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***Disclaimer: If you are in the holiday spirit, you may not want to continue reading***

I am just going to come out and say it…I do not like the holidays. Not just Christmas either. Pretty much all the holidays. I have come to the conclusion that there are three scenarios which tend to bring out the best and worst of people; weddings, funerals and holidays. What’s supposed to be a joyous, cheerful, carefree time spent with the ones you love turns into a chaotic combination of spending money you don’t have, running back and forth to countless family and work parties, witness compacted levels of family dysfunction, and being so exhausted at the end of the day to really enjoy any of it anyway. Christmas is supposed to be something totally different than what it has become. It is supposed to be a special time of year to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the same Jesus that later dies on the cross to save others from suffering. That exact selfless love is what I wish this time of year was really about. Lots of people say that, but those same people are guilting you into attending an extra party or putting in extra expensive requests for presents. Saying and doing are two TOTALLY different things! Why can’t we spend three hundred sixty five days a year showing the people that are important to us that we love them? Not that there aren’t things I love about Christmas. Winter itself is an enchanting time of year. Especially with Lena here now, I love sharing all these experiences with her. Sleigh riding, baking cookies, decorating the Christmas tree, setting up the Nativity, opening presents, screaming on Santa’s lap, and seeing hoards of family and friends in short amounts of time! But, there’s just too much pressure. Which is probably why I perpetually get some stress induced sickness around every holiday except Halloween! And, that is not a joke! This was mainly just a long winded rant from an overwhelmed, sick mama bear! Nevertheless, I really do wish things could be different this time of year…. lower, more realistic expectations and the simple, selfless love we should cherish year round! Who’s with me????

   


 
 
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The content of this post may shock some of you, as I'm sure everyone has had a different experience with their parents growing up and their significant other when they decide to get married and start a family of their own. But, it is something that has been percolating in my head for a long time. And, after discussing with lots of friends and family members, I realize there are some definite gender specific trends that seem to naturally occur after you get married and have children. To further preface this post, I will be the first to admit that I was an atypical little girl growing up. I really never imagined myself as a wife or mother. Maybe I am a product of my parent's early divorce. Sure, I had some good examples of marriage in my life, especially my grandparents who lived right next door. But, it never is the same as living in a home with both parents. Maybe I am also a product of the other women I had in my life during the formative years. I can recall in vivid detail some of my mom's closest friends drinking coffee at all hours of the day and night around the center aisle in our kitchen; sharing all the frustrations they had with the men in their lives. No, I am not looking for a pity party! When I am faced with certain feelings and frustrations now in my life, I try and take a step back to figure out where it's coming from before I completely implode. I do not believe that any event or situation in a person's life is a reasonable excuse for poor behavior or acting out down the road. However, everything you experience and how you learn to handle these experiences plays a huge part in the total person you become. You can quote me on that!

So, back to the meat of the topic here....what happens to a man and a woman when their single life ends and married life begins? I don't know if there is a chemical or hormonal or some other type of change that can be held responsible for the gender roles that appear in the new chapter of life. But, whatever it is, it is a powerful and inevitable force to be reckoned with! I used to think my mom's friends were crazy referring to their marital frustrations as a "man thing", but the further I get into my life as a wife and mother, the more I think they were on to something! (Sorry, honey!) A boy grows up with a mother to take care of him, do his laundry, pick up after him. When said boy becomes a man, it naturally becomes the responsibility of his new wife. When you're dating, you don't see that part. You both go back to your respective households without the frustration of having to pick up after one another or worry about how to pay shared bills or any of the other stresses that come when you live together as a married couple. Really sucks the romance right out of it! Then, you have a baby. It's the happiest time of your life, but there are more big changes coming....for the mother especially! I was scared to death in the days leading up to Lena's big entrance that I wasn't going to have the "maternal instinct" that I had heard so much about. But, it happened just like everyone said it would. It was like a light switch flipped on and I knew I had to do anything and everything for this tiny little co-dependent human. Living on a farm and starting a business adds an extra layer on top of that overwhelming responsibility. When people ask me how I do it, I say I don't know. And, that's the truth. When you're a mom, you just do what you have to do. You find a way to make things work and you just do it. I credit my mother 100% for instilling that skill in me. She raised me to be a strong foundation for my family, just like she was for ours.

