I see you stock show mom, when no one else is looking.

I see you stock show mom, when no one else is looking. For the past few weeks, my feeds have been full of posts from exhausted and overwhelmed stock show moms in the midst of their county and state fairs.

They’re sharing the good, the bad and the messy from their weeks.

The late nights, the blue ribbons, the barn meals, the laundry piles and the adventure that is parenting an exhausted kid who ate a funnel cake for supper.

With each post I read, this strange feeling is building up in my chest. Its a mix of excited anticipation and downright fear.

I just joined their ranks.

I’m now a stock show mom.

My daughter participated in her first novice showmanship classes this summer and loved every second of them. She and her uncle are already planning the Durocs he’s going to raise for her as soon as she’s old enough to tag in her own pigs.

As much as I’m looking forward to her experiencing all the wonderful things that come from showing livestock, I’m pretty nervous about being a full fledged show mom.

So while everyone else has been watching the livestock in the ring, I’ve been watching the veteran show moms standing ringside. I’ve seen what most people don’t take the time to notice.

I see you stock show mom, when no one else is looking. 

Me and my big girl after she showed a pig for the first time!

I see you making ham sandwiches on top of the tack box at 8 a.m. Then I see you making another round at noon. And if the show runs long enough you’ll be pulling another meal or two out of that cooler before its all said and done.

Like the loaves and the fish, you always have enough to feed your kids and all of their friends.

You’re the matriarch of the tack pen and throughout fair week you’ll make those folding chairs, coolers and feed sacks serve half a dozen different purposes.

Its the playroom for the toddlers and the hangout for the tweens.

A therapist’s office, as you counsel a teen through a breakup.

Its a study hall, while you explain long division to a 4-Her.

A coffee shop, where friendships forged in this same barn years ago are rekindled over rice krispie treats and cokes and the retelling of stories.

But your work extends far beyond the tack pen. 

I see you sitting on a gate, braiding sweaty hair while you give a pre-showmanship pep talk.

I see you quizzing your 9 year old on showmanship questions and reminding your teenager to relax and have fun.

I see you jumping in to help when your kids need it and standing back when you know they need to figure it out for themselves.

I see you pray for patience under your breath when the kids are bickering and the animals aren’t cooperating.

I see you mixing up feed and filling up water buckets.

I see you settling wash rack arguments before they turn into water fights.

I see you with your camera in one hand and a spray bottle in the other. With your pockets full of brushes, towels and granola bars.

I see you dry so many tears for so many reasons. I wonder how often you’re choking back tears of your own.

I see you watch your child lose and hide your heartbreak.

I hear you tell them that showing livestock isn’t all about winning on the way back to the pens, even when you and I both know that your kid probably should have won that class.

I see your joy when your child wins but as soon as they make it out of the ring I hear you remind them to be a humble winner.

I see the smile in your eye as you fight the urge to shout from the rooftops how proud you are that all of their hard work paid off.

But now that I’m part of your club, I’m realizing that when the champion is named and the show is over, your work is only half way done.

No one sees you washing the 15 pairs of dirty jeans that come home from the state fair.

No one sees you giving baths to the kids too young to bathe themselves.

No one knows that at the end of every show day you take a cold shower, because after making sure everyone else is clean there’s just no hot water left.

And after a week of eating from coolers and concession stands, when everyone is dying for a home cooked meal, its you who finds a way to make that happen.

I see you stock show mom. You’re exhausted, physically and emotionally. Your to-do list is a mile long and you’re running on fumes.

No one else may see you, but that doesn’t mean you’re wasting your time.

Your servant heart is changing lives and raising the best kids on earth, one ham sandwich, clean pair of jeans and tack pen pep talk at a time.

 

Adoption FAQ’s

When we started sharing the news of our adoption, we realized we were answering the same questions over and over again. I complied the most common questions into one post so that we can refer folks to one simple place to get all the scoop.

Are you unable to have more biological children? 

Adoption was never the “if we can’t have bio kids” option for us. Aaron has always felt called to adopt. For me, it was more of a “if God leads us to it” sort of thing. Now He has and we couldn’t be more excited to see our family grow in this way!

P.S. – This is an incredibly awkward question to ask an adoptive family for LOT of reasons. Please don’t go up to people and ask this!

How much does this cost? 

One thing we want to be very open about is the expense that comes with adoption. I used to think adoption fundraisers were crazy but that was because I had no idea just how incredibly expensive it is to adopt!

Our total estimate is: $60,000

Depending on how many months it takes to bring them home, this could change significantly because we are paying $500 per month per child for foster care.

Why did you choose to adopt from the Democratic Republic of the Congo?

Honestly, we didn’t. God did.

When we began this journey all I knew was that adopting from Congo was difficult. As soon as we realized that’s where our kids were, nothing was going to stop us from doing whatever we could to bring them home.

If you haven’t read the post where I share the entire story of finding our kids, you can read it here.

When will your kids come home? 

We are hoping that they will be home in 12 months.

There are a lot of factors in their home country that make adoption difficult. There are many factors in our country that make immigration difficult. We will be at the mercy of the two governments involved and praying that God will eliminate as much red tape as possible to get them home ASAP.

Do you have to go to Congo to get them? 

Due to the ever changing nature of immigration and adoption policies in both the U.S. and the DRC, the best answer we can give right now is that we don’t know yet.

We are currently budgeting and preparing for both possibilities so that we can make the best decision for our kids when the time comes.

Are their birth parents alive? Why are they in an orphanage?

At this time, we have very limited information about our children’s history. Three sentences total.

There are no happy orphan stories. The circumstances that lead a child to an orphanage and adoption are always heartbreaking. Out of respect for our children, we are keeping that part of their story private so that they can choose if and when they want to share it.

Do they speak English?

No, their native language is French. We’re doing lots of research on how to best help them overcome the language barrier when they get here.

Are you changing their names? Why? 

Yes, we will be giving them new names when we adopt them. Every adoptive family handles this differently, so we have spent a lot of time thinking and praying about what is best for our family.

Our two bio kids have names that begin with the same letter, a tradition in my husband’s family. We obviously want to include our adopted children in that as well.

