Awards

This week my family and I headed out to our daughter’s middle school for the End Of The School Year Awards Ceremony.

We were sent a real life letter in the mail (so we knew it was a big deal!) a week ago stating that Zoe would be getting recognition for something she’s done this school year.

She’s had all As in her first year of middle school.

Not too shabby for a kid who had radiation to her brain when she was 7 years old, huh?!

So, I knew she would be getting a certificate for her 4.0 GPA.

She came away with seven award certificates.

One for every subject, including physical education.

And the girl does not like to run.

awards

Things have certainly changed since I was in the 6th grade.

For me, 6th grade was still considered a part of elementary school.

Middle school consisted of only 7th and 8th grade.

So, in 6th grade I was not given a locker combination to memorize.

I still participated in daily recess.

I was still using my fingers to try to add large sums of numbers together ( I still do this…)

I was not given a laptop computer to take home each night (computahwhat?)

I was not traipsing through the hallways giggling with my classmates as we went from Hour 1 Accelerated Math to Geography where we were finishing up our Diwali Festival of Lights in India projects.

Much was not expected of me in 6th grade.

But, much is expected from my daughter who is finishing 6th grade.

I started my 6th grade year in 1982.

Plenty has happened in the 35 years between my 6th grade experience and my daughter’s.

Even starting in kindergarten, children of the 21st century are expected to know a lot more than we ever were.

The expectations are mind-boggling really.

And it’s no wonder that kids have more anxiety, more inner turmoil, more daunting pressure.

Thursday evening, my daughter received many accolades for her hard work this school year.

In my 6th grade year I also received an award.

Awards at my school were handed out during the school day while our parents were all at work.

A bunch of kids…

wearing pin-striped jeans and oversized tortoiseshell-framed eyeglasses

whose hair had been permed the weekend before by grandma in her kitchen from the boxed set she had bought at the A&P

sat in the very hot auditorium sliding up and down on the hard wooden fold down seats anxiously waiting to hear if their name would be called.

No one got “Most Improved Student” or “Highest GPA In The History Of Our School District.”

No one received an award for “Most Reading Points Because You Have Read Every Book In The School Library Twice” or “Best Ability To Multitask While You Study 6 Core Subjects, Participate In Drama Club,  And Do Track-Volleyball-Basketball.”

Shhhhhhhhh….

What?  WAIT!

Did I just hear my name called?

There ARE five other Jennifer’s in my class…are you sure it was me?!

Up I jumped from my seat to get my award!

I ran to the stage in my Dr. Scholl’s tan sandals with my hand outstretched to receive my prize…

MOST FRECKLES – GIRL!

(…and I think I received the perfect attendance award like EVERYONE else because back in the Carter/Reagan eras, our parents always made us go to school no matter what was wrong with us…)

I think other awards presented included…

Best Michael Jackson Moves

Highest Jump From A Swing At Recess

Most Pizza Eaten In One Sitting At Lunch In The Cafegymnasium (or was it the Gymateria?)

I think I gave a speech where I thanked my Irish redheaded and freckled great-grandmother Stella for the genes.

A guy named Jeff got awarded for having the most freckles of the male variety.

He did have a lot, he deserved it.

We didn’t have much pressure put on us in 6th grade.

Kids today are pressured to:

Do More

Be The Best

Over Achieve

Competition is everywhere at school.

Zoe is given fake money as a reward for doing well on tests.

The fake money is going to be spent at a school auction next week where she may come home with a television or an iPad.

For turning in her homework on time.

For being polite.

It really starts in kindergarten now, though.

My children are rewarded while they are away from home and in their educational environments with food, toys, parties.

School has totally become a reality competition comparable to Survivor and America’s Got Talent.

It’s no wonder that my niece, who is in college, is totally stressed out and in need of anti-anxiety meds.

I sometimes feel like I may need to get my own prescription for myself as my daughters get older and more is expected of them in school.

Zoe seems to be doing fine with what’s expected of her.

She was in kindergarten when she fought for her life with a leukemia diagnosis.

We pushed her hard because we knew her brain was literally being inundated with poisons.

She had leukemia cells in her spinal fluid, which meant it was probably in her brain.

Cranial radiation and spinal-infused chemotherapy were part of her treatments.

It’s been 5 years since her hard-core treatments ended, but we really pushed her to get good grades early on because we knew she had much to overcome and we didn’t want her to slack.

Recently she came home with a C on a test.

I don’t even remember what subject the test was is.

What I remember is that she started crying when she told me.

Because she knew we expected more from her.

I told her it was okay.

It wasn’t the end of the world and she could make it up with studying harder for the next test.

And then I asked her “are we pushing you too hard?”

Through her tears she looked at me and said “no, you aren’t”

I’m a very laid back mom.

I don’t get on my kids if their bedroom (that they share) is too messy.

I don’t yell at them if they curse too much at home.

I don’t get too annoyed with them if they refuse to eat vegetables.

But, I’ve always wondered if we expect too much from them.

School is their job right now.

My husband and I are expected to be on top of our game and to get the job done correctly at our own jobs.

So, I do expect them to get good grades.

I want learning to be something that they enjoy.

I want them to be inspired by things that they see, by music that they listen to, by ideas that emerge as they wander around in a museum.

Expectations are challenging.

For both a parent and a child.

I mean, I never expected to get that award in the 6th grade.

But, I knew I had it in me.

