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Monday, May 23, 2016

A Week's Worth of Blessings

It is hard to believe that a week ago, My Farmer and I welcomed our fourth child, a baby girl, to this world.  She still feels so new, and so little, but at the same time she has jumped into the flow of our family quite well.  I wanted to introduce you all to "Tinker" but I couldn't find just that one photo that would share how truly blessed I have felt this past week.  So here are seven photos (for a week's worth of time) to show you our newest bundle of joy.

This photo My Farmer took of me and our little girl literally minutes after she entered the world.  I think my face says - holy cow, our baby is here (she was born exactly 30 minutes after we were admitted at the hospital and was delivered by the wonderful nurses because the doctor didn't make it in time), and at the same time, do we really need a photo.  But now, I'm happy that we have a look at the precious first minutes.

Here's the first photo of My Farmer and Tinker after we got settled in our maternity room.  I think his face says, I can't believe I am the father of one boy and THREE girls, but at the same time, she already has me wrapped around her finger - literally, look at her hold tight onto her Daddy's finger.

To say the kids were excited to welcome their baby sister to the family would be an understatement.  The anticipation level was quite high for our household for a solid week prior to Tinker's arrival (so thank goodness she came a few days before her due date - I'm not sure the kids could have lasted...).  It was fun to hear the kids coming down the hallway the morning our baby girl was born.  I could hear them tell everyone that they were on their way to meet their new baby sister, and my Mom told me that they were telling everyone, if they were interested or not. 

LP is loving his role as big brother for the third time.  He is a great helper and thinks Tinker is "so cute".  He may have been rooting for a baby brother, but he got over it before even arriving at the hospital.  I think he'll enjoy being the big brother to all his little sisters.

MP is loving having a new baby sister at home.  If I would let her, I think she'd probably hold her all day long.  She is also a big helper; she assists with most diapers and gives me "tips" while nursing.  There is definitely no shortage of love for our new baby girl from her big sister MP.

JP has entered into her role as big sister very nicely.  She loves tickling her baby sister and giving her kisses and hugs.  Every day she'll take her turn holding her for about a minute, but then looses interest and is off and running to the next thing (the attention span of a 16 month old is not very long...).

I am so thankful for four happy and healthy children, for a great husband who is a caring father, for a supportive family, and for quiet moments to enjoy and soak it all in.

As time has gone on since starting this blog, our family has obviously grown.  We have always used our children's nicknames we used in the womb for on the blog, but now that we have four, I'm wondering if I should change their names to actually better fit who they are.  What would you all think if I changed the kids' names to reflect their actual first names?  Let me know your thoughts and remember to Comment for a Cause!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Comments for a Cause - Lullaby Lane

Comments for a Cause - Lullaby Lane
With May in full swing I can't go any longer without sharing about this month's Comments for a Cause.  But before I share about this month's cause, I've got to recap last month's support towards Iowa C.O.P.S.  During the month of April I had 86 comments, equaling a donation of $43 to help fallen police officer families.  Thank you to everyone for all of your comments and support for our "Blue Families".

In the month of May I'm proud to be donating $0.50 for every comment to made on my blog to Lullaby Lane.

Comments for a Cause - Lullaby Lane, Elmwood Cemetery, Mason City, Iowa
A map of Lullaby Lane at Elmwood Cemetery in Mason City, Iowa
In less than a week, mothers and their children will be celebrating Mother's Day.  Mother's Day can be a fun holiday, but for many, for several reasons, it can be an emotional one.  One reason it can be emotional as a mother is if you aren't able to celebrate with all of your children.  I'm sure many of us know someone - a family member or a friend, or maybe even ourselves, who been affected by miscarriage.

Dr. Jonna Quinn OB/GYN at Mercy North Iowa is witness to these losses on a daily basis.  She is a member of this year's Leadership North Iowa class and is a member of Mercy Medical Center - North Iowa's Fetal and Infant Loss Bereavement Committee.  When this year's Leadership North Iowa class was charged with developing a service project she brought up the idea of creating a place for those who have experienced miscarriage to be able to go and grieve.  From their, the idea and plan for a prayer pathway, Lullaby Lane, was created.

Lullaby Land is currently a designated section in Mason City, Iowa’s Elmwood Cemetery where children lost to miscarriages less than 20 weeks old are laid to rest through Mercy North Iowa.  The Lullaby Lane project includes creating a paver pathway to lead up to the current memorial headstone.  Parents who lose a child to miscarriage will have the option of having their child’s name and date of loss engraved on a paver to be installed in the pathway.  This part of the pathway is being handled by Mercy North Iowa's Bereavement Committee and the Leadership North Iowa class is handling raising funds to support the construction of the project by October 2017 for the annual ceremony that takes place for pregnancy and infant loss awareness month.

