-Christin Knowles, 1998
Saturday, August 5, 2017
Saturday, May 20, 2017
The other night I was at a fundraising event for cancer research and my sister saw a picture of me on social media. She texted me to tell me I looked like I was glowing. I thought about it for a minute and then decided, "Of course I'm glowing!" I was taking part in something bigger than me, a cause, that would benefit humanity in a positive way. (Not to mention I also had my husband and kids joining in with me!) I was in my element, I was doing what I was made to do.
Wednesday, May 3, 2017
I am sitting in a sea of blue and gold, and I am in complete awe. I am in this arena, surrounded by kids (KIDS!) who are dressed so much better than I, in their official FFA dress attire - all business.
There are adults around to keep things in check, but this outstanding conference I am listening to is being put on by young adults. Who ARE these kids?? They're conducting board-style meetings in front of thousands of people. They're speaking more eloquently than I ever dreamed of, even at my age with my current training in adult education and presentation. They're dynamically introducing public figures, presenting statistics on current issues, and sharing their personal stories. (Did I mention in front of thousands of people?!)
I witnessed our little chapter, alone, have discussions and make decisions on who to vote for to represent them at the state level in their organization. I watched several of them serve on different levels. I just continue to be amazed by the skills and values instilled in these kids in blue and gold.
I watch the things they are doing now, already, at their tender ages, and it is so encouraging to think of what they'll be capable of as adults. They are ahead of the game!! I never wore that blue and gold jacket myself, but I'm so proud to be raising children who do and the more I learn about this organization the more value I see in supporting it any way I can. That is why I am here this week. I sincerely thank every person and company who gives of their time or resources to keep this great organization going. You are helping make our future better!
Who are these kids in blue and gold? They are our future Educators, Innovators, Legislators, Ranchers, CEOs... They will be the leaders of our communities. If you doubt that, then I challenge you to come see a State FFA Convention.
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Wednesday, April 12, 2017
The puke was all over the front desk and entry way of the IHOP where we were waiting for seats. IHOP is the morning after date night tradition we started years ago on that one anniversary early on when we fought the whole next morning and Trav spouted off a hilarious retort to me that has become legendary (and often quoted) in our relationship.
I knew my hubby wouldn't handle the puke scene well and I watched his face as the poor kid's mom finally walked back out of the restaraunt with a trail of "chunks" down her back. (We've all been there!) I stood there for a minute as NO ONE came to clean it up and I finally went to him and asked, "How set are you on eating here?" "You want to go?" He asked. And just like that, we were in total agreement and walking out of the restaraunt in perfect unison.
The night before I'd planned a getaway to a "Riverwalk" location about an hour from where we live. It's pretty romantic and you can just stroll around outside together by the river or catch some live music being played. We checked in to the hotel and as we headed over to the restaraunt we started to feel raindrops. You know, in the movies rain seems really sexy. In real life, rain is wet and cold. By the time we'd eaten dinner it was pouring outside. Travis grabbed my hand for the trek back to our room (no romantic river walks this night!) and we both just cracked up. We laughed about "our luck" the whole way back to the hotel and recounted all the ridiculous mishaps we've encountered during past attempts at nights away together. (They are many!) Early on in our relationship I would have been so upset about things not turning out like I planned, but 10 years in to marriage my thoughts were different. I thought about how much that moment in time mirrored our life together. I just kept thinking about my hand in his hand as he led me through the rain.
This world is trying and very rarely does life go the way we plan it to. It's so easy to get caught up in the negativity, the doubt, and the sheer exhaustion of it. But, at the end of the day, when my plans are "rained out," and I'm traveling down a path with stormy weather, my hand in his makes it so much easier to keep walking. Having someone to share the memories with makes them so much sweeter. There are times when he has to be strong for me and there are times when I have to be the strong one. There have been times along the way when each of us has wanted to stop walking, but the other one has pulled by the hand and said, "Come on. We need to get out of this rain."
