Thursday, July 24, 2014

Reaching Higher

A life meant to be lived. 
Is not a life that's meant to sit on the ground. 
Reaching to the sky. 
And traveling up to where she hasn't been before. 
To trust her own steps. 
The voice within that says " I can do it."
Go higher. 
Her inner braveness one day will shoot out. 
And up. 
And there's no stopping her.  

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Having Daughters

I have daughters. 
Two in fact. 
And it can be a tough world for girls. 
It always has been. 
They are lucky, though, that they live in the U.S. 
Where their individualities can be celebrated.  
But, there are still obstacles that girls must overcome to live a fulfilled life. 
And as a mother, it's my job in my household to strengthen my girls to become fabulous women. 

I allow my girls to express their uniqueness. 
With their hair, their clothing, their accessories. 
In hopes that if they are allowed to be creative at a young age, it will continue throughout their entire lives. 

Creativity heralds itself in many ways. 
Through art. 
Books and film. 
We try to show our girls all of it. 
Not just "age-appropriate" material. 
This notion that permeates the parenting air really needs to stop. 
I mean, I'm not out showing my children porn by any means, but they see stuff. 
In art and film and in photos. 
Of beauty and love and life. 
Because it's out there. 
And if anyone is going to show it to them, I want it to be me. 

I want my daughters to know about their bodies. 
How they work and why certain things happen. 
I've written about this in a past post.
Zoe still tells me "that I'm too young for this mother!"
I disagree. 
So I keep talking. 

And boys. 
I hope the mothers of boys are teaching them that girls are to be respected. 
That a girl should be able to express herself as she wishes without some sort of message being attached to it. 
A message that they think means "I can do what I want to you."
I want my daughters to respect their bodies and to know that their body belongs to them. 
So we talk about boundaries. 
And saying no. 
We haven't gotten too deep into this yet, though. 
They are young. 
But, it's my belief that if they hear something over and over and over, it will stick. 

I'm pretty liberal in my parenting manner. 
But one thing I'm tough on...manners. 
Table manners. 
No feet on the table. 
Sit on your butt. 
Use the utensils in front of you. 
They aren't decoration. 
Put the napkins you are provided with to use. 
And say thank you. 
Call your friends' parents by Mr. and Mrs. only. 
Nothing irks me more than having a friend of my children calling me Jennifer. 
Kid, we aren't counterparts. 
Respect has gone out the back door and down the road with many children. 
Too much leniency at home in regards to adults. 
My children are told numerous times before going to a party, play date, etc with friends this statement..."if you need to speak to (insert friend's name here) mother/father, what do you call her/him?"
I'm met with the response of "Mrs. or Mr. (Insert friend's last name here)."
And I hear Zoe informing her friends when sitting in the back seat of our minivan "her name's Mrs. Pramuk" when they mutter to her "what's your mom's name?" 

Making and keeping friends can be daunting for girls. 
The drama of some female relationships rears it's loathsome head very early on in school. 
This is something new I now fear. 
I don't recall having to fight for a friendship in 2nd or 3rd grade. 
I think the biggest talks we have had in our home the last few years have been about friends. 
Telling our girls when they should walk away from someone that they thought was "on their side."
What I've learned so far in my daughters' 
school friendships...all is not as it always seems. 
The girls who come off as sweet when adults are around aren't necessarily showing their true colors. 
And we've had to say to Zoe "I don't think she's a good friend for you."

We aren't religious at all. 
But, we are raising our daughters on the virtue of goodness equals everything. 
And we explain the world's religions as much as we understand them. 
My husband was raised Catholic. 
So there's that understanding. 
Buddhism is fascinating to me. 

We try to showcase the world and it's differences. 
And we show them that other people are struggling. 
Or have struggled to get where they are now. 
We watch the world news. 
We watch documentaries on the civil rights movement. 
We watch shows and read books about the plights of their Native American ancestors. 
We have started to discuss what the Nazis did during WWII.  
We research polar bears and climate change together. 
So that they are aware. 
So they know the world isn't just their neighborhood. 
That it's big and can be scary sometimes, but that everyone needs to be aware of what's happening and if you can, you need to help. 

