Dairy farming holds a special place in my heart. It’s important to me that Eleanor also has opportunities to see and experience farm life during her childhood. We try to make that happen, but living in town and both Jordan and I working full time doesn’t always afford us the convenience of being able to drop in at my parents’ farm whenever we want in order to help with chores, especially on a toddler schedule. So, we improvise.
         Every morning while milking the cows, my dad makes sure to listen closely for his cell phone to ring around 7:20. When he hears the cadence of his iPhone and pushes the button to accept the FaceTime call, he usually sees my daughter, Eleanor, and I through the screen. Typically, we are sitting on our couch at home with Eleanor eating a snack of dry cereal before I take her to daycare.
          Most mornings, the sight of Papa in the barn brings a smile and waves from Eleanor in between eating handfuls of Cheerios; however, some mornings she is still waking up and needs a moment before taking on her normally cheery attitude.
    What always makes Eleanor beam is when Papa shows Eleanor some of the cows he’s milking. She has her favorites, Thomas and Charlotte; but Eleanor loves it when any of the cows turn their face around in the tiestall and put their muzzle up to the phone as if to give Eleanor a kiss. I usually hear a little squeal of delight and see Eleanor’s eyes light up with happiness.
    Sometimes when Papa has enough help in the morning, he is in the calf barn helping Grammie feed the calves. Eleanor loves it when Papa shows her the calves as they bounce and jump in their pens or swing their tails as they drink milk. Louie, one of our two farm cats, also lives in the calf barn. When he gets the chance, Papa puts the screen right up to Louie’s face for a close up. We hear giggles from Eleanor every time.
    Occasionally, we get to say hi to my cousin, Tom, when he’s helping my dad in the morning before working his full-time position as a chiropractor. Throughout the rest of December and into the first part of January, we get to say hi to Sanne, the farm’s summer intern who returned from South Dakota State University to work for my parents over her winter break.
    It has become our daily routine, one that was similar to my routine growing up. My parents were adamant about making sure we made our education (and therefore our sleep) a priority, which meant they never made us get up in the morning to do chores before school. (I am very thankful to my parents for this because I am not a morning person.) However, before school we would always stop in the barn. In our grade school days, we would stop at the barn door and chat with my dad while we waited for the school bus. Once we would see the bus pick up my cousins at the farm stop before ours, we would say goodbye and book it to the end of the driveway. In high school, we would back our vehicle up to the barn and our dad would come say goodbye for the day. I made sure to continue this even when I became the lone child in my last two years at high school while my sister and brother were off to college. Now with Eleanor, I’m glad I can continue that tradition. It’s something I look forward to every morning.
    Our FaceTime call is only a few minutes long, but it gives both Eleanor and I a chance to see what is going on at my family’s farm for the day. It’s our way of staying connected to the dairy and keeps Eleanor excited for our next trip to the farm – farming through FaceTime.