That's the beautiful part of this marriage thing, which I've found to be so much more about living life with your best friend than it is about passion and romance. Those things fade. What's real is coming back, rain soaked, from anniversary dinner and both agreeing (amidst lots of laughter) that you're too stinking full to move and being content with falling asleep in each others arms to a movie you've seen 100 times. What's real is seeing the most flawed parts of someone and loving those parts as much as the good things. What's real is having someone see you - I mean really see you for who you are - and choose you over and over again. Real is walking through life's storms and knowing you have someone to hold your hand and help keep you safe.
Real is knowing who can clean up the puke and who can't - and never keeping score about it.
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
Tuesday, April 4, 2017
Tonight I watched my generally laid-back, happy 13 year old son break down in tears over the stress of standardized tests administered to him at school. And, so, tonight I gave my son a speech that totally negated the validity of these tests. I'm not sorry I did.
I told him a secret none of us knew back in school. Not even those of us in the "smarty-great-test-taker" club (I was in that club). That secret is: unless you're a genius, when you grow up and join the work force no one gives two flying rips what you made on any of those tests in school. Being able to sit down and choose the correct answers on a test gives no indication of whether or not you have the grit it takes to make it in life. And, honestly, even if the person next to you at work is smarter than you, if you're willing to outwork them that's what gets noticed.
School is already a struggle for my son who is basically a square peg trying to fit himself in the round hole of public education. I know he feels like he's swimming upstream every single day as he fights against ADHD, moderate sensory processing issues, fine motor delays, mild visual memory issues, and just the fact that he's a hands-on learner in a world designed for visual/auditory learners. He has nothing severe enough to qualify for an IEP. He has modifications that I doubt are even considered during test time because our poor public school staff are understaffed, overworked and just as stressed as the kids! So we take a child like my son, make him believe these tests are life or death, put him in a room where he has to be still for hours, with a brain that often processes the sound of a ticking clock like a pounding on the wall. The result will not be an accurate picture of what he knows or what he's capable of.
A standardized test will not tell you what amazing adaptations his brain has made over the years to overcome his predominately proprioceptive sensory issues. This test will not tell you that at 4 years old he randomly told me who the 26th president was on the way home from daycare or that at 3 he could differentiate the various types of trailer hitches on every truck someone he knew drove and match them to other hitches, from memory, while in public. These tests won't tell you that he intuitively knows when something is wrong with me no matter how hard I try to hide it or that he meticulously sees to his livestock chores every single day without a reminder. They won't measure his huge capacity for compassion. They won't show you how amazing he is with small children or how he's had an uncanny ability to strike up conversations with much older adults since he was a toddler. These tests won't tell you that while he may struggle with writing and sometimes at keeping up with his homework, if you put him to work outside with his hands he's relentless and quite the perfectionist.
So, today I told him I don't care what these tests say about him because they're not the whole picture. We told him to, of course, try his best. That's always our expectation for our children. But, you can't measure my beautiful, unique, amazing son with a test.
Furthermore, you cannot measure his teacher's efforts with this test, either. They are dealing with hundreds of beautiful, unique individuals with equally unique learning styles and struggles. We can expect a standardized continuum of development for kids and we can set benchmarks, but we cannot teach them all the same way and we cannot measure them all authentically with these "standard" tests. I hear from the children, the educators, and the parents this system is not working. Preparing our future generations for adulthood and the workforce should be our goal. Are these tests accurately measuring our work towards that? Can all our kids truly be on one "standardized" track towards that goal? All of us in education truly know the answer to that question, and we've tied our teachers' hands, forcing them to be ruled by these tests and to take all these different shaped pegs and force them in to one shaped hole. Then we tell them their jobs are on the line.
At some point we have to wake up, look at the evidence, and change our system. We are going to pay the price for it later when our children end up without an authentic education. Just a "standardized" one that only truly works for a percentage of them.
