Monthly Archives: February 2019

Store Bought Favorites

Oh how busy life gets! There is always something to prep, cook or bake for, but not always the time to do so. Since TJ’s diagnosis, more and more great companies have been creating delicious treats... aka tasty time savers.

*Of course, always make sure to check ingredients and labels every time to ensure it is also safe for you and your family. Check labels with each purchase as companies do change the recipe here and there. Better safe than sorry … so cliche but true.*

Here are some of our favorite go-tos.

1) Mo’Pweeze Cupcakes: Mo/Pweeze Bakery

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2) Abe’s Crumb cake: https://www.abesmuffins.com/the-muffins

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3) Abe’s Muffins: https://www.abesmuffins.com/the-muffins

4) Azure’s Bagels: Cinnamon Raisin Bagels

 

While TJ’s teachers always have a box of Oreos as his special treat in case we don’t know about a party or event at school, we ask for a monthly schedule at the start of each month to try to prevent that.  Therefore, during the crazy weeks where dinner time is late and bedtime is even later, we are blessed to have found such amazing products and trustworthy businesses.

24/7 Christmas

I’ve been a bit stuck on Christmas and the attitude, and yes, I know I have the wrong season, holiday, month… the wrong everything! But, there is just something so different about people and life in December. There’s just something so different about my kids.  (Maybe all the Santa bribes..) There’s just something so different about me.
There’s nothing better than giving a gift to a loved one and seeing their face light up. My son for example will make you want to keep giving him gifts with his innocent and honest, “Wow! Take a picture! I just love all my gifts. They are all my favorite!”
“Son of a nutcracker!” – He could make me broke saying stuff like that.
every setback is a setup for a comeback! (3)
My daughter is a different story with gifts… let’s just say… we are working on it 😬
But Christmas is so much more than just gifts, it’s really about joy. The joy we can all have. All.Year.Round.
So what happens to it for the other eleven months? Is it just stored away in our attics, saved for an extra special December of tinsel and lights? Or is it… that the craziness of life finds a way to try to erase the miracle … the spirit of Christmas that can exist every day?
According to James 1:2-3 –“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”
And with that, Josh Baldwin went on to write …
“When darkness tries to roll over my bones
When sorrow tries to steal the joy I own
When brokenness and pain is all I know
I won’t be shaken, I won’t be shaken …” – Josh Baldwin’s “ Stand in Your Love”
So the truth is just that. It is stated clearly. We are meant to have joy all year round. Joy is meant to live in our hearts, not for just a season.
Why can’t we capture that December energy and spread it out throughout the year?
The question is not …. why can’t we… it is…
How Can We?
  1. Random thank you notes/letters– Who doesn’t like receiving a random kind card or even a letter? Last year, I tried to find a way to do that each month by picking people over my life that I was thankful for, that maybe helped me through a challenging time, inspired or inspires me, or even those who I wanted to apology to for a time I was not proud of. Each month, I picked one person to send a letter to. I admit; it did it for the first six months and then after not hearing back from two in a row, I let discouragement tell me I was too busy. But, I am trying again this year. Deep dig .. find the teachers, family members, friends, people you lost touch with .. remind them how much they impacted your life. Remind them how special they are.
  2. Donate – Whether it is within your church or just a family in need or a food bank, giving changes lives. Last year, when visiting a former neighbor she mentioned that they had just had a huge party with way too much food.  (Sounds familiar – I’ve been there many times and it does not help that we are not leftover people.) Instead, of being wasteful, like I’ve been way too many times, she reached out to a local food bank to find out what and if they could donate the leftovers. Sure enough, they gratefully accepted.
  3. Kind notes-  Similar to number 1, they can be monthly, weekly, biweekly, daily or in the moment. Last year, students at my school in the group Start with Hello wrote thank you notes to every staff member from crossing guards to lunch staff to teachers to administrators. While the letters were short, they were sweet and heart felt, and most importantly, they created many smiles that day. Even one smile goes a long way. What about random post it notes for a loved one or even a stranger? During a school assembly last year, the speaker spoke about how he likes to visit Barnes and Nobles and put random positive post its in random pages of books there so that when they were each bought and eventually read, they would have the opportunity to encourage someone… he would more than likely never know. How cool!
