Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The sibling I always longed for

After the Civil-war era canon ball fell from the landing onto the step behind me, I realized my longtime wishes for a sibling were unfounded.
I could have lived without sharing a room as a 10-year-old with my screaming infant brother. Or the constant attention the cute little guy stole. Or just the day-to-day life of a toddler mixed with a too-cool-for-school teenage.
Yep, that day on the stairs was the physical culmination of all those years of contempt, for both of us.
His version of the story: “My sister pushed me down the wooden stairs.”
Ahhhh. And despite all of our heated battles and physical confrontations, I probably wouldn’t have sold him. He’s a perfect compliment to my dramatic side, and gave my upbringing that little extra edge of excitement, whether I liked it at the time or not.
All my friends thought he was “soo cute” and he had quite the imagination. People said he reminded them of our Grandpa Don. The personality-plus type.
I don’t know where time flew, but some time not too long ago, my little brother, Jackson, became Uncle Brett. And now he’s at least 6 feet tall. And he has lady friends. And he drives.
Age has brought forth some very different personality traits I wouldn’t have imagined for him. He’s very mellow and nice. An even-tempered guy who cares about others. Very polite and helpful. NOTHING like the animated toddler who tried to “kill” me with a canon ball.
And now that we are both “grown up,” our relationship has changed. He’s not the annoying short man who steals the spotlight from me and terrorizes my friends.
He’s the guy I call to come watch the kids when I’ve got to go to the store.
He’s the guy I make “eyes” at when Dad is being Dad.
I still categorize us both as “only children,” but our age difference has allowed us a unique relationship.
I’m still young enough I can know what he’s going through, but old enough that I’ve made some bad decisions I’m not afraid to advise him on.
Like I’ve mentioned before, Jackson’s side of the story of our life together is probably VERY different than mine. But when all is said and done, I hope he sees beyond my bosy teenage years and absent college time and sees a sister who loves him.
I’ll never forget the moment I first saw him squirming under the lamps as a newborn in the hospital. I won’t soon forget his contagious baby giggle or the stories of his toddler-hood. And I won’t forget the sound of my very grown-up baby brother reading story books to my babies.
My prayers never end without the mention of his name, and I can’t imagine what life will be like when he has a family of his own.
Yep, my life was turned upside-down back then. But who knew upside-down was the way it was always meant to be.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mae Mae, you complete us

I never knew I needed four kids. I never knew I wanted four kids. And I was never more sure of this than after I received a positive pregnancy test a mere months after our third child was born.
But what was done was done, and Matt and I were left to deal with the aftermath, as impossible as the circumstances might have been.
And the times didn’t get any easier, because while adjusting to being outnumbered with the other wild ones, I battled first-trimester fatigue and eventually a last trimester-back problem.
But Masen came, just like the doctor had promised, in January 2008.
You’d think by my fourth time in the hospital in as many years, it would be a walk in the park. Not so with this guy. After the rocky delivery, he spent some time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and our final night in the hospital hallway waiting out tornadoes.
Oh, yes, life with four was off to a great start.
And the fun hasn’t stopped, even though we get more sleep now and the nursing phase and baby food are gone.
Challenges come in the form of taking an afternoon sprint to catch the little twinkle-toed man before he makes it to the traffic-laden road.
Or getting him off the kitchen table where he is standing.
Or redressing him after he takes off all his clothes and comes up and says, “Uh, oh!”
But little Mae Mae, our wanderer, has added an element of completeness to our brood. Our lives wouldn’t be the same without the guy who lays his entire body on top of the dog and rubs his face into his fur. Gotta love it.
There are very few grown-ups who are so content and happy with just waking up, eating and playing.
And I know he will grow out of it, the other three did. But for right now, since we’re done having babies and I can bask in the happenings of daily life, relishing the little things with my little guy, I plan to be content.
I try to absorb his enthusiasm and store it away in a hidden place to use again some day when my kids are all teenagers and happy smiles are few and far between.
This time in our life when our children are 5, 3, 2 and 1 is precious and irreplaceable.
And so as I hear our fourth and final child run with the little pitter-patter that is unique to him, I can think back on the moment when I first found out he was coming. Life seemed impossible.
But now that the impossibility and I have survived nearly two years, I can’t imagine a life with only three.
As seen in the Lawrence County Record

Shopping 101

Want to go grocery shopping?
If you said no, then this is the column for you. Your friendly neighborhood cheapskate mother of four is here to motivate you to spend less time and less money on your edible necessities.
I know, you are shaking your head, debating on whether to read on. But do. Keep reading. Hopefully, I’ll share some of my weird, pragmatic ideas on this seemingly mundane task and make it fun for you, too.
First off, I want to explain why I care so much and why I am so annoyingly enthusiastic about groceries. My biggest piece of motivation: We don’t have as much money as I’d like to spend at the store. So I have to work hard to get all we can out of what we can afford to spend. And with four little birdies chirping for snacks and drinks and all those meals in between, it does takes some work.
And I’m not perfect; I still have those weekends when I send Matt to the store with my detailed list, but overall, I purpose to get every ounce of goodness out of every cent.
But before I get into my “process,” I would love to blow your mind with a tidbit of information.
Shocking, right? But believe me, I’ve done the legwork. Some toiletry items are cheaper at the big retailers, but the every day, ins and outs you need for your kitchen are either the same price, cheaper or not enough cheaper at the big guys to make up for the gas you spent to get there!
So my advice to you is this: Shop locally more often. It will save you time, more than likely money and you’ll be supporting your neighbor. So here’s the plan, open up your weekly Record and take out the inserts (don’t forget to check the inside pages for ads stores place within the body of the paper). Scan the ad. Typically, the best deals are on the front cover.
I make a list of all the sale items I can’t miss. Then I create a seven-day menu incorporating the sale items and stuff I already have in my cupboards or freezer. Don’t forget to plan for snacks, desserts and breakfast items. Be exhaustingly thorough.
Also throughout the week, I keep a running list of items we’ve run out of or are about to run out of. If it’s a necessity, I buy it. If it’s luxury items, like paper products, sometimes it has to wait. (And actually, we rarely buy things like napkins, paper plates, etc. If you can live without them for awhile, you’ll never miss them!)
So now you have your grocery list (which would be most efficient if you re-wrote according to the layout of the store), now it’s time to get cash. Yes, I said it. I try to buy groceries only with cash because it hurts more. Literally.
When you’re standing in that line handing over your beautiful hard-earned $20 bills, you really start to reconsider that box of oatmeal cream pies or other “luxuries” you thought weren’t going to add that much. So you really end up spending less when you pay with cash.
Want to keep more money in your pocket? DO NOT deviate from your list. Period.
And while we’re on the things you aren’t supposed to do, do not bring coupons unless it’s for an item you were already going to buy. Never buy an item just because you have a coupon.
I rarely use coupons. Besides being a pain to keep organized, I have come to the conclusion that in most circumstances, the store-brand product is still cheaper than the name-brand product plus the coupon. And probably of equal quality!
So we’re off to shop. List. Check. Cash. Check. Calculator. Check. Yep, take the handy pocket calculator with you. You will be amazed when you break down the different costs by ounce. Some times, the bulk item is MORE expensive. The key here is knowledge. Don’t rely on the store. They want you to buy certain products, and you can tell by the signage. Calculate and compare every purchase to ensure you are getting the best deal.
My last shred of advice to you is this: Take your time. Think it through. Take advantage of big store sales. Stock up now to save later. Just make sure it’s an item that you usually use. Because you know what’s cheaper than a sale? Not buying it at all.
Happy shopping!
As seen in the Lawrence County Record

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Dear God,

To knock the hunger pangs off my starving curiosity, I've decided to compile a list of questions I have for God so that when the time comes, I'll be sure not to forget to ask him anything. And, who knows, maybe He'll answer sooner!

