Friday, September 28, 2012

It Starts With Me

The more I think about politics and the election I keep thinking that I don't want to need to pick a politician to fix what's wrong in the world around me. I want to change things. I want to personally play a role in seeing the changes in my community that are needed.

My family has been in crisis. We were helped. Yes, the government policies in health care reform helped us. BUT, we never required any additional help from the government because PEOPLE helped us. Friends, family, strangers. They reached out and helped. They took care of us.

Seeing the difference that these people made in our lives has made me feel empowered. I think that college and then the “real world” had disillusioned me a bit. I felt a bit like “what can I do?” but I feel differently now.

I can give money to families in need. I can raise money to help other families in crisis. I can remember my local food banks (especially when there is a sale). I can pick up lost dogs. I can support friends in need. I can volunteer my time. I can continue to do things that matter to me, like support local small business owners by giving them my business.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could get to a place where we didn’t have to fight about government assistance because we didn’t need it. What if we helped each other. It’s the ideal world right? Well I’m starting it with me. I’m teaching my daughter. I’m not giving up because even if I can’t change the world, I can change my community. I can make a difference in the lives of my friends and families. That’s how change starts right?

I’m done trying to pick a political candidate I think will help. I can help. I will still make the best decision I can with the election, but I’m not depending on the government to help those in need anymore. I’m depending on me.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Challenge Week 2: Leeks


Okay. This sounded way scarier than it was. Leeks are basically a mellow onion. I decided to sauté them. Martha Stewart’s website had lots of suggestions for cooking leeks. I decided to go with one that was leeks and gala apples. Basically, you cut up the leeks (normally they are bunched in two or three and I found that two leeks was plenty). You cook them for about 6 minutes  until they soften but stir them a lot because they burn really easily.

This smelled up the entire house in the best way. I love the smell of cooking onions, but it’s a bit overwhelming sometimes. Cooking leeks is slightly muted. After you cook the leeks, throw in about 3 gala apples chopped up into little pieces. Cook for about three minutes. Be prepared for something that smells like harvest heaven.

Next, I went once around the pan with Red Wine Vinegar and Honey. Then I salt and peppered it. It was fantastic and oddly filling. This is a side dish I’ll be throwing in frequently this fall. Ms. Martha suggests pairing with pork tenderloin, but I think you could serve this alone with some grilled corn or a baked potato and make a meatless meal out of it.

Leeks: piece of cake. Ready to attempt a soup or something else.

Next week: Chard

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Way to Help

I know it’s still September, but the holidays truly are just around the corner. I know many families plan financially for gift giving and spending that comes around that time of year.

During the holidays last year, we were given a phenomenal gift in our son, and we were overwhelmed by the amount of love and kindness that was shown to us by friends, co-workers, family, and even strangers.

Last holiday season we were separated from our daughter. We left for St. Louis and we had to leave her. It was heart wrenching to know that we were apart for our big family holiday. She spent Christmas at my parent’s house without us. We spent it by our son’s bedside waiting to see if we’d even get to hold him in his lifetime. It sucked. We were worried a little about money because we had to pay to stay in St. Louis while paying for our mortgage, we had to pay for all of our meals at the hospital, and it was really hard to make ourselves leave.

Something that really helped us was receiving gift cards. Being able to leave the hospital for a little bit to recharge and eat somewhere or being able to go to Wal-Mart to buy toiletries since we hadn’t packed enough for three and a half months when we left town…those things mattered. So. Much.

Every time the social worker came by after we’d had bad news, the little Panera card and thought of warm soup some stranger had bought for us made me feel that little flicker of hope, or at least like we could hold out a little longer. Knowing some stranger or some friend was invested in us and wanted to help in whatever way they could kept us from ever feeling completely alone. I want to be able to do that for other families.

This year, as a family, we are collecting and donating gift cards to send to St. Louis Children’s Hospital. We are going to ask that the cards we send be given to families in the Cardiac Units, preferably ones who are out of town.

Friends and family who had thought to send gifts to us, we are asking that you instead send your gifts in the form of gift cards or cash donations to the St Louis Children’s Hospital Foundation. You can view the foundation’s website here.

For Gift Cards, we recommend:

  • Panera
  • Subway
  • Einstein’s Bagels
  • Sonic
  • Wal-Mart
  • Applebee’s
  • Target
  • Jimmy Johns

With any donation you send (either to us or directly to the hospital) please include a letter stating these things.

