Wisdom Comes Suddenly

Sow’s It Going?

July 29th, 2014 · 3 Comments

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When Greg and I were dating, he sent me a card with a large pig on the front cover. LARGE pig. The inside read, “Sow’s It Going?”. I found this gut-bustingly funny. Not because it was, in actuality, funny, but because when you’re falling in love, absolutely EVERYTHING is wonderful. And funny. And bright. And perfect. Poor Greg. If he sent me a pig card now? Well ladies, I think we all know it’s woe-to-the-husband who sends his wife a pig card after 11 years of marriage. Still, to this day, when we answer the phone to each other, we often say, “Soooowww’s it goin’?” We have inside jokes…we’ve got that going for us.

“Sow’s it goin’?” seems to be the question most asked right now by friends and readers. A) It’s going OK. The summer has continued somewhat on its rather wild trajectory. B) I’m still trying to stay calm in the midst of so much change. Upon our return from an amazing respite in St. Louis (I desperately needed a break from the nerve-crunching noise in the backyard), Greg and I found our pantry crawling with gigantic black ants. I mean huge. I mean one actually stood up his hind legs and threatened me to a duel. I won. What was my strategy? IT WAS AN ANT, YOU’ALL.

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Luckily, they were coming in from a very confined space, and we were able to spread cinnamon across the threshold. Cinnamon is Kryptonite to ants. You learn that in Ant-Fencing Class. Or on the internet when you’re throwing out $10 worth of Bisquick and yelling at your husband to Google “Bug killers with ingredients one might find in a pantry because the Raid got put in storage before we knew we were moving into an Insectarium for the summer”.

That bought us a few days to get the 3rd exterminator over for a visit. Eventually those smart little suckers figured out how to get out from under the furnace, around the corner, and back into the pantry. WHERE THERE WAS NOTHING! HA! Nothing but me, holding a tiny Marischino cherry sword and a martini. I think it’s only fair they had a last drink before dying. My name is Inigo Montoya….

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But, as luck would have it, on a particularly down day when I received a writing rejection letter and the noise from the apartment once again caused us to flee, I ran into my prayer partner. Long story, but he’s a homeless man named Tyrone, and we’ve been prayer buddies for many years. I only seem to run into him when I really need a miracle, and I only chat with him for the moment I pull over, ask him for a prayer, and give him enough for a few meals. He tells me his most pertinent prayer need of the moment, we clasp hands, praise the Lord for allowing us to cross paths once again, and then he reminds me Jesus never leaves my side. “Don’t you worry Glory. Never worry. Jesus is with us both.” Oh. By the way…he calls me Glory. And sometimes we talk about pie heaven, but that’s a story for another day. I will say Tyrone and I find each other to be hilarious. The homeless man with the limp at 38th & Michigan really gets me.

I knew right then and there, everything was going to be OK. I’ve made a formal request from the apartment complex owners that will alleviate some of our discomfort. I have faith they’ll do the right thing. The house is really chugging along. There are WINDOWS! It’s missing a stairway, but I swear, if I could get that ladder out of storage, I’d set up a tent on the plywood floor and call it home. In the meantime, I’ve started praying for the men in the field behind the apartment. Do they wake me up at God-awful hours with the beeping, and concrete saws, and how can equipment that loud even be legal? Oh yes, they still do…every day. But they have kids who need school supplies and shoes. They have families to feed. I eventually get to leave the demon squeals of industrial building equipment. They do not.

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I don’t know. Running into Tyrone, and seeing the windows go in…I just started feeling at peace. We’re starting to make ourselves at home in our new area of town. I’ve spent years hearing my friends go on and on about the great parks and outdoor lifestyle. In my head, I heard, “expensive groceries”. And yes, the groceries are pricier, but the parks? Man. I really had no idea. Greg watched the girls run through a flower maze while I went for a run through the woods last night, and I couldn’t help but think…sow’s it going? You know…it’s going OK. We’re making our way around town, and I like it here. I really, really like it here.

So tell me, sow’s it going with you?


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Baby Kel-Belle Turns Seven!

July 28th, 2014 · 1 Comment

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Dear Kelly,

After a full year of counting down (and next year’s countdown to 8 has begun in earnest), you finally turned 7 on Saturday. I swore it would be low-key, but you don’t DO low-key these days. You do things Kelly-style, which means stuffed animals, family fun…and more stuffed animals. There is nothing low key about your stuffed animal collection, that much I know. I think we spend an hour every day discussing your “stuffed animal bedroom”, and how we’re going to organize your wild collection. We may go into litigation on this topic before the summer is over.

