Do you remember that moment that changed your life trajectory? How FFA changed mine.

It is pretty easy for me to remember what changed the path my life would go as I grew up. Having gown up in the middle of corn fields with a dad who lived vicariously through his children by letting my older brother start milking cows when he was 12, agriculture has always been part of my daily life. My dad is a large animal veterinarian. I remember riding with him on calls. I remember loving to go to the sale barn with him on Thursdays. Even though I hated holding the gate as he and my brother would tag pigs. And I would escape to the kitchen as fast as possible.

But that wasn’t what dictated my path. Actually, those experiences of growing up with few vacations because we had cows to milk or interrupted holidays because a farmer needed my dad to come help a cow calve or sow have piglets probably was more discouraging to me and my mom to have a career focused on agriculture.

Many still refer to it as the Future Farmers of America, but FFA change the trajectory of my life by preparing me for a career better than I could imagine. By the end of my sophomore year in high school, I knew FFA was my game changer. I was a good student. Straight A’s with a random B for the most part. I was in a sport every sporting season and thanks to being virtually the tallest person on the team, I always saw plenty of playing time. I wasn’t in search of my calling when I entered high school. And honestly, FFA wasn’t on my radar at first.

There is more to high school than just sports, regardless of how much fun it is to participate.

However, the agricultural education teacher and FFA advisor noticed I wasn’t signed up for ag ed classes. And he asked why. It was my brother’s thing, not mine. After all, my brother had just won the state proficiency award for dairy production as a junior. He was the one that milked cows every morning. He was the one that farmed the carpet in our basement when we were children. I was into sports. And I got good grades easily. I was not going to be focusing my life on agriculture.

But the ag teacher convinced me to try it. So, I dropped my foreign language (which I picked up later in high school so I could get into the college of my choice) and picked up “Intro to Ag.” It was a good decision. I participated in creed speaking and did dairy judging. And may I add, I beat my brother in dairy judging my freshman year when he was a senior. That was a long ride home from the University of Illinois.While you can show cows in FFA, there is so much more you get from being involved in vocational programs, regardless of how gifted and talented you are at school.

But what people don’t realize about that ag teacher unless you have had the luxury of having an ag teacher is that he was so much more than an ag teacher.

My freshman year I made it to the state finals for creed speaking. I didn’t win. I don’t even remember what I placed. But I do remember he took me to pick up the shoes I was wearing to prom. Yes, in rural communities freshman go to prom if asked by an upper class man.

I remember hours with him and my classmates going to ag sales career development events, parlimentary procedure contests, supervised agricultural experience interviews, public speaking competitions across the state in a Suburban we were sure would break down at any moment.

I remember eating more than him on more than one occasion when we would be at a restaurant.Where are all the women leaders? FFA gave me my first chance at leadership. How FFA changed the trajectory of my life.

I remember him telling me after I was the highest vote-getter for the officer slate at the end of my sophomore year that I was going to be the president of our chapter. And that people wouldn’t be happy since I was only going to be a junior and a girl. We had less than five girls in FFA in our chapter at that point. And people were not happy.

Being award the state FFA degree is sort of like being inducted into National Honor Society. Except harder. Why FFA changed the trajectory of my life.

And the thing about ag teachers is they are always your ag teacher. Even if they no longer are teaching your classes. Mine changed jobs after my sophomore year, but he didn’t quit supporting me. He took my calls no matter how late at night when I was trying to get my state FFA degree. He took my calls when I was debating a run for a state office. He offered me internships. He offered me advice. And he encouraged me to stay in agriculture. To veer from the course my parents and other teachers wanted me to go down that was focused on a major in math or finance or actuarial science. And I listened. And absorbed.

I was all in on ag by the end of my junior year. When it was time for college applications, I knew in my heart I had one place to go. Applied to the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois. No where else. I was all in on ag.Who wouldn't want the champion pen of FFA chickens? How FFA changed the trajectory of my life.

And as I look back over my college career where I changed my major just once and then once again changed course after the last heart-felt conversation with my beloved ag teacher, applied to graduate school. In agriculture, of course.

Today, I wonder what my life would be like if I hadn’t taken that intro to ag class. If I hadn’t signed up for that ag class. If I hadn’t taken a risk to do what smart kids weren’t supposed to do. If the ag teacher hadn’t encouraged me to sign up for ag class. But, never once do I regret the change of course. To have a career that mixes my passion, upbringing, and impacts every person that eats, nothing else can compare in my mind.

The friendships from friendly competition in FFA last a lifetime. Why FFA changed the trajectory of my life.

So, if you are wondering what type of classes your child should take in high school, don’t over look the non-traditional courses. The vocational, the arts, the ones that change lives. There is plenty of time for AP calculus and physics and chemistry and French. The book knowledge is needed too, but way too often we overlook the classes and programs that give us a life. Give us something more than just knowledge. These are the class that give our youth wings to be game changers in their careers and the leaders of their generation.

Learn more about FFA.

What Summer Is Like in Indiana

When school gets out don’t we all have all these grand plans. Well, when you are in the country of Indiana this is what ends up happening.

