Soybeans and Surrender

Lest I have given the impression that farm life consists solely of picturesque mornings, decadent days, and enchanting evenings, let me tell you about life on the farm recently.  The hubs planted over 500 acres of soybeans from April to May, we waited and watched for them to pop up and they did…along with lots of weeds, which he had to take care of.  Then we waited and prayed for rain, and thanked God when it came.  Farmer Man would drive around from field to field on his little white Toyota Tacoma “checking his beans”.  Checking for what, you ask?  The color, the height, the number of pods, the weed situation, for evidence of deer–chronic midnight snackers that they are, etc.  He’s calculated endless scenarios in his head of what the yield will be for each field based on acreage, which variety of bean he planted, and the amount of rain we’ve gotten ad nauseam.  With harvest on the horizon, he sent off a part of his combine that needed to be repaired, he blew out/off the combine of all debris and dust, and he was ready.

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Leroy “helping” work on the combine

Fast forward and soybean harvest season has begun as of a couple weeks ago.  (Click here to see videos of my farmer harvesting!)  Farmer Man got in a couple days of harvesting before we had a few days of rain which halted things for a while.  Then, as soon as it cleared off and the moisture level of the beans leveled out, Farmer Man–the only one who knows how to drive the combine, the farmer, the one-man-harvesting-show, got sick…and I don’t mean just a sniffle.  He headed out to check cows one morning, mumbling something about not feeling well.  He was back within the hour, promptly took ownership of the couch, refused to eat and barely drank anything all day.  That night he started full-body shivering, his fever spiked at almost 104, and it took socks, flannel pants, a fleece hoodie, two blankets and two heating pads to get him warm and to sweat out the fever.  The next morning…the NEXT MORNING…he gets up as if nothing had happened and went back to work.  I knew that any attempts to talk him out of it would be futile because he’s almost as stubborn as I am…almost.  That day I made him this amazing soup that is guaranteed to be better than any chicken noodle soup you’ve ever had.  Regular chicken noodle soup is blah, but creamy chicken noodle soup is where it’s at!  (I subbed gluten free noodles, coconut milk for the heavy cream, and ghee instead of regular butter…but you do you).

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Farmer-Approved Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup

Since then, things have not improved.  In fact it’s been like a farm horror film over here! Here’s the rundown of this past week: Several calves and a couple bulls got through the fence, and Farmer Man had to get them back into said fence.  My fantastic farmer has had to call the fire department…twice!…because of the combine.  The first time was because a bearing had gone bad which caused a spark and started an internal fire in the combine due to all the dust and debris flying up into it.  The next day, the internal fire was apparently still going and caused smoke to start billowing out!  Our local fire department has been wonderful, and has tried to help in every way they can.  The internal fire situation took the combine out of commission for two whole days during perfect harvesting weather!  Farmer B drove it back to equipment shed yesterday and hosed the whole thing off trying to get everything cooled down.

Every moment that he’s not in a combine during harvest season, he is chomping at the bit to get back to it.  Even while he was sick and deliriously feverish, he was still droning on and on about why he needed to “get back out there.”  The hubster gets up early, heads out the door to check for new calves, and do any other farm duties before starting on harvesting once the dew has evaporated and the moisture level is right.  During the night when the temperature drops and the dew starts to fall, the moisture level in the beans starts to rise.  Once it rises above a certain percentage, they are not suitable to harvest until the next day after some has evaporated.  If not for that fact, Farmer Man would probably see how long he could harvest without sleeping, showering, or using the bathroom!  He has lights on his combine, so he doesn’t get home until after 9:30pm as it is.  This is one of the seasons throughout the year where farm wives are referred to as “farm widows”.

Anyways!  Back to my saga about what’s gone wrong…anybody want to pull out a violin?  After hosing off the combine yesterday, Farmer Man takes a dump truck full of harvested soybeans to empty them into a silo for storage until the tractor trailer can come pick them up to haul them.  Immediately after unloading it, he starts to drive away only to discover he has no breaks whatsoever.  So he takes that truck to the shop down the road to get worked on.  We have 2 other dump trucks, so no biggie.  Today the combine is no longer smoking, and Farmer Man gladly gets back to work.  A couple hours in and he has a breakdown…this time a piece on the header (the part on the front that actually brings the beans in) gives out and has to be replaced.  Farmer Man hops in my car, buys the part at Tractor Supply, fixes it, and gets back to work.  A few hours later, I get a text…”Now I can’t get my white Ford dump truck cranked.  We have it at the field but it won’t fire up.”  Okay…no biggie don’t apply no mo’.  Two out of three dump trucks out of commission.  Not only that but the second dump truck has a full load of beans on it, and will have to be covered with a tarp overnight to keep the dew off.  Did I mention that a couple of calves got out of the fence again yesterday and had to be chased back in?  Oh, and there’s rain in the forecast that threatens to knock beans out of their pods?  Yeah, that too.

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In blissful oblivion…right before realizing the dump truck had no brakes

This is real farm life…and real life in general, no?  The stakes are high, time is short, and things keep going relentlessly wrong.  This is where the surrender part keeps coming in for me.  When it comes to finances, I am and always have been a low-risk kind of girl.  I have always known when I was getting a paycheck and how much I would make in a given year.  I have never taken a commission-based job because of the inherent lack of consistency.  Enter my husband–the Marine, the farmer who has spent the majority of his adult life in high risk territory–betting on, praying for, willing, and working for a payoff.  I had NO idea how far marrying a farmer would take me out of my comfort zone.

