Maybe You Don’t Know Just How Much You Need a Break Till You Get One (and reviews of the places we ate in PCB)

My two adult kids had given me birthday money for a beautiful condo at Panama City Beach for 2 nights. When I opened the card with the money in it, my son said, “Mom, you can’t use this for anything but the beach. Not for groceries.  Not for a bill.  Not for anything else, just for the beach.”

It was too cool for us, but we watched kids enjoying the pools.

Jessie, our youngest who has Down syndrome, really doesn’t like the beach so we rarely ever go.  Before kids, that was our happy place for sure.  When we couldn’t stay overnight we made lots of spontaneous day trips.  When our oldest two were little, it was a lot more work, but we still managed to go some and they enjoyed it too.  Once Jessie came along, because of her intolerance of heat and how hard it is for her to walk in the sand, we’ve pretty much given it up.

Both my big kids know how much I love the beach. Of all the places I can think of, the beach is the most peaceful and relaxing to me. Hearing the waves seems to almost instantly bring a feeling of peace and calmness.

I always feel close to God when I’m outdoors, and especially at the beach. It is such a magnificent display of His creativity and power.

My husband reminded me that it had been NINE YEARS since we went away without kids. Even though it has been 9 years, I still remember how much we enjoyed that time too. I still remember that we came home feeling so much more connected as a couple.  For a long time after that it served as a sweet reminder of , “Yeah, that’s kind of the people we were before kids.”  It’s good to remember that and yet sometimes hard when you’re in the trenches every day.

I found it hard to leave any of my kids when they were young, and that feeling has lasted longer with Jessie than the other two.   In the 23 years since we’ve been parents, other than when we were at the hospital having a kid, I think this may be only the 3rd time we’ve been away from all of them at the same time.  When I had a c-section with Jessie, the last night we spent in the hospital, Jordan (7) and Evan (5)  spent the night there with us.  Their last living grandparent died when Jessie was 7.  We didn’t have grandparents to keep them, and when there are 3 of them, well, there aren’t a lot of takers for that kind of babysitting.

This trip to the beach, Jessie was really excited to spend the weekend with her sister and brother in law, both of whom she completely adores.  Jordan took Jessie to a Valentine Dance on Friday, and to church then out to lunch at O’Charley’s on Sunday.  This was the first time she had spent the night at Jordan’s since they bought their house, so I know next time (and there will be a next time!)  she will feel even more comfortable spending the night.

Jessie really enjoys time with Jordan without me, because without meaning to, Jordan and I tend to monopolize the conversation a lot of the time. When Jordan was giving me the weekend highlights, she said Jessie had expressed to her and Josh how much she appreciated them “being so kind to her”. Where does she get these grown up things?!

Jessie texted and we facetimed (brief each time) throughout the weekend because Jessie just likes to stay in touch and know what we’re doing.  We didn’t mind.  I could hear in her voice each time that she was enjoying her time too.

We had no explicit plans for what we would do once we arrived at the beach. When we talked about it in advance, since rain was on the forecast for the whole weekend, we thought we might want to find some shopping or something else to do.  Maybe even go to a movie. We didn’t do any of that.

The first moment that we stepped out onto the balcony looking at the ocean and listening to the waves, it was like Jay and I let out this huge exhale.  We had known we needed a break and some time together, but I don’t think we had realized just how much.

After we got our stuff unloaded we went in search of a late supper.  See later in post for details on all the neat places we found over the weekend.  When we got back, it was getting late but we had never stayed at this condo before so we just wanted to take a look around.  We met the nicest couple while we were out.

As we passed by the hot tub, an older gentleman asked if we would turn the timer on for them another 15 minutes. I don’t know if we ever introduced ourselves or learned their names, but we enjoyed chatting with him and his wife for a good few minutes. We learned that they had raised 4 kids and had 10 grandkids. For the last 4 years since they had retired, they came to this condo at Panama City Beach right after Christmas and stayed for 2 months. Wow. #lifegoals. He made sure we understood that they had only been married to each other. They have friends with a blended family that have 15 grandchildren between them. He was proud to let us know all 10 of those grand babies come from just the 2 of them and their 4 kids. They were here all the way from Manitoba Canada. We noticed several Canadian car tags in the parking lot but most were from Ontario.

All day Saturday and all day Sunday, with the exception of when we went out to eat and get a few groceries, I sat on the balcony, listening to the loud and peaceful roar of the waves. The sound of the waves is medicinal, truly.  It was a little cool and windy so I stayed cozy wrapped up in a soft blanket. We were on the 6th floor, just high enough to have a good view without being so high as to feel too far from the beach. When I wasn’t reading or watching the waves I enjoyed people watching.

Some of the time I was reading The Rest of God:  Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath. (This is an affiliate link)  It was the perfect location for reading this book.  I didn’t finish it yet, but it’s good!

For supper Saturday night, I  marinated and pan fried a steak (it was raining so we couldn’t grill) and baked sweet potatoes to go with salad I had brought from home.  We ate and went right back to the waves.

Only when it stormed did I come inside and then we watched tv together.  While it stormed, Jay and I watched Golden Girls and then a show about building log cabins that was really quite hilarious.  How is a show about building log cabins hilarious, you ask?  The owner of the company and several of the workers kept talking about how lazy one of the workers was until he quit. His laziness, they speculated, had something to do with his recreational activities that had also cost him his driver’s license. Then, they decided that although he was lazy they still needed him so they apologized and took him back. And, oh yeah, the bosses ex-wife was now married to one of his best employees.

Think, As the World Turns meets Log Cabin Builders.  They were acting like a bunch of catty high school girls talking behind each others back and then making up.  They did amazing work as log cabin builders and the combination of that with the soap opera work environment made for good entertainment.  It really was quite entertaining on multiple levels.

See how foggy? It was the same looking out toward the ocean. Didn’t impair my enjoyment one bit!

Sunday morning it was so foggy you couldn’t see very far out into the ocean.  I don’t know that I’ve ever seen the beach quite so foggy as that. A little while later it was back to normal.  I enjoy an ocean view though no matter what the weather is.

We got in a short walk Sunday morning before it rained and then it rained the rest of the all day. Even though it rained most of the time we were at the beach, I don’t think there was one thing that could have made our beach trip a bit better.  It made us rest and rest was what we needed most.

I remember when our oldest kids were young and we would go to the beach with my mother in law. She would sit on the balcony and we would always encourage her to come down with us to the beach or pool, feeling like she was missing the beach by being on the balcony. But this trip I got it; I really enjoyed sitting, just resting, a lot of that time alone.

Some of the time Jay was inside watching tv. That’s more restful to him than it is for me. We enjoyed our time together tremendously, but  we also felt comfortable to do  what we each wanted to separately some of the time.

Other than when I made us a quick breakfast, I stayed outside on the balcony again till we were starving.  We went to a place practically across the street from the condo, Hammerhead Fred’s.  We might not enjoy this place during peak season, but on this off season day it was quiet and not very busy and the food was delicious.

When I’m at home, I always feel the call of undone things.  Even if I don’t answer the call, I feel the weight of them.  While we were at the beach there were no undone things.  Nothing else I needed to be doing, rest was the plan. I can only rest this completely when I’m away from home.

I love being at home, and I mostly don’t mind that we can’t afford to travel often.  But this trip reminded me just how good it is to get away.  Away from our responsibilities of home and together just as a couple.

I knew it would be good to get a break but it wasn’t really until we were there and I relaxed so completely that I realized just how much we both had needed it. We operated solely on our own agenda.  We ate when we wanted to.  Slept when we wanted to.  Drank extra coffee.  Read, prayed, sat completely still for hours at a time.  Nobody called my name,  interrupting my reading or prayer.  I wiped no-one’s butt but my own.  Sorry if that’s TMI, but that was one of the highlights of my weekend.

Jay said when we got home that it was good to be home.  He read my face and could see I hadn’t been as ready to come back yet.  I hope we won’t wait nearly so long to do this again.  It was good for us in every way.

When I think back on it, I can picture in my mind the exact view and the way the waves sounded.  I’m going to hold onto those sweet memories we made, both as a reminder of a good time and incentive to not let so much time go by before we go away together again.

It was pretty windy and my and collar was blowing up into my face each time we tried to take a picture so Jay is holding my collar down here 🙂

I came back feeling the most rested I can remember being in a very long time.  Physically, emotionally, spiritually.

We’ve had a good week since we’ve been back and it was so good to start the week feeling so rested.  I’ve prepared Jay though, that since we’re nicely rested,  this upcoming long weekend I have plans for us to accomplish a lot of things around the house.  Real life 🙂

Till next week,

Josette

For Those of You That Visit Panama City Beach:  The Places We Ate and the Stories that Go With Them

Surfside Shrimp Co. (on Thomas Drive)

Friday night as we tossed around options for eating a late supper, I really wanted some raw oysters. When I think of the beach, I think fresh seafood.  Not too far from our condo on Thomas Drive, we came across Surfside Shrimp Co., a market where they sell seafood, serve steamed seafood, and have an oyster bar.

