Monday, July 29, 2013

Free range

A couple months ago, while watching the kids climb at my parents' house, my uncle turned to me and asked "have you ever heard of free range parenting?"  I laughed and said "I think we invented it."  I think my kids are smart and capable and that they need a chance to be independent and figure things out without us grown-ups hovering.  Now that we are on the farm, they have even more space in which to run around and explore.

One day, the kids were outside doing what they do best.  Playing.  Running.  Exploring.  Building.  And I was focusing on unpacking or cleaning or something boring.  At some point, I realized it had been a while since I heard Sean, so I thought I'd better check on him.  I checked on the porch.  I looked in the back yard.  I checked inside the workshop, around the workshop and in the barn.  And the garage.  And basement.  Even the chicken house and the front yard.  I asked the girls if they knew where he was.  I asked my youngest brother who finally told me Sean had followed him out past the apple trees into the corn field.  So I walked up and down the entire edge of the corn field yelling Sean's name.  I didn't hear a response.

We like to give the kids space to play, but at this point I became a bit uneasy.  I wasn't worried about all those creepy things that happen on crime dramas on tv.  I was worried that Sean was walking along the gravel road to visit the neighbors and their horses.  I was worried he climbed up too high or in a hole.  I was worried that he was stuck in a place that only Sean could weasel himself into.  So I ditched the corn field and ran toward the road, with a baby on my hip.

I guess all the commotion of me yelling Sean's name over and over, running around looking for him brought the entire family out.  Since the corn field was the last place my brother saw him, he, along with my stepdad, hubby and the girls, went in after Sean.  Now the first thing my father taught me about corn is this old saying "knee high by the fourth of July."  Well this was the end of June and I do not know who fed the corn it's vitamins, but this corn was way taller than knee high!  And when you are 2 1/2 and only 34" tall, the corn is very tall indeed.  My little brother found Sean sitting on the dirt amongst the corn, crying.  He had heard me calling his name, but I did not hear him answer.  After one of the scariest half hours of both my and Sean's lives, Sean has vowed to never play in the corn again.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Have you seen the Cheerios commercial where the little boy is sitting with his mom eating breakfast and he asks her if Nana fed her Cheerios when she was little?  The mom says yes and the boys says, so when we eat Cheerios, it's kind of like we're eating breakfast with Nana.  The mom gets teary eyed and answers yes.  (see the video here).

After driving out with us cross country, my mom spent a couple weeks at the farm.  She and I spent hours going through each room, looking at the furniture, books and knick knacks; the accumulation from a combined 142 years on earth and nearly 50 years of marriage.  We were tasked with deciding what would stay and what would go.  Since we had left much of our furniture behind in California, keeping the couches and tables was an easy decision.  Family photos?  No brainer those are staying.  It's all the other things.

Standing at the kitchen sink I see the little ceramic frog that holds a yellow and red scrubby used for pans and things.  I wonder just how long my Grandma had the same scrubby.  Did she use the same red and yellow scrubby for thirty+ years or did she just keep buying ones that look the same?  It usually comes as a surprise - things you took for granted sitting on a shelf, in a drawer or hiding in a closet.  The things that just belong in that space because Grandma or Grandpa decided that's where it goes.  And now here I am, trying to fill that space with something new. I'm a slow unpacker already, (after 10 moves with the hubby I know this about myself!) and this makes me slower.  I hope hubby's patience last until I am done.

Each morning sitting at the kitchen table surrounded by these little things, drinking coffee and eating oatmeal, is sort of like having breakfast with Grandma and Grandpa.  

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Riding the mowers

When I was eight years old, my grandpa sent my cousins and I out to mow the grass. He had two riding lawn mowers, which was super exciting because I don't think we even had a push mower in California! It was my turn to mow, and I was doing great, going round the trees, up and down the backyard. Then something happened. My cousin yelled at me. I can't remember what it was about, but I do remember turning around to look at him so I could figure out why he was yelling. Number one rule of riding a lawn mower? Watch where you are going. Next thing I knew, the mower was leaning a bit sideways on a hill, heading straight for the pig pen. I got up a little embarrassed and with a big bruise on my leg.  I was pretty sure I did not want to ride the mower anymore.

Everyone helps mow on the farm.
1991 - cousins

1967 - Grandma and Great-Grandma
1981 - cousin

1980 - aunt

The never-ending chore!  With as much grass as we've got here, I don't have the option of not riding a lawn mower, and anyone with legs long enough to reach gets to help mow. We warned the kids that moving to the farm meant chores and true to our word, we weren't here a week when we put them to work mowing the front yard.

