Becoming A Teen

Our baby became a teenager on Sunday.

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Every parent goes through the same grieving process when their child is no longer a tot.  Where is that cherub-faced, sweet-smelling, chubby-armed baby?  She was just here sitting on my lap last week drooling onto my arm, right?

Teens are a whole other entity…an emerging presence who has her own ideas and style, likes and dislikes, you can see what kind of makes her tick now.

I don’t really miss the baby side of my kids.  I’ve never really been a baby person.  Toddlers start to be interesting because they are talking and actually starting to use their brain as their personal way of discovering the world.  They no longer have to divert all of their energy into just keeping their own head from flopping over when they are sitting up.

The stereotype of a teenager is one of a moody, angry, self-involved narcissist.

I don’t see that with my daughter.  And I hope she never shows up.

She CAN get sassy, but she seems to save her teen angst for her little sister.   I understand that living in the same bedroom with someone younger than you can become tiring, but her father and I DO remind her that name-calling and blatant hateful language directed at the blonde tornado known as sister will not be tolerated.  And then we tell the blonde tornado to cut the crap.  Because she knows just where the anger buttons are on her big sister.

But, eldest daughter is a kind, thoughtful, happy, optimistic, and giving young lady for the most part.

She’s evolving into a great person and I just can’t wait to see what happens next for her.  I don’t want to live in the past with who she used to be.  I do like telling stories about her as a littler kid, but much of it is really a blur for both her and I .  And her dad.  Because she spent so much time in the hospital when she was 5-7 years old.  And I don’t want to think of her as that frail, underweight, scared girl.

I want her to live with all of the possibilities of a great tomorrow before her.

I want her to dance with more boys at the school dances (she finally danced with two boys at the Valentine dance her school held) and I want her to forge her own path into the future.  A future of possibility.  A future of unknown treasures.  I want her to get taller than me.  I want to see her smile when it’s full of metal from braces that she is bound to get (she lost the last two teeth she needed to lose to get braces at the end of last week).  I want her to continue to rock her short hair if that is indeed what style she wants for herself.  More teen girls at her school are going short and I love that.

Every mother has a list of wants for their daughters and sons.

I am no different from the majority of parents in this world.

Let’s remind our sons and daughters to be good to one another.  To stand up for those that are having trouble standing on their own feet squarely.  To always show their peers that a smile and a hello can go a long way to make someone feel good about themselves.

Oldest daughter had a sleepover with her girlfriends recently and they were looking at their school yearbook from last year.  One boy this semester has had some difficulties and the words “suicidal thoughts and actions” have gone floating around amongst the students AND the parents in our middle school.  My number one message that I shared with my daughter when she told me about this student was this…”just always smile and say hello to him.  everyday.  if you pass him in the hall or he’s sitting near you at lunch, look at him and say hello.”  And I shared the same message with her sleepover buddies when they were discussing his issues while sitting around my dining room table.

Having a teenager is going to be really cool I think.

I know it won’t be rainbows and sunshine all of the time.

But, if we BOTH remember to smile and say nice things to one another every day…

I think we can come through these years landing at a shiny pot of gold.

Her sister’s teen years, though…that’s what scares me…

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Zoe and her friends did an escape room the day before her actual birthday.  They had a blast and this was my favorite photo of that day…her and her friend Josh busting out a laugh once they had escaped.  

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I Don’t Get It

I know you have been wondering about things that happen to me that I just don’t get.

I don’t understand many things about life.

Ignorance is my middle name and I’m not afraid to spell it out…

I

Am

Dumb

For instance…how does the cellular telephone work?

Texting…calls…what is happening?!?!

I’ve been boggled by television for decades.

How does that moving picture make it’s way through the air and get into the smallish black box (why are all televisions black?  That’s another thing I don’t know!) in my house?

Don’t get me started on The Cloud.

I know none of you really knows what that Cloud crap is all about either so don’t try to act like you do!  If per chance you DO know how these things work, don’t tell me…I like living with mystery in my life.

It’s all just too much for my wee brain cells.

Other things that completely mess with my brain are…

-how can the dog hear me drop a 2 inch long breadstick into his dog food bowl that’s in the kitchen where the dishwasher is running, the cd player is blasting out some Ed Sheeran, and the clothes dryer is tumbling the latest load of clothes I’ve just washed, all while he’s asleep in the living room YET he can’t hear me yelling at him (while I stand right next to the damn fool) to stop rolling in the “whatever that is that he’s rolling in” in the yard because he’s going to stink and I do NOT want to give him a bath.

