Homestead

The exhaustion of parenting a pair of active, strong-willed and perfect boys.

We have three children. The oldest is our 16 year old daughter who is obviously not perfect, but a very mature and kind young lady who is going to be successful in life at whatever she does. Then we have the bros.

They are five and three years old. And they…are…exhausting. I remember when our five year old was born. When I would touch my wife’s belly, he would punch or kick my hand. In the incubator five minutes after birth, he did a military crawl and nearly came off the table. Uh…that’s not supposed to happen, right doc?

To say he was a fussy baby, was to do a disservice to the millions of babies before and after who can only aspire to the bar he set. I remember my wife and I read every written word since the dawn of man trying to figure out what we were doing wrong.

He constantly wanted to nurse. He constantly wanted to be held. The moments when he actually slept were cruel reminders of the life that existed before he came charging into the world. He was/is not a bad child, but it’s like he has an internal radar that goes off when he is not receiving your full and undivided attention. It’s still the same almost five years later and I think it’s contagious.

Our three year old came into the world after multiple checks during the pregnancy to make sure he was still alive. I would touch, poke, prod her belly and nothing happened. He didn’t move much. We were concerned something was wrong because…well, his brother seemed to want to fight me from within the womb. Little man came out and was fine. A happy, quiet, contented little guy. And I was worried.

Not worried for him, but for me/my wife. Here was this sweet, beautiful happy little baby with a brother that had only one speed and constantly needed attention. How in the world will I not play favorites?

Fortunately God must give all people internal sensors which allow us to see and feel love in enough brief moments of bliss to offset the other 23 1/2 hours of the day when exhaustion, frustration and defeat invade our souls.

Our little guy is still generally a sweet, content little man, but he, too is strong willed and tests my patience just as much as his big brother.

Big brother is almost compulsive about things. Dinosaurs were our constant focus up until this summer when fishing has become the focus. He wakes up: “dad, can we go fishing today?” Yes buddy. “Now?” No, I need to go to work. I walk in the door: “can we go fishing now, dad?” Uh, let me change and go to the bathroom buddy. And it wouldn’t matter if it’s 94 degrees and the fish aren’t biting, he will be disappointed when I say it’s time to stop even if it’s been four or five hours.

But then there’s those moments when I look over at him as the sweat is dripping off and I’m swatting bugs out of my face and see that perfect little boy that I’m giving my all. He is my son that sucks every ounce of my patience and resolve and tests my will every day. But he is also that sweet little boy sitting next to me watching the bobber who asks me how my day was. He asks me if anyone visited me at work today and if they were handsome or pretty. He puts his hand on me and says thanks when I help untangle the line.

So there isn’t a “problem” with raising a duo that senses if mom and dad are trying to have a conversation or a moment alone. It’s not that we have failed as parents because our kids are constantly the ones we feel the need to apologize for in public settings. The unsolicited parenting advice we get is met with a forced smile and a little voice inside that says “how about I let you try your little suggestion for a couple days”…then the actual smile bursts forth in the visual of that stunned, exhausted person returning our bulls in a china shop never to return.

Yes they are exhausting. And yes, there are moments nearly every day where I fail as a dad by getting mad or frustrated at them. I feel horrible when I think about all the moments I’ve failed as a parent. But I also know my kids are getting my best and that’s ok.

It’s ok to have moments of failure. Because these kids are also getting my best. They are getting a dad that goes fishing…every…single…day. They are getting the dad that listens to pointless stories with wrapt attention. They get the dad that always loves to play the kissy-monster.

Yes, there are always enough moments in each day when I overcome that gnawing doubt of my skills as a man, that I know I am the right dad for these kids.

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Homestead

It’s spring again

Is anyone else a fan of crappy 80’s music? Biz Markie (you say he’s just a friend) had a song called “it’s spring again”. Horrible song that seems to run through my head this time of year. Sad, I know.

We’ve started many of our seedlings for this year. When we did so, our oldest son (and resident corn farmer) decided he wanted to start his crop as well. We said it’s too early, but he insisted so we planted corn. Now, a couple weeks later, we are going to need to transplant them to larger containers. At this rate, we will be eating corn in May 😂.

It’s so refreshing to take the dog out these days. Some mornings the birds and frogs are singing already. I can see buds popping up on some of our maples and the peach trees.

