Using Phone Alarm and Timers to Keep Jessie On Track

Currently, the clock app on Jessie’s iPhone is my favorite tool.  It is definitely helping keep Jessie out of trouble and reducing my stress level.  We need both of those things to happen 🙂  While having a phone of her own has been a huge distraction, it has also given her independence and been used as a helpful tool.

I’ve used timers over the years for myself and all of the kids in a variety of ways.  In recent weeks we’ve put to good use both her iPhone alarm clock and timer in several helpful ways.

Jessie doesn’t have a very good concept of how much time has passed. When we need to get dressed and ready to go somewhere, telling her you can watch tv a “few more minutes” and then get dressed just doesn’t mean much to her.

She will often say, “I’ll be ready in 15 or 30 minutes”, when really we’re leaving in five minutes.  In addition to helping us get out of the house, I’m hopeful that over time using the timer for varying amounts of time will help her have a better idea of how long 5 minutes or 15 minutes etc., actually is.

In addition to her lack of concept of time, she would just rather be watching videos, coloring, or playing until the very last free minute. I would tell her to get ready and then once I’m ready would find that she wasn’t.  For a while,  this was causing us a lot of stress as we then had to really hustle to get out the door on time.

In addition to using these tools, I did one time make her miss going to church when there was someone she could stay home with.  Along with the threat of missing out on something, we’ve stepped up our use of alarms and timers and it’s helping a lot.

Ways we use the timer and phone alarm:

To wake up in the morning:

  • As part of our bedtime routine, we discuss the plans for the next day and set her alarms.  If she already knows the plans for the next day, often she has set them on her own. She leaves some preset that she just has to turn on.
  • Jessie sets her alarm for the time to wake up. THEN, she sets a second alarm for 30 minutes later. She can lay in her bed and watch a video until the 2nd alarm goes off, then she makes her bed (she started this on her own recently!) and comes to the kitchen to make her breakfast.

Because we homeschool, this system works for us.  If she had to be up super early, she wouldn’t have as much time to watch a video.  She does still watch a video most days for a shorter time even if she has to get up early (which isn’t often).  She absolutely can get up and get ready without the video but this gives her a minute to shake the fog and be more alert when her feet hit the floor.

Transitioning from one activity to another:

Jessie is grumpy about transitioning from her free time to whatever is next. I go in her room and tell her she has x minutes. Often I give her 15 minutes. She either sets an alarm for 15 minutes later (I tell her what time to set the alarm) or sets a timer for 15 minutes. Most of the time this helps her transition more cheerfully to the next (less fun) activity.

Taking a break from a work activity without “forgetting” to start back:

If she has several chores to do that require standing, bending etc, she can’t do that for long without needing a break.  We are working on this (that’s another post) but for now, she does some chores then she can set a timer for a 15 or 30 minute break, then finish whatever she needs to do.

Doing an activity for a set amount of time:

If Jessie’s room has gotten really out of control, it feels overwhelming to her to tell her to clean it all on her own.  But, if I tell her to set a timer and turn on her music or video and clean her room for 30 minutes, that feels much less overwhelming.  Sometimes, when the timer goes off if she isn’t finished she will keep working.

I use this for other work type activities too.

Help us get out of the house on time:

On swim practice days she sets an alarm for 12:20, which gives her 25 minutes before time to leave our house. When her alarm goes off she puts on her swim suit, brings me a brush and pony tail to put her hair up and puts on her shoes. Ideally, she also brushes her teeth.

Setting an alarm for the time she needs to stop doing whatever else and get ready has been such a huge help.

We don’t have a perfect system and we do not have it all figured out but this is a tool that has been really helpful in making things run more smoothly.  Yes, I could just make her do these things, but this makes her much more compliant without as much nagging or fussing and I’m a fan of that.

I’ve had a chance to spend time with friends this week and bought some pretty new things at a garden center today.  I’m having a great week and hope the same for you!

Till next week friends,

Josette

What’s Going On In The Garden (And What I’ve Learned)

This year Jessie’s baseball season is starting later than usual.  This has allowed me to have more time working in the garden and the yard. Jessie hasn’t been happy about the delay but I have been gratefully soaking up every minute I can of this beautiful spring weather before it’s crazy south Alabama hot.

Each spring for the last 5 years I’ve done a small vegetable garden. Each year I keep wondering will this be the year I tell the hubby he has to build me a raised bed?

The first year I planted in containers and the containers were on my back deck. The deck gets too hot to walk on with bare feet and I wondered if their location was why it didn’t do as well as I hoped.

For the last few years I’ve planted in the ground.  Since my prenancy with baby #2 (22 years ago!), I’ve had a sciatic nerve issue that flares up pretty regularly, and especially when I do a lot of bending. By the end of the summer garden, I always feel unsure if I can do it again.

I’m trying a couple of things that I hope will make my life easier (and my back less painful) by keeping the weeds down as the season goes on.

Newspaper/Paper Bags for Weed Control

This year I put down newspaper as a barrier for weeds.  When I ran out of newspaper a friend gave me lots of brown paper bags. This layer of newspaper or brown bags prevent weeds from getting sunshine and helps retain moisture in the soil. Here’s a link to read more.

The layer of paper will break down over time and disintegrate into the soil (and that’s good for the soil) so the process will need to be repeated next year.

When I talked to an experienced gardener, he said either will help with weeds, but he prefers newspaper because of the way it breaks down.

Although you can put paper over existing weeds, I had pulled the weeds and then tilled the garden before I put newspaper down.  I’ve got my fingers crossed this is going to save my back some weed pulling.

After you put the papers down you cover it with a layer of soil.  I didn’t want to have to buy that much soil (I did buy some) so I raked some soil away, put down the papers, wet them really well and raked the soil back over to cover the newspaper/bags.

A Different Way of Fertilizing

The same experienced gardener mentioned above (that I’m convinced knows almost everything about everything in the garden!) told me how he fertilizes.

I had already bought a different fertilizer but after talking with Bob, I bought chicken manure compost and fertilized my vegetables the way he does.

Per his recommendation, I used a cup to distribute (he says a handful) of chicken manure compost around the base of my plants and then watered it in. He said as long as it doesn’t touch the leaves I’m good. This is not straight chicken manure, which is too “hot”, but chicken manure compost.

