Dear Anders: a letter to my son

4 Dec

Hi, bug. It’s kind of crazy that I haven’t written to you before. Writing used to be Mom’s way of processing, of coping, of making sense of the world. But she hasn’t made time to do much of it since you came along!

It’s hard for me to believe that you’re 20 months old. 20 months. Within spitting distance of two years old. I can’t remember life without you, but I’m still not sure how it went so quickly.

We wanted you so desperately, you see. It’s not always easy to have a baby. We waited a long, long time to meet you. It’s hard to describe the disbelief and joy your Dad and I felt when we found out you were coming. God is so good.

And then you were born. One week early, which was a nice kickoff to Mom realizing that she no longer had any control over her life. You cried the entire first night we were home and only slept when you were in our arms. It was an exhausting time—Mom cried a lot that first week—but devastatingly beautiful. We were so in love with you, in awe of your tiny fingers and huge blue eyes.

(We were also amazed at the amount of time we spent studying, smelling, and cataloging your baby poop, but that’s another story for another time. Maybe at your wedding.)

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That first year was a blur. Small victories alongside defeats. Periods that seemed an eternity at the time (like those two weeks where you were waking up every 1-2 hours) were forgotten in the wake of your first smile, first tooth, first word.

It’s like Dr. Seuss said: “Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”

Just when we got used to you crawling, you took your first steps. Now you RUN.

You are smart, friendly, hilarious, polite, and so loving. And these days you’re like a sponge. We only have to speak a word or phrase a handful of times before you’re repeating it in correct context. Mom still regrets the time she said “Sit down on your butt!” because we’d all be a little happier if that last word wasn’t in your vocabulary quite yet.

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I’m floored by how quickly you are learning and changing each day. It’s hard to comprehend that you’ve transformed from the red-faced little blob we met 608 days ago to the little boy swatting my hands away saying “No tank you, mama” when I try to help you climb the stairs.

YOU’RE NOT EVEN TWO, MAN.
Mama’s going to have a hard time letting go.

You were born into a big tribe of family on both sides who love you and go out of their way to spoil you with stories and farm animal toys. Grandma Bareman can’t seem to stop buying you cows.

And don’t even get me started on all the dairy stuff. Your dad couldn’t be more proud that you know words and phrases like “milk truck,” “Holstein cow,” “Big loader, beep BEEP,” and “rotary parlor.” You love cows. Seriously. When you walk through the barn in your tiny rubber boots, you are fearless. You think nothing of walking right up to a cow and reaching out to touch her nose.  Mom didn’t grow up on a farm (that explains all the high heels in her closet), but I love watching you gaze around in wonder at this crazy place we live. Just try not to track it into the house.

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Dad and I have been asked if your name has a special meaning. We didn’t pick a family name, but we did agonize for months trying to find something strong and masculine that was neither too traditional nor too trendy. It wasn’t easy. We liked the Dutch-ish sound of Anders. We liked that we didn’t know anyone named Anders. And we liked the meaning: manly, brave.

It is my hope that you grow to embody both of those attributes.

I hope you are manly. I hope that you are kind, tell the truth, respect others, and perform selfless acts. I pray that you will grow to be strong and sure, but that those characteristics are enhanced by love and humility.

I hope you are brave. I hope that you have strong convictions that will allow you to stand up to those who are ignorant, care for those who are marginalized, and live your faith loudly. I hope you will not be afraid to stand up for what’s right.

Most of all, sweet Anders, we know that you are a gift. The blessing isn’t lost on us. That’s why we pray every night before you go to sleep, “Thank you Jesus for entrusting Anders into our care. Help us remember that he belongs to you.”

We are your parents, but God is your Father.

I hope this will guide you all your life. We couldn’t be more blessed to be your parents. And I apologize in advance for our dance moves. Just succumb to the awkwardness now.

xo,
Your silly and loving Mom

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Hi. It’s been a while.

26 Aug Anders-Jersey_Sudangrass

Hi there.

It’s been a while.

In the wake of motherhood and the ease of Facebook and Instagram—where I do a much better job of documenting our life—this blog has taken a backseat. Well, let’s be honest. It’s way past the the backseat and is bumping along on the tailpipe of a cattle trailer by now.

For me, the ability to write is like a muscle. It needs movement, stimulation, exertion, but it can too easily become flaccid with disuse. The longer I wait, the harder it is to whip myself back in shape.

