Feeling Stuck and Not Wanting to Stay There

All of the stressors I’m currently experiencing are just normal parts of life.  Some struggles related to Down syndrome are feeling heavier than usual.   Until menopause, with the exception of when birth control pills had me wonky, I’ve not been an overly anxious person and I’ve never been depressed.  Like everyone, I have had bad days, but I usually bounce back pretty quickly.  I’m not bouncing as well lately.

I have found myself feeling “blah” a lot this summer.  I’ve even questioned whether I’ve been experiencing a mild depression.  I feel sure some of it is hormonal and some of it is situational.  Because the way I feel isn’t the same everyday I haven’t been at the point that I felt ready to consider medication.  I’m not ruling it out, but  I’m not ready to go there. It’s a shame that all the natural options are expensive and not covered by insurance, because there are natural options on my radar that just aren’t affordable at the moment.

I don’t primarily feel sad, although I sometimes feel more emotional, but I have lacked the emotional, mental and physical energy to do what I have wanted or needed to do this summer.

After looking forward to having time for home projects, this summer many days I have found myself feeling tired mentally or physically, wanting to lay in my bed more than I should (even when I don’t, I really want to), and generally lacking the motivation or energy to do what I have in mind that I really want done.  I also feel that my phone is a constant distraction and part of what makes my mind feel so scattered at times.

I have worked on some projects and done some de-cluttering and reorganizing but it has seemed such a struggle.   I have wanted to implement some new things with Jessie and I just haven’t been able to make myself do the necessary work.

Some of my emotions are brought on by situations we’ve experienced with Jessie recently.

I have felt saddened by several situations that occurred with Jessie this spring and summer.  I don’t want to give you the wrong idea, individually these are small things, there has been no big or terrible thing that has happened.  I don’t feel able to share the specifics.  But these small things have added up to me feeling very sensitive where she is concerned.  In these situations, I can respond rightly on the outside but it tears me up on the inside.

As I talked with my oldest daughter last night about some of the things regarding Jessie that I hadn’t had opportunity to share with her, we were both able to see some positives that have come from some of these struggles.  In each hard situation, either someone else gained knowledge and better understanding (of Down syndrome, disability or Jessie in particular) or Jessie learned some skills that will help her as she is getting older and gaining independence.

But can I just tell you, when I feel protective of Jessie because something has happened, I really just want our little family to live on an island where only people who understand and go with the flow are allowed! My instinct is to pull her back where she can’t be hurt or misunderstoodI know that isn’t healthy, and I wouldn’t actually act on those feelings, but that is how I feel.    

I’ve heard Dr. Phil use the analogy that emotional hurts are like your psychological skin has been burned and that’s how I’ve felt.  Raw.  Easily injured (where Jessie is concerned).  I don’t like being in this place.

I find it difficult to be willing to share our struggles with Jessie. but I think it’s so important to be honest about both the joys and the challenges.  If I shared struggles I had with my other children, no one would question if it was a good idea that they were ever born.  The same should be true of Jessie.

I’ve also been stuck physically.   

We currently own two vehicles but only one of them has air conditioning.  When I need the car, my sweet husband drives his old 1960 Chevy truck, which he loves, other than the fact that it has no A/Cand its hot as you know what in south Alabama right about now.   I do most of my grocery shopping and errands at night, because I’m home without a car most days.  Most of the time I don’t mind that, but sometimes I do.   We hope to buy another car within a year, but we’re both making the best of our car and financial situation for now.

Maybe I’m not overreacting.  I guess we have had some stressful events lately.

We’ve had a lot of pet drama this summer.  Our dog, Boo, was in kidney failure and after a couple of weeks of stressful worry and care, she was mercifully (for her) put to sleep.  Last week, our 15-year-old cat had to be confined to our bathroom for about a week to restrict her movements because she had a bulging disc and Buddy won’t leave her alone in other parts of the house. I’ll spare you details, but it was a very stressful, very poopy, very stinky week.  Our dog Stella is having some kind of allergy, we think to fleas.

Jay had a stress test and heart cath a couple of months ago.  This week we couldn’t figure out what was going on with his ankle and it turned out to be gout.  I have been having tooth/jaw pain for about 3 months and finally had a root canal earlier this week.   I was having headaches too that I couldn’t determine if they were related to the tooth or the barometric pressure related to weather changes.  Either way, being in pain has contributed to my feeling “stuck”.

This is a season, and I don’t like it, but I know it won’t last forever.  Mine won’t and yours won’t either.  

Yesterday I spent several hours with a friend that was feeling some of the same things.  Although our specific struggles are different, we were feeling much the same.   Our kids with Down syndrome are the same age and their entire lives it has been this way.  One of us will call the other needing to talk and often we’ll find we are feeling similarly.

Sometimes It feels so good just to be understood.  There are things we can talk about that are immediately and deeply understood with so much less effort than it takes to explain to someone else.  Sometimes just talking through it helps alleviate the hurt or find a solution.  Even when there is no quick solution to be found, my heart always feels lighter afterward.

Yesterday I talked with my friend and then my oldest daughter.  They each love and understand me and help in different ways.  It was nice too to just have some time out of the house, some of that time alone, and it helped me wake up today with fresh perspective.

Jessie had been overly emotional the last few days, every tiny disappointment leading to tears.  Although I don’t have periods anymore, I definitely still have cyclical hormonal changes. I think I may have synced up to Jessie’s cycle and maybe both our emotions were somewhat explained when she woke up with cramps yesterday.

Now I just want us to eat all the chocolate and feel better 🙂

We all have good days.  We all have bad days.  Sometimes we have a season of real struggle and that’s not fun.  This too shall pass. If you’re feeling stuck, for any reason, I’d love for you to send me a note and I would like to pray for you like only someone who has been there knows how to.

