Saturday, November 6, 2010

Quieting the Monkey Mind

I am very good at wasting time, but I am horrible at "doing nothing". Big difference.

This morning I found myself at a combined 3 hour yoga class.  Now for some of you, this may be a normal occurence in your life.  Not for yours truly.  I find that I make excuses to not carve out that essential time for myself.  Truth be told, I really enjoy my day to day, and it's not until I do something like this that I realize how much I really needed it.

So I looked forward to this morning and the Yin Yoga with Great Expectations.

Yin Yoga practice involves holding poses for a longer time, and going within the mind.  My dear friend Julie quipped that this is very challenging, and the first time that she did it, Yin kinda drove her nuts.  (Julie is a wonderful yoga teacher.)

My mind has a tendency to drive me nuts because I have not taken the proper time to train it to BE QUIET!

So, for this post, I thought I would share with you a direct transcript of my mind during Yin Yoga:

that is so cool that i am here...tony really should get his brakes fixed on his car.  i can't believe that he drives that....oh!...listening...listening...she really explains things beautifully! this is fun this is fun this is fun...downward dog...ouch!  why does my left calf hurt?  maybe because i haven't run since i got sick-shoot i forgot to take my probiotic this morning!  okay, holding a pose...count like a zen master 1 in, 2 out three in, four...i am hungry!  good thing i had coffee though...what am i doing shhhhh!! okay, 1 in, 2 out, 3 in...switch legs!  on it...1 in, 2 out, 3 feet are kinda cold...can't really put socks on right now...I can't forget to give Julie her daughter's socks back...oh this stretch feels really good!  man,.these yoga pants are lint magnets STOP!! okay, 1 in...2 out...3 in...4 out...this feels so good....i should do this like, 3 times a week!  yeah right Jessica, how is that going to work?  you work like 4 nights a i work next wednesday?  STOP!  1 in...2 out...3 in...4 out...downward dog...blossoming butt!  ha...that's funny...k, the next...pose...ahhhh....1 in...2 out...3 in...4 out...i want some of that chocolate in the other room...5 in....6 out...I wonder what we are going to do tonight?  7 in...8 out...9 in...10 out...ssshhhhhhhh...1 in...2 out...Dominic is reading at church tomorrow!  I have to print that..SSSSHHHHHHHH! okay...3 in...4 out...5 in....6 out...7 in...8 out...9 in...10 out...this is good...1 in...2 out...3 in...4 out...5 in....6 out...7 in...8 out...9 in...10 out....................okay...letting go into the pose......1 in...2 out...3 in...4 out...5 in....6 out...7 in...8 out...9 in...10 out....................i am doing it!  shoot, I just blew it by doing that...1 in...2 out...3 in...4 out...5 in....6 out...7 in...8 out...9 in...10 out....................aaaahhhhhhhhhhhh1 in...2 out...3 in...4 out...5 in....6 out...7 in...8 out...9 in...10 out....................1 in...2 out...3 in...4 out...5 in....6 out...7 in...8 out...9 in...10 out....................1 in...2 out...3 in...4 out...5 in....6 out...7 in...8 out...9 in...10 out....................1 in...2 out...3 in...4 out...5 in....6 out...7 in...8 out...9 in...10 out....................
i hope you all get a chance to "quiet your monkey mind" today.
Thanks Julie :)

Friday, September 17, 2010

What's the point?

I love how my world gets to revolve around the pursuit of knowledge, and in the background, I continuously question for what purpose?

When I was in my last semester of student teaching, I remember our TA always asking us to question why we were teaching, what we were teaching, and how we were teaching.  I became so frustrated with him because his questioning was not applicable to my 'here and now'.  That kind of thinking served no point for the student teacher...I remember challenging him, saying something like 'he was asking us to question how we ran before we could even walk.'  I just wanted to know how to make a bunch of 17 year olds listen to me and hopefully learn something.

Now I get it.  I am in a place and time where that makes sense.  I taught high school for six years.  I taught preschool movement classes for a year (somedays, toddlers are just like sophomores, and vice versa).  I was the teen director at our YMCA.  Now, I work at a technical college, helping adults to get their GED or HSED. 

All of this experience truly leads me to 'what's the point?'  I see the adults I work with struggle with finding the area of a triangle, both of us knowing, for a fact this time, that they will never again use this in the real world.  Is it the struggle that earns you the right to say that you graduated from high school?
As adults, they are still cramming and regurgitating for a piece of paper, fulling knowing the futility of the exercise. 

