Monday, November 27, 2017

Strange And Mysterious Gifts

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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 a better understanding of walking more closely beside him every step of the life's an intimate understanding of this world not being our 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 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 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

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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 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'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 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.


Can I be content with one bathroom? Even though we are working on changing this situation, this is where God has us right 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.

Do you? Do you really? Have you ever gone without?
Has God ever failed to supply for every one of your needs?

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?

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 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 is about the bathroom dilemma. But's always something. I am thankful for lessons learned along the way, and for what IS. This year I am thankful 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

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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 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

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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.


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) would I know what happened? So we compromised with her being in a small group para situation for lunch and 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

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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 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.


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

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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'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'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?

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

It Is Unfair

It was still bugging me.

Those of you who follow me on IG perhaps read my rather dramatic posts earlier this week on the whole swim class debacle. I won't rehash it in detail here, but to sum up:

Deanna extended huge energy (HUGE), every last bit of effort she had left in her to get Carter into a special swim class, and thing after thing blocked it until Deanna found herself standing at the desk, talking to the person who assured her in-person sign up was better, being denied a spot in the class 9 minutes after registration opened while someone online got the last spot. (followed directions exactly...poured 110% of effort into it....received a big fat NO for no logical reason.)

And yes, I believed everything that I wrote about in my mini IG posts. Yes, it's good to teach kids to deal with disappointment. Yes, I am grateful for many things even in the midst of a messy morning.

But. It wouldn't let me go.

The more I thought about this, the more I realized that it was a much bigger issue that I needed to pinpoint and acknowledge.

Life is unfair. And sometimes this makes me angry.

What manifested itself in my response to swim class unfairness actually dug so much deeper..

I worked hard, so so hard to have a healthy and amazing pregnancy. And yet my first baby was born with many health problems and a life-long disability.

My body let me down.

I killed myself in undergrad and grad school to build a successful career as a musician. And then we moved to Vermont where the only jobs I could get were several part time music teacher gigs cobbled together not even in the same district which meant that my insurance costs stole most of my paycheck.

My talent let me down.

My Prince Charming started his own landscape business....and those of you who know anything about running your own business know the long long hours required here. I put in long years supporting his career to end up having to do a lot of solo parenting.

My marriage let me down.

I put in years and years of working to become a legit writer. It's been 7 years and I'm still in the "working on it" phase.

My ambition and desire to help others let me down.

Life is unfair. And I feel like I've constantly been let down. By myself. By others. By circumstances.

By the lady in charge of swim class sign ups.

And yet, even as I read back over that list, I can see full circle.

My body may have "let me down", but God never did. He had every single part of that planned. Because of his perfect plan, my life has been transformed in every possible way. Down syndrome wasn't my "body letting me down" even though it truly felt like it at the time. Down syndrome was a door opening to a new world, one that I didn't even realize previously had existed. Down syndrome has been a beautiful gift to our family, and I wouldn't trade Addison for the world.

All of my music training has uniquely prepared me for the part-time teaching working that I now do. It fits right around the kids' schedules, and perfectly it fills the "need for music" part of my soul. I am able to do something I love (music) while still being present for my kids (also something I love). It's tricky to explain, but every single bit of that effort prepared me just for this. (Also, the insurance money that "stole most of my paycheck" ended up being the best insurance possible when you have a baby with a long NICU stay and multiple heart surgeries. That insurance ended up saving our butts.)

My Prince Charming's landscaping work has been so faithful to provide for our family.  And having to do a lot of solo parenting has grown me in ways I didn't even know I needed while this additional marital conflict has allowed us to work hard at our marriage. 11 years in we are far from perfect. But we are certainly no strangers to staring conflict and hard times in the face and pushing through, by God's grace.

My writing work? Well, they say it takes struggle to write a truly great book. I don't know that I'll ever achieve the "great book" status, but I've got the struggle part down, so that's gotta count for something. (-;

But the truth is, sometimes unfairness happens when we don't have the perspective of time to trace back the full circle story. We don't always get a "oh THAT'S why!"

