A Part of Who I Am

“I was a high school counselor before I got married.”

“I have a master’s degree.”

Years ago, I sometimes found myself trying to drop these sentences into conversations. I wasn’t necessarily trying to brag. But as a new mom in a new place who no longer worked full-time—I worried what people would think about me. I wanted people to know that I used to be somebody. Not just somebody’s mom. 

I’m still proud of the degrees I have and the time I spent as a counselor. But, I don’t believe they define me. And honestly, they never did. If anything, those stepping stones brought me to where I am now. If I hadn’t gone to grad school, I wouldn’t have ended up in Bozeman. And if I hadn’t ended up in Bozeman, it’s not likely my path would have crossed with a random grain farmer from the middle of nowhere, Montana. And these three kids? They wouldn’t be here. 

//

Allie had her first day of school last month, and we sat down with the chalkboard to fill in the details about her. I honestly had no idea what to expect when I asked her, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Surprising no one, Rhett’s answer the day before had been “a farmer.” But Allie? I didn’t know what she would say. But without hesitation, she said, “I wanna be a cooker. Like you.” 

With her watching, I wrote down “a cooker” in purple ink. 

“You know I do more than cook, right?” I slowly said, immediately realizing this was more about me than her.

“I know. But I like cooking,” she said, shrugging her shoulders. 

I decided there was no point in explaining more to her, and really, who was I trying to prove it to? Once again, I wanted to feel like I was somebody. 

A few weeks ago, my mom was visiting, and we were sitting around the kitchen table for lunch. I pulled a pizza cutter with a decal from a former employer out of a drawer, and sat it next to the steaming pizza.

Rhett grabbed the pizza cutter and said, “Where’d you get this, Mom?”

“I got it from a place I used to work,” I replied. 

“You had a job?” Rhett asked matter-of-factly.

“Your mom had a lot of good jobs,” my mom said. “But being a mom is your favorite, right?” she said, looking at me with a smile. 

I guess the moral of this story is, my kids don’t understand what jobs are. Or maybe they do, and I’m trying to make it more complicated than it is. Allie sees me cooking a lot—because I do. So that’s what she sees as my job. Someday I’ll tell them how I was a high school counselor—peeling back another layer of me.

But for now, they don’t think of being a mom as a job. And maybe that’s a good thing. Even though being a mom is the most demanding job I’ve ever had—I don’t want them to see it as work.

I want them to see it as just another part of who I am. 


//


This post is part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to view the next post in the series “True.”

Moms Say Sorry, Too // On Coffee + Crumbs

This is my first summer as a mom of three, and I feel like I’m failing.

The smell of burnt hamburger fills the room, intensified by my baby’s sobs from the playmat on the floor. My shoulders rise; the tension is palpable.

“I know, Nora, we’re past your naptime. I’m sorry,” I say, but her crying is only getting louder.  

“Allie, can you please talk to Nora?” I beg my nearly four-year-old. “I’m almost ready; then we’ll take dinner out to Dad and the guys in the field, okay?”

“Hey, No-yah,” Allie croons as she kneels beside her baby sister. She starts making silly faces at Nora as I turn back toward the stove. Then, realizing how big the flames are on my new gas range, I turn down the knob.

I spoon the slightly burned taco meat into each flour tortilla, the steam rising from the green Dutch oven with each scoop. Allie abandons her big sister duty to watch me and climbs up the off-white drawers—the black handles perfect ladders for her tiny bare feet. 

Nora’s crying continues, so I walk to the front door and grab her car seat. After placing it on the floor beside the stove, I pick her up and snuggle her to my chest.

“I’m sorry, Nora,” I whisper in her ear while rubbing her back. Then, I lower her into the car seat and buckle her in.

“Allie, can you get her pacifier from my room, please?”

Allie jumps from the counter, her long dark hair bouncing down her back. I continue putting together the tacos, rocking the seat with my foot. A bead of sweat trickles down my face, and I wipe it away with the back of my hand. The blistering August heat combined with the gas range and the witching hour makes the late afternoons nearly unbearable.

“Here you go, baby,” says Allie, as she shoves the pacifier into Nora’s mouth.

Nora begins to rapidly suck the pink owl WubbaNub while rubbing her eyes. Turning back to the stove, my shoulders drop, and I let out a sigh. I tear off a sheet of aluminum foil, covering the last plate of tacos, and Nora begins to scream again. Grabbing the car seat handle with one hand, in a last attempt to calm her, I begin to swing it back and forward quickly. Soon, I realize she isn’t making any noise—the kind of quiet that scares me rather than comforts. Looking down, she is bright red, and her cries have taken her breath away. Her eyes scrunch closed—then she lets out a huge wail.