 I am fortunate enough to home school our two kiddos.  Seeing what ultimately is supposed to be the outcome of a high school education gives me a sneak peek of what traditional schooling holds out there for the basic requirements to send one out into the world.
The most precious thing about my children's learning is their love of learning, without labeling it.  Kind of Taoist...don't label it, categorize it; it just is what it is.

Now I find myself doing the delicate tightrope walk of not only maintaining that love of learning, but balancing it with life, liberty, and the pursuit of property.  (Sorry, we're studying the Constitution.)

It would be criminal for me to crush their spirits.  Somewhere, that happened to every single adult that I work with at MPTC.  I hear how they hate to read, hate math, what's the point?

Leads me to even more questions, what, ultimately is the point?  Now that my children and I can walk together, I am questioning, only 15 years after student teaching, how can we run together.  And I don't want them to ever have a finish line...

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Back to School

I ended up taking the summer off from blogging, didn't mean to, but as the air grows cooler, I find myself back in an academic frame of mind.  (Today it's in the mid-80's in Wisconsin, but it was cooler before, summer's hanging on, and that's okay with me.)

It's so cliche to say that summer "flew by", but there is something about unplanned days that unfold to include watermelon, swimming, and late nights of Harry Potter movies  that just make the sand go through the glass at an alarming rate.

I usually cringe at the end of summer, but since we started home schooling, it's another exciting phase of our lives. 
I don't mind the shift to a routine after lackadaisical summer, but it's because I have one that I appreciate the other. 
We officially started our school last Monday.  Our recent family trip to Washington DC encouraged us to up the ante.  I found it fascinating to see how our founding fathers loved to learn.  How in the Smithsonian's exhibit about Lincoln, it said he was "home schooled".  Now I am not naive; I know that he was in a log cabin, and he probably did not home school by choice, but his passion for learning never wained.  Walking through Jefferson's library in the Library of Congress, here was a man whose quest and purpose in life was to learn everything about everything. 
Side note, at a store yesterday, I saw all of those inane shirts for kids that say things about how they would rather be playing video games as opposed to doing homework...wonder how that follows the dreams our founders had for this nation....

So, our family found inspiration in the largest sense this summer...the kids have lofty goals for themselves, and Tony and I are here to help them along the way.  Why would anyone sell their children short with curtailing their possiblities?  Cherry Street school is now in session...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

I came to a very cool realization today.  My children are known quantities at the local library and the locally owned book store.  Dominic and Sophia are familiar faces in places that bring both joy and knowledge.

It gives me great satisfaction to see my seven year old son greet members of his community with a smile, to see his ease at getting in line, alone, to ask a question.  My kiddos have no problem with asking questions.  (When I asked a question at a cooking demo this past weekend, my husband remarked, 'so that's where they get it from...')
I love that they feel that they own a voice within their community.  They have their own individual identity in the eyes of adults and kids alike. 

Both Dominic and Sophia have become friends in their own right with people at the book store and library.  Their friends, adults, know what book series the kids love, enough to recommend other books and authors.  Today, at the bookstore, Sophia struck up a conversation with a young girl about a favorite author.  To watch the ease with which these two girls, complete strangers, developed a rapport together, it really filled my heart.  Watching the ease of their social interactions is especially fufilling to me because I worried that our kids wouldn't be 'socialized' properly with our choice to homeschool.  Now I can just laugh at the ridiculousness of that...

A man approached Dominic at the library, or I should say he approached the top of Dom's head as it was buried in a book.  "You like reading?  I think it's boring."  The man, in his futile effort to be "cool" with a kid, obviously picked the wrong one.  No worries though, Dominic didn't hear him; he was too busy reading.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Summer Daze

Summer reminds me why I love Wisconsin; it's February that makes me quickly forget.  Wisconsin people are so wonderfully kind all year round, as a gross generalization, but in summer, it's as if we are all children again.