Till next week friends,

Josette

Alopecia Update (and what we’re trying)

When we saw our pediatrician for Jessie’s annual visit, we talked about Jessie’s Alopecia Areata (hair loss).  He ordered some blood work, to be sure there wasn’t anything else going on with Jessie’s immune system and the blood work came back within normal ranges.  We are relieved to know there isn’t anything more serious going on.  We asked if he knew of anything else we could do, or if he thought visiting the dermatologist again would be of any benefit.  His office made an appointment for us with the dermatologist we had seen once before several years ago.

Revisiting the dermatologist

The doctor reminded us that there is no cure for Alopecia Areata and that it’s possible we will be dealing with this as a life-long condition.  There are treatments we can try that may help her hair regrow, but she might (and likely will with her history of it so far) lose it again and again.

When she examined the patchy bald spots on Jessie’s scalp, Dr. R. pointed out the difference in the skin color on the front part of Jessie’s head versus all the other bald spots.  When she pointed it out, I could see that there was a difference, but it wasn’t something I had noticed or would notice if she hadn’t pointed it out.  All of the spots in other places had a pinker tint to the skin, which she said indicated current inflammation, whereas the front part of her head was a different (not pink) skin tone.

Dr. R.  said because there wasn’t current inflammation on the front part of her scalp, she felt less hopeful that the hair there would re-grow as a result of the steroid treatment she was prescribing.  We felt pretty devastated with this news.  When she saw the looks on our faces, she did follow-up with that it was possible, as the steroid treats the whole body.

We’re Trying Oral Steroids & Using a Topical Steroid

I had asked our pediatrician if oral steroids were an option and he had said not likely, because of the risk of side effects.  Our dermatologist though said this would be short-term use, 4 weeks, and she felt safe about that length of time.

So, we’re giving it a whirl.

I was worried that the oral steroids would affect Jessie’s sleep.  When our oldest was about 7 and took a steroid, I wasn’t sure one of us was coming out of that week alive.   She slept much less than normal that week and had dark circles by week-end and I felt like a crazy mama.  Thankfully, it hasn’t affected Jessie’s sleep much if at all.

She has, however, been hungry almost constantly since day 2. Although Jessie is overweight and I won’t say she eats healthfully, she doesn’t usually snack more than the average person, so constantly saying she’s hungry is out of the norm for her.  The first 4 days she took 5 tablets, then 4 tablets for 4 days and the dose will continue to taper off.  It is my hope that as her dose tapers so will her constant desire to eat 🙂

We are also again using the topical steroid 2 times per day.  I don’t know what form you would say it is in.   It’s not a cream, its wet and comes out in drops.  Jessie complained of the wet feeling.  I wasn’t even sure how to apply it properly.  I’ve started to use a cotton ball which leaves her head less wet feeling and that is less annoying to her.  It’s a 2 weeks on 1 week off regimen.

Natural Remedies We’re Planning to Try

A couple of days before Jessie’s dermatology appointment someone sent me a link about 9 Natural Treatments for Alopecia.  I spent some time yesterday following links in the article and learning more about each of the 9 options listed.  Each of the natural options I’m listing below are from this article by Dr. Axe, Alopecia Areata:  9 Natural Ways to Treat Hair Loss.

I’m going to wait until we have finished the oral steroids before I try anything new.  That will give me time to research a little more and order what I need.  Some of the options are easier for us to try than others. Read the referenced article for yourself, listed below isn’t all of the options, just the ones we are considering trying soon.  We will likely only add one new thing at a time.  I’ll keep you updated as to what seems to help.

Probiotics

Jessie is pretty picky about both taste and texture, so getting most of the probiotic foods in her wouldn’t be easy, but taking a good probiotic would be easy for her, just $$ for mom and dad.  I have been giving her some probiotic gummies I picked up at Wal-Mart for a while and they do help with her sometimes upset tummy but I see from researching there are much better ones out there, and they cost more.

Supplements

Zinc:   I read an article a few months ago about new research where they’re learning how the immune system of a person with Down syndrome is different.  It has been known for a while that it is different, but we’re only beginning to understand how it’s different. I googled around a bit about the immune system and kept reading how important Zinc is to our immune system.  The last time Jessie’s zinc was tested, she wasn’t deficient.  Since she was within the normal range,  I asked her pediatrician and he said supplementing her with 50 mg wouldn’t hurt her, so we decided to add that to the vitamin D she was already taking.

Quercetin reduces inflammation and fights free radical damage and is often used to treat auto immune disorders. I’ve seen free radicals mentioned a lot in reading about Down syndrome.

Ginseng reduces inflammation and boosts immune function.

Lavender and Rosemary essential oils applied to the scalp as directed in above referenced article.  I wondered too, since the article says rosemary oil is also used to treat dandruff and dry scalp, if that might eliminate our need for dandruff shampoo and address that issue in a more natural way.

Those are the natural remedies we’re considering trying soon.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent too much time indoors this week, busy with a variety of things including cleaning out our bathroom closet and under the cabinets.  I’m ready for a pool day tomorrow!

Hope y’all are having a great week and enjoying your summer.  Be safe in this crazy heat!

Josette

DIY Dollar Tree Mirror Makeover

This was such a simple DIY I almost didn’t make a blog post for it.  If I had just shared on social media, it wouldn’t show up on the blog in the DIY section though, so here you go.

I was inspired to think about Dollar Tree mirrors differently because of a project Passionate Penny Pincher shared.  I can’t find her mirror project to link to, but she has a section on her blog of DIY projects using Dollar Tree materials.  She has a section called Friday fluff ups worth checking out too.  Even when Laurie isn’t using Dollar tree materials, all of her projects are “penny pinched” and she has lots of good ideas.