Chopped Leaves as a Mulch for both Moisture Retention and Help With Weed Control

I’ve been dissatisfied with the mulching options I’ve tried in past years.  Pine straw worked fairly well, but I had to use a lot and I was afraid I wouldn’t see a hidden snake.  I tried cypress mulch (it was on sale and I hadn’t researched it) but its prickly when planting or sitting on the ground for weed pulling and I just didn’t think it worked that well.

I read that chopped leaves was a good mulch and also FREE.  Because we have a pool and purposely don’t want to increase our work load there, we don’t have big trees of our own, just crepe myrtles.  But neighbors on one side have a row of trees beween our two yards.  My daughter also had leaves she had bagged so we got some from her and used the lawn mower to chop them all into smaller pieces.   If they’re too large that can cause a problem.  

What I Planted in the Garden

My humble and beloved garden. You can see the grass needs cutting. Y’all see it all. The good, the bad and the ugly 🙂
In the wheelbarrow are Calendula planted from seeds. I’ve wanted to plant something in this old wheelbarrow and can’t wait to see it full of blooms! I placed the wheelbarrow beside the garden to attract pollinators.

This year I went with less tomato plants overall but more varieties. Although I want the other vegetables too, tomatoes are my very favorite. I LOVE them. I bought 1 plant each: Better Boy, Pink Brandywine Heirloom and Homestead Heirloom. I also bought 2 Heirloom Spoon Tomatoes.  I’ve never seen or tasted them before.  Dothan Nurseries posted about them on facebook calling them the World’s Smallest Tomato. They shared a picture showing about 15 fitting in a tablespoon.  I was intrigued and had to try them.

I  planted several (don’t remember how many, 6 or 12?) squash plants and several bush (rather than vining) cucumber plants.

The last several years I’ve planted the small variety of pickling type cucumbers. They’ve done ok, but I haven’t gotten what I thought was a big harvest so I wanted to try a different variety and bush type were recommended to me.  I haven’t known anyone else in our area who grows the small cucumbers and I’ve wondered if they aren’t well suited to our insane summer heat.

I planted one jalapeño pepper plant, which I’ve never grown before, because I’m dreaming of some yummy salsa from homegrown tomatoes and jalapeños. I’m also planning to add cilantro to the garden soon for salsa making.

I added some flowers to the vegetable garden. Do you know why?

At times, my cucumber plants have had many blossoms that don’t become cucumbers. I read that sometimes this is a pollination problem. So, I added two lantana plants to my garden, one on each side, to attract pollinators. I transplanted them from other places in the yard before they started to bloom so neither are blooming just yet. I fertilized them and hope they will soon.

Having learned that marigolds have a scent some pests don’t like,  I hoped that planting some near my tomatoes would help keep pests off of them. I’ve been trying not to resort to using chemical pesticides (and haven’t so far) but bugs have been a big problem with my tomatoes every year. After I planted the marigolds, I learned I probably didn’t have enough of them planted to be a big help. I still think they are a pretty addition to my garden and I notice them every day.

I don’t think marigolds, in general, are pretty. I  had never seen this cream color before and I really took a liking to them. I found these at Dothan Nurseries. I’ve not ever noticed them before at other places where I shop for plants. Dothan Nurseries does seem to have some pretties that I don’t see everywhere else.

New Flowers I Planted This Spring

Last year I wrote in Just Start, how I started a flower bed in my back yard and how I built my flower garden frugally by adding a plant or two at a time.

This spring I’ve added a “Darling Daisy”. Twice before I’ve bought one of these off a clearance rack and they didn’t make it. This time I bought a regularly priced healthy plant and made sure I added some good soil to the planting hole and it’s doing well.

I love all daisies! I’m loving seeing this new addition each time I water the flower garden and when I enjoy my coffee outside in the mornings.

I went to Lowe’s with the hubby for some other man-purpose and although in a hurry, I found this verbena on the clearance rack for $1.00. I knew it had to go home with me. It’s an annual and I won’t spend a lot on annuals, but $1 fits the I’m-poor-cause-I -owe-the IRS- budget. I just transplanted it last night so it will look fuller and healthier soon.

Flowers For My Shady Spots

I love having something flowering on the front porch but it doesn’t get any direct sunlight. Last year impatiens did well there so I’m going with those again. Begonias have done well on my porch too, but this year I’m feeling impatiens.

I bought a six pack for 1.98. Four of them went in a planter for the front porch. I planted two in individual pots for the table on the pool deck that is shaded by an umbrella. Part of the day this area gets direct sunlight and it may be too much for them. I’m going to try them there and move them to a better location if it’s too much direct sunlight.

These impatiens were just transplanted the day before this photo. They will fill out soon and cover all (or most) the space in each pot.

I want a lot of bang for my buck.

I mostly plant perennials (plants that come back every year) to be frugal and not to have to replant everything each year. Some perennials will also spread, or seed new plants that will give you plants you can move elsewhere in your yard or to share. Most of the flowering perennials seem to need full sun.

I usually plant just a couple of annuals (plants that don’t come back, when they die, they die) each year.

The impatiens I bought are beautiful color, inexpensive annuals and give me blooms in the areas where I can’t grow a flowering perennial.

For $1.98, the impatiens are a lot of bang for my buck. Two separate areas have flowers in 3 separate pots. $1.98 folks. That’s as frugal as it gets.

That’s what’s new this year

I’m so hopeful that the paper, leaves, and chicken manure compost will have a favorable outcome for my garden. I get so excited when I see the plants growing and look forward to picking anything that grows there.I’m convinced that watching something you’ve planted live and grow is just plain good for the soul.

Hope you’re having a wonderful spring! I would love for you to share pictures of your vegetable gardens or flower beds in the comments.

Till next week,

Josette

A Day With Friends

Jessie had wanted to get together with some friends. We chose this week because her friend Gracie was out for spring break. It’s not that often that I let her have more than one friend over at a time, so this was a real treat for her.

These. Girls. They’re a mess. I’m so grateful for the friendships Jessie has and how they continue to blossom into something beautiful.

About an hour before we met for lunch, I had gotten the news that we owe the IRS. It could be worse, but to us it’s a lot of money. It was weighing on me when we met at Chick Fil A to start our “girl’s day” as Jessie says.

I think it’s every day, but I’m not sure, that each employee taking orders can choose someone to bless with an act of kindness, a free meal. Jessie and I have been the recipients of this kindness one other time.

