Monday, July 25, 2011

My Fair Lady

Last fall when Steve's parents obtained their herd of Red Angus, we began discussing the possibility of the boy's taking bucket calves to the fair as a 4-H project.  In the midst of the conversation, I (lovingly yet seriously) shot Steve one of those looks.  Not the looks that can sometimes be mistaken for flirting, but the ones that clearly say, "You are going to be in charge of this, right? You will rescue me, right?"  

I mean, the closest I ever came to taking an animal to the fair was when I wore an itchy wool sweater for my 4-H fashion project.  And, all of my bouts of sentimentally driven motivation for learning about horses, motivation that was born from hours of watching Flicka and Black Beauty with my sister, were quickly shot down by my father whose years of experience in banking wasn't about to make a purchase that would end up on the wrong side of the balance sheet. Those are his words, not mine.  What did a balance sheet mean to an eight year old anyway??  I get it now.  He was right.  Again.

I'm a new kid on the block...or road, the dusty gravely type, when it comes to cows. But, I'm open to learning, to taking on the new challenges that come with being a farm wife.  And, I will stand by my farm until I learn the ways of raising a bucket calf.  I think this lady could teach me a thing or two, but I'm not feeling up for lessons today, thanks.
Happily, praise the Lord happily, I have had a lot of help from Bob and Steve, and the boys are doing a fantastic job with every aspect of their new hobby. To fill you in on the details, I invited my son, Andrew, to share a little bit about his experiences so far....
My name is Andrew Husband.  I am 8 years old, and this is my first year in 4-H.  My project this year for the fair is bucket calves.  My calf's name is Rosemary.  She is a Red Angus heifer.  The reason why I wanted to do the bucket calf project is because I've never worked with a calf or a cow before.  I knew that it would be a new experience for me.  Some of you may be wondering how I got my calf.
My grandpa Bob has a herd of Red Angus cattle.  One day, my dad, my brother Ben, my cousin Ethan, my grandpa Bob and I decided to pick out our calves for the fair.  We went out to the herd, and I chose mine because I thought it was the smallest calf.  Usually the smaller the calf, the easier it can be to tame and train it, especially if it's a heifer.  
Even though mine wasn't the smallest, I was happy.  
After we took our calves from the herd and coaxed them into the trailer, we made a pen for them.  
At first, I thought I would name my calf Dr. Pepper, but then I thought that sounded more like a boy's name.  So, I just thought of Rosemary, and that's what I decided to call her.  Most people think that it's a cute name, but I think it's a GREAT name! 
Next, we began feeding them milk, fresh hay and water.  Eventually, my dad said that they didn't need the milk any more.  We replaced the milk with corn and a mixed grain called sweet feed.  Benedict and I go out to feed them three times a day.  It's been very hot so we have to be sure that they have plenty of water.  The more they grow, the more water they need.

A few weeks ago, we tried to put a halter on them, but it was too big.  So we bought the smallest size, and it fit!  
The halter fits around the calf's head.  It has a small chain on it that I hook a rope to.  
The rope is used to lead the calves around.  When you pull on the rope, it puts pressure on the calf's jaw so that they follow you around.  
It tells them that you are the boss and they should follow you! 
Rosemary lets me pet her, and sometimes I like to play around with her by putting my hat on her head.  
It looked very funny!
The Finney County fair is this weekend.  I will take Rosemary there and show her to the judges.  Stay posted to see how Benedict and I do at the fair!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Charles at 3 Months...

Dear Charles,
My beautiful sweet boy, how big you are growing!  How could it be that these past three months have flown by so quickly?  I often think of that day when you surprised me, the day you snuck into the world unexpectedly.  Are you going to be my child of surprises??  What a wonderful gift you have been to our family.  Your brothers love you so very much and shower you with hugs and kisses of adoration...
When they wake up in the morning, the first thing they do is run to find me asking, "Mom, where is Charles?" Often you are still asleep and they gather around your resting place whispering, waiting for you to open your little eyes.