  4. Lead or participate in a fundraiser– No matter how much you raise, it matters.  It makes a difference. So jump in! Join a race or go wherever your heart brings you.
  5. Show up and surprise a friend in need or even call people more – In a world where most people are usually in a rush, being pulled in ten or twenty different directions, make time for relationships. They are what matter. Texting is texting. Visiting or even an old-school phone call goes a long way to let someone know you care. And leave a message if they don’t pick up, and don’t be insulted if they don’t call back. Time doesn’t drag its feet for us, so let’s not forget what and who matters. 
  6. Random acts of kindness – Hold the elevator, hold the door, help someone pick up their bag of papers that just fell all over the floor, etc. The opportunities are everywhere every day. Let’s teach our kids, students and younger generations to do this too.   I always have to remind myself that their eyes are always watching and learning.   Model what you want to see.
  7. Pay it forward – I love hearing stories of people paying it forward.  My in-laws, some of the most generous people I have ever met, had their dinner paid for in this way a few months back.  While I can say that I may not have a large amount of funds right now, imagine what giving away a dollar a day for one month could do.  I just read about how Jimmie Allen, one of my favorite artists, who had once been homeless, started to carry around two dollars a day that he used to pay forward. How awesome of an idea is that? Carry a dollar a day that you can’t use on yourself and you can’t come home with.  Or make it a goal to pay for someone else one time this year even if it’s for their coffee.  I don’t drink coffee but I may go through a Dunkin Donuts drive through this year, just to do that.  Whatever it may be, paying it forward is something I plan to do this year.
  8. Volunteer – Join a church or reach out to your own church about opportunities. Volunteering can be done on so many levels within schools, communities, nursing homes, etc. I plan to find more ways to do this year. I am guessing once TJ is in kindergarten (in a few months) there will be even more chances.
  9. Make connections and listen – Due to my anxiety, for years this was difficult. Sure, I had friends and I think I was a good friend. However, truthfully, my own worries and fears often blocked out time that I would and could spend asking others about their own lives. Once I was able to do this, it was a breath of fresh air to hear people, and to listen in a way that was genuine. I still catch myself just being “routine” with my hellos and how are yous. Mainly because I am usually rushing around and not always as on time for things as I used to be. Always trying to fit everything in … Sigh! However, it is my goal to continue to be an open ear this year, and an open heart.
  10. A compliment a day keeps the negativity away– Give a compliment a day ! I love this one and started it back in January. My hope is to continue throughout the year. It’s free, easy, honest, and uplifting wrapped up in a simple sentence or word.
  11. Be kind to yourself – Self compassion, what is that anymore? It’s crazy how much we lose our old selves after kids or even without kids, throughout life.   That is… if we let that happen.   Everyone deserves happiness though and it starts within. Be kind to yourself. Do something for your own well being. Get your nails done, hair done, read a good book, go for a run, join a dance class, take an epsom salt bath with essential oils (One of my favorite calming activities before bed – I call them detox baths because they detox my body and mind!)Whatever it is…learn to love yourself!
I plan to work on several of these areas and ideas so that they become second nature to me. So while the Christmas tree has been in the attic for almost two months now, you can still find a wise man or donkey from the nativity set laying around somewhere because of the kids … and you’ll still find this picture on my phone … it’s one of my favorites…
It reminds me joy isn’t meant to be saved for one season.
It reminds me joy is all year round. 
It reminds me of my joy. 
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“I just like to smile; smiling’s my favorite.” – Buddy the Elf

 

Multitasking Mode – Unplugged

Today, I turned off the multitasking, must-be-as-productive-as-possible-mode of my brain and embraced the day off with my kids. The house was still cluttered and unorganized from a weekend play date with friends. (Six kids together will do that.) But, all is well… because we had some owls to make instead…

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” – Philippians 4:8-9.

And time with the family…with the hubby… with the kids… without phones… without distractions…without worry… is just that.

Be Who You Needed

From my experience, it’s very easy to form excuses as to …

 

Why we are the way we are?

Or why we do what we do?

Why we can’t do what we are called to do?

Who made us the way we are?

Who said something that affected us deeper than forgiveness can reach?

Why we can’t be happy until that change happens, that miracle comes, that person changes… etc.