We plan to keep their birth names as a middle name. We would never want to erase the names that their birth parents gave them and we want to help them feel connected to their home country.

Why didn’t you pursue foster care/adoption? Or domestic adoption?

Honestly, because God called us to these two specific children long before we ever had the chance to research any other paths to adoption.

I truly believe that there are people who God calls to foster parent and foster adopt and others who God calls to adopt domestically or internationally. I don’t know why or how He decides that, all I know is that ALL children deserve a safe, loving home. Any family that opens their hearts and homes to a child in need deserves our love and support.

Why do you put sunglasses on their photos? 

Until they are legally our children, we can not post identifying photos of them online. By adding clipart sunglasses, we’re able to share their sweet smiles with you while protecting their privacy.

Are you worried about raising black kids, especially with today’s racial tensions? 

Of course we are. It would be irresponsible for us to pretend that these are not valid concerns. In many ways, I feel completely unqualified to help my children through these issues. I obviously have no idea what its like to be black.

This is where the “it takes a village” mentality comes in. I’m relying on my friends of color, both locally and online, for advice and help. I’m praying that God will put the right people in our village to help mentor all four of our kids as they navigate a world that treats them differently than their siblings.

We have already had such an outpouring of support from our friends of color and fellow interracial adoptive parents, from their book and blog recommendations to their heartfelt prayers. (Thank you each so much!)

How are you going to care for their hair/skin?

I’m going to be honest, I despise this question. Just because my kids don’t have the same hair texture as me doesn’t mean its going to take an act of Congress to learn how to care for their hair.

I really don’t understand why this is such a common first or second question since the answer is pretty obvious: lots of googling, asking other moms for advice/lessons and watching a lot of YouTube videos.

Your son looks really tall, is this a Blindside thing?

While I’m sure my husband loves to imagine any of our kids playing basketball for Kentucky, I think 4 years old might be a little young for even Coach Cal to start recruiting him!

Though I have to admit, I do share Leigh Anne Tuohy’s disdain for that “gaudy orange.”

You hated being pregnant, is this a better experience than pregnancy?

I can’t speak to one being better than the other, but it is a VERY different experience.

No one wants to throw up for 5 months and then have major surgery but I did it twice without any regrets because my kids are worth it. Would I do it again in a heartbeat if that was all it took to bring my other two kids home? Absolutely.

The biggest surprise to me is that I’ve been so emotionally connected to these kids from the start, probably more so than I was to their siblings while pregnant. I don’t have to wait 9 more months to fall in love with their sweet faces, I already have.

But there’s a lot more worrying than I expected with being “paper pregnant.”

When you’re pregnant you have this sense of control because you feel like you can protect the baby you are carrying. With adoption, you can’t do anything to protect your kids until you get them home. That reality makes you feel overwhelmingly helpless.

My heart aches so much for them. My husband will be quick to tell you that I cry just as much now as I did when I was pregnant.

What do your other kids think? 

Lorelei is EXTREMELY excited! She is very excited to have a sister and to have a brother closer to her age. She talks about them constantly and they are always first in her prayers.

Landon is too young to really understand but he does recognize their photos on our fridge and loves to wave to them and blow them kisses. We tell him that they are his brother and sister and pray that God prepares his heart for when they get to come home.

How can I help you bring your kids home? 

First of all, we greatly appreciate your prayers. We serve a God who moves mountains and we know that His hands are all over this journey.

We will be doing a few fundraisers to help with our adoption expenses. We are currently selling t-shirts. Click here to order a t-shirt.

If you’d like to make a monetary donation, you can do so on our YouCaring page. YouCaring doesn’t take a cut of your donation, so every penny possible goes to our adoption fund.

We are adopting!

Yep, you read that right – we are adopting! We are so excited for our soon-to-be family of six and all the excitement that will come with a new brother and sister in our home!

Aaron and I have always been open to adopting but we had never really mentioned it to anyone. I’m not exaggerating at all, up until this spring we had only ever discussed it with four people!

Needless to say, when I started making phone calls to tell family they were completely blindsided.

I want to share the story of how we found our kids and how God brought our family to this point but that means that this post will differ from my usual posts in two major ways:

  • It is very religious. I know this is a farming and food blog but I’ve always shared a bit of my faith here as well. I can not tell this story without sharing the bold ways God has moved in our lives.
  • It is incredibly long. I really wish I could condense this story but as I’ve prayed over how to tell it God has reminded me over and over that someone out there needs to hear the entire story and all the little things He did that added up to such a big miracle. If that’s not you, I hope you’ll forgive me for being so wordy.

They say its best to start at the beginning, which for me was 2013.

I’d gotten in the habit of using a bible app on my phone that served up random bible passages for me. For a week or two, I kept getting passages about orphans. It seemed orphans/adoption kept popping up in my life, from random conversations with bank tellers to news segments to blog posts I’d run across on Pinterest.

As the days went on, my heart began to ache for an orphan and I was overwhelmed with the need to pray for him. We’re talking about crying myself to sleep, heartbroken prayers.

All day I’d feel this heaviness in my heart. It was a strong, relentless aching.

This is a screenshot from the email I sent my best friend in 2013. Reading these words today is surreal. God has been working for so long to prepare us for our children.

At first I thought it was hormones. I had just finished breastfeeding Lorelei and I knew my hormones were still out of whack. The idea that there was a baby out there like my own little girl without a family is absolutely heartbreaking so maybe I was just too hormonal to handle thinking about that?

One of my best friends was a missionary overseas at the time. I sent her an email, pouring my heart out and asking that she pray for me and this orphan, wherever he was. She assured me that if God calling us to adoption that she’d be praying for us every step of the way.

About a month later, my cousin Lauren mentioned that she and her husband felt called to adopt. I immediately assumed that God had been calling me to pray for their adoption journey and didn’t give it much more thought.

Fast forward to 2015, I was hit with another round of the overwhelming feeling that I needed to pray for an orphan.

The heaviness was back and for a week or so the aching was relentless. This time I knew I was praying for a girl, which I thought made sense because that was what Lauren was hoping to adopt.