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-why is it that my dad is getting a new knee in a few weeks and he has to take a 3 hour class on how the machine works that the doctor is going to use to give him that new knee?  Are they hoping that there’s an “IN CASE” involved and they want to cover all of their bases?  Like “IN CASE” we all suddenly die during your procedure, you will need to finish the surgery yourself Bob.  Or “IN CASE” we suddenly forget what in the hell we are doing and “why am I wearing this scrub gown?” you can complete the task at hand.  Or is it a simple case of “look at this way cool new toy we got that we want to show off and we want you to buy stock in this company that made this amazing robotic surgery possible!” WHO KNOWS!  I don’t need you to tell me detail by detail how the surgery will go, I just want YOU DOCTOR to know how to work the machine!”  A pencil drawing is sufficient, thanks.

-speaking of new knees…why is it that my 9 year old daughter is so gullible that she believes me when I say that grandpa is getting a new robotic knee and it will be remote controlled and it will be silver just like, you know, a robot.  And she has said things like…
“That’s too weird and I’m NOT going to look at a silver knee!”  
“He won’t be able to swim anymore because it will rust in the pool!”
“Why can’t he have a normal colored leg when it’s all done?!”
And then she believes me when I say…
“Don’t make Gpa feel bad about becoming a robot.”
“He’s getting the anti-rust protectorant applied, so swimming won’t be a problem.”  
“For an extra fee, he can get it painted a flesh color, why don’t you ask him to get that put on so he won’t look so strange in shorts.”
I love that I can trick her like this…she’s a very trusting girl who has a mother who likes to stretch the truth (i.e. lie to small children).

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-One last thing…how did my first born child turn into a teenager?  She’s going to be 13 in 5 days time.  WHA?!?!  She was just born!  She was just pooping in her Dora The Explorer Pampers Pull-Up while hiding behind the living room chair and grunting “NNNOOOO” when we asked her “are you pooping?”  That just happened!  Well…

I guess that was more than a decade ago now.  Our children grow up and get bigger and smarter and one day leave our homes…start their own life.  Heck, her life started the moment we met her.  On that cold February evening 13 years ago in Evanston. She’s amazingly inquisitive, loves to learn, can stand on her toes in both pointe shoes and tap shoes, and she has faced demons and won the biggest battle that I hope she EVER has to fight.

It boggles my mind…

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World Cancer Day

I guess today is World Cancer Day.

I doubt I would pause to stop to think about this had cancer not entered our family’s life.

But, who am I kidding, it’s entered everyone’s life.  We all know someone who has had cancer…they either died from cancer, they currently have cancer, or they have survived cancer.

It permeates everyone all over the globe.  It’s been doing this for hundred of years, we just didn’t call it cancer hundreds of years ago.

Cancer took my Grandmother Dorothy when I was just out of college…Pancreatic cancer.

Cancer has taken extended family members.

Cancer took a dear friend’s nephew when he was just a boy.

And cancer tried to take my own daughter.

After my daughter’s diagnosis of childhood leukemia, we unearthed something that we didn’t know really existed…there’s a whole community out there of other parents, other children who are struggling right along with you in their very own hells.  Wondering why this had to happen to their baby.

Cancer doesn’t discriminate.  It affects you no matter how rich you are, how educated you are, how beautiful or ugly you think you are.

It goes right in and fucks your entire world up.  And the world of those closest to you.

My daughter was diagnosed with cancer when she was only 5 years old.  Her cells were not cooperating, they were abandoning her, they were destroying her.

Yet, she survived the destruction.

Destruction that was exacerbated by what the doctors did to her body as well.

They poisoned her in order to save her.

All cancer survivors get a second chance at life.

They get to carry on and I don’t know one survivor who doesn’t walk around with a new sense of purpose.

They get a chance that those that die from their disease don’t get…

a do-over.

On this, World Cancer Day, let’s remember those that are getting a do-over.  Let’s clap for them and let’s encourage them.  Remember them when they begin to live again for they have been through a hell that you can’t comprehend unless you have walked that path yourself.

And for those that don’t get a do-over…let’s forever work towards a day when everyone indeed gets a second chance and we don’t have to say goodbye too soon.

 

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Our survivor Zoe, who is going to be an official teenager next week, and her friend Cooper.

 

Children’s Oncology Group is doing AMAZING work for children with cancer.  Support their research to save more kids.

 

 

 

Winter Anxiety

That darn groundhog saw his shadow this morning.

Six more weeks of winter.

Really, Phil?!

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Phil is the groundhog that they pull out of a box or something like that in Pennsylvania and if he sees his shadow or not determines our weather patterns for the next 6 weeks.

