Mike & Jenny

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Location: Iowa, United States

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Rediscovered Hobby...Baseball

Since we no longer use this website as our Blog, Mike (me) has decided to completely change things up and begin to reuse the website in a completely different way.

Jenny said a few weeks ago that I need a hobby. The two things I enjoy most are traveling and baseball. Since I am at a point in my life when significant US/world travel is not practical, the obvious thing to me is to do something related to baseball.

After thinking about Jenny's statement for a while, I decided what I would like to do. I have decided to learn as many baseball related numbers and facts as possible; basically pretend to be a baseball historian. For unknown reasons, I am fascinated with baseball history and its numbers and enjoy reciting them. I am memorizing historically significant events and stats on a daily basis, and have decided to try and post interesting (at least to me) baseball related facts and information on this Blog.

My primary baseball interests are the Milwaukee Brewers, World Series history, ballparks' histories, and career statistical leaders (hits, home runs, pitching wins, steals, etc).

Historical baseball fact #1: There are three players in MLB history that played the majority of their careers in Milwaukee and collected over 3000 career base hits. Robin Yount is #16 on all-time list with 3,142 hits, Paul Molitor is #8 with 3,319, and Henry Aaron is #3 with 3,771.

I hope this can be something fun and maybe lead to my second career in the distant future....


Friday, April 02, 2010

Beyond the grocery store

Over the past year I have been thinking a lot about where our food comes from. It's been a topic of interest of mine for a few years now, but for a girl who grew up in the suburbs, the reality was that I knew nothing about modern agriculture. I think a lot of us grew up with the impression that all farms were run by small families who grew crops and raised farm animals. When a farm comes to my mind, I think of stories like Charlotte's Web and the countless other children's books where farmers in overalls drove tractors, tended farm animals that had free run of their expansive pens and took their products to the local farmer's market or store. Funny as it seems, I used to think that all the produce in the stores grew in the farms close to our house. Mike's mom, Helen, has stated to me a few times that she feels that all college students should take a basic course on where our food comes from since the average person is clueless and I totally agree with her. She is a student advisor in the College of Agriculture at ISU and I get the impression that there is a level of ignorance in her students too.

I didn't realize that a substantial portion of the commercially available pork, poultry and beef spent a bulk of their lives being fattened in feed lots while being injected with hormones and antibiotics. I still don't know how much of that is a reality and the pamphlets handed out by the animal rights, super-vegan activists on State Street in Madison, WI leads you to believe that it is the norm. As I think about it, I am troubled by the labels of pork, poultry and beef when addressing live animals. When did we stop thinking of them as animals such as pigs, chickens, turkeys and cattle? Does it make it easier for people to separate the living creaure from the profitable commodity and influence its quality of life? My guess is yes and I find that troubling.

A couple of weeks ago, while visiting my sister in Missouri, we tagged along with my brother in law, John, niece (Lauren) and nephew (Matt) as they went to tended to the steers they are raising for the Missouri State Fair this summer. This is something that the kids have been doing for a few years and John and his siblings did while growing up on their family farm. I have to admit my jealousy of their access to this type of opportunity to foster a great level of responsibility and knowledge that us urbanites struggle to instill in our children living in our consumer driven culture. The closest most of us get to cattle in our daily lives is either in the grocery store packaged in plastic wrap or our leather accessories. We lack understanding or appreciate the efforts that come along with producing these goods. We just want it cheap and now and I assume that has a huge effect on how these animals are raised and the fair market value that the farmers earn to sustain their own lives. I'm increasingly finding more canned goods labeled "Product of China" and I'm concerned about the future impact to our agricultural industry. If people keep demanding the cheap mushrooms from China instead of the mushrooms grown in Delaware or Pennsylvania, then what happens to the farms there? How is that going to affect their local economy and our country's economy?

During our visit to John's family farm, I asked him some questions about the fate of the calves born on the farm. Why was it that the kids only raised steers and never the heifers? On a dairy farm, I understand that generally the heifers are kept and the steers are sold off for meat, but on the beef farm all the calves go. Once they are weaned from their mothers, they are sold to feed lots where they are fattened on corn for 90-120 days, then slaughtered. They only keep proven and productive cows and a bull on the farm. It breaks my heart to think that the little calves frolicking in the open pasture will be trucked to a feed lot to be confined for the last 3-4 months of their lives, then culled. It adds to my frustration when the kids refuse to eat the ground beef in the spagetti and try to scrape it into the trash can. What a waste....of money, resources and most importantly, life.