There was only 1 table to sit at other than the bar. We were surprised by that initially, and pondered going somewhere else, but decided to stay. Then when we realized they only had oysters and steamed seafood and no burgers, etc, Jay and I had to negotiate. He doesn’t love oysters the way I do; he can take ’em or leave ’em most of the time.  Not much negotiating really, he was super sweet to do anything I wanted to do all weekend.   It ended up being such an enjoyable time and the oysters were SO delicious I’m glad we decided to stay.

Since Jay doesn’t love oysters, so we thought he could have a beer while I ate oysters  then we would go to Waffle House for him and I would drink coffee while he ate.  He actually ended up enjoying a few oysters too and then we drove through Wendy’s to get him a burger on the way back to the condo.  We were telling our waitress how the oysters were so much better than some we had a few weeks ago in our hometown. We couldn’t believe how much difference there was, how good they were.

The owner came over and and explained that the oysters from Apalachicola (the place we usually hear most oysters come from) didn’t have good oysters right now because of storms. These were from Cedar Key FL. They were THE best oysters we’d had in a very long time. “Clean” and “fresh” tasting were 2 words Jay used to describe them. They were also huge and good and salty. Perfection.

When we’re out of town and not feeling in any hurry we enjoy talking to people we meet along the way.  Y’all know I like to know everyone’s story.

We enjoyed a conversation with Frank, that owns Surfside.   As we talked we learned he was from New York. I asked him how he ended up so far south from New York. He told us a little of the history getting from NY to FL and said the main reason was…he hated New Yorker’s!  We busted out laughing. I don’t know why, but that just struck our funny bone. A New Yorker that hates New Yorkers.   He told us that he had worked in a lot of hotels before he ended up in Panama City.  Evidently, a lot of New Yorkers worked in this one hotel, because he said the hotel put up a sign that said, “We don’t care how you did it in New York.”

We very much enjoyed our meal and visit at Surfside Shrimp. Co.  From the sweet high school aged girl who took our order, the great oysters and our enjoyable chat with Frank, this is a place we will want to visit again.

FYI, they have beer and soft drinks but no tea or diet drinks.  We were ok with that on this visit but good to know.

Shane’s Rib Shack

On Saturday, we ventured out to eat and then a trip to Walmart.  We were in search of some place locally owned again, preferring not to eat at a chain restaurant.  Well, we ended up at a chain, but we didn’t know it at the time.  Even so, Shane’s was a great choice, we were glad we ended up there.

The pictures we saw of their hamburgers on the windows  looked pretty amazing.  The pictures always get us, don’t they? We asked the sweet young lady at the counter if she had any recommendations and asked about the burgers.  She said the burgers were made fresh when you order so they take about 20 minutes.  We each ordered their Cowboy burger which comes with little fried onion rings on it.  I had mine all the way.  Ya’ll, when you order a burger, they rarely ever look the picture.  These actually did!  Right down to the pretty and curly edged leaf lettuce.  The burgers were amazing.  Best burger we’ve had in a good while.

While we were in Shane’s there was a young family across from us with 3 little ones.  An infant, a toddler and the oldest was a little boy no older than 5, my guess would be 4.  I enjoyed watching him; he was so cute.  He was holding a fork straight upright in front of his face eating what appeared to be a chicken nugget.  I heard him ask, “Why Mommy?” a couple of different times.  For some reason, ever since Evan has made it through those young years I have enjoyed watching little boys.  Little boys are a mess and I find them so fascinating….as long as they go home with their mamas 🙂

A few days later when I ate at Shane’s Rib Shack in Enterprise, AL, the ribs were equally delicious, flavorful and very tender, the meat pulled easily off the bone with a fork.  I might have a little crush on Shane’s Rib Shack.  We will definitely be going back.

Hammerhead Fred’s (Thomas Drive)

We went to Hammerhead Fred’s for a late lunch on Sunday.  If it were peak season I don’t know that this would have been a place we would choose.  With the outdoor bar, the environment might have been louder and a different vibe during the summer, but on this day it was very enjoyable. We shared a wings appetizer first that came with celery and carrots. Then we shared a fried shrimp platter that came with a salad and we had a side of sweet potato tots with it.  For this type of place we were surprised at how fresh and good the salad was with a variety of lettuces in it.  The meal was delicious.  The graffiti everywhere (purposeful) made me feel a little bit like if I stayed too long I would want to clea

We really enjoyed our weekend so much and all of the places we ate while in PCB were very good.  I wanted to give you a description in case you’re visiting Panama City Beach soon you might give one of them a try.

I Was Running From God Last Week

Even as I wrote the post Trusting God Even More in 2018, I was struggling, wrestling with God. Shortly thereafter, without realizing it, I was running from God.  Y’all, this wasn’t years or months ago, this was as recently as this week.  Maybe you can identify with my struggle.  It might be for different reasons, it might look different in your life when you run from God, but many of us do it and don’t even realize it.

Since my brother died recently, I have had many conversations with several family members about others in our family that are no longer with us.  It has brought fresh grief that I thought was mostly healed.  We’ve also talked about some events that have stirred up a lot of emotion from the past.   In addition to grief over missing them, there are some family members that I don’t have perfect peace about if they’re in heaven.

It’s just all felt so heavy some days.  Even when I wasn’t purposely thinking about any of those things.  It all just weighed on me with a feeling of heaviness.

Even praying about the sadness or anxiety has been painful and I’ve just wanted to escape feeling so much.

I didn’t mean to, but in an effort to escape thinking about these things, I subconsciously kept myself from having any idle time in my mind to think about anything.

Not too long before this, I had been chugging along, working toward my goal of reading the whole Bible through.  I was using the Bible in a year plan, but had already seen it was going to take me a little longer and I was ok with that.  Some days my Bible and prayer time began to feel heavy and some of the Old Testament reading was hard to think about.  I didn’t mean to, but I began to slack off and not make time for it.  Before I knew it, I was hardly reading my Bible at all.

One day I’m walking closely with God and the next thing I know I’m running the other direction.

I shared earlier that in my own life, God has allowed some pretty tragic events.  Even though I can look back and see how He brings good from every little thing, sometimes I still feel anxious or fearful about the future in a way that I wish I didn’t.

How I’ve dealt with this fear has been different at every stage of life.  When my kids were younger, and raising them took all I could think about or accomplish in a day, I didn’t live in a state of anxiety.  Although I have struggled with fear for a long time, overall, my position was a feeling of confidence that no matter what God would bring me through.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes God scares the daylights out of me.

I never hear other Christians say that.  I can’t be the only one that feels that way?  I mean, have you ever read the Old Testament? Sometimes the way God works and the things he allows are outside of my human ability to understand.   When I think on Old Testament events or ponder sickness and death and tragedies that we currently hear about on a daily basis, it’s just overwhelming some days.

My house is quieter now and that allows for a more idle mind.  Although I really do think that’s part of it, I also feel sure there are hormones affecting my state of mind in this menopausal phase of life.  Whatever the cause, I’m ready to be out from under this feeling!  As a means of avoiding negative thoughts, fears, any feeling of heaviness, I’ve recently gotten out of balance with activities that are usually a good thing for me.

What it looks like when you run from God might be different, but I have learned to recognize what it looks like for me.  When I’m running from intimacy with God I tend to never let my mind be idle.  I will listen to books, watch tv, phone friends…..keep my MIND BUSY AT ALL TIMES.  None of these things are bad things, in fact, often they’re good things, I just sometimes get them out of proportion.

I love listening to audio books or podcasts while I do housework.  And I’m so glad I have those things to help keep me motivated when I’m working.  I lack the energy of my youth and it helps keep me going longer to have something to listen to.

When I was younger in my faith and would pull away from God it would look different.  I’ve shared before that I had some serious doubts about God at one time.

I no longer ever doubt God’s real-ness.  I don’t doubt his goodness.  I don’t doubt his ability to do any and all things.  I never doubt his love for me.  I’m certain He is all-knowing, wise, and on my side. When I pull away, I never lose my admiration, my awe of Him, my love for Him.  And yet, I find there are times that I pull back a bit from the intimacy I sometimes share with Him.

WHY, if He is all those good things (and He is!), would I pull away from Him even for a moment?

I’m human.  And sometimes so weak.  I know I  need to lean on His strength, but sometimes even that seems hard.   It feels good to give thinking and feeling a rest. But we can’t stay there.

