Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Sorting! Through Stuff, Grief & Loss

After my Mom passed away my younger brother and I went to our parent's home in Texas to be with our Dad.  Even though he told us not to.  Even though he told us that everything was taken care of. Even though he said no.

And he thanked us for coming down when we were leaving.

Though everything was in fact taken care of, he needed to go through stuff.

Clothing

Shoes

Food

Her Car

Jewelry

And, that's some tough shit right there, people.

But he NEEDED to do it.  He couldn't go into his closet because her clothing and shoes were still in there. He didn't need a second vehicle.  And the momentum of that lead to going through her jewelry and then the food.  There was a lot of food.  Food he wouldn't eat or make.  Twenty-five bags of food that was donated to the local food bank.  Clothing and shoes that were donated to the thrift store that helped with hospice care for cancer patients.  She specifically wanted her clothing to go there.

And, when I left I told my Dad to bring up whatever he didn't know what to do with, that I'd handle it.

He came up a few weeks ago with a mini-van full (FULL) of stuff.  My Moms stuff, stuff he doesn't want or need anymore and, just stuff.

And, now, my office is full of stuff.  Stuff that I need to sort through and decide what to do with.

I thought that this process would be easy.  It's not.  I started the process this past weekend.

It hit me like a ton of bricks when I found my baptism gown in a shoe box plastic container with a card from my Godparents.

It rolled on as I found a yellowed recipe card for Blanket in my Moms handwriting, complete with phonetic spellings of English words and German words that I think I may know. And then, then I found the mustard jars.

Many glasses of Banana Quick was consumed from these glasses


I clearly remember every year going up to "German Town" in Chicago right before Christmas.  It now only consists of a handful of shops on Lincoln Ave., but back in my day there was more.

We would go to Meyer Delicatessen for deli meats only found there.  For cookies and candies and pickles.  For mustard.

The old Meyer's sign hangs in Gene's at the same location

And when I found the container of empty glass mustard jars, I lost it.  Because it's more than those jars.  It's the mustard, being smeared on liver sausage.  It's Christmas-time.  The jars being washed and used as drinking glasses.  Stored in the deep corner cabinet of the kitchen in my childhood home. The cabinet was orange, and I needed to jump up onto the counter top to reach the glasses.

As I was going through the books I found all of my Moms herbal and natural remedies books.  We never went to the doctor as children.  We had to be loosing blood or broken before we went to a doctor.  Everything was handled by Mom with teas and steams and baths with herbal infusions or sticky medicines that came from label worn brown bottles.  And sleep.  And soup.

The thing that got me, though, as I was going through those books and pulling out scraps of paper and photos used as place holders, was what was being marked in those books to remember for later times.

Digestive Issues

Fatigue

Head Aches

Menopause

When I saw that last one, I put my Moms book down and looked over to the side table next to the recliner in my front room.  The chair I sit in to read.  The chair that is next to the side table that has my own herbal and natural remedy books about menopause and digestive issues.  And I thought, holy shit!



I mentioned these findings to my husband who said "herbals can't fix everything".  And, that's true. But what was more shocking to me was that these books, they are old.  Beyond the past two years where she lived with cancer.  Before that cancer spread.  My Mom was a medical professional.  This is actually something that her oncologist spoke about with great regard.  How she could pin-point the pain, the issue, the symptom.  She's always been able to do this.

It's an interesting view into my roots.  Why I make my kids take Cod Liver Oil and a shot of Apple Cider Vinegar.  Why I use steams and tea and bone soups.  There is nothing wrong with preventative health.  The question, then, is when is it time for modern health?

This past weekend was tough for me all around.  I felt compelled to regain my office.   But, that came at a cost.  I'm recovering from my own medical issues right now.  Having had surgery a few weeks back and still healing from that, and being handed a diagnosis I wasn't expecting by my doctor. Beyond physically being spent, the emotional and mental strain was taxing as well.

It's been an interesting lesson on the value of things.  My Mom grew up poor, post WWII in Germany.  I understand why she bought the things she did and kept the things she did.  In the end, though all of our things, hers, mine and yours, will either get donated or thrown out.  This process is making me look at the things that I'm choosing to keep and really evaluate why.

