Monday, November 25, 2013

Day 13 - Black Friday Bergner's Challenge

For anyone who has ever scoped out the ads after Thanksgiving Dinner and mapped out the Black Friday plan, you will appreciate this story.  Every year, Bergner's/ Carson Pirie Scott, includes a $10 coupon to spend in the store on Black Friday before 1pm.  The gimmick is to get you into the store and hope you spend a lot more than $10 by the time you reach the check-out counter.  With the opportunity for free stuff, we always added this store to our Black Friday map.  Over the years, Bergner's has changed the small print on the coupon to eventually only include non-sales items (which are nearly impossible to find on Black Friday when everything in the store is "on sale").

Last year we were feeling lazy and decided to spend our Black Friday sleeping in, laying around, and eventually wandering out to see what kind of fun we could find at the mall.  We had our Bergner's coupons in hand from 3 different newspapers and I had a last minute idea to make a game of it. Everyone in the car picked a teammate and had approximately ten minutes (it was 12:50pm when we reached the mall and the coupon expired at 1pm) to use their Bergners coupon to make a purchase.  They had to spend at least $10 to use the coupon and we declared that the winner would be the team that could spend the least amount of money out of their own pockets.  I was fortunate enough to be the driver so I got to sit in the car and hold our spot by the door while everyone else piled out like raging lunatics frantic to spend their Bergner's coupon.  We made quite a scene as Ted held the door closed so niece Kaitlyn couldn't get inside, and everyone else scattered thru the store.  My sister Sue and niece Kaitlyn were first to arrive back to the car with their jewelry purchase and only $2.47 spent out of their own pocket.  Next came Samantha and Ted.  After 2 rejections at the cash register, Ted explained the scenario and the clerk took pity on him, offering up the option of an electric toothbrush that was set up in a display in front of her.  They made it to the car before the buzzer, spending slightly less than the first contestants.  Text warnings started going out...2 minutes, 1 minute and we are departing for lunch...response, wait don't leave us!!!  Nephew Darin and Amber showed up seconds after the buzzer empty handed and very upset with Bergners for their trickery in advertising.  Amber was absolutely crushed that she wasn't able to purchase any of the cool $10 items she'd found, because of the fine print on her coupon.  Ted and Samantha took home the bragging rights and we left the mall to seek out lunch.

Lesson of the day for our carload of sure you understand the terms of the "sale" or you'll come out empty-handed.  Good luck to you this Friday as you venture out into the chaos.  May you not be limited by the fine print.

Day 12 - Thanksgiving Brady Bunch Style

Ok, without using Google, who can sing this song by heart...GO!

Here's the story of a lovely lady
who was bring up three very lovely girls,
All of them had hair of gold like their mother,
The youngest one in curls.....

How do the Brady's have anything to do with Thanksgiving, you might be asking yourselves?  Quite honestly, I have no idea.  But that has been declared the theme of this year's Thanksgiving at the Richie home.  And so, if we want to eat turkey, I guess we need to find some 70's attire to wear to dinner.  Anyone have some totally rad 70's clothes you'd loan to me so I can try for that best dressed award?

The last Thanksgiving at the Richie House called for Pilgrims and Indians.  All of us being Illini fans, we thought the Indians would dominate Thanksgiving dinner.  But as it turns out our closets lent themselves to a wider selection of black and white than Native American attire, so the split was down the middle.  There's certainly something to be said for spicing up a family gathering by requiring random costume attire.  I guess that's why we sort of agreed to do it again.

By far the "Best Thanksgiving Ever" was awarded to the tailgate of 2001, the year I was 9 months pregnant with Samantha and the Illini went to the Sugar Bowl.  You see, that has been the only year in our lifetimes that Illinois has played football on Thanksgiving Day.  We took advantage of the opportunity and headed to Champaign for some sweet tailgating memories.  Deep fried turkey, college friends who show up bearing wild turkey (thanks Matt Hennenfent!) and Illini victory to secure a presence in a BCS Bowl.  Yep, best Thanksgiving ever.

What's your Best Thanksgiving Ever?  We always need a good idea for next year.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Day 11 - Watch out for the Girl in the Tractor

I'm not sure why I first agreed to learn how to drive a tractor.  I don't even recall when or where it was. I do remember Ted's forethought on this subject came years before it actually happened though.

