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As the kids start their first day of Christmas vacation, I realize what I’m looking forward most to during this time is just spending time with them. Between two kids playing basketball, school activities and having a Jr. in High School, there are days when we only see each other briefly in the morning and again at night.

Note to the older wiser parents who warned me this would happen you were right. When they were young and under my feet and testing my patience, I wished for them to be not quite so close. When they couldn’t stop chattering and I needed just a moment of silence, now I have to find them to ask questions about how their day went and what’s happening.

I’m not the only one looking forward to a little peace, quiet and relaxation over the holidays. The kids are too. I know that they get tired of late nights, early mornings and running around.

So we’ll take advantage of our time together and make fudge, caramels and other Christmas goodies. We’ll gather around the TV and watch our favorite movies. We may even play Monopoly and let Brett beat us again for the umpteenth time. No matter, we’re together and that’s what counts.

Merry Christmas to Everyone!

One of my goals this summer was to run a longer distance race, somewhere between 5-6 miles. I was able to accomplish that goal today with Dale’s help at the Freedom Run 8K in St. Peter. Physically I thought I could probably run that far, but mentally I knew I’d do better and enjoy it more if someone ran with me. Dale, coming off Grandma’s Marathon two weeks ago agreed to be my running partner and pacer.

 The whole family loaded in the van at 6:00 am this morning, since Beth was running the 1 mile kids race and I needed the boys to stay with her while we ran. It was a beautiful morning and as we gathered at the starting line, I wasn’t too nervous but I told Dale my goal was not to walk at all.

We started off at a nice pace and as we ran I already was starting to sweat. Having experienced stinging sweat in my eyes on some of my training runs, I borrowed Beth’s headband that she got at Grandma’s Marathon which really worked to absorb the sweat.

We ran at a consistent pace, slowing slightly for the hills. Dale and I didn’t talk much but I appreciated his words of encouragement and the steady sound of his stride next to mine. As we passed mile marker 3 going up a slight hill, I knew things were going to be okay. As we came upon mile 4, I was ready to pick up the pace a bit, which was the right time since we were starting to go downhill.

As we ran down the hill Dale encouraged me to open up my stride and then as we neared the end, he told me to go after a lady ahead wearing a hat. Just as I surged, she did too, but I passed her right before the finish line and finished with a time of 46 minutes, 50 seconds. Not a course record or even a placing for my age, but still a nice time.

 The race was important to me mentally and physically, to give me the confidence to know I can run those distances. I really appreciated Dale’s support and I know it was hard for him not to just break out and run faster.

 Beth finished the morning with a nice one mile run, finishing second overall and the first girl.

 Setting goals is important; but achieving those goals gives us confidence to do even greater things.

 

Running motivation from a poster

 
“Is it raining?”, Brandon asked me at 4:30am, the morning of my 1/2 marathon race in Duluth.
 
“It doesn’t matter”, was my response.  After training for months, I wasn’t worried about the weather or my stiff knee or the wind.  None of that mattered.  I just wanted to soak in the feeling of the day, and virtually nothing could ruin that feeling.
 
I love the feel of race day.  Joy and pain and energy

Max didn't run fast enough

and exhaustion and smiling and crying and accomplishment.  It’s a high that is hard to describe.  The race went well, but the weekend was about so much more than the race itself.  The weekend was about bringing the four corners of my life into the center.  I call these four corners the “four F’s”. 
 
The four F’s in my life include family, faith, fitness, and farming.  Which F is taking priority depends on the day or hour, but often only one is in the center.  What is so great about Grandma’s Marathon weekend is that the priorities in my life come together and intertwine, and it is very seldom that this opportunity arises.   It’s a powerful feeling… pork power.
 
 
 

Saturday morning Beth woke up giddy and talkative. Despite the gray overcast day, she was full of excitement and the main reason was Easter and coloring Easter eggs. Our kids are old enough that you wouldn’t think it mattered that much to them anymore, but it does. Saturday afternoon, Brett, Adam and Beth took time to color Easter eggs.  There were plenty of ooh’s and ahha’s as the colorful eggs emerged from the cups. Blue seemed to be the best color this year.