Thursday, March 30, 2017
I cried a little tiny bit in the shower tonight. Not the big, huge sobbing shower cries you sometimes hear of. Just a little pity-party, few tears, overwhelmed with life sort of cry that slips out unnoticed along with the shower spray. This week I am away from home for work and despite what it may sometimes look like on a social media post, it is not always easy. Do not get me wrong! I love to travel, and I definitely see getting to travel for work as an awesome perk in my career. However, there seems to somehow be some misconception out there that as a mother when you go to work for the day or when you go away for work, you somehow quit being a mom and you are just kind of "off the hook" as far as all your motherly duties are concerned. I want to clear that up by giving you a quick laundry list of the things I've still been responsible for since I've been away:
On the trip up here I paid our car insurance bill. I meant to check my son's school lunch account balance, but I forgot until just now. So, on top of feeling guilty that I somehow did not have his lunches pre-packed for the week (even though I presented a training all day last Saturday and spent Sunday at church and then at an out of town soccer game and also had to make sure there was some sort of laundry clean for the week and my own clothes packed...) I now feel bad that I did not do that and am making a mental note to do that as soon as I finish this! I texted my husband to make sure he knew how much money was in the account attached to the debit card he has in case he needs me to transfer money over since he has no idea how any of that works. Before I left I scheduled parent-teacher conference for my husband to attend without me on Monday night with my youngest (add more to the guilt-o-meter), and made sure to get the whole run down about how it went. I ordered my nephew's birthday gift from Amazon and called today to make sure the package was brought in the house and not left outside until I got home! Thank goodness for technology!! Tuesday evening I received a text from my son about his horrible headache so I orchestrated the administration of ibuprofen via my oldest daughter (mind you, still from hundreds of miles away). I also made reservations for mine and my husband's tenth anniversary celebration this weekend (again, feeling guilty because I've already been away from the kids all week!) Tonight I was trying to manage the pick-up situation of my two youngest and I just ended up so incredibly frustrated at the fact that so many things were still on my shoulders even though I'm not even home! I mean let's be honest, my husband is going to be up for a medal of honor when I get back just for doing PART of what I do on a daily basis, meanwhile I'm administering medication virtually, by proxy. I started trying to imagine the kids texting HIM about a headache if he was out of town. It would never happen! And, then it hit me. I want that text. I want to know about the headache. I want to still be the mom even when I'm gone.
I know there are those people who look at my situation and wonder why I work. Well, I found myself in a situation as a young single mom who had no choice. I had to work. (And, before you judge, take a minute. There but for the grace of God went I instead of most of you, right?) If I had been given a choice back then, I would have stayed home with my babies in a heartbeat. Those early adulthood experiences are part of what have driven me to be so passionate about the early childhood field I'm in, and now this career is so much a part of my being it is not even a choice anymore. It is my passion. Very much like my actual children, this career of mine was painstakingly birthed from me. I've nurtured it, sacrificed for it, and watched it grow. Part of why I do this is for my children; it actually began completely for them. Now, I'm driven by a passion to help better the situations of children who started out much like my own did!
Most moms are doing what they do for their children. Moms who work are partially doing it for reasons I stated above - they have a career they birthed and nurtured and please don't make them choose between their two loves! Their career makes up part of who they are. Also, most moms are working, in part, to create a better life for their children. I have devoted my whole professional life to creating safe, loving, nurturing, stimulating atmospheres for little ones to be in during the day. I believe in quality early childhood programs. My children are products of them. Children who are cared for outside of the home are not doomed to some kind of underachieving, germ infested social group.
Being a mom is hard. If you are doing it right, it takes all of you. If we are being honest, we are all going to feel like a failure at points along the way - maybe some of us more than others! Being a mom is 24/7 - you do not get breaks from it. I don't care if you work at home or in an office, when the assistant principal calls you it feels the same. The difference is if that call leaves you in tears and you are in your office, you have to explain it to your co-workers. When your kid is sick and needs you, it does not matter if you are a state away or you are in the next room, your momma heart kicks in to gear. An overwhelmed mom on a business trip who lets a few tears slip in the shower is not much different than an overwhelmed stay-at-home mom who does the same!
So, can someone tell me why on earth we have this debate about which is harder? Being a stay at-home-mom or a work outside the home mom? Can we please, for the love, just agree that being a mom is hard? And, that wearing all the hats we wear can be so completely overwhelming? And, that ultimately we would not trade it for anything? That no matter what, deep down we will always want to be the one to know about the headaches, and admittedly maybe it is a little easier to get yucky phone calls if you are at work and your co-workers are awesome and supportive - which leads me to this: Couldn't we shut down the debate, put away the judgments, and learn to support each other and build each other up?
