Coq Au Vin (My version)

You all know that Coq au vin is just a fancy French way of saying “Chicken Stew”, right? ¬†IDK… many of my friends don’t know that so forgive me when I seem like I need to be “Captain Obvious” ūüėČ

I’ve mentioned before that my Mom’s family is French. ¬†NOT the sophisticated eloquent French that you might be picturing… more like the poor kind. ¬†I’m proud of that though because along with being poor comes the need to be inventive. ¬†We’re ALL inventive when it comes to food. ¬†My grandmother had 10 children and that’s a LOT of mouths to feed when you only have 1 chicken! ¬†Grandma used to go out to her yard and choose a chicken, chop it’s head off and take the feathers off. ¬†Yummy huh? ¬†Thank GOD I never had to SEE it, much less do it. ¬†I’d probably never eat meat if I had to witness something like that. ¬†Coq au vin is one of those recipes that you can make your own and it’s inexpensive. ¬†It just takes a little bit of time.

Here’s my way… which, BTW, has been SO simplified but SO tasty! ¬†This is what we had tonight. ¬†I have to be in the right mood to want to go through a little trouble and tonight, while it’s cold and rainy, I’m in the right mood!

Coq Au Vin (Michelle’s Way)

Ingredients:

2 1/2 to 3 lbs chicken pieces (breasts, thighs or drumsticks) OR a whole chicken, skinned and cut up (I used 3.5 lbs chicken breasts, boneless)

2 TBSP cooking oil

salt and pepper

2 large vidalia or sweet onions, cut into 8 pieces each

1 1/4 cups Burgundy

4 medium, thinly sliced carrots

1 lb sliced fresh mushrooms (optional)

1/4 cup chicken broth (or water)

1 TBSP dried parsley

1 TBSP fresh chopped parsley

1 tsp dried marjoram

2 tsp dried crushed thyme

1 bay leaf

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 lb smoked bacon, chopped and cooked crisp, bacon grease reserved

5 TBSP flour

2 TBSP butter

16 oz cooked Penne pasta for serving

Directions:

Cook bacon until crisp. ¬†It’s easier if you chop the bacon while it’s still a little frozen. ¬†Set aside.

In a large skillet or Dutch oven, brown chicken pieces on all sides in hot oil, about 15 minutes.  Drain fat.  Season chicken on both sides with salt and pepper.  Add onions, mushrooms, bacon, carrots, Burgundy, chicken broth, dried parsley, marjoram, thyme, bay leaf, and garlic.  Bring to boiling; reduce heat.  Simmer and cover.  Cook for around 50 minutes or until chicken is fork tender.

Take chicken and vegetables out of pot and set aside.  Discard bay leaf.

Heat reserved bacon grease and the 2 TBSP butter until hot.  Add flour and stir.  Cook for about 2 minutes.  Once roux (bacon grease and flour) is made, add mixture to the juices from chicken.  Cook and stir until thick and bubbly.  Once thickened, cook for 1 minute more.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Garnish with fresh parsley.

Pour sauce over chicken and vegetables and serve over pasta.

*This recipe makes very generous servings for 6 people. ¬†The bacon makes this even more tasty than the other recipes I’ve tried. ¬†Enjoy!

Meet Me In St. Louis Part 1 (a tour of my city on Julia’s 15th birthday)

I’m BAaaaaaack!!! ¬†Show of hands…. ¬†did anybody miss me? ¬†Ah, no matter, I missed YOU enough for all of us! ¬†lol ¬†My life has been PACKED with so much excitement and activity and I don’t really know where a good place to begin! ¬†I feel like I’ve crammed enough living for a year in these past couple of days. ¬†Or close to it ūüôā

So, you all know that last week was my baby girls 15th birthday, right? ¬†I asked you guys for some ideas to help us celebrate in a special way. ¬†You all had some fantastic ideas and we used some of them, so for that I thank you! ¬†Carla¬†suggested a photo shoot and a makeover. ¬†These girls live their LIVES doing makeovers so we didn’t choose that but we DID have a blast doing photo shoots. ¬†We spent the weekend touring the city of St. Louis and took over 500 shots. ¬†By the end of the weekend I think the girls wanted to HURT my camera! ¬†Maybe I over did it a little? Nah. ¬†But they really did have fun and felt so special being the star of the show. ¬†So Carla, THANK YOU! ¬†The girls and I had a BLAST and more importantly, we made some memories that we won’t soon forget.

You know how I am about showing you too many pictures, right? ¬†I do that because I’m proud AND I can’t decide which ones are the more important shots. ¬†ALL of them are important to me. ¬†Don’t worry though, I won’t show you all 500 of them! ¬†lol ¬†I’m going to do little segments, one day at a time.

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(I think Hannah was the one to smash the cupcakes… look at her evil face! ¬†She wouldn’t admit it though)

We arrived at the Hilton with Julia’s birthday cupcakes NOT in one piece! ¬†lol ¬†One of the girls threw their luggage on top of the special cupcakes that I had made for the occasion! ¬†ARGH! ¬†NOT a good way to start the weekend. ¬†These cupcakes were delicious and SO pretty before they got smashed. ¬†There’s a place in a town near us called Sweet-T-Pies¬†and they make the best cupcakes filled with any kind of filling you could dream of! ¬†OMG! ¬†They’re the most delicious little cakes any of us have ever tasted! Still divine even if they WERE smashed ūüôā ¬†Oh well, it’s the thought that counts, right?

