A Dose of Reality

We’re having a rough morning in the house today.  It’s slightly improved at the moment by the fact that Jax is finally napping and I am having a moment of sanity via blogging.

We have so many delightful days, end upon end, full of so much joy.  Perhaps that is why a rough day takes me by surprise, throws me off balance, makes me lose my patience.  It’s not that terrible really, just off.

Jax slept an amazing nine and a half hours straight from 7:30 pm to 5:00 am.  I slept just one hour less than he, which felt amazing.  But I still wasn’t prepared for him to wake up for the day at five a.m.  It’s not a first, but it’s not common.  He was a bit grumpy, but too awake to go back down to sleep.

Of course he was ready for a nap two hours later, so at seven a.m. I put him down for a nap, and tucked myself into bed for one too.  Except he slept thirty minutes.  When he’s been taking consistent 1.5 hour morning naps for weeks now, nearly every day.  He woke up right as I had fallen asleep.

I think I groaned, “please…no…” and pulled the covers over my head.  I gave him (and I) about fifteen minutes to be SURE he was really awake before going in to him.  He was grumpy.  I ate breakfast.  Tried to get some things done.  He just fussed because he was sleepy and wanted to be held.  My better baby carrier was left at church on Sunday, so I wore him, but not in the easiest manner.  Wearing him is the one thing that usually works when he’s fussy.

Two hours later, by nine a.m., he fell asleep nursing so I put him down in his crib again.  And of course he woke.  I let him cry for thirty minutes, which is WAY longer than I usually do, hoping against hope that he would figure out he was exhausted and go to sleep.  He didn’t.

We tried again at eleven a.m.  I put him in the carrier, covered him up with a blanket, and walked around until he stopped crying and fell asleep.  Put him in the crib, and he woke up crying again.  When they get this exhausted, it’s tough.  I did something I’ve never done before, and held him still, on his belly, in his crib.  I held his head down with one hand, and patted his back with the other.  He was NOT a fan.  But I just knew if he would lay still he would fall asleep!  I was right.  It took only about a minute before he was out.  I’m hoping he’ll finally take a good nap.  I wish I could fall asleep again too, but I’m a bit strung up to try to fall asleep right now.

Here’s the thing.  My days are rarely, rarely, ever like this.  It’s not that I don’t complain on my blog.  It’s that my days are usually beautiful and happy and peaceful and lovely.  So I really shouldn’t go on and on with all the details about the sad day, because this isn’t reality.  I mean, it is, today.  But most days, Jax naps beautifully, and I get things done, and my house is tidy, and I make him giggle, and he plays happily.  That is the gift of a typical day around here.  I am so blessed.

Perhaps the silly aggravations of our morning are getting to me because my heart is heavy for several loved ones and friends who are hurting right now.  Parents diagnosed with cancer…way too young…way too healthy…way too alive for news like that.  Young sisters in a car accident where only one survived.  Some of these people I’ve met before.  Some of them are friends of friends who live states away.  But I have a connection to them across the miles.  And my heart is heavy.  We are unbelievably blessed, each day that we have the gift to live and breathe and move.  And hold and kiss our fussy, nap-less infants.  And wake up with our family still surrounding us.  And when the Evil One’s plan of destruction pushes through and has its way on this temporary earth, we struggle and weep and ache.  I am grateful that this life is not all there is.  I am grateful for each moment here that is beautiful, and I ask for strength for those which aren’t.

And I know that He knows.  That God knows there are days when life sucks, and days when we lose someone and it is awful and unbearable and we feel like we’re falling to pieces.  I know He knows, because He sent His son.  To intervene on earth.  To bring miracles and healing into the here and now.  To open up a path for us to know Him, talk to Him, cry to Him.  To send His presence, the Holy Spirit, to comfort us.  To make a way for us to know when a loved one has closed the door on earth, that we may see them again one day in a new life.

So we hang onto Him.  What else is there to hang onto?  Only in His presence is there hope and the promise that this is not all there is.

HERS | Shirt Old Navy | Tank Express, gift | Shorts Old Navy | Belt thrifted | Shoes Ross | Necklace thrifted

HIS | Shirt Carters (Go Team Mommy!) | Shorts Target

Also, other ways I have worn blue and blue.  Here (a happier day) and here and here.

| Filed under fashion, friends, God moments

With an Oink Oink here and a Moo Moo There

 The three milk cows grazing.

Baby calves grazing.  The one with white mark on the forehead is a cross-breed of the brown/white cows and the black/white cows.  I thought it was beautiful, as cows go.

Flo. One of the milk cows. Her milk was delicious.

Tiny baby chicks.

Larger baby chicks. Almost large enough to be moved to the outdoor coops where they can eat grass and bugs and chicken feed to their heart’s delight.  These are meat chickens.