Okay, on to the Dollar Tree mirror.  Because this mirror is small, I might have liked to use 2 or three of them hung together, or as part of a gallery wall, but I bought the last one they had that day.

We have 3 different Dollar Trees not too far from me, so if you have more than one Dollar Tree, you might check multiple locations when looking for specific items.  One year I found stocking holders I liked and had to go to more than one store to find enough of the matching ones I wanted.

This is what it looked like before, and with the rest of the day’s dollar tree haul in the background 😬[[[[[[
I didn’t hate the original finish, it just wasn’t exactly what I wanted.

I covered the mirror with masking tape to protect it from the paint.

I used this Rustoleum spray chalk paint. I think it took 3 coats to get inside all those little cracks. When I went to paint a coat from the back, to more easily access some of the crooks and crannies, I almost messed the whole thing up.

I think the first coat wasn’t dry enough to be turned upside down.  When I sprayed a coat of paint from the back, the front wanted to slide a little (not even a true drip, it was kinda crazy).   It wasn’t dry enough to lay it on the paper, so I put a block of styrofoam underneath the actual mirror part (that wasn’t being painted),  to hold it off the ground when I painted the back soon after I had painted the front.   I was able to smooth it out , but be careful if you paint from the back side after painting the front.

The smarter thing would be to wait until the front side is completely dry to the touch before painting the back, but I never do that.  Yes, I’m a little impatient and sometimes that’s a problem.

I love how it turned out!  The mirror is small, so it doesn’t function much like a mirror (can’t see much in it), but I like that it adds a little something different to a photo grouping.

I didn’t have to use the whole can of paint, so I have some left for another thrift store or Dollar Tree find in the future.

I don’t know if this is where it will stay, but I kind of like it here.

I tried it on our foyer wall and although I decided not to leave it there, I love how the color popped against the terra-cotta colored wall.

Now that the last of Jessie’s camps are over, our summer will be slower paced. I’ve gotten some paint samples and taped them to Jessie’s walls and hope we can make a decision and repaint her room sometime this summer. It’s one of the many things on the list for the summer. But, it’s at the top of the list so hopefully I will follow through.

I hope you’re enjoying your summer! I hope it includes floating in a pool, reading books, spending time with friends and being creative. Well, those are MY favorite things; I hope your summer is full of whatever refreshes and inspires you. We all need a dose of that!

If you’ve been crafting or doing some DIY I would love to see what you’ve been working on!

Till next week friends,

Josette

DIY Thrift Store Lamp Makeover

When I found this lamp at a thrift store, I instantly loved the detail of the metal. I love how it has clean lines, but isn’t plain. I LOVE it. I bought the lamp for $8.

Ummm, that shade though. The shade was atrocious, and had to go asap! I have it in my to-be-donated box. Someone else shopping in the store at the same time said they thought it could be made over in a cute way.

As soon as I saw the lamp, I pictured the metal spray painted a creamy white. I originally thought I would add an antiquing wax, but once it was painted I loved it and decided to leave it the clean and creamy color without the antiquing wax.

The lamp before. Oh my goodness, that shade. On the other side was a little snowman.
With the shade off I just needed to tape the electrical part at the top to protect it from the paint.

I used this Rust-Oleum satin finish paint in Heirloom White.

Since our oldest got married, for the first time in I don’t know how many years, we have a guest room. I painted this room last year but haven’t put the finishing touches on the room.

It is currently, I think, my favorite room in our house. It doubles as a space I can work on my blog without being distracted by seeing dirty dishes or laundry that needs to be done. I close the door and sometimes turn a box fan on low to muffle the sounds outside the room for a little peace and quiet.

This is my desk (a small adjustable table from Sam’s). I enjoy this little spot with a view out the window.

I knew I wanted to use the lamp somewhere in this room. As soon as Buddy hears me open the door he runs in to get in the window.

I wish I had taken a picture of the shade before I painted it! I thought I had. It was the right size and shape but printed with a floral pattern that didn’t match the room. It was just $2 at the same thrift store.

I had seen painted lamp shades online, and the shade was fabric, so I felt it would accept paint well.

Initially, I planned to paint it a solid color. As I kept looking at the colors in the curtain to match it, I decided to try to duplicate one of the flowers in the curtain (which is actually a shower curtain from T J Maxx). If it didn’t turn out in a way I was happy with, I would just paint over it again.

This is the curtain with the flower I was copying. I took a picture of it and looked at it while I was painting/copying the design.

First, I practiced drawing the flower on paper with markers.

Then I practiced the design with paints on card stock.

I first painted the shade a solid light gray then drew on the white flowers then filled them in. I used acrylic craft paints, Apple Barrel brand (50 cents each at Walmart). Some of the colors required a little mixing to get the shade I wanted to match the colors in the curtain.

I’m happy with how it turned out. I may add more flowers with a little yellow later, or some little flourishes.

A friend who enjoys painting advised me to stop while I was happy with it and wait a couple of days to decide whether to add more to the design. I decided to take her advice. If I make any changes later I will share those too.

I hope to finish some some other projects for this room to share soon. I’m enjoying that the summer gives me extra time to work on house projects.

What are you working on? Hope you’re having a great summer!

Josette

Living With Down Syndrome: More Alike Than Different?

I’m not sure where it got its start, but More Alike Than Different is a phrase that’s been used in the Down syndrome community for a while now.  It’s also a frequently used hashtag on Instagram.

It has just never rung true for me and our experience with parenting a child with Down syndrome.

Before I’m strung up or stoned, will you hear me out just a minute?