I'd love to be able to pass those glass mustard jars on to my kids.  The thing is, they are better used now so that we can enjoy them and remember and I can share stories about them, my Mom and my childhood.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Sharing a Meal Will Lead to...

There has always been something very genuine about sharing a meal with people.




It leads to great conversation!

My husband and I had the absolute wonderful opportunity to attend the inaugural Illinois Harvest Dinner last Wednesday in Pontiac, Illinois.  Actually, on  Mackinson Dairy Farm, which is a 5th general dairy and grain farm in central Illinois.  At our table that evening was Don Mackinson (4th generation) and Kolton Kimpling, a Future Farmer of America member who is planning on going into Agricultural Business.



Oh my goodness!

Those of you who have reading this here little blog for any length of time know that we are not dairy drinkers.  We choose to drink soy milk and our middle son, who has a casein allergy, drinks almond milk. We do, though, love cheese.  I only point this out to illustrate that though we choose not to consume dairy milk, we do consume dairy products.  It's just what works for our family right now.  


There's something a bit more calming when you are able to break bread with a dairy farmer and an FFA member who are willing to not only answer any questions that you may have about dairy farming, but also encouraging you to ask the hard questions. 

My raw milk questions


My pasteurization questions


My milking, sanitary and animal safety and health questions...


My fueled with sensationalized mis-information questions...  


Here, right here, was my golden opportunity to ask them all and get them answered.


And, you know what.  I believe everything that Don and Kolton shared.  All of it!


Beyond the amazing food, great company (we also sat with a reporter from Farm Week, the superintendents from the local primary and high school and their guests) and beautiful setting, I got clarity.  I received the information that I have wanted to know from the other side of the coin. 


I also ate asparagus for the very first time.  




I am that person, you know, the one who has watched Food Inc., The World According to Monsanto, Forks Over Knives, Hungary for Change, Fast Food Nation and Food Fight.  I've read the articles, the books and follow the Facebook posts. 

And, my decisions have been effected by it all.


But, I only had that one side.  And, I'll admit, the sensationalized side.  The side that said that ALL farmers were evil and mistreating their animals and the land.  It's all about money, you know!  The side that said that seed companies were trying to take over our food supply.  It's about world domination, you know!  The side that said that dairy was bad for you and that GMO's were even worse.  Because, the phloem and chemicals and poisons and antibiotics and on, and on, and on...

But, you know what?  I'm not really buying it anymore.

I'm still skeptical.  I'm skeptical about fricking everything, though.  I still ask a lot of questions and don't take anything at face value.  I still want to learn more and become more informed and weigh my options to make the choices that are right for me and my family.

I'm also a hands on learner.  I need to see it with my own eyes, too.  This dinner, it allowed me to sit and see and hear and ask.  This dinner has impacted the way I will choose foods for my family in the future.  Does that mean I'm going to run out any buy a gallon of milk?  No.  It means that I'm more aware.

There has always been something very genuine about sharing a meal with people.

It leads to great conversation!

Friday, September 4, 2015

It's Not All Good News - But, It Doesn't Mean That You Have to Have a Shitty Attitude



What's that saying?


No news is good news

Attitude is everything

Having a negative attitude is a waste of time

Every day may not be good, but there is good in every day

You get the idea, right?

I got some not so great news today.  Not like end of the world, life is over as I know it kind of news. Just, not great news.  And, I'm not going to allow it to take over my day.  I'm not going to allow my mind to wonder to all the "what if's" or go there...wherever there is.  I'm not going to make my life hard.

I had gone in for my yearly OB appointment about a month back and was talking to my doctor about some changes that have occurred in my cycle.  Changes that I assuming pre-menopausal.  I may only be 39, but I've been cycling for a long, long time.  And, it's typical for women in my family to start menopause a little early.

There was concern and I was sent for further testing.

I found out today that I am not starting menopause a little early.

It's not bad news.  It just wasn't the news that I was expecting.  I wanted to be told that I was right, that I was in fact starting the next stage of womanhood, that I was menopausal.

Nope

So, in a little under two weeks I'll be going in to have my left ovary and left fallopian tube removed in addition to some other stuff.  To be honest, by this point in my conversation with my doctor I was responding with a lot of "uh, huh", "yep", "totally".  Words like pre-cancerous and endometriosis will do that to me.