 

Excuses can be for everything. Excuses to why we can’t defeat our anxiety, why our flaws continue to get the best of us, why we can’t be different than those before us, why we can’t use that talent, why we can’t forgive…

They protect us in a way from failure… from being vulnerable … from embarrassment… from life…

But excuses are just that: excuses. They hold us back from our full potential. They prevent us from using our God-given talents. They lie to us so that forgiveness is not allowed in … that cycles can’t break.

Those are all lies. For forgiveness is the key. Forgiveness is what we are all called to do. Forgiveness heals everyone involved especially the forgiver. Cycles of the past like addiction, anxiety, abuse or even deep unhappiness … they do break! But it takes prayer, perseverance, patience and ….. forgiveness.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Ephesians 4:32 NIV

https://www.bible.com/111/eph.4.32.niv

One of the greatest things I ever did was forgive some people, some very close to me and others I may never see again, for things of the past. It was not easy. I battled myself for years… (truthfully decades about it … )

But lucky for me, the cool thing about forgiveness is that it doesn’t always require us to tell the people directly. Sometimes, it just involves that huge step within our lives to forgive and let go… to lift it up and use those scars for good.

So even though I did not tell them directly that I had forgiven them, I finally did it. My stubborn ways tried so hard to hold on to the grudges and the pain as backup excuses for when I messed up. It’s so much easier to pass the buck to someone else than face our own flaws or mistakes.

But this forgiveness brought so much more…. it brought a peace I could never have had with all that baggage still piled up.

One of the best quote I read around the time when I decided to embrace forgiveness was this one by Prince Ea, which has now become one of my life mottos.

“Be who you needed when you were younger.” – Prince Ea

Prince Ea’s actual post and page

So think back…

Who did you need as a child…

Who did you need as a preteen...

 

Who did you need as a teen… young adult …

Who do you need now?

The moment I started to reflect on this is when I finally stopped sulking in the excuses and pains of the past… and saw the promises and possibilities awaiting me in my now. It’s when I took ownership on my present and my future… both blessings my past can no longer steal.

Being a mother and teacher gives me a platform for this for sure. However, we all have our own platforms to do this… to be this… to be who we needed … to be who we need… in everything we do and with every relationship.

So no matter what mess the past left you, every day is a new chance to forgive and be that person you too once needed.

It will change your life!

Blissful Banana Bread

Who doesn’t love a good baked bread especially when it involves bananas. Here is one of our simple favorites.

 

Ingredients:

First Bowl:

1.5 cups of flour

1.5 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

pinch of salt

Second Bowl:

2 mashed bananas

1/3 cup of applesauce

1/2 cups of sugar

1/4 cup cooking oil (We use melted coconut oil, but have used others.)

1/4 cup dairy free chocolate chips (optional but a favorite)

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease a loaf pan. We use Earth’s Balance.
  3. Mix in all the dry ingredients in a large bowl and make a well in the middle of it.
  4. Mix the second set of ingredients in a separate bowl or even directly into the well of the first bowl.
  5. Then mix together everything thoroughly.
  6. Add in dairy free chocolate chips.
  7. Pour mixture into the greased pan.
  8. Bake for 45 minutes.  Test with a toothpick.
  9. Enjoy!

Notes:

  • We prefer Pyrex but have learned (the hard way) to be careful when taking out glass from the oven.  Do not place directly from the oven onto the cool surface like the counter.  It can explode!

Now, let me try to get to that counter…

 

A Healthy, Happy Home

Creating a healthy home has always been one of my greatest goals.  Even before kids, I considered myself healthy. However, it wasn’t until after TJ’s diagnosis that I began to see past some of my old ways of health to an even more natural way. It really opened my eyes to a world that I was not seeing clearly beforehand.   I thought I was healthy before that: I worked out every day and ate a low fat, lean diet, splurging on the weekends of course.   (Yes, I had fallen terribly for the fat free fad….oh how I had been wrong!) So to say the least, it was a huge wake up call when I took on the elimination diet for TJ and started to read more about food system.  I learned about true health by following and listening to people like Robyn O’Brien.
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While I still have a ways to go, we have come far.

