Please consider helping a Veteran and Mom working her way out of Homelessness…

Consider helping a mom and Veteran just trying to hang on and come out of an abusive situation. Right now, she just wants help paying for storage that had been paid and now she is getting notices that her things (to help rebuild her life as well as treasured memories) will be auctioned off. Every little bit helps. Thank you for going and reading and considering helping. Even $5 helps. This is not a scam, I promise. This is me.

http://www.gofundme.com/nokjl0

My son, when he was age 4, and his sister, Audrey Grace. She was six days old in this picture, the day before she went in for neurosurgery. She was a full term, 5lb, Trisomy 18 baby.

My son, when he was age 4, and his sister, Audrey Grace. She was six days old in this picture, the day before she went in for neurosurgery. She was a full term, 5lb, Trisomy 18 baby.

I have NEVER liked asking for help… this is no exception. I have worked for three years to pull myself up by my bootstraps and overcome divorce and homelessness. I have been humbled to be helped along the way by friends and family and have managed to keep my head above water. I worked multiple part time jobs to make ends meet and went through a protracted period of unemployment that led to a full time job. It’s just within the last week or so that I realized that something my mom told me almost 20 years ago was true: I was abused. I am divorced from him now, but due to his control and lies in court, all of our custody is joint, but he is the primary custodian and he uses every trick he can to keep me from my son. He is a malignant narcissist. He is still abusing my son and myself. It’s not usually physical, but he is mentally, emotionally, and financially abusive. This is just the latest trick in his arsenal. He says he will no longer pay for the storage unit with my stuff in it. It’s most of the stuff from a 1600 sq ft house. In the storage unit are memories of my deceased daughter (Audrey Grace, who had full Trisomy 18), from my son’s childhood, my childhood, tangible memories of the mom/best friend I lost three years ago, things from my travels while in the United States Air Force and furniture I was trying to  hold onto so I wouldn’t have to find money to buy more later. My son and I are trying to downsize and sell our stuff, but I am afraid of it being auctioned off before we can do it…It has been a very difficult three and a half years. I’m finally paying for a place of my own. It’s not much, doesn’t even have a kitchen (but I have two burners and a big toaster oven) that I call my ‘kitchen.’ I want to get custody back and rescue my son. I have only in the last week or so realized how abused I have been for 20 years. It was a startling revelation, but an empowering one. I *will* get my son back and I *will* overcome the paranoid malignant narcissist’s control. Bug and I *will* be happily on our own. This is just one step.

Thank you so much for considering helping me. Bug and I are making plans to try to sell some of my furniture (thinking it might be cheaper to re-buy later than to store, although fronting the money for new furniture is daunting for someone in my situation), the lawn tractor (riding lawn mower), sort through our stuff and hopefully downsize the storage unit, so it costs less. I don’t even have money to afford a data plan for a phone and my car is about to die, but I know it will all work out in the end. If it’s not ok, it’s not the end!

UPDATE: I was informed this morning (3/9) that my 40 hour/week job will be 20 hours/week starting next Monday… I have no idea what I am going to do. I am praying for a miracle. Even if you can’t donate to help, would you please share my story and join me in praying a great opportunity comes along that could actually pay my bills? I am a hard worker who is determined to better my station in life and not only survive, but thrive. I want to show my son that with a little creative thinking, we can make it. Thank you so much.

Advertisements

Take Care of YOU

As parents, we want to take care of our kids. We take care of our spouses. We take care of things at work. We play so many roles. We are taxi drivers, cheerleaders, nurses, disciplinarians, teachers, cooks, and maids, just to name a few. We make sure the kids are fed and loved. We check homework. We do the laundry. We wash dishes. We clean the house. All of that is in addition to any paying jobs we might have. Work at home parents and work outside the home parents, “stay-at-home” parents, whatever our role, we are just busy nowadays. Add to that the fact that now, more than any time in the past, we are available 24/7 thanks to our laptops, tablets, and smart phones.

Just writing that makes me feel it. BURN OUT.

Burn Out

Like a fire consumes the wood, so our lives can be consumed and we can Burn Out.

 

There have been times, even when I was a “stay-at-home” mom that I was so busy, I longed for an actual day where I didn’t have to leave the house… and I was only raising one child at that time. We homeschooled. I had a job at a Boys & Girls club three hours a day, five days a week and brought my son with me. He had sports practice (different sports at different times of year) twice a week, games on Saturdays. We had church on Sundays and Wednesday nights. It was a very busy time. My son loved it. He loved the interaction with kids, as we were in a rural neighborhood with only one other kid. But I was burnt out. I was so thankful when summer rolled around and we could just stay at home. Back then, I was a single mom, but still had income from my almost-ex-husband. Things changed quite a bit after the divorce, but that’s another post.

When to you take care of you? If you give and give and never receive from others or from yourself, you end up an empty shell. I know. I have been there. I had learned over our years of separation and getting back together and separating again that I had to take time for myself. When my son would spend the night with friends, I would wander around our home, lost. I didn’t know what to do. It took some time, but eventually I realized a few things:

  • I learned that I can be a better Mommy if I took a little time for myself.
  • I learned that my son wouldn’t die if I didn’t entertain him or keep him crazy busy.
  • I learned that my son is a very creative person, given a chance to be bored.
  • I learned that taking my son to the park, meeting friends there, gave him the chance to get out some energy and gave me a chance to talk with the other parents. Sometimes, I didn’t talk, but wandered around taking pictures. I love taking pictures and expressing my creativity in photographic form.
  • I learned that my son is a very capable person and can help around the house. I didn’t have to do it all alone, exhausting myself. He just needed training. We often worked together to get things done more quickly.
  • I learned that I could swap baby-sitting with a friend, so I had a chance to go out alone (even if it was just to the grocery store or to get my hair cut).
  • I learned that other parents liked my kid and liked having him over for sleep-overs with their kids. That gave me time to maybe go out to dinner with a friend. Times when we were both broke, we’d just get an appetizer or dessert, maybe even sharing one, just to get away from the kids. Sometimes, I would stay home and watch a movie not made for little people, whether a romantic comedy or a great action flick with too much violence for little eyes.
  • I learned that I am a good hostess to my kid’s friends, too. If he is safely in my house, playing with a friend, I can have time alone without even leaving my own home or getting dressed up.
  • I learned when my son was just two, that I could actually take a bath alone. He was just outside my door playing, of course. His instructions were not to bother me unless he was bleeding or on fire. A 30 min or when he was older, 60 min bath can do wonders for my outlook. Light a scented candle, turn out the lights, add some Epsom Salts (inexpensive and available at grocery stores and drug stores) to the bath. The magnesium in the Epsom Salts actually relaxes muscles for a great night’s sleep. Works on the kids, too. Figure 1/2 cup per 50 lbs of body weight in an average sized tub.

