so grateful

I wrote this text as an email to my friend Dorothy. I'm going to cut and paste it here because I am so exhausted. I can hardly see straight at the moment and need to go to bed....

Oh we are so thankful. Our hearts are full and touched by all of the help that showed up this weekend. And our hearts are heavy and hurting for all the loss around us. We lost six oak trees, each that was 200-300 years old. Huge, beautiful oaks. You can see the gap above our barn that used to be filled with two giant oaks, both twisted on the ground now. We have friends who lost nearly every tree on their acreage. And yet their home and garage are completely fine. It feels quite miraculous as none of our neighbors had major damage to their homes from falling tees. And yet everyone lost old, old oaks and hundreds of trees through the neighborhood.

The loss of landscape is so sad, but the truth is, Friday and Saturday turned into total parties. We never had a moment either day when there wasn't someone here. And we got so much done! Saturday we had 60 people come through, all ready to help or bringing food. Uncle Jake brought his cherry picker, Uncle Carl was on the barn building a temp roof with Rory over the stairwell, Aunt Louie and Aunt Annie brought enough lunch to feed 40, Sarah and Brooks and Jessica and Dan all came with kids and trucks were flying all around pulling out branches, moving loads to the massive burn pile. I had a friend from my homeschool group come with her family and her neighbor's came too. Our friend's Randy and Jake showed up and cut up oaks, hopped on the roof and pulled big branches with their 4 wheeler. The kids were all holding kittens and shucking corn for fun. That night we had the young adults from our church for 2 hours of help, a big shared lasagna meal and then we had barn worship in the upstairs under the stars. It was so great.

And the churches in our town have been incredible. Saturday morning I got a phone call from a friend Bonnie asking if she could bring a hot lasagna meal for dinner on behalf of Canvas Church. She said, "and how many are we feeding tonight?" I said, "well, we have six in our family..." And she said, "yes, but what about your help? Can I bring two pans of lasagna?" It was so amazing! Showed up and I was able to feed a crowd with salad and garlic bread and apple cider and brownies! 

Sunday we went to our good friends and neighbors who were the ones who lost nearly every tree. They are close friends and we decided to all stay home from church and have a house worship together on their porch. It was really special. We ate lunch together and talked through the next few days and it was just so good. And Rory and I got to take hot showers there because they had their water hooked up to the generator. Which was AMAZING. Then we came home, and I took a nap while Hattie and Alden napped. And when I woke up I was over it all. Total mood change. Exhausted. Overwhelmed. So tired. But Rory had big plans for us to lay poly sheeting on the barn floor together, getting it just so. And it wasn't our finest hour! It was our 13th wedding anniversary and I seemed to think we should be doing something a little less practical and a bit more romantic. But he is a good, wise farmer, pressing on until we have things set for the rain Monday night. 

In the end he took me to Culver's, but his parents (who were babysitting for us) saw the unflattering side of me. Tired, crabby, exhausted. And disappointed because we discussed how we can't go to St. Louis this weekend, as we had planned. So I was frustrated and bummed. And did I mention, tired? Though the power did come back on when they were here, which was great! We had gone 3 nights and 3 days without electricity or running water (toilets were the greatest challenge...)

Rory assures me we'll celebrate the big year number 13 another day. 
And now I'm off to bed.

Again, we are so grateful that we were kept safe, as well as all of our neighbors. We needed your prayers in that moment. I know that for certain. We just started saying Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. And he held us.

a very scary night

There are many in our town who lost their entire barn. Many who lost many of their out buildings. This is just our property and what happened to us. I walked down our road today and saw all of our neighbor's trees on the ground and then I got very emotional. It's hard to have this happen. I still haven't heard for sure if it was a tornado, but I think it had to have been. It doesn't really was so destructive.