Once again, I am NOT a doctor. Just a mama, wife, teacher, friend, Jesus lover, writer trying to figure out how to embrace the mess… (See disclaimer below)

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Over the past years, we have learned some go-to tips to assist our family’s health, and propel it forward…
  1. Prayer – This may sound repetitive throughout my posts, but good! It should be! The power of prayer cannot be defined.   We have truly seen it transform our health and you can too! There is no special way, time, or place. Just pray
  2. Rest – There was a time I would have told you that the r in propelling your health was to run daily.  However, as much as I still love to run each morning, getting enough sleep and rest has proven to be much more beneficial.
  3. Oils – Aside from healthy cooking oils and those in our diet like olive and coconut, essential oils have empowered our house.  It took me many years and a thousand questions (Thanks Mary for your patience!) before I actually bought my first premium starter kit from Young Living.   It’s been three years now since then and oils are now part of our daily routines.  They helped us toss out our unhealthy candles, became a friend to our immune systems, and eliminated so many unnecessary chemicals that our house once carried.We diffuse them, roller ball them up, bathe with them, make lotion using them, and even clean with them! With oils, it is important to always find a high quality brand! (Want more information on oils? Send me an email to theartofamessyhouse@gmail.com or comment below. And stay tuned for future posts.)untitled design (34)
  4. Probiotics – We saw a lot of doctors after TJ had his first reaction.  Unless necessary, I would NOT recommend doing that. Seeing a lot of doctors leads to lots of conflicting advice and one crazed Mama…or Dada.   Anyways, one recommendation that every single doctor during that time suggested was to use a good probiotic.   We went with UltraFlora Balance by Metagenics after two of them suggested that one. TJ and Madison have both used it since before they were one years old just in a reduced form. It was also what I used throughout my pregnancy with Madison. Sometimes, I switch it up too for myself with good high quality, trusted brands.
  5. Elderberry – This is very new to me this year.   During flu season last year, I read a lot about elderberry and purchased an organic brand of it.   However, it was stored away until this past Christmas when TJ got the stomach bug the night before Christmas Eve! (One of my worst nightmares!) So, we tore open that bottle and have been using it since whenever someone in the family has a compromised immune system. Next up…to try to make our own.
  6. Love – All you need is a little TLC… tender loving care, they say.  But the reality is sometimes, people are hard to love.  Sometimes, it just feels good to vent about something or someone..to burn off that steam exploded inside.   It’s healthy too… but the healthiest I have ever felt was when I began to more easily let go up “the drama,” “the negativity,” and even the people who are just plan “mean” … and focus on love. Hug more, kiss those dirty cheeks more and say “I love you” out of routine. Stop fixating on what’s wrong; challenge yourself to see the good in the picture instead. Walk away from the hate; embrace the love.

 

In addition to these ways we PROPEL our health, I also chew a clove of garlic at the first sign of a sore throat.   (I had to add this today as I am feeling under the weather and needed a morning clove.) It is not for everyone and I am sure that I do not need to tell you, it does not have the greatest taste.. or smell.  I didn’t add it to our list because I am the only one who uses this as my kids are too young to force allium sativum on them, and Timmy is not a fan of the technique.  No kissing tonight hun!

So there’s my mnemonic device for health, PROPEL!  The ELA teacher in me at work…the believer at heart. It’s not cliche.  It’s real.

 

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Even though we still get hit by viruses, we breath easier knowing that we have resources that help propel our health past the always lingering season of germs and mess.

Disclaimer: This blog is a personal blog and used as a way of sharing and connecting with other readers. The posts, articles, and stories shared on the site are meant as a source of encouragement. In this challenging world of food allergies, motherhood, and life, I have found reaching out to other parents and people in my shoes to be extremely resourceful and inspiring. Therefore, I want to give back and do the same. I am not a doctor; therefore, the information on my blog is not intended as medical advice so as always, please consult with your doctor.

Some Days Just Stink

Every January people ring in the New Year with high hopes of it being the break-through year of dreams taking off and miracles happening. And this past January 1st was just the same. I believed the great blessings that this year would bring as soon as the clock struck midnight. While I had tried to stay awake, I had only made it to 11:41 pm.

Hmmm… maybe my lack of endurance had been to blame for what soon happened…

Anyways, I woke up that first day with anything but a restored attitude. Instead, every ounce of my body struggled to get out of bed as I woke up with a massive headache. We had been with our friends and their kids the night before so maybe the two drinks I had gave me a headache? How could I be hung over? Wow, maybe my age was really catching up to me.

