Tag Archives: Family

Some things are worth saving

29 Jun

I’m not a very sentimental person. At least that’s what Dairy Man tells me.

I hate clutter. I want everything to be organized. I spend my evenings rearranging drawers and closets. I get far too excited about bins and chalkboard labels.

I don’t save birthday cards. Almost all of the kids’ art projects from daycare go straight in the trash after bedtime. I ruthlessly purge my clothes at least twice a year (those old t-shirts from high school musicals are long gone). I will ALWAYS say no to free furniture or old china. Anything that isn’t nailed down in our house can end up in the “donate” pile.

My mom is the same way. It’s not that we’re cold or heartless, we just don’t need to be surrounded by a lot of unnecessary STUFF to hold on to our memories. When I was a college junior (living in a rental house with four other girls), my mom showed up one day with boxes of my old stuffed animals, Barbies, and even prom dresses and said, “I need to clean out my storage room. These are yours now.” Not having an abundance of space to hoard nostalgia, I kept a few of the toys and donated everything else. Circle of life.

Dairy Man, on the other hand, has what I affectionately refer to as a “farmer mentality.” He’s inclined to hang on to everything (old tractor wheels, extra bike parts, broken shoes) on the off chance it can be used, fixed, or jerry-rigged with duct tape and a prayer someday.

But I DO get sentimental about family. That’s why we made an exception to my “no old stuff” policy for The Camp.

img_4273

My grandpa built this little hut 40 years ago for my uncle.

Almost 28 years later, it traveled from Jenison to Holland and found a new home in my parents’ backyard. My dad added windows, a door, bunk beds, and a deck. My siblings and I spent years making memories within its four walls.

img_4275

Last weekend, the camp made yet another journey. It was loaded onto a giant hay trailer (because farmers have access to the best toys) and found its way to our backyard.

img_4282

It’s been at least a decade since anyone has played inside. It needs paint, shingles, a new door, and a whole lot of love. I have dreams of white walls and a wraparound deck and a yellow slide. I’ve lost at least a week of my life to “playhouse ideas” on Pinterest and Dairy Man started glazing over when I mentioned a chalkboard wall, string lights, and kid-sized ghost chairs.

img_4286

We could have just built a modern new playhouse, but there’s something beautiful about this. A family legacy on four stilts. A chance to take something that’s a little worn, a little decrepit, and make it new again.

Because some things are worth saving.

Not a bad reminder for a ruthless minimalist like me.

Advertisements

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.

IMG_2940

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.

Ellis-5

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.

IMG_0254

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.

IMG_1653

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.

folkema-family-2016-138

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.

folkema-family-2016-11

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.

folkema-family-2016-39

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.

folkema-family-2016-50

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.)

DSC_7077-Edit

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.

Folkema Family-8.jpg

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.

IMG_0921

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

Folkema Family-4(1)

Hi, It’s Been a While

26 Aug

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.

Anders-lives-at-home

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

Anders-8-months

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.

Anders-Jersey_Sudangrass

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.

Anders-and-the-moos

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.

Anders_Sudangrass

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.

Anders-and-mom

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.

Newborn-shoot

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?)

donuts

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.

Christmas2014_AandJ

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!

Christmas2014

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.

Newborn1

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.

Newborn2

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.

IMG_3936

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.

Motherhood2

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.

Motherhood4

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.

7-months