Thursday, March 27, 2014


Do You Know What Your Kids are Doing?

My kids loved mud.  They loved the challenge of trying to get through mud on foot or on wheels.
When Trent was in first grade he had his friend Timmy over.  Timmy is a city boy that not only would never get dirty but didn't even know how you would go about getting dirty until Trent showed him the beauty of mud.
It was a beautiful spring day and they decided to walk to the woods behind our house.  They had been gone for some time and just about the time I was about to begin a search they came walking up to the house.  The mud was caked on them in clumps and it was from head to toe.  Although it was a beautiful spring day it was crisp and cool.  "Well boys you can't go into the house like that so I am going to have to hose you down outside"  I said to them.
They squealed like piglets when I sprayed them down.  The water turned brown as it dripped off along with the clumps dropping off.  When I finally got most of the mud off I realized that Timmy didn't have any shoes on his feet.  He was standing there in stocking feet.
"Timmy where are your shoes?" I asked him. 
"Well we thought we could walk out into the swamp because it didn't look too deep but when we started out into it I got stuck in the mud." Timmy replied.
"So where are your shoes?" I asked again.
"Well, the mud sucked them off and they are still back there in the swamp.  Trent saved me by pulling me out." Timmy replied.
"Trent!  Why would you take Timmy to the swamp? You know better than that!"  I said in a stern voice as I fought off a chuckle.  Trent was standing there in his knee high rubber boots. Proper gear for mud bogging walking style and Timmy's shoes are still back there in that swamp I am sure.

This fascination with mud advanced when we purchased quads for the farm.  My quad had four wheel drive while Trent's quad was only two wheel drive.  Often  times when Trent got home from school he would jump on his quad and travel across the block, through the neighbors woods to visit with our friends across the block.  If his sister Ashley wasn't too busy he would talk her into going with.  Sometimes his friend Logan would meet them half way in between in the woods.  In some areas it would flood out. Instead of avoiding this mud hole this posed as a challenge for them.  They never seemed to worry that they may drop a quad in that hole never to be retrieved from the mud.  No, they would take turns making it a challenge to try to cross the large mud hole.  Unbeknown to me they weren't worried because Mom's quad was four wheel drive with a great winch on the front.  When they couldn't get their quads out they would just use my quad to drag them out.  I often wondered why my quad was squeaky clean when I got home.  Now, I know.

As the years passed running quads through the mud was not challenging enough. We had bought the kids an old 1987 Ford Ranger stick shift pickup called Heidi to do chores with.  Ashley was only nine years old when we got the pickup.  She became very adept at driving and when she was only 12 or 13 years old probably the only one in her grade that could drive.  Trent was proud of this fact and the new challenge after school was to drive through the woods on the trails to the meet their friend Logan while I was at school working.  On the neighbors property there is a muck field.  If you don't know much about muck it is pitch black dirt that will suck you in if the conditions are just right.  Needless to say the kids thought it would be great fun to try to see if Heidi could make it through the muck field.  Ashley mashed the gas petal to the floor the motor screaming and the truck shook like crazy as they gave it all Heidi could give them.  All was going good until they hit a sink hole.  The front end dropped into the hole and the tires just spun slinging mud.  Trent jumped out and said, " No problem! I'll just go get the big four wheel drive log skidder.  It's got a huge winch on it. That thing can pull us out!"
So, that is exactly what they did.  At 10 or 11 years old my son Trent drove our log skidder, no small piece of equipment, across the road and pulled out Heidi. " We better power wash the skidder and truck off before mom gets home so she doesn't know."  Trent said to Ashley.

The mud fascination continued through the years. Trent and Ashley become very good at running equipment and maneuvering through the mud.  They were also good at washing off equipment and clothes because I continued to be clueless about what they were doing while I was at school working. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

When the Cats Away Mice Will Play

Some things about your kids you may either never know or find out later.

When Trent passed away our daughter, Ashley started confessing the many things that her and her brother did when they got home from school while I was obliviously working. 