Today, there were 5 of us, and we were all treated to lunch! It couldn’t have happened on a better day. I had been looking at my bank account online right before we arrived and thinking about the whole tax thing. This random act of kindness just felt like a hug from God, a confirmation that he sees, he knows.

After lunch, we headed back to our house for a few hours.

Jessie has this game she has played with her dad (and sometimes her brother) ever since she was a toddler. Sometimes she goes in the closet, but most often she gets one of them into our walk in closet and turns the light off and cackles and cackles. It doesn’t happen quite as often now,  but it used to be a daily game they played.  Daddy makes a lot of fuss about, “Let me outta here!” and the like. The banter and negotiations go on for a while before she lets him out. It sounds a lot like the smack talk from the wrestling Jessie so loves to watch.

Well, Gracie was not fond of being in the closet with the light out. Jessie has done this once before, she always thinks it will be fun, but her friends think not so much. I think this time Jessie understood (afterward) that it really did upset Gracie and knows now that daddy is the only one she can play this game with. I know if tables were turned, and she were at a friend’s house, and hadn’t been there a lot, she wouldn’t think it was fun either. Sigh. Hopefully, she understands this now.

The girls just couldn’t get into a groove at first. Some wanted a movie; some wanted a tv show. Two of them wanted to sit in the only chair in Jessie’s room rather than on the bed. (The chair is more comfy and closer to the tv for tv watching.)  I suggested they could be more comfortable in the living room, but they wanted to watch in her room.  They were watching tv but seemed a little bored with it. I offered suggestions of games they could play but every suggestion I made was shot down.

After I helped with negotiations, the girls settled on a show, seating arrangements, and had something to color while watching. I think they had all seen the show before and were a little bored honestly. Once they had something to color while they watched, they chatted with the tv going in the background and had a good time until time to eat and go to church.

I share these details because I think it’s important in the conversations about Down syndrome that we be honest  These are NORMAL situations, but if we don’t share them it can look to other parents in the same phase that we don’t have any struggles.  It isn’t all just about Down syndrome either; I remember advising my older two with friend relationships, it just happened on a little different time line.  I see Jessie having the maturity to maintain friendships now, with a little parental oversight to help with compromises and negotiations over where to sit and what to watch 🙂

 

At church I was filling in as teacher for a friend. My preferred way to do the lesson is to go around the room and each teen read a portion of the scripture.

We were having a lesson from Luke 5 where a man’s friends carry him to Jesus. Because there’s a crowd, they lower him through the roof of the house, believing if they can get him to Jesus, he’ll be healed. Part of what we talked about was that friends help friends get to Jesus.

One of the guys in the class helped Gracie find the verse she was going to read.  I had helped Ashley find hers.  Jessie likes using the Bible app on her phone as it is easy for her to find the verse she’s looking for.

These 3 girls were in the class with other kids around their age. They each read a verse from our lesson, just like everyone else. Something about that just warmed my heart in a way that stayed with me the rest of the night.  I think some of the other teens might have been surprised that the 3 girls could all read so well.

At the end of class when I asked if any of the students would like to pray for the requests we had talked about, Jessie volunteered. Most kids in her class feel self-conscious about praying in the group but she doesn’t seem to.

As I reflect on this day with these three girls. I am thankful for many things.

Jessie’s friendships

  • I’m thankful Jessie has good friends. It has been a challenge to get to this point and I’m SO grateful for where we are now.
  • I’m thankful for the ways I see her continuing to mature to be a better friend. A couple of years ago, she would have struggled with the compromises I saw her make today without complaint. She understands that to be a good friend that’s what you have to do.

Jessie’s grateful heart

She thanked me for being a good hostess 😊. She said in roundabout ways that she appreciated having her friends over and the little ways I accommodated all of them. She appreciated that I took them to lunch, made food for supper that they liked and that I had bought and made them pink lemonade.

She has such a tender and grateful heart and that makes this mama really happy.

Jessie’s prayers

Almost every time she prays, she prays for people to come to know God. She says they need God. It doesn’t seem perfunctory, it seems to come from a place of understanding. I’m thankful for the simple and heartfelt way she prays for what people need most…to know God.

This week, let’s remember to be like the fellas from the Bible story and be confident about where all true healing comes from.   They knew Jesus was the answer and they helped their friend get to him.  After their friend was healed it says “And amazement took hold on all, and they glorified God.”

And like Jessie, let’s be grateful for every little thing.

Till next week friends,

Josette

Your Children Will Survive Your Parenting Imperfections

People always laugh when I share this first story.  Probably because it’s something a lot of moms would want to do, but wouldn’t actually do it.  And, secondly because it seems an odd thing for a homeschooling mama to do.  But it best represents how as mamas we do all have our limits and our children will survive them.  Keep in mind that Jessie was very young then and we had a schedule full of therapies and normal baby/toddler stuff going on too.

At some point in their elementary school years,  I made a rule that Jordan and Evan couldn’t ask questions after 3:00 pm.  Yes, I really did.  Y’all, we were homeschooling and I was with them 24/7. From the time they woke up till their last waking breath they were non-stop with the talking, the requests and the questions. I just needed a break from the constant questions ALL DAY LONG.

So, I instituted a new policy.  Talking was all good, but sorry, no more questions after 3:00.  Okay, so we didn’t enforce it all the time,  but during this time period when I was overwhelmed and needed a breather I would remind them that there was such a rule.  They both still remember this and now they think it’s funny.

We all have our limitations, what feels manageable to us.  What makes me feel crazy might be totally different from what pushes another mama over the edge.  We’re all different.   God didn’t use a cookie cutter when he made us.

Your God-given personality affects how you parent.

The personalities we were born with affect what we enjoy with our children and what feels more like absolute torture.  Being able to stay home with my kids has been the greatest joy of my life and also the most stretching/growing and difficult thing I’ve ever done.

I know now that keeping an inner feeling of peace is really important to me.  I can handle difficult things with grace as long as I have that deeper feeling of peace (Enneagram #9).  I don’t do well with situations that make me feel out of control.  So, some of the limits I set as a parent were ones that helped me not feel crazy.  I found too that I needed a little time to myself after the kids were in bed.  I needed a time of brain rest from being “on” every minute that my kids were awake.  That made me a better and happier mama when I was with them.