I also came to realize that the times we just ignored the outside world, together, were fabulous times to treasure and could recharge both our batteries. Covering the living room floor with building blocks and lincoln logs could be great fun (and have the child help put them away properly, too). Board games can be fun and teach them without their realizing it. Card games are fun. Popping popcorn and watching a movie with all the lights out and the curtains closed, surrounded by blankets and pillows or in a homemade couch cushion fort builds special memories.

You don’t have to have a lot of money or even escape the kids to recharge, but you need to recharge. What lights your fire? Are you artsy? Do you need time to work with your hands? Are you a thinker and just want some time to read a new treatise? You can find time. You have to be very deliberate about it, to be sure, but it can be done. Sometimes, you can let the dishes sit. Maybe you don’t need to go to every holiday party to which you are invited. Maybe you just need to take advantage of nap time. You can do it, Mom. You can do it, Dad. Remember the first thing I learned? You can be a better parent if you take care of yourself.

Please leave a note in the comments and tell me what you have learned to do to avoid burn out and take care of yourself.

5 Ideas for Helping Single Moms at the Holidays

Do you know a single mom?

Have you ever thought about what the Holidays are like for her? What it might be like to awaken on Christmas morning and not have a single item under the tree that she didn’t pick out for herself, if she even thought to do that for herself? Maybe her family is far away. Maybe she is new in town and doesn’t know many people. Maybe she just wishes she had someone who cared enough to risk trying. Having been in that boat, I would like to offer some ideas for ways to help her at the holidays.

1) Take her kids shopping. Whether she provides the money or you choose to, giving her kids the chance to experience picking out and giving the mom they love so much a special present that they chose just for her is a memory they need. To be able to understand the giving aspect of the holidays begins with actually giving. This will, by necessity, include gift bags or wrapping the presents so mom doesn’t have to do it. Where would the surprise be then?

* a little note here: it is not the rare child that insists that a hamster would be an appropriate gift for mom. I urge you to guide them away from the giving of rodents, unless you know for absolute certain that she has been contemplating getting herself a hamster…

2) Take her kids for an afternoon so she can shop for them. An infant or even a toddler won’t remember what they saw you put in the basket, but an older child will remember, so shopping needs to be done without them.

* you can take them to a park or bake cookies with them or take them to a movie (one their mom would approve) with fast food afterwards. They will have a great memory and mom will get a chance to shop alone without feeling guilty or having to pay a babysitter.

3) Take the kids for a few hours so she can nap or take a bubble bath or even wrap their presents.

* same idea as above. Moms need breaks, even if they don’t think they do. Maybe give her some bubble bath to help her understand that she is supposed to enjoy this time.

4) Take the family out to dinner or cook one for them. You can invite them over for dinner or stop by and drop off dinner. When I had a terminally ill baby at home, we were adopted by a Sunday School class. One night a week, I knew I wouldn’t have to cook.

* It wasn’t always homemade food, either. One family dropped of a frozen lasagna, frozen garlic cheese bread, and bagged salad. I was still very thankful for the respite. I’d be willing to bet that the single mom in your life would be thankful as well.

5) If you have funds, offer to fill Her stocking. Chances are if you don’t do it, no one will. A trip to the dollar store or the dollar bins at Target can fill a stocking for not a lot of money and it’s the fact that someone thought enough about her to even try that will make her eyes and heart fill up.

* as much as we moms love to give and to watch our little one’s eyes light up as they see their gift for the first time, it is sometimes nice to know that someone cared, actually, really, cared enough to buy a little thing for *us*, something they honestly thought we’d like. I would suggest getting something she wouldn’t get for herself. And, in my opinion, it needs to be an actual gift, not a gift card, unless she has requested one. For me, a gift card screams: I didn’t care enough to try, but felt obligated to get something… but that’s me.

These are just a jumping off point of possible ideas to help out the single mom in your life. Do you have any additional ideas? I encourage you to leave a comment and tell us about them.

Be Prepared for Winter Conditions

The average grocery store stocks only 72 hours worth of supplies. THREE DAYS.

Y’all, it’s Winter. It’s supposed to be the worst one in recent memory. GET SUPPLIES. Even if you can shovel your car out, there is no guarantee you can get to a store (or that the store will have anything left) if the streets are three feet high with snow or covered in black ice.

Plan Ahead! DO NOT wait until the news announces a storm coming that night. The shelves will be empty. Buy a little bit extra each paycheck. It will add up.

* Get extra charcoal or gas for your grill if you have an electric stove. You want to be able to eat hot food if there is no electricity.
* Make sure to have food on hand that can be cooked on said grill.
* Have decent food on hand that can be eaten without being cooked (sandwiches, canned fruit/veggies, granola bars…).
* Flashlights with new batteries.
* Matches.
* Candles (did you know that setting your candle or a flashlight in front of a reflective surface magnifies the amount of light sent out? Mirrors are awesome that way).
* Medications. What if you are blocked in for two weeks (I have a lot of friends in high mountain elevations)? You will need to make sure you have what you need.
* Baby formula, if you use it.
* Things for the kids to do without electricity. Board games. Dolls. Trucks. Army men. Fort building supplies! Books.
* Think about blankets. If you put them in the attic and haven’t seen them in a year, go ahead and wash them now, just in case.
* Think about water. You will want about 1 gallon per person per day. That is the absolute minimum for cooking, brushing teeth, washing faces, and drinking.
* Toilet Paper (that is something you do NOT want to run out of!)

What about an alternative heat source? Get a kerosene heater and fuel. Look up how to make a clay pot heater. Stock up on whatever your fireplace uses (propane, wood, duralogs, whatever).

When we were extremely financially challenged one winter, we spent about $11 week on clear, clean burning kerosene (Home Depot Paint Dept). We put blankets over door openings and kept only the living room, dining room, and kitchen heated. We were quite cozy in there.

Don’t forget to keep a stash in your car. If you are stranded during the winter, you could need blankets, extra clothing, non-perishable food, water, a couple of days of medications, kitty litter for traction, a tool kit, a jack, spare tire, first aid kit, even flares could be a good idea if you regularly travel for long stretches where there is not a lot of traffic.

Please plan ahead and don’t be caught without essentials. I keep hearing stories of unprepared people. Plan ahead. I am sure there is a lot more I could list, but this is just to get you thinking. If you can think of an essential category I have not touched upon, please leave a comment. Let’s help each other out.

Please be safe, my friends…

Loving, logical consequences and teachable moments

This past Sunday, I was talking with a young mom. She has a vivacious, energetic, on-the-go toddler with a strong personality. Yet, he is a generally loving child. He was playing with a cousin who is an infant: sitting up, but not yet mobile. Her son walked over and put his heel next to the infant’s hand and slowly, deliberately stepped on his cousin’s hand.

She was beside herself trying to figure out what would make her child do something like this and honestly, so was I. She told me the story and from the time I have spent with her son, I just couldn’t understand. It took some time to process it and figure out how I would have handled it.