Today the family, myself included, went to a book festival.  I have to say it warms my heart that my kiddos get as excited about books as they do ice cream, and that is pretty excited. (sidethought-what if a small, white truck drove around the 'hood, playing obnoxiously loud music and handing out books?  I think Dominic would seriously spontaneously combust)

ANYway, some of you might remember that I was bestowed with the great honor of being one of the "Lousiest Chefs in SE Wisconsin".
(Dom still calls it the 'dirtiest chef', which sounds really bad)
Well, today,that 'Lousy Chef' was front row at the cooking demos thank you very much!  Wisconsin Veggies and Herbs are now my friends!  I got this really groovy book too:

Nancy Stohs, the wonderful reporter that chronicled the 'before' and 'after' of the Lousy Chefs, namely myself and a gentleman named George, kindly warned me that there could be a follow up down the road to see my progress, or lack thereof.
Well, we now belong to a CSA, Wellspring,, we have our own garden, and I even made the famous Bartollotta's Spinach lasagna for two other families.  If all else fails, I will heavily bribe my family when we get the call...:)

Just imagine what I can do when our oven gets fixed!  (that is a tale for a different time)

Final thought-the peeps and I went camping at Mauthe Lake last weekend and had a fantastic time with many friends.  That has always been a dream of mine, to go camping with the kids, beyond the backyard.  To wake up to blue sky and majestic pine trees, what a gift. 

Thanks for reading, and I wish you joyous summer days in tents, gardens, hammocks, and loving arms. 
Be well!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Home Alone

My kiddos are at a sleepover, Tony is doing the soccer thing until later tonight, so unless you count 2 Weims,


But in case you are a serial killer, my Weims are trained to kill.

If you are wondering why this is a big deal, well, I guess it's because it doesn't happen all that often, and that is okay with me.  Does that make me a better mom than someone who goes out more?  No.  Does that make me weird?  No.  It is what it is.

It's always a delicate balancing act isn't it, taking care of people while taking care of oneself.  I am reading an interesting book, raising HAPPINESS by Christine Carter Ph.D.

The first chapter is called "Put on your own oxygen mask first" and starts with the following quote from Carl Jung: "Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically...on children that the unlived life of a parent."

Wow.  I guess I am trying to be there for my peeps, including my dashing hubby, while at the same time I am trying to be there for myself, just like everyone else.  (Quote from Yoda now in my head: "Do or do not; there is no try." Yoda kinda looks like Jung...)


I am doing well with oxygen.  I really feel like I am at a time in my life where I have stronger bonds with other women than I have ever had.  I value those friendships tremendously.  I am at the point too where I don't need a lot of acquaintances.  It's easy to tell if I am on the same wavelength as someone else or not.  If not, no worries, but for others, it's as if we are of the same karass (Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle) the moment we meet.

I love my husband more everyday.  Sometimes, I feel as if I am just playing house with my best friend.  These children in our house are now full blown individuals with passions, moods, attitudes of their very own.  And we made them.  How crazy is that?  It's pretty amazing that I get to spend time with these people.  I have to remind myself from time to time that they are lucky to be spending time with me too.  :)

The world would be a happier place if we were less concerned about everyone else, in terms of judging or gossiping, and more concerned with ourselves and what we bring to the table.  I love the quote from the recently passed John Wooden:

"Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are."

And now, since you are not judging me, I am going to eat some cookie dough and go for a run, in that order.

Be well.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sweet Life

"What do you miss most about being 5 years old?"

Rainn Wilson asks this question on his website

I can only reason that at the heart of this question must be that whatever we answer, why can't we have that back as an adult? 

There is that joke about the adult and the kid in the candy store.  The kid wants all of the candy, but doesn't have the money.  The adult says sarcastically, "The sad thing is kid, when you have all the money, you don't want all the candy."

What do you miss most about being 5 years old?  What's stopping you from being that way again?

Sunday, May 9, 2010


This weekend our family went to the WPA convention at UW-Oshkosh.  (WPA-Wisconsin Parents' Association, is a homeschooling group.)  Last year I went with a friend and left Tony and the kiddos at home.  This year, the four of us went as a family.

WPA kind of feels like camp to me.  You know how at a summer camp, you can 'let your hair down' and just be yourself?  Here we are, with hundreds of other homeschoolers, at camp.  There is a common understanding that is woven through our interactions.  You see many adopted children, many smiling faces, many multigenerational groups, teenagers hugging their parents in public, a lot of babies in slings, and a ton of laughter and energy (except maybe in line at the used book sale at 6:45 AM, pre-coffee).

My first year at the convention, the thing that made the biggest impression on me, outside of all of the workshops, was how the children said 'hello' to the adults when passing by.  No big deal right?  But it is.  Again this year, this simple act of greeting by someone younger than me that I did not know made such an impact.  Whether it was a 4 year old, or a teen, when walking by, children make eye contact with you as an adult and say, 'hello!'.  Wild.