Zoe has seen that the world can be unfair. 
And that her friends can die. 
And that helps motivate her to give back. 
We give to the childhood cancer community. 
We are working on the Illinois license plate
We've explained to her that years of research in the area of childhood leukemia have kept her alive.
But that more research needs to be done.
New drugs need to be made. 
So she never has to lose another friend to a brain tumor. 

We teach them that knowledge is truly power. 
To love school. 
To love learning. 
If they don't know something, let's look it up. 
Having 21st Century daughters makes learning easy, actually. 
Want to find out what a graffiti painting by Banksy looks like?
Look it up on the internet. 
While you're siting in a restaurant. 
Eating pulled pork sandwiches. 
Then look up who first invented pulled pork sandwiches. 

Having daughters can be daunting. 
The arguments. 
The crying. 
The clothes stealing (Gigi is always taking her big sister's things much to the chagrin of 
But, I'm glad to have them with me. 
Another set of estrogen souls for me to hang with. 
And to bond with. 
And to help shape into strong women.
I wouldn't know what to do with sons.  

This is part of a group blog post my Homesteaders and Homeschoolers group is writing...
Read more from Carla, Laura, and Melissa
All three women are raising daughters. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

My Refrigerator

I was challenged by my friend Laura to show and describe the inside of my fridge.
I guess a refrigerator can speak volumes about a person. 
About a family. 
It's like a chilly inner sanctum. 
It's what defines a person and how they feel about their body. 
What you put in it, the contents of your refrigerator, propels you through your day. 

When I was in my twenties, my fridge contained milk, cheese, Diet Coke, and leftover pizza. 
That was it. 
My thirties expanded my fridge decor because I had a child and a husband. 
It contained organic milk, organic cheese, Organic juice, stir fry veggies, and leftover pizza. 

These days I have two kids (girls, not boys who I hear eat 4,326 calories worth of food every hour) and the husband still. 
I try to make stuff from scratch as much as possible. 
But I still love leftover pizza and Diet Coke. 

My fridge as of today...
Chocolate soy milk and regular cow chocolate milk (Gigi's must have morning breakfast drink. It's her coffee.)
Homemade coffee creamer I just started making. 
Sour cream
Pasta sauce with only 4 ingredients for manicotti
Heavy cream
Cottage cheese
Ricotta cheese 
We really like dairy
Salted butter sticks for toast...I keep some out at room temperature on the counter
Unsalted butter sticks for baking
Eggs..,still store bought for now. Our chickens should hopefully start laying eggs for us next month. 
Leftover homemade pizza
Bread dough
And some cupcakes Zoe made at summer camp that are getting hard and icky. I should throw those out. 
The top crisper drawer at the bottom of the fridge contains veggies...
a bag of baby carrots for the goats, a cabbage for the chickens, organic romaine, sugar snap peas, and broccoli for the humans. 
There's some phylo dough in there I should probably make something with it if it's not dried up. 
The bottom crisper drawer is full of cheese...
shredded cheddar, blocks of cheddar, goat cheese, laughing cow spreadable wedges, queso fresco Mexican crumble cheese, mozzarella cheese to put on a toothpick with some basil and a cherry tomato, a small hunk of Parmesan. 
Like I said, we like dairy. 

The door of the fridge...
Condiments, condiments, condiments. 
Peanut sauce. 
3 kinds of mustards
Taco sauce
Hershey's chocolate bars for s'mores 
Hot sauce
Cod liver oil (don't ask)
Ketchup without high fructose corn syrup
Kraft Parm Cheese (for Gigi's pizza, because it's just like Monicals)
Bacon bits to put on homemade potato skins
Ranch dressing for dipping veggies in
Proseco wine
Coffee...we grind Einstein Brother's Coffee Beans and put them into an old red Folgers canister. 
Gatorade...which I usually never buy, but we went to a cookout and needed to bring drinks and Gatorade is a treat for my kids.

My refrigerator is a side by side model. 
Meaning the freezer is upright behind the left door. 
I hate it. 
You can't fit anything in it at ALL. 
My freezer is currently shoved full of...
Black bean burgers
Fake chicken patties, i.e. Soy
Eggo mini cinnamon waffles
Mini tacos because I'm addicted
Ore Ida Crispy Crowns
More phylo dough...geesh
Some Ben and Jerrys
Freezer pops because it's summah!
And a flexible ice bag for cracks to the head, face, knee, shin, elbow, etc. 

