He Shows Us How to Be Brave


The day before his birthday, I asked Dairy Man what he wanted to do to celebrate. He thought about it for a beat and then said, “Let’s just hop in the car and drive.” My planner brain instantly had questions: “Where are we driving exactly? How long will it take? Should we pack a lunch? What about naps? Does the car have gas?” But I (mostly) quieted my thoughts and said, “Ok.”

Our kids are not going to learn spontaneity from me. How to make comprehensive packing lists? Yes. How to organize Legos by color and type? Sure. How to make a detailed itinerary to maximize every moment of their European vacation? Definitely.

But he will teach them how to be adventurers.

I tend to play it safe. Kyle tends to take (calculated) risks. His fearlessness—going all the way back to his days as a high school BMXer—has allowed him to take chances in life, trust his instincts, and adapt to changing circumstances. He welcomes failure because he knows there is no better way to learn. He doesn’t get mired in “what ifs,” but instead asks, “Why not?”

In a lot of ways, I want to be more like him.

Yesterday morning as I flew around the house gathering snacks, sunscreen, and extra underwear for the kids (because you never know) for our ambiguous adventure, my pragmatic calculations told me it wasn’t worth the stress. But as we drove away from the farm—Kyle singing along with the radio and corn fields flying past the windows—I felt my muscles loosen and my fingers unclench. As they always do.

We ended up at a small beach that Kyle remembered from his childhood. The sand was warm under our feet as we kicked off our shoes and tramped eagerly over the dunes, fingertips grazing the tall grass. Anders and Ellis squealed as they followed Kyle through small pools of water and over makeshift bridges of driftwood. Their hesitancy at the water’s edge was forgotten when he took their hands. It was clear that our meandering drive had brought us exactly where we needed to be.

Happy 35th, my love. Thank you for pushing us. Thank you for often knowing what we really need.

Thank you for showing us how to be brave.


Checking In: 30 Before 30

I turned 27 this month. This provoked a mild existential crisis (in which the voices in my head kept whispering, “Almost thirty… Almoooost thiiiiirty… Are those crooooow’s feeeeet by your eyyyyyes?“) that was only offset by the realization that Dairy Man would turn 28 in two weeks. If nothing else, I still have my older man. DM tests out every age for me before I arrive. Isn’t that nice of him?

27 seems like a good time to break the blog’s summer hiatus and check in on my “30 Things to Do Before I’m 30” list. I’ve made process in some areas, refused to skydive in others. There are things in life that terrify me (#12) that DON’T come with a chance of this:

Drunk plane

Go home, plane, you’re drunk.

So, I haven’t skydived…dove. But I am ready to detail the remaining 15 items on the list (check out the first 15 here), and give you a sense of how the 30 are going. It’s all about accountability.

16. Say “I’m sorry” more than 50 percent of the time
I am stubborn, opinionated, and bask in being right. But as my parents taught me, marriage (and life) is not about being right. It’s about compromise, humility, and grace. I want the words “I’m sorry” to become less of a poisonous extraction and more of a gracious offering.

17. Talk to my grandparents each week via phone or email
I think I’ve gotten a little lazy on this one since both of my grandmothers hopped on Facebook. That’s almost human interaction, right? But seriously. Over the course of my life, I’ve been lucky enough to know all four of my grandparents. They were at every play, choir concert, and birthday throughout my childhood. I want to make it a priority to stay in touch with my three remaining g-rents. It’s good for the soul. Plus, there’s usually some delicious lasagna or homemade frosting involved.

18. Drink a $50-100 bottle of wine (and see if I can tell the difference)
DM and I love a good glass of dry, oaky red wine. But our definition of “good” wine is typically around $15. We’re not the Rockafellers, people. I’ve always wanted to try an expensive bottle of wine to see if my tastes are as refined as I think they are.

19. Complete family photo yearbooks for 2010, 2011, and 2012
I’m already 2/3 of the way through with this one. Like many people, I have approximately a bazillion photos just sitting on my computer. So I decided to create annual family photo yearbooks on Shutterfly to preserve the memories. Plus, it’s nice to have something on the coffee table besides dairy magazines.

20. Purchase coffee for a stranger behind me in the Starbucks drive-thru
Once I was driving through Starbucks in need of a grande dirty chai. When I got up to the window, the girl wearing the headset said, “You don’t owe anything. The lady before you took care of it.” I was flabbergasted. I’ve always wanted to pay forward the kindness. Because, really, the best way to show your humanity is through caffeinated beverages.

21. Create something with my Instagram photos
Since getting my iPhone in the summer of 2012, I have documented our life on the farm with hundreds of Instagram photos. It’s well and good to have these photos living on my phone, but I want to do something with them. I’m thinking a poster for the basement.

22. Upgrade to a DSLR camera
I barely even know what this means, but I do know that iPhone photos just don’t cut it in the blogging world. I want to learn how to use a fancy camera and take photos of our dairy and Jersey the dog to the next level.

