We have hung new calendars. We have taken down two of our three trees. I have put some Christmas music away until November. I have ceased baking cookies by the dozen. This is not to say we don’t have plenty left rattling around in the Currier and Ives tins on the porch, only to note I’m not adding any more to the available sugar rations. We have celebrated Christmas a few times over, and now that it’s all unwrapped, it’s time to reflect and resolve.
     Which cookie tins emptied fastest? Which Christmas traditions will my children remember for years to come? How many books will we try to read this year? How am I doing with the parenting gig I have? How do Keith and I raise children with the values we learned in such a fast-paced world of technology, especially as our kids somehow keep growing older?
    The answers come easy for some of these ponderings. Linzer cookies always win. I think from the time the tin was filled to the last crumb being snatched up it was less than two days. They are a delicious favorite of all entrants to the house.
    Two friends and I took 14 children Christmas caroling this year and quickly decided it would be a new tradition. It was such a wonderful success, on both the parts of the children loving it and the people we caroled greeting us with such surprised, appreciative grins. It was a joyous noise to be sure, but something that none of us adults have done since we were kids and it stoked the fires of all of our Christmas spirits. It was a simple, old-school activity that was worth every ounce of time and effort.
    Dane and I have the loftiest goals for reading this year. I hope to whip through two novels a month, and he wants to complete a series with four books in it (each topping over 400 pages). The others are readers as well, yet Dane and I are the nerdy ones that prefer to put number values on our page-turning progress.
    I think one of my biggest resolutions, that I make and fail at each year, yet keep striving towards, is to get home early each night from the farm. Eight o’clock is my bewitching hour. Which means, after that, all things go south. I have less and less patience, less energy to read aloud, and absolutely no humor left in me; and if you have ever tried to get four tired children ready for bed at night, those things are crucial. Working on my patience is an exercise I engage in daily. Somedays I’m sure I do far better than others, and then there are the days when I’m certain that I should not be allowed to parent because my fuse is so short.
    The last question I ask myself is the toughest one to answer: How do Keith and I raise children like we were raised when it is a completely different world?  If you are a long-time reader of my column you know that I’m a tad bit nostalgic, and often wish I could go back in time. This carries over into my child-rearing logic and, thankfully, my husband agrees. We happen to be fans of the low-tech, high-nature type of upbringing we were raised in, but we battle to give that to our four children. As children, my siblings and I were not involved in every extra-curricular activity that was available and we turned out fine. We played outside, we created games, we disappeared for hours on end in the woods, we did chores. Keith told the boys that he went through a bucket of .22 bullets in the span of a few months when he was young, wandering the woods in search of small game to target. We had active imaginations, probably made our mothers crazy with our antics, but we had a childhood worth remembering.
    I read an article about ‘Simplicity Parenting’ and it mentioned that you should ‘take charge and have courage to be the odd parent out.’ The author wasn’t exaggerating when he said it would ‘take courage’. I tell myself that by being the odd parents out (who don’t involve their children in everything or buy their children everything) I’m only teaching them how to fight peer pressure. How is not buying your children phones just because everyone else is… really any different than not being mean to someone just because everyone else is? Our children are in the minority, not only in their access to gadgets, but in the fact that they are of a handful of kids that are associated with a farm and the work that comes with it, and even then they are spared a fair dose because of how our farm operates.
    Our society doesn’t do much to support this stance on parenting. It seems most people agree that the addition of a phone in the hand of a young teenager (or younger) isn’t doing much to connect them to the world, rather it is helping them disconnect—but few dare to stop it from happening.
    I want them to grow up and be able to converse at family parties without a phone attached to their hand. I want them to look back at their childhood as I do – recalling the afternoons spent playing basketball in the shop, going sledding, disappearing to the creek to check for ice, just being kids. I want them to be telling their children all of those magical memories that they are making for themselves, with their family, their friends; memories in which technology plays a supporting role, not the major one.
    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 (12), Dane (10), Henry (5) and Cora (toddler), 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.