Dear God,

I realize you've used me as some sort of heavenly entertainment. Why else would you have me born into a "city" family and then marry a "farm" man? Thankfully, and sometimes regrettably, I rarely, if ever, voice the phrase "I'm bored." Chasing scattered cows, feeding messy chickens and burning my fingers canning tomatoes....what can I say, God? You have got to have a sense of humor! Please tell me my theory is correct, because in some ways it makes my "crises" feel a lot more manageable if you're up there watching and laughing.

Another mind-boggling dilemma I've got is this: Is there any typos in the Bible? Here's my theory. I think NO. My reason is that you realize that when people see mistakes it really diminishes the validity of things. I have a feeling that if/when a human was making a typo/grammatical error of any kind when transferring information, you decided to use the divine intervention card and step in. Am I close at all?

On a more serious note, I've often wondered why you have blessed me with four kids. You know that we never really planned for family and there are many Godly lovely couples out there that just aren't or can't have any. Why?

As you also know, I've got a lot of growing up to do. I believe, (and tell me if I'm wrong), my kids are your physical tools you use to mold me into the person/mom you want me to be. I resist most of the time, but I can't see any other logical reason for all the messes, arguments, work, urgent care visits, etc., besides training me to have patience, endurance and most importantly, faith.

A simple prayer request: I would love for endless energy. Or, just a button I could push and my energy would inflate/deflate like a balloon when I'm ready ... no pressure, it's just a suggestion.

This is a good start for now. I'm sure I'll have more, but probably/hopefully I'll have more time to add to it before the big day.

Thanks for listening God,


Thursday, September 17, 2009


Come tomorrow, Matt and I will have been together, legally, for five whole years.

And true to the "over-achiever" mantra so bestowed upon me as first-born of the Steve Fairchild clan, I have crammed LOTS into those years. Actually, we have. That's right, there's no more me, just we.

Although we got the cart before the horse when we were blessed with our baby girl, Kadence, our life has since gotten into the typical American routine. We have way more than we need and have lots to fill our calendars. Life is just life.

Since Sept. 18, 2004, three other children have blessed our family, bringing the Matt Oehlschlager family total (including us) to three girls and three boys.

Matt and I purchased our farm nine days before baby No. 3, Bella Rose, was born and life has not been the same. Our backs carry not only the weight of our own lives, but that of four child souls and a mortgage, cattle note and bills and bills.

Our vacations come in short stints when family takes a few kids here and there to relieve us. Right now, Matt has the kids at our pond fishing while I type in blissful, silent peace.

When I look back over the past five years, it feels like a roller coaster, like I'm sure everybody does. But as we embark on the sixth year of marriage, it feels like we're in a different season. No more new babies. No babies at all, actually. Masen (our youngest) is officially a toddler. And our oldest, Kadence, began kindergarten in August.

Our days are filled with noise and joy.

I'm not going to say our first five years of marriage have been a total joy. I don't think we could've had a rougher go at it, what with having four kids in four years, all while purchasing our peaceful little farm. Our obstacles have been many. Our battles have been many. But thankfully, Matt and I have weathered this first storm. Right now we are sailing on calm seas. But sure as the sun will rise, so will another challenge. And I pray that we are able to steady the ship when those storms arise so we can continue the voyage for another 50 years or more, God willing.

In light of our "big" anniversary, here are some words. Some words that don't contain the enormity your presence has been in my life, but hopefully show you a small glimmer of the appreciation I hold for you.
Thank you for your patience. Thank you for loving me when I don't deserve it. Thank you for my babies. Thank you for our farm — a life I never knew I wanted, but now wouldn't be able to live without. Thank you for giving the kids baths and brushing their teeth. Thank you for personifying the calm my freak-out personality lacks. Thank you for your faith. Thank you for calling me your wife and allowing me to call you husband. Thank you for all the diapers you've changed and all the pizzas you've bought.
The little life we've got wouldn't be what it is without your patient presence.

Happy anniversary

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Broiler Boil

*** Warning: The following account is a true story and may be offensive to sensitive folks and just plain disgusting to others.
A broiler’s divine purpose on this planet is to eat and be eaten.
But when it came time for Matt and I to send these chickens on to meet their maker, in turn fulfilling their divine appointment, we were both a little hesitant.
See we both were a bit scarred from our attempt to “harvest” Jerry (the mean old rooster) and we weren’t so keen on the idea of killing nine all at once.
So I Googled it and read and read about the most efficient way to make a chicken into meat for the freezer. I felt as ready as I was ever going to be. No excuses now, it was time to take matters into our own hands, literally!
Walking to the chicken pen I was nervous and anxious at the same time. Our plan: Matt was going to catch one and I was going to hold it “still,” close my eyes and hope for the best while Matt “took care of business.”
That was the plan, one plan I never thought in nearly all of my 26 years on this planet that I would be planning to do. But there was only one way out of this mess and that involved me, once again, demolishing my comfort zone.
So after Matt handed me the first bird, I closed my eyes and waited. When the deed was done, I sceamed and chucked the thrashing bird as far away from me as I could. But the headless chicken got right up and ran towards me!!! AHHHHHHH
And what do you do when a winged creature that is bleeding like an open spigot is running after you? Well run the other way, of course. So that is what I did, took off running and hid until he gave up.
Through tears of laughter Matt summoned me to do the next and then the next and on and on until finally we had a yard full of headless chickens. (They were everywhere because I refused to pick up their adrenaline-pumped bodies until the nerves had passed!)
The next part really didn’t bother me. Matt was the “feather plucker” and I was the “gutter.” While Matt wasn’t that excited to stand for the next hour pulling feathers out of the broilers, but I was stoked for my job.
I got real good at cutting the bird open just wide enough to fit my entire hand up to my wrist, grab a handful of unmentionables and pull them out. By the last few birds it became a game to see how much I could get out in one go-around.
And then we were done. The birds were dead, plucked, gutted and now resting comfortably in plastic inside the freezer.
As I showered, washing away the “evidence,” I realized that I will never be the same. My innocence, if there was any left, was gone. There was then and then there is now.
A now that is filled with the knowledge of how to raise something from a baby to its prime. And then kill it and stick it in your freezer and then put it in your oven and then feed it to your own babies.
Yep, life will never be the same.

As seen in the Lawrence County Record

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


It was nice to have such a long weekend. Had time to catch up on little projects and, more importantly, just sit still in lawn chairs and watch the kids play.

And while the kids played, Matt and I were busy catching up and dreaming. One of our most interesting topics was what we would do if someone pulled into the drive and handed us a million dollars.


So we began throwing all of our hopes and visions of what that million dollars could do to transform our current life into a more pleasant and comfortable place. It involved becoming debt free, lots more land and cows, additions and remodels to the house, new vehicles and fences, fat savings accounts and an over-all stress-free feeling.

Because isn't money what causes most issues? It does in this house. At the root of most stressful conversations and heated battles, you can find a pile money (mostly lack of it). So a fat sum of "free" money would certainly come close to answering all our prayers, righting all our problems, making us a happier couple and family. Right? Seems kind of temporary to me.

Because when the dreaming was over, and nobody showed up with even five dollars, it sunk in. That was a dangerous dream to dream. It's a slippery slope that can send this once content mind sailing into space, orbiting unattainable planets of desire, greed and envy. Our seemingly harmless dreams and fantasies plant the seeds of discontentment, making our current blessed life seem less than desirable. And I don't want that.

What most people want in life is contentment. Whether you have a million dollars or you owe a million dollars. All people want is that gut-happy feeling that all is right with their little corner of the world.

So when I saw a sign the other day that said to have more you have to want less. I knew that that was the key: I need to want what I have.

Now when I look around our 1930s house, I see a home that Matt and I worked long and hard to get. Our fence rows made of tree trunks and grown over with brush from decades and decades contain strong and healthy cattle that will provide for our family. We have enough car seats to safely transport our sweet babies and, thankfully, running vehicles to drive them around in. We have refrigerators full of food to satisfy our hunger pangs and light to brighten the nights. Running water and plastic diapers are also keys to this happy home.

This is our paradise. Maybe not by the world's standards, but definitely by ours. Million dollars or not, I've realized contentment lies within each person. It's a personal decision, one that money can't buy for you and others can't decide for you.

