10 Things I Learned in February

Not to sound like a broken record, but I can honestly say that I’m not sorry to see the backside of February. I’m sick of winter. DM is sick of winter. The cows are sick of winter. Jersey is … not, but he’s a furry anomaly who is blinded by his love of snow frisbee.

Practically speaking, I need things to warm up because my winter coat will no longer button over my pregnant girth. The whole “I can stuff myself into it until spring” plan isn’t really working and a milder season is nowhere in sight.

Stuffed-sausage-coats notwithstanding, February cannot not squeak by without teaching me a few things. Thus, I give you:

10 Things I Learned In February

1. You can supply an entire home with water through a garden hose.
How, pray tell, do I know this fun fact? Well, thanks to the delightful little winter we’re having, the pipe running from the farm’s main water source to our house froze SOLID. So did the ground all around it. Short of digging up 70 feet of pipe in frozen ground, we’re stuck. The solution? Run several garden hoses from the water supply to our house. The hose connects directly to our system in the house (even running through the water heater), so I can’t complain too much, but we live in constant fear of the hose freezing too. Seriously. Is it spring yet?


2. While Dairy Man is away, MFW will play.

Or binge watch the entire season 2 of House of Cards. DM spent a week in California this month to attend the World Ag Expo and tour around dairy country. He soaked up the sun, ogled at rotary parlors, and ate from taco trucks. I didn’t clean anything, ate cinnamon rolls for dinner, and watched an embarrassing number of HOC episodes. The show is so addicting. And to those who have seen the last episode, can I just say: WHAAAAAAT!?!?!? Season 3 is going to be a thrill ride.


3. I have a secret to avoid speeding tickets.

Well, sort of. True confession: I force out a big yawn whenever I pass a police car because I think it makes me look nonchalant. Obviously no laws can be broken while yawning. I like to believe it’s impossible to perceive a yawner as a speeder.

4. I have not overcome my donut cravings.
I’ve never wanted sugar more than I have during this pregnancy. Proof? This is what my body required to get through my weekly grocery shopping trip this Monday. I couldn’t even talk myself out of it with the “you’ll spoil your dinner” argument because farmers don’t eat until 8 p.m. anyway! Curses.


5. Just as DM suspected, whole milk may keep you lean.

I admit to you that I came into my marriage as a fervent lover of skim milk, margarine, and low-fat yogurt. Oh the horror. Dairy Man was so ashamed. But I gradually began to see that my perceptions about “healthy” dairy were far from the truth. Studies are starting to suggest that natural fats are actually better for us than the empty low-fat/no-fat options on the market. DM is quite smug.

6. Ice cover on the Great Lakes stood at 77% as of Tuesday.
This winter has been unlike any we’ve seen in the last 20-30 years. As a result, the Great Lakes were 77 percent frozen this week! And they were a mind-boggling 88 percent frozen on February 13. I’m not quite ready to ice skate to Wisconsin (especially since Lake Michigan is only about 50 percent frozen), but these stats boggle my mind.

7. It’s possible for Dairy Man to love Paul Rudd even more than he already does.
DM has two primary man-crushes in his life: James Franco (which I do not understand) and Paul Rudd (which I do). This unfettered man-love often dictates his movie choices and even trickles into his YouTube browsing. Paul’s recent lip sync battle with Jimmy Fallon propelled DM’s warm fuzzy feelings to new heights.

8. Somewhere in the world, tropical pigs are swimming.
This is the stuff that gets me through the day.


9. There is one sure-fire way to ruin your husband’s day.
Just swap the melted Snickers bar he was saving for a “special occasion” with raisins. Oops.


10. I have less than 50 days until my due date.

Y-to the-IKES. I can’t believe how quickly the third trimester is flying by. And how big I feel. I like to surprise people with the size of my belly by turning sideways quickly, bouncing on my toes, and shouting, “WA-BUM!” It’s dramatic. This baby boy/dairy spawn will be here soon. Now if we could just finish the nursery or agree on a name…



10 Things I Learned in January

I don’t know about you, dear readers, but I’m happy to put January 2014 in the rearview mirror. The past 30 days have been a mess of snow, ice, freezing temps, treacherous drives, and the tantalizing desire to hibernate. Dairy Man has been getting a lot of use out of his HappyLight. I’ve been fighting off the urge to eat baked goods. We’re ready to move forward.