I encourage you to accept that God made you with your personality.  Whether that’s loud and rambunctious, physically active and playful or quiet, reflective and more still.  God uses us for good for our kids (as he made us) and uses them to grow us too.  My goodness does he use our kids to grow us.

When I was a kid I more often preferred reading on the front porch swing to playing in the yard.  I was a more serious kid and I had zero imagination. These things about me didn’t suddenly change when I became a parent.

Perfection isn’t required.  Thank God!

Every mom has their God-given strengths and we all have our weaknesses.   It’s so much easier to see the strengths of others and our own weaknesses.

When we see strength in a friend or acquaintance that is an area of weakness for us, we might feel guilty that we aren’t good at that particular thing.  I can assure you though, there’s something effortless for you another mom wishes came naturally to her.

I know I’ve been a good mom; but in real life and online I see there are lots of mamas much better at many things than I am.

But, my kids turned out just fine. Perfection on my part wasn’t required.  I tell you this to encourage you.  Perfection on your part isn’t required either!

I’m kind of glad Instagram and Facebook wasn’t a thang when my kids were young.  I had fewer people to compare myself with and find myself lacking.

I enjoyed every phase of my children’s lives. But, there were periods where I felt was just barely managing much of the time.

There are moms 20 + years younger than me that are better at homekeeping, know tons more about gardening and can manage to do those things well with young kids underfoot.  Some bake bread regularly while homeschooling and running a home based business.  It’s just something normal for them to do…in the way that I made sure my kids were bathed and had clean underwear. These women seem like superwomen to me.  I simply didn’t have the capacity to manage that.

I’m just now learning some of the the things above and often from women younger than me.  I could look back and wonder if something was wrong with me that I’m just now learning things women much younger than me already know. I’m choosing not to do that.

As a mom,  I….

I ate my kids pretend food when they “cooked” it, but that was the extent of my imagination.  I played with them, but I preferred for them to play together without me, especially if it involved imagination, cause I just don’t have one.

Once my kids were mobile and able to climb and play at the playground on their own, I wanted to watch and not have to participate.  I was paying attention to them.  I might give them a “Yay” or word of encouragement.  I was sometimes guilted into it, but I mostly preferred to watch than play.

I enjoyed teaching my kids to swim.  To the point at which each could swim on their own, I enjoyed being hands on and teaching them.  Then I wanted to let them do their thing and me watch from a spot further from the splashing.

I enjoyed doing crafts with my kids (sometimes) or cooking with them (occasionally) but I hated board games.  I always felt so guilty about that.  It’s not that I never played games with them, but I didn’t do it nearly as often as they would have liked.  It felt like a chore to be completed and checked off.

At every age, I loved snuggling up and reading aloud to my kids.  I enjoyed it the most once they were older and we were reading chapter books, historical fiction or true inspirational stories.  Even in high school we had reading aloud times and this was my favorite time of the homeshool day.  Sometimes we would skip other subjects and spend a long time reading together.

I found my kids having sleepovers really stressful. Sleepovers often resulted in grumpy lazy kids the next day (which I have a low tolerance for ) so I just preferred for everyone to get a good night’s sleep. Everything about life seemed better when we were all rested.Therefore, I didn’t say yes to every sleepover request.  I said yes more often than I preferred and less often than they did.

Ah, kids birthdays.  We kept birthday parties fairly simple and small. (Remember my low tolerance for feeling crazy?)  We made a big deal of their birthdays every year, and after a certain age most years they had a “friend party” as well as celebrating with family.  I set limits to the number of people they could invite most years. If there was a sleepover, other than a couple of exceptions, it was a small group of closest friends.

There were also financial limitations…

My kids never once had a birthday party at Chuck E Cheese or any event place like that because it cost more than we could afford to spend. We didn’t have a lot of money to spend on birthdays. By the time we had two parties and two cakes they didn’t always get a gift.  I don’t think my now adult children feel cheated that they never had a party at one of the cool birthday places.  Maybe they did at some point as kids, but if they did that feeling didn’t last.

I was always pretty honest with the kids about finances.  I explained that me staying at home with them was more important to us than “things”.  Because I was honest with them, when we did special things for them that they knew were out of the norm and a stretch for us they were sweetly appreciative.

The one most important thing…

If we can only get one thing right… lets always point our kids to Jesus.   He is the perfect parent.  My kids knew they were loved ginormously by their parents and by God.  If you get this right, they can survive the other ways that you are less than perfect.

Till next week friends,

Josette

On This World Down Syndrome Day; Hope!

World Down Syndrome Day is a day set aside to raise public awareness of Down syndrome.  It  is celebrated 3/21, because Down syndrome is caused by having 3 copies (rather than the usual pair) of the 21st chromosome.

For parents who will in the future receive the diagnosis that their child has Down syndrome, it is so important that the “awareness” shared is a more complete picture of what it is like to have a child with Down syndrome, rather than just the cold medical facts many parents are presented with.

Parents desperately want to know if their family is going to be okay.  I want to share with you that our family is more than okay! As I gave a lot of thought to what I wanted to write for World Down Syndrome Day, I knew what new parents and family members need most when their baby is born with Down syndrome is HOPE.

Sixteen years ago, when our third baby was born we didn’t really know what Down syndrome was. When we learned shortly after birth that the doctors were pretty sure she had Down syndrome, we had no idea what that meant for our family.

My husband especially felt blind-sided and grieved.  Even early on, once we got the diagnosis,  I could see that God had been preparing me for what was to come.  Even in our fears in those early days, it was so clear to us that Jessie was meant to be here.

If you or someone you love has recently found that their baby has Down syndrome I want to address the major fears we had at Jessie’s birth and the way they have worked out.

Health Concerns

There are some pretty scary sounding possibilities that you are faced with when you receive the diagnosis.  With my other two kids, most of those things could happen to them at some point in their lifetime, but I wasn’t made to consider that when they were newborns.

The way I came to view this was like the pamphlet you receive from the pharmacy when you get a new prescription.  Any of those side effects could possibly happen to you, BUT, no one person experiences all of the possible side effects.  The same is true with Down syndrome.

Your child/loved one could experience any of those health concerns but will not experience all of them.