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Farmer Man standing in his chest-high soybean crop a couple years ago…note the lack of a smile

God keeps teaching me through this VA farmwife lifestyle, that He is faithful, He is good, and He can be trusted.  He continues to demonstrate through my circumstances that I can’t bank on anything except Him…because nothing else is a given. Rain doesn’t always come, crops sometimes fail, the equipment we rely on to do our jobs proves unreliable, our bodies get sick, the market fluctuates, relationships ebb and flow, emotions rise and fall.  Anything we rely on, place our hope in, stake our future on outside of Him is a mirage of safety, a house of cards that can be blown over in an instant by the slightest change in tides…but not Him.  He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow (Hebrews 13:8), in Him there is no variation or shifting shadow (James 1:17), and He is good (Psalm 119:68).

Regardless of our proverbial smoking combines, I hope you and I can face this day with confidence and rest securely tonight on the immovable Rock of Ages.

Calving Season has Arrived!

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My favorite calves by far are the few born with white faces

One of my favorite times of the year is back!!  When the green pastures are punctuated with little black specks, curled up cozy at their mama’s feet…or hooves, rather.  The time of year when the temperature settles and the breeze wakes up from hibernation.  Farmer Man adopts a new schedule, and spends a lot of time on the 4-wheeler, pronounced fo-whil-ah in the Southern Virginian accent, checking the pastures for new calves.  In past years, it thrilled me to no end to be his plus one on these treasure hunts.  However, last year I was pregnant (is it possible to have shaken baby syndrome before ever leaving the womb?), and this year our little cherub is only 6 months old, so I’m relying on Farmer Man’s pictures for my baby animal fix.  I’m grateful for technology, but nothing compares to seeing that fresh-licked fur, and those big, wide eyes, soft, wet nose, and wobbly knees in living color.

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The first calf I ever got to pet! (2014)

When I married a farmer, I had no idea just how much I didn’t know.  I was born in Iowa, and spent enough years of my life there to remember corn…EVERYWHERE, combines, pig farms…really the smell of pig farms, and tractors.  And that was the extent of my knowledge.  Now I can share with you a few things I’ve learned in my ongoing transformation from world traveler and nomad to a got-roots-I’m-going-to-die-here-on-the-farm girl.

We are not dairy farmers (Thank goodness!  God didn’t make alarm clocks, and nobody should be waking up at 3am.  Can I get an amen?!).  We raise Black Angus cows, and we sell them for meat…sorry vegetarians, vegans, pescarians, and other “arians”.  You’re welcome, folks who like nothing more than a steak, mashed potatoes, green beans, and corn…Merica.  So, the idea here is to have a herd of cows that has calves each year.  If a cow is not able to get pregnant, cannot bring a baby to full term, loses a calf at birth, has an unruly temperament, or “ages out of the program”, she gets sold.  This really offended my “all cows are created equal” sensibilities at first, but I had to realize that we are talking about animals rather than people and running a business that keeps America fed.

Farmer Man keeps our cows separated into sub-herds by age (i.e. heifers, two year-olds, 3 year-olds, etc.).  A note on heifers: No, it’s not just an insult hurled at women; it actually refers to a female cow who has not had her first calf yet.  Who knew?!  Some farmers keep their bulls and cows together year-round, and, due to this arrangement, have little calves running around throughout the year.  Farmer Man does things a little differently, and ensures that all our calves arrive at a set time of year–calving season…otherwise known as “magical baby animal fairyland”.

So, in order for this glorious calving season to arrive, there are a very busy few weeks in December when Farmer Man and his dad work the Artificial Insemination (AI)  process twice a day as cows come into heat.  It is very tiring, arduous work because it involves getting the cows “up”, which means the cows have to be called or chased into the corral and then lined up for their turn in the head gate.  This entails a lot of trudging around in the cold and mud for Farmer Man.

The first year we were married, I assisted with this process on a frigid December day…in an old pair of rain boots…that had a hole in them…and it rained.  I was pretty sure my toes had frostbite.  My feet got stuck in the mud while I was trying to close a gate so I had to catch myself with my hands, and ended up in mud up to my forearms.  It was great that I didn’t face-plant in the poop-mud, but how do you get upright when all 4 of your limbs are securely anchored to the ground in a foot of mud?  I’ll let your imagination finish the story.

(Here’s where things start to get a little more graphic.)

Aaaanyways, after the cows have been gotten up, a temporary implant (CIDR) is inserted in each one’s nether regions, that brings them all into heat at once.  After they’ve had the implant in for a week, Farmer Man removes them and puts a scratch-off sticker, just like a lottery ticket but much bigger, on each cows rumpus.  As the cows come into heat, they start to ride each other, and this is what scratches off the sticker on their rear ends.  When we see a bunch of cows running around with their sticker scratched off, we’ll know that they have come into heat and are ready to be bred.  They all come into heat within a week of each other.  Now breeding (via AI) is ready to commence.