Maybe that award isn’t out of Zoe’s reach either…

 

freckles

Excessive Coconut

We’ve been struck with a spring malady at the farm.

The whole–April Showers Bring May Flowers–baloney that happens in the spring has turned into–Well It’s May And The Damn Rain Needs To Stop!–because it causes a problem in my kitchen.

Ants.

Little ants start making their way into my kitchen EVERY YEAR in the early spring.

Heebie Jeebies sprout up under my skin.

And my head starts to itch.

I try spraying the little buggers and the surrounding areas with non-toxic lemon juices and vinegar/water sprays that I put into an old children’s hair detangling bottle.

I see an ant…BAM!

Spray it dead!

I also currently have chili powder covering the backsplash behind the toaster and my kitchen-aid mixer because I saw Betty doing it at the bagel shop she supervises for my husband.

Because you know…ants do like Asiago bagels and blueberry muffins with extra crumble topping.

Well, it was raining a lot a few weeks ago and I seemed to have the ant situation under control.

And now, well, it’s been sunny for a week.

Nice and warm and breezy.

Sunday I woke up to an active trail of ants heading right into the kitchen cabinet that’s full of… EVERYTHING SWEET.

The peanut butter.

The Nutella.

The marshmallow fluff.

The raisins.

The sugar.

THE SUGAR!

NO!

It’s not raining!

Why are the ants in the sugar?!

Damn!

I had to clean all of the stuff out of the cabinet and throw some things away and I had to drop down under the kitchen sink to get the poison.

I hate using toxic things in the kitchen.

But, I also hate having ants in my Nutella.

I cleaned out the very top shelf which contains all of my baking goods.

Chocolate chips.

Brown sugar.

Baking powder.

Confectionary sugar.

Coconut.

Coconut?

Why do I have coconut?

The most important question is really…

Why do I have five bags of coconut?

coconut

I don’t even like coconut!

I have had this thing happen to me lately where I buy double.

Sometimes in triplicate.

I go to the store to do my grocery shopping and, while I do usually travel with a list pre-typed onto my iPhone, I get to a certain product and think…is this on my list?

As I stare at the bottles of canola oil and check my list and see that it’s NOT on the list, I find myself with riddled with doubt.

I think I need more canola oil, but it’s not on my list.

Do I need it?

Why do I think I need it?

Didn’t I see any empty bottle on the kitchen counter that Man-Farmer had set there after making me a batch of stovetop popcorn?

I better buy it because I think we are out.

I get home and open the pantry and SHIT!

I already have canola oil!

In fact I already have two unopened bottles of it!

I once had three large boxes of kosher salt.

Because I kept buying it when I thought we were out.

I don’t like to buy in bulk because my kitchen storage area is NOT a grandiose area at all.

I don’t do Costco.

I don’t go to Sam’s Club.

I’m not a Big-Boxer.

So, I do not need three boxes of kosher salt, or two boxes of saltines, or even two boxes of ice cream cones, both sugar and waffle cones.

And I certainly don’t need five bags of coconut.

I guess I have used the coconut, because none of the bags that I have are entirely full.

I have both sweetened and unsweetened.

One bag barely has anything in it.

Why did I keep this miniscule bag of unsweetened coconut?

coconut bag

I guess because it looks so much like parmesan cheese.

And I can never let go of an extra bit of parmesan cheese.

What have I made with this tropical nut shredding?

I’m all out of answers.

I know what I want to do, though…

coconut shrimp

I loves me some coconut shrimp.

Okay, I think I was a bit excited earlier when I said I didn’t like coconut.

I kind-of, sort-of like it.

But, only when it’s toasted.

And only when it’s toasted and in some granola.

Or toasted in a cookie.

Or toasted on the outside of a big ol’ fat shrimp.

I could never eat a cake covered in it.

I do love the look of a white coconut cake, but my taste buds do not agree with my eyes.

I’ve begun living my adult life with a “when life gives you lemons…make a giant gallon of lemonade” motto.

It all began when Zoe got sick.

We could have quit.

We could have given up.

We could have felt sorry for ourselves.

But, we didn’t.

We pushed forward.

We lived in the sunlight.

We took the bad that was handed to us and made it as good as we possibly could.

And while shredded coconut and cancer in a child can’t compare to one another, I have learned to make delicious lemonade.

It’s easier to see the best within a situation instead of focusing on the unsavory aspects set before you.

It’s never easy, especially when it involves more than extra pantry ingredients.

Especially when it brings death closer to your heart than you dare dreamed about.

Soon, I’ll be whipping up a batch of golden, toasty, coconut covered shrimp.

And hopefully the ants will stay away until next spring…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glass Half Full

I met up with some old friends last weekend.

These are ladies I met in college and a few of us even went to high school together.

That’s 28 PLUS years of friendship in those faces above.

We have been together through college final exams, boyfriend hookups and breakups, vacation shenanigans, weddings, the births of our children, my daughter’s cancer diagnosis, the death of a child, and now we are facing ailing parents together.

We may not always see 100% on everything at all times, but when the shit hits the fan, we are reliable and we are there.

Sometimes I dislike the faces in the photos above, but I love them all dearly.

Time budges us forward, pushing us whether we want to move or not.

It’s hard to keep friendships strong for this long.

And it’s something that must be done thoughtfully.

You must WANT to keep relationships vibrant and alive if you seek a future with people.

As I’ve written about before, my best and oldest friend Kelly lives 750 miles away from me.