Again, I assumed that God was calling me to pray for Lauren’s daughter so I dedicated myself to supporting them in any way I could. Every time I’d talk to her I kept waiting for the news that a birth mom has chosen them. I had no doubt that when I met their baby it would make the heaviness in my heart go away.

Life moved on.

Lauren’s book was shown to several birth mothers but never chosen. We tried to buy several farms but they all fell through for crazy reasons beyond our control. In 2016, we were blessed with Landon. Lauren found out she was miraculously pregnant with another baby boy.

Despite all the happiness of adding Landon to our family and Lauren’s surprise pregnancy, I still had this heaviness in my heart. I wondered if Lauren and her husband decided not to pursue adoption again if that feeling would ever go away.

Aaron brought up the idea of us adopting over and over but every time I blew him off. It wasn’t the right time. It was too hard. It was too expensive.

In March of 2017, Lauren told our whole family that she had found her daughter in an orphanage in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

A friend of hers was adopting from this orphanage and showed Lauren a video of her son dancing. Lauren saw a little girl in the background of the video and immediately knew that was her daughter.

(Their entire adoption story is AMAZING! You can read all about on Lauren’s blog).

While we were all completely shocked at the way this had happened, we were ecstatic for them. They’d been waiting for their little girl for years and now God had brought her to them at the most unexpected time!

Aaron came home talking about us pursing adoption too and yet again, I completely blew him off. After all, I was just supposed to be praying for Lauren’s kid and clearly this was the proof that I had been doing a fantastic job of it!

The first time I saw Lauren after she had announced her adoption, I was so excited to see the video. Here it was – the moment that this heaviness in my heart would go away and I would get to celebrate the miracle that God is working to bring this little girl home to her family!

She showed me the video and nothing happened.

Sure, I immediately loved her little girl. She is beautiful and I can not wait to hug her and watch our kids play together.

But that heaviness was still there… in fact, it got even heavier.

As I was driving home I asked God why He didn’t take this feeling away. Suddenly I realized that this heaviness wasn’t the “aunt love” I feel for Lauren’s kids… it was the same “mom love” I feel for my own.

My heart was heavy for MY orphan.

To say that I was overwhelmed would be an understatement!

For four days I stewed over this realization. How would we pay for this? What do we do to prepare our other kids? How do we pick a country or an agency? Where do we even begin?

I finally worked up the nerve to tell Aaron what I was feeling, only for him to smile at me and say, “I’ve been waiting for God to get you here. My only question is, how many?”

I laughed and said that I knew in my heart that we didn’t have three kids, so I guess that meant we were adopting two.

He said that he knew they were siblings and we both admitted we’d suspected for a while that Landon was our last newborn.

When we finished our conversation, we felt at peace with it all. We’d take notes while Lauren completed her adoption, buy our farm and when the time was right we’d pursue our own adoption.

You know what they say, “Man plans and God laughs.”

A few days later, Lauren and I took our kids for a play date at the park. She filled me in on a lot of the details of their adoption process and I asked a lot of questions.

Eventually, I admitted that I was so inquisitive because we were planning to adopt someday. I didn’t really know when or how, but all we knew was that they were siblings and neither of them was an infant.

Immediately Lauren teared up and said, “I think I know where your kids are.”

Of course, I thought she was crazy.

I could get on board with the idea that she immediately knew her daughter but Lauren often talked about how boldly God spoke to her. That has NEVER been His style with Aaron and I.

A few texts later, Lauren had two photos of a brother and sister at the same orphanage as her daughter. The photos had been taken by the same person who had taken the video in which she found her daughter.

This photo was our first glimpse of our beautiful son and daughter.

I looked at the photos and nothing happened.

Sure, they were cute kids but I didn’t have a magical “angels singing” moment or anything.

All I knew was that the heaviness I’d been feeling on and off for years was back and it was stronger than I had ever experienced before. I thought I was going to throw up, the weight on my chest was so heavy.

I told her to send me the photos, find out their names and ages and we’d pray about it.

As I drove home, I was completely freaking out.

This was too fast. It didn’t make sense. I had just realized that we were supposed to adopt, we hadn’t had any time to do research or save money or make a plan.

These kids are in Africa, what on earth did we know about Africa?! NOTHING!

How was I supposed to know if they were ours or not? How was I supposed to know what to do next? And if they were ours, how on earth were we going to do this right NOW?!

When I got home, Lauren texted me their names and ages. I immediately realized that they were born in 2013 and 2015, when I had been overwhelmed by the need to pray for an orphan.

When Aaron got home from work, I told him about the photos and he was obviously just as blindsided as I had been. We decided to take some time to pray that God would show us definitely if they were our kids and if so, clearly tell us what to do next.

After all, we still hadn’t bought a house after 3 years of serious farm shopping. Adopting before we found our forever farm just didn’t make any sense at all.

We spent five days agonizing over these kids. I cried myself to sleep every night. It was all we talked about, all we thought about, all we prayed about.

We kept finding ourselves staring at their photos. It was like an ultrasound photo, it doesn’t really tell you much about your child but when its all you have you can’t help but look at it over and over again.

On the sixth day, Lauren called and said that all week God had been telling her to call me and give me a message but she had been fighting Him on it. She said she felt like it wasn’t her place to tell us this because she knew that it was crazy and not at all what we’d want to hear.

“God wants you to pursue your children. If you pursue your children, He will provide.”

When Aaron got home, I told him what she’d said. He said that all week he’d been praying that God would speak clearly and tell him what to do next. No matter what it was, he would be obedient.

So that night, in our tiny two bedroom rental house, only one week after realizing that adoption was definitely in our future, we filled out an adoption application for our kids.

As the pages of the application slid through the scanner, I felt that heaviness lifting and being replaced with peace.

We had spent a full week agonizing over what God was calling us to do because it seemed so crazy, so illogical. But in that moment, we both felt such confidence in answering His call.

I won’t lie and say we haven’t freaked out about the logistics of it all since then.

Its a LOT of money. We still haven’t moved into a larger house. The paperwork seems endless. There are days that I’m completely overwhelmed with worry about our kids’ health and safety.

