Posted in Country Living, Marriage and Family, Mom Life

Mighty Hunters

I am married to a Mighty Hunter.  His philosophy of hunting is: One hour, one bullet, one deer.  I am grateful, as I know that hunting can take oodles of time (and sometimes almost as much money,) but my husband is efficient.

This year, our oldest little boy was fortunate enough to be in on the hunt with dad.  In fact, he saw the deer first, which he is telling everyone as he shares his first Hunting Stories.  (I am waiting to hear how these stories grow over time.)

I never thought I would have this much testosterone in my life.  I was raised in a family of girls.  Barbie dolls, movies, and games made up our family life together (along with some screaming and hair-pulling.)  And so I am totally unprepared for this new life I lead.

When we had two little girls right off the bat, I just knew our family would be the same as my family of origin.  When Timmy came along, I thought, well, he’ll just fit right in with the girls.  And then, when Isaac came along, I changed my expectations slightly.  And then, when Andrew was born, I capitulated.

This family is currently dominated by boys.  The noise volume in my house has increased by an exponent of ten during the last five years.  There are now three little people who are constantly running around my house, pretending to be animals, pretending to shoot one another, and wrestling one another to the ground.  Instead of dollies and ribbons, our house is full of blood and guts.

It is different than what I expected.

And, so, I’ve decided that I have to adapt in order to survive.  Sports are going to be my new favorite thing.  I am going to watch way too many baseball games and cheer at way too many wrestling matches.  I am going to love noise (or maybe buy earplugs.)  I may take a hunter safety course.

And, I’m going to have to buy another freezer to contain all of the meat that the Mighty Hunters bring home.

 

 

Posted in Christmas, Faith

What’s all the Fuss about Christmas?

I never had an inkling that Christmas was a controversial holiday.  I mean, what’s not to like about Christmas– especially when you’re a kid?  It was the most anticipated holiday of my childhood, by far.  How could the Easter bunny compete with a holiday that was all about magic and presents and the birth of a little baby– not to mention the decorations, songs, and sweet treats.  Christmas is little kid heaven.

But, I have learned that Christmas is controversial to some.  You see, Christians celebrate Christ’s birth at Christmas, but they kind of “borrowed” many traditions from other cultures, and that bothers some Christians.  It is a holiday that is tainted by pagan customs.

A very brief history of Christmas shows this:  no one celebrated Christmas until after Jesus was born (shocker.)  Instead, once upon a time, people in various places of the world celebrated the winter solstice. They were basically happy that they survived to see the shortest day of the year come and go, and so they celebrated, sacrificing to their various gods, using different traditions to honor their holidays.

Meanwhile, the Jews were following their own Holy days (holidays– get it?), following God’s commands as laid out in the Torah and by their Prophets.

When Christians first got together to celebrate holidays, it appears that many still celebrated the traditional Jewish feasts.  After all, Jesus was a Jew, and people wanted to follow him and his teachings, which obviously closely paralleled those of Judaism.  However, Christians were not just Jewish.  They were “Gentile,” which means non-Jewish and came from all over the Roman world.

Now, imagine that you tried to celebrate the “holidays” with people who came from all sorts of traditions.  For example, let’s say that you got married to a person whose family always ran the turkey trot on Thanksgiving morning, while you were from a family that placed great importance on preparing the meal together in the morning.

Tricky, right?  Well, it was a bit tricky for the early church, too, as people from different cultures attempted to become one family.  And so, St. Paul (God bless him) set out to try help the family to understand the holidays and how to celebrate them (or not) as a family.

Here’s a passage from Romans 14: 5-6 that might help to clear things ups.  Paul writes:

 5 One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. 

And in this passage from Colossians 2, Paul further explains:

16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

And yet another word from Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:

19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

Over time, those in power became Christians and declared that they would celebrate Christ’s birthday in place of the pagan holidays, and Christianity made “Christmas,”  mingling Gentile traditions with the Gospel story.  And so, despite many times when Christmas has fallen out of favor in the last thousand-plus years, we continue to celebrate it today.