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Some of the “scratch off stickers” left over from last year

Each morning during this phase of the process, Farmer Man goes into the paddock with a notepad and pen and writes down the number of each cow that has come into heat.  This way he knows what cows to breed that afternoon.  I can look out the kitchen window and see him stumbling his way across the uneven ground as he tries to reach each cow’s ear tag through the mist in the mornings.  After the afternoon breeding, he goes back out to the paddock to write down the cows that have had their sticker scratched off since that morning.  That group will be the next group to breed and so on until all the cows have come into heat and have been bred.  One afternoon he could have 27 to breed and the next morning there could be 5 to breed; it all depends on when they come into heat.

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One of the night time breedings

Once the AI process is done, then he puts bulls on the same pastures as the cows.  These are referred to as “clean up bulls”, because they help ensure that all the cows are pregnant since AIing is never 100% successful.  If you’re still scratching your head over what artificial insemination is, let’s just say that’s what those plastic gloves that go up to your shoulder are for.  For a detailed video explanation of AIing, watch this video.  Warning: If you’ve never seen this done before, it might be a little shocking to you.  The first time I saw Farmer Man do this, I couldn’t look at him in the eye for the rest of the day!

After these few weeks of getting all the herds pregnant (minus the heifers that are too young), the cow’s job is to eat and grow that baby, and my hubby’s job is to rotate them to a different pasture when they eat the grass down, check their waterers to make sure they stay hydrated, to give them minerals, and to wait.  Several months into pregnancy, we get the vet to come out and “preg-check” (check to make sure each cow is pregnant).  The ones that are not pregnant get taken to the livestock market to be sold auction style and re-homed.  I have not been to one of these auctions, but I want to go just to see it, and I will take video when I go so stand by!

During calving season, Farmer Man basically lives on his fo-wil-ah.  He does this for several reasons, including spotting momma cows who are having a hard time calving that he may have to assist.  However, the primary purpose is to put numbered ear tags in each calf so that he can keep track of their ages and write down which cow he/she belongs to.  Before you report us for animal abuse, consider the fact that 90%+ of human babies born in this country get a vaccine shot or two within minutes of birth.  It’s important to know which calf goes with which mama because it tells us things about the mama.  For example, if a baby calf is born blind, we know that we need to sell its mama.  Also, if a calf is looking too skinny, we need to know who its’ mama is to see if she is allowing him/her to drink milk so that we can fix the problem…or my favorite…bottle feed it!!!  This is not Farmer Man’s favorite.

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Newly tagged calf on a rainy day

Every calving season a few sets of twins are born.  One of the most interesting farm facts I’ve learned since meeting my farmer is that oftentimes when a cow has twins, she ends up rejecting one of the twins.  The mama has a finite amount of milk and rather than trying to support two babies, she usually picks the stronger of the calves to keep and rejects the smaller one.  What do I mean by “rejects”?  Answer: She will not allow the rejected calf to drink milk from her.  It almost broke my heart the first time I witnessed this, because the calf will approach its mama cow for milk, but she will walk away, push it away with her head and even kick the calf to keep it from drinking.  This is when every young child (and probably most grown women’s) dream of bottle feeding comes in!  We have had a couple calves to bottle feed since I married my farmer 3 years ago.  You can see videos of our previous “porch pets”, bottle feeding, and other fun farm stuff on my YouTube channel here.

This year our first calf, affectionately called #1, was born on September 1st, and we expect calving season to last until early December.  As of right now, we have 124 calves on the ground (just in the past 25 days!), and we’re expecting roughly 145 more.

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Farmer Man has a soft spot for animals 🙂

So here’s to pumpkin spice everything, wreaths, sweaters and boots galore, coziness, chili cook offs, and the baby animal paradise that is fall on the farm.  Happy fall, y’all!

What questions do you have about calving season?

This One’s For the Girls: A First Time Momma’s Master List

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A childhood friend of mine recently announced that she and her husband are expecting (Congratulations Emily and Clint!!)  She asked me if I had any recommendations as she starts on their baby registry.  Boy do I ever!  Without the suggestions of several veteran mommas, we would’ve been up a creek…made of our own tears.  I’m so grateful to all of the supermoms that sacrificed their valuable time to create lists for me filled with stories  and personal experiences.  With (almost) 5 months experience under my belt, I can hardly be considered a veteran, but I’d like to pass along what I’ve learned if it would help any other fledgling mothers.  So cue your amazon wish list and grab a bag of lactation cookies, and let’s get to it!

First, I recommend making baby registries on amazon.com and target.com.  When you create an Amazon registry and at least $10 worth is purchased from it, you get a free welcome box with all kinds of baby goodies in it.  With Target, all you have to do is create a registry on their site, walk up to their customer service desk and show them your registry on your phone, and they hand you a bag of free baby items and coupons.  For both sites, the freebies are actually good stuff–think bottles, baby lotion samples, swaddle blankets, bath toys, wipes, etc.  #winning  I do not recommend making a registry at Babies R Us because they are significantly more expensive than other places, so you’re getting less bang for your buck.

