Tuesday, December 12, 2017

This One Moment

(this post contains affiliate links)
You guys. This month is slaying me. Slowly but surely. Yesterday as I was finishing teaching a lesson, I suddenly couldn't even stand up. I propped myself up on a stool and leaned like the Leaning Tower of Exhausted Mom Pisa.

It's not just one thing. It's all the small things jumbled together that somehow make one big ginormous thing that represents my current schedule with no breaks to take a breath or think complete thoughts or fold my laundry.

(Be a working mom...they said....it will be fun....they said...LOL)

On top of my physically demanding schedule, there's the emotional toll of just so much going on all around me. Stories that aren't mine to tell. But very real stories that wrap themselves around my heart and squeeze in painful ways. I know I am an empath. I know I feel deeply. This is a blessing and a curse. Somedays I just can't take the emotional weight of how complicated life has gotten.

(Be an adult....they said....it will be fun....they said...LOL)

I can feel the weight of the world pressing down on my shoulders and at times I just can't breathe.

The last week has been especially bad. I felt like I was clawing through the busy to try to get to "Be Still And Know That I Am God". I felt like I was wading through oceans of schedule to get to the moments of quiet reflection. And I couldn't.get.there.

No matter how I tried to calm my thoughts, they refused to untangle.

Until Sunday. When I was sitting in church, and I looked over and saw Addison bent over a piece of paper with her perfect pen hold and furrowed brow and her name printed in such a beautiful, controlled, mature handwriting. Within an instant the cloud around me disappeared. (I posted about this on IG.) The celebration of that moment stole my entire concentration. She wrote her name the most perfectly that she ever has.

It was beautiful! "Addison". Like a pro! Look at my girl go! My heart pumped with wild pride and tears dotted the corners of my eyes.
For the first time in days, my thoughts focused only on this one thing. This moment of joy, of light, chased out all the dark.

This happened again this morning. She came in to wake me up (as she does. Ha!). The minute my eyes popped open, my mind flooded with all the things. Addison sat calmly on my pillow and stroked my hair as she started to talk to me.

At first she wanted to know if she was going to school today. This evolved into asking about after school which evolved into discussing that she rides the bus home on Tuesdays. I asked her how she liked riding the bus and she nodded shyly and said that she did. And then she volunteered, "It is bumpy."

Wait a second. SHE JUST VOLUNTEERED DETAILS ABOUT AN EXPERIENCE SHE HAD. This is huge for her, and it is a rare occurrence. She didn't have to be prompted. She didn't have to be cued or quizzed. She just...said it.

As I got up for the day with now a smile on my face, I couldn't stop musing over how cool that was.

And as thing on top of thing stacked on top of today, I couldn't let go of the thought that maybe Addison is in my life to be a reminder from God to "Be Still And Know". Maybe part of her disability and design is intrinsic to focusing in on his creation of beautiful moments that make up the complicated big picture. Maybe one of her gifts is to untangle the confused world around her and remind us of the miracle of the moment in front of us. To be still.

The way she twirled in front of the mirror this morning, admiring her outfit with such a shy smile on her face, her eyes twinkling.

The way she took charge last night and watched over Morgan (newly sleeping in her room) and fell asleep with her face pressed against Morgan's Pack 'n Play, watching over her sister with such diligence. (She says that she is the teacher and is IN CHARGE and will make sure the baby BEHAVES.)

The way she smiles at me.

The way she practices her dance moves for an upcoming concert at school, biting her lip in concentration and spinning on those tiny feet like she was born to do it. Hair flowing behind her.

The way Morgan woke up crying way too early this morning and when I went in there, Addison had already woken up too and was reading Morgan a book in an attempt to calm her. The page she was reading apparently said, "Don't cry baby." (-;

Addison has a way of pulling scattered attention right to the now, transcending all the things swirling around causing angst and trouble and making them temporarily cease while we admire her "now".

In drawing us in, she helps us be still and in that now, remember the amazing God who created not only her and us and the beautiful "now", but also the troubles pressing down on our shoulders. Not only did he create these troubles, he provided the strength to fight through them. The patience to persevere. The joy to push on. The hope of eternal life.

Sometimes Down syndrome is the easiest thing about life. (I once thought that no problem would ever be bigger than her diagnosis. I was wrong.) And sometimes...Down syndrome provides a window to a new view I hadn't considered before. A view I really really needed but didn't even think to ask for.

Sometimes this view narrows ALL THE THINGS to the one breathtaking moment in front of me that I would have otherwise missed.

Grateful.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Psalm 46:1-7




Friday, December 8, 2017

My Approach to Menu Planning

(Because they need to eat EVERY day...apparently.)

This post contains some affiliate links.

It's no secret that I love to cook, and I also love to share snippets of whatever is currently in my kitchen on my InstaStories (user name: eanfe). Lately I've been getting dumped with questions about recipes, about my menu planning, and about my overall approach to feeding the family, so I thought I would put together as much as I could in one post to reference each time I get asked. (-;
 (random picture of a cake I made because it turns out all my other food pics were on IG stories only. Ha!)

Disclaimer: if you're looking for formal menus, grocery lists, and an organized step-by-step plan, this is NOT that post. If that's what you want, I would recommend my friend Jessica! She has an amazing collection of meal plans, and I highly recommend them! You can find a link to her meal plans by clicking the image below:
Month of Meals Meal Plans

If you want the real deal thing (from someone who definitely stores food pics in other places than an erasable IG story)...go to her! Jessica is an amazing resource for all things food.

The purpose of this post is merely to share and answer IG questions on my current, haphazard plan that I use to feed the masses of children that come bubbling up around my ankles three times a day demanding to be fed. #livingthedream

So with that disclaimer aside...

I usually cook from scratch 3-4 full dinners a week, Every Saturday night we eat dinner at Aaron's parent's house, and the other 2-3 dinners are usually faster (cheat) meals, possibly takeout, considering what my work schedule is that day.  (For example, I LOVE Costco's made ahead stuffed peppers. Stuff like this I consider my cheat meal as it requires no prep work on my part.) I found that for this phase of life I need these cheat days, and I find no guilt there.

So for my "3-4 full dinners" a week, I usually pick something from each of these categories listed below. (Plus homemade applesauce if I have some handy.) I promise my meals look fancier on IG stories than they actually are. I follow this formula pretty consistently, and it's only the variety within my categories that keep this from getting stale. (So far).