We were engaged and I was living near O'Hare airport working in my first hotel job out of college.  My car was just about shot and it was time for a replacement.  Ted and I went car shopping and I fell in love with a cute little black Saturn, mainly for its power sunroof and 6-CD changer.  Ted thought it was a great car because it was a stick shift and was sure he could teach me how to drive it.  The wheels were turning in his head at this early date, he later fessed up.  If I can teach her how to drive a stick shift car, she will surely drive a tractor someday.  He helped me buy that cute little manual transmission Saturn, and drive it I did.  It wasn't pretty.  A word to the wise, don't attempt to learn how to drive a manual transmission in Chicago traffic.  Also toll booths really stink when your power window is broken (before the days of the IPASS).  I don't know how many times I killed the thing coming out of a toll booth.  After I tore up the first clutch in 6 months, I think Ted was reconsidering his brainy idea.

That car lasted about another year before it was time to trade it off.  His mission was accomplished though.  We had moved back to the farm by this point and I did finally have a decent understanding of how to not burn out a clutch, therefore becoming a viable candidate for the tractor seat.  

I do not claim this position full-time, but I don't mind helping out when needed.  Over the years, I've done my share of time as the auger cart driver.  Thank goodness we don't use the little wagons anymore, I need a BIG target like a semi-truck if you don't want a big pile of corn on the ground at every single field.  I've also been a part in the post harvest fieldwork from time to time.  The year I stayed at home with Amber, we spent many hours ripping fields together.  She was a good tractor buddy, and so was her Dora the Explorer movie.  I must have taken a break for a year or two because the next time I did field work, there was a handy dandy gadget on the steering wheel to help me steer straight.  What a concept for a girl who's fieldwork resembled more arcs and s's than straight lines!  Ted was giving me a refresher course with the girls in the cab.  I had to kick them all out when Samantha started telling me how I was doing it all wrong.  Age 7 and she knew how to run the auto-steer better than I did.

I found myself back in the cab of the tractor multiple times this year.  I'm happy to say I left behind no dents and only a few small piles of corn.  Today when Ted asked for help, Amber brought along her little white cat and we headed to the field together.  Now that I've learned how to run the auto-steer and move the seat forward so that I can reach the pedals, I can relax and enjoy my little farming partner.  I even let her drive every once in awhile.  The rain is coming, get 'r done.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Day 10 - Game On

We were sitting around enjoying the Summer Olympics on a quiet peaceful Saturday afternoon when Ted decided we needed to stop being lazy and get off the couch.  He was inspired by the heptathalon event we were watching and we decided to create our own.  Call the Richies, game on.

There are two things you should know about our family, if you don't already.
1. We function best in spontaneous mode.  
2. Everything is a competition.

So we give the Richie Family approximately 20 minutes forewarning, and this is what they show up in.  Geesh!  We will never win the best dressed competition with them around, that's for sure.


The first annual Mies Farms Heptathalon consisted of 7 events.  There would be an adult and a kids division, and the winner gets bragging rights until the next year.

The first event was the 50ish yard dash.  I'm not much of a runner, and the other adults are, so I didn't have high hopes to rake in the points here.  Ted, had a very strong desire to win the 50ish yard dash and came out of the blocks strong, 10 steps into the race, he let out a loud yelp as he pulled his hamstring.  We all hesitated to see if he was ok.  Luckily my remaining competition consisted of 2 doctors who were sworn by oath to help those in need.  I saw that Ted wasn't laying on the ground in pain, but still limping along, so I took advantage of the diversion and dashed on to take second place in the race!  Woo hoo!!!  Julie Mies! slowest runner on the track team is on the board!  Ted still really hasn't let me live down my lack of sympathy for his pain.  

Other events included cycling, discus, javelin throw, swimming, and sack races.  Kayaking was cancelled after the injury, we were down on manpower for hauling equipment.

My all-time favorite little competitor has to be Dain Richie.  Outside of my husband, my most favorite person in the world to compete against is my 10-year-old nephew Dain.  From the first day he could toss a ball, it was evident that he had natural talents.  But his feisty competitiveness makes it so fun to taunt him with a game.  He will compete for anything and everything, all I have to say is "I bet I can beat you at...."  He and I are not blood related, but I'm sure we have the same blood type.  So, when I jumbled up the point value for each place in the heptathalon events, it made him crazy trying to figure out how his little sister had the most points when he won the first event and she came in last.  Random nonsense points were assigned to each place.  So even if you were the winner, it didn't necessarily mean you would receive the most points in that event.  You had to check out the point value before the event to figure out which place would be most advantageous to your overall total.  Surely I could somehow rig this thing to have a fighting chance at victory.

I didn't win the 1st ever Mies Farms Heptathalon, that darn Bill Richie did.  Oh well, there's always the next competition we can dream up.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Day 9 - What kind of a Crew did you send me?