Still, I pressed on as parents do… cooking and straightening up, packing and prepping for the upcoming school week after being off for winter break. It was brutal. I told myself I would watch my former student and his Kentucky football team in the Citrus Bowl as I wrote and prepared this blog. However, I found myself freezing under covers watching the game with a heating pad along my spine and my eyes fighting to stay awake.

Soon enough, when the aches began, the thermometer told me different story, a 101 fever! Great! It was the first day of the year …the first day for a restored attitude …

and I could not work out because I felt so terrible…

I could not write (I always started mornings off by praying and writing)…

I could not spend time with my kids…

could not have a romantic evening with my husband…

I could not even eat…

I was not productive…

I just laid around and waited for bedtime.

The virus passed quickly as usual since I had worked hard in building up my immune system after having the kids. Now, I was back at school still not feeling like myself, but functioning and sweating actually more than I would like to admit. I was trying not to feel discouraged. We had so much to look forward to…

My husband had a potential new job offer much closer to home…

My daughter was finally getting to try straight cow’s milk with our allergist the following week …

TJ’s annual blood work for allergy levels would be back soon and for the past two years they had dropped significantly for eggs and dairy…

So much to look forward to! So much to praise God for… just around the corner…

If we could just get to the corner, everything would be okay…

Then the next week came and my husband Timmy took our daughter to try cow’s milk with her doctor. I had it planned out; since I was working until late we would go to church the following day to go to the alter and praise God for the outgrown allergy, a tradition we had done for all of the other food challenges TJ and Madison had passed and allergies they had outgrown. I mean she already ate chicken francaise, Hersey kisses, pizza, baked products, a bunch of items with cow’s milk in it, there was no doubt in our minds that she wouldn’t pass…

until that exact thing happened.

She didn’t pass….

…after just one drop, her mouth got red and itchy. We would have to try again in August…

Then, TJ’s annual results got back and they had stayed pretty much the same. The same!?! I believed… we believed they would drop drastically again…

To make matters worse, Timmy still had no news on the job offer that was given over a month ago.   They had been negotiating back and forth … until finally it fell through …

Jen, breath, it’s all just around the corner.  Just not yet….

 

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And then I read TJ’s report card: “He has a kind heart. Sometimes, he gets frustrated because his friends don’t understand him. I love his art work!”

WHAT!?!?!? Great sandwiching of the comments … but why was this the first time I was hearing about this. Sure, we noticed certain sounds were lacking like tr and k but he was our first, we had no idea what was typical and what wasn’t. As a special education teacher, I tried my hardest to not overanalyze and diagnose my own children.  Maybe, I was wrong…maybe I should have asked…

Guilt and frustration were having a field day…

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So I lost it. 2019, what were you trying to do to me? It had only been a week, but bad news after bad news plus the pile up of responsibilities on my plate at school, built up for a meltdown.

I started to think …
What a “great” year this is going to be?
Now what… will this year bring?
Can we restart?

And even something I totally had wrong:

What had I done wrong?

Then, as I stopped myself to pray. These words spoke to my heart…

“Be present and stay patient in prayer.”

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” – Galatians 6:9

It was the time to start declaring the year was going to be one of blessings.  It was not time to be fooled by a bad day, week, month or season. It was certainly not the time to stand around and wait to enjoy “the right now.”

The whole time when I was waiting for the perfect news to praise God and to declare how blessed we were, I had it all wrong.

It’s not about waiting for the thunder to pass …

it’s not about waiting for the good news…

it’s not about waiting for the prayer to be answered ….

the allergy to be cured … the money to come…

It’s about seeing the beauty of the storm itself.

It’s about accepting that some days, some weeks, some seasons just stink, and

that. is. okay.

But what is not okay is believing that those days and storms will always be. Instead, it was believing and knowing that they all have their purpose. That they do transform us into who we are called to be… into our best selves … and for that we can genuinely smile through it, knowing storms do eventually run out of rain.

So get those rain boots on and walk proudly through those puddles. Find laughter through all seasons. Embrace the storm as you learn to dance in the rain, even if it tracks in some mud along the way. 

 

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To 2019… even though we got off on the wrong foot, every day is new chance to start over and for that … we are just getting started!

“And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm...” – Mark 4:39