The Case for Whipped Cream in a Can | Thankful Thursdays

Thankful Thursdays 09.08.2016 | In Jennie's Kitchen

It began as a simple pancake dinner, or an attempt at one. Earlier in the day, we decided that henceforth, Wednesdays would be Wacky Wednesday Dinner, where the girls choose the menu and cook. The morning before they teamed up to make pancakes while I took a work call. It started with a sign Isabella held up for me  “Can I make pancakes?”, it read.

I shook my head yes. Then I heard footsteps again. “Can I use your cookbook?”. Um, of course. This back and forth went on quite a few times until I gave them the glare and pointed to the phone I was on (all the while  grateful it wasn’t a video call!).

As my call progressed, so did breakfast. Virginia joined in, scurrying into the front porch with a jug a white vinegar. We were out of buttermilk, and they looked up how to make it online. Frustrated as I was for the 27th interruption, I gushed a bit. She looked adorable in my way too big apron, and I loved that they problem solved the buttermilk situation on their own.

A simple craving for pancakes provided a glimpse into all the potential that lies head of us during this year of homeschooling.

Making this decision has been a bit of a lonely one, but not for the reasons you might think. I’ve had one friend in particular who not only admires, but truly respects my reasons for taking on the responsibility to homeschool the girls. A few other friends have given encouraging smiles. There are the silent ones, of which I can only imagine they think I’m crazy to take on the task, or think I should toughen my kids up by keeping them in a system I so strongly disagree with from a fundamental viewpoint.

And then there are the vocal ones, or really, I should say just one vocal person, who can’t see beyond my view and way of life, and their view and way of life. I don’t believe school should be just about teaching our kids to conform wth their standardized tests, and rote memorization of facts.

We need leaders, and innovators, to guide our ever-changing world. Instead of learning how to live inside the box, we need to be instilling our children with confidence to make a new box. A better box that fits the needs of the diverse population inhabiting our planet.

Do I want my children to be successful? Of course.

I think every parent can agree on that, but that is where the agreement ends in some ways. Success is not something we should define as one size fits all. Success should not be determined by who is the best of the best. Success is something very personal, and should be unique to each individual.

I have no idea if my kids will be rich in dollars. If whatever path they decide professionally is paved with gold, great. And if not, so long as they’re able to pay their rent without worry, maybe buy a house or apartment one day, and enjoy their lives, that’ll make me a happy mama.

The role I’m here to play in their lives right now is to teach them about emotional wealth, and what that means. It takes work, and not the kind a book can completely teach you, and certainly cannot be measured with a test. It takes perseverance, courage, and strength. It takes a strong belief in your sense of self, even in the moments of uncertainty.

Thankful Thursdays 09.08.2016 | In Jennie's Kitchen

That dinner above? It doesn’t look like much, but it was hard won last night. Something settled over Isabella as afternoon morphed into evening. I could sense it; I’m kind of crazy about how I can feel people’s vibes. Nothing irritates me more than when someone says nothing is wrong, when clearly it seems everything is at that moment.

My recent break up has stirred up still-raw feelings of loss and abandonment. I can relate completely. So, a simple pancake dinner took an hour and a half, as we worked our way off the emotional ledge. I told her to go for a walk by Mikey’s tree, and talk to him. Come back with a fresh perspective, and if she couldn’t handle dinner, then I was fine to do it.

I also told her she needed to stop denying how much she misses him, and that it was okay to be mad at him. He would understand.

She came back, a little more renewed, but still shaky. All three of us contributed to dinner. Vivi was on sprinkle duty to help with the tie-dye pancakes. I kept a careful eye on the bacon in the oven, and cut up some cantaloupe. Isabella was still feeling stressed about dinner. She wanted me to relax while she cooked, and I was running around, tending to the garbage (it needed to be dragged down to the driveway), the garden needed watering, and compost needed turning.

I insisted I was okay, and much as I wanted to relax, there were things to be done. I gave a few kisses on her forehead, and hugs in between. My way of trying to reassure we’d be okay. We’d get through this mucky mess of feelings, and be better afterwards.

Then, just when we thought we where in the clear, the mason jar I was shaking to make whipped cream shattered. In my hands. Yes, there was blood, and curdled looking cream all over the floor. I cleaned up, and we pushed on, managed to laugh, even though deep down I wanted to cry. Why—I just wanted to ask the universe, why us? But, for some strange reason, while wiping up cream from the floor, I sensed the whole evening was a test. Were we really ready for this year? 

And then a bowl fell off the drain, knocking over a glass into my ankle.

Bruise. Check.

Universe, please. GIVE ME A BREAK. Eventually, dinner was ready, and we settled around the coffee table to watch Gotham. The lesson learned last night was perseverance. I made sure we didn’t give up on ourselves. I led my girls into battle, full well knowing the demons will never really be gone. They just lie dormant within our hearts and souls, so we rest up, hoping we’re a bit stronger the next time around.

You can’t learn that from a textbook or measure it with a pen & paper test. You just have to live it—feel it, breathe it, and constantly remind yourself that as humans, we are full of frailties and weak spots. And that’s okay. They make the best parts of our being shine even brighter.

Also, next time I go grocery shopping, I’m buying canned whipped cream.