It hurts. It stings. And the more effort we put in, the angrier it makes us when an unfair bad outcome meets us at the finish line.


God never promises that life will be fair. In fact, after a recent church study on the book of Job, it's sobering to realize just how unfair life can get.

So why? Why do bad things happen to good people?

Why do really awesome families have babies who are sick?

You want to talk unfair?

Why are incredible people gunned down in public? In church? Why does just existing in America these days mean you are at the risk of being shot by whoever feels like going on a rampage? What is happening here?

The unfairness is so unfathomable that my fingers shake with anger just writing that.


This is so much deeper than an innocent blog post, but I want to reference a seminar I attended Monday night.

I think that bad things happen to good people to remind us to rely on the Lord. That we can't do this alone and there is so much strength and goodness available to us if we just ask. To remind us that He's got this, and he wants to to turn to him to experience his grace, love, and peace firsthand.

And most importantly to remind us that this earth is not our home.

At our seminar on Monday we read Psalm 23. I forgot how beautiful this passage is.

    The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
    He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
    Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
    Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth oil.
    Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

In all of these "unfair" instances, God has never let me down. Not once. He was with me every step of the way. Sick baby. Rocky career. Tough marriage moments. Writing struggle.

He was there, gently leading me through each moment of unfairness. Furthermore, he planned it all for my good and orchestrated growth for me and my family each step of the way. Not for the ultimate goal of making things more fair. To make us more like him.

When we say "God is good" it's not that life will never be unfair. It's that his goodness will shine alongside us and through us as we experience unfairness. His goodness will hold us up. His goodness will remind us that all of this stuff and life success is not the point of living.

This Thanksgiving season, I am grateful. I am overflowing with thankfulness. Not because this world is even a little bit fair.

Not because life plays out exactly like I think it should in my head.

But because I have the gift of my heavenly Shepherd guiding me, comforting me, carrying me even if it were through the valley of the shadow of death. From the silliest of things like swim classes to the deepest, most hurtful of things as death. He's got this. And he designed it somehow to bring glory to him and for our ultimate good.

And for that I'm grateful.

After writing all of this out yesterday and acknowledging this bigger issue in my heart that needed confronting, I showed up at the scene of the swim class signup yesterday with a dozen donuts.

I led with, "I'm sure your day was really rough yesterday with such a tricky signup system and frustrated parents (me) flocking your desk. I'm so sorry for your rough day, and I'm sorry if I added to that in any way. Thank you for working so hard to provide such an incredible program for our kids. We appreciate you and everything that you do. Here are some awesome donuts. I hope your day today is really great."

Kindness. It flows from gratitude. Love. It can blossom from the bitter dirt of unfairness.

And when it does? It's not of us.

It's the work of the gentle Shepherd who leads each step with incredible, heart-changing care.

He's got this.

Friday, November 3, 2017

What I Learned From Asking How Much Milk Costs

An unexpected thing happened to me yesterday. An Instagram share turned into a bit of a life lesson...for me.

I innocently posted a picture of my grocery receipt on IG, as I was talking about #momlife and the strides I have been making in meal planning and grocery savings. At the end of the lengthy post, I threw the question out there, "What does a gallon of milk cost where you are right now?" I was just curious, as I assumed ours here in Vermont was on the high end at $3.99, and I thought this would be an interesting experiment.
The responses started rolling in, both on IG and on my personal FB page. And WOW.

First up were several Canadians who said that they buy milk in the bag, and three bags would roughly equal one gallon which would cost $5-7 dollars.

Several from Indiana and Illinois commented that theirs was as low as .68 or .88 cents a gallon ranging up to $2.

Several from South Carolina said anywhere from $1-$2.

Someone from Europe chimed in and said it was .75Eros for the liter which puts it around 3Euros a gallon.

Someone from Oregon said it was the same as ours at $3.99.

Washington D.C., $4.99 on sale and Philadelphia, $5.69 a gallon.

