One Summer Day

I was hanging out diapers on the clothesline and I had an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Because I was hanging out diapers? No, no . . . that’s not it. Just had a moment where I thought, “I need to take a snapshot of this. I need to remember this day, this day right here in August 2014.”


When I was hanging the diapers, I saw the shoes sticking out on the fence posts of my garden. The kids went down to play in the creek, and we needed a place to “put them” to dry – some place puppy proof, because the two Catahoula pups will chew up anything in their path. I could hear Ruthie on the deck rocking away on the incredibly noisy, but remarkably durable rocking horse that has served all of Nathan’s children (Dustin, Grace, Miles & Ruth). I could also hear Miles wailing inside the house. He was pitching a fit because I wouldn’t let him put on a pair of clean jeans (from the folded piles on the kitchen table) after he got up from his nap to come chore with me – I insisted he wear the same jeans he’d put on that morning, but took off when he was napping. After making my stance, I just came outside to chore and left him to sort through his temper tantrum (he’s 3 ½, and they are waning in number considerably, but I am trying to curb the amount of laundry he creates). Poor Rebecca was stuck up in her bedroom listening to the wailing as she tries to find enough quiet to work through her geometry. Addison, my fledgling eaglet, is at play practice (in a college production).

It’s almost the end of August, and everything is still remarkably lush from all the rain we’ve had this winter. I have been speculating (as I dab at my consistently-running eyes – allergies) if I need to look up the winter forecast in the Almanac. As a good farmer’s wife, I now check the Almanac for these things. It’s about 105 with the heat index right now, but the tomatoes are still hanging in there, and producing buckets for me (which I can as I’m able, but I sure give away about as many as I can).

So far today, I’ve done 3 loads of laundry, made two separate rounds of lunches for children (older kids to take to campus, and younger kids to eat here at home). I’ve chored twice today (morning to let everything out, water and feed) and afternoon (check everything’s water, and get eggs). I’ve searched out a calf we were worried about – only 2 days old, and Mama Cow is a bit negligent, and tracked down an older-than-dirt mare who is wandering away from the others. Not that I blame her – I probably will want to do the same when I’m older than dirt, it’s hot out, and I’m getting crochety. I’ve done my workout, picked up toys about 10 times, gotten both babies down for naps, up for snacks, and about 10 diapers changed. I’ve gotten in about 4 hours of grading, I would estimate, and have two new classes starting today. I’m about to start working on tonight’s dinner, which will be fried catfish and fried potatoes, which only my husband and the two babies will eat. There’ll be baked fish and salad for us 3 ladies who prefer a bit less, uh, saturated fats, in our diet. I’m not going to make a dessert, because I still have chocolate-chocolate chip cookies, chocolate brownies, lemon brownies, peanut butter fudge, and blueberry oat bars leftover from the weekend (oh, and homemade peanut butter bars in the freezer). The world’s greatest husband indeed deserves his fried catfish because he’s out working in this 105 degree day, at a coal plant, no less (10 hour shifts).

All in all, it’s an incredible day, and I am one lucky country mama.

The Balance Between Work and Play

This morning I was moved to write about work (and play). Yesterday, as I was processing buckets and buckets of tomatoes that I will need to can today, I was really tired by the evening. My husband got a call that he’s going back to work this morning (an hour away). The nature of the union is that you go where they send you, and his supervisor works hard to keep Nathan close to home. This morning as I was doing my devotion, I watched my husband get up, get dressed, and head out the door about 5:30.

He’ll work outside all day, in the heat, probably a 10-hr shift. He doesn’t have a microwave to heat up his leftovers for lunch, and (because I missed seeing the empty tea pitcher last night when the girls washed the dishes) will not start his day with his cold, sweet tea as he enjoys (it’s the equivalent of my morning cup of coffee). He has loads of work to do around the farm – stuff that sincerely needs doing, but he can’t quite seem to get on top of, even though when he is laid off at home, he’s working 15-18 hours a day to tackle it all. Despite this, he kissed me goodbye and went on his path without any grumbles. Is today’s blog an ode to my husband? No . . . it could be, but it isn’t. This incredible man I married knows the value of *work*.

I am overwhelmed with gratitude that we share a similar work ethic. I grew up working. I was one of those kids who had to pay for my own car, my insurance and gas, to supplement the budget I was given (pretty meager, I remember thinking) for my clothing needs, and I was working at least 20 hours a week from my freshman year forward. There’s also an incredible amount of work that goes into running a home with six children, homeschooling, farming, and working full-time (albeit from home – another big thanks to Jesus for that!). My dad was one of the few who made me sit down and reconcile my banking account on a consistent basis (and then show it to him). I had to help run the house (and since we were motherless, we all worked to do so from a pretty young age). I’ve often discussed with my siblings how interesting it is that our family circumstances contributed to the strong work ethic in our family. My dad rose up from poverty to become a self-made millionaire. That’s something to be proud of!