I mix and match the combos, picking one thing from each category, depending what I have on hand and how I want the overall meal vibe to be. Some of the proteins require no bread or rice (such as tacos or the sausage tortellini), so I stay very flexible from day to day, always trying to hit the veggie category at least once. (-;

Also, I mentioned once (and got a lot of questions) about my "monthly" menu. This is what that looks like. This list of meals, combined with our cheat meals, makes up 1 month. I wouldn't call this a rut, but these are all meals that my kids love, and I can have a basic set of ingredients on hand and be able to make several of these meals at all times even if there's "nothing  to eat" in the house the day before grocery shopping. It also helps me buy stuff on sale as I know exactly what it takes to feed the fam for a month, and I can wait for the low price and then scoop up a lot of it.

I will throw new recipes in the mix and try different veggie roasting combos and mix stuff up as I am able, but this is my menu framework, and as been for a while.

What can I say. I'm in survival mode.

Warning: this list is not fancy or exotic. It doesn't follow any trendy eating plans (such as Whole 30 or Paleo). And our family has no current food allergies, so it doesn't make allowance for that.

These meals are the result of just a girl...standing in front of her four children...begging them to eat...and finding moderate success.

So on the off chance that you find this helpful, or catch a few ideas to add to your own menu framework....here we go.

Categories:
 (everything is linked to the recipe if you click on it. If there is no link it means I couldn't find the recipe online.)

1. Bread

      A. Sweet Potato Muffins (I substitute maple syrup for the sugar...and less than is called for. And I
sprinkle with oats before baking. Also, if you throw your sweet potatoes in a small crockpot in
the AM, they are ready to make into muffins by lunch time.)
      B. Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins (I add in an extra banana and mini chocolate chips...this entraps        
Addison)
      C. Applesauce Oatmeal Muffins (this will make your house smell like fall)
      D. Blueberry Muffins (once again I sweeten with maple syrup and load full of extra blueberries)
       
 The muffin of the day is the kids' motivation to finish the other categories. They can't have a muffin until their other food is eaten. And I do switch it up with homemade rolls and bread sometimes.

2. Veggie

   A. Steamfresh Veggie
   B. Sliced Cucumbers and baby carrots
   C. Caesar Salad

Yes, we are super boring veggie eaters. I just don't have time to dress it up and present it on a fancy platter. I sneak veggies into the other dishes whenever possible (I have been known to throw spinach into even chili because I know it will blend right in and they'll never know it's there) but I always have the "boring" side as well since that's the way they'll eat it best.

3. Rice

   A. Plain Rice cooked with chicken bouillon
   B. Flavored Rice Mix

Call Master Chef. Tell them about this super fancy rice plan. I'll just sit back and wait for their call. (-;

4. Protein

   A. Beef
     
       1. Beef Roast (smothered in minced garlic, black pepper, seasoned salt...roast at 400)

       2. Pioneer Woman Sloppy Joe Nachos (Yes, she makes them as sandwiches but we serve the meat over nachos and top with gobs of Monterey jack cheese.)
 
       3. Beef Stroganoff (crockpot) I wish I had a recipe to share, but honestly I make up my own and have never written it down.
     
       4. Crockpot Beef and Broccoli
     
       5. Million Dollar Baked Spaghetti (Make Ahead) (Fair warning. This one is a million calories as well. But worth it if you want a serious comfort food meal.)
     
       6. Tacos
     
       7. Chili in crockpot (Will often use leftover PW Sloppy Joe Nachos meat in this). Sorry...also no      
recipe on this one but I serve topped with avocado and cheese.
     

   B. Chicken
       1. Buttermilk Chicken (this recipe is amazing. I've also done it with a roast chicken and it turned
out great as well.)
     
       2. Chicken and Salsa ( and sometimes black beans) in the crockpot (add taco seasoning and a tiny bit of water and BAM. I throw in these chicken breasts completely frozen in the morning. I
serve shredded salsa chicken over rice by dinnertime.)
     
       3. Chicken Enchiladas (make ahead) I love that this recipe doesn't call for condensed soup. It is all from scratch and the sauce is AMAZING. And if I don't have a lot of chicken to work with, I add in some black beans.)
     
       4. Southwest Chicken Bean Burritos Sorry no recipe! This is a favorite though. Think a combo of  
chili powder, hot sauce, cumin, garlic, and...wait for it...barbecue sauce. Also served over chips in a sort of nacho situation.
     
       5. Honey Balsamic Sheet Pan Chicken
   
       6. Baked Sesame Chicken (make ahead or crockpot) Fair warning, the amount of sugar in this  "copycat Chinese recipe" might freak you out. But I learned the hard way, all that vinegar
requires the sugar to balance it out or else it is NOT GOOD. Ask me how I know. (-;
 
       7. Salsa Peanut Butter Spaghetti. I realize this sounds weird, but this is also very tasty. Think soy
sauce/garlic/ginger mixed with peanut butter and salsa and green onions.
 
       8. Caesar Salad topped with Grilled, Italian Season Marinated Chicken Breasts (Oh there's a whole grilled post I could do too. This is the one grilled thing that lasts year round here.)
 
       9. Cleveland Chicken (make ahead) This recipe is from Aaron's grandma. Basically it is cut up raw     chicken, sprinkled with lemon pepper and garlic powder, covered with a mixture of chicken
condensed soup/sour cream, topped with ritz crackers mixed with melted butter...bake for 1
hour...serve over rice. This is Carter's FAVORITE meal ever. Not the healthiest option here,
but we hold onto this one for  comfort food nights.

   C.  Pork
       1. Italian Sausage Tortellini You might look at this list of ingredients and think this will just be so so. Not so, my friend. Not so. The taste in this will BLOW YOU AWAY. (dramatic much?)

       2. Slow Cooked Pulled Pork (crockpot) This was one of my most requested ones from IG. I am in love with my crockpot, and this recipe never lets me down.

       3. Pork Loin (smothered in minced garlic, black pepper, seasoned salt...Roast at 400)

       4. BBQ Pork Chops The recipe calls for grilled, but I bake this and make it year round. This is one
of Addison's favorites!
     
   D. Meatless
       1. Baked Macaroni and Cheese (make ahead and also sometimes I do this in the crockpot)

       2. Broccoli Cheddar Soup (I love pairing this with ham sliders on homemade rolls on the rare
occasion that I do a big ham and have leftovers.

       3. Tortilla Pizzas (pizzas made on top of regular tortilla shells) Seriously can't stop talking about
this. #pizzalover

       4. Fried Rice (great for using leftover meats from the above category if I want to add meat back in)

       5. Spaghetti (this doubles as a cheat meal)

So there you have it. All my secrets. You'll notice a lot of crockpot meals and make ahead dishes. No shame in my game! With my work load doubling this year, this has been so so helpful for prepping the kids dinners even though I might not always be there to serve it to them.

So now...what is your go-to favorite recipe? Can you share the link with me? Might be time for me to mix stuff up slightly....I love my list but it is nice to switch stuff out and in as the mood dictates!