For Momma Bear/Breastfeeding

  1.  Whether you plan on breastfeeding or bottle feeding, the Boppy pillow is extremely helpful.  I felt hesitant about spending $40 on something like that, but I lucked out and found one for $25 at Ross.  When my mom visited a few months ago, she commented that when she had infants, she used to just prop us up with bed pillows, and the Boppy would have made life so much easier.  The neat thing about the Boppy is that even if you don’t use it for breastfeeding, it can be used to prop your baby up when they’re not quite able to sit up on their own, but aren’t content lying back anymore.  It can also be used for supporting them during tummy time, too.  Similar to the Boppy is the…brace yourself…My Brest Friend pillow.  Could they have come up with a cheesier name?!  I almost wish I had gotten this one instead of the Boppy because it has a strap and clasp that allows you to attach it around your waist which is super helpful considering we homo sapiens only have 2 hands.
  2. Breast pads.  Thinking I would save a bunch of money, I bought washable, cloth breast pads.  I do not recommend doing this.  What I didn’t realize is that the leaking would only last for a few months, and the reusable ones are problematic: you have to rinse them thoroughly as soon as you take them off and you have to wash them shortly after using them or else they will get a spoiled milk smell that is very hard to get rid of.  Also, if you leak too much, they will feel gross, and if you’re out and about it is much more convenient to throw away a disposable set than figure out what to do with the cloth ones.  The disposable ones are much more comfortable, less maintenance, and only have to be used for a little while.  These Lasinoh pads are my favorite.
  3. Breast pump.  Whether you decide to exclusively breast feed (EBF) or not, you will need a breast pump at some point.  You may need to build a stash before going back to work, you may want to store some for medicinal purposes for your baby or yourself (I treated and cured a case of pink eye with some of my milk.  Yes, really), you may have an oversupply and want to donate, need to relieve the pain when (or in my case, if) your baby starts sleeping through the night, you may want some on hand in case you decide to go out of town for a weekend and leave the baby with grandma, etc.  I got this Spectra, and it has done well, and I found it on a Groupon deal.  Lots of people recommended that I get a hand pump as well, but I only used that before I got my electric one and haven’t touched it since.  I got this Medela hand pump, and it worked fine, but I just prefer the electric pump so much more.  Make sure you get breast milk storage bags as well.  I’ve used Target’s brand and these Lasinoh bags, but I don’t see any difference between the two.
  4. Lanolin cream.  You should only need this for the first month or less, so I’d go with a small tube of it, but when you need it, you need it right away so it’s good to have.
  5. Nursing clothes from Undercover Mama.  The great thing about their clothing is that it attaches to any nursing bra, so it makes feeding a breeze.  The 2 pieces I bought from them are staples in my breastfeeding wardrobe, and are some of the most comfortable clothes I’ve ever worn.  In fact, I wore this shirt in the hospital, and it helped me discreetly feed her with people coming in and out…still with a nursing cover, of course.  (See picture below)
  6. A nursing cover, but I don’t have any particular recommendations.

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For Baby Bear

  1.  If you don’t register for anything else on this list, register for the Fisher-Price Auto Rock n Play!!  I have an awesome mama-friend who gave me her older version of this that does not automatically rock, but even it has been the biggest lifesaver!  This is the only thing that allowed either of us to get any sleep when she was tiny and colicky, allowed me to cook any meals, go to the bathroom, take the occasional shower, give my arms a break back when I was holding her 14-18 hours a day (no exaggeration I’m afraid #banginbiceps).  Our baby cakes is almost 5 months old, and I still put her in it at least 5 times a day long enough to get a quick thing or two done.  I have more pictures of Emory in her Rock n Play than anywhere else cause that is where she has been the happiest…see?!

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2.  Arguably just as essential as the Rock n Play, is the Pack n Play.  I got this basic version, but my mom got this tricked out one from her first-time-Grandma shower.   I was able to buy mine used from a friend for $35, and Emory has napped in it daily; plus we took a trip to New Orleans when she was 2 months old (yes, we are cray-cray), and the basic Pack n Play was perfect to take along for her to sleep in.  However, my mom’s version is super convenient because it has a changing table attached to it for those middle-of-the-night diaper changes.  Pro-tip: If you want your baby to take naps in this, you might want to buy the Pack n Play fitted sheet, or you can be cheap like me and just use a crib sheet tucked tight.

3.  Thermometer. I have no specific brand suggestion, but just get a standard type rather than an ear or pacifier thermometer because when you call the pediatrician’s office with a question about your potentially sick baby, they are going to ask for a rectal reading of your baby’s temperature so don’t waste your money ($30 in my case) on a different kind of thermometer.  This one or even a $2 version from Walmart works.

4.  You probably won’t have to buy many clothes for your little one at first because that’s everyone favorite thing to give at baby showers, but if you have to purchase fill in pieces, I do NOT recommend buying Gerber’s onesies.  They shrink A LOT in the dryer.  If you do get them, plan on the next size up or two from what your baby needs at any given time.  I learned this one the hard way.  My favorite brand is Carter’s because of their quality and cuteness.  My second favorite brand is Child of Mine.  Because we have a farm baby, we also have some Carhartt and John Deere clothes that I love as well, and they are very durable and adorable.

5.  I’ve heard a lot of people say that a wipe warmer is a waste of money, but ours has been worth every penny.  Our farm baby was born in March, and it was still cold.  She had colic, so she cried all the time, but she revved it up a notch when that cold, wet wipe hit her baby bottom.  We got this one, and I love it.  It heats the wipes to just the right warmth.

6.  Do yourself a favor, and get this Baby Einstein Sea Dream Soother for the crib!  Emory adores this, and she has already figured out how to turn it on and off herself by kicking the starfish-shaped button.  This thing plays beautiful music and sea sounds, the sea animals move, it lights up, and has a ‘crib check’ light for those middle of the night “oh my gosh, are you still breathing?!?!?!?!” checks…or so I’ve heard.  This wasn’t on my registry, but I’m SO glad some older, wiser ladies gifted it to us anyways.