First of all, I would have snatched him away from the infant. No doubt there, right? Tell him, “No! We don’t do that. We don’t hurt people!” Then I would have tried to figure out what was going on. Kids don’t usually act outside of their normal behavior patterns without a reason. I think I have figured it out.

This toddler is smart. He is right about 24 months or so. He already knows all of his letters. He isn’t reading yet, but he knows his letters and can point them out. He knows his colors (ok, aubergine and puce might not be on his radar yet, but the biggies are definitely recognized). He is also a very curious child. He thinks outside of the box… and I believe he was experimenting. I believe he wanted to find out what would be the result of his actions. Perhaps he was wondering if it hurt?

My advice to be loving and logical: ask him why he did it. If he cannot articulate, ask him if he was curious. Ask him if he wondered if it would hurt. Be nonjudgmental. If he was curious, offer to help him figure it out. Have him put his hand flat on the floor. Put your heel next to his hand, “is this what you did to your cousin?” Then very gently and slowly (absolutely do not stomp. Do Not crush his hand. Just apply pressure), bring your toes towards the floor until he yelps, says “ow,” or his eyes bug out. At that point, immediately remove your foot and get down on the floor with him. Rub his little fingers. Kiss them. Ask him if it hurt. When he says it did, you have your moment.

“Do you think it hurt your baby cousin when you did this to him?” Wait for him to respond. When he thinks about it and says, “yes,” you can proceed gently.

“Do you like being hurt?” Wait for the response of “no.”

“Do you think your cousin likes to be hurt?” “No”

“We don’t want to hurt people, do we?” “No.”

“So let’s not step on people’s fingers or toes or any other body part anymore, ok?”

“ok.”

“If you do this again, the consequences will be…. (fill in the blank with what works for your child)”

If it happens again, ask “do you remember what I said would happen if you did this again?” And then follow through on the stated consequence.

I had a pretty mellow little man. This would have worked with him and is how I usually handled things. When he wanted to go outside barefoot when it was 40* out there, I let him. He was back inside pretty quickly and we never had that argument again. Logical consequences. It also taught him that Mom just might know more than he did. Today, he is a loving, caring young man. Even on the football field, after a rough play, I have seen him pat the shoulder of someone feeling frustrated. Of course, the sarcastic sense of humor balances everything out, so he doesn’t look too soft!

When our children are so very little, we have a wonderful opportunity to help them get in the habit of thinking through to the consequences of their actions. It takes longer in the short terms, but the long term benefits are many. As the parents, we have to get behind their actions to the reason for those actions. We have to stop just reacting to what we see. Stop treating the symptoms and search for the cause. Are they tired or hungry or feeling neglected? Do they need lap or nap time? Do they think that the only time they get our attention is when they misbehave? Are they jealous or frustrated? Can we break things down to their level for them so they can see? I think the little man in this post could grasp on a very basic level that what he did hurt his cousin and understand that it would hurt the next time… and that next time there would be consequences.

We need to get to their hearts and minds. We need to teach them not just how to respond to our reactions, but to think ahead to the possible consequences of their own actions all by themselves. Does my teenager always do this? Nope. But I think he probably does so more than most of his friends and since he still has the safety net of home, I am pretty happy with that.

How to make homemade broth!

With so many people getting sick this time of year, I thought I would share:

Did you know that broth made from leftover bones (chicken, beef, ham, lamb, turkey, anything really) is INCREDIBLY nourishing and truly healing?

Not to mention that it’s super cheap, since you are using what you probably would have just thrown away?

You know when you bake your chicken on the bone and there is that gel stuff at the bottom of the pan? That’s the good stuff! Who knew? That gelatin is the healing part of “chicken soup.” It is easier for most people to keep this broth down than water and since sugar suppresses the immune system, it’s better for your sickly person than even clear sodas.

And it is super EASY to make!

Why should I make homemade bone broth? Isn’t the stuff in the box or can just as good? Nope. That stuff has been super heated and all the good stuff broken down. It contains preservatives and flavorings. Check the label. You might be shocked. Of course, it’s best if the bones are from grass fed and finished and completely free-range animals, but for those of us who can’t quite afford that just yet, you can still make awesome, nourishing broth. See, as Sally Fallon of the Weston A. Price Foundation explained: “Stock contains minerals in a form the body can absorb easily—not just calcium but also magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulfur and trace minerals. It contains the broken down material from cartilage and tendons–stuff like chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine, now sold as expensive supplements for arthritis and joint pain.” It is incredibly easy on the stomach and contains the naturally occurring amino acid called cysteine, which can thin the mucus in your lungs and make it less sticky so you can expel it more easily. Processed, canned soups will not work as well as the homemade version made from slow-cooked bone broth.

I encourage my readers to research. Look up stuff. At the very least, follow my lead and try this. If you don’t think you can drink straight broth, make noodle soup, use it instead of water to cook rice, use it as a base for chili or vegetable soup, for starters. In almost any cooking application where you would use water, you can use broth… even in gravies (although you might want to wait until everyone is feeling better for that one).
* * * * * * *
I made two batches of broth today. One was from leftover rib bones with hardly any meat on the bones and one batch was from turkey necks I found at the grocery store. Necks, joints, even feet are super high in restorative, curative powers!
*******
After straining the “rib broth”
2011-1-15 095
 Ready to cool before going in the freezer
2011-1-15 098
After straining the turkey neck broth and picking the bones clean!
2011-1-15 089
The wonderful, tender, flavorful meat from the turkey necks
2011-1-15 091
Making broth is an easy thing to do and so good for you and your family. It is not really time consuming. The stove (or crock pot) does all the work for you. You just throw everything in and wait for it to finish!

* I always use a good quality sea salt.

* I sometimes simmer just bones, an acid (any kind of vinegar, citrus juice…), salt and enough water to cover the bones by a couple of inches.

* Sometimes I add herbs that compliment the stock I’m making. Sage can be added to a turkey broth. Thyme or Oregano to chicken. Onions, Garlic, Celery, Carrots, Bell Peppers can all be added to flavor your broth, if you choose. Don’t use garlic powder or garlic salt or celery salt type stuff. Use the real deal for honest nutrition. Just remember:  however you want your base to taste is completely up to you.

* Bring the water, bones, acid, and whatever else you choose to add to a boil and then immediately reduce to a low simmer and leave it there. If there is meat on the bones that you want to “harvest,” don’t let it go for too long. You will have to remove and cool the bones and meat, pull the meat off, and then put the bones back into the stock you have already started just by poaching your meat. Chicken bones need at least two hours (I like mine after about six or eight hours). Heavy bones like beef or pork, I like to cook over night or more, sometimes 12 hours. Although I do know some people who keep a crock pot going all the time and just throw whatever bones they have from whichever meal into the continuous brew. I personally like my flavors separate.

* If you want a more yellow appearance (like the kids might be used to seeing), add some turmeric!