Also, I praise God that we are all okay. And our neighbors too. At one point last night I was in the pack-and-play in the basement, under the stairs with Elsie, Hattie and Alden. Rory and Ivar were standing right beside us. And I was trying to mentally prepare myself for laying on top of my three little kids in that little pack-and-play if things began whipping around us. That makes me emotional to type. Because it was that scary and it felt that possible.
Thankfully it didn't come to that. In the end, we lost the roof of our barn and many, many trees. We have a lot of clean up ahead, like everyone around us. But we are safe! We are still without power and at the moment my dad is watching the kids so I could get to a coffee shop to get these pictures up. I know that is so silly, but it felt important to me to get these up.
We have scripture covering the walls of the upstairs of our barn. And I loved reading them today. Each promise is as true this morning as it was last night as it was yesterday morning. God's Word never passes away.
Drop us a line if you're handy with a chainsaw. We'd be so grateful. Anytime over the next week, I'd imagine. There are so many places that need attention...
I've gotten the sheep back in their fence two times already today. And now I've given up! They can graze the garden and eat my raspberries. We have fences that need mending, apparently. And I like them wandering around. They are peaceful and quiet in the midst of all that is undone around them.
That's the half of the roof back in the woods. The other half is way further back. How in the world are we going to get that out? One day at a time. That's all I know! Rory ordered the roofing materials today and they said it will be many weeks before they come in.

Again, we are thankful to still have a barn. Thankful to have incredible neighbors and friends. My friend Jenna dropped off soup, bread and cookies at 9:30 this morning. We ate them immediately! Another friend JJ came with her kids and she watched my kids while her husband Alex started chainsawing with Rory. Rory's dad was here at 7:30 helping get the generator running. And my dad came this afternoon now. We've had neighbors stop by and other friends checking in. There is nothing like friendship and family in these moments. I feel that so profoundly right now. Thank you God for community and caring neighbors.

the third cutting

Monday morning we woke up a little groggy after a huge weekend of parades, candy, volunteering and Jesse James. Rory went to work at half day at the butcher shop where he is working part time to learn more about processing our animals. And I loaded the kids up to purchase baling twine at the Case Dealership and to pick up the fixed PTO shaft at the Foundry. We got home at the same time as Rory and it was time to hit it. I made a quick lunch of brats and smashed potatoes and we were off. Rory went to see if the fixed shaft would fit in the baler. I began putting babies down for naps.

Rory came in a bit later and said he was using degreaser to clean out the shaft...the part was too tight in there. He couldn't get it to go in. He was so discouraged. But I looked at him and said, "We are baling that field today! This is the day we're doing it. And when we go to bed tonight there will be a whole lot of small square bales piled in that barn." He said, "How do you know that? You can't actually know that." And I said, "I know it because for the next 10 hours all we are going to be doing is working on that field together." And that's exactly what we did. Eventually he did get the shaft hammered into place and then he felt a little more confident that the day may turn out well.
First we got the rake hooked up to the tractor. Attaching implements is quite the tedious job. But we got that pin slid through the holes and then Rory was off. This rake comes from the farm my mom grew up on. My Uncle Jake is letting us use it until we find one of our own. I have been wondering which of my uncles and if my grandpa used this rake. We are so grateful for it!
And then we got the baler hooked up. And it worked!!!! This is the first bale that popped out of our baler and the dancing and shouts and fist pumps made for quite the celebration. Little bale, you made our day.
 Every so often the twine wouldn't tie and Rory would hop down and fiddle with this and tighten that and then it would work great for more bales until it didn't work again. It meant that I got to help spread out the hay again for the baler to run over for another attempt of being tied into a tidy bale.

I also would like to say that at about 4:00 I went in the house and my kids were ready for a mother to come and settle a few things. Mostly their stomachs. So I made dinner while our neighbor Gary went to get more gas for us. Neighbors are the best. And I got all kids situated after blueberry pancakes. The big kids were done with the little kids, so the little kids got to come with me to help spread out the hay stacks.
They were pretty good sports about it. I just kept feeding them apples and graham crackers. And they made for fun company. They were quite thrilled to see their dad going by. (We never were actually very close to him...)
 Even the cat came along for a while.
Then it was time for Hattie and Alden to go to bed and that made things a bit easier. When I was walking the babies to the house my neighbor Maureen saw me and I told her I was so dog tired. Every part of my body was exhausted. And she hollered back, "Sweetland, Becca!" And her saying that was like a reset for me! It was so wild. That movie has the scene where the husband and wife are working together to get in their harvest. And that's what we were doing. I decided to muster up more energy. Plus it was the glorious part of the evening when the light turns everything to gold. And Ivar and Elsie still had loads of energy, partly thanks to their Jesse James parade candy...
 Ivar and Elsie played in the back of the truck and later I found a bazillion pictures of Elsie being silly.
And of me, stretching out my back. It hurt so, so bad. I lay like this for half an hour while we let Rory finish the field. And we backed the baler safely into the barn with the truck (implement detaching and reattaching) and parked the tractor so we could head into the field and gather up our bales. Our friend Jeff came at just the right moment to help load them up. Elsie and I drove in the cab and the boys worked in the back. The sky was black with stars when we were done. And another sweet memory was made.
We made serious progress this cutting! We raked AND baled ALL BY OURSELVES this time! Our last frontier will be to cut the field. The first cutting was all about learning how to drive the tractor. The second cutting was learning how to use a small square baler (our neighbor's). The third cutting was using our own rake and our own baler.