I am ever so thankful to have the ability to grow some of our food. I’m thankful for having room for the kids to roam and explore. I’m thankful I have a day job that allows me to provide for my family. There’s much for which I’m thankful.

Be forewarned if you search for the song…it doesn’t leave your brain…ever.

🎶It’s spring again
Everybody know it’s spring again
To the girls and boys and people above
This is the time to fall in love🎶

Homestead

The cycle continues

We started some of our plants recently and they are popping up nicely. While the weather is now altering between single digits and 50 degrees, we are going to be prepared if spring breaks early this year.

It’s always exciting to start our plants, order new seeds and imagine the bountiful garden that MAY result of our efforts. But even if the garden turns out to be less-than-stellar like it was last year, it’s a wonderful process.

My wife is so good at incorporating the boys into the process. We have never tried starting corn inside, but we have given our older son Benji the title of resident corn expert. He relishes the title and wanted to start some of “his” plants when we started the others. So she set up a few larger cannisters for them to plant their corn. They like to water and check on them often. And when we have a nice spring day, they will help dig the holes, find all kinds of critters in the soil and do what little boys do best: get absolutely filthy.

Eventually at some point this summer, they will start wandering into the garden to pick some of the veggies right off the plants while they are in their play area or fishing in the pond. I’ve said it numerous times, but not much gives me greater pleasure than watching the kids pick and eat fruits and veggies from our property.

I’m fairly certain we will plant more honeyberries this year. I am debating on serviceberries and/or gooseberries. I’d like to create and edible hedge where our blueberries have failed in our front yard. I’d also like to eventually have some good paw paw production, but I’ve clearly not worked out the paw paw growth well as our trees are growing, but aren’t much different in size from when they were planted.

We ordered an upgraded aeration system and chemicals for the pond this year. It’s looked like a putting green the last few years due to all the duckweed. I abhor putting chemicals in the water, but until this stuff is eradicated, the pond and fish continue to suffer.

Finally, and most importantly, wifey got the cancer-free diagnosis we have been hoping for. She starts radiation this week, but by the end of the month, we should be pretty well back to normal and not be traveling back and forth to doctor’s appointments and treatments. That month she was in St. Louis for her stem-cell transplant was about as challenging as I care to endure. Hats off to all those single parents and spouses who have gone through intense treatments.

I don’t say this for my own benefit, but as a note to others. When a family is going through a major illness, the patient is often the focus, but we were very fortunate to have tons of family and friends to help keep things stable at home for us as well. I pride myself on being a good dad, but there is no question in my mind that both parents have something important for raising small children.

Homestead

Absence

It has been way too long and I mostly just wanted to post so I didn’t get out of practice.😂.

Wifey is down at the cancer center in St. Louis getting her stem cell transplant. If ever someone questions what is one of the cornerstones of life, my emphatic answer is friends and family.

The past 14 months have turned our lives inside out. That isn’t to say there haven’t been moments of normalcy, but we have leaned heavily on our tribe. Wifey has been gone for about a week and a half now and will likely be down there another two weeks. When she does come home, it will still be a gradual recovery from the transplant.

The other night our daughter had the county basketball tournament. She texted on the team’s busride back that she needed a ride home (school is about 15 min away). Panic hits me. One boy is asleep, the other is almost asleep and the prospect of loading and unloading them was not pleasant. Five minutes later, a family member was on their way to get her. Of course it wouldn’t be the end of the world to load the boys and get her, but knowing we have so many who are so eager and willing to help in any way makes this whole damned thing a little easier.

I just wanted to post something so the site didn’t go completely dead and to remind myself of the importance of being a good friend and family member when someone else’s time of need comes.

Hopefully when she gets back at the end of the month we can stop worrying about cancer and start worrying about getting our garden ready for spring.

Homestead

Randoms

So it’s obviously been a while. Our update on the home front is as follows:. Wifey is still battling cancer. She is on immunotherapy as two kinds of chemo haven’t worked. She has treatments once a month and after the treatment at the end of this month, they’ll doing a scan to see if she can do a stem cell transplant. So we are still in a holding pattern there. The kids are good. Lexi is doing good in volleyball and school. She just had her homecoming dance (no date) and was a beautiful young lady. She is a pretty special woman. The boys are playing together quite a bit more these days, but their personalities sure come out more and more. Man are they gonna have some good fights/wrestling matches one of these years.

