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,


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,


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,


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.

Hope for When Your Marriage is in a Hard Season

I almost didn’t write this post.

When I was asked to be a part of this blog series, Reclaiming Hope and Joy In Your Marriage, I waited until the last possible moment to join.

I was so honored to be asked to join this great group of Christian bloggers.  And while I loved the idea of being part of a group of Christian women encouraging other women, I knew that writing about marriage would be especially personal and vulnerable.  

We tend to imagine while we struggle at times in our marriage, that it is so much easier for other Christians, but we can see from the divorce rate among Christians that likely isn’t true.

I will soon celebrate my 30th wedding anniversary.   I have a good marriage, but like all folks that have been married a good minute we have weathered hard seasons in our relationship. When you’re in the midst of a difficult season, it can be hard to see that you’ll ever get to the other side of it. Now,  I’m so glad and thankful that when we were going through a hard season, we didn’t give up.  

Here are four things that can help you find hope when your marriage is in a hard season:

Continue reading at Hope Joy in Christ 


How Our Family Navigated Through the Teenage Dating Years

In a recent post I wrote about using the tween years to prepare for the teen years, I explained that waiting to date until an age that is older than what most consider “normal”,  was what we decided was best for our family.  I explain in the original post how that line of thinking came about. After that post I was asked to give more detail about how that looked in our family.

I was asked:

1)  What conclusions I drew from reading the resources I listed

2) What boundaries we had set that were firm

3) What we allowed with guidance

I listed some reasons we thought waiting to date until older in the first post.  If you haven’t read that post you will want to as I won’t repeat it all here and all the resources that influenced our decisions are listed there.

After reading quite a few books, here are some of the conclusions we came to that influenced our dating guidelines.

In addition to the other reasons already stated, we felt like dating is best used strictly for the purpose of finding a spouse, not for having fun.  Our teens had active social lives, but not one on one dates. They did attend prom at our homeschool group with dates, but dating one on one wasn’t the norm.

We encouraged outings in groups and mostly avoiding being alone with the opposite sex for an extended period of time.  There wasn’t a strict rule of never being alone, but they mostly stayed in a group.  It didn’t have to be a large group, this wasn’t a strict thing…the purpose was avoiding romantic relationships, avoiding awkward situations, avoiding unnecessary heartbreak.  Not having to deal with those issues gave them more time and energy for focusing on what we felt more important for this time in their life, their relationship with God, family, good friends, and of course, school 🙂

 We began planting seeds in the tween and early teen years for them to begin making a mental list of exactly what they were looking for in a marriage partner.  Some things on the list are essential: being a Christian, wanting similar things in family life, some basic compatibility issues.  Then listing other things that are nice to have but not absolutely essential.

At 16, you aren’t ready to get married, so if you develop feelings for someone you will likely have a loooong time to date before you are ready to be married.  That just makes it harder to remain physically pure in your relationship until marriage.  If our teens had developed serious feelings for someone, we would have tried to prolong group settings as long as possible until they were closer to an age to really consider getting married.  Unlike many other parents though, I didn’t feel strongly that our kids had to complete college before marriage, but they needed to be able to support themselves financially.

We didn’t set an exact age, but we hoped we could avoid our teens dating until near the end of high school or beginning of college.  

We advised our teens to never go on a date with someone who wasn’t the kind of person you wanted to marry. This doesn’t mean you know IF you want to marry them, just that from what you know about them, you haven’t ruled it out.  At whatever point you know they aren’t a serious candidate, end the dating relationship.  That might be one date, a few or 6 months, but at whatever point you know the two of you aren’t a good match for marriage, STOP dating them.  

Even once they begin to date we thought it was best if they didn’t spend all or almost all of their time alone as a couple. This would be more likely to form emotional attachments more quickly and bring greater temptations.  Once Jordan was dating (she was 18), she did go on “alone” dates and spent time getting to know her dates on her own, but they also spent a LOT of time with our family.  She and Josh (her husband now) also spent time with his family.  She, and we, felt there were advantages to both, making it easier to have serious conversations you’re less likely to have with others around and spending time with both families.

Boundaries We Set That Were Firm

This category will be small.  There weren’t a lot of boundaries that were firm. We were so fortunate that our kids came to see the wisdom of the ways that we advised them.

We wouldn’t have let them date before 16 if they had wanted to.  IF they had dated at that age everything I’m going to tell you about what dating looked like would have been different.