I shared with one of my closest friends that I realized  I had been running from God and subconsciously, but purposefully,  not allowing myself any time to think painful (or even any heavy) thoughts.   The next day when we had lunch, she gave me some index cards that she had written some scriptures on for me.  She shared with me the things that God had impressed on her heart (for me) in a fresh way when she read these verses.

My eyes overflowed with thankfulness.  Thankfulness for a friend who knows that what we always need is to be pointed back toward the savior and healer of our souls.  And thankfulness to God who is faithful even when I’m faithless.

Although I was familiar with each of these verses, God gave me fresh emphasis and fresh hope from them this week.

My entire life I have CRAVED stability. Even though I know He is my sure foundation, reading this reminder was so sweet. HE will be the SURE FOUNDATION for YOUR TIMES. Yes! I needed to be reminded of this.

This is a story we all know.   And sometimes when we’re so well acquainted with a passage we miss something good.  And, sometimes it just stands out to us right when it’s meant to.  He rebuked the wind and waves and there was a GREAT CALM.  I’m praying now that He do that for me.  Rebuke whatever is necessary and give me a great calmness in my soul.  

I surely know these things.  I’ve broken it down for the youth in church before.  But it freshly calmed my soul to read these words.  Yes, my soul, find rest in God.  I’m praying that part of the verse.  Because of all the things HE is, I will not be shaken.

For the next bit of time these verses are in a prominent place on my kitchen cabinet.  The plates in the cabinet and the vitamins and medicine below mean I will see them many times a day.  If I leave them too long, I will start to overlook them, but for at least a couple of weeks this will be helpful.

Y’all know how I love my audio-books.  But, this week I didn’t allow myself to download a new book.  I just need to hit the reset button. During this “reset” I will re-establish time for Bible and prayer.  I will allow myself to think (some) and pray for God to give my soul the rest it really needs.

I’m also looking forward to starting a Bible study soon. I feel sure it came about at just the right time, that’s always how it seems to work. I was listening to a video by Edie Wadsworth,  who blogs at Lifeingraceblog.com, and she mentioned an upcoming Bible study of Lent.   I have never studied Lent, I barely know what it means.  As she talked about her study of the Prodigal Son and how it had influenced the Bible study she wrote for Lent, I was eager to sign up for it.   If you too would like to check out her study on Lent, you can go here.

Next week I promise a lighter topic 😊.

Josette

Want to Join me in my De-Cluttering/Organizing Goal?

It’s not spring; but I’m obsessively organizing!  I’m determined this is THE year.

Are any of you like me, continuously frustrated with stuff that seems to multiply when we sleep?  Any of you want to join me in this goal I’ve set for myself?  I’m determined that this year, by the end of the year I will have achieved a goal I’ve wished I could for a long time.

The shop outside is a whole nother beast, but by year end (really I hope by summer’s end, but I’m giving myself the whole year, in case):

  • All closets in my house will be orderly and well organized.
  • My stuff (in closets and storage areas) will fit in those designated spaces without any random stuff outside of those areas because there is too much to fit.
  • I no longer want to look around certain rooms with a feeling of annoyance at what feels like clutter to me.

To achieve this goal, we will need to :

  • Remain committed, not allow ourselves to forget how the clutter makes us feel, therefore making this a priority.
  • Although it’s a lot of work, keep in mind this won’t last forever.  Remember, we’re doing this by year end!
  • Be ruthless in getting rid of things that we don’t need, use or love.
  • Establish some guidelines to help our homes stay de-cluttered, not overflowing.

I used to have a hard time parting with things. I am married to someone who still really struggles with parting with things, although he’s definitely gotten much better!

I used to think the only risk was in getting rid of something I might regret.  I came to realize though KEEPING THINGS HAS A COST TOO.  I’m more willing to risk the possibility now that I might wish I had something I got rid of.  I love to look at clean spaces and that is worth a small risk.  Things we keep have to be cleaned or dusted or reorganized.  Again and again and again.  I’m so tired of that cycle.  There are much fewer things that make the cut these days.

It has taken me a long time to get to this point, but I’m much quicker to donate something that I have a small pang of worry that I’ll regret, rather than keep it.

If I’m not using it, I don’t want to dust it or wash it again.

I’ve gotten off to a good start, and the progress I’ve made is providing motivation to keep going.  So far I have:

Reorganized My Christmas Decorations

Okay, these items are stored in our outdoor shop, but I wanted to include them in my progress.  I’ve wanted to do this for YEARS  and finally did it.  After I donated a small bag of ornaments, I reorganized all of my Christmas decorations and labeled them.

In years past, Jay and Evan would bring all the green and red boxes from the rafters of the outdoor shop.  You can see this is a lot of boxes.  I would have to lift the lids to see what is in them, and because it takes more than one day to decorate inside and outside, I would have to look in all the boxes TOO many times to find what I was looking for.

The before! All the Christmas decorations spread out for for sorting/reorganizing, plus any other items that had been shoved in here from other places to have room for the spread we had out on Christmas Day. What a mess!

All the boxes, sorted and labeled for easy retrieval of what items I’m looking for.

Ah, and now I have my little table back. It was used for food set-up on Christmas Day. It’s my favorite spot to work on blog related stuff. This is one of my favorite places in my house. I’ve got this little corner just how I want it.

Until this year, when I have a spare bedroom for the first time, these boxes would be cluttering up my kitchen and living room until I was done with them.  This way, they can be put in another room out of my way and I can easily find the box I need at that time and leave the others stacked up till I’m ready for them.

Two Options of How to Label the Boxes

I listed on the front all the categories of items that are in the box.  I’m going to try this method.  If I add much to the Christmas decorations or need them organized differently,  I will try the second method, described below the pictures.

Alternate box labeling method: you label the box itself with 1, 2, 3, 4 etc and then keep a small notebook or card file. The card or page labeled #1 would list all the items in box #1 .

If what is stored in the boxes changes much this might be the easier way.  OR, if you wanted to look at your list and pull out from storage only certain items this is a good way to go.

Done a TON of Work in my Closet 

I’m not 100% satisfied with the state of my closet, but I’ve put in a lot of work and it’s much closer to my end goal.  I will share pictures when it’s finished.  There’s still a couple of things I’m unsure of how to best store, and I didn’t get to the corner that has our Christmas boxes, ribbons and wrapping supplies.

One reason our closet is such a big job is for years it has been a catch all for stuff we didn’t have room for elsewhere.  We have board games, boxes (from purchases, like iPhones, Kindle’s, laptop) extra blankets, gifts purchased in advance, a box for donations, Christmas wrapping supplies, a large box of frames and decorative things not currently used, and memorabilia in addition to the “normal” closet stuff.  No matter how much I clean it, seems like before I know it, we’ve accumulated a bunch of stuff in there again.  I’m working now not only to declutter and organize what is there, but to stop the flow coming in.

With the exception of the small corner I didn’t get to, everything was pulled from the walls and I vacuumed crevices, dusted baseboards and any walls that needed it. Every game box and stored item was wiped with a damp cloth. Y’all, that alone was a pretty big job with lots of ups and downs on the step stool. The sore muscles I experienced the next day were a felt reminder of a job well done.

I worked a couple of hours on one day just getting rid of things, making quick decisions about clothing and items easier to part with.  The 2nd work day I spent the entire day cleaning, reorganizing, washing blankets and the baby clothes I mention in a paragraph below.  AFTER I had gone through the first time, on the 2nd day I had 3 boxes of donations and 2 bags of items I threw away.

This is my back seat loaded up with donations after the 2nd time going through my closet!

I Sorted Through the Linen Closet (except for the shelf with medicine that still needs to be done)

I got rid of a few things and washed almost everything that remained in here.  If it had been used recently, I didn’t, but all others got washed.  No more dusty/musty smell.

This closet houses the bed linens for all beds except mine, I keep those in a closet in our bathroom. We also keep the medicines that aren’t used regularly, and first aid supplies on a shelf here. That shelf still needs reorganizing.

Several years ago I read this tip and it’s right up my label-maker-loving alley! All the sheets on this shelf are full size. Another shelf for twin. If you have fewer you could keep them on the same shelf and just label under each. This is a time saver when you’re looking for a particular item. And, I just love how it makes me feel when I see those labels. It makes me feel a bit more organized whether it’s true or not.

As I Organize and Clean Closets I’m Washing any Dusty/Musty Smelling Items

The blankets stored in my closet and the linen closet smelled dusty/musty so I washed them with a 1 1/3 cup of vinegar in the wash water and then used a good smelling liquid softener in the final rinse.

Those Few Pieces of Sentimental Clothing Items From Each of My Kids

Over the years I had pared down and pared down until I have just a small amount of clothing items from all 3 kids. And the blankets that were special to me (they never cared a lick for blankets or stuffed animals!).

