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My girl is one

25 Nov

One year ago, this child came rushing into the world with speed and fury.

My first contraction was at 1:10 a.m. and within 30 minutes I could no longer stand up. Birth plan? HA. We barely made it to the hospital. Ellis was delivered 10 minutes after we arrived by an ER doctor whose name I don’t even know. The birth happened so quickly she was still fully encased in her amniotic sac. Being born “en caul” is extremely rare (1 in 80,000 babies) and carries historic superstition about good luck and a destiny of greatness. I didn’t buy into the hype, but I couldn’t help feel that she was marked as special.

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But our first three months were mired in the deepest exhaustion. My special baby was beautiful and healthy, but she was inconsistent and stubborn. She wouldn’t nap. She wouldn’t fall into a routine. She screamed bloody murder every night from 6-10 p.m. Nothing soothed her and my nerves were shattered. I felt the constant weight of failure. Every two steps forward meant three steps back. I was stretched to new limits of patience and grace, drowning in joy and despair.

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Then, the haze cleared. Suddenly my unhappy baby was easygoing and full of giggles. She (FINALLY) slept through the night. She smiled quickly, delighted everyone, and settled into her role as amenable second child. Complete strangers would say, “She’s such a happy baby!” and they were right. She came into her own with fervor, all joy and light. Our life wasn’t easy but it was wild and beautiful.

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Which brings us to today. This little girl is ONE. Just like that.

My love for her has grown in leaps and laugher. She’s a ball of energy and mischief. She refuses to be left out of the action. She adores her brother and Daddy and will follow them anywhere. She never stops moving unless on my hip.

I sometimes feel compelled to devour her chubby little hands, her bright blue eyes, her adorably deranged six-tooth smile. “I’ll eat you up, I love you so.”

Life with two kids is no joke. It’s chaos and movement and intensity. There are days I sink to the floor in exhaustion after both are in bed. I make a lot of mistakes. This little one still baffles me with her strong opinions and inconsistencies. She reminds me that control over life is a laughable fallacy. But I wouldn’t trade it. I wouldn’t trade her.

We love her so much. Happy birthday, my little.

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Joy and Fear: Waiting for our Second Child

14 Sep

It’s like I told my coworkers last week, “Now it’s time to freak out.”

I’m only partially kidding.

Why? Last week I started the third trimester of this lightning-speed pregnancy. And I can’t quite wrap my head around that.

For so, so long we waited, we prayed for this child. Our hearts were broken again and again. But then? She was. Growing safely inside me. Our prayers were answered in the most beautiful, soul-shattering way possible.

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I felt so blessed. So unworthy. I was almost afraid to truly bask in our happiness because it was just too good.

The tingly feelings of deep gratitude are still here, but they are sometimes pushed down by the realities of life. Of laundry and packing lunches and making dinner. Of work and travel and corn harvest.

The summer was so busy. And we’re so busy right now. The calendar over the next two months makes me want to cry. Between my work and farm insanity, there hasn’t been a lot of time to float around in a magical pregnancy bubble.

When I was pregnant with Anders, I lived in that bubble. I loved the wistful look that would come over someone’s face when I said “Yes, it’s our first.” I had nothing better to do than to take weekly photos in front of an elaborately-drawn chalkboard boasting “Baby F is the size of a kumquat!”

This time, understandably, has been very different.

Now I have a busy and egocentric toddler underfoot. Even when I was feeling my sickest (the first 16 weeks, ugh), sweet little Anders still demanded crazy things. Like dinner. Or diaper changes. Toddlers are not very accommodating to the woes of pregnancy, people. In the midst of pulling him off tables, chasing him around to put on his socks, and assuring him that asparagus is JUST DELICIOUS, I barely had time to notice I was pregnant.

I didn’t have a lot of time to sit. To think. To really imagine what our life will be like when the baby comes.

But third trimester. It’s here. I can’t ignore the fact that a baby is waiting for me at the end of this pregnancy.

Cue the freakout. I can’t believe we’re starting over.

In spite of the craziness that comes with a two-year-old, I love our life right now. Anders is hilarious. He talks constantly. He sleeps predictably. He loves so hard. He’s obsessed with farming. He has the coolest hair. He’s becoming more independent. I’m still floored by his transition from baby to little boy.