As someone who works with teens, this is not all that common.  When I say hello to teens in the Y, they look surprised that I would even greet them, let alone "see" them, if I am not yelling at them for something.  Quite often, we as adults, prefer to look the other way when walking past a group of teenagers.  And for some reason, the social fabric of the teen world would get them days if not months of teasing if they broke that unwritten code of "Don't look, don't talk" to an adult passerby, or even a new peer...We miss out on so many possible friendships, mentorships, interactions because of fear on both sides of the sidewalk.  I would say the same is true for younger children.  We may not be fearful of them as we are of teens, but more often, as a society we just don't give them credit for being their own individuals.  A darker side of that is we might be fearful to say hello to children because we are strangers, and I sadly get that. 

Dominic, Sophia and I went to a workshop called, "What parents get out of homeschooling".  We walked in late, and joined a circle of about ten people, nine of whom were adults.  A girl of about six colored on the floor in the middle of the circle.   I think a misconception that is out there about homeschooled kids is a lack of social skills.  I can't imagine a greater falsehood.  We were in this room for about eight minutes before my children, age seven and nine, shared in the previously all adult discussion.  Sophia turned to a mom that she had never met and said, "If you are worried about your children and socialization, don't because..." and she went on to explain her own reasoning on the subject.  I think what spoke even louder than her words was what she was doing.  She felt as if she had a place in this discussion.  Dominic later offered  his take on how homeschooling, "just makes sense".  Now, you might think that they are parroting what they hear me say, but I promise you, these were their own conclusions. 

They are not alone in this ability to share in public.   Children are on an equal footing with their thoughts and opinions as adults.  I feel honored to have friends of all ages.  My friend Abbie, age 11, frequently asks me questions about how I am doing, what my thoughts are on certain things, or she will share what she thinks about the world at large.  I get to be greeted with hugs from my friend Paris, age 13, and words like, "It is so great to see you!", and I feel the same way.  These are not just my friends' children, but my friends as well.  A young man named Dylan, age 12, was so excited to share what he knew about Tae Kwon Do with both my children and me when we first met in the dorm hallway.  He spoke equally to me and to my kids.  This just warms my heart to see his confidence, and also to be trusted enough to know that I would care about his feelings and ideas.

This isn't the putting the kids on a pedestal that we see as problematic in our society, but at our 'camp' they are given credit for being sentient beings with thoughts and opinions of their own.  When I leave the convention, I take a piece of that with me back to our reality.  You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.  There are a lot of people out there that yearn for the friendships of people on all sides of the proverbial hallway. 

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Real Education

I graduated from the School of Education at UW-Madison.  Looking back, so much of my own education on education was purely theoretical. When we talked about the psychology of teens, the last teen I had any experience with was myself!  We were lectured about how lecturing was not the most effective means of relaying information...ANYway...

One of my professors, who taught "History of American Education", started out the semester by questioning the true point of public education.  I distinctly remember thinking, 'duh, to educate you!', but as he brought up reasons like to create a cohesive society, to create a workforce, to keep kids off of the streets, I found myself really, for the first time, turning a more critical eye to our schools, and that eye has not blinked since.

I loved school.  Always did.  Now don't get me wrong, when my mom tried to wake me up for high school, I wasn't always eager to go, but I never remember disliking the experience as a whole.   I think the best teachers either really liked school, and remember why, or despised it, and know what they don't wish to repeat.

Now, I get to live in three distinct worlds of education.  Our family homeschools, my husband teaches at a public high school,  and I teach at a technical college.  All three of these worlds forever bring the question of "what is the purpose of a meaningful education?" to the forefront for me.  It's  not as easy as it seems.  I believe in public schooling  and the amazing professionals that try to keep the fires burning in the bellies of children wanting to learn.  I see the magic of homeschooling, and how the world is our children's classroom.  I see adults returning to school to finally get that high school diploma after working for thirty years, only to be let go because of a factory moving overseas.

Is school merely a series of hoops that one has to jump through?  Like the guy that comes to the Student Success Center at MPTC day after day to do his math, does he need to figure out how to find the area of an isoceles triangle to deem himself  'educated', to finally get that carrot of a GED?  As an adult, he can truly ask the age old question, "When will I ever need to know this?" and after 30 years of adult life, he knows for a fact he doesn't need to know it.  Is it just the struggle in and of itself that we accredit? 