"Remember that time you came home and you were pleasantly surprised that we had cleaned the dinning room floor?"  Ashley began her confessional. 
"Yeah... "  I cautiously replied waiting for the rest of the story.  
Then she proceeded with the story:
Ashley had a science project with a her friend Marissa who just happened to live across the block.  So they decided to work on their project at our house after school.  I was busy doing who knows what... curriculum meeting, correcting papers, cleaning my classroom, etc.  Marissa rode the bus home with Ashley and Trent to complete their project. 
The hypothesis that they were testing was which laundry detergent would clean dirty socks better; Tide or All.  I know you are thinking wow could they have thought of a more scientific project.  Well, I tried talking them into something more glamorous like dropping an egg from two stories high but they were middle school kids and wanted an easy project. 
This is the part of the story that I was to find out years later. 
Just as soon as they got off the bus they had to get themselves a snack. While they were doing this they came up with the idea that they should make sure that their socks were good and dirty before they try out the experiment.  So, they all including Trent, he couldn't be left out of the fun put on white socks and began dusting the floor with them.  That wasn't good enough so they decided to head outside in their socks. That would get them good and dirty.  All three of them headed outdoors in their socks and proceeded to run around the yard with the goal of getting their socks filthy. While outside they played fetch with our dog, shot hoops, and ran down the muddy lane. 
Ashley said that when they got back inside they had to decide how they were going to wash each sock separately. Finally they come up with the idea to use pans to soak each sock in the different laundry soaps. 
Being careful middle school children they accidentally spilled some of the water on the floor. Trent slipped on the water falling flat on his butt.
Now a few years previously I had pulled up carpet in the dinning room and we did not have a lot of money.  In a Better Homes and Garden magazine I read where you could paint a design on chipboard.  For several days I painted alternating blue and yellow squares with several layers of paint along with several layers of polyurethane on top.
When the kids spilled the water it created a very slippery  surface they discovered. 
This struck them as hilarious so they abandoned the laundry soap science experiment and came up with a genius idea of creating a slip and slide right there in the house. After pouring pans of water on the floor  they had a grand ole time sliding across the dinning room floor hitting the wall at the other end until it was about time for mom to come home.
Quickly they mopped up the floor not leaving any signs of their mischievous fun they had except for a shiny clean floor.  When I came home I was suspicious because very rarely did Ashley or Trent just choose to do housework without someone hounding them and of course the science project was not done but it was only a fleeting thought for I was excited that I had a nice clean floor. 
Now, years later I discovered what really went on when Mom and Dad were busy working. 
By the way there are many more of these stories.
So, next time you stay after school for a meeting or do classwork and you think your kids are home doing school work...hmmm... maybe or maybe not.   Or if your like me you could just think that your kids are perfect and always doing exactly what you tell them to do.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Spring Walk

When you go for a walk outside does it make you feel better?

It is finally spring and I went for a walk with my boys (Hoss, Mack & Timber our dogs).

As soon as I headed down the lane to the woods I realized that there is still snow piled up from the winter.  Hoss was excite he had already zoomed on ahead of me with his nose to the ground looking for any critters.  “Wait for me!”  I hollered to the dogs.

Hoss just turned around and looked at me like he was telling me to hurry up.

I tried walking carefully on the clumps of snow.  Sometimes I broke through and went up to my knees in the snow.  The dogs could just glide across the crusty snow without falling through.  I was thinking it’s a good thing that I wore my muck boots because it was either wet from the snow or muddy in the bare spots. 

While I trudged down the lane around the swamp I heard a bird chirping.  I stopped and looked around.  Right there in the tree branch was a robin.  Sure sign of spring!  He had a bright red belly and just sat there chirping loudly at the dogs.  Warning them not to come near him. 

Then I continued my hike back to the woods.  As I approached the woods I heard a loud, long screech almost like a person screaming.  I froze in my tracks and started scanning the woods looking for what could be making that sound.  Then I saw it.  A hawk was flying through the tops of the trees.  I realized that he had spotted me way before I had spotted him.   That was a warning to me.  Then just as quickly he was gone. 

