Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Golden Opportunity

Many moons ago I had a child.
Then another one. 
And when I had those children I was that mom who stayed at home. 
To nurture. 
To feed homemade goodies. 
To swim with on a Tuesday. 
But both of those kids are in school all day now. 
So, I got a job. 

After 9 years of being a stay at home mom, I am employed again. 
Nothing fancy. 
But just enough for me. 
Enough for me to be a part of society again. 
Enough for me to earn a little cash. 
Enough for me so that I am still making my daughters their breakfast in the morning and I'm still picking them up from school. 
Ladies and gentlemen, I'm a playground supervisor at the primary school. 
I got a whistle. 

Gigi started kindergarten on Friday at the primary school and it didn't go too well. 
She's much improved and has now proven to herself that she CAN make it through the long day without mom. 
And it doesn't hurt that she gets to see that mom at lunch and recess. 
It has helped mom, too. 
I get to see that she's happy. 
I make sure she's eating her lunch that I so lovingly prepared for her a few hours prior. 
I get to laugh with her on a daily basis. 
She and I are tight. 
It's the best job I've ever had. 

I'm meeting a lot of neat kids, too. 
We laugh and joke and I tell them it's going to be alright if they cry. 
Because they miss their mom. 
Or if they've fallen down. 
I'm everyone's mom in a way. 
But at the end of recess, I know that only one is mine. 
The fantastic blonde that all of the kids follow around. 
And I get to wear my whistle with pride now. 
Because my amazing friend Leigh sent me a lanyard covered in gold ribbons. 
Gold ribbons represent childhood cancer. 
And my daughter Zoe was attending this same primary school 5 years ago when she was diagnosed with leukemia. 
She is a thriving 4th grader now. 
And I don't need to hover over her like I did when she first got sick. 
Now I get to hover over her sister. 
But in a good way. 
Because our life is ordinary again. 
And I'm loving it...whistle and all!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Being Five

Gigi went to school today. 
Today was the first day she left home and was alone without her sister around (like when she was at summer camp). 
Today she had to leave her mother and father and become a full time student. 
And it was hard for her. 
Very hard. 
She has a lot of anxiety with new situations. 
When she's put in an alien environment. 
She threw up her chocolate milk this morning. 
She twisted up her dress with her hands when I tried to take her photo on the porch. 
She felt twisted up inside herself. 

It's hard to grow up. 
It's hard for someone like Gigi. 
Who had a sick sister and who had to give up her mom and dad for a time because the hospital beckoned them. 
Time will heal all of her inner wounds. 
And she'll someday be able to face new challenges as well as her sister does. 
Because she's a brave girl. 
I know she is. 
Even if she's still not too sure. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Contract

Some days you wonder if you are alone in the world. 
Your past can seem like such a lost entity. 
The life you had before you met your spouse. 
The life you had before your children were born. 
The wild nights where guys and wine experimented with one another.
But then you remember someone. 
Some people. 
Your college friends. 
Ah, the ladies who knew me when...

My college friends and I had a reunion a few weeks ago in Chicago. 
Three funtastic days together. 
We hadn't been together without our children or spouses in tow in years. 
I don't even remember when we were all together last except for funerals in the past few years. 
Most of them live in the city and so they do see one another quite often. 
But, I'm in central Illinois. 
Another one lives in the northern burbs. 
And one of us lives in Omaha. 
It was due time for us to leave our babes at home with our husbands. 
It was due time for us all to converge at one home and let our hair down. 
Who am I kidding...we don't have hair to let down. 
We had many names in college and one was "The Short Hair Club."
We all still have relatively short hair. 

There are seven of us in all. 
Seven of us who met 25 years ago. 
Seven of us who have shared clothes, secrets, and a few boyfriends. 
Seven of us who have don't always get to talk much to one another, but that didn't seem to matter when we got back together. 
We were missing one member of our group, though. 
She got a pass as she lives in Ireland. 
Only two in our group grew up with sisters. 
This lack of childhood sisterly drama drew us closer, I think. 
An invisible contract was signed during college. 
A contract that said "through thick and thin we shall stand together. Always"
When one of us got upset with someone about, who knows what, a voice amongst the group would loudly declare "ah, but you signed the contract!"  
And you would resign yourself to this phantom truth. 

During our reunion we shared old stories. 
We giggled. 
We guffawed. 
We talked about sex. 
We talked about food. 
We peed in our pants a little. 