So why not today, let's all decide to want less. And then let us bask in the contentment our decision provided.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

To reap what you sow

I saw all my past sins come to life in my first-born’s eyes as she defiantly dunked her father’s shoes in the pool.
Anger lasted only a moment before the guilt set in. Now I’m sure Matt has had his fair share of past transgressions, but I will bet you dollars to donuts that mine outnumber his. (And I’m not bragging!)
So while Kadence was disciplined for her obsurd actions, I internally felt some of the heat.
People have always said that hot-tempered or naughty children/teenagers will get a taste of their own medicine when they have children with the same or worse tendencies.
I have mentioned before that I have FOUR kids, right? AHHHHHHH!!!!!!!
So besides the diapers, clothes, food, shelter and all that money can buy, I have to deal with crap I’ve done in my past coming up to bite me in my present? Discipline for parents, I guess.
But I wasn’t really that bad. At least as far as I can remember ...
As I recall, I thought it was real funny to ask adults (actually, I think I only tried this on Mary) to lean over for a loving kiss on the cheek ... only to bite them (small nibble) instead.
And I was sent to the principal’s office in kindergarten for dumping a bottle of liquid glue in a kid’s school box. But, he totally deserved it!
I’ve done the typical high-school nonsense that really was stupid and I pray my kids never do.
But, other than that, I was pretty good.
So why do I have a feeling my “pretty good” multiplied by four is going to mean headaches now and in the future?
Because instances like the shoes in the pool. Or when my middle children dumped buckets of calf replacement on top of each other and then rode their bikes through it on the back porch. Smelly and sticky!
Or when they scheme. Mom said I had a lot of “ideas,” I just lacked soldiers. My kids don’t, though. Matt and I are definitely outnumbered and I am sure the kids know it. Seems like daily there is an “incident.”
A week or two ago I found poor, little Masen stuffed inside a microwave-sized box on top of a table!
Or after Bella learned to open doors and let Masen go outside to play ... alone!
Oh, the list could go on and on.
And as my childen grow, the list of transgressions will grow with them, I’m sure. And because half their DNA has a bit too much “spunk,” shall we call it, then I have a feeling I might be dealing with more than the average number of “incidents.”
My only hope is that God makes their tongues a bit lazier and their wills a little less stubborn.
But then what would life be?
Probably a little less fun and a little too quiet.

As seen in the Lawrence County Record

Friday, August 14, 2009


Do you ever feel overwhelmed? Like no matter how much you get checked off your to-do list each day, you’re swimming in tasks to do tomorrow? There’s never enough money in your pocket to take away the need to think about it (or lack of it). Not enough time in each day. Not enough energy, for that matter, to make the most-effective use of each God-given hour.

Some times life is just blah. Not really bad and not really good. Just a cycle of days, tasks, bills …

I have a tendency to see the “glass half empty.” I work daily (sometimes hourly) to pull myself out of these pits life seems to throw me in. There are days when I have to just claw myself out of the pit, and with fingers still bleeding slap myself and say, “WAKE UP!!!!!”

See I don’t have time to wallow in self-pity, let alone drown myself in my overwhelmed tears. My four children get up older every day, no matter if mommy feels like being mommy today or not. And despite the fact that I do struggle, like most people do I’m sure, with wanting to crawl in a hole and never come out, I want something else more.

When I look back on my children’s childhood — and let’s face it, my own youth — I want to see days filled with the excitement of Kadence’s first loose tooth, Rylan lost in the blackberry bushes, Bella’s love of her “piggy” and Masen growling like a lion.

Most importantly though, I want my kids to think back on their childhood and see my face smiling. Instead of me pouring over to-do lists, I want them to envision me filling their plates with their favorite foods. Rather than worrying about money, reading book after book after book. Bible times with mommy. Picking out treats at the store. I want the good to overshadow the bad.

Life is short. Life is temporary. It is busy, hard, hectic and it stinks a lot of the time. But I only get one. Thankfully, one life blessed with four little souls. And one day when I wake up, they will be graduating, getting married, having babies and I’ll be left to sift through the memories I’ve stored right now.

In light of that day, which will come sooner than I can imagine, I purpose to live each day the best I can. Sometimes that means leaving a load of dishes in the sink and a load of towels unfolded in the dryer. It might mean that the next morning I am left to transfer my leftover “to dos” onto my new to-do list. So be it. My chores will wait. It’s the kids who won’t. I will never be able to pause or rewind this time in our lives.

Because this too shall pass. With or without me.

As seen in the Lawrence County Record

Monday, August 10, 2009

Heart of gold, priceless memories

I’ve been hearing my dead Grandma’s voice a lot lately.
And no, I don’t hear/speak to ghosts or have psychic capabilities, but I hear her voice loud and clear every, single night.
As I lay in my bed and listen to the monitor from the kids’ room, I hear her telling them stories I listened to when I was young. Her tender voice reading the tales of my past to my part in the future.
Her partially full glass of water used as the “ding” that signaled time to turn the page. Cars in the background. Life going on as my Grandma took time out of her’s to read a stack of books recorded onto a cassette for my birthday. And all my cousins’ birthdays, too, until we entered the second grade. Grandma tapes. Genius!
See my Grandma Rosie is one of those people you just can’t let go. She was/is part of the fiber of my being. She wasn’t just a Grandma to me. She actively loved me — and the rest of the family — in such a deep, unrockable way that I just can’t seem to get over it, you know.
And today marks the three-year anniversary of her death. I still long to tell her what's going on and I ache for her advice. Since her death I feel like the armor of my youth has a chunk missing. But I keep going on. Life keeps going on. You just pack the hurt in a suitcase and board the plane of life with it. And when the sad creeps up and threatens to take away from my current blessings, I listen in my memories for her voice. I don't want to let my tears drown all of my precious, happy and priceless memories she worked an entire lifetime to build.
So today I'm not all sad. But I am thankful for her. Thankful she is my Grandma. Thankful she lived such a great example of how the important things in life should be ordered. How to put the struggles/worries of the days in perspective.
I recently came across something special in the Bible — coincidently, it was the one she gave Matt and me for our wedding. As I read the verses describing a Godly woman, I got chills. Grandma Rosie.
"A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value...
She gets up while it is still dark;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her servant girls...
She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night...
When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet...
She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all."

— Proverbs 31: 10-29

Friday, July 24, 2009

There's Something about Lucky

I don’t really like animals.
They smell, they poop everywhere, they eat a lot, they drink a lot ... and the list could go on and on.
So why, you may ask, do I live on a farm?
Simply put, I don’t know.
But what I do know is that I’ve given my heart away to only one other animal on earth — my late cat, Friskie. Since him, no other animal has been able to lure me into any kind of relationship. Until now.
See, I am totally head-over-heels in animal love (not inappropriately, of course) with our bottle calf, Lucky Lady Sally.
Lucky, who is now a year old, is a giant, over-grown dog in a calf’s body. She has no clue who she is and what her intended purpose is on our farm. I mean she was literally on a chain in our backyard until recently. Lucky would be a perfect case study for animal identity crisis!
I really didn’t know I was attached to her until Matt had her loaded up to go sell. Literally when I heard the back of the trailer shut up something inside me sounded alarms. I ran outside like the maniac that I am and screamed, “Noooooo!!”
Matt, who thought something was seriously wrong, was a bit relieved to hear that all he had to do to fix my hysteria was free Lucky.
And so marks the beginning of our journey together.
A couple weeks ago, we decided to wean our calves. Well, Matt went ahead and plopped Lucky in with all the rest, just to simplify things.
And while he was at work, my job was to keep an eye on the hot calves, their water and make sure their shade and fans were all in working order.
I diligently checked every so often. Each time I ventured out on that particular Wednesday, I noticed Lucky had her head stuck out of the pen and was eating. Didn’t look atypical. Animals are always doing stuff like that, right?
But when I went out again around noon I noticed her head was still sticking out of the fence, but she wasn’t eating anymore! Panic hit and I threw open the gate and entered the cow pen (in flip-flops, of course) and ran to be by Lucky’s side.
The kids were watching me from the back porch as I ran, again like the maniac I am, back and forth from the garage to the house and back.
My dad showed up and we both took up the battle to free Lucky. I was now beside myself — tears were flowing.
We needed help. Someone with experience in this.
Timmie was called in to once again rescue this first-time “farmer.”
As you can imagine, it took him a whole 32 seconds and barely any effort to free Lucky, who immediately (luckily) galloped straight to the water bin.
Phew! Mom told me that surely the rest of my day could not be any more eventful...
...Until we were pulling into the driveway that night around 7 p.m. (already past the kids’ bedtimes) and we were followed in by a neighbor.
“Your calves are all up and down H Highway.”
Matt jumped out and got on the phone to call in reinforcements — Timmie, Mary Ann and Patrick — and yelled a few, almost inaudible, commands at me.
I parked the Suburban to block off part of the yard.
As I was running across the yard I heard Rylan screaming after me: “It’s an emergency, emergency!”
After being screamed at to “do that,” “not like that, like this,” “go there,” “close this,” “get that”... they were finally caught.
Matt and I sat on the couch that night completely overwhelmed. Understandably though, it was our mortgage running along the highway!
I had an epiphany that night. I realized that my soul purpose on this earth is to entertain God. It has to be. I’m almost certain my life is displayed like “The Truman Show” on some cable network in heaven. Surely there’s no other logical reason my life could play out in sitcom-like segments.
Like I’ve said before, I know my life is scripted and I know who the screenwriter is. But, what I’m not so sure about is why He was in such a funny mood when He wrote about me.