The door of the freezer is odd. 
Not much there. 
Except some of those mugs with the frozen stuff within the walls of the mugs that freeze. 
No one hardly ever uses these mugs. 
A broken ice someone ever going to eat that thing?
And those glowy things kids get at various outdoor events, 4th of July, birthdays. 
For some reason my kids think if you put them in the freezer after you've already snapped them and they've glowed all night long, they will rise from the dead and glow again another day. 
I keep telling them it doesn't work.
And they keep putting them in there. 
And I keep throwing them out. 

Care to share what's in your fridge?

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Bag Lady

Our second child Gigi was a surprise. 
You're supposed to say that instead of "accident" because that sounds worse for some reason. 
I guess a child is never an accident if you and your spouse do "the nasty" ever. 
So, anyway, I guess we did "the nasty" at some point in early 2008 because our SUPRISE came in November of that same year. 
She was definitely meant to be a part of our lives. 
Here's why...

Her sister Zoe was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 5. 
Gigi was 22 months old. 
And while she didn't really understand what was happening, she had to know something was up. 
Her sister was always gone. 
So were mom and dad. 
We saw her at this big building that was a long car ride from grandma's house. 
There were many lights and machines that made noise around her sister. 
Ladies in outfits with cats and bears on their shirts let her play with their stethoscopes. 
Doctors in white coats looked in her ears with their otoscope because she felt left out. 
Strangers would bring her pudding, Popsicles, and toys to take home anytime she asked. 
She didn't care to be left out of this mysterious "fun" her sister got to be a part of. 
The floor her sister lived on had a computer room and an even more exciting playroom. 
With toys we didn't have at home. 
It was amazing!

Gigi showed us her true self at this fun, amazing, big building far from home. 
Maybe she became this person because she had to. 
To cope. 
Was it nature versus nurture?
Circumstance versus DNA?

She would run down the halls. 
Take a sharp left at the nurses' station and run down the other hall. 
Back to sissy's room where she would make a funny face (and not even wait for the reaction she always got) before high tailing it out the door to do it again. 
And we let her do it. 
Because it made us laugh.
She made us laugh. 
Laughter is what we needed. 
Her sister needed to giggle and be the child she really was. 
Not someone who was fighting for her life. 
And Gigi kept us laughing. 
Through 2 1/2 years of chemo. 
We laughed. 

Gigi has continued the show. 
Cracking us up on a daily basis.
With her bad knock-knock jokes. 
With her insane outfits even Alexander McQueen would never have attempted. 
And her ability to turn a regular visit to the store into a giggle fest. 
Not just for us, but for anyone she passes. 
And that's no accident. 
This girl has been a surprisingly bright light in her sister's life. 
Even if she is a bit embarrassing at times...

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Another Year Of Laughter

My 14th wedding anniversary is at the end of July. 
My man and I have been through a lot in those 14 years. 
We only knew one another for 10 months before we got married. 
I had had plenty of relationships before he entered my life. 
But, they were my past. 
And he was to be my future. 
And, maybe I knew that. 
I knew that my future belonged with this guy who made me laugh. 
Who rode a bicycle through the city. 
The guy who worked at the video store. 
The guy who liked cats. 
Maybe, somewhere deep within me, I knew our future would be full of laughter and we would need that to hold our family up. 

Now don't get me wrong. 
It hasn't been all rainbows and lollipops in our marriage. 
We have had to contend with big financial struggles. 
We have had a sick child.
We moved to rural America from one of the largest cities in the U.S.
Where we didn't know anyone except my parents and my family. 
But, the thing that has brought us closer was the fact that we may lose one of our children to a disease. 
And we hadn't signed up for that.
Not when he asked me to marry him at King Crab restaurant in Chicago. 
Not when we got married by Elvis in Vegas. 
Not when we traveled via airplane as a couple and then began traveling via car with two young girls. 
It wasn't in the plan. 
But, really, what was the plan?
Maybe it was the plan for us to be challenged like we were. 
Would we fold under the enormous weight of childhood cancer?
Or would it make us stronger?
Well, I can tell you this. 
It made our muscles bulge. 
We are united and strong and powerful. 
We are still financially poor. 
But we are family rich. 
He totally stepped up and became the super dad that I knew he had inside him.
Because, he didn't have the best role model growing up for the example of "how a dad relates to his kids." 
He had to learn what it meant to be present for his children. 
And he gets an A+, in my wifely opinion. 
He became the father who slept next to his terrified and sick daughter in the hospital. 
He is the father who takes time off from work to be there every single "first day of school". 
And he has done so much more. 
For all three of his girls. 
He and I have learned that the rules of parenting aren't etched in stone. 
And that it can shake a marriage to it's bare-limbed nakedness. 
We know that anything can happen at anytime to throw you to the ground. 
So, as a team, we walk hand in hand in our marriage as the guardians of our daughters' happiness. 
A marriage full of vibrance, light, and energy.  
He still makes me laugh every single day. 
In fact, I think he makes me laugh more today than ever. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Read The ENTIRE Book!