In Wisconsin, Alec had a friend whose uncle ran a dairy farm and he spent a fair amount of time playing on the farm. I went out there on a few occassions to visit the cows and asked the farmer about how he runs his farm. It was a large farm and had been in his family over 100 years. He explained to me that dairy calves are typically separated from their mothers within days of birth so the farmer can harvest the milk from the cow and the calves are bottle fed formula (what?). Most of the calves require antibiotics due to infection since they aren't benefitting from their mothers' antibodies to fight off disease and some die. The cows spend a majority of their days tied up in their stalls where they typically give birth and are milked a few times a day until their milk dries up. Once that happens they are let back out to pasture to graze, get knocked up and are brought back in about the time they are due to deliver again. What choice does the farmer have when faced with the reality that people demand cheap milk and he has to earn a living or lose it?

I guess my point in all of this is that the more I learn about how things work, the more I appreciate about what it takes to produce the food we eat. When I hear things said such as a recent comment that for a person to get the same nutrients found in one apple in the 1950s would require us to eat 24 apples today, it makes me cringe. Apparently it takes numerous nutrients to grow a vegetable, but we typically only apply three of them back into the soil which perpetuates a larger problem. I don't want to have to eat more of a lesser product to get what my body needs because its cheaper. It doesn't make any sense and it doesn't seem very sustainable to me.

Over the past couple of years we have tended a vegetable garden and will continue to do so. Slowly, I am learning how to preserve the produce for later consumption and have found a few local farms to pick our own fruit that we aren't growing ourselves to enjoy. I have also started to seek out a local farm to buy our meat from directly and hope to get my kids out to see it. Some day, I'd like to get a few hens for fresh eggs, coop poop, and non-chemical pest control. My hope is that the kids will start to identify the beef as cattle, pork as pigs and poultry as chickens. As they handle the produce grown in our own garden or carefully selected from the tree or bush on a local farm, they might think twice about throwing it in the trash. Perhaps they will gain an appeciation of the gifts of the earth and just maybe a $6 gallon of organic, local milk won't seem like too much to pay.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A new chapter

Today I had my four month and final post partum visit EVER. I'm a little surprised at the emotions I am carrying today and have been over the last few days. While I feel that our family is complete and know that I am incredibly blessed for the four beautiful, healthy children I have this visit still marks the end to a chapter of my life. By choice, my child bearing years are over. I will never feel the excitement of discovering a new life growing within my body, the little kicks and hiccups, the nausea, swollen ankles and all of the good and trying challenges of carrying the unborn within your body. I will never experience the anticipation of the impending arrival of my new baby, the giddiness of the start of labor, the incredible, raw power of childbirth and the relief of a new being slipping from my womb into the world. I'm grateful that I felt every moment of it without alteration and surrendered myself to its power. It is a true gift from God and I will treasure those days for as long as I live.

I have spent a lot of time lately reflecting on each of my four pregnancy journeys and how each child's birth has shaped my life as both a mother and as a woman. While there may be things about each experience I would like to change if I could, I also see how each event has had its place in influencing each decision leading up to Amalia's birth. Without those experiences, the magnitude of what was experienced in my last birth may not have had the impact that I feel now. Perhaps I would not have taken the journey I did. Instead of letting those details torment me, I feel that I am able to embrace them since I can clearly see the lessons I was meant to learn. It really solidifies my belief that the whole maternal experience is one of deep spirituality and not solely physical pathology as the medical community treats it. Spirituality in birth is one of those things that is seriously overlooked in our culture and that is a shame.....but that is a thought for another entry.

I hope that as things are finally starting to settle into a rhythem, I can start hammering out all of the thoughts running in my head. Over the last few nights, I have been awakening not only to a hungry baby, but by the abundance of thoughts in my head that need to be let out.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Amalia Bailey Olson

Amalia (lia) Bailey Olson was born on Nov. 23, 2009 at home. She weighed in at 9lbs 2oz and was 22-1/4" long. (pronounced Ah-mah-Lee-ah not Ah-mall-ya)

Photography and slide show by betsy Rudicil of Rudicil Photography http://www.rudicilphotography.com/

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A bit of an update.....

It has been ages since Mike or I have taken time to update this blog. A couple of times Mike mentioned killing the blog, but I am not ready to do that. We just need to get back in the habit again and take the time to sit down and put our lives in some sort of perspective. I know that my mindset has really been changing now that I have the luxury of time and energy to start thinking and learning about things that have intrigued me for a while. I am getting involved with a couple of moms groups that are allowing me to really dive in and figure out how I best want to raise the kids and the lessons in life I want them to learn. I have been questioning a lot of things lately and trying to figure out ways to help make our family unit stronger. I have also been making it a priority to develop friendships and a support network that I have never really had. It's a journey that scares the heck out of me since it is something I have always struggled with. I have been fortunate in the past to know some incredible people, but have always had a fear of being close to them for various reasons. I've come to the realization that family and friends are what enrich your life. Without it is emptiness.

