It's the week before the fair. Am I the only 4-H mom who's both a little excited and a little stressed out?
As the clock ticks down to our first county fair as a 4-H family, I feel like I'm shoulder deep in projects and preparations. There's acrylic paint and glitter all over the kitchen table from Monika's craft project. The LEGOS have moved out of their pen and taken over the whole living room as Dan tries to decide which LEGO creation he will bring for judging. Dan's second non-livestock project, a cedar samurai sword, is nearly complete. But, Monika still doesn't know what she wants to bring for her second project.
And, then there are the livestock projects. Dan and Monika are each bringing calves, of course. Dan is showing a Milking Shorthorn and a Holstein-Jersey cross; Monika is bringing a Holstein and a Jersey. But, in some overly-optimistic moment, I thought it would be a good idea for them to take two species of livestock to our first fair.
They signed up to show chickens. Dan picked Silver-Laced Wyandottes and Monika picked Black Australorps. We ordered the chicks and they arrived two days before our farm was quarantined by the avian influenza outbreak. Then, the proclamation was made that no poultry would be exhibited anywhere in Minnesota. So, we have some beautiful young chickens pecking around the yard that will not be going to the fair.
Instead, Dan is going to show one of our pigs and Monika got a rabbit from Grandpa to take to the fair. In addition to walking and washing calves, we've spent the last month taming a pig and a bunny.
Now that every non-chore and non-sleeping moment is being spent getting everything ready for the fair, I'm a little overwhelmed by just how much stuff needs to be assembled and organized to keep four calves, a pig, a rabbit, and three children fed, clean, comfortable and content for five days at the fair.
I'm also a little overwhelmed by the fair schedule itself: judging, showing, our shift in the 4-H food stand, more showing. I have a fair bit of anxiety about how we're going to get chores done at home and manage all of the events and responsibilities at the fair.
Childhood memories of the week before the fair have been floating around in my head for the past month. There are memories of jars of jam and loaves of bread, flowers with perfect petals, organizing the show box and clipping my heifers. What I don't clearly recall are what those weeks before the fair were like during my Cloverbud years.
As the mom of Cloverbuds, I feel like it's been a balancing act between letting my 4-Hers take charge of their projects and keeping them motivated so they actually finish them before judging day.
Their Cloverbud livestock projects are another story. Cloverbud rules on livestock handling have changed since I was a kid. Now, a responsible adult must be in control of the 4-Her's animal at the fair at all times. I understand the goal of keeping kids safe, but that means Dan and Monika can't even touch the halter during the dairy show. That means I'll be carrying Monika's bunny to the judge's table. And Glen will be driving Dan's pig around the show ring.
Actually, Glen and both of his brothers will be in the show ring for the pig show. Two of Dan's cousins are showing pigs in the Cloverbud show, as well. Three grown brothers, three young cousins and three market hogs - all together in the ring. I'll be the one behind the video camera.
Deep down, I know the fair will go great; we'll have loads of fun; make great new memories; and that my stress and anxiety aren't necessary. But, my anxiety is also the force that will keep me from forgetting the show halters or the sandwiches or some other necessary item. As preparations reach full steam, I will just keep telling myself the same thing I've been saying all month.
Keep it simple. Keep it real. This is our first year. Nothing has to be perfect. 4-H is about learning and having fun and making new friends, not being perfect.
Sadie and her husband, Glen, milk 75 cows near Melrose, Minn. They have three children - Dan, 8, Monika, 6, and Daphne, 2. Sadie also writes a blog at www.dairygoodlife.com. She can be reached at gsfrericks@meltel.net.