Jordan was 18 and an adult when she dated.  She could have been living away from home at that age.  We took all that into consideration.

We didn’t have a set curfew that was inflexible.  We always knew where our teens were, dating or not. They kept in touch by texting.  (Evan hasn’t dated while he has lived at home.)  Sometimes they were out very late.  I always knew who they were with and what they were doing.

Jay had to work and I was at home so I waited up or dozed on the couch.  I was as exhausted when my kids were teens as I was when they were babies.  If they had broken our trust…..this scenario all would have changed.  They didn’t.  

I will probably open myself up to some criticism here, but Jordan and Josh would fall asleep on the couch early watching a movie and sometimes we would go to bed and leave them there. When they woke up they would talk or watch tv until the wee hours.  Our bedroom door opens to the living room.  At any moment we could (and did) come out of our room directly into the living room.  They were adults.   They got up early for work during the week and couldn’t stay awake when the movie would start.  If we had enforced that he had to go home they would have had little time together.

They didn’t ever stay at either of our homes alone (a few minutes here and there when everyone was coming and going) and that was by their choice as well as well as our recommendation.

The key ingredient here is that Jordan was a believer and she wanted her actions in all areas of life to be pleasing to God.  That’s really what we’re always hoping for as parents isn’t it?  Knowing this, and knowing her personal convictions for purity, in all areas not just physical, enabled us to be more flexible than we might have otherwise been.

It was always our prayer that our kids would one day transfer their respect for our authority over them to God, who is an authority over us as parents too.   I told my kids many times throughout their life that although we had authority over them, that there was a higher authority than their parents.  I always reminded them that I would answer to God for how I parented them and that I took that very seriously.  Over time they came to really respect that.  I feel sure they’ll use that one day with their kids when they have to say no 🙂

What We Allowed With Guidance

When any kid leaves for a date, they COULD tell you anything and in most cases you wouldn’t know if they weren’t truthful.

Because Jordan set standards for herself that we could respect, what we offered Jordan mostly was recommendations.  If she had behaved in a way that went against our conscience as parents answering to God, we would have had to do things differently.

Although she knew we were right, I’m sure Jordan sometimes got tired of being reminded of certain things.  Like being cautious about being alone in situations that were likely to be a great temptation that could cause regret.  She continued to hear it anyway, cause that’s what parents do.  

What dating looked like in our family didn’t look like it does for most of the world, neither did it look exactly like the excellent books I read and recommended in my first post.  I read those books and we prayed for God to guide us.

I hope as you’re thinking and praying over what dating should look like in your home, you won’t be too quick to think it should look exactly like anyone else’s experience.  You’re working with YOUR child’s temperament, with YOUR child’s spiritual maturity and each child truly does require something so different from us as parents.  My 3 kids are night and day different in many respects.

I’m confident that God can and will guide you to the right decisions for YOUR family.  I’m praying that will be so.

Wishing you the best as you navigate your way through dating.   I hope you have less gray hair at the end of it than I do 🙂

Till next week,



Spring: A Time of Beauty, Scheduling Chaos and Evaluating Commitments

There is so much that I love about spring!  Spring is a favorite season of many, with good reason.  Everything comes back to life.  Beautiful blooms.  Sweet scents in the air.  Birds are singin’ and kittens are born.  For a brief time here in way-south-Alabama, it is the perfect time to enjoy the outdoors before the blistering heat of summer.

I love to sit outside.  Just sit.  With a cup of coffee or something cold to drink and just have a moment to listen to the birds and think.

I have learned that when I don’t have time to just “think my own thoughts” as I used to say to my older kids when I needed them to skedaddle (leave) for a minute, I feel anxious and stressed.

While I love so many things about spring, it is one of the busiest times in our year.  And too busy is something I really dislike.

When my older two were at home and we were homeschooling I would find myself constantly evaluating our level of activity.   There is such a fine line between fun-busy and crazy-busy.  I read this book a couple of years ago, “The Best Yes:  Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands.”   If you find yourself in the place of having a tough time finding the balance between fun and crazy, I highly recommend it.  While it contains some things we already know, I found the book to be very helpful.  It helped me to see through some of the reasons I say yes when I should say no.  I plan to re-read it this summer.