I understand the reasons behind the hashtag, and they’re all good ones, but it isn’t a sentiment that resonates with me.

I agree that many people with Down syndrome have the same wants and desires, hopes and dreams as people without Down syndrome.  But in my experience (and I hear the same from other parents I know) almost everything about parenting a child with Down syndrome is different.  More alike than different just doesn’t feel like an authentic testimony, either for me as a parent or for Jessie.

Why do we assume “different” is bad?  Can’t different simply just mean different?

With my older two children (one boy and one girl) there were great differences in each of them and what parenting each of them required of me.  In the case of our third child with Down syndrome though, the differences were even greater.  Some of the differences have been because of health concerns.  Almost every health concern that happens to people with DS occurs in the rest of the population, some just with greater frequency.  Many of the differences we’ve experienced have been because of the cognitive differences, delays and communication issues.

Per NDSS, The majority of people (95%) with Down syndrome have trisomy 21, which means that extra chromosome is replicated in every cell of the body.  This is different from all other people who don’t have Down syndrome.  Genetically speaking, there’s much about Jessie that is the same as the rest of our family, and there are some things that are different from the rest of us that don’t have Down syndrome.  Why does acknowledging that mean I’m saying something is bad or wrong?

This morning, my phone rang around 1 am.  It was Jessie calling me from her bedroom.  She had started her period while she was sleeping and she was having very bad cramps.  Because she was both tired and in pain, her ability to communicate everything to me wasn’t as good as she usually can.  It took me a few minutes to realize that she wasn’t being obstinate in not answering some of my questions, but that she herself was having a hard time knowing the answers.

This morning as we sat at McDonald’s having breakfast before heading to Cooking Camp, Jessie said to me, “I don’t feeling good last morning.”  Expressing time (this morning, last week, last year) is something Jessie has difficulty with.   And she sometimes puts her words in a sentence out of the typical order or not grammatically correct word choices (don’t feeling good).  My point is, Jessie is 16, and this wouldn’t be a sentence you would hear at that age from a “typical” 16-year-old.

When Jessie tore open her jelly packet she struggled with it, made a sound of exasperation, then was able to get it open on her own.  The fact that this was difficult for her was not a “normal” or “typical” experience, it was different.  So was the fact that as I watched her, I resisted the urge to immediately help her in her difficulty and then felt so proud that she accomplished it on her own.  Yes, we experience those same struggles with our other children, just not over a jelly packet at 16.

If you’re a newer reader to my blog, you might think Jessie is more cognitively affected than she is.  She is very capable.  She learns and grows more independent every single day.  She speaks pretty well, but she thinks with so much more clarity than she can sometimes express.  She reads well.  She struggles the most with certain types of fine motor skills and she has a foot issue (unrelated to DS) that affects her balance even more than the average person with Down syndrome.

In about a year, when Jessie is 18, we will begin the process to become Jessie’s guardians.  While she is so very capable in many ways, she will always need someone to oversee her care and help make medical and financial decisions.  When she out lives us (her parents), her siblings will assume that role.  That is different.  It is not more alike than different.

Different doesn’t infer good or bad, it’s just different. 

A while back, I read this blog post, “On Radical Acceptance (And Not Fixing Your Kid), and it resonated deeply with me. Written by a mom whose child has a different chromosomal abnormality,  I cried when I read the part about “The Button Man” and I sobbed with understanding as I read this:

“Somehow, somewhere, the urge to want to change my kid subsided…Maybe it subsided when I saw all these differently abled people–people in wheelchairs and people who ran, people who ate orally and people fed by gtubes, people who spoke and people who didn’t–and I finally felt in my bones that all of these ways of being were good.  And by good, I don’t just mean, “Hey, it’s all good.”  I mean in that deep affirming way that things are proclaimed good in Genesis.  There is dark, and it is good, and there is light, and it is good, and there is a grown woman who gets around by scooting on her butt and she is good, and here is my daughter, one year old, twelve pounds big, who has just started learning to hold up her head (thanks or possibly no thanks to our tummy time), and she is goodShe is so, so good.

It seems to me that one of the reasons parents use this hashtag is showing that living with a person with Down syndrome is a positive experience.  And I will agree with that all the day long!  But it is different.  Jessie’s life is good, but her life experiences are a lot different than that of my other children.  And, for the most part that isn’t because of any way that she isn’t being included or accepted or supported.

Our Down syndrome group last year bought shirts that say, “Different, not less.”  We didn’t at the time know that was a slogan used for autism awareness, but I like that SO much better than “more alike than different”.  That sentiment much more accurately expresses what I feel is my experience as a parent and how I see Jessie.  Different.  Not less.  We’ll broach the whole subject of “special needs” another time 🙂

We want to be an encouragement to parents who are expecting a child with Down syndrome or have a younger child with DS.  We also want the world to see that our children with Down syndrome aren’t a burden to us.

Sometimes, not in spite of their differences, but because of them, our lives are richer.  Have you never rejoiced in your heart over a jelly packet independently opened or the toilet paper roll replaced?  Well, I have.  That’s just one tiny thing that comes to mind.  Jessie gives me a lot of reasons to be thankful that God allowed me to be her mother.

What if, instead of “more alike than different” we project that different is ok? In fact, different is very, very good.

Josette

I was a kid who rode the bus to church.

If you’re in church ministry (like you do anything at your church besides just sit there) you are probably affecting the lives of others in a way you may never know.

I hope sharing my experience will encourage you, that even when you have no proof that what you’re doing matters, it does.

I don’t remember how old I was (10ish?) but for a while I rode a bus to church with my best friend. Most Saturday nights I would spend the night at her house and we would ride the bus to church on Sunday morning. Often, her mama would have spaghetti waiting for us when we rode the bus back home.