* If a “scum” rises to the top, just skim it off. No harm, no foul.

* Isn’t that easy?

 

Why don’t you try your hand at making broth and let me know how it turns out?

Missing My Baby Girl

My Audrey Grace.

My very much wanted and planned for second child. My sweet pea. My baby who had Trisomy 18, a third copy of her 18th chromosome… a condition considered “incompatible with life.”

We welcomed her into the world on October 15, 2003, knowing well in advance the ultimate outcome. My baby girl would have been 11 this year. If she only had two copies of that 18th chromosome, she would have been full of life and hormones about now. She would be bugging her older brother. She would probably be driving me crazy… and we would have been crazy about her. Life would have been very different indeed.

But life doesn’t always turn out the way we plan.

I told my mom when I was a teenager that I thought I would have a child with different needs. She told me I wasn’t normal 🙂  She said that “normal” people see themselves with “normal” children. When I found out that Audrey wasn’t “normal,” I had a sense of peace and calm. I knew God had prepared my heart many years in advance to be the mom of a very special child. I didn’t plan to have a child with different needs, but I somehow always knew I would.

Knowing in advance simply does not prepare one for the onslaught of care and decisions. We knew at 15 weeks and 6 days gestation that she would not be with us for long. We chose to carry her to term and spend as much time as we could with her. We purposely chose to face whatever came our way.

Knowing in advance didn’t make the loss easier. Visiting funeral homes instead of pediatricians was never on my radar for a pregnancy activity. Choices of what type of care to pursue and not to pursue? They don’t have a class on that. You visit on line sites and pray a lot. You listen to others who have traveled the road you are traveling. No two families have the exact same journey, just like no two children with any Trisomy (or any birth defect, for that matter) are alike. You do the best you can with the information you have at your disposal at the moment. Sometimes the choices are easier. Sometimes the choices are almost impossible.

When the time comes to say, “Good-bye,” whether you knew you were going to lose her or not, it is gut wrenching. I believe I had it a little bit easier than many. I knew ahead of time that my daughter wasn’t built to last. It wasn’t a shock. Did I feel my insides get ripped out? Yes. Did I cry? It took about two months, but I was able to cry. Did I get angry? Of course. Seeing healthy babies come from moms who didn’t care, drug moms, babies left in dumpsters… it wasn’t fair. We could have given our much wanted second child a beautiful life. Grief ebbs and flows. Some days are easier than others. Some days you can barely function. Some days you can take solace in the care of those who don’t know what to do or say. Some days you can laugh at your other children’s antics or a TV show. It’s okay to laugh, but just because you are able to laugh doesn’t mean  your grief is instantly over. Everyone must take their own journey through this. Each journey will be unique. Some journeys are shorter. Some are very long. Be gentle with yourself. Healing will come when it comes.

In the end, you have to believe that you did the very best you could. You have to know that following your heart was the best choice. It isn’t easy. My grief journey started before my daughter was born. It intensified when her soul left her body as I held her in my arms, just 40 minutes before Mother’s Day in 2004. I have made it to the plateau they call “Acceptance.” Does that mean I have ceased grieving? No. It just means that the waves of grief are much farther apart now than they used to be. There are still days I question, days I wonder what would have been, days I long for her hugs. That will never end.

She will always and forever be my baby girl.

My Audrey Grace. She was a wiggly one and liked to pull her oxygen tube out... we had to gently tape it in place. One night, she kept pulling it out, making it blow into her eyes. I ended up taping it to the end of her nose, LOL.

My Audrey Grace.
She was a wiggly one and liked to pull her oxygen tube out… we had to gently tape it in place.

 

7 Cleaning LifeHacks

In desperate need of a job, any job, I find myself in the business of cleaning. Cleaning has never been something I enjoy, so I try to get it done as quickly and efficiently as possible. That way, I can enjoy the fruits of my labor. Can I tell you something? From day one at this job, I stand amazed at the number of people who do not understand what my mom taught me from a young age. The things that I thought were common sense are far from common. I would like to share some of what I thought was common knowledge, but apparently is not.

General Cleaning

1) Clean from the top down. Start with the ceiling fan. Move to the tops of window casings and tops of book cases. Work from top to bottom. Spider webs in the corners come first and make sure you vacuum/sweep/mop last. See, there is this little thing with which we must contend on a regular basis. It’s called gravity. Stuff falls down, not up. If you clean the ceiling fan after changing the bedding or vacuuming, the dirt falls all over the surfaces you just cleaned . You then must spend time repeating portions of your cleaning. It is not efficient. It takes too long and quite frankly, it annoys me. I hate having to repeat things I just finished!

Bathroom

2) Clean the sink LAST. Again, start at the top (with one exception: sweep first, it is much easier to sweep up dirt tracked in or tiny bits of toilet paper the kids were playing with in their spare time if it hasn’t been wet by other bathroom cleaning). Tops of light fixtures before floor. Shower head and shower walls, before the inside of the tub. Why? Chances are good you will be standing in the tub and you don’t want to get it dirty again or worse, fall because it’s still slippery. Top of toilet before the pedestal. Top of toilet seat before the  underside of the seat. You don’t want to end up sitting in whatever was on the bottom of the seat after it’s schmeared all over the top if you do it the other way around. Almost there. Then mop, using the sink instead of a bucket (why wash an extra item?). Then, clean the sink. Actually, I have found that doing the mirror last means that some of the cleaner drifts on the fixtures. If it bothers you, do the mirror before the sink. I just use my paper towel or microfiber cloth and give the sink fixtures one last polish as I wipe them off. They look shinier to me when I do that, but it might just be my imagination…

Kitchen

image

3) Dishes: the dishwasher is loaded every night at a minimum. There’s just two of us (0ne is a teenaged boy), so sometimes this does not fill the machine. That’s ok. We just run it when it gets full. We try to unload the dishwasher every morning (or every morning after we have run it), so it is always ready for rinsed dishes to be placed inside. When you don’t run the dishwasher every day, stuff tends to stick if they aren’t rinsed first. My tip when making dinner is to fill the sink with the hottest water your tap can dish out. As you finish using an item (knife, pan, spoon, bowl), just plop it in the sink. When you are done eating and are ready to tackle the dishes, they are practically clean! The water will probably tepid by then. You can refill the sink with hot, soapy water and wash them quickly by hand or just put them in the dishwasher. If washing dishes by hand, a couple of tips: use the hottest water you can stand (they will air dry faster, too, if you use hot water) and do glasses first, plates and silverware next, pots and pans last. Why? Two reasons, really. One is that the dish drainer stays balanced that way. Seriously! If you wash all the silverware first, the little drainer is highly likely to tumble over. Then, the plates and glasses fit where the drainer designer intended and it actually makes it easier to stack the pots and pans and plastic containers on top! The second is that doing the dishes in that order means the greasiest dishes are washed last. Wash the chicken fryer pan first and you must redouble your efforts in further cleaning.  **Bonus tip: use white sugar with a smidge of liquid soap, add a little water, and scrub dry skin from your hands. Rinse, then slather with your favorite lotion and put on rubber gloves. The heat from the water will keep your pores open and your hands will be amazingly soft when you are done doing the dishes.**

4) Go ahead and wipe up the spills as they happen. Kids aren’t great at remembering this one. My mom used to joke that she knew it was time to mop the kitchen when the cats stuck to the floor. As a kid, I never noticed it was sticky. Something I learned a long time ago is that if it will take less than 30 seconds to do it, just do it now. So, when the spaghetti sauce does its little volcano thing and splatters all over, just wipe it up while it is still wet. It takes so much more effort to clean once it has dried. If you don’t have a little furry vacuum cleaner (aka: a dog), wipe up any floor spills quickly and then you don’t have it hanging over your head on your “to do” list.