You get a puppy. Yes, he is a GoldenDoodle. His name is Moses. We call him Moe.

Our GoldenDoodle Puppy MosesBut then, you have to deal with a sad little Checkers. The puppy got a little bit more love than him.

Our Teddy Bear Dog, CheckersBut, soon he got over that little bought of jealousy. So, we went back to watching the corn grow…

Corn Irrigation

Like many of you, we spend a lot of time swimming. In lanes. While your parents melt in the stands with absolutely no beer sales at the said swimming meet.

Boo swimming the butterflyAnd all of this fun is then interrupted with the job. The thing that pays for tree houses that cost more than your first car.

New playset at the new houseHowever, who wouldn’t want to host foreign visitors on a two day tour prior to the World Pork Expo? I mean, seriously, it was awesome. Plus, I got to ride a barge on the mighty Mississippi River and see grain being loaded onto a barge.

Grain Barge on the Mississippi RiverAnd then it is back home to the quaintness of rural Indiana and lazy Saturdays.

Farm WindmillThe best thing about summer is the amazing nights you can spend outdoors with friends. On the 4th of July we had fun with friends and a sky that gave the fireworks competition.

Indiana July SunsetAnd just when you think your life can’t be any better, the corn starts pollinating. Did I mention I am surrounded by corn fields. Eyes have been watering for weeks thanks to all this corn sex…

Corn PollinationThen the letter comes. The letter with the class lists and school supplies. The list that means summer is over soon. The letter that makes you realize you have worked too much and played too little. The letter that makes you sad because you feel guilty for not spending enough time with your kids doing all these big fancy pants things that memories are made of. And then, your kids make you feel loved when you are up in your office having a little pitty party by yourself. My kids did it. They threw me a surprise tea/lemonade party.

surprise tea partyAnd I am going to just assume everyone’s kitchen table looks like mine. It will make me feel normal.

I am Failing as a Mother

Am I alone or do you feel like you buy 742 pairs of socks and instead of having any in your the top dresser door, they are just strewn about begging to be matched up with their long lost soul mate?

pile of unmatched socks

But instead of matching socks I spend approximately 264 minutes each week running my kids to dance and cheer leading…

little girl cheeringAnd swimming and soccer.

swimming practice

boy in swim cap

My efforts to reduce obesity in America. Actually, my kids feel like they spend so much time in the car they pretend we are living in the van.

sleeping bag in vanIt is as if the book, Sh*tty Mom, was written for me. Some days I wonder if they brushed their teeth, wore clean socks or the same pair they wore the last three days, and if we actually turned in homework or left it sitting on the counter. I am sure my kids look like there mother didn’t look at them before they jumped out of the door so she could race to her meeting 60 miles away more than I think.

girl dancing in the rain

boys dressed up for 80's day

There are days I am on policy conference calls while in car line at school or talking to the school nurse about some mysterious object stuck in my son’s ear during a business lunch. And when I can’t find my lipstick I should just check with my daughter, she probably has it one of her my purses she carries with her everywhere.

little girl putting on lipstickI swear my colleagues have to think I am lunatic. They are just lucky I am not taking notes with colored pencils and mechanical crayons…

colleaguesBut then I am reminded…dirty socks and crazy hair and lost homework and conference calls and business lunches really will not matter in a month or a year or even a decade. But making sure that my kids know they are loved by not only me, but a very gracious and merciful God is so much more important. And this weekend, it took my seven year old son reminded me of this.

He nonchalantly told me as he was trying to stretch the time before lights out that while he was playing football at our neighbor’s annual fish fry, he asked one of the boys if he believed in Jesus. The boy responded yes, but he doesn’t get to go to church a lot. Boo was relieved. The very next day as he was playing with a boy from down the road, he noticed a bible sitting in his room. He asked this boy the same thing. And got the yes reply. Once again he was relieved. I was shocked. Both of these boys are considerably older than my son. Both boys don’t go to school with him or even live next door all the time as they split time between their broken up parents. But, Boo didn’t worry one bit of what they might think of him or even that they would think anything of his question. When I asked him why he decided to ask them this question, his answer was simple. “Mom, I just want to make sure they believe that Jesus died for them so they can be in heaven with me someday.”

Let the children come to me...Luke 18:16Well, it doesn’t get anymore important than that. And while I will be hard on myself about my parenting flaws and guilty about not being everything I see other moms be, I can sleep a bit more sound at night knowing I have shared the love of Jesus with my kids and one day, hopefully not soon, they will be in heaven with me.

From Tractor Pulls to Swimming Pools

Summer is flying by…between the drought and the activities for the kids, I feel like I need another summer vacation!

County fair season is drawing in for a close for us. We have activities at three county fairs between here in Indiana and back home in Illinois. As if I don’t have enough going on, I might as well have commitments at three county fairs. Here in Indiana our State Fair starts next week. We have been to three county fairs and had some fun with pedal tractor pulls. The Princess even managed a full-pull!

Watch her in action too. Click on the link to see her video. Princess going for the full pull in pedal tractor pull

It’s hard to believe the amount of time we have spent at the pool for Boo’s swim meets and practice. In one meet he managed to finish first and last! I think he is loving swimming. Even though the season is over he still is practicing in our pool.

