When you look at this photo, what do you see? Do you just see an elderly woman?
That wasn’t a trick question. But when I look at this picture, I see so much.
I see her delicately fingering the brooch at her neck. It was a gift to her from my sisters and me. I can hear her laugh, as she says, “Well, I don’t know, this joke is rather crass but all the ladies at the old people’s home seem to like it,” as she proceeds to tell a joke that I certainly never thought I’d hear Grandma tell.
Her voice is in my head, as she tells me that in her later years she prefers to sleep in a little, and have some toast with jelly for breakfast. Her coffee is weak, but her cinnamon rolls are still as good as ever. It is one of my cherished recipes, written out in her own graceful handwriting.
I am baking cinnamon rolls this morning, so am going to try to tell you how to do it. It takes more than a recipe. It is a process.
Grandma loved all her grandchildren fiercely, and she loved her great grandchildren even more. She was a great blessing to us! Grandma died several years ago, but memories of her live on in all of her grandchildren.
Who’s been a blessing in your life? When you look at photos of that person, I’m sure you see more than what is apparent to the eye!
I have walking a lot this spring. By a lot, I mean miles upon miles. At the gym on the treadmill, outside in the cold weather, outside in the hot weather, I have been walking. In April alone, I logged 101 miles! And I haven’t been walking alone. I have dragged my husband and kids along with me! (Well, Ed needs to walk since he’s walking the Avon 39 with me.)
Before I show you the details of my walking, I need to give a huge shout-out to all the people who have been supporting me in my walking. As many of you know, I’m training for the Avon 39 Walk to End Breast Cancer, and I’ll have to walk 39 miles during the first weekend of June. In order to walk, I need to raise $1,800. I’m pleased to announce that I’ve raised over $2,000! How thrilling! Thank you to all my awesome supporters!
My miles include walking:
10. on the treadmill at the gym: 3 miles. This is the most boring place to walk, but it’s the easiest way to fit 3 miles into my afternoon, especially when the weather isn’t cooperating.
9. to work and back: 1 mile. I’ve only walked to work twice, and I should walk more often! However, sometimes I’m in a rush after dropping off my girls at school and I’m afraid I’ll be late, or I want to run errands after work so I’ll need me car. I’m definitely going to try to make walking to work more of a habit!
8. to the River Trails Nature Center: 3.4 miles. In March, the girls and I walked to Maple Syrup Days at the Nature Center. We were able to sample some maple syrup and French Toast sticks, and Lily got a lesson in drilling a hole for a sap spile. The Nature Center is one of our favorite places!
7. at Burning Bush Park: 2 miles. This park is by our house, and the girls can play at the playground while I walk around the track. Three times around is one mile, and the most I’ve been able to fit in is six times around.
6. at Moraine Hills State Park: 10 miles. It is amazing to think that a glacier carved out a piece of Illinois and left a lake behind. In Illinois, where we mostly think of flat corn fields and not glaciers.
5. on the Chicago River Bike Trail and the by the Skokie Lagoons: 12.72 miles. This is the longest walk we took. It was a really cold day at the beginning of April. Because it was so cold, however, there weren’t a lot of bike riders on the trail. The hard-core riders go really fast and I get nervous that they will hit one of the girls. When the weather is warmer, we’ll avoid this trail!
4. on the Des Plaines River Trail: 6.75 miles. This trail isn’t paved, and is also used by horseback riders. This is right by our house, and we occasionally see horses. While we didn’t run into any horses this time, we saw evidence of beavers, which was very cool. We stopped by the River Trails Nature Center on our way home (which is on the Des Plaines River, by the way) and asked a Forest Preserve Ranger about beavers. He was very informative and loves talking about animals! (We have asked him questions before!)
3. on the Poplar Creek Bike Trail: 8.84 miles. Those of us who grew up in the suburbs remember going to concerts at the outdoor arena, Poplar Creek. I saw Peter Gabriel during his So tour, and it was thrilling when it started raining while he was singing “Red Rain!” (Fortunately, the real rain didn’t last and the concert went on.) The concert arena is no longer there, but Poplar Creek is actually a real creek with a bike trail! The trail itself is very nice, but part of it is prone to flooding and was under water even though we hadn’t had rain for over a week. We also stumbled onto the Lion Bridge, which was a nice surprise.
2. at Independence Grove, 7.5 miles. My brother-in-law met us up there, and he fished with the girls while Ed and I walked with my sister-in-law. The girls have been troopers, but they are getting tired of taking long walks with us! They adore fishing with Uncle Brian, however.
around Glenview Lake, 5.6 miles. We let the girls bring their bikes this time, and they rode ahead of us and played at the playground. It was a very cool day, but we were also able to get our walking in before the rain came!
Phew! That’s a lot of trails! I wonder how many miles I’ll walk in May?
On Saturday, March 19, I had the opportunity to visit another Illinois cattle farm. Illinois cattle farms are not as large as the ranches out west, and they are mostly family farms. This farm tour was the perfect complement to the two cattle tours I have already attended, first to a cattle finishing farm and then to a dairy farm. This third tour was where it all begins in beef production: a cow/calf farm.
Sara Prescott was on our bus for the ride from Arlington Heights to Sandwich, Illinois, talking about her experience running a cow/calf operation of about 100 beef cows. The cow/calf farm is where it all begins in beef production. The Prescott farm breeds cows to have calves, which they sell to cattle finishing farms, and from these farms the grown calves are sold for beef.