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Once we got checked into our room, we made Julia hide in the bathroom so we could decorate for her. ¬†Notice the little princess crown on her head? ¬†Part of the deal was that she had to wear her birthday tiara everywhere we went so that the whole world would know that my princess was having a birthday! ¬†Did she do it? ¬†Nope. ¬†She’s way too shy and doesn’t like unnecessary attention. ¬†I’d say this was a weekend where the attention was NECESSARY! ¬†lol

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Remember those expensive pretty little smashed cupcakes? ¬†Yeah, as IF smashing them wasn’t enough, HANNAH (Julia’s bff) decided Julia should wear one too! ¬†Silly girls ūüėČ

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(Street car or trolley like the one used in Meet me in St. Louis. ¬†Don’t mind the white cloud streaming into the pic. ¬†It’s not a ghost… just the smoke from my cigarette cause I’m classy like that! ¬†lol)

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Do any of you know the Judy Garland movie “Meet Me in St. Louis”? ¬†Of course, being a St. Louis native, I grew up watching this classic and LOVE it still. ¬†Every Christmas, it’s a family tradition at my house and we all sit down with popcorn and watch. ¬†The song “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” was first sang by Judy Garland in this movie. ¬†The whole movie was filmed in University City on the Delmar Loop. ¬†It used to be known for it’s streetcars or “trolleys”. ¬†Well here’s a street car just like the one featured in “Meet Me In St. Louis”. ¬†I can’t get the “Trolley Song” out of my head now! ¬†lol

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(I know this is too dark but I wanted to show you the neon sign for the Blueberry Hill restaurant)

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(Chuck Berry’s guitar and other music memorabilia)

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(Julia can’t decide which crappy food item to order)

The first stop of the night (besides shopping at one of the cool stores on the strip) was Blueberry Hill Restaurant. ¬†You all know Chuck Berry, right? ¬†He’s a St. Louis native who’s legendary for his guitar playing and song writing. ¬†One of my favorites is “Roll Over Beethoven”… ¬†Anyway, this is his restaurant. ¬†It’s a landmark, for sure but if you ever come to St. Louis and decide to visit Blueberry Hill, don’t judge our cuisine based on what you find in this restaurant! ¬†It’s pretty sucky. ¬†Only go here for the atmosphere, the music and their toy collection. ¬†As soon as we walked through the door, we were greeted by a young college kid who didn’t say hello, instead he barked, “All minors have to be outta here by 10:00 p.m.”. ¬†As IF I was going to keep my kids there doing shots of tequila! ¬†So, not only was the food bad but they weren’t even friendly. ¬†Too bad cause I’m generally a really good tipper and I LOVE to write reviews! ¬†lol The girls had fun and soaked in the music and atmosphere though. ¬†THAT was the important thing ūüôā

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(I love neon signs and city streets at night)

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(the Tivoli lobby where we spent most of our time waiting for the couple to stop their love making inside the theater… ¬†it was beautiful though¬†*NOT the love making* … ¬†I felt like we were transported back to the year 1924 when this place was new)

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(the ceiling of the Tivoli… LOVE the decor of these old city buildings)

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(my girls were a little bored and didn’t know when it would be appropriate to enter the theater room where the couple was making out… they didn’t want to interrupt)

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The big event of our first night was to catch a midnight showing of “A Place Beyond The Pines”¬†with Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper. ¬†I couldn’t WAIT to show the girls the Landmark Tivoli theater! ¬†This was a theater that made it”s debut in 1924 and it was known for it’s luxury. ¬†For the day, The Tivoli was considered one of the most luxurious theaters in the USA. ¬†It went through a period of decline in the early 90’s and eventually shut down. ¬†The owners of Blueberry Hill renovated it in the mid 90’s and restored it to it’s original state. ¬†However, it would appear to be going through another period of decline. ¬†First of all, I should tell you that the Tivoli¬†is THE place to go if you want to catch an “artsy” film. ¬†Granted, “A Place Beyond The Pines” is NOT an artsy film (the girls HAD to see this one because they’re all in major LOVE with Ryan Gosling, and REALLY…. who could blame them?). ¬†That being said, you’d think that a theater known for their showings of the “artsy film genre” would be a clean and well kept theater. ¬†Or at least I would think that to be true. ¬†Well… ¬†it was clean in the lobby. ¬†The room where we watched the movie had sticky floors and the seats were worn and appeared to have been new in the ’90’s, when it was last renovated. ¬†Upon walking through the door, we were a little shocked to find a college couple doing some pretty HEAVY “petting” and making out! ¬†The girls felt uncomfortable to have interrupted this lovely couple. ¬†Soooo… we had to wait in the lobby until the movie started. ¬†You all know me and MY big mouth! ¬†I suggested LOUDLY that they get a room, which only seemed to embarrass my girls further! ¬†lol ¬†I’ve said this several times before… SUCKS TO BE MY KID! ¬†lol ¬†However, the couple didn’t take me up on my suggestion. ¬†All in all, it was fun to stay out late and watch a midnight movie. ¬†What was scary? ¬†Walking the streets of Delmar after the bars closed down. ¬†We were followed by a man who appeared to be way TOO interested in my girls. ¬†I invited him to let me know what his intentions were. ¬†He didn’t appear to want to mess with “Mama Bear”. ¬†GOOD for him. ¬†He, apparently wasn’t TOO drunk to miss the evil gleam in my eye ūüėČ

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And this is how our night ended! ¬†2 of the crazy girls crashed just as soon as we got back to our room! ¬†I wanted to sit up and talk but THEY were tired and wouldn’t humor me! ¬†lol

Weekly Photo Challenge: Up

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Up

Okay… I know this isn’t an example of my BEST photography. I think it was taken with one of the first digital cameras I ever own and it probably cost WAY under a hundred bucks, if I remember right. No matter. This one I LOVE because this time in my life began my interest in photography.