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Sometimes I sneak into his room for one last peek before I go to bed. (Am I checking if he’s still breathing? Maybe. Don’t judge. I hope my psychotic tendencies will lessen for the second kid.)

In those quiet moments, when his busy toddler body is stilled, his breath comes out sweet and slow, and his face is slack with innocence, my heart aches. My chest tightens and I can’t breathe from the sheer weight of my love for this little human. How I would die to protect him. How the thought of him growing up in this broken world renders me undone.

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It seems crazy that Dairy Man and I have willingly decided to divide our hearts again. To allow another piece of our soul to walk around in the world. A world we cannot control.

There’s so much to worry about. Especially for a professional worrier like myself.

But if pregnancy and being a parent has taught me anything, it’s that life is not about control. It can’t be. As much as I try to have the perfectly organized house and the perfectly run family, it’s not up to me. I can’t control toddler tantrums or farm emergencies or milk prices. I can’t control the sickness or tragedy that strikes those I love. I can’t control my pregnancy or be sure of a healthy baby.

Every shred of this imperfect life is in God’s hands. Not my own. That’s where sanity and comfort can be found.

Realistically, my freakout is still real and looming. Dairy Man knows nothing in the house is safe from my insane need to organize and nest. A part of me can’t believe we’re going back to blowouts, breastfeeding, and sleep deprivation.

I worry how Anders will adjust, how my heart will split to accommodate two.

The beautiful thing? It’s not up to me. My only choice is to trust that I’ll find our way. That I can bear the joy and fear of this life. That I can live in gratitude and faith. That I can rescue a toddler with his hand stuck in the vacuum while simultaneously rocking a newborn. That my heart can be broken and reassembled dozens of times a day. That our tribe will carry us when we can’t carry ourselves.

I have no idea how to have two kids, but I know we’ll figure it out somehow.

I am terrified and I am calm.

(And freakout + farm widowhood during harvest is the perfect excuse for ice cream.)

Bring on the third tri.

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Our Farm …er… Family is Growing!

9 Jun

Hello and welcome to life post corn planting.

Dairy Man barely knows what to do with himself after spending 90+ hours a week in a tractor planting over 1,500 acres of corn. That crazy man worked 95 hours two weeks ago. NINETY-FIVE. Dairy Man’s quip was “Jess, some people are 9 to 5ers. I’m a 95er!

He’s so clever.

Did I mention during that time we were also cutting triticale and hay? And of course the manure hauling never stops this time of year.

This life, I tell you. It’s been sheer craziness.

But I would be remiss if I didn’t let Anders share another bit of craziness that has found its way into our lives.

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You heard it here, folks (or on FB/Insta a few weeks ago…oops). Our little Dairy Boy will be a big brother in early December! We’re thrilled by God’s grace and can’t wait to welcome this new little blessing into our family.

Anders has no idea what he’s getting into. He mostly just likes to yell “I be a big BROTHER!” and do research.

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Jersey, on the other hand, is already acting surly. He seems to know what’s going on and it definitely can’t be good for the furry firstborn.

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DM can’t wait to grow our team of future farmhands. I’m sure he’s already working on the lawn mowing schedule.

And me? Amidst the excitement and joy I’m freaking out. I have no idea how I will handle two kids and a needy border collie, especially during times of year like planting season where Dairy Man doesn’t show his face for weeks.

This year it was all I could do to juggle a full-time job, pregnancy, grocery shopping, meal prep, cleaning, laundry, daycare, one busy toddler, and general living (showering, eating, sleeping, etc.). But even in the midst of this insanity, Anders and I found a good rhythm. We adjusted our expectations and learned how to get by with just the two of us. We ate more bread for dinner than I’m proud of (mix morning sickness with no husband–would YOU want to make filet mignon?), but we made it.

Come December, everything will change.

All of our carefully-constructed routines will be thrown for a loop and I’ll have to learn how to juggle two kids with very different schedules and needs.

The upside of having a baby in the dead of winter is that DM will be around. The cold season is so much slower on the farm (as long as our pipes don’t freeze). Anders was born in April and DM was in a tractor planting corn two weeks later. Not my favorite. This time will be different, slower, give more time for our family to adjust, and for that I’m grateful.