Now, raising baby is not all rainbows and sunshine! Most days, I'm happy to just get out the door with both of us in one piece. Never mind that I'm still in my pajamas, mismatched socks, and I haven't brushed my hair in three days! Once Lena is at daycare, I get to embark on a fun filled day of domestic duties. Not only did I never imagine myself as a wife and mother, I certainly did not imagine myself as a maid! I would rather clean manure and cob webs in the barn all day before I would empty the stinkin' dishwasher or fold and put away laundry! It was bad enough when I had my own laundry and cleaning to do, but now I have a baby that really likes evenly distributing her clothes and toys all over the house and a husband that is sometimes even worse. Again, sorry honey! But, it's true. Back to the point I am trying to make here....I don't think the same light switch flips for men when they enter a marriage or have a baby. Their main outward concern is still themselves. Not to take anything away from their role as a provider in the household. And, I certainly did not chose my mate by his ability to do household chores. But, I didn't want this job either! Some parts of it, yes. But, all of it...NO! The bulk of the baby keeping responsibility naturally lies with the mother. If we are all going somewhere, I have to get her ready and pack the bag. If I have errands to run, I have to take her with me. The thought of a man packing up baby and toting her along doing errands to give mommy a break is crazy talk. That may sound mean and unjustified, but it's the truth. I'm sure hundreds of years ago when people lived in stick houses and had to kill their dinner, the same roles existed. But, we have come a long way from there. Or, have we? Maybe the same instinct that kept the women in the house and the men outside hunting still exists deep down inside our DNA. 

This post is a little long winded, so if you have made it this far and are still reading, let me proclaim that I love my husband and our crazy little life very much. There are just some days that the domestic duties make me want to have wine for lunch and whiskey for dinner. Take note, husbands....those are the days that a little bit of help goes a long way! And, we (I speak for wives and mothers everywhere) really don't want to seem like nagging witches! Trust me on that! All the jobs that we inherit with marriage and children just get a little...maybe a lot....overwhelming some days. We lose sight of our fun, sexy, spontaneous previous self for a frumpy, stressed out, always exhausted maternal version. And, that just stinks!

As with every successful relationship, communication is key. Sometimes, our requests for help may come out a little louder or fresher than intended, but that's when we need your support the most! I hope this post may be comforting, or at least a little entertaining to those who chose to read it :-)  We all love our husbands and our babies, but we need to not lose sight of ourselves in the process if we want to have any chance of a happy long term family! Have a beautiful day!!!  ~Allison  

 
 
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Having children is one of the most challenging new chapters in any family's life. One of the biggest parts of the challenge is learning how to develop some type of industrial strength filter to sort through the tons and tons of advice and opinions that people will not hesitate to give you. Whether you ask for it or not, you are going to get it! The problem with this is that what worked for them may not work for you. There is one seemingly minute piece of advice I got right after having Lena that has stuck in my brain ever since. (Drumroll please)........Make decisions based on what is best for you and your family. I will say it one more time....Make decisions based on what is best for you and your family. More specifically, your immediate family....which post baby becomes you, your significant other, and your child(ren). Sounds easy, right? Wrong! There are a lot of changes that happen when you start a family. Especially from the woman's standpoint, adding hormones to that picture makes for an even more stressful experience. My first few weeks with Lena is the perfect example. Out of all the decisions you have to make, one of the first is how you are going to feed this new little baby. Jonathan and I decided to try breast feeding.  In all those nifty little pamphlets, they say it is supposed to help decrease the chances of PPD (Post Partum Depression). What they don't tell you is that if it doesn't work (which it did NOT for us), your likelihood of getting increased levels of PPD is pretty high. It was a very difficult time trying to decide whether to switch to formula or not. It is one of many hot topics in society that people are very very passionate about! I felt guilty that I was not able to do it, so I kept suffering through until I got that singular piece of advice from a lifesaver of a friend. Seems simple, but it finally allowed me to take a deep sigh of relief. Once we switched to formula, mommy and baby (and daddy) were much happier! And, we have a healthy baby to show for it!