And for those of you with the questions on IG....does this help???? If all else fails, I just made my own resource for when I am sitting down with the grocery list and can't remember a SINGLE MEAL. Ha!

Anyway, hope you all have a great weekend! Mom out...the laundry is calling my name. (-;

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Take 2: The Cure For Down Syndrome

(this post contains affiliate links)
Yesterday I did something that I never do.

I unpublished a post.

Did I regret what I said? Did I take it back?

No.

The truth is, the post I published yesterday wasn't angry enough.

I spent days crafting yesterday's blogpost. I heard about the scientists working on the cure for Down syndrome, and I worked hard to tackle this subject objectively.

I walked us through this process yesterday. Were there any pros? What were the cons?

I wanted to report the facts not only as I see them, but in a way that wouldn't offend while allowing room for other opinions on the subject.

And so my polite (and wordy) post tripped all the way through my experience with Down syndrome, Addison's uniqueness due to her extra chromosomes, and ended up somewhere comparing this "cure" to a machine that turns delectable, gorgeous sculptures of chocolate into plain pieces of bread.

Immediately after publishing it, something was bothering me. I had to go teach, so I didn't have time to dissect why. I just knew it wasn't right.

So I unpublished it.

It was while driving to work that it hit me.

The post wasn't angry enough.

If you know me at all, "angry" is not something I normally associate with my posts. But I really believe that this one requires it.

I don't care if this offends you. I know there are no doubt differing opinions to my own. This post is no doubt going to get me into trouble. Don't care.

I have to say it.

Hearing that they are working on a cure for Down syndrome makes me angry.

I am tired of society treating Down syndrome like a disease to be eradicated. I am tired of "progress" looking a lot like a Hitleresque mindset. ("Let's get rid of the imperfections!!! Extra chromosome! Here's an injection for you to take to make you more like us!")

No. No. NO.

I am tired of people twisting and turning Down syndrome until it resembles something politely grotesque that they will "like" a picture but then leave a nasty anonymous comment. I am tired of the pity. Of the "Poor POOR you". I am tired of the fear of Down syndrome. I am tired of reading every comment section ever under a Down syndrome news piece and feeling like all of human kind secretly feels that the world would be better off without Down syndrome.

I am freaking exhausted of this overriding theme.

Because this theme? Is nothing more than ignorance.

I used to be ignorant about Down syndrome too. And then I had Addison. She came blasting into our lives with all of the explosion one might expect of a first child with an expected diagnosis.

She changed our lives.

She's taught us to find deep joy in unexpected places. To observe exquisite beauty in places I never before thought to look. She showed us some scary, complicated medical moments...and gave us a front row seat to the goodness of God holding us up even as the world flooded around us. (Thanks, Ann Voscamp.)

God perfectly created Addison with an extra chromosome. His creation is good. And beautiful. Even in hard moments, there is strength and courage and patience that I needed to learn in order to be a better mom, a better teacher, a better person. She has been a more effective teacher than all my years of formal education combined.

I've gone from ignorant and sad about Down syndrome to thankful for this journey with such a fierceness that words can't properly express the outpouring of emotion as I type those words.

And this outpouring of emotional love toward Addison and Down syndrome translates into anger as I hear about this "cure". As I hear about a scientist somewhere looking at God's creation and deciding that "it's not good enough".

Stop. Stop it right now.

Stop treating Down syndrome like a disease. Stop wasting valuable resources when there are so many life-threatening diseases that still DO need a cure.

Just. Stop.

The only thing here that needs a cure here is prejudice.

So to sum up:
(look at me working on not being wordy! Growth!)

1. I am angry
2. Down syndrome is good
3. Stop with the cure nonsense

Maybe instead...go smile at someone today who isn't exactly like you. Ask how they are doing. Open your mind to diversity. See the beauty that comes with it. Observe the unique world around you and realize how much Down syndrome adds to that.

Because to my point of view? Down syndrome is the white, beautiful blanket of snow and twinkling lights of Christmas covering the ugly brown world of winter "normal". So stop. Stop trying to Grinch up my life.



Friday, December 1, 2017

The 6 Best Fiction Books I Read This Year

I've said it before, but I love to read. I love to read pretty much everything and nothing (wink wink). BUT my favorite is without a doubt, fiction. I wanted to share with you guys 6 fiction books that I read this year that I could NOT STOP THINKING ABOUT long after I finished squeezing the words off the last page.

Yes, I have read a lot of good books this year. A LOT. But when you finish a book and immediately scramble to tell EVERYONE YOU KNOW about it...you know it might be something special. I'm a little bit picky about what I read, mostly because I read with the goal of becoming a better writer myself, so when a book impresses me...I get pretty verbal about shouting it from the rooftops.

For me, it was these 6 books this year. I could share more because there really were so many excellent ones, but maybe a second post later?

I figured this might  make a good mini-gift guide for the fiction lovers in your life. Or-- if you are a "read one book a year" type of person, here are some hand-picked ideas!

(Also, if you are wondering why I've started sharing more links and mixing up my content, the honest truth is that we are making some changes around here to badly update the blog. If you make a purchase through one of my links, it helps support that. Blog growth has been crazy good, which I'm super thankful for, but it also means I need to update my web platform. This is a work in progress. I am hoping in the process to also provide a better value to YOU as I widen the view of this blog and let more ideas flow through. Anyway, thanks for understanding my need to switch up the content a bit. I am loving sharing things big and small that influence my days. Today, it is my fav...fiction books!)

So without further ado...

1. The Mountain Between Us, by Charles Martin


(this is an extremely clean read)

This was my #1 of the year (I'm still thinking about this book and I finished it a month ago). Honestly, I don't even know how to describe the awesomeness of this book. For starters, it is about a mountain rescue and I hate books about mountain rescue and yet I COULDN'T STOP READING IT. In addition, the love story woven between the mountain rescue lines was just exquisite. When it got to the end I bawled like a baby. Seriously. I just didn't see it coming. The whole story was so brilliantly crafted that I could not stop thinking about this book for weeks. I wanted to dive back in and spend more time in the moments created by this unique storyline.

2. A Note Yet Unsung by Tamera Alexander


(this one is Christian fiction)

I don't know if this is just because I'm a music nerd, but the descriptions and overall storyline on this one really won me over. This talks about how in the post-civil war era, it was considered immoral and scandalous if a woman performed a musical instrument in public. And so professional orchestras were male only. I had never considered this before, so I found this concept quite intriguing. Her musical descriptions were so on point that several times I had to stop reading to get out my violin and go practice. (-; The love story was sweet, and the overall Christian theme was much appreciated. I haven't read both the other books in the series (this is #3), but I didn't need to to understand the entire book just fine.