When I was pregnant with my first child, I read all of the books. 
Books that told me what I could expect as the baby grew within my own body. 
What changes I could expect. 
When to call the doctor when my inexperienced husband and I suspected that labour had commenced. 
I was prepared. 
I was ready, even though I was scared. 
Then I had an appointment with my obstetrician about 3 weeks prior to my due date. 
And my world was blown apart. 
Because the person growing inside my body hadn't read the books!
The person growing inside was living in my uterus upside down. 
And so I was going to need a cesarean section. 
But, I hadn't read that chapter in the books!
In fact, I had purposely skipped those chapters. 
I went right from...your mucous plug has fallen the doctor will ask you to push out the placenta. 
So, I got the books back out and read the chapters I had completely turned my back on. 
I memorized the c-section chapter and tried to erase all things to deal with pushing and screaming. 
And I learned some things. 
But, I didn't learn my lesson. 

We got eight chicks from the farm store in March. 
They were 2 days old. 
We waited and waited until they had pullets to choose from. 
Pullets are chicks that have been sexed by the hatchery and will be hens when they are adults. 
Hens who will lay eggs and provide my family with protein filled frittatas and egg salad sandwiches.  
I bought chicken books. 
I learned when to expect those first eggs. 
I learned about roosts and grit and pasty butt. 
But, I did it again. 
I skipped a chapter. 
The chapter on roosters. 
Because one of those pullets 
Who is becoming a hen. 
It's a rooster. 
Wheezy is a he. 

How do we know it's a rooster and not a hen, you ask?
Because it's huge in comparison to the others. 
And it has a larger and darker red, wiggly thing on its head. 
And it's tail feathers are larger and are starting to sprout iridescent colors. 
Because roosters are bigger and prettier and radiant. 
They are the drag queens of the chicken world. 

And two days ago, it made a feeble attempt to crow.
It sounded as if an egg was stuck in his throat. 
But, it was his first attempt. 
Chapter 5 in my chicken book states that roosters will usually begin crowing at 4-5 months. 
And our hens are 4 months old. 
Oh yes, and our rooster. 
I had skipped chapter 5. 
When will I learn my lesson?

Saturday, July 5, 2014

It's Corn!

I live in corn country. 
Cornstalks have always been a part of my scenery. 
There was a cornfield behind my house growing up. 
There was a cornfield across from my grandparents' house. 
The house that is now my house.
Corn is everywhere. 
And, when I moved to the big city to the north after college, I missed the corn. 
The watching and waiting and the color. 
The initial planting by the farmers. 
The waiting and waiting and please, go away monsoon. 
Don't you know corn needs rain AND sun?
And then the sprouts come up. 
And you're like "it's corn!"
Every year we exclaim "it's corn!" Like we've never seen it before. 
The deer come out to crunch on the fresh greenery. 
And it gets taller. 
And taller. 
And it's "knee high by the 4th of July."
Or, as the case is this season, it's "6 feet high by the 4th of July."
And it seems to get super tall overnight. 
One moment it's green and newborn. 
The next thing you know, you can't see around the stop sign at the end of the road. 
So, you do the corn creep. 
Creepin' up to see if a car or pickup truck are pulling around the bend. 

It will be gone soon. 
That's when you realize you've entered another season.
The smell of harvest. 
The dried cornstalks floating through the yard as the combine does it's work across the street. 
Bringing the corn down. 
To pay the farmer. 
And we all say thank you. 
For the colors and smells and adventure that corn fields bring. 
Thank you to the corn.