How is it only Wednesday?

We’re going to start this one out with a truce, ok? Because I am not here to tell you how to parent or act like I’m a good one or uncover some deep seeded need of yours to fight over parenting practices or logistics. If you’re crazy enough to be a parent, you also know you’re lucky enough to be one. If you’re struggling, hopefully you’ve experienced joy so you have a well to pull on when things are rough. If it’s sunshine and rainbows, perhaps your bundle is only hours old. Avert your eyes.

Shit’s about to get real.

My lovely little blessings are almost 12 and 8 1/2 years old. It’s only Wednesday of the longest week ever and I had turned a new leaf today. I danced in the rain, friends. It was looking up.

A video posted by Jodi Schaap (@jodimichelle) on

I had some time to drink a cup of tea before I had to grab the kids from carpool and I was insanely happy, content, settled. Just such a good day, so much joy. I was swimming in it. I had delirious thoughts about making cupcakes or cookies with the kids after school since the past few days have been rough, I thought to myself “let’s do it differently today” and then I saw my children LITERALLY fighting in the pickup line. They were taking each other down. And I rolled forward, one car at a time, until I could make eye contact with Jessica and my finger has never been more erect as I pointed at her with EVERYTHING IN ME and conveyed that she had better apologize and get her act together. That finger speaks its own language and we were writing it’s Bible in that carpool line.

Girlfriend, rise to the occasion of being the bigger kid. This is an opportunity to be better. PLEASE GET AFTER IT.

On a scale of all the terrible things, this is minor. I understand that. Her reason for swinging her thirty pound backpack at her brothers precious, and one and only, head was because he was “credit carding” her and other children’s butts.

Please let that sink in.

Read it again if you have to.

My adorable son saw a friend of his acting this way and decided to join in. To swipe his hand, the hand that holds my own, the hand that prays for our dinner and his grandparents and his sister, through the butt crack of unsuspecting children (including his sister) and then of course all the giggling and horror.

It’s possible this is just another lap around the parenting track. Another chance to try again. Another opportunity to talk about what might be considered inappropriate. How embarrassing someone else is never a good reason to cross a line for a laugh. How respect is precious and trust is the ultimate testament of love.

They are not too young to learn this, we never are.

It’s just. Parenting is really hard. It’s so ridiculously exhausting. But, it’s also so amazingly rewarding.

I am completely inept to rise to this occasion most days. I certainly do not feel well equipped to lay my own fight down so I can coach someone else on how to navigate their own battles. But here I am. Doing just that, with two very different minds and hearts than my own. Two very independent, thoughtful, curious, daring, brave, exciting, interesting and beautiful people.

Here’s where I want this to end: in a manifesto for myself, maybe for you, to remember in the ditches that there’s always a climb. You might not have practiced this before and I’m with you if you feel out of shape to get down and do the work but we are not our yesterday.

And our children are not our mistakes.

And it’s OK if they make some, because we’ll be here when they do.

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Platte River Campground, Fall 2016
Platte River Campground, Fall 2016

xoxo

Housekeeping: Throw a party

Our pastor described his daughter as a “Party waiting to happen” once when I was in middle school and I’ve never forgotten that phrase. I decided; to be known as anything – a “party waiting to happen” was probably top of the line and I wanted in. I liked the connotation of the description. It didn’t mean she was a partier, on the “wrong side of those illusive tracks”, or someone to beware of. It meant she was fun, happy. It meant anything could be a party, a good time. It meant she was joyful.

There’s some great resources out there to get your creative juices going about how to host people in your space. Use them!