Boo Swimming 50 M FreestyleWatch him in action doing the 25 M indoors last week! Boo Swimming 8 and under Freestyle

Helping Kids with Friendships, Bullies, and Confidence

Some days I want to be that parent that keeps their kids home so they don’t have to encounter heartache, disappointment, and the pain of growing up. But, then what would I be helping my kids learn if I shelter them from anything that might hurt them. Today was one of those days. As I walked away from my son at VBS today as he was on the brink of tears because he is struggling with having friends, I kept telling myself this will make him stronger. Cue Kelly Clarkson.

Friends in no timeBut, I was on the brink of tears on the way home wishing for a cigarette and a six pack of beer. Wait, that doesn’t teach me how to cope either.

Instead I have spent the last hour praying prayers of thanksgiving for the blessing of friendships growing up. Friends who loved me for me. And then my friends in high school. The ones that when I see randomly today when I go back home feel as if we have never been apart. My college friends made me realize I wasn’t broken. They taught me to keep my chin high and not be wounded by hurtful things people who didn’t know me would say about me.

I will be honest, adult life has been a little more cruel in the friendship department. Which is why I probably ache even more for my dear boy. I know how your heart aches just to have someone make you feel loved for being you. I have been shut out, left out, talked about, put down, talked down to and scorn by people since leaving college. Unfortunately, many of these people are parents. And now, Leah is starting to get her groove back. I stopped worrying about what others thought or needed from me and started being me.

As we grow up, we realize it is less important to have lots of friends, and more important to have real ones.And then praying in turn for my son to find friends that will love him for just who he is, no pretenses, no false hopes, no mean spirits.

In the meantime how do you teach a seven year old to walk away from a bully who is making fun of him because he can’t catch a football as well as everyone else? Or how do you teach him that not everyone can be in the same group and sometimes you need to be in another group to be friends with another kid? How do you tell him that his friends are out there he just has to be patient.

FriendshipI know some of this problem has been caused by his mother. I work. Other people don’t always approve of the fact that some moms have to work or frankly choose to work. Sometimes our kids become the collateral damage.

But I can tell it impacts my extremely social kids when they rarely get calls to come play. Oh wait, maybe it is because we live in the middle of bloody nowhere 25 miles from the rest of civilization we go to school with…

I have been working on building my little dude’s confidence. Instead of playing baseball this summer and going to typical sports camps he is on the swimming team, doing summer reading and getting some tutoring help. Hoping that he has some personal feelings of accomplishment in the pool and hits second grade reading without any hiccups.

So far so good. He got moved up a level yesterday in swimming and registered to swim in two meets this summer. He is reading so well, he sends text messages for me when I am driving. Win-Win!! And to his pleasure, I am going to send him to a muli-sports camp. Mainly so he doesn’t fall completely behind on the playground causing more tears in the car on the ride home from school this fall.

Any pointers or tips to help this momma boost her boy’s confidence and self-esteem?


The Future of India

Those who traveled with me to India already know how enamored I was with the children.

They were beautiful.

Their faces are etched in my mind.

The eyes of these children were intoxicating.

The interactions with their own mothers made me miss my babies.

You wonder what they are pondering.

And wonder just how large the shadow will be for the children of India?

The Weeklong 7th Birthday Celebration

Boo turned seven a few weeks back, and I swear to you it felt like we celebrated for a week.

No, we did celebrate for a week.

Spoiled kid.

It started the morning of his birthday.

Which I think with the excitement he showed for the two gifts he got from us, we could have called it quits. Especially since my mom was over and gave him a bazillion piece Batman Lego set.

But, then it was on to his birthday supper with daddy’s family.

We have our semi to haul grain when we carpet farm in the basement now!

And we have manly shower gel. What? Doesn’t every 7-year old want Axe for his birthday and act this excited when he gets it?

And we blew out candles on the custom made Lego cake from Grandma.

But, then it was on to party at school the next day.

I think he really felt like he was the king for the day. But, we weren’t done partying with the school friends.

Yes, I actually planned far enough ahead to have a bowling birthday party.

And have a friend over night. I am not sure what happened in the back of the van on the way home from bowling, but both were missing shirts and one might have had a pink sock on.

And then we headed to the Beef House the next day to meet my family to celebrate.

And boy was it an unbelievable birthday week. Doesn’t that face say it all!

How to tell if a soccer goalie is bored?

For some reason boo really wants to play goalie all the time in his U8 soccer games. But, sometimes I don’t think he has the attention span for it.

Good game going on Boo? Ready to stop the goal?

He started a little more attentive.

Things were exciting down at the other goal for a while. A short while.

But then he noticed something on his show.

And all the activity remained down field.

And he remained paying more attention to the goal post.

But then the action changed directions…

Oh, oh, oh, we are getting closer to the goalie. I hope he isn’t still stuck in the net.

Wake up goalie!

Just a little lean on the goal post as his red teammate intervenes on defense.

And sends it back down field.

Go ahead goalie…assume your position.

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