Jessie was born with two heart defects, ASD and VSD. Her heart defects  were diagnosed at 2 weeks and she had open heart surgery at 3 months old. It was a struggle for her to gain weight until she had heart surgery.  Those weeks before heart surgery were emotionally and physically draining as we tried hard to help her gain weight and anticipated heart surgery.  While they affected her before surgery, hers were the easiest kind of heart defects to repair surgically.  She came through open heart surgery like a champ.  Her heart is healthy now, and she’s otherwise been mostly healthy.

Jessie had two sets of ear tubes (I mean, my son without DS had one set), she has not had any hearing loss.  She had eye muscle surgery (elementary age) and wears glasses.

Will she be able to feed herself and behave in a restaurant?

This seems so silly to me now, seriously, so please don’t judge me to be crazy.  It shows my complete ignorance of Down syndrome at the time. You might rightly decide we think too highly of eating out if this was one of my first thoughts.  Of all the possible questions on my mind, one of the first things I wondered was whether our child would be able to function independently enough to feed herself.  I wondered if she would behave well enough for our family to eat out in restaurants.

She learned to feed herself at slightly behind the age of other “typical” babies. Not only can she feed herself, she can make herself biscuits in the microwave for breakfast, and recently made sandwiches for herself, her dad and me after he and I had been out doing yard work.  She would rather watch tv or play video games but she sometimes helps me bake.  She has chores, earns an allowance, and is pretty independent in many ways around the house.

She has eaten in restaurants almost from birth 🙂 She was taught to behave and was disciplined when needed.  She behaved better than most kids her age when in restaurants as a baby and toddler.  Although sassy, she is  kind, thoughtful, and very  appreciative.  She was taught to be this way in the same way her two siblings were.

How will our other two children be affected?  Will they still be able to do extra curricular activities?

I worried how our other two children would be affected.  Our oldest had just turned 7 and was starting gymnastics. They both played t-ball.   I wondered if Jessie would have health concerns or other factors that would restrict our family activities.

Our other children have been affected, but mostly in positive ways.

Jessie had physical, occupational and speech therapies in the first few years of her life. That was a challenge for me as a mom of 3 and homeschooling.  But, it helped Jessie, we made it through, and it wasn’t an issue for my other kids at all. They enjoyed the therapists that came to our home at first. Sometimes they were interested and helpful; other times they went off to play.

Before Jessie’s heart surgery, we were under some stress trying to help Jessie gain weight.  This did feel like a stressful time in some ways for all of us, but lasted a short time.  The other more minor health concerns didn’t drastically affect our other children.  We did have to make some trips for check ups a few hours away, but they kinda enjoyed the day trips. Parents, not so much, but the kids just watched videos and got to eat out.

Because of their exposure to all the therapies Jessie had, our oldest daughter later decided to become a PTA (Physical Therapist Assistant). She decided not to work in pediatrics; but she loves her job as a PTA. This is a direct result of the positive impact she saw the therapists have on her sister and our family.

Our older two kids weren’t restricted in participating in any of their activities because of Jessie having Down syndrome.  Being the third kid, when Jessie was little she was plopped in a stroller and drug everywhere we needed to go.  T-ball, softball, baseball, dance, gymnastics, football, soccer…they did it all and she was along for the ride.  Once she was older she was cheering for them.  When she was old enough to participate in gymnastics and then Miracle League baseball and  Special Olympics they were cheering for her.

How our other kids were affected in positive ways:

Our kids at a young age were around not just Jessie, but other kids with Down syndrome and other disabilities.  They learned that different isn’t bad, it’s just different.  They saw Jessie as their dearly loved baby sister.  They had anticipated her birth and loved her before she was born.  She needed extra help sometimes and they were happy to give it. With or without a disability, that’s what you do for your sister.

They volunteered with Miracle League and helped with me with mailings for our Down syndrome group or whatever was needed.  They learned to serve others through these activities and other volunteer projects that weren’t disability related.  It was all good for them.

Yes, there were times it was a little hard for them.  In the end, even those hard things served them well.  God can use all things for our good and will for those who belong to him.

Those two kids that were 7 and 5 when Jessie was born are now 23 and 21.  Having a sister with Down syndrome helped them to become kind, compassionate, and patient.

We all thank God for Jessie and can’t imagine our family any other way.

If you have a baby with Down syndrome, you will one day encourage another family.  Your specific experiences will be different.  The health concerns or level of difficulty might not be the same.  But one day you’ll look back and won’t be able to imagine that your life had gone any other way.  And then you’ll tell some other mama that she can have HOPE.

Happy World Down Syndrome Day, ya’ll.  Wear some crazy socks. High five or hug someone with Down syndrome.  Hug a mama whose kid has Down syndrome.

This year,  World Down Syndrome Day coincides with our Special Olympic Track and Field Day, so we will be hollerin’ like a bunch of lunatics at our kids and friends that are racing.  Good times.

Till next week friends,

Josette

PS: If you want more info about Down syndrome there’s a lot of good stuff to be found on the NDSS (National Down Syndrome Society) website and NDSC (National Down Syndrome Congress).

Mamas, Look Forward to the Joy of Parenting Adult Children

Us mamas, when our kids are young we often have this dread of them growing up.  We try to savor every moment, cause we’ve been told (and it’s true!) we’ll blink and our kids will be grown.  (I’m not there yet with my kid with Down syndrome, so I’m talking about my other 2 kids in this post.)

We know that’s going to be so hard for us, so throughout our kids’ childhoods, there are bittersweet moments ripe with that knowledge.    And it’s true too, it IS hard when our kids grow up.  The transition period when a child leaves home is just hard.

BUT,  I’m here to tell you that are is also great joy to look forward to when your kids grow up!

Mama still in the trenches, ponder for a moment how sweet it will be if one day you get to enjoy a sweet friendship with your adult children.  And, it’s different with each kid, but hopefully you’ll have some shared interests.

You’ve spent many years putting their needs ahead of yours.  As an adult, they now have a better appreciation for what you’ve been up to all these years.

I remember talking to a friend a couple of years back when Jordan was engaged.  At the time, this friend had a married daughter and one grandchild.  She assured me that there were sweet times ahead, that after an adjustment period I had good things to look forward to.  She wasn’t wrong; and I’m here to encourage you as she did me.

Jay, me, Evan, Jordan, her husband, Josh and our little punkin’ Jessie is in the middle front.

When our kids are little, a lot of our time together is caretaking or doing things they find enjoyable.  I enjoyed my kids more and more as they got older because they enjoyed more of the things that I did.