I remember complaining to my father about my own geometry class and asking "When am I ever...?", and my dad's response was something to the effect of it will show me how I deal with a difficult situation, and how I overcome adversity.  'How do I do something that I really don't want to do'.  It makes sense when justifying the need for geometry to someone, but is that the entire organized schooling experience?  Are we teaching how to cram, regurgitate, and then move on?  To put collective 'noses to the grindstone through the struggle'?

I really don't remember very much information from my 15+ years of  schooling.  I do remember doing the projects, the speeches, or reading the books, but not the hours and hours I spent passively sitting in classes.  That is my learning style; I have to DO something to remember it.  I am, by nature, an active learner.  You know the old "teach a man to fish" thing; I have to fish MYSELF.  I think most people are like that.  Most of the history that I taught in high school, I learned while preparing to teach it.  Learning is a verb. I need my learning to have a purpose and an action.

My husband Tony is an amazing high school social studies teacher.  He just won a huge award from his school district for making such a profound impact in the lives of his students.  You know why?  He trusts them to have the innate desire to learn.  He gives students credit for their intelligence.  Tony teaches a class called "War and Peace", a senior semester elective.  He inherited the class with one section of about 10 students, and turned it into one of the most popular classes in the school with 6 sections of 30, sometimes literally running out of desks.  What is the difference?  He has conversations with his students, integrating what they are learning with what is going on in the ever expanding daily curriculum of global affairs.  He challenges them to think without an expected outcome of a specific fill-in-the-blank answer. 
Some of his students, well-trained after 11+ years of schooling, are uncomfortable with this unknown quantity. "Where are the worksheets? What can we do for extra credit?"  He challenges them to think outside the box and outside of themselves.  

One day the kiddos and I were shopping in town when a young man approached us.  "Mrs. Zappia?  Are you Mr. Zappia's wife?"  I will happily claim that man any day. 
"I have to tell you, your husband was my absolute favorite teacher in high school.  He treated all of us with such respect.  (isn't that sad?)  Because of your husband's class, I talked to my grandfather for the first time about his experiences in Vietnam.  (Tony's final exam is to interview a war veteran)  I didn't know how to approach it before, but because of Mr. Zappia's class, my grandpa and I had the most amazing conversation, and we both cried.  I thank your husband for giving me a real education." 
Needless to say, after wiping away tears of my own in that shopping aisle, I thought, now there is an 'educational outcome' that is immeasurable and bigger than any grade. 

How we can replicate that experience ad infinitum is the next question. 

Thanks for reading...

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Birthday Parties

I am having major mother guilt.  Sophia's birthday is Tuesday, May 4th, (yes, International Star Wars Day-May the Fourth be with you!) and I did not plan a party for her.

I have friends that start planning parties months in advance for all of their children, each with its own theme.  When my kiddos were in school, I would pick the closest Saturday, send out the invites, and plan out the theme.  Now that we homeschool, they have more friends, and of varying ages.  Sophia's close friends vary in age from 5-16, and about half are boys.  I have also noticed that she isn't as focused on the party idea.  She wants to have some friends over for a sleep over some time, but she isn't making it a super big deal.

So why is it, that as her mom, I am the one feeling guilty that we are not doing a more commercialized, no, not commercialized, I don't know, making a bigger deal out of it?  Why can't I just celebrate that my kiddo is so grounded and just wants to be with her friends, she's not all about getting presents, buying favors and the like?

On her birthday, we might head to Chilton to go caving, or to the zoo, or the museum, she has yet to decide.  She gets to pick what she wants for dinner, and she wants Pasta Roni "Shells and White Cheddar".  I don't think she has yet to comprehend my new culinary abilities :)  We are making a cake for dessert.  We might grab ice cream with friends sometime that day too...

So again, why do I feel guilty?  We are going to do a sleepover in the summer, but the focus will really be on friends getting together and having fun...Why can't I just let go and let her have what she wants?  I feel like I am depriving!! What do you do when your kid has a better head on her shoulders than you do??

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Information booth

This morning, Tony put Sophia on a bus to Chicago.  She is visiting the Museum of Science and Industry with her Girl Scout troop.  I usually chaperone these things, but because I am chaperoning a Girls' Night Out lock in tonight, I couldn't go. 

I am pretty laid back about her going to stuff without me, but Chicago, on "Girl Scout Day", with 1500 other girls in green sashes, I got a little nervous about her getting lost.  Sophia is the type of kid that reads all of the placards in a museum.  She is NOT a hurrying type of person, which is wonderful about 85% of the time.  Great when she can spend hours in an art museum with her Grandma, not so great when I ask her to go get dressed, and I find her a half an hour later, in her pj's, on her bed, making shadow puppets out of her toes.