  • You are donating in memory of Rowan Fowler
  • You’d like the money or cards to preferentially benefit families of children who are in the Cardiac units who are away from their families especially during the holidays.
  • Your name and address (to allow them to send you a tax receipt should you need one)

If you would like to send your personal gift to the families with heart children in the hospital this holiday season to us, you certainly may. We will be collecting them all through October to send out to St. Louis in early November.

However, you can send the cards directly to the address below:


Attn: Karen Rieker

St. Louis Children’s Hospital Foundation

1 Children’s Place

St. Louis, Missouri 63110


Please spread the word if you can. I grieve for my son. I grieve that he isn’t a healthy little boy that is here playing with his big sister.  But I pour my grief into helping others. I am so proud of the positive influence my son had on my life. I am proud of the good he brought out in others and the way that people came together. I don’t want the good that he brought out to be undone. I remember my son by helping others. It means a lot to me when others remember him that way too.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Challenge Week 1: The Artichoke


Ok, Artichokes are delicious (or at least we like Spinach and Artichoke Dip, right?). But when you see a fresh artichoke in the produce section, you might look at it. You might even pick one up. And you are likely thinking…

“How in the hell do you eat this?” You might flash back to the deep yellow-green hearts you see in dip. You might think “Maybe it’s under the petals?” and attempt to pull a leaf back…and get stabbed by a thorn. Finally, you probably throw the artichoke down and say “SCREW IT! I’ll get some dip at freaking Chilis!” and bail.

Not this week, Artichoke. Not this week.


I found this website after a lot of strenuous researching. (Ok…first hit when I searched “How to cook an artichoke”)

I read it over before I went to the grocery store this week.

I picked a smaller artichoke and some garlic and lemon juice.

Last night, I attempted to cook “the thorny beast” as I will now refer to it.

Following the instructions, I used a pair of kitchen scissors to cut off the thorns that were racking up “pokes”. Pretty easy. Then I tried to cut off the top 3/4 inch. My veggie knife would NOT chop the top off. I even tried a serrated knife. I ended up chopping/sawing/angrily attempting to murder the top 3/4 inches of this thorny beast. It wasn’t pretty but I did eventually get it done!

Now, I don’t have a steaming bowl…so I decided to say screw it! I put the thorny beast in my steamer. I put lemon juice, a chopped glove of garlic and some lemon juice in the water tray that goes underneath the artichoke and set it for 30 minutes. I checked it after twenty and the leaves pealed off perfectly.

I made some basic tsatziki sauce using organic plain yogurt, lemon juice, salt, pepper, dill, cucumber, and garlic. I loved the sauce with the thorny beast. Doc was indifferent. Little Bird was creeped out by the cucumber chunks in it.

That said, we couldn’t finish it. I served it as an appetizer in case it went horrifically in this cooking attempt. I think it could almost be a meal in itself. I’d love to do a thorny beast with some stuffed grape leaves as a great vegetarian meal at some point.

Week 1: Artichoke – SLAIN!

Next week. Ugh….Leeks.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Believe in Your Kid

Ok – sometimes one of the hardest things for me to do as a parent is to sit back and take a deep breath and remember that my daughter can do it.

“It” being whatever we are working on that is draining the life out of me.

For example, naptime on a nap mat for school.

Little Bird went for her first day of preschool this year a little over a week ago. She was very excited. She had her lunch, backpack, nap mat, and blanket.

When I arrived to pick her up, the director of the school stopped me in the middle of the hall (where other parents were picking up children) to tell me that Little Bird was removed from the class for a long period of time because she had a panic attack during naptime.

They suggested half days, where I would pick her up after lunch.

Now, granted, Little Bird does have panic attacks at times ever since we had to leave her in Tulsa for three months while we were with our son in St. Louis last winter. It was hard on us all. In the month since our little boy died, we’ve all been working on readjusting to normal life. Little Bird has a hard time with transitioning from one activity to the next and naptime in particular seems to really stress her out.

I honestly had some major concerns about this preschool before school started. I wanted an academic curriculum for Little Bird that was appropriate for her level of interest and maturity. This preschool, while having learning goals for her class the year before, shifted the focus to religious education in her new class.  We weren’t okay with that. We thought we’d try it and in the meantime, look into other schools.

Then this incident happened.  Honestly, I was upset that Little Bird was pulled from the classroom and no one called me. I was upset that the director talked to me about it in the middle of the hall in front of other parents. I was upset that on THE FIRST DAY they seemed to have written her off as traumatized by her brother’s death and they seemed extremely uncomfortable at the idea of helping her through readjusting to normal life.