We do have some crazy holidays in America, don’t we?

We teach our children to be good so that a man in a red suit will sneak into our homes while we sleep sometime between December 24th and before we wake on December 25th and give them gifts.

We dress ourselves and our kids up on the last night of October and knock on stranger’s doors asking them to give us candy.  If they don’t we will threaten to play a trick on them.

We do all of these things as tradition.  We don’t necessarily question what we are doing, we just do them out of repetition.

Do we really believe what the groundhog is telling us (well, he’s not telling us anything as he doesn’t talk but, WOW, wouldn’t that be something!) on February 2nd?

No, we don’t.

But we perform the ritual.  People wake up and listen to the news to hear what the weather is going to be like because of a rodent.

Because it’s tradition.

Traditions follow us everywhere we go.

In our daily lives, too.

We follow the same roads to work and school.

We eat dinner at the same-ish time every day.

We are creatures of habit.

When those habits or rituals get altered, some people can’t handle the change.

While others can go-with-the-flow.

I feel like I’m a go-with-the-flow person.

I do try to adhere to schedules, but if something doesn’t go as I have planned, I have learned to not sweat it and to deal with the change.

Today, Gigi is going to a friend’s house after school.

She’s in third grade.  This is her first after school change since she began going to school when she was three years old.

She is going to ride a different bus to her friend’s house and I won’t see her until many hours later when her friend’s mom drives her home.

We live within a small school district.  Everyone knows pretty much everyone else.  I trust that she will get on the right bus.  I have no concerns for her getting off at the friend’s house as her mom is a friend of mine.

But, I will miss her.

I will miss seeing her bound through our front door at 3:30.

It’s one day.  She won’t be doing this every day after school.

But, it’s a change today from our traditional way of after school procedures.

And it’s time for this change for her.

She’s had anxiety issues that have slowly resolved themselves over the years.

Anxiety pokes it’s ugly head up occasionally, as I’ve seen in the last few weeks when she has stated she doesn’t want to ever be on her tumbling or trampoline club’s competition teams.

“I don’t want all of those people looking at me” she has stated.

Change can be hard for her.  She has fears, yet she has come so far.

She used to hyperventilate when she was to perform with her kindergarten class during holiday performances in the school gymnasium.  She couldn’t do it.

Now she can stand in front of group of strangers to sing a duet with the children’s choir she is a member of.

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But, her fears have slowly been creeping back into her head.

This is where parenting gets hard.

Do we sign her up for the competition team anyway?

To help her overcome what we see as an irrational fear, but a fear that is very real for her.

Do we let the fear win?

I have no idea.

I asked her “does this mean you will never try out for the volleyball team, track, or the spelling bee because people will be looking at you?”

She’s a super speller, by the way.  We never have to study her spelling words with her weekly like we did with her sister in elementary school.  Gigi aces her tests without our help.

I don’t know if it’s her age or internal changes in her body or the fact that anxiety just never really ever goes away.

Outwardly, Gigi can seem very confidant.  She has a YouTube channel.  She’s bubbly and goofy.  But, she has anxiety.

My hope for both of my daughters is for them to be the very best that they can be.  We push them to do their job (which right now, their job is SCHOOL) with 100% of themselves.

They both get good grades, straight As, and big sister recently was awarded for her good grades by being invited into the Junior Honors Society at her middle school.

Big sister has had to overcome A LOT.  She has come out with a gusto for life and doesn’t seem to be afraid of anything.  She does get nervous before performances or in new situations, but she manages to push it aside and move forward.

And she offers her advice for overcoming fears with her little sister.

Change is a part of life.

How we deal with it is a personal thing.  But, as a parent, we are obligated to teach.

We need to teach our children life skills, and we need to start at an early age.

Then we need to let them go.  And hope that what we have taught them has stuck.

Because change is everywhere.

Traditions are nice to have, but doing something different helps to keep us alive.

The groundhog may tell us that we have six more weeks of cold and snow.  He may tell us that spring is right around the corner.  He may be completely wrong with all of it.  Who knows.

Change happens every single moment our lives.

And living is what it’s all about, right?

 

 

 

Did You Know?

Did you know that if you let your teen daughter (who isn’t officially a teenager for two more weeks, but it’s close enough so I’m just going to call her a teen from now on) go online to Amazon to buy something with her Christmas gift cards that she will, without a doubt, buy something from China that will take 2 months to arrive at her doorstep?  And when her younger sister, who ALSO bought something on Amazon with her Christmas gift cards, gets a package in the mail 3 days after hitting “Place Order” on the site the teen will begin to question her shopping methods.