7.  Our little farmer girl took a pacifier a few times, but has turned her button nose up to them ever since.  However, when I was making our registry, I made sure to add pacis that are BPA-free silicone or rubber such as these or these.

8.  When it comes to bottles, 2 words: Dr. Brown’s.  Unless you want to play the infant version of Russian Roulette trying to figure out which bottle will give your baby the most gas and worst gas pains, just get these.  (I breastfeed, so Emory has only been given a bottle maybe a dozen times, but these were still worth the money!)

9.  Swaddle blankets!  Before Emory was born, I thought it was absolutely essential that I become an expert swaddler of babies…so much so that I watched YouTube videos on how to swaddle an infant and went to a preparatory baby class where I had to demonstrate how to swaddle on a germy, Chucky-looking doll.  My male nurse in the maternity wing swaddled Emory so tightly I thought her head was going to pop off.  She enjoyed that for all of 6 hours.  We quickly learned that she couldn’t stand to have her hands restrained, so my obsession with swaddling was a waste of time.  BUT swaddle blankets are something I have used and she has enjoyed every day since.  I use them to cover her while she’s nursing and they’re the only blankets I’ll put on her in her crib because I know that if they cover her face she can still breathe.  I got this 3-pack and use them daily…plus they’re cute.

10.  Camera Monitor.  You may not be like me, but I have anxiety issues, so it is a must for me to be able to see baby girl while she’s sleeping.  We got the Summer Infant SURE SIGHT 2.0 Digital Color Video Baby Monitor…say that 10 times fast!  I like it…99% of the time.  It has a very clear picture, AND I can actually see Emory breathing, which has meant a lot of peace of mind for me.  However, the camera and screen have had spotty connectivity a couple of times which was frustrating.  The video only cut in and out for a few minutes before working flawlessly again, but my concern is that it could happen while I’m asleep, and I wouldn’t know it.  So, read reviews and figure out the one that is going to meet your needs–based on your anxiety level and sleeping arrangements ;).

11.  Diaper bag.  A sweet friend gave me this cute one off of my Target registry, and I love it.  The only thing I’ll say is whatever diaper bag you get, make sure it has lots of compartments.  You’re going to want a different slot for wipes, diapers, pacifiers, toys, a change of clothes, socks, shoes, burp cloths, diaper cream, etc.  Trust me on this…not that I’ve ever had to manage a squirming, screaming baby on a narrow changing table whose diaper I’ve already opened without being prepared for what I was about to see, while frantically scratching my way through a diaper bag for anything resembling a wipe but instead pulling a Mary Poppins and coming up with everything but what I’m looking for.  Nope, not me…but I’ve heard it can be a little harrying.

12.  Baby tub.  Sink baths won’t be a possibility for quite a few months, so go ahead and get a baby tub.  Unless you plan on setting the baby tub in your actual bath tub, check the measurements and make sure it’s going to fit in your sink…or else you’ll be sloshing a baby bathtub full of water back and forth from your sink to the kitchen table…like me.  Here’s the one I received from my amazing supervisors/boss moms at my internship site.  It’s great because it comes with a removable infant hammock-type insert, then a small insert for the next stage when your baby is starting to gain some core strength, and then you take that out once your baby is sitting up.  It also comes with a couple bath toys and has a handy hook on the back so that you can let it air dry.

13.  Gerber Birdseye 3-Ply Prefold Cloth Diapers.  Now, before you skip this one because you’re not using cloth diapers, you are going to want these.  These weren’t on my registry, but a friend gave them to me at a baby shower, and I’m so glad she did.  They are a great all-purpose item, and I use them daily.  They can be used as burp cloths, clean-up-anything cloths, and what I use them for most it to pat dry my baby’s bum since I heard that someone, somewhere decided that baby powder predisposes infants to asthma.  Whatever you use them for, this is something you definitely want on hand.

14.  Baby Medicine Bottle.  I have been in some scary and hair-raising situations in my life, but nothing even comes close to how helpless and terrified I felt the couple of times that Emory choked…to the point of turning blue and gasping for breath, unable to take one…on medicine we tried to give her using a medicine dropper that comes with the product.  Those times it happened, I thought I was going to watch our precious, weeks-old baby die in my arms, and each time I was a snotting, sobbing mess for the half hour following.  I do not want anyone going through what we did.  SO…buy these or the Safety 1st Infant Kit that contains one, which is also a great item to have on your registry.  Your baby may not be a choker, but you do NOT want to find out the way that we did.  With this medicine bottle, I can pump a little breastmilk, add the medicine to it in the bottle and feed it to her that way with no issues or near heart attacks.

15.  A baby carrier.  We splurged on this item and got the Ergobaby 360 Cool Mesh Baby Carrier.  But you shouldn’t.  Don’t get me wrong–this one is great, and I have no complaints at all, but I’ve talked to parents that bought a $30 version and love it just as much as our fancy smanshy one.  Friends don’t let friends buy overpriced items.  And even though the mesh and coolness factor is why we ultimately went with this one, let’s face it…when you have 2 bodies squished up against each other for longer than a few minutes, it’s going to get a little sweaty no matter what kind of carrier you get.  Some people’s babies love baby wraps instead of carriers, but mine hated being put in the wrap, so I can’t speak to those.  And it took about 174 times of watching the tutorial on YouTube to get it put on correctly in my case…maybe that was because of the sleep deprivation…either way, no bueno.  However, if you want to wear your baby before they hit the minimum weight for a carrier, you’ll probably need a baby wrap or to buy an infant insert to go inside the baby carrier.  This is the infant insert that went in our carrier.

