127 Days of Therapy

Today is the day after Mother’s Day. If you are a mom, I hope you were shown love in so many tangible ways yesterday. But now you have 364 days ahead of you until next year’s special day, and I encourage you to find ways to fill your cup for yourself. Decide what makes your heart feel renewed and make it happen.

Self-care is a topic that is hot in agriculture right now. It’s because markets have been down for a long time and that has certainly taken some of the joy and satisfaction out of farming. The fear of being the last generation on your family’s farm is real.

For some people, self-care involves daily exercise. Others enjoy a monthly pedicure or maybe a weekend away. For me (and I know it’s not normal), I’ve found the best way to take care of myself is to have another baby.

Of course, there is the aspect of having to make good choices for my body (like taking time to eat and sleep) because of growing a baby for 9 months. Yet, that pales in comparison to knowing that a precious little helpless newborn baby absolutely needs me! Having Victor in our family for the past 127 days has brought SO MUCH healing to me after the hurt of Ava’s farm accident 4.5 years ago.

I am finally able to talk about it without tears coming to my eyes and my voice choking. I can’t believe how heavy grief has weighed on me for so long, but my healing just needed to be boosted by absolute joy.

Last week, my 5th and final baby was washed in the water. A baptism is such a remarkable day. Victor Albrecht Vander Kooi has the mark of God upon him.

Our church doesn’t have a pastor right now; the retired pastor that married Joe and I was able to baptize Victor and another baby. Part of his sermon was about the meanings of each baby’s name. For us, Victor has a meaning more than just keeping a “V” in our kids names (Vince, Liv, Ava, and Violet). It means that we finally felt we had it in us to care for another child. Our baby boy signifies our Victory over grief and shame and guilt.

I beg you to find the things you need to do to feel well. Take good care of yourself. If you are struggling right now, know that God does have a purpose for your pain. If you believe there are brighter days ahead and you keep working to get to the next day and then the next day after that, some time you will look back and see how far you’ve come! I need to go now, my baby is waking up and I’ve got some snuggling to do. I hope you have a great week.

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When your first time is also your last

My grandma met Victor for the first time when he was one month old, and it was both “Hello” and “Good-Bye”. Grandma Judy passed away peacefully this morning at the age of 99.5.

When she held this sweet child of mine, she was holding her 70th-something descendent. (We haven’t got an exact count at the moment, but it’s a lot!).

One doesn’t live to be 99 by being a wishy-washy people pleaser. Oh boy, my grandma was anything but that. She was as honest as the day is long, and the people caring for her certainly heard it, if the food she was served wasn’t to par.

My grandma leaves behind a legacy of hard work. She gave birth to 12 children, and endured the loss of 2 of them at a young age. Her children all contributed to the success of their farming way of life. She and grandpa Alton (who passed away 12 years ago) raised ’em right.

Across the state of Minnesota, 5 of her sons (my dad being one of them) owned their own dairy farms. You can imagine that Christmas gatherings were timed so families could attend between morning and evening milkings. We will gather once again in a few weeks to celebrate her life, and how privileged we are to be descendants of the one and only Judy Albrecht. May her memory be a blessing.

Nine generators running, working on the 10th

We are experiencing an ice storm here that is eerily similar to the predicament we were in exactly 6 years ago, near the time when I began blogging. No acreages or farms for miles around have power, and those in town have “rolling power”, which means that the city’s generator can only generate enough to intermittently provide power to homes.

Joe called an hour ago. He had just finished setting up the eighth generator for the day! He began at midnight. We have a huge generator at the dairy that flips on automatically and Joe often checks it just to be certain it is good to go before a storm. The first one to work on was the one for the well that supplies water to our milking cows. This water comes from my in-laws a mile away. Very important. Then, he set up a generator for our home and was about to go back to bed at 3:00 when I sleepily wandered into the kitchen. I nearly had a heart attack because I hadn’t realized he had left. (I have this amazing ability to hear the softest baby whimper at night from down the hall but can sleep through calls to Joe’s cell phone that rings 5 feet from my ear.)

He slept some and then, along with his Dad and the super handy mechanic from the dairy, began to ensure that all the water wells, employee’s homes and an elderly neighbor had electricity supplied by a generator.

The learning curve isn’t quite as steep as it was 6 years ago when we went without power for 7 days. We are better prepared. Yet, it is kinda bewildering to think we are running generators sized from 8 horsepower to 1100 horsepower, and the whole range in between. I think the novelty is starting to wear off. Joe texted me a video of going through the local farm supply store in the dark, trying to find the parts he needed for one of them. I laughed so hard at it, but I might be delirious from playing school teacher to my kids for hours this afternoon. I don’t think I missed my calling as a school teacher — for me, life is better on the farm. Just count to 10.