We all brought photos to share. 
College photos. 
Life after photos. 
Upon graduation, we all converged on the city of Chicago and some of us lived together. 
We were always with one another and even vacationed together. 
New Orleans, Miami, the crazy camping trip we took to Wisconsin. 
There was so much photographic evidence of the lives we had had.  
Our former thinner selves. 
Lives before children. 
Lives before careers. 
Lives lived with so much abandon. 

I wouldn't trade these ladies for anything. 
They know me. 
I know them. 
We still tell secrets to one another. 
We love one another dearly. 
They were all there 200% for me and my family when Zoe was diagnosed with leukemia. 

So, we went out to eat at fancy restaurants that were absent of children's menus. 

We drank giant martinis. 
We stayed up past 10:00. 
We had a blast. 

And I remembered that I wasn't alone. 
I'll never be alone. 
My past will always live on with these women. 
And I can't wait to make future memories with them all. 
Until we are drooly, gray, and pushing each other in wheelchairs. 
My friends. 

The Butcher

One of my favorite authors, Jon Katz, often writes about the life and death aspects of owning farm animals.
Everything isn't all fuzzy chicks and cute pony rides all of the time. 
There are times when the harsher aspects of owning a small herd of animals rears it's grisly head. 

We bought 8 pullets from the farm store in March. 
Two day old chirpy balls of fuzzy goodness. 
As they grew we realized one was different. 
One was a boy. 
Not at all what we had planned on housing, feeding, nurturing, or hearing. 
And geesh, as he got older did we hear him. 
His crowing started out as a garbled mess. 
And as he practiced, which he did A LOT, he improved. 
He became more and more majestic looking. 
Beautiful iridescent feathers sprouted from his tail. 
His comb and waddle were big and bright. 
He was turning into quite a beautiful rooster. 
And he had gotten the crowing down to an art. 
But then he did it. 
He crossed a line. 
THE line. 

Zoe went out to the barnyard to get some water from the water trough. 
The trough that the horse, goats, and a few chickens drink from. 
The trough that houses a lively group of minnows who pop up every so often to say hello. 
Zoe was participating in a science camp at a local junior high and needed to take in some water to look at under a microscope. 
As she was leaving the barnyard, it happened. 
The barnyard that houses her pony from Make A Wish. 
The barnyard where she likes to go to sit at the water trough and pet the goats. 
Wheezy attacked her. 
Out of the blue. 
Scratched up the back of her legs. 
She came in crying and frightened. 

Later that same day we all went out to the barnyard. 
All of the animals were meandering around. 
Zoe walked over to an area where a few of the chickens were pecking around in the tall grass. 
Wheezy came up to her. 
He didn't walk up to me or Gigi. 
He went to Zoe.  
And attacked her again. 
Right in front of us. 
What an asshole. 
That was the last straw. 

Chad and I have always said that if we have an animal that attacks us, the children, or any of the other animals here, it couldn't stay. 
We had a stray, Lucy Moon, for a while, but had to get rid of her once she started trying to eat the cats and my parents. 
Wheezy was not going to be allowed to stay here. 
He wasn't allowing a child to visit the barnyard to see her healing animals. 
The animals that helped her get through the crap that is childhood cancer. 
So, I called my dad. 

My dad grew up on our farm. 
And it was a real farm in the 1950's and 1960's. 
It was a farm that raised pigs and chickens and cows to butcher. 
What we have now is a hobby farm. 
Where the only things we intended to eat were the eggs that popped out of a hen. 
My dad came over and we prepped for the situation. 
Boiled a big pot of water. 
Corralled Wheezy into the chicken run. 
Lined up the knives. 
And even though Zoe was full of tears and didn't want to see him go, she knew the rules. 
No one here can hurt anyone else. 
This is a farm full of hugs. 
Nothing less is acceptable. 

The end came quick for Wheezy. 
My dad relived his childhood and had a moment of rekindled purpose. 
We threw him in the oven with some potatoes for dinner the next evening. 
We became a farm that repurposed a fault within itself. 
We didn't waste a thing of that rooster. 
Our dog even snuck out later on and ate Wheezy's feet and head that were left on a pallet. 
Something we preferred didn't happen. 
But, that Lola?
She's one gross dog. 
What are ya gonna do?
And our roasted rooster dinner?
It was disgusting. 
He had a nasty attitude and a nasty flavor. 