We had a moderately successful year in the garden. As usual, some stuff did good and some didn’t. We didn’t have much free time to take care of the garden this year so it’s kinda been a year I like because if you have to over tend something, I question whether it’s the best use of your time. By that, I mean when wifey raked up and disposed of all the mulch I put down last fall, it allowed the weeds in and moisture out. We have discussed the error and hope to have a more successful year next year with the leaf and grass mulch being kept on the garden spots.

Our blueberries are all but gone. A few plants may sprout next year, but I’ve given up that ghost for now. We did get some honeyberries though and we hope to expand them next year. The grapes are doing fine it seems so we will keep our fingers crossed there. I managed to pick a fair amount of elderberries though they are just in the freezer for now. Still no pears or apples, but I did notice a nice 8 foot volunteer peach tree bear our compost area. We planted a couple of goji plants this year and they seem to be taking off and have already produced a fair number of berries this year. While I’m not a huge fan right now, we haven’t really discovered how to use them or peak picking cycles. Anyway, producing fruit always makes me happy.

Miscellaneous stuff:. A co-worker came to me recently discussing her need for a new automobile. She has a large vehicle that is getting up there in miles and is starting to have multiple problems. She insisted she wants a newer vehicle and can handle larger payments if she can get her insurance down some. I suggested a cash car for two years to build up some money to put towards a nicer one if she wanted down the road. She laughed it off and said “no way, I want a nice car”. I get that it’s fun to drive a new(er) car, but I kind think it’s like the can’t see the forest for the trees analogy. A car, to me, is a tool. I use it to drive back and forth to work and head down to the river sometimes. My 95 bronco is rusted all over, but has an engine that is strong and I had the front end fixed because it was starting to go. All told, I have about $4,000 in it. I can sell it today for $2,000-$3,000. I’ve had it for two years. So let’s say I sell it tomorrow. I will have lost a Max of $2,000 on it. Thats the equivalent of $167/month. As I have no plans on doing anything with it, each month I continue to have it, I will be reducing that amount. A car does not hold value (I’m talking about daily drivers, not collector vehicles). So yes, I’d love to have a new(er) car too (though I long for a crank window manual lock model), but it’s just like you’re burning that much money a month to drive to work and the grocery store. This is probably the thing that I’ve noticed most about this crazy lifestyle of ours. You rethink things. When you step back and look at what is most efficient use of your limited resources , a big monthly payment for a mobile chair with butt-warmers comes way down my list of priorities. Ok, rant over.

Politics. Ugh. If your reaction to politicans and major news outlets isn’t that, then let me know what you’re growing in your garden. I think most people are generally decent people who want to live their lives in peace. Contrary to what is being shoved down our throats, I don’t think most people enjoy being divided into us versus them camps. Whether you’re for this party or that, or this issue that everyone is talking about, it all seems to be about encouraging division amongst people. I don’t play into that stuff. I rarely watch the news these days and I never enter arguments on social media (I’m getting closer to actually just getting rid of it all) because people are being programmed that if someone disagrees with your opinion, then they are x, y or z. I just am tired of it and think the end result will not be positive for us as a nation. Rant over.

Homestead

Father’s Day

Father’s day didn’t start off great. We are in a heat advisory until tomorrow evening. As such, I was antsy this morning to get my outdoor work done (weeding the garden and weedeating the property). Well, Benji and I are the early birds and most everyone else normally sleeps in until 7:30 or 8.

By 7 am, I was desperately wanting to get outside and get started. Benji was being a bit needy and wanted me to sit with him and watch his favorite YouTube show. I did for a while, but finally I told him I was going outside and I put a show on. He started whimpering/crying because he wanted to watch something else. I got upset and turned the TV off. I turned it back on for him, got him situated and went out to get to work.

By the time I took my first break, I was feeling like a pretty crappy dad. He just wanted to spend some time with me and he wasn’t going to understand that I’d be with him when I was done. Needless to say, I made a point to come in and get him for my break. I told him I had a special surprise.

He was very enthusiastic to get his shoes on. We went to the blueberry bush and picked the first blueberry of the year. Then we went to the raspberries and had a few of those. Then we went to some of our wild black raspberries and picked a few handfuls (he offered me one and praised himself for sharing). Then we got on the golf cart and found a few more and some mulberries. By the time we were done with our berry hunt, mom and Brody were up. So I got them all situated inside and went out again.

