it was the best surprise!

It was just a week ago yesterday they surprised us.

Taylor and Callie were coming to visit over the Labor Day weekend. We knew that. And I had suggested bringing Eli with them but I was told there were reasons why it just wasn’t going to work.

As it turned out, the proso millet wasn’t quite ready to be harvested. It needed a few more days so we were told we wouldn’t be working over the weekend. It would have to wait until Monday. I told Taylor and Callie this and they were a little bummed. I think they were both hoping to experience the combine, the truck and being in the field again. Something they took for granted when they tagged along with us every summer. This was the second summer they had been away from the routine. I wasn’t worried about finding something to do. I thought, if nothing else, maybe just us girls could make a trip into the mountains. I knew it would be hard to get Jim back into the hills after we’d just toured the Montana mountains.

The plan (or so I thought) was for the two of them to leave after Taylor got off work on Friday afternoon. They would be here either late that night or spend the night in a hotel. I encouraged the latter. I know how hard it is to get through those last couple hundred miles before you get here. And even worse when it gets so late. It was about 11:00 on Friday morning when Taylor called. She said she had gotten to take off work earlier than expected and they were just about ready to leave home. I told her to let us know how the trip was going and to be careful. “Oh, and when you get to Limon, would you stop at the grocery store (if it’s open) and pick up some peaches. They are REALLY good this summer!” She said she would.

Jim was watching TV and I had my sewing strung out on the floor. I’ve been working on baby blankets in my spare time this summer. But even that’s taking much longer than it should due to not having any rain days. All at once, I heard a commotion outside but didn’t think much about it as the guys were outside working on equipment. And then there was a knock at the door…

They got us good!!

We spent the rest of the afternoon just hanging out at the trailer house. Eli, however, had to make a trip around the farmyard a couple of times and climb in every tractor, truck and combine he could find. It didn’t last long, though. Just long enough to climb in, shut the door, honk the horn and then it was on to the next one.

It was decided we would all take off the next morning for the mountains, with Buena Vista our destination. We would pack an overnight bag hoping to find a cabin along a stream to spend the night but with it being a holiday weekend, our hope to find anything might be a better bet. If all else failed and we found there was no room at the inn, we could always just head back to the Cottage.

Our first day:

Taylor’s three “babies” needed fed ALL the time. Their mama took off right after giving birth. These guys are a couple of weeks old. She’s doing a good job of with her foster children!

Breakfast with Auntie Tee Tee on Saturday morning. 

We made it to Buena Vista and decided before we did any sort of touring, we needed to find a room (hopefully). We took the last room (quite possibly in the town) offered at the second hotel we checked with. Once we got that job accomplished, we took off for the Cottonwood Pass Summit. We promised Eli we’d find a stream to play in and a mountain to climb.  We stopped at this beautiful lake on our way to the summit and played in the water.


(photo credit – Taylor Josoff Photography)

(photo credit – Taylor Josoff Photography)

(Photo credit – Taylor Josoff Photography)

(photo credit – Taylor Josoff Photography)

(Photo credit – Taylor Josoff Photography)

(Photo credit – Taylor Josoff Photography)

(photo credit – Taylor Josoff Photography)

We made it to the summit and the view was spectacular!! 

Callie, Eli and I decided to climb the mountain. I will admit, it took us a while to get there because I kept having to stop and catch my breath. Even Callie was feeling the altitude!

The view at the top. We all three threw a rock on the pile and then it started to spit snow so we decided it was time to head back to the pickup. It was much easier going down the mountain than up. 

Once we made it back down the pass and to Buena Vista, we walked to a woodfire pizza location for supper. Notice the bottom chalk board…”crust supports Ark River Valley farmers and ranchers”. Sweet!!!!

Day number two:

We drove south to Salida and got out of the pickup and walked the streets of this quaint mountain town. Eli and I played at the local park which was also next to the Arkansas River. It was a pretty warm September day, so after he played quite a while on the play set, he took his shoes and socks off and played in the river before we headed back to the pickup. On the way, we stopped in a dime store and he picked out souvenirs for Ben and Nora. 

After some discussion about what was next, we headed to the San Luis Valley to visit the Great Sand Dunes National Park. The girls decided we could get there, play for a few hours and be back to the trailer house before 10:00. They were going to have to get an early start the next morning.

(photo credit – Taylor Josoff Photography)

(photo credit – Taylor Josoff Photography)

(photo credit – Taylor Josoff Photography)

The Dunes and mountains as we were heading towards the trailer house. 

A brief stop in Falcon for gas before making the rest of the way back to the Cottage. It was a fast-paced two-day mini vacation but it was the best time!