Because her Stranger Things-Hawkins Middle School AV Club t-shirt is coming via donkey direct from the continent of Asia.

“It is?” she moaned.

“Yes girl” her mother told her, “a donkey has your shirt on it’s back right now and it’s trekking across the mountains hoping to make the ferry to cross the sea.”


Did you know that if you put a hunk of frozen, organic, grass-fed beef into your crockpot because you are going to have tacos for dinner at 6:00 and don’t realize for a whole hour that “oops, I didn’t put any liquid into the crockpot” and then you pour some liquid into the crockpot that has been on high for 60 minutes that it will begin to crack in a slow, zigzaggy way around the entire bowl and it will both sound and look like a scene right out of the movie Ice Age where the earth cracks right in front of Scrat the prehistoric squirrel?

I think I made the same squirrel-pitched scream.

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Did you know that there are some people who know everything about everything and that they will give you advice even when you haven’t asked for it?  That there are some people who have a hard time listening and saying “good for you” or “wow, that’s amazing” or “have a great time” or “I’m sorry.”

They insist on giving you their two cents.  When what you really wanted to do was to tell a story or get something off of your chest.  You didn’t go in asking for advice…that usually begins with a “Can you help me out?” or a “What do you think about this?”  I think there are some people who just CAN’T help telling you how to be smart like they are.  Some people are bad at listening and good at talking.  I’ve tried really hard (and I’m still working on this) to be better at listening and to give my advice only when it’s asked for.


Speaking of giving advice, my friend who has been dipping her toes into the world of online dating, has been communicating with me about her matches.

I have written here about whether or not I am capable of Giving Advice to someone who is dating.  I have begun to think about my own partner and how when we met, we just seemed to know that this was it.  We had found that special someone.  We had only been dating for 10 months when we got married.  So, my new advice for her is this…

Did you know that you will just know?

I think that’s my best advice…when you find someone who you click with, who makes you feel like your best self, who makes you feel safe…you just know.  This is it.  It can take months, weeks, days…it shouldn’t take years, though.

And we should all be happy for one another.  We should smile and yell HOORAY for those that find love.  It’s not really our place to decide if this person is the best for our friend.  We want that friend to be safe, of course we want that, but learning about someone’s inner soul is a private matter.  And if it doesn’t work out, we should be there with love and support and not I told you so’s.

Did you know that we are each other’s greatest support?

If we just listen…

Planning A Road Trip To See A Wizard

I’m planning a trip for my family to go to Florida once school gets out in May.

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We want to go to see all of the Harry Potter sites that Universal Studios in Orlando has to offer.

The kids LOVE the Harry Potter films (yes, we own all of the movies) and three out of four of us in this house have read all seven Harry Potter books.  The youngest in residence just began book one, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, last week.  Our home library also holds the newest book from J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, as well as some extras like Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them and The Tales of Beedle the Bard.  We are a bit obsessed.

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The Universal theme park in Orlando has replica buildings that, from what I have heard from others that have already been, seem to have jumped right out of the books and into the real world of us muggles.

And if you don’t know what a muggle is, it’s a non-wizard human.  Wizards (male and female) and called…wizards.  It’s all in the book series.

We hope to see a Hippogriff and dragons.  We want to buy wands and butterbeers.  We want to ooh and aah and make glorious fandom fools of ourselves.

So, we are taking the kids to Orlando in our minivan.

Because flying these days costs both of Man-Farmer and I’s arms and legs.

I’m feeling stressed, though.

I’m the vacation planner in our house.

Anytime we have gone to Disney World (twice now) I have done all of the planning and made all of the reservations and I have reserved tables for dinner and I have planned out schedules for which rides we should ride and when to ride them…

exhausting.

But, once we are there we have a great time!

I’m having some issues with planning this trip to Florida.

Problem Numero Uno is this… the dates to go.

We need to go when school gets out as we have Zoe’s dance recital the second weekend in June and I don’t want to go to a Florida theme park during the heat and crowds of summer.

But, snow days.  Snow days at school can extend the school year at the end of May.

They could get out on the 18th of May or they could get out on the 24th of May.  That’s a big difference!

And that leaves us close to traveling during Memorial Day Weekend…are you kidding me?!

I DO NOT want to go to Universal on Memorial Day Weekend…not Saturday, not Sunday, not Monday.

I will go there on Tuesday AFTER Memorial Day.

