The End Of An Era

The beginning of Josh and Jada’s relationship began in March of 2011 after Ryan and his three children moved across country from Guymon, Oklahoma to their new hometown of Zeeland, Michigan where I lived with my four children.  Upon their first meeting at my house, Joshua, then 18 months old, shoved Jada, 15 months old down the wooden deck steps and giggled about it.  He wasn’t intentionally being malicious in the moment – he was just curious about what would happen if he were to shove this new, curious being who was about his size down the stairs.  It didn’t go over well. In fact, one of her few front teeth was knocked out in the process. It’s a good thing Jada eventually forgave him because they’ve been inseparable ever since, in fact, most people question whether or not they are twins (although a confusing thought with one having bright blue eyes and the other bright brown eyes).

This post (aka their baby book) is a tribute to Josh and Jada’s relationship from that moment on as soon (16 blessed days soon!) they are going to be removed from the coveted post as “the babies” of the family and embark on new adventures full of responsibility and big kid wonders in the Ronne household as we all anxiously await the arrival of the newest member of the family.

God speed Josh and Jada, it’s been an honor having you as the babies, but honestly, it will be a relief to simplify that honor with only one child.

Pizza Recipe

pizza

 

I occasionally post pictures of our homemade pizza dinners on Facebook (as I did last night) and without fail, I have people ask, “Do you have a good dough recipe?”  When we moved to Tennessee we quickly (and sadly) realized that our pizza options were very limited where we live, the closest being about 20 miles away, and we had absolutely zero options when it came to delivery.  Ryan and I fell in love over pizza and wine, literally.  Every time we got together we ordered pizza and picked up a bottle of wine, and when we discovered that this staple, this symbol of our love was nowhere to be found in our new homeland,  we were devastated.  So I figured out how to make a decent pizza that’s actually pretty darn good if I do say so myself.

 A good pizza, I believe, involves a few things. 

 1. Fresh ingredients.

2. The flour makes a difference!  I love a chewy crust.  Bread flour gives this consistency. 

3.  A good pizza stone, set on the bottom rack of the oven, and preheated at 450 degrees for at least an hour before the first pizza goes in is essential. 

4. And again, FRESH INGREDIENTS!  If you use cheap, crappy ingredients, you’ll get a cheap, crappy pizza.  If you use fresh vegetables, tomatoes in the sauce, fresh cheese if possible, you’ll get an outstanding pizza.

 Final takeaway, the Italians are on to something with all the pizza and pasta they feed their big families.  It is an economical way to make a great, nutritious meal that everyone loves.

 Here is my go to recipe for dough and sauce.  Both were concocted over the past two years through trial and error, taking bits and pieces of one recipe and adding it to another until I discovered something that worked for my family. 

 Pizza Sauce

Saute a few garlic cloves in olive oil. DO NOT BURN THE GARLIC. Add 1 cup of crushed tomatoes to 1 TB of tomato paste. Combine.  Add oregano, basil, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, sugar, and balsamic vinegar to taste. Blend together with a hand mixer if desired. 

 Dough- makes one large pizza

 2 1/4 tea active dry yeast

3/4 cup plus one TB water, 100 to 115 Degrees F

1 tea salt

2 TB olive oil

1 TB honey or sugar

2 cups bread flour.

 Stir the first five ingredients together in a large bowl. Let stand a few minutes until the yeast is bubbly. Add the flour, mix well, and then knead (a kitchen aid mixer is a lifesaver for this process!) for 5-10 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic.  If it’s too wet, add a little flour, it should not stick all over your fingers when you touch it, but you don’t want too add too much flour because it will create a dry, hard crust.  Be careful with the flour. After kneading, place in a well oiled bowl, cover and let rise until doubled in size.  When doubled, punch down and place in the fridge until ready to use.  At least one hour before use, remove from fridge so that the dough can begin to rewarm.  I don’t know scientifically why this step works, but it makes the best chewy pizza crust.  If you like more of a soft, non chewy crust, skip the fridge part and move right into making and baking pizzas. 