That said, the polar vortex didn’t prevent me from learning a few things this month.

1. Jimmy Fallon reunited Danny, Uncle Jesse, and Uncle Joey for a skit about his Tonight Show fears. And the 90s child inside of me nearly exploded with delight.

2. My “be ready in five minutes” is identical to Dairy Man’s “be home in five minutes.”
In short, they’re both lies. DM and I are a match made in heaven. This is why we’re always late to church and often find ourselves eating dinner at 8:45 p.m. But I can say with certainty that my “five minutes” has never turned into “gone for the rest of the day.” Not even I could primp that long.

3. Naming a child is next to impossible.
DM and I are in big trouble. It doesn’t bode well that it took nearly a week for Jersey the dog to be christened. I’ve had a spreadsheet of possible names for years now (because I’m crazy …er… I mean organized like that) and I spend far too much time reading articles like this. We’ve crossed off a lot of names we DON’T like, but we can’t agree on names we DO like. DM is drawn to Nordic/Viking names like Leif and Thor. I’m drawn to names that won’t be tragically ironic if this kid is scrawny. Only 71 days left to get this nailed down. boy names

4. Jessica is a bona fide fad name.
Thanks a lot, Mom and Dad. There’s nothing unique about a Jessica. It was literally THE most popular girls’ name the year I was born. I always had about five of them in my class. On the upside, I was always able to find personalized pencils. #4 on this list explains “name fads” and this graph proves that Jessica will be an Old Lady Name (like Bessie or Gertrude) by the time I hit my 60s. I’m trying so desperately to avoid name fads for Baby F.

Jessica graph

5. I don’t play with Legos, but if I had this Downton Abbey set, I might have to.DowntonAbbeyLegos

6. When temps dip below freezing, everything on the dairy will break.
Michigan hasn’t escaped the polar vortex that’s plagued the country since around Thanksgiving. I can’t believe this winter. So much snow. So ridiculously cold. Things get tricky on the dairy when the temps drop like this. In addition to all of the normal winter tasks—lowering curtains, putting coats on the calves, plowing, plowing, and more plowing—DM seems to spend half his life fixing broken things. Water pumps, tractors, generators, drinking fountains, the list goes on. And we haven’t even started to talk about stuck milk trucks or frozen manure. Oof. We’re hoping for an early spring.Snowdrift

7. I still love Chicago.
Even after 3.5 of solid country living, I can still fully assimilate into the hustle and bustle of Chicago, my favorite urban metropolis. DM and I spent the weekend in the Windy City this month and it was just what my pre-baby soul needed. Despite the subarctic temperatures, it was a thrilling weekend of new restaurants, the Shedd, Phantom of the Opera, amazing views, and way too many cab rides (thanks to our desire not to die of frostbite). It’s not easy for DM to get off the dairy, but I love it when he does. Even farmers need some culture. And I always need some Chitown.Chitown

8. Painting isn’t easy with a big belly.
But nesting instinct trumps pregnancy awkwardness. We’ve spent the last few weekends painting the nursery and upstairs landing (with no-VOC paint, don’t worry) in preparation for the babe. Even though I’ve been forced to wear some super-stylish painting clothes (DM’s old stuff) and have gotten myself into some embarrassing predicaments as I try to bend, twist, and squat, it’s been worth it. We’re so close. Almost time for furniture and stuffed penguins.Painting day

9. Jelly Belly now makes a beer-flavored jelly bean.
In a word, ew. Not even this teetotaler prego is interested. But someone must be buying, because the beans are already sold out.