We all have little nick-names for you.  They are said with so much affection and humor.  Butter Bean, Sugar Bear, Puddy Lumpkee (we chant that one when nibbling on your toes, smooching your cheeks and tickling your tummy - you are irresistible!). Just the way Henry says your name with that certain twang, it sounds like "Charlay" and makes us all laugh!
So often people ask me, "How do you do it?" Inside I smile, if they only knew how undone my home, my life is. So many days my "to do" list is terribly long, and yet it seems that one of the great mysteries of family life is how God gives us the grace to get just enough of those "to do" things done so that we can spend more time just "being" with each other.  There will always be things to do, but not always moments to be experienced.  How freeing it is to embrace those moments of just being together.

I love the time I get to sit and nurse you.  You always reach up to hold my hand, and then I feel peaceful and calm and connected to your precious little soul.
The other day at the grocery store a woman peeked under the umbrella of your car seat and sighed saying, "Oh, you didn't get your girl did you?"  I wanted to cover your ears.  I hope you never, ever listen to what anyone says about you being the youngest of five boys, unless their words are positive.  We want you, Charles.  We love you.  God gave us you.  We are blessed by you!

Soon your little feet will be walking, then running, then wanting to go places....I wonder sometimes where these feet will take you, who you will grow up to be, what plans God has for your life.  How desperately I wish for time to pass slowly, so that I can savor every minute with you and your brothers.  You will never know how much joy you have given your father and me!!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Workin' With Daddy

Yesterday morning, the rhythm of the breakfast kitchen was fast-paced and upbeat.  With spoons clanking against bowls overflowing with cereal and buzzing conversation about wrestling camp, errands to be run and the number of wheat straw circles still to be baled, I knew that the day would not disappoint all of our ambitious spirits.  

As the older boys dashed out to feed their calves, one little fella snuck away and emerged from his room proudly announcing that he was dressed and ready to go to work with daddy.
Pitter-pat went my heart.  How could I say no?  Steve was already out at the shop dispatching the help, so I went through my usual litany of instructions: Be very careful walking over to the shop, don't climb in the tractors without dad's permission, listen to your father....etc., etc.  In the midst of my lecture, I was smitten by his cuteness and the beauty of his innocence.  

Sometimes we mommas just have those moments when as we gaze upon our babies time seems to stand still as we are captivated by the precious beauty of their sweet souls. Those are the moments that we want to savor, to hold on to and to lock away in our memory like priceless treasures to be unwrapped and admired when our kiddos are grown and moved away.

Then, something usually happens to snap us out of the moment...something like this....
And, then it's back to reality. The glittery bubble of harp-serenading angels that were just surrounding me bursts and I remember that I'm the mother of 5 boys.  5. Boys will always do gross things. Things girls will never like.  Or understand.  Or be able to fix, no matter how much we complain or bribe or reason or cry.  Sigh.
Then, we went about our usual good-bye routine.  He looks over his shoulder and waves every few yards saying, "Bye mom!"  To which I reply, "I love you, Henry!"
Then, I heard him shout, "I'm coming, daddy! I'm comin'!"  Pitter - Patter.