Can I just say that I mostly didn’t like kid movies, even some of the Disney ones?  It was sometimes torture, thinking of all the things I needed to do as I sat between them watching a movie.  As my kids got older I have really liked that we could enjoy the same tv shows and movies.

I LOVE that I can sit and talk with my adult children, have coffee outside with them, float leisurely in the pool talking or not (just relaxing, no antics required!), take a walk with them, and not have to spank or threaten anyone while eating dinner out.  Go shopping for clothes (no whining) or plant shopping.  You know, the things you like to do with your friends.

Those people you gave yourself up for daily, teaching and training and taking care of for years have turned out to be pretty good company.

Recently, I was sitting watching tv and suddenly got a wild hair to jump up and run to a local nursery. I called my daughter spontaneously to see if she would want to join me. I had just finished watching a movie and in the movie there was a scene with a pretty window and plants in it that just set me off.  I had known I wanted to go soon and that scene made me decide it needed to be today.  Does that ever happen to you?

I knew she too had been wanting to find some plants for her front yard and we had said  that we should go together soon.  I love that she’s getting to be more and more like her mama in this way.  Gives me hope we’ll be able to enjoy this together for a long time to come.

Before I could leave, I had to clean up a Bad Buddy (our rambunctious and curious kitten) mess.  Buddy has reached a new level of skill and destruction.  He’s never gotten on the mantle before, but I saw him, and couldn’t get there quickly enough before he knocked off a pretty white glass candle off the mantle.  This required me to chase him around the room a good minute with the spray bottle hoping it would deter him from thinking the mantle was a good idea.

We arrived at the nursery with two hours before closing time and we stayed till the last minute.  We enjoyed leisurely looking, sometimes together, sometimes separately.  I was able to tell Jordan about some of the plants I knew about.  There was a fella working there who was extremely knowledgeable about shrubs, fruit trees, and organic gardening.   You name it, he knew about it.  He was a walking almanac! We had questions and he had answers, for about an hour 🙂

It was such a relaxing time, being with one of my favorite people doing one of my favorite things. There’s not much I enjoy more than a spring day leisurely lolligagging at a nursery.

Later that same day the kids had asked us to all eat dinner together.  It had been a few weeks since Jay’s birthday.  He wasn’t suspicious since his birthday had passed.  Evan and Jordan had been scheming together for weeks.  They had bought their dad a gun they knew he wanted, and Evan wanted to present it to him in the same place and in the same way he had been given his first hatchet on his 12th birthday.

We had been eating dinner at Things and Wings, (somewhere we went to eat a lot) and Daddy had slid the hatchet (had a leather cover on the blade) under the edge of Evan’s leg.  It took a minute before he felt it and looked down.  He was thrilled with the gift and the fun way we surprised him.

Now, some 9 years later we sat squished, 6 of us in a large booth.  It took some sneaky work getting Jay to go along with us all in the crowded booth. It wouldn’t work if we sat at a table.  I pictured the gun slipping off the chair and folks freaking out.  Evan sat between Jay and me and slowly slid the gun under the edge of Jay’s leg so he would reach down.  Jay was really surprised and excited and of course said the kids shouldn’t have spent that much money.

It was really sweet that, obviously, the hatchet surprise was something Evan thought back fondly on since he wanted to create the same experience for his dad.  It was awfully sweet too that the kids bought something for Jay that he wouldn’t buy for himself, at least not anytime soon.

Some weekends when Evan is home, although he sleeps here we might not see him much.  This Sunday, Evan was around the house most of the day and preparing for his work week.  He grilled enough chicken to take for his lunch for several days and studied for the paper portion of a crane test (learning to operate a crane).

I had asked if he wanted to watch a movie and he had said he didn’t really have time.  I decided to put the movie on anyway while I folded laundry and matched socks.  He couldn’t help it, he got interested in it too.  Maybe that’s cause the movie had Jennifer Anniston in it 🙂  The movie was Mother’s Day, and although it is a chick flick we had a good time laughing together watching it.

This particular weekend I had time individually with each of my adult kids and we had time together as a family. That isn’t something that happens all the time and the joy of the weekend inspired this post to encourage those of you that aren’t there yet.

It IS hard when I watch Evan drive out of the driveway after a weekend at home.  Often,  I’ve been fine all week and then my heart aches fresh when he pulls out. When he knows I need it, he lets me have the long hugs and extra kisses.

Sometimes it’s still the same when I hug Jordan at the end of a good time together and we go to separate homes.  I am enjoying more than words can express though how fun it is to have a daughter for a friend.

There are, of course, no guarantees with parenting.  There is no certainty it will end up this way.  There’s a good chance though, after all those years of parenting you’ll get the sweet gift of enjoying their friendship as adults.  It’s the best! Look forward to it.

Till next week,

Josette

Talking To Our Daughter With Down Syndrome About Death

Someone very special to Jessie died this week.

This is the first time someone Jessie really cares about and feels close to has died since she’s matured enough to have any understanding of death. (Although my brother died recently she didn’t know him well.)

Once a month, Jessie has a fun night at a local church (Calvary Baptist Church) that provides a program for kids with special needs. Jessie really enjoys it and looks forward to it.  Jay and I look forward to getting a date night while knowing Jessie is in good hands.  This is where Jessie met Corey.  When I picked Jessie up that evening her face was red and she was hot from playing basketball for close to an hour.  That isn’t like Jessie at all!

Corey was the reason.  He had played basketball with her for nearly an hour and talked to her the whole time.  Taking the time to talk to Jessie and listen to her is her love language.   After this night, Corey became the topic of conversation in our home for a long time to come.  When he was well enough, he would be there every month when Jessie attended on Thursday nights.  From the first night, Jessie couldn’t stop talking about Corey.

I later learned that Corey had cystic fibrosis and had been sick throughout much of his life and  he’d had a double lung transplant.  When he was well though, he volunteered at his church.

Jessie friend requested him on facebook and would send him facebook messages.  Then she got his phone number.  (picture intense pain emoji face here ) Jessie talked and talked and talked about Corey.  She developed quite a crush on him.

For many months I felt like I continually said, “You’re too young to have a boyfriend.  He’s too old for you.  He’s your friend.”  Eventually, we got to a good place where she enjoyed his friendship and could appreciate and be happy with it for what it was.