10. As soon as the third trimester begins, slight panic kicks in.
I’m not sure what changed from week 27 to 28, but I started to hyperventilate as soon as I entered the “home stretch” of my pregnancy. There’s so much to do. Decorate the nursery, figure out a name, make a baby registry, prepare Jersey (we’re using this book), write a birth plan, learn infant CPR, buy more leggings. I’m so excited. And so terrified. Thank goodness DM is calm, laid back, and levelheaded. Between the two of us, I think we’ll be ok. I just hope the new little guy enjoys tractor rides.3rdTri

10 Things I Learned in December

The gifts are unwrapped, the cookies are stale, and it’s time to take down the Christmas decorations. There’s a certain melancholy that comes with the holiday seasons’s end, especially after such a frenzied rush to the finish line.

But I feel peace. Dairy Man and I spent some time last night looking through photos from 2013 and it’s been a good year. We’ve accomplished a lot in 12 short months,  from building a barn to teaching Jersey to high-five to making a baby. I’ve learned more about patience, persistence, kindness, and creating space for my soul to breathe.

Now, we look forward to 2014 with rightful fear and ecstatic joy. That said, I can’t usher in the new year without telling you what I learned this month.

10 things I learned in December 

1. Dairy Man doesn’t enjoy ballet.
DM and I journeyed into the city this holiday season to see The Nutcracker. I love everything about this classic ballet, but he was skeptical. And now we know. While my dear farmer enjoys plays and musicals (thankfully, because I’m a total theater nerd) he does not enjoy ballet. I think the skintight white pants may have thrown him off. Or perhaps the movements he called “prancing around.” It’s really a shame.


2. Dogs have around 1,700 taste buds. Humans have 9,000.
This fact could explain why Jersey has such a propensity for manure consumption. Though maybe I would find it delicious too if I only had 1,700 taste buds.

3. I’m addicted to watching Jersey on the baby-cam.
DM got me a baby-cam this summer so that I could watch Jersey on my iPhone during the day. But we didn’t hook up the camera until this month to test it out for the impending Baby F. Even though all Jersey does in the kitchen is look out the window, eat, yawn, and nap, I can’t stop watching him. DM even makes a cameo appearance once and a while.


4. My family is still awesome.
Case in point? Our annual Christmas card photo shoot was a smashing success.


5. Though eerily similar in look and texture, mashed cauliflower is NOT a viable substitute for mashed potatoes.
Yuck. Just trust me on this one. No matter what the pretty pictures on Pinterest tell you, mashed cauliflower is re-pul-sive. Even though your brain says “Huh, it can’t be so bad. They look just like potatoes,” your mouth is screaming, “SWEETKNIGHTSOFCOLUMBUS what is this atrocity?!? SPITITOUT!!”

6. Everybody loves a pregnant reindeer.
Best entry ever into an ugly sweater contest? Maybe.


7. Baby Boy F is going to have a cousin in July.
We were thrilled to find out last week that DM’s sister is also expecting her first child! It will be so fun to have cousins only three months apart. I can almost see the motley crew comprised of of our current dog-children and future farm-kids creating mischief all over the dairy. Jersey and Maggie have assured us they are more than up to the task of educating their human protégés.


8. In my favorite Christmas movie, Home Alone, the McAllisters’ house was a real house outside Chicago.
Who knew? I wonder if they do tours?

9. Hiring out is the best.
When DM and I found out we were pregnant, we decided the only logical place for a nursery was in the wild, untouched frontier known as our upstairs. This decision required some serious renovations, like taking out walls, adding insulation, and stripping off ancient lath and plaster. A project of this scale called for professional help. So, for the first time since we started renovating three years ago, we hired a contractor. And people, let me tell you, it is glorious. We went from damaged wood paneling and chipped plaster to bright shiny drywall in a matter of two weeks. It’s amazing how quickly things get done when you’re not trying to squeeze it in on a weekend. My nesting instincts are on steroids.


10. I do in fact have a pregnancy craving. And it rhymes with “go nuts.”
At first I thought I was squeaking through pregnancy without any weird cravings. Pickles and ice cream sounded repugnant and DM wasn’t making any 2 a.m. gas station runs for Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. But then I started thinking about donuts and I couldn’t stop. So I’ve started buying them for other people. Because if I’m going into a sugar coma, I’m taking everybody down with me.