Probably the other reason I love this is that it’s a photo of my “wayward daughter”, taken during a time where we were so close. A mirror of each other. I always knew she was going to be a free spirit. She thinks on her own and with a brain that’s SO different than anyone else. A free soul and I think I can see that in her here.

Here’s my representation of “up”. I’m looking up at her while she’s sitting on a giant granite rock at Elephant Rocks State Park in Missouri. A place we loved to go as a family, when our family was together. I miss her but I know God’s got his protective hand on her and I pray that her future always looks “up”.

A Success Story in the making

In the midst of my dark mood, attitude and opinions surrounding the American Education system, more specifically, directed at the “No Child Left Behind” Act of 2001, there is a bright spot. ¬†My brilliant niece Aubrie.

Yesterday, my niece and I took some time to celebrate what we like to call Auntie/Aubrie day. ¬†Kind of geeky, eh? ¬†Not really. ¬†Aubrie and I have virtually NO time to spend together because A.) I spend most of my time with her sisters because they’re little and need me more and B.) Aubrie is 13 and involved in 3 different sports, not to mention her rigid academic schedule. ¬†It’s kind of sad that we actually have to schedule any time we can spend together a month beforehand. We pack a lot of talking into the few hours that we have together. ¬†Right now is a good time to mention that Aubrie is not my biological niece although NOBODY would be able to tell by looking at us. ¬†She couldn’t be MORE mine if she were biological and I’ve become her favorite aunt through the years. ¬†She tells me that she feels like I treat her with respect and don’t condescend to her. ¬†It helps that I’m a good cook and like to take her shopping! ¬†lol ¬†HER words. ¬†She likes that I actually enjoy our time together.

This weekend, Aubrie is competing in the National History Day State Competition in Columbia MO at the University of Missouri Campus (Mizzou). ¬†She’s made it this far by placing fourth place in the original competition where she beat out hundreds of other kids making their presentations on the historical figure of their choice. ¬†Most of the kids her age gave speeches on past presidential leaders such as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. ¬†*yawn* – ¬†Natural and easy choices. ¬†Not Aubrie. ¬†She went out on a limb, like she always does and made her presentation based on a very strong and successful woman who rose to the top of the fashion industry. ¬†Coco Channel became iconic using her own skills and hard work ethics. ¬†She started poor and became wealthy, as we already know.

What impresses me so much about Aubrie’s presentation and choice of historical figures is that she chose a woman. ¬†Someone Aubrie can look up to and use for inspiration. ¬†We’re all strong women in our family and believe that our gender shouldn’t dictate how far we’re able to go in life, we’re in control of our own destinies. ¬†We are also very well aware that we’ll have to work harder to get there. ¬†Aubrie is well ahead of her game. ¬†Before she was allowed to prepare her speech, she was required to create a website. ¬†This may sound like a normal skill for a girl her age in other countries. ¬†Sadly, here in America, this is NOT normal for a public high school student. ¬†She’s only in 7th grade. ¬†I’m proud to show you all what her website looks like. ¬†It’s her first time creating a website and I think she did a fantastic job! ¬†Obviously, the judges of this competition shared my semi biased opinion or she wouldn’t have beat out hundreds of other students. ¬†Here’s the link to the website she created about the life of Coco Channel

My niece takes her studies VERY seriously. ¬†She worries me sometimes because she’s so serious but I have NO worries about how successful she’ll be in life. ¬†When she gives public presentation, especially when she’s competing, she pays attention where her appearance is concerned. ¬†Aubrie wants to make a professional appearance. ¬†I truly believe this helped her win the competition. ¬†Most girls her age made their presentation to judges who were college professors (potential scholarships involved for MAJOR universities) wearing yoga pants or blue jeans and tee shirts. ¬†They weren’t allowed to wear provocative clothing but a lot of these girls looked like they’d just jumped out of bed without brushing their hair. ¬†Their clothes were wrinkled and they appeared sleepy. ¬†Not MY niece. ¬†She wore a suit appropriate for an interview with a major corporation. ¬†She’s only 13 folks! ¬†lol ¬†Her hair was up in a neat bun and her make up was appropriately light. ¬†She appeared to be a powerful and intelligent woman! ¬†I was so proud. ¬†The professors actually commented on her appearance and asked the other girls to pay attention to Aubrie’s presentation of HERSELF. ¬†They used her for an example of what TO do instead of what NOT to do.

So yesterday, in preparation for her competition on Saturday, we spent our time at the nail salon of her choice. ¬†The salon where Aubrie knew the stylists would do the professional job that Aubrie expects. ¬†If they don’t do it right, she makes them do it over. ¬†Wow. ¬†I can honestly say, she makes ME feel like the child! ¬†lol

Here she is talking to a teacher for one of our public schools also getting a pedicure. ¬†Aubrie is explaining the competition to her and what she expected to win THIS time. ¬†She expects to win a substantial scholarship, by the way. ¬†I’m placing MY bet now that she’ll WIN that scholarship!