But, through the blessing of modern technology, things like scans can be done.  And what those scans show is of enough concern that coupled with my family's medical history, surgery is needed.

I just reassured him that I was in fact done having children.  That whatever needed to be done, I was fine with.

I think we both breathed a little easier after I said that.  I needed to say that out loud, validate it, own it.

This, whatever this is, this is my next stage.




Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Chicago-land Homeschooling Resources from an Ex-Homeschooler



Just because I am currently not homeschooling any of my children doesn't mean that I am not a part of the homeschooling community.  My oldest is a high school junior this year, while my middle son is in sixth grade.  My youngest, he's two and half and doing the chicken dance in the front room in Halloween pajamas.

When we embarked on our Homeschooling Journey back in 2010 (and when I started this blog, btw), what we came to realize was this

We had been educating our children the whole time

Just because they went to brick and mortar buildings (prior to homeschooling) didn't mean that my job as their parent, their mother, as one of their main educators, was over.  We were constantly doing things and going places and learning new information.

Don't ever think that a teacher knows something that you, as your child's parent, doesn't inherently know about them.  We are and will always be their first teachers.  *says the stubborn and cocky wife of an professional educator and Educational Anarchist*

So...here is my list of Chicago-land Resources for Homeschoolers

Reading Programs:
Open to homeschooling families in Illinois, these reading programs yield your child a free ticket for admission PLUS a free ticket for the teacher (you).

Six Flags Read to Succeed

Chicago Wolves Hockey Read to Succeed

Fitness Programs:
Open to homeschooling families in Illinois, this program offered by Raging Waves Waterpark will yield your child a free ticket for admission.

Educator Open Houses:
Did you know that many museums offer Educator or Teacher Open Houses?  This is a great opportunity to see what the museum has to offer and get additional resources to assist you in teacher a specific subject.
These require you to register online and are only open to adults (aka teachers or educators).  These are open to homeschooling parents.

Museum of Science and Industry - not scheduled yet, often occurs in October.

The Field Museum 

Lincoln Park Zoo

LegoLand Discovery Center

The Shedd Aquarium 


Your Forest Preserve Districts:
They are slowly getting onto the supporting homeschoolers bandwagon.  I will caution all of you reading this - these programs often cancel due to low registration.

Cook County

Will County

Museum Adventure Pass:
Your library is a wealth of resources!  First, take a moment and call them to see if they offer homeschooling activities because many do!  If not, propose that they do.  Now, back to the Museum Adventure Pass - did you know that you can check out museum, zoo and park passes with your library card?  Yep!  Here is the link with more information.

Get Moving!:
Like the forest preserve districts, suburban park districts and recreation centers are starting of offer homeschooling enrichment and social opportunities.  Bolingbrook Park District offers Homeschool PE classes and has a Homeschool Swim at their pool.  Joliet Park District offers classes through Pilcher Park Nature Center.  While Aurora Skate Center offers a Homeschool Skate.  These are just a few in a long list.  Are you no where near any of these locations?  No worries, check out your resources for opportunities.  