16.  Baby wipes.  This is an obvious one, but I am all about reducing and/or eliminating the amount of chemicals that I expose my family to.  If this is something that’s important to you, too, you need to download an app called ‘Think Dirty’.  It allows you to scan an item’s barcode or type in its name, and it will bring up a list of its’ ingredients, what impact those ingredients are known to have on the body, and the  toxicity level of the product on a scale from 0-10, with 10 being very toxic.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered the Pampers wipes I was using were a 9 out of 10!!  So my favorite wipes are Water Wipes and Seventh Generation.  There is an unfortunate trend of everything that is better/good for us is more expensive than those that are not too/harmful to us.  So chemical-free wipes, diapers, materials, shampoo, etc. are more expensive, but I’ve learned to just prioritize and keep rolling…cause mom guilt is a big, ugly bear, and it will maul you if you just sit there thinking about how you should model your life after Little House on the Praire.

17.  Baby hat.  You are going to want to protect that buttery smooth skin and those baby blues, so make sure you get a hat.  I highly recommend this one because it is adjustable to the size of your slobber monster’s rapidly growing cranium.  This is one of those things that once you need it, it’s too late, so go ahead and get one now.

18.  Baby socks and mittens.  Everyone told me not to get these because they would just fall off repeatedly, but I’m one of those 90-year-old women trapped in a 20-something-year-old’s body, so my hands and feet are chronically cold, and I hate having cold appendages.  So, I got them for Emory, and even though I’ve had to place and replace them on her feet a lot, it gave me peace of mind knowing my little love bunch is warm and cozy.  I would just recommend getting ones like these that have extra material that folds over the top because it helps keep them on.  For the first couple of months, Emory’s hands always seemed to be cold, and as I mentioned above, she hated them wrapped up in a blanket, so I went to the store and bought mittens.  Even though she only used them for the first few months before she started staring at and sucking on her hands all the time, I’m glad I got them.  These are the ones I got, but you might want to try a different brand because one mitten always seemed bigger than the other and would more easily fall off all the time.

19.  Diaper Genie.  This isn’t an essential, but it sure is nice to have.  Yes, you smell dirty diapers with a sprinkle of pit ‘o hell for the 2 seconds that it is open, but once it’s shut again, the smell truly is locked in.  The only thing I don’t like about it is that you have to keep buying the bag refills.  If you don’t get the Diaper Genie, at least get a trashcan with a foot pedal that will keep a lid on the contents at all times.

20.  Crib.  My lovely MIL and sisters-in-law got this crib, and we love it, AND it was easy to put together.

21.  Diaper rash cream.  Boudreaux’s Butt Paste really works.

22.  Sound machine.  This item probably depends on your theory on infant sleep and whether or not you decide to sleep train, but I would say it’s better to have it and return it if you find you don’t need it.  My personal favorite is this adorable owl sound machine and nightlight by Skip Hop for several reasons.  It’s has a feature that allows you to set the sound for 15, 30, 60 minutes or continuously.  It also projects starts on the ceiling with the push of a button, and has multiple songs and sounds to choose from. If you think you’ll be traveling with your little one a lot, you may want to look into getting the Sleep Sheep.  It will only play for 23 or 45 minutes, but that was long enough to get Emory to sleep on our trip to New Orleans.  But it also has lots of different sounds and songs to choose from.

22.  Breathable Mesh Crib Liner.  This one equals so much peace of mind for me.  I don’t want Pookie Bear’s little arms or legs sticking out of the crib, but I also don’t want to fix that problem by creating a smothering hazard.  This offers the best of both worlds.

23.  Car seat.  The wonderful women at our church gave us this Britax B Agile/B Safe 35 Travel System, and it affords a lot of peace of mind on top of being very easy to use and switch back and forth from the car to the stroller.

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Here are some more important items in no particular order:

  1. Baby swing  (We got this one and this one and liked them.  One is stationary and one is portable.)
  2. Bottle dryer rack (We have this one with no complaints)
  3. Changing table, changing table pad, pad covers–the cuter the better, but they will get poop on them at some point  (Ours is a Graco-similar to this one- and Emory loves staring at the Graco emblem on the back…she’s been fascinated by it since she was only weeks old!)
  4. Hooded towels (we have these and this one and love them…they’re so cute!)
  5. Wash cloths
  6. Nursing bras
  7. Mattress cover and sheets
  8. Burp cloths
  9. Fingernail file (I’m nervous about using the nail clippers on her just yet)
  10. Nursing cover
  11. Baby toys for various developmental stages.  I do recommend this one, and this one is Emory’s absolute favorite
  12. Backseat car mirror
  13. Diapers, of course (we’ve used mostly Pampers, but I prefer Pampers Baby Dry, and dislike Pampers Swaddlers)

Lastly, you’re going to want to get on Facebook and type in ‘Daily Dose of Pink Rose Momma’ in the search box and join the page.  This page is the ultimate hookup to deals, price drops, and coupons on baby, kids, momma, and family items on Amazon.  Alternatively, just shoot me a message that you’d like to be added, and I’ll add you!  This has seriously saved us so much money.