 

Enjoy!

 

 

A Life Manifesto

This was meant to be a blog post a few weeks ago; however, the blog wasn’t working, and I didn’t want the thoughts or the moment to pass without expressing what I was feeling so I wrote it on Facebook.  Many of you have probably already read it, but for those who are new to my world,  I thought it was worth repeating (and I have a limited amount of time for writing with child # 8 arriving soon!).  I penned the following words on a beautiful, crisp morning in the mountains, feeling extremely peaceful about my place in the world as Ryan and I were able to get away for a few days to celebrate our fourth anniversary together in a rustic cabin.  This particular morning also brought the additional joy of receiving an email from the university to inform me that I was officially finished with a nine year degree program. Relief, joy, and peace flooded my soul, all three feelings together being a rarity in my world.   

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(Keepin it real – the obligatory vacation selfie.  Very pregnant, no sleep, no makeup, rustic pose – yes, this was the best of the five pictures we took)

Today I have entirely different feelings flooding my soul as I slowly acknowledge the reality that this is my children’s last day of school.  There are two categories of moms in the world – those who love what tomorrow brings and those who don’t.  I fall into the latter category.  I can handle the cooking, the cleaning, the laundry, the physical aspect of it all (even at eight months pregnant) but the mental onslaught of so many little mouths uttering the word “mom” all day long is admittedly draining – especially for an admittedly over thinking, over analyzing, overly introverted person such as myself. That being said, let’s focus on the good feelings I was feeling just a month ago as I celebrated in the mountains with my husband and without my children.

 Here’s the post:

Today marks my fourth year of marriage to a remarkable man. As a partnership we have lived lifetimes together, and our love is deeper and more meaningful than ever before. I’m excited to see what the future has in store for us. We were able to get away to a rustic cabin in the mountains (not something I’d recommend – rustic and pregnancy don’t go together well, aka no sleep), but we have enjoyed the mental break that is always present with the absence of children.

Today also marks a sense of accomplishment as I woke up, checked my email, and received a much anticipated message from my professor simply saying, “Jessica, you are FINISHED!”
The end of a 9 year era in school and the culmination of a life long dream – a Masters Degree.

I’ve had many moments of quiet reflection and contemplation on this short getaway, and I had to laugh as I stumbled upon this gem of an entry from my journal on April 2, 2004.

“Thirteen days until my 27th birthday. I can’t believe it! The remainder of my twenties I will be busy making a family (we’re thinking four babies), and in my thirties I can relax and get back to myself.”

My reality? Pregnant for the 6th time, 7 weeks away from giving birth to my 8th child, married to an aspiring farmer/woodworker, both growing babies, him growing plants, me attempting to grow a writing career (when I’m done growing babies) and finally receiving a Master’s Degree after nine years, all out in the middle of nowhere. No, we don’t believe we’ve lost our minds; in fact, neither one of us has ever felt more fully alive.

Perfection. Maybe my forties will offer more relaxation.

There are a few truths, at least in my world, that resonate deeply as I reflect a week after my 38th birthday, the day of my anniversary, and 3 days away from walking across a podium to accept recognition for a ten year dream.

1. Life is fleeting and magical and sometimes a living Hell. Feel and face it all – the good, the bad, the ugly, lest you adopt an unhealthy coping mechanism that destroys everything you hold near and dear.

2. You will generally not convince others of your positions on issues. Unless you are married. Then it is considered coercion and not necessarily convincing.

3. It’s okay to not agree, and it’s okay to maintain a friendship with someone who doesn’t agree with you. It takes all kinds to make the world spin round.

4. Life truly is a miracle. I’ve never been more entranced by the pure spirituality and beauty of carrying this child in my belly. Never take life or the ability to nurture a life for granted. It is a gift.