I struggle with disappointing anyone by telling them no.  I really find it hard to tell Jessie no when she wants to do it all.  I struggle too with feeling confident about what God would have me do.

I find that the rest of the year I teeter on the edge here and there and then SPRING.  Spring points out that I really have already been at my maximum all year and that any additions to our schedule make me unable to be my best at things I really care about.  

Whenever you say yes to something, there is less of you for something else.  Be sure your yes is worth the less.  -Lisa TerKeurst, The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands

Baseball starts at just the time when I plant a small garden and the yard starts to need attention.  We have a ball game every Saturday.  Weddings and graduations.  All good things.   But so many good things that all the mamas I know are like me, overwhelmed and stretched thin.

I know many other moms whose kids are involved in the same activities we are feel the same.  Just trying to make it till next weekend.  This coming week, we have our last Miracle league baseball game, banquet,  our last swim practice, and we just had our last gymnastics practice.  Our State Special Olympics where Jessie will compete in gymnastics on Saturday and then it all stops for the summer.  

Jessie has summer morning camps planned but there will be a month of breathing room before that begins.  I desperately need the breathing room.

All year I make a mental list of things I want to accomplish in the summer.  Cleaning out closets and drawers, going through clothes, baseboards.   Yeah, other than a swipe with the broom or vacuum I don’t actually wipe baseboards the rest of the year.  If ya’ll manage to do that, you probably do a better job of managing your commitments 🙂  I am looking forward to re-painting several rooms this summer (I hope!) and spending some time relaxing by the pool.  I want to let Jessie have friends over, something I don’t do when she has so many other activities on our schedule.

It is just so hard to decide which things I’m supposed to let go of.  They are all good things!  But I have been praying and have decided to let go of a commitment I have had for a long time.  I have also decided not to say yes to anything new for just a bit.  I have a hard time sticking to that.  It’s not for forever.  But I need a good deep breath of not feeling so pressed, so scheduled.

I’m saying no to some things so I can say yes to others.

There are people God has put on my heart to be more available to.  I’m making room.

If like me, you have decisions to make about where you commit your time here’s a link to quotes from The Best Yes for further inspiration.  Here’s a link to The Best Yes:  Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands.

I hope that even if you’re feeling stressed, you’re drinking in all the beauty of spring.

Till next week friends,


Should you be friends with your teen? I disagree with the current popular advice. Hear me out?

A couple of times within the last few months I’ve seen blog posts about how we should dare to be parents, rather than trying to be friends with our teens.  Do we really have to choose one or the other?   I don’t think it has to be that way.  Some parents feel that they can only be friends with their children once they were grown. 

If we aren’t friends with them as teenagers, will they want to be our friends when they are grown?  I’m not sure.

Will you hear me out for just a minute?

I think not everyone is defining “friend” in the same way.  I am not talking about being the “cool parent” that allows them to do whatever they want and can’t tell them no.  Umm, nobody would have ever accused me of that. I’m not talking about the emotionally unhealthy/overly needy parent that can’t set boundaries because they can’t bear for their child to be angry with them.  I mean, clearly, that wouldn’t be good for them.  

Our teens are in this precarious place where they need us more than they’re willing to acknowledge.  Parenting them is like this dance where they sometimes move in close and then they pull away a little and then move in close again.   Our teens need the protection of our boundaries and they also need grace.  They must be required to show us respect but they desperately want ours too, even if they don’t show it.  They need us to show them love even when they behave in a way that is unlovely.  We won’t do any of that perfectly, but our parental love for them enables us to keep their long term best interests at heart.

Teenagers are still figuring out who they want to be.  Their friends, no matter how mature they are for their age, aren’t their best role models.  They’re still learning too.  In addition to what they don’t yet know, they too are riding the emotional roller coaster that adolescence seems to bring. 

I believe teens NEED us to be their friend as well as their parent.  They need to know that not only do we love them, but we enjoy their company.  We respect them.  We like to be with them.  We find them interesting.  And I think it is 100% possible to be able to be both parent and friend IF you take some precautions.  

We need to be their best friend, but we can’t need them too much to be ours.  I enjoyed the friendship of both my teenagers tremendously.  There were also times that I had to be emotionally okay with them being upset with me about something.  I was able to do this because I wanted their friendship, for their good and mine, but I didn’t need it in an unhealthy way.  As a mature, emotionally healthy adult I wasn’t willing to sacrifice their long term good for their temporary happiness.  