5) Do food prep with the trash can (or trash bowl) right next to you. It is so much easier to just flick your hand and thow it away rather than trying to gather it all up after it has piled up!

6) Microwave: boil water in a microwave safe cup for several minutes (maybe 3-5). Let it sit for a couple more. Remove the cup with a pot holder and you will find that the steam, all by itself, has loosened anything that exploded onto the top of the microwave or spilled/boiled over. Cleaning is a chemical-free breeze this way. No more scrubbing. If you actually find that something is still stuck, repeat the process and let sit a while longer.

7) Mom had to explain to me (repeatedly) when I was growing up that cleaning the kitchen after meals didn’t mean just taking care of the dishes. It meant wiping the stove, range hood, and counters, too, as well as sweeping if necessary. Counters first, hood next, then the stove, since the stove is probably greasier (refer back to rule #3). Sweep last (refer to rule #1). You don’t need anything other than dish soap and hot water to clean your counters and stove top. I choose Dawn. It really does “take grease out of your way.” Rinse the sponge/scrubby often. If you have granite counter tops, believe it or not, most of them are sealed at the factory and the seal should be good for around 15 years before it needs to be resealed. You really don’t need all the fancy cleaners. Sometimes, the tops of glass/ceramic stoves can get pretty gunky. Use a cleaner specifically designed for them (looks like “soft scrub” but isn’t) and scrape then with a fresh, clean razor blade, available at your local discount store with the paint stuff. It honestly works and will not scratch the surface if you use a new blade.

This is not all of my brilliant wisdom, but it is enough to get you started on saving time and effort while cleaning.

What are your tips for cleaning faster, better, and more efficiently? Please leave a comment and share. I would love to learn how to get my cleaning done faster!

 

I am homeless.

I want to be completely open and share my heart with you in this blog. This is one of the hardest things I have ever had to write: I am one of the homeless I described in the previous post.

This is me, waking up in my car on the morning of my 44th Birthday:

Waking up in my car the morning of my 44th birthday, after "sleeping" in a hot car the night before.

Waking up in my car the morning of my 44th birthday, after “sleeping” in a hot car the night before.

I brushed my teeth and washed my face at a gas station the night before. I waited until it was quite dark and then drove to an out-of-the-way place I had found. I slept in my car next to a construction site. I got bitten by all kinds of flying bugs. I rolled up the windows and sweat like crazy in the summer heat.

I have been blessed. Although actually considered homeless for three years now, following a divorce after being a homeschooling mom for years, there have been few nights I have actually had to sleep in my car. Since the divorce three years ago, I have had seven addresses. Shelters, friends, people from my tiny church… plus several “week here and week there” addresses as I house or pet sit.

Things often come through at the last minute. I held two part time jobs for a while until the one that paid slightly more and offered a more regular, if part-time, schedule stopped playing ball and working with me to accommodate both schedules and I had to quit the first job. Then the second one let me go. I have worked at a couple of temporary jobs since then. I worked with the circus! I stripped thorns from roses in a warehouse the week before Valentine’s Day. I have been unemployed for nine months, staying in several places at the generosity of friends.

I am a USAF trained Communications Program Manager. I have a heart for kids, especially those with special needs, and have had many jobs and volunteer positions working with them (both typical and special  needs). I have run a doctor’s office. I am well-spoken and obviously have a fairly firm grasp of the technical aspects of writing. I am outgoing and personable. I have a slightly sarcastic sense of humor. I am a consummate professional and have what has been described by others as having the “perfect phone voice” (I have even been accused of being a recording).

I have survived depression and postpartum depression. I have survived mental, emotional, and even some physical abuse. I still choose to see the world as a good place. A few bad people and some more than challenging circumstances do not make it otherwise. We live in a fallen world. Period. I choose joy. Am I a little “Pollyanna” in my views? Perhaps. I try to always remember the words of Paul in his letter to the Philippians, chapter 4: 11-13  11-I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12-I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13-I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have feelings. It doesn’t mean I don’t face doubt. It doesn’t mean I don’t face fear. It means that day by day I am learning to trust in the One who has it all under control. Just like I don’t know His final plan for me having a daughter that would subsequently die, I don’t know why this is happening, but I am choosing to trust that He has my best interests at heart. Until this happened, I could never have imagined such insecurity. Now, it is a constant companion. Just like I know without a shadow of a doubt that my daughter’s life had meaning and purpose, I know that something awesome will come out of this trial. Stay tuned as I travel this road and share my days. We’ll come through it together.

Check out my Instagram post along the lines of the same topic.

Who are the homeless?

When I say “homeless person,” what picture pops into your mind?

homeless woman

Something like this?

Would it surprise you to know that there is actually a much larger segment of the population that is homeless, but doesn’t actually live on the streets?

* These people (men, women, and children) lack a permanent, fixed residence.

* They are staying with successive shelters, friends, family, people from church, etc.

* They are couch surfing.

* They are bunking in an extra room or basement.

* They probably do not pay any rent or very minimal rent.

* Just because a person is homeless does not mean they use drugs.

* Many have jobs.

* Some have degrees from reputable universities.

* They might have been part of a round of “down-sizing” or the like, perhaps their jobs were cut to get rid of the higher salaries so the company could replace them with kids who don’t draw as high of a salary.

* Perhaps they even managed to stay in their homes for a while, until the money ran out and the bills caught up with them.

* They might have run from domestic violence.

* They might have been “stay at home” parents thrown out after divorce.

* They could be Veterans with or without mental or physical difficulties.

* They could hold two or three part-time jobs, since so many businesses are no longer hiring full time employees, so they don’t have to pay benefits.

* They might own a car or they might take public transportation.

* They might sleep in their car and pray the cops don’t come banging on the windows at night, sleeping only when the sun is down.

* When you live in your car or on the street, you have no place to shower, use the bathroom, or cook decent food.

* Often, a majority of their income goes to transportation and sustenance.

* Some refuse all government assistance.