I don’t remember the name of the church. I don’t remember the name of even one church worker. But the folks at that church impacted my life by putting the word of God before me in a turbulent time in my life.

Things I do remember:  I remember that the people there were very kind.   They looked at me with kind eyes and had sincere smiles. I remember that I was pretty sure their home life wasn’t a lot like mine. I remember there were adults who seemed joyful (I wouldn’t have used that word then but I see it now.) I did get even then, that love for God probably motivated their bus driving and their kindness to me.

It wasn’t that we never went to church as a family, but it was inconsistent. When we did go to church together we never stayed until it became a church “home”.  We visited a variety of churches of different denominations.

That was a long time ago; I’m 53.  I have a church home now, and it’s a small church.  In a small church everybody works, because it takes everybody doing something to keep things going.

Some folks teach Sunday school. Some folks drive the church van. Some fix things, others shop for the church, reorganize the pantry and keep things tidy.  For VBS, most everyone has a role.  Whether it is cooking and serving food, playing outside games, telling the Bible story….there are so many roles in which God might use you in a kid’s life.

You might never know if it made any difference at all.

Don’t be discouraged if that kid riding the bus or in your VBS group doesn’t remember your name or open up to you in any way.

You may be just one part of what God is doing in someone’s life. But it all matters.

And the one who needs to know does. And one day you will see Him face to face. And that will be one sweet day.

Josette

 

Food Prepping Ahead for a Family Day with Very Little Cooking

We had been hoping for a day trip to the beach on Saturday. It had been raining here though, every day for more than a week. When we saw that the beach wasn’t going to work out, we still wanted to spend the day together in a leisurely way.  In order for it to be leisurely for me, food needs to be mostly prepared ahead.

We couldn’t be sure if the weather might cooperate to let us sneak in pool time between showers or if we would be spending the day inside.  I wanted food planned that would work for a pool day or watch a movie and play cards kind of day.

I wanted to have some easy, snacky-but-filling food on hand so that whatever we ended up doing wouldn’t have to be interrupted with food preparation.  I also wanted to have a simple supper and dessert prepped that could be thrown in the oven without having to be tended to.

What to serve?

At Christmas time when we were at the mall shopping for my daughter, my son-in-law pointed out the meat and cheese baskets for sale and told me he loved them. I made a mental note. I instinctively knew my other two carnivorous guys would like that too.  I decided our day would start with a meat and cheese tray and fixins that would go well with it.

For this family day, I set out to create something similar.  It hit all the important points: filling, easy to make ahead, flavorful, easy to put away and get back out throughout the day if we wanted to.

*** This post includes affiliate links, see disclosure ***

Our Menu for the day:

For all day snacking: a meat and cheese tray served with a tangy pineapple mustard, raspberry chipotle fruit spread, club crackers, kalamata olives, grapes, and french bread with olive oil for dipping.

For supper: I already had ingredients on hand to throw together a spaghetti-ish casserole and made another loaf of french bread (can you have too much french bread?) and salad.  Earlier in the week I cooked ground chuck with onions for another meal.  I cooked the whole family size pack and froze about 2 lbs to use for later, it came in handy for this meal.  The romaine hearts were already washed and cut so it only took me 5 minutes to cut a cucumber and grape tomatoes and add some parmesan cheese to the salad.

Dessert:  a peach cobbler made from peaches I had frozen earlier in the week when a friend had picked some and given them to me.   I put the cobbler together while the spaghetti casserole was in the oven then it cooked while we ate our supper.

I prepped all the food the morning before the kids got here, except the peach cobbler which was super quick to throw together last-minute.  I put the bread in the oven when I knew they were on their way.

I have included some pictures from our day but don’t have pictures of everything. I wanted to keep the day easy and not worry too much about being able to document everything. I’m too willy-nilly, throw-it-together-on-a-whim and don’t measure anything to be a true food blogger, I just enjoy sharing with you all what is working for me.

The Meat and Cheese Tray

I planned to serve just the summer sausage, but for my picky eater (Jessie) I added some mesquite flavored turkey.  She didn’t care for the summer sausage.

I will save you the running around like a crazy person in Wal-Mart (like me) and asking two different employees where to find summer sausage. I knew I had bought it at Wal-Mart before, and was pretty sure it was out in front of the deli area. Nope, not this time.  You can find Summer Sausage in the section with the beef jerky and microwave popcorn and nuts (for snacking not the baking section).

There are of course a variety of cheeses you could choose; I went with cheeses I already knew my guys liked. Sharp cheddar, smoked cheddar (found in the cheeses not behind the deli counter but in that area) and Muenster.

I sliced all the cheeses using a cheese slicer. When my now SIL saw me use it when they were engaged he added one to their registry. We enjoy our kitchen gadgets around here.

If that looks like a lot of meat, it is! I was feeding 6 total, and 3 of them are guys that can eat! We did have leftovers, which we were happy about.

I was excited to use my new daisy tray for the first time.  I painted this recently (my first time doing ceramics) when I went with other Down syndrome mamas in our F.R.I.E.N.D.S. group for a mom’s night out.

The Sauces are what really make this special.

I wanted this to really seem like the fancy baskets with the sauces and not just meat and cheese on a cracker. How have I never known about these yummy sauces? The sauces really make this so deliciously savory.

I’m completely in love with this raspberry chipotle fruit spread and am going to find more ways to use it. It is so, so good. Sweet, a little tangy and not truly hot, it has just the right amount of kick.

I also wanted a tangy but not hot mustard. They had a LOT of choices of different types of mustards at Wal-Mart. Even with all those choices I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for so I made one. I can’t find the recipe I used 🙁   It had Dijon mustard, soy sauce and pineapple preserves in it.  I added more preserves than it called for.  It was good but could stand to be perfected, so I won’t mind trying another recipe next time or shopping ahead somewhere else for a store-bought version.