I will admit I think it is easier to be friends with your teen if you’re a homeschooling family.  It gives you more time with your kids than what they have with their friends.  Even if they have a very active social life as mine did, they still spend much more of their time with you.  They spend many more hours at home with you than if they went to school 7+ hours per day.

When my children were younger I heard my friend, Christy Keyton, that I really respected speak at our  local homeschool meeting.  Her oldest children were several years older than mine.  She talked about how one of the blessings of homeschooling through the high school years was the joy of having that time with her teenagers and how she felt it gave her better opportunity to have good relationships with them that she was thankful for.  Now that my older two are grown I look back and feel exactly the same way.  Hearing her speak gave me hope that I would have the same relationship with my teens.  I hope this gives you hope and encouragement too.

I have good and sweet relationships with both of my now young adult (22 and 21) children.  I enjoy their company and most of the time think they enjoy mine 🙂  Even when Jordan and Evan were teenagers I feel that we were able to have a friendship.  The boundaries were a little different then, but it was a genuine friendship that changed and grew as they got older.

When I looked up the definition of friend online Merriam Webster says: one attached to another by affection or esteem; a favored companion.  By this definition of friend, I can’t see why we can’t be a friend to our teens.

I have always found Dr. James Dobson to be a trusted resource for Christian parents who want not only philosophical advice, but everyday, practical advice.  This is an excellent article by Dr. James Dobson about parenting teens.  I remembered when I read it, the story he shared from his own life.   He tells how when he was starting to head in a rebellious direction his father made a very costly personal and professional move to be home and more available during this time in his son’s life.  He says, “During these years we hunted and fished together and bonded for a lifetime…. I was moving in the wrong direction, and they pulled me back from the cliff. ” He shared this story in  Bringing Up Boys (a resource I highly recommend for understanding how our sons think).

What I experienced with my teens is that in their youth, their immaturity, they might be angry with me or their dad for a few hours or a day when we made a decision they didn’t like but they could never stay mad at us.  My son, who is pretty strong willed (to his benefit now but…) would want to stay mad at me, but he simply couldn’t.  The reason he couldn’t is because in his heart he knew we never said no, “just because”.  When he had some time for his disappointment to wane or his anger to cool, he was always able to see more clearly that we always made choices that we strongly believed to be in his best interests.  He might not like our decision, but he accepted it better because he understood that.

After I wrote and before I edited this post, I listened to this “Hey Love” podcast which brought tears to my eyes and a lump in my throat.  There is no guarantee that if we do everything we know to do, that our children will respond in the way we hope.  If you’re in a place where your relationship isn’t what you wished for with your child or teen, you should listen to this podcast where two different moms share how God is restoring their relationships with their daughters after much heartbreak.  It isn’t always within our timing, but God can and often does redeem and restore what might seem unlikely or impossible.

Every teen is a unique individual.  They each require something different of us in parenting them.  They are bound to sometimes drive us crazy.  Unlike their young friends though, as their parent and friend we are capable of putting their long term best interest at heart.

One last link to leave you with a last word of encouragement.  In the words of Sarah Mae, Mother On.  I just love this so much.

Hope your day is beautiful, friend.



“The only thing that stays the same is everything changes.”

We feel like we have adjusted pretty well now to Jordan being married and not living at home.  Jessie, although it was a gradual process, has adjusted to sleeping alone, and I sleep with her once a week.  I had wondered if we would ever get to that point.  But, we did.  It’s all starting to feel pretty normal.

We are used to not seeing Jordan every single day.   We have adjusted to our new normal with her.  It is a joy having Josh as part of our family and we enjoy the time tremendously that we spend with the both of them.  Always when we think of them, we are thankful for the sweet and godly husband that Josh is to Jordan.  And we laugh at how they complement each other.  Josh is a lot like Jay in many ways.  And Jordan is a lot like me.  And all that is just pretty funny to observe 🙂

They are in the process of buying a house.  We enjoy giggling over their negotiations of paint colors and who will wash the dishes and remember what all that was like.

When we think of Jordan now we don’t suddenly and instantly feel sad that she isn’t living here.  Excitement for them in all the little adventures that are part of being a newly married couple are what we think of now.

“The only thing that stays the same is everything changes.” I googled that quote when it came to mind.  I didn’t remember the words being lyrics from a song (by Tracy Lawrence, Time Marches On) that the quote was attributed to, but how true those words are.