I’m still looking at hotel prices for different days.  I’m thinking we will end up driving there on Saturday or Sunday of Memorial Day weekend and we will spend a few days after the holiday weekend perusing our way through the world of Harry Potter at a leisurely pace.  I don’t like rushing on vacation.  I like to meander.  So, we have talked as a family and yes, there are other things to see at Universal, but we are going to focus 100% FIRST on the HP stuff.  If we have energy and/or the desire to look at the other areas at the theme park (areas like The Simpsons, Jurassic Park) we will do that.  We are not big superhero people, so that aspect of the park doesn’t interest us.  The World of Harry Potter does interest us.

Since we are driving, we need to get some work done on our minivan.  It’s an older model with LOTS of miles on it.  It has needed a new #2 O2 sensor-I have no idea what that is, but that’s what Man-Farmer told me a while back.

So, on top of finding a hotel and figuring out the dates to stay at a hotel, we need to find a good garage in our town to work on our car and give it a tune-up.

I hand all car issues over to Man-Farmer to deal with.  And he can be car illiterate.  He’s very good at researching subjects and since I’m more car dumb than he is, I put all of my trust in him.

Man-Farmer can get a discounted rate on tickets to Universal through his job.  That is a big help because do you know that tickets for 4 people for two days costs more than $1000?  And we have to get something called Park-To-Park tickets at Universal because that’s the only way that you can ride the Hogwarts Train.  The train that Harry and his classmates took every year to get to school.  And we need to walk through the wall that’s between platforms 9 and 10 at the station…the train to wizard school is located at platform 9 3/4.

Fulfilling your children’s’ dreams isn’t cheap.  Heck, it’s my dream, too.

I have been using google maps to track which route we will drive.  I’m not going to drive straight through in one day.  That’s an almost 16 hour drive and I don’t do that.  We will stop halfway. I’m thinking of Chattanooga or just north of Atlanta.

It’s going to be one hell of a drive because of one thing in particular.

Gigi.

She has trouble driving to our state capital of Springfield.

Which is only 45 minutes from our house.

Two hours to St. Louis gets on her nerves.

And she has already stated that she doesn’t know how she will cope in the car.

Yet, she has loudly declared that she is NOT flying to Florida.  A trip that lead the girls and I into our own version of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles happened the last time we flew to Houston and she ain’t havin’ that again.

With our talks about driving to Florida, she has verbalized issues she may have with needing to pee.

Umm, we will stop.

What if I get bored?

Umm, bring things to do.

What if I get hungry?

Umm, do what you do when we drive 2 hours to St. Louis and bring the entire contents of our pantry.

Another thing that may be a hindrance is this.

My map.

I LOVE a paper map.

I love seeing the entire road spread out in front of me.

I like using my finger to trace my route.

But, this map is what I have been looking at spread open on my kitchen table and it’s more than a decade old.

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Am I looking at roads that don’t even exist anymore?

Are there new roads that aren’t on my map and I’ll be heading the wrong way the whole time?

The cover has been torn off and who knows if I’m missing parts of a state.

I think there’s a rip through Vermont.

Good thing I’m heading south instead of north.

There may very well be another NEWER road map of the U.S. in the minivan.

Under the passenger seat.

OR is this that map?!

I guess I should look.

It may be more up to date.

It may get us to Florida, but it won’t get us there quicker.

Sorry, Gigi.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Farm Photography

I’m trying something new.

Something I’ve thought about doing, but didn’t know really how to get started.

Or how to present my idea to the public.

But, fate and time have intersected and now I’m gonna give it a go.

I’m going to make some of my farm photos into notecards to sell at a local shop.

My friend’s ex-sister-in-law has opened a storefront in our Central Illinois town and it will sell art from local artisans.  The shop just opened last week.  It’s in a great location, downtown across from central park, and she said “YES” when I asked her if I could bring in some farm photo notecards to sell.

The shop’s name is The Art Farm, so my animal pictures should fit right in.

I’ve had some issues with figuring out HOW to get my images onto the notecards.

So that they look professional and artsy at the same time, ya know.  All without me spending a crap-ton of money to get it done.

I’m not here asking for advice on how to do it, I’ve figured that part out.  I’m just here to show what some of the images will be on the cards.

Cross your fingers, toes, and eyes for me.  I’m hoping someone will look at what I’ve presented and will feel strongly enough to want to purchase a blank notecard for $3.  Then write a lovely message inside to send to a friend in the mail.  Snail mail always appeals to me.  Who doesn’t love getting a handwritten card in their mailbox?

I’ll keep you posted on what happens…

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Giving Advice

My friend is doing some online dating.

I started the ball rolling during the summer of 2017 as I was the one who sat in my house almost 200 miles away from her and made a profile on Match.com in her name.