 There were so many signs of wildlife.  In the mud there were turkey tracks everywhere.  Probably scavenging the field for any beans or corn kernels that Brad may have left behind during harvest.  Deer tracks peppered the ground competing with the turkeys for those harvest left overs. 

I also discovered that either the big boys have been traveling back to the woods when no one is looking or there is a bear back in our woods.  Just so you know the chances of having a bear in our woods are slim.  So, the big boys are really sneaky about exploring their surroundings. 

When I got back to the woods I could look at the whole farm from there.  I just stood there drinking in the scene.  It felt good to just get some fresh air even if the snow is taking it’s time going away.  Soon it will be spring and we’ll all be busy starting a new growing season. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Show Off

As I pull into the driveway at the farm tonight after work my dog, Hoss greets me.  He is leaping in front of my truck to slow me down. I put my truck in park and cautiously open the door.  Hoss has his head in the crack of the door wagging his whole body. 
"Stay down!"  I command him.  "You are a disaster!" I talk to him as he leaps in the air.
Hoss has mud caked on his belly and down his legs.  While I visit with Ashley and Jake in the office Hoss is trying to vie for my attention.  He rams his nose in my leg.  His nose is hard.  I reach down and pat him on the head because that is the only area that is not covered in mud. 
Someone pulls up and he starts barking with that shrill yapping.  He runs to the window leaping on the bench to get a better view all the while carrying on with that loud annoying bark.
"Hoss!  Stop!  Get out of here if you're going to bark"  Ashley yells at him.
So, quickly he jumps down and runs out the doggy door barking the whole way, the doggy flap slaps shut behind him.  Just as quickly he comes tearing back in the office hitting the doggy door with his hard nose and head in full force.  SMACK! the door slaps shut. 
Hoss bolts to the office chairs and takes a flying leap with mud dripping off his belly on to the fabric of the chairs. 
Simultaneously, Jake and I yell "Get Down!" 
Getting down quickly knowing that he is in trouble he throws himself down under the desk with a loud, long groan and lays his head on his paws.  Then from under the desk he looks up at me with those brown eyes.
"Your child acts like brat when you show up!"  Jake looks at me and says matter of fact.
I guess my dog just needs some attention.  I just wish he wouldn't wallow in the mud. 
Dogs.... hmmmm....... kids........ hmmmmm so many similarities.  :)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

OLW -Vision

Every year I set new year's resolutions that are usually unrealistic and I abandon after week two.  I was watching the NBC morning news and they featured Jon Gordon's concept of thinking of one word that would challenge yourself to change your life for the better. I was inspired.  After thinking long and hard about what my one word could be I chose one:  vision
Now, though I realize that I chose my word and like my past resolutions I've lost sight (no pun intended) of how vision was supposed to drive change in my life. 
After reading Robin's post: I first of all thought oh cool someone else is doing a one word challenge and then I started to feel guilty that I haven't risen to my personal challenge.  So, I started to reflect on why I chose vision and what that means to me. 
My life is divided in half: life before Tuesday, September 15th, 2008 when my son was alive which at the time was busy with life.  I can remember that day as vivid as if it were yesterday.  I stayed at school to get that endless work done and then filled my bag to a brim with work to do at home.  When I pulled in Trent came driving through on his quad gave me one quick wave and then down the trail he went.  I quickly changed, got the lawn mower out and tried to get our yard work done.  I was thinking the whole time "gol darn Trent for not stopping to see what needed to be done around the farm, he should be working."  That was my last vision I had with him that day was that one quick wave on his way by. 
Then there was my life after the moment that we realized that Trent was gone from us forever.   I began to realize what life is really about.  It's not the work....
I lost all of my perspective on the purpose of life.  Frankly, I was just a robot going through the motions of just surviving one day at a time.  The only thing that really mattered at all was my husband and daughter.  Anything beyond that had very little meaning.  One day turned into another day which turned into another day on and on. 
At the time I was teaching first grade and looking for a change.  When a 3rd grade position opened up I grabbed it up hoping that would be my motivation.  It helped a little but still wasn't enough.  I began to lose my confidence in my ability and didn't feel I was serving any purpose in life.  I realize now that I just needed some time to heal.  Looking back there were some moments that were good it was just difficult to see at the time when your vision is clouded with raw grief. 
That brings me to this year... 2014.  I needed vision!  I decided that it would be ok if I lived again.  Will I ever be the same? Never!  I am not that same person that I was before which, is difficult for many friends and family to understand but it is what it is and I can't worry about it.
I'm trying to look at things differently in life.  Remembering what the important things in life are.  I am embarking on new experiences that I was too busy or scared to attempt (one being writing about myself).  Lastly, the vision of the future: celebrating my daughter's successes in life, watching our business evolve to include our new son-in-law, being the best educator that I can be and someday seeing my Trent again. 
Vision according to the dictionary:


