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.

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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.

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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.”

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“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.

 

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All in a Week’s Time

Taegan was home on Spring Break all last week and we always try to do some fun things when she has a little time away from school. Fortunately, she had several cousins staying right up the road at my mother-in-law’s, so that made it even more fun. We started off Monday with a nature scavenger hunt after the farmer finished feeding hay. I took these photos with my phone.

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We enjoyed it. They enjoyed it. And a good time was had by all.

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Also during this week, we jumped in full throttle with potty training Luxe. It wasn’t going well.

Me: Luxe, where do we go pee and poop?

Luxe: In the toe-wet.

Me: So, why aren’t you going in the toilet?

Luxe: ‘Cuz I don’t want to.

I was in need of some reinforcements and the timing of spring break couldn’t have been better. I suggested to Taegan that she might be just the right person for this job and she squinted her little eyes and gave me a look that said, “What are you trying to pull?”

Mind you, this is the child that consistently says she’s never having kids “because they’re too much work.” Astute and accurate observation. I’ll make sure I tell her that she better feel really fortunate that I was not as sharp as she is at 24…otherwise she wouldn’t be here. And then I did it again.

And again.

But back to my story, I decided a different tactic would surely work to get Taegan to give potty training Luxe a shot. She’s competitive by nature, so I said, “I bet you could do this way better than me.” She took the bait. Show Mommy up? I’ll play. She asked Luxe if she needed to go on the toilet. Luxe, of course, followed her back there and I sat her on her potty seat on the big toilet. We don’t use the little one…because she can get off it.

So, Taegan’s in there reading a book and I hear Taegan ask Luxe, “Do you want me to hide?” Luxe says, “Yeah.” Taegan opens up the cabinet door and gets behind it and what.do.you.know….Luxe goes potty!!! I’m whooping and hollering; Luxe is grinning from ear to ear; and I’m pretty sure a person couldn’t have wiped the proud smile off of Taegan’s face for the next couple hours. Because Luxe did it again and again for Taegan. To the point Taegan started referring to it as “working her magic.” She’d call from the bathroom with Luxe and say, “Mommy, I worked my magic again!” Luxe obviously thrives on pleasing her sister. Now, she’s going like a champ for all of us. We’ve had a few accidents since Thursday when we started, but many, many more successes.

So, thank you, Taegan. I gladly bow down to your potty training prowess. 🙂

Meanwhile, Luxe continues to work on mastering the very necessary skill of drinking out of the hose.

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You can’t be a farmgirl and not get this down.

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Then, on Friday, we decided to take the girls–namely Taegan–to chick day at the local feed store. I don’t like chickens. I’ve made that very clear in past posts, but chicks are cute and I thought I might be able to work a little photography around them in spring photos with the girls. Taegan is the farm animal lover. We would have everything if it were up to her. Chickens, bunnies, cows, horses, ducks, goats, sheep, pigs–you name it, we would have it.

 

I’m also the type of mother that has a hard time saying no to things that teach responsibility. Taegan is a very practical, responsible realist.She’s never really been into playing pretend or fairy tales. If she plays, it usually has a real-life component to it and she tends to  give things a long, hard think before she commits her time. And she really wanted some chickens. And she told me she would take care of them and gather all the eggs when they started laying.

Works great for me because I do like eggs.

So, here we are at the feed store with a box.

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This chick is ready for her chicks…even down to knowing what kind she wants. Yeah, we had to have all that figured out, too. We looked up every breed they had available and picked out our favorites. The farmer asked me, “Now, are the ones we’re getting good layers?”

My reply: “Oh, we don’t care about that. We’re going purely based on looks.”

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Here’s the whole fam.

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Luxe can’t figure out why Taegan’s so happy, what we’re doing here, and why there’s all this incessant chirping.

So, we get up to the chicks and they.are.cute!!

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They had ducklings, too! I’m getting some after researching why I would want them. Has anyone ever had duck eggs? I read that they’re more nutritious, better tasting, better for baking, and that ducks lay year round–never really going through a rest time. I also read that ducks are excellent pest controllers (bugs, ticks, grasshoppers, etc), won’t dig up your yard and gardens like a chicken will, and will even kill small snakes if given an opportunity. Sign me up!!! Sounds like the best pet ever!

Seriously, I’m totally getting some ducks.

We told the man what chicks we wanted. He placed them in the box. We paid for them. And now we are the proud owners of some pretty cute little chicks.

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If you ask Taegan, she will accurately tell you exactly which breeds are which, but we’ve got 2 Welsummers, 2 Barred Rock, and 2 Silver Laced Wyandottes.

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And one happy little chicken-loving farm girl.

She puts her shoes on every 20 minutes, opens the front door, and says, “I’m going to check my chicks. You gotta be fast if you wanna’ catch those Welsummers! I just have to swoop in cuz they run!” I think she’s holding a Silver Laced Wyandotte here.

It was an eventful, productive spring break. I miss Taegan when she’s gone. She creates so much material for my creative processes.