I had spoken with her about going online to look for love.  She hem and hawed about doing it herself so I just did it.

I uploaded a few very attractive photos and added some of her hobbies, likes and dislikes, and that she would like to meet someone who already has children.

I sent her a text saying this…”you now have an account on Match.com.  Your username is ******** and your password is *****.  Get busy finding a man!”

Here are her stats.

-She’s in her mid-40s.

-Never married.  No kids.

-She calls herself a BBW…a big, beautiful woman.

-Looking for a man to spend her days and nights with.

-Someone to relax with together after a long day at work.

-Making dinner or going out to eat.

-Making breakfast together the next morning.

-Dancing to the songs blasting out of her Amazon Echo thingy.

-Going to a music event or a Broadway in Chicago show.

-Someone who’s VERY family oriented

She is very close to her immediate and extended family.  And treats many of her friends as family.  Such as mine.

She’s had a string of extreme sadness within the last decade and has had a 180 degree turn around out of the sadness that has made her a stronger and more thoughtful person.

She’s the most amazing and giving and beautiful woman I know.

But, online dating…she’s not having any luck.

She did chide me for putting one of her hobbies as crafting…which I think is funny, but don’t remember putting that down.

But, she DOES like crafts.

She redid her page after I had gotten it started for her.

And she, after a bit, opened another account on another dating site called Plenty Of Fish.

There are plenty of fish, but some of the choices are just downright icky.

She has had plenty of dick pics sent her way (I kid you not!).

I know this because she has sent me texts of the dicks…good lord.

She has been texting me and calling me asking me advice about some of the guys she has actually met.

A few seem really nice.

One seems like he could be a good mate, but he has demons in his past that he doesn’t seem capable of letting go of.

One guy is a total douchebag.  And I’ve told her this.  As have a few other of our friends.

But, here’s my biggest problem with all of this…

Am I really someone to ask advice for in terms of dating a guy in the 21st century?

What do I know about dating in your mid-forties?

I have been married to a man who I met at work and we married after only knowing one another for 10 months.

That was 17 years ago…actually 18 years of marriage will happen for us at the end of July.

He’s a good man.  A hard worker.  A great dad.  A man who makes me laugh all of the time.  Well, except when he’s annoying the crap out of me.  But, that doesn’t happen too often.  We fought along side our daughter while she was battling cancer.  I truly believe it made our marriage stronger.  We find that we often share the same brain.  We constantly say the same thing at the same time to each other.  I don’t think we are starting to look like one another yet, though.

So, what do I know about dating?

I offer my friend advice like “but does he want to go grocery shopping with you?” when she’s telling me about her latest sexscapade.

Or I say “but what do YOU want from him? A guy who has a hot bod and who’s great in bed or a guy who is willing to drive 45 minutes to make you soup for dinner once you get home from work?”

This was a real conversation we had this week.

I would totally take the soup guy over the hot bod guy because the hot bod guy is too superficial.  Soup is where it’s at.

I don’t know if I’m giving any good advice to her.

Sometimes I feel like I’m talking to my 22 year old niece because I feel like some of the things out of my mouth are so old-fogeyish.

I remind her to stay true to the reasons she started her quest in the online dating world.

That she wants to find a soulmate.

And I reminded her that love doesn’t always happen in an instant.

Attraction manifests itself in many ways.  And it can take time.

But, what do I know?  I have ZERO idea of what it would be like to be my age (I am two months shy of 47-EGADS!) and looking for love

Recently I was talking with a male friend of mine and we both said that if our current spouses were to leave us or pass away (knock on wood that neither happens) we would not attempt to find a new mate.  We are too set in our ways, we have our kids to keep us busy, and we don’t really like other people.

I am so proud of my girlfriend for stepping out into a new world with online dating.  She was in a very bad relationship for the past twenty years.  A relationship that was not conventional in any manner.  One that just left her feeling lonely.

I have reminder her that her past does not have to dictate her future.

I hope I am offering something to her.  I hope that some of the things I am saying give her confidence.  I hope and I hope.

That a nice, decent, hard-working, funny, kind, thoughtful man enters her life.

Love Advice By Jen is not my next calling.

I am really good with chicken care and baking bread at home, though.  Does anyone need advice on those things?

I hope I can do this whole “love advice” thing when my daughters start looking at the opposite sex (or the same sex, I’m cool with it).  I’m sure I’ll sound old-fogeyish, but I also hope they find someone as great as their own dad.

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Dirty Little Feet

I live in a house that is full of furry animals.

And my yard is full of furry and feathered animals.