1. the act or power of sensing with the eyes; sight.
2. the act or power of anticipating that which will or may come to be: prophetic vision; the vision of an entrepreneur
3. an experience in which a personage, thing, or event appears vividly or credibly to the mind, although not actually present, often under the influence of a divine or other agency: a heavenly messenger appearing in a vision.  Compare hallucination (  def 1 ) .
4. something seen or otherwise perceived during such an experience: The vision revealed its message. 
5. a vivid, imaginative conception or anticipation: visions of wealth and glory.
So, thanks Robin for reminding me what my One Little Word is for 2014! 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Reading Emergencies

I've started this new book Reading in the Wild  written by Donalyn Miller. The part that really struck me was when she was talking about "reading emergencies".  Which is basically grabbing time to read whenever or wherever you can.  Always packing something to read when you go places so that if you happen to have a few spare minutes you can build up a reading life. 
While I was reading this book I was sitting in our truck with Ashley, Jake and Brad.  when I had gotten home from school Ashley wondered if I wanted ride along with them to look at a semi trailer they were thinking about buying.  So, wavering between sitting at home by myself and riding in a truck for 3 hours I decided that if I went with them I could talk Brad into buying dinner for me.  I ran to the house after quickly doing chores, changed my shoes and then quickly looked around me I grabbed two books for the ride.  Both books that I picked up for myself at our school book fair.  Of course I wasn't going to read two books but I just couldn't help myself.  I read in between conversations in the truck and while they were looking at the semi trailers. 
When I was reading this passage in the book about "reading emergencies" I realized something important about my reading life.  I carry a book just about every where I go so that I can grab some regular reading time in those spare moments of my busy life.  Often times I am carrying two books: one a professional book and the other one for pleasure.  As I come to this realization I look over at Ashley and she also has with her a novel with a cowgirl on the cover.  She also is prepared for a "reading emergency" carrying with her a book for pleasure that in her busy life she would probably never have time to read unless she carries it with her wherever she goes. 
It just seems so often that children's response to reading at home is that they are too busy and don't have time but I need to show them a peek into my reading life so maybe they will realize that yes they too can catch some reading moments in the most unsuspecting places: on the bus, waiting for practice to start, while riding with your dad in the truck, while they are eating breakfast, waiting for a doctor's appointment, etc. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014