But as I sit in our kitchen, tea in hand, looking out onto a whispering sea of green corn stalks, it sure feels good to be writing.

Something.

Anything.

I have to be honest, writing isn’t coming as easily to be as it used to. When life is full to the brim it can be difficult to find the words to start.

But it’s important. We are doing something of great consequence with our lives (and no, Dairy Man, I’m not just talking about adding cows to the herd) and I miss having the opportunity to share that consequence.

So, how have we been?

Well, let’s start with the reality that I have a 16 MONTH OLD. I’m not quite sure how that happened. Someone hand me a tissue.

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The last time we talked, Anders had just learned to army crawl, was sporting two teeth, and had just started baby food.

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Um, people, things have changed a lot since then.

Now he can walk (or run). He can climb. He has 10 teeth. His vocabulary and repertoire of animal sounds are growing every single day. He repeats everything we say. He loves flipping through dairy magazines. He eats just about everything, from blueberries and spinach soup to Pad Thai and shrimp paella. He’ll try anything with bacon but can’t seem to get down with tomatoes.

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He loves walking through the barns and waving to his “moos.” He’s not at all afraid of cows. And did I mention he knows the difference between a “tuck” (truck) and a “tra-trac” (tractor)?

Dairy Man is so proud. We have a regular dairy boy in the making.

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As you all know, there have been a few times (ok, a lot of times) where I have lamented my transplant to this country wilderness. It’s not easy to cope with the isolation, the long hours of farming, or the fact that the nearest Target is 45 minutes away. But I’m starting to take more joy in this life as I see it through the eyes of child.

I think we’re going to have a lot of fun here.

Anders is a blank slate. Everything is new to him, but he is becoming more fully aware of this unique place in which we live. He’s going to grow up amongst our bovine roommates and jaw-dropping sunsets. He’s going to build forts in the barn, take care of calves, and ride along with Daddy in the tractor.

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As we prepare for The Season of Impending Doom …er… I mean “corn harvest,” this year, I can’t help but notice how different it feels.

Last year Anders was still a helpless babe. I was at my wits end trying to juggle work, a baby, and everything else in our lives while seeing only glimpses of Dairy Man for a number of weeks. Did we eat? Did the sheets get washed? I can’t even remember.

But now that Anders is older and our lives have settled into a more predictable rhythm, I actually look forward to introducing him to farm life.

This year we can visit Dairy Man in the fields. We can watch the corn chopper from our back deck. He might even get to ride in a tractor.

I think this will reawaken the novelty of our farm life.

Sometimes I feel like it’s hard to write about something I’ve become so used to. Farm life is still filled with oddities; I don’t quite fit in. But so many of the abnormalities have become mundane. I don’t even notice anymore.

No dinner till 8? Totally normal.
Husband’s clothes covered with caked-on manure? Just don’t sit on the couch. 
Tractor parked in my driveway? Old hat.
Incessant mooing coming from the barn on the hill? Just another Tuesday.
Dinner conversation about bull semen? Pass the green beans.

At some point, unbeknownst to me, I morphed into a farm wife. It’s like turning into a werewolf at midnight but with less body hair and more corn kernels in the laundry. I still don’t bake pies, milk cows, or wear a gingham apron, but this crazy life has become my real life.

I still struggle with single-parenthood and frustration with the farming schedule, but I can tell we’re going to have a lot of fun with Anders on the farm. He’s going to be a farm boy before I know it.

I just hope I have a few more years before he comes home covered in manure.

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All is Calm, All is Bright

22 Dec

Today I’m feeling equal parts crazed and contemplative.

On one hand, this is Christmas week. Between Wednesday and Sunday we have five different Christmas parties in three different cities. Two are on the same day. We’ll spend our time this week in the car, missing nap time, eating too much sugar, and making small talk with relatives. It will be busy, messy, exhausting, and beautiful.

On the other hand, 2014 is quickly drawing to a close. It’s been a whirlwind of a year. From Anders’ birth to building yet another new barn, we’ve rarely had moments to settle, to be still. We made it through the early days of parenthood and now I have a beautiful, happy son who is somehow crawling, waving, and cutting teeth. Quite a difference from where we were just eight shorts months ago.

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The swift passage of time is startling. I started 2014 with a growing belly, an unfinished nursery, and raging donut cravings.