What #1 most essential baby item would you recommend to a first time mom?

Have Mouth, Will Eat

This post is going to be mostly about food, but we’ll get to that in a minute.  I’ve decided on a new format for my posts.  From now on, I’ll have different sections such as ‘Farm Happenings’, ‘This Old House’, ‘Grub’, etc.  Here goes…

Farm Happenings

The biggest farm happening isn’t happening at all…rain!  Nothing is growing except the long list of things that will go awry if we don’t get some of that liquid gold within the next few days.  Well, liquid silver…we all know coffee is the only liquid gold, can I get a witness?!  On a positive note, our grass hasn’t needed mowing in a few weeks.  Not going to lie, Brian is usually so busy this time of year that our front yard resembles scenes from the Jungle Book before it ever gets mowed anyways–no exaggeration.

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No rain makes for sad heifers

For the Lazy Chef: Recipes that have been saving my life

I have never liked to cook…or sew…or cross-stitch…or bake…or pretty much do anything domestic.  I told Brian this within the first two weeks we started talking, and told him outright that I’m not wife material, and he still married me.  Ha!  Sucker.  Buuuut it turns out that clothes have to get washed, meals have to get cooked, and floors, windows, and bathrooms have to get cleaned in order to do this thing called life.  So just call me Martha Jemima (Martha Stewart+Aunt Jemima) and send me to a basket weaving class!  Don’t hear me saying I hate work, because that’s not the case, but I have just always preferred other types of work.

I have actually started to enjoy doing some of these things, but cooking is not on the list.  Then enter the most demanding (albeit cutest) baby on earth to a first-time mom, and cooking became that much more difficult.  All that being said, here are the recipes that have been sustaining us for the past 4.5 months thanks to friends who suggested them, frantic Pinterest searches and pure desperation.  I have been gluten free for a few years for health reasons, and now I’m (temporarily) dairy free while I’m breastfeeding Emory who has a (hopefully temporary) reaction to the protein found in cow milk.  So all of the following are gluten and dairy free without sacrificing flavor.

Oatmeal Energy Bites.  I’ll start with my favorite.  If you are what you eat, just call me Oatmeal Energy Bites.  These are DELICIOUS, and some of my lingering “baby weight” is actually the fact that I’ve eaten the equivalent of a swimming pool full of these.  In order to make it dairy free, use Enjoy Life chocolate mini chocolate chips.  Delish!

Next up is this simple Honey Mustard with Turmeric Recipe.  This was my first experience using Turmeric, and all I can say is yummo!  I fixed stovetop garlic asparagus and rice as sides for this, and it was perfection.  I’m a big fan of steamable bags of vegetables as sides….like 99% of the time.

Granola.  Thirdly, I have become slightly addicted to this granola recipe.  Every variation of it I have made has been ah-mazing and makes the house smell like a Yankee candle factory, which is always a plus.  I have used maple syrup, molasses, coconut oil, honey (or a mixture of whatever I had in the pantry), dried blueberries, cranberries, chopped dates, almonds, a nut medley, coconut flakes, TONS of cinnamon (cause it’s amazeballs), and vanilla extract just to name a few potential ingredients/flavors.  I thought about adding chocolate chips one time, but it’s so good without it that I didn’t want to add them.  And if I don’t feel the need to add chocolate to something…you know it’s good.

ROASTED VEGETABLES!!!   Okay, so this takes a little prep work, but it has been worth it to me every. single. time.  My wonderfully domestically skilled friend, Lydia, came to visit us when Emory was three weeks old, and she introduced me to this pot o’ gold.

Preheat oven to 400.  Cut up several of each into cubes: potato, sweet potato (I peel these), carrot, beets, onion.  I usually leave the onion out though.  Toss these in enough olive oil to lightly coat then sprinkle with salt.  One time I added some Lawry’s Seasoning salt as well.  Spread onto sheet pan and cook for at least an hour.  I usually check them at an hour then put them in just a little longer because I like them to start getting dark, but that’s just me.  You can also stir these halfway through for more even browning, but at my house…ain’t nobody got time for dat.

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Usually I pack my pans to the brim, but I was running low this day

Two words…Cheeseburger Rice.  Farmer Man and I may or may not have developed a slight addiction to this.  The second time I made it, he said, “Why don’t you just go ahead and quadruple that.”  To make it dairy free just leave off the cheese.  That’s what I did, and I was not disappointed at all.

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I used a mixed rice medley when I doubled the Cheeseburger Rice recipe

Easy Slow Cooker Ribs…operative word=Easy.  For those of us who hate…hate is a strong word.  Despise, loathe, utterly disdain…?  For those of us who see cooking as a personal growth area, the crockpot is our BFF, am I right?!  In fact, I have 3 of them in varying sizes.  RIP #4 that got a crack in it :(.  This next recipe was the first meal I had after coming home from the hospital with some potato wedges and peas, and it put some color back into my pale cheeks.  I’ve made it several times since, and it never disappoints.  You can even skip the last step of putting them in the oven, and they’re still just as good.

Coconut Curry Chicken.  This has ‘Coconut’ in the name because it uses coconut milk, but there is no hint of coconut taste at all.  If you like curry, you will love this recipe.  Very little prep, with a big flavor.  My one tip on this recipe: use the full about of curry listed.  Curry smells so strongly that I chickened out and only put half of what it called for.  With each bite, I was wishing for just a little more of that flavor.  See?  That’s what happens when I deviate from being a rule follower.