These items have hung in different closets in our home, moved from room to room over the last several years.  I took them off the hangers, treated the stains that had bled back through and packed them all up together in a clear comforter bag. Did you know that “old” stains that have been cleaned will bleed back through over time? Most of stains came out but there were 3 or 4 items that I didn’t put in the dryer because they need to be treated again.

On hangers, these items were taking up prime real estate space in my closet.  Stored in a comforter bag (and this is for all 3 kids so I think this is pretty good!) I can find a better place to put them.

Some of the Things I’ve Held onto in the past that didn’t make the cut this time:

  • I had saved some pillows and had planned to reuse the insides and make new covers. They had been in my closet long enough to be dusty/musty smelling.  It made me sad, but I threw them away.
  • Pretty bags I like but don’t love. I realized that I never chose those bags anymore. Although I liked them, I have others I like more. Pretty bags (I really do use them!) are a real weakness for me.

Our homes are continual works in progress.  I will never reach the point I think my house is perfect, I know that.  Something will always need doing, cleaning, organizing, freshening up with decor. I will never feel like I’m finished.

But, I am determined that there will be LESS to clean, LESS to reorganize and I know that some empty cleared spaces will feel so good to me.

What do you think?  Is this YOUR year to reduce and declutter?  Let’s do this together!

Hope you’re having a great week!

Josette

Cooking Ahead and Eating Lighter (and Simple)This Week

Without such a full house of hungry people to feed,  just 3 of us during the week, we’ve slid into some bad habits.  We’ve been eating out too much, and finding it so easy to get takeout instead of plan, shop and cook.

This week, right after church my sweet boy said, “Mom, I’ll take us all out to eat at LaBamba if you’ll cook food for me to take this week.”  I hadn’t cooked for him in a couple of weeks.  We had gone out to eat a more expensive meal for my birthday the night before so I had been planning to cook something simple (tacos) for lunch.  He knew if I cooked  lunch I wouldn’t want to turn right around and stand on my feet (plantar fasciitis) for more cooking.  When I send food with him I usually send a lot, so it isn’t quick unless I’ve done something in the slow cooker.

Y’all, at times it’s still hard, these kids growing up.  But, more and more they keep showing me some reasons why sometimes it’s a little sweet.  Like when they take you out for lunch on their dime.  Or give you $ for a weekend at the beach for your birthday.

We’ve all been wanting to eat a little better, my boy included.  It helps when we’re all on the same page that way.  I made a quick trip to the store and this is what I came up with for this week.  I hoped that for those of us at home, having something already cooked, and food that could be mixed and matched we wouldn’t be so tempted to pick something up. The plan has been a success.  For this week 🙂

I cooked several things we could mix and match to have some variety.

  • I pan-fried about 25 chicken breasts
  • Baked 15 sweet potatoes
  • Cooked a pile (a bunch, several cans) of green beans
  • browned 3-4 pounds of ground chuck and made taco meat with it .  I bought burrito sized tortillas, soft taco size, already had regular hard taco shells and I bought salad ingredients for taco salad for plenty of variety.
  • I bought a head of romaine lettuce, grape tomatoes, feta cheese and mexican cheese to use for taco salad or salad with the pan-fried chicken or side salad with the sweet potatoes and chicken.

I started the potatoes baking first, got the chicken started, then the green beans, last the taco meat.  I cooked it all, packed Evan’s food, put ours away and cleaned the kitchen.  We’ve eaten this food each day but only made the big cooking mess once and I’ve enjoyed that.

I sent some of each with Evan, and kept some of all of it for us.  Jay and I enjoyed eating the chicken a variety of ways and didn’t get tired of it so we never even ate taco meat.  When I saw we weren’t going to eat it I put most of ours in the freezer.  Jessie enjoyed the burritos and soft tacos.

The Chicken

I pan-fried the chicken in a little peanut oil and seasoned the chicken with Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning.  Although I’ve pan-fried chicken this way for years I realized something just this time.  The breast pieces that were the best and most moist (others were dry and not soft) were the ones that I cooked on med-high while they  browned and then covered them and turned them down to medium or medium low where they kind of steamed and kept the moisture in better.

Although it’s creole seasoning and can be spicy, you can control that somewhat by the amount you use.  This is a delicious seasoning that we all like, but I don’t put too much because some don’t like it as spicy as others.

 

I washed the potatoes and rubbed the skins with oil.  I used peanut oil this time and then baked them.  I put foil on the pan to keep it from getting sticky but didn’t individually wrap the potatoes.

I keep some bacon grease in the fridge for such as this.  I put a tablespoon or two and added some Lawry’s seasoned salt to the store brand (Shur Fine) green beans (with some of the juice from the can left in) and they were delicious!  I brought them to a boil and let them cook for just a few minutes to get the seasonings mixed in.  Jessie doesn’t like vegetables but tolerates green beans better than most others.

I made taco meat that could be used for burritos, soft or hard tacos or taco salad.

 

The second time we ate the chicken and sweet potatoes we switched out the green beans for salad.  Oh yeah, and that dark color in the sweet potato, I mixed 1/2 cup brown sugar with 2 tablespoons cinnamon to make a cinnamon sugar to use for the potatoes.  It takes very little to make the already sweet potato like a dessert.  The potatoes were on the small side so it was less than a teaspoon per potato that I used.  Delish!

Another day we had a big salad with chicken. I forgot to take the picture before it was messy looking with dressing.

We’ve eaten too much fried chicken tenders and such in recent weeks.  I think our bodies were craving some green beans and salad.

If Your Family Resists Eating Leftovers

I’ve had some friends say their family just doesn’t like leftovers.  Now that there are fewer of us, the temptation is greater not to cook.  But when our house was full of hungry people and a busy mama that doesn’t really love to cook, it just wouldn’t have worked for our family not to eat leftovers.

If your family doesn’t like to eat the same thing 2 times in a row, try cooking several things at once (only dirty the kitchen in a big way once) that you can rotate so the plate isn’t exactly the same each time.

Hope you’re having a good week!

Josette

Down Syndrome: Blood Tests We Do Each Year and Why

I posted earlier about Jessie’s alopecia (hair loss). Evidently, since the last time we saw her pediatrician,  Jessie has more hair loss.   Or, it was just more noticeable to him than before since she has a large bald patch right in the front. Her doctor seemed surprised, and before I could bring it up he did.  He said he wondered if the hair loss was an indicator that her thyroid dosage needed to change and he also wanted to check her for other auto immune issues.

First of all, before I share anything else, I want to say I’m no expert.  I’m just sharing what I’ve learned as a mom who tries to educate herself on issues that affect my child’s health.  I’m not even what anyone could call a “health nut”.

I’ve had friends tell me they haven’t thought about testing vitamin levels, which is why I’m sharing.  This list isn’t meant to be a list of all that you should check, this is just what we are currently doing. So much of what I’ve learned on this journey is from other parents, so I try to pass on what I’ve learned if it might help someone else.

Although there is a lot known about Down syndrome, there’s still so much that isn’t well understood.  I find this new research showing differences in the immune system of a person with Down syndrome really interesting.  While I don’t understand all the ins and outs, it’s clear that the immune system is a key player in many of the health issues common to people with Down syndrome.  It has been known there is something different about their immune system, just not exactly what.  This research has led to clinical trials that hopefully will lead to solutions for some of these health issues that affect many people with DS.

Considerations for When you get Results for Vitamin Levels Testing

  1. I have learned that often doctors or their nurses will say a vitamin level is “normal” when it falls within normal ranges, but might not be optimal. If you ask the question if its okay to be at the low end of a large normal range(for example 30 for a range of 30-100) you might learn that it’s better, or optimal, to be in the middle of the range, but if you don’t ask that question you might just get the answer of your results are normal.  Even if they are barely below normal, I’ve been told they’re normal.
  2. I always ask for the number (not just that it’s normal) and ask for what the normal range is and I write it down.  For most vitamins, you really do want to be more middle of the range.
  3. I’ve had the experience of a nurse telling me I could give Jessie a multivitamin when her B-12 was just barely below normal.  (This was when we were between pediatricians and a nurse I didn’t know.)  Our previous doctor had Jessie taking a B-12 supplement.  I felt confused when she told me this and while on the phone we compared the previously doctor recommended B-12 supplement  to the multivitamins I had on hand.  The amount in the multivitamin was nowhere near what the doctor had previously recommended (at that time had been 25 or 50 mcg).  She then said, well, you can just keep giving her what he told you before.  The amount in the multivitamin wouldn’t have been enough to correct a deficiency.
  4.  See #3…..ASK QUESTIONS!  And if you’re not sure about the answer, ask some more.  If they don’t like questions, find another doctor who doesn’t mind them.