7 is tough in so many ways, and you are taking it on like a true?…7 year old. When you’re not crying about being the baby in the family and the youngest in your class, you’re usually curled up in my lap, begging to stay my baby forever. You have zero interest in big girl things, but I see you peering around the corner, investigating your sister’s movies, games, and unfortunately…her diary. Let’s just try to forget the day Sara opened her locked diary and found the words, “You are the WORST sister in the entire world!” scrawled right through the middle. While I was livid, I found it hard to blame you. Sara was being horrid to you that day, and I did the same thing to Aunt Jenny’s diary when she got a brand new bedroom decorated in butterflies. You and I are really good at finding things, like big sisters’ diary keys. The youngest member of any family develops certain survival skills.

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That being said, I’m going to be serious here and tell you the same thing I told Sara in her 7th year of life: Every single day, we must choose between using our skills for evil or for good. It’s astonishing how easy it is to choose evil, because usually, it’s a fast and dirty way to get what we want. But in the LONG RUN, it’s devastating. At 7, you’ll start figuring out friendships in a different way than you did before. You’ll start looking at game strategy, homework, and TV-time negotiating differently. Like I said, 7 is tricky. You’re turning into a full-fledged KID. And for clever kids in particular, they must choose wisely how to use their powers. Light or dark. Evil or good. High road or low road. There is nothing babyish about it, my little bunny.

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You might get the impression on reading this letter that you’re a little bit of a stinker at 7. Why, yes my darling, yes you are. I wouldn’t want to know a child at 7 who isn’t a squirt. It’s unhealthy to face 7 without the rites of passage of breaking your sister’s toys, crying at least once per day, refusing to do your math, and lying about putting away your laundry. If you DIDN’T do these things, I’d have your head checked. Before this family, I have a long past with 7 year olds. Someday I’ll share stories with you about the Girls’ Book Club I hosted in my neighborhood, and of the many 7 year old girls I mentored before I married and had children of my own. In fact, looking back, 7 may be the ONLY age of child with which I have any experience whatsoever. Lordy. No wonder I waited to have kids. Embrace it Kel-Belle. BE seven. Own it. It’s a rich age, so full of change and possibility. It’s such a microcosm of the entire elementary years spectrum. I love its brilliance as much as its strife.

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To finish off your birthday, after the rock climbing, stuffed animal showering, the 3 “Mommy meals” you requested (I was both flattered and little disappointed I would be cooking all day), cookie cake, and the pawning off of your sister to Avery’s house so you could have a sleepover with just you and your gal-pal, a thunderstorm came. You and your friend equally despise thunderstorms, and you both asked me to sleep in the room with you. Of course! Daddy accused me of wanting to be 7. Oh heaven’s no. Not for me. I’m a little bit enamored with 42. But he wasn’t totally wrong in that I don’t want to miss a single second of you being 7. There is too much to witness to get distracted. And it takes experience in the 7-year-old genre to know that little girls big enough for slumber parties may still be small enough to fear thunder.

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I think you suspect the same sentiment regarding this pull-and-tug game between baby and big kid, because the night before your birthday, you whispered to me:

Kelly: Mommy, I’m not sure I want to turn 7.

Mommy: Why, Baby Bunny?

Kelly: Well, I think…maybe…every time I turn one year older, my stuffed animals turn one year younger.

Mommy: Ah. There is some truth in that. Are you afraid you will outgrow them someday?

Kelly: Um? Well? I’ll just have to figure something out. I KNOW! When they turn zero, I’ll just turn the clock and make their birthdays go back up!

Mommy: If only Mommies could turn the clocks. We’d do it. I’d keep you my Baby forever.

Kelly: Don’t be silly Mommy. I’m going to live with you forever and ever! I’ll always be your baby. I’m your baby bunny!

Mommy: Deal.

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Happy Birthday Miss Kelly Eleanor Wallen Brave Boo Boo Chicken Baby Bunny. Daddy and I are enamored with your passion, your resilience, and your cunning observational skills. As Daddy is the poster child for being the “oldest child”, he is occasionally perplexed by the seemingly oppositional skill set of the baby of the family. Why doesn’t she want to grow up? Why does she negotiate with the furor of a thousand men? Why is she pretending to not understand anything around her one second, and beating us all at board games the next? Because she is the baby, and that’s the MO of being the youngest. Be in awe of how one carries so much emotion in such a small package. Mommy knows, Mommy knows.