But, we communicate weekly and visit one another often.

We WANT to keep our relationship strong.

We know it takes work and are willing to dig deep within ourselves to sustain the line that ties us together.

She went to college with the women in the group I saw last weekend, too.

She and I were roommates freshman year when we met most of these people.

But, she didn’t return sophomore year as she decided that college wasn’t her thing.

With 8 people in our group, I think we’ve done pretty good keeping in touch with everyone all of these years.

It does help that we all live in the same state.

And most of us lived together at some point AFTER college.

Chicago is the home base for Laura, Sue and Heather, with a few peeps ( T and Siobhan) living in the northern suburbs.

T and Siobhan actually live in the same suburb and their kids (3 each!) go to the same school.

Krista calls Omaha home, and I live three hours south of Chicago on a farm.

One college pal, Rosaleen, lives very far away, but we all still see her as much as we can.

Ireland is an ocean away, but her mom still lives in Chicago and many of us have traveled to the Emerald Isle to visit her and her brood of 5 kids (I am coming someday Rose!).

Friendships this old aren’t perfect by any means.

I can’t stress this enough!

It’s HARD!

I get angry with them.

They become equally pissed with me.

Some of us are closer with one another than others.

We have shared intimate things with only certain people and yes, there are secrets amongst us.

I get annoyed with them.

Like when I send an email and get zero responses from the group.

Yet, others do the same thing and there’s a litany of responses within 4 minutes time.

Women are catty.

And this group is no different from any other female grouping.

But, there’s something there that keeps us together.

Even if I roll my eyes as I’m complaining to my husband about so-and-so, there’s history.

There’s a deep knowledge that these old friendships will continue to renew themselves.

When I returned from my weekend with the ladies (someone dubbed the three-day event as Roomiepalooza), my dad popped over with some hostas.

His neighbor Larry was dividing his plants and my dad brought three bunches over.

We looked around for a shady spot to transplant them and I remembered how my grandmother had ferns growing under the dining room window when I was growing up.

Ferns and hostas thrive in shade and so my dad started digging.

hostas

He dug up bricks as he created four holes along the floor of the used area of earth.

“A porch used to be here” he said.

More holes, more crumbling bricks.

With one shovel full of dirt he unearthed a small treasure.

Hidden in the brown soil was a juice glass.

Entirely filled with dirt, a worm, and some spindly green weeds.

juiceglassdirt

I cleaned it out (that’s when I found the worm) and it was perfectly intact.

Not a chip or a crack anywhere.

“Must have fallen off of the porch at some point” my dad said.

We laughed and he noticed that he didn’t recognize the pattern on the glass.

It has green leaves and a small green dot where, upon very close inspection, you can see very pale white flower petals surrounding the green dots.  A petite flowered juice glass was literally unearthed on Monday.

It may be before my father’s time in this house.

His great-uncle lived here and this juice glass may be his.

I took it into the kitchen after I carefully extracted the contents outside.

I scrubbed it and rinsed it and poured some Aldi orange juice into it.

juiceglass

It’s in my kitchen cabinet now.

Ready to renew its job as a morning vessel for Vitamin C.

It’s old and it’s still useful.

It has been revived.

Which is what happens when my girlfriends and I get together.

We renew our friendships.

We revive the relationships that we all need.

We laugh until we cry (or pee!)

We become uncomplicated ears and hearts for those in the group that need it.

Roles shift and we all become busy in our own personal day-to-day routines.

But, when we dig down real deep…

We remember that we are useful to one another.

 

64 Duck Eggs

Spring has sprung at the farm!

It’s 82 degrees today!  Woot Woot!

Easter is tomorrow and, as we aren’t religious, we will partake in the day by eating a big ol’ ham and a blueberry lemon cake and talking about a large bunny that came in the night and hid the 64 duck eggs we colored yesterday.

When you have laying poultry in your backyard, as we do, and there are only three people in the house who eat eggs (as one has decided to be egg intolerant…thanks Gigi) we have a lot of extra duck eggs around.

So, we colored 64 duck eggs this year and one chicken egg.

eggs1

I don’t know why only one chicken egg made it into my boiling pots this year.

The duck eggs we have are a pale green and white.

We have two different types of ducks in our barnyard.

We have Daffy who is an Indian Runner Duck and Patty who is a Khaki Campbell breed.

ducks

Daffy is the small white duck on the right and Patty is standing in front of her.

Daffy lays the white eggs and Patty lays the pale green eggs.

Our chickens, we are down to four hens as Tallulah died last week, all lay brown eggs.

Our hens are New Hampshire Reds and Light Brahmas.

hens

Yesterday we dyed our eggs and ended up with some big, beautiful globes and some fingers that don’t look as fancy.

egg baths

We dye our eggs by just dipping our hands into the dye baths to retrieve our art pieces.

It’s all a part of my “who gives a shit” philosophy of life.

Hands wash.

It’s fine.

Gigi made a beautiful egg with a beautiful sentiment.

It reassures me that I’m doing the right thing with my daughters when I see things like this…

gigi egg

Love Yourself

 

easter eggs1

easter eggs2

easter eggs3

All of the color inside the house inspired me to go outside the house and find color in nature.

I love warm weather.

And do wish I lived somewhere that didn’t have such cold seasons.

But, it may be why I (and all other Northerners) cherish the arrival of spring each year with just a bit more verve.

tulipsphlox

purpletree

 

 

I’m Not A Size 8 Anymore

My friend Leslie has made a monumental discovery.