(this is not Christian fiction, but it is a clean read with only a few questionable behavior elements)

Okay wow. This book. Let's start with the fact that it is 500 something pages, and I read it in 24 hours. The way she shapes her words is nothing short of masterful. I felt like I was in England soaking in the beauty of the landscape and feeling each weather shift. I fell so deeply, became so entangled in the storyline, that when the ending twisted things around just so...I physically felt the blow. I thought I had the answer figured out about eight times, and each time after I said, "Okay I KNOW who did it!" the story twisted again. I love a good story twist!!! After I finished reading this, not only did I go and read and read every single other book by this author (this one was still my favorite), I also texted every single person I know who likes to read and said, "You MUST  READ THIS NOW."  (Trigger warning: this book deals with infant loss)

4. Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris


(this is NOT Christian fiction, but a clean...albeit disturbing read)

I have to start by saying that this book is extremely dark. EXTREMELY. On the very disturbing side of dark. This book deals with an abusive marriage, heinous abuse that only happens behind doors. On the outside they are perfection. At home? She is literally locked in her room 24 hours a day. The reason I couldn't stop thinking about this story is because the adult sister with Down syndrome ends up being the hero of this book. I pushed through the dark to get to that happy ending, and I was not disappointed. It was refreshing to see Down syndrome portrayed in fiction. At first I felt like it was going to a bad place, but the author turned it around. If you've read this one, I'd be curious to know your take on this. I could do an entire post about the use of Down syndrome in this very dark storyline.

5. The Handmaiden's Tale by Margaret Atwood



(this is not a Christian fiction but reads in an older, literary style)

The storyline on this one is also on the scary/bizarre side. But fascinating. Disturbing in a different way. (Sometimes I like to read disturbing books just to remind myself that my mundane problems are not really problems at all).  The reason I'm including this one in my list is because of the literary, gorgeous way in which it was written. I felt like each word was chiseled down to just the right size before carefully being set into place. I was wowed by the artistry in the writer's style. I know that this is also a series on Hulu, which is equally as disturbing but fascinating. Ha!  Has anyone watched the series but not read the book? The storyline is the same, although I'm curious where they will take season 2 as the book ends at the end of season 1?

6. Confessions of A Domestic Failure


(this is not a Christian fiction, nor is it 100% a clean read)

Compared to the last two, this is a very light read. It was comforting to read of someone even worse at housekeeping than I am (I had previously thought this was impossible), and it has a feel good wrap up at the end. This book nails the tension of being a stay at home mom in 2017. (Some slight language warning) in addition to having a fun story line. This book stuck in my memory because she is a blogger that I love to follow (The Honest Toddler), and I LOVED seeing a blogger find success in the fiction world. This is not an easy bridge to jump, and so I was just so proud of her! And so proud of this book. The way she phrases things should be in a hall of fame somewhere. Seriously.

So those the 6 books that I read this year that I couldn't stop thinking about long after they were done.

Which books would be on your list? I need ideas of where to go next!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Strange And Mysterious Gifts

(this post may contain affiliate links)
On Saturday I went to my friend's funeral.

Although I hadn't known her for as long as some of the others in the room had, we made a deep connection in homegroup three years ago, and I considered her a dear friend.

She was mom to 5, and I am always so impressed and secretly intimidated by those who have done a fabulous job raising lots of kids. We bonded over motherhood, our love of reading, and addressing something in our lives as God's goodness that others might deem a hardship.

At her funeral, her eloquent and wise words were read by Pastor.

"Cancer is a gift," she said.

Because cancer became her vehicle to stronger faith in God...to a better understanding of him...to walking more closely beside him every step of the life's way...to an intimate understanding of this world not being our home....to a deeper awareness of the fragile nature of tomorrow...cancer became her gift.

Cancer is a gift. The simplicity yet profundity of these words took my breath away.

I felt like this funeral gave me, just for one tiny moment, a bird's eye view of life.

Because what to me is day after day of never ending tiny kids all around me...to her was a beloved journey that had an expiration date.

I'm focusing on details that don't matter. I'm giving myself grief for things that don't last.

The last couple of weeks, my prevailing thought has been, "I am failing at everything. This motherhood thing...this life thing...I can't get anything right." This mom to 4 tiny people...this special needs mom gig...this working mom thing...these things are no joke.

And yet, as I sat there celebrating the life of my friend and grieving her death...I realized that all the things that I'm "failing" at....these things don't matter when you're sitting in a funeral.

She left behind five beautiful souls with her loving imprint. Her days full of kids and endless cycles of laundry and meals and sticky mess and hours and hours of conversation about everything and nothing...none of these were in vain. Because every single second of these mundane activities translated into the greatest of success...standing in front of the church singing in memory of their mom.

My kids. They matter. And I get such a short time to be their mom.

Getting to know them. Loving them. Investing in them. Pushing them not only to be their best selves but to love Jesus fiercely. Not ever feeling like I am wasting my life by changing dirty diapers or by being tied to their needs. Rather, knowing that each of these small actions is a way that I show them love...kindness...the ability to give them myself.

As I sang, "It is well with my soul" with a congregation full of people there to celebrate my friend's life, all the tiny day-to-day failures disappeared from my mind. In fact, one of her quotes that really hit home was, "I know that God can use my moments of confusion just as he can use my moments of clarity."

She raised the most amazing five children. She did a fantastic job with an incredible sense of humor that she passed along to them. (life goal: to raise kids with a great sense of humor)

All her doubts...turned into victories. Because she knew that we are weak in and of ourselves. But it's not about us at all. It's about the one so full of goodness and love that can lead someone dying of cancer to say the words,

"Cancer is a gift."

This strong statement of faith in the midst of a life-altering, excruciating trial was so humbling for me to hear. I label far more insignificant things in my life as being "SO HORRIBLE". She stared death in the face and proclaimed God's goodness.

Yes sitting there, in the moment, my struggles melted away as I considered a someday end point on my #momlife. But I knew these struggles would resume as soon as I stepped back into my day. And I knew that this was so small in comparison to what she had gone through but in my window of current perspective it sometimes feels so heavy and hard and impossible. Yet...have I been addressing this all wrong? Could it be a gift?

As tears welled up in my eyes, I wondered, "Could my failures...could this be my gift right now? Could this be my vehicle to push me to Christ on a daily, moment-by-moment basis?"

Could my failures lead me to recognize much more freely that I cannot....do this on my own? And in doing so...push me to the cross far more often than I might be inclined to otherwise?

I saw this so clearly as I glimpsed this bird's eye view of life. For some reason the ambiguous "middle" of life doesn't seem so long when it's bookended by a "beginning" and "end". And when it is bookended like this and we all step back to view the entirety and celebrate that life,  priorities seem to shift. The important truths stand out while the rest shrinks back.

