Day 2-3: Walking On in the Ugly Beautiful Bitter Sweet

The sun went down on our first day home and pain blindsided me in a moment I didn’t expect. You might wonder how it blindsided me when it had been the only constant, but some happy moments were even sadder than the sorrowful ones. I glanced outside as the sun went down to see Leslee pushing our girls on the swings.

DSC_2111

It was a sweet moment, but I felt the bitter start to build inside me. He was smiling, they were giggling…laughing, and I was having a hard time with the image of happiness this scene was portraying. It was surreal…standing there fully aware that this was my life and yet I was so far removed from it. In my mind, I was wherever Leif was. That’s where I wanted to be. I didn’t want to be witnessing a happy family. I didn’t belong there.

I remember a conversation I had with my mom before I left the hospital. A conversation about how life goes on in spite of you. I told her I didn’t know how in the world I was going to move forward. That I had no desire to. I can’t remember everything she said, but one line stuck with me. “That’s the hard, but somewhat merciful thing about life…Whether we want to move forward or not, as life moves forward, it tends to drag us along with it.”

DSC_2110

I stood there looking out the window and realized this was one of those moments. This beautiful, ugly, golden, bitter moment where I first experienced that she was right. I was going to be dragged along whether I liked it or not. It was happening as I stood there. My family was going to drag me along.  I might as well find the beauty over the ugly. The sweet over the bitter. I got my camera. It occurred to me that I might want to remember this. This…the moment  life started to move on. The moment life looked like nothing horrible had happened to us.  A normal, happy family playing in the yard.

I saw Leslee pushing the girls and I wanted to embrace his strength. This was a joy-filled moment. For him. I was sincerely thankful for that. He found solace in two little girls. I took pictures. Someday, we’ll all get back to this, right, Father? I have to believe that.

**

My head hit the pillow that night and I passed out. But not before I cried some more. For as I had gone to turn out the light under our cabinets, there lay the pacifiers I had bought last week.

**

I woke up the next morning feeling a lot more rested. A little stronger. I moved through the fog that surrounded me and prayed a thousand prayers. Every moment, I need You. I need You. Give me the strength to get out of this bed. Give me the strength to make breakfast. Give me the strength to plan my son’s funeral today. Let me feel you, Lord. Heal my broken heart. Give Leif a hug and a kiss from me (I love you, sweet boy). I need You. Please comfort me.

If my own prayers weren’t enough, I was covered.  In prayers and love. I could feel it. A warm embrace. Prayers went up…the Lord’s presence intensified. So tangibly. It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced and it’s difficult to put into words. He was there…through a loving, specific, well-timed word from Leslee. Through a heart-felt message from friends or family.  Through hugs. Through generosity. Through meals. Through His Word. Through tears. Lots and lots of tears. When I broke down, He carried. When I leaned into the pain and the flood broke forth, His strength could handle the storm. When I whispered, He whispered back.

However, that day was a hard day. We met with the funeral home and made the arrangements for Leif’s service. I sat there and could hardly speak. I was grateful that Leslee did all the talking. We wanted a little handout for people to have at the service. I was frustrated that I didn’t have full control over the design, the font, the colors, the EVERYTHING about it. Amidst my gratitude that the funeral home was willing to do an infant service for very little cost, it worried me that it might not be our idea of perfect. I just wanted everything to be perfect. I wanted to control the details because I couldn’t control anything else.

And then I found out I had to write the obituary. I guess I assumed they would have kind of a fill-in-the-blank template for us.  Yeah, something mindless would be best for me right now. I don’t want to think. However, in my current state, I’m certain I would have wanted to hijack that, too. I needed something to give me purpose. Something to throw myself into. I couldn’t be pleased. And the responsibility of writing my baby’s obituary left me feeling overwhelmed.

The ride home was long. There was silence, but feelings and thoughts filled the car.  I stared up out the window, blue sky, white cotton clouds, trying to draw near to those heights. Trying to lose myself…hear God…find my son. Tears were ready and then Leslee grabbed my hand and squeezed intuitively.

“What are you thinking right now?”

Floodgates opened as I turned my head to look at him. “I miss my son!” I wailed. As I cried, he squeezed harder and continued to hold on as tears brimmed in his own eyes. No words were necessary. He missed him, too. His generosity in asking me time and time again to share my thoughts was not lost on me. Giving me permission to unload on him is what he’s always done, but it’s easier to hear when you’re not in it. When you’re not the one unpacking the baggage. We were sharing a suitcase on this journey.

“I love you, Breauna. I miss him, too.” A phrase he uttered countless times never grew old. It grounded me.