What made me think of this advice again and want to share it now is because our little family is again facing a new challenge....well, probably several challenges that seemed to come to a head when Lena started daycare. Yet another hot topic that nobody agrees on and everyone has an opinion about! This is her second week going to a really fabulous daycare run by a super sweet husband/wife team out of their home a few towns over. She gets a lot of individual attention, play time with kids her age, has awesome meals during the day, and her own cozy crib for nap time! Plus, while she's there, I get to actually get things accomplished! Again, this decision was not easy to come to. But, Jonathan and I decided it was the right decision for our little family. I know I haven't been posting many updates lately on the status of our farm, but to sum it up, it has grown really big really fast! Sometimes, opportunities present themselves and you just need to figure out how to make them work for long term success. So, technically, I am a "stay at home mom" and my husband still holds a "normal" full time job for a company based out of Virginia. On top of what a "normal" non farming mom would do, I add on the responsibilities of taking care of a budding animal production business. We have about 165 ewes to lamb, 10 brood cows, a puppy, some chickens, and way too many barn cats! While Jonathan focuses on his "real" job during the week, I take on the bulk of the daily tasks with the animals. When Lena was younger and less mobile, it was easier to take her outside with me and still get some things accomplished. Now, if you take your eyes off of her for more than a split second, she is gone! And, you better find her fast before she climbs a shelf or jumps off the couch! And, there is more to our growing business than just feeding animals. A huge part of it is exhibiting your animals to advertise your program and constant marketing and communication for other breeders and buyers. Of course we love doing it, but the purpose is to eventually support our brood without needing to work jobs elsewhere. It's significantly more at this point than just a hobby! More importantly, we think that life on a farm is far more valuable than anything else we can offer our daughter. In fear of getting too long winded, I will most likely continue this topic of conversation at a later date! For now, I am going to pick up Lena from day care, give her a big bear hug, and enjoy our time together without having to worry about the list of other things that life demands of me!

 
 
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You heard me! Space Bags are one of the coolest inventions of my lifetime and if you haven't tried them you should! (On a side note, the fact that I am blogging about domestic things like how to preserve baby clothes is a pretty crazy notion!) Lena has very gracious grandparents, so her wardrobe is never lacking! But, this presents a slight problem in what to do when she rapidly outgrows them. Even if they get passed on to another lucky baby, you still need to house them somewhere until they reach their next destination. For months now, I have had all the princess' newborn through twelve month clothes packed strategically in diaper and wipe boxes in the living room. (The picture on the left only shows newborn through nine months mind you!) I look at them every day and today was the day to get creative with packing them away. I've gotta say I've been pretty productive getting my list of projects done this week with Lena in day care! So, this is the deal on Space Bags.... they are essentially huge Ziploc baggies (another one of my favorite things). After you stuff all your goodies into the bag, you hook the vacuum house to the nifty little nozzle thingy and suck the air out. Boom! Final product is an airtight, clean environment for your clothes, horse blankets, pillows, lamb tubes, etc. to live in until you open up the package later down the road. To demonstrate how fantastic they are, I took before and after pictures. Enjoy and happy organizing  ;-)

 
 
Random title, I know! A few months back, I had the awesome opportunity to bond with this fantastic Canadian chick! And, today, I finally got a wonderful email from her...part of which was nagging about why I was so far behind on my blog posts! So, this one's for you, eh ;-)  Our little family unit has been chugging along our rapidly paced little life and I have a lot of things that I need to catch up on. Tomorrow is Lena's first day of day care, and surprisingly enough, I am crazy excited about it! I feel like I've done a pretty good job so far of laying the foundation for a pretty spectacular human, and now it's time for her to spread her little wings. She'll have fun and learn lots of good stuff, and I hope to get some much needed mommy time! On July 1, I sat down and wrote a letter to our baby girl and tonight seems like a good time to share it. Enjoy and I'll be communicating more soon!

My dearest Lena,
    I've been staring at the empty pocket in your baby book where this letter belongs since before you were born. For some reason, tonight seems like the perfect time to fill it.
    I think I should start by thanking you. It has been a joy and privilege seeing the happy, bright little person you are becoming. I thought I knew what life and love were before you became a part of me. But, I was wrong. You give my life a divine purpose. I want to be the best person I can be so you have the best role model, protector, teacher, friend, and Mom that anyone could have. There have been plenty of sleepless nights and upsetting moments this past year. But, I'm sure there will be more. I do not look forward to the times when we disagree, argue, or have to share sadness or hard feelings. But, please know that the unconditional love that your Daddy and I hold in our hearts for you will always persevere.
    I have a few thoughts and tidbits of advice that I hope you may come to understand and maybe even use some day...
1.) You may get upset when you have chores to do, but I promise hard work always pays off, even if you don't see it right away.
2.) Tell your loved ones how much they mean to you and never go to bed angry. You never know when they will be taken from you.
3.) Respect your elders and mind your manners. These two things never go out of style.
4.) Stop and smell the flowers. There are lots of important things to do in life, but the simple joys are the ones you'll remember.
5.) Open your heart, even is that means you could get hurt because of it.
6.) Hard times always pass. But, don't lose sight in the meantime of all the good that's around you.
7.) Communication is the key to any honest relationship, no matter who it's with.
8.) Don't judge other people. You never know what's going on in their life.
9.) Say your prayers.