As seen in the Lawrence County Record

Monday, July 20, 2009


Surely you've already figured out by now that I rely a little too much on schedules and lists than I should. My life revolves around my little "Paula Deen" calendar that I literally compose my day to day activities in, thriving on crossing off the items I've completed. It's exhilarating to look at my day on paper and see nothing but a bunch of crossed off words — it helps me relax.

But in the last couple of months I've come to another time of restlessness in my life. I'm done having babies and my babies are now toddlers and soon-to-be kindergartners. Uh oh. Now among all the "home survival" type items on my to-do lists I feel the need to include intentional memory making items.

I don't want to miss a thing. I'm afraid with my over-scheduled, crossing-off addiction I might miss the most important, non-list qualifying things that makes life a life worth living.

Like sitting in the back yard and watching my four blessings chase and fall and laugh as they run around the apple tree.

Or catching my two youngest sitting side by side looking at books (upside down, of course) quietly in the playroom.

Listening to my little Bella Rose sing a soft song as she plays with her naked Barbies (because she can't dress them herself).

Witnessing my oldest hit her first baseballs.

Finding my son in the blackberry patch ... again.

Memories that may not seem note-worthy now but are priceless in the future.

When I was in labor giving birth to all these time, money and energy-sucking creatures my mom said to me over and over, "This too shall pass."

Now the labor pains have passed. The bottles and binkies are gone. I can imagine my life without diapers.

My breath starts to quicken and tears fill my eyes because I can hear the graduation song and I can imagine the sound of the trunk closing, cars driving my babies away to their new lives.

Now I routinely tell myself, "This too shall pass — just don't let it pass you by."

"Childhood years are storage years — fill them intentionally with happy times."

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Cleaning is my Heroin

Cleaning and organizing are some of my favorite pastimes — actually as my husband would say, they are my heroin.

I know I'm not normal. I know it's a foreign pastime to most, but it truly exhilarates me to go into a room and leave it with everything organized and neatly in its place. I've even been known to offer my "services" free of charge to my co-workers who might lack motivation or the nutty drive to do things like this.

So, while I'm not perfect and my house is not always clean, I want to pass on a few of my tips as a fellow earthmate/wife/mother, not as a superior.

Here's my cleaning schedule: (this is my goal, not something I achieve all the time)
LAUNDRY — I wash things on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays (Never do one load at a time when you are using your dryer as opposed to the clothes line. The residual heat aids in the second load's drying time, lessoning your energy use.) I also iron the clothes that need to be ironed before putting them into the closet. That way items are ready to wear and I avoid the last-minute ironing session before church or work. I make my own laundry soap, reuse dryer sheets and use Dawn dish soap for stain stick. Organize laundry into baskets (I use one for towels and Matt's work jeans, one for regular clothes and one for whites). Fold and put away clothes immediately after they come out of the dryer — if you wait until all the laundry's done, you're more likely to let it sit there the rest of the night.
HOUSE WORK — I do a semi-deep clean every week. My bathrooms I clean at least three times a week because of my youngsters and their "aim" and I vacuum (the main areas) every day. I dust, clean glass and vacuum (more thoroughly) every Friday or Saturday. The kitchen also gets a daily wipe-down but a more thorough clean during my weekly cleaning time. I also clean my floor with just a rag. I feel like I can get the spots and grime better when I'm six inches from it rather than hanging onto a mop!
EFFICIENCY TIPS — Some of these are pretty much common sense, but just in case: Clean from top to bottom; clean glass before dusting; topical clean daily to make more thorough cleanings less of a chore; put extra trash bags into the bottom of your trash can so they're right there to replace after you take the full one out; keep an ongoing list of items you're almost out of — keep at least one extra in the cabinet and put it on the list when you begin to use your extra; reuse plastic bags and bath towels; have your kids wear their pajamas each night until the next laundry day; get rid of everything you can on surfaces so your house is less cluttered and it's easier to clean.
KIDS — It may seem ridiculous to plan things like cleaning your kids, but with four it's easy to forget the small stuff. In the winter, the kids only bathe on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, but in the summer they have baths daily, which also adds to my tub-cleaning chore! I cut nails and clean ears on Saturday nights. Trimming hair is usually a monthly chore. Also, I'm working on training all the kids to make their own beds. We have a toy room and so we don't allow toys in the bedrooms. This helps with the clutter and the kids are getting better at putting all the toys in "their homes." (They are supposed to do this daily.) I prepare the kids' milk cups at night so when we get up they can get their drinks out of the fridge on their own.
GROCERIES — Well, with six people in my house and not an infinite amount of money, we've got to be creative when it comes to food. I keep an ongoing list of items we need. Each week I use the Summer Fresh ad to create a list of the sale items I want to buy. From that I create a menu. We rarely buy more than what we can eat in a week. I plan a meal for every day but will save that day's meal for another if there's leftovers to eat. I've tried to use some of the milk-extending recipes for making your milk last longer but after comparing the powdered milk/regular milk prices, it really is not much cheaper. We do water the kids' juice down and limit their milk/juice intake to a few cups of each a day.

After all that, I'm 100 percent sure I've forgotten something. To sum it up, my goal as a wife/mother is to keep our life operating as smoothly as it can with four unpredictable creatures! And somehow making lists, schedules and cleaning creates the illusion in my mind of a simple life when my life is anything but.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Refrigerator-deep in green beans

Tis the season to pick/snap/wash/can green beans. Hooray! Time to channel my inner Amish homemaker and stash away my summer bounty in hopes of cheap winter treats!
And that is all I feel like I'm doing lately. It seems my beans are all ready and willing to be picked and my life hasn't slowed to allow me the chance to gather the energy or time to oblige them.
Last year I canned almost 50 quarts of beans and made a couple batches of blackberry jam. This year our garden is so far outdoing all my other years (the whole three of them!) and we are knee deep in unripe tomatoes, soon-to-be ready corn, potatoes, carrots, cucumbers, mini-bell peppers and green beans...lots of green beans. A refrigerator full to be exact!
So last weekend we took to the garden. The kids were behaving well and keeping themselves occupied, so we took to it. Pulled weeds, picked beans, cucumbers, carrots and potatoes.
And then we looked up! I quickly lowered my gaze and resumed the task in front of me. I didn't want to acknowledge the four short people by the water, transporting buckets to and fro to the dig dirt. Which was now MUD!
But they were all getting along so well! So Matt and I kept going and decided to deal with the mud-covered creatures ... later.
Being so calm about all that was a HUGE step for me. I swallowed my type-A, over-attentive, OCD cleaning obsessive ways and let the kids have a great time. And in exchange, we got an hour or so of uninterrupted garden time!
As I sit here typing this now, kids are running, singing, arguing, yelling and there is the normal mayhem surrounding me. The beans are still waiting patiently on the vine and the supper is still waiting patiently for me to cook.
My four kids have taught me a lot — some of which I'm still trying to master, like taking the time to play in the mud.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Not another make-you-cry column, hopefully