23. Teach Jersey a new trick
I might be biased, but, um, my dog is the smartest dog in the world. Now that he’s two years old, he has increased capacity to do awesome things. I recently taught him how to high-five, but I think “stick ’em up” might be next.

24. Spend an entire weekend unplugged
Dairy Man and I got into a scuffle over this one. While I think the idea of a of weekend free of laptops, iPads, and cell phones sounds relaxing and cleansing, all he could say is “No way! What if my employees need me!?” The man can’t fathom ever being away from his phone. So my plan is to combine this one with #10 and actually force him to leave the U.S. sometime in the next three years. Because not even a dairy man wants to pay $20 a minute to chat with his employees from a Caribbean beach.

25. Refurbish an old piece of furniture
I bought an old mid-century dresser for $60 from a thrift store in 2011. It has great bones but needs a lot of love. This is the year that I’m finally going to USE one of those 43,563 furniture painting tutorials on Pinterest and stop telling people who enter my dining room, “Don’t mind that ugly credenza; I need to refinish it.”

26. Make a list of birthdays and addresses and send cards
My friends can count on fun-filled birthday texts or FB messages, but there’s nothing like snail mail. I want to start sending physical cards. With handwritten notes. Maybe this will help me check off #1.

27. Pay off our student loans
Dairy Man and I finished college almost five years ago and are so close to paying off our loans that I can taste it. Between now and 30, we will pay off every last cent and say “sayonara!” to loan payments. Dave Ramsey would be so proud.

28. Find an active outdoor activity DM and I can do together
Two things that Dairy Man and I need more of (in my opinion) is quality time and exercise. I want to kill two birds with one stone and find an outdoor activity we both love. Are we hikers? Bikers? Runners? Vine swingers? Tennis players? Parkour-ers? Only time will tell.

29. Have a baby
DM and I have always known that we want a family. By the time I’m 30, I want to have at least one heir to the dairy throne around the house. If nothing else, we could use some more farmhands.

30. Write a letter to myself to be opened on my 30th birthday
I’d better get cracking on this one. If the past 27 years are any indication, a LOT can happen in three years. I want to make sure I don’t forget where I’ve been.

So, how’s the whole list going? Let’s check in.

  1. Send 25 handwritten notes
  2. Drink a large glass of water before every meal We do this faithfully
  3. Read at least one book every two months
  4. Visit our friends in Salt Lake City This hasn’t actually happened yet, but DM and I purchased plane tickets and will be jetting out to SLC in August!
  5. Milk a cow
  6. Take a girls trip to Vegas
  7. Try ten new restaurants in West Michigan
  8. Have at least one official date night a month
  9. Host a dinner party After reading this book, I really had no choice. My dining room table hosted an excellent dinner party for 10 of my girlfriends
  10. Go on an actual vacation with DM Will be accomplished the same time as #4
  11. See a show at Second City in Chicago
  12. Do something that absolutely terrifies me
  13. Go to five plays or musicals
  14. Run the Fifth Third Riverbank 5K  I donned stylish running tights and blazed through this race on May 11, 2013. 29:30 wasn’t a bad time for someone who didn’t train one iota! 
  15. Spend a day with each sibling doing something they choose, paid for by me
  16. Say “I’m sorry” more than 50 percent of the time
  17. Talk to my grandparents each week via phone or email
  18. Drink a $50-100 bottle of wine (and see if I can tell the difference)
  19. Complete family photo yearbooks for 2010, 2011, and 2012  Two books down, one to go
  20. Purchase coffee for a stranger behind me in the Starbucks drive-thru
  21. Create something with my Instagram photos
  22. Upgrade to a DSLR camera
  23. Teach Jersey a new trick I taught him how to high-five, but as mentioned, I have plans for other tricks
  24. Spend an entire weekend unplugged
  25. Refurbish an old piece of furniture
  26. Make a list of birthdays and addresses and send cards
  27. Pay off our student loans
  28. Find an active outdoor activity DM and I can do together
  29. Have a baby
  30. Write a letter to myself to be opened on my 30th birthday

Yikes. There’s a lot to do between 27 and 30! Some will be easy (buying coffee for a stranger) and others will be challenging (like trying to find time for date nights during corn harvest), but I’m looking forward to checking things off the list.

With a handsome fella like this at my side, how could I fail?

DM stache

Happy Birthday, Dairy Man

Today is the dairy man’s birthday. On this special day he sojourns forth at the ripe old age of 27. I’m just glad he’s older than me again. I always liked older men. Wait … that came out weird.


It’s already been an eventful birthday for my poor farmer. A severe thunderstorm rolled through our area last night and wreaked some havoc on the dairy. A mere hour and a half after the clock struck midnight (happy birthday!), the DM was out on the dairy getting the generator started.