    I hope you will always know how special you are. You have a light inside of you that will continue to shine in so many people's lives. I love you and your Daddy to the moon and back and can't wait to continue writing our story together.

Love always, Mommy
 
 
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We are really behind on the updates, friends! We have lots of catching up to do.... fairs, shows, judging, animals, babies, and the list goes on! We are in the midst of getting ready to artificially breed a set of ewes this weekend, so my energy level is pretty limited. The lengthy update will have to wait until I have more than five minutes to myself in the span of any given day! But, I thought of one upside to the animal / human difference tonight. As part of the prep for this weekend, we wanted to make sure the ewes had extra clean and fluffy straw beds to rest on. As I was working my way through the pen breaking up the bales and trying to make it as nice as I could, I don't think I saw a single ewe NOT pee on it directly after I laid it down perfectly in place!!! Clearly it was a long day because I found myself laughing out loud thinking how terrible it would be if people did the same thing! Aaaahhh....the thoughts that go through the mind of a tired momma / farmer's wife sometimes! I have lots of good ideas circulating in my head for future blog posts, but they will wait for another day! Hope all you RaisingLena friends are enjoying the last bits of summer!

 
 
Lord knows I love my baby girl with all my heart, but some days are especially trying! Generally, they come when the list of things to do far exceeds the hours in the day and my better half is out of town so my duties multiply pretty rapidly. Lena may only be shy of fifteen months, but I think she's hitting those terrible two's a little early. She was hell on wheels today, being especially mischievous and even chomping down on mommy's arm a time or two or five! I try and control the amount of reading that I do on parenting because it gets a bit overwhelming, but one that I do enjoy is Connection Parenting. It's really pretty interesting and makes sense in a down to earth way. One trend in the book is talking about how far we've come from a society where the mother's sole focus is taking care of her brood. And, the "village" of nearby relatives and friends helped with the rest. Now, we tend to get so wrapped up in the daily grind of other tasks that we lose sight of what should be the main focus of our energy. So, I tried my best to take a deep breath and stop worrying about the rest of the day. Tomorrow is a fres
 
 
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I've had a bit of blog writer's block lately! Until tonight that is. After a long week at the county fair, I have all kinds of tired emotions waiting to come out in some creative way! Ever since having our beautiful baby girl come into my life, I have become much more conscious of what I do and how it will impact her now and in the future. Sometimes, parents forget that our children are like clay and they mold themselves after us. One of the lessons that I hope will rub off on Lena is to give back every chance she can. Some of my best memories from growing up are raising and showing livestock, especially through my time in 4-H. I remember vividly and still keep in touch with many of the alumni and leaders that helped me get started years ago. So; at my new home town county fair this week, I took as much time as I could to help the young exhibitors through showing and fitting, judging contests, and working the sale. It was such a fun week! All our animals did really well and we got to spend time with lots of friends, old and new!

Our fair concluded today with the junior livestock sale. To set the record straight, we don't have anywhere near a surplus of money laying around! But, we do the best we can to pool buyers together and support our local youth. Standard protocol for after you buy an animal is a thank you card and some type of gift or tastey treat from the seller. However, we experienced quite a different and unfortunate end to our sale day today. After buying a few ewe lambs that went through the sale for considerably more than the market price they would have gotten otherwise, my poor husband got assaulted by an angry mother-daughter duo. (This is where the title comes into play!) After tieing up the loose ends of helping to clerk the sale, I obliviously walked into the lamb barn in the middle of world war three! For those of you who know me in my previous life (BL = Before Lena), I probably would have jumped all over this wild woman yelling at my husband. But, I think I was and still am in shock over the sight of what was happening. Elbow to elbow, a mother and her twenty year old daughter who just completed her last year in 4-H/FFA screamed profanities and pointed fingers in a fit of crazy anger. They said things like "My life goal now is to ruin you", "I knew I should have killed this lamb before you got her", "You'll never sell a lamb here again", and all kinds of other incredibly nasty things. I couldn't even believe what was happening. I mean, who does that????? Luckily, my saint of a husband walked away when he saw that there was nothing productive coming out of the situation. As if one of them reacting in this way wasn't enough, a mother teaching her daughter that that behavior is acceptable at any age is totally beyond the realm of what I am able to grasp.