Love and Kisses and Cuddles,

Momma

 


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Someday Soon

July 22nd, 2014 · 4 Comments

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At lunch, on this random Tuesday, our entire family stopped by the house. We stop by almost every day, rarely in unison, but today was different. TODAY there were walls. And ceilings. And places where windows will someday be. The job site was a scene of noise and chaos. Oh my…the mess. It was hard work just getting into the house. As Greg and the girls gingerly walked about, and then happily headed off to the basement (where they could run and scream to their hearts’ content), I found myself too stunned to move.

Would you look at that? That’s my kitchen, or perhaps more accurately, here is my view from my kitchen (someday) windows. I didn’t notice the banging and the framers calling to each other. I wasn’t standing on small mountains of sawdust. It was quiet inside my head, and I was sitting at my kitchen table, looking out over those trees. I could smell coffee and feel the newspaper spread out in front of me. There were plans for blueberry pies and maybe some chowder. Maybe I was planning a dinner party. Maybe I wasn’t planning or reading. Maybe I was just enjoying the quiet view. For the first time, my heart connected to this house. I should have known a kitchen window looking out at an evergreen would grab me. Maybe I didn’t have to say goodbye to my favorite tree after all.

Someday. Maybe even someday soon this imaginary moment will be a reality. Won’t you join me for a cup of morning coffee? It’s high-time we get back to our normal programming, don’t you think?

 


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Home Tastes Like Blackberries.

July 21st, 2014 · 5 Comments

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If I’m being totally honest, I don’t like to write about home, other than the one I’ve created in my here and now. I spent a lifetime designing it, dreaming about it, and wishing it into existence. My right now is the most centered and “at home” I have ever been. But once, a long time ago, there was another home, and it was grand. It took place on a farm in Southern Illinois where 11 cousins had their run of hundreds of acres. My memories of my weekends and summers spent on my family’s farm are the best of my childhood, and those are the stories I tell the girls as they sit on the edge of their beds at night, begging for just “one more cousin story”. Oh, my precious cousins. We were reckless. We were clever. But most importantly, we were completely unhindered by adult supervision.

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Since having children of my own, I’ve struggled to get back to this place I once called home. Our early years with children were challenging, and just packing up and heading over to the farm became an exercise in exhaustion and stamina. After losing my maternal Grandmother without warning, I couldn’t bear to watch the slow decline of my paternal Grandmother. The years she didn’t recognize me were heartbreaking, and then Greg and I proceeded to lose 5 Grandparents in 5 years. The farmhouse where my Grandmother made homemade peach ice cream, cherry-apple pies (my favorite of all pies), jam from her gardens, waffles with hot fruit…had to be taken down, after being in my family for over a hundred years. I thought I could survive anything after my parents divorce, but I didn’t anticipate how I’d feel when I would inevitably lose a gigantic portion of what I had left. My heart simply unraveled.

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But I didn’t forget my home, and my home did not forget me. My closest cousin, Jayme, called every year, asking me to come. Come Lori. Bring the girls. Let’s pick berries. Or peaches. Or corn. Come home, where the food grows just a little bit sweeter in the heat and humidity of being near St. Louis. Let’s share fried biscuits and apple butter, and let our girls play until they fall over from giggles and get a few bruises from their ridiculous antics. Just as we did through our summers, running in the bean fields, turning our bare feet into mud shoes. Jayme doesn’t live on the farm, but my family still does, and her home is not so very far away from it. Just walking into Jayme’s house is enough. When I’m there with her, I’m home.

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And so 3 summers ago, I did. I did go home. And then last year…again…I packed up the girls and made the drive. And this year. Yes. It was a must. The blackberries were in, and home was calling my name. We picked up Jayme and her daughter Jordyn, and drove straight to the fields. Indiana blackberries are tart. The heat just isn’t high enough to turn them sweet. But near Missouri, they are gigantic, and if you pick the ones that fall off in your hands, it’s a flavor very hard to describe. Sweet and earthy, and it rounds out in your mouth, almost like a wine. I can pick strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries for hours, without putting a single one in my mouth. But not blackberries. I was at a fruit buffet, and we all walked out with our faces stained in purple.

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I have a deep peace watching Sara and Kelly watch Jayme pick fruit and chat about what we’ll cook when we get home. When speaking about the food that grows in our Midwest, she talks with an enthusiasm identical to mine. She gently instructs on proper picking, how to determine ripeness, sharing hilarious stories about the scrapes the 11 of us got into so many years ago. When we got home, I ran out to her garden and picked some green tomatoes for frying. Jayme picked some zucchini and showed me how to turn it into spaghetti. The girls sat contentedly in the kitchen, stuffing their faces with fresh blackberries while we chatted. Watching us cook, my children realized I came from somewhere quite real, and I didn’t just happen out of thin air. Parts of my childhood are quite complicated. My past with Midwestern produce is not.