My friend is no longer suffering. She is whole and complete and cancer-free in heaven.

I hope she knows what an impact she made. What a huge success her life was.

One of the first big conversations I had with her, I was very discouraged about my book, Motherhood Unexpected for reasons I won't go into here. (side bar: writing is not as glamorous as it might appear from the outside. Especially to a perfectionist who is extremely hard on herself in all the things!)

My friend Debbie knew the exact right things to say. She took her words and used them to lift me up and give me much needed perspective. She reminded me that the book was about a perfectionist and here I was doing the same things as the main character. (seriously LOL and so true) and how the overriding point of the book (God's goodness through hard times) was what mattered and how God was still going to use it because he didn't need my perfectionism to get his work done.

She showed me love that day with her words, and I will never forget.

I am so grateful for her. I am grateful for her example.

And for her reminder about what is important in this journey called life. The gift of the days, even the ones packed full of struggle...of living fully...not for me and by me...but experiencing, leaning into, and sharing the gracious love and strength of the one who sometimes sends strange and mysterious gifts.




Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Bathroom Dilemma

(this post contains affiliate links)

I have a confession to make.

This confession may shock some of you. It will possibly horrify others. I have no idea. Maybe you won't think it's a big deal. I don't know. It's kind of a big deal here, and I spend way too much time thinking about this.

So here's my confession.

Our house only has one bathroom.

I'll let you take a moment to let that sink in.

One bathroom. 6 bums. You do the math.

Granted, it's a big bathroom. When I post bubble bath pictures of the kids in the jacuzzi, it always creates a small "bathroom envy" riot. When those comments start rolling in, I always whisper to myself, "You have no idea". It is so frustrating at times to only have the one bathroom. I would trade that tub in a heartbeat to be able to have two toilets.

Here's the truth. We bought the house long before we had any kids (or were even thinking of having kids). We (I) LOVED the fabulous bathroom and it really was a dream for young and married with no kids.

We added one kid and it was still the dream (Addison took forever to potty train so it just wasn't an issue). Added two kids and it wasn't bad. It is a huge bathroom with two sinks, a separate shower and bath, and the space was easily shared.

When that third child became potty trained...it was a stretch but not too bad...but then Addison finally decided to join the party and holy fighting over the toilet, batman.

I will spare you the details (I started typing out a specific story and then decided no....just NO...you're welcome), but this has caused me quite a bit of angst. (Especially since the boys have decided to become competitive poopers. Side note and totally unrelated: when I grow up I have decided not to have any kids.)

Not to mention that Addison needs a bit more time than the average 7-year-old and cannot "hold it and wait" (learned this the hard way).

I have been obsessing over this all week, and it just won't let me go. For three reasons.

1. We just had a contractor come over and give us a quote for splitting the one bathroom into two. (I would miss that kidney.)

2. I just posted a bubble bath picture of the kids which generated a lot of new comments about my bathroom. (the issue already fresh on my mind)

3. Morgan is (and has been for a while) ready to start taking her turn on the toilet. (the nerve of that child!!!!) (-;

Now if you will remember correctly (I hope you don't remember this too specifically), when Morgan was a baby, we took a stab at selling our house. Lots of lessons learned...lots of prep work done....it just wasn't to be at that time for a million reasons.

Now we are at the point where we are thinking of trying this again because in addition to the toilet needs...there are also space needs (I run my music teaching studio out of the house). BUT this is possibly a year(ish) out and that's why we had the contractor come by. However because of the price of doing this, it would tie us to this house for a lot longer than perhaps would work for us. The bathroom situation would be solved...but not the space problem...and we couldn't move in such a short time frame without losing 90% of the money we just put into a fresh new bathroom.

Long story short, this has left me stewing all week about our bathroom situation.

It is ridiculous. It is impossible. And I'm not sure where I went wrong that left me in this tangled situation? We lose if we put in the new bathroom. We lose if we don't. (Adulthood is fun.)

This super mature pity party led me to a seasonally-themed thought that made me quite uncomfortable.

Contentment.

Can I be content with one bathroom? Even though we are working on changing this situation, this is where God has us right now...today. This has been my inner dialogue pretty much all week:

Well, I don't have to be content because it's not working for what our family needs.
Isn't it? 

Everyone else has two bathrooms plus.
Do they? And why does this matter?

Pinterest says---
Pinterest lies

The pictures on Instagram--
Don't care.

I NEED this RIGHT NOW...
Do you? Do you really? Have you ever gone without?

Well...no....but...
Has God ever failed to supply for every one of your needs?

No...but...
Is God a good God?

Of course...but...
No buts. This is where he has you today. Not forever. But for today. Can you be content with that?

Well I....
No excuses. Can you? Can you find contentment right where he has placed you?

BUT I HAVE FOUR KIDS AND I NEED TWO TOILETS!
How many people would love to have just one? How many people would give anything for running water? You have two sinks...a shower...a bathtub that the kids love. Stop it. You are being ungrateful.

Ungrateful? But...

Because isn't that so true of the lack of contentment? It really goes back to gratitude for what we have? Not what we think we should have or what we think we deserve or what we think would work better for us.

Right here. Right now. Walking into the one bathroom that clearly has been written into today's plan for my life....and being grateful.

Can I do this?

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. I Tim 6:6-7

For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Cor 12:10

Not that I speak in respect to want, for I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. Phil. 4:11

I went to look up verses on contentment, and I found a lot of verses on Paul being beaten and shipwrecked and flogged and persecuted....and content. The more I read, the more I realized...having "only" one bathroom is not a problem.

Not even a little bit.

Remembering this, I look around my bathroom and see not a lack. Healthy and free to live my life, surrounded by healthy, vibrant children...I see a room that serves us well. I see the running water that liberally flows whenever I turn a knob. And as hot as I want it...as often as I want it. The toilet...the most unglamorous job that ever was...that works so well (as long as we keep children from stuffing wipes down it). The shower that has ended a thousand of my days. The tub that keeps my children clean. Even a nice wide open floor for all the dirty laundry that gets tossed there.

As I remember to look at what IS and not what I think SHOULD be...I am grateful.

And this gratitude is the soap that I pour into the kids' bath that quickly bubbles up into large, frothy bubbles of contentment.

Happy Thanksgiving, dear friends. Being thankful takes so many shapes and sizes. For me this year....it is about the bathroom dilemma. But really...it's always something. I am thankful for lessons learned along the way, and for what IS. This year I am thankful for...one bathroom. So grateful.

May your day be perfectly imperfect....stuffed with gratitude...slathered with contentment....shared with those that you love.