This story just makes me smile thinking about it.  Planting season went a little long this year.  It was a race to try to finish before the girls got out of school for the year, Ted lost.  Desperate times call for desperate measures.  Throwing in the white flag, Ted called a farmer friend to plant a field he'd been having trouble getting to due to spotted rainfall and his current proximity away from this farm.  The friend quickly agreed to help out.  Needing just a bit of backup support to help get his planter loaded and moving, he called Ted asking if he could send anyone.  All the manpower was a good distance away, and I was working in St. Louis that day, so no help either.  I suggested Ted call our girls and the babysitter, so he did and they were happy to help.  Ted recalling the friend's version of the story is what tickles me most.  I should paint a quick picture of the friend, a big guy, hard worker, lifetime farmer, has a young son and no daughters.   "I didn't know what the heck you were sending me.  Three girls pull up in a convertible with the music blaring, I'm thinking this job is going to take twice as long now.   They hop out and the older one starts tossing seed bags up to the younger two who have a system of opening and dumping the bags already started.  These girls are better help than most of high school boys I work with!"  

Farm girls, that's what we're raising.  And a special thanks to our country girl babysitter for being a good sport, filling planters, washing sheep, chasing cows.  Hope you enjoyed your summer!

Day 8 - Water Party

So my addition to the summer bucket list was for the girls to "plan a party."  Check!  We are sailing through this 'parental checklist' at lightning speed.  They might just be ready for independence by the time Amber turns 10!

Me, being one who has had some experience organizing parties for student council, as a social chair, a parent, a volunteer, and even during my professional career, rather enjoyed the opportunity to sit back and watch other family members take on the role. 

Several lessons here:  sisters having to "agree" upon a party theme and the attendee list, creating an invitation, a list of activities to entertain the guests, the food, the date and time.  They're actually pretty good, they've been paying attention.  The theme, Water Party, the date next hot dry Saturday, take your pick this summer.  Activities included water balloons, water guns, capture the old sheep trophy under the sprinkler, slip n slide...and then dad stepped in.  Long ago in our very first Christmas letter, I nick-named him Extreme Ted.  For good reason, I think it's why we fit together so well.  He comes up with extreme ideas and I help pull them off.  Our best is yet to come in a later blog, the timing isn't right yet.  

Ok, back to the slip n slide, and the word extreme.  Hey girls, instead of a slip n slide in the yard, let's make a giant slip n slide down the big hill in the pasture.  We can pump the water out of the pond and use it for the slide!  Really, we can do that?  Ok!!!  Let's invite some more people to this party:).  One of the benefits of living on a farm is the long list of odd things you have access to when you want to build something extreme.  Black tarp, an old pump, 3" wide hoses, leftover pieces of plastic tile.  The dish soap was a last minute addition.  It didn't go as fast as he'd hoped, but that was probably a good thing.  The memories created that day will be plenty big, even without lightning speed.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Day 7 - Lemonade Stand

Every summer we try to come up with a list of things for the girls to do to keep them busy, out of trouble, and maybe even learn something.  Usually this includes household chores to earn their keep, reading goals, our summer bucket list of fun things we want to do, and a random goal for each of them.  Amber was going into 4th grade, so she had to learn all of her states and capitals.  Ted decided it was time for Samantha to start learning the basic concepts of entrepreneurialism and required her to create her own business.

After tossing around a wide variety of ideas, she decided to go with the simple out and set up a lemonade stand in our front yard.  She and Ted have taken a liking to the tv show Shark Tank, so before anything else, she was required to visit our shark tank and seek out investors for her start-up company.  She unenthusiastically presented her business plan to us sharks, her mom and dad, and was able to strike a business deal with her dad to help pay for supplies, solicit mom's Facebook fan club, and not give up 50% of her profits (mom's offer).

The next day Samantha formed quite a workforce of her sister, 2 city cousins, and 2 country cousins and set out to make the best lemonade stand ever, or at least satisfy her dad's requirements.  For a house in the country, I didn't expect them to bring in much of a profit.  Lucky for her, the city cousins had a long history of success with garage sale lemonade stands, and the country cousins had a very cool lemonade stand sign stashed in their barn.  They decided to make cookies to go with the lemonade, beautiful posters to attract attention, and had quite a display set up in the yard by 1pm.  I was in my office attempting to work from home that day, and sat chuckling as I listened to their loud obnoxious cheering every time someone would slow down and pull into our driveway.  They were so proud of themselves when they even got a car to turn around and come back to their stand.  $65 later, I was pretty impressed by their afternoon take.