Christmas is not a ritual that we have to follow in order to be Christians.  On the other hand,  it also seems that we have the freedom to celebrate it whole-heartedly and without fear.  As I see it, Christmas is an opportunity– an opportunity to tell the Gospel story to a world that loves to celebrate.  While we might not (and probably shouldn’t) buy into all of the trappings and wrappings of Christmas, we also have the chance this time of year to enjoy many beautiful traditions, while proclaiming some very Good News.  Merry Christmas!  Christ is born!

 

Posted in Marriage and Family, Mom Life, Women

All the Things I Do Not Do

When I first became a mom, I thought I should do all the things.  I wanted to clean my house like Aunt Martha, interact with the kids like my mother-in-law,  get stuff done, like my mom, and pull it all off while looking like my most gorgeous, fabulously fit friend.

What I didn’t realize was how exhausting (and impossible) it would be for me to try to do those things. There are many, many things I do now that are sub-standard.  With five little hooligans in my house, my life is more like an episode of survivor than an episode of Martha Stewart.

So, here’s my secret to getting it all done: I don’t.

I don’t change the sheets as often as I should.  I don’t make fancy meals.  I don’t make my children wear socks with their shoes (well– maybe in winter.)  I don’t fold socks.  I don’t dust. I don’t volunteer for every school event.  I don’t give fabulous gifts.  I don’t look like a runway model.  I don’t drive my kids to every sporting event.  I don’t use cloth diapers .  I don’t do baby yoga.  I don’t take mommy and me classes.  I don’t teach my baby sign language.  I don’t make my own baby food.  I’m not always the best wife.  I don’t brush my dogs or train them to behave like I should.  I don’t keep my car particularly clean.  I don’t balance my checkbook.  I don’t make my kids write thank you notes. And, I don’t stress as much as I used to.

Because, when I don’t spend my time on all the things, I can spend my time on some of the things that are the most important to me.  I can read to my kids and for my own enjoyment.  I can keep my house functioning at a reasonable (for me) level.  I can exercise frequently.   I can drive my kids to and from school.  I can teach a Bible study and a home-school class.  I can spend time with friends and family.  I can take a shower and put on some make-up in the morning. I can spend a few minutes in the Bible.  And, that’s about it.

Don’t get me wrong.  Mom life is still pretty crazy, and sometimes, I get overwhelmed.  Sometimes, everything seems to spin out of my control.  But–if there’s one piece of advice I could pass on to a new mom, it’s this: sometimes, all of the things you don’t do, are as important as the things that you do.

Posted in Faith

Erasing Sin

I am going to start this post by saying that I am not answering a question here, more like asking it.  Because, I am curious.  Whatever became of the word “sin” in our society, and what effect does replacing this word have on our culture?

If you listen to the news to any extent, you will almost daily hear about all of the “epidemics” and “diseases” that people in our country are suffering from.  We have the drug “epidemic,” the mental “health” crisis, and even “epidemics” of gun violence.  All of the major problems in our country are now labeled as diseases.  Obesity is a disease.  Gaming too much is an “addiction.”  And, the list goes on.

According to my limited research, people did not always refer to the various problems in our country as diseases, nor infer that people need medical attention for every problem that they have.  Once upon a time, they called those things “sin.”

To clarify– I actually do understand why addiction is called a disease.  I understand that the brain actually changes, and the urge for whatever substance is not able to just be turned off at will by the person.  But, I also understand that the addiction didn’t start with coming in contact with an actual virus.  Similarly, a “disease” like anxiety also makes real changes to the brain.  I can easily understand that one, since I, myself, have been there far too often, and it is impossible to just “turn off” the switch in your brain because you want to.  But, I also understand that changing your thought patterns can change your brain’s wiring and eventually (in many cases) help to calm the brain, which seems to be quite a different form of disease than gastroenteritis, for example.   I’m not saying that any of these “brain disorders” are not real, physical maladies.  But, I am also suggesting that they are not just physical disorders in nature, but also spiritual ones, and I don’t think that many in our culture want to acknowledge that sin has anything to do with any of our problems.

Sin seems to be such a dirty word.  We don’t want to be sinful, because, in our minds, that means that we are bad, and we don’t see ourselves as “bad.”  We see ourselves as good people who unfortunately suffer from many bad situations.  We are victims of our circumstances.

But, I would argue that acknowledging that we are “sinful,” broken people can actually bring us a measure of relief.  By admitting our sin, we are able to take some responsibility for it and admit that we need help.