When we arrived home, he went to take care of some chores and I sat down at my computer, wrote the first line of Leif’s obituary, and sobbed. I wrote another line and had to stop because I couldn’t even see the screen. Another line. And another…until I had reached 8 lines that I absolutely hated. If ever anger presented itself, it was in that moment. I was angry at myself for not being able to articulate what I wanted to say about my baby. A baby I had only known through little kicks and twists and rolls in my belly. A baby that knew me so much better than I knew him…or would ever get the chance to.   I should have been able to DO this, but it sounded so flat. I looked up and said, “Father, You’re going to have to help me with this. Give me inspiration. Give me the words. I need You.”

 

I decided to leave it for a while. Walk away and put it off. I needed to message a friend and tell her I was using her poem in the ceremony. Little did I know she would help me finish the hard part of his obituary with her response. Her words were perfect.  Yet again, and as always… there He was.

 

Leslee

I finished up my chores and went for a little drive around the farm to clear my head. I had gotten upset upon arriving at the funeral home to find my son was still at the hospital. I beat myself up. I should have brought him there myself. I left him thinking they would pick him up that day. He spent another night at the hospital alone. The thought cut me to the core. I know I was somewhat irrational, but just because he wasn’t living didn’t make me any less his parent. It didn’t make me love or care for him any less. It’s not a switch I can turn off. The funeral director assured me someone was on their way to get him as we spoke, but I was visibly frazzled. These woods and hills brought me peace.

I decided checking my cameras would be a nice distraction. I enjoy tracking the deer population on the farm, hunting sheds…hunting, period. I like to watch the little bucks grow and ponder what they might mature into. I had had my eye on one in particular. I had watched him grow. I had held onto his sheds. He was on my list. I loved how symmetrical he was. The best way I can explain it…He was just my kind of deer. And we had a history. He was stealthy, though, which made him even more of a challenge.

I drove up to one of my cameras, scrolled through a few photos, and there he was. Front and center. His face and his antlers filled the screen. Yes! I thought. What day was this?

WGI_0057

I looked down and it suddenly hit me. 8/27/17. I’ll admit I’ve always been more a believer in coincidence when it comes to details. Small things. This feeling that washed over me was more up Breauna’s alley. I always just kind of grinned and let her tell me a story about details she saw God’s hand in and thought, Well, maybe…But I’ve never felt or experienced anything like that personally.

God wasn’t going to let me write this one off. There stood my special buck—the one I’d hardly talked to anyone about—on my camera on the day we said hello and goodbye to our son. The photo sent a message straight through me. I know you. I know all of the little details. Things you don’t share with everyone. And I know this moment because I know this buck is special to you. Hear Me: It’s going to be ok. If this photo says anything to you, let it be this. If I can work about this tiny thing that speaks volumes to you, I can work about the big things. Start trusting I do indeed speak and work in the details.

I hopped in my side-by-side and ran home to show Breauna my picture and the date. She would know. She would understand what it meant to me and I understood her even better now. I had a story—an encounter of my own—about how God reaches us and how very resourceful He is.

I named the buck Leif’s Buck. Never had I wanted to see a deer live so bad in my life. As long as he stayed on the farm, he was safe. And that day was a turning point for me. God had my back and all the little details in between. He orchestrated them and there was a peaceful blessing in being able to see. I simply had to put the right glasses on when I scrolled through the camera.

Advertisements

When You Give a Toddler a Kitten

When you give a toddler a kitten, cuteness abounds. Even if you feel a little sorry for said kitten because she is definitely taking a fair amount of abuse all for the sake of teaching a small child how to treat her.

DSC_1601

“Here kitty, kitty, kitty…”

The sweet savor of victory! Even if Luxe resorts to pulling them out by one leg…or their throat. Whatever works!

DSC_1605

This is the girls’ little female kitten. Her name is Pippa.

DSC_1606-2

It appears that Pippa’s attempts to run at this point are futile. You shoulda’ tried that beFORE she caught you, honey.

And then there were two! Pounce is Pippa’s brother. He’s a glutton for punishment. He comes running anytime anyone comes outside. You would think he’d go running as soon as he saw who it was outside, but no… He’s obviously starving for love no matter what he has to endure to get it.

DSC_1612

I think Luxe has figured out that she can basically paralyze him with this style of choke-hold. I’ll be submitting this to Webster’s Dictionary when they need a visual representation of the word “mischievous. Pounce says, “Haaaaalllppp!!!” and Pippa’s look clearly says, “I hate my life.”

DSC_1616-2

But, just look at that little face. Such love and glee.