Spaghetti Squash.  I am in love with the stuff.  The only downsides are that it can be expensive, and I have to wait for Farmer Man to cut it open for me because seeing her mom bleed out due to clumsiness with large knives would probably be really traumatic for baby Emory.

I’ve been using spaghetti squash for years in place of regular and gluten free noodles, and I actually love the taste and texture.  However, I was making it wrong all these years!  Most recipes online recommend adding water to the pan you bake them on which results in soggy, wet “noodles”.  I finally found a recipe that recommends cutting it open long ways, scooping out the seeds, coating both sides in olive oil, and sprinkling salt and pepper.  Pop it in an oven (preheated to 400) and let it cook for an hour.  What results is perfect golden goodness without the sog.  Pair with anything.  You’re welcome.

 

Well, I think this post has turned out quite long enough without me giving an update on This Old House, so I’ll save that for next time.  What are your favorite, fast, and delicious recipes?

 

That Time I Met Tim Tebow

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The most exciting thing that has happened to me all week was meeting Tim Tebow…last night.  Okay, so that’s fake news…kind of.  In my dream last night, he picked me up and we went out to a nice dinner.  He was very nice (duh), he told me some things I need to work on as a person (talk about awkward the very first time you meet someone–especially a famous someone) and then he dropped me back off.  I have concluded that I needed a good talking to concerning things I’m being a slacker about, and so my subconscious conjured up Tim Tebow to deliver them to me because it knew I would be receptive to such a godly, standup kind of guy.  Does that make Tim Tebow my spirit animal…?  Maybe I’m taking this a bit too far.  ANYWAYS…imagine my utter disappointment over the fact that he didn’t stick around to profess his undying love for me (sigh).  But alas, twas but a dream.

Thankfully I woke up to my very real flaming-hot Farmer Man and my beautiful 4-month-old (excuse me while I ugly cry over how fast she’s growing up!) and our blonde, bounding lab, Diesel.  We’ve been a bundle of nerves over here for a few weeks as everything around us has grown more and more dry–the grass, the leaves, the pastures, and most nail-bitingly important, the 500+ acres of soybeans that my Farmer Man planted back in April and May.

A few weeks ago in our Young Adult Sunday school class, we were discussing spiritual gifts.  One of my Farmer Man’s top gifts is faith.  It’s a good thing!  If you don’t possess this spiritual gift, here’s some life advice…don’t become a farmer!  My Farmer Man is laid back, stubbornly optimistic, and demonstrates to me what it means to have faith like a child.  A friend of mine who had become a skeptic of the Christian faith once asked me, “Why would I want to have faith like a child?  Children believe in Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy!”  What he failed to realize is that to have faith like a child is not to believe the same content that children believe; it’s believing in the same manner that children believe.  Children believe something if they have faith in the person telling them things.  In the same way, when we as children of God have “faith like a child”, we are taking Him at His word because of who He is.

So today, after days and weeks of the scorching heat, willing it to rain, watching everything wither, staring down storms on the horizon without them blowing a single kiss our way, praying, and believing, God saw fit to rain down blessings on us…literally.  And He didn’t play around either!  We got half an inch…I only know because Farmer Man checks the rain gauge like a 15-year-old checks their Facebook notifications.

The picture above is the whole reason for this impromptu post tonight, because I just couldn’t wait to share it and the beautiful reminder it is of the promises of God–to never destroy the earth again by flood, to always take care of His children, to always love us with a love that does not rise and fall with the quality of our behavior, and to never leave us or forsake us.

 

Let’s Try This Again

I have a confession.  This is not my first time (attempting) to start a blog.  Over a year ago I paid way too much money (read $100+) buying a package and a domain name and got all excited about what I was going to do with it.  That year came and went and that money was wasted because the last year was a doozie…we found out I was pregnant (surprise!), I finished my last year of grad school (who knew the letters M & A could be so expensive?!), completed an internship in the mental health field (ever tried to get a group of kids with ADHD to complete a…squirrel!), and a host of other events and changes that took priority over blogging about it all.

Fast-forward to now-baby Emory is here and the most exquisite creature her dad and I have ever laid eyes on!  This coming from the woman who was “never going to get married, and if I ever do, I’m NOT having kids…hahahaha…ha!  Cue the colic she had for the first 2 months of her life, the teething that started at 3 months, the fact that I haven’t had coffee since I found out I was pregnant, and the fact that control over my hypothyroidism flies completely out the window thanks to the surge of pregnancy hormones and then their swift exit, and you’ve got a sleep deprived stay-at-home momma with a lot of time to ponder the deeper things of life.  Things like the quickest, easiest meal I can possibly make so that my husband and I don’t starve, how to bribe a cranky (almost) 4 month old into a nap, what excuses to come up with so that people who drop by won’t think we actually live in this squalor all the time, how to make a dollar stretch to China and back, how we can manipulate a 130-year-old farmhouse into the house of our dreams, and how merciful our God is to bless me with the abundant, unexpected, blessing-filled, downright exhausting, stressful and rich life I get to share with my favorite people on the planet.

So, here’s to adding blogging to my to-do list that has never been more full to date.  I’ve already made it further in this blogging venture than I did a year ago, so I’m feeling pretty good about this whole thing.  I hope you’ll join me for the journey!

 

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The view from my favorite window