Pinterest
Picmonkey (How I make my invites)
Amazon
Your friends – borrow, borrow, borrow. Their cupboards are full of unused crockpots, platters, and napkins. Ask. And you will hopefully, probably receive.
Magazines. (My favorites are Midwest Living, Southern Living, This Old House)

Today's the day! First peer-group birthday party. #picmonkeyinvites #DIY #OliverWayne

I grew up in a house with a lot of people. Sunday’s were packed, our table was full but there was always room for more. My mom fed us our favorites every week and we’d sit around drinking coffee or hot chocolate reading the Sunday ad’s or watching football. Sometimes we’d sit around the piano and pluck away together. Everyone would smoke in the garage and laugh. My brothers would tell stories of “back then” or when my sister and I were younger and all the pranks they’d pull on us. It was so happy. Even though we had our problems, and still do, these are some of my favorite memories. Sunday dinner. The tension could be tight, or we could be holding babies, or plotting our black friday wish lists, or talking about buying houses, or broken hearts, or family trips.

When I moved out of my parents house and into my own – I got the biggest table I could fit in my dining room. I couldn’t wait to host dinners, parties, friends, and my family.

So maybe I come by this honestly. But I love a good cook out. I love to feed people, I love to play games, I love to try new recipes and drinks, I LOVE TO HOST.

I will rearrange my entire house to fit everyone around a table. And I’m always looking for a reason to throw a party.

Here’s my rules:

Have an idea.
Do it.

Here’s how:

I might see, read, experience or think of something that sounds like a good time to me. I make a note, pin the idea, gather the information needed and then I tell someone. Usually Aaron or some of my girlfriends. I’ve done this in almost every one of my jobs as well – I create experiences for a living and then I tell those stories to the masses so they can recreate the experience on their own.

Then I make a list (we know I love lists) of what might be needed for said idea, what the menu might look like, and the timing.

If I’m roping some of my friends into the hosting, we divide and conquer.

I don’t believe in having a spotless house in order to open your doors to friends or family, I really like feeling comfortable in my space. We built this house to be lived in, but my general rule is that the sinks are clean, the toilets fresh and the dirt is off my floor to start the evening. By the end of the night, my sinks are full, the toilet’s are used, and there’s a new layer of dust and dirt and fun to sweep off the floor. I’m also a huge fan of laundry baskets. They’re always full and I can shove them in a closet that no one generally is bold enough to go hunting for. If they are: surprise! I stuff dirty crap in my closets. That’s called Monday in this house.

So, for example: Oliver’s 6th birthday we threw a food fight party.

Happy little DIY thank you's for Oliver's party favor tomorrow. #someoneis6 #birthdayparty #picmonkeyinvites #DIY

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Oliver's 6th birthday (party!)

How did you come up with the idea??

So glad you asked. Oliver had been hinting that he really wanted to have a food fight. In our house. In our just-finished-brand-new-newly-remodeled-home-with-white-walls. I said, you’re cute but, um, no. He started saying “Are you thinking what I’m thinking??” at the dinner table every night and we would yell in unison “NO!!!!!!”. This was a fun game and since it didn’t go away I thought, well ok. We’re going to give him his food fight.

I enlisted my mom for some back up help and to bounce ideas off of. We came up with pasta being the easiest way to host a food fight since I could batch make it in advance, cool it, and oil it up so it wouldn’t stick together. We already own two 6-foot tables that we store in our garage and bring out when we’re hosting something. We set them up in the driveway, dressed all the little kids in garbage bags and told them to keep their eyes closed. We plopped so many pounds of cooked spaghetti pasta on the table and then we yelled “Hey Oliver!!! ARE YOU THINKING WHAT I’M THINKING???!!!? …… FOOD FIIIIIIGHT!!!”. The kids all opened their eyes and hilarity ensued. We also had cool whip out for them to grab and throw and the laughing and screaming and exclaiming was just the best.

Turns out Oliver doesn’t like food fights. He didn’t think you’d get dirty … so, we got that out of his system. It was awesome.

A few other parties I’ve hosted in our home have been:

A champagne toast to the Tiny House with friends!