The Tests and This Year’s Results….

CBC

Every year Jessie has a CBC done because of the elevated risk for leukemia in people with Down syndrome.  Hers is normal this year as it has been every year.

Thyroid

In addition to Down syndrome being a risk factor for thyroid issues,  there is a strong family history on my husband’s side.  Jessie has been on thyroid meds for hypothyroidism since she was 5 or 6, I think?  It’s hard to keep up with it all, she was pretty young and seemed tired all the time.  Now, I know we should have also had a sleep study when we were looking for why, but that wasn’t commonly known then.  Because of the family history and symptoms that might be related, her pediatrician at the time said he felt comfortable treating her when some doctors might have chosen to watch it and see what happens.

My husband had been on the same medicine for hypothyroid for many years, so I was familiar with both the condition and the medicine, and I felt comfortable with that.  As years have passed, she still has a low energy level and symptoms that could be related to her thyroid,  so I have been glad to not have that question, to not always be wondering if things might different if we were treating her for it.  Her energy is definitely better now that she is on CPAP, but she still has a low energy level.

Every year we have her blood work done to check her thyroid levels.  I’ve read that it’s common to have dosage changes during puberty, but Jessie’s dosage has never changed since she started on medicine.

When we got her results this year,  her free T4 was nicely in the middle of the range.  The TSH was slightly toward the higher range of normal, but well within the normal range, so no medicine changes at this time.

This means thyroid issues are eliminated as a cause of the hair loss.  The blood tests related to immune system came back as normal too.  We don’t do those every year.  We have had them once before but it’s been several years.

We Check Some Vitamin Levels and Here’s Why

For several years now, we’ve also been checking some vitamin levels when they draw her blood for the thyroid testing.

There’s a lot on the internet about different supplements specifically formulated for Down syndrome.  They’re expensive.  If they were affordable for us, I would try them to see if they made a difference for us.  But they aren’t affordable for us, so I’ve tried to educate myself on what vitamin levels people with Down syndrome have a tendency to be deficient in.

I’ve asked friends who are more knowledgeable what they have tested, what their experiences have been and I’ve done a little reading.  I haven’t done nearly the research or reading on this that some have.  Again, I don’t claim to be any expert. If you know other things we should check that aren’t listed here, please share in the comments!

If you haven’t ever checked these, I would say it’s a good idea to check them at least once to rule it out.  That’s exactly how it became something that we routinely check now.

B-12

I don’t know how common it is for B-12 to be deficient in people with Down syndrome in general, but Jessie’s B-12 has tended to be low, or only just barely within the large normal range unless we supplement.  Her numbers do always come up when we supplement.

Jessie was only 6 or 7 when I noticed she had several gray hairs.  I asked about checking her B-12 because I read that sometimes gray hair in children was associated with low B-12.  Although he thought it highly unlikely Jessie’s B-12 was low, because she loves meat and eats it every single day,  he had no problem checking it for me.  He was pretty surprised when her B-12 results came back at just below normal.  The normal range is HUGE for B-12 so hovering around the bottom isn’t great.  Since that time Jessie has taken B-12 in varying dosages and we usually check it once a year.

This time her B-12 was the highest it has ever been, 1100, which is actually elevated.  She’s never been in the upper range before! The normal range is 193-986.   Her doctor said it wouldn’t hurt her though, that her level is fine.

At 16, she’s an adult weight and I give her adult vitamin dosages.  I buy the Member’s Mark brand at Sam’s (sublingual, melts on or under the tongue) and although I’ve read much about sometimes store brands vitamins aren’t good quality or well absorbed, the B-12  in this brand is clearly working for us!

Vitamin D

Her vitamin D level was 29, which is one point below the beginning of the normal range.  For vitamin D, 30-100 is seems to be the most widely accepted normal range.  This is the range used by both my doctor and Jessie’s pediatrician.  My doctor said he prefers to see a number in the middle of the normal range.

Although I try to stay on top of things, I feel like I constantly find something I’ve missed.  I haven’t understood the connection with Vitamin D to the immune system.  These links from National Institutes of Health ( a complicated read with medical terminology)and Harvard ( this one is easier to read) show just how important Vitamin D is to the immune system.  These articles make it clear that low Vitamin doesn’t just make you feel fatigued, that Vitamin D is really important to a healthy immune system.

In addition to the possibility of Down syndrome affecting her absorption of Vitamin D there are other factors that make Jessie more likely to have a D deficiency.  She doesn’t eat the foods that are good sources of vitamin D, she doesn’t like to spend time outside, and she’s significantly overweight.

You CAN get too much vitamin d and that can be a problem, so you shouldn’t supplement vitamin without having yours tested.  Mine has been low also, so I’m giving Jessie the dosage that my doctor recommends, 10,000 units per day (with a meal that has some fat in it)  until we’re in the normal range. In the couple of weeks leading up to Jessie’s blood test I had already started being more consistent, so I have to wonder if her level previously was even lower, which makes me feel terrible.

My doctor retested me after 6 months.  It takes a while for the vitamin D to come up once you start supplementing.  He said I was in no danger of getting too much in that time frame before we retested.  Once I got back to the normal range my doctor bumped me down to 5,000 units per day. I will do the same for Jessie although this is more than what I’ve read as a daily recommendation.

Zinc

We haven’t always tested for Zinc and did last year for the first time. Zinc is another one that’s important to the immune system.  I didn’t realize it wasn’t on the the list for this year and it wasn’t retested. If you haven’t before though, this is a good one to check.

If you have information or experience to share I would love to hear from you!

This was a long post, it’s colder than usual here, and I seriously need a cup of coffee.  A friend gave me some Dunkin’ Donuts white chocolate peppermint coffee and it’s calling my name.  Hope you’re having a great week!

Josette

The Dreaded Annual Blood Work

This week I finally took Jessie to have blood drawn. We do this annually and I think I dread it as much as Jessie. Probably more, because she only gets a little advance warning and I dread it well in advance. I don’t do well with any of my kids being in pain.

It was right before Christmas when we saw her pediatrician and he ordered the bloodwork.  Because of billing issues and which lab the blood would go to (from that office) we didn’t have it done that same day. He put the order in and said we could stop by the Dothan office any time. She cried when we talked about it, anticipating that it would hurt.

It’s almost always hard to get her vein.  They have to wiggle the needle around once its under the skin and it’s painful.   It wasn’t easy this time either, but we had a great nurse that kept her talking about wrestling the whole time.  He said her veins were tough to get to, deep under the skin. In explanation, he said the needle was about all the way in (a pediatric butterfly type) when he got through her vein.

There were no tears on her part which meant tears weren’t required for me either.  I usually cry if she does when she has blood work, because she has a high pain tolerance. If she cries it really hurts.  There were no tears this day.

Jessie and I had gone to lunch with my sister, her Aunt Debbie, right before we went to the lab. I always promise Jessie something to look forward to afterward like going out to eat (her favorite thing to do!) or ice cream, whatever works at the time. Since we just ate lunch I was stumped as to what to bribe inspire her with. Jessie loves having her own money. I told her if she tried to be brave I would give her $5.

In my mind, trying to be brave didn’t mean not crying if it hurt. Trying to be brave meant not crying and making me feel terrible before we got there and while waiting.

I know it hurt, but she was the sweetest bravest thing. So grown up about it all. I couldn’t be more proud of her.

She has always been a good patient. Just like with my other two, I’ve always been able to talk to her and if I told her something would not hurt, she knew she could trust that I was telling the truth. If something was going to hurt a little I would be honest about it. That made her not feel anxious at other appointments that weren’t going to hurt.

It’s just the last couple of years that Jessie has anticipated events like this and worried over them in advance. For that reason I give her a little advance warning, but not too much time to keep thinking about it. I told her toward the end of lunch that we were going to the doctors office next.

Aunt Debbie waited in the lab waiting area while the deed was done. She could hear Jessie and the nurse talking and didn’t hear any crying. I shared with her all what the nurse had told me about the difficulty of getting her vein and just how brave Jessie was.

When we got out to Aunt Debbie’s van, she handed Jessie a ten dollar bill and told her how proud she was of her. Jessie really likes knowing that adults think well of her. She likes knowing Aunt Debbie finds her brave and she really likes money. I told Debbie that Jessie is probably going to request that she go with us to every appointment of this type hoping for another $10!

This year the appointment wasn’t nearly worth the amount of dread I had put into it, thankfully 😊

In next week’s post I will share what tests Jessie has done annually and why.

Till next week friends.

Trusting God Even More in 2018

A few days ago my older brother died while fishing with a friend.  We think he had a heart attack or stroke.  He loved fishing, loved everything about being on the water.  He had been looking forward to going fishing with his friend.  I am thankful that his passing from this life to the next was while he was doing something he loved.   For him, it was probably a blessing that there were no agonizing months of sickness, he just went fishing and never returned to his earthly home.

