Monday, December 10, 2012

"Business Trip" Blog Post

Here's my IL Farm Families Blog Post from November. While I haven't had time to update my own Farm Notes Blog with fun farm stories, being a monthly blogger on the IFF Blog has given me deadlines, and I've learned that deadlines make me write. 

As an extension to the blog post below, I DID attend a business trip with Grant last weekend in Chicago. It was the IL Farm Bureau Annual Meeting where we stayed at the Palmer House, enjoyed a day of hanging out in the city without kids, and met up with friends. Grant mentioned that it was obviously a conference for farmers with our parking deck in the Chicago loop FULL of pickup trucks and Wranglers (jeans) and cow boots galore in the  Palmer House lobby and along the Magnificent Mile. Anytime he wants to take me to Chicago for a conference where I can shop, eat, and see friends, I'm game!

Illinois Farm Families Blog

Business Trip

Illinois Farm Families - Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Last night, my husband left on a “business trip”. Not the get-in-a-limo-wearing-a-suit type of trip, but a jump-in-his-pickup-truck-with-a-hog-trailer type of trip. My husband is a farmer and also raises and sells show pigs as a hobby. His “business trips” entail packing over night bags full of jeans and collared shirts, not suits and ties, and driving a trailer of pigs to a neighboring or far-off state for a hog show. 
Growing up, my dad and step-dad both left on business trips frequently throughout the year. They would wake up, dress in their suit and tie, and wait for their taxi or limousine to pick them up and take them to the airport before sun-rise. They’d be gone anywhere from just a full day (flying out early in the morning and back late at night), a few days, or even a week. They’d return exhausted carrying their briefcase and suitcase through the door wearing what seemed to be the same suit they left in. We’d greet them at the door with hugs and kisses to welcome them home. No sooner, they’d loosen their tie and get out of their suit and put on something more comfortable. 

Sometimes, I was lucky enough to accompany my dad on his business trips: Florida, San Diego, Hawaii, and Las Vegas were my favorites.  My first father-daughter trip was to Atlantic City when I was 7 years old. I have such special memories of being alone with my dad on that trip. Many years later, imagine my excitement when I was in college and my dad called to ask me if I wanted to join him in Las Vegas and we’d spend a few days hiking in Utah before his conference began.  I was beyond thrilled! Hawaii was pretty awesome too!

My husband has recently offered to take me to far-off lands of Oklahoma and Texas where I’d accompany him at pig shows, but I’ve respectfully declined. However, when we were dating (and I was eager to impress him), I did join him at the Illinois State Fair for two days where I hung out in a very hot hog barn in the middle of summer. I remember wearing cute jeans, a black tank top, and adorable sandals. I learned my lesson quickly as my blank top turned the color of saw dust, my jeans got all dirty from being sideswiped by pigs multiple times on their way to the ring, and my toes need protection from who-knows what on the concrete floor. When my kids are a bit older, we will go along with my husband to pig shows to experience the excitement of raising livestock. Although we won’t be going to Hawaii or Las Vegas anytime soon, the pride that comes from raising pigs from birth can be pretty awesome, and I want my children to experience that too. 

These days, I don’t welcome home a man in a suit and tie, but a husband who is still in his dirty show clothes from the early morning of selling and loading pigs. He too is exhausted from a long day and night of driving and many days away from home. And although he is eager to get out of his “business attire,” I always steal a kiss to welcome him home…even if he smells faintly of pigs.

Kristen Strom
Brimfield, IL

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Issue 14: How Deep Are Your Roots?

I was again contacted by Illinois Farm Families to write a blog post for their website and blog. In my Farm Notes post from May 17th, I included my first blog post for IL Farm Families called "Firsts" on the Farm.  The mission of their organization and blog is to educate non-farm families about what happens on a farm, where their food comes from, and dispell the myths about food, farming, etc. 