"Fetal loss and miscarriage is a tragedy that affects many of us.  We hope these families can feel the support of our community and know that we will work hard for them to have this piece of comfort during their difficult time," said Dr. Jonna Quinn.

So please help me support the efforts of both Mercy North Iowa's Fetal and Infant Loss Bereavement Committee and this year's Leadership North Iowa class with the construction of Lullaby Lane by commenting all month long on any of my blog posts.  Do you know of other projects similar for those that have lost a child to miscarriage?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Country Fair Blog Party: May 2016

One of our May Day baskets waiting
for our neighbors to discover it
after they return home
Follow me on Instagram (@PlaggeVal)
to see more of our daily adventures
I hope you have had a great May Day!  Our family had a great afternoon (that turned into evening) delivering May Day baskets to our neighbors.  For some, the baskets were a surprise when they returned home, and for others, we turned into their supper guests. ;) Delivering May Day baskets has been a fun family tradition of ours for years, and for my family growing up.  It is a fun way of starting off the month and celebrating spring!  Another great way to start off the month is by sharing a new Country Fair Blog Party!

Country Fair Blog Party Blue Ribbon Winner: Ally's Sweet & Savory Eats 25+ Spring Salads
During the April Country Fair Blog Party, Ally's Sweet & Savory Eat's 25+ Spring Salads post was the most viewed from the link-up.  Congrats to Ally on getting the most clicks and receiving a Country Fair Blog Party Blue Ribbon!  I love this post and actually just made her Chopped BLT Caesar Salad from the round-up the other week.  This post will get you in the spring spirit and will give you lots of ideas for your next lunch or potluck dish.

Country Fair Blog Party Blue Ribbon Winner: Jay Tried & True's Pork Fritters
And talking about recipes I've tried from last month's link-up, I've got to share about Jay Tried and True's Pork Fritters.  I made these last week and they were delicious!  We had them both plain and as a sandwich for easy eating in the tractor ;)  They were simple to make and were very filling.  Our entire family and our entire spring planting crew enjoyed them and that's why they get a Country Fair Blog Party Blue Ribbon.

Country Fair Blog Party Blue Ribbon Winner: Alarm Clock War's How Old Are Your Cows?
My final Country Fair Blog Party Blue Ribbon from last month goes to Alarm Clock War's How Old Are Your Cows?.  Mary Beth does a great job of explaining her family's cow-calf farm.  I love how she made each stage of the farm and the cow's lives relatable.

Join the Country Fair Blog Party by linking up to 3 of your favorite food, family, farming, crafts, canning, etc. posts!
I can't wait to see what great posts get linked up to this month's Country Fair Blog Party.  Country Fairs are all about food, family, friends, farming, animals, arts and crafts, canning, baking and more.  And that is what our our blog hop is all about too.  Feel free to join our Country Fair by linking up to 3 of your posts.  This blog hop is a great opportunity to check out new blogs, and if you blog yourself, have your posts reach a new audience.  Be sure to visit some other party goers and let them know you are stopping by through the Country Fair Blog Party.

Country Fair Blog Party Co-Hosts

Also, be sure to visit my fellow co-hosts:
Jan of Tip Garden
Laurie of Country LINKed and
Nicole of Tales of a Kansas Farm Mom

We're excited to see everything you share this month!  What is your favorite link from this month's Country Fair Blog Party?  Whichever post is mentioned the most in the comments will receive my "Readers Choice" Blue Ribbon next month.  Remember to Comments for a Cause!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Get Inspired at Natural Plus Nursery + GIVEAWAY

This past Saturday a group of the North Iowa Bloggers, the kids and I got a special pre-Open House tour of Natural Plus Nursery of Clear Lake.  Natural Plus is the perfect place to get inspired for all of your landscaping, tree and windbreak needs!

Get Inspired at Natural Plus Nursery of Clear Lake - A North Iowa Blogger Giveaway
The North Iowa Bloggers at Natural Plus
Katy of Learning As I Go, Quincey of
A Slightly Better Wife, JP and Me,
Sara of All in an Iowa Mom's Day! and
Mary of Natural Plus Nursery
(Photo used with permission from Katy Flint)

Mary Hopper of Natural Plus Nursery of Clear Lake, Iowa
Mary Hopper of Natural Plus Nursery
with their dog Lena
Natural Plus Nursery got its start in 1978 by Dave and Linda Hopper after they left their jobs in Des Moines to start their dream of operating a nursery and landscaping business.  Their love of the business was passed down to their son Dave and daughter-in-law Mary, as they took over ownership of the business in 2013.  While things may have changed slightly through the business succession, the business's tradition of quality products and quality service remain the same.