Thanks for traveling this crazy thing called life with us.

xo, Deanna

Sunday, November 19, 2017

4 Kid Christmas Things I Am Loving

(This post contains affiliate links)
I've found that Christmas with kids can sometimes be more stressful than it is magical. (FYI, cranky newborns don't all of a sudden sleep the night just because it's a holiday. Also-- skipping naps for parties or meals or a service is FUN!)

BUT as my kids get older, the magic is starting to really appear. I love how into Christmas they are getting. As they are emerging into holiday-loving people, I've spent a lot of time thinking through what I want our traditions to be. (Up until now, our traditions have included mostly just surviving. I highly recommend.)

I haven't settled on everything, but I wanted to share with you 4 kid Christmas things that I am currently loving.

1. Felt Christmas Tree to hang on the wall
I just ordered this last week, and it came in on Friday. Now the price is lower (AGH!) and the shipping is different. (Don't you love it when they do that?) BUT, I am so pleased with how thick and sturdy the felt is since I see it getting a LOT of handling. As the kids have the week off of school, I think tomorrow we will decorate this...and I know it will get redecorated a hundred times between now and Christmas. I figured if they have this, maybe they will leave the actual tree alone? A girl can hope. (-;

You will be seeing lot of action on this bad boy via IG. Brace yourselves! (-;


2. Ann Voskamp advent book: Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas
We got this the year it came out and it is EXCELLENT. I'm so glad I sat down to write this list because it's reminding me to dig this book out so we don't start out behind on our advent reading. (FYI it is currently $6 off.)

"Person by person, story by story, retrace the lineage of Jesus. Fall in love with Him all over again as you experience God's plan of salvation for us--from the Garden of Eden to the manger and beyond."


3. Children Manger Set
This is the closest link I could find to the one I have. My mom ordered it as a gift to the kids a few years  ago, and they LOVE being able to play with their own set. I'm looking forward to teaching with this again this year!

4. Picture Calendars

Heads up, right now you can get a FREE wall calendar from Shutterfly with the code MYGIFT (ends tomorrow)

I make a calendar every year bursting with pictures of my kids and give them as Christmas gifts to the parents and grandparents. AND I keep one for myself. I currently have an entire wall covered with Shutterfly calendars detailing the last seven years in month-to-month detail. This is just my favorite. Also, it's funny how those years when I was thinking "JUST SURVIVE!" look so cute and put together up on my wall via the calendars.

In the past I have paid for these with diaper/pull up Pampers rewards points (this bought me SO many free calendars), free codes I can find online (such as MYGIFT), and random mailed flyers with $10 off.

My only problem this year...is finding the time to make my calendar! I predict an entirely copied off of IG calendar this year. Ha!

Okay your turn. What kid Christmas stuff are you excited about this year????

Friday, November 17, 2017

IEP Thoughts

(this post may contain affiliate links)
I just finished Addison's IEP.

When I started doing IEPs as a parent, I would leave feeling kind of depressed. I was sitting in this tiny chair that truly fit only one bum cheek (real life, people. real life.), talking for an hour and a half about everything that she wasn't doing or couldn't achieve and the NOTs.

Today...honestly...I left feeling super encouraged. And a little bit guilty. Okay lot guilty. To hear them explain everything that she's working on and achieving at school makes me feel like I'm not doing enough with her at home.

Also, I told the story to her speech therapist about how Addison said, "You are the worst mommy. That is unkind." I was trying to say THANK YOU for helping Addison learn to express how she feels. It is HUGE! But then the speech therapist was apologizing and trying not to take the blame for a child telling her mother that "she is the worst". It got awkward there for a minute. Did not think that through. I guess "thank you" cards come in all shapes and sizes.

"THANK YOU FOR TEACHING MY CHILD TO SAY THAT I AM THE WORST" lacks a certain kind of ring, but I give it points for creativity. (Get on that, Hallmark)

Today the biggest change for Addison is that she's doing so well that they want to give her some small independent slots of the day where SHE DOESN'T HAVE AN AIDE.

(gasp)

I'll admit, at first I was torn on this. Were they just getting cheap? Or was she really doing so well that this is the legit next step?

After thinking it through and listening to Addison's SPED's well articulated thoughts on this, I really do think that Addison is ready for this. She is participating so well in each class that for certain classes an aide shadowing her is just not necessary. (Such as music class). She has become so fiercely independent even at lunchtime she doesn't need help anymore.

My only concern was that if something happened during these times (for example a few weeks back Addison came home with marker drawn on her pants in a private area and I wanted to hear the story to make sure that she did that to herself)...how would I know what happened? So we compromised with her being in a small group para situation for lunch and recess...no aide for a specific 20 minutes a day plus music class....and then full time aide for the rest of the day.

My baby is growing up.

As I reflect on our IEP, I am just so grateful. Addison has an incredible team that fights for her. I really don't need to do any fighting in our current IEP situation. They present their thoughts...listen respectfully as I add mine...and they graciously consider all points of view as the final decision rests on what is best for Addison.

This is my long way of saying that I no longer leave discouraged. I don't see this as a meeting to discuss the "can't"s and the negatives. This is an opportunity to get an insight into Addison's days. This is a chance to focus on specific ways I can support her school time at home. This is a meeting of the minds to help Addison achieve her best in every possible way. This is a time to watch her teachers' faces light up as they talk about her. (And to laugh to hear them say that she can be a brilliant manipulator when she wants something. They're on to her!!!)

IEPs are a chance to be heard. To listen. To know that Addison is being pushed and yet accommodated (this is a tricky tricky balancing act and they do this brilliantly). To say thank you.

Speaking of which, I took my thank you gifts today. I appreciate everyone on my facebook page who had thoughts on this. I took each idea...divided it by the amount of time I had....multiplied it by how much I wanted to say thank you...and subtracted energy I had available to spend.

After tallying these numbers, today I took...(drum roll please) Dunkin Donuts gift cards. (I stayed up all night crafting these.)

But seriously, I am in such awe of Addison's team. She has her classroom teacher, her SPED, her speech therapist, a physical therapist, and OT...not to mention her music teacher and art teacher and PE teacher...and they all focus on their area of expertise in equipping Addison. I can't say enough good about every single person on her team.

I am extremely grateful for our district and for Addison's school.

So today I left her IEP encouraged. I never would have dreamed that Addison would be accomplishing all of this by the time she was 7. I never would have thought she would have a whole table of professionals smiling that they thought her dream job was to be a teacher and that she could already command control of her classroom.

I no longer wince whey they use words like "modified comprehension questions" and hear how some of her assignments are simplified to help her find success. She is in a mainstream, second grade classroom, has so many kind friends, and she comes home excited about learning and making progress in reading and math and science and ALL THE THINGS every single day. She is finding success! Modify away. The smile on her face as she grasps new concepts is worth it.