She has discovered leggings.

She can NOT believe that it has taken her so long to discover the joy of leggings or jeggings (which are thin denim pants with lots of lycra/stretch in them) and it’s as if her life has taken on new meaning.

She’s seen THE light.

She has always worn jeans.

And she has always hated wearing the jeans.

Bulky denim that doesn’t bend with you and that keeps needing to be hitched up at the waist.

So, she’s going for the leggings look now.

And she’s talked about the self-confidence that it will take for her to wear the leggings instead of the jeans.

I discovered jeggings last year myself and I’m hooked for life.

Now, here’s where the self-confidence comes into play.

Neither Leslie or I wear a size 2.

Or a size 4.

Or hell, we aren’t even a size 8.

That ship has sailed waaaaay out to sea for both of us.

In order to wear jeggings or leggings, and you know you are not a size 8, one must possess self-confidence.

Or as I like to call it “I don’t really give a shit what other people think of me as I wear these super comfy pants.”

And I stopped caring what other people thought of me a few years ago.

As I’ve written about before in my blog, I don’t color my hair anymore.

And I hadn’t really noticed how gray it had become until a few weeks ago.

Gigi took some photos as I was cleaning the horse’s hooves and my head was down.

The top of my head is so gray and I didn’t realize it because I can’t see up that high.

I don’t look at my head from behind or from the top (who does that?).

And, to be 100% honest with ya, I was taken aback.

“WOW-My hair is so gray!” I declared to Man-Farmer.

“Yes.  Yes it is” he stoically replied (most of his replies come out stoically unless he’s talking about baseball or morel mushrooms.)

It stopped me in my tracks for a bit.

And I’ve looked at the photos a few more times staring at the top of my head.

So.

Gray.

hair

But, I’m not gonna do it.

I’m not going to get it colored.

Nope.

No.

No, No, NO, NO!

I’m going to be confident and I’m going to be keep the gray and I’m going to embrace it even more than I have in the past.

I’m going to keep a short and angular haircut…my new fave way to wear my hair is to keep it super short on the right side and to grow it longer on the left where I have this funky cowlick at my part (which my poor daughter Zoe has inherited…Sorry!)…and I’m going to rock the gray.

I hope.

A few young girls at my daughter’s school where I work two hours a day have told me that I have grannie grays.

sigh…girls, we need to talk…

Is this not saying something that GIRLS are telling me, another GIRL, that my hair is not the right color?

I know kids have a habit of saying whatever is on their mind…but minds may need to change.

I gave them a mini-lecture on the importance of girls deciding for themselves how they want to look and that it’s okay for any woman at any age to have any hair color that she wants to have.  And that most of the women that they know have fake hair color because they dye it and blah, blah, blah…

By this time the grannie gray insulters have their mouths agape and I’m being stared at as if I’m senile and making zero sense and that I should take my grannie gray head to the old folks home and lock the door behind me.

Self-confidence people!

Wear those leggings!

Stop coloring your hair!

Cut your hair super short!

Grow it past your ass!

Want to go braless?

Do It!

Be a working mom!

Be a stay-at-home mom!

Wear a belly shirt!

Who gives a shit!

And if you are going to be the woman who judges another woman for doing any of the aforementioned things, then you need to work on YOUR self-confidence.

Because we need to stand up for each other.

No more knocking down those that are different from you.

We need to wear our pussy hats on our gray heads and color-coordinate (or not because I don’t like to match) them with our leggings.

And we need to tell each other how great we look.

Even if it’s something you yourself may not want to wear.

We need to say “you’re awesome” to one another more often.

Because girls, no matter how old we are, need to hold one another up.

zoe dance friends

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lifelong

I was texting with my bestie, Kelly, who lives in Texas the other day.

We can have an hour long conversation without every actually speaking to one another.

We let our fingers do the talking.

We talk about:

TV…This Is US on NBC has had us bawling and she finally watched the entire season of Gilmore Girls after my constant goading and (no surprise to me) she LOVED it!

Our kids…books they like to read, struggles at school, driving, bullying, bitchy teachers.

Random Gossip…that’s my favorite.

She and I have known one another since we were five years old.

She’s exactly two weeks older than me and while we did have a falling out in junior high school (she claims that I was mean to her and didn’t talk to her YET when I was at her house last summer we found her junior high yearbooks and I had signed them and written smiley faces in them and all of that junior high stuff you write in yearbooks so I’m NOT buying that crap!) we have been very close all of these 41 years.

And in those 41 years we have shared a lot of stuff.

Like the time we crashed into a fence on an icy road in her neighborhood on the way to a high school basketball game where we were to perform at halftime as we were on the pom-pom squad (what the kids these days call the dance team.)

Or when we lost the muffler on her car driving home from Chicago on the expressway and were terrified to tell her dad.

She lost her dad after a cancer diagnosis when we were in our early twenties and as she’s an only child, my sister-like shoulder was there for her to lean on.

We were roommates in college for one year at Illinois State University.

We worked together, with our hunky manager Pete, at Garcia’s Pizza in our college student center building and mostly just sat around on the counters gabbing with each other, drinking Diet Coke (her addiction to DC started at age 8, I think), and only occasionally serving people slices of Gutbuster Pizza.

Then she decided she didn’t like college and didn’t come back sophomore year.

I was her maid of honor at her wedding.