FREE:
I love free.  If it weren't for free admission or free days we wouldn't have been able to enjoy many of our homeschooling field trips.
Here is a list (not a complete one) of Chicago museums that are ALWAYS FREE:
CHICAGO CULTURAL CENTER (77 E. RANDOLPH STREET)
This historical landmark hosts hundreds of free programs year-round. The building has two unbelievable stained-glass domes, which you can see on your own or on a free building tour. The many halls regularly hosts free events, from weekly classical music concerts to blues, jazz and more. Also look on the daily Chicago Cultural Centerschedule for free dance performances, film screenings, seminars and theater events.
CAMBODIAN AMERICAN HERITAGE MUSEUM (2831 W. LAWRENCE AVENUE)
This unique institution celebrates Cambodian community and culture in the United States. The museum draws awareness to the Cambodian genocide and offers an ever-changing rotation of exhibitions and original art.
CHICAGO ARCHITECTURE FOUNDATION PROGRAMS (224 S. MICHIGAN AVENUE)
The Chicago Architecture Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring people to discover why design matters. In addition to their popular architecture river boat cruises and docent-led tours, CAF pursues this mission through free exhibitions, special events and youth/adult education programs. Visit their Loop headquarters to see their impressive 3D model of the city, try to catch a lunchtime seminar, or plan your trip around their marquee event Open House Chicago each September.
CHICAGO GREETER NEIGHBORHOOD TOURS (VARIOUS LOCATIONS)
The Chicago Greeter program pairs knowledgeable locals with Chicago visitors for an informal, insider's orientation of the city and its many, vibrant neighborhoods. Through customized, guided walks you can sightsee all across the city based on interest topics of your choice, from public art and architecture to food to films.
CHICAGO PARKS & BEACHES (VARIOUS LOCATIONS)
Chicago has hundreds of free public parks that cover over 8,000 acres of Chicago. Many feature wildlife havens like Northerly Island and North Pond Nature Sanctuary; incredible landscape designs such as Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool and Jackson Park's Osaka Garden; and athletic facilities such as the kayak boat house in Ping Tom Memorial Park. Hit the Lakefront Trail for some free outdoor recreation with a view or spend the day at one of the free public beaches, open Memorial Day to Labor Day.
CITY GALLERY AT THE HISTORIC WATER TOWER (806 N. MICHIGAN AVENUE)
The treasured landmark on The Magnificent Mile has been turned into a beautiful showcase for rotating art exhibits from local photographers and artists.
HAROLD WASHINGTON LIBRARY CENTER (400 S. STATE STREET)
As one of the largest public libraries in the world, the Harold Washington Library encompasses close to a million square feet filling a whole city block and houses more than 13 million published works. Enjoy a look at the architecture — giant owls perch from the roof, Roman goddess of grain Ceres on the facade, the sunny 9th floor Winter Garden — or explore the art collection of over 50 artists, both local and internationally known, displayed throughout the halls and reading rooms.
GARFIELD PARK CONSERVATORY (300 N. CENTRAL PARK AVENUE)
As one of the nation's premier displays of rare plant species, the Garfield Park Conservatory has a half dozen greenhouses and two large exhibition halls.
HYDE PARK ART CENTER (5020 S. CORNELL AVENUE)
If you're looking for open to the public gallery talks, poetry readings, musical performances and art classes, HPAC offers free cultural exhibitions for visitors of all ages.
JANE ADDAMS HULL-HOUSE MUSEUM (800 S. HALSTED STREET)
This museum is dedicated to providing free to the public exhibits and programs that focus on policy efforts. The tribute to Jane Addams serves as an educational conduit to addressing issues that affect the sociological conditions of underserved communities.
LINCOLN PARK CONSERVATORY (2391 N. STOCKTON DRIVE)
Located in stunning Lincoln Park, this conservatory displays some of the most stunning flowers and rare plant life. No matter the season, a walk through this storied green house will always feel like a stroll through paradise.
LINCOLN PARK ZOO (2200 N. CANNON DRIVE)
As one of only a few free zoos in the country, Lincoln Park Zoo covers over 35 acres and features tigers, polar bears, lions and more than 230 other species of animals. The Farm in the Zoo and Nature Boardwalk bring you up close and personal with the animal world.
MAGGIE DALEY PARK (337 E. RANDOLPH STREET)
Meet Grant Park's newest addition, located immediately east of Millennium Park. This play park for kids is an imaginative 20 acres designed in the spirit of Alice in Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It comes complete with its own mini-lighthouse, a life-sized ship, two climbing walls (fee starts at $15), 30-foot tall Suspension Bridge Towers, a quarter-mile long skating ribbon, an Enchanted Garden of upside-down trees, plus several Picnic Groves.
MILLENNIUM PARK (201 E. RANDOLPH STREET)
One of the state's most popular tourist attractions features larger-than-life public art (don't miss Cloud Gate for a mirrored look at the skyline or splashing in Crown Fountain during warm weather months); a cutting edge performance stage (the Frank Gehry-designed Jay Prizker Pavilion) featuring free concerts all summer; and the all-seasons beauty Lurie Garden. Be sure to check the Millennium Park schedule for a listing of upcoming events.
MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY PHOTOGRAPHY (600 S. MICHIGAN AVENUE)
As one of the only museums in the region devoted exclusively to photography, this cultural center aims to communicate the value of still images, artistic expression and human thought.
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF MEXICAN ART (1852 W. 19TH STREET)
Located in the cultural epicenter of the colorful Pilsen neighborhood, this museum is focused on celebrating Mexican culture and is the largest of its kind in the nation.
NAVY PIER (600 E. GRAND AVENUE)
One of Chicago's most recognizable landmarks boasts gorgeous lakefront views — take a stroll and enjoy the breezes, admission is free to the pier's boardwalk. Summer features free weekly fireworks Wednesday and Saturday evenings as well as free outdoor concerts in the LandShark Beer Garden.
THE 606 (BLOOMINGDALE AVENUE FROM ASHLAND TO RIDGEWAY)
Trek this stunning new 2.7 mile elevated park trail set above city streets and explore its five interconnected neighborhoods. With its linear walking/bicycle/jogging paths, as well as ample green space, it boasts scenic lookout points, public art murals and an outdoor observatory.
THE NEWBERRY LIBRARY (60 W. WALTON STREET)
This stunning library contains more than 1.5 million published works and often features special exhibitions.
THE ORIENTAL INSTITUTE MUSEUM (1155 E. 59TH STREET)
Focusing on the rich history of the ancient Near East, this museum displays artifacts recovered during Oriental Institute excavations.
THE RENAISSANCE SOCIETY AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO
(5811 S. ELLIS AVENUE)
The society offers exhibitions and programs that aim to provide insight and educate on the wonders of art history.
SMART MUSEUM OF ART (5550 S. GREENWOOD AVENUE)
The name kind of says it all. This museum features works from some the world's all-time brightest minds like Goya, Frank Lloyd Wright, Degas, Rodin, Matisse, Picasso, Rivera and Ansel Adams.