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(she cracks me up with how serious she is and how adult her mannerisms are)

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(thank the LORD Aubrie is satisfied with her “full set” and the quality of work this stylist does… lol)

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I must really rate in Aubries book because she allowed me to talk her into a more playful, age appropriate style. ¬†A style that she will have fun with even after the competition and a style that I think will also work for her professionalism. ¬†It’s not so crazy of a color that will stand out and make her appear to not be taking her job seriously.

Talking with my little “adult” niece about her plans for the future and the work that she’s doing to make her path clear, only served to make me more aware of how POOR our public school system is. ¬†Aubrie has NEVER attended public school. ¬†It’s Catholic/ Private all the way for her and it’s certainly ALREADY paid off. ¬†Her private school is already preparing the children to write quality university level research papers. ¬†They begin teaching the children to do research papers in fourth grade, by the age of 8 and 9. ¬†Aubrie tells me that her instructors are constantly explaining to the class that they’re being groomed for COLLEGE (not high school). ¬†When I was in Catholic school, they stressed how we were being groomed for high school. ¬†It’s different now and I’m glad. ¬†Guess when our PUBLIC schools focus on college level work? ¬†Tenth grade. ¬†My daughter gave me the “Mom is just crazy” look when I shared my opinion on how important it is to teach our children how to create a proper college level research paper. ¬†In another related point, do you know that these public school kids don’t know how to address an envelope? ¬†They tell me that it’s not important anymore in today’s age of technology. ¬†It just seems so simple to me and common sense. ¬†Don’t they still NEED to know how to address an envelope? ¬†Or the proper way to write a letter, be it business or personal? ¬†They SURE know how to “Tweet” and know ALL the “texting” language.

I’m feeling EXTREMELY guilty that I’m not financially able to provide the right kind of education for my daughter. ¬†Aubrie’s younger, yet she’s so much more prepared for the real world. ¬†She’s been lead to already know the direction she wants her life to go in. ¬†My daughter hasn’t been taught to give it another thought. ¬†THAT is my fault. ¬†I can’t leave it all up to the school system especially since I’m fully aware it’s a FAILING school system and has been since 2001, when the “No Child Left Behind Act” was passed. ¬†My back’s against the wall and I’m running out of time here! ¬†I asked my daughter to consider switching schools. ¬†I realize the choice is not hers but I ‘d feel a whole lot better if she’d share my views for her life! ¬†She’s only 14 and in 9th grade. ¬†She’s got 3 more years of high school so is it too late? ¬†I don’t think so but my daughter actually said these words to me, “Mom, it’s too late for me”. ¬†She’s not worried about her social life and losing her friends. ¬†She just actually believes that she’s not capable of learning because she’s also very aware that she’s not being taught.

To give you an example of why my daughter believes she’s not being educated, I’ll tell you what happened the other day with her Science test. ¬†She’s always (in previous years) been very good in Science. ¬†Once she hit 9th grade, this changed. ¬†Her teacher almost isn’t even present. ¬†He does bother to lecture or do experiments. ¬†He tells them to read their book and if they don’t understand something, he tells them to read it again, never bothering to explain. ¬†He gets annoyed. ¬†My daughter told him that she wasn’t ready to take the test because she only got 2 out of 10 questions right on the quiz. ¬†She didn’t even know why she got those questions wrong and she explained this to her instructor. ¬†He told her to sit down and he actually GAVE her the answers for the test. ¬†I’m pretty sure we all remember what used to happen to US if we were caught stealing the teacher’s answers, or if we “copied” off our “neighbor”, right? ¬†This teacher actually GAVE her the answers because he knew it didn’t matter if she knew the subject matter. ¬†She was going to pass because NOBODY fails anymore! ¬†The rest of the class can’t move ahead if even ONE person fails so he gave her the answers in an effort to make himself appear to be a successful teacher. ¬†It looks bad on the teacher if one child doesn’t know the material and for THIS reason (NCLB act) ALL the children are forced to be on the same level. ¬†For THAT matter, they’re even integrating Autistic and otherwise learning disabled children into a class of “normal”, learning abled children. ¬†They’re ALL being taught the same way. ¬†If there’s an Autistic child who’s making a lot of noise in class, he’s allowed to keep distracting the other kids and there’s NOTHING an instructor can do about it. ¬†TRUST me, my sympathy doesn’t only lie with our children. ¬†What is a teacher supposed to do to gain control of their class and keep their students focused? ¬†It’s becoming more clear, every year that passes SINCE 2001, that there’s NO point in our instructors caring. ¬†SO sad. ¬†Occasionally, we’ll have a rogue teacher who actually takes pride in the fact that they’re forming our children’s future. ¬†They know they may even get into trouble for not focusing ENOUGH time to preparing our kids for one federal test or another. ¬†This rare “rogue” educator will actually spend TIME discussing and teaching a subject. ¬†I need to stress how very rare this is though.

But this isn’t the point of this post. ¬†You all know me by now, I get distracted and one thought leads to another, which leads to another and on and on we go! ¬†lol ¬†My point was to brag about my niece and to pay attention to what she and her educators are doing right. ¬†My point is to pay specific attention to the difference between our public school system and the private school system. ¬†The differences between the poor and the rich, although there is a DRASTIC difference between our rural area schools and the wealthy public schools in the better suburbs. ¬†I’m SO proud of my sister-in-law for making education a priority for her children! ¬†I’d always believed education was a priority for MY children as well. ¬†However, now that I’m being honest, I can see my tendency toward taking the “lazy” route. ¬†I’d been reading for years, about the effects of the NCLB act on our youth. ¬†I didn’t want to believe it though and tried to make myself accept that it just takes time to iron out the rough edges of any new program. ¬†MY children should have been made a priority, somehow. ¬†I shouldn’t have gambled on their futures and I should have sacrificed more to give them the education that they deserve. ¬†I made vacations and our quality of life our priority instead.