I had a very sappy and kinda sad column ready to fly onto the page this week, but something nagged at me.
I read and re-read it trying to edit my way to satisfaction. Eventually I came to the conclusion that while what I said is “important” (just go along with me here!), I had a gut instinct that things needed to be lightened up around here. So, here’s my attempt at makin’ things lighter for you — hopefully making you smile (if only for just a little bit)!
Last night at 8:45 p.m. I wasn’t hungry. So, what to do when there’s nothing to do and you’re not necessarily hungry? Eat, of course.
So I proceeded to scour the fridge/freezer hoping to find that right snack to quench the hunger I didn’t really have. When I opened up the freezer, I found spaghetti sauce. Not just any sauce. (A sauce that has a multiple page recipe cannot be described as any old sauce.) It was my late Grandpa Don’s.
Mom has recently perfected the ever-evolving dish and made a batch. Part of my birthday present was individual frozen servings of my beloved Grandpa’s sauce.
So I made all the necessary components needed to eat the spaghetti dish and sat down to enjoy.
Well, this dish evokes a million memories of my Grandpa Don and Grandma Rosie. Both have died, but both live vividly in my memories. Christmas can’t come without warm thoughts of this dynamic duo.
One Christmas, my over-the-top, larger-than-life Grandpa purchased a tree too large for the house. So what to do? Well, open the grate to the upstairs and then you’ve got a tree downstairs and another upstairs at the same time! Two for the price of one!
Or the old fridge that contained every version of every condiment from every decade. All resting near a small hole where Grandpa instructed us grandkids to kick ice cubes when we dropped them!
Bullet holes up Grandma’s living room seat and on the wall around her chair where Grandpa tried to kill a squirrel. (Many uninvited animals inhabited in my Grandparents’ home. See a relative if you’re interested in hearing one of these shake-your-head stories.)
Booming laughter and lots of love.
After my Grandpa died, the family had to sort out his many hobbies. Grandma, who wasn’t all that well herself, could be seen dragging a wagon full of stuff to and from the little house (which was used for storage).
A worker.
Memories of when my mom had me go water this plant someone gave my Grandma toward the end of her life. (Grandma had a self-diagnosed “black thumb.”)
As I was filling up the water jug, Grandma hollered from her chair, “I don’t know why your mom just won’t let that thing die!”
Or when she was battling the ants. I visited during one of those wars and Grandma told me frankly, “I don’t know who’s going to die first — them (the ants) or me!”
Incredible sense of humor. Happy hearts. Joyful memories.
I feel these memories may be “you had to be there” kind of stories in print. I hope I’m wrong.
I hope you see that the deep, unrockable way my grandparents loved me and the family has left lasting footprints on my heart. I won’t ever be able to shake Grandpa’s booming laugh from my ears or Grandma’s warm hug from my arms.
I won’t be able to go through a Christmas without thinking about that tree. The cousins. My aunts and uncles. And my Dunkle Bug. Bubble bread.
And I don’t want to.
Spaghetti will never be just spaghetti to me.

As seen in the Lawrence County Record

How many Oehlschlagers does it take to kill a rooster?

Being the avid list-maker that I am, I took full advantage of the long weekend to document all the tasks I wanted completed.
Now living on a farm with four young kids, I’m sure you can imagine the wide variety of chores to pick from. There was anything from mopping to laundry to groceries to farm work.
Among things to do on the farm side was “kill Jerry” — the rooster, of course. And that was like my No. 1 thing I wanted done.
So as Sunday came and church went, the Oehlschlagers came over to assist with promises of a barbecued bird for dinner.
As kids were napping, we set out to rid ourselves of the menace our head of the henhouse has turned into.
But then we learned there was a bull missing. So the search began and Jerry had to wait. It’s amazing to me how a four-legged compact-car-sized mammal can “hide,” but he did.
And when John had to perform a minor surgery on Patrick’s leg in my garage with a box cutter (it was a new blade, I think), alcohol and tweezers, I realized my day was not turning out the way I wanted.
Rain was also threatening ... great.
But soon enough, the bull was located, legs were bandaged and gloves were donned (Matt thought about putting on his paintball mask but braved Jerry without it).
And into the chicken house they went. Jessicca manned the video camera while me and the kids watched as the men encircled Jerry.
I waited impatiently with the ax I can barely lift. And as Matt and Patrick brought the bird out, one guy on each end, I pretended I didn’t see them whence as I took a whack. When they saw that I really do have the upper-body strength of a toddler, I was vetoed as executioner.
Jerry took his last breath and I learned up close and personal the meaning of “a chicken with his head cut off.”
Soon after the mess was cleaned up and Jerry was relaxing on the grill, I took a moment to look back on his time at the farm. I thought I might be sad, but nope, I still believe he was/is the spawn of Satan.
Jerry got the last laugh, though. That guy was so tough he was nearly inedible!
Everybody left tired and hungry but satisfied.
What could bond a family more than chasing cows and kids, cutting your brother’s leg open and then harvesting your own livestock?
Good times. Perfect memories made out of an imperfect day.

As seen in the Lawrence County Record

Four kids + camping = FUN

Around these parts camping is a part of life. Every summer you head to the nearest body of water with some friends or family, take camping gear, a fishing pole, bug spray, some food and you’re set.
A cheap weekend of bug-bitin’, skin-burnin’ fun!
I grew up camping. Every summer our extended family would gather at one of the area lakes, pitch some tents and stay there a while, creating memories filled with cousins covered in mud, swimming in ice coolers, hot dogs on the grill and more.
And we still go every year, just now, us kids have babies of our own.
Matt and I attend faithfully every year, leaving at dusk with apologies, citing our baby on the way or baby just born as the reason we cannot camp.
But this year, with our final baby nearly a 1-1/2 years old, we decided to join the ranks of the all-night campers — all six of us in our four-person tent!
The kids were very excited as we loaded up the Suburban to capacity and headed to our destination. I felt there was really no way this could go wrong. My plan: to wear the kids out so they literally collapsed inside the tent as we zipped them inside.
So, after dinner, fishing, s’mores and visiting, we made our trek to the tent. Matt kept saying, “Let’s just go home...” But instead, we continued on.
The kids were passed the point of exhaustion and had slid into the delirious, silly phase. One moment they’re squealing with joy, the next screaming out of complete over-stimulation.
We purposly went to bed while everyone else was still awake, as to not keep them up as we waited out the storm in our tent.
Inside our tent was a catacombs-like pile of bodies (ours were alive though) and pillows and blankets. Masen (the youngest) jumped from end to end like a spider monkey, not caring who he landed or stepped on. This (I’m sure you can imagine) led to loud protests by the other three who then began to shove around, in a get-off-me war that seemed to last forever.
Eventually, (after ignoring several pleas from Matt to give up and go home), one by one kids began to drift off.
Bella was the last to give it up, not surprisingly, and she was also the one who woke up at who-knows-what-time in the morning to wail loudly into the silent wilderness for a long 15 minutes.
No one slept well on the hard ground, especially in a tent made for a much smaller family.
And soon the sun was up. And so were the kids.
No rest for the weary.
My first words to Matt, “That was a bad idea.”
But not even a week later, we were planning to camp again next year, with modifications of course.
I’m thinking camping is like childbirth. If you remembered how awful it was, I’m sure you’d never do it again!