Life has changed for us since we left Wisconsin and I think we are starting to feel like we are home here in Iowa. It has been an adjustment with all of us having our own struggles, but I think all of us agree that it has been a good move overall. Ashlynn might disagree from time to time as she misses many of her friends back in WI as the rest of us do. The kids have settled in well here and have a good network of friends, especially Alec who had many difficulties with his own peers in the past. The school year (homework wise) was a challenge, but now that summer is here and they are visiting their dad in Texas I am trying to analyze the heck out of things to gear up for the next year. Both of the older kids will be in middle school!

Mike's job is going well and he continues to be busy which we try to remind ourselves is a good thing with the economic uncertainty. He is being challenged professionally, both good and bad, but from my perspective appears to be handling it quite well. From what he tells me, it leads me to believe that he has a great opportunity to help strengthen the weaknesses he has identified in his new job with things he learned that worked well in his old job. He is also being allowed to gain experience in areas not available to him in his prior job, sometimes with a good deal of frustration. Speaking as a former co-worker and not just as his wife, Mike is good at what he does and always puts in his best effort to do his job to the best of his ability. He also has an amazing ability to not recognize that and can be his own worse critic....but I think sometimes we have to do that so we stay grounded and continue to strive to better ourselves and our work. I think that people he works with now see that in him and view it as an asset. I'm proud of him and appreciate everything that he does for us. (I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't balk at this paragraph and/or erase it completely)

Kjersten is growing up fast and quite the talker. She amazes me with the things that come out of her mouth and seems to be 2 going on 8. She loves her brother and sister and the dynamics between the three of them are really neat to observe. She can hold her own with them and they all seem to love each other. Right now, Ashlynn and Kjersten are two peas in a pod and Alec is somewhat the odd man out. It changes from time to time, as only a few months ago Kjersten was all about Alec. In November, we will be welcoming another little one into our lives and we look forward to that.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Greeting from Iowa....nearly three months later.

No, we didn't fall off the face of the earth or get lost in the move. I have to say that the move and closings on both of the houses went well despite our nervousness with all of the financial crisis that hit over the last few months. I didn't really breathe a sigh of relief on the Wisconsin house until our realtor and friend, Dave, called to say that the closing had occurred. You never know.

It's hard to believe that we've been in our house now for two months and I'm still employed as the household domestic engineer. Some days I wonder if I should be fired and sent back into the workforce, but I guess Mike thinks I'm doing a fair job being home. Keeping the house clean with three kids, a dog and a cat in near constant presence is nearly impossible and I can see that trying to keep the house up to pristine cleanliness could lead to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I've discovered that it's a little harder than I had anticipated and requires much more assertiveness and initiative than I would have guessed.

We have settled into our new home for the most part and are trying to get settled in to a routine. Entertaining Kjersten throughout the day, every day, has been a challenge for me too. We usually visit the library once a week and go to the YMCA atleast 2-3 days a week. Ashlynn and Alec are enjoying their new schools and making friends though I'd like to see them hanging out with their friends a little more than they do. I try to remind myself that I should be glad that I know where they are and what they are doing.

I'll be glad when spring gets here so we can go to the parks, play in the yard and work in the garden. Our vegetable garden was a great source of joy for Kjersten as she always found a tasty snack to enjoy and plenty of bugs to watch in the flower beds. We'll miss our established gardens in Wisconsin, but are looking forward to sowing our new ones. I'm also happy to have the expert assistance of Mike's parents as I know very little about growing plants.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

10 years and two months.....

That's how long I have been here at AEI and today is my last day. It's bittersweet as I am excited about the changes to come with being home with the kids and to start the next chapter of my life. However, my heart is heavy to leave my job. Even though it has been very stressful at times over the years, it has largely been a wonderful and empowering experience for me. I've worked on a number of exciting projects, worked with incredibly talented people and traveled to places all over the US that I might not have gone to otherwise. It's hard to give all of that up and I do so with a very heavy heart. Change is exciting, but it is hard too. For the last hour or so, my emotions have been building to the point where I just feel like I am about to explode.

So while I am likely to cry my eyes out today, I know I gotta pull up my big girl pants and get over it. While I leave something behind, I have much to gain that I have yet to discover. A good attitude and tons of positive optimism can go far under the most uncertain of circumstances. I'll be glad to get this move behind us and start getting settled into our new home. We have all missed Mike since he has been in Iowa for the last three weeks and we look forward to being together again. I'm sure the next three weeks will likely pass quickly, but right now it seems so far away.

So the next time I post, I'll likely be well settled into my new domestic engineering position at the new casa de la Olson.