Eating Crow and Loving It

Today, Joe and I celebrate 16 years of married life. I am so glad to be married to my farmer!

Last fall, when Joe was finishing up harvest and it seemed like it had been months since we had enjoyed some quality time together, he PROMISED me that he would be home for supper nearly every night all winter. He claimed he had no big projects and things would slow down. I laughed and told him that he was a liar.

Yet, now I am eating crow and loving it. Joe has been home! He has honestly spent more time enjoying Vic than all our other 4 babies combined. Supper together at night has been a fantastic normal occurrence and, while he still works all the time, it just feels like he is walking into our home at night with a lot less stress.

Spring planting is around the corner and it is always a time of hopeful anticipation of another great crop year. I set up a high chair for Vic today because I know that soon, having Joe at home to hold Vic while we eat will be a rarity. Life is all about seasons and we are simply to love the one we are in!

One step forward, two steps back

My dad was supposed to go back to Minneapolis tomorrow for a 10-day post-op check following his back surgery. However, we are just hopeful that he finally gets released today. He has had lots of complications, but most of them stem from his bowels not agreeing to withholding of food for so much time (at least that is what Dad keeps saying!). He had a small surgery again over the weekend to ensure things are draining properly in his back and replace some stitches that didn’t hold when he was hiccuping and burping so violently.

My dad is 75-years-old and will probably go to a swing bed hospital setting near one of my sister’s home to regain some strength. We would appreciate prayers for his healing and recovery.

Due to influenza, no kids less than 5 years old are allowed in the hospital he is staying. This makes visiting very difficult for me! However, had I known he would be there for 10 days, I certainly would have found a way to make it work, even if it meant driving 3 hours each way to see him for 15 minutes. I didn’t want to stress my mom out by trying to have her meet me somewhere where she could watch Victor — she has an intense fear of the twin cities.

I’m sorry this post isn’t super inspiring or thought-provoking; it is simply what is weighing heavy on my heart these days. When my dad had his hip replaced last year, it was a simple in-and-out thing. We were caught off-guard by this. My dad did call Joe, my husband, yesterday and said he really wants to come visit and talked excitedly about spring planting being just around the corner. This thought makes me so thankful to farm and especially excited for planting this year. Thanks again for so much support.

Big Day for my Dad

My dad.

One of the hardest-working men I’ve ever known.

He is the one who developed within me a love of dairy cows, mostly by making it a joy to work on our farm.  I can’t remember my dad ever yelling at me for a mistake, or ever giving me the option to be lazy.  Aren’t these the things you want to be remembered for as a parent?

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At Falls Park, while attending Central Plains Dairy Expo 6 years ago.

Today is a big day for my dad.  He is undergoing a 6-hour back surgery at the University of Minnesota.  He has never complained of back pain, but he is a tough guy.  The X-rays showed that he is having some nerves pinched off and it is actually causing a muscle in his leg to atrophy.  Last summer, my dad had a hip replaced.  My dad is only 75-years-old, but he is just plain worn out from years and years of physical labor on the farm.

Please say a prayer today for a successful surgery and timely recovery.  I love him so much!

Snow Day for a Farm Kid

Snow Day for a Farm Kid

When our home phone rings at 9:00 at night, there’s a pretty good chance that it is the school district’s automated lady declaring either a late start or a school closing.

Of course, this call means different things for different families. I suppose it is a nightmare for working parents of young school-aged kids as they are suddenly in need of childcare. For Victor, 3 weeks old, it just means more arms available to hold him throughout the day. However, if you are an older kid on a farm, it likely translates into a day of physical labor caring for animals.

Victor, 3 weeks old.

Due to extreme cold and blowing snow, our family got “the call” last night announcing a 2 hour late start. At 8:00 this morning, the call came in that school was closed for the day. All of a sudden, Joe had gained a couple of extra farmhands for sorting cows this morning.

Vince (13 years old) is good with a lot of things on the farm, but reading a cow’s ear tags and then seeing if she is on his list of cows on the clipboard –yikes! So, I imagine Liv (10) will be the clipboard gal this morning and Vince will be opening gates and walking cows to their new pens. We had our veterinarian out last Friday to ultrasounds cows to check for pregnancies. (We do that every 2 weeks.) Joe is switching around some of the pens at the dairy to try to improve some efficiencies and so he will be making the lists for them.

That is if everything goes as planned — which isn’t likely with this extreme cold! I suppose they will find lots of things that need a little coaxing to make work today. Please pray for all those who are caring for livestock this week. The extreme temperatures affect so many people, from linemen to city employees to snow plow drivers to farmers, and sometimes it is hard to remember “safety first”. Bundle up and remember that it is only 50 days until spring!