When I had finished my weedeating, I remembered shandi had mentioned the garden needing weeded. So I asked her if she wanted some help. We went out and weeded a while

I get cranky when I’m hot. And it was definitely hot. So when we were done and the boys wanted to jump on the trampoline, I just couldn’t muster much enthusiasm. Sis took them and I decided I was gonna need a cold shower. It’s amazing how much better I felt after that.

I had some lunch, got lots of hugs and “dad, look at this!”, and “dad, watch this”. Well, the boys are both asleep now. I’m feeling both upset at my failures and positive that I eventually got things worked out and gave the kids their attention.

I’m so blessed. These kids love me in spite of my shortcomings. I’m still not gonna step foot outside until this evening though…I don’t care how much they beg and plead…it’s just too danged hot!

Homestead

When did June become July?

When I was 19, I worked for a tree company. One day, a co-worker’s saw went into my chest and removed half of my left lung. Ever since then, I have a very hard time working in stiffeling heat. Anymore, it seems like we go from winter to summer without many of those gorgeous 60 and 70 degree days I love.

We have had a moderately wet spring/early summer, but we aren’t getting a ton of rain. Just enough to not really be a drought, but enough for the plants and I to notice.

I went a checked our well Saturday and we are fortunately around 27′ of water. Normal is around 30′, so we are down, but still ok for a while.

We got several inches of rain yesterday and last night so hopefully we will be good for a while now.

Gardens are doing well. Surprisingly, some things we thought were goners (carrots, some herbs, etc) seemed to be sleeping as they are starting to grow pretty well. Carrots are a big disappointment, but this was our first year so I don’t mind the poor production.

We have managed to get a few strawberries off the plants we put in the ground this year. I’m pleasantly surprised at how well they are doing given the lack of care I provide our plantings. Don’t get me wrong, I do the best I can when planting (location, adding mulch when appropriate and watering), but after that, our plants are on their own. Either the soil, growing conditions and selected variety of plant do well, or it’s back to the drawing board.

As I mentioned previously, wifey has been battling hogkins lymphoma since November. Her first round of chemo didn’t do the trick so we are trying to decide how to battle it from here. She has been juicing and eating raw, organic veggies-only since chemo ended. It isn’t cheap, but I’m quite thankful for the garden we have as she is already using plenty of our leafy greens, beets and herbs. I’m so thankful we have the garden as it will ensure she’s getting the best possible veggies when each plant comes into season.

As I mentioned, we have gotten a few strawberries (and picked a ton from the orchard) and have been nibbling on some mullberries, but we are getting close to mother nature’s fruit frenzy as the wild black raspberries are close, as are the cultivated raspberries and blackberries we have.

I see wild elderberry flowers all over our stomping grounds and our planted varieties are doing great themselves so we should have plenty of elderberry syrup for fall/winter.

Our pear and apple trees are still growing fairly well, but they just appear to be growing up and probably won’t see any fruit for another year or two. The paw Paw’s are doing well enough, but as I planted them as an understory/partially shaded tree, they are taking their sweet time to grow. We’ve really come to fall in love with paw Paw’s so I’m trying (unsuccessfully) to be patient.

This weekend I got our woodland trails cut back so wifey and kids can get out and enjoy them on hot days. It’s always a bit cooler in the woods and I try to keep the trails 4-5′ wide so nobody wanders into poison ivy or makes it easy on the ticks and skeeters. I saw several mushroom varieties while cutting, but aren’t positive on ID’s, so we won’t risk it (I may research one of the varieties I found, but probably won’t remember until they’re gone).

My never ending battle with duckweed on the pond showed promise after I treated it last weekend. Then the rains came and greened it back up again. Ugh. I so despise the duckweed.

We have a couple different potato patches that seem to be doing pretty well. I just done want a repeat of our potato box I built last year that saw great green shoots, but nothing in the box. I took a hands off approach this year and hope to see some better results.

I suppose that’s a good update for now. Another hot week expected with weekend temps in the mid-90’s. I’ll do some work in the mornings, but I pretty much don’t work outside when the afternoons are that hot…unless it’s essential then I just take my time and hydrate like crazy.