She sang along to the Elvis impersonator who married Man-Farmer and I (way before my husband ever considered that one day he wouldn’t live in Chicago) in steamy Las Vegas.

She’s been my go-to gal for all things Disney World.

It’s her single favorite place to vacation.

If she and her husband could (and they may) they would get jobs at Disney and live under Cinderella’s Castle in Florida.

I held her first born son weeks after he arrived.

And my oldest daughter’s first plane ride, when she 3 months old, was to Texas.

We flew to Texas for Kelly’s baby shower as she was due with her second son the next month.

She was the first person my husband called to explain that our second child born was NOT a boy as we had been told and had been expecting, but was instead a girl.  She was floored and had the best reaction (I did NOT want a boy baby.  I had been hoping for another girl and the specialist that I had gone to had declared my fetus to be a male) when she said “Wow, I didn’t know someone could will away a penis like that!”

She was the first person I called, while still in shock, to say that my five year old daughter had been diagnosed with leukemia.

Our lives have been intertwined through the years.

We have vacationed together.

We have laughed together.

We have cried together.

And I almost lost her a few years ago.

My phone rang one morning and when I answered expecting to hear her voice I was stopped dead in my tracks when I heard her husband on the line.

I instantly knew something was wrong.

She had been in a minor car accident a few days prior (which I had known about) and she had suffered a stroke that morning as she was getting ready for work.

A stroke at the age of 43 was NOT on her list of “things to do this week/year/EVER.”

She’s a trooper and has come back with a vengeance from this setback.

She’s walking, talking, has gone back to work, she’s driving.

She even walked down Main Street at Disney World less than a year after the stroke.

Walked by herself, with the help of a cane, which her doctors had said wouldn’t have been possible.

She still doesn’t have full use of her left arm and hand, but is doing every single thing out there that she can find to bring full functionality back to her life.

She’s amazing.

And an inspiration.

People don’t really know, deeply and fully, how special they are until they have to push themselves out of their comfort zones.

Until they are pushed to overcome the unimaginable.

And one of the things that I think makes real friends REAL FRIENDS is that we do have differing views on things.

I am way more liberal than her.

She’s not very political at all.

She loves her microwave and texted me just a few days ago the trials and tribulations of her microwave’s recent death and the birth of its replacement.

I don’t own a microwave.

I hate microwaves.

I love animals of all kinds.

We have 22 pets on our farm.

She only likes dogs.

And really only her dog.

I fully blame her parents on this as she never had pets growing up and her family now would like more pets, but she’s not having it.

She has been raising two sons while I’m raising two daughters.

She deals with pee next to the bathroom toilet and I’m dealing with menstrual cycles.

kids

the kids

My best friend of 41 years.

I don’t know what I would do without her in my life.

Friendships that have endured this long take commitment.

Not an everyday commitment, but a commitment that settles deep within your soul.

A strong desire to sustain something that has meant so much through the years.

It’s very easy to let people slip through the cracks of your life.

It’s easy to let communication slip and it’s easy to get so busy within your own little circle of to-do lists that people slowly disappear from your life.

It takes a strong eagerness to sustain a friendship for 41 years.

I know that I can text her at any time of the day and get a quick response back from her.

And she can do the same with me.

Like she did the other day telling me that she thought she was going blind.

Only to discover that she had accidentally put both of her contacts in one eye.

It was a great laugh and just what I needed on a dreary, cold day in Illinois.

I live down the road from where she and I grew up.

I drive past the grade school on a daily basis where we met back in 1976.

South Shores Elementary School, home of The Superstars.

Where the blonde girl, who walked through the field to get to school, met the brunette who lived across the railroad tracks.

And where a lifelong friendship all began…

kellyandme

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Stink of Spring

The first day of Spring arrives today.

Good gravy, it felt like Spring was here last month!

Then, WHAM!

The winds picked back up heralding in cold gushes of air.

My flowers were emerging from the semi-hard ground and green bursts of color could be seen all over our yard.

Then the white stuff fell from the sky.

Everyone hates snow in March.

EVERYONE!

Especially when you had been out throwing tennis balls with that stick thingy (so I don’t have to actually touch the slobbery ball) for the dog while wearing sandals, 4 weeks prior.

We ran around looking for things to cover the greenery that signaled Spring Flowers so that the cold wouldn’t shorten their newly blossoming life.

Buckets.

Plastic wading pools (sorry, ducks).

Tarps held down by rakes started doting our yard.

We didn’t get as much snow as the East coast (Thank You Baby Jesus!) and it melted rather quickly.

Gigi did manage to build a little snowman in the front yard.

And the kids managed to break the only sled we had left…Gigi had broken the other sled a few months prior when it was warm enough to play outside without a coat in January and had used it to ride on as she went down her big yellow slide.

gigi slide

I’ve noticed that the orange lilies that surround our parking area, which had sprouted green towards the sky, now look as if they are bleached.

The bright green color is gone and the leaves are resembling lettuce that’s been in your crisper past its prime.

I hope the orange lilies show up later to start our summer.

The plants that we had covered still look crisp and green and ready to continue growing heartily.

Spring is a time for new growth  and we have decided to get some new furniture for our living room.

We haven’t had new furniture since before we moved here.

My aunt gave us a chair my uncle had recently bought before he passed away a few years ago.

It’s the Go-To Chair in the living room.

We lovingly call it The Jeff Chair, to remind us of it’s prior owner.

The couch we have came with this house and my nephew, who is 30, has been photographed sitting on this couch when he was a wee lad.