And guess what…the goodbye was so very difficult for me! They were on their way by 8:30 a.m. Taylor sent me her location from her phone so we were able to keep track of where they were the whole day. That helped a little.

 

next stop…colorado and millet harvest

If you’ve been following the All Aboard Wheat Harvest, you know we’ve been north of Chester, Montana working for a farmer. We left the Beast, Frank and the Pete in Chadron for a bit of an adventure somewhere in the middle of Montana.

Just a month ago, I stayed with Eli and Nora while Jamie, Curt and Ben were in the hospital. But, as soon as they got home late Wednesday night, it was time to go back to work mode. There was wheat to cut in Montana!! We had hired on with Mattson Farms to help them get their harvest done. We left for Montana the very next day.

The first time Jim held Ben – just before we had to tell him goodbye.

As I mentioned before, if you’ve been following the AAWH blog this summer, you know all that took place while we were in Chester. If you haven’t read it, be sure to mosey on over to that site and check it out! I drove a Gleaner combine! Not that there was anything wrong with that – I had never even sat in a cab of a Gleaner before. And you know what? Me and the Silver Bullet got along just fine! But, the best part of the whole adventure was getting to meet the entire Mattson family and crew. Oh my gosh!! I had the best time getting to be a part of their operation! Some of the finest people you will ever meet. I hope we get back up there next year!

The final field sunset pictures.

They saw me with my camera up and decided they needed to “suck it in”. Well, a couple of them did, anyways. Koos didn’t have to worry about it!

The Mattson Farms harvest was completed a week ago today. We got there in time to help with the wheat and ended the season cutting chickpeas (garbanzo beans). It all feels like a dream already. Like it didn’t even happen. But I have pictures to prove otherwise! Jim ended up working for Carl and Vince two more days and then agreed to take me to the mountains for a mini vacation. To make the trip even better, Carl insisted we take his little Miata. He said, “Put the top down and have a good time”! And that’s just what we did.

Our last day together in the field.

Part of the crew. I’ll name them starting from the front left – Megan and Carl. Back row left – Tasha, Vince, Mynhardt, Kerry with Connor in front of her and Janice with Brie in front of her. 

And here’s the entire Mattson Farms 2017 harvest crew!

Once we got through Glacier, I talked Jim into heading further north into Canada and I was hoping for a quick trip to Jasper. I’d never been there before and he went in 1975 with Grandma and Grandpa. The drive was too much for the short period of time he was going to allow, so we made it as far as Banff and turned around and headed south again. Besides seeing the beautiful Canadian Rockies, I saw a mama black bear and her two cubs just walking along the road we were traveling on.

A pit stop in Shelby before continuing west.

It was all smiles when we decided it was time for the top (of the car) to come down. 

Most of my pictures include lots and lots of smoke from the wildfires. 

We got out to stretch our legs near one of the mountain streams. Is this not just about the most beautiful, clear water you’ve ever seen?

We passed an active fire – one of many right now. 

Once we returned to Chester, we packed up the Cottage, said our goodbyes and headed south again. Me and goodbyes don’t do real well…you should know this by now!

We were in Chester at the time of the eclipse. It never got very dark there. It just sort of felt like I had sunglasses on and I didn’t. 

Goodbye Chester and Mattson family! Hope to see you again next summer!

We made it as far as Jordan the first night. Just as soon as we pulled into what used to be the Fellman’s convenience store, who should pull in but our good buddy, Dr. Dan. We visited with him quite a long time before he wanted to show us his new medical clinic. We already had plans to head to the Hell Creek Bar with Jim and Mardrie Baker for supper but decided we could take a few more minutes and see his new facility. I tell ya what…having so many wonderful friends scattered all over the Midwest is a good thing and a bad thing. The good thing is pretty easy to figure out. The bad thing is that when you sometimes don’t see them for a length of time, it’s difficult to feel like you’ve spent enough time with them when you do finally get together again. I just have to believe that one day when we get to Heaven, we will have plenty to time to enjoy each other’s company. No reason to hurry to get somewhere else. Just enjoy the time together…I hope!

Dr. Dan and Jimbo.

The next morning, we stopped by Tom Thumb’s house again for coffee before making the long trip south to Chadron for the night. We pulled into the RV park at 7:30.

Montana’s wide-open countryside and BIG SKY! It was so good to get to be back in the state again.

This morning, Jim went back to where we left the equipment and loaded the service truck on the shop trailer and brought it back to town. I spent a couple of hours in Walmart gathering items for the next several weeks. We’ll be about 40 miles from town and I figured whatever I could get stocked up on today, will be a benefit later. It was just about 4:30 by the time we headed south again. We ended the day by stopping in the Sidney, Nebraska Walmart parking lot for the night. We’ll finish the rest of the trip tomorrow and probably even get the Pete turned around and headed north again.