There is a passage in John where Jesus talks to the people about sin and the way that they can be set free from sin:

Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:31-36).

According to the Bible, we are all victims– victims of sin.  It’s wrapped up in our DNA and our very core.  The Bible says that we are all sinners, “As it is written, there is no one righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10).

It may seem uncompassionate to say that people are sinners, but it is also very true.  Unless we are able to acknowledge that we have a sin problem, and are not just victims of our modern-day “diseases,” what hope do we have of changing?  All of us would need to be on daily medication.

While medicine may be a part of the cure of our modern-day epidemics, it cannot address the bigger problem.  We are sinners.  And– we need a Savior.

Posted in Education, Mom Life

The Kindergarten Blues

I have a child who has come down hard with the kindergarten blues.  I should have expected it, I guess.  After we spent a week away from the kids in Ireland at the beginning of the school year, there were bound to be some repercussions.

In fact, my 4th grader also has a case of 4th grade-itis, the symptoms being weepiness, moodiness, and the occasional outburst of “But I don’t want to go to school!”

But, the kindergarten blues are something special.  The symptoms are as follows: temper tantrums, crying, procrastinating, bargaining, and extreme sensitivity.  Take this morning, for example.  My older girls did a pretty good job getting ready for school; they got dressed, ate, brushed their teeth and had their backpacks ready to go.

My kindergartner though?  Not so much.  He passed the first hurdle of getting dressed after me asking him a mere 5 times.  Next, we started on the socks and shoes, because that has been a previous struggle.  Here, we met obstacle #1.  The socks.  For some reason, my little guy hates socks.  They bunch up on his feet, they have a little bump in the toe, they are too tight, etc.  So, this is where his first fit began.  “I can’t wear socks!  I hate them!  They hurt my feet!”  When I suggested he wear his crocs instead, he replied, “I can’t wear crocs!  It’s gym day!  I hate gym!  I hate school!  It’s awful, terrible! It’s never going to get better!”

When I suggested he wear his crocs to school and bring his sneakers along with him: “No!  The teacher won’t let anyone do that.  That is against the rules!  I hate school; why can’t I stay home!”

Now, if this were my first child, I would probably be in tears, thinking that I was putting my child through a Great Agony by sending him to school.  But… this ain’t my first rodeo; I know his teacher, who is lovely, and I’ve seen what they do all day at school– toys, books, games, recess, lunch, and special class.  It’s not quite as terrible as he thinks it is at this point.

The kindergarten blues are just part of the process.  Looking back at my two girls in kindergarten, I can vividly remember similar mornings that may or may not have ended with all of us in tears, attempting to accomplish the seemingly insurmountable task of getting everyone out the door by 7:40 a.m. There were some really rough mornings.

And, I understand why.  Little man might think that school is horrible, awful, terrible, but the real reason he has the kindergarten blues is that kindergarten is stressful for all of the kids.  He has just had his world changed in a really big way, and he’s starting to figure out that he can’t change it back.  It is hard for a little boy to have to get up on time, sit in his seat in school, be nice to the other kids, and follow the rules for 6 hours a day.  It is a big adjustment for a kid to enter the school system after being at home for the first 5 or 6 years of his life.

So, while it is tempting to start yelling in the morning or to get impatient with the turtle who may make us all late for the day, I’m also trying to remember to have grace for someone who is in a time of transition and stress.

And, I keep reminding myself– for the love of all things good– get him to bed on time!

 

 

Posted in Travel

Greetings From Ireland!

Note– I actually wrote this a few days ago, but as we didn’t have great access to internet or the proper charger for the laptop, I didn’t get a chance to post this earlier.  But– belated greetings from Ireland!

The View From Dunamase Castle Ruins– Greetings!

So, I am taking a few minutes while the baby naps to write down some of my observations of Ireland!  Because that’s where I’ve been for the past three days, and I finally have a moment to stop and reflect.  What is a country girl from the backwoods of Pennsylvania doing in a country in Europe anyway?  Well, by myself, I would never pack up and visit a foreign country, but I happen to be married to someone who has all the essential skills for traveling—he is unafraid to try new things, he’s a great driver, and he has this wonderful sense of direction that I lack, so, have husband, will travel, is my motto. 