Natural Plus carries a wide variety (over 400 to be exact) of trees, shrubs, perennials, pond plants, and more.  If you visit their nursery, located at 10075 263rd St on the east side of Clear Lake, south of Furleigh Farms, you'll be able to explore their large inventory of plants perfectly fit for North Iowa.  Their knowledge of each variety is great for helping you with your landscaping and windbreak needs.  I should know, they are actually putting in the first phase of a windbreak on our farm this week and are working on a landscape plan for our acreage.

The kids and I took a selfie by the Rhododendron flowers
during the scavenger hunt we took on Saturday
Follow me on Instagram (@PlaggeVal) to see more of our daily adventures 

Get Inspired at Natural Plus Nursery of Clear Lake - $100 Gift Certificate Giveaway
I recommend you check out Natural Plus to get inspired for any of your landscaping needs.  With their large variety of plants, landscaping supplies, decoratives and metal art, I'm sure you'll find something that will be a perfect fit for your home.  And this coming weekend will be the perfect time to check them out!  Natural Plus Nursery will be having their Spring Open House Sale this Saturday, April 30th through next Saturday, May 7th from 8am to 4pm.  Everything will be on sale - one item 20% off and additional items 10% off!  

And wouldn't it be awesome to have some extra spending cash for your visit?  Dave and Mary are graciously giving away a $100 gift certificate to Natural Plus Nursery to one of the North Iowa Blogger readers, just in time for the Spring Open House.  Be sure to sign up below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
What would you love to purchase for your home?  What are your plans for your yard this spring?  Be sure to Comment for a Cause!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Planting a Seed this Earth Day

When we think of Earth Day we most likely think of planting a tree, or picking up trash, or your city's local clean-up day where you can finally get rid of that old TV or couch.  For me, I've been thinking of a couple things, planting literally millions of seeds in a day, and sustainability of our farm.

Planting a Seed - Literally

Planting a Seed this Earth Day #Plant16
My Farmer planting corn this spring
Follow me on Instagram (@PlaggeVal) to see more pictures of #Plant16
It's easy to be thinking of "planting a seed" this time of year, as we are busy with our corn planting season and next month will be switching to soybean planting.  Every day, as long as fit planting conditions persist, we plant over 10 million corn kernels a day.  Our rate of planting for corn is an average of 34,500 kernels per acre (about the size of a football field) and we plant an average of 300 acres a day.  We make decisions all year long to make sure that we are taking care of our land and resources.  Conservation is a daily aspect of our farm.  We review and analyze the production of our land throughout the year so we can make the best choice for the use of our land.  We have acres that are used for corn and soybean production, while others are enrolled in conservation programs like CRP and the Wetlands programs.  We are also continually looking for new practices and technologies to help us better our farm.

Planting a Seed - Figuratively 

A family selfie taken last spring during planting
We haven't fit all of us in a single tractor cab yet this year ;)
We are a family farm.  Both My Farmer and I are 5th generation farmers and we feel honored to be carrying on our great-great-grandfathers' trades and traditions.  We're thankful that the generations before us took care of our land, so we, as the current generation can continue their work and efforts.  We also are "planting a seed" with our children, the 6th generation, in hopes that they will want to continue our farm.  All three of our kids love being outside and helping in the field especially.  Our oldest son, LP, tell us he wants to be a farmer when he grows up.  He loves the idea of farming like Dad and Mom, and of course tractors and pigs are pretty cool aspects of the job too ;)  My Farmer and I work everyday to make sure that our farm is not only sustainable for our family, but for future generations too.

What are you doing today to celebrate Earth Day?  What does Earth Day make you think about?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Exploring Blab with the North Iowa Bloggers

Last night the North Iowa Bloggers hosted their second, monthly Blab session.  The first session I participated by filling-in one of the video seats and by commenting through the live chat.  The second session last night I hosted.  Blab has been a fun, new, social media tool that the North Iowa Bloggers have been exploring and I'm looking forward to seeing how this group, as well as I personally can use it in the future.

So, what is Blab? is one of the newest video streaming social media platforms available.  I like to describe it as a live video talk show or conference with up to four people.  The host has control who fills the other three available video seats, but anyone can watch the Blab and participate through the live chat feature.

Exploring Blab with the North Iowa Bloggers
A screen shot of last night's North Iowa Blogger Blab
In the center shows those participating in Video Seats
and on the right is the Live Chat feature of Blab

Some quick notes about Blab:
  • You can access Blab on your desktop (which is what I've done the last two sessions) or through their app.
  • Logging into Blab (and setting up an account) is very easy and is connected through your Twitter account.
  • There is no time length restrictions for Blab sessions.  The North Iowa Blogger sessions have both been one hour each, which is the average length.
  • If you are the host/moderator of the Blab you can record the session and will receive the Blab as mp3 and mp4 recordings following the session via email.
  • You can give "props" (a pair of hands) to those participating in one of the Blab's four video seats.  It is a fun way of giving immediate feedback.