But all of that worry and stress is NOTHING compared to the agony we were feeling as we tried to pursue our plan and instead of God’s.

Most of all, nothing compares to the love we have for those two precious faces we know only through photos and our dedication to do whatever it takes to bring them home.

So now what?

Now we throw ourselves into paperwork, moving into a bigger house and lots of waiting. 

Three weeks ago we were able to move our kids out of the orphanage and into a foster home in Congo. They are now living with a wonderful Christian family who can love on them and provide them with healthy living conditions, medical care (when needed) and bottled water. We are able to contact the foster family whenever we need and they will send us regular photos of the kids.

Most meaningful to me, they now know that we will be adopting them!

For a month we had been loving them so hard from the other side of the world but they had no idea. Now their foster family has started to explain everything to them and showing them photos of our family. Now they know that we are working as quickly as we can to bring them home!

One of our update photos from our sweet foster family!

Still have questions?

I’ve done my best to answer them in this FAQ post.

Want to read all of my adoption related posts? You can browse the Adoption category.

How can you help?

We will be doing a few fundraisers along the way. The best way to stay up-to-date on those is to give my facebook page a like and follow me on instagram.

We are currently selling t-shirts, featuring the lyrics to a song that God used to comfort us when we answered His call. Click here to order a t-shirt.

You can also donate via our YouCaring page. We’ll post updates there as well.

Most of all, we appreciate your prayers. 

Please pray for our kids’ health and safety. We know that we can’t do anything to protect them right now so we have to keep reminding ourselves that God has them in His hands.

Pray for our foster family, who has so lovingly opened their home to our kids.

Pray for our house situation. We are hoping to close on a house in the next few weeks but we know these things are often delayed. We have done everything we can on our end so now we just have to pray that nothing comes up between now and closing! (We have to move into our new house before we can make any more progress in the adoption process).

Pray for the government both here in the U.S. and in the Congo. That they will act in the best interest of these kids and the immigration process will go smoothly.

Pray for Aaron and I. That every decision we make is guided by God and not our personal worries and fears. That we do what is best for all four of our kids.

From all SIX Harned’s, thank you for your prayers and support. It means so much to us!

 

Farm Mom Favorites: Baby Carriers

If you follow me on instagram, you know I’m a bit obsessed with wearing my baby boy in our baby carriers. On the farm, at the grocery store, while cooking supper… pretty much all the time.

Baby wearing was something I knew nothing about when I was pregnant with my oldest. I’d see moms wearing their babies and automatically assume they were extreme “attachment parents.”

Then I actually became a mom and tried to work-at-home with a baby.

Suddenly, I understood!

Babies need to be held while you need to cook or vacuum or wash dishes.

They go through phases when they will only sleep on top of you.

They learn to walk one day and learn to run the next so you have no choice but to carry their 25 pounds of wiggling craziness everywhere you go.

Needless to say, investing in a really good baby carrier was on the top of my Baby #2 shopping list!

I spoke to lots of mom friends and researched different brands. I wasn’t interested in wraps, partially because I’m not very coordinated and partially because I make heavy babies. I specifically researched what’s called a “soft structured carrier” or as I called them “the kind with buckles.”

Eventually, I narrowed my search down to three brands: Tula, Kinderpack and Lillebaby.

After trying on a few, I felt like the Tula was the best fit for my lifestyle. To understand how I came to that conclusion, here’s my pros and cons of the other brands.

*** This post contains affiliate links. Your support is greatly appreciated! Opinions and experiences shared are 100% my own. ***

Kinderpack

Pros: Has a plus sized strap option.

Had I realized that my husband would wear our baby as much as he does, I probably would have tried to order a Kinderpack with plus straps for him. The Tula straps fit him fine but because his shoulders are so broad (think offensive lineman) he would be a bit more comfortable on longer wears if he had the extra padding the KP’s plus straps provide. (As you can see below, it doesn’t stop him from baby wearing though!)

Cons: Less availability in patterns/prints, highest retail price

I spent about 4 months looking at different pattern and print releases before ordering a carrier. In that time, Kinderpack never released a print I liked. Sure there were some cutesy ones, but nothing gender neutral and timeless.

At a retail price of $179, Kinderpacks were the highest priced of the carriers I was considering. They are also the smallest company so the supply of KP carriers with plus straps was very limited. Even if I wanted to purchase one used (in order to get a discontinued print that I liked) it was almost impossible without paying even more than retail.

Lillebaby

Pros: Lowest retail price

Lillebaby Complete carriers (the comparable model to my Tula) come in at $130.

Note: Some people prefer Lillebaby because it does allow the baby to forward face in a position that is safe for their hips. Personally, I would never forward face a child while baby wearing for several reasons. This post sums them up well

Cons: Mostly solid colors, lumbar support

I really wanted a patterned carrier so that it would help hide the dirt, drool, spit up and other nastiness my farming and mom life would inevitably get all over it.

The lumbar support is a feature that Lillebaby really promotes. Some people love them, some people hate them. Personally, I didn’t find that it made much of a difference in comfort while wearing, it just made my back sweaty. Once you figure out how to properly wear a carrier, there’s not a whole lot of strain on your lower back anyway.

Now… let’s talk Tulas!

Pros: 

Balance of function and style

Tula Standard Baby Carriers come in a very wide range of patterns and prints, from solid colors to cartoon animals to geometric patterns to abstract designs. You name it, there’s probably a Tula that fits your style. Unlike a Lillebaby, Tulas are a simple carrier. Not a ton of snaps and flaps and buttons. Everything on my Tula adjusts by tightening or loosening straps, simple but very functional.

My first Tula was the Equilateral, a triangle pattern in different shades of green with dark grey straps. Its still my favorite!

Availability

Tulas are widely available. You can order them directly from Tula, on Amazon, purchase them at Target or at locally owned boutiques. I ordered my first one directly from Tula but many of my friends have purchased theirs with Amazon or Target gift cards they received as baby shower gifts.

There is also a huge market for used Tulas, especially in facebook groups. Certain prints are discontinued and highly sought after but the average standard canvas Tula is available for $20-$50 below retail, depending on the print and condition.