Sidney’s Walmart parking lot looks more like a truck stop – and sounds like one too!

Once we get back to Chadron, we’ll load the combine and head south one more time.

The millet started getting swathed a couple of days ago. I don’t know how long it has to lay on the ground before the combine can begin picking it up. Once it reaches that point, we’ll be in the field once again. Our intentions are to stay in Colorado until it’s time to head back home for the soybeans and corn, which should be about the first part of October.

When I think back over the summer and all the craziness we’ve been through, it makes me wonder what’s next. You know, we really haven’t had much downtime this summer. It feels like we’ve been either working, cleaning equipment or moving. I brought all kinds of sewing along with me thinking maybe I’d have a few days of rain to get something done. Wrong! I did get a dress made for Nora and I think by the smile on her face, she liked it. I really feel like we haven’t even got to enjoy a good ‘ole summertime thunder storm!

What a sweet model!

Until next time…

and baby makes three

If you’ve been following along with the All Aboard Wheat Harvest harvest blog updates, you’ll know that we’re home. Something that is unheard of for this time of year. The last time I was home in July was in 1989…Jamie was 4 and Jenna just a little more than a year. The weirdest part of the whole deal was thinking about how much work it took to get ready to go and then only being away for like 42 days. But, God had a different plan for us.

In November, when Jamie announced to us she was expecting, I immediately counted the months and was so disappointed when I realized that baby #3 was going to be born while we were somewhere in the middle of a wheat field. We SHOULD be in Colorado at that time. Maybe I can get a few days away and come home to help. Little did I know, God’s plan had us coming home at just the right time! We cut as many acres as we could and with the last few days of being away the anxiety started to set in. I was concerned about making it home on time. Baby was due July 17…we didn’t leave Chadron until July 19th. But God had every single, little detail perfectly orchestrated to allow us to be home at the exact moment.

Back to the land of corn and soybeans.

“Play with us Gramma!”

Just look at the height of that corn! I’m certain it’s the heat and HIGH humidity that grows corn like that. It’s so humid here, you can hardly breath. It’s like breathing a cloud!

Just look at that belly!

An Eastern Nebraska sunset…minus the combine.

Jamie had a doctor’s appointment on July 18. He said she didn’t look at all like she was ready to go into labor so when she told me that, it made things a little easier knowing we would, in fact, be home for the arrival. She made it to her NEXT appointment on Monday, July 24th. The kids spent the night with me in the trailer house so Curt just took her to Omaha. She had started some contractions throughout the night so knew something was happening. She called after the appointment to let us know they were going to do a stress test to make sure all was okay. The call following that test was to let me know she was progressing perfectly and she was just going to stay in Omaha – walk the malls or something to get labor to happen a bit faster (if she could). She ended up staying in Omaha all day and late in the afternoon, headed to the hospital. We were packed and ready to go (me and the kids) but the text we got about 7:00 said she wasn’t moving along very fast. So, we opted to just stick around the house for the night. I was certain she’d have the baby that night but just not sure how long it was going to take.

At 10:30, Jamie Facetimed me and Jim to let us know Ben Joseph had been born at 9:58 and she could tell he was a bigger baby than the other two. The nurses don’t weigh the babies and take vitals as soon after birth as they used to. Jamie said they leave the baby alone with mom for at least an hour before they do all that. So we waited to hear…9 lbs 1 oz and 22″ long. Ben came charging out like a linebacker breaking his collarbone on the way out.

(Photo credit – Taylor Josoff Photography)

(Photo credit – Taylor Josoff Photography)

(Photo credit – Taylor Josoff Photography)

Meeting their brother for the very first time.

(Photo credit – Taylor Josoff Photography)

(Photo credit – Taylor Josoff Photography)

(Photo credit – Taylor Josoff Photography)

(Photo credit – Taylor Josoff Photography)

(Photo credit – Taylor Josoff Photography)

(Photo credit – Taylor Josoff Photography)

(Photo credit – Taylor Josoff Photography)  Hey Ben…this is your Gaw. I think we’re gonna get along just fine!

This is where Nora instructed her mama to “put that baby in my hand”!

Sistas!

I literally clicked her in her car seat, walked to the driver’s side and turned around. She didn’t even make it out of the parking spot! It was a pretty big day for a little girl.