Do you believe in luck or something giving you luck? 
Well, I don't know if I necessarily believe in luck but I'm afraid not to because what if there is such a thing?  I always make sure that horseshoes are turned up just in case my luck falls out the bottom.  I pick up pennies on the ground, "Find a penny, pick it up. All day long, you'll have good luck.".  If I see a black cat on the road I pray that it won't run in front of me and certainly never walk under a ladder because that may cause you bad luck.  I did break a mirror one time and that may have caused some of the bad things to happen in my life but I'm not sure.
As you can see I'm not going to hurt my chances of good because Lord knows I've had my share of bad luck.  I do have a necklace that I wear everyday and have since my son Trent died.  My friends gave it too me just a few days after his accident.  It's a silver necklace that is the size of a quarter and it has his initials engraved in it, TJCS(Trenton John Clair Shrontz).
It mostly just gives me comfort not necessarily good luck.  I can feel the initials on it when I rub it with my fingers.  The initials are getting fainter and fainter as each year passes.  When I first got it I would rub it whenever I was feeling like I couldn't handle the turmoil going on inside of me but now it's less and less. I guess I know it's just there and I can handle what got dealt to me.  (understand it? no)
The funny thing about this necklace is that I've almost lost it twice.  Once when the chain got so wore that it broke and the charm fell off.  Luckily I found it in my bedspread later that day after I had a bit of a panic attack. 
The second time I lost it was the day that my daughter Ashley got married.  I decided to take the charm off and put it on my bracelet so that I could wear a heart necklace.  It was a beautiful August day with a few clouds drifting lazily in the blue sky.  Ashley wanted to honor her brother that day because it was difficult to celebrate without him.  So, down the aisle she hung pictures of her and Trent as they grew up together.  Trent, though was there that day I am sure because just as the horse and wagon was bringing the bridal party down the lane to the ceremony site there in the sky was a cloud that was shaped like a heart.  Some people would say that it was a coincidence but not our family we were sure he was there with us!  Anyway as we celebrated the wondrous event into the early hours of the next morning  I discovered that Trent's charm was no longer on my bracelet.  The only thing that remained was the loop.  I was sure that it was gone and maybe it was time to let it go.  Resigned to that fact I was surprised when the neighbor girl was doing a once through the bouncy house (oh yes we had a bouncy house!  Our only daughter and only child we had one heck of a celebration!) checking for anything left behind and low and behold she found Trent's charm. 
Right away I put it back around my neck.  You can  call that luck or coincidence I'm not sure what but I'm not going to question it.  So, I will continue to wear Trent's charm until it's completely wore out, pick up pennies, avoid black cats, and make sure that my horseshoes are turned up so my luck won't run out. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Never Too Young

Another snow day!  I thought I would never say this but this is getting ridiculous.   We will be going through June to make up the days!
On the bright side of this snow day is I got to spend it with my grandson, Kassen. 
He has always had this obsession with books.  When he was only 10 months old he would sit in your lap to look at a book.  He is 15 months now and still has that passion for books.  Of course I had to nurture this and dug out all of my kids books from their childhood along with purchasing some. 
My enthusiasm spread to my daughter who also is reading to Kassen from her children's book collection that I had been accumulating for her. Not only that but she is constantly on the look out for good deals in the used book stores and second hand stores.  I have to chuckle when she proudly shows me her treasures.  Most of the books that Ashley chooses for Kassen are the classics that I had read to her when she was a little girl and now they are his favorites. 
Kassen Picks:  Brown Bear, Brown Bear
                         The Hungry Caterpillar
                         The Artist Who Painted The Blue Horse- along with several other Eric Carle books
                         Giant Machines
                         Foot Book
                         John Deere Farm
                         Itsy Bitsy Spider
                         The Little Blue Truck
He loves the farm and so I have to make sure that we have lots of books about tractors, trucks, combines, horses, sheep, cows or pigs. 
One evening their family was shopping in the mall.  As they strolled through the toy store Kassen giggled, pointed and babbled at the trucks, tractors, and other toys.  When they strolled into the bookstore and down the children's aisle he went crazy. He was reaching for them all, going absolutely crazy to get a hold of a book! 
I am just hoping that this will be an indicator that he will be a successful reader as he grows older. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Puppy Discoveries