Thank you, Pounce and Pippa, for being so patient with a baby. Certain animals just seem to know.

Messes and Miracles (The Flood, Part 2)

The rain turned into a light mist and then dissipated. While enduring the waiting, all I could do was pace…or clean. The girls were inside with me and we were all restless. Little Luxe was feeling the vibes and constantly wanted me to hold her. Taegan decided that a rainy day was good day to go to Papa & Nanny’s, so she took off before Leslee came in the house.

When he walked in, I was ready to get in the side-by-side and go see the situation. He was hesitant to even go driving around because the sound of our Ranger is a call of sorts to our cows. They know when he’s driving around in it that 1) food is coming or 2) it’s time to go to the milk barn. Our stranded cows were already motivated to be milked—as they are every morning—and Leslee didn’t want that to entice them to attempt crossing the creek. It was way too deep and swift!

Not knowing cattle as well as he, I asked, “Are cows good swimmers?”

“Ehhh, they do alright. They really need to be able to bounce off the bottom while they swim to stay afloat. I don’t think they could ever get any footing with as fast as it’s moving and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s 10 feet deep.”

Well, that settled that for me. Cows are big, but they’re not that tall. I was really hoping that even if some did attempt to cross this morning, worst case scenario would be getting washed down to a different property, not drowning.

“Can we go check on them? See if they’ve moved or maybe if they’re even there at all??”

He hesitated, but curiosity and concern won out. We loaded ourselves and Luxe into the Ranger and took off for the only vantage point Leslee was able to get to.

DSC_1591

Beauty amidst disaster

It was a muddy mess of a ride with little flood-made rivulets all over the property. Dairy farms tend to be muddy, anyway, so it made an everyday problem ten times worse.

DSC_1587

Sometimes disaster creates beauty.

As we drove through the first gate, the cows that had stayed on higher ground all night were gathered…just standing there. That’s not normal.

“See, look at them,” Leslee said. “They know something’s wrong. You should have felt the mood in the barn this morning. They were mopey and a little tense. They’re missing the rest of the herd.”

He called another cow by name and said, “She’s been bawling quite a bit this morning.” (Bawling means “calling by mooing” if you’re not familiar with dairy lingo). “The girls she’s with aren’t the ones she usually hangs out with.”

Cows have cliques. They stay together for the most part, but they have their certain little tribes within the group. Kind of like people. You tend to separate into different age groups, different likes/dislikes, etc.

Listening to him speak with such care and intimate knowledge of his cattle led me to think of all the bad press farmers get regarding their treatment of animals and the farming practices they choose to implement. I’m sure I could meet some farmers around the world that practice a moral or ethical code that I would not agree with. Show me a career field that DOESN’T have unethical or immoral people. But, THIS farmer on THIS day and every other day is what I know. And it’s worth sharing in a world that seems to be so angry all the time at the people providing them food. This man knows them all by name or number, knows whom runs around with whom, immediately realizes one might be walking with a limp, notices when droopy ears might be a sign of sickness…all of it. He cares.

We arrived on a high-point from which Leslee had last seen a few of the trapped cows. I’d never seen anything like it! Water was EVERYWHERE—to the point I was disoriented about location. I couldn’t pinpoint where exactly we were from where they were because all dry land was covered.

We looked through a gap in the trees and about 250-300 yards across the water, we could see some cows. Not all 36, mind you, but at least some. Leslee breathed a small sigh of relief and said, “They moved.”

“What do you mean they moved?”

“That’s not where they were when I came over here last. They were able to retreat.”

18156582_10155463871746435_4334926412385794482_o

“Ok, so that’s not the piece of land they were on before?”

“No, it’s covered now.”

I felt an overwhelming amount of gratitude to God then. A friend had told me she was praying for God to put “a hedge of protection” around our cows and seeing them butted right up to a line of trees immediately made me think of her wording. A hedge. That’s exactly what He had done. And whether He had given them some extra intelligence or moved them Himself, they were on higher ground.

Fortunately–and yet still unfortunately–we could only see 6 or 7. Although Leslee was glad to see some had survived, I could tell he was preparing himself for the worst. Thirty-six cows was over half of our milking herd. When you’re a small operation, every last cow matters. Six or seven of 36 was not going to improve our potential loss. Replacing thirty cows was not an option for us financially. The only option upon suffering a loss of this magnitude was selling out and starting a new, unknown journey.

“These are the same cows I saw earlier. I don’t see any new ones,” he said.