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Jayme has always challenged me to live fully in my skin. I like that she pushes me to try new things. In our childhood, that meant tearing through fields at 30 mph on an ATV. In my adult years, she just wanted me TO GET IN THE CAR AND DRIVE HOME WITH MY KIDS. She went easy on my that first year. We picked peaches and let the kids swim in the pool. I laugh at how hard that was for me…packing up and making a drive with kids without Greg…a drive I’ve made so many times, I could do it with my eyes closed. I’ve traveled the entire world, but one Special Needs kid and a few twists in the old life plan, and my internal sense of security just crumbled to pieces. Jayme simply wasn’t having it. Those fruit pies weren’t going to make themselves! This year, we went big. Time for me to return to the Lori who was the first to try our homemade tight rope, circa 1980. Did I make it? NO. Do I still have the scars? YES. But I was in the game, baby. Once, long ago, I was a contender.

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After picking day, we hit The City Museum in St. Louis. My best description is that it’s a 10-story Tim Burton movie set. It’s not really a museum, but it is filled to the brim with old things. Take an old building, rescue as much industrial salvage equipment humanly possible, and then it into a very unsafe-looking indoor-outdoor playground for children. Tunnels that drop out of the floor and go where adults don’t fit. Conveyor belts turned into 2-story slides. Hundreds of children disappearing into ceilings, with what appears to be countless entrances and exits for as far as the eyes can see. It’s visual cacophony. It’s WILD. It’s most certainly the coolest playground I will ever see. See that web of wood above? That’s not for display, that’s for PLAY.

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It threw me off my balance for a moment to watch my children disappear into a ceiling, only to reappear many minutes later, 2 rooms over. Or to jump down a slide with no idea where it exited. 2 floors down? 3 floors down? And just for kicks, one goes 10 floors down! But after a few minutes, watching hundreds of kids filling their souls with joy, I HAD to let them go. I joke I never leave home without my ninja. Greg centers me on adventures and I feel safe when Greg is near. How odd that I could do this alone…but then it hit me…I’m not alone! Jayme was my original ninja! Yes, of course. As a self-proclaimed non-ninja, I have spent a lifetime packing the ninja.

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The last day was the real challenge: Six Flags. Open to close, water park included. Kelly and I are amusement park wipe-outs, after our own little “wipe out” so many years ago. Knowing this day lie ahead, I prayed to God to get me through it. I knew I could dig deep and rise above, because the old me LOVED amusement parks. But Kelly? How as that going to go? Kelly remembered to pack her ninja, just as I instructed. Jayme doesn’t push. She doesn’t bribe. She doesn’t bully. She just calmly and quietly LIVES. Out loud. And Kelly followed. By the end of the day, she had a list of rides she could not LIVE WITHOUT, and some she would NEVER RIDE AGAIN!  But most importantly, she fully took part in the day, and had a blast. I had zero-point-zero anxiety, watching my kids ride roller coasters, and fly down water slides. Sara spent her St. Louis week in ADHD-heaven. Having no fear serves one well at amusement parks with rides named “The Tornado”, and “Pandemonium”. It brought me such happiness to see her exploring her limits as well.

So my apologies for the quiet on the blog last week. We spent very precious time with my family. We made wickedly awesome cousin memories. We tried new things. We had new adventures. But most importantly, my heart healed just a little bit more as I connected to the memory of being from somewhere. I do have a home. It smells like corn growing in the sweet humidity of summer. It’s technicolor at all times of the day. It feels like the laughter that comes from being known, and it tastes like blackberries. Godspeed my friends. Godspeed.

 

 


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An Ode To The Family Photo

July 13th, 2014 · 1 Comment

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Everything in this post is true. These stories have happened to me, or if they are in reference to “sons”, have happened to my best friend. And the story about rolling around in poison ivy right before picture day? That was actually ME, 4th grade, it was poison oak, and OH MY GOD, those were 2 of the worst weeks of my life. The hair trim? Sara. The S’more stick to the face? Kelly. The 40 year old in the bathing suit? I have the Christmas card to prove it.

Of course, the above paragraph is irrelevant, because all of my stories are true. Sometimes painfully, hopefully hilariously…true. Without truth, there is no wisdom to cometh.

I hope you enjoy “An Ode To The Family Photo”, my latest piece for Indy’s Child, Dayton Parent, and Cincinnati Parent online magazines.