Someone from West Africa said that they can't buy gallons of milk, only powdered milk which they then mix up into their own milk, averaging out at $3.75 a gallon.

Singapore, $6 a half gallon.

Colorado, Virginia, Iowa....everything between $2-$4.

California and Seattle, $3.79-$7

There were those who only bought only raw milk, which put the price significantly higher, $7.50 a gallon. And those who bought organic milk straight from farmers that was $3.50 a half gallon.

I learned about something called Fairlife milks? Which also is pricier but lactose free and delicious! (according to my sources) (-;

And then there are those....who just don't drink milk. (-;

I must admit that this study is far from perfect. What percentage of milk are we buying? Store brands or name brands? On the clearance rack vs regular rack? Etc. There are a dozen variables not taken into account here.

BUT, as I saw these different numbers and perspectives roll in, I was taken aback.

I assumed that most would be similar to ours, perhaps with some in the south being slightly cheaper. The fact that there were many MORE expensive than ours, and some of the cheapest milk was found in the midwest...I did not see that coming. (If you ever go to Singapore, take a carry-on cow with you.) lesson? Where is there a life lesson in this?

I like the way this innocent post caused me to see different perspectives on a mundane part of our every day. We buy 4-5 gallons of milk a week. Milk is a constant part of our lives. The fact that such a constant is priced and viewed so differently by different people across the world was a sobering reminder to me.

We all have different perspectives on life. I might complain about how much a gallon costs me ($4) when someone else doesn't have access to regular milk at all and yet someone else has to pay way more and would love for it to only be $4.

I think it's dangerous to assume that our perspective (or milk price) is the only one. I had fallen into this trap a little bit.

Just the other day I was thinking about teaching empathy to my kids. How do I teach this? What do I do? All of the exercises and scenarios I came up with had me imagining my kids playing it out in their therapy sessions down the road as they worked through their childhood, one mom-forced empathy exercise at a time.

But really it comes down to perspective and being able to appreciate others' perspectives especially when they differ from our own. And where does this start? Modeling it for them.

Lately I haven't done well with this. I tend get stuck in my life with my problems and my frustrations and I forget to look up and out.

I forget about the smallness of my story in the grand scheme of life. And as my small story expands to take up my entire vision, I miss out on chances to love other people. I miss out on chances to view the beauty and value of differences first hand.

I hate it when I fall into this rut.

I love sharing my experiences as a special needs mom. Not to mindlessly fill the internet with words or for attention, but rather, to share my perspective. And hope that in a tiny way, my perspective can change someone's assumed view of Down syndrome.

I was reminded yesterday of how much I enjoy learning from other people sharing their experiences, especially when those experiences are quite different than my own. Even other families with a kiddo with Down syndrome will have a different voice than mine, a different fabric of life tangled around the gorgeous thread of Down syndrome.

It's the beauty of life. Difference is not a bad thing.

It's a little like...everyone having different experiences and prices in milk purchases.

I appreciated the reminder. The world is bigger than me and my small perspective. The world is bigger than the one aisle of milk in front of me at my grocery store. And if I can teach that even in a tiny part to my kids, I will consider it a job well done.

This morning I had to talk to a customer service chat line. It was obvious that English perhaps was not her first language. I don't know where she was chatting to me from, but as I started to get frustrated at one point,  I thought, "I wonder how much milk costs where she is?" I pictured her walking through a grocery store, putting her hand on a cold gallon of creamy goodness, and walking with perhaps her cart full of kids (just like me!) toward the cashier to pay for it.

I stopped my complaining in its tracks and worked to view from her perspective. This small exercise made her seem human and in need of kindness...just like I would like to receive. We had a lovely chat, and ended the session with all the issues resolved and no frustrations on either side. It was win/win.

Kindness. Perspective. Teaching empathy to my kids.

This starts with me taking in my stilly informal milk study and appreciating everyone right where they are at, responding in grace and kindness when their milk experience is different than mine, or even their response to the question, and remembering that we are all fighting our own battles in our own ways.

Love you guys. Thanks for helping me with my perspective check.