I’ve spent the last two days playing gramma with Eli and Nora. I know they’re anxious for mom’s return (later tonight) but in the meantime, I’m going to soak up all these special moments as long as I can. I won’t get to have much time with Ben until we return in October but being here for the time I have been has definitely been a blessing – one I would have never thought possible the day we left home last month.

The plan now is to leave tomorrow with the trailer house and head for Chester, Montana. We are going to work for a farmer there who has so graciously offered something for us to do during the month of August. We will be doing the wheat harvest but using his equipment. I’m hoping to get to drive a combine and Jim will drive truck. If I DO drive combine – it’s not one that I’m used to…it will be a Gleaner. I don’t know that I’ve even sat in the seat of a Gleaner combine before. 🙂 So the adventures of the 2017 wheat harvest continue…

a memory from a previous life

Why is it that when you have good intentions of doing something on this computer one thing leads to another and it tends to take way more time than you really wanted it to? I think that’s one of the biggest roadblocks I have when I think, “gee, I should write a blog”. And then, I can find all kinds of other things to do than to actually do what I intended to do. UGH!!! And, as usual, I sat down in front of this computer about an hour ago with intentions to write. And so it goes…

I have a feeling this could be a post where my mind just goes all over the place – so beware!!

There’s been quite a bit of time since my last posting. And it feels like the winter months just zoomed by. Maybe it’s just my aging brain and time is something that changes as the body ages. Maybe. But, if you ask Jim if something seems like it zoomed by, he’ll tell me, “No! It feels like that many years ago”. I sort of envy that. I sort of wish the last 30 years – let alone the last 60 days – seems like a long time ago. In my brain, it was just yesterday.

I had a reminder of this just a couple of days ago. Someone from a previous life of mine (well, not really) passed away. While growing up, we lived in a neighborhood much like the ones you would see on some of those old-time 60’s TV shows. The families got together, the kids played together while growing up, we all went to school together, etc. And then we grew up. We lose touch with the kids we grow up with (most times) but thanks to social media, you can reconnect but it’s not the same.

When I think about the old neighborhood, I think about the Thompson’s, the Reed’s, the Ruff’s and the Dobias’. It was our hood. As youngsters, we all played together – didn’t matter who was older or younger, we were just together. One of my favorite memories of growing up is camping with the Reed’s. They had a boat. And the parents trusted us to take that boat out to the middle of the lake and we fished or we skied – alone. Crazy, right? Either our parents were really trusting or really stupid – or both. 🙂 I would probably think twice about letting my kids do the things we did. But…life was different then. The world was different then.

Bill passed away this week. And I hesitated to attend the visitation at the funeral home. I don’t know why (I’m sure you were asking yourself that question). Anxiety of being with people who may not remember me? Was it because I didn’t want to accept the fact that I am so much older now? I honestly don’t know why I felt the way I did. I asked Jim if he’d go with me. He agreed to go. While we were talking about it, I “googled” Bill’s name to see if I could find out for sure what the times were. And then I saw the picture. Bill…as I remembered him – sitting in a boat, with his shirt off, exposing the all-familiar tattoos he surely got while serving in the Navy. And the tears came oh so easily. How could so many years have passed since then? Bill was always a large man – not heavy – just a BIG man. Maybe it was because I was little. And I loved him. Not like my dad or my grandpa but I loved him and who he was.

I was right. They didn’t remember me. I had to re-introduce myself to the kids I used to play with. We were all different. We were older and have lived life without each other’s presence for a lot of years. But, it was good to see them. To catch up on each other’s lives. To reconnect. To remember. To be in the same room. And the past felt like a different time…a different world…a different life. And it was. But it felt so good to be with those old memories once again.

You probably never knew this, Bill, but you were a pretty big deal to me and I appreciate the piece of who I became because of you.

So, I told you I had no idea where this was going to lead. I sat down with the intentions of sharing the past couple of months in pictures with you. That will have to be another post.

using your words

 

Each of the kids showing off the gifts they picked out just for me. I LOVED THEM!

I celebrated a birthday on Saturday. Everyone has them and mine was no more special than anyone else’s. However, there were a few things that made this one stand out this year.

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a name change but no real difference

So, I thought it would be fun to go back in my blogging archives and see just how many of these “secret santa” blogging events I have been a part of. I was surprised by a couple of things.

#1. This was the 4th year of participation.

#2. The names and blogs of the people who I have had interaction with over the past years started because of this participation.

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few called him bubba

The last picture I took of Wes

(My final blog for 2016 – although it is 2017 – and it’s the very hardest to write. I’ve been mulling this one in my head for a long time. I’ve thought of all the things I’ve wanted to say for over a year and yet the words don’t come easy. I pray that God gives me the story and the words and the healing my heart is needing by writing this letter.)

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