I end it with a healthy baby, a house full of toys, and… raging donut cravings. (Um, hello? I though those were supposed to go away?)

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Life has changed irrevocably, but we are so blessed it hurts my heart.

So, in spite of the busyness, the driving, the sugar, I choose joy. I choose to wrap myself in the promise of Christ’s birth and savor the ordinary moments that form this beautiful life.

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I wish the same to you, dear friends. Find the calm, bright moments this week and don’t let them go.

Merry Christmas, from our barn to yours!

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xoxo, Dairy Man, MFW, Anders, and Jersey

When I Became a Mother.

18 Nov

I don’t even know where to start.

I don’t know how to find the language to articulate the profound, irrevocable change that motherhood has rendered within me.

I’m stunned by the beauty of it: the love I have for this child. I want to devour him. I want to wrap myself in his impossibly long eyelashes, pressed up against his round, soft cheeks.

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Nothing could have prepared me for the debilitating lows or gut-busting highs of becoming a mother. I couldn’t have predicted or planned it. I couldn’t have anticipated the miracle that occurs when a piece of your soul lives outside of your body.

Yet the last seven months have been the most difficult of my life.

I’ve been stretched and challenged and changed in uncomfortable ways. I’ve shattered into hundreds of pieces and put myself back together. I’ve subsisted on meager amounts of sleep and adult conversation while still feeding, cleaning, and caring for a helpless creature. This is what it truly means to be needed. His entire existence hinges on my waking, my body, my caress.

There’s something so carnal about this need. It’s all that really matters.

For the first few months we were just surviving. Learning about each other. Finding moments of joy amidst the terror, the fatigue of being a new parent. It was a season of gravity and clarity. My heart felt heavy with love.

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There were times I struggled. I faltered. I curled into a ball and wept. But the sun rose each morning on his sweet skin and I couldn’t remember a time before he existed.

And it got easier. When the meals ran out and the visitors faded, I faced motherhood on my own feet. With each day, I gained confidence; I got to know my child. I learned the curve of his face, the tenor of his cry, the warmth of his little body against mine. As the spring days stretched into summer, I slowly re-entered the world.

It didn’t stop turning, you see.

My small, carnal existence had isolated me. Motherhood caused me to skip a beat. It was blessed, needed time, but the world had gone on without me. So I reintroduced myself to church, to friends, to the grocery store. I was like an ostrich lifting my head from the sand.

But nothing would ever be the same. There was no returning to “normal” because normal was new and shifting.

And it was ok. The beauty of our new normal outweighed the frustration. My child grew and changed and explored like I had forgotten how to do.

Now, he’s being shaped before my eyes. Each new day brings a new discovery, a new skill, a new item to chew on.

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My heart bubbles up to my throat when he sneezes, smiles, laughs. Suddenly his bright eyes render recognition, delight. His chubby hands reach out with intention.

There’s just something about watching a life being formed. I love him so deeply my breath catches in my chest.

It’s worth falling off the face of the earth, if only for a little while. I’m still moving slowly. I’m still learning to accept failure, to accept advice. I’m still paralyzed when a social obligation interferes with bedtime. I’m still figuring out how to be a mother and also be a person.

I can barely remember to wear two socks in the morning, much less to write. But it’s so important. It’s necessary to capture this holy, exceptional time.

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Because I want to remember.

I want to remember his spindly, alien-like limbs when he was just a few weeks old. I want to remember the sweet, clean smell of baby lotion and powder after his bath. I want to remember the waves of grief that rolled over me the first morning I went back to work and had to leave him. I want to remember swaddling and shushing. I want to remember the unbridled joy that washes over his face every time I walk into a room. I want to remember the twinge in my heart when Dairy Man reads bedtime stories to his son. I want to remember how everything changed when I became a mother.

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So forgive my sentimentality, excessive use of adjectives, lack of blogging, and baby spam on Facebook, but I’m still figuring out how to be his mom and also be myself.

It’s not easy, but I wouldn’t change a moment. Life is just too good.

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Getting Lost on Dirt Roads.

17 Jul cows-sky

There are advantages to having a baby. Anders Knox is adorable, giggly, and a genius (in my unbiased opinion). He makes life more fun and more meaningful. But one thing I didn’t expect about having is a baby is the way life would slow down.