The hint of spring is not only bringing out the animals at school but also here at the farm.
 Our rather large Mountain Bernese puppies greeted me at the door wagging their tails hoping I was there to spread some love amongst the brothers.  I soon was stopped dead in my tracks by the very pungent odor.  "Oh my!  Boys have discovered a skunk!"  Their only response was to wag their tails and leap straight in the air oblivious to the fact that they stunk to high heaven!  Let's just say they were very confused for a few days on why I wouldn't just give them a big bear hug. 
Puppy Discovery #1- Skunks.
This morning when our driver came to work like any other day he tipped the hood on the semi to check the oil and then quickly changed his mind because for there on the engine hissing at Mike was a rather perturbed raccoon. The boys decided when raccoons run that it's the chase is great fun.  I've heard of dogs treeing a raccoon but not "semi - ing" one.  Mike drove off thinking that the raccoon would just skedaddle out from under the hood when he got rolling.  When he arrived at the woods to load logs on the flatbed trailer there sitting on the deck was that same raccoon, no worse for wear.  The raccoon climbed under the cab of the semi and aboard the trailer for a chilly ride to a new destination  that is.....Dog Free!
Puppy Discovery #2 - Raccoons.
What will be next?

Monday, March 10, 2014

Writing Life

As I sit here waiting for my next conference at school it's quiet, too quiet.  I stare at a blank screen, drained from the day thinking what in the world am I going to write.
My reflection is on how this commitment to post a blog everyday has allowed me to grow as a writer. 
I realize now that I was making excuses to not write and that is exactly what happens with my students.  It takes work to write and any of the least resistance or set back gives us an excuse to quit.  When my son passed away I made it my mission to write everything that I could about Trent.  I worried that everyone would forget about him and not remember him anymore.  Then I began to worry that I would forget.  Forget what color eyes he had, his favorite foods, how he smelled, how his hugs felt... I had a journal to write down all the stories.  But I felt strange getting it out when my husband was around to write in it afraid he would ask and that I would upset him.  When I did get it out there was so much to write down, before I forgot, that it became overwhelming and I would just stare at it.  I bought a special pen thinking that would make it happen, that didn't work.  It was beginning to weigh on me and I felt that I was letting Trent down for not writing.  Finally,it just got easier to just not write.  Oh, I wrote in front of my students, even stories about Ashley and Trent but it was only occasionally.
Then at lunch one day at school I was having a conversation with some colleagues about funny stories in life.  As we were talking, Betsy shared with us about how she writes on her blog and that I should think about doing it too. Shortly after she helped me get started.  I wrote a few blogs my only audience was Betsy and Robin (Safe :) 
A few weeks ago I became frustrated with my students they were becoming stagnant in their writing and we were all loosing our enthusiasm.  So, when Betsy reminded me of the slice of life challenge in March I though Ah yes if I want my students to write more I need to write along with them. 
We were going through the motions of how to become a good writer but I never give them a reason to do it.
Now, that I have set up their blog they are excited to have others read their writing ... having an audience.  They are also excited when I read snippets of their quick writes everyday and share my connections that I have with their writing.  They love the feedback. Their class blog is: if you feel like checking it out.  It's a work in progress.  I have just a few kids type their quick writes as we have the time.
I am working through my writing demons along with my students.  I've come to realize there are kids that also have a difficult time writing about personal topics because of obstacles in their lives but if I can show them that I can do it hopefully it will give them the strength to write. 
I hope that people don't forget about Trent and more importantly I hope I won't forget those little things about him either.
Thank you Betsy for giving me that push that was well needed!
P.S. Trent's eyes were blue, he had a mole on his right upper lip like mine, he had dimples in his cheeks, he had blond hair, if you looked real close he had a few bits of asphalt left in his skin from a bicycle accident in 6th grade, he smelled like Old Spice Original (I know because I wear it everyday to remind me) and he had the most amazing hugs ever!  I wake up thinking about him and go to bed thinking about him.  I miss him more than anyone can imagine.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

A Visit to the Hair Salon

My daughter is always looking out for me: doing my bookwork, picking up sheep feed, making appointments... on and on.  I am so grateful for it, too. 
Thursday, Ashley informed me that she had made a hair appointment for Saturday.  "Cool!  I can't remember that last time I've taken time to get my hair cut." I told her.
"Yeah, me either and I have a uni brow going on that I need taken care of." Ashley replied.