I actually purchased my second Tula used for $90. (Its a multicolored chevron called “Stitch”). I wanted something cheaper to use on the farm and at livestock shows. The previous owner had used it for all three of her kids and all that use made the canvas panel so soft and the straps extremely easy to adjust. I was fully expecting that I wouldn’t really like my used Tula but I loved having one that was already broken in!

High weight limit

The weight limit on a standard Tula is 45 lbs. (The toddler size Tula is significantly larger and goes up to 60 lbs). I knew that this meant my Tula would accommodate my baby from birth until he had outgrown the need to be worn. That was a major selling point for me.

My oldest was 4 when we got our first Tula and since she was still within the weight limit, we gave it a try. I was shocked at how well the Tula distributed her weight and how comfortable it was for me to wear her. I loved knowing that if the need arose, I could put her in the Tula too.

This came in extremely handy for a couple of doctors visits that required shots or blood draws for both kids. Because I had two Tulas, I was able to “tandem wear,” which means wearing both kids at the same time. (One on the front and one on the back).

For moms of twins or kiddos close in age, tandem wearing is a game changer!

Cons:

Requires an infant insert. 

My least favorite thing about Tulas is the need for an infant insert until baby weighs 15 lbs. Since the infant insert is sold separately, you’re looking at an extra $40.

A lot of moms will tell you they just rolled up a receiving blanket under baby’s bottom until they were big enough to go without the insert. Obviously, Tula does not recommend doing that for safety reasons because it creates a lot of room for operator error. Being a baby wearing newbie, I bought the insert just to be on the safe side.

Personally, I much preferred using the insert to a rolled up blanket. It provides more stability for their back and I felt comfortable bending over and doing things with my older child while wearing my newborn. As the baby gets bigger, you can remove the back part of the insert and just use the pillow below their bottom until they’re big enough to go without it.

In the Spring of 2017, Tula came out with a new kind of carrier called the “Free to Grow” that does NOT require an infant insert. I’ve heard lots of good things about them from other moms online but since my kids are passed the newborn stage, I don’t have any personal experience with them.

Using the infant insert to ensure a proper, safe fit in the Tula. In the middle photo, Landon fell asleep and I was able to lay him down without waking him.

So right now you’re probably thinking, “Um… isn’t the price a con?”

With a retail price of $149 and an additional $40 for the infant insert, I can understand the sticker shock.

Or maybe you’ve heard from your cousin’s best friend’s hairdresser that she had “a $30 carrier and she swears it was just as good as the expensive ones.”

Let’s clear up a couple of things… I wear my baby 3-5 times a week. Sometimes 7 days a week. I almost always wear him for more than an hour.

When I invested in my carriers, I wanted to make sure I was investing in something that would be comfortable for both baby and I for hours of consecutive wearing, whether he weighed 10 lbs or 30 lbs.

When Landon weighed about 20 lbs I tried him in an Ergo carrier my friend had. The straps are significantly thinner than my Tula straps which made them cut into me, especially in the back of the waist strap.

The weight distribution was the biggest difference I noticed.

I can adjust my Tula in several different spots to ensure a comfortable fit for my baby and that his weight is distributed across my back instead of him just being dead weight pulling down on my shoulders.

No matter what I tightened and adjusted, I just couldn’t seem to get the Ergo to distribute his weight in a way that would be comfortable for wearing for an hour or more.

Yes, a Tula is a more expensive carrier but it is also more suited for the way I baby wear. I love them just as much now as I did when he was a newborn.

Baby wearing has allowed me to get so much more done as a work-at-home mom!

To sum it all up, baby wearing with our Tulas has been wonderful for our family!

It has allowed me to get more work done on my computer. It gives me two free hands to cook, craft and play with my oldest. It takes up MUCH less space in my vehicle than a stroller.

Being able to baby wear on the farm has allowed me to play a more active roll. It allows my son to safely be a part of nearly everything I do on the farm or at a livestock show.

Baby wearing has been a game changer for us at hog shows. 

My son is able to nap in the carrier and I can still take photos or help my siblings with their pigs. We don’t have to worry about bringing a stroller up and down the aisles of the barn and all the safety risks that come with it.

My arms aren’t sore at the end of a long show day from holding a 25+ lb baby!

Now that he’s walking (and by walking I really mean running) I know when he’s in the carrier he is safe and won’t be trying to run off and get himself hurt!

Baby wearing has made our farming and livestock showing life so much easier, whether I’m working or watching. Left photo by Rae Wagoner.

Trust me, if someone had told first-time-mom me that she would someday invest nearly $300 in baby carriers, she would have NEVER believed it. 

I promise, that our Tulas have been worth every penny! 

P.S. Tula has a ton of great resources on their YouTube channel if the actual act of baby wearing is overwhelming you. These are hugely helpful for learning how to wear your baby properly, in a way that is both safe for baby and comfortable for you.

*** This post contains affiliate links. Your support is greatly appreciated! Opinions and experiences shared are 100% my own. ***

I hope our daughters never write a post like this – International Women’s Day

For most farm folks, taking a day off of work just isn’t realistic. Animals must be fed and cared for, no matter what the calendar says.title image

So its understandable that many of my farming friends just couldn’t wrap their heads around the idea that women across the country were going to strike by not working or contributing to the economy today.

Just because a “take a day off” type of protest doesn’t fit the farm and ranch lifestyle, does not negate the need for equality in the agriculture industry.

So what am I going to do about it?

How am I going to work for equality in the industry that I love so dearly?

I’m going to focus on my kids.

Its often said that “children are the greatest thing we grow on our farms.”

We as farm and ranch parents must make a point to raise our sons and daughters to treat people with respect, dignity and equality, regardless of their gender.

I hope our daughters will never be able to write a post like this one.

I hope that if my daughter decides to make her career as a farmer, she is acknowledged as a farmer. Not just a “farmer’s daughter” or “farmer’s wife.”

I hope she is never the only woman in the room at a producer group meeting.

I hope she is asked to judge livestock shows, instead of being treated like a secretary for her dad or brother’s judging offers.