The inspiration for my latest blog post came from spending last Sunday afternoon at the side of my Great-Uncle Val Lazzaretto as he passed away. As we sat with family, we retold stories of their farm days. He will be greatly missed, but his stories will live on as we continue to tell them at family gatherings and pass them on to generations to come.

The response to this post was just awesome! IL Farm Families loved it so much that I will be a monthly blogger on their site. Hooray! Writing these short posts for them has reminded me that I need to get my Farm Notes blog updated with stories of what's been happening out here in West Central IL. I continue to come across non-farm families here in the Peoria area and back home that have so many questions about country living and farm life. This will hopefully be the motivation I need to keep my Farm Notes comin'! 

This is the direct link to the full IL Farm Families post and pictures: 
(The old picture is from 1989 when my Uncle Val took my brother Mike and me to the first farm I ever visited. You can tell by the picture that I didn't like the smell of the barn. The second picture is from last spring during planting season when I took the kids to visit Grant for dinner in the field- 23 years after the first picture was taken!)
The main link with past blog posts of IL Farm Families is: 
(If you scan down the page to the blog post from Sept 18th, you'll see my sister-in-law's post with a picture of my neice and nephew (two of Gavin's favorite friends!))
As always, Happy Reading!

I've copied the blog post below for easier access:

How Deep Are Your Roots?

Illinois Farm Families - Wednesday, October 24, 2012
My grandfather and his siblings grew up on a farm in rural Iowa in the 20’s and 30’s. Throughout my childhood in the Chicago suburbs, holidays, birthday parties, and family gatherings were full of stories of the farm. My grandfather and his siblings would sit around the dinner table, card game, or birthday cake retelling stories of their farm days. As a Chicago suburban girl, I had only those stories and children’s picture books to understand what farm life was like. I imagined a farm to be a dirt road leading to a white house surrounded by corn, wheat, and livestock. I assumed every farmer had chickens, pigs, cows, hens, and sheep, just like Old MacDonald. 
My relatives’ stories laid the foundation for my assumptions as well. They made their own sausage (I too took part in this tradition in my great-uncle’s basement, and we have a home video to prove it), stomped their own grapes for homemade wine (which graced the dinner tables of holiday gatherings), frolicked in the cow’s pasture (and were chased up a tree by a bull), got in trouble while fishing on their neighbors’ land (and received a harsh punishment because of it), had a close encounter with an alien space ship in the middle of a cornfield (I’m serious!), knew where Al Capone’s men bought their eggs and alcohol on their trips from the big city (which they were told to keep mum about), and were the first English speaking members of their immigrant family from Italy. The colorful memories of my grandfather and his siblings were tales of the good-ole days, before they left their country life in search of jobs in Chicago. As they grew up, there weren’t opportunities on their small family farm, so they followed the paths forged by their older siblings to where they could find work.

As a little girl listening to their farm stories, I never would have thought that nearly 20 years later, I would fall in love with a farmer and live on a farm. What I knew of farming was only what I had heard as a child and what I saw on I-57 while attending the University of Illinois. During those drives to and from college, I marveled at the beautiful sunsets, the golden colors of the changing crops, the farmers out late at night harvesting or planting their fields, and the wide distance between farm houses. In the years since I met my husband, I’ve watched multiple sunsets from the porch of a white farm house, drove down countless dirt roads, taken tractor and combine rides late into the night, and learned about the crops they tend and the pigs they raise. Although my husband’s family doesn’t make their own sausage, stomp their own grapes for wine, or have close encounters with gangsters or aliens, I appreciate the stories of the good ole days on the farm whether they are from my family or my husband’s relatives. Even though I grew up in the suburbs, farming and country living is in my blood, and I like to think that I’ve returned to my roots, where there is always a good story waiting to be told. 

Kristen Strom
Brimfield, IL

Monday, May 21, 2012

Issue 13: Baby Strom #2!!!!