It seems that every time we get used to how things are, things change again.  That’s been true for every season of mothering till now, and I reckon it will just continue to be.

This week Evan started working out of town.  He has been working for an industrial construction company for a couple of months at a job site that was about 45 minutes from home.  He didn’t know exactly when till the very last day at that job, but we had known that soon that job would end and he would be working at a new site out of town.  Sunday he left for his first week of work at the new job about 3 hours away.  He will, other than coming home on weekends, be there at least until August when he plans to start back to school.

I had been trying to plan a trip to Tennessee to visit with a friend for a week.  Because it was uncertain when Evan would leave I postponed my trip.  I wanted to be here when he packed and prepared for his first week away.  I know, he’s 20.  Even though he’s 20, he appreciated that I helped him as he made checklists, packed, and we talked through everything to be sure he didn’t forgotten important.  He’s three hours away so he couldn’t just run back home if he needed something.

Jessie’s precious swim coach (that I love dearly and feel very motherly toward) has always said of me, “You’re just such a mom.”  Yep.  Always knew I wanted to be a mom.  Love being a mom.  And no matter how big those younguns get, I will just keep mama-ing them.   What it looks like changes, but I will always be mama-ing them.

This week what that looked like was a huge bowl of spaghetti, taped down with packing tape, so when turned on its side for the 3 hour ride, it wouldn’t spill out in his new grown up lunch box 🙂  We had a wedding shower after church on the day he was leaving, so the sauce was made the night before, the noodles quickly after church and then we raced back in at the last minute to double check his list and see our boy off.  He can’t leave for lunch, so he has to take his lunch every day.  He said he wouldn’t mind taking the same thing every day; he was really happy his mama made his lunch for all week.  Last night when his dad and I called him, he said when he unpacked he realized what a ton of spaghetti it was, more than he had thought when we had packed and taped the bowl.  We decided he could share some with his roommate.

Jordan and Josh came over to see Evan off too.  When we walked him to his car, he let me hug him longer than usual and kiss him multiple times.  He doesn’t need me in the same ways he used to, but I can tell he’s still glad his mama loves him so much.

He will be 21 tomorrow.  The first birthday that he’s ever been away.  We will celebrate when he comes home this weekend.

His dog, Stella, that usually sleeps with him is sleeping in our room.  It just feels odd not to put her in his room when I go to bed.  It feels odd to make just enough coffee for Jay, and not Evan, when I set the pot at night.  And, it feels odd not to be planning suppers that include enough for him to take for lunch. It isn’t like he was here all day every day, but the knowing he isn’t coming home every night is just odd and a little sad.

I have plenty to keep me busy and keep me from thinking TOO much about it all.  One of the dogs got in something stinky so I had to bathe them both. Then change my shirt cause big honkin’ Stella, reaching over her to bathe gets you soaking wet.  And the mama kitty with the baby kitties and the other cat that has seizures.  And ALL Jessie’s activities.  A farewell party for the above mentioned much loved swim coach that is moving.  And happy things like planting some new flowers I bought.  And watching them grow.  Life is still good, it’s just different again.

The only thing that stays the same is everything changes.  So we adjust and learn a new normal.  Again 🙂

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…” Ecclesiastes 3:1

The day my husband brought home FIVE NEWBORN kittens.

Jay called me at 5:30 from work.  I was standing at the stove.  It was Wednesday and in 30 minutes I needed to be at church to teach a group of teens.  I had two eyes going on the stove, still finishing supper and needing to get dressed.  I was on another call and had to click over to answer his.  Are you getting the picture of the level of frantic activity that always seems to be the case when you’re trying to get out the door to church?

I could hear the anxiety in his voice.  He was at work and heading home.  He told me he had climbed under a loading dock to get to these 5 newborn, only days old kittens that he could hear incessantly meowing.  His co-workers helped him raise the hydraulic portion of the loading dock and brace it for him to crawl under.  He said he had prayed, “Lord if its my day to go, please make it fast.”

It was going to freeze that night and they were laying directly on the concrete.  He didn’t see a mama anywhere around and couldn’t leave them there.  I told him I needed to head out to church.  He said, “I need you.  You can’t go to church.  Someone else will have to teach the class.  I need your help.  You need to help me figure out how to get these kittens fed.”  We are members of a small church.  My friend, who is the backup teacher,  was sick with a migraine.  Everyone already has their own responsibilities, so it can be hard to find a last minute backup.  I would only miss if I had to.  I had to.