Tonight my dear friend who is a "work-at-home" mom (which I have done before and may possibly actually be the toughest job!!) got my kids from school, fed them dinner, took them to church, and passed absolutely no judgment when my husband and I crossed wires about when/where he was picking the kids up from her after. Tonight she stood in the gap for me while I was gone, made sure homework was finished, loved on my babies, and even gave them ice cream. And, I have tears again as I write this because it means so much to me to know I have other women I "do life" with who will just be there in the trenches with me and help me fill in the blanks. (Goodness knows there are blanks!) The debate is invalid - with me at least. We are all just moms, trying to make it and trying not to mess it up too bad. Let's quit trying to decide who has it harder and just help each other fill in those blanks!
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Dear local business owner, I want to take a minute to express to you just what you're teaching my children by supporting their livestock projects.
The times I've tried to explain the workings of livestock showing to someone who isn't "in it!" I give a long explanation, then they usually kind of nod and smile and I know they still don't really understand. I think some of the biggest confusion stems around what we call our "premium sale" or "sale of champions" at our County and Regional shows. It's always our big goal to "make sale" at these shows. What happens, beyond just celebrating and showcasing their animal, is each exhibitor goes in the arena and their animal is "auctioned" to the highest bidder. However, these bidders aren't bidding to actually buy the animal, they're competing to donate money towards the exhibitor.
Are you asking why on earth anyone would do that? Well, that's what I want to explain. Of course, it's good P.R. Beyond that, though, it is really an investment in the future of our communities. You know, sports are an awesome tool to teach kids about teamwork, hard work, discipline, etc. I grew up playing ball and was in a sports family. Two of my children play sports and I fully support that environment and all it teaches kids. However, I'm here to tell you I've yet to find anything that even remotely compares to the way livestock showing is preparing kids to enter real life and the business world! Here is what you're teaching my child with the money you donate to them:
You are teaching them about investing. The money you donate goes in a savings account and my children use it to reinvest in their project for next year. It goes towards buying another animal, feed, supplies, etc. This money is not spent on video games, designer jeans, or accessories. My children are learning to designate certain money for certain things and so far they've learned as they work hard and are diligent, their endeavors pay off more each year. But, they also are learning investing has risks. You may buy 3 pigs, but only one turns out. So, you make the tough decision to focus your energy and time on the one endeavor that is going to be most lucrative even if it wasn't what you thought in the beginning. Tough choices and dealing with disappointments - just like the real business world.
You are teaching my child to keep business records. My kids have to keep track of their income and expenses with their projects. We collect receipts and they keep record books. Sound like real life? They see the real income versus expenditures of this project and know the money you donate to them is precious and has to be dealt with wisely!
You are teaching my children to network. When you "buy" their animal we are instructing our children to go to you with their thank you basket and express their gratitude. They have to find buyers before the sale and are learning to use connections in the community. We pay attention to who supports our kids and that is where we do business. They already understand the importance of being connected to their communities.
You are teaching my children about the importance of how they conduct and present themselves. You'll find these kids in the ring with official dress on - jeans pressed, button up shirts (tucked in!), Official jackets, etc. They are learning that, while it's not everything, appearances matter in the business world.
You are teaching my children to give back. They are being raised in an environment where so many people have helped them and supported them. They know the importance of giving back and they know first hand the profound difference it can make. It is my sincere hope they follow in your example someday when they're in the position to do so!
The biggest thing you are teaching my children, in particular, is hard work pays off. My children are not perfect, but their work ethic makes me proud. They spend every single day on these projects. They get up earlier than most kids do to feed an animal that is totally dependent on them. My son chooses to go to a camp every summer consisting of 4 days of grueling hard work with cattle so he can get better at what he does. My daughter who is barely 8 and not even able to show at our big shows this year wanted a hog and got up early every single morning to feed it. She cleaned pens, walked, and washed. My 16 year old voluntarily spends so many weekends a year at livestock shows versus out with friends like most kids her age.
The day of the sale, they are worn out!! It's right after a long week of showing but they get up and arrive at the barn by 8:30 am to help set up because they understand responsibility and that they need to be involved in the work that goes in to this event they are directly benefiting from. The arena needs to look a certain way and they know you have to get up and take care of business sometimes even when you're exhausted!