 Pigs. Eventual pork. 

When I shot this photo, I only saw that it focused on the fence.  When I got home and enlarged it on the computer, I saw there was a cobweb on the part of the fence my camera focused on.  Classic Charlotte’s Web!

Baby piglets, out in the field with their mama.  She’s a dull color from rolling in the mud. Daniel told me pigs are one of the few mammals with no sweat glands. So when it’s hot out, they roll in the mud to keep cool and prevent overheating.  Aside from this they are considered clean animals.  As a group, they choose a toilet area within their large fenced space, and everyone uses it.  This is distinct from animals like horses, cows, chickens, deer, and many others, who just poop wherever, whenever, even if it’s near where a fellow animal is grazing.  These pigs were also very friendly.  The momma came up to me and rubbed up on my leg like a cat.  Which means I had mud all over my pants in a very short time.

Piglets a little older.  Old enough to be brought into the barn.

Jax and I carried a boxful of rotten tomatoes over to the piglets.  They’re used to momma’s milk, so they nuzzled and licked at the tomatoes, but didn’t consume them completely.  I should have saved some for the larger hogs, as they would have gobbled them right up.

 

 

   

 One snoozing in the corner.

Another checking us out.

On a different day, the morning was cool, and they were huddled together, end to end, for warmth.

Others lapping up milk.

| Filed under friends, the farm

Lullabies for a Little One

I love how baby girl’s sonogram photos can be seen here, hanging up on the wall next to the piano. That same baby girl, showing through her momma’s belly, listening to the music.

How beautiful it is, the body that carries and nourishes a child.
  

 

Kristin is a musician.  She studied it in college and still lives it every day.  In the corner next to the piano reside her other treasured, and costly instruments.  A cello, a harp, a guitar, and a flute.  The flute “isn’t very good” she’ll tell you.  Her good one, a gift from her musician father, was stolen while they lived in San Antonio.
Also in the corner is Zeke’s ukelele.  While I was there, he was mostly interested in playing his kazoo.  But Grandpa came over and played the ukelele one afternoon, to my delight.  I’ll share those photos soon.
I love that Daniel and Kristin’s kids will grow up with music.  Not just Pandora on an iPod, but real, hands-on music.  Several days while I was there, Kristin pulled out some classical sheet music and sat down to play.  I love listening to the piano as much as I love playing it, and I wish I had kept up with reading sheet music sufficiently to be able to sit down with a piece like she does.
The piece she’s playing, which can be read in one of the photos of the sheet music, is appropriately titled, “Song of the Pilgrim.”  When this little one is born, she will remember being soothed by the sounds of the keys, comforted by the sad and sweet melodies.  What a gift.

| Filed under friends, music, the farm

Kids on the Farm

 

Zeke. Eating a peanut butter sandwich. The staple that always gets a kid by. Good for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and dessert.  He had one at least daily.  Also, you don’t appreciate the beautiful light that a window over your kitchen table lets in until you see a photo like this.

Mayah and Hudson with their beautiful smiles.  She is all giggles.  He is all energy.

Archer (two years old).  Sometimes you run.  Sometimes you fall.  He wore those cowboy boots every. single. day.  In fact, he even wore them while he ran around naked. I snapped a photo of that from behind, because I couldn’t resist his cuteness.  However, I don’t think his mom would appreciate it being public. 

But you can imagine.  Or perhaps you have a little boy in your life who loves to run around naked wearing just his cowboy boots.  Those tiny white butt cheeks are priceless I tell you.

  

Terry and Natasha’s middlest child and second son.  I caught him lost in thought.  Or perhaps, lost in his nothing box.

Kristin, my dear friend.  Baby girl hiding inside her.  Jamie, Kristin’s sister-in-law, and mother to Hudson, Archer, and Lennox.  Lennox is the bald one.

Archer again.  So expressive.  Running, falling, hiding, laughing, squinting, pouting.  Two.

Zeke.  He pushed this shopping cart around every where.  We went on a long walk down the drive one day, me and Zeke and Jax, and Zeke insisted on pushing the shopping cart over the rocky path.  On the way back, he said it was too heavy, and could I please carry it for him?  We left it in the grass instead.  It will get picked up again in a few days by one of the kids.  They play outdoors for hours each day, even more since the fall weather was delightful while we were there.

| Filed under friends, the farm

Raising Bulls

Oh the things we don’t know about the meat we eat.

One of the first few days we were on the farm, they were castrating bulls.  I kind of freaked out.  I was expecting this ugly, nasty mess, and the mooing sounds of a cow in pain echoing across the fields.  It wasn’t that way at all.  In fact, it was kind of a party and the bulls didn’t make a peep about it.  It’s done very humanely, and doesn’t hurt the bulls, which is why they don’t mind.

