As the rains track across Minnesota, we realize we missed this water train. A few tenths here and there is all we have received while other parts of the state are drenched with more than 5 inches of rain this past weekend. We don’t need that much rain all at once, but we do need moisture. The alfalfa fields are soaking in the heat and humidity as they grow back for a second cutting. The corn is entering a growth support as it pushes toward tasseling. The rows are reaching that beautiful, deep growing green color. Mark says this is when the crops really soak up the subsoil moisture. Too bad we are short. Thankfully we have center irrigation pivots to guarantee enough feed for the cattle but at a price to cover with a small milk check. Sometimes it feels like we can’t catch a break.
      The recent scattered rains and high winds pulled us out of the fields from spraying weeds and side dressing corn for the day. Perfect timing. A summer rain is welcomed not only for the crops, but for us as well. Rain is the instant vacation day card. In our case, it was a meeting day. I had scheduled a financial planning meeting the week before with the understanding that weather would determine if we could make it or not. As we were sitting around the table talking, my cell phone starts to ring. I apologize for the interruption and sneak a glance. It is a friend I can talk with later. I put my phone away and continue with the meeting. A few minutes later, it rings again. I forgot to shut it off. As I glanced at the caller I.D., I see it is Jonathon calling. As I start to put my phone away, I realize it’s Jonathon calling during the day. I answer the call with one question, “Is it time?” They were heading to the hospital. “Good luck.” I hung up and smiled at Mark. It was now a matter of hours before we would enter a new phase in our lives as grandparents.
    The realization of being a grandma didn’t sink in until I was able to hold Ethan a couple of days later. Wow, this is such a different perspective. I can see his life and how much fun we’re going to have together. From sleepovers to games to exploring the farm. My mother-in-law reminded Jonathon of when he was little, and they would dunk cookies together as one of her favorite memories. Now it is my turn to enjoy those precious moments of simplicity. Finding joy in the ordinary through the eyes of a child.  
    As a grandparent, we’re supposed to be full of wisdom and experience. I can be full of it, but I don’t think it is all wisdom. Here are some things I have learned through the experience of parenthood.
    “The first one raises you and you raise the rest.” Grandad’s words never made sense to me until I became a mother. There is no written instruction manual with all of the answers for this lifelong job. You write it as you go. I don’t know what we did, but I do know we tried to do what we thought was best. There were things we took from our childhoods and incorporated them into our parenting style and other things we left behind. I found wise women with children a few years older than mine. I watched how they worked with their children and learned. Find good mentors and role models.
    “Just because your children have the same parents, doesn’t mean they are the same.” We’ve seen this play out on the farm for years. Just because heifers are from the same flush and raised under the same conditions does not make them the same when they enter into production. Michael noted this visible difference in his graduate school entrance essay for genetics. Instead of using the cattle, he used our own family for his thesis. Here are three boys with the same genetic make-up raised in the same environment with the same food. Visually they are different. They also have different personalities and learning styles. What they do have in common is inside them; their core values and beliefs. They have become men of integrity built on faith, family and friends. They are honest and loyal. Yes, they are different, but they are still connected.
    “The days are long but the years are quick.” While the kids are young, the days can drag out forever, but in the blink of an eye they are all grown up. A dear family friend in Illinois gave me this suggestion. Have a recipe box with blank pages nearby. Write down those funny little moments you think you will always remember and put them in the box for safe keeping. You won’t remember half of them. There will be many things you forget over the years that in a single moment were unforgettable. This is one piece of advice I wish I had followed. There are many details I have forgotten but I remember the feelings. The warmth of the partial memories fills my heart with joy and love.  
    “We have worked hard for our name to stand for something; don’t do anything stupid in a moment to ruin what has taken generations to build.” My dad was raised by this mantra, and we were too. The only things we can truly pass to the next generation are the family stories and the family name. Handle each with care and respect.
    “Kids don’t need everything you can buy. What they want is your love, your time and your support.” Even when you come home dead tired after a long day, one big hug or a squeal of delight at seeing you walk through the door is the quickest pick-me-up medicine you can find. May you feel the same joy and excitement at seeing them.
    Remember, there are going to be mistakes. This is not an exact science but more of a combination of science, art and a whole lot of faith, like farming. We try our best and trust it will all work out. Welcome to this crazy farm family Ethan.
    Natalie, Mark and his brother, Al, Schmitt farm together near Rice, Minn. They milk 100 registered Holsteins under the RALMA prefix. Their four children are great help around the farm and are pushing Natalie out of several jobs. Therefore she is thankful to have something else to do. For questions or comments please e-mail Natalie at mnschmitt@jetup.net.