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Don’t let all my overzealous type-A fears fool you, I’m SO deeply excited for this next chapter in our lives, sleepless nights and all.

I’m savoring the newness, the comfortable anticipation of this second pregnancy. DM and I feel slightly prepared (we’ve done this before, right?) and terrified (what if it’s a girl!?).

We can’t wait to see what God has in store for our family.

And I can’t wait to rekindle my lifelong love affair with food. Any day now… #morningsicknessmustdie

So I Have a Two-Year-Old

5 Apr

There was a time I was afraid to become a mother.

I knew I wanted a family, but I didn’t really like kids. At least other people’s kids. They were sticky and loud and OH MY LANDS the millions of asinine questions. I didn’t have a natural rapport with them. If trapped in conversation with one, I would find myself asking, “So. Um. Read any good books lately?”

And then we got pregnant. I was going to be a mom. The thing I wanted the most was also the thing that terrified me to my core.

What if I wasn’t ready to become a mother? What if I was just as socially awkward with my own child? What if I tried to talk about the weather or politics? What if I couldn’t figure out what to do?

These thoughts plagued me my entire pregnancy as I read every book I could get my hands on. How to sleep train. How to breastfeed. How to be more French. How to raise kids that will become world leaders someday. I so desperately wanted to be prepared.

Then, ready or not, I went into labor. Two years ago today, Dairy Man and I woke up in a hospital room (after five blissful hours of sleep thanks to the modern miracle of an epidural), feeling woefully unprepared for what was to come.

But he was born. Anders Knox. Pink-skinned, blue-eyed, and boasting an impressive set of lungs. From the first moment he was placed on my chest I felt the heavy weight of love.

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I didn’t love him because he was a baby. I loved him because he was my baby. This love was instinctual, carnal. In those first few weeks of sleep deprivation, diaper explosions, and constant fear of doing things wrong, this love sustained me. This love kept me moving forward.

Today my sweet boy is two. He has a personality and independence. He talks constantly and is obsessed with farm equipment. He is very particular about his shoes. He isn’t afraid of cows and gives the biggest hugs.

I’m starting to realize that I’ve gone beyond loving him just because he’s my son to loving the person he is becoming.

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I feel it when he clearly articulates which stuffed animals he wants in his crib.
“Blue bunny. White bunny. No thank you, sheep.”

I feel it when he races ahead of me to say hi to the baby cows.
And when I have to keep him from climbing under the fence to pet them.

I feel it when I ask him what he wants for breakfast. Or lunch. Or dinner.
Bread. Bread. Salmon? And bread.

I feel it when he puts an injured finger up to my lips and says “Mama, kiss it.”
Though I do draw the line somewhere. That time he sat on a toy truck and went into a downward-facing dog position so that Mama could kiss it? Sorry. Not happening, buddy.

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Today, I don’t feel any more prepared than I did two years ago. I still can’t believe the hospital let us leave with a baby when we literally had NO FREAKING IDEA WHAT WE WERE DOING. I still feel the weight of responsibility when I remember we’re literally raising a little human.

But I learned, my love grew, and that squishy baby is becoming his own little person. Sometimes he pushes my hand away. Sometimes he runs into the safety of my arms. He desperately needs me but is also learning how to navigate the world on his own.

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My love will always be unconditional (thank goodness, because I hear the high school years can be a doozy #hormones), but it’s growing into something deeper based on who he is.

He loves the dairy. He is obsessed with books. He is polite and appreciative. He has boundless energy. He knows the names of more pieces of heavy equipment than I do (what the heck is a motor grader?). He is pretty sure we should have bread salad with bread casserole and roasted bread on the side every night (and bread cake for dessert).

You guys. This kid is the absolute coolest. He makes us laugh every day. We are so grateful that God has entrusted him into our care.

I can’t wait for the next year. I can’t wait to see how Anders continues to grow more uniquely himself. I can’t wait for the twos, even if there’s a side of terrible thrown in. Because I know my heart will be right there, growing alongside him.

Happy second, little bug.

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.

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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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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

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).