This morning I woke up in a home that I share with my husband and four children. I got the kids on the bus while sipping hot coffee, and then headed out to the barn to milk cows with the new puppy trailing me. After chores were done, I had breakfast with my husband before settling into my home office to work on things for the newspaper.
I guess you could say I’m living the dream. My version of it, anyway. When I was younger, this is in fact what I thought of when I considered the dreams of my future. A red, hip-roofed barn full of cows, a family and an outlet as a writer.
What I did not picture was everything it took to get here. There are a few moments that come to mind when I consider the last decade.
How about the time we were moving from Viola to Muscoda. It was about a 40-minute drive. We had three kids at that point, ages 5, 3 and 9 months. Even though our family members, who were two hours away, helped as much as they could, there were many trips made with the kids, my husband and I in the pickup truck and a load of belongings in the back.
There was one such trip where the baby screamed lustily unless the toy on her car seat was playing its music. This toy was a smiling flower that hung from the car seat and wailed a high-pitched tune. It bore no resemblance to any recognizable song and seemed to pierce right through the listener’s ear drums, leaving them cross-eyed and on the brink of insanity. Paired with complaints from the two older kids who were given the task of repeatedly activating the torture, it was enough to make me question some life choices.
We made multiple trips that night and I remember saying to my husband, “Imagine hearing this tune 10 years from now?” To which he replied, “I think I’d instantly break into a cold sweat.”
Or, how about once we were settled at that farm and happily milking our 40 cows in a tiestall barn. Our fourth child was born in the meantime. My husband got a job off the farm to make ends meet, and I took care of most of the chores while he was gone. Usually, the new baby would sleep in the stroller while the other three kept each other occupied.
There was one time in particular that nothing was going well. The new baby was cranky, and the older three would not stay where I could see them. The cows picked up on my frustration and kept kicking milkers off while the baby cried and cried. Jason was not home from the off-farm job, and I had half the cows to milk. I finally had enough and let the milkers hang idle. I found a 5-gallon pail to sit on in the middle of the walk and nursed the baby while the other kids ran wild and the milkers click-clacked away. Not my most glamorous moment, for sure.
When we moved to our current farm, I thought things would get easier. We had since doubled our herd and the simple fact that we no longer had to switch cows was encouraging. Less than a week after we moved there, however, Jason injured his knee while milking and was confined to the aid of crutches to get around. Our youngest was just under 1 year old, and the oldest was 6.
Our roles changed, and he spent most of the time in the house with the kids while I took over chores. The first time I tried to feed the heifers with the electric feed cart, I ran into trouble. The feed cart had to go up a slope which was wet and icy because it was the middle of winter. I put some barn lime down and started up the slope. The feed cart did not have enough power to go up the slope, and even though I was pushing as hard as I could, it slid off the side and smashed my finger into the gate. Some choice words were used, and life went on.
Those are not the best or worst times we have endured. When I have a good day and think I am living the dream, I try to remember what it took to build. The struggles are what makes a dream. If it was easy, it would not be worth it.
While there are many reasons why I don’t feel as though we have made it, I can recognize certain things are not quite as hard as they used to be.
Next time you find yourself in a less than ideal situation, think of what you are working toward and remember that someday you may laugh about it.