Power in the Pause: Merry Christmas


Between Christmas preparations, home renovations, and growing a human, this season has been overwhelming and hectic for me. Rather than feeling joyous and grateful, I found myself withdrawing into a candy-cane-crusted ball of stress.

It all came to a crux last week. After four weeks of frantic shopping, cooking, cleaning, and strain, I desperately needed a breath.

So when I stepped out of the car at my office, I took a moment. I stopped in my tracks and was still, quiet, open. The bitter cold burned my nose and ears. The silence of the snow was deafening. Everything was foggy, frozen, muffled. Then, the softest hint of sunrise began to spill over the horizon and I felt peace wash over me.

Ice and snow

A soul needs these moments.

There’s power in the pause.

Change is inevitable. I know that the next year will bring the biggest changes of Dairy Man and my 3.5 years of marriage (as if moving to the country or starting a dairy aren’t big enough changes). But I’m in no rush. I’m trying to savor each step, each present moment, because I know they will never be here again.

Jersey soccer ball

So, if you’re like me and feel overworked, under-appreciated, and want to scream if you see one more unfrosted sugar cookie:

Take a deep breath.


Allow yourself to be silent.

It’s going to be ok.

Remember that even if the green bean casserole is burned, you forgot to get a gift for your cousin’s brother’s girlfriend, or you ate yourself into a sugar coma, a tiny little baby was born in Bethlehem.

Because this season isn’t about perfect homes, perfect gifts, perfect meals, perfect milk production (sorry, DM), or perfect people. We are flawed. We are human. We need the redemption that Christmas brings.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  –Isaiah 9:6

I hope you take the opportunity to pause and soak in your own quiet moments this week.

Love and Merry Christmas, from our barn to yours.



10 Things I Learned in November

It could be the pregnancy hormones talking, but today my heart is practically bursting with gratitude. This rush of sap may be a result of the impending Thanksgiving holiday, marshmallows in my cocoa, (because sweets are emotional, obv.), and the fact that I’m almost positive I felt the baby kick this morning, but I can’t help feel like November was blessed.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m often terrified as I think about becoming a parent and potentially never fitting back into my skinny jeans. Half of my brain is devoted to worrying and the other half is devoted to donut holes. But today is a day when I’m overwhelmed by the simple beauty of life.

The snow (which I wholly despise by January 2) is beautiful. The dry cows lowing in our pasture are beautiful. The gentle movements of my half-baked child are beautiful. The love of friends and family is beautiful. And, if you ask Dairy Man, even the effective use of teat dip on the dairy is beautiful.

As you all prepare your minds and bellies for Thursday’s holiday, I hope you take advantage of quiet moments to appreciate the beauty in your lives. Or to take a nap. Turkey can knock the stuffing out of you.

Until then, let’s take a look at 10 things I learned in November.

1. Baby F is a … BOY!
DM and I had our 20-week ultrasound last week. At our request, the tech wrote the baby’s sex down on a sheet of paper, sealed it in an envelope, and sent us on our merry way. Two dear friends made cupcakes with blue frosting on the inside and the rest is history! DM is thrilled to have a little farmer on the way. Now we just have to wrap our minds around the fact that we’re halfway through this pregnancy. Eek! Time to nest.


2. Dairy Man plans to be a unique kind of dad.
Creative, hands-on, and a dinosaur-enthusiast? Perhaps he’ll do the same thing with a band of mischievous farm animal figurines.


3. Pregnancy has increased the likelihood I’ll have catastrophic home accidents.
I’m generally not a clumsy person. Sure, I’ve had those moments where I bump a glass of milk with my elbow and nearly send it crashing to the ground. But I always catch it. No more. Pregnancy seems to have thrown off my equilibrium and slowed my reaction time. In the past month, I’ve experienced two calamitous incidents of clumsiness. First, I knocked a full 40 oz. jar of honey off a shelf in our pantry. It shattered, getting shards of glass and honey, STICKY HORRIFYING HONEY, everywhere. The floor, the wall, the shelves, my hands and arms. It took me over an hour to clean up the disaster. I can’t escape the feeling that my shoes still stick to the floor. In the second incident, I tipped over a BURNING CANDLE FULL OF HOT LIQUID WAX. I spent the next hour scraping wax from the floor and wall with an old credit card and ironing the cowhide rug. I shudder to think what is going to happen next. Please do not give me anything breakable for Christmas.