Samantha learned a few valuable lessons from the experience.  You have to spend money to make money.  Hiring good help can be crucial to your success.  Hiring too many employees eats away at your profits, literally.  Grandma's friends tip well. And, in whatever you do, have fun doing it. 

Day 6 - Pizza Delivery

We are nearing the end of harvest, I can say that with a smile today.  I'm at that point where I start counting every single acre and continuously recalculating an estimated finish date in my head. It was a good day, not because the yields were good, or because there were no breakdowns, well that helped. I think I can attribute it to the fact that we finally had our first meal in the field together this year.  It's been such a go non-stop hard kind of year that all of the meals so far have been handed over at the foot of a ladder, or left in the seat of an empty cab.  We've missed out on one of my favorite parts of the fall, picnics in the field.

So today when I actually had enough forward thinking to throw a Sam's Club pizza in the oven for 15 minutes and run it to the field along with whatever snacks were in the cabinet and a football, it turned out to be the best meal of the harvest.  I promise you it wasn't my stellar gourmet cooking abilities, that has never been my claim.  2 daughters, 2 cousins, 1 brother-in-law, 3 farm helpers, a husband, and I all gathered to share this pizza and the snacks left in my cupboard.  It was sort of enough, well not really at all, but I had no idea who I was feeding when I left the house.  A few jokes, some razzing for the guy driving the auger cart, a little football, awesome November weather, a hug and kiss, and back to work.  As we were parting, Ted says, "we're going to quit early tonight." Haha, ok farmers and their wives separately, tell me what you would consider "quitting early."  I didn't get my hopes up, but was surprised to see his face at 7:15pm tonight.  He even made an attempt to "spend time with his family" by joining us on the couch for some tv.  We enjoyed mocking his snoring 10 minutes later, and sent him to bed by 8:30pm.  There's a light at the end of the tunnel, we will have our dad/husband back soon.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Day 5 - Character Building

It was many years before we realized the best reason to have children.  At first we thought it was because they were these perfect, tiny, beautiful and innocent little beings that melted our hearts and immediately became the center of our lives.  As they began to walk and talk, we had so much fun showing them new experiences for the very first time, and seeing the world through their eyes.  But it was at the parent teacher conferences in first grade when we realized a whole new side of parenting that would make every poopy diaper, sassy rebuttal, and exhausting homework argument tolerable...the opportunity for embarrassment.

Maybe we are cruel to live for the day to embarrass our children, I will justify it by saying we are thickening their skin, building stronger character, and giving them the ability to laugh at themselves.

Here's how it all began....  For the 100th day of kindergarten, Samantha was required to put 100 things on a poster board.  Our plan was to take 100 pictures with dad, shrink them down, and decorate our poster.  It truly was a fun night trying to come up with 100 photo poses, dad and Sam got pretty creative.  Down to the last minute, as many procrastinated projects go, we were rushing to complete the project, well after the bedtime hour.  Samantha, Ted and I were cutting out and glueing pictures on as fast as we could.  At one point we noticed Samantha quietly pulling a picture off of the board, a picture of dad's kiss lips with scruffy whiskers.  We busted her and Ted teased her about not liking his best picture.  She went to brush her teeth, and we snuck the picture back on her board.  The assignment went to school, and when it came back home, we noticed the picture missing off of it.  For that reason we made it reappear in random places over the next several months.

The rest of kindergarten came and went. As I was flipping thru old pictures the next fall, I ran across those kiss lips again and got a good chuckle out of the memory.  What a shame to let this quality photography go to waste.  I decided to reprint that picture, maybe an extra copy, a few giant copies, a whole page of mini copies, and hey, I could even make a few into magnets.  We went in to meet with Samantha's first grade teacher, had a lovely conversation about her first semester of first grade, and as soon as we were finished, we hunted down her locker.  We decorated it with lots of love, kiss lips from top to bottom.  As we heard later, our sweet innocent little first grader opened her locker the next day horrified to find kiss lips everywhere.  She attracted all kinds of attention as her classmates immediately gathered around her locker to catch a glimpse.  She couldn't open her locker for the entire week without a gathering behind her.  She said she tore the pictures down, but we did find a few of them still there 6 months later.  

And so a tradition was started, each year after parent teacher conferences are over, we sprock the girls lockers with a new surprise.  One year we filled their lockers with balloons, another year we rigged up halloween rats and bats to pop out at them.  They've come to expect it, so I guess it's time to regroup and come up with a new sprock.