How can you or your business use Blab?

If you have explored with video streaming before (or even if you've never done video) I recommend checking out Blab.  I can't say enough how user friendly and simple I have found it, both as a participant and host/moderator.  I feel like other video streaming platforms like Periscope and the new Facebook Live, are a nice way of talking to your audience, but Blab is a great way of having a conversation with your audience.

So how would you like to have a dialogue with your audience or business patrons?  I see Blab as a new way of doing podcasts, a great way to promote events with an panel, share about new products, show transparency with your business by taking questions, interacting, and answering questions from your customers, and bringing in specialists to share their expertise on different subjects to then share and have a conversation with your team or customers.

As a farmer, I see Blab as a great tool to create transparency on our farm.  One audience that is interested in learning more and seeing the farm are schools.  Blab would be a great way to connect with multiple classrooms at one time and have interaction and discussion with them.  Another audience I'd like to show what is happening on our farm with are legislators.  Blab could allow me to show what is happening in our barns or out in the field at the same time as having experts like our veterinarian, agronomist, etc. also apart of the video discussion with multiple legislators through video seats and/or live chat.  Plus the Blab session can be recorded and shared through YouTube, email, etc. with legislators who weren't able to attend the live session.

What's next for the North Iowa Bloggers on Blab?

We are going to continue to do monthly Blab sessions, every third Tuesday of the month at 8pm CST.  Our first session we shared "Who are the North Iowa Bloggers?" and had several of our members share who they are, opportunities they've participated in by being a member of the North Iowa Bloggers and what the group means to them.  Last night's second session we focused on "Developing YOU as a Brand."  This Blab was inspired by a presentation that several of the North Iowa Bloggers heard at the Iowa Blogger Conference in Fort Dodge last month by Deb "Debworks" Brown (who by the way Blabs every Sunday!).  I hosted the session and had Deb join in on the conversation, as well as North Iowa Blogger Sara who has evolved her brand over the last couple of years and North Iowa Blogger Alicia who just changed her focus and brand a few months ago.  Be sure to check out the video recording from last night!

We have future session plans of sharing about our group's travel opportunities, businesses we've worked with, and other topics that will benefit our members.  The Blab sessions are open to everyone and we hope you can join us next time, which by the way will be May 17th!

Have you ever "Blabbed" before?  How would you use Blab video streaming?  Remember to Comment for a Cause!

Monday, April 18, 2016

What it means to be a "Blue Family"

This month my Comments for a Cause donation is going to Iowa C.O.P.S.  This organization provides resources to surviving family members and affected co-workers of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.  After an accident that took place at the end of the last month, my heart wanted to do something to support the families affected, and the entire police family, which includes my brother-in-law and sister.  I asked my sister to write up some things she's learned about being a police or "blue" family and here are her reflections:

What it means to be a Police of "Blue" Family - Support Iowa C.O.P.S.
My Sister and Brother-in-Law
after he was sworn in at the Des Moines Police Department
It is hard to believe that my husband has been a police officer for nearly 4 years.  So much has changed since that day he was sworn in.  Being hired by the police department started him on a career that he can see himself doing until retirement.  Not only is his job his passion, but it also gave our family the stability we wanted before starting a family.  Since then we've had a son (now 18 months) and have another on the way.  Adjusting to this new lifestyle as a "police family" has had its challenges, but also its rewards, and I've learned many things along the way:

  1. To be flexible.  Plans will be broken and holidays missed.  I've learned to expect that our schedule will always change.
  2. The importance of a kiss good bye.  Always remember to say "I love you" before he heads to work.  It's easy to forget sometimes how dangerous his job can be, so making this a priority is important.
  3. That the "cop" in my husband is always "on".  Whether we're driving to the grocery store or sitting in a restaurant, my husband is always thinking like a cop.  He is always aware of our surroundings and the people in them.
  4. To believe.  Not only in the person behind the badge - but in the job itself.  Because it's not just their job, it's who they are.  Supporting them and their profession makes all the difference.
  5. That this "blue family" truly is just that.  A family.  And that when times get tough we will all bind together.  Friends and strangers alike, we are all deeply connected through this profession.

Thanks again to my sister for be a guest writer for this post.  I am proud of both my brother-in-law and sister for their service.  Remember to comment all month long to support Iowa C.O.P.S. through my Comments for a Cause program!