Monday, July 4, 2011

An American Classic

Happy Independence Day, everyone!!! I just got back from a crazy week + weekend of taking all five boys with me to Topeka to visit family while my oldest son, Benedict, went to Camp Tekakwitha. Even though I'm exhausted and want to hibernate under the covers, my kiddos are bouncing off the walls with firework excitement.  So, as they bounce, I might as well blog!
Thinking about the 4th of July always pulls me into a state of nostalgia.  I can't help but think of our troops, the brave men a women who won our freedom so long ago and those who continue to sacrifice to protect it. While the cultural and political climate is terribly hot right now, I hope that today Americans will pause to consider what is great about our country and be thankful, truly thankful.  Not just today, but every day - and live in relation to that gratitude.
I've always believed that the heart and soul of our country has little to do with the big name celebrities and politicians that we are so fascinated with and everything to do with the every-day people in our communities.  People who do the ordinary things in life extraordinarily well.  From teachers to farmers to waitresses to bus drivers.  They are truly the face of America.
Last week I met one of those "ordinary" folks.  His name is Cliff Rein, and he has been a barber for 52 years.
When we moved to the Garden City area last fall, there was so much work to be done, I had little time to line four boys and a dad up for hair cuts.  So, I sent them all to town for the trim.  They came home all spiffied up with wonderful stories about this man named Cliff who used to cut Steve's grandpa Jim's hair (for 50 years!).  I knew I wanted to meet Cliff, and he was gracious enough to allow me to come into his shop and take pictures and ask questions.  It was such a fun experience!
Going into Cliff's shop is a bit like entering a time capsule.  Though he's been cutting hair for 52 years, he's only been in his current location since 1973.  The experience is similar to eating at a diner that is a complete dive.  You go there for the food, and the food is so good there's simply no need for impressive atmosphere.  Such is the case with Cliffs.  When you are guaranteed a darn good hair cut,
great conversation,
and the attention of a genuine soul, why remodel??
In fact, the aged signs on the wall give it a kind of vintage flair.
I thought this one was touching.  Unlike most places that put up random signs like "No checks, please" and "Closed on Mondays" on faded paper with loads of scotch tape, Cliff framed his neatly written note.  Cliff is just plain classy.
And, there are a couple of other stand-outs that suggest that Cliff's mane mastery was achieved in a different era.  Like this blue-goo, here.  Pretty sure I've never seen that stuff before.
Interesting.  Hair tonic that looks like a refreshment you would find in the refrigerator at Quick Trip.  What exactly is hair tonic anyway??


Did he use Jeris Hair Tonic or Stephan Super Hold Stay Styled Gel (say that 5 times fast)? Hmmm.
A striking resemblance, don't you think??

Anyway, I think he put some of those goodies in the boys' hair.
Ladies, if you have sons with wild cowlicks, I can totally hook you up with some of Cliff's products! 
Despite being 81 years old and on his feet all day, Cliff never misses a beat.  He takes his time with each hair cut.  No doubt he still uses the same techniques he learned at barber school just after being stationed at Fort Bragg during the Korean War. 
When asked how he came to be a barber, Cliff just smiled and honestly told me he didn't know what he wanted to do after the war was over. So, he decided to join his brother-in-law at barber school.  They were offering free tuition to all armed forces men and women after the war.  The cost of a hair cut back then was $1.25.  Today, Cliff charges $15.00.
I asked him when the last time he raised his prices was.  He responded with a sneaky grin, "I raised them three years ago when we elected a new president, and I knew I wouldn't be a recipient of the stimulus money."  He refers to Sarah Palin as Aunt Sarah and is eagerly awaiting the next election.  Ahem. 

The pace of the shop is slow. I like it. A lot. 

The gentlemen who came in after us found a seat, a manly magazine to flip through (Field and Stream and Guns and Ammo seemed to be tops) and joined in on the conversation, which of course centered around farming, sports, the weather and politics.
Those who couldn't read, or sit still for a trim napped (on the cool retro turquoise chairs).
And others (no names mentioned) who refused to read, didn't need a trim and wanted only to spin themselves back to the 50's in Cliff's chair were assuaged by other novelties.  Sweet ones.
An hour and a half later, with a mess of blonde snips and Dum-Dum sucker wrappers carpeting the polished checkered floor, we emerged from Cliff's smiling.
And, thankful.  Thankful that Cliff Rein still likes to cut hair, hasn't remodeled, has a large sucker stash, doesn't mind having a crazy lady take a gazillion pictures and pummel him with questions, has proudly served our country and continues to do something that seems so ordinary extraordinarily well.
God Bless Cliff, and God Bless America!!