In addition to losing power, we had a puppy that decided his lifelong fear of thunder should transition from terrified cowering in the closet to furious barking and running in circles. Incessantly. For hours. We tried putting Jersey in our room, in the kitchen, in his crate, out of his crate. He even donned the snazzy Thundershirt we bought a few weeks ago.

But to no avail. We soothed, we yelled, we ignored, but when all was said and done, Jersey barked himself silly and we lost at least three hours of sleep.

Did I mention DM also had to get up before 6:00 to deal with our bulk tank? Oof. Needless to say, he’s going to be dragging on this birthday. Oh, farm life. How you torment us.

Despite my bleary semi-conscious state, it’s important to make the dairy man feel special today. In that vein, I’ve written him a little note. Feel free to peek over my shoulder.

Dear hubs,

I’m not always the best wife. The laundry can pile up. I sometimes cook more chicken than beef (the nerve!). I drink skim milk (the horror!). I don’t always accept the dairy’s prominence in our life with grace. I can be stubborn, opinionated, and impatient.

But on this day, your birthday, I want to thank you. Thank you for taking the dog out when it’s raining. Thank you for rubbing my shoulders when we watch TV. Thank you for saying that my new recipe “definitely isn’t terrible” when you don’t like it. Thank you for caring about the weeds in our yard more than I do. Thank you for filling my head with thrilling cow facts.

Thank you for blearily waking up long enough to tell me which shoe looks best with my outfit. Thank you for biting your tongue when I go overboard at Target. Thank you for your levelheadedness and your faith. Thank you for killing spiders. Thank you for working so hard to build a life for us. Thank you for being kind, hilarious, inspirational, patient, ambitious, and wise.

Thank you for being my best friend, partner in crime, and confidant.

You are my love, my family, and my dashing karate kid.

Happy birthday, dairy man.

I like you.

A family of three.

I am the best wife ever. No, really.

A battle has been gently raging in our home for several months now. In one corner: a Dairy Man who wants a dog. In the other: a modern farm wife who doesn’t.

Until recently, the battle was at a complete standstill. In a marriage, if one person wants a dog but the other doesn’t, you really can’t get a dog.  You can’t just come home with a puppy one day and say, “Don’t worry, honey. He won’t affect your life at all.” It’s like having a kid. Both parents need to be on board.

And I was SO not on board.

Don’t get me wrong, I like dogs. I like petting other people’s dogs. I like playing fetch with other people’s dogs. I like taking other people’s dogs for walks. But I especially like sending the dog home with those other people.

Maybe it’s because I’ve never had a pet in my entire life, other than Jewel the 15-cent fish who only lived for 36 hours and a certain barn cat named Shadow. I’ve certainly never taken care of anything large or furry that might pee on the kitchen floor. I don’t have the foggiest idea how to care for a “real” pet. And yes, I’m the girl living on a 300+ cow dairy.

For a while, the Dairy Man and agreed to disagree. But after a while, his arguments started to get more convincing than mine.

MFW: I ‘m gone from the house for at least 12 hours every day! I don’t have the time to care for a dog or give it attention.
DM: We live on a farm! I can take him with me to work and check on him all day. He won’t ever be cooped up for too long.

MFW: I love my shoes and I don’t love cleaning urine off the carpet.
DM: The dog could live outside or in one of the barns! He/she wouldn’t ever have to come in the house.

MFW: It will be like having a baby.
DM: I don’t want a baby. I do want a dog. Besides you can’t teach a baby to herd cows.

The more the Dairy Man stepped up to take responsibility, the more my resolve weakened. So I made a decision. The Dairy Man’s birthday was in a few short days and I had the perfect gift. A little research found me a breeder. And a few deep, cleansing breaths later, I was ready. That’s how we ended up weaving through country roads on a Friday night looking for Baird Farm Kennels. The Dairy Man had no idea where I was taking him, but he was beyond excited when I told him, “You get to pick out your puppy!”

One million wife points earned instantly.

The Dairy Man made a connection and thirty minutes later we were on the way back north with a puppy in tow.

This is Jersey. He is a 10 week old Border Collie puppy with a sweet disposition and the cutest little crooked tail.

We tossed around a lot of names, but somehow “Jersey” stuck. Jersey like the cow, of course. (For all of you dairyites: yes, “Holstein” would have been more accurate name due to his coloring, but Jersey is a much cuter name. And we’re all about being cute.)

For now, Jersey will sleep in the kitchen. When he’s a little bigger we will turn him into a rough and tumble outdoor-lovin’, cow-wranglin’ canine. The Dairy Man will take him to work, slowly introduce him to cows (he is terrified of them at the moment), and become best friends.

Not to toot my own horn, but this may have been one of the Dairy Man’s best birthdays. And since the actual day is today, allow me to give a shout out to the DM:

Happy birthday, babe! Thank you for your encouragement, your strength, and your love. I love you and I love our new family. And I’m even starting to love the cows.

(Ps: check out the steers in the background of this picture!)