“I’m so sorry, Nora. I didn’t mean to scare you!” Immediately, I unbuckle the straps and pull her out of the seat. Then, with her clutched to my chest, I gently bounce her, continuing to whisper my apologies into her ear.

Despite my wish to keep holding Nora, I strap her back in the car seat.

Allie stands by the coat rack at the door, silent, with her eyes locked onto me and her sister. Looking down at her feet, I see she has on her pink cowgirl boots. “You ready? I ask.

“Yup, I got my boots on!” she says.

Then, I load the girls and all the food into the pickup, and we take off down the road.

“Mom, does she think you’re a monster?” Allie asks, her legs dangling below the seat, swinging back and forth. Her gaze fixed out the window.

My eyes are focused on the gravel road, shoulders still tense. “What?” I ask.

“She thinks you’re a monster,” Allie states, her legs still swinging.

“Who does?” I ask, looking at her through the rear view mirror.

“Nora,” she says, pointedly.

“I don’t think so,” I say, shrugging my shoulders, my hands still firm on the wheel.

Allie stares out the window, watching the harvested fields pass by. Her interest in the conversation is gone. I look at the clock, thinking Nora should be in bed sleeping, not just napping in the back seat. But I picture the guys in the field with hours of seeding ahead of them, their packed lunches long gone. I know they need dinner.

I hit the brake to ease into the field, and then it clicks.

Monster. 

She wonders if Nora thinks I’m a monster because I said, “I’m sorry I scared you.”

//

Click over to Coffee + Crumbs to read the rest of my essay.

The Long Days of Harvest


I’m tired. And I know the crew is too. I hate how easily I snap at the kids at this point of harvest.

In the brief moments when Rich is home, all three kids climb all over him, clambering for his attention. I usually stand in the background, watching. Partly because I love seeing how much they love him and miss him. But also because I don’t know where to start. What do I say that I haven’t had the chance to in the last month? It feels like I have everything and yet, nothing to share—all at the same time.

During the day, I listen to the conversations on our farm two-way radio. It helps me feel a bit included knowing some of what’s happening in the field.

A couple of times, Rhett has said, “Mom, the radio’s not for you.” At my lowest moments, I take this to heart. He says what I’m thinking, and I assume everyone feels about me—I’m not needed.

But, the other night in the field, one of our employees said, “Your meals are what get us through. It’s the best part of the day.”

In this season of my life, I often feel like I’m “just the cook” or “just the mom.”

But sometimes, a meal is more than a meal.

And a mom is always more than “just the mom.”


//

This was originally posted on my Instagram.

A Little Bit Nervous

The school supply list has been printed off and sitting on my desk for the last month. I’ve been a little excited about getting to shop for two kids this fall for back-to-school. Partly because I felt like Allie would be excited to pick things out, while Rhett doesn’t seem to have any preferences. And I’ll admit, it’s also because I love new pens, pencils, and notebooks.

The other morning, the supply list crossed my mind, and I pictured the already picked-over aisles at Target. “We need to go to town and get your supplies for school,” I told Allie. She was sitting on the counter, watching me make Malt-O Meal for breakfast.

“I’m excited,” she paused, playing with the fabric of her pajamas. Then, her head dropped, “But I’m going to be a little bit nervous.”

I put down the spatula, then wrapped my arms around her and squeezed her tight, “I’m going to be a little bit nervous too. I’m going to miss you.” She pulled her head back and looked at me, “I know.” 

Letting her go, I turned away from her, then blinked back the unexpected tears on this random Wednesday. I’ve already sent Rhett to school, and honestly, I wasn’t sure what feelings to expect about Allie going to school. Since Rhett started kindergarten last fall, she has wanted to go to school too. At least once a week last year, she asked, “When can I go to school?” My response was, “Next year.” Then, “In a few months.” Now, looking at the calendar, my response will be, “In a few weeks.” 

Allie was my baby for three and a half years. She’s a constant at my side. When Rhett went to all-day kindergarten last fall, it didn’t feel like a huge shock since he had spent most of the summer away from me in the harvest field. But Allie? While she spends a few hours here and there away from me, she’s mostly at home.

Thinking back to my pregnancy with her, the excitement, wonder, and magic weren’t muted—just because it was our second baby. So I guess it’s not surprising that the sadness, excitement, and disbelief feels the same as it did when Rhett went to Pre-K a couple of years ago. But somehow, it still caught me off guard. All the cliches flood my mind, “Wasn’t she just a baby yesterday?” “How did the time go by so fast?” 