Jay put some paper in a box he found in the office and brought the kittens home.  They had quieted for the ride home but one of them, the one we nicknamed The Big Mouth, started yeowing as soon as the box got still. I had called Kitty Kottage and done some online research while he was driving home.  Following their instructions, he ran to Fred’s for some kitten replacement milk and we fed them a little with a medicine syringe.  They seemed healthy but they were making a lot of noise and we couldn’t know how long it had been since they had eaten.

In our panic we forgot to heat the milk that first time.  Oops.  That could be one of the factors as to why it was such a challenge to get some down them.  As soon as we finished feeding the babies, he raced off to Pet Smart for bottles and a bigger can of milk.

That night I fed those babies every 2-3 hours and was so hoping they wouldn’t die.  I had been told the chances of all of them surviving at  this young age weren’t great.

Like in my baby nursing days, at each feeding I would get my supplies all ready and set up within easy reach.  A drink, the warmed bottle, tissue to use to stimulate them to potty after they eat.  I learned some new facts about how all that works that I hadn’t considered before.  And, the tv remote if they stopped yeowing enough for me to hear the tv.

Let’s back up a bit.  We have one female cat that recently started having seizures and takes medicine for that 2 x a day.  When she has a seizure sometimes she has a potty accident.  We have two dogs.  One is incredibly anxious and annoying (Boo) and a Doberman that I love dearly (Stella) who has a sensitive stomach and randomly throws up.  I AM ALLERGIC TO CATS AND DOGS 🙂  I’m constantly washing the blankets the dogs lay on and trying to keep all of them off of things that will bother me the most.  I take allergy nose spray and Claritin to survive.  A cat that Jay loved dearly (a solid black sweet lap cat named Charlie) died a year ago and we had agreed that between allergies and the vet bills we wouldn’t take on anymore animals.

Just that week Jay had cancelled an appointment that would cost $50 thinking it just wasn’t the best time to spend the money.  Guess how much it cost to get all the supplies for the babies?  $50.   And he didn’t begrudge them that.

In situations like these, you see who people are.  And who my husband is, is a person who couldn’t leave those babies to die.  He puts on a tough exterior, but he’s pretty much mush.   He kept apologizing about the extra work they were causing me because I had said I would get up with them through the night since he had to work the next day.   At my age I don’t bounce back as quick when I miss sleep, but there was something good for my soul in that experience during the time that I took care of those babies.

The babies had a hard time learning to take the milk from the bottle.  2 of them began to fight a little less and learned to suck the bottle.  Three of the babies, strangely it was the three that had orange on them, which made it easy to remember who had eaten well, fought me the whole time at each feeding as I struggled to get the milk in them.

All the yeowing made Jessie and Stella extremely anxious. Jessie put her headphones on.  Stella, until I finally let her sniff one of the babies in my hand, sat on the couch her whole body shaking and her teeth chattering.  That added to my stress level too.  When I put Jessie to bed, she sleeps with her door open and a loud box fan, I didn’t think she could hear them.  She recently got a cell phone.  She texted me from bed, “Please make it stop.”  That would have been funny if it wasn’t so late.   Sigh.

Kitty Kottage was on the lookout for us a mama that could nurse the kittens.  I posted on facebook about Jay rescuing the kittens and what was going on and my friend, Kristina,  responded that she had a mama kitty that had birthed her babies outside and that something had gotten her kittens.  The mama kitty had been looking for them and crying for 3 days.  She still had milk.

Kristina brought “Precious” over right away.  We were hopeful but knew it might or might not work.  As soon as she saw and heard the babies she jumped in the basket with them and began to lick them.  Cleaning them and stimulating them to do what they needed to do (pee).  I was thankful she was taking over that job!  They needed a little help latching on.  The one that had the most trouble with the bottle had trouble latching onto her too.  Precious immediately acted as though these were her missing babies.  It was the sweetest thing to watch.

I can’t help but think, what a magnificent creator that makes creation to work the way that it does.  And how perfect this mama and these babies were for each other.  My first thought was it was a match made in heaven.