5. Love deeply and touch often (those you love works best). Use words to tell your loved ones how much they mean to you. If you are unable to speak the words, write, text, sing or trace them in the sand with a stick. Whatever. Just get the words out so those you love aren’t left wondering when you are no longer here. There is no closure for those who wonder.

6. The greatest gift you can give your family is an honest version of you. It’s the best version anyways. Don’t hold secrets from your family. Be you fully. Even in the nastiness.

7. Make peace with your past. Forgive. Forget. Move on. There is no greater burden under the sun than that of carrying unforgiveness in your heart.

8. The right pizza with a fine wine can be a little taste of Heaven.

9. Piles of laundry are a little taste of Hell.

10. Joy originates from a spirit of thankfulness. Thankfulness makes everything possible. Healing from just about anything stems from a thankful heart.

11. Getting older is a blessing. You’ll receive the premium botex special when you enter the pearly gates. In the meantime, make peace with the wrinkles and the saggy skin.

12. It really is in our best interest to eat as healthy as possible (and it helps a teeny, tiny bit in preventing the wrinkles and saggy skin). Minimally processed foods, lots of fruits, veggies, yogurt, and water. Move your body – walk, run or sprint. It never ceases to amaze me how Americans will spend millions on cancer treatments when they receive the diagnosis, but they won’t spend a few extra dollars or time on their health to avoid cancer. Over 40% of cancers are avoidable (bbcnews.org). That’s a big number.

13. Health is one of life’s greatest blessings. Truly. Monotony is also a blessing. A mother going through cancer treatments with her child would trade lives in a heartbeat for a mundane, boring life with your three, screaming, healthy brats. Believe me.

14. Say I love you every day. And while you’re at it, make love often. With your spouse. It works better that way, and it should be a gift that only you can give one another.

15. Recognize your vice. Do everything in your power throughout the years to become more proficient in overcoming this vice. But own it. Really own what causes you to stumble or it will own you.

16. Do what you say you’re going to do. If you say junior will get a consequence lest he cross a line again – give him the consequence. If you say you will be somewhere to help a friend, be there. The whole of your integrity is wrapped up in each small action that you do or don’t do.

17. God is good. All the time. It’s not a saying; it’s the truth. He has our best interests at heart even if we will never understand how or why this side of eternity.

18. Which leads me back to – Life is so fleeting. It could be over for any one of us tomorrow. Or next year with a horrific diagnosis. Or in five years with a car accident. We just don’t know. Live intentionally – Always. Live for the moment. Live for today. Make a bucket list and start crossing off the items one by one. Move to the mountains if that’s your dream. Or Manhattan. You have one shot at this thing. DO YOU UNDERSTAND? One shot at life. Follow that still small voice which beckons you to your destiny. Grow crops or bonds or children or words. Whatever lights your soul on fire. DO IT. No more excuses. It will all be over in a blink of an eye. Got it?

Just keep livin!!

How It Came To Pass That We Were Granted Ten Minutes Of Fame.

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If you missed our ten minutes of fame over the weekend, here’s a recap of all of the exciting events.

Last week Monday, May 4th, I received an email from a Today.com writer who had seen the article in the Grand Rapids Press about the family (http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2015/04/graduating_while_pregnant_with.html).  She asked if she could also write a story on how we ended up together.  I said YES! Of course.  We interviewed the following day (Tuesday) and Wednesday night conducted our normal routine by bringing the kids to Awanas at church while Ryan and I proceeded to Walmart  – our Wednesday night date destination (I know, super romantic). As we drove, I checked my phone and noticed new site subscriptions for the blog pouring in. Like two or three per thirty seconds.  In the midst of those numerous site subscriptions was an email from the Today Show writer informing us that she had just published the story ( http://www.today.com/parents/family-10-t19701).

WOW, COOL, AND OVERWHELMED. By the end of the evening we realized the blog had reached something close to 400 site subscriptions, and the article was being shared all over Facebook.  The next morning the article had been linked on the Today Facebook page and had close to 35,000 likes.  Again, WOW.