While I think that a sudden death is sometimes kind to the one that leaves us, what about for those left behind? I have experienced much loss in my 52 years and for each of them there was no warning for me.  Just suddenly that person was no longer there.  No opportunity to say goodbye, no last hug, sometimes no closure.

If you’ve been reading my blog a while you know this post is different from most of what I write.  It’s more like what I wrote in my first post, but more raw.  I am raw at the moment.

When I first started this blog I really wasn’t entirely sure what my blog would focus on, and honestly, I’m still not.  I always felt that God was going to use the brokenness I’ve experienced and the healing that He has done, but didn’t know how or when.  God has done such a healing work in my life that I don’t talk about the brokenness all that much.  There are less than a handful of people outside of my family that even know what the brokenness is all about.

I would never want to harm anyone else with the words I share.   Most of my life story isn’t just mine and sharing it could affect others.  I don’t have any desire to talk about these personal events in a public way.  It isn’t for myself that I share, but for you.  In the days following my brother’s death, I have come to feel that God would be glorified by my sharing what He has done in my life.

Only God can truly enable you to forgive the unforgivable, and only God can truly heal the gaping, what feels like life-threatening emotional wounds as what I have experienced.

I’ve spent a large portion of my adult years always hoping others didn’t know what I’m willingly sharing here.  I have shared one on one at times if I thought I could help someone else, but even then, it was usually only portions of my story.

I don’t mean to imply that there isn’t still brokenness in my life or that there isn’t still healing to be done, because that isn’t true.  Unless and until we get to heaven, we are all broken in one way or another.

Some of the hurts I’ve dealt with, I imagine those painful things in a box.  I mentally put that box away, up on a shelf, where it stays most of the time.  When something brings these painful things to mind, I might look at and think about and grieve over what’s in the box for a little while.  Then, for my sanity and emotional health, I pack it back up. I think this is a healthy way of handling it.  I don’t pretend the box isn’t there.  I know it’s there, I know what’s in the box, I just don’t look in that box of hurt every day.

One of the first events that altered the course of my life was when my mother was murdered, just after I turned 6.   Suddenly she was gone from my life.  While I don’t really remember much about her, I remember missing her and for the rest of my young years longing for and grieving the loss of my mother.  At each different stage of life, I missed having a mother that would be to me all the things a mother is.  I longed for the motherly love and influence that I saw in the lives of my friends.

Although my dad proclaimed his innocence, he was convicted of my mother’s murder.  He was sentenced to 15 years.  He was later pardoned. Because I was a young child, the time line is very blurry for me. The time he was away from us was somewhere around 3 years.  Most of the time I can’t bring myself to say out loud the word for where he was when he was “away from us.”   Purposely or not, there’s much I don’t remember about these young years.

Mine was a blended family and my younger brother, nicknamed Jody, and I were the youngest.  I had just turned 6 and he was 4.  The two of us lived first with my mother’s sister and then with my dad’s sister for the time he was away.  I missed my dad so much too.  I missed feeling like I had a family.  I cried myself to sleep at night a lot.  Much of the time I felt lonely even when I was with other people. I couldn’t understand how God could allow any of this.  Where was He?  Did He care?

After my dad came back to us, we were so happy to be with him.  We loved him and he loved us so much.  I remember when we first got an apartment, even though Jody and I had our own beds, we couldn’t bear to be separated.  In those first days we would sleep on either side of Daddy.  When he wouldn’t sleep in the middle any more, we took turns sleeping next to him.  We felt safe there and less alone.  I remember from that point on always being afraid that our daddy would die and we would be without him.  I worried about it constantly.

My dad had been a successful businessman before my mother’s death and became a successful businessman again.  We bought a home, and life was somewhat normal for a while.  Like many alcoholics though, my dad fell into thinking that he could drink without drinking to excess.  This was a pattern throughout my life, things would get bad, he would stop drinking for a while, he would decide that since he had been able to quit successfully he didn’t really have a problem.  Then he would begin to have one drink after dinner and soon we were right back where we started.

It serves no good purpose at this time to share more than to say that if you’ve lived with an alcoholic, you know there is much more that could be said.  Always wanting them to quit in hopes that your life could be “normal”.  If you haven’t been hurt by a loved one’s addiction, then I’m thankful you’ve been spared that.

When I was just a couple of months past 18, my Dad died suddenly.  Months later and then more years later, I learned things that make me believe my dad was murdered.   When daddy died, I had been living with my older sister at the time.  I was thankful that I had gotten used to not seeing my dad everyday at that point, because losing him was almost unbearable.  If I had been living with him and seeing him every day, I don’t know what would have become of me.  This was a terrible time for me.  I felt so lost.  There was so much sadness and so many questions that didn’t have answers.

When I was 19 I very foolishly married someone I was pretty sure had a drinking problem.  Later, when my husband was in rehab I got some counseling and was given some reading assignments.  Those books helped explain that many of my decisions as a teen and adult fit the pattern for children of alcoholic parents.  For example, the crazy fact that I married an alcoholic after hating what alcohol had done to my family.  Abbreviated version…when my husband starting  drinking after rehab, things progressed to a scary and unhealthy situation and we divorced.  I really was committed to marriage for life, so arriving at this decision was very hard in every way for me.

Around this same time, when my younger brother Jody was 21 years old and I was 23, he took his own life.   Of all the sad events of my life, I think this one is the one that has nearly done me in.

Every loss in my life has been sudden.  Every loss has brought great sadness, but only this loss has caused me such regret and guilt.  Could I have done something that would have made a difference?  I experience guilt over decisions that if my brother was here, would be remembered only as a childhood experience.  But my brother isn’t here.  There are things I know with my rational mind, but my heart only feels regret, and loss, and never- ending sadness about the loss of my brother.  We were less than 2 years apart in age, nearly the same age difference as my two oldest kids.  My Evan, (Joseph Evan) is named after my brother Jody.  We went through everything good and bad together.   We might duke it out between us, but would protect the other unto death.  I still cry 30 years later over the loss of my brother and the questions that won’t have answers in this life.

A few years ago, my older brother Donny took his own life.  I hadn’t lived near him in many years.  I don’t know what lead to his feeling that this was his answer.

In my young years I had a simple belief in God.  I believed what I was taught in church (we attended sporadically) and what I was taught at my Christian School. As I got older though, I really wasn’t sure what to believe.  There came a time in my young adult years that I wasn’t sure of anything about God.  Although I believed He probably existed (I found it required more faith to believe otherwise) I didn’t feel God was personally interested in or involved in my life.

There was some healing that was done before I fully surrendered my life and will to God, but finally, I have a  wholeness and peace that can be found nowhere else.   I am filled with an overwhelming thankfulness for the sweetness of knowing that He does love me and is intimately acquainted with and cares about the details of my life.

When I think about my current life, and the circumstances of my young life, really, what is the likelihood that I would grow up to be healthy and whole?  There have been gaping emotional wounds and painful absences in my life, but He has made me whole.

I have now been married to my wonderful husband for 29 years.  He too, has certainly been part of the healing process.  His love for me is unwavering.  In any situation, he is on my side and always my fierce protector.

Both of my adult children love God and seek to live in a way that honors Him. After I came to know and love God, that is the one thing I have wanted and prayed for the most.  I have such a sweet relationship with the both of them and my precious son in law.  I have the close family relationships that I have always wanted more than anything else.  Although far from perfect, I am emotionally and spiritually healthy.  I realize that it is only by the sweet grace of God that it’s so.

The healing in my heart began when in desperation I begged God to show himself to me.  I had felt for a long time that there was something missing that was related to God, but I didn’t know how to find Him.  In the midst of doubts and wanting to believe, I begged God that if He was real, to please, PLEASE show Himself to me.

He didn’t appear in visible form.  He didn’t speak aloud to me.  But as I began to study the Bible seriously for the first time, I KNEW He was real.  I began little by little to know that He does care and that He is always with me.

Before this time, I believed what I was taught.  I was still receiving good teaching, but I was studying the Bible now for myself.  There is no substitute for that, no shortcut to God.  I learned through studying the Bible what God is like, piecing together a more complete picture of who God is.  Reading and studying from both the Old Testament and New and reconciling in my heart what seemed to be conflicting.

If you study the Bible for yourself for just a little while, you will realize how many things are constantly said (by Christians) that simply aren’t biblical.  Some are well meaning or meant to comfort, but it is of no real comfort if it isn’t true.

The God I have come to love deeply is so much better than I could have imagined.   And, while the plan of salvation is so simple, the God of the Bible is infinitely complex, infinitely beautiful and completely trustworthy.    While on this side of heaven, even though there are so many things I will never understand, I have learned to trust God more with each passing year.