Nothing is 100% in life. 
Your child may get a horrible disease. 
Your dog may get fleas even when he has preventative on. 
You may not get all hens from the farm store when buying baby chicks. 
And you may need to butcher a rooster that attacks your baby. 
Life is an adventure. 
Nasty dinners and all...

Monday, August 4, 2014

Back To School

Another group blog topic for my blogging group Homesteaders and Homeschoolers. 
This week our topic is about "back to school."

This past weekend, a friend said she hates all of the media posts about... 

"101 Super Fun Things To Do With Your Kids This Summer!" 


"Do These 25 Things With The Kids Before The Sun Sets Each Day Between June And August!"


"You're Not Even Close To Being A Good Mom If You Don't Hit Every Splash Pad In A 25 Mile Radius Every Single Day This Summer!"


"Enjoy The Summer Before It's Too Late And Your Kids Hate You!"


And then before you know it you see the media posts about...

"Sick Of Your Kids Yet? Back To School Is Coming Up Soon!"


"17 Things To Do To Your Child's Lunch To Make Him/Her The Coolest Kid In The Cafeteria!"


"66 Homemade Gifts To Give The Teacher To Become A Brown Noser!"

Okay, she didn't say all of these things. 
But there is a lot of pressure. 
And there are media posts that we see about all of the fun things we are supposed to do with our kids during the summer. 
And then they seem to be quickly followed by posts about back to school and how we are all so over having our kids all summer long. 
It's ridiculous. 

Summer days and school days used to be easy going seasons. 
Laissez-faire events. 
In the summer you had unplanned, carefree days. 
Swimming in the creek, playing Atari, eating apples from your grandma's backyard tree. 
Or you hopped in the car for a fantastic road trip to see Mark Twain Cave or to splash in ocean waves at a beach on the coast. 
And then it was back to school time.  
New corduroys, a magenta Trapper Keeper, and one box of crayons. 
That was it. 
It all seemed easier. 
Or was it because I was the kid and not the parent?
No, I think it just was easier. 
There were no meddling posts online and zero talk shows with 60 second pieces on being better than the next person. 
No one telling us how to be a better parent to our children. 
How to make memories that, once we read about them, make us feel dumb because we hadn't thought of them on our own. 
Mothers weren't in a silent competition with every other mother in the classroom. 
There was no Pinterest with quirky teacher gifts telling us to make a homemade tag stating "You Are An Egg-Celent Teacher!" and to attach it to a certificate for a weeks worth of culinary classes. 
For a preschool teacher. 
That your kid sees for 2 hours a day. 
Because some days you don't feel like taking said kid to school because you want to go to a Target and get a new scarf. 
Anyway, it's complicated. 
And it shouldn't be. 
It should be about being young and spirited in the summer. 
It should be about suntans and zoo visits and mowing the grass with the push mower. 
While back to school should be about the excitement of knowing who your teacher is going to be this year. 
And seeing who grew their hair out. 
And the smell of pencil erasers and hot lunch in the cafeteria. 
We all need to take it back to simple. 
And we need to, as moms, to cut ourselves some slack. 
It's hard enough raising our kids to be the best that THEY can be. 
We are already good enough. 
Love that about your mom role and go buy new jeans...for yourself.  

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Train North

The blur of the heartland
As I head out alone
The blare of the train horn
Signaling our way north
To see old friends
Without the security of my babes
A new day for me 
Being away
Just something I don't do
Haven't had the chance
Diapers and school and cancer kept me home
Not today
I'm going...

Monday, July 28, 2014

Things I Love, Current Edition...

Some times I just need to go down a list of things I'm thankful for. 
Things I love. 
Things that make me smile. 
Things to remind me that all is well in my world. 
Things like...

Homemade pie
Chicken curtains 

Our pool

Old friends
Ice cream
My cats 

The Real Housewives on Bravo
Creative people 
Summer Shandy
Gigi's jokes 

My Disney app with our upcoming vacation plans embedded in it
Listening to Zoe play the piano
Our barnyard

My hubby's legs
My hubby's laugh 
A cloudless sky
The smell of rain coming in
Capri pants
Modern medicine
People who care about kids with cancer 

Electric fans 
Supportive bras
Lunches with lady friends
Lemon squares
My cousins

Gooey under-baked brownies
Toe nail polish
Living in a war-free zone