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Even though I’m back at work and we’re in the throes of a crazy busy summer, something about Anders has changed the tempo of life. My priorities have shifted, my dreams have recalibrated. I’ve been forced into a calmer, more carnal place.

This calm has caused me to do things I’ve never done before. Like intentionally getting lost in the country wilderness.

Every once and a while I take the long (long, long) way home when I pick up Anders after work. He needs a good nap before his next feeding at 6:00 and I need an opportunity to take a breath.

Paved roads won’t do. Highways won’t cut it. In true farm-boy fashion, my son takes his best naps while bouncing and jostling around on dirt roads.

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Such thoroughfares aren’t hard to come by near our dairy.

Usually my life is all about productivity. Efficiency. Get the job done, get there quickly, move on to the next thing. But these early evening drives with my son (and occasionally my furry firstborn even joins us) force me to slow down. While Anders peacefully snoozes, I drink in the impossibly big blue skies and rolling green hills. We bask in the middle-of-freaking-nowhere.

Last night was one such night. The A-man needed a nap and the clouds were breathtaking. We left civilization behind and turned onto a long dirt road near our house. I leisurely cruised through the deep ruts and gullies left by a recent rain, pausing every so often to snap a photo.

We drove through leafy tunnels.

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We said hi to the neighbors.

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We checked on the corn.

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We were rendered speechless by this ridiculous sky over the silage pack.

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I could have been home cooking dinner, doing laundry, or mopping the floor. But instead, I’m was awe. In awe of the size of the sky. In awe of the peaceful isolation of these dusty back roads. In awe of the sweet baby boy snoring in the backseat.

My former city girl self found catharsis in concrete, steel, skyscrapers, and the hustle of humanity. I still love those things. But now my soul also does somersaults for muddy roads, cornfields, cows, and the silence of the wind.

And that’s certainly worth a car wash (or three).

Update From The Farm: It’s Not Just Spit Up and Diapers

16 Jun

Phew. People, life with a baby is a lot of work. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. The last two months have been a blur of hundreds of diaper changes (over 330 in May according to the app on my phone) and a whole lot of spit up.

But today I’m showered, wearing real pants (versus yoga pants), and the sun is blazing. I’m feeling like a human. Life is bright and happy.

It doesn’t hurt that the weather in our patch of of the world has been gorgeous lately. The skies are impossibly blue.

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The fields are patchwork shades of brown, green, and yellow as the corn starts to come in.

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These pre-summer scenes remind me why I love Michigan. I could have done without the six-ish months of frigid, dreary, soul-sucking winter, but those days are a distant memory in the glow of today’s sunshine.

The recent pleasant weather has allowed Jersey, the A-man, the Baby Bjorn, and I to get out of the house on foot to check out what’s happening around the dairy.

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For example: did you know we’re expanding another barn?

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Last summer was a flurry of barn expansion activities. Dairy Man must have enjoyed every minute of it, because he started construction on another barn expansion about a week after Anders was born (because we weren’t busy enough, oof). But things have been going well and it’s almost time to let a new batch of bovine ladies stampede into their new digs like last year’s lucky ducks. As of this week, the concrete is poured and the anticipatory mooing is palpable.

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In addition to a new barn, the boys and I have noticed that our farm is home to a pack of adorable calves.

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This year we’re housing some young heifer (female) calves in our former steer barn. It’s nice to know they’ll be around longer than our steers. I never wanted to get too attached to those guys–I’m still a delicate city girl deep down. Typically we don’t have calves at our facility (the pregnant ladies live here during their gestational period, but they journey to the other dairy to give birth), so I’m really enjoying the cuteness.

Anders is less enthralled, but he’ll get there someday.

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It’s been wonderful to walk around with my boys, even if it is nerve-wracking to be carrying a baby when Jersey takes off after a barn cat or woodchuck. But walking around feels normal. It feels right. It feels like I’m reclaiming a favorite pre-baby pastime.

It even gives us a chance to visit Daddy at work.

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Honestly, I’m feeling a bit panicked about returning to work from maternity leave in two short weeks (more on that later). For now I’m trying to seize every opportunity to bask in the beauty all around me.

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And according to the Dairy Man, the remainder of my maternity leave is the perfect time to introduce Anders to the awesomeness that is a dairy farm. Train ’em young and all that.

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He’s got to get used to the smells sometime.