TinyHouse

What we needed:

Champagne
Friends

A 3rd Grade Rocked My Socks Party for Jessica and friends!

picmonkey invite

What we needed:

I borrowed a popcorn maker
Enlisted help from my mom
Qued up some music, there was dancing
Snacks!
Jessica taught us how to make Italian Soda’s
Gift bags with little notebooks so we could all exchange numbers to keep in touch through the summer

Pumpkin Fest with 6th Grade Girls Youth Group

Pumpkin Fest 2016
Pumpkin Fest 2016

What we needed:

Chili & S’more stuff
Pumpkins
Music
Spoons

Decorations 101

I’m a fan of simple. Streamers and balloons are about as festive as I get. Just know what you can do. Are you going to have more fun decorating with lights and party themed items or are you going to enjoy cooking a meal or making a cheese plate or cocktail? I think you have to pick what you want the focus to be and then just focus on that. The food IS part of the decoration. If you have empty bowls and lots of fruit or veggies in your fridge or pantry – those can be decorations. Pick a color theme but don’t marry it. For starters if you feel super overwhelmed with this part of hosting, copy something you’ve seen before. Out of a magazine, at your friends house. Just copy it. Think to yourself “What did I like about that? Where were the glasses, what was on the table/bar/island? What did I see first? What made me think it was memorable?”

It's time for the Third Grade Rocked My Socks Off kick off to summer party! #thisiswhatialwaysimagineditwouldbeliketobeamom

Set up!

paper airplanes

Jessica's 11th birthday party

The Farmhouse Deli // Oz is Event March 8 2015

June 20th Oz Event

I will always focus on flowers. They’re beautiful, they bring life to my home, and they’re the gift that keeps on giving. I’d rather spend $15 on a beautiful bouquet that will last past the party (so many fun memories to be reminded of) than on a specific center-piece I might only use once a year (but forget next year all-together). I almost always have flowers in my home – plants work too. You don’t have to constantly spend your dollars on stems. Carrots with their tops look like a bouquet when stuck in a clear case. Use your garden, your trees in your yard, the sticks from the side of the road.

Lighting is also important. I’m a huge fan of low lighting. Lamps and natural light are my favorite. Candles are fun but they’re always meant to be the background. They offer scent more than illumination and a good candle in your bathroom goes a long way. Trust me. Outdoor lighting is probably my favorite. Twinkly lights around the Tiny house or over the deck, around the porch … who doesn’t have twinkly lights from Christmas time? REUSE THEM. Get them out – plug them in. Create a canopy of magic above your head. Everything tastes better under twinkly lights.

Here’s what I don’t do: I don’t stress out about this. The most important thing, for me, when I’m hosting is that people fill my space. So I make sure it’s not full of extras. I don’t shop to decorate for parties. I will thrift items if I know what I’m looking for and have time to wait and find it. Usually with serving dishes or bowls. I like having a variety of sizes, heights, and finishes. Wood, marble, slate, white, dark, small bowls, little plates.

If you’re still with me at this point, you get a gold sticker. And an invitation to my house.

The last thing I’ll say is this: Before you execute ask yourself, How can I make this easier?

You’ll be surprised, there’s always an option for less which leaves the rest of the event/evening/party up for more connection and conversation. Host the kind of party or dinner you’d like to attend.

Just do it, you already have everything you need.

If my kids could vote, I’d read them these letters first

Here’s what I’ve noticed: people are hurting. We are touchy and a bit prickly. We are scared, mostly afraid of what’s coming next. In this political season I’ve unfollowed so many kind, logical people. It’s ok to disagree. It’s ok to have difference of opinion and to turn off the notifications of support of flawed candidates.

I do not want to write about politics because we aren’t sitting across from each other where I can look you in the eye and hear your heart. Where I might still walk away disagreeing with you but where I’ll meet you with compassion and understanding for being a human. For being charged with this heavy decision. For being alive right this minute, in this season.