Prescott Angus & Simmental
Sara isn’t able to walk out of her farmhouse to take care of her cattle. She lives with her husband and three children in town, and their cattle live on farmland rented from various landowners. One farm is a twenty minute drive from her house, the other is 45 minutes away. For a farmer, Sara spends a lot of time commuting!
Since her husband also works full time at a cattle feed company, Sara takes on a lot of responsibility for the cattle. During a typical day, she drops her two daughters off at school and takes her little boy with her to check on the cattle farms. They are lucky to be able to hire someone to help feed and check on their cattle at their farm near Lincoln, Illinois. Their cattle live outdoors year round. They own about 5 bulls to breed with their cows, which is done naturally (without artificial insemination). The cows are bred to have calves that are small in size, and so the cow usually has no difficulty giving birth to her calf. First time mothers sometimes need help bonding with their calf. Sara pays close attention to these cows who are about to give birth for the first time. She wants to see the cow get up and lick the calf right after it is born, to know that the calf is her baby. The calf should stand up about 15 minutes after it is born to nurse.
The calves drink their mothers’ milk for about 6 months. When they are 3 months old, they are introduced to solid food, so that the weaning process is easier for them. After the calves are weaned, they are sold to a finishing farm, where they grow and gain weight before they are sold for beef production.
We got off the bus at the Adams farm near Sandwich, Illinois. The Adams family have been raising beef cattle for almost 60 years, along with raising crops. Their herd has 59 beef cows. Alan Adams used to think that he didn’t need to communicate with consumers. He was content to raise beef cattle as his family had been doing for years without taking the time to connect with moms like us. He changed his mind, however, and has taken a very active role in the City Moms program as he realized the importance of connecting with consumers. He took the time to talk with us about breeding, antibiotics, hormones and manure management on that Saturday morning.
Unlike Sara, Alan does live on his farm in close proximity to his cattle. The Adams family has several barns, and the cattle live in the barns during the winter. Around May 1, they are let out to pasture. The cows spend the summer grazing in the pastures with their calves beside them. While the Adams do lease some land, they also own much of their farmland. They use two bulls to breed their cows, and to breed their heifers (first time mothers-to-be), they use artificial insemination. Just as Sara does, they make sure to breed the cows to have smaller calves so that calving goes smoothly.
While farming may look a little different when comparing Sara’s farms to Alan’s, they also have many things in common. They are both caring farmers who have a love for livestock and take care of their animals’ needs to provide quality beef to consumers like you and me.
During the season of Lent, church tradition bans the word “Alleluia” during worship. Lent is a time of reflection and repentance. In choir rehearsals, however, we are already singing “Alleluia” in preparation for Easter. Not only that, but we are also rehearsing with the brass choir.
On Wednesdays during Lent, we go to church for a Lenten supper and worship. Ed has been meeting us at church after work, so I have the responsibility of bringing his trombone to church for rehearsal. He doesn’t want it to sit in the cold car because that affects the tuning of the trombone. This past Wednesday, I brought his trombone into the building and set it on the floor under the coat rack.
We went into the gym to eat Chicago style hot dogs and macaroni and cheese. (We eat well on Wednesdays!) After our worship, Ed went out by the coat rack to get his trombone for rehearsal. He came over to me, and said he found his music folder, but where was his trombone? I was a little irritated (as wives tend to be with husbands) as I told him it was right by his music. I mean, seriously, how could you not see a trombone?
I took him to the place where I had put his trombone AND IT WAS GONE!
Since our church also has a school, we thought maybe the band director had taken the trombone and put it somewhere safe. We ran all over the church and school looking for it, while our pastor made some phone calls. No one knew where Ed’s trombone has disappeared to. I finally took the girls home while Ed went to choir.
We hadn’t been home for long when the pastor called. Ed’s trombone was found…in the kitchen pantry! The after-school care teacher had thought it was a kid’s trombone, and put it in the pantry for safe keeping. What a relief! (Dare I say…Alleluia!) Pastor took the trombone to Ed and he was able to rehearse his brass piece with the choir.
Easter is coming soon, and I think we’ll be ready!
A couple of weeks ago, Lily and Emmy were able to volunteer for a research project. This research, through Rush University Medical Center, is to help fight a rare neurological disease called Niemann-Pick Type C. Lily and Emmy were part of a control group of normal, healthy children. The researchers attached sensors to several places on the girls’ bodies to measure their gait and movements. By measuring how a typical child moves, they hope to see how an experimental drug for Nieman-Pick disease is working with children who have this rare disease. The researcher that worked with us told me that there is a lot of information about how a typical adult moves, but there is not as much information about the movements of children.
By measuring how much typical children sway as they walk, how fast they walk, how much they move when standing still and other information, will help researchers to know what is normal movement for children of different ages. This information will be compared to the movements of children with Niemann-Pick C disease.
Specifically, we hope this research will help Hayley, a young girl who lives in our area. She was diagnosed with Niemann-Pick when she was 11. We don’t know Hayley personally, but we learned more about her condition in an article featuring her in the Chicago Tribune.
Hayley has a rare genetic disorder called Niemann-Pick Disease Type C, often dubbed childhood Alzheimer’s because its symptoms are similar to those of adult dementia, though it’s not the same disease. Memory, speech and mobility fade. It gets harder to eat and drink unaided. There is no treatment approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and young children with the disorder typically don’t live past their teens. Chicago Tribune, February 8, 2016Read more here.
During the weekend of research (which was hosted by our church), information was collected from 40 children! It was such an easy thing for these kids to give up some of their time to help others. Not only that, but I think the kids had fun participating in scientific research. It was a great experience, and I hope it will be beneficial to Hayley and other children with Niemann-Pick Type C.