It was a sweet experience to feed those babies when they had no mama.  It felt good to be able to give them life-sustaining milk, even when they didn’t think I was doing them any favors.  How 2 took to it and 3 struggled made me think of my own breastfeeding trials.  Out of three only one was successful and I had tried everything I was coached to do.  Two of my three were lazy nursers.  Jessie, maybe because of the Down syndrome causing low muscle tone, but certainly, mainly because of her heart defect that caused her to need open heart surgery at 3 months old.  My boy, who was serious about his groceries from the beginning, was the only one I was able to nurse.  What a sweet time that was.

I am grateful for the mama kitty who is taking such good care of these babies that are now hers.  I am grateful for a husband who can’t turn his back when he knows the choice is life and death for some needy, yeowing kitty babies.  I am grateful for a God who is creator and sustainer of all things.  I am thankful 3 of these babies are already claimed for future homes 🙂  Who else needs one?

Count your blessings today and everyday.  Even when we are going through serious and difficult things, there are blessings to be found. Thank God for them.

I hope you have a beautiful day!

*I am NOT referring to the kitten adventure when I speak of serious and difficult things, just that even in the most difficult of all possible situations, there are blessings to be found.  I will never forget reading that Corrie ten Boom was thankful for fleas when she was in a concentration camp.  It kept the guards from coming in the building and she was able to read and share the Bible (that she had snuck in)  with other women in the room.  I praise God for those fleas and for Corrie ten Boom sharing her amazing faith.

As a Mother Trust Your Gut {part2} When Mothering a Teenage Boy

Mothering a boy was so different than mothering a girl.

We called him our “Little Man” when we would talk to or about him in my tummy.  Evan was the only one of my babies I was successfully able to breastfeed.  I loved how he looked pure drunk after I nursed him.  As a baby and toddler he was so deliciously squeezable.  He had the sweetest, softest baby cheeks.  And then one day when he was four those baby cheeks were gone and his skin felt like a big boy’s.  I had known that was coming, and yet I hated that sign of his growing up.  At four, with such devotion in his eyes he stated that he wanted to marry me when he grew up.  And, when told he couldn’t, he said we could just sneak and do it.  A mother never forgets those precious moments.

It’s such a good thing that all these sweet and precious times come before we parent teenagers.  When we are looking at that tall as me boy-man, and are perplexed by him, its good that we can recall the sweetness of days past.

I can honestly say that I enjoyed the teen years with both of my now adult children so much.  There were, of course, specific areas  and times of difficulty with each one.  That’s just a part of growing up and figuring out who you really want to be.  I loved that they were old enough for us to enjoy many of the same things.  Each stage of parenting has its own unique challenges, but I look back on so many good memories from those teen years.

When Evan was 12-15, there was a definite boy-becoming-a-man struggle going on within.  I’m always studying faces, noticing every change in expression, and I would see so much cross his boy-man face within seconds.  At this age boys are no longer little boys.  But they aren’t men either.   Feeling on the inside more and more like a man (and looking like one too!), expected to obey and be respectful, when you really want to be a man, the boss of yourself.  I could literally see all that play across Evan’s face.

If you have a son and  haven’t read James Dobson’s Bringing up Boys I highly recommend it.  As a female, it helped me to understand my boy better. So much of the way men think is foreign to me.  Can I get an Amen? This was definitely a helpful resource.

I homeschooled Jordan and Evan from the beginning through high school.   It didn’t seem uncommon to me at first for Evan to progress academically a little slower than Jordan, because that’s fairly common for boys.  And, I was pretty sure that she was a little ahead for her age. By middle elementary though, it was clear to me that Evan was having some areas of struggle. Math was especially hard for him.  It reminded me of the way I’d seen my younger brother struggle in school and I hated it for him.

I feel confident to say now, even though Evan has never been tested, that he has ADD.  And maybe some other particular learning difficulty, of that I’m not sure.  When Evan was 15 and had for as long as we could remember struggled with waking up in the mornings, and seemed excessively sleepy at times, we scheduled him for a sleep study.  I wasn’t sure if he was anything but lazy honestly, which I now feel a little guilty about.