First they gathered all the one-year old bulls.  The juiciest steaks come from a 1.5 to 2 year old bull, so these poor guys don’t have much longer to live.  It is industry standard to castrate them at one year old, because it sends them into a giant growth spurt.  They put on weight, so they can make even more juicy steaks.  A bull any older, especially one heading into the three-year old plus range, can only become ground beef.  They have one wild bull in the herd they’ve been trying to catch.  The saying would go something like this…. “That cow?  He needs to become hamburger.”

The part the cows didn’t like was being herded, one at a time, into this little corral.  They are free-range cows, and they love it.  Being chased into this pen was not their kind of fun, even though any beef you eat that’s not from a free-range farm, they’re kept in little pens or super tight quarters their entire life.

This is Daniel Pike.  He’s the middlest of three sons who, in some form or other, live and/or work on Pike Valley Farm.  He spearheaded taking over the farm from his father, just a year or so ago.  These one-year old cows were all born since he’s been running things.  They know how old the cows are from tags they put in their ears (which the cows apparently DO make a bit of a fuss about).

This is Michelle.  She and Bob (red hair further down in post), run the raw milk part of the business, and the vegetable CSA (community supported agriculture).  They live in a tiny, tiny concrete building that is connected to the “milking parlor” where the milk cows are brought in twice daily to be milked.

The whole time I was there, I never saw Michelle without a smile and a cheerful spirit.  How beautiful that is.

The guy with the hat is Terry.  He and his wife Natasha live on the farm, in a single-wide trailer, with their three kids.  They operate the egg-laying chickens part of the business.  Natasha homeschools their children, who are all extremely sweet.  Unfortunately, I never captured a photo of Natasha, which is a shame because she is very warm and friendly, and has to-die-for long curly blond hair.

Herding the cows up from the field and taking care of business was an all-hands-on-deck affair.  So even though these folks do many other things on the farm, they all showed up for bull castrating day.

This is Bob.   He is kind of an even-keel, quiet type, but if you ask him about his milk cows or his vegetable gardens, his passion shines through.  He spent some time talking with me, educating me about various things, answering my endless questions with calm grace.

The kids came and went from the party.  The oldest one took video of the bulls.  It was a homeschool field trip day! This car was ADORED by the kids, especially Hudson and Archer.  In this photo, Hudson (three years old) is driving.  He was an expert at maneuvering this thing ever where.  When he would go in reverse, he would throw his arm over the back of the seat and crane his head around behind him, just like an adult would.  It was the cutest thing.  Ezekiel (Zeke) is Daniel and Kristin’s son.  He’s riding next to Hudson.  Behind them is Mayah, Terry and Natasha’s daughter.  She’s the spitting image of her mom.  Next to the car in the Gap shirt is one of Terry and Natasha’s sons.  I don’t remember his name, because we didn’t see them too often while I was there.

 

Here you can see the back of the cow inside the pen.  Terry and Natasha’s oldest son is in the foreground in the blue shirt.  He is nine, and was taking video of the event.

Here you can see the head of the bull sticking out one side of the corral.  Several of them mooed quite loudly once they were in here, and the gates closed around them and their head was held in a small space.  They could still move their head and body, but less than a foot in any direction.

Michelle is standing inside the corral, up above the cow, holding its tail up in the air so Daniel can have access.  He had a small hand-held device a bit larger than a hand gun.  This is how he explained to me that it worked. Imagine wrapping a rubber band very tightly around your finger.  It wouldn’t hurt at first, and you might not notice it too much.  But it could be tight enough to cut off circulation from the tip of your finger, and slowly make it turn purple.  It’s the same concept.  His device wraps a tiny bit of rubber, like a rubber band, tightly around the top of the bull’s testicles. It is just tight enough to cut off circulation.  Within three to four days, the testicles shrivel up from lack of circulation, and literally fall off into the fields somewhere.  The bull never really has a clue.  There are other ways of castrating the bulls that do involve some cutting, but that’s not what they do here.

This bull got lucky and will become a steer.  I photographed him before I knew it, so it was ironic that of all the cows, I captured his face.  He avoided castration by having very even, well-formed testicles.  Apparently a lot of bulls have uneven, misshapen ones.  The bulls whose parts hang evenly and are appropriately sized will breed daughters whose udders are also even and well-formed, thus becoming good milk cows.  Crazy that farmers  have figured this stuff out.  Out of about twenty or so bulls, they saved two to become steers.  In the below photo, everyone is checking out the bull’s balls to be sure he’s a keeper.
 

This wide shot shows Michelle and Terry in the corral with all the bulls awaiting their fate.  The beautiful dog has white hair and amber orange eyes.  It is long-haired and about twice the size of a golden retriever.  They have four of these dogs, and they are trained to guard the chickens from predators.