This fall, she will be in Pre-K three half-days a week, and for that, I’m grateful. This coming year will be like dipping our toes into our time apart, hopefully making the plunge into all-day kindergarten next year a little less shocking.

I know I can’t go back in time or slow time down. But I plan to be intentional with these final weeks of summer. I want to take pictures I don’t plan to post, scroll less, and say yes a bit more.

For now, school is still a few weeks away. And I’ll keep making breakfast every morning and soaking up the last bits of time I’ll remember as “before she was in school.”

Marrying a Farmer Isn’t What I Expected

Recently, a fellow farm wife asked me, “Was marrying a farmer what you expected?” 

I thought back to the summer before my farmer and I were married. In the evening after work, I would drive out to the farm, park my car, and hop into the buddy seat of the combine. Butterflies popped up in my stomach as my arm brushed against his tan, muscular arm. He had one hand on the wheel, with his eyes focused on the field in front of him. Our conversations ranged from wedding plans to harvest and the yield from the crop. (The farm talk mostly went in one ear and out the other.) It was just us, and we had our whole lives in front of us.

The sunset—lighting the prairie sky on fire, painting it red and orange. A beautiful contrast against the amber waves of grain rolling ahead of the sharp blades of the combine header. 

Eventually, the bright colors began to fade, giving way to a night sky. He still had more cutting to do, but I stepped down the ladder at the edge of the field. Turning to wave to him, I pulled my jacket around me—the heat of the day yielding to a cool summer evening. I went back to my apartment, where the dust bunnies were full of dirt, no cow manure or stray wheat. And my dryer vent only had lint—no kernels of wheat or straw mixed in with the blue lint. 

Shaking my head at the memory, I replied, “You know, I don’t know if I knew what to expect.” Then I laughed. “Farm life had a romantic feel to it. But I wasn’t living on the farm; I could come and go. I didn’t know what I was getting into.”

//

Click here to read the rest of my essay at Her View From Home.

Love Letters In My Backyard

Love Letters In My Backyard

It was a gray spring day; the buds on the trees were just starting to bloom. I walked across the kitchen floor, and my bare feet slid across the carpet. Looking out the window, the reflection from the windows on the old house nearby caught my attention. The house was the original home on our property, and it sat not too far from my farmhouse. It had been abandoned for many years, and I’d been curious about what was inside. After putting on my shoes and jacket, I headed outside and toward the dilapidated house. Not sure what I was going to find, I cautiously made my way through the front door. I stepped over old furniture and debris and wandered through the first floor. After I had walked through the downstairs, I eased my way up the narrow, creaking stairs and glanced around. My heart started pounding, expecting anything, something to jump out at any turn. “I think you watched too many scary movies as a teenager,” I whispered to myself. At first, I only saw dusty, broken furniture and papers strewn about. But when I was about to turn around and go home, I found a stack of letters in an upstairs bedroom. 

Guilt bubbled up in my stomach as I picked the letters up. I glanced over my shoulder, feeling like at any moment I would be caught red-handed with envelopes not addressed to me.  But, I brushed the guilt aside and gently slid the worn paper from one of the envelopes.

They were love letters from the previous owners of our home, in the days when postage was only three cents. The wife grew up in this old house, and then when she married, they built a home (where I live) within walking distance of her childhood home.

I was excited about my find, and I looked around to see if there were more, but didn’t have any luck. With the envelopes clutched in my hand, I headed home, and pulled my coat up around my ears from the brisk breeze.

I placed the stack of letters on my kitchen table and carefully opened them one at a time—not wanting to lose track of which envelope each went in. 

Piecing together the letters’ order by their postmark, I put together a fractured timeline of their courtship. The letters were from 1938, when she would have been 26 years old. “My dearest Buff,” the letters began on weathered paper, his black ink faded with time. I imagined hearing his ink pen scratching along the thick paper. Did he write the letters from his kitchen table? Or at a desk in the evening after work? His words were lined up neatly across the unlined pages. It looked like he took his time, taking care with each word. 

After reading each letter, I placed them back in their envelopes. I wished I had the letters she had sent back to him in return. What did she say? Were her letters as neat and thought out? Did she scribble out a reply in neat penmanship, maybe in the late evenings by a lamp in the kitchen?

I knew they married and had two children, and in 1955 they built the house we now call home. But I wondered what she was like as a young wife, having been married only a few months myself. 