Stephen is currently taking a class to learn how to use plates and screws to repair fractures in small animals.  When he was planning on traveling for this and wanted me to go with him, he had several options on where to take the course—Alaska, Missouri, Nevada—and Ireland.  And, of course, I voted for Ireland.

I’ve always had a bit of a “thing” for English culture.  I was an English major in college, so we spent way too much time learning about the country, the customs, and the language.  And, I’m one of those girls that happens to love Downton Abbey, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and The Great British Baking Show—if you haven’t seen it, you should! 

Ireland is not the same as England.  In fact, there is some real animosity between the two countries.  (Check out the current state of Brexit, for example.  It’s all their news stations are talking about.)  But—it’s pretty darn close.  There are castles and gorgeous views and tidy streets and people who have lovely accents and tell their children to mind their manners.  It’s all really wonderful for this American girl. 

The Little Town of Howth, Ireland

In some ways, Ireland is not extremely different from America.  They have the same basic structures as America—the buildings, the restaurants, and the amenities are not extremely different.  But, there are just enough differences to make it interesting.

The driving is probably the most challenging aspect for someone from America to adjust to.  Most of the cars are tiny, and the drivers’ seat is located on the right side of the car.  As the passenger, I keep getting in the left side of the car and wanting to put my foot on the gas pedal! The cars also drive on the left- hand side of the road and pass on the right, which takes some getting used to.  There are also no stop-lights that we have seen.  Instead, the roads are designed with “round-abouts” that you turn off to avoid having to stop your car completely.  Speed limit signs are posted in kilometers per hour, and there are very few billboard advertisements.  Hedges line both sides of the road, making it difficult to see the gorgeous views beyond them, but keeping everything looking very neat.

My main impression of this island nation is that it is a peaceful place to live.  The streets, for the most part, have no garbage littering the ground, and the lawns look to be well-kept.  There are also not as many big chain stores—no Wal-marts or Targets or Kohls, mostly local businesses and shops, with a few McDonalds and Subways scattered in among them.  In many ways, Ireland seems like a quieter country than America.  You don’t realize it until you leave, but our great country  can be pretty overwhelming for the senses with our busy, crowded cities, our many, varied choices at the grocery store, and our endless t.v. channels.  When you leave the country “on holiday,” you notice that life is a bit slower in other parts of the world.

One of my favourite things here that I wish I could transport home are the way the kids are dressed.  Most children wear uniforms to school, and they look lovely in their little button-down shirts with skirts and plain black shoes.  I imagine wearing a uniform takes a lot of pressure off of kids in the school environment, as they don’t have to be worrying about their clothes and standing out from their peers, and I also guess that wearing their uniforms is a part of the way that the children are taught good manners. 

Because the people here do seem to have better manners than Americans.  The whole time we have been here, we have not heard a single car beeping its horn at another car, nor have we witnessed people yelling at one another in the street (which I have sadly seen when visiting American cities.)  I’m not sure how they get the majority of their citizens to display better behaviour, but I definitely appreciate it. 

One habit that I have noticed over here that we would not want to bring home is that many, many Irish smoke cigarettes—many more than in the U.S., where I think it is more out of fashion.  I also observed anti-smoking commercials on television here, so I am assuming that smoking is a problem for the Irish people.  While we’ve been here, we have not spent much time in the pubs as we are non-drinkers, but I imagine drinking is a big part of the culture here as well, as all of the pubs and “Guinness” signs make me think that it is a happy past-time here in Ireland.

Overall, the landscapes are lovely, the weather has been great, the people nice, the castles charming, and I am thoroughly enjoying a little “holiday” from my busy life at home.  I am looking forward to going back to my home country at the end of the week, but for now, I am also happy to be experiencing something new and different.

Toodles for now!

With love from Ireland!

Posted in Education, Faith, Marriage and Family

Why We Send Our Kids to… Public School

When people ask me where my kids go to school, and I respond that they go to the local public school, I enjoy seeing some surprised faces.  You see, our family fits a certain stereotype that does not scream public school in this day and age.  Instead, because we have five kids and we’re Christians and I have a daughter who likes to wear peasant skirts and her hair long and loose- people assume that we homeschool our kids.