Jessie, Corey, and Joshua at Joy Prom 2016

When my oldest daughter, Jordan, got married, she and her husband started attending the same church as Corey.  Her husband Josh played softball with the church and we would sit with Corey at all the softball games. It was at softball games that  we all got to know him a little better.   He was someone that our whole family came to know and care about because of his initial kindness toward our Jessie.

Corey and Joshua at Joy Prom 2017. Mrs. Emily went and found Corey so he could escort her through the cheering crowd as they entered the prom. Such a sweet memory for us all.

When he was sick in the hospital on two different occasions for several months each time, we prayed for him regularly.   One of those those times he had ANOTHER double lung transplant.  He was one sick fella for a long time.  I worried at times how we would handle explaining it to Jessie if he died and was concerned for how sad I knew she would be.

And now that time is here.

Because this situation was personal to Jessie, and she really cared about what happened to Corey, it gave me the opportunity to explain spiritual truths to her when she was really listening.   I used the simplest terms I could think of.

I told Jessie that Corey had died and asked if she knew what that meant and she said no.   I explained that when people die they aren’t here with us, they go somewhere else and we won’t see them anymore.  She had already started to cry and the crying got more intense.  I told her they either go somewhere really good to be with God if they love God or they go somewhere bad.  (Although I didn’t elaborate on the somewhere bad, Jessie understands enough that I felt it was important for her to know not everyone goes to heaven.)  I reminded  Jessie that we knew Corey loved God, so he was in heaven with God and would be with him forever.

Jessie knew that Corey had been in the hospital for several months.  She knew he had a hard time breathing.  I tried to find an example she could relate to, like when she was swimming real hard and felt she couldn’t catch her breath.  I explained to her Corey had been feeling like that for a long time and he won’t ever feel that way again.

Jessie is genuinely happy for Corey that he won’t ever feel bad anymore and equally sad that she won’t see him.

For the two days since we had this talk, during the day she has mentioned Corey, and she has wanted to tell a couple of people that her friend died.    I’ve seen for years now that like the rest of us, Jessie thinks things over at the end of the day as she gets ready to go sleep. She hasn’t shown a lot of sadness during the day but at bedtime when she’s tired she feels more emotional and has cried.

Jessie doesn’t understand death, or heaven, or God at the same level another 16 year old would but I think she understands enough to be of comfort to her.  Maybe she will or won’t come to understand with greater clarity later.  All people with Down syndrome aren’t the same, of course, so another might be able to understand more than Jessie and some might understand less.

Jessie understands these simple truths:

She knows she won’t see Corey anymore and that she will miss him.  I think she really does understand she won’t ever see him again (before heaven).

She knows that because Corey loved God he will get to be with him forever.  She knows that to be a good thing.

She knows that things will only ever be good for Corey from now on. He won’t struggle with breathing anymore.

Although these truths she understands are very simple, sometimes I envy her simple way of looking at things.

The last several days I’ve seen a lot of love expressed toward Corey on facebook after his passing.  Clearly, he was a very special young man loved by many.   When we had visited our our daughter’s  church (Corey’s too) I told the pastor our Jessie had a crush on Corey.  The pastor said, “We all have a crush on Corey!” and it seems to be true in such a sweet way.

Our family is thankful for the friendship Jessie had with Corey.  We are glad for the short time we got to know him.  Corey was the first person I ever played  on Words With Friends.   It’s a simple thing, but I’ll miss playing him and him beating me.

Josette

 

DS Coop: Exercise Class and Making Smoothies

Our first Down syndrome coop day started off with learning about food groups and healthy food choices, then the next coop we made muffins and continued learning about healthy food choices.

Food choices and healthy choices in general are something Jessie and I talk about regularly now.   Although I haven’t seen drastic changes in food choices, I see that Jessie is understanding better what food choices are healthier than others and which contain a lot of sugar.  She commented the other day that pizza was carbs 🙂

On this coop day, we learned some simple exercises and made healthy smoothies.  They also wrote their smoothie recipe on a note card so they could make it again at home.  They thought it was all fun, not too much like school work at all 🙂

First, Heather talked to the students briefly about muscles and used this book, Me and My Body, and showed them a picture of muscles on the inside of their body.  She talked very simply about “resistance” and how that works your muscles.

Ashley getting a feel for what resistance means.

Heather had put together a few simple to perform exercises using 2 lb weights and two types of resistance bands, like these with handles and some without.  The exercises were simple yet effective.

Heather helping Joshua keep good form.  He got the hang of it quick.  

Then he was able to do the exercise perfectly by himself.

Heather demonstrated the next exercise for Joshua. 

He thought this was pretty fun.

I took some videos that are so stinkin’ cute but wasn’t able to load them.  Evidently, the best way is to load them to YouTube first and I haven’t learned all that yet.  Maybe I will be able to add them later, I had so hoped I would be able to share them.

After they did the exercises Heather had for them, they did a short routine with  this super cool video  by DSA (Down Syndrome Alabama).  This video is just under 2 minutes and demonstrates a fun, brief aerobic workout  adapted for all fitness levels, including someone remaining seated.

Ashley was recovering from a recent surgery so she didn’t participate in the exercises today.  Jessie, well, she just wanted to do the routine seated.

Heather had a great variety of smoothie ingredients.  Several types of fruit, almond milk and yogurt, peanut butter, kale, flax seed, and honey to sweeten.

Jessie’s favorite part for sure was the smoothies!  Each person was able to choose their ingredients.  Then Heather wrote the recipe down on the white board and each student copied it onto their own 3 x 5 card so they could make the same smoothie recipe again at home.  Jessie doesn’t like a wide variety of fruit and is really picky about texture, so she kept her recipe pretty simple.  Some of the others had a wider variety.

Jessie enjoyed getting to mostly make the smoothie herself.

Jessie knew she liked strawberries.  She did decide to add raspberries, so she branched out a tiny bit.  She also had never had almond milk or used honey as a sweetener.  She really liked the smoothies (she had tried some before that she didn’t like) and was eager for us to buy the ingredients to make them again at home.

We enjoyed this coop day so much and talked about finding a way to repeat the exercises on other coop days.  This day we had borrowed Heather’s resistance bands and weights and everyone took turns.   We said we might all get our own equipment so we could all do the exercises at the same time.  I definitely plan to get weights and bands for Jessie and me so we can do some simple exercises at home.