The silver lining of this story is magnificent and two fold. The first part is that my relationship with my husband and our friends and supporters is yet again stronger. And, the second part is that I spent my day recording donations from dozens of young exhibitors selflessly giving part of their hard earned money to scholarship funds, barn renovations, and families that may need it more than they do. Clearly, some parents are getting it right! So, cheers to them and the people they are bringing up to steer our future in the right direction! And, here's to hoping for a better fair next year and moving in a positive direction to support our youth   

 
 
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After enjoying a delicious breakfast of home raised eggs, I was inspired to hop on the blog during the princess' nap time and share my experience! I guess I was spoiled (yet again!) growing up because we always had laying hens in the back yard. Behind my rose colored farming glasses, I didn't realize until buying eggs in college that there is a HUGE unmistakeable difference in store bought eggs! The title that came to mind for this blog is pretty accurate. When you break open a store bought egg, the albumen (white part) generally expands over a bigger area than home raised eggs. And, the yolk (yellow part) is generally a much deeper yellow or sometimes even orange color. Looking around on the web for ways to describe the taste difference, I think the best adjective I found is that they are "just eggier". Well put! Beyond the visual difference, they do taste quite different. Better if you ask me! I also happened to chance upon an article last week about the rising number of hens that are neglected, left for dead, or dropped off at shelters when the "urban farmer" who purchased the cute fuzzy little chicks realized they don't stay that way forever! The reality of it is, chickens stink! If you have them in any type of confinement, there will be an odor, just like any other specie of animal. Free range is an option but you have to be extremely careful with predators and making sure your feathered friends don't go where they shouldn't be! Luckily, they do have a taste for bugs, which is always a good thing in my opinion! If you don't already live on a farm, it will probably cost more to build their living quarters than you probably imagined, so by the time you're finished, things may not add up on paper! Luckily, there is a solution.....Buy local!!! There are plenty of well equipped Americans raising chickens for fresh eggs. They may even be closer than you expected! I can promise you that once you know the difference, you won't want to go back!

 
 
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And, I'm back! I apologize for my short absence from the interweb! I've been battling internally about what topics to blog about. I have dozens of ideas and drafts ready to go, but I don't want to publish something totally out of line with baby business, which is where we started this journey! However, after watching all the news updates today, it gave me the perfect inspiration.

I don't have many qualms about actually raising a little person, i.e. feeding, watering, making sure she gets enough sleep and lots of playtime and love. It's close enough to raising animals that I can figure out the basic necessities! (Sounds terrible I know!) What I worry about....what keeps me up at night....is seeing the world that my precious baby girl is going to have to live in. A world full of so much negativity, hate, bullying, constant arguing, and judgements based on your beliefs or lifestyle. Imagine how much nicer of a place it would be if we all tried a little harder to live by one of the infamous rules recited by parents worldwide....'Treat others the way you want to be treated'. Easier said than done! There was hours of national news broadcasted today discussing whether or not the government can continue treating homosexual and heterosexual married couples differently under the law. Maybe it's just me, but that doesn't seem like the most productive thing to be focusing so much of our nation's energy and resources on. We live in a country where the average family struggles every day just to stay afloat. There are children starving, crimes being committed, and natural resources being abused or neglected. Yet, we still put all this energy into deciding whether or not gay couples deserve the same civil liberties as straight couples.

Little tidbit...I grew up working with show jumping horses. What does this mean.... I was exposed to a huge homosexual population from an early age!  And, it was far from being accepted by the majority of family and friends outside of that circle. Still today, some of my best friends are gay. Most of them are involved in agriculture and had similar upbringings to me. They are hardworking, generous, and striving for the same things in life. So, who am I to tell them that they are not allowed the same privileges as I am because I chose to marry someone of the opposite sex? Sounds like a simple justification, but it's true. After several heart to heart talks trying to understand the homosexual way of life, my heart breaks for anyone who isn't allowed to be with who they want to be with based on who they love. (This is from my experience, mind you.) But, I would challenge anyone to try and be open minded about something they may not understand, and have a conversation with someone who is actually affected by these rulings. You may find out that your lives aren't so far apart. After all, wouldn't you want to be treated as well as you are willing to treat your neighbor? One of the most important values that I hope to teach my daughter is that it doesn't matter what color you, what Church you belong to, or who you want to spend your life with. If someone is good to you and treats you fair, then you should return the same kindness. As strange or different as you may think other people are, how boring would life be if we were all the same?! 

 

    See what happens when yesterday's values & today's demands collide with raising a family & running a farm!

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    Allison is a modern day stay at home mom / farmer's wife living in Bedford County, PA with her husband Jonathan and daughter Lena!

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