A few days later, I went back to the old house, hoping to find the letters she had written to him. I knew it was a long shot, but I wanted to read her replies. I poked around in the old house but nothing turned up. I would never know if she had a nickname for him or if it was only he who had a special name for her. 

I’ve always loved historical fiction. When I stepped into that old house, finding the letters felt like walking into a real-life book. Often, that time period is romanticized, and maybe that’s part of the appeal. I want to know: how they lived and how they loved. 

When Rich and I first started dating, we didn’t exchange letters, but there were hundreds of text messages. And sometimes he wrote me short Post-It notes and left them for me to find. Times have changed in the last 60 years, where a letter cost three cents and took days, maybe weeks, to be received. Now, texting makes communication instant. 

These letters reminded me that living on this land is a love letter in itself. The long hours and sometimes back-breaking work isn’t done because we want to become rich. Farmers and ranchers do it for the love of the land. 

My kids won’t find old love letters lying around between their parents. But I hope they can see our love written in the fields, in this house, and the time we spend together—cultivating their hearts, alongside the land.

A Few Good Things

A Few Good Things

As a kid, I remember thinking of Christmas as a mile-marker. I would look back over how much had changed from one year to the next. In high school, I’m sure I wondered if the next Christmas I would have a boyfriend. (Spoiler alert: I did not.) Or the year I went from not being able to drive (legally) to driving on my own. Then a couple of years later, I went from living at home to my first year in college. There were sad reflections too. The Christmas we spent with my aunt, knowing it would be her last. A couple of years before that, we gathered around my grandpa’s bed for his final Christmas—he passed away a couple of months after the new year. The following Christmases felt different. It wasn’t that it just felt like something was missing. Someone really was. 

As an adult, I see Christmas mainly through the eyes of my kids. Last year, Rhett and Allie were 5 and 3 and they were both old enough to be excited about Christmas. Their eyes sparkled with the magic and lights, the wonder of what would be under the tree on Christmas morning. I never even brought up Santa, they remembered from the past year. Last Christmas, my belly had the hint of a baby bump—and we didn’t know if the growing baby was a boy or a girl. The overwhelming feeling of adding a third baby to the family was slowly wearing off, and finally, my appetite was back to normal—my days of nausea behind me. We celebrated with my family in Wyoming, with yet another empty space on Christmas Day—my cousin had passed away two months before Christmas. 

This year, I know many people around the world will have empty places around their Christmas trees and tables. Maybe because someone passed away since last December, or maybe because they aren’t gathering together this year.

As I sit here writing this, I can’t help but wonder what Christmas 2021 will look like. Will masks be something we are talking about in the present tense or a thing of the past? (Let’s hope.) Will Rhett and Allie still believe in Santa? How many words will Nora be able to speak? I pray my family will still have the same people around the tree, even if we aren’t celebrating together. 

Even though this Christmas won’t look like year’s past, I know from experience that no Christmas looks the same as the year before. There is always good and hard. But I believe both can exist together. 

//

These are the good things I want to remember about 2020. 

In January we remodeled our kitchen that was stuck in 1955—and it’s beautiful. I’m grateful for it every day, and haven’t once missed the orange carpet.

Nora was born on May 21st in an exciting roadside delivery. Adding a new baby to our family is at the top of my “Good List” for 2020. I don’t take it for granted what a blessing a new baby is—one wished and prayed for by many.

Rich turned 40! I don’t know if he would consider it a part of the “good list.” But I’m reminded every year that growing older is a gift that’s not afforded to everyone. 

A few weeks before his birthday, we celebrated with friends. We rented a cabin on the river and the guys fished and the girls got pedicures. We ate good food, watched The Office, had cake, and relaxed.

We had another successful and safe harvest. I also survived my first summer and harvest season as a mom of three. I spent most of harvest cooking meals, with one half day spent driving a combine (with a three-month old in tow).

I kept the flowers in my garden boxes alive all summer—which is truly a miracle. 

Rhett started kindergarten in August and can go in-person. We’re thankful for his teachers and the school for making it possible in this crazy year.

 This year I was especially thankful to live in a rural area. With hundreds of acres surrounding us, the kids were able to run, play, and farm with dad, and life went on (mostly) as normal for them.

Rhett is learning to read and write and wrote me this note last week. 

“Rhett loves mom”

Allie started taking dance class once a week this fall and loves it. Since Rhett started school, there is a lot of talk at home about his teacher and class and learning, and Allie loves having her own teacher and class. She taught herself to write her name and is excited to be in school next year.