Welcome Layla Rose!
While looking back at past Farm Notes, I realized I devoted the entire Issue 10 to announce my precious Gavin’s arrival into this world and how he made his debut, farm-style. Gavin’s arrival, his birth story, and the events along the way are nothing short of exciting, also complete with some funny farm details. However, Layla is already 8 months old, and I have yet to announce her arrival to my Farm Notes readers. (Sorry Little Miss, that’s just what happens when you are #2 in line.)

Baby Strom #2 was due to arrive on Sunday, September 4th, 2011 of Labor Day weekend. I was excited to maybe have a Labor Day Baby, but my plans changed when my doctor highly advised me to have another c-section since my previous one was so recent. That meant that I got to choose when my baby’s birthday would be. The pressure was on, and boy, was it!

Our new family of 4!
Sitting in my doctor’s secretary’s office with my calendar open, I had the option of scheduling Baby #2’s birthday anywhere from Thursday, August 25th through Thursday, September 1st. If you are a teacher, or already have a child born around that time, you know that it’s a huge dilemma…do you want your child to be born before or after the September 1st cut-off date for school? If Baby was born before September 1st, we’d have the choice to send him or her (I was sure it was a her!) to school as a very young child in his/her class, or we’d have the option to hold him/her back so that he/she would be the very oldest in his/her class in school. And when you factor in whether or not our unborn baby would be an all-star athlete or not, that could make the world of difference—did we definitely want him/her to have an advantage over his/her team members when it came to being a year more developed skill and ability wise (Sept 1 birthday), or just leave that option open for whoever our baby becomes when he/she gets older (an August birthday)? Leave it to us to think of all that!

Layla's newborn photo shoot...
Thank you to Nina for taking awesome pics!
Plus, we were also working around the August birthdays of other family members. August 28th would be his/her grandma’s birthday and great-grandma’s birthday and August 29th would be his/her dad’s birthday. WOW! And, when you factored in that I’d only be back to school for two full weeks before those dates, then you’re looking at a whole new set of circumstances. Phew, that was a lot to consider sitting in that secretary’s office all by myself. So, I took my calendar home and a month later, we finally set the date for Tuesday, August 30th for his/her birthday in order to “let Baby bake a little bit longer” (Grant’s choice of words). This date would allow me to teach two full weeks before taking three months off on maternity leave, it would give us the weekend to celebrate Grant’s 30th birthday with family and friends, and it would allow us to choose whether or not our baby would be ready to go to school where he/she fell in the school calendar as one of the youngest kids or be “held back” a year and attend as the oldest kid in his/her class. Everyone was happy…as long as he/she decided not to arrive early (but knowing my side of the family, we are never early)! Oh, and a few months later, we learned that I’d also be able to celebrate Grant’s cousin’s wedding three nights before Baby’s birthday was scheduled. I had a lot of fun planned for being incredibly large!

Layla's 4 month photos
And that’s it, that’s the most exciting part of Baby #2’s arrival. I’m serious. I prepared all summer in case Baby would come early, so even before the first day of school I had my permanent substitute prepped and ready to take over my classes, I had all my copies made for the first few weeks, and I had Gavin’s new room all ready for him to move into before Baby arrived. Despite the awful July and August heat, teaching for 2 full weeks, partying it up for Grant’s 30th birthday out to dinner and at the river boat casino, and dancing at Grant’s cousin’s wedding, Baby was still nice and cozy by the morning of Tuesday, August 30th. My mom came down the day before to watch Gavin while I went to appointments at the hospital. At 4am the next morning, our alarms went off, we took showers, grabbed our bags, got in the car, and drove the 45 minutes to the hospital in complete comfort. (This was a huge change from breathing through contractions for 45 minutes in the car the previous summer!) After we checked in at the front desk, I leisurely sat in the examination room watching the news with doctors and nurses coming in to ask me questions and have me sign papers. We just waited until it was the official 8am mark to have Baby #2. Grant tried to keep from falling asleep because it was just so “boring” compared to Gavin’s birth…and it really was. There was a lot of waiting, but I enjoyed the anticipation as we counted down the minutes until we would get to see who he or she would be! At 7:45am, the nurses came to get me, I walked myself into the examination room and got myself up on the surgery table, and was fully aware (and not on drugs like last time) of everything that was going on. It was so wild to be complete conscious of what was taking place, who was around me, and where I was.