I told Ivar, "Ivar, Your dad is learning all of this so that one day you can call him up and say, 'dad, I need your help.' And he'll come figure it out with you and together you'll know what to do."

school is back in session

This year I am using a curriculum called My Father's World: Adventures in United States History. I chose this curriculum for Ivar's 2nd grade and Elsie's 1st grade because every mom I ever mentioned it to always said, "Oh, the year we did that was one of my favorite years. There's so much good stuff in that year." And I can totally see why! 

Every week we are studying a different slice in US History through extensive books lists they recommend based on each topic. The books have been fantastic and we are learning so much.

This also means that I depend greatly on getting the recommended books from the library from week to week. When I realized this early in August I made a crazy decision. I decided to start our home school on August 13th, three weeks before Labor Day. I didn't mention this to many people because I remember last year a friend told me she was starting early and I felt behind before I began! But this just worked best for us this year (we needed routine!) and it means I have returned our library books two weeks before other mom's using this curriculum would need them.
Our first week was on the Vikings. I was supposed to buy student sheets for each kids to color, but I was too cheap and decided I could probably figure out what they wanted us to do and then make up our own sheets. Part of the curriculum is to make this timeline on the wall and it was supposed to be clip art included in the student sheets, but because I didn't have them I asked Ivar, my awesome artist, to draw a scene instead. What he comes up with each week is so, so awesome. (All based on the pictures from the beautiful books from the library.)
For the record, this timeline may be up on my walls for the rest of my life. And in my room at the nursing home when you come to visit me in my 90's.
It's been a pretty great start this year. I absolutely love the curriculum we are using. That is just such a gift. Soon we will begin studying each state and the national parks that are in that state. And each day we begin with a lesson on all the different names for Jesus. Then the science lesson corresponds to that name for Jesus. This week we are learning all about Light, and talking about what it means that Jesus is the Light of the World. Next week we learn about The Bread of Life and learn about yeast. It's just so rich and fun and creative.
This was our first day of school. That week set the stage for learning all about America, hence these little graham cracker flags with cream cheese, jam and frozen blueberries. I improvised with what we had on hand! Also, our dress code might be a wee bit lax at this school...
Other than that, I am still pretty minimalist when it comes to supplies and materials for home educating. I got a bin for each kid to keep their own books and supplies in because I remember LOVING my tote tray in my elementary classrooms. And the big kids love it too. Hattie keeps 3-ring binders (that match Ivar and Elsie's) toys, crayons, picture books and left over snacks in her bin and Alden really loves to crawl in and out of his bin.

So we're off on the right foot! Two years ago I began this home school journey quiet leery and uncertain about the whole thing, but I'm so grateful we are doing this now. It's really exciting to watch my kids learn and so rewarding to choose this path each day. There definitely are challenging moments, but the rewarding moments far outweigh those other ones. Mostly I like that we are all together.

so precious

It wasn't until the very end of the night that I had the enormous realization of what a gift I was surrounded by. My four kids had just spent the afternoon playing and eating and getting melted m&m's wiped from their faces by ALL FOUR of their grandparents. Could anything be more precious or special? These four kids are so loved and cherished by these four grandparents. What a blessing to have these moments!

The moment we found out we were pregnant back in Nebraska we started making plans to move back to Minnesota so we would be surrounded by family. I am so glad that we did. Because family is the best!