In October, Nora was baptized in the church I grew up in. When the pastor was pouring the water on her head (in the silent church) she had a huge blowout in her diaper. Rich remained calm under pressure and held onto her bottom to keep everything in place. He held it together long enough to finish the baptism and get a few family photos. Afterward, my mom admitted that at first she thought it was my sister passing gas and was worried she was getting sick. My sister was slightly offended.

Rich and I celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary in September. We spent the weekend before with the kids (on our first trip as a family of five) in Glacier National Park. We ate Chinese take-out and enjoyed the absolute beauty that is Glacier. On our actual anniversary, I baked a cake. Mostly because I like to eat cake. 

Nora cannot wait to be on the move to keep up with her siblings. She thinks their crazy antics are hilarious. She just turned seven months old and her two bottom teeth came in at the same time. She is so happy and always has a smile on her face. Allie and I often say how much “we want to eat her!” Rich still finds this disturbing, but has come to terms with it three babies in.

Above all else, one thing remains the same—the true meaning of Christmas. We will be celebrating the birth of our Savior—and that is something great.

There’s Something I Need to Tell You

There’s Something I Need to Tell You

The hot water pours down my back, steam surrounding me. “Babe. There’s something I need to tell you,” I say through the fog. 

I turn my head toward the bedroom, his outline is faint through the dingy hotel shower curtain. 

“Okay,” he slowly replies. 

“Nevermind,” I say. Butterflies feel like they are going to jump out of my throat. 

I hear the bed creak as he sits up, followed by the sound of him placing his phone on the nightstand. 

“You can’t start something like that and not finish,” he says. 

“Well, I’m not sure if it’s true, so I don’t know if I should tell you,” I reply. 

“Just tell me.”

I pause, wishing the water pressure matched the pounding of my heart. I let the water continue to run down my back, shifting from one foot to the other.

“Stacy. You’re making me nervous. What is it?” his voice rising. 

I take a deep breath. 

“I might be pregnant,” I breathe out. 

The silence that fills the room is deafening.

“I haven’t taken a test yet, but I’m a few days late . . .” I say. 

I shut the shower off, then move the curtain to the side—the curtain rings rattling overhead. Despite the clanging from the bathroom fan, it’s clearly not working—my shape is barely visible in the mirror above the sink. After grabbing a crisp white towel from the rack, I begin to dry myself. I reach up and wipe the condensation from the mirror, taking a look at myself for the first time since I’ve said the words I’ve been carrying out loud.

Tightening the towel around my chest, I walk to my suitcase perched on the table by the floor to ceiling windows. I begin to get dressed and look down the 20 floors to the busy street below. My mind flashes back to the last eight months of negative pregnancy tests, coupled with my knee surgery that forced us to postpone trying for three months. The past two months I didn’t even bother with the ovulation sticks. Despite them saying I was ovulating for the last year—the negative pregnancy tests outweighed their positives.

He leans his head against the headboard. “Should we go and get a pregnancy test?”

“I’m sure there’s a store around here somewhere,” I say, grabbing my phone from the table. “Looks like there’s a Target a few blocks down the street.”

We chat for a few minutes, a mixture of excitement and nerves fill the hotel room. I picture our two kids at home on the farm with their grandparents, feeling like it’s too soon to get excited about a baby. But then picturing a baby with two older kids sends me into a slight panic.

I collapse onto the bed. “I don’t know if I can handle three kids,” I exhale. “I thought I wanted another baby, but now I feel like we waited too long.”

I pause, running my hand across the maroon bedspread. “We can actually travel and leave the kids for a few days.”

He nods his head. “Well, we don’t know anything yet.”

After I’ve dressed and blow-dried my hair, I grab my purse and room key and we head to the elevator. We silently ride down the 20 floors and walk through the lobby. The sounds and smells of Chicago hit me as soon as the revolving door opens. The shock of concrete, people clogging the sidewalk, and traffic is such a contrast to our life at home, it makes me pause. Outside our front door on the farm I’m surrounded by dirt roads, wheat fields, and cattle. For a moment, I’m able to forget about the tiny being that might or might not be growing inside of me. 

We step onto the sidewalk, making sure to stay out of the way of the other pedestrians. I look down at the street, still wet from last night’s downpour. Then I squint my eyes from the sun and glance up at the tall buildings around me.

“Which way?” he asks, grabbing my hand. 

I squeeze his hand with more confidence than I actually feel.

I nod to the left, “This way.”

//

**This essay was written as part of the workshop, “Reading Well, Writing Well.” The assignment was to focus on writing dialogue.**