8 month photo shoot at the park
By 8:22am, Layla Rose Strom was born into this beautiful world and our lives have been forever changed! She is the most smiley, lovable, joyful baby you’ll ever meet. She never cries, unless she’s hungry at night (which is often), and loves to laugh at us and her big brother. Gavin likes to give his little sister hugs, dance for her, and, most recently, ride her like a horse (which follows by me pulling him off of her and him laughing in response). I look at both of them and feel so blessed for all God has given us. I am learning patience (lots of it, especially late at night), how to be forgiving (when one of us, usually me, makes a mistake or is forgetful), how to not be perfect (if I can’t make all of Layla’s baby food like I did with Gavin’s, or if the house is dusty or the laundry isn’t done), and how to enjoy every moment in this awesome life.

Wherever you are, in the city or on a farm (or somewhere in between), I hope you too have been blessed with happiness.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Issue 12: Nine months later...Baby #2 and a new house!

Having fun in the park for Layla's 8 month pictures!
A few months ago, I attended the Knox County Farm Bureau Annual Meeting with Grant. The guest speakers were two young farm moms that were taking part in the Illinois Farm Families Program. The program works with city moms from Chicago, who they call "field moms," to educate them on farm life, livestock practices, where food comes from, planting and harvesting practices, and everything else in between. With all the myths and false information out there, IL Farm Families is working to bring truth into the homes (and onto the tables) of those who are removed from the farm lifestyle. They had recently visited Chicago to go out to dinner with the city moms to discuss farming and the farming lifestyle. The stories they told about the city moms and questions that were asked made me realize that if I hadn't married Grant, I would have been a city mom, just like the women they were talking about. I remember my first visits on the farm, the questions I asked, and the myths that were dispelled right away (all farms don't smell, grain isn't just wheat, farmers don't wear cowboy hats, a farm is definitely different than a ranch, etc). Now a farm mom myself, I knew that I’d fit right in with the program. I have the experience of growing up in the Chicago suburbs and living in the city, I have almost five years experience of living on a farm with a farmer husband (has it really already been five years?!), and I’m a mom of two beautiful farm babies.

After sending and receiving a few emails, I heard good news: I was invited to write for the IL Farm Families Blog. Along with other farmers, farm moms, and “field moms,” I would write a blog post for their website on anything that has to do with farming, our lives on the farm, my experience as a city turned country girl…you name it. I was notified this week that I was up; it was my turn to write a post, so I got typing. Since we are in the midst of planting season—actually, we are in a lull waiting for the fields to dry after all this rain so Grant can get planting again—I decided to write about our recent trip to visit Daddy in the field. I intended to compare it to visiting my dad at his Labor Hall and how excited I would get to spend a day with my dad, run around his meeting hall, type on the computer, play with the toys he kept in a closet for me, bang on the piano on the stage in the hall, and hang out with his secretary. Unlike my experience visiting my dad, Gavin got to visit his Daddy in the tractor and sit on his lap, pretend to drive, look out the windows at the turning wheels, and try to touch the computer screens and buttons. He had a smile glued on his face the entire time (well, actually, only until we had to stop him from touching the screens and pushing buttons that would make loud noises in return). While my blog post started off with that idea, it quickly changed to “Firsts” on the farm…the things that we are experiencing as a family (like Gavin’s first tractor ride of the season) and what our babies are learning.