I just had these visions of Sophia disappearing into a sea of green, and her troop completely losing her, and she wouldn't even notice.  I asked her to please pay attention to where her chaperones are at all times, kind of a futile request, and she said that I was being "overprotective".

I remember saying the same thing back to my parents. 

I also remember going to the mall with my dad, and as a new reader, I stopped in front of a store called "Id".  Now I knew that wasn't a word, and I remember very distinctly looking for the big red letter that must have fallen on the floor.  After what was probably a minute or two of searching, I looked around for my dad, but he was gone.  He told me later that he had just gone into the store right next door, but instead of looking around for him, I went right down to the information booth, "in the center of the mall", (remember how they used to say that on the paging system?)

I remembered my dad telling me if we ever got split up, to go there.  I took the long walk there all by myself, down the escalators, everything.  The ladies' voice boomed over all of Northridge: "Bob Reitman, please report to the information booth.  Bob Reitman, please report to the information booth, in the center of the mall."

I hope Sophia doesn't find any words that she thinks are misspelled's a long drive to Chicago's information booth.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Spaces In Between

Last week was an absolute whirlwind.  Sunday night at Crazy Water, Tuesday at Bartolotta's and the Pfister, Friday at MATC, oh, and working 3 extra days in there as well...

I love the crazy if there is a respite afterwards, just like I love the calm if there is some crazy on the horizon. 

To be able to be in balance is essential for me.  I know everyone says that, but for me, it's true.  I have friends that thrive on crazy, the fuller the calendar, the better.   Not me.

I feel so lucky that our family gets to change it up.  I am thankful that I love my children's company so much that when I am not with them, I really miss them.   I also believe in, "How can I miss you if you don't go away?"

It's in those spaces between the spaces, that time left to one's thoughts, that we get to discover who we are.  I want to give my kiddos that space.  I want to have that space.

I don't want my children to ever know the phrase "I'm bored.", because if you are living and breathing, there is always something to discover.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Now we're cookin'!

Today I got my first cooking lesson for "winning" the Lousy Cook contest through the Journal-Sentinel.  Let's just say it was FREAKING AMAZING!!!

We went to Crazy Water in Walker's Point, and our teacher was chef Peggy Magister.  I learned so much, I think I am still processing (get it, food processing??)  Below is a photo of Peggy at home.  She is a wonderful person and an absolutely amazing chef.  I feel so lucky to have met her.

Peggy taught us how to make Caesar salad dressing, balsamic vinaigrette, oven roasted potatoes, gourmet grilled cheese, wild mushroom soup (to die for!!), and tons of different kinds of veggies.  We just had so much fun!  The biggest thing I learned is how to be fearless.  She threw in pinches of this, tasted, a pinch more of that, tasted, she just cooked with pure joy. 
She taught us everything from how to hold a knife to how to blanche veggies.  I had no idea that veggies are so easy!  No more canned veggies for us!  She really took her time with both George, the other 'lousy cook', and me.  I learned a ton.

I was so inspired, that the kids and I cooked dinner for Tony tonight.  We went grocery shopping, bought ingredients that previously did not have a home in our kitchen such as Worcheshire sauce (that was fun to hear the kids say) and Rosemary.  I have grown herbs in a pot before, but never knew what to do with them!

The kids and I donned our aprons- Nancy Stohs from the Journal Sentinel gave me a really cool apron with "Food" on it, looking like the headline from the Food section.  
We made Caesar salad with our own homemade dressing, asparagus, and Tilapia with Rosemary.  The kids rocked!  They sliced, cut, blended, whisked like pros!
 Here they are preparing the lettuce for our Caesar salad.
 Dominic sampling the asparagus.  It was sooooo good!  I love to see the kiddos loving veggies!

Sophia loved the asparagus too, can you tell??

The chefs ready to eat!  As you can tell from the time stamp, we started cooking a little late, but hey, we cooked, and we had fun. 

Sorry doggies, but this food is too good for you!  They miss the burned grilled cheese...

On Tuesday I get to go to Bartolotta's in Tosa and the Pfister.  Chef Juan Urbieta is teaching us how to make Lasagna, and we are making some kind of chocolate cake at the Pfister.  Yummmmm....