I hope that if she says she wants to be an animal scientist, her parents won’t have to sit her down and explain that if she wants to be taken seriously she’ll have to be a Dr. not a Mrs.

When she meets with a male client, I hope his wife doesn’t feel threatened by her.

I hope that “women’s programs” at agriculture conferences are a thing of the past and that no one ever questions why she’d rather be in the waste management seminar with the rest of the farmers.

I hope that if she is ever pregnant, she will be able to make her own decisions on what tasks and travel are healthy for her. I hope she is never sidelined just because someone assumes she can’t do something while pregnant.

I hope that if she breastfeeds she will not be shamed for needing 15 minutes to pump while her male counterparts take smoke breaks whenever they please. state fair

I hope she doesn’t have to shop around for a feed mill or veterinarian because so many treat her like she’s an idiot.

I hope that when she packs for a business trip she doesn’t have to try on 27 outfits to find the ones that look “cute enough” but still boring enough that no one assumes she’s trying to pick up a date.

I hope she doesn’t have to come up with polite and professional answers to being called “sweetie,” “honey” and “little lady.”

I hope she never has to add “my daddy said” or “my husband said” as a preface to her own thoughts just to be taken seriously.

Because each and every one of these things has happened to me.

I hope and pray that someday when I tell my children these stories they’ll be shocked by them.

Maybe they’ll be baffled that there was ever a time when I was the only woman in the room at a producer meeting.

Maybe we’ll all laugh about how ridiculous it was that someone actually called me to ask if their uncle (the one who couldn’t get away from the farm fast enough) could judge their livestock show but didn’t want me to do it because I’m a woman.

Maybe they’ll be proud to hear stories of how their father and grandfather stood up for me, but shake their head at the idea that it was ever necessary.

While this is my hope, I know that it will not be their reality if we as parents do not create it for them. 

We must be the ones to hire the female judges for our livestock shows.

We must be the ones who quit critiquing ladies’ outfits and start focusing on their work.

We must be the ones who speak up when we see women being put down and dismissed simply because they are female.

We as parents of the next generation in agriculture must step out, step on some toes and stand up for equality if we want our daughters to have it. 

piglet

Please note: I am well aware of the fact that many women in agriculture have faced different challenges than the specific examples I have discussed in this post. Some have faced very minor sexism while others have faced far worse treatment than I can fathom.
As with all posts on this blog, I focus on sharing MY experiences. Those experiences may not resonate with yours, and that’s O.K. What is most important is that all of us in agriculture work together to create an industry standard of respect and equality. 

 

Guest post: Celebrate Rare Disease Day with #RareActsOfKindness

File Feb 21, 4 49 25 PMMy sister Anna was born with a very rare genetic disorder called Alagille Syndrome (ALGS). There are only about 8,000 cases of ALGS in the United States and only a couple of hospitals that treat it.

For the past two years, Anna has challenged her friends to perform Rare Acts of Kindness in honor of Rare Disease Day.

I am honored to let her take over my blog this week to spread the word about this event and celebrate rare people everywhere!


It’s almost Rare Disease Day 2017, everyone!

This year’s theme is With Research Possibilities are Limitless, which focuses on the importance of research for those affected by rare diseases.blog image

Living with a rare disease means that you are often left with a lot of uncertainty. After a long, hard journey to a diagnosis, we are often left with more questions and less answers.

Is there a cure?

Are there treatment options?

What does the road ahead look like?

What is my prognosis?

As someone with a rare disease, you learn all the ways that doctors say “we don’t know”: “it’s too soon to tell,” “we’re looking for an answer,” “let’s focus on this for now,” “we’ll see how things go and continue on from there,” and “we aren’t sure.”

These phrases never get easier to hear. It’s an incredibly frustrating and helpless feeling.

This is why research is vital. Research takes the “we don’t know” and changes it to “we are learning…”

What might seem like just a slight turn of phrase, is actually a much needed glimmer of hope for someone with a rare disease.

A few of the ALGS families we are celebrating this Rare Disease Day.

A few of the ALGS families we are celebrating this Rare Disease Day.

For my rare disease, Alagille Syndrome, research has discovered new genetic markers for ALGS and drug trials that are greatly improving the quality of life for young ALGS warriors.

Research leads to knowledge, knowledge leads to treatments, treatments and knowledge leads to cures.

Research means hope.

For the past two years, I have asked you to join me, my family and friends in celebrating Rare Disease Day with Rare Acts of Kindness. We have been overwhelmed by how many people have joined us!

This year, let’s spread the hope and joy in our local communities. Give someone a reason to smile and share the love for people with rare diseases!


HOW TO PARTICIPATE:

From February 24 – 28, 2017, perform an act of kindness in your community. 

Make sure you snap a photo and share it online with the hashtags #RareActsOfKindness and #RareDiseaseDay so that we can see how everyone is participating!

To make things even easier, we’ve designed printable cards to share with your #RareActsOfKindness recipients. Click here to print your #RareActsOfKindness cards.

For ideas of ways to celebrate and to connect with other rare people and the folks who love them, make sure you join our facebook event!

NEW THIS YEAR: LuLaRoe Fundraiser to benefit the Alagille Syndrome Alliance

shareableWe have always made our Rare Disease Day celebration about service and not fundraising but when a friend who is a LuLaRoe consultant approached me with this idea I couldn’t turn it down!

Eight phenomenal LLR consultants have teamed up to do a HUGE multi-consultant sale and donate a portion of the proceeds to the Alagille Syndrome Alliance!

There will be hundreds of gorgeous items in a wide range of styles, prints and sizes. This is the perfect opportunity to snag an adorable Easter dress or some new leggings, all while helping support a cause near and dear to our hearts.

Click here to join the LLR Rare Disease Day Fundraiser group. 

As always, thank you for participating and helping us celebrate Rare Disease Day!

Farm Mom Favorites: Baby Essentials for Livestock Shows

When my daughter was 5 months old, she attended her first Kentucky State Fair. As a new mom, I was just starting to get the hang of things but taking on 4 days in a show barn with a baby was going to be whole a new experience.

Luckily, I had my own mom to help and some fantastic advice from veteran show moms on facebook and twitter.