Stereotype aside, we did go back and forth a little bit about how to educate our cherubs.  Part of me really liked the idea of homeschooling: having the opportunity to read books with my kids and influence their characters in such a significant way were both tempting reasons for me to try out homeschooling.

We could also have sent our kids to the local Christian school, which many people also assume that we do.  There, they would have had a curriculum that encouraged them to follow Jesus and helped to shape their worldview.  We were also tempted and even went to a kindergarten preview day to check the school out.  (It’s a great school, by the way, for anyone who is interested!)

But, instead, we chose public school for our kids, and we’re sticking with it, probably for the long haul.

There are actually several reasons we chose public school for our family, but the predominant one for us is: we want to participate in and support our community.  Public school gets a lot of bad rap (sometimes for good reason,) but it does a lot of good in our communities, too.   The thing is, not all kids come from homes where homeschooling is even an option.  Not all parents can afford Christian school (and of course, some don’t want it) but– all kids in our country can go to public school.

In theory, kids all over our country can go and get the same education, no matter their background.  They learn to read and write, do math, and develop social skills.  But, of course, in reality, this is not the case.  Some schools are good, and some schools are not so good.  Sometimes, certain political agendas get pushed in schools.  There are good reasons to take your kids out of public school, and I get that.

But, there are also reasons to stay in the system, instead of retreating from it.  For one, Christians are called to be salt and light in our world.  That means when we are in a community and participating in it, we make that place better.  Our kids, even though they are immature, also can bring this light to their little community.  For another thing– if we care about our kids’ education, then we are likely to get involved in that education.  Caring Christian parents are going to volunteer at their kids’ schools, run for the school board, and help to set school policy.  Our presence can make our schools better, not just for our kids, but for the other kids in our community.

Let me be clear.  I’m not an extremist on schooling options.  I believe that parents have the right to decide how they educate their kids, and I believe that we should assume that parents are doing their best for their kids.  I also believe that parents are the primary influencers of their children’s faith.  No matter what way we choose to educate our children, we are responsible for helping them to process life in their formative years.  Choosing public school for our kids, in some ways, places more responsibility on us as parents to work to shape our kids’ worldview.  And who knows?  If we lived in an awful school district, or one of my kids was struggling terribly in school, it is likely that would be exploring other options for them.  But, I also know that sending them to public school is an opportunity for our family to participate in something larger than ourselves.

So, Christian–I’m going to encourage it.  Check out your local public school.  Get involved in your community.  Go where the people are.  Give it a chance and be an advocate for your kid and for other people’s kids.   In all things, grace for all of your decisions, but from my perspective, let’s make our public schools the best that they can  be.  Go Panthers!

 

Posted in Books, Faith

The Enneagram

I just finished reading The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery, so now I’m geeking out about the enneagram and I’m going around saying to my hubby, “Aha, so and so is definitely a 6, and you know who is a definite 5, and what’s his name is a 9 on the enneagram.  (I’m sure I’m annoying my husband, but since he is an absolute 8 on the scale, I’m also sure he’ll tell me when has had enough.)

The enneagram is a very old personality profiling system (with roots possibly dating back a few thousand years) that is organized around the idea that every person gravitates toward a particular coping mechanism that helps them to deal with the hard realities of life.  For example, a 6 sees the danger in life and tries to seek safety and security in his environment and relationships, while a 7 sees the hard things in life and tries to cope by avoiding pain and going to as many parties as possible (or something like that.  I am not a 7.)

The enneagram is also, interestingly, organized around the traditional 7″deadly sins” of pride, envy, anger, sloth, avarice, lust, and gluttony.  It also adds in two additional “sins” with “fear” and “deceit.”  So, each way of coping with the world in the enneagram is bent toward a particular sin.  The enneagram’s modern-day purpose is to help people see what their primary perspective is and to help them to be a healthier, “truer” version of themselves.

According to the book I read, every person will be a little bit of each number, but each person should still have a primary number that they relate to the most. I’ll be honest.  It was easier for me to figure out my husband’s type than it was to figure out my own.  I waffled between being a 1 (basically being a perfectionist) and a 6 (being loyal to my team), but what helped me to figure out my primary type was to look at the underlying motivation.  So, my question was, am I more motivated by anger (type 1) or fear (type 6?)