When the weather changes the surface of my yard goes from frozen tundra to thawed mud and the effects enter my home.

Meaning those furry animals…not the feathered, they don’t get to come inside our house…

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…well, okay there was that one time that the hen George Washington ventured in when the heat was at it’s highest, my a/c was broken, and I had the front door propped open.

But, usually, only furry cats and the dog take the trek from barnyard to living room.

Anywho…when the ground goes from frozen because of negative temperatures to mud because the air has warmed to a high of 55, the mud comes into my house.

Aided by little tiny feet.

Four footed creatures.

That leave a trail that you don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to follow.

It’s right there in front of you…it begins in the kitchen, down the hallway, making a right turn into the laundry room where the bowls of cat chow live, back in the hallway heading towards the living room.

This is where the trail can make various turns…sometimes it vanishes into the fibers of the rug that sits on the 100 year old hardwood floors.  Or it makes a left hand turn and goes into one of three rooms.  Or it goes into all three rooms.  I just follow the trail.

And this guy is usually the culprit…

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His name is Jumper.  He’s one of four siblings that live on our farm.  We got him and his three siblings on the Fourth of July in 2011.  We had intended to go to a house (a friend of my mom) on that day 6 years ago to get one kitten from the shed in her yard.  She had a stray cat in that shed that had given birth to four kittens 8 weeks prior.  We couldn’t pick one, so we brought all four babies back to our farm.  And they have turned out to be the best cats I have ever had in my life.  They are the first siblings pets that I have ever lived with.  They are a tight group with one another and with our human family.  Zoe named them all…Jumper and Firecracker (the twins as they look exactly alike), Popcorn (who has the markings that his mother did and likes to sleep on his face), and Cali (the lone female of the group and the true leader of them all).

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But, Jumper and his mud.

He tracks it all over our house on his sweet little feet.

He loves to sit in the bathtub after someone has taken a shower.  His feet are usually dirty because he stalks around in the barn during the morning hours and if the ground outside is mushy from higher temperatures, like it was this week as a warm front pushed up from the south, he just brings the softened, brown earth in with him.

And the trail begins…

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Earlier this week I had to clean literally every floor surface to rid them of little gray cat footprints.

I even had to re-wash some clothing that Jumper dirtied.  I found him lying on Zoe’s bed next to her clean laundry that I had deposited there for her to put away.  He had walked all over a sweatshirt and two t-shirts to get comfy on the blankets behind them.

And the bathroom.  Oh boy.  He can make a mess in there for someone who weighs less than the dog.

Like I said, he enjoys sitting in the bathtub after someone has showered.  He licks up the water droplets and while doing so, he’s getting his feet wet.

His dirty cat feet.

And then he walks onto the bathroom sink counter.

And the toilet lid.

Leaving his trail of dirty, brown, wet feet prints.

Jumper is the sweetest of the four kittens (I will always call then “the kittens” no matter how old they are) so I can cut him some slack.  He’s the biggest in size of the kittens, but has the tiniest meow of them all.

Having a home and yard full of animals means the dirt comes and the dirt goes.

Many people will say “well, that’s what you get when you invite that many animals into your life.”

I know many people in my personal life that think it’s odd that we have so many pets, with the loss of our goat Yogurt before Christmas we are down to 20 or so pets.  I say 20 or so because we have two hermit crabs and one may or may not be dead right now.  They are hibernating and one came out from under the dirt in the crabitat yesterday after being absent for months.

Even though having that many pets on our farm equates to dirt and stink and mess at times, they also offer much love and happiness and laughter for us.

And that overrides everything else.

Everyone has their own idea of happiness.

I have a strong bond with animals, more so than I do with humans.

And I have seen the compassion and empathy that comes with living with animals in my daughters.  They exhibit these traits onto their peers and even on strangers.  They have had relationships with furry creatures since their births.  We have seen their lives bursting with happiness when kittens or baby chicks enter their world.  And we have offered unlimited hugs when one of them dies.

So the mess, it’s really not on the top of the list of pros/cons of animal ownership.

Who really owns who here anyway?

I’m the one with the mop, not the cat.

I just wish Jumper would learn to wipe his paws on the rug before he comes inside.

 

First Week Of 2018 Review

The first week of the new year, 2018, has already come and gone.

Days are still cold and the nights even colder.

In Illinois, we are used to the cold blowing across the prairie, causing the snow to drift into largish mountains of white.  Blocking the view, hampering the walk to the mailbox.

We haven’t had too much snow yet, and we may not get a large amount by the time spring pushes it’s head out of the ground in the form of purple crocuses and alfalfa in the pasture.