Essentials for Stock Shows with a Baby

My first Kentucky State Fair as a mom, 2012.

Fast forward 4 years – I’m packing for baby #2’s first state fair and ended up in a facebook conversation with a friend swapping tips on avoiding the “Louisville crud” head cold we all know and dread each year.

I’ve learned a lot over the last four years and I was eager to help her just like so many other show moms had once helped me. That’s when I realized I haven’t shared any of these show mom-ing tips on my blog. (Sorry y’all!)

So here’s the run down on our absolute favorite things for stock shows with a baby.

*** This post contains affiliate links. ***

Clorox wipes

Clorox wipes are the duct tape of cleaning supplies, they can be used in pretty much any situation. Which is why they’re just a show staple for us, baby or not.

When we do have a baby, we know that everything is going to end up in their mouth. This makes the Clorox wipes that much more valuable, even if it seems like we’re constantly wiping things down.

Toys that are easily sterilized

Our barn toys are almost all hard plastic so that they can easily be wiped down with Clorox wipes. When we get home from the show, I put them all on the top rack of the dishwasher and run a sterilizing cycle.

We especially love these plastic rings. Babies love to chew on them, plus they can be used to attach toys to a stroller, high chair or baby carrier. (Which keeps them from getting thrown into a hog pen!)

Snack cups

If your little one has reached the finger foods stage, these Munchkin snack cups are a must! They can reach in and get their snacks but when the cup inevitably gets knocked down it doesn’t spill. There are few things as frustrating as when a whole cup of Puffs ends up dumping in the barn!

Bonus points – these cups have handles you can attach to those rings I love so much!

Baby wipes with a flip top

You guys know I’m all about saving money, but this is one time I pass up the best deal.

Baby wipes are much cheaper when you buy these gigantic refill boxes. 99% of the time that’s what we do. For hog shows, though, we always pick up a few of these smaller flip top packs.

Obviously we use wipes for diaper changes but also anything else that I don’t want to clean with a Clorox wipe. (Wiping off baby’s hands/face, wiping my hands, etc…)

The little travel cases of wipes don’t hold nearly enough for a long show day and you don’t want to fool with a big bulky box. The flip top packs are the perfect middle ground.

Blankets, bibs and burp cloths

Showing in Louisville means that even in August, we have to make sure to keep our baby warm. We always bring one warm fleece blanket into the barn for just that reason.

I also bring a bib and burp cloth for each day of the show. Drooling babies in dusty barns are a recipe for nastiness. Having a fresh bib and burp cloth each day helps keep that under control. I also keep a spare of each in the diaper bag, just in case of a major spit up.

Our Barn Baby Boutique blankets, bibs and burp cloths work wonderfully for this!

Basic medicines and a thermometer

My daughter decided the NAILE would be the perfect place to cut her first tooth. So at 10 p.m. we were leaving the show barn with a sobbing, feverish baby, driving around Louisville looking for an open drugstore to buy her some Tylenol. NEVER AGAIN!

Now I bring the basic meds with us to every show. We never leave home without Tylenol and saline nose spray.

We’ve found saline spray to work wonderfully when our kids are too young to take any cold medicines. Be sure to talk to your pediatrician before trying it though.

I also bring my thermometer with us on every trip. I LOVE this Braun no-touch because I can check their temp without disturbing them while they’re sleeping. (I’ve heard it also works pretty good on sleeping husbands who don’t like to admit they’re sick).

Menthol baby bath

This tip comes straight from my mom, which makes it a tried and true one! She discovered Johnson’s Baby Soothing Vapor Bath when I was a kid and we’ve been using it ever since. Adults, kids, everybody!

Its basically baby soap plus menthol, so we bathe with it when we shower at night after being in the barn all day. The menthol helps clean out your sinuses and we’ve found that really helps to fight off the “Louisville crud.”


Travel humidifier

We’ve been using a travel humidifier in our hotel room for about 2 years now and I really think it helps us fight off the sinus colds.

The air in the show barn is so dry and then we go back to a hotel with dry air and its just miserable on your nose and throat. The humidifier adds a little moisture back to the air.

We use this travel version but you can bring a full sized one if you’d like. We prefer the compact version and have found that since we usually go to bed late and wake up early at shows that its able to run the whole time we’re sleeping.

Baby carrier

I listed this one last because it is by far the biggest investment but I also feel like its a game changer. When my daughter was a baby, someone always had to hold her while she was napping. Which meant if you wanted to watch the show you were completely worn out by the time she woke up.

Sometime in between babies I made friends who were into baby wearing and introduced me to Tula baby carriers, which completely changed my life as a mom. I wear my son almost daily! Its so much easier to keep up with my 4 year old when I have both hands free. I could go on and on about how much we love it.

baby essentials at a stock show

Wearing my baby at hog shows has been a complete game changer for our family. Even my sister wears him!

For the sake of this post, let’s focus on baby wearing at stock shows.

Its so helpful for my son to be able to nap at shows in the Tula. I don’t miss a single class and since his weight is distributed evenly I don’t wear out my back/arms either. Next year when he’s running around, the carrier will also be perfect for keeping him out of harms way!

You should never do anything while wearing a baby that you wouldn’t do while holding baby in your arms. So I don’t recommend showing in a boar class or anything crazy like that! But I am able to do basic tasks like carrying water buckets and walking pigs while baby wearing.

Did I miss anything? Is there a show baby secret we show moms need to know? 

Feel free to share your advice in the comments, I know there’s always more to learn from the show moms who have been at this longer than I have!

They say “it takes a village,” you know. I definitely can’t think of a better one to raise my babies in than the show barn!

Baby Essentials for Stock Shows

Unsinkable – Fundraiser for Louisiana Flood Victims

Over the past 5 days, my home state of Louisiana has been devastated by record breaking floods.pinterest image

(If you haven’t heard about this disaster, this article can fill you in on what has happened).

To be quite honest, its hard for me to put the devastation into words.

My dad’s hometown is underwater. My grandmother was evacuated from her home in a boat.

Three generations of my family are trying to figure out how to pick up the pieces.