A month or so ago, before my brother died, and before events that lead me to share, I had decided that my “word for the year” was trust.  I told my closest friend, who knew I had been experiencing some fear and anxiety, that in 2018 my hope was to trust God even more than I ever had before.

I will share more of my faith journey in upcoming posts because it is the only reason I have shared any of this.

In sharing this testimony of God’s faithfulness and healing, I’m trusting Him to use this for His glory.  I’m trusting Him to help me be okay with sharing it.

I’ve spent my entire life worrying about who knew the things I’ve just shared.  You see? I still can’t say some of the words again.  I spent my young adult life hoping that others wouldn’t pre-judge me or my family by what they may have read in a newspaper or what they think they know.

When my brother Wayne died last week, conversations with my sisters brought so many packed away emotions to the surface.  I don’t have any personal desire to share these events of my life.  It isn’t cathartic for me.  It is freeing in a sense though to speak truth rather than hope no-one knows it.

It is my hope that in sharing the tragic events of my life and the emotional and spiritual health that I live now, it will be an encouragement to your faith.  When I hear of miraculous things God has done, it increases my faith in Him and encourages me.  If you don’t yet know my God in a deep and personal way, I would love to pray for you that He will do that for you too.

Even though I can’t see Him, he’s the realest thing I know that I know that I know.  I hope the same for you.

Josette

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It is for God’s glory that I have shared.  It is fine to share this post or contact me if you would like for me to pray for you.  I am open to having any conversation of a spiritual nature.  I really hope for God to use my life story to help others. What He has done for me, He can do for you.   I, nor my siblings, however, are open to any questions about the death of our parents or anything relating to that.  It may be unnecessary to say, but you might be surprised at the callous and insensitive questions we’ve been asked over the years.

This Christmas With Jessie

With each of my kids, I have enjoyed watching their personality develop.  I love seeing them become them become their own person, pondering the ways they are like the others in our family, and the ways they are distinctively themselves.

I’ve noticed some big changes in Jessie during the Christmas season in the last couple of years. I was just talking with a friend about the sweet changes this year that reveal ways that Jessie is maturing.

In addition to maturing, Jessie’s own individual personality is also becoming more evident. I enjoy watching her become her own person, with distinct and specific fashion choices, and other kinds of likes and dislikes. Although she is greatly influenced by us, her family, there are some things that are just her. I don’t think they’re about Down syndrome either, they’re just part of Jessie’s personality.

For instance, I have learned that gifts is a primary love language for Jessie.

It isn’t the cost that’s important, but she loves to receive and give gifts.  No matter how small, when I’ve been away from home and bring her a treat she acts like the recipient of a winning lottery ticket.  Hands clapping, grinning from ear to ear.  She thanks me profusely.  I get the same reaction for Icees, a stop by Sonic for a slushy with popping candy or sometimes even just for doing her laundry.

When she acts like you’ve given her a million bucks is it any wonder we get Icees too much?  She expresses her very sincere appreciation when she’s been sick and I take care of her.  Or when I do something like bring her a drink to her room as I usually expect her to be independent about such things.

I’ve known this for a while, but it has become increasingly noticable that Jessie enjoys giving almost as much as she enjoys receiving. She has wanted to purchase gifts from her, separate from the ones we give as a family to her siblings and cousins and always wants to buy gifts for her friends. At first it felt really stressful that I couldn’t indulge her in this, we simply can’t afford to buy 2 sets of gifts. And we can’t buy gifts for all her friends. Now, I’ve found ways for her to feel more like the giver of the gifts we buy as a family.  I tried to do that in years past, but she just wasn’t able to keep the gifts secret so it just didn’t work out.

Two years ago Jessie simply could not keep a secret if she knew a gift I had bought. She would snuggle up with her big sister to go to sleep and would say, ” I can’t tell you that we got you a present.  I can’t tell you that we bought you earrings.”  She just couldn’t stand it.  In her excitement, it was truly beyond her control to hold it in. Her communication skills have grown too.  She now will say, ” I bought you a gift and can’t tell you what it is.”  It helps that she isn’t sleeping with her sister these days because bedtime snuggling is the most vulnerable time for the secrets to escape.

Last year I didn’t let her know what gifts her daddy and siblings were getting because I didn’t want her to spoil the surprise. She really didn’t like being excluded. I honestly think this has given her the determination to keep the secret so she could be in on the excitement of shopping and then wrapping the gifts.

She so desperately wanted to buy gifts this year. She kept pestering me about it. She kept saying we needed to go Christmas shopping.  I decided to give her another try. I hoped she could keep the gifts secret.  We talked about it and I explained she could only help shop if she wouldn’t tell the recipients about their gifts. Although I didn’t feel sure she could keep the secrets, I  finally decided it meant so much to her that I had to give her a chance.   It wouldn’t be the absolute end of the world if she let something slip.

She knows most of the gifts that her siblings and our extended family are getting. She has done some of the shopping with me and has helped me wrap most of them, so she feels more like the gifts really are also from her. I can tell it hasn’t been easy for her, but to my knowledge she hasn’t given away any secrets and we’re just days away from Christmas! I’m so proud of her!

She even spent some of her own allowance to buy a small gift for a couple of her young cousins.

Last year, she wrote most of the gift tags. Partly because the space on the tag is small, and partly because she wanted to be the giver of the gifts, the FROM just said Jessie instead of all our names. She enjoyed that. She did that on some of the gifts again this year.

Another funny thing…..

When we were shopping this week at Walmart I bought her a couple of shirts and a couple for myself. In past years, when she’s asked for things during December, I would typically say, “It will have to be a Christmas present. You will have to wait till Christmas and I will wrap it and put it under the tree.”

So, when we talked in the dressing rooms about which shirts we were choosing, she spontaneously asked if she could wrap the 2 shirts I picked and put them under the tree. She seemed a little tentative when she asked.  The girl just wants to give gifts! Then she asked if I was going to wrap her new shirts. This time I actually hadn’t planned to.  I asked if she wanted me to and she said yes. Most kids would want the clothing right away. She really wanted to feel that she was getting a gift. Hey, that works for me!

We made some accommodations that made it easier for Jessie to enjoy shopping and wrapping with less frustration.

  • When possible Jessie has used the motorized scooters to enable her to enjoy shopping for longer. We also have a wheelchair, or use ones provided in store when needed. Without this, Jessie can’t shop for long before she doesn’t find it enjoyable because her feet hurt.
  • Jessie started off the season so excited to wrap but finds it frustrating after a while. She didn’t want to use gift bags in the beginning of the season, but after we had done some wrapping she decided using some bags was ok.
  • I have some pretty decorative boxes for clothing (Dollar Tree!). For the shirts she was giving me, she chose pretty decorative boxes that didn’t require any wrapping. She didn’t even want to tape them. She was tired of the tape dispenser at this point 🙂

Jessie mentioned quite a few times from Thanksgiving through the next few weeks that she wanted to go shopping and buy me a gift. She knows I like to wear earrings and she wanted to buy me some.

Finally, she took matters in her own hands.

She called her big sister and asked Jordan to take her shopping. They went the next night, just the two of them, to eat supper together and shop. When she left with her sister, she looked so grown up and sassy with her Vera Bradley cross body purse on and her money in her wallet.  She looked, felt, and acted so grown up about it all.

This whole season her sincere desire to give has been so sweet.

She loves the way she feels when someone gives her a gift and she wants to make others feel the same way. That’s a pretty mature thought process. I’m enjoying these grown up sweet changes in my girl.

One last sweet thing… the other night after we had been shopping and found those new shirts, as she walked by the recliner where I was sitting, she told me I was the best mom ever. Then as she teared up, she said, “I’m bout to cry.” Of course, that made me cry.

I hope your Christmas is full of such sweet blessings. Merry Christmas!

Work With What You’ve Got {Freshen up your Christmas decor without spending a ton of cash}

This is one reason why I will never have a tattoo.  I just can’t be satisfied with the same look for very long.

When you have a wee budget  for Christmas decorating, this can be a bit of a problem.

Problem #1 I get tired of what I have.  Like, sometimes after just one year. I know, first world problem for sure.

I really don’t like to have everything look the same two years in a row.  What I like changes. Sometimes kinda drastically.

When it comes to home decor, I like to change things up, just make it feel a little different and fresh.   But I have a small budget for these non-necessities, so I have to be creative.  I’m tickled pink when I can move things around and use them in a way that feels fresh without spending a lot of cash.

Problem #2  I love a hodgepodge of things that I have to try to marry together in a way that makes sense.