French Bread with Olive Oil for dipping:

I bought a loaf of pre-sliced french bread at Wal-Mart for $1 in bakery area.

I melted butter in the microwave and used a silicone basting brush to brush the butter along the top and drip some between the slices.  I  baked the bread for a few minutes (till it looked right) at 400 degrees.

I used this Taste of Home recipe for olive oil for dipping.  I accidentally left out the rosemary and it was still good.  I had intended to go get some fresh from the garden and then forgot to.  If I had realized how much it would make I might have made less than the whole recipe.  It leaves you with some dry mix to use for later.  So, consider if you want to have leftover or you might want to make less than the full recipe.

Spaghetti-ish Casserole

These are estimates for your convenience.  I was just using what I had on hand.

elbow noodles approx 1 1/2 lbs

ground chuck cooked with onions approx 2 lbs

large jar of Ragu traditional sauce (or your favorite)

italian seasoning to taste

mexican cheese blend, its what I had on hand, use whatever you have! (however much you want melted on top)

A loaf of pre-sliced french bread (I got at Walmart for $1 in bakery area)

Saturday morning, I cooked and drained elbow noodles that I thought would be the right amount for the pre-cooked meat and sauce I had.  I mixed the meat, noodles and italian seasoning together,  covered it with foil and stored in fridge till ready to bake.  Everything in it is pre-cooked, so it just needed to be heated.  I cooked at 350 till warm then added cheese on top and baked a few more minutes to melt the cheese.

This was a super simple casserole that I made because I had the ingredients on hand and wanted to keep the day super simple and focused on family time, not cooking.

I melted butter in the microwave and used a silicone basting brush to brush the butter along the top and drip some between the slices then baked the bread for a few minutes (till it looked right) at 400 degrees.

Peach Cobbler

I’ve been using this cobbler recipe for years.  In fact I keep this recipe in the clear cover on the front of my recipe binder because for a while I was using this pretty frequently.  although the recipe is for Blackberry Cobbler (my absolute favorite!) I’ve also made it with blueberries, peaches, or frozen mixed berries.

I used the peaches I had and I’m not sure the exact quantity.  I had not measured them when I froze them.  I wouldn’t use a lot less than what the recipe calls for, but if you use a little more it never hurts.

By the time of day the kids were all here, it wasn’t good swimming weather so we spent the day inside.  We sat around the table for a long time talking and eating.  We watched a movie and then ate supper and played some cards.  We played a card game called Nuts that we all enjoy.  Jessie loves it and begs us to play more often.

When we’re all together, it doesn’t really matter to me what we do, as long as we’re together <3

Till next week friends,

Josette

If You Struggle With Transitioning to Summer, You’re Not Alone

Every year this happens and I react the same way.  Why does that still take me by surprise?

As the school year ends, all of Jessie’s Special Olympic sports and other activities come to an abrupt stop all at the same time.   She is sad when they end and I’m both sad for her and relieved that there will be a few weeks between these activities and the summer camps (just mornings) she participates in.

For as long as we’ve been homeschooling (forever, now, I think) I’ve always collected in my mind all year long things I’m going to accomplish around the house when the school year is over.  I always at least think it will (and it is after the first 2 weeks) be easier to keep my house reasonably clean.

Those first couple of weeks of summer I completely flounder and can’t decide whether to work or rest/play and don’t feel satisfied no matter what I actually do.  I can’t seem to make myself get fully into any projects and I feel guilty if I just do nothing, which is what I really, really want to do.

During the school year, our days are completely structured around Jessie’s activities and when they suddenly stop, there’s no framework in place.  I find that for those first couple of weeks I want to be a complete slouch and just rest and read and do nothing, but feel guilty to do that.  I partly feel guilty because, hey, the hubby is at work I feel I should be working too. He doesn’t say that, that is something I put on myself.  Secondly I feel guilty because it means Jessie isn’t doing something productive either.

When I’m working on house projects Jessie is on her own and when I’m doing my own thing (reading, etc) Jessie is on her own.  Jessie has some chores, but even with those she has a lot of free time.  On her own = she’s watching videos on her tv or phone.  She plays Barbies a little or her wrestling action figures a little and a plays a wrestling video game.  Most of her time on her own though is with some type of screen.

With my other two kids I restricted the amount of time they could be in front of the tv and they were older by the time cell phones were a thing. If they complained of being bored, I told them I could find them some chores to do, and I meant it.   That usually worked 🙂  There was still occasional whining about that and they too had a transition period before they got into the groove of being able to fill up that free time in a way that didn’t get them into trouble.

I have a harder time though, finding ways Jessie can spend her time besides tv and cell phone that doesn’t require help from me.  Anything else she would enjoy requires me for instruction or help of some kind.  She has her adult coloring books, markers, gel pens and such in her room but she is only content if the tv is going too.

I have taken to telling Jessie if she’s bored (acting whiny and sad about us not going somewhere) I will find her some chores to do.  When she was younger, there were fewer things she could do around the house but now I really can almost always find her a chore she could do.  But it is just different and I struggle with it all in a different way with her.

For this week, the pattern I’ve fallen into has been very little productivity in the early part of the day and then mid-afternoon the guilt kicks me into gear and I get a little something done.  I cleaned Jessie’s bathroom last night at midnight 🙂  I just left the floor for her to sweep today, cause she needs something to do besides tv.

If this year is like the others, in a couple of weeks I’ll sort of find my way into a loose summer routine and still feel guilty though when I take time to just relax.  Why must mamas feel guilty about that?