The bottom line here is my kids are not unique in these ag barns. This is the norm. And by investing in these children, you're really investing in the future. These are the kids you are going to want sitting across from you one day in a job interview. They leave high school with such an unrivaled sense of what it means to be able to succeed in the business world. If you think about it, many of them have basically been running their own versions of small businesses since they were in middle school!
Thank you for supporting these amazing kids and thank you for helping us teach them these life skills that will follow them for the rest of their lives. Thank you for investing in the future of our community and our state!
Sunday, February 26, 2017
It is a long day at a livestock show! And, at most of them you will see someone standing in a ring with a camera in hand. It may be a professional, or it may be a volunteer parent. It may be a college student volunteering their time. The end result is going to be some awesome shots of our kids we just can't get from the stands or the sidelines.
Monday, February 20, 2017
|Sissy with her second calf. Winter, 2010 (10 years old)|
|Sissy with her very first calf in the Spring of 2009 (8 years old)|
Sunday, February 19, 2017
What is it about show season that turns me in to a mushy, emotional mess? (Well, more so than usual!) Yesterday my daughter won Grand Champion Swine at our local show. This may not be a huge deal for everyone, but for us it was MAJOR. I was, as usual, trying to capture every moment possible in a photograph.
This photograph, in particular, stood out to me. This is a picture of my ex- husband's girlfriend's dad. We found out not long after they started dating that her parents lived directly behind us - a couple of pastures separates the back of our houses.
Although my ex and his girlfriend have been together for quite some time and my children have met her parents and been around them quite a bit, and my husband had talked with him on several occasion, I finally met her dad this Winter when we were out back working with our pigs. (Actually, I had yesterday's makeup on and had literally JUST given a pig an enema but that's a whole different blog post!) He introduced himself and told me he didn't want things to be awkward given our situation. (You know, his daughter dating my ex-husband!)
I'm fairly certain I laughed out loud a little on that one. Our whole situation is so different from most. I don't feel the least bit of animosity or awkwardness towards my ex's girlfriend just because she's with him. The only thing that would ever cause that, for me, is the mistreatment of my children. I reassured her dad of the fact that it wasn't awkward at all, and that I was actually happy that his daughter was the choice he'd made in partner. We talked for a long time and he reiterated to me that our kids are welcome at their house any time and that we are free to use their pasture for our daily pig walking.
Yesterday at our local show my kids had quite the fan club. They had 3 sets of grandparents (yes, I said THREE), 3 sets of aunts and uncles, and a host of cousins. Also, my ex-husband's girlfriend's parents came and sat through almost an entire livestock show.
Yes, two of my children are a product of divorce. But, in the metaphorical pastures of their lives I have tried so very very hard (although I know I have failed at times) to sow love and forgiveness. It's moments like yesterday when I watch them reaping so much love from all angles, I know my toil and sacrifices were worth it. When I watch other people "open their pastures" up to them, as well. The people who don't have to! Who have no obligation to. Yes, my kids saw some heartache at a young age, but God took it and restored them and has reaped on their heads a double portion of love. Just like I prayed He would so many years ago.
Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.
Friday, February 10, 2017
At the very end of last year I had the opportunity to travel to a conference for work. The location happened to be seaside and nowhere on earth speaks to my soul quite like the ocean. I tried to coax my husband in to tagging along so we could hang out in the evenings when I wasn't working, but he isn't much on travel so I wasn't surprised when he showed no interest. Disappointed, but not surprised. On the way there I got an incredible invitation, though. God asked me if I'd spend this magnificent trip with Him instead.
And my answer was so clear. He said to me, "Remember when you were a little girl? Remember your heart back then? Before the world told you to not love so much, to not be so sensitive, to not be so open, to look out for number one? Before things happened to make you put walls up around the heart I created in you specifically to do my work in this world? That's who I want you to be."
And as I stood ankle deep in that salty water, with the sun beaming down on me, watching the waves roll in from the blue horizon, I fought back the tears that welled in my eyes. That was a tall order. That's what I was afraid of. I have spent years crusting over that super soft shell I was made with in order to fit in here.