Using the IEP, they have created the perfect learning environment for Addison. As a result, she is thriving. IEP-- greenhouse specs. Addison-- blooming flowers.

I am overwhelmed with the amount of things that I am reminded of that I should be working with her as well. I am also aware that this might not always be such a rosy experience as she grows past second grade. BUT I am encouraged. Because what I used to see as the cup half empty (focusing on the "nots") I now see as the cup half full....she is getting there. With 100% accuracy. (-;





Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Picture In My Head


(This post contains affiliate links.)
I will never forget the day that I sat sobbing in my car at school pickup.

It was Addison's birthday, and I was hugely pregnant with Morgan. The entire house was blown to bits for the kitchen renovation and my world was in sawdusty, broken pieces. The one good thing that I thought I had gotten right that day...turns out...was all wrong.

I let Addison down, and I could never forgive myself.

Earlier that day, after dropping three kids off at three different schools, I raced to the grocery store. (Okay fine, I was 9 months pregnant...I waddled to the grocery store.) I had promised Addison that I would get her some chocolate cupcakes to take to class to celebrate her birthday. I had no kitchen at home in which to bake them, but I figured with allergies etc, it would be better anyway to buy something with a specific ingredient label.

I was exhausted and overwhelmed and did I mention exhausted? I didn't have time or energy for an extra stop, but I HAD to do it because I had it all pictured in my head....

Addison would pass out cupcakes to each of her classmates, beaming with happiness. They would all sing "Happy birthday" and smile at her. She would dance around a center of a circle while they all ate their chocolate cupcakes in her honor. Happiness fireworks would explode around the classroom. The lights would shine brighter. The air would be clearer. Each face would hold a huge, chocolatey smile as they celebrated the day Addison was born.

By bringing chocolate cupcakes, I would make her birthday a happy one. I would make her happy. I could picture the glow on her face. (And the chocolate smudge around her mouth.) It would be a perfect school birthday moment in which she would share something she loves with the people that she loves.

In all my masterful planning and imaginings, I forgot to take one thing into consideration.

At the beginning of the school year (August), a memo went out stating that no food items were to be brought in for birthdays. It was now February. I had lost a lot of brain cells between August and February (pregnant with fourth child). I had forgotten that I ever read those words.

I had so completely forgotten about it that when I went to meet Addison at the end of the day, smiling with the picture still in my head of how her day went, I looked down, saw the entire bag full of untouched cupcakes, and I couldn't breathe.

Why didn't they pass out her cupcakes? They were nut free! And labeled! They lined up with all the school food rules. What did I do wrong? I couldn't figure it out.

All I could picture was Addison, sitting in the middle of her birthday circle, but because her mom brought the wrong ingredients, she was DENIED birthday time. I pictured fat tears falling furiously down her cheeks. I pictured her sweet mouth slightly open, wanting cupcakes, not allowed cupcakes. I pictured sadness.

I pictured a ruined birthday. A ruined birthday by a child who couldn't communicate such emotions. A ruined birthday for a girl with delays and did she understand why she didn't have cupcakes? Was she crushed? Did she sit huddled in the corner, cupcakeless, joyless, crushed soul?

And so after I buckled Addison into her carseat, knowing that Addison couldn't answer any of these questions for me (and I was far too embarrassed to call and ask)...I put a bag full of cupcakes on the seat next to me. I lumbered up into the driver's seat...buckled myself in...turned the car on....

...and I lost it.

Tears streamed down my face, dripping onto my swollen belly. My shoulders shook (I really want to say slender shoulders but I cannot tell a lie). I couldn't get this picture out of my head, and it broke me. I couldn't drive for several minutes because I was crying so hard.

Worst, cupcake-less birthday ever. And it was all my fault. Clearly, I somehow broke an allergy rule. (Still hadn't remembered the no food memo.)

Fast forward an entire year.

I went into a parent teacher conference, not even remembering this moment.

And I heard what actually happened. Her new teacher brought it up totally unprompted because it had made such an impact on him.

On that birthday, Addison didn't expect cupcakes because no one in class ever brings birthday cupcakes.

Instead, there is this special dance and ceremony and hand clap celebration that they do for every student. It's a rather complicated dance and everyone's mouths dropped when Addison jumped up for HER BIRTHDAY and with a world-brightening smile and rolling giggles, she performed EVERY step of this ceremony and dance and hand clap PERFECTLY.

She had memorized it, watching everyone else in the class who had birthdays before her and had been anxiously been awaiting her day.

The scene that was described to me included the happiness fireworks and clearer air and brightened spirits. The teacher's face was beaming as he recalled this day almost a year after it actually happened. He hadn't forgotten a single detail.

The look on Addison's face. Her laugh. The class' response. Her epic dance moves. The moment so full of awesome and perfection that people ran in from the hallway to witness it.

My mouth dropped open. I remembered that day, sobbing in my car, feeling like the worst mother ever.

Turns out the picture in my head was completely wrong. Completely.

Cupcakes were not needed for her celebration to be amazing. And yet, the picture in my head had convinced me that they were. I remember that specific feeling of failure as a mom. I remember those tears. I even remember thinking that I would never get this right. That Addison deserved a much better mom.

And yet the reality was...the day was a huge success. All I had to do was have her there...clothed...fed...ready to do school. I did all of that. I didn't fail at all.

(Also...lesson learned...now for birthdays I remember to send a non-food item...stickers!)

I've thought a lot about this since. Almost two years later. I can't let go of the concept of how the picture in my head....wasn't even close to reality.

And how that's okay.

In fact, I would venture to say that reality is way better. It just looks different. (Addison spent that entire weekend eating cupcakes. She got the best of both worlds.)

This reminds me a lot of the crying I did after the 20 week ultrasound that revealed something "wrong" with my first baby. I did a lot of crying in those weeks of our diagnosis revelation. Not because anything was "wrong" with Addison, but because of the picture I had built up in my head that told me what having a child with Down syndrome would look like.

My picture was wrong. So, so wrong.

The reality of having a child with Down syndrome is nothing like that picture that made me cry bitter tears. The reality leaves me with gratitude and happiness for the little girl who blesses us on a daily basis.

Expectations.

I'm learning to lose the idealized picture of motherhood in my head and instead, embrace what is. Loving what is right in front of me.

The mess. The sticky. The hugs. The love.

Erasing what I think my kids' personalities should be...and accepting and delighting in who they are.

Pushing aside the perfect vision of how each day should go, and finding the beauty in the imperfections that play out in front of me.

The picture in my head, turns out, is quite the drama queen (in case you didn't get that already). I am learning to abandon expectations at the door...walk into my house...and find joy in the moment that greets me there.