Life tastes good!!!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Yup, that's me

Well, today was pretty funny.  My dad called at 8 AM to say not only were we in the paper, but my "huh?" expression was a part of the headline.  Shortly after, I got calls from my Grandma, a lady from church offering me cooking lessons, our insurance agent offering his condolences to my husband, friends, neighbors, countrymen, you name it.

 Look at these faces though, cereal is good for the body, right?  Did you notice Jerry the Weimaraner is more than happy to take that grilled cheese off our  hands...someone posted a comment on jsonline that I must have ADD that I can't make a grilled cheese right.  I never knew fame could be so cruel.  I will get even with them in a tell all someday...


Some of you might see books that you got me in this pic.  I really hope that I will be using them  soon.  The pressure cooker is on now; people are asking when I am going to make them dinner, post-lessons.  Let's just say Rome wasn't built in a day people...this is going to take time.  

Sunday is the first lesson.  The chef at "Crazy Water" is going to be teaching us.  I cannot wait!!!!  I will keep y'all posted.
Sweet dreams!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

A life worth living...


I get to work with people at very interesting points in their lives.  Like the woman who is getting her GED so she can leave her abusive husband, or the man who built homes, and his family, for the last 40 years, but now finds himself out of work.  Many of the people I work with we might just pass by on the street without even a glance. 

I have students from all over, many of whom find themselves in a new place with a different language.  Quite often, these are the people that we just walk by, not out of cruelty, but because we don't recognize the humanity in each other. 

I saw a man on tv the other day, a college educated man from Russia, who said that he used to look down on people who did menial labor.  Now, in the US, he drives a truck for a convenience store.  He shook his head at how his former self would have viewed his current job.  He appreciates his job now very much, and says that he regrets ever judging others.

The kids and I are studying Philosophy and self-deception.  One argument is that the human mind cannot truly examine its existence without becoming thoroughly depressed, the other, obviously,"The unexamined life is not worth living." Socrates

It fascinates me to hear the kids' take on this.  Why wouldn't one examine one's life?  They are fearless.  Why wouldn't they be?  It just takes some adults to teach kids fear and ignorance.
My children constantly recognize the humanity in others.  We, as adults, mess that up too.   Do we, as a culture, with our nose in our phones or ipads, remember others besides ourselves?  Do we remember to see each other?  Not even in an "Avatar" way, but just a look?  An acknowledgement of existence?  We are all given a brand new chance every morning to be reborn.  What an amazing gift that is.  I choose to examine that, with my fearless kiddos by my side.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Reconnected and it feels so good...

Aahhh, to get back in sync, go outside!  The sun peeked out around noon today, just in time for a nature hike with friends.  My friend Jennine said that whenever she feels out of sorts, she goes outside and gets back in touch with nature. 
I love the line in the Riveredge logo that says, "Everything is connected to everything."   Sophia loved the chickadee's spring cry, Dominic just loved running free, and rolling down the occasional hill.  I loved the sun, the warmth on my skin. 
After this beautiful day, to see the enormous moon, with wisps of clouds over it, was the perfect culmination of nature's show. 
Good night moon, good night mush...

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Sometimes I wonder if it's me being down that starts things not going well, or if it's things not going well that make me down.

Nothing big, just one of those days that makes me appreciate happy days.  It's so clear that when we open ourselves up, in a positive way, to others and to new experiences, the flow is so there, whether you call your flow 'chi' or 'God' or the 'universe', that flow is so contingent upon if we are tuned in to the big signal.

Things just didn't click today.  Doesn't mean it's a 'bad' day, just not a 'flow' day.  Every day is a 'God' and 'Universe' day, but I felt like I was between two AM own signal was unclear.

I think in the yin and yang of things, these days are necessary to remind us of how good normal is, how good life is.

It's funny, I spend so much time with my children, that we really are in tune with each other.  Today, they were off too, and we so rarely are off tune with each other.

Tomorrow is another day.  I am going to take the lessons of this day to tomorrow, and reach my antennae out a little higher...

Good night!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Running Zen

About a year or so ago, I bought an hour of personal training at the Y.  This was a big step for me.  I am, by nature, very frugal when it comes to things for myself. I bought this hour because I was training for 5K's last summer. I am very good at starting a running program, or should I say an exercise program in general, but just when it gets easy, I am equally good at quitting it.  I "Stormed the Bastille" in '09, and that's all she wrote.  I guess I just like the struggle.