While I don’t like the cold weather (neither does Man-Farmer) we do try to get out and continue to enjoy life as best we can through chattering teeth and wind-kissed cheeks.

We took the children to an outdoor Ice Skating rink like we had promised we would.

I had entered “Outdoor Ice Skating” into the search bar on Google to see where the closest place would be.  We live smack dab in the middle of the state.  Yet, there are zero outdoor rinks near us.  Out of the three towns within an hour of our own, everyone had an indoor rink.

I know of three outdoor rinks in Chicago, but didn’t really want to drive there since it’s colder in the north.  So, we headed south.  To Saint Louis.

We live closer to St. Louis than Chicago.  It’s only a two hour drive for us.  So, we headed to the home of the Gateway Arch and did some outdoor skating.

The weather topped out at a whopping 18 degrees the day we went.  The skies were mostly sunny, so that helped immensely to keep the chill away.  And the rink was piping out music from the 1950’s to keep our momentum going as we spun around the large oval of ice.  The building and rink were first established in 1957, so they are keeping things old school.

My daughters are at the ages where one complains before she even starts a task (she’s a month shy of becoming an official teenager) and the other is gung-ho about every event presented to her.  She’s nine.

After getting laced up with their rental skates, they hobbled out to the ice.  Neither had ever really been ice skating (the soon-to-be teen last ice skated when she was about 4 years old) and I reminded them that they would probably do fine after a couple of laps.  To not get discouraged if they weren’t doing triple salchows after one go at it.  They are both good at roller skating and it’s essentially the same principle.

After much falling by little sister and a few tumbles from big sister, they got the hang of it.  And we continued ice skating for another two hours.  We stopped periodically to refresh ourselves with hot chocolate and candy bars.  Man-Farmer doesn’t skate so he took pictures of us and enjoyed the millennials that were on the ice as well.  Many stood around taking selfies of themselves instead of actually skating while the others clung to the railing, too afraid to let go and possible making fools out of themselves.IMG_9327gigi ice skatingI am proud to say that I didn’t fall once.  I haven’t been skating since the soon-to-be teen and I went out on the ice almost 8 years ago.  I was a bit afraid that if I did land on the frozen ground, that my old bones would shatter.iceskatingBefore we got to the ice rink we had stopped at the Saint Louis Science Center to catch the Discovery of King Tut exhibit before it ended.

Our soon-to-be teen has had a love affair with all things Egyptian since her days in the cancer ward at the children’s hospital.  This exhibit did not disappoint her.IMG_9264IMG_9272Her sister did tap her father on the arm halfway through the rooms of golden treasures and hieroglyphics to state “this was NOT worth the $60 you spent to get in.”

To each their own…


Earlier in the week I did go to Chicago.

Just by myself.

No kids.

No Man-Farmer.

I did travel with a man, though.

My college friend Mark lives an hour north of us with his family and he and I have taken several trips together to visit our friends from our Illinois State University days.

We call our trips “Good Will Tours” and we like to visit friends who seem to need a dose of sunshine.

Not that we are really full of light and goodness.  But, we do offer new and honest opinions on things presented in life.  We are both happily married and have been raising our four children (my two daughters vs. his two sons) so we are good at offering both points of view to our friends.

One friend we visited on this last trip has been doing some on-line dating.  She’s had more misses than hits.  Another friend has found a partner on-line and we got to meet her new girlfriend at dinner.  It was nice to see our friend, who has had a hard time figuring out who she is and what she wants from life, happy.  Her new gf was super nice and I hope to see more of her in the future.

I ate some good meals out and had to drive part of the way home, even though Mark’s car was used for the trip.  He came down with the flu Saturday evening into Sunday morning.  Sunday morning being the last day of 2017, New Year’s Eve.  His wife was at home just getting over the flu and he unfortunately was struck with the bug.  Nausea, lethargy, headache.  He missed out on our breakfast at a nice Southern inspired restaurant that I hadn’t been to in years.  Eggs benedict with a side of cheese grits hit the spot for me.


My kids are to start school tomorrow, their winter break is over.

An ice/snow storm may hit us tonight, though.

They may be here another day or two.

I’m hoping the weather stays away.  They need to get back into their routines of classroom antics, extra-curricular activities, and set bedtimes.

And I need to start planning for the soon-to-be teen’s birthday part in February.

It will be here before I know it and I have to schedule a date for her and her pals at the Escape Room that’s down the street.

An hour in a room that they are locked in and they will have to use clues to get themselves out of it.

At least there’s one of those locally…no need to travel two hours for that.