This is Madden.  He’s a stray who has anxiety issues but is super lovable and took a liking to Jax.

Day’s work done.  Madden and Trevor following Daniel everywhere.  The kids heading home.

| Filed under friends, the farm

The Heart

 

 

This is the family I stayed with in Kentucky on the farm.  This is their 600 square-foot trailer.

These images show the heart of their home.  Love, laughter, play, togetherness.  It was a home full of peace, full of joy, full of light.

It’s a true joy.  The kind that comes from Jesus. And knowing what really matters.  Because it’s not for lack of hard times that they have joy.

In the five or six years I’ve known them, they have been through more major life tragedies than most people will experience in a lifetime.  While here in Texas, the place they were storing most of their belongings was broken into and ransacked.  Every valuable thing, including some of Kristin’s expensive instruments, was stolen.  They bought their first house, and because of problems caused by developer, it ended up being in a flood zone and becoming nearly worthless.  A minor car accident turned into litigation and financial chaos.  In the midst of all that, they miscarried several times.  The baby they finally kept was born at twenty-seven weeks and spent months in NICU on the edge of life.  He is now four years old, and if you can’t tell from the photos, the light of their lives.  They left San Antonio, and purchased beautiful farm land with the goal of starting their own farm and filling it with their children.  But a dam past their property was modified, turning their property in a lake once a year.  The first time it happened, they were living in a tent on their land, and lost most everything they owned that hadn’t been stolen before.  Now they owe more than the property is worth.  A few more miscarriages occurred.  The family farm business they are trying to start has been a rough road with little income and much work.  Their second son was born at eighteen weeks and didn’t make it.  Thankfully, their third baby is still safely in-utero at thirty-six weeks after trying to come into the world at twenty-eight weeks.  Her sonogram photos can be seen in these photos, on the wall next to the piano.

But if you didn’t know these things, you’d never guess.  There’s no “what if’s” or “poor me’s” or living in the sadness of the past.  There’s just peace and joy.  And now, there’s hope too.  Hope for this precious baby to come, who is getting bigger and stronger every day.  Hope for her to arrive safely and peacefully.  Confidence that together, they can hang on through anything.  Security in knowing Jesus has been there, and will be there, and our hope and peace and joy lies in Him.  Peace that passes understanding, as the phrase goes.  Joy despite the sorrows.  Hope to see a future that is bright.  Embracing simplicity.  Hanging tightly to family.  Making a life and home that is a refuge for others.

I felt overwhelmed in a way, being there.  Overwhelmed by the Lord’s goodness.  Overwhelmed by the simple peace.  Overwhelmed to know a family like this, who have been courageous and resilient.  Whose spirits glow with the strength and beauty of the Lord.  It was a gift.  I came home changed.  And grateful.  Grateful for the gift they gave me.

From the Farm: The View

The view from here in Kentucky.

The sign marking the driveway into this section of the farm.

The rolling hills and hay bales and pretty brick houses that make everyone long for country life. This is a neighbor’s property.

The classic farmhouse that the old owners let get so run down it is beyond repair. Every structural element is rotting. The backyard is full of broken bathtubs. Other rooms are full of doorknobs, miscellaneous odds and ends, and literal trash. What a shame.

The beautiful big hunting dogs that protect the chickens.

Free range chicken coops. They move the coops down the hill one square per day to give the chickens fresh grazing and to prevent disease from walking in their own accumulating feces. These are organic meat chickens. Egg-laying chickens are a different breed, and kept in a separate area of the farm.

Me and Jax backpacking it.

| Filed under friends, the farm

Indy Morning

Visiting dear friends. Stephen and Melissa. They made D’arcy (7), Julian (5), Scheoeder (3), and Maggie Lu (2).

Mornings with four kids are awesome. Jax woke up to the sun, and the others were awake shortly after. Jax was saying, “muh muh muh.”

D’arcy: “I hear baby Jax!”

Jax and I emerge from our room.

Julian: “look at Lex Luther, he…(long trail of all the awesome capabilities of the Lego dude).”

Schroeder: (rubbing eyes) “I wish I was still sleeping.”

Maggie: “box! Box! Box!” (pointing to the box Lex Luther Lego dude came in).

D’arcy: She got dressed in the bathroom so as not to miss any of the action. She brushed her own hair and put it in a ponytail even, all by herself. I am impressed; i didn’t remember seven year olds were this capable.

Melissa: Maggie choose between this outfit or this one.

Melissa: No, Scheoeder you cannot have a Popsicle.

Begbie taking sides with Julian. He has hopes for the other half of the Popsicle.

Melissa: Julian, shoes!

Breakfast, lunches packed, and out the door for the bus.,

| Filed under friends