Last night I finally didn't cancel my appointment with the trainer to run.  Chris is tough, and our run was outside.  I was nervous, but the kind of nervous one feels at the top of a roller coaster. 

Our run was absolutely phenomenal. 

I still hit that point at about 2 miles that it really stinks.  It was especially bad because I hit it on a hill, and it hurt. I think that is where I get stuck sometimes, when the hurt means 'stop' and when to push through it. 
Chris talked while we were running, and almost anaerobic as I was, I listened.

He talked about being in the moment with running, not to anticipate the hill and adjust before you even get there, but tackle the hill when you are on it. 

He talked about how to focus on your whole body being pulled to your goal, your feet gliding forward, like magnets in your toes, instead of focusing on your feet pounding the pavement.

We talked about inertia.

We talked about the importance of breath, find your pattern, maybe even find a mantra.

We also didn't talk, and I didn't have my IPod on, as I usually do.  It was in the breath, and the rhythm of my feet that I found my Zen. 

I ran further than I have in a long time (3.8 miles for me is very good).  I hear that around 6 miles, you feel like you can run forever...I look forward to seeing if my Zen goes that far.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Lousy Chef...

The Lousy Chef...

So the journey to the kitchen begins!  Last night Nancy Stohs, editor from the Journal-Sentinel, and a photographer came to our house.  After some nerves on my part, especially at hearing that they wanted me to cook something,  it really was a lot of fun!  To catch some of you up, I entered a contest called "Lousy Chef" in the Journal-Sentinel.  Looking back, I think it was the title "Do you burn water?" that caught my eye.  I wrote an essay about how I wooed Tony by buying the makings for a wonderful, gourmet dinner, only to turn to him, smile, and he made it.
I share the title of "Lousy Chef" with a gentleman named George, whom I have yet to meet.  I am thrilled not to be singled out, and to share this honor with another. 
George and I get to have cooking lessons at MATC in April.  We also get to learn from chefs from Milwaukee area restaurants such as Bartolotta's and Crazy Water.  I get pastry lessons from the pastry chef at the Pfister too!!!
The first article will be in the paper on Wednesday, April 7th in the Food section.  I hope they are kind with me!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

An unexpected gift

The kindness of others...our little cousin, Emily, who lives in Alabama, has ovarian cancer.  Unfortunately, ovarian cancer is not that rare, but Emily is only seven years old.  Emily is the youngest person ever to be diagnosed. 

Our family goes to a wonderful church in Cedarburg.  We asked if Emily could be put on the prayer list, and the response from the church is truly a testament to the goodness in people.  About a month ago, our church sent a handmade prayer blanket for her, prayed upon by the whole congregation.

Today, Dominic and I got to read at church; he did a wonderful job!  We both even got to hand out the communion bread.  At the end of the service, our pastor asked a man named Jim from our church to come forward, and to "bring the box" up with him.  Jim, it turns out, heard about Emily, and drove 4 hours round-trip to buy her a stuffed Steiff cat.  He told me that he thinks of her every day.  When I showed him Emily's caring bridge site, his eyes filled with tears at her picture.  There is such goodness out there.  Please pray for little Emily, and let us all continue to see the good in each other.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Gotta Start Somewhere

I guess when one gives up Facebook for Lent, one ends up blogging...maybe that is the new Murphy's Law or something...anyway...this is more fun.
I love to write for fun, and if people want to read what I write, more power to me them.

To formally introduce myself, I am Jessica.  I have a gorgeous and brilliant husband, (seriously, no sarcasm) an 8 year old daughter that just kills me she is so much fun, a 7 year old son that has a heart of gold, and can crack up even the biggest grumps, and 2 Weimaraner dogs. 

I get to homeschool our kids.  This is our second official year.  I also work at a local technical college. 

I named this blog "Learning Out Loud" because it seems nothing in our house is done quietly.  I think our whole family likes to live out loud in general.  I frequently tell the kids to find their internal volume and to turn it down just a couple of notches.  It's not that they are running around yelling at each other, it's just that, as Sophia often says, they have "strong projection". 

I also picked the title because learning is such a focal point in our family's life.  My husband is a teacher, I am a teacher, our kids are living sponges...but because this is "my blog", it is about how I am continuously learning..  My children teach me so much.  My parents still teach me.  My husband and our marriage is a lesson in love and partnership.  And hey, learning how to cook in the public eye is definitely out loud! 

So there we have it.  On to the next adventure!