And that was much more obvious to me.  I must be a 6.  You see, my biggest struggle, my cardinal sin is the sin of fear.  I am excellent at looking at a situation and thinking about what might go wrong in the future.  Do you need a worst-case scenario plotted out?  Then, I’m your girl.

Now, one thing that surprised me about people who are a number 6 is that, according to The Road Back to You, 50% of people may fall into this category.  It’s an insane number that seems really, really high (especially since there are 9 numbers on the enneagram,) until you consider that approximately 19% of adults in the U.S. suffered from an anxiety disorder during the past year (according to the NIH.)  And, of course, not everyone who experiences anxiety frequently is diagnosed with a disorder, so there you have it.   It seems that many, many people are primarily motivated by fear.

Now, if so many people fall into this category of being motivated by “fear,” what does that teach us about people, and how can we become our “truer” selves?

First, I think that recognizing that fear is such a common human emotion is extremely helpful.  Fear can be a bit of a shameful experience and it’s very reassuring to know that it is a “normal” part of life.  Second, I think that all of this fear points to the fact that something is wrong in all our world.  What did Shakespeare say?  “Something is rotten in Denmark.”  There are, in fact, many things to be afraid of (as our media constantly likes to remind us.)  Third, there are healthy and unhealthy ways of dealing with our underlying anxieties.

The Road Back to You is written from a Christian perspective (although the enneagram itself is not Christian per se) and has faith-based advice for different types of people.  So, what is the primary advice for a 6?  To trust.  So simple, yet so hard.  Probably one of the most well-known Bible verses in the world is Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.”  And this is the primary challenge for many, many people in this world.

Because, there’s really not anything else for us.  No other way to go forward.  We cannot anticipate every worst-case scenario, or avoid feeling pain, or plan our way into the future we want.  If we’re going to be healthy, happy people, we are going to have to learn to have faith in Someone higher than ourselves.  I think it’s a good way and the only way, although it doesn’t come easy– at least not for me.  As a suspicious six, I like to think my way around trusting– isn’t there a safer way, after all? But I’m learning that the best I can do is to step out in faith.

I would really like to explore all of the different numbers of the enneagram, but this post is already long enough, so I will refrain from geeking out any more.  But, if you’re interested in learning more about the enneagram, or if you’re curious as to what my husband’s classification of a number “8” means,” there are many online tools you can use to see what the enneagram is all about.  Or, you can pick up a copy of The Road Back to You to learn more.

Happy reading to all of my geeky friends!

 

Posted in Country Living, Mom Life

If All The Bales Were Square

It’s the most wonderful time of the year in northeastern Pennsylvania– not December, but June.  School is out for the summer, the sun is shining (between periods of rain this year, but still…) the kids are swimming in the pool,  and- it’s haying season!

Today, on our farm, “Gramps” is spending his day round-baling in the fields, getting hay ready for the beef cows for the winter months. The kids and I, in contrast, are spending most of our day out at the pool, soaking up some much needed sun.  Both of these activities– the haying and the swimming– are taking me right back to my childhood.

Some of my best childhood memories are from summer days at Grandma Jean’s house in Bradford County.  Grandma Jean lived on the family farm, with my aunt, uncle and cousins, so it was always a fun visit for me and my sisters.  When I was a little girl, my sisters and my mom and I would go to Grandma’s house more often than not during summer vacation.  We spent our days playing with our cousins, staying in the pool until our skin shriveled up, and watching all of the grown-ups hustle to get the hay done.

Visiting a farm in the summertime is a unique experience.  It is a mixture of all of the rest and relaxation of summer vacation and all of the hard work of harvest.  A typical day for the kids at the farm is a much different day than that of the adults.

When I was growing up, the littlest kids were allowed to run around and play and go swimming under Grandma’s supervision.  We also enjoyed eating all of her cookies and smelling her crusty homemade bread and slapping homemade jam on it, whenever we got the chance. We were little free agents.

Once we were older, however, we were drafted into the workforce.  Haying must be done early in the summer when the grass is at its peak for nutrition and the weather is just right.  Today, many farmers put their hay into round bales, which are gigantic bales of hay that can be wrapped and left in the fields (like my dad does now), but back when I was young, square bales were much more in vogue in our area of the country.