I do not believe that this election is tethered on pro-life or pro-choice and I can only say this because of the research I’ve done for myself. But if I were going to talk to my kids about this election, here’s what I would tell them:

To Jessica,

You are worth more than what your body can do. Period. You are not a phrase for anyone to throw around in their mouth like they’re chewing cud. You are not less-than or better-than any of your male counterparts. It’s true that we have two front runners for the presidential office and neither of them look good. I personally cannot vote for Trump because narcissism as a leadership tactic is very disruptive. Because having a leader of the free world who can say he values life and then in the next breath completely disregard it is not the sound mind I feel comfortable signing up with. When we make a habit of coloring the story just enough to fit our agenda, that’s called lying, too. When we only recognize our flaws as a result of being caught, when we point the finger away from ourselves so often that we can no longer distinguish where we’re pointing we start to think we’re untouchable. And being powerful is not being untouchable. Being powerful is being approachable, understandable, it’s having self control and tact. Being powerful looks a lot like being humble. It’s the quiet that will spread, the peace that conquers. It’s not the blood, not the fight. It’s not the battle. Additionally, I cannot vote for Hillary. When you’re so comfortable, so poised in discussion but so two-faced, so unattached from the decisions you make: that’s dangerous. And as a woman, Jessica, you will be expected to understand the difference between Decision and Assumption. You will be asked to constantly judge concession. You will be seen as the legs that you have, you will be treated as the pussy that can get caught in the hands of a man who has “needs”, you will be used and taken advantage of. As a woman – your leaders look a lot like Tellers. You ‘should’ do as you’re told. You are bread to be compliant. To listen, submit, concede. And if there’s one thing I can do that makes it easier for you to vote in 8 years, I hope it’s to empower you to choose.

We look at things through the lens of a loving, spiritual Father. So I’m going to see things a bit differently than some of the other people you’ll come into relationship with – and Jessica, I want you to listen to these other voices. I want you to hear them out. I want you to sit with them and absorb their stories and sorrows. I want you to be awake when you hear something that sounds different, that sounds radical or possibly risky. I want you to open your ears and look through your heart and I want you to wrestle with what it means to say yes to the hard issues or to sit with the people you don’t understand or have been taught to be afraid of.

Here’s where it gets risqué and a bit provocative. I serve a pro-choice God. Who very much is pro-life, just very much. So much pro-life but He can only claim to be pro-life THROUGH being pro-choice. Free will, Jessica. This is not a dictatorship. I think most people are too afraid to choose so they hide. They hide behind misinterpretation or the fears passed down to them by their own fathers and mothers. They hide from being seen as the beautiful mind that they already are. None of us are exempt from making bad and regrettable decisions, none of us are exempt from committing crimes, adultery, fraud. From killing innocent people, or our brothers, mothers, sisters, fathers.

And this is not what an election is about – so don’t get stuck down in the mud. Don’t go there, don’t stand at the doorstep of someone else’s redemption with hatred and condemnation. You don’t know the whole story until you ask, you don’t know the million reasons and excuses, you don’t know what happened. It could have been you.

But Jessica, I hope it never is. I love you so much.

Mom

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To Oliver,

You are kind and gentle. You are beautiful and lovely. You are soft and sweet. AND you are strong and brave. You are smart and helpful. You are resourceful and understanding. You are a warrior who loves well and I can’t explain to you how much it would hurt me (for you) if the leader of this free world was a man whose made his mountain on top of the pain of the people who helped him get there. You’re smarter than that. And I don’t think you’d understand this kind of leadership. You see things so clearly, so innocently. And in 10 years, when you get to vote, I hope you’re still seeing the world as an open book with pages and pages to discover.

We’re trying to teach you how to treat women, while at the same time how to respect yourself. So that the story is not one-sided and “she” becomes the only thing that matters. You have great character that can easily be taken advantage of because you’re willing to give and trust and love. If you’re not careful, there will be someone who latches onto your brand of kindness and saps every bit of life out of you because they’re broken and don’t know how to say it. Guard your heart, Oliver. It’s worth fighting for. And when you’re in the locker room, or at a sleep over, or on the field … and you hear something that sounds counter-intuitive to how you would treat your sister or me, speak up for us. Remember the soft parts of our bodies when we hug you, the gentle way our hands hold you. Remember what love feels like, it’s not sharp.