  • LadyKaldi

    I wish there were words. Maybe Hang In There? Or my 90-year old father’s email sign-off, Keep the Faith? But I see fortitude and bravery in your words, the stuff that makes the difference between giving up and carrying on. Wishing you well …

  • Devon Cretella

    Geez…thanks for my Thursday afternoon cry 🙂 When my kids were about your girls’ age, I started having them each plan and make dinner one night a week. Did we have pancakes once in a while-you bet. Eventually they both turned into great cooks and they both enjoy cooking for others. And they both received a Kitchen-aid for their first Christmas gift after moving out!

    Enjoy the homeschooling days, for however long they occur.

  • maria in nj

    two words…common core! Brava woman! Man I would love to meet you some day, Trust yourself, you are doing the right thing…trust me that Algebra I took in sophomore year means nothing to me now, but spending time with your girls will mean everything…they need you and I think you need them too…

  • Wendy

    Those are some of the best looking pancakes I’ve ever seen. And the motto in our homeschooling home was, we eat what we want when we want it! So breakfast for dinner every Thursday, taco Tuesdays, Fifi Fridays. Fifi=find it fix it (or the neighbors dog,lol)/leftovers. Life is too short to stress out about food. We have too many special needs diet wise in our home so food has never been an issue once they could deal with it themselves. Hurrah for Isabella and Virginia and making buttermilk! What an awesome feat that was to conquer. Don’t forget what is stressful for someone else is not necessarily a stress for you and vice versa. The naysayers won’t get it saying public education was good for me why not my kids? I was one of them, until I wasn’t. I can happily say my children are more balanced, able to hold conversations with people of all ages, more able to make a healthy decision, debate coherently, know their stuff-besides video games or makeup, and be jolly well nice people to be around. Most teenagers I have meet the last few years just are not happy people. Yes, my daughters know makeup,but that’s not all they know. And yes, I’m biased, but what else can I be? I am also truthful. Congratulations for making the toughest decision you think you have ever made! It may last this year or 5 years or til the last one graduates, you have a healthy view of what may or may not lie ahead of you. And there are so many resources!!! Tons more now than 20 years ago when I started. Blessings to you and the girls! Just remember, every day is a new day and it comes with it’s own set of rules and learning curve.

  • Jennie

    Yes, Maria, I most certainly need them in this way right now, too. Thank you for always be a steady, supportive voice hear. xo-Jennie

  • Jennie

    My oldest said she wants to know how to feed herself when she moves out, and that made my heart sing. It’s hard to see it when you’re living through, but they really do appreciate the benefits of home cooking, from both the love that goes into it, and the affect it has on their bodies.

  • Julie

    I read through this three times – just, YES. We moved from the suburbs of Philadelphia to the Catskills a year ago and e v e r y t h i n g is different. 80% of our friends and family think we’re crazy and many relationships didn’t weather our transition. I’m an approval junkie (recovering!), so this last year has been rough as everything from the house we live in to our daughter’s education (they attend basically a homeschool-hybrid school with 25 kids K-12) has been critiqued, criticized, picked apart, and analyzed. But you know what…this works for us. Life is simpler, we are all happier, and we’re free – choosing to invest in the emotional wealth you mentioned. Some days are bliss and other days I question our decisions a thousand times. Thank you so much for sharing a glimpse into this part of your journey with us.

  • Jennie

    Julie, thank you so much for the encouragement. It feels good to have a comrade. I wonder where are you in the Catskills? I know it’s such a wide spread area, but I’m tucked in them, too. Very curious about this hybrid school. My oldest will be going to the Center for Creative Education in Kingston twice a week (9:30 to 2:30) but they didn’t have enough enrollment interest for the younger age group. xo-Jennie

  • Kathy


    I can’t find the right words but wanted you to know that I think you are an amazing mother and reading about your girls is proof of that. I was 20 when I lost my dad and I’m now 63 and I honestly miss him every day, my heart goes out to your girls and to you. They are fortunate to have you.

    You are teaching them the things that matter – that they can carry forever.

    I’m also very sorry to hear you’ve gone through a break up, I send you a hug.

  • Kara

    To all of the comments I say “word” 🙂 I get so worked up when I hear people being critical or judgmental about other’s decisions. I find myself saying to my three girls (4,6, and 8), “If everyone liked the same thing, this world would be a very boring place!” A small part of me wishes I had the motivation/desire to homeschool because there are wonderful things about it, but for our family, the main school system makes the most sense. I admire you from afar for all you have done these last years and by being so honest with us, your “blog friends”. Your family lives a life that is very unique to most of us (and that wasn’t by choice) and for that I continue to admire and cheer you as you find your way and help your girls to Dream Big! (Oh, and I think everyone should have pancakes for dinner all the time 😉 )

  • Jennie

    Thank you so much for sharing such positive words, Kara! And yes, you are all my blog friends. I wish I could meet everyone in person one day.

  • Jan

    My dad died when I was 14, my brother 8. He left us much like Mike, there for lunch, then gone. My mom had never worked since we were born, so it was rough those first few years. Through our family, friends, and our faith, we graduated from college, married, had kids and led successful lives. I am now 68, married 42 years with grandkids, and I still miss my dad and have difficulty really talking about him. You are doing a great job and I pray for you often.