 Saturday arrived, Ashley and I headed to the hair salon along with her two step kids, Audrie ,5yrs old and Kassen, 15 months old.
As soon as we walked in we recognized our neighbor Sandy who had her five year old granddaughter with her.  Audrie was excited to have another little girl to play with and Ashley immediately  sat down next to Sandy to chit chat.
 Meanwhile, I had a hold of Kassen who got his second hair cut and hammed it up!  He loved the clippers as they tickled his skin and he giggled and showing his adorable dimples.  

Then it was my turn... I took my seat and showed Beth, the hair stylist a picture that I had pinned on Pintrest.  Beth claimed she loved it and made double sure that was I wanted  since she was going to cut lots of hair off.  As she began to cut we gossiped about everyone in our neighborhood... the one that is getting a divorce and thinks that he is the local Rico Suave because he's lost 65 pounds and is hitting on every single woman in the area, the ex-wife that Beth saw crying at her picnic table down by the road while walking her dog and how her son will be turning 21 in just a few weeks. 
The kids were running back and forth in the salon, and Beth ignored it all and kept cutting.  Ashley and Beth reminisced about the old days, Beth kept cutting.  Kassen  run back and forth playing peek-a-boo with me, Beth kept cutting.  Audrie and the other little girl were giggling with each other , Beth kept cutting.
Then Beth was done.  Let's just say it's a good thing hair grows back!

We all left the hair salon with hair cuts and our eyebrows waxed...  now that's another story!  Mission accomplished.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Playing the Accordion

Something that most people don't know about me and would probably be surprised!

My grandpa Minarik was born in Czechoslovakia and then came to Michigan when he was a small boy.  For entertainment his 13 brothers and sisters along with his parents would dance to polkas and waltzes.  He learned to play the accordion and became very accomplished at it.  When we were kids he would often get his red and ivory peril accordion out to play a lively polka such as the "Beer Barrel Polka" and we would dance around the kitchen.  It was amazing to watch him play it, tapping his foot, running his fingers over the ivory keys on the one side and pushing the buttons on the other and at the same time stretching the bellows out as far as they would go, then squeezing them back together.  He would be singing along with the song and it seemed so easy for him.
My mother carried on the Czech. tradition as well.  My grandpa bought her a beautiful accordion that she would occasionally play.
So, I think after my older sister learned to play the piano successfully my grandpa assumed that I may have been born with a musical bone like my sister.
I can still remember the day my grandpa took me to the back room in their house to show me a surprise that he had for me.  Naturally, I was excited so when he started to pull the suitcase out from under the bed I knew what it was going to be.  He opened the suitcase to reveal a shiny black and white accordion.  It looked so beautiful in the box.  There was red velvet lining in the box that made that black and white accordion stand out even more.  I ran my fingers over the peril ivory keys and the rows of bellows.
My grandpa explained to me that it was a very expensive instrument but that he thought that I would enjoy learning how to play the accordion like he did. 
My mom took me for lessons along with my sister.  She learning piano and me the accordion.  It was difficult and I struggled.  My mom had to nag me to practice. The room that we practiced in was the dining room which was the center of our hundred year old farm house.    When my sister practiced the piano it was pleasant and enjoyable to listen.  When I practiced the accordion, doors closed and everyone disappeared.  It was hard for me to coordinate the bellows with the keys and the buttons.  I wanted to give up and my mom would not let me.  Worse yet the older I got the more I had to keep it a secret from my friends at school.  The definition of cool did not include playing an accordion.  I was sure that if anyone found out I would be made fun of and it would be the end of any kind of social life at all!
My grandpa would come over and insist I get my accordion out to play a lively polka or waltz for him.  He never said a bad word about my ability in fact he would be grinning ear to ear as if I played the most Divine song.  This didn't help!
Finally, after several years my mom gave up and let me quit.
Now, this should have made me happy but I knew that I had probably disappointed my grandpa.  He of course never said so but I was the only grandchild that was provided with this opportunity to carry on his old world family tradition that.
I still have that accordion that my grandpa bought for me so many years ago.  My grandpa passed away almost 15 years ago. That tradition has since faded.   I've had fleeting thoughts of getting that accordion out and give it another whirl. 
Hmmm... I guess it's never too late. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Late night winter lambing