As seen in the Lawrence County Record

"Hairy" situations on the farm

Day after storm #2, and I’m retracking my steps to figure out what sort of karma manure I’ve stepped in!
My family has been the victim of two hair catastrophes in less than two weeks!
INCIDENT #1 — This past Monday I threw caution to the wind and said “Yes” to the gum my big-eyed, lip-pouting older children begged for.
BIG MISTAKE! Even after my one-minute discussion about the dos and don’ts of gum-chewing, Rylan soon came running into the kitchen, “M-O-M!!!”
Before I even turned around I knew.
So, I took a breath, said a little prayer that the sticky, hard-to-next-to-impossible to get out substance was in a male child’s hair.
And, thankfully, it was!
But Rylan does EVERYTHING he can in the most meticulous fashion and putting gum in his hair was no different.
It was like the child rolled the gum into a play-dough-like log, set it on top of his head, did a head stand and then rubbed his head into the carpet!
The gum was not in his hair, it was super-glued onto his scalp and strapped down with hair!
Wanda said, “Peanut butter and ice.” Nope, didn’t work. So, I told Rylan, go to the back porch, “I’m gonna cut it out!”
He cried the whole way. After the buzzer got stuck in the peanut butter mess, I went for back up — my trusty hair-cutting scissors.
Now my precious 3-year-old has a lightning bolt-type bald spot on the top of his already shaved down head! Phew!
INCIDENT #2 — (Some background info: I cut my family’s hair. And not just because I’m cheap; I really like to cut hair.)
So, it’s no surprise that my eldest daughter might be interested in my pastime, after watching me cut her dad’s hair and her siblings’, as well as her own.
And I will tell you that I’m VERY careful with my children and scissors — really, only the older two have ever held a pair of skin-puncturing, hair-cutting blades. But consciously I know children will disobey — innocently or not.
So why I was surprised when I got that phone call at work that Tuesday with the horrible news, I don’t know.
Time stood still as I listened to Matt tell me how Kadence had chopped three inches off the left side of my baby Bella’s hair and created a slab of one-inch bangs across her forehead (or, more appropriately, scalp!) I had to take MANY deep breaths before I drove home to see the damage.
One look and I knew we needed professional help. An emergency trip to see Chelsie with my unfriendliest child did not sound like a fun afternoon, but I sacrificed.
I realize now all is well.
Probably by week’s end I won’t see my son’s “bald” spot and the shock of Bella’s VERY short hair has worn off.
The sun will rise just the same on my house with less hair than it did with more.
Hair disasters have become all too common in my house these days. Soon there won’t be enough kid hair left to cut off, even out, etc.
I better not be next!

As seen in the Lawrence County Record

Baby Bella turns 2

Those of you from large families may understand how younger children have to fight for food, drink, attention and really survival in general.
Our third child, Bella Rose, has assumed that role perfectly. She’s cute on the outside and a down-right dirty survivor on the inside.
Mom calls her other persona: “Dark Bella” aka DB.
Some (my dad is really the only one!) don’t believe she exists. Mainly because DB is hidden beneath Bella’s Cabbage Patch doll likeness: (Oehlschlager-round head, button nose and tiny mouth). But believe me, when Bella feels threatened or is just in a salty mood, DB surfaces.
Last Tuesday we celebrated her second birthday. Bella cares not a lick about her age — it’s all just a number to her — higher the age, bigger the conquest, I suppose.
I have witnessed Bella, who doesn’t talk much, transform into DB, grab ahold of a sibling at the calves and football-hug them until they succumb to her mighty arms.
She’s tough as nails and can take any item away from any of her brothers or sister no matter the height challenge. She watches for someone to leave their play post, where they had cautiously guarded their toys from Bella’s captivity. She stalks her prey and one moment of weakness and their precious activity is DB’s for the taking. Her timing is impeccable.
Another aspect of my Bella, is that she is very particular about who she is chummy with. I think it’s a defense mechanism. She’ll choose my dad above anybody, including Matt and I. And most people are met with a low gaze from behind an “approved” adults legs. She may look cute and shy, but don’t underestimate her. DB is lurking close behind, waiting to protect, if necessary.
In all sincerity, my Bella Rose, named for my late Grandma Rosie, is a joy. I truly believe, even though they never met, Bella received some of these attributes from my grandma’s “scrappy” DNA.
Bella, who arrived unexpectedly 15 months after Rylan and only 10-1/2 months before our baby Masen, is a vital piece of our family puzzle.
She compliments the rest of us perfectly and I pray she will harness her inner “DB” to be a positive force in her life and those around her.
Happy Birthday, my Bella Rose. And may God be with those that cross DB!

As seen in the Lawrence County Record

Happy Birthday, Rylan!

You know those people who say you look/act like your pet? Well, I guess that makes me a cow.
Not really, but it seems I’ve had a lot of babies very quickly and they all seem to come at the same time of year, every year! So Matt has classified me as a fall/winter calver.
This is OK to me, but what that means since we have six members in our family is that beginning with our anniversary in September, we have a birthday in every month until February — not to mention those other present-heavy holidays.
So this is definitely birthday season at my house.
We kicked off the season last month with Rylan’s (our second oldest) birthday. He was 3 on Oct. 24. Rylan (aka “Bub Man”) is an interesting fellow. He is known to gallivant around in nothing but pink snow boots and underwear. (About a month ago his attire would have included a binki, but the man has been forced to give that addiction up!).
His birthday party went off without a hitch, unless you count the several tractors, trucks and the like! Oh yes, he is a man with a love for wheels, to say the least. I was worried he would literally stroke out when he opened his presents since I knew there would be a set of John Deere tractor pajamas Grandma Helen made among the mess of toys.
But, Bub never ceases to amaze. He became so enthralled by all the wheels, I think he glazed over and I (kid you not) at one point I heard him ask his cousin, Sidney: “Would you open this for me?” He didn’t stroke out, he checked out!
Soon the man was back to his old self and some time the next week he followed me outside to hang clothes on the line. He was buck naked, of course, and it was one of those days when the wind had a bite. After getting a taste of the breeze, he opted to stay on the back porch to take his bike for a spin.
The weather didn’t seem to bother him too much because he stayed back there even after I finished the laundry.
I had just sat down for a break when Rylan came rushing in.
“It’s cold out there, I need some underwear!”
And then he was off again! What a guy.

As seen in the Lawrence County Record

My cows aren't colorblind!

One summer evening, when Matt was tucked safely away at some thousand-head calf sale at the Stockyards, our cows decided to do some traveling of their own.
I had just put the little ones down to bed and had settled into the faraway world of celebrity gossip, when I noticed something out our living room window.
A very excited calf was doing some jump-kick thing with his hind legs as he ran in a celebratory way across our lawn and on down the road.
As I ran for the phone, my worst fears were realized — ALL the cattle had gotten out and were stampeding down the road!
So, I took a deep breath, and went outside to assess the situation. Not long after, some good-hearted folks down the road pulled into the drive to let me know we had cattle out. Yep, I knew, I told them and I had no way to get them back in.
So what did these neighbors do (in compact cars, I might add)? They loaded up and pushed the cows back up the road and safely back into the pasture.
Good neighbors are not only great, but vital.
Especially when you have scheming cattle like we do. I know those cows know when Matt leaves. As soon as his red truck drives off, they hit the road, too! (And according to Eldon Cole, recent research suggests cattle CAN see some colors!) So, they know!
Like when I was walking to our blackberry patch one summer night and heard the unmistakable sound of a big mammal chomping on corn husks in the garden. I cautiously readjusted my gaze to the left only to find our bull making a buffet out of the garden!!!! Ahhhhh!
I wish I could say that’s all the experience I have, but it’s not.
My latest ordeal was more celebratory on my part, though!
One Saturday as I was folding laundry I noticed we had a cow out on the road. Of course, Matt was at a sale and the kids were home with me. So what to do? This time, I took matters into my own hands.
I put the kids in a secure area (their beds) and headed out. I ran (hopefully nobody was watching!) to the barn and found an empty feed sack. As I walked to the gal cautiously, I told my self, “Don’t say ‘Here, cow!’” But the first thing that came out as I rattled the empty bag was just that. She looked at me, shocked I guess, and continued with what she was doing. I was no threat, obviously.
Since I got her attention, I believed I was on the right track. So I said it again and shook the bag like crazy.
Well, then the old gal took notice and started toward me. Ahhhhh!!!!! Panic-stricken because that lady was hungry and this lady had only an empty bag of feed, I took off running to the barn. Well, she started to run, too, thinking she was gonna miss out on a tasty snack.
By chance my brain told me “Open the gate!” So, I did. And in she ran.
AL-LE-LU-IA! (If you know me, you can hear me singing it now!)
I called Matt (from inside of course — I didn’t forget about all those kids waiting) and told him of my recent victory. He was proud.
If only that was the only drama that day. Soon, I heard a noise from inside the bathroom ... Rylan had locked the door. With him inside. And, this 3-year-old was content NOT to escape!
Day in the life, I suppose.