Here is a list (not a complete one) of Chicago museums that OFFER FREE DAYS throughout the year (September 2015 dates are listed):

CHICAGO HISTORY MUSEUM
September 1-3
SHEDD
September 8, 14, 15, 21, 22, 28, 29
FIELD MUSEUM
September 3, 10, 11, 12, 13, and 20
MSI (if you don't want to deal with their new online registration for homeschooling families)
September 8-11, 14-18, 21-25, 28-30
ART INSTITUTE
Admission to the Art Institute of Chicago is free to Illinois residents every Thursday evening from 5-8pm.
Additionally children under age 14 are always free
*You can also sign up for an Educators Pass. Info for this is on their website, but you have to physically go to the museum to sign up*
ADLER
None this month
MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART
Admission is free for Illinois residents on Tuesdays year round.
PEGGY NOTEBAERT NATURE MUSEUM
Thursdays are suggested donation days for Illinois residents year round.
DUSABLE MUSEUM OF AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY
Admission is free to all on each Sunday of the year.
LOYOLA UNIVERSITY MUSEUM OF ART
Admission is free for all visitors every Tuesday, year round.
SWEDISH AMERICAN MUSEUM
Admission is free for all visitors on the second Tuesday of the month, year round.
CLARKE HOUSE MUSEUM
Tours are free on Wednesdays, year round (not applicable to groups of ten or more).
GLESSNER HOUSE MUSEUM
Tours are free on Wednesdays, year round (not applicable to groups of ten or more).
CHARNLEY-PERSKY HOUSE
Tours are free on Wednesdays, year round (not applicable to groups of ten or more).

Beep-Beep, Vroom-Vroom:
Transportation via METRA is discounted for homeschooling families.  Follow this link for more information.  Here are the specifics from their website:

  Home-Schooled Students

All fare policies concerning standard student fares also apply to home-schooled students. To meet documentation requirements, the student must present a letter with the name and address of the person providing the home schooling as teacher/principal at the top, signed and notarized. Click here to download form.


National Parks:

No joke!  New this year and open to 4th graders only, get free admission into any US National Park. 


And, here is a list of Illinois National Parks

Please, for the love of history - don't forget your local history museums!  I'm a firm believer in this - how is my child suppose to understand American History or World History if he cannot place his local history in the same timeline?  


Know this - ANYTHING offered to a brick and mortar school 

is available to YOU as a homeschooling family as well.