It’s NOT too late though. ¬†I’m done accepting less than mediocre for my daughter. ¬†I’ve got to either talk with the scholarship program St. Pius and make arrangements for her to attend, if she’ll even be able to test into their school. ¬†OR, here’s my other option. ¬†I can do what has been recommended to me BY several educators and allow my daughter to take the high school equivalency test (GED). ¬†There’s not ONE bit of difference here, anymore, between a GED and an actual 4 year high school diploma. ¬†Many parents have now started taking the advice to take their children out of high school and having them begin college courses so that they can earn college credits. ¬†Our educators tell us (in private and off the record) that to send our children to high school is equivalent to sending them to be “babysat” for 8 hours a day. ¬†There used to be at LEAST a social reason to attend high school. ¬†In present days, it’s becoming only negative social development. ¬†Why do I need a babysitter? ¬†I don’t and she should have the same advantages as my niece has. ¬†I’m ashamed and shocked when I think of how much she’s actually REGRESSED since grade school. ¬†Her grades used to reflect a college level knowledge of almost every subject. ¬†Now she tests at a grade school level. ¬†The only reason she’s passing Science at all is because the teacher provides the answers for her. ¬†Don’t think I haven’t tried speaking with the proper school officials. ¬†They keep giving me the same answers and even IF I can get them to care, their hands are tied due to the No Child Left Behind Act. ¬†They have to follow the rules if they’re to receive federal funding.

I want MY daughter to be a success story also. ¬†Naturally she already is in MY book. ¬†She was born with an amazing mind and is every BIT as intelligent as my niece is. ¬†She just hasn’t been given the same advantages and THAT’S been my responsibility all along. ¬†We need to make our children’s futures our priority. ¬†After all, they’re going to be leading this world one day. ¬†If our government doesn’t care and won’t do anything about it, then the responsibility lies solely on us, as parents. ¬†I think it’s time, folks. ¬†It’s probably over time. ¬†We should have paid more attention to this as citizens of the once great USA.

I’m VERY interested in hearing your thoughts and opinions. ¬†DO any of you have a story to share about how our schools have affected (good OR bad) your own children? ¬†What would you do? ¬†Or do you have any ideas about how we, as a nation can change this? ¬†We NEED to care. ¬†Even if you don’t have children now. ¬†This country will be run, decisions will be made by these children who AREN’T being educated. ¬†Who then will run our country? ¬†Let me give you a hint. ¬†It WON’T be the “people”. ¬†I believe they may be doing it this way so that we’ll all become more ignorant. ¬†We’ll care even less than we do now (if that’s possible) and eventually our officials won’t be “elected”. ¬†We’ll have dictators because we won’t be ABLE to make educated decisions. ¬†Is this what they want? ¬†It sure makes you think, doesn’t it?

My Mother-in-law and how she shows me unconditional love…

One of the best things that happened to me a few days ago, on my birthday, was receiving a birthday card from my Mother-in-law. ¬†Most years she forgets to send out cards so I’m ALWAYS honored when I go to the mailbox and see her handwriting on the outside of an envelope. ¬†I’ve got to give her credit though because she’s a whole lot better about remembering than I am! ¬†I’m ashamed to admit that I truly suck at making a day special for my loved ones. ¬†The people living in my house reap the rewards but those that don’t live here rarely get remembered.

The point of the post isn’t to talk about remembering though. ¬†It’s to tell you how I’ve been SO blessed by my husband’s family. ¬†You all know by now, what MY family is like. ¬†I don’t know what it’s like to have a close family or what it’s like to truly be loved by a family. ¬†I know what it’s like to be “judged” and “used” by my family. ¬†It was a shock when I was shown unconditional love by a family who didn’t have to show me love.

First of all, I want to tell you what the card said from my Mother-in-law…

“Any woman can be a daughter-in-law.

But it takes a certain spirit,

an openness,and generosity of heart

to make the “in-law” part

drop away,

leaving that comfortable word

“daughter”.

You’re a caring person…

loving wife…

giving mother…

and your presence

in the life of our family

is simply a gift. ¬†“

Dang! ¬†That made me cry. ¬†I don’t even know how to accept love or compliments! ¬†I guess it hit me so hard because my own mother doesn’t feel the same way AND I know that Katherine (Mother-in-law) really feels this way.

She didn’t have to accept me the way she did. ¬†Ben’s family had gone through the horror of his 3 other marriages before I arrived. ¬†They’d “accepted” every one of these former wives, even when they knew they’d never last. ¬†Ben had a definite “history” when it came to women, that’s for sure. ¬†But that’s a post for another day! ¬†I’ll save THAT for when he makes me mad ūüėČ ¬†lol ¬†I need to tell you that these people are Christian’s of the Southern Baptist type. ¬†They scared me and that’s NO joke! ¬†I’m Catholic and it’s no secret that Baptists don’t like Catholics. ¬†These people actually READ the bible and LIKE the bible. ¬†Except for religion class in Catholic school (a million years ago), I’d never read even part of the bible. ¬†Ben’s family doesn’t just go to church on Sunday morning but Sunday night and Wednesday nights. ¬†Their recreational activities revolve around church. ¬†Mine never have. ¬†They’re also very “Southern” people who didn’t really know or trust “Yankee’s” such as they think I am! ¬†lol ¬†They’re the type of people who say “Well, bless her heart”, in the sweetest most loving way. ¬†It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized that Southern people say this only when they think you’ve done something really stupid and they’re too kind to call you out on it.