 


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{this temporary moment}

July 11th, 2014 · 1 Comment

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We came home from vacation to find a grocery cart on its side, missing a couple of wheels, next to our parking space. Nice. A beautiful welcome home to our dark apartment that now has “trash” featured prominently as “yard art”. But the back yard had new art as well! A construction fence! With used to-go cups stuck into the holes! It’s just turning into a regular art park at the apartment. This week’s construction, as if on cue, is occurring directly at my back door. All day. Only at my door. An entire fence line of construction from which to choose, and RIGHT HERE seems to be the Fates favorite spot to land.

I needed a pick me up, so I drove on over to the new home site, and was greeted with blessed silence. No hammering or nailing or digging of any kind. In fact, 2 weeks of no noise. No progress, no walls, no suggestions a house might eventually be on my beautiful lot anytime soon. As a sign of goodwill, and after our realtor let the builders have a large piece of her mind, they came with some wood. A few pieces even went up in the basement. Just a few! We wouldn’t want to get crazy and BUILD A HOUSE I PAID FOR OR ANYTHING. But those few pieces were followed by a beautiful, if not somewhat eery…silence.

Cyrus has started puking from the noise. A new breed of bug has moved into the apartment. Not as menacing as the spiders, but giving off an appearance as the kind of bug that could survive a nuclear bomb. So I’m thinking here is a good to-do list for the day:

(1) Drive to the apartment front office and insist they start paying me to live here, if not just for the contribution I’ll make to science by the discovery of so many new species of bugs.

(2) Borrow the largest construction vehicle on site, drive it over to my non-house, and get things started. How hard can it be to drive a 6-ton tractor with an arm and shovel bigger than my van? I’ll just move a lever here and there, and VOILA!

(3) I may have to first figure out HOW to get it over to the new house, considering it’s almost impossible to get out of my current complex. We escaped to the front pool yesterday to get away from the noise, and the water company was ripping up the entire road leading into our apartment for a sewer project. An event of such cacophony, it rivals that of massive industrial building projects.

(4) Exorcism. I need a Priest, whatever supplies are required (I’m assuming a Cross, a Rosary, and some Holy Water, a Bible…I have those things somewhere in a box, I’m sure)…and a stiff glass of whiskey. For me. I need whiskey. Priest first, whiskey second.

Let’s go back to singing the temporary song, shall we? Cheers, my friends!

[this moment posts are inspired by Amanda Soule, even though mine have strayed far from her "in the now" format. They are intended to be wordless and peaceful, but I think under my current circumstance, Amanda may give me a pass...]

 


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American Ninja Warrior Princesses

July 8th, 2014 · Comments Off

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If there is one thing that will glue Greg and the girls to the TV, it’s an episode of “American Ninja Warrior”. They yell and cheer like it’s the Olympics. I wish it held the same mystery and intrigue for me, but I think of most of my days as an American Ninja Warrior obstacle course. Any Mother who has grocery shopped with an infant with diarrhea and a 2 year old who missed her nap IS an American Ninja Warrior in my book.

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So you can imagine the girls’ excitement when Auntie Amanda announced on vacation the ski resort near our house had kids’ rope courses. WHEN?! NOW?! LET’S GO!! Because after all, watching countless episodes of the world’s strongest men traverse ridiculous obstacles means they have done their research. Sara and Kelly were fully prepared for rope courses in the mountains.

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As it turns out, they were ready. Sara was faster than most of the adults we watched cross the course. A summer on the swim team has made her extremely fit and agile. I do so wish every Occupational Therapist who worked with her over the past 5 years could see this. Strangers were cheering for her (not that anyone could be heard over the wild yells of her Daddy.)

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Sara admitted afterwards her knees were shaking “a little”. Really? Because I spent this entire course with puke in my mouth. Greg was ecstatic, which is his JOB. I was tightly holding a panic attack inside (cheering on the outside, sheer panic on the inside)…which is MY job. I thought that zip line would never end.

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If Sara could finish the “Spider Monkey” course, there was no way Kelly was going to miss her share of attention. She bravely suited up for a Chipmunk Adventure. Kelly isn’t known for her sense of adventure, so I guess all that time I’ve spent with them on playgrounds is finally paying off.

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Kelly’s course was instructor-led, which was just beyond sweet (and obligatory to her finishing). I’m guessing Kelly’s instructor was a cutie, because Sara held my phone during Kelly’s course, and later, I found many pictures on my phone. Not of my daughter…no. Of this dreamy teenager. Sara! No to ear-piercing, and NO to teenagers who work at ski resorts! I’m in for a heap of trouble with these two.