So, it’s at least 30 years old.

Blech!

The new couch is being delivered on Wednesday and we brought home a cow print chair on Friday when we were furniture shopping.

I moved most of Gigi’s tiny toys out of the living room and into her bedroom.

I’m hoping that they stay in there for at least a few months.

We haven’t had the windows open since probably October.

Five months ago.

It smells like feet, farts, and wet dog in the bedrooms.

We have had the front and back doors open to the screen door setting a few times in the last couple of months since it’s been warm.

But, then it snowed.

And the doors closed back up.

And, when you live in an environment that has actual seasons that go from warmish to hot to cool to cold, you count down the days to the warmish days that will greet you upon awakening in the morning.

I need to open the windows.

I need the breeze to swoosh through our hallways to remove the odors that start permeating our lives and our nostrils.

I need the feet and farts and dog smells to be vanquished forever.

But, unfortunately, they will be back.

In a year I’ll be pleading with Man-Farmer to “please let us open the windows!”

He is a stickler about saving energy, saving propane that heats our abode.

But the stagnant air that hovers over our heads needs expelled.

Fresh air creates fresh ideas and I’m ready.

I have a lot inside that’s brewing and I need warm days and green trees and sunshine to get going.

I’m SO ready.

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Daily Thoughts

Man-Farmer and I got a new doctor last year.

We hadn’t really seen a doctor since before Zoe was sick.

We had had to put off our own healthcare needs because we were taking care of her.

So, when looking around we decided to go with a guy who just happens to be our daughter’s friend’s father.

He’s a bit younger than us.

Most of Zoe’s friends’ parents are a bit younger than us.

I’ve been in his dining room talking over the Disney Dining Plan with his wife while he sits in his living room recliner a few feet away.

They are cool people.

He’s a good doctor.

Easy to talk to (we usually end our visits talking about our kids) and very knowledgeable.

He’s really amazing in that he went through medical school while he was battling cancer.

He has a lot of admiration for our daughter, his son’s friend, who has also fought the nasty C monster.

As my doctor, he has suggested that I get a pap smear.

Pap smear?

I haven’t had anyone looking way in there since my last baby was born.

And my baby is now 8 years old.

So, as I rolled my eyes and sighed like Gigi does when I tell her it’s time to bathe, I agreed to it.

BUT, with one stipulation.

His Physician Assistant would be doing the procedure.

Because there’s NO WAY in hell that I would spread it all open for my daughter’s friend’s dad.

Every time that I would see him at a school function, sitting across from him at a back-to-school open house or in the auditorium for national honor society accolades, I would be thinking only one thing…

He’s seen my pubes.

He’s seen my pubes.

Oh my lord, he’s seen my pubes.


 

Since people around here already think I’m a bit odd…

should I start double kissing peeps when I greet them?

They do it on the Real Housewives show.

Why can’t REAL housewives do it?

I’ll see someone I know, go in for a mini-hug and pull them forward a bit, heading directly towards their right cheek.

Wait…

Should one cheek be kissed first before the other?

Right then left?

Or left then right?

I’ll do some research before I go in for the kill.


 

On television the other day Chad and I saw a commercial for that Amazon Echo thing.

It’s for people who need to know things RIGHT THIS MINUTE!

You know, the thing that you walk by and say “Amazon Echo, What time is it in Mogadishu?”

And it says “Alright, the time in Mogadishu is 4:48 pm.”

Weird.

Well, in the commercial a lady was looking at some papers at her kitchen island (which I’m sure was made from granite) and asked her Amazon Echo how many dishwasher packs she had left.

Huh?

But, you’re standing right there in the kitchen?

Why are you asking that thing across the room how many dishwasher packs you still have?

It responded by saying “you have two dishwasher packs left.”

And the lazy lady said “Okay Amazon Echo, put dishwasher packs on my shopping list”

Chad and I looked at each with our mouths gaping open.

Have we really become that lazy?

Has society really become that lazy that we can’t look in our kitchen cabinets to see for ourselves how many dishwasher packs we have left?

We have to ask a computer this question?

What is going on?!

I never want to be SO busy in life that I am not capable of making my own shopping list.

Who would want that?

If you are reading this and saying “ME, I am too busy to look under my kitchen sink to see how many dishwasher packs I have left” then you, my friend, need to prioritize things.

Because many other things are passing you by that you aren’t noticing if you are THAT busy.


 

Yesterday I asked Gigi if she would call me once a week when she’s older and has moved out of our house.

She said no.

No?

She said she would be too busy…(she’ll probably be using that Amazon Echo thing to order her mascara.)

I said “maybe you could put me into your daily agenda and have Wednesday as Call Mom Day.”

“I don’t know” she replied.

Sigh.


 

Gigi again…

She’s gotten herself into a bit of trouble at school (with one girl in particular) because if you are bothering her with your stupid assholey 8 year old self, she will roll her eyes at you.

Whatever.

It’s not like she’s slapping anyone.

This girl, I might add, claims to be Gigi’s BFF.

Whatevs.

I’ve told her to get new friends.

Gigi doesn’t really realize she’s doing this.

I get an eye roll from her about six times every hour.

Just wait until she decides to NOT quietly roll her eyes at people that’s she’s had Quite-Enough-Of-Thank-You-Very-Much and starts using her massive vocabulary.

I may be getting more phone calls from the principal as she gets older.