Pulling on my carhartts, muck boots, knit hat and gloves I prepare myself for the blast of cold air.  The boys (our farm dogs) greet me at the door hopping in the air excited that I've come out to play.  I trudge down the long driveway in the dark with only the moonlight to guide me.  The  snow crunching underneath my boots and the huffing of the boys are the only sounds in the dark of night until I get around the corner of the pasture where the girls (my ewes, girl sheep) start bleating hoping that they will get a midnight snack of grain. 
The boys won't leave me alone... grabbing my gloved hand just as if they are guiding me down to the barn and throwing themselves down in front of me trying to get a pat on the head.
Finally, I reach the barn door.  I listen carefully as I get closer for any sounds of the small bleating of a new born lamb. 
I don't hear anything so I click on the light and scan the pen for any signs of a mama ewe giving birth or a baby lamb laying in straw. 
A ewe is standing in the corner and turns to look at me and gives me a low blat in her throat.  Right there nestled in the yellow straw is a damp, pitch black lamb.  "Awe what a good mama"  I talk softly to her as I pull open the gate walking into the pen. 
She turned back to tend to her baby licking the clear sack off the baby, talking to it the whole time.  As I take a step closer I realize that she doesn't just have one but there are two.  The other is standing a bit wobbly as it searches for the ewe's teat and the mama is talking low, nudging it with her nose. 
"Yes, your a good 'ol mama"  I talked to her as I scooped them up to get them settled into a lambing pen with a heat lamp that will keep them cozy as the cold weather blisters outside the barn. 
"Come on, boys!"  I shoo them out of the barn pulling the door closed behind us. Then I trudge back to the house, tired but satisfied that I've got two new lambs to add to the herd.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014



What you wear on your feet define you.  Trent, my son, was wearing a size men's 11 when he passed away at 15 years old. 
He loved his Red Wing lace up leather boots.  He got them that summer in Grand Rapids at one of those once a year Red Wing deals, buy one pair and get one free.  So, Trent talked his dad into going.  All the guys from the farm went.... Trent, His Dad (Brad), Nick and Kraig. He was feeling more like a man to be included in those rare men shopping trips.   Lucky for Trent his Dad couldn't find a pair that he wanted so that meant he got two Red Wing boots. 
You might be asking what is the big deal about Red Wing.  Well, as it was explained to me by Trent... they are made in the USA (not Japan like all the other boots) and they have a life time guarantee.  "Really mom, they will replace the souls for free when I wear them out!"
 "Of course, Son!"  I replied back.
Trent wore them everywhere... riding dirt bikes, pitching manure, working in the fields, shopping, even at school while everyone else thought that it wasn't cool.  Oh, he had tennis shoes but they were rarely worn.  I think he even would have slept in them if I allowed him.
They were his trademark and he was proud of that fact.  They defined him.  He was a country boy to the core.  He thrived on getting your hands dirty and getting the job done!
Those boots were well worn in when he passed away.  The toes were wore through so you could see the shiny steel toe peeking out.  The laces were tied together on one of the boots.  The leather was no longer just one color, it was darker in some spots where grease, oil or worse manure had saturated it.  The heels were starting to show some wear with some of the deep groves no longer aggressive but smooth from gripping the pedals on his quad or dirt bike.  Whew! You could smell the pungent odor of the insides of them from a room away but that didn't seem to bother him.  He just grinned.
Yes! those boots defined Trent... comfy in his boots.. proud to be a country boy!