old house into the new house. But slowly, little by little, they're becoming acclimated too, even if the first week after moving there were countless tears because little people couldn't remember where the new potties were or how to find their room. #toddlerproblems

So when it comes to practicing social distancing? We have a new house to roam, front and back yards made of mud for sloshing around in, and plenty of fresh air. We're here for it. 

Besides, we're farmers. If the TP really does run out, there are always corn husks. 

PS If you can believe it, this pantry used to be a bathroom!

So here's to staying home, staying calm, staying determined, staying joyful, staying in the Word, staying thankful . . . one day at a time.

How Coronavirus Is Impacting Farm Life


Between spring rains, preparing for planting, and keeping an eye on how COVID-19 is changing pretty much everything for everyone from one day to the next, I nabbed my favorite dairy farmer and asked him to help you take a peek into how the coronavirus situation is impacting dairy farming.

Q: How has the coronavirus pandemic changed daily life for you on the farm?
A: If there's ever a "good" time of year for a situation like this, it's now. It's come at a time of year when we're preparing for planting, but since it's been wet and we can't get into the field, we've had the necessary time to be in the office researching and preparing contingency plans. We're putting in writing what precautions to take, discussing how to get our work done while still keeping our people safe, and doublechecking to ensure we're following the guidelines set in place because they change every day.

And ultimately, we're making sure that we're still able to -- in the midst of all this -- do our work so that we can continue to provide an essential product at a critical time. Not to mention we're doing our best to make smart decisions so that we can stay as financially healthy and viable as possible so that we can provide for our employees, their families, and my family.

Q: People are stockpiling toilet paper and food. Are you having to do anything similar for the farm?
A: We're good on toilet paper, but we have had to make sure we have enough of our supplies to continue our work. In the midst of various industries being shut down unexpectedly, we've had to purchase ahead when it comes to our seed and fertilizer for the row crops and a dozen different types of feed for the cows. We're also making sure we have plenty of veterinary supplies, and as best we can, supplies for equipment in the shop. I'm expecting that manufacturers of vet products may well pivot off the animal side to the human side if asked to do so, but that's speculation on my part. So we're just all working to make sure our families have what they need as well as the same for the cows and all they need.

Q: A lot of people are out of work at the moment. Do you and the team feel a certain amount of pride and gratitude in knowing you're among an essential workforce right now?
A: There's a badge of honor that I can sense among the team in regard to providing a critically essential food product, for sure. And they should be proud. They're out there sweating and hustling and showing up and doing their work, no matter what's going on in the world.

Personally, I sometimes get in the rut of thinking, as people do with any job, "This is my job. This is what I do. I take care of the cows. I take care of my people. I take care of my family. I go to sleep." But this has reopened my eyes to how vital what we do is to the community, how many people rely on us, and it's also been a good reminder of the fulfillment that comes with farming.

Q: What do you think the next year will look like for the ag industry after we emerge from this?
A: I have no idea what next week or next month will look like, let alone next year. What I do know is that as long as we have consumers that are demanding our product, we will still be here making milk.

Q: It seems like things are leveling out a bit, but what are you telling people who are still worried about finding enough food at the grocery store?
A: There's plenty of food out there. The supply chain just has to catch up with it. Our milk prices are terrible right now; there's actually an oversupply of milk. So, hold steady. You just have to give it time to catch up at the grocery store.

Q: How do the cows feel about all of this?
A: The girls remain exceptionally unphased. As long as they have enough people who show up at work to milk them, feed them, and get them clean, dry bedding, they don't really care what goes on!

2020 Here I (Don't) Swap Coronavirus

How are you doing? Really. How ARE you?

Got enough Clorox wipes? Audible books for the kids? Hamburger in your freezer? 

Is the sun shining at your house? Are your parents ok? Is your Internet connection keeping up?

How are your pastor and his family? Are you still doing family devotions? Reading sermons? Tuning in to your church or other LCMS congregations' live streams? 

I know you all have adorable mugs. But how is your chocolate supply? IS THERE ENOUGH COFFEE IN YOUR PANTRY?

Those are the questions I'd ask if we could sit down over nachos and Pepsis at the local Mexican restaurant (this is a bad time to be having pregnancy cravings, can we all agree?), but since we're all homebodies at the moment, I've got another question for you:

Do you want to take part in a mug swap . . . that doesn't involve mugs? 

These are tricky times, times that require patience and kindness and grace from all of us, and especially from we Lutheran women who know and confess Jesus Christ, full of compassion and truth. So what do you say we share some of that Christian care and concern around, focusing on others instead of ourselves at a time when so many want to believe they are ultimately in control? 

Are you in? 

Yes! I knew you were!

Here's how the 2020 Here I (Don't) Swap Coronavirus swap works:

1) I'm going to pair you up with another Lutheran gal. You'll exchange names and emails. No physical addresses. Your first job is to shoot her an email, see how she's doing, ask how you can pray for her, be a listening ear, start a friendship, and ask her what to do with all the Rotel and graham crackers in your pantry that you need to use up. She's going to do the same for you! This works great for extroverts, who need someone to talk to, and introverts, who can interact from a safe distance and at their own pace.