When I tell you about Ben’s Christian family, you might imagine people who don’t live what they preach. ¬†Christians get a bad rap for being hypocrites but not THESE people and most especially NOT his mother! ¬†She lives what she preaches and believes. ¬†Only she doesn’t preach at all. ¬†She leads by example. ¬†She very quietly sits and reads her bible and only talks about it if you ask her about it. ¬†She’ll mention something in passing but doesn’t shove it down your throat. ¬†She’s so kind and loving that you can actually FEEL her love as soon as you get out of the car to hug her. ¬†I’ve never been around anyone like this. ¬†She believes in being a submissive wife. ¬†It’s no secret that I DO NOT believe that I should EVER be submissive to ANYONE, but most especially my husband, her son. ¬†I could go on and on.

Okay, you can imagine the amount of adjustment my new Texas family had to go through and that I had to go through for a few years. ¬†Although, they never let me see that they were having to adjust to me. ¬†I’m loud and bossy and sarcastic. ¬†I say words like “God” when I get mad (that’s a very bad word to them) and I call people “dumb asses”. ¬†They probably dropped to their knees at night in prayer over the things I’ve said and did! ¬†They only showed the world how proud they were of me though. ¬†I have ONLY ever been shown love by my mother-in-law. ¬†She’s cried with me and laughed with me. ¬†She’s felt my losses as if they were her own and she’s shared her thoughts and feelings with me.

Most of all, she’s treated my children as if they were her own grandchildren. ¬†I wasn’t expecting that and neither were my kids. ¬†We knew they’d TREAT my children with love and respect but we just weren’t prepared for them to actually LOVE them. ¬†My girls feel closer to Katherine than they do their own biological grandparents.

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(Here’s one of my daughters snuggling in Memaw’s bed with “Ming-Shoe” the doll that Katherine made for her. ¬†Julia feels safe and comfy in Memaw’s bed and I love that!)

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(she just sits, ready to give love to all her little one’s no matter their age)

Most of the time I spend in Texas, Katherine allows me to run her house the way I do everywhere I go. ¬†You know the Mother-in-law on the sit com “Everybody Loves Raymond” right? ¬†That’s how I expect mother-in-laws to be but not Katherine. ¬†She’s happy to sit and read a book while I destroy her kitchen. ¬†And TRUST me, I DO know how to destroy a kitchen. ¬†She’s so gracious and never imposes her will on me. ¬†In fact, I’m pretty sure I impose my will on her. ¬†She’s not used to a whole lot of commotion and when I’m there, I bring my chaotic life crashing into her’s. ¬†I’ll never forget the time she asked me if she could “help” in the kitchen. ¬†Of course, I thought I was being considerate and polite when I told of “of COURSE you CAN’T help in the kitchen”. ¬†I just wanted her to sit there and rest. ¬†I felt like I didn’t want her to go through any trouble when my family was there. ¬†For YEARS I did this. ¬†Finally, a few years ago, she so softly, and kindly explained to me that sometimes a mother wants to feel wanted and needed. ¬†We live over 10 hours away from her and she never gets to be a “mom”. ¬†Sometimes she likes to show US how much she loves us. ¬†Wow! ¬†She didn’t want me to be ashamed because she’d NEVER want anyone to feel shame BUT I was SO ashamed. ¬†I learned to step out of the way and allow her to be the mom when she wants to be the mom.

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(here’s me not only taking over her kitchen but taking over her kitchen AND even wearing her apron! ¬†lol)

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(Another picture of the mess I make in her kitchen but THIS time I had some help from my little niece Selah!)

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(here I am even taking over her Christmas tree… ¬†Geeze, I’m just so BOSSY! ¬†lol)

Like I’ve already said, my Mother-in-law teaches by example. ¬†She rarely needs words. ¬†She’s watched, through the years, as I’ve ignorantly allowed my children to get themselves into trouble. ¬†I was a LOT more lenient than she would have been but I had more faith in my girls than I should have. ¬†I allowed one of my daughters to spend WAY too much time with some boys she met and became friends with in Texas. ¬†They were friends of the family’s so I felt like it would be okay. ¬†It got to the point where she was never home for dinner and she would only come in once a day to say hello to Memaw and GG (Katherine’s mother). ¬†I didn’t want to be too strict with my daughter and I wanted her to have fun too so I allowed her to spend the night camping with these friends and family. ¬†I could tell that it was bothering Katherine (mine and my daughter’s actions were not only improper but just down right rude) so I began to make my daughter stay home more often. ¬†After all, we were only there for a week or two. ¬†Later, we found out that my daughter was doing things that I won’t mention here. ¬†Point being that Katherine knew she was in trouble and instead of imposing her opinions or judgments ¬†on me, she quietly let me know that I was being too lenient by her actions. ¬†She prayed for my daughter and cried when she learned that my daughter was hurt and was going down the wrong road. ¬†She cried real tears like she would do for her own biological granddaughter. ¬†I still can’t get over that.