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I was sure Kelly would have a heart attack and pass out on the zip line, but she held on like a chipmunk, screamed like a Kelly, and finished like a champ.

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For me? The day was a simple conquering of my own fear. In these pictures we are standing in the direct shadow of the luge ride where Kelly and I had our accident 3 years ago. I swore my feet would never cross the threshold of Wisp Ski Resort again, let alone watch my daughters complete rope courses next to the ride. Kelly and I held hands and looked sideways over at the ride, unsure as to whether we should even mention that day.

Kelly: Momma, that ride is broken. It wasn’t your fault, you know? It’s possibly the world’s dumbest ride.

Momma: Oh my precious Kel-Belle. Let’s go get some ice cream you brave little warrior. And in the future….let’s stick to the rope courses!

Kelly: Agreed!


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Market The Good Stuff (Getting To Yum, Volume 7)

July 7th, 2014 · 2 Comments

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When the girls believe they’ve picked the largest strawberry of the day, they yell, “JACKPOT!”, which usually catches on, and across the picking patch, we hear kids around us yelling, “Jackpot! I got the big one!”

Addressing food literacy (or illiteracy, as the case may be) is uncomfortable for many parents in my Generation (X). Many of us were raised by working Mothers who were told they could have it all. The trade-off in this “world of all” often occurred at the dinner table, and subsequently, in the processed foods which began filling the grocery store aisles. I have clear memories of my Mother dragging home from work, mentally spent, and heating up canned Chopped Suey (remember the yellow tape that held the cans together?), baking chicken covered in cream-of-everything (this vintage 1970′s Campbell ad focuses on the fact it their “O’s” line of soups won’t spill on kid’s clothing, thanks to it’s “non-skid” design…thank God…finally the invention of non-skidding food), and scalloped potatoes which were poured out of a box like potato chips, and then covered in a neon orange flour-like substance, which smelled rather acidic as it cooked. I also recall my parents referring to Lucky Charms and Trix as “sugar cereal”, and I was forbidden from eating it, which I thought was ridiculously unfair. After all, Trix were for KIDS! The commercial chanted it like it was religion.

So how are we expected to teach our children to eat well, when many of us don’t know an eggplant from a spaghetti squash? I don’t want to downplay how hard it was to teach myself how to cook, and more importantly, how to eat. I walked us to “real food eating” one vegetable at a time, and it was not an overnight process (and not without a lot of trial and error). But here’s the good news: good food is addictive. Once I tasted properly prepared asparagus, my first strawberry straight out of the field, and remember that time I tried to cook with Velveeta and declared it the Oobleck of a Dystopian Future? You can read that post here, along with my comedic thoughts about truth in food advertising. My point is: real food had me HOOKED. Real food tastes better than fake food, every…single…time.

Karen Le Billon quotes a British study of 1000 kids in her book, Getting To Yum, which found fewer than 1 in 4 school students knew beef comes from cattles. Fewer than 2 in 3 even knew potato chips came from potatoes! And Jamie Oliver, the country’s leading chef in the charge to teach our kids food literacy, stood in front of a classroom where not a single child could identify a tomato. Even though my children have grown their own tomatoes (hard to avoid them living in the 2nd largest tomato-growing state in the nation) but my interest was piqued nonetheless. What did my children know (or not know)? I walked them through our favorite produce department and discovered that despite watching me cook Ratatouille countless times, they could not pick out an eggplant from the display. Even though they’ve ripped kale apart to make kale chips, they couldn’t independently distinguish spinach from kale, nor could they identify which greens grow out of the ground, versus vegetables which grow on bushes.

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Um? When did I stop talking to them about food? On that same trip Kelly started begging for “sugar cereal”. AGAIN. I knew it was time to step up my game.

I bought a box of artificially flavored popsicles, and a box of popsicles made only out of only real-food ingredients. I had them blind taste-test every flavor. They preferred the “real” popsicle every single time, and discovered it was almost impossible to distinguish one flavor from the next in the artificial box. Could they tell the difference between a peach and a blueberry popsicle made out of real fruit? Without even hesitating. Next, tomato soup out of a can, and tomato soup made from scratch. Hands-down…a no preservative fresh soup wins. It was time to pull out the big guns: CHEESE. Cheese from a Lunchable, and cheese freshly cut from a block, not filled with wax or preservatives or artificial coloring. It wasn’t even close. My kids, who would eat a Lunchable every single day if I agreed to serve it, almost SPIT OUT the waxy cheese.