2) You're going to spend at least $5 on one another (more if you want but no less than $5), but here's the catch: 

You're going to do something on her behalf that helps our church body and her congregations or organizations and can all be done online
  • a $5 online donation to her favorite LCMS organization (like LCMS Life Ministry or LCMS Soldiers and Veterans of the Cross), 
  • a $5 online gift card to Starbucks for her pastor who is probably burning the midnight oil calling to check on her and others, 
  • a $5 online donation to her church's local food pantry or crisis pregnancy center, etc. 
I've supplied some other options at the survey link you'll find below. If you've got another LCMS-related idea, like giving directly to your home congregation or the like, feel free to share it with your swap buddy. The goal here is to think of others -- especially our fellow Lutherans and our Lutheran church workers.

3) Done! You get to meet and care for a Lutheran gal experiencing some of the same shared crosses as you AND you get to serve our beloved church and her people along the way. No exchanging physical mail. No Clorox wiping down your laptop. Just showing compassion in some of the only ways we can right now. 

Are you ready?  

  I'll start sending mug swap buddies out as fast as I'm able. Registration will close Friday, March 27, 2020.

I know you know this, but it doesn't hurt to be reminded: The Church is primed for times like these. We live each day knowing that our heavenly Father orders our days, not us. We rest in the assurances that Christ offers. We don't panic. We're shrewd, but we're not afraid. This is where we have a chance to thrive as children of God: confessing Christ and His comfort and peace in a world feeling panicked and out of control.  

So let's look out for one another, check in on our pastors, pray for our friends, laugh at the antics of our children and the funny memes online, get off Facebook and read a book, and then not forget to do all these things over nachos and Pepsis at the local Mexican restaurant when the world is a little more back to normal. Deal?


Coronavirus Meets Lent, Kiddo Style


Thanks to my friend Hannah, and, let's be honest, my mother, my three young children are well on their way to counting the days of Lent leading into Easter.  

Because can we all agree that this Lent is very Lent-y?

Hannah filled me in on a little project she made with her children to help them number their days according to the Church Year, and with the help of my mom's craftiness, we've got a similar calendar going on here. 

Like an Advent wreath, but Lenten style. 

And the good news is that you don't even have to leave your house or interact with people or cough on anyone in order to make it! 

Order some clay from Amazon and the Easter wooden creche set of your choice from Etsy, and get your mom, I mean, get to work rolling out that sucker out! 

Your next step is to make forty indentations in the clay from one of the peg dolls (for the 40 days of Lent . . . you see where we're headed here?), so that as your little ones participate in your daily family devotions, they can move Jesus (and His entourage) one step closer to the cross, where He shows us the way in which He loves His children: by dying for us. 

Note: We got started a little late into the Lenten season . . . and the clay took a solid three days to air dry . . . so if you hold off until Holy Friday, you may not be using this until next Lent.  

But in the meantime, as you pray and ponder your Savior's love for you, even in the midst of crosses and suffering and fear, know that He goes to the torture and silence of His Father and agony and even death for you, because while Good Friday is so very good, Easter is coming. 

"He sent out His Word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction. Let them thank the Lord for His steadfast love, for His wondrous works to the children of man!" (Psalm 107).

PS This has nothing to do with Lent, but I'm going to start sending out a monthly newsletter covering everything from soup to nuts, or really everything cows to kids. Be sure to sign up if you need more stuff to scroll through to avoid folding laundry. 


Cheesy Oscars speeches

Joaquin Phoenix talked about dairy cows at the Oscars last night, and since he regrettably didn't use the opportunity to recommend ordering extra cheese on your pizza or mention how good it tastes with an Oreo, I'll do it for him because Miss 4091 is wide-eyed in disbelief: GET THE EXTRA CHEESE ON YOUR PIZZA. (Also, milk and cookies go great together.)

I'm also not going to repeat what he said here, because it's never helpful to repost things that aren't true. But I DO think it's helpful to remind each other of some of the other joys of farming, and specifically the dairy-ing kind, which will probably never make it into an Oscars acceptance speech, even though they definitely should.

If he'd be open to it,  I'd love to introduce Mr. Phoenix to the people that work at the dairy, some of whom had never been around animals or equipment, some of whom never even knew they loved -- and are naturally gifted with -- taking care of animals until they started working in agriculture.

I'd love to invite him over for a meal at our house and let him walk the creaky, wooden floors that four generations of the same farming family have walked or let him look out the window at the farm land the same family has farmed for decades.

I'd love to plop him in a Gator or a Mule and let Chris tool him around the fields, explaining how he knows -- even when it's dark outside -- every spot where the ground rises and falls and dips because he's walked and driven it time and time and time again. 

I'd love to introduce him to our nutritionist and hoof trimmer and veterinarian, men who all have made it their work to ensure the health and well-being of animals that aren't even theirs. 

