This Cora girl; she’s going to be a feisty one. She yells at the boys if they take her toys away and makes some good growling noises when she drives their trucks around. Cora Marian turned 1 this past week, and I had to shake my head. How on earth did I survive this past year? With boys at ages 11, 9 and 4, and this little girl growing so fast every day there are parts that are a blur. I feel as though I’ve become calmer as a mother with baby number four. I don’t freak out near as much for that mouthful of sand or if she’s screaming in her barn playpen. I have to tell myself that safe, warm and screaming is a better alternative to being cold and in harm’s way, and a bit of sand and other unexplainable matter is a means to inoculation.
    If you met my busy little Cora, the first thing you would notice is how quick she is to smile. The second thing you would catch is that she’s a thumb sucker. She’s a heck of a good grinner and finally has a tooth (and another almost through) to add to her contagious smile. She is good-natured unless she doesn’t feel good or is tired and hungry. Can’t fault her for that though. We all get that way. When she’s tired, that thumb gets popped in her mouth, and her other hand is usually holding my hair as she sticks to my hip as I go about my work.  
    Throughout the past year, it was as if I had a house full of football commentators. “Mom, Cora rolled over.” “Mom, here she comes. She can crawl today.” “Mom, she’s standing up again.” Suffice to say, all of the boys in her life adore her and are her biggest cheerleaders when she learns a new skill. Henry is quick to notice when Cora’s dexterity improves and insists upon announcing it to any human who walks through the door at the farm. He also has a pair of watchful eyes when she’s playing. “That’s not a safe Cora toy, Mom.” It is nothing short of heart-warming to peek in the milkhouse door unbeknownst to them and see him trying to hug her and comfort her with singing when she’s agitated during night milking. He hasn’t lost his fascination with her, and I’m certain his love has only grown in the past year. Even when Cora gets into his toys, he’s still patient with her. I tell him that she’s the tornado that wrecks the field he was just plowing on the carpet.
    Dane is by far the most tolerant of the boys when they are enlisted to be baby entertainers in the barn at night. He has a special talent of being able to calm her down when she’s a full-fledged screamer. This is somewhat of a double-edged sword for him. He knows he’s good at it and does love her but gets frustrated when he has to stay inside with her rather than running around outside. He told me that his secret weapon is that if Cora is tired he takes his hat off and sits by the playpen so she can hold his hair while she sucks her thumb. I was humored and amazed by this ingenious method of calming her down, and I’ve witnessed how it actually does work. He’s the first one to hit the floor to play with her after school and will pull her into the rocking chair to read her books.
    Ira is definitely the oldest. It’s becoming more and more evident as time goes on. He’s bossy about what the younger ones can and cannot do with Cora and is fiercely protective of her.
    There are times when he’s busy scolding Henry for doing things that could be dangerous around Cora that I let fly. He will read her favorite book (Sandra Boynton’s “Doggies”) over and over again, snuggling her close on his lap in the rocker. He can be trusted to watch her by himself in the house for a while if I have to run outside for something and is strong enough to hold her when she’s angry and flailing. Ira is becoming a great help with both of the little ones, even if he grumbles about it.
    Cora is already wild about the farm animals. She toddles about in the feed alley and taste tests the cow’s TMR. She reaches to touch them as they curiously sniff at her. She squawks with delight when the boys bring the barn cat into her playpen for quality petting time. She loves to snuggle and scold the dogs when they are in the house. I swear she says get to them while lifting her leg high in the air to try and kick them. I should add that she’s on my hip while I push cows in at night and sort cows weekly. She loves books, and the addition of a new book to her playpen can give me a few added minutes of scream-free time in the barn. Watching her delicately page through them and jabber to herself as I cleverly peek around the door is one of my favorite sights. She loves Stacy dearly, and while a definite Momma-baby, she will reach to go to her and Keith. She loves her time with Pa (Keith), and I’m certain after watching her excitement when Henry was on the tractor with him she, too, will be out there in the near future. This Cora of ours has been an incredible ray of sunshine and source of infinite giggles in the past year, and I’m anxious to see what the next years bring.
    Jacqui and her family milk 800 cows and run 1,200 acres of crops in the northeastern corner of Vernon County, Wis. Her children, Ira (11), Dane (9), Henry (4) and Cora (adventurous crawler), help her on the farm while her husband, Keith, works on a grain farm. If she’s not in the barn, she’s probably in the kitchen, trailing after little ones, or sharing her passion of reading with someone. Her life is best described as organized chaos – and if it wasn’t, she’d be bored.