Thursday, May 30, 2013

I Just Can't Take It Anymore

One night earlier this week, I was trying to apply ointment to the sores on Monika's face. It was late. She was tired and uncooperative. I was doing my best to remain calm. Finally, through tears, Monika sobbed dramatically, "I just can't take it anymore."

As I tried to sooth her back to a cooperative state, all I wanted to say was: I hear you, baby girl. I'm right there with you.

This has been a limit-testing month. The kind where you're sure whoever it is that has your voodoo doll has got to be out of pins. The kind that no amount of flourless chocolate cake can make better, even if only for a moment.

I try really hard to focus on the good in life. But this month, it's been hard to do.

We said good-bye to my cousin, who lost his life way too young.

Helen – the sweet, little old lady who we played cribbage with and shoveled snow for and eradicated dandelions with when we lived in St. Paul – passed away, too, at the age of 99. Her death caught us by surprise; she had sent us a card only a few weeks ago.

Glen's grandpa spent several days in the hospital. He's back in the nursing home now, but he's still very sick.

Somehow, Monika got a bad case of impetigo. Thus, the need for the ointment. She had to miss a day of school, so I got to listen to her sob all day about not getting to go to school. And I know impetigo is a minor condition in the grand scheme of life, but is has been one more thing to deal with and worry about.

All of the prayers we said last summer for rain are finally being answered, except now we really need it to stop raining for a couple days so we can finish planting our corn. Plus, the lack of sunshine has only exacerbated our gloomy moods.

We had to euthanize the best cow in our herd. The next day, a 10-month-old heifer got stuck in the J-bunk and died.

The barn has flooded twice. Once when the calves' drinking cup got stuck. Once from the deluge of rainfall. (That's where the term Gutter Flooder comes from.)

On the Sunday night before Memorial Day, a belt broke on the vacuum pump with three cows left to milk. I swear nothing ever breaks on a weekday morning.

The Sunday before that, one of our heifers delivered her bull calf and then her uterus prolapsed. Veterinary emergencies never happen during regular call hours, either.

Then, yesterday, I started thinking that maybe our voodoo doll really had run out of room for pins. I was wrong.

broken glass bowl on stove top

I turned the burner on under a pot to make supper and went back outside. But I turned the wrong burner on. My blue mixing bowl was sitting on the burner I mistakenly turned on. When I got back to the house, I discovered my error, moved the bowl and it promptly exploded all over the stove.

Just before the bowl incident, my thumb had a run in with a pipe and the Sawzall I was using to cut it. Although it hurt like the dickens, it didn't look that bad at first. Then the blood started running out the wrist of my milking glove. So now my thumb is out of commission for awhile. After a case of laryngitis a few years ago, I thought being a mom without a voice was challenging; but being a farm mom without two good hands is even worse.

But, amidst the challenges, there are always joys.

Our first two red and white calves of the year were born.

red and white calf

We finally got the cows out to pasture.

cows resting in pasture

cows walking in pasture

Dan and Monika's classes took a field trip to our farm.

Dan got on the bus for the last day this school year and graduated from Kindergarten.

boy walking to bus

Kindergarten graduation

A new month is right around the corner. I'm hoping for more joys and less challenges.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Picking worms

"Are we having worm casserole for supper tonight?" Glen asked as I walked toward the house with a container full of night crawlers.

container full of night crawlers

"No," I said

The worms aren't part of my meal plan for the day. They're part of my quest to be a fun mom.

This morning, as we waited for the school bus, Dan was wowed by all of the night crawlers in the driveway. When he asked why they were everywhere, I explained that their soil was saturated with water from all the rain in the past 24 hours. They needed to come above ground so they could breath.

"You know what all these worms would be good for, Mom?" Dan asked.

"What?" I replied.

He paused for effect, grinned real big, and then said excitedly, "Fishing!"

I agreed as he stooped over to peer closer at one of the bigger worms wriggling across the driveway.

"Should I touch it?" he queried.

"Sure," I said. (I had a napkin in my hand because I didn't have time to wipe the breakfast off his face before we raced out of the house. Dan's bus comes anytime between 7:20 and 7:28, so we usually rush out of the house only to wait for several minutes.)

Dan poked the worm. It curled up. He jumped back and laughed. I wiped the worm goo off his fingers.

During the last minute of our wait, Dan told me I should go back to the house, get a jar, and put all the worms in the jar so that we could go fishing later.

"The big worms can be for he big fish and the little worms can be for the little fish," he said, matter of factly, gesturing with his hands for emphasis. "Maybe we can catch a piranha with that big one!"

The bus came. Dan clambered up the steps. I walked back to the house.

As I walked, I thought about Dan's request. Historically, my answer to requests like these has been no. But, lately, I've been trying to say yes. I've been trying hard these past couple months to be a fun mom – a mom with more patience, a mom who yells less (Thanks, Orange Rhino!), a mom more open to spontaneous fun.

I've learned that I don't have to yell to get the kids to listen (the May issue of Scholastic's Parent & Child has a great piece on getting kids to listen). I've learned that I do have time to have fun with the kids. I've come to view the couple minutes of time I spend on fun activities as an investment in my children's happiness. I don't have to say yes to all of their sometimes crazy requests, but saying yes brings me joy instead of the guilt that comes after saying no. And joy is way better than guilt.

So, when I got to the house, I grabbed a plastic container and dumped in a little potting soil. As much as I would have liked to pick worms with Dan, I knew the worms would all be gone by the time he returned from school. So, I silenced the reminders in my head of everything I should be working on and went back out in the rain to collect the night crawlers.

And I smiled, hoping that Dan will smile just as big when he sees the container full of worms this afternoon.

gloved hand holding a night crawler

P.S. Dear Mother Nature: I'm sorry about all the mean things I said about you this winter. Thank you for the beautiful, slow rain that will turn our pastures green, that will bring our alfalfa and oat seeds to life, and, that brought the night crawlers out of the earth to give me an opportunity to practice being a fun mom.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Plans change

The sun in shining. The thermometer says it's 70 ° outside. It's a beautiful day.

We should be doing field work or hauling the last of the manure out. But we're not.

Instead, we're dealing with an ag bag full of corn silage that an assortment of wild critters used for their winter smorgasbord.

Glen found the holes last week after the mountains of snow between the bags finally melted. There are so many holes in the bag it could pass as a chub of Swiss cheese.

Our plan, initially, was to transfer the corn silage from the ag bag to our upright silo and treat it with acid. But the corn silage wouldn't go through the blower.

So, instead, the guys patched up as many of the holes as they could and then packed dirt around the bag. Glen is going out now to IV the damaged spots of the bag with propionic acid in an effort to minimize spoilage.

We're also going to seal up the bag of silage we were feeding and start feeding out of this one so that we can use it up before summer gets here.

This was not how we planned to spend our Monday, but farming wouldn't be farming if plans didn't change on a regular basis.

     *     *     *     

Plans change in life, too.

The last I'd heard, my cousin Scott's leukemia was in remission and they were making plans for a bone marrow transplant.

Then I got a call last night that Scott had gone into cardiac arrest. He passed away early this morning. He was 37.

Now, instead of talking about plans for his recovery, our family is talking about plans for celebrating Scott's life.