It’s still a tradition to hid eggs on Sunday morning. In the past this was my job but since the kids are older, they take turns hiding the eggs for themselves.

I’m glad the kids can find joy in the simple things. It’s easy to get caught up in the details and forget to just stop and enjoy what’s happening. I also appreciate the traditions the kids want to keep.

Easter turned out to be a beautiful day. The kids spent plenty of time outside in the afternoon playing with their younger cousins, helping them find Easter eggs. The sunlight and warm weather gave us a boost of energy and the hope that spring will finally come.

The women in my mom’s family have gotten together for a weekend in February for almost 20 years now.  Aunts, cousins, sisters, and grandmothers converge on a predetermined host’s house.  Women’s Weekend 2011 was held at my mother’s house this past weekend.  I couldn’t help coming away with a joyful heart and a greater appreciation for all of these positive women.

Some of the weekend activities included sharing five things from your bucket list, an auction of gently used items, shopping for the best deal of the day, laughing, visiting, eating and eating.  I realize I mentioned eating twice.  Breaking bread together is a really important part of the weekend and eating is where the pork connection comes in.  Whether it is pork roast with sauerkraut or pork sausage and eggs or ground pork in spaghetti sauce, pork definitely is a delicious food to share among families.

Mealtime is about way more than satisfying our appetites.  It’s sharing time and laughing time and bonding time.  As we joined hands before our last meal at Women’s Weekend we took a moment to give thanks for all of the women who have shaped who we have become.  Pass the pork.

Winter has not even officially started, yet we’ve had enough snow to make most people ready for it to be over. Cold temperatures and icy winds have added to the mix and we’re already talking about what it takes to be a “hardy Minnesotan”.

What should we do? Well, when you’re 13 year old son asks you to come outside and have a snowball fight, you put on your winter gear and get involved. The snowball fight turned into a “King of the Hill” contest that pitted Adam and Brett against Beth and I. Thanks to the huge snow piles that Dale made from all the snow so far, we had an awesome hill to claim.

Fortunately the boys have enough respect for Beth and I that they don’t use all their strength. I use my “experience” (isn’t that what we say when we get older and less agile?) to try to outsmart them. We try to stop the game before someone gets hurt, which isn’t always easy since Beth always seems to catch a flying boot or knee.

Not everyone has a nice yard or big snow pile to play on. But as the saying goes, life is what you make it. Winter looks like it’s here to stay for a while and we can either try to find some enjoyment out of it or be unhappy. Snowball fight anyone?

After getting off to a very wet start, the fields dried out surprisingly well and now harvest is in full swing. Except for a few small wet spots, bean harvest is complete. Yields haven’t been totaled, but appear to be better than expected. Dale has started to harvest corn. The quality seems good and he was happy to have fresh corn for the pigs, which they always seem to eat better.

This is an exciting time of year as there is lots of activity with tractors, wagons, trucks and combines. Six months ago tiny seeds were planted. The ground has been fertilized, cultivated and watered. The combination of sunshine and good weather along with the hopes and prayers of many farmers has culminated in what they glean from the fields today. It not only takes science, skill and technology, but a little good luck to get a great harvest.

I listen to the drone of tractors going late into the night. Fall harvest means long hours. Farmers take advantage of the good weather while they can. Everyone has a job to do, even if it’s just making lunch for the workers. Growing food for people and animals is an important job.

I am sitting in Milwaukee’s Mitchell Airport waiting for the final flight back to Minneapolis /St Paul. While here we got news that Brett Favre decided to retire (??) Time will be the final judge on that decision, but it was good for some meal time discussions. That was far less important than some of the time I was out and about the last 5 days.