* You cannot tell if a person is homeless just by looking at them. They do not always carry trash bags filled with their worldly goods or push their “stuff” in a grocery cart. Their car might be filled with plastic bins of clothes and food. They might have a small storage unit in which they keep their valuables, extra clothes, comfort type things and tangible memories they are holding on to until they once again have a place of their own.

 

As long as we continue in our prejudices and our assumptions, we can’t fight the issue. I don’t have the answers and I had to take a hard road to understand that this issue is much bigger than I ever imagined.

The people on the street desperately need our help. That is not in dispute. They are so often just walked past, overlooked, ignored…

But what about the other homeless? What about those spending a week or month here and there? Even staying for several months, but without any kind of security? Not knowing when they will be asked to leave? Making enough money to afford a place with a kitchen and a bathroom feels so far away for them. They are the unknown, unseen homeless.

Imagine the joy of putting their own name on a lease. Someplace where they can stay as long as they can afford it. A week-by-week economy hotel is not the same. They pray for a place where they can rest their head at night. They want a place that is safe from the bugs at night. Perhaps safe from vermin. A place where they can cook a meal or even just heat up a boxed meal. A place where they can sleep in pajamas and maybe stay in the pajamas all day on their day off and not have to explain to anyone.

I want to be completely open and share my heart with you in this blog. This is one of the hardest things I have ever had to write:

I am one of those homeless.

 

photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/benbeiske/5455821258/”>Ben Beiske</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

How to Make Mom’s Everything Sauce

Mom’s sauce is awesome. Mom’s sauce isn’t fancy. Mom’s sauce is comfort and home.

See, I ran away from home once.

but my son walking away with his pack-pack.

A picture of my son walking away

I think I was about ten and I’m not sure of the infraction that sent me to my room, but it was definitely unfair. I deserved a better life. I should never be sent to my room.

I threw a couple of stuffed animals, a book or two, maybe some clothes, into my pillow case and climbed out the window. I chose the one on the side of the house, not the front, because I didn’t want my mom to see me. So, I climbed out and dropped a way down (that window was higher because of the hill on which our house sat), along the side of the property to the street, and across the length front of the house. No way she ever would have seen me walking down the street in plain sight…

I walked the half mile or so to the front of the neighborhood and stood there looking at the four lane highway off of which our neighborhood resided. “Well, now what?” I obviously had not planned this very well. I sat on the curb and spent a few minutes thinking where to go or what to do. About that time, my tummy growled. I was hungry. My decision was made. I headed back home, slightly defeated. I climbed back in my window (the one on the front of the house, behind the scraggly bushes that couldn’t have hidden a cat), over the empty flower box, into my room.

I crept to my bedroom door and cracked it open just a smidge, just enough to see if anyone had steam coming out of their ears… and then it hit me. The smell. That heavenly smell. The smell of comfort. The smell of warmth. The smell of love. The smell of home.

I snuck out of my room and into the living room where my mom was reading a book with the tv on. I calmly slunk in and sat down and watched tv. No words were spoken. The world was once again at peace.

This is the recipe for THE sauce I smelled:

Between the asterisk lines is a cut and paste for the recipe she sent me. I added pictures of me cooking it this last time. I’ll tell you my updates afterwards.

****************************************

Spaghetti Sauce

1/2 cup onion

2T olive oil

1 lb ground beef

2 cloves garlic

2-1 lb cans tomatoes (these aren’t 1 lb anymore)

2-8 oz cans tomato sauce

1-3 oz jar mushrooms

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1 1/2 tsp oregano or sage (I use 1 oregano and 1/2 sage)

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp thyme

1 bay leaf

1 cup water

1 tsp Italian herbs (added this myself)

In large skillet, cook onion in hot oil till almost tender.

In large skillet, cook onion in hot oil till almost tender.

Add meat. A potato masher is one of the easiest ways to break up ground meats.

Add meat. A potato masher is one of the easiest ways to break up ground meats.

Mom taught me this: if the meat is too greasy, use your spatula and a paper towel to soak up the excess grease. Don't pour it down the sink. It will eventually clog the drain.

Mom taught me this: if the meat is too greasy, use your spatula and a paper towel to soak up the excess grease. Don’t pour it down the sink. It will eventually clog the drain.

Add in the garlic. I grate mine. Much easier than mincing by hand.

Add in the garlic. I grate mine. Much easier than mincing by hand.

Add the cans of tomatoes and sauce. In my home now, I use crushed tomatoes, as no one else likes to "see" them in the sauce. Mom used to squish whole tomatoes for her sauce.

Add the cans of tomatoes and sauce. In my home now, I use crushed tomatoes, as no one else likes to “see” them in the sauce. Mom used to squish whole tomatoes for her sauce.

Add in your spices.

Add in your spices.

The Sauce!

The Sauce!

Simmer uncovered 2 hours or longer stirring occasionally.

Remove bay leaf

Serve.

 

I just got tickled. When I wrote down this recipe, and I’ve never

noticed it before, instead of ingredients, I wrote agreements.

*************************************

Can I tell you how much I love my mom? I love her notes in the parentheses, but especially the lines at the end. My mom is gone now and I will never forget her “getting tickled” at noticing her mistake 40 years after the fact.

 

Now, for my “UPDATES”

1) I start by browning sliced baby bella mushrooms and omitting the jar of mushrooms. Then, I add the onion and proceed from there.

2) I like to make it without meat quite often. This is how it turns into “EVERYTHING” sauce. Use it in lasagna, use it for eggplant parmesan for a vegetarian meal, use it on chicken or veal parmesan. Simmer it longer and let it thicken for a fabulous pizza sauce or baked mozzarella cheese stick dipping sauce.

3) I double or triple the batch and freeze it. It freezes exceptionally well and lasts a long time in there, always ready for a homemade meal, even when you are busy.

 

This is my mom’s spaghetti sauce recipe. She wouldn’t mind me sharing at all. She originally clipped this recipe out of a newspaper over 40 years ago. It got transferred to a 5×7 index card and stored in her gray, metal recipe box. I grew up with it. It’s nothing super fancy, just the smells and tastes of my childhood. You know, coming inside from playing and the whole house smelling like this sauce… I remember when I was six or seven, literally eating myself sick over it, I just loved it so much!

If you try this sauce, be sure to leave a note in the comments! I’d love to hear if your kids liked it. My family does.

 

Hey, Mom! Can’t Sleep? Read this…

Please, although children often fall asleep in the car, don't try this if you are the one driving! LOL

Please, although children often fall asleep in the car, don’t try this if you are the one driving! LOL

Have you ever had one of those periods where you can’t sleep? It might go on for a week or more. You are slowly morphing into a zombie. Your speech might slur from the lack of sleep. You get clumsy. And there is NO reason that you can imagine for the insomnia! Maybe you are a little bit stressed, but it’s not like when the baby was waking you up every couple of hours… I have some ideas that might help. They have helped me immensely over the years. Remember, I am not a medical professional, I am just sharing what has worked for me over the years.