Four kids fling themselves at me. They probably will be slightly sticky. They will probably fight over who gets to hug me first. I will have dirty dishes in the sink. And a pile of laundry on the floor in the bathroom. I will probably get sticky kisses. I will get warm hugs. I will hear repeated, "Mommy!!!"

This moment is perfection.

Whenever I'm tempted to lose it over broken parenting expectations. I remember the cupcakes.

I remember that the only reason I'm upset is because of my expectations. I'm upset over things that DIDN'T EVEN HAPPEN. Or didn't even need to happen in order for happiness to be found. Or are just plain WRONG. They are only the picture in my head. If I erase my expectations, I can erase disappointment and find joy in whatever the day may bring.

Even the sticky, messy, cupcake-less days. There is so much beauty there, and I don't want to miss it.





Sunday, November 12, 2017

10 Things Keeping Me Sane As A Special Needs Mom

Note: This post includes affiliate links which means that I get paid a small percentage if you purchase using my link. Thank you for helping keep this site up and running! 

I have a secret to tell you.

There is no "secret" to being a special needs mom. To rolling one day into the next. To staying upright when you don't think you can. To keep on keeping on.

To sum up, the secret is...there is no secret. (Clear as mud, right?!)

We all have different methods of doing life. There isn't one "fix-it" for everyone. Realizing this often leads me to being quiet about what works for me because why bother?

But then I stopped and realized...

1. I adore learning new tricks of the trade from other blogs
2. I keep getting asked about the same "tricks" over and over so it might be helpful for me to put them all in one place just for point of reference

I am publishing this post so that you can do the same as I enjoy doing. Pursue different ideas, take and try new things, discard what wouldn't work for you, and maybe walk away with some new "keeping on" secrets. Who knows?

BUT I'm going to warn you. This list is random. Random like the multi-colored duct tape that is currently holding me together.

 So let's dig in.

1. Coffee
The first one on my list is not new info. I only share it because...duh. It would be a crime to write a post about the things keeping me sane and not include coffee. I know that I make a lot of coffee jokes, but you should know that Addison oftentimes will wake up at 1 am...just because. And consistently...around 5am.  Trying to keep up with this means that I am almost always tired and my days are packed full, requiring an alert, awake mind. So...



2. Door Alarms (<-this and="" as="" being="" exact="" for="" have="" is="" lasted="" linked="" longer="" made="" most="" no="" ours="" p="" several="" the="" to="" updated="" version="" years="">I get asked about these ALL the time. Because of Addison's bolting tendencies (and her 1am wake up times), I absolutely need to know if she wakes up in the middle of the night and decides to leave the house (this has happened before). Or if I'm working in the kitchen, I need to know if she decides to slip out of the front door for a joy walk. These door alarms have been AMAZING. They are pretty cheap and easy to install on both doors and windows. I can sleep peacefully at night knowing that if she tries to escape...I WILL hear it. Those of you who ask me about bolting kiddos and tricks to help especially at night...this is my go-to.

3. Kids Probiotics
I'm only a few months into this one, but I'm already a huge fan. Last winter, we got a virus that kept passing itself around the family for a solid two months. I thought I would LOSE MY MIND (you'll see that not a lot of blogging happened during that time). As a result, this year I'm working to be much more proactive about supplements for the kids. This probiotic has been amazing, and the kids love it so much they don't let me forget a night. Not sure if it will solve our wintertime crisis, but I'm praying it helps at least cut down the time frame if we were to get sick again. So far so good (knock on all the wood in the world.) Addison's immune system is especially weak, so however I can keep people healthy around her...it's worth the extra cost to me. I'm a bit sheepish to admit that it took me 7 years of parenting to start on something like this.



4. Triple Wagon
This next one I get asked about constantly. Our triple wagon has been the best. Addison still needs something when we do errands out and about, but she is too big for a stroller. These wagons have buckles and cup holders and they all get a bit of space from each other (to cut down on the "SHE TOUCHED ME!!!" screams). I will say that these distribute weight very poorly, so it's best to put the heaviest kids toward the back. Oh and this is also pretty rough on steep/downhill surfaces. So you know that with those disclaimers...if I still love it...it's because it has saved my sanity on probably hundreds of times. This is not an exaggeration. Plus, you instantly make new friends as you pull this colorful train around town. (-;

5. Books
Every week I try to read at least one book. Some weeks I read three. Others I read zero. This is the one I plan to tackle this week and WOW. Here is the first part of the intro:
"You are not 'just' a mom. My mission in writing this book is to show motherhood is part of the mission of God, thereby banishing once and for all, the insipid notion that mothering is insignificant. There is no such thing as 'just a mom,' because there is no mere 'just' in the calling of motherhood."

At least once a week I try to take an epsom salts soak in the tub. This is a total luxury for me, but I work to make time for it. Light some candles, grab that week's book, throw in a ridiculous amount of bubbles, and without apology grab some me time. Taking deep breaths, relaxing, allowing myself a break...this is an important part of holding onto my sanity. (also, I included the best link I could find, but you can get a better price on this at the grocery store!) I will also use the lavendar one in the kids' bath from time to time. They love it. Eli calls it "bath pepper" (-;

These are often my go-to food grab for myself if I don't have time to sit down and eat, but I know I need something. Or "dessert" at night if I want something sweet, but don't want to commit to a million calories. These bars have saved me more than once as I am driving around for pickups or dropoffs and SO hungry but had no time to eat before leaving home. Also, these are chocolate and packed full of protein, so I always give them to Addison to try to trick her into better nutrition while she is getting her chocolate fix. She LOVES these.


8. Stainless Steel Plates
I get asked about these so often on Instagram! These are just the best. They have been used every single day for over two years and still look brand new. They have been dropped and beaten up on a ton and not one plate has even come close to breaking. I love feeding the kids off of something that isn't plastic. They are an investment, so I put them in Easter baskets one year instead of a lot of candy. Worth it!

9. Protein Powder
This has been huge for my energy level as I chase little people, work, write, run a household, and everything in-between. I started taking protein powder this summer, drinking one shake at night right before bed. I have tried several different ones, and this is my favorite so far. (It's the first one that I ordered a second round of instead of searching out a new brand). At night I mix it with this . And in the morning....wait for it...I mix it into at least one cup of coffee. it changes the taste slightly but has helped me power through more than one difficult day. I would say it's slightly "earthy" tasting, but I don't mind it. It has rather grown on me. (-;

10. You
Finding an online community has been so huge for me as I travel this road of motherhood. It is so helpful for me to write things out as I process them, and the fact that you consistently show up, listen thoughtfully, and often add your own voice into the discussion...this means the world to me. Thank you.


So there you have it. 10 Things Currently Keeping Me Sane As A Special Needs Mom.

What would be on your list?