10 Things I Learned in April: The Parenting Edition

1 May

I can’t quite wrap my head around the reality that it’s been almost a month since our sweet Anders Knox joined the family.

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The past four weeks have been a blur of visitors, spit up, diapers, yoga pants, late night feedings, and sleep deprivation. It’s been the most challenging four weeks of my life, but it’s also been the most beautiful.

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Since April was entrenched in babyland, my monthly “10 things” isn’t going to be a very diverse list. I may not have showered today, but I’m seizing a quiet moment (Anders finally went down for a nap) to share 10 things I learned last month.

10 Things I Learned in April

1. Babies poop. A lot.
They warn you. The books tell you. But nothing can prepare you for the awe-inspiring amount of poop a tiny human being can produce. It’s baffling how much of my day is spent dealing with, assessing, smelling for, washing off, evaluating, logging, and transporting poop. Dairy Man and I are both black belt changers at this point.

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2. I can eat any meal in under 60 seconds.
Anders’ crankiest time of the day is typically between 5 and 10 p.m. That means DM and I stagger our dinners: one person consoles the baby while the other scarfs down their food. During the day I also have to eat breakfast and lunch with a baby in my arms or frantically while he’s napping. At this point I think I could win some sort of speed-eating competition.

3. I can do a lot of things with one hand.
Anders isn’t the best napper and DM is busy at work every day, so I spend a lot of time alone in the house with a baby in my arms. Thankfully I’ve gotten quite proficient at doing things with one hand. The list includes eating a bowl of cereal (though I did spill milk all over the table), loading the dishwasher, doing laundry, typing emails, and mopping baby vomit from the floor. If only onehandedness was a marketable job skill.

4. The human body can survive on minuscule amounts of sleep.
Anders needs to eat every 2-3 hours. Since I’m breastfeeding, this means that I never get more than three hours of sleep at a time. The fact that I’m still standing, speaking, and functioning is nothing short of a miracle.

5. Seeing my husband as a father is the most beautiful thing in the world. 
My heart wasn’t prepared for the gut-bursting joy I would feel in seeing DM as a father. He’s patient, gentle, and enamored with our little blue-eyed bundle of joy. My soul melts into my shoes when I see them together. I can’t wait to watch them grow closer and learn from each other.

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6. Sometimes just taking a shower is an inconceivable accomplishment.
I feel like I’m really kicking life’s butt if I manage to take a shower every day. I never thought something so small would puff me up with such a sense of pride. If I’m really feeling crazy, I might even wear makeup.

7. Flexibility is the new norm.
I’ve grown in flexibility ever since marrying a dairy farmer. My plans and schedules often fall victim to a broken tractor or escaped bovine. But I can already tell that parenthood is going to require an unprecedented amount of flexibility. My schedule, my sleep, my favorite shirts, my furniture, my chores, my sanity, and my relationships are already outside of my control. This leaves me with two choices: become completely unhinged or let it all go. Since I don’t want to take a trip to crazytown, I need to learn to let go. I need to be ok with being late. I need to ask for help. I need to accept failure. I need to put everything I do into the hands of my Creator.

8. I have the best family and friends in the world.
There’s nothing like having a baby to make you feel loved. I’m ridiculously grateful for the people who have held Anders while I napped, changed diapers, cleaned our house, given advice, brought dinners, walked Jersey, sent encouraging messages, delivered chocolate milkshakes, and tolerated a steady stream of adorable baby photos on Facebook. DM and I couldn’t have made it through April without this support. We are so blessed by our tribe. I’m also so grateful for the love I’ve received from YOU, our online community. Your sweet messages and comments are so appreciated!

9. Parenting is the most frustrating, fulfilling, exhausting, amazing thing I’ve ever done.
Dairy Man and I wake up each morning as different parents to a different child. We learn more about this strange creature every day and he learns about us. We have good days and bad days. We’ve had triumphant parenting moments and moments that make us want to curl into a ball and weep uncontrollably. Like most new parents, we’ve done a lot of things wrong. But we’re learning. We’re trying to be patient with ourselves and each other. We rejoice in our small victories and live to parent another day. This life is beautiful and we are so in love with this child.

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10. Babies don’t really appreciate new machinery.
Despite DM’s best efforts, our youngest farmhand isn’t quite ready to report for duty. But we have complete confidence that he will one day appreciate the excitement of a brand new loader.

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