I have many precious-to-me ornaments that each of the kids made in their younger years. While I might not display every single one of them every year, there will never be a time that there isn’t at least one or two on the tree that each kid has made.  When I’m ruthlessly decluttering, (which clearly hasn’t happened nearly enough!) Jay says I’m not sentimental about anything.  Not true, I’m just not sentimental about everything like he is.  The ornaments the kids made are some of my favorite things and I can’t imagine our tree without them.

Other than the ornaments the kids have made, for as long as I can remember, snowmen have been my favorite thing at Christmas. Then, for many years now, probably 10 or more, I have loved gingerbread house themed Christmas decorations.

I don’t want two trees, and it can be a bit tricky to marry some of the ice cream colored gingerbread house ornaments with the more traditional ones.   I’m satisfied though that I manage to make them get along well enough.

Changes I made this year:

Last year’s tree was topped with a glittery silvery topper and the ribbon round it was sheer and silver (might not be able to tell that in the picture). Although I didn’t use those items this year, I kept them, because in a couple of years I will want to use them again. Maybe in the same way, and maybe somewhere entirely different than on the tree. If I don’t want them on the tree, I can use them elsewhere in the house OR for gift wrapping.  This gorgeously full tree was a real pain to put together. Every single limb had to be placed one by one! I was gifted a new tree this year and will donate this tree.
I was given this tree by a friend who wasn’t going to use it anymore. I love it. It fits the space better and is much easier to put together. I bought the candy cane ribbon that is used like a garland on the tree thinking that I would make a bow for the top. I decided it wasn’t wide enough for that purpose and used it around the tree instead. I love how it turned out. The red and white and candy on the ribbon help marry some of my traditional red and green ornaments with those that are gingerbread house themed candies in more playful colors. I didn’t find anything I loved for the top so I decided to put nothing there.

Cost of changes to the tree:  I left off a lot of ornaments for a cleaner look = FREE.  I bought the ribbon on sale for less than $7  I added blue ball ornaments on the tree instead of the pink I used last year.  I already owned them = FREE.  I love to add just 1 or 2 new ornaments per year.  I added two new ornaments for about $5 for both.

I found this last year after Christmas for less than $2. A sweet addition to my gingerbread themed ornaments.
This new candy tree was $2 or $3. Traditional colors and candy themed. Marriage material.

For a few years, the kids influenced me and I was in love with colored lights on the Christmas tree. Colored lights everywhere, and non-traditional colors of ball ornaments on the tree along with our beloved favorites and homemade ones.  I still have some of the non-traditional colored ornaments on the tree, but this year all lights are white. There are fewer glittery decorations.

Year round this basket is on top of the wardrobe. This year I have had a hankering for white lights everywhere and I loved how this cheers up an otherwise un-decorated corner.
I love the combination of plain white and glittery ornaments on top. I bought two packages at the beginning of the season (at the Dollar Tree!), having no idea how I would use them, but I just loved them. For $2 total, I added some to the top of this wardrobe and still have some left over. The greenery had been used at a party I attended (and helped with the set up) and I was able to bring it home = FREE.
Purchased at the Dollar Tree for a whopping total of $2.

The changes to the kitchen table might seem subtle, but I’m excited about the little changes.

The kitchen table last year.

I blogged last year about how I freshened things up.  I used this same Pampered Chef tray all year in a variety of ways, so this Christmas I was just ready for a fresh look.  Also, the greenery last year was fake and I had a hankering for fresh.

The kitchen table this year. Although the burlap runner is a different one, it’s still one I already had. Since my daughter used them at her wedding reception, we have a few 🙂 This one didn’t have a fringe, so I added one to each end.

I found the Mason jar candle holders, they’re actually lanterns that can be hung, at Michael’s for 1/2 ($2.49 each) price and added the red tealights.  They aren’t very visible in the picture, but there are real cranberries under the tealights.  I still have 3/4 of the bag of cranberries that I will find another use for.  The fresh greenery was used at a party I helped with so I brought it home after the party for free.  Although our tree is artificial, it smells like a fresh, real Christmas tree up in here.  Total spent: about $20 with leftover cranberries and tealights AND the lanterns aren’t specific to Christmas, so they can be used year round.

When choosing the mason jar lanterns, I was tempted to choose red or green, but I decided #1 to keep it more natural/simple/clean looking and #2 to choose lanterns/candleholders that could be used all year long in a variety of ways.   This won’t be the last time you will see them I’m sure!

The last couple of years, Jessie has really enjoyed making some things IF she knows I will display them.

Jessie colored these wooden decorations and was excited for me to display her handiwork. I buy these wood coloring sets at Michael’s on sale every year. And, she loves for us to buy candy canes to have on hand, so we do.  They come in all kinds these days and we think it’s fun to try the different varieties. I recommend the Sweet Tart green apple!

I already blogged about what a great time we had making this gingerbread house.  I’m sure it will become a new annual tradition.

One evening a month, Jessie goes to a local church that has a program for special needs kids to allow the parents a date night.  She made this  “Joy to the World” there.

Last but not least, Jessie painstakingly painted this picture and I love it.  They come in a two pack of two different designs at the Dollar Tree, which includes the paint!  Later in the season I picked up another pack with a different design.  When a friend comes over, they will paint them.

I glued it to a piece of scrapbook paper, punched holes in the top and ran some twine through it.  This is hanging right as you come in the front door, which makes Jessie happy.

I know if I counted all the times in this post that I said I “loved” something, a real editor would say I should change some of those.  Don’t wanna.  I love decorating my home for  Christmas.  It takes me forever, because I keep tweaking it the entire season.  But I enjoy it in between obsessively watching Hallmark movies.

If you don’t have a lot to spend, but like to change things up, it CAN be done.  And it’s fun.

I hope you’re enjoying a very Merry Christmas season!

Josette

DS Coop: Decorating Gingerbread Houses

If you can believe it, in my entire life I have only made one gingerbread house. That was many, many years ago when my two oldest were middle elementary age. Until recently,  I haven’t felt Jessie would enjoy it.

That may be my very favorite thing about coop, Jessie’s willingness to try different things and hang with them longer than she would if it was just the two of us.

When we arrived, Cindy (aka Nana) had everything set up and ready to go. She had taken the frosting and put it in a squeezable container that has a small tip. Like the kind you can buy for ketchup, but clear.  You can see these in the first picture. This was so much easier for the kids to manage than the bag the frosting comes in.

Cindy’s family does gingerbread houses every year, so she’s a pro at this. She warmed the frosting slightly to make it easier to squeeze out. When it got hard to squeeze, we would put it in the microwave for about 30 seconds to warm it back up.

Ashley, the oldest, was able to do her house entirely independently. She’s been doing these every year with her Nana, so she’s a pro too.

Jessie and Joshua both started out squeezing the icing themselves, but after a while needed help. If you’ve never done this, it really is work to squeeze that icing out!

Heather and I helped them with the icing and they put all the decorations on. It was still plenty of OT (occupational therapy), fine motor work. Holding the small pieces with a pincer grasp and putting it in place with the right amount of firmness. Firm enough to stick into the icing to stay and not pushing the roof too hard.

Cindy had purchased some other decorations in addition to those that came with the kit. Each of their houses was decorated slightly differently. Cindy had several types of edible glitter, which Jessie liberally applied to the roof once all other decorations were in place. She LOVED the glitter.

The pink “glitter” has almost an Easter grass type texture to it. Shows up great. You can’t see the other true glitter as well in the picture.

It took us about 2 hours to decorate our houses. That was a long time for Jessie to stick with it. She enjoyed it the whole time, never got bored or wanted to give up. The whole experience of working together and enjoying this time with our friends will always be a sweet memory for me.  Oh yeah, Jessie enjoyed it too.

Jessie loves for me to display her projects in our home. She makes a lot of arts and crafts when she goes to her camps in the summer and I simply can’t put them all out. When I suggest she put some of them in her room she’s offended.

I didn’t have any, but will get some fake snow to go around the house.

Her gingerbread house is proudly on display on the piano in our living room. I really will enjoy seeing it all season long. Buddy (aka Bad Buddy, our 7 month old curious kitten) has already been interested in it. He is interested in anything new. The small tree on the piano was knocked over and the gingerbread house turned differently than I had left it just a little while after I put it on the piano. He continues to earn his nickname almost daily.

A friend of mine told me that cats don’t like the scent of orange and that a little spray of orange cleaner on the lower limbs of her tree last year stopped her kitten from climbing her tree. I plan to buy some of that cleaner ASAP. I want to be careful and will use a small amount though because I caused my cat permanent neurological damage diffusing essential oils.  What she used didn’t appear to have hurt her kitten in any way.  She only sprayed a little on lower limbs.

Whether it’s gingerbread houses or other festivities, I hope you all are making sweet memories this Christmas season.

Merry Christmas!

Josette