Puddle Buddies

We had a puddle jumping session a few nights ago. My sister-in-law, Staci, is visiting along with my two nephews and naturally anytime there’s a good rain, puddles are going to happen.

Where there are puddles there will be muddy children.

Here’s the cast of characters:

Taegan:

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The oldest of the four and instigator of all things ornery. Look at those eyes. Mischief. Intelligence in spades. Spirit. Sparkle. Pray hard for us.

Drayson:

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Rough and tumble, fearless, all boy. There’s very few daring things I haven’t seen this little guy attempt. But, look at that sweet, mud-splattered face.

Carson:

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Carson has always been a calm, quiet type (at least around me). He’s shy, sweet, and is usually more content to observe from the sidelines  (sidelines meaning wherever his mommy is). Give him a rock and a stick and he’s good!

Luxe:

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Prissy. Purposeful. Pint-sized sweetness with a smidge of sass. Puppy dog eyes at level 10. Curls for days. Lover of all things cute and cuddly. This was taken after one too many times of being splashed in the face with mud. That’s a look of “Mommy, PLEASE! Can’t a girl get a little time in the mud puddle by herself??”

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To start things off, though, we’re all still relatively clean. Testing the waters. Onesies and shorts are remaining mostly white.

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Sticks and rocks again…Boy, they’re just the most interesting things!

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A good, dry time is being had by all.

And then…

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there were four.

Taegan thought a little too much good, clean fun was being had. If you’ve been following along over the years, you know my eldest has no problem getting as absolutely filthy as she can get.

Exhibit A.

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Exhibit B.

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“Walk with your nose in the air, little lady…even though there’s dirt all over your hiney.”

 

And the grand finale.

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“Dirt Road Camo”

Yeah.

Naturally, she took it up on herself to show everyone the joys of getting a run at the puddle from above in order to land in it with as much splash as possible.

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The race was on after that between Taegan and Drayson to see who could make the biggest splash.dsc_4330

 

On the days she’s not being heart-meltingly sweet and responsible, it’s this:

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A perfectly timed jump just to splash Little Sis. Even though I felt kinda bad for Luxe, I knew exactly what these kinds of antics do in the reward centers of an older sister’s brain. Let’s all just hope this is as bad as it gets and I don’t pay dearly for my raising…

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Whew! I finally got it to myself.”

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“Ohhhh, I see…feelin’ a little bad now, aren’t we?” Meanwhile, I can’t appreciate Luxe more for bringing out the affectionate side of Taegan. Not only does Luxe get the hugs and kisses that she dearly loves and bestows on all of us, but the farmer and I get to enjoy a few extra from Taegan, as well. That wasn’t the case before Luxe. You were lucky to get to steal them. “Hey, Mommy, is it just me…or would you say I won this?”

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At this point, I’m not sure Drayson’s boots are being effective at their job.

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Dirt roads…country kids…rain…boots…and a love of mud = puddle buddies.

Milestones

This morning, I dropped my baby off at school for her first day of kindergarten.

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I haven’t cried…yet. Luxe isn’t allowing me a chance to. However, I feel like a piece of my heart broke off and stayed at school with her. I can’t wait to pick her up so I can hear about her day.

That Band-Aid on her arm is from a booster shot she had to get on Monday. We got her a little stuffed Husky dog named Slush for moral support. However, I only thought she had to get one shot. They informed us there were 2 for this visit.

Let the meltdown commence. She was bawling before the first needle prick.

Taegan doesn’t like to show weakness, so we walked back out to the parking lot where my mom waited with Luxe with a red face and wounded pride sporting Band-Aids on both shoulders. My mom hugged Taegan and said, “You’re so brave! Such a big, strong girl!”

Taegan sourly replied, “Actually, I cried…”

We got her buckled in and had to chuckle. It’s rough being 5 and beating yourself up because you failed to meet your own self-imposed definition of brave.

But, she is brave. Brave without even realizing the risks she takes.

For instance, a week ago, the farmer had some dry cows with the milk cows. She knows they’re dry because he writes a big “D” on them with a hot-pink paint stick. We have a dry cow pasture where all the expecting mothers usually reside, but he had been letting these few come in the barn with the milk cows to eat grain, but not get milked.

Well, he walks out the other day to find them corralled off in a separate pin that leads to the dry cow pasture. Taegan, our little wisp of a girl, had sorted the dry cows out of the herd and put them where she thought they ought to go. Dry cows need to be in the dry cow pasture, so, by golly, they’re going in there tonight!

Usually, the farmer gets angry when he finds Taegan in the holding pin with the cows. It’s dangerous. She knows that. As he started to get mad, he realized what she’d done and just had to stare in shock for a minute.

“Daddy, we gotta get these dry cows in with the rest of them.”

“Ummm…yep, we do…,” he said.

Her grandma has given her the moniker “Little Pol” around here. I don’t know if any of you are familiar with the show, “The Incredible Dr. Pol,” but it’s Taegan’s absolute favorite. She DVR’s it and watches the reruns over and over and over. He’s a veterinarian who has a HUGE clientele in Michigan and does a lot of work on–you guessed it–cattle. Taegan has been known to perform procedures on her calves. The other day, one had a “twisted stomach”, so she was caught getting it on it’s back and rolling it over. The calf was perfectly fine, but it took one for the team.