We traveled to Washington DC to spend some leisure time and soak up a lot of the nation’s history. We were able to see a lot of important sites and sights, and put in a lot of walking miles. One of the best things I did, though, was go for a run every morning (except Sunday). Far from making me more tired, the runs warmed me up and got my day started right. Even though we would be on our feet for 10 hours or so, walking used different muscles and actions than running, so both were compatible. It was also great to see the National Mall with far fewer people around than later in the day.

During 2 of these runs, I had company. Monday morning’s run was with Brett and Adam, complaining about the early wakeup time (6:30), but willing to put in 5+ miles at an “old-man’s pace.” I felt proud that my sons were willing participants in the sport that I enjoy. This morning Lori and I let the kids sleep in while we put in an easy 2 miles to start the day.

All in all it was a great vacation. We live in a great nation and should honor those that helped shaped our country and also those that currently serve our country in various capacities.

My 10 year old daughter Beth asked me that question earlier this week. Blue Earth’s Giant Days road races were coming up and she wanted to do the 2 mile run this year instead of the ½ mile kids run. Without hesitating I said yes and then jokingly added, but will you race at a pace that I can keep up with?

What a great thing to have your daughter ask you to run with her. During the week we got out a few times to train. Beth likes to talk when she runs so we have great conversations. Hopefully these small conversations will set the groundwork for her teenage years, when having someone to talk to is vitally important.

Race day ended up being a family affair, as you can tell by the picture. Dale and the boys ran a 10K race. He helped set their pace since neither of them has competitively raced at this long of a distance. Both did well even though Brett struggled a bit with his stomach and Adam got a side cramp.

Beth and I waited around while the guys ran, since our race was later. She commented a few times on how she was nervous, but I told her being nervous was normal and encouraged her to channel her nerves for positive results. The race started out fast. Dale also ran with us and we slowed the pace down a bit. True to form, Beth conversed along the way. It really was a pleasant run. Dale encouraged me to pick up my pace a bit, which I did and those two stayed slightly behind me. With about 30 yards left, who should come up sprinting from behind me but Beth. She ended up crossing the finish line at 18:01, 3 seconds ahead of me.

Doing activities together is an important part of who we are. Fortunately we’re in good health and in good shape that we can run races. But we’re not just running races; we’re using these moments as a chance to teach our kids about themselves and how to react to the various things that happen to them. Running through a side cramp now can teach them how to work through a difficult project in the future.

Beth and I didn’t just run a race today, we shared an experience.

Training for Grandma’s half-marathon is reaching its peak over the next few weeks,  while training on the farm is just starting to ramp up for the summer show season.

What, you may ask, does training for show season entail?  Our four children all show beef and hogs at several fairs and shows throughout the summer.  Currently the kids are working on training their five show heifers.  The heifers are the female cattle prior to having their first calves.  The kids walk over to the farm every day after school and put each heifer in a ten foot by ten foot pen.  They slowly work at gaining the animals confidence by sitting on the fence, scratching the animals back with a show stick, brushing the animal, and finally putting a halter on.  It is a slow process of gaining the animal’s trust.

Yesterday Maddie’s race training and animal training intersected.  One of our heifers, Reba, got spooked and jumped out of her pen.  Now, you can’t run after a heifer to catch her. You have to think like an animal and predict which way she is going to move in order to get her back where she needs to be.  Maddie, along with Brandon and her siblings, put on many miles through the neighbors fields and pastures and then through our own planted corn field trying to move Reba back towards her pen on our farm.  Just when she seemed to be moving in the right direction… BAM… she would run the other way.  I really don’t work with the cattle, Brandon’s turned me into more of a pig person, so I watched the whole ordeal from our deck overlooking the farm and neighboring land.  The kids and Brandon made quite a team, and finally, two hours later, Reba was back home with her friends.

Maddie’s running training definitely helped keep her endurance high during the heifer marathon.

Once the heifers are trained, the kids will move on to training the steers.  When school lets out all of the animals will get bathed, blowdryed, brushed, and walked every day.  The  pigs also will get walked and bathed, but don’t need quite as much discipline, since they are not led by a halter.  It’s a full summer, but the kids wouldn’t have it any other way.