Karen’s book has other games on how to model better food marketing messages to our kids (there are 5 games in this chapter alone), and while I’ve played them all, the Silly Name Game is the girls’ favorite. They’re now in the process of renaming my recipes, and inventing their own. Kelly’s latest creation is named “Gorilla Soup”, and the day I smile and grin through tasting her Tomato-Hot Dog-Cinnamon Soup, I will be toasting to you Karen! Kelly named my latest creation, and you can see my recipe for “Not Ew Pesto Pasta” here.

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In the midst of summer, it’s nice to have the time to explore some of these concepts. I can toss the kids some easy recipes, and let them have at it, which solved my problem with “bakery fresh” muffins. Oh-how-they-beg for the muffins in our grocery with the big “BAKERY FRESH” sticker. “Fresh” must have an alternate definition, because half the ones I picked up had food dyes, and all had enough preservatives to float a boat. And don’t get me started on the sugar…JUST DO NOT GET ME STARTED! I’ll just tell you a half-a-can of Coke has less. Sound bakery fresh? Not so much.

I had the girls make banana bread. Warm, yummy, with just a tiny touch of lemon zest banana nut bread. How do you think fresh banana bread fared next to “bakery fresh” muffins? If you wrap your banana bread in wax paper and let it sit overnight, and keep it wrapped, it will last until the loaf is gone (which is rarely long). Will it last as long as a muffin filled with preservatives? Heavens no! You could sit those things on your counter, and they’ll gladly sit there until the second coming! That’s what I look for when grocery shopping: permanence. I’m kidding. Food that last forever gives me the creeps.

GTY4

Goomommy’s 4th of July dinner table was set by 8 am. She’s my hero.

With every trip to the store, it gets easier to just walk on by the fake food, and allow the girls to hold the list and find the real ingredients. And I’m not strict about it! We eat candy from time to time. We try new junk foods on vacation (most came back with me on our last trip, because they unconsciously prefer real food now, and they don’t crave all-day snacks after a few years of eating one snack per day.) But even this morning, while writing this piece, I was nagged by the naÏve assumption my kids don’t really watch commercials. Today they weren’t allowed to watch cartoons (stinkers should learn to put away their laundry when asked!), and I blissfully drank my coffee to the Today Show. So as I finished writing this paragraph, I asked, “I’m trying to finish up a Getting To Yum post about food advertising. Do either of you recall any food commercials when I had the TV on this morning?” Mind you…they were only in and out of the living room, and not at all focused on the TV.

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Summer in the apartment means many dinners are being served in the living room. FLEXIBILITY (still working on it…).

Here is what I got, from my kids who do not regularly eat or request any of the following: Chocolate milk (Mommy, why were they trying to convince old people to drink it?), Reese’s Cups (The commercial says they taste better in the fridge Mommy. Should we try that?), Cinnamon Toast Crunch (Cool cartoons Mommy!), Hershey Kisses (Don’t you remember Mommy? They wrap them up and they slide around the screen?), and Kit Kats (My favorite Mommy! I could eat a whole bag of Kit Kats!).

That was ONE HOUR of Kathy and Hoda. WOW. Wow. Yes, this marketing machine is very real, and very smooth. I HAD NO IDEA, which is was just silly on my part, because I could probably sing at least 5 jingles from the 70′s and 80′s right now. Let me give it a shot:

(1) THEY’RREEE GREAT! (Tony the Tiger).

(2) Tab-Tab-Cola what a beautiful drink, Tab-Tab-Cola for beautiful people…

(3) Mikey won’t like it. He hates everything. HEY MIKEY! He like’s it!

(4) And that’s the way we save the day with B-o-l-o-g-n-a.

(5) WELL GREAT. Now I’m going to have nightmares about that super-sized Kool-Aid pitcher crashing through doors and fences. Crap.

Join me at the family dinner table tonight, won’t you? Make it simple. Make it with love. Make it real. You can read all about Karen Le Billon’s taste-training book, Getting To Yum, which is filled with recipes to get you started right here. Godspeed, my friends.


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Laughing In The Rain

June 25th, 2014 · 2 Comments

 

2014-05-09 09.47.54

My “You Must Be Joking” Face, captured by my best friend after we hauled hundreds of pounds of bounce house inside during a rainstorm at our school fundraiser.

The figurative rain has been falling since the turn of the year. I think it’s time to start laughing again.

Yesterday’s “Adventures In Apartment Living” Entry:

You didn’t think the huge bulldozers, bugs, bad wiring, and a busted pipe were the end of the story, did you? I mean come on guys…we’re on a ROLL here. I’m clearly in the eye of some kind of Universal Hurricane, designed especially for my enjoyment. Don’t give up your front row seat just yet, because yesterday…

THE TORNADO CAME.