Needless to say, I understand that people are uncomfortable with death (though I don’t feel the same way). I understand that the women at this school are not trained in helping a child through grief from loss. That said, Doc and I felt like it was time to find another school. This one was just a bad fit for Little Bird and our family.

I knew that Little Bird could adjust to a new routine. I knew she could “rest” on a nap mat. She just needed some time and some help. While I visited some other schools, we got to work at home.

End Goal: Move from lunchtime to rest time without signs of anxiety or protest. Little Bird will roll out her nap mat, sit or lay on it while quietly resting or reading books for an hour to two hours each day. After rest time, she will roll up her nap mat.

Here’s how it went.

Day 1: Holy nightmare. We rolled out the mat. As soon as she recognized it as the hell mat from preschool she panicked. She refused to sit on it. Didn’t want to touch it. In a calm voice (while frequently picturing the vodka on ice I would be having that evening) I stated “At rest time we must stay on our mat and keep our voices quiet.” I would gentle pick her up and place her back on her mat when she got off.  I stopped counting at the twentieth time I put her on the mat again. Reading books or any other activity was not working. After an hour of her screaming “I DON’T WANT TO TAKE A NAP!!!!!!!!” Little Bird looked at me and told me she was sad that Rowan died, then asked me to hold her while she cried.  Then she sat on the mat quietly for about five minutes and I let her get up. No nap. She did learn how to roll her mat up.

Day 2: Little Bird rolled her mat out. I offered to her that we could watch a movie during rest time, as long as she remained on her mat. She laid down. I played Sleeping Beauty. I held the remote. Every time she got up, I paused the movie and reminded her that “At rest time we must stay on our mat and keep our voices quiet”. Once she returned to the mat and quieted herself, I would resume the movie. She rested through out the movie and then rolled her mat up. No nap.

Day 3: Little Bird rolled her mat out. I told her I was going to read two books. After we listened to the books, we would watch Sleeping Beauty. This day went well. She calmly listened to the story. She stayed on her mat the entire time the movie was on, and rolled it up at the end.

Day 4: Little Bird rolled her mat, picked out a baby to sleep with and laid down. I read two longer books. I told her we would listen to quiet music for five minutes while resting quietly on our mat. After the quiet music we would watch Sleeping Beauty. When the movie was over, she rolled up her mat. No nap.

Day 5: Little Bird rolled out her mat, listened to 3 books, laid quietly while listening to music. After 5 minutes, she got upset and said she didn’t want to take a nap. I explained that she could lay in her bed and take a nap if she was going to be sad and loud or she could quietly lay on her mat and listen to music. (NOTE: NEVER GIVE CHOICES IF YOU AREN’T OKAY WITH BOTH OPTIONS. Both of these got her to rest quietly. Both worked for me and her.) She chose the second, laid down on her mat and TOOK A NAP!!!!!!

Day 6: Little Bird rolled out her mat, listened to two books, and got off the mat to leave the room. I reminded her that “during rest time we must stay on our mat and keep our voices quiet” and she lost it. She got angry and upset, so I told her she needed to lay on her bed. She kept getting out. I kept trying to calmly return her to bed, but she kept screaming. Finally, she stopped and through sobs choked out “Mom, I need to go pee pee, Oh no!” and had an accident.   ….shit.  OK! So NOW I say “During rest time we must stay on our mat and keep our voices quiet, but we can get up if we need to use the bathroom.” I apologized to her for not understanding that she wanted to go to the potty. We cleaned her up, she slept in her bed without complaint after that.

Day 7: Use the potty. Roll out nap mat. Listen to books. Listen to music. Nap. Roll up nap mat. Snack time.

My point is – don’t give up. Don’t think that your kid can’t do something you want them to be able to do. Set a goal. Help them develop a routine. Let them take responsibility (rolling their mat out and putting it up). Expect a few rough days. Remember that they are learning.  Remember to picture nice adult drinks once you handle the “crisis” moments (or bubble baths or whatever is your little ‘unwind’ secret). Don’t give up. Your child is amazing and capable.

Also, we found a school that fits Little Bird and our family perfectly. She is already doing wonderfully in her class and the teachers love her. I seriously don’t think I could have designed a better place for her. Sometimes a school doesn’t fit. Doesn’t mean the people running it are bad or that the school is bad, just means it’s not right for you or yours. So glad we decided to try something different.