Square bales were baled in the fields, using a tractor and baler, and they were convenient for feeding the cows, because a person could easily lift a 50 pound square bale and feed it to the cows without the help of a machine.  Storing them, though, was much more labor intensive than storing round bales.  Square bales were stacked high in the wagon and then brought into the barn to be stacked in the haymow.

That’s where I got my first summer job– in the haymow.  Stacking hay required a decent-sized labor force, which is probably why they welcomed the help of a ten year old girl.  Ideally, at least two people would work on the wagon, one throwing bales down to the next person who would then throw the bales down to the people in the haymow who would then proceed to stack the bales neatly in rows, one on top of the other.  At least, that’s how it worked in the Welch barns of northeastern PA, where the barn was built on a hill and the haymows went down below the entrance of the barn.

As a tween, I had the opportunity to climb up to the top of those tall wagons and sit up on top of the hay bales and look down– way down– into the haymows.  I got to lift those bales and teeter them over the top of the wagon and hope that my throws didn’t hit a worker down below.  It was a heady experience that made me feel like a grown-up even though I wouldn’t be a grown-up for some years after that.

Thinking back to those days brings me right back to the hot, stuffy, dustiness of the haymow, stifling on the worst days, the sweat trickling down the back of my neck, but always there was the cold, cold lemonade to guzzle between loads of hay.  I ached in muscles that I didn’t know I had after a few wagon loads.  Being part of haying on summer days made me feel important, like I was contributing to a bigger purpose than just my own fun.  It was part of my coming of age.

My kids are getting older, and it won’t be long until they are “coming of age” too.  (Doesn’t it go fast?)  This summer, Lord willing, they are going to make some of their best memories.  They will probably even hop onto the tractor with “Gramps” to make some hay.  But, they won’t know  what it’s like to throw those hay bales around.  They will have to develop those muscles in a different way than I did, because times have changed, and honestly, I have a hard time imagining allowing my ten year old to climb all the way to the top of a wagon load without freaking out.  But, really– wouldn’t it be kind of nice if the hay bales were still square?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Mom Life, Women

Revisiting feminism

I am an unlikely feminist.  I am a stay-at-home mom of five kids, who does the majority of the daily house-work and childcare.  I could be a good 1950’s housewife, since I am somewhat of a homebody and I actually like to clean the house (except when too many children spend their day undoing my work.)  Most feminists in the world would look at me and shake their heads to see me falling straight into the stereotypical roles set out for my gender by society in days gone by.

It’s funny, though.  In many ways, I actually identify as a feminist.  I believe women should be educated and have the opportunity to work in various capacities.  I believe women should be paid as much as a man for doing the same job.  I admire women who are doctors and business-women and nurses and teachers and who use their brains, and I will give my daughters the opportunity (Lord-willing) to pursue one of those jobs, if that is what they are called to do.

But– I also believe that part of the problem that feminism fails to address is that the work that traditionally has  been done by women is, in itself, undervalued.  Taking care of kids and taking care of a home are extremely important jobs that society values very little because it is humble work.  It is necessary, but ordinary, and earns no money and gains no awards or accolades.   In fact, being a homemaker can be kind of dirty.  (I seem to spend a lot of my day just wiping dirty things.)  But, I know it’s essential.  When I take a break from this “mothering” gig and can’t fulfill the role I have been filling, there are definite repercussions at my house.  My kids’ attitudes are worse, the garbage stinks, and the children will happily spend their day rummaging the cupboards for candy and watching T.V.  It’s not that I am the only one who can do this job, but I am doing it, and I am making a difference in my kids’ lives and in our home.

What’s sad to me is not that I am unable to leave my home to pursue other things.  I am grateful that this is an option for me if I am called to do so.  It’s more that society in the postmodern era is telling women that they need to get out of the home in order to do more important work.

Guys, taking care of kids and relationships and houses and wiping all the dirty things is important work, even if it doesn’t look like it to some.  It’s holy and it’s making an impact on the future in a big way.

As a homemaker (is that even a thing anymore?) I might not get a lot of applause from society and probably won’t be accepted into the feminist club either, but I am grateful for the chance I have to do important work every day that is changing the world.  So, ladies– or gentlemen, if you happen to be filling this role– if you are spending your days doing work in the anonymity of your homes, know this– you are doing great work– even if you never earn a paycheck for it.