Evan was diagnosed with some long word that basically means he is excessively sleepy.  He didn’t have sleep apnea, but when they did a nap study (Multiple Sleep Latency Test), after they had watched him get a good night’s sleep, he was able to go to sleep every 2 hours and entered REM sleep at least 2-3 of the short naps, which is extremely unusual.  They prescribed him Adderall to help him be able to be alert and function well.  We had considered for a long time whether to have Evan tested for ADD and had he not gotten this diagnosis and prescription, we had planned to follow through with ADD testing.  For several years we had been weighing the risks and rewards of ADD medication and this diagnosis let us know he probably really did need the medication.  We managed till high school without it, which I have often thought if he were in school rather than homeschooled we might not have.

There were SO many times in Evan’s homeschooling high school years when I felt so unsure how hard to push him.  I found it hard to tell when he was genuinely having a difficult time and when he was procrastinating because he dreaded how hard it might be.    I’m sure that sometimes he got off light when he shouldn’t and sometimes I pushed hard when he was really struggling.

I remember feeling pretty desperate to be able to tell the difference and to know the right thing to do.  Although I’m sure the decision really wasn’t as black and white as this, it sometimes felt like choosing between him being college ready, or choosing to preserve the relationship between us.  What if I was too easy on him and he wouldn’t be prepared for college?  What if in my fear I pushed him too hard, wanting his best, but he really was already giving it?  How would it make him feel about himself if he was doing his best and I was always pushing for more? With each choice, what would the cost be if I was wrong?

I most of all wanted Evan to be a person that loved God and obeyed him.  I wanted him to be a godly and good man, but I also wanted him to be able to make a living and provide for a family. The weight of what was at stake felt so heavy.  There was a war going on inside of me many times as I stood in his room, talking and fussing and trying to decide just how hard to push or what standard (academically) to hold him to.

And then sometimes my sweet strong boy-man would start to cry and I would know that the struggle was real.  That he was frustrated with himself.  He doesn’t cry so easily.

Supporting his sister at her Special Olympic Gymnastics meet.

I couldn’t know how it was all going to work out.  But, I chose to preserve the relationship. I pointed out to Evan the qualities that I enjoyed and admired in him, and there are many.  Evan was and is one of the funniest people I know.  Even as a teen he was very analytical in his thinking, good at reading people (I like to think he gets that from his mama), good at understanding how things work and is a great real life problem solver. He is a person who is always thinking about things and evaluating them.  He is the best big brother ever.   I let Evan know that if he never went to college, that I knew he was smart and gifted by God in so many important ways.  I let him know that I wanted him to do HIS very best and that if he did that, no matter the outcome, it would be good enough for me.

All those years of struggle I was praying.  Sometimes those prayers were just, “Help me to know the right thing to do!” in the moment.   When I would experience a moment of clarity I would think, “Is that God? Is that just me?”  I can look back now and say the mothering instincts God gave me didn’t lead me wrong.  So often, amidst the feelings of desperation, there was just this slight tugging of my heart in the right direction.

Are you a scared mama right now who is afraid of making a mistake?  I think one reason it’s so hard is because we realize we only get one shot at this parenting thing.  The stakes are high. No do-overs.   Pray.  And then listen. The right choice may be one that only feels ever so slightly better to you than your other options.  I realized back then that I was tempted  sometimes to respond in certain ways because of how my choices might be perceived by others.  Even when you’re afraid that your choice could make you look foolish before others, listen to your gut.

Evan did go to college.  He had to work really hard, but work hard he did.  He took a remedial math class and then completed College Algebra with an A!  He completed the requirements for his Associates degree with a 3.71 GPA!  He isn’t sure yet what he wants to major in so he’s taking off a couple of semesters and working.  He has worked the whole time he has gone to college.  He got a couple of scholarships and has paid the rest of his own tuition.  He saved $5,000 down payment for a car and is working full time (industrial construction currently), with the plan to pay off his car in less than a year and save money for tuition.  I couldn’t be more proud of him.

I am 150% certain that I didn’t make every right decision, but I have no big regrets.  I cherish the sweet relationship I have with this young man that is my son.  I can’t imagine having not been his mother.  I would have missed out on so much .  And, even if academically things had gone another direction, I know I would still be so thankful to have chosen the relationship over academic goals.  I love and enjoy this boy so much.  I thank God for him and the joy and laughter he brings to my life.

Pray mama, and just keep on keepin’ on until you can look back and see how God has guided you through.

He’s 20, but I remember when he wanted to marry me.

PS.  This post was written with Evan’s permission and blessing.

If you missed part one of As a Mother, Trust Your Gut you can read it here