L-Tryptophan

When I was a teenager, I couldn’t sleep. Mom took me to some kind of “all natural doctor.” She’s no longer around for me to ask, but I’m thinking it was a Naturopath. He questioned me forever. I don’t remember blood being drawn, but they might have (it was a really long time ago). He recommended I take L-Tryptophan at least an hour before I wanted to sleep. Turns out, L-Tryptophan is an amino acid (it’s the stuff in turkey that makes you fall asleep on Thanksgiving). It improves your serotonin levels, which helps with melatonin levels, affecting your sleep. If you are deficient in it, you can experience problems falling asleep and even insomnia.

L-Theanine

After my daughter passed away, I didn’t have problems falling asleep, but I couldn’t sleep more than a couple of hours at a time. I woke up and simply couldn’t get back to sleep. I went to the health food store, intending to get L-Tryptophan. I spoke with someone there and she suggested I try L-Theanine instead. She commented that since I wasn’t having problems falling asleep, it was likely anxiety from having just gone through something traumatic. I got it on her recommendation and it worked! L-Theanine is another amino acid. This one is found in green tea, among other things. It is calming, can counteract the effects of caffeine (so great at bedtime!), and is documented to relieve anxiety and stress by improving alpha brain waves (Juneja et al. Trends in Food Science & Tech 1999;10;199-204).

Melatonin

Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone made by your body for the express purpose of controlling your sleep and wake cycles. Light affects this production. Your body produces melatonin in late afternoon/evening and keeps the levels up all night, falling off by morning. When the days get shorter in winter, it confuses some people’s bodies. They produce the melatonin earlier or way later, often leading to Seasonal Affective Disorder. There are a couple of ways to get more melatonin. One is by simply increasing your exposure to sunlight during the day. A ten minute walk at lunch would be ideal. The other is to supplement.

Make it Dark

Conversely, make sure your room is extremely dark. Nail up blankets over the windows if you have to. Make sure you get outside in the middle of the day and get sunshine, as that will help reset your circadian rhythm. I went through a period where I couldn’t sleep much for about a month, before I discovered anything about supplements. Just going outside for a 10 minute walk at lunchtime reset my body’s understanding of day and night. Within a week I was sleeping normally. Seems that the sunshine on my non-sunblocked skin stimulated the production of melatonin and helped me sleep better! So, to keep your body from getting confused about day and night, block those windows.

Magnesium

Most of us in western culture are also severely deficient in Magnesium. Supplement. Magnesium is a muscle relaxer. Actually, it is vital in over 300 body functions. In super high doses, it is given to women in premature labor to stop contractions. Supplement with pills and dense Epsom salt baths. Think 1-2 lbs for a big soaking tub. Even Milk of Magnesia (a laxative) uses magnesium to relax muscles!  

Unplug

Turn off all electronics at least an hour before bed. They are mentally stimulating. You need to relax. Computers, cell phones, televisions all conspire to keep you wired. Turn them off. Better yet, keep them out of the bedroom. Keep the electromagnetic field out of your resting area.

Bedtime Routine

Establish a bedtime routine that signals your body that it’s time to sleep. Maybe it’s reading a book. Maybe it’s having a cup of non-caffeinated tea. Maybe it’s a long hot bubble bath. Maybe it’s all three together. Whatever it takes to relax you and signal your body that it’s time to sleep. It will be something you do every night. That, however, is not an immediate fix. It’s more along the lines of building a habit and training your body. It’s the same thing we all do with our kids at night.

Tense and Relax

Climb in bed. Breathe deeply for a few seconds. Hold it for about five seconds and release it in a controlled manner over several seconds. Also, my mom used to tell me to squeeze my toes tightly, then release them. Then tighten my calves and release them. Thighs, buns, tummy… working my way up systematically tightening and releasing your muscles to promote relaxation. I don’t think I ever made it to my neck. I was usually asleep by then. It’s called Progressive Relaxation and is actually a well-known technique.

Prayer

You might also try prayer. Praying before going to bed and laying your cares and concerns at the feet of someone else who can easily carry that load for you could help. Ask Him to give you a restful night.

L-Tryptophan, L-Theanine, Melatonin, and Magnesium are all available wherever vitamins are sold. Also, there are charts and lists easily discoverable on-line that can tell you which foods are high in each of these.

 

So, those are just a few examples of things you might be able to do, based on things that I have done, that might help you get to sleep and stay asleep. Try them if you need to. Let me know how they work for you. I’d love to hear!

I Love my Country!

Do you know why the flag is flanked by guns?  To protect it.

Do you know why the flag is flanked by guns?
To protect it.

Happy Fourth of July. America’s Independence Day. A day when we commemorate the 56 men who signed a document that, if they had lost the Revolutionary War, would have made them traitors and gotten them killed for their courage. While it was primarily written by Thomas Jefferson, it was with the input of many others, and “lay on the table” for two days while Congress edited it and cut it down by roughly 25%. This document is, in my opinion, 0ne of the most eloquent documents in the history of documents. You can read the story of how it came to be written on the National Archives Website.

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

It goes on from there to list their grievances against the British Government and it’s king.

The official signing ceremony was on August 2, 1776. Some of those who voted on July 4 to present the Declaration never actually signed it, either because they still wanted reconciliation with Great Britain or because they thought the presentation was premature.

The first signer of our declaration, John Hancock, signed his name exceptionally large, because he knew that King George III had poor eyesight and he wanted to make sure the King saw his name there. Now that took guts. For the record, the last signature was that of Thomas McKean of Delaware in November of 1781, over five years later.

While many states and localities would get together to commemorate the signing starting as early as 1777, reading the document out loud in the town square and following with a community picnic, our Independence Day holiday was not a federal holiday until 1870.

We now celebrate with parades, picnics and cook-outs, and fireworks (originally shot off in conjunction with our celebrations to recreate the “rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air”).

I didn’t get to go to a parade this year, but I have some great pictures of a past parade in my tiny hometown in North Georgia and I thought I would share them in the spirit of the day.

 

From the parade: a fire truck from way back when that still runs!

From the parade: a fire truck from way back when that still runs!

 

The town is so small, if it weren't for the Shriners driving up from Atlanta, we wouldn't have much of a parade!

The town is so small, if it weren’t for the Shriners driving up from Atlanta, we wouldn’t have much of a parade!

 

The pride of American and it's troops shown in a small town. I love that place!

The pride of American and it’s troops shown in a small town. I love that place!

 

And always after the parade, when Main Street is shut down for the fun stuff, the Lion's Club sets up their grill on a side street and makes some of the best meat you have ever tasted!

And always after the parade, when Main Street is shut down for the fun stuff, the Lion’s Club sets up their grill on a side street and makes some of the best meat you have ever tasted!