If you find that the transition from the structure of the school year to the complete freedom of summer isn’t perfectly smooth, I’m right there with ya.  I’m hoping we all get it straightened out soon. If you’ve got tips, please share them!

Talk to you next week,

Josette

PS:  Did you notice that the photo at the top has some brown on the leaves?  You probably did, I did too.  But you know what?  The intracacy of the detail of those blooms are amazing.  Such variety of size of bloom and colors. The green of the leaves is so lush.  Yep, there’s a little bit of brown on them.  And I will soon cut that brown part of the leaf off.  Even though there is some imperfection there, this is my first hydrangea and I love it 🙂  It isn’t perfect, but I think it’s beautiful.

We Are All Designed to be Creative~ My Recent Trash to Treasure and Ceramic Projects

I believe we were all meant to be creative in some way.  If you don’t think of yourself as creative, maybe you’re thinking of “creative” with too narrow a definition.  I haven’t always thought of myself as creative either, and there are some ways that I’m definitely not.

I say all the time I’m not the one you want to decorate for a party, because I mostly choose practicality and comfort over beauty and I simply don’t see the point of going to a lot of trouble.  Anybody with me? I’m just not frou-frou in that way.  But I have friends that are so good at that, so I ask for their help in this area.

YOU are designed to be creative, you just have to find your niche.

There are so many different ways that creativity could be expressed and sometimes it takes us a while to find what we like.  When I have time to pursue it, I enjoy being creative in a variety of ways.  If you aren’t sure yet what you like, just get to trying some stuff.

Everything I do is as inexpensively as possible.  If you’ve been reading my blog just a minute, you probably already know that about me.  You already know I love gardening and repurposing home decor in new ways.  Although I’ve been very focused on de-cluttering and paring down, before getting rid of an item I always evaluate if it could be reused in a new way or beautified with a little DIY.

I hope that in showing you the ways I fulfill that inner need for creativity and creating beauty for my home, it will stir up in you some ideas of ways you can do the same in your own life.

I had this ugly candle holder…

Y’all, don’t judge me for having owned this ugly thing in its original state.  It was ugly.   I picked it up years ago at a thrift store and knew it had hidden beauty.  I didn’t like it gold, but I wasn’t sure at the time what it needed.  I used it gold, then I added the little bit of green (sometimes the first time is a fail, keep tryin’) and then stuck it in a closet for a very long time and forgot about it.

See, it was ugly. I don’t know what I was thinking with the green. It’s like I tried the green and didn’t finish my thought? Who knows. But I’m happy with the way it turned out this time.

I saw it in the closet.  I had the idea to paint it in a way that I’ve been loving for a while now and then put some dried flowers in the candle holder instead of a candle.  Well, I ended up changing my mind about that, but I share that with you on purpose, so you can see that sometimes a project keeps evolving.

This is painted white, till all the gold is covered and before the creme wax. I think it took 3 coats. When adding these pics to the blog I realized that all the stuff on my kitchen table was in the background. #reallife at least at my house.

I already had the paint and wax on hand from a previous project and absolutely love this combination. I got these at either Wal-Mart or Michael’s, I think it was Michael’s.  They are just your ordinary acrylic paints.  Until recently, I had never used a wax over acrylic paint, but I love the effect.  The wax is sold right in the same display with the acrylic paints.

After covering the gold with the Warm White I applied the brown wax with a rag.  Instruction on the wax say to use a lint free rag.  I didn’t have a problem with lint, but I just used an old rag I had saved for cleaning that I knew it didn’t have any chemicals on it.  I quickly wiped the brown wax off, leaving just a little color.  You can see that there isn’t the exact same amount of brown all over, that was on purpose.  I then applied a coat of the clear wax.  Even with the 2 coats of wax (one brown, one clear) it doesn’t have a truly shiny appearance, which is just what I wanted.  It’s not perfectly flat/matte but also not shiny = perfection to me.

I love the candle holder as an addition to the mantle. The candle on top of it – it used to be in a jar and our cat, Bad Buddy knocked it off and broke it.  I saved the candle and now it has a new home.

I posted here about the plants growing in the water pitcher and bottles.  The “Family Gathers Here” was a gift from my son this past Christmas. The “be thankful” was a half price find at Hobby Lobby.  Years ago, the mantle itself was a project.  It was originally a natural wood color.  It didn’t contrast enough against the dark brick to suit me.   It looks a little more yellow here, but it is a shade of ivory with a yellow undertone and I used the same type of antiquing to add some dark shading.

Even a little bowl and some dead flowers can add beauty.

Dead flowers, dried flowers, are they kinda the same thing?  Well I decided to use some flowers from a vase that had died/uh dried.

Jordan (my oldest) had given these mini carnations in a vase to Jessie at her pageant recently.  When they died I thought they were too pretty to throw them away.  Initially, I planned to put them atop the candle holder, but it turns out they weren’t quite right there.  I just snipped the blooms off and put them in this little white bowl.

I love the pretty detail on this little white bowl so I had to show it up close.  I found this little pretty at Tuesday Morning on clearance.  Less than $2, maybe $1.  I had seen little bowls of this type used to corral small items on a desk (paper clips etc.) and bought 2 of them.  I knew at least one would be used on my desk.  It could also be used for bobby pins, etc in a bathroom or rings/jewelry in a kitchen.  I bought 2 knowing they could and would be used all over my house at different times.

That first time I painted something at ceramics:

Our Down syndrome group, FRIENDS, had a mom’s night out recently where I got to try painting ceramics for the first time.  We went to You Never Know Ceramics.  If your project will come in contact with food you use glaze paints, and it needs to have 3 coats. If your project won’t be used for food you can paint it just once and they will seal it before you leave and can take it home with you. There is a variety of items to choose from starting as low as $5.