Over last summer, when I was hospitalized in ICU, my husband called his family and I guess told them that I wasn’t going to make it. ¬†They’ve been in this rodeo more than once with me and have never made the drive to St. Louis to come to the hospital. ¬†I didn’t expect them to this time either because Katherine is responsible for taking care of her 93 year old mother. ¬†Besides the fact that her OWN health isn’t great. ¬†The trip is very hard on them and impossible now for GG. ¬†My sister-in-law told me that Katherine prayed about it and felt like God was telling her to “go now”. ¬†They immediately packed the family up and made the hard drive with 2 small children and 3 adults JUST to see me one more time. ¬†I don’t think they expected me to be conscious but when they walked into my hospital room, I was awake and able to speak. ¬†I believe I was hanging on because my husband told me that I needed to hang on just a little while longer to see “Mom”. ¬†I remember feeling SO much love radiating from Katherine when she walked through that door! ¬†It made me WANT to get better for her. ¬†I promised her that it wasn’t my time yet and that God was good and I was sure I was going to live. ¬†Actually, I was more worried about her making that trip and then turning around and needing to go home the very next day. ¬†SHE wasn’t though. ¬†She was there for me, to hug me and to hold my hand and pray, in person, over me. ¬†The way a REAL mother would.

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(Katherine lovingly does her mother’s hair for church so that GG can feel beautiful too.)

I feel unworthy to call Katherine “Mom”. ¬†I know she wants me to and she certainly deserves the title… ¬†but something inside me won’t let me most days. ¬†I feel like to be her “daughter” , I should be a whole lot more deserving or full of grace. ¬†I’m getting better about it but I’ve been in the family for 12 years. ¬†Today, instead of feeling unworthy, I just want to take a second to thank God for this woman who has shown my family and I so much love. ¬†I’m smart enough to recognize that’s it’s not very often that a wife can brag about the fact that they actually LIKE their mother-in-law. ¬†I don’t just LOVE her, I respect her and actually LIKE her. ¬†Thank you God for this woman. ¬†Because of her, I know the love of a real mother and I am blessed.

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(she loves us all like we were her very own)

A MAJOR rant and a happy ending :-)

What a CRAZY weekend and week, for that matter! ¬†I’m getting TOO freaking old for this, really. ¬†lol ¬†Today, I talked to somebody about my brother, who is a Leo. ¬†For those of you who aren’t familiar with the personality traits of a Leo, they’re just a tad self centered. ¬†They’re STRONG and funny, but yes, the world as they see it, should ALWAYS revolve around them. ¬†My brother came from the womb this way and he received many an a$$ kicking from me when he was little. ¬†I should be ashamed, but I’m not.

This weekend, my brother suggested we have a birthday dinner for me. ¬†He planned this with my husband. ¬†I have to give little brother credit for even caring at all because I can’t remember a single birthday where he actually did anything for me. ¬†Not that I mind… my birthday’s were something I’d like to forget, mostly because the brother that I shared every birthday with is gone. ¬†I just wish they would come and go quietly, really. ¬†Anyway, little brother planned a dinner. ¬†You’d think it would be at HIS house right? ¬†Nope. ¬†He wanted to have the dinner at MY house so that my hubby can grill. ¬†Little brother was going to provide the meat to be grilled but we had to do the sides. ¬†He DID offer to HELP Hubby grill.

First of all, you know what having company means, right? ¬†I have to clean. ¬†The burden of cleaning and getting the house ready for company fell on me and my daughter. ¬†I’m sure Hubby would have done it if I’d asked but he’s not good about details. ¬†SO, I cleaned AND I made part of the dinner. ¬†Once little brother arrived, he was “too sick” to help with anything. Hubby did it all while Little Brother went and laid down in my bed. ¬†He had a headache and he was SURE that nobody in the world ever suffered from a headache such as he had. ¬†Seriously. ¬†I told him I understand headaches because I suffer from migraines but he told me that he knew I wouldn’t be able to LIVE with the kind of pain he suffered from. ¬†Hmmm… how quickly he forgets that I have MANY a scar since I’ve been cut from my neck down to my belly button. ¬†THAT’S nowhere near the pain Little Brother was having though. ¬†So, I left Little Pumpkin to sleep in my bed while we got the food ready.

You might be interested to know what my birthday present was? ¬†Okay, I’ll tell you. ¬†My brother allowed me to take care of his baby daughters overnight and all the next day. ¬†Thank GOD Hubby, Daughter and her friend helped me with this because I, myself, felt like complete crap. ¬†Although, I’m sure my pain couldn’t compare to Little Brother’s. ¬†I love my nieces, you all know I do. ¬†I love them like they’re my own kids and why shouldn’t I? ¬†They spend more than 2/3 of their life with me! ¬†lol ¬†It’s just that I’m tired. ¬†And one of my nieces is possessed by the devil. ¬†No joke. ¬†I love her but she’s got some serious problems! ¬†Far be it from ME to mention that to Little Brother because his progeny are perfect, just like him. ¬†Oh and he really feels that if he tells me enough how I’m privileged to be able to watch them (because he won’t allow anyone else to take care of the little angels), I’ll look at it as my most honored privilege. ¬†Only it’s my BIRTHDAY… so can’t I get a pass at least for this week? ¬†Nope, I can not.