 

Did I tell you that Gigi has developed an egg intolerance?

Did I tell you that we have hens in our backyard?

Hens who give us eggs every single day in large amounts?

And now Gigi won’t eat them because they make her sick and she has become terrified of eggs on her plate?

And her pediatrician thinks she will probably (hopefully) outgrown this and we are to test her on eggs every 6 months?

But she’s says “no way are you making me eat eggs EVER AGAIN!”

Oh boy.


 

I’m sure you have noticed in this post that I have many, many stories about Gigi.

And not a lot of things to say about her sister.

Her sister has FINALLY become the boring child.

Zoe is the easiest kid on the planet.

She rarely gives us a hard time about anything.

She rarely talks back or rolls her eyes at us.

I think deep down she remembers that I used to sleep in the same bed with her while she was in the hospital.

I would push aside her IV lines and crawl into her bed to cuddle with her.

Trying desperately to make something out of her inconceivable situation seem normal.

I would watch whatever she wanted to watch on the hospital TV, which was always The Disney Channel.

I think she remembers that her dad once went to the hospital cafeteria and bought every bag of Goldfish Cheddar crackers that they had.

Because that was the only thing she would eat.

I think she remembers things like this and she cherishes how easy life is now.

And she’s letting her sister have the spotlight for a bit.

Zoe’s admirable like that…

zoe basketball

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tropical Farm

One of my favorite shows on television is International House Hunters on HGTV.

I don’t like the domestic house hunters show because I feel like the Americans looking for new digs are way too pretentious.

There’s only three bathrooms?
But four of us will be living here and we can NOT live without five bathrooms.

We just can’t!

Ugh.

We are a family of four who cohabitate nicely with one bathroom.

Sometimes you just have to cross your legs a little longer.

And that’s okay.

The families on the HGTV show looking for homes in Europe or in warmer climates really interest me.

Oh, what I would do to relocate the farm and wake up in a climate every day that’s warm and tropical.

Where I can have my front door open all day long and where shoes are an optional accessory.

Or, reliving my days of city living, how exciting it would be to live in the city centre of Brussels or Paris with my family.

Where I can open my front door and walk to the shops on ancient cobblestone streets to get the day’s groceries.

A tiny European fridge in my house?

That’s fine.

I could live in an environment where I would head to the market every few days to get ingredients (usually always locally made) for family dinners.

But, I’m here on a small hobby farm in Central Illinois.

The homestead that I have may be really interesting to others.

I get that.

I am blessed to live where I do and I don’t forget that.

I mean, It could be a bit warmer.

But, the woods in my backyard…

The barn full of the furry and feathered kind…

The solitary nature of looking out my front door and not seeing any other houses…

The blue sky, the unobstructed views, the birds chirping, the pool to cool off in in the hot summer…

I try not to become complacent here.

I try to live each day enjoying what I have and enjoying the people that I live with in this 100 year old farmhouse.

This farmhouse used to be much bigger.

My great X4 uncle built this house and there was a dairy farm on the premises.

But, my grandmother Dorothy (who both grew up here and lived here as an adult) tore down the upper floors in the 1960s.

I believe it was because only three people lived here (her and her husband Vern and my dad, Bobby Dale) and it helped to cut back on the heating bills.

So, we only have two bedrooms.

And my daughters share a bedroom.

And we have been told that this isn’t fair.

Especially to the eldest daughter.

Getting cancer at age 5…that’s not fair.

Sharing a bedroom with your sister…sounds pretty reasonable.

It’s been suggested that we should improve our home to suit their needs.

To add on the upper floor again.

Which, of course, we would love to do.

But, that would be expensive.

We don’t have a mortgage on this house.

Never have had one since we were given this house as an inheritance…I think we paid $10.

If I remember, we had to pay something as a transfer of the deed so that my grandfather Vern (who was in his early 90s and had moved to an assisted living facility) wouldn’t be punished with his taxes and what he paid to live in his new home because we moved into his old home.

And, we don’t have the best credit.

Because we have had a child with cancer.

With astronomical medical bills.

And when you have a child with cancer, one parent must always be there for that child.

You can’t both have a job outside of the home.

It’s (I’m not exaggerating here) impossible.

So, bills don’t get paid.

They are late getting paid.

And your credit is damaged while you save your child’s life.

Getting a new car is hard.

Forget about getting a loan to add onto your home.

We don’t have a mortgage and we want things to stay that way.

Now, if we win the lottery…

Well, that’s a dream and our home would get what it needs.

And we would be guests on International House Hunters as we look for our new home.

But, back here in reality, my kids share a bedroom.

And they aren’t complaining.

They are comfortable in their space together.

I joke with them that I’m just preparing them for college.

When they will have to share a room with someone they don’t know.

At least now, they know each other very well.

They have their own beds, yet I often find them in the same one in the morning.

I find that this whole bedroom sharing deal will ultimately make them closer.

It will remind them who and what is important.

It’s not to punish them.

I want them to be best friends.

I want them to learn to have their own experiences and I want them to figure out how to deal with another person’s idiosyncrasies.

I want them to learn patience and how to soak in someone else’s energy to enhance their own.

I want them to talk to each other as they fall asleep.

I want them to giggle and snort until they can’t breathe.

I want them to dream about what THEY want in the future.

I want them to grow up and have children of their own.

And hopefully they will remember how it was to live so closely with each other and they will want to share those experiences with their own children.

Maybe they will live in Europe in a three bedroom apartment with three kids in tow.