“At least these are still OK. We know He’s got these. Maybe we just can’t see the other ones. There’s a lot of trees and brush they could be hiding in. Or maybe they got separated from this group and they’re holed up in a different spot.” Positive Polly here…trying to lift her husband’s spirits.

I was choosing to believe it. I was still going to believe that God had saved every last one of those cows and I just couldn’t see them. So, I got back on the computer and updated our friends and family about the current situation while continuing to ask for prayers of protection. The tremendous outpouring of love, offers of help, and prayer was palpable. If it’s possible to tangibly FEEL the power of prayer and love, I was feelin’ it.

It gave me a good boost for what was next. More rain was coming.

 

Crazy About Chickens

I now refer to my daughter as “that crazy chicken lady.” She’s got them perched on her shoulder. She’s pushing them around in her toy cart. She’s got them with her on the trampoline. Everywhere Taegan is, there’s a chicken. We caught her and a friend “teaching them how to fly” in “chick school” today. The premise being that if you throw them up in the air, they’ll flap their wings and figure it out. We quickly put a stop to that.

The pullets we got at the local feed store are growing great, but unfortunately, a coon got one of our Silver Laced Wyandottes. So, we’re down to 5 teenage chickens.

In other news, Taegan is now on a murderous rampage against raccoons. She was sad for a minute…and then it all turned to violence. Trust me, I’ve listened–against my will– to a few different death scenarios. Hell hath no fury like a chicken lady scorned. I thought I’d put that out there for any local raccoons that read this blog. Don’t come hunting at the Kriders.

Taegan and I have named the 5 we have left. I’ll introduce them in a future post. This post is for introducing our newest additions. Taegan’s class hatched 20+ chicks and you can be sure Taegan was all about adding to the family.

DSC_1364

Allow me to introduce you to Apple (left) and Pear (right). Disclaimer: I, in no way, had anything to do with those names. 🙂

And, really, we couldn’t say no when chicks bring her this much joy.

DSC_1366

DSC_1371

Luxe likes the chicks…

DSC_1373

but from more of a distance.

DSC_1374

This is Taegan saying “Don’t hit it!” Luxe’s intention was not to hit it, rather to let it know that it better not even think about coming any closer.

DSC_1375

The next question becomes…What do you do when a chick doesn’t respect the boundaries you’re trying to create?

DSC_1376

Sister’s starting to freak out…

DSC_1377

aaaannndd we’re there. We’re freaked out. Apple is refusing to take no for an answer.

So, it’s safe to say Luxe does not share in Taegan’s passion for chickens. That’s ok. We’ll find her thing.

DSC_1382

Apple came over to see me instead. When I asked her (or him…we really don’t know yet) for thoughts on this new life with new people, Apple replied, “I’m just going to keep winging it. Life, chickenhood, my eyeliner…Everything.”

I’m kind of enjoying all of them. Chickens (I can’t believe I’m saying this) are pretty fun. And I’ll make sure I document on video the next time Taegan and the farmer try to catch our teenagers after they’ve been let out of the coop. I’ve not laughed that hard in a long time.

Meet Banjo

Meet Banjo.

057

He’s Peanut’s new puppy and, as we’ve been told many times, ONLY hers.

067

The farmer got him because sometimes it would be really handy to have a cattle dog around the farm. We don’t need horses because dairy cows are pretty docile, but sometimes you get stubborn ones. Banjo has shown himself to be a very willing student. I’ve been amazed at how easy he’s been to train. He’s still got a lot to learn, but I have faith. We’d like to send him to a professional so he can really be a productive part of the farm. So far, though, he’s been learning manners. Like “sit” “shake” “lay down” “stay”. We’re currently working on him not being a spaz any time we have visitors. That’s the only one he has some trouble with.

This is Ace.

This is Ace.

I was ok with a cattle dog because I grew to really like my dad’s Blue Heeler while we were building our house. I watched him snap snakes in half. I was sold. And sometimes, I’d get home from town on a cool day and Peanut would be asleep in her car seat. To get her out would have awakened her, so I’d leave her out there. Ace would always let me know she was awake by barking or acting panicky around the car. Peanut loved him, so it only seemed natural.

My canine nanny

My canine nanny

With Banjo, it’s just the same. She can’t wait to go out there to see him every morning. Here lately, though, she’s found an affinity for tying things up. She even pretends she’s a horse and ties herself up. She’d tie me up if I’d let her.

You can imagine my alarm  when I walked into the living room the other day and saw this.

116

Doesn’t look like this puppy fared too well. His tongue’s all hangin’ out and rigor mortis has set in.

114

We may need security detail for Banjo.

065

Have a happy Monday,

The Dairymaid