Their friends and neighbors are all facing the exact same situation, multiple generations of families whose homes were all flooded in this disaster.

And I’m 12 hours away, heartbroken and helpless as the waters recede and they begin to see just how much damage the flood has done.

It feels like there is nothing I can do.

I can’t rip the drywall out of my grandmother’s house. I can’t replace my aunt’s carpet.

I can’t help my cousins blow dry family photographs and try to sort through the years of memories that the flood tried to wash away.

I can’t even give my Mawmaw a hug and tell her how proud I am of her for staying so strong through all of this.

But I can create. I can pour my heart and my tears and my worries into my art.

All weekend my husband and I have prayed over how we can use these talents and this blog that God has given me to help the flood victims.

This is where He led us.

I’ve designed a t-shirt that you can order through Booster. 100% of the proceeds will be donated to flood victims.

The shirts will be available in two colors and can be purchased until August 31, 2016. After the campaign ends, Booster will print and ship the shirts directly to you.

The Booster campaign also gives you the option to make a donation in addition to your shirt purchase. So if you want to donate $100 but you only want one shirt, you can add the rest as a donation.

You can purchase t-shirts here: www.booster.com/unsinkable

unsinkable shirts for Louisiana flood victims

If t-shirts aren’t really your thing or you’re on a budget, I’ve also added the same design as an 8×10 inch printable to the Celeste Comm Etsy Shop.

Our instant download printables are only $5 and 100% of those proceeds will be donated as well.

You can purchase the printable here: http://etsy.me/2bay6hR

unsinkable printables for Louisiana flood victims

Please understand, this is NOT about exposure for my business or my blog. I’m even going to donate any ad revenue this post generates. I’m not going to pocket a dime from this.

This is about using the avenues that God has helped us to establish to do His work and help others.

Most of all, we ask that you pray for everyone in Louisiana who has been devastated by this record setting flood.

They have a very, very long road ahead of them.

Photos by Tyler Bicknell Photography.

Photos by Tyler Bicknell Photography.

(A very big thank you to Tyler Bicknell Photography in Lafayette, LA for graciously providing photos of the flooding). 

Is it ok to hunt Pokemon on a farm?

A long, long time ago, when Gameboys were black and white and Pokemon was first popular, I was the proud trainer of a pretty ferocious Charizard.Is it ok to hunt Pokemon on farms?

My brother and I were obsessed with Pokemon, spending as much time playing as my parents would allow.

When I saw the new Pokemon Go game was released, I couldn’t help but smile thinking of how many adults my age were rekindling their childhood love of catching and training those little virtual creatures.

If you’ve read my blog in the past, you know I mostly focus on food and farming. I’ve written about anti-family farming extremist groupsfood shaming and how to save money on groceries.

So why on earth am I writing about Pokemon?

Because my news feeds are blowing up with news stories about people playing Pokemon Go and wandering their way into trouble!

Which got me  thinking, what’s an easy way that a Pokemon Go player could get themselves into trouble in the rural area where I live? Wandering around on a farm.

Here’s a few reasons why:

Private property

First of all, its important to respect private property laws. If you wouldn’t wander into a stranger’s living room to catch that Jigglypuff, then you shouldn’t wander into their barn or crop field.

Plus, you don’t want your Pokemon hunting to end with a conversation with your local law enforcement. If a farmer sees a strange person wandering around on their farm, chances are the police are going to end up involved.

A farm is a business

Would you go into a department store and walk all over all of the folded clothes they’re selling until you caught that Growlithe?

Of course not! That would be extremely rude and damaging to the product they’re selling.

What if it was a field of corn or soybeans?

Wandering around a crop field, stepping on plants and knocking over corn stalks is damaging the product that farmer depends on selling to support their family.

Safety

What seems like a simple hop over a fence could leave you seriously injured.

First of all, the fence itself could hurt you.

It might be made of barbed wire (a type of fencing with sharp metal pieces that can easily cut you) or it could be an electric fence. Trust me, if it’s shock is strong enough to deter a 1,000 lb animal that means its not going to feel too good to you either!

Speaking of animals, you should never get in an animal’s pen without permission from the owner.

When an animal encounters a stranger, they are often frightened will probably do one of two things: run away from you or charge at you. Either way, you or the animal could easily wind up seriously injured.

Even if a pasture looks empty there could be an animal in it. During the summer, most livestock like to hang out in the shade. So while you might not see that bull hiding out at the edge of the woods, he sees you.

So is it ever ok to hunt Pokemon on a farm?

Sure, if the farm owner gives you permission.

During your conversation, be sure to ask if there are any safety concerns you should be aware of (aggressive animals, sinkholes, electric fences, etc…)

Don’t assume that you have permission to return and hunt again whenever you want. Things could have changed since the last time you were there. An area that was once safe for you to wander around might not be anymore. Always speak to the farm owner before you go out onto their property.

Most importantly, respect the farm and make sure not to damage anything.

Hopefully these tips will help protect both you and your local farms on your quest to catch ’em all! 

Meet our little farm boy!

You may have noticed things have been quiet around here lately, but I promise, we’ve got an awfully cute excuse for that.

On March 31st, we welcomed our son Landon.

He is absolutely perfect, with his Daddy’s blue eyes, his Mama’s mouth and the spitting image of his big sister as a baby.

Meet our little farm boy nb pic

Big sister couldn’t be more in love with him.

The first thing out of her mouth every morning is “Good morning Landon! Can I hold him, Mommy?” (Mom and Dad are chopped liver these days!)

She reads him books, picks out his clothes and has appointed herself the official diaper-trasher.

Meet our little farm boy sister

Landon seems to be pretty fond of her too.

When he wakes up before her, he is so confused by the quiet. He’s constantly looking around for his playmate.

He loves to lay on the floor next to her and watch her play.

His first “real” smiles came from her singing to him.

Meet our little farm boy family

We are so blessed to have two beautiful, healthy children.

The most unexpected blessing has been getting to watch them love each other. Right now, we’re soaking as much of that in as we can.

I’ll be back to my blogging game soon, but for now I’m sticking with the “babies don’t keep” mentality and enjoying every moment of having a lap full of cuddling kiddos.