4. Much to my chagrin, I cannot deny my Michigan accent.
Despite years of theater and show choir (yes, I’m showing a little bit of my high school nerdiness now), I’ve apparently not managed to adopt a place-neutral accent. So much for my future in TV news broadcasting. According to this online quiz, my American accent is “Inland North,” and yes, I grew up saying “pop.” How about you? What American accent do you have?

Michiganaccent5. We have cows at the end of our rainbow.
Our small town didn’t escape the crazy violent storms that crashed through the Midwest a couple of weeks ago, but we were blessed to escape with minimal damage and minor flooding. And something amazing happened. Between two of the storm systems, the sun thrust itself outside of the black storm clouds and created an awe-inspiring double rainbow. It’s confirmed, folks. We have cows at the end of our rainbow.


6. Dairy Man and Ron Swanson agree about skim milk.
This clip is one of DM’s favorite things on the Internet. Sometimes I think Ron Swanson is his spirit animal.

7. There comes a tragic day when you can’t wear your favorite pants and grow a baby at the same time.
And I hit that point about a week ago. Hellooooo leggings.


8. Real love can be “boring” … and beautiful.
This letter from a mother to her boys has been bouncing around the interwebs and I think it’s a wonderful depiction of real, everyday, life-changing love. A relationship still needs date nights and fireworks, but ultimately “the real romantics are the boring ones—they let another heart bore a hole deep into theirs.”

9. Cows vurp. A lot.
Vurp: to burp and vomit at the same time. It doesn’t seem like the most ladylike thing in the world, but there’s a unique step in a cow’s digestive process. After she chows down on her delicious feed, she’ll regurgitate, or “vurp,” each bite and chew it some more. This is called cud. A happy cow is a cow chewing her cud. Fun fact. You’re welcome.

10. Jersey has discovered a loophole to our “no dogs on the bed” rule.
This is what comes of putting a bench at the end of the bed. Cheeky bugger.


I hope you all learned a lot this month and have a wonderful, turkey-coma-induced Thanksgiving!

10 Things I Learned in October

As you may have surmised from the radio silence over here in dairy land since the big announcement, October has been a busy month! In addition to the frenzy created by Baby F, Dairy Man and I have been traveling, harvesting, and home renovating. October went by like a flash. I feel like we only recently emerged from the annual corn-coma and now we’re already talking about turkey.

I’m in no rush. I’m really trying to savor this time, to fully experience each day. If being pregnant has changed anything, it’s changed the way DM and I look towards the future. We can’t wait to be parents, but we’re also trying to enjoy this season, because we know we’ll never be here again. We’ll never have these same moments. This is the time to be fully present in the journey. After the craziness of the past few months, winter is the perfect time to slow down, be more contemplative, to reconnect with each other and ourselves. I can’t wait.

But enough of my philosophizing. Let’s get down to the important stuff–what I learned this month.

10 Things I Learned in October

1. If you mix herbs, sweet potato, apple, onion, and turkey sausage, you get amazingness.
One of my favorite things about fall is the shift from light, fresh summer meals to warm, hearty fall dishes. This recipe for an “Oven-roasted autumn medley” helped me use up some of the apples around our house and was ridiculously delicious to boot.


2. Even if you are just barely pregnant enough to bump out, some people will STILL try to touch your belly.
I’m talking to you, strange lady at church. I know you meant well, but don’t make me go all Pennsylvania on you.


3. Cats can be jerks. Especially when they steal dogs’ beds.
Let’s just say that after seeing this video, Jersey is happy to be without a feline sibling.