As seen in the Lawrence County Record

Where she'll land, nobody knows!

A few years ago I never would have thought my No. 1 request on my birthday/Christmas list would be a bread maker. But here I am. 25 years old. Four kids and a husband. Farm with the likely characters. And a sort of amnesia to the path my life took to get here.
Don’t get me wrong, I want nothing else than to get up at the crack of dawn every single day and change diapers, fill sippies, corral the young’uns, feed/water animals, etc. But as I sit here and look around at my unexpected life, I feel a sense of gratitude for the Man above who ignored all my selfish wishes as a college student and put me on the path I am today.
See, while I was on the Capitol beat during an internship for my college newspaper, I dreamt the dream that one day I would be Senator Fairchild. Not long after, my life took what I thought was a south turn, and we had our daughter Kadence. (Who was 5 on Dec. 1!)
So out the window went my legislator, singleton college-girl dreams and down the pipeline came the non-traditional married college student from a small town (yep, I moved back home!).
After college graduation, I began a new journey, one I swore I would never do — work at the Lawrence County Record!!! But again, what a blessing.
Yes, I work for my family’s business, but to me, everybody who works at The Record is my family. I’ve spent A LOT of time here over the years, and most of the people who work here are people who knew me before I knew them, if that makes any sense. Plus who can get that dang ink out of their blood? I sure couldn’t!
I know I’m still very young, and I realize my life will take many, many more turns, and I guess that’s OK. But as my first born, the child who started this beautiful mess, celebrated a milestone birthday, it gave me pause to reflect and be thankful —‘tis the season, right!
Thanks for my life. It’s unscripted to me but my path is not unknown. God knows where I’m going to land, and up to this point, he’s proved to me he sure has a sense of humor!

As seen in the Lawrence County Record

Hello. My name is Ginia and I am cheap.

When you print something for thousands of people to read, I guess you can say “the cat’s out of the bag.” And much to Matt’s dismay, I’m sure.
See, I’ve wondered for a while now how Matt really views my “ways.” And then last night he told me.
“You’re the cheapest person I know.” And I don’t think he necessarily meant it as the compliment I took it as!
But, nevertheless, I am. At least I strive to be.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m no miser, I’ve just got a love for order and logic and living the “cheap” fits in.
I LOVE to make order out of things. I even offered, begged and harassed a coworker to organize her basement. (She hasn’t taken me up on my offer, yet!)
When my house is filthy — and with four kids and a husband, it is a constant battle — I feel out-of-sorts, like I can’t operate. It’s paralyzing to me when my “cleaning schedule” is not just right on track. So I plan, make schedules, make list after list after list, all in the name of order. And, this includes finances.
As you can imagine with little kids and a farm, we’ve got a drawer full of bills and only a pocket full of money, so I’ve had to figure out ways to make things stretch to cover the gaps. Like everybody, I’m sure.
I read and read and read different ways to do things with less money. I’ve found that when you make something from scratch — food and other household items — you are almost ALWAYS saving money!
I’ve got all sorts of ideas in the works. Way too many to list all of them, so here’s just a few:
Homemade laundry soap • use a lot of those ingredients in place of household cleaners you just thought you had to buy to clean your toilet, sinks, floors, tubs and as dishwasher detergent • can your own veggies and jelly • make homemade bread • create a dryer ball in place of dryer sheets or cut dryer sheets in half and then reuse two of the already used sheets per load — three times the use per box! • wash and reuse plastic bags • save all plastic containers from grocery items (like sour cream containers) and use as snack bowls for little kids or in place of purchasing plastic containers • I use vinegar instead of fabric softener • bar soap used for the laundry soap can also be used to wash your family! • hang clothes on your clothesline when the weather isn’t subarctic • use half powdered and half whole milk to stretch your liquid gold consumption ... I could go on and on!
My goal is to buy ingredients instead of convenience items and I know this isn’t for everybody. I’m not even a perfect cheapskate. Don’t judge me if you find us waiting in the McDonald’s drive thru for burgers that I surely could have made cheaper at home. (Believe me, I am hating handing over that cash!) But, it’s necessary sometimes.
Knowing where we spend/save every dime is freeing to me. A deep breath. Relaxation. Knowing I’ve worked hard to get the most out of what we’ve got.
And at the end of the day, after everything has been put where it goes (hopefully), I can rest easy on the couch with my DVR (yes, I gave in to the satellite!), knowing that I’ve worked to be my most-efficient self. And yes, that means cheap.

As seen in the Lawrence County Record

Eggs for sale

Aparently we haven’t cleaned enough poop with four kids, because we decided it was time for more chickens.
Fifteen to be exact.
Yes, we purchased (willingly) 15 more things that eat, drink and poop like crazy and I’m starting to question my sanity.
I think this farm thing has gotten a little out of control! (And Matt’s still talking about getting — actually he’s already ordered — 15 MORE little winged broilers!)
See when Matt came to me eager to share about his “find” of the exact type of laying hen he wanted, I can truly say I was supportive.
My logic, cruel as it may sound, was that 15 sounds like a lot, but with cold nights and four very young kids we’re bound to lose a few, right?
Wrong! Three weeks later and all 15 are still flopping around! Can you believe it? I can’t!
But wait, our cute canary yellow-chicks have morfed into odd-colored, long necked maniacs!
And I thought kids were high maintenance.
These chicks get fed like 300 times a day and every time you lean over with a morsel of food they act famished.
And the water dish. It stays fresh looking maybe ene second after you place it into the box, and then they trample all sorts of interesting objects into it. AHHHHH!
It doesn’t help that I have four “helpers!”
Like back during the first few days the chicks came home, I thought I’d put them in this neat little “fancy” cage we had from some other farm adventure.
The kids watched with sheer amazement as I took each little birdie and placed her gently into their new abode. After I had transfered the heat lamp over and all four kiddos were perched around the outside peering in, an alarm went off.
The bars. Are they just a little too wide?
But before I could act on my instincts, the fiasco began.
Paralyzation set in as I watched my days-old chicks escape from the cage and wind their way through and around my children’s feet narrowly escaping a trompling death.
Luckily, the kids were as dumb-founded as I was, leaving me enough time to bark out an order:
“nobody move!”
And they (the kids) obeyed! Phew.
I soon had all 15 chicks safely tucked back into their original box and decided that animals that come to our house just better get used to the cardboard lifestyle. We all had to.
And just today I started thinking. In four months — give or take — we will have a total of 18 laying hens. I had to get a calculator (sorry Mrs. Neely) to figure how many eggs that will be a week: 126!!!
Can anyone say:
“Eggs for sale!”?