I've heard parents say they are dreading the day their daughters start dating.  I think we are actually both a little excited about Samantha and Amber bringing home their first boyfriend.  Imagine the possibilities for embarrassment!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Day 4 - Transfer of Knowledge

Due to unforeseen circumstances, I've recognized the need to alter the rules of this 30 Day Blog Challenge.  I will eventually blog on thirty calendar days, they just may not be consecutive.  

Following up from Day 2, many more sprocks were initiated between Ted and I before we finally started dating.  I teepeed his truck in front of FarmHouse.  He teepeed my room and froze my underwear.  I took all of his clothes, except the underwear of which I wrote the words "buns of steel" on with fabric paint.  And, at 2:30am, I learned that his National Guard uniform was the most critical piece of his wardrobe to him that weekend, he was in quite a panic to get it back.  I don't recall a sprock that went on without retaliation. 

Eventually we married and joined forces, which is even better than plotting against each other.  Along came the children and as good parents would, we felt it was our responsibility to bring them up right and transfer important knowledge to them.  So, when Samantha was around three years of age, we decided it was time for her initiation.  We racked her out of bed one fall around 11pm, helped her dress in dark colors from head to toe, and took her out into the night to her aunt and uncle's front yard.  There we handed her a roll of toilet paper and began teaching her the basics of teepeeing, and the importance of not getting caught.  I'm pretty sure she didn't even remember it the next morning, but we felt good about the training session.  Thank you to the Richie's for providing the perfect training grounds.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Day 3 - Pause this Blog for an Ed Mies Update

Stop the press!  We have an important update to share.  Today Ed Mies made a very special trip to visit his farm.  After over 100 days away, we were so happy to see him back on the farm.  He checked on the cows, counted the sheep, and even went for a gator ride.  

There's still some therapy work to be done before he can come home for good.  Tomorrow he starts working on stair climbing.  Yesterday he and Amber had chair races in the rehab center therapy room.  Big smiles from both of them at the finish line.  All in the name of good fun.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Day 2 - Retaliation

A sprock is only good if it requires retaliation.  I'm not sure exactly how the conversation went down that night at FarmHouse, but I'm guessing a little something like this.

"Hey bud, I need your help.  We're going to put a sheep in Julie's room."
"Huh?  Ok, I'm in."

And so they did just that.  Conveniently, I was out studying at the library that night, so they had plenty of time to get the sheep to my 3rd floor room.  I was told later that sheep are not particularly fond of climbing fire escapes. But, given 3 young farmers with a mischievious goal, you might as well just stay out of their way.  And then there they were, three men, a sheep, and my gracious roommate.  "So...when do you think she might be home?"  

I did eventually make it home, and I believe their efforts and patience paid off as they were quite pleased with the look on my face when I came thru the door.  It's not every day that you're greeted by a live sheep in the middle of your pretty pink carpet.  I should mention I was very impressed they made the extra effort to put plastic down.

You think we're even now, right?  We've only just begun.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Day 1 - The Attention Getter

The setting: University of Illinois, Fall 1995, Presby House dining room with my incredibly brilliant, spunky and full of life friend Sasha Thompson. Were we Pondering the meaning of life and how to solve world Racking our brains trying to figure out how to get the attention of that incredibly hot junior transfer at FarmHouse Fraternity...yep. Think, think, think. Ding!!! Sasha recalled a little sprock her father had told her about a few years before and it seemed to be the perfect fit for our current predicament.

 We put our plan into action. This incredibly hot FarmHouse junior transfer happened to have a nice looking truck, which would be our target. Eighteen years later my memory is a little foggy, but I think the classified ad we submitted read a little something like this, "Moving, must sell. 1990 Chevy Silverado Shortbed Black, great condition. $10,000, or best offer. Call Ted 344-4069." Apparently Sasha and I were pretty good at this sales and marketing gig because the calls started rolling in! By the end of the first day in ink, the ad drew in a long list of phone calls for that hot junior transfer, of which he had no clue why he was getting. And NO, he was not interested in selling his truck for half of what it was worth! The calls continued for several days, and eventually he pin-pointed the culprit of the sprock. Mission successful! Now brace for retaliation.

 Thanks to the lovely and beautiful Holly Spangler, I've decided to join in on the 30 Day blogging challenge. Sometimes it feels like life throws you a lot of bad apples, maybe even by the bucket. So my thoughts were to pull out some sprocks, challenges and such that we've enjoyed over the years here at Mies Farms to stir up a chuckle or two while we try to wrap up the 2013 harvest, all in the name of good fun. This post is a tribute to you Sasha Thompson-Blackford, I can still hear your awesome little chuckle all the way from Heaven.Day 2