In case like me, you didn’t know, the resistance bands have different amounts of resistance.  To start easy, I will buy bands with light resistance, instead of choosing by favorite color.

I hope you all are having a great week!

Josette

February Progress: Decluttering and Organizing

My hope is that sharing my progress, slow but steady, while using very little money, will encourage you in your own goals for your home.  Sharing my progress helps keep me motivated too!

I wrote that I wanted to declutter and organize my home this year, but Jay and I have some hefty goals for getting the outside of our home in shape too, so I’m including that progress in my updates. Our backyard has something in common with Sanford and Son if you know who that is.

In documenting my progress, each step alone is small, but it all adds up! Don’t be discouraged if your changes seem small at first; it’s progress!

I’ve often been discouraged by the Pinterest worthy organization shared online, in magazines, or on tv, because to achieve beautiful organization they had to spend more than I can afford to.  What I will share is not  like that.

It helps with motivation if you have a friend to share your projects and progress with. I have a couple of friends that we regularly share what we’re working on around our homes.  I find that so helpful.

I would love for you to comment here and share pictures about YOUR projects and progress! We can encourage and help each other!

Ok, February progress:

Reorganized Spice Cabinet

I reorganized my spice cabinet. I recently put all my “regular” (as in one ingredient) spices in alphabetical order. Those are on the left side of the bottom shelf. Before they were alphabetical, I had accumulated some duplicates because I couldn’t easily tell what I had. I kept the freshest and threw away duplicates. On the right side: mixes, like taco seasoning, fajita seasoning etc.

The ones too y’all to fit on the 3 tiered spice shelf (I purposely don’t buy most of them this big!) sit on the shelf above. Salt and pepper refills and baking soda and powder etc on the lazy susan.

Top shelf is for canning jars etc and I didn’t have to change anything there.

Went Through and Reorganized my Dresser

This was quick and easy because there wasn’t much to get rid of. But I did add a few things to the donation box and re-fold everything neatly.

Umm, you can see on top of the dresser there is still decluttering to do. This is in the back of my closet.

You can see the drawers aren’t over stuffed. They aren’t even full. This makes me really happy! A lot of my clothes hang up because we have more hanging space but I’ve also gotten so much better at not keeping things I don’t wear and I don’t buy more than I need.

Started Organizing My Earrings

Y’all, I love earrings. A friend of mine said she had never seen so many. The box with dividers I’ve been storing them in won’t hold them all so I’ve started moving some to another system where I can see them better. I bought the hanging storage bag at Ross or TJ Maxx for $4.99. I noticed afterward though that they have some on Amazon with pockets on both sides.

You can see I’ve still got work to do here 😊. Divided jewelry box on the left still has to be gone through. I will keep most of them and keep the ones with a post in the divided box. In my defense; they’re small and don’t take up much space!

I do love some ear-rangs.

Collected A Box of Donations

I keep a box at all times for donations and over the course of the last month have filled it with one or two items here and there. It’s added up to a full box in a month.

Outside Projects

I’m including in this month’s progress some outdoor projects.  Although some of the work would be considered routine maintenance, much of it isn’t.  Jay and I are taking advantage of our beautiful spring- like perfect yard work weather before it gets blazing hot, which will happen in a flash.

In defense of the before outdoor pictures–as well as some that are excuses, we’ve had legitimate issues that have caused us to get so far behind.  A wedding, plantar fasciitis (me), sciatic pain (me) bad knee (Jay) lack of well-working equipment or not having the things we need (like a chainsaw) and then knee replacement and recovery for Jay, in addition to some hoarder-ish tendencies….things around here got pretty out of shape outside.

On President’s day weekend, Jay and I worked on Saturday and Monday on some outdoor project goals. There is still much to be done, but we accomplished a lot.  We had the sore muscles to prove it.  We were popping Tylenol, Ibuprofen and using Icy Hot for a couple of days after 🙂

The normal stuff:  We trimmed bushes (still more to do there), he chainsawed down some small trees that had appeared in our shrubs and grew tall when we didn’t own a chainsaw.

The blinds are the cheap plastic kind. I had recently bought new ones and Bad Buddy broke them within a couple of weeks. Gotta invest in some better blinds like we have in some other rooms of the house.

I thought I had taken a before picture. This oleander (one that looks like sticks now)  was as tall as the house when we got started.  We didn’t get to the other bushes yet, our gas powered hedge trimmers wouldn’t work.  So discouraging when you have equipment failures that slow progress which always seems to happen.  Jay is working on the hedge trimmers, but for today’s progress he used limb loppers and the chain saw to tame this beast of an oleander.  They’re so pretty when we see them at the beach, but they grow so fast and it’s a lot of work to keep them under control.  Jay wants to pull them up.  I’m holding him off for now.

Got all the shrubs in front trimmed. I love the tea olive on the right, smells so good. It had gotten so out of control, it looks so much better!

The outside the norm stuff:  I didn’t take a before pic, but you wouldn’t have been able to tell really anyway because of the leaves.  Our privacy fence had fallen down.  There were sections of fence on the ground.  Some of them were heavy, and still attached to posts.   Others were rotten so they fell apart and had to be removed in smaller pieces.  A tree from our neighbor’s yard had fallen into ours and the owner (rents the house but it’s currently empty) had not taken care of it.  Jay and Evan had cut up and removed some of the tree and left behind some we might use as fire wood.  It isn’t “good” wood and we don’t have a way to stack/store it well so we hauled it to the street rather than cut grass around it all summer.

After two days of serious work,  we had a huge pile by the street for pick up.

I didn’t crop out the house so you would get an idea of scale. The pile was nearly as tall as me! The fencing and logs are under the bush trimmings and trees.

This was a serious workout and it felt so good to get these things done.

Although I always wish the progress was faster, we’ve made steps in the right direction this month and I’m going to be content with that.

I do hope you’ll share your goals, projects and pictures so that we can celebrate and encourage one another!

Till next week,

Josette.

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 last time we got away. 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.

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.

When our oldest kids were young, at some point each summer 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 out on 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.

Mid afternoon we headed out to find something to eat.  We ended up practically across the street from the condo at Hammerhead Fred’s. If it hadn’t been raining, it was so close we could have walked.  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, 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 few 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 clean.

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.