4. I was reminded that community is one of the sweetest gifts we can build into our lives.
Despite the volume and estrogen that are bound to accompany a weekend in northern Michigan with 12 of your closest friends, nothing is more beautiful. Twelve of my girlfriends and I rented a house in Glen Arbor for an entire weekend this October. For 2.5 glorious days, we did nothing but relax, talk, eat unhealthy snacks, drink wine (or apple cider in some of our cases), play games, cook meals together, wear sweatpants, and enjoy a break from reality. It was loud, messy, and unspeakably cleansing. Our weekend away soothed my soul. I am so blessed by the friends I’ve found in our small town.


5. My mom will go freaking b-a-n-a-n-a-s if you tell her she’s going to be a grandma.

Yes, you should be singing the Gwen Stefani song in your head right about now. B-a-n-a-n-a-s. As most of you know, Dairy Man and I made a big announcement a few weeks ago. But before we could tell you guys, we had to tell our parents. We told my family by wrapping up a framed copy of the ultrasound photo for my grandma (the birthday girl) to open. As you can see from this video, chaos ensued. I’m just starting to get hearing back in my right ear. Thanks, Mom.

6. The end of corn harvest is basically a holiday.
Ding! Dong! The corn is up! This is the time of year for singing. And the return of date nights. Last weekend, Dairy Man and I had our first night on the town since corn harvest began. The evening was celebratory, a chance to reconnect and recharge. Despite challenging weather this fall (thanks to waaaay too much rain), we harvested all 1,100 acres of our corn in record time. I’m an old vet after three years of marriage and–dare I say it?–harvest seemed to fly by this year. Let’s break out the champagne.


7. Sunrises are pretty great.
As a Michigan native who grew up on the shores of a west-facing lake, I’ve always been partial to sunsets. A good sunset can instantly transport me back to my grandparents’ cottage on Lake Michigan, nestled into the crook of my grandpa’s arm, smelling fish and his soap, watching another day slip below the horizon. I’ve ushered many a day into darkness; I rarely greet the sun. But since the days have been getting shorter, I’ve had the chance to witness the sun’s entrance as I drive to work. And it is glorious.


8. It’s possible to fashion a small piano out of nothing but chocolate.
This month I went to a work conference in Grand Rapids and this was the dessert at our evening meal. Seriously. SHUT UP. Who even knew this was possible? Thanks to hundreds of people taking photos of their delectable delight, #chocolatepiano even briefly trended on Instagram.

photo (6)

9. Lunch dates can spiral out of control.
Only in farm life can a nice little lunch date with your husband turn into one traumatized farm wife trying not to overhear a long phone conversation about a cow’s uterus. I couldn’t even finish my sandwich. A little sensitivity, man!

10. Whether it’s a boy or a girl, I think our baby needs this pacifier.
It’s so distinguished.

How about you? Did you learn anything earth-shattering or hilarious this month? And it’s ok to be jealous of my chocolate piano.

Check out my other monthly recaps here, here, and here.

A Big Announcement

Ok people. Hold on to your hats. It’s time for a big announcement.

We’re expanding the dairy! Well, kind of. The truth is that we’re working on our very own homegrown farmhand. It seems more cost-effective in the long run.

 Confused? I’ll let this picture explain things for you.

announcement 1

That’s right, folks. The Dairy Man and I are officially expecting our first child! Even though he/she won’t be able to shovel manure for a few more years, we’re over the moon with excitement and gratitude. We feel unspeakably blessed.

announcement 2

Jersey and the cows seem ambivalent, but they’ll come around. I have no doubt that J-pups will settle into his new role as an older sibling.

announcement 3

So that’s that. #30 on my 30 things to do before I’m 30 list will be checked off in April 2014. You’re welcome, Mom.

For now, we’re embarking on many months of Dairy Man trying to understand a human pregnancy through his knowledge of cows. I’ll try not to be offended. Whatever helps him cope. As long as we don’t name the baby “Holstein.”

Life is about to change dramatically and irrevocably. I’m thrilled, overwhelmed, ecstatic, and terrified all at the same time. But even amidst the bouts of terror, I thank God for this tiny life inside of me.

On to the next adventure!

announcement 4

*And many, many thanks go to the talented Ashley Folkema for these amazing photos.