Since the kids did such a spectacular job, I thought maybe I could handle another go round. So back on the riding mower I climbed last week. I put on my flip flops, got a quick lesson from the hubby and off I went.

I came back a little dirty.  Maybe hubby is right, I shouldn't wear my flip flops for everything?  Nah...

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Moving In

When a house sits empty for several months, dust begins to settle, wildlife start to explore and grass keeps growing.  When you're moving into a house that sat vacant for months, you have to clear away the dust, shoo away the wildlife and mow grass taller than a small child.

Fortunately for us, the hubby, brother-in-law and a friend got started on the mowing before the kids and I arrived - otherwise, I know we would have lost a kid or two in there (and that is a story for another day!).  Unfortunately, the ticks had already made themselves right at home.  During our first week here, three of the kids got ticks.

I can recall sitting on the toilet in my grandparents old house, while grandma lit a match.  After blowing out the flame, she would use the hot tip to press on the tick causing it to release itself from my scalp.  Since I am such an expert on removing ticks, I too pulled out a book of matches, blew out the flame and pressed the hot match tip to the tick's backside.  The tick didn't release, so I lit another match and tried again.  After lighting and blowing out four or five matches, the hubby walks over and says "the tick is dead."  Oops. 
tick on my sister's neck

After my tick removal failure, I moved on to the task of clearing away some of the dust, leaving wildlife to the others.  I started out by gathering several old ice cream buckets and filling them with soapy water.  Then we handed each child a scrub brush, rag or mop.  We took them out onto the porch to start scrubbing.  After a few hours of spilled buckets, wet kids, a one year old sucking on the soapy rags and not very much scrubbing, I decided it was time to bring out the big guns - the power washer.

Now, I  have to tell you, I secretly like power washing, so it was nice to spend two whole days spraying the porch, screens and windows while someone else watched the kiddos.  Of course those two days happened to be rainy and cold, and since the water was splattering all around, I was wet and cold.  The day after I finished the porch, guess what?  It was nice and sunny, like 90 degrees.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

How did we end up on a farm in Iowa?

When I was three years old, my parents made the decision to leave Iowa and move to California's Central Valley. I grew up in California, occasionally spending a few weeks of summer or holidays with my grandparents back in Iowa. My sister, cousins and I always found adventures on the farm. Our favorites were playing in the barn or the old house, throwing apples at the pigs, riding lawn mowers and driving the tractor. Grandpa was strict and made us help out with the chores - cleaning pig pens, bailing hay, swatting flies or changing out a feeder, but he also gave us chocolate milk each day for lunch and would share his popcorn as we lay on the couch watching an afternoon movie. Grandma took us on errands to town, would pick strawberries with us to make jam or have us snap beans from the garden for supper. She taught me how to sew and let me try on her shoes and jewelry. She would let me sneak into her bed at night if I woke up and was scared of sleeping in the dark basement bedroom.

When I was older, there were fewer chores to do. Few animals were left and Grandpa wasn't growing as much. But I still loved visiting the farm. We would sit on the wrap around porch listening to Grandpa's stories, some that we had heard over and over. We would still go for rides on the tractor with all the kids, stay up late playing pool with cousins and dance to Grandma and Grandpa's favorite records.

Grandma passed away in 2007. Grandpa stayed on the farm, but would visit us in California often. He told my husband and I we should move in with him on the farm. He passed away last fall, right before Thanksgiving 2012. I took my youngest with me to the funeral. Towards the end of my trip, I realized I didn't want this to be the last time I visited.

Even without my grandparents there, the farm is a place I love to be and I wanted all four of my kids to have a chance to make their own adventures on the farm. I promptly texted my husband and told my parents we should move there. Everyone laughed and joked about what we would do when we moved to Iowa. When I got home to California, my husband and I talked about what we thought was a far-fetched possibility of actually moving to the farm and becoming farmers ourselves. My heart hurt at the thought of not returning to the farm, so my husband and I spent several months researching, discussing, crunching numbers and putting together a proposal that ultimately landed us here, living on Grandma and Grandpa's farm in Iowa.

My husband took off with a Uhaul full of stuff and about a month later, my mom and I followed with six kids for a road trip half way across the country. After surviving more than 30 hours in the car with six kids under the age 12, I am relatively confident that we can handle this farming thing. And after being on the farm just three and a half weeks, we've already got some stories to tell.