I'd love to let him see my kids' love of the farm and the outdoors, how they snuggle barn cats and watch newborn calves with wonder and how they talk to the cows as though the cows are even paying attention. (They are not, just to be clear.)

I'd love to give him the space to watch a mama cow give birth, to see firsthand a newborn calf only moments old, to watch how well those babies are cared for, and to see them promptly settle in fresh bedding and take a long winters' nap.

I'd love to see him experience how everybody at the dairy rallies during busy seasons of the year like silage and planting and harvest, how people step up for one another and fill in for one another and have each other's backs, and how everybody celebrates and breathes a sigh of relief and takes huge naps when those times are over.

I'd love to give him a chair to sit and watch a cow chomp on her cud like it's her only job, to watch the rhythmic movement of her mouth and the "don't you have something better to be doing?" look in her eye.

I'd love to have him listen to some of the stories the guys can tell: things they never thought they'd accomplish that they've accomplished at the dairy, problems they never thought they could solve being solved at the dairy, capacity and courage they never thought they'd have being learned at the dairy, and I'd love to have him hear how much they laugh.

I'd love to encourage him to walk a pen of cows, to see how calm and placid and downright content they are . . . and HOW HUGE THEY ARE IN PERSON.

I'd love to introduce him to the men and women who get up in the middle of the night to help calves make their way safely into the world, who are up again before the sun gets up to feed the cows, and who fall asleep after it's gone back down because the cows' well-being comes before their own, to the folks who work the overnight shift when it's dark and quiet at the dairy and the only sounds are cows chewing and shuffling and country music playing in the milk parlor.

Do I think Mr. Phoenix is going to change his mind about farming and the farmers who do the work? Probably not. But would I love for him to see the truth for himself? You bet so.

So when you're done accepting awards and the red carpet is rolled up, Mr. Phoenix, you're always invited to come see and experience what dairy cows and dairy farming and dairy farmers do. Take us up on it. You just may find that your speech at next year's Oscars might be . . . a little different.

PS Don't forget the extra cheese. You won't regret it. 

Harvest 2019


One of my favorite memories from my childhood is laying in my bed in the second story of my parents' farmhouse, looking out at the pitch-blackness that is country life, and hearing -- through slightly opened windows -- the sound of farmers still in the field. Combines and tractors and fans on grain bins were always running . . .  from the time I'd lay down at night into the early morning hours.

It was -- and remains -- a comforting sound. It meant someone else was awake, someone else was still out there in the darkness, and all of that was heartening and lovely and a little mysterious. 

It's nighttime now as I write this, and outside, our dogs are barking like it's their spiritual gift because someone is combining across the creek, and even their racket makes me happy too . . . for all the same reasons. 

So if fall ever decides to show up, and if the temperature ever falls from 86 degrees to under 70 in the month of October, you can bet I'm cracking our bedroom window to hear our neighbor's grain bin running as I fall asleep. 

Some people say they love country life because of the stillness. But every now and then, it's the little noises we love even more.

caring for others

My dad's grandmother was in charge of washing the family's silverware at age 2. She came from a large family. Everybody had to pull his own weight, even the two-year-old. So her mom put her to work doing something she could do that would be helpful to the whole family: washing silverware.

I can't say I would trust my two- and three-year-olds with washing the dishes just yet. More water ends up on the floor than it does in the sink, and the front of their clothes are usually soaked by the time the first dish is rinsed.

But they absolutely love washing dishes, and it's made me a believer that there's something to the ideal held forth by my ancestors: the acknowledgement that everyone is a part of his family, no matter how much or how little he contributes to it.

So while I wouldn't recommend you eat off the plates my kids clean just yet (unless you actually enjoy crusty chunks of the previous meal stuck to your flatware), I do love to watch them dig into real life tasks: cleaning out measuring cups, sweeping the floor with their mini brooms, and even hanging clothes on the line.

Isn't it interesting how even the littlest members of a family get so much pride out of contributing to it? It's almost like Someone designed us to care for and about one another. Hmm.

The bulk of their day still revolves around all sorts of play, which is exactly what they should be doing as children. But there are also times throughout the day and week that our play takes the form of some real life work: setting the table, running out to get the mail, unpacking the dishwasher, pouring drinks, and moving laundry from the washing machine to the dryer.

I'm thankful for all those little ways in which they help our family function (not to mention how they help the kids be independent and capable adults some day . . . or so I hope because if they can't figure out how to get a stain out of their clothes, they'll have to call their grandma who is basically the queen of OxiClean), and it's such a joy to watch them take ownership and pride in their work . . . even if the clothespins were upside down and the fork ended up on the right side of the plate.

It's a start. In fact, it's the first step in learning that taking care of someone other than themselves matters. And in a time in their lives where they are particularly prone to thinking only of themselves (hello, toddler "No, me!" mentality), that's something. I'd bet my dirty fork on it. 

Blogging tips