My son is out of town with his dad today. I am alone. I am sitting outside in 76 degree weather, brilliant blue skies, white wispy clouds, 15mps gusts of wind, and a peaceful mind. I am free to contemplate the blessings of living in the country I was raised loving. How did you spend your day? How did you remember our brave forefathers?

 

Let’s close this little post with a bit of trivia:

Did you know that Thomas Jefferson and John Adams (the first pick to draft the Declaration of Independence, who declined and suggested Jefferson) both signed it, both went on to become president of these United States, and both passed away on the 50th anniversary of it’s signing?

What in the World is a Trisomy?

My son, age 4, and his sister, Audrey Grace. She was six days old in this picture, the day before she went in for neurosurgery. She was a full term, 5lb, Trisomy 18 baby.

My son, age 4, and his sister, Audrey Grace. She was six days old in this picture, the day before she went in for neurosurgery. She was a full term, 5lb, Trisomy 18 baby.

Simply put, a Trisomy is the presence of a third copy of a particular chromosome. In reality, a trisomy turns your life upside down.

In 1956, it was determined that the human body has 23 pairs of chromosomes. Twenty-two pair, plus your gender chromosomes. In 1959, trisomies were discovered. If there is a third copy of one of the pairs, it is called a Trisomy (remember, “tri” means three). The extra information really confuses the body. It gets all confused and stuff goes wrong.

Trisomy 21 (or a third copy of the 21st chromosome) is also known as Down Syndrome. By syndrome, it means that there is a massive list of things that could go wrong, but the number of things that are actually wrong varies by person, as does the severity of the symptom. For instance, 40% of those with Trisomy 21 have heart problems. Some will have a hole between the upper chambers of the heart; some will have a hole between the lower chambers. That hole can be less than a millimeter or several millimeters. Their heart problem could be something entirely different. Each person is a unique individual with their own set of symptoms, but just one primary cause, that being the third copy of a chromosome. Trisomy 21 is the most common trisomy. 6,000 babies born in the United States each year have Down Syndrome. That means one out of every 700 babies has this trisomy.

Trisomy 18 is the second most common trisomy. That means the extra chromosome is the third copy of the 18th. It is also known as Edwards Syndrome. This trisomy is referred to as being “incompatible with life.” There are about 1000 babies born in the United States each year with Edwards Syndrome. That would mean one of every 6,000 babies born has this extra chromosome. Of those, 50% will not survive for a week and 90% will never see their first birthday. There are also a litany of different issues associated with this syndrome. My daughter was born with a couple loops of intestine in her umbilical cord, had a clubbed foot, a sacral myelomeningocele (an open-to-the-outside neural tube defect on her tailbone), and five heart defects. She underwent six hours of neurosurgery when she was a week old to repair the neural tube defect, which required placing a shunt in her head to drain off excess fluid which would happen after the repair. She was with us for seven days shy of seven months. Many doctors had told us she probably wouldn’t be born alive. We were so blessed to have the time we did.

Trisomy 13 is known as Patau’s Syndrome and is the third most common trisomy, occurring in roughly one of every 10,000 births in the US. More than 80% of Trisomy 13 babies born alive will pass away within the first month. Theirs is also a diagnosis of being “incompatible with life.”

Trisomy 15, 16, 22 as well as extra gender chromosomes (XXX, XXY, XYY) are well known, but trisomies of any chromosome can happen. I have known a mom of a child with Trisomy 8.

 

Before I had the first indication that anything might be wrong with the little girl I carried, I had never heard of trisomies. While we were awaiting testing, I began to learn about trisomies. After her diagnosis, I continued my learning, focusing on trisomy 18. When she was in the hospital with RSV, I had nurses come in and ask me questions about Edwards Syndrome. It is rare enough that most of them will not have the opportunity to care for a baby with this particular disorder more than a couple of times in their career, if at all. I didn’t have to learn a little bit about every illness, as a medical professional would, so I became their expert on Trisomy 18. I was thankful for them asking. I appreciate people who are willing to learn.

If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments. I am more than willing to help people understand, as far as my knowledge extends. You can also visit websites like SOFT or the Trisomy 18 Foundation. They are a wealth of knowledge and understanding.

Taking a break from Grief

My little morning angel

My little morning angel

 

When I was looking for a “Throwback Thursday” picture for Instagram this morning, I happened upon this photo of my son. I remember the day this was taken just like it was yesterday.

This was taken one year to the day after my baby girl, Audrey Grace, left us for Heaven. My sweetheart died in my arms on the evening of May 8 at 11:20pm, with that little man up there by my side. He absolutely wailed when he found out his baby sister had gone to live with Jesus. It reverberated throughout the PICU. At that moment, my entire focus switched to him. My daughter was gone. She was no longer struggling with a body that didn’t work properly. She no longer needed supplemental oxygen. She was happy, healthy, and whole. She was unencumbered. My little boy, however, needed me. He needed my love and support and distraction. If I hadn’t had him, I don’t know how I would have survived the death of my child. Even when you know it is coming, as in the case of a child with Trisomy 18, it is a shock. It still hurts. It still debilitates you. You still question. You still struggle. This little guy needed me and that was what helped me through.

May 8th of the next year fell on Mother’s Day. We are normally in church on Sundays. We had an awesome church family that supported us with love and prayers during her whole life and her death and our grieving. But I knew that Mother’s Day Sunday would be exceptionally difficult. We chose to purchase/donate the flower arrangement for the altar and have it delivered to the church in her memory. I kept my son home and just had a lazy day.

We stayed in our jammies most of the day. We played bottle caps (stand the plastic bottle cap on its side, put your finger on the top, parallel to the opening, and press hard, pulling your finger towards you as you do so. The cap goes flying off). We sat at tv trays in the living room and went for distance. We shot them at each other. We ate junk. We made nests on the floor with blankets, pillows, and stuffed animals. We snuggled as we watched silly movies and kid’s shows. We chose to just enjoy the day.

To be honest, he was only five. I’m not sure if he realized it was Mother’s Day or not. I am pretty sure we talked about Audrey. We did most days. That day, I chose not to wallow in my grief, but to embrace the child that needed me as much as I needed him. We had fun. We made some memories at a time when we so desperately needed it.

I am not sure when it happened for him, but I know it took me about 18 months after losing her before I realized that I was having more good days than bad days. Losing a child is never easy. I am thankful I had someone to take care of, which allowed my mind a break from the grief.

You know, my baby girl has been gone ten years now. There are still times when it takes my breath away and I can’t believe I never got to see her grow up or that I will never hold her again. That little boy in the picture up there is now in high school, hanging out with his friends, a lineman on the football team, a member of the drama troop, a player of Minecraft, going to the pool, riding his bike all over… still needing his mom, though he doesn’t often admit it. We have made it through a lot in life together. He has seen more and had to deal with more than a lot of kids his age. It has made him tenderhearted. I am thankful for that. And I am thankful for the days we chose joy and chose to enjoy the little things in life. That picture is my memory of one of those days.