Thursday we had a moment or two to bask in the wowness of it all and then Ryan, myself, and the two littlest ones headed over to the cottage we rent out (https://www.facebook.com/RonneRentals) to clean and prepare it for our weekend guests.  On a break while over there, I checked my email at around 11:00 am, noticed that a reporter for the Today Show –[THE ACTUAL TODAY SHOW] – had sent  a message asking if I would call her immediately. I made the call and then somehow found myself agreeing to the reality of a television crew arriving at my house in the next three hours to film a TV version of our story for the Today Show.

The cottage quickly became “good enough” as we rushed home where I recruited Josh and Jada’s amazing cleaning skills for the afternoon.  I informed them that we were going to be on TV (What show? asked Jada) and that I would give them each a dollar bill (With what number on it? asked Josh) and two pieces of candy.  These two busted their rear ends helping mom for the next few hours.  

The crew showed up as planned around 3:00 p.m., and we proceeded to open our home and our brains to questioning for the next few hours.  What you saw on TV was the final product of about three hours worth of filming.  
The story aired Saturday morning at 8:30 am.
http://www.today.com/video/couple-unites-after-losing-spouses-442569795902

Lovely face freeze frame….

 All in all, we’ve had a few takeaways from all of this:

1.    For every five hundred kind, considerate, and wonderful people who comment in regards to our story there is of course the one person who either needs to get on a higher dosage of medication or make peace with his Maker with questions such as, “don’t they know about birth control?”…  These people find something negative in anything.  And of course, those are the comments I dwell on because my skin is not very thick.  So moral of the story, I need to grow some thicker skin or stop reading the comments altogether.  

2.    No – we are not at all interested in a reality show as many have suggested in the comments. Although a flattering thought, our life is actually pretty boring and mundane. Ryan pulls weeds and makes furniture,  I make muffins and bread, he watches River Monsters, I veg out on Dr. Phil, one of us makes it to the mailbox, and at the end of the day, we rock in our old people chairs on the porch as we admonish the children to “go play” while we catch up on the day’s events. We are not exciting people. Really. Nor are we high drama people, and I don’t want the pressure of having to be a nice mom all the time. No kid should grow up with a fake nice mom all the time. That’s a sure fire recipe for therapy.  Sorry – Not our cup of tea.

3.    This was an amazingly fun experience.  I mean, how many people get to be on the Today Show? (actually,  quite a few I would guess).  But, what’s even more amazing is my family, the blessing of our upcoming child, and the simplicity of my life.  I wouldn’t trade any of it for fame or fortune.

4.    Shameless plug time, I do have a book entitled Sunlight Burning at Midnight that I would love to move forward with towards publication.  There are various parts of the book on this blog under the My Story tab, and I have a manuscript and a proposal ready to go.  All that’s lacking is an agent or a person willing to move forward with me on this project.  Ryan and I would also enjoy writing together at some point.  Calling all agents and/or people in the publishing industry, we are interested in speaking with you .

5. I’ve discovered that journalism is an interesting field.  Having just graduated with a Master’s Degree I have been inundated for the past nine years with the concept of absolute honesty and clarity when quoting a person in any research. Not so much how it works in the real world.

6.    Finally, the answer to the infamous question heard everywhere we go now – “How did y’all end up out here in the middle of Tennessee?”  We had a vision for our life.  We realized life can be short and that means you need to live it well while you have breath in your lungs.  We spoke of what that vision looked like, and we had similar thoughts.  A simple life, focused on love, faith, and family in a big, cheap house (aka fixer upper) on lots of land growing our own food, raising our own meat, and potentially milking our own goats or cows.  We found a house, prayed about it, watched it for over a year, finally became brave enough to check it out, and three months later moved the family.  Plain and simple.  Sometimes you just gotta jump – but you always have to “just keep livin!” 

Thank you for all of the kind support, love, and words in regards to our story.  May it always bring glory to God for his faithfulness in the midst of the ashes.