As seen in the Lawrence County Record

Welcome home, Riki

Charlie said I should title this column, “Riki and the Rooster,” but then all you readers of this column would understand right away how my cousin’s visit to the farm went a few weeks back and I wanted it to be a surprise.
See Riki is originally from Hawaii and lived in Missouri for a while and graduated from Mt. Vernon High School. She then returned to Hawaii where she met her husband, and they (Andrew is in the military) are stationed in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. (I know, poor souls moved from paradise to paradise!)
So as you can see, Riki hasn’t had much experience (as her cousin has, like I’m some pro!) with farm life.
When she came back to the mainland for a visit to introduce her Missouri family to her new husband, I took the opportunity to introduce Riki to the farm.
We planned to gather the entire family at my house one beautiful Sunday afternoon. Fairchilds came from near and far to meet Andrew and visit with Riki.
Meal time went off without a hitch. And before our Baggo tournament could begin, I (innocently) asked Riki if she would check to see if there were any eggs in the chicken house. Hearing this request, the rest of the Fairchilds (who have been privy to my rooster experiences) eagerly gathered by the chicken house for the “show.”
Now, before you start thinking I’m the meanest, most inhospitable cousin in Lawrence County, you need to be aware of the many signs Riki was given that this was a set up.
#1 — I asked Riki to take off her high heels to wear a pair of Matt’s knee-high work boots.
#2 — The ENTIRE family didn’t walk, they ran to the back yard to watch.
#3 — Since angles might have been an issue when documenting the experience, two people decided to video tape.
#4 — I gave Riki a bucket and showed her how to swing it. (I thought she knew I meant in self-defense, but looking back, who knows what she thought motivated the advice.)
I will admit I felt a small pang of guilt or maybe regret as I opened the door and Riki apprehensively walked inside with me lovingly assuring her along that everything would be OK.
So as the rooster “introduced” himself to Riki and laughter, tears and screams ensued (not all from Riki, of course) I knew I had done the right thing.
In fact, I think this will be my new thing — invite city friends and relatives over to check eggs. Initiation, I guess — an insight into the life we lead, spurs and all.

As seen in the Lawrence County Record

Why Do I Keep Buying White Socks?

White socks. Or at least what used to be white socks have become my Achilles’ heel.
No matter the strength of my will power or the potency of my bleach, I can’t seem to get my boys’ socks to look like they’ve ever met water!
It’s no help that Rylan doesn’t like to wear shoes, but he LOVES to wear socks. Or that Matt’s work boots leave permanent orange badges over the body of his socks. Or that Masen likes to de-sock himself and chew on his teeny foot clothing. (Don’t ask me why dried drool is gray.)
I pride myself on stain removal. I brag and brag about my ability to remove unwanted stains from clothes. So every time I wash socks I cry and whine.
Usually I meet stains head-on with all the weapons in my arsenal ready to attack. But so far these socks have taken all my hot-water soaks, baking soda blasts, bleach washing, hanging in the sunshine in stride.
Every time Rylan races to his Sunday school class with Ms. Marcy and throws off his shoes, I worry.
Do people think I never scrub my floors? Or that I don’t make Rylan change his socks?
Matt asked me the other day as I lamented about the state of my family’s socks, “Why don’t you just buy dark socks?”
And I fired back, “Have we ever met?”
See, I’m one of those typical “Type A” personalities who likes control and win a little too much. I’ve told you about my schedules and anxieties about things that shouldn’t matter that much. But they do.
It’s pathetic, I know. It’s a problem, I know.
But, NO, I’m not going to give in to the gray-sock bully. I’m going to keep right on Googling my problem, seeking the advice of those who’ve gone before me and praying for a solution.
God decided that half of my family of six would be boys. And it seems boys play in a whole other laundry ball game. Their dirts a little dirtier, their grass stains are a little deeper and the magnitude of their grime is more wide-spread. And I’m still learning the ropes.
I love my boys. But I’m not real fond of their socks.
As seen in the Lawrence County Record

Mean Roosters Make Good Soup

I have lived in the “city” (Mt. Vernon proper) all my life — with the exception of college.
Since my husband and I purchased a farm, I’ve been experiencing a little culture shock. Seems this city girl has a lot to learn!
Farming was never in my mind as a career or pastime or hobby or really anything for that matter. And those who know me, or I guess knew me, cannot believe I live on a small beef farm. The reality of it is laughable to them. Not because it’s a humorous position, but because I, the former Coquette, Show Choir party gal am riding shotgun in a pickup opening gates for my cow-loving husband.
Matt (my husband) has always wanted to be a beef farmer and I guess this life is his wish coming true. We’ve got a small corner of the earth we run some cattle on. And as of now (the farm roster changes almost daily) we’ve got four young kids, a couple dozen cows, a bottle calf named “Lucky Lady Sally,” one dog, one cat, seven chickens, a rooster, a vegetable garden to tend to, fruit trees, and oh yeah, a little mouse I cannot seem to capture, so I guess he should be included on the masthead.
Like everybody else, we’ve got more to do than the day is long, but we’re enjoying all of it.
I hope you keep tuning in every month to see what we’re up to on the Oehlschlager farm — the freshman farm gal/new mom learning the tricks of the trade. My goal is to provide some information to those who haven’t been exposed to this lifestyle, but mostly to provide some comic relief to those who live it day in and day out.
My short time as a cattleman’s wife has given me more respect than I can show for all those making their living working the land. So my brand-new, never been broken into hat is off to you, veteran farmers.
I’ve got a lot to learn!
As seen in the Lawrence County Record


I have lived in the “city” (Mt. Vernon proper) all my life — with the exception of college.
Since my husband and I purchased a farm, I’ve been experiencing a little culture shock. Seems this city girl has a lot to learn!
Farming was never in my mind as a career or pastime or hobby or really anything for that matter. And those who know me, or I guess knew me, cannot believe I live on a small beef farm. The reality of it is laughable to them. Not because it’s a humorous position, but because I, the former Coquette, Show Choir party gal am riding shotgun in a pickup opening gates for my cow-loving husband.
Matt (my husband) has always wanted to be a beef farmer and I guess this life is his wish coming true. We’ve got a small corner of the earth we run some cattle on. And as of now (the farm roster changes almost daily) we’ve got four young kids, a couple dozen cows, a bottle calf named “Lucky Lady Sally,” one dog, one cat, seven chickens, a rooster, a vegetable garden to tend to, fruit trees, and oh yeah, a little mouse I cannot seem to capture, so I guess he should be included on the masthead.
Like everybody else, we’ve got more to do than the day is long, but we’re enjoying all of it.
I hope you keep tuning in every month to see what we’re up to on the Oehlschlager farm — the freshman farm gal/new mom learning the tricks of the trade. My goal is to provide some information to those who haven’t been exposed to this lifestyle, but mostly to provide some comic relief to those who live it day in and day out.
My short time as a cattleman’s wife has given me more respect than I can show for all those making their living working the land. So my brand-new, never been broken into hat is off to you, veteran farmers.
I’ve got a lot to learn!
As seen in the Lawrence County Record

I know it's illegal but...

I know it’s illegal but ...
I killed a snake.
There, I said it. Come arrest me now because I am guilty.
Hang on just a second there before you fire off all those “snakes are good” letters. I challenge all you snake-killer haters to react calmly and not kill or seriously injure an uninvited slithering house guest just hanging out on your laundry room floor.
My guess is most of you red-blooded Americans would react just like I did — scream and slam the door.
But after my initial freak out, reality sank in and I realized that if I didn’t do something immediately, the snake would continue his journey into the depths of my house and probably resurface some day in another inopportune moment.
So I decided to take matters into my own hands. I found a knife, a paring knife to be exact (not my most brilliant decision). I slowly opened the door and breathed a sigh of relief when the unwelcome reptile still was there.
Bending down carefully, I tried to inflict mortal pain on the lethargic snake. It took two stabs before the apparently annoyed snake noticed me. But when he turned his head toward me and mockingly stuck his tongue out, I lost it. I turned and grabbed the closest, biggest thing to me (a mostly empty bleach bottle) and swung away to save my life.
After a while, the snake succumbed to my attempts to kill him, and I left the carnage for Matt to clean up. (It was the least he could do.)
Looking back on my actions, I sound a little harsh. But I believe they were justified.
Physically the snake did no harm (besides elevating my blood pressure), but mentally, I’ve not been the same (you can stop laughing now!).
Because now every time I turn on a light, I envision a giant black snack coiled up, rocking its head back and forth, hissing. It’s not good. I’m hoping some day I won’t have to look down the toilet searching for snakes on my ascension to the porcelain throne.
So the snake paid his dues, and I’m paying mine.
I hoped the snake was just lost and not one of many living near and/or with me. But I got a phone call at work the other day.
Matt said Rylan told him he found “a worm” in the laundry room.
As published in the Lawrence County Record