Christmas time at our new house
And if you haven’t heard, after this past harvest and Layla’s arrival, we moved off the farm and into a small neighborhood closer to Peoria. We are not in a town, but rather in between two small towns. Our subdivision is located behind a huge horse farm and tucked between corn fields and an IL State Park. So, we are still in the “country,” according to a city person’s definition, but it’s not as far away from Peoria. I have a shorter drive to work, the kid’s babysitter, grocery store, park, shopping, doctor’s office, play dates, etc. Grant now makes the 30 minute commute to the farm, and we try to visit at least once a week either after school or on the weekends. Although I miss the star-filled sky and the peacefulness of living on a farm, I’ve been enjoying our walks throughout our neighborhood, taking care of our new, beautiful house and yard, and meeting neighbors who also have small children. It’s also more convenient for date nights in terms of finding babysitters and the ease of going out to dinner or with friends—I think we’ve been on more dates in the last five months then we did in the almost-five-years of living out on the farm.

Hanging out on the farm...8.5 months old already!
When people heard we moved, they were worried that Farm Notes would come to an end. To that, I respond that Farm Notes will never end! Farming and the farm itself will always be a part of our blood and who we are as a family. One of the reasons that attracted me to Grant was his work ethic, the pride and care he takes in tending to his crops and land, and the dedication he has to feeding families around the world. This is something I am proud to teach my children! While we may not live on the farm anymore, our lives still revolve around farming, and our children will spend countless hours helping Daddy in the tractor, learning about and raising livestock, and I’m sure eventually beg us to spend nights on the farm at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. (More date nights for us!) And hopefully, you’ll be with us along the way, reading about our adventures in life and parenthood that take place out here in farm country.

To read my Illinois Farm Families blog post, click the link or continue to read below…

“Firsts” on the Farm

As we drove by a tractor this fall, my 1-year-old son cried out, “Tractor, Daddy, Papa!” and started crying. He desperately wanted out of his car seat and into the random tractor where he assumed Daddy or Papa would be. Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, I never imagined that some of my son’s first words would be associated with a farm. Like most children, many of his first words are things he sees on a daily basis, such as a “truck” or “tractor,” even though his new thing is to call every vehicle a “car”—my husband says that’s “his mom rubbing off on him.” (Before I moved to the country, I too called every vehicle a car; I’ve learned over the past five years that cars, SUVs, trucks, and pickups are all vehicles, not simply “cars,” and that I need to distinguish between them if I want to look like I know what I’m talking about…which I admit, sometimes I’m lost when it comes to farming lingo.) My son also knows all his farm animal sounds and recently has started to call every animal he sees in a field “a horse”; we think it’s pretty funny but are quick to correct him and tell him that it’s a cow or a pig instead, which is followed by the correct sound that animal makes.

Gavin's 1st tractor ride of the season
So, when it came time for our son’s first tractor ride this planting season, you can only imagine his excitement. I was also eager for a tractor ride since I hadn’t seen my husband for a few days. There are days and weeks that go by without seeing him due to his early mornings and very late nights. Unless it rains, it could be a week or two where Daddy only comes home to sleep and leaves before the sun is up to get back in the tractor. On those mornings when my son’s first waking word is, “Daddy?” I respond with, “Daddy took his truck to go work in the tractor.” And even when I ask him during the day, “Where’s Daddy?” he answers, “Truck, work, bye bye.” Yes, I know, he’s a smart one! Even though he may not see his Daddy every day during planting or harvest, I am sure to remind him that he is farming—a job that some day he will share with his Daddy, “Papa” (his grandpa), and hopefully, “Gramps” (his great-grandfather).

Lovin' it!
I was sure to capture the “1st Tractor Ride of the Season” on camera and text pictures to my family in the suburbs so they could also see the father-son farming taking place. Although my roots are planted in the suburbs, I’ve sown news ones here in the country, and I enjoy watching my now 1.5-year-old son and 8-month-old daughter grow up around farming. I am proud of my husband and the care he takes when planting and harvesting the land, and I know our years of raising children will be filled with more “firsts” around the farm…for them and for me.

Kristen Strom
Brimfield, IL