I’m not being dramatic. A tornado rolled through Indy in the mid-afternoon. The reason we take tornadoes so seriously is not just because it’s a Hoosier rite of passage to witness the destruction they cause, but also because our storms tend to produce more than one at a time. Rather than getting a tornado a half mile wide, we tend to get several, smaller touchdowns. If you hear of a funnel cloud forming, chances are, a storm is over you that could produce a tornado right before your eyes. The girls and I were pulling into our neighborhood when we heard the update on the radio, and while the tornado was just south of us, the storm system was on top of us. We didn’t even grab our lunches from the car. We just RAN.

If you recall from pipe-burst day, my cable was due for an upgrade, so I was told to expect a team of people to show up anytime this week, somehow sense from the breeze when this exact time would occur, move half of my furniture, clear out 2 closets, and “take care of my pets”. By the way things have been going around here, I should have fully expected the cable team would be inside my apartment when the tornado came. What can I say? Fate loves a good theme. We dashed inside our apartment and strangers yelled from my upstairs bedroom, “BRIGHTHOUSE CABLE! CABLE IS HERE!”

Me: Yes, I know! A tornado is here as well! There is a tornado touching down in Speedway right now! Do I have a working TV?

Cable: Yes! (And the sounds of 2 technicians running down the stairs.)

Me: I’ve got the news on…looks like there are cloud walls and scud clouds all over town. Crap. (Counting in my head there are now 5 of us in my living room, and only one, tiny interior closet.)

[Insert a sweaty 3rd Cable Guy showing up in my living room.]

Me: My God! Where did you come from?

Cable Guy #3: Your attic.

[Insert 4th Cable Guy magically appearing.]

Me: Attic as well?

CB #4: Yes.

Me: Is that it?

CB #2: No.

[Insert 5th Cable Guy, who has apparently been inside 100 degree attics all day, walking into my living room.]

CB #3: Did you know the field behind your house is covered in gigantic, industrial equipment? Look at the size of that…is that a bulldozer?

Me: Yes, I have learned that it is indeed, a bulldozer. And it’s LOUD, but not nearly as loud at that wood chipper over there. That thing to the left can snip down trees taller than this apartment like a pair of scissors. (Noticing his face looks a little pale.) Are you thinking if a tornado hits, those gigantic things are going to be thrown into this building, and it would only have to lift one to kill us all?

[Insert five cable guys running out my front door. Solving the problem of how I was going to create safe shelter for 8 people in an apartment with no basement, one interior closet, 2 cats who have been hiding for hours, which has a perimeter lined with the biggest bulldozers I've ever seen.]

Me: WOW. Where do they think they’re going to go in a tornado?

Kelly: Maybe they’re playing a game of “Get The Old Grandpa”.

Me: What?

Kelly: It’s like playing chase, but instead, we pretend we’re trying to take a family photo, and the Old Grandpa keeps running away, and we all chase him. SO, I guess it’s like the opposite of chase, because Old Grandpa is it, and we all chase that person, instead of one person chasing everyone else. CATCH THE OLD GRANDPA!!! (Kelly giggling uncontrollably). It’s so much fun.

Sara: KELLY! I doubt they were playing a game you made up with your friends DURING A TORNADO!

Me: I guess we should be grateful the wasps didn’t get them up in the attic before the tornado did. When you think about it, their entire day was just fraught with danger. This apartment should really have a warning posted on the door.

[Fast-forward to this morning.]

We are safe, and while homes were damaged (via an RV which catapulted through a tree and landed on the roof of a house, and then BOUNCED OFF!), no one was hurt, and this amazingly resilient apartment is still standing. I awoke to the sounds of huge trucks at my back window, and a cable guy knocking at my front door. Ah yes…all is as it should be. Now if you’ll pardon me, I have cable wires strung across my doorways, every piece of furniture in my living room has been moved, a nice stranger is spackling my hallway, and the contents of 2 closets are out on the floor. Good Morning You’all. Good Morning Fate (wink).

 

 


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Sydney’s Point Of View

June 22nd, 2014 · 2 Comments

2014-06-22 09.51.20

The Vet told us that while Sydney does not have cataracts, her eyes are starting to age a little bit. I don’t know about you, but I think her eyes look pretty stellar. Congrats to Greg for capturing this fantastic shot of Syd gazing at the back porch this morning. I guess putting the beach umbrella on the back porch wasn’t the worst idea!


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