Little brother and his wife wanted/needed some time alone Saturday night so my family took care of my nieces. ¬†3 of them. ¬†Granted, the oldest one is a PLEASURE and no trouble at all. ¬†The baby is also an angel, but you know how much time babies take, right? ¬†Even the BEST baby is a handful! ¬†lol ¬†I could have said no, but I recognized that they don’t have time together (brother and wife). ¬†They’re in their 40’s, like me and they get tired too. ¬†So, just like he knew I would, I felt sorry for them and tried to FIX things. ¬†So how did Little Brother and his wife spend their night together? ¬†Little Brother was too sick to pay attention to his wife so he moaned and groaned and complained while she quietly read a book. ¬†Wow. ¬†What a waste. ¬†Can’t he just fake it and TRY to act like he wasn’t the center of the universe? ¬†It took SO much for my sister in law to rearrange her schedule just to be ABLE to spend an evening with her husband. ¬†This was an evening he said he desperately needed with her. ¬†I guess it was all good for him because she got the opportunity to dote on him and be concerned with his sicknesses. ¬†She must be a saint. ¬†I’d have killed him.

Yesterday, Sunday, the little angels were supposed to go home by noon. ¬†They did NOT. ¬†After noon, little brother called to tell me that his wife would be tied up at their oldest daughter’s tournaments until 5:00 p.m. ¬†Did I want him to come and pick the kids up? ¬†HELL YES, I wanted him to come right then! ¬†Did he? ¬†Nope. ¬†He called his wife and asked her to leave the tournament, over an hour away, and come pick her kids up. ¬†She couldn’t leave so the kids stayed here until after 5:00. ¬†Little Brother had to go to the dump to empty trash and he actually said that he was going to be “stuck” with his kids for this entire week so he couldn’t come get them. ¬†He’s a SAHD. ¬†He doesn’t much like his role as Mr. Mom. ¬†REALLY? ¬†His poor wife works over 12 hours a day and still has to take care of the house and her kids when she gets home. ¬†She NEVER has a break but my precious little brother needs a break. ¬†Seriously, the kids are with me more than half the week, most weeks. ¬†I guess I just thought that I would be exempt from having to watch the little darlings on my birthday.

Done with rant… kind of. ¬†We made the best of the weekend, still. ¬†I DO enjoy my nieces (when I’m feeling good). ¬†I do NOT enjoy the devil that resides inside my 4 year old niece. ¬†Luckily, Hubby was at home to restrain her from hurting herself this weekend. ¬†She went into a RAGE, growling at us and slobbering because Hubby made her put a shirt on to go outside. ¬†She feels like she should be naked all the time. ¬†That would be fine with me if not for the fact that at 4, she’s getting a little too old and I don’t want some pervert driving by to look at her “business”. ¬†lol ¬†Hubby doesn’t “lose” it often, he’s got the patience of a saint. ¬†However, even though he doesn’t believe in spankings, he had to administer one yesterday. ¬†AND hold her so that she didn’t bang her head (on purpose) on the furniture. ¬†I really can’t even describe her tantrums because I’ve never seen anything like them before.

Things DID settle down after the restraining incident and Precious Jr. became my Hubby’s best friend! ¬†lol ¬†Here they are cleaning up the playhouse.

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(this old playhouse was one we built for my 28 year old daughter when she was 4! ¬†My youngest daughter and her friend ghettofied it with paint a few years ago. ¬†Ignore the paint. Besides Hubby and Esme’ are going to paint it white and also make a sign that says “Esme’s Playhouse ūüôā )

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Here’s my teenage munchkin and her bff helping to keep the baby occupied so that I could do my birthday dishes. ¬†lol ¬†These kids were a LIFE saver! ¬†Eventually, my daughter’s bff took off because she couldn’t take it anymore. ¬†lmao

Once the babies left, we all got the heck out of Dodge and went to Dairy Queen! ¬†There’s not much that ice cream doesn’t fix, right? ¬†We ended the day with lots of laughs and fun and yumminess ūüôā ¬†All is good again at my house!

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(Hubby contemplating the Oreo Blizzard that will be coming his way soon)

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Hannah the bff, enjoying her ice cream, maybe a little TOO much! ¬†lmao ¬†BTW… she’d KILL me if she knew I posted this pic ūüėČ ¬†You can see that my daughter didn’t have much time this weekend to take care of her own very special hair needs? ¬†hehehe

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Life is good again and everything’s fixed, all because of a little ice cream ūüôā

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Hmmm…. maybe I should pay attention to my OWN hair and grooming needs? ¬†Naw. ¬†I didn’t give two $hi*$ about who was looking at me. ¬†Sometimes, you just have to NOT care and enjoy your ice cream ūüôā

Hope you all had a spectacular weekend?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Change

Weekly Photo Challenge:  Change

Life as she knew it changed on the day we welcomed her baby sister into this world!

My poor little niece Esme was used to having ALL the attention to herself and really believed that she was the center of everyone’s heart until the pesky day that her baby sister made her debut! lol Can you see, by the look on her face, that her world is about to change? This was June 4, 2012. The change has not fared well for poor Esme but I believe that there’s hope and she’ll learn to adjust before she turns 18! lol PLEASE God, let there be hope!

This quote really could have been written for Esme’. She follows NOBODY’S rules and has no respect for authority. I guess that can be a good thing if channeled in the right way and TRUST me, we’re ALL working on it. It really does take a village to raise a child in the way she should go and she’s got the love and attention of not only her parents and older sisters, but her extended family. Most especially her old doting Auntie / Godmother Michelle ūüėČ Maybe she’ll be the next Steve Jobs?

‚ÄúHere’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.‚ÄĚ
‚Äē Apple Inc.