That being said, I asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up this morning and, with hardly a thought, she said, “A vet.”

It’s funny because right now, knowing Taegan, I can’t picture her doing anything else. That would be perfect for her.

Today is the first day of her academic career. It’s a milestone that begins a channeling of all this intelligence into more specific things. She’ll continue to learn more about what interests her and what doesn’t. Starting now. Kindergarten, to this mama, is the first step in the journey of growing up. And the farmer and I get to walk that journey for a while with Taegan, our little spirited, capable, determined daughter. We’re so proud and so blessed.

Taegan Dresses Up for Spirit Week

Whew! I survived last week. I was creative. I baked. I shopped. I worked. I counted. I did no cleaning. I snapped pictures. I took deep, cleansing breaths. I did not maintain my sanity. And now I’m back, mostly recovered with only a small amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth.

I don’t think I could have chosen a more inconvenient time to be 8 months pregnant. It’s really cramping my style. Usually, I thrive on the crazy and mostly enjoy it. I’m a high-energy person. I like to be involved.

However, some alien form of Breauna resides as the dominant personality in my body right now. She’s not as much fun…maybe because she has to heft a bowling ball around 24/7 amidst all the other fun things that come with the third trimester.

Anyway, last week was Spirit Week at Taegan’s school followed by their Fall Festival Friday night. I’m a PTO officer this year, so naturally, this was going to be a VERY busy week.

First, let’s talk about Spirit Week. Every day was themed.

 

DAY 1: PAJAMA DAY

I didn’t get a picture of Taegan that morning because Monday was the only day I was going to get to work. Picture time didn’t happen because Mommy was too busy trying get herself ready. (And if you knew the hoops I have to jump through to get a picture of this kid, you would know ain’t nobody got time for that). Taegan wanted to wear her red and green plaid Hello Kitty long, flannel nightgown. I got it for her last Christmas and, granted, it is adorable, but it screams “Merry Christmas!” I tried to talk her out of it, but she insisted. Nothing else would do but Christmas Hello Kitty. So, in the pouring down rain, I walked my galoshes-clad 4-year-old into the school looking like Christmas morning.

 

DAY 2: STORYBOOK CHARACTER DAY

Figuring out the storybook character for Taegan to be wasn’t hard. In fact, it only seemed natural for our tutu-wearing tomboy with crazy curls and she just so happens to be the main character in some of our favorite books. None other than Fancy Nancy!

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I bought Taegan a tiara with feathers on it and lots of pink beaded necklaces. We had the rest covered. You can’t see from this picture, but I pinned her mess of curls into a…mess of curls and stuck a few hair bows amidst it all. Ooo-la-la! She was darling. (That’s fancy for sweet). 😉 I tried to encourage her to say “Merci” any time there was an opportunity, but she drew the line at that.

 

DAY 3: WACKY WEDNESDAY

I love children’s books and I’ve read Wacky Wednesday many a time. I had this. I really knew I had it when I saw the look on the farmer’s face at the outfit I was carrying around… that look of “Are you serious?” You betcha! I was on the brink of genius! Don’t question it! See, look, even the picture’s all wacky because she’s nut that won’t stand still.

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But, I crossed right over that brink with her hair. Vertical pigtails!!

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She looked in the mirror and laughed at her whole ensemble. I take pride in it. If one can pat themselves on the back for wackiness, I did it on Wednesday.

 

DAY 4: SPIRIT DAY

There was a home game that evening and it was “Pack the Gym Night.” So, the kids were to wear their school t-shirts or red. Well, low and behold, my child owns not one dress, shirt, pair of pants, or sock that is red. Nor does she own anything with a tiger on it (the school mascot). So, I believe we went to school that day wearing a purple shirt with a fox on it.

We went to the game that night and she got her face-painted with tiger paws. We ended the night with spirit.

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DAY 5: SUPERHERO DAY

I wanted to superhero day right, but my daughter isn’t in to superheroes, so I wanted to come up with something about her that was something special.

I thought, What does Taegan like to do? Be outside or bee bopping around the farm with Daddy.

What is Taegan good at? Well, her little head is filled with various facts about the farm. All of the cows’ names, who’s going to calve soon, who had a heifer or a bull, which ones are dry or need to be milked on the bucket according to leg paint and ankle bands, which ones have recently had “masatitis.”

What is Taegan’s 4-year-old passion? This farm, the country, dirt, and cows. It’s her life.

Then, it hit me. Taegan’s super power needed to be something to do with our dairy. And then the slogan came to me.

DAIRY GIRL: FEEDING AMERICA ONE GALLON AT A TIME

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Complete with cow ears, a cape, and the dairy farming staple: black rubber boots. I’ll never top that because it truly is who she is. Farmers are definitely superheroes and she was so proud to wear it.

As you can tell, Mommy had just as much fun (if not more) with Spirit Week as Taegan did.