Or on quaint farm in a warmer climate where chickens run around the yard and their kids are best friends.

Like they were.

And they will remember the closeness they shared with each other.

Because their mother had a dream for them…

sisters

 

 

 

 

Where’s The Snow?

The ducks have had their first cold season this year and it’s been a very, very easy one for them.

Our snowfall has been practically non-existent.

Temperatures have only been in the low teens.

Blinding blizzards and deathly cold sub-zero temps haven’t appeared.

A few weeks ago we even hooked our garden hose up to fill up their swimming pool.

And that was in January!

We have had winters in the past few years that have given us knee-deep snow drifts.

With winds blowing so strongly that the slats in the barn walls can’t keep out the flakes who, with a vengeance, make their way into the horse’s stall.

Building mini drifts in the corners where they were not welcome.

We have had temperatures in the past that have gotten so low that I feared the goats would freeze in the night.

And I have wandered to the frozen barn in the wee hours of the morning, my lungs freezing up as I take my first breath once I open the back door of the house.

Walking the one hundred yards to the critter house in the backyard.

Only to turn on the barn light and see that the three stall residents are perfectly content and probably really annoyed that I just woke them up.

But not this year.

The cold and snow haven’t come a’knockin’.

whistle

At least not yet.

We live in Illinois.

And it’s not uncommon to get a big snowfall in March or April.

Only to have it all melt away two days later when the temps rise again.

And, indeed, this may happen in the next few months.

I’m hoping for snow.

And I’m not such a big fan of the cold weather anymore,  as I get more gray hair and deeper aches in my knees.

Here’s why I’m crossing my fingers for some snowfall.

Summer.

When you have large animals that live in your backyard and those large animals rely on pasture grass to eat in the summer, you wish for snow in the winter months.

The snow melts and adds moisture to the earth and allows for lusher pastures.

Now, I’m no weather expert, but I do remember hearing the famous Chicago meteorologist Tom Skilling of WGN News give a detailed description years ago about the direct effect of snowfall and summer temperatures.  It involved the cooling of the earth’s surface as the ground is buried under the cold snow.  And when the sun is out in the summer and the sun rays are bouncing off of the ground, the cooled ground means the temps aren’t as high.  But, if the ground hasn’t been cooled by snowfall then the  sun’s rays in the summer are hitting already warmed earth and the temperatures are higher.

Or something like that…

Remember, I told you I’m not a weather expert.

But it makes sense to me.

Deserts don’t get snowfall and they are darn hot!

Warmer summers mean warmer animals in my backyard.

And less grass growing in the pastures.

And then we need to buy more hay to feed them and that costs more money.

And we will have to water the pastures to get the grasses to grow.

And that water costs money.

And the horse sweats more.

And she will exert more energy cooling herself.

Which means she needs to eat more to cool herself.

Just as she does when it’s really cold outside.

She has to make energy to keep herself warm hence she needs to eat more.

It’s a cyclical life on the farm.

Each season brings its plusses and minuses.

Spring brings us beautiful, hardy, green grass.

And mud.

Which ends up all of my floors in the house.

Summer brings the heat and the grass begins to brown by the end of July if we don’t get enough rain.

But, we get more vegetables from the garden to nourish us.

Fall finally brings cooler temps.

But, pasture time is dwindling down.

Winter is the hardest season for hobby farmers.

We have taken the garden hose away and lug buckets of water to the barn (since we don’t have a water hookup in the horse’s house) to quench the thirst of a pony, two goats, five chickens, and six ducks.

And we often have to do this lugging more than once a day.

water to the barn.jpg

We keep the pastures closed in the winter.

Which the horse hates!

But, the goats have figured out a solution.

Man Farmer cut a small doorway in the fence for the ducks to get into the back pasture if they want more room in the winter to wander around.

The red chickens can jump fences.

The white chickens hate winter and stay close to their coop during really cold days.

So, the doorway is for the ducks to use.

ducks.jpg

It’s the perfect size for an Indian Runner Duck to pass through.

But…

One afternoon a few months ago I looked out my kitchen window, like I do about 2,489 times a day, and noticed that our goat Yogurt was in the back pasture.

Hhmmm…

I thought the back pasture was closed?

Then, when I looked out the kitchen window a bit later and she was in the barnyard again.

Strange…

I asked Man Farmer about it when he got home and he went to check and there wasn’t a large hole in the fencing, the gate wasn’t broken.

The next afternoon…same thing.

The back pasture was locked up tight, yet Yogurt was in it.

Grazing on what she could find amidst the winter grass.

I grabbed my can of cherry lime La Croix, leaned on the kitchen sink, and watched.

And waited.

And then I saw her wiggle her goat body, that has a very wide belly, through the hole in the fence that is only big enough for a duck squad to pass through in a single file line.

Well, I’ll be!

That fat-ass got herself through the tiny hole in the fence.

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Then she told her sister Tulip how to do it.

And now they both wiggle through the duck hole in the fence.

Much to the chagrin of the horse.

Who I think now hates the goats.

Because her most favorite thing in the entire world…

…more than rolling in the dirt…

…more than naps in the sun…

horse-nap

…more than getting her face caressed with the big brush with the soft bristles…

is eating grass in the pasture.

So, you see, it’s imperative that we get some snow in the next few months.

Buttercup relies on the lush spring and summer grasses to feed her tummy.

And, in a way, it feeds her soul as well.

buttercup