We’ve tried to teach you to ask questions so when you come up against authority who won’t tolerate a challenge, yell louder. You are not less-than and your values and ideas have merit. Ask again, and again.

Politics are somewhat lost on you still at this age, but you’re starting to follow the leader. And in a stretch of the imagination – that’s a lot of what this is. We’re picking the new leader. What have we taught you about being a leader? Hold everyone who asks you to follow them up to these checks and balances. Your voice is mighty and wise, and your heart is pure. You can trust yourself, too.

I love you so much.

Mom

===============================================

I said I wasn’t going to write about politics and then I did. There’s so much out there right now for you to read and watch and picket and claim. I’m not interested in being one of those voices. I meant what I said in the beginning, I want to see your eyes if you want to have this conversation with me. I need to hear the inflection in your voice when it breaks for the issues you cannot stop wrestling with. I will gladly listen to your stories, your points, your ideas. I’ll ask questions, too. And then I’ll leave it alone and I’ll go home and feed my family and support my farmers and get involved in my community. Because where a voice cannot be heard for miles on end, the ripple effect of a healthy community can spread like wildfire. And so can love.

And that’s what I’m interested in.

I love you so much.

xoxo
Jodi

Fall Camping

We took advantage of a school break to have one more camping adventure of the year in Northern Michigan. We stayed at Platte River Campground in the Sleeping Bear Dunes and ventured to Frankfort, Beulah, Traverse City, Empire and Glen Arbor for a color tour/food/things to do/and to listen to podcasts before bed.

Fall Camping 2016
Platte River Campground, Fall 2016
Platte River Campground, Fall 2016
Platte River Campground, Fall 2016

We hiked to the beach, made a teepee with fallen trees, cooked over the fire, drank lots of tea and hot chocolate, hung around in hammocks, played soccer and read. It was chilly and a bit rainy one of the days but we stayed warm and dry.

Platte River Campground, Fall 2016
Platte River Campground, Fall 2016
Platte River Campground, Fall 2016
Fall Camping 2016
Fall Camping 2016
Fall Camping 2016
Fall Camping 2016
Fall Camping 2016
Fall Camping 2016
Fall Camping 2016
Fall Camping 2016
Platte River Campground, Fall 2016
Fall Camping 2016
Fall Camping 2016
Platte River Campground, Fall 2016

We saw a fox! Lots of deer and squirrels and every brilliant fall color.

Resources and places to visit:

**Take the M22 drive
**Stop for coffee and bagels at Leelanau Coffee Roasters in Glen Arbor
**Make a special stop for the kids in your car at The Cherry Republic (they do pop tastings!)
**Grab a hot chocolate to walk around with or sit and stay and enjoy a beer at Brew in Traverse City
**Once you’ve satisfied your craving, head to Brilliant Books for some inspiration and to catch up on your favorite authors
**If you’re hungry make a special trip to Harvest (in Traverse) or Stormcloud (in Frankfort)
**If you just want a snack and a glass of wine with a view or you want to wrap up the wine trail with a memorable tradition – head to Brys Estate Winery for a glass of wine and a cheese board on their deck
**Then sneak down to their Secret Garden with your kids (or friends) and giggle with delight (maybe nightcap it with some apple cider)
**For a memorable afternoon with friends or older kids who love outdoor activities, make a stop at Hop Lot for a fire and games (their tacos are not to be argued with, either)
**A weekend for just the two of you? Make it special with dinner at 9 Bean Rows
**Have the kids along? There’s still something for you at their bakery to take home – 9 Bean Rows Bakery

I love Michigan and traditions. When the two meet, fall in love and make out passionately in the back of my car? We make memories.

Grocery Grandma’s Ribs

Come with me to the grocery store. We’re idly walking the aisles fulfilling our lists and comparing prices, mentally checking off items from our to-do lists, smiling at the strangers passing by and stopping to talk to familiar faces. We handle items in the produce section gently choosing the perfect avocados, testing the mangos, walking slowly through the citrus just so we can inhale deeply. We consider the grapes and wonder why we always buy broccoli only to forget about it. We measure the pears and select this weeks bananas.