But then I look at children in society today. They grumble when they have to do chores (if they indeed have to DO chores), and grumble if they have to pay their own way (sometimes with the allowance they’re given freely each week). They shortchange their efforts on school, on helping with the household, on helping watch siblings, on saving their own money or *gasp* working outside of the home for pay. Is it any wonder we have young adults who put off leaving the nest until their 30s? Who bury themselves in credit card debt and never seem to get a handle on financial preparedness? Who can’t hold a steady job, much less invest in themselves enough to establish a career? What is going to happen in 20, 30, 40 years with this newest cohort of youth, who are seemingly incapable of doing things for themselves because helicopter parents steer their every move, and perpetuate a helpless or entitled mindset? It’s terrifying to consider.

I figure the best I can do is to start within my own home – to teach my own children the way my dad taught me (except, perhaps, with a bit more verbal instruction and encouragement – he didn’t have all the ‘hippy-dippy’ parenting books I have to read). I remember cleaning the bathroom as a child, but no one really taught me the most effective way to do so. . . I guess I just bumbled along until I sorted through it. In my Bible study this morning, Lisa Terkeurst was discussing how to teach your children household tasks, and although the scripture passages were interesting to read, I was saddened to reflect on just how many parents are not encouraging their children to work.

As I’ve said before, I don’t pretend to be Supermom – I couldn’t run this house without my children’s labors to help (delegate, delegate, delegate). They help with dishes, with laundry, with cooking (occasionally, anyway), with canning (most definitely), with gardening and weeding and mowing the yard, and taking out the trash, and all the animal care (which, in fact, I hardly ever do), and with keeping their own things picked up and their rooms clean. Is that a lot in the eyes of the world? I think it might be. Miles, at 3 ½, just got his first chore chart (a darn cute one I made up, too). There’s certainly plenty a toddler can do around the house to help out. Am I placing a burden upon them that will harm them? I hope not! I don’t want them to resent me, but I think to some extent I likely resented my father when I was younger because I just compared my work load to my peers, and never understood why I always had to work before getting to play. Am I grateful now for the blessings that work ethic created? Absolutely!

We have to teach our youth that the work and play must be balanced. There can be play – plenty of it! We live on a 300-acre farm. There’s loads of stuff to do around here (ride horses, hike trails, play on the monstrous swing set we acquired from the meth head neighbors for a song, climb trees, play in the playhouse which is full of games, Barbies, dress up clothes, tractor toys, and books, ride bicycles, ride the 4-wheeler, swim at the neighbor’s pool – the ones who don’t do meth, etc). We can picnic at the parks in Columbia, play on those play places, go to the library and pore over books (admittedly, that’s play to me), go to the creek and search for arrowheads, follow the path of a rainbow. There is just so much to do out there to play! (I would qualify, in our home, this doesn’t entail watching television or playing video games, but I guess, if one gets their work done and that’s play to them, it’s acceptable enough). I would probably argue it’s not equally balanced — I think in our home, I would estimate there’s 65% work and 35% play, but I imagine that lines up with responsible living as an adult.

We went camping this last weekend at Mark Twain State Park. The weather was gorgeous, and we hadn’t been to that lake before. We went to the beach each day, ate meals around the campsite, played cards, and enjoyed the scenery. However, there were inevitably the two days of preparing to camp beforehand, and the full day of putting the camping supplies away when we got home (plus the monstrous amounts of laundry to wash). Still, to enjoy the camping experience, that work is inevitable, right? Isn’t that how work and play have to be balanced, in the grand scheme of life? These are some sweet pictures from our camping experience (Miles enjoying a camping breakfast, Ruthie playing in the rocks, and Grace and her buddy playing cards with us around the table).

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Also, just as a last note, I think that, as a parent, I want to try and instill a positive attitude towards the work-play balance. Do I like processing tomatoes all day? Uh, no. But I love having my own tomato sauce come January. Do I like deep-cleaning the house? Uh, no. But I love relaxing in it when it’s done for another week, and I can appreciate knowing I am providing a safe, clean environment for my children. When it’s time to deep clean, I put in some rocking music (old school classic rock, for the most part – Addie has told me she will forever associate Don Henley with cleaning the house), offer a treat like a can of soda (soda is indeed a treat in this home), and we hit it hard to knock it out quickly. I try to teach the concept, “Many hands make short work,” and I try personally not to complain about the work that needs done. I hope when my kids look back, they’ll not envision some tired, haggard Mom always drudging along the day to day tasks, but a Mom who cheerfully does what needs doing so she can enjoy time with them in shared play. That’s my goal, anyway!

Now, I’ve had my play for the morning, and need to get back to work. 🙂