The cost for this good-sized platter was $20, including all needed supplies.  They had books with ideas and patterns you could use.  I traced this daisy pattern onto the platter using carbon paper (they provided everything) and then painted it and left it to be fired for a second time.

It was such a relaxing time just visiting with the other mamas as we all painted our projects.  There are imperfections, you can see where some of the black got smeared a little, but I’m still proud of it and can’t wait to use my platter for the first time.  I love daisies and will probably add some other pieces that can be used together.  I look forward to going back with moms again and also want to take Jessie with me sometime.

Okay, so you’ve seen my creative projects.  What can YOU do that will lower your stress level and add a little beauty to your home?  Got something ugly (like my sad candle holder) that needs a little beautifying?

Whether you know you’re creative or think you aren’t,  I hope you’ll find just the thing.  In every season of life, and parenting, what we have time for and can afford is different, but there is always at least a little something we can do.

If you have a friend that might be inspired by this post, it won’t hurt my feelings if you share <3

Till next week friends,

Josette

Motherhood: God Uses Everything

With Mother’s Day being this weekend, I’ve seen lots of profile pictures of friend’s moms and expressions of thankfulness for their mothers.  My mother died when I was six, so I won’t celebrate with my mother.  I will, however, get to celebrate with my kids.  This might not be your typical Mother’s Day post,  but everyday I think about how thankful I am to be a mother and the ways God has blessed and grown me through motherhood.

I’m so thankful I got the opportunity to be a mother.  I always knew I wanted to be a mother.  There was a time it looked uncertain that I would be.

We went through a period of surgeries, infertility medicines, monthly heartbreak and uncertainty.  But now I am the mother of 3 wonderful kids.  Well, 2 are adults now, but still.  With two of those we took fertility meds and with the third….well, we knew when she came without the help of those, and without planning, but with Down syndrome, she was just meant to be.

I haven’t always felt this way, but, aren’t you glad you don’t get to decide everything? See, I would never have chosen to go through that time of infertility and heartbreak but God has since used it for my good.  

Maybe I would be just as thankful to be a mother as I am, but maybe I would take it a little more for granted.  I’ll never know.

Maybe I would have accepted Jessie’s Down syndrome as quickly and easily, maybe I wouldn’t.  I’ll never know.

With my particular infertility issues, it didn’t seem that likely that I would get pregnant by accident and not have a miscarriage, but I did.   In the hospital, shortly after Jessie was born, all those thoughts flooded over me.  I knew right away she was meant to be here.   In that scary time, when we didn’t know yet what health issues we might face, realizing that helped me quickly accept Down syndrome in a way I might not have as easily otherwise.  I’ll just never know.

One Thing I Do Know:

Whether you’re in a season of life filled with  exhausting days with littles, trying times with teens, adjusting to your children being grown, or caring for an aging parent of your own, you can know you that God will teach you things in each season and use every difficult thing for your good and his glory.  Amen. (So be it.)

Trying times are hard (duh) but there is peace in knowing God will use it, even if we can’t see how just yet.

God Used Motherhood to Teach and Change Me:

I was shy and self-conscious; he used my kids to make me more brave.

Raising kids is not for the faint of heart; I had to learn to trust him more.

He blessed my socks off so many times (using my kids) that I couldn’t help but become overwhelmingly thankful and joyful.

With Jessie, who has Down syndrome, he opened up a whole new world of friends and experiences that I would have missed out on.

Jessie, and her Down syndrome, helped our family gain eternal perspective in so many ways.

Each of my kids, with their personalities and what they have needed from me, have changed me.  God used each of them to grow me in different ways.  I’m not the person I would have been without them.

Motherhood has been the greatest joy of my life.

Some were more trying than others, but I have enjoyed and learned from every season of mothering.  I am now embracing a phase of life and motherhood that is a bit slower paced.

I have known the joy being a girl mom and a boy mom and everything that entails.  Girls and boys, first-borns and middle children, with different personalities, they view life differently…. and my life is richer for every part of it. I’ve gotten to witness a young woman become a wife, and a boy become a man.  What a ride it has been.

If your children are younger, look forward to enjoying the friendship of your adult children.  It is a sweet reward at the end of all that hard work.

God used Motherhood to teach me about himself.  Then, I taught my children about him.  

Motherhood has helped me to better understand God’s unconditional love for us (me)  and appreciate the sacrifice of his son in a completely different way than I ever could have otherwise.

I have had the great joy of teaching my children about the Lord, whom I love. I’m thankful they know and love him.  I wouldn’t have the same level of peace about each of my adult kids if that weren’t true.

For every step of motherhood–good and beautiful or trying and hard, I am thankful. I could have missed all of this and maybe knowing that makes me appreciate it all the more. 

I am looking forward this Sunday to spending the day with all my kids.  Last year, Jordan and Josh invited us and Josh’s parents for a delicious steak meal.  Not sure what we’re eating this year, but I’m sure it will be good.  And the company, the best.  With grown up kids, any time I get to be with them, I treasure.  If you have grown up kids, I’m sure you know all about that.

God Uses Everything

If you aren’t yet a mother and you want to be, I know your pain.  It won’t be in vain; one way or another, God will use it.  Whether you become a mother ( I hope you do!) or God knows another way for you, He is good and will fill you with another purpose.

If you are a mother, I know many of your joys and sorrows.  God has or will use them all!

If you have lost or never knew your mother, God will use that too.  In his goodness, he never allows our pain to be in vain.

Trust God with your past and your future; he is trustworthy and good.

Till next week, and thanking God this Mother’s Day for the joy of motherhood,

Josette