We look up to scan the sea of faces one last time, the same group of shoppers that you walked silently in with finishes at about the same time as us and we cross the vast spaces between almost-out-of-here and the check-out-drudgery before we choose a line with a check out girl who seems to be proficient today. We calmly turn our carts towards lane 22 and sideways glance at all the magazines screaming at us to believe Ben and Jen are adopting, that the Princess is pregnant and that sex is better on vacation. We take a small detour towards the candy selections and note they’re on sale, too. What would we really do with 10 reeses peanut butter cups? Are they really for s’mores? We’re honest with ourselves and pass this opportunity.

Almost there. It’s almost time to unload our cart when we see an elderly woman behind us carrying just a few items. She’s not that elderly, but she’s of respectable age. Older than my mother, with kind eyes. She declines our offer to go ahead of us (we have a small load today too, no big deal) when she starts the conversation …

My grandkids called and asked for ribs today. (She’s excited but almost unbelievably)

She notes that they prefer all organic produce and dairy, that they check to make sure she’s adhering to their standardizations.

We make small talk, she’s retired and thought she’d have all this time on her hands. She discovers my kids are school aged and we bond over the silence of our time, how we miss the chaos a little more than we’d like to admit. How we both realize that we’re the lucky ones.

She’s worried about the time, it’s almost noon and usually she has more notice for ribs than this (but thankfully they were on sale). She tells her husband to not expect to get too many, they never know how many kids are coming to the table since her grandkids brag about her ribs and always bring friends. They often feed their grandkids and then go out to eat together after. (And this is when I fell in love with her.)

If you have a head start, you cook the ribs low and slow for 8 hours. Starting at 275 at about 10 am. You cut the fat off the back and rub them, lightly, with seasoned salt. That’s it.

If you’re crunched for time, say you start around noon for dinner – you cook at 325 to help it along. In the last hour or so of cooking you take the ribs out and brush them with barbecue sauce.

She serves them with mashed (organic) potatoes and cooked carrots. (She winks and tells me she forgot the cream but with the 2 sticks of butter in the potatoes, she might get away with it this time.)

I didn’t catch her name but I’ll know her forever.

Grocery Grandma’s Ribs.

"Grocery Grandma's Ribs"
"Grocery Grandma's Ribs"

My kids actually cheered for me after Sunday lunch today. I started the ribs about 9:30 this morning and we ate at 2:30. I used the 325 method and actually tried to doctor up the rub a bit but made it too salty. Just means I get to try it again.

I served it up with mashed potatoes, our favorite kale caesar, some crusty bread, and creamed spinach.

"Grocery Grandma's Ribs"
"Grocery Grandma's Ribs"

We decided tonight that we’ll write a family cookbook. It’ll be a collection of our favorites and instead of chapters we’d have people. Jessica, Oliver, The Whole FamDam.

Jessica’s portion of the book will read like this; Ribs, bread, pies, sweet breads (scones) … the flour and water, elemental stuff of a kitchen. Fire. Meat! She likes sharp food – vinegars and mustards.

Oliver’s portion of the book will read like this; Salmon, rice, muffins, oatmeal, breakfast!, salads, shrimp, Asian infusion. The water, the sea, the salt. With the sweet finish, and anything that feels like a hug in a bowl. Veggies! He likes calm food – tea and rice.

The Whole FamDan of the book will read like this; roast chicken, meatballs over rice, tacos (3 ways), pancakes, breakfast, birthday cakes, Grocery Grandma’s Ribs, hot chocolate mix, Christmas cookies, cinnamon rolls, The foods we made memories with, spring rolls, camping food. The earth, the sky. The grounding and the flying – the take-off and the landing.

And they told me they’d tell all their friends about my cooking and then they promised to always come home.